Fandom: Supernatural, Grey's Anatomy (crossover)
Word Count: 2400
Characters/Pairing: Sam/Dean, Sam/Alex
Summary: AU from In My Time of Dying; John kills the demon, but at a horrible cost--Dean's gone too. It's not until his father leaves that Sam realizes that maybe Dean isn't as gone as he thought he was. But dealing with a restless spirit of his brother isn't easy, especially when Sam's relationship with a young doctor named Alex Karev is started to flower.
Warnings: Character death, suicidal ideation, angst
Notes: Beta'd by the lovely writewanderlust. Title from The Weepies song of the same name.
Dean doesn’t regret choosing to stay. Okay, sure, he would much rather be alive, but if it meant still being with Sammy, even if he’s only kind-of with him, he’d rather be a ghost any day.
That said, being a ghost kind of sucks, especially the first few days when he couldn’t figure out how to make himself visible to Sam. He’d been able to follow Sam down to the basement of the hospital, his belongings in his little brother’s arms, and fit himself into the small, unused supply closet that Sam locked himself in. What he hadn’t been able to do was hold his brother while he cried for three days, or make him eat food, or do anything to stop him when Sam started looking at Dean’s knife a little too closely. Those days were a pain in the fucking ass.
Dean isn’t able to make himself visible until Sam slips Dean’s amulet over his head, tugging the black cord until it digs into his neck, and then picks up Dean’s knife. Dean watches while Sam tests the sharpness against his thumb, not even wincing when it breaks the skin. Dean doesn’t know what to do when Sam moves the blade down, because what if Sam really hurts himself and he dies because he doesn’t know Dean is there and not in heaven or hell or wherever? What if Sam dies and goes with his reaper, thinking he’ll be with Dean, when Dean is right there?
One second Dean is panicking because it looks like Sam’s starting to apply pressure and the next Sam is dropping the knife, wide-eyed, backed up as far as he can against the wall. Sam stares in his direction for a few minutes, and Dean wouldn’t be able to breathe even if he could with the way it seems like Sam can actually see him.
“No, no, no, no, no, holy shit.” Sam murmurs and it's only then that Dean thinks that maybe Sam really can see him.
“Sammy?” he asks. He’s hesitant, even though every part of him is screaming to just grab onto Sam and demand to know what the hell he was thinking with the knife (he doesn’t listen to the hypocritical part of him says he wouldn’t have even lasted this long if the situation were reversed). Sam is spooked and desperate, and he doesn’t want to make the situation worse.
“Jesus, Dean,” Sam gets out, and then he’s stumbling towards Dean, arms open to crush him in a hug. Instead, Sam goes right through him, like Dean is as insubstantial as air, and lands on the floor. He groans, rolling over to look at Dean.
“Sorry,” Dean says, a smirk plastered on his face, despite the way his heart is breaking. “I still kind of suck at being a ghost.”
And then Sam is crying, curling in on himself and turning his face away from Dean. Dean sits down next to Sam, cross-legged, his fingers twitching to brush Sam’s hair out of his face.
“Hey, kiddo, it’s not so bad, okay? I’m still here, see? I’m still here. No son of a bitch reaper could get the jump on me. I ain’t goin’ anywhere.”
“You shouldn’t have chosen this,” Sam whispers.
“It wasn’t much of a choice.” Dean lies down so the he’s face to face with Sam. He can tell Sam feels just like he does, that this isn’t the same, but it’s the best option they’ve got.
“I just…I don’t understand. I had them burn your body, Dean, you shouldn’t—how are you here?”
Dean shrugs, but looks down at the amulet. Sam looks down, too, and cups the small bronze face in his hand. “I dunno. Could be anything.”
It takes a full day more for Dean to convince Sam to go out and get some food. Sam sits in the corner of the closet with a pre-packaged cheese sandwich, taking a bite every few minutes at Dean’s insistence. Dean still can’t figure out how to let Sam be able to feel him, but he’s getting a lot better at faking cheer in the face of his little brother’s grief.
“So, Sammy, what’s your plan?”
“My plan?” Sam asks around a mouthful of cheese and stale bread. He looks confused; lost and young, and Dean has never wanted to kiss his brother more than he does right now.
“Yeah, plan. What are you going to do when you leave here?”
Sam looks shocked, like the though hadn’t even occurred to him.
“Leave?” Sam shakes his head. “I—I can’t leave. I mean, what am I supposed to do? Wander around the country alone, with the ghost of my brother and nothing to do? I’m not hunting anymore, Dean. The demon is dead, I’m done.”
Dean’s eyes widen at the mention of the demon, and he feels a little heat in his chest at the Sam’s use of the word ‘alone’. “It’s dead? Did Dad—is he—”
“Dad’s fine,” Sam snaps. “He killed the demon. He’s gone now. For good, I hope.” Dean can tell Sam’s angry, but he also looks a little unsure, like he thinks Dean might yell at him.
“Okay, that’s—okay.” Dean doesn’t really know what else to say. His father killed the demon, great. The man also let him die, after 26 years of love and devotion. And then, to top it off, he ran out on the most important thing in Dean’s life, leaving behind a dead son and a broken one. If John wanted to take off on Dean, fine, he could handle that. But fuck him for taking off on Sammy.
Dean clears his throat. “Okay, but you’ve gotta do something, Sam.” Sam ignores him, taking another bite of his sandwich. “Hey, maybe you should go back to school.”
Sam does look at him at that, his expression familiar and stubborn. “I’m not leaving. I don’t have anything or anyone I’m responsible for, so if I want to sit in the hospital where you—if I don’t want to leave, I don’t have to.”
“Okay! God, you’re such a little bitch. But hey, you don’t have to leave. You could be a nurse,” Dean suggests with a smirk. “I’m sure you’d be great at it since you’re such a girl already.”
“Men can be nurses, too, Dean.”
“Then why don’t you do it?”
Dean maintains eye contact with his brother while Sam thinks that through. He wants to reach over, run his hands through Sammy’s hair, and trace patterns down his back to distract him. But he can’t, so he doesn’t. He waits patiently and when Sam says, a little petulantly, “Maybe I will,” Dean smiles and tells Sam to eat the rest of the sandwich.
He’s always been too skinny.
Dean had always imagined that being a ghost would be, well, more interesting. It's actually pretty frigging boring, even more boring than that one time he and Sam had gotten snowed in when Sam was eight and all he wanted to do was read.
At first, Dean spends his days waiting for Sam to get back from school. Sam, being the paranoid, neurotic person he can sometimes be, buys a padlock (complete with etched protective sigils and wards) for the door to the closet he’s commandeered in the back of the basement and locks the amulet inside while he's out. Dean tries once to convince Sam to bring it with him, but after Sam looks at him with a deadly intense expression and says, “But what if I lost it?” Dean doesn’t ask again.
Sam gets a job as a janitor in the hospital to help pay for nursing school, leaving Dean locked in the closet for even longer stretches of time each day; Dean is about ready to learn how to blow the door down himself. He's only just starting to get the hang of making things move, but he can’t touch Sammy yet. Sam comes back one day to see Dean making an empty beer can roll back and forth across the floor, and next time he goes out, he brings back with a stack of car magazines for Dean to blow through.
Around finals, Dean starts reading through Sam’s textbooks while Sam is at work, because if he can’t actually help earn money for Sam’s school, or protect his baby brother, he sure as hell can help him study. The look on Sam’s face when Dean starts quizzing him about the oxygenation cycle is completely worth the hours he spent cooped up memorizing the shit.
More time passes, and Dean gets used to his new role in Sam’s life. Since he can’t so much be a physical presence, he tries to be an outlet in every way he can, whether it be a venting board or a study partner or someone to sing Sam to sleep when he’s feeling especially lost or lonely. It’s not easy, Dean can admit at least that much to himself, but he’s got the lighter load when it really comes down to it, because Sam is still healthy and breathing.
When Sam gets his nursing degree and is hired by Seattle Grace—since Chief Webber and many of the nurses had been enamored by his sweet attitude and impressed by his work ethic as one of the night-shift janitors—Sam actually starts meeting other people, which Dean both hates and loves. Loves it, because he knows Sam is lonely, probably even lonelier than he is--and he enjoys hearing his brother tell stories about his coworkers. He hates it at the same time, because he’s terrified that Sam won’t need him much longer, and now more than ever before, Dean wonders what would become of him if that were to happen. Sam has never quite so literally been his entire world.
Dean isn’t stupid, never has been. And he’s always been more observant than the average person; hell, he’d had to be, kept him alive for as long as it did, which was longer than he ever expected. So Dean notices when the name Alex starts slipping into more and more of Sam’s stories; he notices when Sam comes back flushed and with rumpled hair; he notices the way Sam’s eyes sparkle when he talks about the surgeon who apparently is fantastic with kids and cocky as all hell, but is actually very sweet—he recognizes it as the sparkle Sam looks at him with, or used to. Maybe not completely the same, but close enough.
Dean can also see the longing and the hunger, though, when Sam looks at him. That’s possibly one of the most painful things about being a ghost—the fact that he can’t give his brother something he so desperately wants and needs. One day he notices Sam side-eyeing him from the bed, sees his brother shift uncomfortably and pull up the sheets.
“You can go out with Alex, Sam,” Dean says, not looking up from the anatomy book he’s reading through for a seventh time. “I don’t give a shit.”
“What are you talking about, Dean?” Sam snaps, defensive and embarrassed.
Dean does look up, then, and gives Sam a sad smile. “I know, Sam. And it’s okay—well, I mean, I’d much rather be the person to make you all hot and bothered, but I know I can’t. And he can. And if he’s going to be the thing that makes you happy and gets you to stop living like a monk the way you’ve been going these past few years, then that’s all I can ask for. I’m okay with it.”
Sam looks at Dean for a long time, long enough that Dean actually starts to worry that he’s off his mark, that he can’t even give Sam the benefit of having someone who knows him inside and out anymore. But then Sam is nodding, slowly, and returning Dean’s smile, only smaller and sadder. “Okay, Dean. I—thanks. Okay.”
Dean watches Sam stand up and pull on a pair of jeans, moving slower than he should at his age. On his way out, before he turns out the lights, Sam ghosts his fingers across the amulet hanging from its peg over the bed.
Dean starts forgetting little things, like what day it is or where he is or that he’s not supposed to leave the room. As more time passes, the lapses in memory start getting bigger.
The first time he thinks it might be a problem is when Sam comes in from a double shift and Dean is in his face immediately, half-panicked and half-furious.
“Where the hell have you been, Sammy? You were supposed to come home right after school! Thank God Dad hasn’t come home yet, or we both would have gotten it good.” He's about to launch into a full tirade when he catches the look in Sam’s eyes—grief, with maybe a little fear mixed in—and wait, why is he looking up at Sammy, anyways? That isn’t right…
“Dean?” Sam says hesitantly, taking a careful step backwards. “Are you okay?”
“I—I don’t know,” Dean admits, and he feels so heavy all of a sudden, disoriented and confused.
“Dad’s not here, Dean. You know that, right? And you know that you’re—that I’m not in school anymore. That I’m a nurse, and we’re done with hunting?”
And Dean does remember, now, he remembers and it sucks and he wants to throw something across the room because his life has never been fair, but this? And now Sam has to deal with his shit, too?
Before Dean realizes what’s happening, Sam lets out a startled yelp and ducks, two of his textbooks barely missing his head, and bouncing off the wall behind him. There's a tearing sound and a few pages flutter to the floor. Sam is crouched there, staring up at his brother with a look Dean’s never seen before, like Sam’s scared of him or something. Just like that, Dean’s anger vanishes altogether.
“Sammy…Sam, I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened, I just—you know I’d never hurt you, right?”
Sam doesn’t look Dean in the eyes when he stands. “Yeah, yeah, of course. Hey, I’m gonna go see if Alex is done with his rounds, I’ll…I’ll be back later.”
Sam doesn’t look back at Dean once while he walks out the door, and Dean doesn’t say a word to stop him.