Disclaimer: Supernatural and all its wonderful characters belong to the genius that is Eric Kripke and the CW. I don't own anything and isn't that just pitiful.
The nightmare was a particularly vicious one. Even so, Dean slept through all but the aftermath. He awoke to Sam's startled cry and mad thrashing as he tried to free his arms and legs from the prison of twisted sheets and threadbare blanket. By the sounds of his panic filled grunts Sam was still half asleep and disoriented.
Shit, how could I have slept through all that? But he knew how, they had both been exhausted when they had finally gotten to bed last night. Tramping back through the woods after killing the Black Dog and reaching the motel well past 2 o'clock in the morning to fall boneless into their respective beds.
Dean crawled sleepily from his own bed and made his unsteady way over to sit next to Sam, avoiding the flailing arms, fisting in the sheets only to jerk free in desperation. A few deft movements later and the sheets had been straightened out and smoothed back into place. Dean listened to Sam's breath which was still coming in short harsh pants even as he became aware of his surroundings. Without a word, Dean nudged Sam's shoulder a couple of times until Sam obediently made more room on the bed.
It had always been this way, anytime Sam was distressed, Dean felt an inescapable need to make it better, just as a parent wanted to shield their child from all cares and heartache. Yes, they were brothers and there were only four years separating their ages, but those four years seemed like a generational gap sometimes. The duty to 'take care of your brother' weighed on him constantly. What a load of bullshit! Its just not right, that kind of responsibility placed on too young shoulders. But what's done is done and its irrevocable at this point. Dean wouldn't have it any other way.
Sitting with his back against the headboard and his legs crossed at the ankles in front of him, he listened to the tenor of Sam's breath as it evened out, becoming more slow and regular. Sam was awake now although his eyes were closed. There were no mistaking the signs given his rapid heart rate, frown lines creasing his brow and perspiration beading his upper lip. Dean took one of Sam's hands in a comforting gesture and Sam allowed the familiar contact. He used the tip of his finger to trace the protective sigils and wards committed to memory many years ago on the open palm he held firmly in front of him.
This was a habit that went back to early childhood. It had started as an easy way to teach Sammy how to make the complicated patterns when he had been as young as three or four years old. They could practice in the car when they didn't have pencils and paper handy or in the dark of their bedroom when they were supposed to be sleeping. The tradition had continued through the years, used mostly as a way to sooth, certainly coming in handy during the many hospital stays when one or the other brother had been injured beyond coherent thought. The patterns were immediately recognizable and meant 'you're safe' and 'I'm here', never failing to calm.
Sam visibly released the tension from his body and sank into the mattress, taking untold reassurance from his brother's nearness. For all his calluses, Dean's touch was feather light coaxing Sam into a more restful sleep. It worked, just as it always did. As the strokes became more and more lazily drawn across his skin, Sam's brow smoothed and his heart rate slowed. His relaxing body shifted closer until his shoulder was pressed against Dean's thigh.
For Dean's part, the familiar rhythm was lulling him towards slumber as well and he sat, heavy-lidded while his mind wandered, needing no prompting to continue the well-known patterns. Circle, four wavy lines, triangle with inverted V inside…
He thought about his childhood. Ha, if you could call it that. Their father had moved them from place to place, often with no warning. Being the new kid in school was a fact of life. They were outsiders and outcast for the vast majority of their school careers. Dean had acquaintances, but no real friends. Friendships required the luxury of time to develop and the Winchesters couldn't afford to spend enough time in any one place to cultivate true friends. Thank God they had each other. What a lonely existence it would have been, would be, without his brother, his kid, his best friend. He didn't want to contemplate that one for too long, because he knew he wouldn't have survived his childhood without Sam. Dean simply didn't do alone well.
He knew the exact moment when Sam's nightmare released its hold on him and he fell back asleep. Years of observation while sleeping in the same bedroom as children and the same motel room as adults had taught him the tell tale signs. Sam's hands twitched slightly as the muscles disengaged from conscious control and he sighed softly. Sam had always been a restless sleeper, talking, and even walking in his sleep on occasion.
Dean fondly recalled the time as a teenager when Sam had gotten out of his bed in the middle of the night, left their motel room wearing only the sweatpants he normally slept in, and walked down the hall to the elevator. Since he didn't respond when Dean groggily asked him what was going on, Dean had followed him and watched as he pushed the button to call the elevator. It had been astonishing and hilarious to see Sam, still fast asleep, board the elevator and then stand inside with his arms hanging loosely at his sides. Dean wanted to see just how far this was going to go, so he got on the elevator with Sam and waited. At the very least, this was going to be funny as hell and great ammunition for teasing his self-conscious little brother in the morning. The elevator doors closed, but Sam never pushed any buttons. After a while Sam had seemed to wilt and he didn't so much collapse as he just folded down against the back wall of the elevator until his head was resting on his drawn up knees. That signaled the end of the show. Dean had carefully pulled his brother into a mostly upright position, supporting his swaying weight as he pushed the door open button. Sam had passively allowed himself to be led back to the motel room where he had curled up on his bed as though he had been there the entire time.
Reverie over, Dean glanced down at his now adult, but still, always, younger brother. With a sense of pride and accomplishment, he rested one hand briefly on Sam's shaggy head, brushing the sweaty hair off his forehead. This was his legacy, his most important job and he took it very seriously.
A/N I am currently working on a longer fic in which this calming technique will be used by Sam on a confused and hurting Dean, so I wanted to give the basis behind it beforehand.
So what did you think? Anyone else want to be the one to sooth Sam back to sleep after his nightmares? Please press the button and review.