Too much too young
Chapter 2 and epilogue.
John felt a huge weight lifted from his shoulders. The fake health insurance wouldn't last the six weeks needed for Sam's recovery that much he was certain about. Three weeks tops, he guessed. It would have to be enough, but John wasn't going to take anymore stupid risks with his son's health. As soon as the kid was fit to travel, the Cabot family would disappear, and the Winchesters would emerge at Singer Salvage, complete with oxygen tanks carefully borrowed from the hospital stores.
He regretted lying to Connor Middleton, especially after the guy had been so kind and helpful. Apparently, he also persuaded the Super to arrange for a week's advance in John's wages, which helped secure their seedy apartment for a while longer. Though the sooner they all saw the back of that god forsaken place the better, as far as John and Dean were concerned.
Fortunately, Dean was also able to secure a part time job in the canteen, just clearing tables and fixing the odd broken down vending machines. There were at least six of these, and all of them decrepit and old, so he was never short of work. It meant he could also spend a good deal of the day with his little brother.
John bullied Dean into going home to get some proper sleep; he also sat down with him every lunch and evening in the staff canteen to make sure the kid ate properly. Dean had a voracious appetite under normal circumstances, but with his little brother so desperately ill he'd gone right off his food. He was like a big, loyal, German Shepherd pining away for his sick master.
John chuckled sadly at the analogy.
The Winchesters taking it in turns to head back to the apartment for some R&R meant that Sam was never left alone for very long throughout his stay.
Sam, of course, wasn't aware of much of this at first.
Drugged and bedridden, the poor kid shivered and wept, his body cruelly tortured by the pneumonia. On the odd occasion when he woke up half way lucid, he whimpered in pain and begged softly through his mask, though no one could make out what he was actually begging for.
Tired, watery blue green eyes would crack open and frantically search the room until they came to rest on his big brother. Finally with a measure of peace, the kid would begin to relax and slide back into sleep.
Though he was improving, the mask had to stay on morning, noon and night, his body fed IV nutrients and heavy weight antibiotics. He either slept or stared blankly at the TV on the wall, not really paying attention.
"Hey Sammy? I'm back," a grinning Dean would announce from the door, leaning casually on the frame, and just like that, his little brother's eyes would light up.
Less than a week later, Sam still tried to avoid talking about it, but Dean refused to stay quiet.
"Sam, I know I let you down…"
"Just hear me out, ok? I let you down, badly," Dean stared at him and squeezed his shoulder. "There was me thinking I was above petty squabbles. And instead of watching out for you, I fobbed you off and let you get sick."
Sam shook his head weakly. "You didn't let anything happen, Dean…"
"Yeah, I did," Dean nodded his head, emphatically, determined to have it his way and take responsibility for Sam's predicament. "It's my job to keep you safe, and I didn't even notice I was failing until I found you passed out in the bathroom." He smiled, sadly. "You took a pretty good whack to the head, by the way. No concussion, though. Lucky you're a hard headed Winchester, huh?"
Sam just sighed and smiled back, eyelids at half mast.
But it seemed their father had a few things to say on the matter, because suddenly a tall figure loomed over the boys, arms folded, and face unreadable. They hadn't even heard him enter the room.
"Dean's not the only one who needs to make an apology here," said John, softly. "In fact, he needs no apology at all."
Sam glanced up warily and swallowed hard, feeling sure he was about to get both barrels. But instead, his father crouched down beside the bed and gently grasped both Sam's hands.
"You tried to tell me you weren't feeling well," John rubbed the kid's fingers. "And I ignored you, flat out. As your father, it was my responsibility alone. Instead, I made you feel even worse, huh? Hell, Sammy, I virtually called you selfish." He regarded Sam quizzically for a few long moments. "You were going to tell us? Right, Sam?"
Sure, the kid had asked for a reprieve. One night off from the hunt, so to speak. But that wouldn't have been enough, not with pneumonia. Had Sam been covering up the seriousness of his illness that night?
Sam nodded, slowly. "Y-yeah, but I didn't know how bad it was gonna get, I swear," he gazed mournfully at his father, and a lone tear slipped over one cheek. "I just thought one early night would be enough… I'm sorry I'm not tough like you guys, but I was just so tired. School was getting on my back about late homework, and there j-just di-didn't seem enough hours in the d-day… and I-I…"
He erupted into a powerful hacking cough, face reddening with the effort and eyes streaming. One hand came up to clutch at his chest, the other gripped John's hand in desperation. Sam's struggle to breathe had Dean climbing on the bed, and pulling his little brother into a sitting position, with their father rubbing the poor kid's back.
"Easy Sammy," John whispered, watching the boy anxiously, helping him get his breathing back under control. "Calm down. You've nothing to be sorry for, ok? It's my fault for pushing you too hard, for not even taking the time to notice just how bad things were getting for you."
Sam tried to heave in a large lungful of oxygen, eyes rolling wildly in panic when it just didn't seem enough.
"S'ok now. Just relax… you'll feel better soon," Dean kept up the gentle encouragement, hands kneading and rubbing Sam's shoulders and neck. "C'mon, slow it down, buddy…"
He grimaced at the wet, squelching noises of mucous and phlegm catching in Sam's chest, reached over to the nightstand, and grabbed a handful of Kleenex. Whipping off the oxygen mask, Dean held the tissue under Sam's mouth and watched in dismay when the kid coughed up a mouthful of gunk.
But he couldn't deny it seemed to ease his little brother's breathing. The mask went straight back on and the boy was allowed to rest against his pillows again, blinking heavily up at his family. Clearly worn out, the youngest Winchester was asleep in seconds.
It was John's turn for the apartment. He hadn't wanted to leave in light of Sam's distress but Dean wanted to stay with his little brother. It was only fair.
John really hadn't thought about how much time Sam was putting into the family, but now it was brought up, he had some serious thinking to do…
Sam had been through every hunt, prepared each evening meal, researched for his father and brother when asked… and each morning John found a clean, freshly laundered pile of clothes waiting for him.
Where the hell's my head been these last few weeks? Up my ass? What was I thinking?
He was damned sure it wasn't Dean's doing; his oldest son claimed he was allergic to Laundromats. But one look at Dean's white face after Sam nearly coughed up a lung, assured John that would no longer be a problem.
Sam's homework hadn't entered into the hunting equation; and it really should've done. Education was important, however reluctant John felt about it. Aside from teaching his sons important research skills, and acquiring essential knowledge, keeping Sam in school meant keeping him safe. The thought of his youngest son roaming the streets all day, vulnerable and alone whilst he and Dean went to work, just didn't sit right.
Fact was, he hated this town, and not just because of the sour faced residents. It was dull and miserable, with no sense of community spirit; not that it really mattered to John, but it sure mattered to his sons. Even Dean seemed depressed and under the weather since coming here, and not his usual charming, flirtatious self.
Not that there was much to flirt with. The female population fell into two categories: Sam's age, or old enough to be his grandmother. And to Dean's disgust, that small fact hadn't stopped either from trying it on with him. From jail bait to elderly home escapees; the last straw had been one particularly wrinkled octogenarian apparently trying to thank the boy for fixing her old Cadillac. And it really made quite a sight, Dean screaming and racing for the exit, with the old girl trailing after him, all lecherous intent and gummy kiss at the ready.
As far as Dean was concerned it was the stuff nightmares were made of.
John chuckled and sank back on the bed, still fully clothed.
No. As soon as Sam was well enough they were leaving.
'Bout time I started looking after my boys properly.
Once Sam was ready for solid food, the mask came off at meal times, but getting the kid to eat proved just as challenging for John as it had been with Dean. In the end, it took both father and big brother, perched on either side of the bed and threatening all kinds of retribution for Sam to finally take a small slurp of his chicken soup.
"There," Sam leaned back tiredly into his pillows, dark half circles still worryingly prominent under his eyes. "Happy?"
"Ecstatic," replied Dean, sarcastically. "But it ain't enough." He waggled a finger under his brother's nose. "You want me to spoon feed ya? 'Cause I'll do it!"
"I mean it, Sam."
"Fine!" Another spoonful of soup went the same way, but Dean was still glaring at him, arms folded, foot tapping… Sam sighed and scratched his nose. The dreaded mask was gone but now he suffered a tube under his nose. It was an improvement but not by much. Summoning his patience, he sipped at more soup until his hand grew shaky with the effort.
John nodded in quiet approval, then grabbed a straw from the nightstand and dropped it into the bowl. It wasn't ideal but it had to be more dignified for the poor kid than having his brother feed him like a baby. "You did good, Sam, but you ain't gonna get better if you don't eat some more."
"Yes sir," Sam responded, dolefully. The soup actually wasn't half bad, but to an ailing Winchester with no appetite it was as daunting as trying to climb a mountain. Still, he sucked at the straw for a little while longer until his family was satisfied he'd eaten enough.
"Atta boy." Dean ruffled his hair and grinned. "You sure you don't want the chocolate sponge? Smells pretty good." He virtually licked his chops and eyed the dessert hungrily.
Sam grinned back. His brother probably didn't even realize what he was doing.
"Go ahead, Dean. I've had enough. I eat anymore and I'll be sick."
John smothered a snort when his oldest boy glanced guiltily his way, obviously seeking approval. Instead he nodded gravely. "Go ahead. No point in wasting it."
Sam and John watched in fond amusement whilst Dean attacked the cardboard container with a spoon, gulped down great mouthfuls with barely a swallow, finished it up with a loud, appreciative belch and almost genteelly laid the spoon back on Sam's moveable table.
Dean grinned happily from ear to ear. "Town sure sucks, but the hospital food is edible. Go figure, huh?"
"Can I go back to sleep now?" Sam just managed around a yawn.
His father frowned, and nodded. "Just a second," John settled both arms on Sam's bed. "I know you still have a ways to go before you're one hundred percent, but how dya feel about heading out for Uncle Bobby's tonight?"
Dean raised his eyebrows in surprise, but said nothing. Two and a half weeks into Sam's hospital stay and the Winchester's were pushing their luck with the fake health insurance; however, with John and Dean both working on site no one was looking too closely, but it was only a matter of time.
Sam studied his dad's face. "Uh… sure, Dad."
Kid's not stupid. John smiled. "Don't worry, Sam. I'm gonna make the ride as comfortable as possible for ya, ok?" he patted the boy's knee. "I'll go make the arrangements. Now get some sleep."
Dean clearly wasn't happy, judging by the slight pinch to his eyes and mouth, but there was little choice in the matter. A few hours later, John came back into the room to find Sam fast asleep and Dean frowning worriedly.
"I know what you're gonna say, son. And believe me, I agree with ya," replied John and squeezed the back of Dean's neck. "But it's time to move on. Bobby's expecting us, we have all the medical equipment we're gonna need, and I've set up a bed in the rear seat of the Impala for Sammy. It's not perfect, but I think he'll be comfortable. Connor assures me his fever's down and his sats are up…" he shrugged.
Dean sighed and watched his brother sleep. "Yeah…"
In spite of Dean's reluctance, it actually worked out very well. The Impalabed, as Sam came to call it, was indeed extremely comfortable. Heaps of soft blankets and pillows, carefully positioned under his back and legs, kept him snug and warm, and meant he could easily raise himself up should he suffer more coughing. John had also positioned an oxygen tank in one of the foot wells, with stern orders for Sam to use it should he feel light headed or start wheezing again.
Sam slept well for most of the journey with only one or two coughing incidents. Dean, sneaky bastard that he is, waited until Sam was in a deep sleep before pulling over and hooking the oxygen tube under the kid's nose. No doubt his little brother would grouch at him when he woke up again later, but Dean didn't care so long as he could breathe.
After two days of driving, John following on behind the boys in his truck, and one overnight stop, Singer Salvage was a welcome sight for the little family.
Bobby must've heard the noise of duel engines on the approach because he was waiting outside for them when they pulled up. He was about to yell a greeting when Dean alighted first, but the boy silently shushing him instantly changed his mind. Instead, Bobby waited close by whilst Dean quietly opened the rear passenger door, ducked inside, and emerged a few short minutes later with a sleeping, blanket wrapped Sammy Winchester in his arms.
Bobby gazed fondly at the kids with a raised eyebrow. Anything I can do?
Dean indicated the tube running round Sam's face, and mouthed tank, then nodded towards the rear seats just as John reached in through the other window and grabbed some of Sam's pillows.
Any communication was carried out with hand signals, gestures and miming. Dean, led by Bobby, carried his little brother into the house, up the stairwell, and into a twin bedroom. The same room the brothers always used when visiting Bobby Singer and, as usual, Sam was settled in the bed furthest from the door.
"How they both holdin' up?" asked Bobby after he and John made their way back downstairs to the kitchen. It was time for lunch and, once again, soup was on the agenda, though this time it was Bobby's special recipe: minted lamb and vegetable.
John sighed and began slicing up a loaf of bread in the hopes he could persuade Sam to eat a little more this time. The knife suddenly dropped to the table at the same time as the senior Winchester sunk abruptly into a chair, his legs near enough giving out.
"Truth is, they're doin' a fuck sight better than me," he whispered and glanced up at his old friend. "I screwed up, Bobby. Real bad."
Bobby being Bobby, wasn't about to let him off the hook either. "Yep. You sure did."
John nodded and looked down at the table, accepting the guy's agreement. A shot of whisky suddenly appeared in front of him.
"Figure you could use that about now," Bobby shrugged as John stared at it. "Long journey an' all."
But John sensed this for the test it really was. And he knew he'd failed again when the whisky was burning its way down his throat a second later. The neck of the bottle clinked against the shot glass again, and John shook his head, pushing it away from him.
"Enough," he said, softly. "Enough, now."
Bobby screwed the lid back on the bottle and nodded approvingly. "That's the best damn decision you've made in a while, John. 'Part from comin' here o'course." He grinned wryly.
Running a hand over his face, John grinned back, picked up the knife and resumed cutting up the bread.
With nothing more needed to be said, the two hunters worked on preparing lunch in a comfortable silence.
An hour later the soup was ready, the pleasant smell wafting round the house, and Sam was awake, blinking at his surroundings and wondering where he was. Dean was fast asleep on the next bed, and it wasn't until Sam spotted the familiar curtains and scarred old wardrobes that he recognized the room and smiled. He barely remembered the journey, apart from the odd coughing fit, a few stops for food, and a night in a motel, but somehow here they were at Uncle Bobby's.
Sam could hear two people roaming around downstairs and the smell of mint and lamb was making his mouth water. When his stomach actually grumbled Sam's smile widened. It had definitely been a while since he last felt genuinely hungry, and surprisingly enough, it felt good. Normal.
Footsteps on the staircase soon had Dean snorting awake like a warthog, eyes half open and sleepy, nose twitching and snuffling like a blood hound. "Food…" he mumbled, still half asleep, sniffing appreciatively.
Sam chuckled and regretted it a second later. His lungs had a few things to say about laughing at this stage of his recovery, and made it quite plain that comedic moments were not appreciated. It was Sam's painful coughing that pulled Dean the rest of the way out of sleep.
Eyes scrunched shut, and hacking loudly, Sam nevertheless still felt the tube under his nose being pulled off and replaced with the mask. Gentle hands rolled him onto his side and rubbed his back.
"Shhhhh, s'ok," all sleep had been cleared from Dean's voice by this time, and Sam's lungs gradually settled down again. "That's it... easy does it. Feeling better, little bro?"
Sam nodded, opened his eyes and pulled down the mask. "Yeah, much better. Thanks, Dean."
Dean shrugged him off without a word, just ruffled the kid's hair. He didn't need or want thanks. He just wanted his little brother well again.
Evidently Sam's coughing attack had been heard because the footsteps on the stairwell sped up a little, and Bobby and John appeared in the doorway, each holding a large tray of steaming bowls and fresh bread.
"Everything ok up here, boys?" John asked, worriedly taking Sam's pale face and the oxygen mask hanging off his chin. "Sam?"
"I'm ok, Dad, just try not to make me laugh too much." Sam grinned and eyed the trays. "That for me?"
Bobby and John had settled on joining Sam and Dean for lunch in the boys' bedroom. There was a desk under the main window that served for the older hunters, whilst the brothers were happy to stay on their beds. Or in it, in Sam's case.
"So, what you got planned for the next few weeks?" Bobby enquired of the youngest Winchester.
"Uh…" Sam frowned. He hadn't really thought about it. "I guess I should catch up on my schoolwork, and there's always research to do…"
John let out a soft angry growl before clearing his throat, making Dean look up in surprise. "I've organized a strict timetable and program for these two."
Two things happened. Dean's eyes hardened, about to go supernova, and Sam's face fell.
But John wasn't finished. Voice softened, mouth quirking up into a fond smile, he went on to describe a rich and punishing schedule of "extreme bed rest, plenty of cartoons, three meals a day," two young jaws dropped open in shock "and when you're feeling better, Sammy, we're taking you both fishing."
"Fishing?" Sam and Dean said in unison, and glanced at each other.
"Yep," Bobby nodded in agreement. "S'great for relaxation. And you boys could sure use some."
"Um, don't you think with all the bed rest and all, I'll be relaxed enough?" Sam asked quietly. "And my schoolwork won't complete itself…"
"Don't even think it, kid." Bobby shook his head and tutted in warning. "You're Daddy's been on the internet, and done some reading whilst you boys were asleep." He tapped his nose. "Guy knows all about taking things easy after a serious illness. Don't think ya gonna change his mind, kids."
Dean groaned and slapped a hand over his eyes. "You let him on the computer? Oh man! Always a bad move!"
"Hey!" John protested, sounding a little hurt.
"Yeah, you know the kind of trouble he gets into on there?" Sam demanded and pointed at his father accusingly in that very special way that suggested, whatever had happened, no child had ever been so subject to parental embarrassment like it, before or since. "Remember when he was looking for a demonic dentist in Massachusetts last year?"
"Oh I remember all right!" Dean scowled in remembrance. "Right in the middle of a public library, Dad decides to narrow the search down by typing in oral."
There was a stunned silence and Bobby's eyebrows, always the most expressive part of his face, rose to his hairline.
Dean nodded, glaring at his Dad, who was by now trying not to laugh in the face of his son's anger. "Not only that, but the search results pop up just as the hot librarian walked by us. Believe me when I say that no ghost or wendigo has ever made me run as fast as I did that day!"
"I wonder if there's a poster somewhere," Sam bit his lip, thoughtfully. "'Have you seen this man? Wanted for perversion and visiting illegal porn sites in public libraries.'"
"Dude!" Dean exclaimed in disgust, ignoring Bobby's poorly concealed snort of laughter. "That's our Dad you're talkin' 'bout!"
"Aw, c'mon Dean," John was full on grinning by now. "It was an accident!"
"Even so," Sam turned to Bobby. "Might be wise if you delete all cookies and clear history under internet explorer properties, just in case."
"You just eat your food, youngster," Bobby responded, choking back more laughter. "There's plenty left if you're still hungry."
Dean shut his mouth at that and went back to feasting on the delicious soup, hoping for a second helping - after his little brother, of course.
As it turned out, there was enough for third helpings all round, though Sam couldn't finish his second bowlful; content with listening to the soft drone of voices around him, he drifted off to sleep again.
Dean chuckled, took the half empty bowl from Sam's lap before it spilled everywhere, and tenderly checked the kid's forehead for fever. Satisfied his little brother was still making progress, he turned to his Dad with relieved grin.
"I think he's taking this whole relaxing thing seriously, huh Dad?"
John smiled. "Yeah. He's a fast learner," he pointed to Dean's own bed. "You too, sport."
Dean's mouth fell open. "What? I'm not the one who got sick, Dad! And I'm not even tired!"
"Maybe so, but it's not worth the risk," John replied, firmly. "You've been looking after Sam, and working hard, and I ain't about to see you go downhill either. Now git!"
He could see by the mutinous expression on the boy's face Dean was dying to argue, but years of obeying orders without question were too deeply engrained.
He turned and shuffled over to his bed, dropped down onto his side facing Sam, and crossed his arms.
Bobby and John carried on talking quietly, and before Dean knew what was happening, he felt himself sliding away into a restful slumber.
…more tired than I thought…
A month later...
Sam sat back in the canvas chair and closed his eyes. The sun was warm on his face, his lungs were almost fully recovered from pneumonia, and he'd never felt so rested.
"Hey, Sammy!" his brother's voice came from somewhere nearby, and Sam turned his head towards him. "I think I got a bite!"
"Cool!" Sam opened his eyes and sat upright to watch, wondering if Dean would get it right this time. It had amazed him that his older brother, who excelled at marksmanship, archery, tracking, orienteering and all the various other cool traits needed by hunters, proved completely hopeless when it came to fishing.
Sam, on the other hand, appeared to have a natural talent for it and tonight's supper was swimming around inside the net at Sam's feet. He couldn't help feel a little proud of himself. For once he could be the provider, instead of his brother having to do it.
Mind you. Dean seems quite happy…
And it was true. The older brother had fallen into the lake more times than Sam could count, yet it still didn't deter him, even seemed to amuse him. Sam silently believed Dean actually did it on purpose; the water was fresh off the mountains and only just above freezing temperatures. But he never seemed to feel the cold, and carried on diving underneath the surface whenever he caught sight of movement below.
Sam grinned. "You ok there dude?"
"M'fine!" Dean spluttered, ejected water from his nose, then proudly held aloft a large rainbow coloured trout. "Got the bastard!" he turned it this way and that, letting the sunlight reflect off the scales. "Ain't he a beauty?"
"Uh, Dean? I think you've missed the point of all this," Sam tilted his head to one side, observing his brother's grin. "You're supposed to relax and let them come to you."
"Nah," Dean shook his head, spraying water everywhere. "Where's the fun in that?"
Sam eyed him, curiosity winning out. "How'd ya really catch it?"
"I tickled it," Dean announced matter-of-factly.
"You tickled… a fish?" Sam gaped, and shook his head. "What the…?"
"S'an old poachers trick, Sammy," Dean hauled himself over to the bank and dropped the trout into Sam's net. "Pretty useful to know if you find yaself without a rod."
So Dean had abandoned the civilized methods in favour of something more primeval, and Sam couldn't for the life of him understand why that surprised him.
"Does that mean ya gonna eat it raw?" Sam grimaced at the thought, a little relieved when Dean's own face scrunched up.
"Nah, dude." Dean shuddered. "Sushi just ain't my thing,"
"Boys! You caught some fish yet? We're starvin'!" John's voice called out from the cabin behind them. "And bring water back with ya. Need to boil some up to bathe in tonight."
"Comin' right up!" Dean hollered back.
He began to reach for the gallon drums they'd brought with them for carrying water, when an idea struck him. "Hey, Sammy?"
"Uhuh?" Sam glanced at his brother, wondering what he had in mind when he saw the evil grin. "What?"
"Run Sammy, run!" Dean laughed and bounded away, dropping the now empty gallon drum. Behind him, swearing profusely and threatening violence, John and Bobby were giving chase, soaked to the skin with the freezing lake water, whilst Sam stood by, laughing helplessly.
Given his recent illness, the younger Winchester was relatively safe from retribution for now. But Dean… oh dear.
"What the hell?"
Dean's voice was coming from the wrong direction… from what Sam could make out, he was nowhere near the lake. The only thing he recalled seeing back there was a herd of cows and a large pile of manure right by the irrigation ditch…Sam's grin widened.
"Oh no you don't… hey hey hey, getoffmeeeee!"
"Quit whining. This stuffs s'posed to be great for the skin." That was Bobby's small pearl of wisdom.
"Nothing like a face pack, huh Dean?" And this was John, followed shortly by another long Sqqquuuelllllch!
It really didn't take a genius to translate that one.
Raucous laughter filled the evening air and Sam could hear the older hunters heading back towards the cabin… towards Sam in fact.
The grin disappeared in an instant. They wouldn't risk throwing a recovering pneumonia sufferer into the lake, but a steaming pile of cow shit?
Sam shook his head in resignation and didn't even try to run. "They'll probably think its therapeutic or something…"
Hope you all enjoyed the angst, Sick Sammy, and finally the family fun and frollicks.
So did the fishing scene seem familiar to anyone?
And did you spot the reference to an old Kenny Everett joke involving the Bee Gees?
Demonic dentists… Massachusetts? Get it?
Also adapted from an episode of My Family.
Yeah, it's old, but I still find it funny!
As usual, pay no attention to medical facts; there aren't any.
This was intended to be much shorter as a story, but it kinda grew on me again.