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Title: I don't know how this goes (or maybe I've just forgotten)
Rating: PG-13 for language
Fandom: Supernatural
Characters: Sam Winchester, Dean Winchester, Bobby Singer, Jessica Moore
Summary: It's been 4 months since Sam picked up the phone for the first time to tell Bobby about a hunt near him. It's been a month since Jess and Sam started dating. It's been a year since Dean last talked to Sam. It's been 2 days since the last body was found.

(Or the one where Jess defines awesomeness (just ask Sam), Dean and Sam fail to communicate without Bobby running interference, but it still works out in the end.)

Author's Notes:
This was written for spn_summergen 2013 over at livejournal. I was asked for something Stanford Era, with maybe Dean hunting something near there to keep Sam safe, so I just mixed and matched a bit.

I have no clue about the geography of Palo Alto, or indeed the United States, aside from what google maps told me, so please excuse any inaccuracies. Also, I apologize for the woeful lack of action, I'm just no good at it *hangs head*

As my friend pointed out this is now the second time I've written a fic with dryads in them. I'M SORRY! Just, I already did all the research for it for my TW fic so this was just so easy^^




The damn telephone was ringing. Bobby heaved himself out of bed. Normally he wouldn't even bother. To hell with anyone who thought they could make him move in the middle of the night because they stubbed their toes and now needed Bobby to make it better for them.

But this was the emergency phone. There were only two groups of people who would call that number. Either the “I'm in deep Oh-shit-the-chimera-is-eating-my-face-off-right-now kind of trouble” group. Or the few and select people he would never ignore a phone call from, no matter the time of day or if they only wanted to talk about the weather. Unfortunately those groups often overlapped.

“Hey, Bobby.” the voice was subdued, but not panicked. Good.

“Heya, Sam.” he answered, walking over to his stove and putting the kettle on. The only reason Sam would call this late was if he was in trouble, which judging by the tone he wasn't, or if he was distressed or distracted enough not to think about the time. He had just talked with Sam for hours in the middle of the night before. The kid needed someone he could be honest with who wouldn't try to guilt him into coming back and who would always always pick up his calls, damn John to hell anyway.

“So, I may have found something. Something that sounds like a job” Sam said.

“Oh?” This was surprising. Sam had only called twice before with a lead about a hunt near him and they had both come in the last 4 months. “Do tell.” Maybe this was a sign that he would end up coming back to the family business after all, as unlikely as it seemed sometimes.

The kid has got too good a heart. Can't stay out of it when he sees people dying, not for long. Bobby thought. Though he had wished it would stick, Sam had always been happier with a book in his hand than with a weapon.

“Well, I don't have a lot of concrete data - “he could hear shuffling and a muttered a fake badge would have been handy, “but it comes down to this. 4 people have been found in a nearby nature reserve, malnourished. By all appearances they died of thirst and hunger simultaneously.”

“Go on”, if Bobby knew anything, it was that this wasn't it. Sam would never have called without digging a bit more.

“The victims didn't have anything in common. The police and the park rangers officially ruled the deaths as accidents, though according to the files suicide is still on the table. But -,” because of course there was a but, “none of the victims were big hikers or in fact planned to go on a longer trip. No hiking equipment was found near them. Also, the deaths occurred every 10 days on the day.”

“When was the last body found?” This would decide who he could and would call in, no matter what Dean said.

“Two days ago, so we should have enough time to move before the next murder.” Sam was starting to sound frustrated. “I would have called sooner, but the deaths weren't widely publicized. If Jess hadn't overheard two guys in her chem class talking, I wouldn't even know about it.”

“Don't beat yourself up over it, kid. You are there to study after all.” Silence. Not a good sign. “So what are we thinking? Nature spirit?”

“That's what I thought at first, but there is no record of anyone trying to cut down trees or otherwise destroy the reserve. I did find something interesting though.” Sam's voice started to sound excited. No matter that hunting was never his passion, the boy had always loved researching and finally having a mystery make sense. “There have been reports of people seeing a beautiful woman in the woods who vanished into thin air moments later. Others said they could hear a woman laughing or singing somewhere, even if they couldn't spot her.”

“Mhm,” he took the water from the stove and poured himself a tea, “has there been an import of trees from somewhere? Like a donation? Don't those parks love taking in foreign trees and shit?”

“That's a good idea, let me check.” He could hear typing on the other end of the line. He got the rum out of the cabinet, “Aha, you're right. There was an anonymous donation of 100 oaks from southern Europe two months ago. They spread them out, because they apparently want them to be naturally integrated into the local flora.” Sam read out. “Does that tell you something?”

“Well, without seeing the bodies, I can't be sure, but that sounds an awful lot like dryads.” Bobby answered.

“Dryads? Tree nymphs? But aren't they supposed to be peaceful? And shy?” Sam asked incredulously.

“And normally, they only appear in Europe, because they are bound to the area they were born in, I know.” he said. “But I've read a few texts recently about an area in Greece where they tried to get rid of a whole forest for a factory and they found malnourished corpses after reports of beautiful, laughing women running around.”

“Mhm,” Sam said quietly. “Let me check something out for a second, be right back.”

He used the time to add rum to his tea.

“Ok, I'm back.” he could hear the pages turning in the background.

“Aha,” Sam exclaimed, “Here we go:A hamadryad is a particular type of dryad, which are born bonded to a particular tree. Some believe that hamadryads are the actual tree, while normal dryads are simply the entities or spirits, of the trees. If the tree died, the hamadryad associated with it died as well. For that reason, dryads and the gods punished any mortals who harmed trees. The hamadryad associated with the oak is called Balanos.”

“So what, we are thinking that Balanos came shipped with the trees and then started punishing people?” he asked.

“Who knows,” Sam answered, “I mean, this was a gift, so I'm sure they were careful with them, but maybe being in transit for who knows how long, suddenly planted into an unknown environment, she started seeing anything as a threat.”

“Sounds like a working theory.” he said, “It also makes destroying it easier, burn down the tree, kill the dryad.”

“Right. So- ,” Sam said, “are you going to pass it along to some hunters in the area?” trying for nonchalant and missing it by a mile.

He took another sip of his tea to brace himself. Took a deep breath. Oh to hell with it he thought and took a gulp right out of the bottle.

“Thought about telling your folks, yourself?” he finally asked.

Silence on the other end of the line. Not that Bobby had expected differently.

“Dad was pretty clear on how much contact he wanted from me,” Sam finally replied with an icy tone in his voice. Bobby couldn't understand how two people that were so similar could fail to understand each other so thoroughly. Though that was basically the problem, one idiot as proud and stubborn as the other.

But John is the adult, he is responsible for taking the first step, damnit, he thought irritably.

“And Dean - “, Sam continued his voice suddenly sounding soft and young, “I don't even know where he is and I don't need him to drive across the whole country, dragging Dad along, just because he thinks his brother needs saving. I'm fine, I wont go into the woods or even near them, I just need someone to take care of this, before someone else gets hurt.”

He sighed.

“Seriously don't tell Dean!” Sam said like every time he had called about a case, worried and fond at once, “I told you, he'd come here even if he is nowhere near and rush if he was already on a hunt and I don't need him to get himself killed.”

“I'll pass it on to someone, kid.” Bobby sighed, “You take care of yourself over there you hear? And set foot outside the damn library for a change!”

“I am! Actually, “Sam paused, “remember that girl I mentioned last time we talked?”

“If by mentioned you mean, listed her qualities in order from great to amazing when I asked you how you are?” he chuckled.

“She's kind of my girlfriend now.” Sam continued, and though he could hear embarrassment there was also a quiet wonder in his tone.

“That's great, kid. Congratulations!” he said with a fond smile.

“Thank you. I really wanted to tell you. You are the only one -” Sam took a deep breath, “the only one who knows me and who I knew would be happy about this.”

He felt a pang, “I'm sure Dean-” he began.

Sam laughed bitterly. “Oh, Dean would congratulate me, I'm sure. Wow, Sammy you got a girl to date you?! Did she have to bring a book so you would look up? But he wouldn't believe when I tell him, that I'm serious about her, that I think this could be something...long-term.”

“I think you are underestimating your brother.” Bobby said quietly.

“Maybe.” Sam answered after a slight pause, sounding a bit ashamed. “It would have been nice to get his advice when I tried to ask her out, that's for sure.” he added wistfully.

“So why didn't you?” Bobby asked.

“I haven't heard from him in a year, Bobby. I don't think he'd be interested.” And now Sam just sounded heartbroken, like 10 year old Sam asking if his big brother had abandoned him when Dean and John had left for their first longer hunt together and were late in coming back.

“Dean has always been interested in everything you say, kiddo, even if he doesn't show it.” he said quietly.

“The last time we talked, I made it clear that I wasn't coming back, that this wasn't just a phase, because he wouldn't stop!” Sam cried, ”He'd say things like Oh, that will come in handy, when we have to pass as lawyers. or It doesn't matter if that prof annoys you, its not like you'll have to endure him for much longer.”

Dean had said those things half in desperate hope that they would motivate his brother to come back, half to at least try to connect to this new life Sam was building. But he couldn't say that, couldn't betray Dean's confidence like that, but damn did he want to.

“After that, I guess he decided he'd take Dad's stance on contact with me after all.” Sam finished.

This whole thing was a mess. It made his head hurt.

“Anyway, thanks for your help, Bobby, I really appreciate it.” Sam said briskly before he could formulate a response.

“Anytime, kiddo, anytime.” he said with a sigh. “Don't be stranger, you hear? Tell me more about this girl of yours next time.”

“Sure thing, Bobby.” Sam said with a bit more warmth in his voice, before hanging up.

He looked at the receiver in his hand and sighed again, pouring himself another helping of rum.

Time for another call Bobby thought. He didn't promise not to call Dean after all and if he had to choose which of them he wanted mad at him less, it wasn't really a contest. If Sam found out he'd be pissed for a while, but it wouldn't really make him angry. Dean on the other hand. When – because it was when, not if – he found out that Bobby had given a hunt in Sam's area to anyone else, entrusted his safety to anyone else, there would be hell to pay.

“Idjits, the both of them.” he muttered to himself.

-------------------------------------------------------

Dean hadn't expected a phone call. He'd just finished with the last case and he'd turned every phone off. There were only three people who had the number to the phone he'd never turn off. In fact he'd trained himself to be on high alert when that particular ring tone came on.

Which is why he'd fallen off his bed, and had to rob to his bag tangled up in bed sheets.

“'lo?” he said, trying to extricate himself from his cottony prison.

“Heya, Dean.” Bobby said. “You up for a hunt?”

Bobby knew he'd just finished with one, since he had needed his backing to convince Dad to let him go at it alone and also it was – he checked his watch – 2 in the morning in South Dakota. “I can be in Palo Alto in 5 hours, do I need to stock up on something?”

Bobby snorted. “Someday I'll surprise you, you just wait.”

“You'd need to call at a decent hour for that, old man.” he shot back.

“Well, I would, but I got the Oh my god, how could you wait until morning, Sammy could be dead by now lecture once, and once was enough.” Bobby replied dryly.

He didn't even dignify that with a response, finally escaping the sheets and already trying to figure out where he'd put his pants the night before. “So, do I need to bring anything special, or is my usual arsenal enough?” he repeated.

“We were thinking it's probably dryads. Specifically a dryad called Balanos.” Bobby said.

“Dryads? Aren't that those naked, giggling ladies?” he asked absently, still hunting for his pants. He was distracted enough by the stray thought of this would be so much easier if Sammy the neat freak was here that he nearly didn't notice the word choice.

“Wait, who's we?” he asked. There was a suspicious pause.

“Just an informant in the area.” Bobby said evasively.

“What informant?” he pressed.

“You know I can't tell you that.” Bobby replied.

“Who do you have sniffing around in the area? I've been there often enough, I could introduce myself, make nice -” he implored.

“You know I can't tell you.” Bobby said with a resigned edge in his voice.

“Oh. Right.” Dean swallowed. He wasn't about to think about it, to think about how Sam had given that information. Maybe. Possibly.

He shook his head. He was trying not to think about Sam in those terms anymore, after all. His little brother had made it crystal clear that he wasn't coming back and he needed to stop hoping. So that the next time Sam called Dean didn't make him hang up on him again.

“So Balanos? Is that supposed to tell me something.” he said. He was going to ignore the awkward moment if it killed him.

Bobby thankfully seemed to be just as eager to leave it behind them. “Normally dryads are not really bound to anything except the area where they are from.”

“Right, which is why we normally don't get them around here, because aren't they only native to Europe?” Dean asked. Aha, there you are pants!

“Exactly, but this is a different kind. She is bound to the actual tree. That tree isn't only her home, it's her life force, basically.” Bobby continued.

“And what, someone is trying to rip them out?” he asked, packing his bag.

“Not as far as we can tell, but maybe the journey drove her mad.” Bobby replied. “It's probably enough to burn down the tree, though.”

“And I'll find that how?” He didn't look forward to having to find and burn down every oak tree in a 100 mile radius inside a forest.

“The one you are looking for will have a clearly identifiable pattern on its bark, which will look like a butterfly.” Bobby continued.

“Alright then, find the butterfly tree, make a bonfire, what can go wrong.” He took a last look at the motel room to check if he'd gotten everything.

“Just try not to burn the whole forest down.” Bobby said.

------------------------------------------------------------

Sam was being paranoid. He knew he was being paranoid, but he couldn't help it. Bobby may have thought he was being subtle, but he didn't have him fooled for a minute. It did not escape his notice that he hadn't promised not to call Dean, which was nearly a confession in and of itself.

So he kept expecting to run into his brother. At the grocery store. On campus. In his apartment. It was making him twitchy.

“Do you know that guy?” Jess asked.

“What!” he jumped. And cursed himself. He'd nearly forgotten that he was out with Jess right now, too concentrated on the broad shouldered blonde in a leather jacket across the street from them. “What guy?”

“The one you have been staring at since we sat down?” sounding annoyed. He winced. I'm the worst boyfriend. I'm messing it up already.

“No, I-” he stammered. Jess looked unimpressed and he slumped down. “He reminds me of my brother.”

“Oh.” Jess exclaimed, visibly surprised by the honest answer. He hid another wince horrible boyfriend. “But it's not him?”

His gaze was drawn back to the guy against his will and he could tell by the profile now visible to him that it wasn't Dean. “No.” he said, trying not to sound disappointed.

By the look on Jess's face he hadn't quite managed it. “Why don't you call him, if you miss him?” she asked tentatively. She'd already understood, without him needing to tell her, that his family was a sore spot.

“Because it wouldn't change anything.” he snapped back. Then he reined himself in. It wasn't her fault after all and he was trying to make up for being a lying bastard, by otherwise being the best boyfriend he could be. “Look, the last time we talked I made it clear I wasn't going to drop out of college and that as long as he couldn't accept that he didn't need to bother calling again. And he hasn't.” he tried to sound decisive. “End of story.”

Jess took his hand You'll have to learn how to control your face one of these days, Sammy, or you'll never be able to fool the cops “I'm sure he'll come around, Sam.” she said. “You are amazing, and if they can't see that, well I'll see it for all of them.” she added fiercely.

She was so wonderful, Sam didn't know what he'd done to deserve this. He should definitely give Brady his first monthly thank-you-for-introducing-me-to-Jess six pack, though.

“Cheer up, emo boy. We are going to a party tonight and I will not have you dragging us down with that sad puppy look on your face.” she said happily.

Sam snorted. “What party?”

“Only the biggest campus party of the year! The one everybody is going to?” she was smirking now.

“It's this evening? And you are only asking me now? I feel slighted, what if I had other plans?” he tried to put on an offended face, but his fond smile probably gave him away.

“Well, I would have gone anyway, I just haven't asked you yet, because the library seems more like your scene”, she sighed deeply and widened her eyes, “ And I wouldn't want to make you feel uncomfortable. Those parties can get pretty wild.” She nodded as if to herself, but he couldn't help noticing the sparkle in her eyes.

“Well, if it gets too raunchy for me, I will have you to protect my virtue, wont I?” he teased back. Going to a real college party, eh, Sammy. Just try not to throw up on anyone's shoes.

“Damn right I will. I'm the only one allowed to besmirch your virtue, after all.” she answered with a smirk.

He laughed. “All right, since I'll be save from others on that front, where is that illustrious party taking place?”

“Oh that is the best bit.” she said, “Normally they do it in one of the warehouses, but seeing as the weather has been so nice and Andy in the committee has connections to the reserve, they got permission to do it over in Thornewood.” He was getting a bad feeling.

“You know what that means right? No curfew and dancing under the stars” Jess was nearly vibrating out of her seat, her eyes flashing with excitement.

“I don't dance.” he said absently, his stomach churning.

“Oh, you'll dance with me, mister.” she said playfully, but then she looked at his face and stopped short. “Everything ok? You don't have to dance if you really don't want to, I was just kidding.”

“No, it's not that, just, wasn't this where those bodies where found?” he tried to sound like he didn't know the exact location of every one of them by heart now. He had spend hours slowly hacking the police force's computers looking for those reports, poring over them, before finally giving in and calling Bobby.

“I don't know exactly, somewhere around there I guess?” she said with a slightly perplexed look. “But I'm sure the police sealed off that area and the reserve people wouldn't let us too close either.”

“But don't you think it's dangerous?” He didn't think Balanos would attack a huge group of people, but there were always people who wandered off and he didn't think drunks would be necessarily careful with the trees.

“Dangerous?” Jess asked with raised eyebrows, “Those deaths were ruled accidents. Probably some trekkers getting lost. As long as we stay within hearing distance of the clearing they reserved for us, I'm sure we'll be fine.”

“Yeah, you're right.” he said trying to give her the wide smile that he'd tried to copy off Dean when he was fourteen.

“You are not seriously worried about this, are you?” Apparently that smile still looked more constipated than devil-may-care on his face. I really don't know how Dean does it.

“A bit, but that's probably more about the forest than anything else. My brother used to tell me stories of monsters that ate people in nature parks and I guess that made a longer lasting impact than I realized.” he shrugged. By her look she believed the story. Sam sighed to himself. He'd really have to dance with her at that death trap of a party to make up for being a horribly liar.

---------------------------------------------------------------

There are too many fucking trees in this fucking forest. Dean cursed as he checked out the 60th oak and there was nothing even remotely butterfly shaped on it.

He'd arrived in Palo Alto at about 10am. He did his usual route of checking out Sammy's place – still not secured with salt, probably cause of the roomie, but he'd found some guns, knives and holy water in his closet, so that was something – checking out the university – still as stuffy looking as ever, how Sam could stand this he'd never know – and finally getting a discreet look at his little brother.

When he'd found him, he'd been sitting in a small cafe with a bombshell of a blonde, obviously enjoying himself. Dean just hoped Sam wouldn't wait too long to make a move. She had looked interested enough in the little bookworm, but women like that wouldn't stay single forever.

Satisfied that Sam was as safe as he was going to get, he set off to the reserve Bobby had told him they had planted the oaks, to take care of the more immediate threat to Sam's safety.

Only for some reason, those tree huggers had been of the impression it would be a good idea to spread those damn things out as wide apart as possible. Which meant that the sun was setting and he still hadn't found what he was looking for.

At least he'd charmed a map out of one of the rangers. He marked off another tree and plotted his route to the next one, when he suddenly heard voices up ahead.

“Move those things over there- No Peter! The beer goes behind that table, we don't want the freshmen to fall into the kegs and never come out.” The voice was attached to a young guy with a floppy hairdo.

He was addressing a group of about 10 other people, all college age, who were in the process of setting up a party area.

“Son of a bitch.” Dean breathed out in shock. This could not be happening. There weren't people in the forest where a crazy, murdering tree spirit ran around, arranging a fucking party.

“Excuse me” he said in his most authoritative voice, getting out an ID as he left the cover of the trees. “Park Ranger, what the fuck is going on here? You know that this is a protected reserve?”

The girl closest to him stared for a moment and then shouted, “ANDY, HERE IS SOME GUY PLAYING AUTHORITY!” she gave him a disgusted look and trotted off just as the guy he'd seen first walked over.

“Can I help you?” Andy said.

“Yeah, you can help me, you can tell me exactly what the fuck is going on here.” Dean snapped, flashing his ID again.

“We are setting up the yearly campus party.” he replied with a puzzled frown on his face. “I cleared it all with your office months ago.” He looked closer at Dean. “I don't recognize you, Lisa didn't say she had hired someone new.”

Shit. Wait Lisa was that girl who gave him the map. “Oh yeah, I'm just visiting from upstate.” he said trying to remember his cover story. “Wanted to inspect those new oaks they got around here. See how they, uh, settle into the new environment.” He waved the map. “Lisa gave me a map and everything. I was just suspicious of the noise here, you understand, and there are so many young people having wild, illegal parties in nature reserves.” he smiled widely. “Sorry, dude, some jobs you just never leave at home, you know?”

The smile did its work. Andy relaxed and smiled back, doubt gone from his face. Oh yeah, I still got it he thought smugly.

“No, it's cool, don't worry about it. The party doesn't start for another 2 hours anyway, so you didn't even disturb us or anything.” Andy was already turning back to the preparations and only absently threw a “have fun looking at those trees” towards Dean before he started yelling at a girl in dreadlocks that she could only claim the free vodka for helpers after she'd already helped out.

Dean turned around, losing his smile the moment he was out of sight. Two hours. Sammy had better have invited blondie to this. And I'm going to make fucking sure his college party is a success.

-------------------------------------------------

Sam couldn't calm down. He tried to make small talk with Jess's friends, but his heart just wasn't in it. At first Jess had only send him Don't be nervous smiles. She even told him how cute it was, that he was intimidated by meeting her friends.

And it was true, meeting Jess's friends for the first time certainly didn't help with his nervousness. But he could have gotten over that, if he didn't feel the need to constantly look out for a crazy tree lady potentially trying to eat them. And it seemed that his jumpiness had passed the “cute” stage and had entered “What the hell is wrong with you” territory.

Jess was sending him increasingly disturbed looks and even that one upbeat girl in the group had stopped trying to involve him in conversation. He spun around when he heard a weird crunching sound, scaring tiny Melissa so much, she let out a short scream

This really could not be a worse time to be making a first impression he thought.

“You guys go on ahead.” Jess said with forced cheer, turning to him with a dangerous gleam in her eye. She grabbed him by the arm and forced him to leave the path and step into the tree line.

“What the hell is up with you?!”she hissed at him. He took her gently by the arm and subtly maneuvered them until he was between her and the thicker parts of the forest.

“I'm sorry. It's just -” he started trying to come up with an excuse.

“And don't you dare lie to me!” Her eyes glittered up at him, truly angry now. “I'm fucking sick and tired of you always lying to me. About everything! Sometimes it's your feelings, but sometimes trivial things like why you didn't continue with soccer!”

He didn't have a retort, because it was true, he did lie, all the time. He'd just hoped she wouldn't notice.

“And I don't even know why!” she continued, grabbing him by the arms and shaking him a bit. “Don't you trust me?”

“I – I, of course I trust you, Jess.” he stammered. “It's just -”

“What?!” she demanded.

And for a second he thought about telling her, telling her everything. About monsters. About Dean. About his life. For a second, it was glorious. But then reality crashed down on him. Even if she did believe him – and there was no guarantee that she would – he didn't want her to be afraid of the world around her (of him).

Maybe in the future. When I'm sure she'll stay. he thought. But he needed to tell her something now and she'd already proven she could see through his lies.

“There are just some things-,” he started haltingly, “that I wont be able to tell you. At least, not yet.” he hurried to add. “And I don't want to lie to you, I really don't. But I can't tell you the truth either, not because I don't trust you. I do trust you, more than nearly anyone else in my life. But-” he trailed off. He didn't know how else to explain, without explaining exactly what he couldn't tell her.

Jess looked at him hard. “You promise you'll tell me at some point?” she asked.

“I promise.” Sam whispered.

She softened, “All right. Until you do, just tell me when you can't tell me, ok? I'll drop it, no questions asked. I'll be patient. But-” a shadow passed over her face, “don't lie to me.” she said almost pleadingly.

“Ok.” he said, stunned, wondering, “I wont.”

She took his hand and kissed his knuckles. “Thank you.”

He started, “No, why- I have to thank you-” he stumbled over his words, because he couldn't even express how much it meant, that he could be honest with her, without having to give up the normalcy he had build here.

She laughed quietly and looked up at him. “Oh my cute stutterer, I thought we were over this face of being unable to talk in my presence?”

“I don't think I'll ever be completely over that.” he replied helplessly.

Her laughter washed over him and he thought If that is what the wanderers hear when Balanos is calling them, I understand why they walk to their deaths.

“Ready to go back, nerd?” she asked with a pleased smile.

He wanted to respond in kind, but something held him back. “Go ahead?” he asked quietly. A little bit of the laughter left her eyes, but the happiness stayed.

She kissed him and whispered against his lip. “Don't stay out too long, you still owe me a dance, princess.” before turning around, calling out to her friends to wait for her.

For a second Sam didn't even remember why he didn't go with her, but the audible breathing he could hear from a bit deeper into the forest reminded him.

He turned around when Jess caught up with the group and went into the thicket only to stop dead when he saw Dean, slumped over next to a tree, covered in soot. Asleep.

He had to suppress a snicker. He knelt down next to his brother and after a short hesitation touched his shoulder. With anyone else Dean would have shot up and had them pinned against something. It was gratifying to see that he only tried moving away from his hand muttering “just five 'inutes, 'itch.” sleepily.

“Hey, Dean.” he whispered and his brothers eyes opened a bit, but he could see his brain wasn't quite online yet, because he got a warm “Heya, Sammy.” back instead of the slightly guarded tone Dean had kept up over all their conversations after he'd left.

“Are you all right?” he asked in the same soothing tone, not wanting to break the equilibrium.

“Yeah, sure, Sammy, don't worry.” he yawned. “That dryad thingy was a total pushover, didn't even put up a real fight.”

“Then why are you this wiped, if she wasn't any trouble.” Sam asked, casting a critical eye over Dean's body to see if he was hiding any injuries.

“Too many bloody trees, in too little time.” Dean answered.

“Why didn't you have time?” He had called Bobby early enough the next victim wasn't due for another week, so there had been no real hurry.

“Well, your stupid party,” Dean said petulantly, trying to pull the flimsy blanket he had spread over himself up again. “still had 40 trees to go and your party was starting in 2 hours. Had to get it done.”

“Why did you have to get it done?” Sam asked.

Dean's face split in a grin, not the fake one, but the real smile that was a bit crooked as if it didn't know if it belonged on his face. “Didn't want you to worry on your first real college party. 's an experience after all.” he reached up to ruffle Sam's hair and – apparently satisfied – turned his back to him.

“Now go off and have fun,” he said, waving an arm,”Just tell me you convinced that blonde cutie to go with you or I might just have to deny we are related.”

Sam ducked his face but he couldn't hide the wide smile stealing over his face. “Actually, she asked me.”

He could basically hear Dean's smirk. “Atta, boy.”
 












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