Disclaimer: Supernatural belongs to Kripke and the WB/CW, I'm just playing with 'em
Spoilers: Up to Season 3 (no specific spoilers, just Dean's deal)
Rating: PG for some bad language
Characters: Dean, Sam, John
Summary: Four times Dean wasn't hungry (and one time he was)

By Selene_13

FOUR TIMES DEAN WASN'T HUNGRY (AND ONE TIME HE WAS)

1. At Five

"Come on, bud, you have to eat. Open up." John held the forkful of mashed potatoes before his five year old son's mouth. Stubbornly, Dean pushed his mouth tightly shut and looked away, shaking his head "no".

John let out a frustrated sigh. Sammy had finished his dinner over fifteen minutes ago, but Dean had still been staring at his, refusing to take a single bite. Finally, John had tried to coax the food down Dean's throat, insisting he had to eat something, but Dean turned his head at every offering.

"What is it, Deano? Not feeling so good?" John asked gently, giving his son the once over. He felt Dean's forehead, which didn't feel warm.

He decided to try a different tract. "Dean, if you don't eat your dinner you can go straight to bed and forget about any cartoons or the playground in the morning. Boys who don't eat are sick and belong in bed."

Dean looked up at him, eyes shining. John steeled himself. "Open up," he ordered, putting the fork before Dean's mouth.

Dean took the bite, chewed reluctantly, and swallowed.

"There, that wasn't so hard," said John, satisfied.

Then Dean leaned over and threw up all over himself, John's pants and John's boots.

For a moment John couldn't breathe, because it looked like his son had just vomited liquid blood all over him and the floor. Then he slowly realized that the mess wasn't so much red as it was strawberry pink, and Dean looked miserable but not like he was dying. And John made the connection.

"Dean, did you take the tub of strawberry ice cream from the freezer?"

Dean cast his eyes downward, rubbing at his mouth and looking incredibly guilty.

"Dean, look at me," John said sternly, ignoring the mess. He'd seen much worse on any drunken weekend bender when he was in the service. His son's watery eyes lifted to look him in the face. "Did you eat the whole thing?"

Dean sort of shrugged, then nodded slowly.

"The whole tub," John said incredulously. "A gallon of ice cream."

Dean's lower lip wobbled. He nodded yes again.

John sighed. "So I guess you feel better now you got rid of all of that, eh?"

Dean, looking surprised and thereby forgetting about the impending tears, nodded again.

"Let's get us cleaned up, then." John lifted up his son, grimacing as Dean put his arms around him and smeared them both with the hot pink puke. That was the last time he was buying the big budget tubs of ice cream. "I hope you learned your lesson."

The next week, Dean stuffed himself with over half an apple pie and got sick in Jim's ferns.

2. At Sixteen

Dean followed the woodland path with stealth, his training allowing him to move as noiselessly as was humanly possible. His eyes trained on the shadows between the trees around him; his gun was cocked and ready in his hand. His dad was following the western trail and they'd meet in the middle of the woods where the paths crossed. They'd deduced the werewolf's regular hunting ground to be nearer to John's trail, but Dean was ready and revved, eager to meet the motherfucker. He'd turned sixteen last month, and this was the first hunt where he wasn't ordered to stay at his father's back and play defence, but was actually sent into the field: His own man in a two person hunt. He wanted to repay the trust; show his worth. The gun felt like an extension of his hand.

So far it been deadly quiet, the full moon and the clear sky making it the perfect night to go wolf-hunting. It wouldn't be sneaking up on them in the dark.

The quiet woodland lull was broken by a distant shot. The unearthly howl that followed made his arms quiver and his trigger finger twitch. Another two shots sounded, then a faint yell from his father, warning him the beast was still on the loose. His focus snapped knife-sharp. He raised the gun and ran as fast as he could through the brush towards the origin of John's shout, snapping branches aside with his free hand. As he broke the tree line into a small clearing, he tripped on something lying just beyond the shrubs and couldn't keep his balance. He went down hard, knees, hands and chin scraping the ground, but he hadn't let go of the gun. He rolled over and whipped the weapon in the direction of whatever had tripped him up.

A dead girl was sprawled in the high grass, eyes staring emptily at the sky. Despite being bathed in her own blood, he knew her instantly. Jennifer Shaw, one of the kids who'd actually been nice to him when he'd joined the local High. She wore low-cut sweaters and painted her eyes black. He'd noticed the way she'd been looking at him, had shown her he'd noticed her noticing him. He'd planned asking her out; have some fries, see a movie, screw her in the back of the Impala. He'd had it all figured out.

She'd not be doing any more screwing now. Her face and shoulders were scratched up and still glistening with blood, her T-shirt was shredded around her torso. Her belly was ripped wide open, guts running yards outside the bloody hole like muddy rope. Her glassy eyes and mouth were wide with the fear of the final moments. The wolf must have been starting in on her when it had picked up John's scent.

"Jesus Christ," Dean muttered, hearing the rustling of something large approaching him from the right, almost unable to remove his eyes from the gruesome sight at his feet. Large padded paws loped right towards him, almost upon him now. He forced his gaze from the dead girl and raised the gun. In the distance he could hear his father shouting, but the words were just noise, too far off to decipher. He knew what it meant though. Here came the wolf.

With a snarl the lycanthrope leapt from the tree line on the other side of the clearing. It didn't pause when it jumped clear, wasn't surprised at the sight of Dean. It'd smelled him and John a mile off. Two, three leaps and Dean could see the lather of blood and guts on the creature's muzzle. One more jump and it would be on him, intending to tear him apart as it had Jennifer and the others before her.

He never faltered; stood his ground and shot the wolf, straight and true, between the eyes with the silver round. There wasn't even a yelp as the wolf went down. It rolled over in its momentum, pushed up leaves and dry grass, and came to halt right before Dean's feet.

Breathing hard, Dean pushed its head back over with his sneaker, making sure it was dead even though he knew his bullet had hit dead center. As the wolf's head rolled, the body morphed into human form, losing the fur, the fangs, tail and claws. In its place laid a man in his early thirties, the bullet hole leaking a dribble of blood down his nose. Coach Crawford. Jesus. Sammy's soccer coach.

Dean stepped back and lowered the gun. He stood on Jennifer's hand and almost fell in his haste to get off. The two corpses laid almost side by side, feet to head, the killer and the kill. The guy didn't look so dangerous now, but there was still guts around his mouth. Dean took five steps back into the trees, then vomited up everything he'd had for dinner. Heaving, he thought that his guts wanted to make a surprise appearance too. The thought made him gag on bile. It took long moments before he could finally spit and wipe his mouth.

Heavy footfalls and the snapping of branches told him his father was nearing. Only now did he realise John was calling his name, probably had been since he lost sight of the wolf and Dean's single shot had rung.

"Dad," Dean rasped, his throat raw. He cleared it and called again. He walked back into the clearing seconds before John broke through.

"Dean!" John halted, took in the sight of his son – verified first that he was whole and unhurt – then looked at the corpses on the ground. "Jesus," John breathed. He grimaced as he processed the state of the girl. "What the hell was she doing here? Damn, he tore her apart." He squinted at the dead man. "Don't we know him?"

"Sammy's coach," Dean said, still sickened. He'd dropped Sammy off at the field just that afternoon. With a fucking werewolf. Sammy'd really liked him too. Talked about soccer practice and matches all the time, the coach getting them ready to win the local tournament. Fucking hell. Dean felt like puking some more, but he was too freaking empty.

"We have to burn it," John said, ever practical, bending to grab the coach's legs. He dragged the body to the middle of the clearing, dropped him without ceremony. He looked at the guy's face then turned to Dean.

"Bull's-eye," said John. "Couldn't have done it better myself."

"Thanks," said Dean, standing straighter at the praise. He could do it again. He knew he could. But he'd be seeing dead girls and werewolves circling his brother for a while.

They burned the body and left the girl as she was. John placed an anonymous call with the cops from a payphone near a scummy bar. The girl's death would probably be blamed on an animal attack; at least the parents would get to know their daughter's fate, however gruesome it was. Then John went into the bar and brought out two beers. He chugged back one himself and handed the other to Dean, clinking his bottle against his. Dean accepted it without comment, tossed back the bitter liquid and was happy to wash away the foul taste in his mouth and the scent of burned flesh that seemed to cling to his clothes and hair. The beer fell heavy on his empty stomach.

Sam was sitting in front of the television when they got home. It was way past his bedtime, but John didn't say a word.

"Is it dead? Did you get it?" Sam asked, sitting up.

"We got it," Dad said. "All taken care of."

"How'd you do?" Sam asked Dean.

Dean shrugged, but Dad clapped him on the back. "Nailed the sucker," Dad said, grinning grimly. Then he turned to Dean and looked him in the eye. "Learned why the bastards need killing too, right Dean?"

"Yeah," was all Dean knew to say. He thought of how he'd checked out Jennifer's curvy figure in class, seated right behind her. Remembered now that he'd seen her at the practise field when he'd picked Sammy up that afternoon. Wondered if she'd been seeing the coach; thought how her dead eyes had stared. Of Sammy running over to greet the coach.

"I ordered pizza," Sam said, pointing at the table where an extra large pepperoni pizza, missing about a quarter, lay cooling in its grease. Dean took one look at it and his stomach turned. He brushed past his father and walked into the bathroom, calmly locking the door behind him. He dropped to his knees before the toilet, but for the moment his churning stomach stayed where it belonged. He could hear Sam and Dad talking.

"What's up with Dean?" Sam asked, worry edging the question.

"He's all right," said John. His voice rumbling through the closed door. "Just not hungry. I'm not so hungry myself. Why don't you put that in the fridge?"

"I hate cold pizza for breakfast," muttered Sam, but Dean heard the fridge open.

"Sam, we have to talk about soccer practice," John said.

"Soccer? What? Why?" Sam sounded surprised. "We're in the finals! … We're moving again, aren't we?" came the baleful voice of his little brother.

Dean's stomach turned over just as the argument broke out in the other room.

"It's not fair," Sam whispered angrily to Dean after they were both in bed. "I really liked it here. What am I gonna tell the coach?"

Dean swallowed. He didn't have any breakfast that morning either.

3. Route 666

There was a loud bang, and John was upright in bed with a cocked gun before his brain even caught on to the fact that he was awake. It took a moment and several blinks to realise that it was Dean standing in the doorway, hanging from the door to keep from falling on his face.

"Dean." John jumped from the bed and was at his son's side in two strides. "You hurt?"

The smell of whiskey answered him before his son did. Dean swayed forward, the door swinging open again against the wall, recreating the noise that had woken John, while Dean hung on for dear life.

"Goddammit, Dean," John cursed, grabbing his son by his upper arms and dragging him loose from the door. Dean fell against him, limp like a noodle. John hoisted him over to his bed and tossed him on it. Dean bounced, moaned, then went slack, breathing heavily through an open mouth.

John watched him, trying to hold back the rage he felt building inside. He'd taught Dean better than this, to never let his guard down, to always be at full capacity, but saying anything now would fall on deaf ears. He had no doubt that Dean wouldn't even remember coming home in the morning. He placed a trashcan conveniently next to his son's bed, then made sure he was lying in a safe position so he'd be able to breathe properly, would be able to puke if he needed to and not asphyxiate, then dropped back on his own bed. He raked his fingers through his hair. His anger kept him awake most of the night.

The next morning Dean woke with what looked like the mother of all hangovers. He sat wincing through John's half-hour tirade about his goddamned, moronic, stupid ass, then spent another half-hour trying to drown himself in the shower and popping aspirine. They stopped at the local diner for breakfast, the car packed up and ready to go.

John had the toast with eggs, sausage and bacon. Dean declined food and nursed his coffee, but seemed to be smelling the hot drink more than actually imbibing any.

They'd been in Cape Girardieu, Missouri for four months, and John had located them another hunt the day before yesterday. Usually, Dean was happy to move from one hunt to the next, ready to face a new challenge, but he'd been quiet and carefully blank when John had dropped the news earlier. He'd left, John had assumed to visit the girl he'd been spending most of his time with lately, and hadn't been home until his midnight performance.

It didn't take a genius to figure out why Dean had acted the way he had, though it was the first time that John had ever had to face this problem with his eldest.

He cleared his throat and looked at his boy. "You'll meet another girl, Dean. Hell, you seem to meet 'em all the time."

Dean didn't look up from his coffee. He shrugged a shoulder.

"You know what's at stake," John continued. "People are dying. They need our help."

"Yeah," said Dean. "I know, Dad. It's okay, all right?"

"I'm just telling you with what we do, you've got to be focused. And we got to be able to move around. It doesn't work any other way."

Dean grimaced and pushed his coffee away. "I get all that okay?" he said sharply. "It was over anyway." He pushed back from the table and stood. "I'll be outside."

Dean pushed through the door, walked up to the Impala and leaned against her side. From his pocket he fished out his cell. He scrolled down to his brother's name, then stood staring at it, his finger hovering over the call button.

He'd loved being with Cassie, had loved filling the empty, gaping hole that Sam had left behind. But he hadn't been enough in the end, his life too screwed up for her. Now there were two holes where there'd once been one.

It hurt like hell, and he wanted so much to hear Sam's voice right now, to fill up one hole. But he hadn't been enough for him either. He dropped the cell back in his pocket.

4. Faith

Sam had set the alarm for seven, but he'd been up and ready to go since five. He'd spent his time behind the computer, verifying the route, double checking his facts. Mostly, he wanted Dean to sleep as long as he could.

When Dean had arrived at the motel the previous night, he'd barely been able to walk to the chair, holding on to the furniture as he moved through the room. He'd listened to Sam, had agreed with quiet resignation to go to see the specialist, then proceeded to nod off in the very chair as if it wasn't only eight in the evening. Sam had to practically carry him to his bed, and Dean had been too out of it to protest. At the offer of food, he'd declined, muttering he'd had his dinner in the hospital like a good little patient. Sam wasn't so sure, but let it go. Dean had looked like he needed the rest more than he did the food.

When the alarm rung seven, he got up to turn it off, expecting the sound to wake Dean. Instead, his brother barely stirred. Eleven hours of unbroken sleep, and it seemed Dean's battered body would be happy to have some more.

Sam bit his lip, then crouched down next to his brother. He gently shook his arm. "Dean," he called. "Wake up. It's time to go."

No reaction.

"Dean," Sam tried again, shaking consecutively harder. "Dean. Wake up. Dean!"

"Nnngghh," Dean grunted eventually, burying deeper in his blankets.

"Come on, big brother, rise and shine," Sam said, pulling the blankets off. "We're leaving for Nebraska, remember?"

"C'mon Sammy," Dean protested, his eyes still closed and hands feebly grabbing at the blankets. "Lemmelone."

"Come on, Dean. We gotta go."

Dean opened one disgruntled eye to stare at Sam. "'m Tired," he said plainly.

"I know. You can rest in the car. But we have to get going," Sam explained.

Closing the eye again, Dean nodded his consent. Sam stood and waited to see if his brother needed any help getting up. Instead, Dean's breathing evened out.

Sam leaned over, grabbed Dean's arm and pulled him in an upright position. "Dean! Come on! We're going."

Dean breathed in deeply and blinked his eyes open, clearly fighting to keep them from falling shut again. Fuzzily, he pushed Sam off his arm. "Dude, get off," he grumbled, pulling the blanket back around himself as the cool morning air made him shiver. "I'm up."

"Do you want to shower before we go?" Sam asked, satisfied as Dean seemed fine sitting upright on his own.

"Huh? Yeah," Dean nodded, pushing his legs off the bed then sitting on the side.

"Let me get it ready for you," Sam offered. He stood and headed into the bathroom before Dean could bitch about needing no help with taking a fucking shower. He could feel his brother's eyes boring into his back nonetheless.

Sam ran the water to a perfect temperature and laid out the shampoo. He put the towel on the edge of the tub and grabbed Dean's toothbrush and paste from his kit. Laying everything out in preparation, he walked back into the room.

Dean was back on his side, blanket wrapped tight around him, fast asleep.

In the end Sam decided against showers and basic hygiene. He forced his sleep-drunken brother into several layers of clothes then dragged him blanket and all into the car. He took one of the pillows too. He figured that the motel gods owed them anyway. Combined, his family had probably put several motel-offspring through college.

No sooner had Dean's head hit the window or his eyes were drooping shut again. Sam placed the pillow between Dean's head and the door, then started the car. He bit his nails while driving. His brother's extreme lethargy was starting to frighten him. But the doctors had said every activity would wear his brother out, that Dean'd be tired all the time, that his heart couldn't take any strain. Sam's eyes filled with tears, and he blinked hard to be able to see the road. At that moment he was thankful his brother wasn't awake to see it.

Dean slept through breakfast and when he woke up he refused the muffin Sam had brought him. They sat in a little diner off the freeway for lunch where Sam ordered club sandwiches and where Dean poked at his, not eating a single bite. He didn't even touch his coffee. Sam drove long into the evening, wanting to get as close to Nebraska as he could; wanting to finish the drive by tomorrow and be in time for the afternoon's session.

That night in the motel he begged Dean to eat some of the rice and chicken he'd ordered from the local Chinese place. Dean claimed he didn't feel like having any. His pinched features, sunken eyes and pasty face betrayed how rotten he was feeling. Even turning on the puppy eyes couldn't sway Dean to take a bite.

"I swear, Sam, if you don't take that food out of my face right now I will ram yours into it," Dean threatened, his fierceness belied by his trembling hands. "I. Am. Not. Hungry."

"Okay, okay," Sam capitulated, dropping his own fork. He really wasn't hungry either.

Dean fell asleep watching the first five minutes of a Seinfeld rerun, after having been awake for about five hours that day.

Sam sat at the desk watching his brother sleep for a long time before he finally got into his own bed.

Dean was healed the next day and was back to his six hours of sleep a night. It took longer for his appetite to return.

5. The End

It's just as awesome as he thought it would be. It's enormous; vast and deep. Sam and he are tiny compared to the ecological monstrosity, with their puny little troubles, their tiny little bodies and a lifespan that is served in the blink of an eye. Yet he's never felt so whole and alive, practically vibrating with it, his brother's shoulder touching his. With the sunshine on their backs, they watch the shadows move across the canyon until the sun has set.

When it's too dark to see they drive to the nearest motel and check in. They order in Chinese. Sam lets Dean order whatever and how much he wants and never complains about what his brother is putting his body through. Dean will never tell but he misses the complaints. Sam spends the evening and most of the night on the phone, and when it gets late, on the computer. Dean sleeps to the background sound of his brother typing and scrolling. When Sam finally crashes into bed at four thirty, Dean wakes. He listens to his brother settling, sniffling, and eventually falling asleep. He waits a little longer, then gets up, puts on his jeans and leaves Sam a note:

Out for a drive. Will bring breakfast.
~Tenacious D

He drives his baby back to the canyon. He sits on the hood and watches the sky change colour as the sun rises. First dark-blue, then orange and pink pastels, until the main event red and bright and white-hot. He stays until the sun has cleared the horizon by an hour, watching the canyon rise from the darkness. If he wipes at his eyes, there's no one there to tell.

He drives into town and finds a homely bakery, the likes of which he and Sam never visit. He buys croissants and French bread, sesame bagels with honey-walnut creamcheese, onion bagels with spiced ham and cheese; chocolate, rum butter and banana nut muffins, two pieces of strawberry cheesecake and two pieces of apple pie with whipped cream. He gets an extra large steaming black coffee and an extra large latte for Sam, and two cups of freshly squeezed orange juice. He stops at a little market and buys Sam all his favourite sugar snacks and potato chips for himself, cokes and beers. He gets everything they like then heads back to the motel.

"Rise and shine, little brother," he crows when he steps through the door. "I've got breakfast and I'm starving!"

He hears the hounds the first time that night. There's one week to go.

END