A/N: Here's a little hurt Dean as counterpoint to the hurt Sam Welcome to the Jungle. This story (like Be Still My Beating Heart) is also based on recent personal experience. Yep. Don't ask. It's nice to have the boys to help get through this kind of thing. Title is from the amazing book by Berton Roueche.
It was quiet outside the empty house. The stairs creaked as Dean eased up them. Sam was kneeling in front of the door, working on the lock. A few seconds later the door opened, Sam looked over his shoulder at Dean with a grin. Sam had always been better at locks, Dean knew it, Sam knew it and Sam liked to remind his big brother on a regular basis. Dean grinned back. "Shut up, Sammy," he whispered and Sam opened the door.
They walked into the small house. There were rooms to the left and right, a stairway and hallway in front of them. Sam looked over at Dean with his eyebrows up. "You go up and I'll head to the back of the house," Dean said quietly. Sam nodded as Dean handed him a shotgun loaded with salt and then started up the stairs.
Dean waited for a minute to make sure everything was as okay as it could be before starting down the hall. He was nervous, not overly so, but just enough to set him on edge. Unhappy spirits were often unpredictable. And, by all reports, the spirit haunting the small farmhouse was more than a little unhappy. Murder victims, always pissed. He walked into the kitchen and over to the sink at the far side of the room. Dean could hear his brother's footsteps on the floor above him.
The plate shattered over Dean's head. He ducked just in time to miss getting hit by it and the butcher's knife that followed. Hitting the floor, he rolled and looked wildly around for the spirit. She was no where to be seen. A large ceramic bowl dropped towards him, he scrambled out of its path and it exploded in shards of blue and yellow.
"Dean!" Sam shouted. Dean heard his brother coming down the stairs like a heard of elephants. "Dean!" It was the frantic tone reserved solely for him, and only when Sam was pretty sure he was going to find a corpse when he got to his brother.
"I'm okay, watch yourself." Dean edged towards the cupboards, still looking for any visible sign of the spirit. Another plate appeared out of thin air and shattered against the wall next to Dean. "Where the hell did that come from?"
"Not sure," Sam said from the door. "Look out!" he shouted as a knife flew towards Dean.
"She doesn't like me," Dean said from behind the cupboard door he had opened to stop the knife.
"I guess not." Sam raised his gun and fired as another bowl appeared mid-air. A puff of black smoke marked where the spirit had been as the bowl dropped to the floor.
Dean stood up and glanced over at Sam. "You okay?"
Sam rolled his eyes. "Yeah, Dean. Nothing was thrown at me." He walked over, running his eyes over Dean with a small frown curled between his eyebrows. "You've got blood on your face."
Dean scrubbed a sleeve across his face. "Must have been when the plate shattered. Nothing hit me. Nothing big at least," he added with a grin. "So, I think she was killed in the kitchen."
"Good guess, she must be tied to something in here," Sam said, opening cupboards and peering in. He was moving aside a large cut glass vase on the counter when a plate appeared and exploded inches from his head. Sam ducked as Dean swung his gun up, but there was nothing to see. A knife suddenly appeared. Dean fired, but not before the knife was thrown. Sam had dropped, the knife missed and the spirit once again disappeared in a puff of black smoke.
"I'm okay. What's keeping her here?" He stood and looked around. "There must be something."
"The newspaper said she was killed here, right? What else?" Dean had walked over to stand beside Sam with his back against the wall, watching for any sign of a return of the spirit.
"She had been cremated, but the hauntings started shortly after her death here. There has to be something." Dean sighed. "Back to the cupboards?" Sam nodded and headed across the room and Dean started opening doors and looking in. Most of the shelves were empty. Finding nothing interesting he squatted down and started opening the lower cupboards. Every once in awhile he would turn to check on Sam and then turn back to the shelves and drawers. Sam caught him at it once and Dean flashed a rueful smile and shrugged. Sam rolled his eyes and shook his head.
Dean finally found something interesting under the sink. A flash of white caught his eyes. He reached in and something hissed, then, well, he would swear it sounded like a scream. Then…pain…sharp, immediate…as something clamped down on his hand. He yelled, he would insist later in surprise and yanked his hand back. A large cat came with it. "Shit!" He tried shaking his hand, but the cat's teeth remained firmly embedded in his finger. Sam ran over and tried to pry the creature's mouth off of Dean's hand. They finally managed and with a hiss the cat ran out of the room. "Fun," Dean said, holding his hand.
"You need to clean that out, Dean. What were you doing anyway?"
"There's a hand under the sink. How was I supposed to know it was the cat's dinner." Dean grinned. "I guess he decided fresh meat was better."
"Not funny." Sam leaned over to look under the sink. "You're right." He scooped the remains of the hand into a pot and grabbed Dean's arm. "Let's go." A plate slammed into the wall, spraying both with shards of ceramic. They dashed out of the house. Sam set the pot with the hand in it down and opened the trunk. A bowl flew out of the house and smashed into the side of the car.
"What are you doing? Let's burn that thing before she ruins my car," Dean said, dodging the knife that narrowly missed his head.
"I'm grabbing the stuff, but you need to get that hand clean, Dean." Sam dragged a can of gasoline, the salt and the first-aid kit out of the trunk. He opened the kit and handed Dean a bottle of alcohol. Dean poured the liquid over is hand as Sam salted and burned the hand. The dishes stopped coming.
"Good job," Dean grinned at his brother. "Hey, it's no big deal." He snatched his hand back from Sam.
"Let me look." Sam grabbed his hand and turned it so he could get a better look at it. "I'm going to clean it a little better and when we get back you need to wash it."
"It's four little puncture marks, Sam. Nothing to panic about."
"Dean?" Sam looked at him as he dug around looking for another bottle of alcohol.
"Okay, Sammy, fine." Dean held out his hand as Sam cleaned it again. "Will I live?"
Sam looked at him and sighed. "I think so, but…"
"Sam? It's not like it's anything serious. No werewolves, no zombies, just a cat bite. Not bad compared to what we usually deal with."
"Yeah," Sam said with a grin. "Sorry. Want me to drive?"
Nice try, Sammy. "I think I can manage." He smiled at Sam as his brother got in the car. "Want to hit that steak place?"
"Sure." Sam smiled back. "As long as you promise to wash your hand again when we get there."
"Yes, mom." Dean gave his brother a shove, Sam shoved back with a laugh.
The sun was filtering through the purple curtains of the hotel room when Dean woke. He shifted in bed, not sure what had pulled him from sleep. Sam was snoring softly. Thank god he finally went to sleep. Dean rolled onto his back. He hadn't slept much, Sam's nightmares had kept them both up most of the night. Sam had finally dropped off to sleep about three. Dean had quickly followed suit. He rolled over and looked at the clock beside the bed. Eight? Great, just great. With a sigh he got up and headed into the bathroom. I think I'll just go back to sleep for awhile. That steak last night is not sitting well. He quietly closed the door and flipped the light on, trying to be quiet to not wake Sam. As he closed the door he caught sight of his hand. What the…?
He held it under the light for a better look. The finger where the cat he bitten him was swollen and red, the four small puncture marks oozing cloudy fluid. The knuckle was beginning to turn red and puff up. That's not good. He slipped quietly out of the room and grabbed the first-aid kit and walked back in the bathroom. Damn, no antibiotics. I think this needs them, too. Oozy and red? Never good. Dean closed the kit and went back in the room and quietly dressed, still trying not to wake his brother. I can be to a clinic and back before he wakes up, but just in case…He grabbed the hotel pad and scrawled a quick note. Dean left the note on his pillow and left with a quick glance back to make sure he hadn't disturbed Sam.
Dean stopped at the hotel office. "Where's the nearest clinic?" he asked the plump, motherly woman behind the desk.
"Clinic?" she laughed. "Not here. The ER at St. Clare's. Right at the light and then four blocks, can't miss it."
"Everything okay?" she asked.
"Yep." Dean said, smiling at her. "No big deal."
He followed her directions to the hospital. The building was small, the emergency room parking lot had places for no more than twenty cars. He pulled in beside a mini-van with a "mom's taxi" bumper sticker and heading in the walk in entrance.
"Can I help you?" the woman sitting behind the reception desk asked as he walked in the door.
"Yeah, a cat bit me." Oh, that sounds good. How tough are you? A cat bit me.
"Fill this out." She shoved a form at him. He quickly filled it out and pushed it across the desk towards her. "Thank you, Dean. We'll call you back as soon as we can."
"Sure." He wandered into the waiting room. There were nine people scattered in chairs around the room. A local morning show was pouring cheer into the room. The woman on screen was babbling happily about cooking for teen parties. Dean groaned and sat in the far corner. He pulled out his phone and looked at it, tempted to call his brother. No, not yet. They'll just give me some antibiotics and send me home. No need to wake Sammy. The woman on the TV was talking to a guest about the latest styles in shoes. Dean shifted in the chair. His hand was beginning to throb and he had the feeling of stretched skin on his forehead that he associated with a fever.
He looked around the room, trying to guess what had brought the others to the ER. The woman to his left, well it was pretty obvious, both her eyes were black and her nose looks a little crooked. The guy across from Dean was coughing with a gurgling sound. And older couple sat quietly together. He wasn't even sure which one of the pair was there to see a doctor. A man was stretched out across three chairs snoring softly. Another woman was coughing into her coat and the man sitting near her had his foot propped up on a chair.
"Mr. Stummer? Dean Strummer?" Dean looked up, a woman in scrubs was standing with a clipboard in her hand.
"That's me." He stood, then waited as the room spun around him. Head rush, always fun. He followed the nurse back to a small cubicle. She pointed at a chair and he sat down, pulling his jacket off so she could take his blood pressure. She smiled absently as she filled out the paperwork and then looked at him.
"So, a cat bite?" she said, frowning at her clipboard.
"Yeah, I thought it might need antibiotics or something. Sam'll laugh at me. A cat bite." Dean chuckled a little, suddenly nervous.
"My brother." Dean stuck his hand out and she looked down at it.
"Oh," she said in a very calm voice. "You should have had this looked at sooner."
"It just happened yesterday," he said with a shrug.
"Really?" She smiled at him and stood. "Do you need to use the restroom?"
"No." He stood up and grabbed his jacket, turning to head back into the waiting room. A hand on his arm stopped him. He turned back to the nurse.
"Follow me," she said, leading the way back into the ER and pointing him towards a bed.
"There were a lot of people here before me," Dean said, looking at her.
"We have to prioritize," she said with a smile. "The nurse will be right with you."
Dean dropped his jacket on the chair and stretched out on the bed. Hmm, taking me before the woman with the broken nose and black eyes. That might not be good. He closed his eyes, the lights seemed a little bright. I should call Sammy. No, not yet. They'll let me go in a minute.
"Hi, I'm Paul." A man in scrubs stepped around the curtain separating Dean from the others in the ER. "A cat bite?"
"Yeah." Dean held out his hand. "It's starting to hurt a little."
"Hmmm," Paul the nurse said. He pulled a felt-tipped pen out of his pocket and drew a line around the swelling on Dean's hand. "When did this happen?"
"Last night, about six, I think." Dean swallowed. He was starting to feel a nauseous. Fever, always fun.
"Really?" Paul smiled at him and asked all the usual questions about allergies and illness as he started an IV.
"It's not bad is it?" Dean said, looking from the IV to Paul and back.
Paul smiled at him. "Cat bites are bad." He smiled ruefully. "I had one last year, it was rough. I had cat scratch fever once too."
"Fun," Dean said with a sigh.
"Oh, yeah." Paul smiled. "The doctor will be right in."
Dean leaned back, his hand had started throbbing in time with his heart and his head was swimming. The room seemed cold. I should call Sam. He rolled his head around to look at his jacket sitting on the chair against the wall. That seems further away than when I laid down. He sighed. I should have gotten him up. He'd fuss and be a pain in the ass, but he'd be here. In the months since Sam had left Stanford and they had been back together, Dean had come to rely on the quiet calm of his brother. He hadn't realized what a hole there had been in his life until Sam was suddenly back. Dean hated the circumstances that had brought his brother back, but he didn't mind the fact that Sam was now there all the time.
"Mr. Stummer? Dean?" a female voice asked.
"Yeah?" Dean opened his eyes, not sure when he had closed them.
"I'm Dr. Knight. I understand a cat bit you?"
Yep, told the last three people that. Jesus, don't you people read the damn notes? "Yeah, last night."
"How are you feeling?" She was peering at his hand, a cool finger prodded the swollen knuckle gently.
"Actually, I'm not really feeling great." He smiled at her. "So, some pills and you send me home?"
"We're going to give you some IV antibiotics," she said gently. "When was your last tetanus shot?"
"We'll give you one." She smiled the doctor smile. "If you can't remember you probably need one. Just relax and we'll get that IV started."
"For a cat bite?"
"Cat bites are bad," she said sternly and left him alone.
Dean closed his eyes again. Paul the nurse returned and set up the IV. He was chattering to Dean as he did it. Dean was pretty sure he answered, his tongue was feeling thick. He was beginning to get the odd feeling of disconnect a high fever produced. Dean knew he wasn't thinking clearly. While Paul was talking at him, Dean opened his eyes and looked at his hand. The red had escaped the black line Paul had drawn around it, and dark purple streaks were creeping towards his wrist. Oh, that can't be good. His phone started ringing. He looked across at the chair, wondering if he should ask someone to grab his phone for him. The phone stopped and then started again. Finally it stopped and the melody for a voice mail began playing every minute. Sam. I should call him. He tried to stand and stumbled back against the bed. Oh, not good.
Someone heard him fall. He was helped back into bed and someone told him to stay there.
"I need to call Sam," he said.
"We'll call him for you," Paul the nurse said.
"Good." Dean leaned back in the bed and let his eyes close. I should have gotten Sam up. He sighed, his hand was throbbing and he knew his fever was climbing. How long have I been here? He shifted in the bed, uncomfortable. Someone came in and spoke with him, he wasn't quite sure what they said. Dean asked about Sam again. How long?
A cool hand was placed on his forehead. He recognized the touch. "Sammy?"
The room was quiet when Sam woke, the sun had moved across the floor and was lighting the table at the end of the bed. He tried to stay still for another moment. The bed was perfect and he knew as he woke up it would go from perfect to a bad hotel bed. He sighed. The quiet began to seep into his consciousness. Complete quiet. No snoring, no sound of running water, no TV. "Dean?" When he received no answer he sat up and looked around the room. "Dean?"
The room was empty. He knew without getting up and looking in the bathroom. Dean was gone. Sam glanced over at the bed and saw a piece of paper sitting there. He grabbed it. "Went to get coffee, will bring back a latte." Sam smiled and headed into the bathroom. Hot shower for a change. He took advantage of the hot water and stood in the shower for a long time, letting the water sooth tight muscles a long night of nightmares had produced. Funny Dean was up early. He sat with me all night. The thought played again. For some reason it set off a little alarm in his head. Sam shut the water off and got out of the shower. After quickly toweling himself off, he dressed and glanced at the clock. 10:30. Where's Dean? When did he leave? He picked up his phone and looked at it, hoping Dean had called while he was in the shower. No such luck.
Knowing his brother would be annoyed, but not caring as the alarm bells got louder and louder, Sam hit the speed dial on his phone. Dean's phone rang and rang and went to voicemail. Sam hung up and tried again. "Come on, Dean," he said aloud in the quiet room. Voicemail again. "Call me." He hung up and grabbed the room key and headed to the office, hoping someone had noticed which direction the Impala had gone that morning.
"Hello," the manager said when he walked in. He smiled at her. She was plump and about fifty and she reminded him of his high school English teacher. Well, one of many.
"Hi," he said.
"Did your brother find the ER okay?" she asked, smiling at him.
"The what?" Sam's heart started pounding.
She frowned at him. "He came in earlier, asking about a clinic. I told him we don't have one, just the ER at St. Clare's."
Dean? When I get to you I will murder you. Why didn't you wake me? "How far is it?"
"See the traffic light?" She pointed out the window. "Turn right and then it's four blocks down main street."
"Thanks." Sam walked out of the office and pulled the phone out again. He dialed, no answer. Again. No answer. Again. No answer. He reached the stoplight and jogged down the street. Dean, I am going to kill you. He spotted the hospital two blocks before he reached it. Following the signs to the ER, he saw the Impala parked in the lot. Still here, is that good or bad? Dean going to the hospital at all is bad enough, still here…
Sam walked in and after a quick glance around the waiting room stepped up to the reception desk. The woman looked up at him and smiled and automatically shoved a clipboard at him. Sam shook his head. "I'm looking for my brother."
"Brother?" She frowned at him.
"Dean…" We really should settle on what name we're going to use. Which credit card did he use last night? "Strummer?" he said, hoping she wouldn't notice the hesitation.
"Are you Sam?" A woman in scrubs asked. Sam nodded. "He mentioned you. I'll take you back."
"What's wrong with him?"
She frowned. "It's the cat bite." She led him back into an area divided up by curtains. "Room 27." She gestured at the pink stripped curtain in the corner.
"When can he go?" Sam stopped her.
"Go?" She smiled the nurse smile. "He's not going anywhere."
"What?" That doesn't sound good, not at all. Dean what the hell?
"He's being admitted." She turned and left Sam standing in the middle of the curtained area. His heart was pounding, his hands were shaking and his mouth was dry. Admitted? Dean?
Sam walked to the curtain and eased it open. Dean was lying on a bed with his eyes closed. His face was red and he had his right hand carefully cradled on his chest. The hand had a black circle drawn on it. Sam approached the bed. Dean's hand was bright red and green was oozing from the four puncture wounds on his index finger. Sam put his hand down on Dean's forehead. My god, Dean, you're burning up.
Dean sighed. "Sammy?"
"What the hell are you doing here?" The words came out a little harsher than Sam intended.
"Getting coffee. You?" Dean opened glassy eyes and looked at him with a smile.
"I got tired of waiting for you to get back with the latte." Sam said with a smile. He looked around and spotted a chair and dragged it over to the bed.
"Yeah, sorry about that." Dean said, his voice was a little hazy. "I got sidetracked."
"Seems that way." Sam frowned. "I tried calling," he chided gently.
"Yeah, I tried to get to the phone." Dean smiled. "I fell down."
"What?" Dean? How bad? Out with it. Come on, damn it.
"Yep." Dean swallowed. "I don't feel good, Sammy." He fumbled around with his left hand, Sam realized what he wanted and grabbed it in his own. "Can we go?" Dean said, sounding confused and very young.
"They're admitting you, Dean."
"Oh, yeah, I think someone said that." Dean looked over at him. "My hand hurts."
"I bet." Sam looked at the hand again. There were dark streaks headed up Dean's wrist. Oh, god, Dean. That's not good, not good at all.
"So, Sammy?" Dean held onto his hand a little tighter. "Turns out cat bites are bad."
"People keep telling me it's bad and then smiling that damn calm they all have."
"It's not that bad, Dean." Sam said, willing it to be true, knowing it wasn't.
"Sorry, Sammy." Dean closed his eyes. "But it's bad." Werewolves, skinwalkers, wendigos—and I'm here because of a damn cat.
To Be Continued