The glass on the floor was soaked in whiskey, and he stepped carefully over the pieces. Furniture and food was strewn about the room, and many things were broken. He held a bag of frozen carrots to his face, wincing as the goose egg over his brow throbbed.
He made his way across the floor, barefoot. Their shoes had been lost in the fight, and he had no idea where they had gotten to. Dean had taken off in the car, leaving him stranded; the police might show, what with all of the noise they'd been making.
Something scratched inside the walls and startled him, and he stepped on a piece of glass.
The cut burned as the alcohol seeped into it. At least it won't get infected, he thought, stepping out into the grass in the planter in front of the motel. That's something, I guess. He felt for the first aid kit in his pocket, grateful that it hadn't fallen out.
He glanced around the parking lot at the old cars. Nothing moved apart from a few moths around the dim light of the motel sign, and he was digging in his pocket for his phone when he saw it.
It was across the highway. The tail end of it was highlighted by a flickering streetlamp. Sam sighed, bracing himself for the pain, and not just the kind in his foot.
He made it across walking on tiptoe, settling back onto his feet when he reached the grass. The feel of it against the soles of his feet was comforting – earthy - and he hadn't felt it in a long time. Not since heaven, he thought, but it didn't bring a smile to his lips the way it usually did. It stirred something in him, something he'd been hoping would stay put for a while, and he stopped and leaned against the car, closing his eyes and breathing deep.
Dean really is so much better at this sort of thing, he mused. He's rough, but he can always lighten the load. It came so easily to him, it seemed to Sam, making everything better. There wasn't a day, or even a moment that passed that Dean didn't fix, make easier for him. No matter how awful things were. No matter how bleak they seemed.
And Dean made it hard to reciprocate. Every time Sam tried, in all their years together, Dean had kept the worst of it from him. But the worst would only be kept for so long, and now it was over Dean's head, drowning him. It was finally too much. Sam's eyes stung.
No, he told himself. Not this time.
He touched the goose egg on his head and his eyes stopped their stinging, at least for the moment. He opened his eyes and looked around. Dean had to be nearby. He never left the Impala alone for too long.
He didn't answer.
Sam walked further into the grassy clearing, squinting as he passed out of the glow of the street lamp.
The moon was only a slim crescent, but the stars were out in force, blanketing the sky.
He passed the tree line, and was about to call again when he heard it. A soft sound, some kind of moan.
His back was against the base of a tree. He was barefoot, like Sam, and a bottle of whiskey rested beside his knee. It was chilly, but Dean had no jacket, just a T-shirt and his necklace. He was singing softly, and his voice was rough with alcohol, among other things.
Sam approached tentatively, not wanting to make any noise or startle him into another outburst. One right hook to the face from Dean was all he could take in one day.
"…play us a tune…"
He sat down beside him, resting his head against the tree as well. Dean's gaze was fixed on the sky.
"…out of this gloom…"
"You been working out? I think you broke my forehead."
"…make it snappy…"
He was terribly out of tune, his voice breaking at every line, and somehow that just made the whole thing even worse. His voice had taken on their father's Midwestern drawl, the way it did when he was really in the hole. Sam's eyes started to sting again, so he sat forward and rested his elbows on his knees.
He sighed. "It's been two days, Dean," he said. "You haven't eaten, or slept, or anything. You can't keep this up, man. You're acting like you did after Dad. You hit me then, too, remember?"
"…make us all laugh…"
"We should go back to the hotel," Sam said. "Get some sleep, you know?"
"…we wouldn't have known you…"
"And then we can go find Dick, and-"
Dean stopped abruptly. He turned to Sam, and for a moment Sam was afraid he'd start swinging again.
"You remember that time, Sammy?"
This was bad. Dean would always take the joker's way out when it came to this stuff; he deflected Sam until they stopped talking about whatever god awful thing was eating him at the time. But now there were no jokes, no denials, no evasive platitudes. Sam wasn't quite sure what to do.
"We were outside of Grand Junction, tracking a vamp, you 'member?"
"And you said…you said we should stop, you know, because the sky was so clear, and it was such a nice night, and the vamp wasn't coming back to that house until morning anyway? And we sat there, on the car, and watched the stars all night, you know?"
Oh, God, Sam thought.
"Do you r-remember, Sammy?" His voice wobbled like three-legged table.
"I remember," he said. "But Dean-"
"That was a good night."
"Yeah," Sam said, leaning back against the tree, resigned. "It was."
"I think about that place, sometimes," Dean continued. "Remember that phillip joint just across the highway? Real peach of a cashier girl?"
"Yep," Sam said with a smile. "Name was Elia, I think?"
"That's right." He sighed. "I remember thinking, if I could have anything I wanted, you know, I'd just stay here, banging Elia and downing beers and looking up at the stars with you at night, you know? I just…"
He trailed off.
Sam took another deep breath, trying to keep himself from shouting again. His hands were shaking as hard as his lips. Dean was falling apart, coming undone at the seams, for real, and it was dawning on Sam what that could mean.
"I…I…the first time you died…"
"Shut up, Sam!" Dean rolled away from the tree and tried to stand. He couldn't make it, so he settled for crawling away, toward the middle of the field.
Sam's mouth snapped shut. He's just hurting. He breathed in deep through his nose, trying to keep his own emotions under control. Dean was about to lose his, and a small part of Sam was angry at him for it. That part of him wanted his big brother back. The one who could fix all this.
Dean rolled onto his side and then onto his back, until he lay spread eagled in the grass.
"Fuck, my feet hurt," Dean said.
Sam walked out to where he was, the grass rustling softly under his feet. He sat down beside Dean's legs, pulling the first aid kit out of his pocket.
"My feet hurt, Sammy…"
"I got it, Dean." He opened the box and pulled out the gauze and scissors. "I got you."
"After…after Jake stabbed you and we were at Bobby's-" His voice finally broke completely, and his feet shook in Sam's hands. Sam was as gentle as he could be, treating the cuts before wrapping the bandage around Dean's foot. Dean sniffled and shook harder, and Sam rubbed the top of his foot, unsure of what else to do. Dean needed this, and the last thing he wanted was to make Dean uncomfortable.
"And after Dad, and C-Cas, and Jessica, a-and even Madison, I thought…I-I thought to myself t-that w-we should have just stayed in Grand Junction in the f-fucking field looking at the fucking sky S-Sammy we sh-should have just s-stayed there…"
Sam let go of Dean's foot and walked around him and sat above his head, cross legged. He moved forward until Dean's head rested on his ankles. Dean didn't seem to notice that anything had happened; his eyes were still fixed on the sky, but his chest was heaving and breathing came in short, shallow bursts. His tears leaked onto Sam's ankles where his pants had rolled up to his calves.
"W-We could have d-done something else, S-Sammy, we could have d-done so much other s-shit…"
"I know, Dean."
"I'm s-so sorry, S-Sammy…"
Sam put a hand on Dean's chest, rubbing in small circles. "It's okay."
"And now…" He looked confused, like he'd forgotten what he was going to say. I've really got to start hiding the whiskey, he thought. "And n-now B-Bobby's g-gone and the world's gonna die and I'm t-tired and…and…"
His words trailed into intelligibility, broken by Dean's gasps for breath and his remarkable inebriation. And yet, Sam found that his own anxiety was dissipating. Dean was finally letting it out, for once in his life, and he found himself believing that they might make it through this after all, with their collective sanity intact.
He stroked Dean's hair absently, and time passed. When the chill started to bite through his jacket, Sam realized that Dean was asleep for the first time since they'd left the hospital. As if on cue, Dean's eyes snapped open. He looked surprised to see Sam sitting above him.
He grunted. "Where the hell are we?"
Sam grinned. "In a much better place than we were before, let's just say that."
"Holy shit," Dean said. "I can't even fucking see."
"I'm not surprised. It's a wonder you're still alive. We literally have no more alcohol anywhere."
Dean sat up and almost fell back down. Sam held him up by his shoulder. "Not even the emergency bottle?"
Dean grunted again, then touched his face. His hand came away wet. "Was I-"
"It's okay, Dean." It was a good thing it was so dark out. Dean wouldn't want to be looked at. "You got hurt, but I fixed you up."
He looked down at his foot. "How'd this happen?"
Sam raised his eyebrows. "Your friend Jack Daniels did it."
"Come on," Sam said, standing. He took Dean's hand.
"Hey, save it for the health club, buddy." Dean tried to stand on his own, but collapsed into Sam.
"I am a professional." He wrapped an arm around Sam's neck and did his best to put one foot in front of the other. "I taught you to drink, don't forget that."
"Yeah, well, it's time for you to retire," Sam said. Something on the ground behind them caught the starlight. Sam bent down to pick it up. It was Bobby's silver flask. "You bring this out here?" Sam hadn't seen it when Dean had crawled away from the tree.
Dean took it, and even in the dim light, Sam could see his face fall. "I…"
"Forget it. Let's just go." They started back for the motel.
"Hey…" The motel came into Dean's view. He grinned like the drunken fool he was. "Hey, Sammy, you think I hooked up with any chicks?" His grin faded. "I don't remember a damn thing."
"I hope not," Sam said. He nodded his head at the motel where several middle aged hookers were gathered around a van. "Pickings are pretty slim around here."