Title: Heart Sounds
Characters/Pairings: Gen. Sam and Dean, mention of John.
Rating: NC-17 for strong language
Disclaimer: Dean and Sam don't belong to me.
Summary: Written for spnepifics ficathon, season 1, episode 12, (Faith) Prompt: Sam taking care of Dean between the time he left the hospital and the time he was healed. That pretty much says it all.
Word Count: About 2950.
"I know it's not easy, but I'm gonna die and you can't stop it."
"This is John Winchester. I can't be reached…"
"Fuck! Just pick up the goddamned phone for once!" Sam gritted. "Bastard!" He slung his phone across the seat of the Impala. It clunked to the floor between the door and the seat.
Sam shut his eyes and dropped his forehead hard against the steering wheel, gripping it until his hands tingled. Seeing Dean in that hospital bed, white and sick, so resigned to death—fuck, he couldn't... Damn it. This couldn't be where it ended. This wasn't how it ended.
Sam pounded the dashboard with his fist, then flinched, realized that he'd been expecting Dean to smack him for it. No, no, no—he couldn't do this by himself. Dad was God knows where—wouldn't even answer his fucking phone—might have dropped off the face of the fucking earth for all anyone knew. Sam would be damned if he'd leave him a voicemail over something like this; Dean was fucking dying right in front of him.
God, Dean. Why do you always have to be the big damned hero? Stupid bastard. He never thought anything could happen to him. But then neither did I.
Sam's eyes were leaking steadily, his capacity for caring what it looked like completely short-circuited, when he heard Dean's voice in his head. Done with your little tantrum, Sammy? Think you might start looking for some answers, now?
Sam took a deep breath and clamped down on the panic leering through the thin spots in his threadbare control. He wiped his wet face with his hand. He could do this.
He started the car and drove back to the motel. He went to work.
The first day—the day after he dragged Dean's limp body out of the fetid water in that stinking basement—Sam was all determination. He could do this; it was what he did. It was a physical problem, not a supernatural one, and someone, somewhere, must have an answer for it. He plowed through everything the internet had to teach him about electrical cardiac injuries. He sifted through ominous-sounding words like 'ischemia' and 'prognosis' and 'morbidity.' They all meant the same thing in the end. No hope. The doctor hadn't been lying, or stupid, or even unduly pessimistic. Short of a heart transplant there wasn't anything the doctors could do, and even if such a thing were anywhere even remotely in the range of financial or practical reach for a Winchester, Dean couldn't survive long enough to get one.
The second day—two days after he bent over his brother, slime soaking through the knees of his jeans, doing CPR for twenty full minutes while he waited for the paramedics to arrive—Sam started looking for miracles. He found them. The internet promised miracles to spare. But Sam was more aware than most that the internet is a virtual soup of hopes, dreams and speculation, spewed forth by fallible and often fucked-up human beings, qualified by nothing more than the ability to use a computer. He didn't have the time—Dean didn't have it—to separate the wackos from the merely weird. His father's journal, his contacts, were the only things they could depend on. So Sam ran through the phone numbers, those he knew and those he didn't, chasing every thread of a lead to its disappointing end. And felt the hope seeping out of him, bleeding him white with the passing hours.
On the morning of the third day—three days after he had begged Dean to breathe, not to give up, babbled anything that Dean might hear at all, all of it translating to "don't leave me"— Sam had used every trick he'd ever learned in college to get through an all-nighter, guzzling coffee, taking short naps and cold showers when he couldn't stay awake any longer.
Then his phone rang. There was a guy in Nebraska, supposed to be the real deal. Miracles were back on the table. Maybe. He was beyond exhausted, hands jittering with caffeine and nervous hope, when he picked up his phone one more time.
"Hey, Dad…it's Sam. Uh…you probably won't even get this, but, uh…it's Dean."
He took a breath and blew it out through his lips, struggling not to break down, lose it right there.
"He's sick, and the doctors say there's nothing they can do." Sam's voice broke and he took a shaky breath.
"But uh…they don't know the things we know, right? So don't worry, cause, uh, I'm gonna do whatever it takes to get him better."
He paused, like he was waiting for some acknowledgment, an answer.
"All right. Just wanted you to know."
He tossed the phone onto the bed. He was biting his thumbnail and wondering what it said about them—about him—that it took him three goddamned days to tell his father his eldest son was on his deathbed, when there was a knock at the door.
"Dean, what the hell are you doing here?"
"I checked myself out."
"Are you crazy?"
Sam wondered if he was the crazy one for being so damned glad to see Dean out of that hospital bed, even if he did look like shit. Something about seeing Dean on his feet—or maybe it was just his presence—made Sam feel stronger. Anything was doable now. He suddenly felt like they might make it through this thing.
"I'm not gonna die in a hospital where the nurses aren't even hot."
Sam snorted softly. "You know, this whole 'I laugh in the face of death' thing? It's bullshit. I can see right through it." But God, I'm so glad to see you.
"Whatever, dude. Have you even slept? You look worse than I do."
He helped Dean to a chair and somehow couldn't figure out what to feel about the fact that Dean let him do it without a word. It was gratifying, but at the same time it chilled him. Dean ought to be bitching about it.
Of all the times he'd wished Dean would let him do something to help him, let him in, this wasn't how he'd wanted it to happen.
"I've been scouring the internet for the last three days, calling every contact in Dad's journal."
Sam left out the part about how he'd looked for doctors, teaching hospitals. He didn't want Dean focusing on his failures. He wanted him looking at the hope.
"For a way to help you. One of Dad's friends, Joshua, called me back. Told me about a guy in Nebraska. A specialist."
"You're not gonna let me die in peace, are you?"
"I'm not gonna let you die, period. We're going."
Dean sighed and rolled his eyes.
Sam cleared the scattered papers off the bed he hadn't really been expecting Dean to need. He glanced at Dean's face out of the corner of his eye. Now that he was over his surprise at Dean just showing up this way, he was starting to worry. His skin looked almost transparent, color so bad it was bordering on gray, and Sam was pretty sure it was getting worse by the minute.
He thought Dean should probably be on oxygen but unless there was some in the vending machine down the hall, Sam had no way of getting his hands on any. The only way Dean was getting any oxygen at this point was if he went back to the hospital and Sam didn't have the heart to fight with him over that. Sam would have come and gotten him out of there in the morning anyway. Dean was better off here. They both were.
Dean just sat in the chair and watched Sam straighten things up. He didn't fidget; he barely moved. In Sam's whole life, he'd never seen Dean so still. Dean was twitchy by nature, always moving, cleaning a gun, sharpening a knife, something. He needed to be running, fighting—going—and if he couldn't do that, then he needed something to do with his hands. Now he just didn't seem to have the strength. And that was the scariest shit of all.
"So," Sam said, rubbing his hands together with false enthusiasm. "You hungry? I could order pizza?"
Dean rolled his tired eyes up to look at Sam. He swallowed and nodded.
"Yeah, sure. Pizza sounds great. And beer. That would be good."
"You're not getting any beer, Dean."
"I'm a dyin' man and I can't even get a damned beer. That's fucked up," Dean said, but Sam couldn't detect any real interest. It was a show for his benefit.
And Sam didn't care what he ate, or if he ate at all, really, but pizza was something they'd deliver; he wouldn't have to leave Dean alone or drag him back out somewhere in the car. No way he was leaving Dean anywhere alone, not until they'd gotten through this. Hell, he could barely stop himself from staring at Dean when he was sitting three feet away, watching him breathe, making sure he did. He still looked too much like he had on that cold basement floor for Sam to be any sort of comfortable.
When the pizza came, Dean made it through three bites before he set it down like it was too heavy for him to hold. He took a shaky breath that drew Sam's eyes to him. Sam took one look at his face and started up from his chair.
"Dean, I think you need to lie down."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Dude, don't start…"
By the time Dean made to stand up, Sam was already on his feet. Dean got most of the way up before his eyes rolled back in his head and he slid boneless to the floor. Sam didn't have enough warning to do much more than control the fall, keep him from hitting his head.
Though Sam could already see he was breathing, he checked Dean's pulse, then immediately wished he hadn't. Sam's own heart contracted when he felt Dean's beating so slow and weak. The pace was heavy and faltering, like everything that was Dean was damped down, smothering under the weight of living for one more minute.
Sam got his arms under Dean's shoulders and knees and picked him up off the floor with a grunt of effort. Damn, Dean, you're a lot heavier than you look. Dean's hanging arm caught on the side of the bed and he hit the mattress harder than Sam intended, winding up face down. Sam rolled him back over and tried to put him in a more comfortable-looking position, but Dean was just out and Sam started to feel nauseous. He'd seen his brother like this too much in the last few days.
Sam wet a washcloth in the bathroom, debating with himself over who needed it more right now, Dean or him. He finally swiped it across his own face before laying it across Dean's forehead. Dean gasped at the contact and his arm flailed out defensively, barely missing smacking Sam in the face.
"Whoa, hey, take it easy…you're all right. You just passed out. It's okay," Sam said soothingly.
But then Sam caught the look in Dean's eyes and realized it wasn't okay. Dean's breathing was shallow and fast, his chest was heaving and straining. It hit Sam in the gut then—Dean looked helpless and afraid. Sam had no experience of that look; he couldn't process it. Then the fear started to bleed over into raw panic.
"Dean, hey…hey man, talk to me. What's wrong?"
"Can't breathe," Dean grunted.
"Oh, shit, Dean, I'm sorry. Here," Sam said. He hooked his forearms under Dean's armpits and hauled him to a sitting position, grabbing pillows off both beds to prop him up. "Better?"
Dean gasped a couple of times, then nodded and relaxed back. More pillows. He needed more pillows.
"You stay right there. I'm going to the office for a minute. Don't move," Sam warned sternly, pointing his finger at Dean.
But Dean was already asleep. Or pretending to be.
When Sam came back with the three cheap pillows he'd managed to wheedle out of the surly desk clerk, Dean seemed to be breathing okay so he didn't disturb him. He watched Dean sleep, occasionally picking pieces of pepperoni off the cold pizza.
What the hell was he going to do? If this guy in Nebraska couldn't… No. He wasn't going there. There was no if. It had to work. Dean was the one keeping everything together, what was left of their family, their life. What was he supposed to do without him?
"Dude." Sam jumped.
"I can hear you thinking from over here. Knock it off." Dean said hoarsely.
Sam didn't answer; just watched Dean open his eyes and palm the bed. By the time he'd swung his feet to the floor, Sam was there.
"Whoa. Where do you think you're going?" Sam demanded.
"I'm going to take a piss, Nurse Ratched," Dean growled, sounding more like himself than he had since the accident. It buoyed Sam a little, though he knew it didn't signify anything at all. Dean stood up slowly this time and made it all the way up.
"Not by yourself, you're not," Sam said, putting his hand on Dean's elbow to steady him. Dean jerked his arm away, but Sam followed him to the door of the bathroom. When Dean started pushing the door shut, Sam stiff-armed it back. Dean scowled at him.
"Sam, even if I needed help finding my dick, you'd still be the last one I'd call."
"I'm not risking you cracking your head on the toilet if you go down again. We don't need to add a skull fracture to the mix," Sam said, but he backed off a little, just keeping an eye on him with his peripheral vision. "Besides, you'd need a pair of tweezers to find your dick."
Sam waited for the comeback.
"Dude, my dick is so big King Kong's going to climb up it in the next remake," Dean said, in concert with the sound of a stream into the toilet.
"Yeah? Well, my dick is so big it hit .370 in the minors before it hurt its knee."
Sam answered without having to think. It was an old song and dance from before he'd left for school and he found it comforting for that, even as his throat tightened again.
Dean finished and wouldn't look at him, just showed him his palm when he passed him at the bathroom door. Sam raised his eyebrows and shrugged, crossing his arms and leaning against the wall. When you hit the floor this time, I'm gonna leave your heavy ass down there, you stubborn bastard. But Dean made it back to the bed without help, sitting down on the edge like a thousand other times.
But this wasn't any of those times. Dean was looking about a hundred years old and about five years old at the same time, and Sam couldn't take any more. He crossed the room and started unlacing Dean's boots for him. Sam felt his uneasy grip on his ragged and sleep-deprived emotions begin to slip when Dean just let him do it. The lump in his throat swelled and he swallowed it down. Damn it, he wasn't going to do this. Dean would hate it. Besides, if he let it start up, he didn't know where it would stop. He took a deep breath and took Dean's jacket from him, hanging it over a chair. Still didn't say anything when Dean handed his jeans to him without a word and crawled under the covers.
The TV was on; some movie that neither of them watched. Dean dozed on and off. Sam thought of the long drive ahead of him tomorrow and got undressed and into bed, switching the TV off. He didn't sleep. He listened to Dean breathe and waited for dawn.
An hour passed, then two, and Sam heard something. He didn't think Dean was asleep anyway, so he turned on the lamp. Dean's teeth were chattering.
"Damn it, Dean! Why didn't you tell me you were cold?"
Dean's eyes were green wells of helpless misery and Sam had to look away. Do something. He yanked the covers off his own bed, threw them over Dean and climbed in on the other side. It wasn't the first time they'd slept in the same bed, not by a long shot, but it had been a while. It was okay. Sam could keep a better watch on him this way anyway.
Fifteen minutes later, Dean was still shivering. That was it. Sam didn't care how much shit Dean gave him for it; he was putting a stop to this. Sam grabbed Dean around the shoulders and pushed them forward and up off the pillows, sliding around behind him and wrapping his arms and legs around Dean, pulling him back against his chest and the bedcovers up over both of them.
Dean tensed, but Sam held on. The time it took for Dean to give up the struggle altogether was horrifyingly short, but it didn't matter anyway, because Sam had had enough. He wasn't letting Dean out of this one.
Dean's shivering was ratcheting down a little when he mumbled it.
"Dude, don't think I'm puttin' out. It was just pizza, not lobster."
"Shut up and go to sleep, Dean."
Dean went quiet. Sam listened to him breathe. After a minute, he prayed. Then he just held on.