Title: Lies were kept simple
Author: ME! hells_half_acre
Characters: Sam, Jess, Dean
Genre: pre-series, gen
Author's note: I'm not sure this is as polished as I would like it, but sadly, I think it is as good as it's going to get. Also, I know that Kripke has said that Dean's "2 years" line in the pilot was a mistake, but since it's in the show, I've taken it as canon.</lj>
Summery: What Jess DID know about Sam's family.
They had only been dating a short time when Thanksgiving came.
"I'm leaving Thursday morning for Thanksgiving" Jess told him, as they sat in the student cafe on a supposed study-date.
"Oh, right. Phone me when you get back?" Sam responded, as if he hadn't realized it was Thanksgiving.
"Of course. Are you not going home?"
"No...no, I...it's a good weekend to pick up shifts. I need the money." Sam replied, and smiled a weird sort of half-smile that Jess didn't quite know how to interpret.
"Oh...well, I guess Christmas is just around the corner anyway." Jess shrugged, and when the light seemed to fade a little from Sam's eyes, and even the disconcerting half-smile faltered, Jess did the only thing that a girl who had only been dating a guy for a short time would do.
"How are you approaching the philosophy paper? I can't seem to get my head around Descartes."
Sam smiled normally while he launched into his thesis statement, and Jess breathed a sigh of relief. Sam was so bright, good-looking and kind, she wasn't ready to admit there might be a darkness that came with the light.
When Christmas came, Sam sat in Jess's apartment and watched her pack.
"My Dad always insists on a real tree," Jess babbled, "even though my Mom absolutely hates how the needles get over everything. She thinks the plastic kind are much more practical."
Sam just smiled at her. "I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you too, handsome. What's Christmas like with your family? Are you looking forward to it?" As soon as the words left her mouth, she remembered Thanksgiving...she remembered that sort of shut-down look.
"Ah, yeah...our Christmases were always...low-key. We didn't make much fuss." Sam replied in an odd measured speech that Jess hadn't heard him use before.
"Well, that's nice too." She replied, and then decided that they had been dating long enough now, that she was falling for Sam, and that meant...that meant knowing who it was that she was falling for. "When are you leaving?"
"I'm not...not for a while. After you." Sam replied, shifted slightly on the bed, then pointed at the overflowing suitcase on the floor, "How many clothes do you have to pack anyway? You'll only be gone a couple weeks."
Jess threw a t-shirt at him. "Shut-it, you! A girl has to have wardrobe options!"
Sam laughed and threw back a pillow and Jess decided much later that Sam was very good at distracting her...very good.
When she got back a little earlier than expected from visiting her family, she went to Sam's dorm to see if he was back yet. She was thrilled to see that he was, but then she saw the old duffel bag still empty and covered in dust under the bed. She bit her lip and let him welcome her back. He was so happy to see her, that she didn't have the heart to call him out on the lie.
She pictured Sam sitting in an empty student dorm building with his books for two weeks, while she had been surrounded by family and friends, and she understood why he hadn't just told her.
"What do your parents do? What are they like?" She asked one day.
"Do you want to go to the movies Friday?" Sam asked, as though she hadn't spoken.
"What? Uh, sure. Ok."
"Great! There's this foreign film fest going on...you don't mind subtitles, do you?"
"No, that sounds good." Jess furrowed her brow. "Sam?"
"What about your parents?"
"You want to go to the movies with my parents?" Sam laughed.
"What? No! I..."
"Good, because that's a little strange..."
"Sam, come on, I'm not asking you to give me their life story...just...I've told you about my family, but you never..." Jess could see Sam shutting down, the smile a forced echo of his usual, his eyes darting around as if he hoped for some deus-ex-machina to save him. She could see the exact instant he decided that there was no rescue coming. He hunched his shoulders and looked at the floor.
"My mother died in a fire, when I was a baby. My dad...travels."
"Sorry about your Mom," Jess said softly.
Sam shrugged. "I never knew her. It was hardest on Dad and Dean." Jess could see the second the name left his mouth that Sam had decided that he had said too much. There was an intake of breath, and then Sam was back to the half-smile, "Anyway, this film from Germany sounds cool, and it's half-price if you work at the cinema, and Rob says that he can get us tickets..."
She asked him to move in with her the next fall. He was over at her place practically every night anyway. He showed up with his duffel and a few shopping bags full of books.
"Is that all your stuff?"
"You don't have any stereo? CDs? you know...personal belongings?"
Sam just looked at her confused, "I put my laptop in with my clothes."
"Oh" Jess said, as if that actually answered her question, "ok."
"Do you have any siblings?" Jess asked one night while they were brushing their teeth before bed. Sam gave her a measured look in the mirror.
"Older or younger?"
Jess tried to picture an older version of Sam. She wondered if his brother was as attractive as he was. That would be someone she'd like to meet. "Dean, right?" She asked, feeling bold. Thinking that maybe she could get away with pushing a bit on this one.
"Yeah...yeah Dean. He's four years older than me. I think I'm taller than him now though." Sam smiled as though Dean could hear him and he was teasing his older brother. Jess decided that she quite liked that smile.
"What's he like?" Jess asked around a mouth full of toothpaste, and then spat into the sink.
Sam let out a huff of a laugh, "Likes to think he's a ladies man. Really likes classic rock. Drives...me crazy."
Jess smiled. "I'd like to meet him."
"No, you don't." Sam replied shaking his head, but then paused, "...he's a good guy though."
Sam walked out of the bathroom, and when Jess crawled into bed next to him, she tried not to feel bad about the way he lay there, staring up at the ceiling, looking as though he was a million miles away.
It was spring when the call came.
In the middle of the night, Jess heard Sam's cellphone ring. She ignored it, until she heard Sam shift beside her and answer it.
"'lo?" Sam asked confused and sleepy without raising his head off the pillow. There was a beat, maybe only one second, but suddenly Jess felt Sam wake up completely. Felt the ripple of movement in the mattress as he tensed. His breath catching in his throat as though his heart had skipped.
"Dean?" Sam asked in a voice that sounded both heartbreakingly hopeful and wary, as though saying the name might make whoever was on the other end hang-up.
Jess opened her eyes, but she was facing away from Sam. Something told her to stay still, to just listen.
She felt Sam get out of bed, and move quickly towards the living room. "Dean...is that you?"
Slowly, Jess slipped out of the bed and followed, but stayed just next to the door. Where she could see Sam sitting in the chair, his back to her, elbows on his knees, one hand cradling the phone while the other rested over his free ear so that all he could hear was the voice on the other end of the line.
"Are you ok?" A pause and Sam breathed a sigh of relief, then asked "is Dad ok?" in a strangely reluctant voice, as if he didn't want to ask and didn't want to hear the answer. But whatever his feelings for his father were, Jess could see that he was relieved by the answer he received.
"Yeah, Dean, I'm fine, really good actually. Dean...are you...where...why are you calling? Does Dad know you're calling?" A pause, a sigh. "I know your 24, but I don't think...it's been nearly two years Dean, I figured you either weren't allowed or didn't want to talk to me."
Jess could see Sam wince at the response by the way he rubbed his free hand over his forehead.
"I'm sorry. I know. Dean...are you...are you drunk?... I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have...it's just....Dean, where's Dad? Is he with you?... Why didn't you go with him?...How badly is it broken?...Are you on painkillers? Right...yeah, I know you don't like them, but you should probably...Dean...I didn't run away, I just went to school. It was Dad who..." Jess could almost hear the low electronic rumble of the voice on the phone as it increased in volume.
"Dean, please" Sam pleaded, and Jess realized she had never heard him use that tone of voice before, like a child asking their parent not to leave them the first day of school. "Did you really call just to continue an argument that ended two years ago?"
Sam suddenly stood, as if to lunge for something. "No wait! I didn't mean-...Dean, don't-! Dean! Dean?"
Jess watched as Sam's shoulders sagged, and he pulled the phone away from his ear. He tossed it onto the couch, and stared at it as though he was looking at the person who had just hung up on him. And then Sam whispered, "Jerk," but there was no malice behind it.
It wasn't until he turned back to the bedroom, that Jess could see the tear tracks that ran down his cheeks. She saw his eyes go wide as he caught sight of her standing by the door in her nightshirt.
"Jess..." he started to say, while he quickly wiped at his face. Jess swallowed and cleared her throat. There was no denying that she had heard.
"Was that your brother?" She asked, "Is everything ok?"
Sam gave her a little fake smile, "Everything is fine. He just...missed me."
"Oh." Jess replied, stepping closer to Sam and reaching up to wipe his cheeks. "So he called at 3am?"
"Yes, but he won't do it again" Sam whispered, as he leaned down to kiss her. Jess's heart lurched at the finality of Sam's tone, as if he knew that was the last time he would ever talk to his brother. Jess broke the kiss and tried to get Sam's eyes to meet hers.
"He made you cry..." she said, and watched as Sam's breath caught and he visibly swallowed.
"I think..." Sam said, and looked at Jess as though he were about to break some unspoken code, some universal rule that should never be broken, "I think turnabout is fair play."
Sam stepped away from her, caught her hand in his, and then pulled her towards the bedroom.
"Come on," he said, as though nothing had happened. "We have class in the morning."
She had gotten used to the scars, and all last year she had accepted his explanation of "clumsy" and "a bit of bad luck" for their existence. But some of them were quite odd shaped. Some looked like major surgery had been involved. Some looked like animal attacks.
"How'd you get this one?" She asked, and fingered a slight scar on his side.
"Mm?" Sam mumbled, and Jess couldn't help but wonder if doing this now might work out to her advantage or not.
"This scar on your side here. How'd you get it?" She repeated.
"...a tree. I fell out of a tree."
"It looks like it needed stitches, what the heck did you land on?"
"...a stick, I think. I don't know. I was twelve or something."
Jess nodded into Sam's shoulder, and moved her hand to his arm.
"And this one?"
Sam sighed, but then asked "which one?"
"This one here. It looks like a dog bite."
"Yeah, that's what it was...just a dog."
Jess kissed Sam's chest, and touched the scar just under his bicep. "And this one?"
"That one? Oh...there was this bully at one of my schools. His name was Nate, I think. Anyway, we moved around a lot...and there's nothing bullies like more than picking on the new kid. I was about 13. So, I come out of school one of my first days, and there's Nate and his cronies with this piece of fencing or something, I don't know what it was, just a piece of metal he found laying around, I guess. I was tall already, so he felt threatened by me. Not that he should've...I mean, I'm no bully. His friends got the jump on me, I'll admit to that. They held me and Nate hit me with this metal thing, just the once...but there was this jagged piece on the metal, and it sliced right through my shirt and skin. If he had been stronger, he might have broken a rib, but it just winded me instead."
"That's horrible!" Jess said, eyes wide and looking down at Sam, confused as to why he seemed to have an almost nostaligic smile on his face.
Sam shrugged, "It was just a kid."
"But so were you!" Jess countered.
Sam just smiled. "Well, Nate should have looked to see who was watching, because Dean was parked across the street waiting for me. Man, I mean...I know he was four years older, but I have never seen the fear of God put into kids so fast. No one bothered me again for the rest of my time at that school, once the word got out."
"Did he hurt them?" Jess said, slightly horrified at seventeen year-old beating up a bunch of thirteen year-olds. Sam seemed to catch on to her train of thought.
"No, no! I mean, Dean gets angry, but he's always been good about not hurting kids...no...he just...frightened them. See, my Dad...goes hunting sometimes, and Dean happened to be driving around with one of my Dad's shotguns in the car...he just scared them is all. Didn't even fire a shot. Dean would've got in trouble with Dad otherwise."
"Wow. Well, I'm glad he was there. It looks like it was a bad cut."
"Yeah, it was pretty gruesome, all jagged edges. Luckily for me, Dean has always been good with sew-ituations." Sam paused, as if just realizing that he was speaking about the taboo topic of his family, "I mean, he's calm in a crisis. He made sure I was patched up immediately."
"I'm glad. With this many scars, you obviously need someone looking out for you." Jess said, catching the way Sam's expression was slipping from nostalgic to melancholic.
"Yeah," Sam all but whispered, and then cleared his throat, and put on that damn fake half-smile, "Can I go to sleep now Jess? Or would you like to ask me about the gravel burn on my left shin?"
Jess swatted playfully at Sam's bare chest, and then rolled to the side. Really, she just didn't want to look at that non-smile any more. She had learned something about Sam, though it wasn't what she intended: Lies were always kept simple.
The next year, Jessica made sure to invite Sam to her visit her family at Thanksgiving. While Sam was in class the day before they left, she called home.
"Mom, I need to talk to you about Sam"
"Is everything alright dear? Is he still coming?" Her mom could always tell when the conversation was serious, Jess smiled.
"Everything is fine Mom, but I need you and Dad to do something for me."
"I need you to not ask Sam about his family this weekend." Jess bit her lip, wishing she could see her mother's expression.
"I'm not sure I understand sweetheart..." her Mom slowly responded.
"Just, just don't ask him about his parents, or whether he's going home for Christmas, or anything like that...he...Mom, there's something wrong there. I don't know what exactly, but he doesn't talk about it, and when he does..." Jess sighed, she didn't know how to explain. She continued in a lower voice, slightly worried about revealing what little information she knew, "He has these scars..." Jess heard her mother gasp, and she quickly backtracked "He...he has explanations for them, but sometimes I think...I don't know what to think. It could be nothing. I just know that he doesn't like to talk about his family."
"Ok, dear. I'll tell your father."
When her and Sam arrived the next day, Jess could tell that he was nervous. Her parents were true to their word though, and slowly she saw the tension leave Sam's shoulders. He was still bombarded with questions - "What are you studying?", "How did you meet our Jessica?", "What are your plans for the future?" - but they were never about his life before Stanford. At one point, her father asked "Where did you grow up, I can't quite place your accent..." and Jess found herself holding her breath, but Sam just smiled a little ruefully and said "Kansas, but we spent a lot of time in Texas when I was young."
As they made their way back to Stanford, Sam was still smiling. Jess didn't know whether to laugh or cry, because Sam had spent the whole weekend like a kid in a candy store, when it had really only been a weekend at her parent's house. Most boyfriends would have hated it.
She glanced over at Sam and noticed that he was looking a little confused, as though he had just realized that something was amiss.
"What is it?" Jess asked.
"Your parents..." Sam said, "they never asked me about my family."
Jess shrugged, as Sam studied her closely. Finally, she couldn't take it anymore. She was never very good at lying.
"I told them not to."
She wasn't sure what she had been expecting his reaction to be, but she watched as Sam's jaw dropped minutely and he gave her a look of affectionate surprise.
"I love you," he said, and Jess loved him too.
There were some clues to the Sam Winchester Mystery that Jess discovered without having to ask. She once watched Sam take down two guys in a bar fight, while barely being touched, and not even wincing when he had to ice his swollen knuckles later. She commented on it, his only response was "they were just two drunk guys."
When Sam got sick and ran a fever, he called her Dean. She had thought he was asleep, and she had held a hand to his forehead to check his temperature, running her hands through his shaggy hair a little, and then tucked the blanket up around his chin. Without opening his eyes, Sam had mumbled "'m fine, Dean."
And there was one time when Sam volunteered information. Jess woke up to him thrashing in the bed, and before she could wake him herself, he gasped and sat up.
"Sam?" She said, sitting up and putting a hand on his shoulder. When he looked at her, all she could see in his eyes was a dark anguish, "You had a nightmare?"
"Yeah" Sam voice broke over the word. Jess didn't know how to comfort him, what he needed. She wanted so much to comfort him, but she knew that everyone was different when it came to being comforted.
"Do you want some water? My mom always gave me water after a nightmare, and sang me songs...what did your m-" And then she remembered, and winced: My mother died in a fire. "What did your Dad do when you were a kid and had nightmares?"
Sam looked at her, she was thankful that he seemed to miss her slip, but she knew that she was on dangerous ground. Sam was still breathing as if he had been running and sweating as though he had been in a fire.
"Dean." Sam said, as if that answered everything.
"Dean?" Jess was confused.
"Dad wasn't...he didn't know about the nightmares. Dean and I shared...a room. He was the one who would wake me up." Jess hopes faulted, a brother probably wasn't much comfort. He probably just told Sam to go back to sleep. But then she remembered when Sam had been sick, and had thought that her comforting hand belonged to his brother.
"And what did he do?" She asked.
"It changed over the years." Sam replied, and for once there was no hesitation, no pain behind his eyes as he talked. "When I was little, he would hug me...he'd hold me until I fell back asleep, and hum songs - mostly Metallica" Sam smiled, "he'd kill me for telling you that." Jess slide her arm around Sam's and gently pulled him back against the pillows. "When I got a little older, he would sit on my bed and hold my hand until I fell back asleep and sometimes tell me all the ways he could kill whatever it was that I had dreamed of. When I was a teenager, we were too old for hand holding, so he would just wake me up, make sure I was ok, and then he'd go back to bed, but he never fell asleep again before I did."
"Do you want me to stay awake until you fall asleep again?" Jess asked, "I'm not your macho brother, so I'll even hold your hand if you want."
Sam turned to her and smiled. "You can go to sleep, Jess." he said, "but...could you do one thing for me, even if it sounds really stupid?"
"Anything, honey. What do you need?"
"Could you say, 'It's ok, Sammy'?" Sam blushed.
"It's ok, Sammy." Jess repeated, the pet-name feeling a little strange on her tongue.
"Thanks" Sam whispered, "If you ever meet my brother, don't ever tell him I told you to say that."
Jess giggled, "I won't." She kissed his forehead, and burrowed into his side, and almost missed the way Sam said, "I know."
It was midway through the next day, when she realized that he probably meant that she would never meet his brother.
Two weeks later, she met Dean. Being woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of Sam fighting a stranger in the living room was a new strange thing to add to the list of strange-Sam-things, but to find out it was his brother was the real surprise. He was handsome, as she had imagined he would be, and he definitely thought of himself as a ladies man, as Sam said that he did. Jess couldn't quite picture this rough guy in the leather jacket as being the same guy who used to look after Sam while he was sick and comfort him after nightmares; but as Sam left in the middle of the night to help his brother look for their Dad, Jess realized that Sam's devotion must have come from somewhere.
Jess never found out where they were going that weekend. She never found out why Sam kept those weird knives in the bottom of his underwear drawer. She never found out why, out of all the information she had pried out of Sam over the years, none of it was about his father..besides that he traveled and that he was the reason Sam couldn't go home. She never found out why Sam moved around so much as a kid. But at the very end, while she was pinned to the ceiling looking down on Sam's panicked screams, she realized that she didn't want to know. Because although her Sam was brilliant, bright, and handsome, she realized that there had always been a darkness there - buried deep inside him, and that he had only ever tried to shelter her from it.
As the fire enveloped her, her final thought was on the very first thing she had learned about Sam's family: My mother died in a fire. Sam's eyes and screams below her were panicked and horrified, but they weren't confused.