Enter Sandman

Summary: A simple walk home turns into a terrifying nightmare when Sam is attacked. Sam's dreams now pull him to his attacker. Will his family be able to save him before he loses his sanity? Part 1 of 2.

-0-

Something sharp bore into his left temple but his arms refused to move from where they rested on the hard, cold ground. He squirmed back against the hard surface behind him but he couldn't gain enough leverage to move away. He raised his eyelids and wished he hadn't when he saw what was before him.

A cold clammy appendage smoothed the hair from his sweaty brow. Cool air blew across his exposed neck and he shivered as something rasped in his ear, "Oh, you are a pretty one. And tasty, too. I think we'll have to invite you back."

-0-

John paced across the kitchen and glared at the telephone hanging on the wall, willing it to ring. His youngest son was at the high school, making up some chemistry labs he had missed while the Winchesters were on a job last week, and he was late.

It wasn't that he was afraid something had happened to Sam. He'd taught both his boys how to look after themselves and knew Sam could defend himself if needed. But he could feel Sam pulling away and it made him nervous. School and homework and after curricular activities…Dean had never cared about those things.

Smiling with pride, John thought about his 17-year-old. Dean had absorbed everything John had instilled in him about hunting. Despite his reckless nature when it came to the opposite sex, Dean was always cautious when it came to jobs. He trained hard and listened to everything John told him.

Sam on the other hand…it wasn't that his youngest talked back to him. He just seemed far away, his head buried in a book, and disinterested in the family business. It was a dangerous attitude to have and John wasn't sure how to change it. Lately he'd stopped coddling; he had put Sam through his training paces until most adults would have dropped but Sammy never complained. He just looked at John with those large, distrustful eyes, pursed his lips, and complied with Johns' orders.

The phone finally rang, jarring John out of his musings. "Do you know what time it is?"

The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. He hadn't meant to jump down Sam's throat but he was frustrated. There was a potential hunt in the next town over and he wanted both sons with him. Instead Sam had made a case for going to school and making up some homework. Something about not wanting to draw attention to the family. At the time it had made sense but he'd been kicking himself for giving in. Dean didn't care about school and it didn't seem to cause them problems.

His curt greeting was met with a sigh. "Dad, I'm done with the labs. Sorry it took so long."

John paused at the quiet sadness in Sam's voice but instead of relenting, his resolve was strengthened. He needed to bring Sam back into line. "Dean and I are busy right now so you're going to have to walk home. "

Sam didn't whine. He didn't hesitate in the least. He just softly acquiesced. "Okay, I'll see you shortly."

The connection was quickly broken and John hung the phone back up. He easily could have sent Dean to pick up Sam but it wouldn't hurt his youngest to walk home.

The back door opened and Dean spilled into the kitchen along with some leaves. The wind was picking up, rattling the windows occasionally. His oldest grinned at him. "I changed the oil in both the Ford and the Chevy. Sammy call yet?"

John tamped down on the sigh that threatened to erupt from his lips. "I just got off the phone with him. He was just leaving school now."

Dean looked out the window and frowned. "I didn't think Sam knew any kids at school yet. At least no one with a license."

John could see the worry etched on Dean's face. "Sam decided to walk."

Dean's head whipped back so fast to stare at John he was surprised his oldest hadn't suffered a case of whiplash. "That wind is wicked and Sam doesn't have a heavy enough jacket. I'll go get him. Is it okay if I take the Impala?"

Although John had stopped handling Sam with kid gloves, Dean continued to take his big brother role seriously. And John knew he had ingrained that in Dean from a young age. Years of conditioning had gone into Dean's attitude and it didn't pay to go against it. "Fine, go ahead."

Dean rushed through the kitchen to the living room and then buzzed back through the kitchen, slinging his leather jacket on as his long, lean legs pumped across the floor. He threw a smile at John before he glided out the door. The draft from the door crept into John's bones and he shivered. Dean was right; it was too cold for Sam to be walking.

-0-

Sam reluctantly drifted away from the payphone. He had dreaded calling his dad and he hadn't been disappointed when the conversation had been less than pleasant.

More and more he found himself at odds with his dad and no matter what he did, it didn't seem to be enough. He was slowly coming to accept the fact that although he loved his dad and knew his dad loved him in return, they didn't like each other.

Sam hitched his backpack higher across his shoulder and pulled the collar up on his tan jacket. It wasn't ideal walking conditions but it couldn't be helped. He braced himself as he pushed the glass door open and was met with a strong gust of wind that stole his breath. Putting his head down, he jammed his hands into his pockets and set out at a fast pace. He tried to think of something pleasant to take his mind off of the cold walk home.

He was able to block out the miserable walk except for when the gusts of wind threatened to pick him up off his feet by thinking of the book he'd started the night before. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. At first he wasn't sure he'd be able to get into the book because the protagonist had seemed so unlikeable. But the more he read, the more he admired Howard. This was someone who refused to compromise his morals or his vision to satisfy those around him. Sam hoped some day he would have some of that same integrity.

A sound to his left drew his attention away from his thoughts into the wooded area next to the road. He stopped walking and listened intently. There, a low moan. Maybe the wind was playing tricks with his ears. He leaned forward and stared into the shadowed thicket. "Ssssaaammm."

Startled to hear his name, Sam jerked back and began to run along the side of the road. The wind hadn't produced that sound. And it hadn't sounded human. He glanced over his left shoulder to make sure nothing was pursuing him. Out of the corner of his right eye, he saw something dart out of the growth on the side of the road. Unable to change course or stop in time, he found himself colliding with something before he was sent flying through the air. The air whooshed out of him as he impacted with the unforgiving ground. His head cracked against something and his vision wavered before he slid into total darkness.

-0-

Sometimes his dad baffled Dean. He knew John Winchester could be a hard-ass but lately he'd been too tough on Sam. His little brother was no cream puff, he was a tough little kid, but in what universe was it okay to let a thinly clad 13-year-old hoof it when someone was available to swing by the high school and pick Sammy up?

Dean smirked. Sammy. His kid brother hated being called Sammy. And that was all the ammunition Dean needed to yank his brother's chain whenever he felt the occasion called for it.

Right now Dean was scanning the side of the road for signs of Sammy. His brother was no slacker and with the wind so biting he'd expected Sam to make better time. Then again, Sam was pretty good at screening out unpleasantness and was probably taking his own sweet time as he meandered home.

Dean was perplexed as he pulled into the circle drive in front of the high school. He hadn't seen his brother. In fact he hadn't passed anyone on Devil's Lane.

He slid the Impala into park in the hopes Sam was waiting inside. The parking lot to the side of the big, brick school was empty of student cars and the lights inside of the glassed in foyer were off. No one seemed to be around.

A slight burn kicked in the pit of his stomach. Where was his brother? He maneuvered the black car onto Devil's Lane again and crawled along, keeping an eye on the other side of the road. The slight burn turned into a gnawing sensation as he scanned the roadside. After long minutes of agonizing watching and worrying he saw a figure walking along the opposite side of the road.

Not really walking. More like lurching. He recognized Sam's tan jacket bobbing along and sped past before executing a quick U turn so that he was stopped just in front of his brother. Scrambling out of the car he moved toward his brother who continued his awkward progress. "Sammy?"

Dean had expected Sam to give him crap for using the dreaded nickname. Instead his brother's blank stare was replaced with recognition and gratitude and he launched himself at Dean. Not sure what to make of his brother's behavior but noticing his disheveled appearance, he grabbed his brother's upper arms to halt his forward progress. "Hey, are you okay? Did you trip over those ridiculously long snow skis that double as your feet?"

Sam pulled out of his arms and Dean got his first good look at the scrapes and scratches on his brother's face. Sam self consciously rubbed at the bigger marks before an uneasy look flashed in his eyes. "I guess I tripped."

Dean took note of the way his brother stayed within the protection of his arms. He'd expected the usually independent Sam to push him away but he didn't resist. If Dean was honest with himself, he'd missed this. Sam relying on him. Both Sam and his dad were in a hurry for Sammy to grow up but Dean missed the way things used to be. He found himself stepping up to role he cherished most; Sam's big brother.

Hanging on to Sam's arm he guided him toward the Impala. "Come on, let's get you out of the cold."

Dean felt Sam stagger in his grip. He quickly bundled his brother into the passenger seat. "Did you hit your head, Sammy?"

Sam's left hand drifted to that side of his head and he grimaced as he touched the skin. "I'm okay."

Dean brushed aside his brother's response – he knew okay and this wasn't it – as he pushed Sam's hand and hair away so he could get a better look. A raw, red spot marred the skin under the hair. Dean leaned in and saw what appeared to be a puncture mark. "Looks like you really did a number on yourself. Let's get you back to the house and cleaned up. Hey, what happened to your backpack?"

His brother's eyes stared out the passenger side window for so long, Dean began to worry. He poked Sam in the shoulder and waited for a response. He thought Sam had forgotten the question and was going to repeat it when he quietly responded without prompting. "I think I dropped it."

Reaching around his brother, Dean pulled the seatbelt over and fastened his dazed sibling in. "I'll drive ahead and see if we can spot it before we turn around. Just relax, Sammy."

Dean kept one eye on the road ahead and one eye on his brother. Sam's movements were a little jerky and uncoordinated. And he seemed a little shock-y. He aimed the blowers on his brother and turned the heat up. Maybe Sam had a concussion. But his brother was upright and conscious and that was always a good thing when it came to potential head injuries.

-0-

John gently grasped Sam's chin in his hand and rotated his son's head, looking for signs of injury. Sam gave an involuntary intake of breath as John angled his head. Although the wide, hazel eyes he was staring into were equal and reactive to light, the brightness filtering in through the window made Sam squirm against the hard backed kitchen chair and wince.

When Dean had escorted a bedraggled Sam into the kitchen, John had been shocked. Before he could pepper the boys with questions Dean had explained that he'd found Sam the worse for wear on the side of the road. Something about Sam taking a header into the bushes and shrubbery that line the road. John had picked up on the reproach in Dean's tone but ignored it while he settled a complacent Sam in the chair and examined him.

Scrapes and bruises dotted the pale face before him, proof that Sam had taken a tumble. His son closed his eyes against the harsh, natural light and John allowed him to subside against the back of the chair. "No sign of concussion."

Dean lounged against the kitchen counter in what appeared to be a relaxed pose but John could see the tension in his oldest son's shoulders and the crease across his forehead that denoted concern. Dean pushed away from the faux marble surface and crossed his arms in front of him, legs splayed apart, in a defensive posture. "Don't forget to look at the left side of his head. Sammy really nailed it good."

John detected the underlying hostility in Dean's voice and knew he deserved it. There was no reason Sam should have been out on Devil's Lane on his own. Sam hadn't done anything to provoke John yet he'd allowed his youngest son to get under his skin and decided to teach him a lesson. Some lesson; Sam was in pain and Dean was upset.

Dropping to a knee next to the chair, John tenderly pushed the hair on the left side of Sam's head away to get a better look. Sam tried to shrug away but John held his left arm to still him. Sam, stoic until now, let out a quiet yelp. "Ouch."

John dropped Sam's arm, unsure if the pressure on that or his head had caused Sam's pain, and used both hands to search out the raw, raised area on the side of his head. "Looks like something punctured you here. We're going to have to irrigate the area and clean it out good. You know, I could see this better if your hair wasn't so long."

Sam didn't allow himself to be provoked by the hair comment but he did slide out of John's grasp like a greased pig and stood up. "Is it okay if I get cleaned up now?"

John went to ruffle Sam's hair but his youngest deftly side stepped his reach, rubbing the left arm where John had gripped him. Touching his short trimmed beard, John tried to find the appropriate words to apologize. He hadn't meant to hurt his son.

Dean cleared his voice and stepped in, providing a much needed distraction. "Call me when you're out of the shower, short stuff. And no wallowing in the water for thirty minutes. I'd like to get your wounds treated before nightfall."

Sam met Dean's eyes briefly before he left the kitchen for the upstairs. John couldn't interpret the look Sam sent but it made him feel uneasy. Like Sam was pulling away from him and he was powerless to stop it.

Dean interrupted his thoughts. "I still don't understand how he managed to fall. Sam's light on his feet."

John laid a hand on Dean's shoulder and gave it a brief squeeze. "I'll let you treat his wounds. No need to dress the spot on the side of his head, just clean it out good and apply disinfectant. And call me if you find something I need to see."

Dean was no longer shooting daggers at John. Some of John's remorse must have bled through as Dean included his dad in his next statement. "We need to take better care of him."

-0-

The mac 'n cheese and hotdogs were definitely simple fare and no one's idea of gourmet but while Dean shoveled every morsel he could capture into his mouth, Sam pushed it around his plate. John sat back in his chair and took a long pull from his bottle of Miller beer while he observed his youngest from behind hooded lids.

Sam was moving slowly and every once in a while a telltale grimace flashed across his face. His youngest was definitely stiffening up and also had a headache if the way he squinted when he moved his head was any indication. John pushed away from the table and walked across the tiled floor until he was in front of the kitchen cabinet that housed some minor pain relievers. He selected a bottle of Tylenol before closing the cupboard door and striding back to the table. Wrestling with the childproof cap he finally managed to get into the bottle. "One or two, Sammy?"

John could tell by the way Dean's eyebrows quirked that he was as surprised as John was when Sam softly indicated he'd like two pills. Sam had always been a very healthy child and when he was in need of medication he always seemed oversensitive to it. John could count on one hand the number of times Sam had accepted two Tylenol in the past year. This more than anything let him know how poorly his baby boy was feeling at the moment.

Sam gulped the pills down with a few swallows of water, his face scrunched up in pain. "If you're done pushing your food around, why don't you go stretch out in the living room? Dean and I will clean up in here."

Sam slowly pulled himself to his feet, steadying himself on the kitchen table before meandering into the living room. John watched the green hoodie and navy sweat-pant clad youngster move into the next room at a pace more befitting a geriatric patient with a walker. Shaking his head, John sat back down and saw Dean watching Sam with concern as well. John felt compelled to break the silence. "You weren't kidding when you said he did a number on himself when he fell."

Dean corralled the last bite full of macaroni on his fork and plopped it into his mouth before answering. "I think he needs to lay low for a while. Were you still thinking of heading out tomorrow morning on that hunt?"

John could see worry and fatigue in the set of Dean's face. "I already called Bobby and told him we were out of this one. I agree with you, we'll just stick close to home until Sam is feeling better."

Dean's face broke into a huge grin and John felt a surge of pride; Dean put the safety of his family before everything else and there was nothing more important. John jostled Dean in the arm. "Come on, let's whip this room into shape and join Sam. There's a good football game on at 7:00."

By the time the kitchen was cleaned up the football game had already started and Sam was sprawled in the second hand recliner, dozing. The volume was turned down low in deference to the slumbering boy. John and Dean took turns glancing over at Sam but it soon became apparent that Sam was out for the count.

John thought about waking Sam and sending him up to bed but he seemed so peaceful he decided to leave him alone. That peace was shattered when an hour later John returned from the kitchen with another beer in hand for himself and a Coke for Dean to find Sam twitching and groaning on the recliner.

Dean was standing next to the recliner, ready to intercede. John shook his head indicating that he didn't want Dean to do anything yet; he didn't want to startle Sam and chances were good he would wake himself up in a moment. John set the drinks down on the ancient looking, scarred wood coffee table and moved to stand next to his oldest son.

Dean gestured toward Sam whose eyes were racing wildly in REM sleep while his hands and feet twitched in a rhythm only known to the nightmare riddled boy. When Sam started mumbling under his breath and a fine sheen of sweat slicked his face John decided it was time to wake him up.

Gently grabbing Sam around each bicep he gave him a quick shake while speaking gently to him. "Sammy, time to wake up."

John wasn't prepared when Sam jerked himself upright, butting the top of his head into John's chin, while screaming in a tortured voice that seemed to go on forever. "Nnnnoooo!"

Sam's eyes darted toward the ceiling and then wildly around him while John gathered him into a hug, his sore chin forgotten in the melodrama of the nightmare. "It's okay Sam. You're okay."

His youngest drew back from him and pointed to the ceiling. "But she was right up there, on fire."

Dean had crowded in on the other side of the recliner and stroked a hand through Sam's damp curls at the nape of his neck. "Simmer down, Sam. It was just a dream."

Dean shot John a nervous glance while he tried to calm his sibling down. John understood the anxiety. She, fire, ceiling…sounded suspiciously like Mary's death at the hands of the demon. "What do you mean, she's on the ceiling, on fire?"

Sam's face was pale and strained, his eyes too large in his face, as he pulled his gaze from the ceiling and looked at John. "She was in a nightgown and had long blond hair…and there was blood and fire…"

Sam's voice trailed out as he tried to bury his head in his hands but John wouldn't let him. Giving his son a fierce shake by the grip he maintained on his biceps, he demanded answers. "Where the hell did you hear that? Damn it, Sam, answer me!"

John screened out Dean's objection at his rough handling of his sibling. "Stop it, Dad. Can't you see you're hurting him?"

His youngest seemed to pull in on himself and wither before his eyes. "It was just a nightmare, right?"

Before John could shake an explanation out of his dazed son, Sam clawed his way out of John's grip and almost knocked Dean off his feet when he tumbled off the other side of the recliner, bowling into his brother. Sam's limbs moved with a speed that belied his injuries from the fall earlier the day as he sprinted up the stairs and slammed his bedroom door shut.

John rounded on Dean. "Have you been filling your brother's head with that story?"

Dean straightened to his full height and looked John in the eye. "No, sir. I never talk about Mom with him. He didn't hear anything from me."

John was ashamed that he'd just roughed up his baby but he'd been so surprised at Sam's words that he'd overreacted. He wasn't sure how to go about doing damage control but he knew enough to leave Sam alone for a while. Maybe tomorrow he could sit Sam down and explain what had happened to Mary and why hearing him describe that scene had been so upsetting.

Sam was a smart kid. He'd probably worked most of it out on his own. But there was no getting around the awkward conversation they would have tomorrow.

-0-

The next day dawned with little fanfare and it took a moment for Dean to remember why he was reluctant to get out of bed and face the day. And then he remembered the little scene last night. He would bet everything he had that Sam didn't have a clue about the true story behind Mary Winchester's death and that he really had suffered some nightmare. He just had no idea why Sam would have dreamed about that particular chapter of their life seeing as how he'd only been six months old and couldn't possibly remember anything.

Hell, Sam had practically been forbidden to speak Mary's name anymore. Dean knew he refused to talk about their mother when Sam tried to pry any details out of him and Sam was too smart to poke at their dad about her.

Dean found himself going through the motions as he steered clear of both John and Sam. That was one argument he had enough sense to steer clear of. Despite the chilly weather Dean pulled the hose around and washed both the truck and Impala and made them shine with a careful polish. He'd done every other errand outside that he could think of and now that he was damp from washing the vehicles he made his way through the back door into the kitchen.

John was sitting at the kitchen table, a variety of books strewn across the surface, a thick notebook and pen at the ready to capture any important information for future hunts. Dean attempted to inject some levity into the air. "So, is the coast clear?"

A slight smile tugged at his dad's lips. "Everything is fine. I told Sam I was sorry for manhandling him and he's just basically sorry. I didn't go into any details because Sam wanted to forget it even happened."

Dean kept his mouth shut but he knew Sam's reaction wasn't normal. His little brother liked to pick at things until he could come to some sort of understanding about them. Sweeping something under the rug just wasn't his way.

Dean drifted out of the kitchen and up the stairs as John's voice floated after him. "Dinner in thirty minutes."

Still worried about Sam, Dean knocked on the closed bedroom door. A soft voice invited him inside. Sam was leaning against two pillows stacked against the headboard, a book open in his hands. Dean cringed at he saw the bruising and scrapes blooming across Sam's face. And the shadows under Sam's eyes. He could see Sam still felt like crap. "Dad said dinner in thirty. How are you doing?"

Sam shrugged, the skin around his mouth whitening in pain. "I'm fine."

Dean rolled his eyes but let it slide. No one in the rented house ever dwelled on their injuries. They just picked themselves up and got on with things. Although it bugged Dean that his brother was still visibly hurting. He consoled himself with the knowledge that after another day of aches and pains, Sam would probably be back to his usual little brother obnoxious self.

Dinner was uneventful but Dean's eyes were drawn to his brother throughout it. The kid was lethargic. Listless. Not at all his usual self. Dean didn't know if this was owing to Sam's unease over their dad's reaction to his nightmare or if maybe his brother was feeling even worse than he let on.

Dean spent so much time watching Sam that he barely touched his meal and decided to turn in early, tired from worrying and his exertions outside earlier in the day.

Dean had been lightly dozing when he heard the light tread of feet go past his room and down the stairs. He blinked his eyes open and glanced at the clock. It was 12:10. Someone might just be after a Midnight snack but Dean decided he'd head downstairs and make sure nothing shady was going on.

The house was chilly and Dean took a moment to pull on a sweatshirt and socks. He rubbed his eyes briskly in an attempt to wake up more fully before cracking the bedroom door open and slipping out into the hallway. He quickly padded down the steps and almost ran full tilt into Sam who was standing at the bottom of the stairway, clad in a thin t-shirt, sweatpants and going barefoot, his head tilted at an angle as though listening to something.

Dean paused and listened. Nothing. He scanned the living room, at least what he could see from over the top of Sam's head from the step he was perched on, and nothing seemed to be disturbed. Unless you counted a shivering Sam standing at the bottom of the stairs playing statue. "Dude, you make a better door than a window. How about you move it along?"

Sam ignored Dean. No scathing comeback. No acknowledgment. He didn't even flinch. Dean didn't know what to make of Sam's behavior and pushed his brother forward a step so that there was enough room for him to slide around and into the living room.

Dean did a quick circuit of the room, checking the door and windows, and found the salt lines untouched and unbroken. Running a hand through his short hair he turned back to Sam impatiently. "Are you coming or going?"

Sam continued to stare at the door with a faraway expression on his face. Dean flipped the light switch and harsh light spilled over the room from the fixture suspended from the ceiling.

Dean was heartened when Sam walked toward the middle of the room. That staring thing was beginning to get on his nerves. As was the total silence. Why didn't Sam say something? But movement was progress.

Sam's eyes remained fixed straight ahead and Dean watched with grave concern as his brother made a beeline for the low, rickety coffee table. "Sammy, look out!"

But Sam didn't vary his gait and walked right into the edge of the wood corner, his momentum carrying him forward. Dean lunged toward his brother and felt Sam's nails gouge his cheek for his efforts but despite that unwelcome response he still managed to break most of his brother's fall. And it was a good thing he did because Sam never braced himself or tried to roll. And he now sat awkwardly on the floor, still looking into the distance, the coffee table a pile of splinters next to him.

Dean touched the shallow scratch on his face and felt wetness. Angry and confused, Dean wrapped a hand around each of Sam's forearms. "Damn it, Sam, what the hell is wrong with you?"

The only response he received was the still vacant expression on Sam's face. And now that he was up close he could see Sam's pupils were dilated, his face lax.

Sam rose to his feet in a jerky motion, still held fast by Dean's grip. Sam tugged and twisted in an effort to pull away but Dean still had the edge when it came to height and weight and used it to his advantage by holding his ground. The brothers were engaged in an all out wrestling match, albeit a silent one, save for Sam's harsh breathing.

Dean's own breathing sped up; he was on the verge of a panic attack. Sam was never this spacey. And he was acting crazy. Increasing the pressure on Sam's arms he gave him a teeth rattling shake in an effort to snap his brother out of it.

Sam's head wobbled back and then snapped forward. He finally stopped struggling but Dean continued to hold him fast in his grip. His brother's breathing finally slowed and he looked into Dean's face. "Why won't you let me go? They're calling me and I have to go."

The softly spoken words did nothing to assuage Dean's worry. The tone was empty. Resigned.

Sam's legs gave out without warning and Dean guided them both to the ground in a graceless heap. Dean pulled his suddenly pliant sibling into his arms and ran a hand behind his head and neck, searching for some sort of injury that would explain Sam's strange behavior. His brother's usually expressive eyes were hidden by closed lids.

John Winchester's voice startled Dean's ministrations. "What the hell is going on here?"

Dean didn't think he'd ever been so happy to see his dad before. "Dad, you've got to help him. Something's wrong."

-0-

John heard both boys moving around and groaned as he checked the clock. Just a shade past the witching hour. Although he really wasn't surprised they were headed for the kitchen since neither of his sons had eaten much for dinner. Granted spaghetti sauce out of a jar was nothing special but usually there were no left-overs.

Rolling over, John tried to relax and was on the verge of drifting off when he heard Dean's voice, pitched at a higher octave; he couldn't tell if it was in anger or excitement. A crash followed on the heels of Dean's cry and John catapulted out of bed, determined to find out what the ruckus was about.

Pausing only long enough to thrust his feet into his slippers, John bolted down the stairs in his flannel pants and t-shirt. He was totally unprepared for the sight that greeted him; the coffee table was in pieces on the floor and not far from it Dean had Sam locked in his arms. "What the hell is going on here?"

John thought maybe the boys had tussled over something and broken the coffee table. Best friends or not, all brothers fought from time to time. But then it dawned on him that Sam wasn't struggling to break away from Dean. Sam was lying passively in Dean's arms.

And then Dean spoke and John's heart nearly splintered into pieces at the plaintive tone. "Dad, you've got to help him. Something's wrong."

John moved forward without conscious thought until he was crouched down next to his sons. He cradled Sam's cheek in his hand and pushed his bangs away from his face but his youngest didn't so much as twitch. "It's okay, Dean. Just tell me what happened."

Dean continued to kneel down, supporting Sam's weight in his arms. "I followed him downstairs but he was acting all weird. He walked right into the coffee table. I knew something was wrong so I grabbed him but he kept trying to get away. He said something like 'They're calling and I have to go' and then he just collapsed. "

John patted Dean's shoulder with encouragement. He could see his oldest son was extremely upset and he found that troubling because Dean was his trooper. Nothing shook him except when Sam was hurt or sick. "You said something was wrong with Sam. Can you describe it to me?"

Dean shifted Sam more fully into his left arm so he could see his face, too. "He was acting all spacey, cocking his head toward the door and listening but I couldn't hear anything. It was like he was in a trance or something."

John shook his head in understanding before reaching out and firmly taking Sam's chin in one hand while soundly patting Sam's cheek. Using his most authoritative voice, he forced himself to growl. "Sam Winchester, you open those eyes right now."

Dean flinched at the harsh tone but it seemed to do the trick as Sam's eyes fluttered open. John angled his son's face toward the light and took the opportunity to assure himself Sam was intact. "Christo."

Sam didn't flinch and his eyes didn't turn black. The pupils were huge and unfocussed but Sam hadn't been hijacked by something supernatural. In his limited experience that left sleepwalking. Without further stimulus Sam's eyes drifted closed again.

John slid an arm under Sam's knees and another behind his back before pulling him to his own chest and standing up. "Come on, Dean. Let's get Sam upstairs. I think he was sleepwalking."

Dean frowned in confusion but he didn't argue. John followed Dean upstairs and when he would have turned into Sam's room, Dean barred the way. "I want him in with me where I can keep an eye on him."

John wanted to assure Dean that Sam was just fine but there was a slight niggle of doubt in the back of his head. Although Sam was a light sleeper his dead weight nestled easily in John's arms. Sleepwalking or not, this wasn't normal.

John had planned on sleeping in a chair next to Sam's bed, just in case, but realized Dean wouldn't get any rest unless Sam was close by. He could sleep in a chair in Dean's room just as easily as Sam's. "Good idea. Let's get you two settled."

Dean pulled back the sheet and blanket on the other side of the double bed and John carefully deposited Sam on the mattress. Dean drew the covers up, before shedding his sweatshirt and carefully sliding into his side of the bed. It was a tight fit since neither boy was a small fry anymore but for one night it would be okay.

Touching Sam's cool cheek he brushed the long bangs to the side so he could get a better look at his face. His baby appeared to be sleeping peacefully. If he hadn't seen the coffee table in shambles or heard the fear in Dean's voice, he never would have believed anything was amiss.

Hopefully this sleepwalking thing was a one night event. John knew in the morning he'd be surfing the internet for more information about it.

Trudging back to his room, John threw on more layers and grabbed a chair. It was going to be a long night.

-0-

Sam's head felt heavy so he propped his chin on his hand. His vision blurred as he stared at the white chalk on the blackboard, squinting to bring the scribbles into focus.

The air around Mrs. Thompson, standing in front of her desk in the corner of the classroom, shimmered with colors. Sam ground the heels of his hands into his eyes to dispel the strange aura. He couldn't figure out what his problem was but with each day he felt a little more fatigued and had trouble focusing on the most mundane things.

Sam had forgotten to take the trash out last night. It wasn't that he didn't want to take the trash out because he liked pitching in around the house and doing his fair share. He'd completely forgotten what day of the week it was and that the trash would be picked up the next morning. Sam suspected Dean had taken care of it for him but instead of his brother razzing him about his lapse, Dean had looked at him with concern.

His dad and Dean kept asking him how he was feeling and at first it had gotten on his nerves but when he looked in the mirror, he realized why they asked; his skin was pale and gaunt, stretched too tightly over his cheekbones. The scratches and bruises he'd suffered from his fall five days ago were fading but lent an abused look to him. He looked frail to his own eyes so it didn't surprise him that his family was riding him about his health.

The problem was that he didn't know what was wrong. His muscles and joints ached as though he had a low grade fever but he was cool and clammy, not warm. And he was exhausted. He could easily pillow his head on his arms and drift off. However, he didn't think his teacher would appreciate it if he slept during her Language Arts class.

One moment he was thinking about how tired he was and the next a hand was touching his shoulder, making him jump and blink where he sat. Mrs. Thompson tucked a strand of nutmeg brown shoulder length hair behind her ear and stared at Sam for a moment before speaking. "Sam, are you feeling okay?"

Sam mumbled a response. "I'm sorry. I didn't sleep well last night."

That at least wasn't a lie. According to Dean he'd taken to wandering the house at night. Sleepwalking. Sam wanted to deny that he was doing it but he had bruises on his shins that he couldn't account for and suspected that he'd been running into furniture or walls. And upon waking he had less energy than when he crashed at night. He didn't get it and couldn't pull his head together enough to figure out what was going on.

Mrs. Thompson wasn't going to let the matter drop. "Is everything okay at home?"

That question sent a tingle of alarm down Sam's spine. Well meaning teachers had tried to intervene in both Dean's and Sam's lives when they were younger; the bruises and injuries incurred on hunts weren't easily explainable sometimes and as mandated reporters they had to call social services when they felt the situation warranted it. Sam schooled his face into an easy smile. "Everything's great. We're really happy we moved here."

It suddenly occurred to Sam that he was having a personal conversation with his teacher during class in front of his classmates which was embarrassing. However, when he looked around he realized he was the only one in the classroom. He'd lost some time.

Sam grabbed his notebook and pen and slung it into the hastily snatched up backpack. "I'm so sorry, I'm late for gym class. I need to go."

Sam was in such a rush to make his next class on time that he didn't notice the way Mrs. Thompson's concerned gaze followed him out of the classroom.

-0-

It was the last period of the day and Dean kicked back in the lunchroom for study hall. Usually he would have ditched this period but he wanted to stick around and give Sammy a ride home. The kid had gym class and if Dean timed it right he could slip out and pick his brother up at the side door before the buses clogged up the parking lot.

Dean let his mind turn to his most pressing problem at the moment – Sammy. He didn't know if Sam had the flu or what was going on but every day he looked worse than the day before. And his little brother wasn't eating enough to keep a bird alive. Dean wasn't sure their dad had caught on to it yet and he hadn't squealed on Sam but if his little brother didn't perk up soon he'd have no choice then to rat him out.

Dean was startled out of his thoughts as the hottest teacher, at least in his opinion, walked up to where Dean was lounging by himself. "Excuse me, you're Dean Winchester, right?"

This was something new. He wasn't in Mrs. Thompson's class and the only time a teacher had sought him out before was to rag on him for not doing his homework. Perhaps his reputation as a ladies man had preceded him and this fine looking woman wanted to get to know Dean better. He was, after all, a prime physical specimen.

That line of thinking was squelched as Mrs. Thompson began speaking. "I've got Sam in my 7th period Language Arts class and he seems a little…"

Mrs. Thompson's voice trailed off as she searched for the right word. Dean didn't jump in and bail her out; he didn't want to make things easier for her, hot teacher or not, if she was thinking of calling social services on their family. Finally Mrs. Thompson finished her thought. "…Distracted. And unfocused. It's so unlike him. Sam is by far my best student in any class and he just doesn't seem himself. I wondered if everything was okay."

Dean found this conversation extremely disturbing. A complete stranger was now picking up on the changes in his baby brother. Distracted. Unfocused. Exhausted. Sickly. All adjectives that could be applied to Sam at the moment. Maybe it was time to drag Sam to a doctor.

The conversation was interrupted as a kid Dean knew, Jeremy, flew up to the table. "Coach Jenkins sent me to get you. Your brother collapsed while running laps and they've called an ambulance."

A punch to the solar plexus. Dean struggled to pull air into his lungs as he pushed himself to his feet. Something was wrong with Sammy. Seriously wrong. Without realizing it, Dean's jog turned into a sprint in his haste to get to his brother's side.

Dean pushed through a pack of guys who were loitering in the locker room by the door leading into the gym. It had been the shortest route to the gym but Dean was silently cursing the kids in his way. Didn't they have anything better to do than gawk at his sick brother? Like a bunch of rubber-neckers slowing down to get a good look at an accident.

Bursting onto the wood planked floor, Dean swiveled his head. There, up against the wall, Coach Jenkins was kneeling next to his brother. Dean sprinted over and skidded to a stop inches from Sam.

His brother was lying on his back, his hands awkwardly crossed over his chest, his feet resting on a stack of towels. Despite elevating his extremities, Sam's face was a sickly shade of white, the only color his dark eyebrows and lashes as well as the fading bruises and scratches.

Dean dropped down next to Coach. "What happened?"

As a senior Dean didn't have to take gym class but the coach had ruthlessly tried to recruit him for the football team when he'd seen Dean playing catch on the green lawn west of the school during lunch. Coach placed a hand on Dean's shoulder and rocked back on his heels before speaking in a slow, measured voice. "We had just started running laps and Sam pulled up short and leaned against the wall. I thought he was dogging it for some reason. I should have known better. Sam always gives a full out effort. So I told him break time was over and he made it maybe two steps before he just collapsed. One moment he was jogging and the next he was lying on his back. Not moving. Folded like a goddamned lawn chair. Never seen anything like it in all my years here. Sure, kids have been hurt on the playing field before but no one even touched him. It's crazy."

Coach's name was called and Dean kind of zoned out while he concentrated on his still brother before him. He reached out and took Sam's cool hand in his own, chafing it lightly, willing his brother to open his eyes. Dean was on the verge of trying to wake Sammy when a hand unexpectedly descended on his shoulder. Swiveling slightly, he saw the concerned blue eyes of Mrs. Thompson.

The teacher moistened her lips. "Coach is riding herd on the other students and I'm going to wait by the door for the ambulance. The front office contacted your dad and he's going to head straight to the hospital. I'll be right over there if there's a problem. If he wakes up again please just keep him calm."

Mrs. Thompson gave Dean an encouraging smile before she moved back toward the double doors leading into the gym from the main concourse. Dean watched her without really seeing her, dwelling on what she had said -- if he wakes up again. The prospect of Sammy not waking up was unacceptable but her words meant at some point Sam had opened his eyes and this comforted Dean.

But Dean would feel a whole lot better if he could see Sam's hazel eyes himself and he went about rousing him. "Hey, Sammy. It sure would be nice if you decided to join us. How about you open those eyes and let me know you're okay?"

Dean reached forward and swept Sam's bangs off his forehead so he could have a clear view of his brother's face and was rewarded for his efforts when his brother slowly blinked his eyes open. Sam stared at the ceiling of the gym dazedly.

Happy that Sam was awake but worried over his lack of response, Dean tried again. "Collapsing seems a pretty extreme method of getting out of running laps, don't you think, Sammy?"

Sam's head slowly turned Dean's voice and a small smile ghosted over his lips before he closed his eyes again. Panic filled Dean. "Hey, Sammy, no sleeping on the job."

The light-hearted words belied the frantic concern Dean felt. Sam's eyes blinked back open but his little brother wasn't really focusing on anything. And then he heard it. "Dean?"

Sam's voice was weak and bewildered and instead of making Dean feel better, it scared him. His little brother should have been telling him what happened and denying that there was anything wrong, begging not to see a doctor. That was the Winchester way. Anything but lying there passively.

A siren jarred him out of his reverie and relief coursed through him. The ambulance had arrived. Dean allowed himself to be pushed back but he refused to move too far from his brother's side. He watched as the paramedics took vitals, asked questions and loaded his brother onto a stretcher.

Dean doggedly followed the stretcher. He didn't like what happened to Sam when he let him out of his sight and he was determined to stick like glue.

TBC

A/N: If John, Dean and Sam seem slightly out of character it's because I wrote them the way I wanted to see them without much thought to canon. It's a birthday treat to myself.

Huge thanks to Gidgetgal9 and Faye Dartmouth – I owe them so much but I do a more thorough job of thanking them at the conclusion of the story.