Saving People, Hunting Things
Sam's been working on this map for what feels like forever. It's probably only been an hour, but everything feels longer when Lucifer's playing Nasty Mystery Science Theater in your head all the freaking time.
But Lucifer doing a running commentary is basically the only thing from his year away that's still torturing him, and that's easier to hide than trying to drink from mugs that don't exist and pinning up articles that only he can see.
So he's been… misinforming everyone. They all think he's fine. And it's just Lucifer, pretty much everything else has stopped. And pretending that he's fine is improving his quality of life so much that he barely feels bad about it. He can get left in the house for a night with out Dean freaking out. He can hunt in peace without being constantly checked in on. He even bought himself a car with his Chuck money.
He's managing. And everyone around him is lightening up a little bit, because they don't have to manage him anymore. Cas is helping Sam compile a Hunter's Journal that is a more complete reference to things that go bump in the night. The Angel's also writing his own book of angelic magic. Dean is visibly truly happy now that one of the last off things in his life has sorted itself out.
Sam's head snaps up from his map, annoyed at being interrupted. There's something suspicious about the pattern of attacks in Denver and the only hunter out that way is Garth. And while Garth isn't half bad at a basic kill, crush, destroy, he's not going to sit and work out a pattern if an obvious answer presents itself first. Sam had been shocked to realize how many hunters were actually bad at solving mysteries. No wonder Bobby was always calling everyone an idiot.
But his annoyance dissipates when he sees Dean's face. It's Dean's serious/embarrassed/slightly worried face and it never means anything good for Sam. The last time Dean had given Sam that look had been directly before the "December Blow Job Discussion" a couple months ago, a few weeks after Dean and Cas had gotten home from Yellowstone. That discussion, and then the way Cas had hummed dreamily to himself all through making breakfast the morning after that discussion, had been the two most uncomfortable moments of Sam's entire life, including being tortured in Hell.
It's not that Sam's not supportive. If Dean's happy then Sam is raising the flag, marching in the parade, willfully ignoring the squeaky bedframe, talking about blow jobs all the live-long day supportive.
But that hadn't made it less weird to sit- stone cold sober- while Dean freaked out about convincing himself that it was okay to want to put Cas's cock in his mouth. And not just stone cold sober- but at breakfast. When they were having pancakes. With sausages.
"Yeah?" Sam responded, swigging his coffee, trying to brace himself with a little more caffeine before whatever subject broaching that was about to occur happened to him.
Dean sits in the chair across from Sam and purses his lips at Sam's map. "Can I talk to you about something?"
"Awww. Brotherly Bonding," Lucifer simpers from his perch on the kitchen counter. He sweeps his hair back the way Sam knows he does himself. "You know, you should just see if Dean and Castiel will let you join in sometime. Your blow job advice was bizarrely astute and you've been extra tense since Chelsea got bored with trying to bang the crazy out of you."
Sam ignores him.
"I um…" Dean shakes his head and chuckles to himself. "I hate my job." He laughs as though it's embarrassing.
"Okay?" Sam says, wondering where this is going.
"I kind of thought that Spencer was what made me hate it, but then… you know."
Sam just nods. A couple days after Dean's birthday Spencer had been found dead in a tutu on the street outside a gay bar in Minneapolis. It had seemed like a pretty legitimate death until the news had featured a tall, handsome blonde man, covered in glitter, crying over the tragedy. Spencer was dead, and Gabriel's involvement made Dean feel guilty, but apparently the whole incident had raised nearly twenty grand for the Trevor project. The trickster was apparently growing now that he was the new God.
Dean shrugs. "Anyway… it wasn't some douchy coworker. I just hate this job. It's dull and repetitive and back breaking and I hate that nothing I do means anything." Dean's picking at an imaginary chip on his mug as he talks. "You remember before Dad died, how he was telling us what he'd want for us if we could stop hunting?"
Sam always remembers that with an instant burn of anger. And the last nine months have only made that anger worse. A couple years ago, when Sam had pretty much made his peace with the idea that he and Dean would die bloody saving the world he'd almost been able to forgive their father for making them what they were. But they were normal now. And Sam remembers how hard it had been to try to become normal at college, but watching Dean struggle with it is just in a whole different category- the gay thing not withstanding. And Sam's pretty sure that he'll never forgive John for that.
Not trusting his voice, Sam just nods.
"He wanted you to go back to school. Take advantage of that whole free ride at Stanford Law thing."
Sam chuckles, realizing too late how self-deprecating it sounds. He can tell by the way that Dean's eyes flick up that he noticed, but Dean lets it go.
"And he said he wanted me to have a home."
Sam pushes the anger down. Lucifer rolls his eyes.
"Dean, we've talked about this. He only wanted one thing- and the demon's dead."
"No. I know. Just… it was a long time ago that he told us that. And it was more… what he thought we wanted for ourselves. Right?"
"I'm… I'm doing okay. Got out of the life. Settled down. It's… not anything that Dad wanted me to have… but you and Cas. Chelsea even. You're all… home for me."
"Alright…" Sam says. "Where are you going with this?"
It breaks Sam's heart that Dean sounds shyly proud of himself when he answers. "I think… I want more than that."
"You are so about to wind up watching his little half Angel brats. Good thing he doesn't know you're still crazy. Maybe Andrea Yates crazy. No bath time with Uncle Sammy."
Sam digs his thumb nail hard into his palm. Sometimes that helps. Lucifer just gives him an all too familiar bitch face.
"Okay. What are you telling me?"
"I've been… thinking about, and talking to Cas about what I want. What I want my, you know, normal life job to be."
"Lay it on me."
Dean's jaw clenches and he looks at Sam- a little wide eyed and worried. For a split second he actually looks bizarrely like Cas.
That doesn't process right away. "He said nursing," Lucifer shouts.
Dean's face goes a little too still.
"I mean, that's- that's awesome. Just… I guess I'm surprised."
Dean shrugs. "I just… I need help with the applications. And for some of the entry type test… things."
"Are you... how did you pick that?"
"Save people during the day. Hunt things at night."
Sam nods, holds his mug out to toast Dean's.
"Family business," he laughs. Lucifer makes kissy noises. Sam carefully doesn't react. Dean smiles back, a big, bright, real smile, like Sam's only ever seen from him since Cas happened.
His brother clears his throat, takes a sip of his coffee, tries to wipe the smile off his face and fails.
"Speaking of night- Saturday night. Cas's birthday thing. I would really owe you one if you stayed at Chelsea's so we could… have the house to ourselves."
Sam sighs. "Dean. You are running out of ones to owe me. You still me for not getting some damn WD-40 on your bed. You still owe me for the time I walked in on you blowing Cas on the kitchen table. And you still owe me for not taking care of the cleaning the table like I asked you to."
"We lysoled the shit out of it."
"But I asked you to burn it."
Dean utterly fails to look ashamed of himself. Sam laughs. "Yeah. I'll help you with applications. And I'll stay at Chelsea's. Do you need to take the ACT for nursing school?"
"I'm not sure. I haven't quite gotten that far. GED, remember?"
"If you want to get in, we'll get you in…to a nursing program." Sam chuckles. Dean echoes.
"I know. I know. Dad would be so pissed. I just… I… want this."
"Good," Sam says. "Then we'll all make sure you get it."
Dean smiles at him, gets up, hugs him and goes back up to his room. Sam goes back to his map. It takes him until three to realize that the pattern doesn't make sense because there are at least three shifters working as a team.
It wouldn't have taken nearly as long, but it's hard to concentrate with Lucifer sitting at the head of the table, pontificating on whether you and your brother's roles may have been reversed if Jess hadn't been roasted alive on your apartment ceiling.
"So… let me get this straight," Tanya says with an exasperated sigh. "You spend all of your time with these three guys, and you've never mentioned any of them? Even when Martha was in town and you two had drinks, you didn't bring up your little brigade of lost boys?"
Chelsea can see her sister's glare reflected in the mirror as she finishes brushing on her foundation. Cas's party is a little dinner thing at the fanciest restaurant in Sioux Falls. Chelsea doesn't get a lot of chances to dress up. She figures she might as well take advantage of the few opportunities that crop up.
Chelsea rolls her eyes. She usually got along with Tanya better than with her other sisters, but Tanya had just broken up with her boyfriend and showed up out of the fucking blue and now she was pissed that Chelsea was flat out refusing to invite her along to Cas's birthday thing. Besides. She had told Martha, their oldest sister about the guys.
"I told Martha, but you know what she's been like every since she and Clyde started trying to get pregnant. The second she found out that I wasn't dating Sam and I couldn't date Cas or Dean, she stopped listening and it was all ovaries this and uterine lining that."
"She's still not pregnant either," Tanya said, with a disbelieving eyebrow raise. "So if these guys are so great, and they all totally exist, and you're not in anyway hiding anything, why aren't you dating any of them and why can't I come to this 'party'?"
"Tanya, if it was a normal birthday party, I would invite you. But it's Cas's first birthday party and it's sort of a close friends intimate dinner type thing. You'd just be really left out and it would be uncomfortable."
"What the hell do you mean it's his first birthday party? I thought Cas was a grown man."
Chelsea sighs. "He is. He's turning 35. It's complicated. Strict religious upbringing. He's never had a birthday party, Dean thought this up all by himself and he'll be pissed if things don't go according to plan. Look- they're coming here to pick me up and Sam is staying here tonight. You'll meet them."
"Are they cute and single?"
"I wouldn't say cute," Chelsea replies. "I might go with gloriously, unfairly handsome. Dean and Cas are seeing each other."
"Don't rebound on my friend, Tanya."
Tanya takes a sip from her wine glass and shifts her posture in the door. "Is he one of those touchy feely types that's not into a fling or have you kind of earmarked him for yourself?"
Chelsea clears her throat uncomfortably before she can catch herself and Tanya's smirk gets just a little too triumphant.
Chelsea sighs and starts on her eye makeup. "I haven't earmarked him. Three months ago he was having a pretty tough time, Cas and Dean were on a trip for their anniversary, he was staying here, and we kind of…"
"If you need to put is as crassly as possible, sure," Chelsea huffed. "But it just… that's all it was. He wasn't doing great, I wasn't doing great. Dean would have popped a gasket and we decided that it wouldn't really be appropriate to do it more than once."
Tanya looks utterly unconvinced.
"Fine. We decided that it would be lying way too much to keep going once Dean and Cas got back. It's a… look, we all grew up in this big tight group, and now Martha's in Wisconsin and I'm here, and you're in Idaho and Libby is in Sweden. These guys and their father Bobby and his wife Karen… they're my little family unit here. I shouldn't have done anything to throw a hitch in that. It's lucky that Sam's a mature enough guy to realize that."
Tanya nods and takes another sip from her glass. "But Sam is staying here again tonight. If Cas and Dean really need to get it on, Sam stays with you and not in one of the empty rooms in your huge hotel."
"I didn't expect you to be here," Chelsea counters before realizing that she's not helping her cause any.
"Did you really like Sam?"
"It's really hard not to like Sam," Chelsea admits.
"Chels?" She hears Dean call from downstairs.
"They just walk in?" Tanya asks.
"They have keys," Chelsea replies to her sister before shouting, "I'll be right down!"
She brushes her finger over her eyelid to finish blending the shadow and heads downstairs, Tanya in tow.
She laughs when she gets down the stairs. "Well, well. You boys sure clean up nice."
Dean is in a full suit. Sam and Cas are in slacks and buttons downs. Cas somehow wound up with suspenders. With his long hair he looks cute and old fashioned. Chelsea kisses him on the cheek with a quick –"Happy Birthday, Sweetheart."–before she turns back to her obviously somewhat flabbergasted older sister and does introductions. She sends Sam up to the library (which was really just the tiniest bedroom, which she'd never had another use for) where she had set up the air mattress.
Dean blushes and stammers adorably while trying to talk to Tanya as though the implications for why Sam has to sleep here are not hanging in the air.
Cas, with his hand tucked into Dean's, seems oblivious. Sam comes downstairs bagless and Chelsea ushers the boys back out, saying she just has to grab her purse and coat and she'll be right out.
"Those are your friends," Tanya starts. "So… what you just moved to South Dakota and fell in with a clutch of male models?"
"More or less."
"We're going to have a more detailed discussion about your romp with the tall one."
"Fine," Chelsea sighs. Then, enjoying it more than she should, adds, "You really want to see sexy? Go look at the car."
Tanya goes to the window and Chelsea leaves to the sound of her indignant. "Hot damn!"
Castiel feels like he's glowing. Dinner had been enjoyable. They had just ordered a plethora of dishes so everyone could try everything. Dean's hand had rested warmly at the small of his back the entire time they were out. Chelsea's laugh had been loud. Sam's smile had been bright. Everything had been lovely.
This part, though, is his favorite. Dean had ordered them desert that they could bring home with them, and now they are sitting together on the couch, Castiel in his pajamas and Dean in his jeans and the shirt that he sleeps in, slowly working on a piece of cake and a cup of coffee, with one of the rock and roll records playing softly in the background.
"Did you have a good birthday?" Dean asks.
"Yes." He bites his lip and continues. "You look very handsome in a suit."
Dean laughs and it makes Castiel smile.
"How about in this ratty tee shirt?"
"You're very handsome in most things."
"I'm sorry we didn't do your Birthday last year."
Castiel wishes Dean didn't feel bad about things he can't control so often. He pulls Dean a little closer, sets down his coffee and kisses him.
"Last year, there wasn't that much to celebrate. And now there is. We should find more things to celebrate."
"Yeah. Yeah. We should. And… you know… ways to celebrate.
Castiel laughs and kisses him. That means sex, which sounds like the perfect way to end a perfect night.
He let's the hand that he has at Dean's neck slip down to his chest. He can feel Dean's heart pounding like he's been running. He pulls back a little ways out the kiss, but leaves his hand over Dean's throbbing heart.
"I love you," Dean bursts out.
Castiel pulls back a little further. Dean's eyes are wide. His throat is working. Castiel can feel his heart going even faster under his hand. He doesn't understand why Dean's afraid to be saying this to him. It's not like Castiel didn't know this. But he understands that Dean was afraid to say it and said it anyway, and he understands that firsts are important.
"You've never said that to me before," Cas says.
"I know. You said it months ago. I'm sorry."
Cas shakes his head. "I love you too." He knows Dean is aware of this, but it seems like an appropriate response. Dean grins and kisses him again, pulling Castiel's body on top of his own.
Castiel laughs. Chelsea's birthday is only a month away. They'll have to celebrate that too.
"I'm just saying," Lucifer goes on as Sam hangs up his new suit (he still hasn't filled out enough for his old ones). "You always assumed Dean was the mess. But look. Year without you to look after and he's in hopeless faggy love with a nine to five and a picket fence. He's even trying to move up in the world."
It's been a bad month, satan-wise and a particularly bad week. He's not usually this talkative. He's not usually… always around giving Sam his own dewy empathetic expression. And every time Sam's sure that it's just something he ate, or it's because he worked too long and just needs some sleep, or that it's because of something that he read, it gets worse.
"You on the other hand, have a hallucination constantly berating you. You can barely hunt. It'd be a pretty tall order for you to be at all close enough to functioning well enough that you could go back to school or nail down a girl."
Sam presses a hand to his forehead. He tires not to let Lucifer see it when he starts to get to him. And then he feels like crap about it because Lucifer is not real and he can't see anything.
He opens his bag and sticks his hand in to dig out his pajamas. It makes him feel a little like an idiot, but his pajamas make him feel better.
Everything in his bag has been moved.
Just a little. Not like it was dumped out and then stuffed back in, but nothing's quite where it should be.
"Right. And you're so good at where things are supposed to be. Lucifer's supposed to be in the cage."
He goes through his bag because he's almost sure, but he's only almost sure.
There's a soft knock at the door. "Sweetheart?"
Sam doesn't answer, just keeps going through his bag. He hears the door open behind him. "What are you doing?"
He looks up. Chelsea and her older sister are both standing in the door with a glass of wine in hand.
He can't really deal with this right now. Not after a week of the constant barrage of Lucifer bullshit, not after –yes– being happy for Dean all night, but not being able to shake the feeling that he was never going to be well enough, or normal enough to have that again.
"Come have a drink with us," Chelsea says. And Sam can hear the edge of concern in her voice and it just pushes him that little bit further.
"Someone… everything in my bag is different. It's all moved. I didn't… I didn't put it in here like this," he says, still digging.
And then Chelsea says exactly what's been secretly killing him for months. "Are you sure?"
Sam presses his fingers into his forehead again. "I… I can't tell. I just… I can't…"
His fingers hit a book and he pulls it out. It's some old grimoire that he's sure (almost sure), he didn't pack. He flips it open. "No… I know I didn't bring this. It's the Honorious grimoire and I was working on goddess of truth case cause Kilgerny still thinks it's demons."
Sam's aware that he's breaking the cardinal rule. You never mention hunting to normal people, but he's just not… quite where he needs to be in relation to reality right now.
"See… now you just look like you're tweaking," Lucifer needles. "And sisters tell each other everything. In a couple days her entire family is going to think that you're a satanic druggie." Lucifer's smirk widens to a real smile. "And if they only knew!" he crows.
Sam snaps. "Shut up! SHUT UP!" he screams at Lucifer, who just smiles back.
"Chelsea, what the-"
"Go downstairs, Tanya, it's fine."
Sam just stares at Lucifer and for the first time he really really can't tell if he's there or not.
He feels Chelsea's hand warm on his cheek. She pushes his face back toward her own and away from Lucifer's smirk.
"Hey," Sam responds mindlessly.
"Who are you yelling at, sweetheart?" she asks. She sounds normal, but Sam's paying attention now and he can hear the tremble in her voice and see the tears starting to well under her eyes. She strokes her thumb along his cheek. "Who are you seeing up there?"
Sam takes a deep breath and presses his face just a little tighter into her hand.
"I'm not okay."