...is pretty much all I've been doing over the last few days, given that Winter has decided that Laryngitis and a streaming headcold aren't enough entertainment, so as the cherry on the cake, it's saddled me with a chest infection!
Personally, I think this is payback for all the horrible things I do to Dean, so herewith I make a solemn undertaking that never again will I hurt, distress, or otherwise damage our lovely boy.
... just kidding :D
But given that I've been up since six o'clock this Sunday morning, (which, as any sensible individual knows, is completely immoral and perverse,) on the basis that I should let my poor husband try to salvage some sleep out of the night without listening to me doing my best to fire my lungs across the room, I give you ... Dean, and he's having a spot of insomnia!
Genre: Hurt/Comfort/Angst/Humour - bit of everything really
Word Count: Approx 7,000
Disclaimer: I own nothing, just borrowing for fun and frolics.
It's the worst storm for a generation; what happens when a restless Winchester goes sleepwalking out in it?
Sam could hear his phone ringing. The sound was floaty, unreal, a tinkling melody against the distant hiss of the storm outside.
Blinking around the edges of sleep, he fumbled clumsily in the darkness, groping blindly as he chased the vibrating phone across the top of the bedside cabinet.
His hand knocked into something and he heard a wet clunk as a glass of water ended up on the floor.
He grabbed the phone at the precise moment it stopped ringing.
"Ah, crap!" he groaned.
Flopping back into his bed; he stared at the missed call register; 'unknown'.
Swimmy, befuddled eyes made their way to his watch. He squinted at the luminous hands and frowned as he focussed blearily. Two thirty.
Two thirty? The hell kind of moron calls at two thirty in the morning?
He lay back with an exasperated sigh, still clutching the phone and listening to the window frames rattling against the onslaught of the hammering rain outside.
Suddenly, his phone buzzed in his hand, heralding the answer phone message he hoped would come. If this was a wrong number, the dumbass who left it was gonna get his damn ears bitten off.
The message was barely audible over the bad reception, the hesitant speaker sounded like he was calling from the bottom of Niagara Falls.
"S-s'mmy, s'me …'m all wet … dunno where I am …"
Earlier that day …
A job well done.
A particularly narky spirit that had been making life mightily unpleasant for the good townsfolk of Pinegrove had haunted his last haunting.
The Winchesters had found the mortal remains of the late and greatly unlamented Percival Clench, 19th century plantation owner, pillar of society, and thoroughly miserable bastard, in a granite sarcophagus bearing his carved image.
Dean wrinkled his nose in disgust as he studied the weathered effigy. "Shit … they must have really hated him!" he observed dryly.
Sam salted the bones and stood back to allow his brother to do the honours.
"Hasta la vista, ugly!" Dean grinned with immense satisfaction as he dropped the match into the casket.
The road back to the motel was long, the heater in the Impala was warmly soporific, and the pizzas on Sam's lap filled her interior with an aroma which had both brothers salivating longingly.
They had settled into a comfortable silence, soothed by each other's presence and the thrum of the Impala's engine. She ate up the miles between Pinegrove and the motel the way the boys would eat their pizza later – swiftly and ravenously.
Sam was lost in the melodious strains of 'Highway to Hell' when it happened. Dean's head nodded onto his chest and the Impala gave a violent lurch to the left; he was flung sideways, crunching his nose against Dean's shoulder, the Pizzas taking flight across the Impala's bench seat.
There came the scream of a truck's horn, and between them the brothers managed to frantically tug the Impala back onto her own side of the highway as the truck sailed by, the wail of it's horn dropping though the Doppler to a bellow, buffeting the black car and it's two shaken occupants in it's massive slipstream.
Dean pulled the Impala onto the verge, and rolled to a halt. He stared wide-eyed and grey faced, at his equally shocked brother.
"What the hell was that all about man?" Sam gasped; he pressed his hand to his chest, feeling his heart pounding. He could see Dean panting, his hands shaking as the adrenalin coursed around his shocked body.
"I-I fell asleep."
Dean sounded as if he could hardly believe it himself; closing his eyes, he sighed, "jeez, man, we've been workin' too freakin' hard!"
The car was silent for a moment, except for the sound of the brothers' heavy breaths.
"Is the insomnia back?" Sam ventured.
"I'm sleepin' just fine Sam," Dean retorted irritably without looking his brother in the eye.
"Oh yeah? How do you explain four bathroom visits last night, Dean? You developing early-onset prostate trouble or something?"
Dean glared; "what, I gotta report to you before I take a leak now?"
Sam grinned, "I'm just sayin'."
"Well, don't" Dean snapped, "I put away a few bottles of Becks last night – it had to go somewhere!" He glared at Sam, "I'm gonna start getting' stage fright if I think you're watchin' my back every time I take a pee!"
Sam shook his head, "It's not just that; I've seen you sitting up watchin' TV in the middle of the night, and I know you've had a few nightmares recently." Sam was like a dog with a bone, he wasn't letting this one go.
"And you were sleepwalkin' the other night," he added gleefully.
"I was so not sleepwalking" Dean snapped, "I was - ah - checking on the Impala."
"With your eyes closed?"
"Seriously dude, I remember the last time," Sam replied softly, "you went months without a decent nights sleep; it almost did you in."
"Sammy, what can I say; this job gets to you sometimes." Dean shrugged, glancing out of the window to look at thunderously black clouds looming overhead, "they say there's some seriously rough stuff headin' in," he turned back to Sam. "Might be a good opportunity for us to dig in at the motel and rest up for a couple of days"
"I'll drink to that" smiled Sam.
"Steady bro, you might have to get up in the night!" Dean grinned and playfully punched his brother's shoulder.
The brothers wrestled the strewn pizzas back into their boxes, and hit the road again.
The flickering light from the motel's ancient TV set in glowed faint blue across two weary faces in the dark room.
"…worst storm in recorded history in the area …" The glamorous weather presenter smiled broadly as she delivered the bad news.
"In this hick dive, that's probably since last week," Dean grunted around a mouthful of Quattro Formaggio, extra pepperoni.
Sam smiled, "she could have a point, though," they listened to the gusting wind, rattling the window frames; the rain going from being a rapid pitter patter to a constant hum of white noise in the background.
"… expect strong winds from the east, bringing heavy rain and potential flooding in low-lying areas …" she continued, sweeping a perfectly manicured hand across the bottom half of the United States, marching backwards and forwards in front of the map on long shapely legs and four inch heels. Dean licked his greasy fingers, "I'm getting flooding in my low-lying areas watching her in that skirt!"
Dean drained his beer, stood up, stretched and let out an impressive burp; "nice one!" he congratulated himself, loud and proud; sitting back down and slowly removing his boots one by one.
"Right, turn that crap off, I'm gonna get me some shut-eye!"
"Think I'll join you" muttered Sam with a yawn.
"No way, dude – you can keep your pervy fantasies to yourself and stay in your own pit!" Dean kicked his jeans off and grinned at Sam's blossoming bitchface.
"I didn't mean join you, like … join you! I meant … you know what? Forget it, Jerk ..."
Dean grinned, "bitch" and slipped under the quilt with a contented sigh.
The rain lashed violently against the windows as Sam sat in the dark room staring at his phone among the dancing mottled shadows of the rain against the nearby streetlamp.
He turned to Dean's bed, and saw that although it had clearly been slept in; it was empty. Sonofabitch was sleepwalking again …
Panic gripped his guts as he listened to the message once more;
"S-s'mmy, s'me …'m all wet … dunno where I am … 'm at a payphone, er, somewhere – lossa trees an' some locked up shops here. S-so cold Sammy, 'm'all w-wet. Dunno how I got here. Need you to come'n get me S-sammy, please h-help me …"
Sam switched the rambling message off, and scraped his hand over his face. How the hell could he not have noticed Dean opening the door and leaving.
Dean's boots were still lying discarded by the side of the bed; so was his jacket. Dean was most likely out there in all that crap in just his night clothes.
As he dressed frantically, Sam tried to remember what it was his brother had gone to bed in last night; he couldn't remember seeing Dean pulling on anything remotely substantial. He hoped and prayed he was wrong.
Running to the door, he saw it was closed but only on the latch; as he tugged it open, the force of the wind and driving rain hit him like a brick wall.
Sam drove desperately through street after deserted street, scanning everywhere for lots of trees and a row of locked up shops. He didn't know how long Dean had been outside, but he was on foot, so surely there was only so far he could have got. The Impala's wipers flung the driving rain back and forth, severely limiting what he could see through the downpour; Sam swore as he squinted through the rain, "c'mon dude, ring again, please ring again… "
Terrible thoughts crossed his mind, perhaps Dean had wandered off in the storm looking for him; perhaps Dean was unconscious somewhere, or had been hit by a car crossing the road, … perhaps Dean was dead.
Sam shook his head and scolded himself.
His heart pounded in his chest; frustration building as visibility became more and more difficult. The damned rain was getting heavier, the wind was driving it sideways like a swirling, surging blizzard across the Impala's headlights. "Ring again you stupid bastard!" Sam almost sobbed at his phone.
About an hour of aimless driving round the streets, and Sam was becoming frantic; his options were dwindling. He'd called the phone company's 24 hour emergency line and spoken to a man called Les who told him that his nightshift rate sucked, his wife didn't understand him, but couldn't tell him what pay phone had registered a call to Sam's cellphone a 2.30 am this morning.
He 'd long since opened all the windows to try to give himself as clear visibility as possible; the splashing of the rain on the road and the howling of the wind drowning out his attempts at calling his brother's name. Both he and the inside of the Impala were drenched; Dean would throw a fit when he found out.
He was just about to give up and put in a call to the police when he saw a row of oaks alongside him, lurching and flailing, buffeted by the wind. Opposite them were three shops with a payphone in front of them. He slammed his foot on the brake and leapt out of the Impala, abandoning her by the side of the road; as the wind nearly took him off his feet. Battling against the gale to tug his jacket around him, he ran over to the phone; ignoring the water that splashed around his feet, driving violently into his face, stinging and blinding him.
He flinched as a crack of thunder broke overhead. Calling out Dean's name, his voice was carried away by the wind. He tried again, calling; leaning into the onslaught; his head scanning from side to side.
Suddenly he tripped, splashing face first into the torrent of flood water gushing along the street.
Gasping and spluttering, he scrambled to his feet and staggered back, squinting through the downpour as he turned to see what he had tripped over.
His heart missed a beat as he looked down to see the obstacle, lying on the ground, barely visible as it protruded from the shadows of a shop doorway.
It was a bare leg.
A spike of fear drove it's way through Sam's heart as he squinted through the driving rain into the shadowed doorway and saw Dean huddled motionless in the corner, lying in a shallow pool of floodwater; he looked like he had tried to find shelter from the storm in the small open porch and looked ridiculously small burrowed as far into the corner as he possibly could without becoming part of the brickwork itself.
He was dressed only in what he had gone to bed in earlier that evening, a black T shirt and his boxers, both of which clung wetly to him like a second skin. Drenched through, his soaked hair was plastered to his forehead, his face dripping with rainwater.
Sam swayed, buffeted by the wind as he placed his hand on his brother's thigh and gasped, the wet skin was as cold as ice; "Dean," he shook his brother gently by the leg. "DEAN," panic began to rise as no response was forthcoming.
He crawled into the doorway and grasped Dean by the shoulder, cringing as the soaked T shirt squelched under his hand. "Dean," he placed his hand flat against his brother's chest, and was mildly relieved to feel a heartbeat.
Grabbing Dean's arm, he pulled him towards him "C'mon bro', we're going home." Heaving Dean into a classic fireman's lift, he briefly smiled at his earlier thought of how small Dean looked; "you're still damned heavy, you great lump!"
He staggered out into the storm, lurching as he and his unbalanced burden were battered by the gusting downpour. He could feel the shallow swelling of Dean's chest around his shoulders, and hear his shaky breaths through chattering teeth over the constant hiss of the rain. He had to get Dean somewhere warm and dry and he had to do it now.
Sam didn't think he had ever been so pleased to see the Impala as he ploughed through the deluge. He had left her parked crookedly halfway across the sidewalk, all her windows wide open, and the torrential rain had shown no mercy. There was a good inch of water slopping around in all her footwells, and her leather seats were soaked, dark stains blossoming across her upholstery as the moisture soaked through the leather.
He didn't care. He knew she would understand.
Sam would have sworn that car loved Dean as much as Dean loved her; she always ran a little bit smoother, more economically for him; her chrome gleamed just a little brighter when Dean was nearby. When he ran a loving palm over her paintwork, Sam would be prepared to swear that the car gave a little shudder of delight. That car would go through hell to keep her boy safe and she would do so willingly.
Sam slid Dean over his head onto the back seat; he wasn't sure that Dean was unconscious, more like that he was too disorientated and too traumatized to make sense of where he was. Clambering into the car to get out of the storm, he took a moment to quickly triage his brother's condition.
Dean was deathly pale, his lips bloodlessly blue. Violent tremors ran through his drenched body in rhythmic spasms. His sopping T shirt had ridden up as Sam carried him and clung clammily halfway up his chest. Sam placed his hand flat on his brother's abdomen – he could feel the deep and continual trembling which shook his brother's soaked and freezing body to it's very core.
Sam gently pulled the wet material down to cover Dean's bare midriff; the least he could do was to afford his brother what little dignity could be afforded under the circumstances.
He noticed that Dean's feet were sore and bleeding. God only knows where he had been walking in bare feet. Sam looked closer and grimaced when he realised he could see some broken glass embedded in the arch of his brother's right foot. That would need dealing with as soon as they got back to the motel.
He wrapped a fleece blanket around Dean, tucking it tightly around his shivering body, then reached up and gently rubbed Dean's wet forehead; "Dean, hey man, I got ya!" he whispered. Dean squirmed weakly within the blanket and let out a quiet, shaky moan. Sam carried on rubbing and spoke; a little louder and sterner this time. "Dean;" he squeezed Dean's shoulder, "C'mon dude, I need to see you're ok".
This time, Dean's head jerked to the side with a grunt, and his eyes flickered open, unfocussed green eyes locking on to Sam for a moment; Sam smiled, and whispered, "gotcha, jerk".
Sam shut the door, and scampered round to the front of the Impala, shielding his eyes from the onslaught of the storm and sliding into the waterlogged driver's seat. He powered her engine, and cranked the heating up full blast. "Hang in there bro'," he called behind him, "your baby's takin' you home."
He smiled broadly when he heard a voice behind him, "b-bi…ch".
Sam gently deposited Dean on his bed in the motel room and closed the door behind him, gratefully shutting out the storm. He heard himself say thank you to the Impala. Shaking his head, he thought, "holy crap, I'm doing it now, I'm talking to a car!"
Dean lay curled up on the bed, shivering inside the tightly wrapped blanket looking for all the world like a giant grub; he strained to look over his shoulder, "S'my … can' move, S'my … where r'you?"
"Be with you in a sec, dude," Sam called as he switched the kettle on and slipped out of his wet jacket and shirt, a shudder gripping his damp body as he checked the thermostat to make sure it was turned up to 'max'.
He returned to the bed and gathered his brother into his arms, "It's okay Dean, you're safe now - out of the storm. " Dean's head nestled wordlessly into the crook of his brother's neck; droplets from his wet hair running down Sam's chest and pooling at his already soaked jeans.
Sam peeled the now-damp blanket away from Dean's body, and laid a large palm across his forehead; he was still cold, but not desperately so; shivering, but not so violently - it seemed like some of the Impala's precious heat had seeped into those chilled bones.
Dean looked up into his brother's face, wide, green eyes blank with confusion; "w-where 'mi?"
"You're back in the motel, Dude," Sam reassured softly, squeezing Dean's shoulder, "c'mon, we need to get this wet stuff off". Dean looked down at his wet T shirt and pulled at the fabric with unco-ordinated fingers, watching as it stretched up from his damp skin with a soft, sucking noise.; "'m all w-wet!"
Sam shook his head with a wry smile; and reached over Dean's back to pull up the hem of the soaked garment. It peeled up over Dean's chest with a long, wet slurp, slipping off over his raised arms and bedraggled head. Dean shivered briefly and wrapped his arms tightly around himself until he felt Sam's long arms wrapping the comforter from the other bed around his bare shoulders.
"Shorts" said Sam economically, pointing to Dean's sodden boxers. Dean hugged the comforter a little tighter and looked up at him, bemused, "don' s-swing that way". Sam rolled his eyes, and ignored Dean's hoarse protests, working the shorts down his brother's clammy legs, hindered by Dean's clumsy attempts to pull them back up, and threw them on the floor next to the T shirt. Sam grinned evilly, "You're so cold dude, you'd probably have trouble swingin' any way!"
Dean scowled and pulled the comforter tighter around his nether regions.
Sam sat down and gently rubbed Dean's back through the comforter and was relieved to note that the shivering seemed to have subsided significantly although little shudders were still racking his body in rhythmic tremors from time to time. "How you doin' dude?" he asked softly. Dean turned to him, "n-not too bad …w-warmer now". He shifted his leg and winced, "foot hur's ..."
Sam's gentle rubs turned into a final pat, and he stood up from the bed. "I know dude, we'll sort that out in a sec."
"Stay there," he ordered, and stepped across to the kitchenette, watching to make sure Dean stayed put. He poured hot water over a teabag in a cup, and walked back to the bed, offering it to Dean. "Here, bro', drink this;" Dean took the cup and glanced at the insipid liquid; his nose wrinkled unappreciatively. "Wan' c-coffee," he snorted between clenched teeth as another shiver shook his body.
"No way." Sam folded his arms, "no caffeine for you; not now!" Dean looked back into the cup as if Sam had offered him a drink of pond water. "It's Chamomile tea," Sam offered hopefully, "it'll warm you up, and its very relaxing - might help you sleep." He watched Dean studying the drink, then sniffing it; "try it; you might like it."
The look on Dean's face said that he'd already made his mind up on that score.
"Foot's hurt'n." Dean winced and sucked in a hiss of pain.
"I know bro', you've cut it quite bad;" Sam squatted down beside Dean, "I think there's some glass in it, just gonna take a look."
Dean nodded and took a sip of the drink. "euugh … t-tastes like piss."
Sam shook his head and smiled, "and you would know that exactly how?"
Dean flinched at the dip of the mattress as Sam sat on the bed and lifted his foot onto his lap. "I need to look at your foot, dude". Close inspection of Dean's bleeding foot revealed at there was definitely a shard of glass embedded in the arch of his foot, possibly two; Sam squinted hard at the cut, and gently palpitated the red inflamed skin.
Dean's foot jerked violently as he gasped, and tried to pull away when Sam reached for the tweezers.
"Sorry, bro', I'm gonna have to get this glass out of your foot; it might sting a bit". Dean bit his lip, shifting uncomfortably, as he tried to pull his foot away from Sam's hands.
Sam bought the tweezers to bear against the cut, and Dean's foot jerked wildly, bringing Sam within two inches of a broken nose.
"Geddof," squawked Dean, clambering backwards along the bed.
"Sorry man, this is gonna hurt, but that glass has got to come out". Sam was bemused; Dean must be more traumatised than he thought; he'd seen Dean sit through a dozen stitches without so much as a blink before.
He gripped Dean's ankle as he moved in with the tweezers again; once again, the foot thrashed violently, "Dean, I can't do this if you don't keep still …"
"t-tickles" snorted Dean through clenched teeth.
Sam scraped a hand through his hair and puffed in exasperation. Notwithstanding the fact that he couldn't believe his tough-as-nails, monster slaying, badass big brother was ticklish, he realised that a touchy job had suddenly become a whole lot more difficult; Dean was impressively strong at the best of times; angry or in pain, Dean's strength reached a whole new level; but this ... well this was what might be described as uncharted territory. Dean glared at him. "N-not funny Sam!"
Sam looked at the indignant figure, curled up under the comforter, and he thought it was one of the funniest things he'd ever seen.
"Sorry dude," he stammered trying not to laugh, "I gotta do this; you're just gonna have to suck it up and be a man!".
Sam fumbled under the comforter ignoring flailing hands trying to swat him away, and grasped Dean's ankle in a death grip, pulling his foot out into the light and throwing his whole weight to sit across his leg. Ignoring the frantic squirming, snorts and squawks coming from behind him and a spoon thrown at the back of his head, he managed to extricate the glass from the wound as gently as possible and without losing an eye.
He hoped to God he wouldn't have to stitch the cut, otherwise he was gonna have to knock his brother out.
Once the glass was gone, he decided to err on the side of keeping his teeth intact. He dabbed a generous coating of antiseptic onto the wound and pressed a piece of gauze against the cut without stitching it.
He released his brother's bandaged foot and grinned as Dean glared daggers at him. "Thanks, I s'pose," he grunted sourly, reluctantly sipping the chamomile.
Sam rummaged around in Dean's duffel and pulled out a clean dry T shirt and sweatpants.
"C'mon dude, let's get you dressed. Sam sat down behind Dean and unwrapped the comforter from around him; he placed his hand flat on his brother's back and was relieved to feel a comforting warmth in the skin. Soft, regular breaths gently expanded the ribs beneath his hand, and the trembling was now so slight was to be almost unnoticeable
He watched Dean slip into his T shirt and helped to work the sweatpants up his legs, being careful to keep clear of those deadly feet.
"Go on, get in," he pulled the blankets back and watched Dean sink into the bed. "No sleepwalkin'" he whispered, squatting down close to his brother, and pulling blankets up over his back; "I don't wanna have to tie you up every night!"
"Told you I don' swing that way", a quiet voice muffled into the pillow came back at him.
Sam rubbed the back of his brother's head, "jerk".
Sam watched his exhausted brother drift into a much needed sleep. His relief was tinged with concern; this couldn't happen again … he had to get to the bottom of Dean's sleeplessness.
For both their sakes.
Sam watched from his bed in exasperation as Dean's much needed good night's sleep which started out so promising following his ordeal in the storm, descended into a hobbling trip to the bathroom followed by half an hours tossing, turning and sighing, followed by a hobble to the kitchenette for a glass of water, followed by another hour of fidgeting and groaning and culminated in what sounded like an epic nightmare.
He leapt out of bed, losing his footing in the tangled sheets, and stumbled down beside his brother's twitching form, threading his fingers through Dean's tousled hair as he tried to soothe his distress; "hey Dean, hey 's'okay, it's only a dream …"
"PLEASE … DON'T …" Dean's arms groped blindly through the darkness as if he were trying to cling with all his might to something unseen; his back arching violently against the mattress as the words were forced out hoarsely between gasping sobs, "SAMMY …", his head jerked from side to side as he sobbed his brother's name. The utter despair that was carried on the words all but broke Sam's heart.
"Dean!" Sam roughly shook his brother's shoulders , "DEAN …"
Dean suddenly stilled; confused green eyes flickered open and blinked away the tears that had pooled there. The only movement now was the heaving of his chest as he panted in tandem with his racing heart. Vacant eyes fixed on Sam. "Sammy; still here …"
Sam bent over his motionless brother so that he was directly in his line of vision, still gripping his shoulders, his weight pressing Dean down into the sweat-dampened mattress. "Hey dude; 'course I'm here, where else would I be?"
Dean's breathing finally began to even out, his eyes beginning to focus as the memory of the nightmare receded along with the fog of sleep; "Uh … what?"
Shaking his head, Sam offered Dean the glass of water that he had trekked across the room for earlier, he sat on the mattress and watched his brother drink shakily.
"What was all that about, dude?"
Dean looked at Sam; there was a shiftiness, an evasiveness in his gaze. "I … uh, don' know …"
Sam kept digging. He knew it was a low trick, but Dean was an experienced and gifted deceiver and Sam knew his best chance of wheedling the truth out of his brother was when his impenetrable guard was down; and half-asleep was the perfect time.
"Dean, you said something about me still being here; what did you mean?" Dean spoke without looking him in the eye, "uh, I saw you … uh … being chased by a, um … thing. Thought I'd lost you."
Sam didn't believe a word of it. "I'm not going anywhere; you know that, right?"
He looked directly into Dean's blank face and shrunk when he saw an unbearably deep and raw pain behind that soft green gaze. "C'mon man, talk to me. What's wrong?"
He instinctively reached out to hold his brother's shoulder.
Dean closed his eyes and seemed to soften just slightly at the touch, canting his head so that his cheek brushed against Sam's wrist.
The brothers stayed that way for a few quiet moments; the muffled patter of the rain outside playing a backbeat to their drowsy, sychronised breaths.
Sam felt the moment that the walls went back up.
"Tired Sammy, wanna sleep …" Dean shrugged Sam's hand from his shoulder and shuffled back into the bed, turning to face the wall.
The following day, the town breathed a sigh of relief when the great storm finally blew itself out to be replaced by another, more localised, tempest when Dean found out about the Impala's waterlogged interior.
Sam bore the onslaught with dignity, not even trying to interrupt his raging, finger-jabbing arm-waving sibling; admirably remaining silently tight-lipped when Dean used two of his T shirts to mop up inside her.
He reflected that they were both tired, no – check that – exhausted. He watched Dean limping around outside fussing over his baby and a now-familiar wave of concern washed over him. Dark smudges had become a permanent feature beneath Dean's eyes, those sparkling green eyes from which the sparkle was now noticeably absent; his usually flawless skin had taken on a creamy pallor. There was a fatigue about Dean these days. Sam watched how he slumped rather than leaned over the Impala as he lethargically cleaned her out, how he yawned repeatedly as he hummed unenthusiastically along to the best of ACDC.
The worry was starting to wear Sam down; the cold knot of fear in his stomach was becoming a constant companion – he could almost hear his blood pressure rising day on day as he watched the lack of sleep gradually eating away at Dean's spirit.
"Dean …", Sam had watched his brother intently all evening; discreetly, out of the corner of his eye; he had studied every facial expression, every nuance of his body language, and gauged what he felt was the perfect time to broach the matter.
"What?" Dean responded without taking his eyes off the TV.
"We need to talk…"
"No we don't."
"Can it, Sammy."
"Dean" Sam took a deep breath in an effort to maintain his composure, "please tell me what's wrong, bro', I'm worried about you."
Dean continued to stare intently at the TV, "well, don't be, I'm fine."
Sam could feel his patience starting to fade, "Dean …"
"WHAT?" Dean turned on his brother, "I'll tell you what's wrong with me; I've got this freakin' whiney little brother who won't give me a minutes peace!"
"Dean", Sam trembled with anger, "You're worrying yourself sick over something. You nearly died the other night with that sleepwalkin' stunt, and the nightmares … what's that all about? What are you asfraid of, dude?". He drew a deep, shuddering breath in an effort to remain calm, "There's something seriously wrong with you, Dean. I just want to see you have a good nights sleep; I can't bear to see you like this."
Dean's expression was unreadable; empty eyes fixed on him. He felt himself leaning forward to grip the drooping shoulders.
"Please dude, you can tell me anything; I just want to help you, please."
An awkward silence settled over the two Winchesters momentarily, until Dean stood up and pushed Sam's hands away. He walked across the room and reached for his jacket.
"You know, you're right," he snapped, "I'm goin' out - alone." He opened the door; "if I go an' drink myself into a coma, I'll get that good night's sleep that you're so desperate for".
Sam made a grab for him as she stepped outside the door, but Dean swatted his arm away, "anyway, in a few weeks, you'll have far more important things on your mind, won't you …"
The door slammed behind him leaving Sam alone in the motel room, sick with worry and utterly perplexed.
He bit back on his lip when he felt the tears start to sting.
Sam reflected that this all seemed horribly familiar; another night; more frantic hours searching dark, deserted streets for an absent brother.
He drove street after dreary street, mile after mile, nauseous panic rising within him; searching and scouring; scanning the face of every solidly built, short haired figure that emerged from the darkness.
Visiting every bar, strip club and seedy watering hole that the town had to offer, he fought his way through the massed undesirables, inadequates, hookers and drunkards that congregated there; scanning the pool halls, searching the mens' rooms, hunting for his brother.
Once again, his partner in his fruitless search was the Impala; her headlights cutting through the darkness; a search beacon for her beloved boy.
Sam's head was spinning; adrenalin pumping blood around his body in torrents, the fear gripping his pounding heart like a vice.
Time had begun to lose it's meaning, all Sam could concentrate on was his purpose; it became a game of numbers. He was twenty miles out of town; given that Dean had been on foot, and one of those feet was not exactly in peak condition, logic suggested Dean couldn't have got anywhere near this far.
He had searched eighteen joints that looked as if they could have attracted Dean on a bad night. He had been hit upon by five women, and had narrowly avoided two fights. He had phoned Dean's number twelve times; he was looking for one seriously screwed up brother and so far had had exactly zero success.
Eventually, he looked at the Impala's clock. It was 1.30 am, and he was exhausted; sleep dragging on his eyes making a continuedsearch impossible. Reluctantly turning the Impala round, he headed back to the motel, coaxing his heavy eyes to stay open long enough for him to make it back and hoping against hope that Dean would find his way back to the motel when he was done.
What he didn't expect to find as he stepped into the room was Dean sitting on his bed, four empty beer bottles littering the floor round his socked, bloodstained feet and a half-emptied bottle of Johnny Walker black label cradled in his lap.
Glassy eyes looked up at his gaping brother.
"Sh'mmy …" he slurred
It was a comically long time before Sam regained the power of speech, and he resisted with all his might the overwhelming urge to scream out his panic stricken fury to the listing, heavy-lidded figure on the bed.
He took a deep breath to level his voice out; the last thing he needed to do was hurt or scare his brother. "Dean, thank God; where have you been – I've been searching everywhere for you."
"Sat in the park S'mmy. Bough' some beers in the store down the road and sat 'n the park. Watched the ducks."
Sam shook his head, and rubbed a hand over his face; of all the places he thought of searching, that's the last place that would have even crossed his mind.
"Bars roun' here are shit, S'mmy."
Sam smiled in weary agreement; "yeah, I know bro', I've been in each an' every one of 'em."
His anger dissipated as Dean looked up at him, a lop-sided smile playing on his pale, drawn features. Sam walked over and sat on the bed next to Dean. Dean didn't push him away or resist, but leaned woozily into his brother's solid presence.
Sam reached up and squeezed Dean's shoulder, "Dude; don't ever do that to me again, I've been worried sick".
Dean turned and looked at him, "sh'rry…"
He was cut off as Dean spoke, his words slurred and quiet as he hugged his bottle; "S'mmy – 'm sorry I've been a freakin' dick"
"Dean…" Once again, the word was cut off.
"Done a lot of thinkin' while I was watchin' the ducks". He raised a hand to his mouth and stifled a soft burp; "been feelin' like a duck las' few weeks. All calm on top, an' paddlin' like hell to stay sane un'neath."
He turned to Sammy and smiled sadly at his own joke.
Sam's hand moved down to rub his brother's back. "Dean …"
He rolled his eyes and smiled as his attempt to speak was cut off again.
"I jush' wan' you to know, I think you should go. You deserve better'n this friggin' crap, an I don't wan' you worry'n about me; I accept it an' I'm happy for ya."
Sam stared at Dean, "what? What the hell are you talking about?"
"You're goin' back to Stanford – new intake starts 'n the Fall. I saw the email S'mmy." He took a long draught of the whisky and paused as he relished the burn at the back of his throat.
"Dean, I don't understand – what email?"
"I din't mean to pry; it was a few weeksh'go when we were workin' that ghoul job in Texas an' I wen'into the emails to look for the map that Bobby sen' us, an' I saw one from Stanford".
He looked up at Sam's blank face, "Sorry man, I know I shouldna, but I was jus' curious. It was all application forms and course dates, names of tutors an' stuff."
Sam's head slumped. "... and you thought … Oh my God."
The pain behind the watery green eyes was palpable; This man who would throw his body in front of the worst horror imaginable without a second's thought to save a frightened child, was facing his deepest and most crippling fear; his fear of abandonment, of losing his brother. That fear was a raw wound burned on his soul by the life he had been forced to lead and the knowledge was more than Sam could bear.
He turned to face Dean; "Dean", his spoke as softly as he could, "Mrs Moore – Jessica's Mom phoned me a few weeks ago and told me her nephew was planning to go to Stanford: I told her I would talk to some people I know there and send her some information to give him a headstart; the sort of stuff that he wouldn't find on their website".
He paused for a moment to see if the explanation had sunk in; "I'm not going anywhere you moron!"
Dean looked up.
"Jeez Dean, I sent that stuff to her weeks ago." Sam paused, "that's why you haven't been sleeping isn't it; you've been torturing yourself about it since then;" he shook his head, "why didn't you say something dude? Why didn't you talk to me about it?"
"I din't wanna make you feel like you hadta stay for me … sorta thought that you – um … well, it looked like you … ah …"
Dean gave up, looking down into his bottle, then back up at Sam.
"Feel stupid now."
Sam smiled weakly, "I'm a different guy to the one that went to Stanford; this is my life now, good or bad, I couldn't go back to conventional; not now." He sighed, "'fraid you're stuck with me, bro'"
"Oh damn," murmured Dean, staring down at his lap with a watery smile.
"I'll tell you something else," Sam added with a mischevious grin, "you ever snoop through my emails again, and I'll kill you!"
Dean wiped his eyes and snorted, "like t'see you try!"
Sam stood up, stretching before he reached down to gently pull the bottle out of Dean's hands. "Well, dude, I suggest we turn in. It's nearly three in the mornin', and I wanna be fresh and rested to enjoy your hangover tomorrow!"
Dean's eyes flickered open, blinking wetly as bright sunshine filtered through the room's grubby window. He winced as his head reminded him that he was going to pay heavily for last night's indulgences; yes, Sam would gloat and Dean would snark; but life was good.
Glancing across at the long lump snoring softly in the bed across the room, he smiled and burrowed further down among his bedclothes; the warmth of his rested body, conspiring with the softness of the mattress to surrender him totally to the blissful pull of sleep.
Dark lashes drooped with a sigh, and he quickly sunk once again into delicious, undisturbed oblivion.