Rating: PG-13 for the swears
Fandom: SPN, gen (Sam and Dean, season two post BUABS)
Word Count: about 2500, give or take
Summary: My contribution to the fourth Dean-focused hurt/comfort meme at hoodie_time. The prompter asked for:
Dean is feverish and belligerent and circumstances (of the author's choosing) dictate that Sam does not have time for this shit--he just needs Dean to sit down, take the damn meds, and not make things worse. Sam can handle this. Literally.
I hope I managed a semblance of that!
The main issue at hand, if anyone asks Dean, is that he and his brother are functional morons. This should be an easy salt and burn, except it took a turn toward the not so easy when Richard Peterson's body isn't where Sam said it should be and Dean might have left the map back at the motel.
If anyone asks Sam, he'll say their stupidity isn't the root of their current predicament. He might put the blame on Dean’s shoot first and ask questions later default strategy, or if he was truly being honest and not just bitter, Peterson's ghost, who is well on his way to bringing his house down around Sam and Dean Winchester while they are attempting to riddle the apparition with rock salt. It's kind of an over-reaction because honestly, they're just trying to put his grieving soul to rest but whatever. This has always been a rather thankless job.
Plans A and B are out the window, so Dean cobbles together another plan on the fly. He calls it, Get Out of Here and Come Back Later (Because We Forgot the Map), and it's pretty self explanatory. If Dean could get Peterson and his pissy little brother and the same page, they'd be in the clear. Yet...
"You forgot the map," Sam amends. His fingers never stop in their methodical reload of his shotgun, but the bitch-face he flashes at Dean allows Peterson to swoop above him.
The alarm bells in Dean's head go crazy, just like they always do when Sam is about to be on the receiving end of a wallop, and Dean reacts instantly (which is pretty easy to do when you've been training and honing that instinct since you were four years old). Dean reaches Sam in one giant stride and yanks him roughly to the ground, covering as much of his freakishly giant brother as he can with his own body. Sam is too shocked to resist, but his instincts are pretty good too and he scrunches himself up in self-preservation. All of this happen in the few seconds it takes Peterson to knock out the support beams connected to the roof. Dean tucks his head and covers his neck with his arms, and the last coherent thought Sam has before the bricks rain down is, with his face smothered in Dean's flannel, that they really need to do some laundry soon.
Sam and Dean were both a little off their games.
Sam attributed it to the lingering aftertaste of Meg's joyride in Sam's body, and the swath of mental and physical destruction she burned through Sam's life. In a different set of circumstances, Dean would consider a shoulder full of lead and a dunk in the frigid Minnesota water a typical Thursday in the life of Winchester. But the fact that the offending Demon wore Sam's face and spoke with Sam's voice made this episode that much more difficult to get past. And Sam's confession, ("I was awake for some of it,") wasn't fucking helpful, either.
They’d found this hunt in the meandering, accidental way haunted homes and vengeful spirits usually cropped up on their radar. Dean overheard someone telling someone else about the eerie happenings of the So-and-So estate over bitter coffee at a highway diner. Sam kept his head down, lost in guilt and dwelling on the happenings of the last week and a half, and went along with whatever Dean suggested. (Mostly, Sam figured anyone who says the things he said, did the things he did, and caused the dull tinge of pain behind Dean’s hazel eyes didn’t really deserve an opinion, anyway.)
After that, it was a typical haze of research, diner food, beige motel walls and unsettling, tense silences. Dean preferred to do his hurting behind the locked door of the motel bathroom, insisting to Sam’s questioning eyes that he was fine, always fine.
If Sam hadn’t been so busy engulfed in his own mission to let Dean set the pace on this case, he might have noticed Dean’s fever-bright eyes as he cleaned the weapons before the hunt. (Instead, Sam was busy checking online for any other suspicious reports of break-ins or violent attacks near Steve Wandell’s neighborhood). Sam might have read further into Dean’s stubborn refusal of anything to eat or drink all day. (Instead, Sam put a lot of effort into pretending to eat his own meals). Sam did notice how Dean couldn’t suppress a grimace whenever movement jostled he left arm, but instead of worrying about a possible infection to the gunshot wound, every muffled groan from Dean sparked a memory of Meg digging Sam’s finger into Dean’s shoulder and the unfiltered agony on Dean’s pale face. Sam spent a lot of time suppressing that image when he closed his eyes, and a lot less time noticing Dean running the shower to cover his coughing fits.
So, yeah, it isn't until Sam finds himself buried under the rubble of Peterson's home, covered lengthwise beneath his brother, that he feels just how much heat is radiating from Dean's body. This close, he can feel the clammy, fever-pallor of his skin and if he wasn't immobilized Sam would kick his own ass for being that much of an idiot.
It takes longer than usual to extricate themselves from the wreckage (and yes, they do have experience to compare with. This isn't their first rodeo.). The first words out of Dean's mouth are, "Sammy? You alright?"
They seem alright at first, neither of them lost consciousness and they'll be sore as hell tomorrow, but nothing broke the skin and there isn't any blood to mop up. It's kind of miraculous.
Peterson disappeared when the ceiling started to cave in, and mercifully stays away in the aftermath. Things take another turn, though, as Sam marvels at Dean's utter loss of coordination now that it seems they're out of imminent danger. It's like Peterson did more than physically knock down his house; Sam feels like one of those metaphorical curtains have lifted from his vision, and the signs that Dean is sick are glaringly obvious. Dean coughs and crawls and stumbles his way toward the Impala and hugs his left arm to his side. Sam follows three or four steps behind.
Dean actually drops the keys after fumbling them from his pocket, something Sam has never seen him do even when they were chased by a raging zombie-cougar in Montana and time was of the essence. Sam swipes the keys while Dean is contemplating the easiest way to retrieve them without bending his knees or back.
"Dude," he protests, holding out his right hand expectantly.
Sam holds the keys high above his head. It's a variation of the Am-I-Too-Messed-Up-To-Drive? test that Sam has just invented. "They're all yours if you can get 'em."
Dean looks like he's contemplating it, but then he coughs into the crook of his arm and winces as the force of it stoops him over.
"Whatever," he says when he regains some breath, and he stomps moodily to the passenger door. Sam has the car running and the windshield almost fully defrosted before Dean eases himself into the seat. He curses when his back hits the seat and hunches forward, his breathing quick and shallow.
"Are you-" Sam starts, but Dean just growls something about being fine, Samantha, thanks.
Sam tightens his grip on the steering wheel and heads back toward the city.
"No way, Dean. We are not going back tonight." Sam can't believe he is having this conversation. "You're coughing, I can almost guarantee your shoulder is on its way to infection, you've got a fever, never mind the fact that a house just fell on you-"
"I'm fine! And hey, a house just fell on you and I'm not harassing you about it," Dean interjects mulishly. He sways a little on his feet but doesn't back down. The harsh motel lighting isn't doing much to help his case.
"Because you saved me, Dean!" Sam shouts, arms raised out from his sides in exasperation. "You did it, right? I'm fine, and god, why can't you just let me help you for one goddamn time in your whole life."
Dean doesn't answer, but his face is looking spooky pale and Sam's boiling over with more guilt than he can possibly bear.
"Just...sit down before you fucking fall down, Dean." And when that doesn't prompt a response other than Dean blinking heavily and swaying a bit more, Sam says in a lower tone, "Sit down before I make you sit down."
Dean's fever-addled brain interprets Sam's comment as a challenge, like he thinks Sam's calling him the biggest wuss who ever lived. He moves quickly, his instincts still good despite everything he's dealing with, but it seems like Dean doesn't communicate to his limbs what his goal is. Knock Sam down? Push him out of the way? Either way, Sam is more than ready. It doesn't take much skill to get one of his legs tangled up in Dean's assault and only a small amount of force is needed to topple Dean over backwards.
Dean takes a flailing step backward but the edge of the bed buckles Dean's knees and he falls back onto the floral comforter. The air whooshes out of Dean's lungs chased by a small, "Oof!" as he bounces a little on the mattress, and Sam feels bad that Dean landed on his back (you know, considering they just used Dean as a human umbrella for a rainstorm of bricks). But, the string of curses that erupt from Dean when his breath comes back reassures Sam that while the pain is probably bad, Dean will survive. With Dean, belligerence is a reassurance. It's silence that scares the shit out of Sam.
"You son of a bitch," Dean grits out through clenched teeth. "What the fuck is your fucking problem?"
Sam knows it's a rhetorical question, but he's satisfied that Dean is down for the count so he replies. "You're my problem, you hypocritical dick." And I'm a selfish bastard he mentally adds.
He leaves Dean shivering on the bed and grabs the med kit from his duffel, and pit stops at the mini fridge for a Gatorade. It's the last one left and it's the purple-grape flavor that Dean hates, but that's just too damn bad.
Dean's eyes are closed, but Sam can see in his tense muscles that he's still not keen on cooperating. Sam kneels so he's about level with his brother on the bed and removes a few pill bottles and a fresh dressing for Dean's shoulder, then sets the kit aside.
"Ready to sit up and act like a big boy?" Sam asks, but doesn't wait for an answer. He slides a hand under Dean's (uninjured) shoulder and starts to lift, but Dean takes immediate offense.
"Jesus, Sam. I got it. Get your paws off me," he gruffs, and Sam sits back on his heels. Dean must be dizzy because it takes a few starts to gather the momentum to sit up, but he gets it eventually. He swings his legs over the side of the bed and faces Sam, meeting his brother's eyes for a triumphal smirk before tipping his head down and fighting off some kind of vertigo.
Sam nods to his shoulder. "Shirts," he says. "Time to see just how utterly moronic you really are."
Dean mumbles something incoherent, but the gist is clear: Dean hates Sam, hates Sam's face, and there are violent and excruciating things in Sam's imminent future. Dean slides easily out of his jacket, but his undershirts prove more difficult. His shaky hands find the hem on his Henley and he starts to pull it off, but his left shoulder refuses to lift his arm any further than his heart, and Dean bites back another groan.
Sam starts to lift the shirt and Dean bats his hands away with all the power of a fluffy kitten. Sam has had just about enough. He grabs both of Dean's hands rather forcefully and holds them tightly, making sure Dean can't pull away.
"Dude. Look at me." Dean huffs, but his eyes lock with Sam's. "Either I pull it off, or I am cutting it off. We're going to re-dress your shoulder, you are going to let me check your back, you are going take the antibiotics, the aspirin, and the painkillers and then you are going to bed. And, you're going to do it all without throwing a hissy-fit like a five-year-old girl who didn't get a My Little Pony for Christmas."
Dean's eyes bug out a little, but he stays mostly silent for the rest of the procedure. He glares at Sam when a handful of pills are tipped into his sweaty palm and he is forced to swallow half the Gatorade before Sam will let him lie down.
Sam clears away the bandage wrappers and is about to turn out the light when Dean speaks again.
"It wasn’t a pony," he says, his voice a little drug heavy and sleepy. "It was a Batman action figure. Had a utility belt and everything, remember? All you'd talk about was that fucking thing 'cause you saw the commercials for it at Bobby’s."
Sam doesn’t remember. “I did?”
Dean snorts and fidgets with the hem of the sheet. “Yeah. That was…I tried really hard, but we just didn’t have the money that year, Sammy.” He says it like an apology, like everything that happened last week, and since Dad’s death and even before that has been one giant sequence of horrible mistakes triggered by this one failed Christmas. And a goddamn Batman action figure, of all things.
Sam wants to say something like, “It’s not your fault,” or “I don’t blame you,” or “You’re my superhero,” but now he’s feeling the weight of the day on his shoulders and there’s nothing like the threat of a chick-flick moment to shore up Dean’s walls again.
Instead, Sam says, "I shouldn't have to kick your ass just to get you to take care of yourself, man."
Dean doesn’t answer for a beat, but when he does Sam is sure he’s drifting off.