Humboldt Bay, California.
Sam turned twelve before the first hairs started sprouting on his chest and under his arms and… down there.
Needless to say, the little bastards brought with them a gigantic sense of relief. In gym class especially, respect for an individual was highly contingent upon the visual detectability and bounteousness of said individual’s pubic hair. And something was better than nothing, no matter how sparse they may be.
He’d also started growing at last, while Dean had apparently stopped, much to the seventeen year old's chagrin and Sam’s amusement. At five feet two, Sam now stood taller than most of his class but still about ten inches to go until he could look big brother in the eye.
It was after midnight that night. Sam lay on his stomach, wrapped in a hundred sheets and blankets, breathless and sweating and wide awake. In his discomfort he couldn't even toss and turn because any movement would only serve to make it worse. He clenched his fists and eyes shut tight, but the pain simply wouldn’t go away.
After what felt like hours of agony, he heard the main door click open and bit back a soft groan about to escape his lips. His family was back from another hunt, and was making no effort whatsoever to keep it down. To hell with the time and the fact that the youngest Winchester had school the next day.
“Two extra sets at 0500 in the morning.”
“But Dad, it was just one shot!”
“That’s enough back-talk from you, boy!”
Sam heard Dean’s voice drop three notches when he spoke next.
“Sir. The ground was wet and slippery. I couldn’t help it and it was only for a second.”
“Guess you need to work on your balance then. Three sets. At o-four hundred.”
“Go check on Sammy.”
Which equated to dismissed, of course. The younger boy braced himself for a door slam, or stomping footsteps, that never came. And Sam was reminded of another reason why he would never be John Winchester's favorite son.
Soft light from the corridor streamed into the bedroom that the brothers shared, and Sam stiffened. From beneath the covers, he could sense Dean’s every movement and action without even trying. Dean silently stormed to his bed, sat down at the foot with his feet planted firmly apart on the floor and elbows resting on his knees. Leaning forward, hands wringing each other over and over as he tried to regain his composure. Sam rolled his eyes to nobody. If only that barely restrained temper was directed at the person who truly deserved it.
He stayed quiet, still as he could be, wanting to give his brother the privacy he obviously needed.
“Breathe, Sammy. I know you’re awake.”
For a second Sam continued to play dead, wanting desperately to prove the smartass wrong. But very soon he realized the futility (not to mention stupidity) of it and just pouted, head poking out to look at his brother’s taut profile in the pale moonlight streaming in from the window.
“Did it get away?”
Dean shook his head, not having looked his way once so far.
“Then what’s the problem?”
No answer. Moments like these, Sam felt helpless. There was nothing he could say or do. If he sided with Dad, strong chances were that it'd be unfair to Dean and something he never did anyway. But even when he sided with Dean, Dean himself would promptly start defending Dad, which defeated the whole purpose to begin with, so he just kept his trap shut.
“Maybe you should go to sleep, you have to be up early.”
O four hundred. // Holy shit. //
Dean sighed, turned his way for the first time and their eyes met. Then he nodded and stood back up, shrugging out of his jacket, and quickly approached Sam’s bed.
“You’re right. Let’s take care of this then.”
Before Sam could ask 'what' or even frown, Dean was peeling away the multiple layers of bedsheets and blankets from the younger boy’s body revealing his slender form clad in a white t-shirt and blue shorts. The whimper that escaped his mouth was one less for pain and more for sheer relief, and gratitude.
Sam buried his face in the pillow as Dean’s warm hands gently yet firmly started to knead the back of his knees down to his ankles, then working upwards again.
“You don’t have to…”
“You’re in pain.”
It's not that bad, Sammy wanted to say.
He wanted so desperately to prove to his big brother that he wasn’t a baby anymore. And hence the growing pains which he really should be dealing with better, but, oh… Dean’s hands massaging his throbbing limbs were absolutely the best palliatives in the world.
Sam tilted his head to one side to catch a glimpse of Dean's face… which seemed to have calmed somewhat, even if it still sported a mild tinge of… self-hatred. He watched in awe as slowly yet surely, the lines thinned out, along with the pain in his legs. Almost as if the exercise was helping soothe Dean’s mental troubles away as much as his own physical ones.
Sam’s eyes were drooping when he felt a hand briefly ruffle his hair and a whisper caressed his ear.
“Stop right here, Sammy boy. You’re not allowed to grow any taller. I forbid you.”
Sam joyfully smirked his way down to a deep and restful sleep.
The girl they called Penny, short for Penelope, was the farthest thing from shy one could possibly be. It wasn’t like she was drop-dead gorgeous. And she was far from popular, choosing to hang on her own instead of joining any of the girl cliques. But she had this great sense of humor, brilliant timing for wit and an awesome awesome 'couldn’t care less' attitude. All of which made her extremely appealing to Sam.
They started out as partners for a school project. Pretty soon, they were sitting together in the cafeteria, studying together in the library, walking back home together and in general, doing pretty everything… together.
Then came the day the girl balanced her slight weight on the tip of her toes and boldly kissed him. On the lips.
The last time this had happened Sammy had been five, and he’d bawled his eyes out for hours after. This time around though, he didn’t mind. Like, at all. But when it was over, all Sam Winchester could think was…
// Huh. //
He wondered where his violins were, or why he couldn’t smell the flowers bloom or any of the shit they say is supposed to happen when you have your first kiss. He wasn’t prepared, but he hadn’t needed to. It felt almost organic, came so easy… but it was special in its own way too, different. Soft… fragile and yet safe… and so, so... feminine… an adjective he hadn’t had much opportunity to use before. He’d never paid attention to how girls smelled before – so fresh, and fruity. Or maybe flowery, or both.
Sam walked home that day holding hands with Penny Green, wishing there’d be more opportunities to feel her lovely fragrance waft over his skin again, and soon.
“So do you want to go the mall today?”
Sam’s smile widened, this would be like… their first date. “Yeah, sure.”
Penny smiled back happily. “What time’s your curfew?”
“Uhh, I have to be home by eight.”
For his training session. It was Thursday. Rocky Balboa night.
“Wow that’s harsh. What happens if you get late? Your old man doesn’t hit you does he?”
// No. He just makes me stand on one leg for an hour and do fifty pushups. //
“Nah, he’s cool. Does yours?”
“God, no! Just… some kids in class have really weird families. I’m glad you’re not one of them.”
Sam just pursed his lips and smiled back as evenly as possible.
He practically skipped his way back to the apartment. He couldn’t wait to see Penny and maybe they could do the whole kissing thing again. Maybe she’d even let him put his tongue inside her mouth. He pushed the door to his bedroom open and stopped dead in his tracks.
What was he doing home at this time of the day sleeping?
He shook his brother’s shoulder twice before he saw the bruises on his face, the bandage peeking out from under his black shirt and the large red blotch of blood over it. Dean winced, clearly doped up on their illegally acquired stash of pain medication. He barely opened his eyes to look up at Sam before closing them back again.
// Shit. //
“I’m sorry, go back to sleep.”
Dean didn’t need to be asked twice, and Sam wondered where Dad was. He searched the apartment and finding it empty, gritted his teeth in utter rage. Heart thumping loudly like it always did every time he saw Dean hurt, all thoughts left his mind except relief that at least Dean was okay (mostly) and… still breathing. Sam forgot all about his date and stayed put at home, cooking dinner and cleaning up and doing his homework, foregoing the hot shower he craved so badly, and checking up on his brother once every ten minutes.
Dean didn’t stir all night.
He apologized to Penny the next day, or at least he tried to. They didn’t have a phone line in the crappy little house yet and he hadn’t wanted to leave Dean alone long enough to go out to make the call.
Penny had waited two hours for Sam to show up. She had actually made an effort to dress up and look good for their first date and he hadn’t showed up.
Four days of being freezed out was all he could handle before Sam finally managed to corner her in the library.
“Penny, please talk to me.”
“There’s nothing to talk about, Sam.”
“Okay but, just let me ask you this. What would you do if your brother had an accident?”
She stared at him blankly. “I don’t have a brother. Or sister. But I would have called. I'm your friend, I could have helped, Sam.”
“I’m so sorry. I should have gone out to make a call, it's just…”
Sam just exhaled, ran a hand through his hair, not sure how to finish the sentence. Penny studied the troubled look on his face, gripped her books against her chest tightly.
“Guess you were too worried to leave his side, huh…”
The glimmer of relief and hope in his eyes was unmistakable.
They gradually fell back into their usual routine of friendship, and the good times returned. Neither mentioned their aborted attempt at dating again but neither stopped thinking about it either. Penny was not one for coyness and after like weeks of waiting for Sam to make the move, she just gave up on the big clueless oaf and brought it up herself.
“So… you going to the dance?”
//Oh shit. Not again.//
Saturday was when Dad would be gone to Sacramento for the weekend, and Dean and Sam were planning to go trekking and rappelling. For the first time in a long while, Dean had offered to take him out for something that was not a training or a mission but just plain fun. They hadn’t actually seen much of each other since they came to Humboldt Bay. Dean was accompanying John on most missions and now played a more active role in the family business. Sam was really really looking forward to spending Saturday with his brother.
“Penny… Saturday is, that is… I have to… my brother and I…”
Penelope looked away, bit her lip and Sam may not have known her all that long, or all that well, but he recognized that gesture as clearly as if it was Dean doing it.
“I’m so sorry.”
She looked back at him, her shutters firmly down and a plastic smile pasted on her face.
“No need to be sorry, I didn’t wanna go either. Dances are lame anyway. I’d rather be at home and read Faulkner and complete my critique on the new Motorhead album for the school mag anyway.”
Sam didn’t know what to say, and a slight iciness settled between the couple once again.
Saturday morning, when Sam woke up, Dean still hadn’t come back home. When Sam asked Dad where he was, John just smirked.
“I don’t ask your brother what he does in his free time, you know that. But if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say he was at Karen’s.”
It took Sam a couple seconds to make the connection. “Diner girl?”
Sam made his ‘I don’t approve not like anybody listens to me’ face.
“I swear you guys have just the worst taste in women.”
John bit back a grin, his son had clearly no idea how cute that sounded coming from a twelve-year old.
“Let me guess. Your girl is not blonde and does not wear make up.”
Sam’s mouth fell open in shock. “How… I… I don’t have a girl!”
Now John openly chuckled as he went to pick up his duffel bag and the keys to his truck.
“Sure kid, whatever you say.”
Sam trailed after him as he made his way to the door. “You’ve been spying on me?”
“I got better things to do with my time, Sammy.”
Sam felt a tinge of disappointment at that, before John turned back toward him and flashed a toothy grin.
“I leave all the dirty work to Dean.”
John laughed all the way out and to his truck.
Noon came and Sam sat at their tiny kitchen table, all packed and ready to go. He even packed Dean’s stuff just so they didn’t waste any time whenever his brother showed up. Felt kinda anxious now that Dean knew about his... well... girlfriend. Sam smiled and blushed despite being alone, not looking forward to and yet eager to hear what Dean thought about Penny. He tapped his foot and hummed Nirvana over and over trying to while the time away and if he was honest to himself, trying to suppress the storm working its way up from his stomach to his throat.
//He didn’t forget. He’s going to be here, any time now.//
He figured this is how Penny must have felt when he stood her up at the mall. Damn, Dean had never ever ditched him before. He didn’t know who to call to find out where he was. What if he was in trouble?
Sam almost made his way out the door at the thought. Then paced, back and forth, up and down the length and breadth of their tiny apartment.
//He is okay, he is okay. He just… forgot.//
Which at this point felt just as bad.
At five PM, Sam walked out the door convinced something was wrong. Dean was in danger. He went to the diner and found out Karen had no shifts today. He put his puppy dog eyes to good use, knowing very well that on his face at twelve years of age, they were possibly the deadliest weapons of persuasion known to man, and got her address.
He walked the ten minutes to where her place was and saw the Impala parked out front. Sam didn’t need any further proof. The storm broke, rising up his throat and pricking viciously at the back of his eyes.
On his way back Sam found a public phone booth, bit down on his quivering lip and stepped in.
“Sam! What’s up?”
“I… uhh, I was wondering… that is, if you don’t have any plans… and I completely understand if you do… umm I was… you know…”
“I’d love to.”
Penny let him put his tongue in her mouth at the dance.
A week later, Dean walked into their bedroom late at night. He could discern very slight movements along with a soft but unmistakable groan from under the thick covers on Sam’s bed. He sighed, shrugged out of his jacket and made it to his brother’s bed.
“Sammy…” he softly whispered, “shh… it's okay.”
He started to pull off the covers but faced unexpected resistance. Sam’s face emerged, flushed and not so wide awake as usual. And then he groaned but for a very different reason.
“Mmhh… dude, get off...”
“What?… oh… oh...”
It took Dean several seconds to understand but when realization dawned, his brows hiked up and eyes went buck wide and then he couldn’t stop laughing. He should have guessed, spotting the boy’s hand being yanked out of somewhere between his skinny legs, and his maroon boxers hanging lower than usual, showing off more skin than Dean was comfortable with.
Sam dove back under the covers and curled up on one side, refusing to look at or even acknowledge Dean’s presence in the room.
Dean laughed harder and got up from Sam's bed to go sit at his own.
“And here I thought I’d have to teach you to jerk off Sammy.”
Sam pleaded. “Dean, quit it! Please??”
But Dean was not letting him off so easy.
“Hey it's about time you started polishing the family jewels already. Welcome to manhood, little brother!”
Sam just groaned louder, his hard-on long deceased and now just mortified beyond words.
“Fact, going Han solo is only the next best thing to actual sex. You have my whole-hearted approval little big boy, go ahead and hump your hose, spank your monkey… tickle your pickle…”
Sam jumped up straight in bed and threw all his pillows one after the other at Dean.
His brother ducked and dodged but held his ground.
“I know you can’t help it, in our line of work, you just gotta rough up the suspect now and again!”
“You can’t possibly go on forever.”
“Sure I can! Sight of you slappin’ the salami is enough to inspire the very worst in me, Sammy… go ahead and varnish your flagpole, whip that puppy, shake the sausage, or is that swell the sausage?”
“Aaargh!! Go away! Go away!”
Sam picked up the alarm clock from the bedside table and was about to let it fly when Dean stood up in self-defense, still sniggering as he backed away to the door.
“Alright, alright... that’s enough playing yank-e-doodle, you dirty little boy…”
“I’m gonna chuck it, seriously.”
“Stop it, you’re makin’ our mother blush!”
The clock shattered against the door sliding close only a nanosecond before it could thump Dean in the face.