Summer romances all have two things in common - they have a beginning and then they have an end - My mother
It has been a month; thirty days of summer.
Their bodies catch the heat, both embracing it tightly and battling it away. They take off the jackets, sometimes the shirts, discarding the layers of material designed to regain warmth. The only shade is under the hood of a car, hovering under the veranda, or just beyond the line of trees of the surrounding forest.
That's where I first look when trying to find them, expecting them to be chasing the cool, jeans slung low on their hips, sweat glistening over their skin. Truth be told, they could be anywhere - something I eventually realized.
The sunlight pours down the length of their spines, and the younger of the two often takes a break from his tinkering and tips his head back to catch it on his face. He closes his eyes, lips turning up at the corner in a small smile. I watch them as they part with a soft sigh, glittering with moisture, tongue tasting the light as though he was going to try and swallow the sun's rays as they beat down upon him.
Heat throbs on everything around them - the metal of the cars; the dirt on the ground; the glass on the windows. They walk with a slow but strong gait, each stride only shortened by legs parting further than usual, denim sticking to their overheating legs, brushing uncomfortably over sensitive inner thighs. Damp imprints remain on chairs after they've sat and stood again. Layers of twelve-hour deodorant are stripped away in minutes to more natural, earthy scents. Hands shade eyes when I talk with them, ice crunches between teeth like lollies, and water bottles are emptied and refilled every half-hour.
It is the summer, and I can't help but watch them. I can smell them from a distance; sweat, beer, musk and motor oil. I will remember them this way.
They see their reflections in the glass and metal surrounding them, ignoring their own faces staring back as often as possible. They don't like to see themselves in the heat, they don't like to know what they look like, but I do.
I watch them, I see them, I memorize them.
The older one, Dean, rarely sheds his shirt despite the heat, so perhaps that is why he is paler than his brother. The strap of his singlet shirts slip over his shoulder, brushing against the mark of my hand like a gravure on his upper arm. He'd always had freckles, and though they had faded over time they reappear in the summer, dusting over his nose and flushed cheeks. He hates them, thinks they are unsavory on his face, his fingernails scraping against the skin self-consciously as though trying to scratch them away or peel them off.
He doesn't wear underwear in the summer, and sometimes when he's bent over the engine of the Impala I can see the slight dip below his tailbone, flesh never exposed too far before he hikes the waistband of his jeans up again. When he walks it's usually with a slight swagger, a side effect to the Winchester's familial law of remaining partially intoxicated for the whole three months of sweltering heat. He works bare-foot, and gets his brother to wrap bandages around his now calloused feet during the cooler Summer nights, picking bits of jagged rock and glass from the soles.
His usually vibrant green eyes wilt to the colour of dehydrated grass-blades, his lashes tipped golden, bleached from the sun. He brings a grease-covered forearm to his brow, hunching in a lapse of energy as he wipes away the sweat, a smudge of black oil left over afterward. There are dark hairs in the hollow scoop of his armpit, and the downy hairs along the length of his arms are fairer than usual. Circles of moisture mark the underarms of his shirt when he wears the ones with sleeves, and his already coarse skin now feels like damp sandpaper, burnt and pealing over the bridge of his nose and across his cheeks.
Dean's defeated by the heat, he doesn't enjoy it. He hates it because it makes him feel weak.
The younger one, Sam, who usually crowds his shoulders in distaste of his height, covered with jackets and huddled inside motel rooms with his face very-near pressed to the screen of his laptop, or the pages of a book, is the brother I would have thought refused the heat. But he doesn't. Instead, he lets the sun in, thrives in it even.
He sheds out of his shirts, barely wearing one for the whole three months. His jeans ride lower than Dean's, barely held up with a brown leather belt. Sometimes he'll wear track-pants, though they catch stickily in the crease of his buttocks when he walks. Despite the fact they're at Bobby's, he always has a gun tucked into the back waistband, the cool metal doesn't stay cool for long when it's pressed to his skin.
His face is more open, eyes more clear. The hazel is more green and yellow than usual, dark lashes blinking slowly under the bright light radiating from the sky. He spends more time outside than indoors, long fingers carding through lengthy overgrown locks of chocolate hair, untangling the sweaty matted knots. His lips are dark, full and burnt, the only thing stopping them from peeling and blistering being the tongue that constantly swipes over them, keeping them wet and moist. His skin darkens from golden to copper over the weeks, some of the smaller scars on his flesh begin to disappear as though being melted away.
I can hear him walking, sandals clacking noisily whenever he approaches. His right big toe is injured, half of the nail missing from a mishap while helping his brother, the two of them attempting to fix up one of the old shells of a truck Bobby had wanted back in working order. His tread is light and his back is straighter than usual, like a plant that has stretched it's full height to reach hungrily for the sun.
He grows tired after a few hours outside and wanders around aimlessly inside till he's cooled down again. He hasn't touched his laptop in weeks, though occasionally he'd absorb himself inside a new leather-bound book from Bobby's collection, written in calligraphy and scented of old dusty parchment. I sit with him, reading over his shoulder or watching his brother from a distance, comfortable with the younger's company instead.
The summer heat can make humans disgusting.
Dean dries up, inside and out. Salt gathers on his brow when the sweat evaporates, the line above his upper lip scratchy with damp days-old stubble he can't find the energy to shave. The sun sucks away all the usual life from Dean's body, and he clings to the shade as much as possible, downing several liters of water every few hours. His skin blemishes, blotchy from heat-flush and sun-burn. He eats burgers once they've gone cold, wrapped in oily paper, white teeth sinking into the bun - he doesn't wipe away the grease rolling over his chin until he's finished. There's a constant weary crease to his brow, and below his eyes are dark and swollen from restless sleeping.
I can smell the slow and steady descent to despair on him; he can hardly wait for the cold again.
Sam, however, ripens like a fruit - opens like a day-flower under the treatment of the fiery circle above him. Its cruel heat brings out the best in Sam. He almost always smells clean, despite the sweat, dirt, and whatever else he'd managed to spill on himself or get on his hands. His skin is clear, healthy and smooth.
His hair is long enough to be tied at the back, which he occasionally does with pinching rubber bands if it gets in his way, bangs hanging limply around his face. Or sometimes he holds it back with a bandanna tied messily at the base of his neck when the length is irritating him, random cowlicks he's missed sticking out at the sides. He absolutely refuses to get it cut. It shines in the light, darker underneath than on top, and hangs around his face most days, ruffled from the touchy fingers combing through it.
I watch whenever he walks past, never mind the reason - his feet acting like prickle-sensors on the hot crumbly grass near the edge of the forest; pacing circles around his flustered brother or an irritated Bobby; running errands or messages between the other occupants of the house.
I watch from the veranda as he passes, arm bumping into Dean's as he laughs, a rich sound that comes from deep inside his chest. I notice the things he probably doesn't know he does - how the twitch in his bare arm and chest muscles when he talks manages to distract everyone's gaze from his face; how the way he bounces on the balls of his feet when he finds something new to do makes him seem like an overzealous, overgrown child; how both the sound of his voice and the colour of his eyes changes depending with his mood, varying from gravely and grey to loud and bottle-green. The things he doesn't know exist, and the things he thinks he's hidden.
Sometimes I see him through the window or the open doorway to a room, when he thinks he's alone. When he sleeps in the afternoon, sprawled over the length of Bobby's couch; hunched over the kitchen table; folded neatly on his bed. His head is usually tipped to the side, mouth open only slightly, breathing slow and deep. Occasionally, if he falls asleep on the couch, his head partially hangs off the arm-rest, a book more often than not covering his face to block out the light and the sounds. If it slips to the floor he startles awake at the sound, covers and pages rattling against the floorboards, and you can always tell he didn't realize he'd fallen asleep because his eyes glance around wildly when he does wake, wondering where he is for a moment. He always falls back into a light doze for a few more minutes before finally getting up and seeking company - sometimes it is mine.
I notice these things, even when others think I'm not paying attention.
Climbing into the Impala to get supplies, his jeans falling too low and exposing skin that is yet to tan, more golden like his skin used to be. He shifts awkwardly in the seat, mindful of his head as his hands try and pull them back up again.
The mosquito bite he scratches at absently on his wrist from staying outside in the dark, or not making sure the hole in the screen on the bedroom window was patched tightly enough. It's red, inflamed and irritating even to me, and he dabs icy water on it when it itches.
Colliding accidentally when he is crossing the hall after a shower in the evening, he apologizes and excuses himself quickly. As he passes, I see a bead of water still lingering in his navel, and just below it the trail of thin dark hair that disappears down the front of his towel.
Tinkering with old furniture behind the house where the shade is constant, a fine dust settled in his hair and stuck like powder on his cheeks from sanding old paint back. There are dark patches on and around his fingernails from staining and lacquering the wood.
Hunched over the trunk of one of Bobby's cars, rummaging through the arsenal, his bangs fall above his eyes and he brushes them back in vain, because they just fall back where they want to moments later. His brow disappears under them for a mere moment when I come to stand beside him.
He's grown used to my eyes following him, and gives me an easy smile when he catches sight of me. There's a battle-chip in one of his canines, it's clearly visible when his lips pull tight in that broad grin I've become so used to, though his pleasantly deep dimples distract from that small imperfection.
Thick skin and layers of muscle move under the light in a perfected simultaneous art. The hollows around his sharp-angled collarbone when he brings his shoulder's foreword, the butterfly-effect crease and flex along the blades of his shoulders when he pulls them back instead.
Sam lays on his stomach across the roof of the impala while Dean sits inside it under its generous shade, reaching up and handing him a beer blindly. Sam accepts it, cracking it open and reaching a hand down to brush over Dean's shoulder in his own way of saying thanks, ankles crossing and absorbing the heat while his brother absorbs the cool.
On our occasional trips to the closest town to the west we spend the evening in the bar, Sam leaning against the wall and watching Dean hustling pool, occasionally egging his brother's opponent to up the money. He has a white button up shirt made of thin cotton hanging loosely over his shoulders, completely undone and showing off his scars proudly. It seems he wants the attention he keeps receiving, but he curtly turns everyone away.
Sometimes I stand beside him in the evening when he wanders outside to stare up at the stars, the air suddenly cool and nipping at his skin enough for him to throw a tee over his head before venturing out the door. Sometimes I sit beside him at the dining table or on the couch, my leg pressed to his from knees to thighs. Sometimes I follow him around the house when I have nothing better to do, until he finally grows annoyed with my state of dress and unbuttons my borrowed flannel shirt for me.
I watch the way he pushes his hair behind his ears when it gets in his eyes. I watch the way he turns his head to glance over his shoulder without turning the rest of his body, long neck craned and exposed. I watch the way he smiles at the smallest things, and the way he catches my eye and looks away. Sometimes he doesn't look away.
At night, Dean sleeps on the couch, the make-shift air-con whirring full blast and filling the room with white noise. Sam gets the bedroom to himself, but he invites me to stay with him seeing as Dean had stolen my place downstairs. The window is open, masking tape holding the tear in the flyscreen together in hopes there would be no more mosquito bites to cover.
Finally my body starts feeling the effects of the heat as well, and it was during the nights that I realized just how deeply under my skin Sam resided. The Summer sun was still burning my skin hours after it had set, and I could feel each tender tingle as Sam's fingertips moved over my body slowly, savoring each moment and taking his time in the explorations of each of my sensations and reactions.
For days Sam does his best to hide the reddened bite on the junction between his shoulder and neck, covering it with his hand or slinging a rag over his shoulder whenever Dean or Bobby were close. What Dean doesn't know wont hurt him.
I will always remember the Winchesters this way. I will always remember the way Sam's soul seems to explode like fireworks during the Summer, the way he writhes under his own skin, how everything about him is suddenly like a live wire I'm almost too afraid to touch. I will remember Sam as best as I can, memorize everything about him and keep the knowledge close.
This new Sam is a bright flash of light, brilliant and strong, overwhelming in it's beauty, infatuating and intriguing. It will last for a gorgeous moment and then it will disappear completely, and I will mourn the loss for a long time. But for now, the light that is Sam is still glowing strong, sparking and re-igniting whenever I'm near.
For two more lingering months, it is Summer.