Disclaimer: I own nothing. All credit for Supernatural freely and gratefully acknowledged to E. Kripke.
A/N: So this was originally just my little take on the finale. A simple two-shot. But as soon as I posted the second chapter, everyone seemed to assume there would be more. So. Here it is. It's not quite a tag to NRFTW because it will incorporate my solution to Dean going to hell, but the aftermath might track a little the way Kripke has it planned…
My apologies to anyone who reviewed and I didn't respond to. I very much appreciate the kind words, and they really do inspire me to keep writing. I promise to do better and answer any I may get for this.
Dean was screaming.
Dean didn't have nightmares and if he did, the most they ever wrenched out of him was a grunt. So Sam was disoriented, his mind heavy and sluggish with sleep. Was he dreaming? Dreaming of Dean in Hell? No. Dean wasn't in Hell. Dean was here.
Dean was screaming!
Sam leapt out of bed, turned on the lamp, and quickly crossed to his brother's bed in one continuous and fluid motion. Dean's body was rigid, his eyes firmly shut and he was still screaming.
"Dean!" Sam grabbed his brother's shoulders, shaking him firmly, trying to get him to wake up.
"Dean! Wake up! You're dreaming! It's ok; you're safe now," Sam didn't know what to do, so he did what he did best, he kept talking. Well he was shouting, trying to be heard over Dean's screams. Sam was sure that Dean was waking the entire motel.
Suddenly, Dean's eyes flew open. He gave Sam one look of abject and unknowing terror before scooting back as far and as fast on the bed as he possibly could. His breath was coming in harsh pants.
Dean's backward flight came to an abrupt and, Sam had to assume, painful end when he slammed into the headboard of the bed. Dean's tortured gaze left Sam's face to dart about the room, seeking imagined horrors.
"Dean! Dean. Dean? You're okay. I'm right here." Sam tried to sooth, using his best reassuring, calm voice.
Dean's haunted gaze came back to Sam and then his next words were a like a punch to his gut.
"Who? Who are you? Where am I?" Dean's voice was weak and breathless, ragged from the screaming and still coming between harsh pants.
"Dean? It's me. Your brother. Sam. Sammy," Sam kept his voice quiet and even, keeping his own raging emotions out of it. Sam let his love for his brother come through in his voice. He kept the shock from his face of seeing his indestructible brother cringing and with terror shining in his eyes. Sam couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Dean show any fear of or for anything. Well, there was that time on the plane...
"Dean?" Sam tried again, gently placing a hand on his brother's leg. Dean flinched but allowed the touch. Sam could feel that Dean was trembling violently.
"Ss...ss..Sam...mmmy?" Dean managed to stutter, some recognition creeping into the gaze still firmly planted on Sam.
"Yeah Dean. That's right. It's me. Sammy."
"What...took...so...long?" Dean's voice was still barely a whisper.
"I'm sorry. It took me a couple of minutes to realize you were having a bad dream. I guess I was more tired than I thought," Sam explained.
"Not tonight." Dean's eyes were still darting around the room, though they were pausing for longer on Sam.
"What? I don't understand," Dean's response seemed to be a complete non sequitur. His disorientation was starting to worry Sam. Dean was shivering again, too.
"Are you cold, Dean?" Sam kept repeating his brother's name in an attempt to help ground him in the present.
"Yeah. Ssso cccold," Dean's teeth stated to chatter as if the mere mention of being cold had made him colder. Sam grabbed the comforter off of his own bed and wrapped it around Dean's shoulders.
At least he didn't try to back away or flinch that time, Sam thought.
Dean scrubbed a hand over his face and into his hair. It was a gesture that was so Dean-like that it made Sam's heart ache. He watched as Dean gave himself a mental kick in the ass.
"Sorry Sam. You should go back to bed. I know you were tired," Dean's voice was still quiet but sounded more Dean-like.
"Do you want to go back to sleep?" Sam asked. "Do you want me to get you something hot to drink?"
"No thanks. I'm fine. I might sit up for a bit. I'm not really tired anymore."
"Do you want me to sit up with you? Do you want to talk about it Dean?" Sam desperately wanted his brother to talk to him. The dark circles that had formed under Dean's eyes clearly indicated that he was still exhausted. Sam surmised that Dean just wanted to make sure he didn't end up back in the nightmare.
"No, Sam. Please. You said you wouldn't press," Dean's voice was almost a whine and Sam was so stunned, he just stared for a moment. "Please just go back to sleep."
"Ok. If that's what you want. Do you want the tv on?" Sam couldn't help but be hurt by Dean's pushing him away.
"Thanks. Are you sure it won't bother you?"
"It's ok, Dean." Sam stood and picking up the remote turned the tv on and handed the remote to his brother. Dean managed a small smile. He immediately turned the sound down so it was almost muted and began channel surfing.
Sam climbed back into his bed, convinced he'd never get back to sleep.
"Night Sam. Thanks."
"Night." Sam hoped that Dean would nod off and get some more sleep.
Dean was screaming.
This time Sam was ready for it and jumped out of bed more quickly. He didn't have to turn on the light this time. He'd left it on when he'd gone back to bed. The tv was also still on and the light of early morning was seeping in around the curtains.
Sam approached his brother. This time the screaming had given way to pleading.
"No. Please. Don't. No. Not again. Please..." Sam wished for the screaming back.
"Dean! Dean?" Sam grasped his brother by the shoulders again in an attempt to wake him.
Suddenly, Dean thrust out with both his hands, catching Sam squarely in the chest and sending him flying off the bed. This time when Dean scrambled backward, wild-eyed, he kept going off the bed, over Sam's bed and came to rest in the corner of the room. Once again, he seemed completely disoriented.
As Sam picked himself up, he made sure to do so as slowly as possible.
"Hey. Dean? You ok, buddy? Had another dream?" Sam kept his voice quiet and reassuring, waiting and hoping to see recognition in his brother's eyes. He kept his body low to the floor to appear less intimidating.
Dean was pressing himself into the corner in what appeared to be an attempt to simply push right into it and disappear. Sam noticed a fine sheen of sweat on his brother's face. Dean was shaking and Sam knew that it wasn't all due to Dean's inability to get warm.
"Dean?" Sam tried to reach his brother again. He was met with another wild stare and Dean's hitched breathing. Sam slowly reached out to touch Dean's leg.
"NO!" Dean recoiled as if Sam had made to hit him. Dean closed his eyes as if anticipating a blow.
"Dean, it's ok. Nobody's going to hurt you. I'm not going to hurt you," Sam could barely keep the tremble out of his own voice. Sam waited for Dean to open his eyes.
Finally, Dean opened his eyes. It looked to Sam like he was waking up. He blinked hugely, looking around disoriented but at least not panic stricken.
"Hey. You with me?"
"Why are we on the floor?" Sam actually chuckled at the look on Dean's face that was somewhere between pissed off and confused.
"Mostly your choice, Dude. Want a hand up?" Sam stood and offered a hand to his brother. Dean hesitated just a second before taking Sam's hand. He was glad that he had though as the sudden change in altitude made the room spin and tilt around him. Sam brought his other hand up to Dean's shoulder to steady him. He was immediately aware of the heat radiating off his brother.
"You feel ok? You seem really warm," Sam probed gently.
"Funny, cuz I feel like I'm freezing." Dean's teeth were almost chattering again.
"I think you've got a fever," Sam helped his brother back to his bed. Dean gratefully sat back against the headboard, pulling the blankets back up on himself.
"Well, that's my luck all over, isn't it? Beat death. Beat Hell, and end up with a cold!" Dean snorted.
"Sounds about right," Sam agreed, thinking that his brother would be lucky if the only thing he caught in hell was a cold and knowing that Dean could never be that lucky.
"Well, seeing as we're both up and it's at least technically morning, how about I see about rounding us up some coffee?" Sam suggested.
"Sure. Sounds good," Dean agreed.
"Do you want me to run you a bath before I go so you can warm up a bit?"
"No. Thanks. 'M good." Dean had picked up the remote and was aimlessly surfing again.
When Sam came back, he might as well have blinked as been gone for half an hour as Dean was still staring at the television as the channels flicked by. He barely acknowledged Sam's return.
"Want your coffee there, or do you want to sit at the table?" Sam asked.
"Here, I guess," Dean finally looked at Sam.
Sam was a little concerned. Dean's face was pale except for two red spots on his cheeks. His freckles stood out starkly across the bridge of his nose. All sure signs that he wasn't well. Sam handed Dean a steaming cup of coffee and set a bag with donuts, sticky buns, and a Danish on the night table.
"Thanks," Dean said, gratefully taking the coffee and gently cradling it next to himself, breathing in the aroma and enjoying its warmth. He ignored the bag.
"Welcome. Thought you might be a bit hungry. We can get a proper breakfast once Bobby makes an appearance."
"Sure." Dean's voice was flat. He turned his attention back to the tv.
Sam tried not to sigh as he went back over to the table. He sat down and surfed the internet as he ate his donuts and drank his coffee. He wasn't really looking for a hunt. It was too soon for Dean, but the demons they'd let out were still out there. Still their responsibility.
Sam had just finished his shower and come out of the bathroom when Bobby knocked and entered the room.
Sam noticed Dean's sharp intake of breath and his snapping to attention.
"Hey Bobby," Sam greeted.
"You boys sleep ok?" Bobby smiled but his keen gaze lingered on Dean.
"Yeah. Not too bad," Sam replied. Dean remained quiet.
"You boys up for heading for my place today, or do you want to stay here another day or so? Once we get to my place, it'll give you a chance to regroup and we can figure out where to go from here," Bobby's voice was gruff and his tone was his most no nonsense one. Sam couldn't help but smile.
"Thanks, Bobby. I think I'd prefer to head out as soon as possible. How about you Dean?" Sam tried to draw Dean in.
"Yeah. Um. Today'd be great. Thanks." Dean finally offered. "Guess I should grab a shower and get dressed." He pulled the blankets off of himself and swung his feet to the floor.
"Are you sure you're up for that?" Sam hovered anxiously.
"Only one way to find out Sammy," Dean said as he stood up. Dean briefly closed his eyes as the room tilted and he waited for the sensation to pass. He was pleased when things settled down and he was still on his feet. He gave Sam a tight smile, grabbed some clean clothes and his kit from his duffle and disappeared into the bathroom.
"Call if you need help, Dean. Don't lock the door."
Not gonna happen,Sammy. I'm not having you coming in to check on me, Dean thought.
Dean turned the water on as hot as he thought he could stand it and gave it a minute to warm up the room. He glanced in the mirror and wished he hadn't.
He was pale, his eyes sunken in dark sockets. His beard was a little more than the stubble he usually wore. It was his face. He was sure of it, and yet, he didn't recognize himself. He quickly turned from the mirror, unable to face the haunted image staring back at him.
"How bad was it?" Bobby asked.
"What," Sam raised an eyebrow at the older hunter.
"Last night. Neither of you looks like you slept." Bobby hadn't failed to notice the bags and dark circles under Sam's eyes.
"Couple nightmares. Pretty bad." Sam felt a little like he was breaking a confidence, but Dean hadn't said not to tell Bobby. Bobby was family after all.
"Hmm. That all?"
"He just seemed kind of... out of it when he first woke up. And he's got a fever."
"Well, we knew there'd be after effects. We'll just have to keep a close eye on him," Bobby said.
"Without looking like we're keeping an eye on him," Sam rolled his eyes. He knew how stubborn his big brother was. How much he always resisted anyone looking out for him.
"You know, Bobby, it's kinda weird."
"Dean hasn't asked anything about how we got him out." Sam turned his worried gaze to Bobby. Bobby just raised his eyebrows and didn't say anything.
Dean looked a little better after his shower. Sam noticed a couple of extra layers of clothing but his general colour was better and he seemed a lot steadier and less shakey.
They checked out of the motel and decided to stop at a truck stop on the edge of town for breakfast.
"Ok if I drive, Dean?" Sam asked. He didn't think that Dean was up to driving, but he was prepared to let him drive at least as far as the truck stop because he figured he'd be dying to get back behind the Impala's wheel.
"Fine." Sam was stunned at Dean's complete indifference.
Bobby followed them in his truck to the truck stop.
Dean was quiet, picking at his food more than eating it. He showed no interest in their well endowed and bubbly twenty-something waitress. Sam and Bobby exchanged looks.
"You ok, Dean?" Sam asked quietly.
"Other than you staring at me and asking that every ten minutes? Yeah. I'm fine." Dean growled back, surprising Sam.
"I'm concerned, ok? You didn't eat much and you're squinting like you have a headache. You look like you still have a fever too." Sam was trying to be understanding. Dean sighed.
"Sorry. I guess I do have a bit of a headache." Dean dropped his eyes to the table.
Sam reached in his pocket, pulled out a bottle, shook out a couple of ibuprofen and pushed them across the table to his brother.
"Thanks," Dean took the pills and smiled at his brother.
When they went back out to the car, Dean just climbed into the passenger seat.
"Want a blanket?" Sam asked as he climbed behind the wheel.
"I'm not five, Sammy," Dean ground out, reaching in the glove compartment for his glasses. Sam was a little taken aback again by the annoyance radiating off of his brother.
"Ok, then," Sam decided to just let it go – to give his brother the space he'd asked for. At least, he'd do it for now – but not forever.
Dean just grunted and scrunching down in his seat, he leaned his head back on the seat, effectively shutting his brother out. Sam wasn't particularly surprised by his brother's reluctance to want to care and share. In fact, if Dean had suddenly become all emo on him, he'd be even more concerned. What did have him concerned was the fact that Dean had made no move to put any music on.
"Do you want a tape in, Dean?"
"Whatever," came Dean's indifferent reply and Sam was officially worried. Dean remained silent, but his breathing didn't even out into sleep for quite some time.
They'd been on the road for about three hours when Dean started muttering. Sam glanced at his brother and noticed that sweat had beaded on his forehead. His face was still pale. Sam knew better than to touch his brother when he was sleeping, so he opted not to check his forehead for fever. When Dean's muttering changed to moaning and seemed likely to be about to escalate to screaming again, Sam threw caution to the winds and grabbed his brother's shoulder.
"Dean! Wake up, man. Dean! You're dreaming!" Sam shook his brother with increasing force, getting no reaction.
Suddenly, Dean sat bolt upright. He leapt so violently that he almost brained himself on the windshield. His breath was coming in harsh pants; his eyes darted around the car, and then he flung himself into the passenger door so hard Sam was afraid he was going to eject himself. The car swerved violently, but Sam maintained control.
"Easy Dean! It was just a dream. You're in the Impala. You're safe!" Sam eased the Impala to the side of the road. He was sure Bobby would have noticed the car lurching all over the road. He checked the rear view mirror and sure enough Bobby was pulling up behind.
Dean was slumped against the passenger door. He removed the sunglasses and scrubbed his hand over his face and up into his hair. He licked his lips. His breathing was still ragged, but Sam could hear him try to rein it back in to normal. Sam rolled down his window as Bobby came up beside the car.
"Everything ok?" Bobby asked.
"Um, yeah," Sam hesitated.
"Sorry," Dean offered. "I startled Sam. You know what a girl he can be." Dean managed a half hearted smirk.
Sam was a little taken aback by Dean's half truth. He looked up at Bobby and smiled sheepishly. He knew immediately by the look on Bobby's face that he wasn't buying it. Bobby was nobody's dummy, however, and knew better than to press the issue, he just narrowed his eyes thoughtfully.
"We'll be to my place in a couple of hours, so try not to give yourself a heart attack before then. Pull off if you need to take a break or want to get some grub," Bobby said, patted the window and slowly made his way back to his truck.
"Do you want to take a break, Dean? Stop, get some food?"
"I'm good," Sam pulled back onto the highway. He couldn't stop himself from glancing sideways at his brother who sighed.
"I'm fine, Sam. It was just dream, ok?"
"If it was just a dream, why didn't you tell Bobby that?"
"Because one of you mother-henning me to death is enough? And I don't like to bring bad dreams up to Bobby, ok?"
"Oh. Ok." Sam had to admit that made sense after Bobby's experience with the African dreamroot. In fact, it was downright sensitive on Dean's part. Sam narrowed his eyes. He was pretty sure he was being played, but he'd let that go for now too.
"How's the head? Do you think you still have a fever?" Sam couldn't help himself. He couldn't just sit back and do nothing, not when his brother wouldn't look after himself.
"I'm fine, Sam. Drop it." Dean's voice was low and Sam knew he'd pushed too far. Dean turned his shoulders away from Sam and stared determinedly out the passenger window, shutting his brother out.
Dean didn't know what to do with the restless feelings stirring within himself. He was bone tired but didn't want to sleep. He drew comfort from just being in the Impala and drawing in its familiar smell and feeling its familiar rumble. He drew comfort from Sam too, but for some reason, Sam was also irritating him to the point where he thought he might scream. But then, he'd had enough of screaming for the time being too.
So Dean settled into the comforting leather and tried to do anything but think. He was cold and regretted not letting his brother get him a blanket. He did his best not to Sam see his tremors and shivers.
They travelled the rest of the way to Bobby's in silence. Sam put a tape in. Dean made no comment, not that Sam had expected he would, after all he'd put in Metallica.
They all climbed stiffly out of their vehicles after pulling into the scrap yard. Dean and Sam grabbed their duffles and followed Bobby into the house.
"I'll get us something to eat. TV dinners ok?" Bobby said over his shoulder as he made his way into the kitchen.
"That's great. Thanks Bobby," Sam smiled and moved to put his things in the room he always shared with Dean at Bobby's.
"I'm just gonna grab a quick shower before dinner," Sam said as he rummaged for some clean clothes. "How's your head? The ibuprofen is still in my jacket if you need some more.
"I'm good. I think I'll just get some fresh air," Dean said and left the room.
Sam stared after his brother and shrugged. He'd promised to give Dean time. It wasn't the first time Dean had asked it of him. This time, Sam vowed he would respect his brother's wishes.
Dean made his way quietly through the familiar house that was almost like a home to him. He didn't want to have to talk to Bobby any more than he'd wanted to talk to Sam. He hadn't lied to Sam. He didn't really remember what had happened to him. It came in sharp flashes of images that hurt both mentally and physically. The dreams hurt worse, and they weren't quick.
He was shaking again but the cooler air outside was irresistible. The house was unbearably claustrophobic.
When Sam came down from the shower, Bobby stuck his head out of the kitchen.
"Want to grab your brother? I think these things are about as edible as they're going to get."
"Sure, Bobby. Um…any idea where he is?"
"Front porch," Bobby said as he jutted his chin in that direction.
Sam stepped out and found Dean sitting on the steps gazing out into the scrap yard.
"I guess this is the perfect sunset for you, huh?" Sam quipped, indicating the view of decaying metal.
"Hmmmm," Dean gave a weak chuckle and smile.
Sam laid a comforting hand on Dean's shoulder. He could feel Dean tense, so he massaged gently and was rewarded with a bit of relaxation. Sam let his hand fall from his brother's shoulder and sank down beside him. He could feel Dean's tremors and shivers. Before he could suggest going in, Dean spoke.
"I don't get it." Dean's voice was quiet.
"Why don't we look older?"
"Well, it was a hell of a week. I don't think any of us look our best," Sam's puzzlement grew.
"Week?" It was Dean's turn to frown and look confused.
"Yeah, Dean, you were gone a week," Sam quietly stated. "I told you that before."
Dean looked at his brother clearly stunned. "What?" he finally managed. He didn't remember Sam having told him that before.
"You were gone a week," Sam repeated.
"No." Dean barely breathed the word.
"How long did you think you were gone?" Sam asked, his voice matching the volume of his brother's.
"Years," Sam barely caught the words as Dean breathed them out. It was Sam's turn to look stunned.
"What?" Sam was sure he hadn't heard correctly.
"I…I…it…felt…years. Seven years." Sam barely heard the words and wished he hadn't. Dean's anguished gaze finally met his brother's and Sam's heart broke all over again.
A/N2: I know, this is a bit slow. I've been writing and tweaking this for almost two weeks now, and I'm still not entirely sure I like it. This is a bit of a set up for what is to come. Please be patient, I really do have some action planned! Well, that is if anyone feels like it's worth it for me to continue… There are a lot of NRFTW tags out there already, so if this is just wasting space let me know – I'll take resounding silence as an indication too. If you like and want more, please take a moment to review….