Dean only sent her one letter.
He was completely sober when he wrote it. It took him a full week to do and was ten pages, front and back, of every single thing he could think of about Sam that he thought Jessica should know.
He had intended for it to end right there. He only put a return address on it—Bobby's, 'cause Dean knew he would call the moment Dean got a letter and would never tell Dad it was from Stanford—because she might have a question, and he wanted Sam to get treated right. And fuck knows Sam would never bother to tell her about the Cabbage Patch Kids doll he's slept with ever since Dean got it for him back in his freshman year.
And man, he knows Sam still sleeps with her, probably still has her—it—in that fairy outfit and everything. Sam never did know how to take a joke.
Six days after Dean drops the letter in a mailbox, Bobby calls him up in the middle of the afternoon and says he's got a letter for him that he might wanna come by and pick up ASAP, so he begs Dad for a few days off. "Bobby's got something for me at his place that I've been waiting on for a while."
Dad lets him go, but he tells him to just leave her there if it's another Russian bride. You misunderstand one ad when you're thirteen, and you never live it down.
They're only a few states away, but Dean floors it to South Dakota and only avoids a truckload of tickets by luck and the skin of his teeth.
The envelope is big, square, and pink. Not just any pink, either—a fluorescent, neon pink that makes him think of flamingos and Good & Plentys. The address is written in big, bubbly print with black pen, and the back has, "I couldn't find anything else," in rushed, lengthened cursive in sparkly purple ink.
He doesn't open it right away. No matter how many times he tries, he can't make himself. There's a car show in town, so Bobby's entire week looks like it's going to be answering the phone a lot and tell people when they can come by to root for parts. He points Dean towards the beers—"You take a cold one out, you put a warm one in."—and tells him not to trash the room this time.
Dean spends two days in the room he and Sam used to share when Dad would swing them all by, leaving for barely anything but beer, food, and pissing. At least Bobby's put in a TV since last time, with cable, even.
He opens it during breakfast on the third day, in between the first and second rounds of six-egg bacon and sausage omelets. The letter is only a little more than half a page long, but he rereads it at least a dozen times right there at the table.
There's one line that sticks in his head like a shitty song off the radio.
What's Sam's brother like? If you know him. It's right there on the page in that same round, bubbly script from the front of the envelope, so random and unassuming and traitorous. Dean guesses he should be thankful that she even knows he exists, and fuck, that hurts a lot more than he'd ever like to admit.
Dean hates letters, fucking hates them, always has. He thrives on that face-to-face interaction, reading body language and facial tics and all those other silent cues Dad taught Sam and him. Written word is too ambiguous—"Fuck you," he tells the Sam in his head. "I know what that word means."—and he always drives himself insane trying to decode it.
Is she being sarcastic? Does she know who he is, or is it an honest, curious question? Did Sam tell her what he—they—did? Is she suspicious? Does she think he hurt Sam? If he lies, will she know it? What if he tells the wrong lie and contradicts something Sam told her? What if he tells the truth?
Dean doesn't write her back that day or the next one or the one after that. He doesn't even try. Every time he gets near the letter, all he can think of is why she wants to know. What she might already think.
He wants to know what Sam says about him. Not even just to her, but in general. They didn't exactly leave on good terms, and he's got this voice in his head—that fucker's right up front, kicking and screaming, wondering if maybe Sam hates him, if he tells people shit about Dean like he does about John.
So the man gets drunk sometimes; three times a year does not an alcoholic make. And the fact that they both know ahead of time when he's going to be drunk has got to prove something good, or at least something not entirely bad.
A week and a few days after Dean gets the letter, he and Dad get a case in Yuma, and Dean sees her on their usual swing through Stanford. She's asleep at a table in the library, face buried in a book and pen still dangling from her hand. For half a second, he's tempted to go wake her up.
He doesn't, though. He doesn't even know what he would say—has no idea if she's ever seen a picture of him, even. She could wake up screaming for the cops or Sam, or she could be like Dad, one of those people who come up swinging. And that's completely ignoring the fact that he's not sure if he should introduce himself as Sam's big brother or as the random stranger who tells her how to feed Sam.
He was looking for Sam, actually; he figured the nerdy little bookworm would be holed up in the library on his day off like a good little freak. He wasn't expecting to see Jess when he turned the corner.
She looks different up close and in person: blonde pigtails French braided down the sides of her head, a pink hoodie, and some kind of weird skirt that looks like it was made out of three different pieces of fabric pulled from the scrap bin at Goodwill. But, hell, her legs look hot in it, so Dean doesn't care what the hell her clothes are made out of. Well, except maybe if they were made out of human skin—other human skin, not hers. Dean's been watching too much Sci-Fi.
There's a voice in the back of his head that sounds like Sam telling him to take it as a sign to go over there and talk to her. Dean takes it as a sign, all right; he takes it as a sign to turn tail and get the fucking hell out of there before she wakes up.
He has a few more close calls. Once at her work, where he chickened out and split before she could take his order, and once near her and Sammy's place. Sam was with her, coming out of a class. That one was another accident; he got turned around while trying to find some professor's office.
Dean keeps the radio silence even after they leave California, unwilling to write another random postcard and unable to make himself answer her question.
It's not that he doesn't like Zach.
Sam considers him a friend; hell, not counting Jess, Sam thinks Zach might just be the best friend he's ever had that he's not related to.
Jess is a different kind of best friend, the kind someone you date defaults to when they know about that baby-doll you carried around with you everywhere until you were eight and how much you hate showering.
Zach is the platonic, buddy cop kind of best friend Sam's never really had before, the one who gets you arrested on a drunk and disorderly charge and sits next to you in the cell giggling like a little girl about how damn hard you hit when you're pissed off.
It's not that he doesn't like Zach. It's just that they're different people. When it comes to school, Zach reminds him a lot of Dean in that it comes easy to both of them. Not that it doesn't come easy to Sam, too, but Zach cares about his grades about as much as Dean ever did, which means only as much as he absolutely has to.
Dean kept a 4.0 GPA only because Dad required it—"Winchesters don't do anything half-assed, boy"—and studied maybe a half dozen times in his whole life. Zach studies for about an hour a day, then goes and slacks off. He spends most of his free time playing video games and going to movies. He's even on the damn basketball team, and the only reason he doesn't have a 4.0 is because he slept through a final last quarter and tanked the class because of it.
If Sam's not studying, he's working, and if he's not working, he's in class. Sometimes, he even studies while he's at work because juggling twelve scholarships means "free time" is one of those things he only hears about, like CIA triple agents and bad cafeteria food. So when Zach tells—not asks, tells—Sam to come out and do something with him, nine times out of ten, Sam has to say no.
Sam's not sure how they got onto the topic of morning rituals. It was probably Jess and Becky, just like nearly every other strange and random conversation he has lately. When he mentions that he runs in the mornings, though, Zach perks right up like a dog smelling bacon. Sam bites at the soft foam of his cup, teeth sinking in to make perfectly even marks.
He doesn't like running, not really; he just can't stop himself from doing it. All those years of waking up hours before the sun even thought about rising and stretching tired muscles into shapes they keep trying to forget, of pushing past the stabbing cramp near his kidney or the ache of his bladder and ignoring the sore, burning pain in his chest that comes with breathing in air so cold and early.
He fucking hated morning runs growing up, and the ultimate "fuck you" from Dad was the fact that once he got to Stanford, he realized he couldn't just stop them. If he didn't run in the morning, he would have too much energy the rest of the day and wouldn't be able to sit still or concentrate. Running doesn't calm him down like it does some people, not if he actually thinks anything deeper than, "Left, right, left, beat. Left, right, left."
Which is exactly why he doesn't like to fucking talk about it.
"I run, too," Zach exclaims. He's probably excited to finally have something he thinks he might be able to talk Sam into doing with him. "How much do you run?"
Sam doesn't want to crush the guy, but he knows where this is going, and running isn't exactly something he likes to do with other people. It might be different if he thought Zach had a chance of keeping up with him, but he routinely outruns the ROTC kids, and, well, Sam knows he's not exactly the most patient person in the world.
He's pulling at the little bits of Styrofoam with his hands, sliding his nails into the teeth marks around the rim and tearing them off. "I don't know. It takes me forty, forty-five minutes, so... about ten clicks."
Zach blinks at him for a moment. Out of the corner of his eye, Sam can see Jess dragging her finger across the table, probably trying to remember how to convert kilometers into miles. "How much is that here on Earth?"
"On Earth, it's still ten clicks, but outside of the military, it's about six miles."
Becky takes advantage of Zach's distraction to steal the mostly uneaten half of his pastrami sandwich, taking a big bite out of it before swallowing and asking, "Wow, so you can run a mile in, what, seven minutes? That's really fast, right? It sounds fast."
"Six minutes." Not that he's nitpicky or anything. "But I can do it in four if I've got the right motivation." Like a pissed off brother with a paint-balled Chevy dented in the parking lot.
Sam fidgets with his coffee cup, and he tries not to remember the lectures Dad used to give him about false body cues. "If you can't stop fidgeting, then you've gotta focus on your hands, Sammy. That'll make you look embarrassed, and people change topics when they think they're making someone uncomfortable. If you just keep trying to ignore the twitching, you look nervous, and nervous people get asked questions. Are you listening, Sam? This isn't a game."
Perfectly maintained French tip nails snap in front of his face and yank him back to the present. Nice job, Sam, I said "stare," not "zone out and look suspicious." Sam's sure he's never gotten that particular piece of advice from his father, but hell, if he can have conversations with Dean in his head, why can't he get lectured by his dad there, too?
"Earth to Sam." Becky snaps her fingers again. "Are you back here with us again? Hi. How was your flight?"
"It sucked; they played Officer and a Gentleman."
"Ooh," Jess squeals, eyes wide and excited. "The movie or the porno?"
"The movie, obviously."
Jess rolls her eyes at his lack of imagination—it's a thing with them—and slides his half-destroyed coffee cup toward her, nudging her own in his direction. "Well, that blows. I don't think you should fly Air Winchester again. They suck."
"You don't like it?"
"It sounds like a shoe," Becky pipes up.
"A bad shoe. That gets recalled for its sole falling off or something," adds Zach.
"That just sounds pretentious."
Sam chokes and nearly spits out his drink. "Ugh, sick. What the hell is this?"
"A white chocolate mocha frap."
"Why would you do that to coffee?"
"It tastes good!"
"You don't drink coffee for the taste."
"No, you don't drink coffee for the taste. I enjoy getting my energy from something that tastes good. Otherwise, I might as well just snort Ritalin."
"Oh, what, speed not good enough for you?" Becky teases.
"Ritalin is speed," Jess tosses back. Before Sam knows it, Jess and Becky have their own completely random conversation going on. He tunes them out after the meth but sometime around the talk of apple bongs.
"So, come on," Zach pushes. "You never have time to hang out and do shit anymore. Let me come running with you. I totally promise I won't show you up and make you look like a fool."
"You're from Missouri. Stop saying 'totally.'"
"Blow me, asshole."
"Really not helping your whole 'I'm straight' campaign."
"I don't care. Take me running with you."
Sam knows it's a bad idea, but he can't find it in himself to say no.
They go running the next morning, and from that first moment at four-thirty when Sam pounds on Zach's door and gets yelled at, he knows this was a bad idea.
It's five by the time Sam finally manages to get Zach outside and ready to go. Except then Zach decides he has to stretch first. And then do jumping jacks. And then run in place for a few minutes. "Gotta get the feet warmed up; it's like the pop quiz before the test."
Sam knows Zach's just trying to get him to crack a smile, but he just really is not in the mood today. He traded off his hours at the bar and club because his boss at the restaurant, Trevor, begged him to come in tonight and pull a full eight hour shift. Then at eleven o'clock last night, after his shifts had already been filled at his other jobs, Trevor called again. "Never mind, Casey's just gonna come in for me. Thanks anyway." Fucking bastard managed to not only kill his overtime but short-change his check at two completely different jobs at the same time.
They jog for a bit. Sam lets Zach set the pace and tries to figure out how to make up the lost money without skipping classes, while Zach opts to go as slow as he possibly can without walking.
And that's when Zach makes his big mistake.
"I was on the track team in high school, you know. If we're going slow for me, we don't have to; shit, I can probably run rings around you. And if we aren't going slow for me, then I just gotta tell you, man, I have no idea how you could think you can do a mile in six minutes."
Now, Winchester pride is a double-edged sword. It makes them keep good grades and manners, but it also gets them more shotguns, shovels, and battle-axes (on two separate occasions) swung or leveled at them than can possibly be healthy. It can also end a half a mile down the road with Zach dry-heaving into the grass while Sam stands off to the side trying to pretend that he has no problem breathing or remaining upright.
And this right here this is why Sam believes in karma. Three minutes ago, he set out to make Zach looks like an ass—and okay, maybe hurt him a little, too—and now Zach's on his hands and knees, panting and groaning with no ability to say anything other than "Jesus Christ" and "Sam." Sam looks around and adjusts himself, thankful for his jeans and their sturdy, thick denim.
"You know." Sam has to bite his lip to keep from laughing and wasting more precious air when Zach flops onto his belly and then rolls to his back, head moving just enough to get Sam in his line of sight. "I feel like I should be petting your head and giving you a treat."
"You could always rub my stomach. That doesn't require Snausages."
"This is why Jess doesn't believe you're straight."
"Jess doesn't believe I'm straight because Jess doesn't believe in heterosexuality."
"She believes in it. She just thinks it's not the default setting."
"Whatever. You're a dick."
Zach shoots him a glare from his patch of grass. "My heart just exploded in my chest."
"You were asking for it."
"I was not!"
"You called me slow."
"Whatever, you were being slow."
Sam grins. "You wanna race again?"
"Fuck, no, do I look retarded?"
"Yeah, a little bit."
"If I could feel my feet or move my arms, I'd be throwing my shoe at you right now."
"It's easy, Sam, just pretend that I'm there and tell me what you're doing to me."
"But you aren't here."
"You're being difficult on purpose, aren't you?"
She can hear his huff of laughter on the other line, can just picture him relaxing in bed with that big, gorgeous smile on his face. "I can't help it. You're just so cute when you're annoyed."
"I am not cute, I'm hot. You do not have phone sex with people who are cute; you give them cookies and hold hands in the park. Stop laughing, it's not funny!" He's laughing harder now, cackling, that bastard.
"It really is. You're so serious about this, treating it like it's some kind of project for class. It's sex, it's supposed to be fun."
"I'd be having more fun if you would just cooperate and tell me how you want to fuck me."
"I'm sorry, it just... it feels weird. I feel stupid."
"You don't have to feel stupid, it—" Jess pauses and takes a breath. She doesn't want to start a fight; she's cranky and edgy and hasn't been sleeping well, nerves getting the better of her. "I'm sorry, babe. I miss you, is all. I wish you were here. I've got this big bed, and it feels so lonely without you in it next to me."
Silence stretches out for a long moment before Sam pipes up again. "Oh, it's my turn? I, I like lying next to you, too. You look pretty when you're relaxed like that."
Jess has to place a hand over her mouth, pinching her nose to keep from letting out any kind of sound that resembles laughter. He's trying, at least, and that counts for something.
When she's sure she can keep her voice steady again, she continues. "You know I took one of your shirts, right? I'm wearing it right now. It's that light blue one with the little white stripes. Just that and a pair of panties. Tell me what you'd do if you were here, Sam."
"God, Jess." He lets out this shuddery breath, panting a little. She can tell he's hard, maybe even touching himself already. "I'd kiss you. I really love kissing you; you're so good at it. And I'd slip my hand up my—your—shirt and, and, touch you. I'm sorry, Jess, I—"
"It's okay," she cuts him off. "You're doing fine, just relax."
"Why do we have to do this? You're gonna be back in two days; why can't we just wait until then?"
"Because I've been gone a week, and I've been really good. And because if I don't get off soon, I'm going to go do something drastic like buy a hooker, and then I'll catch herpes, and then you'll get herpes, and it won't be fun for anyone."
"No! Listen, I'll do all the talking, okay?" She knows she's begging, but, fuck, Sam is making this a thousand times more difficult than it should be. "You are just going to lay there and touch yourself and make noises that aren't creepy and maybe say something now and then if the urge strikes you." She can tell that he's nodding. She can't see it, of course, but he does it all the time—forgets he's on the phone and nods or makes random hand gestures as he tries to explain something complicated to whoever he's talking to.
"Help me set this up. Where are you? Are you lying in Zach's bed?"
Sam sputters, making this choking, spitting sound that does nothing for her mood. "What? No! Jesus, Jess, you don't—I'm not jerking off in my friend's bed, that's creepy."
"You're denying a little too emphatically there."
"Because it's gross, okay? I'm on the pull-out in the living room."
"It's ten-thirty at night. No one's gonna come pounding on the door or anything, and everyone knows Zach's not here, anyway."
"I bet you wish he was, though, huh? Him sitting there between your legs, pinning you and biting at your neck—"
Sam's voice cuts through the line, loud and hurried with just the slightest tinge of panic. "No, baby, you know you're—
"The only one for you, the sun and moon and sky, the one the sun rises and sets on, yeah, I know. This is a fantasy, Sam, stop ruining it."
"Oh, right, sorry."
"As you should be. Now, like I was saying, you're on your back, and Zach's biting your neck, not hard, just enough, like you like it." Jess hears what might be a soft grunt when she pauses. It's either that, or Sam just cleared his throat. Either way, it's a good sign. "It's okay if this is getting you off. That's the point. If I wanted to get off by myself, I wouldn't have called you."
"I know," he says, his voice cracking. "Keep going?"
She smiles into the phone and continues. "Zach's hands are running all over you, and he's kissing his way up your neck. When he gets to your mouth, it's this—" She pauses, shivering. "It's this really slow kiss, like one of the ones you like. Then he's moving, you're both moving, and he's sitting on the edge of the bed, legs spread wide, and you're crouched between them." Sam's groan is audible, and his breathing picks up.
"He runs his hands over your face, your mouth, your cheekbones. He pushes your hair back off your face and cradles the back of your head with one of his hands." Sam makes another noise, and Jess pauses, sure he's going to say something. He doesn't, though, only makes more of those garbled sounds, like the words are caught in the back of his throat.
"You kinda, mmm, you meet his eyes when you go down on him. And Zach, he just, he keeps touching your face, and his thumb's rubbing up and down your throat while..." Jess trails off, biting her lip to keep from moaning. "He's coming, and you're drinking it down, swallowing and pumping his cock—"
Sam interrupts her. "No."
She can't keep the whine out of her voice, doesn't even bother trying to hide it. "What? Sam, please."
"No, no, my—" He's gasping, long pauses between words, and she can hear him panting and groaning. "My face, he comes, fuck, he comes on my face." A full-body shiver rolls through Jess, and she has no idea what the hell sound she just made, but, damn, that might be the hottest thing she's ever heard. "And then, and then he, fuck, fuck."
"Wait! You have to wait, you can't come yet, Sam. Babe, please, please, just hold on a little longer, I know you can do it." He struggles to get his breath under control, taking in large gulps of air and swallowing. "Can't come yet, Sam," she teases. "Zach still has to fuck you."
"Jesus Christ. You know he can't actually get hard again that fast, right?"
"Shut up." She laughs back at him. "My reality here, not yours. You close?"
He stammers a little, trying to say too many things at once. "Yeah, hurry."
"He's got you on your knees, and he's right behind you. You're rocking on the bed, grabbing at the sheets and cursing, sweaty and fucking gorgeous, and, god, Sam. He's pushing into you, real slow at first, then faster, hard but not too hard, y'know? Stings a little but doesn't really hurt."
He's moaning now, loud and unrestrained, and she's almost as close as he is. "Fuck, I'm about to come just thinking about it, picturing his cock just sliding into you, and you're begging and pushing back into it, just fucking eager for it. Almost makes me wish I had a dick so I could fuck you. It gets me so wet just thinking about that—bending you over the bed, fucking you until you're sobbing and begging to come. Makes me wanna buy a strap-on and turn you out."
And then he's coming loud and hard, gasping and moaning like she's never heard him before. If she didn't think that was so damned hot, she might be worried. As it is, she's just trying to remember if she saw any stores on the way to Becky's from the airport.
It takes about a month from Sam agreeing to let Jess peg him to when they actually did it. Sam's apprehensive about it, but not in the, "Oh, god, do I really want something up my ass?" way. No, Sam's good with that part of it.
But there's a difference between liking it when a guy fucks you in the ass and liking it when your girlfriend does the same thing. It's a deceptively big difference, in fact. Because getting fucked by a guy is different—when people hear a guy's gay or bi, that's just what comes to mind anyway. If the guy's bi and has a girlfriend but still likes bottoming, the assumption is generally that he obviously just likes cock and is fooling himself.
And Sam's had more than enough of that stupid "if you like cock, you're gay" mentality. He already went through that crap when he started dating Jess and lost all those fake friends of his who didn't like him "playing straight."
There's also the fear that Jess will get the wrong idea and think that she's not enough for him or that he really misses cock. And it's not even about cock, not for him, it's just... about being close. As girly as it makes him, he gets off on that. It's hot knowing that there's no actual way to be closer to someone than when part of them is inside of you. He's always been a thinker about everything, for better or worse, and sex is no exception. It gets him hard to get others hard. Or wet, as the case may be.
Also, it feels really, really good.
Despite that, he's still twitchy. The idea makes him feel sort of exposed, like he's giving Jess access to all his dirty little secrets, and no one but Dean has ever been anywhere near that close to him.
When Dean is drunk and pissed off, he writes Jess letters telling her just what Sam likes in bed—how he likes to get fucked, just the way to swirl her tongue when she goes down on him, et cetera, et cetera.
He crumples them up and shoves them under his seat afterwards. Never sends them, no matter how badly he's wanted to sometimes.
And, man, does he really want to sometimes just out of spite. He loves Sam more than anything, and he likes Jess, but he just gets so angry—wants to sign one of those letters with his real name, send it off, and hurt Sam just as bad as he hurts.
They decide to move in on a Thursday. If they wait until Friday, they'll go the whole weekend waiting for the power to get turned on, and they—though Sam's pretty sure it's mostly him—are too impatient to wait until Monday.
When Jess pulls up in Zach's car, which he let her borrow for the night to set up house, Sam's got his duffle and messenger bag slung over his shoulder and a couple of pillows clutched in his hands, underwear, socks, and books shoved into the pillowcases because that's a habit he'll never be able to kick. He still ends up smashed into the front seat with all his stuff on his lap because Jess has jammed the rest of the car to its limit.
It's a short ride, and Sam doesn't feel at all bad about escaping from the car and running up the stairs into his and Jess's brand new apartment. Sam shoves his clothes into a drawer, tosses the mostly empty messenger bag and his books on the makeshift bed of thick blankets and an even thicker air mattress, plus one of those things that look like egg cartons and could probably handle having a huge knife shoved into them, and goes to help Jess bring in her stuff.
There's even more than what's in the car, so they work out a plan. Sam will unload everything and take it in because he's faster, and she won't make him come back to the townhouse and help her fit the rest of her stuff in the car. It takes three trips in total, but Zach comes with her on the last one, so between the three of them, they manage to get everything off the street and upstairs before dinner.
A few hours later, they've got most of the stuff unpacked, and Sam is helping Jess put her things away and tack up posters. It's nice. It's the first place he can remember that has his real, honest to god last name associated with it.
It's nice and normal, and Sam's enjoying the safe domesticity in his apartment that he shares with his girlfriend who he loves. Jess is multitasking, telling him where to tack up the posters—"A little to the left, no, the other left, my left"—in between planning out their day tomorrow. "It's not like you can't afford to miss a class," she points out. "And the sooner we get it done, the more time we'll have to relax. Pretend that didn't rhyme."
He hasn't been able to stop smiling since Zach took off. Jess is standing there, talking about how they need to go buy a bed and a couch, a couple of tables, a few chairs, and, god, groceries. He knows how ridiculous it is, but he's never had this before, nothing even close, and he's just so happy. If it wasn't for the knife in her hands and her sloppy reflexes, Sam doesn't think he'd be able to stop himself from walking over to Jess and hugging her.
She catches him staring and glances around self-consciously, like she's trying to figure out why she's suddenly the focus of his attention. "Oh! Sam! Oh, I'm sorry, I got all involved in trying to figure out what's in these boxes and where to put everything! Oh, god, we can go get the rest of your stuff now, I didn't mean to just make you sit here and wait on me!"
Sam looks up from Jess's books, which he hasn't been alphabetizing because that's the kind of anal-retentive way of thinking that he left behind with his nervous tics and stress ulcers. "No, don't worry about it. This is my stuff, we're done." When he looks up, Jess is just standing there, staring at him.
He doesn't have a lot of stuff. He knows this. But he has a lot more than when he came to Stanford: a laptop that he saved up for and upgraded every year because he can, the iPod that she got him for his birthday before they were even dating, a couple of drawers worth of clothing, and about a dozen books, only four or five of which are for his classes this quarter.
"What? You're the weird one. I don't think I've ever met anyone who owned as much stuff as you." Okay, so maybe he's a little defensive. Embarrassed, really, but that's it. He's never had a lot of stuff, so it's not like he misses it. He doesn't miss having posters on the wall because the closest he ever got were the pictures he would tape to the back of the front seat.
Jess scoffs and blows it off with a smile. "Minimalist freak." She makes her way towards him and wraps her arms around his neck, pulling him into a kiss. "If you skip class tomorrow, I'll fuck you on our brand new bed before you go to work."
And, really, what can he say to that.
Their first month or two of living together kind of sucks. A lot.
And it's all because Sam had this fucking brilliant idea of not relying on Jess's parents and their money to survive, possibly because of all those times when he was little that he had to pretend he was some random old lady's grandson. And, okay, a bigger part of it probably has to do with all those boyfriends he used to have who he didn't really like, but who had a bed and shower over breaks when the dorms were closed.
It was a good idea in theory. Sam kept his jobs, and Jess got one—waitressing, because she's got that smile that can get her insane tips—and none of the money from Jess's parents would go towards their bills or anything that was needed for the apartment.
Except that between the extra shifts Sam takes at the bar and the club to help pull in bill money and his full time job at the restaurant, plus Jess's job and their classes, they barely see each other at all anymore.
Sam has a plan, though. He'll work double and triple shifts at his jobs for time and a half and extra tips, and then maybe in a few months, they might be able to afford to have free time again.
Until that happens, they make do with what they can.
Sam always wakes Jess up when he goes running. It's four in the morning, and she doesn't stay awake for long, but it's long enough to kiss good morning and be the kind of sappy neither of them want to admit to around their friends, involving lots of cuddling and nuzzling and sleepy kisses.
Sam always brings her back coffee and a piece of coffee cake from down the street because she hates muffins. He always makes sure she finishes them before she leaves for class because otherwise she ends up dropping everything on her way and almost scalding herself with hot coffee. Jess isn't the most coordinated person when she's still half asleep and in a hurry.
They try to keep their weekends open, too, at least during the days. That's their time, when Sam goes running, then comes back and meets Jess in the shower before they crawl onto the couch and lounge around, watching whatever's on Sci-Fi or TNT. Sometimes, Jess makes Sam brush her hair and braid it for her. The peace usually lasts until around lunchtime, when Zach or Becky or Kaitlin wake up and decide they need to start calling.
She goes to pick Sam up from work when she can. They still don't have a lot of time together, even after moving in, so they cling to what little they have. Sam will come with and sit with her while she gets her nails or hair done, and Jess will meet him between classes—little things like that.
It's close to eleven right now. Jess is sitting on the sidewalk outside of the club, waiting for Sam's shift to end so they can go home, maybe stop by McDonald's on the way and grab some burgers or something.
It's cold out tonight, and she's bundled up in Sam's things: a pair of his pajama pants that he never wears unless he's already passed out and she's dressing him, one of his hoodies, and a shirt of his underneath that. She's got her pink beanie on her head, the one that Sam thinks is so cute with the floppy bunny ears.
She wants a cigarette, which she blames on Zach. She doesn't even smoke; it just feels like that kind of atmosphere. If this were a movie, her character would be lighting up right now. Of course, she would probably also be wearing something a little more attractive than baggy, baby duck print pajama pants and a sweatshirt that's about nineteen sizes too big for her.
Stupid Zach, what kind of person goes pre-med and then studies film too? What kind of a combination is that? At least Sam's makes sense; psychology and sociology go hand in hand. And yeah, Jess might be a little bit of an armchair shrink right now, but it's better than sitting on a cold sidewalk with a frozen ass thinking about how the camera angle would be if you weren't real.
God, fuck the burgers. Jess clearly needs coffee.
Her phone rings, and it takes a moment for her to fumble it out. She can hear it, but it's not in her pocket, and she didn't toss it in her bag. She fishes it out of the pocket of the hoodie and answers it before pulling back to check the caller ID. It reads Unavailable instead of a number, and she thinks that it's probably some really mixed up telemarketer.
There's silence on the other end for a few seconds before she repeats herself. "Hello?" Hello?"
She's about to hang up and write it off as a drunken misdial or a lame prank when the caller, a man, finally speaks.
"What did he tell you about his brother?"
She doesn't recognize the voice and almost hangs up again. It's not gravelly enough for Zach and the wrong accent for Evan or either of the Chrises, and she doesn't know any other guys who would call her this late.
And then it clicks. It's him. The mystery guy on the other end of the letter and postcards, the ones with P.O. boxes for return addresses when he puts them on at all—the one who never signs his name.
"What did Sammy tell you about his brother?" he repeats, and Jess shakes herself out of her haze. Her first thought, still a little numb with shock, is how cute the name "Sammy" is.
"Not a lot," Jess admits. She clears her throat and looks back at the club, nervous that Sam might come out. "He always...." She struggles, trying to figure out how to describe that look Sam gets when he talks about Dean. "He always looks so fucking sad."
The laugh she gets is not the response she was expecting; it's unsteady and breathy, tinged with hysteria. His voice is thready this time, and it breaks a little as he pushes the words out. "You cussed."
Jess isn't entirely sure, but she thinks he might be listening to a nervous breakdown over the phone. The movie she's in just went from art house indie to black comedy. If whoever this guy is starts shouting about his dead gay son, she's going to hang up and scream, then wake up from her dream.
Fuck, she needs coffee. Possibly a thick slice of reality to go with it.
"Yes, I cursed. I do it a lot. I could probably speak an entire, coherent sentence using nothing but curse words if I tried hard enough. Or if it's the middle of the night, and Sam's just stabbed me in the back of the knee with one of his sharp-ass toenails."
"You don't look like someone who cusses. It's all the pink you wear, makes you look girly."
"You've been watching me?" A cold shivers rolls over her, and she resists the urge to look around. That's just way too stalker-like for her tastes. God, why the fuck isn't Sam out yet?
"Only because you're around him so much. I had to make sure he was safe, you know. Had to see it with my own two eyes."
"Safe from me?" There's this hurt feeling in the pit of her stomach that takes her by surprise. She's not sure why—well, no, that's not true. She had thought that this guy trusted her a little. There's a kind of implied confidence in those letters—postcards, whatever—an unwritten, "I know you'll do this for me," at the beginning and end of every one. Maybe she was wrong. If Sam's taught her anything, it's that reading people is a lot harder than it looks.
"Safe from everyone." It's so poetic and utterly surreal that Jess only barely holds back her own laughter, a small huff of it escaping in a cloud of warm breath. Maybe it's not Zach's fault that she's thinking in lighting and camera angles. Things like this don't actually happen in real life.
She takes in a deep breath, cool air stinging her lungs, and tries to figure out what to do next. The silence isn't awkward, but it sure as hell isn't comfortable. Jess doesn't know how to respond to that, doesn't think there is a response.
"His name's Dean." That's the first thought that comes to her mind, so she goes with it and just hope she doesn't say something stupid. "He spoiled Sam so fucking rotten, it's just... I thought." She giggles, remembering how he was way back when she first met him—this nerdy, hunched over boy smiling down at his notes on the other side of the table.
"I thought he was just the biggest mama's boy in the whole fucking world. He couldn't cook for himself, couldn't clean, could barely do laundry, and if you made yourself a sandwich 'cause you were hungry, he would just get this, this confused look on his face like he couldn't understand why he didn't have any food."
There's a pause, and Jess waits. For what, she's not really sure, maybe for her train of thought to pick up again. Maybe she's waiting for her mystery caller to acknowledge that he's still there and paying attention.
"He told you his brother did all that?" The way he says it isn't hesitant, but it's slow—cautious, like he's picking his words. Jess feels a little more at ease knowing that she's not the only one in this conversation who's practically twitching.
"Well, I mean, you know Sam—at least, I think you do. Pretty much everything you said has been right so far, so either you know him, or you're psychic and—uh, yeah, anyway. He never really tells you anything outright; it's just these little things that slip through sometimes. Like how when you ask him if he's hungry, he says no, but if you just put food in front of him, he'll eat it. Well, now that he eats in front of me."
There's a moment of silence as Jess takes a moment to process what she just said. "That doesn't make sense, does it?"
The laugh is healthier this time, less psychotic sounding. "No, not really."
"Yeah, well, shut up, it's late."
"It isn't even ten."
"It's past eleven."
"No, it's not. It's nine fifty-two."
"I'm looking at my watch right now, and it says it's eleven ten."
"Buy a new watch, then. The clock on the corner of the TV says it's eleven fifty-three here, which means it's nine fifty-three there. If it were past eleven, Sam would be off work or would at least have called you to say he was gonna be late."
"Fuck. I could be sleeping right now. Or cleaning or something. I can't believe I just wasted fifteen dollars on a cab to come sit here in the cold for an hour."
"Fifteen bucks? That means you're, what? Two miles away?"
"Yeah, something like that, we're real close by. But Sam doesn't like me out alone so late, so I take a cab to pick him up before we walk home together—not that I'm some weak little girl who does whatever her big, strapping man tells her to. It's just that there've been attacks lately, and I'm smart enough to know that I'm no match for someone who can put one of our star linebackers in the hospital."
"You're nervous, aren't you?"
She laughs, this stark, brittle sound, and she thinks that if she tilts her head the right way, she just might be able to see her sanity fleeing. "What's there to be nervous about? I'm only sitting in front of a club in PJs talking on the phone to somebody I don't know who won't even give me his name and knows more about my boyfriend than I do. Who also knows how much pink I wear, what time Sam gets off work, and not only my address but my phone number, even though I haven't told him anything."
"Don't take it so personal. It's my job to find things like that out. And for your information, finding out someone's address or where they work isn't the same as knowing their social security number or what color panties they wear to bed. I'm sending postcards, not nailing puppies to your door."
Jess has clearly spent too much time around Chris and Zach's other degenerate friends because her brain bypasses possible identity theft and a peeping tom stalker and latches straight onto the last sentence. "Was that a Buffy reference you just made?"
"It was! Oh, my god. I..." This isn't fair. This guy was supposed to help her figure out Sam, not give her yet another person to obsess over trying to figure out. "What do you do?"
"What do you do? You said this is your job. What are you?" She knows better than to suggest things. Her daddy taught her well—let them tell the truth or watch them try to think of something plausible that fast.
"I can't tell you."
"No, I get enough of that from Sam. You're not fucking me, so I don't have to put up with it from you. And don't you dare insult me by trying to pass yourself off as a fed or a spy or something. My dad's an FBI agent, and there's no way in hell you're one."
"Think of my job as Fight Club. First rule of Fight Club is—hang on." There's a scratching sound followed by silence, and Jess figures she's just been set down or covered.
There's a muffled sort of sound, and if she covers her other ear and presses the phone close against her head, she can make out a few words like, "Only wanted two," and something about a dog and water.
He picks up the phone again and greets her with, "Hey, Bobby." It doesn't take a genius to figure out he's not supposed to be talking to her. "We're headed out in a minute, so I have to call you later about that, okay?"
"Wait!" she calls out, trying to catch him before he hangs up. "Are you really going to call back, or is that just for whoever's benefit?"
He scoffs, letting out this cocky-sounding laugh that grates on her eardrums. "Luck's got nothing to do with it; this is pure skill. Bye."
Jess barely restrains the urge to throw her phone into the street. That was so far beyond a non-answer that she may as well have asked—"Fuck!" She didn't even think about asking his name.
The clock on her phone says she's still got another half hour until Sam's shift ends. Sitting outside by herself doesn't really sound like an appealing idea, and it would be time for them to go anyway by the time her cab home would arrive, so she gives a wave to Jeph, the bouncer, who lets her in to go wait at the bar for Sam.
| Three |