Once again, he sees his adopted family, going through their nightly routine. His mother smiles, giving his father a peck on the cheek as he leaves for the bedroom. A small candle burns behind her for light. She gets a cup of water and puts out the candle. She goes to follow him into their small room.
She stops. Reaches up to brush the hair from her eyes.
For a moment, Sam is sure he feels the house as it shakes.
And then, it comes again.
Dust shakes down through the cracks in the ceiling. Only darkness beckons beyond the gaps. His mother grabs at the thimble of water they keep on their 'counter.' It is a small counter made from several child's building blocks and covered with a tablecloth she'd made from a scrap of forgotten fabric. It slips off anyway and crashes on the floor, soaking her pants.
He knows what comes next, but nothing he tries can pull him out of the world of dreams.
Before the ending he is so familiar with comes, the images start to melt together, shifting into something new. Something different. Something unexpected.
There's a house, standing alone on the street. A gnarled, twisted tree stands near it, tall even in death. A thousand times taller than Sam is now. A scream breaks through the silence of the dream for a moment, an image of fire briefly flashes in his eyes.
In the window of the house, a woman beats her fists, screaming for help. Terror is in her eyes as she sees her death approach.
Gasping, Sam woke up in a cold sweat. The nightmare dissipated into the cool, pre-dawn air. He tried to pull himself up to a sit, but ended up flailing when his bed under him folded, lifting him up all on its own. Sam found himself along for the ride as it lifted into the air.
Confused, he opened his eyes, pausing to let them adjust in the sudden light. He found himself sitting in Dean's open hand, folded to give some support to his back. He couldn't bring himself to meet the worried expression he knew was on Dean's face, hovering right above him. He hated having Dean always worrying about him like this. It made him feel like he was just a burden.
"Dude, you alright?" Dean asked. He peered down at Sam, squinting to see him better in the soft morning light.
"I'm fine..." Sam said, trailing off for a second. A brief flash from his dream hit him, showing a house and the gnarled, twisted tree out front. He shook his head to relieve himself of the disturbing images. Bringing himself back to the present and his silently fretting brother, Sam finished his thought. "...just a bad dream."
Dean held him that way for a few more moments, making Sam shift under the heavy scrutiny. "Sam, do you want to talk about it?" From the tone of Dean's voice, talking about it was the last thing he'd ever want to do, but his eyes still locked on Sam's, reassuring him that his brother would always be there for him.
The last thing Sam wanted to do was relive the horror again so soon. "Ah, no. It's nothing Dean, just a bad dream."
"Sam, these dreams are eating you up. You haven't gotten a good night's sleep since we finished that case with Nixie."
"Dean... I'll be fine. You don't have to worry so much. Now... can I get back to sleep? It's already been a long night." He tilted to the side, glancing off the edge of the hand supporting him. A mistake. Dean was sitting with his legs off the side of the bed, the hand with Sam in it suspended above the faraway floor. Sam felt the blood drain from his face at how high up he was, knowing if he ever fell from this height it could kill him.
Seeing Sam's reaction to where he was, Dean moved the hand over the bed. An uncomfortable expression passed over his face when he realized how he'd scared Sam by accident.
Focusing back on the matter at hand, Dean sighed unhappily. "Alright, whatever you say." Dean went to lower him down to the nightstand and his bed, but Sam waved for him to stop, an idea jumping into his head at the last second. Dean brought him back up, holding Sam far enough out so he could get a decent look at his brother.
"Do... do you mind..." Sam rubbed the back of his neck. Dean waited with an expectant look on his face. "Can-I-sleep-in-your-pocket?" He blurted out all at once, worried Dean would laugh at him. But that dream - it had disturbed him so much he doubted he'd be able to fall asleep down on his bed again. He couldn't bear laying down there, alone in the dark. So far away from his brother and safety. The dream he'd just had felt too close to the dream he'd had of his family dying - the night before losing them. Too close, too real. And the last time he'd slept a full night, he'd been in Dean's pocket.
To his surprise, instead of laughing at him Dean's eyes softened. "No problem, Sammy."
Dean lay back down on the bed, gently dropping Sam down on the center of his chest. Feeling a weight lift off his shoulders at his brother's surprising acceptance, Sam jogged over to the pocket. The amulet he'd given Dean he carefully stepped over, smiling at the memory of it. Without that amulet he might never have found his brother. They wouldn't be here now.
Reaching the pocket, he pulled up the flap. He ignored the ground under him shaking as Dean settled down into the bed. It wasn't alarming anymore, he knew he was perfectly safe. Treating the pocket like a sleeping bag, he settled in. Dean's steady heartbeat under him conspired to lull him back towards sleep, giving him a feeling of safety he only ever found there. He was so far gone he didn’t notice when Dean rested a hand protectively over the pocket, trying to shelter his little brother from the rest of the world.
Both brothers slipped back into a dreamless slumber.
The next morning found Sam sitting on a pillow of the spare bed, drawing images from his dream into the small journal he owned while Dean was busy checking for new cases online. He listened to his brother's steady voice fill the background with half an ear while sketching out the gnarled branches of a dead tree.
"Alright. I've been cruisin' some websites. I think I found a few candidates for our next gig. A fishing trawler found off the coast of Cali," he arched his eyebrows. "Its crew vanished. And, oh. Here's some cattle mutilations up in West Texas. Girl found dead in a locked apartment in Nevada..." He glanced over at Sam on the bed and waved his hand. "Hey."
Surprised, Sam stared up at him, almost dropping his notebook. "What?"
"Am I boring you with this hunting evil stuff? Few days ago you wouldn't shut up about this stuff, now you won’t even pay attention."
"No, I'm listening. Keep going." Sam turned back to his drawing, wishing he'd sharpened the lead pencil tip he had for writing. Dean had offered to try and find something easier to write with, but Sam found himself loath to give up what he had... it had been one of his hardest finds.
"Here's a good one. Sacramento man shot himself in the head three times." He peered over at the bed, realizing Sam wasn't paying attention again. "Three times, Sammy." He held out his fingers for emphasis. There was still no response. Standing, he bounced onto the bed, hoping to get a reaction out of Sam.
Sam flew up in the air, crashing back down on the pillow a few feet away from his journal. Recovering, he found Dean's hand hovering over him, three digits as long as he was tall extended. "Three times. Any of these blowing up your skirt, pint-size?"
"Was that really necessary?" Sam muttered, grabbing his pencil tip and his journal from where they'd fallen. He shoved at the hand in his way, stomping further away so it wasn't hovering in his personal space. And then took a second look at the picture he'd drawn, realization hitting him. "Dean, do you have Dad's journal on you?"
"Yeah, sure." Dean reached into one of the inner pockets of his jacket, pulling out the familiar journal. He plopped it on the bed not far from Sam and watched curiously while the smaller hunter went over, trying to push the journal open with his limited strength. Taking pity, Dean reached over Sam's head, opening it for him. Sam stumbled for a second in surprise at the hand's appearance but recovered quickly.
Sam walked right onto the journal, leaving it open to the first page. He dug through a few of the pictures tucked into the first page until he found what he was looking for. "Dean, I know where we have to go next."
Dean leaned over Sam, a huge shadow eclipsing the light over his head. "What are you talking about?" The picture Sam was holding was only a little smaller than him, arms stretched to their limits to hold it steady for Dean to see. Dean took it from him, holding it out for the both of them.
"We need to go home, back to Kansas." Sam had to look straight up to meet Dean's eyes the way his brother was looming over him.
Dean frowned at that. "Okay... random. What brought this on?"
Sam jabbed a finger at the house in front of him. The people in the picture were close to the same size as him. "Our old house... it didn't burn down. Not completely, right? Didn't it get rebuilt, or something?"
"I guess so. Why? What's bringing this on?" Dean rested his head on his free arm so he was at the same level as Sam. He'd noticed how uncomfortable Sam was, looking up at him.
Sam bounced past the sprawling length of his brother, going to the edge of the bed closest to his bed under the nightstand. "I... ah... I think the family that lives in our old house is danger."
Dean frowned. "What makes you say that? Where's this coming from?" His eyes tracked Sam's movement on the bed, curiously following the smaller man.
Sam turned back to him when he reached the edge of the bed, glad Dean was closer to his level. He still got intimidated when Dean towered over him. And it made what he was about to say easier to get out. "You... you're just gonna have to trust me on this, okay?" He could feel his eyes pleading to Dean. The last thing he wanted to do was explain his nightmares to Dean. He already felt like he lived in a different world than his brother... he didn't want anything else to push them further apart. Which he was certain would happen if Dean found out how his nightmares came true.
Dean frowned, deep lines etched onto his face as he considered Sam standing before him. "Trust you? That's all you're gonna give me here?"
Sam stepped away nervously at the scowl on Dean's face. "Dean, please," he begged. "We have to go back there. Now." He turned away, planning to climb down to get his stuff.
He didn't get far. Dean blocked Sam with a hand, keeping him from leaving. "Sam, that's weak. You gotta give me more to go on for this." Dean sent Sam his version of the puppy eyes, surprisingly effective when bigger than your head.
Sam backed away. He deserved that. He couldn't find it in himself to get mad at Dean. "It's just... I can't explain it."
This only earned him a cocked eyebrow. Dean's expression changed from pleading to unsympathetic in the space of a second. "Well, tough. Until you do, we ain't going anywhere."
Something leaked out of Sam at this ultimatum, his shoulders slumping down. If he didn't have Dean's support, he wouldn't be able to get anywhere the way he was. As aggravating as that was, it was a part of his life now and he'd have to deal with it like he dealt with everything else this size.
Steeling himself for what he was about to tell his brother, he took a seat on the bed in front of Dean and stared up at him. Even with Dean lying flat on the bed like this he towered over his younger brother. "Just... please don't freak out."
Dean waited expectantly, nothing but support written on his face.
Sam closed his eyes. "I... I have these nightmares."
"Yeah... I've noticed." Dean's tone was full of tell me something I don't already know. Sam figured he deserved that one. Dean woke up before him every time he got trapped in a nightmare, disturbed by the way Sam freaked out in his sleep.
Sam squeezed his eyes shut, hating what he was about to say. "And these nightmares... sometimes they come true."
There was silence. Sam studied the threads on the bed covers, picking them nervously while Dean digested his revelation. By the time a response came, Sam had managed to unravel a few threads by his leg.
"Come again?" Dean said, unable to hide the surprise in his voice.
Sam sucked in a deep breath. Here it goes. A thousand times he'd thought about having this conversation with Dean and a thousand times he'd talked himself out of it, afraid of how Dean would look at him afterwards. If he lost Dean or pushed him away, he'd lose the last person he cared about in this life. He'd already lost his life, the family that had cared for him since he was ten, his home...
He didn't want to lose Dean too.
He braced himself. "Dean, look. Before... before my adopted parents died, I saw it happen. For over a week, I dreamt about their deaths."
Dean reached a hand out to Sam, pausing when Sam flinched away. He rested a fingertip lightly on Sam's shoulder. "Sam, people have weird dreams all the time. Doesn't mean you're seeing the future. It could've just been a coincidence."
Sam shoved the finger away, taking himself to a stand and pacing back and forth angrily. "No, Dean! I saw everything. The way they died, the fire, my adopted mom against the ceiling... just like how Dad said Mom died! It's how I know they were killed by the same bastard. And..." he turned his eyes up to Dean, eyes glassing over. "Dean, I knew how they were going to die days before they died. I saw it happen long before you even came to town. If only I'd told them... done something, they might not have died. I didn't believe it at the time because it was too insane, but then it happened, and if I'd just told them, I could have stopped it from happening!"
Dean licked his lips, voice rasping, "Sammy..."
"And now I'm dreaming about that tree, our house... and some woman, screaming for help in the window!" He paced back to Dean's hand, leaning on it like it was a table. "Dean, it's where it all started, all those years ago... this has to mean something!" Without realizing what he was doing, he punched a fist into the hand he was leaning on.
"I... I don't know..." Dean's voice, normally so steady, trembled at Sam's statement. He didn't pay any attention to the tiny blow against his hand.
Sam couldn't help himself. "What do you mean you don't know? This woman could be in danger. Hell, this could be the same thing that killed Mom... that killed both our families! And we might finally have a chance to get it..." He went back to pacing again, stalking back and forth with agitation in front of his brother's hand. "Dean..."
The hand lifted from the bed, two fingers pinching around Sam's midsection to hold him in place. "Slow down for a minute, would ya? I mean first you tell me you've got the Shinning? And then you tell me that I've gotta go back home? Especially when..."
Sam stared down at the finger in front of him as Dean's voice trailed off, noticing how it trembled while holding him in place. He put his hands on the large digit, surprised at the emotion in his brother's voice. Dean was normally so stoic and collected, Sam couldn't help being a little afraid of the uncertainty in the giant before him. "When what?" He asked softly, giving Dean his support.
Dean blinked glassy eyes down at Sam. "When I promised myself I'd never go back there?"
Sam pulled away from the grip of the fingers in surprise. They let him go gently. "Dean... we have to check this out. We have to be sure."
Dean closed his eyes, burying his head into the arm he was leaning on. "Yeah. I know we do."
Dean sat down in a far off corner of the diner, smiling at the hostess when she left him the menu to check out. He'd asked to sit as far from the crowd as possible. Holding up the menu, he tilted his head down to his pocket. "Hey, if you see anything you want to try, give me a heads up."
A little head poked out of the pocket, blinking tiredly. Sam had spent the last few hours on the road catching up on his sleep from the night before. This was the first time Dean had seen him since they left the motel. The drive back to Lawrence, Kansas was over fifteen hours so there was plenty of down time for Sam to sleep through. All in all, a good thing since Sam hadn't been sleeping at all the last few nights.
From what Dean could tell, the nightmares were getting worse every night. Last night being the worst of them all.
Dean smirked at Sam when he stood in the swinging pocket, arms up in a stretch. "Nice bedhead, shorty," he said, raising a hand to mash down the flyaways in Sam's hair.
Sam twitched away from the hand, disappearing back into the depths of the pocket when he tumbled backwards. Dean chuckled as Sam hauled himself back up again, sending Dean a death glare the whole way. He tried to fix his hair. "Leave my hair outta this," he groused. He stared at the huge menu in front of them, overwhelmed with the choices. His entire life no one had ever asked him what he wanted to eat. Not till Dean. "Ahh... I'll just... I'll just have some eggs." he said.
Dean flipped through a few pages, taking in the choices. He already knew Sam hated to ask for anything at times like this… Dean wanted to get Sam to open up a little more, but there wasn’t time today. For now he'd just order something with variety so Sam got to try something new.
He was still browsing through when the waitress came up. Dean jerked up the menu so it blocked Sam from view. He gave her a smile, trying to not look like he was hiding anything. He felt Sam's tiny weight drop to the bottom of the pocket the second she arrived. 'Least the kid was fast.
"Hi, my name is Claire and I'll be taking your order today." With a bright and cheery smile, she put down a tall glass of water on the table. "Did you want any appetizers today?"
"Nah, I think we'll skip right to the main course."
She eyed him curiously. "We? Do you have a friend coming?"
Shit. Realizing his mistake, Dean backtracked as fast as he could. The small lump in his pocket that was his brother hung heavy against his chest, a sharp reminder of how much Sam depended on him. And if something happened to Sam because Dean wanted breakfast.... he'd never forgive himself. Such a stupid reason to put Sam in danger. "Ah... no, sorry. I was going to meet up with my college roommate, but he, ah... cancelled last minute."
She was still giving him the weirded out eye. "Oookay. Well then, what would you like to order?"
Deciding to just go with it like nothing out of the ordinary had happened, Dean folded up his menu. He gave her his most charming smile. "I'll take the 'Ultimate Omelet,' a coffee, black, and a side of bacon."
She snapped up the menu the second it hit the table. "Coming right up!" She said, dimpling. It seemed he was forgiven.
Once she was gone, Sam poked his head up again. "College roommate? That's your best comeback?"
"Hey, you have any better ideas, feel free to speak up next time." Dean reached up a hand, fishing Sam out with two fingers. With his brother perched on his hand, he repositioned the little stand up dessert menu that was in the center of the table so it was closer to him and placed Sam so he could hide behind it.
"You sure about this Dean?" Sam asked, glancing around nervously. Dean had tilted the menu so he could only be seen from Dean's seat or the wall the booth was placed against.
"You'll be fine, quit worrying." Dean said wryly. He dug out a bottlecap from his pockets, checking to make sure it was clean before putting it down next to Sam.
"Yeah, well it's not your ass on the line if this goes south," Sam grumbled, settling down with his hands around his knees.
The food came about fifteen minutes later, an omelet with everything that could fit into it piled up on a huge plate, and a smaller plate with three skimpy strips of bacon.
"You just tell me if you need anything else, hon!" Claire said, winking at Dean. "I'll be back to check on you in a bit."
Once he was sure the waitress was gone, Sam peeked around the menu at the rest of the diner. "So, you eat at places like this a lot?" He asked curiously, eyes flicking from table to table, taking in the other distant patrons.
For the most part, the diner was full of elderly couples. A few families with children dotted the area. One pair of twins was playing tag before their mother stomped over, grabbing them both by the hand to pull them back in the booth. From Sam's point of view, it was a completely alien landscape, full of cliff-like tables and enormous giants. Almost no places to hide or escape. His brother was his only source of protection in a place like this.
"Uh, yeah. A decent amount. It's better than fast food at least. This life... I never have time for anything but diners, take out or fast food." A flash of emotion that might have been regret passed over Dean, thinking of the life he’d never have. But he wasn't meant to have this kind of life. He was a hunter. And Sam...He might never be normal.
Pushing it away, he dug into the omelet, cutting off a piece for Sam. He figured with an omelet like this, there would be plenty of variety for Sam to try. He tried to get a bit of everything in Sam's little piece.
Tearing off a bit of napkin, he put the bit of egg and some of the bacon down in Sam's cubby. He fiddled around with the bottlecap, trying to get the coffee the way Sam liked it without having to add anything to his. Dean liked it hot and black, whereas Sam preferred it sugared and creamed so much you almost couldn't taste the coffee anymore. "Shit!" He cursed under his breath when he fumbled the tiny cap, spilling the hot coffee on his fingers.
Sam winced when Dean spilled the coffee. He scooched farther back into the menu when the coffee spill soaked through his napkin. Dean's huge hand wiped up the spill, swooping close to Sam while he cleaned. After, Dean had to rip off another napkin and get more of the omelet and bacon for Sam.
He finally managed to get the tiny bottlecap filled with drinkable coffee for Sam and set it down. Sam dug into his food without any more delay.
No words passed between the brothers for the next ten minutes as they both happily dug into their plates. Dean kept an alert eye out for any threats for Sam, knowing his brother's nervousness about eating out in the open like this wasn't unfounded. Sam had good reason to want to stay out of sight from any humans that weren't Dean. Even Dean had been dangerous for Sam to be around before he realized it was his little brother.
Dean jumped a little when the tiny voice pulled him out of his thoughts. "Uh, yeah?" He said, voice a bit sharper than he'd meant. His nerves were on edge assessing dangers he'd never thought of before. His hunter senses were on full power.
"I... I was just wondering... have you heard from Dad yet... you know, about me?"
Dean paused, remembering the message he'd left their Dad more than two weeks ago now. "Nothin,' he hasn't called since."
Sam stared down at the table, tiny shoulders slumping down. Guilt rose in Dean's throat at the hurt in Sam's profile. He pushed it away, knowing it wasn't his fault. His brother deserved better but there was nothing Dean could do about it. He dug back into the omelet, concentrating on the eggs to the exclusion of everything else.