Amelia’s slowed down since she found Kermit, but she hasn’t stopped running. She’s learned her way around town by grinding down an old pair of running shoes almost every night after work, sometimes for twenty minutes and some nights for miles at a time.
Creeper-serial-killer-neighbor-with-benefits-or-whatever boy runs too, she’s (irritatingly) noticed. Usually in the morning, before it gets too hot. Smart, she supposes, his repair work is almost like working from home, which lets him run whenever he wants.
But she wants to run this Saturday, she has a whole beautiful weekend in front of her and she can’t wait for the hit of adrenaline from a long run, chased by a cool beer.
Apparently Sam does too. He’s out in his gear, already stretching. She takes a minute to observe with interest (what? Benefits!) before he sees her, nods awkwardly, and turns his back to her.
So Sam doesn’t like his morning run, necessarily. He’s just giving her her space.
He still thinks she’s actually scared of him, she realizes, and laughs. She finishes lacing up a pair of long-overdue new shoes and heads over.
“Hey Sam.” She waves with the arm carrying an iPod and a bottle of water, no conversation necessary, it promises. “Mind if I join?”
They’re both pretty rusty flirts, so there’s no cutesy betting on what loser has to buy next week’s Gatorade. And they don’t make it very far, Amelia because keeping up with Sam’s freakish yeti legs is exhausting and Sam because – well, it’s not really her business. But it’s fun while it lasts. Sam shows her the dog park, where they run into some mutual acquaintances.
Amelia hadn’t realized she has this many acquaintances. Or, really, any acquaintances. But the pet owners in town remember her, and seem to like her. Mostly Sam handles the “hey”s.
They both laugh a little at the way he kinda has to walk her to her door – her room is closer to the road, his is way down at the end. What the hell, she thinks, and pulls him in behind her.
She comes home one night to find Target bags littering the floor, shiny but mismatched kitchen supplies everywhere, and Sam, a comically large carving knife posed over an innocent-looking little onion, biting his lip in the general direction of his saran-wrapped laptop.
They tease each other about their mutual foodiedom, but it’s pretty rare for Sam to be the one on that side of the counter, and when he is, it’s over a single Spartan pot of beans or penne. He usually prefers to make salads and sandwiches, cool and transient, sustenance almost wholly carried in from elsewhere. Now, the kitchen is stocked and unmistakably lived-in, with every available space covered in spilled olive oil, discarded plastic wrap, dirty measuring spoons, and neatly-arrayed bowls of the diced, sliced, and demolished.
She bites back most of a smile. “Want some help there?”
“No, thanks, I want to figure this out.” He frowns. “You might want to order Chinese, though.”
“I can take it.”
“Don’t be so sure.”
“I’m tougher than I look, buddy.”
“Of that, I have no doubt.”
She curls up on the couch and picks up her kindle. It’s not just a cover for peering over the edge and watching Sam eyeball the wok like it’s a cranky gator – well, okay, it is, but at least she doesn’t have to fake flipping through pages to keep up the ruse.
“You want a drink? Glass of wine?”
“I’ll have the house special, garcon.”
He rummages for a moment. “Sorry, babe, it looks like we ran out. I didn’t think to get any more.”
“Iced tea’s perfect. Want some help serving?”He brandishes the spatula back at her and shakes his head.
It doesn’t look like anything particularly impressive - marinated chicken, stir-fried vegetables, and rice - but it’s pretty good. Better than she expected, though she suspects she’d have flattered and lied even if it wasn’t just to keep the pleased little smile on his face.
She insists on doing the dishes, and pretends she’s running the water to tune out Sam’s planned menu for the week. But they don’t use the future tense very often; it’s nice to hear him use words like want and will.
"I draw the line at foie gras," she says. "Professional standards. Other than that, I expect miracles."
He sighs theatrically. "I'll do my best."
They have good days and bad days. Good days are calm, and bad days are quiet. Amelia sometimes wonders if it’s too easy for them to tell the difference, but mostly she’s relieved nobody has to endure or come up with the explanations they can’t even make to themselves.
They both have bad days, but only Sam has bad nights, with loud, active nightmares they know she can’t ignore. She wants to think she’s tried, wants to think she’s done more than embarrassed him with silent, sympathetic eyes in the hours and days after one of his episodes, but she works with animals for a reason, okay, if there’s anyone who can stop these bad nights it’s not her.
Tonight is an exceptionally bad night. She wakes up when Sam swallows a yell and kicks so hard the bed shakes. He only comes to when he twists onto his side so violently that his chin crashes against her collarbone.
She winces before he sits far up enough to see.
“Jesus. Fuck. I’m sorry. Did I hurt you? I hurt you. I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” she snaps as she sits up, because she’s her and she doesn’t know how to do this. “I’m not hurt. I just wish I could help.”
Whatever current has rushed through his mind fizzles. His face crumples, and so does her heart.
“It isn’t fair, Sam,” she blurts out helplessly.
He looks down at the bedspread. “It’s fair.”
All the things she could say to him – I don’t believe that and no one deserves this and Sam you can tell me – are lost somewhere, buried in one of the boxes she’s avoiding unpacking, and she can’t bring herself to search for them. But he’s sleepy and pliant, so she can pull his head onto her lap and comb her fingers through his hair. Eventually his breathing evens out, and his left hand uncurls to fall against the covers.
Riot pads up and climbs across their legs. She’s run for so long, tried to lose herself in the wind and the road, and now they’re weighing her down, Riot at her ankles and Sam at her hips.
She leans back against the headboard and dozes off under the dawn.
She opens the door wide and stands aside for him to come in. He takes a heartbeat too long to accept the invitation, and she thinks for a second he’s come back just for the pleasure of leaving her again. But when he does move, it’s fast and soft. He folds his whole self around her, shedding noises that drop all over her and catch scattershot in her brain. Thank you. I’m sorry. So sorry. I couldn’t. I should’ve. Please Amelia baby sorry sorry sorry—
“I understand.” He pulls back too quickly.
“Ow! No, Sam, my hair!” She’s tangled up on the wrist of his jacket. He tries to stand at arm’s length, intent on making his silly little task painless for her.
She rolls her eyes at the naïvete of straight-haired men, grabs onto her curls with one hand and his wrist with the other, and pulls herself free.
His button flies across the room in protest, but it’s done. In the spirit of getting things over with, she looks back up at him. “Sam, I want you to stay.”
His smile is so bright, his relief so big, his joy so unwarranted, she almost wishes to take it back; she’ll crack under Sam Winchester, under his words that say too little and his silences that say just enough and his artless gestures that say everything she told herself she never needed to hear.
“But what about-“
“Don’s a big boy. He’ll be fine.”
“I married him a long time ago, Sam. I don’t know what I was, then. But I know what I want now. And I want to try.”
Sam exhales and then dims, just a little, and her world comes back into focus like she’s looked away from the sun. “I can try.”