Summary: Set after Dean returns from his trip 'down-under'. Dean begins to act strangely. He's mean, he's cruel, he's not himself. Has Sam done something wrong? Is Dean suffering from being in hell? Or is there more going on than Sam realises?
Dedication – This story is written solely and purely for TraSan, it's a request she made for me over a year ago and I'm finally getting around to it! So thank you, TraSan, for all the love and support and friendship that you've shown me over the time we've known each other and I hope you know how much you've changed my life. You're really important to me and I'm comforted to know that, throughout everything I've gone through, you're out there supporting to me and ready to listen.
Just as a matter of interest, the following dedication was what I originally wrote over a year ago when I first sat down to write this story. It is also all that was written back then! Here it is:
"DEDICATION: To TraSan! This story was requested by TraSan. One day I wake up in the morning and find an email waiting for me from my friend and fav writer… and I smile. I always smile when I get emails from her, only when I open it… well, suddenly my brain is overwhelmed with ideas as I read and she's requested one very simple type of story, only it's never that easy with me. Two things is all she's asked for, and suddenly this story was conceived and now I have a migraine that will only go away if I do it justice and let the ideas flow. So, I hope you like this story, and I really hope it's what you were after hun! Sit back, enjoy… and don't eat my cookie Hey, you still owe me a donut! Lol
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural. I don't own Dean (sad). I don't own Sam (still sad). I don't own the Impala… and I don't own anything that you've ever seen on the show. I don't own the initial concept of this story either, since that was provided to me by the ever lovely TraSan… but I will lay claim to the story that follows!"
A/N – I've never used a beta before, but for this very special project I have asked a good friend of mine and TraSan's, Muffy Morrigan, to beta for me. She said yes, thankfully, because TraSan has made a big difference to her life too. So a big thank you to Muffy for all her help, and wow, you're right… I do… use… them a… lot! Lol
A/N 2 – Set before Dean tells Sam that he remembers everything about what happened to him in Hell. Sam does NOT know that Dean remembers.
Sam Winchester was curled up in his bed, warm and snug with the blankets wrapped around him. It wasn't often the beds they slept in were comfortable, but this motel was blessed with beds that just seemed to mould to any body perfectly. Sam could swear the bed was made for him specifically and not just intended for any random traveller to crash into in a heap of exhaustion at the end of a day.
The hunt had been simple, or, at least it was supposed to be.
A simple salt and burn. An elderly man had gone insane from syphilis some time in the 1790s. For fifteen years he brought prostitutes and bar wenches home, tortured and killed them until he finally died in early September 1796. His body hadn't been discovered for over a month when someone had finally reported him missing.
What had never been found were the bodies buried in the basement of the old man's mansion. At least, until Sam and Dean had come along. The ghost of the old man was often seen on the grounds, terrorising the tourists and grounds-keepers that worked in the old building. It was falling to ruin, but it was used as a historical tourist attraction. It was famous for the man who had made his fortune from running several bars in the district and investing heavily in wine and other expensive liquor. Many of the tourists came intrigued by the rumour of a ghost haunting the grounds, and some of them had fallen victim to the old man himself. Their presence alone added to the mystery and legend.
Many of his present day victims had been treated in the psychiatric ward at the hospital for at least a week, if not longer. Except for one, the first victim. She was still there, three years after she had been trapped on the grounds over night with the old man's ghost.
Sam shuddered, his peace interrupted by the memory of his interview with the poor woman who grew pale when Sam had explained why they were there to see her. She had immediately started to shiver so strongly it looked like she was having some kind of convulsion.
"We need to know what you saw, Sally," Dean pushed further. Sam put his hand on his brother's arm as Dean leaned forward in his chair, conveying the urgency of the situation. Sam knew Dean was right. They did need to know what had happened to the woman, so that when they went to salt and burn the old man's body they could be prepared for whatever he could throw at them. But Sam saw something in Sally's eyes that Dean didn't, or wouldn't, see.
"Dean, don't," Sam spoke so quietly that Dean glanced at him. "She's terrified, Dean, look at her."
"Sam, this is important. We've talked to the others, but none of them were in the same situation as Sally, they don't have the same experience! Hell, half of them don't even remember!" Dean sighed and scrubbed his hands over his face, releasing Sally's hand in the process. "I'm sorry, Sally… Look, we're trying to make sure that this never happens to anyone else… We really need to know what happened to you… can you tell us?"
Sam rolled over in his bed, all comfort from the heavenly mattress gone, replaced with a pain in his stomach that he didn't want to think about, didn't want to remember. A pain that had started moments after speaking to Sally and had continued ever since. He knew this hunt was bad, he knew it hadn't gone well, even if it did seem to have been a text book case. It was simple, straightforward. Go in, find grave, dig grave, salt and burn the body. Simple. Done and dusted.
What wasn't simple was how it was impacting him.
A nurse came running over when Sally started whimpering, covering her face with her hands, rocking in her seat.
"You have to leave now," the nurse stated, putting an arm protectively around Sally's shoulders. "I warned you not to upset her, I warned you she was vulnerable… What did you say?"
Dean had the good sense to look sheepish, even guilty, but he didn't say anything. Sam waited for him to speak, but Dean said nothing.
Sam sighed and turned to the nurse.
"I'm so sorry," he said simply and honestly. He turned to Sally and put his hand on her shoulder gently. "I'm so sorry to upset you, Sally. Try and get some rest."
The sincerity in Sam's voice caught the nurses' attention, and she glanced up at him. She opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off as the orderly slipped a needle into Sally's arm. As the medicine flowed easily into her veins, she looked up at Sam with tears pooling in her eyes and slipping down her cheeks.
"You have to stop him," she whispered, pain etched into her face in fine lines around her eyes.
Sam nodded his promise, but Dean stepped towards Sally again.
"Dean," Sam warned him.
"Sally," Dean began, ignoring Sam. "What did he do to you?"
"Dean, come on," Sam insisted, pulling her away.
"Sam, we have to find out what happened before this guy kills someone!" Dean yelled, pushing Sam away. "She knows what he does, she can give us information that could save your life if things get bad!"
"You can't put her through this, Dean," Sam insisted. "You have to back off! We've dealt with this sort of thing before, we'll manage."
"Know your enemy, Sam," Dean growled. "You know you have to go into a hunt with all the information, you know a lack of information can get you killed."
"I know this woman has been through enough!" Sam snapped at last. "Whatever he did to her…"
Sally launched to her feet in spite of the sedatives coursing through her veins. She ripped her hospital shirt open and stood half naked before them, gasping for breath. This time her gasps were from anger rather than fear.
"THIS!" she cried, screamed at the top of her lungs. Sam and Dean stood dumbfounded, staring at the woman's bare breasts, the curve around her hip that would normally be enough to turn any man weak at the knees. She should have been beautiful, stunning, sexy as hell and yet whatever had happened to her had left her disfigured beyond human imagination. "THIS is what he did to me!"
Sam turned onto his back, throwing one arm over his eyes as if trying to force the image of Sally's disfigured form out of his mind. She had never told them what the old man had done to her to cause those scars, but Sam also knew that some of them were self-induced.
"Can't sleep?" Dean asked, his voice gravelly from sleep. "Sam, you've got to get this woman out of your head. It's not your fault."
Sam sighed again.
"Seriously, Sam, it's not your fault," Dean insisted. Sam heard him shift and glanced over at him. He was sitting on the edge of his bed, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Sam glanced at the clock between their beds. It was 3 a.m… again. 3 a.m. Always 3 a.m. "Sam, you're going to kill yourself if you keep this up. Get over it, okay? It's another hunt over with, successfully I might add, and aside from a few bumps and bruises we're okay. Ready for the next hunt."
"Okay?" Sam asked, sitting upright and glaring at Dean. "Successful? What exactly about this hunt was successful?"
"The ghost is dead," Dean reminded him. "And I count that as a success."
"A ghost is dead," Sam repeated, nodded slowly. He swallowed hard, trying to rid himself of the painful lump in his throat. "A ghost is dead… but a woman is dead, too, Dean."
Dean opened his mouth to argue, but snapped it shut again. Sam saw him shake his head before getting up and padding across the floor to the bathroom, muttering something under his breath.
Sam wasn't sure if he heard Dean right.
He really hoped he'd heard wrong.
He could've sworn…
It couldn't have been…
"The damn ghost is dead, what more does the asshole want?"
An hour had passed. Dean had returned to bed after a flush of the toilet. His breathing had immediately evened out into the deep breathing of sleep. Sam couldn't understand him, he couldn't figure out what was up with his brother. He'd been acting strange for two weeks now, two weeks at least! It was nothing Sam could really put his finger on, Dean was just… different. He seemed to snap more often, get annoyed over little things and instead of the easy banter and teasing nature that had always been between the two of them, there seemed to be this tension that Sam couldn't explain. He wondered if he had done something wrong, something to upset Dean, something to seriously piss him off, but there was nothing that he could think of. He had been the dutiful brother, the expert hunter, always had Dean's back, always did the research, and they had been particularly successful in their hunts over the last month.
Until this hunt, at least. This hunt was…
Sam swallowed again, refusing to let his mind drift back over the memories that had plagued him the last two nights. But Dean's words… now that he couldn't get out of his head. They had echoed in his mind a number of times over the last hour, and Sam just couldn't shake the feeling he'd done something wrong.
"The damn ghost is dead, what more does the asshole want?"
Dean was never one for the heart to heart conversations, he would rather bury any and all emotion as deep inside as he could and avoid having to talk about it. He had always been that way. Always. But he didn't shy away from it when it counted, he always talked when it was important, and always when Sam was suffering. When Jessica had died, Dean had always been ready and willing to talk, it was always Sam that put a wall up on that conversation. But he talked out there in the woods, in the dark, inside the protective circle from the Wendigo that threatened their lives. He'd talked about how hard it was to live a hunters' life, but how he got the strength to do it day after day for the people they protected. He talked later when he'd told Sam that having dinner with Sarah could be good for him with the creepy-ass demonic ghost inhabited painting, telling him that crying out Jessica's name night after night would kill him. Sam had listened, had opened up, had gained strength from those conversations with Dean, and they'd been the words that helped him get through each day until he didn't have to remind himself to breathe in and out.
But now? Now things were different. Sam had slept, sure. He had been comfortable, felt satisfaction at a job well done. He had celebrated with a couple of beers down the pub. He had snuggled into the heavenly bed that now felt like rocks beneath him, and yet he was plagued by memories of a tortured woman, a tormented soul inside her… he felt guilt over her death, over her pain.
But Dean… Dean just seemed to be in a bad mood. He wasn't there for Sam, he wasn't willing to talk. Sam saw fleeting moment where Dean seemed to be himself, like tonight when he told Sam that he had to stop blaming himself, but in the same conversation he acted like Sam was being…
Sam rolled over, his back to Dean's bed, and forced his eyes closed. He didn't want to think anymore, didn't want to feel, and he particularly didn't want to look at his brother.
Something was seriously wrong, he must've really pissed Dean off to make him shut down so completely. Sam yawned and promised himself he would bring it up with Dean over breakfast first thing in the morning. After he ran out and get Dean's favourite from the diner up the road and surprise him.
He was going to make this right…
Sam rolled over again, waking from a trouble sleep. He didn't look at the clock, he really didn't want to know how much time had passed since he had fallen asleep. He knew it hadn't been long, but his body yearned for at least another few hours of rest. He was exhausted, he was sporting sore muscles and an aching back. He was stiff and had a few minor cuts and bruises that were no more than an inconvenience, but they were enough to add to his weariness, and have him begging to the haze that his mind got when sleep took over.
But that wasn't to be, and Sam could see that now. He had woken to something… he'd heard something. He was always on alert, just as Dean had taught him, and the slightest sound could drag him from the deepest sleep and have him prepared to defend himself in a moment. This time, however, Sam just waited.
He really hoped it was nothing more than Dean rolling over in his sleep, grumbling something unintelligible as had become the norm lately. Sam glanced over at Dean's bed.
It was empty.
"What the hell?" Sam whispered, immediately on high alert. He turned to look toward the bathroom when his heart jumped high into his throat and he threw himself out of the bed to land painfully on the floor between his bed and Dean's. "Dean, what the hell?!?!"
Dean was standing beside Sam's bed, staring down at his pillow. He must've been watching Sam sleeping, and the creepiness of that thought was so disturbing to Sam he felt sick. Dean had watched over him as he slept before, but it was only ever when he was sick or injured. This? This was not normal!
And yet, Dean didn't respond.
"Dean?" Sam asked again. Dean stared back at him, not blinking, not speaking, barely moving. "Dean, what the hell?" Sam got to his feet and moved toward his brother. Dean hadn't moved. Sam turned him towards him, waved a hand in front of his eyes, snapped his fingers, but got no reaction from Dean at all. "Huh… this is new."
Sam didn't know what else to do, so he took his brothers hand and gently tugged him in the direction of his bed. When he didn't budge, Sam shrugged and pushed him to sit on the bed instead. Dean had somehow gotten himself completely dressed as if he had to go out hunting, he even had his favourite knife in the sheath at his ankle that Sam pulled off as he took Dean's boots off. When he moved to remove Dean's jeans, something in his hand caught his eye. Deans gun. Dean had been standing by Sam's bed, watching him sleeping… armed.
"That's just weird," Sam muttered, taking the gun carefully from his brother, sighing in relief as he saw the safety switch was still on, even as a wave of uneasiness threatened to overcome him. He pushed Dean onto the pillows gently, pulled his jeans off him and tossed them onto the pile on the other side of the room. He put the weapons away and sat in a chair nearby, watching Dean as he fell back into an easy sleep.
Sam wouldn't be getting anymore sleep, no way in hell. Things had gotten way too freaky for him to be able to get any more rest. Finding his big brother, armed, standing over him, seemingly fast asleep was just too much for him to be able to deal with.
He finally gave in and glanced at the clock. 4:30 a.m. Not much time had passed, but the good news was that it was much longer before the day would start.
His head dropping forward onto his chest, eyes drooping heavily, Sam struggled to stay awake. He was so exhausted, he hadn't slept well over the last few night, and tonight in particular. He wasn't sure how much longer he would be able to get through every day life without proper rest, and in the life of a hunter rest was essential, lives depended on it. His life. Dean's life… especially Dean's life. If anything happened to Dean because he was tired, he'd never forgive himself. He couldn't carry around anymore guilt and responsibility without his back breaking in two.
Dean hadn't moved since Sam had deposited him into the bed that Sam had been so comfortable not so long ago. Not so much as a twitch. Sam glanced at the clock for what felt like the hundredth time that night. 5:43am. The diner opened at 6 a.m. Sam sighed and glanced back at Dean. He was breathing evening, soundly, his face the very picture of peace. Sam often wondered how Dean could rest so soundly considering what they dealt with every day, the things they saw. That was before Sam had gone to Stanford. When he came back it was with a jaded spirit but fresh eyes, and he realised that Dean didn't sleep soundly, he was always on alert, his body aware in case he had to defend Sam from something. Sam, it was always Sam… he knew that. He was the reason that Dean couldn't rest, why he would sleep with one eye open.
But recently things were different. Ever since Dean had come back, things were… different. Sam could understand that, it was to be expected after months in hell. Even Dean couldn't come back unscathed from hell. Sam had no idea the things that Dean had seen, how he must've suffered, and he wasn't sure he wanted to find out. Dean hadn't mentioned it, hadn't spoken about anything. As far as Sam knew, Dean didn't remember anything, but then again Sam hadn't asked either. He didn't want to know… he had barely been able to live with himself after Dean had been killed, and if he knew what Dean had suffered because of him, he wasn't sure he could ever look him in the eye again.
Sam sighed once again and got to his feet, stretching the kinks out of his long frame. He figured he could slip out of the room, walk down to the diner in time for it to open and get back again with breakfast, all hopefully before Dean woke to find him gone. Dean would have worried if he'd woke to find Sam gone before his time spent in hell, but somehow, since coming back, he seemed even more worried.
Until recently. Sam just had to figure out what was wrong, what he had done wrong.
He glanced around him, searching for his clothes that he knew he had deposited after his shower the night before in exchange for sweatpants and shirt, but he couldn't remember where he'd left them. Everything was kind of fuzzy, his memory a blur from the last couple of weeks.
Finally he saw his clothes buried in the corner under his duffel bag.
Wait, that was Dean's duffel bag. Sam puzzled over that for a moment before realising he wasn't going to get a logical answer to anything right now. He pushed aside his confusion, collected his clothes and dressed quickly.
Five minutes after getting dressed, Sam tore his eyes away from his sleeping brother and left the room. Pocketing the keys, he swore to himself that he would be back before Dean woke up.
Sam had been gone longer than he had intended, his exhaustion from the difficult hunt and the lack of sleep over night taking more of a toll on himself than he cared to admit. He glanced at his watch as he walked back into the room and realised Dean would probably have woken up by now.
It was 7a.m.
Damn, Sam thought. Dean's gonna be pissed!
Closing the door behind him, Sam glanced around the room. Dean's bed was empty, and Dean was nowhere to be seen.
Sam listened. Sounds were coming from the bathroom. Before he could cross the room to knock on the door and check on Dean, the door was swung open and Dean walked out. He was fully dressed, showered, and looking oddly carefree.
Sam was confused. Again.
"Hey," he began, hoping to ease Dean's anger before Dean had a chance to fire off at him. He held up the take away bag and coffee. "I ducked out to grab some breakfast from the diner up the road, I thought you'd like your favourite. Oh, and coffee, of course. Gotta go with the most important meal of the day."
"What, breakfast?" Dean asked casually.
"No, coffee," Sam explained. Something was off, Dean just wasn't himself. He wasn't reacting the way he would normally react if he'd woken up to find his little brother missing and, Sam realised, no note explaining his absence. He grimaced inwardly, realising how badly he had screwed up. He should have left a note, he shouldn't have let Dean wake up alone after everything they'd been through. After everything Dean had been through because of him. "Hey, I'm sorry I didn't leave a note. I didn't get much sleep last night and I guess I just forgot."
"Huh?" Dean asked, grabbing his duffel from the corner and starting to chuck his clothes into it carelessly.
"I was just saying, I didn't mean to leave without letting you know where I was going," Sam explained, his confusion deepening.
"Oh," Dean muttered, staring at one of his socks as if he'd never seen them before and they needed deep thought to determine their origin. "I didn't realise you'd gone out."
Sam felt his heart drop. Dean didn't realise he'd been gone? He'd woken up, completely unaware of Sam's absence and didn't even care? Didn't even notice? What is up with that?!?
Dean was always so hyper-vigilant about Sam's whereabouts, his well-being and, well, Sam! And now, all of a sudden, he doesn't care? Doesn't even notice waking up to an empty hotel room?
"Dean?" Sam began, uncertainty lacing his voice. Dean let out a barely perceptible grunt of acknowledgment, but didn't look up from packing his things. "Is something wrong?"
"What would be wrong?" Dean muttered, as if he weren't even talking to Sam.
"Well, I just thought," Sam hesitated. He watched as Dean turned away from him and started looking around the room as if he'd lost something. "I thought, well… Dean, what are you doing?"
"I'm looking for my gun," Dean told him, snapping. "I never lose my gun, but it's not here. Have you taken it?"
"What do you mean? Why would I take your gun?" Sam asked, watching as Dean began digging through Sam's things with an urgency that made no sense. "Dean, hang on a second!" Sam tried to stop him from messing his corner of the room. "You had it last night, Dean, remember?"
"What are you talking about? I didn't have it last night," Dean snapped, straightening and glaring at Sam. "Where is it, Sam?"
"I put it somewhere safe," Sam answered, fetching it quickly. "You were sleep-walking and I took it from you and put it away."
"You took my gun!" Dean yelled. "You lied to me!"
"I asked you if you took my gun, Sam, and you said you didn't," Dean answered, his voice low and deep in his throat as if it were a threatening growl. He stepped toward Sam, causing Sam to take an involuntary step backwards as he saw a look in his brothers eyes that he had never seen before. "What would you call that?"
"That's right," Dean hissed. He turned his back on Sam, his shoulders tense. "Get your things together and get in the car. You have five minutes."
"Five minutes, or what?" Sam asked, uncertain he wanted to hear the answer.
He didn't have to hear it, the look Dean gave him said it all.
Looking forward to what you think, so don't forget to drop me a line!