A/N: I actually wrote and posted this to Tumblr over a year ago, but for reasons I don't remember, never posted it here. So, thanks to an anonymous message, I'm now correcting that. Here is an AU post-"Faith" where Dean deals with being the recipient of a donor heart. I may write more for this verse at a later date.
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, places, etc. are property of the CW.
The first month is the hardest. They check Dean out of the hospital two weeks after the surgery, Sam driving him back to a poky little motel room for just a couple nights' rest before they get going again. Dean's supposed to spend the first three months under monitoring, but the hospital bills are climbing pretty high and the fake insurance isn't going to help them, so they figure it's best to skip town before anyone starts chasing them down. They have enough medication to last a couple of months. Beyond that, it's gonna be down to after-dark break-ins at pharmacies and one or two contacts of John's who might be able to help, but Sam's not kidding himself that this is going to be easy.
When they finally leave the motel for good, Sam's in the driver's seat while Dean's sat with a pillow clutched over his chest and looking rather downbeat on the passenger side. He's not looking exhausted anymore, or anywhere near as sickly as he was, but he's still suffering from the side effects of the meds, and there's a misery coming from the fact he still can't drive his Baby yet and that he's not going to be able to get back to hunting anytime soon. Hell, he's probably never even going to get to enjoy a cheeseburger ever again, and now that he's left hospital it's only just started to sink in how much things are going to have to change. Adjusting is going to take some time.
Then there's the guilt. Not that they talk about it, but Sam knows his brother well enough to know how he's feeling. Dean still doesn't think he deserved that heart. He still thinks it should have gone to someone else, someone who could probably live a long and fulfilled life with it, and Dean doesn't know how to deal with the fact that he's only alive because someone else is dead. Every beat of the stranger's heart in his chest feels wrong, like he's stealing it from the person this heart should have gone to. He doesn't quite know how to make sense of that, but he's profoundly aware of the magnitude of the second chance he's been given, and he's going to honor it.
They make it through the first week okay, getting as far as Utah before holing up in a motel for a few nights. Sam starts looking over news stories for possible cases, mostly just to help give Dean the impression of things getting back to normal, but he has no intention of letting Dean do any serious legwork for a while yet. Sam's primary concern right now is taking care of his brother. Ideally, Dean needs to be going back to the hospital, having blood tests, EKGs, heart biopsies…but with him being on a police wanted list and the only money they have coming from credit card scams, it isn't exactly possible. Sam's taking on most of the work himself. He's no doctor, but if there's one thing he's good at, it's research, and he's taken it upon himself to learn as much as he can to help take care of Dean.
Every day he goes over the same questions with his brother, often more than once:
"How are you feeling, Dean?"
"As good as you'd expect, Sam."
"Any chest pain? Do you need any more painkillers?"
"Honestly, I'm fine. The scar's twinging a bit; that's all. Stop worrying."
"What about shortness of breath?"
"No sore throat? Or do you think you're getting a fever or anything?"
"No. I promise you, McDreamy, you'll be the first person I tell if I do."
Dean gets exasperated. Sam can tell he does, but Dean appreciates the concern even when he finds his brother overbearing. Sam's meticulous in his care: constantly checking for any signs of rejection or infection, following Dean's medication schedule right down to the minute, regularly listening to his new heart… It's ridiculous how much equipment he's managed to beg, borrow or steal in his efforts to take care of his brother. He's got hold of a stethoscope that he uses on Dean at least twice a day, and then there's the small personal EKG monitor that he hooks Dean up to a few times during that first month to make sure everything's fine. Plus the thermometer and the sphygmomanometer and the spirometer and whatever other instruments he could get hold of.
Even when Dean starts to get sick of his brother's constant fussing and wanting to examine him, he co-operates with all the tests Sam runs. It helps pass the time, since he's pretty sure he'd be climbing the walls if he was just stuck in the motel room 24/7 with nothing to do. The only reason they move on again after a week or so is to stop Dean losing his mind from boredom, but he's still not in any condition to be doing much more than rest.
John still hasn't made contact. Sam thinks he should be angry, but right now he's too concerned with worrying about Dean to get mad.
A couple of weeks pass, and as far as Sam can tell, everything seems to be going okay. The angry red line running down Dean's chest still makes him wince every time he sees it, a horrible reminder of just how vulnerable Dean's body currently is, but it seems to be accepting the new heart without kicking up a fuss. After a month, the side effects of the meds have eased up significantly and a lot of Dean's strength has returned. He's even put back on some of the weight that he lost, which Sam is pleased to see, but he's growing antsy to start hunting again. That's still not gonna be for a while, if Sam gets a say, but he's never been particularly good at persuading his ridiculously stubborn brother out of making reckless decisions before.
Still no word from John. There's a horrible coldness that's settled in the pit of Sam's stomach as he thinks how little their father seems to care, but Dean doesn't share his sentiments and Sam doesn't want to bring it up. Probably, Dean will insist that Dad has his reasons for not calling. Dean even believes it. Sam just thinks it's because John has got his priorities completely screwed when it comes to his kids, like he always has, but he doesn't know what else he's come to expect by now.
After the first month, things get easier. Dean's breastbone is almost healed and Sam only thinks he needs to use the stethoscope every few days now. Dean's heart sounds good. Whenever Sam places the stethoscope on his brother's chest, the thumping he's met with sounds completely regular and healthy, and Dean's pulse, temperature and blood pressure have all been normal. Really, this was the best outcome they could have hoped for, considering they had to avoid the doctors and check-ups Dean ideally needed.
Dean's still not quite up to hunting yet, but they'll get there. Sam hopes that's still a way off. Dean thinks otherwise.