Disclaimer: Don't own Dean, John, or anything Supernatural-related.
A/N: This was my first fanfic ever and I wrote it for the hurt Dean comment-fic meme over on hoodie time's LJ. The prompt was for a Stanford-era Sick Dean and uncomfortable John scenario.
More specifically: "Poor John, you see, Sammy has always known what to do when Dean is sick (and vice versa, of course), but Dean is sick for the first time since Sam has left for California.
Pukey pukey, maybe more serious if the author is up to writing it"
So here's my attempt at filling that prompt. Let me know what you think and ENJOY!
Dean opened his eyes just as John pulled into the cozy-looking diner, wiping the sleep out of his eyes as he tried to figure out what town they were in.
"Hey kiddo, you awake now?" John asked, looking over at Dean's disheveled hair with an amused smile.
Dean stifled a yawn. "Where are we?"
"Five miles outside of Litchfield, Connecticut. You slept all the way from Providence."
"There a job here or something?"
"Nah, no job. I figured we could use some rest after the last one and I've been to Litchfield before. It's a quiet town, and we can lay low here for a bit. That okay with you?"
Dean nodded in reply. The truth was, he was exhausted and John's plan sounded perfect, though he was slightly surprised that his dad had been the one to suggest it.
"I know we've been working pretty much non-stop since Sam left," John said in reply to Dean's unspoken question. "I'm beat and I can tell you are too. I think we need to slow down a bit."
Dean nodded, thinking about the last four months. They had both been trying to find ways to deal with Sam's absence. Hunting seemed like the best solution. If they were too busy fighting evil, they wouldn't have any time to miss Sam. At least that was how Dean had looked at it. Unfortunately for him, that plan didn't seem to be working very well. Sam had been gone for four months and he missed him more than ever. But he needed a break. They both did.
"Yeah Dad, I'd like that," he said, smiling at John and untangling his legs from the car. He winced a little at the headache that he'd had since they finished burning the bones in Rhode Island. It had started as a minor nuisance and Dean had chalked it up to sleep deprivation. But the 2 hour nap in the car hadn't seemed to help at all and now he was feeling a little shaky as well. Coffee and a good meal were all he needed, he assured himself as he followed John into the diner.
John looked across the booth as Dean slid in, catching the slight wince that his son tried to hide from him. Though John had told Dean that he wanted a break as well, if he was being honest with himself, he'd made this little pit-stop for Dean. Right now, hunting was John's number one priority, and because of that he hadn't seen what it had been doing to his son.
Damn, the kid looks pale, John thought, wondering why he was just noticing how tired and worn-down Dean looked. He knew that Dean was handling Sam's absence worse than he was and he felt a pang of guilt as he realized that he had done very little to try and help him. A few days off will be good, he thought. Especially if Dean was coming down with something.
"What can I get ya boys?" John looked up as a sweet, matronly-looking waitress approached.
"I'll have coffee and a short stack of pancakes," John answered immediately, looking over at Dean who still looked far too pale.
"Can I have the same?" Dean asked, though John noted that his manner was lacking its usual charm.
"Sure thing, Darlin," the waitress said, smiling sweetly at Dean and taking the menus. "Be right back with your coffees."
Dean smirked for a second, looking at John. "Very classy place, Dad," Dean noted, looking around the diner. "When did you say you were here again?"
"Your mom and I came here a few years before you were born. We were road-tripping up the east coast and Mary insisted on stopping in this town. She said it was too cute to just drive through," John explained.
Dean stayed quiet for a beat, smiling at John's story and the wistful look he had on his face. "It is cute, I'll give her that."
The two sat in companionable silence until the food came, both enjoying the fact that, for at least a little while, they could relax. Even John was beginning to look forward to the reprieve.
When the food arrived, John immediately dug in, just then realizing how hungry he was. When he finally came up for air he saw that Dean had been much slower to attack his food. "Everything okay?" he asked, once again feeling concern at his son's appearance. Dean nodded and picked up his fork.
The coffee and food seemed to be doing nothing for his headache, Dean realized. If anything he was feeling worse than before, the smells of the diner causing his head to spin and making him feel nauseous. He managed to eat a few of the pancakes but he knew his dad could tell something was wrong. And Dean was having a hard time keeping up appearances. All he wanted to do was curl up in bed and sleep for days.
When he felt like he couldn't possibly eat any more, Dean pushed his plate away and sipped his coffee while he watched John finish up. John pointedly looked at Dean's half-full plate but chose to remain silent, instead finishing up and paying the bill as Dean went to wait in the Impala.
John frowned when he got to the car. Dean was curled up on his side with his eyes closed and his head pressed against the window. Something was definitely up with the kid. He opened the door and climbed in, reaching out to feel his son's forehead.
Dean started at that, looking up at John with bleary eyes. "What?" he asked, knocking away John's hand, "What are you doing?"
"You're burning up, kiddo. How long have you been feeling sick?"
Dean knew better than to lie, especially if John knew he had a fever. "Since this morning," he answered honestly. "It's just a headache. Be fine, just need to sleep."
John nodded, even though he knew that probably wasn't the case. Dean had barely touched his breakfast, something which was more than a little strange. John figured it was more than a headache that the kid was nursing.
"Okay, we'll go get a room now then. There's a bed and breakfast a few minutes away and I know the woman that runs it."
Dean's nod of acknowledgement was barely perceptible and John's worry increased a few notches.
Dean had fallen asleep again by the time John pulled into the Blue Sparrow Inn. Choosing to let the kid rest, John went inside, searching for Marge, the owner of the bar whom he had met on his trip with Mary. John had actually been back to Litchfield several times since his first visit and had stayed at Marge's inn on each occasion. It always brought back good memories and whenever he was in the New England area he would make an effort to at least drive through the town. He'd had Dean and Sammy with him on several occasions, though it was clear to John that Dean had no recollection of this fact. Kid must've been too young, he mused.
Swinging open the door, John smiled as the familiar face greeted him at the entrance. "Well if it isn't John Winchester!" Marge exclaimed, pulling him into a tight hug. Marge was a few years older than John and the quintessential motherly-type. She always took great care of John when he came through town and he knew that that was one of the reasons he continued coming back. John had helped one of Marge's friends out with a poltergeist problem some years back and he knew he could come to her if he was ever needed to lay low. It had been at least 5 years since John had last seen her, but Marge looked the same as he remembered.
"Marge," he said warmly, smiling wide. "How've you been?"
"Just fine, John. I'm a grandma now, if you can believe it. Lucy had a little boy last month."
"That's wonderful," John said sincerely. "Congratulations."
Marge nodded her thanks. "So what brings you around my neck of the woods?" She lowered her voice then, "You're not working a job, are you?"
"I was…We were. I'm here with Dean. We just finished getting rid of a ghost up in Providence and I figured we'd stop here afterwards. Good thing too – I think the kid is getting sick."
Marge tsked tsked at that. On the few occasions that John had brought his boys around, Marge had really taken to them. "Poor boy." Then she realized John had only mentioned one son. "Where's Sam?"
John looked down for a second. "He left to go to school a few months ago. He's in California right now. Stanford."
"Very impressive," Marge exclaimed. "You must be proud."
John muttered something noncommittal. "Yeah you know. Dean misses him a lot. It's been hard for him. For both of us."
Marge's thoughts immediately returned to John's sick son. "Where is Dean now? Did you leave him in the car?"
"Yeah he's sleeping. I figured I'd let him rest a little longer until I get the room set up. Is cabin 4 available?" John asked, referring to his usual room.
"Just for you, John." Marge pulled out a key and gathered up some extra blankets, thinking that Dean could probably use them. John pulled out his wallet, intending to take out the cash he'd earned at the last bar he and Dean had hustled at.
"Put that away, John. I still owe you for helping out Pauline," she said, referring to her friend with the poltergeist. "If you really want to pay me you can take a look at my car when you get the chance. It's been finicky for the last few months."
John smiled as he thought about Marge's old VW Beetle that John surmised she had owned her whole life. Marge insisted on keeping the thing even though it seemed to die at least once a month. "You got yourself a deal," he told her as he followed her outside.
While Marge was fixing up their cabin, John headed out to the Impala to get their bags and to try to wake Dean. When he opened the door he could see that Dean was doing worse. He had a fine sheen of sweat on his face now and he had started to shiver slightly. Poor kid, John thought again as he gently shook Dean's knee.
"Dean," he whispered. "Come on, let's go inside. There's a nice warm bed waiting for you."
Dean opened his eyes a little, seeming at first confused, "Dad? Where?"
"The Blue Sparrow Inn. Come on, do you need help?"
Dean shook his head, immediately regretting it as the action caused his head to pound. He couldn't help it and whimpered slightly. "I'm good. Give me a sec." John waited and put his hand out for Dean to take, lifting the kid slowly and keeping a hand on his shoulder until he was sure the kid was steady.
"Easy does it." He moved behind Dean's shuffling form, closing the door and grabbing the last of the bags. "Room four," he indicated and followed Dean inside.
Marge looked up as Dean walked into the room, immediately going over and pulling him into a hug. "Oh Dean, your dad was right. You're definitely sick," she said sympathetically, amused at the confused look Dean gave her.
"Dean, do you remember Marge? You met her a few times when you were younger," John said, trying to help Dean remember. "She runs this place."
Dean looked as if he was trying hard to remember, but eventually gave up. "Nice to meet you ma'am," he said with as much sincerity as he could muster. His strength was waning and he just wanted to collapse onto the bed.
"Don't you ma'am me, mister," Marge said with mock annoyance, smiling so that Dean would know she was kidding. "Call me Marge. Now let's get you settled in. You look awful."
John stepped up to help Dean out of his coat, but Dean shrugged him off, clearly embarrassed by the attention. "I got it," he muttered, and John stepped back a bit, figuring he'd give the kid some space. He knew Dean hated being fussed over, especially by people who he didn't know.
"OK, you get into bed. I'm going to go talk with Marge for a bit. Do you need anything?"
Dean seemed to relax, grateful that his dad had recognized his discomfort. "I think I'm good now. Thanks Dad," he said, giving him a slight smile.
John smiled back and followed Marge into the front office.
"He's not used to being taken care of, is he?" Marge asked John once they had left the room.
John shook his head sadly. "Ever since Sammy was old enough, he was the one who would take care of Dean when he was sick. They took care of each other. I guess we're both just new to this now."
Marge nodded. "Well regardless, we're not going to let the poor boy suffer. I've got enough medicine in here to stock a small hospital. Come on, I'll get you a little of everything. And if he gets worse or you're in over your head, just give me a call."
John was still in awe over Marge's kindness and hospitality. "Thank you so much," he said sincerely as he gathered up the supplies she had given him. "I just hope I know what I'm doing."
John returned to the room to find that Dean had changed into sweats and a t-shirt and had crawled under the blankets that Marge had brought in. Though he wanted to let the kid sleep, he knew he needed to try and get him to take some medicine.
So for the second time in less than thirty minutes, John gently shook Dean awake. Dean looked relieved to see that it was just John in the room now. He hated being vulnerable around anyone, but especially someone he didn't know. Still, he glared at John for disturbing his sleep.
"Just stay awake for me for a few minutes, okay? I need to get some medicine into you so you can get better."
Dean knew the more receptive he was to John's ministrations, the quicker he would get to sleep, so he nodded his head and tried to sit up. John helped him so he was leaning against the head board.
"Okay then," he began, "can you tell me what's wrong?"
Dean smirked a little at the discomfort he saw in John's face. He knew that this was new territory for him and even though he was feeling downright lousy, he could still appreciate the humor in the situation. Best not make this harder for him, Dean thought.
He coughed a little and cleared his throat. "My head hurts," he croaked, though he knew John already knew that. "Cold too," he continued, "and my stomach feels…weird," he had to stop as he felt another cough coming on.
John was looking even more concerned by the minute. "Sounds like the flu, kiddo." He got up and pulled out the thermometer that Marge had given him. "Open up," he ordered, holding out the instrument.
Again, Dean complied, though he knew that it would just worry John more. He knew by the chills and headache that were plaguing him that he had a fever. He just had no idea how high it was.
John waited for the beep before taking the thermometer from Dean and holding it up to the light. "101.4," he sighed, looking over at a miserable-looking Dean. "I'll give you some aspirin and you can go back to sleep."
He went to the bathroom and filled a glass with water, returning to Dean whose eyes were drooping shut again, despite that fact that he was still propped up in a sitting position. "Hey," he whispered, and Dean shook himself awake again, taking the proffered pills and water. He swallowed down the pills and half of the glass of water upon John's insistence. "Okay," John said, taking back the glass. "Get some rest, I'll be right here."
John had been sitting by Dean's bed for more than an hour before the kid started to stir. Shortly after Dean had fallen asleep, John had gotten a call from Joshua about a wendigo in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. He very briefly thought about taking the case until he looked over at Dean and noticed how young he seemed, bundled up underneath the blankets. He'd quickly begged off the case, telling Joshua that he had to take care of Dean. First time in years he had turned down a hunt.
Even though he wasn't going to take the case, John still offered to help with research. After all, he didn't have much to do but sit and wait for Dean to wake up. So for the last hour he'd been surfing the web looking for information and trying to decide whether or not the infamous Jersey Devil was merely just a very fast, very elusive wendigo.
He hadn't gotten very far when he heard Dean stirring. "Dad?" Dean croaked, his voice sounding even more raw than it had before.
"Right here, kiddo. How are you doing?" John asked, reaching out to feel Dean's forehead, not pleased at all with the heat coming off of him. "I think your fever's gone up," he said dejectedly.
"Feel awful," Dean whispered, so quietly John almost didn't hear him. The kid looked sicker than John had ever remembered seeing him and he was once again second-guessing his parenting.
John reached out with the damp washcloth he had brought over earlier and placed it on Dean's head, hoping to cool him down a little. "Shh," he whispered, "you're gonna be okay."
Dean pushed off the washcloth and immediately tried to sit up. Thinking he was just being stubborn, John tried to coax him to lie down again.
"No Dad." Dean insisted, looking to John like he was about to start crying. "Don't…feel good. Sick."
"Ok slow down, let me help you. You feel like you're going to be sick?"
Dean nodded and continued to try to sit up, having much better success now that John was assisting him, but still struggling against his churning stomach. The two shuffled into the bathroom as quickly as they could and John helped Dean kneel in front of the toilet.
Dean swallowed hard a few times, but managed to keep the contents of his stomach down. He had a death grip around the toilet and John sat behind him trying to keep him from falling backwards. After a few minutes, Dean sat back on his haunches, exhausted from the effort of clinging on so hard. John shifted around to look at his son, who looked deathly pale.
"Do you want to go back to bed?"
Dean shook his head slightly. "Still feel nauseous. Don't wanna leave."
"OK kiddo take all the time you need, I'm not going anywhere."
A few minutes later, Dean moaned and leaned forward again and John quickly moved to get behind him. Dean gagged a few times before throwing up everything that was in his stomach. He retched again and again, gasping for breath in between each spell. After what felt like hours, Dean finally stopped heaving and his gasping turned to quiet moans.
John reached over and took the glass of water from earlier, holding it up to Dean's mouth so he could rinse. He crouched down and took Dean's face in his hands. "Are you OK?" he asked him, feeling dismayed when Dean shook his head no.
John thumbed away the tears that had run down Dean's face from the effort of being sick. "Okay," John said, thinking. Dean began shivering again and John knew he had to get him back to bed. "Come on, I'll bring the garbage can over to your bed. You need to lie down now."
John reached down and slowly helped Dean to his feet, leading the kid back into the room and pulling back the covers so he could get in. Dean gratefully pulled the blankets around him but kept one arm wrapped around his stomach, trying to still the contents inside. He opened his mouth slightly when John once again produced the thermometer.
"Damn," John swore, looking at the readout of 102.5. "What am I going to do with you?" he whispered softly. Dean just closed his eyes and nestled deeper into the covers.
The garbage can had turned out to be a very good idea. Dean had barely been asleep for 40 minutes when he awoke with a start, gagging. Even though John had been sitting right next to Dean's bed, he still had to move quickly to get the garbage can to Dean in time.
He sat next to Dean on the bed, wrapping his arm around his back as he tried to will his son's stomach to calm down. Dean continued to cough and gag, spitting up strings of watery bile. "Dad…" Dean moaned as he continued to heave, begging his father to do something, anything to make him feel better. John had never felt more helpless.
By the time Dean was finally finished, John's shirt was wet from the sweat of his son's body pressed against his. He helped Dean rinse again and then laid him back down on the bed. Though he had tried wiping Dean down with cool washcloths, John was almost certain that they had been ineffective. He'd dosed Dean again with Tylenol, but the pills didn't seem to be helping either.
"What am I going to do with you?" John asked again, shaking his head at the lump which was Dean. He could tell by the steady breathing that his son was once again asleep.
For the next few hours, John and Dean seemed to have a routine down. Even though Dean was certain he had nothing left in his stomach, he couldn't seem to stop puking. John stayed by his side the entire time, holding the trash can for him when he got sick and wiping him down with washcloths when his fever climbed too high.
John was starting to get really worried when 6 o'clock rolled around and Dean was still vomiting every half hour or so. He knew the dangers of dehydration and Dean seemed incapable of keeping even the smallest sips of water down. He leaned forward in his chair when he heard Dean call out to him again.
"Dad?" Dean whimpered. "Where's Sammy?"
Dean had already asked John this question three times in the last few hours, but he answered anyway, though his worry over Dean's fever did increase a little more.
"Stanford Dean, remember? Sam's been at college for four months now." He looked over to see how Dean reacted, but his son was once again dozing fitfully. John reached out and brushed Dean's hair back off his forehead, once again thinking how young he looked.
Just as John was settling back to continue his research from earlier, he heard a knock at the door. Immediately realizing it was probably Marge checking up on Dean, John jumped to his feet to let her in.
Marge could tell from the tired expression on John's face that the evening had been tough. "How sick is he?" she asked, clearly concerned.
"I think it's just a stomach bug or the flu, but I'm having trouble getting him to keep liquids down. He started throwing up almost 5 hours ago and it's been pretty non-stop since then. His fever is relentless as well. What do I do?" John turned to Marge, his eyes beseeching her for help.
"You've been washing him down with cool water?" Marge asked him, looking pointedly at the washcloth that John had picked up again. John nodded in reply. "And you've been trying to get him to drink fluids," she surmised. Again, John nodded. "You're doing fine then, honey. Perfectly fine."
"It doesn't feel like it," John sighed. "I'm his father, I should know what to do," John continued.
"And you do," Marge insisted. "You're doing everything right. He'll be okay. Do you need me to do anything for you?"
John looked up at Marge and smiled. "Thank you," he said sincerely, "but I think I've got this covered. I need to do this. For Dean AND for me."
Dean was once again coughing and spitting into the trash can that his dad held for him. He knew he was whimpering, but he was feeling too sick to care. John got up onto the bed and sat beside Dean, pulling him over to lean against him. Dean leaned into the touch, feeling his dad rubbing his arm gently and whispering soothing words to him. He seemed sad, Dean thought to himself.
"Dad? Why you sad?" Dean mumbled. John looked over at Dean, surprised at the question.
"I'm not sad, Dean. More disappointed."
"I do something wrong?"
"No, of course not. I'm disappointed in myself, Dean. I shoulda been the one taking care of you and Sammy when you were little. Not the other way around."
Dean reached out and patted his dad's hand. "Not your fault," he insisted.
John only wished he believed that.
The virus or, whatever it was, didn't seem to want to quit. John figured it was more than just the flu that was kicking Dean's ass, but a combination of the illness and fatigue. John hadn't been the only one hunting non-stop; he just hadn't realized how much Dean was being affected by it. He imagined Sam's absence didn't help either.
"Do you miss him Dad?" Dean asked at one point when his fever was down and he could think clearly. "Do you miss Sam?"
"Every day," he answered honestly. "But he needed this, Dean. He needed this for himself. I just wish I hadn't driven him to it."
Dean murmured something in response, but it was too low for John to hear.
John awoke with a start at 1 in the morning, looking up to see Dean's bed was empty. Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, he stumbled to the bathroom where light was spilling out through a crack in the door. He pushed into the room, finding Dean crouched on the floor and puking into the toilet again.
"How can you still be throwing up?" John asked Dean half-jokingly. The truth was he couldn't believe the kid had anything left TO throw up.
"Tried to drink water," Dean mumbled after he'd calmed down a bit. He let out a sob as his stomach cramped again. "Was thirsty."
John closed the toilet seat and helped Dean to sit on it. "You ever been this sick before?" he asked in all seriousness. He couldn't believe how sick Dean was.
"Mmm," Dean hummed, hiccoughing a little and pressing a hand to his mouth. John reached for the trash can just in case. "M'Okay" Dean told him. "Sammy usually takes care of me," he answered him. "But he's not here. Dad, where's Sam?"
John shook his head in frustration, answering Dean's question for the fiftieth time that night. All of the sudden Dean scrambled off the toilet seat and lifted the lid, sticking his head inside just in time to be sick again. John sat behind him and rubbed his back in soothing circles, waiting for his stomach to calm again.
Three hours later, John was cautiously optimistic that Dean was done throwing up. The kid had puked five more times since John had awoken to find him in the bathroom, but he had kept the latest glass of water down for an unprecedentedly long time. John reached out and felt Dean's forehead, hoping that it wasn't just his imagination that his son seemed cooler.
When nine AM rolled around and Dean was still sleeping soundly, John felt it was safe enough to go grab a coffee from the breakfast bar. He also wanted to let Marge know that Dean was doing better.
When he came back into the room an hour later, he was pleased to see that Dean was in the same position he had left him and his fever was markedly lower. Dean began to stir when John removed his hand from his forehead. John looked down to see Dean blinking up at him.
"Hey kiddo," John whispered. "Are you feeling any better?"
"Think so," Dean answered, "What happened?"
"I think you had the stomach flu," John replied. "Or something. Some kind of stomach bug. But you seem to be doing better," he said, smiling.
Dean nodded at that. "You're gonna be okay, Dean," John repeated. "We both are."