The congregation had been split right from the beginning of the service. It was a clear and defining split and neither side mingled with the other. One side was crying, heads hung, tissues in every hand. The other side stood stock still, faces worn and old, even on the people who couldn't have been older than thirty. They represented two different worlds, connected by the one in the casket, the one connection that was now broken.
One side was the epitome of normal. Stable family, stable home, well, as stable as either of those things can be. Graduated high school with flying colours, got into Stanford, celebrated with family and friends and were dropped off on their first day by parents and siblings with pride shining in their eyes
The other side was the epitome of abnormal. The things they'd seen, the things they'd done pushed the realms of reality and challenged the world as science knew it. They'd each been here too many times, the last time all too recent, sharp and clear in their memories. Each of them silently gave their own prayer, own thoughts, ignoring the pastor's attempts. Generic prayers didn't work in these cases. The death always meant too much, one less hunter in the dark, one less person to count on, dwindling numbers meant every loss was felt. There were never enough.
Though they weren't crying, weren't making a sound, there were two in the congregation that everyone, even those that didn't know them, would agree had been hit hardest. They were sitting, one in a wheelchair, one in a cheap, plastic chair. Both had evidence of injury from the car crash that had taken the third member of their family. Between them they gave off such a feeling of grief, of loss and of failure that it was almost painful to look at them. They said nothing, locked in their own small, dark world that had been ripped apart and they hadn't even begun to consider picking up the pieces.
Some of Sam's friends had been sneering before the service, about the hypocrisy of his family. How they were hardly present for four years of his life, then they turn up, whisk him away, expect him to enjoy it and get him killed in a car crash. They were mourning, people aren't always their nicest when mourning. However, when they saw the family, what was left of it, all of these thoughts left them and they could only think how sorry they were, how glad they were to not be in that position.
For some, grief takes over everything. They are unable to feel anything other than their pain and so the rest of their life goes on hold. For others, they get by and don't focus on their loss, in fact, they focus on anything but. This was why a small group of Sam's friends were able to work up the courage to go talk to one of the men that were so broken by Sam's death. They would have spoken to both of them but the older one, the father, was in no fit state and only responded to his son.
They hung around after the service, waiting for all the, let's face it, quite intimidating people to leave. Luckily Sam's brother didn't leave with them. He waited with his father, standing behind his wheelchair, both staring at the gaping hole before them. Sam's friends shuffled nearer, wondering if there would be a good time to interrupt, if they should barge in on this moment, if they should even be witnessing this moment. Sam's brother, Dean, had his hand on his father's shoulder, his father was gripping it tightly, holding on as though letting go would be the end of the world but they were both still staring at the headstone, at the hole.
Dean eventually turned away to make for a car that was waiting for him and his father, limping and leaning heavily on his walking stick. He stared at the ground and didn't notice there were people right in front of him until he actually bumped into them. He looked up at them, no apology forthcoming, his expression was guarded, but held a small question as to what they were doing there. He glanced back to his father, then looked at Sam's friends, frowning. It was clear that even if they'd wanted to talk to the father, Dean wasn't ever going to let them.
"Hi," said Kelly, she was always the most forward of them, "You Sam's brother?" Dean nodded slowly. Kelly smiled at him, while desperately thinking of something to say. Having got this far, every question they'd ever had paled into insignificance and Kelly got the distinct feeling that Dean didn't want to talk about Sam, especially not during those years when they weren't speaking. Seeing this, Dawn decided to butt in.
"Hello, I'm Dawn, this is Kelly and Matt. We're friends of Sam's from Stanford," Dean nodded slowly again. Kelly was starting to think this wasn't such a good idea. It occurred to her that Dean wasn't saying anything because anything he did say them; living reminders of the time he and Sam were apart, would be just too painful. "We just wanted to say," continued Dawn, "That Sam was a great guy and he'll really be missed. We're sorry he's uh... he's... not with us anymore," she sounded lame, she knew it and she was beginning to feel uncomfortable under Dean's stare. She smiled apologetically. Dean looked at Kelly and Matt, waiting for them to say something equally asinine.
"We're really sorry," said Kelly, placing her hand on his arm. He flinched away from her touch and she hastily withdrew her hand, almost feeling hurt before she realised that this man had just lost his brother. She turned to leave and indicated to the other two that they should do the same. They looked at each other, then at Dean and realised that their questions were going to remain unanswered, so they followed after Kelly.
"What was Sam like?" the quiet words stopped them dead. They hesitantly made their way back to Dean, just looking at him, they wondered if they hadn't had a group hallucination. Matt was the first to pull himself together.
"Well, he was really kind and gentle, always ready to help,"
"No," said Dean more forcefully, causing the three friends to look at him in surprise, "Don't give me that funeral crap, what was he really like?" Matt opened and closed his mouth a few times, trying to think of something suitable. Kelly and Dawn watched Matt, really glad that they weren't on the receiving end of Dean's hard stare. It wasn't meant to be so unfriendly, Dean had just lost the ability and the will to appear approachable in the past few days.
"The very first time I met him," Matt decided that was a good anecdote, "It was the first week of lectures and we were both in a rush. He was coming one way down the corridor I was coming the other way, neither of us could see because of how many books we were carrying and we just crashed into each other, sending everything flying. We found out that we were in the same classes and we stuck together because we didn't know anyone else. Everyone always found our story hilarious, you know, like some cliched love story." Matt paused, usually he would smile when relating this tale, but he hadn't the heart to smile about it today, "Whenever I was freaking out about exams and tests, he always had a way of talking that made it seem so small. He always said there were worse things out there than failing a test," Matt looked over to the grave. Dean's father was still there, his hand was still on his shoulder where it had been holding Dean's, his breath barely moved him.
"Geek," said Dean quietly, lost in his own world. His face was graced with the barest flicker of a smile and it made a startling difference. Such a difference that Kelly found her voice.
"He wasn't always such a geek. He completely whooped my ass at pool, every time! And I'm a pretty good pool player. Well, not every time, I beat him three times," Kelly seemed pretty proud of this fact. Dawn leaned over to her and mock-whispered,
"Hate to break it to you, but those three times were all on your birthday," Kelly's eyes narrowed as the realisation dawned on her.
"You mean he let me win? The bastard!" Kelly's eyes widened as she realised what she'd said in front of Dean, but Dean was smiling. Actually smiling.
"I used to do that to him, it pissed him off so much," Dean gazed at a spot just left of Matt's shoulder, "And he swore he'd never do it to anyone, even if he got the chance," his gaze focused on the three friends again, "Did you ever play poker? I started him early on that, everything he knows, I taught him," the floodgates had opened, Dean was talking about Sam and he didn't look like he was going to stop.
"Oh yeah!" joined Matt enthusiastically, "He completely cleared us out, we refused to ever play with him again!" Dean laughed, it was an amazing transformation from the closed person he had been only moments before.
"How did he fit in? I mean, was he the college freak or anything? He's always had this thing about being normal,"
"You should've seen him on the first day," Dawn said, taking her cue from Dean and smiling, "He was just as lost as the rest of us. Though, he was freakishly clever,"
"Really? Even with all you brain-boxes around? I knew it, no one should be able to draw conclusions as quickly as he does and he always seems to pick out the gigs that are real. Well, with a few exceptions," Matt, Dawn and Kelly glanced at each other. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to find out what had gone on in Sam's life that he had hidden so well. It was true, he had slipped up sometimes, but they'd known him for four years, well, Kelly hadn't but she'd been filled in later, and they still knew nothing more than the basics about his family. Here was Sam's mysterious and almost mythical brother standing before them, perfectly willing and open and completely grief-stricken. It was easy to tell that Dean was not in the habit of opening up like this. The fact that he was referring to Sam in the present tense was a big sign that something in Dean's understanding of the world had temporarily gone awry.
"He was a complete lightweight. It was hard to be intimidated by his intellect when he was busy telling everyone to look at his hands because they were so huge, like we hadn't noticed," Kelly didn't have the heart to take advantage of Dean in his vulnerable state and the other two were secretly quite glad that the decision had been taken out of their hands.
"He always refuses to drink when I'm around! I can't work out why, the first time wasn't that bad. He did make a hell of a fool of himself, but who doesn't?"
"I drank him to the floor!" boasted Kelly, "It was how I met him, he thrashed me at pool and I beat him in a drinking game. At least, that's what people tell me, I can't remember that much," Dean's lips quirked into a grin, "But next morning his number was scrawled on my arm and I called it and we were friends ever since!"
"Yeah, after you had your over-the-phone screaming match," said Dawn, Dean raised his eyebrow,
"Look, we both had hangovers and were emotionally vulnerable. It gave us something to talk about afterwards, didn't it?"
Dean's head snapped to the side. His face closed off completely, back to the blank, guarded look he had held when they first met. The three friends peered around him and saw his father wheeling himself. He stopped when he reached the four of them.
"Dean," he said in a rough voice. It was either unused or screamed into hoarseness, it was hard to tell. He moved on and Dean watched him go for a moment,
"Yes, sir," he said quietly and followed after his father.
Suddenly, all the friends had left of Sam were memories and unanswered questions.
Thank you for reading.