Title: Barefoot Girl
Fandom: Supernatural, The Time Traveler's Wife
Genre: Gen, angst, self-indulgent cuteness
Word Count: 11,547
Characters: Dean Winchester, Alba DeTamble (Sam shows up a few times and gets talked about quite a bit)
Season/Spoilers: Starts pre-series and goes through "Houses of the Holy." Spoils a few things about the book, but I don't think reading this would by any means ruin you if you were planning to read the novel at some point in the future.
Warnings: Time travel has been known to cause brainhurt. Also, the cuteness may have gotten out of control in places.
Disclaimer: The show is written by people who are much eviler than I am. The book was written by a woman whose brain clearly works a lot better than mine does. Neither belong to me in any way.
Thanks: izhilzha kept saying that she didn't actually beta this but you could have fooled me. Hand-holding and cheerleading were her department. ayoub sweetly volunteered to make sure this fic was conon-compliant for both 'verses. feliciakw went over the whole monster line by line and made it better, occasionally pausing to enjoin me to END THE COMMA ABUSE (all this even though at the time she hadn't read TTW). These people made the fic way more awesome than it was when I got done with it. Thank you, guys! *air kisses* Any errors of any kind that remain are all the fault of yours truly.
The first time Dean meets Alba, she sees him first.
He spins around in the direction of his name, the surprise of hearing it called by an unfamiliar voice making him forget for a moment that he's jaywalking. A reminder comes in the form of a woman in a
"Hi!" A teenage girl—fourteen, maybe fifteen?—waves at him from the curb, smiling and laughing.
He's never seen her before in his life, and he's supposed to meet his dad several blocks from here in a couple minutes, but she beckons him over with a happy wave of her hand, still smiling, and he crosses back over to the sidewalk, half out of curiosity and half out of a sort of obligatory suspicion that she's something weird that needs looking into.
When he reaches the curb, she says, "Hi, Dean!" again, bouncing on her heels, and damn, if people he actually knew were this pleased to see him more often, he'd be set.
"Hi, uh . . ." He doesn't have to fake the apology in his smile, he honestly wishes he remembered her the way she obviously remembers him. "Look, I’m sorry, I don't think I know . . ." He trails off, one hand waving vaguely.
“You don’t have to be sorry.” She has long, black hair, and her clothes are too big for her. "It's okay if you don't remember me." She pats him reassuringly on the arm.
He flashes her a grin at that. “Well thanks, you’re a sport.”
"Hi, Alba. I, uh . . . I guess you know I'm Dean." He smiles at her, still feeling a little out of his depth, but not particularly worried about it. The EMF reader in his jacket hasn't gone off yet, and neither has his spider-sense. Plus, he’s never known a spirit to wear jeans three sizes too large and held up by a flowered belt.
Alba nods and says, “Sorry about almost making you get run over by that car. I just saw you and wanted to say ‘hi.’” She laughs suddenly, like she’s just thought of something incredibly funny. “I guess now we’re even.”
Dean laughs, just a little uneasily. Her giggle is infectious, but he is getting seriously confused, now. He lets his smile fall as he wracks his brain for some memory of a pale girl with black hair and a wide smile. His thoughtful frown makes her laugh harder.
“I’m sorry,” she says again. “It’s not really fair, but it’s so funny. Anyway, I’m not here for long, so I’d better go, but I’m glad we ran into each other.”
And then she turns and dashes away up the street, throwing one last smile over her shoulder. He notices as she runs that her feet are bare; they flash white, one after the other, from under the hem of her over-long jeans as she rounds a corner and disappears.
Five months later, he almost doesn’t see her at all. His dad doesn’t look up from the newspapers that are spread all over their table in the diner of the day, but he breaks a half-hour’s worth of silence to say “Dean, why is that girl staring at you hard enough to light you on fire?”
“What?” Dean is still groggy and nursing a bit of a hangover. He blinks at his dad in confusion.
“Ten o’clock, at the counter.” John still hasn’t looked up from the newspapers.
Dean turns and finds her watching him soberly over a mug of coffee. She grins broadly at him and he recognizes her, though her face is a little leaner than it was the last time he saw her.
“That’s weird,” says Dean, returning her smile with a puzzled frown.
“Weird?” his dad prompts him, and Dean shakes his head.
“Not weird weird. I think. I don’t know, just . . .weird. I ran into her when we were working that skinwalker job back in September, and she . . .”
Dean turns to face his dad for a moment. “Well, I had no clue who she was, but she knew me, knew my name.”
That makes John look up, first at Dean, then across at the counter, but when Dean follows his gaze, the girl—Alba, that was her name—is gone, leaving her coffee mug unattended on the counter. Dean glances around the diner, but she’s nowhere to be seen.
When Dean gets up to pay the bill, there’s a third coffee on the tab.
“She said you’d pay for the coffee,” says the waitress, indicating Alba’s recently-vacated seat with a jut of her chin. “Said she was with you but wanted to eat by herself so the two of you could talk.”
Dean blinks at her, and at the empty coffee mug on the counter behind her, then shrugs and gives her his credit card.
Over a year later, Dean is driving I-10 through Absolutely Nowhere,
“Oh, good, it’s you.” The voice is followed by a small, white face, which peers out of the foliage to smile at him.
This time he recognizes her at once. “Alba, right?”
“What are you . . .?” He gestures from the road to the bushes to his car, completely at a loss.
“I could really use something to wear if you happen to have a spare t-shirt or something.”
He blinks at that and then notices for the first time that the shoulders he can just see above the gray foliage are bare and that she’s got her arms wrapped tightly around her ribcage. He shakes himself and turns back toward the car, deciding that he’ll get this all figured out just as soon as he’s gotten some clothes for the magically-appearing naked kid on the side of the road.
His cleanest t-shirt comes most of the way to her knees—she’s shorter than he remembers from before—and once she’s donned it and clambered out from behind the bushes, she follows him back toward the Impala. He looks down at her small bare feet stepping gingerly over the roadside detritus, and sinks to his knees, arms held out.
“C’mere, barefoot girl, you’re going to get tetanus walking around like that.” It kind of startles him that she just walks right up to him and puts her arms around his neck without batting an eyelash. He scoops her up, loops one arm under her knees, the other under her shoulders, and continues toward the car.
“Barefoot girl sits drinkin’ warm beer on the hood of an old Dodge,” she sings, completely at ease.
“Except my baby is worth ten Dodges,” he says. He opens the back door on the passenger side and sets her down to perch on the back seat, feet hanging out the open door. “And anyway, it’s too hot to sit on the hood of anything, even if we did have beer. So tell me, Alba—” He tilts his head at her, giving her his winning grin. “You know, I don’t think I know your last name.”
“DeTamble. And yours is
“Which brings us to one of the many questions I’d like you to answer for me, if you can.” Dean leans on the open door and looks down at her, grin still in place, but serious underneath. “Why do you always seem to know more about me than I’ve told you, Alba DeTamble?”
“I’ve met you before,” she replies easily, smiling up at him.
“Yeah, but we only talked that first time, and you knew my name already.”
“I must have met you before then.”
“Then how come I didn’t remember you?” Dean tries to make it sound less like an interrogation by adding, “I never forget a pretty girl.”
She giggles. “I’d met you before then, you just hadn’t met me yet.”
“Is that supposed to make sense to me?”
More giggling. “It makes sense to me.”
He quirks a smile, says, “Seriously, kid, level with me. What’s the deal?”
“I’m a CDP.”
He tries to think of some cute joke phrase to fit the acronym, but all the ones that spring to mind are dirty, so he settles for just raising his eyebrows instead.
“Chrono-Displaced Person,” she clarifies. “I’m a time traveler. It’s a genetic condition that I inherited from my dad.”
Dean weighs this in his mind for a moment, and decides that he’s heard weirder. “Okay. Want to tell me why you just . . .appeared in the path of a speeding car?”
“I can’t always control where and when I go,” she admits, looking faintly embarrassed. “But I’m getting better. I traveled to see my grandmother sing Aida at the Lyric back before I was born.”
“So you . . .what, just pop in and out of the space-time continuum at random?”
“It’s not always the most convenient thing,” she admits. “I can’t control when it happens, and sometimes I don’t want to leave the time and place where I am—just now I was at home, and it was my birthday, and I’d have preferred to stay—” She shrugs, dismissive. “But I mostly enjoy it. It’s usually pretty interesting. I’m hungry, can I have one of your sandwiches?”
The sudden gear-change takes him by surprise, so he says, “What sandwiches?” before he remembers that he has lunch in the glove compartment, courtesy of the woman whose haunting he’d taken care of in Las Cruces.
“Don’t you pretend to have no sandwiches when I know that you do,” Alba admonishes, smiling brightly. “Peanut butter and honey. And cookies. And do you have any water?”
He just looks at her over the Impala’s door for a long minute, then reaches into the glove compartment for the paper bag he tossed in this morning. He hasn’t even bothered to look at what’s inside yet, but sure enough, the bag contains two sticky sandwiches, an apple, and a bag of oatmeal cookies. He looks from her to the bag and back for a minute, then shrugs. He hands Alba one of the sandwiches and goes around to the trunk for a bottle of water.
When he comes back, she’s already eaten half the sandwich and is eyeing the cookies where they lie on the front seat. He hands her the water, and she says, “Thank you.”
“So it’s your birthday, huh?” he asks.
“Not here, today,” she replies, mouth full of sandwich. “It was my birthday at home, in my time.”
“How old are you?”
“And what year is it at home in your time?” he asks, curious.
“You don’t happen to know any recent winning lotto numbers off the top of your head, do you?”
She laughs and shakes her head. Dean watches her for another minute, then sits down sideways in the front passenger seat, and they eat in companionable silence for a few moments, with the seatback between them. When Dean’s finished with his sandwich, he starts slicing the apple with his boot knife.
“So, Alba,” he pauses as she licks the last of the honey off her thumb and turns to give him her full attention. “How many times have you met me?”
She squints as if to help her remember. “Five or six times?”
“And when was that?”
“For me or for you?”
The question makes him chuckle, bemused. A person could go crazy. “For you, I guess.” He gives her half of the apple, and she takes a huge bite before answering
“A few times when I was six, and had just started time traveling. A couple times more recently. And when I was nine, I ran into you and met Sam.”
His brother’s name makes him sit up straighter. “Sam was with me?”
“Will be with you,” she corrects him.
“When?” Dean asks. “He comes back? When?”
She regards him seriously for a moment before answering. “I’m not sure I should tell you, even if I did know exactly when, which I don’t, because I didn’t think to ask. My dad always says to be careful about that kind of thing.”
“But Sam was with me?”
“Yeah. I probably shouldn’t have told you, but yeah.” She smiles, and this time it’s not the sunny, I-know-you-have-sandwiches smile, it’s something softer, and it makes him wonder exactly how much she knows about him from these meetings in her past and—apparently—his future.
“Well, that’s something.” Dean smiles at his own half-apple and takes a bite.
“How about you, how many times have you met me before?”
“Twice, not counting today.”
“For you or for me?” he asks, smirking at her.
She laughs. “For you.”
“Maybe two years ago, you just said hello to me on the street and thought it was funny when I had no idea who you were. A few months later, you waved at me in a diner and then left me with your coffee tab.”
That seems to pique her interest. “I was drinking coffee? How old was I?”
Dean shakes his head. “No idea, but I guess you were taller than you are now.”
“I didn’t know I liked coffee. I’ll have to ask myself about it next time I see an older me.”
Dean has about fifteen different questions about that statement, but decides that his head will explode if he actually gets an answer for any of them.
Alba saves him from the temptation of asking anyway by looking pointedly at the cookies, still next to him on the front seat, and then back at him, impatience plain on her face.
“Alright, hold your horses,” he replies, dividing the cookies into two stacks. Alba takes hers and begins devouring them with zeal. Dean munches slowly on one of his own, watching her. He can see now that she’s definitely smaller, younger than either Alba he’s previously encountered, with more roundness to her features. The t-shirt drapes hugely over her narrow little-girl shoulders. Her long hair is pulled back in two braids, but they’re slowly unraveling down her back because there’s nothing to hold them at the ends. He wonders how this soft, smiling little thing has managed to survive being unceremoniously plucked from her life and dumped in random junctures of time and place like this for six years.
She looks up and meets his eyes, mouth still full of oatmeal cookie. “What is it?”
“Your braids are coming undone.”
“Oh, I know, it’s the most inconvenient part of the whole CDP condition.” She plucks at the t-shirt she’s wearing. “Nothing that isn’t me travels with me, so I’m always having to find clothes. It’s nice when I don’t have to steal them.”
Dean snorts. “You must have to be quite the little shoplifter.”
“And pickpocket. And housebreaker.” She shrugs. “I used to feel bad about it, because it’s not anyone else’s fault that I time travel, so it’s not really fair that they should lose things so that I can have them just until I leave again. And it means breaking the law a lot.”
“Not like you have a lot of alternatives,” Dean replies.
“Yeah,” she grins at him. “I decided that my circumstances make me an exception to the usual rules of what’s fair.”
“Sounds like a reasonable philosophy to me,” says Dean.
She nods, takes a long drink of water, and looks out her open door at the
“What, when you time traveled here?”
She nods, taking another drink.
“You mean to tell me you weren’t trying to land in the middle of the highway, right where my car was going to be in about two thirds of a second?” he kids.
“No, I was aiming for another highway,” she says, and she sounds quite serious, now. “I’ve been trying to get there for months, but I haven’t had any luck, yet. Maybe I’m not supposed to be there.”
“Where were you trying to get?” Dean asks, and as an afterthought adds, “And when?”
“When my dad was little, his mom died in a car accident.” She frowns out at the distant, red-brown hills, and for a minute Dean thinks that’s all he’s getting, but then she continues, “My dad time travels to the scene of the accident a lot. Not on purpose,” she shakes her head, “he never learned to control his destinations at all. But something about the accident makes him go there again and again.”
“And you want to go there, too?” Dean asks softly.
“Yeah.” She nods, takes another swig of water. “My mama says that he told her once he’s everywhere on that day. Different versions of him are all over the place, watching while his mom dies.”
A tiny chill works its way up Dean’s spine, despite the desert heat, and he has to ask. “You think you could stop the accident?”
“Oh, no, I wouldn’t even try.” Alba blinks and shakes her head, as if surprised by the suggestion. “Time travel doesn’t actually work that way. I just want to be there for him. One of him, anyway.” She looks down at her feet. “I could hold his hand and tell him it’s really okay.”
Dean takes a deep breath, and when he can trust himself to speak, says, “You know you’re a good kid, Alba? Your dad’s lucky.”
She gives him a grateful smile, but shakes her head. “I’m not just trying to be there for him, though. I have selfish reasons to aim for that place and time. It’s a destination where I’m guaranteed to run into him.”
Dean frowns. “What’s wrong with running into him in your own time?”
“He’s dead in my own time,” she replies, easily, as if it’s no big deal. He blinks and starts to apologize, but she shakes her head again, saying, “It’s okay, don’t be sorry. I still see him now and then. ‘Dead’ doesn’t really mean a lot when both of you time travel. He’s dead, but he’s not continuously dead.”
Dean has a mad urge to quote The Princess Bride but manages to smother it. Instead, he just keeps looking at Alba, who returns his gaze earnestly. Finally, she smiles.
“It’s almost time for me to go.” She turns so that she’s facing forward on her seat, and brushes cookie crumbs off her lap. Dean has the feeling that if she had a tray table, she’d be returning it to the upright and locked position, right now. He gives himself a little shake, and waves a hand over the seatback at her.
“So you’re . . .what? Just gonna go ‘poof’ and be gone? Back to the future?”
“Yep.” She nods. “Then you can have your shirt back. Thank you, by the way, for letting me use it. And for the sandwiches. And for not running over me with your car.”
He chuckles. “Yeah, sorry about that. Try not to—” but she’s gone.
He contemplates his cleanest shirt, which is lying flat and empty on the seat, for a moment, trying to decide if this rates as the weirdest thing to happen to him this week, or not. He knows it’s easily the nicest, but he’s not sure if that makes it more or less weird. Eventually he shrugs, stands, closes both passenger-side doors, and gets back behind the wheel, thoughts on time travel and little girls and she said Sam was—will be—with me.
It’s almost an hour before he realizes what she meant, the first time he met her, when she apologized for almost getting him hit by a car and said that now they were even. He laughs at the empty road and decides that time travel is one of those things that just doesn’t bear thinking about too hard.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
ETA: Let me know if anyone sees anything weird that might arise from, say, the author having a very strained relationship with LJ's rich text editor. I tried to make sure everything was kosher before posting, but sometimes LJ is sneaky.