Sam bolted up in bed, gasping for air, her name on his lips. His eyes immediately went to the ceiling, but Jess wasn't there. Not anymore.
Yet the nightmares wouldn't stop.
He sighed and ran a shaky hand through his hair. His fingers touched sweat on his forehead, and he hung his head. He'd really been hoping to sleep tonight; after running from a poltergeist, he was exhausted, and sleep had sounded wonderful. His bed had never looked so good.
So much for that plan. Looked like Sam the Insomniac was still a go.
It had been four months, but the nightmares were still as intense as ever. He could feel the flames above him, the heat pressing against his face and making him want to close his eyes. They were glued, though, to Jess, and even when his eyes would tear up from the smoke and fire, he couldn't look away. He'd scream and reach up, trying to pull her down, but she'd always be too far away. She'd speak to him, beg him to tell her why. Her hair fanned out on the ceiling, her face in speechless horror, and the fire swelling to consume the entire room-
"You comin' over here, or am I gonna have to go over there?"
Sam raised his head at his brother's voice. Dean was on his side, fully awake and watching Sam. Just like he had that night when he'd made the offer, thirteen years ago. Apparently, when he'd said it still held when they were older, he hadn't been kidding. Dean looked as serious as could be.
He gazed at Dean for a few moments, then finally slid the sheets aside, stepping over to Dean's bed. Maybe he wasn't nine anymore, but maybe Dean could still guard him and keep him safe from the fires.
Dean's eyes shot open at the gasp, but when he saw that it was only Sam and a nightmare as the cause, he allowed his heart to calm back down. Sam was breathing heavily himself, rubbing at his face with his good hand. If he rubbed with the other hand now, he'd get a fist full of plaster.
Freakin' zombie bitch.
Rustling of covers made Dean look back up as Sam resettled himself in bed. He shifted a couple of times, muttered something uncomplimentary when his cast got stuck and twisted in the sheets, then settled on his right side, facing the wall, like he did every night. Dean closed his eyes to go back to sleep.
Then froze, his eyes opening again. This wasn't the first time Sam had tossed and turned before falling asleep after a nightmare. He'd been doing it ever since the accident. He'd been dealing with the nightmares on his own for quite awhile now, and Dean hadn't kept his promise.
Yeah, Sam was a big boy now, twenty-three years old, not a frightened nine year old shivering under the blankets, but this wasn't how they worked.
He slid out of his bed and once he was within reach, stretched his arms out and gave Sam a shove. Sam started, head whipping around in defense, before he realized it was Dean. The look quickly faded into a look of 'what the hell?' "What the hell, Dean?" Sam said, as if Dean hadn't been able to read the look.
"Move over," Dean said, falling onto the bed and shifting to get comfortable. Then a thought occurred to him, and he turned a glare on Sam. "You hit me in your sleep with your freakin' cast, and I'll hit you with it back."
Sam wasn't giving him a glare back, though; his face was softening, before he gave Dean a small smile. "I know what you're doing, and you don't have to," he said quietly. "I'm not a kid anymore, Dean. Go on back to bed."
Even beyond the smile, though, Dean could see the sorrow in his brother's eyes. He was saying it because he thought it was what Dean wanted to hear. Dean knew better, though. Sam hadn't complained last year, and he certainly hadn't been a kid then.
Besides, Sam thinking he could deal with the nightmares on his own was the very thing that had led to the pact between them some thirteen, fourteen years ago.
"Tough," was all Dean said, before turning on his side towards Sam and closing his eyes. He could hear nothing, then Sam rustled the sheets, and Dean could feel him laying back down. He could hear Sam's quiet breathing, and it lulled him towards sleep.
Ten minutes later, Sam whispered, "Thank you." He didn't get a response, and he probably hadn't been expecting one. He didn't say stuff like that in front of Dean, because it was supposed to not be necessary. This was just what brothers did.
Lately, though, they'd sort of lost sight of what that was, forgotten what it meant to be brothers.
Dean pretended he'd been asleep so he hadn't heard it, and pretended even harder that it hadn't hurt so much that Sam had had to say the words out loud.
When he woke up, he stopped the scream that threatened to burst out of him, but lost the battle to the sob. He managed to choke that back too, though. Not for very long.
His eyes immediately flew over to Dean, who was sleeping in the bed beside him. Not torn up into pieces. Not bleeding out in the middle of a crossroad, hell hounds pulling his limbs off. Not staring sightlessly up into the sky until one of the hell hounds began tearing at his face.
Sam stumbled out of his bed and literally crawled into Dean's, the sobs breaking through the wall he'd erected. He wrapped his fist around Dean's shirt and held on, bowing his head as his body shook.
Then arms came around him, pulling him into a hug Dean would never admit to in daylight. "Whoa, whoa, hey," Dean tried, but Sam couldn't stop. He couldn't let Dean go off on his own at the end of the year, but he refused to watch Dean go like that, either.
He didn't want Dean to go at all.
Dean was whispering his name and murmuring assurances now. "C'mon Sammy, you're breaking the pact here," Dean said, and Sam could hear the attempted smile in his voice. "You have a nightmare, you come to me, sleep happens. Don't go rocking the boat here. You're only supposed to cry when I'm not here, dude. And I'm right here."
"But you won't be," Sam whispered miserably. "That's the whole point, Dean."
Dean was silent now, but after a moment, his arms tightened around Sam. He'd figured it out, then. Sam shut his eyes and tried to breathe evenly.
"I'll be there for you until the last possible second," Dean whispered, breaking the silence. "That's the way I've always had it planned. Even before I ever made the deal."
Sam's throat tightened again, but not out of fear this time. "You hear me?" Dean continued. "Last freakin' second, and I'll be there. I swear, Sammy. Okay?"
Sam nodded. Dean exhaled softly. "Okay. Now get some sleep. Don't screw that part of the pact up."
"Jerk," Sam muttered, but he was breathing easier now, and the tears were slowing to nothing.
He couldn't help the small smile when Dean answered fondly with, "Bitch."