Summary: Sam is beset by visions and Dean can't help but worry over his brother. Featuring a little h/c along with a hunt that literally lands on their doorstep. S1, post Nightmare.
A/N: Thank you so much for reading the story I put together for my very talented friend Bayre on the occasion of her birthday. Beta provided by Gidgetgal9 – thanks girlfriend.
Before Dean could yell out instructions, Sam was hurtling off of the bed, crashing through the inferno, barreling into Dean.
Sam's adrenaline rush seemed to die upon contact and he wilted against Dean. Dean wasn't stupid, he knew they should get low to the floor, but Sam was a heavy weight curled against his chest and he wasn't going to get anywhere under his own power. The smoke and heat were more intense the higher up but they were in a game of beat the clock so Dean went with the fireman's carry.
Dean grabbed the slack right wrist and pulled Sam's right arm across his own shoulder. Reaching between Sam's legs, Dean grasped Sam behind his right thigh. Using the strength in his sturdy legs, Dean lifted Sam off of the floor, letting his brother's limp weight carry the inert body over his shoulder.
Dean pivoted and broke into a jog; Sam's left arm and leg dangled behind Dean's back, smacking him with each heavy step. He burst into the fresh air, his lungs hacking harshly against the thick smoke. People were milling about and a siren could be heard in the distance. Dean avoided the people and walked to the Chevy which seemed to be far away enough from the fire, at least for now.
Bending at the waist, Dean maneuvered Sam down until one foot touched the ground. Relief coursed through him as Sam took up his own weight, sliding off Dean's shoulder, bracing himself against Dean's body. Sam's legs wobbled and Dean guided him back against the car, controlling his slide until he was sitting on the asphalt, leaning against the passenger door.
Dean's coughs had tapered to sporadic barks but Sam was hacking so hard, tears ran down his soot stained face and his body convulsed against the car. Dean kneeled next to him, a hand at the back of his neck, soothing Dean with the contact as much as it soothed Sam.
Sam could have died. Sam had almost died.
So much for Sam's visions being right on target. He must've muttered that aloud because Sam turned his head, glaring. Between wheezes, Sam harshly defended his new found gift. "That was…my vision…exactly…"
Patting Sam on the leg, Dean frowned. "Fine. You've still got your mojo. But a little less talking until you can breathe without sounding like one of Marge Simpson's chain-smoking sisters."
Sam soon settled down; his cough lingered but it was delivered with a little less gusto and came with less frequency. The sirens were pulling into the parking lot and chaos broke out. A firefighter, complete with fire retardant uniform, shepherded them away from the car. Dean shook off the helpful man's hand, pulling Sam to his feet, steering him to the ambulance.
Dean refused to be separated from Sam's side and wouldn't allow the earnest young man with a stethoscope to listen to his lungs until he knew Sam was okay. "Sir, please."
"Not until I know Sam is okay." Dean injected as much of his dad's steely voice into his words as he could muster and wasn't surprised when the man backed off.
Sam was all Dean had left and he was going to be hyper-vigilant in protecting him.
Sam managed a smile through the oxygen mask as Dean put the paramedic in his place. The effects of the vision—both the visceral in the form of mind numbing pain and those from the fire—were passing so Sam could smile again. Watching Dean intimidate the people around him with his fierce face and manner shouldn't have been amusing but it meant the world to Sam.
Dean had always looked out for Sam but even now that he was an adult—an independent, competent one at that—it still meant everything to know Dean was at his side. Dean wouldn't abandon him.
And they were both alive, having escaped the fire.
The fire that wasn't an ordinary fire.
Sam lost some time, blinking into awareness when a shadow blocked the warmth of the sun from his face. Dean stared down at him, surly sense of humor still intact. "Gage and DeSoto are itching to take you to the hospital. You wanna try out their spiffy ride?"
Dean might sound cavalier but Sam knew it hid his worry. Sam didn't want to add to his burden. Peeling off the oxygen mask, Sam sat up. He wasn't dizzy, he wasn't coughing and only a dull throb remained from his earlier blurred-vision inducing headache. "I think I'll pass."
Dean helped him to his feet, tugging him toward the car. The finish was dull, streaked with wet ash. Sam winced when he thought of Dean's reaction about his car suffering such abuse. The wince was misinterpreted, Dean manhandling him into the passenger seat, slamming the door in a rush of activity. Sam didn't protest; Dean wouldn't listen, at least not until they were away from the scorched scene of their former motel room. Until he knew Sam was really okay.
Someone was yelling, telling them to stop, but Dean ignored them. Sam concentrated on staying awake, unwilling to spark Dean's worry if he drifted off. He knew Dean well; he wouldn't be allowed out of his brother's sight for the next couple of days, maybe longer. Only by reassuring Dean he was fine, staying glued by his side, and not arguing against Dean's instincts, would Sam gain a measure of independence again.
It was worth it. Dean's peace of mind was worth it.
He stifled a yawn and Dean shot him a look. Maybe Sam would appear more alert if he actually talked coherently. "So my vision was of you being trapped behind a wall of fire, screaming my name, and I was unable to get to you."
"But I wasn't trapped by the fire; that was you." Dean huffed as they rumbled down the road.
"From my vantage point, you were the one behind the fire." Dean harrumphed but conceded the point. "But we kinda have a bigger problem—I think the fire was some sort of supernatural entity."
Dean nodded his head in agreement as they pulled into the parking lot of the Comfort Inn they'd passed up their first trip down this stretch of road. His brother was taking his words in stride which was a bit of a surprise. Then again, maybe Dean wasn't taking things in stride. "What makes you say that? I mean I saw it shoot through the air and land on the roof. I think it sought you out, I'm not sure why, and when I tried to get near you, it blocked my way."
Sam had been somewhere between awake and dozing when Dean had left the room but his eyes had snapped open when intense heat fluttered over his face. He'd opened his eyes to find a murky blue face hovering over him—a face forming out of the very fire raging around him. Dean wasn't going to be happy at that bit of news. "I saw a face. In the fire. A blue face. I think it was trying to communicate with me."
His brother jerked the car into park, turning to face Sam slowly. Rigid control. Like he was trying to keep from smacking Sam. "Number one, why do you think it was trying to communicate with you? And number two, when the hell were you going to mention this? That's like the lead story, it's supposed to appear above the fold of the newspaper, not buried five pages in."
Sam hadn't been thinking clearly in the aftermath of the fire and his lungs, determined to cough up every last piece of soot, had prevented him from talking. That and he didn't want to be the freak in his brother's eyes. Not again. He might not be able to bend spoons with his mind but there was no ignoring the fact that he had some sort of precognition. Or that Max, another kid whose mom had burned on the nursery ceiling, had displayed telekinesis.
Things kept getting stranger and all Sam had ever wanted to be was normal. The little voice in his head snarled suck it up, buttercup and Sam let the silence outside of his head stretch on. There was nothing he could really say to Dean to make the situation better so he just shut up.
The silence was broken by another yawn, this one almost unhinging his jaw. Dean thrust a hand through his sandy blond hair, rumpling it into spikes. "Stay here. I'll get us a room and we'll try this again."
Sam meekly nodded his consent. This was the part he disliked but it was necessary—he needed to let Dean call the shots for a while otherwise his life would be sheer hell for the foreseeable future with the two of them constantly butting heads.
Dean knew he was being a bully but Sam needed someone to ride herd on him. His little brother was the smartest person he knew but no one could get into trouble faster than Sammy. At least Sam hadn't argued when Dean had told him to take a quick shower and then take a nap.
The object of his thoughts was curled on his side, facing toward Dean, buried beneath the green comforter. What was it with motels and their green decorating schemes? More importantly, why had Sam been attacked by fire?
Dean turned his attention back to the laptop, his fingers clicking on the keys the only sound beside Sam's soft breathing in the room. He hit link after link, frustrated that he couldn't find any lore on fire stalkers or whatever you wanted to call them. His dad had never come up against anything like this; at least it wasn't mentioned in his journal.
Pulling up Dogpile, Dean typed in fire imp on a lark and hit the Go Fetch button. He got a bunch of results that appeared to be connected to a video game or something but one site looked like it could be legit. He clicked on the link and read about an obscure Romanian folktale that involved a witch—oh, joy—and its weapon of choice, a fire elemental called forth to rain destruction on the witch's enemy.
Wracking his brain, Dean tried to remember if they'd crossed paths with a witch. He'd met some women who had the disposition to be witches but nothing stood out.
Dean turned his attention from the screen to check on Sam.
Something glowed next to Sam's face. It looked like embers, smoldering, cuddled up to Sam's exposed cheek.
Dean's hand slid into the bag at his feet and withdrew a bottle of holy water. It was water which worked on most fires and had the benefit of being blessed. Win-win. Dean jumped to his feet, his chair clattering over, throwing the contents of the bottle on top of the glowing substance.
The light winked out and the holy water coated Sam's face, his brother's eyes snapping open followed by his body jerking upright. "What was that for?"
His brother looked all of ten with his hair sticking out in all directions, the holy water matting his eyelashes together and the frown pulling his lips into a full-on pout. His tone of voice matched his looks, sleep-interrupted irritation.
The mild amusement over his brother's response to his rude awakening faded quickly. A nervous tick took up residency in Dean's left eyelid. While Sam had been innocently sleeping, under Dean's protection, something dangerous had approached his brother.
Before he could explain about the fire imp or whatever was in the room, Sam clutched his head and yelped.
Sam had woken up abruptly when something wet splashed his face. Dean was a few steps away, a small bottle in his hand. The kind of bottle they used to collect holy water. It explained how he got wet but not the why. "What was that for?"
His irritation disappeared in the face of Dean's solemn expression. Before Dean had a chance to explain his holy water baptism, a sharp pain burrowed behind Sam's eyes.
He might have moaned in distress but that's all he had time for before his inner eye focused on something else.
Blistering heat made the sweat pop out on his face. "What is it you want me to do?"
The blue fire leapt across the surface of the bed. It pulled into the shape of lips and when those lips opened, the air filled with hissing. "Tired. Need to end. You special. Help me. Destroy me. Like destroy demon."
The hissing turned to crackling and the heat ratcheted up a notch, blue flaring in all directions.
"Sam, damn it, not again. Don't do this. Sammy?"
Sam forced his sticky eyelids up, expecting to find Dean hovering over him. Instead he found warmth at his back, hands folded over his chest, holding him upright. Sam let his head fall backward, felt it thud against Dean's shoulder. His brother shifted him to the side, cradling his head in the crook of his arm.
It should've been humiliating, Sam couldn't even hold his head up, but he ignored that pang, instead taking comfort in having Dean near. "What did you see?"
Lifting a weak and trembling arm, Sam scrubbed ineffectually at his still damp face. Dean batted his hand away and a cotton sleeve replaced it, mopping up the residue left by the holy water. The touch was gentle but Dean was radiating frustration and fear in equal measures and Sam couldn't ignore that. "I think the fire entity is somehow linked to the demons and it wants to be destroyed."
Dean's voice rumbled next to his ear. "Why do you say that?"
"Because it said 'Destroy me…like destroy demon." Sam didn't mention the bit about the entity thinking Sam was special. He didn't want to waste time on the self pity or possible explanations behind the statement when they needed to get rid of the fire before someone—namely one of them—ended up crispy, well-done.
Dean huffed in either irritation or amusement, the puff of air pushing Sam's bangs into his face. Before Sam could lift his hand and push the strands away, Dean's hand was there. "I guess there's no mistaking the meaning. So you thinking exorcism?"
There was work to be done so Sam pushed away from the comfort Dean provided. For all his talk of being macho and against chick-flicks, Dean was pretty much a marshmallow. At least when it came to Sam. The trick was to keep Dean from becoming a toasted marshmallow.
"Exorcism. Do you have more holy water in your arsenal or did you drench me with all of it?" Sam tried for humor but it came out sulky. At least it made Dean laugh.
He found himself dumped on his side when Dean shoved away from the headboard and slid off the bed. "I've got more holy water. You good with the Latin or do you want me to take care of this?"
Sam was shaky but he wanted this done. He knew Dean could take care of it on his own but they were in this together. Sam also felt guilty because he'd seemed to play some part in attracting the thing's attention in the first place.
They'd do this. Then he wanted some protein and a deep sleep. "Let's do it."
The exorcism had gone off without a hitch. The little flame had even seemed to wave at them before disappearing in a plume of black smoke.
A wave of protectiveness flooded Dean when he turned to find Sam in his sleep-pants and t-shirt, fisting his tired eyes. Sam was a highly competent hunter with a geeky brain and a big physique yet he managed to look as threatening as a toddler searching for his missing teddy bear. "Why don't you get some shut eye?"
The frown was fierce, the eyebrows pointing down and inward like some cartoon character. "I'm hungry."
If Dean took Sam out for something to eat, he'd plant his face in the main course as soon as it was served. The kid was beyond tired, weaving on his feet. And cranky.
Kid. Sam wasn't a kid. It was hard to remember sometimes but it was a fact; Sam took his nifty little parlor tricks in stride and didn't dissolve in a puddle when threatened with the likes of a fire demon. Sam had also made a life for himself at Stanford—as a self sufficient adult—and didn't need Dean hovering over him like some demented hen clucking over its chicks.
"How about I bring something back? I'll call our order in to the restaurant across the street, grab it and be back before you know it." Dean gritted his jaws when he said he'd leave Sam alone, unprotected, but he was trying to loosen up his hold.
Sam's tired eyes widened. "You mean I can stay here? Alone?"
A smile broke out over Sam's face. It wasn't too large or toothy but it was a natural smile that even reached those large tilted eyes.
There was the proof, in Sam's smile, that Dean needed to ease up. Clutching at Sam before, holding him too close, had only made him feel smothered and he'd fled to California. Away from his family. Away from Dean.
Dean grabbed the telephone book from the desk and paged through until he found the restaurant he'd seen on their way in. He also needed to look under the Chevy's hood and figure out if the Impala needed new sparkplugs or something else.
But that would have to wait. First he'd see to Sam.
Just like always.