Disclaimer: Supernatural belongs to Eric Kripke and a whole bushel of Americans who are not me. No money being made, etc.

Summary:I wrote this a while ago and just rediscovered it; unfortunately I have suffered a severe hard-drive problem today which has affected Having A Ball and the Give and Take – I am attempting to get these files restored asap.

This story has no spoilers and could fit any season, it is an outsiders perspective on the brothers.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

'Age'…

That was the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw them up close. Young bodies, young faces, but like my mama always told me: 'first, last and always, the eyes have it, honey'…and their eyes were ancient; both pairs of eyes were fixed on me with the verisimilitude of alertness, but one pair were sapphire-onyx and the other jade-green dark with emotion and fatigue.

So, 'weariness' was my next thought.

The pair of them were old, in a way that had nothing to do with biology – in fact made biology a meaningless statistic in relation to them; like Indiana Jones said in I forget which movie – it's not the years, it's the mileage.

These guys might look like 'only last year's model', but they'd been to the moon and back – more than once, and you could tell. Sometimes when it's a bad shift – like that multiple auto wreck on the freeway last month – we get a cop or a fireman in the ER and absolute exhaustion hovers around them in an almost visible miasma, the way you can always smell if someone's a smoker or a heavy drinker.

But these two weren't exhausted like that in a physical sense, they were tired in the same way I get tired – it's an exhaustion of the spirit, a weariness of the soul.

One of the ER nurses told me when I first started that the job made your soul age in dog years even though your body might cling to human time. I'd tried to keep telling myself she was an old cynic, even though I could feel it happen to me. People look and see a fairly young woman, but emotionally I've been a pensioner so long I can't remember feeling any other way.

So, yeah, I can relate; I hit the big 3-0 last month, but when you've been a city hospital ER nurse for four years straight, you see the human species raw and unpolished, and mostly it's not pretty. I'm no cynic and the fact is that the vast majority of people are "mostly good with a bit of bad" rather than the other way around, but your soul does a lot of mileage – there's a lot of similarity between those in work like mine and cops. Like the police, we see people at their worst – frightened, angry, bewildered, shocked – and when you feel under attack your instinct is flight or fight – you either work yourself up into an even worse state of fearful anxiety or you lash out at the nearest convenient target/easiest scapegoat.

But I knew I wouldn't be a scapegoat the instant I looked into those hazel-green eyes, despite that they were faded to nearly mud-brown with fatigue; he was a born charmer, Dean Horowitz – though that's no more his real name than I'm 'Jenny from the Block'; somebody was obviously a fan of World Wrestling Entertainment back in it's Federation days.

Actually, it's the imperfection that moves him up from 'cute' to 'hottie'. Without the exhaustion, his eyes are fabulous, like those mystical deep-jungle pools reflecting different shades of green-gold-black, with flecks of jade and a covering sheen of faint gold, framed by sinfully long lashes for a man. His nose is flawless and those lips even manage to pout in a way that's totally masculine. But he has freckles – quite a few, with a smattering across the bridge of his nose and the top of his cheekbones. They're the flaw that makes him gorgeous, makes his beauty real and approachable and warm, unlike say, Michelangelo's David which is perfect beauty – and somehow inhumanly cold because of it.

Not that Sam 'Horowitz' is any slouch in the looks department; though he does slouch, quite literally. That's because of the height – he's at least 6'4" barefoot, doubtless usually more like 6'5" or 6'6" depending on footwear. I don't need any shrink-training to know he's often self-conscious about it, or any ESP to know his teenage years were an interminable nightmare of feeling that his limbs had minds of their own and trying to will his lanky frame back down to where there was more oxygen.

Again, I can relate. My Grandma – mom's mom – was Highland Scot who used to beam at me when she called me her 'bonnie wee lassie', so it wasn't until I hit the meat grinder that is kindergarten that I learned 'bonnie' was a euphemism for 'podgy blimp'.

You get all these US Navy SEALs on TV talking about Hell Week – try being labelled an hour into your first day as the school's 'fat kid'. Try being the school's mulatto fat kid. Try being the school's mulatto female fat kid. Try being the school's mulatto female smart fat kid. Try being the schools' mulatto female smart devout Christian fat kid. If I'd been gay instead of het my childhood would have ticked all the "suckfest" boxes and I would legitimately be able use my traumatised juvenile Id as a defence should I get caught if I go changing careers to "psychotic serial killer".

The irony was, and remains, that I wasn't that bad at sports and still aren't – I usually won the sprint events without breaking a sweat. I love to swim – I was an eel in anything deeper than a puddle, and I was a tomboy. I went camping with Dad every month and I'm pretty close to Sacagawea in that outdoorsy gal deal.

But by age 12 I was a C-cup; at 13 I filled out an old silk negligee of Gra'mma's like a Playboy model – her mouth went all crimped and if Dad's disaster with the washing machine (he was so determined to prove he could cope while mom was in the hospital having her gallstone op) hadn't ixnayed all my other nightwear she'd have insisted I change – as it was, somehow after that night, the nightgown disappeared.

Ever since puberty my "figure" has always wavered between Marilyn Monroe and Roseanne Barr with hefty lashings of Rosie O'Donnell and Ugly Betty, and I know what it's like to be a target because of the way you look. By the time I was 16 I was constantly being circled by my male classmates who used to try and persuade me to do their Math homework while their eyes never moved any higher than about six inches below my chin, whilst my previous girlfriends all suddenly turned psychotically spiteful like they were each channelling Bette Davis in Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? I can guess what Sam went through during his adolescent growth spurts too – unable to ever be inconspicuous again, expected by every coach to suddenly develop into a white Haarlem Globetrotter reborn just because of his height and navigating a hormonal minefield wracked by inconvenient explosions of testosterone and androgen.

Dean was ramping up the charm to try and distract me while Sam filled in the forms and pulled out a credit card. It all looked fine and the card passed, but it was all a little too good if you follow me – like when I was eight and I'd watched some Disney flick and went skating. The ice looked perfect for me to practice my figure-of-eights for my future career as an ice-queen Olympiad, but turned out to be about two millimetres thick. Gramps hauled me out, thawed me out and fussed until it was obvious I was shocked but unhurt, then I got all four grandparents and both parents queuing up to ground me until, oh, a week past the end of time.

I filed the paperwork without a qualm. You want to report me, fine, but doesn't it bother you how the credit card companies rip you off six ways from Sunday at every opportunity, or how a lot of people in this country become doctors because it's a sure fire way of getting a new Porsche every year rather than because they want to, oh say, make sick people well again?

Besides, they weren't trying to screw the system – if anything, both of them were downplaying like crazy. They sat in the ER chairs waiting their turn – if only they had any idea of how conspicuous that made them, instead of like this drunken jerk who's got a slight graze on his forehead and keeps coming up to scream racist abuse in my face every seven minutes and fourteen seconds because the hospital's top surgeon hasn't dropped everything to come bandage his boo-boo.

But Dean is sitting in that very careful, rigid-but-not manner of someone with an abused ribcage, and though Sam is sat facing forward towards his whole focus is on his brother. The only way I can describe it is that they have their own little bubble – I know they're fully alert to what's going around them, but somehow they project an exclusion zone; they exist in a hermetically sealed universe of two.

That's exactly why I recognised them instantly when they first came in, that total and mutual focus on each other. They don't know me from Adam – or Eve – of course, but then I never got close enough in person to get the full impact of those eyes – I was only caught by a pair sinfully exotic green-gold eyes in that huge mirror behind the bar, and until they came into the ER tonight they were only 'tall' and 'shorter'.

It's only a small bar I often go to if I'm on the night shift; it's been owned by the same family since Columbus hauled up and asked directions to the Indies then decided he liked here better, and the food is both reasonable and great, which works for me. Above all, it's just a bar, not a pick-up joint or full of preening people who each have more "side" to them than a hexagon. I have a fairly comfy table around the bar where the light is good and I can read and have my supper. I time my leaving to coincide with Kerry and Kelly the owner's twin sons who live on my block and who are both built like the Rock of Gibraltar.

That particular night there had been quite a few non-regulars in for a change but I noticed the two young men who came in instantly; both filled out a pair of jeans in a way that can make a woman come over all unnecessary, and the top half was even better in both cases. At first I thought they were a couple because of their lack of immediate resemblance, but they did have the same look around their eyes and their demeanour to each other was intimate but non-sexual, so something in me said "brothers" not "lovers".

The shorter soon swaggered over to the pool table and struck up a game that involved him bending over the table to size up a lot of shots thus giving a very appreciative female crowd a lot of close-up views of his perfect, squeezable buns. The taller brother rolled his eyes and remained propping up the bar, which initially made me believe he was the elder. He also attracted several discerning ladies' attentions too.

But what I noticed and what kept my attention was their constant "contact", even when separated by the width of a room, their preternatural awareness of their surroundings, and constant checking of each other's positions.

Although apparently totally engrossed in the conversation and charms of two female admirers with racks almost as pneumatic as mine, every half-minute or so, the taller man's head – Sam - would raise just a fraction and his eyes would flick for a micro-second towards the pool table before returning to the two women once the position of the shorter man – Dean - had been verified. Once, Dean had moved mostly out of sight behind a pillar to take some fancy shot, and Sam discernibly raised his head slightly higher and scanned until he located Dean, at which point he immediately went back to his pouting new friends. In just the same way, every twenty-thirty seconds Dean would flick a glance towards Sam before returning to what he was doing. Initially I was puzzled as to the frequency of the gestures, but after a few minutes I suddenly realised that each man's actions were unconscious, a habitual reflex that they must have gradually fallen into over who knew how many years.

Nor was there anything slothful or lazy about their attitudes. When a large, obviously "mellow" man walking towards the restrooms suddenly overcompensated for a potted plant and swung within inches of where Dean was standing, Sam didn't even twitch – to the casual observer. Used to reading body language in my job, I saw how in a nanosecond laid-back Sam suddenly exuded the coiled, lethally dangerous aura of a hungry tiger crouched ready to spring before relaxing just as suddenly when the man continued his slightly wavering path to bladder relief. Likewise when a tall woman approached Sam as if she were considering muscling in on the other blonde and brunette and then devouring Sam on the spot, I was impressed that he and his brother both tensed again. That both men obviously had the shrewdness to realise that the female of species could be deadlier than the male surprised and impressed me.

What made me "fall in love", though, was the way Dean treated the waitress, who I think is the owner's niece; a young-Jerry-Hall look-alike blonde with Daisy Duke legs (I mean Catherine Bach, not that ghastly movie a couple of years ago) and a generously filled halter top, plus what I think was a genuine Texan accent. I watched as Dean laid it on with a trowel – but with a smile, she politely but firmly rebuffed him.

And he smiled at her and went back to the game of pool.

People – I nearly choked on my wine. It infuriates me how so many guys have not the slightest qualm about walking up to a total stranger and invading their personal space for no better reason than that stranger belongs to the half of the human race without dangling genitalia; and when that absolute stranger understandably rebuffs this intrusion into their privacy and personal space, how so many men dare to throw a strop as if the stranger should be grateful for being harassed simply because of being female.

That was what made me fall in love with the guy who signed into the ER as Dean Horowitz – I watched the rest of the night and he never treated the waitress with anything less than courtesy and friendly charm, accepting her refusal with equanimity, generously tipping, and not persisting with some "I'm too gorgeous to say no to" egomania.

Over the past decade I've lost count of the number times some bronzed, suited hunk type has swaggered up to me flashing flawless pearly-whites and perfunctorily offered to buy me drink, clearly believing he's on to a sure thing – the short, fat, plain no-hoper that was me would be so shocked and grateful to even be noticed by this "stud" I'd fall backwards off my barstool with my knees apart or adoringly accept his invite to take the party to a quiet little behind-the-bar alley-wall he knew. Once after I'd tied on one too many at some karaoke bar I got up on stage and furiously lambasted the male contingent with the news that I wouldn't touch any of them with a barge pole even if they could all provide a certificate stating they'd been deloused, fumigated and inoculated against the plethora of STIs most of them were carrying.

Needless to say, I wasn't bothered again that night; the next day a guy as tall as Sam Horowitz came into my work and presented me with an obviously hastily made-up Photoshop certificate stating these very things – I had to laugh; me and Ritchie married 3 years later when we were both 27. Ritchie was just like Sam, long, lean and laid-back – the only difference was that I think Sam 'Horowitz' hasn't smiled in a while whereas Ritchie always greeted the world with a grin rather than grimace. He always focussed on the positive and tried to see the best rather than the worst – but he was no push-over; Ritchie was solid gold until his core, which was pure steel.

I can see that gold and steel in Sam Horowitz. The affability and courtesy was genuine, but a few minutes ago tonight's guest-star abusive drunk veered too near where Dean Horowitz is sitting, trying to absorb oxygen via osmosis rather than breathe in and out – oh yeah, definitely bruised ribs for sure, though maybe not broken. I swear, it was like the temperature suddenly dropped 10 degrees; Sam just lounges there next to his brother, but his eyes fixed on that drunk like a tiger on a plump buck and they leached of colour until they were the glacier-grey of a mountain lake, and as cold; somehow I knew that he was very, very dangerous. Something must have penetrated the jackass's sozzled synapses, for he suddenly steered clear of them.

As I watched that moment of Sam protecting his brother it wasn't until my lungs hurt that I realised I was holding my breath; Sam was so much like Ritchie. Ours really was a perfect marriage, if there can be any such thing; like me, Ritchie knew what it was like to live most of your life in It Blows, Hardcore. As well as being eye-level with low-flying aircraft, Ritchie had leprechaun-green eyes, fire-engine-red hair and serious freckle-itis; like every eldest son in his family back nine generations, he had been christened Richard Cunningham.

Since they estimate everyone on the planet has seen at least one episode of Happy Days at some point in their life, you can just imagine the hours of fun some people had with that combo gifted to them. What made it even worse was that Ritchie was happy to go into his family's occupations – he was studying medicine not to become a doctor, but an M.E. – his dad was an undertaker, his uncle a coroner, his aunt was an M.E., and his elder sister was an FBI Forensic Pathologist. Like the movie, Ritchie saw dead people.

Yeah, unfortunately the tense is past. I was married at 27 and widowed at 28. I had 17 months 10 days and 6 hours of being deliriously happy, followed by 22 days of hell on earth. It was a Sunday afternoon when Ritchie was playing ball with his buddies and got the ball bounced off his forehead by his best friend, Charlie, captain of the opposite team. Ritchie laughs, snakes past the lot and scores a touchdown, then clutches his head and keels over. By the time he gets to hospital he's feeling fine, but they scanned just to make sure. The scan showed shadows, in the plural, so more scans.

Cliff Notes – his body was riddled with tumours from scalp to sole; so many that his scans could have been used as a dot-to-dot drawing. The irony was that apart from feeling a bit tired, Ritchie wasn't in any pain at all. Aggressive therapies like chemo would extend his life by maybe two months and make him a violently ill walking skeleton. I wasn't surprised when he said no. He came home, still not in enough pain to need heavy meds even – we packed a lifetime in three weeks; then there came to be an evening, and a morning, and on that 22nd morning, I woke up and Ritchie didn't.

I look at Sam Horowitz's lanky frame and smiling mouth, and Dean Horowitz's green eyes and freckles and the decision is easy. Another thing that infuriates me is how the Hellion Syndrome works - or the Obedient Kid Syndrome as it's also known. You know the routine – the polite, courteous person is ignored while the screaming brat gets served first in order to get rid of him/her.

Not tonight; the good guys – and whatever their story I knew they were good guys -were about to come out on top for a change. I made a few magic finger strokes on the computer, and five minutes later, the clinician came out and called out, "Dean Horowitz! Dean Horowitz?"

I grin as both of them jump a little, having clearly settled in for the long haul with a worrying familiarity as to ER waiting rooms' lack of speed. Dean however is not going to look the gift horse in the mouth; Sam follows him and as he passes the desk his eyes, now a relieved, pale Gentian blue flick towards me. I keep my face impassive, but at the last moment, flick one eyelid down in a wink. His own eyes widen fractionally and his lashes sweep down in a silent thank you as he follows his brother into the examination cubicle.

I turn back to the ER and try to resist the urge to finagle the drunk into drinking water laced with both laxatives and sedatives. But I don't resist very hard.

© 2009 The Cat's Whiskers