Unreluctant At Treacherous Ledge
(c)2008 b stearns
This is in praise of the vulnerable man
Why won’t you lead the rest of your cavalry home
This is a thank you for letting me in.
–Alanis Morissette, In Praise of the Vulnerable Man
Salvation AU schmoop. Dani meets Sam, Sarah and Allie. It becomes a meeting of the I ♥ Dean fanclub. Dean has no armor for that kind of deadly assault.
“At their house?” Dani said again.
Dean didn’t understand what the problem was. He felt that he rarely did, with her, but he hadn’t known her all that long. Longer than most. Just not long enough to figure her out.
“Yeah,” he said. “Y’know, we could meet up somewhere, but that’s kind of impersonal. And loud.”
“It’s not like you’ll have to escape,” Dean said. “They’ll like you.”
“I’m not worried,” Dani said.
Dean made a derisive sound that said he knew better. She already knew plenty about Sam and Sarah. She already liked Sam, and she’d never even met him. Everybody had good things to say about Sam. He was probably the first widely adored lawyer in history.
“It’ll be fine,” he said. “It’s not like it’s a test, or something. Even if they hate you, I’ll still think you’re a hotass.”
Every now and then, she looked at him a little like Sam occasionally did, some sort of disbelieving confusion. He was getting that right then. But, sometimes, she looked at him as if he was too good to be true, and that made up for everything.
Sam let Allie out of her playpen at about quarter to six and offered her a cracker. She took it with her right hand like usual, then looked up at him from her seat in the crook of his arm.
“Who’s coming?” Sam said.
She quirked her eyebrows, something that made him laugh every time.
“Uncle Dean is coming,” Sam said.
Another quirk of the brows, then a grin and a kick of pudgy little legs. “Oooh.”
“Yeah, ‘ooh’,” Sam said. “Your best friend, Uncle Dean.”
He put her down, and she toddled her way haphazardly along the coffee table toward the front door. When she reached it, she pounded one small hand against the wood.
“Not yet,” Sam said. “Hey, don’t I get a hug?”
She looked at him over her shoulder for a moment, causing the little dark topknot on her head to flop slightly to one side. It was done up with a little blue bow, and was mostly Sam’s fault. He had originally let her hair dry as a little faux-hawk after her bath, but Sarah had suggested he do something better, and soon. So, her hair was still sticking up, but a bow made it legitimate.
“Daiyah,” she said, then went back to pounding on the door.
Sam sat down on the floor and said, “Allie. Allie-pal.” When she looked again, he made an exaggeratedly sad face. “Where is my hug? Don’t I get a hug?”
She laughed and headed for him. He leaned over, and she wrapped her little arms around his head, grinding her cracker into his hair. Sam breathed in baby-smells and smiled, steadying her with one hand. “Who loves you?” he said.
Sam snorted. “Fickle.”
Allie turned and sat down against Sam’s chest, reclining while she gnawed her cracker-pieces.
Sarah came down the stairs, and Sam wolf-whistled. She rolled her eyes at him but wrinkled her nose fondly.
“Mommy’s pretty,” Sam said. “Right?”
Allie nodded. She knew that right? was a signal to do that, and earn herself automatic amusement from her adults.
“You’ve got crumbs in your hair,” Sarah said, sitting down next to them.
“Oh, yeah,” Sarah said. “Right. You want to light the candles?”
“Let Dean do it, when he gets here,” Sam said. “He hardly gets to set anything on fire, anymore.”
“Oooh, Dee,” Allie said, and looked toward the door.
Sarah raised her eyebrows. “You told her?”
“The last time we didn’t warn her...”
“I was afraid we might have to tranquilize them both,” Sarah finished. “True.”
There was a sound of car doors closing. Allie looked at her mother expectantly, then craned her head around to look at her father.
“Who’s here?” Sam said.
Allie started to get up, planting her hands on the floor and tilting forward for leverage, but Sam grabbed her in one hand and stood with her tucked into one arm. Allie made an excited hyperventilating sound and kicked her feet. Sam offered Sarah a hand up, kissed her, and headed for the door. He opened it in time to watch Dean come up the walkway with a tall, lovely woman that made Sam flash back to a very old memory: Dean saying you are way out of my brother’s league to Jessica. It would have been a funny, near-normal way to break the ice, if he hadn’t been so aware of how insecure Dean was about this one.
That was a better ice breaker, anyway.
Dean glanced up and broke into a grin, wide and unguarded and purely thrilled. It was one of the only times Sam got to see anything like it on his brother’s face, and the fact that it was his daughter that was responsible for it made Sam’s heart clench.
There was a small, muted chorus of the required hey, you made it and traffic sucks that was quickly overridden by Allie’s high-pitched squeal, which continued to rise in pitch until it was likely beyond human hearing. Sam held her out to Dean, one-handed, eyes on Danielle as he did it, watching the look of polite, mild discomfort morph into something soft and surprised. It was slightly maternal and longing, and it flashed with neon adoration across her face while she watched Dean snuggle Allie with unreserved joy. He figured she had not seen that side of Dean yet, and it was coming as a shock.
Sarah held a hand out to Dani. “Come on in,” she said. “We can talk while they slobber on each other.”
“Hey, I was getting to that part,” Dean said with one of Allie’s hands partly over his mouth. “Sam, Sarah, Allie, Danielle. Duh.”
“Brad, Janet, Rocky,” Dani said.
Dean smirked, but it came off as proud as they moved into the house. He squinted at Sam. “Dude, you’ve got crackers in your hair.”
“I couldn’t find my mouth,” Sam said.
Sam watched Dani glance around without attempting to be furtive about it, looking like she was tallying points in her head. Dean had told him the story about how it was Danielle unless she knew someone better, but he immediately thought of her as Dani all the same, because of the way Dean said it, with a slight tone of something between affection and exasperation.
Sarah asked her something Sam didn’t hear, but he heard Dani say no, but if there’s something I could help with, I’d love to. Then she turned and glanced up at him suddenly as if she was tearing off a band-aid and said, “Dean talks about you like you’re the second coming. Sam.”
She said his name the way Dean did, the only way she’d ever heard it, with just a little bit of extra to it. Not just a name.
Sam rocked back on his heels a little, figuratively, and knew it didn’t show on his face because of the years he’d spent in courtrooms. He heard Dean make a small choking noise behind him. He held a hand out for Dani to shake, and she cocked an eyebrow and leaned in to take the hand without coming any closer. He’d known her all of two minutes, and he already knew two things: she was head over heels for Dean but didn’t get him, and she was a little intimidated by some larger than life idea that she held about The Amazing Younger Brother. He decided to keep the poker face and see how she reacted.
“As a matter of fact,” Sarah said, sounding just a little too bright, “I’m trying a new recipe and need another opinion on the sauce.”
“Sure.” Dani gave Sam an uncertain half smile, then glanced at Dean. Sam turned quick enough to catch part of the wide-eyed how could you do this to me stare he was shooting her just before it vanished. “What,” Dani said.
Dean grinned, the false one Sam had seen on a million con jobs. “Go easy on Sarah,” he said.
She rolled her eyes a little and headed for the kitchen with Sarah.
Sam turned completely to look at Dean and smiled.
“Shut up,” Dean said. “She was seriously exaggerating.”
“Oh, yeah,” Sam drawled. “‘Cause scientists do that a lot.”
“Are you gonna make it?” Sam said. “You look a little green.”
Dean made a dismissive sound, grimaced, and sat down on the floor with Allie. He gestured to the bow and the rapidly failing topknot. “What’d you do to her hair? Why do you have to embarrass her like this?”
Allie put the rest of her cracker in his hair.
“So,” Sam said, “Dean never really gave us the whole story of how you guys met. Just the basics.”
Dani looked a little surprised. She glanced between Sam and Dean for a moment with a forkful of salad in midair, looking like she was checking to see if she was being tested.
Dean shrugged a little. He was preoccupied with yet another offering from his niece. Allie insisted on handing him bits of her own dinner, which was basically a finely chopped version of what the adults were eating. Trying to separate Dean and Allie at the table was a battle that Sam and Sarah knew was not worth fighting. Allie was a well-mannered little girl, if willful, so they saved their energy for the things that really mattered.
Dani hesitated for a moment to glance at Sarah, then began with “I thought maybe my eyes were just tired.”
It took her less than a minute to warm to the subject, though, and with that came audible wonder and proof that she was as analytical as Sam had suspected based on her specialty. She also didn’t seem to be possessed of a censor switch, which Dean had already warned him about. Details came out, from exactly what she’d been doing the first time she’d seen the apparition in her office, to her first impression of Dean.
“The eyelashes,” she said. “And the little smirk. I had to say something to keep him there a little longer, but I couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t ridiculous. But the view when he walked away all huffy wasn’t bad, either.”
She was unselfconscious for the first time all evening in the way she told her version of the tale, and Sam took it as her way of doling out the truth. She stuck mostly to fact, which she seemed to be more comfortable with, but it was the supposition that endeared her to him just a little. That, and the sparkle in her eye.
“He was the only one who took me seriously,” she said. “And not just because he thought I was a...what do you keep calling me?”
“Hotass,” Dean said without looking up.
Somewhere along the line, the story had become about Dean, and Sam watched his brother nearly squirm with discomfort from the attention.
Sam wanted to listen to her talk about Dean, with that look on her face, every day. Maybe without Dean sitting right there, though. It didn’t hurt Dean to get slathered with admiration every now and then, even if he thought it might.
Sam glanced at Sarah, who had been a little quieter than usual. They were both careful not to rib Dean, and he could tell from the look on her face that she wasn’t sure if that was the right thing to do or not.
Dean excused himself to head for the bathroom. Allie made a noise of discontent as he left the room, but Sarah tapped the tray of her high chair and said, “What is this? Look at all this dinner, here. You gave most of it to that uncle of yours, but I don’t see the rest going in here.” She tapped a finger against Allie’s tummy. Allie looked at her tray, then raised an eyebrow at Dani.
Dani purposely took another bite of her dinner. Allie followed suit, looking as suspicious as a fourteen-month-old could.
Coffee in the livingroom was easier, and Dani’s intelligence and sense of humor turned out to be everything Dean had said it was. Allie was past her bedtime, but with company over that wasn’t business-related, it was better to let her wind down and pass out on the floor than try and pry her from Dean. She spent her time choosing small toys from the box by her playpen and bringing them to Dean, then her father, then back, babbling. She patted her mother’s knees and seemed content with the hair-smoothing it earned her. She brought Dani a block and handed it over, then stared solemnly at Dani as if assessing her.
Dani looked mildly surprised, then grateful. She folded the block into her hands so that it was hidden then popped them open and said, “How about that?”
Allie gingerly took the block back, then glanced up at Dani’s face and grinned. She sat down with an oomph and chewed on the block, then rolled onto her back and stared among the adults.
Sam glanced at Dean. He looked like he might want a block to chew on, too.
Not long after, the coffee was gone and Allie was asleep, so Dean volunteered to take her up to bed.
“Okay,” Sarah said. “But be extra careful, this time.”
“Oh, hey,” Dean said. “No one wants that less than I do.” He scooped Allie up, gently dislodging the damp block from her fingers and wiping it on the side of Sam’s neck. Sam snorted and took it. Dean headed for the stairs with Allie tucked against him.
Dani watched them go, then rose and began gathering cups. “What happened...last time?”
“She woke up while he was leaving,” Sarah said.
Dani grimaced. “Uh oh.”
“Horror,” Sam said. “Sackcloth, ashes.”
Dani grinned. “Hannah - my niece - used to have a bad time when her parents went out, when she was about that age. But...why do I have the feeling that Allie will be twelve, and still not want him to ever leave?”
“I cry when he leaves,” Sarah said offhandedly.
Dani laughed. “Thanks. For tonight. For letting me ramble.”
“Hey,” Sam said, “It was our pleasure.”
Trust me on that one, he thought.
“I’m not sure,” Sarah said half an hour later, drying dishes while Sam washed.
Sam had put his foot down about anybody else doing dishes. You crazy kids get out of here, find some other way of burning off the calories. Anything to get another smirk out of Dean and to see if Dani was capable of blushing.
So far, she wasn’t. There would still be plenty of time to mess with her, if Sam read things right.
“I might like her,” Sarah said. “But it doesn’t really matter, in the end, if I do or not. He does. And she seems to be amazed by him.”
Sam took his time with the silverware. “The last time I saw him act like this was in 2006,” he said. “While we were still looking for Dad. Her name was Cassie. He looked so...confused. They’d long since broken up, but there was still something there. We were there because she called him after her father was killed. It turned into a case. She...well, rejected him because he told her what we do. He let her in. And she tossed him. So if I’m reading this right, and he cares that much about Dani, he’s not going to tell her anything, even though she’s seen something. Or, he’ll try and drive her off by telling her stuff rather than wait for her to freak out on him.”
“Because he figures the rejection is already pending,” Sarah said. “Better sooner than later.”
Sarah lowered her hands, a dish in one and a towel in the other. “You’re worried about him, aren’t you.”
“I think he’s fallen for her,” Sam said, and went on scrubbing. “She’s wound a little tight, and not his usual type. Or maybe she’s the type he didn’t know he was looking for. I mean, I’ve never had the chance to see it before. He gets...you know, worked up sometimes, but not like this. So this is kind of new for me, too. She talked about what happened with the thing in her office like it was an abstract, so I just want to follow Dean’s lead in however he wants to handle this. If he never lets her all the way in...I don’t want him to get hurt.”
Sarah went back to drying dishes and arranging them in the drainer. “His shot at normal,” she said.
Sam nodded. “I just want him to be happy. I don’t care what it takes.”
Sarah nudged him with her shoulder. He glanced down at her.
“Aw,” she said. “Aw.”
“God, I love you,” she said.
“Aw,” Sam said.
She flapped the towel at him. “How come you never call me a hotass?”
“Because it goes without saying.”
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