What Never Will Be
Summary: Just when Sam is finally coming to terms with Jessica's death, a call from an old Stanford friend sends him on a downward spiral, threatening the bond he's rebuilding with Dean. Set in Season 1 after 1:6, "Skin". #4 in the Bicycle Verse.
A/N: I haven't written anything in this verse for a while, so I figured it was time for a good, old Season 1 story. And if anyone wants to check out the rest of the Bicycle Verse you can read #1 Like Riding A Bicycle, #2 Sickbed Confessions, #3 You Watch My Back, I Watch Yours.
A/N: This is a one shot, told in two parts and it's dedicated to all the fans who have been there from Season 1. Happy reading.
The name on the caller ID gave Sam an instant feeling of unease.
Kylie Mayne had been Jessica's best friend and Sam's LSAT study partner; but they hadn't really spoken since Sam left Palo Alto after the funeral. They'd always gotten along well, although Sam figured he never would have been friends with a wealthy and somewhat spoiled girl like Kylie if she and Jess hadn't been joined at the hip. Kylie always joked that Jess quelled her "insufferable, inner-diva" and Jess considered the debutante the sister she never had.
While Kylie never hid the fact that her presence at Stanford was due more to family connections than academic exploits, she was no slouch when it came to her school work. She and Sam both had their sights set on law school after their undergraduate programmes and they had been working steadily towards that goal when fate had intervened.
They had buried Jess just before the start of the summer and Kylie had started law school in the fall while Sam had reunited with Dean and rejoined the hunt in a quest to avenge his girlfriend's death. But the line he had sold to his Stanford friends like Kylie was that he was taking time off to figure out what he wanted.
He'd only been back in town a few days to help Becky and Zack, but Kylie must have heard that he was around and was calling to check up on him.
"Are you going to answer that or just stare at it?" Dean asked.
They had just concluded the infamous shapeshifter case and they were both still a little jumpy that the so-called death of Dean Winchester might still be exposed for the farce that it was.
"Don't worry, it's not the FBI." Sam only half joked as he pressed the button to receive the call. "Hello?"
"Sam?" Even without the aid of technology, Sam would have recognized the cultured tone.
"Hi. How are you?"
"Holding on," Sam said. There really wasn't any other way to describe his existence in the wake of Jessica's death and his subsequent departure from Stanford. "How about you?"
"I'm taking it one day at a time."
Sam noted that the sharp sound of grief that had affected Kylie's voice after the fire had abated somewhat. But her light, carefree tone had yet to return and probably wouldn't for a long time.
"How's Phil?" Sam had also developed an affinity for Kylie's boyfriend. The foursome had enjoyed numerous double dates most of which held fond memories for him.
"He's good Sam. I couldn't have made it through any of this without him."
"I'm glad you've had that support," Sam said, glancing briefly at his own rock of Gibraltar. It was only Dean that had kept him from losing his mind and what was left of his life. "I know how important that is."
"So hey, the reason I'm calling is that I heard you were in town and I wanted to see you before you left."
Sam stole another look at Dean. With all the heat that had been on his brother he didn't want to linger in town. So as soon as they left Becky's place they had only made this brief stop to grab their stuff from the motel and then they were getting the hell out of Dodge.
"I'm kinda on a tight timeline, is it something we can talk about over the phone?"
"No Sam," Kylie said in what Jessica used to joke was her 'lady of the manor' tone. "I need to see you." Then she added, "Please."
It had become clear to Sam in the difficult days following Jessica's death and the lead up to her funeral that the unexpected tragedy had changed Kylie in ways he would never have imagined. It had been humbling for her to face the cold, hard reality that, with all her wealth and privilege, there were things her money couldn't buy.
"O.K," Sam conceded. "Where do you want to meet?"
"At Santa Cruz Beach," Kylie said softly.
That beach had been Jessica's favourite spot. So much so that he had laid flowers there after the funeral instead of at her grave. His stomach grabbed at the thought of being there again without her.
"Is there somewhere else? I'm practically on the other side of town."
"This won't take too long Sam."
"O.K," Sam relented. "I'll be there in about an hour."
Sam wasn't sure why, but his heart was racing when he hung up the phone.
"Are you sure you don't want me to drive you?" Dean asked, not liking the idea of Sam going off on his own.
"There's no point in both of us going," Sam kept his tone light although he was feeling a faint sense of dread at the thought of the reunion. "You stay here, pack up all our stuff, I'll go and see what Kylie wants and then we can hit the road. O.K?"
"O.K." Dean adopted his brother's easy approach. "Don't take forever."
Once Sam was out the door, Dean quietly pulled back the window curtain to watch him drive out. He was uncomfortable with the impromptu delay and his discomfort had nothing to do with his recent brush with the law.
The truth be told, Dean hated California.
This was the placed that had not only lured his brother away from him it had kept him away for four whole years. Had it not been for the interference of misfortune, Dean knew he would still be on a losing streak when going up against the sun-filled State.
He hadn't wanted to take the gig here in the first place, but he was enough of a hunter to know you put the job first and yourself second. The most difficult thing had been spending time with Sam's college friends. It was weird to meet the strangers who had somehow infiltrated his brother's life and managed to give Sam whatever he needed to keep him away from his family.
It had been hard to be in this place with these people and not feel like he was competing for his brother's loyalty, and worse, his companionship. The whole time he was there Dean expected Sam to tell him that he'd changed his mind about coming back on the road and was going to settle down there and give "normal" another try.
And now, when they'd almost made it back out and he thought he had finally managed to score one back against Cali, the stupid phone had rung and Sam had left him to reunite with one of the stars of his Stanford sojourn.
Dean had met Kylie briefly in the run up to the funeral. No two ways about it, she was pretty and posh to a fault. Everything about her screamed money, money, money and even in grief she seemed composed.
He knew Kylie had shared Sam's interest in Law; but unlike Sam, her family had a law firm where an office was waiting with her name on it. In Dean's mind Kylie was the prototype of the people Sam had grown used to while he was at Stanford. People who not only lived in "normal", but had risen to the pinnacle of that universe. The society of high achievers that Sam had been all set to join with his college degree from an elite institution and all the perks that would have come with it.
Dean often wondered just how deeply Sam regretted giving up the pursuit of his coveted ideal life to return to the dead-end doldrums of hunting. Being here in California must have had his brother contemplating what might have been and comparing it to what he was left with now. A meeting with Kylie, for whatever purpose, might be just the thing that would swing the game back in Cali's favour.
With a heart full of worry, Dean waited for his brother to come.
He hated California.
Sam drove slowly back from his meeting with Kylie, keeping his emotions in a vice-like grip.
If living away from his family had taught him anything it was self-control. When the loneliness and grief over missing Dean, and even his father, had bordered on becoming overwhelming he had steeled himself against it by shutting his emotions down. He learned to stifle the sobs, blink back the tears and swallow down the heartache when he thought of what he had left behind.
In spite of the image of complete composure he projected while at college, he'd felt dead inside until he met Jessica. That beautiful smile and compassionate heart had given him a reason to open up again.
Yet, if there was one thing his stint in California had taught him, it was that he could master his emotions. He drew on those priceless skills now as he drove to meet his brother.
"Are you all packed?" Sam asked casually when he returned to the motel room.
"Packed and ready go." Dean saluted.
"Good," Sam grabbed his duffle and then pulled out a heavy soft cloth to give the door handles and surfaces a final wipe for prints.
He worked briskly and in silence, avoiding eye-contact with his brother.
"So how was your meeting?" Dean asked when he realised that no information was forthcoming.
"It was alright." Sam responded tossing the used cloth into room's small trash bin. "I'm done here. Shall we go?"
"Sure." Dean grabbed his own bag and followed his brother out the door.
"So are you going to tell me what the meeting was about?" Dean asked when they had loaded up the car and he was pulling out onto the road.
"Nothing really," Sam shrugged. "She just wanted to see how I was doing."
"That's all?" Dean asked, a hint of disbelief tingeing his voice.
"Pretty much," Sam said, turning towards the passenger window and resting his head back against the seat. "I'm gonna take a nap."
If Dean had felt anxious before, his brothers actions since he returned were hardly reassuring. Four years of being apart hadn't erased his knowledge of Sam's lifelong habits.
When his brother spoke in clipped sentences and refused to meet his eyes, something was up.
"You sure you're O.K?"
"I'm fine," Sam mumbled. "Just a little sleepy."
He pulled his sunglasses out of his shirt pocket and slipped them onto his face before turning away again.
Even with his eyes safely hidden, Sam still had to fight hard to hold back the tears.
The long silent journey only served to make Dean more convinced that something was wrong with his brother. Then when they stopped for the night Sam showered and went straight to bed, barely saying two words before he pulled the covers up and turned his face the wall.
Dean considered his brother's actions more additions to his growing number of warning signs he had been seeing since they left California. Pre-College Sam had always run to his big brother when anything was bothering him but the near-Stanford graduate seemed to prefer to keep things to himself.
The change was hurting Dean more than he cared admit.
Still on the learning curve when dealing with the new Sam, Dean tried the tactics that used to work with the old one.
"Isn't it a little early for you to be turning in?" he teased. "Why don't we go get something to eat?"
Sam's response was almost drowned out by the pillow that he pulled over his head.
"You go on without me."
"Should I just get take out or bring something back for you then?"
"I'm not hungry."
Since skirting around the issue wasn't working Dean took a more direct approach.
"What's really up with you Sammy, you've been acting strange since we left Cali."
"It's Sam Dean, Sam. And I'm O.K. How many times do I have to tell you that?"
"I'll believe it when it's the truth."
"Well I'm telling you, it is; and I think I know myself a little better than you."
"Then stop lying to yourself and to me. Something happened when you went to see Kylie and I'd like to know what it is."
"Could you quit hovering like some overprotective mother-hen. In case you haven't realised I lived on my own for four years and I managed just fine."
"Is that what this is about?"
"If you mean me needing some space, yes; that's exactly what this is about."
"If that's what you want Sammy all you had to do was ask."
"Well I'm asking now, can you please just back off for ten seconds."
The request went straight to the heart of what Dean feared the most. Sam was deliberately creating distance between them.
"You can get more than ten seconds," Dean said grabbing his jacket. "You can get as much time as you want, just let me know."
The nonchalant tone betrayed none of the dread that Dean was feeling as he quietly departed.
Once he was gone, Sam switched off his bedside light plunging the room into darkness. Alone in the dark, he swallowed hard, renewing his resolve not to cry.
More than anything, Sam needed his brother, but he just didn't know how to say it.
By the following night, Dean had reached his limit.
After another day of travelling in virtual silence, Sam had again opted for bed instead of their regular dinner and hang out. After being on the road by himself for too long, Dean had secretly come to treasure the companionship of his brother. He especially enjoyed their downtime between jobs when they could kick back and eat, have a few drinks and enjoy the fact that they were best friends as well as siblings. Having Sam back with him had erased the emptiness that had plagued him while he had been on his own.
But everything Sam had said and done since they'd left California seemed to be reopening the distance between them bit by bit. And now, Dean couldn't shake the feeling that he was losing his brother all over again.
Well it wouldn't hurt as much this time, Dean decided, determined to shake off the familiar feeling of loneliness that was coming over him. Nobody knew better than him that there were ways to numb the pain of anticipated rejection. So while his little brother enjoyed his precious "space", Dean headed out to seek solace in some familiar places.
He decided he'd have a couple drinks, find himself a willing lady and shake the niggling fear of impending abandonment that was creeping up his spine.
Left alone in the dismal motel room, Sam decided to employ his father's tried and true remedy for stress management; hard liquor and lots of it. He dug in his brother's duffle, knowing a quart of cheap whiskey would be stashed there for emergency purposes. He was half way through the bottle when the room started to tilt and his head began to float several inches above his body.
When his cell phone buzzed it took him so long to locate it that it rang out. Belatedly, Sam grasped the handset only to see he had missed a call from his brother. He was fumbling with the keys trying to call Dean back when the phone buzzed again.
This time he managed to initiate the connection but there were several moments of dead air before he actually answered.
The slurred speech was an instant warning to Dean that something was up.
"Sam? What the hell's the matter with you?"
"Dean..." It has been the first word Sam had ever said and twenty-two years later it was still the easiest syllable to utter.
This had been Dean's "don't wait up" call but his brother's stupefied mumblings had him immediately reassessing his plans.
"You're either drunk or dying, which is it?"
"A l'il a both," Sam managed.
"I'll be right there."
Dean hung up and then gave a quick excuse to the blond that had suddenly lost her appeal.
When he reached back to the motel, he found Sam practically passed out on the floor beside his bed. The half-empty bottle of whiskey was both reassuring and disturbing at the same time. Sam wasn't hurt or sick, but when little his brother indulged in the excessive consumption of alcohol, something was definitely wrong.
Kneeling down by the near-corpse, Dean tried to shake his brother awake. When Sam only moaned briefly but didn't budge, Dean shook a little harder.
"Sam," he urged. "Come on, get up."
"Nuh uh," Sam mumbled, unwilling to move.
"Let's just get you into bed so you can sleep it off."
Following a mumble that sounded like consent, Dean managed drag his brother up and sit him on one of the beds. Sam immediately collapsed backwards and then turned on his side, holding his stomach.
"Dean," the muffled groan was a warning sign Dean could still recognise after their four year separation.
In a few swift moves, Dean grabbed a trash bin, hauled his brother up and managed to position Sam's head over the makeshift bucket. Ten minutes later, when Sam had hurled the entire contents of his stomach, he flopped back against the headboard exhausted. Dean put the waste bin aside, headed to the bathroom for supplies, then came back to the bed and got to work.
First out was the mint mouthwash which he made Sam rinse with a then spit out in the waste bin. Once that was done, the offending trash can was moved to the bathroom where it couldn't upset Sam's no doubt tender stomach.
Back at Sam's side, Dean sat on the bed and gently pulled off his T-shirt, which he tossed across the room. Then, using wet rags and a dry towel he did the best clean up job possible.
While Dean worked with both tenderness and efficiency, Sam couldn't help but stare at his brother and wonder what he had ever done to deserve a sibling like Dean. When their eyes met, Dean looked away, feeling awkward under the intensity of Sam's gaze. He wondered if his brother had had any liquor binges at Stanford and if so, who had gotten him through them. A sharp sting of envy pierced him as he thought of happy, privileged, golden-haired, strangers taking care of his baby brother.
"So, is this little drink-a-thon a throwback to the college days?" Dean asked softly as he wiped Sam's face with a damp cloth.
"God no," Sam shook his head.
"So there weren't many drunken escapades at Stanford?"
Dean used a fresh towel to dry his brother's face and neck.
"Not for me. I didn't trust anyone enough to let go like that."
Dean snickered humourlessly.
"Nothing," Dean shook his head. "It's just ironic that you trust me enough to get drunk around me but not enough to tell me what's causing you to drink in the first place."
Gathering up the soiled rags and towels, Dean got up from Sam's bed, tossed the linens in the bathroom and grabbed a bottle of Gatorade from his duffle. He opened the bottle and then sat back on the side of the bed and held it up for Sam to drink.
As soon as Sam had had enough, Dean capped the bottle and put it on the bedside table. Then he got a clean night shirt out of Sam's bag and helped him to put it on.
When Dean got up to go over to his own bed Sam gripped his shirt to restrain him.
"Dean..." he tried, but his eyes were closing from intoxication and exhaustion.
"You'd better get some rest," Dean advised and gently pulled himself free from his brother's grasp.
With near-lifelessness rendering him incapable of doing anything else, Sam turned over and went to sleep.
The following evening, at twilight, Sam broke down.
TO BE CONTINUED