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Title: Two Sides to Every Story
Author: [ profile] skeddy_kat

Words: About 500
Rating: PG
Summary: Dave Sheppard thinks about his brother.

Notes: This is what happens after watching "Outcast" too many times. Many thanks to [ profile] kimberlyfdr for her lovely beta. All remaining mistakes are because I’m a compulsive changer.

My brother is an asshole; walking out on us so he could live his own life and never looking back. He'd been gone almost ten years when he blew into town for Dad's wake. Of course he didn't stay. John never stays.

I was surprised to see John walking across the lawn the day of the wake. He brought reinforcements with him, of course. A big hulking fellow he claimed was an Air Force contractor he worked with. Right. I play golf with several military contractors and do business with quite a few others. Even the retired military tend toward the white-collar sedentary type. As a euphemism, it lacked subtlety. John always liked hanging out on the wrong side of the tracks. Anything to prove he was living his own life – one as different from ours as he could get.

Caught somewhere between glad and pissed off to see him, I couldn't help but wonder why he'd come. I had tried to send him a message a few years ago after Dad's first heart attack. The unit at Peterson let me know that he was unavailable. Yeah, I knew what that meant. If John was unavailable, it meant he was unavailable to us, specifically. Peterson is only in Colorado, not the far side of the moon.

So why was he here now? For Dad? For me? I don’t think so. There’s only one reason for him to show up now; he'd finally decided he wanted his share. Otherwise, why did he wait until the old man was dead? Of course, when I asked, he made it seem like I was the bad guy. I'm the one who stayed, had to go into the family business, take care of Dad, and be the perfect replacement son. And I'm the bad guy here?

John was supposed to follow in dear old Dad's footsteps, but when he declared his independence and went into the Air Force, the mantle fell to me. Suddenly I got thrust into the life laid out for my big brother, and I was never good enough. Dad couldn't even be in the same room with John for more than five minutes without yelling, but he respected him in a way he never respected me.

John showed up late at Dad's wake in a rumpled suit, managed to avoid talking to anyone except Nancy, and then tried to run off without a word. He muttered "national security" like a magical password, as if that would make it all right, even if I believed him.

There was a moment, right before he left, when I think I almost reached him. I keep remembering the look on his face when I told him about Dad's regrets. Maybe wandering around this empty house is making me maudlin. It's funny; part of me was expecting Dad's ghost to haunt me. Instead, it's the memory of two little boys running through the house laughing until they couldn’t stand up.

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