Chao Patties

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Been Done Solid

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R • gen

Fuck, if worse came to worse, maybe he could get a job as a model for Lisa Frank.

WARNING: Mary Sewage, bad words, brief Sam/Not-Andy-OFC makin' out 

In which Sam fucks off to college and pisses off a Mary Sue old family friend.


It hadn't been the best week of Sam's life, no.

It started with the day he left. The yelling, the stomping--and that was all before Dean came home sooner than he was supposed to and the shit really hit the fan.

Thanks for telling me, Sammy, Dean spat, looking for all the world like Sam had just reached into his chest, yanked his heart out, and stomped it into the dirt. Then he stormed off to their room, slammed the door hard enough to rattle shit on the living room walls, and that was the last Sam saw of him.

If you're gonna go, Dad said, stay gone.

Fine with me, Sam said. And that was that. He was done. He was gone. He was free.

And, three days later, he was screwed.

He wasn't about to show up for his first day of classes with nothing to wear but ancient jeans and a couple of shirts that seemed held together by willpower alone. It wasn't like he ran out and got a whole new wardrobe or anything, but two pairs of khakis and a couple of decent shirts--even from Wal-Mart--cost a little more than he'd expected. The cab he'd called to pick him up ended up costing more than he expected--seriously, forty bucks to the nearest bus station!?

Which left him less bus money than he needed. A lot less.

So there he was in Amarillo--stranded, broke, and hoping like hell a couple of Dad's friends he'd last seen when he was ten remembered an offer they'd made him and Dean way back when.

If y'all need some help and you don't feel like you can ask your dad, you tell us.

Yeah, Sam needed some serious help right now, and Dad was the last person on Earth he wanted to call.

---

He hitchhiked south until he came to a wide spot in the road named Groveton. From there, he walked eight miles with his stuffed-to-bursting backpack on his back and another stuffed duffel bag slung over his shoulder. And that, in itself, was bad enough. But this was also the middle of August, and on top of that this was the middle of August in Texas... at noon.

By the time he got to J.D. and Andy's long-ass driveway, he'd stripped to his T-shirt and hacked the legs of his jeans off at the knees (oh God was he glad he'd decided to bring that stupid knife after all) and he still looked like someone had just poured a bucket of hot water over his head.

J.D.'s van was gone; he must have had a job somewhere. Sam liked the man, but really hoped he'd stay gone. He had a bad feeling that J.D. would end up asking questions Sam really didn't want to answer.

He wasn't much more eager to explain all this crap to Andy. He didn't know what he was going to say when she opened the door and saw him standing on her porch all alone with one crummy bag.

Hey, Andy. How's things? How's your dad? Good? Good. Me? Oh, not so bad, I just got pretty much disowned, my dad hates me, my brother hates me, I'm broke and stuck here and I haven't eaten since yesterday, and I have to be in California in three weeks or I'm really screwed. Could be worse, how 'bout them Astros?

Eeh.

---

As his damned luck would have it, he didn't have to explain a thing.

As soon as he started trudging up the sand-and-pea-gravel sidewalk to the house, Andy popped out the screen door with a phone to her ear and her free hand lighting a cigarette.

It occurred to Sam that Andy hadn't seen him since he was ten years old. She hadn't changed much--a little broader in the shoulders and the hips, the beginnings of crows-feet at the corners of her eyes, and at some point she must have gotten sick of dealing with long hair and chopped most of it off. And, well, now she could walk right into the store and buy cigarettes with her actual ID instead of sweet-talking, bribing, or outright intimidating some friend or classmate of legal age to do so for her.

He'd changed, though. For starters, he'd been, like, two feet shorter. And chubbier. And... yeah.

So he waved and opened his mouth to identify himself.

She bared her teeth at him and jerked a finger across her throat in a quick cutting motion--universal sign language for shut the fuck up.

It was then that Sam noticed one more thing about her.

She looked pissed, and she was aiming it all straight at him.

As Sam drew closer, he could hear her side of the conversation taking shape.

"...know I haven't seen him in a pretty long time, man, what's he... uh huh... uh huh. So what, about six-four, six-fi--uh huh. ...yeah, go ahead and send it... nah, use the 'nomad56' address, the other one's for the paying job... listen, Dean--" Sam cringed as she leaned on the name as hard as she could without outright busting him. "I gotta go, Daddy's calling on the land line--yeah, I'll let you know if I hear anything. Okay? ...dude, I'll let you know. I promise. Go--go get a six-pack and a movie or something and chill the fuck out. Okay? ...okay. No problem. Bye."

Sam swallowed. "Uh... hey," he said, one hand raised in a lame little half-wave.

Andy jerked a thumb over her shoulder. "Get. Your ass. In the house."

Sam took half a step back. "Uh... I, uh..."

"Now."

---

"Uh..." Sam, having been neatly herded to the sofa, felt a little like a bug on a pin and started to wonder if he'd made a grievous error in coming here. "So... what'd he want?"

"In a nutshell?" Andy leaned against the kitchen doorframe, and did not look directly at Sam. "To know if you'd checked in with anyone. He's kind of worried."

"Yeah, like he cares. He's probably just done sulking and ready to start yelling." Sam snorted. "Or hand the phone off to Dad and let him yell some more--"

"Actually, he went through your dad's journal last night, wrote down every phone number in it, and now he's hiding at a park calling every warm body on the list to see if anyone's heard from you while your dad thinks he's at the library looking up old obituaries."

Sam just... kind of stopped, mid-breath. "...he what?"

"Before I say one more word," Andy started, digging her cigarettes out of her hip pocket and fishing one out of the slightly battered pack, "I want to hear your side of this shit."

Sam swallowed, cleared his throat, and told her the whole ugly story.

---

Andy hadn't moved an inch between the time he started and the time he finished, other than to flick ashes or light another cigarette off the butt of the previous one. Or, well, to grind her teeth and look like she was silently counting to ten in English, Spanish, Latin, Greek, and Aramaic once or twice.

When Sam was done, she gave a single thoughtful nod, stabbed her last cigarette out in the ashtray, and took two steps toward the coffee table.

"Okay," she said, forced calm stretched thin in her voice. "Just so you know. One: that's a hell of an accomplishment and I'm very, very proud of you. And two: I'm sorry your dad doesn't see it that way, and I don't blame you for keeping it from him."

Okay. That seemed kind enough. Hell, she even agreed with him on the whole Not Telling Dad thing.

So why the hell did Sam feel like he was a lobster and Andy was holding him over a pot of boiling water?

"But," he supplied, and Andy nodded again.

Now all this time she'd been keeping her eyes trained anywhere but on his face. His feet, his hands as they drummed nervously on the couch, his two sad little bags on the floor, his stupid hacked-up jeans-turned-shorts.

She looked him right in the eye then, finally, and ohhhh crap.

Sam racked his brain trying to determine what about his side of the story did she not like. The part where he'd spent his last few months of high school squirrelling his lunch money away every single day for this very trip when he could have chipped it in on groceries or something? Or the part where he'd told Dad he was at the library doing research on whateverthefuck he was supposed to be researching when he was actually filling out scholarship applications? No, she already said she didn't blame him on that one and besides, Dean was kind of doing the same thing right now and she wasn't pissed off at him. Maybe it was--

"Nothing you've said to me explains why you had to be such a dick to your brother."

--the part where he hadn't told Dean.

"Don't you think you should have, I dunno, given him some warning or something?" Andy threw up her hands. "Fucksake, Sam, you coulda just said 'okay, listen, this isn't open for debate, you're not talking me out of this, and I don't want Dad to know, but' and shown him the damn acceptance letter a couple weeks in advance--"

"Oh, that's a good one." Sam knew he was dangerously close to being in hot water, to continue with the lobster analogy. But damn him, he couldn't help but snort out an incredulous laugh at that. "Dad's perfect little soldier? Not tell him? Yeah. Right."

A muscle in Andy's jaw twitched.

Lobster. Pot. Boiling water.

Plop.

"That perfect little soldier is going behind your dad's back trying to make sure you're not, y'know, dead on the side of the road somewhere, oh, and by the way, that perfect little soldier made me promise not to call your dad about any of this shit," she snapped. "Wrong answer. Try again."

Sam just shook his head. Of all the people in the world, he'd thought Andy would get it. "He would have been pissed off either way. Before, after, what the hell difference would it--"

"Well, for starters--" Andy took that last step toward the coffee table, parked her ass on it right in front of Sam, and leaned right over into his personal space. "--he wouldn't have had to walk in the goddamn door and get smacked upside the head with 'oh hello, brother who practically fucking raised me, sorry you walked in on me running off to college right this very minute, you weren't supposed to find out until later when you would have come home to me gone and a pissed-off Dad stomping around with nobody to take it out on but you, have a nice life, bye now'!"

Sam's jaw dropped. "That--" he spluttered, "that is not fair--"

"Not fair!?" Andy spat, running right over the top of him. "I'll tell you what's not fair. Fucking Dean over like this when he hasn't done a goddamn thing to deserve it? That's not fair!" She shook her head and flapped her hands around in a gesture that might, under other circumstances, have made him laugh. "You weren't even going to leave him a note, just up and--I mean--what the fuck, Sammy!?"

Sam drew breath to correct her on the damn nickname and decided at the last possible second that it probably wouldn't be a safe thing to do.

"Seriously, what the fucking fuck!? How the hell could you pull such a chickenshit stunt like--"

And that, right there, was a tone of voice she'd only aimed at him once, that one time when he ran off into the woods behind the horse pasture five minutes after she'd told him not to and she ripped him a new one for it. It'd pissed him off when he was ten, and it pissed him off even more now.

"Jesus, Andy, what is with you?" Sam was halfway off the couch now, and that probably wasn't a very smart move because it put him right in Andy's face and that was somewhere nobody in their right mind wanted to be. "When we were kids you'd just as soon kick Dean's ass as look at him, and now all of a sudden I'm the bad guy and he walks on water!? Since when do you--"

Andy did not back down, which left her right up in Sam's face. "What's with me," she hissed, "is that you're being an immature--"

"Okay, now--"

"--ungrateful--"

"--wait just a--"

"--stubborn--"

"--goddamned minute--"

"--selfish little bitch and it's pissing me off!"

...well, then.

Sam backed out of Andy's face. He cleared his throat. "Okay," he finally said in a voice much smaller and wimpier than he intended. "Well. Okay." He reached down for the strap of his duffel bag. So much for this plan. "I guess that means I'll, uh, just be leaving now."

"Nope. Sit your ass back down. I'm leaving." Andy glared at her watch, snatched her keys off the coffee table, and stormed toward the front door. "You came all the way out here for some help, like we told you to do when you were ten. Later, after I calm down, I am going to put you to work in the shop so you can make some money to get you where you need to go. Hell, I figure if you can make a fake ID you can typeset football programs and shit. But for now, I am going to go back to the shop so that you can take a load off and I can be the fuck away from you. You know where the guest bedroom and the bathroom are. Take a nap. Take a shower. Raid the kitchen. Drink my beer. Play on the computer. Watch some TV. I don't really give a shit. Because at five o' clock, I am going to close the shop, go to the package store, buy a fifth of Cuervo and three limes, come home, and make them all disappear so that maybe, just maybe, I can forget how much I would like to fucking strangle you. Have a nice day."

Out she went, slamming the door behind her.

Sam barely registered the noise before the door opened again and Andy poked her head back through it.

"And I always liked Dean better," she spat.

"Buh!?" was all Sam's brain could send to his mouth in reply. By the time he thought up something better, Andy's car was already kicking up a huge roostertail of dust and peeling out onto the dirt road. He settled for shaking his head at the residual dust cloud and then wandering off to the kitchen to feed himself.

---

When Sam came out of the shower later, he noticed that Andy's car was back in the driveway.

Andy herself was on the front porch, on the phone again. He could just make out her side of the conversation from the guest room window.

"Hey. He's here. ...yeah, he's okay. You want to talk to him? I think he's in the shower right now, but... you sure? Okay. No, no, I understand. I'm not real happy with him either. ... ... ...dude, fuck your dad, I'm talking about what he did to you." Pause, glug. "Ah. ...huh? Heh. You too, huh--nah, I was gonna get hammered, but I think I got a better idea. ...I'm not gonna hit him, dude. ...oh, c'mon, I'm not--Jesus, okay, fuckin' okay, I swear on my soul I will not hit him at all, not even just a little, not even a love tap. ...huh? ...uh, yes, yes he did. ...yes, that counts as 'lying.' I mean--dude, he didn't even--Dean, would you shut the fuck up? Well, I'm sorry, but that pisses me off. ...I know. I know."

A long pause.

"He will." And there was something in the tone of Andy's voice there, something he would think about a week later and realize that he really, really should have not liked. "Oh, he will, don't even worry about that... because he will. ...look, you're just gonna have to trust me on this one."

Sam figured it'd probably be best if he just didn't come out of the guest room for the rest of the night.

---

Sam woke once at a little past three in the morning, felt his way down the hall to Andy's bathroom, took care of business, and felt his way back down to the guest bedroom.

He couldn't seem to get right back to sleep, though, so he got back up and padded into the living room to maybe watch some TV or take Andy up on that offer of her beer or something.

That was when he noticed the light out back, coming from the honey house.

See, there was this tiny little shed just past the fence that separated the backyard from the front pasture. The previous owners of J.D. and Andy's property had kept bees, and that house was where they stored the honey. Hence, honey house. Anyway.

The light was coming from the honey house's tiny windows, orange and flickery. Candles, maybe oil lamps. There was that, and then there was a sign hanging on the doorknob. It was too dark and too far away for Sam to actually read, but he'd spent enough time in enough shitty little motels to know what a do not disturb sign looked like.

As for why that sign was on the door? Well, Andy sort of specialized in that field Dean always referred to as "Totally Weird Shit." Totally Weird Shit required some degree of privacy. The honey house was small, plain, unassuming, and most importantly, situated way the hell away from the main house.

Which begged the question: what manner of Totally Weird Shit was going on out there at three in the morning?

---

The next morning, Sam awoke to the sounds of pots and pans clanging in the kitchen.

He tentatively picked his way down the hall and toward the source of the noise and found Andy in there scrambling eggs and frying bacon and popping frozen waffles into the toaster. Sam cringed a little when she noticed him--hell, after yesterday, he was doing good to not just excuse himself and lock himself back in the guest bedroom.

"Hey," he said.

"Hey," she replied. "C'mere."

Oh shit, Sam thought.

"...okay," Sam said. He bravely went forth into the kitchen.

Andy met him halfway and... and hugged him. No, Sam didn't get it either, but she whipped her arms around his waist (since that was about all she could reach anymore) and honest to God hugged him.

No, really, what?

"I'm sorry I went off on you," she said.

"Um," he replied, giving her an awkward pat on the shoulder. "No, it's. Uh. I. Um."

Finally, she let go and went back to scraping eggs and flipping bacon and popping Eggos. "So let's figure some shit out. You need to be actually at Stanford when?"

---

Sam had come here hoping to borrow a little bus money and maybe get a hot meal and a bed for the night.

Sometime in the last nine years, J.D. had taken to hunting full-time and Andy had taken over the other family business--the one that paid. She ran a print shop, the only print shop in a fifty-mile radius. High school football was a big deal out here, schools needed programs and flyers and all kinds of other stuff printed up and, well, let's just say that while J.D. and Andy were not precisely rich, they never had to worry about where the cash for their next batch of silver bullets was coming from.

So now he had a job. A normal real-world job. All he had to do was put together football programs and flyers and business cards and shit in CorelDraw for eight hours a day. And then on his third day, Andy dragged him over and showed him how to work the laser engraver, and that thing was just cool. He made no actual money, but in two weeks Andy would drive him to the nearest Greyhound station (an hour away in Lufkin), buy him a one-way ticket to Palo Alto, and give him a little pocket money for the trip.

And every evening at five, Andy closed down the shop, herded Sam into the car, ran a few errands (which usually involved a pit stop at either the grocery store or the package store, or both), and drove him back to the house where she would feed him a ...mostly decent meal (Martha Stewart she wasn't, but it was pretty hard to fuck up soup, spaghetti, or Hamburger Helper too badly), let him have a couple of beers if he wanted them, and not talk about a single solitary supernatural thing.

Life was good. For the first time Sam could remember, life was really and truly good.

---

But he kept meaning to ask Andy what the hell she was doing out in the honey house every night.

---

There was one exception to that "not talking about a single solitary supernatural thing" thing, though. Andy did have to take off for a couple of days at one point, something about some women and kids turning up dead and drained of blood up near Waco. J.D. was already working on something somewhere else and according to Andy, he'd be gone a while, so. Thankfully, she expected no involvement from Sam in this.

Well, other than one phone call Sunday night that started off with "hey, go out to the honey house, I need you to look something up for me."

Sam paused for a moment and wondered again what she'd been up to in there every night since he'd shown up. "'Kay," he finally said, and off he went.

He wasn't sure what exactly made him look down when he opened the door to the honey house, but he was glad he did.

"Uh, Andy?" he asked, because no way in Hell was he walking through a suspicious and fairly elaborate chalk-and-salt circle drawn on the floor without checking up on it first. "Is there anything cooking in here that I need to know about? Because I don't think I can even get in here without stepping on this--"

"Oh damn, is that circle still there? I thought I cleaned that up." Sam would have reason to question this in the near future, but for now he thought nothing of it. "Nah, it's down, just walk right over it. Sorry about that."

"It's cool." Sam thought he felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up as he stepped over the boundary but he let it slide, wrote it off as a stray bit of residual juice from whatever she'd been doing out here every night for the past week. "So... I'm looking for what, exactly?"

"Bookshelf. Red binder, M through Z, look up 'penanggalen.'"

"Are you shitting me!?" Sam spluttered, but he took down the binder and started flipping anyway. "I thought those were only in--"

"I shit you not and no, I don't know what the fuck one's doing in Texas. Anyway. Can I just bust some silver between her eyes, or do I have to throw salt and/or holy water on the bitch? Because really, I can't think of a better way to spend my Sunday evening than chasing a disembodied flying head-and-bundle-o'-guts around with a rock salt shotgun in one hand and a Super Soaker in the other."

Sam pulled a face. He was so not going to miss conversations like this.

---

She came home the next night with a few strange holes eaten through her clothes and her entire left forearm wrapped in gauze.

"You get it?" Sam asked her.

"Yeah," Andy grumbled. "Bitch dripped on me first, though."

Sam offered her a sympathetic grunt and nod. He wasn't going to miss shit like that, either.

---

That Thursday night, she stayed in the honey house all night.

Friday morning, when she came to wake Sam up and haul him off to Lufkin, she looked tired as hell.

Tired, but somehow very, very satisfied.

That should have been a sign.

---

There was a huge difference, Sam discovered about halfway to the bus station when Andy passed him a stuffed envelope, between holding a bogus credit card with a $500 limit in your hand and holding five hundred actual legitimate U.S. dollars in your hand.

Well, he figured counting it out right there in the passenger seat of Andy's car would be kind of rude so he just took a quick peek and felt it up a little, but it looked about like five hundred, all in twenties.

"Okay," he said once he got command of his voice back (helpless sputtering of "holy crap!" did not count as "command of his voice" in Sam's book), "when you said you were gonna give me some 'pocket money' I didn't think you meant--"

"Dude, that's what's left of your paycheck after the bus ticket and stuff. And your bonus. You worked your ass off." Andy didn't take her eyes off the road, but she looked fairly pleased with herself. "And, y'know, the thing with Flying Gutsack Lady."

"Wow." Sam tucked the envelope into the bottom of his backpack. "Thanks!"

Andy just beamed.

Had he inspected that envelope a little more carefully, he might have rethought that "thanks."

---

"Okay, you got everything?"

"Yeah. Thanks again, Andy."

"No problem. ...hey, call Dean when you get there, huh? Let him know you're okay."

"...no."

"Okay, then call me and I'll pass it on. ...seriously, you need to call him."

"I don't want to."

"You will."

Add one more item to the list of things that would give Sam a really bad feeling when he thought about them a few days later.

---

The bus ride was fairly uneventful. Well, there was that dude somewhere in Arizona dragging a dog leash around the station where Sam's bus had stopped to gas up and give its passengers time to eat or pee or whatever--just a leash, no dog, and the guy was calling it "Fido."

Sam was just pondering the likelihood of him getting shot or beaten up for pretending to pat "Fido" on the head when the dude turned and looked straight at him.

"Aw, maaaan," Fido's master groaned, and then he busted out laughing. "You been done, man, you been done solid, ain't that right, Fido? Ain't he been done?"

...seriously, what the hell!?

Sam cleared his throat, excused himself, and got the hell back on the bus.

The guy was crazy. That's all. Just really, really crazy.

---

Registration was a pain in the ass, but totally worth it. At the end of it all, he had a list of books and shit he needed, a fat sheaf of paperwork, a nice full schedule, and the key to a tiny room with white cinderblock walls, a microscopic fridge, a microwave, and an assortment of furniture that included two empty beds.

Sam dropped his two stuffed bags on the floor, threw himself onto the nearest bed, and grinned up at the ceiling.

It was wonderful. It was plain and tiny and normal and safe and home.

That was when Sam heard a muffled boosh noise somewhere above him. A few seconds later, water began to pour through the ceiling, directly onto Sam's bed.

---

A burst pipe, the facilities guy said. That had somehow spared three rooms between it and Sam's room and spewed its entire payload onto Sam's ceiling, the facilities guy said. Gonna have to knock the whole ceiling out, the facilities guy said.

Sam didn't think much of it beyond well, that sucks a whole bunch at the time.

Fortunately, there was another room available. And it too was normal and safe and wonderful. Also dry.

The next morning, the window just up and fell out into the bushes two stories below. There were no injuries, but many hairy eyeballs were cast in Sam's general direction.

---

The third day saw no trouble with Sam's room itself.

It did see trouble with one of Sam's two pairs of khakis. They ripped right up the butt, right in the middle of class, while he was sitting perfectly still in his chair.

---

The fourth day, all of Sam's clothes smelled faintly of cat piss. He spent seven hours in the laundry room that night running every article of clothing he owned through the washer over and over again, and the smell never quite went away.

---

The fifth day, Sam's clothes were fine.

But now he was dropping things. All kinds of things. He dropped his clean underwear into a full mop bucket on the way to the bathroom and had to go back to his room for another clean pair (at least he'd done laundry fifty squillion times the night before). He dropped his toothbrush in a urinal. No, he didn't understand that one either. He dropped his books three times--once going up stairs, once going down stairs, and once right in the middle of a packed hallway. He dropped a six-page essay into the fountain. He dropped his lecture notes in the courtyard where the wind picked them up and neatly whisked them out of his life forever. And he was starving because he'd dropped every fucking meal he'd gotten that day on the floor. He finally got hold of a can of soup, heated it in the microwave, poured it into a bowl, carried it to a chair without incident, and then proceeded to spill the whole goddamn thing down the front of his shirt. He ended up eating dry Cheerios right out of the box for dinner, and half of them ended up on the floor.

He was starting to suspect that something wasn't right.

---

On the sixth day, Sam stopped dropping things. Which was good.

But now he had the opposite problem. Things were sticking to him.

It started innocently enough, with a six-foot streamer of toilet paper stuck to his heel. Or the blank Post-It notes that found their way onto his back and his shoulders and who knew where else.

But then there was the blue sticky-tack poster stuff in his hair. And the unmarked wet paint in the hallway. And the gum on the bench. Like, a whole pack's worth of ABC gum. All over his ass. And, naturally, his remaining pair of khakis.

The gum wasn't coming out. Not with ice, not with alcohol, not with peanut butter, not with lighter fluid, no way, no how. He was just going to have to go to Wal-Mart or some shit and get some pants, because the thrift stores were closed and probably didn't have much in his size anyway.

Resigned to this fate (and changed into not-so-nice but gum-free jeans), he dug through his backpack until he found that envelope. Somehow, the gummed strip had managed to get itself wet, and the damn thing stuck to Sam's fingers until he shook it free. The envelope sailed across the room, hit the wall, and plunked down onto the bed.

Sam started to fish a couple of bills out of it... and then stopped.

There was more than money in that envelope.

There was a little square of red paper in there. Folded up into thirds, tied closed with a black thread, and sealed with black wax.

Unsealing and unfolding the damn thing revealed some sort of rune or sigil or some shit, drawn in black ink. And in the middle of it, carefully inscribed in nice neat block letters: SAMMY.

Sam blinked. And blinked. And...

I got a better idea. ...he will. Don't even worry about that.

You been done solid, man!

Sam's brain chugged and chugged and...

"Oh hell no!"

---

Something was goofy with the cell reception (and it wasn't just Sam for once, it was everyone). Which meant Sam was on a pay phone at the end of his hall, calling someone about something one really doesn't want to talk about on an open-air public phone.

Three rings.

"Baines Printing, this is Andy, what can I--"

"Andy, hey, it's Sam."

Long pause. "Oh, hi! How's college life?" Was it just Sam's imagination, or did she sound like she was trying not to crack up?

"Oh. It's. Uh. It's fine. Great. Listen..." Sam cleared his throat. "I don't want to sound, y'know, ungrateful or anything... but there's this--this thing in the envelope with that money you gave me, it's this little red piece of paper..."

"Uh huh..."

"You, uh... you mind telling me what that is?"

Silence.

"Andy?"

Silence. Then a strange... little... snorting noise.

"Andy."

Snort. Sniffle. Snort. Snerrrrk.

"Did you--" Sam finally stuttered, and he had a bad feeling he already knew the answer to the question he was trying to voice. "Oh shit, Andy, did you--"

"Took you long enough," Andy finally wheezed, and then she burst into hysterical laughter.

Sam took a moment to flail and gibber as quietly as possible so as not to attract too much unwanted attention.

"You cursed me!?" he finally hissed into the phone, and that just set Andy off laughing again. "I can't believe you fucking cursed me! You--" He flapped his hands around, spluttered wordlessly for a while. "You can't do that!" he finally blurted.

"Why not?"

"Because--" Sam flapped and flailed a little more. "I mean, don't you have rules!? That 'harm none' thing!?"

"What the hell do you think I am? Some kinda tree-hugging crystal-petting fluffbunny that believes every bit of bullshit she reads in a paperback book with a crescent moon on the spine? Seriously, do I look like a Silverwolf Moonflower Ravenstar to you?" And that just set Andy off laughing again, and that just pissed Sam off. "I have a strict personal code of ethics," she finally said when she settled the fuck down,."and it allows some wiggle room for, shall we say, attitude adjustments."

"And you think my attitude needs... adjusted," Sam grated out.

"With a twelve pound sledge," Andy replied. Sam could hear her baring her teeth on that one. "Look, it won't actually hurt you, okay? Nothing fatal, nothing dangerous, just..." She cleared her throat. "...some unpleasant things, maybe some moderately uncomfortable things. It's just a nice long-distance kick in the ass."

"Okay." Sam rubbed his forehead and found another little blob of blue tack stuck in his bangs. "Okay. Fine." He picked it out and stuck it to the side of the pay phone. "What do I have to do to break it?"

Andy told him.

"......oh hell no," Sam said.

"No?" And damn her, Sam could hear her grinning ear to fucking ear. "C'mon." For the first time since he'd met her, Sam fully understood why Dean had always referred to Andy as that crazy bitch when she was out of earshot.

"No way," Sam replied. "I won't do it."

"You will," Andy chirped back. "Oh, you will."

"I won't. I don't want to and I don't need to." Sam was ten years old again, stamping his feet and saying I'm not gonna, and damn but it felt good. "Just because I don't want to hunt anymore? Doesn't mean I already braindumped everything I know about it. I know this shit, Andy."

"Okay."

"I do."

"Okay."

"I'll figure out another way."

"Bye, Sammy. Have fun." She hung up on him, cracking the fuck up again as she did.

Sam slammed the pay phone down with an incoherent snarl, heard a coin drop into the coin return, poked his finger in without thinking, and found a dime.

And another big slimy wad of fresh ABC gum.

---

There were two ways to deal with a curse.

The first was, of course, to do what it wanted you to do. Which, in Sam's case, was not going to fucking happen. No way, no how, nuh-uh, forget it, fuck a whole pile of that, just no.

So the second was to nuke it from orbit. In a metaphysical sense.

Sam went to Wal-Mart to replace his gummy pants and his ripped pants. He also bought a box of salt, some matches, and a big steel mixing bowl that would stand up to, say, a charcoal tablet, some resinous incense, and a piece of red paper being burned therein. He also stepped on three pieces of ABC gum in the parking lot, another in the store, and ended up setting off the alarm thanks to the Checkpoint sticker that had mysteriously attached itself to his ass.

He found a botanica within walking distance of the Wal-Mart and bought a little bag of frankincense-and-myrrh, charcoal to burn it on, and a bottle of holy water. On the way there, he stepped on four more pieces of gum and a three-foot length of duct tape that managed to pick up a dead cockroach and a used condom before Sam got it off his shoe.

He found a nice vacant lot with a nice stand of trees and large rocks a couple blocks off campus, toted all that shit and Andy's goddamn Curse-O-Gram out there, and got to work.

He came back to his dorm room sometime after midnight, feeling much better despite the millions of tiny spiny sharp painful sticker-burrs that covered his shoes and the cuffs of his jeans.

---

On the seventh day, nothing happened.

Sam woke up, peed, showered, shaved, brushed his teeth, brushed his hair, dressed and ate breakfast without incident. He went to class, handed in a paper, and got asked out by a cute girl in the library.

He ate lunch and spilled none of it. He went to more classes and had no suspicious accidents or mishaps along the way.

Everything was just fine.

---

On the seventh night, he went out with the cute girl from the library.

They ended up at a party whose organizers were not terribly vigilant about checking ID, and where Sam had maybe a few too many Jello shots.

At some point, he found himself being led off somewhere a little less crowded by the cute girl from the library.

At some later point, her hand lit on the front of his pants and tugged at his belt. He had wait, whoa, hang on stuck just behind his vocal cords; Sam and casual sex had never really gotten along all that well. Normally, he kind of liked to at least know a girl's last name before he got to third base with her.

But Jello shots and freedom from Dad and from Andy's stupid curse were a nice intoxicating combination and by God, Sam thought, maybe he'd earned a nice handjob or two.

I win, he thought as she worked his zipper down. Oh God, I so win.

---

When they'd spent that summer at J.D. and Andy's, a fundamental difference in Sam's relationship with Andy and Dean's relationship with Andy had quickly become apparent.

See, Sam trusted her. He'd never had a reason not to. He'd given her a little attitude now and then, sure, she'd chewed his ass a little for it, sure, but he'd never really well and truly pissed her off. Until now, anyway.

Dean, on the other hand, had run his mouth and thoroughly pissed her off within half an hour of their first meeting, got his ass handed to him for it, and from that day forward just found it safer to assume she spent her every waking moment contemplating new and exciting ways to fuck with him. Sam and Dad always thought he was overreacting. But at least half the time, he was right.

Had this been the other way around--had it been Dean who'd left under less-than-cordial circumstances and found himself the recipient of a nice red-and-black Curse-O-Gram from Andy--Dean would not have touched that fucking talisman until he could have it examined by someone who knew more about this shit than he did.

The lady at Sam's botanica was not quite up to, say, Bobby's or Caleb's level of Weird-Shit proficiency (or Andy's). But had Sam thought to bring her the talisman, she would have taken one look at it, laughed and moaned "oh my lord!" at him, and told him to just do what it wanted him to do because whoever cursed him was apparently counting on him knowing other ways to break it... and had built in a little bit of insurance just in case he tried any of them.

He hadn't thought to bring it to her.

Dean also would have checked the rest of his stuff to make sure Andy hadn't stashed anything else nasty in there. "Nasty" potentially meaning anything from your typical mundane nasty things like ink bombs, stink bombs, itching powder, shaving cream, et cetera, to... not-so-mundane nasty things like that little red Curse-O-Gram.

Had Sam thought to examine his stuff, he would have found a suspicious sewn-up slash in the lining of his backpack. Had he ripped that son of a bitch open, he would have found a second, even nastier Curse-O-Gram--this one permanently engraved on a two-inch square of sheet brass--lovingly tucked inside.

He hadn't thought to check his stuff.

Had he further found this second Curse-O-Gram and taken it to the botanica lady, she would have laughed and moaned some more and told him no, seriously, just do what it wants and get it over with, because remember that "insurance" built into the first Curse-O-Gram? Yeah.

He hadn't done that either.

All of this will come into play in a moment.

---

On what was technically the eighth morning, Sam trudged back to his dorm room alone, involuntarily sober, red-faced, and wanting to curl up in a ball and die. But before he did, there was something he needed to do.

He picked up his cell, stabbed at the speed dial, and waited.

"Hi, this is Andy Baines, I can't come to the phone right now, please leave a message. If this is an emergency, call the land line." Beep.

Sam took a deep breath. "I just spent half an hour making out with a very cute girl in the back yard of a frat house," he started. "She stuck her hand down my pants and I called her 'Dean.' She's probably told the entire student body and half the population of Palo Alto by now and I am never going to have sex anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere ever again and it is all your fault. I just thought you'd like to know that, you evil bitch."

He hung up.

He dialed again.

"Hi, this is Andy Baines, I can't come to the phone right now, please leave a message. If this is an emergency, call the land line." Beep.

"I nuked your stupid talisman. I don't know what you did, but I am going to beat it, and I am going to do it my way."

He hung up.

He sighed.

He dialed again.

"Hi, this is Andy Baines, I can't come to the phone right now, please leave a message. If this is an emergency, call the land line." Beep.

"I'm sorry I called you a bitch. G'night."

He hung up and went the hell to bed.

---

Sam awoke to find one message on his phone.

"You know what you need to do. Stop being such a stubborn ass and do it."

---

Nothing happened on the eighth day, but only because Sam didn't leave his room except for the occasional trip to the bathroom. Mostly because he didn't want to know if or how far any stories about the previous night might have spread.

On the eighth night, the dreams started.

He was here, in his room, and everything was in black and white. He looked out the window and saw nothing but swirling gray and leaves and flying cows. And a dog leash with no dog on it, let alone a talking dog, but was somehow yipping oh damn, you been done a'ight, ain't that some shit? at him.

And then Andy zoomed past on a broomstick, cackling fuck you and your little dog too as she seized the leash.

Sam's cell phone lay on the desk, shiny and strange bright Technicolor red in this monochrome world and squawking no place like home over and over, and all Sam could think was that if one person--just one-- busted out the Kansas line, he was going to start choking people.

---

On the ninth day, Sam had to leave his room, mostly because he had to eat. Everything he ate tasted like Corn Nuts and Twinkies. Even the meat, and Sam decided that there was nothing more unnerving than biting into a chicken leg and tasting sponge cake and cream filling.

On the ninth night, Sam dreamt about phones following him around. His cell trotted along at his heels and jumped all over his legs like a Jack Russell terrier until he punted it into a storm drain. The pay phones at the end of his hall hopped along behind him and pawed at his door when he tried to shut them out. He finally lost them long enough to run down to the bathroom and take a piss, and then he couldn't because there was a fucking camera phone in every single urinal and toilet.

Of course he didn't notice this until he'd already unzipped.

"Say 'cheese!'" said the nearest phone as it snapped his picture and sent it out to the whole world.

Sam woke up with a start, realized he actually did have to pee, didn't until he absolutely couldn't stand it anymore, and then had to check every single urinal and toilet for camera phones first.

He was losing his fucking mind.

---

On the tenth day, Sam just about couldn't turn around without hearing goddamn Metallica somewhere. Someone's car stereo. Someone's too-loud Walkman. Someone's ring tone. At least two people in his damn hall were playing the shit.

Sam tried to drown them out with his own Walkman, and every battery he put in the damn thing died within ten minutes.

On the tenth night, Sam dreamt about the phones again. This time, they weren't just following him around, they were chasing him, herding him somewhere--he didn't know where, but he knew he didn't want to go there. He didn't have a whole lot of say in it, because all these phones were pushing him and poking him and jumping up in his face and yammering sammysammysammy at him. His own cell, the little fucking traitor, hopped up on his shoulder and--Sam didn't know how, because it didn't have a mouth, but the damn thing grinned at him.

"C'mon," it chirped in his ear. "You know what you gotta do."

---

Sam woke up on the eleventh morning and came to the decision that all of this shit was totally in his head.

It had to be. He'd busted the curse and Andy was just brainfucking him now, trying to make him believe it was still on when it wasn't, trying to scare him into doing what she thought he needed to do.

All in his head. Hey, maybe she'd never actually cursed him to begin with, Sam thought. Maybe she'd just made up some scary-looking bullshit fake sigil, left it where he'd find it, and let his imagination do the rest. He'd seen it happen, plenty of times.

And that guy in Arizona? With the dog leash? He didn't know the dude, but maybe Andy did, maybe she'd called him up and said hey, fuck with this guy for me, maybe he'd stashed a camera somewhere and he and Andy were passing the video around and yukking it up right this very second.

All in his head. That was it. Every bit of it, all in his head. Yep.

There was a little sore spot on his forehead, but he chalked that up to bonking it on a desk the day before.

By the end of his first class, it really hurt.

By the end of his ten o' clock lecture, there was a small but hard red bump there. Okay, well, it wasn't an everyday thing for him but zits happened, he'd leave it alone for now and go get some stuff to put on it later.

By lunchtime he could feel the damn thing twinge as he walked, throbbing when his heels hit the floor, and when he wiggled his eyebrows it felt like there was a marble or something embedded in his forehead.

He took his lunch back to his room, stood in front of his crummy mirror, swept his bangs aside, and--

--and clamped a hand over his mouth so that he could scream like a girl without disturbing his neighbors.

Okay. That thing he'd thought that morning? About all this shit being in his head? Sam was starting to rethink that one.

Because unless he was just imagining this, he was growing a fucking horn.

It was just a little white nub in the middle of his forehead, maybe half an inch long. But he was reasonably sure it was a horn, because when he ran out of air and couldn't scream anymore, he reached up and poked on it. It seemed to have no nerve endings and it was hard and bony to the touch, so, yeah, horn.

Oh God. Horn. Okay. Just--horn. Horn. Oh God.

He tried to sit down and think about this. Everything else--the cat pee smell (horn), the dropping stuff (hello, horn), the sticky (knock knock! who's there? horn), all that other shit (horn horn bo-born banana fana fo-forn fee fi mo-morn, horn)--only lasted one day, surely this wasn't permanent oh Christ a horn!

Okay. He was not going to panic. Experience suggested that the horn would go away on its own, and would do so within the next twenty-four hours. And as long as it stayed small like this he could just wear a hat and nobody would know. Oh God, did he even have a hat!? Yes, he had one ragged little beanie, as long as the stupid horn didn't grow any more and nobody looked too closely, it would work, he could go to his last two classes and then hide in his room for the rest of the night and wait for the the fucking horn to go away.

He put the hat on, looked incredibly stupid in it, and went off to the first of two afternoon classes.

He had to feign an upset stomach halfway through and leave, because the damn horn was not only growing longer, it was growing sharper, and it was starting to tent the beanie out and poke through. Fortunately, nobody noticed.

An hour later, the horn was four inches long. Sam picked up his cell phone.

"Hi, this is Andy Baines, I can't come to the phone right now, please leave a message. If this is an emergency, call the land line." Pause. Then a new addition. "If this is about a little red letter, you know what you need to do."

Sam ground his teeth and tried very hard to ignore that bit.

"I have a horn," he said to Andy's voicemail, in the same tone he would have used to tell her the weather was nice there in California. "Right here. In the middle of my forehead. I hope you're happy." He hung up.

Two hours later, the horn was eight inches long, twisted and sharp like a unicorn's. Here's where Dean would say some smartass thing about finding a virgin to ride me, Sam thought crazily, and then he wanted to break the damn horn off and use it to stab whatever part of his brain was responsible for that.

An hour after that, the horn stopped growing at exactly one foot. That was something, at least.

---

Sam fell asleep sometime around eight-thirty waiting for the stupid horn to go away.

He had the dream about the phones chasing him again, but this time they were screaming like they were being tortured, begging him for help.

---

The twelfth morning, Sam woke up, rubbed his forehead, and still had a fucking horn.

At least he didn't have any classes that day. He did, however, have to pee. A towel turban would have to do. Fortunately, he made it to the bathroom and back without seeing another soul.

He returned to his room, shut and locked the door, thanked God he didn't have a roommate yet, and looked in the mirror to see if the damn horn had gotten any bigger.

It hadn't. That was the good news.

The bad news: his hair was now pink, and his skin was now lavender.

Oh Christ, this could not possibly be any worse.

Pink hair, lavender skin, and a unicorn horn. Fuck, if worse came to worse, maybe he could get a job as a model for Lisa Frank.

He had to do something. He had to do something like right now.

...something other than that.

---

Sam knew he was doomed when he described the damn sigil and its effects and Caleb had to put the phone down because he was laughing too hard to talk.

He finally offered his educated opinion between random fits of laughter--that being, "I think you're screwed"--and said Sam might as well do whatever the curse wanted him to do.

He then asked Sam who he pissed off. Sam feigned a coughing fit and dodged the question.

He then went on to suggest that Sam call this girl named Andy in Texas; she was pretty good with weird stuff like this.

Sam bit back the urge to weep, thanked him and hung the fuck up.

---

He had to dip into his bonus again to order a pizza; the towel and a hoodie were enough camouflage for a quick trip to the bathroom, but not for a trip to the dining hall.

And of course he forgot to wrap his damn head up when the pizza boy got there.

Sam wibbled and stammered something about theater arts and costumes and shit as he paid for the pizza.

The pizza boy gave Sam his pizza and his change and mumbled something that sounded like my little pony and fuckin' furries as he walked away.

Suicide was starting to look like a viable option. That, or finding a cave somewhere in New Mexico and holing up there for the rest of his natural life.

---

Sam fell asleep late in the afternoon and had the phone dream again. The phones were chasing him again, screaming like they were being ripped apart from the inside again, begging Sam to save them again, and this time every single one of them sounded like Dean.

---

Just before midnight, Sam woke up from the damn phone dream. As he tended to do upon waking, he scrubbed a hand over his eyes and forehead.

The horn was gone.

Sam leapt out of bed, hit the lights, and checked the mirror just to make sure.

The horn was gone, his hair was no longer pink, and his skin was no longer purple.

Oh, thank God.

He strolled down the hall to the bathroom, washed his face, and checked to make sure the horn was still gone and he was still not pink and purple. Safe on all counts.

He'd beaten it. He didn't know how, but he beat the damn curse. Maybe the stuff he'd done on the Night of The Living Sticky Shit had just taken a few days to work, who knew. The point was that the curse was history. He did that little fist-pump-and-"yes!" thing and followed it with a little victory dance, right there in the bathroom, pausing only to grab a paper towel.

His cell phone went off as he was drying his face. Which was weird, because he thought he'd left it on his desk after he talked to Caleb. Maybe he just put it in his pocket and forgot about it. Who the hell was calling him at this hour, anyway? Andy, according to the Caller ID. Probably calling him to see what new malady had befallen him today. Oh, wasn't she in for a surprise? He thumbed the "answer" button, opened his mouth and drew breath to gloat.

"Too late," she said, and there was a flat lifeless tone to her voice that made the hair on the back of Sam's neck stand up. "It's too late."

She hung up.

Sam stared at the dead phone for a minute. Too late? What the hell did she mean by that? Too late for what?

The phone rang again. Okay, now who--

Dean, it said.

Sam held the phone, watched it ring. He didn't know why, but seeing Dean's name on his phone was making this cold, crawly feeling twist up in the pit of his stomach. Answer it, some little voice in the back of his head pleaded. Answer it. He wouldn't be calling unless he was in trouble.

Two.

Don't answer it. He's fine. He's probably drunk and wanting to pick a fight.

Three.

Answer it. Something's wrong. He's in trouble.

Four, and that was it. It went to voicemail, and that cold crawly feeling in Sam's stomach didn't budge. Neither did Sam. He was standing here in the middle of a communal bathroom, in front of a sink, staring at his cell phone like an idiot and he just couldn't bring himself to move.

"Oh, fuck this," he finally whispered. He crammed the phone back into his pocket and headed back down the hall to his own room.

He tossed his cell back onto the desk where he thought he'd left it before, stretched out on his tiny bed again, and curled up on his side to try and get some more sleep.

There was a thump a few inches from his head.

Sam opened his eyes and found himself staring at a cell phone. A very familiar cell phone. It was flipped open, facing away from him.

He reached over, picked it up, and found the keypad smeared with blood.

He didn't want to know. He had to know. He already knew.

Menu. Calls. Outgoing.

First on the list: Sammy.

Sam swallowed back the urge to gag, turned his head, and looked up--

Too late.

---

Sam shot upright in bed, soaked to the skin with sweat, expecting to find his room in flames and--and Dean--oh, Jesus--

He bonked his funnybone on the headboard scrambling out of bed, and that hurt. He bonked his horn on the wall as he dove for his cell phone, and that really hurt. He didn't really care. He fumbled the phone, dropped it once, hissed "shit!" at it, dropped it again, nearly stabbed himself in the hand with the goddamn horn, and finally hung onto the phone long enough to hit the right entry on his speed dial.

One ring. Two.

"Come on. Come on."

Three.

"Pick up your phone. Pick up your phone. Please God Dean pick up your damn phone--"

Three and a half.

Click. Rustle. Snort. And then, finally:

"...h'lo?"

"Ohgod," Sam half-wheezed, half-laughed, sinking back onto his bed.

"Mn. Wha'time..." Silence and drowsy heavy breathing. "...fuh."

"You, uh... I just..." And now that the initial nightmare-fueled adrenaline rush was wearing off, Sam was starting to kind of feel like an idiot. A purple idiot with pink hair and a horn. "Are you okay?" he finally asked and man, that was lame, but...

"...four inna morning, Sam, whafuck!?" Grumble. "'M fine. Just--fine." Silence. "...you?"

"Yeah." Silence. God, this was awkward. No, this was worse than awkward, this was downright humiliating. "Dean... listen, I, uh..."

"Shut up."

Sam was so taken aback by that he couldn't really do anything else.

"If you called me up at four in the goddamn morning just to feed me bullshit, hang up. You wanna wake my ass up, you better be straight with me."

Sam didn't really know what to say to that. "Okay," he finally replied.

"Okay," Dean echoed. Long pause. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I... fuck, Dean, I don't know." Sam flopped back onto the bed, rubbed his eyes, and ended up fidgeting with his horn. "I thought... I thought it'd be easier that way."

"For me or you?"

Sam didn't answer that one for a while. "I don't know," he finally said again. "Both of us, maybe. I, uh... I wasn't counting on you coming back early, I thought--"

"Oh, well, that's nice. Coming home and finding Dad pissed off and you long gone? Woulda been a cakewalk." Even half-asleep, Dean was doing that thing he did, that thing where he tried to sound all cool and badass, that thing that always worked with strangers but never worked with Sam. "Fuck you, you thought it'd be easier for you."

Sam opened his mouth to--to argue that point, or to say "okay, y'know what, I'm sorry I called," or to say "fuck you too," or some damn thing. He didn't know what was going to come out until it did.

"Yeah," Sam said. "Yeah, you're right. I just--" He flapped the hand that wasn't holding his phone, bonked his knuckes against his horn, and bit back a curse. "I knew you'd be pissed. Okay? I knew it and I didn't want to deal with it, I didn't want to see it, I didn't want to have to live around it for however many days or weeks or months, I sure as hell didn't want you telling Dad--"

"I wouldn't have told Dad."

Sam stopped. "Uh... what?"

"Did I stutter?"

"No, but--"

"I get why you left." There was a hissing rustling sound, probably Dean shifting around in bed. "Okay? I do. I don't like it, it pisses me off, but I get it. So no. I wouldn't have told him. Hell, if you'd had the stones to fuckin' ask me I woulda stalled him somewhere, y'know, buy you some time to get gone..."

Sam didn't really know what to say to that. "He would have gone ballistic on you," he finally said.

"Yeah, well." Sam could practically hear Dean shrug. "Woulda been easier than this."

Sam definitely didn't know what to say to that.

"That hurt, Sam." More soft hissing rustling noises. "You know that? That really fucking hurt." There was a noise that kind of sounded like a swallow. "I mean... like I said, I get why you left, but I just kept wondering if... y'know, you were sick of me too..."

And he was still doing that thing, trying to let it out nice and casual, and it wasn't fooling Sam for one damn second.

"Oh, Jesus." Sam swallowed hard, declared himself the world's biggest asshole, and told himself you will not choke up! over and over and over. "It's nothing you did, okay, so don't even go there--" Sam scrubbed that hand over his eyes until he saw sparks. "You know why I didn't tell you? Because I thought you could have talked me out of going. I don't know what you would have had to say, but if you'd said the right damn thing the right damn way I would have stayed--"

"Sam--"

"I would have stayed and I would have hated you for it, every time I thought about what I could have done here or saw something that reminded me of what I gave up because you talked me out of leaving I would have hated you--" You will not choke up! Sam ordered himself again, and it wasn't working very well. "So I just--just decided to not even give you the chance because I didn't want to hate you and I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I never meant to--ow!"

Something hard and pointy thumped onto Sam's chest, and it wasn't so much really an ow thump as a whoa hey what the hell? thump.

"Sam?" As soon as Sam said "ow," every last trace of the drowsy slur in Dean's voice evaporated, poof, he was on full alert, and that just made Sam feel like the world's biggest asshole all over again. "Sam? You okay?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I, uh..." Sam was groping around on his chest, on the bed, and he finally found the thing that fell on him.

About a foot long. Hard. Bony. Twisted. Pointy at one end. He reached up, rubbed at his forehead, and burst into near-hysterical laughter.

"Sam? You okay? C'mon, Sammy, talk to me--"

Sam wheezed something nearly unintelligible into his phone.

Long silence.

"...okay," Dean said, very slowly. "How 'bout you call back when we're both awake, 'cause I coulda sworn you just said your horn fell off."

That just set Sam off laughing again.

---

"Hi, this is Andy Baines, I can't come to the phone right now, please leave a message. If this is an emergency, call the land line. If this is about a little red letter, you know what you need to do." Beep.

"Andy, it's Sam again. I, uh... I did it. We're okay. ...well, not okay okay, but... it's better." Sam tucked a bundle of tape and bubble wrap into a cardboard box and buried it in styrofoam peanuts. "He wants the horn. I was just gonna throw it away so what the hell, y'know? He figures since there aren't any pictures--or there aren't yet, he did say 'well, that's why God made Photoshop' when I broke the news to him--he can at least keep the stupid horn to embarrass me with."

Sam taped the box up, scrawled a fake name and a PO box address in Omaha on it, and then ripped it open again and added a note that read send the dog T-shirt plz? to the bundle of bubble wrap and mess of styrofoam peanuts. Dean would bitch and moan about that--he loved that shirt--but he'd do it.

"He's still pissed that I didn't tell him, and I don't think he's wrapped his brain around the fact that I'm not coming back, but..." Here, Sam paused to run another strip of tape across the top of the box. "At least it's..." He tore the tape off, tucked the box into his backpack with his afternoon class stuff, and slung it over his shoulder to drop at the post office after class. "...y'know. Anyway. I gotta run." Sam picked up his keys, started to shove them into his pocket, found a bright pink hair clinging to them, and picked it off with a laugh. "Bye. And thanks."

He hung up.