Low Sodium Freak
It wasn't something he had planned on doing. There had been no conscious thought put into the act. Sitting here right now, all Sam Winchester could do was chalk it up to years under the semi-tyrannical, possibly justifiable, direction of his father. It wasn't any different than always knowing where the exit was, who in the room was most likely the biggest physical threat, never sitting with your back to the door or window, and always, always using a condom. This was about habit. This was about protection.
He stared at the cafeteria's Director of Abundance (talk about an inflated, crazy sense of importance – Sam felt sure the guy had come up with that job title all on his own) and tried not to be sullen. It was impossible. Sullen was his pre-set mode, thanks to years under the semi-tyrannical … never mind, broken internal record. But this wasn't his fault, damn it. Sam shifted in the uncomfortable plastic chair, glancing at the Basset Hound pictures decorating every square inch of the wall behind the desk. Oh, yeah. Of the two people stuck in a twelve by nine hole of an office, this dude was the one who was nuts.
"Mr. Winchester," Glen Barber said, sounding so serious it was almost funny, "I believe you know why I called you in here."
"Yeah," Sam said.
He needed the cafeteria job, as sucktastic as it was. Sam hated the hairnet they made him wear. He hated the latex gloves. He hated the smirks of the students and faculty as he monitored the pans of watery scrambled eggs to make sure they didn't empty without a replacement waiting. A full ride didn't pay for groceries, and the cafeteria work-study was his saving grace. It didn't matter that he had absolutely no interest in food management.
He wasn't sure yet how he was going to talk himself out of it, though. Judging from the scowl directed at him, getting over his resentment at being caught doing something so … so … so hunter-y was first on the list. It wasn't his boss he was really pissed at, it was himself. He'd come here to get away from everything Dad told him he had to be, and yet each of his days was filled with loneliness and thoughts of his old life. A year in and he still missed things from it. He hadn't expected that. He missed Dean, even though his brother had been on Dad's side. Sometimes he even missed Dad. He frowned.
"I mean, yes, sir." Sam straightened in the chair, trying to adopt a softer expression. It was difficult to do. He swore a few of those Basset Hound pictures were possessed and were eyeing him with evil intent. "I understand what I did was wrong."
"Now, I know you're here on scholarship," Barber said.
"It's not about the money," Sam snapped, a knee-jerk reaction. He felt white-trashy enough all on his own. He didn't need the reminder. "That isn't why …"
But there he was, stuck again. He couldn't tell Barber why he'd nabbed a ten gallon, bulk tub of salt from the kitchen. He didn't imagine I needed to lay a salt line down in front of every door and window in my dorm so the spirits can't get in would go over well in lay society. Party of one for the rubber room.
"Then, pray tell, why?"
God, even this guy thought he was better than Sam. Everyone here did. Everyone here was. Sam had thought once he was out of it he could be normal for a change, but he was as much a freak as ever. Stealing salt, for fuck's sake. And getting caught. That was the real embarrassment. Dean would laugh his ass off if he were here. Dean wasn't here. He was on his own and this was so ridiculous. The Twelve Months of Basset calendar moved by some gust Sam didn't feel. He straightened in alarm, skin prickling and ready for anything. Then he realized the door was ajar, a draft of air ruffling the hair at the back of his neck.
This was his life now. Normal. There was no poltergeist here, no vengeful spirit. And normal included being able to get himself out of messes, all by himself. He didn't need Dad to barrel in, shouting. He didn't Dean to spin some bullshit story. Sam could do it himself.
"Hyponatremia," he blurted.
"Beg pardon?" Barber asked.
"It's a condition. My blood, you see, it's not quite like yours. I have a problem with low sodium. Ever since I was little and had a real bad episode, I've had this thing about hoarding salt." Sam shrugged. It wasn't that far off from the truth, considering the amount of salt the Impala had always had – still had – in the trunk. "I guess when I saw so much of it in the kitchen, habit kicked in. I don't know what I was thinking."
He gave Barber a weak smile.
Barber raised an eyebrow and looked at him as if trying to figure out if Sam was lying like he was or being honest. If he ever needed to look innocent and imploring, now was the time. Sam tipped his head to the side, just a nudge. He watched Barber's suspicion transform into sympathy.
"Well, you should have just said so." Barber smiled. "Sounds like your problem is pretty abnormal compared to the rest of us."
"Yes, sir," Sam said.
"Tell you what, as long as you promise not to make this a recurring theme, I'll even let you keep the salt. I'll just deduct the expense out of your next paycheck."
To his chagrin, Sam was actually more relieved about getting to keep the salt than his job. He was getting closer to normal, but that didn't mean he didn't want to let his guard down. He knew too well anything could happen at any time.
"Thank you, sir. I really appreciate it."
Sam sagged back in the seat. Four hundred Basset Hound eyes stared at him. He wondered vaguely if Barber had any clue how creepy his little office was to regular people. Normal people. Like Sam. For the first time in a long, long time, maybe Sam was the almost-normal one. That made him feel … better, a little.
"Mr. Winchester? You can get back to work now."
"Oh, right. Right. Of course. Thank you again."
"Sure thing," Barber said, then mumbled something that sounded like low sodium freak.
It rankled Sam for a second, but he brushed it aside. He'd probably misheard. Besides, he'd been called worse things. Pulling on the dreaded hairnet, Sam tucked in errant strands of his hair as he left the office for the hustle and bustle of the kitchen. He walked to the boxes of latex gloves tucked in the far corner and squeezed on a pair of extra larges. Time to face the goopy egg pans.
"I see you survived the Great Hall of Basset Hounds," a feminine voice said suddenly.
Sam looked up, startled. Next to him was the most beautiful girl in the world, even with the hairnet. He wasn't sure she was for real; he'd never seen her before. But he wished with all his might that she was.
"Between you and me, that guy's one fry short of a Happy Meal. I heard he's got a very special relationship with his dog." She rolled her eyes and gave a small shudder. Then she stuck out a hand. "Hi, I'm Jessica. Jessica Moore."