Mortals Never Know
AN/ This story was previously published as 'Lullaby'. I've edited some things, including the title, and used a different song – 'Battle of Evermore' by Zepplin fits a LOT better than what I had before.
When the clock on the motel nightstand blinked midnight, Dean finally decided he might be able to close his eyes. The occupants of the room adjacent to theirs who had been yelling at each other since sunset had finally quieted. The traffic outside was beginning to slow, so that only the occasional light flashed through the threadbare curtains, drawn tight against prying eyes. Sam had finally stopped wiggling and asking for drinks of water and other nightly distractions, and Dean knew their father wouldn't be back until late morning, so he would still have time to clean up the grape juice Sam had splattered all over the wall during dinner. Dean had forgotten about it until after he wrestled Sam into bed, and by that time he was too tired to care if the wall retained a permanent stain in memory of his five year old baby brother.
He checked all the salt lines twice, made sure the sawed-off was within easy reach, and checked the windows and doors one last time before crawling into bed himself. With Dad gone, he had a bed all to himself and could move all he wanted without having to worry about waking Sam, or being kicked by Sam, or used as Sam's teddy bear when he had a bad dream. It was a rare occurrence that Dean intended to make the most of.
Just a few short minutes after he closed his eyes, he heard Sam's small feet hit the floor and shuffle over to the edge of his bed. Dean didn't move, hoping his brother would think he was asleep and go back to bed. Experience told him that would never happen, but he could hope.
"Dean?" Sam's whisper-thin voice spoke near his ear, so quietly Dean wouldn't have heard it if he had actually been asleep.
"Dean?" More insistently and accompanied by a soft touch on his shoulder. "I can't sleep."
"Neither can I." Dean muttered morosely, pushing up onto his elbow and giving his brother a look that he hoped would convey his displeasure. The effort was somewhat wasted in the dark room where Sam couldn't really see his face.
"I had a bad dream." Sam confessed in a whisper.
Dean sighed, his frustration melting away. "It was just a dream, Sam. Think you can go back to sleep?"
"No." Sam shook his head mournfully.
"Ok." Dean said, immediately moving to the other side of the bed and making room for Sam. The five year old pulled himself up and snuggled under the covers close to his big brother.
"Try to go back to sleep, ok? Or you'll miss Mt. St. Helens tomorrow 'cause you'll be asleep."
Sam yawned and nodded, wiggling and shifting until he was more comfortable. Dean rolled his eyes, but even though he had been happy to have his own bed for once, he truthfully didn't mind sharing with Sam after all. He was used to it. Squirmy as his little brother was, being able to hear Sam's steady breathing at night had always been a constant in Dean's life and he knew he'd never be able to sleep deeply without it.
"Dean?" Sam whispered again.
"Did... did Mom used to sing to you at bedtimes?"
Dean's stomach clenched painfully. Whatever he had expected his brother to say, that hadn't been it.
"Don't talk about Mom, Sam." He swallowed as a lump started building in his throat.
"But did she?" Sam persisted.
"Yeah... she did sometimes." The memory, clear and painful, of his mother's sweet, quiet voice singing the gentle strains of 'Hey Jude' over his bed before kissing his forehead and tucking the blankets around him made his eyes sting fiercely.
"Did she sing to me?"
Dean swallowed as other memories assailed him. Standing next to his mother as she laid baby Sammy in his crib, singing, or just humming softly if Sam wasn't crying. Sometimes it was 'Hey Jude' but Dean couldn't remember any of the other songs sung over Sammy's crib. At the time, he hadn't cared quite as much.
"Yeah, she sang to you too."
"I don't 'member."
"You were a baby, Sammy."
Sam quieted for a few minutes, thinking, or maybe finally going to sleep, Dean hoped. He hadn't really wanted to think about his mother's voice, and their home, and the way their life had been before losing her, when they were camped out in a cheap motel in Wyoming with Dad gone on a hunt. They were happy memories, but that didn't mean they didn't hurt.
"Can you... can you sing a song?" Sam asked timidly.
Dean blinked, wondering if he had heard his brother right. "You want me to sing?"
"Sam, I'm a dude. I can't sing lullabies."
"You can sing. I've heard you sing in the car lots of times."
"Yeah, but that's... different." Dean protested.
"Please?" Sam asked again, Turning his large eyes up to Dean, giving him the look that no one with any kind of heart, least of all his big brother, could deny.
"Just this once, ok? And you can't tell anyone. Not even Dad. Got it?"
Sam crossed his heart. "Promise."
Shaking his head, Dean flipped on his back and stared at the ceiling, trying to think of a song. 'Hey Jude' was out of the question. It was his lullaby and would never mean the same to Sam. But a lot of the music they listened to in the car wasn't soothing enough to encourage sleep...
"I'm thinking. Shush."
Sam huffed slightly with impatience, but obediently closed his mouth. After a minute, Dean began to sing softly.
"Queen of Light took her bow, And then she turned to go,
The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom, And walked the night alone...His voice was too quiet to be heard outside their room, and the pitch was far from perfect, but though he didn't do it often, except to hum along with songs in the car, Dean liked to sing. The words and melodies stuck with him on long nights when he wasn't sure if Dad was coming home. He'd play the songs in his head, whispering them quietly to distract his mind as it tumbled through worries and what-ifs and taking care of Sam.
"Oh, throw down your plow and hoe, Rest not to lock your homes...
Glancing to his side he saw Sam's tired eyes finally trying to close. One small hand was surreptitiously curled in Dean's sweatshirt sleeve, holding tight. Dean moved closer to Sam and pulled the blankets over his brother's shoulder.
"Side by side we wait the might of the darkest of them all...
Dean let his own eyes drift closed, the image of his Mom filling his mind as he finished his brother's song. She was smiling.
"The sky is filled with good and bad that mortals never know...
AN/ I'd love to hear what you think! Please drop a quick review if you've got time!
Also, some shameless self promotion here – if anyone is interested, I did an a cappella recording (in rather poor quality, since I lack decent equipment) of 'Hey Jude' as Mary singing to Dean. Its on my youtube and tumblr.