Title: Asphalt Lullaby
Disclaimer: These Supernatural characters and characterizations are owned by someone far luckier than I.
Dean took his eyes off the road and glanced quickly at Sam in the passenger seat of the Impala. He nodded in satisfaction and moved his eyes back to the dark highway, flexing his hands on the steering wheel to loosen them up.
The kid was still out cold.
Sam's head was pressed against the window, arms wrapped around his center in the protective posture he had started assuming in his sleep, lately. Dean sighed a little, thinking. It wasn't as if Sam slept all that much, anymore. Between his visions, nightmares of Jessica, depression over Dad's death, concern over Dean's less-than-stellar adjustment to Dad's death, and outright worry about what the demon had in store for him, Sam was a mess.
They were coming off a four-day research and hunt, headed toward a small town about an hour out of Chicago to do the same thing. The bad things just never stopped coming. Demons, werewolves, vampires, lycans, spirits of every persuasion and description…there was always another hunt waiting for them. Dean knew for a fact that Sam had not slept through the night — hell, he hadn't slept three hours into the night — for over two weeks.
Sam thought he didn't know. He had taken to sneaking out of their motel rooms when he woke up — be it screaming, in a cold sweat, heart thumping out of his chest, clawing at the sheets in terror, or all of the above. He would walk the streets of whatever town they were in, or sit in the motel lobby and read a book, or grab his laptop on the way out and do some research for their current hunt. Dean knew this, because he had followed him, the first few times. Once, Sam had driven the Impala to a self-serve car wash and polished the baby up at 2 in the morning. Vacuumed it out, and everything. Dean pretended not to notice, the next day; even though she hadn't looked so good since they first got her back from Bobby, after the accident.
He was concerned for Sam, and, vaguely guilty about it, himself. Chasing bad things was a dangerous job — because they always caught up to them, sooner or later. Once they did, they both needed to be alert, rested, healthy physically and emotionally — on top of their games. Anything less would end up getting one or both of them hurt — or worse.
He glanced at Sam again. His brother had fallen asleep almost four hours ago. His long body jammed as it was in the passenger seat, he still had not moved in all that time. Dean couldn't remember the last time he had seen Sam sleep so soundly.
What he could remember, looking away again, was when Sam was a baby. He hadn't slept well then, either. Traumatized by the fire that claimed their mother, and not exactly maternally nurtured by his father, or his brother. They had always done their best to protect Sam, and see to his day-to-day requirements. With their Dad off on hunts so much of the time, it had fallen to mostly to Dean to keep Sam in shoes, keep his freakishly growing body in clothes, get his hair cut every now and then. Feed and water him. But Dean drew the line at lullabies.
For one thing, he was only four-and-a-half when Mom died, himself. He could remember her singing to him; remembered also watching her hold Sam and coo softly to the infant — but he didn't know the songs himself well enough to cover, in her absence. The odd babysitter might try, but they were usually too impatient to try for long; and the boys were staying alone at night by the time Dean was five, anyway.
He found other ways to soothe the sleepless, sometimes colicky, baby. If they were living in a place with laundry facilities, he learned to rest the infant carrier on top of the running dryer. For reasons he never understood, the roar of the vacuum sometimes worked. Dean didn't get much sleep himself, that first year after Mom died.
What had always worked the best, though, was a ride in the car. When Dad was home, he would often bundle up both boys and drive around for hours. Baby Sam would fall asleep as soon as they were on a stretch of road where Dad could get the speed of the car up above 40 miles per hour. Even as a young child, Dean understood that he should probably sleep then, himself….But the alternative was so sweet. If he didn't fall asleep, he could talk to his Dad; listen to stories of hunts; tell him about how much he hated school, and how badly he wanted to be a hunter, himself.
Barely able to hear the "Blue Oyster Cult" tape that played softy in the car — "Oyster" was not meant to be played like this — Dean wondered now if he had continued two hours past their destination tonight for Sammy, or for himself. For them both, he finally decided, looking for an exit so he could turn the Impala around, and drive two more hours back to their original destination. He was glad Sam was getting some sleep, and more than willing to keep driving, if it meant his brother would sleep longer. It was also a small, private comfort, remembering the hours he and Dad had spent together, doing that same thing.
Letting Sammy sleep, and being together.
Dean sighed again, too loudly this time, and Sam stirred in his sleep. His head lolled onto the seat back, although his eyes did not open. "Dad?" he rasped, in a sleepy, confused voice.
Dean passed the exit and headed for the next. "Go back to sleep, Sam," he urged softly. "It's okay. Dad's here."
Sam mumbled something Dean could not understand, and an arm dropped to his lap. Four hours, and he was starting to relax. Dean noticed with a start that he was, too.
He glanced at his sleeping brother again.
Maybe they were both going to be all right.