Words Unspokenby Wolfling
It was the sense of being watched that woke him, the heavy touch of someone's gaze that pulled him out of dreams that for once weren't nightmares. There was no feeling of threat to that gaze, but Sam still acted cautiously, keeping his body lax as he slit open one eye to try to get a glimpse of his observer without giving himself away.
What he saw was his brother sitting on the edge of the other bed and watching him from the shadows.
"Dean?" Sam propped himself up on one elbow to better see. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing." Dean's voice was deeper, huskier than normal, as shadowed as his face. "Go back to sleep."
"Nothing?" Sam echoed, ignoring the order as he peered closer at his brother, trying to make out his expression in the dark. "Is it your shoulder? We've got a few pain pills left if it's hurting." He sat up and swung his legs out of bed, planning on grabbing the bottle from the first aid kit.
Dean held up a hand to stop him. "The shoulder's fine."
"Then what is it?" He still couldn't see Dean's face, but he didn't need to; he could practically feel the tension radiating off him in waves.
"Nothing," Dean repeated more sharply, then, when Sam opened his mouth to call him on that, added grudgingly, "I just had a bad dream, okay? No big deal."
Sam knew better than most just how big a deal bad dreams could be. It was unlikely that Dean's bad dream was going to come true like Sam's sometimes did, but that didn't make it any less of a big deal. Dreams that were only dreams could be almost as bad, especially when they left you staring into the dark with hours to go until morning.
He refrained from saying any of that, though, because he knew it wouldn't help. Instead Sam settled on the edge of his bed across from Dean, mirroring his brother's pose. In a voice as neutral as he could manage, he asked, "Do you want to talk about it?"
"No." The answer was short, sharp and reeked of denial.
Dean fidgeted for a few minutes in silence, then rubbing his face with his hands, he asked, "You didn't look around that house much when you were inside, did you?"
Sam shook his head. "I was too busy looking for you." He didn't add that what he had seen had made him less than eager to make a closer inspection. Dean had been right -- people were crazy.
"So you didn't see the pictures." Sam saw Dean swallow convulsively around the words.
"No," he said, his voice going softer in reaction to Dean's discomfort.
"They had a whole bunch of polaroids up on display like some kind of sicko gallery. Pictures they'd taken of them posing with their victims like hunters with a deer."
Sam wrinkled his nose in an echo of the disgust he heard in Dean's voice. "Nice."
"Ain't it just." Dean took a breath, paused, and when he continued his voice was a lot quieter, closer to a whisper than not. "Kathleen's going to see her brother like that, laid out like a fucking slab of meat while those sick fucks grin and pose like he's some kind of goddamn trophy, and she's never going to be able to get that picture out of her head. It's..." He trailed off before he could say what it was, seeming to pull in on himself without moving.
It was evil was what it was, and just because it was done at the hands of people and not something supernatural didn't change that one whit. But Dean didn't usually dwell on the horrors they dealt with, certainly not to the point where it would keep him up at night, a knack that Sam envied him like hell for. Was it the fact that they were human that was making this time different? Or something about Kathleen losing her brother that-
Sam blinked as what Dean wasn't saying suddenly became loud enough for him to hear.
This wasn't about Kathleen losing her brother; this was about Dean almost losing him.
"You dreamt you found a picture of me," Sam breathed.
Dean glanced up at him, and even though Sam couldn't clearly see his eyes in the shadows, he could feel the anguish in his brother's gaze. Dean didn't say anything, but Sam hadn't expected him to. The look was eloquent enough.
Sam just wished he knew what he could say to help, to make it better somehow, but he wasn't sure he could make it better. Still, he needed to try. He got as far as a hesitant, "Dean, I-" before Dean interrupted him.
"They made me choose."
Sam shook his head at the non sequitor. "What?"
"Between you and Kathleen," Dean clarified. "They made me choose who they were going to hunt."
It was unclear to Sam whether this was the dream or actual events that Dean was describing, but he also wasn't sure it mattered. It was real to Dean and that was enough. Dean didn't open up easily or often; when he did, Sam was going to treat the confidences as the gift they were even if they were hard to hear.
"I chose you." Dean glanced up at Sam and then away again. "Figured it was a way to get you out of that cage and they'd get a hell of a surprise if they tried hunting you because you'd so be able to kick their asses."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," Sam said, meaning it. Even when he was ambivalent about everything else, Dean believing in him, relying on him was something he took pride in, and always had.
Dean looked up at him again for a moment, then lowered his head. When he next spoke his voice was so quiet that Sam had to lean forward to make out what he was saying. "I chose you and then they told me that they weren't going to let you out. They were just going to shoot you in that damned cage. And there I was, tied to a chair, surrounded by these psychos, waiting to hear the gunshot that meant you were dead..." Dean's voice cracked a little on that last word and Sam could hear him swallow hard before continuing. "And it was my choice."
Sam shivered, easily imagining the horror of that situation. "They didn't shoot me," he pointed out, trying to dispel those images with the facts.
"Yeah." Dean's eyes sought him out again, seeming to drink in his presence hungrily. He gave a humourless smile. "That part's just a little hard to remember in dreams."
"Yeah." Sam got that completely. He had more experience with how nightmares worked than anybody would want. Still that didn't seem to be giving him any more ideas about how to help Dean banish his.
"Sorry I woke you," Dean said, lying back down again, signalling the end of the conversation, although even in the shadowed room, Sam could see he was way too tense to go back to sleep.
From the depths of Sam's mind came the memory of a childhood bout with nightmares and what had finally made them stop. He didn't know if it would work in the current situation, but...
Getting up, he crossed the small space between the two beds and told Dean, "Shove over."
Dean looked up at him and didn't move. "Dude, what-"
"Maybe it won't be so hard to remember if I'm right here," he explained. "Now shove over."
Dean opened and closed his mouth a few times without saying anything before he heaved a huge sigh and finally complied, moving over enough that Sam was able to slip under the covers beside him.
There was a moment of awkwardness as they tried to get settled, where there seemed to be too many elbows and knees for just two people, but eventually they found their equilibrium, two bodies wrapped together in a cocoon of blankets.
Sam could feel the tension slowly leaving Dean's body as he relaxed against him, felt the warmth of his breath against his shoulder as Dean sighed. "Might work," Dean admitted grudgingly.
"Used to when we were kids," Sam pointed out.
Dean made a noncommittal sound in reply, then was silent. Sam was sliding slowly towards sleep when his brother spoke again. "You think this would've helped with your nightmares? The non-psychic ones I mean."
"I don't know." Sam turned the idea over in his mind drowsily. "Maybe."
He felt Dean nod decisively against his shoulder. "We'll give it a try next time then."
They both knew there would be a next time, for both of them, but Sam didn't want to think about that. He was warm and comfortable and content in a way he hadn't been for a very long time, and he was wrapped around his brother who was winding down slowly like a clockwork toy. "Go to sleep, Dean."
"Bossy," Dean grumbled, but was silent again, his body growing heavy and boneless against Sam's as he let sleep catch him again.
As he was drifting off, Sam heard his brother whisper a very soft, "Thanks."
In the morning, he wasn't able to tell if that part had been real or a dream, but decided that it really didn't matter. There were some things that Dean didn't need to say for Sam to hear them.