Exit Strategies

Author: Cheryl W.

Disclaimer: I do not own Dean, Sam or any rights to Supernatural, nor am I making any profit from this story.

Author's Note: Just something I wrote a long time ago…probably around season 1 that I dusted off. Unbetaed so any and all mistakes are mine and mine alone.

Summary: For our boys, danger lurks even in used bookstore. No slash.

Stuffy old used bookstores. Sam loved them and Dean hated them. And this hole in the wall store, Dean hated more than most with its tight little rows and rat maze like small rooms, and the stale smell. It made the burger he had an hour ago roll in his stomach and he felt like he was recycling his own breath to breathe, felt a little light headed, even if he admitted it only to himself.

Having bent down to look at the names on the binders of the dusty old books on the bottom shelf, he stood up and felt the world slosh to the side, or maybe it was him. He thought he reached a hand out to steady himself against the shelves, wondered if the broken wood would give him a splinter but didn't quite remember what happened next.

Sam balanced the old tome in his hands and tried to skim the page even as the books he had wedged under his arm started to slip. Resolved that he would have to take a seat on the questionable carpet to continue his research with any kind of ease, he was about to do just that when the raised voices echoed over the high bookshelves.

"He just crumbled to the ground…"

"Has someone called 911…"

"Did someone check on him, make sure he's still breathing…"

Fighting down a sigh, Sam knew it was yet another elderly person succumbing to the poor air circulation in the bookstore. He had seen it happen often enough, always wished someone would cite the bookstore, make them install some ventilation systems in their stores. Knowing there would be a lot of people already crowded around the poor old guy, Sam didn't venture out to see, instead sank down on the floor and began to reread the paragraph he was on.

"I bet he's got a concussion like in the movies. I mean look at the bruises on his face."

"On his gorgeous face…"

The books flew off Sam's lap as he surged to his feet, hurriedly tried to find his way through the maze of rows to where the guy with the bruised, gorgeous face was lying unconscious, where his brother was lying vulnerably on the floor, with strangers looking at him like his pain was something for their entertainment. Cursing at the two wrong turns, Sam finally followed the thread of voices, pushed through the crowd to see Dean lying on the ground, unmoving. An old guy who looked like he had learned first aid in the first world war was tapping Dean's cheek and resting another hand on his brother's chest as he said, "Young man, you alright?" loudly, as if Dean's problem was a matter of bad hearing.

Dropping to his knees beside his brother, Sam shoved the old gnarled hands away from Dean's too vulnerable form, from his brother's too pale, too bruised face. Replacing the unfamiliar touch on Dean's check with his own gentle touch, he leaned down, bade gently, urgently, "Dean, hey. Can you hear me, Dean?" Sliding closer to Dean, his knees coming to rest against Dean's shoulder, Sam gripped onto Dean's leather jacket and leaned over closer to his brother face. With more urgently, he ordered, "Come on, Dean. Wake up, it's Sam," his hand unconsciously twisting tighter into his brother's jacket.

"I called an ambulance," someone said behind him, like that was supposed to be a relief to him, like that was the good news, didn't scream to Sam how serious his brother's condition might be, that the day might end up with Dean in prison for the rest of his life. Anger spiked in Sam and he looked over his shoulder and growled, "Just back off! Find your entertainment somewhere else."

"Now, young man I know you're upset but.." the old guy began until Sam's eyes lanced into his.

"Upset! My brother's laying passed out on your crappy carpet because you're too stupid or cheap to install some friggin' ventilation in here," Sam raged, recognizing the old man as the man they had saw sitting behind the cash register when they walked into the bookstore half an hour ago.

"Vending machines…" a weak voice interrupted, caused Sam to look down at his brother, to see Dean's green eyes meeting his own.

"Dean, you scared the crap out of me!" he chastised, sighing in relief.

"Maybe oxygen tanks in some of the rooms…" Dean kept offering up suggestions, as if he didn't notice his brother's concerned, affection look that was being bestowed on him.

"You ok to sit up?" Sam worriedly asked, hands still unconsciously kneading Dean's jacket.

"Yeah," Dean grumbled, half in gratitude and half in annoyance as he began to sit up, finding Sam's right hand bracing his neck while his brother's left arm slid behind his back aiding him in what should have been a simple motion. Certainly shouldn't make everything go swirling on him again like it did.

"Whoa!" Sam exclaimed, positioning himself behind Dean as his brother swayed in his grasp. Pulling Dean back against his chest, he soothed, "Easy. Take shallow breaths, Dean. The air's a little thin in here …"

"Ya think," Dean retorted, glad Sam was behind him and couldn't see that he had his eyes closed. "Let's get outta here, Sammy."

Blindsided by Dean's soft entreaty, Sam wanted instantly to accommodate his brother's request. "Ok," he agreed, shifting his hands to come to rest under Dean's arms and drawing his brother to his feet as he made the same motion himself. As Dean stumbled, Sam stepped forward, pulled Dean's arm around his waist before settling his own arm around Dean's waist. "I gotcha, Dean. Exit's straight ahead and to the left."
"No, that's the emergency exit," the old man contradicted but he clamped his mouth shut as Sam's eyes again bore into his.

"I consider this an emergency. Put some ventilation in this hole!" Sam growled even as he maneuvered Dean past the old man down the row and out the fire emergency door. Instantly, the firm alarm started going off.

"After this, you may get banned from used bookstores across the states, Geekboy," Dean warned, striving for humor to cover up the way he was gulping in the fresh air.

"Yeah, 'cause that matters to me more than you do," Sam returned, his tone stating how stupid he thought Dean was for thinking anything was more important to him than he was. Looking to Dean, he noted that his brother was refusing to meet his eyes, was, typically, refusing to acknowledge the raw truthfulness of his statement. "Admit it, you just faked that so I wouldn't make you do any more research."

"Sam…would I stoop to something so low?" Dean sarcastically drawled, secretly touched that Sam was giving him an out for his weakness.

"Ah, yeah, absolutely," Sam lightheartedly accused, not loosen his supportive grip on his brother as they slowed down their pace in the deserted alleyway. And when Dean didn't pull away, didn't try to hide his weakness behind a gruff "I'm fine," Sam realized that Dean trusted him to have his back, even when he was just being roughed up by a ninety year old man.

Shooting a side-long glance at Sam, Dean scowled, "What are you smiling about?"

Sam couldn't fight down the laughter any longer. "You're lucky I got there. That old guy was about to go for mouth to mouth resuscitation."

Dean's face paled another degree. "Dude, don't even joke about that."

SNSNSNSNSNSNSNSN

Thought you all deserved some light hearted fluff for the new year.

Have a great evening!

Cheryl W.