AN: I finally have time to write again this semester, so I finally got this finished, and the next chapter is already half-formed, so that will be up soon too. As always, any and all feedback is welcome.
"So this is where you spent six months of your life?" Dean said with an unpleasant look on his face as he followed Sam into his apartment. He looked around, taking in the dust and the unkempt bed and the clutter. "Looks like you went for cheap."
Sam rolled his eyes and crossed over to the dresser. "I didn't exactly have a lot of money saved up. Had to go with what I could. This was only meant to be short-term anyway."
"And what were you going to do later? Buy a house? Live in the suburbs?"
Sam's rummaging hands stilled for a second, so brief Dean almost didn't notice it. "I dunno," Sam said lightly, a moment later, continuing his search. "I didn't think that far ahead."
Dean ran one finger along the windowsill and grimaced at the grime that came away on his finger. "So what, you're just going to leave this life of luxury and get back on the road?"
Sam shrugged, tossing several pieces of clothing onto the bed. "You said there's a hunt, so I'm going to go hunt. Eventually you're going to get yourself killed if I'm not there anyway."
Dean fought back a grin and hid it with a glare instead, nudging the bed frame with his toe. "Right. So, about the hunt—"
A knock at the door interrupted his half-finished thought, and Sam turned, crossing the room to answer it. The opened door revealed a beaming Cara looking breathless with excitement. "Sam," she said. "Listen, I'm. Something's happened."
Sam blinked. "What?"
She raised an eyebrow. "Are you gonna let me in, or am I interrupting something?"
Without another word, Sam stepped aside to let Cara in. She smiled at Dean, who nodded in response, and then turned back to Sam, who shut the door and ran his fingers through his hair. "What's going on, Cara?"
Her eyes brightened. "Well, I—I got a message from someone. My brother."
Sam frowned. "I thought your family was—"
"Yeah, I thought so too. But just a couple days ago, I got this email, and…well, I looked into it, just to make sure. It's really him, Sam. It's really, really him. He's alive, and he wants to see me."
Sam stared at her, unsure what to make of this. He wanted to be happy for her, but it seemed too good to be true. He exchanged a glance with Dean, who shrugged, looking baffled, then turned back to Cara. "Why didn't he contact you sooner?"
She smiled softly. "He thought I was dead too. He'd been trying to find me for a while, once he found out I was still alive."
"Where is he?" Sam asked.
"Boulder, Colorado," she said, and then frowned in confusion as Sam's eyes widened and flicked over to Dean once again. She glanced between the two of them. "What?"
"That's where our next case is," Sam said. "We were going to head out in just a couple hours."
"Coincidence?" Dean suggested.
"Probably," Sam muttered, though he wasn't sure. He looked at Cara. "Well, if you want, you can come with us. As long as you don't mind putting up with him," he said with a jerk of his head towards Dean.
Cara stared at him for a moment, and then grinned so brightly that Sam was stunned for a moment. "Hell, I'd love that! Are you serious?"
"Uh, yeah, if you really—"
She laughed and threw her arms around him in a brief, tight hug. "Yes, yes, of course! Get your shit together so we can go, Sam!"
Sam laughed despite himself and nodded, skirting past her to he could continue to gather his things.
Instead of the two hours they'd expected, they were on the road in one, driving madly towards Boulder as the sun went down and the sky darkened behind a layer of clouds. Cara stretched out across the backseat of the impala and let the growl of the engine relax her, lull her to sleep as they sped across the highways.
She awoke to the sound of Sam and Dean arguing and sat up, rubbing at her eyes and trying to shake the grogginess. The sun was just barely peeking up from beneath the horizon.
"Dean, you know you can't lie to me, you're exhausted, just pull over."
"Dammit, Sam, I'm fine."
"The hell you are. Let me take over, will you?"
"You're still getting over a concussion, Sam, there's no way I'm letting you behind the wheel. You'll probably crash her."
Sam rolled his eyes, then looked back as Cara piped up: "Her?"
Sam grinned. "Dean is in love with his car, haven't you noticed? Puts the thing above everything else."
"Shut up, Sam," Dean snapped, and Cara noticed that there were, in fact, shadows under the man's eyes. "Look, we're almost there. We'll get a motel and get some rest then. Happy?"
Sam heaved a long-suffering sigh and sat back in his seat, folding his arms. Cara leaned forward, looking closely at Dean. "I'm not even remotely concussed. I could drive."
"Oh, hell no," Dean said, looking at her like she'd lost her mind. "I don't care if you are my brother's sort-of-girlfriend, there is no way I'm letting you drive my baby."
Cara snickered. "Your—"
"Don't say it," Sam said, leaning his head against the window. Cara laughed again and leaned back against her own seat, watching the trees and fields whiz by.
They got two rooms at the first motel they found in Boulder, and as soon as they'd checked in and gotten some sleep, Sam and Dean went off to start investigating their case and Cara went off to find her brother.
He'd given her an address but she had no idea if he'd be there. Since she had nothing else to go on, though, she made her way there, heart pounding with every moment that she got closer.
She might still have a family. But would it really change anything? What if her brother no longer wanted her? What if he wasn't the person she remembered?
These thoughts didn't leave her head even as she climbed the stairs in his apartment building and knocked on what was, supposedly, his door. She waited with her heart in her throat and stock still, listening for movement inside that would indicate he was home.
But she got no warning before the door was flung open.
She took a startled step backwards and raised her eyes to the man's face—he was tall, at least as tall as Dean—and caught her breath.
Blue eyes, tan skin, and messy, sandy blond hair. She stared at him, drinking in his features, and tried three times to speak before she fully managed it. "Jason?"
A wide grin split his face and he laughed out loud, stepping forward to pull her into his arms. "Cara! Oh my god, it's really you!"
She made a sound that was half a sob, half a laugh and clutched him back, burying her face in his shoulder. After all these years, and it was really her brother. A great feeling of happiness swelled in Cara's chest and all of a sudden, for the first time in a long time, she didn't feel so lonely.
"Okay, so here's what we know." Sam glanced over the top of his coffee cup and across the table to make sure his brother was paying attention before continuing. "We came here because people were getting sick and nobody knew the cause, and because one guy died. Right?"
"Mmhm," Dean grunted, taking another bite of his burger.
"Right," Sam said, twirling a pen around his fingers and scooping up the newspaper next to his drink. "So what do we knew that causes sweeping illness wherever it goes?"
"No clue," Dean said, popping a fry into his mouth.
Sam shot his brother a glare and then dropped his eyes back to the paper. "There was also some stuff about irregular weather patterns, the victims having recurring nightmares…uh, there were also a few weird accidents, weren't there?"
"Yeah, didn't some guy like…trip and fall onto a knife?"
"Something like that. But that's not all…the whole city has been experiencing economic and agricultural problems, partly because of the shitty weather and partly because nothing will grow."
Dean set his cup of soda down and frowned. "Is this some sort of curse? Did someone cast a thousand-year-drought or plague or whatever on this town? Because that will be a bitch to put right."
"Except it's not a drought," Sam said distractedly. "They've been getting thunderstorms. Black clouds and stuff. And every time, after one of these storms, someone gets sick or someone gets hurt, and they're happening more frequently—" Sam froze suddenly, fingers going white on his pen. "Wait a minute. I think I know what's causing this."
Dean bit back a smile as Sam stood up abruptly and made for the door. He'd never say it out loud, he thought as he followed his brother towards the Impala, tossing some money on the table, but he'd missed having Sam with him on hunts. His geek brother always seemed to know what was happening and how to fix it when he didn't.
Back at the motel, Sam began puttering away on his computer, while Dean sat across the room and flipped through the channels on the TV. Several internet searches and half an hour later, Sam said triumphantly, "Got it!"
Dean sat up and flicked off the TV. "What'd you find?"
"It's a Nue," Sam said, turning and shifting the laptop so Dean could look at the page. "A creature from Japanese lore. Bringers of misfortune and illness, and get this—it can turn into a black cloud and fly."
"That would explain the thunderstorms," Dean said, nodding as he looked over Sam's shoulder.
"And according to lore, people would have nightmares about black clouds, which some of the victims of illness were talking about."
"All right. So how do we get rid of it?"
"Uh, the only thing I could find was…magic arrows."
"Great. Perfect." Dean straightened and sighed, rubbing the back of his neck.
A knock at the door interrupted their conversation, and Dean frowned, exchanging a glance with Sam before going to open it.
Cara stood outside the motel room, bright-eyed and grinning, next to a tall, familiar-looking man in crisp clothes. "Hey," she said. "Dean, Sam, I'd like you to meet my brother Jason."
Dean's eyes fixed on the man's face and be blinked, surprised. "Don't I know you?" he blurted without thinking.
The man named Jason grinned and offered his hand. "Yeah, yeah. Dean. We met at a bar, a few months ago, didn't we? I'd remember a face like yours. What a crazy coincidence!"
Dean nodded absently, taking the man's hand. He now recalled the odd vibe he'd gotten off the guy, despite his entirely normal appearance. That vibe was not gone now, and as he watched Jason shake hands with Sam he almost had the urge to yank Sam back and step in between the two of them.
He shook his head, discarding the feeling, and stepped back instead as Sam waved the two of them inside.
They sat on the beds to talk, Sam and Dean on one and Cara and Jason on the other. And despite the uncertainty Dean was feeling towards this guy, he couldn't help noticing the way Cara's expression brightened whenever she looked at him, like all her dreams had come true at once.
Jason told them about his job as a realtor, and how he'd moved here recently, then had contacted Cara. It was all so distractingly normal, but Dean noticed with interest that while he kept out the details of his life and revealed nothing of his personal life, he seemed to take quite an interest in theirs.
"So how did you two meet Cara?" Jason asked. "She says you two traveled here with her, that you're friends of hers?"
"That's right," Sam said, nodding. "I've known her for longer than Dean has, though."
"Sam saved my life," Cara cut in. "We were friends for a while, but we really became close when Sam beat back a mugger who was attacking me."
Dean looked over at his brother in surprise. Sam had never told him that. One glance between them, however, told him all he needed to know—it had been no mugger that Sam had beaten back.
Fighting another wave of guilt, Dean made an attempt to rejoin the conversation, but he couldn't shake the feeling that something about this guy wasn't right.
And he was a hunter. He didn't ignore his instincts.
Nevertheless, for Sam and especially Cara's sake, he didn't say anything until Cara and Jason had left to go to Cara's room. Sam closed the door with a small smile on his face and Dean watched out of the corner of his eye as he sat back at his laptop.
"I don't like him."
Sam looked over at Dean in surprise. "What? Why not?"
Dean shook his head, raking his fingers through his hair. "I dunno, Sam. It's just something about him. I don't trust him."
Sam sighed. "Well, do me a favor and keep your irrational dislike to yourself, okay? This is the happiest I've ever seen Cara. I don't want to screw that up for her."
"You mean you don't want me to screw up your chance with her."
Sam glared. "Dean, that is not what this is about."
"C'mon, Sammy, I see the way you look at her. Every second I'm around the two of you you're worried I'll say something wrong or stupid and I'll scare her away."
"Dean, that isn't true. If she was going to be scared away, I would have done it by now. This is just about—I mean—God, don't you ever think about anyone but yourself?"
"I could say the same about you, Sam. Are you so fixated on this girl that you don't see something is off with her brother? I know it's been a while since you fucked anyone, but who knew you were that desperate."
Sam clenched one hand into a fist on the table and looked for a moment like he wanted nothing more than to punch Dean. Dean almost wished he would. He realized where that last comment would lead in Sam's head, and the last thing Sam needed right now was to be reminded of Jess.
Shit, he was an idiot.
Instead of throwing punches, however, Sam stood and grabbed his jacket and keys and swept outside, slamming the door behind him, shooting a "You fucking asshole" over his shoulder under his breath as he went.
Dean groaned and ran his hands over his face. What the hell had possessed him to say that?
Sam didn't return several hours later, so Dean went out to find something to eat and spotted a vending machine near the room. As he was heading back to his room with the goods, he ran into, just his luck, exactly the person he didn't want to see.
"Hello, Dean," Jason said with a pleasant smile. His eyes took in the chips in Dean's grip before returning to his face. "Dinner?"
Dean glared and made to push past the man, but Jason caught his arm and pulled him back around, still smiling pleasantly. For being so skinny, the guy was strong, and Dean was not able to shake him as he'd expected to be able to.
"Hold on a minute, Dean. I can't help but get the feeling that you're not very fond of me."
"Huh. Wonder where you got that impression."
"I haven't done anything wrong," Jason, completely ignoring Dean. "My sister seems awfully glad to have me around. So what's your problem, exactly?"
"I don't have a problem," Dean snapped. "Let go of me."
Jason tightened his grip instead, and Dean flinched involuntarily, dropping his bag of chips. "Should we settle this the old fashioned way, then?"
"Look, I don't know what your problem is, man," Dean said, fighting to control his anger, "but I don't want to deal with this right now. Let go of me and we can hash this out later."
Jason smirked and laughed softly, and before Dean knew it he was being shoved bodily against the wall of the motel, held in place by one arm across his chest, Jason's face inches from his own. "We'll work this out right here," Jason said, not sounding remotely out of breath for having just slammed a person twice his size up against a building.
"What the hell—" Dean said, outraged, struggling ineffectually against the other man's grip.
"Listen to me closely, Dean Winchester," Jason said, pleasant smile plastered back on his face. "We can do this the easy way or the hard way. I'm here to stay, because my sister needs me. You can accept that, and we don't have to cause each other any trouble. Or, you can make things very hard for yourself. Your choice."
Without giving Dean a chance to reply, Jason released him, stepping away, and then made for his motel room, closing the door behind him.
Sam planned to spend as much time as he could away from Dean at the bar a few blocks from the motel, and he could have stewed in his anger there for hours, except Cara had sought him out almost right after he'd gotten there.
"Buy me a drink, handsome?" she said as she sat beside him at the table, smiling faintly.
Sam looked over at her, curling his hand around his beer bottle. He blinked at her. "Cara, what are you doing here?"
"Motel walls are thin," she said with a small smile. "I heard you guys fighting and I figured you'd come here."
Sam nodded and downed another gulp of his drink, eyes tracing the lines in the wood underneath his hands.
"For the record," Cara said, "I like your brother. You can tell him that he won't scare me away, and I'm not gonna judge you for anything he says. I know what kinds of idiots older brothers can be."
The corner of Sam's mouth ticked up in a grin despite his best efforts. "You can tell him that yourself."
Cara stared at him, drumming her fingers on the table softly. "I don't think he meant any of it, you know."
Sam glanced at her wryly out of the corner of his eye. "So what, are you playing the buffer between me and my brother now?"
She shrugged. "I've never had to deal with sibling fights before. It's a new experience." Sam laughed and she grinned. "So, how about that drink?"
Sam had never been the greatest at holding his liquor—not nearly as good as his brother, anyway—and four drinks each later, he was starting to feel the effects. He felt himself loosen up as his anger was replaced by a blissful buzzing in the back of his mind.
Cara was just as tipsy as he was, laughing at the most pointless things, eyes bright and grin loose and sloppy. "Did you have a girlfriend before you moved to Iowa?" she asked as they were finishing their beers, leaning her head on one hand as she gazed at him curiously. "Dean said it's been awhile since you—"
"Yeah," Sam said, and if he hadn't been so buzzed he might have deterred this conversation immediately. But nothing seemed to matter at the moment. "Jess," Sam said. "She was my girlfriend for a few years in college. Really sweet, really smart, really beautiful. She died just over a year ago."
"Oh," Cara said, eyes widening in understanding. "God, Sam, I'm sorry."
"It was a fire," Sam said, the words spilling from his mouth. "It was a while ago. Was hard for a while."
"Mmm," Cara murmured sympathetically around the rim of her bottle. Sam watched, oddly fascinated, as she licked her lips and set her glass back down. "So is that why you were so closed off around me?"
Sam's eyes slid back to hers. "Closed off? I wasn't."
"Please, Sam," Cara said, drawing the word out and leaning towards him slightly. Her eyes were twinkling. "You barely looked at me for months, and I was flirting my ass off. You gave me nothing."
Sam snickered. "Maybe I was playing hard to get."
"I was starting to think you weren't interested at all. But there was no way I was givin' up on all…" she gestured vaguely to Sam's entire person. "That."
Sam laughed and finished off his beer. "Sorry. I just…I dunno…didn't wanna fuck it up. Doesn't mean I wasn't interested."
"But your brother was right?" Cara said, something else in her eyes now. Her voice lowered slightly. "It's been a while since you've been with a girl?"
Sam blinked at her, mind trying to catch up with her words. It wasn't helping that the blood in his body was rapidly rushing south. He raised one eyebrow and said, "Guess so, yeah."
Cara smiled but didn't say anything else, downing the rest of her beer and standing up, grabbing her wallet out of her back pocket. "Ready to get out of here?"
"Shouldn't I be the one paying?" Sam said with a frown.
"I find that sexist," Cara said, but she was grinning. "I forced myself on you, I don't mind paying."
"Come on, idiot." She tossed the bills onto the counter and grabbed Sam's hand, towing him toward the doors. They stepped out together into the darkened streets, and the cool air cleared Sam's senses a bit. In contrast to the packed bar they'd just left, the roads were completely empty.
"Hold on," Sam said, pulling Cara to a stop. He half-smiled, stepping closer to her. "I still feel like I should give you something. You know, for keeping me company tonight."
She raised one eyebrow. "What did you have in mind?" she asked, voice soft and breathy.
Not stopping to think about it, Sam took hold of Cara's face between his hands and kissed her on the mouth. Cara sighed, responding immediately and with enthusiasm, reaching up to twist both hands in Sam's shaggy hair.
Sam pressed her up against the wall of the bar and kissed her harder, encouraged by her reaction. He groaned and slid his tongue in towards hers, and then the kisses were fast and desperate and messy, full of alcohol and raw desire.
Sam pulled away and they stared at each other, breathing heavily. "Wow," Cara breathed.
Sam swallowed, eyes locked on hers. "Yeah." A blush flooded Cara's cheeks and Sam couldn't resist ducking in towards her and kissing her again, softly, gently. "I'm a little rusty," he murmured against her lips. "Remind me—what happens next?"
She grinned. "Well, I happen to have an empty motel room all to myself a few blocks away."
Sam grinned and laced his fingers with hers. "Then what are we waiting for?"