The No How of Dean Winchester
Dean looked at his brother for another beat before he looked down at himself, rubbing arms and shaking, looking himself over like there was something on him.
"G-get 'em off! Get 'em o-off!" He said frantically. Sam went to him.
"Get what off, Dean?" He asked, looking and seeing nothing. Dean gave a dry sob.
"Rats, r-rats everywhere…" He shuddered.
"Hey, Dean, look at me," Sam turned his face toward his own. "It's okay, it's alright now. You're safe. There's nothing there."
"Sam?" Dean breathed, as if he was just realizing who Sam was. Sam smiled lightly and nodded.
"Yeah, Dean, it's me. It's okay." His smile faded as Dean's eyes filled with tears, lip trembling, shaking his head.
"No, no, Sammy no. You're dead. You're dead." He choked. Sam's brow creased, confused.
"Dean, no, I'm fine. Look at me, I'm right here." He assured. Dean shook his head, almost violently.
"No, no, you're not. He's trying to make me believe. He wants me to think you're here and take you away from me again!" He cried, voice raw with pain.
"Dean," Sam said gently. "Who's gonna take me away?"
"Alastair." Dean whispered, shaking hard.
"No," Sam shook his head. "No, Dean. He can't, he's dead."
"No he's not!" Dean sobbed.
"Hey, hey, look at me, shhh, Dean, look at me," He urged. "Alastair can't hurt you, I promise. You're safe, you're safe."
"No, no, no, no…" He clamped his hands over his ears. "I can't believe you. Can't believe you. He'll hurt me if I do. He'll hurt me, Sammy. And he'll hurt you. He killed you!"
Before Sam could assure his brother that he wasn't in Hell the door opened. Dean huddled into the corner, hiding his face in his knees and covering his ears.
"Dean it's okay." Sam said. Dean whimpered.
Castiel and Bobby came in, eyes immediately going to Dean.
"He's awake." Castiel stated.
"Thank you, captain obvious." Bobby said, rolling to the end of the bed.
"No, no, no," Dean said so quietly only Sam heard him. "Not real, not real, not here, not here…"
"What's wrong with him?" Castiel asked.
"I don't know. I think…I think he thinks he's in Hell." Sam said, standing and saying the words quietly to Castiel. The angel nodded and approached the bed, sitting down close enough that he could touch Dean.
"Dean," He said gently, trying to coax his face up. "Look at me," Dean shook his head. "Please."
Dean looked up, eyes blurred with tears, heart thudding so hard in his chest it hurt. The man that was in front of him didn't look frightening like the other demons did. He looked human. But they deceived him, always. Alastair liked giving him hope only to rip it away.
"Do you know who I am?" Castiel asked. Dean shook his head, eyes innocent and scared. "I'm not going to hurt you, alright? I want to help you. You aren't in Hell, Dean."
"Liar!" Dean whispered. Castiel winced.
"Dean, who am I?" He asked.
"I don't know." He whimpered. Castiel put his hand on Dean's left shoulder, right where his scar was.
"Who am I, Dean?" He asked firmly. Dean felt something in his shoulder. It didn't hurt, and that surprised him. It felt warm, a comforting warm, not the blistering heat he was used to.
"Cas?" He rasped. The closest thing to a smile anyone had ever seen passed over the angel's face.
"That's right. You are not in Hell, Dean. I would not be here in this form if it was, would I?" Dean shook his head.
"I'm out?" He asked, tearing up again. The angel nodded.
"Yes. Now hold still for just a moment." Dean winced as Castiel's fingers touched his forehead, expecting pain, but felt none.
Castiel saw what Dean had gone through, all of it. He saw what Alastair had done to "Sam" and how it had crushed Dean to see it. He understood that it was years upon years that Dean had experienced all over again. And he saw that Zachariah was the one that had made this alternate reality just to get Dean to say yes.
If Castiel thought he had hated Zachariah before it was nothing compared to what he felt now.
"It's going to be alright, Dean," Castiel assured. "You're going to be just fine." He stood, nodding to Sam, who immediately started to rush to his brother, who had hidden from everyone again.
Castiel grabbed Sam's shoulder and whispered very quietly,
"He's been through Hell again. He could hardly bear it the first time, let alone another round of it, equally as painful and traumatizing. He needs you now, more than anything, do you understand that?"
Sam nodded. He rushed to Dean, lifting his chin.
"You're safe now, Dean," He said. "I've got you, okay?" Sam hugged Dean close, letting him cry. Dean collapsed in his arms, hardly daring to believe it was all real.
Dean had had nightmares for the past year, some horrible, some mild. Sam remembered nights that Dean had been crying in his sleep and he had just left him there.
Not this time. This time Dean would wake him by crying so hard Sam was sure his ribcage would burst. And Sam would rush right to him, hugging him until the sobs subsides and trembling ceased.
The first time he ate since he'd been "out" he ate slowly, staring warily at each bite before he put it anywhere near his mouth. The first time he had gone near a shower he whimpered and trembled at the mere sight of it. He'd hyperventilated when he saw the knives and guns piled in the Impala. And that was all in the first week. He'd stared around, wide eyed, scared of everything, always jumpy, eyes innocent and so terrified.
That changed, almost as if by magic, overnight. Reality seemed to come back to Dean that he was alright. What he had seen wasn't real. Just one of Zachariah's tricks to get him to do what he wanted.
"So, where're we headed next, Sammy?" He asked with a smirk. Sam stared at him in disbelief.
"You're kidding, right?" He asked, incredulous.
"No, we should probably get back to what we were doin' in case the Apocalypse gets good. Or bad, or whatever the hell it decides to do." He said.
"After what you just went through you wanna go hunt?" Sam said. Dean turned away from him, throwing clothes into his bag.
"I'm alright, Sam." He said. Sam stalked toward him and spun him around.
"Don't you dare do this," He hissed. "After everything that happened this past week don't you dare shut down on me. I know what happened to you; Cas told me. I know about some of the things Alastair did. I know you watched him kill me. I know what happened to you, Dean so don't you stand there and lie to me and tell me you're okay!" Dean bowed his head.
"I'm sorry," He said quietly. "It was terrible, yeah. But it was nothing more than a bad dream, okay? It wasn't real."
"You didn't know that at the time," Sam said. "And I know it bothers you. You think I don't hear you in your sleep? You think I don't notice how much you drink? Well I do, and unlike the last time this happened, I'm not gonna stand here and watch you kill yourself!" Dean had flinched away from him like he'd hit him. Sam saw the nerve he had struck, not one that made Dean angry, but one that left him vulnerable without it.
"I don't know what else to do, Sam," He said so quietly Sam could barely hear him. "I don't know how to make it stop. I can't make it stop. Hell makes me weak. And it's made me weaker."
"No," Sam shook his head. "Dean, if you were strong enough to keep telling Alastair no then you're stronger than you were the first time. It doesn't have to be a bad thing, Dean, not if you use it." Dean nodded, a single tear sliding down one cheek.
"I don't know if I can." He said. Sam nodded.
"I'm gonna help you. We'll get through this together. You're not alone."
And Dean Winchester and all of his chick-flick moment-hating self hugged Sam like he never wanted to let go.
--Thank you. There's a sequel to this btw The No How of Sam Winchester. That's right, Sammy's not immune to my psychotic head either. And once again, HAPPY BIRTDAY AVIDREADER93!--