Chapter Twenty Seven: FRACTURED
A/N: Here is the latest update, I am going to try to post chapters as I complete them. Thanks to all the amazingly positive reviews and everyone still reading this story. You make all my hair pulling moments worth it! The next couple of updates are going to delve into Dean's psyche as he copes with Sam's absence and - finally - starts to grasp his growing feelings for Buffy. I hope you all like it. Five months ago:
“What are you talking about?” Dean asked. His eyes widened with shock and his face had blanched to a pale white.
Sam ground his jaw in frustration. “Weren’t you listening? I’m going to Stanford in the fall. I’m going into the pre-law program.”
“When the hell were you going to tell us this?”
“I just told you now.”
Sam drew out a breath. “Most people would be proud that I got into one of the top universities in the country. This isn’t the reaction I expected.”
“We’re not like most people Sam. What the hell did you think we were going to say when you just dropped this crap in our laps? Why do you want to go to college anyway?”
Dean glanced at his dad who looked livid upon learning Sam’s revelation.
“Because I want a life that doesn’t involve demons and hunting and traveling everywhere and lying to people about who we are. I want to be happy. I want do something with my life.”
“This is your life Sammy. Hunting is your life,” John said adamantly.
Sam held his ground against his dad. “No, it’s your life dad. You spoon fed us this life when we were growing up but I’m not going to take it anymore.”
“You need to wise up Sam. Finding the demon that killed your mother is more important than some college education. It’s about time you stop dreaming and join your brother and I in the family business.”
Sam shook his head, “No. I’m going to Stanford, I’m going to study law. I’m done with the family business.”
John glared at his youngest son with eyes full of fury.
“Then I’m done with you Sammy. If you leave us, don’t you ever come back,” John growled.
Sam swallowed back a lump of tears dangling in his throat.
“Fine, I won’t,” he growled.
The blare of Sam’s cell phone disrupted the tense silence. He glanced at the number but tossed the phone on the bed. He stormed out the door. Dean watched his dad follow five minutes later and then heard the roar of his truck. He felt numb to the core. The life he had known had been shattered within the span of fifteen minutes.Four months ago:
Dean sprawled out on the bed and flipped through the television. He heard the shower valves turn off as a dark skinned girl swept out in a fluffy towel. She smiled at him and climbed onto the bed. He slipped his arms around her and smiled back when his cell phone rang. He snatched his phone and checked the number. He recognized the California area code but sent the call to voicemail.
Two minutes later, the phone rang again.
“Maybe you should answer it.”
Dean sighed and sent the call to voicemail. He tapped into his messages and was surprised to find four missed calls and an equal number of voicemails. He listened through the voicemails.
“It’s Buffy again. What’s going on? I’ve tried calling Sam, I’ve tried calling John, I’ve tried calling you. No one is answering and I’m starting to wig. Are you guys alright? My mom is getting worried too. She thinks she said something to make you hate her and me. Will one of you please call us back? We miss you.”
Dean felt his heart sink when he heard the last three words. He was missing a lot these days.Three months ago:
Dean stared at the two top he and his dad were eating at. They always sat at a four top or booth, with Sam and Dean on one side and dad sitting across from them. With each day that passed, Dean felt the glaring absence of his younger brother cutting away at his sanity. The dynamics of his life had dramatically changed since Sam had taken off. While he adored his father, Dean missed the rapid fire ridicule he would inflict on Sam. He missed Sam’s insight into certain mythology of cultures. He even missed seeing Sam reading those damn literary books.
John glanced at his buzzing cell phone and pulled a dry smile on his face.
“It’s Joyce this time. Buffy called earlier.”
Dean gulped before asking. “Have you talked to them? They sound worried.”
Dean had heard all of Buffy’s depressing messages but was apprehensive of returning any calls until his dad was in a better mood. The past two months had been heavy with work. He and dad were working virtually every night. No time for play or even a short visit to California. He wanted to wait until his dad mentioned a visit.
John drew out a breath. “We’ll see about a visit in a couple of months. Right now, we’ve got a lot of work to do. I expect you to pick up the slack left by your brother. Is that understood?”
“Yes, sir.”Two months ago:
Dean lowered the volume on the radio as he watched a bunch of young men and women strolling around the exterior of an apartment complex. He was parked a short distance away from Sam’s off campus housing. Dad may have turned his back on Sam but he was still his older brother. He had been entrusted to protect and watch over Sam no matter what. Dad had been reluctant to check out the Stanford life Sam had chosen. Dean hoped that his dad would come around over time. Even though they were a fractured family, they were still a family and Dean couldn’t help but wonder if some day the three of them would be together again.
His mind drifted to another college bound teenager. Dad had still not mentioned any timeline on when they would drop in. With all the chaos that had blown through his life over the summer, he was aching for some stability, something normal, something expected. It had been almost five months – the longest time away in recent years. Dean had been surprised that his dad had been so rough in disconnecting himself from Joyce, knowing their long seeded friendship.
Dean tapped on his message log and saw the succession of numbers from California. He was tempted to call in an effort to calm nerves on all sides. He wanted to hear a live, cheerful voice on the other line instead of a sad, frantic one. After a brief second, he nixed the idea and placed the phone by his side. What would he say? He was certain a conversation would veer toward Sam and he was in no mood to explain his departure.
Dean heard his cell phone ring and eyed the number. It was dad. Dean gunned the engine and got back on the road.One month ago:
It was orientation day at UC Sunnydale. Dean drew out a breath, relieved he wouldn’t have to be too stealthy in his exploration of the campus. College students packed the main quad scrambling to find a place in a line that snaked for miles. Dean weaved through the crowds as several students shouted at him and waved flyers of different associations at him. The campus seemed much livelier than Stanford. He wandered over to the Admissions office and gave an amused smile when the young girl behind the reception desk was all too eager to help him. He dished out some of his charm and managed to get a copy of a student file. He stuffed the file contents in his pocket and flashed an award winning smile at the girl before exiting the office. NOW:
Buffy hugged her bare arms as she strolled across campus, lost in the fog of her mind. Her eyes drifted onto Parker sitting on a bench in the quad. He flashed that smug smile as he chatted with a girl. Buffy drew her mouth to the ground in a frown so low she felt the dirt cutting the flesh of her lips.
Dean burrowed in his jacket as he ambled across campus, mindful of the students around him. For some reason, she had not been in classes this afternoon and wondered if there was some crisis at the Hellmouth that pulled her away. He thought for a brief second about whether to drop by Stevenson Hall to confirm his suspicions. He shook the thought away quickly as his eyes followed a cute brunette walking by.
Buffy stared off at the happy couples lingering on campus and frowned. Her funk was temporarily allayed when she slammed into a body.
“Oh!” she yelped. “Sorry.”
Her sad eyes snapped up and brightened when she realized who was standing before her.
Dean blinked and masked his embarrassment.
“Crap,” he muttered under his breath.
He was used to thinking on the fly when faced with an unexpected confrontation. This time was no different when his mind promptly spun a cover story.
Buffy threw her arms around him impulsively and gave him a hug.
Dean was startled by her affectionate greeting and forced himself to remain cool.
“What are you doing here? When did you get here? Why didn’t you call?”
Dean cracked an amused smile. “Hello to you too.”
She let out a breath. “Hi. When did you get here?”
“I’ve been here about an hour. I had to uh – talk to one of the professors here – about a case.”
“Oh- were you planning on saying hi?”
“I didn’t really plan on it.”
Her face sunk with hurt. “You were just going to check out my school but not bother to say hi?”
Dean feigned an innocent look. “I had no idea you went here.”
He started off toward the parking lot. Buffy noticed some stray papers on the ground. She swiped them and went to catch up with Dean.
“Wait you dropped your map of – Stevenson Hall? Why do you have a map of my dorm?”
Dean cleared his throat and snatched the paper, stuffing it in his pocket. He looked at her with wide, innocent eyes.
“You have a dorm room there? I didn’t know that. I was a – looking for a – a student I needed to interview.”
Buffy glanced at the other sheet in her hand and narrowed her eyes.
“Oh. Why do you have a copy of my class schedule?”
Dean paused as she waved the schedule in his face. Stick to the story.
“That’s not your schedule. It belongs to a girl I met in the…admissions office – trying to hook it up.”
Buffy shot him a look of doubt. “It has my name on it. See?”
She pointed to the top corner and bore her eyes into him until he cracked.
“Okay, fine. You caught me. Can I go now while I have an ounce of my pride left?”
Dean quickly pushed off toward his car. Buffy shined a boastful smile and bounded after him.
She jumped in front of him and bounced backwards.
“So how long have you been checking in on me?”
Dean sighed, “If you had just been in class like a normal college girl…”
Her smile cemented seeing the horror form on his face.
“I’m not really a normal girl,” she replied. “So how many times have you checked in?”
Dean bowed his head and sighed again. “You’re not going to drop this are you?”
“Not on your life.”
She gave a brash smile. He angled his hands against his hips and drew out a breath before meeting her gleeful eyes.
“A couple of times over the past month,” he said.
Buffy was surprised to hear this but was highly amused nevertheless. She drew a cheeky smile.
“You know they do have this great invention called the telephone, it has buttons, you dial it and then you get to talk to people instead of wasting gas to stalk them.”
He shook his head at her brazen tone.
“I know what a telephone is. And I wasn’t stalking you. I was –“
“Too chicken to stop in and say hi?”
She flashed a smile at him. He frowned.
“I wasn’t too chicken. I just didn’t have time.”
Buffy cocked her head when she heard the guilty tone in his voice, “Uh huh. You seemed to have time to find out my class schedule and where my dorm room was.”
He bit his lip, “Well uh….after that, I didn’t have time.”
She watched his chest rise and fall as he grew more flustered by the second. She dropped her pressure tactics.
“Seriously, you could have just stopped by and said hi or called even once during the summer. I’ve been worried about you.”
“I’m fine,” he said dismissively.
She studied him. “Well, I have been wondering whether you are or not. I haven’t really talked to Sam since graduation.”
She noticed he had flinched slightly at hearing his brother’s name.
“We played a lot of phone tag over the summer but since I started school I haven’t really heard from him.”
“Yeah well, he’s got his own life now,” he said scornfully.
“Are you sure you’re okay? You know you can always be straight with me.”
Dean drew out a long breath and paused. “Maybe I’ve had a rough couple of months. Dad and I both.”
Buffy searched his eyes and saw a humble expression reflecting back at her.
“You want to go somewhere and talk about it?”
“No, not really.”
“Come on, I’ll buy you a cookie from the campus grill.”
He pried a smile on his face. “Thanks but I really do have to head out.”
There was a short silence between them.
“So you’re taking off?”
“In a couple of hours.”
Buffy froze when Parker ambled by, still in deep charm mode with the girl at the park bench. Her eyes followed him.
“Did you just see a demon?”
“No, why do you ask?”
“Because you’ve got a look on your face like you’re going to kick someone’s ass.”
He paused, “It’s not mine is it?”
Her eyes sparkled as a slow smile crept over her face. “No.”
“Okay, well, uh, I guess I’ll see you around.”
Buffy sighed. “Are you sure you can’t stay? Please? I’ve really missed you.”
Dean became hung up on her last statement. He knew she had always had a stronger connection with Sam. He understood why. Sam openly expressed his emotions and made social connections more easily. Dean had sometimes thought it made Sam weak. Dad had taught them to compartmentalize their feelings when on a hunt. You had to stay solid and think rationally or you could get yourself or someone else killed. But now that Sam was gone, Dean had begun to feel his emotional guard cracking the more he thought about his brother. He had never bothered to form friendships with people his age since he moved around a lot and the expectation of having to bond through conversation and boring activities like bowling or golf never appealed to him. He couldn’t have normal friendships with people anyway.
Dean stared at Buffy for a long minute and noticed a deep sorrow in her eyes mirroring his own. As he gazed deeper into those jade pools, he felt his heart grow heavy with concern. There was something profoundly sad about the way she looked at him.
For the first time in his life, he was certain she was telling the truth. She had missed him as much as she missed Sam. He had believed she just tolerated him over the years because of her solid friendship with Sam. He never considered what he had with Buffy as anything remotely close to a strong friendship. He wasn’t sure what to call it. He had just always happened to be there in the most harrowing moments of her life. Dad had entrusted him with backing her up. He was Mr. Reliable. He wasn’t Mr. Sharing and Caring. He wasn’t Mr. Give a Girl Her Prom Guy. Those were titles more suitable for Sam. So who the hell was he around her? Who did he want to be?
He snapped out his train of thought and felt the weight of her presence when he looked at her again. Five months away had felt like five years.
“Yeah, alright. Let me call my dad.”
Her sullen expression changed instantly as she beamed a smile at him that lifted his heart from the depths of his own dark emotional abyss. It was then he had realized how much he had missed her too.
“So he just came by to check out where you go to school but he didn’t want to see you. That’s – creepy.”
Buffy and Willow were sitting on a couch a short distance from the stage watching Oz and the band play at the Bronze.
“Or – is it sweet because he was curious about you but didn’t have the guts to talk to you?”
Buffy shrugged, “I’m just happy he stuck around. I haven’t heard from any of the Winchesters in over five months. All I know is there was some big fight and now Sam is M.I.A. I was pretty floored to see Dean all by his lonesome.”
Buffy noticed Willow was clearly distracted by the presence of her boyfriend on stage. Willow felt Buffy’s stare.
“Oh. Sorry. Oz on the brain. Um, so you two are going to have a little cry time?”
Buffy stifled a chuckle. “We are talking about the same Dean, right? I don’t think that boy has tear ducts. We’re just going to hang out.”
Her eyes swept over the crowd apprehensive over whether Dean was going to abandon her, like every guy in her life had in the recent past. Her glum mood began to sink further with each minute that passed by.
“What time do you have?”
Willow checked her watch, “Eight-fifteen.”
Buffy sighed, “That’s what I have to.”
Her face creased into a pout.
“He’s probably tied up somewhere,” Willow replied.
Buffy thought about that statement and scowled when her mind conjured up an image.
“Oh god. That would be typical of him, giving me the brush off to go charm up some bimbo’s skirt. Damn him.”
Buffy whipped around to see Dean with a beer bottle in hand. He took a sip and nodded to Willow.
“You’re here,” Buffy replied with surprise.
“Am I supposed to be somewhere else?”
“No. No. Sit.”
She scooted over on the lounge as the band finished their set. Willow beamed a smile and shot over to the stage. Dean took a seat on the lounge and eyed the crowd.
“It was getting late. I didn’t know if you were still coming.”
He set his eyes back on hers for a minute. “Oh yeah, sorry about that. I had to run some errands for dad and he got caught up in some stuff and needed my help. I should have called.”
Buffy felt her somber mood leaving her as she smiled at him. “You’re here now. That’s all I care about. So, how was your summer?”
Dean took a long sip from his beer. He was never a big fan of heart to heart talks that Sam sometimes dragged him into but lately he found he was in need of a sounding board. That didn’t mean he was comfortable with pouring his heart out.
“Busy, hunted a lot. You?”
“I had a Slay heavy summer too.”
An awkward silence cut between them. Dean steeled himself for the inevitable question he could see brewing in her head. He took a long pull from his beer, hoping to empty it quickly. Buffy drew out a breath and narrowed her eyes.
“Are you ever going to tell me what’s going on or will I have to beat it out of you?”
“I’d rather not talk about it.”
Buffy clenched one of her fists.
“Are you serious?” he asked.
“Try me Mister Emotional Brick Wall.”
Dean rolled his eyes and exhaled a long breath. “Sammy broke up the band for a Stanford law degree. Dad’s not happy, neither am I. Okay?”
Buffy curled her legs up onto the lounge and propped an elbow on the top of the plush seatback. She cocked her head in her hand and eyed him inquisitively.
“Why didn’t you call me? I can’t imagine what you’re going through not having Sam around.”
“I’m fine,” he said, taking another long sip.
“No, you’re not. There is something different about you.”
He shook his head and replied. “Same old me.”
He caught her eyes probing him.
“Talk to me,” she said.
Dean sighed and finished the last of his beer.
“I’m here for you. I hope you know that. Just because Sam’s not here doesn’t mean I’m going to ignore you. We’re still friends. We’ve always been friends.”
Her eyes flared with an intensity that seared through him. Over the past four months, in his shattered life, no matter what he did, who he had found, he could not seem to shake away the consistent dulling sensation that enveloped his entire body. He felt as if he had been walking through a fog, completely confused and incapable of finding a direction to go. He had depended on his father’s instructions to guide him through the daily tasks of their professional life but when faced with his personal life, he was lost in that fog with no one there to help him find his way.
Dean felt a shock to his system when her hand graced the back of his. The fog in his head quickly dissipated. He grew uneasy and shifted in his seat. He settled on getting up.
“I need a refill. You want anything?”
“I’m good thanks. Just – don’t bail on me.”
He paused and looked down at her. He was struck by how sudden misery had overrun her eyes.
“Why would I bail on you?”
She gave a casual shrug. “There are a lot of girls here. I figured it’s a matter of time before you find some company.”
“Who says I don’t like my present company?”
He threaded through the crowd and over to the bar, leaving Buffy to digest that statement. She watched him wait at the counter and confirmed her own assessment from earlier. Dean was definitely acting outside the realm of his expected behavior. Sam’s departure had seemed to crush his spirit.
Dean passed by Willow and paused noticing her hard set glare.
“Careful there Willow, that look may set forever.”
“Oh, I can’t help it. Whenever I see that jerky Parker I just get into scowl mode.”
Dean glanced at a young guy with floppy dark hair hanging by the far end of the bar.
“What’s the deal with that dude?”
“Oh, he is a jerk, a major jerk of the jerky kind.”
Dean chuckled. “Okay, I reiterate. What’s the deal with that dude?”
Willow growled, “He pretended to like Buffy just to get in her bed then he gave her the brush off.”
Dean looked over at Parker.
“Yeah, we’ve all killed him in our head about a thousand times. I can’t believe jerks like him are human.”
“Unfortunately, some of the worst demons are.”
Dean pulled up to the bar and flagged the bartender.
“Hey, what is the most expensive non-alcoholic drink you got on the menu?”
The bartender pointed to a fancy coffee drink.
“Great, give everyone in this place one of those for the next three hours and put it on that kid’s tab.”
Dean nodded toward Parker.
“I’ll take the biggest chocolate muffin you got. On him.”
Buffy noticed the large chocolate muffin on a plate Dean was carrying over.
“What is that?”
“What does it look like?”
Her eyes twinkled with delight.
“It looks like chocolaty heaven! Can I have it?”
Dean dropped back down onto the lounge and handed the plate to her.
“Knock yourself out.”
Buffy let out a soft squeal as she tore into the muffin. After a couple of bites, she had devoured almost the entire muffin. She glanced at Dean and flushed red.
“Uh, was I supposed to share that?”
“No, that’s okay. I got it for you.”
“You did? Why? I didn’t really want a snack.”
“You look like you need it. Ever since I got here you’ve had this look on your face like someone killed your puppy.”
Buffy sunk back on the lounge. “Oh, I guess I’m not good company. I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to bail on me for some cute girl in a skirt.”
“Are you trying to get rid of me?”
He leaned back and propped his feet on the matching ottoman.
“No, I’m just – bad company.”
He looked her over, “The only bad company I know is an English hard rock super group.”
His music reference was completely lost on her when she crooked her eyes in confusion.
“Never mind. Are you in a stink because of this Parker dude?”
She probed him with her eyes.
“Willow spilled the beans.”
Buffy slumped in despair.
“Uh, if Sam were here he would have some sound advice to give ya but I – don’t really know what to say.”
She leaned against him and rested her head on his shoulder. Dean flinched when a lock of her hair swatted him in the face. The strong scent of coconut flared into his lungs and filled his mind with illicit images of a certain girl in a bikini, lying on the sand, soaking up the sun. He flashed on himself coating her back with sunscreen. Crap, this visit was difficult enough without her flaunting her delicious smelling locks at me.
“What are you doing?”
She jerked her head up. “Oh, uh, I always do that with Sam when I’m feeling low. Sorry. Bad habit I guess. I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“I wasn’t offended just – surprised.”
A slender brunette in a short black dress walked by them. Buffy watched Dean as his eyes drifted over the girl’s body. Buffy felt her heart splinter when a comparison registered in her head. Her eyes narrowed on Dean and her voice thickened with bitterness.
“Why do you do that?”
Dean eyes set back on her. She was infuriated and he felt her hard gaze slice through him. He was grateful he was not a demon for he was certain she would have plunged a stake right through his heart.
“Why do you treat a girl like she’s disposable?”
“What are you talking about?”
She barked lightly, “Come on! You are exactly like Parker, a shallow, self-centered ego hound who winds a girl up with a story, you take her home and then you take a hike.”
“Ouch,” he replied sheepishly.
“Am I wrong? I know you and your Candies and Bambis.”
“You are wrong. I have never met a girl named Bambi. Not yet anyway.”
She hardened her glare at his attempt to lighten the mood.
“Do you ever think about the hurt you’ve caused the girls you pick up? Do you even think about how low they feel the next day? About the shame that grips them for being so stupid for falling for a player?”
“Uh, not really.”
Her eyes cut him again.
“Why do you have such a problem with commitment? What is so wrong about embracing your feelings for someone? Why do guys like you have to stomp on my heart? I thought he liked me. I thought we were going to have something. I thought it would be different this time but I – I was wrong…this never works. I – opened my heart, my feelings to a guy and he crushed me and walked away – again.”
Her eyes swelled with tears as her voice laced with sorrow.
“What’s wrong with me? Am I repulsive?”
Dean stamped back the fury brewing in his body. He wanted to pummel Parker’s head into a paste for unraveling the spirit of the strongest girl he had ever known.
“It’s not you. This Parker dude is obviously a world class prick.”
“You ought to know.”
Dean blinked, a little unnerved by her harsh attack.
She sniffed and gazed at him.
“So why do you do it?”
“When did this become about me? I thought you were bashing this Parker guy.”
“He’s just like you.”
Dean scoffed, “No guy is like me.”
Her steely eyes pierced into him again.
“What do you want me to say? Sorry?”
“Don’t you wish you could have something real?”
“What’s the point? It can’t really happen in my world.”
She rolled her eyes. “I couldn’t expect you to understand. You wouldn’t know a real relationship if it fell out of the sky and gave you a lap dance.”
He chuckled, “Ouch.”
After a long minute, she folded her arms across her chest. “I bet if we didn’t know each other, you would have fed me a line and did the exact same thing. You jerks are all the same, you think with the one track mind in your pants.”
“Geez, you’re full of knocks tonight.”
“It’s true, isn’t it?”
Her eyes beamed sharply into his and he felt as if she could see all his thoughts floating in his head. He squirmed slightly in his seat.
“How did I get to be in your man bashing party? I was just sitting here.”
She softened her expression and blew out a breath. “Guys suck is all I’m saying.”
“I heard you in surround sound.”
He emptied the last of his beer.
“Geez, did you give Sammy this much grief? Maybe I should have bailed on you.”
She frowned and punched him hard in the shoulder.
He scowled and rubbed out the pain. “Give me a break, you bash me and then beat me. How much abuse am I supposed to take as your so called friend?”
She shrugged, “Xander takes a lot of abuse.”
“From demons, not from you.”
Buffy sighed. “You’re right. I’m sorry. I just – I’m bad company. I’m man repellent.”
Dean watched the harsh lines in her face soften into a glum expression. He was failing tremendously at trying to cheer her up. He wished Sam was there. That kid would have known how to pull Buffy out of her blue mood. Oh hell, that would have required him to buy ice cream and share sob stories. That was Sam’s way. Dean had a different way of handling depression.
“Want to go kill something?”
He saw the spark in her eye.
Feedback appreciated. In the next update: Dean inflicts some humiliation upon Parker in a unique way and a revamped Beer Bad that provides Dean some comic relief. Stay tuned for more. Thanks again to all you fabulous readers!