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Just One Drop

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Drip

Drip

Drip

He knew that it was going to be a dangerous night.

Tick

Tick

Tick

Crouched on the end of his motel bed, head near enough between knees. One hand wrapped around his throat, fingers absently scratching red lines along the length of already raw skin.

Bang

Screams

Worthless. Useless. A waste of space…

Shouting

No one would care…

Thud

You’re pathetic…

Thud

Thud

He bent over further into himself, rocking slightly as sharp nails dug into soft flesh. Pent up energy with nowhere to channel it. Internally maybe, clawing from the inside out, but that was unhelpful.

He was always falling apart from the inside out, he’d just gotten better at disguising it.

Sitting here now though, in the dark of his motel room with only the slithers of street light reflecting off of the surfaces, the demons were coming out to play. Demons he could supress at any other time.

But not now.

He clenched his teeth, hissing in pain as a hand dragged through his sweat-dampened hair, clutching and gripping tight. The demons were fierce. Picking piece by piece. His chest was tightening. His stomach roiling. His flesh crawling with the need for something to stop the darkness covering him like a second skin.

No, not crawling. Itching. Itching with a burning agony. Itching with a hellish want that had haunted and trailed his every step for way too long.

No.

He wasn’t that strung-out, burnt-down husk of a kid anymore.

He could do this.

Bile burned the back of his throat, eyes watering. An inhuman cry tore from him as he frantically pushed himself to his feet.

Pacing. Back and forth. Panted breaths and the rush of blood making him dizzy. Red coloured his fingernails as he ripped his fingers from his neck, balling his fists until his knuckles were white and clammy.

Still, the demons provoked.

Remember how good it felt?

You were unstoppable…

Unbeatable…

You were someone in this world…

You were special…

Loved…

The roar was primal and heavy as he spun, driving his fist into the plain motel wall. Again and again. Flecks of paint dusted the carpet. Knuckles swollen, reds and purples chasing out the lifeless white.

It ached.

He ached.

And for a split second, it was enough.

Sucking in a shaky breath, he leaned against the wall, forearms bracketing his head. The throbbing in his hand took the sharp edge off, the demons blissfully silent as the physical pain temporary placated them, but he knew from experience that it wouldn’t last long.

They always needed more and more from him. Demanding. Unrelenting. Craving.

Drip

Drip

Craving.

Drip

Brutally craving.

He had always been terrified of this. The craving. The itch. The rush. The euphoric highs made blunt with numbing emptiness. The release.

He’d known from the second that he’d been picked up by the WWE that he was on his very last chance. A drop-out. A criminal. A drug addict.

Recovering drug addict, he automatically corrected himself.

Puerto Rico had very nearly destroyed him in a haze of drink and more drugs than he could imagine. It had been so easy then; a naïve young guy, finally making some money for himself, a tropical paradise, and an opportunity to finally discard the shitty hand life had dealt him.

He’d always said he’d never turn out like his mother. Well, he guess he’d been wrong about that too.

Once he’d inked his name on the dotted line and packed up for Florida, he’d kicked the habit. No more drugs. No more smokes. No more hard liquor. No more screwing around.

That didn’t mean that everything was plain sailing though. Those demons were a permanent part of him now. Always scratching beneath the surface. Always lurking whenever the doubts and fear and the cracks appeared.

Always tempting.

And God help him, he thought bitterly as he thought about the bottles of Scotch he’d impulsively purchased from the joint around the corner, but he had always been one to play with fire.

All he needed was a few drops of that amber liquor, fuel for the fire, something to sate the demons.

But he knew it wouldn’t be that simple.

A few drops meant a whole bottle. One bottle would become two, three, and once the insidious poison had stripped him of defences, he’d be out on the street, desperately trying to find anyone who could hook him up.

String him out.

Swallow him back in.

It was a slippery slope he knew all too well.

Opening his eyes, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror.

All hard edges cutting on the harsh street lights. Sweaty skinned. Tears on his cheeks. Dried blood on his neck. Shaking hands.

Weak.

Vulnerable.

Worthless.

He’d known from the start that the last few weeks were going to be tough. He’d never been joking when he said that the SHIELD was his family, his brothers.

They were a unit, protecting each other’s backs, and for the first time he’d felt like he belonged. He had a purpose. He had security.

None of them were perfect, but that didn’t matter. They balanced each other out.

Roman could be a bit of a hot-head, more of a punch first, ask questions later kind of guy, and it didn’t take much to spark his anger off on the best of days. Seth had a mean argumentative streak, always having to have the final word in anything. Cocky, too.

And him? He was just himself. That was more than enough of a character flaw, regardless of the situation. The FCW days hadn’t helped him either; still in the early, self-destructive grips of the cravings that followed an addict being forced to go through rehab cold-turkey, he’d been surprised that management hadn’t thrown him out onto his ass.

Only upper management, and a handful of backstage staff were initially aware of his potted past. The drink. The drugs. The rap sheets. Seth and Roman had only been made aware when it was obvious that the three of them were going to be working very closely for a very long time. A few raised eyebrows and a couple of honest conversations later, his past had just been accepted as that. The past.

They just worked.

He wasn’t naïve enough to think they’d last forever, and he’d been okay when Creative had sat them all down and worked out the break-up angle. There was something he could channel his energy into, he’d get to go another round in the ring with Seth, and they were all mature enough that an onscreen angle would never interfere with their real life friendships.

Right?

Ha, he chastised, winding his fingers back through his hair roughly as he closed his eyes.

He came out the fool. Again.

Seth had adopted his new attitude a bit too keenly. Rifts had appeared. Cracks were wrenched open. Words and blows had been thrown about in the heat of the moment. As he said, Seth had a tendency to push buttons that were firmly out of bounds.

The tension and hostility on television was a cruel and twisted version of art imitating life.

It was draining. It was agonising. It was making the demons stretch and awaken from their slumber, and with every day that passed, they were beginning to eat him alive.

He knew that Roman had noticed the changes, as subtle as they were. Roman was concerned. Hell, the scarce few friends he had backstage showed varying levels of worry.

But none of them could’ve imagined that it’d gone this far.

He needed an escape. He needed a release.

Goddamn it, he needed a hit. Of something. Anything.

City like this, you wouldn’t have to go far…

Dealers down every alley…

A little wouldn’t hurt…

Just like old times…

His heart was thudding, his chest tight. Fingers grasped at his throat, trying to choke the air from his lungs. Banging his forehead against the wall to try and silence the voices.

Drip

Drip

Tick

Tick

His blood was burning.

Drip

Tick

The darkness was closing in, suffocating him.

Bang

Bang

He couldn’t stay here.

Tick

His mind raced.

Panic set in.

Thud

He pulled his phone out of his back pocket, trembling so much he dropped it on the floor.

“Shit!”

He fell to his knees, swiping the lock screen.

A picture of the three of them in the locker room.

DripDripDripDripTickTickTickDripTickTickTickTickBangDripDripBangTickDRIPDRIPDRIPDRIPDRIP

“Hey dude, what’s up?”

There was a voice. Tinny and crackled through the line. Accidentally rang someone. Couldn’t tell who though, their voice distorted. A perilously fleeting moment of calm in the storm.

It was enough to break him.

The mirror shattered, splintering into shards around the pieces of what used to be his mobile.

Shaking.

Burning.

Craving.

It was all too much.

He tore open the plastic bag he’d dumped by the end of the bed, fingers tripping over each other impatiently. Stroking the smooth, chilled glass inside. A twisted caress for a lost lover. The bottle cradled protectively in his hands.

He leaned back, curling in on himself as tight as he could against the wall, unscrewing the cap and throwing it god knows where.

It rolled in perilous circles, desperately trying to stay upright on its side as it wobbled.

Yes…

That’s it…

We’re gonna make it all better…

Just one drink…

The cap fell against the dirty carpet.


 

Roman cursed when he saw how late it was.

It’d been a long day of back to back tapings, promos, reshoots, matches, one right after the other, and he’d have been lying if he said he wasn’t ready to just get back to the motel and sleep.

He’d also have been lying if he said he wasn’t worried.

Since the SHIELD had split, he’d taken to keeping an eye on everyone, trying to play peacekeeper. It wasn’t a role he assumed as naturally as Seth did, and it wasn’t as well received as when Seth had done it either, but Roman knew he had to try.

It had been hard on all three of them, the break-up. Seth might not have shown it, playing the heel with scary ease, but there were moments when Seth would catch his eyes backstage and Roman could see the flash of discomfort and loss staring back at him for a fraction of a second before Seth disappeared.

Roman hadn’t come away unscathed either, but he’d had time to process it. Coming from a large family like his, it was always painful when he lost anyone he cared about, but at least he’d had support. Having a run at the Authority was also pretty damn sweet, throwing all of his energy behind beating the hell out of people. He’d always had a knack for working out any mental distress with his fists.

And then there was Dean.

Even thinking about the man made Roman’s chest tighten as he pushed open the door to his locker room.

Dean could lie to him all he wanted, trying to hide his pain behind quirked grins and sharp words, but Roman knew him better than that.

To say that Dean was suffering would’ve been a gross understatement.

Even when they all knew that the SHIELD was coming to an end, Dean had become distinctly unsettled. There was a constant tension in his shoulders, his fingers tapping against his collarbone in random staccato rhythms, and a dullness that replaced the bright spark that shone in his eyes. All classic ‘Dean’ signs of anxiety. Fear. Panic.

Of course, Dean would deny this to his dying day, but the fateful night that Seth had had to pull the trigger, something inside of Dean ceased to exist.

Then there had been the arguments.

Seth and Dean had always grated just a little bit on each other’s nerves, even in the SHIELD. They were friends, they all were, but their friendship had never been quite as cohesive and plain sailing behind the scenes as it had on camera.

Since Seth had gone solo, Seth and Dean had been at each other’s throats, their fragile friendship finally and irreparably breaking down just a couple of weeks after the SHIELD publically had.

Now, Roman was all that Dean had left.

Dean had never been one to make friends in the locker room; he was too rough and jaded around the edges, a little bit too caustic and mistrusting, to the point that most people just gave up. That didn’t mean that Dean hadn’t tried, of course, but he’d been cut too deep too many times.

And now, Roman had to watch, week in week out, as Dean lost himself just a little bit more.

He’d been thrown way too fast and hard into this feud with Seth and the Authority, the betrayal too raw and fresh to allow Dean to regroup. The constant putdowns and cheap shots, the brutal sneak attacks after every match when Dean was emotionally drained and out on his feet.

Tonight’s taping had been the final crack in the armour.

Seth’s words had burnt Dean, and as Roman had watched backstage through the monitors, he could see the walls finally crumble. The pain on his face, etched into his features, was all too real. Dean lost against Kane, and in the brutal post-match beat down, Roman watched helplessly as Seth broke everything he could lay his hands on over Dean’s back.

When the chair had come into play, it was all Roman could do not to go off-script, run down to the ring and intervene. He’d watched, a lump in his throat, as something in Dean’s eyes died.

He’d have continued watching, wishing he could put a stop to the proceedings, if it wasn’t for management calling him into a meeting about storylines and title developments. He wished he could tell them where to stuff their storylines, but he reluctantly acquiesced.

By the time Roman had finished, the taping had long been over.

And judging by the emptiness of the main locker and the lack of car outside, the younger man had fled, leaving Roman without a ride back to the motel.

Alarm bells started ringing in Roman’s head as he zipped his bag up and pulled an old black hoody on over his gear, grabbing a hairband he’d dropped on the floor to tie his hair back loosely. He took a couple of breaths to shake off the feeling. There couldn’t be anything wrong, Dean would have rung him otherwise. Dean had probably just gotten impatient waiting on Roman and decided to leave without him. It wouldn’t have been the first time anyway.

Stepping out into the corridor, Roman started on his trek down to the parking lot, hoping that there was still at least someone around he could get a lift off.

If you smeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeell…

Roman groaned as he felt his phone buzzing in his pocket. Whenever he found out who it was that kept stealing his phone backstage and changing the ringtone for a joke (He suspected that it would be Jimmy or Jey, but only because nobody else would be stupid or brave enough to touch his stuff), there was going to be some major league ass-kicking.

Fishing it out, he felt a rush of relief, a soft grin curling his lips as he accepted the call and brought the phone to his ear.

“Hey dude, what’s up?”

Silence.

No, wait. There was the faint sound of breathing. Fast breathing. Almost panting.

The grin abruptly fell from Roman’s face.

The sound of banging. The breathing got louder, shallower. An inhumanly stifled groan. A choked sob.

The whoosh of air.

The smash of glass.

Static.

Disconnected.

Roman’s eyes widened. He froze in panic for a split second before he took off running, desperately looking around to see if there was anybody he could grab a ride with.

He turned a corner. In the distance, shutting the boot of a plain black sedan, two people he instantly recognised.

“Dolph! Ryder!”

Both men startled, obviously not expecting to hear their names being shouted so loudly. They definitely weren’t expecting to see a six foot three Samoan sprinting towards them as if his life depended on it.

“Hey man, you alright? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Dolph’s voice was wary.

“It’s an emergency,” Roman panted out, bending forward for a moment to catch his breath. “I need a lift back to the motel now.”

Zack laughed nervously.

“That all you need Reigns? Fuck, you had me worried for a second.”

Roman straightened up to his full height, noticing how the other two shrunk slightly but not caring.

“Trust me, this is serious. I don’t care how fast you have to go – hell, I’ll cover any speeding tickets – I need to get to De- the motel now.”

Both Dolph and Zack shared a brief look before nodding, and Roman was faintly relieved that they apparently hadn’t caught his near slip-up as he opened the door and threw his bag in, sliding in alongside it and slamming the door shut.

Neither of them obviously wanted to mess with a very angry, or very worried, Roman Reigns.

Silence hung tangibly thick in the air, only broken by the roar of engine as Dolph pulled out of the parking lot and put his foot down, speeding off down the road.


 

“Dean?”

A soft knock on the door.

“Dean, you in there buddy?”

When he received no response, Roman reached down for the door handle, shivering as he flicked his damp hair over his shoulder.

Somewhere between the arena and the motel, it had started raining hard, and in the brief time it took for Roman to get out of the car, grab his bag and get into the lobby, he was practically soaked through.

There was nothing he could do about it though; being a bit cold and damp wasn’t his immediate priority. Other than the quickest detour to his own room to dump his stuff, he’d made his way up the stairwell and around the labyrinth of corridors until he reached Dean’s door.

He hadn’t been particularly fond of the fact that they hadn’t been rooming together to begin with, especially considering Dean’s current condition, but that was another argument for another day.

Again, not his priority right now.

Shaking the door handle – what kind of place didn’t have key cards nowadays? – was enough to make Roman realise that the room was unlocked.

That was completely out of character for Dean; he wasn’t exaggerating the paranoid part of his persona. He was the type to check any and all doors were locked half a dozen times before finally going anywhere, even if he was staying in.

The concern didn’t abate when he shouldered the door open just a fraction, light streaming in from the hallway.

The stench of cheap Scotch hung toxic and foreboding, smacking Roman in the face.

The hazy cloud of smoke was even worse.

He had to turn away for a second, coughing reflexively. Either one of those things by themselves would have been a cause for concern when it came to Dean. Together? They twisted and spiralled and fed each other, like oil on water, the sickly taste a mere hint at the mood of the man who was possibly indulging in them.

Taking a deep breath, Roman steeled his resolve, opening the door further before taking a tentative step inside. He pushed it closed behind him, leaving only a thin line of light that glittered off of the copious shards and slivers of glass that littered the floor.

Roman really wanted to switch on the lights – he needed to be able to see what he was potentially dealing with in more ways than one – but he resisted; there was obviously a reason for why the room was in darkness.

Squinting as his eyes adjusted to the lack of light, Roman could see that the room was a wreck. The contents of Dean’s gym bag scattered around the place. Mirror shattered. Dean’s phone in pieces. Cracks in the cheap dividing wall, smeared with blood.

Three empty bottles of Scotch.

The carpet was wet and sticky, and Roman carefully cleared a path across the room with his boots before crouching down beside the bottles. It was obvious that there was a lot of liquor spilt on the ground, but three bottles worth?

This was bad.

Out of the corner of his eye, Roman could see a flicker of smoke curling from a discarded ashtray. A pouch of what looked like tobacco beside some rolling papers and a familiar looking lighter. The smell was too sweet for normal cigarettes though. Too disturbingly pungent…

This was very bad.

Roman ran his fingers through his damp hair, feeling the bile roil in his gut. He knew Dean was suffering. He knew Dean was struggling.

He never could’ve imagined that things had spiralled to these lows.

The strongest thing Dean drank nowadays was a couple of beers when socialising at the bar with him and some of the other guys, and even then that wasn’t as often as people would’ve thought it would be. Other than the occasional cigarette when he was stressed, Dean had quit smoking.

But drugs? Shit, Dean had been clean since FCW and he was proud of that achievement; it hadn’t been easy, not by a long shot, and Roman knew there had been times when Dean had been close to relapsing, but he’d managed it.

Roman just desperately began to hope that, despite the evidence in front of him, the situation wasn’t what it looked like.

A faint noise caught Roman’s attention, and he pushed himself back off the floor, stretching as he cracked his knuckles. When he heard the sound again, he walked further into the room, noting the thin stripes of bright light that illuminated the bathroom door.

Of course, Roman groaned as he roughly wiped a hand down his face, he should’ve thought of that beforehand. It was almost cliché after all. Carefully stepping over the glass and remnants of destruction Dean had left in his path, Roman pressed his shoulder against the wooden door.

It was locked. Again, no surprise. Dean couldn’t stand to be seen as weak at the best of times.

The sounds, whilst still muffled, were much more coherent now; they didn’t sound particularly pleasant, however, and Roman was weighing up the pros and cons of knocking versus just bursting in when he heard a violent retching that made up his mind for him.

Taking a few deep breaths to calm the flurry of panic in his gut, Roman closed his eyes as he drove his shoulder into the door with some force, unsurprised when the lock broke fairly easily. Rolling his arm against the dull ache that sprung up, Roman wasted very little time and stepped inside.

“Oh Dean, what have you done?” Roman breathed out softly, heart thudding in his chest at the sight in front of him.


 

Drip

Drip

Pain.

So much pain.

Like fire. Burning. Engulfing. The flames flickering around him. His chest tightening, fighting for every breath. Throat raw from the acid that he clawed up every time he expelled the putrid contents of his stomach.

Demons cackling. Vision black and blurred through the tears. Head heavy. Sweating, muscles screaming as he convulsed with every gasp of air.

He rested his forehead against the porcelain edge of the toilet. There was no sense of time or reality here, thoughts scratching like needles against slate, fleeting and brutal before vanishing into the numb void that had replaced him.

Drip

Thud

Worthless…

Unimportant…

You can’t escape…

Thud

Pathetic…

Thud

Drip

You’re always going to be nobody…

Thud

…De…

Useless…

…Dean…

He had no warning before he vomited again, unable to hold back the choked sob that caught hard in his throat.

Cold. Exhausted. The walls were closing in. Panic ebbed through his veins. Was he dying?

“Dean…”

Warmth curled around him. A gentle hand between his shoulder blades, rubbing small circles through his sweat-drenched shirt. Fingers stroked lightly across his forehead, brushing his hair back. So soft. So familiar.

“That’s it, deep breath Dean, I’m right here…”

The kaleidoscope behind his eyes came to a jarring and abrupt stop, the darkness rupturing like an old movie film as harsh reality came roaring back.

The lights, the floor, the smell, the body supporting him…

The panic struck through him like lightning, trembling as he retched violently, nothing coming up despite his efforts.

After a few moments, he could feel his body moving. An arm wrapped around his collarbone. A hand clasping his wrist. There was something solid behind him, and he belatedly realised that it was the glass shower divider.

The warmth from beside him disappeared, and he was blinded by the sudden crushing fear he felt. He lashed out, reaching for something. Anything.

“Hey, calm down, I’m just getting you some water, okay?”

The voice was distorted, almost as if he was in a bubble, and he drew his knees up, curling up on himself. He would’ve thought that he was hallucinating the entire thing if it wasn’t for a cool glass being rested lightly on his bottom lip.

“Swish…”

It didn’t matter if that voice was real or not, but there was something behind the softly spoken word that made him instinctively obey.

The taste of Scotch and bile was almost enough to make him gag again. He was glad when it finally started to recede. As he spat the remnants from his mouth, he felt the warmth resettle next to him.

He involuntarily flinched when a palm came to rest on his shoulder, a thumb running over the scratches on the curve of his neck, but after a couple of moments he could feel the tension bleeding out of him.

“Dean, hey, you with me?”

His vision was blurred and glassy as he cracked his eyes open, the light sensitive and sore. He couldn’t remember how long ago he’d closed them. Blinking rapidly to clear the haze, he turned his head in the direction of that deep, smooth voice.

“R-Roman?”

Dean winced at the cracked, gravelly tone; his throat was raw and abused, and even concentrating on saying Roma’s name left him feeling exhausted.

A shadow of a smile crossed his face when he felt Roman’s lips press tenderly against his temple, one of Roman’s hand resting on Dean’s as Dean loosely intertwined their fingers. It fled just as quickly as it had appeared though when fragments and memories of the night came back to him.

The change in Dean’s expression was obviously noticeable enough for Roman to pick up on, but Dean couldn’t bring himself to look Roman straight in the eye.

Concern was one thing, but Dean knew that seeing Roman’s disappointment would absolutely destroy him. Roman though apparently knew exactly what Dean was thinking before he did himself.

“I’m not disappointed with you, Dean. I’m just disappointed that you felt this was the only thing you could do.”

The ‘why didn’t you talk to me’ hung unspoken between them, and Dean could feel the shame settling around him like a second skin.

Again though, Roman seemed to have a sixth sense when it came to Dean, and Dean sighed when he felt his fingers squeezed in Roman’s grip.

“I mean it, Dean. I’m not upset. Concerned? Worried? Hell yeah. I just need to know one thing, okay?”

Dean felt himself stiffen in spite of himself, his pulse racing. Tears were rimming his eyes, and as they started to drip down his face, Dean became suddenly furious at their existence, roughly scrubbing them away.

“I didn’t… it was just a couple of bottles, nothing more.”

Roman’s raised eyebrow only made that spark of anger flicker more, and Dean could feel himself becoming agitated as he lifted his free hand to his collarbone, tapping a manic rhythm with his fingers.

“Dean…”

“I’m sorry, would you prefer it if I was all strung-out or off my face, huh? Something all fucked-up that you could come along all heroic-like and fix up, huh?”

Dean didn’t care that he was doing the closest thing to a snarl he could manage, the whispered rasp belying the very real frustration flashing bright in his veins. It was too fragile to hold onto though, slipping like sand between his fingers, and he felt the burning tears again as Roman guided Dean’s head to his shoulder.

He knew he was shaking, his chest tightening as he bit down hard on his bottom lip. He felt dizzy; whether that was the alcohol or the weight of the thoughts burgeoning down on him, Dean didn’t know. The kiss pressed against his cheek was much firmer than the previous one, lingering with purpose as Roman pulled him in even closer, wrapping his arms around Dean without dropping their interlinked hands.

“That’s not what I meant,” Roman breathed out roughly, emotion colouring his voice, and that was more than enough to drain the fight left in Dean. “I trust you, and I believe you, you’ve never made a habit of lying to me in the past. I just need an honest answer, okay?”

Dean barely tipped his head, not wanting to set off the viciously pounding headache he could feel coming on.

“How much of the Scotch? I counted three bottles. How much, and is there any more?”

Dean swallowed around the lump in his throat, deliberately keeping his eyes to the floor.

“Two bottles, I kicked over the other one trying to get in here before I could throw up and add that to the bill too.”

Dean could feel Roman nodding softly.

“Okay, good. Now how much of the pot?”

“I didn’t, I swear. I kept dropping it everywhere, couldn’t get it rolled properly. The second I got it lit and the smoke hit me, I just… I just felt so fucking sick, I couldn’t do it, I-“

Dean’s tongue was tripping over the words, panic racing through him; before it could latch onto him though, he felt the fingers on Roman’s free hand thread soothingly through his hair, grounding him almost instantly.

“Shhh, I believe you. I’m not particularly happy that you got your hands on it, mind you, who’d you score it off?”

A beat passed. “Kingston and Woods.”

“I am, however, so damn proud of you for not giving in and using it. The Dean I knew a couple of years ago wouldn’t have had a second thought about smoking the lot or even going out on the town to find something a hell of a lot harder to get your buzz.”

The genuine sincerity and pride lacing Roman’s voice made a faint warmth bloom low in Dean’s gut. Dean was still tainted by the dark edge of pain and emptiness that had stripped him down from the inside out, and even he knew that Roman would’ve had to have been blind not to see it.

Dean’s anxiety was still working overtime, and it spiked when Roman suddenly moved away, pushing himself to his feet as he rolled his neck. The whimper was certainly unexpected, taking both of them by surprise as Dean desperately reached out and snatched one of Roman’s hands.

“Chill out, I’m just gonna clear up the chaos a bit before we go to bed. Unless you want me pulling shards out of your feet for the next week?”

Dean conceded that one, leaning back against the shower divider. On the other side of the door, he could hear the banging of bottles being collected, the sharp crunch as the slithers of mirror and glass were scraped up into a pile, but the noises slowly filtered out as he let his eyes drift shut again.

He’d expected screaming and shouting. He’d expected an argument, a few choice words, maybe some punches thrown. Roman had been surprisingly calm about it; Roman always had a way of throwing him for a loop like that, but the man had always exuded quiet and steady comfort.

It was just one of the things that Dean loved about him.

Something distinctly unsettling kept clawing in the back of Dean’s mind though, breaking through the haze of alcohol and headaches.

Just you wait…

This is all a trick, sucker you in and knock you down when you least expect it…

He doesn’t really love you…

If he did, why would he let you slip up?

He hasn’t even asked why, because he doesn’t care…

Why?

Why?

Why?

“Dean, you better not be falling asleep down there.”

Dean startled at the lilt of Roman’s words, a hint of amusement peeking through the concern Roman still had chiselled on his features. The small chuckle that rumbled deep in Roman’s chest at the uncharacteristic jump helped to silence the voices and questions echoing in Dean’s head, and he gratefully took the help up that Roman offered him.

Dean stumbled slightly on his feet, his vision going spotty around the edges, but Roman’s hand immediately came up to rest against Dean’s side, his thumb stroking over Dean’s ribs. There was still one question though that Dean could feel waiting to burst out, confusion twisting his face.

“Wait, aren’t you gonna do the whole, ‘why are you upset? What’s the matter? Whose ass have I got to kick?’ crock of shit?”

Roman’s eyes softened at the trace of bitterness that Dean couldn’t keep out of his tone.

“First of all, I do not sound like that, not one bit”, Roman quirked a grin, and Dean couldn’t stop himself from briefly responding in kind. “And secondly, yes, we will be talking about this.”

A pause.

“In the morning.”

Dean wanted to protest, but he was silenced by Roman leaning in, pressing a gentle kiss to Dean’s lips.

It wasn’t commanding. It wasn’t playful in the way that Roman usually was; his tongue stroking across Dean’s bottom lip begging for entrance that Dean was always grant. It was more than enough, however, to mute every thought in his head.

It was almost too gentle though, like Roman thought that Dean was going to break into a million pieces. Normally, Dean would’ve straight up bitched and demanded that Roman fucking give it to him properly, their lips fighting for control, hands touching every single inch of skin they could reach.

But…

Right now, it was just what Dean needed. Simple, heart-wrenchingly honest intimacy. He pressed back against Roman’s kiss for a brief moment, savouring the peace and security that wrapped around him.

Once Dean was lying in bed, Roman’s entire body seemed to envelop his own as he cocooned himself in warmth, Dean’s back was pressed tight against Roman’s chest.

The older man’s arms wrapped tightly around Dean’s stomach as if Roman was afraid that Dean would suddenly disappear into fine air, both their hands were securely entwined. Dean shivered compulsively as Roman’s nose brushed the curve of his neck, planting lazy, barely-there kisses over the marks on Dean’s throat; he was murmuring something, but Dean didn’t really care what.

Dean felt safe. He felt worthwhile. He felt loved.

Giving the soft sigh, Dean sunk into Roman, his eyes slipping shut as he was lulled into the healing sleep he desperately needed.

The brutal cravings that had been driving him to the brink of destruction all night finally dissipated.