Dean is drunk. Really drunk. Quoting-action-movies-in-different-voices-while-making-eyes-at-the-waitress-and-punching-Sam-repeatedly-in-the-leg drunk.

The bar was Dean's idea, of course. He claimed the cut on his arm from where the poltergeist had thrown him through a window that morning entitled him to a few drinks. Sam thinks if his arm had been amputated he just maybe would have deserved the six shots and seven beers and two violent green things Sam didn't even know how to pronounce. Maybe.

But Dean insisted and Dean drove and Dean poked and mocked Sam until he came in the bar too, and really, where else did Sam have to go? Back to the motel, to sit on his computer and research some hunt he didn't care about? To flick through Dad's journal and not find any hint as to where he might be right now? To lay on his bed and try not to picture Jess burning on the ceiling above him, mouth wide open in shock and eyes glaring with accusation?

No, Sam came into the bar. He had two beers, one sip of the noxious green mixture that nearly made his brain run out his nose, and watched Dean get sloppily, dramatically, gigglingly drunk.

It's because of Sam, he's sure of it. Part of it is punishment for the way Sam left him for California for the second time in their lives last week. Even though Sam had been gone for only a day and half this time— and he'd called Dean like three times during that day, and he'd come back and saved Dean's ass from being carved up by some freak-pagan version of the Wizard of Oz— he had seen the hurt in Dean's eyes when Sam told him he wanted to be left.

So yeah, part of this night is retribution for that, because Dean has always forgiven Sam when he runs away but he's totally not above puking on Sam's shoes to remind him how easy that forgiveness comes.

But part of this night is also a celebration, Dean's version of a victory dance over Sam's continued presence, over the fact that he came back and he's here and he's staying. And that's a safety net for Dean, because he knows Sam won't get shitfaced like him, and there's no way he'd let himself get this drunk without someone there to walk him out to the car and drive him back to the motel and put him to bed.

At least, God, Sam hopes he wouldn't. His skin goes cold despite the mild night and the heat of Dean's nearly comatose body draped over his right side as Sam guides him, stumbling, through the parking lot to the Impala. What did Dean do while Sam was at Stanford? Sam knows for a fact he wouldn't get this drunk with their Dad. It was an unspoken rule between all three Winchester men that when John drank, he drank alone. So had Dean practiced moderation in the years Sam wasn't there to hand him his jacket and apologize to the people he'd hit on/ragged on/tried to pickpocket? Or had Dean relied on the willing warmth in some girl's eyes to get him safely home? Or had 'safely home' been something he didn't much care about then?

Sam dumps Dean in the passenger seat and glares at him as if he can make Dean answer every one of his unasked questions about those four years right now, even though Dean's eyes are glazed over and he's humming the Knight Rider theme song, and Sam doubts he would like the answers very much, no matter when he got them.

So Sam drives them back to the motel, gets Dean inside, and lays him out on his bed. Dean doesn't throw up, but in the short walk from the car to the room he manages to get an almost superhuman amount of drool on Sam's shoulder. It's not on purpose, Sam's almost sure.

He takes off Dean's shoes and his jacket, mindful of his bandaged arm, and pushes at him until he can drag the sheet over his body. Dean mumbles something and rolls on his side, starting to snore slightly in the way he only ever does when he's drunk.

Sam withdraws and sits on the edge of his own bed, unable to help a small bite of jealousy as he watches his sleeping brother. He knows not being able to find their Dad is as rough on Dean as it is on him, if not worse because at least Sam has his anger and resentment to fall back on, while all Dean has is betrayal and his sense of hurt. Sam wants to punch both Dean and his Dad for allowing Dean to think this is all his fault.

But Dean is able to sleep tonight at least, with the aid of the several hundred gallons of liquor he consumed, while Sam expects to be up until dawn, if he even sleeps at all. The nightmares have been worse since they went back to Lawrence. Since he admitted to Dean and himself that there was something wrong with him. Something wrong with his mind. Now the nightmares are tinged with his Dad's voice rattling off coordinates that pull Sam away from a bleeding Jess and his mom whispering her apology and Dean climbing in the Impala and driving away, leaving Sam all alone in the dark on the side of the road. And every time Sam can't help but wonder which is a nightmare, and which is vision waiting to come true.

Dean snorts and shifts in his sleep and Sam settles back against his headboard, eyes open in the dark room, listening to his brother breathe. He missed this sound so much at Stanford; he had trouble sleeping then too. His first roommate huffed and wheezed in his sleep like he needed a respirator, his second snored like a freaken lawn mower. It wasn't until he moved in with Jess that Sam started feeling truly comfortable again at night, but even then her soft, near-silent breaths were more an acceptable absence of Dean's than a replacement.

The sound of Dean asleep is linked in Sam's mind with a feeling of safety, which is probably nine kinds of irrational and would give any psychiatrist a field day were Sam to mention it to them, but it's true. When they were kids, Dean wouldn't go to sleep if there was even the possibility of danger, and so Sam got accustomed to hearing those deep breaths as a cue for Everything is all right, nothing can hurt us now.

Logically, he knows it's not true anymore, that Dean isn't some infallible protector and he can be caught off-guard like anyone, especially on a night like tonight when Sam guesses a wendigo could smash through their motel room door and Dean wouldn't do much more than roll over. Yet Sam can't stop himself from feeling calmer the longer he listens to Dean breathe.

There's the urge, the tiny ridiculous urge, to crawl into Dean's bed and tuck himself against Dean's chest and let those strong, steady breaths banish the worries and doubts and terrors from his mind. But Sam's not six years old anymore, and he's not giving Dean that kind of blackmailing power, and he doubts they would both fit in the narrow twin bed anyway.

So Sam stays where he is, slouched against his headboard, watching the shadows on the wall vanish and reappear in the flood of headlights every time a car drives past on the road outside. He jumps when he hears his name because Dean didn't give him any warning at all. One second he's snoring and the next he's saying "Sammy" like there's something wrong.

"What?" Sam asks, not bothering to correct the nickname and realizing somewhat disconnectedly that he hasn't bothered to for some time now. "Do you need help getting to the bathroom?"

Dean makes a noise between a snort and a groan, and Sam thinks he's gone back to sleep, maybe fighting some dream of his own for all his protests that this life doesn't affect him. Sam just manages not to shout when a hand smacks him in the knee.

"Sammy," Dean says again, voice slurred and mushed by the pillow his face is buried in, but words somehow coming out clear. "Nightmare?"

"No, I didn't have have a nightmare," Sam murmurs back, trying to decide if he's gratified or annoyed at Dean's habitual big brother concern, manifesting even when Dean is too drunk to remember his own last name. "Go back to sleep."

"You go to sleep," Dean growls, and it's so petty and so Dean that Sam has to laugh.

"I'm not the one who drank my body weight at the bar tonight," he says. Dean grumbles something back that's unintelligible but definitely meant to be insulting. The hand on Sam's knee squeezes painfully and he yelps a bit in surprise.

"Dean!" Sam hisses, moving quickly towards annoyed now. "I'm fine, alright? Will you please just go back to sleep?"

"Can't with you pouting like…" Dean loses the second half of his sentence on a huge yawn, digging himself further into his bed. "It's starting to rub off on me… like cooties…"

"Well stop pinching me then!" Sam grabs Dean's arm by the wrist and flings it back towards Dean's bed. The back of Dean's own hand smacks him in the cheek and Dean flinches in surprise.

"I'm fine, Dean, really," Sam insists, his annoyance vanishing beneath a wave of fondness he would never admit to out-loud. "Go back to sleep. Please."

Dean mutters something that sounds suspiciously like "fine, my ass" but he obligingly nestles deeper under the covers and starts snoring again after only a few moments.

Sam realizes he's still wearing all his clothes including his boots, so he kicks them off and strips down to a t-shirt and his boxers before climbing under the covers on his own bed. The sheets are stiff and he's pretty sure the pillowcases are filled with nothing more than a washcloth each, but Sam's not really planning on going to sleep tonight anyway.

He lays on his side, facing the door and facing Dean, and with the tiny two foot space between the beds he can almost imagine they're sharing the same space, Dean's chest rising and falling just inches from Sam's own.

"I'm fine," Sam repeats to the darkness, willing away the nightmares, the visions, the clutching guilt and crushing rage that have plagued him for the past six months. "I'm fine."

And with Dean's breath filling the room, loud and even and unchanging, Sam can almost believe it.