Dean studied you from across the table in the library. You were only a few feet away from him, yet you seemed to be a million miles away.
He reached his foot over and gently nudged your leg. You looked at him, your eyes seeming haunted. One corner of your mouth lifted but the smile was fake and was nowhere close to reaching your eyes.
You didn’t hold Dean’s gaze very long, dropping your eyes back down to the book in front of you. Dean could tell your eyes were simply running over the print.
Dean could tell that something was bothering you, worrying you. But as to what it was… he couldn’t tell.
And that thought worried him.
Usually, he could read you just like the book in front of him—you were so expressive, so open. You could give Dean thousands of different messages with the tiniest of glances, the minutest of facial expressions.
But now… watching you was like watching the static channel in every crappy motel he and Sam had ever stayed at. Sometimes, when looked at just right, the faintest outline of a person might be seen through the flickers of black and white. But in the blink of an eye, it was gone.
After a few moments, you stood and wandered off. Dean waited, seeing if you had gone to the bathroom or the kitchen. When you didn’t reappear after ten minutes, Dean stood and headed down to your room.
He knocked on the door. After a few minutes of no response, he tried the handle. It turned and he pushed the door open.
You were sitting on your bed in the dark. By the light of the hallway streaming in behind Dean, he could see you had a pillow in your grasp. Your eyes found him, pinpricks of light. He could see, even from here, that they were glistening with tears.
Dean shut the door and made his way to your bed, knowing the path like the back of his hand. He clicked on your bedside lamp. Then he sank down onto your mattress and wrapped himself around you. He felt you shaking in his arms, vibrating with the effort of holding back tears.
“Shhhh,” Dean whispered, pressing his lips to your hair. “Shhhh, Y/N. It’s okay. I’m right here.”
You let out a small wail and shook your head.
“What’s wrong, baby?” Dean began to rock you back and forth. “Hm? What’s on your mind?”
Your words were so soft, he barely caught them. “What can’t you do, sweetheart?”
“What do you mean?”
You shook your head. “I have nightmares… you’re dead… I can’t save you.” You sniffed. “I can’t save anyone.”
Dean knew that feeling. “Sweetheart, you have saved so many people. You’re one of the best hunters I’ve ever met.”
You shook your head.
“You don’t think so?” Dean asked.
You shook your head again.
“Well, you’ve certainly saved me. Numerous times. Physically, you’ve saved my ass from witches and werewolves and vamps. And mentally, well…” Dean paused. He felt you holding your breath, listening intently. “You know you’ve made me a better man, right? A good man. I was in a dark place before you came here, Y/N. And now…” He wrapped his arms tighter around you. “Now I’ve got the brightest light in my life.”
You said nothing but at least you’d stopped sniffing and shaking.
“I know this is hard, Y/N. And it hurts me that I can’t take this away from you, that I have to watch you suffer. But you know that I’m here for you, right, baby?”
You were still for a moment before you nodded.
Dean was quiet for a few moments. “Baby, how long have you felt like this?”
You shrugged. “A few weeks.”
Those three words broke Dean’s heart. He gripped you tighter and buried his face in your hair. “Baby,” he whispered, trying to hold back his own tears.
“No, sweetheart, you don’t have to be sorry. But next time you feel like this, you come tell me, okay? Don’t wait, don’t hold back. I can’t help you when I don’t know what’s going on with you.”
“I didn’t want to burden you.”
“Sweetheart, you’re not a burden. You’re never a burden.”
“You have enough to worry about.”
“I can handle it. You matter more than anything else. You’re priority number one.”
You reached up and placed your hand on Dean’s arm, giving him a gentle squeeze. The two of you stayed there, locked together, for the next few hours, squeezing away each other’s sadness.