It was dusk and the cloud-flecked sky was transmuting from day to the bruised shades of evening, Prussian blue and magenta and dirty orange. The beach sat empty for miles except for the pair of them, as it was just a touch too chilly to be pleasant, the water too cold. Technically the beach closed at night but no one had asked them to move along so they didn’t. She and Dean, they just sat there niched into each other, pressed against the sand as the last warmth of the day soaked into their backsides.
The wind picked up and Sylvie opportunistically wedged under Dean’s arm, a cozy fit. His soft belly snugged to the small of her back and oh how she loved that belly, a side-effect of his somewhat indiscriminate eating and drinking habits, a perfect bit of imperfection, defense against the hard muscle beneath. That was Dean, in a nutshell. A whole lotta hard, a disarming smidgeon of soft. Sylvie’s fine, short wispy hair caught in the stubble on his chin and she felt his breath puff out, probably because it tickled.
They’d already done enough talking that day, so sitting there in the quiet, just listening to the waves pound the sand and watching as the moon replaced the sun was entirely fine. Preferable, in fact, because frankly, Sylvie wanted to keep her thoughts to herself in this moment.
A lot had happened. Too much. She was already filling the hole in her heart left by Julian with preoccupying thoughts: the next possible hunt, cuddling with Dean. There were mumblings of strange animal attacks here in the city but Sylvie wasn’t altogether certain she could take any more of San Francisco. Maybe she’d just head north to Washington and hang out for a while. Do some hiking. Unhook. Get a proper haircut.
She understood why Julian left, why all the magi had to leave. Too much attention, too many blips on other hunters’ radars. And too many questions asked by the authorities that no one could begin to answer in a believable fashion. So now the strange blue house with the peeling paint and verdant yard sat lonely and empty almost overnight. As though a great flood had swept through and shoved everything to the racing current of a river and carried it away with hardly a pause. Like a natural disaster, an act of God. There one minute, the next, gone.
Now, the fire in Chinatown, at Hang Ah Alley? That had been an act of God. No ands, ifs or buts about it. A holy explosion that left Sylvie nearly blind and deaf for three days and The Black Lotus a burnt-out shell. It confused the daylights out of the fire department when they showed up but, after a fashion, they just stopped looking for answers. Because there weren’t any. Hell, no one knew the place even existed until it didn’t anymore.
Sylvie did keep a memento, though. She touched her upper left collarbone where plastic and tape itched over a healing tattoo. They’d all gotten them from a parlor in North Beach that knew how to cook up magickal ink, golf-ball sized sigils that thwarted possession by demons. But only after confirming with Bobby the symbol was legit; he snarked about them doubting his research until they told him the tale of the anti-scrying debacle, after which he softened considerably. Might even have thought it was a good idea, given Sam’s propensity to be a demon magnet.
Sam. Sylvie had very mixed emotions about that one. Sure, she loved him like a brother, probably always would. But he was changing in ways Sylvie couldn’t quite put her finger on. The last time they’d been together was just before he’d left for Stanford, all rangy and coltish and hopeful and willful. He was still willful, but the rest was gone. Stripped away or rather calloused over, the underlying bits hiding raw and wounded. Dean tried to explain about Jessica but Sylvie could tell he was greatly abridging the story. She didn’t push, though. She had her own secrets and sometimes, secrets needed to be kept.
“Took you long enough, cabana boy.” Dean looked up and over as Sam returned from a beer run, his backpack fat and rattling with cold cans. They were pretty damned sure alcohol wasn’t allowed on the beach. Then again, neither were they. In for a penny, in for a pound. Sam passed around the PBR and stretched out beside Dean and Sylvie, pressed against them both. Sylvie reached over and ruffled his hair, longer than hers, dammit all. Sam always had the prettiest hair for a nerd, effortlessly cute with his dimples and heathery eyes and way too much leg. Would it break his face to smile more often? Ah well, a leopard couldn’t be expected to change its spots.
So they lay there, drinking cheap beer, and watching as day vanished and the stars came out. Still not talking, but that was okay. Nearly an hour and a twelve-pack spun out. Sylvie got up for a good stretch, her side still twinging where she had been stabbed but there again, that was okay too. Better than the alternative. They were alive and breathing and young enough to foolishly believe in endless possibilities. She walked by herself to the water’s edge and let the surf touch her shoes. Now that the sun had set, the wind was dying. Clouds began to collect more densely, darker shapes in a dark sky, obscuring portions of the starry universe.
Sylvie looked back at the boys. They hadn’t moved an inch. So like them. Salt and pepper, completely different but one never mentioned without the other. And despite the fact nothing was certain but change, Sylvie was certain Dean would always be there to break Sam’s fall, and Sam would always be Dean’s light when he lost his way. It took an outsider to make that realization. And someone as smart as Sylvie.