Disclaimer, Summary & Rating: see Chapter 1



"And that's just what I did. I lived the life Sam Winchester could never have, because he loved his brother and our father. Enough to understand their obsession, enough to forgive them for it, and even enough to join their quest to avenge a woman he'd never known and couldn't grieve for. My brothers spent their lives, spent themselves making sure the world was better and safer so that people like us could have the comfort of laughing at notions of the monster under the bed and the bogeyman in the closet." Dylan finished quietly but clearly.

Part of him wanted to laugh at their wide eyes and stunned faces as they looked, not at him, but past him at the quartet of graves in this old, elegant country cemetery, truly understanding for the first time. The twins' eyes were dark pools of distress but somehow not as much shock as the rest of the family, as if on some level they had only been waiting for confirmation rather than revelation.

Memory popped into Dylan's head of when they were born and how he'd overheard their uncle, his second son Barry, semi-jokingly declare to his mother that the new grandfather wouldn't be given the option to name any further grandchildren after lumbering his first with the weighty Deanna Joan Winchester Cameron and her thirty-six seconds younger sister Samantha Mary Winchester Cameron – where on earth did he get Winchester from, for heaven's sake? Sounds like some pretentious lawyer name from Boston – came over on the Mayflower and all that!

Now they knew, and now they knew why he had never permitted the logical shortening from Deanna and Samantha to Dean and Sam. They weren't Dean and Sam.

He smiled at the twins, "Maybe it's because you're twins that you picked up on that entity in your dorm room, but whatever it is, it is real and you'll defeat it, because you have what my brothers didn't have – us. You've got a family who will support you and help you - all the way and come what may. Now, let's go back inside to warm up and get some coffee. Come on, everyone."

They obeyed, shuffling and stuttering back towards the gate, their conversations meaningless frantic humming. Now they were awestruck and confused, but once back in 'normalcy' the protests would start and the arguments and their desperate, frantic clinging to 'rationality' and 'reason'. No matter; he would let them talk themselves in circles while he did what was necessary.

He had deliberately slowed his gait at the back and now each twin, Deanna left and Samantha right, linked an arm though his and began to help their old grandpa back to the big fancy gates of the cemetery – very slowly; they understood that this was not for the others' ears and minds currently reeling and unwilling to accept harsher, more painful revelations.

"Thanks, gramps," Samantha whispered softly, her and her sister's eyes reflecting gratitude and no longer stained by the fears of craziness and 'over-imagination' regarding something only they had been able to see and hear.

"I couldn't help them," he murmured his regret, "though they didn't really want me to. It gave them a strange kind of comfort to know that one of them got to be Joe Average…being stuck in rush hour; paying a mortgage; hating tax returns; watching their kids in the school play and coaching Little League, chaperoning the junior prom…"

"James Bond secretly wants nine-to-five in the 'burbs," Samantha whispered, as ever perceptive – oh, so much like Sam…

"They never visited after you met Nan and had the children." Deanna's words were a statement, not a question.

"Our paths crossed a couple of times when I was first dating your Nan…she always believed they were old college buddies. On Friday nights I used to go to McKinley's for a beer after work, and sometimes – just sometimes – they'd be there at the bar waiting for me, and we'd catch up and play a game of pool. But they never came to my home once I was with your Nan and the kids…"

"And part of you was relieved that they didn't." It was Deanna's gift and her curse, that unflinching honesty as if she had some genetically conferred inability to be self-deceptive. Again, just like the great-uncle she'd never known; Dean Winchester had lied like a rug to outsiders and strangers, but with himself and his family he'd been one of the most self-aware people on the planet, brutally so oftentimes.

"It was too dangerous, always, for them and us…" he said aloud for the first time the words he'd been telling himself nearly seventy years – a lifetime. "They could never switch off, they could never stand down; they could never indulge in…that ridiculous phrase they coined way back in the 1980s? – oh yes, 'me time'." He snorted, "An aptly egocentric phrase. At McKinley's, if one drank, the other didn't; when one played his pool shot, the other kept watch – always, and whichever one drank, I never saw him have more than one beer, or drink liquor or spirits. They could never risk, even once, cutting loose and getting drunk – or stoned."

"Gramps," Samantha chided with her gentle – always gentle – reproof.

Despite himself he grinned. "I know what goes on in college young lady, I did most of it…and I want to give both of you the chance to. My brothers didn't have the support network you're going to. You'll do important things, good things, brave things, but I don't want you to be –"

"Consumed," Deanna murmured quietly, flicking a glance ahead to where the rest of the family had just reached the gates, safely out of earshot, like they were.

Obliquely he replied, "Dean and I…we achieved détente…but we were never truly close; a distant affection at best. For a long time I blamed him for it, but then…Dean Winchester was only 26 years old when I first met him face-to-face but his eyes…his eyes were the oldest thing I have ever seen in this world. One day for no reason I can recall now, I just remembered that moment of first looking into his eyes and for the first time I was able to be angry for him, instead of at him."

They pressed slightly closer in silent encouragement even as their young eyes watched the frosty path for slippery patches, and he knew they understood.

"He didn't mean to, but John abrogated his emotional responsibilities of fatherhood from the night Mary Winchester was killed. It was Dean that carried his brother through the fire - and in a sense, he never stopped. Even as early as I met him, he'd been emotionally burnt-out for years; probably one of the reasons he never managed any meaningful or even reasonably lengthy romance. He had no emotional reserves left to give to a lover…" or another brother.

He didn't finish the sentence, but he didn't need to, twin squeezes on each arm transmitted sorrow and comfort. He sighed deeply, and sadly. "Their world – their existence – was always dark. Even at the best of times they could only come out of the darkness into twilight, rather than full sunlight…" Now he checked that his family were too far away to hear. "Once, just before I met your Nan, they came to stay at my bachelor pad for a few days…listen to me, bachelor pad – crappy little apartment with a major 'roach problem."

"Why?" Deanna asked, ever the straight-shooting inquisitor.

"They were lying low from some guy – a sheriff, or a US Marshal, hell, maybe even a Fed - with a too-curious mind who'd decided to delve a little deeper into just who this amiable pair of Jack Kerouac imitators were and what exactly they did on their travels. I don't know anything more – he must have decided they were either nut jobs that needed institutionalising or else 'responsible' for half the atrocities they stopped from happening again or prevented from starting in the first place. Back in those days thinking outside the box was discouraged in law enforcement officials."

"Not news, gramps," Samantha muttered, steering him around a broken paving stone as they neared the gates.

That was his Samantha, and had been his Sam – quiet and perceptive, but capable of plenty of sass when needed. I miss you Sam, so much, you always wanted to be for me what Dean was for you, and you knew you never could. "They turned up on the doorstep at midnight, barely speaking to each other 'cause they'd got lost on the back roads – half of which aren't shown on modern maps even now – and we just hung out eating cold pizza for breakfast and watching TV. But one morning I accidentally went into the bathroom just as Dean was getting out of the shower…"

They waited in silence while he swallowed against the painful memory.

He blew out a sharp breath, the pain of which had nothing to do with possessing a pair of octogenarian lungs or the crisp and chill winter air, "He had scars – very, very bad scars - on his body….undoubtedly another reason for Dean's revolving-door love life. Sticking to brief encounters and one-night stands meant he never had to look into the eyes of a woman he loved and flat-out lie to her about why his body looked like it had come off a bad second in a serious argument with a Mack truck…" and god only knows what Sam told his first lover Jessica for two years.

"Is that how they were killed?" Deanna's words were barely audible ghosts on her breath, her eyes reflecting sorrowful wisdom – not died but killed.

He saw that the first car had gone, heading back to their winter house to make up the fire and prepare comfort food and drinks and strategise for the first 'this can't be true' salvo. His daughters had nominated the eldest two – Dylan Junior and Barry - to ride herd on him and the twins. Idly he wondered what they would do if he were to reveal that the family wealth they enjoyed so much came, not from his prudent running of a rural doctor's practice, but from him being the sole heir of his father and brothers - who had been given that stupendous wad of cash by a very grateful billionaire for saving his only daughter from being raped and murdered by an incubus demon.

"Not as such. During a particularly nasty hunting trip Dean was badly injured - by that time our dad had been gone a while. They won, but the human body can only take so much rough handling before it starts to wear out and wind down. And they could hardly make a trip to the ER and explain that Dean's injuries were caused by a demon trying to play Pinyada with him. He died in his sleep during the night…"

Your Nan had taken the kids to visit her sister for the weekend and she never knew, ever, about that phone call I got from Sam at the surgery. About how I just tore out the door and caught the first plane they had and drove and drove through the night without ever going below eighty until I got to that stupid hick town in the middle of nowhere. About how I walked into that cabin, barely more than a shack, and found Sam sat on that crappy couch, holding Dean against his chest – so gently, so carefully, so tenderly – and shaking like a leaf from his own crying; it should have been embarrassing – seeing a man of his age bawling like a baby, but then I went and joined in, didn't I? About how I never got closure, I never got to say what I wanted to say, what I needed to say, because the I-don't-do-talking-about-feelings bastard had died two hours before I got there. Even now I bet he did it just to avoid having to actually talk to me.

"Grandpa?" dread was in both pairs of eyes; "Sam…killed himself?"

He chose his words with care, so that they would understand; it was imperative. "It wasn't like the stereotype. His father and his brother were Sam's world…and without Dean…it was always Dean, you see. For months after Mary Winchester was killed, John could barely function enough to look after himself until he got a grip…" spurred on by his obsession…"So six-year-old Dean changed diapers and fed formula and encouraged baby to walk and use a potty. Dean read Sam the bedtime stories and made him eat his breakfast and his greens and clean his teeth and wash behind his ears. Dean taught him to play ball and showed him how to build a snowman and took him sledding and tree-climbing. Dean taught him to swim and play hockey and spent his own allowance money on Sam's favourite candy. All those male rites of passage - how to shave; how to drive; how to kiss girls, how to unhook bras one-handed without looking, he learned from Dean."

"…and once Dean was gone…" the twins exchanged a look. So identical even their parents sometimes hesitated to tell them apart, they acknowledged that even the idea of a sole existence was an unendurable horror. They too knew what it was like for two to be as one.

"About three months after Dean died Sam got a call from an old girlfriend and discovered he was a father. A baby girl that she'd called, entirely coincidentally believe it or not, Deana Mary." Even now, he shivered with the uncanny providence of the name.

"Sam has a daughter?" Samantha spoke with unconscious loudness, drawing a warning hiss from her sister.

"Had a daughter; the little girl died at the age of sixteen months from, of all the stupid things, measles. Sad, but entirely natural not mystical – and believe me, Sam investigated." You didn't spot her grave, at the far end of the quartet, that little one next to Mary Winchester, hidden in that patch of snowdrops. "But after that…he had never intended to have children; it was why he was so obstreperous about having a DNA test done on Deana in the beginning. For future reference the pair of you – condoms can split. He understood 'hereditary' better than anyone and was always afraid any child he fathered would inherit the same abilities Mary had given him."

The reason why she was killed, and why his lover Jessica was killed and why he could never have a normal life. Again, he didn't need to say it. "He decided it was time. Once Dean was gone – he was tired, and he was done. He'd earned the right to rest more than anyone else on this planet – there are hundreds of people, even thousands – alive today for no other reason than that John Winchester and his sons possessed the personal integrity and sense of duty to try and make sure other families were spared their pain." They accepted the truth and the moral obligation it laid upon them to act.

"As peace after war, so death after life does greatly please…" Deanna quoted the line, her voice a delicate whisper that faded as they stepped onto the sidewalk out of the cemetery.

As they moved forward Dylan half turned and closed the cemetery gates fully, his eyes automatically going towards the spot though his vision could no longer go the distance. But as he turned back to those waiting at the car he felt a lightness within himself that hadn't been there for a long time. For so long he'd been counting days and marking time, having no distraction other than mundane trivia; right now his aches were less and more endurable.

He had a purpose, a point. For however long he had left he could provide the twins with the guidance and the support that a different place and time had meant he could never do for his brothers, and he would make every second count…

And the winter sun bathed the cemetery in bright cheer, encouraging the snowdrops that pushed valiantly up and nourishing the hardy grass, and a faint breeze caused the boughs of the willow tree to bend slightly and stroke the top of four gravestones as if a brief caress.

© 2006, Catherine D Stewart

Author's Note: this is a 'one-shot' story I wrote to work through various ideas that occurred to me as I watched Season 1; it is unlikely (though never impossible) that I will write fiction in this fandom again. It depends on how future Seasons/episodes develop in this regard as to whether I am inspired. However, I hope you enjoy this story.

Grammatical note: In British English, 'disinterested' is to be impartial and unbiased, while 'uninterested' is to be indifferent and uncaring.