Sam was four when he had his first real nightmare. He woke up screaming, shrieking for Dean who was right beside him in the bed. The boy was hysterical, and yelling out as if in pain. Dean remembers his dad taking Sammy by the forearms and trying to shake him back into reality. The shaking had only fueled his baby brother's fear though and he started outright screaming. "What's wrong with him!?" Dean had asked as his father darted into the bathroom to grab a wet facecloth. "Dad!" Dean remembers how he demanded to be heard, but his cries went ignored. "Sammy! Sam wake up!" his father had yelled as he pressed the soaking cloth to Sam's little face. The water soaked his brother's hair and added a shimmering glean to his pale face. Dean remembers finally pushing his dad's hands away from Sam's face, he remembers guiding Sammy up into a sitting position and then holding him as tightly as he could. Sam jerked and struggled and cried still for Dean. "I'm here Sammy! I'm right here!" Dean had yelled, and he remembers how Sam went unbelievably still. He remembers putting Sam at arms length just so he could see those sparkling green eyes looking back at him. Sammy saw him then, in a way that he couldn't when he was in the thralls of the nightmare. Dean had watched as the kid burst into tears again and clung to Dean with a painfully strong grip. He looked to his dad and what he saw made him cold inside. John looked at Dean with resentment and a jealousy newly born. Children were supposed to want their parents after a nightmare, not their brother. Dean held Sammy tighter and turned his gaze away from John. In truth, he was glad that Sam had wanted him and not dad. He was the one raising Sammy, not John. It seemed right that Sam should want him. He stroked the boy's hair, knowingly adding fuel to John's recently ignited fire. What Sammy had dreamed about he still didn't know.
Dean wasn't good about handling his own fears. Mostly he quelled them and filled his thoughts with protecting Sammy. Tonight the mission he had been given at the age of four, had been compromised. He could still see that thing, leaning over his brother, sucking the life right out of him. He could still feel the cold fear and hopelessness of not being able to shoot the thing. Why couldn't he shoot it? He didn't know. What he did know was that Sammy could have died if it weren't for his dad's perfect timing. He turned over in the bed he shared with Sam and looked at his baby brother, his baby. Sammy looked so young when he slept, so innocent. He remembered every adoring look the kid had ever given him, every crushing hug, every time he held his hand. He remembered ever smile, every inside joke, every secret codeword. He brushed the hair off of Sam's forehead and thought all of that could have been gone tonight. He hated that he had almost let that happen. He decided that he would do better, though he didn't know how. Sam was with him every second of the day as it was, how could he do better? But he had to try, because he couldn't lose this. He lost his mom, and he had gotten over it. He knew he would never ever survive losing his Sammy. He shifted closer and pulled the sleeping child towards him. This unfortunately woke Sammy, and he blinked at Dean before asking "did you have a nightmare?" Dean smiled and resumed pulling his little brother closer, "yeah, but it's ok. I've got you here now, right?" Dean knew how to make Sam feel important and Sammy always rewarded him with a smile. This time he curled in real close to Dean and said quietly and reassuringly "I have you." Those little words did something to Dean that he wasn't sure he liked. His chest constricted and he felt a sting in the corners of his eyes. Nightmares didn't stand a chance with Sam around.
A hunt gone wrong always induces a nightmare for Sam. Dean reflected on past hunts gone wrong as his now thirteen year old brother walked shakily over to the bed he shared with Dean. John came in wearily after unloading the car, "Sam, can you check the salt lines for me?" Sam flinched at the deep voice and moved to stand when Dean stopped him, "I'll do it," he said and smiled when Sam shot him a grateful look. That night he had barely been asleep for an hour before he awoke to Sam's screaming. He bolted upright in bed and turned around to check his brother. Sam was whimpering in his sleep and writhing as if her were in some excruciating pain. "Sammy," Dean called softly so as not to startle him, but that did nothing to wake his brother. Sam screamed again and Dean knew that force would be necessary. He shook him lightly and called to him a little louder. Dean looked over to his dad's bed only to find the other hunter still asleep, oblivious to his son's pain. "Sam!" he yelled and startled when Sam bolted upright, now fully awake. "Hey, hey, it's ok. It was a nightmare Sam, you're ok," Dean soothed as he watched his brother. Sam started to shake slightly and Dean couldn't resist pulling him into a light embrace. The embrace turned desperate as Sam became more aware of his surroundings. He sighed in regret when he felt Sam's tears melt through his shirt. "It's ok," he said again as he started to rub Sam's back. "Dean, I hate this," Sam despaired as he clung to Dean even tighter. His words pulled at Dean and unleashed his more affectionate side. "I know baby, I know. They're just nightmares though, they go away," he soothed as he rested his head on top of Sam's. Sam calmed after a while, and eventually fell into a fitful sleep, while Dean watched over him until morning.
Dean didn't remember the dream, he just remembered the feeling. Terror so thick and palpable that you might be able to run your hands through it. He remembered the scream that collected in his chest and got louder as it traveled up his throat and out his mouth. He remembered the fear and he remembered Sam. Something about Sam, Sam in trouble, Sam hurt…Sam dead. That was it. Of course Dean had dreamt of the death of his Sammy many times before, but this, this had been different. It came back to him now, bits and pieces, shards of a memory that didn't really happen. He dreamt of Sam's death, and the aftermath. His father's tears, his friend's words, his brother's ashes. Dean stopped himself from piecing the rest of it together as tears made their way down his face, and into a shoulder. Someone was holding him, someone young and soft. Sam. Dean choked back a sob as he pulled away from the embrace to just look at Sam. "Dean, it's alright. You were dreaming," Sam said softly with his hands on Dean's shoulders. Dean just watched him for a minute until the sound of his name pulled him back to the present. He didn't want to let Sam out of his sight ever again. He touched a hand to Sam's face with wet eyes. "Sammy," was all he could say as he pulled the younger boy to him, hugging him close. That night Sam slept in a crushing embrace, wondering what his brother had dreamed about.
They would never tell anyone that for a week they had shared a bed again, as adults, with enough money for a motel room with two beds. It couldn't be helped really. Sam's nightmares were at their worst, making him scream and yell and gasp for Dean every night. The older brother still took comfort in the thought that it was still his name he called. He wondered if Sam called his name in a nightmare when he shared a bed with Jess. Each night Sam would be ravaged by the memory of his dying girlfriend, of the fire, and the blood. Each night Dean would just hold him close and wait for the nightmare to pass and Sam to wake on his own. Trying to wake Sam from a nightmare would result in a black eye nowadays, and so Dean didn't risk it anymore. He would have, if it weren't for Sam's insistance that Dean leave him be and let the dream take its course. Dean would make sure to secure Sam's struggling hands tight between their chests. He would lock his little brother in a tight embrace and hold him still while he rode the nightmare out. Tears always followed, and sobs soon after that, but Dean still held him. He reflected on a conversation he once had with his father that summed up the brother's way of dealing with nightmares pretty well.
"Dad he's been having nightmares every night for four nights, you telling me you don't hear him?" Dean accused but his father remained passive. "Dean, I'd have to be deaf not to hear Sam's screams, and besides, I hear everything you boys say afterwards. You guys handle each other better than I ever could," and it was said with a jealous smile. Dean recounted every nightmare he could think of with the added realization that his dad had heard everything said during and after them. "You knew? Ever time?" he asked, still a little dumbfounded. "Yeah, I knew. I also knew that you boys are better comfort to each other than anyone or anything else would be."
Dean had to smile each time he held his brother after a nightmare now. He had to grin whenever Sam got the chance to hold him in return. His father was right. Holding Sam, letting himself be held, it was the greatest comfort he could have been offered after a nightmare.