Find Your Kindness
Synopsis: Sam knows about the law, researching, demons, weapons and saying 'no' to Lucifer. He's clueless as to how he's going to help with Dean's depression.
(Emotional) whumpage, and schmoop. I started this last year but after watching My Bloody Valentine, I figured I'd better finish.
Notes: Thanks for Emrys1, Psychee and Slaybelle 69 for the beta reading. Any grammar and spelling errors are my own. A big shout out to Emrys1 for the awesome suggestions.
By the way, Dear Reader, this story is grim, although no one dies. Just so you know and don't feel compelled to read further. If you decide to keeping going and like the story, then please review. Reviews are good. :-).
This story is complete. Part two will be posted in the next couple of days.
Sam sits alone in a church on a Thursday night and he's amazed that the giant statue of the crucified Jesus isn't crying blood, and that the building hasn't burst into flames. Lately the little voice in his head has been telling him dumb stuff like that. That he doesn't belong in a church because God doesn't hear the prayers of monsters.
Only Sam keeps clinging to the hope that maybe God understands that Sam had no choice in the matter, that he was made into a monster as a baby. Sam has to believe that God still cares because every time Sam looks into a mirror he still sees a person, still sees a human being. He still sees hope.
Despite everything he continues to pray at night, prays that someone, somewhere is hearing him and that the someone is kind even though the angels have presented evidence to the contrary by turning out to be dicks. Someone, somewhere has to still believe in Sam Winchester. Believe that Sam Winchester is one of the good guys.
Sam looks up. A priest stands by the pew he's currently occupying.
"Oh. Sorry, Father. Are you closing?"
The man, in his fifties, with salt and pepper hair and crow's feet from years of smiling shakes his head. "No, nothing like that. Another two hours before I lock the doors. Just didn't know anyone was in here." The priest slides himself into the pew and sits a few feet away from Sam. "Always nice to see someone during the week. People tend to be too busy these days."
Sam returns the priest's smile, tries to ignore the little voice in his head that tells him the priest is probably wondering why some freakishly tall guy that can barely wedge himself into the wooden seats is in his church. If Sam had been the priest, his first thought would be that Sam was here to steal collection money or rip off the silverware.
The priest sticks out a hand. "Jack. Jack Furbisher."
"Sam." He doesn't offer his last name.
"So, Sam. Why are you in a church late at night?"
Sam hesitates, unsure if he should say anything but then again, maybe that's what he's been hoping for. The opportunity to have an anonymous conversation with a man of God in a town in the middle of nowhere.
"I've..," he says but stops. Starts again. "Uh, things have just been difficult. Lately."
"Sorry to hear that, Sam. Can you tell me what kind of difficulties?"
How does he explain the unexplainable? How to tell the truth without freaking Father Jack out? "I got addicted to … drugs. I did some stuff I shouldn't have. I hurt some people along the way."
Jack doesn't react, presumably because he's heard it all before. "Are you still addicted?"
"No," says Sam. Too quickly. Jack fixes him with a patient but all too knowing gaze. Sam adds his mea culpa. "Sometimes the cravings are difficult to control. I, uh, slipped off the wagon a while back."
"Sounds like you're trying to beat this thing."
Sam nods fervently because he is. He's trying as hard as he can even if some days he feels like being hopped up on demon blood will solve all his problems.
"How does your family feel about it?" Jack continues to regard him with a compassionate expression that says he's genuinely interested in Sam's response.
"Everyone in my family is dead. 'Cept for my brother," says Sam.
"I'm so sorry to hear that. Are you in close contact with your brother?
Sam goes for a slight bending of the truth, or more to the point, lying by omission. "We live together. We're kind of on a road trip. Traveling around America."
"What does he think of your addiction?"
"He got upset. He is upset. But... He sticks by me. Despite everything."
"And how's he coping? Is he okay?"
Sam blinks at the question. Is Dean okay? Of course Dean isn't okay. He's never been okay for as long as Sam can remember. He's even less okay after his stint in hell.
He shrugs because he doesn't know how to answer this question at all. "He's tired all the time. He's a lot quieter than he used to be."
Jack frowns slightly at this, pauses before speaking. "Do you think he's depressed?"
"I don't know. He's been all over the place for a while now," replies Sam. Then he thinks about it some more, and yes, it kind of makes sense. Dean is not sleeping, and he's losing weight because he can't be bothered eating and in between hunts he watches TV. His brother is a lot of things but flamboyantly lazy isn't one of them.
Jack continues. "This may sound a little harsh, Sam, and please don't take it the wrong way but you strike me as someone who's mature enough to hear it." He stops, waiting for Sam to respond.
"You can keep going. I doubt what you say is going to shock me," says Sam.
"Addicts can be a little self involved. They don't mean to be, but they're so bound up in their own pain and in the effort of trying to break free, they can't see the pain in other people. Families and loved ones usually suffer the most because they're trying to keep everything from breaking apart. On top of that addicts generally go for the jugular when they want their own way. It's no picnic for those trapped in the orbit of an addict."
Indignation hammers Sam right between his eyes even though he knows Jack is speaking the truth. He's never heard himself described as selfish before and he feels he has to deny it. "It wasn't that bad."
"Of course it was that bad. Addiction always is, Sam. And if you're trying to beat your addiction you surely must realize that part of your recovery is having the ability to admit the wrongs you've done."
Sam draws in a breath, ready to justify himself but finds he can't. The little voice reminds him that denial was responsible for getting him into trouble in the first place. Trying to step-up to solve a problem in all the ways he knew had to be wrong. Instead, he hangs his head and stares down at the floor.
"It's been hard," he says. Thinks that Jack doesn't seem to get it and never will, because Jack doesn't realize he's sitting opposite a guy who can exorcise demons with the power of his mind.
"How long are you in town for?" Jack seems to have suddenly swapped subjects.
"Not sure. Probably leaving tomorrow."
"The weather's bad, getting worse. They say a storm is going to hit tomorrow anyway. You should stay in town. You could come back here, talk to me. You and your brother."
"I don't think my brother would go for that," replies Sam.
"Ask him anyway."
"I will," says Sam.
"I'd also like you to do one thing for me. If you could."
Sam looks up. Father Jack is still regarding him with the same open countenance.
"Help your brother, Sam. He sounds like he needs you to look out for him. There's a clinic in town. See if you can get him to go."
Sam frowns because he's confused by this advice. "He's been down lately but he always bounces back. It might take him a couple of weeks, but if I leave him alone, he'll be fine."
"Sam, depression is not being down for a couple of weeks. It goes on for months, even years and apart from the risk of suicide, it robs a person of the ability to enjoy their life. It can be a living hell."
Sam startles at that word. Hell. Dean has been to actual hell, and now some priest guy is telling him that Dean is probably back in another version of hell on earth? Shit.
Sam abruptly stands, immediately feels the relief on his knees. They've been jammed against the hard wood of the pew in front of them. Father Jack seems to mean well enough but he can never understand what Sam has been through. Or Dean for that matter.
Jack also stands and gets out of Sam's way. "It's been good talking to you. I hope I see you soon."
"Yeah... Thanks Father. You've been really helpful."
"That's what I'm here for," says Jack. Smiles again.
Sam walks to the door of the church and out into the bitterly cold night air. He walks down the steps, turns right and starts walking back to the motel.
Sam wakes up at six thirty the following morning and Dean is nowhere to be seen. The covers on the bed are rumpled, indicating that his brother has slept on top of the bed again, rather than in it. Sam can't hear the shower running but that hasn't meant anything for the past three days. He knows instinctively that Dean has gone out. Probably to fetch coffee and breakfast. Although the breakfast will probably only be for Sam and Dean will claim he ate while at the diner, or at a fast food joint.
Sam used to believe that story, but these days, not so much.
He sighs, wanders over to his laptop, wonders if it's possible to read too much about a topic. After he returned from the church he used the excuse that he was doing research on their next cased to spend most of the evening on-line. They ganked a lamia in the town – Ravensgold – and apart from the never ending task of avoiding discovery by the opposing factions of demons and angels, they're officially at a loose end. Technically it's actually research – just research on non-supernatural things.
On the walk back to the motel, Sam realizes he's been missing the clues. Missing them for a long time, possibly years. He's missed what Dean has been telling him, in his not-so-obvious ways. It hadn't even registered because Sam had his own issues to deal with. His own concerns, and Dean – well, Dean is always the one to take care of things. To take care of Sam. And Sam has always accepted that as much as he accepts his own ability to breath.
It's taken a complete stranger to get Sam to see the behaviors he's missed, to wake up with the understanding that Dean saying, "I'm tired" is Dean saying so much more. That, "I'm fine" doesn't really mean that at all.
He's debated about speaking to Bobby, but Bobby has his own issues to deal with too and that's the whole crux of the issue. They're caught up in their own problems, in their own heads. Too caught up with themselves to help each other out.
In the midst of his own pain, he's ignored the obvious. In his attempts to be tougher and more like his brother, he's made things infinitely worse – becoming an addict to demon blood isn't exactly something that could be classified as a well thought out plan.
Now that he can finally see it, it seems too late and he doesn't even know where to begin to try and make it okay. Didn't he tell Dean in the nut house that he thought Dean was half crazy even before hell? Sam has just accepted that craziness and edginess as something that is fundamentally a part of Dean's personality. Half crazy is Dean's normal.
It doesn't seem so normal any more if his brother is an example of what it means to be the living dead.
He has to make this right because helping Dean is the one good thing he can do. It's the human thing to do. Because maybe God takes pity on monsters that show compassion.
He chews the edge of his thumbnail, wonders how he's going to tackle the problem. Dean doesn't discuss his emotional state and Sam is beginning to think it isn't so much reluctance as an inability to express emotion in verbal terms.
The door rattles as someone inserts the key into the lock and then the door gets kicked wide open. Dean stands on the threshold clutching two large coffees and a paper bag. He enters the room, places everything on the table top, shakes himself. The carpet gets covered in snow like it's a sprinkling of dandruff.
"Fucking Arkansas. Fucking winter," says Dean. Then he shivers, shuts the door and stands closer to the heater. Dean is sporting a beard. He gave up shaving a month ago and his hair is growing out.
Sam grabs the bag, checks the contents. As he suspected, breakfast for one. "How bad is it?"
"Turning into a storm. They've got snowploughs out there but they're already talking about the roads being closed."
"You want to leave?"
Dean pauses, considering the options. "We could try but I'd rather be stranded here than stranded in the middle of nowhere in the Impala."
Sam unwraps the breakfast sandwich. Notes that Dean has made an effort to choose one of the menu items touted as, 'fat reduced'. "You sure you're okay with it?"
Dean shrugs, his expression, as always, bordering on impassive. "We've got nowhere to be right now, so I guess it's okay. But remember Brainiac, if you find anything, we'll need to move."
"Sure. No problems. I'll keep looking but right now it's pretty quiet," says Sam. He isn't lying. There are no signs of activity, which seems odd for a world in the middle of the Apocalypse but he isn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Dean is his number one priority. If that means Dean and Sam are taking a break then that's what's going to happen. A major dumping of snow that prevents them from going anywhere is a happy coincidence.
Dean takes his coffee cup, gulps down a couple of mouthfuls and then turns on the TV and switches to the weather channel. The weather report confirms they are indeed in the middle of a massive weather front that's going to shut down most of the state for days, possibly a week or more.
Sam considers the prospect of being stuck in the motel for a week from a practical angle. "We should stock up on groceries. Just in case."
His brother keeps sipping at the coffee. "Yeah, I guess. The locals told me the place tends to shut down except for the basic services."
"We can go after I finish breakfast." Sam pauses a moment to consider Dean's appearance. "You had a chance to shower yet?"
Dean glances back from the TV, eyes narrowing. "No, and it's none of your business anyway. I'll take one later."
"Okay, just checking. You know, since we're stuck together in a motel room." Sam doesn't mention the fact that Dean has acquired the sour reek of the unwashed.
Sam methodically works his way through the sandwich while surreptitiously checking his e-mails and googling a variety of search phrases before powering down the laptop. He set it up long ago with two user groups. He has full admin rights and Dean's account lets him use his own e-mail and browser settings.
He wonders how he's going to broach the subject of depression with Dean but hasn't got one idea that doesn't seem lame, or firmly grounded in chick flick territory. He stands up, pulls on his padded jacket - the puffy one that will stop him from freezing to death.
"Let's go," says Sam.
It turns out that shopping for groceries with Dean is the same exercise in patience that it's always been but even more so today. Dean is spectacularly irritated by the entire experience and makes his irritation known to Sam and everyone within ear shot.
Sam has gone total geek and brought a calculator with him so he can track their budget. They're running close to the limit on their current batch of bogus credit cards and there's no fast way to replace them until they can get out of town.
"Dude, I'm not eating oatmeal." Dean punctuates his protests by putting the box back on the shelf.
Sam puts the box back into the cart. "You don't have to eat it. I'm going to eat it and it's half price, so it's a good deal."
"I'm going to get pop tarts," says Dean. He walks off and heads further down the aisle, maneuvering huffily around an elderly woman pushing her cart at five miles per decade.
There's only so much that can be done with Dean on the nutrition front but Sam isn't above trying. He's going to grab as many budget priced low fat frozen meals as he can find, some bread, some milk, yogurt, frozen vegetables, some cheap cuts of meat for a stew, fruit and whatever else seems reasonable. Dean can complain all he likes but part of Sam's plan is getting Dean to eat a decent meal.
The griping and bitching lasts for five aisles. Seven packet of corn chips in, three out, two dozen beer in, one dozen back on the shelf.
"Sam! I like Nutter Butters. Give them back."
"You can have the Nutter Butters if I can buy the low fat milk."
"Just so you know, I don't like you. And you shop like you're gay."
"How is shopping for healthy food related to my sexuality?"
"I don't know, and stop saying 'sexuality'. "
"Does this mean we're getting the low fat milk?"
Dean scowls at him with crossed arms. "Fine. Don't think I'm gonna drink it. And you'd better be prepared to eat all of the leftovers. Even the stuff that's been there for a week."
"That's fair," replies Sam as evenly as he can.
And that was that. They've stocked up for a possible week of being stuck in a small motel room in the middle of winter. As they stand at the checkout, Sam watches Dean go blank and he realizes the entire outing has been for show on Dean's part. Dean couldn't care less about pop tarts or anything else for that matter.
That just left the library. Dean is even less enthused.
"Snow. Roads closed. Reading material for when I don't want to watch any more TV. Do you want anything?"
"They're not going to give you a library card."
Sam shakes his head, pulls out the five other library cards he's managed to convince librarians to give him based on faked tenancy agreements, his engaging conversations about Jane Austin and his completely trustworthy look. Or at least he looked that way in his early twenties. Now he gets the feeling the librarians pity him in that way people tend to pity other people who have some type of disability. Like gigantism.
The trip nets two law journals and six non-fiction books he's never had the spare cash to purchase. He watches Dean wander aimlessly around the stacks before catching up with him.
"Changed your mind about getting some reading material?"
"As far as I know, libraries don't stock porn. So the answer is, 'no'."
"Yes, I'm sure," shoots back Dean. Then he scowls.
Sam raises an eyebrow. "No problems." He knows if he agrees with Dean, it's more than likely to drive Dean to react and take a contrary position.
"Okay. Fine. They've got all of Vonnegut's stuff. I want those."
"All of them."
"Yes, all of them. Since you're offering and that grandmotherly type at the desk gave you a temporary library card."
"We're only allowed ten in total. I'm not giving up my stuff." As soon as he says the words, Sam thinks that maybe just for right now, he should shut up. Of course he should give up his stuff but then again he's never had to before and darling little Sammy always gets what he wants. In the end.
"I want Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse Five."
Sam checks the books out, Dean stands beside him staring blankly at the desktop of the counter. They get in the Impala and Sam drives slowly back to the motel.
Sam powers on his laptop, goes back to his task of obsessive researching. From clicking on various links he moves onto gathering the nerve to check out a chat-room on some depression website to ask some questions. Before Sam knows it, he's IMing some ex-Army guy over in California, providing a stranger with a complete list of symptoms. Sam wonders how long it will be before Dean wonders what he's doing. He mutes the sound, just to be safe.
"He sounds like hes gt the classic signs," types Cobra1089 at . "Can u get him to a doctor?"
"We don't have insurance," Sam types into the keyboard.
"Some clinicshave generics. Cheaper. Try that."
"What do you mean about generics?"
"He snds lke he needs anti depressonts."
What could he type back to a response that blunt? "Are you sure? I don't think he's that bad."
"Dude, I don't want to frik you ot, but I now waay 2 many guys that tried to tough it out. Told everyone tngs wr OK. Then they blew their brains out."
"Don't need to know that," types back Sam, thinking the conversation is spinning a little too out of control, too early on.
"You wanna Skype?"
Sam pulls the plug. Cobra1089 is scaring him and Sam doesn't scare that easily. At least, he doesn't scare when confronted with the spooky. The basics dynamics of human interaction however, have been confusing him of late. He has the personal revelation that he hasn't talked to his brother except in perfunctory terms or with a heavy dose of sarcasm for months. They're together so much that it's bred an almost pathological need for privacy and since they can't get any physical privacy, it seems they've both opted for keeping their thoughts to themselves.
Sam sneaks a look over to his brother. Dean is slumped on his bed, beer bottle in his left hand, remote in his right hand, gazing blankly at a documentary about the life cycle of a lizard in South America. Condensation has formed on the body of the beer bottle and a stream of moisture is trickling down the neck. Dean doesn't notice.
Dean suddenly speaks. "You writing a novel?"
"Naw. Just lots of googling," says Sam.
"Sounds like you're writing a novel. Probably a good move. After all of this is over, you could sell it and make a fortune."
"No one would believe me," says Sam.
"I didn't say you had to market it as non-fiction. People would just think it was an awesome novel. Like Stephen King crossed with J. K. Rowling."
Sam snickers at the thought. "Harry Potter meets The Shining."
"Fucking A," replies Dean.
"I'm gonna cook dinner," says Sam.
"Good luck with that."
"You wanna help?"
Dean regards him with bemusement. "No. I'm gonna watch you burn everything and then say I told you so."
Sam shrugs, shuts the lid of the laptop and walks over to risk a peek out the door. Snow flakes the size of marshmallows drop from the sky and land on the porch.
"No one's driving anywhere tomorrow. We won't be able to find the car."
Dean joins him, looks outside into the partially illuminated parking lot. "No way. I'll scoop my baby out with a coffee cup if I have too."
"Good luck," says Sam cheerily and then shuts the door, shivering from the blast of frigid air. "Hey, you going to shower?"
"Maybe before bed."
Sam doesn't push things and opts to start digging around in the fridge. "Anything you want in particular?"
"No. But if you make a salad, I'll kill you."
"Going to be difficult since I didn't buy any lettuce."
"Good. Now cook me some food, woman."
Sam puts his hands on his hips. "You know you're helping me, right?"
His brother regards Sam with total suspicion. "I hate cooking. You know I hate cooking."
"It'll be fun."
"You're starting to worry me," says Dean. "Cooking is not fun."
Sam bites back a sigh. Dean has refused to cook since he was seventeen. Sam was arguing with his father again. They'd been arguing for so long, the gravy had congealed and cemented the pot roast to their plates. The pot roast that had taken Dean four hours to prepare. In the middle of the yelling, Dean announced that they could both screw themselves.
Sam and John interrupted their pointless shouting match to watch as Dean slammed the door behind him and disappeared for the rest of the night. His brother stuck to his promise. It was definitely the last time he'd ever cooked.
There's nothing to do but assign Dean some mundane task and hope for the best. Sam throws a pot on the stove, opens up two cans of chicken soup and pours their contents into the pot.
"Sammy, you're a liar." Dean points to the empty cans. "Reheating soup doesn't count."
"Actually, I was going to put things in the soup. Like actual chicken and vegetables. Which you're going to start chopping up, right now." He throws two carrots, and two potatoes onto a chopping board he found at the back of a cupboard under the sink. "We can pre-cook in the microwave and then finish them off in the soup."
"You learned that at college. I can tell. It's called The Lazy Fucker's Guide to Cooking 101."
Sam starts in on the chicken breasts, carefully chopping them in half before shoving them into a microwave proof bowl. Cooking with Jess taught him one thing – the easiest way to ensure a safely cooked chicken was to microwave it into a white mass and then chop it into strips and finish it off in a skillet. The same applied to vegetables. Besides, it cut cooking times by an hour.
He expects Dean to grouse some more, but instead Dean carefully sets about the task he's been assigned.
Sam keeps cutting away at the chicken while he mulls over how to start talking to Dean and he's so distracted he manages to slice his thumb.
"Crap!" Sam is over at the kitchen sink, running it under cold water. There's some blood and a flap of skin sticking up but not enough to warrant stitches. It's a scratch compared to the usual list of Winchester injuries.
Dean stands over the sink, concerned. "Jesus, Sammy. Butterfingers or what?"
"Yeah. Sorry, I was distracted."
Sam takes a deep breath. There's never a good time to start the conversation he's planning so it might as well be while he's bleeding into a sink. "Dean, can I talk to you about something?"
He watches as his brother's shoulders instantly tense. "I guess."
"It's about, uh, my problem. With demon blood." He knows it will grab his brother's attention.
"You okay, Sammy?"
"Yeah. Now that's Famine gone but you know, I kind of worry..."
His brother is predictable. "Sam, don't worry. I know you'll be okay. You're stronger than you think."
Sam takes another deep breath, decides he isn't going to back away, isn't going to ignore the moment, isn't going to make a joke. Here is his opportunity to man-up, and see which way things are going to go.
"You're strong too," says Sam. Pauses, tries to breath past of the sound of his hammering heart. He doesn't know why he should be this nervous about a conversation. "For a long time. It'd wear me out. I don't know how you do it."
Sam waits for Dean to make a joke, or call him a pussy but there's nothing. Just Dean staring at him owlishly. He swallows convulsively a couple of times before dropping his gaze.
Dean asks, "You need a band-aid?"
Sam nods and Dean wanders to the first-aid kit.
Well, at least the wall has been breached. Maybe just a tiny,tiny bit but it was still a crack. Sam just has to figure out how to make it bigger.
Dean stares and stares at the soup sitting on the table. He's helped Sam make it but now the bowl sits there, steam roiling into the air, chicken sitting in unappetizing chunks in the pale liquid. His appetite disappeared weeks ago and shows no sign of coming back.
"Maybe you could try a couple of spoonfuls. See how it goes?"
It's Sam. Trying to be encouraging. And yeah, he needs to eat but the food holds no appeal and worse, if he does eat he feels sick as a dog afterward.
He tries to figure out when this happened. When he gave up. He's always been a fighter. He's used whatever pleasurable activity he could find to keep himself on an even keel. He's probably drunk a small lake of alcohol, contributed significantly to the continued employment of farmers in the beef industry and fucked his way through a battalion of women. He toked up with regularity as a teenager, but he never seemed to develop a serious habit and he's not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.
All he knows is that the emotions he's been stuffing into a hole since he was four are refusing to go away. The hole is full up, he's in overflow mode and his attempts at digging a new hole are ineffective.
To top it off, the few thoughts he has in his head – there are only three - seem to be on an endless loop. They're all his father's voice and they tell him that he's never good enough, that he should have figured out a way to save Sam by now, and that he's the one that keeps getting people killed.
He wishes his father would shut up.
He dips a spoon into the soup, brings it to his lips and manages to force down a mouthful. It takes too much effort and leaves him exhausted. He looks up from the bowl. Sam smiles at him, going for supportive mode. Dean thinks he doesn't really want to deal with Sam being supportive but he has to stop his baby brother from worrying. His brother has his own shit to deal with and he doesn't need to fret about Dean wallowing in whiny self pity.
He takes another spoonful but that's all he can manage. Putting down his spoon, he pushes the bowl away more forcefully than he intended. He's angry at himself for not being able to at least pretend he's interested in food.
Sam doesn't comment. Instead he says, "Don't worry about it. Maybe you can have a snack later."
Sam stands, puts the bowls on the kitchen bench before opening up a package of cookies that he waves in front of Dean's face. Dean shakes his head.
There's nothing much more to do to occupy the time. The weather report on both the TV and the Internet points to an even worse day tomorrow. Sam puts Dean's bowl of soup into the fridge then does the dishes. Dean goes back to slumping on the bed. It's all he's capable of doing these days apart from summoning up enough energy for a hunt.
He keeps watching the television images even though nothing seems to remain in his head and before he knows it, Sam's getting ready for bed.
Lately he's been taking his cues from Sam about decent times for bed because he's long ago given up on falling asleep at any reasonable hour. The only certainty he has is suddenly waking at three or four in the morning and being unable to get back to sleep. He either makes himself lie in bed, which frustrates him, or he gets up, quietly dresses and slips out of the room. Usually he takes the car and just drives around.
Crap. Being in close quarters with Sam makes him vulnerable at the best of times but at least if he can get away for a few hours he feels like he can keep himself under control. Not reveal too much and more importantly, make sure Sam isn't concerning himself about things he shouldn't.
Okay he's already on the stupid bed, so no point in doing much more. He's been sleeping in his clothes for nearly two years. No need to change his habits now.
He hears Sam clear his throat. "'Night."
Sam rolls over, turns out the light above the bed. He follows Sam's lead but he leaves the TV on. The glow fills the room and Dean likes the glow more than the dark. The dark, if he has to admit it, frightens him.
Sam sleeps lightly. He wants to make sure he's awake when Dean wakes up. Make some half baked excuse because maybe Dean will talk to him in that small hour of the morning; the hour that usually finds them firing rock salt at something spooky.
The half light of the TV fills the room and he realizes he's become accustomed to this as much as Dean. It takes the edge off, provides them both with an adult version of a night light. Besides, there's the added bonus of being able to stagger his way into the bathroom without stubbing his toe.
His eyes snap open again at four in the morning and he glances over to Dean's bed. He's heard a desperate intake of breath, a gasp, a small, "No." Even in his sleep, Dean tries to hide. Up until now, Sam has taken to either ignoring Dean's actions during a nightmare or sleeping through them or yelling at his brother from across the room until Dean snapped out it. Sam thinks to himself that upon reflection maybe he hasn't been helpful to date and here's yet another example of Sam being a little too focused on himself and damn it, when did he turn into someone selfish and mean spirited? Didn't he decide on a law degree so he could help people like his family out – hadn't he fully intended to qualify and take on pro bono work?
Sam decides on a different approach. He sits up, reaches across, puts a firm hand on Dean's forearm. Dean is a light sleeper at the best of times, so Sam fully expects him to jerk awake and slug him in the jaw.
"Dean, you're dreaming. It's okay. Go back to sleep."
Of course, that's not what his brother does. Instead he's instantly awake, sitting up, looking around the room, moving away from Sam on instinct, digging around for the knife under his pillow.
"Whassup? Somethin' going on?
"No. Everything's fine. Sounded like you were having a nightmare."
Dean frowns at him. "Oh."
Sam moves back to his own bed to sit down again. Tries to figure out what he should do next. Dean won't go back to sleep – Sam knows this - and even though he would prefer Dean to keep sleeping, this is what he's been waiting for. To have a serious adult conversation.
Dean reaches over and turns on a light, causing both of them to squint. "Sam, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Dean."
"You sure? You've been acting kind of weird."
Talk about a role reversal. Sam has been trying his best not to worry Dean and this somehow seems to have worried his brother anyway.
"Cross my heart, hope to die, there's nothing wrong with me." Just to prove his point, Sam actually crosses his heart. His eyes have finally adjusted so he meets Dean's gaze. He tries to be casual. "You going back to sleep?"
Dean shrugs and doesn't try to hide the fact that he's wide awake. It's not like Sam is oblivious to the insomnia.
Sam tries to keep Dean talking. "I can't sleep either. Early breakfast?"
"Disturbingly early breakfast. You're sure there's nothing wrong?"
"No. I keep telling you. I'm fine. Let me check outside."
He gets out of bed and hurriedly pokes his head out the door. The Impala has disappeared under a pile of snow.
"Don't think we're driving anywhere today," he says. "I'll cook."
"Yes, again," says Sam.
"It's too early for food. Just go back to bed," Dean says in a tone that implies Sam should go back to sleep and leave his brother alone. Dean gets up and rummages around in his duffel before returning with a bottle of Tylenol. He swallows two pills with a glass of water he fetches from the kitchenette.
"You got a headache?" Sam asks.
Dean grimaces. "Yeah. I've been getting them at night."
"Sorry, I didn't know," says Sam.
"Jeez, Sam, it's okay. Tylenol fixes it. Go back to sleep."
Sam debates about arguing with him or ignoring him but irritating Dean even more isn't going to put him in the mood to talk. So Sam does as he's told, gets back under the covers where it seems toasty and warm, even if the room temperature isn't exactly frosty.
"Oh, dear God – what? Jesus, it's like you're five again with all of these questions."
Sam suddenly finds himself reticent. He's about to broach the subject of Dean's precarious mental health at four in the morning in a motel in Arkansas. Surely he could have better timing.
"You'd tell me if you weren't feeling okay, right? I mean you'd tell me if you were really in a bad place..." Sam winces at the sound of his own voice because he sounds exactly like the five-year-old Dean has just accused him of being.
Dean snaps at him. "I keep telling you there's nothing wrong. Let it go."
Sam throws back the covers and sits up again. He's going to have to be the bigger person, and it strikes him that he hasn't exactly proven to his brother in the past two years that he actually gives a damn. Trust has been beaten out of Dean long ago by everyone, including his little brother. Sam knows he's going to have earn that trust back. Sam knows that Father Jack is right. Getting back to being a decent person is about helping other people. Not himself. Others.
"I think you're depressed." There. He's said it. Just put it right out there and Dean can do what he likes with it.
"What?" Dean manages to simultaneously sound insulted, alarmed and suspicious.
"I said, I think you're depressed. As in major depression. Like, I think you need a doctor," repeats Sam for emphasis and he feels like he's beating his brother with a plank of wood.
"Where did this come from? I mean... Jesus. What the fuck, Sammy?"
"Look, we both know there's something going on. I can see it, Dean. You hardly eat, and most of the time you just lie around on the bed of whatever motel room we're in and watch TV. The only time I see you move is on an actual case. You're losing weight, you're in a pissy mood most of the time. I'm really concerned."
Dean seems flabbergasted by the outburst and tries for a joke. "That sounded suspiciously like a Hallmark moment."
"I'm serious," says Sam. Then realizes he's getting that edge to his voice that says he's going to turn the whole conversation into an argument for no particular reason. In about five minutes Dean is going to get even more steamed and take exception to his tone and then Sam will ramp it up until they're both shouting at each other. He inhales, slowly exhales and tells himself to remain calm. "Okay, let me see if I can explain this... I've realized that you've been struggling for months, probably even since last year or maybe even the year before and I was just too caught up with Ruby and everything else to see it. And you know, I kind of went through the motions and asked you if you were okay when Pam died, and Ellen and Jo – but you said you were fine and I never pushed it. But I'm going to push it now because I can't make up for not being there for you. What I can do, is say that I'm sorry and that you shouldn't feel like the responsibility of looking after me and the whole world rests on your shoulders alone."
It was the longest speech to come out of his mouth since his stint on a High School debating team.
His brother doesn't answer. He just stands up and marches to the bathroom, arms stiffly by his side. Sam hears the door lock behind him.
Oh, shit. What has he done?
Dean can't breathe. He can't breathe or think or do anything except stand in the bathroom and shake and he thinks he's finally having a melt down. Sam has had the audacity to name the thing he's been trying to ignore and the shock of hearing the word is the final straw on the camel's back.
Sam has seen past his attempts at denial. In Dean's addled brain, this amounts to a declaration of just how much of a loser he really is. Of just how far he's fallen from a state of being the big-brother-that-takes-care-of-everything to pitiful failure.
He thinks that this is unfair. He's been trying really hard to keep himself together. He's kept making jokes and trying to smile because his skin is a dam and underneath is an ocean of despair so vast, he thinks he's going to drown. The emotions feel bigger than him, they feel like they aren't him. He's one hundred percent certain that if he loses control, he'll start crying and he's never going to stop. Literally never stop. And who wants to see that? No one. Not his father, not Sammy, not Bobby. That's not what guys do, it wasn't what men do. No way is it what hunters do. It would be the final pathetic act that would make Sam turn away in disgust.
"Shake it off, son," says John Winchester. His father's words continue to loop around in his brain like elevator music.
He clutches the side of the sink with his right hand. His headache hasn't left and he feels sick. Again. Half the time he's not hungry and half the time he's nauseous.
He's sick of being sick, sick of sucking it up, sick of his stupid destiny, sick of going through the motions. Sick of knowing that his two choices are agreeing to be an angel condom or dying in some crappy way that sticks him back in hell. He isn't going to say 'yes' to Michael because he's terrified of losing control again. Terrified of being trapped inside his own brain, subject to the whims of an archangel. Way too much like his time in hell. If Jimmy's reactions and story were anything to go by after he temporarily got rid of Castiel, it isn't exactly a fun ride. As to the hell thing, he's certain that a binding contract is, well, binding. He doesn't see the angels bothering with a rescue plan when the Apocalypse is over.
He doesn't want this way of life any more. Doesn't want to be a hunter, doesn't want to be part of some bigger plan of saving people. He doesn't want his little brother to have to deal with a marriage proposal from Lucifer. He wants a wife and kids and football games and a stupid office job. He wants his biggest concern to be a missing form or a lack of completed paperwork. He wants to meet Sam for beers on the weekend, and go to ball games and he wants them to be thrilled with a mundane, ordinary life.
There's nowhere to go, there's nothing he can do. He's just so damn tired and he can't ever rest, can't get away, can't feel happy. Dean feels like he's dead already, his body just refuses to accept the fact.
He thinks that maybe if he looks at it logically, he might figure out what to do. His choices are to say 'yes' to an archangel and maybe never, ever be free again. Wind up locked into his own little angelic prison cell where he will go complete and totally insane. Or he can go to hell, get over his moral objection to torturing souls and just get with the program. If you're a team player in hell, they leave you alone to do what you want. There's the whole morally repugnant aspect, and the problem of eventually turning into a demon himself but - he'd sort of be happy, sort of be okay. Wouldn't he?
He hears Sam rattling at the door.
"Dean, if you don't open the door, so help me, I'm coming in."
Whatever. He looks at the mirror and the reflection looking back at him and he knows it's not him any more. It's stranger Dean. The one he sends out into the world so everyone thinks he's normal. Or what ever passes for normal in the Winchester universe.
Except he's never been normal. Any hopes of normal went up in flames along with his childhood house and his mother. It's been bludgeoned into submission by his father's pig-headed need for revenge. It's been buried by the burden of responsibility for Sam and the world.
His knees connect with the cold tiles of the bathroom floor and he wonders how he managed to lose his footing. If he's going to make a choice, he needs to do it now because Sam is proficient at lock picking and he's probably going to be in the room in about two minutes flat.
Dean looks at the knife he's holding in his hand. He took the knife into the bathroom with him. Held it flat against his left leg, away from Sam's eye line and here he is, the spur of the moment action suddenly big and important and it's decision time. Sam is thudding at the bathroom door with force and Dean has enough knowledge of human anatomy to know that his two choices are his inner thigh, or his inner arm. Severe the artery and in three minutes he's thoroughly dead and Sam isn't going to be able to do squat. Part of him knows that he would literally be leaving a mess for his brother to clean up. He knows Sam would be alone again, that he promised they would never separate, that they'd figure out what to do. But he also knows that their current mess is due to his actions in hell.
He's just so damn confused. He wants the pain to stop and he'll do anything to make it stop.
He wonders if Castiel's hugely effective Enochian etch-a-sketch on his ribs means that when he dies, neither angel or demon will find him. For him that's a ray of hope right there – oblivion. That would be good.
"Dean! Answer me!" It's Sam again. Sounding very, very worried. He's twisting the door handle like he's trying to yank it off the frame.
And yet, Dean can't do it. Can't seem to make that one quick stab to his femoral artery that will make everything okay because it's always about Sam. Sam this, Sam that, Sam gets the last of the cereal, Sam shouldn't have to mop up gallons of blood from the floor.
The door bursts open and Dean has a moment to think, "Crap" before Sam covers the two feet between them, wrenches the knife out of his hands, throws the weapon into the bathtub and drags him kicking and screaming out into the main room.
For some reason Dean is incredibly fucked off that Sam has seen fit to interrupt the one item Dean put down on his To Do List.