It wasn’t cold, it wasn’t like he could see his breath hanging in the air but for Sam, after Lucifer had used it, his room felt haunted. The air in the Bunker felt dead and still even with the ceiling fan turning above Sam. In the basement where Toni Beville had tortured him, he had been able to see the turn of the days and there had been something human about that. In the Cage there had been no difference between day and night. No clocks. The Bunker was like that.
He was already rethinking taking tea to his mother. She said she drank tea but what was she going to say when he showed up? ‘Oh no, Sam, I hate tea.’ He’d just meant to offer her a sympathetic ear and instead she’d ended up hugging him. She had to be a wreck. Two weeks ago she’d had a husband—a guy he’d met, his young father, the one who’d gotten so upset over the way he and Dean were raised, ironically—and two small children. Now those people were gone, the children dissolved into grown men as surely as if they’d died. She was a widow.
The ride back to the bunker had been awkward as fuck. Mis-starts of conversations. He was pretty sure he was the one making Dean uncomfortable with her. She was funny and smart. He’d never thought she’d be so funny and so fast on the uptake. It wasn’t that Dad had no sense of humor it was just that Dad…had almost no sense of humor. She had to be real because he’d never have imagined her like this.
Dean was alive. The sun had come back but Dean was alive.
Sam got up because he couldn’t stay in one place. A drink might help his mind shut down. Who was he kidding; if he drank enough to shut down he’d wake up in four hours with alcohol sweats. He hated inhabiting his body because it refused to sleep when tired, and jittered with a kind of aimless energy he knew he didn’t really have. He’d gone days without eating and Cas could only heal so much.
The light was on in the kitchen and he didn’t know why until he saw Dean asleep on the floor, surrounded by beer bottle and old photos.
He thought about laying down, too, but the kitchen floor was no place to rest. It wouldn’t be fair to Dean. ‘Suck it up, Sam,’ he thought.
He tapped Deans booted foot with his own. “Dean,” he said. “Dean, wake up.” Tapping their feet was how dad woke them up. Military style. Less likely to get him punched. He crouched and grabbed Dean’s foot and shook it. “Wake up, dude.”
“Come on. You don’t want to sleep here. It’s cold and it’s hard.”
Dean looked at him through sleep-slitted eyes. “Wha d’ya want?”
“I want to get you to bed,” Sam said. He held out a hand and Dean took it without probably realizing what was going on. Sam hauled his brother to his feet.
“You’re home,” Dean said.
“Yeah,” Sam said.
“Yeah,” Sam agreed.
“I’m not drunk,” Dean said.
That made Sam laugh, familiar and comforting. “Course not.”
Dean pulled himself together. “I’m not. Gotta piss.”
Dean probably couldn’t get really drunk on beer without working awfully hard on it. Sam let him wander off and picked up beer bottles.
Dean reappeared looking a little disheveled. Sam knew what that meant, that Dean was no longer able to keep pushing things down but he didn’t know what to do with what he was feeling. He knew it. But he couldn’t feel it. It was like everything was on television, happening to someone else. Usually he tried to break through to Dean but really, that was dicey at the best of times. Dean could get mad, lash out.
Sam was so tired.
Mom being around had upset Dean. Dean didn’t like change. Funny to realize that—their life was nothing but change but this was different. Dean had had the same car his whole life, the same music. He liked his relationships in tidy boxes. Sam was the younger brother. Cas was Cas. Mom changed, well, everything. Sam wanted to say that he wasn’t sure he could feel his own hands but he figured this was not the time.
“You want another beer?” he said instead.
“Yeah,” Dean said, “sure.” Because that was familiar and safe.
Good, Sam thought. He got his brother a beer and got one for himself. Dean drank.
Sam watched Dean, waiting for the growl.
“So,” Dean said, “you hungry?”
“No,” Sam said without thinking.
Was he supposed to say yes? Dean was looking at the trash from dinner. What was this about? The pie?
“Have we ever had meatloaf from Piggly Wiggly?” Dean asked. “You know, while we were on the road?”
This, Sam decided, was not a real question. This was something else.
“Fuck,” Dean said and drank the rest of his beer in a couple of long smooth swallows. “I just thought it would be different, you know?”
“It’s going to take time,” Sam said. “Give her time.” It was the wrong thing, he knew as soon as it came out of his mouth. It wasn’t about Mom, it was about Dean, Dean needed something now.
Dean shut down. “Yeah,” he said. “I’m gonna get some shut-eye.”
Soon as Dean had disappeared towards his room Sam wished he was still here. Couldn’t have said why. He didn’t know what he wanted from Dean. Had no idea what to say to Dean. He wanted to follow but he knew how that would go which was that they wouldn’t know how to talk about any of it. Dean said God and Amara made up and when Sam pushed him on it, asked what Dean had done, Dean said he had asked Amara if she wanted to be alone. That he told her she needed her brother. Sam hoped Amara was better at being with Chuck than Sam was at being with Dean.
He picked up Deans little stash of photos. It wasn’t the first time Dean had sat alone and drank looking at them. Sam went out to the library and poured himself a whiskey and took the photos with him as he headed back to his room. He was going to give them to Dean or put them in Dean’s room but Dean’s door was closed, probably for privacy because of course, Mom. Would they have to start closing their doors all the time now that Mom lived here?
Later that night he lay in his bed and listened to his mother move through the Bunker.
He was pretty sure it was his mother. He knew it wasn’t Dean because he knew the sound of Dean in his bones.
Then it was a new morning. Cas left for Cleveland to find Lucifer. They left for a hunt. Dead children and bones in a wall. Mom possessed.
And then mom was leaving. Doors slamming both for real and in Dean.
Sam was in a house and Dean was somewhere in the house, too. There were a lot of weird things about the house like it was too big and sometimes the bedrooms were like a motel room but there was a kitchen (it seemed to be on a second floor) and Sam thought Dean was looking for him. Sam called a couple of times. Sam was getting more worried that Dean would leave without him. Sam’s voice wouldn’t work and his legs were really heavy.
It was hard to see, too. Everything was kind of dark. Finally, he saw Dean downstairs. Dean was wearing his canvas coat and had his gun and he looked like he was hunting. Dean didn’t see him and it all came together. Of course. He was a ghost. He’d been a ghost for years, he just hadn’t known it. It all made such sense. He wasn’t sure if Dean knew it or not. Dean might be hunting him or just looking for him, he didn’t know. He wanted Dean to find him but he didn’t want to make Dean upset because he was always fucking things up. He was trying to back up but his legs were so heavy. Was Dean going to salt and burn him? He didn’t want Dean to salt and burn him, he wanted Dean to forgive him. He hadn’t meant to become a ghost.
He’d done something really bad and he was really ashamed. The bad thing was why he was a ghost. He hadn’t died, he’d done something really bad and become a ghost that way and Dean couldn’t know—
He woke up.
For long moments he couldn’t figure out where he was. He there was a door to his left and that there were two beds in the room. A window. Then he got a little more squared away and it was his room. He was in the Bunker.
Everything still felt off. He couldn’t quite get his bearings. Well of course not. He sat up. He should turn on his light, he knew, but for some reason the idea made him anxious. He felt still entangled in the cobwebs of his dream. He rubbed the sheet between his finger and thumb and he could feel it, he knew he could.
What do ghosts know? What do they feel? Ghosts don’t know they’re dead. The floor was cool under his feet. Dean had died and then his Mom and Dean were there. Which didn’t bode well. Now he was in the Bunker. Would there be anyone in the Bunker? His phone said 5:21. The light from over the bedroom door was enough to get him across the room and out into the hall.
The Bunker hummed, electrical system and air circulation, more alive than Sam. He had the illusion of breath.
He touched the wall. Tried to feel it. Did feel it, he thought. What did it mean that he thought he felt it? What did it mean that he could feel floor under his feet? It didn’t seem to have anything to do with him. None of this did. He could watch his hand do it and feel so disconnected. He knew this feeling, he’d had it before. Disassociation. This was the result of the drugs the woman from the British Men of Letters had used. This was the result of torture.
Ghost state. It felt like a ghost state. When had he died, he wondered. When was the last time he had really known he was alive?
Make coffee. Be normal.
He drifted down the hall and through the library, turning on just a lamp, using that light to see his way in the kitchen, just enough to see what he was doing. Not drifting. He was walking. He was measuring coffee. Getting water. He could smell the coffee brewing. He poured it when it was done.
He put the mug on the table and he looked at it. Looked at his hand flat on the table next to it.
“Sammy?” Dean asked.
He didn’t startle although he hadn’t heard Dean coming through the library. “Yeah?”
“What’s going on?”
He had to clear his throat. “Making coffee.”
“Can I turn on the lights?”
Sam thought a minute. Might as well get right to the point. “Are we ghosts?”
He heard Dean’s sharp intake of breath. “No. You’re not dead. I’m not dead.”
Sam studied his hand. “Mom?”
“Amara brought her back.”
“Yeah,” Sam said. “You explained." It sounded weird. But so did having a body walking around while your soul was in Hell. So did having your brother go to Purgatory. So did Leviathan. In fact he was pretty sure the last time he had been absolutely certain about reality was when he jumped into the Cage with Lucifer, Michael, and Adam. "But you gotta admit, it’s getting to the point where nothing feels real anymore.”
Dean walked into the dark kitchen. Sam could feel him behind Sam’s back, pouring coffee then coming around to sit down at the table. Dean in his dead man’s robe and slippers. “So what happens if we turn on the lights? We all disappear?”
No. If we turn on the light, we pretend we are all alive and that this means something. “What are you doing up?”
“You don’t buy beer,” Dean answered, “you rent it.” Ah. Bathroom again.
Sam steeled himself and headed for the light switch. Time to start the daily theater.
He did and closed his eyes. He couldn’t figure out what was going on with Dean. Couldn’t quite sort out what he was supposed to do. Ghost feelings.
“Nobody is dead,” Dean said. “Okay?”
“Yeah,” Sam said. “Got it.”
“You gonna shoot me?”
“What?” Sam asked.
Dean gestured around the shadowed kitchen. “You seeing people I’m not? Lucifer? Rainbow suspenders? Ghost of Christmas Past?”
Sam gave the requisite exasperated look. “Sully was real.”
Dean held his hands up, point taken. “Just asking.”
The theater of the Everyday Unreality. Look like he believed it. Act like he believed it. Just like Dean ignored all evidence that things were not fine.
Sam didn’t know how much longer he could keep acting. He drank his coffee like it was any other morning.