TITLE: Changing the Nightmare
PAIRINGS: Dean/Sam, Sam/Jess
WORD COUNT: ~3,080
WARNINGS: Mild cussing, nothing worse than you’d find in an episode, angst, mentions of wincest (slash)
SUMMARY: Dreams surely are difficult, confusing, and not everything in them is brought to pass for mankind. (Homer’s the Odyssey)
DISCLAIMER: "A vague disclaimer is nobody's friend." - The characters of Supernatural belong to Eric Kripke, The WB, The CW, etc. The ideas and concepts in this story are mine entirely. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.
All remaining mistakes are my own. Though Beta doesn’t really cover her role – without her enormous help in designing the story and whipping it into shape, it wouldn’t exist. And she even came up with the title!
WRITTEN FOR: oh_mcgee for the spn_j2_xmas
Georgia, Summer 2001The sharp, heady scent of iron roused Sam from his sleep. He blinked a few times to allow his eyes to adjust to the darkness, as he tried to figure out where the smell was coming from. It was overwhelming, filling Sam’s nose and mouth every time he inhaled, causing his stomach to roll. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up and Sam felt someone’s, or some thing’s, eyes on him. His hand slid under his pillow and his finger curled around the familiar handle of his blade.
He sat up, the knife carving a path through the air until it was in front of him, facing nothing but the dark motel room. Sam scanned the room, paying special attention to the dark corners of the room, but nothing was out of place and nothing else was in the room with them.
Relieved Sam lowered the knife, slowly letting out the breath he’d been holding as he turned to see if he’d woken Dean. Dean’s side of the bed was empty, the sheets rumpled, pulled back, but he wasn’t there. Sam’s strained to hear any movement in the room, any sign of Dean in the adjoining bathroom, but the silence was eerily absolute.
“Dean?” Sam called out quietly. His voice, wavering and unsure, startled him in the vast emptiness of the room. He cleared his throat and tried again, forcing his voice louder, “Dean?”
There was no response.
Something warm and wet landed on his hand and he jerked, yanking his hand back toward his body as his eyes struggled to figure out what it was. His heart started to race as an unfounded sense of dread snaked up his spine. Every instinct in Sam’s body told him to run, to run and never look back. But he fought down the urge, he couldn’t leave without Dean. Another drop of warm liquid landed on the bed sheet, soaking through to touch Sam’s bare thigh. He shuddered, fingers clutched numbly around his knife, and forced himself to look up.
Dean was pinned to the ceiling, arms and legs bent in odd angles, unable to move though Sam could see the muscles straining. Bile rose in his throat as Sam’s eyes focused on the huge gash from Dean’s sternum to public bone, a killing blow, a cut meant for evisceration. He should have been dead, insides spilled out, but instead only a few droplets of blood escaped the wound to soak into the blood-stained sheet Sam had been sleeping under.
Dean’s mouth was moving, screaming, but no sound interrupted the eerily silence. But Sam didn’t need to hear the words to understand what Dean was screaming, he’d been reading Dean’s lips and body language for longer than he could remember.
Run! Get out! Sammy, get out! Dean silently screamed in warning as he struggled to free himself from the invisible force holding him to the ceiling.
It was incomprehensible for Sam to even think about leaving Dean pinned to the ceiling, bleeding and probably dying, no matter the potential danger to himself. He shook his head, which only further aggravated Dean. Sam was reaching for the covers to pull them back and get out of the bed when fire suddenly erupted out of Dean’s chest, billowing downward toward Sam and forcing him back into the bed.
Sam screamed, raw and terrified, as he watched the flames dance along Dean’s skin, bubbling the flesh as it went. Dean’s silent screams changed to pain and terror as he held Sam’s gaze through the flames.
Strong arms wrapped around Sam’s chest and hauled him backwards away from Dean’s burning body on the motel ceiling and toward the door. Sam screamed, kicked and fought against the body behind him, but he wasn’t strong enough, couldn’t break the hold, as he was drug from the room. The entire room exploded in flames, the windows shattered outwards, causing Sam to fall to the ground from the force of the blast.
He struggled to get to his feet, to get back into the burning room to save Dean, but he was held back, pulled into a strong familiar embrace.
“He’s gone, Sam. Dean can’t be saved,” his father’s broken voice cried in his ear as he held onto Sam tightly.
Smoke billowed out of the burning motel room, the rancid smell filled Sam’s nose, and underneath it all he could have sworn he smelled sulfur.
Sam jerked awake into a sitting position in his bed, sucking in a huge gasping breath of air as he took in his surroundings. He was in the same crappy motel room as his dream, but this wasn’t the nightmare he’d just experienced. The stuttering whir of the air conditioning trying to keep up with the Georgia heat, the low volume setting on the television, and Dean’s presence at the laminate wood table in the kitchenette section of the room.
Sam watched as Dean pulled another match out of the book and struck it across the back, setting it ablaze. Dean’s eyes were fixed on it, watching as it burned down to his fingers before he shook it out and tossed it in the ashtray next to him. Sam knew the ashtray would be filled with the burnt remains of the other matches Dean had torn out of the book. The sulfur smell of the extinguished match hit his nose and he gagged, the image of Dean’s flesh bubbling and burning hit him hard, and he shoved himself out of the bed and stumbled toward the bathroom.
He barely made it to the toilet, knees crashing hard into the tile, as his stomach emptied itself.
“Sammy?” Dean asked as he appeared in the bathroom doorway.
Sam spit in the toilet, trying to rid the taste of bile from his mouth.
“'Nother nightmare?” Dean pushed as he stepped in further.
“Yeah,” Sam answered and struggled to get to his feet.
Dean was there immediately, hands sliding under Sam’s arms and gripping his ribs as he pulled him up and steadied him on his feet.
“Gonna tell me what it was about?”
“No,” Sam quickly replied. He didn’t want to think about that dream again, didn’t want to dredge up those memories. It was still too soon; he could still smell the motel burning down around Dean.
“Gonna have to tell me at some point Sam.”
“Maybe,” Sam muttered as she flipped on the faucet and stuck his mouth into the stream of water. He swished it around and spit it out.
This wasn’t the first time that Sam had dreams of Dean’s fiery death. It was always the same dream, varying only in the crappy motel rooms. Dean always died. Sam was never able to save him. And their father always drug Sam out, leaving Dean behind.
The nightmares had begun shortly after Sam and Dean had taken the step past brothers and into a relationship that the outside world would never understand. It wasn’t an easy decision, both had struggled with it, argued with one another, but in the end Sam won because Dean could never deny Sam anything.
“Sam,” Dean tried again but Sam violently shook his head. “All right, fine. I’ll be next door with Dad!” Dean bit out as he made his way through the tiny room.
Sam didn’t relax until he heard the door slam. He made his way back to the bed, trying to ignore the lingering smell of smoke.
He had no idea why he was getting these nightmares. His only real idea was it was his conscious telling him what he was doing was a sin. Brothers weren’t supposed to love one another like Sam and Dean did. They weren’t supposed to kiss on the mouth, weren’t supposed to touch each other to bring pleasure, and they certainly weren’t supposed to fuck one another.
Maybe this was God’s way of warning Sam, letting him know what lay ahead for Dean. It didn’t make sense though because Sam had been the one to start things. He pushed and pushed until Dean had caved. He’d never been able to deny Sam anything, even this. Perhaps God wanted him to suffer, suffer by living in a world without Dean, knowing his brother had died because of his own weakness. The thought made his stomach roll and he swallowed hard to keep from puking again.
Sam grabbed his backpack off the floor and set it on the bed beside him. He toyed with the zipper for a minute, casting a glance at the door to make sure Dean was still gone before he opened it and pulled out his Bible. He flipped to Revelations where the letter was carefully hidden, pressed between the pages. He pulled it out, unfolding it gently, and his pulse picked up just at the sight of the letter.
Acceptance to Stanford was hard to come by. A full ride, tuition, books, meals, room and board, and a generous stipend was practically unheard of. And yet that was Sam was currently holding in his hands. He’d sent back his acceptance as soon as he’d gotten it, afraid if he delayed he’d chicken out or Dad or Dean would find it.
The only thing was that he hadn’t told Dean or his father. He hadn’t been sure up until just a few minutes ago that he was even going. He’d been trying to figure out how to talk Dean into coming with him, leaving the hunt and settling down. But he now knew he had to leave, leave Dean behind, because it was the only way to save him.
Stanford, Fall 2005
“Sam! Sam!” Jess’ voice brought him out of the nightmare and back to reality. “Sam?” she asked this time, concerned and frightened.
He gave her a silent, jerky nod to let her know he was awake and paying attention. He couldn’t speak, his throat raw and dry from screaming. He knew he’d been screaming her name, terrified and out of control, and it had woken her. It was the third time that week he’d had this nightmare. It’d happened countless times before over the last couple of months.
“What the hell is going on Sam?” Jess asked, voice wavering as she sat back on her heels to watch him.
Sam ran a shaking hand through his sweaty hair and groaned at the feel of his soaked tee-shirt sticking to him. “I’m sorry,” he immediately apologized. It usually worked and she’d drop it when she got a good look at him, but he knew that would not be the case tonight.
“Yeah, I know Sam. But what the hell is going on? This isn’t the first or second time you’ve woken me up. What are you dreaming about that has you screaming out my name like you’re scared to death?”
“Jess,” Sam whispered, not ready – never ready – to talk about it.
He’d seen her burn, just like he’d seen Dean, and just as he imagined his mother had. He could still taste the smoke in the back of his throat.
“Talk to me Sam. You’ve been shutting me out and it’s obviously not working,” she tried to convince him.
He shook his head and crawled out of their bed. “I’ll go sleep on the couch,” he told her and started toward the door.
“Sam!” Jess called out.
He looked back and offered her a small forced smile. “Maybe in the morning, Jess,” he offered, trying to put her off. “Just…not right now,” he pleaded, letting his voice break as parts of the nightmare replayed in his mind.
She relented and gave him a nod. “Come back to bed Sam. Sleeping on the couch isn’t gonna fix anything.”
He bit his lip, longing to crawl back into bed with Jess, wrap his arms around her and forget about the nightmares that had been plaguing him. But a chill went down his back and he slowly shook his head. “I just need to clear my head…go back to sleep, Jess,” he told her and left the bedroom.
He made it back to the kitchen in the dark on memory alone. He heard Jess sighing, put out and upset as she rolled around in their bed. He knew he was shutting her out, knew she was upset. But how did you explain to your girlfriend that you were having the same nightmares as four years ago, when you were fucking your brother?
He pulled a mug out of the cabinet and filled it form the tap. Slowly he took a sip, hands only mildly trembling from the adrenaline rush of the nightmare. He leaned back against the counter and stared off into nothing, as he tried to sort it all out in his head. He didn’t understand why he’d be having the same nightmares as he did with Dean. They were practically identical too, only minor details varied. But the result was the same. Jess died in these nightmares, and someone always dragged him out, saving his life.
He couldn’t come up with a rational explanation as to why it would be wrong to be with Jess. She was perfect, wanted to have a job, settle down and have a family. She was normal – exactly what he wanted, what he was trying to be. He wanted to marry her, spend the rest of their lives together, watching their kids run around the yard, play t-ball and wrestle with each other. He wanted to be Sam Winchester, the lawyer and family man. He wanted to forget that he was once a hunter, and that he was in love with his big brother.
He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the memories, but they were stubborn, and aided by the fact that he really didn’t want to forget who he was or where he came from. He dumped the rest of the water into the sink and set the mug on the counter. He wasn’t going to settle anything tonight, not at this hour. He only hoped he would sleep through the rest of the night.
He was almost to the bedroom door when he heard someone moving around inside the apartment.
Kentucky, November 2008 (set immediately after Heaven and Hell)
They lay in silence except for their harsh breathing, their bodies touching along their sides. Sam waited, wanted to give Dean the chance to speak if he wanted to, but Dean didn’t. His eyes were closed but Sam knew he wasn’t sleeping.
So he guessed it was his turn. As he took a breath to speak he felt Dean tense up beside him. “I dreamt of Jess dying for a couple of months before it happened,” Sam started. Even though it had been years since she died, it still stung, and his breath caught in his throat. The nightmares had been nothing like the real thing. “I kept waking up from the same nightmare, Jess bleeding and pinned to the ceiling, and then her bursting into flames, and each time I couldn’t save her,” he confessed.
Dean sighed and was quiet for a few moments. This probably wasn’t the conversation he thought Sam was going to have with him. “You didn’t know they were visions, Sam,” Dean finally tried to console him.
“I should have. They felt so real. It was how Mom died. I couldn’t remember that, I was only a baby, but Azazel did. He forced those visions on me with his demon blood and I didn’t know. And Jess died because of it.”
“Her death was not your fault. That bastard killed her,” Dean snapped as he turned onto his side and glowered down at Sam.
“I know, I just…I just wish I could have prevented it Dean. There was no need for her to die, especially like that.”
Dean nodded, but remained silent.
“I was going to propose to her,” Sam kept going. He watched as the emotions on Dean’s face shut down. God, he really didn’t want to hurt him, but he just needed to explain it all. “I had the ring box hidden in a pair of socks in our dresser,” he added. “I wanted to make sure I got into law school before I did it. I wonder if it would have changed things if I had done it sooner? Maybe she wouldn’t have been at the apartment baking cookies that night? Maybe she would have been out looking at wedding dresses with Katie and Nicole. Maybe-“
“You can’t live your life on maybes, Sam,” Dean cut him off, with a little more force than was probably necessary.
Sam reached up and gently placed his hand on Dean’s face, thumb tracing across his sharp cheekbone. “I dreamt of you too,” he whispered.
“What?” Dean asked, confused about the statement.
“The summer I left for Stanford. The nightmares started with you Dean. You died, pinned to the ceiling, gutted, and then you erupted into a ball of flames. Just like Mom did, and then like Jess,” he elaborated.
Dean’s eyes widened in shock. “Sam,” he said gently. Sam wasn’t sure whether it was in complete sympathy or an attempt to shut him up.
“I was going to try to talk you into coming to Stanford with me, getting an apartment off campus, setting up a real life for the two of us. I didn’t want the hunt anymore, and I didn’t want it for you either. But I kept seeing you die and I thought God was punishing me – us – for our sin, for loving each other. If I had known they were a product of Azazel and his demon blood I wouldn’t have left you. We would have figured it out. Jess wouldn’t have died.”
“Why didn’t you come to me Sam?”
“No chick-flick moments, remember? You’d drilled that into my head the minute you entered puberty.”
“Damnit Sam, it would have been different.”
“I know. I was seventeen, in love with you, and terrified of losing you. I just…I really thought God was pissed about our relationship. I thought you were going to burn in Hell for what we were doing. Turns out my fears weren’t all that far off. You died and I couldn’t save you.”
“Maybe I don’t deserve to be saved,” Dean replied.
Sam sighed and rolled his eyes. He curled his fingers around the back of Dean’s head and pulled him down until his eyes crossed at how close they were. “You don’t deserve Hell either.”