Characters: Sam, Dean
Rating: PG 13 (language, violence)
Warnings: Season 5 spoilers through “Abandon All Hope”
Genre: gen, h/c
Disclaimer: Not mine
Word count: 4130
Author’s Note: Grateful thanks go to callistosh65 for her wonderful beta.
Summary: The motel was a bitch to find, and the room tells the story of a lost weekend, redolent of booze and God knows what else. Sam’s obviously wasted, but Dean wants to know just which wagon his brother fell off.
Sam greets him unsteadily at the door, gesturing with the bottle in his hand. “How’d you find me?”
“GPS, asshole…next time you want to fall off the map, change your social security number.” Dean pushes past his idiot brother and into the dingy motel room.
The motel was a bitch to find, and the room tells the story of a lost weekend, redolent of booze and God knows what else. Sam’s obviously wasted, but Dean wants to know just which wagon his brother fell off.
Dean looks him over, head to toe, but can’t see it. He makes Sam stand still and checks out his pupils, takes his pulse. Sam’s eyes are glazed and bloodshot, but they’re not black. His heart rate’s up but it’s not dangerous. So far, so good. Dean doesn’t see any signs of the dark power that runs through Sam’s veins. All he sees is his stupid little brother who never did know how to hold his liquor. So now, he’s just pissed.
“Fuck, Sammy. What the hell were you thinking?”
Sam shrugs and sets the bottle down next to the others. He’s got quite the bottle collection going. But Dean can’t help but see that Sam’s hand is shaking—he looks like he’s going to keel over any minute.
“Okay, dude. C’mon, time for bed. Gonna be a long night—best thing you can do is sleep it off as much as you can.”
“You’re not pissed?”
“Oh, I’m pissed. I’m gonna kick your ass as soon as you can stand on two feet again.”
Sam nods like that’s all he’s ever wanted. And God help him, Dean would do it if he thought it would help.
“I’m sorry, Dean.”
“I know you are, Sammy.” And Dean does know it—the world is coming to an end, most of the people Dean loves are dead, and Sam is sorry. Good to know some things never change. “Get some sleep. We’ll talk about it later.”
“Dean…I don’t feel so good.”
“Yeah, well try to remember that next time you decide to go on a freakin’ bender.”
He manhandles Sam onto the bed, like he’s done a dozen times before, and he watches as Sam rolls onto his stomach and tucks his hands under his chin. It’s the way Sam sleeps when he’s scared, which doesn’t make Dean feel much better.
The thing is, Sam doesn’t drink any more.
Sure, Sam has a beer every now and then, but not the hard stuff, not like he used to before Ruby. Dean’s been the one hitting the bottle, he and Bobby both. After Ellen and Jo, they’ve just been trying to get through the day, and a few shots of whiskey chases the grief down and makes sleep come a little bit easier.
But not Sam. Sam hasn’t even had a beer as far as Dean knows. In fact, Bobby has been worried because Sam’s been so stinking sober. All that sadness and guilt has to go somewhere. The kid hasn’t been eating or sleeping either, but that’s nothing new. Sam hasn’t been much for taking care of himself, not since Ruby suckered him into killing Lilith.
So while he and Bobby have been passing time playing cards and drinking themselves into a crappy night’s sleep, Sam’s been keeping long hours with his laptop, creating spreadsheets and offense strategies. Dean’s pretty sure Sam would go insane without the Internet, but he told Bobby not to worry so much. He honestly believed that Sam was doing as well as could be expected.
But then Sam just vanished, leaving a note on Bobby’s kitchen table: Away for a couple days. Don’t worry.
He didn’t take a car from the yard. Just took his phone and his wallet—even left the laptop behind, which freaked Dean out more than anything else. Sam disappeared on a Friday, and it took two days of hard searching before Dean was able to track him down because the idiot turned off his phone.
Dean has no idea why Sam decided to turn it on again, but it’s always been Sam’s weakness—he’s never really hidden from Dean without wanting to be found. Except for that time with Ruby. That time, Sam would have stayed lost forever…
Dean rubs his hands over his eyes—he’s so damn tired. Hardly slept at all for the past two days. Sam’s gonna have to drink something when he comes out of the bathroom. Last thing he wants is to drag his brother to an ER at this time of night. Dean hasn’t had a chance to get new ID cards put together.
“C’mon out, Sammy. You gotta have some water.”
But it sounds like Sam’s puking again, so this is going to take a while. Dean sighs and scans the room for any clue as to what his brother’s been up to for the past two days. It’s one crappy room, even for them, with the carpet threadbare and apparently not vacuumed in months. He’s not sure what he’s looking for, but he doesn’t see any evidence that Sam’s been binging on demon blood.
Instead, the evidence all points to the row of bottles on the table by the window. Dean snorts when he figures out how Sam’s arranged them. Sammy, geekboy extraordinaire, has them lined up by potency—starting out with light beer followed by red wine, cheap American lager, and Jack Daniels.
There’s more coughing and gagging coming from the bathroom. The door’s half open—Dean impressed upon Sam that he would kick it down if he locked it. The last time Dean checked, Sam was hanging onto the toilet too desperately to push back his hair.
Dean reminds himself to push for a haircut and a shower while Sam’s too out of it to put up a fight. Dean was mildly amused by the fact that Sam brought toothpaste and a toothbrush along with all the booze. Freakin’ Boy Scout. He’ll need some mouthwash too and some aspirin, probably some shampoo and a razor before he’s fit to go anywhere.
The truth is that Sam needs things that Dean can’t even begin to understand. Why the hell didn’t he see this coming?
“Sorry, sorry, can’t stop, gotta stop …” Sam’s curled up in a fetal position on the bed, sweat soaked and shivering, blankets pulled up to his chin. He can’t stop shaking, teeth chattering violently, but Dean doesn’t think that’s what he’s talking about.
“It’s all right, you’re all right, you’re just wasted.”
“That’s not what I mean,” Sam says miserably.
Dean knows that, but he’s not sure what else to say. Dean’s been pushing glass after glass of water on him, even though Sam’s not keeping much of it down. Yet between the sweats and the shakes, Sam needs to stay hydrated. Alcohol poisoning is no joke, and there’s no way that Sam can handle all that booze without a lot of water to flush it out of his system.
Dean is pretty freaked because Sam can’t have built up his tolerance for this much alcohol. He knows that Sam did a lot of drinking when Dean was in the pit. Sam admitted it—claimed that Ruby saved his life when she pulled him out of a bottle and into an addiction so horrific, Dean can’t pretend he’ll ever understand. So this isn’t new. Sam has always used alcohol as a way to escape from pain.
But from everything he can see, this was no impulsive binge. It’s like Sam’s been reading up on how to go off on a bender. It’s too premeditated: the isolated motel room off the main road already paid up for the weekend, the deliberate escalation of booze, the locked doors and the closed curtains. It’s not like Dean doesn’t understand…everyone needs a lost weekend every now and then. But this feels different.
“I’m sorry, so damn sorry.”
Dean sits on the edge beside him. Says again, “It’s okay, Sammy. It’s gonna be alright.”
Sam nods, almost like he believes him. It’s almost enough to make Dean believe it himself.
Castiel shows up at two minutes past midnight.
“Bobby didn’t tell me that Sam was inebriated,” he says, looking around the room.
Sam groans and rolls toward the wall. “God, Dean, make him go away. I don’t want anyone here but you.”
Dean’s surprised. He really didn’t think Sam wanted him here at all. If he’s being honest with himself, it makes him feel a little better.
“Look, Cas…we need to hang out here until I can get Sam straightened out.”
Nose scrunched up, Castiel tilts his head. “Sam has vomit on his shirt.”
“Please go away.” Sam sounds more than miserable—he sounds broken, and Dean’s big brother instincts come roaring in.
“Cas, you really gotta go. I’ll call you when we get back to Bobby’s.”
But Castiel takes a step closer to the bed. “You’re worried that I’m judging you for drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. I’m not your judge, Sam.”
Dean steps between them. “Cas, now’s not a good time.”
Castiel looks him in the eye. “There are reports of tornados in Southern California. It’s likely that another horseman has been raised. There was a mass grave discovered in Orange County—”
Sam moans and makes a beeline for the bathroom. Dean honestly can’t believe Sam has anything left to puke up, but at least it gives him a moment to talk things over with Cas.
“Me and Sam…we’re sitting this one out until I figure out what’s going on. He’s not doing well, Cas.”
“According to the ancient texts, this is only the beginning of sorrows.”
“Great. So you’re saying it’s only going to get worse?”
“Yes.” Castiel pronounces the word with grave solemnity, and Dean has to fight off the urge to laugh.
Of course, it’s going to get worse. Dean’s dreams are already heavy laden with blood and bodies, not to mention explosions and the smell of burning flesh. The sound of Satan’s shovel digging into the earth. In some ways, it’s worse when he dreams of Jo’s face before he kissed her. It’s so damned unfair, Dean could start crying all over again, but he’s not sure he has any tears left.
But Cas is still waiting for his answer.
“Okay then, beginning of sorrows, good to know. Tell you what—you still got your phone? Same number?”
“Dean, I don’t think you understand the seriousness of this situation.” Castiel is already invading his space so Dean gently pushes him back a step.
“I know it’s serious—it’s always serious, but Sam…Sam needs me.”
That’s when Sam steps out of the bathroom, wiping his mouth off with a towel. “You should go, Dean. I’m okay—I’ll wait for you. I think I’m through the worst of it.”
Dean rolls his eyes. “No, I don’t think so.”
“Not leaving, Sam. You’re stuck with me.”
Castiel doesn’t look pleased. “Fine. I’ll contact you when Sam is no longer inebriated and covered in…” He stares critically as if trying to discern between all the various body fluids that stain Sam’s shirt.
“Puke, Cas. He’s covered in puke.” Dean looks at Sam a little more closely. “And toothpaste.”
“I’m right here, you know.” But Sam lies down, rolling onto his side, with his knees up, something he only does when his stomach hurts.
“Give us time, Cas…”
But when Dean looks back, Castiel is already gone.
“Everyone screws up.”
“Quit making freakin’ excuses for me, Dean. Oh God, it hurts.”
“Don’t hold your breath. You gotta breathe through the cramping.” Dean’s ass hurts from sitting on the edge of the tub for so long.
“Shut up and let me die.”
“You’re not that lucky.”
“Shut up, Dean. Why didn’t you go with Cas?”
Dean’s trying for something light, something to distract them both from the small bathroom with the broken fan and the light bulb that won’t stop flickering. But Sam turns from the toilet and aims a surprisingly sober look at him.
“Yeah. A little.”
Dean has no idea what to say to that, so he starts patting Sam on the back. He follows a familiar pattern—three pats and then a pause. It might not be helping Sam, but it’s comforting to Dean…reminds him of a lifetime of nursing his little brother through countless sicknesses and even more bad dreams.
“Breathe, Sammy. You’re doing fine.”
Dean’s throat feels like it’s closing up, but he knows it’s only from the fact that he wants out of this room more than anything. But he owes it to Sam to see this through.
Dean can’t put this off any more. Sam dozed for a while but is now looking fairly lucid. They have to talk about this—if this is a freakin’ cry for help, then somebody’s got to listen, and Dean doesn’t want it to be a demon this time.
“Were you trying to die?”
Sam looks over from the bed. “What do you mean?”
“It’s not that complicated, Sam. Were you trying to drink yourself to death?”
“No.” Sam shakes his head before wincing—he’s already said that his head hurts like hell. “No, that’s not…that’s not it. That’s not why.”
“Then tell me why. You’re gonna have to spell it out cause the answer sure ain’t jumping out at me. Let me tell you Sam—alcohol poisoning isn’t a pretty way to go.”
Sam huffs out a bitter laugh. “Don’t worry—nobody’s letting me off that easy. I’m not trying to drink myself to death, Dean.”
“Is it because of Jo and Ellen…because of what happened to them?”
Sam looks up at him sharply. They don’t talk about this.
“No. Yes. Not like you think—you… you don’t understand.”
“I was there, Sam. I know what happened.”
“But could you have stopped it?” Sam sits up awkwardly. “Is there anything you could’ve done to save them?”
It’s not like Dean hasn’t asked himself the same question. He’s reviewed every minute of that day, but he and Bobby have come to the conclusion that the battle was over before it began.
“I couldn’t have saved them. You couldn’t have saved them. There wasn’t anything…. except, maybe—“
“I could’ve let those damn hellhounds have me. I’d have done that for Jo…if I’d known she was going to do that.”
Sam looks away. “That’s not a real choice, Dean. Those hellhounds could’ve gone for any one of us.”
“Yeah, I know.” Dean tosses the aspirin bottle on Sam’s lap. It’s been at least four hours, and he figures Sam’s can use more.
Sam swallows them dry, but Dean hands him another cup of water.
He asks, “So, you went on a bender because you feel guilty?”
Sam won’t look at him. “I don’t feel guilty—I am guilty. That’s not something I’m trying to get out of.”
“You can’t beat yourself up forever.”
“I think beating myself up forever is the least I can do. But that’s not why.”
“Sam, I swear I’m gonna beat the crap out of you when you’re better—what the hell did you think you were doing, disappearing like that?”
“I could’ve fought back.” Sam’s jaw is working back and forth like it does whenever he’s trying to hold it together.
“You did your best, Sam.”
Sam stares at him intently, like he’s willing Dean to understand. “No, Dean, I did not do my best.”
“What the hell could you have done?”
But even as he asks it, Dean knows Sam’s answer. He looks at his miserable little brother and sees the brutal power that changed the world. What could Sam have done? He could have done anything—everything. That’s the point they’ve been avoiding. Sam’s not using any more, but he could be. He could tap into that power at any time.
Dean finds himself shaking his head. “No. No, absolutely not, Sammy. I don’t care how many demons we’re looking at, you can’t go down that road again.”
“I could’ve stopped them.”
“Stopped them how? Tackled a hellhound, slit its throat? That’s not an option, Sam.”
“Fuck you.” But there’s no anger in it. Sam doesn’t storm out and slam the door. Doesn’t hit him. That’s how Dean knows he can follow through.
“You can’t use your powers, Sam. We’ve talked about this. You agreed.”
Sam bites out, “I know. Don’t you think I know? But it’s killing me. I keep thinking about Jo—what if there was something, I could’ve done? Wouldn’t you have done anything if you could have? It’s too much. This—getting drunk—was the only thing I could think of, the only way I knew how to stop.”
“So you drank yourself into oblivion to stay on the wagon? Hell of a plan, Sammy.”
“It’s still in me—all that power… I can feel it, Dean.”
Dean grabs Sam by his sweat-soaked shirt and pulls until he’s sitting up. “Okay, I want you to listen to me. I may not understand what it’s like to be you, but I know a lot about hell. And I know what it’s like to need my demons to go away—to get so stinking drunk that picking up a glass of water is asking too much. You with me, Sam?” Sam nods, but Dean doesn’t let go. “So is this the plan? You gonna drink yourself to death to stay on the straight and narrow?”
“No,” Sam whispers, his eyes starting to roll back in his head. “I just needed a break…needed something to help me fight it for a while.”
Sam sags, and Dean almost loses his balance, trying to hold him up. But Sam’s eyes are closing, and it’s all Dean can do to maneuver him back on the bed.
Sam’s out cold—finally.
Dean finally understands what this is really all about. This bender is rehab—Sam is self-medicating.
“Damnit, Sammy, you should have told me you needed help,” Dean mutters.
But Sam is telling him now.
Bobby’s relieved and pissed to get the call—no surprises there. He cusses Dean out for waking him up so early in the morning, and then he cusses him out for not calling him soon enough.
According to Bobby, there’s a harbinger in the Midwest. Thousands already dead, rivers of blood, locusts raining from the sky… Dean just can’t figure out why people aren’t more upset.
The way Bobby puts it, “They came, they saw, and they yawned.”
It’s true—it’s amazing how people can deny what’s right in front of them. Bobby tells Dean to bring Sam back home as soon as he can handle the drive.
Dean hangs up reluctantly—it takes everything he’s got not to beg Bobby to come and get them, which is ridiculous. They’re both grown men, and it’s too easy to depend on Bobby. Sam is his brother, and Bobby’s got his own problems. Dean’s gonna see this through himself.
“What did Bobby say?” Sam asks blearily from the bed.
Dean swears under his breath. He’d tried to keep it down…had been hoping Sam would stay sleeping a little longer.
“You know, the usual—death, destruction…rising gas prices. Same old.”
“You shouldn’t have to wait for me. They need you.”
“You and me—we’re on furlough. Got that? We’ll get back in the game when you’re ready. The Apocalypse isn’t going anywhere.”
Sam just sighs and closes his eyes again.
Dean can hardly keep his own eyes open—he hasn’t slept since he and Bobby figured out that Sam was gone. But he needs to stand guard. There’s almost no one left that he can trust anymore, and it seems like the universe is conspiring to bring Sam down. What kind of life is it when only Lucifer is on your side? But Dean’s not letting anything like that happen to Sam—not on his watch.
So Dean sits in the chair by the window, trying to see through the streetlight’s yellow glow. It’s no use. He can’t tell if the moon’s out. He can’t see the stars, can’t see anything past the Impala and the constant, drizzling rain. But Dean knows full well that there’s a needy, ungrateful world waiting for them to save it.
He looks at the empty bottles enviously and wishes Sam had left some for him.
Sam’s half way through his cup of coffee and has kept it down.
“Ready to head back? Bobby’s just about ready to come over here and beat the shit out of you himself.”
Sam flinches. “I didn’t want you guys to be worried. I’m sorry.”
“Damn right, you’re sorry.” Dean cuffs him on the shoulder. “You okay to go? You’re not gonna puke in my car?”
“Bring a bucket, and I’m good,” Sam says, trying to smile.
“Dean, you don’t have to say it. I know I screwed up. I’m sorry.”
“That’s not what I was going to say. You gotta forgive yourself sometime.”
“It’s not just that.”
“Then, what is it?”
Sam sighs and runs his fingers through his dirty hair. “I’m just trying to get to where you are.”
“I’m right here, Sam.”
“But I’m not with you. I don’t know…it’s like there’s black and there’s white, and then there’s all this gray in between. You’re always where it’s white, Dean, and I want to be standing with you—I do. But sometimes, the gray makes more sense to me.”
“I’ll stay with you.” Dean grabs hold of his brother by the scruff of his neck, something he hasn’t done since Sam was a kid. “Whatever it takes, Sam. You don’t have to do this alone.”
It’s a promise Dean hopes he can keep. Dad trained him to be leery of shades of gray—you let a lot of monsters slide by when you’re willing to compromise. But this is Sam, and Sam’s no monster.
Sam won’t look at him. “I just feel so stupid for being so…so weak.”
Dean swears under his breath, but he doesn’t let go. “You’re only weak if you don’t know it. It takes fucking strength to admit you’re in trouble. There’s no shame in that, Sam.”
He means it. Sam’s had the shit kicked out of him time and time again—they both have. But Sam’s hanging in there—bent and bruised but not broken. With everything that’s they’re up against, that’s practically a miracle.
Dean still believes that miracles are crap—a way of conning believers out of their self-respect. Sam was always the one who believed in miracles, and look what it got him.
Dean remembers how thrilled Sam was when the angels first showed up—the poor kid was one handshake away from asking for an autograph before getting shot down by Uriel and all that bullshit.
What’s left to fill the emptiness that used to hold all that faith? Dean doesn’t know how Sam keeps going. It’s hard to let Sam hurt like that.
“Don’t know what you’re thanking me for...”
“I’m thanking you for staying with me, you idiot.”
Dean’s eyes are watering because he’s tired, that’s all. It’s been a long couple days, and he’s tired. He cuffs Sam upside the head.
“Let’s get a friggin’ move on. Bobby’s waiting.” Dean needs to get out of the room, get back on the road again. Things have a way of getting too intense between them, and Dean needs to break it up.
Still unsteady on his feet, Sam heads over to the table and starts collecting the empty bottles.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“There’s a recycling bin out back.”
Dean stares incredulously as Sam stumbles out of the room, his arms full of bottles.
But he doesn’t laugh out loud until he hears the sound of glass breaking and Sam’s subsequent, “Shit!” Lucifer’s vessel still wants to save the world, one recyclable container at a time.
But that’s Sam—he’s still the geek he’s always been, which is probably the most tragic and optimistic thought Dean has had in a long time.
Sam sticks his head back in. “Could you give me a hand with the rest? Still a little shaky.”
“Got you covered, Sammy,” Dean says, not even trying to suppress his grin any more.
Because it’s true—he’s got his brother’s back. Dean has no idea how they’re supposed to get survive the rest of the day, let alone the Apocalypse, but some things, you just have to take on faith.
Dean gathers up the remaining bottles. Turns off the light before he goes.
Time to save the world with his kid brother.