She didn't know what she was doing. The concrete floor is cold under her socks and for a brief moment she thinks about going back to her room to get her shoes. No, she can't go back to her room. Not right now. Claire's nightmare still clings and the fear of being alone in a dark, strange place made her jaw clench and her fingernails dig into her arm protected by the thin red and black plain over-shirt. She hadn't been living in the bunker long and despite being shoved from foster home to foster home, she still found it hard to make herself sleep in an unfamiliar place.
Reaching the door up the barely lit corridor from her room, Claire took a deep breath, steadying her nerves and deciding on what to do. This was stupid. Dean would tell her to get lost and it wasn't as if she was a child still. She shouldn't need comforting like this. She could turn around and go back to her own room. But the cold, empty feeling in her chest carries her forward.
But Dean told me to ask if I needed anything... Claire softly scoffed to herself. God this was stupid
Taking another deep breath, Claire decided that she couldn't just sit out in the cold corridor all night. Knocking on the oak wood door, she made herself count to five before going in.
"Dean?" Claire called out softly. Leaving the door a-jar to shine a light in the dark room. She noticed the knife that was poking out from under his pillow, the silver blade reflecting the dim hallway lights. Deciding that it probably wasn't a great idea to stand too close to Dean until he woke up properly and registered that he wasn't in danger, Claire took a step back.
"Yeah?" His gruff voice answered. His eyes were still shut but she saw the hand that had moved under the pillow for the knife had moved to rest on his head. Moving his head to rest in the crook of his arm, he cleared his throat.
"What's up kiddo?"
"I can't sleep," She chews at her lip. God she sounded so pathetic to her own ears.
Opening his eyes, Dean looked at Claire, sensing the tension and anxiety roll off of her. He'd been there, 8 years old and desperate to crawl in to bed with his dad. To feel warm and safe. But his dad would tell him he was too old to act like a child. You've got to act like a man, Dean. D'ya think men crawl into bed with their dad's? God he was an asshole
"Okay," Dean said. "Give me a minute and I'll be right with ya'."
Waiting outside Dean's door that was pulled to. Claire observed the end of the hall with caution. She knew that nothing was waiting for her and though the corridor was lit by dim red lights she still felt scared. After all, she knew what lurked in the dark. Sighing, Claire tried to reason with her, jumpy, scared brain. Nothing is lurking in the dark in a hundred mile radius of the bunker. The Winchesters wouldn't allow it. But not all monsters are monsters. Some of them are human. What if somebody broke in?
Jumping slightly as the door swung open, Claire observed Dean as he pulled the door shut again with a quiet click He was dressed in flannel and worn old jeans. His shirt was a faded, dark Metallica shirt that looked like it had seen better days. Smoothing the collar of his over-shirt, Dean looked at Claire, her hair was unbrushed and knotted and her clothes were creased like she had been sleeping in them. Making a mental note to go out and get the kid a decent pair of pyjamas, they both set off towards the kitchen in search of a soothing, hot cup of tea.
"So, you gonna tell me what's keeping you up?" Dean broke the silence that had settled over the pair first. They were sat at the big table in the library drinking some of Sammy's herbal tea. Surprisingly, it wasn't disgusting.
"Told ya'" She replies, taking a sip of her tea. It smelt of cinnamon and Claire wished she could sink into its comforting warmth. "Just couldn't sleep. Where's Castiel? I thought he stayed with you?" Ah, the old deflect and distract tactic, Dean was familiar with it.
"Cas is working on some leads, nothing he can't handle," The older Winchester said, taking a quick drink of his tea and turning the conversation back to the original topic.
"It was nightmares, right?" Claire just shrugs but the slight hitch in her breath and the way her hands play nervously with the tea cup suggests that he's right.
"Y'know, in this line of work, nightmare's are gonna be a pretty persistent thing. Hell, I've had my fair share of nightmares." Dean sets the cup in his own hand down as he reaches for Claire's who are still fluttering nervously. He can read the way that her jaw is clenched and her gaze focuses on the spot on the table like it's the most interesting damn thing in that room "It ain't nothing to be ashamed of."
Claire quickly looks from where Dean's larger hand is resting on her smaller one and she feels the warmth from them. It's almost comforting, until she remembers how much blood has been spilled on them. How many people have drawn their last breaths whilst his hands were wrapped round their throats? Drawing her hands away, Claire almost apologises as she sees the flash of hurt in the hunter's eyes.
"What do you dream about?" The question that has been lingering on the tip of her tongue since she woke Dean up is out in the open and an array of emotions flicker in front of his eyes like a flame in front of a drought. Clearing his throat, Dean looks away.
"Mostly, I dream about losing Sammy." His eyes become cloudy and Claire regrets asking. "It's not always whilst hunting. It's more of a feeling, y'know?" He drains the rest of his tea and sets the cup down a little harder than what is necessary. "The panic that wells up in my throat when I realise that he's missing is scarier than any monster I've ever came across." Dean's eyes glisten in the warm lamp light as if they were going to well up with tears and she feels a pang of sympathy.
"There was a time when Sam used to run away from me and my Dad," Dean chuckles weakly, not meeting Claire's eyes. "He ran off one day for a week or two on my watch and God, the fear that stuck with me for months afterwards. I wouldn't let him outta my sight."
"You got him back, though." Claire speaks and for the first time in the last two minutes, Dean's eyes reach hers as he smiles.
"Yeah, I got him back. Been a pain in my ass ever since" The fondness in the older Winchester's voice makes Claire wonder what it would have been like if she had a sibling. Someone who would have been there after Castiel took her father away and her Mom running off. After her Grandma died and she had to steal and fight for a chance at survival. What would it have been like if she had someone to lean on every once in a while?
"We all have our demons kiddo, it's okay." If Dean was told a few years ago that he'd be comforting a teen girl and talking about feelings willingly and he would have told the man to fuck off before he pumped him full of rock salt. He is growing and it feels right. Maybe Sam was right, chick flick moments aren't that bad.
Her hands shook so she bawled them into fists. Her nails digging painfully into her palm. "I miss my family," Claire whispered so quietly that Dean strained to hear her and that quiet; show of vulnerability makes Dean's heart ache. He's no stranger to mourning what could never be. There were times after a particularly gruelling hunt that Dean mourns the life he had with Lisa and Ben. The white-picket fence and dinner ready and on the table by six pm. The lazy days where him and Lisa would get up in their pyjamas, make pancakes and watch bad television. And then he'd look back at his brother or Cas and think about the people he's saved. The families he kept together. The people who could finally find their peace.
"I know. And I won't lie and say that it will pass or any of that. You're going to miss your family and that's okay."
Nodding, Claire drinks the last of her tea and taps her nails against the cup.
"Hey, d'you wanna watch some netflix?" The hunter asks as he gathers up the now empty cups. "Sammy left his laptop in the kitchen that we can bring into the library."
"Sure, that'd be great" She smiled.
Dean got up and put their cups in the sink, a job for the morning, and went to fetch Sam's laptop. In the end they decided on watching Tangled, the pair quickly fell asleep. Claire resting her head on Dean's shoulder. It wasn't the most comfortable place to sleep but, hell, she'd slept in worst places. They both had. Dean woke up first to the sound of his brothers footsteps as he ducked his head around the door frame. Giving a puzzled look, Dean shrugged his shoulders best he could with Claire still fast asleep on them. Deciding on flipping his brother off, Dean put on another movie. He would only admit to it if he was tortured but he had a soft spot for Disney films.
When Claire finally woke up, it was around 9 a.m and she is surrounded by pillows and blankets. Blinking against the light and stretching, Claire notices that she's alone and in the library. Sam's laptop is still sat on the table beside her and for a split second she wonders how she got there. The events of last night hit her as she feels her face heat up in embarrassment.
There are voices from the kitchen and she slides out of the chair, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. Her feet pad quietly through the bunker to the kitchen where she can see that Cas is back. From the bags that are dumped carelessly around his feet as he embraces Dean, he just got back. It's nice seeing them together like that. At first, it was weird because some part of Claire still saw Cas as her dad. There is a ethereal tenderness to the hug, the way that they are slowly rocking, Cas is facing away from her but Dean isn't, she sees the way that his head is buried in the crook of Castiel's neck and she grins as she realises that Dean is smiling. Dean's hand that was resting on the nape of Cas' neck moves to his dark hair. It's heartwarming.
Until Sam comes in loudly.
"Hey guys, do you want any breakfast?" Sam says as he walks into the room. His hair is wet from his morning shower and he's wearing some faded jeans and a plain t-shirt. He has his car keys in his left hand and a pen and scrap paper bunched in his other hand.
"I'd love some," Claire says as she walks over. Dean has detached himself from Cas and is positively beaming.
"Mornin' sunshine," He says and Claire smiles at him. For the first time in a while the smile is genuine. She is genuinely happy for the first time in God know's how long.
"Right, what does everyone want?" Sam asks as he bends over the tatted piece of paper, resting it on the counter. Once everyone said their orders and Dean talks Cas into getting some cherry pie for the two of them to share. After Sammy is gone, Dean, Cas and Claire migrate to the library.
"I don't understand, you know that I can't taste food," Cas grumbled with a smile on his face as he pulled up a chair beside Dean.
"Because, it's 'freakin' delicious" Dean grumbled back, "And because if I eat a whole pie to myself, Sam will be on my back about E-numbers and sugar and crap"
Rolling her eyes at the banter, Claire grabbed the laptop from the middle of the table and put netflix back on. Dean pulled up an empty chair between him and Cas for Claire to sit down.
When they were all comfortable, Claire pressed play on another animated movie. Something about the lives of insects, it was good. Every so often Cas would comment about the surprising dexterity of ants and how they are his father's favourite creation in all the animal kingdom. Dean rolled his eyes but grinned at the angel's comments. It was comfortable and warm and for the first time in a long time, Claire felt at home.
She felt safe.