Sammy had nightmares. It was a fact simply accepted in the Winchester family. Dean had tried a few times to figure out just what it was that had his five-year-old brother waking up screaming in the dead of night, but all he ever received were small arms around his neck and muffled sobs in his shoulder. At first, John had tried to comfort his son, but it soon became clear he was no match for the brothers' bond. Only Dean's strong embrace and reassuring whispers could calm the youngest Winchester after a night terror. However, nothing they did helped stop the occurrences, so they learned to live around it.
Until one night, they learned the truth.
It was suppose to be simple, just a salt and burn for a spirit that hadn't even killed anyone yet. Dean, ten years old and already wanting to be exactly like his father, finally got John to agree to let him watch. He even got to hold the flashlight so his daddy would be able to see properly. The impala was left parked a few feet from the grave, Sammy sitting in the back wrapped up in a blanket and sleeping lightly.
It was suppose to be simple. John dug up the shallow grave, pouring salt and gasoline before pulling out a worn zippo. Within seconds the bones were lit, flames leaping up angrily. Dean grinned, turning to check on his supposedly sleeping little brother. What he saw though, was Sam, wide-eyed and pale, staring out the car window, gaze fixated on the glowing flames. His body seemed frozen, his jaw slowly falling open.
And then he screamed.
Everything happened so fast. One moment they were burning bones while Sammy slept in the car, the next Sammy was bursting out the far side passenger door and bolting away, screaming like he was dying. John had longer legs, but Dean had blind panic pumping through his small legs. Sam stumbled as he ran, so it only took Dean a few seconds to reach him, to wrap him up in his arms and thread his fingers through his hair.
"Shhh, Sam, Sammy, what's wrong? Please, Sammy, tell me what's wrong!"
John skidded to a stop, quickly dropping to his knees and wrapping both his boys up in a protective embrace. Sam's screams continued, muffled by the two bodies surrounding him.
"Sam," John chimed in, attempting to hush his youngest while Dean tried to sooth him. "Sam, buddy, you're alright. We just need you to talk to us, okay? Everything's alright."
Finally, after what seemed like forever, Sam pulled back, his tear-stained face looking up at his family. Voice cracking and body shaking, the boy finally stuttered out, "The fire's gonna get me! It wants to eat me like it did the pretty lady!"
Dean and John froze, their faces paling in disbelief. There was no way, there was just no way. Swallowing hard, John spoke softly, "Sammy, what are you talking about?"
Curling up closer to his brother, the answer came in a rushed whisper. "The fire! When I go to sleep the fire eats the blonde lady in white, then it tries to eat me. Don't let it get me, please!" Sammy was crying again, and the Winchester men huddled together, trying to comfort, trying to understand.
By the time Sammy cried himself the sleep, the bones were a pile of ashes.
The car ride to the motel they were staying at was silent. John drove stoically, while Dean sat in the backseat with his arms around his now peaceful brother. When they arrived, John lifted his youngest into his arms, carrying him into the motel and tucking him into the bed farthest from the door, gently and without waking him.
Dean stood awkwardly by his father until finally the man turned to him. "Dad…" For the first time in a long time, Dean felt like a little kid, looking to his father with wide eyes, "Daddy what's going on? Sammy's not suppose to remember, he shouldn't be able to!"
John kneeled down, placing his hands on Dean's shoulders comfortingly. "Dean, kid…" His eyes closed in something akin to pain, "I don't know. We just have to make sure Sammy knows that everything's gonna be alright, okay? Don't you worry about anything."
Nodding, Dean opened his arms and silently asked for something he had not gotten in a long time. Wordlessly, John hugged his son, holding him close until both his children were lost to sleep.
Sammy was afraid of fire. It wasn't something they talked about in the Winchester family, just something silently acknowledged and dealt with as the need arose. It got worse for awhile after Sam finally learned the truth about the supernatural and his mother's death, but Dean hugged him and shushed him, It's okay, Sam, it's not going to get you, Sam, until they could lite a match without him crying. But it was always there.
Even as he got older, it never left him. When Sam was ten and Dean was fifteen and John was gone on a hunt, the power went out and Dean lit candles all around the motel. Sam spent the night staring at the flames, at the melting wax and blackened wicks and Dean watched Sam, watched him chew his fingers and torture himself.
When Sam was thirteen and Dean was seventeen John took them both on a routine salt and burn. Dean protested, but the eldest Winchester had simply said that Sam would have to get over his fear eventually. They dug up the grave, salted the bones and burned them to a crisp. Sam was fine, he gazed at the fire casually before nonchalantly teasing Dean for his taste in music. John smiled meaningfully at Dean, as if proving a point, but John wasn't the one who found Sam that night, when they were all supposed to be asleep, puking his guts out as quietly as possible in the dirty motel bathroom. It wasn't John who rubbed his back and wiped away his tears.
When Sam was fifteen and Dean was nineteen and a hunt called for two people Sam swore he would be fine, that he could handle a weekend alone. But when they got back Dean found that his health obsessed little brother had been living off stale Lucky Charms instead of the pasta and canned meals left for him. Dean didn't understand until he realized that the motel kitchen used a gas stove. Sam said he had a sweet tooth. Dean hugged him and cried.
Years passed, and Sam swore up and down that he was fine, it didn't bother him, he wasn't scared, he wasn't a child, lit the match himself to prove it. To everyone else, even John, his words were true and he had torched enough evil to be believed. But Dean was the one who blew the matches out, who held his brother after relentless nightmares and whispered in the dark, It's okay to be scared, your allowed to be afraid.
After Sam left, Dean hoped he would get better, thought that maybe being surround by normal would suffocate the fear born of something supernatural. Those hopes burned with Jessica. Sam was a mess, and Dean understood, but the quest for revenge brought them face to face with beings that simply had to burn.
All things considered, he though that Sam handled everything well. Dean watched his little brother, eying him carefully after every creature they reduced to ash, but no matter how hard he looked Sam seemed fine. Perfectly fine.
Until one night he walked into the bathroom and found his baby brother holding a lit match under his own arm.
In two steps Dean was there, falling to his knees in front of Sam's seat on the edge of the bathtub, feeling his own skin blister as he wrapped a hand around the match, snuffing out the small, innocent looking flame. A string of curses flowed from his mouth as he looked at Sam's arm. Burns varying in stages of healing dotted his arm from half-way up his forearm to his elbow. For the first time Dean looked at his brother, eyes wide and questioning. Sam looked back, looking ten years younger, looking almost innocent.
"What am I so afraid of, Dean? What am I so afraid of?"
And Dean didn't know, didn't know what his brother needed to hear, didn't know what to say to make Sam okay, to make him okay with not being okay. He just cradled his brother's peeling arm and gasped out, "Damn it, Sam. I'm scared."
Sam blinked slowly, his whole body moving like it was underwater. Lifting his good arm, he gently gripped the back of Dean's neck and smiled wetly. "It's okay to be scared. You're allowed to be afraid."
And Dean clenched his eyes shut and cursed, cussed long and loud, as if it would hide the tears streaming down his face, as if Sam wasn't wiping those tears away with a hand that smelled like ash. As if he wasn't kneeling on a dirty tile floor in front of his burning brother, wondering just what else the fire took.
Alright, before anyone bugs me, I know Sam was six months old and he shouldn't remember anything from that night and it's impossible etc etc. But come on, it's Sam we're talking about. Freaky, psychic, demon blood Sam. Willing suspense of disbelief, yeah?
Anywho, I hope you enjoyed! (But if you didn't, I wanna know!) Thanks for reading! ~BFMS
(Oh yeah, aaand DISCLAIMER: I don't own Supernatural. Just sayin'.)