Sam and Dean pull up the laneway to Bobby’s house, plumes of summer dust billowing out from under the wheels of the gleaming Impala. The loud, deep barks of Bobby’s rottweiler greets them first, the beast lunging with the chain holding it back, standing the bow-legged stance of an old dog.
A girl steps out the front door and onto the sagging porch, holding her hand up to shield her eyes from the sun. Sam can already see her smile, even before Dean parks the car. They get out, the doors creaking a hello that Sage never gets tired of hearing.
“Bobby didn’t say we were having visitors,” Sage says, stepping down the crumbling steps. She hooks her arm around Dean’s neck and laughs, reeling him in for a hug. Sam stands idly by, watching the girl and his brother embrace as friends who’ve been apart for a while.
“Kind of a spur of the moment thing,” Dean replies, turning to face the rottweiler. Rumsfeld has his belly to the dirt, huge head nestled between his paws, complacent now that he knows who the car with the rumbling engine belongs to. Dean would be surprised if the dog didn’t recognise them. The mutt was Sam’s best friend when they were kids, when John would drop them off for days or weeks on end. But that was before Sage joined their motley crew, falling easily into place with the routine.
“Well, it’s good to see you anyway,” Sage says, her eyes going to Sam. She smiles tentatively, appealing to him to step towards her and wrap his arms around her slim shoulders. He chuckles and folds her in with a long arm across her back, holding her close for a few moments, her soft chestnut hair pressed to Sam’s cheek, filling his senses with her.
It’s been too long, and they both know it. Sam will watch her quietly from the corner of his eye for the rest of their stay, and Sage will try not to blush when she catches Sam’s gaze. They tip-toe around each other, shy away, and often wonder why they do; they grew up together, they lived together, and they’ve hunted together. They know each other better than anyone can know another person, and yet they still behave like children with a crush.
Someone clears their throat, and Sage pulls away from Sam, her cheeks pinking slightly. She and the Winchesters both face Bobby, who’s been standing in the front door for a while, watching the welcome.
“You lot comin’ inside, or what?” he asks, disappearing back into the house in a vague but not unfamiliar gesture for them to follow.
Sage laughs and shakes her head, falling into step with Sam’s strides as they start towards the house.
“How long you been here?” Dean questions Sage, curious. “Last we heard from you, you were down in New Mexico.”
“Yeah, I’m just taking a much needed break,” Sage answers. “I’ve been here about a week, just helping Bobby around the house and in the garage. And speaking of, we could use your expertise on a Ford pick-up we towed here the other day.”
“No problem,” Dean says, looking up at Sam and trying his hardest not to smirk at the look on his brother’s face. The kid’s always been a bit of an attention seeker, and he’s always looking for Sage’s attention especially so with her green eyes not on him, his lips have a sour downturn. Dean can’t bring himself to make fun of Sam about it, since Sage tries and fails to hide her feelings just as much as the youngest Winchester.
“And there’s a hunt a few miles from town,” Sage continues. “Your typical haunted house complete with friendly neighbourhood ghost.”
Sam smiles when Sage grins up at him, her eyes bright. She wants nothing more than to hug him again and feel those brief moments of peace he brings. It’s been close to half a year since they saw each other; those same feelings are coming back loud and clear.
“We’ll get on it,” Dean says, bounding up the steps and through the front door. “First, there’s a beer calling my name.”
Dean clomps off down the gloomy hallway to Bobby’s kitchen. Sage looks at Sam for a moment, and they stand out on the porch in silence, Sam squinting out at the salvage yard. The hulking innards of junk cars are winking in the noon sun, torn open and rusting. The house feels as inviting as it always has.
“I kinda missed the place,” Sam says, and Sage laughs.
“Easy to get homesick,” she replies. “That’s why I came back. Besides, Bobby won’t admit it, but I think he likes the company.”
“Probably,” Sam says in a faraway tone. “It’d be nice to stay a while.”
“I’d like that,” Sage tells him with a sincere smile.
The first night at Bobby’s, Dean falls asleep on the couch. His mouth is open slightly, and one arm has slipped off his stomach, his knuckles on the floor. Sage laughs softly and takes a thin, woollen blanket from the sparse linen cupboard down the hall, coming back to lie it over Dean.
“Lemme guess,” she says to Sam when she walks into the kitchen, finding him still flipping through the demonology book Bobby gave him. “You guys haven’t slept more than five hours in days.”
Sam gives a small smile. “That obvious?” he asks, and Sage shrugs.
“Just a little,” she replies, taking her seat again, drawing one foot up onto the edge of the chair. She rests her chin on her knee and surreptitiously watches Sam read. She’s been missing the easy, comfortable silences that often stretch between them, but now that she has them back she wants to fill them with the words sitting on her tongue.
She rubs absently at her tattooed arm, and Sam looks up at her. With her eyes turned momentarily to the tabletop, Sam has the opportunity to drink her in. He glances away again when she brings her attention back to the fore; Sam stands and goes to the fridge, taking out two bottles of beer. Sage nods when he offers one to her, and Sam takes the caps of both of them before setting one down in front of Sage.
“I’ve missed this,” Sam says, lowering himself back into his chair with a heavy exhalation. Sage isn’t wrong about the lack of sleep he’s been getting; he and Dean have been up to their eyeballs in demonic omens. It’s been weighing heavily on their shoulders, and any chance to unwind is welcome.
“Drinking beer in Bobby’s crappy kitchen?” Sage questions with a laugh. She sips at her beer anyway and doesn’t really mean anything by the comment. Bobby’s place might have dust bunnies the size of hell hounds, but it’s stable and it feels permanent to them.
“Yeah,” Sam replies. He shrugs his shoulders. “Well, really I’ve missed drinking beer with you.” He tries out a smile, finds that it fits, and Sage returns it.
“I want you to stay,” she says after a moment. “But I know you’re probably not going to, and you and Dean will be out of here in a day or two, but I don’t care. I want you to stay.” She sculls back a mouthful of beer, putting the bottle down on the table. “It’s not the same without you around.”
Sam sits quietly, digesting Sage’s words. Finally, he reaches over and lays his hand over hers, threading their fingers together. “You know I love you right?” Sam says, and in his head he’d hoped it would sound innocent or platonic, but it doesn’t come out that way. Instead it’s imbued with years of silent observations and shy smiles, forcing the truth to come pouring out.
He expects his words to drop onto the table like an ugly lump of awkwardness, and he tries not to grimace as he thinks about how much of an idiot he must seem. But Sage laughs and shakes her head, squeezing his hand tighter until he looks her in the eye again.
“I love you, too.”
Sage stands in the hallway with her back against the wall, one hand on her forehead as she wishes the creaky floorboards will open up like a crumbling mouth and swallow her whole. Bobby’s asleep in the master bedroom, and Dean’s still out on the couch with no sign of life – though he’ll occasionally start to snore in short, random bursts.
In the kitchen, Sam wants to bash his brains in with the thick demonology book. He’s never been like his older brother, never been able to twist situations with a smirk, and he’s never been particularly good with girls. Jess was a fluke; she was too sweet to laugh at his lame attempts at being suave, and while Sage wouldn’t do that to him either, he still manages to feel like he’s fifteen again and asking Mona Catherine out on a date, his first date.
“Damnit,” he mumbles, standing up and scraping the chair legs across the kitchen tile. He heads into the living room, looking for Sage to try and explain how crap he is at everything.
She bumps into him in the doorway, and Sam puts his hands on her arms to steady her.
“Sorry,” Sage says, a little startled.
“No, I’m sorry,” Sam replies. “Really. I suck.”
“You don’t.” Sage smiles, unable to help herself. “I think our wires just got crossed or something. I’m pretty awesome at making a fool of myself. I mean, you know. That’s why I never talk to civilians on a hunt. I just blurt out any old thing and make things worse.”
“Sage,” Sam says to stop her rambling before she swings into the flow of it. She blinks up at him. Sam looks down at her for a few long seconds, taking in the face that belongs to the person he’s known since he was a kid, and even back then he probably knew. Even when he thought he wanted out of his family, and probably long before he decided that Stanford was where he belonged, Sage has been his. He opens his mouth with this understanding and says it again, “I love you.”
This time he intends every ounce of adoration and sincerity, stockpiled from what feels like a lifetime of knowing and loving the girl. He brushes the line of her jaw with his calloused thumb and tucks a finger under her chin to tilt her face up, bringing his lips down to meet hers because he’s been wanting to do just that for so long.
Sage kisses back after a moment of still surprise, and they gently move their lips together, unassuming and uncomplicated. The kiss is perfect in every way, but they don’t have the chance to continue when a voice cuts through the silence.
“It’s about damn time,” Dean growls, one eye cracked open to blearily take in the sight of his brother and Sage standing like they’re the only two people in the world. “Now get a freakin’ room. Some of us are tryin’ to sleep.”