Reggie had always needed his big brother. When the fighting got too loud, Dean would grab his hand and pull him under the covers of his bed. Even under the blankets, the shouting would be audible, but Dean would hold him, and everything would be okay. And then Reggie turned 11, and Dean left.
People always left.
Reggie was 12 and crying alone in his room, his cheek stinging.
Dean still talked to him over the phone when he could, came home for holidays. Reggie made sure to stay out of trouble when he knew Dean was coming home
Dean didn't need to worry about Reggie.
Reggie was 13 and Bobby joined the band. Luke wrote a song to celebrate. They played it for Dean in the garage.
"Make sure to remember me when you make it big," said Dean, and Reggie smiled.
Reggie was 14 and Dean hadn't been home in almost a year.
"Busy with school, kid," he said. "How's that band of yours? Famous yet?"
Reggie was 15 and his parents held it together long enough to attend his brother's graduation.
Dean introduced Reggie to his friends.
"He's going to be famous some day," he said with that big smile of his plastered across his face.
Their parents argued in the car the whole drive home.
Reggie was 16 and sneaking food out of the house to give to Alex and Luke. Reggie was 16 and walking behind Alex and his sister with Luke, manufacturing excuses to slow down the trek to Alex's parents house so Alex and Lucy could have more time together.
Reggie was 17 and booking The Orpheum.
Dean was 23 and stuck working in a coffee shop. At least his co-workers were nice, and at least he could catch a bus across town to see Reggie. For now, Dean was wrapping up a shift, thinking only of his bed.
The bell on the door rang, and through the thick door Dean could hear Sophie, his manager, talking to whatever patron decided to get coffee in the middle of the afternoon. Dean thought he might never drink coffee again after this job.
Checking his watch, he groaned, realizing he still had 10 minutes before he could leave. Through the door, the voices were rising in pitch. Dean sighed and swung open the door, hoping he wouldn't have to deal with some annoying customer.
"Dean," cried Lucy, her voice breaking. Lucy, Alex's little sister- his twelve year old little sister, her eyes wet with tears. (So what if he knew her birthday, he argued with the part of his brain teasing him for babying his brother's friends).
"Lucy?" he asked. "What are you doing here? Where are your parents? Do you need me to help find them?" (Dean didn't have to like them, but Lucy needed them). But Lucy was shaking her head, the tears in her eyes finally spilling over.
"Dean they-" Lucy paused, taking in a shuddering breath, wiping her eyes with her sleeves. Dean crossed the counter and crouched in front of her. "They won't pay for his funeral."
Funeral. Dean had to have been mistaken, because he could swear Lucy had just said funeral, and she was too young, far too young, to be going to funerals, and everyone she knew was too young to be going to be having one. But if she was here, talking to her brothers' bandmates brother, that- that meant- that meant Dean had to be hallucinating, because the world had to be fair, at least for Lucy, who wasn't allowed to see her brother, who was too young for death.
"What- Whose funeral? Lucy, please, tell me what's going on?" Lucy sniffed one last time and looked up, her red eyes meeting his.
Dean had to be dreaming.
Dean saw Sophie flip the sign on the door to closed.
"Alex died?" whispered Dean, sure he had somehow misheard, because Alex was 17, and he hadn't even graduated high school. But Lucy was nodding and leaning forward, her arms thrown around his shoulders, and Dean didn't have time to grieve Alex, who might as well have been his own little brother, because Lucy was 12 and trying to pay for her big brothers funeral, and Dean wasn't sure the world was at all fair.
Sophie will never get that album she asks for, whispered some dark corner of his mind. Sunset Curve will never make it big.
"Hey, Lucy," said Dean, trying to pull together the shattered pieces of what he thought he knew. "It'll be okay, okay? I'll- I'll pay for what I can, and- and the Patterson's, yeah? We'll figure it out." Lucy just cried harder. Dean's pieces fell apart in his hands.
"But what about Luke," she hiccuped, pulling back to see Dean's face. "The Patterson's already have to worry about him."
"Worry about Luke? What does that mean?" Lucy's expression was unreadable as she searched his eyes.
"Oh," and Dean thought his heart might fall out of his body. No. No. "No one told you." Dean's world was quickly crashing down around his ears, his vision filling with black spots.
"Did Luke-" He couldn't bring himself to say it, couldn't get the words out. "Him too?" Lucy threw herself back into his arms, and Dean was frozen, because if Luke and Alex were gone then maybe- Dean had to get home, had to find Reggie.
Dean swallowed his questions, questions Lucy didn't need to answer, questions he shouldn't have had. Somewhere in the corner of his eye Dean saw Sophie slip into the back room.
Maybe it took hours, maybe it was just minutes, but Lucy finally dropped her arms, slowly rising back to her feet from where the two of them were crumpled on the floor. Numbly, Dean followed, holding Lucy's hand in his (for her sake, Dean had to be strong for Lucy, for Alex.)
Dean wasn't quite sure when he left the coffee shop, when he bought bus tickets for himself and Lucy, when they got off the bus, but somehow Dean was dropping Lucy off at home with a promise to help her figure everything out. Somehow Dean was knocking on his parents' door, hoping his baby brother would be the one to open it. Instead it was his mother.
At least she cried, he thought bitterly, and then oh no. His mother was a lot of things but compassionate was not one of them. There was no way she was crying for Luke, or Alex. Dean went numb.
Dean was 23 and planning 2 funerals.
Dean was 23 and burying his brother.
Dean was 23 and going back to work, absentmindedly handing Sophie a spare demo he found in Reggie's stuff, still in a daze, attracting the worried gazes of his co-workers. Dean couldn't quite bring himself to wonder what exactly they knew.
Dean was 26 and dancing with 15 year old Lucy (of course she was invited to his wedding. They were all the family they had).
Dean was 28 and bringing Lucy to college, his car packed with Alex's belongings she had squirreled away from her parents.
Dean was 32 and screaming alone in his apartment when his wallet was stolen, his last picture of Reggie gone. (His parents didn't have anything. 17 years of life sat packed in a few boxes in his apartment and abandoned in the garage that wasn't Bobby's anymore).
Dean was 34 and sitting at Lucy's wedding, sharing sad smiles with Lucy, always avoiding the gaze of her wife.
Dean was 35 and crying as he realized the writing had begun to wear off of three lonely headstones.
Dean was 40 and telling his kids about their uncle Reggie.
Dean was 48 and watching a strange girl leave Reggie's grave, face streaked with tears.
Dean was 48 and watching that same girl get famous (the fame Reggie should have had). Nevermind the faces of her phantom band.
Dean was 48 and picking up the phone to hear Lucy cry about some girl - Julie - and Alex and Luke and Reggie.
Dean was 48 and knocking on the door of the garage where Sunset Curve had practiced, Lucy by his side, their fingers laced together.
Dean was 23, and 48, and everything in between all at once, and Reggie was 17.