AN: I'm back! Just a quick reminder: This story is not told in chronological order.

Also, an additional trigger warning for this chapter: Substance abuse/relapse. Manhandling. Truly assholish behavior while under the influence.


she said she collects pieces of sky

Written by Becks Rylynn


Part Four:

my ship of hopes

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and i can't fall asleep

without a little help

it takes awhile

to settle down

my ship of hopes

wait till the past leaks out

- the national; terrible love

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The night after Lydia tries to claw his face off and Sam compares him to Dad, Dean goes to a bar and orders a whiskey, neat. It's not their fault - not Lydia's, not Sam's, not Ruby's, not Julia's, not even Cas's, that dead asshole, not anyone's. This one is all him. He knows that. This is his problem. This is his weakness.

This is his relapse.

He sits there for what feels like hours, staring into the glass and waiting for something, someone, to stop him. Nothing does. He takes a sip. He takes another sip. He drains the glass dry. He's not going to lie and say he doesn't feel the burn, because he feels it. It's in his throat, his chest, his stomach. It washes over him like a wave and he clenches his fingers around the empty tumbler. He pauses, gasping for breath. He waits.

Nothing happens. Nobody comes bursting through the doors to pry the glass away from him and tell him he can't do this, he can't ruin over a year of sobriety. Nobody tells him he can't be that person again.

He tries to breathe evenly and keeps his expression calm and level. He swallows hard.

He orders another.

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Lydia cannot remember her real birthday (which, you know, no shit) so she chooses one herself.

Carefully.

In Purgatory, she never got to celebrate her birthday, but at some point, she turned seventeen, which means she's going to be turning eighteen. Which is important. Apparently. Dean doesn't really get it and to be honest, he only heard like half of her incredibly well thought out Why I Deserve An Eighteenth Birthday Party speech that she made (with charts and graphs) so he just goes with it, because he doesn't actually think anything is going to be stopping that train.

For whatever reason, she picks March 1st as her birthday and she goes all out. She doesn't just plan a party. She plans an extravaganza. (''But is it themed?'' Charlie wants to know. ''It's not black tie, is it?'' Kevin winces. ''Can I bring Mr. Fizzl - '' ''No, Garth. Just no. Eighteen not eight.'') And she does it with Dean's credit card. And then Sam's when she maxes Dean's out.

Unfortunately for her, the flu bug that's been going around claims her as it's next victim a day before her party. Dean tells her that they can have another party when she's feeling better. Hell, she can pick another birthday. Get double presents. But she stubbornly insists that she's fine enough to be at a party.

''People came a long way, you know,'' she tells him, with narrowed eyes. ''It would be incredibly rude to cancel. Plus, you made a huge cake and everything - ''

His ears do not go red, shut up.

'' - The show must go on, Dean,'' she nods decisively, sounding firm and sure of herself, right before she hacks into a tissue and then blows her nose (and then promptly holds the used tissue between her fingernails and gives it to Dean to dispose of - and fucking seriously, this is his life now - fucking eighteen years old, planned a party, survived Purgatory, kills monsters, saves damsels, and she can't thrown her own goddamn garbage away, what the fuck.)

Despite everything that is wrong with choosing to have a party while you're sick with the flu and also an Honorary Winchester, the party isn't horribly pathetic and nobody dies, so... Winning.

The invite list is short - Sam, Jody Mills (who, by the way, dotes over Lydia - and also Kevin - not quite as much as Dean, but close), Charlie, Garth, Linda Tran, Krissy, Josephine and Aiden, and Kevin - and there are a few people missing - Benny, who sends a gift (a ridiculously pricey designer dress that makes Lydia's eyes go roughly the size of anime eyes, because surprise - the vamp's got style) but declines the invitation because while things are getting better between Benny and Sam, they're still not best friends forever, Cas isn't there because he's still MIA, the fucker, and Julia's response to the invitation was ''oh, honey, that's so sweet and I definitely would, except I don't want to.'' And Ruby isn't invited. Because Lydia still doesn't like Ruby. That's still a thing that's happening.

It's not perfect, but you know what? Nothing ever is. And maybe that's okay. The cake is surprisingly not horrible, Lydia loves all of her gifts, and she's happy. Her nose is running, her voice is raspy, she's developing a fever, and she can barely manage to choke down a few bites of cake, but she's happy. Kevin - newly moved into the bunker and sleeping in a bedroom far, far away from Lydia's at Dean's insistence - kisses her even though she's sick and she beams, which is the most disgustingly adorable thing ever and Dean hates it.

Ruby shows up near the end of the party, bloodied and dirty from a fight with one of Crowley's men, she says. She says she's only here for a shower and Dean's bed, but she steals some cake and there is a suspicious looking package that has been added to the pile of gifts, before she disappears to his bedroom. It's a set of throwing knives. A set of throwing knives that Dean quickly realizes she stole, which sheds a whole new light on why she limped into the bunker looking like she had been in a fight of epic proportions. It's actually rather sweet, given the fact that Ruby has been trying to teach Lydia how to throw knives because Lydia still can't quite manage to master a gun. But it's still a set of throwing knives. That Dean promptly takes away. Because it's a set of throwing knives.

Lydia, practically asleep on her feet, hauls herself to bed at a quarter to eleven and by the time everyone else leaves or retires to bed, it's nearly one in the morning. After Dean and Linda clean up (all by themselves, thank you very much, you lazy motherfuckers) and the new dishwasher that Lydia forced them to buy and install is running, Dean finally crawls into bed at two thirty in the morning. Ruby shifts her body closer to his, not quite touching, but close enough.

Dean doesn't sleep right away.

He stares at the ceiling and thinks, again, for a second, then another, and another, and another, a minute, then five, about praying to Cas. Just asking if he's all right. If he's even alive. If he's sorry. If he still thinks he's doing the right thing, the selfish bastard. Dean wants to know these things. He wants to know if Cas ever stops to think about what he does to other people when he makes these choices. What he's doing to Ruby, who is fucking skin and bones because she's running herself into the ground, leaping off buildings, fighting off dragons, breaking curses for some angel who doesn't deserve her. He wants to know if Cas ever thinks about what he's doing to Dean, who is stuck stationary, on the ground, on earth, waiting, with a sick kid and a brother who just doesn't want this life anymore.

Dean wants to know if Cas ever thinks about how everything they are and everything they aren't, all three of them, the hopelessly lost, is basically centered on waiting. Dean is so sick of waiting.

For a long time, he lies still on the bed and thinks about everything he wants to ask Cas, formulating the questions, the epic speech, in his head. Where the hell are you? What were you thinking? Are you okay? What do you want? What do you want from us? You have no idea how pissed I am at you. You have no idea how much I'm not angry with you, I'm hurt by you, and I'm angry with myself for not being angry with you. I think you're a fucking idiot. That's what I think.

''Can't you just give us something, you coward?'' Is what he winds up snarling out through his teeth. ''Give us anything. How hard would it be?''

There is no answer.

He knows why he's disappointed. He doesn't know why he's surprised.

''Dean,'' Ruby's voice is soft. It's rough, thick with sleep, and raspy, caught in her throat, but it's soft, lacking the snark and vitriol that has always been the norm with her. It's a low, sweet hum. It's nice. Her hands slips up his shirt and she drags her nails down his skin slowly, just enough to make him shiver and relax. He thinks she's going to say something like, stop talking to the ceiling like an idiot or either shut the fuck up because I'm tryin' to sleep, asshat, or eat shit and die. Instead, she whispers into his neck, ''Go to sleep.''

And he does.

He wakes up at about four in the morning, torn out of his slumber by a strange noise in the dark. At first, groggy and not fully awake, he lies still and tries to figure out what that noise was. And then he realizes it was a crash that came from the next room. Lydia's room. He practically rockets out of bed. Well, actually, that's not true at all. He gets out of bed slowly and carefully so as not to wake Ruby and murmurs a quiet, ''Go back to sleep,'' when she wakes up anyway, before he staggers over to the door. But if Lydia asks, he rocketed out of bed to get to her, okay? He pauses briefly before he enters her room, hoping he's not going to be walking into anything between her and Kevin that he shouldn't see, and then he turns the doorknob and pushes through.

The only accurate description of how he feels when he enters the room is this: It's like his heart has grown talons and is currently trying to claw its way up his throat and out of his mouth, leaving a trail of raw open wounds in its wake. It's a bad feeling, is the gist.

Lydia is lying on the floor of her bedroom on her stupidly priced rug that she made him buy, unconscious. She's on her back, one leg bent slightly, one arm thrown out, the other over her stomach, with her hair framing her head. There is an empty water glass shattered on the ground next to her, the liquid soaking through the carpet. His first thought, his very first thought, is that the protection charm and the herbs aren't working anymore and she's run out of time. His first thought is that this is it.

''Lydia,'' her name leaves his lips in a single, panicked breath, and he's at her side in an instant. She is burning up when he touches her skin and she's white as a sheet, her skin so pale it's nearly translucent.

It's only when she moans and her eyelids flutter, head lolling to the side, that his heart starts beating again.

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''This is utterly ridiculous,'' Lydia huffs later, after she's been admitted to the hospital for severe dehydration and a fever of one hundred and three. ''I am not some child who can't take care of herself. I don't need to be hospitalized. They're wasting time and resources and the taxpayer's money on me.''

Dean says nothing and continues humming Foreigner.

She audibly clenches her teeth.

''Hot blooded, check it and see, I got a fever of a hundred and three,'' sings Dean.

''Stop that,'' she barks, pointing a bony finger at him.

''No, this is what you get.''

''That song is about sex, Dean.''

He stops singing, but keeps humming, slouching down in the chair beside her bed. He tilts his head back to stare up at the ceiling and absently chews on the drawstrings of his hoodie.

''Dean,'' Lydia snaps. ''Don't be a fifteen year old boy.''

He spits the strings out, sits up straight and stares at her, arching a single eyebrow.

She stares back for an impressive amount of time and then folds like a wet napkin. ''Ugh.'' She throws her hands up in the air. ''I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry I scared you.'' She pauses, most likely waiting for him to accept her apology, but he says nothing. She narrows her eyes. ''But,'' she flips her hair. ''I still stand by my decision to have the party. So there.''

He stares at her incredulously. ''Lydia,'' he has to stop to heave out a frustrated sigh. ''A hundred and three degree fever, you threw up three times on the way to the hospital, your blood pressure was way too low, and also, severe dehydration is a thing that you have.''

''Well, I feel better now.''

''Mmmhmm.''

''I do!''

''Severe. The doctor literally used the word severe. Fucking severe.''

''I get it, Dean,'' she snaps, crossing her arms like a petulant child - and then immediately uncrossing them because of the IV in her hand. ''I was there. You don't have to keep saying severe. It doesn't even sound like a word anymore.''

''All I'm saying,'' he tries, scrubbing a hand over the thick stubble on his face that he should probably get around to shaving sometime, ''is that you should've slowed down when you got sick. You've been goin' nonstop these past few days and look where it got you.''

She glares. ''Right. Because I'm the only one who has made poor choices regarding health in the past couple of months.''

He knows he can't defend that. He drops his gaze to the ground and takes in a few calming breaths. Teenagers. ''Lydia.''

''Oh my goood, Dean, I was fine.''

''Yeah, you seem real fine,'' he snorts. ''Tell me somethin', hon. How's that catheter workin' out for you?''

''I do not have a catheter.''

''But I do have to clean vomit out of the backseat of my car, don't I?''

Her cheeks redden. ''You're the actual worst.''

''I'm the fucking best,'' he corrects, ''because I'm going to clean your vomit out of the backseat of my car.''

''Well, it's the least you can do,'' she says primly. ''Clearly it was your cake that - ''

''Do not insult my cake. You loved that cake. Plus, Sam had five pieces of that thing and he didn't puke once.''

''That you know of.''

His eyes go heavenwards.

She shifts uncomfortably in the bed, cursing at her IV and ugly hospital gown. ''How long do I have to say here anyway?''

He shrugs. ''You're at least here for the night.''

She makes a disgusted sound, but seems to give up, flopping back down against the pillow. ''You should go home,'' she finally says, quietly. ''You're tired, and that chair doesn't look like a comfortable resting place for someone of your height.''

He scoffs loudly, ''Fuck that noise. You're stuck with me.''

''Joy,'' she says sarcastically, but noticeably relaxes. ''You know,'' she adds on, licking her lips. She sits up again and he resists the urge to sigh. ''This is a prime example of why I need my own laptop.''

He groans loudly and drags a hand over his exhausted face. ''Oh, Christ. Not this again.''

''I can't even watch Game of Thrones in here!''

''Laptop's are fucking expensive, Lydia. I get that you don't realize this because you don't have to pay for anything using your own money, but the cost of living is fucking ridiculous and I'm the one who has to pay.''

''Um.'' Her eyes dart from side to side thoughtfully, then back to him. ''Don't you basically commit credit card fraud and hustle people at pool?''

He blinks at her. ''And do you think that shit's easy?''

She scoffs and rolls her eyes. ''Oh, please. You're just afraid I'll get a Tumblr and stop spending time with you if I get my own laptop.''

He works his jaw silently. He does not disagree.

''I'm eighteen, Dean,'' she says. ''I need to be able to download the first season of Girls. Also, True Blood and Downton Abbey - ''

''You have literally the worst taste in television. Seriously. What are you, a teenage girl?''

''And, you know, Kevin and Sam are perfectly wonderful people and I respect them and care for them greatly, but if they make me watch another episode of Chuck or Community or Archer, or fucking Breaking Bad, I swear I'll scream.''

''Okay - ''

''And online shopping is extremely important to my general well being - ''

''Okay. Okay, Lydia.'' He leans forwards to grasp her wildly gesturing hands, afraid she'll yank out her IV, and startles her enough that she stops talking. He tries not to smile but fails horribly. ''Sweetheart,'' there is laughter in his voice, ''I'll think about it. I promise.''

She rubs her dry lips together and thinks long and hard about this, humming softly, before nodding, apparently deeming it a worthy offer. ''Well, good then.'' She lies back down on her side and begins to tuck her hands under her pillow, only to take them out instantly and glare at her IV. She picks at it in disgust, stopping only when Dean says her name in that recently acquired (lie) Dad voice of his and gives her a 'oh, now, I know you're not messing with your IV' look. ''Also,'' she wrinkles her nose in what looks to be some kind of deep personal offense. ''What do you mean I have the worst taste in television? You watch Dr. Sexy.''

''Hey! That is an Emmy award winning show!''

She sneers, but it lacks any real heat. ''And isn't that just a sad commentary on the decline and inevitable death of primetime network television?''

He heaves a put upon sigh and gives her a flat look, but can't quite keep his lips from twitching upwards.

''Be honest, though,'' she says. ''Are you honestly going to tell me that you don't like Game of Thrones?''

He squirms. ''Well. I mean. Charlie would probably disown me if I said no.''

''Dean.''

''Yes, okay?'' His voice rises. ''I like Game of Thrones.'' He pulls his hood up over his head and pulls the drawstrings. ''I love Game of Thrones.''

''Oh no,'' she sighs. ''Don't. Dean. Don't do the turtle thing. Stop it. Stop it.'' The authority in her voice quickly dissolves into honest to God giggles.

He ignores her and slouches even farther in his seat, pulling the strings so that only his mouth is visible. The Turtle, as Lydia calls it, is not something he ever did until one day when he was running on fumes and he just wanted people to leave him alone for two seconds, holy shit, can't you people do anything without me? He quickly discovered, that day, that it makes her laugh, and he would do anything to make her laugh. ''I live a Queen Cersei appreciation life. And I want a dragon.''

''I feel like...it probably wouldn't be a particularly wise idea to give you a dragon,'' she tells him. ''By the way, do I get any points for not making a Ruby is Cersei comparison?''

''I'll think about it.''

''That's just your answer for everything, isn't it?''

He lets out another heavy sigh. There's a brief moment of silence and then, ''I also like Duck Dynasty,'' he mumbles, ''but nobody wants to talk about that show.''

She lets out a loud burst of laughter and covers her face with her hair. ''Don't make me laugh,'' she moans, but her body is already quaking with full body laughter. ''My whole body aches. It's not helping.''

He chuckles and pushes the hood back. A wide, eye crinkling smile breaks out over his face when he sees her laughing. It's never far from his mind that Lydia is just a kid, too young for this life, too young for any of this, but she's always so put together and so badass and she rarely, if ever, lets her guard down. But here, now, face free of make-up, lips turned up into a smile instead of a grim, determined straight line, eyes lit up, giggling, she looks so young. Every bit the child that she still is. He leans forward again, this time to tenderly brush her hair out of her face. ''You should get some rest.''

She sighs, but doesn't protest, rolling over onto her back and letting him pull the covers up over her. ''I really am sorry, you know,'' she says, after a moment of quiet. ''I don't regret my party, but I probably should have slowed down. It was never my intention to scare you the way I did. I never wanted that. ...And you should accept that and move on.''

''I just don't want to lose you, Lydia,'' he admits, letting the soft confession slip out in a moment of quiet, raw honesty.

She is silent. He watches her swallow at the admission, looking touched and humbled. Then, in true Lydia fashion, she scoffs and gives him a brilliant, blinding smile. ''Of course you don't,'' she murmurs. ''It would be awful to lose me. I'm a gem. You need me.''

''Brat,'' says Dean.

But he doesn't disagree.

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Dean never actually tells her while they're in Purgatory. He never says the words, ''Hey, by the way, I'm an addict.'' Turns out, he doesn't need to. Purgatory may be some sort of weird suppressant for basically every normal human function, but sometimes Dean's withdrawal symptoms bleed through. It's like her memory lapses. Some things just cannot be contained. It's not bad - not nearly as horrific as it could have been outside of Purgatory, but sometimes these things happen. Dean will get a blinding headache, or a bout of nausea, or his hands will shake so badly that he can't hold anything.

Lydia has no idea why she knows this, or even how she knows this, but for some reason, she instantly recognizes these symptoms. The knowledge is just sort of there: Oh, that's withdrawal. As she's learning, she knows a lot of things about a lot of things. It's kind of weird. ...She kind of likes it.

She never asks him about it, never feels like she needs to know how long it's been, or what his vice is. She figures as long as he's not getting himself or anyone else hurt or killed, it's his business and he deserves some privacy. So she stores the information away in the back of her mind, just in case, and she moves on.

Once they're out of Purgatory, it becomes obvious, quite quickly, that his weakness is alcohol.

She learns this the day she meets Sam, when he offers Dean a beer and Dean says, ''No thanks. I don't do that anymore.'' It's not a remarkable moment complete with swelling music and hugs. Dean's not even looking at Sam when he says it, fiddling with something on the table, but the expression on Sam's face is like the expression of a brand new father: full of amazement and pride, with a fair amount of terror mixed in with the overwhelming awe.

That's when Lydia gets it.

''So, you don't drink?'' She asks later that night, when Sam is snoring softly, and Dean and Lydia are sitting on the dilapidated, threadbare couch, eating marshmallows straight from the bag and pretending that the reason they're not sleeping is because they're really into the telenovela on the ancient television set and not because of Purgatory.

He seems to startle at the question, and then relax, like he had been expecting it but hoped she wouldn't ask. He stares at her for a second and then turns away, dropping his gaze. ''I did,'' he says, and the tone of his voice, low and ashamed, makes her pause.

She takes another marshmallow and picks at it, licking it off her finger. ''But you don't anymore?''

''Apparently not.''

She tilts her head down and peers up at him through her eyelashes.

He clears his throat. ''No. I don't. Not since Purgatory.''

She nods and focuses on the TV. She does not say, well, then maybe Purgatory was the best thing that could have happened to you. That would be a horrible thing to say. She's not a completely tactless person, thank you very much. She says, instead, ''Well, good for you. You should be proud of yourself.''

He doesn't respond, but he looks completely floored by the suggestion that he should be proud of himself for something. That's a foreign concept to him, it seems.

She doesn't say anything else, and they both sit in a strange sort of comfortable silence. Eventually, she gets up to go to bed. Before she drifts away from him, she leans down over the back of the couch, letting her red hair tickle his shoulder, and she kisses him on the temple.

Maybe she didn't know him when he drank, but she's proud of him anyway.

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Months later, the inevitable happens.

Mind controlled Castiel beats Dean to a bloody pulp and disappears with the angel tablet. Meg dies for Ruby, shoving her out of the way of Crowley's blade, and Ruby goes on some sort of ruthless kamikaze mission out of guilt, disappearing from the Winchester's lives. And Dean is left waiting. She gets the feeling he does that a lot when it comes to those two. She gets the feeling it's taking a toll on him.

Lydia learns, during this time, things she didn't want to know. Like how just because someone has been in recovery for over a year does not mean that they are suddenly not an alcoholic. (She really should have known that.)

It's February and she's not sleeping, because when she does, she just sees Dean, broken and bleeding on his knees, flinching away from her touch. She locks herself away in the library with the doors shut and goes about indexing the massive collection of books. She lasts an hour or two, and then she falls asleep with a pile of books surrounding her, head resting on an open book, the pages turned to an entry on the angel Ramiel. She wakes up suddenly, in the middle of the night, jerking upright with a gasp. Her first thought, in her groggy state, is that she must have had a nightmare. But then she realizes it was the sound of the door clanging shut that tore her into the waking world.

Blearily, she wipes at her mouth with the back of her hand to make sure she hadn't been drooling and blinks a few times to clear her foggy vision. She pushes herself up, onto her feet, and attempts to gather up the books. She quickly gives up and decides she'll do it tomorrow. She clumsily finds her way to the doors, but stops to listen before she opens them. She can hear voices; quiet and muffled by the door, but there is a sense of urgency, of panic, that makes her heart drop. She pushes open the doors.

Sam looks utterly horrified when he sees her standing there. He freezes up, like a deer in headlights. ''Lydia.'' He stops. Nobody says anything for a long time. ''I,'' he edges towards her, looking back and forth between her and the other occupants. ''Honey - '' and that's new coming from him '' - I thought you were in bed.''

Lydia barely reacts, too busy staring at Dean and trying to swallow her heart back down.

He's standing there, wearing his new black leather jacket that she had custom made for him for his thirty sixth birthday (she wore his red leather jacket for a year in Purgatory, she figured she owed him a new one) and his eyes are red and bloodshot, and he's swaying lightly on his feet, and he's staring at her like he's looking right through her. And she knows.

''You're drunk,'' she says, whispering the accusation into the tense, thick silence. It hangs there; dirty, uninvited, naked.

Dean's lips pull back into a smile she has never seen on his lips before, wide and unassuming, but one that doesn't make it to his eyes, not in the right way. His bloodshot eyes gleam with a sick sort of pride. The dried tears on his cheeks tell a different story. ''That's my girl,'' he tells her, and she notices that he doesn't slur his words, doesn't sound drunk, although his voice is darker somehow tired, maybe, mocking, almost cruel. ''Always gotta be the smartest person in the room.''

By his side, clutching at his arm, Ruby never wavers. She looks downright awful, in her oversized hoodie and jeans, hair mussed, but she stands tall, keeps her lips pressed tight and her eyes hard and focused, despite the dark bags and the pale pallor of her skin. Like a walking corpse. Like a ghost.

Sam looks like he wants to hide away, fidgety and uncomfortable, keyed up and on edge, like a little boy who has just come to the unfortunate realization that superheroes can fall.

Lydia thinks they're entirely too dramatic. Had they not been expecting this? Addicts relapse. Addicts relapse because they're human. And Dean is no superhero. She does not waste her time on bothersome emotions. She doesn't have that luxury right now. She just marches straight up to Dean, plants her hands on her hips and demands, ''How long has this been going on?''

He smirks down at her. He doesn't answer.

She narrows her eyes and stands on her tip toes, still not even close to being eye level with him. ''How long?''

'' 'Bout a week.''

She deflates slightly, shock crawling under her skin. She combs through her memories of the past week and tries to dissect his behavior, searching for some warning sign or clue. She comes up empty handed.

He notices the split second look of shock on her face and he grins at her, like a shark. ''I'm a functioning alcoholic, sweetheart. I'm not a blubbering mess. I function.'' His voice softens, just a little, and the canary smile dims. ''You couldn't have known.''

''Lydia,'' Sam speaks up, stepping up to place his hand on her wrist softly. ''You should probably go to bed. We've got this.''

''I'm not going anywhere,'' she snaps. ''And I resent being told what to do, Sam.''

He sighs. ''Lydia - ''

''I. Am not. Going. Anywhere.''

''I'm going to get him some coffee,'' Ruby speaks up. Her voice is a hoarse whisper, emotionless and dead and exhausted. So very un-Ruby like. She walks away without one scathing insult or eye roll, moving slowly. She's a mess, but whether she's a mess because of Dean or something else remains to be seen.

Apparently not for Sam. He clenches his jaw and looks at Dean. ''What did you do to her, Dean?''

Dean rolls his eyes.

''What'd you to do her, Dean?'' It's a growl this time.

Dean moves past them both, unsteady and uncoordinated, not as badass and smooth as he probably feels. He sits down at the table and stares up at Sam. ''What're you tryin' to say, Sammy?''

''He's trying to say that you're acting like an asshole,'' Lydia deadpans. ''Which you are.''

He laughs humorlessly and leans forward, forearms resting on his knees. ''Newsflash, kiddo: Dean Winchester is an asshole.''

Lydia crosses her arms and tilts her head to the side. She makes a big show of considering this brand new piece of information, puckering her lips and running her tongue over her teeth. She hopes she appears to be at least somewhat calm on the outside, because she can feel her heartbeat racing, pounding away like a hammer. ''Sam.'' She turns to give him a perfectly pleasant, well crafted, easy smile. ''Would you mind giving us a moment, please?''

Sam doesn't move. ''That's not a good idea.''

She scoffs and waves away his concern. ''The man is drunk off his ass, Sam. He can't even stand. He lacks the amount of coordination needed to be a threat to me. He won't hurt me. I can take him if he tries. Just give us five minutes.''

Sam still doesn't look convinced.

''Sam,'' Lydia lowers her voice, but says his name firmly. ''Please.'' To put emphasis on her point, she stares at him until the cracks begin to show in his armor. ''Just go help Ruby with the coffee,'' she orders, placing a hand on his arm. ''We'll be fine.'' It takes at least three more minutes to convince Sam to leave and by the time Lydia turns back to Dean, he's rubbing at his head, elbow on the table. He still doesn't look right, not like the Dean she knows. There's an arrogance about this version of Dean Winchester, a false bravado, a mask made of alcohol. It's an ugly look on him. She crosses her arms and feels a wave of anger wash over her. There's a physical ache in her throat, that's how angry she is. Her voice is stone cold when she says to the drink, ''Withdrawal is going to suck this time, you know.''

He raises his head and smirks. ''That's only if I stop.''

She raises her eyebrows. ''Oh, you're stopping. You're stopping because I'm telling you to.'' She offers the smirking bastard a smirk of her own and pulls a chair over to him, sitting down across from him. ''And I always get what I want,'' she adds on, in a warning. ''You make sure of that, don't you?''

He tenses, but keeps his mouth shut, just sitting there, looking like death warmed over. Turns out, Dean isn't a stereotypical drunk. He doesn't slur his words, or stumble and stagger everywhere, but his eyes are red and he does reek. The scent of alcohol is rolling off of him in waves, so strong it's making her feel physically sick. Which only serves to further her frustration.

She leans back and tries to reign in her anger. ''Why?'' It's not as simple as it sounds, that one word question, and she knows it.

But Dean, drunk, with every wall up, angry at the world, remains unconcerned and closed off. ''Why not?''

The disgusted sound that passes through her lips winds up sounding like a shaky, sad sigh. ''Do you think this is who you're supposed to be, Dean?''

He reacts physically to that, drawing away from her, nostrils flaring, eyes flashing, not with anger but with pain. He looks like he has been gutted. ''I think that I was an alcoholic long before you,'' he sneers, ''and I'll be one after you.''

She arches a single brow. ''After me?'' She questions. ''You think you can get rid of me?'' She crosses one leg over the other. ''You think I'm going anywhere?'' The look that passes through his eyes is a far cry from the smug cockiness he seems to have claimed as his brand new persona. It's a split second look of fear and premature grief, like she's dying, or already dead, before he turns his head. It's troubling. She doesn't move, doesn't react. She licks her lips, breathes evenly, and keeps her expression calm and level. ''Dean. Hey,'' she leans in close to him and grabs his face roughly, smushing his cheeks with her bony fingers. ''Listen to me, you big pile of angst and manpain. I'm not going anywhere. I'm not leaving you. Why would I? I don't have anywhere else to go. I don't have anywhere else I'd want to go.''

He pulls out of her grasp silently. She half expects some angst ridden answer of, ''Everyone leaves me,'' straight from some teenage soap opera. Instead, he looks at her with this odd, calculating look and tilts his head to the side. He seems to think about her bold promise for a long time, turning it over and over in his head. Finally, he asks her, ''Did I ever tell you about Emma?''

A shake of her head. ''Who's Emma?''

''She was my daughter.''

Her entire body freezes. Her heart free falls into her stomach and all the blood rushes to her head. She pulls back. No. He most certainly had never told her about Emma. Once she fights through the dizzying attack of shock, she zeroes in on one singular thing that makes her throat close up. Was. Emma was his daughter. Something gnaws at the back of her mind. ''N-No,'' she gets out. ''You've never told me about her.''

He nods, extraordinarily calm. ''We weren't close. I barely knew her. But I think I loved her.'' He frowns, looking deeply confused by the conflicting emotions. ''I think I could have loved her the way I love you.''

Lydia tries to swallow. Her lips part and she tries to speak, but nothing comes out.

''Sam killed her,'' he says, plainly, casually.

Lydia's blood runs cold. Horror flows through her. ''What?'' It comes out a croak. Some part of her thinks it's just a terrible cruel joke, something fictional created to get a rise out of her. To shock her.

''She was trying to kill me,'' he monotones, no emotion whatsoever in his voice. ''He had to.'' But this is where he pauses, furrowing his brows as if trying to remember important details of the story. A vague emotion passes through his eyes. ''I guess.'' Even though she has so many, she doesn't ask questions. She wants to so desperately, but she has no idea where to start. ''She was... She was a monster,'' he says. ''An amazon. She was born to kill. She was an accident. A mistake. I just... I just hooked up with the wrong chick. I never wanted her.'' He sounds like he's trying to convince himself. ''But I still think I loved her.'' He shakes his head. He looks a little disgusted with himself. ''How can I love her?''

She doesn't quite know what to say to that. ''She was still your daughter,'' she tries. ''It's perfectly reasonable to grieve. It's natural. It's normal.''

He scoffs at that. ''Nothing about this is normal.'' He stops abruptly, scrubbing a hand over his face and leaning back in his chair. ''When we were in Purgatory,'' he says, voice slow. ''I thought for sure...''

''You thought you would find her.''

He freezes for a brief second and then he looks straight at her with this uncomfortably intense look, unblinking. ''But I didn't. I met you instead.''

There's a bundle of nerves coiled tight inside of her chest. It makes her pause, and she has to swallow down an apology. But fuck that. Fuck him. She's not going to apologize for him getting burdened with her instead of finding his monster daughter instead. It's not like it's her fault. Still. She can't help but ask, ''Do you wish you had found her?''

He doesn't answer that question. He leans in close to her, too close, stares at her intently for a truly disturbing length of time. His voice is rough when he speaks up; he sounds like he has gravel in his throat. ''You look like her.''

That's it. That's what she was afraid of.

She jerks away from him when he moves to touch her hair, standing up so fast that her chair nearly topples over. Her breathing speeds up and there's a churning in her stomach, a kind of disgust and hurt. When he stands as well, she moves away, behind the chair, strategically placing something in between her and No Boundaries Dean. ''I look like her?'' She loathes how her voice sounds so weak and how it fucking trembles. ''I look like your dead daughter?'' He says nothing. ''Is that supposed to be a compliment? Is that why I'm here?'' She demands incredulously. ''Is that what I am to you?''

''Don't be stupid,'' he snarls at her.

She stops dead. ''I'm sorry,'' she says. ''What did you just say to me?''

He ignores her. ''I said you looked like her.'' He strolls straight up to the chair separating them but doesn't move it. ''I never said you reminded me of her. Because you don't. You're nothing like Emma.'' A pause. He takes in a ragged breath. ''You remind me of my mother, actually.''

She lifts her gaze from the floor back up to him, eyes wide. ''Your...'' She licks her lips. ''I do?''

''She was brave,'' he says with a nod. ''Like you.'' He takes a single step forwards. ''She was smart. ...Like you. Strong, independent, fierce.'' He calmly moves the chair out of the way and walks towards her, movements slow but lumbering, not threatening, but not innocent. ''And she was foolish.''

She had not been expecting that one. ''Dean...''

''She put herself in danger. She tried to play hero one too many times, and she died because of it. She died, Lydia.'' She doesn't bother backing away from him as he advances on her, just stands tall and waits. Perhaps it's naive, but she's not afraid of him. She pities him. ''She left me here all alone,'' his voice never rises. ''And so will you. You'll die here. Like all the others. Lydia,'' his voice is a hiss. He grabs her wrists before she can stop him, locking them in a vice.

She lets out a startled gasp and struggles fruitlessly. ''Dean,'' she heaves what she hopes sounds like an exasperated sigh. ''Let go of me.'' He doesn't. ''Let go.''

''I'm going to kill you,'' he says, ''and you know it. Why the fuck are you still here?''

She gives him an angry glare instead of the answer he's looking for, pulling herself up to face him. ''Take your hands off of me.''

Before he has the chance, a pale, dainty hand comes into the mix, fingers curl around his shirt, and then his back is on the table and he's groaning in pain. Ruby, still clutching his shirt, doesn't let go. ''You touch her like that again,'' she growls at him, ''and I might consider doing what you asked me to do.'' She turns on Lydia, eyes charcoal black, zero patience left in her. ''Lydia,'' she barks. ''Go to bed.''

Lydia, heart beating in her throat, emotions threatening to spill over, does the single most un-Lydia like thing in response to Ruby's cold order: She listens. Determined not to let this callous stranger wearing Dean's face see her cry, she spins on her heel and she runs.

She doesn't sleep.

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it takes an ocean not to break

it takes an ocean not to break

it takes an ocean not to break

- the national; terrible love

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end part four