AUTHOR'S NOTES: For a prompt requested at tumblr. Sorry if it’s heavier than even the prompt is expecting — this is actually kind of a really personal piece in a lot of ways, as something I’ve had to deal with in the past, so it was a bit emotional to throw this all out there and write it up. It deals with very strong and verbally/physically abusive alcoholism and isn’t a very nice Dean to read about, though I will say it is not evil!Dean, simply my rendering of a severely alcoholic Dean who’s negative character traits are especially vicious.
WARNINGS FOR ALCHOLISM, ABUSE, DARK!DEAN, AND VIOLENCE.
It’s been five years since the Darkness, since everything was put back together and everything had a system — the Bunker was expanded on, hunters brought in, taught, trained. There were hours of operation, meetings, new recruits who demanded revenge (though Sam had always tried to drive home that revenge would kill you faster than any vamp ever did, in the ways that mattered; he would always make that note, and Dean would nod and agree, a knowingness in his eyes).
But still, when it came to living there, it was the same as it ever was: a guest room for Cas, and then their rooms. Home. As close as it’ll ever get to one, though Sam has never let his guard down there. The walls of his living quarters is still brick and bare, his shelves lined with mostly lore books, desk neat and clothes still carefully in his duffel when they’re not lazily left on the floor from the day before. Sam hasn’t moved in. Sam simply knows better. His brother, however — his room is expanded and personal, and Sam would never want to change that; his room has his scent of leather and gasoline and gun grease, of trash that seriously needed to be emptied out, of liquor. More bottles than Sam would ever like.
… The liquor smell, he’d like to change. Just the liquor smell.
Sam had expected things to go smoothly, as they got older. That they would eventually work it all out, get everything sorted, but… It’s not ideal. It’s not fairytale by hunter’s standards, but then, those aren’t very high, are they? Dean’s a… was a functioning alcoholic, has had a harder time with the extra quietness of their lives. He wants to go back out on the road, him and Sam, and Sam… Sam’s tired. He’s really, really tired, and the last time he was tired, he almost gave in to the allure of Death’s icy hand guiding him to a celestial home. Peace in death. Instead, he’s learned to deal. He’s taken every shitty thing they’ve done and he’s put it all away in his chest, compartmentalized it all and moved forward as best he could. Dean, though… he has a lot of regrets, Sam knows. And it manifested more darkly than expected.
Things haven’t changed, since Dean took the scythe to the last horseman.
They’ve had… decent days. But there have been days where the bunker is empty and it’s just them — record playing, one too many glasses of whiskey out on the table, and Dean sitting there quietly to stare at nothing. Sam worries, sometimes. All the time. His brother is pickling his liver, and instead of his remaining family dying from getting ganked by a beast out there, Sam’s watching an erosion that frankly frightens him as much as the Mark ever did. It gets particularly bad when Sam begins to outlaw booze in the bunker; some hunters, borderline alcoholics if not already, scamper off to the road again to drink. Dean, though, is stubborn as fuck, won’t give Sam’s plea the time of day; that’s just how he is, when he has a fixation. Hunting, the Mark, getting the family together again, hunting together forever… He puts his mind to things at the worst times, for Sam.
Sam gives ultimatums, and Sam pours tequila down the drains, and Sam lays in his very empty room at night when Dean’s knocking on his room number to demand to know what the hell his stash is. At first it’s a simmering anger, but it strengthens each day, with every silent battle Sam wages on the thing murdering his kin. Eventually Dean slams Sam into the counter as he finishes tossing a beer can, fire in Dean’s eyes and a growl on his lips. There’s a fist slamming into his nose. There’s Dean standing over him looking scared of Sam, like Sam’s the one who’s snapped.
And then the apologies. Then Dean, sitting beside Sam with trembling fingers, holding a washcloth to Sam’s nose as it’s sopping up and brimming with blood.
And Dean means every sorry, truly. And that’s why Sam stays for many, many months after. Because, in the heat of the moment, he means it. Sam truly believes he does. He has to. He means sorry.
And… that isn’t the worst thing Dean could do. Sam’s socked him back in defense before; Sam’s fought back sometimes. No, the worst Dean saves for later, when he’s wasted off something he retrieved from a friend’s pick-up truck. He’s happy as fuck, determined to cook something while he’s barely able to walk, bagged beer opened and sitting like venom on the counter. Sam asks for Dean to chuck it. Dean tells Sam to fuck off. And how about that?, Dean sneers, Sam wants to tell me what to do. Sam wants to fix the old fucked-up hunter. Sam thinks he’s all fuckin’ that, with his quick fixes. Dean says, smiling so wide, Like how Sammy fixed everything by porking Ruby. Like how Sammy started an apocalypse. Like how Sammy left Dean to rot, like how he tried to abandon him and die, like how he used the Book of the Goshdarndiddlydamned, like how Charlie died — Like how Sammy had to go all dog-eyed at him, made him skip out on Death’s dinner date, how he didn’t give good ol’ Cas a telephone ring and the Darkness got out to begin with — there was always something to say. Some big treachery to dredge up.
And Sam… Sam knew he was right.
But he also learned, much, much later, that Dean was also wrong.
Wrong enough that Sam took his duffel, took what little mattered to him inside his room, and faced his brother with a split lip and a heaviness in his eyes. The truth was… it felt like betrayal. It made his guts burn and twist. It made him want to run back to his too-short bed and cling to it, swear up and down he was good enough to stay behind, that Dean needed him, that Sam couldn’t let him down yet again. It’s always been the same, always the same: I can’t leave Dean believing that I think it’s all worthless. It’s not worthless. I’m worthy of this. I’m worthy of Dean. Over and over, he had tried to convince himself that Dean would pull out of this, just needed a little more pushing, a little more hope, a hand on his shoulder when he retches or someone willing to take that right hook, because he knows Dean’s just out of it, just needs help. And if he left… if he left, Dean would die. Dean would kill Dean, and it’s not the first time Sam’s feared it, and it will never be the last, not how things are right now. Too long, he’s been terrified that there will be nothing left behind to pick up Dean’s pieces for him, if he left him.
And that will be Sam’s fault.
For abandoning him. For not being there, after everything. For not following through.
He would die for Dean. He would let Dean scream at him and duke it out as much as he wanted, if he thought it would cure him of anything at all.
… But it’s not. It’s not, and Sam’s tired. And Dean’s looking at him, possibly just sober enough to look broken down and pleading. “Sammy, I’m sorry. You know I’m sorry. Fuck. What’re you doing?”
Sam takes a deep breath, breathes out, and his eyes prickle with tears. “I can’t… I have to go. I’m done. With all of this. Hunting.”
“Okay? Seriously?” Dean paces, hand through his hair. “After everything — after Gadreel and Death and that whole love thing from the bar all those years ago… after saying you’d be by my side — you’re ditchin’ me? You’re leaving me alone? I thought we figured this all out, man. I thought we were a team.”
Sam fans his arms out. “Dean, this isn’t healthy. This isn’t what you can really be. I remember the real you — the good you. This… You need help, man. You need real help, but not from me. I can’t… I can’t do this anymore. I’m not working. And I have to — I have to leave, before I watch you finally kill yourself from this. It’s either you die, Dean, or you get some fucking help. Real help. From a real rehab. Not three days shaking in a shack somewhere before you hit the store and come back drunk out of your mind—”
“Sam, I don’t remember—”
“No, Dean, listen. You get help, get back on track. Text me, call me, and I am right there to talk to you. But I’m done. I’m done with all of this. It’s time to move on from Yellow Eyes, from Lucifer, from all of it; this… thisis it. I don’t love this, not like I thought I could. Not with you being some fucking shell of yourself…”
Dean storms up close, glowering at Sam. His eyes are bloodshot, teeth bared, and for a moment it reminds Sam of a demon. Of a demon who had once tried to track him down within these halls and smash his brains in. But — it’s just Dean, and he has to breathe and remember it, even as Dean growls, “Shut the fuck up, Sam. I don’t need to put up with this; newsflash, Sam, I’ve always been drinking! I’ve always had a reason to drink!”
“Then find a reason not to, if I’m not fucking good enough!” Sam bites out, pushing Dean back with his elbow. He storms for the door, heart pounding violently in his chest, just about to hit the steps when he hears Dean’s yell of frustration — and then something heavy and hard slams into the back of his head and his knees crumple forward and hit the steps, stars in his eyes. A bottle falls and smashes into pieces around him on the stairway. Dean sucks in a breath.
“I wasn’t aiming for…” Dean starts weakly. His hands, like always, shake and shake. Sam’s head has a knot, drips blood freely into his collar.
He looks back at Dean, and Dean looks at him, and there’s a naked fear there in his brother’s eyes.
“It’s okay, Dean,” Sam says, voice shaking. “It’s okay. I love you, okay? I’m sorry. Get — please get better. I’m… Just get better.”
And, with the willpower left within him, heart broken and left scattered in amber shards around his feet, Sam climbs toward escape, toward freedom.
It takes everything not to turn back, even as he hears a broken noise leave Dean’s throat.
This has to be for himself.
This can’t be for Dean; this is for himself.
He has to go.
A year later, Sam unlocks the front door to his studio apartment, runs a hand over his mutt’s fuzzy scalp, and sits down on an old thrift store couch he’d hand-washed a good five times for the sake of cleanliness. He puts down a bunch of second-hand college textbooks on his gnarled coffee table beside a bunch of sloppily penned notes and turns on the radio, letting the sounds of an old rock station hum through the room. He’ll make dinner; something simple, like spaghetti maybe. Feed the dog. Send out some old translated texts to a couple hunting buddies from back when. Maybe shave and look like a five-year-old again, even though he’s got a bit of gray in his hairline.
Maybe wonder about his brother, as he usually does when AC/DC kicks on.
His phone hums in his pocket, and when he fishes it out and checks it, he finds a message from Dean. A year in the making. It’s a picture attachment: a freshly printed, neatly typed and typically generic certification of completion granted to a Dean Worchester for finishing his rehabilitation program held by a hand he instantly knows is Dean’s. The message beneath it reads:
i’m sorry sam
can i call you?
Sam rubs his eyes and hitches his breath, a trembling smile pulling at his cheeks. A tear manages to trickle by his knuckles, contouring a sharp cheekbone.
good. yeah. wanna hear all about it.
And the last trickle of Sam’s guilt is a ringtone, a reverberation drifting off through the open apartment window.