This is my first Supernatural story and possibly the only one I'll ever write.
Sam Winchester had long since accepted that he and his brother were different—very different. The differences seemed to manifest in everything from their strengths and weaknesses to their taste in women.
They were still both Winchesters, of course, and had inherited the same fortuitous balance of ruthlessness and empathy that defined them not only as hunters, but as humans. As such, Sam knew that like most brothers or sisters who were close, much of the synergy that he and Dean thrived on came from their differences. What skills or abilities Sam lacked, Dean possessed. And vice-versa.
But even knowing this, Sam couldn't avoid a surge of wistful envy every once in awhile. In this case, it was over the fact that Dean never seemed to have any trouble sleeping—at least when he wasn't purposefully avoiding sleep, anyway. Sam had watched his brother stubbornly keep himself awake for seventy-two hours or more. But when Dean wanted to sleep, sleep he did.
Sam unlocked the motel room door and stepped inside, irrational jealousy rushing through him as he flipped on the light. Already, Dean was lying sprawled across the entire queen-size bed like he'd been poleaxed, his face buried blissfully in the pillow.
As Sam watched, his brother gave a muffled grunt, shifted, then resumed breathing evenly, barely the tip of a nose showing to evidence the fact that Dean did, in fact, require oxygen when sleeping. He hadn't even bothered to undress before flopping onto the bed, aside from tossing his jacket and boots aside in a heap.
Sam sighed. What I wouldn't give to sleep like that, he thought ruefully. He tossed his own rain-soaked jacket onto the dresser, slouched into one of the tableside chairs, and pulled out his computer. He himself hadn't slept in nearly forty-eight hours. As bad as the hallucinations might be, his dreams were worse. Sam suspected that his brain was just too scared to drop off.
He didn't kid himself that he could fend off unconsciousness for much longer, though. That was another way in which he and Dean differed. The problem wasn't the amount of sleep: it was the quality.
So all Sam could do was to drink as much bad coffee as his nervous stomach allowed, and troll the internet for clues about their next hunt until unconsciousness finally took him and the nightmares began.
Mercifully, Lucifer had gotten bored and left for now, so perhaps Sam could get something done while he was awake. Sam rubbed his eyes, slumping back in the cheap, uncomfortable chair (which squeaked miserably in protest) and staring blearily at the computer screen. It wasn't even a particularly interesting hunt, or anything for which a lot of research was required—just a run-of-the-mill djinn. The fact that such an unsubtle creature had gone unnoticed by other hunters for so many years sort of surprised Sam.
But as he scrolled through the news section of the local paper, two things stood out. As far as Sam could tell, this area of Pennsylvania hadn't seen a djinn for decades, if ever. And this one was pretty careful about who it kidnapped: the last few folks who went missing had either been kids from broken families, old Vietnam veterans living on disability, or known prostitutes.
All people with small lives, heartbreaking dreams, and hardly anyone to miss them, Sam thought, depressed. It was an especially unhappy realization because Dean had once been milked for days by another djinn. Talk about big dreams and small lives. But that did explain why the djinn had flown under the radar for so long.
Sam glanced over at his brother again, and this time he couldn't help but smile a little. He might be the younger brother, but no one could look more paradoxically innocent than a sleeping Dean Winchester, his mouth open in a snore and his hair fluffed like a bottle-brush. Sam felt an urge to throw a boot at his brother, just for looking so damn peaceful.
To dispel the urge, Sam stood up and stretched, his fingers easily brushing the ceiling, and crossed the room to turn off the lights. What did his brother even dream about nowadays, anyway? Dean had talked himself to tears about what he'd actually done in Hell, but had never complained to Sam about having nightmares of the hot place.
What Dean would want most, Sam decided, would be a peaceful life with the ones he loved. So... maybe not big dreams, after all. Just an ordinary day, barbequing in the backyard with Lisa and Ben, and no monsters lurking in the background. Sam had never asked his brother exactly what he had dreamed of when trapped by the djinn; but from the few things Dean had let slip, Sam knew that it had involved a normal, safe family life.
Sam slouched back into the chair, cast an eye on the laptop screen and snorted in distaste, then reached over and snapped shut the lid. There was nothing else to be done on this case except to find the djinn's lair. And that couldn't be done on the internet.
"I should just let this one take me as bait," Sam said to himself, quietly and bitterly. "The damn thing would starve to death before it found anything happy."
Even as he said the words aloud, Sam knew it wasn't true. His memories of being locked in the Cage might be enough to drive another person insane—Christ, they had already driven him half-insane—but Sam had locked other desires and happier memories deep in his heart. Lucifer couldn't often find them, but then, he was merely a product of Sam's own screwed-up brain. As an experienced infiltrator of the subconscious, a djinn could probably find and suck on those memories before Sam even realized what was happening.
The catch-22 was that if Sam didn't even dare to think of those memories, he couldn't dream of them, either. He sighed again and stared into the darkness, just glad that for the present, Lucifer seemed to have taken a vacation.
Briefly, Sam thought about praying to Castiel for advice, or even for a favor. Undoubtedly the angel could give him one night of dreamless, peaceful sleep if asked nicely enough.
Then Sam remembered; and the gut-wrenching grief hit him with its usual swiftness. He let out a deep, shaky breath and closed his eyes. "Oh, Cas," he murmured. "I really must be tired, if I forgot you're gone."
As with everything else, Sam always grieved differently than Dean. The insomnia and hallucinations were also making it pretty hard to keep track of what horrible things had happened in real life. Still, Castiel's death—or whatever happened to angels when they disappeared into a lake, leaving behind nothing but a sodden trenchcoat—had left a terrible emptiness in Sam's already-mangled soul.
He felt an overwhelming sense of sick gratitude towards Cas. The angel had pulled both Sam and his brother from Hell, had disobeyed heaven's orders to keep them alive, and if he he'd had a soul, would have sold it to stop Raphael from restarting the apocalypse. And as it was, he'd given up everything... all to protect his favorite humans. The fact that he'd opened Purgatory and unleashed figurative hell was more or less beside the point. And it was certainly less heinous than what Sam himself had done.
Sam, consumed with wracking guilt and hardly able to believe that the angel was really gone, had stood and watched as a cold-eyed Dean carefully folded the trenchcoat and placed it on a shelf in the cabin.
What even happened to angels when they died? Sam had wondered. They didn't have souls, so it didn't seem likely that they could go back to heaven—but was Castiel in some kind of weird angel afterlife? If Sam did pray, would Cas hear the words?
Now, sitting in the pitch-dark hotel room and listening to rain patter at the windows, Sam doubted it. Any higher powers who controlled where angels went after death would be pretty pissed off with that whole opening-Purgatory thing. Sam could hardly imagine that Cas was in some kind of happy angel afterlife where Gabriel and Balthazar were teaching him about sex and dancing. If anywhere, Cas himself was now in Purgatory—or in Hell.
Sam realized that without noticing, he had slipped his right thumb into his left palm and pressed deep. It was such an automatic motion nowadays that Sam had barely noticed the resulting stab of pain. With an effort, he laid his hands flat on the table, taking a deep breath. He should be saving that pain for when he really needed it... for when that mouthy bastard Lucifer was standing over his shoulder.
"Cas," Sam said aloud suddenly, automatically turning his face upwards as he always did when praying. It was a reflex so old as to be genetic.
"Cas, if you can hear me, I... I really hope you're in a good place. I can't even tell you how much we miss you down here. Really. And we still believe in you, man. You were a great guy, no matter... no matter what happened. Towards the end."
The words sounded so lame when spoken aloud that Sam wanted to kick himself. But doggedly he closed his eyes and continued, hoping against hope that at least someone would hear his words. "I could kill for a favor, though, if you know anyone else who'd be willing to help. Just... I just want one night of sleep without having to worry about Lucifer."
Sam swallowed heavily, terrified to say the name aloud. At last he added quietly, "I just want one dream where I can wake up and... and know that it wasn't real."
His words seemed to hang heavy on the air. The room was unusually silent, for a hotel near the interstate; and aside from the rain, all Sam could hear was faint music, maybe from the hotel bar.
There was no answer, of course. Sam slowly put his head into his hands, bitterly wishing he hadn't even bothered to hope. Cas was dead. And no one was going to answer his prayers anymore.
"So what would you like, Sam?" a soft voice asked from across the room.
Sam stood up so fast that his chair flipped over backwards. He scrabbled on the table for his gun, but the room was dark and his eyes still had not adjusted from the brightness of the computer screen. "Dean, wake up!" he hissed, and kicked the bed, finally finding the gun and whipping it up.
Dean didn't wake up; if anything, his snores grew louder. Serenely, the disembodied, honey-silk voice spoke again. "No need to wake your brother, child."
Sam blinked, trying frantically to adjust his vision. A shape materialized slowly from the corner near the television; a tall woman, dark-skinned and elderly and exotic in a flowing dress. Sam felt his grip on the gun loosening in surprise as she stepped towards him, footsteps silent and serene, eyes inscrutable.
He said tightly, "Who are you, and what do you want?"
The woman stepped very close; she seemed perfectly unafraid of the gun, her eyes fixed on his face. With hands clasped in front of her, she shook her head. "It's not what I want, Sam. It's what you want." She smiled then, a faint but affectionate expression. "Your dream."
That made little more sense. "What... do... you want," Sam repeated, through gritted teeth.
But before she even replied, Sam realized that he wasn't frightened of her: in fact, exactly the opposite. Although her sudden entrance had definitely sent a thrill of adrenaline shooting through his veins, her obvious serenity was contagious, and he could hear his own heartbeat slowing. She reminded Sam of no one so much as Anna... well, at least Anna before she had gone psycho and tried to kill his parents in the past.
Abruptly, Sam decided he was just too tired to be suspicious. If she wanted him dead, she would already have killed him. He let the gun drop. The woman smiled faintly and said, "The last man I visited called me Esperenza."
Sam's mind whirled back to his high-school Spanish classes. "Let me guess: you've got two sisters named Faith and Charity, right?" he asked half-heartedly.
To his astonishment, she laughed, a quiet, richly deep sound. "It would not surprise me, Sam."
Moving so smoothly that her dress barely whispered, she sat down on the bed next to Dean, reaching out to caress his face fondly. Sam watched in shock as a corner of his brother's mouth creased in a brief smile, then relaxed again. "Were this the waking world, I would give your brother dreams of the fallen angel he so admires." Her hand lingered softly on Dean's cheek; her own face was full of a mother's love as she gazed down at him.
The sight of someone looking so affectionately at Sam's grown brother was giving him a headache. But what had she said? The... the waking world? Sam glanced around quickly. Then it hit him. Your dream, she had said only moments before. "So... I'm dreaming right now," he said hesitantly.
"Yes," replied the woman simply, looking back up at him at last. "And you called for me."
I was calling for Cas, Sam was tempted to say. But he paused to think for a moment. If this was a dream... what was she? "Wait, was it the djinn?" he asked, suddenly terrified that this sad, crummy hotel room was the best fantasy the creature could create for him. "Am I in his den getting... you know." Sam winced, the sight of Dean's hollow, unconscious face rising from memory. "Leeched?"
The woman chuckled again, shaking her head, and rose from the bed. Dean hadn't even budged, his mouth slightly open in a soft snore; well, that was the same as real life, anyway. "No, Sam. I am no fiction of a djinn's trap. This is your own dream." She came closer; Sam was too startled to object when she took both of his hands in her own warm fingers. "Another name once given to me was Morpheus."
Sam did draw back a little at that, his hands flinching out of hers. "Morpheus? Like... the Greek god?" he managed to say. The god of sleep and dreams: that would explain her presence in his own dream. But...
His confusion must have shown on his face, because the woman sighed, looking amused. "Appear to one rich royal as a man, and that is how you are gendered forever. Not that it matters. Either way, I am not a god. I am like your friend Castiel." Now her face was full of regret, and for the first time she looked slightly uncertain, dark eyes turned to the rain streaming down the window. "And like him, I... left the straight path, many eons ago."
"An angel," Sam said, torn between terror and relief and hoping that she was the benevolent sort of angel. If he was recalling his Greek literature classes correctly, Morpheus could be very helpful if he fancied you, but a bit of a prankster if he didn't.
She nodded. With a gentle hand, she urged him to sit on the other bed, and took a seat next to him. Sam could see the tiny threads of grey weaving through the brown in her close-cropped hair. If she really was Morpheus, she had been on Earth spinning visions for a long, long time. Had she chosen a vessel and kept it, like Gabriel?
"This vessel is many miles away, in the waking world," she said, as if in answer to his unspoken question, dark eyes fixed on him. "But I am always able to hear the prayers of those truly in need. All angels are gifted with different talents, whether warfare, trickery, leadership... in my case, the humble alteration of dreams."
And in some cases, the saving of all mankind out of sheer stubbornness, Sam thought unhappily.
A car drove by, headlights flashing through the window and illuminating the far wall with the shadows of raindrops, as they slid down the murky glass. If this was a dream, it was extraordinarily detailed. Sam could even tell what music was playing: a string quartet rendition of Hey Jude. He dimly remembered having endlessly listened to that track in college, but long before ever meeting Jessica. If that was Morpheus's doing, she had certainly chosen a tune he found soothing.
And Sam realized where he really was, with a sudden jolt of unease. He and Dean weren't chasing a djinn. They were still tracking down the Leviathans with Bobby and trying to figure out what the hell was going on at Biggerson's Restaurant. Sam's real body was lying asleep somewhere in the back of Bobby's old van as they staked out the warehouse.
Morpheus was watching him, still calm and patient. Her face was long and angular, but pleasant to look at. Sam swallowed, oddly disoriented at the idea of knowing that he was in a dream.
"So," he said cautiously, "if you were an angel... can you still hear the others?"
She smiled, and the expression was so bittersweet that Sam knew she had anticipated his next question. "Some. Others... are silent."
Her eyes were full of pity as they flicked to Dean, then back to Sam. He took another deep breath and let it out, feeling even more exhausted and sick with grief than before.
"So," Morpheus said, mimicking his cautious tone. "If you could choose any dream... what would you ask of me?"
A hundred ideas flitted through Sam's head all at once. Half were wishful, the other half were memories... and a faint patina of uneasy danger lay over all of them. If he chose to dream of Jess, what then? When he woke up, Lucifer would torture him with the bittersweet memories and the guilt of having killed her. And if Same chose to dream about a happier life, where Dean was still with Lisa and Ben, and Cas hadn't tried to become God... that would be even worse.
Against his will, Sam could feel his chest growing tight. What do I have to dream about that won't end up being horrible when I wake up? he thought with dismay.
"I don't know," he said at last, hearing his own voice catch on the words. "I just... there's nothing Lucifer can't ruin for me."
He didn't feel any shame in the frustrated tears that rose to his eyes; Morpheus placed a gentle arm around him, her hand soft and warm. Sam hesitated only for an instant before he leaned against her and was gathered in for a silent, comforting embrace; she smelled of citrus and cinnamon and he could have happily died in that moment. When was the last time he'd been embraced by anyone?
Soulless sex, that's when, his mind said grumpily. Sam didn't care; he put his arms around the woman, knowing that Lucifer would find some way to fuck with his mind over this, too. This embrace, though—this was what he really wanted. Nothing spectacular. Just someone who could give him comfort, but whom he couldn't hurt just by being around them.
"I know exactly what you need, Sam," said Morpheus, her voice thoughtful.
She drew away, looking into his eyes. Her warm hands were locked on his arms as she said slowly, "As long as you keep your wits about you... there is another dreamer I can bring to you. She is frightened, and would be happy to lie in your arms. To find a dreamless sleep with you."
The proposal sounded far too perfect to be possible. Sam must have looked perplexed, because the woman smiled and gently patted his face. "You doubt me. With good reason. Poor child... your mind is haunted as of late."
Strictly speaking, my mind is schizophrenic and can't differentiate between real life and hallucinations, Sam wanted to say. But he simply shrugged in agreement. No wonder her last dreamer had called her Esperenza; Sam was beginning to feel a faint spring of hope, although heavily tempered with doubt.
At last Sam realized she was waiting for an answer. "All right," he said, feeling torn with the agony of knowing this could end very badly if Lucifer suddenly decided to show up. "Hit me with your best shot."
Morpheus leaned toward him, her beautiful face gentle with pity, and kissed his forehead. Her hand lingered on his cheek for a moment. "Sweet dreams, Sam Winchester," she murmured.
And with that she was gone, without even a flutter of wings. Sam looked around; it was the same dark room, the same pattering rain, and the same empty feeling in his heart.
At least Dean was still there, snoring away, his face halfway under the pillow. Sam grinned wanly, shaking his head. He had one brief moment to wonder if Dean was asleep in real life, too—before someone hammered on the door.
Frozen in surprise, Sam didn't get up immediately; then a voice sounded. "Hello? Hellooooo?"
Sam couldn't put his finger on it, but he knew that voice. The recognition galvanized him into motion; he stood up slowly, heart racing, and crossed over to the door.
The rain was pouring down now, and as Sam opened the door all he could see was the back of a woman's head, long dark hair drenched with the rain. She turned toward him, her hair whipping in the wind and her jaw clenched tightly. Sam almost staggered back in fright.
No, it can't be you, you're dead, I sent you back to Hell after we freed Lucifer, he thought frantically. She was clutching a long, sharp dagger similar an archangel's blade, but made of dark steel and dripping with a greyish ichor. Had he left his gun on the bed, or the table? It didn't matter—bullets couldn't kill a demon.
But as their eyes met, the woman's shoulders sagged and her white face opened in relief... and Sam suddenly noticed her stomach under her denim jacket, rotund with the curving swell of advanced pregnancy. The shock hit him like a wave. This woman standing on the doorstep of his imagined hotel room was not Ruby.
"Thank God," the woman said in a husky voice. She threw the knife down with a clang, then flung her arms around him. Her voice, muffled against his chest, quavered slightly as she added, "I've never been so happy to see you."
The rain on her jacket soaked immediately through Sam's t-shirt, and he could feel the warmth of her face as she pressed her cheek to his chest. Sam reflexively put his own arms around her, but he felt a stab of panic.
If this isn't Ruby, it must be that actress who played her, he realized dimly. Her name was a blur in his mind: an old-fashioned sort of name that began with G... Guinevere? Giovanna? They had spent barely half an hour together in that alternate universe. All Sam knew for sure was that he had liked her sparky personality, and that she wasn't anything like Ruby.
Sam wasn't sure which was more surreal: the fact that he was holding another man's pregnant wife in his arms, or that Sam knew he was dreaming and she obviously didn't. They must simply be crossing dreams, thanks to a little help from the goddess of sleep. Keep your wits about you, Morpheus had wisely advised.
The rain continued to pour down, the wind misting it toward them. Sam stepped back into the room, gently pulling her with him and closing the door. She finally raised her head, looking up into his eyes so trustingly that Sam's breath came short.
"There was this... horrible monster thing chasing me, and..." She smiled, lips trembling slightly, and put a hand on her stomach, lightly caressing its swell. The hair on the back of Sam's neck stood on end. Was she really pregnant in the waking world, or was the child a part of her dream? "I can't believe I got away."
So this was Morpheus's solution. Sam clenched his teeth. He could trust this woman, and couldn't possibly hurt her. But his heart ached to know that the person she thought she was hugging wasn't actually Sam Winchester.
Still... the moment her dream ended, she would wake up in a different universe, in a different man's arms. She would be safe and happy there. Sam's irritation faded into gratitude and relief.
"Jared?" the woman suddenly asked, voice full of concern. "Are... are you all right?"
Sam looked down to see her biting her lip, and felt a stab of admiration for her; she had obviously been frightened out of her wits, but had arrived on his doorstep with a clenched jaw and flushed cheeks rather than with tears in her eyes.
He took a deep breath to relax himself and smiled down at her. It was the easy, unperturbed smile of a man who (at least in Sam's imagination) had nothing more to worry about than getting up early for makeup calls. "Yeah, I'm just fine," he answered calmly, and was relieved to see the worry fade from her eyes.
He steeled himself for the resulting guilt, kissed her forehead, and added, "You're soaked, though. Come on—let's get you dried off."
The woman didn't even seem to notice that Dean was still blissfully asleep in the other bed; after shedding her wet coat and drying her hair, she unceremoniously kicked her wet boots across the room and climbed under the covers of Sam's bed fully clothed. She reached out her hand with a smile; Sam automatically put his fingers into hers.
"You look exhausted," she said sympathetically and tugged him toward her. Sam had a moment to wonder if this was a morally compromising situation—if he knew he was dreaming, was it total crap to sleep with another man's wife?—before deciding that he didn't care. He was too tired to do anything but actually sleep, anyway.
Sam kicked off his own boots and slid under the covers with her. Immediately she rolled onto her side, snuggling her backside into his lap and pulling his arms around her. He could hardly breathe. She was small, solid, and as real as could be... and for the first time in a long time, Sam felt the tension in his body fading.
"Mm. You're warm," she said with satisfaction, and drew his arms closer around her.
They lay quietly for several minutes, spooned together peacefully as the rain continued to sweep the windows. There was the distant rumble of thunder. Hey Jude faded and another song took its place, soft piano and low vocals. Sam didn't know what it was; plainly it was part of this woman's dream, and not his.
There was a tiny movement under his hand, like the gurgle of water; gently, her fingers took his and repositioned them on her stomach. "Feel that?" she asked softly.
Sam knew little to nothing about pregnancy but realized that it was the child moving. Something in his heart wrenched. The woman laughed quietly, a low chuckle. "Daddy's here, little guy," she said with satisfaction.
Then she turned her head to look at him, and her brows knitted with worry. She shifted so that they were facing one another, and put a hand on his cheek. "What's wrong?"
Sam hadn't noticed that he was crying; it had just sort of happened. Tears of wonder and fright and bitter jealousy and confused relief were coursing down his face. Daddy's here. Two words he would probably never hear or say in real life.
Instinctively he ducked his head to kiss her cheek. "Nothing. Just happy... and scared," he answered, unable to keep from smiling.
His words must have carried the ring of truth, for she smiled back and kissed his lips. "I know what you mean." Her eyes growing serious and soulful, she added, "I love you, baby."
This time, the response wasn't so automatic; but nevertheless Sam managed it, reaching up to wipe the tears from his face. "I love you, too." After a moment's thought, he added, "Do me a favor? When we wake up in the morning... tell me that again, okay?"
"Deal," she said, and sighed contentedly, shifting again so that her back was to him, and he could lay his cheek against her hair.
The rain played its cadence on the roof; the music lulled their breathing to a slow rhythmic pace; and at last Sam fell into a dreamless sleep, holding her safe in his arms.
Bobby gave one final swipe with the cleaning rag, picked up the bullets and swiftly clicked them into the cartridge, chambered the round, and put on the safety. He set the gun aside in a neat line on the dashboard with the others, then picked up the revolver for its turn. All my girls are ready for the prom, he thought with satisfaction.
He looked up as Dean opened the driver's side door and climbed in. "We gonna wake up Sleeping Beauty soon?" Dean asked without preamble, slamming the door irritably behind him. "I mean, I'm recovered from the goo, you got all your equipment ready. We could use an extra pair of eyes for whoever's coming. And it's his turn to scope out the facility, I've looked at it till I'm half-blind."
Bobby took the bag of food that was offered, and grimaced with pleasure as he sipped at the accompanying coffee. Black and bitter as hell, the only way to drink it.
"I know, kid," he answered at last, gruffly. "Nothing for a couple hours now. Their leader must be on the way. Just..."
Bobby trailed off, frowning, and sighed. "I just ain't seen him sleep like this since he got his soul back, you know?" He hooked a thumb towards the back of the van. "Tell me he don't look like he's dreaming about havin' a woman in his arms, Dean."
Dean turned around, his face a mask of impatience. Bobby watched the annoyance fade from the younger man's eyes. He knew exactly what Dean saw—Sam, sprawled bonelessly on the floor of the van with his arms clasped around a knapsack and his features relaxed. Bobby wasn't sure he'd ever seen any hunter sleep with such a peaceful look on his face, let alone Sam. Size and five o'clock shadow aside, the kid looked all of twelve years old again. It was enough to make an old man's heart ache.
After a minute, Dean turned around again, brows thunderous. He stared out the front windshield, then moodily picked up his own coffee. "Yeah, all right," he admitted grudgingly, and took a slurp. "Let's let him go a while longer."