Sam does not have a good record with firsts.
His first girlfriend tried to make his stomach explode for fun, his first kiss ended up with him splitting his lip open on the other boy's braces, and his first boyfriend gave him a black eye. It was only the one time, though—Sam socked him back twice as hard and then let Dad and Dean go say hello to him as long as they left their guns at home.
Sam's fairly sure that when he loses his virginity, it's going to end up with him in the hospital. Somebody might even die.
So, by that reasoning, it's totally a good thing that Sam is surrounded by guys who are two years older than him and generally consider him to be a baby. And are straight.
A really, really good thing. Really.
Dean's taking out the trash when he catches them. He's the only one home; Mom and Dad are out doing research, and Sam's supposed to be at the fucking library, which was the entire reason Dean let him borrow the fucking car.
At first, that's all he sees, just the car parked out back where there aren't any lights. He has every intention of scaring the crap out of Sammy, and just, he doesn't even think about it, about why the lights aren't on or why Sam is sitting in the dark.
When he gets to the window, though, he sees. Sam's not alone, and he seems pretty preoccupied at the moment. Dean's got this instant, quick flash of anger because Sam should fucking notice him.
He doesn't, though. Sam seems completely absorbed in whoever he's got pressed against the seat, and, okay, it's not like Dean was expecting it to be a girl in back with Sammy, not really, but it's one thing to know Sam's gay and another to see some pretty irrefutable proof of it.
They're making out. Sam's got one hand cupping the guy's jaw, tilting his head back and, damn. Dean will admit he's kind of proud because if the moaning is anything to go, by his scrawny geek of a brother has got some pretty good technique.
The kid slams his head back with a loud, "Fuck," that Dean can hear clearly from where he's completely not crouching in the bushes. Dean hadn't really been looking before, hadn't even thought of it, but he can see Sam's arm and elbow moving up and down, up and down. He knows what that means, but his brain can't really comprehend his little brother jerking some kid off in their backseat. Sammy's got his head tilted down, staring between them, and that's too much for Dean. He's about to go, give them their privacy, but—
But the kid, the other boy, he shoves Sam. Before Dean has even completed a fucking thought, he's nearly at the door and is milliseconds from getting it open and hauling the guy out—no one gets to shove Sammy around like that but Dean—when his brain thankfully, finally, catches up with his eyes.
Sam's flat on the seat now, and the guy's got his cock out, jerking it fast and staring down at Sam. It's just a healthy curiosity that has him looking, just pure curiosity, and that's it. Curiosity about the guy, not about Sam, or how Sam's head is tilted back or how he's panting and squirming, digging his fingers into the guy's thighs as—holy shit—the guy comes all over Sam's face.
That's just not something Dean wants to see—really, it isn't—and he tears his eyes away and catches the other kid staring straight at him. Or, at least, he would be, but he's got his head angled just enough that his brow catches the light to throw a shadow over his eyes. It's a weird shadow; there's some glint of something, and Dean can't tell if the guy is squinting or just has one of those stupid eyebrow rings, but then the kid lifts his head and stares Dean down, straight on. He's got this smirk on his face, and a cold shiver goes down Dean's back, the hair on the back of his neck standing on end.
Dean turns tail and runs, like he should have done in the first place.
When Sammy comes back in about half an hour later, Dean very carefully doesn't bat an eye. His mind might be screaming a million different things at him, but he's still cold from his shower, and Sam's a sensitive little flower who will start crying if he thinks Dean doesn't like him anymore. Or something else stupid like that.
Dean greets Sam with a nod on his way to the shower.
Dean does not sleep well that night. He takes three more showers and an extra long one in the morning and still manages to leave enough hot water for Sam and his wannabe Rapunzel locks.
Dean packs Sam up around noon and drives them to the Planned Parenthood three towns over—the nearest one, motherfucking Bible Belt—and tells them to test Sam for everything. He even gets himself tested, too, just in case. Sam protests, stomps and glowers and says he hasn't done anything to get tested for.
It takes most of Dean's willpower not to smack Sam across the face; that doesn't even deserve the fucking dignity of a punch. He's not sure if it's more for lying to Dean's face like that or for being stupid enough to actually think he's telling the truth. Dean just glares at him instead with the most pissed off glare he can manage. Sam's angry and looks scared, and all Dean can feel is satisfaction, because that bastard should be scared.
The nurse or doctor or whatever she is tells him the results will take from days to weeks depending, and he tells them to ask for him when they call. In all honesty, Mom will probably be relieved that Dean is at least pretending to be responsible.
They stop at a Wal-Mart on the way home, and Dean buys Sam two boxes of condoms and three different things of lube. He has no idea what Sam prefers and would rather gouge out his eyes with wooden spoons than ask, so he figures variety is good for the soul or whatever.
"If your dick goes near someone else, you wear a fucking condom. If someone else's dick comes anywhere near you, they wear a fucking condom. I don't care if it's a fucking handjob," Dean tells him. "If anyone's dick goes near anyone's skin, you wrap that shit the fuck up, okay?"
"I'm not stupid," Sam informs him, rolling his eyes and slouching low, trying to hide in the middle of the aisle. Dean only just barely refrains from calling Sam on his shit. Sam is exactly that stupid, and that's why Dean let some mean old lady swab his dick and stab him with a needle.
"You're fifteen; you're exactly that stupid. Do you know the kind of shit that can happen to you? HIV, herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea, the clap—"
"Gonorrhea and the clap are the same thing, Dean." Sam scowls.
"So you do have a brain! I was beginning to wonder if you just copied off a lot of smart kids."
Sam doesn't say anything until they're back in the car. When he does, it's quiet and proceeded by a small sniffle. "I thought that out of all people, that you wouldn't think that just 'cause I, you know, that I'm gonna go... go slutting around with random people."
"Hey, fuck you," Dean says. "There is nothing wrong with slutting around; it happens to be one of my favorite pastimes, even—especially if there are random people involved. But I'm smart enough to wrap my shit up. But you, you—" Dean cuts himself off.
Dean can't even form coherent thoughts right now. He's pissed that Sam has the fucking audacity to act like Dean's being a bad guy, and he's pissed that he has to be a bad guy. "You know what, Sammy? The next time you 'go to the library,' do me a favor and try not to jizz all over my car, okay? Because if I never have to clean your junk off the back seat again, it will be twenty years too soon."
The mortified silence in the car in nearly deafening, which is a phrase that Dean never got before but completely understands now. The rest of the drive back is in silence. Really, the only way that could have been more awkward is if Dean had actually come out and said he watched some guy jerk off on Sam's face last night.
Though, of course, thinking about that doesn't really help.
It's a long ride back.
It starts with the nightmares. They're bad and constant, and Sam wakes up scared—terrified, really, and shaking and crying.
Sam knows that Dean doesn't care how old they get; he's never, ever, ever going to be able to ignore Sam when he's crying, no matter what. There's just something in him that makes him need to make it better. Sometimes, that's annoying, but after the nightmares, sometimes all that will make it better is Dean, climbing out of his bed and into Sam's, shoving him close to the wall and curling around him so that Sam knows he's there, that Dean will keep him safe and protect him, just like he promised he would. Just like he always has and always will.
Sometimes, Sam will follow the rules; he'll lay there quietly and let Dean curl against him, let Dean comfort him, let him do that thing where he brushes a hand down Sam's back, over and over, a nice, repetitive motion to lull him to sleep.
But... but sometimes, Sam needs more. Sometimes, it isn't enough to just sit there quietly and calm down. Sometimes he needs to talk, has to tell Dean what he sees: the small, scrawny boy with all the bruises and the man petting him that makes Sam's skin crawl. The other boy, a tall one with a name Sam can never remember, strapped to a white bed in a white room with a bite-guard in his mouth and little electrodes stuck to his head that burn and hurt and spark in ways Sam knows they shouldn't.
Sometimes, Sam has to talk it out, has to open his mouth and let the stories tumble out gracelessly, get them out of his brain and into the world. He has to share them with someone else because they scare him so badly that sometimes, Sam wakes Dean up first, and Dean has to go get new sheets from the hallway. Sam's too ashamed to get them himself, but he has no shame with Dean.
Sometimes, the talking isn't enough. Sometimes, Sam burrows closer to Dean, fists a hand in Dean's shirt or the waist of his jockeys, and fits himself as close as he can to Dean. So close that the sharp slope of Sam's nose wars with Dean's and smushes and slides into Dean's cheek, the chapped skin of their lips pressing together, firm but not tight. Sometimes, Dean tilts his head and breathes into the kiss, slow and soft. Sometimes, Sam's tongue teases its way out, brushing against Dean's lightly while Sam's body shakes with leftover adrenaline and something else he doesn't know well enough to name.
They don't talk about it. Dean doesn't talk about the way Sam's fingers dig into his hip or how Sam touches himself sometimes during. Sam doesn't talk about how he can feel Dean, low against his stomach, pressing in, or how he likes the wet, sticky feeling there after Dean rocks against him.
He and Dean have already been kissing for a while by now, mostly late at night, in the dark and quiet where they can pretend nothing's really happening, that they aren't rubbing against each other and touching themselves. There've been lots of long, long nights spent panting into each other's mouths, tongues flicking over lips as they pump into their own fists, whimpering and moaning for each other.
This night starts out differently at first: no nightmare, no shaking, nothing like that. Just Sam, itchy and restless, his dick stiff as his hips rock against the bed, fantasies of Dean running through his mind—Dean pressed up behind him, Dean covering him, Dean kissing him, Dean touching him.
And then Dean's there, and Sam mostly thinks he's still in his head until Dean crouches low, one hand on the small of Sam's back and another pushing Sam's hair out of his face, and asks if he's okay. Sam's fantasies don't often tend to involve Dean thinking he's having a nightmare; that's just embarrassing. He takes advantage, though, and pulls Dean down on the bed with him.
Their door is still wide open, but it doesn't really matter because it's just them at home anyway, all alone for at least another few hours. Sam's back is plastered against the wall, and Dean's ass is half hanging off the bed because Sam's fucking knobby knees keep jumping up, smashing into Dean's and making him flinch back.
They're still mostly clothed. Sam's only got the button on his pants undone, and Dean's jeans are unzipped and shoved down, his underwear tangling with them right at the bend in his knees, where Dean left them after he ran out of patience.
There's no clinging this time; it's not the middle of the night, there are no tears, and Sam doesn't need comforting from horrible images in his head that might be real. They're brackets right now, knees tangled together, foreheads pressed close, and everything in between as far apart as they—Dean—can manage.
But that's not enough for Sam anymore, and everyone always tells him that he thinks too much before he does things anyway. Sam can feel the sweat on his forehead where it's pressed against Dean's, and he thinks, he does, before he leans forward, mouth tilting just right—up and to the left—to catch Dean's mouth.
And then Sam is kissing Dean when other people are still awake in the world and, even better, while Dean is touching Sam. It's just a small touch—a hand under Sam's shirt, on his hip—but Sam's never got that before midnight. Dean's hard and Sam can feel it against his stomach, can feel it because Dean is pulling him closer, rocking against Sam slowly while they kiss.
Sam really likes kissing. He likes it in general and he especially likes it with Dean. It's not awkward; no teeth clacking or gross, wet lips, and Dean doesn't just stick his tongue out and hold it there like Quintin did.
Sam knows, intellectually, that he is important to Dean and that he's probably one of the first things Dean thinks about when he wakes up—but when Dean kisses him he feels like it. Dean's mouth on his makes him feel like he's the only thing in the world that matters; like kissing him is all Dean needs to survive.
Dean kisses him with slow, deep swipes of tongue before pulling back just the slightest bit, pressing wet kisses to his jaw while he slides his hand off Sam's hip. Sam makes a noise of displeasure; he can't help it, but he stops himself when he feels Dean's knuckles brushing against his stomach.
Just as Dean's getting close—Sam can tell because Dean's eyes are squeezed tight, and his breathing is getting all jittery and shaky—Sam reaches down and pushes his hand away.
"Can't say no, Dean," Sam gasps, begging desperately, his lips brushing against Dean's. "You can't say no if I don't ask." Sam doesn't even know what he's saying anymore or if it makes any sense; he just knows that he can't let Dean chicken out on him.
He pushes and pulls at Dean's arm, rolling him over onto his back and then more towards the middle of the bed before shuffling himself around, climbing up and over to settle himself down on Dean's thighs. Sam's nervous and more than a little scared; he hasn't really done anything like this before, hasn't taken charge like this before.
Sam doesn't want Dean to see him shaking. He knows Dean will think something's wrong and stop this whole thing, and Sam doesn't want that to happen—he can't let it happen. Sam grabs at Dean's cock again, marveling at the feel of it in his hands, how much it feels like his own. He doesn't know why, but he always just assumed it would be different somehow. It's not like Dean's a different species or anything, and there's no reason it would be, but he just didn't expect it to be like everyone else's. It's not, though, except for the angle, and that's actually good. It calms Sam's nerves and makes him a little more confident, makes him think—know—that he can do this.
He squeezes a little tighter as he pulls at Dean's cock, looser at the bottom and tighter near the tip, then brushes his thumb over the slit at the tip, just like in that movie Dean keeps under his bed that he doesn't think Sam knows about. He figures if it works when a girl does it, it'll work just the same with him, and judging by the way Dean's reacting, Sam figures he's right.
Dean's cursing, his hips thrusting up and bouncing Sam in place just enough that Sam can't hide the small whimper that escapes him. It makes him think about the other part of the movie and all the noises the girl made when the guy put his dick inside of her, and Sam wants to know what that feels like so much.
Sam's jerking Dean faster now, rocking against Dean's thrusts because he just can't help it. "Come on, Dean, come on, please," Sam begs. "Do it, come on." He's half begging Dean to come and half begging Dean to touch him, to quit fisting his hands in the sheets or grabbing at the pillow, to just touch Sam, but then Dean throws his head back, and that's it.
When Dean finally comes, after what feels like forever to Sam, it's messy and loud, with Dean panting and grabbing at the sheets as he shoots all over, getting his come on Sam's hand and Sam's jeans and even a little on the bottom of Sam's shirt.
The image sears itself in Sam's brain, and Sam keeps it there. He always wants to remember this, always wants to remember what Dean looks like, coming because of him and losing control like that.
Afterwards, Dean has trouble catching his breath again. He's taking these huge, heaving gulps of air like he just ran a marathon or something, and Sam can tell that his brain is still fuzzy; he knows Dean, and it's those slow blinks, they ways his hands are still stretching out, fingers curling and uncurling slowly.
Sam's still hard—harder now, actually, and he knows he should get off—climb off of Dean or something before he takes care of himself, but he can't. He just can't manage to make it happen because he has Dean's come on his hand, and it's hot, it's so fucking hot that Sam can't help himself, doesn't care if it's gross or anything. He can't wait any longer, and he rubs his hand on the crotch of his jeans, humping his dick up against it.
He knows he's basically rubbing the come in, but instead of it being sick, instead of thinking about how weird Dean must think it is, all Sam can think about is how little is separating his hand from his cock, how little is separating his cock from Dean's come, and it just makes him press against the bulge in his pants even harder.
"It's okay, Dean," he pants out, half sarcastic because he just can't fucking seem to help it. "You don't have to, don't have to—ah, fuck." It's too much; his skin tingles, and his toes are curling. He honestly has no fucking idea in the world how he hasn't already come, but he knows he will soon, and if he comes in his jeans like some thirteen-year-old, he will never forgive himself. "I'm fine, I'm fine. I just wanted to—I-I needed to—fuck—"
The zipper is torturous and almost painful in a really bad way, but then it's down, and there's just a little bit of wiggling before Sam's cock is in his hands. He barely has any time to think, only just manages to get free, and then he's coming. He's shaking and twitching and making a mess of himself and of Dean, too, and he just cannot find it in himself to care even a tiny little bit at all.
Sam has these two roommates during his first year at Stanford, and he can tell that it's probably going to be one of the longest years of his life.
One of his roommates, James, is pretty much without a doubt the most irritating, frustrating person Sam has ever met in his entire life. Sam is a Winchester whose mother is a Campbell; he knows irritating.
Everything about James clashes with Sam. James is loud and annoying, and every single time that he opens his mouth, it takes everything Sam has in him not to haul back and punch him in the face. The guy is completely grating in every way possible, and he does things like standing far too close behind Sam and staring at the computer screen while Sam is on it, which is bad on two levels. There are very few people Sam will turn his back on, and Sam doesn't even like it when Dean watches him on the computer like that.
The guy is a complete idiot, too, because he seems to think Sam is joking when he tells him to go the fuck away and leave him alone or to just shut up and stop fucking talking to him already. Sam's not a difficult guy to get along with most of the time, but there's something about James that Sam just reacts badly to.
James isn't even a bad guy, per se; he doesn't call Sam names, and he isn't mean to him or anything. He's just a raging tool who parties constantly and then complains about his crappy grades, takes no responsibility at all for his actions, and brings girls back to the room and tries to bang them while Sam is very clearly awake and in the room.
Okay, so Dean did that a few times, too, but in Dean's defense, Sam usually had his own room he was supposed to be in, so it's not like it was a foregone conclusion that Sam would be there. When he was sober, he almost always stopped when—or if—he caught Sam.
James is pretty much a tool, but Sam's sure that's only because Jackson, his other roommate, is smart, and nice, and funny, and stupidly gorgeous, as well as being possibly interested in Sam. So, the way Sam sees it, it's just the universe feeling like it needs to balance things out.
Sam's back hurts. That's the first thing he notices: a sharp, stabbing pain near his shoulder blade. It expands out from there, and then everything starts to come into bright, cold focus.
When he opens his eyes, all he sees are clouds. Light and dark grey, not heavy enough for rain yet, but getting close.
It was dark just a few minutes ago, Sam swears, and warm enough that Sam was sweating through his shirts, sticky California heat making him miserable as usual. It's cold now, though, chilly enough that he shivers a little, and it's been that way long enough that the sweaty line of shirt no longer clings to the small of his back.
Sam pushes himself up and takes a look around. Everything's dilapidated; there's rust and splinters and dirt as far as he can see and some husked-out buildings with holes in them, giant patches eaten through like a particularly bad case of termites.
There's a banging noise coming from one of the shacks, a small barn-looking thing, kind of like an oversized shed. Grey paint falls off the sides in big patches, lead chips collecting dust on the brown-orange metal bar holding the building shut. Sam pushes at the bar from the bottom up, one, two, three times before it finally gives way with a groan, leaving behind rusty smears of old metal on the palms of Sam's hands.
A girl comes stumbling out, straight brown hair flying out behind her as she nearly tumbles to the ground. Sam catches her and staggers for a moment because while she's small, she's got some momentum going behind her, like she was charging at the door. She's talking, jabbering some stream of words, but she's going so fast that Sam can't make out a word she's saying.
"Slow down, slow down," he tells her, helping her upright and taking a step back out of her personal space. "Are you okay? What's your name?"
She doesn't answer, though. She doesn't have to because he hears someone yell, "Ava," behind him, and she takes off, running into the open arms of a tall, skinny black kid. They clearly know each other, and judging by their matching clothes—her fancy dress and his button-down, too-crisp shirt—they were probably together when whatever it was happened.
They're talking to each other, low murmurs that Sam can't quite make out. He knows he should probably turn away and give them a little privacy, take a look around, and after a moment, he does. He's not sure what happened; probably, they got kidnapped because that is the kind of life Sam has. All he can hope is that maybe it's at least not a family of Leatherfaces again. One escape from possibly cannibalistic human-hunters is more than Sam's ever needed; he doesn't particularly want to have to run from that again.
Sam ventures out on the muddy path, making sure to keep the couple in sight, just in case. About fifteen yards out, the path opens up and meets with a circular path, just as muddy and unkempt as the one he was walking on a moment ago. His boots squelch as he walks, the mud sucking at them.
The pathway isn't some kind of side path like he thought. He can see that now; it's a full-fledged road that meets up with another one. Not big enough for a car, but maybe just the right size for some horses, he thinks, if the architecture is anything to go by. It looks like an old west ghost town—a real one, not one of the fake ones with the too-bright grey paint and artful aging.
There's a large, rickety windmill at five o'clock and the steeple of a church peeking up over the buildings at seven o'clock; Sam makes note, just in case, to make sure he doesn't lose track of where he is. There's a building to his right that looks kind of like a saloon or brothel like in the movies, but when he gets close and looks in the windows, he can see dusty shelves of nothing but more dust and cobwebs. Then there's a creak coming from Sam's left, and he stops.
Sam peeks around the corner on his right and sees the couple still standing close together, but they're looking around now. Sam picks up a rock and tosses it at them, just close enough to get their attention. After three more rocks, the guy looks up, and Sam makes a shushing motion and beckons them closer. He doesn't want them out of his sight; he doesn't trust things he can't see, and he doesn't trust people he doesn't know.
Once they're closer, he makes the shushing motion again. They comply easily, and in his head, Sam thanks shock and the amazing pliability it gives people sometimes. He takes the lead and can't help but notice how the guy makes sure the girl, Ava, is between the two of them. That's good; that means he might not be an idiot because he knows not to let a small girl trail behind at the end. Either that, or he's a coward who wants the girl to get stabbed first if they're attacked head on, but Sam wants to be an optimist today, so he's gonna go with the guy being smart.
There's another creak, this time from them, and Sam winces because there's no element of surprise now. Not that they have any real advantage, anyway; Sam doesn't have his gun on him, and there isn't much besides splintered wood in arm's reach. He grabs a plank anyway. It's old and eaten through, and he can feel it start to crumble underneath his fingertips, soft and disgustingly wet.
Sam takes a deep breath and steps around the corner, rotten wood held up above his shoulder, and—
—thankfully doesn't bludgeon the small, ginger-haired girl cowering on the other side of the corner. She's got her hands thrown up over her head, and she's making these rumbling, almost growling noises, like she's clearing her throat over and over. She's wearing a long t-shirt with the Batman symbol on it and no pants or shoes.
Sam slowly takes a step back and lowers his makeshift weapon to the ground. He's knows this isn't a particularly smart idea—there's no telling if she's hostile or not—but it's not exactly like the soggy wood was going to do very much damage anyway, even to a girl that size.
"Are you okay?" Sam asks her. She doesn't answer and doesn't show any sign that she's even heard him. Her eyes are darting around like a skittish animal, and she's still making that growl-like snarling noise. She reminds Sam of a stray animal, some skittish thing in the throes of panic. Sam knows better, but he can't seem to stop making bad decisions, so he slowly moves a hand towards her, touching the outside of her shoulder to try to get her attention.
He gets her attention, all right; she jumps and stumbles back, and Sam reaches for her again because instead of trying to break her fall, both of her hands fly to her mouth, cupped and pressed over it like when Sam was little and wanted to show he could keep a secret.
Sam pulls his hands back slowly once he's sure she's not about to go tumbling backwards and snap her neck. "I'm Sam," he tells her. One of her hands unclamps from her mouth and fingerspells out Dinah one letter at a time.
"Are you—" Sam starts before catching himself. He signs his question, asking if she's deaf. Dinah nods at him, signing yes and then a few other things Sam doesn't understand. "Sorry, I—" Sam stops himself again, then signs carefully that he knows fingerspell and only a few other signs.
She signs that it's better than nothing, and Sam can't help but smile. He always likes an optimist.
"Uh, excuse me," Sam hears from behind him. It's Ava, the girl who—who looks really familiar now. He can't figure out if it's from a vision or because he's actually met her, though. Visions don't usually mean good things, so Sam tries to make himself remember to keep that in mind. "Not to interrupt your little tea party here, but what the hell is going on?"
"I don't know," Sam says honestly. "I woke up right before I found you. I'm not sure where we are, either."
"We were on a date," Ava's boyfriend says. "I was walking her to the door, and then I'm waking up on this dirty-ass porch, and it's the middle of the day. What happened?"
"I don't know," Sam repeats himself. "I—"
Sam is cut off by yelling, coming from four o'clock. No, not yelling, screaming. Someone is screaming bloody murder, and Sam doesn't even think twice; he takes off running in that direction. He knows Ava and Ava's boyfriend are following behind because he can hear their footsteps and the way they're panting as they trail behind him. He doesn't know about Dinah, but can't make himself slow down to find out.
There's what looks like a giant, old hotel up ahead, with paint that still looks nearly white in some places. The shutters are in surprisingly good condition and look nearly new, which is even creepier than the rest of the decay surrounding them.
The girl who's still screaming is on the ground by the steps. She's curled over on herself with her hands shoved in her hair, pressing in so tight that Sam can see the tension in her arms, even beneath the bathrobe covering them. Her hair is straight and a murky brown color, greasy where it knots around her fingers, and she's bent so far over that she looks like she's about to fall over.
She keeps screaming and screaming, and when she stops, Sam knows it's only because she's run out of air. He knows that gasping silence; it's the same one Jo used to make in the middle of her tantrums. There's a sharp intake of air, and before the shrieking can start again, another girl, taller with dark skin and a white muscle shirt darts forward quickly, wrapping her arm around the girl's neck in a sleeper hold.
She's out cold before Sam can make it to them, but he's finally in reach just in time to hear someone ask, "Why isn't she screaming? Did someone just kill her? Please tell me someone didn't just kill her."
Sam turns and—stops.
"Jesus Christ, Andy?" Andy barely looks any different now than he did three years ago. His hair is shorter, and he's gained three or four inches, but he still looks pretty much the same as he did when he was thirteen.
"Sam?" Andy's eyes are wild, and he's freaking out, his hands clutching at the sleeves on Sam's shirts. "What the fuck, man? I swear to God, when I come down, I'm gonna kill Red."
"What?" Sam asks. There isn't anything about that that makes sense.
"This is, like, the fucking worst trip ever. I haven't seen you since—since—since—holy fuck, man," Andy's hyperventilating, too many quick breathes in too little time, and he's wobbling on his feet. Sam thinks that this is what happens when your family skips town after killing your friend's crazy long-lost twin brother who tries to kill you. There's a part of Sam that cries a little inside at the fact that that is not an entirely memorable event in his life.
Sam reaches out and grips tight to the front of Andy's jacket. "Andy! You need to calm down before you pass out, okay? You aren't tripping or having a nightmare or a dream or anything. This is real. This is happening. What's the last thing you remember?"
"It's not?" Andy asks. He doesn't seem very relieved, shockingly.
"No, it's not," Sam confirms.
Andy goes limp in his grip, out cold.
No one's watches are working. Cell phones are useless, too. It's muggy and cloudy out, so they have no idea how long it takes, but Sam would bet it's no more than half an hour before they all find each other.
There are exactly twelve of them, including Sam. They all have powers. Ava sees things, visions, like him. Jake is strong in a way that other people's bodies can't handle. Andy apparently did talk his dad into buying him that game system way back when.
Lily has blonde hair and killed the first girl she kissed, when she was twelve. The screaming girl has stopped screaming, but she isn't all there, and she rocks in a corner and only flinches a little when people go near her. The girl who put her in the sleeper hold is named May, and she can see possibilities. Sam doesn't know what that means because she said it wasn't visions, but it sounds like them, on a more immediate scale.
Dinah's voice does something, but she doesn't know what because she can't hear it. She knows it hurts people, though, and she tells them this through a combination of painstaking fingerspelling and then scratching the words into the wet mud when she gets frustrated.
Scott's wearing pajamas and slippers, and he keeps forgetting who everyone is, but he says he can electrocute things. He doesn't know if it works on people, but he wants to be absolutely sure that they all know he hasn't tried it on a person before.
Cory had his eyes stitched shut because he apparently has actual, real laser eyes. Max moves things with his brain.
The kid pinned to the town hall, held there with rusty nails pinning his arms halfway up the side of the building, was named Peter. Lily says she thinks he could fly. Clearly, something there doesn't want them to leave.
Sam doesn't feel so bad about his migraines now.
It gets worse.
The screaming girl is dead soon after that. Sam told everyone to stick together, but nobody ever listens to the sane guy in horror movies.
Her throat is ripped open, and her head is almost completely separated from her body, gore and bone and sinew making a mess of her white t-shirt and the half-rotted floorboards.
Sam knows a demon did it and says so—he's not sure what kind, but he'd know that rotten egg stench anywhere.
Andy looks vaguely betrayed by Sam's apparent insanity. Jake decides he's going to go form his own camp—Sam thinks of it as Camp Oh God, Oh God, We're All Gonna Die in his head—with one, two, three, crap, everyone but Cory following him. Sam's pretty sure the only reason Cory is with Sam is because he can't see his way out to follow them.
"Grab my arm," Sam tells Cory.
"What? Why?" Cory asks. His hair is Billy Idol blond, stained brown with mud on the left side of his head. Sam notes that Cory woke up on his stomach and takes a moment to wonder how Cory found his glasses before finding the others.
"We're not gonna let them die just because they're idiots."
"You can't expect them to believe that demon crap," Cory says.
"We all got kidnapped at night and then woke up in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the day," Sam points out. "How are demons that hard to believe?"
"Because it's demons," he says.
"You shoot laser beams out of your eyes."
"So did Cyclops. He was a mutant. Maybe we're all superheroes, and we just don't know it."
"Cyclops doesn't shoot lasers. They're concussion blasts. He punches holes through things; he doesn't light them on fire." Sam has no idea why he's focusing on this, but it's important right now to keep Cory distracted.
"Weird. I don't think I've ever met a comic book nerd with muscles," Cory says.
Sam's about to educate him on the difference between nerds and geeks—both of which describe Sam, so it doesn't entirely matter—when he hears a girl shrieking. Sam doesn't even think about it; he just pulls Cory close to his side and pretty much drags him while he runs towards the screaming.
Cory's babbling something Sam can't be bothered to pay attention to, and when he gets to the stairs, he doesn't bother warning Cory about them, just hauls him up with a grunt—he's not as heavy as Dad, but he's still big—and leaves him at the top with directions not to move.
Jake's inside with Ava shoved behind him and four long scratches down his chest. Sam likes to say I told you so, but he usually likes the person to be alive to hear it, so he saves his breath—Jake's not gonna be able to hold that thing back for long.
Sam spots a fireplace poker on the ground and grabs it, bringing it up with him in an arc and sweeping right through the little girl ghost. His chest is heaving a little when he's upright again, the adrenaline tapering off as he attempts to catch his breath.
"Holy shit, that was a demon!"
"No," Sam corrects. "That was a ghost. An acheri, I think. They usually go after little kids. Anyone still think I'm nuts?"
Sam doesn't set them up in the church. He thinks about it and almost does, but it's definitely the oldest building there, and safe from demons means nothing if someone leans against a wall and brings the whole thing down on their heads.
The town hall is nice and big—comparatively speaking, because they still all have to cram together—and basically one empty room, with no corners for things to pop out from.
There are enough of them that Sam feels safe splitting them into groups to forage. Sam stays behind with Dinah, Cory, and Scott while Andy, Lily, and May find giant bags of salt left behind in the general store and nothing else that looks like it's come from this century. Jake, Ava, and Max find another poker and a few iron bars Jake ripped off something in the barn, along with an old, gross salt lick that Sam breaks up and uses to line the doors and windows.
Most of them make it through the night.
The sun is almost up when everyone wakes up screaming in pain. Sam swears his ears are bleeding, he can feel it, and he knows his eardrums are about to burst—he can feel the pressure, like being underwater for too long and not knowing if he can make it to air in time—and then it stops.
The room is swaying, and Sam thinks for a second that one of his eardrums really did burst until he realizes he's off kilter because Scott, who fell asleep on his right, is still folded almost completely over and pushing his head into Sam's ribcage. Sam drops a hand to the back of his neck without thinking, rubbing a thumb slowly over the nape like he does when Jackson's had a bad day. The spot to his left where Dinah was sleeping is empty, and the spot where Max was, between himself and Jake, is empty as well.
The ring of salt they used to secure their little corner isn't disturbed, and the iron bars Jake secured together for extra protection—which Sam told them they didn't need on account of the salt, but eventually gave in to because he couldn't explain that not having a weapon made him feel naked—are still exactly where they were when Sam finally passed out a few hours ago. That's good because it means nothing got in, but bad because it means Max and Dinah decided to be stupid enough to leave on their own.
Sam catches Jake's eye and jerks his head towards the door. Jake nods and wipes blood from Ava's nose before giving her a kiss and getting up.
They don't have to go far. Max is crumpled over on the ground, out cold. The bottom half of his face is a mess of blood, and he's still got his fingers knuckled in his ears despite being unconscious but thankfully alive. Dinah isn't so lucky. She's dangling from the windmill by some kind of cord or rope. Sam thinks for a moment it might be a horse lead because they're right next to a stable and also, Sam's really good at compartmentalizing.
When Max wakes up, he's twitchy and nervous. He's shell-shocked, and he flinches even more than he was before as he tells them how he tried to do something, he did, but he couldn't, and then she screamed, and he doesn't remember anything else.
Sam and Jake agree that bathroom breaks will now be a group effort, and there is—to no one's surprise—no argument from the rest of them.
It quickly becomes apparent that this won't be a case of them waiting to be rescued. They're on a scouting mission—keeping them all together behind the salt lines is great, but keeping everyone together in one place with no sense of their surroundings is asking to be the cheerleader in a horror movie—when Sam realizes where they are.
It's the bell that does it. It's huge and cracked, dirty, with a scratchy tree carved into it.
"Fuck," Sam curses. All of a sudden, keeping everyone in one nice, little, salted space sounds like a good idea.
"What?" Cory asks, hand gripped right in the back of May's shirt.
"I know where we are," he tells them. "We're heading back."
"Wait," Lily protests. "I thought you said we had to know our surroundings."
"I know them now," Sam says. He doesn't want to worry everyone if he doesn't have to, but he needs them to listen. "We need to get back to the town hall, and we need to do it now. Once we're there, I'll explain, but I need you guys to trust me on this. I haven't steered you wrong yet, have I?"
Sam stops counting at four hundred and fifty-three when they cross over the salt, and it's probably the longest seven and a half minutes of Sam's life, even if there wasn't even so much as a heavy breeze on the way back.
"No, but—that can't be right," Jake argues. "That's just some scary story. My grandma used to tell me about it when I was little."
"Yeah, well, it's true," Sam tells them. "It doesn't really go like in the stories, though. Everyone didn't exactly pick up and move; it's more like everyone who didn't get brutally murdered overnight ran from the town so fast that breakfasts were left on the tables, half-eaten."
"But there's no Cold Oak on the maps," Jake says. "Not in South Dakota. I remember, me and my sister tried to find it once."
"If the map is old enough, it'll have it," Sam says. "Anything made after it was abandoned isn't gonna show it. No one wants idiots being led to their death because they want to stay the night in a huge haunted house."
No one responds after that. There isn't anything to say. Lily's got her jacket pulled up over her nose and her eyes clenched shut tight, and Cory's sitting near her, rocking just the smallest bit.
His low sniffling is the only sound in the room.