Dean remembers flashes of the day, like single slides in a projector switching from one to another without anything in between. He remembers the fight. John, his father, drunk off his ass again, using him again as a punching bag both literally and figuratively. He remembers losing it, unable to take any more, grabbing anything he could reach and throwing it, smashing plates, smashing bottles, screaming at his dad to just leave him the fuck alone. He remembers his dad storming out. He remembers picking up a piece of broken glass and squeezing it until blood was dripping down onto the floor, the pain taking his mind off of the hellish reality he was living in. He remembers rummaging through the medicine cabinet and finding an old prescription bottle. He remembers thinking about it, but deciding not to. He doesn’t remember why he took the bottle with him anyway.
Dean remembers walking across the hallway to his bedroom. He had wanted to throw more things, smash the place up, but instead, he collapsed on his bed, flipping on his old record player, dropping the needle onto whatever record was on the turntable, and rolling up the sleeve of his ratty flannel button down. The Doors emerged from the speakers. Dean snorted; he is a goddamn cliché.
This is The End… my only friend, The End.
He remembers pressing the piece of broken glass to a place on his forearm between two old cuts, drawing it across his skin, feeling the sweet sting, the burning pain that had become a kind of fucked up comfort to him. He remembers the blood running down his arm. He remembers starting another cut, and another, and reaching under his bed for the bottle of whiskey he had stashed there. He doesn’t remember a lot after that.
Dean thinks he can remember Sammy screaming his name. He thinks he can remember the look of terror on his 13 year old face, but he thinks neither of those memories could be real; he was pretty much dead when that happened. He thinks maybe he can remember part of the ambulance ride, struggling against hands that were holding him down. He feels like he screamed his throat raw. He thinks he can remember a glimpse of Sammy sitting with a young woman. She had dark hair and her arm around Sam as he cried. She looks familiar for some reason. He’s sure he’d met her somewhere before.
Now he’s laying in a hospital bed in a dimly lit room, a quiet, constant beep registering every beat of his heart. His head hurts. Everything hurts. His forearms are wrapped in bandages, and he has an IV placed in the crook of his arm. He feels all drugged up, sluggish, like he can’t will his body to move. His eyes roam the room, but he has a difficult time processing what he is seeing, so he lets his eyes fall closed again. Then he hears the soft click of the door opening and some hesitant footsteps.
“Dean?” he hears a broken voice ask.
“Sammy?” he manages to murmur, his throat raw, tongue thick and clumsy in his mouth. Dean opens his eyes and finds Sammy standing at his side, his eyes red and watery, swollen from endless weeping. “Sam…” Dean starts and trails off, his heart hurting, the pain in his chest nearly unbearable as he looks at his little brother and truly realizes what he has done. “Sammy…” his voice a hoarse whisper. He can feel tears welling in his eyes against his will.
“I thought you were going to die,” Sammy chokes, breaking into tears again at his brother’s side.
“Sammy, I’m so sorry,” Dean whispers. “S’ gonna be ok,” he tries to reassure him, reaching for Sam’s hand. Instead of taking his hand, Sam crawls over the bed rail, all gangly knees and elbows and too-long legs, the awkward body of a thirteen year old. He curls up against Dean’s side, an arm flung over his chest. Dean groans in pain and surprise, but puts his arms gently around his trembling little brother. “I’m so sorry, Sammy, so, so sorry.” And Dean is crying too, hot tears burning trails down his cheeks as he holds on to his sobbing brother,
and he hates himself for what he has done, for everything that he has ever done beside protecting Sam.
“Why, Dean? Why did you do it?” Sam cries against Dean’s chest.
“Wasn’t thinking straight,” Dean murmurs, “was a mistake.” The words feel all too little, too late, but he can’t find any better.
“Please…” Sam begins to say, but stops.
“Sammy, say what you want. S’ okay. Won’t be mad.”
“I know dad hurts you, and when I tried to help, I just made it worse, and I’m really sorry I can’t help, but please…”
Dean takes a long, shuddering breath. Sam blames himself. Of course he does.
“Wasn’t your fault Sammy; nothin’s your fault. Can’t blame yourself for dad, ‘kay?” Dean runs his fingers through Sam’s shaggy hair, and Sam’s sobbing seems to ease. Dean feels him nod against his chest. Holding on to Sam now, Dean is grateful that something decided it wasn’t his time yet.
“Please don’t try again, Dean,” Sam whimpers softly, “I was so scared. I need you.”
“I promise,” Dean murmurs in reply to his brother’s heartbreaking plea, “promise I’ll be here with you.”
“Cross your heart?” Sam asks, his watery eyes locking on Dean’s.
“Cross my heart,” Dean affirms with an attempted smile. “Y’know I’d do anything for my baby brother.”
“M’ not a baby,” Sam mumbles into Dean’s chest.
“I know,” Dean replies, “just teasin’. Really, Sammy, you’re so brave and smart. Smarter than me. Way smarter than dad.” Sam shakes his head. “Yeah, you are. Sammy, you saved me. I’m still here ‘cause of you,” Dean says quietly, tears falling once more. Dean tightens his grip on Sam, and they are both quiet for a while.
“Dean?” Sam whispers eventually.
“Are you awake?”
“Obviously.” But Dean actually snorts a laugh. “What is it Sammy?”
“Why are there cuts all over your arms?” Dean’s stomach feels like it has suddenly turned to ice. He feels paralyzed for a moment. Of course Sam had seen. Dean had always been careful to hide them from Sam, but now Sam knows, and Dean has no idea what to say.
“I dunno, Sam. Don’t worry about it, ‘kay?”
“Did dad do it?” Sam isn’t going to drop this.
“No,” Dean replies honestly, though a part of him wanted to lie. He felt deeply ashamed, partially because he felt that he should be ashamed, and partially because other people felt that he should be ashamed. Why? He’s not sure. My body, my choice, right? Either way, he thought about how he would feel if he found Sam doing it; he would hate himself with an even stronger passion.
“I don’t understand,” Sam says quietly. “Did you do it to yourself?” Again, Dean can’t stop the goddamn tears that are again rolling down his goddamn face.
“Yeah,” Dean breathes, hoping Sam will move on, but knowing he won’t.
“Why? Why are you hurting yourself?” Sammy’s hazel puppy dog eyes are wide with worry and confusion.
“I don’t know what to say; can we please talk about this later? My head hurts, and I want to sleep,” Dean says hoarsely. He owes Sam an answer; he knows he does, but his brain is shutting down, and he just can’t do it now.
“Fine,” Sam grumbles, but quickly asks, “can I stay here like this if I’m quiet?”
“‘Course you can,” Dean says, relaxing. He lets his eyes fall closed again, focusing on the warmth Sam is radiating at his side.
“Don’t want you to leave,” Sam whispers.
“Not goin’ anywhere,” Dean promises. “Glad you’re with me, Sammy.”
Eventually they both fall asleep.