Title: Let Sleeping Little Brothers Lie
Sumamry: Dean knew that he shouldn't mess with witches. Especially not vengeful ones with a sense of humor.
A/N: This goes out to Starliteyes for Round One of the SFTCOL(AR)S Summer Secret Santa Fic Exchange. The theme was humor and if I told you exactly what she requested, it would give the fic away :) Much thanks to Tyranusfan and geminigrl11 for the betas. Gem, I swear, you are like a hypen-nazi. Geez. Who knew SO MANY things needed to be hyphenated?
Disclaimer: Nope, not mine. I suppose I could claim the witch in all of her teenage petulance, but really, where's the point in that?
Dean knew that he shouldn't mess with witches.
Especially not vengeful ones.
Especially not vengeful ones with a sense of humor.
They were witches, after all, which meant they could cast spells and make potions and all that cheesy crap fairy tales talked about. They may not have warts and fly on broomsticks--at least, none that he'd met so far--but they could certainly pack a powerful punch.
Dean should have taken that a bit more seriously.
But really, sometimes, it was hard. After all, this one was responsible for a string of warped incidents that hadn't resulted in fatalities but were putting members of a small town in awkward and embarrassing situations.
The local news anchor lost the ability to hold his bladder. A local doctor was suddenly beset with a debilitating case of the hiccups. The entire high school football team found themselves suddenly unable to remember and call plays correctly.
It wasn't quite their kind of gig, and they probably would have overlooked it all together, but Sam was so insistent.
"Dean, these people need our help," he said, and damn it if he wasn't using The Eyes.
"From what? Inconveniences? This isn't exactly saving lives," Dean countered, lounging on the bed and popping a Cheeto into his mouth.
Sam glared, his jaw set and determined. "It's affecting the quality of their lives. That's what matters."
Dean just sighed, shoveling in the last Cheeto before licking each one of his cheese-stained fingers and wiping the excess on the comforter. "Fine," he assented. "But this one's yours, little brother. I'm just here to look good and take in the scenery."
The scenery sucked.
The people were cold and distant and far too old. There was no mischief worth making. There wasn't even anything remotely entertaining to keep him distracted.
Dean did look good (that was always a given), but he was bored. Bored enough that he actually decided to help Sam a little after all. Since there was nothing better to do.
"A trickster?" Dean suggested over lunch the next day.
Sam was watching the waitress mopping up hot coffee off the floor. The eleventh thing she'd dropped since they'd been here. "Too wide spread," Sam said. "And not nearly fantastical enough. It's like...they're cursed or something."
"A witch?" Dean asked with a shrug of his shoulders before taking a large bite of his sandwich.
Sam considered this, playing with a French fry. "Maybe. Casting small spells on the locals. Burgeoning her powers while having a good time."
"Sounds like a movie I saw once," Dean said between bites. "How do we find her?"
"We need to find the local coven," Sam said.
"Like they're going to own up to something like this."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Think about it, man," he said. "No coven is going to do something like this. In general, they're trying to gain respect, not hinder themselves. I'm thinking whoever's responsible for this is a loner, someone trying to prove something or some kind of revenge."
"What makes you think that?"
"Think about the nature of the attacks," Sam said. "They're juvenile--getting back at people who are high and mighty, people who think they're better than others. It screams teenage prank, not malevolent display of power."
Dean thought this through, impressed with Sam's logic. "Not a bad theory," he agreed.
Sam pushed his plate away. "You about done?" he asked.
Dean looked incredulously at Sam and nodded to his plate where half a mound of fries still sat. He paid good money for those fries and he wasn't about to let them go to waste.
Sam looked at the fries, then his watch. "You think you could hurry?"
"Sure, Sammy," Dean replied, and made lazy work of another fry, which he deliberately doused in ketchup before eating bit by bit.
Sam huffed. "I'll meet you back at the motel in an hour," he said.
Victory was sweet, Dean decided, and ordered some pie to celebrate. He had an hour, after all.
Dean didn't trust people in general, so trusting a coven of witches was not exactly easy for him. After all, groups of people who gathered together to wield supernatural powers for any reason were suspicious by nature, no matter how much they tried to justify it. If nothing else, most practicing witches didn't really know the danger of the power the played with.
However, ends and means, Dean reminded himself. If they were here, they were going to finish this. And to finish this, they needed to find themselves a loner of a witch. And who would know about loner witches better than witches in a group?
It was Sam who did the talking, smooth and polite, but the whole thing made Dean's skin crawl. The woman they talked to had long black hair and deep red lipstick and she even wore all black, which seemed too ridiculous to be real.
But Sam was all business and so damn empathetic that she believed everything Sam told her. As Dean listened, he almost forgot that his brother was lying through his teeth, weaving some tale about wanting to interview younger, inexperienced witches and report on why they decided to join that type of lifestyle.
By the time they left, he was pretty sure Sam could have been an honorary member of the coven if he'd asked, and he had a list of names and numbers to check out.
Dean had to be impressed, and more than a little relieved to be out of there.
Dean crinkled his nose. "Brittany Kensington?"
Sam nodded resolutely. "She's our witch."
"How can you be sure?"
"She fits the profile," Sam said. "She's 19, new to witchcraft and already has started causing problems in the coven. She wants more power than she should be trusted with. She lives by herself in a house out by the trailer park."
"Uh huh," Dean said. "So we go, wait until she leaves, then burn her stuff."
Sam looked distressed at this. "We can't just burn her stuff."
"Because it's her stuff," Sam protested.
"She's a witch who's causing havoc in town!"
"She's a teenage girl, Dean," Sam countered.
"Who's causing problems in town--you're the one who thought that was a big deal to begin with," Dean shot back.
Sam pursed his lips. "We can talk to her."
"Dude," Dean said. "I didn't even want to come here. I'm tired of talking to people, especially witches. Let's just torch her spell-making stuff so she can't do it anymore."
Sam looked like he wanted to argue but his mouth flattened out into a line and he sighed. "Fine," he said. "But only the stuff related to witchcraft. We want to stop her from doing bad things, not stop her from being happy."
Dean just rolled his eyes. Sam's sudden happiness emo-crusade, or whatever the hell it was, was really begin to grate at him. "Whatever," he muttered. "I can't believe we're hunting a teenager pulling pranks. Such a waste of my talents."
He didn't have to look to know that this time it was Sam who rolled his eyes.
They really should have taken it a bit more seriously. But the nature of the spells was so juvenile that they hadn't expected much. And it'd been so easy. To track her. To find her. To overturn her operation.
She'd even left the door unlocked, for crying out loud. They just staked her place out and went in while she went for a trip to the store.
Inside, Dean looked around with disdain and apprehension. It was cluttered and looked exactly like he would have expected for the bedroom of an overgrown teenager--posters of her favorite bands on the walls and an odd assortment of stuffed animals throughout the place. The dishes were dirty and piled in the kitchen sink.
"Not exactly a clean little witch, is she?" Dean asked, trying to get through her kitchen without having to touch anything.
Sam didn't reply, just raised his nose to the kitchen and kept walking on down the hallway.
Dean wandered out toward the cluttered living room again, completely unnerved by how girlish it was. CD cases are strewn on top of open fashion magazines. She seemed to have a thing for guys who wore their hair too long and looked angsty, given the pages she'd left open.
Funny, the guys kind of looked like Sam, only with eyeliners and a slightly drugged-out tint to their skin. A Sammy without big brotherly influence, no doubt. Sam had no idea how lucky he was.
"Hey, I think I found it," Sam called from the other room.
Dean wrinkled his nose at the mess of a bedroom and headed to the hall. The spare room's door was partially shut and he pushed it open.
Right into Sam.
There was a thump and then a crash followed by a groan. Dean looked worriedly down to find his brother on the floor, a hand to his head, a leather-bound book by his side.
"Dude, you okay?" Dean asked, dropping to his knees beside his brother.
Sam winced and shook his head to clear it, blinking several times. "What'd you do that for?"
"You're the one who walked into the door," Dean said pointedly, trying to see behind Sam's hands to assess the damage.
Sam glowered and pulled away. "I'm fine," he snapped.
Dean watched as Sam struggled to his feet, following him up and hovering close by.
But Sam was steady, and after probing his nose a few times, he continued, "Like I was saying, I think this is her lab or whatever."
For the first time, Dean looked around. The room was littered just like the rest of the place, but this room looked a bit less typical for a teenage girl.
Books and manuscripts lay opened all over, and strange-looking items were scattered about. There were vials and pots and a Bunsen burner in the corner.
"Dude," Dean breathed. "This is just so wrong."
"If we're going to do this, we'd better do it fast," Sam said, picking up the book that he dropped from the floor. "Should we take it out back?"
"It's time for a good old-fashion bon fire," Dean agreed cheerily.
They worked fast, thankful that the area was mostly deserted. Whatever people may have been home weren't the types to be concern by something burning in a trashcan.
Soon, the place was emptied of everything even remotely witch-like. They had been thorough and efficient. Whatever spell-casting she had been up, she wouldn't be up to anytime soon.
Dean felt rather accomplished about it all. It wasn't every day he managed to tie up the loose ends to a case without so much as a moment of confrontation.
He was quite content to bask in his accomplishment.
Or he would have been, if not for Sam. Sam always had a way of making him rethink things, of casting doubt. It was practically Sam's favorite hobby.
"A little too easy, don't you think?" Sam asked. He looked nervous, his forehead scrunched as they looked at her destroyed laboratory.
Dean shrugged. "We're due for an easy one every now and then."
"It just doesn't feel right," Sam said.
"Dude, not everything is rocket science. Let's just book it before she gets back."
Sam looked more than a little skeptical, but followed Dean out the door, much to Dean's relief. He had learned to take Sam's acquiescence when he could get it.
"You ready?" Dean asked, watching Sam poking cautiously through the remaining stuff.
"Don't you think we should wipe down our prints?" Sam asked.
"Come on," Dean said, exasperated. "We torched everything we touched. We'll wipe down the door and call it good."
Sam still looked hesitant, but after thoroughly wiping down the door, seemed ready to leave.
"You're getting awfully paranoid in your old age, Sammy," Dean commented as they went down the street to the car.
"Dean, I just think that we should be more careful," Sam said. "Do you really think that--"
Dean rolled his eyes and kept walking, waiting for Sam to continue his pessimistic serenade.
But Sam didn't say anything. Sam was annoying sometimes, and Dean knew too well how much he liked to brood, but stopping mid-sentence while raising his incessant concerns? Not at all like him.
"Dude, you going finish that thought or did you finally hit some magical quota of angsting?"
When there was no reply this time, Dean turned to look at his undoubtedly melodramatic brother.
What he found was Sam sprawled out, face first on the ground, one arm snaking above his head and the other trapped under his torso.
"Sam!" he called, ignoring his own panic as he rushed to his brother's side. "Sam."
He had just started to turn Sam over when Sam blinked blearily up at him. "Wha?" he asked, his voice slurred and sleepy.
"Dude, you just passed out."
Sam blinked a few more times, his face settling on a scowl. "I did not."
Dean raised his eyebrows. "So you planted your face into the ground by choice?"
Sam glowered, pushing himself up without Dean's help. Dean hovered right next to him anyway, his hands ghosting support for his brother. "I'm fine," Sam snapped. "Just...tired, I think. I may be catching something."
As much as Dean hated to admit it, that did sound like Sam. Sam was a germ magnet, it seemed, and when bugs caught Sam they liked to wreak havoc on his system far more than they did for a normal person. Then again, "Maybe I hit you with that door harder than I thought."
That elicited a scowl from underneath Sam's bangs, which had flopped inevitably into Sam's face. "Let's just go before she comes back, okay?"
Dean couldn't really argue with that. They had taken their time with this one, and the last thing he wanted was to go to jail over breaking-and-entering a prima donna young witch.
Sam shook him off and stood, stalking purposefully in front of him, and Dean could tell that Sam was more than a little embarrassed about it all, which actually made him feel better. If Sam could feel embarrassed, then Sam probably wasn't suffering from anything life-threatening. Sam was just suffering from a bout of klutzy, disaster-magnet, little-brotherness.
And that was something Dean was very used to. He'd check Sam's temperature when they got back and then give Sam a good dose of teasing for fainting like a little girl. All in all, it sounded like it was going to be the best night Dean had had in weeks.
Sam wasn't sick. He didn't have a fever and his breathing was completely unlabored, though he did drop off to sleep unexpectedly fast. He didn't even change out of his clothes, instead passing out right on top of the covers, sprawled uncomfortably on the blankets.
Dean shrugged and contemplated dragging his brother into a more comfortable position.
As he came closer, he saw Sam's mouth was open, lower jaw flopping down. The bedspread was wet by his mouth.
"Ewww," Dean said.
He sat back on his haunches and thought about it.
A good big brother would make Sam comfortable.
He was a good big brother, even when he didn't really want to be.
A smart big brother would get some ammunition.
He was a smart big brother, too.
Dean snapped a picture on his cellphone before getting himself ready for bed.
Sam was awake when he woke up. He was scowling over a cup of coffee and his laptop.
"Feeling better, sleeping beauty?"
"You're the one who's just getting up," Sam griped.
"Dude, you should have seen yourself. You were asleep just like that. One second we were talking, the next, you were just out."
Sam just shook his head. "I think I found us a new hunt."
Dean rolled out of bed with a groan. "Just let me shower and I'll be ready to go."
Sam started picking up dirty clothes from the floor and nodded his agreement.
Dean took a long shower. Hot and wet and a perfect way to wake up nice and slow, like there was nothing else in the world that mattered except getting clean.
By the time he had toweled himself dry and was dressed, he figured Sam must have gotten the car packed.
He was surprised when he walked out to find Sam draped over a chair awkwardly, sound asleep.
Dean glanced around. The room was only half packed. The duffels sat unzipped on the bed and Sam still held a pair of jeans loosely in his hands.
"Dude," he said, shaking Sam gently. "Wake up."
Sam came to with a started. "What?"
"You fell asleep. Again," Dean said, concern starting to creep into his voice.
Sam rubbed his eyes. "I'm fine," he said, standing and moving toward the duffel and stuffing the pants inside.
Dean just watched his brother, skeptical. This wasn't like Sam. Sam was often sleep-deprived. But sleeping while he should be packing? Not at all like the kid. Especially since he'd gotten at least seven hours the night before.
But Sam looked fine. There was no flush to his cheeks and he wasn't moving in a hindered way. The bruise on his forehead was small and well hidden beneath the bangs.
"You going to help or just stand there like an idiot?" Sam asked grumpily.
Dean thought standing there actually sounded like a good idea.
Then Sam threw a shirt at him, prompting Dean to start packing.
Sam fell asleep when he stopped to gas up the car, which Dean thought was getting a little too strange, even for Sam. When Sam dropped to the pavement on the way in for lunch, Dean was pretty sure they had a problem.
Sam roused easily, and Dean was already checking for bruises and bleeding.
"What happened?" Sam asked, almost hesitantly, blinking up at his brother.
"You passed out," Dean said. "Again."
Sam squinted. "I don't think I passed out," he said.
"Then what would you call it," Dean snapped.
"It's like I fell asleep," Sam said. "Yesterday, last night, this morning, in the car, now. Ever since we left Brittany's--"
Sam didn't finish his sentence. He didn't have to. Because Dean was pretty sure he knew what was going on.
He took Sam back to the motel. That way, if he fell asleep, at least he could hit the bed instead of the pavement.
"I'll be back in thirty minutes and we'll have this all straightened out," Dean said.
"Dean," Sam protested from the bed. "I think I should go with you."
"No," Dean said flatly.
"I'm the one she cursed."
"Which is exactly why you're not going," Dean snapped. "I don't want to risk you getting cursed with something else ridiculous."
Sam looked a little hurt by that, but Dean wasn't sure he cared. He just cared that his brother had been cursed by a witch and passed out every other hour and that just wasn't something Dean wanted to deal with.
Sam's face was set though, determined and plaintive, and he pushed himself up off the bed, clearly ready to fight Dean on this. "Stop being--"
And just as fast as Sam had gotten up, he was down again.
"I knew you'd see it my way," Dean muttered with a shrug before he walked out the door.
Apparently, getting busted once hadn't taught her any lessons. This time when Dean pounded on her door, she was home, dressed in a bathrobe and fuzzy pink slippers and holding a bright purple coffee mug. "Yeah?" she asked, peering through the screen at Dean.
"What did you do to him?"
Her nose crinkled in confusion. "Do to who?"
"To my brother," Dean snapped, slapping his hand on the doorframe. "What'd you do to him?"
At this, she raised her eyebrows. "You come in here and trash my home and then have the audacity to ask me what I did? I'm not the one who hunted you down and messed with your life."
Dean's hand went to the door to fling it open but a flick of her eyes kept it locked. Dean swore, tugging at it, to no avail.
She smirked. "It had nothing to do with your brother," she said and took a slow sip of her coffee. "Call it a self-defense mechanism. A booby trap."
She shook her head at him. "You think I would leave all my stuff unprotected? I put a spell on it. The first person to touch it suffers the consequences--a lovely case of narcolepsy. You should be thankful--I could have made it much worse."
Dean's hand pounded against the screen, bending it inwards with the force.
She didn't even flinch. "You know," she said. "Even if I wanted to help you, I'm not sure I could. The spell I used? It was on one of the manuscripts you burned. One of my own personal creations."
Dean fumed on the other side of the door. "I swear to God--"
She just laughed. "You should have thought about that before you trashed my stuff," she said. "I'm sure your brother will adapt. Now have a nice day and get off my property before I call the police."
Dean had no recourse as he stared at the door that shut in his face. He stared at it for several minutes before slinking back to the Impala and back to Sam.
Telling Sam wasn't easy. His brother stared at him, incredulous.
Dean looked apologetic. "Yeah, it looks that way."
"She cursed me," Sam clarified.
Dean nodded reluctantly.
Sam's incredulity heightened a notch. "And you just let her?"
Well, that wasn't exactly the response Dean expected. He glowered. "You're the idiot who touched her stuff first."
"You're the one who wanted to turn her operation over!" Sam exploded. "I just wanted to talk to her!"
"It's not like I had any idea!" Dean snapped back.
"I'm not saying that you did!" Sam yelled back, throwing his hands up and taking to pacing. He paused and looked at Dean. "Why didn't you make her undo it?"
It was Dean's turn to be incredulous. "I tried, man. It's not like I didn't make an effort."
Sam started pacing again. "What did she say?"
"Well I don't think she was thrilled that we tried to torch her stuff," Dean said with a shrug. "She wasn't exactly helpful."
Sam paused in his trek across the room. "I didn't expect her to be," he said. "I figured maybe you employed a little creative pressure."
"Like what?" Dean asked. "Did you want me to threaten to kill her or something? And it's not like I could threaten to burn all her stuff since that's what kind of got us into this mess in the first place."
Sam seemed to consider this, sighing a little. "You couldn't talk her out of it?"
The previous questions had been annoying but that one hurt. It was Sam's truest little brother voice, the one he'd used when he was young (younger, anyway), the one Sam used when he believed Dean could make everything right again.
"We'll find another way," Dean promised. He attempted to smile. "How hard can it be to undo a spell by a novice witch?"
Sam's eyes looked sad and he looked down. "Yeah," he said. "I guess so."
"Besides," Dean cajoled, punching him lightly in the shoulder. "You really could use the rest."
Sam sighed. "You're a jackass, you know that?"
"Yeah, well, you're narcoleptic," Dean countered with a grin.
Sam's eyes narrowed and he shook his head. He rose, brushing by Dean on his way to the bathroom. "I hate you."
Dean just grinned. "While you're showering I'm going to start looking for ways to undo this," he said. "Mind if I use the laptop?"
"Sure," Sam called from inside the bathroom. "Just so you know, I put on the childlock so your porn sites won't show up."
As the shower turned on, Dean cursed his little brother's ingenuity. "I hope you fall asleep in the shower, freak."
It really wasn't so bad. After all, Sam was fine; he just fell asleep. A lot. For no apparent reason. It wasn't like Sam was in mortal danger. It was just awkward. Sometimes it was even funny.
Most of all, it was random.
In motel rooms, in the car, in public, in private, with people, by himself--anywhere, anytime.
Dean didn't think he'd ever get used to the sight of his brother flopping over bonelessly, but it was a little hard not to. The trick was just catching Sam to prevent him from hitting anything on the way down.
They spent a week around town, looking for some way to break the curse. Then Sam found a lead on a hunt in Alabama, and people were dying, which sort of took precedence over some obscure curse of narcolepsy.
It still felt like failure, no matter how Dean looked at it. Because he was supposed to save Sam, fix Sam, not let Sam fall asleep every hour because of some random frustrated loner of a witch.
"We'll still look, man," Dean promised as he drove, realizing the comment might have been more for himself than for Sam.
Sam squinted into the sun, not looking back at the town retreating in the rearview mirror. "I know."
"It could be worse," Dean pointed out.
"Least she didn't make you lose control of your bodily functions," Dean pointed out.
Sam turned to Dean, disgust on his face. "Dude. Please."
Dean raised his eyebrows. "I'm just saying."
Sam sunk back, sulking in the seat even though moving on had been his idea. "Just drive."
And that was something Dean could do.
Sam and sleep had always had a somewhat strained relationship. Even as a kid, Sam had been plagued by nightmares, and Dean could remember countless nights spent by his brother's side, lulling the kid into some form of sleep. After Jessica had died, Sam hadn't really slept at all, and Dean could remember relishing the times Sam's body finally overrode his stubbornness and made him.
Watching Sam sleep always seemed a little like victory to him. It was a time when he felt most like a big brother. Because Sam looked so young in sleep--young and vulnerable and completely his responsibility. It didn't matter that now Sam was taller than he was and just as capable. Sam still hadn't outgrown that youthfulness in his sleep that made Dean want to protect him even more.
Not that he thought about it a lot. He wasn't that much of a girl. But when he walked out of the bathroom to find Sam sprawled on the bedspread, clearly not in an intentional way, he couldn't stop his pang of memory.
Smiling, he edged over to his brother. The kid was on his back, his arms and legs splayed around him. His head was turned slightly to the side, sending his hair into his face, and his mouth was hanging open slightly. Sam looked peaceful, which was just so rare anymore, and Dean felt his heart swell.
Gently, he reached a hand out, moving to brush the bangs from Sam's eyes.
Just as he made contact, Sam jerked, blinking awake. Grunting, Sam rolled away, and Dean pulled his hand back, embarrassed.
Sam shook his head, as if to clear it, before letting his eyes focus on his brother. "Dude," he said. "Were you petting me?"
Dean's face contorted in indignation. "No," he said.
Sam stared at him. "I'm pretty sure you were petting me."
"Only in your perverted little dreams, Sammy-boy," Dean countered.
"Then what were you doing?"
"Dude, look, I'm pretty sure whatever you think happened, you dreamed it," Dean said, and he had to admit, he said it pretty convincingly.
Sam looked doubtful.
"You were asleep, after all."
"That didn't feel like a dream," Sam said.
"Would I lie to you?" Dean asked, putting on the most sincere face he could.
Sam rolled his eyes, snorting a little as he stood and pulled back the covers. "Whatever, man. Next time wait till I'm in REM sleep before you try petting me. I'm less likely to wake up that way."
Dean wouldn't admit it, but he knew the smartass was right.
Weeks slipped into months, and there was always something else to hunt. In his spare moments, when he wasn't focusing on something evil and supernatural, he would nab Sam's laptop and do some searching. When Sam fell asleep, he'd still peruse his father's journal looking for some insight.
But life was hectic and no one seemed to have any advice on how to reverse amateur spell casting.
And sometimes, other things just seemed to take precedence in his mind. He was a man, after all. No one could begrudge him that.
He was checking out a particular fine-looking waitress in Tennessee, hoping to finally get a little action for the night. She looked young but old enough, if he could judge by the suggestive looks she'd been giving him since he walked in. A buxom blonde in all the ways that appealed to Dean and the pointy heels she wore suggested that she had ambitions beyond waitressing.
Either that, or she was just not a very smart waitress destined for back trouble.
Not that Dean cared. He just liked the way they made her tan legs seem even longer.
Sam was eating, completely ignoring Dean's drooling. His brother made small talk about a hunt he was interested in and Dean nodded in all the right places, but he wasn't even listening.
"You think she'd be interested in me?" he asked, letting his eyes track her back to the kitchen.
Sam turned to follow his gaze, then groaned and just shook his head. "You're impossible."
Dean just grinned, making eye contact with her again and she blushed, ducking away shyly before glancing at him again. He was so in. "You mind going back to the motel alone?" he asked. "I mean, unless you want me to see if she has a sister--"
He turned back to look at his brother, expecting to meet his brother's overly-frustrated roll of the eyes.
Instead, he was greeted with Sam, leaned forward on his plate, his hand still holding his sandwich, mouth open and ready to bite, face smeared in the grease and ketchup. Asleep.
He sighed. "Now that's just gross, man."
The waitress snapped her gum and he looked up, grinning sheepishly.
"Your friend okay there?" she asked.
"He's fine," Dean assured her quickly. "Just a little tired."
She nodded disinterestedly. "Maybe you should take him back to your room," she suggested. "I'll get you two some doggy boxes."
"No, no, no--" Dean tried, but she had already turned to leave, her hips swaying as she clicked away in her pointy pink heels.
Dean slumped back in his seat, glaring hard at his brother, who was still asleep on the plate. "Wake yourself up, bitch," Dean growled as he waited for the check.
Narcolepsy could be so convenient.
For him, anyway.
His favorites were when Sam was complaining.
"Dean, do we have to leave today?"
"Dean, do we have to eat there?"
"Dean, can we please listen to something else?"
"Dean, can you please eat with your mouth closed?"
And all Dean could think was, Sam, can you please shut the hell up.
He would say it too, when push came to shove, and when Sam squinted at him in the Impala's front seat and asked, "Dean, can we please turn in for the night?" Dean turned to him, fuming.
"Sam, I swear to God if you don't shut up--"
As he made eye contact, Sam looked hurt, large eyes on him and Dean stifled a curse.
Dean did not want to stop, not now, not for another couple of hours at least. They had a lot of ground to cover and they needed to start in on the hunt--
But saying no to Sam...
He was caving and he knew it.
"Dean, please, could I just stretch my legs for a bit?"
Dean could see the triumph in Sam's eyes the second before he opened his mouth to acquiesce.
Then Sam's head slumped to the side, lolling against the seat.
Dean chuckled victoriously. "Guess stopping isn't a problem anymore, is it?" he quipped.
Sam didn't respond.
Grinning, Dean pressed down on the accelerator, not even looking twice as the next exit passed them by.
Moreover, narcolepsy could be so amusing.
Again, to him, which was what truly mattered in the end.
They were on a hunt in Seattle and the weather was rainy, which really wasn't a surprise. And Sam had been unusually whiny, which Dean guessed really wasn't much of a surprise either, but it certainly was getting on his nerves.
So he was not exactly sympathetic when Sam dropped off and fell face-first into a large puddle amongst a crowd of people.
Of course, he stooped to make sure the kid didn't drown, but the water had woken Sam up immediately and he was pushing himself up, dismayed while people walked by with raised eyebrows.
"Dude," Sam said. "You could try catching me sometime."
"You could try not being a freakin' giant with narcolepsy," Dean countered, standing up.
He offered Sam a hand, who refused it with a growl. Instead, Sam stood, holding out his dripping arms. "This is just great."
"We have to get a move on," Dean reminded him. "Our appointment with the professor is at ten."
"Dean, I'm soaked!" Sam said.
That much was true. Sam's entire torso was water-logged and droplets clung to his hair.
Dean licked his lips, feigning seriousness. "Don't worry, Sam," he said. "I'm sure people fall in puddles all the time."
The look Sam shot him was deadly.
"Aww, come on, Sammy, you need to lighten up."
Sam shouldered past him. "You need to shut up."
"Narco-boy," Dean singsonged, following after him.
Sam flashed him one finger over the shoulder and Dean just smiled.
He just went out for fifteen minutes. He could leave Sam alone for fifteen minutes. He did it all the time.
But when he came back, coffee in one hand, doughnuts in the other, he was surprised to find the room empty.
There was no response.
The big brother instincts flared up in Dean. He deposited the food on the dresser.
When there was no response again, Dean looked in the next logical place with barely-controlled panic.
He opened the bathroom door with a jerk. "Sam?"
At first all he could see was Sam, sprawled out on the tile floor, his clothes next to him in a small pile.
All of Sam.
Sam blinked awake and flushed. "Dean, what--"
Dean just gaped. It wasn't like he'd never seen it before, but it wasn't like he'd made a point to see it lately. "Whoa, dude--"
Sam looked horrified and he grappled for a towel with one hand and was shoving Dean with the other. "Get out!" he yelled.
Dean tumbled out of the bathroom and just stared as the door closed in his face.
It took him several seconds before he started laughing and just couldn't stop.
It had always been a little hard to let Sam do things on his own. Not that he didn't trust his kid brother, but giving Sam space meant allowing Sam to be alone in a world full of terrible things that were out to get him.
His protective qualities were only ramped up when it came to Sam's narcolepsy. After all, what if Sam fell asleep while crossing the street and got hit by a car? What if Sam fell asleep and fell into a hot fire? What if Sam fell asleep in the bathtub and drowned himself? What if Sam fell asleep and someone kidnapped him?
It didn't matter that Sam was a massive man who would be easily spotted in any road or that Sam avoided fires under the best of circumstances or that Sam didn't even take baths or that someone trying to lug his enormous brother would certainly be enough to jostle him awake. It was just the idea of it that worried him.
Which was why he now called Sam ever hour they were apart.
Sam submitted to the annoyance reluctantly, and Dean knew he only did it to humor him.
Besides, sometimes Sam needed it.
He could always tell when Sam had fallen asleep when he called. Usually Sam was prompt in answering his phone. When he was asleep, it left him slower on the uptake.
Leaning against the outside of the police station, he was making his hourly phone call to Sam. So far, Sam had only had one episode today, while he was getting dressed in the bathroom. He'd managed to clip his head on the counter, so Dean was especially anxious to keep up with his brother today.
One ring, two rings...
Sam had definitely fallen asleep again. In the library, no doubt. Dean just hoped it hadn't been while he was hefting some gigantic book from the top shelf.
Three rings, four...
"Hello?" Sam's voice slurred over the phone.
"Hey, Sammy," Dean said lightly. "You awake there?"
He could hear Sam licking his lips and blinking his eyes. "Yeah, I'm fine."
"How long were you out?"
"You're slacking over there, kiddo."
"Bite me," Sam snapped and hung up the phone.
Dean chuckled as he put his phone in his pocket.
It really shouldn't have surprised him how fast Sam adapted. Sam had spent his entire life adapting, after all. With the way their dad had carted them from city to city, with all the roles Sam was expected to play, Sam had always managed to find a way to fit in, to make the best of things. It was nothing more than a self-defense mechanism.
Sam took his narcolepsy in stride. It made Dean nervous, he had to admit it, and he kind of wanted to dress Sam in protective gear sometimes, but the sight of seeing Sam slack and boneless was getting a bit easier. Besides, Sam acted so nonchalant about it.
So Dean didn't think much about taking Sam with him on the usual duties. Sam could still research. And Sam still went with him on their schemes to get information, which was how they ended up at a grieving widow's house. The case seemed like a pretty simple haunting, but Dean wanted to cover their bases.
"So, did your husband act strange at all? Say anything weird, do anything weird?"
Mrs. Harrison looked a bit perplexed, her eyebrows knitting together. "And why would the insurance company care about that?" she asked.
"We're just being thorough, Mrs. Harrison. I think George would have wanted it that way," Sam told her, flashing her his large, dewy eyes.
She seemed to melt at that. "He was always a thorough man," she agreed.
Sam smiled, nodding encouragingly. "So, Mrs. Harrison, like we were asking, was your husband...?"
And just like that Sam's head dropped and he listed to the side. Dean reached out instinctively, smiling awkwardly at the woman.
"Is he okay?" she asked, concerned.
"I'm sure he's fine," Dean replied, and he was pretty sure it was about the only honest thing he'd told her yet.
He shook Sam and then Sam shook himself, blinking awake and sitting upright. He licked his lips. "...acting unusual before his death?" Sam concluded, as though he'd never missed a beat.
Mrs. Harrison stared at him, a bit mesmerized.
Sam just smiled. "Mrs. Harrison? Are you alright?"
The old woman finally managed a smile at him, shaking her head a little. "I'm sorry, what was the question?"
The more time that passed, the less they looked for a way to fix this, because in comparison to people dying, Sam didn't seem to think that falling asleep was such a big deal.
In general, Dean had to agree, mostly because he had no way to fix it and dwelling on it just made him feel worse. Besides, he still had other ways to look out for the kid.
Sam's narcolepsy seemed to prompt a new sleeplessness in Sam that sometimes rivaled the post-Stanford days. It was almost like Sam tried to stay awake as much as possible as if to defy the fact that his body made him submit to unconsciousness whenever it wanted to. It was a pointless attempt to prove his autonomy, and normally Dean wouldn't care a whole lot about Sam's weird efforts to maintain his obsessive sense of control, but this took a toll on Sam in ways that worried Dean.
Unfortunately, hunting always gave Sam an excuse to stay awake. Their schedule was erratic in the best of times, and with Sam's newfound desire to avoid sleep, Sam dedicated himself more to their latest monster of the week.
Accordingly, Sam tended to look a bit haggard, dark smudges under his eyes that made Dean want to drug him.
"Sam, you need to sleep," Dean said, looking pointedly at his brother.
Sam, for his part, was stooped over the computer screen. "I just want to find out a little more," he said. "Besides, I think I sleep more than enough now, don't you think?"
"Not like you should," Dean countered. "Sleeping for thirty seconds in a restaurant does not constitute sleep."
Sam just rolled his eyes. "I told you, Dean, I will."
"Now, Sam," Dean ordered, rising to manhandle his brother into the bed.
Sam sighed and was about to reply when his eyes rolled shut and he slumped forward on the table.
Dean couldn't help but chuckle. "Yeah, I guess you will," Dean said. "Next time, let's aim for the bed, okay?"
Usually, Dean would shake Sam awake because that's what Sam would want, but his brother was running himself ragged, and Dean would take Sam's sleep in any form he could get it. He considered moving Sam, but Sam was a freakin' giant, and any movement would probably wake the kid anyway.
No, Sam may wake with a stiff neck, but at least he would sleep.
With a grin on his face, Dean shut down the laptop before making his way back to his own bed. Wordlessly, he pulled down the sheets. As he turned off the light, he couldn't help but wonder if the narcolepsy hadn't been a blessing after all.
He hadn't thought it could really be a problem, but Sam had never fallen asleep during something important. There had been awkward situations, embarrassing ones, but never really dangerous ones.
Somehow, it was like Sam's narcolepsy was contained to non-important parts of life. The non-lethal situations.
Until is wasn't.
It was a typical hunt in all the ways that counted, except that they'd let the spirit get the drop on them. It had turned out it had a friend and when the second ghost appeared unexpectedly, Dean had found himself getting up close and personal with a wall. He hadn't even had a chance to call out for Sam, and, for a second, he thought that this might be it for him.
When he blinked awake, both ghosts were on him, glaring with menacing, half-decayed, translucent sneers.
And then, just like that, there was a blast of rock salt, and then another. The ghosts cleared and Sam stood, shotgun still ready in hand.
"You okay?" he asked, breathless and pale.
Dean managed a nod, which sent a shot of pain through his head. He winced. He didn't need to feel it to know it was bleeding. "I think so."
"Let's hurry it up," Sam said. "Before they come back."
Dean was about to agree when the lights flickered again. Dean felt the cold fill the room a second before the ghost reappeared. He was hardly in a position to fight and he grappled for something iron to defend himself.
His only consolation was that Sam was armed with the shotgun and that should help them.
The ghost swung at him with an axe and Dean rolled away in time to see the other one reaching for Sam with a tattered arm. Sam was about to fire--
Then Sam just collapsed, boneless and fast to the ground and all Dean could think was not now.
With all the commotion, he doubted Sam would be out long, but a second was all the ghost needed to get the upper hand.
Dean was moving as fast he could, faster than he thought was possible, trying to fight against time and space to get there in time to prevent the inevitable.
There was a shrieking, and belatedly he realized it was his own voice, swooping in desperation.
It was enough to make the ghost flinch, but not enough to make it stop.
He simply wasn't fast enough, wasn't scary enough, and the axe went down despite Dean's heroic efforts.
There was a muted thunk and Dean felt a grating pain erupt through his body. The ghost turned to look at him, raising the bloody axe in his hand. The axe that the ghost had pulled from Sam's body.
He emptied a load of salt into it, then another, with a viciousness that sent the ghost away in a flash of dust. It'd be back, it'd always be back, but Dean didn't intend on being around to find out. He didn't stop for anything, not even to assess his brother's condition, because he had to get out of there before it came back.
Sam was heavy in his arms, and there was a wetness seeping over him. But Dean didn't look, didn't stop, there was no time.
His brain blinked out--higher reasoning was a pointless skill--and he reverted to basic instincts to get his brother out of there. No ghost could catch them. No ghost would dare catch them.
When Dean's brain worked again, he was outside in the cool night air, Sam cradled in his arms. Sam's eyes were open, though bleary, and he smiled.
"Hey," Sam said, with a breathy voice.
"Hey," Dean replied, his own voice tight and strained.
"Did I miss anything?" Sam asked.
Dean could feel the blood on his hands, the blood all over Sam's body. He could see the waxy tint to Sam's face. Fine tremors shook Sam's body and Dean knew his brother was bleeding out. He laughed anyway. "Not really," he said. "I don't suppose you feel like staying awake this time, do you?"
Dean figured whatever sound Sam made was a laugh. Sam's eyes were wide and filled with pain, dulled by it, but glinting with tears.
They didn't close, though, not when Dean put pressure on the gaping wound, not when Dean called for help, not even when the ambulance pulled up into the still night air.
They didn't speak. There were no words to say. They just stared at one another, maintaining a painful and unbreakable eye contact. Dean's mind screamed at him, told him to do more, to do something, to not let Sam die like this. Sam might die from many things, things Dean didn't want to think about, but Sam couldn't die because some teenaged angst-queen witch put a curse on him.
Dean didn't know what Sam was thinking, but he was pretty sure Sam wasn't thinking much at all. He couldn't be. The pain was just too much, Dean could tell. The agony was palpable, and Dean felt it radiating into him with an intensity that made him wish Sam would pass out for once.
One surgery, six hours of waiting, and a couple dozen sutures later, the doctor told Dean that Sam would be okay.
Sam would be okay.
Dean might have laughed with the utter relief of that but he was just too tired.
There were moments when Dean wished he was narcoleptic. That way maybe he could have slept some time away in the waiting room instead of just being worried.
"Can I see him?" Dean asked the doctor.
The woman nodded. "Yes," she said. "But I have to warn you, he's asleep right now."
Dean just shook his head, grinning tiredly. "What else is new."
Sam slept a lot, and the doctors seemed a little concerned, but attributed it to the drugs. Dean didn't contradict them. Knowing his luck, if they found out Sam was narcoleptic, they'd want to submit him to all sorts of studies to identify the source of his freakishness.
That was a pursuit Dean had spent most of his life trying to figure out and he hadn't come up with any answers in the last 24 years, so he was pretty sure that the doctors wouldn't find anything either.
In fact, all Dean really wanted was to get out of there. To take Sam and run. They needed to make a roadtrip back to a certain witch. Dean had played nice before. He wouldn't now. Not when Sam had almost gotten killed for it.
Sam was acting moody and typical and Dean didn't really have the energy to try to get him out of it. When Dean came back from a bathroom break one day, he found Sam looking truly concerned on the bed.
Sam's head was down and his fingers entwined together. "Dean, I'm sorry."
Dean looked at him skeptically before crashing in a chair next to Sam. "You're what?"
"I'm sorry," Sam said again, more strongly this time.
Dean just stared in disbelief. His brother's guilt complex apparently knew no bounds.
"I should have gotten a hold of this sooner," Sam continued. He finally looked up and his eyes were wide and wet. "I just never thought it would happen at a time when it would affect you. I'm a risk, man."
Sam was apologizing to him? Where on earth did the kid get off feeling bad for something that hadn't even happened to Dean?
"Dean?" Sam was looking at him with concern. Apparently, Dean was supposed to be responding to this ludicrous apology.
"You're sorry?" It came out grated and harsh.
Sam flinched a little.
"Sam, this isn't your fault."
Sam cocked his head, confused, then realization washed over his face. He shook his head. "You think it's yours, don't you?"
At that, Dean had to turn away. "I promised you I'd get you out of this."
"Are you serious?" Sam asked, the disbelief evident in his voice.
Dean swallowed hard and made no reply. He was clinging to the fact that he wasn't crying--yet.
"Dean, I want you to listen to me," he said. "There's only one way to undo this and you tried it already. It's not your fault that she cursed the stuff and that I touched it. It's not your fault that I fell asleep at the wrong time. It's no one's fault. Crap happens." Funny, how Sam's tune changed so completely, so effortlessly, when it was Dean who was feeling guilty.
Dean looked up, smiling weakly. "Especially to us."
Sam's face broke into a grin, his voice softening. "You got that right."
Dean sighed, sinking into a chair by Sam's bed. "I'm going to get it done this time. I'm going all the way back there, find that witch and make her undo it."
"We're going back there," Sam said emphatically, holding Dean's gaze.
"Fine," Dean relented. "We do this. Together."
They maintained eye contact a minute longer, before Dean tore his gaze away, embarrassed at the emotion.
"You're such a girl," Sam muttered with a shake of his head.
"Yeah, well, you're narcoleptic."
And if Sam was about to reply, it was lost when he promptly fell asleep.
The house was exactly as they remembered it, and when they knocked on the door, the same mousy-haired girl answered. She was wearing a tank top and capris and looked as ditzy as ever.
"Can I help you?" she asked, sounding a little bored, a little tired.
"You remember us?" Dean asked.
She looked at them again and shrugged. "Am I supposed to?"
"Think real hard," Dean said. "Maybe it'll come to you before Sam here falls asleep."
Recognition lit in her eyes and a smile broke across her face. "The two who broke into my house and destroyed my stuff," she said. She looked at Sam with new interest. "How's the narcolepsy?"
Dean saw Sam suck in a hindered breath. "It has its moments," Sam replied.
"You're going to undo it."
She rolled her eyes and looked back at Dean. "I told you then, and I'll tell you now, the answer's no."
Dean was about to threaten something terrible when Sam cut him off. "You have every right to be mad," he said. "I get why you did it. I mean, your pranks--they were just for fun, weren't they? You didn't hurt anyone."
Dean snorted and Sam shot him a glare.
She looked skeptical. "I never wanted to hurt anyone," she said. "Just give them what they deserve."
"It's been over a year," Sam said, and Dean noticed how he leaned forward a little, his eyes open and honest. "I think I've learned my lesson by now."
Dean glanced from his brother to her, and saw her face soften.
Damn, his brother was good.
Sam was earnest, a sad smile tugging at his lips. The witch was tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, looking truly conflicted. "Well," she began. "I don't know--"
And then Sam went down, hard and fast, nearly taking out Dean as he did so and his head hitting the pavement unusually hard. Dean grunted as he hit the pavement too, roughly on his bottom, Sam half on top of him.
The girl yelped, pushing the door open frantically. "Is he okay?" she asked, kneeling next to Dean.
Dean glowered up at her with a look of sheer incredulity. "He's narcoleptic, remember?"
A half hour later, Sam and Dean left Brittany Kensington's house after being fed homemade cookies and tea. She had apologized, undoing the spell immediately, and insisted on treating Sam's small head wound herself. She was a crappy medic, an average cook, but apparently not a terrible witch.
They had no way of knowing--yet--if she was telling the truth, but somehow Dean didn't doubt her. She'd been nothing if not honest. And Dean had seen the look of utter sympathy she'd given his kid brother.
"You did quite a number on her," Dean said as they drove away.
Sam was not fazed by the compliment. "Just basic human psychology," he said. "She needed to see a face to her victims, see them as innocent."
"Yeah, well, you having an episode right in front of her certainly helped."
Sam grinned at that, letting his head drop in amusement.
Dean eyed him suspiciously. "What are you laughing about?"
"Dean, I didn't have an episode."
"You didn't...?" Dean's mind worked to compute what Sam was telling him. "Then what was that?"
"Like I said, basic human psychology," Sam reiterated. "She needed to feel bad about what she'd done. I figured I might as well show her the full effects."
"You nearly cracked your skull open!"
"Well, you were supposed to catch me," Sam shot back.
"Then you could have let me in on the plan!"
Sam laughed. "I needed you to have a real reaction for the full effect."
"Dude," Dean said, shaking his head. "You are one sly dog."
"One sly non-narcoleptic dog," Sam agreed.
"Next time, I'm totally letting you fall."
"That's the point," Sam said. "There won't be a next time."
In bed that night, Dean couldn't help but feeling like he hadn't really slept in over a year. It was hard to sleep knowing things were off with Sam, and narcolepsy certainly did constitute something being off. He hadn't realized it, not until he sunk into the folds of his bed that night, feeling more relaxed, more at peace than he had since before Sam was cursed.
Here was to Sam finally getting a real night's sleep, he thought sleepily, happily letting himself drift toward blissful unawareness.
Then something shattered the pull.
Dean fought the urge to curse. Why wasn't Sam sleeping?
Dean didn't move, didn't change his breathing, hoping that if he didn't say anything, Sam would leave him alone.
"Dean," Sam tried again. "Are you awake?"
Dean restrained a groan. What was Sam--five?
"Dean, I know you're awake."
Dean didn't open his eyes, suddenly wishing that his brother was still narcoleptic. He wouldn't have to have this conversation if Sam dropped off every five minutes. "If you know I'm awake, why did you ask?"
"Hey, Dean, guess what?" Sam asked, his voice light and happy.
Sighing, Dean replied, "What?"
"I'm not asleep." The triumph in Sam's voice was evident.
"Yeah, so, me neither."
"No, man, I haven't fallen asleep," he said. "I haven't fallen asleep in 12 hours."
"I know, Sam."
Sam didn't respond, and Dean felt himself drifting in the silent hum of the motel room. Distantly, he could hear the sounds of the highway outside, an occasional car speeding by the lonely road.
"I just wanted to tell you, though," Sam voice interrupted his thoughts. He sounded younger than normal, happier than Dean was used to. "Thank you. For sticking with me through this."
Sleep was nearly upon him, but Dean couldn't help but smile. As he drifted into it, he whispered, "That's what big brothers do."