Spoilers for Everybody Loves a Clown.
This episode haunted me on many levels and I've never written a tag before. The pain of both these men was killing me; eating me alive. I had to make it better - make them right. So this is what came out of it. It continues to amaze me how wonderful these two actors are together. How they can just pull from each other and make a good scene amazing.
This starts with Sam and ends with Dean. It's about overwhelming grief and the ways we deal with it. The stupid decisions we make when we are consumed. And how we pick ourselves up when we fall.
Oh, and I guess I lied. I changed the title from After the Fall. This just seemed to make more sense.
Thank you to Geminigrl who helped me see the parts I was missing as I did revision after revision. And to my amazing friend Joanne who supports me in every aspect of my life. I couldn't even survive if you weren't around.
"I'm not alright. Not at all," Sam continued with tears in his eyes, barely holding it together. Hell, he knew he wasn't holding it together. He was worried about Dean. Worried for him.
The man hadn't cracked since the hospital. No emotion. Nothing.
While Dean hated any sort of emotional display, the rigid core that stood before Sam was in a bad way. And when that shell came crumbling down…
Sam knew he was pushing his luck, but he wouldn't know how far unless he tried again to chip away at the armor his brother wore. "But neither are you. That much I know."
Dean's eyes were steel cold, reflecting back an emotion, or lack there of, that Sam had never truly seen his brother wear. There was nothing inside. Dean made no action to even acknowledge the words his brother spoke. He just stared at him. Through him.
And Sam knew he had failed, again.
Sam began to pull back from the stranger before him, seeing he was getting nowhere. A repeat of the incident on the road. Too little too late, he'd said. And he meant it.
"I'll let you get back to work."
Sam slowly walked back to the house; dejected. Lost. His pillar of strength, gone. Lost.
He hoped for the familiar sound of his nickname, calling him back, using a logic that only Dean could surmise. A wisecrack to still the somber mood. A sigh. But no sounds came from the car graveyard.
And he walked on.
Sam knew he'd screwed up at the hospital. At the cabin. At every turn with his father, and the guilt ate away at him until his center felt hollow.
This was going to consume him.
Why did I have to pick a fight with Dad? Why did my pride get in the way?
A tear fell down his face, dropping to the dry Earth below. As quickly as it made contact with the dust, it was gone. Evaporated. Nothing left.
Now I've lost Dean as well. How will we get past this if he won't accept what happened?
Won't forgive me?
The door suddenly shut as the delay finally made its contact with the doorframe to the house. It startled Sam out of his thoughts as he stole a quick look back at Dean. He looked at the stoic man from afar, praying that somehow he had gotten though. He hadn't moved since their encounter. The worry for his brother far surpassed the guilt he felt at the last words that chastised his father.
If Dean didn't release his emotions on some level, it would kill him. John was everything to Dean. He'd done everything he asked him to, and now, where would he go? How could they move on?
Sam couldn't help but think there was something he didn't know about in those last moments between father and son. It was the way that Dean looked at him now. Something important enough that his father wanted Sam to leave the room. Something that had torn Dean apart worse than the Demon at the cabin.
Dad knew. He knew he was going to die, and he wanted to be with Dean.
Sam snorted at the thought. Of course he would want to be with Dean in his last moments. Dean was the son he could count on, the one who obeyed, the one that would do anything and everything John Winchester asked of him. The one that didn't fight with him at every curve.
Sam was the bad seed.
Since his early teens, he'd rebelled. He'd never wanted this life. He just wanted to be 'normal,' and when he'd made the decision five years prior to go to school, Sam had been shunned. Excommunicated from the family.
Left bereft, an orphan.
After Jessica's death, the hunter in Sam had been reborn with a vengeance and a thirst for blood. Dragged back into the lifestyle he'd tried so hard to erase from his past, but could never shake. It followed him, enveloped him. Turned his world upside down. Death and destruction at every turn:
Sam brushed the tears that flowed freely from his eyes. He wandered into the kitchen where he spotted a fresh bottle of Dad's favorite – Jack Daniels. He sniffed and wiped his nose on his bare arm, grabbed the bottle and headed steadfast from the kitchen. Sam popped the lid and took a long swig of the vile liquid on his way out. It burned as it ate its way into his stomach; filling the hole that had been consumed by his guilt. He sighed deeply and took another swig, pulling himself farther away from the junkyard. Farther away from a situation he had no control over. Farther from his hurting brother.
How is Dean going to deal with this?
He laughed aloud at himself.
"How am I going to deal with this? My last words to Dad were hateful. He'd begged me not to fight with him. And now…" The anger at himself built up and he kicked an innocent stool in Bobby's kitchen. His aim was off and he hit the side of his foot, feeling the metal hit bone. Sam's eyes scrunched with pain at the stupidity of his actions, then he laughed again.
At least I can still feel. Can Dean feel? Is he even there?
The bottom of the bottle was lifted high again as more of the liquid poured down Sam's throat. He wondered how long it would take to feel the affects of the alcohol.
I failed my brother. The only person I have left in this world. He won't even look at me. He hates me too.
His thoughts continued to swirl in his mind.
Maybe I should have listened to Dad and shot him in the cabin. Then Dean wouldn't have suffered through all that pain.
But then, he never would have spoken to me again.
He laughed again at the irony of that thought.
He's not talking to me now.
At least I would have made Dad happy with me – for once. Made him proud. Followed an order. Reunited us on the one thing we had in common. I never listened to him and now…
Sam found a ratty chair, wandering through the dining room and into Bobby's living room, and sat down, hard, finally feeling something other than the torture of his soul. He breathed it in and welcomed the haze that surrounded his mind; taking the edge off at last.
I guess this is why Dad drank all those years…
He saluted to the bottle skyward and took another swig.
Sam furrowed his brow as random thoughts flew in and out of his now fading clarity.
How did Dean get better? He was being chased by a reaper and ditched it. He didn't just wake up from the coma, he was cured. No injuries.
Did Dad trade himself for Dean? Oh God.
Would he have done the same for me? His failure of a son?
He felt his inner core tremble as he fought off the impending emotional explosion.
"Dad, I'm so sorry….so sorry. I never meant," Sam took another gulp of Jack. "I know you just did the best you could. Dean and me, we could have turned out so much worse." He ran his fingers through his hair and looked at the bottle again. "It's too late. Even Dean said 'too little, too late.' You hate me. You died hating me. I failed you. What am I supposed to do now?"
He slammed the bottle on the table next to him and sobbed. Sam's hands fisted into his eyes as he violently shook with sorrow. Flashes of all the things he'd said, all the negativity that flowed like AC/DC between them. And Dean was always the surge protector.
"Dad, you have to help Dean," Sam called to the air, knowing how this supernatural game was played. "He's not dealing with this. He needs you… I need you"
The collar of Sam's shirt was heavy with tears, sweat and the elixir to drown the pain. At least for the moment.
It was finally starting to doing its job.
He grabbed the bottle again and drank several gulps, feeling the hatred of the liquor blaze the trail to his bloodstream. Sam stopped for a breath and continued on, unrelenting.
Then the taste of drunken clarity hit him. That, mixed with internal turmoil and grief.
I don't deserve to live.
Sam pulled the Swiss Army knife his father had given him from his pocket and flicked open the blade, admiring the craftsmanship. He regarded it through his now glassy eyes, remembering the moment his father had given it to him. When he'd considered him a man. It had saved his life many times; more than he could count.
Could it do so one more time, and it take away his pain?
The thoughts formed with vengeance in Sam's head. Knowing this was the right thing to do. He wondered if he would even feel the wounds if he sliced into his wrists. Sam fingered the blade and laughed a deep, evil laugh.
I need to suffer. This would be too easy.
He threw the knife to floor and tried to get up, looking for another more painful option. Something to make him scream in agony as it released the guilt in puddles on the floor. Sam's body did not comply as he fell back into the chair, angry at himself for his sudden lack of control.
And the tears began again as he thought of Dean.
Dean finding him in a crumpled heap, lifeless. Just as Sam had found his father. Dean didn't deserve that, even if Sam did. That was the coward's way out.
"I'sorry Dean," he slurred, losing feeling in his limbs as the last batch brewed itself into the corners of Sam's mind. "I shoud've been there all thoos years… I canbe now…"
He made a last ditch effort to get up from the chair, suddenly needing to be with his brother. To make sure he was alright. To find him in the junkyard and help him with the car so they could fix it together. To build their relationship again; as brothers. With renewed determination, Sam swung his leg up and over the recliner, propelling himself up. He overshot his mark and crashed head first into a coffee table near the chair.
So much for the crumpled heap…
And Sam lost consciousness.
Dean threw the tire iron down, looking at the destruction he caused to his baby; the one thing that was truly his. The last piece of his father.
He melted to the ground filled with grief and anguish, overwhelmed by the events of the past several weeks. They came so far and then, they screwed up. The holy water. If they had known then, maybe they could have stopped it. Stopped the possession.
But they didn't. They'd screwed up. He'd screwed up. Meg had loved shoving that in their faces. And their father had become what they had hunted all those years. Took their fears and brought them to life. His fears. Used the words that tore into Dean's soul.
Sam's clearly John's favorite.
They don't need you. Not like you need them.
And he'd almost died at the hands of his father. Those last words in the cabin still ringing in his ears.
He had begged Sam not to kill their father, but now, he wasn't so sure. Maybe he should have let Sam shoot him, then John's death wouldn't have been in vain.
No, we made the right decision.
Dean wasn't sure how long he sat there, leaning against his car. The car that his father had given him. The car he'd just beaten the shit out of.
Dean's mind drifted to his father's last words, lingering.
He said he was proud of me, really proud of me, after all this time. And that he was sorry. And then…
The final words. He couldn't tell Sam what their father had said; not now. Maybe not ever.
He fisted his hands in his hair and pulled; propped against his knees, squeezing his eyes shut.
Watch out for Sammy.
Why? What had Sam done to deserve Dean's protection?
Dean was angry.
Angry at everything.
Angry at the demon, angry at his father.
Angry at Sam.
Who the hell do you think you are? Now you want to follow in Dad's footsteps? Pick up the crusade? Now you want to be part of this family? When it's too late?
Fuck you, Sammy!
A tear rolled down his face and dropped to the ground, quickly disappearing to nothingness in the dust. Evaporated.
He feels guilty? Good! He left me. He left Dad when we needed him. Now he's not going back to school because of his duty to Dad?
"That's bullshit. All of it! It always was."
Dean slammed his head against the Impala a few times, trying to get himself together. Wanting the pain to come in some form. It wasn't fair. None of it. They were finally making progress, and now everything was gone.
They were almost a family.
Dean squeezed his eyes shut and took a deep breath, holding it, shivering as a warm breeze hit him from nowhere.
Sam is all I have left now…
He sighed heavily and felt inside for his strength. There wasn't much there. Dean wasn't sure if he was ready to face Sam, but he knew the kid was hurting.
Good. He deserves it.
Dean shook his head. He was angry at Sam, probably would be for a while. But the kid looked like shit as he finally admitted he was wrong, felt guilty, and Dean still wanted to make sure he was okay.
The protector in him kicked in. The command of his father volleying in his head.
Dean wasn't sure how much time had passed leaning against the Impala, thoughts drifting in and out. Constricting him. Dean was pretty sure it was at least an hour. Plenty of time for Sam to have worked out the demons in his head. Dean picked himself up from the ground and dusted off the grime, angling toward the house.
The door slammed shut, startling Dean at the impact of the frame to the door. The house was eerily quiet, but he figured that Sam had gone off to brood somewhere. So typical. He grabbed a glass from the kitchen sink and filled it with water, gulping it down greedily as he replenished his dehydrated frame.
"Sam?" The voice was non-committal and uncaring.
He didn't know why, but suddenly that pit in his stomach reared its ugly head and he knew something was wrong.
Dean walked with a quickened pace into the dining room, seeing no sign of his brother. He continued the path through the living room and noticed an almost empty bottle of Jack sitting on the table. He entered further into the room, shaking his head.
"Sammy?" Dean called looking around the room.
The sprawled-out body of his little brother lay still on the dirty floor before him at an odd angle. There were pieces of wood and glass strewn around the carpet. His breath hitched and his stomach lurched at the sight. Instinct took over, as he sprinted across the room, sliding to Sam's side.
God, not again. I can't do this again.
Dean felt for a pulse, satisfied with the result, and gently turned Sam over. He could see that he had taken out the coffee table with his face on his way down to the ground. How Sam had done that, Dean hadn't a clue. Dean could also see that Sam was smashed out of his mind, probably having ingested more alcohol in an hour than he consumed on a yearly basis.
Drool leaked from Sam's open lips and the stench of his breath could've killed a race horse. He could see dried tears that trailed their way down his dirty face. Sam had passed out cold.
He grabbed back at the bottle, seeing it had just been opened. "Holy shit, Sammy, how much did you drink?"
Dean placed the bottle on the table as a glint on the floor near the chair caught his eye. He spied Sam's Swiss Army knife in the open position; the knife has father had given him. He knitted his brow at the instrument discarded on the carpet.
"No, Sammy. Tell me you weren't…."
He pushed the thought from his mind.
Dean grabbed Sam's face and slapped him. The blood was still oozing from his head, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. A scab was already forming, which meant he had been on the floor for a while. He grabbed a frayed blanket from the back of the recliner and applied pressure to the wound.
"Sam. Sam, can you hear me?" Dean slapped his face, eliciting a slight moan. "That's it tough guy, time to wake up."
Sam's eyes opened to slits as he saw his brother, his hero, hovering above him. Is he really here? Is this an illusion? Guilt consumed him again.
"Dean? Sthat you? Srry, Den. Yourright. Sorry." The slur was recognizable and Dean couldn't help but laugh.
"Of course I'm right, Brainiac. I'm always right," Dean quipped, now slightly amused by the scenario of his little brother admitting his failure, and the sheer stupidity of his actions. Drinking was not something Sam was good at.
Sam struggled again, trying to gain focus. He wasn't sure what was going on, but he knew he needed to tell Dean how he felt. How sorry he was. That he loved him. Sam fisted Dean's shirt, trying to pull himself closer. Needing the contact.
"Dean. Shoulv been mee, not Dad. Bad son…" His head lolled back to the side as he fought with darkness again, embracing its comfort.
Shit, he was thinking…
"Sammy, you have to get up, okay?" A slight panic had entered Dean's voice as he realized the severity of the situation. He hadn't listened to Sam when he'd said he wasn't alright; that he felt guilty at the last words he said to their father. Sam was hurting – deeper than he imagined.
The words stabbed at Dean's mind as he remembered how callous he'd been to his little brother. He told him it was too late to make amends with his father. Dean lashed out his own anger at Sam, wanted to hurt him on the road back to town. Make him feel the pain that Sam had caused their father all those years. Caused Dean. Dean was numb, and the only thing that had made him feel real was making Sam know what he had done. After all this time.
His own anger, denial, consumed him and pushed aside everything else. In the process, he'd pushed aside the only person he had left.
And now, he needed to make this situation right.
Deal with Sammy now, deal with, well, everything else later.
"You've had way too much to drink, Sammy." The protector kicked in and he dragged his brother to his feet, shaking him to bring him back around. "Come on, we're going to the hospital to get your stomach pumped."
"No hosital, Dean. Sorry… juss lemme die…"
And Dean heard it; what he'd prayed wasn't true. That it was just his imagination at the signs scattered around the room. His brother admitted he had thought about suicide. After all they had been through; this was the straw that broke the camel's back. Sam wanted to die.
Sam's neck fell backward onto his shoulder, mouth open, dropping like dead-weight. He pulled Dean towards the floor, but instinct took over as he caught his little brother, again. Always.
A trickle of blood leaked from the wound and dropped to the floor, spreading out, making itself clear in the carpet. A piece of Sammy.
And Dean broke.
He'd lost his father, his mother, they'd lost the demon, he'd lost his car and now, he might lose his brother.
"Oh, Sammy. I'm sorry," he grabbed his lifeless brother in a hug, holding him up, trying to prevent gravity from taking hold. Dean was careful not to compromise the head wound as he felt around to his pocket and found his cell phone. He didn't know if Sam had taken anything else, couldn't bear to think of it, but he didn't want to take the chance.
This was the end of the line. The last family he had, and he would be damned if he would let it slip away. Especially like this.
"911, what is your emergency?"
"Um, well, it's my brother. He was drinking, and well, it got out of control. I think he drank a whole bottle of Jack." Dean eyed the container, knowing it was the truth. He remembered seeing it on the counter, waiting for his father's homecoming. Bobby's peace offering to John.
"Do you know if there were any other drugs involved? Sleeping pills, cold medicine?"
Dean's voice hitched, as he readjusted his hold on Sam, hearing exactly what she was asking. "No, I don't know, but I don't think so. He did fall and hit his head. He's lost some blood, but I'm not sure what happened."
"Has he been coherent at all? Any attempt at conversation?"
The protector shifted Sam to the chair and placed him gently into the folds of the furniture, leaning his head back. "Yeah, for a minute. He said he was sorry."
Dean laughed at the comment and brushed his fingers through Sam's hair gingerly, stopping to examine the severity of the wound. It would need stitches. Dean moved in closer hoping Sam would come alive again and say something, anything.
"Nothing else?" the operator asked suspiciously, knowing that something was amiss.
Dean swallowed at the thoughts of Sam wanting to die. "No. He's been out for the last several minutes."
There was silence on the end of the phone. "Alright, someone will be there shortly."
"Thanks." He hung up the phone and sat on the edge of the chair, looking at Sam. Sammy.
"What were you thinking you asshole? What do you want from me?" Dean used the blanket to try and clean the wound on his brother's head. It was a deep gash, but it should heal.
Heal. How am I gonna heal? How are we gonna heal?
Anger welled up again as he looked at his brother. First the Dad clone, and now this? Is everything about sacrifice?
"What the hell is wrong with you, Sammy? You really are selfish. How could you do that to me?" Dean blinked the tears from his eyes and wiped absently at them.
Dean looked to the floor and saw the knife. His heart twisted at the thought of finding Sam lying in a pool of his own blood.
But the knife was out of reach. Had Sammy had a change of heart?
"Sammy?" He touched his brother's face soothingly, willing him to look at him. "What happened?"
The drunken stupor continued on as his brother took labored breaths.
The feelings were conflicted. Dean was furious at Sam for his stupid actions, but he was heartbroken that Sam felt like this. The irony wasn't lost on him that he had chosen to turn to a bottle after all the years of their father's alcoholism. Was Sam trying to be close to their father one more time by feeling what he'd felt? Drowning in a bottle?
Dean was broken at the thought of his father being gone and irate that Sam felt he had to carry on their father's mission, like he was a good little solider all of a sudden. Sam wasn't allowed to just switch gears like that, not after everything they had been through. He'd made his bed five years ago, and if he had guilt about his relationship with their father, he deserved it. Dad was dead and the last words he'd said to their father were out of anger. Sam always had to question him; fight with him over the littlest things. And now…
What about the coma? Sam mentioned a reaper, but what happened? What did he do?
Something inside of Dean released, and he knew that Sam had been there for him back at the hospital. Working to get him back, refusing to give up. He knew.
And Dean wouldn't give up either.
There was a lot that Dean needed to work through in their father's death. He wasn't sure how he felt about Sam, but he would work on it. They would do it together. Starting right now.
It took forever, but finally he heard the wails of the sirens coming from the distance.
"Hear that, Sammy?" Dean asked as the flow of tears continued, unseen to his baby brother. "They're going to pump your stomach and you're going to be just fine. And then, I'm going to kick the living shit out of you for being such an ass."
A tear fell to the carpet near the droplet of blood from his brother. They combined and blended, making a mark on Bobby's floor. Dean watched it expand into the carpet with fascination.
"We're going to be okay."