Hangover

(Or Whiskey Alt. Ending's Ending Wasn't Actually an Ending Because You People Keep Giving Me Ideas)

XXX

'Dean,' John's voice said seriously, a mound of guilt and excuses shoved into one word. The voice mail made him sound small and tinny but there was no hiding the hangover in his tone. 'Dean, look, I know things... got out of hand last night. I'm sorry. Tell Sam I'm sorry. Just... call me back when you get this. Tell me when you're coming home.'

Dean knew his father well. He could picture him now, at the same table he sat at last night, head in his hands with his phone tucked between ear and shoulder, listening as his call went straight to voice mail, knowing that it meant Dean had purposely turned his phone off, turned Sam's phone off too and hidden it in the depths of his duffel bag. The kid didn't need John's hungover apologies right now, maybe not ever. How could John think that 'I'm sorry' would be enough? He barely even sounded regretful, just tired and worn, like this is just one more thing in his already hectic life that he now has to deal with.

Dean leant against the sink, listening to the beep that signalled the end of John's message. That was all. Things got out of hand and he's sorry, when are they coming home?

What home? Dean thought bitterly.

The bathroom was filling with steam, the running shower covering the voice mail from Sam, just in case he was listening, though Dean doubted it. Sam was... preoccupied.

He sighed, switching the phone off and setting it down on the vanity. He stripped off and climbed into the shower, his excuse for finding a private moment to listen. He wasn't sure if Sam would even notice if he stepped out of the bathroom un-showered, but the hot water did feel good. He did nothing last night that should leave him feeling this drained and stiff, just yelled and packed and tried to comfort, but last night... He wished he could wash it away, that the hot running water could do something about his drunken father, could fix Sammy's black eye and buzzed hair, or at least give him a clue as to what to do next.

(What the hell was he going to do next?)

He shut off the water. He had no idea what they'd do, but Sam didn't need a plan. The kid needed his big brother to be confident, he needed to know that he was going to be looked after. Whatever happened next, Dean could at least do that.

He dried off and dressed quickly, breathing in the humid air. It made his chest feel damp and heavy. He wiped the layer of condensation from the screen of his phone and shoved it in his back pocket where it sat silent and waiting to record any other useless apologies from John.

He exited the bathroom in a billowing gust of steam, something he'd always thought looked cool but he took no pleasure from it now, barely even noticed it. Sam was where Dean had left him, sitting at the dangerously wobbly table the motel had come equipped with, absently swirling his spoon in the now-soggy bowl of cereal Dean had instructed him to eat before he stole away to the bathroom just to hear Dad's voice. His father had always been a source of stability – as much as their lives allowed – and now he was gone. They were alone.

Sam was doing far too much thinking for Dean's liking, he could see it in the small crease of the kid's forehead, the faraway look in his eyes. He took a deep breath, preparing to throw himself into the line of fire just so that Sam wouldn't have to be by himself with his thoughts. They had barely talked last night. Exhausted and stunned, they'd fallen into bed and lay awake in silence for hours, pretending not to know that the other was awake too.

"So how you doing, kid?" Dean asked finally, dropping into the spare chair on the other side of the table. He rested an elbow on the surface and the table rocked to the left, a slosh of milk leaping over the side of Sam's bowl.

Sam looked up at him without raising his head. His eye had darkened dramatically overnight, swollen fat and a deep purple-red colour that reminded Dean of a ripe plum. He was wearing the black beanie that Dean gave him last night, pulled down the back of his neck and over his forehead – he didn't take it off even to go to bed - and an over-sized black hoodie that had once been Dean's, before he hit his growth spurt. He huddled in it, seeming far smaller than he had any right to seem, and basically looking like the most depressing thing Dean had ever seen.

"'m okay," Sam mumbled, eyes turning back to his cereal. He used a finger to push the spilled bit of milk around on the tabletop, making patterns in it before he wiped it up with his sleeve.

"How's your face feel?" This was hard. Much harder than their usual post-hunt injury checks, because this wasn't post-hunt. This was post-whatthefuckjusthappened?

Sam kind of shrugged, this half-hearted, one-shouldered thing, like he didn't know or care and couldn't find the energy to figure it out. Dean wondered what John was doing now, if he was sitting at the table at the motel across town, hungover and dejected in the same position as Sam. John, who had never raised more than his voice towards either of them before now, no matter how angry.

Dean cleared his throat, "Did he... are you hurt anywhere else?"

He should have asked last night, but his mind had been blanking on anything other than the possibility of leaving Dad forever. It was so... final.

He thought Sam was going to shrug again, the kid started to, but then seemed to change his mind and pushed back the sleeves of his hoodie, extending his arms across the table so Dean could see the bruises around his wrists.

Gently, Dean picked up one of Sam's hands, then the other, turning them to get a thorough look at the damage. The bruises didn't go all the way round, one wrist only had a small-ish mark on the top, but they were dark grey and hideously shaped like John's fingers, pressed into Sammy's skin.

"I didn't mean to make him so mad," Sam said, eyes on his wrists. His voice still sounded dull, stunned out of emotion. He looked at his wrists in a way that made Dean think that the kid couldn't quite believe what he was seeing. Dean knew the feeling.

He rubbed the back of his neck with one hand. Of course Sammy would take the burden of guilt on himself. "Sam, it wasn't... you didn't do anything to..." He broke off, struggling to find the right words to explain, but he didn't understand himself. "Dad was drunk." He decided to stick with what he did know. "This isn't your fault."

"Shoulda kept my mouth shut," Sam mumbled, pulling his arms back and tucking his hands into his sleeves. "Shoulda learnt the exorcism."

It was almost like he was talking to himself, refusing eye contact, off in his head trying to figure out how and what and why.

Of course, Dean was thinking along the same track, mainly what. What was he going to do now? He left with sixty bucks in his pocket, a wallet with a couple fake I.D.s and one credit card, their phones, a bag of clothes and a traumatized kid. What was he meant to do with that?

"Sammy." He shook his head. "Jesus, Sam, this-" he waved a hand vaguely at his brother, "-is not fucking acceptable. No matter what you did. This wasn't you. It was Dad. Mom's anniversary makes him..."

It had never made him do this before. Sam nodded anyway, as if he understood.

They sat for a moment in silence, aside from the sound of Sam's spoon scraping back and forth against the bottom of his bowl. He hadn't taken a single bite, as far as Dean could tell.

Eventually, Sam took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh. He raised a hand as if to brush hair out of his eyes, then stopped and let his hand fall back to his lap. He dropped his spoon in his bowl with a clatter and a soggy squish, and pushed it away.

"I'm going to have a shower," he mumbled, pushing himself up in sudden decision.

"There's heaps of hot water," Dean offered, like that was something that could make up for all the shitty things that had happened. Sam didn't offer anything in reply, just riffled through the duffel bag until he found a change of clean clothes and then disappeared into the bathroom.

Dean sat at the table and wished that the running water was loud enough to smother the sound of his kid brother's sobs.

XXX

After an aimless day of fuzzy motel TV, gas station snacks and silence, Sam fell asleep and Dean retreated to the bathroom to check is phone.

Tonight's message was so different from this mornings that it was nearly hard to believe that they were both from the same person. John was intoxicated beyond a shadow of a doubt, his voice mail loud and angry. Dean had expected it, once he'd seen that the call time was marked as a quarter past eight but it was still a shock to hear his father suddenly roar out of the phone.

He sat down on the side of the tub, legs feeling kind of weak as the gravity of everything sunk in a little bit more, as he imagined his father pacing up and down, flailing his arms to emphasize his point to an empty room.

'He doesn't understand! This is more important than Halloween parties! This is Mary – my Mary... he doesn't even know her! Dean, you know. You know, Dean. It's dangerous, Sam needs to be prepared. I only ever try to keep you boys safe. Don't I keep you safe? ...need to keep you safe. This, this, is a lesson. If he listened, if he trained like he's supposed to, this wouldn't have happened! I didn't want it to happen! Dean, Dean, you know..."

Dean didn't know. He didn't know what he was supposed to know, or what he was going to do or how he was going to make this better. He just knew that his father was wasted and he couldn't bring Sam back to that.

He sighed, pressing the button to delete the message, making a mental note to delete any on Sam's cell too. Tomorrow morning there would probably be another voice mail, another hungover message from a man who would swear he was sorry and promise to do better.

But Dean could only trust him as far as his next drink, and that wasn't far enough.

END