Title: Found Only Another Orphan
Summary: Fusion 'verse. Sam and Dean have an unexpected encounter one day at the bookstore.
Characters: Sam, Dean, OCs
Disclaimer: Still not mine.
Warnings: Swearing, nothing else.
Neurotic Author's Note #1: The Fusion 'verse is eating my brain. I have no explanation.
Neurotic Author's Note #2: Written fast with no revision, because I was trying for a puppy and failed. ;) Instead it turned into an outsider POV of Sam having a good day, at least to start with. There is still no puppy. Mea culpa.
Neurotic Author's Note #3: Title is taken from 'Moby Dick.'
There are advantages to small-town living. Sophie Wilder made her choice consciously, because she wanted to live in a place where everyone would know who she was, and where she could keep her door unlocked without living in constant fear of burglary or home invasions. Real estate was reasonable, and by owning the only decent bookstore in town, she guaranteed herself a modest income that more than paid for everything she needed and wanted, with enough wriggle room for the occasional splurge. Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't disadvantages, too. For one thing, there is no such thing as keeping your personal life personal: everyone knows everything there is to know about you, and what they don't know they'll happily speculate on until they've come up with something that suits their fancy. For another, there aren't that many well-read people in small rural communities. It's cliché, but there you have it.
Having someone with whom to argue loudly about 'Moby Dick' over coffee, then, is an unheard-of luxury. So what if Sam Winchester isn't all there? she tells herself. No one else in town seems to mind: he's something of a gentle giant, even on his bad days. On his good days, she can see the Stanford law-school dropout, mind as razor-sharp as ever. If she lets herself think about it too long, her eyes sting and her throat closes up.
"No, really, I get the whole whale-as-metaphor thing," he's saying now, leaning over the counter by the cash register as his brother sets up the latest display of best-sellers by the window. "Everybody does, right? It's a cliché for a reason. I just think it's not enough to carry the whole book. I spent four hundred and fifty pages waiting for them to get to the damned whale, and then I got a page and a half of the whale kicking their asses. Come on!" his smile lights up his face, and she can't help but laugh.
"It's a classic!" she protests. "It's not meant to be about the whale. It's about the journey. The whale is practically superfluous."
"You're telling me I should count myself lucky I got to read about the whale at all? No thanks," he scoffs. "Bad enough I had to wade through all those chapters about whaling and the even more painful stuff on the whales themselves. And don't get me started on the whole Jonah thing. I've had enough Biblical metaphor to last me several lifetimes."
"Careful," she wags a finger, "you're treading close to blasphemy, there."
He rolls his eyes. "Yeah, I'm not really worried about that. What I'd like to know is what Melville's sources were for his information about whales."
"Oh, and you're an expert on cetaceans all of a sudden?"
"I did a presentation on them for class in fifth grade," he grins, and she lets out a delighted cackle.
"Oh, well, then! That settles it, I suppose."
"What about Ahab?"
"Yeah, 'cause what I really wanted to read about was an obsessed bastard chasing something that ultimately destroys him," there's a wry twist to his mouth that she can't interpret. "I just wanted to see the whale," he taps the counter with his index finger for emphasis.
Dean limps over to them, his cane dangling from one hand. He doesn't use it much, but tends to keep it with him just in case. She's not sure why she hired him to begin with, when he came limping into her store and essentially told her that he could work as long as it didn't involve bending his right knee, ever. She'd never heard of fusing a knee joint before meeting him, but apparently replacing a knee wasn't a good idea for someone his age. Something else she'd never heard of. Now that she has hired him, though, she's decided it's probably the best decision she ever made. Besides being a quick study and a hard worker, he's a hell of a draw to the bookstore. The local girls are fascinated with the handsome stranger with the tragic past, the local gossips equally so, and the first few weeks he was here her sales doubled. They're not as impressive anymore, but the increase in percentages is still noticeable. The guy could sell a television to a blind man, if he put his mind to it.
"You guys are giving me a headache, so I'm going to resolve this for you. Patrick Stewart is awesome, therefore 'Moby Dick' gets to keep on existing in the classics."
Sam shakes his head. "Oh my God. Vetoed by Captain Picard. Well, I supposed there are worse ways to go." He glances at the clock. "I guess I should be going, let you guys finish opening up. This isn't over, though," he says meaningfully. "We're definitely going to be discussing this further."
"You betcha," Sophie smiles at him. "You can stick around, see if there are any other classics you want to rip apart that catch your eye."
He hesitates, and suddenly the easy, relaxed look is gone from his face, as though someone just snuffed out a candle. He clasps his left wrist in his right hand, rubs his thumb over the back of his hand, eyes tracking something she can't see. "Oh, um... y-yeah, okay. Sure. Dean?"
Dean has spotted the change too, but he doesn't blink. They're all accustomed to it by now, or at least as accustomed as they can get. He gives Sam a thump on the arm. "You go ahead, Sammy. I'm going to open up, now, but you come find me if there's anything, okay?"
Sam just nods, gives Sophie a wan smile that's so far removed from the brilliant grin from before that she almost bursts into tears. "I'll, uh... just go to the back, then. Check out the..." he doesn't finish his sentence, wanders off amidst the stacks.
"He's okay," Dean says quietly. "You don't have to worry. He won't cause problems."
She sighs, counts out the float for the cash register. "That's not what I'm worried about. He's a good kid."
Dean snorts. "He's twenty-nine. I'm still trying to get used to the fact that I don't have to hold his hand to cross the street. Most days, anyway," he amends.
He glances after Sam, then visibly shakes himself, and heads off to reshelve the books in the mystery section that always seem to end up in a big jumble. She thinks that's probably Judy Blackwell's doing: the elderly woman's an avid fan of Agatha Christie, and comes in every week or so to rummage through the shelves in the sweet but deluded hope that there will be a new Hercule Poirot novel available. It doesn't matter how many times Sophie tells her that Agatha Christie is dead, Judy will have forgotten about it a day later. She's pretty sure Sam won't remember their conversation about 'Moby Dick,' or else only bits and pieces of it.
It's a surprisingly busy morning, although Saturdays are always her busiest day of the week. She loses track of Sam in the stacks, spends a couple of hours helping out various customers. It's a source of pride that she has the best-stocked bookstore in the county, but it also means that the store tends to fill up on weekends. Dean is in his element, leaning on his cane and going on about romance novels, of all things, to three teenaged girls who are all blushing and giggling under his attentions.
"No, I get it," he says with a wink. "Who doesn't like a little mystery in their romance? But seriously, it's not worth it. Follow me, and I'll show you to some books with a little more meat to them. No," he holds up a hand when one of them starts to murmur a protest. "I don't want to hear it. You don't get a choice. I'll show you the books my brother read when he was your age, and since he's a gigantic girl, I'm sure you'll love 'em."
There's a chorus of giggles, and Sophie rolls her eyes and goes back to work. Dean's a charmer, no mistaking it, but those girls are in for a world of disappointment if they think they stand a chance with him. For one, he's never struck her as the type to go for underage girls. For another thing, she's reasonably sure that it's only the fact that he's good-looking and has a mysterious-yet-tragic past that keeps them coming back. He's a romantic figure, Dean, with his stiff leg and his single-minded devotion to his war-scarred brother. She's sort of amazed the town girls don't trail after him more, come to think of it.
The front door chimes, and she pauses when she glances up and catches sight of two young men sauntering into her shop. They don't belong here, she can tell right away. Definitely not locals, and she's sure they're not here to shop for books. They're young, both white, in their early twenties at the latest, dressed in scruffy jeans and denim jackets over threadbare t-shirts, a couple of days' worth of stubble on their faces. There's an aura of secrecy and danger about them: they move like predators, careful and graceful and on edge, taking in her shop at a glance, noting exits and pathways. They remind her of Dean, she realizes with something akin to shock, and of Sam on his good days. Alert and watchful, although they have none of Dean's easy confidence or Sam's quiet competence. They spot what they're looking for a moment later, head purposefully into the stacks.
She drifts casually in the same direction, sees them make their way to the back of the store and make a beeline for Sam, who apparently found a book he liked. She can see the moment he senses their approach, the tension in his body language ratcheting up several notches. He puts the book back on its shelf and pivots to face them, sliding along the bookcase in an effort to make sure they can't flank him.
"Hey!" the older of the two approaches, then says something else she can't quite make out.
Sam backs up a step, shakes his head, and Sophie tries to move closer, to hear what they're saying. She doesn't like the look of them, although she's not sure why. The older one is talking again by the time she's within earshot.
"Look, we just need a few minutes of your time. Bobby Singer said you and your brother were the best, and we could use the help."
Sophie turns, finds the nearest person, a skinny kid by the name of Billy Flynn who tends to hang out in here to get away from bullies, and grabs him by the arm. "Would you do me a favour and ask Dean to come over, right now?" Billy nods and scurries off.
Sam has backed up again, jerking his head back like a skittish horse. "I don't..." he glances around, rubbing the back of his left hand with his thumb. "You shouldn't be here."
"We'll be out of your hair in a minute," the same guy keeps talking. "It's just that this hunt is big, and you're the demon experts, you know? Even Bobby says so."
It's crazy, but Sam flinches. "Don't... I can't... there are civilians here," he says sharply, but she can see his Adam's apple bob as he swallows, and that sweat has broken out on his skin.
"Then let's go somewhere we can talk."
"Hey!" the voice is Dean's, cutting through the conversation like a knife. He's leaning on his cane as he comes down the aisle, but for a split-second she finds herself genuinely afraid of him. He bears down on the two men, who mirror her reaction, stepping away from him. "Just what the fuck do you think you're doing?" he snarls, all the more frightening by keeping his voice low.
"Hey, man," the older of the pair raises his hands in a placating gesture. "Chill. We didn't mean... look, we just need your help with something."
"You're the best there ever was," the younger one pipes up for the first time. She's amazed they haven't noticed her yet, although she's sure Dean knows she's there. The younger one is looking at Sam as though he's the second coming. "I mean, what you did. I mean, fucking Lucifer himself... what was it like?"
His friend swats him, but it's too late. Sam's face gets that shuttered expression she's all too familiar with, and he all but folds in on himself, shakes his head. "No," he says quietly. "Not that. I can't... Dean?"
Dean's already got the kid by his collar, cane clattering to the floor. "Okay, douchenozzle. Rule number one if you want our help, no fucking questions about that. Rule number two, no fucking around with Sam. You got me?"
"Woah, easy," the older one doesn't make a move, coiled on himself like a spring. "He's sorry, okay? Donnie, apologize to the man already.."
"'m sorry," the apology comes out strangled.
Dean drops him, brushes himself off like he got dirt on his clothes just by touching the kid. "Right. Where are you two staying?"
"Motel just outside of town. Room six. I'm Eli, and the idiot with poor control over his mouth here is Donnie."
"Okay, Eli," Dean is visibly trying to keep a leash on his temper. "Give me your number. You want help? It's on my terms. Go back to your room, and I will call you. We'll talk, but later, when I'm not busy. I find out you've so much as breathed in Sam's direction, all bets are off. Clear?"
"Crystal. Let's go, Donnie," Eli tugs on his partner's elbow, all but drags him away.
When he's sure they're gone, Dean blows out a long breath, then reaches out and puts a hand on Sam's arm. "Y'okay, Sammy?"
Sam shakes his head. "I dunno. I was... I dunno," he keeps worrying at his wrist with his thumb, shoulders hunched. "I should... they need help, right? Bobby sent them. I remember. It's important, and I just, I'm not—"
"Hey," Dean breaks through the quiet babble. "Hey, Sammy, it's okay. I got this, all right? Whatever this is, I can guarantee Bobby didn't send them, he would have called. They're just idiots. Come on, I need you to take a breath for me, okay? Just breathe, nice and even." He looks directly at Sophie for the first time. "Uh, Soph? I know this is a shitty thing to ask on a Saturday, but can I get maybe an hour, just to get Sam home?"
Sam looks as though he's about to pass out right where he is, and even if there were five times the customers, she still wouldn't say no. She bends down, picks up Dean's cane and hands it to him. "Of course. I can handle things here for a while. Who were those guys?"
Dean nods, accepts the cane, and puts his arm around Sam's waist. "Uh, it's sort of a long story. Mostly it's to do with our Dad's old business. Haven't thought about it in a while, but I guess these two tracked us down. They don't... no one knows about Sam, except for folks here and our uncle Bobby. I think maybe I overreacted a bit, but..." he shrugs.
"No, I get it. They upset him," she winces, hating that she's talking about Sam as though he's not even there, but in a way he's not. He's not completely checked-out, but she can tell he's on the edge, wavering, his fingers digging into Dean's arm, trying to anchor himself. "You go on, and take your time."
To her surprise, Sam looks up and meets her gaze, lips quirking into a small smile. "It's not as crazy as it all sounds," he says softly.
Dean nudges him. "Okay, I think we're done here. Come on, Sammy. Let's go home."
Sam acquiesces, but as Dean ushers him through the door he glances back at her over his shoulder at her and smiles again apologetically. Whatever just happened, she's quite sure that she's never going to get the full story.