Sam likes pretty things. Sam likes illustrated books, pink and purple toothbrushes, straight lines, and ballroom dancing. He likes classic horror and the crisp lines of typed text and his dead mother's face.
He likes heirlooms, like lockets and old guns and dinged-up silver gravy boats and old junky cars that won't run. He likes rickety furniture and folk art and silence and breezes and floaty dresses and the translucence of ghosts and the way it seems all girls tend to smell, that combination of perfume and gentle sweat and intrigue.
He likes the way some girls giggle when things get awkward, and the way his brother's eyes sparkle when he thinks about pie, and the way crisp greens give under the force of his fork and rise up with little effort to become devoured.
He likes the grittiness of dirt and asphalt and the all-powerful glint of the sun off the Impala and the kind of dogs that shed everywhere and poke their noses at you if you don't say hello. He likes distance and no distance at all and is afraid of the place where those lines blur. He likes Dean's haphazard arsenal and Dad's precise one. He likes the way guns smell and the way a knife feels in his hand and the way the aging pages of a book and the cool keys of his laptop make him feel at home and in control.
He likes plaid shirts and mud-prone boots and blue jeans and his body's strength, and he likes the expressiveness of his eyes and the softness of his hair and the scrape of the hair-removing razor regimen. He likes how tall he is, and he makes no apologies for it.
He likes the thrill of having secrets. He likes the scratch of lace better than the smoothness of silk. He likes that lace bra he got his hands on, and the bras here and there before it. He admires the strength of the scratchiness, of the solid, unfading black, of the adjustable straps.
He doesn't like panties. Never really saw the point. But stockings are okay, even if his legs are too long for most of them. The scratch of the lace is what he likes, how rough and silent it is, like a well-trained hunter. He enjoys the black things, as dark as the marks on his soul surely are.
He remembers when Dean found him in the bathroom trying on the first bra and admiring himself. He remembers the awkward conversation that ensued because Dean didn't want to leave it hanging, hanging like the bra had been hanging from Sam's shoulders as he unfastened it and hurriedly tried to explain.
Dean told him weeks later that he'd tried on his girlfriend's underwear once when she'd told him to. Sam thought that was disgusting, but he was used to TMI from Dean.
Dean doesn't say anything if he comes in to see Sam lounging around in a plaid shirt and jeans with bare feet poking out covered in black lace. Sometimes he even fights a grin because it's just one of their things. It's like the hum of the laptop. It's like Dean taking the "manly color" toothbrush from the double pack. It's like comments about Sam being such a girl.
Sometimes it gets a little annoying, yeah. But the thing is, there's nothing wrong with being a girl, not in Sam's mind anyway. Girls are just as heroic as guys, and often more quiet about it, and Sam respects that. He respects that a lot.
Girls just tend to be more careful, and more thoughtful, and more honest. Sam kind of thinks girls are awesome. And he likes the strength of scratchy lace, of black lace like secret armor, just every once in a while, because it's his body, and he can put what he wants on it.
When Bobby was going through the storage locker to take some inventory, he'd found a box of Mary's things and asked the boys what he should do with it.
"Just leave it there," Dean had said, but he'd caught the wistful expression on Sam's face.
"Or. Okay, look. We'll come and check it out."
"It won't bite," Dean says with a hint of annoyance when Sam keeps his distance.
"No, um. You go ahead," Sam nods at the box.
Dean gives him a push forward none too gently. Really, they were there for Sam.
Sam doesn't want to mess anything in the box up, though. After enough waiting, Dean sighs, pulling open the cardboard flaps himself, leaning over the box, rifling through it. He pulls out a pretty wooden box, setting it on the shelf. "Jewelry, I think."
Sam nods, shifting slightly closer.
"You can touch it, you know," Dean growls.
Sam does then, his hands starting to shake. He opens the pretty box, and he looks inside, taking in the mix of expensive and practical, shiny things that once belonged to Mary Winchester and hadn't burned up in the fire.
"I remember that!" Dean says suddenly, fishing his hand into the box, nearly startling Sam into dropping it.
"Look. Her bracelet, from when Cas sent me back to not stop destiny. Look at these charms. Knew she was a hunter when I saw it," he says fondly, proudly. "Dibs," Dean says after Sam's had a good look. Dean slips the bracelet into his pocket.
Sam nods. He starts to close the box.
"You can have something too. I mean, jewelry or something else. Come on, Sam. It's okay," Dean says brightly, the bracelet having caused his mood to pick right up.
"Hold this for a sec?" Dean holds the box for Sam, who leans over, who concentrates.
"You're not cuttin' the wires on a bomb here, Sam. No wrong answers. Hell, you could wear one," Dean says, and Sam glares because they don't talk about it. "I'm serious. I won't mind."
"Thanks for the generosity," Sam snarks. "But a lot of this is just...too...nice." He winces. He doesn't want to mess up his mom's stuff and he really has no use for anything that's too shiny. He prefers...simple elegance, strength.
"Hey. Look in the corner there. That cross."
Sam peers, reaches in, moves some of the jewelry around before he sees what Dean's seeing. He picks up the cross pendant carefully, slowly trying to untangle its chain as he lifts it.
"She wouldn't mind," Dean says.
Sam lets go of it suddenly, rubbing his palm on his jeans. "Um. Um, it's okay," he says.
"Sorry," Sam says. "Sorry. Let's. Let's just." He reaches for the lid, closing the box. His eyes sting. "Can you just...uh. Put everything back? I think I'll go...." He doesn't finish his sentence, but he goes to check out some of the weapons and a couple of the manuscripts they've already made copies of that are just sitting on the shelves.
There's a hand at his back. "It's okay, Sam. Let's go."
Sam is quiet on the way back to the motel.
Sam thinks the matter was settled, but a few months later, when he's wearing stockings under his jeans and a bra under his shirt and sitting idly with the computer while Dean gets the food, Dean surprises him when he comes back in.
"Hey, Sam, can you take off that shirt?"
Sam looks at Dean suspiciously. "I'm good," he says.
"Look, can you just...do it?"
Sam watches with a frown as Dean's hand reaches into the pocket of his jacket. "I don't really want to." What does Dean have?
Sam raises a finger in warning. "Don't make fun."
"Dude, what do you take me for?"
With a long-suffering sigh, Sam starts to unbutton his shirt. The undershirt is gone. Only the black bra with its stiff lace remains.
Dean steps closer to get behind Sam, who tries to turn, but Dean turns him back with a hand on his shoulder. "Take it easy. Close your eyes."
Taking in a deep breath through his nose, Sam finally decides to get it all over with, closing his damn eyes. "Fine. I'm closing them."
He hears the sound of Dean's jacket rustling, followed by the slight clink of metal. He feels Dean's hand get curiously close, and then the other one, pulls a face as he feels his hair get brushed against accidentally. "What...?"
Sam finally feels Dean's hands leave him alone, and a metal something falls into place against his chest, warm from Dean's jacket. He opens his eyes and looks down, surprised to see the simple cross with its clean, decorative bits of engraving.
"It's got a back. Did you know it has a back?"
Sam grasps it, turning it, looking down with a quiet excitement. "Strong. Beautiful. Campbell," Sam reads. "Huh." Must have been from Mary's parents or something.
"Thought you'd change your mind about not wanting it. She really would want you to have it, Sam. It's okay."
Sam swallows against tears he can feel forming. "Are you even hearing yourself right now?" he teases Dean.
"Well, you're a freak, Sammy," Dean says casually, looking Sam over. "I mean, we get that. But, it's okay. Mom was cool, Sam. She'd say live and let live. She'd lend you her jewelry." Dean leans in. "Hell, she'd probably buy you a bra." He snaps the strap closest to him, hard.
Dean grins. "Smarts, huh? You know, she'd be proud of you. I know you didn't really get to know her, so you'll just have to trust me on this." Dean winks, and Sam fights against a smile.
Dean pats him on the shoulder. "You like it?"
"Wear it, then. It's yours, Sam."
Dean sits back down on his own bed and grabs for the remote. He starts to watch the game. "You gonna watch this, or are you too busy being a girl?" he calls.
"Shut up, Dean."
Dean shuts up.
Sam sits in his jeans with the stockings underneath and the bra on his chest like magical armor, gently holding and admiring this random, oddly-fitting heirloom from his mother. Maybe it's okay to keep it. Maybe some part of him is good enough for the necklaces of someone like Mom.