Title - Kid Gloves

Summary - Dean woke John up in the middle of the night saying Sam couldn't breathe. By the time John got to the room, Sammy was motionless on the bed and tinted blue.

Part of The Dark Horse series

"Kid Gloves"

"Chapter One: Flesh and Blood"

John never thought it was that serious. He assumed it was croup, because Dean had croup when he was three. It was the same husky, hoarse, bark-like cough. It was the same fever. It got worse at night and caused the kid to be miserable. He was positive it was croup.

Then one night, after Sammy's wheezy cough got progressively worse, Dean came running into the room scared out of his wits. Dean - his brave and strong nine-year-old was reduced to tears as he shook his father awake with fervor. Sam couldn't breathe. He was gasping for breath and could not breathe. The words didn't seem to register in John's mind.

By the time John stumbled out of bed and dashed down the hallway, Sam was motionless with his head lolled off the side of the bed. Sammy was never still. The kid wiggled and twisted nearly nonstop. He could never sit still for long periods of him without moving unless he was being held or cuddled by his father or his brother.

His chest was not moving rhythmically up and down, and his pulse was weak. The next several minutes were hazy. John couldn't remember screaming at Dean to call 911. He vaguely remembered shifting Sammy so his left hand rested the boy's blue tinted forehead to open his airway. In a foggy blur, he could remember straddling his son to keep the airway open while performing CPR with his right hand. He could remember giving his son mouth-to-mouth but the boy remained still. The motions seemed to go on forever.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Breathe, Sammy, dammit. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.

He vaguely registered Dean at his side talking fast to a 911 operator on the phone. His words were a mere murmur in his ears as he focused all of his energy onto his youngest son. Never in his life had he been so scared. He'd survived 'Nam, lost his wife, started a new life from scratch, battled everything supernatural, but losing one of his boys was unbearable. There was no way he could come back from that.

The fear clenched his stomach and worked its way to his throat. It felt like his insides were being twisted around in the cruelest of ways. He felt as though a parasite had invaded his body and slowly started to poison his heart. Then, Sammy began to cough. John let out a small laugh of relief as he scooped his son up in his arms.

"Shh, Sammy, it's okay."

He rubbed the child's back and neck. The coughs continued, and John was so afraid the kid would stop breathing again. After several agonizing minutes of trying to ease Sammy's coughing spell, the paramedics arrived. Dean scampered out of the room and reappeared with two medics. They had to pry the small boy out of his father's arms just to take a look at him. Sam coughed violently as he reached for his father. John took his hand into his. There wasn't a chance in hell he was letting go.

John didn't exactly remember what he told the paramedics. He didn't remember grabbing his leather jacket and clambering in the ambulance with Dean behind him. He could remember the medics trying to keep Dean out of the ambulance, to try to convince John to drive behind them. Sammy's red face covered in tear tracks mixed with his hiccups and coughs would not allow that. They needed to be together. They needed to be a family.

Then they sat in the hospital waiting room together. John and Dean waited impatiently for news on their ray of sunshine. Sammy was the beacon in their dark lives. No matter what happened, no matter the situation, Sam could always make his family smile and laugh. The little boy who had been rushed away to be hooked up to machines and assessed was the only reason their family was still together. After Mary died, John and Dean were in the darkest of places. If it wasn't for that tiny boy, John doubted that they would have survived.

John drank himself into the hospital after that night. For a week straight, he was so intoxicated that he couldn't even move. He locked himself up in a room in his friend's house with endless bottles of the strongest alcohol. He got alcohol poisoning and passed out on the floor. Dean had been the on that found him unconscious in a pool of his own vomit.

Dean didn't talk for nearly a year after his mother died. Everything he had known was taken away from him in the nastiest of ways. He had no mother and his father was a good for nothing drunk. He had a baby brother who needed to be cared for. He didn't trust his parents' friends. Even after John started to put his life together, to put their lives together, Dean still refused to talk.

Sammy was the only one who didn't remember the darkness that engulfed them. He didn't remember the fire on his skin, his mother being pinned to the ceiling, or his mother burning to death. He didn't find his father unconscious on the floor and didn't remember his big brother too traumatized to talk. All Sam knew was their semi-happy hunting life. All he could remember was his father being a hero who rode into a battle with holy water and salt. All he ever knew was his big brother who looked out for him and took the time to do anything to make him smile.

That moment, sitting on the hard hospital couch with Dean buried into his side, was the scariest day of his life. John honestly didn't know if they could recover if they lost Sammy.

"Mister Winchester?"

As John stood up, he pulled Dean into a standing position next to him. He gripped his son's shoulders. They needed each other. They needed Sammy just to have a bad case of croup.

"I'm Doctor Walsh. We did some labs on Samuel-"

"Sammy. His name is Sammy," John rambled as he licked his lips. "He's only Samuel when he's done something bad. He didn't - this is my fault. This is all my fault."

"We did some labs on Sammy," the doctor revised with sympathy clouding his face. "We obtained a bacterial culture, a blood culture, and a gram stain of the tracheal secretions. We also did a radiograph of his lateral neck and did a bronchoscopy." The doctor paused for the mumbo jumbo medical talk to process. "He has what is called Bacterial Tracheitis."

"I thought… it was croup. Is this bad?"

"It's very common to confuse it. Bacterial Tracheitis is usually diagnosed when croup treatments fail. It is definitely more dangerous than croup. Sammy went into respiratory distress. This means the airway is obstructed from a purulent membrane that had loosened. It's very similar to a severe asthma attack."

The more John heard, the less he liked it. As the doctor continued to explain what happened, John pulled the boy closer and closer to him until the boy was pushed tightly against his ribcage. If not for Dean standing next to him, John was certain his jelly legs would have him on the floor.

"Sammy's hooked up to some machines and is intubated. He's currently asleep, but you can sit with him if you like."

"What happens now?"

"Once the airway is stabilized, we will feed him a course of antibiotics. Then he should be as good as new."

"What happens if the airway doesn't stabilize, and he can't take the medicine?"

"Very rarely does extubation fail in these situations. If extubation fails or if there's injury to the airway, we will have to perform a Tracheotomy."

Tracheotomy? John didn't know a lot of medical terms or procedures, but he knew that Tracheotomy sounded like surgery - a dangerous surgery. Could they even perform surgery on a five-year-old?

"That's surgery?"

"Yes, it's a surgical procedure to open a direct airway through an incision in the trachea."

John led Dean into Sammy's hospital room. The tiny boy was a pasty white against the bed sheets. A tube was taped to his lips. IVs and wires were pinched in his arms right below the elbow and in the back of his hand. John never felt so helpless in his life as he looked at his baby. The boy was usually bouncing off the walls while talking twenty miles a minute. To see him so still and so sick was excruciating.

"Sammy?" whispered Dean.

His oldest broke away from the half-embrace and walked slowly towards his brother. Dean clambered up onto the bed and lay down next to his baby brother, careful not to disturb his brother or the IVs. He buried his face into his little brother's soft brown curls. John walked towards the bed and sat down in the nearest chair. Careful not to disturb the IVs also, he gathered Sam's cold hand into his left. With his right hand, he gently brushed his hair.

"I'm sorry, Sammy," John whispered. "I promise you'll get better."

Neither father nor son knew how long they stayed with Sammy. At some point, Dean had fallen asleep with his face buried in the boy's hair. John, on the other hand, couldn't move let alone sleep. All he could do was stare at his son, willing the boy to wake up, and allow the silent tears of worry pour down his face.

John zoned out. He didn't know exactly when, but he had. He had been staring at Sammy one minute and then heard the kid choking the second minute. Sammy was awake and fighting intubation. Fully alert, John hovered over his youngest son and tried to calm him down while Dean ran to get help.

Two nurses came running into the room and made their way towards the bed. Seconds later, an intern pushed her way through and tried to calm down the hysterical boy.

"You need to calm him down or else we can't extubate," she said sternly.

"Sammy, please, you're all right. I'm right here - Daddy's right here. Come on, Dude, calm down."

When Sammy didn't calm down, when his fit of coughing and tears continued, one of the nurses injected his IV with a clear liquid. The boy twitched slightly before closing his eyes completely. The intern started to explain what happened, but the words were drowned out by the blood pumping loudly in his ears. John sank down in the nearest chair with his head in his hands.

"Sammy's going to be okay, Dad," Dean whispered in his ear.

His small hand found its way onto John's shoulder. Within seconds, John wrapped an arm around his son's waist and pulled the boy as close to him as humanly possible. He buried his face into Dean's dirty blonde hair and took in the boy's scent - that of a sterile hospital and baby shampoo.

"Yeah, he's gonna be fine," John said mostly to convince himself. "Sammy's a real trooper. Us Winchesters don't go down without one hell of a fight."

A few hours passed and Dean was fast asleep in a hospital chair next to his brother's bed. John stood up as a prickling sensation coursed through his legs. His knees cracked loudly as he took his first step. Quietly, he made his way out of the room and towards the nurse's station. With a weary smirk towards a young nurse, he scored the phone and dialed an all too familiar number.

"Hello?"

"Jim, how long would it take you to get to Dubois, Wyoming?"

"Who is this?"

John had only known the pastor for a little over four years, but he had hoped the older man would know him by now. Although, the two hunters never seemed to talk on the phone - perhaps that was why Jim didn't recognize the voice.

"It's John," he sighed wearily, "Winchester."

"What's wrong? Do you have a demon that isn't being expelled because of your terrible Latin?"

The pastor was jesting, but John didn't feel like bantering with the man, who was quickly becoming his friend. Sammy was in the hospital with a freakin' tube down his throat. There wasn't a speck of energy in him to take the good-natured abuse.

"Sammy's in the hospital. He…" John trailed off as his eyes wandered towards the room where his sons slept. "I need someone to take care of Dean, because I can't give them both my full attention right now."

"What happened?"

Concern flooded Jim's voice. When the pastor met the small tragic family, Jim had taken immediately to Sammy Winchester. The little boy who had stuck out his slobber covered hand and screamed, "HI!" to introduce himself. Jim laughed before gathering the saliva-covered hand and smiling broadly at the child.

"Uh, Bacterial Tracheitis."

"How serious is it?"

"I don't know." He sighed wearily. "Depends on how things progress. Worst case scenario is that he has to have surgery on his throat."

The pastor sucked in a breath of air. Silence filled the line as both hunters' minds wandered to the small child lying in a hospital bed. Then minds wandered to Dean who was staying as close to his tiny brother as possible.

"What's the best case scenario?"

"They extubate Sammy successfully and feed him a course of antibiotics. Then, he'll be that hyper kid bouncing off the walls and talking a million miles an hour again."

"You, Dean, and Sammy are all strong. I have all the faith in the world that Sammy will bounce back quickly from this."

"I don't think faith has much to do with this, Jim," he said in a thick voice.

"Faith has everything to do with it, John," the pastor spoke softly. "I'll be on the next flight out there."

John thanked the nurse quickly before making his way back to Sammy's room. The boys were still asleep on the bed when he arrived. Taking his seat next to the bed, John arched his back into the uncomfortable chair and kept a watchful eye on his sons. He tried to push away the anxiety that was quickly filling. He just had to believe Sammy would be all right. If there was a God, then there was no way in hell that the small five-year-old would die after everything the Winchester family had already been through.


Author's Notes - So, I decided to write a short, perhaps three-five chaptered, story before I finish tackling the huge title piece of the series. I wanted to show the side of the Winchester family that wasn't hunting, that the scariest thing possible wasn't monsters or demons but rather a life-threatening illness. Thanks, again, to Shannon for her wonderful editing job. Leave a little simple to fill my muse.