Characters: Sam, Dean
Rating: PG (language)
Warnings: Inspired by a scene in 5X12; very vague spoilers for S1 – S5 (not necessary to have watched the episode to read the story)
Genre: gen, preseries
Disclaimer: Not mine
Word count: 1600
Author’s Note: Thanks to callistosh65 for being my beta – can’t tell you how I appreciate it, my dear.
Summary: If books can show him a way out, Sam doesn’t want to miss a single word.
Sam starts with A Wrinkle in Time because Mrs. Bradshaw said it was the book she loved more than any other. She was his favorite fifth grade teacher, and she said that there wasn’t anything more important than reading. She declared that books could take you to places you’d never dreamed of, and she always looked at Sam when she said it. Books, she said, could change your life.
Sam is all for change, the sooner the better. If books can show him a way out, Sam doesn’t want to miss a single word.
Starting with A Wrinkle in Time is his way of saying sorry to Mrs. Bradshaw. He’s sorry for leaving, sorry for not saying goodbye. In some ways, it makes it easier that Dad likes to leave in the middle of the night without a day’s warning. It would’ve been hard to explain to Mrs. Bradshaw why a ghost cluster in Massachusetts was more important than the awards ceremony on the last day of fifth grade. Sam already knew he was going to win the special “scholar” award for “Academic Excellence” because Mrs. Bradshaw told him ahead of time so he could invite his father.
Sam likes the book, but he doesn’t love it. Dean reads the back cover and says there’s no such thing as time travel anyway.
It’s a long drive to Massachusetts, and Dad’s playing his music too loud. Sam reads James and the Giant Peach for the fifth time partly because he already has the book and also because it makes his own life seem not so bad.
Housatonic, Massachusetts is better than it sounds. They get a new babysitter. Her name’s Donna, and she’s a maid at the motel where they’re staying—summer job and all, and she doesn’t mind the extra money. Donna is pretty, and Dean tells dumb jokes that make her laugh. Sam likes her anyway.
Best of all, Donna takes him to the library and signs for his card. Dad doesn’t like Sam applying for a card when they’re not staying in town for long. He says it’s too much of a hassle with the driver’s license photocopy and signature—there’s too much that could go wrong. Dad’s willing to give out their real names when it’s absolutely necessary, like for school transcripts, but not for applying for a library card in a town they’ll most likely leave before the due date.
Donna doesn’t even mind waiting around while he chooses a book, which is the best thing ever because Dean has no patience for it—says libraries remind him of bones before you burn them. Dean’s so full of it. Libraries don’t smell a thing like bones. Sam knows that Dean just doesn’t like to be stuck inside on a summer day.
The library has a posted recommended reading list for college bound students. Sam takes home The Scarlet Letter, which is the first book on the list, even though the librarian, Miss Crocker, advises against it. She says it’s probably too old for him, even though she believes he’s a good reader. But Sam wants to be bound for college, so he’s willing to take a chance.
The book is okay…they sure did worry about a lot of stupid things back then, but Sam has no idea what the letter “A” stands for. Dean’s best guess is “asshole” but that has nothing to do with the story. Miss Crocker says Sam should ask his father. Sam decides that some things are supposed to stay mysteries and tells her so.
Miss Crocker kind of cracks up and hands him two books—her own favorites this time.
It doesn’t take long for Sam to figure out that Sarah, Plain and Tall sucks, and so does Anne of Green Gables.
(He actually likes Anne of Green Gables but lies about it in front of Dean.)
Sam reads Old Yeller next because Bobby tells him over the phone that it’s one hell of a book. Dean gets all freaked out when Sam cries after he’s finished. Dean takes the book back to the library himself. What kind of book ends up with a good dog dying? There’s enough death in life—the last thing Sam needs to do is read about it.
The month of July starts off with Treasure Island because Dean likes it, and no dogs die. Dean says you can’t go wrong with pirates. Sam likes Jim Hawkins all right, and Long John Silver reminds him of a hunter, but it really bothers him that Jim never has any more adventures by the end of the book. What kind of hero stays home with his mom to run an inn?
Miss Crocker recommends The Hobbit, but Sam’s a little nervous because of the girl books she gave him last time. But the cover looks cool. Bilbo is funny and brave, and Sam likes the battle scenes and the spiders, but Gollum gives him the creeps. The ring can’t be worth that kind of sacrifice—being invisible would be awesome but scary too. Sam knows one thing for sure—he’s never going to let anything have that much power over him.
Dad comes back in the middle of July and doesn’t want Sam reading so much. He says Sam needs the sun on his face and the real world under his feet. Dad makes Sam return the books to the library.
But there’s a thin, black Bible in the drawer next to his bed. Sam starts with Genesis and makes it to Leviticus before Dad takes off again on another job. Sam puts the Bible aside as soon as he can go back to the library, but he definitely has some questions for Pastor Jim the next time they see him.
Sam comes back from the library with the best book ever. Arabian Nights is awesome. It’s got everything—battles and shipwrecks… Sinbad battling giant Roc birds and the real Aladdin. The stories are told by a smart girl named Scheherazade who doesn’t want to marry the king so he’s gonna have her killed, but she thinks fast and tells all these stories, night after night, in order to save her life. But a thousand and one nights go by awfully fast. Sam wishes she would keep telling stories forever.
He reads that book twice.
The Phantom Tollbooth takes up one day. Sam reads The Outsiders that night under the blankets with his flashlight until Dean threatens to throw the book in the toilet unless Sam gets some sleep. Sam waits until Dean falls asleep and finishes the book anyway.
August starts off with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Dad coming back. Dad is all broken up and battered—it was a rough job this time. He drinks a lot, and sometimes he cries. Dad crying freaks Dean out, so Dad starts looking for a new hunt to make it up to him. Sam hurries and reads the next book in the series because he doesn’t want to have a book overdue on his card since Donna signed for him.
But Dad’s restless—wants to get back on the road. Sam doesn’t talk to Dad or Dean once he figures out they’re leaving, but he cries when Donna brings him homemade cookies. She hugs him and messes up his hair. She tells him that she’ll return his books—that he shouldn’t worry. He can renew his card the next time they come through town—she’ll take him. All he has to do is ask.
Donna has been the nicest babysitter he’s ever had, and Sam will miss her. But Dean will miss her more. Sam knows that Dean loves Donna as much as Sam loves the library, and that’s why they’re both sad on this hot August day while Dad packs up the car.
Sam’s supposed to be sticking around, so he doesn’t ask permission before taking off for the library. He’s got books to return, and it just doesn’t feel right to have Donna do it for him. Sam always tries to find closure when he can.
Mrs. Crocker lets him look through the donate bin and take whatever books he wants. She pats him on the arm and says it’s a rare and special thing—to meet a young man who loves books like Sam.
Sam isn’t sure if he loves books. He likes books—mostly for where they take him. There aren’t many things in the world that Sam loves. He loves Dean and sometimes Dad.
Books are his golden ticket, his way out. He reads them carefully and deliberately, his means to an end, because Sam knows in his gut that there’s gotta be something better than this.
He only finds one, but it’s one she recommends—Catcher in the Rye. It’s on the college bound list, so Sam tucks it under his jacket to hide it from Dad.
Dad doesn’t like him to read in the car, says he’s going to get sick, even though Sam never does. But Sam knows the truth—Dad’s a control freak. Wants everyone’s eyes on the same road as his. Dean rides shotgun most of the time, so he doesn’t mind looking straight ahead.
It’s a weird title, but Miss Crocker says it would be perfect for a boy like him. Sam doesn’t know what that means, but he smiles and thanks her. He wonders if he’ll be able to finish it before they get wherever they’re going.
He’s got the backseat to himself, and he’s sticking to the plan. Sammy Winchester’s going to change his life, one book at a time.