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Liquor Store Blues

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Drinking comes with the territory when you’re a hunter. Physical pain, emotional pain, victories, defeats; they all come with a shot or three. But watching Sam struggle with Lucifer? To see him stiffen up mid stride, or to hear his quiet pleading whispers in the Impala... Dean has never drunk so heavily in his life.

He needs the haze to get through the day. Never drunk enough to affect his job performance. Just buzzed enough to cope with the constantly pained and terrified look on Sam’s face. As badly as he wants to help him, he just doesn’t know how. So he seeks comfort in a bottle. Cheap swill that tastes like nothing but burn and sting, even the occasional bottle of girly wine that makes him wobble like a child’s toy. All the while hoping Sam won’t notice. And he doesn’t. Not for awhile anyway. Weeks go by before Sam starts to puck up on it. A couple more beers per night, a few drinks while he’s driving, more empties rattling around the back seat than normal.

“You’ve been drinking.” Sam’s eyebrows are pulled together tightly in concern. He dips his head a little bit, putting on his best “I’m the innocent little brother you watch out for, so tell me the fucking truth or I’ll punch you in the kidney” face.

Dean rolls his eyes, tilting the mostly empty bottle and taking a swig. The road stretches before them, straight into the horizon. He says nothing. Sam turns to the window and doesn’t push the matter. They drive in silence as the hours melt into each other.

They stop late at night, grabbing the first hotel room they come across. It’s sleazy and rundown, just the way they like them. A vague nautical theme, with anchors painted on the walls and a roughly drawn sailboat in the bathroom. They share a bottle of whiskey even though they're arguing.

“How can you be so reckless, Dean? You almost get yourself killed on every single hunt, and I swear it’s like you WANT it to happen!” Sam is almost hysterical thinking of the way his brother will use himself as live bait to get to monsters. Taunting them. Mocking them. Just begging, pleading to get gutted by a set of razor sharp claws.

“And how can you still be alive with how careful you are? You hesitate before checking rooms, you procrastinate on going after monsters until you’ve done twice as much research as you need to, and you insist we bring way too much with us. How can we be effective when you’re having us carry the entire arsenal on our backs? These things move fast, Sammy. No time to think. You only have time to act.” Dean’s words drip with resentment as he takes an extra large gulp from the bottle. Sam purses his lips and then looks at the floor.

“It’s Lucifer. He won’t leave me alone. Sometimes I have to take a couple seconds to push him away and ignore him. But that’s not my fault, okay? I didn’t ask for this. You have no idea what it’s like dealing with the mess up here.” He’s pointing to his head, a finger tapping angrily against his temple. With each tap, Dean’s guilt grows bigger and deeper. He’s right; he doesn’t know what it’s like. And he can’t know. He couldn’t prevent it either. Couldn’t keep his brother safe. That was his one job and he dropped the ball.

The weight of his expectations and the world on his shoulders is suffocating, so he grabs his jacket and is gone. Sam is left alone and angry in the hotel as Dean fades into the night.

He feels the need to drink more, so he finds the closest bar and takes up residence. A woman, barely dressed and moderately buzzed, attaches herself to his side.

"Well, lookie here. I ain't seen you before. I'd like to see more." She grabs at his shirt and tries to pull it up. He gives her a quick once over and raises an eyebrow. She's not bad looking. A bottle blonde in need of a touch up, but she pulls it off fairly well. Brown eyes, doe-like and slightly unfocused, rove unabashedly over his body. He knows her type well, and knows he'll be another notch in her bed post. He gives her a quick grin and leans ever so slightly into her.

"What's your name, sweetheart? Care to join me for some drinks? My treat." The way he licks his lower lip after the word 'treat' sends a shiver down her spine. She's still been around long enough to know when a man is trying to distract himself. That's okay, though. She's good at distractitrons.

"I'm Candi. And I drink my bourbon neat." This earns her another grin as Dean signals the bartender and orders.

"A bourbon girl, eh? I think I like you." She leans in close to his ear and chuckles softly.

"I like the smokiness and the way it goes down." She swings across to his right side, trailing her hand behind his neck as she does. Softly whispered words and a ghost of a touch. They're two masters of the same game, and neither is sure who'll get played tonight.

A couple shots later and they both leaning heavily into each other, laughing over a joke only booze could make funny. She trails a hand up his leg and bites her lip slightly, still smiling.

"So... your place or mine." She hasn't asked him a question; she's made a move in the game. Dean's smile fades ever so slightly, but he drops his eyes a bit and plays up the charm.

"Eager, aren't ya? My room's just up the street." He tosses a few bills onto the bar and steers Candi out the door. His hand splays out across the small of her back, fingertips stroking ever so slightly as she adds a little extra sway in her hips. They get back to the hotel and Dean realizes that Sam is still there around the same time he's opening the door with full bitch face.

"Well then. Guess I'll just be leaving if you have better things to do. I have a FRIEND waiting for me anyway." Sam glares daggers at Dean, knowing the jab about Lucifer will get him in trouble later. He has the keys to the Impala in his hand as he brushes past.

"Sam! Don't be such a..." He's cut off by Candi staring at him.

"I didn't know there was more than just you. Any other surprises?" She says it while trailing a hand down his chest, but he pushes her away and walks into the room.

"Go back to the bar." He shuts the door with a soft click, leaving them both unhappy and confused. She kicks the door and walks off with a swear or two as Dean sulks. Why did he bring her back here? He wasn't drunk enough to have forgotten that Sam was here. While he may have been looking for a distraction, it didn’t last long. As soon as he was faced with his life again, he just felt like drinking more and being alone. Luckily, there was still a half full bottle sitting on the table. Enough to get suitably plastered for the evening. Grabbing the bottle and settling on his bed, he stares at the wall as his earlier guilt creeps back in and sinks into his bones. There was no helping Sam. There was no saving Sam. He could only hope he was strong enough to fight Lucifer on his own. At least Dean could help with everything else. The real flesh and blood demons were the easy part. Keeping Sam sane was going to be the hard part.

He tilts the bottle on its end and drains it before slumping back into the bedding. Dean dreams of a forest, mossy and green and full of trails branching out like a spider’s web.