You meet the two on a hot Californian summer day. Neighbors, can’t afford the glamour that reflects off the broad shoulders of Hollywood. You all are settled in Palmdale. Nothing special, Palmdale. Cost-affordable. You find that shred of social neediness for the month, dress into flip-flops because the beach is beckoning. Sam-n-Dean are going to the grocery store.
Dean gives a grin you don’t trust. It’s handsome and strong and sweet, but so was your ex’s, and you have a hard time finding faith to offer for that kind of charm. You hate that you have a hard time with it. Sam glances at you and smiles like it hurts to, but it’s easy to relate to that kind of strained attempt at being a person. You smile back, and it’s strained, too.
Before you leave in the car packed with excited twenty-somethings, heart pounding in your chest, you cross the yard a little. You make sure your cousin is there with you, a strong solid linebacker. You trust him, would trust him with your life, even if he still looks like the little boy who played in the mud with you in elementary school.
You offer Sam the glass dish, and your fingers feel tingly. Maybe this was a mistake.
It’s okay, you remind yourself. After this, you’ll go to the beach with your friends. It will be tiring, but fun, worthwhile. You offer Sam another strained smile, lips feeling chapped. “For you and Dean. Um. I never introduced myself… Here. It’s – not poisonous.”
You’re a great chef. It was the one thing your ex praised.
You expect a reply. The confusion that dawns into something pleasant is there on his face, and he takes the food from you; his hands are huge, fingers so long as they feather against yours, you almost recoil. But you don’t. And you find it within yourself to be proud.
But Sam says nothing, just looks fondly down at the dessert before he looks at her.
He looks at her, the girl expecting something spoken back, and freezes. All he can seemingly do is bow his head, bangs pouring down from his ears, before he quickly wanders away. You imagine that maybe he doesn’t leave his house very much either.
Your baby-faced linebacker cousin nudges you along, questioning the strangeness of your newer neighbors, and you go make memories with your loved ones.
You watch, sometimes. Like a birdwatcher, only with more guilt involved. But sometimes the blinds are open at just the right time. Dean leaves for work and Sam, well. Sam’s just there. She’s not sure what he does, but Dean’s got some pretty long hours, and it leaves Sam sitting in the sweltering heat of summer with a towel around his neck. He’s pulling weeds; they don’t stand a chance against those hands. He only stops when a couple brandishing bibles wanders up, and you don’t need to hear to know he says nothing at all. Shakes his head, wordless, always wordless, sends them away without so much as an utterance.
You wonder if you look as lonely as him, every time you’re too afraid to step off your porch.
You hate that things have crippled you. Life needs routine now, needs silence and caution.
So with that in mind, you don’t know why you wander out to offer him a bowl of ice cream. It’s handmade, it’s really good, and you tell him that with all the grace of a toad. Your heart feels like it’s being gripped, strangled, trampled by the soft brown hair. Your ex’s hair was a lot like Sam’s. You shake away the thoughts.
“You don’t talk much, do you,” you say. He looks down at the bowl, closes his eyes, shakes his head. You’ve seen him talk to Dean. Never loudly, never within earshot, but words have fallen out of that little mouth before. You’re a very observant person, after all. You have to be. The world isn’t as safe as people think. The world is a‘look both ways before you cross Life St.’ kind of world. At some point, a car hit you, some metaphorical semi, smashed your poor bones down. You think… maybe Sam knows.
He seems distant, like he’s looking from the outside in.
It’s so, so relate-able.
You purse your lips.
“Sorry about the, um. The bible thumpers. They’re really nice folks, honest. They, uh, they… just kind of show up every month or two. Their church is right down the street, so. They’ll probably try to throw bibles at you a lot.” You gesture with your hands. You probably look stupid, look like a tour guide on their first day. Sam wrinkles his nose, smiles with his eyes, and moves toward the house with the bowl still in one hand. It’ll melt soon. She should warn him, but she’s too afraid he’s walking inside to come out a different, horrible person.
He returns with a withered but intact bible, waves it.
You smile, relieved.
He’s still okay.
“… Your ice cream’s melting,” you manage, and then wander off before you make a fool of yourself.
From your window, you watch him sit on the porch, shimmering with sweat in the sun, bible precariously balanced on his knee. He rubs his temples and makes a pained face. You laugh quietly to yourself.
You accidentally spray Dean with your water hose, one time.
He stands like a wilting scarecrow and you can hear it — off to the side, rich laughter. Sam’s wiping the corner of his eyes, face flushed with good humor, and Dean can’t look quite so put-out anymore, Sam’s chuckling like a towel massaged over his scalp. You like this look of chaotic joy on them, would frame it and put up it in their living room. That’s what pictures are for, right? You put them there, show everyone the good things. People never hang up the not-so-good things. You have pictures of your mom and dad. Your sister and cousins. None of you, though. Things never look quite right when you’re in them.
You apologize like the wind, and Dean smiles that charming smile — but even though it’s almost as scary as the frown, it doesn’t remind you of him anymore. Such a strange thing to realize. You stare dumbly with the hose in your hand, the rose bushes near you thirsting. Dean says goodbye as he heads out, and you find that it’s so normal to say goodbye back, regardless of how stilted you sound.
Sam joins you in nurturing the plant-life on his side of the world. Something pretty has to survive out here in this cracked, humid weather, doesn’t it?
You startle when someone sprays your bare toes.
Sam smiles playfully from his side of the lawn, and you’re starting to translate everything he does into words.
“You don’t talk to people at all,” you tell him once. You sit in Sam-and-Dean’s kitchen, drinking iced tea, braving Sam’s silence in exchange for his company. You don’t know why. He’s so quiet, it should send off warning bells; danger, he could be a psychopath; danger, the quiet ones explode just as easily; danger, you’ve all the muscle of a small baby bird. Your friends would be shocked. They would be proud, worried, would study Sam up and down, find out who he is, if he’s kind, if he’s worthy. It’s not like that, though. It’s just iced tea. And he’s older than you, anyway.
Sam shakes his head.
“But you’re not mute,” you say, uncertain.
He sighs softly, eyes hiding behind his bangs. You remind yourself that there’s so much that can go wrong here. Sometimes neighbors are shitty people, and you almost regret this. Your therapist says not to let the fear hold you back, but you can’t quite recall your therapist telling you to wander into a neighbor’s house for tea. The smiles always trip you up. It’s always the damn smiles, bright enough to warm your skin. Sam’s not smiling, though. Sam’s expression is sad, actually.
“You talk to Dean sometimes,” you continue.
He nods, sits down. Sips his tea.
“But… not us.” You’re not sure what to say about it. He slowly reaches out for the newspaper on the counter, and for the pen in his breast pocket. He scribbles, slides it over. I’M SORRY, it says, in all caps; what a funny thing; for someone so neat, he has questionable handwriting. Yours has always been fairly neat and orderly.
You shake your head, reply after a moment, “There’s nothing you need to apologize to me for.”
There’s only three or four pictures in their whole house. It’s mostly empty, mostly bare. Immaculate. Your room looks like a tornado tore through it. Your best friend cleaned your living room and kitchen when you were sleeping. You bite your lip, cool perspiration on your fingers. “Was it something…” you start. You swallow your words, reform them, start again. “Did something happen to you, to make you… not want to talk anymore…?”
He presses his thumb into his palm, where a scar is, and it’s a yes whether Sam means to show it or not.
You can imagine so many reasons why he would lock away his words.
You don’t want to believe any of the reasons happened, but you know what reality is really like, now.
“Maybe you’ll talk more someday. I mean, you don’t have to, but maybe you will. And. You don’t heal completely,” you’re quick to say, fingers fidgeting with your glass. “But… you, you can heal enough. I believe that.”
We all have to believe in something, don’t we?
Your ex finds you.
He finds you and when you look at him through your curtain, you see fangs and claws and cat-eyes, you see nothing of a charming smile, nothing of soft hair, nothing, nothing, nothing. He’s banging on your front door, then he’s going around to bang on the other side door. He’s breaking a window with his fist. You scream and dial 911 on a landline most people would have disconnected years ago. You think that tonight, you won’t be able to heal enough, you’ll never be able to heal enough, because he’ll hurt you. Hurt you bad. You shake so hard your body hurts, and wait for the past to take you by the hair.
But it never comes. You look out the same window you always look out, see glass twinkling in the moonlight, see your ex’s blood on the edges. You see Sam and Dean, Sam’s chest heaving — Dean’s got the monster’s arm twisted back behind him, got your ex pinned between his legs, and Dean’s threatening the monster because even now Sam can’t bring himself to open his mouth. Sam’s expression is dark, though, until you walk out — walk out in a daze and look down at the monster, and… and its not a monster. It’s a person. It’s him. Just… him. There’s no teeth, no fangs, no forked tongue or devil’s tail. Sam steps between you and them. He leads you away. You’re not sure when you were placed on the front step, but you have a jacket far too big on you sitting on your shoulders. Like a queen’s cloak, the porch akin to your royal throne.
You and your two bright knights.
Hunting monsters that have no fangs or claws.
You cry into the jacket sleeves, pulled around you like the invisible arms of a defender.
Sam-and-Dean step away and watch from a distance, as your friends encircle you and hold on tight.
The weeks after are hard.
You don’t leave very often. You order take-out. You say nothing to Sam and Dean, say little to your friends. It’s a hard month, a month of being stuck on rewind, of not being sure how to press play again. Your window is repaired, the blood is cleaned up, but sometimes you feel that cold night’s draft and your skin prickles with false promises and ugly smiles. When it gets bad, you wrap yourself up in Sam’s jacket. You don’t know why. You wish you understood the comfort there, so easy and light, a security blanket.
You need to thank your neighbors. You need to apologize to your neighbors.
Sam-and-Dean come to your door before you can go to theirs, though. You’re in pajamas and you’ve just finished re-watching Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and you grow hot in the face when you realize you look every bit as unorganized as your brain is.
After an awkward beat, Sam turns himself bodily to Dean, some sort of steely determination in his face.
“I think…” he says, and your breath catches in your throat. He’s looking at Dean, is talking at Dean, and you stay as still as possible so you don’t break the illusion. “I think I should let our neighbor know, uh… that she won’t heal completely, but she can heal enough. Don’t you think?”
Dean looks at Sam, smiling. It’s not the charming smile. It’s soft and sweet and it’s Dean’s alone. A conversation happens. A play, right in front of you, lines rehearsed. “Yeah, Sammy. And I think a good way to do that would be her comin’ to a barbecue tomorrow.”
“Oh, um, sure. It’s Memorial Day, isn’t it? She should definitely come over for that. You make great steaks.”
Dean looks at you, confirming with a smug look, “I make great steaks.”
And Sam leans in, voice so low, you almost don’t hear it. “… We sure could use some ice cream for it.”
“Handmade?” Dean asks.
“Yeah,” Sam nearly whispers.
“Yeah, yeah exactly,” Dean says, voice light on the breeze. You rub your eyes, bite your fingernails, try to see the boys through a wet mirage of color dancing in your eyesight. You want to pull them into a hug, bury your face, cry your eyeballs out. But you don’t. You can’t. But you do chew your thumbnail and smile around it and confirm in a paper-thin voice: “… Tomorrow. Memorial day. I can do that.”
Tomorrow, Memorial day.
You watch them leave from you window, listening to them beyond the slightly parted opening.
As they grow further and further away, Sam says, “She really does make the best ice cream.”
Dean elbows him fondly in the arm.
You step away from the new window and back towards the kitchen; you clean the counters carefully and pluck ingredients from your fridge. It’s okay, you remind yourself. Tomorrow, you’ll go visit your friends and enjoy a steak. It will be tiring, but fun, worthwhile. It will be the first stitch on a cut. You’re in good hands.
Let the healing begin again.