Word Count: 985 words
Disclaimer: Kripke owns our souls. Ie, no, I don't own anything.
Summary: AU. What if Sammy died that night in the fire?
Warnings: Involves character death that has already happened.
Notes: This is my first AU fic in this fandom, written for the prompt, "if", from my claim over at fanfic100 (on LJ). There seems to be so many possibilities and branch offs as to what could have happened in life, if only some minor detail had been different. With the risks the Winchesters take, I couldn't help but wonder. Thank you to potthead for the quick beta.
"You took care of me, Dean. And I want you to know I'm so proud of you."
His father's voice echoed in his mind as Dean parked the minivan he'd borrowed indefinitely from Bobby. Almost angrily slamming the door shut, he leaned against the car, threw back his head and gazed into the stormy sky above.
He was back in Lawrence again. After promising himself decades ago that he'd never return, here he was. Yet another broken promise.
At the time the words had been uttered, Dean had had mixed feelings. On one hand, his father's approval was something he'd wanted to hear all his life, even though he'd never admit that to anybody. John's praise meant everything to him, and to finally hear it after twenty-six years... nothing could have diminished the joy he'd felt. Nothing... other than the fact that his father was acting entirely out of character. John Winchester was a stoic man, never one to easily show emotions. Yet barely two weeks ago, John had stood by Dean's hospital bed, acting every part the proud father.
He hadn't known what it had meant until it was too late.
His eyes moved to the small graveyard he'd parked his car beside. Pulling himself up, he slowly walked over and pushed open the small gate. It creaked from disusage, and Dean grimaced at the sound.
God, what was he doing here? What good would this do?
Yet his feet seemed to have a life of their own as they drew him towards the "W" section of the graveyard. Wardens, Warners, Webbers, Wedlers... name after name went by, until finally, in the last few rows, he saw it.
Dean felt numb as he fell to his knees before his father's freshly dug grave. It was that numbness that seemed to engulf him completely, and for now, Dean welcomed it. He needed that -- that temporary unfeelingness -- to survive past this moment. His eyes traveled over the simple words etched on the stone.
John Winchester. Like the gun, but twice as deadly.
There was a tight stinging behind his eyes. Blinking quickly, he pushed the tears back resolutely. Damn it, not now.
Sitting here before his father's grave, Dean suddenly felt lost. With the death of John, he would be the last Winchester left in this world. The demon had disappeared again, and this time, the Colt was gone.
He hated to admit it even to himself, but he didn't know what to do anymore.
His gaze moved over to the next gravestone, taking in the Mary Winchester carved on the stone. Loving Daughter, Wife, and Mother. It had been a long time since the fire that first began the Winchester family business, and Dean felt a tinge of sadness at the end result. John had chased after the demon for twenty-two years of his life, yet the demon was still living while both his parents were gone.
And finally, he saw the third grave, much smaller than the other two, but no less significant. Samuel Winchester, it said, and engraved just beneath, May 2nd, 1983 - November 2nd, 1983.
Dean barely had any memories of his younger brother, but there were times, over the years, when he'd dreamed of holding a baby in his arms as he whispered, "Sammy". The baby always grinned up at him, a large toothless grin, and his dream-self had always smiled back.
"Run outside as fast as you can! Don't look back! Now, Dean, go!"
As much as he followed his father's every word, there were times when Dean wondered. If only he'd turned back, he might have been able to save Sammy. And if he had, would Sam still be with him now? Would he be not quite so alone?
He didn't know. Yet as much as he knew dwelling on the past wouldn't change anything, he couldn't help but ask himself, what if. What if he'd disobeyed his father, and refused to leave? What if he'd run back in, afterwards? Was there a chance that Sammy could have lived?
Or would it have resulted in something worst? Would he too have died in the fire? Would his father have come after him? Would they have all perished that fateful day?
All these small details that could have made a world of difference.
Yet even as he wondered, a part of him didn't regret. Because as much as things might have turned out differently, he didn't miss what he couldn't remember having. He had few memories of his mother, and even fewer of Sammy. He couldn't miss them, because he'd never had them in the first place.
Suddenly realizing that his eyes were wet, Dean stood up, wiping his hands roughly over his face. He would not cry, damn it. Why had he come back to Lawrence? It wasn't as if he'd done any good.
Because it didn't matter anymore. John didn't matter any more - and neither did Mary and Sam. All his life, Dean had tried to hold his family together, as small as his family had become. But all of his efforts had gone to waste.
Because there was no family to hold together anymore. He was alone, and he would be until the end of his days.
Walking back to the minivan, he pulled open the door and slid into the driver's seat, turning on the engine without a backward glance.
As he sped down the street, he wondered about all the little things that could have have made a difference, but were insignificant in the end.