Supernatural isn't mine.
AU tag to 2x20 What is and What Should Never Be. What if Dean had never realised that it was a dream?
Door Number Two
Sam and Jess are heading back to California at six a.m. the day after Mom's birthday. Dean's there in the grey light, waiting by their car, and Sam stares at him like he's lost his mind.
"Take a picture," says Dean.
Sam frowns. "Is something wrong? Did something happen?"
"No, man." Dean ignores the hurt in his gut; he figures however it was he lived his life before, he probably deserves what he gets. "Just wanted to say goodbye."
He hugs Jess, but not Sam. He waits by the driver-side window, though, and Sam rolls it down.
"I'll call," Dean says. "Safe trip."
He feels Sam's eyes on him as he makes his way back to the house to make breakfast for Mom.
He calls the same night, and the first thing Sam asks him is if he's been drinking. Dean's beginning to wonder if he has a drinking problem; there's a hell of a lot of beer bottles out back, waiting to be recycled, and the first thing Dean thought when he saw them was wow, I recycle, but now he thinks wow, I drink a lot of beer.
"Just wanted to talk to you," he says.
There's a long pause, and Dean can hear Jess saying something in the background, and Sam replying, his voice low and rumbling, the words indistinct, a hand covering the receiver, no doubt.
"Dean," Sam says, and he's got that tone, that exasperated, confused tone, and Dean's not going to let him finish his thought.
"Look," he says, and he doesn't like talking about his feelings, but he's not letting this second chance slip through his fingers, "I've been an asshole, OK? I know I have. But I want to make it up to you. I just want to talk to you, Sammy."
More silence, and Dean's wondering how often Sam comes to visit, how much he makes at the garage, whether he can afford a flight to California.
"Fine," says Sam, and lets out a sigh that's half-amused, half-annoyed, and he and Sam may not be DeanandSam in this reality, but that doesn't mean Dean doesn't know his brother. "How'd your day go?"
"It was awesome," Dean says, kicking back and putting his feet up. "I fixed the hell out of this sweet Barracuda..."
Sam and Jess get married in November, and Dean's not the best man. He sits on the back step the day before the wedding, and Sam's a bundle of nerves, downing beer with a shaking hand.
"Dude," says Dean, "calm down. You and Jess? You're gonna be awesome together."
"God, Dean," Sam says, turning to him with horrified eyes, "don't do this to me."
"What?" Dean's startled, worried. Sam looks so scared. "You're the one who wanted to get married."
Sam blinks. "Who said I don't want to get married?" he says, and he just looks nervous again, and the next day Dean stands in church and smiles until his cheeks ache and he thinks he might freakin cry with how happy Sam looks, and he doesn't remember that moment of terror.
"You know," says Sam, "I was wrong about you."
"Yeah," Dean replies, dangling his legs off the side of the boat. "I really am better-looking than Jake Gyllenwhatever. I knew you'd come around, Sammy."
Sam grins and takes a pull on his beer. "What happened, man?" he asks. "You used to be so..." he gestures, then leans back, trailing his hand in the water. There's nothing around them but lake and stars and trees.
"People change," says Dean. "I just realised what's really important, is all."
"Oh yeah," says Sam, throwing his head back. He looks pretty wasted. "What's that?"
"What's the point in having a kid brother if you're never around to kick his ass?" Dean asks, and pounces, and really, even after a year of no hunting and only training sporadically, it's no surprise that he can wrestle Sam over the side of the boat in less than two minutes. Sam really is kinda a pussy.
"Sam?" Dean peers through the darkness of the kitchen. He couldn't sleep, and he came down to get a beer, but Sam's standing there, no mistaking someone that huge. "What're you doing here?"
"I don't know if I can do this without you," says Sam, and there's so much emotion in his voice, pain and fear and grief, that Dean's immediately looking round for the thing that did this to his little brother so he can rip its head off. When he looks back, Sam's gone, and he puts it all down to the extra-cheesy pizza he had just before bed.
After two years of marriage, a doctor tells Sam and Jess that they can't have kids. Sam calls Dean the same night; he's newly graduated from law school, working at a practice in New York. His voice trembles on the phone.
"You told Mom yet?" Dean asks.
"No," Sam says. "I wanted... I don't know, Dean." He heaves a shaky sigh. "At least she's still got you and Carmen, right?"
"Yeah," Dean says.
"Yeah," says Sam.
That night, Dean thinks about kids whose parents die when they're six months old, and tries not to be glad for Sam's misfortune.
When Mom dies, Dean moves out of Lawrence. He's got a lot of good memories there now, years of barbecues and kids' parties, quiet Sunday afternoons with Mom and Carmen, mowing the lawn (which, it turns out, eventually loses its shine), washing the car; but underneath it all is always the hint of smoke and panic, and Dean loads the Impala up with Carmen and the kids and doesn't look back.
They settle in Portland, Maine. Sam has a private practice there, and there's a house for sale twostreets away from his. Carmen rolls her eyes good-naturedly when Dean suggests it as a destination, makes a remark about marrying two men instead of one, but Dean knows she's happy for him. God knows, the kids love Sam and Jess practically more than they love their own parents.
Dean uses the money from selling Dad's share in the garage to set up his own business. Sometimes, it's stifling; he looks up from book-keeping or cleaning the toilet or yelling at the kids, and wishes he was back on the open road, Sam beside him, the wind flowing in through the open windows. Then he remembers aching muscles and fear and the way that Sam had stopped smiling, and he laughs at himself for thinking he could ever choose that over this.
"You are so old," Sam says, and Dean throws him a glare.
"Don't think I won't kick your ass, college boy," he says. "There's life in this old dog yet."
"I'd like to see you try. You'd probably break a hip," Sam says.
"Yeah, your hip," Dean mutters, and adjusts his tie. "I hate these freakin things."
"Can't have you go out there looking like a mechanic," Carmen says, helping him straighten the knot.
"I am a mechanic," Dean points out.
"Not any more," says Sam, and Dean wonders how the years went by so fast.
"You'd better not have got me a goddamn gold watch, I'm telling you right now," he says, and Sam grins.
Dean wakes up in the middle of the night, and Sam's there again, third time in two months. He looks like he did when he was twenty-four, like he did before Dean changed the world for the better; scared eyes too big for his face, and pleading, always pleading.
"I think the Demon's coming," he says, and that's different, usually when Dean has this dream Sam says come back or I need you. "I can't... I don't know if I can stop it, but I've got to try. I'm sorry, Dean. I'll come back if I can."
Dean's filled suddenly with a sense of foreboding, and he sits up in bed, meaning to say something to Sam, to reassure him. But Sam's gone, and anyway, it was just a dream.
After that night, he doesn't dream of Sam any more.
"Dad," says Jenny, and she's gripping his hand, eyes filled with tears.
"It's OK, sweetheart," Carmen says, brushing her hair back from her face. "Your daddy's going to a better place."
Dean wants to speak, to tell everyone how much he loves them, how much he's going to miss them, how lucky he feels to have had this, all of this. His throat muscles aren't working right, though, and he looks around, his kids, Carmen, Sam and Jess. They know. He knows they know, and that's enough. He closes his eyes and smiles.
When he opens them again, he's still in a hospital bed, but it's a different room, and there are alarms going off like crazy. He swallows, tries to speak, but this time it's the dry mouth that does him in, and there's a nurse putting a hand on his chest and telling him to take it easy, and what the hell's going on?
He catches a glimpse of his hand flailing up, and the skin's smooth and pale, no liver spots, no wrinkles, but a scar that hasn't been there for over fifty years, and Dean stares.
He chokes, and someone gives him water. There are more people around him now, and Dean scans them, looking for a familiar face but seeing nothing but strangers. They tell him to calm down, but how can he be calm, he's supposed to be dead and instead he's in his twenties again
When he can speak, he asks where Sam is, but nobody can tell him.