Summary - Sam begins to have intense nightmares that put him on the edge of sanity. Will Dean be able to find the cause before he loses his brother?
Sendintheclowns A/N: Happy Birthday Floralia! You are not only a talented writer but a wonderful friend. To commemorate this lovely occasion, the brilliant Gidgetgal9 (who rocks!) agreed to put up with me in this co-writing project, the gifted BlueEyedDemonLiz provided beta services (thanks doll!) and the top-notch, irreplaceable Faye Dartmouth coached me through my portions (you're the best!) when my muse played hide-and-seek.
Gidgetgal9- AN: This is for the wonderful Floralia's birthday. She is a wonderful writer, friend and support system. I hope she has a wonderful day! Oh and of course I need to thank my co-writer - Sendintheclowns, I would be lost without her -she is my partner in crime. A big thanks to BlueEyeDemonLiz for her wonderful last minute beta on this- it was very appreciated!
I've just closed my eyes again
Climbed aboard the dream weaver train
Driver take away my worries of today
And leave tomorrow behind
(Lyrics by Gary Wright)
Something woke Dean up from a sound sleep and he stared around the motel room, hand gripping the knife tucked beneath his pillow, his body relaxed on the bed but his mind alert.
His eyes didn't see anything but his ears picked up the sound of Sam shifting restlessly on the other queen-sized bed. Sitting up, Dean took a swig of water from the glass he'd left on the nightstand. It was only 3:50 AM but he was wide-awake now, thanks to Sam and his dreams.
His kid brother had always been a dreamer, both while awake and asleep. But damn, since he and Sam had joined back up Dean's own sleep habits had taken a hit.
Sam suddenly heaved and flopped on his side so he was facing Dean. The streetlight outside of their room crept through the cracks of the blind-slats and pooled over Sam. His brother's face was pulled up tight with pain, and his breathing was fast, air puffing in and out of lungs at a rate that suggested hyperventilation was in the offing.
A nightmare. Damn. His brother hadn't suffered one this extreme since after San Francisco. Granted, plugging your whatever-Madison-was with a silver bullet was bound to leave some lasting effects but other than a bout of insomnia and some nightmares, Sam had seemed to be bearing up well. Especially when you considered all of the crap that had been thrown the kid's way.
A gasp from Sam had Dean on his feet, hovering over his brother. Something dark pooled on Sam's upper lip. Great, a nosebleed. And that coupled with the way his features were twisted into a grimace made Dean think maybe Sammy was having a vision. It had been a while, since right before Rivergrove and the demonic plague, so Dean had hoped maybe Sam had finally caught a break and the visions were gone. There was only one way to find out – it was time to wake up his brother.
Dean put a hand on his brother's shoulder and lightly shook him. "Sammy, open your eyes."
His voice was husky and soft from disuse but Sam should have been bolting upright, startled. Instead his limbs remained lax, his head flopping against the pillow, his eyes stubbornly remaining shut.
Trying again, Dean shook his brother's shoulder with more vigor and the only response he received was Sam flopping partway on to his back from his harsh shove.
Sam's chest wasn't moving.
Sam wasn't breathing.
Dean sank on to the lumpy mattress and hauled Sam up to a sitting position, not liking the way his brother's head wilted on his neck, lolling back toward the bed. Thrusting his left hand behind Sam's back, Dean cupped his right hand at the nape of Sam's neck, supporting his heavy head.
Dean stared at his brother, willing him to open his eyes, breathe, do something. "Come on Sammy, snap out of it!"
Slanted blue-green eyes, cloudy with confusion, peaked at Dean from behind half-mast lids. "De'n?"
The tension in Dean's body relaxed and his hands started to drop away, self-conscious about crowding Sam's personal space. Without the support his brother's body sank toward the mattress and Dean scrambled to grab him and hold him upright. Sam's eyes rolled back into his head; Dean resumed supporting his back and head and Sam's eyes settled again. "Come on, Sammy, you with me yet?"
Dean remembered holding Baby Sammy this way, his small hand trying to hold up his brother's head. And Baby Sammy had blinked at him with much the same expression of disorientation and trust.
A trembling hand lifted to smear the blood under Sam's nose and his face crinkled in dismay. Dean could easily read the look on Sam's face – gross. They'd both been raised the same way yet Sam had never totally embraced the things that made hunting cool. The knives and guns and dirt and blood. But Sam's reaction to the blood smeared on his hand told Dean much more than words could, that Sam was okay.
Relief snaked down Dean's spine and without giving it a thought, he yanked Sam into a crushing hug and then settled him back against the headboard. "Nice to have you back. Now what the hell was that about?"
Grabbing up a wad of Kleenex from the nightstand, Dean thrust them into Sam's hand. Sam's limbs were still uncoordinated in that sleep-lax way, his eyes still hazy with confusion. But when he dabbed delicately at the blood coating his upper lip Dean's concern throttled back further. His brother, the delicate flower.
Sam shifted against the headboard. "What happened?"
A sigh slid out of Dean's mouth. "I was kinda hoping you could tell me. I couldn't wake you up and then I think you stopped breathing…what the hell, Sammy? Was it a vision?"
Pursing his lips in deep thought for a moment, Sam seemed to consider Dean's words. Just as quickly, his expression blanked out, the lines smoothing from his face, his eyes deadening.
It was the best poker face Sam, he of a thousand expressions, had ever shown Dean.
Like he was hiding something.
Of course Dean had withheld information from Sam not so long ago. Their dad's last words to Dean had been a point of contention between the brothers – primarily that Dean hadn't told Sam for months what John Winchester had whispered in his oldest son's ear – but he'd really thought they'd worked past it.
Dean stared uncomprehendingly at his brother. "Jesus, Sam, was it a vision? You can tell me. I mean you weren't breath…never mind."
Dean could tell Sam was disengaging from the conversation, his features still bland. Frustration spiraled through him at the way his younger brother could filter him out at times. "You don't want to tell me? Fine."
His brother stared at a point somewhere over Dean's shoulder. The Sam of old would have protested or tried to explain himself; there was no doubt in Dean's mind that his younger sibling would have made a first rate lawyer with the way he wielded words for his own purpose, whether he was smoothing over a misunderstanding or going for the jugular. But this time the silence stretched out and Dean acknowledged that he was hurt.
Sam couldn't even be bothered to explain what was going on in his head. Dean buried the hurt deep, true to the Winchester legacy.
Smoothly pushing to his feet, Dean stalked over to his bag. "We're up now so we might as well hit the road. There's nothing keeping us tied to this place."
Without waiting for a response, Dean swept into the bathroom. If Sam wouldn't level with him, there was no use trying to talk.
Leaning his head against the passenger window, Sam tried to relax against the backdrop of Bon Scott's raw vocals. He actually liked AC DC but he'd only admit to it under extreme duress; something like pliers pulling off his fingernails would probably do the trick. If Dean was trying to get under his skin by blasting the music, it wasn't going to work.
Sam was exhausted and keeping his eyes open while Bon wailed away was a different story.
Dean's cell phone sang out and the volume was suddenly turned down to a conversational level. Sam sat up, glancing at his brother.
From his brother's side of the conversation Sam could tell it was Bobby and he had a job for them. While Dean listened intently to their friend, Sam studied his brother. Dean had his elbow perched on the ledge of the driver's side window, the cell phone cupping his left ear, his right hand confidently clutching the steering wheel. Behind the wheel of the Impala, talking to Bobby, his brother looked relaxed. Sam couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Dean like this. Maybe on the set of the movie where Dean had thrived as a PA. Certainly not when he was just around Sam.
Although Sam keeping his big brother up with either pacing when the insomnia hit or the full decibel screams that sometimes accompanied some of his more detailed dreams, Sam could understand Dean's unease around him.
But last night's dream was a mystery to him. He'd woken up to find Dean staring at him, a freaked out expression on his pale face, his brother's hands clenched tightly around his biceps, holding him upright. Dean said he hadn't been breathing. Sam suffered from lots of problems – night terrors, migraines, snoring when he was congested – but sleep apnea was a new one.
Sam had racked his brain trying to remember what his last dream had been about. He'd had a sense of being surrounded by a great, black, gaping nothing. Something had teased at the edge of his mind but that's all he could come up with.
Dean hadn't believed him when he said he didn't remember anything. He hadn't exactly called Sam a liar but he pulled that silent treatment that he always fell back on when he was irritated with Sam. His older brother tended to forget that no one could outlast Sam when it came to dishing out the silent treatment.
But Sam hadn't stooped to that level of behavior this time. He'd tried to appease his big brother by acquiescing to whatever Dean wanted but that hadn't gotten him anywhere. He wished he could tell Dean what had happened in his dream but he didn't have a clue and trying to explain it now would seem forced. Too little, too late.
"Okay, we're about a day out from Arkansas. We'll let you know what we find." Dean flipped his cell phone down and severed the connection before pocketing it in his jacket.
Sam had missed most of Dean's end of the conversation while he'd zoned out. "That was Bobby. He thinks there's a werewolf job in Arkansas. I told him we'd check that out. Is that going to be a problem?"
He appreciated the sentiment behind the question. But if they were the closest hunters, then how could Sam justify saying he wasn't up to the hunt? People's lives could be at stake.
Madison was gone and there was nothing Sam could do to bring her back. Striving for strength but failing miserable, Sam answered. "No, no problem."
His attention was fixed steadily out the passenger side window as he remembered the look on Madison's face as she pleaded with him to kill her, break the curse. He could feel Dean's gaze on him. He kept his face averted, afraid he'd find compassion on his brother's face.
It was too much to think about right now and his own hand twisted up the volume on the stereo.
He didn't think he'd be able to fall asleep but once he closed his eyes, he was overcome with exhaustion.
Madison was standing in front of him, naked save for Sam's button down shirt which flapped becomingly around her thighs. Red blossomed from her chest. "Sam, you should be dead, not me. You're a complete freak and you're allowed to live and here I am, dead with a silver bullet through my heart. That's so unfair. I trusted you, Sam. You need to fix this."
Sam jerked awake to find found himself nose to nose with Dean. His brother was holding him up, asking him questions, crushing him in a hug and handing him Kleenex. Déjà vu.
As he settled against the headboard, a hand rapped Sam across his cheek, a knuckle splitting his lip open. "You're such a little freak. Wake up already. I'm so sick of your shit."
Trapped against the headboard, Sam whimpered. He didn't mean to make a sound – he'd learned before the age of ten that it didn't pay to show weakness around his dad or brother – but he was overwhelmed. His nightmares had always gotten out of hand, even as a kid, and Dean had always been the soul of patience with him. At least until now.
Dean must be seriously pissed off with him right now and he searched his brain for a way to deescalate the situation. He and Dean needed to be on the same page.
His body tensed and jumped as something collided with his cheek. "I swear to God, Sam, if you don't wake up I'm going to…finally, you're awake."
Once again Sam found himself held up by his brother, this time Dean's hands were twined in his jacket, levering him away from where he was pressed against the passenger door. Instead of anger he found himself confronted with concern.
Fingers snapped in front of his face. "Sammy, you in there? You're kind of freakin' me out here, dude."
Looking around Sam realized the Impala was at a stand-still, parked in front of a motel. His tone was scratchy, his tone bewildered. "Where are we?"
Sam was still shaking off the nightmare within a nightmare. He understood the first part of the dream with Madison since they were starting another werewolf job but the part with Dean slapping him around didn't make sense to him.
His big brother was the only stable influence in his life and even when they argued and fought, Dean looked out for him.
Dean narrowed his eyes and watched him closely. Sam hated feeling like a bug under a microscope. But he knew he was acting like a freak and deserved the scrutiny.
Dean was alternating between scrapping this hunt completely or trying to do it alone. He really felt that Sam wasn't ready to face another werewolf so soon. The boy was barely holding it together.
The frustrating part was that Sam was being stubborn about his latest bouts and refusing to share the details. Dean understood avoiding the whole sharing and caring thing, heck they were Winchesters and that had been drummed into them since they were little.
But this was different, this 'whatever it was' was effecting his brother not only mentally but physically. The kid was having nose bleeds and he'd even stopped breathing. So not cool. Throw in the latest bout where Dean couldn't wake Sam at all for a few minutes and that lead to justifiable grounds for spilling ones guts.
But Sam was having none of that, no. Instead of letting Dean in on what was happening, he kept saying that he didn't remember.
So that left Dean no choice but to either call Bobby and cancel or to do this hunt alone. There was no way he was letting Mr. Nothing Is Wrong, go out on a hunt. It would be too dangerous.
Dean was broken from his musings by his annoying little brother's voice from the other bed in the small but clean motel room they were occupying.
"Dean, if you keep scowling like that your face will freeze and then you'll never be able to pick up women again." Sam had the laptop open in his lap and seemed to be more relaxed then an hour earlier when they had first arrived.
"Sam, I was just thinking..."
"Don't hurt yourself." Sam was now smirking.
"Funny, not! No seriously Sam, I was thinking that maybe this isn't such a good idea." Dean tried to keep the frustration out his voice.
"What staying an hour away from the hunt so you can hole up in a college town? Dude, that was your call." Sam's tone was light but Dean could see the concern on his face.
"Doofus, only you would think that staying in a town where the college is known as a party college is a bad idea. I think it's a great idea. We could stay a few days and have some fun. I know I could use a break." Dean could see Sam bristle at the suggestion of taking a break.
"So you want to abandon the hunt? You think I'm gonna break?" Sam violently closed the laptop.
"No, I don't think you're gonna break. You are one of the strongest people I know. I just think that something is going on in that thick skull of yours and until we figure things out, we should take a break." Dean sighed and rubbed his face, waiting for the fireworks to begin and he wasn't disappointed.
"There is nothing to figure out Dean! I'm having nightmares, so what? News flash, I've had them all my life, you of all people know that." Sam stood and started to pace.
Dean held out placating hands. "Dude, I know but this is time is different."
"Why because I won't share with the class? Honestly Dean, I don't remember them!" Sam stopped pacing and walked up to the bed eyes full of anger.
"I call bullshit on that Sam!" Dean spat back. It was hard to not lose control with Sam being such an unreasonable bitch about this.
"Fine, whatever, I do remember part of the last dream and it had to do with Madison. Big shocker huh? You want details? Huh Dean? Wanna hear how I killed my lover?" Sam deflated and sunk down on the edge of Dean's bed.
"No, kiddo. I'm just worried. I had trouble waking you, and the nose bleeds are freaking me out." Dean reached out and tentatively laid a hand on his brother's thigh. He was relieved when Sam didn't pull away.
"I-I'm a little freaked myself. But to be honest, I've been thinking too, and I really feel that I need to confront my fears. There is a werewolf out there killing people, and I would not be able to live with myself if I didn't help. I think if we avoided this hunt, that my nightmares would get worse. I need to save people Dean. Please, it's all I have anymore, besides you." Sam's shoulders hunched and he looked miserable.
"Okay, we'll do this. I don't like it but I can understand why you need to do this. But, you stick close to me on this hunt, just like when we were younger. I'll take point." Dean patted Sam's thigh and pulled his hand away.
Sam huffed. "When do you not take point? Don't worry, I'll have your back, I promise."
"I know you will Sammy." Dean swallowed hard and gave Sam a reassuring smile, the whole while he tried to convince himself that this was the right thing to do.
Sam was relieved that Dean listened to him and understood why this hunt was important to him. As a hunter, he had to get past any hang ups he might have or he'd never be able to truly have his brother's back.
It had been hard to admit dreaming about Madison but in the end it had been worth it to have his brother understand his state of mind.
Sighing, Sam moved over to his bed and picked up the battered laptop and opened it.
Dean tracked his movement and once Sam had the laptop open he spoke. "So what notes did Bobby send on this hunt?"
"Well, the basics that you know. Three people were killed last month during the full moon cycle on the hiking trails in the Ozark National Park. Hearts were missing but the bodies were so mutilated, that it was thought to be an animal attack." Sam paused letting his brother mull over the facts.
"So probably a werewolf but could be a black dog or even an animal shape shifter."
"Yeah, but there was an interesting fact that Bobby sent. I've never come across this before with Dad's notes." Sam could see his brother's curiosity was peaked but the quirky expression he was shooting him.
"Alright lay this interesting fact on me little brother."
"It seems that with werewolves, there are really two different kinds. The city werewolf, like the ones we recently encountered and ones that are found in the wild." Sam cleared his throat trying to clear his head of thoughts of Madison.
"How are they different? Are the city werewolves more refined and the wild ones are rednecks?"
Sam appreciated his brother's attempt at getting his mind off of Madison with humor, and couldn't help the chuckle that escaped. "No, but close I guess. Uh, the city werewolves tend to keep more of their human features while the ones in the wild are more wolf like in fact can shed all of their humanity."
Dean's forehead crinkled up in thought. "Huh, I guess that makes sense. It would make hunting easier if you blended in with your surroundings."
"Yeah, it does make sense and you know we've never faced a wild werewolf before." Sam was beginning to feel better that the werewolf they might face wouldn't look at all human.
"The best part about this? Silver bullet will kill a werewolf, shape shifter or black dog so we're covered either way." Dean added, with a sparkle to his eye.
Sam smiled at his brother's enthusiasm. "So we load up and go hunting?"
"Sounds like a plan, maybe we'll be done in time to hit the bars around here!" Dean bounced with excitement.
"Yeah, maybe." Sam shook his head at his older brother and his childlike excitement over the hunt. Some things never changed.
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