Genre: gen, hurt/comfort
Characters: Dean, Sam
Word Count: ~2200
Summary: Dean. S8. Eight months he isn't sure what to do with.
You should be able to see I am ninety percent crap. I get rid of that, what then?
So here's the problem: He's coming off the worst year of his life. That it ends in Purgatory is actually an improvement.
In Purgatory, he's dead, so that's off the bucket list. In Purgatory, everything is exactly as terrible as the name suggests; no misnomers there. Because you know, he's tired of people meeting "Dean Winchester" and coming away disappointed. And there's a stasis to Purgatory, a frieze-like perpetuity to flight and bloodshed, that keeps his mind at bay and his insides in check.
There's not much to say about the year before that, except that it was none of those things. If there were people who could give you more specifics, most of them are dead now.
When he comes "home," that all goes to shit immediately. Purgatory might have been pure, but his memories aren't. Not anymore. Because fresh in his bones, it had all made sense, as this frenzied stretch of perfect recall, perfect duty. Now, fuck if Dean knows. It's become a jumble, shuffled into having to get up in the morning (having to sleep. having to dream. having to push up from the mattress, to roll over the side, to stand again after he'd spent all that goddamn time trying to let himself lie down. power off). Remembering anything about it seems like a futile effort, like it's a history usurped by trying to keep his head above the bullshit present, monster auctions and teenage werewolves and pop guns that go boinnng!
Like the rest of his life, Purgatory becomes flashbulbs: There are scraps he can remember and a lot of blackspace he can't. There are scraps he can remember and the rest was probably bullshit, anyway. Just statistically speaking.
And that's kind of it. Figuring out what to replace it with is a little harder.
When it's too early to be awake, and Sam is awake--away, running--Dean doesn't bother sleeping in. He's spent half his life overtired and the other half dead on his feet, and after a year outside of time, it's hard to believe that it's a thing you need. And anyway, Dean is fucking tired of failing: Coffee, whiskey. As much sugar as his bloodstream can reliably handle. See, there are plenty of workable substitutes.
So in the end he doesn't really try to dig in and live some deep life or anything. It'd be an excavation of diminishing returns, at least as far as him and Sam are concerned. Instead, he scrambles, and he sticks to life by sheer virtue of some wild, cosmic static friction, and arcs out like a wind sock. Everything he does feels a little crazy and everything he says is probably dead wrong, but hey, he's here, isn't he.
It's 6:45 and he hears Sam jimmying their door because fuck, the key's still in Dean's pocket isn't it. He closes his eyes.
Sam, or Dean's zoetropic invention of him, flickers through serial, hermetic acts of betrayal. Contextless, closed systems or not, it's the only narrative Dean can find, and he never really gets past that. He uses Benny as ballast for months. And for months he hates Sam, and loves Sam, until he admits he doesn't know the difference (not anymore)--he just doesn't want to lose him. And when Dean comes home to that, really slams himself with the idea, Dean will empty Benny out because Sam. Because Sam what. Because Sam something.
And it's funny, you know. The one thing Sam never asks about is the drinking. Or the lack thereof. Purgatory's piss poor selection of decent mid-shelf labels. It's the one thing Dean actually has toned storytelling muscles for, so it figures Sam doesn't want to hear it. Sam only wants to know about where Dean was and what it did to him; he doesn't want to know about the things Dean's done to himself. Whether this is a measure of how little Sam cares, or how extraordinarily fucking much, depends mostly on what kind of day Dean's had. Reality, if there is such a thing, is not a place he and Sam have managed to reliably infiltrate, so his perceptions are really all he's got to go on.
He can watch a couple kids scamper across a motel parking lot, screaming, giddy, and know that the way he feels and the way things are probably don't line up. But it's all he's got.
Still, there are telling moments. Sometimes. There are pieces of disembodied clarity. Like when they're at that bar that one night, and then they're still at that bar, and then the bar closes and they're still technically at that bar, just in shambles outside of it. There's a hitch to Sam's breath, a strangulation to his words, and the black iciness of mental censorship as he pulls Dean to his feet.
In the morning the whole nine hours falls away like it never happened, mutual blackout. Its echoes are registered only in the pallor of Sam's knuckles when he finds himself driving, the itch of small scars from childhood, the pointed determination with which he decides Not to Talk About it for once. That kind of thing's always been Sam's hang up; ever since they were kids, and back when their family was slightly more extended.
It's one of the few things Dean can play connect the dots with, Sam at seven and Sam at twenty-seven or however old Sam is now (almost 30, holy shit). So the thing at the bar never happens again. He does have a great story, though. The kind of rowdy, drunken war story no one really believes but everyone wants to hear (except Sam). Dean has a lot of that kind of story, and on occasion burns to tell them, though he knows he never will. Whenever he thinks he might, he realizes exactly how stupid it is and shuts his mouth. Or maybe it's profound. If that's the case he'll stitch his mouth shut.
What it comes down to is, there's no booze in Purgatory. There's no lots of things in Purgatory. That's part of the appeal; you learn to live without them, or die trying. Typically both.
Another thing there wasn't in Purgatory:
True story, Dean is probably an alcoholic. It's a word that's been ingrained in Sam's vocabulary for decades now, something he's wary and cautious of in a way you can only learn young, like language. There's the kind of alcoholic that needs, like actually needs, and there's the kind of alcoholic who's gone to hell and back. Who has had need ripped from him (let it take whatever else gets caught in its teeth). Who never stops wanting. Dean's both.
Him and Sam, they're a pair. As far as Dean's concerned, that's that. Dean will never stop wanting that.
away, running? running away?
Sam's back from Texas in under 48 hours. He sinks into the couch beside Dean. And it could be one of those moments again, the ones where a beer becomes a beer becomes another beer because whatever else they've still got, but it doesn't. Maybe it's out of respect for Sam, but Sam's back from Texas in under 48 hours. All they have now is each other. It's all they need. It's probably not out of respect for Sam, though Dean does respect him.
Dean's not an idiot. He knows about need and needing need and that whole gale force shitstorm. But he's also not God.
He's a wind sock, he settles deeper into the couch. He needs.
It's true. Dean's never actually seen a shrink--like, a real shrink who wasn't actually a monster trying to eat him. He's more open to the idea than Sam is these days, though it's not like that's hard. But the point is, he's seen enough Dr. Sexy to know how to visit a free clinic. He's also seen enough to know what that would get him, if he ever had a couple hours he didn't know what to do with. (He's had months now that he hasn't known what to do with. If pressed, he will admit that this is probably one of the main reasons they're trying to seal Hell right now. But he's torn Sam away from something, he knows. The most he can do is make a better world that he and Sam will never get to be a part of.)
Dean wonders if sarcasm is a medically relevant symptom for anything. No, sarcomas are something else.
"Death?" says Andreas, the son of an independently wealthy hotel manager. He has coiffed hair and wears a suit that looks basically like Dean's, except it's supposed to be nicer because he's the son of an independently wealthy hotel manager. Sort of like Dean's is supposed to be nicer because he's a federal agent. And shit, you know it's bad when even you can tell how much of a fraud you are.
Andreas owns it, though. He's dying of four rare diseases, so after he has last night on earth sex with Dr. Flugelhorn (okay, so this isn't Dr. Sexy's greatest season ever, even Dean admits) he lies down in his hospital bed in its private room and, crowned by the moonlight streaming in from the window (the lucky bastard), soliloquizes.
"Death?" says Andreas.
"Death?" says Andreas.
"Death?" says Andreas.
"Jesus christ," says Sam.
"You can tell he has a boner in this shot," says Dean, and rewinds again. "Look."
"Death?" says Andreas.
"Death?" says Andreas.
"Jesus christ, Dean," says Sam, and leaves the room.
"Death?" says Andreas.
A shrink would tell him to see a shrink. You can't will yourself to working order. And in any case, gallows humor is not the same thing as positive thought.
But please, he thinks. But please it has to be. He did, after all, lead a charge on the Shadow Orcs. So don't you dare tell Dean this isn't how it works. He can't believe that. He can't afford to.
But the battlefield has been cold for all of six short hours when everything sort of...reticulates. Everything here meaning what a bastard Sam is and what an even bigger bastard Dean is and how womb-like Purgatory felt (well, if you had a twin and your survival hinged on killing him--that's the kind of womb Dean means, since there are definitely plenty of monsters there, too) and how dumb that sounded and how fast everything was here, and how dumb that sounded, because honestly a guy should be able to make it through life without crashing, and crashing, and crashing. Or at least he should be able to take a piss.
So fuck everything. Dean climbs back into bed. It's too dark to see the rise and fall of Sam's body under his sheets. Dean's not really awake enough to figure out how to hear Sam's breathing instead of his own. And it doesn't seem like he'd be sending his brain the right message of the stopped breathing just to make sure Sam was. He'll just have to take it on faith. Sam is alive, and will be for the conceivable future. No biggie.
The next morning, Dean dots his Is and crosses his Ts, and they sign out of the motel, and they have a day so completely unremarkable Dean forgets it ever happens. (Blackspace.)
Five weeks later when Sam splits a hellhound from gut to groin on top of himself, well. Dean has plenty memory of that.
And see, he knows about need, and want, and eternal gnawing obsessive crazy want. He's familiar, at least conceptually, with the point at which things start getting really fucked up. After all, he's been to Hell; they're good at that there. But Sam. But Sam something. But Sam what.
away, running. Running away? Death?
If Dean stacked up all the times he's nearly died against all the times he wished he had, he's not sure which pile would be higher. He's not sure if that's normal--well, not normal normal. You know. In the end both stacks boil down to occupational hazard. Maybe. Or maybe it's just him.
Sam's fine. Sam says he wants to live. Sam thinks they can.
And if Dean can believe in that, maybe they'll be all right.
He wakes up from a dream about zombies and Communists with bile in his throat and all his weight in Sam's hands. In that moment he feels so desperately apart from Sam, him without a body and Sam without a future, he feels like he's been blown apart.
Then the dream fades away, and Dean has mass again, and Sam's touch shocks him. Charlie, stiff with trauma, limps into his chest. And when Charlie is gone away, is happy, is safe, and Sam's still here, Dean thinks. Dean thinks that if someone would give them even half a fighting chance, they'd rock the hell out of this. They'd be kings of the fucking world. If the world stopped spinning so damn fast, and life shot straight, he could do this.
Then he laughs. Looks up to the ceiling and swallows hard. Right. Well.
In a closed system, everyone's immortal.
But whatever. What Dean needs, then, is a workable substitute. Because they have to make it, and he doesn't care how.
Dean looks in the mirror and he hates what he sees. It's kind of a ritual by this point. But then he says, in a voice he hasn't listened to in a long damn time, "Bring it."
He knows what the worst year of his life looks like. He ain't going back. He will go anywhere but back.
So fucking bring it.
Yeaaah, not sure about this one. Pretty sure I'm not a fan. But uh, Happy birthday, Dean?
edit: okay yeah, having slept on it, this feels really weird. But then, I though S8 Dean was pretty weird, so maybe that's reflected in this. XP But at the same time, if it doesn't help me actually come to any closer terms with S8 Dean, how successful can it possibly be? UGH DEAN I HATE YOU GO AWAY.