He finds you while everyone around you is still laughing, pulls you away
He finds you while everyone around you is still laughing, pulls you away. His brother would have made that joke, he says, looking at you with shining eyes ringed with black. Before, he says, before things got so bad for him.
You understand then that his brother killed himself, wanted to slip out of this world that grated on his every nerve.
And that's it, you're done, because no one else is ever going to overwhelm you like this, like Dean, this quiet guy, the new guy, the one with the sad eyes.
Dean isn't so quiet these days. He laughs and sings and drives and you're more in love with him every day, the way his scarred hands pick at the chip in the cafeteria table, the sharp lines on his face when he's thinking through things in Calc.
The way he bumps shoulders with you when he catches you by your locker, warmth seeping from him to you.
The way he says your name, short and crisp.
The way he eats an apple. Oh, you could go on for days.
You miss one party, and suddenly there's Elizabeth, the girl that Dean kisses, the girl that Dean wants in the space that's always been there between him and you.
Because Dean isn't pushing you away. No. He just wants to make your reservation for a party of three instead. And he looks from Elizabeth to you, back again, delighted when you laugh at one of her jokes, when she tucks the tag of your shirt down.
He's so happy.
Elizabeth is the one who helps you when Dean's dad decides to follow his younger son into the darkness. Dean has vanished, but Elizabeth isn't chewing off her nails, isn't wailing, isn't out searching for him. Instead, she's with you, picking out the one suit hanging in John Winchester's closet; your eyes meet when she shows up with socks and you've finally located a decent shirt, and you know you both are wondering if this was how John was dressed when he married Dean's mother.
You both work to make sure Dean has a home to come back to, if he ever wants it.
You're the witness when the Justice of the Peace marries Dean and Elizabeth. Dean insisted on the formality, overriding Elizabeth's indifference to ceremony, unaware of your longing.
They don't have the money for a honeymoon, but you pulled some strings and got them two nights at the Grand Canyon.
It's easier not to think of them when you're in Paris for the semester, where none of the cars look like Dean's, none of the voices sound like Dean's, and no one has eyes that shine like his.
Your letters back and forth are extravagant, ridiculous. Elizabeth's writing usually covers the back, but his is on the front, long epistles about everything, nothing, the price of milk, and the holes made by the absence of a friend.
You keep yours light, travelogues, the "never in America" moments that pop up with some regularity, the price of unpasteurized milk.
Your birthday comes and goes, marked by a long phone call and you can hear all over again that he's settled, safe, secure. That he's happy. So you tease him, asking for a description of your present, and he promises you something that changes description every second he keeps speaking, something that contradicts itself at every turn, and you can't keep yourself from laughing, even if some of his words get lost in the sound.
The doctors are saying Elizabeth can't have more kids. Dean is holding his son when he leans down to kiss her and smile into her eyes and you watch through the glass as Dean bypasses the coin toss and lets Elizabeth name their baby.
"Jake," she says, mouth shaping the word so that even you can see it, though the glass is fogging up.
Dean nods, holds Jake up for you to see, and his mouth shapes another word by the dark crown of the baby's head.
"Sammy!" Dean hollers, pretending to be pissed by his little prankster. You're on the couch, sneaking glances over the top of your book. Jake comes down the stairs like he doesn't have a care in the world or a thing on his conscience.
"Hi, Dad!" Jake grins, as if he hasn't seen Dean in weeks. There's no resisting that smile, on that face, not when the smile makes his vague resemblance to Dean into something uncanny. "You bellowed?"
"You know what, never mind, squirt," Dean says, and grabs him, sweeping him up into a big bear hug, and they laugh together.
Elizabeth puts Dean's hand in yours. It's waxy, cool, and you cannot believe the light is going out of the world. Dean looks like he did when you first saw him, eyes shining out at you from a weary face. You've changed, Elizabeth has changed, Jake is grown, but Dean is that boy still.
"Don't go," you plead. As if this is his choice, as if he wants to leave you, leave Elizabeth with tears on her face.
"Not without giving you that birthday present I owe you," he says, like you haven't spent every significant day you can remember with him at your side.
"When you were in Paris?" he prompts you when he sees the bewilderment on your face.
"The wondrous thing?" you remember.
"Top desk drawer," he says quietly. You don't want to let go of his hand, but you step away. You open the drawers - there are three top desk drawers, left, middle, and right - and just look down through tears at what you find.
Elizabeth's arms around you let you know he's gone. You both stand there, looking down at what he made, even as the light goes out of the world.