Because a few people have expressed interest, and I do actually like bits of it, here's the self-insert/OFC fic I started writing a while back but quit because Sam & Dean are more interesting.
Despite what the folks in Punxsutawney would have you believe, the most important groundhog in the history of the world is not named Phil. The most important groundhog in the history of the world has no name--or at least nothing a human would recognize as such. In fact, the only thing of note about this groundhog is that it chose to dig a certain hole three inches to the right rather than to the left: on such choices is the fate of all creation hung.
(Take that, Tolstoy.)
Because the hole is three inches to the right, when Dean Winchester races down the gully in pursuit of a bigcat, his foot lands squarely in the hole and he winds up flat on his nose, ankle so severely sprained he can’t put weight on it for another two days.
His dad still bags the bigcat, but the upshot is that Dean’s off any job that requires him to do more than drive or sit at a table. And so when they catch wind of a possible job in Athens, Ohio, John makes a detour through Pennsylvania and drops Dean off in the parking lot of a seminary so tiny most of the people in the town around don’t even know it exists.
Dean tries not to feel bitter about this--or insecure,which is harder.
Supposedly the seminary’s library has some books on demonology or something that are really hard to find copies of, but as he surveys the place, Dean kind of doubts it. Kind of a lot--the parking-place lines are nearly worn away, the sidewalk around the side is more gravel than cement, and the two weeping trees out in front look like they’re haunted or infested or maybe just plain evil. If it wasn’t for the sign saying “seminary”, he’d think his dad had dropped him at the wrong address. A psych ward, maybe, except there aren’t any bars or anything on the windows.
When he goes in the side entrance, duffle over one shoulder and address for the town’s only hotel in his pocket, he’s confronted by a huge flight of teeny-tiny stairs. Maybe the trees aren’t evil, but he’s pretty sure the building is. And of course the library’s on the top floor. By the time he gets there, the only reason he’s not cursing the whole place is that he’s got his teeth clamped shut to keep from yelping in pain every time he takes another step.
The railing’s pretty sturdy, though: have to give their maintenance guys props for that. Good thing, too, or he’d probably be making friends with the floor somewhere closer to the basement.
He wavers in the doorway for a minute, trying to pull himself together enough to limp the four steps across to the desk, and unspeakably grateful that there’s no one around to see his struggle.
“Can I help you?”
Except apparently there is.
His first thought isn’t exactly printable, but he still has his teeth clamped shut so it doesn’t have a chance to escape. His second is, well, it figures, because while she’s not his usual fare--a little less skin showing, a slightly wider middle--she’s easy enough on the eyes. Under normal circumstance he’d start flirting right about now, but his ankle feels like someone took a hacksaw to it, so all he manages is a gasped, “Just give me a minute.”
“Okay,” she says, but studies him for a beat before leaving. He almost has his breath back, the pain having subsided to more of a grinding ache, when she reappears, holding out a long pole with a hook on one end. “Not to rush you or anything, but if you’d like something to hang onto while you get wherever you’re going--”
It takes him another minute to process her offer, but then he grabs the pole with more relief than grace or manners. Not as good as a crutch, but infinitely better than trying to make it down the hall unsupported. “Thanks,” he says, and glances around, trying to get his bearings now that he doesn’t have to worry about falling down without the doorframe to hold him up.
Now, Dean’s been to libraries all over the country, from tiny public libraries the size of a trailer to university libraries large enough to lose your little brother in. But he’s never seen any like this--just two white hallways and a series of doors. If the signs lied to him and the library’s actually on another floor, he just might break down and start crying.
“Actually, I’m not sure where I’m going.” He tries a smile. “I don't suppose the library's up here somewhere?”
“Oh, the whole floor’s the library--the books are just all off in the rooms, so you can’t see them.”
That is quite possibly the most beautiful thing he’s ever heard, and he tells her so. She laughs, and it’s a good laugh: solid, genuine. Sam used to laugh like that, before he decided Dean’s jokes were all dumb.
He doesn’t exactly fall in love with her right there, but he does resolve to make her laugh like that again.
Given the dates of the books on his dad's list, Dean had expected some sweet-talking would be necessary--but all he does is mention the words 'rare books' and a head-spinningly few minutes later he's ensconced in a corner of Tabitha's office, complete with his own spinny chair and a stool to prop his bum ankle up on. Normally he'd chalk this up to his winning manner, but he's not exactly at the top of his game at the moment, and underneath Tabitha's professional solicitude runs something a little more sharp-edged. He recognizes it from all the times he's wound up alone in a motel room in the wake of Sam's ... whatever. "Can't help but notice you have a bunch of empty offices back here," he comments when she arrives with the first batch of books. (No white cotton gloves in sight, thank goodness. Sam would probably go on about preserving things for posterity or whatever, but the seams always snag on Dean's calluses and never fit right.)
Tabitha's expression goes a little tight, smile flattening into something worn, not felt. "Yeah," she says, and glances out behind him, toward the closed doors and dark rooms. "We're kind of understaffed at the moment, so I'm the only one here most of the time."
"Must get kind of lonely, up here by yourself," Dean says--and under other circumstances it would be a come-on, but he's facing his own version of this once he's done here, so it's purely sympathetic.
"Yeah," she says again, smile slipping enough for him to see the weariness hidden beneath, the kind that no amount of sleep can fix. "It kind of does." Her expression turns wry, self-depricating. "So really, you're doing me a favor by hanging out here."
"I guess so," Dean agrees, and this time turns it a little flirtatious, because if he told someone how much he hates being left behind or admitted there's another reason why he goes home with girls besides the obvious, and they expressed any sympathy at all, he'd probably deck them. Tabitha doesn't seem like the punching type, but despite Sam's allegation, Dean does know how to be polite. It just looks a little different than what Miss Manners would recommend.
Doesn't always work, but he figures the upward curl to the corners of her mouth counts as a win. "You want some ice for that?" she asks, gesturing at his elevated ankle, and he feels his own expression go a little brighter.
"I may have to marry you," he says with an earnestness that's only partly feigned, and almost earns himself that second laugh.
"If you ask very, very nicely," she promises, and disappears down the stairs that had almost conquered him on arrival.
It's not that Dean hates research, not exactly--he just doesn’t enjoy it the way Sam always had (has, Dean supposes, but he’s already in enough pain from his ankle so he’ll stop there). He can do it, he’s perfectly competent, but given the option, he’d rather go interview someone in person than spend the day scanning indices and scrolling through microfiche. (Microfilm, okay, Sam. Geeze. Unclench a little.) And neither his brother or father have ever understood that sometimes he has to stop and flirt or joke around a little just to keep his brain from locking up like an engine without oil.
Tabitha, on the other hand, seems almost relieved whenever he makes some sarcastic comment or reads aloud a particularly convoluted paragraph to support his argument that 19th-century crypto-theologians (or whatever, Sammy) all needed to retake high school English—because even Dean could write more clearly than this shit, and according to both Sam and his dad that should have been impossible. (As if they would know, given how much they needlessly complicate things.)
Not to mention this study-session comes with an almost decent soundtrack, which is a first in Dean’s vast (though somewhat reluctant) experience of libraries. Maybe it’s always like this behind the desk and all the shushing is just for show. The band playing isn’t one he’s familiar with, and it’s a bit more folk than rock for his preference, but when it starts to rock out, it really goes all out—and if the driver picks the music, so does the librarian allowing you to take over the back corner of her office. So Dean keeps his cakehole shut and doesn’t spend 10 minutes trying to decide whether Sam would be thrilled or disgusted that all the songs are apparently old English folklore. (He’s pretty sure he’s hunted at least a couple of the things mentioned—and King Henry was definitely a schmuck for killing hawk, hounds, and horse just because some magic bear-woman said so, even if she did turn out to be really hot at the end. If any chick tried to convince Dean to sacrifice his Baby—)
[snippets that may or may not fit in anywhere:]
“Your middle name is Dorcas?” He half-expects her to admit it’s a joke, because who would be cruel enough to do that to their child? But she nods, eyes crinkled a little at the corners like she knows it’s ridiculous, and he can’t help asking, “How’d you survive elementary school?”
“Oh, I didn’t go to school,” she answers with a kind of studied blitheness which is really just a veiled defensiveness, and he recognizes it, knows it from the inside out, so he feels even more pleased with himself when his sincerely envious, “How’d you manage to swing that?” makes her laugh.
[joining up with canon again:]
Dean still goes to Athens, Ohio (his dad decides it’s a two-man job), still meets Cassie. But instead of spilling everything to Cassie, asks how she would react if he told her his day job was hunting ghosts--because he’d told Tabitha and she’d barely blinked, had offered family’s home as crashpad without asking anything in return except occasional bulletins that he was still alive.
So he asks Cassie, and she treats it like a joke, and so it’s nothing more than a couple-night’s stand, and afterward he calls Tabitha and tells her everything--and she’s not angry or hurt or anything except a little disappointed and sad for him and he doesn’t know what to do with that, but he keeps calling her, and she keeps picking up, and eventually he’s spending more of his evenings in Starbucks, nursing a coffee and on the phone, rather than picking up girls in bars. He likes sex, likes it a lot, but the leaving afterwards always makes him feel lonely. He’s not getting sex with Tabitha, but he’s also getting to take her along with him--metaphorically or whatever. Which is especially nice given that his dad is taking more and more gigs on his own, and Dean hates empty hotel rooms.
[once Sam finds out:]
“Your wife,” Sam repeats in a tone that suggests there’s a blue screen going on inside his head. “You’re married. How are you married?” It’s the implied ‘you, of all people’ that gets Dean’s back up.
“Well, Sammy, when a man and a woman love each other very much….” Sam’s stare remains incredulous, and that breaks the last finger-hold Dean has on his temper. “What do you want me to tell you, Sam? I liked her, she liked me, her parents didn’t decide to run me out of town--” at this Sam’s expressions shifts into one of benevolent judgment, which just isn’t fair-- “And no, it was not a shotgun wedding. Do you really think I’m that kind of jerk?”
‘Yes, maybe,’ Sam’s eyebrows admit, so Dean refuses to talk any more on the subject until they get there, because even though Dean used to maybe sort of be that kind of guy, Tabitha’s never been that kind of girl and Sam has no right to think that about her. Instead he puts on the Steeleye Span mix-tape she’d given him for his birthday and silently dares Sam to comment on it.
Sam doesn’t, but he gets the little crease between his eyebrows that means he’s over-thinking something.
“So, what--you get health insurance out of it and she gets sex?”
“We both get sex, Sam. That’s usually the way the arrangement works. I’d have thought you’d figured that out by now.”
Whatever Sam had been expecting of his newly revealed sister-in-law, it certainly wasn’t this--she's about one sneeze from frumpy, no make-up, scarcely any skin showing. Though beneath the extra padding she has good bones (as Jessica might have said, when she was being kind towards someone who couldn't get a boyfriend), and her smile at seeing Dean is wide and genuine.
Dean’s father-in-law is actually a professor (Dean actually has a father-in-law; the mind boggles), whose house almost literally overflows with books. There are chickens in the backyard, for pete’s sake, and a sizeable vegetable garden, a piano in the living room and a Volvo in the garage. How on earth had Dean wound up here? And comfortable--no hemming and hawing, no awkward small talk or dutiful catching up on personal news. He simply falls into the conversational flow as if he’d been there all along, leaving Sam floundering in his wake and wondering for the first time how well he’d ever known his brother.
[right before Dean's deal comes due:]
They conjugate together, no laughter, more than a few suppressed tears—a melding of bodies as though they might actually become one and save Dean’s soul that way. But no bitterness from Tabitha, no reproach, and while Dean would still put Sam’s life before her happiness, he can’t help but feel he’s failed them both. Despite everything Dean’s told himself, Sam’s obviously going to be wrecked when Dean dies, and it’s suddenly apparent that he was lying to himself about Tabitha as well.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers into the darkness once he’s sure she’s asleep.
He still doesn’t know what else he could have done.
The post-s3 finale endgame was going to be Levirate marriage, to a) give Sam something to hold onto other than revenge and b) block Ruby's advances on Sam. Never got as far as figuring out the potential consequences on the whole apocalypse showdown thing, or how the heck things would shake out once Dean got resurrected. Marrying your dead brother's wife is all well and good, but gets a bit complicated if he shows up alive again.