Genre: Gen, Angst, Future!fic
Characters: Dean Winchester, Bobby Singer, OFC; mentions of various others
Spoilers: Up through 5.2, “Good God, Y’all!” (speculation after that)
Word Count: 2895
Disclaimer: Anything recognizable belongs to Kripke, Warner Bros., the CW, et al. or its original owners. No copyright infringement intended. Written for fun, not profit. Don’t own; don’t sue.
A/N: It’s all speculation, folks; I sure as hell hope this doesn’t happen. Unbeta’d and written in a hurry, so the mistakes are all mine (see anything glaring, please let me know so I can fix it)? Will be cross-posted. Comments are love!
Summary: You know it’s a long shot; he’s an enigma wrapped in mystery drenched in secrets, and his complete lack of friends is part of what piqued your interest in the first place. He’s a challenge, and you want to try. You will solve the mystery that is Dean…
You meet him for the first time when your car finally gives up and breaks down. You think it’s probably hopeless—after all, the car does date back to before everything changed—but he tells you he thinks he can find a part that will work, and three days later you’ve got a new fuel pump in your twenty-plus year old clunker.
After that, you realize you’ve seen him before, around town—at the grocery store, the post office, the bank—all the places it’s hard not to go. You’re in middle-of-nowhere South Dakota, population five hundred, after all, so it’s not the kind of place to go it alone. You’ve gotta trade and deal and network to get what you need. Especially if you’re running a business, which he is. Singer Auto Salvage may not look like much, but everyone goes there for parts and things and fixing and all the stuff that’s hard to do yourself. It’s a small world these days, and it’s hard to make it period, harder if you’re a loner. You think maybe that’s what he is. After all, he never really makes eye contact. Never speaks more than he has to. You never see him with anyone else or chatting like he has a friend. Just goes about his business like a ghost among men.
And you wonder what made him like that—all standoffish and alone, distant look in his eyes, walls sealed up tight not letting anyone in. Maybe he’s always been that way. Momma’s always saying some people just need to be off by themselves; they’re happiest that way.
You think maybe he lost someone. Probably a long, long time ago. He moves quietly taking up too much space, like he expects someone else to be there who never is. You notice him look over his shoulder sometimes as if he’s searching for something or someone who isn’t there. On the rare occasions you’ve exchanged words, his sentences seemed… empty, trailing off as if he thought you’d know what he was going to say or expected someone else to finish them (or maybe like he thought there was no reason to finish). You’ve asked around, and no one’s ever known him to have a girlfriend, or a boyfriend, but a couple of the really old folks say they remember when he was a kid (and by kid, they probably mean someone not much younger than you, in his twenties, maybe), say that he was quite the ladies’ man and used to be happy, a force of nature even. It almost makes you laugh, ‘cause Dean Singer may be many things, but happy isn’t one you’d think of to describe him. Then again, you don’t really know him, but maybe no one does. He seems to exist, alone, always waiting for something, but you’re not sure what.
He intrigues you. Well, that much is obvious. But it’s not like Cathy or your Momma or old Mrs. Paulson thinks. Sure, he’s handsome. Rugged around the edges; plenty of scars to add character; but still almost pretty underneath. Kind of reminds you of Harrison Ford a little. Not now, gods no, he’s pushing ninety! But from the old movies from the good old days, before things changed, when Ford was around the age Dean is now. You think he’s maybe fifty? It’s hard to tell. He’s got grey in his hair, but he’s trim and fit, and he seems to have aged well, but his eyes… His eyes look old, ancient. Well past one hundred, like they’ve seen more than person ever should and too much for one man to understand.
Still, you get why Cathy’s got the wrong idea. It’s not an unthinkable age-gap between his fifty-something and your thirty-three, but he’s too much mystery, and he seems to wear his pain like a blanket. Attractive just won’t cut it with a man that haunted by his ghosts and demons.
You want to know him as a friend, a person, an individual. You know it’s a long shot; he’s an enigma wrapped in mystery drenched in secrets, and his complete lack of friends is part of what piqued your interest in the first place. He’s a challenge, and you want to try. You will solve the mystery that is Dean Singer.
Besides there’s not much else to do in this godforsaken town in this godforsaken world at this godforsaken time. You kind remember from when you are a kid when the world worked. Before the “apocalypse,” before the end times. You found an old TV series once about a special girl with more-than-human abilities who tried to save people in a “post-apocalyptic” world. It makes you laugh when you think about how good they had it compared to reality, but you think it’s fitting that on the show, hell came to their world in 2009, just like it did for real. Plus, there’s this one character that you think looks a bit like what Dean might have looked like when he was young. But you know you’re probably just projecting your fascination.
Anyway, hell came to earth and left behind a mess and now it’s just people muddling through, doing the best that they can. So you go to work finding out everything there is to know about him.
Which isn’t much. Dean Singer runs Singer Auto Salvage. Place is kinda weird. No one know where he gets all his parts to keep things running long after they shoulda stopped; he’s supposed to be some kind of mechanical genius. You know his uncle owned the place before him, and his uncle’s still around, he’s this whip-smart, seventy-something guy in a wheelchair who rolls into the library where you work sometimes always with friendly greeting, but he’s got sad, sad eyes. Not as sad as Dean’s, though. He lives with Dean, and Dean’s his caretaker, and that’s the sum total of everything you can find out.
You get up the courage to head out there one Thursday evening. It’s late, but not too late, and you catch him after he’s closed up shop.
You introduce yourself and thank him again. You call him “Mr. Singer,” and he gets this funny look on his face, like the name doesn’t fit quite right. He asks you to call him Dean, ‘cause Mr. Singer is his Uncle’s name. He asks how the car is, but doesn’t seem to know what to say beyond that.
His uncle invites you in for supper, and suddenly there you are eating bean stew with Dean Singer and his uncle Bobby. You’d expect him to be warmer, softer, maybe with family, but he’s still just as stiff and lost and shut-up as ever.
You stay for a friendly game of poker and turn to leave. As your coat’s in your hand and you’re at the door, Dean asks you if you’ve ever gone shooting. His voice sounds smaller than usual, a little scared and almost hopeful, and you don’t know what to say. He explains—bow and arrow, target practice, he needs to stay ready, and he wouldn’t mind having someone to practice with. He doesn’t say what he needs to be ready for.
You say “yes,” even though you’ve never shot a bow and arrow in your life, because this? This feels huge, monumental, and judging by Dean’s relieved sigh and the look of gratitude his uncle shoots you, you’re thinking maybe you’re onto something.
You start practicing on weekends. He teaches you everything you need to know about aiming and shooting and maintaining your bow. You get the sense he’s done it all before—he seems to slip into another skin when he’s teaching you. His eyes seem more alive and he talks more, looks around less. Like maybe you’re filling up the empty place in his life—in his soul—where someone used to be. Just a little, though; you’ve seen enough to know whatever’s missing it’s left a wound as deep as the Grand Canyon.
When the lesson’s done, he’s back to the Dean you’ve seen. Stiff body. Wooden face. Tight lips. Clipped sentences that sound like he’s choking to speak them. Reminds you of a character in another old movie you saw once, think his name was Ennis something or other? Anyway, Dean’s got the mannerisms of a man who’s lost the only thing that mattered to him. No purpose. No meaning. Just going through the motions of life, not really sure why he’s still here or what he’s supposed to do with the time left.
He gives you more lessons. You learn about shot guns. You shoot cans off a fence with him. He teaches you how to rebuild a carburetor, how to play poker and gin rummy, how to make lasagna, and he even teaches you a little about Latin.
You teach him how to pay chess. He’s shockingly good at the strategy, but you get the sense from the brittle look in his eyes that it reminds him too much of something else. Maybe war? You’re not sure; no one knows, and it would be impossible to find out, but you think maybe that knack for strategy plus all the weapons stuff means he was some kind of soldier once, and for a little while you think maybe that’s why he seems empty and hollow.
But then he looks at you, and for a split second, it’s like he’s seeing someone else. The person who’s supposed to be there. Long lost and gone forever. The ghost by his side. The demon haunting his eyes. He smiles—his eyes light up, and it’s like all the walls drop, and you can see him like he used to be, like he would be now without the empty places inside—alive and vibrant, commanding, charming, flirtatious, courageous, intelligent, sarcastic, kind—and it hurts so much to see his torn up soul with its missing half. But then he realizes, catches himself; and it all closes in an instant, doors slamming shut. He knows who you are again, and he knows he’s never going to find that missing piece.
It makes you happy and sad and for three days you don’t know what to do. You keep your distance because you’re afraid you’ve hurt him. You only go back when his uncle calls, and tells you off for being foolish. You return, and it’s back the way it was before. He teaches you how to bleed a brake line, and you’re not sure if he resents you for not being who he wants. But you don’t dare bring it up.
He talks more now. So, you talk to him about your life. He seems genuinely interested, and offers an opinion here, a sprinkling of advice there, about things that matter in your life. He tells you things too. His mom died when he was a little kid. His Dad raised him, but wasn’t really around much. Died a long, long time ago too. You get the sense he really loved and admired his father, but somewhere along the line his dad let him down, and it broke his heart. But that’s not the ghost that you see, and you’re not sure what to make of it.
You learn he moved around a lot as a kid. Got a GED, and never went to college—which, apparently back when he was growing up was something almost everyone was expected to do. You laugh, because today, everyone’s lucky if they’ve got a teacher and a school and some way to learn the shit they gotta know to get through life. You’re lucky, had tutors, learned about books literature and that’s how you wound up at the library. You tell him, and he laughs, a real, happy smile, but still with the haunted, old eyes. It’s not the same image of youth and exuberance you saw that one time for a split second.
It happens on another Thursday. You’re worried about settling down and fitting in. Your momma wants grandbabies, and you’re just not ready. You’re not sure if you want the white, picket fence, apple pie life. You tell Dean this.
He looks wistful, honesty wistful, and you get the sense you remind him of something or someone. It only lasts a second, and then he’s giving you advice about finding yourself and doing what makes you happy, and not worrying too much about fitting in, ‘cause you only got the one life and you gotta make the most of it.
You thank him, and on a whim, you tell him he “would have made a great big brother.”
The words have barely tumbled out of your mouth, and it’s like time stopped. There’s that light in his eyes for a moment and then an old sadness that looks like failure, regret defeat. His ghost is beside him now, taking up all the empty places, twining its way into his soul.
“I had a little brother once,” he says. “Half-brother, anyway; his name was Adam. He lived with his mom, so I didn’t really know him well, but he was an awesome kid, and our dad loved him. He was gonna be a doctor…” His voice tails off, and he’s looking over his shoulder again for the Someone who will never be there. “He died when he was nineteen, murdered,” he says. And that’s that.
You don’t know what to say, a stuttered “I’m sorry,” makes it past your lips, but you know that’s trite nonsense. You think maybe this is it! This is the ghost he carries around, the missing piece, or part of it. Maybe guilt over the loss is his biggest demon. It’s huge and you want to scream and shout, because Dean Singer has just finally let you in! He’s told you a real secret, and you feel special. You smile and squeeze his hand and say “thank you,” and that seems to make it ok. His face looses that frozen look it’s had ever since he told you.
You’re almost bouncing with the lifted weight of the revelation when he invites you back to dinner. He’s still subdued and quiet, but he seems happier, more at ease in his own skin. You can’t believe it. You never thought it would work, but somehow it seems like you’re actually getting to know Dean, maybe you’re even someone he would consider a friend. The shift in mood is noticeable, so noticeable in fact, his uncle Bobby’s sending you worried looks all evening.
Bobby pulls you aside after dinner, when Dean’s cleaning the dishes. You want to give Dean a hug before you go. Think maybe now that he’s spilled his guts, he’ll let you. Bobby asks you what happened, and you say Dean told you about his brother.
Bobby looks like someone’s walked over his grave. His eyes go wide and his jaw drops and his face is chalk-white. “His brother?” he mouths. “He hasn’t talked about his brother or mentioned his name in almost twenty years!” He’s in awe.
“Yeah,” you say, and you tell Bobby what Dean told you about the murdered brother who was going to be a doctor who lived with his mother but was really cool and loved by Dean’s father.
His expression shutters. You’re not sure what’s going on. This is good right? Bobby said Dean hadn’t mentioned his brother in twenty years!
“He told you about Adam,” Bobby says, and you can feel the sadness, the—disappointment—emanating from him like an aura. You don’t understand, and you say so.
He says Adam’s easy; sure Dean doesn’t mention him much, but that’s not what Bobby was talking about.
That makes no sense, having a brother murdered is a horrible thing and a really big deal, you say. So, how could that be easy?
“It is for Dean,” Bobby says, and you don’t know what to make of that.
You’re confused. “Did Dean have another brother?” you ask, really not understanding how your happy, victorious evening of finally maybe understanding Dean was now so lost and twisted and confused.
Bobby looks flustered. The old man blushes, as he rocks his wheelchair back and forth. “Kind of, sort of, it’s complicated,” he tells you. And it’s not his place to say, ‘cause that’s Dean’s secret and his cross to bear, and he’ll tell someone about it when he’s good and ready. Bobby confides in you that if he could kick, he’d kick Dean in the ass for not talking about it.
So you’re lost. Dean had a brother—two brothers maybe—and now you feel like you know less about him than you did this morning. You think maybe the second, unnamed brother is his ghost, the missing part of him that he keeps looking for…
But you also know that you’re probably not ever going to know more, not the why or the who or the details—not all the good things that brought that smile to Dean’s eyes and made him alive. It saddens you, but you still give Dean a hug and thank him again. You’ll still be his friend.
You just realize you’re probably never going to really know him, and for the first time, you think maybe that’s because Dean doesn’t really know himself. He’s lost in the empty places and might never find his way out.