Disclaimer: No part of anything Supernatural belongs to me.
As some of you know, this was written, in part, to fulfill a request from Thru Terry's Eyes. I understand that Gaelic Spirit's new story, Hear No Evil, may have been the inspiration for her request for 'special' Dean Stories. That gives Gaelic's story more than just the potential for overlap with mine, it more than likely has at least one plot similarity. Because of that, I have refrained, at great personal expense and suffering, from reading more than the first two paragraphs of Hear No Evil. That said, when you review and tell me how much better Gaelic's story is than mine – as if that was ever in question – please be sure that I didn't copy any part of her story knowingly.
A/N: This is set between Long-Distance Call and Time Is On My Side
A/N 2: My thanks to Merisha and Scotia as always for the beta and listening to me rant about the wait for the start of Season 4. Thank goodness, I had my little Impala from the Season 3 DVD set to tide me over the last few weeks.
He sat upright with a gasp, heart racing, breath heaving. Freaking nightmares. He couldn't remember much, he never could, but the feeling of fear and helplessness always followed him when woke up, leaking into the hotel room with him like the stench of a too fresh corpse being burned.
All he could remember, all he ever could remember was a kaleidoscopic replay of scenes - horrific images of Dad dying, Sam dying, Sam dead and cold … the red eyes and cold kiss of the demon, his own eyes pitch black. The Deal Dream, again.
For a moment, lying there, for just a moment, he knew, he knew that's all it was, a dream, it wasn't real. Sam never died and he wasn't going to hell. The relief was palpable, like he should see it falling off him like lead weights. He could hear Sam's regular breathing from the next bed. Everything was OK – it was just a dream. He fell back on the pillows, the tension left his shoulders and he felt like he was going to melt into the mattress. He threw his right arm over his eyes, groaning in relief.
Then it all came back, like a giant hand pressing him into the bed, forcing the breath out of his lungs. The fear and regret and sorrow were back, slicing him into ribbons again, flaying him alive again, and like too many other goddamn nights and mornings, the realization that it was real, done, and he's going to die, had him bolting for the bathroom, falling on his knees by the toilet and puking until he dry heaved.
He sat back against the tub, waiting for his breathing to change from labored gulps to something quieter. When he could, he stood, and began moving around the bathroom, now as silent as he was noisy before. He turned on the light, and rinsed his mouth and gargled, sure he could still feel vomit in the back of his throat. He realized some got in his nose and that almost set him off again.
He looked in the mirror. Sam'd better be asleep, because he looked like week old road kill. He washed his face, ran his wet hands through his hair, and toweled off hard, trying to get color back in his face. Another mirror check - still pale but better. Sam shouldn't notice anything. Dean turned off the fan and quietly opened the door.
Sam was awake, of course, just outside the door. He was sitting at the room's small table, leaning the chair back on two legs to lean against the wall. Waiting for him.
Dad always said the best defense was a good offense. "Trouble holding it, Samantha?"
Sam flipped on the table lamp. "The nightmare again?"
The flaw in his plan, of course, was that Dad also said the same thing to Sam. "Something I ate didn't agree with something I drank, that's all." He crossed to his bed and dropped onto his back, hands under his head.
"Dean, we are getting you out of this deal, you know that right?" Dean didn't want to look up. "Dean, I need you to trust me."
"Sam, I trust you…"
"I can hear the 'but'. Either you do or you don't."
"There's no 'but', Sam, I trust you. I've trusted you all my life. Hell, I even trusted you with my car. What I'm afraid of is that you'll do something that will get you killed trying to save me." He rubbed his eyes. There was no way out of the deal, and somewhere in the back of Sam's enormous brain, he must know that. "And even though you know how I live for these late night emo-fests, I really want to go back to sleep."
"So, the nightmare again?"
God, Sam was like a giant dog with a Dean bone in his mouth. He must have been awake for all of it. "Just the same old, same old. Nothing new for you to worry about." Sam walked over and handed him a glass of water and a couple of pills. He cocked an eyebrow and looked up at Sam. "And these would be…?"
"Antacids. You should start taking these every day if you don't want an ulcer."
Dean figured it was probably too late on the ulcer front but if it could help ease the almost constant pain in his gut – he shrugged and swallowed them. "Go back to bed. I'm fine. I'll be asleep again before you are."
Sam snorted. "No you won't. You'll lay there for a while, then when you think I'm asleep you'll get up and surf porn", but he did turn out the table lamp and climbed slowly back in bed, not taking his eyes off his brother. Sam lay down, but raised himself up on one elbow, still staring in Dean's direction.
Dean was sure that the glare Sam was directing at him would be more effective if the light was on. "That's not the only thing I do …"
Sam went on as if he hadn't spoken. "I don't mind, but if you are up, why don't you surf us up a non porn job?" He rolled over, turning his back to his brother.
Dean pulled a face, and rolling his eyes, mouthed back "surf up a non porn job" in his best imitation of Sam's hoity toityness before leaning back on the headboard. He did his best, he wanted to sleep. He counted little Sams, tried counting flanges, and hummed through three exorcisms and two binding spells to five different tunes. Nothing – usually the Latin reduced him to slack-jawed boredom. He undressed a few starlets, thought about Tara, thought about Tara some more, considered returning to the bathroom for some … changed his mind, and glanced at the clock.
Three o'clock. He tried counting their weapons in his head, which was way better than counting Sams most of the time, since he would usually fall asleep tangled up in trying to decide if a dream catcher was a weapon or a tool, and if that made a difference to its being a weapon. But tonight, still awake.
At least he could quit lying there - Sam was finally asleep. The kid had been faking for a while, but all that pretend deep breathing caught up with him like it always did. There was this kind of whuffling snort he only made right as he fell asleep. He'd been doing it since he was tiny and Dean was sure Sam still didn't know. It was just one of the million things on Dean's list of things he was never going to tell Sam.
Growing up Dean needed to know, he had had to know, when Sam was asleep, so he and Dad could talk about monsters and hunts, or patch each other up … that way he'd known for sure that Sam wouldn't be scared, wouldn't be hiding under the bed, maybe wouldn't remember the times their father rolled in hurt or drunk … Sam was big smiles, and millions of questions, and school, and homework, and games, and TV, not broken bones and stitches, and ugly murderous monsters. That came later, as late as Dean could make it for Sam.
He turned on the laptop and angled the screen away from Sam's bed. While he waited for the system to boot up, he snagged his Dad's phone from his duffel and plugged it into its charger. He never had changed the message on the phone. He couldn't. He'd find himself calling it every so often just to hear his Dad's voice – when he said 'call my son Dean, he can help' … it was like Dad trusted him. And how pitiful was that?
His dad was never one to hand out praise, so what little pieces he got, he held on to tight. In the years after Sam left for college and before Dad died, Dean could count on one hand the times Dad said something as simple as "You did good", and that included the time fucking Yellow Eyes said it pretending to be his father.
He snorted softly – Sam never did believe that that was how he had known it wasn't Dad. Dean never could quite convince his brother that their Dad really would have ripped him a new one for using that bullet. And that last conversation in the hospital, when he came to say what turned out to be his goodbye, well, that was just screwed to hell anyway. The message on the phone wasn't ambiguous. It wasn't 'I'm proud of you, now kill your brother for me if it goes belly up'. It was simply 'he can help'. Sometimes that was all he needed to stay sane.
Sam woke up slowly, stretching and yawning before he pulled himself from bed and checked on his brother. Dean was in bed, and asleep, which was a relief. As he walked past the laptop he felt it with his palm. Still warm – he looked back at his brother. Dean had probably been asleep no more than two hours. Even before Dean's nightmares, Sam had had plenty of times when he thought his brain would freeze solid with worry, but now with them …
God, it was such a relief when Dean finally admitted he wanted to live, but it was also so hard, sitting in that car, not to burst out laughing and say 'I told you so'' a thousand times. But it got him back to researching the way nothing else could have. And he was finally talking to his big brother all the time now – not the cardboard cutout with the big smile and dead-eyed game face he was so used to seeing the last year.
He got in the shower, and stretched out his shoulders and neck, leaning his arms against the tile wall. He was strung out - anxious, stressed, and frantic to find a solution to the deal - but at least he'd stopped drinking. His experiment at 'being' Dean with alcohol had been a disaster – hell, he couldn't hold three beers, and here he'd been drinking whiskey at eleven in the morning. And he hated whiskey.
But these nightmares – that was Dean being him, not the other way around. He was beginning to understand why his brother threatened to drug him to get him to sleep that year after Jess died. Dean didn't know it but on their last restocking run, while Dean was rooting through the suturing and bandaging supplies, Sam had not only picked up their usual antibiotics and painkillers, he'd also rifled through the rest of the prescription drugs and pocketed Phenobarbital and Flurazepam. He had the bottles now in his duffel, safely rolled up in his boxers, the only place Dean wouldn't look. He hoped.
His brother was mostly asleep when Sam came out of the bathroom, and only stirred enough to make sure that Sam was the one making the noise, before rolling over with a sigh. Sam left a note and grabbed the car keys on his way out the door. Dean would forgive him as long as he filled the tank and brought back several gallons of coffee. When he slipped back in, Dean was in the shower, so he took his customary spot in front of his laptop, idly picking up Dad's phone.
He tossed the charger on Dean's bed but before he tossed the phone over with it, he turned it on and let it power up. He booted up the laptop and was checking the browser history for Dean's late night hits, when the phone rang. He almost spilled his coffee. Maybe another call for Edgar Cayce.
He answered with a simple "Hello."
"John? John, you old son of a bitch. This is Ernie, Ernie Popkins in Nags Head. How are you?"
"This is Sam, John's son. What can I do for you?" He heard the bathroom door open, and Dean was by his side in a moment, still toweling off.
"Sam? Wait a minute, oh that's right, you were in college when I met John, weren't you? Can I talk to him?"
"No, he's not here …"
"Is Dean there?"
"Yeah, just a minute." He covered the mouthpiece and held the phone out to Dean, who had moved over to sit on the foot of Sam's bed. "It's someone named Ernie Popkins from Nags Head?"
Dean frowned in concentration for a second before recognition made his eyebrows go up. He grabbed the phone. "Hey, old man, this is Dean. How are you?"
Sam was treated to Dean's almost monosyllabic side of the conversation. Sometimes he wondered why Dean didn't just grunt and write in pictographs. 'Stick figure with spear' could mean hunt, a buffalo - hungry, two buffalos would be very hungry … Finally, after a litany of "yeah", "that's good", "sure", and "uh huhs", Dean looked up at Sam.
"Hang on a minute, Ernie." Like Sam, he covered the mouthpiece. "Sounds like a gig for us in North Carolina. Got something else on the fire?"
Sam shook his head.
"It'll take us about a day and a half to get there, Ernie. Let me make sure I have your number on my cell…" and the conversation dissolved into numbers, a juggled phone, and a few more grunts from his brother before he hung up. He stood and grabbed his clothes. "You can work on your tan again, Barbie" floated back to Sam before Dean closed the bathroom door behind him.
"Dean!" he yelled toward the door.
He heard a muffled "What?" before Dean stuck his head out of the door with his toothbrush in his mouth.
"Can I assume you didn't find a job on Busty Asian Beauties dot com?"
The only answer was an eye roll and a raised finger.
They were coming in to North Carolina from Illinois, Dean swinging them due south until they were past Kentucky and then east on I40 skirting Winston-Salem to the north, then looping south around the congestion of Raleigh-Durham. Sam watched the countryside turn to land so low laying he wondered why the ocean hadn't already reclaimed it. They were on NC 64 when Dean sat up a little bit and negotiated a right turn onto Route 11 south toward Greenville.
Sam raised his eyebrows at his brother, wishing once again that he could raise one eyebrow like Dean. He tried holding one down. "What's in Greensville?"
Sam waited but Dean didn't elaborate – but then Cro Magnan man wouldn't. "And you have a hankering for honey?"
Dean quirked up one side of his mouth and cut his eyes over to Sam. "Restaurant." He scratched his chin. "Shack mostly. Good barbeque."
"All we've eaten is barbeque since yesterday – you had it for breakfast." He was exasperated. "You've eaten at least one whole pig by now. Don't we need to get to Nag's Head?"
"Best barbeque, then. And it's only 30 minutes out of the way. I ate there a couple of years ago when you were in Stanford. Had a couple of spooks to track down – turned out to be Revolutionary War leftovers. Dad and I were here almost a month trying to find the gravesites."
Sam looked at over at Dean who'd grown unusually quiet.
Dean, still quiet, "It was a good hunt," then turned a broad smile on Sam. "I ate there at least a hundred times. I would dip myself in the sauce if they'd let me. It's like pig heaven, Sam. You'll love it."
"Sam, I may never be in this part of the country again, deal or no deal."
Sam winced but let his brother talk.
"Gotta admit, we don't do the coasts that much." He laughed and turned a little toward Sam. "Remember in M.A.S.H. when Hawkeye ordered the ribs?"
Sam shook his head. "I don't think I remember that one."
"He had them flown to Korea special. He said he kept a cut on his lip open for weeks just so the sauce could sting it? Remember that? That's the kind of food I'm talking about."
Sam resigned himself to another hour watching his brother in a Neanderthal carnivorous ecstasy – with sauce – but when they pulled up to the restaurant, he almost groaned. It really was a shack, paint peeling, a hand lettered sign, dirty windows … a dive.
"Come on, Sammy, we have to get in line. I'll hold our place while you play with your eyebrows, OK?"
Sam flipped him the bird but his brother's back was already to him. He went to open his door and almost hit the car next to them. Oh, nice. He wormed his way out of the car, and worked his way through the parking lot. It was packed, cars parked almost on top of cars, and up ahead he saw Dean getting into what appeared to be a long line. He had just tripped over some redneck's trailer hitch when the smell reached him. His mouth started to water – Pavlov was somewhere ringing a huge dinner bell.