“You got a job?”
They’re sitting in the living room again. This time, the TV is going on in the background, playing old reruns of the Andy Griffith Show. Dean is looking at the TV, not at Sam, as he talks. Sam rolls his eyes but Dean isn’t looking so the effect is lost. It’s better than he’d suspected, Sam supposes. He can handle questions. He’s well trained in the fine art of lying through one’s teeth. It’s better than an argument or a fight. He’s tired of butting heads with Dean. Since Flagstaff, it’s all they ever seem to do.
The only time there’s ever any respite from arguments is when Dad’s not around. This is why Sam is really at a loss, here. Dad’s not around. He’s halfway across the country. By any right, he and Dean should be getting along better than ever. They’re not, though. They’re in California with no one but Bobby to keep an eye on them, and they’re further away from each other than they’ve ever been before.
“Yeah,” Sam answers, “at a board shop on the pier, last night. The girl that works there thinks I’m cute so she hired me.”
There are better ways to word that sentence. He could’ve left Kandice out of it altogether but something spiteful and hopeful inside of Sam takes over his mouth. He wants a reaction out of Dean, one he knows he’ll never get.
“Playin’ the field, Sammy?” Dean asks, voice laden with a teasing lilt. “Never thought that was really your style.”
“What can I say?” Sam asks, maybe with a bit more venom and vindictiveness than is strictly necessary. “I guess it runs in the family.”
Sam sees Dean’s jaw clench and is genuinely surprised. He really is working Dean up. Why, though, Sam can’t guess. Is Dean just really fed up with him? Did Sam really do something wrong? Before he can examine it, Dean slaps a fake smile on his face. He finally turns away from the TV and looks at Sam. Those bottle green eyes are cold and hard and kind of terrifying. Sam feels uncomfortable. He’d wanted a reaction from Dean but, somehow, he feels he’s crossed a line. But how? Why does Dean care that Sam has job with some girl?
Like always, Sam wants to run. He wants to get as far away from whatever’s brewing between him and Dean as possible. He stands from the couch but just as he does so, Dean’s eyebrows go up and those green orbs take on an accusatory shade.
Sam forces himself to sit back down on the couch. Whatever this is, he won’t let Dean win. Whatever game they’re playing, he won’t forfeit before he knows what’s at stake, what they’re playing for. No, he’ll toughen up. He’ll sit here and wait for it to blow up or defuse. He’s tired of running.
It defuses, which is irritating. But the only person more stubborn than Sam is Dean and his brother seems to have made up his mind to not talk about it. Whatever “it” is. Sam still isn’t sure. He isn’t sure if this is some residual crap from Flagstaff or if this is some whole new monster. What he does know is that he can’t stay here and try to figure it out. If Dean wants to ignore him, that’s fine, but he can’t expect Sam to sit around and take it.
This time when he stands up from the couch, there is no shame. Dean doesn’t look at him and that’s how Sam knows. He knows that Dean is playing with him, whether intentionally or not, Dean is just as aware of what’s going on between them as Sam is. Even though Sam isn’t 100% clear on what started it, he’s ending it. He checks the time. His first day of work doesn’t start for another two hours.
“Are we okay, Dean?” Sam asks because he’s never been good at letting dead things stay dead (or killing them for that matter. how many more monsters are you gonna let walk free?).
“We’re fine, Sammy,” Dean says but he’s still not looking at Sam, still watching as Andy and Barney exchange words on the screen.
They’re not okay.
(you are not okay.)
Sam walks out the door, not sure if being two hours early for work will look good or sad. He takes a detour, walking along the beach, right up close to the shoreline where the water ebbs and flows. He lets it graze the bottom of his sneakers and watches as the dust and shells swirl in the water. Not for the first time, he wonders what would happen if he let the water carry him away. How far out would he make it before he drowns? Or maybe he’d hit some remote island where all monsters breed and be shredded to bits by his own ineptitude.
Or maybe he’d find peace, somewhere out there, in the rolling water of the ocean. Maybe that’s where the good guys go when there’s nothing left for them here.
The morning sun is still low, still fighting its way to noon; like everyone, it’s just waiting around for lunch break. Sam tries his best not to think about Dean which is, surprisingly, easy since he’s spent the better part of seventeen years fine-tuning his ability to ignore his brother when something is wrong; something that isn’t skin deep; something that no amount of gauze or medical tape can fix. He never talks anyway, so Sam’s learned not to try.
So when the problem is emotional, when it’s this negative energy surrounding them and rotting away at the ties that bind them, Sam ignores it.
Sam closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. Off in the distance, he can hear the day begin on the pier: the chain-clinking sound of board shops opening up, voices starting to lull through the morning air, and the sound of music just under it all. He follows it up to the pier where things are just getting started. It all looks different in the morning. There aren’t people milling around everywhere. A few regulars, and the shop owners all linger, but the day hasn’t really started yet. Sam thinks he likes this time of morning as he makes his way to his new place of employment. It’s pretty much a replica of the other twenty or so shops lining the pier but the ugly yellow t-shirt hanging in the front sets it apart from the others.
“Santa Monica Pier: the sea will bring you home!”
Sam can’t help but roll his eyes at the cheesy, touristy merchandise in the store. But this job is a way to avoid his problems so he doesn’t have much room to complain.
“You’re here, early,” a female voice says from behind him. He whirls around to see Kandice, standing in jeans shorts and a flannel that’s far too big on her. She sizes Sam up briefly, and then grins.
“Tell me, do you like to get high, pretty boy?” She asks, hazel eyes glistening with mischief.
“Uh,” Sam stutters dumbly, “why?”
Sam’s not foreign to getting high. He’s done it a couple times, himself.
The first time he tried it was when he was fourteen and feeling angry and rebellious. He smoked some weed with some kids outside of his “school of the week”. The second time was at a party with Dean where he got to watch his brother suck smoke from the mouth of some girl that’s already been forgotten.
“C’mon,” Kandice says, and she starts walking in the direction of the beach. There’s still an hour before work starts so Sam follows her.
He watches Kandice as she walks. She’s short and her build is average, not thin but not fat either. She holds herself proudly, chin jutted out and head thrown back. She knows who she is and, even though Sam barely knows her, he envies her.
(if she turns around to attack, use your height. she’s smaller but could be stronger. downward blow to the head with your elbow, could crack her skull right in half. she could be a shifter. vampire. siren. succubus. incubus. goddess. werewolf. so many monsters with human faces…).
“You always this deep in your head?” Kandice asks as they come to halt at the edge of the shore, where the water barely brushes the soles of their shoes. He doesn’t answer right away, closes his eyes and tries his best to shut off the part of his brain that’s always thinking like a hunter.
“Sorry,” he apologizes, “just had a long week.”
“Mm,” Kandice hums noncommittally. She reaches up, hand disappearing behind her mass of curls as she pulls something from behind her ear. She comes back with a joint. Sam almost mistakes it for cigarette but the lack of filter and its distinct homemade look gives it away.
“Light up with me?” Kandice asks, holding out the joint to Sam. He looks at it for a long moment and considers himself, this restlessness under his skin that’s been getting worse and worse with each passing day. Since Flagstaff (since you tasted freedom), he’s been feeling suffocated and trapped by his father and his love (obsession. passion. need. ache. lust.) for Dean. These things, that he once was able to ignore (suffer silently through), now threaten to be the end of him. He stares at the joint, probably for too long, before taking it between his thumb and forefinger and holding out his hand for a lighter.
She hands it over, a BIC with the safety removed. He sparks the joint, puffing on it before inhaling, feeling the smoke blaze a trail down his throat, then start a fire in his lungs. To his credit, he doesn’t cough, just exhales roughly and breathes through his nose until the feeling passes. He hands it back to Kandice and turns his eyes toward the horizon.
The sun is higher, causing the water to glitter brilliantly in its light. There’s a faint chill in the air, the gentle coast breeze that makes Sam tuck his hands into his pocket as he stares off into the distance.
They pass the joint back and forth and Sam’s mood lifts as the weed affects his brain. He feels calm, relaxed, like the rolling waves of the ocean before him. And he wonders, not for the first time, what it would be like to fall into the water and let it carry him. Where would he go? Or would he just dissolve into salt at some point, and become a part of the binding waters?
“It sorta makes you feel trapped, doesn’t it?” Kandice asks, causing Sam to snap out of his daze. He turns his glassy eyes to her and cocks an eyebrow
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” she starts, taking a drag off the joint before passing it back to Sam, “it’s the ocean. I mean, yeah people say it symbolizes freedom or whatever but it’s just millions of miles of empty water, you know, save for fish and all. I never really got why people come here to feel more ‘free.’ They put Alcatraz in the middle of an ocean for a reason.”
“Yeah,” Sam agrees mildly, “but it’s also the one thing that connects us all. I don’t think people come here and see freedom, though. I think they see opportunities…places they’ve never been…people they’ve never met, all just an ocean away. It can feel like freedom when you look at it like that.”
“You wanna get away from something?” She throws the dead joint into the sand and crushes it with her foot before the water carries it away. Sam almost laughs at the question.
“Do you?” It’s an obvious deflection but she doesn’t call him out on it.
“Yeah,” she admits, “this place. I’m so tired of living next to a giant expanse of nothing. I want to go live in the city or the country…as far away from the damn ocean as possible.”
“You ever gonna do it? Leave?”
“Yeah, whenever the hell I want. I can leave this place whenever I want.”
“Then why haven’t you?”
Kandice pauses and her face gets contemplative and sad, freckled nose scrunching up. Then she looks at Sam and raises one perfectly plucked eyebrow.
“Why haven’t you left whatever deal you’ve got goin’ on?”
It’s an obvious deflection. Sam doesn’t answer.
When Sam gets back to the beach house, it’s dark and he’s exhausted. The day had picked up quite a bit after his and Kandice’s morning on the beach. Customers had flooded in around 2 and the shop remained busy all the way until closing hours. He’s relieved to be back at the beach house and, simultaneously, he dreads it. He hadn’t left things on good terms with Dean this morning.
He’s lucky, though, because when he enters the house, the lights are off. He peaks into Dean’s room and, sure enough, his older brother is sleeping. He lets out a relieved breath and closes the door before walking to his own room.
(how long do you think you can avoid him before it blows up in your face?)Sam sits on his bed and stares out the window, listening to the ocean for minutes on end before he finally crawls into bed and goes to sleep.