There are good days, bad days, and then there are the other 300 days of the year which are somewhere in-between.
A good day was when Sam and I got married in the town of Winchester.
A good day was when Dean got back together with Lisa, for good.
A good day was when Sam and I first walked through our future home and I envisioned how the rooms would look once we furnished them and I could finally press my own, personal stamp on our home.
A good day was when Sam, Hazel and I cuddled on our new couch and watched old horror movies (to have a good laugh) or NCIS.
A good day was when Dean, Lisa, Ben, Castiel, Bobby, Sam, Hazel and I celebrated Christmas together.
A good day was when I came home from work and found Sam dozing on the couch, Hazel on his chest.
A day in-between was when Sam assembled the furniture for our home and my pregnancy test turned out negative.
A day in-between was when I failed horribly at cooking and we had take-away in front of the TV instead (and Sam switched to cook shows with the amused remark: 'See, honey, that's how it's supposed be done', to which I replied 'You're welcome to take over in the kitchen, Jamie Oliver'. That was the end of this discussion.).
A day in-between was when Sam left for a hunt and called at night to say everything was fine and that he loved me and Hazel.
A day in-between was when Sam and I had a loud fight, didn't speak for the rest of the day just to have wonderful make-up sex at night.
A bad day was when Sam came back in the middle of the night nearly bleeding to death, with Dean hardly looking any better, and I had to patch them up while trying not to freak out with worry.
A bad day was when Sam didn't call from a hunt and I went crazy from fear.
A bad day was when I woke up and Sam was shaking with the ferocity of his nightmares beside me.
A bad day was when Sam started drinking.
'What a person loves most will end up being the thing that destroys her.'
I couldn't remember where I had read that quote, I just knew it was a Greek saying, and it had crossed my mind a few times in the past months. Never had I been so close to finding out the true core of it than tonight.
It was an early February night, it had snowed heavily all week and the white coat muffled all sound outside, sending this little town into a kind of mystic fairy tale land.
It was a Saturday night and Sam was home for the weekend. Dean had driven to Lisa to spend the days there; each brother was with his respective family. It was almost normal and peaceful.
I watched the snowflakes falling lazily, as if they were in no rush to arrive on earth. Sam's breathing beside me was steady, though he wasn't asleep yet.
"Do you think they look down on us sometimes?"
"Who?" Sam rumbled.
"Jess and Jack."
Sam shrugged. "I personally don't think so. Heaven doesn't provide looking glasses. Though, if it comforts you, I think Jess wouldn't mind us being together."
"Was it that obvious that that was what I needed to hear?"
"It's only natural. She was your best friend."
Yeah, so she might not mind, because she had been sweet, gentle and kind, and we had loved each other. Jack was a whole other business… he had disliked Sam from the get-go. I had a feeling that even if I should meet Jack in heaven, no reconciliation would wait for me there.
"You shouldn't worry too much, Rachel. He'd want you to be happy. If he wouldn't, he never deserved you in the first place." Sam kissed my forehead, "And now let's talk about something else."
I frowned; he almost sounded as if he didn't want to talk about this with me. "Sam, we always talk about everything, since when do you want to change subjects?"
Sam sighed, exasperated. "Rachel, I just thought we were done with it, okay? If there's anything else you'd like to add, please do, if not, let's just move on."
I sat up and looked at him with indignation. "What's gotten into you?"
Sam looked at the ceiling, but not at me. From the way he narrowed his eyes I knew he was currently keeping his temper from getting the better of him. "Nothing. It's just been a long day. Sorry I snapped at you."
I couldn't hear even a hint of sincerity in his words, nor has it been a long day (unless getting up at 12 and having breakfast on the couch, then going for a walk in the snow before heading home for a hot chocolate qualified as a 'long day'), but I knew that arguing further would only make it worse. So I complied and lay back down, pulling the covers up to my neck.
This ended up being one of the few nights I didn't cuddle up to Sam, and one of the even fewer nights when he didn't pull me into his arms when I didn't.
Maybe, if I had leaned against him despite my annoyance, I would have woken sooner and prevented worse; but in the end, it probably didn't matter. I wouldn't have been able to stop it in the long hold.
I woke up in the middle of the night and was just about to fall asleep again when I found the bed empty beside me. Suddenly wide awake, I untangled myself from the sheets, pulled on a sweater and stepped out onto the corridor.
I heard the TV running downstairs. That was odd. Sam had never watched TV when he awoke at night; even if it had taken me a bit to follow him and stay with him until the nightmares' aftermath wore off, he'd never switched it on.
I quickly checked up on Hazel before I descended the stairs. "Sam?"
"Sam, what-" I died a little inside when I found my husband drunk on the couch, staring blankly with unfocused eyes onto the TV screen, a nearly empty whiskey bottle in hand. Helplessness ruled until overthrown by determination and anger. "Sam, what the hell?"
He looked up at me, and his uncaring, hostile and desperate eyes couldn't have hurt me more than had he hit me. "What?" He challenged.
"'What'? You're downing whiskey at three in the morning! You're dead-drunk, Sam, and damn near passing out! And you're asking me what's wrong?"
"So? This is a lot more relaxing than sleep ever was," He shot back bitterly.
"You think alcohol will solve anything? It's just making it worse!" I wrenched the bottle out of his hand, which earned me a blazing glare from him.
"How the hell would you know? You don't have hell haunting your sleep."
"No, but I'm living through it every time you do."
I let out a small cry when Sam suddenly stood up, shockingly steady considering the amount of alcohol in his blood, and burned his angry, wary eyes into me. I took a step backwards. I wasn't scared of him, but damn close to. "How dare you say that? You think anything comes close to what I've seen in the Cage, what I've been going through during the fucking Apocalypse? You don't have a damn clue. So don't talk about hell as if you'd know what it's like."
I had trouble fighting back my tears. This wasn't my Sam talking, I knew, but maybe that was a reason why it hurt even worse. Every time he had nightmares, I lost him for a while. What if one day, he wouldn't come back?
"Oh, I don't?" I asked bitterly. "Just how do you think it feels seeing the man I love destroy himself and not be able to get through to him? You don't think that's a kind of hell, too?"
"I don't see why you should care. You knew this would happen, Rachel. I warned you."
"Yes, and have you ever heard me regretting my decision to marry you? I swore I would stick with you no matter how bad it gets, and I will, but damnit, Sam, take my help and don't push me away every time!"
"How many times do I have to tell you nobody can help me with this?"
The mere smell of liquor that radiated off him made me want to cry; but I couldn't give in, wasn't allowed to show weakness if I was to save us both from the devouring black hole. "You just don't want to believe that you don't have to shoulder this alone, do you? Why won't you realize that the people who love you will help you through this if you'd just let them?"
"Don't bother fighting a lost cause," Sam's voice was hollow, empty, and he lunged for the whiskey bottle I still held in my hand.
"No. Stop, Sam. Enough!" I pushed him away from me, trying not to feel the sting the hostility in his eyes caused me, how it jabbed deep into my heart.
"Why don't you just leave me alone and go sleep, Rachel? Not like you have to be afraid of eternal fires burning your flesh away."
Cold dismiss in his voice, cutting into me like knives. Despite that, I noticed how this was the first time Sam ever revealed anything about what he saw in those nightmares. I would have liked to see this as a first break-through, but it couldn't have been more obvious that Sam wasn't in a heart-to-heart, caring-and-sharing kind of mood. So it just dug deeper into the wounds.
It would have been the easiest to just walk away. But how could I ever look at myself and my daughter again if I did that?
If I didn't take Sam at his worst, I surely didn't deserve him at his best.
So I swallowed the lump in my throat. "I'm not leaving, Sam. Never. No matter how hurtful you get. Now take a cold shower and get back to bed."
Maybe his mind began to clear, or he was just too fed up with me to argue; either way, he huffed acidly and, with a last burning glare at me, thundered up the stairs. I heard the water of the shower running and woke from my stupor; I poured the remaining puddle of whiskey down the drain, threw out the empty liquor bottle, turned off the TV and ascended the stairs. My legs were as heavy as lead, increasing in weight with every step I took, and I hated myself for admitting I dreaded each second until Sam sobered up.
"You're happy?" Sam snapped as he stepped out of our bathroom, his hair still damp from the shower.
"Far from it, but you don't seem to care right now."
I waited by the door until Sam had unwillingly got back to bed. "If you think this is all it takes to make me fall asleep, think again."
"Even so, at least the neighbours won't see you passed out on the couch when they're going for their morning run," I remarked bitterly. I was glad Hazel was still too young to understand any of the shouted words her parents had fired at each other, and that she was too young to walk and therewith might walk in on scenes no child should witness.
I got in on my side of the bed, though it felt nowhere as safe and home as just one night before. I might as well have gotten into a bed in a hostel, next to strangers I didn't know and couldn't trust.
Silently the tears fell, in tune with the snowflakes outside, and drenched my pillow.
The state I fell into could hardly be described as sleep and I was almost glad when it got light out and I could get up. Dread creeping up my spine, I turned around and looked at Sam; dread was immediately replaced with sadness.
Apparently, all the high proof poison in his system had induced a coma-like sleep; on the upside, he didn't seem bothered by nightmares for once. On the downside, he might realize that, too, and make a habit out of it.
In the dawning morning light that fell onto his sleeping form, Sam looked vulnerable and hurt. And I couldn't help him because the second he'd wake up, he'd build up a shield that warded me off and didn't let me through to him.
Deep shadows lay under his eyes, his face looked tired and bitter even in his sleep and he looked aged far beyond his 28 years. I bit my lips to hold back the sobs building up in my throat and reached out a hand to gingerly brush a strand of hair out of his face.
"Why won't you let me help you…?" I whispered.
I quietly stood up, wrapped myself in my silken robe and entered Hazel's room. Oblivious to her parents' problems, my daughter slept peacefully in her crib. "I won't let any of this affect you, Hazel, I promise."
The doorbell ringing downstairs ripped me from my daze. As I quickly descended the stairs, I glanced at my watch. Who'd call on us at eight in the morning on a Sunday?
Obviously, the same people who went running at 6 a.m. every single day.
"Rachel, I'm sorry to bother you so early…"
"No, it's okay. I was awake anyways," I ran a hand over my tired eyes, "Hey, Laura. What's up?"
"Well, nothing, really, Bill and I just came back from our run, and I wanted to make sure everything was okay with you."
The way Laura looked at me told me I should volunteer some information now, but I had no clue what she was referring to. "Yeah, everything's… fine. Why?"
Laura's brown eyes were sympathetic as she looked at me. "Sweetie… Remember our dog Jane has this bladder infection and I have to take her out every two hours… when we went for a walk last night, I heard Sam and you argue. At three in the morning. You sure everything's okay?"
"I…" I swallowed the lump in my throat that had built there unwanted. Last thing I wanted is rumours about a broken marriage circulating. "Everything's fine, we just had a little disagreement about whose turn it was to change Hazel's diapers."
"At that volume?" She arched a disbelieving eyebrow.
"We're very passionate people."
Laura sighed, "Right. Well, anyways, you know I'm always there if you need anything."
"Thanks, Laura," I smiled and hugged her.
"Hey, Sam and you coming to Ed's birthday party next week?" She turned around when she was already half-way down the driveway.
"Yes, I think so, unless my babysitter cancels last minute."
"Great, see you there the latest!"
I waved her off and closed the door behind me. I leaned against it and slid down until I cowered on the ground. The two shores my life had almost tore me apart at times; I would get caught in the torrent in-between when I tried crossing, and sometimes it would take me under.
I used to be able to successfully make casseroles for the neighbours and then patch my torn up husband up at night; I used to be able to work despite my tiredness after having spent the night up with Sam.
I used to be able to do it because I've had the perspective of things getting better one day; after last night, I wasn't so sure about it anymore.
'Stop being a whiner, Rachel, you knew this would happen. You knew it was bound to happen one day. It will get better. You're just not allowed to stand by and watch Sam self-destruct like you did yourself back then. You have to be the one who stops him from jumping off that cliff, you have to be the one nobody was for you then.'
No, that wasn't quite true. Dean had been there, he'd pulled me back.
For the fraction of a second, I considered calling him. Then I remembered he deserved his weekend off with his family and didn't need me dragging him into this. Maybe he already knew, though it seemed unlikely he wouldn't have warned me if he did.
Either way, I would handle this. I was Sam's wife.
I hugged my legs and buried my face on my knees, feeling very cold and alone. I knew why only fairy tales ended with 'happily ever after'; in real life, there might be happy times, but no perfect happy ends. Bittersweet might be the best you got. Heaven always comes with a piece of hell.
At first, I didn't even perceive how he sat down beside me. I only realized it when he brushed my hair and pulled me into his arms. Wordlessly, I wrapped my arms around him and locked him in a tight embrace, my head pressed against his bare torso.
"I'm so sorry, Rachel."
I just buried my face in his chest and clung closer to him, all estrangement of past night forgotten. What should I have replied, anyways?
'I know' or 'Just tell me why?' or perhaps 'Don't you ever do that again'? Where did one of those answers end and the next one begin?
Sam stroked my hair, kissed the top of my head and intertwined our hands. I looked at the rings on our fingers and realized that one awful night, or even a hundred of them, would never be stronger than our love.
"I don't know about you, but I could use a good breakfast now," I smiled bravely and kissed him.
Sam smiled melancholically and brushed my cheek with his fingertips. "You don't need to lock it away, you know."
"Lock what away where?"
"Whatever you feel those nights… Be it anger, disappointment, hurt…" Sam didn't need to say what nights he was referring to. I tensed in his arms as he involuntarily conjured all those suppressed emotions to well up as one big wave.
"I know I've hurt you, and not just last night. I regret every word I threw at you. If I could take it all back, I would, believe me… Rachel, I'm sorry."
"And don't say it's okay, because it's not."
"Just because I went through hell doesn't mean I should put you through the same. It isn't an excuse."
Sam laid an arm around my shoulders and pulled me closer to him, so close I could feel his heart beating against my cheek. It was the first time he talked about the nightmares by daylight; actually, it was the first time he talked about them at all. As much as his words soothed my aching heart, I couldn't deny that hammering voice inside my head that told me this was sober, loving Sam speaking, who might as well turn into drunk, bitter Sam this very night and void all reconciliation.
"You shouldn't have to go through this alone, Sam…"
"Maybe, but I shouldn't drag you into this, either."
"If not me, then who are you going to talk about this? Last time I checked, you weren't all too willing to get professional help."
Sam huffed, "You know as well as I do that all a psychiatrist is going to do is diagnose me with religious psychosis and get me a nice padded room."
"Great, so you see; that leaves me."
Sam kissed my forehead. "I'm not going to drag you down with me, period."
"Oh, so I'm just supposed to stand by and watch you fall, is that it?"
"Hazel needs at least one parent not on the verge of a complete mental breakdown." He had said it humorously, but I could see right through that.
Maybe it would be a good idea setting an ultimatum, since I was going nowhere with gentle pleading: Accept help, or Hazel and I will leave.
Not only would that solution have ripped my heart out, but it would just have kicked Sam right into the abyss he was close to falling into.
The other option? Wasn't so great, either; continue like before.
I felt that current dragging me under again…
"Sam… I'm not going to let you self-destruct. So you want to keep me out of that big black hole, you let me help you out of it."
Sam shook his head. His voice sounded subdued, wondering and almost sad: "Why are you doing this, Rachel? How did I deserve you going through all this crap for me?"
"I thought that was obvious," I smiled faintly and traced his jaw with my fingertips, "Because I love you."
"Yeah, I've been wondering about that, too… Why?"
"Because you caught me, like you promised that night one and a half years ago. You gave me the family I never had and always wanted, you made me finally feel at home. You took your soul back, for me, although you knew it would be damaged and that you'd suffer. Everything you're going through… in the end, that's all because of me. So you want me to just let you suffer alone? Sorry, but no damn way in hell."
"That tells me two things: One, I love you more than anything. Two: You've got no instinct of self-preservation." Sam concluded.
"That's why I need you to stick around." I pressed my lips to his in a loving, passionate kiss.
"Now, you mentioned a breakfast?"
"What do you want?"
"Are you on the menu?"
I laughed and straddled him. "Not this morning, tiger."
Sam sighed dramatically, "Pity. Then I guess I'll have to settle for some coffee and pancakes."
"Sure. You mind getting Hazel while I make breakfast?"
"Will do." Sam kissed me one last time before we got up, I disappeared into the kitchen and Sam went upstairs to fetch our daughter.
As quickly as my world could drown in hurt, confusion and helplessness, as quickly it could come up again. A normal family breakfast followed that night of horror.
Well, almost normal, anyways.
"Looking for your next case?" I asked. Sam had a newspaper spread out in front of him which he studied with that adorable furrow between his brows he always got when he was lost in thought.
I was balancing Hazel on my lap and patiently fed her carrot mash.
Sam looked up. "Oh, well, not quite… We're not taking a case for another week."
I narrowed my eyes and looked intently at him. Dean and Sam were taking one case after the other, sometimes just a few days in-between, and suddenly they're taking a week off, a week in which people could die, and then they expected me to buy that? "So you're just suddenly slowing down, let monsters be monsters and dwell in perfect family bliss?"
"Yeah, why not?" Sam shrugged, "Dean and I thought we'd take a little break."
"Nice try, Sam."
We measured each other, waiting for the other to give in first. I won.
"Alright, fine, maybe that's not the real reason," Sam admitted with a sigh.
"Then what is?" I reached for a napkin and wiped Hazel's mush-covered mouth. Apparently she preferred her food on her face rather than in her stomach.
Sam took a minute to answer, a minute in which his eyes fixed on our baby girl. "Hazel's six months birthday is in five days, Rachel…"
Oh. That's what this was about.
I bit my lips, leaned forward over the table and took Sam's hand. "Sam. I couldn't be happier you're staying for more than just two days, and I love you for being there for us two and protect us. Nonetheless you shouldn't forget Azazel's dead. We're safe. So if there are people out there dying, who need you and Dean, then you-"
"I'm not leaving you alone, Rachel, period."
Discussion pointless. To be honest, I was glad. I could protect myself well enough, but knowing Sam was with me was a whole new level of protection and safety.
More yet, I was granted a whole week with my husband. Sam didn't drink one drop during those days, and I was so relieved about that that I failed to see the reason behind that: He wouldn't risk letting his guard down when he expected an attack; like he was now. When that excitement wore off, it would start again.
At that time, I didn't know that, though, so I was abundantly happy.
On Monday, Sam, Hazel and I went to the mall to go shopping. It was the day I learned just why exactly men and women shouldn't go shopping together.
Everything was still fine in the supermarket, our first stop.
"What do you want for dinner tonight?" I asked as I pushed the cart through the aisles, Hazel grinning up at her parents.
"Um… anything, really, as long as you don't set it on fire again."
I elbowed my beloved husband in the ribs. "Hilarious, now make a productive suggestion."
"Peanut butter toasts."
I elbowed him again, harder. "I hate peanuts! And toast isn't a dinner!"
"Ow, princess, that actually hurt."
"Good, I hope it leaves a bruise!"
"I love it when you go all wildcat," Sam grinned and trailed a hand up my waist as he kissed my neck. "Preferably in bed, but the supermarket's fine, too."
"You shameless, horn-" I complained, but Sam interrupted me with a cheeky grin and a kiss on my lips; "Yes, absolutely."
"Alright, since I'm getting nowhere with you, I'm deciding. Steak and salad tonight."
"And for dessert?" He raised his eyebrows lewdly.
I rolled my eyes. "Haven't decided on that yet. It's either 'Victoria's Secret Special' or 'Dessert Nunnery Style'. Depends on your further demeanour."
Sam chuckled and we finished our groceries in relative peace. We stored away the paper bags in the trunk of our car and then continued our stroll through the mall.
"Oh, wait, special offer," I said curtly, stopped abruptly and had disappeared in 'Topshop' within the fraction of a second. I just heard Sam's groaned 'God no', but I was already digging through the clothes racks.
Both arms full with tops, jeans, jackets and dresses I darted for the changing rooms just when Sam walked in, brooding expression on his face. "Rachel…"
"This'll just take two minutes. Well, maybe five."
Sam sighed and unwillingly followed me. Taking one of the seats in front of the dressing rooms, he looked at Hazel and said: "Promise me something, sweetheart. Don't inherit your mother's binge-shop attacks."
"Shut up, I'm not that bad!" I called through the curtain.
"Yes, she is, she just won't admit it."
"Excuse me; I can still hear you, Sam. FYI: curtains ain't soundproof, and don't you dare turn my own baby against me!" I stuck my head through the curtain, pressing a half-closed dress to my body. "Besides, I'm earning my own money, I can spend it anyway I want."
Sam grinned at me, then at Hazel. "What you are allowed to have inherited is your Mom's temper."
"You mind acknowledging me again? At least so far as that you'll zip up the dress?"
"Why? I like it just how it is now."
I looked down at the lilac silk hugging my body; it was a wonderful cut that accentuated my curves. Only that it revealed most of my bra right now since it was strapless; ergo, when it wasn't zipped up, all that held it in place was my hand that wasn't busy holding it together in the back.
"Sam Winchester, if you don't-"
"Oh, last name calling; that means she's serious." Yet, Sam didn't seem in a hurry to help me.
"The quicker you get your sexy ass over here, the faster we're out of here."
"I'm kind of starting to enjoy this," Sam grinned.
"Alright, then, I'm just going to ask the kind man over there who's been busy staring at my boobs for the past two minutes while you've been busy being witty." I stepped out of the cubicle towards the thirty-something, dark-haired, quite handsome man who was standing a couple of feet away. He was intently inspecting the clothes his girlfriend or sister had handed him to try distract from the fact he'd been staring at me just now.
I never got two steps closer to him, though. Sam practically jumped up and pushed me back in the changing room, zipping up my dress one-handedly as he did so.
"Now, was that so hard?" I grinned victoriously.
"You mind not running around publicly half-naked?" Sam growled.
"You didn't mind just three seconds ago."
"Three seconds ago that son of a bitch wasn't checking out my wife."
I turned around and kissed him. "I love it when you go all jealous and overprotective caveman."
"Could you just finish up here?"
I laughed quietly to myself, enjoying the warm feeling that spread inside of me. Saturday night seemed almost forgotten, like part of another world. So did anything evil and painful right now; today we were just a family like any other.
"Purple or green?" I held up the two tops in question.
"I don't know. Green."
"Alright. Though….I kind of like the purple one, too."
Sam threw up his free arm exasperatedly, "Then take both."
I threw the two silken sleeveless tops a measuring look. "Nah, I'll only take the green one."
"Great. Now, you done?"
"Geez, you're so impatient."
"I…" Sam shook his head, obviously he gave up on arguing.
I smiled secretly to myself. For all differences of our lives and the lives of other couples, some arguments were apparently the same in almost every relationship.
"Awesome, now let's go. And don't look left or right, go straight to the cashier."
"Weren't you the one who gave me that talk about patience is a virtue?"
"Yes, and if I remember correctly, you were the one who said it was all crap."
I ignored all the curios looks Sam and I got as we waited in line. The two teenage girls in front of us turned around more or less discreetly and gave Sam an appreciative once-over. Well, more like five-over.
I would have thought a baby must have been a buzz kill; but no such thing. They kept on staring shamelessly.
"Rachel, you heard anything of what I just said?"
"Yeah," I replied automatically, my eyes narrowing. That's my girl he's carrying on his arm, and my ring on his finger, you two arrogant little-
Now their gazes were fixed on Sam's broad shoulders, dreamy and desiring glowing on their faces.
"You lost something back here?" I snapped.
They jolted and turned back around. Finally.
"Unbelievable," I mumbled.
"You mean to tell me you didn't notice those two bitches checking you out?" I hissed under my breath.
Sam looked at me cluelessly, then at the two girls in front of us. "Um…"
"Never mind then," I beamed and kissed him.
What I had actually predicted to take five minutes had turned into a half-hour stay, and Sam looked accordingly exasperated.
That was, until he discovered the 'home depot'.
"Maybe they have those…" He named some object that I had never heard of and was gone before I could hold him back.
With a sigh, I followed him and spent the next half hour trapped inside rows and rows of wooden panels, nails and all sorts of other stuff that made up a house.
"Sam, what else do you need?"
"Sam, are we done now?"
"Sam, can we go get a coffee?"
I got the same answer every time: "Just one more minute, Ral."
After thirty times of 'one more minute's, we finally left, and now I was the one who looked exasperated.
Until I passed the 'shoe rack'.
"Oh, no, Ral-" Sam tried grabbing my arm and softly hold me back, but I was quicker.
"Rachel, baby, you already have like a hundred pair!"
"Nonsense," I excitedly opened the first of the ten plus boxes I had assembled around me. "I've got 70 pair, tops."
Sam rolled his eyes. "When do you wear all of those, anyways?"
"Well, honey, you see, there are summer shoes, winter shoes, spring shoes, autumn shoes, mid-season shoes…"
"For the love of God, Rachel."
"What? It's one tiny tick of mine, I think you can handle that."
"Except for you have a few other ticks."
"It's what makes me loveable, so shut up." I got up and admired the red heels I'd just slipped on.
"You know, Ral, the point in earning money is not to spend it right away on things you already have in masses."
"You would know about the point of earning money how?" I smiled and lovingly kissed his lips. "Credit card fraud doesn't count as earning."
Most men would have felt hurt in their pride or manhood or whatever when their wife brought home the money; Sam was completely cool with it. Sure, it wasn't like he had any other option, really, but still; it was a trait I highly valued him for.
"Point remains, princess: Hurry up, and if possible, leave this store without pair 71 and 72."
"Doesn't this argument strike you as a little stereotypical?"
"You were the one who turned into an excited little school girl when she walked into a shoe store." Sam raised his eyebrows.
"And you were the one who complained about me having too many shoes."
We looked at each other.
"We're not seriously arguing about arguing, are we?" I asked dryly.
"I think we are."
"Alright, time to go," I said resolutely, jumped up, grabbed my purse and bags and took Sam's hand, pulling him towards the exit.
"Honey, you are away you're about to leave a shoe store without buying anything?"
"Yes, and putting an end to this horribly stereotypical scene. Let's have Starbucks."
Sam followed me laughingly, and as I sat across from him some minutes later, a steaming cup of Vanilla Latte in front of me, I was glad to see the shadows had gone from his face. The lines had stayed, but he didn't look so close to falling off the edge any longer.
"Is this what you imagined yourself to have back then, at Stanford?" I asked and traced little patterns on the back of his hand with my fingertip.
"No, not quite. I wanted out of hunting for good, I wanted to be a lawyer and…"
"You wanted to marry Jessica." No bitterness tainted my voice. Why should it?
"Yes. But things were different then, and now… this is exactly what I want." He took my hand and kissed the palm. "Is this what you wanted for yourself?"
"No," I replied flatly, "It's better than I ever dared to hope."
I would take this challenging life style with my hunter husband's broken soul over a perfect apple pie life with a gentle, perfect banker husband any day. Even when I nearly broke apart over Sam's pain, I would not trade this for anything.
"Hey, Ral…" Sam started when I closed the dishwasher after dinner and switched it on.
"So what is for dessert tonight?"
I grinned lewdly and straddled him, locking my arms behind his neck. "What's on your mind?"
"I've got a few ideas."
"Oh, a few? Well, now I'm curious."
Sam stood up with me on his arms, my legs wrapped around his waist, and sat me down on the dining table while placing hot kisses all over my neck.
It turned out to be a long, pleasure-filled night, and if it weren't for the haunted look in Sam's eyes when I fell asleep in his arms, one could almost have assumed we were just a young couple like any other.
Almost. That little word seemed forever to be the obstacle. Would I ever be able to say 'absolutely'?
Like a cat, I stretched and uncurled when my alarm clock mercilessly ripped me from my sleep. A quick look at Sam's face told me he hadn't slept this night. How he remained upright, I've had no idea, and it worried me.
"Baby… you need sleep," I said gently.
"Not much," He replied in a tone that implied he wouldn't discuss this any further now.
I sighed. How long would this go on? When would Sam finally be granted peace?
"When's the last time you saw a razor?" I ran my hand over Sam's stubble, placing a kiss on his cheek.
"Probably last time you saw a hair dresser," Sam replied lovingly. He was right; I really could use a hair cut. Since my unruly curls disguised the lack of thereof rather well, however, it wasn't that far up my priority list.
"Touché," I chuckled and unwillingly got out of bed to get ready for work.
I hated leaving my husband and daughter alone, hated missing just one minute with them, but I couldn't call in sick every time Sam was home, so I dragged myself into the office and somehow passed the seven hours until I could finally leave and be with them again.
"Welcome home, love," Sam greeted me after the door had fell into its lock behind me.
Home. My sanctuary.
I kissed Sam and then, with a little trouble, found a clean spot on Hazel's mush-covered face and gave her a peck, too. "I'm so glad to be home."
For most women, it was natural to have a family waiting for them at home, or to have a husband who was home every night; for me, every day of Sam, Hazel and me being all together was a treasure. You only ever truly knew what you had when you had to fight to the last breath to get it; when a home and a family wasn't something you took for granted.
Two nights later, Sam took Hazel with him into our bed and placed the Colt on the nightstand.
Upon my inquiringly raised eyebrows, he just said: "It's February 9th."
Hazel's six month's birthday.
"Right," I nodded and refrained from pointing out once again that Azazel was dead. As Sam had snapped one day before when I had dared to inform him of that; that wasn't for certain. If his grandfather could come back from the dead, there was no proof a demon couldn't do the same.
I was glad Sam was here to look out for Hazel and me; I felt safe. Even if an army of demons had been waiting outside of our house; I knew they'd never get us with Sam protecting us.
"Sam… when are you going to get some sleep?" I cuddled closer to him. Sam's one arm was draped around me, his other one held Hazel pressed against his chest.
"Soon," He replied evasively.
I sighed; I knew deep within me that high proof liquor would play its part in that. For tonight, though, I wouldn't think about that. One problem at a time.
"I love you."
"As I love you."
"And… Thank you. For catching me when I fell from the highest cliff. For every single thing you have done and are doing."
"I would do anything for you, Rachel." He kissed me lovingly and whispered so quietly it could already have been part of my dream: "Thank you for being who you are."
Sam and I had our issues, sure. In fact, we probably had worse problems than others. We were each haunted by memories of our past, I by my loveless childhood, the life of deprivations that had broken me; Sam by the apocalypse and, worst of all, hell, that had broken his soul.
As we had sworn each other on our wedding day, though: No matter how bad it gets, we'd stand through it together, and nothing would ever prevail over our love.
Not hell, not demons and their blood, not drinking, not the ever-present fear of what could come and of what the next day could bring, not our differences, not our clashing lifestyles. Not even death.
I could say that my life was almost perfect.
Fact was, though: It was absolutely perfect, with all its problems, painful memories and deprivations.
Because I had Sam, and that's all I ever needed.
I've been wondering whether to make two more chapters or just one; it ended up with this being the last one because I disliked the idea of drawing the story out just for the sake of another chapter.
Thank you all so much for reading, favoriting, reviewing and staying with me until the end! :) I hope you have all enjoyed this story! I was so positively surprised at the feedback I got and would like to thank you for your input! It is always greatly appreciated.
I've got a few ideas for a sequel, but whether it'll come to it depends on you; whether you'd like to read more of Rachel, Sam, Hazel and Dean, Lisa and Ben, and whether you think that the end isn't told yet.
As I always like to say: The last chapter of a story is really just the first of another. ;)