Title: Here at the End of All Things
Prompt: From a prompt by vail_kagami at sharp_teeth. Dean's constant drinking comes back to bite him in the ass when he does something he actually has good cause to feel guilty about for once: he drives under the influence and very nearly runs over a child. But the child is lucky: Sam pushed him/her out of the way.
Characters: Dean, Sam
Disclaimer: Nothing recognizable is mine.
Warnings: Aaaaangst! Also, FIC SPOILER AFTER THIS: Major Character Death.
Neurotic Author's Note #1: I've been off my game writing-wise lately. Hopefully this will change soon.
Neurotic Author's Note #2: I am sorry for how depressing this fic is. It didn't want to be anything else.
Neurotic Author's Note #3: This is a lot more angst than it is horror. In fact, I think I failed at the whole horror thing entirely this time around.
"You can go ahead and say 'I told you so," Dean tells Sam once he's stumbled back into their motel room ahead of him. They both pretend they don't hear his voice break on the words.
The door swings shut on its own with an audible click, but he can't muster the energy to make sure the deadbolt is drawn. He's not sure there's much point anymore, anyway. It's still warm for the season, but his teeth are chattering and he's pretty sure he might freeze to death right here on this crappy green and brown motel bedspread, and it would serve him right. It's far less than he deserves, he thinks miserably. When he looks up, Sam is perched at the foot of the bed, watching him.
"Saying 'I told you so' is more your thing than mine," Sam says, and it's true. "I gave it up for Lent, anyway. Go take a shower, I don't want you going into shock. And, uh, you know. You need to clean up."
Dean moves to scrub a hand over his mouth, realizes that there's blood congealing on his fingers, wipes his hands on his jeans instead. They're already ruined anyway. He doesn't move, doesn't want to wash any of this off him. He thinks he gets what Lady MacBeth was going on about in the play his ninth-grade English teacher made them all act out. It makes sense now. A shower's not going to help.
"Dean, come on. I need to make sure you're okay. Take a shower, get some sleep, all right?"
The cheap overhead light buzzes and flickers as Sam slides closer to him on the bed. Dean shivers harder, letting his head drop, eyes closing, elbows resting on his knees so that his hands hang loosely between his legs. He wonders if it's possible to freeze to death indoors if it's still the fall and the room isn't actually below freezing, and the thought isn't an unpleasant one. His brother stops short, hand hovering a few inches above his knee, and Dean is absurdly grateful because he doesn't know if he can stand having Sam touch him at all right now. His stomach performs a flip-flop, but he knows pertinently that there is nothing at all left in there to throw up. All the contents of his stomach –most of it alcohol if he's honest with himself– is currently adorning the side of the road not a hundred yards away from the bar where Dean spent the better part of his evening.
"Please, Dean. Just… if you can't do it for yourself, do it for me, okay?" Sam always cheats, the fucker.
"Fuck." He doesn't look up. He doesn't know how Sam can stand to look at him, can barely stand to be in his own skin. "Yeah, okay, Sammy. Okay."
He doesn't remember how he manages to stumble into the bathroom, but he must, because the next thing he knows he's clumsily stripping off his clothes, the shower running hot against the tile, spattering the floor where the shower curtain doesn't quite reach all the way across the tub. He doesn't bother adjusting the temperature –his hands are shaking too badly to turn the tap anyway, he reasons, letting the scalding spray turn his skin an angry shade of red as he stands under it, not bothering with soap as he watches the last faint traces of crimson swirl down the drain. So much blood, he thinks, and shakes his head, as though he has a hope in hell of erasing from his mind the image of that kid's terrified face illuminated by the Impala's headlights. That thought alone brings him to his knees, dry-heaving convulsively against the stained porcelain of the tub, one arm braced against the wall, the other wrapped tightly around his middle. It's a good thing the water's so hot, he thinks a little hysterically, because that way he can tell himself he's not crying.
The water has long since turned cold when he makes his way unsteadily back into the room. Sam is on the bed closest to the wall, waiting, and the sight of him is enough to rob Dean of what little composure he's managed to regain. His clothes are a write-off, not that it matters. He'll have to burn them no matter what. Can't leave any of it behind.
"You should put down the salt lines," Sam reminds him, and Dean shrugs.
"I should've let you," he says, keeping his face averted. "Should've let you drive."
"It's okay, Dean."
His throat threatens to close up, because he doesn't fucking want Sam's forgiveness. This is something that can't be absolved, and fuck Sam for thinking it can be. "How is this okay, Sam? How? Tell me, because I sure as fuck can't see it!"
For a moment Sam doesn't answer, and Dean feels a surge of perverse vindication well up in his chest. Sam's been after him for weeks about how much he's been drinking, and, fuck, Dean doesn't even want to start thinking about all the times he insisted he was fine. All the times he twisted things around so that Sam became half-convinced he was imagining things, that the only thing wrong was him, and that probably makes Dean the shittiest human being on the planet. Because he was drowning and doing it to himself and all he did was lash out at the one person who was trying to pull him out.
"Give me your keys," Sam had said, hand outstretched. It feels like it was a thousand years ago now. "I'm not letting you drive home like this."
"I'm fine, Sam." Second verse, same as the first. The song remains the same.
"You're not fine, you're drunk. You're not thinking straight, and you shouldn't be driving."
"I'm not. What would you know about thinking straight anyway? Come back and talk to me when you stop having conversations with the imaginary Devil in your head."
It had been a shitty thing to say, and he'd known it even before Sam had jerked back, expression shuttered. "If that's not a positive sign you're blitzed, I don't know what is."
"Don't be stupid, I've barely had a couple of drinks. Nothing I haven't handled before."
Sam had snorted. "Right. Those couple of shots are on top of the handful of beers you had before, and the fifth you drank this morning before you were even out of bed –yes, I saw that, you're not nearly as stealthy as you think–" he'd snapped when that little revelation startled Dean into looking his brother in the eye. "And I don't even want to know how many times you refilled your flask today. No," he'd put up a hand when Dean opened his mouth. "I actually don't want to know. Give. Me. Your. Keys."
"Fuck you," Dean had snapped, and when Sam had insisted he'd rounded on him and before either of them quite realized what was happening his fist had connected with Sam's jaw and sent him reeling backward. "Shit, Sam…" Dean had started forward, but Sam had held up his hand again, forestalling him.
"You know what? Never mind. You want to sit here and destroy your liver and push me away, that's fine. I'm going to walk back to the motel. God knows I'm safer on foot than in the car with you right now. You come on back when you're ready to fucking talk, Dean, instead of self-destructing."
He'd picked himself up off the floor, waved off the bartender, who looked like she was about five seconds away from calling the cops –and that's exactly what they need, the fuzz on their tails just a couple of weeks after they've been declared officially dead for the second time. Or it might be the third, he's lost count by now. Sam had stomped out the front door, slamming it behind him, and Dean had taken refuge in another shot of whisky, wondering just what it was about him that made Sam constantly want to fucking abandon him. Ten minutes later he'd told himself he was being a fucking ridiculous drama queen. This was fixable, all he had to do was go after Sam and apologize, and they'd be good again.
It had been raining, then. Dean is pretty sure the rain has stopped now, but he can't bring himself to look out the window at the darkened parking lot. The Impala is out there, and he doesn't want to see what she looks like now. He'd driven too fast, even if it hadn't been raining, intent on catching up with Sam. It's not like he'd never broken a speed limit or two before, after all, and he'd always been in control, always. Never wavered once.
The kid came out of nowhere.
Dean doesn't even know what the hell a kid was doing out there on that stretch of road at that hour, but there he was, frozen in place, eyes so wide they seemed to swallow his whole face, ghostly-white in the beam of the Impala's headlights. Dean hit the brakes and the Impala fishtailed on the wet asphalt, out of control and hurtling inexorably toward the kid, until Dean spotted movement out of the corner of his eye, a flash of denim and brown hair, and Sam –thank fuck, Sam– was there, snatching the kid up into his arms and throwing him out of the way, and the car kept skidding, spiralled right off the road and onto the shoulder where it came to a halt with a sickening crunch against a rotting fence post.
Dean's still freezing even now that he's not soaked through with rainwater, shivering so hard he figures he must look like he has a palsy of some kind. Sam has gotten up from where he was sitting on the far bed, the bedspread still unwrinkled, but mercifully he stops just short of touching Dean again.
"Hey, the kid's okay. You saw him, right? He ran off. He's fine, just scared and shaken up," Sam says softly, and he's standing so close that Dean can feel his breath cool against the skin at the back of his neck. He shudders again, and Sam keeps his tone low and soothing, like maybe Dean's the scared kid in all of this. "It's going to be okay, Dean."
He tears himself away from Sam, sinks slowly onto his bed, resting his head in his hands. "I'll stop," he promises, and Sam doesn't have to ask what he's talking about.
"Okay. Okay, good. But… not right now," Sam tells him, and Dean must not be able to hide his surprise because Sam huffs a nervous laugh and rubs the back of his neck. "I know, right? After all that. But… this is bad. This is bad, Dean, and it's not something you can quit cold turkey. The withdrawal can literally kill you. We… you need to get professional help. Like, from a clinic. Please," he says a little desperately when Dean starts to shake his head. "Please don't let this kill you. Promise me you won't."
Dean shakes his head again. "I don't want to do this," he says, despite how pathetic he sounds, even when what he really means is 'I don't want to do this alone.'
"I know." Sam sits next to him on the bed, so close Dean can almost imagine that they're touching. "I know, but you have to. We'll call Bobby in the morning, see if he knows anyone."
"Bobby always knows someone," Dean says into his hands. He doesn't so much lie down as let himself fall sideways onto the bed, burying his face in the pillow.
"That's what I'm counting on."
He senses rather than sees Sam move closer on the queen-sized bed. Normally it would be a tight fit, but Dean doesn't move except to yank the bedspread awkwardly over him, doesn't bother to check if he manages to get Sam covered too. Sam can take care of himself this time, he thinks, curling into a ball and shivering. The overhead light flickers again, fizzles out, and in the dark it's easy to imagine ice forming on the walls, icicles hanging from the ceiling.
Dean never thought he'd manage to sleep, but the next thing he knows sunlight is streaming in through the dingy window. He struggles upright, scrubbing at his face with his right hand, catches sight of Sam standing by the front door, eyes trained on him.
"You... you okay, Sammy?" His flask is by the bed, and by now it's habit just to reach for it, to feel the burning at the back of his throat. For the first time it occurs to him to wonder if the fact that his hands stop shaking almost right away is physical or all in his head.
Sam nods. "Not seeing Lucifer, if that's what you're asking. You going to call Bobby?"
Dean drains the remnants of his flask, then shakes his head. "Not just yet, Sammy. There's, uh, there's something I gotta do first. But I promise I'll call right after. Swear to God."
He stuffs his bloody clothes into a plastic bag, pulls out a set that look like they're half-clean from his duffel, and refills his flask from the bottle he keeps at the bottom of his bag. There's no point in pretending now. Sam doesn't move from beside the door the whole time, trails after him silently into the parking lot, and stops short ten paces away from the Impala. Dean takes a deep breath, opens the driver's side door. It's only been a few hours, but the inside of the car still reeks of blood and just the faintest hints of the beginning of decay. Maybe that last part is just his imagination. He turns back to Sam.
"You, uh. You don't have to come with me for this. If you don't want to."
Sam shakes his head. "Better to make sure. Where do you want to do it?"
"You know I have to, right?" Dean doesn't answer directly.
Sam slides into the seat next to him and just sits there, hands in his lap, while Dean switches on the ignition. Neither of them turn to look at the backseat. It's risky, Dean knows, to do this in daylight, but he can't justify putting it off. It's not fair to do that, to keep Sam waiting. He resists the urge to close his eyes when he passes by the spot where the kid nearly died last night —this morning, even, it's only been a few hours, five tops— and sees the smear of blood on the blacktop. It looks impossibly large, even now, as he steps on the gas and puts as much distance between him and it as possible.
He drives for what feels like a really long time, pulls up in a clearing behind a large copse of trees. There's enough brushwood here to do the trick, he thinks. Sam sits on the hood of the Impala to watch him as he works, and this is the only time that he's not going to bitch at him for that. It's not like Sam's going to damage her paint job.
"I, uh, I'd offer to help, but..." Sam shrugs.
"It's fine. Keep watch for anything."
It's not fine, but Dean doesn't want help anyway. Keeping himself busy is the only thing he can think of to do anyway. The wood is wet, but he's got kerosene in the car, and he doesn't care that he's getting his hands scratched and filthy as he piles whatever kindling he can find together. If there's one thing Dad taught him well, it's how to build a good fire. A proper pyre. The sun is bright overhead when he finishes and his back is aching, sweat trickling along his hairline, but the day is still chilly, and he can feel the sweat that's pooling at the base of his spine beginning to cool.
Sam jumps down from his perch and comes to stand beside him. Dean's breath plumes in the air, and he shivers when Sam's hand brushes against his shoulder. "You could always take us to Bobby's," Sam offers gently. "Let him take care of this."
Dean shakes his head. "No. No, I won't... I can't do that to you. I'm just... I'm sorry."
"It's okay." Sam's touch is like ice. "I know you won't believe it for a long time, maybe not ever, but I promise, it's okay. I'm okay, Dean."
He cuffs at his eyes, knows he's just smearing more dirt on his face. "I don't know, Sammy. How can you be okay?"
Sam smiles. "I just am. Lucifer's gone, you know. And it doesn't hurt anymore. None of it. I could... I could stay. Just for a while. If you wanted."
Dean huffs a laugh that sounds more like a sob. "Don't tempt me. Don't tempt me, Sammy, because I swear to fucking God I will take you up on it and keep you until not even I recognize you. Is that what you want?"
Dean snorts. None of it feels real, even now. He pulls open the back door of the car, drags out the heavy tarp until it lands on the ground with a dull thump. He doesn't bother unwrapping the tarp —his mind refuses to call it a shroud— just drags the whole of it over to the pyre, hauls it up awkwardly, arranges it so that there's no danger of it rolling free. He can feel Sam watching him, even as he empties all of the kerosene in their supply over the whole.
"You should burn the clothes. The ones with the blood on them. Just in case. Don't want to leave it to chance, like that guy in the prison in Arkansas."
"Sam, do me a favour and don't talk about this like it's a case."
Dean takes a breath, pulls out his matchbook. "You, uh. You ready?"
Sam nods. "Are you?"
"Not even close."
"You're going to call Bobby after this, right?"
"I promised, didn't I?"
"Yeah. Okay." Sam pauses for a moment. "You think it'll happen right off? Like the others?"
"Only one way to find out."
"Sit with me?" Sam asks, as though Dean intended to do anything else.
The ground is wet from the rainfall, and water soaks into his jeans. Sam sits next to him on the trampled grass, and Dean finds that he doesn't even shiver anymore when his brother leans against him. His fingernails have turned blue, he notes idly, and he doesn't feel the flame when he strikes the first match and uses it to set the whole book alight. He tosses it onto the pyre, and the kerosene flares up instantaneously, the flames licking along the wet wood. He's used more than enough, though, he knows it.
He turns in time to see Sam disappear in a flicker of flames, doesn't so much as have the chance to open his mouth, let alone say anything. It's better this way, he tells himself, pulling out his newly-filled flask. He takes a sip, mindful of his promise. If nothing else, Dean Winchester honours his promises, and he told Sam he wouldn't let this kill him. He sits and stares at the fire, watching the flames rise, acrid smoke billowing into the clear blue autumn sky. There's nothing left to say, not after all this time, and maybe it's better this way. He drops the flask between his knees, knowing he's going to stay here until long after the fire has died out.
Maybe then he'll call Bobby, get started on keeping that promise.