Of all the random places.
Admittedly, seeing her again, he always imagined a bar, or a liquor store, something to do with alcohol. Even running into each other, face to face, with guns drawn on some job they both picked up on.
Not some grocery store in Kinderhook, New York at two in the morning. Because for some reason he'd started craving chocolate milk, because he couldn't find a Quick Stop and it was the only place he'd seen for miles with the lights on.
He didn't notice her at the register, his eyes too busy adjusting from the dull glow of headlights to the harsh overhang of fluorescent. He barely even looked up as she rang the items, didn't make eye contact as he forked over a five dollar bill, just dreamed of the stiff motel pillow waiting for him somewhere down the road.
The sound her voice makes him finally pay attention, looking up, seeing the spun honey of her hair and teasing smirk on her lips. Her eyes give him a curious once over, checking for what he doesn't know, before a lone eyebrow shoots upward as if she's waiting for him to say something.
Familiar faces on the job are few and far between, and the last time he'd seen her there were ropes and torture, he's not sure of the protocol at this point.
When he ends up saying her name, it comes out low, the one he knows not matching the one on her nametag.
He asks what she's doing here.
She smiles and tells him a double shift.
Her keys dangle in his hand, still not quite believing she just offered him a place to sleep like it was nothing, not quite believing he took her up on it without much protest. Saying it's a modest apartment is being kind, but he didn't really do much better his first year at Stanford, and it is a step up from any seedy motel he would have found.
There's a small kitchen, door to the bathroom right next to it, and a couch propped against the foot of the bed. Dropping his bag to the floor, he takes a seat on the couch and starts untying his boots, only gets one off before he passes out.
When the front door opens instinct comes alive, but his eyes are still so heavy they refuse to open. He lays there just listening the to sound of her shuffling around, leaving something on the table, tinkering with some glasses in the kitchen then the faucet being turned on.
The sounds are strange, domestic, something you don't hear too often in a motel room.
Scuffling across the carpet, funny, she didn't seem the type the drag her feet, sounds like she's coming closer.
Fingers in his hair suddenly, brushing stray strands across his forehead, his tries not to move.
I'm sorry about Dean.
He bites the inside of his cheek, tries not to pinch his eyes tight, the façade of sleep still holding.
It's only a few seconds but it feels like forever.
Finally she moves away, circles round toward the bed, and he waits for the faint sound of rhythmic breathing before he let's himself relax.
When the sunlight hits his eyelids, he wakes slowly almost forgetting where he is, nearly falling off the couch because of it. She's still asleep on the bed, hair fanned out across the pillow.
He makes his way to the kitchen searching a few cabinets before finally finding the glasses, gets some water from the sink. There are donuts on the table with a note saying help yourself and a little smiley face at the bottom.
He finds himself mimicking it, starts looking through more cupboards for coffee.
She has a life here.
The want of normalcy is familiar, if no longer an emotion he feels for himself. She still hunts, works second shift at the supermarket, gets off at midnight leaving plenty of time for after hours activities.
She doesn't say anything about friends, but the familiar way in which she talks about a few of her co-workers tells him connections are made. It's all a lie of course, though he knows he can't say so. That they don't really know her, hell, they don't even know her name. He knows calling her out on it would make him the worst kind of hypocrite.
Instead he asks her why she works there.
Turns out credit card scams aren't her thing, no matter what other hunters tried to tell themselves as far as the job leveling things out karma wise. He nods at that, can't find a counterpoint.
He asks her why she stays in one place.
Her response comes with a thoughtful grin. Can't stay in a car forever.
He wonders, not for the first time, if his family's nomadic way of hunting had been the wrong way to go.
Their first hunt is a typical restless spirit in Greenwich, Connecticut. One that has a nasty little habit of drawing people into the water down on the point, morphing itself into the victims true desires.
Sometimes he's so tired of having to deal with ghosts wanting revenge because they felt it wasn't their time, that they were wronged somehow. He died once, remembers nothing pulling him back toward the living, just emptiness. He wonders why that emptiness can't just claim them all.
It feels like he should be surprised how seamlessly they work together.
She's not afraid to pick up a book and contribute to the more dull part of the job, he knows this, remembers all the research she did back in Philadelphia. Even for such an old town the list of accidental drownings is remarkably long. They're both unsure which name it could be, let alone how many names it's probably responsible for.
She starts looking for a year where the numbers took a dramatic leap without him even having to suggest it. He smiles at that, knowing as much as her mother wanted to deny it, she knew what she was doing.
He's there a month before he even realizes.
Before he notices the call of the road isn't as loud as it used to be.
The length of his stay never a topic of discussion, never one that seems to be on her mind, never one he thinks about himself. It's familiar at this point, comfortable. He wakes up and she's there, she wakes up and he's there.
Loneliness a feeling he's ignored since he found himself staring down at Dean's blank eyes. One he's seen in her too, staring off at nothing sometimes, wondering, before she turns to him with a knowing smile.
They weren't friends before. Not really. They were people with similar backgrounds, similar family issues, similar longing to get the hell out of a place they felt they were trapped in. Even with all these similarities he had always assumed she was more like his brother than him.
He gets a job in a used bookstore to help out.
Running credit card scams when you're not crisscrossing the country every day proves to be tricky, risky, and not even worth it. She tells him he doesn't have to, with a mocking gleam in her eye, that she doesn't mind having a houseboy.
It definitely takes some getting used to, having to wake up at a certain time that isn't a motel checkout deadline, to be at a certain place and have a boss to report to. It's not a difficult job. Most of it is organizing the shelves, ringing people up at the register, and the occasional reach for books on the top shelves because he's the only one who doesn't need the ladder.
Fringe benefit, besides all the free coffee, is that they have and oddly large occult section for such a small shop. He spends most of his lunches thumbing through them, there are books here he's pretty sure Bobby hasn't even read, and uses the excuse of being a horror buff to ease the owner's suspicions on why he sticks to that part of the store.
It's satisfying, the thirst for knowledge having been rejuvenated for the first time since he started college, the accumulation of it so much easier when the pace of life isn't a sprint.
A possession in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Black eyes stare daggers at him as he reads the incantation, she on his side, tossing holy water in its face when some particularly nasty words go her way. This one is a fighter, constantly pulling at the ropes tied to the chair.
It knows all about him. Sam Winchester, supposed leader, big fat fucking fraud.
She tosses more holy water for the outburst, screams turn to laughter in a stolen voice. He reads faster, tired of threats and insults, wanting to send its sarcastic ass wailing back to hell.
Almost done with the passage, the demon almost breaks the chair it wants out so bad, takes a final stab at his resolve.
I'll say hi to your brother for you.
Last word fires from his mouth like a bullet, the body jerking upward, black cloud shooting for the skies.
She's at his side in a second, trying her best at reassurances, too numb to feel her touch, the cold lonely fact that he's alive and his brother isn't, gnawing in that familiar way.
Old guilt rising to the surface.
They all think he's her boyfriend.
He stops in at the grocery store all the time after work because it's right down the street from the bookstore, and she always smiles when he walks through the door, waves him over to whatever register she's on that day.
It's not sweet nothings he murmurs into her ear when he leans in so that no one else can hear, the gossip hounds on the other registers around her pretending not to watch them, instead, it's usually new information he's uncovered in one of the books his nose is perennially buried in. Or leads he's found for the next job they'll start once she gets off.
They notice how her hand stays attached to his sleeve when they speak, how he grabs onto her elbow when he whispers, how comfortable they've grown with each other.
Her beau, he hears, her guy.
He can see it in all their eyes when they smile and wave at him, chuckling to himself, never taking it to heart.
He asks her where she went to school.
They're sitting on the couch, no job springing up for the past week, watching some horrible made for TV movie about mothers selling their babies or babies selling their mothers. He hasn't been paying that much attention.
She looks at him with a grin, for a second he thinks she's not going to answer, before he realizes he should have realized it before. Of course she was a Cornhusker, her mother would let her go, but never too far.
He asks why she left.
Didn't belong there, freak with a knife collection, it makes him laugh. She punches him in the arm. He rubs at the spot where she hit, hey, before admitting that he slept with a knife under his pillow for the longest time at Stanford.
It's quiet for a moment.
She asks him why he didn't go back. You know, after?
He knew he couldn't. Not after everything with Jess, not after all that happened afterward, not after promising Dean he would keep fighting. Even when he was there, deep down, he knew he never fully fit in.
When he tells her all of this she just looks at him with understanding eyes, leans closer and rests her head on his shoulder, takes his hand in hers.
Real and in the rotting flesh, walking toward them, moaning hungrily. He nearly trips over a small headstone backpedaling, thirty or forty of them heading right for him and her, the shotguns in their hands temporarily frozen.
Some hoodoo madman started out in Baton Rogue, slowly made his way up to the east coast. They caught wind from Bobby that he might be as close as Ocean City, New Jersey. One quick car ride down, a few questions with the locals, and a quick tour of a cemetery or two, and here they were.
He's the first to fire, head shots if movies have taught him anything, and she's quick to follow, picking off a dozen or so before they run dry.
Not the hardest enemy to fight, with the slow movement, little to no intelligence, acting on pure hunger instinct alone. It's the numbers that makes them dangerous, and if the walking corpses outnumber the ammo in their pockets, they are royally screwed.
They haven't caught sight of the madman. If he's here he's doing a fine job of keeping himself hidden.
Finally reloaded they pick off a few more before making a mad dash for the car.
It was bound to happen.
One night he's half a second from falling under when he hears her softly calling his name. He lifts his head up to see her hovering just above, with the configuration of the couch pressed against the bed they've always slept close, but never this close.
She doesn't say anything else right away, just looks down at him, eyes shining intense in the dim light. Stray locks of hair fall in front of her face, his hand reaches out before he realizes, brushes them safely behind her ear.
Her lips on his suddenly, a declaration of something he's been too afraid to acknowledge, slender arms wrapping around his neck with ease.
He tells her everything.
Wrapped up in loose sheets, her arm slung across his waist, head resting gently on his chest, his arm around her shoulder.
He tells her about the fight before he left for school, about getting off the bus the day he arrived, never feeling so alone, as he did walking up those steps with everything he owned shoved into an old duffel bag.
He tells her about Jess. About meeting someone he thought he'd spend the rest of his life with, about Dean showing up that day, falling back into old habits, returning home and finding her bloody corpse pinned to the ceiling.
He tells her about his mother, how she went the same way, how it was all connected to him.
He tells her about the yellow-eyed demon, about his plans, about meeting the special children just like him and the apocalypse he was supposed to lead.
He tells her about dying, about Dean's deal, about trying everything to get him out of it.
He tells her about Ruby, Bela, and his brother's insane final year.
He tells her about Lilith, what happened when she tried to kill him.
She doesn't reply, just listens and keeps curled up against him, never says a word.
They're after a Djinn in an old warehouse somewhere in Buffalo.
She wants to split up, which gives him a bad case of déjà vu, but she has that determined glare that lets him know he's not going to win any kind of argument.
Walking slowly through a valley of unmarked wooden crates, faint echoes carrying off the walls, his own breathing rings loudly in his ears, he doesn't think he'll ever be used to walking alone in the dark in some abandoned warehouse where some kind of monster is just waiting to drink the blood from his veins.
He's almost through ten rows of crates before he finds the girl, hanging from her wrists, toes scraping the dirty concrete floor. There's a whisper of a pulse, a hint of breath from her lips, he gets her down as gently as he can.
Still on his knees when he hears the scream, immediately cut off, to his feet in half a second tearing down the space between the crates. Running without thinking, arms pumping and feet stomping, he's acting on pure instinct.
There's so much room in this place, so many places to hide, but when he finds her bag spilled out on the cold concrete floor, he knows she's gone.
It takes him two days to find her. Another warehouse, another shady part of town, Djinn are nothing if not predictable. Her eyes are closed as she dangles there; face pale, body bruised and dirty.
Hands shake as he releases her from the shackles, as he pulls the needles from her arms. His name is hushed coming from her mouth, eyes still closed, just knows it's him. He tells her not to talk, that he'll get them out, she doesn't seem to hear, says she knew he'd be here.
The Djinn chooses that moment to strike, the anger inside of him overflowing into his fists, fluidizing his movements. One punch, two punch, before he shoves the knife clear through its tattooed throat.
They were married.
They had a house in Omaha.
A beautiful little girl named Mary Ellen, who had her daddy's puppy dog eyes, her mama's golden locks. They had another one on the way, a boy, William Dean Winchester ready to be printed on the birth certificate when the time came.
She made peace with her mother; Bobby was a surrogate grandpa, all in all a happy family, the hunter version of the Brady Bunch. He still drove the Impala; she had a suped up Blazer with a car seat in the back.
She tells him all this while he sits next to her hospital bed, staring out the window, never making eye contact. To say he's surprised is an understatement; Djinn supposedly give you your heart's desire. He'd always thought hers was to be a hunter, to honor her father, to prove herself to those that doubted her.
When he tells her this her only reply is that it is, then softer, she thought it was.
She's embarrassed by it; he can see that, she's not the kind of girl to have that dollhouse fantasy.
When he reaches for her hand she shies away.
It wouldn't last. People like us? We don't get that kind of life.
She's quiet for nearly a week when they get back to the apartment, only speaking when it comes to the job, when she has to chime in. Still in the same bed, she sleeps with her back to him. Most nights he finds himself staring up at the ceiling, knowing she's just as awake, the silence stretching far beyond awkward.
He's giving her space, that's what he tells himself, she'll talk when she's ready. Still, it's the waiting he hates more than the silence. The anticipation of what she might or might not say.
Finally, one night she rolls over to face him, not saying anything before she kisses him, mumbling an apology against his lips.
It wasn't you, you know that don't you?
Hunting is a choice, she chooses it, wants to do it because it's in her blood. Because they help people, save people, the world is a better place because of what they do.
She felt selfish. That dream, that wish, whatever it was, she knew it wasn't real, knew that she had to get out. But she wanted it. She wanted it more than anything.
They weekend in Vermont.
Where all the police reports and emergency room incidents claim wild bear, but it's easy to read between the lines, no one attacked ever remembers seeing a bear of any kind. Shock or no, that's not the kind of thing you forget.
They're backpacking along the same trail as the victims' before them, she stays close behind, flare gun poised and ready. He watches the spaces visible in the corners of his eyes carefully, waiting for the quick flash movement, the howls he still remembers.
A mile or two into the trail when he first spots it, when he feels her tense behind him and raise the flare gun on the ready. Three or more miles in when it becomes more frequent. It attacks when they come across the cave, high guttural howl nearly deafening, both she and him missing the first shots.
She screams in his ear, the beast moving quicker than they can react, claws and blood ever present.
Hours later they're in the tiny bathroom of the rented cabin, him hissing against the alcohol sting, her soft apologies as the needle threads spilt flesh back together. Stars flash in front of his eyes, it's been awhile since he's gotten tagged this badly, any deeper and they'd be at the hospital.
She's almost done, she assures with a gentle pat on his shoulder. He'd gotten the worst of it, but she did get knocked down into the cave by the wendigo, a couple cuts and a bruise the size of a cantaloupe on her side. Still, she'd been the one to kill it, he was almost out cold.
He hears the scissors snip the last of the thread, feels the gauze pushed against the gash, the tape sticking to his skin. Her arms wrap over his shoulders and around his neck, careful to avoid the wound, pulling him into a loose hug from behind.
Her voice is muffled against his shoulder, a slow quiet whisper that he's not allowed to die.
He puts a hand atop one of hers, makes a promise he knows he can't keep.
They get married at the county courthouse by a justice of the peace, pay the fine, and sign the certificate.
No church or ceremony.
No frilly white dress, not her style, the last time she'd even worn one she was still in pigtails with a snoopy band-aid stuck to her knee.
No gold or diamonds and empty promises or forever. Just practical matching silver rings that say taken well enough for them. Besides, she didn't want a diamond because she said the last thing they needed was to have some stray light reflect off a useless rock perched on her finger that would get them both killed.
No family to celebrate with. His is gone, and the last time she'd spoken with her mother it ended with a fight so bad she lost her voice for two days. Still, she promises to send a postcard, let her know she's happy.
No friends because they gave their real names, wanting this to be the one true thing in their life here. They didn't think the explanations would carry over very well.
When the justice pronounces them their kiss isn't a promise of a future, it's not even a guarantee of tomorrow.
Just the hope for one.
Their honeymoon is a hunt in Portland, Maine.
Rumors of werewolf activity have trickled down their way and the job just doesn't allow for vacations. Difference this time is they splurge and check into a respectable bed and breakfast rather than the typical roadside dive they're so used to.
They're waiting at the counter when he asks her if she remembered the silver bullets, and she swats him for suggesting that she would be unprepared, laughs and wonders if the bickering is going to start already.
The clerk is a woman named Joyce, who has a friendly smile and is clearly pushing seventy. She nods at the two of them, knowing newlyweds when she sees them, so full of suggestions for things to do around town, things a young couple might enjoy.
They politely nod, bags of weapons resting at their feet reflecting plans of their own once the sun sets.
Joyce pushes the sign-in book toward them; he picks up the pen, looks to his wife questioningly.
She plays with the ring on her finger, thinks it over a second, before nodding her approval.
New start, new life, might as well make it as real as they can with the time they have.
He signs: Sam and Jo Winchester were here.