A/N: Next entry for Whumptober 2020! Prompts filled are No. 6 "Stop, please" and No. 16 "Forced to Beg." Oh boy /*cries*/

Sam flinched around Dean now.

It took a couple times for Dean to realize it was him. He thought Sam was just being jumpy about the case or their immediate surroundings but then he did it in the library when it was just Dean walking up to him. A suppressed shudder, and then Sam's familiar eyes, today a murky gray green, gazing at him with forced airiness, hiding something darker, something like fear. Or the memory of it.

That night, Dean paused as he took off his red button-up. It was what he'd been wearing… but it couldn't be. It probably wasn't. He was reading too much into things.

After a good night's sleep, Dean decided he wouldn't do anything. Ignoring it until it went away was a tried and true method sometimes and it was worth a shot in this instance. It wasn't like he'd ever hurt Sam like that in his right mind and Sam had to know that. His little brother's subconscious flinching just needed to hop onboard too. With enough time of Dean just being himself around Sam, it would.

So that was fine. Amara was still roaming the Earth as a rapidly growing child and they had cases to solve, monsters to hunt and people to save. Sam still flinched. Dean stopped wearing his red shirt which helped but Sam still recoiled if Dean quickly walked up to him or hovered over him in any way. He hadn't realized how often he loomed over Sam while Sam was on the laptop until he couldn't. Just in general though, the sheer amount of time they spent living and working next to each other, walking up and hovering happened a lot and Sam was only getting worse, not better about it. His flinches turned to startled jumps or pronounced shakes and it was starting to cut a little deep for Dean.

He wasn't angry. Maybe at himself but not Sam, not when Dean could remember back to that fight. He'd punched Sam while he was down so many times and Sam was forced to beg him to stop. Every time he visited that memory he was horrified by his own actions, this sense of corruption and evil singing through him, convincing him that to murder the most important person in his life, his last remaining family, the central source of comfort and stability and love...

The guilt was overwhelming. The dread was there too, knowing Sam had lived through it and still remained by his side. What was that doing to him? How does he stay with someone who beat him to a pulp and almost murdered him with Death's damned scythe?

Dean had his answer though, didn't he?

It was just over a month later that Sam made the move to avoid Dean's touch altogether.

They were in a motel room. Dean was on the bed, Sam at the little table in front of the window. Dean had found something in a case file and extended it to Sam. When their hands touched Sam spooked, causing Dean to grip the folder back so it wouldn't fall.

"Just take the damn case file," he snapped, getting up and dropping it on Sam's laptop. He walked into the kitchen and grabbed the last beer from the six-pack he'd picked up a few hours ago after lunch. Sam hadn't had any; Dean was the only one using alcohol for a decent night's sleep. It was only after he'd popped the cap that he remembered he couldn't go out for more because it was a Sunday and they'd just crossed into Massachusetts. Blue laws were the worst.

He sighed and leaned against the wall separating the kitchen area from their beds, holding his beer by the neck. Sam was reading the file.

"When are we gonna talk about this, Sammy?"

Maybe Dean was buzzed. Hadn't he told himself he'd just ignore it?

Sam made a face, shook his head like he had no idea. "What?"

"Really?" Dean scoffed. He stared at Sam expectantly. Sam stared right back, bewildered. "You flinch when I come near sometimes, you're so damn jumpy around me and now you can't..." Dean trailed off. He'd started off so strong, even a little accusatory but now regret and sorrow colored his next words. "Now you can't even touch my hand without doing it, man."

Sam's jaw clenched, his eyes remained fixed on him but they glistened so Dean knew he'd hit a well of emotion somewhere. He just didn't know if Sam was up to facing it. Because facing it should really be on Sam's terms, not his. These were Sam's problems, to deal with in whatever way Sam chose and for however long he needed. And yet Dean had brought it up and laid it all out and he couldn't take it back, so here they were.

Sam looked at the file folder and coughed. "I, uh, I think you're right about the coroner's report," he offered stiltedly. Dean took a deep breath, disappointed but not surprised, and nodded along with him. "The language is nonstandard and vague. We should pay him a visit tomorrow."

Dean took a long pull from his beer. "Yeah." He burped. Sam made a face. Dean huffed a laugh. They were fine. They were… fine.

"Stop!" Sam cried and Dean jerked up in bed.

"Sammy? What... what time is it?"

"Please. No more, s' enough, please," Sam whispered breathlessly. Dean could make out the silhouette of his little brother's chest heaving, his hands were up, shaking, as though pressing against something above. "Please, stop..."

Dean bit his lip, uncertain. His heart wrenched as Sam's voice sounded so young. "Please? Dean?"

Dean shot out of bed, the guilt eating him alive as he came around to Sam.

"Sam? Sammy," Dean breathed heavily, taking in the tear tracks along Sam's face, glinting in the dark.

Dean ignored the sting in his nose, his own eyes welling as he grasped Sam's hands from the air and wiped the sweaty, disarray hair off his face. "Sam, wake up, it's a nightmare, c'mon." He kept his tone low and even despite his desperation for it to end. He'd wondered what it did to Sam, to be beaten by the man who'd witnessed his entire life with love, to kneel for his own execution by that man's hand. He kept getting a better picture of the fallout today and it made everything so much worse.

Dean tugged Sam's hair a little. "Sammy, please. Wake up." They needed to talk. He needed to tell him.

Sam's eyelids fluttered anxiously, his eyes rolled under their lids, his body shuddered under Dean's hands and he finally startled awake with a gasp.

"Dean?!" Sam threw his hands up in defense but Dean caught them, braced him. Sam struggled weakly.

"It's okay, it was a dream," Dean soothed.

Sam went limp then tensed again. He shook his head. "I don't know what-" Sam's voice broke, betraying him. He glanced away. Glossy eyes reflected the blue neon motel sign across the blacktop. Dean realized he was still holding Sam's hands but instead of pulling away, he carefully reached out and pressed a palm to Sam's chest. His heart beat sped up under his hand until finally Sam faced him. His expression was so insecure, defiance battling dependence on his big brother and if Dean didn't do something soon he was going to break.

"I'm sorry, Sam," he said, soft and calm and Sam's chin quivered. "I'm so sorry. I was wrong. I hurt you," Dean's voice broke and Sam's face screwed up, started to cry. He was quiet. Dean let him have his hands so he could cover his face. "I hurt you so much and... I didn't..." A single tear dripped down Dean's cheek. He sniffed. "I should've apologized earlier. We should've talked about this earlier. Because you're having nightmare flashbacks and I'm drinking so much I hadn't noticed until now..." Dean trailed off when Sam turned his back to him in bed, buried his face in his pillow, shoulders still shaking with muted sobs.

Dean bit his lip, feeling cold and like he was getting what he deserved, to have Sam turn his back on him. But at the same time Dean was who Sam counted on in times like these, so... what? What was he supposed to do?

He rubbed a hand down his face and murmured "fuck it" as he opened the covers.

"Dean, seriously?" But Sam's voice was wet but there was a hint of amusement underneath the sarcasm.

"Shut up. Stop crying," Dean ordered as he wrapped his arms around Sam and spooned up against him. Sam laughed, a real genuine laugh, the first Dean had heard from him in awhile. Dean arranged the covers and Sam settled in, let his hands rest on Dean's along his stomach. Dean relaxed and took a deep breath, scenting the motel's sandalwood shampoo in Sam's hair, their cheap laundry's fragrance a stale vanilla. Still, underneath it all was his Sam, his silhouette strong, masculine, messy hair and long legs under the covers and only Dean knew how he broke. Only Dean could break him at all.

After a few minutes in the dark, Sam's breathing had gone back to normal and their combined heat was making them drowsy. "Sammy, d'you think... does this help?"

A few moments' tense silence. Dean thought maybe he should pull back if it was taking Sammy this long to answer

"Yeah." His voice was a little strangled. He was embarrassed. Dean let out a breath of relief and squeezed him.

"Whenever you're going through it, you can come to me, Sam. Like this. I'll never turn you down, okay?"

"Really?" Sam whispered like he was twelve and Dean had just told him a secret.

"Yeah, Sam. I just... I need you to know that I'm... I'm safe." Dean couldn't believe he was admitting this. It helped that they were hidden by darkness, that Sam wasn't even facing him.

He felt Sam nod his head in front of him. "I get it."

Sam wasn't apologizing for being jumpy around him. It occurred to Dean how there was something so correct, so just about that. Dean needed to earn Sam's trust back and it wasn't by ignoring it and going on hunts together hoping that trust would just inexplicably find its way back. It was by being Sam's brother, by saying and doing things that only Dean, uncorrupted and clear-headed, would say and do. Things like wake him up out of nightmares and lie down with him to help him back to sleep. Also stuff like getting him his favorite salads or yogurt parfaits. Dean suppressed a chuckle, having honestly forgotten Sam liked those until just now.

Sam felt him and stiffened. "What?"

"Nothing. Go to sleep, Sammy," Dean whispered, tone fond. He brushed a hand over the back of Sam's head. Sam snugged in closer. Soon they'd overheat and separate but right now they both wanted the closeness.

He felt it when Sam fell asleep in his arms. His breathing had slowed and his heart was a steady drum. Nothing could've reassured Dean more. He fell asleep soon after with the unerring certainty things would get better from here.


A/N: Thank you so much for reading. If you could take a second to comment that'd be the most terrific thing ever! xoxo Alex