The idea that one somehow could have prevented what happened may be more desirable than the frightening notion that events were completely random and senseless(Danieli in Goode, 2001).
Individuals with a ingrained sense of responsibility for those around them may be particularly vulnerable to guilt feelings. They have an innate need to feel as if they can effect the outcome of circumstances surrounding themselves and those they care for. In most cases, the idea that they are somehow responsible for unthinkable cruelties and hardships is often more acceptable than a loss of control. -(Castle, Marilyn. 1994, pg 102-106).
“Ow!” Dean Winchester complained loudly as he bumped into the nightstand by the bed in the dingy hotel room that he and his kid brother were currently staying in.
“I told you to wait for me to help you.” Sam Winchester flipped on the light and threw the first aid kit onto the small table beside the door.
“I don’t need your fucking help.” The words were slightly slurred, but dripped with venom just the same.
The younger Winchester sighed and had to literally bite the inside of his cheek to keep from saying something that he might regret. After all, Dean was hurt. “Right-that’s why you took on the whole bar while I was gone.” He tossed a glare at the man now stumbling out of his shoes. “That workedwell for you-now didn’t it.”
“Go to hell, Sam.”
“Why bother when I share a car with the Devil these days.”
“If you don’t like the company, you know where the road is.” Dean shot back as he finally kicked free of his last boot. He wrapped a hand around his ribs and eased himself down on the bed.
“You’d like that-wouldn’t you,” Sam replied, stripping his jacket off and tossing it on one of the chairs. Was that what all the recent attitude was about. An annoying little voice suggested- “He’s pushing you away”. Sam swatted it aside, “Sorry, I’m not going anywhere.”
Dean was struggling to remove his own jacket as Sam reached the bed and the younger Winchester brother reached out to help him. “Hold on,” he said, trying to free Dean’s arm that was now trapped in the sleeve.
“I’m good,” Dean snapped, pulling away roughly and nearly falling off the other side of the bed.
“Sure you are.” Sam rolled his eyes in frustration, but couldn’t help the pang of worry that shot through him when his brother finally pulled free of his coat and he caught sight of Dean’s bloodied shirt. “Just like you were obviously fine when they realized that you were cheating.”
“I wasn’t cheating,” Dean bit out, gingerly pushing himself back against the headboard. “Conan was just an idiot itching for a fight.”
“An idiot who kicked your ass,” Sam couldn’t resist pointing out.
“Him and his four leather-clad, biker buddies,” the older hunter snarled, sounding way too much like John Winchester on a binge. “Bastard couldn’t do it on his own.”
Sam opened the kit, which he’d brought over with him and tried to concentrate on what he needed to treat the various wounds on his brother- instead of dwelling on the fact that Dean was bleeding all over the nice clean sheets. “I’d say your good pal, Tequila, helped him out, too.”
“Fuck you.” Dean wasn’t about to admit that he’d been a little cocky and a whole lot reckless with his enjoying of the free drinks the poker players were supplying him with. He didn’t have to answer to Sam. Hell-he didn’t have to answer to any god damn body.
Sam sighed again. “No-that’d be fucked up-which you are at the moment. We should have went straight to the hospital.”
At the mention of the word, Dean’s eyes flashed with anger and he glared at the younger man. “No damn way I’m going to the hospital.” They’d spent entirely too much time in the hospital lately.
“Dean-this looks bad.” Sam gestured to the blood-soaked shirt clinging to his brother’s stomach. “It’s going to take stitches. Not to mention that you could have a concussion.”
A wave of nausea rolled over the older Winchester when the mattress dipped as his brother leaned across him. Sam was trying to get a better look at the goose egg on the other side of his head, but was in great danger of witnessing his brother's recycled hot wings.
Sam was so close that Dean could see the recent sutures along his hairline, the faint purple and sickish yellow marks still maligning his too young face. If someone didn‘t know Sam, you wouldn‘t notice, but Dean could hear the residual weakness in his voice. “You should have waited until I got back, man. What the fuck is wrong with you?”
The strong coppery scent of blood rushed over him, and he closed his eyes. It was his blood, he reminded himself- not Sammy‘s. Not this time.
When his brother touched his bruised cheek, he opened his eyes and pulled back. “Nothing’s wrong with me except the bitch of a headache that your yammering has given me. You’re a buzz kill, geek boy. Did anybody ever tell you that?”
Sam held his tongue and took distinct pleasure in ripping the front of his brother’s favorite Skynyrd shirt allowing him a better look at the knife wound.
“Hey!” Dean protested, catching one of Sam’s hands in a crushing grip. “What the hell…?”
Sam winced, and Dean instantly let go-a haunted look flashing through his moss green eyes. He hadn’t meant to grab the hand that was still black and blue from the I.V. He‘d never hurt Sam. Never. “Easy with the wardrobe,” he said softer, swallowing hard to bring moisture back to his mouth. “This is a classic.”
“It’s ruined anyway,” Sam replied, apparently unfazed by the rough treatment.
Dean would have felt worse if he hadn’t caught the feral gleam of satisfaction as Sam tore the rest of the material away from his ribs. It was painful to hear-he’d fucking loved that shirt.
Sam took a deep intake of breath, when he saw the mass of motley vivid red, welt-like marks across his brother’s side. “What the hell did this?”
A sudden urge to go back to the bar with shotgun and a supply of rock salt in hand overcame him as Dean looked up at him and grinned around his busted lip. “Chain-I think. Although, there was a set of brass knuckles, too.” He shook his head. “And you called me a cheater.”
Sam was suddenly glad he hadn’t eaten yet. His eyes stung with anger and he moved his gaze to the long gash along Dean’s lower abdomen. He wasn’t sure if he was more pissed at his brother or the goons that had worked him over.
After getting a good look at the knife wound-Sam was sure it was the punks who deserved his wrath.
Thank God it was shallow enough not to have hit any vital organs-but it still looked nasty. Nasty enough to make Sam nervous. “Good thing your reflexes weren’t too impeded by all the alcohol.”
“Yeah- you’d been picking parts of me off the damn floor.” Trying to stop the bleeding. Praying that your brother would hang on until help got there. Scared fucking shitless. “All that hard work to save me last month-down the drain.”
It wasn’t so much the words as it was the accusatory tone in which Dean flung them at his brother-almost like he was trying to hurt Sam. “Don’t say that.”
“What’s the matter, Sammy? Can’t take a little joke?” Dean laughed. “After all, what’s a little blood and gore between brothers-huh?” They should have been immune to it by now. God-I wish I were immune to it.
Sam glared at his brother and got up from the bed. He grabbed a pitcher and went into the bathroom to get some water. He’d need it to clean the wounds, but he needed the distance more.
Something was wrong. That much was obvious-and it wasn’t just the out of character drinking or the physical trauma.
Things had been wrong for the last week. If he hadn’t known better, Sam would have been worried that the man lying in the other room wasn’t his brother.
Dean was a lot of things, but cruel wasn’t one of them.
“Sammy?” Dean’s slurred shout caused an involuntary wince. God, why did he have to sound so much like their father tonight? “I’m bleeding like a stuck pig out here.”
Sam took a deep breath and turned the water off. Dean was definitely off and he was going to find out why. He walked back into the room. “Have I done something to piss you off?”
Dean stared up at him. His mouth opened as if he were going to say something, but he quickly shook his head and glanced away.
Okay-that’s a definite yes. Sam blew out the breath he’d been holding and sat on the bed to begin the task of clearing away the dried blood from around the reddened, still slightly bleeding gash. “This is going to hurt.”
“That’s okay.” Dean replied, grinning again as if he were relishing the thought of what was to come. He pulled a bottle of Cuervo from the inside of his crumpled up jacket. “I’ve got pain medicine. Knock yourself out, kiddo.”
I’d like to knock you out. Sam shook his head in disbelief. “That you managed to save?”
“Yep,” Dean hugged the bottle to his chest. “I might have lost my dignity and my money, but I rescued Jose.” He grinned. “Jimmy Buffet would be proud.”
“You hate Jimmy Buffet,” Sam pointed out as he pried the bottle away from his brother and sat it on the nightstand. “You said that there was a special place in hell for Parrot Heads.”
His brother shrugged, looking longingly at the half-empty bottle of Cuervo. “Dad likes him,” Dean replied as if that explained everything.
“Well, Dad’s not here.”
Dean suddenly looked as if Sam had struck him. “What’s that mean?”
“What do you mean-what’s that mean?” Sam raked the peroxide soaked cloth across Dean’s stomach wincing himself, when he felt his brother’s body tremble beneath his touch.
Dean didn‘t say anything for a moment, and when he did it didn‘t make a lot of sense to Sam. “Things would have went down differently if Dad had been there?”
Sam tossed the bloodied bandage in the garbage and repeated the process with another one. He glanced at his brother. John Winchester wasn’t one for bar room brawling. “Yeah-he would have kicked your ass for hustling and drinking at the same time-especially in a biker bar.”
“He would have kicked my ass all right.” Dean hissed as the bubbling solution did it’s work.
“Sorry,” Sam apologized, wishing for not the first time that he could read whatever thoughts that were obviously rolling around in his brother’s head. What good was being some freaky psychic if you couldn’t help the people you loved.
“I can hear it now-Dean, what the hell were you thinking letting him out of your sight?’” Dean thought he did a damn good impression of his father. He grinned, impressed with himself. “It’s your god damn job to watch him and you better stop dicking around before you get him killed, Ace.” He looked at Sam, “Do I look like a fighter pilot to you, Sam?”
Sam stopped what he was doing and frowned at his brother. “Dean-what are you talking about?”
Glassy hazel eyes met Sam’s and his older brother laughed at the joke only he was getting. “There was this one time-God, you were just like two-and I let you fall off the slide at this little park. Dad was at the library across the street doing research, but he heard you screaming-I don’t know how, but the man has ears like that fucking Radar kid from MASH.”
Sam finished cleansing the cut-trying his best to chalk up Dean’s sudden chatter to his usual way of coping with pain.
“Man, you busted your nose good-you were bleeding everywhere,” he said, his face darkening. Dean shook his head slightly, as if he were trying to erase the memory like a drawing from an etch-a-sketch. “I thought I’d killed you, man.”
“Dean-that’s crazy,” Sam ripped open the suture packaging and gave his brother a hard look. “Kids have accidents all the time.”
“I just let you out of my sight for a second.” The older Winchester’s voice had taken on a slight far away quality as if he were no longer speaking to Sam. “I swear- I turned around and you were already at the top. Just like that.”
“Dean-I don’t even remember it. It must have not have been that bad.” Sam placed a steadying hand on his brother’s stomach. “Don’t move.”
“Dad would remember.” He never let me forget. “He was so fucking pissed.”
“At you?” Sam glanced up for a second, then concentrated on keeping the stitches small and tight, like he‘d been taught. “You were what- six.”
“Just turned seven-I was in charge,” he said, his words slurring again.
Sam bit his lip, as blood coated his fingers, making the needle slippery and hard to grasp. “I repeat-you were seven.”
“Dad wouldn’t let me go outside for a week.”
Again, Sam stole a look at his brother. “He punished you?”
“Hell yeah, he did. You could have broken you neck.”
Sam frowned. Was he defending the man? “So what if I had, man? It wouldn’t have been your fault.”
Dean laughed again, earning him a reprimanding glare when he moved. “Apparently you have never met our father,” he hissed, as Sam continued his work.
Dean knew his brother would never understand. After all, he‘d made sure of that himself. “Anyway, he was right. You were just a baby. I turned away for one minute and ...” Dean jerked as the needle slid painfully through the last fold of skin. “Shit!”
“I’m sorry.” Sam quickly tied off the last stitch, trying to will his hands to stop shaking. “Just take it easy.” You too, Sam. Just take it easy. He refused to start an argument tonight. He didn’t want their father here-between them. That wasn’t going to happen again.
The older Winchester clenched his fists, the alcohol blurring the edges of time. “One fucking minute, Sam! I went to the fucking bathroom, just around the corner and bam…”
“What?” Sam moved his hands to his brother’s ribs-carefully running his fingers over the worst of the bruising-praying he wouldn’t find any signs of fractures or worse. “There was a bathroom at the park?”
Dean sighed dramatically as if he were several pages ahead of Sam-and apparently it was Sam’s fault. He let his head fall heavily against the headboard. “I didn’t leave you at the park, Sammy. I just turned around. God-how many times do I have to tell you not to get in trouble?”
Sam looked sharply at his older brother. A concussion was definitely becoming a real fear in Sam’s mind. He moved farther up on the bed, ignoring his brother’s protest of the touchy feely stuff, and ran his hand over the bump just above his temple. “Dean-does your head hurt?”
“It does now, Dr. Feel Good,” he snapped and Sam smiled. At least that sounded like his brother.
The younger Winchester let his hand go to Dean’s chin and he lifted his head so that he could look into his eyes. “You’re pupils are equal.”
Dean pulled away. “Good to know. Now back off.”
Sam removed his hands, but continued to sit near his brother, their knees touching lightly. “So-what were you saying about a bathroom?”
Dean lifted his own hand and ran it over his head. It suddenly was hurting more than he realized and shit-the room was starting to spin. “I…I just needed to piss…and…then he was there.”
“The guy at the bar-he followed you to the bathroom?” Sam had wondered how anybody could get the drop on his brother-Tequila shots be damned.
Now Dean looked confused. “You weren’t at the bar, Sammy.”
“I would have been if you had waited for me like you said you would. I went for burgers-I wasn’t gone that long.”
“No-you went in for a drink.”
Sam forced a tolerant smile. “I wasn’t the one drinking tonight, big brother. You‘ll realize that tomorrow when it‘s you praying to the porcelain god.”
“You said you’d be back in a minute. I went to the bathroom. That’s all.”
Sam’s brow furrowed, and he slowly shook his head. “Dean…,”
Oh God. It was all starting to make sense-in a screwed up Dean Winchester kind of way. “Dean-are you talking about last week?”
“Dad would have told me to go with you.”
Sam suddenly felt sick. This was about the robbery. “God, Dean-that wasn’t your fault.” Was his brother blaming himself for the senseless act of a drug addict? Of course he is-you idiot.
“I shouldn’t have let you go in alone.”
The look on his brother’s battered face told him everything he needed to know-it was all there in the tortured green gaze. If only he’d paid closer attention. Shit. "I'm twenty-two, Dean-not two."
“Dad would have…,”
The younger Winchester held up a hand in protest. “Dad would have known it wasn’t your fault, man.” At least he should have.
Sam quickly stood up from the bed and tossed the used medical supplies in the trash. He picked up a towel and roughly wiped his hands- trying not to let his mind wander too far into the realm of possibilities.
“Of course it was my fault, Sammy.”
Unfortunately, Sam’s thoughts were determined to go there.
“Dean did this on purpose,”-the little voice in the blackness whispered.
Sam tried to stop it, but his mind just had to venture into that dark place-that crevice where the prospect that his idiot brother actually picked a fight he knew he couldn’t win loomed at the corners of his consciousness.
No way. Dean wouldn’t do that. Would he?
“Don’t be ridiculous, Dean. You didn’t know what was going to happen.” Sam fought down the urge to kill something. Anything. Maybe that was a Winchester defense mechanism?
Why? Why would his brother do that.
“Dad told me to always be a step ahead. I should have checked that place out better.”
To punish himself for something that was totally out of his control, Sammy-that‘s why.
Sam licked his lips, his mouth suddenly so dry. He looked at his brother.
His big brother who had saved his life more times than he could count-times he was sure he couldn’t even remember if he tried. “Dean-Dad was…”, Fucked up, “…was not really thinking clearly a lot when we were kids.”
Dean raised a brow. “What are you talking about Sam?”
“He expected way too much from you. He…,” used you , “…he was just wrong. A lot.”
“I thought you were dead.”
His brother wasn’t going to let it go.
Tears swam in the blood-shot green eyes and Sam slowly sat back down on the bed. They should have talked about this sooner.
“I heard the shots, and I heard the cashier screaming,” Dean looked down at his hands. “Then I was in the doorway, and this guy was pointing a gun at the girl. She was crying.” The older hunter looked back up. “But where were you, Sammy? I didn‘t know where you were.” He angrily pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. “Shit-all I could think about is that I had let you out of my sight…and…then I saw you...”
Dean’s voice caught and Sam reach out and squeezed his shoulder. “Dean, don’t…I’m fine.”
Dean didn’t pull away, but he didn’t stop talking either. Sam could smell the strong stench of alcohol on his breath. It’s scent mixing badly with that of the blood and antiseptic. “There was blood every fucking where. Your blood. I knew you were dead and all I could think about was that I‘d messed up…I was waiting for Dad to come busting in there and ream me a new one...make me clean up the damn mess with my fucking tooth brush or something.” Dean moved his hands and glanced back up at Sam. He laughed, but there was no humor present. “He’d probably made me dig your grave-you know? Or worse.”
“Dean, it’s okay,” Sam tried again and this time his brother jerked away angrily. How the hell could he fix this.
“Okay! I thought you were dead, Sam-all I could think of was that I’d messed up. I’d let something by me-and it got you. I was suppose to be with you. I‘m always suppose to be with you.”
“Listen to me-it was not your fault!” Sam grabbed his brother’s arm again. “That kid was robbing the store, he was high on Meth, and I walked right into it. I was in the wrong place. Not you. Me-Dean. It had nothing to do with you.”
“I don’t believe that.” Dean shook his head. “I could have stopped it, if I’d been paying closer attention. I could have gotten you off that slide-I could have stopped that punk…”
And there it was.
The real heart of the matter.
If Dean could have prevented Sam from being hurt-if he was better at it next time-more careful-then he could keep it from ever happening again. Perfect John-fucking- Winchester logic.
Sam shook his head sadly. “No-no you couldn’t have.”
He hated breaking it to his brother, but it had to be done. “I walked through that door, and he fired, before I even looked up. I never knew what hit me. The bullet grazed me-mere seconds after it left the gun. The last time I checked, Bro, even Captain Onehelluva big brother wasn’t that good.”
Dean wasn’t buying it. “I could have gotten the drinks. Next time I will.”
“So-you’re never going to let me go into a store again?”
Dean remembered picking his brother‘s lifeless body from the puddle of blood, holding him on the cold tile floor as the sound of the ambulance echoed in the distance. “Hell no.”
“What about letting me get into a car? Or step off a sidewalk?” Sam smiled to soften the blow. “Because people die those ways too, big brother. Despite our family history, not all scary, horrible things are Supernatural. Death can be, and often is, random. Life is a game of chance.”
“I can stop it.” Dean said it so fiercely that a part of Sam wanted to let the façade continue. But that wasn’t fair to Dean.
“Dean-the idea of randomness implies that there is no way to predict it-or control it.”
“Who the fuck says?”
“Well, Webster’s Dictionary for one,” Sam waved a hand in the air, “then there’s the Universe.”
“Fuck the universe!”
Sam laughed, and raked a hand through his hair. “God-you’re stubborn.”
“Runs in the family,” Dean mumbled
The looked at each other for a moment, neither of them blinking. Sam broke the silence, “Even if you could have stopped it-I would have forgiven you. I‘m not your responsibility. Dad should have never let you believe that I was when we were kids. I sure don‘t want to be your burden now. We‘re a team-you don‘t owe me anything.” Especially not your life.
Dean frowned, but Sam kept going.
“Look-you’re probably not going to remember all this in the morning…,”
“God,” Dean groaned, “You’re not going to say the L-word are you?”
Sam took a deep breath to steel his patience and continued… “I want you to know that I would never blame you-if something does happen to me.” I blame Dad though-for screwing with your head. “But I swear to God if you ever do something this stupid again, I will kick your ass.”
Dean looked up innocently. “Shouldn’t you be pissed at Conan and the four Barbarians? I didn‘t do this to myself.”
Didn‘t you, big brother? “Oh, they’ll get theirs.” Sam replied. Anybody that hurts you will have to answer to me-eventually. “But are we clear about the whole responsibility thing?”
“Yeah-I don’t owe you anything.” Dean made a rolling motion in the air with his hand. “You love me-worship the ground I walk on, yada, yada, yada.”
Sam sighed. “Right-something like that.”
“You so owe me a new shirt, bitch.”
Sam laughed. God, I owe you more than that, big brother. “Take it out of my next paycheck, jerk” And so does, Dad. A whole hell of a lot more.
The younger Winchester started to get up-thinking that maybe dinner would be a good idea, but Dean caught his arm. “And Sammy-since I’m not going to remember any of this in the morning anyway…,” and even if I do-we are not going to talk about it, “I want you to know, I’m glad that you’re okay. I can’t really imagine this whole gig without you.”
Sam smiled. “Me neither.” Sometimes the universe didn’t fuck up. “We were definitely made for each other.”
“Yep, like cheap Tequila and a good Zeppelin song.”
“What happened to Buffet?”
Dean let go of his brother and eased himself further down on the bed, until his head hit the pillow. He sighed and shut his eyes. “Fuck Buffet.”
Sam silently watched his brother for a moment, thinking about just how random their lives had been and how much control their father had wielded over the choices that had brought them here. The young hunter wondered at the chances his brother often took-the risk he‘d taken tonight all because of the ball John Winchester had set in motion over twenty years before.
“Yeah,” he whispered to an already sleeping Dean, “fuck Buffet.”
Ran-dom adj. Done or made in a way that has no specific pattern or purpose; to select from a group whose members all had an even chance of being chosen.
Chance n. The
random existence of something happening; a gamble or a risk.