Sam woke with a start and lay there for a second, wondering what had woken him. The room was dimly lit by the lamp on the cabinet between the beds, and as he looked across he saw Dean's bed was still conspicuously empty. Sitting up, and dislodging the book on his chest that he'd been reading when he fell asleep, Sam glanced at his watch and saw it was 1am. He frowned. Dean had gone out earlier for a 'few drinks' but he should have been back by now. A dozen scenarios ran through Sam's head, not least that somehow Gordon had been released or had escaped and might have caught up with them.
Cursing himself for falling asleep, Sam was about to get up when he heard the noise again. It was a kind of scraping sound and appeared to be coming from outside the door. It was also what had most likely woken him up.
Cautiously getting to his feet and reaching out to turn off the lamp, Sam grabbed the knife from under his pillow – a habit of Dean's that he was thankful now he'd adopted – and crept towards the door. Taking a deep breath and grabbing hold of the handle forcefully Sam yanked open the door, ready for action.
What he wasn't ready for was the sight of his brother falling through said door and landing in a graceless heap at his feet.
"Dean!" he said, shock and concern clear in his voice.
Dean blinked and gazed up at him, a slightly dopey grin appearing on his face.
"Hey! Sammy – there you are." he said, slurring slightly.
Sam's eyebrows, which had been up near his hairline, now dropped into a frown.
"Are you drunk?" he said incredulously and Dean giggled.
Yes, his big brother – hunter extraordinaire and king of all things 'manly' had honest to God just giggled. Sam found himself wondering if all those Sci Fi films about falling into a parallel universe didn't have maybe an element of truth to them.
While all this was running through Sam's head Dean had stayed exactly where he was, grinning up at his brother happily. Realising that they couldn't really hold a conversation like this, Sam reached down and grabbed Dean's arm to haul him upright. As he managed to get Dean to his feet his brother swayed, and would have landed flat on his ass again were it not for Sam's quick reflexes.
"Whoa – headrush." Dean informed him and Sam rolled his eyes.
"Terrific. Any chance you can get your feet to give me a hand here?" said Sam as he half carried, half dragged Dean towards the bed.
Dean looked down at his feet, as if surprised they were there, and Sam gave up expecting any assistance. Dropping his brother none too lightly on the nearest bed, which happened to be Dean's anyway, he went back and closed the door. After making sure it was locked he put the light on and heard Dean groan, although the sound was muffled by the fact Dean was face down in the blanket. Even as Sam watched, still not quite able to believe his brother was this drunk, Dean managed to get his arm out from underneath him and flip over onto his back. He lay there, blinking up at the ceiling, seemingly lost in whatever thoughts had somehow survived the onslaught of alcohol that evening.
Sam walked over to the bed and sat down on the edge, nudging Dean's leg out of the way. Dean moved his head and looked at Sam with the same dopey expression he'd been wearing since he got there.
"So you wanna tell me what the hell you're playing at Dean?" said Sam, with exaggerated calmness.
Dean snorted. "I'm not playing anything, Sammy. I'm lying down. Can't play anything when you're lying down. Did we ask for a room with a moving ceiling? Cos it's really cool." he said, his gaze drifting from Sam back to the ceiling, which was doing something far more interesting apparently in Dean's world than it was in reality.
Sam counted to ten and reminded himself that he really shouldn't kill the last remaining member of his family.
"Hey!" he said, and waited until Dean's gaze swivelled somewhat unevenly back to him. "I was asking what you were thinking getting this smashed on your own? What if you'd run into trouble, huh? What if you'd let something slip? Hell, what if Gordon had gotten out and come after us? You could have got in real trouble Dean – now what is going on with you?"
Dean rolled his eyes, or one eye at least, and scooted back until he was slouched against the headboard.
"Nothing's going on. God, you are such a drama queen. I just fancied a drink that's all – I am old enough you know." he said, sounding almost like a sulky teenager.
"I didn't say you weren't, but that's not the point here. And this was a heck of a lot more than 'a' drink, Dean. How many did you have?" said Sam.
Dean tried to look innocent. "One or two." he said and Sam snorted.
"What - bottles?" he said and Dean giggled, again. Sam felt his mouth twitch despite the seriousness of the situation. The times you didn't have a video camera to hand.
As amusing as drunk-Dean was, Sam knew it wasn't something he could just ignore. Dean never, ever got drunk. Sure he liked a few beers, maybe even more than a few at times, but he always stayed just the right side of pleasantly tipsy. Whether it was from years of seeing John drink too much after a bad hunt, or on significant dates, or whether it was just because he didn't like being out of control, Sam had never seen his brother like this. And it scared him. Especially coming on top of the strains of the last few months, not to mention the revelation of what John had told Dean before he died. Something wasn't right, and Sam couldn't just let that go.
Plus of course there was the slightly underhand advantage of the fact that alcohol would seriously loosen Dean's tongue and maybe lead to more honest answers than Sam could usually get out of him.
Pushing aside the slight guilt at taking advantage of the situation like that – he was after all on doing it because he cared – Sam shifted so he was nearer to Dean, who was now contemplating the blanket as if it was the most interesting thing he'd ever seen.
"Dean." he said softly and was rewarded with a slightly wary gaze.
"What?" said Dean belligerently and Sam continued in the same soft voice.
"What's wrong? I know something must be getting to you for you to get this drunk. I just want to help – please, tell me what's wrong?" he said.
He was unprepared for Dean's bitter snort. "Oh right – of course, now Sammy wants to share everything. You want me to let you help? The way you let me help you with this, this destiny crap Dad laid on us?" said Dean, his voice rising.
Sam looked a little shocked. "If this is about me taking off.." he began, but Dean didn't give him a chance to finish.
"No, no – why would it be about that Sam? Why would I be bothered by you disappearing into the night, without so much as a word? I mean I should be used to it by now shouldn't I? Maybe I oughta think about changing my deodorant."
There was such hurt and bitterness behind the words Sam was too stunned to respond for a moment. He'd been so upset and angry by what John had said, and by the fact Dean had kept it from him for so long, that he hadn't really been thinking clearly. He'd needed to try and find out what was happening, and part of him had also needed to try and protect his brother from what he might find out. But in doing so, he'd gone ahead and repeated exactly the same mistake John Winchester had made before him. In trying to protect Dean, they'd both managed to hurt him far worse than anything or anyone else could have. And in Sam's case it was a repeat performance of when he'd left before, both for Stanford and to look for John by himself.
Sam really hated himself at that moment for what he'd inadvertently done to his brother, and not for the first time.
"Dean.." he began, but Dean held his hand up and slid off the bed.
"Not now, ok Sam? I'm not in the mood."
Swaying dangerously he made his way to the bathroom, slamming the door behind him. Sam was relieved not to hear the lock click into place and wondered if it was intentional or if Dean was just incapable of something that complicated right now. Either way, at least Sam wouldn't have to kick the door down if Dean passed out in there.
Pacing the room anxiously, unable to stop thinking about the hurt look in Dean's eyes, Sam was surprised to hear the door open again just as the toilet was flushed. Clearly Dean didn't feel like doing anything more than emptying some of the alcohol in his system and Sam was grateful for that, being quite capable of imagining a million scenarios where Dean cracked his skull open or broke his neck trying to negotiate the shower in his inebriated state.
Dean weaved his way back to the bed and lay down again, resolutely ignoring Sam. Sam watched him for a moment, and then made his way over quietly. He bent down and undid the laces on Dean's boots, sliding them off and putting them underneath the bed where neither of them would trip over them.
Dean raised his head a little and flashed Sam a brief smile of thanks before closing his eyes again.
Sam sat down on his own bed, and tried to think of what he could possibly say to put things right. He half debated waiting till morning, knowing Dean probably wouldn't remember much of this anyway, but he really didn't want to just leave things as they were. And besides, a sober Dean would be even more averse to such a discussion than he currently was.
"Dean, I'm sorry I really am." he said quietly. "It wasn't about being mad at you, I just needed to try and figure out some stuff for myself. I was trying to protect you."
"Well that sounds familiar." said Dean, still not opening his eyes. He no longer sounded angry now, just immensely weary. Which was worse in Sam's opinion.
As Sam struggled to think of what to say next, Dean spoke again softly.
"It doesn't matter, Sam. What's done is done. Just forget it."
"I can't, not when it upsets you this much." said Sam earnestly.
Dean rolled onto his side and looked at Sam, a myriad of different emotions on his face.
"I'm not upset ok? I just needed to let off some steam. And anyway, it's not like it's a big shock." he said.
Sam frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?" he said, and Dean looked down at the floor having realised he'd just said too much.
"No way, Dean. What do you mean it's not a big shock?"
Dean sighed. "Even the demon can see it Sam – I'm not stupid you know, I get it. And it's ok. I'm ok with it." he said, still slurring on the odd word now and then.
Sam's frown deepened. "You're not making any sense, man. You gotta help me out here – what do you think the demon can see?"
Dean didn't answer and Sam sat there wracking his brains. Suddenly something clicked into place. Sam felt his stomach flip.
"Oh no – tell me you did not mean what I think you mean." he said, practically whispering now. "You're talking about what it said in the cabin, aren't you? About you needing this family more than we need you?"
Dean's silence and slight flinch when Sam spoke was all the answer he needed.
"Dean." Sam's voice broke as he said his brother's name, his heart aching for the pain Dean was feeling, pain that had been caused by the people he should have been able to rely on the most.
Getting up and crouching down next to Dean's bed, Sam ducked his head until he could see Dean's face properly. Dean tried to turn his head away, but Sam reached out and put his hand against Dean's neck, the way his brother usually did to him.
"Dean you have to listen to me – what that bastard said is not true, do you understand? Me taking off like that was about my issues, I never meant to hurt you. I didn't think and I'm so sorry for that. I meant what I said in the car, we're gonna face this thing together I swear. I just needed to get my head round things. Please, you have to know you have always been important to me, and to Dad."
Dean looked up at him at last, and he looked so young and vulnerable it nearly took Sam's breath away.
"I'm just of tired of people leaving, Sam. I'm really tired of it." Dean whispered.
Sam nodded, and dropped his head forward so it was resting against Dean's lightly.
"I know. But I'm not leaving, Dean. I'm not, I promise." he said softly.
Dean said nothing and Sam stayed where he was, despite feeling his legs going to sleep and his back starting to lock into place.
After a few moments he realised Dean's breathing had evened out and when he moved his head he saw his brother's eyes were closed. Grimacing as he shifted, Sam stood up and gently managed to manoeuvre Dean so he was under the covers. Pulling the blanket up over him, he sat down on the edge of the bed and watched his brother for a minute. Dean always seemed younger when he was asleep, but now as Sam looked at him he could see the strain was beginning to show. It was only there if you looked closely, or knew Dean as well as Sam did, but it made his chest ache to see it. At that moment Sam wished more than anything that he could spare his brother from what was coming, from what both their destinies might one day be.
With a final, unnecessary, adjustment of the blankets, Sam quickly got undressed and switched out the light. Instead of getting into bed he pulled one of the chairs nearer to Dean's bed and settled down in that. He wanted to make sure he was near enough to hear if Dean had any trouble in the night, either from his uncharacteristic binge or anything else for that matter.
When Dean woke he actually wondered for a moment if he'd been run over by something very large and not realised it. The light coming through the thin motel room curtains was sending spikes of pain through his head and he swore he could actually hear his own heartbeat. He sat up slowly, trying not to move his head in case it fell off, and saw a note stuck to the lamp next to him. Squinting until he could only see one of it, he recognised Sam's handwriting and made out the words 'shop' 'food' and 'won't be long' before his stomach suddenly decided to join the party.
"Oh crap." he muttered, staggering to the bathroom just in time.
15 minutes later he'd brought up what felt like everything he'd ever eaten or drunk, but 10 minutes under the hot water meant he at least felt vaguely human again. Wandering out of the room in just a towel, in search of some clothes that didn't smell like a bar-room floor, he looked up as the door opened. Seeing it was only Sam he relaxed and carried on his hunt for clothes.
Sam grinned as he caught sight of Dean's decidedly green looking face. As badly as he felt for contributing to last night's little escapade, he couldn't help but get some enjoyment out of the state his brother was in. It was just a brother thing.
Dean looked up and saw the grin, and glared in return. Or at least he tried to. It came out as more of a grimace.
"Morning sunshine – how's the head?" said Sam cheerfully.
"Bite me." was all the witty comeback Dean could manage right now as he went back into the bathroom to get changed.
When he came back out Sam had the tv on, with the volume mercifully low, and was sitting on his bed eating something. Dean really had no desire to see what the something was.
Sam looked up, the amused expression still there, but there was also sympathy in the gaze.
"I got you some orange juice and some Tylenol. I figured food was probably out until later, although there is coffee if you want it." he said, indicating the stuff on the cabinet between the beds.
Dean sank onto his own bed with a relieved sigh and reached for the juice and the tablets.
"Ah, Sammy – I take it all back. You're a wonderful brother." he said as he swallowed the painkillers.
Sam just rolled his eyes and went back to eating his breakfast.
After a few minutes of companionable silence, Dean risked opening his eyes again and glanced at Sam.
"So, uh, did I do anything embarrassing I need to know about?" he said awkwardly.
Sam looked at him with a smirk. "Well, it's kinda hard to say since you were at the bar on your own. No one's been looking for you yet and I didn't see any wanted posters when I went to the store, so you're probably ok." he said sounding far too amused by the whole situation.
"Very funny, Sam." said Dean, sounding equally unamused.
"It wasn't very smart getting that drunk on your own though. You could have got into trouble." said Sam mildly. He wasn't going to make a big deal of it, but he couldn't let it go completely. The last thing he wanted was for Dean to make a habit of it.
Dean had the decency to look embarrassed. "Yeah, well I musta had more than I realised. No big deal." he said and Sam shook his head, wondering why Dean didn't just have that phrase put on a t-shirt. It would save time.
Dean suddenly looked even more uncomfortable as he looked everywhere but at Sam.
"I didn't say anything embarrassing when I got here did I?" he said, dreading the answer.
Sam pondered how much he should reveal. "Not embarrassing, no." he said truthfully. It wasn't a lie really, he didn't find hearing how Dean actually felt about things embarrassing even though Dean may have disagreed.
Dean looked at him now, frowning at Sam's non answer.
"Ok, so did I say anything I should regret?" he said and Sam looked him directly in the eye.
"No. You didn't say anything I didn't already know, or should have known anyway." said Sam simply.
Dean still wasn't satisfied but it was clear Sam wasn't about to elaborate. Sighing he sipped his coffee and tried to concentrate on getting the room to stop spinning.
Sam knew he could have told Dean every word they'd said, but he also knew Dean would be embarrassed as hell about admitting what he had and Sam didn't want that. He would have liked to repeat what he'd said, about Dean being important, but he knew that would not go over well in the cold light of day. All he could do was hope that Dean might remember it of his own accord, whether he would ever admit to it or not.
"So what do you want to do today?" said Dean after a while, and Sam shrugged.
"I was gonna hit the library, see if I could get any more luck finding a lead on Ava. I figured you might prefer to stay here and use the laptop, if you can manage it." he said teasingly.
Dean got up, whacking Sam lightly on the shoulder as he walked past to fetch the laptop.
"I think I can manage that." he said dryly, grateful for Sam's deference to his currently fragile condition.
"I'll be back later. I can bring some food with me then too." said Sam, getting up and grabbing his jacket.
Dean groaned. "Dude – do not use the f-word, please." he said and Sam chuckled.
As he was about to leave Dean suddenly said his name and Sam turned, looking at him quizzically.
"Thanks for taking care of me last night." said Dean, his face flushing even as he said the words.
Sam just smiled. "It's what I'm here for, right?" he said, not making a big deal of it for Dean's sake.
Dean grinned at him, grateful for Sam not forcing a 'moment' on them and also for what his brother must have done for him the night before.
Sam turned back to the door, but as he opened it he stopped and looked back at Dean.
Dean realised Sam was still in the room and looked up from the laptop.
"What is it, Sam?" he said and Sam swallowed, not sure what he wanted to say now he had Dean's attention.
"Just, about before – I'm sorry I left you like that. I didn't get a chance to say it what with Gordon, and then Ava disappearing. I just needed you to know." he said quietly.
Dean swallowed and nodded. "Sure. Don't worry about it." he said and Sam shot him a quick smile before finally leaving the room, closing the door quietly behind him in deference to his brother's monster headache.
Dean sat there for a moment watching the door after Sam had left. He could remember bits and pieces from the night before and had a funny feeling he'd said more than Sam had let on. He guessed he'd just have to wait and see if it came back to him.
What he did remember though was a feeling. He wasn't sure if it had come from Sam looking after him, or from something Sam may have said, but he could remember feeling.. Safe.
He shrugged. Whatever the reason, the black mood that had sent him to that bar and had made him loose control like that had lifted. And for that he was grateful.
"Thanks Sammy." he said softly and then shook his head, feeling slightly ridiculous that he was talking to his brother when he wasn't in the room. Turning his attention back to the laptop, he started searching for information on Ava again.
They were going to be alright. They were in this together now – no more secrets. And for the first time Dean found himself daring to believe that just might be enough.