The rusty pipes echoed with the sound of water rushing through so loudly that it felt like the water system was on its way to falling apart. Sam had long since grown used to the sound after spending the majority of his life living within the walls of a motel. To a human, the sound of water flowing through the pipes was hardly noteworthy.
A sound at the front door would have concerned Sam far more, though thankfully no sound came. Dean hadn’t ordered any food that night, so there was no reason to anticipate any sort of knock yet. He announced that he would order Chinese after his shower.
Most of Sam’s attention was invested in waiting for the adrenaline rush of the latest case to wear off.
He and his brother had arrived the night before and gotten straight to work. Neither of them had slept since checking in, and Sam still felt too wired to even think about laying down. The case was over. A regular salt and burn to Dean, but it was anything but regular to Sam.
Because they had been swept up into the whirlwind of the case, Sam hadn’t taken the opportunity to inspect the walls yet. It had become routine for him since joining his brother on the road. At first, Sam had been optimistic that he would meet more people his size living within the walls of the motels he and his brother stayed in. But Sam had yet to find anyone since leaving the Trails West behind.
And that was the last place he wanted to think about.
Swallowing the mournful thoughts that threatened to surface, he continued on his path along the base of the wall. His best bet was to check out the vents. Finding an opening within that led into paths within the walls would provide evidence for small people claiming residence in the motel.
He prepared himself for disappointment. He and Dean would be off in the morning anyway. There would always be more motels to inspect.
Thumbing his coiled climbing rope, Sam leaned in to peek through the slat of the vent near the ground. The air conditioning rumbled, mingling with the noise of the rushing pipes. He narrowed his eyes at the darkness, but before he could begin to climb in for a closer look, something stirred in the corner of his vision.
Sam lurched away from the vent to look farther down the wall, but in a swish of brown hair and a shifting section of drywall, the movement fled from view.
“Hey, wait!” Sam called, starting a few steps toward the back of the nightstand before he slowed to a stop, dumbfounded.
No way. After a month of examining the inner walls of their motel rooms, he finally came across someone his own size. He would have chalked it up to an animal scurrying out of the room, but most mice didn’t have light skin and a head of brown hair.
The pipes squeaked as the water shut off and snapped Sam back to attention. Instead of letting his thoughts race, he sprinted for the nightstand, determined to catch up with the person. He wasn’t sure what spooked them into running off, but he had a guilty suspicion in his gut. Maybe it wasn’t the first time the person had peeked into the room. If that was the case, they might have seen something that made trusting Sam out of the question.
Sure enough, he found the loose, crumbling section of drywall that the person disappeared behind. It would have been almost impossible for a human to spot it on their own, especially if they didn’t know what they were looking for. Sam liked to think he would have spotted it himself if given the chance to get that far in his exploration of the room.
Prying away the opening, he slipped inside and listened. Sure enough, the sound of pattering footsteps came from the side, retreating further with each passing second. After years of living in walls similar to these, it didn’t take long for his eyes to adjust to the dismal light. He took off at a sprint, careful not to trip over the small sections of woodwork jutting up along the path.
“Wait up! It’s okay!”
The footsteps paused for a brief moment, but Sam didn’t slow down. He turned a corner and spotted her. One wide eye glanced over her shoulder before she bolted off again. She was shorter than him with shorter strides, so he was able to close the distance in a matter of seconds.
He reached out and took her shoulder gently, not that his gentleness was given any appreciation. There were a number of things he was prepared for her to do: scream, squirm away, run faster, or freeze up.
What he didn’t expect was for her to whirl around and punch him squarely in the face.
“Back off!” she hissed as he did just that, staggering back in shock with a hand instinctively jumping up to guard his throbbing right eye.
The needle she whipped out from her belt made him take another step back.
The girl shuffled back a couple of steps too, holding her weapon at the ready and wearing an expression that said she wouldn’t hesitate to run him through if he gave her a reason. Behind the hard look in her eyes, Sam saw something familiar: fear. Her breaths rattled out with agitation, shoulders tense with preparation for anything. She couldn’t be more than in her late teens, but he could tell there wasn’t a drop of innocence left in her. No willingness to risk giving him the benefit of the doubt.
Careful not to make any sudden movements, Sam held his hands palms-out to show peace. He could have wielded his own knife in retaliation in case she attacked unprovoked, but she hadn’t lashed out until he touched her. She acted in what she thought was self-defense.
“I’m sorry for startling you,” he said calmly. “I was just checking to see if anyone lived around here.”
“Yeah, I do, and it’s private property. Now leave me alone. A bloody nose goes very well with a black eye.”
He hesitated, lips parted in surprise at her hostility. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen another one of us,” he said, shoulders slumping. “Can we just talk? My name’s Sam--”
“Cut the crap, Sam. I know you’re with that human out there! I saw you.” The girl edged back tensely, as if he would charge at her just for telling him what she had seen.
Suspicions confirmed, Sam sighed and ran a hand through his brown hair. “You saw that? Well… Then you saw he wasn’t hurt me, didn’t you? His name’s Dean. He doesn’t want to hurt anyone like us. He treats us the same as he would treat other humans.”
The girl laughed. “Right, right. Why don’t you go scamper on back to him and leave me alone? I’m not interested in whatever’s going on with you. I’m sorry that you’re delusional, but that’s no reason for me to put myself in danger.”
“You’re not in danger,” Sam insisted. He paused and gave her a long look, wondering if telling her the truth would make her even less inclined to trust him. Maybe if she knew that Dean wasn’t some random human… “He’s my brother. He would never hurt me.” Spotting the immediate confusion twist on her face, he didn’t bother letting her ask. “I was a human once too,” he explained, “but I was cursed by a witch when I was a kid. I’ve been this size ever since.”
She looked him up and down. “Uh-huh,” she said slowly.
A small smirk touched his lips despite himself. “You don’t believe me.”
“Well, Sam. The way I see it, you’re either lying and you can fuck off, or you’re telling the truth and you can definitely fuck off.” The admission of his origin made her even more wary, Sam noticed with a sinking heart. “Because my first thought when I woke up today wasn’t, ‘Hmm, you know what would go great with all my problems? Witches and curses. Let’s get those in the mix.’”
“What kind of problems?” Part of Sam knew that attempting to earn her trust was a lost cause, but he had to try. “My brother and I are staying one more night. Maybe we can help you.”
She raised her needle, not even a touch of leniency in her eyes. “You’ll stay away from here if you know what’s good for you. So, go. Now.”
He opened his mouth to protest, then closed it. One more look at her face, and he knew he wasn’t getting anywhere with her. There was nothing wrong with her reaction, he knew that. If he was in the same position, he wouldn’t trust anyone who said there was a human who could be trusted with someone his size. Sam wasn’t about to force this girl into doing anything she didn’t want to, including remain in his presence.
Nodding respectfully, he eased back. “We won’t bother you,” he promised, not daring to give his back to her. “You have nothing to worry about.”
Once he turned the corner, he listened closely to make sure she wouldn’t run to get the jump on him. After a few long moments, her footsteps hurried off in the opposite direction. He bit back a sigh, hoping he hadn’t frightened an innocent person into putting herself in danger by taking her things and moving out.