Spring settles around the shoulders of Vermonters like a shawl. Sun wrapped mornings breathe life into the frozen earth as floes of ice grind against each other, creaking and grinding like the joints of an old man. After seven years bathed in the winds that march across the Green Mountains from Canada, the heady bouquet of spring growth riding on the back of last fall’s leaf litter always makes Sam Winchester giddy.
Sam perches on the steps that lead into their front yard content to watch the water and listen to the gruff report of a flock of snow geese winding their way back north after lapping up all that Florida sunshine. He turns his face toward the sky and lets the sun and the branches of the ancient white ash that guards their home paint mosaics of light and shadow across his eyelids. Their front yard is a patch of grass buttressed by a sea-wall that never quite manages to keep the lake water from kissing their front steps each fall. The front face of their home watches over Missisquoi Bay, a mile wide swath of water surrounded by coarse sand and shale beaches. The back is a quarter-mile gravel drive pouring into a dirt road that rattles Sam’s teeth and makes Dean cringe for another three-quarters of a mile before spilling onto the asphalt of Route 7.
The road is a bitch to keep plowed in the winter and the Impala now lives in a garage built especially for her, draped with tarps to protect against dust and scratches as winter scours the landscape. But Sam has watched Dean’s eyes glitter as the temperature began to climb late that past week, mid-May rounding the corner toward June. That morning, as Saturday dawned brilliant and fair, Sam heard the creak of hinges rusted from disuse and knew that once Dean finished with the water pump, he would spend the day pampering his girl and crowing to Sam about the trip to Montreal they would take the following weekend to let his baby stretch her legs.
Dean makes his way around the corner of the house wiping his grease smeared hands on a tattered old rag.
“Pump’s about to go.” Dean strolls over and sits beside Sam, nudging him to make room on the step.
“Yeah?” Sam leans his head on Dean’s shoulder. “How much?”
Dean shrugs and drops a kiss on Sam’s brow. “Not much.”
Sam sighs. Conversations like this still leave him in awe, even after seven years. It is astounding to hime that they have real bank accounts, real jobs, real money concerns, that they do not, will not, solve by hustling pool or committing credit card fraud. “Not much, we can get it today or not much it has to wait until Thursday when I get paid?”
“Nothing a few well played games of pool can’t cover.” Dean smirks, catching the thread of Sam’s thoughts and pinching his thigh. Sam pinches back and rolls his eyes, knowing Dean is no more tempted than he is to go out and embrace that old life. Once, five years ago when things still felt strange and new and the electric heater had gone out in January. Yeah, Sam had doubted then, had been the one who was tempted to cave, proposing a trip up to Montreal or down to Burlington to hustle some pool. But Dean would not have it, told Sam to untwist his panties, and insisted that the wood stove and the fireplace would work fine until they could afford the part to fix the heater. Better even because they lived in freaking Vermont and there was no shortage of trees to chop down and fires meant naked snuggling because isn’t that what all the survivalists said to do when you were cold? Dean had said if they froze their balls off by the next morning he would call his boss Mike and ask for an advance. Dean had assured Sam that he would still have his tuition money on time and that the teaching certificate program Sam was enrolled in was worth being a little chilly.
In the end, even though the wood stove had kept them plenty toasty, Dean had asked his boss for an advance. Mike Lemieux was a crotchety old codger who owned Lemieux’s Sunoco, the only full service gas station and garage North of St. Albans. Well, it wasn’t the only one but it was the only full service station and garage that the old timers and the old timer’s kids would visit their business upon because Mike was not owned by some family in New York. Mike had grumbled and fussed but the money was forthcoming. Truth is Mike loved Dean like a son, loved him like a man who’s loyalty was carved out of the bones of the earth, but goddamned if he let Dean know. He cared for Dean even though the young man was a little funny like Earl’s kid Lawrence who moved to California, of all places. But still, Dean knew his way around an engine and like any good Vermonter, Mike figured as long Dean did his work it did not matter a tick who shared his bed.
“Hey, earth to Sammy.” Dean waves his hand in front of Sam’s face. “Did you hear me?”
“That’s what I thought.” Dean chuckles. “I said if you’re done grading finals we could run down to St. Albans, pick up the part at Abernathy’s and maybe grab some lunch?”
“There any ice cream involved in this scenario?”
“You drive a hard bargain, who’d you learn that from?”
“Who do you think? Hey, you see the Stone’s drove in this morning? You wanna swing by and see if they need anything from town?”
“Sounds good.” Dean nods, but Sam notices the sparkle in his eyes.
Dean rises from the step, offering Sam a hand up, pulling the younger man against him and sliding his arm around Sam’s waist. “I’ll walk over, you want to drive over and meet me there?” Dean brushes his mouth against the delicate skin just below Sam’s ear, enjoying the way that his lover’s body still shivers beneath his lips.
“You keep that up we’re not going to make it to St. Albans today.” Sam leans into Dean slipping a hand into his back pocket.
“And that would be bad why?” Dean nips and licks at Sam’s earlobe.
“Running water.” Sam sighs, wondering if they could make due for an evening.
“Oh yeah, that.” Dean huffs and pushes himself away from Sam, reluctant to release his lover. Dean is about to turn and head in the direction of the Stone’s cabin when he hears his name being called from the direction of the beach. A young girl all coltish legs and string bean arms bolts toward Dean crashing into the man as she squishes him in a hug.
“Whoah, Linnie. Nice to see you too, sweetheart.” Dean belly laughs and picks the girl up, spinning her around while she shrieks in delight.
He tosses the girl over his shoulder patting her rump. “Hey Sammy, look what crawled out of the bay, think I should keep her or throw her back?”
The girl screams as Dean starts down the cement boat ramp toward the dock. “No. Deeeeaaannnnn.”
“I don’t know dude, she’s pretty small. Fish and Game would definitely fine you if you kept her.”
The girl howls again flailing her arms the closer Dean gets to the water. “I guess. Still she might be useful. I hear even these little ones can do dishes.”
“Sam Winchester make him put me down.” The girl demands.
“Can’t help ya’, sweetie.” Sam watches the antics unfold. Dean teases the girl one last time, feinting toward the shallow water then slides her off his shoulder, setting her down and making sure she has her footing before letting her go.
Sam studies the girl’s face for a few more moments, noting the smudges beneath her eyes and the sallow cast to her skin. A pall of concern slides across the excitement and energy of the moment like a cloud passing before the sun. He shakes off the feeling, tucking it away to analyze later.
Linnie Stone. Sam thinks as he heads inside for his car keys and the girl and Dean take off toward the Stone’s cabin a few doors down. That kid is a force of nature.