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On Fire

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He walks from fire into dust.

Dust so thick it’s choking him the instant he moves through the space to the not-there and the there-again, the there again.

And then he is standing beside a Ferris Wheel and Jess is nowhere and Dean is nowhere.

He understands this. For he could not carry them with him, not this far.

But he still smells fire.

*~*~*

He approaches the ten-in-one, something he knows instinctively somehow. Stay away from the-- from the trailer, stay away from the trailer.

A small man--really small--approaches him. Gives him the eagle eye. His look and stance give new meaning to the phrase “pregnant pause,” and then he asks knowingly, “Headache?”

“Smoke allergy,” Sam lies expertly, but this man knows a liar when he sees one and just raises an eyebrow.

“If you say so.”

*~*~*

A small crowd has gathered silently around the little man, around him and Sam. An older man and two younger women emerge from a battered but serviceable truck--that looks like it’s from--

Shit.

Dean. Where’s Dean. Dean’s with Jess? And all the smoke.

“I--”

The small man smiles a smile that says money. “So what’s your name?”

“I have a brother.”

*~*~*

“So, Sam…” Samson, his name is Samson, Samson is saying hello to him, “We can have two of us here, you know, if that’s up your alley. Truth is, management said you’d be here.”

“I-- Okay. Sure.”

“When you’s a kid, you ever think of runnin’ away with the circus?”

All the time.

Every corn field is improved by a big top. Sam has seen a lot of corn fields.

“Y-yeah.”

“Truth is, we could use someone around here like you. Put those headaches, all the things you can’t explain, to use. If you can’t decide how--”

“Uh.”

“--we have a fortune teller. Couple of ‘em. Good folk. Won’t lead you astray.”

“Yeah, okay. My brother, uh, my….”

He can’t exactly explain his aspirations to them. They’re in the middle of nowhere, and they probably always have been. Oh yeah, and there’s enough dust that this has to be--

“I don’t really know how I got here.”

“When does anybody?” Samson asks. “Yer here now, and we could use you, somebody with your talents. I know the look.”

“Guess you do. I uh...haven’t told anybody about my headaches but….”

“We know. People know.”

Sam swallows hard.

“When you been in the business ‘long as me, you know. Now git. Fortune teller’s over there. Sofie. Go.”

Sofie and Sam both dash toward Appolonia and the cards.

*~*~*

“Hi, Sam. You have two bits?”

“Uh.” He hands her a dollar.

She squints at it, confused. “This fake?”

“Uh, no? Look, I have family, they might be in trouble. I--”

Sofie smiles like she’s being let in on a little secret. “Sure, Mama. Okay.” She turns her full attention on him. “Don’t worry, Sam. If Samson says you belong here, then Management thinks so too, and, well, that means you belong here. That’s how things work around here.”

*~*~*

Jessica appears in a cornfield. She walks toward the first thing she sees, and it’s the ten-in-one, and Sam.

Samson and Lila move together from opposite sides of the carnival grounds to meet in front of Sam Winchester.

“Fire eater,” Samson says.

“You like fire, honey?” Lila says, lilting and dark.

“I just survived one.”

*~*~*

“Sam,” Jess breathes, and when they touch again for the first time they can almost forget an exploding ceiling.

Almost.

*~*~*

Their first kiss looses the smell of smoke into the air and the fortune teller, the one who has words, pauses with a cigarette halfway to her lips.

*~*~*

Later:

“Best to face the fear,” Samson says. “We got a stage for you if you want it.”

And Jessica does.

Sam is here and she’s alive. And something here, Sam can tell, is calling her home just as it did for him.

*~*~*

Sam smiles at her as she practices with a sprayed-down stick before lighting it. With the way her curls glisten in the light, he can see her drawing in a crowd.

“I never told Dean what I could do,” he says, “And I wondered if Dad was going to kick me out when I was, like, eight, and I’d have to join the circus.”

“You did?”

“Scout’s honor.”

“You don’t have to swear on a badge, Sam. I believe you.”

*~*~*

The fortune teller taps lightly on the flap of their part of the ten-in-one.

“Hey, Sam, Jess, I...was just… You wanna go into town? You know, for fun?”

Jess smiles a little and they exchange a look. Then she volunteers him. “Sure. Sam could use some fun.”

*~*~*

The weird sense of being out of place in time hits him at the bar. He can’t imagine Dean there.

He can’t imagine Dean.

Actually, I was looking for a beer?

And then he can, and he’s five beers deep because

I have a family.

*~*~*

Dean pops up in a hole the guy with the leg brace--Jonesy--is digging about twenty miles from that bar. Just...materializes. Becomes corporeal.

They help him out of the hole and Samson sizes him up. “Telepath?” he asks straight out.

“Uh.”

“You ever get anything from anyone? I mean, get anything? Anyone? Fom family?”

“Who are-- You-- Do you have my brother? Do you have Sam?”

“Gettin’ quite a number of folk out of thin air,” Lila calls. “We got room?”

“Management says so.”

*~*~*

“Sam,” Dean says, “This is...weird. Even for us.”

“I wanna stay, Dean. Jess too. It’s safer here. And…”

“And I know that look,” Dean says, raising an eyebrow. “There’s a girl.”

“I’ve never been unfaithful.”

Sofie walks by, and Sam can tell she’s digging her heels into the dirt a little, making her presence known.

“Yeah, okay,” Sam admits.

He steals a look at Jess, who shrugs and smiles bemusedly.

“Safer here than anywhere,” he says.

“Lots of girls, you know, for a circus, I guess, I mean...girls.”

“Up to here with girls, huh, Dean?”

“This is weird. But I could stay.”

“I could stay too.”

*~*~*

He joins Sofie outside her trailer and watches her smoke. Jess and Dean are nearby with a bottle of whiskey they’re passing between them.

He catches Jess’ eye.

“He’s cute over there,” Jess stage whispers. “I mean, right?”

Dean casts a glance between him and Jess. Shrugs. “I’m his brother.”

Jess grins. “Yeah. We know.”

*~*~*

And of course there’s a fire. Of course there is. It follows him, it follows him everywhere. And he’s going to make sure that nothing happens that isn’t supposed to happen. He’s going to make sure--

Sofie comes out of the fire in Sam’s arms, screeching. She wants to kill me. Always hated me. Wants to kill me. Thinks I’m a monster.

He hears her in his head. And he knows exactly how she feels.

*~*~*

He could hold Sofie forever.

*~*~*

Jess sees it too--Jess sees everything, and so does Dean.

He’s always known Dean was transparent, but the way both of them look at him now, he’s pretty sure he’s not been as good a liar as he always thought he was, not that he was trying to be.

Okay. He was trying to be. But now… they’ve all survived. They’ve survived.

And he never wants to go back to hunting, and Dean…

Dean’s here.

And Sofie’s here, too. Sofie’s here too.

*~*~*

“We like you,” Sofie says, jutting her chin out a bit. “Even Mama liked you. Mama don’t like just anybody. Mama--”

“Hey. Don’t. Sssh.”

“Mama hated me. I never knew why, but now I do.”

*~*~*

He’s lying in bed in the ten-in-one and Jess is tracing the planes of his face with a thumb and forefinger. “You and Sofie, huh?”

“I mean...yeah. It’s the...thing. With my dad. I guess she-- I mean--”

“I get it, Sam. I do.”

“Jess, I couldn’t, I mean...what exactly are you saying?”

“I don’t know. You think she likes girls?”

*~*~*

Libby stares daggers at him with unabashed fury at breakfast the next morning and he doesn’t exactly understand until he sees Sofie approach him and Jess and come a little too close. Sofie and Libby are exchanging a look that could kill.

Oh.

*~*~*

“So, sure, I think she does,” Sam says, when he and Jess are alone again. The fire-eater act is as popular as snake handling and Jess is amazing at it.

When he’s got an old timey dollar he gives it to Sofie. “Here. The other one, it may be a collectable some day.”

“You don’t have to pay me, Sam. Not for anything.”

“It’s not like that. It’s just… Two bits. And change.”

Sofie nods, tired.

“Have you seen Jess?”

*~*~*

When she joins them in the ten-in-one later that week, nobody sees it, not even Libby. But oh, sound travels.

*~*~*

I gotta get outta here, Sam hears, and it’s in his head again, but it’s Sofie. I gotta get out of here.

But “out of here” still means she taps on their tent flap that night.

*~*~*

“No one wants me, Sam,” she says.

“I do. We do.”

*~*~*

And the heavens don’t move, and Sam Winchester doesn’t raise the dead. He’ll never be Ben Hawkins, amazing faith healer.

What he can do is parlor tricks to him, but for Sofie--

--all she wants is to be understood. Wanted. Loved.

And she is, and maybe it’s the first time in her life.

Sam and Jess are okay with that.

They are survivors. All three of them.

And she is theirs, because it’s enough.

*~*~*

It turns out sound carries a long way, and that’s exactly the way they want it to be.