As much as I'd love to, I do not own Supernatural (sadly that includes the Winchester brothers, too.), only the original plot and characters.
"Alright. See you tomorrow. I love you." I smiled and hung up with a fuzzy feeling warming me from the inside.
Jack was my dream come true; up-standing, honest, loyal, sweet and caring. Normal.
I pulled my red curls back into a ponytail, stripped out of my jeans, sweater and top and slipped on a washed out shirt and slightly as the cool air hit my bare skin, I quickly slid underneath the covers of my king-sized bed and turned off the light.
As every other night, I would pass the time until sleep took over by thinking of how perfect my life had become. I said 'had become' because it hadn't always been that way. I used to spend my nights – and days – seeking out the products of other – normal - people's darkest imaginations, their worst nightmares.
Countless vampires slain, bones salted and burned, exorcisms performed, lives saved.
I had turned from that life nine years ago. I had built up a life, a normal, perfect life in that time; I had gone to Stanford, had graduated from there and was now working at a respectable law firm. I was engaged to be married to the man I loved, and I was proud to say that I had made the break; I had escaped the dire hunter's life.
I rolled over in bed as my cell vibrated, signalling me I had received a message. With a content smile on my lips, I opened Jack's SMS.
Good night, Rachel.
I just wanted to tell you again that I love you.
Sleep well and have sweet dreams, my love.
I hugged my pillow and closed my eyes. Jack was so sweet, so charming… so completely unlike the men I had known all my life.
Three minutes past midnight, while I was comfortably dozing off into la-la-land, a sound caught my attention. That in itself was nothing unusual, as I heard all kind of things that set me on edge, but this was different; as it was a perfectly normal, every-day sound. There was simply a car coming to a halt down on the street where my apartment lay. But something about that was off, I knew that the same way I knew that a house was haunted, the same way I knew that a monster was right behind me. I felt it, deep inside me, like a voice telling me how to survive.
Noiselessly, I threw back the covers and tiptoed to the window. Leaning on the sill, I peeked down the three stories and saw nothing but a few cars underneath the yellow street lights, heard the usual background noises of San Francisco, the wind rustling outside. Just when I thought I started imagining things, scratches at my door made me almost jump out of my skin.
Hunter instincts kicked in, and I boldly stepped towards the door, prepared to throw it open and kick whoever it was standing behind it where it hurt.
I was taken off guard, though, as the door was opened before I even got the chance to step within reach of the handle. I let out a shriek and backed away, stumbling as my hip caught the cupboard and made the picture frames tumble and fall. A huge shadow entered my apartment, slammed the door shut behind it and stepped towards me.
I clenched my fist and lifted my arm to lash out when the shadow grabbed my wrist in one swift movement. I was about to resort to my legs to kick myself free when the shadow's voice left me motion- and speechless.
"Rachel, calm down, it's me…"
His voice sounded hoarser, older, destroyed, rougher… but there was no doubt. It had been six years since I had last seen him, but that was undoubtedly him.
"Sam?" I wrenched myself free. "What the hell are you doing here? And why on earth are you breaking into my home? How did you even find me?"
"One question at a time, Rachel."
I snorted. "You're damn lucky I didn't shoot you right away."
"As if you'd touch a weapon."
I laughed dryly. I had been so immersed in my thoughts about my previous life just seconds before that I had forgotten nobody knew about my past. "Right. You got me." I hit the light switch.
"Now, you've got a hell lot of-" I stopped abruptly when I took in Sam's appearance. That was not the man I had had a slight crush on all those years ago.
Sure, it was Sam, but it wasn't the Sam I knew.
"What the hell happened to you?" I couldn't keep those shocked whispered words hushing over my lips.
His usual winning smile was wiped completely from his face, replaced by bitter lines around his mouth, his formerly mesmerizing hazel eyes were bloodshot and dull with dark circles underneath them.
Sam didn't answer, but honestly, looking into his eyes, I didn't even want an explanation anymore. I abhorred the endless despair I saw there, as it was frighteningly familiar to me. I had seen it many times, looking back at me from the mirror.
"You look like you could use something to eat." I decided and flipped on the lights in the kitchen. "Beer?"
Sam followed me, eyeing me almost suspiciously, and nodded. "Yeah, that'd be great."
I handed him the opened bottle, slid a plate of lasagne over the table and sat down across from him, warming my hands on a cup of chai tea.
"You look different." Sam noted.
I did, indeed; after I had put down my exorcism book and hunting rifle, I had grown curvier and softer over the years, I had gotten a glow to my face and a bright shine to my eyes. To be honest, I liked those developments, as they were proof of how I had managed to turn my life around.
"It's been six years, Sam." I replied softly. "Honestly, I hadn't quite pictured our reunion like this. Not that I thought you'd ever show up again."
Sam's face was unmoved. "Rachel… I'm sorry for barging in like that…"
"Barging in is kind of putting it mildly." I interrupted cheerfully. "You were breaking into my apartment."
"Fair enough." Sam took a long gulp of his beer.
"Why did you decide to show up after six years of nothing? I mean, that night you left… no explanation, nothing, no address to find you, no phone number, nada. Do you have any idea how worried we all were?"
"I needed some space. Some time off."
"I get that, believe me, I do, but you weren't the only one who grieved over Jess. She was one of my best friends, Sam, and I could have really needed you back then, you know."
Sam looked at me with those hopeless, bitter eyes, and didn't answer. I could feel my heart ache at how much he had changed – not to the better.
I sighed. "Look, I don't want to bring this all up now. It's obvious you have other concerns right now than how I felt half a decade ago, and I want to be honest: It's good seeing you again. Although you do look like crap."
Sam snorted. "Thanks for the cheering up."
"Nothing personal." I smiled. "I'm just worried about you."
Sam frowned and scrutinized me with that suspicious look again. I gave an inner sigh. He used to be different… What had gone so terribly wrong?
"Look, I have no idea why you showed up at my home, in the middle of the night, after six years of not one word from you. I don't know what happened to you and… I don't know whether you'll talk about it. But I'm telling the truth when I say that I'm glad to see you again, however weird the circumstances may be… and you're welcome to stay until you figure things out." I've never been known to be a perfectly rational person when I was off the battle field that was called court.
Frankly, I was probably nuts.
I mean, Sam didn't exactly look stable right now, I didn't know what he was up to, and the fact he wouldn't talk about it should tell me it was bad mojo… but as I said, I wasn't exactly a rational thinker. Right now, I was just glad that he was alive, and I felt that need to help him. Despite his cute, intriguing and innocent charm obviously gone, he still had the ability to work that lost-puppy-thing that had made girls fall for him all through college – well, for the three years he'd been there, anyways.
"Why would you do that?" Sam raised his eyebrows. "Why would you care?"
"You already said; it's been six years, and I never called you once during that whole time. I don't think I exactly deserve calling onto your help."
"Sweetie, you broke into my house. Now might not be the best time to work the humble 'But I don't deserve it' strategy. Besides… some years ago, at least, you'd have done the same for me."
Sam looked off into the distance, and I was already expecting him not to answer, when he quietly said: "That hasn't changed, Rachel. Truth be told, I came to see you because…"
Finally he looked up to meet my eyes. "Because I didn't know where else to go but here. You were the only one I could think of."
Things had to be worse than I had guessed; Sam had family, that much I knew, and he hadn't needed me the past six years, so why the sudden change? Despite the strangeness of the situation, I felt flattered and honoured by his words, his trust. Sure, I should have been pissed that he thought he could just show up here and expect me to drop everything and invite him back into my life – but I was more forgiving than that. Besides, it was obvious he was up to his neck in trouble and despair.
"Well, I ain't exactly the Ritz, so I hope my couch is good enough for the time being."
Sam attempted a smile and was half-way successful. "I'd even take the floor after the night I've been through."
"Should you ever feel like talking about it… I'll listen. Just so you know," I replied quietly. "Now that we're done with the sentimental exchange of feelings, I'm gonna go get the couch ready. You holler if you need anything." I patted his shoulder as I passed him. Sam had changed, too; he'd gotten even more muscular, broader, more impressive. His face was more edged, ragged almost. Even more handsome.
Whoa, how'd that thought end up in my mind?
I shook my head and pulled out an extra duvet out of the cupboard.
"Rachel, you don't need to put up such an effort-"
"Shush it." I cut him off. "First off, it isn't a bother, and second, you look bummed out enough already, I don't think we need to add another night of bad sleep to the list."
Sam chuckled. "Maybe you haven't changed all too much, Rachel."
I smiled and re-arranged the pillows. Straightening up again, I caught Sam frowning as he looked at my hand. His eyes met mine. "You're engaged?"
"Yes. Have been for almost two years now." I sighed. "After you left, life went on here… after a stupor that felt like eternity." I added quietly. "After months of trying to get over Jess's death and of trying to reach you, I started getting back to my life… Jack helped me get through a hard time. He's a great guy."
Sam frowned ever-so-slightly. Maybe he caught the tone of my speech; that wasn't the way a girl normally talks about a guy she's madly in love with and is going to marry soon.
Well, I wasn't a normal girl.
"It's good to see you again, Sam." I said and hugged him briefly. "Make yourself at home." The excitement of an old friend breaking into my home at midnight was beginning to calm down, and exhaustion made my eyelids feel extremely heavy.
I turned on the threshold to my bedroom.
I nodded. "Sure. Good night."
If only I had known that I hadn't only invited an old friend back into my life, but also my past… I might have acted differently that night.
When my alarm clock ripped me out of a deep sleep, I thought it to be a bad joke. I pended between either smashing that annoying, beeping piece of crap with a sledgehammer or simply throw it out the window with full force. I ended up just turning it off and calling in sick.
Hey, it wasn't everyday you got confronted by a friend you thought forever lost, moreover a friend whose head you nearly blew off when he snuck into your apartment at midnight.
I sunk back into the comfortable, soft covers and closed my eyes again, immediately drifting off to sleep.
Three hours later, at ten in the morning, I was awoken again, though much more subtle and gently this time. A mouth-watering smell of bacon, toast and coffee wavered through the door and filled my nostrils.
'How'd Jack get in here unnoticed…?' I wondered dazedly as I struggled to get up.
Oh, right. Jack probably sat at his desk like every other morning – Sam.
I pulled on a sweater and trotted into the kitchen, just to have my heart nearly jump out my chest upon the sight I got. It wasn't so much the set breakfast table waiting for me as rather a shirtless Sam standing in my kitchen.
God, that man was a sight. Or rather: Sigh, that man was a God.
I forced my breathing to calm down. "Wow, a guy who can cook, I'm impressed. To what do I owe the honour?"
Sam looked at me, and I was relieved to see that he looked a hell lot better than last night. A one-sided smile lighting up his face, he replied: "Good morning to you too." He handed me a cup of coffee. "Thought at least some reciprocation for yesterday night was overdue."
I smiled back at him. "Well, if that's the pay-out… feel free to break in every night."
Alright, Rachel, stay focused on his eyes… don't let your gaze wander to his really, really divine and…perfect chiselled chest… and that six-pack…. Um…. Right, eyes.
I was glad when I could pretend to be extremely caught up with buttering my toast and heaping bacon onto my plate. Though I couldn't completely resist a little peak at his chest again… and the interesting tattoo on it.
"Did you always have that?" I discreetly nudged at his upper chest.
"Hm? Oh, that. No. Got it a few years back." He sipped at his coffee, and I decided to leave it.
"I don't suppose you want to tell me what you've been doing all these years?" I asked casually.
"Rachel… I would, believe me, I would… but it's better if you don't know."
Biting back my curiosity, I nodded. "Sounds ominous. For the time being, I'll let you through with that."
"'For the time being?'" Sam raised his eyebrows, and doing that, he almost reminded me of the Sam I had known.
"You know me, I'm a curious person, and I think I do have a right to know."
"Maybe, but even if, I still won't tell you."
"Oh, yeah, and why's that, Sam Winchester?"
"Because I don't want you to get hurt. I don't want to drag you into this, Rachel."
"Then why did you come here? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad you did, but still… I just want to understand, Sam."
I could see how his (impressive) muscles tensed, and that's when I realized that his issues ran deeper than just a week of bad sleep and financial problems, or whatever it was that I had suspected. I wasn't even sure.
"Maybe some other time, Rachel."
"Okay." We both knew he would never tell me.
The intercom buzzed. Frowning, I got up and answered. "Yeah?"
"Hey, honey, it's me. I heard you called in sick today, and I came to make sure you're okay."
F-U-C-K with a capital F.
"Oh, um, er, hi, Jack." I ran a hand through my messy hair nervously. "Look, sweetheart, I'm fine, just a cold and a headache. No worry."
"Well, I'm sure you could use some cheering up and some company. Let me up, will you?" Jack chuckled. "It's freezing cold out here, and I really want to see you."
I bit my lips. There was nothing I could say to keep him out – well, I could say I had cholera or something equally abhorrent and contagious, but I somehow doubted he'd believe me.
Wordlessly, I pressed the buzzer and broke the connection.
"I. Am. So. Screwed."
I practically ran back into the kitchen.
"Who was it?" Sam asked, rather out of formality than real interest.
"My fiancée." I replied with forced calm. "Sam, sweetie, you don't think you could do me the favour and put on a shirt? I won't even ask you to climb into my closet, as I think that'll make the situation ahead of me even worse, but if Jack sees you, like that, I'm a dead woman. Or, at least, a single one."
Sam cocked an eyebrow and looked at me with something that resembled amusement a little too much for my comfort. "So, what, I'm a threat to Jack?"
"Uh, let's see… you're 6'4 feet tall, amazingly good-looking and extremely well built, and, oh yeah, you're temporarily standing half-naked in my kitchen at 12 in the morning, so yeah, I dare say that might lead Jack to think I am a little less than faithful."
Sam's lips curled into a barely hidden smile.
"Now put on a shirt, will you?" I pushed him into the living room, trying to ignore how firm his body felt under my hands and how smooth his skin was.
Then Jack already knocked at my door. I hurried to answer, throwing a quick glance in the mirror as I passed it. I looked way too healthy, way too normal.
I was so screwed.
"Hello, love." Jack greeted me with a warm smile and a kiss on the cheek. As I said, he was a sweet guy… not the most passionate, but I had had my fill of those, anyways.
"Hey, honey." I tried my best to make my voice sound scratchy without sounding too theatrical. "How nice of you to check up on me."
"Sweetheart, we're getting married in three weeks, I've got to do everything to make sure you're well until then." He winked at me and entered, hung up his coat, placed the box of chocolates on the dresser and made his way to the living room.
"Oh, um Jack, there's something I have to-"
"What the hell?"
"-tell you." I finished with a sigh. And here we go.
"Jack…" I hurried into the living room after him, just in time to jump inbetween the glaring contest those two had put up within three seconds of knowing each other. Well, if that wasn't a perfect base to build up a productive conversation. "This is my old friend Sam, you know, the one who went to Stanford with me?"
"Right… the one who left without a word?"
Sam's eyes twitched dangerously.
"Sam, this is my fiancée Jack." My voice was insistent, maybe even threatening. Last thing I needed was a jealousy scene. Not that I thought Jack was actually capable of that… but you never knew. Some years ago, I would have said Sam wouldn't be the type for it, either…but I wasn't sure about that any longer.
Hell, I didn't know anything anymore.
The two men glared at each other, and the probability that they'd take each other's hand was somewhere in the minus hundreds.
"Well, excuse my fiancée and me for a sec." Jack snapped unusually hostile and pulled me out of the living room and into the kitchen, closing the door behind us.
"So, that's your sickness? I gotta say, it has an impressive appearance."
"Jack, this is not what you think!"
"No? Then what is that guy doing in your apartment?"
"Look, Sam needed a place to stay, I told him he could stay at my house. He's a friend, nothing more."
"I would like to believe you, Rachel, I really would – but I can't."
"What?" I breathed incredulously. "Jack, what the hell? Nothing is going on between Sam and me, alright? How can you not believe me?"
"Well, for one, you look perfectly healthy, so why would you call in sick if not to enjoy your togetherness with him? For another: You told me that you haven't seen that guy in six years-"
"And I haven't!"
"Then why does he get to sleep over without you even questioning his integrity, while you always insist on us living in our own apartments? We're engaged, Rachel, for heaven's sake! Yet a practical stranger receives the privilege of staying at your apartment while I don't, now you tell me what's wrong with that! Maybe Sam isn't such a stranger after all?"
I was speechless by the subliminal aggressiveness of his words. I hadn't taken Jack to be so quick to jump to false conclusions, much less to take his anger out on me. "Jack…"
"Save it, Rachel." He turned from me and would have walked out on me if Sam hadn't blocked the doorway.
"Why don't you trust her, Jack? If she said nothing happened, shouldn't you believe her?"
"Get out of my way."
"You don't know what you're throwing away when you walk out that door, Jack." Sam's words were spoken so low I almost couldn't understand them. I wasn't sure if I had heard him right.
I had to have heard wrong, as Jack walked out on me anyways.
Sam turned to me slowly. I was only woken from my stupor when he addressed me: "Rachel?"
"You don't need to be." I smiled bravely. "It's not your fault my fiancée is a stubborn jerk."
"Still, if it wouldn't be for me being here…"
"Sam, it's okay. Really. Jack will cool off, apologize… this isn't the first fight between us." Sure, none of the previous ones had been about alleged unfaithfulness, and none had ended with one walking out on the other, but who kept score.
"Rachel…not for nothing, but are you sure he's the right one?"
"Huh? What do you mean?"
Sam held up the box of chocolates Jack had brought me. "Well, half of these are marzipan."
"You hate marzipan." Sam said as if it were the most obvious fact of the world.
I felt annoyance twitch at my heart. "Says who?" I snapped, not liking how he was right and that he had a point criticizing my relationship.
"You did, on numerous occasions."
"So? My taste could have changed over the past years." I narrowed my eyes. Who the hell did he think he was, waltzing in here, into my life, and dare make any judgements?
Sam snorted. "I doubt that."
"What makes you such an expert? You haven't seen me in six years, Sam." And still you seem to know me better than the guy I'm going to marry.
"No, indeed I haven't… but as I recall, your favourite is white chocolate. Or, at least, it used to be."
I didn't quite know how to name that feeling spreading inside of me. All I knew was that it felt good. "You remember that?"
Sam smiled at me, and only his so obviously aged face differed from the Stanford Sam now. "Yeah. And I also know you're still using that same vanilla fragrance."
"How come you remember such petty things about me?" I asked with a smile, the hurt over Jack's outburst ceasing and myself reconciling with the fact Sam judged my relationship.
Sam shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe for the same reason why you came to my mind when I thought about where I could go… I don't have a lot of people in my life that I trust, Rachel. You're one of them."
"Then tell me what happened." I whispered.
"I already told you that I can't. I won't see you get hurt because of me."
"Well, what can possibly be so bad that just telling me already gets me into trouble?"
"Trust me, Rachel: You don't want to know." Coldness surfaced in him again, in his voice, his expression, his posture… it felt like I was losing him without ever having won him back.