Summary: Written for the prompt "exhaustion" on my fanbingo card.
Disclaimer: Writing for fun and team pride, not for profit.
Sam was stealthy; like, ninja stealthy. Once false step and his target would be aware of his presence causing said target to bolt. Causing distress was not the objective.
Sam knew he had to time his movements with accuracy; he didn’t want to tip off the target to his approach. Sam had been successful on similar missions in the past and learned his lessons on the ones that had failed.
Sam stretched his senses across the quiet room. He tried to keep his muscles relaxed but ready to move. Waiting sucked, but he was confident that his patience would be rewarded.
There! That was it! The target had moved and shifted into a new position. This was the trickiest part…
Slowly…quietly…Sam eased out from beneath the stiff motel sheets. He let the blanket fall back into the space he had vacated. The approach was all important. Though neither he nor Dean was telepathic, Sam projected the twin thoughts of I’m no threat to you and I’m a ninja because adopting the stealth of a ghost in this case would be ironic and disturbing.
The space between the beds was not wide but sometimes even standing up too quickly got Dean’s attention and snapped him out of the light doze he managed to fall into. Sam eased himself into an upright position and ghosted like a ninja (dammit, “ghost” as a verb to describe his stealthy ninja moves was not what he was going for…) to the side of Dean’s bed.
Dean was stretched out on his stomach on his bed, his legs hidden below the blanket that had been pushed down to his waist. Dean’s right hand was tucked up under the pillow and his face was turned toward Sam’s bed. In the dim light of the motel room, Sam could see fluttery movement beneath Dean’s eyelashes, but it was indicative of an overactive mind, not dreaming. Dean’s breathing was too light and rapid to be a sign of the deep sleep that he so desperately needed.
Being back on the road with Dean gave Sam an opportunity to see his brother in new light. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, hindsight is twenty-twenty, and new sleeping patterns that Sam had picked up while at Stanford gave him the occasion discover a heretofore unknown fact…Dean could not fall asleep.
Dean could nap. Dean could pass out. And hell, pain medications were a wonderful sleep aid. But on any given “normal” night it took Dean hours go to sleep, and Sam was sure he was a pretty big part of it. But once Sam had worked that all out he put his mind to figuring out what he could do about it.
It wasn’t easy.
Getting to bed and falling asleep before Dean wasn’t helpful – Sam had always done that and clearly the fact that he was sleeping didn’t mean that Dean was sleeping too.
Trying to get Dean to bed and making him fall asleep was a joke. He just grabbed the remote and sat up watching late night TV. (Side note: the flickering of a crappy television making shadows on the wall and the sound of canned laughter and infomercials was like a lullaby to Sam and guaranteed to put him to sleep. This worked counter to his ninja training.)
So, it came down to – what could Sam do after they both went to bed to help Dean get past dozing into REM sleep?
Sam Googled cures for insomnia (which was not technically Dean’s problem) and natural sleep aides. He attempted some subtle aromatherapy which only had Dean asking why the room smelled like sage. Sam wracked his brain looking for an answer and eventually realized that the solution to this current problem was a piece of the past.
One night as Sam listened to Dean not sleeping, a memory crashed into his cerebral cortex. He didn’t know what triggered it, but it came forward, fully formed. Sam remembered it like it had just happened.
It was a rare circumstance – they were settled in an actual house; it was a weekend, but Dad was home; and Dean was sick with strep throat. Sam did his best to entertain Dean during the day, but Dean didn’t have the focus to stick with any particular movie or TV show and trying to play a board game was beyond him. For his part, Dad was pushing the fluids and antibiotics; Dean didn’t overtly avoid drinking, but trying to get anything past the strep infection in his throat was a problem. It was hardly even twilight when Dad sent Dean up to bed.
Even back then Sam could’ve told Dad that wasn’t going to work.
But Sam was surprised that when Dean went upstairs, Dad went too. He was doing something in his bedroom, then traveled to the bathroom, and then back and forth again. Sam was listening to Dad’s footsteps and could hear him pause outside the bedroom he shared with Dean, but then Dad kept walking. There was no rumble of conversation, so Dad wasn’t talking to Dean, just looking in.
About a half an hour later, on the fourth trip down the hall, Dad’s footsteps told Sam he finally made a detour into the bedroom. He still wasn’t talking. It was weird enough to get Sam’s attention and curiosity got him up off the couch.
Sam was in stealth mode going up the stairs. He went far enough up so he could peek through the bars of the banister into the bedroom. Dean was sacked out on his bed, right arm hanging off the side, fever-flushed face turned toward Sam’s empty bed. Dad was standing between the beds with his left hand hovering over Dean’s back between his shoulder blades. Then he gently placed his hand on Dean’s back, and to Sam, it looked like he pushed. Dean twitched a little and looked like he was rousing; it was then that Dad started talking. His words were low and soft so Sam couldn’t catch all of it, but he definitely heard his name and something like “I’m here”.
Sam could see sleep ease into Dean’s features. He didn’t realize how tightly Dean was holding himself even in his sleep until Dad got him to let it go. He stood there for quite a while; it must have been uncomfortable because he was so tall and Dean was so low on the bed, but it didn’t seem to faze Dad. There was no indication that Sam could see that Dean was well and truly asleep, but Dad seemed to know when it happened. He eased himself into a fully upright position and walked quietly out of the room.
“How’d you do that, Dad?” Sam whispered.
Dad didn’t seem surprised that Sam was there. A sad smile curved his lips. “It’s a trick your mom taught me because Dean’s a stomach sleeper.” Dad looked away from Sam and back at Dean. Sam could see him swallowing hard. He didn’t look back to Sam when he said in a rough voice, “Don’t you wake him up when you come up later.”
“No sir, I won’t.”
It was the stomach turn that Sam had been waiting for. Sam raised his left hand above Dean’s back. He tried to think calm, sleepy thoughts. Sam’s hand descended into the space between Dean’s shoulder blades and he pushed. Dean tensed, but Sam was quick with his words.
“Hey Dean…we’re all good for the night.” Dean’s shoulder muscles bunched beneath Sam’s hand and his eyebrows drew down in a frown.
Sam kept a steady pressure on Dean’s back. “The door and windows are salted and you even carved a sigil of protection over the door.”
Dean drew in a deep breath and almost seemed ready to move. This was the make or break it moment.
“I’m right here, Dean. It’s Sam…I’m safe and right here.” It was so weird talking to Dean this way, but it seemed to be the way to ease him down to sleep.
Sam could feel the air slide out of Dean’s lungs even as the tension left the muscles in his back. He took another deep breath in, but this was the breath of slumber, not waking. Sam could feel his brother relax under his hand with each lungful of air.
Sam stood awkwardly between the beds, afraid to move and break the spell. Minutes ticked by as Dean fell into a deep and restful sleep. Eventually Sam eased up on the pressure and took the two steps that brought him back to his bed. Sliding beneath the sheets, Sam turned to face Dean.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Sam announced to the silent room. And with that, followed Dean down into a dreamless sleep.