Title: Your Own Medicine
Summary:Dean's sick and refusing to eat. Sam's tired of being pissed about it and decides to get creative.
Thanks to all who read and reviewed Tightrope. I think after Things We Know, it's my personal favorite of all my works so far. The subject matter was really close to me, so I'm really grateful to those who reviewed and shared my passion:deangirl1, Von, Mandy, Phoebe (the line you cited is my favorite one too!), J.E. Apple, Star Mage 1, Rhesa and twinchaosblade. You guys are the best!
Anyway, without further ado, the latest offering. Note that there's flashbacks in the story which will be in italics. Thanks fo reading. C&C's always welcome!
" " "
Your Own Medicine
" " "
The idiot who said crime doesn't pay was just stating the stark-obvious; crime didn't pay, because doing good deeds didn't pay either, because apparently nothing paid.
Sam sighed, feeling weary, beaten-out, just bloody damn raw. His head hurt, his brain hurt, his damned heart hurt too.
The thing about hunting was that it was a thankless, thankless... he tried to think of a noun to substitute for 'job.' Jobs paid. Therefore hunting wasn't a job. Was it a chore? Too tame, like it was something as simple and mundane as washing dishes, which would have been a profoundly disproportionate analogy, unless washing dishes brought with it a constant risk of death by drowning (it didn't, at least, not usually).
His brows raised; he felt vaguely enlightened. Mission. Dean would like that. Mission is good. Hunting is a thankless... mission.
But still thankless, Sam decided, scowling down at his wallet as if it was the cause of all his miseries, at the multitude of fraudulent credit cards there. He picked one at random; it stopped mattering after awhile, as long as the damn thing worked.
Motion City Soundtrack was playing at a respectable volume level on the Impala's radio: 'I can figure out the point of anything, just not as quick as I can mess up my life...'
There was a nearby university somewhere, and the radio has been within range of the efforts of a young, amateurish deejay who made pretty decent choices. Alternative Pop-rock was something he picked up from college, along with a few other musical picks that involved wistful whining more than large hair and thoughts about big-breasted women. Dean didn't mind. Dean didn't give a damn about anything right now.
Sam sighed again. He was gonna be wiping his lungs off his face like snot from his nose at the rate he was going. Sigh, sigh, sigh.
Thankless goddamn mission.
He was cursing a lot. Dirty barracks-language he picked up from Dean along their road together, rather than from dad. His mouth must have been clean in college, right? He couldn't remember anymore.
He glanced disapprovingly at his brother, limbless on the passenger seat next to him. Dean was de-characterized, just devoid of... of life, in a sleep as deep as this. He looked like a stranger, almost, and Sam sometimes had to marvel at how much of who he was externally was carefully constructed.
He put a hand to his brother's neck. Dean's skin was bone-dry, tight, and undeniably hot. He didn't even stir at the touch.
"Damn it," Sam murmured at him, and it was just a steam-less curse, really, "You were getting better already."
The accused did not respond. The situation was apparently supposed to speak for itself. Dean's been ill for days, some sort of a flu that each of them got once in awhile on the road. Not the first, won't be the last. But it was most certainly the worst so far. Noisy whining about how their motel room was the coldest one ever had turned into lethal quiet as he succumbed first to violent shivers, and then the restlessness of oppressive, oppressive heat. Sleep offered no relief; he was irritable and uncomfortable, either too cold or too hot. He couldn't keep anything down, had resorted to throwing up bitter bile and air when he ran out of anything else. It was as if his body was battling itself.
The brothers were used to taking care of each other, but Sam had drawn the line at half a day of zero-nourishment and semi-consciousness, and when Dean's nails started to look dully purple-blue. He unceremoniously hauled Dean up to his feet – it was like expecting an overcooked strand of spaghetti to stand on its own – and blanket and all, dragged him to the car, drove him to the emergency room, put him in the hands of capable local doctors, and then sat with him as he slept through an IV round.
Dean's color improved, and he had been alert enough for the first time in days to not only realize where he was, but start whining about why he had to be taken to the hospital in the first place. That is, before promptly falling back asleep. Sam wished he had captured it on video; it was like the car going from zero to sixty in a breath. The scowl literally just vanished from his suddenly slack expression, no transition at all whatsoever.
Sam had smiled for the first time in days. Just before he went to the restroom, and overheard questions about how the brothers looked familiar and how their insurance would be coming into some serious scrutiny in the next, oh, two minutes. Zero to sixty too, how things could go from improving to impending doom.
He snatched a lab coat and a wheelchair, shoved his bewildered brother into it, IV drip and all, and then Dean-napped him out of there, to the car, to the open road, to as far as he dared to take them with his brother in as bad a shape as he was.
The IV, which he had meticulously arranged to hang from the rear-view mirror and still manage to efficiently cascade the medicine down to Dean, had been out for about three hours now, and Dean was back to looking like death warmed over and about to get colder again.
Thankless goddamn mission.
"I'm gonna get us a room," Sam announced.
" " "
The ridiculously efficient self-regulating body of Dean Winchester did not want anything, at all. Whatever Sam plied into him, he quickly and completely lost. Sip or glass, milk, water, Gatorade, soup... paced or continuous, staggered, timed, whatever. His body didn't want any of it, and it was going back out.
"Sam please," Dean breathed, and it was the first thing Dean said to him since they left the hospital. The consequent violent heaving following each and every effort at nourishment had to have been hellish, leading Sam to deduce that he must have meant Please stop.
Dean was a pale mess on the bed, lying loosely curled on his side, eyes closed, completely limp from exhaustion save for the spasming hands that pressed against his rolling stomach. One leg was off the bed, bare foot barely brushing the carpeted floor. It was a picture of abandoned intentions, from when he tried to get up to go to the bathroom, before Sam just mercifully shoved a trash can in his face. He was, apparently, too tired to get the limb back up the bed.
"Shut up, Dean," Sam admonished him, patiently, again, steam-less. He leaned over and lifted Dean's abandoned leg back up on the bed. Dean did the rest and shuffled his reclaimed leg, almost uncharacteristically shyly, deeper into the blankets.
Sam sat on the curved space between Dean's head and his pulled-up knees. He put a cool hand at the back of Dean's burning neck.
"You're not doing so well, bro," Sam said, "And the cops are too hot on our tail right now around here for me to get you professional help. So you gotta do better, okay? You gotta do better than this."
One eye peeled open, followed by the other. Hazy hazel, exhausted beyond belief, sick beyond bearing. His breath hitched, and his stomach spasmed, making him shut his eyes and gulp heavily, as if sheer thought of food and drink was making him ill again. But he nodded, jerkily, with conviction.
" " "
The mummy returns.
Dean was a mass of compresses; cold on his forehead, his neck, his arms, his legs; warm on his aching, abused stomach. Chips of ice Sam had managed to shove into him, but nothing else. The ice had been encouraging, so Sam up and decided to be ambitious and try for jell-o and apple juice. But Dean threw up all of that, and what little else of ice Sam managed to get into him before that was consequently lost also. Hell, he threw up so much he must have thrown up meals he hasn't eaten yet.
The violent heaving gave way to the infinitely more scary, exhausted, half-conscious choking. There was no strength at all, left in his older brother's movements. Sam did the turning and the lifting for him. If Sam could throw up for him, he would, but then life didn't quite work like that.
One more try, Sam decided, One more.
And if Dean went on the way he did, all threats of arrest and a life behind bars be damned, Dean was going to the hospital and that was that.
For the best maneuverability, Sam ditched the compresses, one by one. Dean woke up when the warming one on his stomach was taken away. He looked up at Sam questioningly.
"One more big shot, bro," Sam told him, grunting as he pulled Dean up against him. Dean, dissatisfied by the intimacy, growled in complaint, but helplessly leaned heavily against Sam's chest, his face pressed and disfigured by the contact. Sam reached behind Dean and fluffed his pillows, putting them up against the headboard, and depositing Dean to lean back against them. Dean glared at him hotly, before letting his eyes drift to the night table by his bed.
Where cups, bottles and bowls of chicken soup, Gatorade, hot chocolate, jell-o, pudding, mashed baby food, milk, oatmeal, malt meal substitutes, juices in all flavors, water and every other imaginable liquid and semi-liquid thing in the whole fucking universe sat in wait. For him.
His eyes widened, looking at Sam, comically fearfully.
"One of these has got to stay down, okay?" Sam told him determinedly, "Or your ass is headed back to the doc's. I think I'm giving you a fair shot, here, Dean. Deal?"
" " "
When Sam was a kid, he got fairly badly sick.
His skin was coming out with odd bruises, and sporadically his nose and gums would bleed. He was six, and Dean was ten. Dean was probably cold-gutted starting to think cancer, something he knew about because one of the ghosts dad had to put to rest a couple months back had died miserably of it.
Sam was asleep, so Dean shuffled to his father's room, anxiously wrung his over-sized band shirt in his small, wiry hands, and told his dad precisely why they had to take his little brother to the doctor's.
Even at aged 6, Sam had a unique perception of exactly where his older brother was. Dean awake and out of bed meant Sam was soon to follow. Follow he did, and though he could not have known what can-sir meant, Dean was scared and if Sam had it, then he he figured he should be damned scared too. He went back to bed, pulled up the covers over his head, and hid away from everything.
"Bad dream, Sammy?" Dean had asked, when he came back minutes later. He put a warm hand over the blanket resting on top of Sam's hair.
"Where were you?" Sam asked, more than mildly accusatory.
"Had to ask dad something," Dean said, "Go back to sleep, runt. Early day tomorrow."
A telling pause.
"We're going to the doctor's," Dean told him.
"'Cos I'm dying," Sam said, plaintively, "Like mom."
"Don't be ridiculous," Dean said with a light scoff. An almost-perfectly executed lie. But Sam recognized it, even then. And even then, knew not to call it out.
"We're both going," Dean said, "And we're both going to be fine."
At the very start of the very next day, and it was in afterthought, a testament to John's own concern for his children's well-being, the three Winchesters went to the hospital to get Sam checked out. And just to keep him calm, Dean was examined too, eating into what little money John had.
It hadn't been cancer, but a nutrition deficiency that could have gone to serious if Dean was less attentive. He started saving his brother's life at four years old after all; at ten, he's already had six years' experience. Sam just needed more vegetables and fruits, and that, they could work out too.
The food in the house started to get 'worse.' The yummy things they used to live on was giving way to healthier, yuckier things. John was as much of a gruff Marine about dietary improvements as he was about everything in their lives. Efficient, fuss-free: Eat it or get sick, take your pick.
Dean was deeply disappointed in himself for a time. He was the preparer of foods in the house, after all. He made Sam sick, didn't he? It's gone far beyond culinary slander, and broke into his capacity to look after his brother.
The first time their father left them to do another job in the next state and hence the first time he was to prepare a meal for Sammy since the doctor's diagnosis, he was nervous. Chopped up the vegetables so distractedly he nearly sliced a chunk off his finger. Sam watched him cook, standing on a foot stool and craning his neck.
"Whatcha doin'?" Sam asked.
Dean cut up four round slices of cucumbers, made them out to be roughly the exact same size. He punctured small neat holes at the center of each of them, and then set them aside. He grabbed a carrot, and meticulously cut up two short sticks of roughly the same length.
"Whatcha doin'?" Sam asked again, in the exact same tone, not losing patience, apparently, or the hope that he would be responded to.
"Sam," Dean explained, as he grabbed some celery and sliced them cleanly along the length, "You know how, in a car, every part that's put in there is important?"
"Yup," Sam replied, distracted and fascinated now as he watched Dean slip the carrot sticks into the holes on the cucumbers. They now looked like the wheels of a car. He put the strips of celery between the two sticks, and the entire contraption now looked like a wagon. Dean put the veggie-wagon on a plate, and then stabbed a leafy vegetable on a corner, like a flag. He grabbed some cheese sauce and put a nice coating of paint on the celery.
"Everything here is important," Dean told him, and he was bouncing in excitement by the time Dean gave him the colorful plate, "Okay? So you gotta eat em. Okay?"
Encouraged by the enthusiastic response, Dean smiled to himself and turned to work on another veggie-vehicle. A wagon is just no good. It had to be something cooler, like an approximation of the Impala. He bit his lip, worked a little, and then turned around with a tada! resting on his lips as he showed Sam his new creation.
Sam had cheese sauce all over his face and on the tips of his shaggy hair. He grinned at Dean endearingly. The vegetables were licked cheese-free and left forlorn on the plate.
"Aw, Sammy!" Dean moaned, "Didn't I tell you? Everything in the plate is important!"
" " "
"I can't," Dean whispered, the rasp sounding painful, as he licked his parched lips with his dry tongue. Exercise in fruitlessness, that.
Sam winced, "Then it's to the doctor's, okay? You can't go on like this, Dean. You can't just sleep this off, all right?"
"Gimme a few hours," Dean rasped.
"Nope," Sam said, determinedly, "I've given you as much time as you can possibly take. Your body's burning up 'cos you've lost so much water, your skin's dry, you're thirsty, you're not sweating, hell you're not even going to the bathroom anymore. This is bad, Dean. This is really bad. By all rights you should be in a fricking hospital."
" " "
Sam looked up at Dean from beneath the unruly, cheesy fringe of bangs, as the older Winchester darted from one end of the motel kitchen to the other, snatching up paper towels and wiping here and there, odd ends really where cheese had no rights being found in.
"You're sick, Sammy," Dean reasoned, "You hate being sick, right?"
"The vegetables will help get you better," Dean said, "Makes sense, right?"
"So you should eat them, right?"
Sam shook his head.
Dean's eyes went up to the ceiling. He counted from one to ten to calm himself.
"Why the hell not?!"
"I really tried Dean," Sam said, "But they're just so awful."
" " "
"Sam, I can't," Dean said, "I tried, okay? I just... I just need a little bit more time, okay? It just... it fucking hurts, all right?"
"Then we're headed to the hospital," Sam declared.
" " "
"If you don't eat it, I'm taking you to the hospital," Dean threatened.
Sam looked up at him, terrified and wide-eyed. "You wouldn't do that."
"Damned if I won't."
"Dad said you should stop cursing."
"But you're annoying."
"I'll tell him you cursed me."
"He won't bel—damn it," Dean muttered, "Sam! Eat the damn things or I will kick your ass."
" " "
"This won't kill me," Dean told him vehemently, breath hitching, "Drama queen. But toss me in a prison cell, and if the heat is on I can promise you that's," he gasped, wincing at a twinge in his stomach, "That's where we're headed, brother. You'll fucking kill me then."
Sam looked at him brokenly. Dean knew the right buttons to press. Sam was still treading water on this taking responsibility for his older brother thing.
"We'll try one more time," Sam compromised with a deep breath, "And then no matter what happens, I'll let you sleep it off, okay? If another three, four hours go by and I don't see improvement, then we go. Okay?"
" " "
"You're not gonna kick my ass," Sam said, without any doubts whatsoever.
Dean could have throttled that knowing-look away from his face. But they both knew what they both knew, and that was that. It was time to change tactics. Compromise, right? Compromise should be better than reasoning with a stubborn six-year-old or shelling out empty threats his too-perceptive kid brother knew to be empty.
"You eat half," Dean said, "And I'll eat half."
" " "
"I can't," Dean said, plainly.
"I'll start calling the Impala her," Sam offered in a reckless breath, making Dean smile a little. Did he show his hand too soon? That might not have been very wise.
" " "
"I can't," Sam said, plainly.
"I'll give you my black matchbox," Dean offered in a reckless breath, making Sam smile a little. Did he show his hand too soon? That might not have been very wise, especially since Sam's cheesy grin was widening with the prospect of how much further he can take this bribery. Dean shifted tactics before that alien-sharp brain can think of anything else.
"Sam, please," Dean implored him, disarmingly earnest, "Please. I get worried when you're sick, all right? So there."
" " "
"Dean, please," Sam implored him, eyes earnest and unyielding, "We gotta give this a shot, okay? I'm really worried here, man. I'm really worried now."
Dean blinked at him thoughtfully. Sam always knew he did the imploring, naked-face well, especially against Dean. Dean was such a mallow. So, so easy to melt. It was almost embarrassing sometimes, the ease by which Sam could get him to do things--
Dean's weary eyes watered, and damn it, he shouldn't be playing so unfairly. Dean didn't do tears, that was just that.
"I'm really, really tired, Sammy," Dean said, his voice lowering even more, "I'll try again, okay? I promise. I just... I can't right now."
Sam looked at him glumly. And then at the spread of food he painfully prepared. One more effort, right? Where begging didn't work, emotional blackmail almost always did the trick.
"But I tried so hard to put everything together," Sam said.
"Don't go there, brat," Dean warned him, wearily.
" " "
"And I tried so hard to make it look nice for you," Dean added, "Please, Sam. Huh? It's not so bad, I promise. It's good for you, and I'm betting you'll like it when you grow up too. Dad likes veggies, right?"
"But I eat them," Dean pointed out, "'Cos I know they're good for me."
Sam frowned, still looking unconvinced.
Dean sat beside him and grabbed his slimy fork. He stabbed it into a carrot slice and rolled it around in the cheese. Feeling like a complete idiot, he started making rumbling motor sounds, made the food turn somersaults in the air, before putting the food to an expectant stop before Sam's pursed, shaking lips.
"I'm grown up now, Dean!" Sam complained, as he burst into a surprised laugh. Dean looked like a dork, especially when his face turned all red.
" " "
Sam sighed again, in defeat.
"What do I have to do, huh, stupid jerk," he muttered, grabbing a spoon, recklessly scooping at the pasty baby food, before sarcastically making a half-hearted, profoundly dry, expressionless effort at a rumbling motor sound and making the food twist and turn in the air, before putting it to an expectant stop before Dean's pursed, shaking lips.
" " "
"Then act like one!" Dean retorted, embarrassed.
Sam grinned at him slyly, and swallowed the carrot on the proffered fork. Dean rolled his eyes back and left the fork with Sammy, who munched at the food thoughtfully.
" " "
Dean's eyes were alight with appreciative humor.
"You remember that, huh?" he asked, softly.
Sam jerked his head no, unwilling to indulge Dean, as he put the untouched spoon back down on the bowl.
"I thought," Dean said, gulping heavily again, "I thought I'd get you to like vegetables if it came in the shape of a car. You ended up hating cars instead."
"At least I took a bite of your crap," Sam pointed out. He was red-faced too, probably as embarrassed about his outburst as Dean had been when they were kids, and equally as out of options.
"I guess," Dean took a deep, fortifying breath, "I guess I can try."
Sam looked at him, grateful and expectant. "Okay."
October 26, 2008
The title Your Own Medicine is basically an allusion to the quote which goes something like, 'have a taste of your own medicine' which, I guess, I used it as a pun to twist the situation around, like in a nice little role-reversal between the brothers, and also in accordance with the medical/hurt-comfort theme of the fic.
I wrote this piece in a day, so I'm hoping the quality didn't suffer so much. I just needed an outlet because I'm totally mind-blocking on my other projects, haha. Underworld, Nightmare Things, One Week and a new one I'm working on, Dead Man Walking, which will be my one-shot take on the last straw that led Sam toward Stanford:
Summary:The law finally catches up with one of John Winchester's greatest friends, a fellow-hunter, who is placed on deathrow. Sam questions their thankless job more strongly, and inches away toward Stanford as he realizes the Dead man Walking resembles his older brother a little too much.
Anyway, thanks for reading. C&C's always welcome! 'Til the next post!