Title: The Line |
Authors: Neoxphile & Faerax
Disclaimer: The characters that you recognize belong Kripke and Carter
Category: Crossover X-Files/Supernatural
Summary: Sam and Dean Winchester meet Mulder and Scully while waiting for the release of the last Harry Potter book
**Authors’ Note: This fic contains NO SPOILERS for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. ** You humble authors have barely begun reading the book and we’ll give nothing of the plot away. We promise.
Barnes and Noble
July 20th, 2007
The line stretched around the block like a chain gang out of hell. There are forty-seven thousand people here, thought Dean acerbically as he stood beside a large letter F. F is right, Dean continued to muse. We are so effed, and it’s all Sam’s fault.
Sam was standing on the concrete sidewalk bouncing on the balls of his feet. He was a sure fire fit in with the other freaks and geeks lined up outside, all of them wearing wristbands like deranged escapees from the nearest mental hospital. There were goth chicks with pink hair, a few giants with platforms, and one guy with half of a ping-pong ball over his eye lurching about with the help of a large and gnarled tree branch. Further up the line, all the way towards the beginning, a woman had set up camp in a throne-like chair under the letter B. Dean privately referred to her as "Queen Bee" whenever he caught sight of her.
But these people were positively normal compared to the two wackjobs behind them. Although to be honest it was one nutcase and his keeper. Dean presumed they were there because of the little kid glued to their side, but the guy, the guy was so excited he practically levitated. Periodically he would shout “Wingardium LeviOsa!” as he picked up the little boy and swung him skyward. The redhead with him tried to rein him in by elbowing him, but was unsuccessful. Dean thought it was a shame the keeper was such a hot chick, and was stuck with a nutjob. She was definitely a MILF. Then again, Dean thought it was a shame that he was stuck in line-purgatory with Sam.
Some misplaced Halloween freak dressed like a wizard walked by declaring passionately that it was 10:15 and the line gave a halfhearted cheer.
"Only one and three quarters hours left, Dean!" Sam increased the bouncing at his pronouncement. Dean just wanted to kill him for the 87th time since joining this black parade hours ago. Maybe Sammy would bounce himself into the stratosphere as it got closer and closer to midnight, like in that old cartoon with the horse Widowmaker. The only problem was that Sam was lacking the bustle. Dean idly wondered where he could get one and if he did so, how he could convince Sam to wear it. Then again, Sammy was such a girl he might just do it for the joy of wearing a dress.
They’d been stuck in this line since 6, and Dean had suspected it was since 06:06:06. The devil surely had had a hand in this. While stuck in purgatory Dean had heard such grand advice as "Don’t get that balloon, it will tie you down!" along with commentary such as "I drew handcuffs!" from the surrounding crowd. At least the handcuff comment came from someone playing a game. He hoped. Staring around in misery, he looked for some weapon to impale himself on. The red-headed woman behind him seemed to share his pain.
A seventeen-year-old boy who looked like he lost a fight and got a swirly, with glasses askew and hair gelled into an improbable style, yelled to the crowd, "I’m the Boy Who Lived!"
"Not for long if I had my way," Dean muttered under his breath. The kid had been doing that all night long, and each time it became less and less amusing.
"Dean, lighten up, would ya?" Sam asked crossly. Dean didn’t have a chance to reply as the kid yelled again, and a crunching noise was heard as the crowd swallowed the kid whole. Of course, it may have just been one of the endlessly parading cars whose brakes needed replacement. So many of the cars had been screaming in agony of worn and tired brakes that Dean was mildly surprised that someone had not yet been hit. The brothers could probably have left off the credit card scams and pool hustling for quite some time if he did a few of the brake jobs that were needed by the freaks and geeks squad gathered outside the store.
Meanwhile people endlessly marched up and down the line, some with balloons and frisbees, some just looking lost and asking, "What letter is this?" Standing beside the 18-inch high letter F Dean turned to Sam and asked, "How many illiterate people normally come to book stores? Did all the dropouts decide to come here or what?" He quickly moved away when Sammy cocked his fist and threatened to let fly.
"What? I meant elementary school, Sammy," Dean intoned innocently, wide-eyed with his hands held out in a placating fashion.
Just then, another lost, illiterate freak dressed in green and silver tapped Dean and asked politely, "Is this the letter E?" Dean was about to gesture to the large letter E standing twenty feet away using a choice finger when Sam grabbed his wrist and motioned to the children around them. Dean was forced to vocalize an appropriate response but needed to edit it severely when Grandma Sam continued to eye him as though he was a small, irritating bug.
"Sammy, remind me one more time - what the hell are we doing here?"
"Getting the book. Look, I told you that I’m the only one who has to be here to get it at midnight, so if you’d rather go try and pick up some floozy at a local bar-"
"No." Dean heaved a sigh. As appealing as the thought of picking up some half or maybe three-quarters drunk chick was, he’d sworn to his father that he’d protect Sammy. This wasn’t a crowd he was comfortable about leaving his only brother to the tender mercies of.
Behind them, the redhead hissed, "Jesus Christ, Mulder! Put him down before he throws up on you. I am not cleaning it up if he does." Reluctantly the tall man released his child, to Dean’s relief. He might have to deal with Sam’s vomit from time to time, but he didn’t want to deal with a strange child’s. Vomit probably wouldn’t mix well with the kid's face paint, anyway. The kid wasn’t even drunk, and probably wasn’t even old enough to drink at a dairy bar.
The tall man behind him started to pout. Sam, being the bleeding heart that he was, tried to engage the reprimanded man in conversation. Please don’t let Sam hug him, Dean prayed fervently. Even if he is a brave little soldier. Especially not if he is a brave little soldier.
"So have you read all the books?" Sam asked, conversationally. Dean rolled his eyes and sniffed heavily. Of course he has, bitch, or he wouldn’t be here. What the hell did Sam think? That the guy liked being F’d, or that he was one of those illiterate lost boys? Then again, for all he knew Sam earnestly believed that there were people who did enjoy joining large crowds in sweltering heat for no reason. However Dean kept these salient observations to himself.
"Yeah, kind of reminds me of my former job. Wish we had the floo network though. It would have made the travel easier." The man’s eyes glittered with good humor and the redhead beside him mouthed "Oh no."
"My name is Mulder." He gestured towards the redhead. "She's Scully, and this," Mulder tickled the boy to make him laugh, "is our son William."
Mulder and Scully? Dean wondered. Real close couple if they referred to each other by last name. Unless, of course, both of their parents were crazier still than they were and gave them those handles as first names. If so, at least the trend hadn't continued in the younger generation.
"I'm Sam. This miscreant is my brother Dean." To Dean’s disgust, Sam held out his hand. Never shake hands with crazy people! Did Sammy have no self-preservation instincts?
The conversation paused briefly as the redhead and Dean refused to be drawn into it. The child between them chipperly added, "My mommy and daddy were super cops!"
"Really?" Sam crouched down to be at eye level with the boy. The kid nodded solemnly.
"Supercops?" Dean asked, surprised. Scully blushed, and said, "We were FBI agents, but I’m a pathologist now and my husband writes children’s stories. He likes to read the books because he uses them for research."
Dean felt his head swim at the mention of the FBI, and his palms began to sweat. Then he thought, what was worse, the FBI or children’s stories? Children’s stories, Dean decided. The FBI hadn’t caught them, but the damn children’s stories had them incarcerated in the line.
The flustered looking store employee walked by again, announcing that it was 10:30. Dean revised his previous thought. The line wasn’t purgatory. It was hell. Although hell had its perks. Dean grinned as an 18-year-old girl walked by in a baby doll tee that proclaimed, "I solemnly swear I am up to no good." He wondered if Sam would mind if he left for a bit...
Meanwhile Sam and Mulder were engaged in a lively conversation with such words as Reducto, Dumbledore, Death Eaters, Dark Marks, and something called “Moldy Wart”.
Fifteen minutes later the local PD came by and blared over a loud speaker that they were to all get off the pavement and force themselves to the sidewalk of the building. It was too bad it was a hot July night because the press of the crowd was soon sweltering. Starting to sweat, Dean turned to Sam. "Next thing you know they’re going to have a Barnes and Noble employee come by and tattoo the letter F to our hands. Then they’ll separate the men from the women and send us to the showers."
Sammy looked outraged, which had been Dean’s goal. "You didn’t just compare standing in line for the new book to being sent to a concentration camp."
"Well, yeah, I think I just did."
Just behind them former FBI agent remarked, "It could be worse. We could be lined up out here because the aliens are invading and enslaving the human race."
"I guess that could be worse," Dean admitted.
"That won’t happen until 2012, though," Mulder continued.
Dean figured that the redhead would groan, but instead she just said, "We don’t know that for sure."
Was she just humoring him, or was she crazy too? She didn’t look crazy, but that wasn’t too much of a tell. Some of the biggest nuts of all had a pretty good poker face.
Before Dean could figure out how he could slowly back away for dramatic effect, surrounded as he was by an amorous couple having an inappropriate response to their excitement over the book release and a woman who bore an uncanny resemblance to Janet Reno, the little kid piped up, "Daddy, I’m bored! Tell me about the circus, again."
He wasn’t looking forward to hearing anything about clowns, not after that one time, but anything was better than listening to the two chicks in front of him babble about going to a book release and bringing an alphabetical list of crap with them. The port-a-potties towards the tail end of their list could actually have been useful, however, given there were so many teenagers doing the pee-pee dance ahead that it looked like a low-key mosh pit.
Dean shot a look at his brother, preparing to have to talk him down at the first mention of clowns, but that’s not where the guy’s story went. "Okay, Will. Once upon a time, long before you were born, your mom and I visited a circus so we could investigate a murder. At first people swore the murderer was the Fiji Mermaid-"
"The FBI investigates mermaids?" Dean couldn’t stop himself from interrupting.
"Dean-" Sammy looked annoyed. If they hadn’t wanted to have the story be question-answer format, they shouldn’t have started it while standing around so many people.
The redhead, Scully, gave Dean a withering look, which made him momentarily reconsider his earlier opinion about how do-able she was. A redhead who could handle a gun, that might even be too much for him to handle. With his lack of tact, it’d probably only be a matter of time before a woman like that shot him. "The FBI investigates all murders," she said icily.
"I know." Sam sighed, earning odd looks from the couple. Sam then glanced away.
She probably wasn’t armed, not there with all those kids around, so Dean asked, "Was the mermaid at least hot?"
"No," the little boy told him earnestly. "It wasn’t a mermaid, it was a monster!"
Oh well, so much for half-naked fish chicks to liven up the story.
"Will, it wasn’t a monster, it was an unfortunate man," the woman reprimanded the kid. Six years old, and she was already trying to cram that PC crap down his throat.
Mulder ignored the side-conversation and continued the thread of his story. "Right, it wasn’t a mermaid at all, but the parasitic brother of one of the side-show-" He paused and looked at the redhead, "-performers."
Dean grinned smugly at the man. He’d been taught to heel far better than Dean could imagine himself ever doing.
"He was just looking for a better brother!" the kid said.
"I hear ya," Sam said. He ducked when his brother cuffed him on that back of his head.
"It’s just too bad that he ended up killing all his potential new brothers." Scully looked sort of sad. Like maybe there’d been a good deal of blood involved. Even too much for a pathologist.
"I think too bad is a bit understated when it comes to killing people by boring holes into them," Mulder said humorlessly.
Now that sounds like our sort of case, Dean thought to himself. He sincerely hoped he never had to worry about Sam putting holes in anyone. At least not people and not without the Colt. Or maybe a crossbow. Or knife. Definitely not in people, though.
"With a knife?" Sam asked just then, eerily.
Mulder shook his head. "Teeth."
"Yeah. The worst part was his real brother felt really rejected," Scully added. "The killer didn’t mean to kill anyone, he just didn’t understand that no one but his brother was capable of sustaining him."
Your parasitic sibling trying to hook up with someone else, that had to sting. "So, did you arrest the freak?"
"No," Mulder told him, looking amused. "We didn’t end up having to."
"He was eaten before we could take him into custody."
"Oh." Well, that did make things easier...
As it drew closer to midnight, the tension in the crowd increased. Shouts - not "I’m the Boy Who Lived" though that kid was at it again, fresh black eye not withstanding - got their attention. Some desedens of the line were becoming unruly. You would have thought it was the bored teenagers, the ones moaning "my butt hurts!" or "my thighs ache!" who would be the ones to cause the building uproar, but they weren’t.
Instead it was a spontaneous shouting match between two matrons with children in tow. One of the women was a late arrival, and section F’s own lesser monarch, Duchess F of the folding camp chair, took umbrage to the other woman trying to force her way to the head of the section. So probably did many others in section F, but the rest held their tongues.
"We’ve been waiting here for hours!" the woman howled at her opponent. "You can’t just show up now and cut ahead."
The late arrival haughtily insisted that she was in section F and she had a child, so that made her special. Half the people there had kids with them, hadn’t she noticed, Dean wondered idly. He himself had a very large child with him.
There was nothing better to do, so they listened to the shouting for a few minutes. Not that they could clearly hear the exchange, but a group of teenagers, wedged between the gropers and Janet Reno helpfully passed the dialogue between the two women along like a deranged game of telephone.
Eventually the teenagers got tired of listening. Dean thought he heard one of them snap, "I’m not an owl!" but he had no idea what that meant. At least that was one kid who still held onto a modicum of sanity; there probably were several people in the crowd who did indeed believe themselves to be night birds who swooped down on unsuspecting prey.
"Daddy, why are they yelling?" William's lower lip was beginning to tremble. Dean didn’t usually like little kids, not unless he was trying to pick up their moms, but he felt bad for all the scared little faces he could see in the surrounding crowd. This was supposed to be a fun night, at least someone’s idea of fun, and these two women were scaring the crap out of the little kids.
Apparently he wasn’t the only one to think so because he heard Scully mutter, "I wish I had my gun."
There was a renewed burst of vitriol between to the two harridans and the F-word floated merrily above the night crowd making some gasp.
To nearly everyone’s surprise, one of the teenagers who wasn’t an owl drew herself up to her full five feet tall and roared, "Ladies! It’s just a book. What sort of impression do you think you’re making on your children?!"
The pair looked shocked, as though they’d forgotten the presence of the little impressionable people in the crowd. Like Sam. And that Will kid. Shamefaced, the duchess backed down, but the late arrival stalked off, dragging her kid by the arm, to a Barnes and Noble employee to presumably get her section changed.
Suddenly the line lurched forward like a slow fright-train. The teenagers squealed excitedly as someone with a cell phone in contact with the atomic clock announced that it was eleven-forty-five. Dean reflected that it really had only taken them six hours to move twenty feet. He imagined it was a lot like working road construction.
The fevered pitch of the crowd began to gain intensity at exponential rate with each new announcement of the time. Small knots of people were yelling and laughing up and down the line, and it was likely that the cacophony could be heard in the next town.
Nudging Sam, he said "I’d hate to be trying to sleep in that house over there." He pointed to a blacked house directly across from the parking lot. "Though I wouldn’t be surprised if those people already killed themselves after the last Harry Potter release party."
Dean found himself reluctantly drawn into the excitement, much as people are drawn into the excitement of car wrecks. The anticipation of what would happen next, would someone in the crowd be knifed for line-jumping? After all, there several people wearing T-Shirts declaring "7-21-07 Who will die?" All he knew for certain is that it wouldn’t be Sam... Would the large Hargid impersonator, have the heart attack they’d been expecting all evening? If the store ran out of books would they make the evening news when people rioted?
All at once, just after midnight, section F was swept into the store. A few short minutes later, fewer than Dean could have believed, the book was in his idiot brother’s hands, and they were free. It was almost as good a feeling as when the homicide detective released them instead of dragging them back to prison. Tears of joy in his eyes, Dean looked at Sam. "This is the last book, you swear, right?"
"That’s what JK Rowling said."
"There is a God."
When they got back to the Impala the car came to life with a throaty growl, also seeming glad to finally be leaving the parking lot.
Dean looked over at a Sam in the passenger seat, and for a second thought he saw a chubby twelve-year-old, tightly clutching his hard won prize. Giving him a shit-eating grin, Dean merely said, "Bitch."
Sam smiled blissfully back. "Jerk."
Before they could leave he noticed the weird couple walking across the parking lot to a sedate gray sedan. Dean thought he could see the man’s mouth moving to say the same stupid phrase he’d been repeating in line. Unsurprisingly, he threw the kid up in the air again.
And this time the kid stayed there.
At least three seconds by Dean’s count, before falling victim to gravity once more. He poked his brother. "Did you see that?"
"See what?" Sam asked, looking up from the first page of the book, which he was illuminating with a Harry Potter brand book light.
"Nevermind," Dean said tiredly. He didn’t really want to know.
End Note: This fic is dedicated to everyone who spent last night waiting for the book. Especially those people at the same NH store as us. You know who you are.
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