Too much too young
Sam's been burning the candle at both ends and his family is too busy to notice.
Sick Sammy aged 15, guilty/protective Dean age 19.
Warnings: some phlegm and bad language, 'cos it's me!
A belated birthday fic for Carocali. Enjoy, my darling.
Many thanks to Phx for the beta... and don't think I've forgotten your birthday fic for next month, babes...
"Can I stay at home this time?" Sam asked quietly. A quiet voice meant his throat didn't hurt quite so much. "I don't…"
"Nope, sorry kid. We've been through this already," John didn't even glance up from his newspaper, and he sure didn't sound all that apologetic. "We need you as back up." He cast a small smirk Sam's way. "Homework can wait."
"But Dad…" Sam tried again, frustrated no one was prepared to listen. He had no intention of doing his homework, but did have every intention of getting some much needed sleep before his pounding head exploded.
"Enough!" John ruffled the pages, then finally graced his youngest son with a fierce glare. "Whatever it is you feel is so important, can wait. People's lives are at stake," a quick snap of the newspaper emphasized his point, "and all you care about is passing some lousy test? Jeeze kid..."
Sam shook his head as the rant continued, and risked very brief eye contact with his older brother, who was slumped on the sofa, beer in one hand, TV remote in the other. Dean's only response was a small disinterested shrug before turning back to Starsky and Hutch.
That pretty much said it all.
The John and Dean Winchester unit concur: Sam Winchester is indeed a selfish little brat.
Dean and Sam were going through a 'rocky patch'. Sharing a room the size of a broom closet would do that to even the most caring of saints, and after one too many 'have you seen my comb?', or 'dude, are you wearing my fucking socks again?!' the brothers had almost come to blows before an angry John intervened, and threatened punishments on both sides if they didn't 'shut the hell up!'
So the brothers weren't talking.
Well. Beyond the usual 'pass the cereal' sometimes followed by 'get it your fucking self!' the brothers weren't talking. But a truce was nigh, Sam could have sworn it after last night. He'd woken up crying and shaking, unable to remember what he'd been running from, only to find Dean's arms wrapped round him, a hand gently stroking his scalp, his big brother's voice whispering softly to him. Sam had drifted back off into a peaceful slumber.
So a truce was on the cards, Sam was convinced. But it was going to need a little encouragement.
Nodding his head in resignation, Sam trudged off into their bedroom. He could do this one last hunt to help keep his family safe, to watch their backs, then he would have to come clean.
He would have to come clean about the headaches, the painful sinuses, the aching joints. Sam would have to own up to the dizziness, nausea and vomiting, the steadily rising temperature, and the shivering… yeah, that wasn't all down to the nightmare, though Dean had probably assumed it was.
In short, Sam felt like crap and needed a break.
The last few weeks had been a endless cycle of homework, hunts, revision, hunts, homework, hunts, test papers, revision… and yet another hunt. Sam estimated he'd managed a total of ten hours sleep in the last seven days, and it was wearing him down.
Any attempts at a deadline extension had been met with a stern lecture from a self-righteous teacher 'if you don't want to be kept back after school, boy, you'll complete the work on time'.
Any attempts at a reprieve from a hunt, were shot down in flames by his father.
As for Dean… well, the brothers weren't talking.
Sam hoped like hell that would come to an end tonight.
A few spare clothes, mostly T-shirts worn so thin there seemed little point in wearing them, followed by a tattered pair of hand-me-down jeans that once belonged to his brother, were thrown into Sam's duffle with little ceremony. A flashlight, complete with spare battery and bulbs, were shoved into a side pocket, and Sam's packing was done.
Sam licked his over-dry lips, and crept over to the door. A quick peek out into the main living area told him no one was likely to catch him in the act. Leaving the bedroom behind and closing the door with a soft click, Sam padded over to the bathroom and locked himself inside.
There was a small bottle of Tylenol in the cabinet over the sink, and Sam eagerly grabbed it with shaking hands. But, just then, he made the mistake of looking at his reflection in the mirror and grimaced at the dark circles under eyes now bright with fever, the sickeningly pale skin, and the faint sheen of perspiration gleaming under the dim bathroom light.
How they hadn't noticed…
Sam shook his head at that. They were all at loggerheads with each other. Living in such a tiny apartment, in such… squalor… It was bound to cause friction between them. Only on a hunt would the Winchester family pull together and watch out for each other.
Those shaking hands grew shakier and silent tears slipped down Sam's flushed cheeks. He wasn't even sure why he was crying, though loneliness sure was willing to take the blame. There was literally no one he could communicate with, no one to share his fears and worries with. Dean ignored him, Dad didn't listen, and as for the kids at school…
Sam stared at himself in the mirror, Tylenol momentarily forgotten, watching the tears falling, and making no attempt to wipe them away.
"God… m'so pathetic…" he whispered, sadly. "They're both right about me, I am selfish."
A watery smile emerged and Sam chuckled.
"'Selfish Sam'. That's what they'll call me," the chuckle turned into hysterical laughter. "Though Dean might call me 'Selfish Sammy'… maybe they'll put that on my tombstone!" Sam leaned into the mirror, grinning through his tears. "Huh? Here lies Selfish Sammy, a terrible son, crappy hunter, and world's worst little brother…"
A banging on the bathroom door startled him, and the Tylenol dropped to the floor with a clack and rolled away, its contents rattling in disproval at the rough treatment.
"Sam? Who you talking to? Your blow up doll? Hurry up and get the fuck out of there! I'm in need of a PHD!"
Sam blinked a few times, and smirked. That was Dean talk for a Pre-Hunt Dump. Their father hadn't approved the first time he said it in full, so Dean continued to use the abbreviation instead.
"Uh… sure. Won't be much longer…" Sam croaked out, eyes searching the floor for the lifesaving Tylenol. His vision was blurring, head thumping with agony by the time he spotted it.
Sam bent down to retrieve the pill bottle. But when he stood upright again the blood drained away from his face. He swayed, valiantly fighting the encroaching darkness, but soon lost the battle.
As the world went upwards, the lights dimmed, and a sharp pain to the side of his head finished him off.
Dean had paid only vague attention to Sam's pleas. It wasn't the first time his kid brother had tried to stay home from a hunt, though Dean had to admit it didn't happen as often as their dad tried to make out.
But these last few weeks had been pretty tough on all the Winchesters. Sam wasn't the only one suffering from stress and lack of sleep. Both Dean and John worked appalling hours at the local grotty garage in the cold and freezing rain for a shit wage, whilst Sammy sat behind a desk in a nice warm classroom.
Dean snorted derisively. He had to be fair about it. Sam worked damn hard at school even with his Einstein-sized IQ, did all his homework, got the evening meal ready, took care of laundry, and even cleaned the weapons when asked without complaint. What their father didn't seem to realize was that Sam worked just as hard for the family, even when he made it perfectly clear he was unhappy with their lifestyle.
But Sam had been getting on his nerves ever since they moved into the one bed roomed apartment. There was no such thing as personal space, no way of escaping Sam's snoring, and worst of all, no breathing room. The slightest thing could spark off a fight.
Tempers were fraying easier than a badly made quilt, and Dean was on the verge of throttling his little brother. He stood up and stretched, feeling his joints give a multitude of satisfying cracks and clicks. The beer was working its magic as was the spicy beef taco he'd hastily scoffed on his way home from work, and the pending satisfaction of another nature was brewing, deep in his bowels.
"Yep. Time for a PHD!"
John's raised eyebrow was the only acknowledgment of that. The Winchester patriarch continued circling more newspaper articles in red ink.
Dean sighed and moved over to the bathroom. As much as he loved hunting, he hoped like hell tonight was the last for a while. He needed some serious fucking sleep, some serious fucking junk food, and some serious fu…
Someone's in the bathroom.
Dean frowned when he heard voices, and pressed an ear to the door. A voice.
It sounded like Sam was talking to himself, and Dean might have found it funny if he hadn't caught the weird laughter and the strange whispering. In fact he couldn't make out what was being said, and strained his ears all the more.
Still nothing but whispering.
Biting his lip, Dean wondered if his little brother was having some 'alone time'.
Well, it was about to end. 'Cause Dean's needs were greater.
The older brother thumped on the door, and smirked at the sound of something falling on the other side.
"Sam? Who you talking to? Your blow up doll? Hurry up and get the fuck out of there! I'm in need of a PHD!"
"Uh… sure. Won't be much longer…"
Dean frowned again at the reply. It sounded strained, like the kid had a sore throat or something. He stood back and waited for the door to open, arms folded and leaning against the wall.
A sickening crunch a second later had Dean pounding on the door yet again, but this time he was panicking.
"Sammy? You ok in there? C'mon little dude, open up!"
The disturbing silence had Dean rattling the door knob, frustration mounting when he realized his entry was barred.
"C'mon, Sammy, unlock the door, please?"
"What in God's name is going on?" A fuming John appeared beside Dean, body language suggestive of a full melt down.
"It's Sam," Dean pounding on the door and yanked on the door knob more viciously. "I think he might have brained himself or something, Dad. The doors locked, he's not answering…"
"Godammit!" John joined his eldest son by pounding on the door. "Sam! Open up right now! That's an order!" he thumped his fist against the wood before adding "if this is your way of getting out of tonight's hunt, it ain't gonna work!"
"Dad, I don't think he's faking," Dean responded with a shaky voice. "Can't we just pick the lock?"
John huffed and scrubbed a hand down his face. "I can't believe we're doing this; B&E our own bathroom… I'm so gonna kick that kid's ass for this!"
Dean retrieved the lock pick set from his duffle and set to work, his father standing by and watching with narrowed eyes. John might have been angry, but Dean could tell by the set of his jaw the guy was also beginning to worry. Sam was a stubborn little shit, but would he refuse to open the door just 'cause he was pissed? Possibly. But Dean was certain he would've at least answered their father's calls.
Come to think of it, Dean was also fairly certain Sam would've answered his brother's.
The lock was cheap and crappy, in keeping with the rest of the apartment, and came undone in seconds. Dean carefully pushed the door open, afraid of hitting Sam in the confined space, and gasped loudly at the sight of his little brother crumpled in a heap on the grimy floor and bleeding from a gash on the side of his head.
"Oh God, Sammy!"
Dean was already moving, pushing his way into the tiny bathroom and dropping to his knees beside the injured boy. Now that he was close, now that he was paying attention it was obvious that Sam was sick. Real sick. The poor kid shivered harshly on the dirty tiles, face pale and bathed in sweat. "Sammy, can you hear me little bro?"
Sam was completely out, unable to answer, not even a soft moan or pained whimper, which made his family worry all the more.
John almost staggered under the sudden wave of guilt. It was so obvious now. This – his baby boy, lying on some filthy motel bathroom floor – this was why Sam tried to call off the hunt. And no one had taken the time to listen.
How did I not notice he was sick? Just what kind of a bastard does that make me?
A fucking HUGE bastard!
But, huge bastard or not, there was time for that later. Sam needed help, and quickly.
"I think a trip to the ER is in order," John placed a cool hand on Sam's forehead, and winced. "Fever. And a bad one," he made a clicking noise with his tongue and whispered, sadly "So this is what you were trying to tell us, huh kid?"
A brief glance at his oldest boy told him Dean was thinking along the same lines. But Sam was already wrapped in his big brother's arms and being lifted effortlessly from the floor. A quick stop in the living area to tuck a threadbare blanket round the kid's unconscious form, and the Winchester's headed out, Sam's head pressed gently under Dean's chin.
John drove with a steady hand, but his eyes kept sneaking a glimpse of his sons on the back seat. The rear view mirror was a little blurred from condensation when body heat met the sheer cold, but it couldn't hide the expression of utter despair and worry on Dean's face.
The older brother's comforting whispers barely reached John's ears over the noise of the heater, but it wouldn't have taken a genius to figure out the promises, the encouragements, and the pleas for Sam to just hold on. Stay with me. Everything's gonna be ok...
"Dad, hurry!" Dean suddenly called out, desperately.
His little brother was getting worse. The kid was panting, wheezing, small whimpers of pain and suffering like knives through Dean's heart, head lolling helplessly over his older brother's shoulder.
Dean held him as tight as he dared when the youngster struggled weakly against him.
"I know, I know, Sammy. You're feeling pretty bad right now, but we're getting you some help, buddy. You're gonna feel so much better real soon."
"Almost there," John called back just as they passed through the gates of the local hospital. Screeching to a halt outside the ER, John jumped out and wrenched open the rear passenger door directly behind the driver's seat. Dean was already scrambling across, tugging Sam with him, and tightening his hold on the boy when he climbed out.
They broke into a run, Dean carrying his sick brother, John beside him, one hand on Sam's forehead. It must have made quite the formidable sight, the senior Winchesters striding their way across the waiting room, faces set in fierce and determined scowls. It certainly affected the sour faced receptionist, who immediately rounded her desk, stuck her head through the swinging doors and bellowed "Dr Middleton! You're needed out here!"
John opened and closed his mouth like a gold fish. "I didn't say a damn word!" he muttered in amazement.
Dean grinned weakly. "I guess she recognizes a bad ass when she sees one, huh?"
"D'n…"a small, tired voice croaked up at him. "Wha…?"
"Shhhh, its ok, runt," Dean whispered back. "We're at the hospital. They're gonna tuck you into a nice warm bed, and make you feel all better."
Glazed blue-greens blinked up at him, mouth working soundlessly.
"Just relax, son," John smiled down at the poor kid. "Let us take care of ya, like we shoulda done all along."
"Huh?" Sam slurred out, blinked, and lost consciousness again.
"Sammy, try to stay awake," Dean called, softly. He hated seeing his little brother like this, especially since he'd been giving the kid such a hard time lately. "C'mon kiddo, work with us here..."
The door to the ER swinging open had both senior Winchesters looking up into the dark gaze of a tall white coated guy with dark hair and sharp eyes.
"I'm Dr Middleton," he nodded at John, eyes softening at the sight of the young boy in Dean's arms. "And who do we have here?"
He ran a hand smoothly over Sam's hot forehead, and murmured softly when the youngster stirred and whimpered at the unfamiliar touch.
"Easy there boy," the doc whispered. "Nothing to be afraid of."
The Winchesters liked him immediately. It was that easy.
"S'my brother, S-sammy," Dean stuttered out, for some reason feeling like he was five years old again, carrying his baby brother from their burning home. "He's real sick. Gotta fever. We didn't know... he just collapsed in the bathroom and hit his head... he never told us he was sick!"
"Just relax," Doc Middleton carried on stroking Sam's forehead but smiled kindly at his older brother. "I know you're worried, but you need to calm down, son. Don't let your brother know how scared for him you really are. So long as you remain calm, so will he."
Everything was too bright, even behind his eyelids. Voices just overhead and around him phased in and out, and something kept prodding him.
"Naaahhhhh..." Sam moaned, trying unsuccessfully to bat away questing fingers that pried at his eyelids. "Geerrrrroooffffmmmeeee..."
"...dehydrated... IV fluids... antibiotics..."
"...lungs sound congested..."
Sam weakly rolled his head away and whimpered when something small but cold pressed over his abdomen, then the left side of his chest, then the right...
"Noooooosssstopplease?!" He was more annoyed than anything right then, just wanted to be left alone to sleep. But annoyance soon turned to panic when he cracked open an eye, only to see the big plastic mask descending over his face. "NOOOOOOOOOO! No! No! Don't..."
Sam shook his head from side to side in desperate avoidance, but it was no use. The plastic monster was attached to his face and fastened tight, about to suck the very life out of him, or impregnate him with some alien being, leave some kind of egg in his tummy that would later crack open his chest only to go on a blood thirsty rampage then infect his brother father ohgodwhatiftheywerealreadyinfected...
It was becoming a full blown panic attack as the fever ravaged his mind and body, and then the coughing began. What had been a dry tickle in the back of his throat for most of the past week finally burst its banks and let loose with a full on phlegm ridden "Horrrronnkkk..." and went on, and on, and on, until Sam was left slumped against the pillows, lips gradually turning blue from lack of oxygen. And that only made him panic all the more. Hands scrabbled at the blankets in a clutch-release, clutch-release rhythm,
Mouth wide open, eyes scrunched shut, Sam tried so hard but nothing was coming in, his lungs all but frozen...
Then a voice, much closer to his ear, suddenly spoke.
"Shhh, s'ok little bro. I won't let them hurt you, I promise. They're here to help. Just calm down, kiddo."
A gentle hand smoothed through his hair and another cupped the back of his neck, tilting his head back and opening his airway.
Sam's breathing became a little easier, and that wild panic began to release its tight hold on him.
"That's great, Dean. Well done. We're gonna give him something to help get his temperature down."
"Can I stay with him?" Dean's voice sounded a little further away now, as though he'd raised his head, but Sam could still hear the steely determination behind the soft dulcet tones. Regardless of the answer, Sam's big brother was going nowhere.
"Of course. Poor kid's scared and confused right now... all these unfamiliar sights and sounds..."
Sam drifted off under a haze of exhaustion and medication, content to be left in his brother's care.
Dr Middleton guessed he was in for a long night when his young patient began panicking, and damn near suffocated, in spite of the oxygen mask. It was clear the youngster was scared of the thing but, unfortunately, he needed it with his sats as low as they were. Lucky for both patient and doctor, the older brother had burst into the room, strode over to the bed, lowered his mouth to his little brother's ear and set about whispering to the poor kid. No one knew what was said, but the doc would've paid a lot of money to find out as the effect was instantaneous. The sick youngster quieted down, his breathing evened out, and the horrendous wheezing didn't seem quite so bad.
The doc wondered how he'd known. There were a least two sets of double doors between the waiting area and Sam's treatment room. So unless the older kid had x-ray vision...
He shook his head and leaned against the door frame, watching the youngster's now peaceful slumber, his brother reading quietly from a book. It was just after midnight but no amount of bribery, blackmail, or threats had persuaded Dean to leave and get some sleep of his own. He wouldn't even take the time for a ten minute snooze.
It wasn't the first time the doctor had seen such a bond between siblings, but usually it occurred in identical twins. There was around a four year age gap between these two and yet, even unconscious, the kid knew his brother was with him and even squeezed his hand whenever Dean quietly cracked a joke.
Incredible. Doc Middleton couldn't help smiling. The brothers made Bambi and Thumper look like amateurs in the cute stakes.
"Dr Middleton?" a very anxious John Winchester appeared next to him in the door way. "Is he ok?"
The doc turned to the older guy. "The antibiotics are working just fine, though I'm still a little worried about his oxygen sats," he sighed, tiredly. It had been a long shift. "They're proving a little hard to stabilise."
A few hours after Sam's admission, the doc had a diagnosis in hand. Blood work from Biochemistry, Haematology and Microbiology indicated the presence of infection and resulting severe inflammation, but the x-rays had revealed shadows on both lungs.
Doc Middleton's earlier announcement of bronchial pneumonia had almost floored the Winchesters. They'd known Sammy was sick, but they hadn't expected this. John's eyes had widened, stricken with fear and guilt, whereas Dean had slid down the wall, the blood quickly draining from his face.
"Surely there's something else you can do," John interrupted the doc's thoughts, tone not quite pleading but in a pretty close approximation. "I mean," he waved a hand vaguely at the bank of monitors surrounding his son. "We brought him in as soon as we realised, but he couldn't have been sick for long... we'd have noticed before now. " But he didn't sound all that convinced.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Cabot," Dr Middleton glanced at him with sympathy. "But given the state he was in when you brought him here, I'd have to guess he'd been getting sick with flu for at least a week. Think back, there may only have been little signs... excess tiredness, loss of appetite, mood swings even..." he watched John's face closely, taking in the slowly growing frustration. "Some people just won't own up when things get bad."
"No," John shook his head, mouth curled in self-disgust. "I-I didn't spot anything... but then, I guess I wasn't looking too hard."
Heaving a tired sigh of his own, the father moved into the room, eyes never leaving his children. Dean had finally succumbed to exhaustion, head resting on his arms, slumped on Sam's bed.
"Wanna talk about it?" the doc invited, pulling up another couple of chairs and offering one to John.
Pinching the bridge of his nose for a long moment, John spoke softly. "Dean and I have been kinda busy, working in the local garage, over time..." he shrugged. "What with Christmas coming up and all, we were just trying to raise a little more cash."
John smiled sadly. "Christmas ain't really something we've ever celebrated since my wife... passed away." He winced, well aware he was about to touch on territory even Dean had no knowledge of, and lowered his voice. "It was going to be different this year. I was determined to give my boys a Christmas to remember. It was meant to be a surprise."
And yeah, it was stretching the truth a little. John had been too busy to notice whether or not his sons were getting enough to eat, enough sleep… but although lying was the name of the game with John Winchester, it wasn't all bullshit. He had been planning to stick around for Christmas with his sons this year. Just a small tree, and few decorations, and a decent present each for the boys.
"Well," the doc cleared his throat quietly. "There's no reason why you still can't. Once Sam's feeling better..."
"No," John dropped his chin. "When you and Dean were in here with Sam, I got a call from the garage." His eyes closed for the briefest moment. "They wanted us to come in and work some extra hours... until late tonight, but when I said no and told 'em about Sam, they... fired us."
Definitely not a lie. John still couldn't believe the asshole owner of Tommo's Motors had let them go for this, after everything he and Dean had done for the guy, putting in extra hours on basic pay and coming in a couple hours early some mornings. The minute John needed a favour in return, even after explaining his youngest kid was real sick in hospital, Tommo turned his back on him.
The doc nodded, not entirely surprised. That was the way of it in their ramshackle, hardnosed town, and often wondered why he'd bothered staying as long as he had. People here were small minded, selfish and cold. Perhaps he'd hoped to change them somehow, and the thought made him laugh. He'd grown up in this place, moved away to attend medical school, and returned some years later to find the mean old town hadn't changed much in all that time. What on God's Earth had made him think a lowly paediatrician could ever have made a difference?
"Mr. Cabot, Sam's going to be here for at least six weeks, given the severity of the pneumonia," the doc murmured, an idea forming. "He'll need oxygen therapy during that time."
"Yeah," John nodded, heart sinking. This didn't sound good.
"I hear the hospital is looking for a night janitor," said the doc, glancing at his watch. "I could put in a good word for you."
John sat bolt upright and stared at the guy. "You'd do that for me? A total stranger?"
"I'll call the head of domestic services first thing in the morning," the doctor smiled at John's shocked face.
"I-I don't know what to say…" John stammered out and shook the guy's hand, gratefully. "Thank you, Dr Middleton. I really appreciate this."
"It's Connor, and don't thank me yet," Connor got to his feet, quietly. "You haven't met the Super." He shuddered, dramatically. "Ornery old bastard!"
John smirked. "I feel sure my sons could come up with some pretty choice descriptions of their old man right now."
Connor grinned but didn't comment. "I'd best finish my rounds. I'll get one of the nurses to bring in a few blankets for you and Dean." He turned to go when John called softly.
"Thanks again, Connor. I really appreciate this."
"Don't mention it."
Many apologies for not replying to your wonderful reviews for the final chapter of Drunk and disorderly. I sat down and started replying this afternoon, and then after a few replies for older fics, this error message appeared. It just won't let me reply to you guys:.
"Oops! You have reached an invalid page on the site."
Hopefully the website will have sorted its shit out come tomorrow, but if not then please don't let it stop you from leaving a review for this story. It will be greatly appreciated, I promise you.
In fact, feeling a bit lonely now that I can't talk to anyone... (sniffs despondently).
Cheers my darlings.