A/N: I had a thought about how hard it is (for me anyway) to be the person on line at conventions to get autographs. Even though every one of the participants is wonderful, I still hate the feeling like I'm taking advantage. This story is the result of that thought.
There he was. All six and half feet nearly of him, tensed up like he had the machete under his jacket and was on alert for a whole nest of vampires to fly into range at any minute. But all he was doing was sitting on one of those wire mesh mall benches in the University Park Mall in Mishawaka.
I stopped a minute before he saw me. He was way over there in the middle of the mall hallway, or whatever you call it, but his attention was on the BooksBooksBooks! bookstore just a little ways farther down, and the little old lady sitting at the table just inside the archway, autographing the world's next greatest novel, if the line of people waiting for their moment was anything to go by.
Sam had mentioned her to me, Eleanor Potevin. She wrote harmless little ghostly mystery novels, set in upstate New York. Apparently she developed quite the following though after one of her books got made into a 'teens-just-love-it' movie with the supernatural bad guy portrayed as a supernatural bad boy, by a real life bad boy, Christian somebody or other. Whatever. Sam liked them, the books, he said because the actual heroines were two sisters who lived near each other, solved the mysteries together, and would pretty much die for each other.
So the amazing Ms. Potevin was having a book signing today, only Big and Bad Sam Winchester, two months back from hell, was too shy to actually get in line to meet her.
"Hey." I said as I walked up to him.
"Hey!" He said, as surprised as I'd wanted him to be. "How'd you know I was here?"
"This came in the mail."
I took a seat next to him and handed over the postcard that'd come to Lisa's house addressed to Sam. I'd insisted he use us as his return address so that if nothing else, I'd see him and he'd see me whenever he wanted to collect his mail. Because otherwise, visits were few and far between.
The postcard in question was from the lady herself, a generic 'book signing next week!' notice with a personal message,
'Sam – thanks for your note! I'm so glad you liked 'I'm Telling Mom!', that's my favorite book so far too. I really liked how Rena swooped in to save Lena. Big sisters (and brothers) hunh? No matter how old we get they think they know best (and don't you and I both know it!) If you're in Mishawaka on Sunday afternoon, I hope you'll stop by and say hello. I'd love to hear more about Dean!"
"Oh – um – thanks. Yeah." He was actually blushing as he read the note and then tucked the postcard into his pocket. Big and Bad my ass.
"Aren't you going to go up and meet her?" I asked him. I held off mentioning that Mishawaka was only a few hours north of Cicero and he hadn't even mentioned he was going to be this close to me.
"I – no – it's – she's – there's so many people there already – I wouldn't want to – she doesn't – I wouldn't –It's better – this is better. I got to see her anyway. That's – that'll be okay. That'll be enough."
Right. The last we spoke on Thursday, he was in Dubois, Pennsylvania checking out a poltergeist. To haul ass here to end up just sitting and admiring from afar was not going to happen.
"It's not enough for me." I informed him and stood, tugging him up by his jacket sleeve. "C'mon."
"Dean – no – c'mon. I just – I can't." He pulled out of my grip. "I can't. I wouldn't know what to say. I'd just say something stupid."
"Pretend she's dead." I offered. Apparently not the helpful suggestion I thought it would be, judging from the look on Sam's face. "What? She's old."
"She's harmless. C'mon. I want to meet her."
So Sam let me drag him – lead him – through the mall traffic, down the two or three stores to the end of the line at the bookstore.
"So – do you have a book for her to sign, or do you need to buy one?"
"I have one." He said and took it out from his inside jacket pocket. He sounded nervous. Geesh – you'd think after hell, nothing would scare him. Especially not meeting some little old lady.
We were the last people in line, the show was apparently closing up soon. Sam stared down at the book in his hands and wouldn't look toward Eleanor. The line moved slow, Eleanor apparently was a chatty little old lady, which was nice, I thought. Sam only seemed to get more nervous each passing moment.
"Dean – I don't need to – really –."
"You didn't come all this way to not meet her."
"But she's – she's busy. She's got all these other people and then she's gonna want to get out of here."
"Sam – you read her note. She wants to meet you."
"She was just – that's just something people say. She probably sent that to everybody. I'm not – she wouldn't think that I was -."
I seriously doubted that she sent that to everybody, but try telling Sam that.
"Then get her autograph and sell it on Ebay. C'mon – one more person and you're up."
We stayed far enough back to not be stepping on the other person's heels, but judging from the tone of the conversation in front of us, Eleanor Potevin was cheerful and outgoing and liked to laugh. She chatted with the lady in front of us and Sam crushed his book so tight between his fingers I think he left dents in the hard cover.
Finally, the lady in front of us said her final 'thank you' and left. Which left me waiting for Sam to step up, because it left Sam still standing eight feet away from the table. I guess he was right about her age; she didn't look as old up close as she had from a distance. She was going gray and wore wire-rimmed glasses, blue jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt that said, 'Gone Crazy. Back Soon'
She smiled at Sam first, probably because he was the one holding her book, and when he didn't move or acknowledge her, she smiled her puzzlement at me.
"Hi – I'm Dean." I told her. I smiled and gestured over my shoulder. "And that's my little brother, Sam."
It barely took a second for her light to go on.
"Sam? Sam from Cicero?" She asked. She sounded thrilled. Sam didn't answer because technically he wasn't from Cicero and to imply that he was would be lying. He only offered -
"Um – hi."
- and didn't move any closer.
"Sam. I'm glad you could make it." She stood up from the table and walked to him, holding her hand out in greeting. "I'm so happy to meet you."
Sam shook her hand, obviously surprised at first, but that wore off fast and he offered her his 'I'm honestly happy' smile.
"Come over and have a seat." She put her hand on his arm. "Do you have time? They'll be throwing me out of here in a few minutes. It's so nice that you came all this way."
Sam followed her to the two chairs behind the table. He kept shooting me glances that were halfway between worried and terrified, so I followed along behind. Not too close. Just close enough that I knew Sam wouldn't feel so alone in this.
"Can I sign that for you?" She asked of the book in his hands when they each took a chair. Sam looked at it like he'd never seen it before.
"Uh – yeah. Yes. Thank you."
And even then it took him another full five seconds to realize he actually had to hand it over to her.
"Do you have the new one?" She asked, nodding to the display on the table as she wrote something lengthy inside the cover of Sam's book.
"No. I didn't – we only just got here before – I haven't – no - ."
I took a step toward the table, intending to grab one of the books, and stop Sam's panicked rambling.
"Here, Sammy. I'll go pay for this and then -."
"Don't you dare." Eleanor stopped me. She picked up one of the new books and wrote something lengthy inside of it too, then handed it to Sam. "It's my pleasure."
The store personnel shooed us out then and Eleanor made a move toward a box on the floor that had Sam on his feet in a flash, picking it up and turning it away from her reach.
"I'll carry it for you." He told her, all shyness and hesitancy gone for the moment. "Where're you parked?"
We followed her out and she opened the trunk of her rental car and Sam set the box inside for her.
"Thanks." She said. "I put my email in the books. You said you travel a lot, anytime we're going to be in the same place, I hope you'll let me know. We can get tea or dinner or something."
"You don't have to do that." Sam said. Shyness was back in full force. "There's gotta be a lot of people you'd rather…" He let the thought hang.
"Can I tell you something?" Eleanor asked him. "I hate these things. I miss the days I was a nobody who made just enough from writing to send my kids to state college and to afford getting my car fixed whenever it needed it, and my biggest fan was my big sister. Ever since the movie, I'm supposed to travel all across the country and meet and greet people who only seem to care whether or not I've actually met Christian Taylor and 'ooohhh will I write him in my next book?'"
She glanced a smile at me but turned it full watt on Sam.
"It's a relief to be able to talk to someone who gets that what I'm ultimately writing about is family. No matter what else goes on in the story, family is the most important thing."
Sam glanced a smile at her, and then turned it full in my direction.
"Yes. Yes, it is."
I decided at that moment that I loved Eleanor Potevin.