Nicole (novembersguest) wrote,
Nicole
novembersguest

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Chapters 10-11: The Wake-Up Call: An SPN Fic

Title:  The Wake-Up Call,  Chapters 10-11
Author: November'sGuest
Rating: T (PG-13)
Characters: Dean/Sam/John/Missouri Mosley
Catagory: Gen/Angst/Hurt&Comfort/AU
Disclaimer: I don't own the boys or the show, just the story.
Spoilers: Season 1 is fair game.

Chapter 10: Dreams Like These

Dean was blinded by the radiant light surging all around him and through him. His body, teeming with warmth as from a long soak in the sun, was vibrating with emotions being emitted from something – or someone – other than himself. Throwing a slender hand up before his eyes in an effort to shield them from the brightness, he strained to see past his hand to the source of the light.

At first, he could see nothing at all…but he could feel. The origin of the emotions sluicing through his mind and body was in the room with him. Where is Sam? The thought was not his own, it belonged to…the other one. He felt sadness, desperation and loss seeping into his every pore, threatening to submerse him in a sea of despair. But, what could this possibly have to do with Sam? And why would this entity even know his brother’s name?

As Dean’s eyes adjusted to the flooding light, he noticed the outline of someone standing at the window looking out. He walked guardedly toward the figure. Just as he came close enough to make out the features of a woman, he was suddenly overcome by a wave of dizziness and nausea. Reaching up to cradle his swimming, pounding head in his hands, he became aware of a distant voice calling out his name. The floor beneath his feet shifted out from under him and he was free falling.

“Dean? Dean! What is it?!”

Putting most of his weight onto his good leg, Sam grabbed his brother’s arms and tried to pry them away from his head. Dean feebly tried to twist out of his brother’s hold.

“Dean, look at me!” Sam wrenched his brother’s hands away from his head and peered into the elder Winchester’s face.

Sickly pale, face pinched, Dean looked back at him – gasping to regain his breath, a trickle of blood trailing from his nose.

“Are you okay, man?” the younger man asked, letting go of his brother’s hands to grab a tissue from the bedside table.

Dean didn’t answer right away; letting the hand holding the tissue fall limply into his lap while the other gingerly probed his temple. Easing back onto the crinkled pillows, he removed the nose cannula and began dabbing at his nose with the tissue. He stopped to stare at the cardinal stain as if it were an offense.

Grimacing, Dean hoarsely answered, “I’m fine. Stop hovering, Sam.”

Dean was surprised to find that the room was now softly lit by the early morning sun. Barely peeking up over the horizon, the great yellow orb was only a sliver resting itself on the landscape. Staring out the curtained window at the painted sky, Dean rummaged through his mind looking for the right answer to the question of what had just happened. He could’ve sworn he had fallen asleep only minutes ago. Shaking the dust bunnies from the corners of his brain, he finished cleaning off the bothersome oxygen device and wearily put it back in its place.

Sam stepped back and allowed his brother to catch his breath, which was still coming in short puffs and gasps.

“I wouldn’t exactly call this fine,” Sam huffed, gesturing at his brother’s current condition. “What happened? Maybe we should call the nurse.” Sam reached over Dean to retrieve the call button, but not quickly enough.

Dean intercepted by clasping onto Sam’s wrist and barking out, “Don’t. I said I’m fine.” The rapid movement caused a painful grimace as his ribs and chest registered their complaints.

Startled by his brother’s edgy tone, Sam stopped to scrutinize his sibling’s face. Dean still looked terribly white, but his nose had already stopped its crimson flow and he seemed to be calming down.

Setting his lips into a thin line, Sam asked, “Okay, Dean. What’s going on? And don’t say ‘nothing’, because it’s definitely something when your brother wakes up crying out and clenching his head as if it might pop off.” Sam gave him his best ‘this better be good’ look.

“Dude, I did not cry out.”

Dean glared at him as he mentally scrambled for a plausible story. When Sam just held the glare and adjusted his own face into a stony mask of resolve, he decided to come clean.

“Like I said before, I’m fine. I just had a…a strange dream. That’s it, nothing to worry your pretty little head over, Florence.”

“A dream did this?” Sam motioned toward his brother’s bloody tissue. “C’mon, man. I was born at night, but not last night.”

“Honest to God, Sam, it was just a dream.”

Not liking the way his brother continued to eye the call button, he realized he was going to have to do better than that. Expounding on his earlier statement, Dean added, “I was dreaming about running, trying to find you…but I couldn’t. Then, I found this room…and some glowy chick standing by a window, suddenly I was falling and then woke up to your ugly mug stuck in my face.”

Dean measured out a well-timed pause, smirked and then said, “How do I know you didn’t bloody my nose trying to hold my hand a minute ago.”

Rolling his eyes in disgust, Sam spouted, “I didn’t give you that nose bleed and you know it, Dean.”

Sam’s hands were propped on his hips and his eyes narrowed. Dean could tell he was waiting for more.

“You’re not going to let it go, are you?” Seeing his little brother cross his arms over his chest in defiance, he knew Sam was resolute. Not having the strength to fight him, he decided to give in – just this one time.

“You remember when I told you I needed to think some things over?” Dean paused for Sam’s acknowledgement.

“Yeah, it was just last night. I remember.” Sam’s head nodded in agreement, but confusion was written on his face.

“Well,” Dean resumed, “this was one of those things I was thinking over. I…I’ve been having some…interesting dreams lately.” Watching his brother closely for any hint of alarm, he waited.

Interesting? What do you mean by interesting? Like my-dreams-come-true interesting?” Trying to sound supportive, Sam buried his visible concern away from Dean’s stare.

“No, not like your kind of interesting. Different from that. Like…dreams that seem exceptionally vivid and real. Like dreams that feel like someone’s in my head…talking to me.” Dean winced and waited for an outburst.

“Talking to you,” Sam echoed loudly, eyebrows disappearing up under his long, tawny bangs. Immediately, Sam’s mind recalled the “visits” to his brother’s psyche, wondering if this was what Dean was referring to. “Okay. Do you…recognize who or what this person is?”

“Well, before the ghost chick…it was…you. Twice as a matter of fact.”

Still cautious, Dean continued to gauge Sam’s reactions to each confession, hoping his brother wouldn’t think he was crazy. I’m not possessed, either, the thought whispered through his mind

“Me? Are you sure?”

Sam braced himself for the answer he already knew was coming. He had hoped that by letting Dean come to his own conclusions, it’d make exposing the truth easier for both of them.

“Judging by the look on your face, Sammy, I think that’s all the proof I need. You were there, in my head talking to me, weren’t you?”

Dean was flabbergasted. While he had suspected for some time, it still came as a punch to the gut to know it was true. He could see the truth of it in Sam’s nervous eyes, in the way he held himself stiff.

Sighing heavily, Sam flopped down into the nearest chair with a hard thud. Resignedly, Sam responded, “Yeah, it was me. I was there. I’ve wanted to talk to you about it, but I wasn’t sure how you’d react.”

Gesturing with his eyebrows and hands, Dean asked, “So, it was you there at our old camping grounds? And then, again at the old house we were living in when you left for Stanford?”

Dean’s face was awash with shock and he was visibly uncomfortable with the idea of his kid brother parading around in his head.

Sam dipped his head in affirmation.

“But…how? I mean…how’s that even possible?” Then, starting to feel the panic and anger at having been so exposed and vulnerable, he demanded, “Tell me you weren’t using your creepy-assed powers to get into my head.”

“No, God, no! It wasn’t like that – I would never do that.” Sam’s head was still shaking side to side with denial as he stalled, “Just…promise me you won’t freak out, okay? Promise, Dean.”

“Yeah, sure, whatever. Just tell me, Sam,” Dean bit out, growing short on patience.

“It happened that first day after the accident. You were still in a coma – we didn’t know if you were going to make it.” Sam swallowed, let his eyes dart around the room briefly, then said, “And, I guess I must’ve nodded off because I remember having this dream about you, the camping grounds and a windy cliff.”

Sam’s face held an apology for what came next. He sighed and gestured with his hands, saying, “Only…it wasn’t a dream at all. Somehow, you had managed to pull me into your subconscious mind.”

He watched Dean’s face drain a little, a small hiccup in his breathing, but otherwise no outward reaction, so he went on.

“Later, when I woke up, your doctor came by to give Dad and me an update. Your doc said that they ran some tests after you’d had a mild seizure and he discovered some unusual activity around your pineal gland. That’s a tiny little gland located-”

“Sam!” Dean growled, indicating that he wasn’t interested in an anatomy lesson at the moment.

“Well, anyway, Dad and I got worried after he mentioned that the pineal gland was believed by some to be the center for paranormal activity so, we called Missouri for advice. She said that your near death experience had likely awakened a…certain sensitivity for anything metaphysical.”

“And this means, what? I’ve got the shining, too?!” Dean couldn’t believe his ears. “No, way, man. Not happening.” Dean began to bull up. One psychic in the family was one too many as it was.

“Are you even listening to me? I didn’t say you were psychic.” Sam ran a hand through his hair, exasperated. “I said you were more susceptible to the paranormal. That means you can pick up on any supernatural activity around you, kind of like a ham radio.”

Sam watched Dean’s face as this sank in. He could see the parade of emotions marching across his brother’s features as the meaning behind the words became clear.

“So now you’re tellin’ me I’m a freakin’ human antenna for ghosts?” Dean’s green eyes went wide with the realization of what Sam was trying to say.

“Not just spirits, Dean. Anything paranormal. Like me, for instance. You can channel my abilities to communicate with me. It’s like you can take a small supernatural vibration and tap into it. Bad thing is, it’s a two way street. Anything paranormal can also tap into you.” Satisfied with his comparison, Sam stopped and waited for the meaning to click.

Dean glowered back at Sam for a few minutes. “And you’re sure about this? You checked it out yourself.”

“Yeah, Dean. As soon as Bobby dropped off my lap top, I researched everything. It all checked out.”

“Well, isn’t that just perfect,” Dean grumbled, his face looking like he’d tasted something unsavory. “This could seriously screw up any future adventures into Never, Never Land, not to mention what could happen when we’re on a hunt.”

He stopped and looked contemplative for several long seconds. Sam was about ready to interject his own thoughts when Dean began to speak again.

Looking sheepish, he asked, “So, you’re saying that…I drew you to me? And, you saw all that, you know, in my head?”

“Well, yeah. Saw it and felt it. I gotta say, man, you’ve really got to lighten up before you give yourself an aneurism.”

Giving Dean a lopsided grin, Sam was hoping that the good-natured jesting would put his brother at ease. Unfortunately, it never even registered with his older brother. Quick-witted, Dean had instantly latched onto something else Sam had inadvertently let slip.

“Felt? Aw, man, I don’t like where this is going. Exactly what do you mean by “felt”, Sam?” Dean’s instincts told him this wasn’t going to be good.

Giving himself a mental kick, Sam grudgingly answered, “Well, um, you know – felt everything you felt. I could see myself from your perspective.” Growing quiet for a second, Sam considered his next words carefully before saying, “I’m sorry about all that stuff that happened when I left. I never intended for you to be caught in-between Dad and I.”

Seeing Dean flush slightly, Sam quickly put in, “Really, Dean. I am sorry. I never meant for you to be hurt. It’s important that you understand that. And I never should’ve let it put a wedge between us. I regret that most of all.”

His brother glanced at him out of the corner of his eye and shrugged before saying, “Yeah, I know. You showed me, remember? If I recall correctly, I got a front row seat to ‘My Brother and Me’ by Sammy Winchester.”

Seeing that Sam wasn’t going to be brushed off, Dean sobered, quietly admitting, “Listen, you did what you had to do and…I’m okay with that. Things happen sometimes and it’s nobody’s fault. It just is. We just…deal.”

Dean tried to hide the raw emotion breaking out just under the surface – his heart heaved with the memories of Sam’s leaving and the new knowledge of what his brother felt for him. Dean squirmed under the heavy weight of his little brother’s stare. He hoped he couldn’t see how affected his big brother was by all of this.

Sam hated to change subjects just when they were finally communicating, but he could see that Dean was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with this kind of talk and, besides, he really did have an important question to ask. So he nodded and let the sentence hang a moment before jumping back in.

“Listen, something you said earlier is bugging me.” Bewilderment twisting his features, Sam asked, “What does any of this have to do with what just happened?”

“Come on, Sam. Do we really have to do this now? I mean, I just found out that I’m Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel’s short-wave radio – except I don’t need the aid of the Aurora Borealis to boost my transmissions.”

Sam pulled a face, the one that says ‘Pit-Bull, remember?’ and Dean knew he was screwed. He didn’t want to get into this too far because he didn’t have all the answers yet, but he knew his brother better than he knew himself.

Dean rolled his eyes and quipped, “In this latest installment of My Freakishly Real Nightmares, I was running around trying to find you, right? But the background kept changing and no you – anywhere. I remember running down this hallway full of doors and fugly carpet and at the end was a big blue door with light coming from it.”

“When I opened the door, some ghost chick was there, looking out a window. And, I…knew she needed help…that this wasn’t a dream. It felt like when you were in my head talking to me. That’s pretty much it. End of story.” Dean shrugged nonchalantly as if this was a common occurrence and nothing to be upset about.

“A ghost? And she was asking you for help?” Sam realized he must sound like a parrot, but this was new territory for the both of them and he wanted to make sure he understood Dean’s words. Getting his brother’s nod, he went on, “What’s the very last thing you remember?”

Sam watched him scrunch his face with concentration as Dean recalled, “I was walking toward her, about to go all Luke Skywalker to her Princess Leia, when someone started ramming spikes into my brain and then I woke up to your puppy-eyed mug two seconds from my face.”

Sam thoughtfully tapped a finger on his knee while he turned Dean’s words over in his mind. “Just how long do you think this whole dream thing took?”

Snorting, Dean chuckled, “Man, I don’t know. I didn’t even know it was morning yet. The last thing I remember before that dream was being prodded and poked at by some unsympathetic nurse Von Hilda in the middle of the night. That was hours ago.”

The elder Winchester could see the wheels spinning in his brainiac brother’s head and watched Sam’s face as he worked through his thoughts.

“Hmm, well, I’m thinking that it’s possible having that kind of connection for such an extended period of time might have caused your brain to overload – resulting in the pain, dizziness and nose bleed. It makes sense.”

Sam looked up, realizing his slip about the dizziness. Dean didn’t seem to notice so he quickly continued, saying, “A part of your brain that isn’t accustomed to being used is getting overtaxed by all these signals. It’s possible that it might’ve triggered some type of physical reaction in response to the link with the spirit. How do you feel now? Does your head still hurt?”

“Uh, not really.”

Seeing Sam’s jaw flex at the lie, he quickly looked away and decided on diversion.

Clearing his throat, Dean asked, “Did any of this happen when I…well, you know, the first couple of times this happened?”

Saying the actual words out loud was too hard. That would mean acknowledgement of what Sam had seen, had experienced during their connection…and Dean wasn’t quite ready for that yet.

“Well, I don’t know. Your nose never bled, but you did have a seizure after that first time. That’s how they found out about the pineal gland.”

Letting Dean absorb his words, Sam continued asking, “But, Dean, why would a ghost want to make contact with you? I mean, we need to know what she wants from you. What exactly did she say?”

Feeling distracted by his thumping head, aching chest and growing fatigue, Dean answered more sternly than he had intended.

“Look, we don’t even know for sure that this was the same thing. Maybe it was just a dream after all? Besides, she didn’t really say anything – it was more like I could sense her distress.”

Then he pulled the trump card, rubbing at his eyes and grumping, “Dude, I’m really tired. Can we just save this for later? Please?” Dean stifled a big face splitting yawn for dramatic effect. He really was exhausted, he realized.

Sam didn’t like the idea of some unknown ghost hijacking his brother’s subconscious, but his brother really did look tired and his color still hadn’t improved. Plus, he had said ‘please’. Dean never said please unless he was really sincere, so Sam allowed the subject to drop for the time being.

“Okay, yeah – I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to push and you’re right, it could’ve been some random dream from your warped psyche.”

Dean held Sam’s eyes for emphasis, saying, “Thanks, man. Now, tell me, what was it that had you up at the crack of dawn in the first place? You come to warn me about the gelled eggs again?”

He was relieved that Sam hadn’t pressed him for more answers. He didn’t like the idea of some dead broad saying his brother’s name and spooking through his mind. It was bad enough to know that Sam had been pilfering around his memories and thoughts, much less some stranger. At least, on some level, Sam had been invited.

“Actually, I couldn’t sleep. So,” Sam released the breath he’d been holding, “I decided to come down and see how you were doing.”

Sam covertly hid the real reason for his early bird visit. While it had been nothing tangible, Sam had awakened to the sound of Dean’s voice saying his name. He hadn’t been sure if he’d really heard it, but he’d sensed that his brother was searching for him and had arrived just as Dean’s physical symptoms had come crashing down. The fact that his brother hadn’t picked up on how he had known about the dizziness despite Dean having never mentioned it was a testament to his brother’s condition.

Not wanting to upset him any further, Sam decided to keep that little tidbit to himself. He wondered if the elder Winchester’s fledgling abilities would keep them bound to one another permanently. Now he knew how identical twins must feel and then some. Even now, Sam had a vague nudging at the back of his mind that he knew was Dean. The intimate bridge between him and his brother always seemed strongest when Dean was asleep or under stress, but Sam had begun to notice that he carried a constant vague awareness of his brother with himself at all times these days.

It wasn’t as if he could actually hear Dean’s thoughts or feel his emotions, but he could catch small impressions and glimpses now and then that he knew without a doubt was Dean. Eventually, Sam knew he would have to tell him, but for now it was his little secret. His brother had enough to worry about for the moment.

“How’s the throat?” Sam asked.

Dean paused, taking stock of his throat’s pain quota and then replied, “Still raw, but better.”

Dean smothered another consuming yawn with his fist and fell silent. He couldn’t remember ever feeling so weak and utterly worn before and it frightened him. But, he was determined not to go down without a fight. What use was he to Sam and their father if he couldn’t even maintain a normal conversation without pooping out? Weakness was not an option for Dean Winchester and he felt betrayed by his body. He felt his eyes begin to droop against his will and it filled him with frustrated anger. Slamming his fist hard onto the bed, Dean shook his head and tried to force his body into conforming to his commands.

Sam flinched at his brother’s unexpected outburst. Infusing his voice with calm, he soothed, “Look, Dean, just give it some time. Your body is still a long way from being healed. It’s no biggie to me if you want to nod off. I brought a magazine down with me and I can just sit over here and read for a while. Just take it easy and give yourself a break.”

Dean’s respiratory therapist had given John and Sam a long list of possible long-term effects of ARDS, as well as a tip sheet on how to make Dean more comfortable once he was released from the hospital. Among other things, the doctor had told them that Dean could experience various symptoms such as fatigue, pain, weakness, poor appetite, depression, anxiety, and irritability for several more months. The list for cognitive and functional problems was nearly as long and included problems with balance, climbing stairs, driving, memory, concentration and attention. All this information served to remind Sam that his brother wasn’t going to just hop out of bed and get his game on anytime soon.

Without realizing it, Sam had placed a comforting hand on Dean’s wrist. Becoming awkwardly aware of the physical contact, Sam gave his brother a quick squeeze and broke the link by casually smoothing his hair back and giving a small yawn of his own. The fact that Dean hadn’t made any caustic remarks about it or shrugged it off with mock aversion spoke volumes. Instead, he reacted to Sam’s reassurances by pressing his head back onto his pillows and sighing as he closed his eyes.

Unable to force his leaden eyelids back open, Dean muttered drowsily, “Yeah, I know, but…I…hate this.”

Sam waited for more, but the only other sound coming from his sibling was a deep, soft breathing that signaled Dean’s surrender. Knowing the older man would never tolerate his gentle affection while awake, Sam took the stolen opportunity to reach over and smooth Dean’s short hair back away from his forehead.

The younger Winchester thought his brother looked like crap. His face had thinned considerably and it continued to hold a pained grimace even as he slumbered peacefully. He was alarmed at how quickly Dean tired and became short of breath - and he cringed every time Dean’s face twisted in ill-concealed agony or when a pained groan escaped from his lips. Sam longed to see some color decorate his brother’s cheeks again and the spark of mischief dance merrily in his hazel eyes as it once had.

Then he heard his own words whispered back to him in Dean’s voice, “Just give it some time, little brother, just give it some time.”


Chapter 11: Back to Lawrence

Sam had just put the Impala in park when he looked up and saw Dean being wheeled out by one of the day shift nurses. He quickly hid an amused grin as he slid from the leather seat and hurried to open the passenger’s side door. Dean’s face was grim at best and his posture was stiff with unease at being pushed around by a girl half his size. He tolerated it only because they’d been adamant about it and wouldn’t let him leave otherwise.

John was already in Lawrence with all of their belongings, save the Impala, and both he and Missouri were expecting the boys to arrive in time for dinner that night. Sam, however, had chosen to stay in a ratty motel room near the hospital – refusing to leave Dean’s side for a moment save for the occasional shower and change of clothes.

He’d been adamant about spending as much time as possible with his brother – which was pretty much all day and all night if you didn’t count the period of time Dean spent in therapy or sleeping. And, even when Dean was asleep, Sam was usually right by his side hunkered down in a too small chair that left his butt numb and his back achy. Dean had stubbornly protested, of course, saying Sam should go on ahead to Missouri’s. Naturally, Sam had been just as stubborn, refusing to go and pointing out that Dean was in no condition to make him.

By now, all that remained of Sam’s injuries was a Band-Aid along his hairline and the bulky, blue leg brace. He had rid himself of the crutches a day or so ago and now relied on a cane to help him maneuver with the cumbersome walking cast. He’d been assured by his doctor that this last bit of hardware was due to come off in a couple of weeks. Sam couldn’t wait.

He knew he probably shouldn’t be driving just yet, but he’d been determined to be the one taking Dean home in his newly restored Impala. Before today, he had restricted himself to taxis and it felt good to sit in the familiar Chevy once again.

After hurriedly opening the car door, Sam turned back to Dean and the nurse, anticipating his older sibling’s need for support from the chair to the car. This time when Sam, cane tucked under one arm, slid one strong capable hand under Dean’s elbow and placed the other around his shoulders, Dean didn’t jerk away or protest like he had in Nebraska. As much as he hated it, the elder Winchester had rather shift his weight onto his baby brother than allow the petite nurse to shoulder it.

Dean winced at the jabbing pain that sliced through his chest and abdomen anytime he was required to move into a new position. If Sam noticed his sharp intake of breath or the way his hands shook with the effort of the movement, he made no indication of it. The older man was grateful. Awkwardly, Dean shifted from his brother’s grip into the car seat and sat back with a relieved sigh. The car’s vents were blowing heated air onto his frozen feet and he groaned deep sounds of contentment.

The mid November weather had long since turned bone-chillingly sharp, with today having the added benefit of being overcast and solemn looking. It was a perfect match to Dean’s current mood. The air smacked of a pungent, earthy odor and he knew that the sky would soon open up and spill fresh rainwater down onto the earth below. He was extremely grateful that it had at stayed its watery release long enough for him to get into the car unscathed by its icy touch.

No sooner than Sam had thanked the nurse and taken shelter within the car, did the fat raindrops start splashing softly across the windshield and hood of the Impala. There, they joined into fatter drops, absorbing into each other until they grew too heavy to resist gravity and slipped down the sides of the metallic surface to the pavement below.

Too wretched and weary to put on his well-practiced air of complacency, Dean let loose another hefty sigh. The sudden release of breath provoked a round of coughing and gagging that had become a daily part of Dean’s existence thanks to the ARDS that had ravaged his body. His coughing fit finally spent, Dean closed his heavy eyes and allowed his body to soak up the comforting warmth spilling out from the heater’s vents.

He never seemed to feel any true warmth deep in his bones like he should, but he did his best to hide the incessant shivering that plagued him. Apparently it wasn’t enough because, suddenly, he felt his little brother’s concerned eyes on him as they pulled to stop at an intersection. Somehow, he just knew the look and what was behind it.

Not bothering to open his eyes, Dean responded with a gruff, “I’m fine, Sam.” And then when the stare continued to linger, he tried, “Dude, take a picture. It’ll last longer.”

Sam quickly snapped his eyes back up to the traffic light, watching for the green glow that would grant them passage to the road home. Shaking his head at his brother’s intuition and he eased the newly repaired Chevy onto the busy highway and hit the accelerator.

The scrap-squeak of the windshield wipers intermittently broke up the heavy silence as they batted away the falling rain. In the quietness, Sam watched from the corner of his eye as Dean softly stroked the leather seats as if meeting an old and dear friend after a long overdue absence. The repairs to Dean’s baby had been extensive and had cost a lofty price, but were obviously well worth it. Not for the first time, Sam mentally thanked God that the trucking company had picked up the tab.

The Winchester boys sat locked in their own private thoughts for several more minutes, hearing only the rumble of the Impala and the wet sound of the water as it was flung away by the tires burning up the road beneath them. Once Sam eased them comfortably into the interstate lane, he ventured a quick glance over at his brother. Sam swallowed a couple of times before daring to speak; he didn’t want Dean to hear the fear and uncertainty that hadn’t ceased over the long weeks of his brother’s healing.

Dean had regained enough of his strength to walk short distances with a little help, though he was still prone to lose his breath at such times and wince with each step. Especially troublesome was the wracking pain that ripped through his chest when the coughing fits came. Often he would become light headed and would have to stop for a minute to allow the vertigo to ease before continuing on. The doctors all seemed pretty pleased with his progress to date, but Sam felt uneasy about it all – his vague connection with his brother told him something wasn’t quite right – and he was worried.

Seeing Dean looking much too thin and pallid was more than enough cause for concern, but the niggling in the back of his mind only made matters worse. Of course, when Dean knew Sam was watching in that wary, distraught way of his, he would automatically straighten himself and focus on keeping his breaths and facial expressions as even and normal as possible.

On more than one occasion serious words had been flung back and forth during Dean’s mealtime because Sam had insisted that his brother eat just one more bite – Dean had insisted that Sam just shut up. Nonplussed, Sam was relentless in his quest to guide his ailing brother toward good health, to the point of being a royal pain in Dean’s behind.

Dean felt like he had gone above and beyond his call of duty to be understanding and patient – all qualities of good big brothers. However, Dean’s temperament was sour today and he was in no mood to be pestered or coddled into placating Sam’s good intentions. This is why the elder man’s body went rigid with dread as he heard Sam clear his throat one last time before finally speaking.

Staring straight ahead and evoking a casual tone, Sam asked, “So, is it warm enough in here? ‘Cause I could turn the heater up a little…and, I, uh, brought a blanket with me in case you might need it.”

Gritting his teeth, Dean was determined to show Sam just how fine he was – despite the fact that deep down inside, he really would’ve liked to have the blanket. Instead, he popped one eye open and braced his voice with big brother authority, saying, “Are you kidding me? It’s hot as hell in here. Are you sure you’re not coming down with something, Sammy?”

Sam snorted his incredulous response. He’d just witnessed his brother’s covert attempts to pull his leather jacket a little tighter around his body only seconds earlier. His voice brimming with irritation mixed with resignation, Sam replied, “Okay, have it your way, Dean. Just don’t blame me when your teeth start chattering again and you ruin your big, tough show of bravado by going all Blue Man on me.”

“Yeah, whatever, dude,” Dean replied, as he shifted sideways toward Sam with a another pained grunt and settled more fully into the leather seat, unconsciously wrapping his arms around himself in blatant betrayal of his own words. Both eyes clamped shut, Dean feigned sleep – ending the discussion before it’d hardly started.

Soon thereafter, the silence was broken by Dean’s soft breaths, alerting Sam that his big brother had, indeed, fallen asleep. Reaching into the back seat, never taking his eyes off the road, Sam retrieved the said blanket and fluffed it out with a shake before one-handedly covering his brother’s tremor ridden body. Scoffing under his breath, Sam said, “Big, stubborn jerk. I knew you were cold.”

oooOOOooo

The big, stubborn jerk never heard Sam’s soft spoken words. Instead, he found himself captured by nightmares; returned to that fearful night a month ago. He could feel himself pinned against the rough, weathered wood of the cabin’s wall, just like before. He could feel the intangible bonds holding him stiffly in place. His dad – no, the demon – stood in front of him, taunting him with his innermost fears.

“They don’t need you. Not like you need them,” came the growl of the demon wrapped in John Winchester’s skin.

Dean could feel the hatred laced with panic clench his heart and squeeze until he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, only feel. He tried to rationalize that it was just the demon playing its deceptive games, but somewhere inside he could feel every barb punch through the armor that he had arduously built to protect himself.

“Sam is clearly John’s favorite. Even when they fight, it’s more concern than he’s ever shown you”

For a fleeting moment, Dean forgot about the demon. He could only see the truth in the statement, the truth about his father’s feelings toward him. Dad never worried over me like that, not like Sam. He drove Sam away with his fear of what would happen to him alone at college, but didn’t even blink when he sent me out on solo hunts, or again when he just up and left me. Abruptly the fury fueled by the hurt rushed through Dean’s veins, filling him with cold rage.

Anger burned wildly in his heart and mind; anger at his father for leaving him, anger at this demon for parading his deepest fears under the nose of his family, but mostly, anger at himself for letting it all happen. The violent emotion took away any desire for self preservation. He heard the venomous words leave his lips, knowing – wanting – what would come next.

But, instead of the demon’s slashing and tearing of flesh, his dad’s eyes unexpectedly returned to their normal shade of brown. Reflected within the coffee colored depths was repugnance and disgust. His father was ashamed of him, revolted by him and his self-pity. Instantly, all of the anger drained away, leaving behind nothing but disgrace and rejection in its wake.

Then, John spoke, his words ripping Dean’s heart out just as surely as the demon had. Unflinchingly, boring into his son’s fearful eyes, he growled, “How could you, Dean? How could you allow yourself to be played like that? You put Sam in reach of the demon. You delivered the Colt right into its hands. This is your fault. Your fault and yours alone.”

“And now you stand here in front of me feeling sorry for yourself? You make me sick. You’re no son of mine. You deserve to die. Do you hear me, Dean? You deserve to die, you weak pitiful shell of a man. I thought I’d raised you to be tough, impenetrable to such nonsense. I’m going to let this demon put you out of your misery. Out of our misery.”

The velvety brown was replaced by the glistening gold once more, and a menacing look of glee transformed his dad’s features. “This makes it so much more worth the wait, having daddy’s approval to shred your sorry self into bits.”

“No, please,” Dean begged just before the obliterating pain stole his breath away. “No,” Dean pleaded in between the clawing and gauging of flesh, all the while loathing the sound of defeat and brokenness in his voice.

The demon continued to slash at his chest and abdomen just like before, eliciting more yelps of suffering from its victim. Then it purred, “After I’m done with you, I’m going to make Sam my willing puppet. By the time I’m finished with him, he’ll spit on your dead body and gladly follow me.”

“No!” Dean howled, the terror erupting from the very fiber of his being. No, not Sam – take me, but please leave Sam alone. Desperation burst forth, flooding all of his senses –the impact propelling him from the dream with a yell.

oooOOOooo

Not wanting to disturb his sleeping brother, Sam had opted to leave the radio off – which gave him long minutes to be lost in thought as the hospital became a distant memory. Dean had been asleep for about an hour and a half when Sam heard a soft whimper coming from him. Muffled cries were followed by a hand twitch and then a jerk of his left leg. Then the whimper turned into a barely audible, but strained, “No. Please…no,” as his brother’s head began swinging back and forth, his face fearfully contorted.

The sweat that Sam failed to notice earlier was streaming down Dean’s face, running down his throat and onto his chest. Alarmed, Sam began peering at him as often as he dared to let his eyes leave the road.

Sam was about to lay a consoling hand on his brother’s shoulder when Dean jerked bolt upright, eyes frenzied and horror filled, screaming, “No!”

Watching Dean blink dazedly, trying to gather his bearings, Sam asked, “Hey…are you all right?”

The brief flashes of pure emotion coming from the elder man had been frightening and visceral, but Sam didn’t want Dean shutting down on him, so he stayed calm and let him take his time. He continued to watch guardedly as his brother slowly relaxed back onto the seat, trying to blink reality back into his head. His breathing seemed to ease as he remembered where he was, that he’d been dreaming. Reaching up – favoring the deepest wounds on his left side – Dean rubbed his hands across his face and through his short hair.

Wiping his sweat-wetted hands on his jeans, he hoarsely responded, “Just dreaming about hospital food again.”

A smirk flitted across Dean’s features, but the small smile did nothing to hide the several shades of pale that had been bleached into his countenance.

Sam rolled his eyes and answered back, “Right. Speaking of food, are you hungry? We could stop at the next town and get something to go?” Sam really hoped Dean would say yes.

Glancing briefly at his brother before settling back into his comfortable nest, Dean replied, “Naw, I’m not hungry. But go ahead and get something for yourself. Don’t skip lunch on my account.”

“Dean,” Sam implored, “you need to eat something. You hardly touched breakfast at all. Please.”

The thought of food at that particular moment made Dean’s stomach want to turn inside out. The dream had left him feeling shaky and ill. “Really, Sam, I just wanna sleep. Besides, I’d hate to ruin my newly done leather interior with stomach contents.”

Again Dean tried to smirk, infusing his voice with his characteristic humor, but not quite getting there.

Concern gnarled inside the younger man as he asked, “Okay. How about something to drink, then? Maybe a soda will help settle your stomach?”

Exhaling gustily, Dean knew Sam would persist until he gave in to some degree. Brotherly patience transforming his voice, Dean said, “Yeah, okay, Sammy. Can you make it a coffee, though, I’d like something hot.” Something to warm up my frozen insides.

Giving his brother a sideways glance, Sam remarked, “Dean, I really don’t think coffee would do your stomach any good. I’ll get you a Sprite and then we can turn up the heater.”

“Sure, whatever, dude. But, I’d rather have the coffee,” Dean answered, somewhat annoyed, before ending the conversation by closing his eyes once again.

Wanting to say more, but afraid to ruffle his brother’s feathers any further, Sam hesitantly asked, “Hey, Dean?”

“Mmm?” was all Dean offered, eyes still closed.

“You know you can talk to me, right? I want to help.”

Sam could see the vestiges of his brother’s dream in the way Dean’s hands trembled as they rested against his thighs.

“Yeah, I know,” came Dean’s unsteady reply.

The elder man continued to pretend like all he wanted to do was go back to sleep, but in reality, he had no desire to risk any more nightmares. He just needed a few minutes to gather himself, to shake off the effects of the dream. Plus, his head was pounding rhythmically, forcing him to keep his eyes shut and his head down.

“Look. I know you’re holding something back. Please, I really want to know. Dean? Did you hear me?” Sam spared a quick peek at the top of his brother’s bowed head, waiting for a response.

“Yeah, yeah. I heard,” Dean’s voice cut in, giving up all attempts to appear asleep. Raising his head just barely, Dean considered his words before responding, “Remember when you once told me that sometimes you just need to keep some things to yourself?” He waited for his brother to get the drift.

“Yes, I remember. But-” Sam began.

“But,” Dean interrupted, “there are some things I need to keep to myself, Sam. And this is one of them.” Dean’s tone left little room for argument.

“Okay, but just remember that I’m here if you want to talk.”

Dean dipped his head in acknowledgment and went back to his former resting position. Not knowing what else to say, and sensing his brother wasn’t into chit chat for the time being, Sam went back to driving in silence. Twelve minutes in, he couldn’t stand it anymore and reached over to flick on the radio. Adjusting the volume down, Sam tuned in some random radio station he knew Dean would love, and let the music fill the void between them.

Eventually the other man relaxed and sleep overtook him despite his best efforts to fight it off. This time, though, there were no nightmares – just ordinary dreams. It wasn’t long before Sam was pulling up next to the two-story building, getting as close as possible to the old, cracked concrete porch. He grinned and waved at the older woman as she came out the door to meet them.

Turning toward Dean, Sam reached over and gently shook his brother’s knee, calling, “Dean? Hey, there sleeping beauty, we’re here.”

Dean’s eyes fluttered open and he began struggling to untangle himself from the blanket, grimacing at the Disney reference. Missouri was just coming down the front porch steps as Sam pushed open his door with a loud squeak and limped over to Dean’s side to help him out.

“Hello, boys,” came Missouri’s familiar welcome. “Here, let me help you,” she called out as she, too, hurried over to Dean’s now wide open door.

Bending over, Sam grabbed Dean’s upper arms and carefully helped him to a standing position. Then, placing his hand under Dean’s elbow and grabbing his cane from its resting spot against the Impala, he helped his brother take deliberate, short steps toward the house. Behind them, Missouri pushed the car door shut and then took Dean’s free arm, firmly placing herself as near the young man as was possible.

They took the stairs one step at a time, stopping a second before taking the next step – letting Dean set the pace. Each new step up caused a soft hiss to slip past Dean’s lips, though he was trying valiantly to keep them in check by holding his bottom lip firmly between his teeth. Everyone was coated in a thin sheen of sweat by the time they made it to the front door. Dean, from the effort it took to climb the stairs and the other two from the draining patience it took not to rush him.

Missouri opened the door, allowing Sam to painstakingly guide his brother toward the nearest piece of furniture. Letting go of Sam, Dean eased himself onto the couch with a grunt. Resting his head on the back of the couch, he closed his eyes and steadied his breathing, which was now coming in shallow gasps. Seconds later, Dean felt the couch give a little as Sam, too, plunked down on the soft folds of the sofa.

Giving them both a moment to recover, Missouri bustled into the kitchen and set about fixing three glasses of fresh lemonade along with bologna and mustard sandwiches. She knew instinctively that Dean wasn’t up to heavy foods just now and that poor Sam was starving for anything. She added some cheese to Sam’s sandwiches and placed some crackers on both plates figuring maybe Dean would at least nibble at the crackers if he refused the sandwich.

Coming back into the living room with the tray of goodies, she set it down on the coffee table just in front of the boys’ knees. Gratefully, Sam reached for the food as Dean eyed it warily, wondering if he dared give it a try. Breaking the silence, Sam asked, “So, where’s Dad?”

“He’s upstairs takin’ a snooze,” Missouri answered cheerfully. “We didn’t expect you to come so soon. I promised him I would wake him as soon as you got here, but I think I’ll just let that sleepin’ dog lie, for now. Dean, honey, aren’t you gonna eat?”

Flicking his gaze quickly from the sandwich to Missouri’s face, he stammered, “Uh, I’m not really hungry right now.”

“Now don’t hurt my feelings, boy. You can at least eat those crackers,” Missouri preached. Her voice sounded gruff and chiding, but that was only because she was trying so hard to hide her feelings of worry. She knew all too well that he hadn’t been eating well and that something had the boy spooked. She could also feel the concern radiating off Sam like heat from sun-blistered concrete in the hottest part of summer.

Grimacing, Dean leaned forward to snag a cracker only to be intercepted by a faster moving Sam who snatched the plate and placed it on the couch in between them. Raising one inquisitive eyebrow, Dean smirked, “Impatient, much?”

Looking back at the elder Winchester, Sam sheepishly replied from around a mouthful of sandwich, a few crumbs spraying out with the words, “Sorry, just tryin’ to be helpful.”

Ignoring the exchange between the brothers, Missouri popped up out of her seat and shuffled out of the room muttering, “Land of the livin’, where’re my manners?”

Exchanging quizzical looks with each other, the boys shrugged before resuming their munching and chewing. A minute later their silent question was answered as Missouri came back into the room, setting up a TV tray where Dean could easily access his food and drink. After assembling the items on the tray, she reseated herself across from the boys in her favorite rocker.

“After you fellas have finished eating, I’ve got your room ready for you to take a nice long rest. I put the two of you in the same room here on the first floor so neither of you’ll have to climb up and down the stairs. Also, the guest bathroom’s just across from your room, which’ll make those midnight runs to the restroom a little easier for ya.”

Casting a look toward the stairs and nodding, she continued, “My room and your daddy’s room are on the second floor. With your daddy still in his cast, I hated to put him through the trouble, but there was only enough space down here for two. Besides, it’ll serve him right havin’ to work those crutches up and down the stairs. Draggin’ his boys into such a mess, he could use a good thumpin’ on his hard head. He’s just lucky he got that arm freed up so he could use those crutches.”

Voice muffled with the thickness of the dissolving crackers, Dean muttered, “Don’t blame Dad, it’s my fault. Should’ve been more careful.”

Stunned by this confession, Sam stopped mid bite to stare at his brother while he processed Dean’s words. Sam was preparing to argue his brother’s misplaced self recriminations when Missouri beat him to it. Her voice took on a shrill pitch as she said, “Boy, what are you talkin’ about? Those hospital drugs must be messin’ with your mind for you to believe that either one of you boys could possibly be at fault for any of this. You boys were just doin’ the best you could with a bad situation.”

“Dean, look at me.” Missouri paused her tirade until she knew she had Dean’s complete attention. Looking him directly in the eye, she affirmed, “Honey, you’re not to blame for any of this. None of it, you hear me? You may be at fault for a lot of things, but not for this. I don’t ever want to hear you talk that way again, you understand me?”

Dean could only stare helplessly back at the spunky woman. He knew if he tried to talk, he might lose it right then and there. Missouri’s unwavering belief in him was genuine and complete and oh, so needed. The young man just nodded his head and blinked back any wetness that might’ve been glistening in the green whirlpool of his eyes. But, not before Missouri and Sam both had registered its existence. Sam quickly closed his gaping mouth and went back to eating as if nothing at all had happened.

Not losing a beat, Missouri picked the conversation right back up from there and continued to explain where everything could be found in the house, giving a detailed list of what she expected from them while they stayed with her. The list included meal times and what to do when she unavoidably had company. She’d cut back her usual work schedule to only three clients a day since John had arrived and felt it was best to continue with the routine as it was. That, she had explained, would give her plenty of time to see to their needs and also give them time to come into the living room to relax around the TV, or whatever they wanted to do.

By the time she was finished with her instructions, the boys had finished their meager meal and were looking drowsily content. Missouri shooed both of them to their room for a nap, complaining the whole way that the fatigue vibrating off of them was too stifling for someone of her vigor. Both boys were able to rest undisturbed by nurses or bad nightmares and were feeling somewhat refreshed by dinner time.

Both Missouri and Sam tried to persuade Dean to be served in bed, primarily because walking seemed to aggravate his coughing, but he would have none of it, preferring to be led carefully on still wobbly legs to the kitchen table where his dad was waiting. As soon as Sam and Missouri helped Dean through the doorway, John’s chocolate eyes lifted to his eldest son’s face, evaluating and seeking something from him.

Inwardly, Dean felt himself flinch under his father’s skillful assessment, afraid that he would see the same disgusted rejection in this John’s eyes as was in dream John’s eyes. Still stinging from the guilt and malefaction of the nightmare, Dean felt his cheeks burn and he was unable to meet his father’s gaze for the first time in his life. He pretended to be distracted by Missouri’s aid and Sam’s clumsy gait, letting his eyes fall away from his father’s penetrating stare. Missouri’s appraisal darted back and forth between the two men, confused by Dean’s sudden withdrawal into himself and the hint of self-loathing she’d glimpsed when he came before John. All she could sense from John was that the man was incredibly grateful to see his two sons again and was oblivious to Dean’s altered mood change.

Shaking her head helplessly, she remembered again how blind John was when it came to his boys. Especially when it came to Dean. She guessed it must come from the fact that John and Dean were different. Dean had inherited most of his personality, perceptions and other qualities from his mother. But that only partly explained the enormous chasm between what John saw in his son and what really lay behind the carefully contrived wall that Dean had long ago built around himself.

Everyone had always assumed that Sam was the sensitive one, but really, he was just better at showing his emotions – thanks in no small part to Dean’s protective upbringing. No, Sam was more like his father in some respects. Very intellectual and objective, Sam saw the world as a puzzle to be solved. Sometimes he was so busy trying to learn every new thing he could, that he sometimes forgot to take a deeper look at what was going on with those around him.

Sam did have a big heart, just like Dean, but Sam allowed himself to be distracted by his insatiable need to understand everything under the sun. He was also good at seeing things from a logical, impersonal, almost aloof perspective. Whereas Dean just accepted what was and placed the highest value on those he called family, seeing his own worth as a direct reflection of his loved ones.

Missouri guessed that Sam still retained that ability to question and ask why because Dean had buffered his little brother from their dad’s revenge consumed ways. It was sad that the Sam wasn’t in college where he belonged, or that Dean wasn’t making a family of his own to love. However, she was glad that Sam was there for his brother and vice versa. Dean needed Sam more than the world did for the here and now and Sam would always need his big brother around, sharing his life. There was always time for both of them to carve out a special place to be true to themselves later, when this was all over.

Lightly, she patted Dean’s hand as he sat down, catching his eye and briefly giving him a wink. Then they all began passing the bowls of food around the table, much like a real family would. She could feel both boys relaxing and starting to enjoy themselves a little more as each minute passed. Dean seemed to let go of whatever had caused his earlier lapse into the darker parts of his mind and Sam seemed to be conspicuously aware of that and relaxed along with him.

The boys sent each other inside looks and smirks when Missouri really did whack John with a wooden spoon after he made some ill thought out joke at her expense. Seeing their father reined in by the small woman with the gentle, little-girl voice was nearly enough to send them over the edge with laughter. It was the first time in a very long time that the Winchester family had sat around a dinner table like this and shared a meal sprinkled with hearty mirth. And it felt so good, so right to them, that they never wanted it to come to an end.

Unfortunately, time ceases for no one and bedtime snuck up on them quickly. Despite having had naps, the men where still recovering from their injuries and were all ready for bed by 9:30 that night. John had actually dozed off a few times seated comfortably in the hunter green rocking recliner. Sam stifled a face splitting yawn, but waited on Dean before giving up and heading for bed himself.

Dean fought with all his might to draw out the moment with his family as long as he possibly could, but was losing the battle and found his eyes heavy with fatigue. Finally, he gave in after Sam jokingly remarked that he was in no condition himself to pack his brother’s sorry butt to bed like a puny, little kid.

Reluctantly, they all said their good nights and disappeared behind their bedroom doors. Missouri helped Sam tuck Dean into his full-sized bed and then waited for Sam to get into his twin before asking if they needed extra blankets or pillows. Kissing both boys goodnight on the forehead (causing Dean’s face to color and Sam to chuckle at his brother’s discomfiture), she took the water glass she’d brought for Dean’s meds, and set it on the bedside table before flicking out the light.

Exhausted, full, and content, the brothers quickly fell into the waiting arms of the sandman, happy as they had ever been in the last twenty some years. Too bad it couldn’t have been that easy for either of them. A peaceful rest in a quiet home was long overdue for both Winchester men, but as Dean once again entered into the frightening realm of terror and torment, it was not to last for long. The big question they would find themselves asking later would not be the why of the impending dream, but whether or not the dream was really just a dream after all.

TBC


a/n:   As always, you can thank my beta readers, Mady Bay and sojourner84 for their diligence in spotting errors and making suggestions for improvement. Thanks, ladies, you do great work.

Also, I made some changes after it was betaed, so feel free to point them out if you spot one.

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Tags: the wake-up call
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