Characters: Sam and Dean
Notes: Fic deviates very slightly from canon and is set right after 8.20 (Pac Man Fever). OH! Also, big thanks to nwspaprtaxis for a lightning-quick beta and brainstorming with me! Shame on me for forgetting...
Summary: Pretty much what it says on the tin! Sam and Dean have different takes on the ideas of nesting and permanency, but there's room for compromise.
Sam's nostrils flared, almost on their own accord. He snuffled and rubbed at his nose, just enough distraction to lose his place on the page, dammit.
#22, no #23, the taxidermy room: jackalope, jinx cat, something called a j'ba fofi (which from all outward signs was just a 'roided-out tarantula) … Sam went back to pecking away at the laptop, referencing one of the musty ledgers he'd retrieved from Room #12 which, unsurprisingly, was chock full of ledgers. But the books were fragile and decaying, and if the hunter community wasn't going to lose all this vital information, someone was going to have to convert it to virtual data, and that someone was him. Good to have it available on-line, anyway.
Huh, so that's what they thought a Jersey devil looked like. He stretched back in his chair and grimaced when his spine cracked, vertebrate by vertebrate. Wrestling Dean's brand new mattress down the stairs of the bunker the other day had not been even slightly kind to Sam's back. As far as he was concerned, there was nothing wrong with the mattresses already on the beds; they were way better than anything the average no-tell motel had. Even better than the back seat of the Impala, though Sam would never admit that out loud.
“Memory foam, really?” Sam grumped under his breath, squirming in the office chair to crack that one last chink. His nose tickled again and this time, he was pretty sure it wasn't the dust from the towers of books he had walled around himself. “Dean?” Sam leaned back and hollered. “You burning something?”
“Nothing to see here; as you were!” Dean's voice boomed down the hallway, from the kitchen.
Sam considered getting up to survey the damage, but there was this tome on necromancy he really wanted to dig into, and another one chronicling the adventures of Veronica Vanderhoof, Werewolf Aficionado. Bet she was the hunter equivalent of Steve Irwin in the 1930's. The bunker was ripe with unplumbed information, shelf after room after corridor of the stuff. Before he knew it, another book was open on his lap, his back was aching again and his ass was numb.
He startled when his phone jittered from on top of a fat stack of folders, the screen glowing with an incoming text. The room had grown dark as the daylight from the few windows around the mezzanine had turned dusky.
hey, wanna go buy a tv? agot, on a big screen. just sayin.
Sam rubbed his eyes and half-grinned. Now?
why not now? its only 7.
You couldn't have asked me, in person?
i did. you had your face smashed in a book, geek master flash.
Capital letters are your friend.
BITE MY LEFT TIT.
Sam snorted and set down the phone. Maybe if he didn't want blood clots, he should at least stand up, let the feeling flow back into his legs.
Where you at? Sam texted as he headed down a hallway.
Is it safe to come in? I don't want to see...you know...
True to his word, Dean was in his bedroom, futzing over the particular arrangement of weapons and skin mags and … stuff. Dean had so much stuff.
Now that they had someplace—dare Sam think it—permanent, Dean just seemed to expand, take up more room. It was almost like he went around licking things to claim them. He was a cat, rubbing on all its territory and trailing Dean detritus all over the place ... dirty socks, food wrappers, empty bottles. For as fastidiously as Dean kept all the guns and knives, he wasn't great about picking up after himself. Years of living in hotels formed some powerful habits. Sam had his share of them, too; it still killed him to unpack his duffle and actually use closets and drawers, and God forbid he leave a mini courtesy soap behind.
But now that they were these Legacies, these rightful heirs to the joint, Dean had half the Impala's trunk emptied out and thoughtfully placed on shelves, mounted on the walls in the bedroom he'd commandeered. Okay, maybe it even seemed homey, if Sam had to put a name to it. And this was, at once, endearing and just kind of disorienting.
“Better Homes and Bunkers?” Sam quipped, leaning on the door.
Dean scowled and buffed a picture frame on his flannel, set it on his desk beside a stack of vintage skin mags. “You're just jealous because you live like a frickin' monk. Friar Winchester. Freak.”
Sam sighed because he couldn't exactly argue. Instead, he pulled Baby's keys out of his pocket and jangled them in the air. “Whatever, Martha Stewart. Let's buy us some luxury media appliances.”
Dean's scowl melted into kid-in-the-candystore glee. Or drunk-in-the-liquorstore, whichever shoe fit.
It was a Friday night, and the Best Buy in the booming metropolis of Manhattan, Kansas, was apparently the hot place to be. Sam stood a head taller than most of the crowd, for which he was glad; he'd never exactly been keen on the claustrophobic squeeze of city life. Back in the Stanford days, it had felt like something new and happening and full of possibilities, but that was a lifetime ago. He watched the top of Dean's head make a bee-line for the TV department at the back of the store, and Sam begrudgingly followed … until he caught sight of the iPads and, well. Charlie had designed that awesome app for keeping track of monsters and iPads were so much easier to cart around than a laptop, bigger than the runty screen of a smart phone.
They could well afford an iPad, too; hell, it wasn't their money they were spending. Some day, the millions of fraud departments of the credit companies they'd bilked would catch up with them, but not today. Sam was drawing his fingertip across the glass-smooth surface of the latest model, watching all those pages open with the responsiveness of a vamp at a bloodmobile, when he was dragged away by the elbow.
“Entertainment first,” Dean chided. “Work later.”
“You can watch movies on the iPad!”
Dean just exhaled and kept dragging Sam along until he stopped in front of the biggest damned screen Sam had ever seen, short of an actual theater.
“THAT is how you watch a movie.” Dean rocked back on his heels and beamed.
“That … is a big television.”
“It's ultra-high-def curved,” Dean said, with the same reverence that he said “memory foam.”
“It's roughly the size of a billboard, Dean.”
Dean grinned. “Right?”
Sam hated to burst his brother's bubble, he really did, but it had to be done. “Won't fit in the car, man. And we can't exactly give the delivery guys our address.”
Dean stopped rocking and his brows drew together. “Well, shit.”
Sam clapped him on the shoulder in sympathy. “Tell you what. Bet we can fit two smaller models in the backseat, one for each of our bedrooms, yeah?”
“Practicality first, indulgence later.”
Dean gave Sam the stink-eye but huffed in something like agreement. His sights settled on a skinny kid in skinny jeans and a blue Best Buy golf shirt. “Hey, junior...” And then he was off, snagging televisions while Sam surreptitiously drifted back to the iPad department.
“Would it kill you to put up a poster?” Dean stepped back, admiring their handiwork. They'd already mounted a larger flat-screen TV in Dean's room and were just finishing the installation in Sam's, in the center of one of the blank walls and okay, it did look a little woeful and lost. A rectangular island in a big brick ocean. “Farrah Fawcett? Kim Kardashian?” He poked Sam in the ribs. “Stephen Hawking?”
Sam gave Dean a shove. “Jeeze, get me one for Christmas if it bugs you so much.”
“Fine, I will then.”
“You do that.”
“Damn straight it's good.”
Sam snorted and shoved Dean again, just 'cause, and headed into the hall with the screwdriver and empty TV box.
Dean popped his head out after Sam. “You're comin' back, right? We've gotta test-drive this sucker. See if the Men of Letters get premium cable. Cinemax After Dark.”
Sam pretended he didn't hear him, or at least didn't dignify the holler with a response. He knew Dean was grinning ear to ear anyway.
“Bring back beer!” There was a pause. “And pie!”
Ear. To. Ear.
But a beer or two actually sounded pretty good, so Sam dumped off the screwdriver and swapped it for a pair of El Sols. On his way back through, though, he made a mistake. Just a little one, but that's all it took. His eyes skimmed over the table in the great hall to the brand new iPad sitting by his laptop among a sea of notebooks, tomes and Post-its.
Just five minutes, Sam thought. If Dean got to play with his new toys, Sam could too. He sat down and flipped up the iPad's black magnetic cover, all suede-y and scuff-free, almost giddy as the device glowed to life. He had a bunch of settings to arrange yet and contact lists to import, but man, it was pretty … shiny and marred by not a single ding or fingerprint, no blood in the seams. Traveling all over hell and creation—sometimes literally—never allowed for them to acquire the nice things. He was lucky to get a decent smart phone that lasted more than six months. Most of them ended up with cracked screens or soaked in holy water, so not much sense in buying a decent one. A decent anything really, until now.
He pulled his laptop over and popped off a quick email to Charlie about that effin' brilliant app she'd designed. If he could get it installed ASAP, he could start adding some of the new monster info he'd found in the bunker, kill two birds with one stone instead of having to go back in later and re-log entries.
Filing through the standard issue screensavers, Sam deigned them all lacking and decided to upload his own. He found a photo of the Grand Canyon and yeah, that was the one.
Charlie pinged him back and they spent some time swapping emails until Sam got the app to work, customized to his specifications, and it was just as killer as he thought it'd be. He added the j'ba fofi straight away, which Charlie swore he'd just made up. And since he was fiddling with the app, he took the opportunity to add all the J's she'd missed and a few I's and before he knew it, the beers were warm and he was slumped over in his chair, the side of his face greasing up the brand new iPad, and snoring.
Sam felt bad, he really did. Morning cast cold light into the room, his back was screaming like the Tin Man in need of oil and he'd gotten drool all over his precious iPad. Sweat from the beers had left rings on the wooden table, and probably most dangerous of all, he'd stood Dean up for their TV-watching 'date'. First thing Sam did was stumble to the head and make sure he didn't have anything written on his face in permanent marker, then he felt safe to take a leak. By the time he returned to the table, he heard Dean bumping around in the kitchen and smelled coffee.
“Hey.” Sam tried to sound casual as he strolled in, stretching. Maybe Dean would be cool with everything.
Dean gave him a baleful once-over and slapped Sam's hand when he tried to go for the coffee pot. Okay, so not cool with everything.
Sam sighed and stopped just short of rolling his eyes. “I'm sorry, okay? I just … I mean you can't blame me, huh? It's just so … shiny.”
“Shiny? Really, Sam?” Harrumphing, Dean gave his bowl of batter one last stir before reaching for a muffin tin from the top shelf.
“Are you … are you wearing an apron?”
Dean snatched a wooden spoon from the bowl and brandished it at Sam, annoyance sparking in his eyes and gunk flinging. “Don't. Even.”
Sam raised his hands, palms displayed in surrender. “Whoa whoa, not the spoon! Watch where you point that thing.”
“I ain't afraid to use this.”
Dean rolled his shoulders and nodded once. Satisfied. “Good then. You can have your coffee now.”
Sam bit back a grin and retrieved a mug, but he was sure to give Dean a wide berth regardless. Coffee in hand, Sam backed out of the kitchen and didn't turn around again until he'd cut the corner and Dean could no longer peg him with a spoon in the back of the head.
He almost felt guilty about sitting back down at the table, amid his research and last night's beer, but that lasted all of forty-eight seconds as he picked up the big musty taxidermy ledger again and skimmed the K's, with its kappa and its kasai rex (which from all outward signs was just a 'roided-out iguana). Sam plugged those into the app, answered a few emails, and then flipped to the next page, mindful of the fragile parchment. A tiny bit of paper fluttered to the floor; looked like it might have been used as a bookmark, once upon a time.
Sam leaned over and picked it up, turned the faded tan scrap around in his fingers. It was a ticket stub, said The Cleveland Baseball Company on one side, dated May 3, 1930. Apparently, a baseball game was only $1.10 back then, including tax. He couldn't remember the last time he and Dean had caught a game, any game, baseball or otherwise. Sam flipped the ticket over and handwritten on the back in ink were the words “Don't be late, Ike.”
The Men of Letters had lives, took in baseball games among it all.
“Hey, you have got to taste these amazing little pucks of awesome!” Sam startled when Dean stalked up behind him. “Your brother is a master, Sam. I could be on the Food Network.”
The fragrance that road in with Dean was frankly mouth-watering, as he proudly presented a baking sheet of lop-sided but delectably golden-brown blueberry muffins.
Sam reared back before he took a tray to the face. “You baked these?”
“No, didn't you see Gordon Ramsey in there with me? Of course I did. Try one.”
Sam's first instinct was that Dean had done something to the muffins in retaliation, like put Ex-Lax in the middle, but his face was just so damned eager and proud, his t-shirt carelessly smudged with flour, it was fucking adorable. Sam gave the ticket stub a glance and smiled, slipping it back between the pages and carefully shutting the ledger. He closed his laptop and pushed aside the iPad.
“Okay, let's see what you've managed to not burn.”
Wonder of wonders, they were kinda perfect. And Sam only touched the internet one other time that day, to see about buying tickets to the first Kansas City Royals game of the season. Bit of a drive, but totally and absolutely worth it.