Train Kept a Rollin'
Summary: Dean just knows Sam will continue to fight the good fight and be okay after the hellhounds come for him. That is until he gets a wakeup call. Set during S3, sometime after Fresh Blood.
The staff bustled in and out of the room all night and all day. Dean didn't know how a guy was supposed to rest with all of the activity. Although the analgesics and muscle relaxants they were feeding Sam through his IV seemed to finally be working a little.
Sam was still far too pale and bruised. The initial disorientation had passed to some degree as Sam realized his big brother was really in the room with him. His constant cries for Dean had diminished and he'd even begun to ask about his injuries before he drifted off to sleep.
It was hard seeing his usually vibrant brother stretched out on the bed, immobile and in pain. Sam didn't complain but Dean was adept at reading his face. Like right now, Sam's jaw was clenched and deep grooves bracketed the sides of his mouth. Dean reached forward and hit the call button.
A pretty young blond thing entered the room. "What can I get for you?"
Sam's eyes were closed and he appeared to be resting but Dean knew better. "He's in pain. Isn't there something else you can give him?"
The nurse pulled the blanket back from Sam's foot and touched the exposed skin above the boot before touching his toes. She'd touch the skin and then take her hand away, carefully observing the skin.
She pulled a stethoscope out of her pocket and asked Dean, "How has he seemed to you when he's awake? Is the disorientation still a problem?"
Sam roused himself to answer her. "I can't seem to keep my eyes open but at least my brain isn't so scrambled anymore."
Although Sam's answer was accurate, the act of speaking left him out of breath. That was something new and Dean didn't like it. The nurse, Claudia, pushed Sam's top aside and applied the stethoscope to his chest before listening intently. "Take a deep breath for me. Hold it. Good. Do you feel any pain in your chest?"
The question was delivered as if it was an after-thought but Dean's antenna was up.
Sam motioned to the left side of his chest. "Maybe a little, right here."
Claudia moved around the bed so that she was on Sam's right side. She gently touched his wrist while staring at the clock on the wall. The same clock Dean had stared at while waiting for Sam to wake up. She followed that up by checking the various tubes leading into and out of Sam's body. She grabbed the chart hanging at the end of the bed and withdrew a pen from her pocket, making notations. "I need to check in with the doctor and then I'll be back with something for your discomfort."
Dean's thoughts were racing as Claudia left the room. "Hey Sam, I need to stretch my legs for a minute. I'll be right back."
Sam tried to smile but it was strained and both brothers knew it. Dean slipped out of the room and darted after the nurse.
Claudia was standing at the nurse's station, reviewing a chart. "Can I ask you a question?"
The blond woman looked at Dean with distrust. Maybe she thought his question was the prelude to hitting on her, and he had to admit she was pretty much his type, but all of his focus was on Sam right now. When she arched an eyebrow at him, he took that as assent. "What's going on with Sam?"
The look of doubt on the young nurse's face was replaced with unease. "I just paged the doctor. We'll know more after he's briefed on Sam's status."
Dean tamped down on his temper. "What about Sam's status? I know something is wrong."
Claudia withered under his stare. "The muscle spasms in Sam's leg have increased so I'm checking to see if the doctor wants to increase the dosage of muscle relaxants."
Dean crossed his arms and counted silently to ten. Except he only made it to five and then he lost control of his mouth, blurting out, "Listen, lady. Sam is the most important person in my life. I need to know what's going on here. Don't sugarcoat it, just give it to me straight."
The nurse shook her head. "You really need to talk to the doctor."
And then the phone rang claiming Claudia's attention. Dean was left reeling. He knew something was wrong.
Dean entered the room and was dismayed all over again as he saw Sam. Bruised and broken, Sam lay there, suffering in silence. "How ya doing Sammy?"
Sam tried to smile but it turned into a grimace. "I'm good, Dean. Don't worry about me."
Dean remained standing where he knew his brother would be able to see him. "But it's my job to worry. Your job is to relax and get better."
Sam sighed before lowering his eyes.
Dean moved over to his chair and tried to get comfortable. He watched as Sam winced and frowned. Dean would feel better if his brother was more vocal about his pain. This lying there, passive and quiet, was really gnawing at Dean. Sam should be fighting, not succumbing to the situation.
Claudia bustled into the room and hooked another bag to Sam's IV. "This should help with the discomfort. I'll be back in fifteen minutes to check on you but push the call button if you need me before then."
Dean held his tongue as the blond nurse left the room. Discomfort was breaking in new shoes. Or having a hangnail that caught on everything. His little brother did not have discomfort; Sam was in deep pain. Even if he wouldn't say the words, Dean could read him like a well worn book.
Without asking Dean caught Sam's right hand between his own and lightly chafed at the cold skin. Sam's breath hitched and his hand tensed before he submitted to Dean's touch. Dean wished he could do more to ease his brother's pain.
The nurse kept her word and returned before the fifteen minutes were up. For the last ten, Sam had pretty much been out of it. "Hi, Sam. Are you feeling any better?"
Sleepy eyes blinked open. "Better."
Dean had to lean in to hear Sam's response. His voice was soft and reedy. It sounded nothing like his usually strong, competent brother. The brother who didn't let anything slow him down. The brother who thought rolling the Impala into a busy intersection was a good idea, risking his life, even if it did save some kids.
Claudia smiled as though nothing was wrong. "A neurologist will be stopping by later. If you're cleared, the orthopedic surgeon will perform an open reduction and internal fixation of your hip."
Dean was stunned. It didn't seem to him like Sam was strong enough to withstand surgery. But he wasn't a doctor and he didn't even play one on TV. He hated having to rely on someone else. Especially about something as important as Sam's health.
He was just going to have to suck it up and deal; he didn't have a choice.
Sam woke up from the surgery groggy, nauseous and disoriented but Dean was able to placate him. Just the sound of Dean's voice seemed to do the trick. So he talked about Sam saving the busload of kids. He talked about Sam abusing the Impala. He even talked about their dad. Slowly Sam's head cleared and he became more lucid.
After spending the requisite amount of time in recovery, Sam was transferred to the orthopedic unit. The nurse explained Sam would be monitored for complications such as hemorrhagic shock, neurovascular impairment, and fat embolism which were a risk in patients with long bone fractures. The doctor ordered heparin to prevent DVT and PE.
Sam had never been poked and prodded to this degree before in his life and he was sick of it. His drainage site was constantly checked, complete with on-going commentary about the color of the pus. His intake and output were monitored with obsessive thoroughness; he received a pat on the head when his catheter held a good amount of urine – which was disgusting – and when he didn't eat the lime jello, soggy mashed potatoes and mystery meat to the nurses' satisfaction, he was excoriated. The vampires came in like clock-work to steal viles of his blood and when he'd complained, Dean's only response had been to suck it up because that was the price heroes who saved busloads of children had to pay.
The worst part was the meds. They made him dizzy and sometimes caused double vision. The nurses clucked with concern but still made him get up and use the walker, extolling the virtues of ambulation. At least he was off the self-controlled analgesia pump. Self-controlled, that had been a crock. If he so much as frowned Dean leaned over and administered a dose.
Sam was sick of the hospital and wanted out.
"Look who's up! It's sleepy. No, make that dopey. That face right there? That would be grumpy. Better change that expression or your face will freeze that way." Dean laughed at his juvenile humor and Sam prayed his brother wouldn't move on to his R-Rated version of the Seven Dwarfs next.
Dean's attempts at levity were thinning and Sam worked hard to suppress his groan. Of course he was grumpy. He was stuck in the hospital at the mercy of a bunch of sadists, his brother included.
"When are we leaving?" Sam had asked this question daily since he'd woken up from his surgery and stopped puking. Four days ago.
Four days that he could have been looking for a way out of the damn deal.
The humor bled out of Dean's face and he crossed his arms. "Doc says he'll discharge you in the morning. I talked to Bobby and he said we can stay with him until you get back on your feet, no pun intended." The smirk resurfaced on his brother's face for a moment before he turned serious again, the skin pulling taut between his green eyes. "But you're going to have to listen to me, do what I say and take the damn meds."
Sam couldn't believe it. He was getting out of here. Finally. "Yeah, sure, whatever. When do we leave?"
One of Dean's natural toothy smiles appeared; not the practiced one he used on marks or chicks he was trying to score, it was the one that made him look years younger, like a kid. "Despite your best efforts, the Impala is road ready. There's still some cosmetic damage but it should get us to Bobby's. It's going to take pretty much the whole day to get there – we're going to have to stop so you can stretch those freakishly long limbs – but tomorrow by this time we'll be in Sioux Falls."
He wasn't looking forward to be cooped up in the car all day but getting to Bobby's and his impressive library was incentive enough. He'd take the damn meds everyone kept shoving on him, just until they got to South Dakota. Then he needed to have a clear head.
He could withstand Dean's mother hen routine another day. It drove him crazy but Sam didn't think he was strong enough to go back to the way things were before the train, when Dean was hell bent on getting Sam ready for life AD – After Dean.
Dean had almost worn out his welcome at Bobby's and they hadn't even been there for two hours. He was so keyed up from playing nursemaid for the last week that he couldn't settle down now that he had a spare moment to call his own.
Sam was upstairs in Bobby's room, sleeping. Good ole Uncle Bobby had graciously given up his room so Sam would have space to spread his large, healing body.
Bobby was at his desk, knee-deep in reading material for a future hunt. He'd insisted Dean go out for awhile, muttering something about Dean being as quiet as a herd of elephants.
Despite his misgivings – Sam was due for another round of meds in about an hour – he succumbed to Bobby's request. He didn't want Bobby to revoke his invitation to let them stay with him all because Dean couldn't settle down.
After setting the pills out for Sam and securing Bobby's promise that he'd give them to the recovering Winchester in an hour's time, Dean headed into town. He thought a beer and some pool were just what the doctor ordered.
Only once he was at Shooter's he couldn't settle into a rhythm and the beer tasted flat. When a hot girl started hitting on him and he couldn't work up any enthusiasm, he figured it was time to head back to Bobby's. Call him sentimental but he didn't like being away from Sam even though he knew his brother was on the mend.
Dean let himself into the house and found Bobby in the same position he had been in before he left, hunched over a book while taking notes in hand writing that would embarrass a doctor. "Hey, Bobby. Sammy behave for you?"
Bobby stopped marking up his legal pad and looked up at Dean. "Yep. I gave him the pills an hour after you left and then left him alone because he said he wanted to sleep. You should try it some time, it might mellow your disposition."
He aimed a crooked smile at Bobby. "Oh, you love me just the way I am. Tell me, did you watch Sammy swallow the pills down?"
Something was nagging at Dean. Sam never wanted to take the meds; he said they made him too loopy or too dizzy or too something. The kid always had an excuse.
The older man took his baseball cap off and scratched the thinning hair. "No, I didn't watch him. Didn't know I was supposed to."
Dean's anxiety unfurled and sank to this gut. After a day of riding in the car, Sam needed the muscle relaxants otherwise he'd be plagued with spasms.
Maybe he was wrong. Maybe Sam had taken the pills.
Dean took the stairs three at a time. With a little luck Sam would still be sleeping instead of in distress from over tired and abused muscles. He cursed as he saw a light spilling out from beneath the closed door where Sam was supposed to be resting.
Opening the door, his stomach clenched as he saw Sam sitting up in bed, his left hand massaging his left calf muscle while his right hand kneaded the left side of his neck. It didn't look natural, a man Sam's size contorted like a misshapen pretzel. And his sibling's face, a pale mask of agony, bore that out.
Next to the bed on the ratty, banged up nightstand stood the glass of water, one yellow pill and one blue pill keeping it company.
He sighed heavily. Dean hated being right sometimes but he sure knew his brother; damn idiot had decided he didn't need the meds. When would Sam learn that big brother knew best?
Dean snatched up the pills and water and rushed to Sam's side, sinking down next to his brother's repaired hip. "Here, muscle relaxant and pain pill. No argument, Sam, now is not the time to play tough guy."
Sam silently took the pills and swallowed them down noisily with some water. A trickle of liquid spilled from the corner of Sam's mouth, a sign that his usually neat freak brother was in extreme distress. Dean took the glass out of Sam's shaking hand and set it down on the nightstand before confronting Sam about his pain. "Where does it hurt the most?"
Dean didn't think Sam was going to answer, he remained silent for so long, and then he hitched a breath and answered. "My left calf muscle was on fire but I think I massaged it out. It's my neck and shoulder…they locked up on me."
And unspoken was that they hurt like a bitch. Dean put a hand on each of Sam's shoulders and began kneading them. Sam hissed out a small gasp but didn't pull away. Progress. "Come on, Sammy, just relax. Breathe through it. That's it."
It took a good five minutes of hard massaging that made Dean's hands ache but he could feel the tension unwind from Sam's shoulders in small increments.
He leaned forward and drew Sam closer until he leaned lightly against Dean's chest. Dean's left hand steadied Sam's right shoulder as his free hand ran down to the middle of Sam's back. The muscles were uncomfortably bunched there and Dean worked at loosening the knots he found.
Dean glanced at Sam's face and although still very pale, the lines that bespoke of intense pain had smoothed out a bit.
Sam was fiercely independent, had always been that way, and Dean took it as a measure of Sam's trust that he allowed Dean to help him here. Of course if Dean had really wanted to help his brother he would have stayed at Bobby's and given him the meds on time, making sure he swallowed them down. He knew muscle spasms were a probable outcome of their long day in the car and he should have guessed his equally hard headed brother would find an excuse not to take them.
Sam's breathing, fraught with hitches and gasps when he first entered the room, had smoothed out to a gentle, even tempo. Another sign that Sam's discomfort had abated.
Dean reached around his brother who was still sitting upright but leaning forward into his chest, and worked the tight lower back area. Even though Sam's hip had sustained the most damage, the accident had really done a number on his back, too. Sam's t-shirt had ridden up a little and Dean's fingers ghosted over the scar, proof that Cold Oaks hadn't just been some nightmare.
Dean couldn't contemplate the thought of losing his brother and he ordered his mind to concentrate on the array of Sam's spasming muscle groups. He was concentrating so hard on rubbing the kinks out of his sibling's distressed body that he almost missed the moment when Sam went from holding himself upright, albeit resting against Dean's chest, to slumping over Dean's shoulder.
Dean stilled his rubbing to catch Sam before he could topple over. He carefully pulled back while supporting Sam to get a good look at his brother.
Lips gently parted, eyelids sweeping over pale cheeks…there was no mistaking his brother was out for the count. The medicine had finally kicked in; Sam was sleeping in an upright position, oblivious to anything else.
Chuckling under his breath, Dean shifted Sam back into his arms. When Sam was a child he used to go, go, go until he passed out. Dean never knew where, or how, he would find him. Sitting on the floor, blocks half stacked around him, eyes closed. Sprawled on the couch, book overhead, snoring lightly. The kid had even fallen asleep standing out in the rain while on a hunt once.
Needing the contact, the knowledge, that Sam was still living and breathing, Dean resumed the back rub. It was an unorthodox position, with the way Sam's right arm and head were draped over Dean's left shoulder, but Dean made it work.
Dean absently stroked his hand down Sam's back as his mind wandered.
Sam had almost succeeded in nullifying the contract Dean had with the Crossroads Demon by dying first.
It was unimaginable. Untenable. Unforgiveable.
And his previous thoughts of Sam carrying on without Dean no longer seemed like an option. Sam needed him. And although there were people, good people, who cared about Sam, no one could take care of him as well as Dean. After all, Dean had a lifetime of experience in that task.
Dean's reverie was interrupted when Bobby knocked at the door. It should have been embarrassing, Sam all sprawled in Dean's arms while Dean petted him, but Dean found he didn't care. He was taking care of his brother. What could be more important than that?
Bobby cleared his voice. "He okay?"
Dean didn't turn his head, kept right on holding Sam in his arms, before he answered. "Muscle spasms. He'll be okay now. Hey, Bobby, I think we need your help."
Bobby trudged inside the room and stood near the head of the bed so he could meet Dean's eyes over the back of a slumbering Sam. "Shoot, boy. You name it."
Dean knew Bobby would do anything for them, had proven it time and time again, but this request was something special. He noticed the tension around Bobby's eyes and figured the old family friend probably thought he was going to make him promise to care for Sam when he was gone. It had certainly been on his mind to do so in the past. But that wasn't it. And he wasn't ready for any deathbed confessions either.
"I don't want to stand in your way anymore. I can't be involved, if I am Sam will die, but there has to be a way. Maybe ask Blondie for help. Sam said she talked to him about it before. I don't think she can be trusted but I can't…there has to be a way to salvage this."
Bobby's eyes crinkled at the corners and his tobacco stained teeth were exposed as a wide grin split his face. "It's about damn time."
A strong hand clasped his shoulder before he was left alone with his thoughts. And with his baby brother. Someone who was worth fighting for and who needed looking after like no other person Dean had ever met.
Sam needed him.
A/N 2: I started writing fic for the first time ever two years ago and each October, I like to stop and say thanks to those who have helped me along the way. My first mentors were Geminigrl11 who taught me to post and Faye Dartmouth who was not only my first beta but is now one of my best friends. Gidgetgal9 is stuck with me, too (thanks for the most excellent beta on this fic!). I've also been fortunate enough to have help on my stories from Annonie, Carocali, Floralia and BlueEyedDemonLiz. Each and every one of these writers has taught me something about writing, and being a friend…thank you!