a/n: Aaaah! I know, I'm a terrible, horrible person! hangs head in shame It was actually a review from alwayssateen that spurred me into finishing this chapter---and boy, did it happen quickly! I woke up this morning, checked my e-mail and saw her review, opened up all my massive documents and not only finished the new chapter, but super-re-edited all the existing chapters. I've been at this for almost 7 hours now. Phew. So, if you have time, go back and read the other chapters and let me know what you think of the few small changes (it's been so long since I updated, you'll probably be like "what changes? I don't remember what it was like before!" My bad.) PLEASE review, let me know you're all still here!
Much love and apologies! Here you go...
Sam had walked to the corner store once before, last time they had visited Lawrence, when Dean had claimed a desperate need for junk food. Since Sam had rejoined him, Dean had started using sugar as a means of drowning his stress to avoid being berated for going to a bar for anything but poker and pool. They had splurged on bags of bulk candy and caffeinated pop and things Sam knew were costing money that was coming from their food and gas budget, but he hadn't said anything. Now, as Sam entered to the friendly jingle of the bell hanging above the door, Sam saw the same white-haired lady sitting behind the counter as his last visit, her husband unpacking a case of canned soup onto a shelf. It was amazing how some things never change.
"Good afternoon, son," the woman addressed from behind the counter. Sam jumped. Was it afternoon already? He glanced out the window--time had been a flying blur since he got to Missouri's. Trying not to flounder, Sam looked back at the woman and smiled. Whether or not she noticed him falter, she didn't seem to mind.
"Do you need help finding anything?" Sam shook his head.
"No, thanks. Just doing a milk run," he replied. She nodded with another pleasant smile.
"Well, you just holler," she offered, and Sam looked back at the shelf in front of him, trying to remember what he was here for. He had been scatter-brained since the attack in their hotel room, like he was constantly thinking about something else. He just didn't know what.
Scanning the shelves, Sam almost grabbed a bag of all-dressed chips for Dean habitually. Eggs. It came back to him suddenly, and Sam moved over to the refrigerators against the far wall to snatch a container of large brown eggs. Flicking the lid open, he inspected them quickly, still feeling unnaturally distracted. His focus suddenly slid sideways, and he lost sight of the eggs in his hand as everything went black and then flashed into colour that didn't match the store around him. He could see a dark hallway, with the large wooden door of an old house at the end as the light bulb overhead exploded spontaneously. Sam groaned, one hand flying to the side of his head as the store shifted in and out of focus momentarily before the vision returned full force, stabbing pains ringing through his head. Now Dean was in the hallway, gun in hand, and suddenly the gangly black thing Sam had seen in the hotel was on the ceiling, crawling jerkily towards his brother. He tried to shout a warning, but the image twisted and disappeared as Sam heard a distant crack and suddenly he saw Dean's car, slid off the side of the road, one of the windows splattered with blood and a wavering woman in white standing beside it---one minute Sam recognized her, she looked like Jess, then she was faceless and blurring into what looked like the pictures he'd seen of his mom---everything went black again and a high-pitched shrieking filled his ears. Sam gasped, clutching harder at his head with both hands as he felt someone behind him. The piercing sound started to dissipate, the tiled floor of the corner store slipping back into view. It was closer than he remembered. Sam blinked slowly, realizing he was kneeling in the aisle, the refrigerator door still open beside him. The eggs he had been holding were scattered in front of him, mostly broken in the open container, and there was a surprisingly sturdy grip on his shoulders.
"Son, you alright?" A gruff voice asked, and Sam shifted to see the gray haired man who had been stocking shelves holding him firmly by the shoulders.
"What happened?" The lady from behind the counter had joined them, brushing Sam's hair out of his face and trying to catch his eye to assess him.
"It's nothing---just a headache, I get them sometimes…" Sam muttered, and the woman tisked disbelievingly.
"You scared the daylights out of us—one minute you were standing, the next," she spluttered.
"Mel, leave him be," her husband interjected, helping Sam to his feet. "I'm sure the boy knows what's wrong." Sam nodded, trying to steady himself, avoiding the broken eggs on the floor.
"I'm sorry---I can pay for those," he stammered, but Melanie shook her head kindly.
"Don't you worry about those. Here, I'll get you another, and you come on up to the front for a glass of water." She grabbed another dozen eggs from the fridge, closing the door and heading for the front of the store to put the eggs on the counter before scooting into the back. Sam straightened, still a little shaky, and tried to step forwards. The man behind him redirected him over the slowly spreading egg yolks, still supporting his shoulders as he led Sam to the front.
Sam gratefully accepted the support, leaning on the counter as the man moved around the ring in the eggs.
"Been a while since I've seen you boys back here," he said coolly, and Sam looked up, alarmed.
"You---you know us?" He asked, dumbfounded.
"Know of you," the man replied. "Knew your parents, more like. Few of us here kept track of you lot after your mum's death." He studied Sam for a second. "My guess is you're the younger one, Sammy."
"Sam," Sam corrected automatically. "And yeah...you knew my parents?" He felt like a child, unable to keep up with everything being said, so he focused on the important parts.
"Knew'em ever since they moved here. Your mum, Mary—wonderful woman. Had John wrapped around her finger…" He laughed. "It was my Mel that suggested she use the jar technique to make him shape up-" He jerked his thumb at a glass jar on the wooden shelves behind him, filled with small change. "A quarter for every swear word. A dollar if there's more than one in the sentence." Sam couldn't help but chuckle, wondering if he should try the technique on Dean. The man smiled kindly, resting his elbow on the counter to lean in to Sam, eyes growing serious.
"You boys have more people looking out for you than I imagine you know," he said, lowering his voice. Sam backed up slightly, wary. He tried to assure himself it was nothing more than a friendly reminder, but his ingrained suspicion about everything put him on edge.
"Ever since your dad dragged you boys out of town, going on about demons and the like…" He shook his head almost sadly. "Most people thought he was nuts, but some of us---Well, let's just say we were a little more open-minded than others. We've been keeping an ear out for word of your family, praying you're safe."
Sam looked at the man, sure his eyes were bugging out. He was completely floored. People had been looking out for them? Their dad had certainly never mentioned it, neither had Dean---if he even knew. They were both too little to remember much about Lawrence before they left, and Sam wouldn't be surprised if Dean was as unaware of their following as him. He opened and closed his mouth once, unsure of what to say. Thank you sprang to mind, but so did something more pressing.
"Have you heard anything from our dad—" the question barely left his lips when the man held up a hand to shut him up. Mel reappeared in the doorway, still smiling kindly with not water, but a Styrofoam cup of tea and a small bag of cookies in hand. Her husband smiled and moved to let her squish behind the counter with him.
"I wasn't sure what you liked in your tea, so I just gave it an average guess," she said with a small wink, putting the cup beside the eggs on the counter.
"Thank you," Sam started again, but she waved a hand.
"Don't you think twice about it," she insisted, handing him the bag of cookies. "Made these myself just yesterday—I hope raisin's okay by you. I know most boys nowadays prefer something sweet, but Harry can't stand too much chocolate," she explained, putting a hand on her husband's arm. Sam shook his head.
"No, no—raisin's fine. Thank you," he got out again before she could object.
"I just hope you feel a little better, son." She said warmly, and turned to her husband.
"Harry, grab a bag for those eggs, will you---no, no, don't ring them in—they're on the house, so to speak." She said, bustling to grab the plastic bag before her husband could move for it. Harry caught Sam's eye with and gave a little wear roll of his eyes, lightened by the warm smile still on his lips.
"Of course, dear," he answered sweetly, and Sam caught on that Melanie probably didn't know anything about the demons Harry had been telling him about minutes earlier. He looked questioningly back at Harry, who gave him a small nod, the turned to Mel.
"Honey, you remember John and Mary Winchester, who lived around the block?" He asked as she slipped the container of eggs into a plastic bag and pushed it towards Sam.
"Oh, of course!" She replied, eyes lighting up as if it had been only a week ago that they left. "And their two little boys—Dean used to love the licorice whips, always asking his dad for one…Poor John could never refuse," she reminisced. Sam felt a few tears threaten to spring up at the casual recollection of a happy past he would never remember. Recognition dawned in Mel's eyes, and she laid a gentle hand on his arm.
"You must be Sammy…All grown up now." She said softly, quickly dropping the topic of his family. "Well, Sam, you enjoy your tea and cookies, and come visit again." Gently, she put a hand on his face and leaned in the plant a wet kiss on his cheek. Sam forced a smile.
"I will, thank you," he murmured, feeling odd. It was still strange for him to hear stories about his mom, and especially about his dad before John became obsessed with killing evil. He wasn't sure if it gave him a weird sense of happiness, or just plain desolation at how lost the happier times Harry and Mel seemed to remember so easily. Walking numbly back to the door, Sam flinched slightly at the loud bell that jingled as he left.