It was the crunch of snow under tires and sound of the doors of Jody’s truck slamming shut that made Claire groan in annoyance. She sat up from where she was sat on her bed, bent over a pile of research and monster lore. She twisted from side to side, groaning again as her back popped, disturbingly loud in the otherwise silent house.
She half-heartedly shuffled papers and books around, ostensibly getting them organized so that she could put them away. Mostly, she was just trying to find something to do to give her an excuse to not have to go downstairs just yet.
“I got a call from another hunter,” Jody had said just a few days before. “They’re a bit roughed up, and they need a place to stay for a couple of days; just long enough to stock up on supplies and let the bruises fade, they said. You good with that?”
“Are you actually asking me,” Claire had grumbled in response, admittedly not as mature as she could have been, “or are you just telling me that’s what’s happening?”
Jody had levelled her with her best mom-look. “Listen, kiddo –” Claire had fought the urge to roll her eyes – “I know you don’t like sharing space with new people. And that’s totally fair! They just need a couple of days, that’s all. You can hide out in your room the whole time if you want, or they can hide out in the guest room the whole time, whatever works.”
Of course, Jody hadn’t been acknowledging the other issue with some random hunter hanging around their place for the weekend. Claire had been about to bring it up, but she caught the look on Jody’s face as she turned around to snark. It was equal parts sympathy and guilt, and it made something curdle in Claire’s stomach.
“I know it’s not the best timing,” Jody had said, so gently and softly that Claire almost – almost – stopped being annoyed, “but nobody should be alone for Christmas.”
And, well, there hadn’t really been anything that Claire could say against that without being a complete asshole, so she had muttered some sort of agreement to Jody and scuttled away to her room as quickly as she could. So now she was stuck sharing the house with some stranger who likely had a predilection for violence and a borderline dependence on alcohol, if the other hunters that she’d met were any indication. It wasn’t exactly what she was looking forward to for the holidays.
The front door opened and shut from downstairs, and the muffled sound of voices drifted up the stairs to Claire’s open bedroom door. She heaved the third of what would no doubt be innumerable groans over the next several days; the sound morphed into a grunt as she hauled herself off of the bed and onto her feet.
If only Alex was there to be the miserable welcome committee with her; but no, she was spending the afternoon “hanging out with friends”, as she told Jody. As if – she was just as much of a social outcast as Claire was, and if Jody wasn’t so excited at the idea of her coming out of her shell, she would’ve realized how flimsy of a fib it was.
Claire would bet anything Alex was actually getting stoned behind the mall with a couple of other kids from her class at school. Lucky bitch.
She shoved the bitter thoughts to the back of her mind for the moment as she reached the bottom of the stairs. She wasn’t great with first impressions, but at least she could make whoever this hunter was think she wasn’t completely awful. She rounded the corner into the kitchen and started to say hi.
She made the mistake of looking up at the hunter that had joined them in the middle of the sentence, which promptly died in her throat as she recognized the person on the other side of the kitchen island.
Jody had said that another hunter would be joining them. Claire hadn’t caught if she had mentioned a name, or even a gender – she had just assumed it would be somebody like the Winchesters, some man or woman who looked a good couple of decades older than they actually were and who were terrible at fitting in with society. Or somebody like Jody, an older individual who had lost just a little too much to pretend like they were alright, but who was still fairly warm and welcoming regardless.
She wasn’t prepared to see a girl about her own age, with long brown hair and eyes of the same dark chocolate shade, dressed in denim and flannel and wearing a smirk. She wasn’t prepared for the cute little beauty mark underneath her eye – the same beauty mark that had caught her attention three months ago.
She wasn’t prepared for Krissy fucking Chambers to be standing in her kitchen.
Claire didn’t hear another word, not from Krissy or Jody or even her own mouth. Her hearing went fuzzy as she turned tail and fled back up to her room. She didn’t spare a thought for how rude it was, or how confusing for Jody.
She also definitely didn’t spare a thought for the way the smirk dropped from Krissy’s face.
Claire carefully nudged her bedroom door open, taking every precaution to make sure that the hinges didn’t squeak and the knob didn’t click too loudly. Every sound seemed deafening at one in the morning, and while it was Christmas holidays and nobody needed to get up in the morning, she was still pretty sure that they’d be pissed at her for waking them up.
She was also desperately trying to be alone, which was very hard to do, considering the configuration of people in the house with her.
Claire crept down the stairs as quietly as she could. She very carefully stepped over the third from the bottom, which always squeaked horrifically, and slunk around the corner into the kitchen once she reached the bottom. She flicked the light on, hoping that it would be far enough away from the stairs that it wouldn’t wake anybody up.
Jody and Alex and… Krissy… had made gingerbread cookies that evening. Now, there were several dozen cookies spread out along the wire racks on the counters, all iced with adorable little faces and buttons and mittens and the like.
Those probably shouldn’t have been left out on the counter overnight. Claire put off her late-night snacking for a moment to dig out a Tupperware container and start piling gingerbread men inside.
Two Tupperwares full of baked goods stacked on top of each other later, she finally got to what she was actually slinking around the kitchen in the middle of the night for. Claire hadn’t eaten a whole lot the last two days, what with being immensely fucking preoccupied and too nervous to want to eat much. Instead, she ended up pushing her food around her plate and avoiding everybody’s eyes and ducked away from the dinner table as quickly as possible.
It wasn’t anybody’s fault, not really. It’s not like Jody had any idea that the hunter that had asked her for a place to stay for the holidays was the same teenage girl that Claire had bumped into on a hunt three months previous. It’s not like she knew that Claire and Krissy had actually hit it off pretty damn quickly, once they stopped being defensive about somebody else encroaching on “their” hunt.
It certainly wasn’t like Claire had told her that Krissy had been her first kiss, filled with adrenaline in the centre of a dingy old warehouse in the middle of the night, decapitated ghouls in a pile at their feet.
Claire groaned again to herself, as quietly as she could manage while still expressing sufficient frustration. She pointedly ignored the butterflies in her stomach and hopped up to sit on the counter. She reached over to the fruit bowl and picked out a Mandarin orange. At least picking at the peel was better than picking at her fingernails.
A bittersweet feeling bloomed in her chest; growing up, her family always ended up getting big boxes of Mandarin oranges in the lead-up to Christmas. Her dad always called them “Christmas Oranges”, and all of them would end up scarfing them down like candy.
The oranges that Jody bought weren’t the same kind, but they were orange and juicy and tangy, so they were close enough. She closed her eyes and sunk into the taste, like she was five years old again and wrapped up in her favourite blanket, fresh out of the dryer.
A rustle of fabric came from just a couple of feet to her left. Her eyes flew open and she whipped her head around in the direction of the intrusion.
Krissy fucking Chambers had joined her in the kitchen. She was dressed in green flannel pyjamas and her hair was a mess and she was also grabbing an orange out of the fruit bowl. Claire must have made some kind of noise, because Krissy’s head whipped around to stare back at her. The surprise on her face melted after a split second into an arched brow and a somewhat cold smirk.
“What, are you actually going to acknowledge my existence now?”
Claire winced; yeah, okay, she’d been handling the whole situation basically as badly as possible. And she knew that if she was in Krissy’s place – kissing a girl for the first time in a fit of passion, then not seeing her for months, and then being given the cold shoulder by her the next time they met – she would’ve been even more pissed. Hell, she probably would have blown up in front of everybody, instead of waiting until they didn’t have an audience and quietly snarking at her in the middle of the night.
“I – yeah, I deserve that,” Claire muttered. “I’m sorry about, y’know, all of that.” She twirled her hand around vaguely in the air, as if that somehow demonstrated what all of that she was referring to. “I just… I wasn’t ready? For you?”
Krissy’s face fell, and immediately Claire wanted to bash her head in against the cupboard behind her. If she could, for once, not instantly put her foot in her mouth, that would be great, universe!
“Not – I don’t mean – I just thought, when Jody said that a hunter was gonna be staying for a few days, I just assumed… well, I assumed, I guess. I wasn’t really expecting you to show up here, is all.”
Times like that, Claire hated her fair skin and light hair; they just made it way too damn obvious when she blushed. She could feel her face burning up, and she could feel Krissy’s eyes on her, which only made her blush worse.
“So when so said that you weren’t ready for me,” Krissy said slowly, “you just meant from two days ago?”
How did she sound uncertain and teasing at the same time? Claire shrugged and looked away, biting her lip to keep from embarrassing herself too much. She nodded, all jerky and uneven.
“… Were you okay with… what happened three months ago?”
Claire clapped her hands over her mouth as soon as her outburst left it, as if that would somehow drag the word back in and keep it from ever getting out. She and Krissy stared at each other with wide eyes, scarcely even breathing. Claire felt her face burn even hotter. She briefly considered praying for Castiel to smite her, make it so that she wouldn’t have to deal with her own awkwardness anymore.
Krissy, on the other hand, clearly didn’t have the same problem. Claire watched the corners of her mouth twitch and curl up, and her shoulders shook, and then she wasn’t able to hold back her laughter any longer.
“Well, at least one of us is entertained by this,” Claire grumbled. Krissy nudged her in the shoulder and hopped up on the counter beside her.
“Oh, c’mon, you have to admit it’s a little funny.” Krissy started peeling her own orange, biting her own lip as she did. “… The feeling’s mutual, by the way.”
Claire wanted to say something in response, but her throat was dry and the butterflies in her stomach were going wild and her brain had turned to static. Instead, she set her orange to the side and leaned towards Krissy, waiting for the other girl to turn towards her again.
They met in the middle; if Claire had to choose whether their first or second kiss was better, she wouldn’t have an answer. The adrenaline and the heat of the moment, the energy running high after a successful hunt made the first kiss breathtaking and memorable. But there, in the soft glow of the kitchen lights at one-thirty in the morning on Christmas Eve, the tangy brightness of the orange’s juice on their lips…
There was nothing quite like it.
They ended up staying up half the night, telling each other stories about hunts they had been on, and sharing traditions from the families they no longer had. At some point they migrated over to the couch in the living room and fell asleep wrapped around each other.
If Jody found them there when she got up in the morning, she didn’t mention anything. She just smiled softly at the girls and pulled a blanket over them.
Alex, on the other hand, had no qualms about being a total dick, and bonelessly dropped on top of them, waking them both abruptly. She teased them mercilessly, even while their faces were burning, even while they chased her through the house with threats of putting their hunting training to good use and taking back her Christmas presents.
And if they held hands the whole time they did? No one but them needed to know.