What Matters Most
Something in Sam snaps that day: the day Dean disappears with Dick Roman in a blast of black goo.
On that day, Sam gets behind the wheel of the Impala and drives.
He stops sometimes to sleep, curled up in the car at the side of the road.
With Leviathan Headquarters and Dick Roman gone, the monsters scatter, and Sam finds himself wandering into diners and ordering the kind of crappy food Dean loved best, which Sam's never really had a liking for until now.
Mostly he just drives. Watches the scenery fly by out the window.
One day he sees a sign for the Grand Canyon, and he feels a sudden ache to stop. Then he realizes that he can't, it wouldn't feel right, and he tears down the highway, pulls off, and stops at the first bar he finds.
He spends two weeks crawling from dive to dive, sleeping in his car outside the bars when he finds himself too drunk to keep driving.
Not like he has a destination.
He wanders aimlessly.
He picks up a girl at a bar one night and goes back to her place, hoping to solve his problems, but it's all wrong, just doesn't feel right. When he apologizes to her, tries to explain why he's upset, she tells him that it's okay, he doesn't have to explain anything to her. She gives him a kiss on the cheek, tells him that she hopes he finds what he's looking for, and leaves.
Sam gets back in the Impala and drives again.
After two weeks of bar crawling, car sleeping, and bad food, Sam feels beyond hopeless, and he spirals quickly out of control.
And then one night, about a month after losing Dean, he does something he's never done in his life. Something he'd always sworn he would never do. Something that, to this day, he's still deeply ashamed of.
He gets tossed out of a bar after getting involved in a brawl, climbs behind the wheel of the Impala, and tears down the road.
He's not terribly drunk, he's been way drunker, except he knows deep down he's too drunk to be driving. But the grief and the anger and the alcohol all make a terrible combination in his head and in his heart, and he ignores the small voice in his head (the one that for some reason sounds like Dean) that tells him he's making a mistake; that tells him to pull over before it's too late.
Sam doesn't listen.
He takes a swig out of the beer bottle he managed to sneak out of the bar, and tears rise in his eyes. He blasts the radio, and Bon Jovi's "Dead or Alive" starts playing, and a sob escapes Sam without his consent and he jabs at the off button.
His foot pushes the pedal harder as he pulls on his beer.
It's been a month. The longest month of Sam's life. He has no one to turn to. Bobby's dead. Cas is MIA. Jo, Ellen. Mom, Dad, Jess. Everyone Sam's ever loved is dead, and now his brother's gone, too, and it's all just too much.
Sam downs the rest of the beer and wipes angrily at his eyes.
And that's when he sees it. It's a little fuzzy as it whizzes past, but he can just read it, and suddenly Sam knows beyond a shadow of a doubt what the answer to his problems is.
As the sign zooms past him (WARNING: CLIFFS AHEAD. SLOW SPEED TO 30 MPH AND USE CAUTION), Sam's foot hits the floor.
He tears down the road, doing 50, 60, pushing 80.
"I'm sorry, Dean."
It's been so long since he's talked that his voice comes out harsh and grating.
The sign flies by in bright orange blur.
CLIFFS: ONE MILE, USE EXTREME CAUTION
He never sees the dog.
He hears it hit the side of his car, though. Feels it bounce off the passenger side door.
Sam's foot hits the brake, tires squealing against the asphalt. He comes to a dead stop in the middle of the road, makes a U-turn, blasts the high beams, and goes back, heart in his throat.
And after a month of running, the world grinds to a screeching halt.
"Oh god, what have I done?"
The dog is hurt, badly. But miraculously, it's still alive. He must have only clipped it.
But it won't be alive much longer. It's covered in blood, breathing shallowly, and grief, anger, and shock war within Sam.
But what he feels more than anything is guilt, and shame.
This is his fault. It he hadn't been driving drunk, if he hadn't been going so fast, if he hadn't been trying to end his life, this wouldn't have happened.
And suddenly it's not just a dog that lies dying on the side of the road.
Madison, Ash, Jo, Ellen, Bobby.
It's everyone he's ever loved: everyone who's ever been hurt, or had their life ruined, or died because of him. Everyone who's ever been in pain.
Hitting the dog sobers Sam up like no amount of caffeine, greasy food, or hot showers ever could.
He needs to save this dog. He can't let him die. He can't lose anyone else, not ever. Can't be responsible for anymore death.
This dog has to be okay.
"It's all right, buddy. I've got you."
Sam picks him up as gently as he can, lies him down in the front seat, uses his phone to find directions to the nearest animal hospital, and tears down the road.
He drives as quickly as he feels safe driving, and he finds himself praying for the first time in months. Praying to a God he's no longer sure he really believes in.
Please. Just let this be okay.
Twenty minutes later, he carries the dog into the animal hospital and screams for help.
Help! Somebody help me! Please!
"No, please, no. Help me. Some-somebody help! HELP!"
Sam gasps and sits up in bed, covered in a cold sweat and shaking violently. He takes in the room around him, and as he wills his breathing to calm down, his mind finally focuses on where he is.
His room in the Batcave.
He puts his head between his hands, and that's when he notices that his nose is bleeding. He grabs a tissue from the bedside table and swipes at it angrily. He bloodies one tissue and reaches for a second. And then a third.
Eventually, Sam gets his breathing under control and his nose stops bleeding. He's left with a violent headache, clammy skin, and bone deep tremors that just won't stop.
The headache is second nature to him now; has been since he completed the second trial two weeks ago.
The nightmares haven't let up in a week.
The shaking is new.
Sam gets to his feet cautiously and finds that he can stand. Sort of. The room spins slightly around him, and he's still trembling, but he can walk, and so he does. He pads quietly down the hall, past the Men of Letters library, past the kitchen. He flicks on a hallway light, and stops outside Dean's door.
Dean sleeps with his door slightly open, and Sam knows it's because Dean feels so comfortable and safe here; safer than he's probably ever felt before.
Sam pushes the door open slightly, and by the light shining from down the hall he can just make out his brother sleeping peacefully, chest rising and falling evenly, snoring just the tiniest bit, like he always does when he's in the deepest sleep.
Sam pulls the door closed again and leaves his brother to his peaceful slumber.
In the library, Sam sits down with a brandy and a bottle of extra strength aspirin. He downs six pills with his first glass, then goes to the bar and fills a second one.
He settles down at the table and tells his body to stop shaking, but it just doesn't listen to him. He sits quietly at the table and stares off into space, lost deep in memories of the night he tried to kill himself.
"Can't sleep, Sammy?"
Sam looks up and finds Dean standing in the doorway to the library, wrapped up tight in that stupid bathrobe he's taken to wearing.
Sam shakes his head, takes another sip of his brandy, and it's a silent hint that he doesn't want to talk about it.
Luckily, Dean gets it. He leaves, then comes back half a minute later with a beer. He sits at the table two chairs down from Sam and sips slowly at his beer. He's close, but not too close. Close enough to let Sam know that he's there if he wants to talk, but not close enough to push anything.
And Sam finds himself smiling.
They sit in silence. There's no pressure to talk, and Sam's just not ready to tell Dean about the night he hit a dog because he was trying to commit suicide.
He will tell him. Someday.
But not tonight.
Tonight the Winchesters sit around the table – their table – in companionable silence. They don't feel the need or the desire to talk, but it's not really about that. They may not talk that night, but they're there for each other, like they always have been.
And that's what matters.
AN: I actually wrote another story about this, but honestly I like this one better. I've had a feeling, since season 8 first started, that the reason Sam stopped when he hit that dog was because he was going to kill himself that night, and hitting the dog forced him to stop. It's been my head canon since episode 5, and I have a very strong feeling the writers will make it so before the end of the season. When Meg brought it up in their conversation outside the warehouse, it felt like a huge hint to me, and for a split second I thought maybe he would actually tell her that.
Regardless, this is my head canon until the writers either confirm or deny it. It feels right to me, and as painful as it would be, I really hope it's something they play out on the show.