Chapter 13: Conclusion
Author's Note: Thanks again to everyone how gave feedback. This is story has been a blast to write but I'm glad it is finally finished! This is one of the longest stories I've ever written. I hadn't planned to make it this long but it just seemed to keep growing and growing.
Dean sat in the kitchen chair resting his head in his hands. Sam was lying on the mattress in the floor shivering even though he was under two blankets and there were three pots of water boiling on the stove creating a rain forest effect in the room. Dean wiped at the moisture collecting on his face and then dried his hands on his pants.
God he was tired. Sam had been sick now for three days…three very long and grueling days. The first day really hadn't been that bad, and Dean had actually let himself believe that Sam would be fine after some bed rest and chicken soup.
Sam had finally warmed up and he no longer suffered from any numbness or tingling, but he had been weak and tired. Dean had let him sleep away the afternoon and then when Sam woke later that evening he and Sam had played a few hands of poker after a light supper. Then Sam grew tired again and went back to sleep.
The next morning Dean realized the truth. Sam had developed a deep cough; one that took his breath away wracked his body every time it happened. The fever was worse than ever and Sam was in and out of consciousness, sometimes even hallucinating. Dean had been scared to death that pneumonia had set in.
He wasted no time. He dragged a mattress from upstairs down to the kitchen and made a bed for Sam in the floor. Then he got three pots of water boiling to put steam in the air. Next, he used two nails to hang a blanket over the door to make sure the steam couldn't leave the room. Then, somehow, he actually found the strength to carry his brother's enormous dead weight down the stairs and tuck him in his new bed.
In the few times Dean had been forced to carry Sam in the past he had put him in a fireman's carry, but with him being so sick, somehow Dean just couldn't bring himself to do that to Sam, so he carried him in his arms and used the wall to brace himself as he moved through the house.
Dean had also remembered an old trick their father had used on Sammy once when he had been a child and had come down with the croup. Dean slathered mustard all over Sam's chest to help break up the congestion. The smell had been strong and he noticed it did seem to help ease Sam's breathing, even if it did make him smell like a hot dog.
Now three days later Dean was still sitting in the kitchen. He only left when he had to do something in the lighthouse or to gather more fire wood. Every few hours he would make sure to spoon some broth into Sam's mouth and force a little water down his throat. Sam had been asleep, he refused to say unconscious, for the past 32 hours, and Dean was growing ever more concerned.
Dean wasn't exactly known as a praying man. He tended to believe more in the things that he could see, or feel, or smell, or even kill. God had always seemed this elusive far off concept to him. He was a father who had abandoned his people. Sure, every now and then the words 'thank god', or 'oh god' might come tumbling out of his mouth, but it was more of an automatic response than a true belief that God would actually come to their rescue or was looking out for them.
But, for the past two days Dean had been praying...praying to a God that he hoped really existed...and if he did exist he hoped he was actually listening. Several times he had actually made a bargain with the big guy. Just save Sam and he could have Dean instead. Dean wasn't afraid to die. Everyone died. That didn't mean he necessarily wanted to drop dead this second, but he would, if he had to, if it would save his little brother.
Death didn't scare Dean. What frightened Dean Winchester was being left behind. Dean was prepared to go first. Hell, he needed to go first. It was odd, really, isn't that what a parent was supposed to say about their child? Siblings weren't supposed to have that attitude. But then, he and Sam were more than just siblings, at least that's how it was for Dean.
Dean loved his father, and always would, but Dad, well, Dad had been busy...distracted. Not that he wasn't a good father, mind you. John Winchester was a force of nature. He was strong, and skilled, and he fought the good fight saving the world and all that stuff. Sammy might not have appreciated those qualities, but Dean did. Dean understood his father. But, his Dad's work often left him and Sam alone with no one to rely on but each other, and since Dean was four and half years older it often fell on him to take care of Sammy.
For years he had kissed Sam's booboos. He had been the one to comfort Sam during the night when he had a nightmare. He had been the one to make sure Sam got dinner when Dad had to work. He was the one who played ball, or soldiers, or skipped stones with him. Sam was Dean's responsibility, always had been...always would be...period.
Dean looked at his brother still sleeping in the floor. Sam had to get better. He just had to. He climbed from his chair and poured some more hot broth into a cup and grabbed the spoon. He sat on the mattress next to Sam. He didn't have to worry about propping Sam up because Sam already was sitting up. Dean had figured out that Sam could breathe easier when he was vertical so he used a bunch of pillows to keep Sam from falling over.
Dean gently pried Sam's mouth open and placed a spoonful of broth in and used his hand to close his mouth once more.
Sam choked and coughed as the soup went down, but then something wonderful happened. Sam opened his eyes. Dean watched as Sam took a moment to figure out where he was.
"Bro, I am happy to see you," Dean said, trying to mask some of the relief he was feeling.
"What happened?" Sam asked with a hoarse and scratchy voice.
"You've been sick," Dean answered.
"Three days. The last two you've been pretty much unconscious."
Sam blinked several times taking the information in. Dean put another spoonful of broth into Sam's mouth. Sam swallowed it down easier this time since he knew to swallow.
"It's hot in here."
"No shit, Sherlock," Dean joked. "You couldn't breath. I've basically turned the kitchen into a sauna to break up the congestion in your lungs." He spooned in more broth.
Sam stared at him while Dean continued to feed him. If Dean thought it was weird to sit here and feed his brother like a baby he didn't let on. Sam was too tired and weak to make a fuss. He felt drained, the kind of energy loss one can only feel after a long bout with illness.
He looked at his bare chest and saw that he was yellow. Maybe his eyes were playing tricks on him. After swallowing another sip of broth he asked Dean.
"Why am I yellow?"
"Mustard?" Sam's brain was too foggy to make sense of it.
"I remember Dad doing it once. It works like Vicks Vapor rub. It was to help you breathe."
"My breathing was that bad?" Sam asked.
"I thought…" but Dean didn't finish his sentence. He wouldn't put to words the scary things that had crossed his mind. "Yeah, it was that bad."
Even in his groggy state Sam knew what Dean was about to say. He thought Sam might die.
"How do your lungs feel right now?" Dean asked.
"It hurts to breath, but I can do it without to much trouble," Sam told him.
"Good," Dean replied. "I bet from now on you'll look at mustard in a whole new light."
Sam smiled but Dean could see the weariness still in Sam's face. Sam may have reached the turning point, but he would still need several days to get his strength back.
"Listen, why don't you go back to sleep," Dean said. "You're exhausted."
"You need to sleep too," Sam rasped out. "You're dead on your feet."
"Two things wrong with that statement," Dean smirked. "One, I'm not dead, and two, I'm not on my feet." He smiled while he waited for Sam to realize he was sitting on the bed next to Sam.
"Smart ass," Sam finally replied.
"Cool, I don't get to play the smart one in this family too often."
"It wasn't supposed to be a compliment," Sam grinned.
"I sort of figured that one out," Dean said. "Really, Sammy, get some more rest."
"You too," Sam said and let out a harsh cough that had Dean pounding on his back.
"I'll be fine," Dean told him once the cough subsided, but obviously that wasn't good enough for Sam. Sam slid himself over in the bed and then pointed to the empty space now available.
"Lay down," Sam said. "Please. If you get sick too we'll both be in trouble." Sam knew Dean wouldn't refuse him now that he had laid on the guilt.
Sure enough Dean sighed and kicked off his shoes. "What ever you want." He grabbed one of the dryer pillows and lay down next to Sam who was still propped up. Soon both Winchesters were sound asleep.
Two days later Sam was still resting in his bed. At least he was now back up in his room instead of in the sweltering kitchen. He flipped through the tv channels looking for something even remotely interesting to watch. Daytime television really sucked. He finally found a movie on the sci-fi channel that looked promising. It was about a group of dragon hunters and the dragon had just eaten one of them.
Sam actually breathed a sigh of relief that they had never come face to face with a dragon. So far, dragons seemed to be the only thing in legend and folklore they hadn't come across. He hoped they never did.
Dean entered the room carrying a tray of food which he set down on Sam's lap.
"Here ya go," Dean said proudly. "Eat up."
Sam smiled when he looked at his lunch. "Yum, grilled cheese and Spaghetti O's."
"Hey, don't knock it," Dean insisted.
"I'm not. It's fine, really," Sam said with a smile. "The only thing that would make it even better is if you brought me some coffee."
Dean pulled the steaming mug out from behind his back. "Here you go. One coffee, black."
Sam grabbed the mug and breathed in the strong aroma before savoring the fist sip.
"Just to let you know, while I was making your sandwich, the snow plow came through. The road is open again. We don't have to leave, though," Dean offered. "With you still being sick it might be best to stay a few more days."
"No," Sam said. "Thanks for offering, but I think we should go…today."
"Are you sure?" Dean asked. "You're still not a hundred percent."
"No, but I'm at least seventy-five, and I don't want to take the risk of getting snowed in here again. After I eat I'll take a shower and pack."
"It's Sam, and really, I'll be fine. I'll rest in the car." Dean still didn't look convinced. "Look at it this way, the longer we stay here the longer we're off Dad's trail. We've no radio, no phone or e-mail, and no reception for our cells. For all we know Dad's been trying to contact us for days now and can't." Sam didn't really believe that, but he wanted to convince Dean they needed to leave. Sam felt guilty about them getting snowed in the second time and refused to have it happen again.
"Fine, we'll go," Dean finally replied. "But, we'll leave tomorrow morning. I've already watched the news and got the weather report. There's no snow predicted for tonight or tomorrow. This way we'll have time clean up, clean the house a bit, and then leave at first light tomorrow."
"Okay," Sam replied.
"Plus, we need to go to town and collect our last paychecks," Dean added.
"I think we should give the last ones back," Sam said.
"What!" Dean exclaimed. "Why should we give back $600?"
"Because the radio and both snow mobiles are trashed. They'll need that money to repair them."
"But we didn't break them. The ghost did."
"Yeah, but they aren't going to believe that," Sam replied.
"Sam, I know you're all for taking the high road and everything, but this is our money!"
"We have plenty of money," Sam said. "There was still over $7,000 left from the reward, and we have the $1,200 from our other checks. We're fine."
Dean ran his hands down his face and sighed. "Fine, we'll give back the checks we get tomorrow. I would just like to state for the record that you are a real pain in the ass."
"Trust me, we're doing the right thing," Sam said with a smile.
"Sam, shut up and eat your Spaghetti O's."