Summary: Pre-Series fluff – Every night, Dean gives his four-year old little brother an insulin shot.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
A/N: Inspired by and started as a drabble for the E/O Challenge word-of-the-week (clean). But after about two sentences in, I realized this would be a oneshot instead. So, here you go. Have some fluff.
Sometimes being a brother is even better than being a superhero. ~ Marc Brown
It was almost bedtime.
...which meant Sam had eaten his dinner (chicken nuggets and mac-and-cheese from the diner across the street); had taken his bath (with bubbles and a water-logged Batman figurine that had once belonged to Dean); and was now in his pajamas (the Superman PJs that had somehow ended up in the four-year old's duffel instead of staying at Bobby's house like they usually did).
Dean still wasn't sure how that had happened since he had been the one to pack his little brother's bag before they had left Singer Salvage, but solving the mystery wasn't worth the energy.
Because like most people who had taken care of a four-year old since before sunrise, Dean was tired.
He had spent miles in the backseat of the Impala with Sam, answering the kid's questions about everything that had blurred by as they had traveled from South Dakota to the state line between Nebraska and Colorado.
Two days earlier, John had gotten a tip about a possible black dog sighting in that general area and had finally decided to check it out.
In fact, that's where he was now – out being a hunter instead of a father.
And Dean wondered when that had started to bother him.
It was hard to say.
But it did.
It bothered him.
John's chronic absence in their lives had started to trigger bitterness and resentment.
And while Dean was familiar with both of those feelings, they were now often aimed at an unfamiliar target – their dad.
The eight-year old sighed, trying to ignore his quiet anger as he focused on the only thing that ever truly mattered to him; the only thing that had ever truly belonged to him; the only thing Dean ever truly needed to be happy – Sam.
As long as Dean had his little brother, John could do whatever the hell he wanted.
Dean nodded in agreement with himself as he moved around the motel room collecting the supplies he would need to do what had to be done before he could put his kid to bed.
Across the room, Sam watched. The four-year old swinging his legs back and forth as he sat and waited for his big brother.
Dean smiled, always content whenever Sam was fed and clean and comfy.
It was the kind of trifecta a big brother lived for.
And after a long day on the road, this was the time of night a big brother lived for as well – little brother's bedtime.
But there was still one thing left to do in their nightly routine before Dean tucked his little brother under the covers and sat beside him on the bed, reading whatever book Sam had picked out for his bedtime story.
The kid having used those big eyes and deep dimples to con Bobby out of several children's books during their recent visit to Singer Salvage.
Not that those books hadn't been bought for Sam anyway.
After all, why would Bobby need children's books?
But Dean knew the older hunter liked playing the game – liked letting the four-year old think he was getting one over on Uncle Bobby.
It was adorable and sweet.
Two words that pretty much summed up Sam himself.
Except right now.
Right now the kid was quiet and anxious as he waited.
And Dean hated that.
Especially since this happened every night...and would likely happen every night for the rest of Sam's life.
Dean sighed as he approached, setting his supplies on the table.
The glucose meter with the lancet and plunger and testing strips along with alcohol wipes, gauze squares, a syringe, and the small vial of long-acting insulin he had retrieved from the motel room's mini fridge in the corner.
Sam sat shirtless in the chair nearby; his legs still swinging as he chewed on his bottom lip while watching his big brother load the strips into his meter.
Dean shook his head at the four-year old's nervous habits.
"Hey. Relax, kiddo..." he soothed, placing the lancet in the plunger before adjusting the height at which the needle would prick Sam's skin. "We've done this before."
"I know," Sam replied, eyeing the plunger in Dean's hand. "But I still don't like it. It hurts."
"I know," Dean agreed, the eight-year old hating that his kid had to endure this every day. "But we'll do this..." he commented, gesturing at the glucose meter on the table. "...and then we'll do that..." he continued, nodding at the insulin vial. "...and then we'll be done and can read whatever book you want before you go to sleep."
Sam shook his head, rejecting the offered deal and proposing his own. "I wanna read two books."
Dean snorted at his predictable little brother. "Fine," he relented, giving in easily since he knew Sam would be asleep before even the first book was finished.
The four-year old smiled at his brief victory and then frowned as Dean held the plunger closer to his small hands.
"Which finger?" Dean asked, always letting Sam choose.
Sam glanced at his fingers, focusing on the one that had been pricked when they had checked his blood sugar just a few hours ago before dinner.
"Not that one," Dean reminded, gently rubbing his thumb over the inflamed fingertip that had to be sore. "We've used that one enough today. But you've got nine others, so choose one."
Sam sighed as though it was a huge decision.
Dean rolled his eyes. "Sammy..."
Sam blinked up at his brother and held out his left pinky. "This one."
Dean arched an eyebrow at the choice. "The little guy, huh?" he commented about Sam's pinky and held the kid's finger in his grasp. "Alright. Here we go..." he warned, quickly plunging the needle into Sam's fingertip.
The four-year old gasped, trying to jerk away from the pain.
"Easy," Dean murmured, keeping his grip firm but gentle as he exchanged the plunger for the glucose meter and squeezed a drop of blood from Sam's pierced skin, staining the testing strip.
"I don't think Mr. Pinky liked that."
Dean laughed at the four-year old being hilariously adorable without even trying.
"Mr. Pinky?" he echoed, setting the meter on the table and then dabbing the blood from Sam's finger with a square of gauze.
Sam smiled and shrugged, indicating there was no explanation beyond the obvious – it was his pinky finger, so of course it would be named Mr. Pinky.
Dean nodded – of course – and then laughed again, thankful that at least Sam was distracted from his sore finger.
The glucose meter beeped, displaying Sam's blood sugar level on its small screen.
Still applying pressure to Sam's pricked pinky, Dean glanced over his shoulder and frowned.
"You're a little high tonight, Sammy."
Sam frowned as well at the news. "M'sorry."
Dean shook his head. "It's not your fault, kiddo. I think maybe the mac-and-cheese just didn't wanna play nice tonight."
Because sometimes Sam's body tolerated those kind of carbohydrates...and sometimes it didn't.
Managing the kid's condition was a constant guessing game.
Dean sighed, giving his little brother a once over.
"You feel okay, right?
Sam nodded, knowing he was supposed to tell Dean if anything ever felt wrong.
"I'm just kinda tired and sleepy."
...which meant the four-year old was really tired and sleepy if he was admitting to it.
Dean hummed a response, refusing to panic at a potential symptom of high blood sugar and reminding himself that Sam should be really tired and sleepy considering the long day they had spent traveling across almost two states.
"Are you worried now?"
Dean blinked at his little brother's quiet voice, the kid staring at him with wide, anxious eyes.
"No, Sammy," the eight-year old assured. "I'm not worried. Everything's fine," he promised, releasing Sam's finger and turning off the meter. "We'll just lay off the mac-and-cheese for a little while, okay?"
Sam sighed his disappointment but nodded, accustomed to his diet constantly being monitored and changed depending on his sugar levels.
Dean smiled at the scrawny little kid sitting there in his Superman pajama bottoms.
"Hey. No pouting. I didn't say you couldn't have mac-and-cheese ever again."
Sam nodded once more. "I know." He paused. "I just sometimes wish things were different."
Dean felt something twist within his chest at the simple statement.
"Me, too, Sammy."
The eight-year old sometimes wished so many things were different.
But they weren't.
This was their life.
And Sam was relying on him.
Dean sighed, tearing open an alcohol wipe and cleaning the injection site on his kid's skin.
The four-year old watched, yawning as Dean checked the clarity and quality of the small vial of insulin before reaching for the syringe.
"I don't like this."
Dean nodded as he expertly filled his little brother's dose.
"I know, Sammy."
Because actually, Sam hated this.
And up until almost a year ago, the kid would cry every night...before, during, and after his shot.
Dean inwardly cringed at the memory, thankful those days seemed to be over.
But Sam was still an anxious bundle of nerves as he faced his nightly injection.
The big brother smiled, ready to fix it.
"Hey. You remember our song, right?"
Sam quirked a half-hearted smile at the question.
"Right?" Dean repeated, nudging the kid's knee with his own.
Sam's smile widened as he nodded.
Dean winked at his brother. "And you're gonna help me sing it?"
Sam nodded again, fidgeting as Dean lightly pinched the skin between his stomach and hip.
"Alright, buddy. Get ready," Dean told his kid, crouching in front of Sam and bringing the syringe closer. "Be still. And close your eyes."
Because Sam always tolerated this better if he didn't watch.
The four-year old hesitated.
Dean arched an eyebrow. "Sammy..."
Sam sighed – recognizing his brother's tone – and did as he was told, squeezing his eyes shut and wrinkling his nose in anticipation of pain.
Dean felt a stab of guilt, hating that he had to cause his little brother pain several times a day as he checked Sam's blood sugar and administered shots.
But it couldn't be helped.
Sam's type of diabetes had to be controlled by insulin...and their dad sure as hell wasn't there to keep the kid alive and healthy.
Dean shook his head, extinguishing the flare of bitterness that sometimes burned in his heart whenever he thought about it...because he had more important things than John to focus on right now.
Dean glanced at his little brother.
Sam's face scrunched as the four-year old sat there with his eyes closed, waiting and trusting.
Because this was all he needed.
This kid's love and trust.
"Here we go..." the big brother warned, the syringe hovering over Sam's stomach. "Three, two, one..."
When the countdown was over, Dean pushed the needle into Sam's skin as gently as he could and began singing with his little brother.
Both of their voices in unison as Dean smoothly injected the dose of insulin.
"Sammy, Sammy, bo-bammy...banana-fana, fo-fammy...me-mi-mo-mammy...Sam-my."
Sam giggled at the silly song, the four-year old distracted and squirming only slightly as Dean eased the needle from his skin.
"All done, buddy," Dean announced, standing and tossing the syringe into the red cooler they used as a sharps container before returning and dabbing his brother's skin with a fresh square of gauze, clearing away the pinprick of blood. "How do you feel?"
Sam opened his eyes. "Fine. You did good. I hardly felt it that time," he reported about the pain usually associated with the injections.
Dean smiled, pleased that the song was doing its job in distracting Sam from the discomfort caused by needles...but the eight-year old was more than willing to take the credit for his amazing shot-giving skills.
"You think it's 'cause I'm so awesome?"
Sam laughed and beamed at his big brother. "I know it is."
"Damn right," Dean quipped with a wink, disposing of the gauze. "And you were pretty awesome, too. Brave just like – "
" – just like you!" Sam finished with a flash of dimples as he stared up at Dean as though the four-year old couldn't imagine anyone braver than his big brother.
Not Batman or Superman or any other superhero Dean might have named.
Because for Sam, Dean was a superhero – his superhero.
Dean swallowed against the emotion suddenly clogging his throat, reminded that John could do whatever the hell he wanted.
Because this was what Dean lived for – this kid right here.
Dean smiled and reached for Sam's long-sleeved shirt still folded on the edge of the bed nearby.
"Here. Let's cover up those guns," he teased about the four-year old's scrawny arms. "Don't wanna drive the girls crazy just yet..."
Sam laughed, the sound muffled as Dean tugged the shirt over his head.
Dean's smile lingered, watching Sam push his arms through the sleeves and wondering if this kid had any idea how much he loved him.
"Thanks for giving me my shot."
Dean nodded. "Sure thing, kiddo," he replied, brushing Sam's bangs back in place; the kid's hair a mess after pulling on his sleep shirt.
"Can we read a story now?"
Dean nodded once more and chuckled when Sam pulled a book from behind him, knowing the four-year old had been hiding it and had been waiting to perform this "trick" since he had first sat down.
"Ta-da!" Sam announced, shaking the book in front of his chest.
"Go, Dog, Go," Dean read from the cover and smiled, because it sounded just like something Sam would like...and just like something Bobby knew Sam would like, which was why the older hunter had bought it.
"I wanna help you read it," Sam told his brother, hopping down from the chair and scrambling up on the bed with one of his new books.
"Okay," Dean agreed, proud of his smart kid for already knowing how to read basic words before even starting school.
Dean watched as Sam settled beneath the blankets and then glanced back at the table, surveying the scattered supplies and figuring he would clean up after Sam was asleep.
It wouldn't be long.
After all, the kid had already admitted he was tired and sleepy.
"But if there's voices, you have to do those."
Dean refocused on his brother, arching an eyebrow at Sam's instructions.
"Why do I have to do the voices?" he asked, crossing to the bed and sitting beside his kid.
"Because you're the best," Sam replied as though the answer was obvious...and that description wasn't just limited to Dean's ability to create character voices.
In the four-year old's eyes, Dean was the best everything.
And that was everything to Dean.