Disclaimer: I do not own, yadda yadda yadda.
A/N: This was written for Annie46 for the SPN_Summergen fic exchange on LJ who wanted a fic where Sam and Dean investigate an ancient myth or legend. This what came out of that prompt an honestly, I'm not sure what to make of this story, so any feedback, positive or negative is welcome.
He doesn't know what it is, but he does know that it's scary as shit.
He wills his arms to move, to call out to his brother and let him know he can't breathe – that he's dying - but he can't. Nothing responds to the panic flooding his mind – he can't even get his lungs to inflate.
If he could only get one finger to move – one muscle to twitch …
Inside his head is the noise of screaming, but none of it can break free from his throat and on his chest, it feels as though a heavy presence is weighing down on him, pinning him and paralyzing his muscles.
His thoughts race and he struggles against the invisible bonds holding him down.
Suddenly it's as if a rubber band snaps and breaks and his body jerks in response, free at last. He gasps, taking in great gulps of air to help feed oxygen to his galloping heart and starving lungs. Energy jolts through his arms and legs, up and down his nerves until he's bolting upright, ensnaring his limbs in wet, sweat-soaked fabric.
His eyes take in his surroundings and he's in bed – the same bed he collapsed into just after Dean sprung him from the hospital and he tells himself that it was only a dream – it has to be - even if it's not like any nightmare he's ever had before.
Whatever presence he thought he had felt before is gone, but the bed next to his is occupied and the soft, snoring noises issuing from under the blankets helps to calm his racing pulse and push the last lingering vestiges of the nightmare he had been caught in out of his mind.
He turns his head to the only artificial light in the room and looks at the digital numbers on the clock. It's 3:38 am and he's only been asleep for four hours, but compared to the last week – it might has well have been only minutes as his body is still aching for more rest.
Collapsing back down on his pillow, he looks up at the ceiling and the streaks of light coming through the blinds of the window before he chances to close his eyes again and give himself back over to his exhaustion. The silence is a blessing and welcome, yet at the same time, it's too noisy and sleep doesn't come back to him as easily as it should. It's hard to believe that he would actually miss Lucifer's voice, but something soft and melodic begins to fill his head, lulling him back into darkness and he gives in to its pull.
She hums and he relaxes, slipping back into his dreams.
This one is special, like a glowing beacon in the night that she couldn't help but be drawn to. His dreams are rich and plentiful – terrifying and so nourishing, but he is prone to wake up before she's done with him, his nightmares almost too powerful for him to remain in sleep long enough to get her fill. But she needs him to sleep in order to feed – she's so hungry and he's too delicious to pass up.
Yes … she would gorge herself on this one until there was nothing left but bones to pick on.
"Hey …" Dean shakes Sam's shoulder gently, "C'mon – I know you need to catch up on your beauty sleep, but do you think 30 hours is enough for now?"
Sam rubs his eyes against the bright light coming through the wide open shades of the window and groans loudly, "What time is it?"
"Oh … about noon."
Sam scrunches his face, doing the math, "That's only like twelve hours, not thirty."
"Not when you consider the fact that it's Sunday and not Friday anymore." Dean states with a smirk.
Sam is confused and disoriented by the length of time he must have slept, but he grins back and he can't begin to tell his brother how grateful he is that he came back for him. He had given up – he really had – more than a week without so much as a minute of sleep and Sam had become too tired to even want to live anymore and with Lucifer running commentary at all times, he would have welcomed death.
But Dean hadn't given up – as Sam should have known he wouldn't and he came back for him. While Cas may have taken Lucifer from his waking nightmares, it was Dean that had really pulled him back from the brink and for that, he doesn't know how to repay him.
Sam's throat threatens to knot up and he chokes a little, but his emotions are tempered by Dean's next words.
"Well, you gonna get your lazy ass outta bed sometime today and take a shower? I mean, my God, Sammy, you'd think you just spent the last week holed up in a petting zoo instead of the funny farm."
Sam snarls and turns onto his side, petulantly showing his back to his brother, "I'll take one in a little while, just let me sleep another hour or so." He pleads, his body still craving rest.
A pillow smacks into the back of Sam's head which he grabs and tosses back at Dean, "C'mon, Sam. You need to get up, get cleaned up, get something to eat and drink and then we gotta hit the road. We're still a little too close to that hospital for comfort and I'd like to get a few more hundred miles between that place and us. You can sleep in the car if you're still tired.
Sam really can't argue with that logic even though he suspects that some of Dean's motivation to leave town stems more from boredom than anything else, but he can't really fault his brother either – watching someone sleep for two days can't be all that exciting. Despite being desperately tired still, Sam decides that he can force himself to go through the motions of getting a shower and a meal if it means he can sleep for the rest of the day – and probably night afterwards.
Dean pulls the covers off Sam and practically shoves him towards the bathroom and Sam doesn't protest when his brother hands him his shaving kit and toiletries, "Alright – get a move on – daylight's wasting."
Sam takes his time – Dean can wait a little bit longer.
He showers until the hot water runs out, hoping the steady stream of warmth will invigorate him and pull him out of the sleepy fog he's operating in, but he's still thinking about the comfortable bed and blankets he just came from and how nice it would be to have stayed asleep just a little while longer.
If Dean was annoyed by how long his slow-moving brother took in the shower, he doesn't say anything but, when Sam comes out of the bathroom and still hasn't shaved, Dean looks at him with a flash of irritation until Sam's eyes cast down at his torn up fingers. He still isn't completely sure how he injured them in the hospital as his memories of the last few days are kinda fuzzy, but they're too sore from his stinging shampoo to steadily use his razor. Dean just seems to understand and reaches into his own toiletry bag and hands him his electric shaver so he won't rip up his face.
"Thanks, Dean." Sam says.
"Clean it when you're done – I don't want Sasquatch fur jamming it up."
After Sam has all of the stubble removed from his face, he looks in the mirror, feeling closer to alive than he has in a very long time. He still has some dark circles under his eyes and his face is thinner thanks to his loss of appetite while in the hospital, but Sam thinks that it's all a big improvement, especially when Satan doesn't appear behind him and make some kind of snide comment. He just wishes he could shake off some of his lingering exhaustion.
Dean's patience must have finally reached its maximum because he is soon knocking forcefully on the door and demanding that they both get a move on because he's starving and needs lunch 'right the hell now!'
Sam's stomach rumbles at the mention of food and he realizes that he too is getting increasingly hungry and he can't remember the last time he ate of full meal – or when he actually didn't feel nauseous just looking at food or expecting maggots to crawl out of it. He still shudders at the memory of that particular hallucination, but his hunger is winning out and he hurries to get dressed, pack up, and leave with Dean for the nearest diner.
Dean casts a look at the passenger seat and his sleeping brother – his still sleeping brother.
Sam may have one helluva sleep debt, but he was seriously starting to drive Dean bonkers with boredom. He's hardly had a chance to say more than a few words here and there to his brother since he sprung him from the nuthouse – and God – he misses the sound of his brother's rational, albeit bitchy voice.
He's half-tempted to wake him up just so he doesn't fall asleep himself behind the wheel, but Sam looks about as peacefully asleep as he's ever seen him – he's hardly moved a muscle since he dozed off after lunch and for the first time in months, he doesn't hear his brother whimpering or making those fearful noises that signals he's having a bad dream.
So, Dean drives on for another hundred miles in silence, not even turning on the radio so he can let his brother sleep on.
He stops at a McDonald's drive thru for dinner. Sam doesn't so much as stir and it's only a thin line of drool dripping from the corner of his mouth that provides any sign of life from his brother.
It's still early evening, but Dean's tired from driving in silence and watching Sam sleep, so he pulls into the nearest motel and gets a room where they can eat their dinner and crash for the night.
As soon as he parks, he reaches over and shakes Sam's shoulder.
"Hey … Sam …" He starts off, trying to wake him without being a dick, but when Sam just kinda mumbles something and turns his head away from Dean, he loses some – okay all – of his gentleness. "I'm not carrying you over the threshold, Sammy … get your ass up."
Sam slowly blinks awake then rubs the sleep from his eyes and starts to look around in a haze, "We at a motel already?"
Dean shakes his head, "Excellent deduction, Sherlock."
Sam stretches and yawns loudly, looking like he could curl up and go right back into the arms of Morpheus, but Dean isn't having any of that – Sam needs to eat just as much as he needs sleep, so he punches his brother in the shoulder to fully wake him up. "C'mon. I got dinner." Dean says. Sam shoots him a grumpy, and sleepy face, but pushes his door open, pulling himself out of the car.
Dean opens the door to the room and dumps the McDonald's bags onto the table as Sam drags his feet inside, going straight for the bed. If it's even possible after so much rest, Sam actually looks even more exhausted than he did the night Dean got him out of the hospital, but their food is getting cold and his little brother has to be hungry after eating only a couple slices of toast and some coffee at lunch.
"Hey … not going back to bed already, are ya?"
Sam flops down face first into the pillow, "M' tired." He replies, voice muffled by the pillow.
"Yeah, I can kinda see that, but you gotta eat to stay alive. I'm sure that's something they taught you in college, right?"
Sam turns his head and glares at Dean, but forces himself up and into a sitting position. A burger nearly hits him in the face, but he catches it at the last moment. Sam looks a little green around the gills as he opens the wrapped cheeseburger, but he lifts it to his mouth and takes a tentative nibble. Sam hasn't told him much about the things he was seeing while Satan took up residence in his head, but it's plain to read on Sam's face that food must have been some kind of issue for him because he examines his food very closely with each bite and chews very carefully. After only a quarter of the burger is gone, he's got that 'I'm gonna hurl at any moment' look about him and Dean takes some pity on him.
"I got fries too if you don't want the burger." Dean says as he hands his brother the take-out bag. Sam looks relieved and wraps his mostly uneaten burger back up and puts it in the bag before pulling out the fries and munching on them instead. It's not exactly what Dean would call a complete meal, but at least Sam is eating and that's a win in his book – now, if only he can keep his brother awake for more than ten minutes …
Sam yawns loudly once he's done eating and drinks a bottle of water before lying back down on his pillow and closing his eyes.
So much for trying to keep him awake, Dean commiserates with himself. As boring as the prospect of another night watching his brother snooze is, Dean is just glad to have Sam back minus his costar, Lucifer. It was just going to take some time for him to recover and get back into fighting form even if Dean is impatient for things to return to whatever version of 'normal' is for them these days.
Dean pulls Bobby's flask out of his jacket pocket and twists the cap off before chugging a few large mouthfuls of bourbon as soon as Sam starts to snore. Well … at least he had his good friend Jack to keep him company for a while.
She's so hungry.
At last, evening comes and she is able to come out of hiding. She flies through the doorway, feeling a sharp burn as she crosses over a line of salt, but that isn't enough to stop her – nothing can stop her when she is this famished.
She hovers over the first bed for a moment. The older one is an interesting creature, filled with bitterness and bile and he too could provide her with plenty to consume as soon as she is through with the more nourishing prize, but she's repulsed by the smell of alcohol on his lips and she moves on to the one she really wants.
She can almost taste him from there and she can no longer resist the pull of his exhaustion and fear.
She lands on his chest and breathes in the scents of pain and terror that dwell deep in his mind then she starts to feed, pulling delicious nightmares to the surface and savoring them as she takes them into herself and hums a gentle lullaby to coax him further into his dreams.
Sam shoots upright, sweating, and gasping for air.
It's happened again – waking up unable to move or call out – unable to breathe and this time it had been much harder for him to come out of it.
It was terrifying, almost as frightening as the nightmare he had been having, but worse than that was the feeling that something was on top of him. For a moment, while was he was trapped in his own body and paralyzed, he thought he saw an indistinct mass of darkness like a shadow hovering over him, and he could have sworn he heard the indistinct sound of a someone humming. It's gone now, but he can't be sure if it had been real or just another figment of his mind or part of the nightmare he had been having – after all, he's been seeing a lot of crazy crap lately.
And maybe that's what scares him the most – that he's still crazy. The dreams he had been having before he woke up had been … intense … to say the least, and what if Lucifer was still hanging around somewhere in his subconscious, just waiting for the right time to come back drive him right over the edge and back into insanity?
He shivers as the sweat on his body evaporates. He's still so damned tired, like heavy weights have been tied to limbs and he's been dragging them around for years. Even though he's been sleeping for almost three days straight, he feels like he could keep sleeping continuously for the next week.
But, Sam's mind is working in overtime and no matter how exhausted his body is, he can't let himself fall asleep again until he has some answers. He pushes himself out of bed and drags his body toward his duffel bag, pulling out the laptop.
The first thing he searches for once he's online are the symptoms he's been experiencing and he types in 'waking up, unable to move' into Google. Almost automatically, a page returns that gives him an answer and he reads that what he's experienced is something called sleep paralysis and the further he researches, the more relaxed he feels.
It turns out that this sort of thing is actually pretty common and normal and it's only the mind waking up from R.E.M. sleep before the body has had a chance to come out of the muscle paralysis it puts itself into to keep the limbs from thrashing about as the mind dreams. Even though it's never happened to him until the last couple of nights, he learns that it's thought to be caused by stress and sleep deprivation – both of which he can say with absolute certainty he's experienced lately.
He even reads how many people sometimes have hallucinations during their paralysis and seeing people in the room with them or feeling a malevolent presence is not uncommon. That little added bit of info leaves him relieved that he's not going insane again (for once).
Sam's vision is blurring while he reads from the soft glow of the computer screen and he rubs his eyes wearily. He realizes then that he's been reading the same paragraph over and over for the last ten minutes, so he shuts down his computer, satisfied that he has a name for what's been happening to him. He rationalizes his experience and tells himself that it's probably caused by his recently whacked out sleep schedule and that going without sleep for so long had screwed up his body in more ways than one. This sleep paralysis thing must be just another consequence of it all and when he is back to sleeping regularly, it should go away.
Even though he's still a little scared that the whole sleep paralysis thing will happen again after he falls asleep this time, he's too tired and exhausted to fight off his exhaustion any longer and he's back in his bed, shutting his eyes moments later.
A soft melody hums in his head and it draws him in, promising a peaceful rest, but there is little he can do to stop the nightmares lurking in the corners of his mind from coming to the surface and dragging him under.
Flames begin to rise and somewhere in the distance, Lucifer laughs …
He's waking up too much and it's getting harder to get him to fall asleep and stay there, she realizes.
She has to get him to slip into his dreams deeper so she can truly taste the intensity of his fear on grab on to the meaty, juicy parts of his subconscious, but his will is strong and it is a struggle to keep him there. It's there that she finds a vast wealth of pain and horror and she sees the tortures he's endured and it is all so delicious that she wants – no, needs more.
She presses herself into him, digging in, and feasting. Perhaps she is going too fast, draining him too quickly and at this rate he might not last more than another night or two, but she can't resist gorging herself – the emotions he gives her are sweeter than ambrosia and she too intoxicated by it all to give any of it up.
She has to take him deeper and keep him there – she can't risk letting him go.
Dean groans and curses himself for forgetting that he had set the alarm on his cell for such a freakin' early hour. He rolls onto his side and looks across the dark valley between the beds and sees that Sam is still deeply asleep and his alarm hasn't caused him to so much as twitch.
Looking at his phone with blurry eyes, he reads that it's only 5 a.m. and despite the pounding headache that his evening with Jack Daniels has given him, he gives up on sleeping since his bladder won't allow him to lie in bed much longer. He drags his legs out from under the covers and heads to the bathroom to take care of his business.
Along the way, he smacks at Sam's feet to try and rouse his brother, but Sam doesn't stir. Dean doesn't think too much about it – Sam's been sleeping like it was going outta style and he'll try again after he's had a shower and scrubbed out some of the fuzzy cotton balls stuffed in his head.
Thirty minutes later, Dean emerges from the steamy bathroom, clean, shaven, and hungry. Thanks to the shower, his hangover has subsided, but now he's so hungry he could even eat at one of those healthy, granola munching, organic joints that Sam likes.
But first he still needs to get his brother out of bed.
"C'mon, Sammy!" He raises his voice while pulling the blankets off of his brother, "'nuff sleepin', time for some eatin'."
Dean pulls on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, but Sam is still asleep and doesn't seem to care that his brother is literally starving to death, "Sam! C'mon I'm hungry; get your ass out of bed!"
None too gently, Dean kicks the mattress of Sam's bed, but his little brother still doesn't make any signs of waking up. Dean is getting really annoyed as Sam ignores him and he moves to take his shoulders, shaking him.
But now that he's closer to him, he sees just how pale and grey he is and when Dean touches his skin, it's cold as an ice cube.
"Sammy?!" Dean's growing more frantic as he pats Sam about the face and is not above shouting his brother's name. "Wake up, Sam!"
Sam still won't open his eyes and Dean slides two fingers against the side of his throat, feeling for his brother's pulse. His heart is pounding furiously against his fingertips, but Sam is unresponsive to the point where Dean's panic switch has been thrown into high gear, "Sammy, please … you gotta wake up, man … c'mon!" Dean begs.
A low moan issues from deep inside Sam's chest, "That's it … open your eyes, Sam!" Dean encourages as Sam's eyelids flutter then suddenly fly open as wide as saucers.
Dean's relieved to see his brother's eyes, but it's short-lived as Sam just lies there on the bed and stares at something over Dean's shoulder with terror in his eyes.
"Don't go, Sammy. The fun was only starting …"
Laughter fills his ears as the flames rise, but something is pulling him out, dragging his charred limbs from the fire.
"Sammy, please … you gotta wake up, man … c'mon!" Sam can hear Dean's pleas and his mind snaps from one nightmare and straight into another.
He tries to move, to open his eyes and let Dean know that he's awake, but nothing will respond to the will of his panicking mind. He pushes muscles that won't respond all while trying to suppress the terror building in his throat at being fully conscious, but unable to move a muscle. The best he can do is make a pitiful, strangled noise in his throat.
Sam pushes against the fear - he just needs to calm down and focus so he can awake himself up the rest of the way. He forces his brain to work on opening his eyes and he manages to blink a couple of times and keep them open, but as soon as he can see, fear has him in its crushing grip again. Dean's face is above him, worried and scared, but just behind his brother is a dark mass that swirls until it forms a semi-coherent shape and the outline of a face.
He still can't speak or move his muscles - all he can do is dart his eyes towards the creature behind Dean and hope that that would be enough to warn his brother to the danger behind him.
Dean cups Sam's face, "Hey, Sammy ... look at me, you're okay."
Sam doesn't turn his eyes from the creature.
C'mon, Dean … look the hell behind you! He wants to yell, but unfortunately, Dean doesn't comprehend what Sam is trying to do before it's too late and he turns his head just in time for the creature to strike.
Something that looks to Sam like an arm grabs Dean around the neck and pulls him forcefully away from Sam until his brother is flying backward into the far wall, hitting it hard enough to crack the plaster before he falls boneless to the floor.
Sam can only scream Dean's name in his head.
Unable to move or fight back, there isn't a thing Sam can do to escape from the creature as it advances towards him and extends a shadowy hand. It reaches for him and he feels heat and warmth envelop him as it starts to hum that same nameless tune he's been hearing in his sleep for days. He tries to fight back with his mind, attempting to push the creature out of his head and silence the music, but the song it too loud and it floods every corner in his brain, leaving him no place to hide and consuming every ounce of fear while stealing his thoughts.
He can't fight back and darkness quickly pulls him under and flames once again begin to lick at his flesh.
Every inch of his body hurts as Dean pulls himself out of the inky blackness crowding his head and opens his eyes. The world tilts on its axis and he has to fight the urge to vomit, but he has only one thing on his mind and nausea isn't going to stop him from saving his little brother.
Dean didn't get a good look at whatever it was that attacked him, but he knew it was strong, evil, and after Sam.
With a grunt and a burst of energy fueled by his fear for his little brother, Dean thrusts himself to his feet while Sam remains on the bed in the exact same position he was before. Whatever attacked him is nowhere to be seen, but Dean knows better than to think the creature is gone.
Dean follows his first instinct and makes a beeline for Sam, but he only gets one foot forward before a swirling, black, shadowy mass appears, taking the shape of half-formed creature made of smoke that Dean can't completely make out. It turns its head at him, snarls and hisses a warning while red, glowing eyes glare at him angrily. It turns back to Sam, straddling his chest then places claw-like hands on both of his temples and throws it head up as if in rapture before it promptly disappears.
Sam's back arches off the bed and he makes low, pained noises that cut Dean down to the quick.
"Sonovabitch." Dean growls low in his throat and if that thing thinks he was angry before, it's got another thing coming. Dean charges again and again, he can't get to Sam without the thing whirling on him and attacking, but he knows there has to be some way to get it away from his brother.
He makes a break for it, dashing across the room for his bag and pulling out his shotgun. It's already loaded with salt rounds and he can only hope that that will be enough to make the thing release Sam and if getting close to his brother makes the creature materialize, then he has a good chance of making the shot without hitting Sam too.
Aiming the shot gun just above his brother where he last saw the thing, Dean comes towards the bed quickly. The creature appears again, its smoke-like body quivering as soon Dean starts to move and it begins growling and snapping its sharp fangs, but it won't release its hold on Sam.
Dean's always been a crack shot and this time is no different as he pulls the trigger and blasts salt pellets into the black mass. The creature screams as it becomes more solid, but it doesn't back off of Sam's chest. Dean quickly pumps the shot gun for another round and shoots again. This time when the salt hits the thing it yowls with an ear-piercing wail as its body bursts into a puff of dark smoke. The black cloud hovers in the air over Sam for a moment as if deciding whether or not it was worth trying to go after him again, but before Dean can load another shot, it flies up to the ceiling and disappears.
Dean doesn't waste a moment after it's gone and he runs to Sam's side, grabbing his shoulders and trying to wake his brother.
"Sam! … Sammy!" He shouts and it is then that Dean realizes that he can't feel any air coming from Sam's lips and he's not making any attempt to breathe.
Sam's skin is so pale that it's practically translucent and his lips are turning a frightening shade of blue. Dean frantically begins to slap Sam's face while simultaneously pounding in his chest, hoping that Sam's lungs will take the hint and start working again.
Sam's cold to the touch, and Dean is seconds away from performing rescue breathing on his brother when Sam's muscles suddenly jerk in response to Dean's hands and he shoots upright, gasping for air. Darting his eyes around wildly, Sam's fingers tangle into Dean's shirt and he's shaking so hard that Dean wraps his arms around his brother to keep him steady.
"Dean!" Sam wheezes, panic making his voice shrill, "God – I couldn't wake up … I couldn't … I couldn't move!"
"I know … you're okay now, Sammy … you're okay."
Sam swallows, trying to catch his breath and his hands grip Dean's shirt even tighter, "Is it gone?"
"I hit it with salt, but I don't think I killed it – it took off, which is what I think we should do before it comes back."
"I don't think that'll do any good, Dean – I think it's been following us – I don't think this is the first time it's come at me while I was asleep."
"What?" Dean was floored, "This thing attacked before and you didn't say anything? What the fuck, Sam?"
Sam shook his head and pushed himself away from Dean, "I thought it was something else – guess I was wrong."
"Gee – ya think?" Dean is on his feet and pulling Sam up along with him, grabbing things and shoving them in bags as he moves across the room, "C'mon. We're outta here before that thing either comes back or the cops come to arrest us for shooting up the room."
Minutes later, Dean has Sam shoved into the passenger seat of the car and all of their stuff dumped in the trunk and he's pulling out of the parking lot of the motel, tires squealing, and the smell of burning rubber chasing after them.
Really, it's nothing new – he's pissed a lot these days what with Leviathans after them and Dean's burning need for vengeance against Dick Roman for what he did to Bobby, but Sam knows his brother and this is a different kind of pissed – this is Dean pretending to be pissed when he's actually scared out of his mind.
Sam himself can't help but admit that he's pretty scared too. Something's been coming at him while he sleeps and while that's frightening enough by itself, it's the lingering memory of his nightmares of hell, of waking up and not being able to move, breathe, or fight that really makes him shudder.
And on top of it all, he's feeling more exhausted and thinly worn than even those last few days in the mental ward with Lucifer keeping him from sleep. It's a struggle to keep his eyes open even though he knows that falling asleep might attract that creature to him again, but staying alert is becoming nearly impossible and it's like he's been drained of all of his energy and all he wants – all his body is begging for - is more sleep.
Dean catches Sam's eyes drooping and he shakes his shoulder while keeping his other hand on the wheel, "Hey! No sleeping, Sam – for all we know that thing is just waiting for you to start sawing some logs, so until we know how to kill this bitch for good, you gotta stay awake."
Sam rubs his eyes, then yawns and stretches, "I know – I can't help it. It's like trying to fight off sleep during a boring lecture – Like the harder I try to stay awake, the more difficult it is to keep my eyes open."
"Tell you what – " Dean offers sympathetically, "let's get us some coffee and food and start working on finding out just what the hell this thing is and what we can do to stop it, okay?"
Sam nods his head wearily, "Coffee definitely – maybe some No-Doze and a case of Red Bulls too."
Dean drives them to the nearest diner and they both order lunch. As they eat, Sam pulls out his laptop and starts to research while drinking as much coffee as their waitress can pour.
"You said this happened before?" Dean asks, still sounding a little pissed at him, as if Sam had deliberately deceived him.
"Not like that. I mean … I woke up a couple of times and for a few seconds I couldn't move or call out or anything and it kinda freaked me out, so I looked it up online and I found a condition called sleep paralysis that matched what was happening to me. I figured it was just a physiological response to being sleep deprived. I didn't think there was anything supernatural to it and I was so tired, I didn't really do any further research."
"Well … whatever it was, it certainly wasn't anything natural – it threw me across the room like a ragdoll and it looked like it was trying to suck the life outta ya."
"Kinda like a striga or a succubus." Sam mused as he typed in a few search terms and tried to focus on the screen, "Maybe it's feeding on me while I sleep."
"Yeah, but striga's go after kids and succubi … well … they're just in it for the sex, right?"
Sam nods tiredly, bringing up new pages from the internet and sighing at the overwhelming amount of information before him. He can't believe that he had failed to dig deeper into all of this before and he's feeling pretty stupid now for not even looking into a supernatural cause for his sleep disturbances, "I know … I'm gonna keep looking, but there's a ton of folklore from just about every culture in the world that ties into the sleep paralysis phenomenon – some cultures believe it's caused by a demons, while others say it's caused by a wraith, ghost, or an old hag …" Sam rubs his temples where he can feel a headache starting to blossom. He's still feeling worn out and sleepy, but the coffee seems to be helping and he can at least keep his eyes open while he researches.
Sam sighs, yawns then pinches the bridge of his nose as the headache grows and tries to worm its way through his skull.
"You should eat something, "Dean suggests, "Maybe that'll help wake you up."
Sam looks at the oatmeal he ordered which has now gone cold and he's less than enthused to eat it, but he takes a couple of bites just so Dean won't keep riding him about not eating. Dean digs into his own plate of eggs and bacon as Sam goes back to searching the internet for information and asks for more coffee.
They sit at the booth for the next hour, getting nastier and nastier looks from the waitress who is clearly upset about not being able to fill their table with other customers until Dean flirts with her shamelessly and her attitude perks up enough that she's refilling their cups every time she passes their table.
Sam's halfway through his tenth cup of coffee and torn between doing more research and going to the restroom when something on the screen pops out at him and grabs his attention, "Whoa … I think I found something …"
"What?" Dean asks.
"Well … According to Persian folklore, people that have had an encounter with Shaitan will sometimes draw the attention of a bakhtak – a kind of ghoul or old hag that sits on people's chest as they sleep and feasts on a person's life-force and the fear brought on by nightmares."
"I've never heard of that. And what the hell is Shay-tahn?"
"Hell is right, Dean -" Sam points out while avoiding his brother's eyes. "Shaitan is the Arabic word for Satan …"
"Oh." Dean replies quietly.
"Actually, it could also mean any kind of devil or demon from hell," Sam explains while grabbing his napkin and twisting it in his hand until it starts to fall apart. He snorts humorlessly, "but I guess being Lucifer's meat puppet and spending as much quality time with him as I have would probably make me an irresistible snack to this thing."
Dean offers Sam a sympathetic look, "At least we know what it is now. Does it say in there how to kill it?"
"So far no, but there's got to be something somewhere that does … I just need to do more research." Sam yawns loudly and stretches his arms over his head, his muscles sore and crying out for rest.
"In that case, "Dean lifted up his cup and signaled their waitress with a smirk, "I'll order us more coffee."
Dean doesn't like this plan.
In fact, he rather hates it and he isn't above making his displeasure known.
"This is stupid, Sam." He tells his brother.
Sam throws up his hands and sighs exasperatedly, "You've already said that like three times, Dean. I don't like it too much either, but what choice do we have?"
"I know … but letting that thing feed on you? What if this gobbledygook doesn't work or this backpack thing decides to suck out all of your brains at once or I can't wake you up at all?"
"It a bakhtak, Dean, a bakhtak … and it's either we do this or I never sleep again and I'm getting pretty damn sick of not sleeping after the last few weeks I've had." Sam snaps and rubs his head. Dean can tell he must have one monster of a headache from all of the no-doze he's taken, so he digs into his pack and finds a bottle of Tylenol, tossing it to his brother.
"Jeez … you sure do get cranky when you miss your nap, Sammy."
Sam attempts to catch the bottle, but his movements are too slow and sluggish and he misses the catch by a mile, which does little to make Dean feel better about this plan. Sam is barely functioning and Dean isn't feeling too great either.
"It's been over 40 hours since either one of us slept," Sam shoots back testily, opening the Tylenol and popping three into his mouth, talking as he chewed on the medicine, "there's only so much caffeine in the world to keep me awake any longer – so yeah – I'm cranky and I'm freakin' tired."
Sam grabs an open Red Bull and chases the pills with the sugary drink.
Dean wishes there could have been a way to let his brother get some rest before all this, but there wasn't any way he was going to risk letting Sam doze off while that thing was still alive, so neither one of them has slept, surviving the last 40 hours on nothing but high-carb snacks, caffeine pills and more Red-bulls than a rave at Britney Spear's house.
"Okay …" Dean raises his hands in surrender, "but if we do this and things even so much as look like they're going south, I'm pulling the plug."
"Whatever, man … I just want to get this over with." Sam says, his shoulders slumping and Dean has a flashback to that damned hospital room in the mental ward when Sam had been on the brink of giving up and resigned himself to dying.
Dean wasn't going to let that happen then and he's not going to let that happen now.
He still hates this plan, but what he hates more is seeing Sam sitting at the table of their motel room looking at his bed like a starving man looks at a T-bone steak and he also hates the dark, half-moons under his eyes that speak to just how exhausted and worn out his little brother is. He's tired too and hasn't slept either while they searched for a way to kill the bakhtak , needing to stay alert in order to make sure Sam didn't fall asleep, but his unease isn't going to let him rest until this creature gets ganked.
But now that night was falling and they have a plan, it was time to set it into motion, despite Dean's misgivings.
Step one of the plan involved Sam going to sleep, which shouldn't be hard given how exhausted he looks, but step two was the part that worried Dean. They had to let the bakhtak come to Sam and do its whole fear and nightmare sucking while Dean had to be prepared to recite some spell in Arabic that he could only hope he would pronounce right, even after the hours that Sam had spent coaching him to memorize the phonetically spelled words.
But the really tricky part would come after Dean recited the spell, for it was then that Dean would only have seconds to attack while the bakhtak was visible and solid enough for him to thrust a silver knife into its heart and kill it – or at least that is what Sam's research had come up with.
But there was no guarantee that even that would work and who could say what it would do if it didn't – would it just kill Sam outright or send him into a sleep so deep that he'd never be able to drag his brother out of it? There were too many question marks in this plan for Dean's liking, but Sam had a point, there was only so long he could go without sleep before he collapsed and seeing how panicked and scared Sam had been after the last encounter they had with the monster, he wanted this thing dead and gone for good.
Darkness is falling and she can hear the discussion bouncing back and forth between the two men, but she's not afraid of their plans—she's much stronger than these mere humans and after she has her fill of the first, she will be unstoppable and the second man will have no chance.
She knows will have to be fast, swoop in and drain the younger one quickly, but it will be worth the risk – his pain will make her powerful.
Dean turns to Sam and bucks up his resolve, "You ready?"
Sam nods wearily, "Yeah."
"Alright," Dean says warily while Sam walks over to the bed, approaching it carefully and puffing his breath like he did before he fell into Hell and shit if that doesn't make Dean want to call this whole damned thing off again.
Sam lies down on the bed without taking his clothes off, just in case there might be some cause for them to beat another hasty retreat from this motel. He closes his eyes and lies there while Dean pulls out the stuff they need, sliding the knife under the waistband of his jeans and clutching the words of the spell on a folded piece of paper in his hand just in case he can't remember all of the words as he too lays down on his bed and pretends to sleep – keeping a close ear on his brother.
Dean would know the second Sam was asleep – he'd lived with the guy far too long not to recognize the subtle change in breathing (snoring) that signaled his total submersion into dreamland, but after several long minutes, that change still wasn't coming.
"Dean …" Sam says into the darkness.
"What do you mean you can't sleep? You've been fighting it off for the last two days."
"I dunno – I just can't relax enough to get comfortable, ya know?"
"What do you want me to do, sing you a lullaby?"
"God, Dean - You don't have to be a dick about it."
"Jeez … I'm sorry, I just didn't figure on you pulling the whole princess and the pea crap. You know what you need to do?"
"Don't think. I know that'll be hard for you, but just focus on relaxing your muscles and shutting down that nuclear powered brain of yours for once and you'll be asleep in no time. Works for me."
"That's just because there's not much to turn off."
"Shut your bitch-ass mouth and go to sleep, will ya?"
Dean can't see it in the darkness, but he can almost hear Sam smirking and sure enough, a few minutes of silence goes by and Sam's breathing evenly out into long snores that grow progressively louder.
And he thinks I snore? Dean mutters inside his head.
He isn't sure how long he needs to wait – Sam said that most people go into R.E.M. sleep, and the stage of sleep when the bakhtak would most likely try to strike after he went through the 4 stages of non-R.E.M. sleep which could last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. All he can do is wait for some sign that Sam is dreaming, which usually isn't very hard if he's having a nightmare. But after about a half hour of careful listening, he feels a subtle change in the atmosphere of the room – something that he would have normally missed had he really been asleep.
It feels like a heavy cloud has entered the room – he can't see it, but he knows it there. Like an invisible fog, it rolls into the room and blankets the space above them and begins to descend.
Sam hears the humming and he knows it's coming for him. He's afraid, but the song washes over his senses and pulls him further under.
Suddenly it's dark and hot – the heat is growing exponentially and he can feel his flesh begin to sizzle and crack. Pain erupts across his nerves as fire flares up around him and a familiar voice echoes in his mind him, laughing.
"Welcome home, Sammy. Warm enough for you or should I turn up the thermostat?"
"This is a dream … you can't hurt me." Sam shouts as the flames lick at his skin and the pain begins to overwhelm him.
"Really? You sure about that? You know we've been over this before. What makes you think an angel can spring you from this cage, huh? You think it's that easy?" Lucifer laughs again, "I'm an angel too, Sammy and if I can't get myself outta here, how would that two-bit cherub be able to?"
Fire surrounds his vision and agony is all he knows as his skin chars and blackens. Smoke fills his lungs and he chokes, unable to pull a breath in, move, or fight back and he sinks to his knees, the pain weakening his resolve and he knows now that there is no escape and Lucifer is right – he never left the cage.
Dean knows that it's now or never for him to act.
He opens his eyes, feels for the knife hidden in his waistband, and clutches it tight in his hand while starting to chant the words of the spell. Though he had been worried about flubbing his lines, the heat of the moment and the adrenaline pumping in his veins in knowing that Sam needs him to get it right before the bahktak can hurt him makes the words come easily to his lips.
Almost instantly, Dean can see the shape of the creature coalesce from a smoky, black cloud into a distinguishable form. It snarls at Dean with a hideous mouth full of sharp, jagged teeth and turns its red eyes on him in fury, but it's not letting go of Sam and even as Dean begins to shout the words of the spell, it takes it partially formed hands and presses them into his little brother's temples like it's reaching inside his brain. Sam's body begins to shake and seize and Dean nearly stalls on the last few lines of the spell when his brother cries out, but he has to say it all in order for it to be solid enough for Dean to kill.
The last words of the spell finally tumble from Dean's mouth and the beast rears up on its haunches as it takes on a solid, hideous form that sits squarely on his brother's chest. It's only a few feet tall, but it's far from cute. It's covered in scales all over its naked body, has an upturned snout much like a pig, and it sports two small devil's horns poking out from its forehead, but fully solid now and that means Dean can kills its fugly ass.
Dean is in motion at the same time as it makes one more desperate lunge at Sam's head with its gnarled fingers, digging them into Sam's head. Sam's back arches off the bed while Dean makes a flying leap across the space between the beds with a deep-throated growl of rage and tackles the creature, wrapping both arms around its midsection like a linebacker, ripping its grasp away from Sam and sending them both falling to the floor.
While the spell has trapped the bahktak in its solid body and it can't escape out the ceiling in a cloud of vapor like it did last time, for such a small thing, it's incredibly strong and agile and has no trouble releasing its rage on Dean for interrupting its mealtime by tossing him into the nearest wall.
Dean's back hits the hard plaster and he falls to the floor, losing his grasp on the knife's handle. An instant later a crushing weight lands on his chest, violently expelling all of the air from his lungs in one painful impact. He can't inhale no matter how hard he tries and his hands and arms aren't nearly strong enough to push the creature away from his body. The bahktak's mouth opens to emit a high-pitched screech before turning it glowing, red eyes on Dean and pressing harder into him, black saliva drips in streams from it fangs.
Spots dance across his vision as he feels ribs begin to crack under the pressure, but he's not ready to give up – not yet.
His hands fall to the floor and search for the knife he dropped, his fingers scrabbling along the carpet trying to come in contact with the missing blade, but wherever it is, it's out of his reach.
His vision starts to grey and the weight of failure lies heavier on him than the creature trying to crush the life out of him. He's blindly scrabbling his hand across the carpet when the tip of his middle finger touches cold metal.
The bakhtak grins ferally, but then again, so does Dean.
He stretches his hand and wraps it around the handle of the knife and uses what is left of his remaining strength to grasp the weapon, thrust it upward and under the monster's armpit until it pierces the skin of its chest, scrapes along rib bones and punches into its beating heart. Warm, black liquid pours onto Dean's hand as he twists the dagger in deeper for good measure.
The bakhtak's mouth opens, but no sound comes forth as it screams silently and begins to list to the side. Dean pushes at it and rolls it from his chest until it is writhing on the floor beside him with the knife still stuck in its chest. Black goo oozes from its every pore, streaming from its eyes, nose, and mouth until its body begins to disintegrate with a plume of inky smoke until it is nothing more than a sticky mass of blood and tissue. The mess left is left behind that gives off a vile, noxious odor that smells like a mixture of decay, death, and rotting garbage.
Finally able to inflate his lungs once again, Dean sucks in a greedy, deep breath despite the putrid smell and the pain in his chest, but as he comes to his knees, he can see that Sam is still lying unconscious on the bed.
He forces himself to his feet and stumbles over to the bed where Sam is sprawled motionless and he knows just by looking at his pale, grey skin and blue lips that his brother isn't breathing.
"Dammit." Dean breathes, choking down growing panic.
He immediately attempts to find Sam's pulse - It's there, but it's weak, slow and sluggish, and he has to get his brother breathing again before it stops completely. He tilts Sam's head back and covers his lips over his brother's mouth, puffing out two breaths and watching his brother's chest rise and fall then repeats the process again when Sam refuses to take a breath on his own.
"Goddammit, Sam … c'mon already …"
Dean can feel every his brother slipping away from him with each breath he gives to Sam, but he refuses to believe that this is it – that after everything – after Hell, after the apocalypse, after Lucifer, after soullessness, after a broken wall, and after insanity, that he was going to lose his brother to a midget demon that likes to munch of people's dreams.
No – it's not happening – not while he's still there to do something about it.
Inhaling again, Dean is about to give Sam another breath when his little brother suddenly jerks and sucks in a mighty gulp of air. Dean just about faints with relief, letting his knees sag into the mattress. Sam's eyes flutter and open into slits, unfocused.
"Hey, Sammy … you with me?" Dean cajoles, patting his brother's face to wake him up further and to get some kind of response from him, "C'mon, man … talk to me here."
"Dean?" Sam's eyes slide to Dean, he looks out of sorts, but he's making eye contact and that counts as a win in Dean's book.
Dean sighs out heavily in relief, "Yeah, dude … you okay? You scared the crap outta me."
"M'out? … not real? … Lucifer … gone?" Sam tries to ask between breaths.
"Yeah … just a dream. Lucifer's gone and you're here with me, okay?" Sam closes his eyes tiredly and nods with an exhausted sigh.
"Was so real." Sam breathes. He then sniffs the air and opens his eyes wider, looking at Dean and scrunching up his nose like he just passed gas or something, "Good God … What is that smell?" He asks.
Dean looks down at the pile of goo that used to be the Bahktak and grins, allowing himself a little chuckle now that he knows that Sam is going to be okay, "That, my brother … is the smell of victory."
Sam and Dean stick around the motel just long enough to clean up the pile of goo in the room, but the putrid smell is too bad for either one of them to stand more than a few minutes in the room at a time. Once the evidence is removed, they leave the stench of the dead Bahktak behind, both feeling a little guilty for the maid who would be left with the task of cleaning that room. They then high-tail it to the nearest empty field and burn the remains with plenty of salt and lighter fluid until there is nothing but ashes left.
Dean sets a course for nowhere in particular, he just starts heading west until they find another motel the next state over.
Even though he says he's 'fine', Sam pretty much ignores all of Dean's protests as he checks his brother out, binds up the ribs he's favoring, doses him up with pain meds, and makes sure he gets into bed.
Sam is still tired and exhausted from the whole ordeal of the last few days – heck – the last few months really, but he's too charged with adrenaline to sleep or even shut his eyes as he climbs into bed and a part of him is still afraid of what dreams may come to haunt him. He turns and looks at Dean who is also still fully awake, wearing a weary expression on his face, and looking as much like a piece of crap on the bottom of someone's shoe as Sam does.
"Can't sleep?" Sam asks.
Dean just kinda grunts in reply.
"Yeah … me neither."
Pushing himself up onto his elbows, Sam reaches for the remote control sitting on the nightstand and flicks on the TV, mindlessly flipping through channels until the batteries in the remote seem to die and leaves it stuck on a movie.
"What the Hell is this movie?" Dean mumbles tiredly.
"Uh … I think it's 'The DaVinci Code.'" Sam replies flatly.
"Never seen it."
They both kinda shrug, resigned to watch the movie because both of them are too tired get up and change the channel, but too wound up to sleep.
Ten minutes into watching the most boring Tom Hanks movie ever made and neither one of them can keep their eyes open any longer and they both fall into a deep and dreamless sleep.
And yes, they both snore … loudly.