Title: Rituals

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em.

Summary: When it all gets to be too much. Dean and Sam POV

A/N: This has been running around my head along with a lot of other crap, so I caught this one first and am now letting it go. I have no idea how many beers it would take to knock Dean flat on his ass so work with me here.

Moonlight carved the plains and valleys of Dean's face into a tableau of black and white as he leaned on the ledge that ran around the roof of the motel. The shadows hiding his eyes couldn't quite mask the glint of green-gold that burned there as he stared out into the night.

As he watched, traffic passed infrequently along the two lane road that ran in front of the motel. He didn't look at his watch but it had to be after midnight, probably closer to two.

He tipped the beer bottle up and drained the last of the last drops from it.

Waiting until Sam had fallen into the restlessness he called sleep, Dean had quietly left the room. He had climbed the metal ladder that allowed access to the roof, carrying two sweating six packs with him, intent on downing as much as he could hold before he either threw up, exploded or passed out. He really didn't give a damn which.

Unfortunately, that amount was turning out to be more than he had anticipated. With careful precision, he set the empty bottle he had just finished on the ledge next to the seven others lined up in a row. Eight beers and he barely had a good buzz going. His thoughts were still raced madly around his brain, like a cornered rat. Images he didn't want to see flaring to life behind his eyes. And thenoise. God, if he could just shut off the noise….. He should have gotten a fifth of JD. He hated the taste of it uncut, but the effect would have been guaranteed.

But then, he reflected, the whole point was to go slow. He needed to take his time, linger in the sensation of losing himself, drowning his consciousness until it finally shut down and he would know silence, if only for a few hours. His only desire was to go numb from the inside out. To simply not be for a while. The only way to do that was to drink himself into oblivion. No dreams, no memories, no anything.

He popped the top off another beer and took a drink. Laughter from below shifted his attention to a couple in the parking lot, standing under the motel sign, kissing rather sloppily and giggling. He watched them make out in the wavering neon light, curious just how far they would go.

Jesus, get a room, he finally thought after a bit, eyes widening.

He rubbed his face wearily, sighing. A headache was forming in a tiny knot behind his right temple. He shifted his hand to press there for a moment, watching the couple again.

Get inside. Don't you know what's out there? Go somewhere safe. God, if you knew what I knew…

The problem was, there was no safe place. And almost know one knew what he did. He and Sam and a rare scattering of others. And his Dad. Wherever the hell he was.

Christ, if they knew what he did, they'd be up here with him getting smashed.

He took another long drink. His chest jerked with a silent hiccup. He closed his eyes as at long last he could feel the warm haze start to settle into his brain. Nine, then, was the magic number.

He took another drink and lowered his head to rest on his crossed arms, bottle dangling from his hand. He knew he wouldn't be alone much longer.

Sam opened his eyes, jolted from his shallow sleep by a car horn. The room was banded in moonlight. He knew immediately Dean was gone. Wasn't even surprised by the fact.

Swinging his long legs off the bed, he sat up, ruffling his shaggy hair and yawning. As he glanced over at Dean's rumpled, empty bed he took a deep breath and sighed it out slowly.

He had seen this coming, he always could. Dean had been moodier than normal all day, (if such a thing were possible), and Sam recognized the signs for what they were. When they were younger, Dean had been forced to find other—outlets---for his release. They were generally violent and self-destructive. When it would become obvious Dean was on overload their father had taken to locking Dean in a room with a punching bag and orders to get it out of his system. When Dean had become too exhausted to hit the bag one more time, or think of anymore words to swear with and was lying on the ground with bloody split knuckles and ripped clothes, John would release him to sleep it off.

Gradually, Dean had started internalizing his anger and pain. No less self destructive but easier for him to deal with. Pretend it wasn't there, it didn't bother you and voila! It was gone!

Only it was never gone, it would sometimes threaten to overwhelm him and the nightmares he carried with him would scream to be vented. So Dean would get drunk. Slowly, deliberately, mind numbingly drunk. It didn't happen often, a few times a year, more so after a bad hunt, when Dean was particularly vulnerable. He would let the alcohol help him batter what was trapped in his head back behind the walls, wake up desperately hung over for two days, sleep it off and be ready to get on with what he needed to do. His weapon of choice was beer, but Sam had seen him do it once with apricot schnapps when there was nothing else to be had. He had vomited for days.

Sam knew these things because those times were the only ones where Dean, to wasted to care anymore, would allow himself to bleed in front of Sam. Mostly, Sam felt, because Dean would remember none of it the next day and Sam was smart enough to know not to mention it. Sam hated when Dean did this to himself but he also understood the reason behind it. Because of that, Sam continued to let it happen, an unwilling conspirator in Dean's efforts to brick up his emotions behind that damned wall. Sam's greatest fear was that one day the wall would come crumbling down and nothing Sam would be able to do would stop the flood.

Sam slowly dragged on his clothes and shoved his bare feet into his sneakers. He had a fair idea where Dean had gone. Dean's preference for high places with vantage points was as much a hunter's instinct as a desire to be alone. Sam closed the room door behind him, pocketed the key and started looking for a way onto the roof.

Sam was grateful it was a warm night. He had a feeling he would be spending the remainder of it on the roof. He located the ladder and hauled himself up, throwing his leg over the waist high ledge that ran around the old building. He could see a figure leaning on the far side of

the roof, a sparkling line of bottles marching down the ledge next to him. Eight? No nine if you counted the one just being added. Sam shook his head, shaggy brown hair falling in his eyes and crunched across the gravel roof.

Even totally smashed, Dean still heard him coming and managed not to pull his knife as he recognized Sam's steps. He twisted the top off two more beers and held one out as Sam drew closer. He took a long pull on the other one even though it should have been coming out of his ears by now.

"Hey….Sammy--Sam, I mean." His voice wasn't too slurred but Sam could tell Dean was on the downhill slide. He took the proffered beer out of Dean's hand and had a drink.

"Hey, Dean. Beautiful night. Having fun?" Sam leaned against the wall and watched Dean's face in the moonlight.

Dean belched, swallowed and slowly shook his head. "Not….not particu…parti…no, not really." He closed his eyes and rolled the bottle against his forehead.

"You wanta talk?" Sam invited softly, taking another drink. His eyes were gentle. It didn't matter if Dean wanted to talk or not. He would be there either way.

Dean opened his mouth, then closed it and shook his head again. "Nothing to talk…..about. Couldn't sleep. Too much noise." He massaged his eyes and looked over at Sam. "I can't turn it off," he said in a thin voice. His face was washed white by the moonlight, his eyes dark hollow circles that flared green in the center. The bottle slipped out of his grasp and smashed on the ground, splattering beer and broken glass around their feet. Sam jumped back to avoid the worst of it.

"Christ…" Dean grumbled, reaching down to pick up the glass. "I killed it…"

Sam stopped him. "Leave it be. You'll get cut." He pulled the last beer out of the six pack and opened it. "Here. Let's move down a little, away from the glass."

Dean accepted the bottle, allowing Sam to move him a short distance down the wall. Dean held the new bottle up and addressed it. "I'm sorry…I killed your brother. I d'int …mean to." Dean grimaced, turning toward Sam.. "I don't want to kill you S-Sammy." He said in total sincerity. Sam stared at him, shocked.

"What are you talking about?" he asked, dumbfounded. "You haven't done anything to me!"

Dean licked his lips. "I know. I know…I'm just afraid….." He scrunched his face up and knocked back another drink. "I have to keep you safe…Sam. That's my…my job. Dad said that's ….my job. And we keep doing shit that's not…safe." He gestured with the beer bottle, liberally dousing himself and the roof. "No one's safe! They don't even….know! They don't have a go' damn…clue!" He hiccupped, starting to lose his balance and his train of thought. Sam caught his arm as Dean staggered back. "Shit, if they knew what we knew, Sam… they'd be fucking scared…shitless….not standing in the freakin' parking lot having sex!" The last part yelled at the couple still making out under the sign.

Sam pulled Dean back into the shadows as the couple looked up to see who was yelling.

"Quiet!" Sam hissed. "Someone'll call the cops." He tried to pull Dean further back but Dean's legs got tangled in Sam's and they both went down in a heap next to an air conditioning unit.

Dean's remaining beer went flying, smashing as it hit the roofing. Sam managed to keep from dropping his as he went down. Dean was sitting on the ground between Sam's long legs, laughing. He fell back against Sam's chest. Sam could feel the vibration as Dean laughed deep in his throat. It was a different sound from the caustic bark Dean usually laughed with. Sam bit back a grin of his own and gave up. He dragged himself back enough to rest against the air conditioner and pulled Dean along with him.

After a moment Dean's laughter subsided and Sam could feel him relaxing. Sam kept his hands around Dean, resting lightly on the hard muscles of Dean's stomach, gauging by the feel, when he would need to push Dean upwards and away so that he could vomit without drenching them both in used beer. He was surprised Dean had lasted this long considering he'd eaten almost nothing all day.

Dean did not seem to mind Sam's touch and leaned back into him. He pressed his fingers into his eyes, sighing. "I can't turn it off, Sam." He said again, his voice bleak. "I just want the noise to stop….I need to…." Dean's voice trailed away and he covered his face with his hands. "I'm tired." He finally said. "I shouldn't be so….fucking tired." His head rolled against Sam's chest and his hands dropped down on top of Sam's.

"I can…feel your heart beating." Dean's voice was slightly dreamy as he murmured.

"I can feel your heart too, Dean." Sam replied quietly. Sam rested his chin on the top of Dean's head. "Dean, what is it you're hearing?" he asked softly, curious.

"Screaming.," Dean said instantly, voice hushed. "It never stops." Dean hiccupped again, softly. Sam felt the muscles under his hands jump. "I can push it back—but it always starts again…. sometimes I think… my head's gonna explode." Dean's head sank slowly to the side. "Sometimes…" he continued, sighing, "I wish to God it would." He brushed his forehead lightly with a hand.

Sam frowned, tightening his grip on Dean. "But, who's screaming, Dean?"

"Me." Dean whispered, eyes sliding closed, feeling the nothingness settle over him, welcoming it. "It's always me."

Face it, it can't all be Shakespeare. Read and review if you would like. I will return with more mindless ramblings.