They were driving somewhere in the middle of nowhere, a nowhere that was fertile with corn on one side of them, starting to turn the golden color of fall, and on the other side soybeans awaiting harvest. It was fall in the Midwest, and all Sam could was Lucifer's voice. No matter what he did, Sam Winchester couldn't seem to get the sounds of hell and of angry angels out of his head. Sleep only magnified the sounds, drink didn't dull the anguish, and food didn't fill the void in his stomach that was so deep that it seemed endless, eternal. Sam had felt empty after Jessica died, but that empty could be mollified with anger, with determination, with a hunt, with friendship with Dean, with learning how to get back into the groove of hunting again, but this, this emptiness was created by the devil himself, and Sam didn't know what to do, didn't know how to fix it.
Dean was silent on the drive; there was no blast of classic rock that Sam had come to associate with being in the big black beast that, along with Dean, had saved the world. Who would have thought that the car that he complained about, cursed in the summer heat, and dreaded in the winter cold, in addition to the brother who he had accused of being a good little soldier, who he had left, who he had lied to, would be the things to help him come back to himself, help him reign in the devil and be able to fall into the trap?
The engine hummed its normal steady hum and the tires ate up the blacktop at an average speed, Dean didn't ever seem to be in a hurry anymore. He was perfectly content with taking things easy and slow. Sam supposed that after saving the world from the apocalypse what really was there to be in a hurry for?
Sam rested his head against the cool glass and willed himself to block out the noise of Lucifer, to block out the pain suffered while in hell, and was unsuccessful. Sam didn't know why he bothered anymore. It wasn't like anything would stop the noise, the memories, the pain, or the humiliation of the experience.
"You know, when I got back from Hell," Dean started. Sam turned to his brother, it was the first conversation that he had initiated all day. Anymore the two were perfectly content to be next to each other, shoulders touching, and saying nothing, so for the last month the two of them had been back on the road they hadn't said much, hadn't needed to say much. So, Sam was slightly startled by his brother's gruff voice. Dean cleared his throat and continued. "The sounds wouldn't stop. I didn't know what the sounds were at first, all I knew was that they were loud and they wouldn't stop. They were the worst when I was sleeping. Because then, I would get the pure joy of getting to see the images that went along side of the screams. At first, I couldn't make out what any of it was, but then, after the ghost sickness, I most certainly knew what each and every thing I saw and heard was. I think that was one of the hardest things."
Sam realized that this was the first time Dean had talked about the dreams he had had upon returning from hell. When Dean had returned, Sam, even in his blood addicted desensitized state, had tried to get him to talk, tried to get it out of him so that maybe it would make him feel better. But Dean never spoke, never shared what the dreams were about, never shared what he thought about the dreams, or even his time in hell. Sam had gotten snippets, generalizations of his brother's time, and now, almost two years later, Dean was starting to share.
"You ever hear stuff like that Sammy?" Dean asked after a moment of Sam's silent starring.
"I hear the screaming." Sam admitted. "It is really bad at night."
Dean nodded. "Yeah. When you get up does it sound like the motel room echoes with the screams?"
"Sometimes." Dean nodded.
"When I was in the pit, the screams never ended, and the sound seemed to bounce off of the walls, but there really weren't walls there you know?" Sam turned again and listened to his brother, really listened to his brother. "Sometimes I was on this like medieval rack thing, I don't know, kinda like the contraption the shapeshifter Dracula had me on, except you know, without the humiliating costume. I would be there and there would be no walls, and no floor, it was like I was suspended there on this rack, and the real terror was waiting, when the screams stopped, and it was just my screams that were going into the darkness. I would rather be tortured than have to live through the waiting, the wondering, the anticipation of the torture. Torture eventually stops, when there is nothing left of you, it has to stop, but the anticipation the terror in that can be endless."
Sam licked his lips and nodded. "The worst part was not being able to control myself." Sam admitted.
And here is where it begins. Dean thought. Dean had been at a loss for the month and a half the two had been back on the road. Sam was so distant and locked up tight that Dean couldn't get in enough to help him, and Dean had thought and thought and thought of ways to get his baby brother out of his shell enough to get him to at least talk about what happened. Dean knew, from experience, that the only way to make the hell dreams lessen was to at least to admit that you are having them, and then to talk about them. Granted, Dean had never talked about them with anyone except for the little bits and pieces that he had told Sam, because he felt like he owed him an explanation when Alistair said that he had had promise. And when Sam threw that in his face, siren song or no siren song, he hadn't been willing to try caring and sharing with anyone else living.
So, he went to cemeteries, looked for people who had the names, Sam, Robert (Bobby), Mary or John, he wanted to talk to people who had some sort of connection to his family, and since he couldn't talk to them, he settled for people who bore the same name. It hadn't always worked, sometimes it had left him worse for wear, but in the long run, Dean was glad he had at least tried to talk about it. So, while he was trying to come up with a way to help his brother, he realized that the only way, was to share his stories, to open up, to illustrate that he understood the pure horrors Sam was living with. Even if it meant revealing something so personal, so intimate that he hadn't been able to share it with anyone ever before. And just the little he had shared with Sam, had been difficult, had felt like he was taunting the nightmares to return, taunting them to come and swallow him up again, and spit him back out in the bottom of a spiral that smelled like whisky.
"That would be your own personal brand of hell." Dean said softly and encouragingly.
"He would shut me out Dean, he wouldn't let me see what was really going on, but he'd put me in this elaborate fantasy, a fantasy that was so heart wrenchingly fake I…" Sam swallowed. "He wouldn't let me out. He wouldn't let me have control of my body, of my mind, of anything. I was completely at the mercy of his fantasy. And they all weren't good." Sam's face paled.
"People in hell seem to have a knack for making things unpleasant. Hell, I got really good at it. I could torture and maim with the best of them. Just be thankful you didn't have to go down that road."
"I did that up here. I did my time in the torturer's chair." Dean didn't offer platitudes, didn't try to consol his brother, because such words would not have been believed. Sam turned back to the window and stopped talking. Dean smiled a little to himself. Trading stories was going to be good for Sam, and if truth be told it was going to be good for him as well.
They were both men trying to deal with atrocities that no man should ever have to experience, and both were trying to deal with actions that, while were necessary and helped to score a major win for the good guys, were still actions that two good men with morals and a conscious had hard time accepting. They were two men who had survived a major world war, and like any veteran, they had war stories, theirs were bloodier and scarier than others, but they were still stories that needed out, needed to be shared in order to heal and to move on. Because Sam and Dean were two soldiers that never really and truly got a break, the war front simply changed, and they had to keep marching on.