Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural or the characters …
"Yeah, okay" answered Dean. "But if he has it, you can treat it right?" Dean failed to keep the slight shake from his voice. He looked to the doctor, desperate to hear words of affirmation.
Panic infused through Dean's body as he waited desperately to hear the doctor's answer.
"Dean…" the doctor paused, carefully choosing his words. "Your brother is very sick at the moment, and until we carry out the x-ray and some other tests, I really can't conclusively give you a prognosis."
"But…" Dean spluttered, not happy with the doctor's non-committal response.
"However" the doctor continued as if he had not been interrupted. "If he has fluid around the heart, there are a number of treatments available to us. We can treat Sam with anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics. Depending of the severity and his response to this treatment, it may also be necessary to carry out a surgical procedure to remove the fluid build up in the sac around his heart."
"So, he'll recover, right?"
"Dean, I haven't even confirmed his diagnosis yet, …but yes, Sam's young and healthy and has a good chance of making a full recovery if he does in fact have pericarditis. Importantly though, Sam's still in a lot of pain at the moment, and as soon as we can diagnose him, and rule out other causes for the chest pain, then I'll be able to give him some pain relief. …He seems to be holding up surprisingly well considering the amount of pain I believe he is in." the doctor commented, looking over at Sam.
Sam drifted in and out of his pain induced haze. He could hear the voices around him, recognizing Dean's, but was unable to focus enough to make out the actual words. Instead, he concentrated on trying to relax his muscles and regulate his breathing. He knew Dean was here, and trusted him to take care of everything, leaving him free to let his mind drift and focus on managing the pain.
"Sam …Sam….Sam, can you hear me?" the doctor spoke decisively from the edge of his bed.
It took a moment for Sam to realize that he was expected to respond. With effort, he opened his eyes, giving silent acknowledgement to the doctor by his side.
"Good Sam. You're going to be taken down to x-ray now, so that we can see what's happing in your chest, okay?" the doctor gently informed him.
Sam gave a small nod in reply, instantly regretting it as soon as the thumping in his head escalated with the slight movement. Swallowing, he closed his eyes again, desperate to find relief from his aching body, needing every ounce of his waning energy to focus on managing the pain. A small tear slid unheeded from the corner of his eye before he could prevent it.
Dean moved to Sam's bedside, and grabbed his brother's hand, offering him strength. He used his thumb to brush away the small tear that escaped from Sam's eye, lightly stroking his cheek in an unconscious gesture.
"It's okay Sammy. I'll be right here when you get back." Dean whispered as the orderly arrived to take Sam down to x-ray.
Dean sat quietly in the hard plastic chair to start with, shifting constantly in the seat in an effort to find a comfortable position. He was never good at waiting, and within half an hour he had started pacing the small room. Sam should be back from x-ray by now, he thought, continuing his restless movements around the room.
An hour later and Dean was ready to climb the walls. He'd already counted the ceiling tiles, twice, rearranged the curtains, and shredded an old magazine. He wanted to leave the room and try to get some more information, but was fearful that Sam would be brought back and he would be absent. So he paced, glancing out the door and into the hallway every few minutes, hopeful every time someone walked past.
Dean was experienced enough with x-ray procedures to know that Sam had been gone too long. With their lifestyle, they'd both had numerous x-rays over the years, and he knew the whole process should take less than half an hour. Frustration was warring with anxiety, and Dean didn't know how much longer he could stay cooped up in this room without going down to x-ray himself and finding his brother. Indecision pulsed through him, as he weighed up the pros and cons of waiting in the room or seeking out Sam himself.
Fortunately, he was spared this decision as the door banged open and Sam's bed was wheeled back into the room. Immediately going to his brother's side, concern washed over him as he noticed Sam's increased pallor and glazed eyes. Holding Sam's hand, he watched silently as the orderly hooked up Sam's IV and other machinery and made sure he was settled on the bed.
"Hey Sammy. What took you so long?" Dean whispered, idly stroking his brother's limp hand.
Sam's glazed eyes stared back at him, obviously having difficulty focusing. "Deeaaan" he slurred out before closing his eyes.
"Yeah Sammy, I'm here." Dean replied, pushing the call button at the side of the bed.
A few moments later a nurse bustled in, moving quickly to Sam's bedside. "Everything alright?" she questioned in concern, checking his IV and monitors.
"He seems a bit out of it." Dean replied. "I need to speak to his doctor …can you call him?"
"He'll be back on the ward in a few minutes. He's just been down with your brother in the x-ray department" the nurse informed him calmly, giving him a warm smile. "As soon as I see him, I'll let him know you want to speak with him."
The doctor entered the room just as the nurse was leaving. Dean rose from his seat, anxious for news on his brother's condition.
"Dean" the doctor started, the tone in his voice eliciting fear in Dean. "I'm sorry you've had to wait so long."
"Just tell me doc…" Dean couldn't hold back his impatience.
"Sam took a bit of a bad turn down at x-ray, and it took us a little while to stabilize him again. …I've prescribed some pain-killers for your brother, which he's getting through his IV. That's probably why you'll notice that he's a bit groggy and disorientated. He'll be sleepy why he's on the medication, but if it's effective, we should hopefully be able to wean him off it in a few days."
"The x-rays?" Dean questioned.
"I've had a look at the x-rays, and Sam does have fluid around his heart, which is why I've already started him on a course of antibiotics and pain relief. We'll also be running a few more tests, and be monitoring him closely over the next 24 hours to see how he reacts to the medications" replied the doctor.
"So, he's gonna be …okay then?"
"Barring any complications, we now have to wait and see if the medications are effective in fighting the infection. If the antibiotics are successful in killing off the infection, the fluid in the sac around the heart will reduce, and Sam should make a full recovery without having to undergo surgery."
"Thanks doc" Dean said, the whole room suddenly seeming so much brighter.
Dean spent the next 24 hours by Sam's bedside, only leaving briefly to grab a coffee and snacks from the vending machine at the end of the hallway. Sam had been poor company, mumbling nonsense in his drug induced state, but Dean didn't mind. He listened to Sam's ramblings, answered his inane questions, and was just so grateful to have his brother on the road to recovery that he evened stayed in the room as Sam sang an out of tune song.
It was a relief to finally learn that the medications were effectively fighting off the infection, and that Sam should make a full recovery. Sam still looked pale and was obviously weak, but he was becoming more coherent as the level of pain medication was reduced. Dean could start to see the old Sam back again, and was eagerly anticipating the day when Sam would be well enough to leave the hospital.
A couple of days later, Dean entered Sam's room, just as a young blonde nurse exited, carrying a small bowl and cloth.
"Sammy, sorry …did I interrupt something?" he asked, unable to hold back the teasing smirk.
"Yeah, right Dean." Sam replied, shifting uncomfortably with embarrassment.
"Did you get her number, cause you know, if she's already seen the goods, you might as well…"
"Shut up Dean."
"I'm only saying…"
"Dean, I said; shut up." Sam said hoarsely, the heated words causing a cough to rack through his frame.
Dean felt the remorse spread through his body as he helped Sam to sit up a little higher, easing the pressure in his chest. Sam held a hand to his chest, rubbing absently until the coughs subsided. Exhausted, with Dean's help, he eased back down onto the pillows.
Dean filled the small glass from the water jug at Sam's bedside, offering Sam the cool water. Gratefully, Sam sipped slowly from the straw, allowing the water to soothe its way down his throat. Passing the glass back to Dean, Sam closed his eyes for a moment, needing a few moments rest to regain his breath.
"Thanks Dean" he whispered, still not having the energy to open his eyes.
Dean observed Sam's pale complexion with guilt. He shouldn't be baiting Sam when he was still so sick. He was an arse of a brother. He was supposed to help Sam recover, not cause him more pain. Sam still looked so sick, his skin nearly translucent and his lanky frame too thin. Dean resolved to take better care of his brother once he was out of the hospital.
"Rest Sammy" he whispered, caringly stroking his brother's hair.
Sam loved it when Dean's fingers ran through his hair, absently massaging his scalp with every stroke. When he was younger, Dean used to do this to help him when he had trouble getting to sleep. As they'd gotten older, the gesture occurred less frequently, and Sam was sure that Dean only did it now unconsciously. It was too close to "chick-flick" for Dean, and he was sure that Dean would be embarrassed if he drew attention to the gesture, and stop immediately. Sam wasn't going to do that. The stroking reminded him of happier times, and the rhythmic stroking eased the pain and tension from his body. Relaxing into the touch, Sam drifted to sleep, a smile on his lips.
Sam slept for about five hours, and Dean remained by his bedside the entire time, happy to watch his brother's peaceful slumber.
The nurses were a regular intrusion in the room, but Dean paid them little attention except for observing how they monitored his brother. Sam slept throughout these exams, not stirring when his temperature was taken or his IV checked. Dean watched him intently, not used to seeing Sam so still, even in sleep.
Although he knew Sam needed his rest, he was relieved when Sam blearily opened his eyes again. He still needed the reassurance that Sam was still with him, getting better.
"Hey Dean" Sam whispered. "You look like crap man."
"Right back at you bitch" Dean said quietly, his gentle tone in contrast to the harsh words.
"Jerk" Sam tossed back without a thought.
Sam smiled. He was feeling much better. Some of the pain in his chest had gone, and the persistent headache he'd had for days was now just a light throb behind his eyes. Taking a slow deep breath, Sam was relieved when the pain was now only an ache and no longer a debilitating spear of agony.
"Dean, I want to check out of here. Can you find the doctor …I want to be released." Sam said with conviction. He's had enough of the hospital, and now that he was feeling better, he was sure he could manage his recovery back in a motel.
Dean looked at Sam in horror. "NO. No way Sam." Shaking his head adamantly, Dean was appalled at Sam's suggestion.
"But Dean, I feel…" Sam started, interrupted by his doctor entering his room.
"Good afternoon Sam. So, how are you feeling?" the doctor asked whilst grabbing his chart from the end of the bed.
"Much better. I was thinking that maybe I could be discharged" Sam asked hopefully, assessing the doctor's reaction to his request.
The doctor asked Sam a number of questions, ascertaining Sam's level of pain and discomfort. Dean knew that Sam was lying through his teeth when he told the doctor that he was fine.
Fortunately for Dean, the doctor was not as gullible as Sam had hoped, shaking his head in dismissal of Sam's answers.
"Well, we'll see how you are tomorrow" the doctor answered. "You're still running a slight temperature, and I won't be happy to release you until that's at least back within a normal range."
Dean released the breath he's been unconsciously holding, relieved that Sam would be forced to stay in the hospital a little longer. Sam had given Dean a real scare this time, and he wasn't going to abet his brother's early release.
Sam stayed silent on the bed, knowing there was no way yet he could leave the hospital under his own steam. Without Dean's assistance, he was stuck here. As the doctor left, he shot his brother a resentful look, hoping to elicit a change of heart.
"Not gonna work Sammy" Dean said on seeing his brother's stare. "You heard what the doc said."
"If you'd help me, we could…" Sam started to say hopefully.
"Told you. Not gonna happen." Dean quickly injected, unwilling to discuss the matter further.
Sam huffed and switched on the TV.
Dean grinned as he settled back in his chair. Yeah, his little brother was back. From now on, he vowed to himself, he'd take better care of Sammy. It was, after all, his responsibility to look out for the kid.
A/N: Thank you to everyone who's followed this story. I really appreciate the reviews, and would love a final review with feedback on the completed story (as this is only the second complete story I've written). Any suggestions for my future fiction will be welcomed. Do we want more limp Sam?