Nodding to herself, unable to wipe the grin from her face, Ayden couldn't resist the urge to reach over and tweak Dean's nose as he turned to her. "You're kinda cute when you're flustered, big bird," she teased, genuinely at ease finally in the face of his struggle with his Daylight Donuts' ladies. She looked back at the two women remaining behind the counter. "Is he always this easy to embarrass?"
Dean narrowed his eyes at Ayden, his expression alone warning her not to push her luck.
"Big Bird!" Janet cackled. "Would that make Sam Snuffleupagus?" Oh, that just struck her funny and she dissolved into girlish giggles.
As flustered as Dean was, the thought of Sam as a woolly mammoth made him smirk. The little bell on the door jingled as the morning crowd started to file in.
"Get the man his donuts!" Sandy scolded, tossing a smile to the customer who'd come in behind them. "Can I help you?"
If there was one thing the Winchesters had never had to deal with, it was a normal younger sibling. Unfortunately for Dean, Ayden was also pretty sassy and more than happy to push her luck when it came to teasing anyone. He was just going to have to get used to it. She laughed at Janet's rejoinder. "You know, I think he is," she grinned, nudging Dean impishly, one bony elbow saying hello to his ribs not exactly gently. "Whaddya think?"
Dean oofed audibly when Ayden's elbow met with his ribs, but thankfully, he didn't drop the pie. "I think you're having a little too much fun at my expense, that's what I think."
Janet snorted at Dean's reply and turned to snatch up a box and fill it with an assortment of donuts, adding a couple of extra, just because. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you two were siblings," she remarked casually as she went about plucking up this donut and that and setting it in the box.
"Welcome to the world having a little sister," was Ayden's answer to her brother, without realising that she'd confirmed Janet's casually searching comment until it was too late. Her smile was half-apology to Dean, and half-pride to Janet for being able to call herself his sister. "I'm this week's surprise guest star on the sitcom of Dean and Sam," she explained to the woman with a shrug.
"That makes two of us," Janet remarked, with a grin as she turned back around and set the box on the counter to close the lid. "I could have guessed. You two have the same eyes." She closed the box and rang up a dozen donuts and two cups of coffee, letting them have the extra donuts for free, and of course, the pie.
"Think so?" Dean asked, glancing to Ayden a moment, before shoving a hand in his jeans pocket for his wallet, pulling out a ten dollar bill and handing it to Janet.
The expression on Dean's face was mirrored by Ayden as she met his glance, both of them looking at each other's eyes with the same shade of surprised curiosity sparked off by Janet's comment. And, of course, it had distracted her from objecting to being paid for. "Hey ..." Her protest was mild, but a little defensive. It was going to take a while to get used to being looked after. "I'm not bankrupt, you know."
"Yeah, well... Neither am I," was his amazing comeback, obviously still a bit flustered by the women or maybe just embarrassed because it had happened in front of Ayden. "Can you grab the coffee?" he asked as he reached for the box of donuts, piling it under the pie.
Janet tossed a wink at Ayden. "Nice to meet you, sweetheart. We'll see you both soon!" Though she hadn't gotten a name from the girl, it didn't really matter. She'd be sweetheart or honey or sugar, no matter her name.
"Sure." Reluctantly tucking her wallet away finally, Ayden nodded, reaching out to take the two cups from the counter. She offered a smile to Janet and Sandy as she stepped back from the counter. "Thank you - it was nice to meet you, too!" Turning her back on the overly-friendly women, her smile faded into a slightly overwhelmed grimace. That had been a little bit too normal, given the last twenty-four hours.
"See you later, Dean!" came the voice from beyond - that of Wanda in the kitchen, followed by a giggle.
Unable to wave back, he simply offered a slightly awkward smile and started toward the door with his baked goods in hand. "Later, ladies! Try not to miss me too much." He pushed the door open with a hip and out he went into the morning sunshine.
Catching the door on her elbow to follow Dean out, Ayden found herself laughing again at Wanda's goodbye. "Seriously, dude, you'd make her day with a smooch," she informed her brother, skipping to walk at his side, balancing one paper cup on top of the other in one hand. "You'd probably get free everything everytime you go in there!"
That got his attention and he stopped in his tracks, glancing back at the donut shop. "Free, really? You think so?" He seemed to consider that for a moment, before shaking his head and continuing on toward the Impala. "No, I can't. It's just too weird."
"Well, you just got free pie, and you didn't even have to make eye contact," she pointed out with a half-grin. "Uh ... sorry I dropped the sister-bomb. It just kinda slipped out, I didn't do it on purpose. I get that it must be weird for you guys to even know I exist, let alone have to put up with me right here on top of you."
"It's not weird, Ayden," he contradicted, setting the two boxes on top the roof of the Impala so he could fish the keys out of his pocket and open the door. "It's just..." He frowned, at a sudden lack for words, glancing to her with a concerned frown. "Okay, so, it's a little weird. That doesn't mean you aren't welcome here."
She nodded, avoiding looking him in the eye as her own grew wet once again. Was she ever going to stop crying? "I appreciate it," she said quietly, silencing herself by biting hard into her lower lip, turning to look across the street. It was bad enough feeling as though her heart was gaping open and bleeding, but she felt guilty for being a mess and awkwardly embarrassed by all the crying. It was a bad combination, and that was even before she factored in the anger simmering under the surface. "I'll try not to get in the way."
He sighed, turning toward her, leaving the boxes on top the roof. With any luck, they'd stay there. "Look, I... I'm not very good at this, but I promise you're not in the way, okay?" He wasn't quite sure what else to say. Should he tell her he understood how she felt because he'd lost his own mother, too? There was a connection there somewhere, something Sam would never understand because Sam didn't remember what it was to have a mother. The only mother Sam had ever known had been Ellen, and while Dean loved Ellen and appreciated everything she'd done for him, memories of his real mother kept him up at night sometimes - or memories of how she'd died. "I wish I could tell you it gets better, but it doesn't. It just gets a little easier. You're gonna be okay, Ayden. I promise. You're not alone, okay?"
Green eyes that were so much like his own, so much like Sam's, turned toward him, dark with unfathomable pain, raw and shining with unshed tears. But she wasn't crying. Ayden had as much control over her emotions as her brothers did with less experience, less need for such control. She nodded slowly, unable to find words to answer his reassurance that could possibly describe how much she was hurting right now. She turned, setting the cups on the Impala's roof beside the boxes, and stepped into a hug that held on without crushing or clinging. She just needed that contact for a moment, whether or not he was ready or comfortable. "Thanks, Dean."
His fingers twitched around the car keys, instincts telling him to reach out and touch her or maybe even give her a hug, but he held himself back. Not here, not now. Not in the middle of a donut shop parking lot. Maybe later. But then she was making the decision for him, pressing a hug on him, like Sam used to do when he was little and like Dad never did. He hesitated a moment before awkwardly hugging her back, letting down his defenses for a moment and opening his heart to her.
How should he reply to that? You're welcome? No problem? It's okay? There was no reply that seemed sufficient. "You don't have to thank me. You're family." He felt that old familiar pain of guilt wrench his heart and wondered how much she'd thank him when she found out it was his fault her mother was dead.
He couldn't have known how much those two little words meant to the young woman holding on for dear life. You're family. Ayden had see-sawed from family to all alone and back to family again, all in the space of less than twelve hours, and it remained to be seen just how deeply that would affect her. But for now, at least, she seemed content to hug and be hugged, to tease and play, and settle into her new role of baby sister with enviable ease. Ellen had been right, after all. Ten minutes and a Folgers moment with Dean, and Ayden was safe again. Now all they had to do was keep her that way.
[size=9]((Thanks to Dean's player yet again - just keeps getting better!))[/size]