Title: We Lay Our Burdens Down (b e f o r e w e b u r n t h e m t o t h e g r o u n d )
Characters: River Tam, Sam Winchester, Bobby Singer, Simon Tam, John Winchester
30_kisses Prompt: 23 - Candy (a.k.a. FUCKING FINALLY AFTER FOUR FUCKING YEARS IT'S FINALLY FINISHED GOD I SUCK)
Warnings: general spoilers.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Supernatural or Firefly. This is a role reversal of the characters, in which River’s just a bad ass hunter and Sam’s been abused and tortured by the government for his special little brain.
Summary: River Tam hunts that which goes bump in the night, and occasionally saves paranoid hipsters who try to kill her with kitchen knives. Sam Winchester is one of these people. And he grates on her god damn nerves.
The outside world was tinted in red from the shades of her aviators, the wind was blowing her hair into her lip-gloss, and for the past 30 miles she’d had to resort to either Christian rock or static on the radio. Neither appealed to her, the man sitting next to her however seemed to think there was a message in the white noise and was flipping back and forth between the channels – driving her crazy.
“Knock it off, Sam,” she snapped, finally unable to be any sort of polite any longer. Sam ignored her and reached again for the tuning dial. River reached out and smacked his hand away, causing him to recoil back in his seat and stare at her with wide, accusing eyes.
“I’m trying to understand, River,” said Sam. “I’m trying to hear.”
“But there’s too much noise, I know,” said River with a sigh, running her fingers through her hair in exasperation. Her nose twitched as the smell of cow dung filled the air. She could still feel Sam’s eyes on her and deflated a bit. “Why don’t you call Bobby, we’re almost there.”
And suddenly it was like a switch had been flipped. River could feel the happiness leak off Sam as he palmed the phone out of the cup holder between them and dialed the only number he seemed to know.
And River went right back to driving mindlessly, Sam’s chatter just white noise in the background. Sam ‘uh-huh’d one last time and turned toward River, holding out the phone for her and poking her in the shoulder. She glanced at him, blinking quickly to shake off the drone-like feeling in her head. “Bobby wants to talk to you.”
Oh the benefits of mutual connections, thought River nastily, snatching the phone out of Sam’s hand without so much as a grunt in response. She dropped her shoulder against the doorframe and held her breath for a moment. “Bobby?”
“Tell me again,” growled Bobby on the other line, his voice shaking with emotion. “Tell me again how it happened that you, you River Tam found the only boy in the god damn country would wasn’t allowed to be found.”
“What did he say?” asked River in a bored tone, glancing at Sam out of the corner of her eye. He was making quick patterns on the window with his fingertips, eyes narrowed in concentration.
“He was talking about different types of candy.”
“Yeah, I still don't know what that means,” said River, rolling her eyes even if Bobby couldn’t see it (but really it was because he couldn’t see it that she did it). “He like talking about saltwater taffy. But if it makes you feel any better I never once tried to punch him while he was cleaning my guns.”
“You let him near your guns?”
“Listen,” snapped River, straightening in her seat and lowering her voice. “I’ve been trapped in a very small space with a very unstable man for the past forty-six hours. I have slept for zero of them. I am this close to being very unstable myself so please, pretty please, save your very long speech about safety until after I’ve made myself at home on your couch.”
There maybe have been grumbling on the other line, but River was going to ignore it. “Fine. How far out are ya?”
“Half an hour.”
“I’ll order a pizza.”
“Make it two,” said River, glancing at Sam. “Do you have any idea how much he eats?”
“Rivals your appetite?”
River snorted and grumbled. “It rival’s Jayne’s.”
Bobby chuckled and hung up, leaving her with a dial tone and the sound of Sam tapping out a pattern on the glass. She recognized the grouping of taps; it was the same pattern he’d been repeating for the past two days, since she found him in a bar with a knife.
River set her phone back into the cup holder between them, keeping her senses open just in case Sam wanted to flip out on her again. He shifted in his seat suddenly, looking over his shoulder into the back seat and then up at her, his puppy dog eyes narrowed in concern.
“Where the hell am I?”
River sighed. She thought she’d have another few hours before he’d have another lucid episode. She slowed her car and pulled over to the side of the room, throwing her gears into park and shutting off the car before turning in her seat to look at him very seriously.
“My name’s River Tam,” she said clearly, watching his eyes widen a fraction. She was well known in the community, but the Winchesters mostly stuck to themselves. Sam Winchester knew all sorts of people his brother and father never bothered to learn, so he recognized the name but not the face and not why he was in the shiny black hipster jeep she’d hotwired a week ago. Sam blinked at her behind black frames, his fingers twitching against his jean covered thighs. “I found you in a bar in Wyoming two days ago. You tried to gut me with a kitchen knife.”
“You didn’t hurt anyone,” interrupted River quickly. “I didn’t let you. I convinced you to come with me to see Bobby Singer. We’re about fifteen minutes out from his place.”
River had hoped he wouldn’t ask. She shook her head and turned back around in her seat, starting her car back up again without answering. Sam stared at her with wide eyes, then blinked and looked down at the floor. Back to crazy Sam once again, she thought sardonically. Back to normal.
“I need my brother,” he said softly, his forehead dropping against the window. River could hear tears in his voice, but chose not to acknowledge them. Soon she’d be at Bobby’s and she could get rid of him. Soon.
Sometimes, River hated being so awesome. Really, it was only a burden being skilled in everything, everything. There was not one damn thing she could not do, and it made her just all the more great that she had no social shortcomings – only the intense dislike for stupid people and an intolerance of speaking to them for long periods of time. Or short periods of time. Any time at all really.
It was a quality she saw in Bobby nine times out of ten, and even though sometimes he stared at her the way she would stare at Jayne or Mal, she would forgive him. Because he hated everyone. Including her, nine times out of ten. So when she pulled her hipster jeep into his junkyard, sidestepped the slobbering dog who jumped at her to try and lick her face, she greeted Bobby with a small smile and an ‘I’m so sorry, but I don’t know what to do with a giant man’ hissed at him under her breath.
Bobby was already heading toward the passenger’s side, opening the door for Sam before he’d even realized the car had stopped moving and the leaves on the trees above them were stationary. Bobby hauled Sam out of the jeep and pulled him into a long, tight hug, which Sam returned with a smile. He had no idea what had happened to him.
River leaned back against the porch rail, one eyebrow quirked and her lips pursed. She hated sappy reunions - unless they were her own, and since she didn’t see Simon or Kaylee anywhere up in this bitch she was already done with the moment.
“Pizza’s in the kitchen,” said Bobby, slapping Sam hard on the back and pulling away from him. River saluted him smartly and ignored the bird he sent her way as she practically skipped into Bobby’s hunt house.
She would have tripped over the stack of books lined in front of the door if she wasn’t so awesome and pirouetted at the last moment, reminding herself that she had to navigate this dumpster dive like a labyrinth if she wanted to reach the other side of the house without any bruises.
Which she did. Awesomely.
Pizza was pepperoni and it was still hot and dripping with grease and being delicious by the time Sam and Bobby finally joined her. She was sitting cross-legged on the table because every single chair was piled with either books and/or scrolls; one held a suspiciously charred looking scull that River had been having a staring contest with out of sheer boredom.
“Has he been like this the entire trip?” asked Bobby, not bothering to keep his voice down as Sam made a bee line for the pizza, sandwiching two pieces together and chowing down. River smirked at him, her eyes crinkling in amusement. Bobby cleared his throat impatiently.
“Huh? Oh, ah…mostly yeah. Except when he’s lucid.”
“Lucid?” repeated Bobby, and River held back the smart ass just in time. “When was the last time-“
“Just after I called you,” said River through a mouthful of pizza. She gestured at him with her half eaten pizza crust and swallowed. “It’s not for very long. And he has no idea who I am.”
Bobby’s eyebrows shot up, the corner of his mouth twitching upward. “Really? I thought everyone knew of the Great River Tam.”
She shrugged. “Most of them do. But the Winchesters pretty much think they’re the only people who know what goes on in the dark and scary corners, so I can’t really hold it against them. At least Sam’s heard of me.”
Bobby rolled his eyes and turned toward one of the less cluttered chairs and cleared it off, sitting down in it heavily. He eyed Sam for a long moment and then turned his eyes back onto River.
“How’s the Captain?”
River snorted. “Mal? Fine. He and Zoe are on a hunt in Boston. Some sort of pseudo-wannabe demigod that’s breaking legs and shattering eardrums or whatever. I was planning on heading up there after…well, plans changed.”
Bobby leaned forward, dropping his elbows onto his knees and eyeing her seriously. “Sam’s a pretty powerful guy, River. Did he...?”
River sighed, looking away, watching a fly land on the crumbs scattered over the table. “I walked in just as he was picking up the knife. I think one of the cooks brought it out to the bar and Sam must have…” she glanced at Sam, but he was happily ignoring them, staring at the reflections of light on the ceiling. “Something must have threatened him,” she continued. “He knocked out three people before I managed to take him down. Never been so impressed with myself, he’s got like a foot on me.”
Bobby nodded and stood, still tense; didn’t matter how many times River told him that story, he just wouldn’t relax. He pulled his hat off his head and ran his fingers through his thin hair, his face twisted in exasperation. “I have to find Dean,” he muttered.
At the sound of his brother’s name, Sam’s head shot up, “Dean?” he repeated, his eyes widening hopefully. “Dean’s coming?”
River turned back to her food, shaking her head because it was never a good idea to mention the elder Winchester brother. “Now you’ve done it,” she muttered into her pizza crust. Bobby either ignored her or shot her a look she didn’t catch, but the next thing she heard was Bobby’s gruff voice attempting to calm Sam down and tell him that no, Dean wasn’t coming.
“You’re right though, he needs to know,” commented River after Bobby and deposited Sam’s depressed form into the couch in his living room. Bobby was staring down at Sam as the large man curled into himself, rolling onto his side and facing away from them. Bobby sighed and turned his head to look at her, his eyes narrowed. River shrugged, uncaring. “What?”
“Do you have any tact?” grumbled Bobby. River thought about it for a moment. No…no she really didn’t. Eh, minor flaw in an otherwise flawless creature. Even Angels had their broken pieces.
She raised an eyebrow, her face blank with indifference. “As long as you don’t say his name, he won’t know the difference.”
Bobby frowned, turned his head to make sure Sam, practically comatose, still wasn’t paying them any attention, and turned back to River. “What the hell did they do to him?”
River sighed, pushing herself away from the wall and heading across the living room. She placed her hands on Bobby’s shoulders and looked him straight in the eye. “You asking me to make a job out of this?” she asked seriously. Bobby’s eyes widen a fraction, and River heard his breath hitch. He hadn’t considered that this could possibly be something she could fix. He underestimated her.
“You telling me you can?” he countered, faking the serious negotiator. River was touching him though, she knew his secrets and he couldn’t fool her.
“And kick all kinds of ass in the process.” And she meant it. She’d heard a lot about Sam Winchester in her years as a hunter. He and Dean were sloppy hunters, loud, they left loose ends for the rest of them to tie up and they left witnesses. But she knew that Sam was a smart guy, and he was kind and fated and all kinds of shades of grey.
Bobby stepped out of her arms, and she let them fall back to her sides. He was frowning, his eyes moving from the ground to Sam’s form and finally stopped on River. He fixed her with a serious frown. “I can get you John on this.” River felt her eyebrows rise at the offer. John Winchester had been MIA for months. Nobody, nobody, had heard a peep out of him. Not even River.
“I’m not sure if that’ll be a blessing or a pain in my gorram ass,” River snorted, shaking her head. She stared out the open window into Bobby’s yard, watching the sun bounce off the hood of her shiny black stolen hipster jeep. She thought about Simon, about what her brother would think about her doing something like this. She was, essentially, going on a blind pseudo-hunt with no backup other than John Winchester. And his loyalties were sketchy at best. Right now Simon would be at work. He was the person you called when you needed a trauma surgeon with knowledge of demon related injuries and the ability to keep their mouth shut.
“He needs to let me lead on this,” said River finally, turning her eyes back onto Bobby. “I mean it; he can’t go blazing in with guns and glory. I don’t take kindly to SIC status.”
“I’ll make sure he gets the message,” said Bobby with as much of a laugh as he could to lighten the mood. Then without another word he turned and headed for the door, grabbing his keys off a pile of books as he went. “Watch him?”
“I’m reduced to a babysitter again,” muttered River darkly under her breath. Bobby hadn’t waited for her answer and left the house, leaving River alone with Sam. She sent his turned back a withering look, and grumbled nonsensically to herself, stalking to the couch and propping her hands on her hips.
“Did you catch any of that, Sam?”
Sam twisted around, flopping onto his back and staring up at her with puppy dog eyes. “Secrets don’t make friends.”
“But friends make great secret keepers,” she counted lightly. River tilted her head to the side, her eyes narrowing. “What’s the matter?”
She had learned pretty fast that even lucid, Sam wore his heart on his sleeve. It was sort of annoying, riding along with a never ending emotional roller-coaster who only stopped his bitchfest for Oreos. Sam reached out of her, and out of habit she pulled away, but he managed to snag her wrist before she’d gotten out of groping distance.
“River,” Sam whined, his fingers flicking against the charms on her bracelet. She could tell how much pain he was in, even if he was just acting like a brat. Holding back a sigh, River sunk into the edge of the couch, not surprised when Sam’s body curled around her. His grip on her sleeve tightened, like he was afraid she would leave him if he let go. River reached out to push his hair away from his forehead, carding her fingers through his hair soothingly. He stared at her, his expression raw and his soul completely open to her.
“I know what you’re thinking,” said River, the corner of her mouth pulling upward at the same time Sam’s eyebrow arched. “I could do one of three things. Your choice.”
His eyebrow settled back in its rightful place and eyes slid off to the side. River bit back another sigh and stroked his hair again. It was slightly greasy from lack of personal hygiene (she assumed they had fed and watered him daily before he escaped, ‘they’ being the sicko’s who’d kidnapped him), but it seemed to sooth him so she didn’t mind too much. Sam sighed childishly against the couch cushion.
“One, find Dean,” he recited as if he was reading her mind. “Tempting, but if he doesn’t want to be found then he’s doing me a favor by staying hidden. Both of us together would just bring more attention. Two, leave me here with Bobby. Most logical choice for you, you didn’t exactly sign up for this did you? Three…” Sam trialed off, his eyebrows furrowing in thought, and settling on confusion when he failed to come up with the third option. “What’s three?”
“Oh, you don’t know?” asked River, turning her head up and away in false haughtiness, glancing out of the corner of her eye down at Sam. He glared at her. “I do have a third option. Can’t you figure it out?”
“I’m not a super genius,” pouted Sam. “I can see the black and the future, but I can’t always add it up.”
“That’s right, I’m the super genius,” said River, looking back down at Sam. “And super genius says it’s time to stop avoiding the subject and tell me what you escaped from.”
Sam sat up suddenly, his face too close to hers, but she wasn’t the kind of person to be intimidated so she didn’t lean away. His nose touched hers and his too kind eyes saw through her.
“I want to tell you,” he said softly. River swallowed as he closed his eyes and moved in closer, if that were possible.
River could feel the uncertainty and fear leaking off him and for the first time since she walked into that bar and found Sam she finally understood why he wouldn’t tell her where they’d kept him. He couldn’t. “You can’t remember.” She said softly. Sam made a face that River could almost see and he dropped his head against her shoulder.
“They took it from me,” he said, his voice muffled by her hair and leather coat. “All of it. Bitches.”
“Well from one super genius to a regular one,” said River softly, reaching up to lay an arm across his shoulders. “Maybe it’s better not to remember.”
“There’s always a downside,” Sam sighed heavily, his hot breath against her neck. Was it wrong that she was enjoying having him so close to her? Sure, he had the attention span of a four year old and his speech was more like a child’s than a man’s and yeah, she did feel a little guilty and a little like she was taking advantage of him, but honestly if he weren’t so wacked in the brainpan she’d admit he was pretty damn –
“I can hear you, you know,” muttered Sam against her neck, smirking against the soft leather collar. River rolled her eyes. Of course he did; because he saw the things that didn’t need to be said and had to Captain Obvious it all the fuck up. River pulled him off her, her eyes narrowed in a silent warning, warning for him to watch his next words carefully. He gave her a half-grin and glanced away with a, “I wasn’t going to say anything.”
“I would never exploit your carnal desires for me, River.” She rolled her eyes again, but couldn’t fight down the blood rising up her cheeks. She internalized it as exasperation.
“Please, maybe when you’re lucid.”
His eyes were glittering with amusement. Crystal clear. River felt her own eyes widen in realization, just as the corner of his mouth turned up. "I'm lucid now."
And without giving her a chance to defend herself (yes, River counted being kissed as a death wish), Sam slanted his mouth over hers and wrapped a large, too strong arm around her waist. With no where to go, River could only sink into the kiss, let herself imagine he was someone not so broken...and maybe not a Winchester.
They pulled apart slowly, River's eyes fluttering open the moment his lips left hers. He was breathing evenly, his eyebrows knitted together. River reached up to run her fingers along the crease, and in response Sam's eyes snapped open.
She saw nothing but fog.
"Do you think Bobby will bring back taffy?"