This was brought on by a small conversation with Faye Dartmouth, and therefore is dedicated to her, since she inspired this story. I'm pretty sure that this is not what she was expecting AT ALL, but the idea kidnapped me and didn't put up any ransom. I hope she still likes it...
This is unbeta-ed, so any mistakes were mine.
Disclaimer: Nope, still sponging off my parents.
Light in a graveyard was cold, Dean decided as his measured gate took him over the manicured lawn past rows upon rows of epitaphs etched in stone. Though the sun shone just as brightly, there was a chill that permeated the air that did not go past the gates, giving cemeteries a temperature several degrees coolers than anywhere else. But the frostiness didn't affect the twenty-nine-year-old, nor had it ever. In his line of work it was appropriate, seeing as he was required to set foot on the hallowed ground so much that for him to at all be affected by the drop in temperature would have been positively criminal. Like a rapist being tormented with thoughts about the morality of his actions, it was something not accepted in the profession he had chosen.
Dean came to a stop in front of an unassuming granite headstone, the best a family could do to commemorate the life of a son, a brother, a best friend. He let himself sink to the ground, though his eyes never moved from the name carved in the rock. Expelling a deep breath and taking in one equally as huge, Dean began his monologue to thin air.
"Hey." At first the voice was unrecognizable, it was so choked up and scratchy. He cleared his throat and continued. "So, I know it's been a while, but –"
A presence was at his back, a few steps off to the side. The form had succeeded in blocking out the sun, the only reason Dean had noticed him at all, which was slightly disturbing in and of itself if you ignored the fact that the other had followed him in a graveyard. He turned to look around, giving no outward reaction when his brother Sam's face was revealed. The younger man lowered himself to the grass beside Dean, facing him so that the gravestone was to Sam's right and hazel eyes were able to lock on the blond's face. There was absolute stillness for several seconds, before Dean gave a small smile.
"Why am I not surprised? I knew you were gonna visit with me someday." Sam gave a small answering smile for the sake of appearances, but his eyes shone with concern and sadness, both directed at Dean.
"You're psychic, I guess," came his quiet voice, a sound that almost loosed the floods that had been gathering behind the elder's eyes. "So, what's up?"
"What are you talking about, man? I'm sightseeing, no reason to get your panties in a twist." Confusion marred Sam's face, before his expressive orbs clouded over with tortured understanding.
"You think I don't see." It wasn't a question, but a statement voiced so forlornly that Dean nearly broke. He'd never been able to stand Sam sad, much less if it was by his doing. "You honestly think I don't notice that you make sure to drive past this city every year, same month too. Most of the time you try and make it during the same week." The hunter didn't say anything, but that was all the answer Sam needed. "Damnit, I didn't mean to come across like that. I knew, Dean, I have known since the beginning, but I thought talking to you would drive you crazy. I though to was too soon, that you needed time to work through it. I never meant for you to think I didn't care."
"It probably would've driven me insane," Dean admitted softly, gaze still locked on the gravestone they were sitting in front of. "Looking back now I can see that, but then I just wanted you to try and make me spill my guts like you always had before, so that at least something wouldn't have changed."
"Better late than never, then." The brunette nodded towards the object of Dean's attention. "Tell me about him. What makes you keep coming back each year?"
"You want to know everything?" was the response, and Dean saw a nod out the corner of his eye. "It'll take a while."
"We have time." Dean gave his own nod and leaned backwards on his arms, making himself comfortable since the two wouldn't be moving anytime soon.
"He was my best friend." Already he had said something that had blindsided his brother. "I know, you thought I didn't get close to anyone, but he was special. We were brought together in Lawrence; I was four and he was just a baby. Mom always let me go and spend time with him... I think now that she knew how important he would grow to be in my life and she wanted to nurture the bond she could see growing.
"But then there was the fire. I stopped talking for a while, but started spending even more time with him. Dad didn't care, I'm not sure he even noticed. After Mom died, Dad was too wrapped up in himself for anything to really penetrate. I spent as much time as I could with a one-year-old who hadn't even started teething yet so that I wouldn't have to face what a wreck my big, strong Daddy had been reduced to.
"There's not much to say for a long time after we left Kansas. Both of us grew up, I traveled around the country killing things most people think were thought up for cheap horror films and protected him from the reality of what actually waited in the dark, but he was always there, keeping me sane with his innocence. We were always talking, as soon as he learned how, and hell, we could talk about anything. TV shows, cartoons, superheroes from the comics that we wanted to be when we grew up. Dad never understood how I could waste hours just sharing my mind with someone four years my junior who was so different from us, but to my surprise, he took up Mom's support of the relationship that had developed between me and him. Maybe he realized more than I give him credit for, maybe he appreciated that this was how I was able to withstand the pressure I was being put under. But back to what I was saying. Every topic of conversation was fair game to us. As we grew older, the topics took a turn from Superman to what our Superwomen would come equipped with."
There was a choked cough from Dean's right and a devilish grin spread over his features before he returned to his story.
"When he turned sixteen, though, we kinda fell out of touch. We would still talk, but could never seem to communicate. I was twenty, an adult, and being in that class apart from him seemed to drive a barrier between him and me. I thought that he would never be able to understand the "grown-up" issues I dealt with, and it probably didn't help that he had changed from open preteen to moody teenager when I wasn't looking. For two years, we talked less and less, even fighting, something that had never happened earlier. There had obviously always been barbs traded back and forth, but this was honest to God fighting. It hurt both of us, but we just had so many different opinions that were suddenly coming to the forefront of our bond."
"I remember you when you were twenty. You were a bitch." Sam's eyes danced with the annoyed look his brother threw at him.
"Probably because you started developing an affinity for Linkin Park, you emo freak." Dean had almost forgotten why he had started on this jaunt into the past, so he had been relieved that Sam had pulled him back to the present for a minute. "I have more to tell you." But don't let me lose myself again. It was something unspoken that both of them heard in the silence that stretched between them and Sam tilted his head in acceptance to Dean's voiceless request.
"So two years past, and it just grew more tense. Finally, he told me a couple weeks before he had to leave that he was going to college. Some hotshot, snobby, Ivy League school that he would excel at, where he could learn to rule the world. I never doubted his ability either, but I got so angry at him for dumping it on me like that and not even telling me he'd applied that I told him he was abandoning me, told him that if he couldn't trust me, his best friend, enough to tell me he was applying to college, then we weren't really as close as we'd always thought. I hurt him bad when I told him that, so bad that we didn't talk or see each other for the next three years.
"While he was off going to frat parties and getting so goddamn smart like he wanted, I was with Dad. Don't get me wrong, man, I love him, always have and always will, but especially during those years, he proved to me that my love wasn't completely reciprocated – definitely not completely deserved. Dad's a hunter first and foremost; being a father never scored a real high place on his list after Mom was murdered. Maybe his conviction that he was able to be a good parent was killed the same night, and he didn't put all his effort into trying so that he wouldn't be disappointed when he failed. I don't know; I can't pretend to be privy to how his mind works. All I know is that I stayed with him and continued to love him because I thought I could save him. I saw him nose-diving, saw him setting himself up for death with how obsessed he was becoming as the years went on and we still weren't any closer to ending the hunt than we were twenty-two years ago, and I thought that if I just showed him that he wasn't alone... he'd become the man I always needed."
"But he never did." Again, Sam stated his observation not as a question but as a declaration of fact. Dean shook his head, a sigh escaping his lips.
"No. I like to believe that he was beginning to soften before he disappeared, because there were fewer and fewer nights he spent at the bottom of a bottle, but then he found that lead on the demon he held responsible for everything bad in our lives and he vanished, leaving me to go and get you." Sam accepted this explanation and went on to another point.
"You said that you didn't see each other for three years. Tell me about when you got back together."
"That was what I was getting to, if you would just let me finish the story," Dean said in mock exasperation before continuing his tale.
"I finally contacted him after those three years – I finally let him know that I still wanted something to do with him. When we'd last talked, he came away thinking that I was ashamed of him, that I thought he was a disgrace for following his dreams. So I went to him and told him some bullshit story to get him to visit with me for a few hours. That ended up with us falling back into our old routine and for those hours, it was great. Like we'd never stopped being a part of each other's lives. It was almost unbearable to see him walk back into the dorms, but I did. He was happy there, and beneath all the selfish thoughts I had about how he was abandoning me, that had always been the only thing that really mattered.
"So I was still parked right there on the curb, just stewing, and I saw this flickering light coming from his apartment window. Well, I lost it. Nothing was allowed to hurt him, especially not when I'd just gotten him back. I broke down the door and dragged his ass outta there." Dean let out a low, bitter chuckle. "Kinda ironic how he lost the love of his life in a way that was so familiar to me. Scientists are wrong, Sammy-boy, fire always takes, it never gives anything back.
"He quit college after that – his head was too messed up to stay in the place where he'd gotten his heart broken – but it didn't go back to the way it was. I can't believe that I ever really thought it would; completely selfish of me, but for a while I wondered if now that it was just us again, with no outside forces, everything would be okay. It went back to a way it was before but not the one I wanted. We went back to talking constantly, but no communication was being made. Just like before he went to college and we broke contact the first time. I guess the similarities made me nervous and I couldn't help but wonder if he was gonna leave me again – his misery was dragging him down so much that at the beginning, my fear wasn't that off base. He seemed just as ready to make amends as I was, and finally we reached a place where everything was getting through on both sides; we were comfortable again and our chemistry and rhythm was back. We were best friends again and that was all that mattered. That was three years ago."
"Three years is as long as you've been coming here," Sam interjected quietly, his hazel eyes swimming with unreadable emotion as they focused on Dean's face. The features that always held a smirk had crumpled at the sound of his brother's soft voice. Sam resisted the need to reach out and offer comfort, knowing that Dean saw this as his penance, his redemption.
"How did it come to this, bro?" he urged instead, vocally willing his brother to cooperated and let his torment be over sooner. It wasn't everything that made a Winchester, especially the middleman, cry.
"It was... oh God..." Dean exhaled noisily, gulping back tears before forcing his voice out from a throat already clogged with overdue grief. "It was a demon. The same things that I'd always tried to protect him from spit in my face and took him anyway.
"Dad had joined the hunt finally, after being AWOL for months. We were up working a gig in Massachusetts, something I thought was gonna be routine – a simple in and out job. Of course, it turned out to be anything but.
"Me and Dad had gone our separate ways for the night... he was staying some place secret so that he 'wouldn't put his boys in danger by being with them'. Bunch of shit, he had an ulterior motive up his sleeve the whole time. The bastard went to kill the demon by himself without even warning his goddamn sons! He got captured and serves him right. Well, I got a call on my cell when I was hustling some money for next week's meals, and wouldn't you know it, it was John Winchester. The demon had let him call for help to toy with him, and Dad made sure I knew that and didn't even think of coming to help him. He shouldn't have wasted his breath. I left that bar and was driving out to where he'd said he was being held before the phone was even fully shut.
"I got there a couple hours later since I'd stopped to get all the research in Dad's room. There was this cave by the seashore that we knew for sure the demon was using as a hideaway, but when I snuck up there, there was absolutely no sign of life – human or not. I got into the cave and didn't meet anything. Right away I realized that something was wrong, but my father was a captive and I couldn't care less if I was walking straight into a trap.
"The cave entrance opened up into a large chamber about thirty feet from the entrance. It had a real high ceiling and echoed something awful... I remember all of these stupid details. Typical, I guess – you always remember everything about the worst moment of your life. I remember too, that as soon as I walked into the main vault I saw Dad, all tied up and gagged and looking like someone was going to end up in the hospital, if not worse, as soon as he got free. But then I turned to look around for the monster... and there he was. I just froze. He was tied up just like Dad but knocked out, only a couple yards away from the fucker who's idiocy had brought all of us there. Dad was experienced, he should have known..." Dean trailed off, too angry to continue. Sam interrupted to stem the blow up he could sense coming.
"Don't think about Dad now, Dean, just get the whole story out before you explode." His brother shook his head, literally shaking with rage that had been suppressed for three years.
"It's not fair... I loved both of them so much. The demon, it knew that and played me. It told me... shit... it told me to... goddamnit." He paused for a minute to try and gather the courage to spit out the hated word. "... choose. It told me to choose who would live... and who would die." A strangled sob finally escaped despite the elder Winchester's valiant efforts to hold it in. Sam's hazel eyes burned into his profile, a fire lit in them as the end of the story came into sight.
"Who, Dean? Who did you choose?" Dean shook his head, mouth set in a tight line as he courageously struggled to keep his grief at bay, but his companion would have none of it and resorted to tough love. "Damnit, Dean, you're almost done. Tell me who you chose!"
"Him!" Dean finally screamed, glaring at Sam while gesturing at the tombstone. "I told the demon to kill him!" The younger brother rocked back, betraying no emotion on his countenance as he watched Dean collapse under three years of pent up sorrow. The other started on a hysterical rant. "I know, you probably figured that I'd chosen Dad but the demon had killed him just to spite me, but it wasn't that at all."
"Dean, I never thought anything. I was waiting – "
"The fucker gave me just two seconds to choose, and at the time, it was a choice between someone who I'd thought abandoned me for no reason before and someone who I at least knew had a reason. You see, all the stuff I said before about what he must've been thinking when going away, that's all stuff I figured out too late.
"The first thing that came out of my mouth before I could stop myself was 'Don't kill my dad'. I loved him, still do, no matter what he did to us. It's something that I can't stop – not sure I want to, even now that I hate him. I had always looked to him for guidance and meaning, so I didn't even think about what I was sacrificing, just let habit take over. Habit killed my world that night.
"Before I could even blink, a sword was through his stomach, Dad was free, and the demon had disappeared. My legs had turned to jello, but I was finally able to move them and I managed to make it over to him before collapsing. There was so much blood, just all this red covering his whole body; I hadn't even known the human body could hold that much blood and it was still pouring out of him.
"He looked up at me from where his head was in my lap. His lips and teeth were red, but I don't think he had enough awareness to realize he was choking on his own blood. The pain had obviously woken him up, though he had no idea how any of this had happened. I was just holding him at that point, begging, fucking begging him to be okay, but all he did was look at me." The battle with tears had been lost long ago but Dean didn't bother to wipe away the salt water as it slid down his cheeks and into his mouth. "I'll remember the look forever, even after the day I die. All I could see was love. It was then I realized that I'd made the wrong choice." Dean turned to his brother in agony. Reaching out, he grasped Sam by the nape of the neck, tangling his fingers in the silky hair. "Please, you have to forgive me. I didn't mean it, it was an accident. Say you forgive me?"
Sam shook his head, crystal tears now trailing their way down his face. "Dean," he breathed with a hitch in his voice. "Dean, there's nothing – "
"Don't say there's nothing to forgive. You know there is! It's my fault... it's my fault..." Sobs wracked his body as the blond folded in on himself and all Sam could do was reach out to gather the shattered pieces of his brother.
"All right," he conceded in a whisper, his lips almost touching Dean's ear. "All right, I forgive you."
That was all it took for what little semblance of control Dean had maintained to crumble. Three years worth of tears were now pouring down his face in torrents and his wails cut through the still air. Sam could do nothing but stroke his hair and wait as Dean was torn apart and then tentatively taped back together, all in the span of minutes.
Leaning down so that his forehead rested right above the other's wet cheek, Sam breathed an absolution that would help heal his brother's shattered heart.
"I love you."
Dean rose to his feet, tear tracks still prominent on his handsome face. He ran his hands reverently over the cool granite slab in front of him, letting his fingers lazily trace the words.
1982 – 2005
Beloved brother, son, and best friend
He walked alone, casting light in the shadow of the night.
"See you next year, Sammy."
With that, he turned his back on the six feet of earth that unjustly separated him from his brother and walked to the gates under the cold glare of the graveyard light.
A/N: So, what do y'all think? Honestly, I want to know. I'm not sure if this came across as obvious or stupid. I was trying a different approach with Dean, not my usual forte, but it seemed to work. However, I want to know what you, as the readers think, so any comments will be welcomed here. Nothing kills an author like silence.