Rating: PG - Gen
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
Summary: Dean runs into an old friend.
The voice sounded unsure and even a little bit cautious.
He had stopped reading the magazine in his hand when he heard his first name but he looked up when he heard his surname attached. This was something who could harm him. Or it was a friend. Those were the only two types of people that knew that those two words went side by side.
When he did look up at the man that was watching him warily he saw neither. But he didn't always recognize the good from the bad right off the bat. Even when they were standing within arms reach of him with a shopping cart filled with things every average uncrazy person needed in their fridge.
Dean flipped closed the gossip rag he'd been killing time with. He'd been waiting for his brother who was somewhere far on the other side of the mammoth store trying to break into the freezer of the meat department. He had his hand ready to reach for the ID he had brought. Health Inspector. Local police. He had a few others like a stack of rigged cards at his disposal to play for whatever magic trick he needed to perform next. His gun was right next to them all, blood warm from his body heat and comfortable in his concealed palm.
The man watching him with dark eyes and sandy brown hair looked about his own age. He looked like Dean's age too, the years plus that extra edge of wear on top, a few more shiny gray hairs starting at the temples and lines around the eyes from smiling or squinting too much. That age were time was just starting to take away what was left of lingering youth. It was a strange age.
Not quite mature enough to feel adult. Not quite young enough to get away without acting like one.
Hand poised over his police badge in his jacket, Dean still couldn't quite identify him as a friend or foe, but he looked somehow familiar, like a photo of someone he'd know a long time ago.
It turned out he was right on the money.
"I'm Darren? Darren Whether, you probably don't remember me." The man named Darren laughed a little bit nervously. "I went to Augusta High School?"
Dean blinked and felt his mouth open and close a few times.
"Homeroom? Walkins, Whether, Winchester..."
The man was embarrassed now at the lack of response and was planning his escape. He glanced over his shoulder and looked about as if he was going to say his mumbled apologies and go on his way.
Dean stopped him.
"Y-Yeah, sure, geeze." Dean shook his head a little to clear his self induced haze. "Yeah, I'm him. Dean Winchester."
He tried to reconcile the skinny kid that used to sit next to him in the high school he'd spent an entire year in with this tall man with a button down white shirt and fancy watch on his wrist.
"You used to let me copy yer math notes ... right?" Dean vaguely remembered.
"Most of my homework too." The man smiled, a real smile, his suspicion confirmed and his efforts not deemed bizarre.
Dean could see it now after the smile, the kid that sat next to him in that stuffy homeroom class every morning. Always cracking jokes and the first to give any sub teachers crap if they dared make any error in their duties. He remembered liking him. He remembered when he had left that school that the kid had shook his hand and told him something.
7AM just won't be the same withoutcha man...
"You moved, I think you said you were moving out west?"
"Oh, right." Dean half smiled with a sigh and nodded. "California's been great, I'm just back around for a.... um, wedding."
"You look good."
Dean was surprised by the comment and he didn't miss the slow wavering way the word good came out. Maybe old Darren had noticed some gray in Dean's top too.
"Thanks, you too." Dean returned and meant it. "So what are you doin' now? Job, wife, kids?"
"I'm working for an Insurance company if you can believe that."
Dean remembered sometime long ago this man saying he wanted to go to college and play his saxophone. If memory served, he was real good at the instrument too. It was always sitting in its large black case between their desks. The question was there on his lips but he held it back. It seemed cruel to bring it up and he wasn't sure why.
"Got married right after college and one kid, a boy, he'll be two next week."
"T-that's great." Dean managed when he found he had no idea what to say to that. His first instinct had been to congratulate the guy as if some kind of spectacular prize had been won.
"And you?" The man asked.
Dean had no idea why he hadn't mentally prepared himself for the inevitable question. It had almost felt like this person from his childhood didn't have to ask about something they could just plainly see. Didn't the guy keep looking at his leather jacket as if he knew it kept fake drivers licenses, false Ids and credit cards? Dean shifted in his two day worn shirt and week long jeans. The pistol in his inner jacket pocket felt heavy and obvious.
His smile felt too forced when he finally answered.
"Haven't found the right ball to chain myself to I guess." Dean produced a joke to ease the answer for them both. "I'm still, you know, workin' the field."
The man smiled back, sharing the common joke men used amongst themselves in regard to women. It was safe to play that part right now. Safe to be some misguided guy this person remembered from homeroom that couldn't settle down because there was too much tail too chase. It was good to be the guy that never quite came together like everyone else seemed to like magic.
The two car garage.
Dean wondered if they had birthday parties for two year olds.
"Well, it was good to see you Dean." The man said.
Dean didn't doubt his sincerity but he sounded like he was wrapping up a presentation at work. With that practiced pleased sigh and that look in people's eyes that meant they were going to soon dismiss you. It wasn't cold or rude but it made Dean feel like a stranger in a crowd of friends.
And just like that, it was over.
Sam suddenly appeared beside him, his presence welcome after the man's brisk departure. One look up at him and Dean suddenly felt submerged back into his own world. A person standing too close to him that knew all his weird and baffling secrets. Hell, even shared most of them. A person that had been that close to the magical blissful boredom of life but had it all taken away.
His younger brother watched the man walking away with his groceries. There was the inevitable question in his eyes. He always had to know what the hell was going on. Dean supposed he had a strong case of that himself.
"Who was that?"
After they walked in different directions, Dean knew he'd be a pure short story to this town. It'd morph into something a bit more tragic than he'd ever mentioned. Maybe passed on from person to person over a glass of wine at a reunion. They'd mention him in passing, like he passed through their school in one short year. Been drifting ever since, they'd say.
Dean wondered if the old homeroom guy would notice the same old Impala out in the parking lot.
Some things never did change.