Chapter Eleven – Confessions and Recovery
Dean was unconscious for almost three days. His fever spiked the second day and he became delirious. He started to talk and Sam thought he was coming to, only to realize he was talking to Mom. It was unnerving to have Dean conversing with his mom on the anniversary of her death. Sam prayed that if he truly was communicating with her, she'd tell him to come back to the living, that it wasn't yet his time to join her. Dad became more concerned as his fever persisted. Sam had never seen him so worried and that made Sam worry even more than he already was. They bought bags of ice at the convenience store and placed them around his body and it took almost four hours but his fever finally came back down.
Sam sat by his brother's bed listening to his shallow, rhythmic breathing. Dean had lost a lot of blood and looked so pale and weak. Sam had never seen him so frail and quiet, so not like Dean, and the thought of losing his brother made him shudder in terror; he simply couldn't imagine life without his big brother. Dean was more than a brother; he was his protector, his best friend. He'd been to more conferences with Sam's teachers than his dad ever had. Dad had become increasingly absent as he focused more and more on his hunts. Dean was the one cooking him breakfast and taking him to school. Dean was the one he depended on. He had to get better. He was too strong to let an evil vampire best him.
Dean finally woke around noon on the third day.
"Why aren't you in school?" His voice was scratchy and soft, barely there.
Sam startled at the sound and looked up to find Dean hazily looking at him, his eyes clouded and unfocused but he was awake and talking. "Dean, you're awake! How do you feel?"
He moaned as he shifted on the bed, his mouth smacking as he tried to wet his chapped lips.
Sam grabbed a glass of water off the nightstand and offered it to his brother.
Dean sipped the water as Sam helped him sit up enough to drink, his throat working the liquid down to ease the parched feeling. He eased back to rest and Sam repeated his question.
"Dean, how do you feel?"
His tongue felt heavy and his lips still hesitated to move, but he mumbled out a response. "Like I've been run over by a Mack truck, and then the bitch backed up just to make sure he got me."
"I was so worried, Dean." Sam's smile filled out his face, the light back in his eyes as he tenderly revealed his worries. "I always thought you were invincible. You really scared me."
"Hey, Sammy," Dean soothed in a soft voice, his lips slowly rising up in a tender smile, almost too tired, but exerting the effort for his brother. "Remember? I'm superbro. Ain't no evil gonna get me."
It didn't take long before Dean's eyes fluttered closed and he drifted off again. Sam relaxed a little; he now knew his brother would be all right. Still, he stayed close by his bedside.
Later that night, John was checking Dean's bandages when he opened his eyes again. Sam was sound asleep on the floor by the bed.
"Hey, Dad. I gonna live?"
"Yeah, Dean. You're gonna live." John's eyes were soft, filled with a light misting of tears, his voice rough from too much whiskey and worry. He offered him a slight smile, his dimples relaying the relief that his son was awake. "You gave us quite a scare there, kiddo."
Dean looked at his dad, eyes brimming with sadness and regret, his voice cracking as he forced the words out. He needed to face up to his mistake, bare his guilt and accept the responsibility; it was what was expected of a Winchester.
"Dad, I'm sorry for not following orders. I really messed up."
John seemed to be considering what to say, as Dean searched his dad's face for some sign of forgiveness. When the silence seemed totally overbearing, John finally spoke.
"Dean, I know I'm hard on you and Sammy, but there's a reason. There's so much danger out there." The tears continued to build as his voice trembled, finding it difficult to say what he wanted to say… what Dean needed to hear. He finally just looked straight into his son's eyes and continued down the path. "I'm sorry you can't have a normal life and you had to grow up so fast. I just need you to understand… how important our job is… the responsibility we have."
"I do, Dad," Dean choked out, "I do."
"Dean, we don't have the luxury of making mistakes. If we make a wrong decision, someone could die." John said it straight, man to man.
"I know, Dad." Dean seemed to set his jaw firmer, his eyes taking on a deeper intensity, his voice firm and steady. "It won't happen again."
Dean knew how serious his lapse had been; he could have been responsible for his brother's death. Sam could have died… Sam could have died… and it would have been his fault… my fault. That was a mistake he could not forget or would ever forgive. His dad was not telling him anything he hadn't already told himself.
Since he'd already taken the first step, Dean had one more burden he needed to confess. He hesitated before he continued; trying to find the strength to proceed, not wanting to disappoint his dad, but unwilling to hide his fears any longer. His voice trembled from what he needed to say and how hard it was to control his surging emotions.
"Dad, I was so scared. Just the thought of losing Sammy had me terrified." He maintained eye contact, never lowering his gaze as he revealed his secret. His voice cracked as he was overcome. "I'm sorry I disappointed you."
Try as he may to maintain that fierce soldier resolve, the cracks appeared, Dean's eyes revealing his pain and worry, his shame flickering across his face and battering the strong façade.
John was surprised by how vulnerable his son appeared. For an instant, John saw a teenager lying before him, not the soldier he'd molded since Mary's death. John had demanded as much from Dean as he would any soldier in the field, and his son had responded well beyond his years. At fifteen, Dean had faced more than most men would face in a lifetime. He was stronger than he could possibly imagine and had no cause to doubt his courage. John was unsure what to say, but he suddenly realized he needed to say something to reassure this boy that was his son.
"Dean, I am not disappointed in you. Don't you ever question your bravery. You are as courageous as any man I have ever known. Every soldier that's ever done anything heroic was scared. You'd be a fool not to be scared facing the things we face. Real courage is doing what needs to be done in spite of that fear. You did that. You saved your brother."
John put his hand on Dean's good shoulder and gave a slight squeeze.
"I'm proud of you, son."
The words washed over him and Dean didn't know how to respond, his dad so uncharacteristic, so understanding. He knew he would never forget this moment and he was determined to never again disappoint his dad. He was determined to never again feel the shame and guilt he felt when he let his brother down.
The heavy emotion of the moment was cast aside as Sam stirred and rose to check on his brother. Sam was pleased to see there was a bit more color in Dean's face, but more importantly, his eyes seemed alive again, vibrant and clear. Finally it was Sam's turn to take care of his brother.
"About time you woke up. Think you can drink some broth?"
Dean squinted his eyes as he pondered the thought, his mouth quirking as he answered, "Yeah, maybe. Stomach does feel kinda empty."
Sam went to the kitchen to heat up some chicken broth for his brother. He knew this was a good sign. Dean would be well soon.
Dean got a little stronger every day. He progressed from chicken broth and Jell-O to ground beef and rice. After only a few days he protested he could eat something more substantial, but Dad ran his recovery and set the menu. As his strength returned, John had him up and walking around the bedroom for a little longer every day. He'd been laid up in bed for so long he didn't know what day it was, let alone the date so he was shocked when one morning the door to his room opened and Dad appeared carrying a cake with sixteen blazing candles on it. Sam was right beside him, smiling like he'd won the lottery.
"Happy Birthday, son."
Dean was stunned. His last birthday cake had been at three. They never celebrated birthdays, especially his since it was exactly two weeks after Mom's death. She'd been planning a party for his fourth birthday, a party that never happened. They always said Dean was four when his mom died; actually, he was two weeks shy of four. As a child, he'd been so excited about his birthday; he'd been telling everyone that he was four and his parents didn't want to dampen his enthusiasm so they just let it go.
His whole life changed in an instant once his mom died. He never again looked forward to his birthday; from that point on it was just another reminder of Mom being gone.
Taken back by the mini-celebration, Dean protested, "Dad, we don't celebrate birthdays."
"Yeah, I know, but we are celebrating this one. Sammy's home safe and Dean, today I consider you a man."
"Aren't you going to blow out your candles?" Sam piped up.
Dean took as deep a breath as his still sore ribs would allow and almost managed to get them all. Sam blew out the last one as Dean's breath failed him.
"Think you can get out of that bed and come see your present?" Dad asked.
"Present? You got me a present?" Dean couldn't control his joyful thoughts; he couldn't remember the last time he'd gotten any type of a present. "I hope you got the store to wrap it, 'cause if you or Sammy wrapped it, I don't think I have the strength to get past all the tape to get it open."
Dean eased out of bed and sat on the edge. With Sam close by his side, Dean slowly walked across the bedroom like he'd been doing the last few days. It still winded him but it felt good to be up and walking around. He knew he was still weak, but definitely on the mend, every day he was a little stronger. He wouldn't be able to use his injuries as an excuse for avoiding work for long. Sam's sympathy and gratefulness would only last a short time and he'd be expected to be back on his chores.
His dad led the way, down the stairs, and to the front door. The stairs were the most problematic, demanding more energy than the small walks in his room had required. It took him some time, but when Dean got there, Dad positioned him right in front of the door and opened it. No one had wrapped his present. It sat in the front yard with a giant red bow on the roof. The most beautiful present Dean could ever imagine: his dad's sleek, black '67 Impala.
Dean stared in awe, speechless for a moment.
"Sammy spent a whole day washing and waxing her for you."
The grin that emerged on Dean's face said it all.
"I can't believe it." He looked to his dad, his face filled with a million questions. "But Dad, you love this car."
"Yeah, but you love her too. She's all yours." John beamed with pride and love and his own list of emotions. He nodded toward the car. "Come see the special feature I set up for you."
John moved out to the black, shiny beast and popped the trunk. He lifted up an inner lid to reveal the most extensive arsenal of weapons and evil fighting paraphernalia that Dean had ever seen.
"Everything you could possibly ever need to fight evil," John announced. "I want my boys to be prepared."
As Dean perused the assortment of weapons, a sly grin spread across his face.
"Thanks, Dad." His cocky attitude was in full force as he joked, "You want us prepared… What? Like boy scouts? They got a merit badge for fighting evil?"
Dean walked along the side of the car, steadying himself against the solid frame, until he got to the driver's door. The door offered its familiar creak as he opened it and eased into the driver's seat. Sammy ran around and jumped in the passenger's side, putting the brothers side by side in the front seat. It felt right.
Today was a good day… a very good day. His dad was home and his little brother was safe beside him, and now he had the coolest car in town. He shifted to reach the radio knob to turn on some Metallica, and a pain shot down from his shoulder. A slight grimace crossed his face and Sammy looked on with concern.
"Dean, I'm sorry you got hurt saving me. You're gonna have a nasty scar."
Dean's eyes glistened and he smiled, a slow, sly smirk turning up the corner of his mouth. His low voice purred as he responded, "Don't worry about it, Sammy. Chicks dig scars."
All standard disclaimers apply.
I wrote this story before the episode, The Benders, aired that revealed Dean's birthday as Jan. 24. I also wrote it before Dead Man's Blood so my Winchesters obviously didn't think vampires were extinct. In addition, the vampires in this story are from the Buffy verse, where wooden stakes and fire are valid means of killing them. Kripke, you need to keep me better informed in the future, okay?