Of Obligations and Desperation
Sam slept away the days and nights, mostly unaware that two sets of worried eyes watched over him. Dean changed his bandages daily, checking for infection and cleaning carefully round the stitches. Though Bobby took on cooking duties gladly, it was Dean's job to gently shake his little brother awake at meal times, feed him like a baby since he was still too weak to feed himself, and generally keep him clean and change his clothes. Fluids and nutrients weren't a problem; Sam was on an IV drip twenty four-seven from the moment they got him back to the yard, until he was able to eat a full meal by himself.
"Here ya go Sam," Dean held out a soupspoon of chicken broth and kept in a worried sigh when Sam just stared at him in bewilderment through half closed eyes. His mouth was slack enough to just nudge the spoon between his lips and let him sip at it slowly, some of it spilling over onto his shirt.
"Sorrrrryyy..." Sam slurred out, watery eyes looking up at him so full of sorrow that Dean had to blink back a few tears.
Dean just smiled back warmly. "Nothing to be sorry for Sammy." He muttered soothingly, grabbing a napkin and mopping up the mess. "Just you let me worry about it ok?"
Swallowing wasn't always easy, which was why the kid was half lying, half sitting in his older brother arms on the bed, Dean's long arm stretching up his back and hand supporting his head. It was comfortable enough that Sam could feed without too much effort but safe enough that Dean could push him upright and over should he choke.
It took nigh on a week before the sedatives showed signs of clearing from his system, and he gradually became more lucid. Dean and Bobby felt themselves beginning to relax a little during that time since Sam was able to communicate better.
Sam's injured arms were a real hindrance for the poor kid. He could barely lift or move them without pain, needed assistance with every simple task, up to and including help to pee. Not that he suffered with much embarrassment the first few times, he was so out of it. But as the drugs wore off Dean would spot a red faced Sam shuffling carefully along to the bathroom, one hand braced against the wall for balance, and without a single word he was there to assist, not even taking the opportunity to tease him over it.
Sam's frustration became apparent whenever he knocked himself clumsily on doorframes and furniture, stifling a painful cry by biting down on his bottom lip. But the absolute worst side effect of the drugs far as Sam was concerned were the bouts of depression. Shoulders slumped, tears running down his face, Sam never cried openly or loudly as such, preferring to suffer in silence and privacy, even more embarrassed by his tears than his brother helping him in the bathroom. But Dean sought him out every time, refusing to be more than a few feet from his little brother, and never allowing him out of his sight for long. The depression was clearly wearing him down and he could often be found just staring off into the distance, eyes dark with fear and sadness, until Dean's strong arms went round him, holding him tight and never uttering a word about it.
"Bobby," Dean murmured softly one morning and gestured towards his younger brother as he trudged dejectedly from the kitchen and headed out to sit on the porch swing. "You sure that's just the sedatives? I'm worried about him. He just seems so..." he waved a hand, unable to find the word.
"You banished the demon," Bobby reassured him, "Doc Velosa's medical team were overly cautious and it made Sam a little sick that's all; just be patient. Make sure he knows his recovery is going steady, that he'll get there even if it seems a little slow."
And though that was sound advice it didn't stop Dean worrying and watching. He tried to keep his distance some of the time so Sam didn't feel too crowded, but also stayed just close enough to reassure the kid as much as himself. Occasional pats on the back, or a gently lingering hand on his arm whenever Dean was assisting the younger brother seemed to help and Sam's slowly returning smile was ample reward for all his hard work.
"You're doing just fine kiddo." Dean would tell him whenever things got a little too much. "Don't give up."
Gentle encouragement seemed to be the key and Sam certainly responded positively. Dean wondered if his Dad had ever thought about trying it on the younger brother during the more difficult stages of puberty, instead of his usual gruff, bull in a china shop approach. Things might have turned out different.
But then the softly-softly approach had never been John's style.
All Dean wished for now was for Sam to trust him enough to open up and talk. There was something weighing heavily on the kid's mind, Dean was certain, and though he had his own ideas about it he just didn't want to push Sam before he was ready. For once, Dean exercised the patience his brother needed, and waited for Sam to come to him.
That patience paid off in huge dividends towards the end of the second week. The drugs had faded but Sam still tired easily and fell asleep on the porch swing during the day, his book, or whatever his current reading material happened to be, fallen down to his blanket covered knees. He could manage some very light lifting and even then it was painful; Dean tried to discourage him from unnecessary use but his kid brother sure was one stubborn sonofabitch.
Dean was changing the oil and filter on the Impala when two large feet appeared beside him and a tentative voice spoke up almost shyly.
Crawling out from underneath the car, Dean squinted up at his little brother. Sam was still too pale and shaky but at least he could stay awake for more than an hour at a time, even if he did look like an overgrown six year old these days, with that worried, nervous smile.
"Sammy you should be resting up dude," Dean tried so hard to keep from feeling guilty every time he saw him, but guilt was still a hard and unyielding task master. "What you doing out here?"
"Thought you might want some lunch...and maybe some c-company?" Sam nervously held out a plate of sandwiches with a poorly concealed grimace at the sharp twinge in his wrists...then ruined it all with a violent sway as a wave of exhaustion washed over him.
"Easy." Dean caught him and pushed the kid into the front passenger seat lest he keeled over completely. "Sam how long you been up?"
Sam pinched the bridge of his nose, waiting for the vertigo to desist.
"What time is it now?"
"Just passed two."
"Four hours then."
Dean shook his head. "Sammy go lie down for a spell. You don't need to push yaself so hard."
"Spent most of the last couple weeks lying down. Besides, I…" Sam sighed heavily. "I just wanted to talk to you dude."
He sounded so sad and lost Dean didn't have the heart to deny him, and after all, this was what he'd hoped for. For Sam to finally confide in him.
"Sure." Dean settled into a crouch in front of him, watching as the kid fiddled nervously with his long shirt sleeves, self-consciously pulling them over the bandages. The day was unseasonably warm but Sam still refused to wear T-shirts.
"What's on ya mind?"
Sam appeared to make a few false starts before he finally came out with it.
"You're not the only one who said some terrible things, and I'm sorry Dean. I had no right…" Sam sniffed loudly.
"So you heard me? When you were unconscious?" Dean eyed him with concern when Sam nodded wearily. That was a bit of a surprise. "What did it do to you? The demon I mean."
Sam nodded again, though this time there was even more reluctance. "Yeah it, uh, messed with my head big time. Something latched on to the back of my mind, blew all my fears and doubts up out of proportion." He paused wondering whether to go on.
But Dean just sat there, silently encouraging him. He wondered what else Sam heard him say.
"Scared the hell out of me…" A single tear slipped down his face. "…never felt so alone. Thought you hated me, thought Dad hated me, though maybe that aint so far from the truth."
"He told you to kill me Dean!" Sam suddenly cried out. "His own son. Don't matter if he turns out to be right about me, it still hurts so goddamn much. So we fought and hardly ever agreed on anything but I at least thought he loved me!"
Dean heard the pain in his little brother's voice and didn't have a clue how to fix it. But that didn't mean he wouldn't try.
"Sam, he did ok? Dad loved you more than life itself." So do I. "Whatever he was talking about? It was just a precaution dude, that's why he said might. And why dya think he left that with me? I'll fucking tell ya why. 'Cos he knew you stood a better chance with me, that I knew...know you better than that. He understood deep down I'd never find a reason to."
"But could you?" Sam raised heartbroken eyes to his. "I mean, supposing he's right. I don't wanna hurt anybody, least of all you."
Dean stared back. "You won't hurt me Sam." His hand snaked out and gently grabbed at the nape of Sam's neck, giving him a small shake. "And I know you won't hurt anybody else."
Sam studied the fierce expression on his brother's face and felt his heart lift up in wonder at the total faith he saw there.
"H-how?" he whispered shakily. "How can you be so sure?"
"Simple." Dean shifted a little, knees cramping up from being crouched down for too long. "Most of the other victims became violent, murdering people in cold blood before taking their own lives. You didn't Sammy. I'm willing to bet cold hard cash that hurting someone else didn't even cross your mind."
And oddly enough it suddenly occurred to Dean that it hadn't crossed his mind either, in spite of the anger and fear he'd felt. It was vaguely reassuring. Sam sniffed and nodded, unable to respond in any other way. The tears continued to roll down his face, soaking the collar of his shirt.
"That speaks volumes about you dude." Dean leaned forward and wrapped both arms round his softly crying brother, one hand reaching up to cradle the back of Sam's head. "And Sam? I don't know what else you heard when you were unconscious, but I meant every word."
He felt Sam smile against his neck. "I only heard a little, like listening under water."
"Right." Dean scowled. "Don't make me say it again."
"Say what Dean?" Sam replied, all sweetness and light, but Dean could feel the small tremor in Sam's shoulders. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Pulling back a little, Dean glared at his brother whilst Sam just gazed back innocently, a small shadow of hope and sadness lingering in his eyes.
May be this is it. Dean thought privately, if the demon still has a hold over us. May be this is what finishes it...
He nodded and cleared his throat, feeling awkward as hell.
"Love you Sammy. Always have." Dean whispered huskily and sniffed as Sam blinked rapidly, eyes still a little moist. "Always will. Just don't leave me again bitch."
"Love you too ya big ol' jerk." Sam croaked back, narrowly avoiding that last statement. That was a promise he couldn't keep. He needed to get a handle on all this somehow and he couldn't drag Dean into it, wouldn't be fair to him.
Sam's mind was made up. As soon as he was strong enough, he would head out to the Roadhouse and quiz Ellen, put out some feelers and find the other special children.
Find out what the YED had planned for them all.
In the meantime, Sam rested in his brother's arms, taking comfort where he could.
Hope that lived up to your expectations everyone. Plenty of Dean taking care of a sick Sammy, and Dean finally telling his brother what he needed to hear – whilst Sam's awake!
If the ending seems a little confusing (I hope not otherwise I'm gonna feel like a right plank), please bear in mind that this is meant to lead up to the next episode on the show: Hunted. At some point in the not too distant future I plan to do a kind of sequel to this, but more in the format of an AU ending to Hunted.
Many thanks for all your reviews and support. I look forward to seeing you all at the big launch of the top secret fic this Friday.