Darkness and silence.
A creeping sense of dread rose within him as Dean suddenly became aware he was struggling to breathe. He tried to gulp in precious mouthfuls of air, but something was obstructing his nose and mouth;
He gagged around the obstruction; heck, what was that? Rope? Fur?
He gasped as his chest began to ache, heart pounding. 'No, no … I'm getting better … not another nightmare, please…' Tears began to sting as he swallowed back a quiet sob; 'no, this was so not fair …'
Why the hell did he have a mouthful of fur? Something was pressing heavily on him; smothering him - what was it? A werewolf? Black dog? A freakin' bear?
His eyes snapped open, focussing slowly through the moonlit darkness and as the fog of sleep receded, it gradually became clear; he had been sleeping with his face smooshed hard against the top of his brother's shaggy head.
Squirming away from the unruly mop, he rolled onto his back trying not to disturb his sleeping brother. He picked at stray hairs that clung to his lips and nose "get a friggin' haircut, Sammy", he whispered under his breath, quietly chuckling at his own panic, chest expanding deeply as he pulled in a beautiful, life-giving, calming breath.
Dean laid back and closed his eyes, soothed by the soft huff of his brother's breathing.
The familiar and comforting smell of Bobby's yard; of oil, rust and rubber tyres wafted through the room riding on a cool breeze from the open window which ghosted across his face and shoulders. He shifted slightly under the blankets, groaning as the movement aggravated the throbbing ache which racked his body. Sam shifted at the sound and Dean froze, holding his breath in silence until he was sure Sam was still sleeping, undisturbed.
And now, he needed a pee. Just fan-frickin'-tastic.
He didn't want to dwell too much on how this particular little issue might have been addressed during the past few days when he was floating around in downtown nightmare central, but now he was in control, and HE was damn well going to deal with it.
He stared through the darkness at the ceiling and considered his options; he could ask Sammy for help. Sammy would help, of course, without hesitation; but he was exhausted and Dean decided there was no way he was going to wake him. Eventually, he sighed, angrily scolding himself; 'pull yourself together you freakin' girl; a quick walk along the landing to the bathroom, how hard can it be?'
Shakily, he pulled the blankets back and swung weak and wobbly legs over the side of the bed, reassuring himself how it shouldn't be too much of a problem since doctor psycho proved that his legs were working again. He lay on his side for a moment, panting weakly and relishing the feeling of his feet on the floor, before tackling the next challenge of sitting up unaided.
Clutching a protective arm over his sore midriff, he managed to ease himself into a sitting position, regretting it immediately as the room spun wildly, taking his stomach along for the ride.
He swallowed back the resulting nausea, scanning the room for a trashcan or some similar receptacle within easy reach; closing his eyes and breathing deeply, he clung to the bed while his feeble and exhausted body accustomed itself to being vertical once more.
"Y'ok dude?" A soft voice behind him.
He grimaced on hearing Sam's voice and inwardly cursed himself for making such a meal of sitting up that he had woken his brother. "'M good Sammy, go back to sleep!" he murmured, "jus' need to take a leak."
He felt a hand on his back; "you won't make it on your own, you're not strong enough."
"'M ok, jus' bit dizzy."
Sam leaned over watching Dean as he sat hunched over the side of the bed clutching his head, swallowing spasmodically. "You okay man; you gonna puke?" he asked quietly, reaching for the trashcan.
The response was a silent and barely perceptible shake of the head.
Dean sighed on hearing the chair creak as Sam stood up; "c'mon man, let's go". He felt a hand on his back and looked up regretfully at his brother.
"Sorry dude, guess that freakin' lizard thing took more out of me than I thought."
Sam hooked an arm across his brother's back and hoisted Dean's not insubstantial weight into a standing position with a strained grunt. Dean leaned heavily on his brother's solid presence as they inched their way down the landing, pausing briefly outside the door to Bobby's room to listen to the impressive snores emanating from within.
"Sounds like our last troll hunt" whispered Sam with a grin.
As they reached the bathroom door Dean turned to his brother, trying to wriggle free of the iron grip; "I got it from here, dude; 'm not so wrecked that I need you to hold ev'rythin' up." Sam opened his mouth to protest, but then closed it again when he realised he had to give Dean the chance to preserve what little dignity he had left.
"Okay" Sam whispered, carefully letting go of his brother, "but, take it easy – sit down."
"Something already did, and that didn't turn out so well!" Sam hissed around the bathroom door.
"Shut up - you'll wake the king of the trolls," Dean whispered back over his shoulder, swaying precariously as he slowly inched his way into the bathroom, gripping the walls and the cistern.
Sam watched him from the landing.
"close the friggin' door," Dean huffed petulantly.
"Okay" Sam sighed, pulling the door closed, "but I'm staying right here." he leaned back against the wall, closing his eyes to wait while Dean took care of business.
"m'done," the voice was barely audible from behind the bathroom door.
"need a hand dude?" Sam instantly regretted his choice of phrase.
"Yeah, but not yours …" came the croaked response.
The door slowly opened, and Dean stood before him leaning heavily on the doorframe, strengthless legs slowly buckling as he clung weakly to the wall. Sam couldn't help but smile at the sight; "c'mon dude, let's get you back to bed", he grinned, still high on the joy of having a recovering brother.
He threaded his long arm around Dean's back once again, and pulled the boneless body close into him. Together they stumbled back along the landing to the bedroom, tiptoeing past the darkness of Bobby's room. "I feel like billy goats gruff ..." Sam whispered, looking down at his brother, his face buried into Sam's shoulder. Sam smiled, the man was almost asleep standing up.
On reaching the bedroom, Sam juggled his limp burden to free up a hand and pushed the bedroom door. He needed to get Dean back to bed, he was getting cold.
As the door swung open, Sam stopped abruptly in his tracks; his hunters instinct tingling wildly. He pulled Dean's barely conscious form closer and tighter into his side.
Something was so very badly wrong.