Nightmares - PART 3

A week into my stay at Bobby's, I woke up screaming. I screamed until my throat was raw. The knife clutched in my hand was my only defense and the demon was coming for me. He was hunting me like a cat stalks a mouse, merciless, relentless, laughing all the while and he wouldn't stop until I was dead but I wasn't going down without a fight.

"Babe, wake up. Wake up, come on, look at me."

Gradually, Dean's face came into focus. The faint light from the bathroom cast half of his profile in darkness, the other half in a soft, golden glow. He held my face in his hands as he knelt on my bed in front of me.

"Let go of the knife," he said gently.

I shook my head. "No…"

"Yes, it's okay, I'm right here. Just let go."

Dean's hand drifted down my arm, past my wrist and settled over my fingers on the knife's hilt. I held on for a beat, then two, then uncurled my fingers. Dean slipped the knife away from me, held it at arm's length and I caught a glimpse of Sam's shadow as he stepped forward and slid the knife out of Dean's grasp. He melted back into the darkness again, disappeared.

Dean never took his eyes off of me the whole time. "It was a bad dream, sweetheart, nothing more. Demon's gone, you're at Bobby's, plenty of wards."

"But there's more," I said, my voice trembling slightly. "There's always more."

"I know and I won't let them get you, okay?"

I nodded but the unease that had settled in my chest still felt like it was suffocating me. "I can't…I'm…so scared…all the time now," I choked out as tears slid down my cheeks. "I hate it."

Without a word, Dean's hand gently cupped the back of my neck and he pulled me into his chest. I wrapped my arms around him, my fingers digging into his shoulders as I cried hard despite each sob sending fresh stabs of white hot pain through my body. I cried until I had nothing left and my rattling breathing turned into little hiccups. I hated for anyone to see me cry, especially Sam and Dean. Ever since Dean had brought me to Bobby's, I'd been trying to hold it together and put on a brave front despite the fact that I jumped at practically every little noise but I had finally reached my breaking point. The nightmares were getting worse. I hadn't slept the whole night through since getting away from the demon and it was wearing on me, leaving me exhausted during the day.

I don't know how long I stayed there, tucked against Dean's shoulder, his chin resting on top of my head but even after I stopped crying, he didn't let go. Though he hadn't admitted it, I'd seen the terror in his eyes when he first found me in that warehouse, barely alive, carved, whipped, sliced, bleeding out…

"You should probably get back to bed, try to sleep," I said, slightly muffled against his shoulder.

"Probably," he agreed.

Neither of us moved. For the first time in a long time, the suffocating fear was starting to ease and I could breathe again. During the past few days, Sam, Dean and Bobby had done everything they possibly could to ensure that I felt safe but I hadn't let them get close, not like this. I wanted to prove that I was doing fine, that I could hold my own…except they knew I wasn't doing very well in that department.

Dean shifted slightly so he could lean against the headboard of my bed. He rested one hand against my head and swept my hair away from my shoulder. "You're not shaking anymore."

"It helps knowing someone else is around," I said. "As soon as I'm alone, especially in the dark, it's like I'm right back…there."

Dean tightened his hold on me a little and I squeezed my eyes shut against the memories.

"I have to ask something," he said after a minute or two, "and I need an honest answer."

I nodded against his shoulder.

"Do you want me to stay?"

Silence. "Yes" sprang immediately to the tip of my tongue but I had stopped it at the last second. It would sound too needy and I knew it. Having Dean rush in and wake me up from my nightmares – more than once – was bad enough. I wanted to handle things by myself again, like I used to, before that damn demon took me. I wanted to be able to sleep in my own room by myself for just one night without getting scared and I couldn't even do that.

"I'll sleep on the floor, give you space," Dean offered. When I still didn't respond, he stopped. "You know what, never mind, shouldn't have even mentioned it. Forget it."

"Just…for tonight," I said at last.

"Are you…was that a yes? You want me to stay?" He tipped my chin up to look me in the eyes.

"Yes, I want you to stay," I said softly. "But not on the floor. I feel awful that you have to babysit me, I'd feel even worse if you slept on the floor."

Dean pushed me away from him gently, his hands on my shoulders. "Do you think that's what this is? That I'm babysitting you?

"Dean, I have to sleep with the bathroom light on because I'm afraid of the damn dark! What else would you call it?"

"Damn straight you should be afraid of the dark. You've seen what things live out there."

"You know what I mean."

"Fine," he grumbled. He stalked across the hall and flipped off the light. I stiffened and my eyes went wide as if I could see better that way. I could just make out Dean's silhouette, a smudge of black against the inkier darkness, as he shuffled back into my room, patting his way with one hand along the edge of my bed.

"Now," he said. "As I was saying…"

I grabbed his hand and practically yanked him back on the bed. Despite my frustration and anger at him for turning off the light, my fear was stronger. My fingers gripped his forearms as if he was the only thing keeping me grounded, keeping me from slipping over the edge and losing it completely.

"You're shaking again," he said in a heavy voice.

"Because you turned off the stupid light, why did you do that?" Even to my own ears, I sounded right on the brink of hysteria.

His hand came up and cupped my cheek, his thumb brushed along my jaw. "Because you don't need a babysitter and I wanted to make sure you understood that."

"Okay I get it, now would you please turn the light back on?"

"No."

"Dean…" I pleaded.

"Babe, this fear you feel right now, it's normal. You were tortured at the hands of a demon for two whole weeks. You were lucky to get out alive but you're acting like you should be able to forget it in the blink of an eye and move on. It takes time."

My chest felt tight and the familiar burn of tears had returned. I bit my lip and gripped fistfuls of my bed sheets, rolling them tight around my knuckles. The last crying session had been really painful and left me feeling more exhausted than a restless night of bad dreams. I didn't want to go through that again.

Dean slid his other hand up along my jawline and kissed my forehead then my cheek then lightly, barely brushed a very gentle, very careful kiss against my lips. "You don't have to be brave for me or Sam or anyone," he said. "You already are."

Dean tugged a blanket up, pulled it over my shoulders and I leaned into him as he laid back against the pillows. His hand came to settle on my hip and I rested my head against his chest as I listened to the steady, calming rhythm of his heartbeat. The fear pulsing through my body gradually began to seep away and my eyes drifted closed.

The next morning, I found myself draped over Dean, my legs tangled with his, my arm resting across his middle, my forehead tucked in the hollow of his neck and shoulder while his breath ruffled my hair. Slowly so as not to wake him, I tried to move over but my body was stiff and it had been a while since I'd had any painkillers. A tiny gasp escaped my lips and Dean blinked awake, rubbing the back of his hand over his eyes, his mussed hair sticking up in every direction.

"You slept through the night," he said, his voice still raspy and gruff with sleep.

I gave up on trying to move and eased myself back down against Dean, relieved at the realization that he was right. No nightmares, no bathroom light, no fear.

"Guess we'll have to keep doing the sleepover thing," he said with a grin.

"In your dreams, Winchester."

Sam's voice drifted from downstairs. "Bobby, have you seen Dean?"

Dean groaned and let his head drop back on the pillows. "Dude, your timing sucks."

I slowly rolled to the side as Dean untangled himself from me and headed for the door. He paused at the threshold and glanced back at me.

"You okay?"

I considered it for a moment. I'd slept the whole night through for the first time in weeks. My chest didn't feel like it was in a vise grip of fear, squeezing the air from my lungs. There was still a long ways to go and maybe I might never see normal again, I might always jump at shadows and be terrified of the dark but for now, it was a start in the right direction.

"Yeah," I said. "I'm okay."

Once Dean had left, I stayed in bed for about thirty seconds before I became restless and had to move. I never slept past noon before let alone stayed in bed for over a week. Especially considering my earlier triumph, I felt good, confident I could conquer more.

I eased myself out of bed and into a fresh t-shirt and a pair of shorts. I had learned the hard way that my clothes were no easy task to get into. Anything that was my size rubbed and chafed against bruises or sat just a little too snug on bandages and stitches so Sam had given me a few of Dean's old shirts. The worn, soft fabric still smelled faintly of Dean – sweet cinnamon, tangy beer, spicy aftershave - and hung loose and far more comfortable against my sore skin. I had no intention of giving them back...but Dean didn't know that yet.

I inched my way down the stairs, thrilled that I had made it this far without feeling entirely spent. I stopped at the sound of Sam and Dean's voices in the kitchen.

"Don't tease her about it," Dean said in a firm tone.

"I thought you said nothing happened," Sam replied.

"Nothing did. She was out cold in two minutes. She was exhausted. Leave her alone about it, Sammy, I swear."

"Okay, fine, whatever, I wasn't going to say anything anyway. Look, I don't care what the two of you do…"

"Sam," Dean snapped. Something was set on a countertop or table with an impatient bang. "Last night was the first time she didn't wake up screaming, terrified because of what that demon did to her. I couldn't stop the son of a bitch from taking her but I sure as hell will do whatever it takes to help her sleep at night. She wasn't scared, Sammy, for the first time since we got her out of there, she wasn't scared. It was like a little glimpse of the girl we used to know was back, just for a second. So don't…don't tease her about it, alright?"

At that moment, Sam crossed the kitchen and caught sight of me standing on the stairs.

"Hey," he said. "You're up and…moving, wow. That's good to see."

A chair scraped on the hardwood floor and Dean was at Sam's side, a surprised look on his face.

"I was hoping I could have breakfast with you guys," I said.

Sam and Dean came up on either side of me and took my hands, guiding me down the remaining steps and into the kitchen. They didn't rush my crawling pace but stayed right with me as I crept along.

"Can't think of many people who would opt out of breakfast in bed," Sam said.

"Don't get me wrong," I said as Sam and Dean lowered me into a chair at the kitchen table. "I appreciated every second of it but I'm ready to get out of my room for as long as I can today."

"What are you hungry for?" Dean said, pulling open the refrigerator. "Eggs? Think you can manage some sausage maybe? Last I checked, they were a little rough to…."

He stopped. I glanced at him, wondering why he had dropped off mid-sentence but he stayed half hidden by the refrigerator door, seeming to find plenty to keep him occupied and not meet my gaze. In all this time, Sam and Dean had been very careful not to mention how crappy I looked, always tiptoeing around the subject. Stupidly simple things became frustrating beyond belief. Drinking from a cup was a challenge in itself because of my swollen face. I couldn't even get the meds out of their ridiculous plastic bottle with the damn safety cap that became a thousand times more complicated since my fingers were stiff or wrapped up in splints. Every time I needed painkillers, I had to ask Sam or Dean to open the bottle for me which got really old really fast.

"That sounds great, actually," I said. "I'm also dying for a piece of toast."

Dean popped his head up out of the refrigerator, a tentative gleam of hope in his eyes. "Comin' right up."

"Bobby's in the yard," Sam said. "I'll go get him, see if he's hungry."

As Sam walked out the front door, Dean turned on the stove and cracked a few eggs into a pan. I slid off my chair, hobbled across the room and slipped my arms around Dean's waist from behind.

"I don't care if Sam teases me about what happened last night," I said.

Dean turned slightly. "You heard all that?"

"Some of it."

"Yeah well," he turned back to the pan. "I do care. If he does say anything, you have permission to knock his pretty teeth out."

"I would never do that."

"Then I'll do it for you."

I pressed my cheek against his back, between his shoulder blades. He placed one hand over my hands and I laced my fingers in with his.

"It's not your fault," I said.

Dean went rigid and didn't reply. I squeezed his hand.

"You can't stop every bad thing that's going to happen to me."

"I can sure as hell try," he muttered. "Shouldn't have left you at the hotel by yourself in the first place."

"So you're going to stay at my side 24/7 now? Because I can foresee some serious problems with that plan."

"If that's what it takes, then yes. You scared the hell out of me. You stopped breathing, babe, for god's sake, you weren't breathing and I didn't know what to do."

I didn't say anything. I knew I'd been in bad shape when Sam and Dean found me, I just never realized how close I had come to not making it out of there. Dean scraped the eggs around in the pan with a vengeance and didn't look at me. I reached up and gently tipped his face towards me.

"I'm alive, Dean," I said. "What happened wasn't your fault in any way. And don't," I put one finger against his lips to keep him from arguing. "Don't do the "should have, could have, would have" thing. You'll drive yourself crazy if you keep that up. I'm alive and I have you and Sam to thank for that."

He looked away and raised one shoulder in a half shrug. "Still gonna keep a close eye on you."

"If it makes your job any easier," I said. "I wouldn't mind another sleepover."

I was so glad that I was behind him and he couldn't see the blush that rushed up my neck and blossomed bright red across my face that I could in no way keep under control.

"Thought you said it was a one night only deal," he replied.

"Maybe I changed my mind."

"Light on or off?"

"Definitely off."

He was quiet for a second or two, pushing the eggs around in the pan. Setting the spatula aside, he turned to fully face me this time, his hands resting easily, lightly on my hips.

"Did you change your mind because of the nightmares?" he asked.

"No."

He raised his eyebrows a little. "Something else?"

"Maybe."

He ducked his head, that mischievous grin reappearing then he froze and tugged on the hem of my shirt.

"Wait a second. Van Halen…isn't this mine?"

"Not anymore. Sam said I could borrow it."

"Sam said? What was wrong with one of his shirts?"

"I don't know but I'm afraid you're not getting this one back."

"Oh really?"

"Nope, I love it too much. Classic rock t-shirt and the black eye, kinda makes me feel hardcore."

The indignation melted from his expression instantly and he tilted his head to the side, considering me. "I could get used to the rocker chick look, minus the black eye though. So would you happen to know where my AC/DC shirt disappeared to?"

I fiddled with his collar absently, smoothing out wrinkles that weren't there, concentrating very hard on not meeting his gaze. "I think I might have an idea as to its whereabouts, yes."

"I'm not getting that one back either, am I?"

I giggled then quickly bit my lip. "Probably not."

"Those are two of my favorite shirts, you know."

My fingers fell still and I finally dragged my gaze up to his face. "I was just teasing, I'll give…"

He traced his thumb down my lips and the words died in my throat.

"Keep them," he said quietly. "But you'll have to pay up."

Now it was my turn to raise an eyebrow. He leaned down as he pulled me closer and pressed the lightest kiss to my lips.

"You've got yourself a deal," I said.

I realized he was still being overly careful around me as if I was a glass bubble that would pop and shatter into a million tiny pieces. I took one of his hands away from my hip and moved it to rest against my back, an area he had been diligently avoiding. The pressure of his hand against my still tender scars felt uncomfortable at first but I refused to squirm away. The pain would be there all the time and it was far more bearable with Dean around than on my own.

"I'm not going to break, Dean," I said.

"I just…I don't want to hurt you."

"I know," I said. I placed my hands on his arms and looked him directly in the eye. "And you won't."

He hesitated for a moment, frowning slightly as he thought about it, deciding whether I was faking it for his sake or if I was being serious. Then his fingers knotted into the hem of my shirt – his shirt – as he kissed me again. His hesitation disappeared when his tongue skimmed across my lower lip. I had to stand on tiptoe to reach him but the effort was draining on my sore muscles and I leaned against him until my body was pressed flush against his, partly for support, partly because he was warm and solid and hot damn did he feel good.

The front door slammed shut and Sam and Bobby traipsed into the kitchen. I squeaked in surprise then winced.

"Your eggs are burnin'" Bobby pointed out.

"Looks like a whole lot of nothing is going on in this kitchen," Sam said with a pointed glance at Dean.

"Yeah, I can see that," Dean said, directing a glare at Sam. He pulled away, started to turn back to the stove then stopped and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear, brushing his knuckles across my cheek. "Pick this up again later?"

"I'd be disappointed if we didn't," I said.

He reached for me again, wrapping an arm around my shoulder as he kissed my forehead. I curled in against his side.

"It's good to have you back, babe."

A/N: I never wanted this fic to end! *sobs* But I hope you guys really enjoyed it and can now have lovely dreams of Dean calling you babe after rescuing you from a maniacal demon torturer. Ahhhh good times.
A virtual plate of hot fresh brownies for anyone who reviews *winkwink*