Crossword Clues & Coffee - Four Down
Summary: A chance encounter in Lebanon’s finest (read: only) diner leads Dean to find the one thing he never knew his life was missing.
Warnings: Tiny bit of language? Angst. LOTS of sass. Honestly, it’s a lot of fluff. No romance.
Author’s Note: Many thanks to @there-must-be-a-lock for always-masterful revision and editing advice, and to @thoughtslikeaminefield for encouragement and flails. I think we all need something a little more light-hearted these days, so here you go.
I AM SO SORRY, I THOUGHT I POSTED THIS FIVE DAYS AGO!!!
Word Count: 729
In Case You Missed It:
CC&C: One Across | Two Down | Three Down | Three Across
Esther turns out to have a wicked bluffing ability that gives Dean a run for his money every time they play cards. Poker, gin, rummy, any card game that involves mental skill rather than physical, finds Dean using every trick he’s ever learned and still relying on the luck of the draw more often than not.
“My husband Stanley taught me everything he knew from when he worked in Vegas,” she shares suddenly one night. She very determinedly does not look at Dean as she surveys the cards in her hand. She's only spoken of Stanley twice in the weeks they’ve been acquainted, and Dean has enough sense to keep silent.
“Not just tricks he used, but stuff he’d seen other folks trying on the dealers. I took to it like a duck to water, beat him most nights using his own tricks against him before he even figured out what I was doing,” she says, selecting Dean’s discarded five of spades and laying her hand triumphantly out on the table.
“Gin,” she declares, and Dean sighs. Well, if he’s going to be beaten, at least it's by a master of the craft.
Dean clears away their coffee cups and dessert plates while Esther slowly gathers up the playing cards. By the time he’s washed, dried, and put away the dishes, though, she’s still working on straightening the deck enough to fit it back into its special tin.
Dean frowns at the painful swelling in each of her finger joints, the tremor that’s noticeably increased just since their first meeting, and wonders how best to offer to help without offending.
“You gonna stare at the back of my head all night or offer to help a lady out?” Esther barks, amusement and irritation coloring her words. Dean takes the deck of cards carefully from her gnarled fingers and fits them into the tin, replacing the lid and settling back in his seat, frowning down at his own scarred but steady hands.
“Old age happens,” she says, her voice uncharacteristically soft, “for those of us lucky enough to make it.”
Dean considers her words for a long moment. He’s never told her what he actually does for a living, and he’s pretty sure she knew from their second meeting interrogation that he’s not telling her the whole truth about what he and his brother actually do with their lives.
But he thinks that she’s not necessarily talking about his livelihood, or, at least, not completely. He looks to the framed pictures hanging on every available inch of wall in the small dining room, a collection of photographs that circles the room, telling the story of Esther’s family.
A much younger Esther, recognizable even now, in a light-colored lace dress, on the arm of a grinning man in what is obviously his best suit.
The happy couple holding a baby.
The same couple with progressively changing hair and clothing styles and a rapidly growing child in photos with increasing color and quality as he follows the path of them around the room.
The child, Jimmy, grown and in a graduation cap and gown, hugging both his parents.
The young man, in a military uniform: a posed portrait. Esther and Stanley posed together, this portrait with a caption reading “Happy Fiftieth Anniversary, Sweetheart” in elegant script across the bottom.
Esther and Jimmy, solemn faced and black-clad next to a wreath bearing Stanley’s smiling portrait.
And finally, Esther not much younger than she is now but beginning to bend with the weight of age and grief, accepting a folded flag from a soldier in dress uniform.
There are no more pictures after that one. Dean understands, both from his own perspective and Esther’s. No point in taking pictures of yourself, of documenting a life without someone to share it.
Dean clears his throat, his eyes strangely misty, and places the card tin on the table between them. He reaches across the narrow space and places one large, warm hand atop Esther’s tiny, aged ones.
“Thank you for dinner,” he says quietly. Words are not his forte, but he needs her to understand, so he tries. “And for...everything. Sammy loves the pie, and he never eats anything sweet. And I’m pretty sure I’ve gained ten pounds this week alone.”
Her answering smile is both the happiest and saddest he’s ever seen on her.
Next: Five Across (coming soon)
3 notes · View notes