The one year that Sam was at high school at the same time as Dean was the year Giles Fielding decided to make his life hell.
Who knew why. Maybe Sam looked like an easy target. He'd always been pretty lanky (skinny, Dean called him) but he hadn't yet had the year he grew four inches in eleven months (short-ass, Dean called him). All Sam knew was that every time he turned around, Giles was in his face, shoving him in the corridors, pegging the ball at his head in gym class, sticking shit to the back of Sam's shirt.
Kick me. Ha ha.
It wasn't like Sam was at all a pain in the ass or anything. That's what was so unfair. He wasn't like that, all cocky and belligerent and picking a fight just by breathing. He wasn't Dean. But there Giles was, anyway. The splinter in Sam's school week.
One afternoon, by Sam's locker, Giles was just working his way up to shredding Sam's biology textbook - "I can beat the shit out of you, faggot, or I can rip the shit out of this; your choice." - when Dean showed up at the end of the corridor. "Come on, Sammy!" he bellowed, pure pissed off. He and Dad had to be in the graveyard three towns over by midnight, and Sam was holding them up.
Giles shoved the book back into Sam's hands, and he and his two lugs (their names were Brett and John, but it was hard not to think of them as Tweedledum and Tweedledee) backed off enough for Sam to escape, half-jogging down the corridor. Dean grabbed him by the collar and yanked him around the corner as Sam tried to shove the book into his bag.
In the car on the way home, Dean turned down the music just enough to say, "So what the fuck was that anyway?"
Sam shook his head, slumping in his seat. "Just an asshole."
"Huh." Dean turned into their drive. Glanced across as he jerked on the handbrake. "You want me to--?"
Sam said, "No." Because he was enough Dean's brother to know that if he got his older brother to sort out this problem, he'd never be able to meet his own gaze in the mirror again.
Dad was already halfway down the stairs, duffel bag over his shoulder. "Come on, we'll be late." He slung the bag into the trunk of his car as Sam got out of Dean's.
"Here," Dean said, holding out his schoolbag to Sam. "Take this up for me."
Sam tossed his hair out of his eyes. "Don't you have homework for tomorrow?"
Dean grinned. "Don't wait up."
He climbed into the passenger side of Dad's car as Dad opened the driver's side. "Dinner's in the fridge, Sam."
Dad and Dean went to stake out a cemetery. Sam went inside and did his biology homework.
He woke up to a hand on his ankle, dragging him out of bed. He hit the floor and threw off the tangle of sheets, glaring up at Dean grinning in the silver pre-dawn light from the window. Dean had dirt under his fingernails and ash smeared down his cheek and a bloody rip in the knee of his jeans, so they'd seen action. He had a grin wider than the Cheshire Cat and a cocky tilt to his head as he beckoned Sam to get up, so they'd beaten whatever it had been and, as Dean liked to say, had looked good doing it.
"Come on," he said, and twitched his fingers again.
Sam didn't blink, just kicked out at Dean's knee. Not actually expecting to connect - and he didn't, Dean edging back just enough to miss, nothing flashy - but giving himself time and room to lever himself upright. Dean didn't give him a chance to get balanced - he'd stopped doing that two years ago - just jabbed in, but Sam was expecting it, blocked it, using his momentum up from the floor to launch at his brother.
Dean had to jerk his head back, still catching Sam's knuckles across his cheek, just a glancing blow as he whipped his face out of the way, shook his head. "Cheeky!" he said, and then he was blocking the follow-up, laughing as he drove Sam back out of range (do not grapple with the brother with the greater bulk, that was an easy lesson). Laughing now, but Sam knew, for a second there, he'd been genuinely startled.
Dean knew it too. It was all downhill from there, but when Dean wedged Sam's head under his arm, scuffling his hair into pain, he said, "Nearly. Nearly there. Don't worry, bro. One day you'll get me."
He went off down the corridor, stomping into the bathroom. Sam threw the sheets back onto his bed and thought, no, one day he'd get an alarm clock. When he could beat Dean, he could beat the world.
When Sam was going to school that morning, Dean was dead asleep, sprawled out on his bed in a towel. But he must have shown up at school at some point, because in the corridors between seventh and eighth periods, Sam got smacked on the shoulder and by the time he turned around, Dean was heading down the corridor, calling over his shoulder, "Give you a lift home."
"Debate meeting!" Sam called back.
"After that, then!"
The meeting didn't go as long as it was supposed to. Sam dozed under a tree out front of the school, waiting for Dean. It was sunny. He sort of had a headache, but he didn't want to move.
"Hey, check it. Maybe it's dead."
He didn't want to open his eyes and see Giles Fielding standing over him, so he kept them closed. "Fuck off, Fielding." Tightened his grip around the strap of his schoolbag.
"Say what? I know you didn't just talk to me like that, Wimpchester." A foot prodded at his knee, not violent, but purposeful, like a warning shot across a ship's bow.
Sam opened his eyes. Against the dazzling sky Giles was silhouetted, flanked by Brett and John. Sam sat up a little straighter, getting his legs more under him. "Just go away."
"And if I don't?" A sneer. Giles had his arms crossed, his legs braced. A position from which he could do jack-shit, Sam knew. When Sam stood up, Giles shoved at him, but Sam was ready, and just shoved back, knocking him off balance and back a step. Brett pushed half-heartedly at his shoulder in retaliation, and Sam let it move him a step away, away from under the tree. Giving him a little more space. Now he had room, and they were bunched up, crowding each other. Easy like breathing.
Then came the sound of an engine with a slight hiccup, and Sam turned his head a little to let his peripheral vision include Dean's beat-up car, pulling up at the curb. Sam took a breath, trying to let go of the adrenaline that had started racing. "Then I'll go," he said, and took a couple of steps backwards.
Just as he was turning, Giles said, "Yeah, run off to big brother again. Pussy."
Sam stopped. Inside the car, he could see Dean leaning forward to peer out the passenger window. In the corner of his vision, Giles was laughing with that sneer, turning away. Laughing like he was better than Sam and that - that was just not fucking true.
The strap of Sam's bag slithered down his arm, slumped at his feet as he turned back. "Fielding," he snapped, taking a step, two, as Giles turned back towards him with "What?" on his lips.
Sam was already swinging. He was telegraphing, he knew it, knew that Dean would've had him on his ass ten seconds ago, telling him he might as well have bought advertising, get back the fuck up and do it better.
But Giles never saw it coming. He went down like a sack of shit. John grabbed for Sam, and Sam jabbed an elbow into his solar plexus. As John staggered back, wheezing, Sam rounded on Brett, who was backing up, hands up, saying, "Hey! Whoa! You fucking psycho."
Sam stood, not even breathing hard, fist still clenched, half-assed victory tasting sick under his tongue, as Brett dragged Giles up to his feet and the three of them hurried away across the lawn. There were steps behind Sam as well, and a shadow in the corner of his eye about three seconds before Dean's hand hit the back of his neck, grabbing him by the scruff like he was a kitten.
"Jesus Christ, Sammy!"
Sam looked up at him and almost felt betrayed. He realized he'd hoped Dean would approve. Maybe even be proud.
Instead, Dean looked angry enough to spit bullets. "Come on," he snarled.
Sam got suspended for two weeks. He sat meekly in the principal's office while Dad offered gruff apologies, said Sam was "going through a phase".
In the car, driving them home, he muttered, "Another one," and shook his head. Sam wanted to protest. Once didn't make him like Dean, who'd practically lived in the principal's office his sophomore year. But Dad'd probably say something about having time to catch up and bad habits, so Sam kept quiet, running his thumb over his swollen knuckles. Dean glared out the window the whole way home.
"Well then," Dad said, louder this time, as they pulled up in front of the house. "If Sam's off school for the next two weeks, he can come with me to Oregon. Dean, you stay and get those assignments done."
"Yes sir," Dean said immediately. Of course.
Dad tilted the rearview mirror to look at Sam. "Sam?"
Like he had any say in it. Like he had anything better to do. "Yeah, fine."
They went up, but Sam stayed outside, sitting on the top step, listening to Dad and Dean clunking around in the kitchen, not talking much, but they never did.
Giles was a bastard, he thought. He'd deserved to get sucker punched. Sam wasn't - wasn't - sorry he'd done it. But maybe he shouldn't have done it while still on school grounds. Maybe he shouldn't have done it right under the window of the principal's office. Time and place, as Dean liked to say.
The door opened behind him, and Sam twisted to look up, just managing to get his hands up in time to catch the icepack. He laid it over his knuckles and shuffled over to make room. Dean sat down beside him.
"Dad says you'll leave tomorrow morning," Dean said, staring out into suburbia.
"'k," Sam said, balancing the icepack on the back of his hand.
A moment of silence, and then Dean shifted, pulling something out of his pocket. He held out a Smith and Wesson revolver, scratched up one side of the barrel (Sam knew) from where a were-critter had smacked it out of Dean's hand. His gun. Dean's gun.
"Take it," Dean said. "In case you need it."
Sam curled his fingers around the grip, and Dean's hand tightened for a moment. Sam looked up.
"You aren't me," Dean said. He was wearing that dead serious face that Sam honestly never knew how to deal with. "You don't have to be, so don't try. Be something better."
He stood up and went back inside. Sam's palm was slick and cold from the icepack, and the gun was heavy.
Follow Through by dee
Thanks, as always, to Brenda, for being my tame American as well as beta-reading.