Chapter 1: RAPTURE
He couldn’t pinpoint where everything went wrong. He didn’t really know when he and Lisa had started to drift apart. Maybe it had been something with the hormones - hers reacting to his own messed up mind. Maybe it had been inevitable, but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt like hell.
Taking a swig of his water as he drove, he checked the directions he’d printed out again. He should have called Sam to let him know he was coming. His baby brother was probably busy, what with starting Law School in the fall. He was proud of his brother. He’d graduated top in his class - something Dean had known would happen anyway - and had gotten a scholarship again.
It might have caused some strife with their dad at first, Sammy not joining them at the shop, moving away, but Dean had always known that would be how it would work. Sam had never been a grease monkey, and had always been far more academically inclined than his brother. Then again, Sammy hadn’t struggled the way Dean had, or been forced to miss classes for therapy, either.
He’d needed the therapy, of course. Probably should have still been going. If he had, maybe things wouldn’t have gone so wrong. His gaze flipped up to the visor at a red light, the picture clipped there shrouded in shadows, but Dean could just make out the face of the baby in his arms and his heart ached. He took another swig of water to keep from reaching for the whiskey tucked under the passenger seat, and made the turn onto Sam’s street, paying closer attention now as he slowed, glancing at building numbers until he found his brother’s.
Parking, he touched the picture gently, before grabbing the whiskey and his duffle, locking the car up behind him and heading toward Sam’s door. There was a faint light through the curtains, and he took a deep breath, knocking. Shifting slightly where he stood, it didn’t take long for Sam to open the door, and he gave the taller man a wide smile, though it didn’t reach his eyes, “Heya, Sammy.”
“Dean?” the younger Winchester moved out of the way to let his sibling inside, despite the confusion in his voice, “What’re you doing here?”
Taking in the sight of his brother’s space, he moved past, dropping his bag on the couch with a stretch, “Vacation, Sammy.”
“Uh-huh. Without Lisa, or Ben, and you didn’t call ahead,” he protested, barely catching the flinch his brother gave at the names. That was highly abnormal. Last Sam had heard, Dean was enjoying fatherhood, despite the strain. Their dad had even given him a bit of parental leave - nothing major, just a few weeks off to adjust, and then a more relaxed schedule for the first few months to help out more around the house. Sam had only seen a couple pictures that Dean had sent him, and talked to his brother a couple times while he was handling baby duty, seeing a side of his brother he hadn’t known had existed.
Dean didn’t grace his brother’s prodding with a response, just sat on the couch, bottle of whiskey in his hands, and Sam sighed, moving over. Whatever had happened, he knew Dean wouldn’t be willing to talk about it yet, and he knew better than to try and pry. Dean would tell him eventually. Reaching up, he let his hand rest on Dean’s shoulder, waiting until his brother looked up to say, “I’m glad you’re here. Stay as long as you need.”
Nodding, Dean looked away again, eyes focusing on the black screen of the TV across the room, “Think we could watch something, Sammy?”
Giving Dean a small, half-smile, he gets up, looking through his DVDs until he finds one that’s honestly not his, it’s one of his friend’s. They left it behind last time they were over, and he honestly thinks Dean might like it, and even if maybe his brother would prefer something mindless - and Sam has plenty because as much as he likes to challenge his mind, sometimes he just needs to veg out after lectures - he knows it’ll be better if his brother has something new to focus on.
And he’s positive if his brother had seen the gorey rock opera Sam’s holding, he would have said something. Putting the DVD in, Sam makes his way back to his spot on the couch, settling back, “I know musicals aren’t really your thing, but I think you’ll like this one. Ignoring the look Dean gives him, he turns the TV on and starts the film.
While there’s a few bits of the dream that catch Dean somewhere he doesn’t want to address, he does have to admit he likes the movie. It’s interesting, the songs are bad ass - and there’s a Joan Jett cameo, along with Paris Hilton’s face falling off. Sometime during it all, he opened the whiskey, not even bothering with a glass, and just drinking straight from the bottle, sharing a little with Sam, though he’s pretty sure he had more than his brother. When the movie ends,he settles back hazily against the couch, glancing over at Sam.
Sam looks ready for bed, eyes still open, but only just, small smile on his face as he moves languidly to stretch. Standing, he hands Dean the remote and gives him another pat to the shoulder before leaving the room. Stretching out, Dean flips channels until he finds mindless cartoons, drifting off without bothering to turn off the tv, or the lamp on the table beside him.
It isn’t one of his normal nightmares that wakes him, though he’s almost positive that it eventually will be. Sitting up on the couch, he checks the time on his phone, before rubbing a hand over his face. He’d only been asleep for a few hours. The images burned into his mind only a few weeks ago still hovering at the edges now that he’s conscious. He doesn’t give them free reign when he’s awake, and he knows if he were still seeing his therapist, she’d probably tell him that he’d stop having them if he would, but he’s not ready to deal with them right now. He’s not sure if he ever will be.
But when he’s asleep, he has no control. When the dreams wake him up, they still linger.
He walked in to see her standing over the crib, quiet, leaning down just a little, one hand braced against the railing, and the other covering Ben’s mouth and nose, his boy crying fitfully beneath her as she shushed him, humming softly between the sounds.
“What are you doing!? Lisa, get away from him,” he spoke as he moved, grabbing her shoulders and trying to pull her away. She lashed out, startling him just enough he stumbled back, her hand still over Ben’s face, restricting his airways as Dean moved to try and pull her away again.
And then silence.
She let him move her then, and Dean was frantic, phone pressed to his ear as he lifted his son from the crib, trying to explain to the Dispatcher on the other end of the line what had happened and give the still, unbreathing infant CPR.
She sits listless, watching with a faint smile from the rocking chair in the corner.
And Dean breathes, and breathes, and breathes, but Ben doesn’t wake.
He’s still sitting there, staring but not seeing the colorful characters on the screen when Sam gets up the next morning for a jog. Aching, he pats his brother’s shoulder as he passes, but they don’t speak of whatever it was Dean saw. He doesn’t ask about his sister-in-law or his nephew. He doesn’t even ask Dean if he wants to come with him. He just goes.
And that’s what Dean needs right now. Room to breathe. Suffering.
Chapter 2: FOREVER
A brief glimpse at the aftermath of Lisa's actions, prior to Sam showing up on Sam's doorstep, featuring a very broken Dean, and a few glimpses at other backstory that will be explored in later chapters
I'm still really sorry for what I've done with Lisa. Forgive me, everyone. Also, forgive me for breaking Dean so very early, but that's the whole point of this, really. Well, that and putting a story to these songs that I've loved for years.
Two Weeks Earlier
Red and blue lights reflected off the windows outside, Dean following the paramedics as if in a trance as they wheeled his son’s still body out on a stretcher. Lisa had already been escorted out to the police car parked on the street, calm and quiet now. Voices rang in his ears, but Dean barely heard them over the roar of his own blood in his body, could barely see through the tears that wouldn’t stop coming. He was barely pulled from it when he felt a hand on his arm, calloused from years of working on cars, before he was tugged to his father’s chest.
Winchesters rarely hugged, but this was different. John was muttering different things above him, trying to tell him it would be okay, though he wasn’t sure how. Telling him it always hurts when it’s someone you love. As if Dean didn’t know that. He let himself be led to John’s truck, nodded in agreement when his father told the officer on the scene that he’d be sure Dean made it into the station the next day to give a statement.
The cop car followed the ambulance, while John drove them back to the house he’d raised his boys in, silence in the vehicle. Lisa would be held for a mandatory psychiatric evaluation before anything continued. Ben’s body would be held for the coroner. Somewhere, deep down, Dean knew he should give his boy a nice funeral, but he just couldn’t bear the thought of it at the moment. He kept hoping that this was just a horrible nightmare, and he’d wake up the next morning, holding Lisa, with Ben gurgling over the monitor waiting on them to get him out of his crib.
Instead, he woke up in his childhood bed, every breath making him feel like dying. There were scratches on his arms from Lisa’s struggles, and a bruise forming under his eye. None of that mattered though. He powered through the breakfast John managed to make him, before letting his father drive him to the station. He was empty and numb as he recounted the events, some part of his brain shut down as he told them how they’d been curled up watching a movie when Ben had started to cry. How Lisa had smiled and told him that she’d handle it. He mentioned that she’d been struggling with postpartum, but she was supposed to have been getting help. That he hadn’t seen any real signs.
He’d climbed the stairs to check on them when he realized that he couldn’t hear either of them on the monitor anymore - he couldn’t hear anything on the monitor. She’d turned it off.
It wasn’t until he reached the end that he began to break, choking on his words as he described what he saw her doing. His son’s cries, and then the silence. The silence that went on and on and on until he felt like he was deaf.
He declined to press charges. He could, but he wouldn’t. He still loved her. He just wanted this over. She would be prosecuted by the state, but for Dean, he couldn’t.
His finger had hovered over Missouri's number when he left the station. The woman was more of an aunt, given how long Dean had been seeing her, and though he’d lapsed in his actual appointments when Ben had come along, she was still his doctor. Instead, he’d closed his phone and walked back to his house, the whole building feeling like it was full of ghosts. Cold and empty.
The pictures on the wall mocked him. Lisa laughing at the camera. Both of them smiling and looking completely in love, his hands gently touching the soft round of her stomach while her own hovered over his. Framed ultrasound images, baby shower pictures stuck to the fridge, a bottle in the sink and one of Ben’s socks on the couch.
Upstairs was worse. The first thing he did was close the nursery door. He couldn’t look inside. Their room was just as hopeless. One of Ben’s blankets on his side of the bed, a picture of the three of them on his nightstand. If he were anyone else, the pain might have bubbled up into anger, but instead, he felt numb. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he lifted the blanket into his hands, fingers moving slowly over the monogram.
Lisa’s mother had gotten it for them. The corner embroidered with a fairly good replica of Baby’s hood, with Ben’s initials over the hood. Benjamin Michael Winchester. Lisa had teased him about their son’s initials being BMW, but had agreed it was a good name. Tears burned his eyes, and he buried his face in the soft fabric.
Why wouldn’t he wake up?
Her mother gave him two days before she stopped by, but Dean didn’t answer the door. When she came by the next day, he still didn’t. He didn’t even leave the house when they called to tell him they were releasing the body, simply gave them the name of the funeral parlor, before finally breaking down and calling to ask for them to cremate his son.
He didn’t answer the door until the end of the first week. He knew he looked like hell, but he didn’t really care, blinking at the too bright sunlight before he was able to focus on the woman before him. She gave him a strained smile, and Dean barely registered stepping out onto the porch as she told him that they had finished their evaluation on Lisa. She wasn’t well. Dean could have told them that, and he scoffed.
The woman gave his arm a light touch, and he’d stepped away, “I need to go pick up his ashes.”
Her face fell, but she didn’t stop him from leaving.
At the parlor, they’d gone above and beyond. Instead of an urn, his son’s ashes rested in a small, well sealed, lined cedar box, a plaque upon the top with Ben’s name, birth date, death date, as well as hand and footprint etched into the metal. He’d started to cry again at the sight, before thanking them and tucking it under his arm.
It had taken another week for him to make a decision. The house hurt too much to stay in. Everywhere was just another memory. There was no safe place to hide from what had happened. The bruise around his eye faded, replaced by dark shadows from lack of sleep, the scruff along his jaw threatening to become a beard if he didn’t shave. When was the last time he’d eaten?
He’d grabbed a duffel and shoved as much of his things in it as he could, before folding the blanket around the box and tucking it in as well. Showering, he decided he’d go see Sammy. Just tell him he was taking a vacation. Sam wouldn’t pry - not at first. He wouldn’t know what had happened until Dean told him, and maybe Dean could clear his head.
And maybe after that, he could come back home.
Chapter 3: OVERDOSE
Dean is still coasting along in his grief, somewhere in a mix of denial, pain, and depression, when Sam realizes he forgot a prior engagement with a friend. After a night out, Dean struggles with another aspect of his grief, and Sam learns the base cause of his brother's troubles.
EXTRA SONG: as an extra song in this chapter, though not much of an inspiration, we have some AC/DC
So, I should have said this before, but I've no real set schedule for updates. I'll be posting chapters as I finish them, and find inspiration and moments to write.
I've also realized that I might deviate slightly from my original idea of only finding inspiration from one band's music, so any chapters with differing inspiration will be noted in that chapter's summary. I also have no real plan for how this is going to end. I have a few ideas, but I tend to be a fluid writer, and that might change along the way, or evolve.
This chapter is a little longer, and I honestly cannot guarantee the length of any chapter. As said above, I'm a fairly fluid writer, and try to just follow what my instincts are telling me at the time. Please enjoy the update - as well as you can, anyway.
He’d been at Sam’s for a week. With his brother to hold him accountable, things didn’t get as bad as they had back home, but there was still a hollow in his heart - a hollow that liked to stretch and fill him, overwhelming at times. At least Sam made sure he ate at least twice a day - three times if he wasn’t at work or called around lunch - and kept him as busy as possible. He did his best not to let Dean dwell on what had happened, worked him through the motions of living, but that’s all they were.
He pitched in for food when he could, but a lot of his savings went into alcohol. It made him feel again, kept the numbness at bay. It wasn’t good. It was an unhealthy coping mechanism and he knew it, knew just based off things that Missouri had told him in the past, as well as the way it was only a bandage over the gaping wound he carried with him.
Time was the only thing that would ever fully heal it, but the alcohol helped - or at least, he told himself it did. Aside from a brief grocery trip with Sam at some point earlier in the week, and they’d gone out for burgers at some point, he hadn’t ventured out of his brother’s apartment. The days were really a blur to Dean if he were honest with himself. The sun came up, he tried to drown everything in whiskey and bad tv, it went down, he passed out, lather, rinse, repeat.
The second Saturday he was there, Sam cursed from his spot at the dining room table, glancing to Dean, before sending a text. Brow raising, a mostly sober Dean glanced to his brother, curiosity written over his face. “What’s up, Sammy?”
A little bashful, Sam pushed his hair out of his face, head tilting as he considered telling Dean, before sighing. His brother liked to pry. “I forgot I had plans tonight. It’s kind of a biweekly thing with a friend of mine. I’ll tell her I can’t come, it’s cool.”
Brow raising higher, Dean smirked, “Sammy you dog. Go on. Have a good date, I’ll be fine.”
“It’s not a date, Dean.”
Of course it wasn’t. Shifting on the couch to stare Sam down, he gave his brother a look that clearly said he didn’t believe him, and Sam sighed, “She’s just a friend. Swear. We had a tech class together Freshman year and hit it off, but it’s not like that.” Chuckling softly, he didn’t add that it could never be like that with Charlie because she was far from interested.
“Alright, so what are you and this
just a friend
going to be doing, Sammy?”
There it was, the teasing tone in Dean’s voice - a tone that hadn’t been present in this past week, and while it would normally annoy Sam, he welcomed it. “We just go to this bar near campus, have a few drinks, hang out.” Hook up.
Dean considered it, and sighing, he offered, “I could tag along.”
And Sam hesitated, chewing on his lip before he admitted, “It’s a gay bar.”
Dean blinked, before shrugging, “They still got booze. I’ll be fine, Sammy.”
A few hours later, Dean’s checking over himself in the bathroom when there’s a knock at Sam’s door. He can faintly hear voices, but doesn’t walk away from his reflection just yet. He looks like shit still, but better. Still tired, but not scruffy and wild. It’s gonna have to do, even though he’s only going to drink and get out of the apartment. He’s not looking for a hookup. Guys have never been off the table, and gay bars always have at least a couple bi chicks who don’t care who they bring home, but that’s not on the agenda right now.
Finally moving out of the bathroom, he smiles at the short red head Sam introduces him to, holding his hand out and tilting his head, “Dean Winchester. Is that a Firefly shirt?”
Charlie laughs, shaking his hand, “Charlie Bradbury, and indeed it is, Captain Tight Pants.”
Shaking his head a little, he looks to Sam, “I like her already. So, gay bar?” He hadn’t really questioned it earlier, but now that he thinks about it, he’s not sure why Sam’s going, except for out of support for his friend.
He gets another embarrassed look from Sam, and his brother nods, “Might as well get this out of the way, uh, I’m bi.”
Nodding, Dean lets out a soft, “Huh,” of affirmation. It’s not really all that surprising. Shrugging, he slings an arm around Sam’s shoulder, “I’m sure you’ve got more to that confession, but I’ll pester you later. For now, onward! I need a drink.”
The bar was loud - more of a club than a bar, if he’s honest, and Sam wasn’t entirely truthful with what he’d told him. It
a gay bar, but only on certain nights. The space was used for different events and themes throughout the month, and occasionally played host to live music. Being a small venue, they didn’t get many big name bands, but still some memorable ones, and from what he’d been told by Charlie on the way, the prices were reasonable because of those factors.
All Dean had really cared about, though, was the well stocked bar and the decent priced drinks. Despite being close to the campus, the crowd was a mix of students and locals, very few taking up the handful of stools near the bar, most others milling around, talking to one another over the music, out on the dance floor, or sequestered on the balcony level to people watch or other things in private. Raising a finger to flag the bartender down again, he turned on his stool, scanning the crowd for Sam and Charlie. They’d tried to stick close to him at first, but he’d nudged them away after a couple of drinks, telling them to have fun, and ignoring the bitch face Sam had given him as they’d walked away.
His brother was easier to spot in the crowd than Charlie, but she wasn’t far from him once Dean managed to pick Sammy out in the mass of bodies moving and pressing. Even if the music wasn’t Dean’s favorite for most of the night, he had to admit the DJ was good at his job, songs moving fluidly one into the next, never letting the pace get too slow.
He was a little surprised to see Sam with his hands on another man’s hips, the pair dancing close, moving fluidly with the rhythm of the song. He’d known Sammy wasn’t entirely a prude, but it was still a little disconcerting to see him like this. It was closer to Dean’s element than Sam’s, or at least he’d always thought so. Apparently that wasn’t entirely the case though, and he smiled as he turned back to the bartender, nodding and lifting his drink to his lips.
Charlie seemed to have found a partner as well, and he settled in to watch and nurse his drink, letting the warmth of it move through him until he started to feel alive again. The more he drank, honestly, the more he got maybe just a little bored with just sitting at the bar. He wouldn’t give in, but it didn’t mean it wasn’t the case.
Arms crossed over his chest, he could swear Sam met his eyes for a moment across the room, and he shook his head some, giving his brother a thumbs up, briefly wondering if he wasn’t here, if Sam would be trying to take the guy back to his place. As much as he needed the space, he didn’t want to completely inconvenience his brother. Sighing, he pushed himself up from the stool he’d claimed as his own, and made his way through the surging mass of bodies between himself and his brother. He was brushed by movement with almost every step, occasional stray hands moving across his arms, sides, and back that he told himself were accidental, though it was just as likely that they were done with purpose, laughing softly when, as he finally reached Sam, he was greeted with a perplexed expression.
Shaking his head as Sam made to move away from his partner, he leaned in, “Having fun?” He had to nearly shout to be heard over the music, Sammy nodding with a faint flush to his cheeks that was just as likely embarrassment as it was exertion, his partner eyeing Dean until Sam leaned in, likely telling him not to worry, it was just his brother.
The song drew to an end and Dean would have recognized the next one anywhere, giving a quizzical look to his brother that was simply met with a wide grin, the entire mass around them seemed to bounce with the beat, voices starting out low. He didn’t even care that the near incoherent sound that was the actual vocalization was covered by a chorus of people growing louder and louder as they said, “Alright. Alright. Alright. Alright.”
And he certainly couldn’t help but get caught up in the masses as they called out, “Thunder!”
The surging continued, arms raised toward the ceiling, everyone moving as one. Some hands held drinks, while others just held other hands, or even a few phones open as if they were lighters. He laughed softly, singing along. A few around him did the same, but most just waited for each interspersed Thunder or Thunderstruck to join.
Sam still hadn’t lost his wide grin, though his partner had turned to face him now, shaking his head as he sang along, almost entirely in the other man’s face. Charlie didn’t know the words as well as the boys, but from the way everyone was moving around them and singing in unison, it was clear this was common, and it was exactly what Dean needed. His fist pounded the air, and he laughed, the sound pure and genuine for the first time in weeks.
The sound drew Sam’s attention for the briefest moment, before his attention was pulled back to his partner as the song came to its climax, “Yeah, it’s alright. We’re doin’ fine!” The bodies around them don’t start to slow until the next song starts to play, several around them slowly starting to move off the floor and toward the tables and bar, Dean giving the pair a smile before patting Sam’s shoulder and gesturing with his now empty glass.
Sam nodded, looping an arm around his partner’s shoulders and helping to muscle their way through the people still dancing, Charlie’s hand catching on Dean’s shirt as she giggled, leading her own partner along behind. Dean had them on his tab for the night, even though Sam’s not really drinking, since he’s driving them home, gesturing for his brother and friend to get something not only for themselves, but the ones they’ve brought along.
Smiling, the pair thanked him quietly, ordering and tipping their drinks Dean’s way before Charlie and her girl meandered off to the upper level, Sam giving his brother a look, silently asking if he’s okay. Nodding, he saw his brother smile before moving further down the bar to be more out of the way as more people come up. Moving back to his stool - somehow still empty, or recently vacated again, though Dean’ wasn’t sure which, he sat down, pulse still thrumming from the little hint of AC/DC and the moment shared with so many strangers.
One song began to bleed into the next before the person beside him spoke, Dean uncertain at first if it was directed at him, before turning slightly, catching sight of blue eyes fixed on him. Leaning in slightly, he managed, “Come again?”
“I asked if I could get you another drink,” the man replied, head tilting slightly as he studied Dean with what was, perhaps, a bit too intense of a gaze. There was a part of Dean that wanted to tell him no. It wouldn’t be right to let the guy think he had a shot, but it would be one drink Dean wouldn’t have to pay for, so he just nodded. With a small smile, the man flagged down the bartender, who raised a brow Dean’s way, before shrugging and pouring him another.
They sat in silence for a while, before Dean managed, “Thanks, uh…”
“Cas. You looked like you could use it. I’ve been watching you.”
Now, that was just downright creepy, but Dean couldn’t complain entirely. Giving the other a wry smile, he offered, “Dean. And yeah, I did.”
Cas didn’t pry, or even push for anything else, before he stood, gently gripping Dean’s shoulder, “I’ll see you around.” Dean watched as the other man settled his tab before leaving, a little confused, but not complaining.
It wasn’t long before Sam and Charlie showed back up, the woman just a little wobbly and leaning into his brother, “Sammy says it’s time to go home and go to bed.”
“Unlike some of us, I have to work in the morning,” his pointed look was directed at Charlie, and Dean nodded, standing and flagging the bartender to settle up.
“It’s probably a good idea, anyway,” he agreed. It was nice to get out of the apartment, but he was starting to get to that sleepy stage of drunk, and that would be better suited to Sam’s couch, than the bar, or the backseat of the impala. Leaving as hefty a tip as he could manage, Dean followed the duo out, his own steps more solid than Charlie’s, but still affected by the liquor he’d consumed.
As they left, he caught a scent over the alcohol and sweat that permeated the air of the club and frowned at the thoughts that pierced through the whiskey haze. He didn’t want them anymore. He didn’t want to think of her, to see her. Shaking the thoughts off, he settled into the passenger seat as Sam laid Charlie out carefully in the back, trying to focus on the chatter that was coming from her mouth.
“She gave me her number and told me to call her, Sammy, and she has a Black Widow tattoo. How cool is that?” He heard Sam’s affectionate chuckle and the door shut softly, before his brother moved beside him, starting the car. He wondered briefly how Sam would get Charlie her own vehicle back as they drove, but his curiosity was answered as Sam pulled up to a building in the same complex as his own, easing Charlie up the stairs and inside - likely making sure she made it to bed okay, because that’s just who Sam was.
When his brother made it back to the car, he sighed, “Did you have a good night?”
Sam nodded, glancing over at Dean, “Yeah, I did. Thanks...for coming. You didn’t have to do that. I know it’s not really your thing.”
But how many times had Sam done things for Dean that he didn't like? Shaking his head some, he smiled, “Don’t worry about it. It wasn’t so bad.”
They sat in silence the short way back to Sam’s own apartment, Dean flopping onto the couch with an exhausted sigh. At least sleep would come easy tonight. Though not drunk himself, Sam rested a hand on Dean’s shoulder, voice soft, “I’m gonna head to bed. See you in the morning.” Dean’s only response was to nod, shifting to make himself more comfortable, watching as Sam retreated into his room and shut the door.
Despite the way the liquor and exhaustion pulled at him, however, Dean found himself unable to sleep. He lay in the dark, eyes closed, and willed the dreamless black to come, or even dreams of lighter days that sometimes plagued him, nowhere near as bitter as the nightmares, but not sweet when he awoke, but nothing came. He pushed what focus he had into relaxing his muscles, regulating his breathing, finding that place inside himself that was safe and would let him sleep, but even the meditation didn’t work and he cursed softly into the empty space.
Sitting up, he dug through the duffel, fingers brushing against the softness of Ben’s blanket, and he pulled the wrapped box from inside, slowly setting the bundle on the table before pulling the corners aside, staring at the dark shape the tiny box made. His hands felt the silk of Ben’s hair against them, fingers the fragile set of his chest, phantom sensations of his own personal hell. The tears came as he reached out, fingers running over the cool metal that bore his son’s name, the fine lines of a tiny footprint.
He would have been seven months old in two days. He’d been on par for most of his milestones, a little ahead in others, already sitting up, smiling and babbling at Dean, Lisa, John - he’d even grabbed the phone on more than one occasion while Dean was talking to Sam. He’d been showing the signs of being an early crawler. He hadn’t liked peas until Dean had tried mixing them with carrots.
A small sob tore from Dean’s chest and he pulled the blanket closer, crying into it like he had that first night he’d been home after everything. It was muscle memory that guided Dean to lay back on the couch, the blanket draped over his chest in a painful mockery of past naps with Ben nestled on his chest. He didn’t want to fall asleep with the pain weighing so heavy, but it was in those moments, grief finally striking him square in the chest in a way that Dean couldn’t ignore, that Morpheus took him, gracing him with dreams of his smiling, laughing boy.
He woke the next morning to the scent of coffee mingling with bacon frying. Everything hurt, both physically, and mentally, as he sat up slowly, rubbing his face with the blanket still clutched in his hands. There was no way Sam hadn’t seen it, or the box sitting on the coffee table, and Dean sighed. Standing, he draped the blanket carefully over the wooden container, before making his way toward the table.
The sad look Sam gave him was coupled with an offering of coffee and aspirin, which Dean gladly accepted, downing the pills before sitting, staring into the cup. It wasn’t until his brother joined him at the table, situating a plate full of breakfast in front of Dean that either of them spoke, Sam breaking the silence, “I’m sorry, Dean.” Before he had a chance to say anything to that, his brother continued, “If you don’t want to talk about it right now, I understand, but I want you to know I’m sorry, and we’ll get through this.”
Dean wasn’t sure how, but he nodded, sipping his coffee slowly, before making a move to start eating, even though he didn’t really want to, “Thanks, Sammy.”