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Drifting

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After they've sharpened all the knives, and field-stripped and cleaned all the guns (twice), Dean starts feeding their laundry quarters into the Magic Fingers, and Sam puts up with that for a while, but eventually he has to leave because Dean's expression is getting more and more obscene and Sam's kind of afraid to find out exactly how blissed Dean can get just from a vibrating bed.

So Sam mutters something about taking a walk, puts on another six layers of clothing, and slams the motel room door a little hard on his way out, though he figures Dean didn't actually notice, what with side two of Zeppelin IV blaring on his mp3 player. It's cold outside, but it's beautiful as well, the snow an unbroken white blanket—a thigh-deep blanket, but still—that stretches as far as Sam can see. The wind is blowing, but their door is sheltered so that the drifts are piling up on the other side of the buildings, leaving Sam a path that's only a foot deep as he hikes to the motel office.

The woman behind the counter is unfamiliar to him; turns out she's the owner's daughter who's trekked the quarter-mile from her house to the motel to plow the parking lot and shovel the walkways for her elderly father. Lucy's a pretty blonde, older than Sam, but age has never really mattered to him, and her smile is radiant when he asks if she's got a spare snow shovel.

He's got one of the three walkways done by the time she and her pick-up have finished the parking lot, and they work in tandem for a while, talking about everything and nothing. Turns out she teaches at the local community college—English and Lit—and moonlights in snow removal; her stories about her students make him laugh and maybe miss Stanford a little, though he's pretty much come to terms with the fact that "when this is over" is never going to happen.

When they finish the second walkway, which also happens to be the one that's been drifting the worst, she invites him back to her place for some lunch before they tackle the final walk. His nose is an icicle and his toes feel frozen despite two pairs of wool socks, so he accepts gratefully. Lucy suggests grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, and Sam is transported back to his childhood, to freezing nights when Dad would come back late from a hunt and Dean would have steaming-hot tomato soup on the stove, Sam helping out by spreading margarine on the cheap white bread and unwrapping the plastic from slices of American cheese.

Lucy hands him a loaf of home-baked sourdough and points him at the oak knife-block. He selects the serrated bread knife and cuts six thick slices off the loaf, then washes the knife and puts it back. By the time he's done, she's laid out the butter and a block of sharp cheddar for him; he butters the bread and starts slicing the cheese as she rummages in the cupboards and comes up with a sealed quart Ball jar. She glances at the sandwich makings and then at Sam before pulling a second jar out of the cupboard with a grin.

The meal is the best he's had in a long time, and the conversation even better; he hadn't realized how much he missed just talking to someone who wasn't Dean, and Lucy is warm and funny and easy to talk to. He finishes his beer and leans back in the chair, warm and satisfied in a way that he's almost forgotten he could be, and apparently he dozes off—much to his embarrassment—because he starts when a gentle hand rests on his shoulder.

She plows the street between her house and the motel on the way back, confiding to him that the city would fine her if they knew, but that experience has shown they don't get around to it themselves for at least a week. There are several elderly people who live along that stretch and she hates to see them at the city's mercy.

The last walk is quick and easy compared to the other two, but by the time they finish it there are new snowflakes drifting down and Lucy laughs at Sam's exasperated sigh, telling him that it'll be like this for the next few weeks. He knows their effort isn't wasted—better to clear what they can between snowstorms and keep the task manageable each time—but it's still frustrating to watch the blacktop disappear beneath a new blanket of white.

They prop the shovels against the wall just outside the door of the motel office, and she thanks him for all his hard work, the corners of her eyes crinkling as she smiles up at him, and Sam gives in to the temptation he's been resisting all afternoon and kisses her. She leans into him, smiling against his mouth, and around them the snow falls into silence.