Sammy wasn't too surprised when his big brother was not parked in his usual spot outside the school where he usually waited to drive him home. Maybe Dean had gotten in trouble, or maybe he was passed out drunk at home. It wouldn’t have been the first time for either scenario. So Sam shouldered his backpack and trudged down the sidewalk, beginning the 40 minute walk home. He could have ridden the bus, but he didn’t. In a single moment he made a simple decision that would prove to be one that he would regret for years to come. In Sam’s mind, everything may have turned out differently if only he had arrived home even fifteen minutes sooner. He would drown in the sea of “if only’s,” blaming himself for not seeing it coming, but how could he have? He was just a kid. He was thirteen years old.
In his thirteen years, Sam had seen some shit. His dad was drunk most of the time, but in the past few years, it had escalated. What used to be shouting matches between his dad and his seventeen year old brother, Dean, had turned into violent physical altercations. Dean always took the brunt of the violence, a human shield between his dad and his innocent, younger brother. At one point, Dean’s perpetually bruised face had had staff members at the high school beginning to ask questions, but that was before Dean had dropped out, opting to hold odd jobs in the hope of keeping the lights on and a roof over their heads. On more than one occasion, Sam had watched in horror as his dad gained the upper hand in a fight, refusing to quit even as Sam screamed and begged him to stop. There were a couple times he thought their dad was going to kill Dean right in front of him. Once, Sam had called the cops, but his dad was able to convince them that it was a one-off domestic disturbance, that Dean had instigated the fight, but he didn’t want to press charges. The violence escalated severely after that, his dad threatening to throw Dean out if either of them involved the police in their “private family matters” again.
Sam was well aware that Dean had begun drinking as well; he had dragged Dean to bed a number of times, leaving aspirin and water on the nightstand by the bed for the morning. Dean had problems; they all had problems, but nothing could have prepared Sam for that particular afternoon.
The small house was eerily quiet as Sam stepped inside, shutting and locking the door behind him. His dad’s old truck was gone, but the black ‘67 Impala Dean drove was in the driveway.
“Hello?” Sam called out. There was no reply. Sam dropped his backpack on the couch and walked into the kitchen. It was a mess. Not the usual mess; this was a big one: broken plates, broken beer bottles, and beer everywhere. What sent a wave of dread crashing over him, though, was the blood. Little droplets were scattered across the floor and smeared in places on the wall.
“Dean?” Sam called more urgently, “dad?” Still no reply. Sam rushed down the hall to check the bedroom he shared with Dean. The light was dim, only filtering through the drawn blinds in places, but Sam could see Dean’s form lying on his bed in the corner.
“Dean?” Sam said, “what happened out there?” But Dean didn’t move. The only sound he heard was the familiar hiss of the old record player by Dean’s bed. It had reached the end of the record. A sinking feeling began to grip him then, and he felt like he couldn’t breath, like his chest was caught in a vice. The room stank of whiskey and vomit. “Dean!” He said louder, rushing to his brother’s side, but still, Dean was motionless. He switched on the lamp by the bed, though he was terrified of what he was about to see. Dean was curled up on his side, his skin gray, and his tee shirt stained with blood and vomit. Sam called his name again, frantically shaking him, his mind going blank for a minute. “No, no, no, no, no,” Sam kept repeating, “wake up! Dean, please, please…” Dean remained unresponsive, his skin cool and clammy where Sam gripped him. Sam didn’t realize he was crying until he felt the tears dripping off the end of his nose.
“Dad!” he shouted desperately then, “someone, please help!” Help. Yes! He needed to call for help. Finally, Sam was able to pry himself from Dean’s side, running to the living room and rifling through his backpack for the old cell phone he was supposed to keep on him in case of an emergency. He dialed 911 with trembling fingers as he ran back to Dean’s side. Only then, as he was stating his name and address, did he notice the empty bottle of whiskey on the nightstand and an empty pill bottle on the floor. He picked up the pill bottle as he numbly answered the operator’s questions. Oxycodone. Fuck.
Sam? Sam, are you there? The voice on the other end of the line jerked him back into reality.
“Yeah, yeah,” Sam choked out. “I’m here. I uh, I think he took a bunch of Oxy with alcohol.”
Is he breathing?
“I don’t think so,” Sam sobbed, “there’s a lot of blood everywhere too. Please hurry!”
The paramedics are on their way now, Sam, just stay on the line with me, okay? Can you see where he is bleeding from?
“I uh, I’m not sure,” Sam answered as he forced himself to look more closely at his brother’s lifeless body. “His arms, I think,” Sam added. Upon closer inspection, there were horizontal cuts up and down the insides of both of Dean’s forearms. Many of them weren’t fresh. Sam never would never forgive himself for not having noticed them before.
It all became a nauseating blur: the operator telling him he needed to begin CPR, struggling to haul Dean’s dead weight to the floor, the operator giving him instructions over speaker phone, telling him he was doing a good job as he sobbed, his tears wetting the front of Dean’s shirt as he struggled to do chest compressions, sure he wasn’t doing it right, sure that Dean was going to die because he wasn’t doing it right. Then the medics were there and Sam stood back, watching in a daze as they took over, huddled around Dean’s body. Sam felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned and was met by the kind brown eyes of a young woman with a badge that read “trainee.”
“You did a great job helping your brother,” she said softly, “you did everything just right.” And Sam fell apart then, collapsing into her arms.
“He’s all I have,” he murmured again and again to the young woman, Tessa, who continued to reassure him that he had done everything he could have done.
Suddenly, Dean was alive again, coughing and choking, his limbs thrashing, struggling against the medics who were attempting to hold him still enough to start an IV and keep an oxygen mask on his face.
“Dean!” Sam cried, turning quickly, but Tessa held him back. “What’s happening to him?” he asked, helpless and terrified by his brother’s shouts and moans.
“It’s okay,” she assured him, “they gave him a medication that reversed the effects of the pills he took. Most people don’t feel very good when the medicine wakes them up; this is a pretty normal response. I know it’s scary seeing someone you care about in this situation, though.” Sam nodded solemnly.
“Is he going to be okay?” he whispered. Tessa looked down at him with a sad smile.
“They’re going to take good care of him,” was all she could promise. When Sam turned to look at her, she was gone.