Tinker is a guy who believes in everybody's business being their own. He tries not to poke around in other people's back yards, and takes the no-holds-barred, no-quarter-given approach to people who try to invade his privacy when they've got no claim to it. He's got his family —mostly out of state— and a couple of friends —mostly army buddies who are still overseas somewhere he's not allowed to know about— and that's the way he likes it, most of the time. He doesn't pay much attention to the goings-on in Sioux Falls, content to follow his routine, because his routine is what keeps everything going on an even keel. There was that one time a little under couple of years ago when all the dead started coming back to life when he made an exception to his rule of non-interference, but that's just common sense. It never does anyone any good when nature stops following its own laws. Right now he's just fine where he is. He stays out of trouble with the law —which was something of a challenge when he was first demobbed— he's got a job that pays the bills and keeps him set up in his trailer with basic cable and a decent supply of beer, and no one comes knocking at his door anymore whenever they hear screaming at night. The nightmares are mostly gone, anyway.
So it's live and let live as far as he's concerned, and that's why at first he doesn't pay any mind at all to the ruckus that's coming from what sounds like it might be just outside his trailer. It's probably Bob and Arlene from two trailers down at it again, and the only question now is whether or not Arlene got her hands on Bob's twelve-gauge or if she's just going after him with a cast-iron skillet again. It's all pretty mundane, and Tinker figures a night in lock-up won't do either of them any harm. He's busy watching a rerun of M*A*S*H* with his bottle of Jack Daniel's for company, and even though he's seen the one in which Hawkeye goes blind about four hundred times now, he kind of likes that one so he doesn't feel like interrupting it just to go look out the window to make sure no one's about to set fire to his stuff. The show cuts to a commercial and the noise gets louder, complete with the quick wail of a siren, which means Jodie Mills is there. She likes to sound the siren once and then cut it off, just so people will pay attention. That's usually enough to make all the stupid domestic squabbles around here stop dead.
This time, though, the disturbance keeps going. He doesn't hear Arlene screeching her indignation about whatever new offence that deadbeat Bob has committed now, but there are voices raised in alarm. He recognizes a couple, hears Jodie Mills trying to shout everyone down, can't place the last voice. It's male, youngish, sounds a little incoherent, and suddenly the whole trailer shudders as something collides with it. It's nothing big enough to really rattle the place, just enough that Tinker can tell something's up. The blue-and-red flashing lights are annoying, too, since they don't look to be stopping any time soon. He sighs, switches off the TV set, pushes out of his chair and takes his bottle of Jack's with him. He slides the lock open to the front door, only to find an entire mob of people right at his doorstep. It looks like at least half the population of the trailer park is milling about right outside his place, and if he was the type to plant flowers outside his trailer he'd be really pissed right now about getting them trampled.
“What the fuck?” he growls, scanning the crowd for Jodie Mills. He spots her a second later, cell phone out, one finger blocking her free ear.
“I thought you said Sam Winchester was dead!” she's saying sharply to whoever's on the other end of the line. The name sounds familiar, but Tinker can't place it. “I don't care if it's complicated, Bobby. The next time I find out you've lied to me I will string you up by your balls on the flagpole outside my station!”
Tinker looks away while she keeps arguing with what sounds like it must be Bobby Singer up from the salvage yard up the road from here —he's the only one able to get a rise like that out of the Sheriff. Whatever, it's not his problem. What is his problem, however, is the guy who's halfway wedged against Tinker's trailer, by the front step leading to the front door. It's dark, and from this angle he can't see the guy's face, but he can at least see that he's damned big, way too big to fit into the space he's trying to crawl into.
“Bobby, I don't care what sort of situation you've got going on up there. I come out here expecting to sort out a run-of-the-mill domestic and instead I find the guy you said was dead right in the process of freaking out in the middle of my jurisdiction. Come clean up your mess! What? Shit.” The Sheriff glares at the phone when it's obvious Singer has hung up on her.
“What the fuck is going on?” Tinker demands, switching on the outside light, now he's sure he's got her attention. The guy at his feet is panting and whimpering, heels scrabbling at the ground as he keeps trying to back up further against the trailer even if it's pretty much impossible.
“Sorry, Tom,” the Sheriff says. She's the only one who still uses his real name. “You go on back inside, I'll clear this up as best I can. Not your problem.”
He snorts. “Looks like it's my problem now.”
He recognizes the guy now that he's got enough light to see by. It's one the guy who helped out when all the dead came back to life. Except right now he's looking more like the things they were putting down back then than anything else. Tinker never talked to him much, not beyond a couple of barked orders, but he can tell military training when he sees it, and if this guy doesn't have Semper Fi tattooed somewhere on him, then Tinker's a monkey's uncle. If he's been gone for two years and the Sheriff thought he was dead, well, it doesn't take a genius to put two and two together. If someone from the military goes AWOL and is presumed dead, it means the enemy got 'em. If he's back now, it means he escaped or got extracted, and that goes a long way to explaining exactly why it is he's trying to tunnel directly through a metal wall using nothing but his shoulders.
Jodie takes a step toward the guy, hand drifting toward her baton, and all it gets her is a panicked moan and another attempt to burrow backward right through the wall of Tinker's trailer. Tinker shakes his head, holds up a hand.
“Jodie, don't be stupid. The guy's freaking out, and waving your baton around isn't going to help. Hey!” he barks at the milling crowd of onlookers. “This ain't a side show! Clear out! My trailer isn't here for your entertainment! Go on, git!”
For a moment no one moves, but a murmur of discontent ripples through the crowd, and slowly, one by one, they begin to drift away, especially when the Sheriff starts to 'encourage' them. Tinker can hear the guy mumbling under his breath, and whatever it is, it sounds panicky and desperate. Jodie takes another step forward, with predictable results.
“Thanks for the assist, Tom. I got it from here, you can go on back inside. We'll be out of your hair in no time.”
“Yeah, I don't think so. The way this is going, this guy's going to fuse himself with the side of my trailer, and he ain't exactly the hood ornament I was hoping for. You want to give me a few minutes? And turn off those damned wig-wags, they're giving me a headache.”
The Sheriff scowls, but she knows his history better than anyone else in town, and she heads back to the car and switches off the flashers. He's not a shrink but he's spent enough time in various offices and couches that he figures this is something he can handle. It's not like he has to fix the guy —he just has to get him up off the ground and into the cop car and away from his home. There's only one way to handle a flashback, and that's to come back to the here and now, and Tinker's something of an expert in the here and now.
Finally, at a nod from the Sheriff Tinker clumps down the steps to his trailer, eases himself to a sitting position on the bottom step and puts down his bottle of Jack. His right leg is still stiff in spite of all the rehab and the physiotherapy, but a whole lot of shrapnel through your thigh will do that. He stretches his bad leg out to the side, figuring that'll keep it from cramping up for a while, and the movement seems to attract the guy's attention.
“Dean?” The name is so soft Tinker barely hears it.
“No, kid. Name's Tinker. Well, Thomas Tailor, but I've been Tinker for long enough that pretty much everyone calls me that. Your name's Sam, right? We met, a couple years back. You remember?”
The moment of lucidity is gone. The kid's eyes are wide, staring at something only he can see, something bad enough that it's making him shake like he's having a seizure. Tinker has to lean forward to catch what he's saying.
“Not here,” he's mumbling. “Not here, not here.”
Definitely a flashback, then. “Hey, Sam,” Tinker tries again, keeps his voice firm. He remembers being talked down from episodes like these. “Sam, you're not back there, you hear me? I want you to try to focus on what's here, right now, okay? The here and now, that's all we're going to worry about. Sam, you listen to my voice first. Tell me you heard me, Sam.”
Sam's breathing hard, but his gaze flickers for a moment, going to Tinker's face. “Heard you.”
“Okay, good. Who's Dean?”
“Brother. Not here,” comes the answer, a little breathless. “Not here. It's too loud. Not here, not here, there's light it's too bright he's not here....”
Tinker breaks through the panicked litany. “All right, I hear you, he's not here. We're gonna get you back to him, okay?” Tinker lies through his teeth, figures it's as good an anchor as any. He remembers the brother now, vaguely, a guy with a leather jacket, cockier than Sam, a lot mouthier but no less trained. With any luck he's not dead somewhere out there. “You want to see Dean again, you gotta let me help you. Right here, right now.”
“Yeah, that's right. Listen to me, okay? You're right here with me. The here and now, remember? Look around, tell me what you see. Start with the first thing you see, describe it to me. Hey,” he repeats more firmly when it sounds like the kid is about to start hyperventilating again. “Hey, you're okay, you're here, you're fine. What can you see?”
Sam swallows hard, but to his credit he looks like he's trying. Figures that the brother's name is the magic word to keep him grounded. “Uh. Trailer.”
“Describe the trailer. Go on. As much as you can.”
“Trailer,” Sam says again. “Rust around the edges. Airstream. Blue paint, spider web, light's out. I can't... light...” he flinches, ducks his head, and Tinker can practically see him trying to retreat back into wherever it is he think he is in his head.
“Sam! Stay with me, now, you're doing real good,” he casts around until his gaze lands on the bottle of Jack Daniel's at his feet. He picks it up, the glass cool against his fingers, unscrews the cap, places it carefully in Sam's lap. “Hang onto that for me, tight as you can. Can you feel that?”
Instinctively the kid's hands close around the bottle, and he nods tightly. “Here and now,” he says quietly.
“Good job,” Tinker can feel Jodie Mills' gaze on him, but he can't risk looking up at her now. He nudges the bottle closer. “I opened it up, can you smell that? Nothing like Jack Daniel's back where you were before, am I right? Not where the light was. Keep your mind on that. Open your eyes, Sam, tell me what you see.”
He has to hand it to the kid, he's trying harder than anyone Tinker's ever seen before. “Bottle. Black label. Jack Daniels, amber whisky. Uh, dirt. Wheels —no, tires. Grey rubber. Car, black and white. Police?”
“Yeah, it's a police car.”
That seems to get through to him, though the reaction isn't exactly what Tinker thought it would be. “Where's Dean?”
“I don't know, but I bet the Sheriff can help you out with that. Jodie?” he risks a glance up at her. “You hear anything about this guy's brother?”
She pulls out her phone, hits a button with maybe a little more energy than is strictly necessary. “Bet you anything Bobby Singer knows.”
“Bobby,” Sam starts a little. “Not supposed to go. Told me to stay. I was supposed... I don't know. It was loud, and I was looking for Dean, but I couldn't find him...”
He's working himself up again, which is definitely counterproductive. Tinker risks putting a hand on his knee, and even though the kid flinches a little he doesn't panic or freak out, and Tinker's willing to take that as a win.
“Hey, hey, take it easy. We're going to find Dean for you, but you have to stay calm. Here and now, remember? Dean wouldn't want you getting all worked up, would he? Come on, Sam, answer me. Do you think Dean would want that?”
A headshake. “No. No, Dean doesn't like it... 'm sorry.”
“You don't have to apologize. Just keep breathing. I want you to think about that, okay? Count to ten when you breathe in through your nose, count to fifteen while you breathe out through your mouth, got it? You're right here, right now. Just remember that, and breathe. Nice and easy.”
That gets him a nod, and he can't help but feel a little proud when the kid follows his instructions to the letter, even keeping his eyes open the whole time. Tinker isn't exactly a specialist, but it looks to him like they've dodged a bullet. Jodie Mills approaches carefully, but Sam's still breathing, still staying calm.
“Talked to Singer. Brother's in the hospital for surgery, so they're kind of tied up. Sounds like they weren't expecting Sam to leave the salvage yard. Bobby's going to come get him, but it'll be a while. Come on, Sam. You get to have a nice cot in the precinct until Bobby gets there. I'll even let you have coffee if you don't give me any trouble.”
Tinker looks up at her, can see the impatience mingled with something else on her face. He thinks he understands. After all, the last time she dealt with this guy, she lost both her kid and her husband. It's not exactly a surprise that she wouldn't be too thrilled to see him back here, but the idea of this kid sitting alone in a jail cell when all he's done is serve his country puts a bad taste in Tinker's mouth.
“Why doesn't he just stay here?” he finds himself saying, surprising himself even more than her. “I got coffee, and that way you get to keep your cells clear for all the drunks you'll be hauling in later tonight. How about it, kid? It's warmer inside, you can wait there. What do you say?”
“I don't... do I have to go?” Sam shifts, grip loosening on the bottle. Tinker retrieves it before it spills.
“No, kid, you don't have to go anywhere. You like action movies? M*A*S*H is over, but we can just sit, watch something on the TV until you can go home. What do you think?”
Sam swallows, gaze flicking toward the Sheriff and back. “Uh, yeah. Okay. I... I'm supposed to wait for Dean.”
“Sure. We'll just wait inside, and then when Bobby comes he'll take you to see him. Sound good?”
It's not a lie, and it seems convincing enough. Tinker pushes himself to his feet, flexing his bad leg a little gingerly to get rid of the pins and needles, doesn't miss the way Sam's attention focuses on the movement. He puts out a hand and, after a moment's hesitation Sam takes it, lets Tinker pull him to his feet.
“Jesus, you're big,” Tinker finds himself staring up at him. He doesn't remember him being quite this tall before, but then memory's a fickle bitch. “Been eating your Wheaties, son?”
“I'll let Bobby know he's here,” Jodie says, already turning to head back to her car.
“Yeah, thanks,” Tinker says absently, then takes Sam by an elbow, grateful that the kid's letting himself be steered around so easily. There's no way Tinker could take him if he tried to resist in any way. “All right, come on. I got some Bruce Willis movies taped off the TV, too, if that's your thing.”
To his surprise, Sam perks up a little. “Die Hard?”
“As a matter of fact, yeah. You like it?” He grins when Sam nods. “That settles it, then. Let's get you set up with some coffee and we'll watch that. We'll just take it slow, wait for Bobby. Nothing matters except what's right here, right now. Got it?”
With that he ushers Sam inside, then turns to lock the door against the outside world without a backward glance.