A/N: It was my original intention to not even begin posting this story until I was nearly done with writing it. (Having thought I'd learned something from the last multi-chapter fic I wrote…) But after starting this three months ago, and even when I thought I was done with this part (HA!), I've been tweaking it and picking at it like a Thanksgiving turkey carcass. So I decided the only way to stop was to let it go and post it now.
So that means... Apologies up front for what I'm sure will be a long wait between chapters! However, since this first chapter was so frelling long, I split it up a bit, and will post it in two parts.
No Metallicars were hurt in the writing of this fic. Can't say the same for Dean.
Spoilers for "Nightmare." This story follows directly after that episode.
The usual bad language. Blood and violence, but oh so tastefully rendered.
And last, a very big "thank you!" and a warm hug to Angela, for her wonderful and amazing beta. This is a better story because of her. Thanks, Angela!
Fire was the usual nightmare, unsurprisingly. Fire and heat and his own screams, and the utter helplessness of watching her burn. Dean had dragged him out of the fire – both times. Not that he remembered that first, defining one, and he had only learned that particular (and not unexpected, really) detail just recently. And it was Dean who dragged him out of the nightmares.
Sam knew he was dreaming. Knew it. But that didn't stop the horrific chain of events from unfolding with brutal clarity. He whimpered at what was to come. He fought to change it, to stop it. To wake up from it. But his subconscious obviously had other ideas . . . . Another smothered moan emerged from his throat, and he felt it, saw it. Again. Blood, first. Not much, not much at all. Then his startled, wide-eyed stare and gasping cry. The fire blossomed in awesome beauty, curling in on her as she lay framed, splayed against the ceiling. He screamed, and Dean was there. In the dream. Hauling him roughly out of the room, away from her, and he struggled every step of the way.
But something . . . something was different. After so many nights and nightmares, he could taste it.
Fire. It was still fire. But . . . blood. More blood. And panic and gut-wrenching terror. He could feel himself breathing hard and fast, his heart pounding. Stabbing pain shot thought his head.
Wake up, Sam!
But he was trapped. Where was Dean?
The fear was suffocating.
The voice, urgent, harsh, was in his ear. Strong hands held his shoulders. He felt the bed dip as Dean's weight settled on one edge.
"Sam, Jesus, wake up already!" The hands gave his shoulders a slight shake. "It's all right now. Come on, Sam."
But Sam could hear the fear running beneath the impatience, a counterpoint, off-key. So he somehow forced his eyes open. And saw Dean bathed in flames, his face a work of art, a sharp-angled cheekbone half-hidden in shadow, and the glow of fire slanting across him in a dramatic chiaroscuro . . . . The scream that began to build in his throat died when Dean bent closer, shadows danced, and the fire bled into the garish red of neon, flickering and buzzing outside the motel window.
Sam remembered to breathe, then. Blinking rapidly, his eyes looked straight into Dean's hazel ones – green and gold, pupils wide – no longer reflecting flames, but rather worry, fatigue, and a soundless Are you all right?
"I'm awake," Sam said, his voice hoarse, his view of the ceiling blocked, intentionally, he was sure, by Dean looming over him.
"Well, it's about time," came the grumbling – relieved – reply, as Dean cast a quick, scrutinizing gaze over him before letting go and straightening up with a slight grimace.
Dean didn't get up, though, and Sam fought the sudden reflexive urge to seize Dean's arm to make sure he stayed.
"Thanks," Sam sighed. Time shifted, and for a moment he wasn't quite sure which Dean he was talking to, the twelve-year-old who never laughed when he wanted to crawl into bed with him after a nightmare, or the one currently giving Sam another worried stare. "Sorry," he added, seeing the weary slump of Dean's shoulders. "Didn't mean to wake you up." He shoved sweat-soaked hair off his forehead.
"Headache?" Dean asked, eyes still studying him, seemingly casual.
But Sam knew all the signs. Big Brother Worry. The ever so slight tightness around Dean's eyes and mouth, the flicker in those intent eyes. The question, almost an afterthought. And if Dean hadn't been hurting, unable to completely disguise his own exhaustion, Sam probably wouldn't have even caught as much as he did.
Sam managed a nod, closing his eyes again. "Yeah, kinda." The rapid thud of his heartbeat had gradually evened out, and he no longer felt as though he were breathing flames and choking on smoke. But he nearly gagged at the remembered coppery taste of blood in the back of his throat. So much blood . . . . He shuddered, his thoughts chasing something elusive, something . . . off.
Dean patted his leg. "Hang on." The sagging bedsprings gave another creak as Dean stood up, and Sam heard him moving about the small room, no doubt going into the bathroom for the all too recently used first-aid kit.
A moment later Dean was back, helping Sam sit up just enough to wash down some painkillers with a few swallows of water.
There was something so intrinsically wrong about Dean looking after him tonight – he wasn't hurt. He was just having the usual run-of-the-mill nightmare (but not quite, his mind whispered somewhere deep and dark), not bleeding into the seat of the Impala or the ugly green motel towels, scarlet oozing between tightly clenched fingers clamped over a gaping wound . . . .
Sam blinked, the dream blurring and merging with the events of the last few hours, and all he saw was blood. Dean. Dean was blood all over. He shivered. Another blink. And then Dean was standing patiently over him, not quite swaying, and Sam thought guiltily that his brother should be the one in bed, that he should be fussing. He should've stayed awake, watching over Dean. Just in case.
Not that Dean would see it that way, of course.
"Thanks," Sam said again, shifting to get a better look at Dean, shoving himself more upright on a quivering elbow. "How are you feeling?" he asked, scanning Dean's features. "Get any sleep?" Even in the bad light he could see Dean's pallor and the fine tremor in his hand as he set the now empty glass on the table between the two beds. "You all right?" he persisted, when Dean didn't respond.
"Fine," came the terse reply.
"You've got twenty stitches in your arm –"
"Yeah, and they're just fine, Sam."
So much blood. Everywhere.
Sam squeezed his eyes shut.
"Uh, yeah . . . ." He reached out blindly, and Dean's hand, warm, too warm, Sam thought in a hazy, offhand way, immediately curled around his. "Dean? You're all right?" He had to ask again. The fear was so strong and wouldn't go away, and shit, the pain was building to another roaring crescendo, and why was there so much blood and twisted metal and where was Dean?
"Sammy?" There was another note in Dean's voice, higher and sharper. "What is it, Sam? Come on, stay with me here."
"You stay," Sam whispered, opening his eyes a slit and pleading silently, almost crushing Dean's hand in his own.
"Okay, okay, I'm right here." Dean eased back down on the edge of the bed, still hanging onto Sam's hand. "Go back to sleep, all right? I'll stay here."
"Okay," Sam said, doing his best to banish dream, vision, whatever the hell it had been, from his mind, and just keep Dean where he was, so Sam knew where he was . . . . He moved over, making room, and tugged Dean's hand. "You sleep, too," he slurred, eyes refusing to stay open any longer. "You look like crap."
A soft snort of laughter answered him. But he felt Dean lie down and stretch out with a quiet sigh that was almost a wince, and then Sam finally let go of Dean's hand, fading off, knowing with an eight-year-old's certainty that whatever might be out there in the dark would not get past his brother. It wouldn't dare.
He really should get out of the sun. Not that he didn't mind lazing on the beach, beer in hand, watching the girls go by, but it was getting warm, and the sand wasn't quite as comfortable for sleeping as he'd first thought.
And it was getting hotter. A thin line of sweat burned its way down his temple, cheek, then another, blurring into his eyes, dripping off his chin. His arm was on fire. From shoulder to fingertips. It throbbed, and ached, and his skin felt too tight. On fire . . . .
Fire. And the flash of silver as the blade descended. He twisted, not quick enough. Considering it was dead and decaying, the creature sure moved damn fast. The knife sliced across his arm, opening a deep, wide gash, the hot, flaring pain acknowledged but then ignored; the same for the warm flow of blood already soaking his sleeve.
As the grinning revenant raised the knife for another blow, Dean dodged away, brought up the shotgun, and fired into the thing's chest. It staggered back, snarling in rage, and then Sam was there, with salt and fire and shouted words of power to bind it and seal it and turn it into ashes and dust. Dean stood back, chest heaving, and watched the thing die. Again.
The revenant's final maddened screams faded into the dark, and the cemetery fell quiet once again. The only sound was that of the wind in the trees, and the dust eddied away into the night on that slightest of breezes. Still breathing hard, Dean crashed to his knees, shotgun slipping from numb fingers as the painclamored loudly for attention.
"Hey, Dean," Sam said, dropping down beside him, sucking in a deep breath as well. "You okay?"
"Dean?" The voice echoed in his head, in the dream. "Dean, hey. You awake?"
A light brush of a hand across his forehead then, the hand settling for a moment, and a quietly muttered "Shit," followed by a few more muttered words, of which Dean caught "hospital" and "infection."
He pried his eyelids open at that, and blinked, just a little muzzy. Daylight stabbed his eyes; he started to roll over to avoid it, and hissed between gritted teeth when – too late – he remembered the knife wound, the stitches, and the fact that the revenant dream wasn't a dream.
No sandy, sunny beach, either. Just another mom'n'pop motel, somewhere off the beaten track.
"Shit," he whispered hoarsely, repeating Sam's sentiment. His eyes closed for a second, seeing again the silver in the moonlight and the revenant's dead, rotted face. Gingerly cradling his right arm against his side, an entirely real bead of sweat slid down his face. Shit, he thought, feeling the inner fire of a fever. He licked dry lips and opened his eyes again to see Sam, frowning, standing over him. Sam. Hurt? Not the revenant. No, something else . . . .
It started to come back, in a distant sort of way . . . . A low moan had roused him from a half-waking and uneasy sleep, and in an instant he'd stumbled over to Sam's bed to find his brother caught in the throes of a nightmare. After Sam had thrashed his way out, and then settled down again, Dean had wound up stretching out next to Sam, lying awake in the dark, simply waiting for him to fall asleep. Relieved when Sam had drifted off without a sound – seemingly peaceful this time – only then had he allowed himself to gradually follow suit, though his own sleep had been restless and uncomfortable.
And now Sam was staring at him like he'd grown another head or something, or maybe horns, or fangs . . . .
Dean clenched his teeth and struggled to sit up. "Sam, what is it?" he panted. "Are you all right?"
His brother sure didn't look all right. He looked . . . not all here.
"Sam?" he tried again. Uneasy, alarms going off in his head, he started to get up, disregarding the agony that immediately escalated to new heights.
That seemed to break Sam out of his odd reverie. He shook his head, and his eyes cleared. "I'm okay." He stopped Dean with a firm hand on his chest. "Stay there." With that, Sam grabbed the first-aid kit still on the nightstand, dropped down on the bed next to him, and said, "I need to check the stitches in your arm and take your temperature."
Like he was in charge or something.
"Why?" Dean edged up toward the headboard, warily seeking some distance.
"Why do you think?"
"I'm fine, Sam," Dean said, eyeing the thermometer and resisting the urge to reach up a hand and wipe the sweat off his flushed face.
"Uh huh." Sam's eyes wandered to Dean's shoulder, and he suddenly looked a little too pale in the morning light. "Look," he began, meeting Dean's gaze. "It was late when I looked at your arm, that light in the bathroom completely sucks, and I want to make sure I didn't . . . miss anything last night while stitching you up. So humor me, okay?"
"What's the big deal, huh? A few stitches. Quit playin' nurse."
"You've got a fever," Sam said patiently.
"Sam . . . I'm all right." His arm throbbed heavily in sync with his heartbeat, and he did his best to keep the grimace off his face. "Come on, you did the holy water wash and rinse thing, and you put in a very nice line of neat little stitches that won't even scar that much. What could be wrong?"
A quick hand darted out to smack lightly on his forehead before Dean could duck. "You're a little warm. Now open wide." He wiggled the thermometer. "And while you've got this under your tongue –" suiting action to word even as Dean opened his mouth in objection – "I'm gonna look at your arm."
Dean shut his mouth with a squawk and tried talking around the offending instrument, but subsided when Sam gave him a glare. He carefully hid the wince from Sam when his brother gently removed the somewhat sticking gauze bandage from his upper right arm.
But he didn't do quite as well with the flinch.
"Sorry," Sam murmured, flinching a little himself. He tossed the lightly bloodied bandage into the trashcan in the corner and inspected his handiwork as Dean turned his head to look as well.
Yep, nice neat row of stitches. Black thread. The skin slightly red, puffy, okay, yeah, a little tender. No big deal. Nothing new here . . . . Wasn't like he couldn't drive, was it? Practically little more than a paper cut. Really.
"Sam . . . ." He tried again.
"Sit still," came the terse command. "And keep quiet."
"Woof," Dean muttered, out of one side of his mouth. But as he leaned back against the headboard, fatigue and blurring pain washed over him, and he wearily admitted, at least to himself, that maybe he wasn't quite up to his usual ass-kicking standard of excellence. And flicking a glance at Sam, he thought maybe his little brother wasn't either.
"The stitches look all right," Sam said, grudgingly. "Clean."
The thermometer beeped.
Dean heaved a martyred sigh as Sam took it out of his mouth and glared at it.
"101.8," Sam said. The glare, not hiding the worry as well as Sam probably thought, turned Dean's way. "Knife wound courtesy of a corpse. Fever. Probably fighting off infection. You're staying in bed." A finger went in the air as Dean started to talk. "Or I can find the nearest hospital, clinic, or doctor's office and drag your ass there. Your choice." Then he added, "I might anyway, if your temperature goes up."
"God, you sure get bossy when you miss a few hours of sleep," Dean grumbled, slumping a little lower on the bed. "Bitch," he added, but it came out half-heartedly.
"Asshole," Sam returned, digging into the first-aid kit again. Finding what he wanted, he shook some pills out of a bottle. "Here." He turned Dean's good hand upward and dropped the pills in his palm. "These should help with the fever." He got up and returned from the bathroom with a glass of water.
"I mean it. Take the damn drugs, Dean, and get some rest." He stood there until Dean tossed the pills in his mouth, then handed him the water. "Drink up. You need plenty of liquids." Dean grumbled but drained the glass. "We're staying another night. I'll go let 'em know at the front desk. Then I'll get us some breakfast, do some shopping. Car keys?"
Dean sighed. "Dresser."
Sam spun, snagged the keys and hung the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door on his way out.
The rising fever and pain soon sent him spinning into a dark place of restless, half-waking dreams. Sometimes he knew he was with Sam, somewhere in Michigan, other times . . . . The reek of death was all around, rotting, cloying, filling his nostrils, nothing but the scent of dank earth, old blood, and ancient graves. Chasing, being chased, terror at his back, faceless, nameless, running and running, screaming for Sam, trying to find Sam in the dark, in the fire – and he'd wake shaking and sweating, feeling the tangle of sheets around his legs, and Sam was there calming, soothing, getting him to swallow something nasty and glass after glass of water. Once or twice, a little more lucid but still not completely aware, he thought, crazily, that Sam was actually wiping his face and chest with a cool, damp cloth.
He cringed at the image that conjured up, but at the same moment, found he was deliberately seeking the relief that trailed over his forehead and temples.
"Dean?" The coolness settled across his brow. "Are you back?"
"Mm," he thought he mumbled. But his eyelids weighed ten pounds each, and his limbs were equally leaden. The fire was still there, but only smoldering now, not searing away skin and sinew. His arm throbbed with a dull ache that had his fingers twitching, but it wasn't enough to keep him from drifting away again. He might have heard a sigh, and a quiet, "I guess not," before everything faded. Everything except the light brush of a cool cloth across his skin.
He woke hours, or days, later. Slowly. Surroundings gradually came into focus. Familiar in an odd sort of way. Fake knotty pine. And lots of green. Dull, ugly green. Swamp green. Dead frog green. Kermit. He almost giggled. He managed, somehow, to roll his head limply toward the window, and saw burnished sunlight slanting through the partially open green (of course) curtains.
And saw Sam, on the other bed; face mashed in a pillow and fast asleep.
Smiling, he faded away for a while, waking some time later, a little clearer. He lay there, still drowsy, warm but no longer on fire, and he looked for Sam again. His brother was yet asleep, but even as he watched with drooping eyes, he saw Sam suddenly jerk as though shot and bring his hands up to his head. Sam's face twisted in a frown, and he let out a quiet moan.
Instinct overriding thought, Dean forgot his own pain, confusion, and lethargy and forced his sluggish body to respond to his will. Another moan, louder, got him up on rubbery legs, wounded arm tucked stiffly against his side. He gritted his teeth, lurched the two steps across to his brother's bed and abruptly fell rather than sat down on the edge.
"Sam?" he whispered, his throat dry. His skin felt tight and drawn. His head swam. Black spots danced across his eyes. He blinked them away and jeeringly derided himself for even thinking about passing out. "Hey, Sam?"
Long limbs curled in, Sam now clutched at his head, fingers knotted in his hair, and eyes screwed tightly shut. Reaching clumsily for Sam's wrists, Dean kept calling his name, trying to break through whatever excruciating vision Sam was caught up in. And judging from the deep furrowed lines of pain on Sam's face, Dean had a hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach that it was a vision, not merely another nightmare – as if those weren't bad enough . . . .
Oh Jesus fucking Christ, Sammy. Please, not again.
"Sam, come on, Sammy, enough already, huh? Snap out of it," he said, barely able to force the words out.
He didn't know if Sam could even hear him, but he didn't give up his increasingly urgent pleas for Sam to wake up.
The tortured moans finally ended on a quiet whimper. Dean felt Sam's hands relax beneath his own, and he gently disengaged his brother's trembling fingers from their tight grasp and lay them down on the bed. But he didn't let go, not yet.
"Sam?" he said softly. A long moment later a faint squeeze on his hands was enough to get Dean breathing again. He squeezed back. "Come on, Sam, time to wake up, okay? Show me you're still in there somewhere."
His face drawn and strained, Sam slowly straightened a little from his cramped position and opened his eyes.
Dean felt a chill work its way down his spine at the stark desolation and darkness he saw in Sam's wide eyes, eyes that stared past him, gazing with mute horror into a hell that only Sam could see.
The loose grip Sam had on his hands turned suddenly, crushingly painful.
"Sam?" He heard the slightly frantic tone in his failing voice and quelled it when he spoke again. "Sammy, it's all right. You hear me? Whatever it is you see, we'll figure it out, okay? Now come on, geek boy, say something." His throat tightened. "Anything. In Latin. Greek. Hell, Middle English, I don't care. Hindi. Arabic."
With an inward sigh of enormous relief, he watched as Sam's gaze tracked back to meet his, reason slowly returning, the horror fading. But not entirely disappearing . . . .
"Dean?" Sam said at last, breathy and scratchy, but sweet to Dean's ears nonetheless.
"Yeah. I'm right here, Sammy."
"You . . . you're all right?" Sam stared at him with an unsettling intensity.
"I'm fine, Sam." I am now.
Sam frowned, as if unconvinced, and looked down at his hands, still tightly gripping Dean's. "Sorry," he whispered, easing up and sliding his fingers away.
"It's okay," Dean said. "Really." He took a deep breath, and absently cradled his arm against his ribs. "How about you, Sammy? Are you all right? Fill me in here."
Sam went absolutely white and without another word scrambled past Dean off the bed to bolt for the bathroom. The door slammed shut on the sounds of retching.
Dean felt sick himself, wishing – not for the first time – that his little brother could be spared all this crap. For someone who just wanted a "normal" life, Sam sure kept getting more weird shit thrown his way.
A sense of helpless frustration hit him. How could he possibly protect Sam from something he didn't even understand? From random horrific visions that practically had Sam passing out from the pain, visions that hit without warning . . . .
He swore under his breath as he slid off the bed and made his own rather unsteady way to the bathroom. Catching sight of his jeans tossed over a chair, he took time to pull them on, his hands clumsy, his movements awkward. The continued exertion was almost too much. His vision blurred, his fevered thoughts wanted to wander. Feeling the sweat break out anew on his face, he briefly leaned palms and forehead against the bathroom door. God, what was wrong with him? It was just a damn scratch . . . . He sucked in a breath and gathered his strength to open the door and go in.
Long body hunched awkwardly on the floor, Sam was bent over the toilet. Dean put a hand on his heaving back until the spasms passed. Stepping around Sam, he reached the sink and filled a glass of water, grimacing as he got an inadvertent glimpse of his own ashen, haggard features in the mirror. Yeah, they were quite a pair at the moment.
"Thanks," Sam breathed, leaning back against the wall. He took the glass, rinsing and spitting first then drinking deeply.
"Yeah." Another deep breath. "Guess so."
"Wanna move yet?" Dean eyed him critically. Not quite death warmed over anymore, but not by much. And his eyes . . . his eyes still held too many haunted shadows.
"In a minute, okay?" Sam murmured, tipping his head back.
"Sure. Take your time."
Dean waited until Sam nodded, then put out a hand. "Come on, I got ya."
Sam just looked pointedly at Dean's arm and struggled upright by himself, on shaky fawn legs.
"I'm all right, Dean," he said, still pale. "You're the one with the stitched-up knife wound and a fever. You should be in bed."
"Ah, hell, I'm okay," Dean said, wincing at the drag of exhaustion in his voice. "Just a scratch," he went on, the cockiness not quite there. "If it was gonna kill me, I'd be dead by now."
Sam's lips thinned, a muscle jumped in his jaw, but he just reached out to put the back of one hand against Dean's forehead. Dean pulled away, swearing.
"Better," Sam conceded, sounding relieved, "but still warm. You were at 105 not long ago, Dean – "
"You stuck a thermometer in my mouth when I was asleep?"
"Who said anything about sticking it in your mouth?" Sam asked, suddenly looking wickedly innocent despite his pallor.
Dean's mouth curled up in disgust. "Oh, that is sick and so not funny. And you're a lying little bastard, Sam."
"Yeah, you just keep thinking that, Dean." Continuing to closely study him, Sam sobered up. "But seriously, dude, you still look like crap. Get back to bed."
"Thank you, Doc Winchester. Now can we take this conversation out of the bathroom, please?"
Sam gestured. "After you."
Dean pushed himself away from the wall, trying not to act as though it was the only thing keeping him upright, and managed to get out of the bathroom and over to the dresser without falling on either his face or his ass. After a quick rummage through his bag, he took out the least offensive-looking – and smelling – shirt he could find, and with a quiet but definite grunt of pain shrugged into it and buttoned it up haphazardly.
Watching Sam cautiously weave his way over to a bed, Dean was half expecting, dreading, that his brother would pull some random street address out of thin air, sending them off to Amarillo, Texas, or Greeley, Colorado, or someplace in the middle of God knew where, and that they had to be there in three hours or something incredibly dire would happen.
Arms braced on the back of a chair, all Dean could see when he closed his eyes was Max. Poor scared Max and his fucked-up childhood, his anger, his power, and Sam's guilt at not saving him in the end . . . .
Dean was sure as hell not gonna let anything like that happen again. Ever.
He blinked his eyes open to find Sam watching him, the worry all too obvious.
"Sit down before you fall down, you moron," his brother said, from where he already sat on one of the beds. Sam sounded about as awful as Dean felt. "That 'scratch' was more serious than I thought." Dean caught the hesitation, slight though it was, before Sam continued, not quite meeting his eyes. "You were really out of it all day, Dean."
Dean straightened. Sam didn't say it, but Dean heard it.
You were in bad shape, and I was utterly freaked out of my mind, and will you please stop scaring me like that.
"Well, I'm all right now," he returned. As in, Everything worked out; whatever it was, you did a good job; now just chill already, Sammy.
Sam did not appear greatly reassured.
Dean breathed a quiet sigh and took a matching position on the other bed, close enough that his knees nearly bumped into Sam's. He waited patiently as Sam fidgeted, staring down at his clasped hands. "I'm all right, Sam," he said again. "Quit worrying. Just tell me what you saw, okay?"
A bob of his head, a harsh indrawn breath, and Sam went still. "It's . . . confusing," he began, voice low, a little raspy. Hesitantly, cocking his head as though trying to recall details, he went on. "It . . . started off like the . . . nightmare . . . the same one, you know?" A glance up at Dean. Dean just nodded. "Had it last night, too, when I woke you up. Didn't know then. Didn't see it all, only bits and pieces . . . ." He scrubbed hands over his eyes, down his face. "Sorry. I'm not telling this very well. Like last night, then it . . . changed. Turned into a vision. Like . . . the others."
"What, you mean somebody dying? That kind?"
No answer, no reaction.
"Sammy? What did you see?"
"An accident. Kids." Sam's eyes lost focus. "An old, beat-up orange minivan. Ugly as hell. Kids inside. And . . . we were there. I think we were, I mean. I saw . . . . Blood everywhere. And then . . . and then . . . . Oh God, Dean, I can't find you." Panic, raw fear, the kind Dean only heard in Sam's voice when it involved Dean. "You're gone, and I can't find you, and it's nothing but blood –"
Dean leaned forward and reached out to grab Sam by the shoulders, stilling him. "Sam, it's all right, take it easy, okay? I'm here, I'm right here." He waited until Sam's ragged breathing got back under control. In a quiet, coaxing voice, he went on. "What else, Sammy? What else can you see? Don't look for me, look around you. What else?"
Sam shook his head, his features stamped with utter weariness. "That's it, just flashes. The kids' faces. It's dark . . . . They're scared."
"How many kids? Can you see them?"
"Uh . . . ." Sam's face screwed up. "Three. Two are . . . older. Teenage. Fourteen? Fifteen? Boy. And a girl." Dean watched as the frown deepened. "Another girl. Younger. Maybe . . . I dunno. Eight? Ten?" He shook his head. "Everything went by too fast, sorry. Just flashes."
"What about the driver?" Dean prodded, when Sam fell silent again.
After a moment Sam shrugged, and looked at Dean. "Can't see anyone. It's . . . dark."
"Okay, that's good, Sam. Real good. But what do we do? Do we stop the accident from happening? Or," Dean frowned suddenly, "do we cause it? We're there, you said. What are we – you – doing?"
"Don't know. In the car." Sam's voice rose. "I don't know where you are, Dean! I can't find you, and there's blood, and fire. Everywhere. Jesus Christ, Dean, make it stop, please, just make it stop . . . ."
His face crumpled, he slumped forward and Dean slid off the bed to catch him. They wound up crowded awkwardly together in the narrow space on the floor, with Sam's head jammed against Dean's shoulder, long legs bent, and Dean simply hanging onto him.
Whatever adrenaline-fueled energy had kept him going this long suddenly fled. He fought to stay conscious even as he ignored the renewed agony that jolted through his stitched arm. It was nothing compared to the worry and fear that he felt for his brother. "It's all right, Sammy," he murmured. "We'll get it. Promise. Won't let anything bad happen to you . . . ."
TBC . . . .