Word Count: ~1800
Characters/Pairing: eventual Sam/Dean; Bobby, Ellen, Jo, Ash, Madison, Andy.
Summary: When tragedy strikes Sam Winchester's life, his notoriously unreliable brother Dean is the last person he expects to help him get through it. And yet, here he is, acting like Sam is his responsibility or something.
Warnings: None for this chapter.
Notes: This story is an AU set in the alternate reality from WiaWSNB. Dean and Sam are somewhat estranged; Mary is still alive; there has never been any hunting. That, however, is where it veers off. Beta'd by the lovely writewanderlust. Title from the lyrics of Zep's What is and What Should Never Be.
Dean flopped down on the bed in Bobby’s guest room, throwing his tie on the floor in frustration. He leaned back, stretching out across the mattress while he took a few deep breaths. Picking out a water spot on the ceiling, Dean stared at it with every bit of concentration he could muster, trying to even out his breathing. He really wanted to punch something instead, but he didn’t feel like dealing with another set of cracked knuckles.
A loud knock came from the doorway and Dean let his head loll lazily in that direction to see Bobby standing there in a suit, watching him. He wanted to laugh, seeing Bobby in a suit and without his baseball cap, but the laughs hadn’t been coming out quite right lately, so he stayed quiet.
“Almost ready?” Bobby asked. He didn’t look Dean in the eye.
“Yeah, yeah, I just...” Dean gestured to the tie across the room and shrugged.
“Want some help?”
Dean shrugged again and looked away, embarrassed. Bobby bent over and picked up the tie and then walked over to Dean, throwing it around his neck and tying it loosely with practiced fingers. He let a hand settle on Dean’s shoulder, leaving it there until he looked up.
“How’re you holding up?”
“I’m fine,” Dean responded automatically. He paused for a minute, and then, “I kind of feel like Sam should be here for this, though, y’know?”
“Hey, you tried, Dean. Those doctors of his ain’t letting him go anywhere for at least another week. You couldn’t do anything about that.”
“Mmm.” Dean stood up, brushing past Bobby. “Welp, let’s get this show on the road.”
Ellen, Jo, and Ash were all sitting at the kitchen table when he got downstairs, and whatever quiet conversation they’d been having stopped. Ellen looked up at him with the same careful expression she’d been wearing since the accident and Jo, who’d been close with Jess, wiped away at the mascara under her eyes with a sniff. Ash was sitting next to her, rubbing a hand soothingly up and down her back. He offered Dean a thin smile when he stepped into the room, and Dean tried to smile back. It almost worked.
“Ellen, you look lovely in that dress,” Dean said, trying to inject a bit of playfulness into the atmosphere. He’d experienced enough tension in the past week to last him the rest of his life. “We should probably be heading out.”
Ellen nodded and stood up from the table, going to join Bobby outside to warm up the truck. Ash kissed Jo on the top of her head and stood up, too, clapping Dean on the back as he left the room.
Jo and Dean stared at each other awkwardly for a few seconds before she broke down again, and even though it had been a shamefully long time since Dean had seen Jo, he didn’t hesitate to cross the room and wrap his arms around her. He made what he hoped was a soothing noise and ran his fingers through her hair, hoping it still calmed her down the way it had when they were younger.
“God, I’m sorry,” she said into his shoulder. “I’m so not the one who should be broken up right now, between the two of us.”
Dean shrugged, still holding her. “It’s okay. You were really close to them all, too. Probably saw them more over the past few years than I did,” he said, doing his damned best not to sound bitter. He knew it was his own fault--that he’d made his own choices--but his brain wouldn’t stop circling around the phone calls he hadn’t returned to his mother the past few months, the fight he’d had with his father the last time they were together, the fact that he’d only met Jessica a handful of times in the two years Sam had been dating her.
Dean felt Jo slip her hand into his and give it a little squeeze. He followed her out to the truck, wondering how long the drive to the funeral home would take. It wouldn’t be long enough to prepare him, no matter what.
The funeral was overwhelming. Jessica’s parents had been gracious enough to help with the planning, and had agreed to have Jessica’s service on the same day as Mary’s and John’s so everyone wouldn’t have to go through the same ordeal twice. In theory, it would be better this way--easier for everyone involved, but in actuality, it just meant more people Dean didn’t know or barely recognized stopping him to fuss over and asking well-meaning, intrusive questions. If he had to stare down one more concerned, disapproving reaction to his answer that, “yes, Sam’s still a minor, yes my parents name me as his legal guardian,” Dean thought he might be leaving his parents’ funeral in handcuffs for assault.
Ellen and Bobby had been great, trying to field most of the questions themselves, and when Ellen saw that Dean’s irritation was still rising, she sent him to find her a glass of water. He nodded gratefully and half-ran from the room, moving as quickly as he could without looking like he’d completely lost it.
Dean hid in the hallway for a while, sitting on the floor in between two large, decorative couches, until Sam’s friends Andy and Madison walked by and saw him.
“Thank God,” Andy said, obviously relieved. “Ellen sent us to get you--the service is starting in a few minutes...we were starting to think you’d run or something.”
Dean shook his head, feeling the catch and drag of his hair against a tear in the wallpaper behind him. “Nope. Still here.” He looked up at Andy and Madison, standing awkwardly in front of him in their church clothes, and he really wished he had some liquor, or maybe a joint. He vaguely remembered Sam mentioning something about Andy being something of a pothead and almost asked if he had anything on him. He realized that was probably inappropriate, though, so he just kept staring.
“We, uh, we were also wondering how Sam’s doing. Is he allowed to have visitors?” Madison asked.
Dean thought of his little brother--now solely his responsibility (and no, he totally wasn’t freaking out about that)--and how he’d barely talked the past few days beyond answering the doctors’ questions. He had no idea what to do about that, but he thought Sam seeing his friends might be a good way to start.
“Yeah, he should be allowed to have some friends visit by now. Why don’t you stop by tomorrow after school?”
Madison smiled and nodded, and she and Andy hovered uncertainly for another few moments before heading back to the room where the Winchester-Moore funeral was being held. Dean followed a few minutes later, walking to the front to sit between Jessica’s parents and Ellen and Bobby, and the service started.
When Dean made it back to the hospital it was late, and he wasn’t sure that Sam wouldn’t be asleep, but he figured he should probably check in on him regardless. He opened the door slowly, trying to make as little noise as possible, which was really a waste of effort since Sam’s eyes were on Dean as soon as he was inside the room. Sam didn’t say anything, didn’t smile, just watched Dean cross the room and sit in the chair that was stationed bedside.
“How’re you feeling?” Dean asked after a minute.
Sam shrugged. “Headache.”
“Did you tell the doctors? That could be something, maybe--”
“Yes, Dean, I told them. And what it probably is, is me having been in an extreme car accident.”
Dean tried to ignore the irritation that pricked at Sam’s sarcastic response. They were both tired, and Sam especially didn’t need to get into something just now.
“Jessica’s parents asked me to pass along their condolences, and that they hope you get better quickly.”
“Yeah. And Andy and Madison are probably gonna come tomorrow after school to visit. Ash and Jo’ll probably stop by with them.”
Sam’s eyes snapped up from the hole he’d been examining on his blanket. “What? Why?”
“Why? Because they’re worried about you and they want to see you. They asked, and I told them they could. I thought you’d be happy.”
“Well I don’t want to see them.”
“No. I don’t want them here. That wasn’t your place to decide, Dean.”
Dean considered snapping back that, as his legal guardian, it was his place now, but he figured that might not be the most tactful way to start that conversation. Instead, he calmly said, “Sam, I know this is hard, but you’re being an asshole. This isn’t exactly a walk in the park for me, either. I just got back from my parents’ funeral, you know. They weren’t just your parents; you weren’t the only one who cared about them. Your friends want to come make sure you’re okay. Let them.”
Sam stared at Dean, his cheeks flushed red, before he started speaking angrily, voice getting progressively louder as he went on. “Are you kidding me? No, really, Dean. Was that supposed to be a joke? First of all, you don’t get to decide anything for me or try to tell me what to do, and no, I’m not okay. I don’t see you for months, and then I wake up in a hospital and you’re telling me my parents and my girlfriend are dead. So, you’re not exactly my favorite person in the world right now. And second--maybe you should have cared this much before you watched our parents get put in the ground. Did you know that dad drank for two days after that fight you guys had because he was so upset? Or that mom would get so excited whenever you were supposed to come over for dinner, that she would bake you apple pies from scratch? And then she’d pretend not to cry when you didn’t show up. You practically disappeared this last year, and now you’re showing up and talking about how much you care? Well fuck you, Dean. Take all your caring and get the fuck out of my room.”
Dean stared at him in shock, bile rising in his throat. He reached out a hand to try and touch Sam, but his brother jerked his arm away. “Sammy...”
“Leave, Dean. I don’t want you here.”
Dean swallowed and nodded, stumbling a little as he lurched out of the chair and practically ran from the room. Once he was in the hallway, he ignored the few looks he got from the nurses, bent over with his hands on his knees, and vomited.