A little something for the Halloween Hoodietime comment-fic meme over on LJ… hope you like. :-) The prompt was that Dean gets slipped a spiked drink at Oktoberfest, and Sam copes with the fallout… or does he? Entirely up to you…

WARNING The usual blasphemy and bad language; spoilers up to Exile on Main Street.


Groundwork


Lisa's doing some sort of bendy yoga display to drum up more clients and he stands and watches for ten minutes or so, while groups of people wander up and drift away, until she gives him the evil eye for appreciating some blonde chick's downward facing dog a little too thoroughly.

Ben sniggers beside him. "Mom doesn't like you checking out other chick's asses."

"Watch your freakin' language, assbutt."

"Assbutt," Ben echoes him, drawing out the middle ssss, punching out the final t with relish. "I'm using that at school this week." His face lights up. "Dude, you speak such great insult. It's a particular joy."

He shrugs. "Not one of mine," he says. "Got that one from a good friend. Don't use it on any teachers. Or your mom."

He's gotten into this rhythm with the kid, a conspiracy of whispered cussing and oil-covered man talk under the beat-up old truck he shelled out real money for because his baby didn't feel like home any more, and all he could remember when he looked at her was his own blood smearing the hood, and how it felt to slump against her and watch, that day in Stull. Ben's pretty easy now he's past the narrow-eyed suspicion that Dean is there to lay down the law and suck the fun out of life, and even if Dean has a sackload of little diversionary tricks he dips into when the kid has his back to him, and his skinny body and narrow shoulders make the memory tighten his chest and lance through his heart, there are times he gives into it and it's like then. But he locks the guns in the trunk and draws the line at horror night on the Sci-Fi channel, and the little brat can whine all he likes but there is no fuckin' way slasher movies are sending him to bed with nightmares festering.

Ben's smart too, and a good liar. Dean has come out of more than one flashback in town to hear him smoothly telling some generic old timer it's post-traumatic stress disorder, peeled open terrified eyes to see the kid standing smack bang in front of him, shielding him, arms crossed, voice authoritative. He was in the war. Sometimes he sees things, but he isn't crazy and he won't hurt anyone. He just goes back there sometimes. It makes him feel proud and if it's ever an uncomfortable reminder of his twelve-year-old self propping up his dad after some drunken binge, he doesn't think about it too closely because Ben isn't growing up like he did, dammit.

But. What the fuck is he even doing here? It's the first thought on his brain when he wakes, the last thing that occurs to him at night. He's thinking it right the fuck now, as Ben nudges him through his bubble of pretending he didn't make this promise, that he's here scoping for fuglies, that his phone is going to ring and he's going to hear Bobby barking intel down the line, that he's going to nod, consider, snap the phone closed. And then maybe he'll feel the air being displaced by wings, and Cas will appear, and they'll stare at each other and have personal space issues for, like, whole minutes at a time. And then Sam will snort out exasperation and tell them to get a room already, before he smiles, and throws his head back as he brays out laughter and his brother will be there, he'll be real, not some dreamed up—

"Richey Carmichael."

He jolts back to reality, squints over at the crowd milling around the hotdog stand. "Little douchebag who fed you that hash brownie?"

But Ben is already gone, drifting off towards a gaggle of chittering no-neck tweens, and he glances back over his shoulder at Dean, points, calls back, "Big pretzels, if you're hungry."

And Dean sucks in, sharp, because it comes from nowhere and blindsides him: Oktoberfest in Canonsburg, the last time he was genuinely happy in his brother's presence. And he tamps it down, because he can already feel his throat going thick and claggy.

He trails along in Ben's wake, chaperones while the kid practices his small talk, keeps half an eye on the sitch as evilRichey appears and stammers out an offer of truce. He rolls his eyes as the olive branch is handed back and the Carmichael kid is casually crossed off Ben's hitlist, the constant ebb and flow of kid politics ensuring that internecine war is temporarily averted.

He stares into the middle distance, gets a weird sensation prickling his shoulders, the sensation of being watched, and a six foot five inch sheet-clad ghost waves at him from the pumpkin patch, strides over and blinks at him through its eyeholes. Sid, and he burbles on about work, barbecues, poker night, a beer on Monday maybe, and Dean nods distractedly, agrees to God knows what, says he'll check with Lisa. Sid makes some joke about how he's so whipped, and he smiles weakly because he can't even really remember the conversation.

"We're going on the ghost train," Ben interrupts, and he waggles his eyebrows wildly, jerks his head over at some dewy-eyed, gum-chewing kid from school, who flashes her braces at him in a smile that looks like a car wreck. "Kristen and me." His eyes are huge, bright with anticipation.

Dean feels his lips curl up in a smile, and he leans down, makes his voice low and confidential. "Remember what I said. If you're nervous, just imagine she's the back of your hand. And watch the braces. No tongue."

Ben rolls his eyes theatrically, hands him a cup of Kool-Aid. "Hold this for me."

He sips steadily at it as the kid trots ahead of him, ambles along behind, finds a shady spot to lean in while he waits.


His vision is fuzzy at the edges, and everything is far away and muffled, even more than it is when he's in his bubble. He knows what it is, knows he needs to stay in the present, touch something that will ground him, and he sucks in more of the lurid colored drink, crunches on an ice cube, presses it right up against his front tooth so the cold freezes right through to the nerve, this is reality. A dog barks, from over to the left, and he zeroes in on it, sound, don't blot it out, it's the now, not then, focus on it. He stares at the people, sight, list what you see, connect with the moment, stay here, and his last conscious thought is that it isn't working, because touch means pain, because howling means hellhounds, because where he is people aren't people, they're demons, and they're watching, waiting, slavering for the moment Alastair picks up his razor.

And he runs from it, scatters demons left and right, hurls himself through the crowd, stumbling, arms windmilling as he goes.


He's scrunched up tiny and safe, in a corner behind some boxes, hugging his knees, and listening for them. They're being stealthy, but he can hear the soulless sumbitches moving around out there and whispering. "Bring it on," he chokes out into the room. "I got a knife." He tries the edge again with his thumb, thinks ruefully that it won't do much damage but at least it'll sting. Holy water would help, and he chews his lip, thinks for a second before hoiking up a wad of shiny spittle on to the blade. "Father, son, holy ghost," he mutters, and waves his hands in an approximation of crossing himself. "I have sinned, it has been. Fuck. I don't even know when. But bless me Father. If you're there. And this blade. I repent. Hail Mary. Amen." Holy saliva, he thinks, and for a second he imagines Cas rolling his baby blues and takes comfort in the memory of his friend's longsuffering patience. Even if you did abandon me like everyone else, you dick.

A blurry face appears at the edge of his hidey hole. "Dean?"

He swallows down his terror, waves his makeshift demon killing knife. "Fuck off. And what circle is this?"

The voice is small, uncertain. "Circle? I don't know what – Dean? Do you need me to get mom?"

He snorts. "You can tell Lilith I'm coming for her next. What circle is this?"

The face disappears, and he can hear the voices whispering again before it reappears. "You aren't in Hell, Dean," it says.

"Don't give me that crap, Alastair," he snaps. "You've pulled this one before, made me see people who aren't here, made me think I was out before reeling me back in." He closes his eyes, lifts one arm and cradles his head. "Fuck," he mutters. "At least tell me what circle this is so I can know what to expect."

More hushed murmurs, and he peeks out from under his arm, sees Caspar the friendly ghost peering at him now, and he can't help it, he double takes. "Is it Halloween in Hell?" he blurts out stupidly.

The ghost cocks its head, regards him calmly. "You aren't in Hell, Dean."

There's something familiar about it, white sheet, gaping eyeholes in the fabric, something teasingly familiar about the voice, even though it's muffled by fabric, and it takes him a few seconds but he finally pins it down. "Sid," he says. "What the fuck are you doing in Hell? Shouldn't you be out there chaperoning the pumpkin patch?"

Sid is silent for a moment, and then, "What day is it? And the date?"

Dean scowls. "It's Friday. October 15. And if you—"

"So you're saying it's Friday October 15. In Hell?" Sid asks. "You're saying they have days of the week and months of the year in Hell?"

He creases his brow, confused. "No, that's not what I'm – fuck it. Dog years." He nods emphatically. "That's what they have in Hell. Dog years. Like, a month is ten years. Not days, not dates."

"So then if this is Friday October 15, you can't be in Hell, can you?" Sid raps out tersely.

"Then why the fuck are there demons everywhere?" he challenges. "And hellhounds? And don't bite my fuckin' head off, man, I need a friend in here. Your pumpkin fuckin' patch can wait five minutes can't it?"

When it replies, the voice is softer. "Did they have pumpkin patches in Hell, Dean?"

"No," he growls back irritably. "Just the usual. Lake of fire, river of blood, flaying, rape, ritual disembowelment, dismemberment, we will rebuild you with your arms where your legs were, and your legs where your arms were, and your head back to front. Here, eat your own dick while you're at it." And that was a fuckin' conversation stopper if ever there was one, and it falls quiet for another long moment.

"But no one's hurting you here, Dean," Sid ventures, after a decent interval. "I don't see a lake of fire, or rivers of blood. Or – that other stuff."

"That's how they trick you," he says morosely. "They lull you into a false sense of security, and then they get out their knives and they—"

"What are you wearing, Dean?"

He lifts his head, goggles. "Seriously?"

"Humor me."

He huffs out in annoyance, lists it anyway. "Converse sneakers, jeans, tee, hoodie. It was my brother's." He doesn't really know why he tacks that on the end, but he fists a handful of the fleece, feels it soft and warm in his grip.

Sid clears his throat, and his voice is less steady when he replies. "And you put all of those on this morning after you showered?"

"Well, duh," he scathes back.

"And then you ate – pancakes? Bacon? Pig in a poke, maybe?"

"Pancakes…" he says slowly. "Pig in a poke… I haven't had one of those in a couple of years." And he feels lightheaded, dizzy, can feel his heart racing, cold sweat beading his back, and he's shivering. "I feel sick," he mutters. "My head. It's spinning. Bad trip." He hears the dull clang of the knife falling and he slumps back with his arms flopping bonelessly out to either side of him. And a flashlight snaps on, and someone is crawling up next to him, Sammy?, and he clutches at the sheet. "Don't let them take me back there," he slurs.

"You're not going back there, Dean," Sid says. "You're never going back there. You're safe. This isn't Hell, Dean. Do you hear me?"

"Ben. Where…?"

"I sent him to find Lisa," Sid reassures, and he has gigantic hands planted gently on either side of Dean's face and he's squinting down through the holes in the sheet. "Have you taken something?"

He rubs at his stomach, feels it clench in there. "I'm fuckin' starving…"

Sid leans closer, sniffs. "Have you been smoking weed, Dean? Are you tripping?"

He frowns. "No," he says, manages to dredge up enough energy to sound indignant. "Not with the kid around. Fuck do you take me for, man? Jesus."

Sid leans down beside him, beams the flashlight closer, and Dean scrunches his eyes up against the brightness.

"Uh-uh. Open them," Sid insists, and he shakes his head as Dean cracks his lids. "I can see it in your eyes, Dean. Pinprick pupils. I think you're tripping. I know the signs, and your flashbacks aren't usually this bad."

And it clicks in his brain, audibly, he's sure. "Kool-Aid," he breathes. "Fuckin' demon seed gave that to my brother."

"To your brother?" Sid echoes him. "Who gave what to your brother?"

He blinks, shakes his head, shakes some clarity back in. "No, not to my – to Ben," he says. "To Ben, I mean. That Carmichael kid. I think he laced Ben's Kool-Aid. He gave Ben a hash brownie last week, and I ratted him out to his dad."

Sid nods slowly under his sheet. "Kids," he says sympathetically. "Parenthood, huh?"

Dean can feel himself coming down now, bit by bit, feel the adrenaline diluting. "Kids," he agrees. "S'like Lord of the fuckin' Flies. Dog eat dog." He thinks Sid might be trying to keep him talking, stop him from losing himself in it again, and he's grateful. "You're grounding me," he says wearily. "How did you know to ground me?"

"Uh. Ben told me," Sid says, after a beat. "He said they haven't been this bad in a while too. Just in case you're wondering. How I know that, I mean. So... you have a brother?"

Fuck, it's been almost a year and it hasn't ever stopped hurting. It's just chronic now, a dull, gnawing ache when it used to be acute, stabbing agony. His grief isn't a raw wound pumping out his life's blood any more, it's a slow leak, it's attrition, it's a knee-deep swamp he plods through every day, loss like mud that sucks at his shoes as he struggles to lift each foot and go through the motions. "I don't see him much," he lies, because he sees Sam every time he closes his eyes, and every time he dreams. "He, uh. Lives out of state." He stares into the darkness, and Sid's breathing is steady, reassuring, and he's solid sitting there next to him. "What about you?" he asks. "You got any brothers?"

Sid stretches, pushes up. "We should clear out of here before someone calls the cops," he says abruptly. "You kicked the door in." He reaches down a hand, heaves Dean up, turns to lead the way.

Dean reels, wobbles on his feet and throws his arms out for balance. "Head rush," he bleats.

Sid whirls around, steps back, grabs him by the arm to steady him, drapes the other one around him as his knees buckle, and the support is familiar, normal, and he leans into it. "You're a buddy, Sid," he says tiredly. "I don't even remember three-quarters of what you tell me, but you're a good buddy. I haven't seen my best friend for a fuckin' year. He doesn't even call. And I miss my brother. So much I can't even. I just… I can't. I miss him."

"It'll be okay, Dean," Sid says gently, and he shepherds him outside and away.


He peels by the Carmichael place to apply the mother of all smackdowns Monday during his lunch break, hammers aggressively on the door for a good five minutes before a neighbor materializes and gravely tells him Joe and Tammi-Sue packed their crap and their kids into a U-Haul and did a moonlight flit over the weekend.

He makes a beeline for Sid back at the site. "About Friday," he says awkwardly. "I know I spaced out a tad there, but I just wanted to—"

"No probs, Deano." Sid claps him on the back. "Don't mention it. Carol went ahead and fixed it all up with Lisa. Saturday at four."

"Saturday at four?" he fishes. And he's confused but fuck, it's a relief because he doesn't want to talk about it and if Sid's happy with the no chick-flick rule then he isn't arguing the toss.

"Barbecue, you know," Sid replies sunnily, and he looks at his wristwatch. "Time for a drink after work, buddy? I got a great story about a goat."

He nods.

He always has time for a drink.

And it prickles him again, raises the hair on the back of his neck.

That feeling of being watched.


Thanks for reading… I'd love it if you reviewed…