Title: ...are made of this
By: toneskis
Rating: GEN, PG-13
Characters: Sam, Dean
Words: 1,340
Notes/Disclaimers: No season four spoilers (at least any intentional spoilers-I don't know what's going to happen). I blame this on reading too much Sandman recently.
Summary: While Dean's in hell, Sam dreams.

***

The very night since the devil took his due - dragged his brother's soul into Hell like a child pulling a doll by the leg - Sam dreams of Dean.


It took him two days to fall asleep after Dean died, exhaustion and booze finally combining to send him sprawling into oblivion across a cheap motel comforter. The first few nights it happened it seemed like coincidence; of course he'd dream about his brother after what he'd just seen.


But four months later, Dean is still all his subconscious can seem to muster.  


The simple dreams are the most anonymous, because Sam doesn't know where they are or where they're going.


They sit on a hilltop watching the stars, stretched across an army blanket older than they are as they drink beer and point out funky shapes in the blackness. They drive, and drive, and drive, and the car never runs out of gas or Zepplin on the radio.


They walk along a lake that's hazily familiar, and Sam thinks they might have lived by it when he was in kindergarten. They stop inside a nearby mom-and-pop grocery store to buy a couple loaves of bread and go back to the lake to feed the ducks. It's a ridiculous sight, two bad-ass hunters feeding water fowl. But even though Dean admits it's kind of lame, he says it's peaceful, so they sit in silence at the edge of the docks, watching the birds bicker over pieces of rye or wheat-at least until Dean gets bored twenty minutes later and starts throwing the bread at him instead.

The more complicated dreams are the shortest, almost as if they sap more energy and take more work to materialize. But they're always the most fun. 


Once they go the Six Flags they'd spent a day at when Sam was 14. Dean insists on riding The Batman first, for obvious reasons. There are no lines, so they weave through the bars and right to the front row. Their legs dangle wildly as the coaster drops and jinks, and they scream victoriously into the rushing wind. They ride six times in a row, and afterward he and Dean wander around the park eating frozen lemonade and greasy turkey legs.  


One night, Dean asks Sam to show him Stanford. As they walk the campus Sam points out anything and everything: the tree he liked to nap under between classes, the quad where they played Frisbee and touch football on the weekends, the library steps where he slipped and almost broke his ass one day in the rain. Not once does Dean look bored. After the impromptu tour they go to Sam's favorite pub in Palo Alto where Dean flirts shamelessly with the bartender as she refills their beer glasses. Later they play darts, and Dean wins all five rounds. Sam pretends he intentionally went easy on Dean, but he knows he's been owned.  

They're good dreams, at least when they begin.

It's only at the end that they become nightmares.  

Doesn't matter where they are, it always starts with screaming. Sam's never sure where it comes from, just that it begins as a faint rumbling and works its way to a piercing gale. The landscape changes, fades in and out like a ghost flickering to life; it reveals cracks in the foundation of the earth that are so dark and deep the thought of falling in makes him hyperventilate. 

He forgets in the dream world, forgets that they always end like this; and every time it happens, it's happening anew. Dean never seems surprised though.

In one dream they sit at a diner, the remains of greasy burgers on their plates and big milkshakes in front of them.  Sam hears the noise, the cries of the dying, and tries to block them out. He needs more time. As the world shakes, he looks over at Dean and his brother smiles faintly. Blood runs from Dean's nose, mixing pinkly in the vanilla ice cream as it drips into the tall glass. The screams increase, and it takes all of Sam's will not to cover his ears.

"Go, Sam," Dean says, wincing as big red slashes begin to mar his t-shirt.

"No, I won't leave you."

The room splits behind Dean, and the 50s memorabilia hanging on the walls rain down onto the black-and-white checkered linoleum. Sam can see fire through the cracks, smell the thick odor of sulfur wafting through. Dean moves toward the flames, but Sam grabs his arm, holding him back.

A shadow appears from the fissure, a ghostly hand that reaches for Sam, and he's too stunned to move, suddenly too terrified to do anything but wait for it to snatch him, too.

And that's when Dean pushes.

"Go!" his brother yells, and his palms strike Sam's chest. The shove sends Sam barreling backward.

But he doesn't hit anything, never does, because that's where the dreams end. Dean pushes, and Sam wakes up. Doesn't matter if they're in a diner or at the lake or sitting in the middle of some landscaped Stanford lawn: The world crumbles, and Dean pushes.

Sam's tired of it; tired of having the image of Dean's pained face haunting his waking hours. He wants it to end. He wants Dean to stop suffering.

He's reorganizing the trunk one day when he finds the Ziploc of leftover dreamroot. He stuffs it in his pocket and goes to hunt the poltergeist that brought him to this crappy little town.

That night, he stares at the bag, not sure of what's he's about to do. He's not escaping into someone else's subconscious this time, it's his head. He knows it probably won't work, but he has to try.

He needs to remember, just once.

When he falls asleep, a cup of dreamroot-laced tea on the nightstand, he dreams of Dean.

They wander around a Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum in Texas, some place Dean ran across while on a solo hunt a few years back. When they reach the Hall of Presidents, Dean swears Nixon is staring at him, and then spends five minutes stepping left to right, to see if the eyes follow him. They go through the freak collection, full of cow fetuses in glass jars and shrunken heads. There's a Transylvanian vampire hunting kit from the 1800s that absolutely kills Dean, mostly because of the syringe meant for liquid garlic or some shit like that. Sam has to admit, it's pretty absurd.

 

They're in the mirror maze when the howling starts. Three of the floor length mirrors shatter with the shrieks, and they cover their faces from the flying glass.

The world shimmers like a mirage, and Dean backs away from Sam. Bloody holes form in Dean's wrists, and he looks forlornly down at the wounds. Hell is coming to claim him.

"Go."   

The world tears behind his brother, but Sam isn't afraid this time. He remembers. He's going to stop it. Dean can't control him anymore.

The shadow slinks out of all the cracked mirrors.

"Go," Dean says again, pleading as blood drips on the floor.

Sam stalks forward.

He grabs Dean's shirt, pulling him from the mirror.

"Please, Sammy!" Dean begs. "You have to go!"

"Not this time."            

Sam stretches his hands toward his brother's chest, and this time-this time he pushes, shoves Dean away from the darkness as hard as he can.


Sam wakes up, pre-dawn light sneaking through the motel's ratty tan shades.

He's shaking, sweat gathering on his forehead, and his heart races as if it's trying to beat clear out of his chest. He feels weak, drained, but there's something alive in him; like a door inside has finally opened, a switch thrown, unlocking something he didn't know existed.

He feels strange. He feels powerful.


 

... ... ...

 

Miles away, in a weed-infested clearing in Indiana, Dean opens his eyes and blinks up at the rising sun.

***