Sam’s noticed that the whiskey gets poured less, that his brother has been cutting back on the alcohol. It was such a relief to see all the changes for the better when they’d settled into the Batcave (Dean’s word, not his). So when Dean abruptly pulls up next to a liquor store and almost stormed in, Sam feels dread settle in his stomach like a heavy brick wrapped in snakes.
His brother’s back a few minutes later clutching a brown bag, and as worried as he is, he can’t help but bite out “that all for you?” The exasperation in Dean’s expression doesn’t offer any comfort as the Impala cruises down the highway again. It’s only when they pull up at the beach that the dread begins to be replaced by curiosity. “Dean?”
They toe their socks and boots off and trek silently toward the water - it’s light enough to see but Sam guesses sunrise is still a few hours away. Dean finally unwraps the bottle, and it all makes sense when the label becomes visible.
"Southern Comfort? Really?"
"Shut up… Bloody Mary mix isn’t real alcohol and I still have nightmares about fucking mirrors." The cap twists off smoothly, and he hands Sam a plastic glass before splashing some of the amber liquid into it. Sam stares out at the water as Dean repeats the process for himself. "Well?"
"I thought you were holding up hope." There’s a silence, broken only by the crash of the waves, and Sam looks at the elder Winchester questioningly.
"We don’t get miracles all the time." Dean looks down at the glass in his hand, still clutching the bottle in the other. "I mean… look at Dad, Ellen, Jo and everyone… and Rufus and Bobby… and…" his voice trails off for a moment before he clears his throat. "Still hoping, but we should do this just in case it doesn’t work out."
Sam’s heard enough. The tremor in Dean’s voice, the sorrow in his eyes that months ago (had it really only been months since Dean had come back?) were so hard he could barely see his older brother in them, it should have told him all he needed to know. But the words really brought the message home.
His brother was mourning another fallen friend.
So he lifts his glass. “To Benny then. Thanks for saving our hides, man.”
Dean nods and lifts his glass. They down their drinks quickly, and Dean begins to pour the remaining contents of the bottle into the ocean. Sam relaxes as the bottle empties out, the water slightly darker as it flows back into the ocean. They stand there for a while in companionable silence, toes dug deep into the sand.
"We should go," Dean finally says. Sam nods and trails after his brother.
When they reach the beach’s exit, where the Impala is parked, Dean moves to chuck the bottle into the trash bin next to him, but Sam reaches out to stop him. “What?”
"We should keep it. I want to keep it."
Sam grins his cheeky little brother grin at Dean, extra wide for maximum effect. “That way, when Benny gets back, I can tell him you sobbed like a little girl and totally stereotyped.”
"Oh Christ, Sammy, you’re a brat." Dean leans to hit him with the bottle, but Sam dodges and grabs at it, reveling in the small smirk Dean gives him. "Bitch."
"Jerk." They both stop a little wide eyed - how long has it been since they called each other that? Finally the smirk blossoms into a real grin, and Dean climbs into the Impala poking fun at Sam. Sam doesn’t quite hear him though as he looks over the bottle. Snorting lightly to himself, he traces the letters on the label before finally placing the empty bottle in the trash.
"You might be a vampire, Benny, but I hope you come back some day. For Dean’s sake," he whispers.
"Come on man, we haven’t got all day! We gotta go find Kevin, the Little Prophet that Could is still out there. Punk stole my pie too, gotta get him for that…"
The sun peeks over the horizon as they get back on the road.