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Higher Power

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The room-temperature alcohol burns Dean's throat as it slips down. It takes every ounce of concentration not to regurgitate it back up, but he manages. Acid inches up instead, bitter and unforgiving. He's been on a liquid diet for five days now, and it's starting to catch up to him. He hasn't been on a bender like this since the last time Cas died, years ago. He had been getting better, anyway. Ever since they found the bunker and had a steady place to live, he and Sam had actually both been doing so much better. Dean had nearly stopped drinking, and Sam had been getting better about his relationship with food. Everything seemed to be settling down.

Then Cas had to go ahead and die. Twice.

The first time Cas died, Dean had gone on a week-long bender before pulling his head out of his ass and getting his shit back in order. That time, Cas had come back to him. In that moment, hugging Cas once again, he felt that he could be content if the burn of alcohol never crossed his tongue again in his life.

But this time, Cas is not coming back. Cas is gone.

The fact smacks Dean in the back of the skull, and he's knocked off balance. He stumbles for half a step, but regains his posture by bracing both of his hands on the desk in front of him. The desk is littered with photographs, half finished letters, and empty bottles, so what's one more bottle added to the mess that's already there? He relinquishes his grip on the desk and starts his pathetic stumble towards the door. He has a passing thought that he should bring the empty bottles with him to discard them, but the idea quickly gets blurred and erased by his alarming blood alcohol level.

His steps are staccato movements across the short distance. His eyes are half closed against the too bright lighting of the mostly dark room. Somewhere metween a mumbled 'fuck' and a disgruntled 'shit' Dean manages to get to his bedroom door unscathed.

He takes a deep breath before reaching for the handle. He opens it, and immediately regrets the decision. The hallway lights are like a flash-bang to his drunken and sleep deprived state. He groans and covers his eyes, taking a step backwards. What had he needed to go out here for? Surely nothing could be worth suffering through light-- Oh right. More booze.

The travel time between bedroom and kitchen is entirely too long, and elongated still by the shuffling steps that Dean takes. He makes it, barely, and almost has to catch himself on the counter as his stomach lurches at the lingering smell of Sam's dinner. He can't stand to eat or taste food right now, and apparently smelling it is just as bad.

His stomach settles enough for him to meander over to the fridge. It opens with a too-loud noise, and accosts Dean with a too-cold sensation. He loads his arms up with as many cheap beers as he can manage, and closes the door with his hip. He mentally prepares himself for his journey back, but freezes when he hears footsteps approaching his current location.

For a second he convinces himself that those are Cas's footsteps, that that's how he sounds when he walks, but no. It's not Cas. It never will be Cas, again.

Sam enters the room with an empty plate and set of silverware. As his eyes land on Dean, disappointment is strewn across his face with no attempt to veil it. "Heard you in here, and thought you might've been getting something edible," Sam says as he sets his dishes in the sink and turns the water on.

The hissing of the faucet is entirely too abrupt and distracting for Dean to manage a response. Instead, he shrugs and sets off on his journey back to his bedroom. The bottles are cold against his arms and chest.

"Guess not," Sam nearly whispers. He lingers on Dean for a second more, something paternal and caring roots itself in his features, but is quickly hidden as Sam turns his back and begins to wash his dishes. Dean wouldn't know it, but grief weighs heavily on Sam's mind as well. He lost a best friend, after all. He just copes in a healthier way than drowning in alcohol. That's what he tells himself anyway. He's been up to his elbows trying to find a case, like an itch he can't scratch. He knows that it's ridiculous, to search for something brutal after losing his best friend and almost losing Eileen, but he cannot shake the feeling that he should be out there, doing something.

He clenches his jaw as he washes the plate, scrubbing too harshly at a stain that won't go away. All too suddenly he feels a fast moving wave of frustration roll over him, and he tosses the plate into the sink. As it clatters to a halt, he leans forward against the basin. God damn stain. Won't wash away, sticking around.

He breathes deeply and focuses his thoughts. Not the stain, Dean. Dean won't clean up, stuck moping around the bunker, day in, day out. It's getting on his nerves, but he has to understand. The fact that Dean won't talk about how or why Cas left must be some sort of indication that it's more traumatizing for his brother than he lets on. That doesn't change the fact that it pisses Sam off.

He finishes washing his dishes, sets them to dry, and contemplates grabbing a beer. He goes so far as to open the fridge and examine his options. Dean must have grabbed the last of them, because there is none left for him to make a regrettable decision with anyway. He grabs a bottle of water instead and walks back to the library to resume his search for a case.

Dean crosses the threshold of his bedroom door and instantly lets out a breath that he didn't know he'd been holding. He kicks the door closed and looks for a place to set the new bottles. Almost every hard surface is covered in empties; beer bottles being the most prominent. The whiskey bottles are a close second. The bottle of Kraken rum serves as a reminder of a mistake he wishes he could forget the taste of. Even a bottle of 1985 Ketel One that he lifted from the bunker's stash adds to the clutter of the room. Giving up on finding a place for the new additions, he drops them unceremoniously onto the bed.

He immediately regrets that as the clanging of glass against glass repeats itself about seven million times as the bottles shift into place on the mattress.

Too loud, it's all too loud.

Dean sinks down onto the bed next to the bottles and reaches blindly for one. He opens it and takes a long swallow. It doesn't burn this time. Or maybe it does, but Dean chooses to ignore it. The bottles rattle as he shifts his position on the bed and--

Too loud. Never quiet enough. It's never going to be as quiet as the night he spent alone in the dungeon, propped up against the wall after Cas--

He looks over to his chair and the blood-stained green canvas jacket still draped over the top of it. There's wetness on his face, and he's not sure whether it's tears, beer, or sweat. He decides that it doesn't matter and flops backwards onto his bed, chugging the rest of the bottle.

Bile creeps up to taunt the back of his throat, but he masks the bitter taste with another beer. Then another, then one more for good measure.

He's not sure when he falls asleep, but he does remember waking up and looking at the alarm clock. Three in the morning is a reasonable time to shower, right? Besides, he reeks of sweat and he's still in yesterday's (two days ago's) clothes. He untangles himself from the avalanche of alcohol that surrounds him and fights down a hurl that threatens to force its way out. He stands, turns, and braces on his dresser. Fortunate.

He rummages through the drawers for a clean shirt and pair of boxers, locates them, and turns again towards the door. There's a headache and a hangover teasing the edges of his awareness, so the only logical solution is to pound down another beer before walking as fast as he can to the showers.

Undressing is a frustrating affair, but well worth it once the warmth of the water surrounds him. He rests his hands against the wall, relishing in the heat and letting the sweat and tenseness wash away down the drain. Soon, his mind that had gone blank is swirling with thoughts again.

The one thing I want, it's something I know I can't have.

"And what gives you that idea?" He mumbles as he feels his heart plummet to the tiled floor. "What the fuck gave you that idea, Cas-?" The name is still so strange on his tongue. He hasn't uttered it since his toast with Sam after returning to the bunker days ago. The toast that turned into this nearly week-long binge. By this point, last time, he was coming around to the idea of sobriety, but now...

He lets out a weak sigh as he dips his head forward against the cold tile of the shower wall. Water streams across his face, mixing with his tears and getting too close to his nose. A sob rises in his chest and punches its way out of his mouth.

It's a loud ugly cry that leaves Dean gasping and losing all track of time. He inhales too sharply through his nose and water stings into his nostrils, leaving him coughing and gagging. He doesn't fight down the vomit this time and he heaves loudly as it leaves his body. Inevitable. Pathetic.

He straightens his back and fully rinses his body again. He soaps up a rag and washes his body and hair rather quickly, eager to be unconscious again. He turns off the water, fumbles with a towel, and dresses himself in the clothes he picked out earlier.

The time between the bathroom and his bed is a blur, but before he finally succumbs to sleep, he has enough sense to shove the bottles, empty and full, to the floor to make space for himself on his bed.

It's here in his dreams, that he can be with Cas once again. In his dreams Cas is warm and tender when he kisses Dean, he's comforting as he holds him in his arms, and he's slow and gentle while they make love. In his dreams, Castiel has him. He tells this dream version of Castiel everything that he couldn't make his mouth spit out on that night. "I love you too, you idiot. You don't get to leave me. I need you here. I want you, can't you see it?" He spits these words at a stoic and silent Cas, never earning an audible response. But he doesn't need one. He never will hear one, and he's come to terms with that. All he has of Castiel anymore is his memories.

And as the dream morphs into a memory, it also morphs into a nightmare. They're in Purgatory, well, Dean is in purgatory. He's alone, kneeling against a tree. He just finished praying to Castiel, choosing his words with such caution that he fears his message may have gotten misconstrued. He steels his face, wipes his eyes, and stands again.

He wanders for hours, checking his watch repeatedly. Even when the timer winds down to zero, and the portal has most certainly closed, he still wanders. He screams for Cas, but to no avail. He's about to give up and engage the closest group of vile things when he nearly trips over it--

Cas's dead body. Torn apart and bleeding into the hungry soil. One wing here, another over there, and limbs among the mix. He kneels beside the body and cries. Cas didn't hear his prayer. He didn't hear Dean forgive him or apologize to him.

He hears something approaching from behind, but he can't find it within him to care. A shout, a metallic sound, a devastating pain, and then nothing. The blankness lasts long enough that he begins to panic. He's conscious, but there's no sensation around him. Nothing to hear, to see, just an endless void. He sets his panic aside and welcomes the emptiness. It offers a strange sense of peace that would worry him if he wasn't at such a loss.

He wakes up sweaty again to a loud knocking at his door. So much for his shower. The alarm clock reads noon. He mumbles something resembling 'come in' and tries his best to sit up. The room moves with him, and he almost has to lay back down from being so dizzy.

Sam comes into the room with his laptop in one hand and a coffee cup in the other. "So I think I found us a case," he starts, making himself comfortable on the foot of Dean's bed. "Three residents at a homeless shelter in Pennsylvania have all died in the same staircase of the building, but, get this. The building was once an old Catholic church and two of the victims were gay men. I think it might be a poltergeist or something. Can't be a coincidence." Sam ceases his rambling long enough to take a swig of the coffee in his hand. "So, what do you say," he asks, finally turning to look at Dean.

Dean blinks a few times, trying to remember how to speak. "Yeah," he whispers. He clears his throat and tries again. "Yeah, you go on ahead. Sounds like an easy one."

Sam sighs. His fingers tap rapidly against the cup in his hand, caffeine jitters. "You're not coming with, are you?"

"No, no," Dean grumbles and risks leaning to pick up a bottle from the floor. He huffs as he leans back against the headboard and kicks his feet out. If he kicks Sam in the process, it's totally not on purpose. "Seems like it's a milk run. You got it. Take Baby. She could use a long drive like Pennsylvania." He cracks the bottle open and hides a grimace when the beer is, unfortunately, room temperature.

Sam eyes his brother for a moment. With too much caffeine in his veins and no sleep last night, he makes the impulsive decision to follow Dean's suggestion. Sam nods and leaves Dean's room in record time. He hears Dean call after him to close the door, but he can't be bothered to turn around now. He heads to his own bedroom and throws clothes into a duffle bag. He runs around the bunker, grabbing a few books, his laptop charger, phone, other phone, their chargers, and heads for the garage.

He only hesitates for a moment as he drops his things into the Impala's trunk and plops into the driver's seat. When he finally shoves any doubts from his mind, he starts the engine and hits the road, headed east.

Dean, on the other hand, finishes the beer in his hand and the last remaining full one in his room before deciding that he's in need of more. In his drunken stupor, standing is a mistake, but he manages. He makes what he thinks is a swell decision to collect the empties from his room into a trash bag before he realizes that those are in the kitchen.

He makes the journey to the kitchen again, complaining the whole way, and locates the trash bags with minimal difficulty. He thinks that he should eat something, but his stomach twists at the thought, so he leaves it alone. He opens the fridge to check for more alcohol of any kind and is disappointed to see that there is none left. With an irritated noise, he shuts the fridge and turns on his heels towards his bedroom once more.

He just barely manages to fit all of the empty bottles into the trash bag. Leaning is torture on his balance and he has to pause a few times to steady himself. As he sets the heavy bag by his door, he has the thought that he should have counted the number of bottles, just out of sheer curiosity. Next time, he tells himself. Next time? Christ, he's already assuming there will be a 'next time.'

Is he wrong in assuming so, though?

He throws his head back in a sigh and staggers towards the bathroom. He relieves himself, washes his hands, and runs some cool water over his face. He looks in the mirror and almost doesn't recognize himself. His normal stubble is long and almost filled in, his eyes are bloodshot, and his face is pale. Still presentable, though. He just looks like a drunk, is all. He nods and does his best impression of a sober smile to his reflection. Good enough.

With that, he walks back to his bedroom and throws on a pair of jeans, socks, and boots. Putting on clothes is one thing, but tying shoes is another thing altogether. He manages to get it done, though. He shoves his wallet into his back pocket and sprays on just a little bit too much cologne to mask his smell.

His phone is mercifully half charged when he finds it underneath his bed, and he shoves that into his other back pocket. Ready to take on the world, he heads towards the front door of the bunker and prepares to interact with people. The walk to the liquor store isn't a long one, but in the sunlight it's enough to make him wish he had the pair of sunglasses that are perpetually in Baby's glovebox.

As he walks, his thoughts take a dark turn. He thinks about Cas. He thinks about Mary, about Bobby, Charlie, Kevin, but mostly he thinks about Cas. How would he even begin to explain to the few people in this town that he knows that Cas is gone? Luckily enough, no one is on the streets to interact with anyway. Not even so much as a speeding car through town that he could jump in front of.

The liquor store gets closer and closer with every step that Dean takes, like an oasis in a desert of depressing thoughts.

"Heya, Dean!" The store clerk, Jason, calls when he pushes through the door. His chipper customer service attitude rubs Dean the wrong way, but regardless he gives the man a soft smile as he grabs a basket. He's been here enough times that they know each other by name.

He grabs anything that catches his eye. A bottle of Jim Beam, a bottle of Absolute, some Manischewitz that he will hide from Sam, a bottle of Chivas Regal, and a six pack of Yuengling. At the counter, Jason gives him a strange look, but keeps any rude comments to himself. Dean pays his total and only now does he realize that he has to walk back to the bunker with this stuff in his hands.

"Uh, Do you mind double bagging this please? Trekking it on foot today," he asks, and is relieved when Jason obliges without a second thought.

"Say hi to your brother and that friend of ya'll's for me, will you?" Jason asks. Dean cringes inwardly, but he gives a quick nod, loads up his arms, and starts the walk back to the bunker.

His arms ache by the time he gets to the door. He kicks out of his boots on his way down the steps and sets the bags on the map table with a relieved groan. With sobriety tickling the edges of his mind from the walk, he makes a blind selection from the bags, cracks the bottle open, and drinks. It goes down anything but smooth, but Dean hisses through it and drops himself into the nearest chair.

Silence surrounds him and he exhales. Thoughts try to interrupt his peaceful state, but he quiets them with long pulls from the bottle of elderberry Manischewitz in his hands. It's quiet for once since Cas left, and he's going to savor this moment. The only sounds that fill the space are his own verbal dissents as he drinks his way towards black-out.