A/N: Written for h/c bingo 'taking care of someone' prompt.
5 Times Dean Winchester Took Care of Someone
One day Mommy looks normal, the next she's huge. Her tummy gets all big and round, kinda like the basketball Dean got for his birthday, and he's a little bit freaked out by it.
"It's nothing to be scared of, Deano," Mommy says when Dean whispers his fear in her ear. "Remember how we talked about you having a baby brother?"
Dean nods seriously. Mommy and Daddy told him about that, but it was a loooong time ago. He's kinda forgotten about it and figured maybe Mommy and Daddy had too.
"Well, he's in my tummy. When he's big enough, he'll come out and we get to meet him!"
Dean's eyes widen. He guesses it will be cool to have a brother, but it's going to come out of her stomach, and there's no way that's normal. For the next few days, Dean checks his tummy every morning when he wakes up, just to be sure he doesn't have a scary baby-lump instead of a belly button, and he's secretly relieved when every morning his tummy is still smooth and flat. He doesn't trust his Mommy's huge tummy, no matter what she says.
So when he wakes up one morning (belly button: check) and hears Mommy crying, his first thought is that this is his brother's fault, and maybe the baby tried to explode out of her tummy and hurt her. That thought scares him a little, so he snatches up his stuffed bear, George, and pads quietly out to the front room.
"Mommy?" He whispers, clutching George to him. His mom is sitting in the big rocking chair. Her eyes are all red and she's sniffling, but her tummy hasn't exploded, at least.
"Mommy, what's wrong?"
Dean's a little panicked. His mom normally doesn't cry, and whenever she does Daddy hugs her and gives her kisses. Now, it's just Mommy.
Mommy sobs even harder when he asks that, and Dean's eyes go wide as he hugs George even closer to his chest. He isn't really sure what to do and he's a little worried that Mommy's so sad because he doesn't like her tummy, so he finally climbs into Mommy's lap and wraps his arms around her neck and kisses her cheek.
"It's okay, Mommy," Dean whispers. "I like your tummy. I like my brother."
Mommy laughs even though she's still crying and hugs Dean tightly.
"I know, baby," she says, sniffling. She lifts Dean and puts him on the floor, then stands up, wiping her eyes.
"How about we go make some cookies, huh?"
Dean grins and nods and tucks his little hand in to his Mommy's big one and sneaks a glance at her tummy. He still doesn't trust it.
Sammy's got something cradled in his arms and he's hollering as he barrels up the stairs to their motel room.
"Dean! Dad! Dean, I need help!"
Dean tears out of the room, gun drawn and eyes wild, Dad right behind him. Sam stumbles into him, panting, and he's got blood smeared over his hands.
"Sam!" Dad barks as Dean ushers him into the motel room.
"What the hell, Sammy, where are you hurt?" Dean yells as he slams the door behind them.
"Dean, the salt lines," Dad orders, then turns to Sam. "You, sit down. Where are you hurt?"
Dean does a cursory examination to make sure the salt line's unbroken, then starts digging through Dad's duffle for the first-aid kit.
"Dad, I'm not hurt, I'm fine," Sam answers, holding his arms out. "It's this puppy, see? I think it must've gotten attacked be bigger dogs. He's hurt real bad."
Dean stops his desperate search and winces, knowing that Dad's reaction is not going to be a good one. He's right.
"Shit, Sam, you come tearing up those stairs screaming and covered in blood for a dog? I thought- damn it, Sam!" John runs a hand through his hair and glares down at his youngest. The seven year old manages to look simultaneously ashamed and defiant, a sure sign that he doesn't recognize the fear that his father is trying desperately to hide. Dean braces himself for a potential meltdown, once again astonished at how stubborn his little brother can be.
"Dad, he needs help. We help things, don't we?"
"People, Sam, we help people. Not mangy dogs you find on the side of the road."
Sam holds the puppy tighter.
"He's not mangy, he's just…he's just a little banged up! Please, Dad, we gotta help him."
Dad sighs and shakes his head.
"Let me see him," he says, holding one hand out. Dean's eyes widen in surprise; he sure as hell didn't expect his dad to back down on this one. Dad lifts the softly whimpering puppy and inspects it carefully before speaking.
"Alright, son, you and me are gonna head down to the school track, where you get to run a few miles in punishment. Meantime, Dean can patch this mutt up. Be good practice for him, brush up his first aid skills."
Dean looks up, frowning, as Dad thrusts the puppy into his arms.
"Stitch it and bandage it up. You know the drill. I'll check your work when I get back."
Dean nods and shifts the puppy in his arms. He doesn't miss Sammy's pleading look as his younger brother leaves the room.
"Hey there," Dean says to the puppy when they're alone. "You're a sorry sonuvabitch, aren't you?" The poor thing was definitely on the receiving end of some pretty nasty bites mostly over its hind legs. Dean honestly doubts that even stitching him up will save him, but he's been given an order and Sammy's counting on him and Dean has to try.
"Just a minute, little guy," he says, fishing a needle and thread out of the first aid kit. The puppy is whining and writhing weakly, and Dean pauses a moment to scratch behind his floppy ears. He settles the dog into his lap, trying to gently hold it down, and ends up looping a leg over the puppy's forelegs, being as careful as he can not to hurt it.
"So what'd you get yourself into, huh?" He murmurs, deftly threading the needle and scratching behind the dog's ears again. "I think you need a name. I'm thinking Optimus."
He starts the first stitch, tightening his grip as Optimus lets out a yelp and struggles to get away. Dean keeps talking as he stitches, though he knows it's probably stupid and Optimus probably can't hear him.
"It's a good name, even if you are an undersized mutt. Sammy will like it."
He finishes the first row of stitches and pauses to scrub at Optimus' ears again, then finishes up the last few rows, soothing the puppy between each set.
"Just the bandages now, buddy," Dean says, finishing the last of the stitches and carefully bandaging the shallower cuts. "You'll be okay."
Dean finishes the bandages and carefully sets Optimus on the floor, then gets one of the few tin bowls they have and fills it with water.
"Here you go, Optimus," Dean says, heart sinking when he realizes that the puppy is too weak to stand above it. He gingerly lifts the dog and holds it above the bowl, smiling in relief when the dog laps some of the water up. After Optimus stops drinking, Dean lays some newspaper on the floor to be on the safe side, then cleans up the supplies.
"You're gonna be okay, huh boy?" Dean murmurs, sitting next to the exhausted dog and rubbing him behind the ears. Optimus nuzzles weakly against his hand, his tongue lapping feebly at Dean's hand. Dean grins and leans back against the wall, one hand resting on Optimus' head.
Five minutes later, Dad and Sam come back. Dad inspects Dean's stitches then nods and pats him on the shoulder, which is pretty high praise and leaves Dean beaming. Sammy looks at him with wide adoring eyes after checking on Optimus, and as Dean suspected, highly approves of the puppy's name.
He goes to bed feeling pretty good about himself.
The next morning, Optimus is dead. Dean tells himself that he was expecting it, that it really wasn't a surprise, but Sammy looks so devastated and Dean had kinda-maybe convinced himself that the puppy had a fighting chance and he'd kinda started to like the mangy mutt. He isn't crying but his throat starts to feel a little tight, and Sammy's blinking back tears and scrubbing roughly at his eyes.
"Dog was gonna die from the minute Sam brought him in, Dean," Dad says. "You still did good."
Dean nods, but he doesn't really believe him, and maybe it shows because Sammy reaches out and gently touches Dean's hand for a second.
"You tried, Dean. You prob'ly gave him the best day he ever had."
"Yeah," Dean echoes quietly. "Probably."
Sammy's gone, has been for a couple of months, but Dean still can't wrap his head around it. He keeps expecting his huge brother to show up at their motel, food in hand and smiling sheepishly, explaining that it was all just a mistake but he'd really like to come back home, now. Of course, that doesn't happen, and Dean's not about to be the one to breach the silence-not because of pride, but because he's secretly terrified that Sam is going to see his name and ignore the phone, or worse, pick up and tell Dean to stop calling him.
So now it's just Dad and him, pretending like everything's normal and they aren't really on the verge of completely losing it. Dean isn't sure how close Dad is to the brink, but he feels like he's on the edge of a cliff and it would only a take a small gust of wind to send him tumbling over.
Whatever it is Dad's feeling, his response is, as usual, to just throw them into as many hunts as possible and as often as possible, which leads Dean to where he is now, kneeling in a lonely field in the mud with a boy who looks like Sammy dying in front of him.
The werewolf hunt is straightforward in most regards, though they have to split up as night draws to a close with still no sign of the creature. Dean finds it just as the first bits of light appeared on the horizon and shoots it without hesitation.
It's only when he gets to the body, salt and lighter already in hand, that the hunt takes a turn that Dean isn't expecting and that he isn't really ready to deal with. The werewolf has shifted back into its human form, a boy not much older than Sam from the looks of it and with the same too-long hair, and, worst of all, he isn't dead yet.
Dean stops in his tracks, uncertain what to do as the boy writhes weakly on the ground, chest heaving. Finally, he moves forward and drops to his knees next to him, reaching out with a trembling hand and resting it on the boy's shoulder. The boy groans softly and turns toward him, revealing wide eyes filled with pain and fear.
"Pl-please," he whispers, blood trickling from his mouth. "Lo-locker at the train sta-station. Si-sixteen. Send my s-stuff to my pa-parents?"
Dean's eyes widen and he blinks rapidly, trying to regain some composure. What the hell is he supposed to do now?
"Address is i-in the locker," the boy says, grabbing Dean's hand with as much strength as he can muster. "P-please."
"Okay," Dean says, because the kid is dying and even if he isn't really going to do it, he can give this kid some comfort, so he will.
"Thanks," the boy murmurs, his chest heaving. "Wasn't al-always l-like this."
"I know," Dean says, because sometimes people make themselves monsters and sometimes shit just happens. "I know, and it's okay. I won't tell your-"
A gunshot rings out and Dad comes up next to him, shoving his gun in his waistband as he approaches. Dean's staring in shock at the boy's corpse, the fresh wound in his chest smoking ever so slightly.
"Why the hell did you hesitate, Dean?" Dad demands, snatching the salt from Dean's hands.
"Um, I dunno," Dean murmurs. "He wasn't-he wasn't dead yet but he still shifted…"
Dad shrugs as he starts sprinkling the corpse. "A shot to the heart doesn't mean instantaneous death, son."
Dean nods, but his hands are trembling and he quickly shoves them in his pockets to hide it from his dad. Dad isn't fooled though and looks up, narrowing his eyes.
"I need your head in the game, Dean. Without focus, you're as dead as this poor bastard."
Dean nods and swallows thickly, fumbling with the lighter for a second before lighting the boy's body on fire. It takes all the self-control he possesses to keep the tears he feels welling at bay, and instead decides that he's going to do what he said he would. After all, he would want to know if it was Sammy.
They get home and Dad heads immediately for the shower.
"Hey, Dad?" Dean says just before he goes into the bathroom. "I'm gonna go hit the bar, okay?"
"Sure thing, Dean. Don't get too wasted though, and be back by 5. We'll leave tonight, head up to Montana. Bobby just called, told me about a haunting up there."
"Yep, I got it," Dean answers, immensely relieved when his dad tosses him the keys without another word.
He finds the locker easily and looks around before slipping his lock picks out of his pocket and making quick work of the cheap lock. He takes a deep breath before opening the door and feels his breath catch at what he finds. There's a stack of photos, showing the boy and a group of smiling people, the boy in his graduation cap, the boy and his parents. There's also a pocket watch, engraved on the back with multiple sets of initials, all ending in the letter A.
He pulls out a wallet next, revealing a driver's license that gives Dean a name and an address. Hank Adams. He looks again at the pocket watch, and the last set of initials are H.A. Four generations of this kid's family have had this watch.
Dean carefully tucks the pictures, wallet and watch into his backpack, then swings by the post office to get a box and stamps. It's cloudy out, a bit chilly, but Dean drives to a park he saw on the way to the train station, grabs his backpack, and sits down at a picnic table.
He sets Hank's belongings in the box, ripping a few pages from his notebook and crumpling them to provide some padding for the watch, then takes one more page out.
"I don't know what to say to your parents, kid," he mutters under his breath, pen hovering over the page. It seems like no matter what he says, he's living Hank's parents with a ton of questions, probably providing less closure than if he'd just kept his mouth shut. Still, he has to say something.
Mr. and Mrs. Adams, your son Hank passed away this morning. His last words were to ask me to send you his belongings and to tell you he loved you. He died a hero. I am sorry for your loss.
Dean folds the letter and seals the box, quickly addressing and stamping it. He wonders how long Hank was gone from home, if he had left his parents before or after he was bitten, and hopes that maybe in some small way, the box will help them come to terms with losing their son.
After he puts the box in the mail, he sits for a minute in the car, unable to get Hank's dying form out of his head. His parents would never know what had really happened to him and he had died alone and scared. With a tired smile, Dean picks up the phone and dials Sam's number.
Sam is fourteen when he gets chicken pox. Dad's off on a hunt, of course, and Dean's stuck at home with a busted arm, so he gets the double-whammy of caring for his little brother and taking the full brunt of Sam's less-than-pleasant demeanor. Not that he can blame the poor kid, but still…Dean's just damn grateful that he had chicken pox when he was three and can't remember how miserable it was. As it is, he's struggling to take care of Sammy with his right arm stuck in a sling. Normally, Sam would be understanding to the point of being irritating about Dean's arm, but today…
"Shit, Dean, I'm gonna die!" Sam wails, waving his hands around in frustration. "I have never itched this much in my life, and I'm too hot, and I feel like I'm gonna puke, and this sucks out loud!"
Dean shakes his head and smiles in exasperation as he wets another washcloth with his good arm and awkwardly wrings it out over the sink.
"I know it's crappy, Sam, but damn you're a whiner," he murmurs, drawing the washcloth clumsily across his brother's heated forehead. Sam groans as Dean continues dampening his face, leaning into his touch despite how awkward it must be- Dean feels like he's just smearing the rag over Sam's face rather than soothing him, but Sam seems to like it enough.
"I'm gonna go draw you up a bath, Sammy, so just take it easy for a couple of minutes. And don't scratch, or I'll come back and kick your ass, you know I will."
Sam grumbles something under his breath that Dean ignores and heads into the bathroom. He's done his research on how to handle chicken pox, knows that Sam can have ibuprofen but not aspirin, and that oatmeal baths and chamomile lotion helps. He'd felt like such a girl buying the stuff for him, 'soothing bath treatment' and lavender scented chamomile, but if it would help Sam (and stop or at least lessen his whining) than it was totally worth a little humiliation.
It doesn't take long for him to draw up the bath and sprinkle the oatmeal in, though he feels more than a little awkward doing it, then yells for Sam.
Sam stumbles into the bathroom, hands held out pitifully in front of him as he tries not to scratch at the itchy spots covering his body, and his hair is tousled. He looks absolutely miserable.
"Okay, Sammy, your bath's ready. You'd better be able to undress yourself, though, 'cause there is no way in hell I'm stripping you." Besides the obvious awkwardness, he also doubts that he could really help with his arm in a sling anyway.
"Yeah, I got it," Sam says with a sigh, pulling his shirt over his head. Dean winces at the spots covering his torso.
"Okay, you take your time and relax, alright? Let me know if you need anything." He wants to add something about how awkward it'll be if Sam's naked when he asks for help, but he's worried that Sam will take him seriously and drown or something instead of just getting over it. Sam's already down to his boxers and is eying the bath with a look as close to excitement as he can manage with his fever and obvious exhaustion, so Dean decides to make his exit quickly.
Once he gets out of the bathroom, Dean gets to work on dinner. He bought a can of tomato soup and some rice at the store, and though he knows it won't be as good as when his mom used to make it, he figures he can try anyway. A minute of struggling to use the can opener one handed leads him to finally just stab it with his Bowie, and by the time Sam emerges from the bathroom twenty five minutes later, the soup is bubbling gently on the stove, rice floating and steam wafting.
"What'd you make?" Sam asks blearily, squinting at the pot.
"Come on and sit down, I'll bring you a bowl."
"Soup?" Sam murmurs.
"Wow, kid, I can see how you get those straight As now," Dean snarks as he gingerly ladles soup into a bowl. It's fairly difficult and some of it sloshes over the sides, but he manages to get a bowl full and takes it to Sam.
"Dean, you made this?" Sam says as he takes the bowl.
"Yeah. It's- I mean, I know it's not perfect and not as good as- anyway. Just eat it." Sam eyes him for a second and Dean is worried that his slip didn't go unnoticed, but Sam just shrugs and takes a sip, eyes widening.
"This is really good, Dean. Damn."
Dean grins lightly, then goes back to the stove to get himself a bowl.
"Once we're done I'll, uh, rub some of that lotion crap on your back. You can handle the front on your own though, 'cause I ain't doing that."
Sam snorts. "That's something I want to picture even less than you do, Dean."
Dean grins and sits down next to Sam, taking a tentative spoonful of the soup. It's definitely not as good as Mom's, but…it's still a nice reminder of her and somehow makes him feel closer to her. Or something.
"Dean, are you crying?" Sam asks, frowning.
"Hell no. Eat your soup, bitch."
Sam chuckles. "Whatever, jerk."
Dean hasn't let himself fall asleep even though he's really tired and just wants to go to bed. After nearly letting Sammy get killed, there's no way he's taking any chances, so he stays awake, knife under his pillow and shotgun cradled in his arms.
At quarter to two in the morning, the lock on the door clicks and Dean sits up straighter and cocks the shotgun.
Dad stumbles in a minute later.
"Dean? You still up?" Dad mumbles, collapsing into the chair next to Dean.
"Yeah, Dad," Dean answers, setting the shotgun down. Dad pulls a flask out of his jacket and takes a long swig before resting his head against the back of the chair, sighing heavily.
"Dad?" Dean whispers. "I made grilled cheese for dinner tonight, and we've still got a bit of bread left. You want some?"
"No son, that's okay," Dad answers, taking another long drink. Dean swallows thickly, watching as his dad sits stock-still in the chair, flask held tightly in one hand.
"Dad?" Dean whispers again. Dad doesn't answer this time, just takes another drink and sniffles suspiciously. Dean's eyes widen as he realizes his dad is crying. He doesn't know what to do. Dad doesn't cry, not ever, but he is now so something really bad must have happened, and there's no one else to help him, so…so it's up to Dean.
"Dad," Dean says, walking up next to his dad and putting a hand on his shoulder. Dad smells like sweat and gunpowder and something metallic and tangy that Dean suspects might be blood. He doesn't look up at Dean's touch.
"Dad, it's okay," Dean says, smiling half-heartedly just in case Dad looks up.
He does, eyes big and glistening in the dim light of the room.
"Thank you, son," he says, clapping his big hand over Dean's. "You should get some sleep, kiddo."
"You sure you're okay?" Dean asks.
"Yeah, Dean. Thanks. Go on, bud, we'll head out tomorrow."
"Okay," Dean says. "Night, Dad."
The last thing Dean sees before he goes to bed is his dad screwing the lid on his flask and putting it away. Dean smiles and shuts the door.
And One Time No One Took Care of Him
Dean's hands are shaking so badly that he can't get his keycard in the door on his first or even second try, and he's absurdly glad that it's dark out so no one can see him struggle. Not that it matters.
He finally gets in to the room and stumbles to the bed, one hand clapped over his side. He can feel blood, warm and slippery, sliding between his fingers, and he has to take a deep breath and steel himself before taking his shirt off. Hissing in pain, he makes it to the bathroom and flips on the light.
The puncture wound looks as bad, worse maybe, than he thought it would.
The creature that Dean was hunting had turned out to be something he'd never expected- a huge scorpion-like beast that he'd determined to likely be some reincarnation of the scorpion Tefen of Egyptian mythology. He had no idea how the hell a huge Egyptian scorpion had ended up in New Mexico but when it came down to it, it didn't really matter.
Didn't matter because Dean had been stupid enough to get stung. There had been a single survivor of the scorpion's many attacks, so there's a chance that- that Dean will be okay. It boils down to making it through the night or not making it through the night. He'll know (or not know, as the case may be) by morning.
Damn. He'd always known that hunting was a dangerous gig, that this was going to take him down one day, but he never thought it would be this soon. And he sure as hell never thought he would be alone in a dirty motel room, hollow and scared and without his dad or his brother there with him. He guesses it didn't really matter since he'll ultimately die alone anyway, but still…the next few hours, the tension and the fear and the pain- well, it might have been nice to have someone there.
Dean realizes that he's sounding like a chick and basically just wants a hand to hold, but isn't he entitled to that? After all these years, doesn't he deserve to have someone with him? Damn it all to hell, he's tired of people leaving him behind. Maybe- maybe this is his chance to do the leaving.
The room feels hot and stifling all of a sudden, and a tiny bit spinny, so he stumbles to the bed and sits down, afraid that he's on the verge of collapse. Turns out, he's pretty much right, because it seems like times skips out for a second and everything goes black and he comes back to himself on his back, staring up at the fugly ceiling.
"Whoa," Dean murmurs, waiting for his equilibrium to return. It takes a few minutes and he almost has a panic attack as his heart pounds in his ears and his breathing saws in and out and the room continues spinning around his head. Holy shit, he's gonna die.
Dean finally decides that he's calling his dad and he's calling his brother. Too bad if they're busy, too bad if they aren't going to be able to get there in time and they'll feel guilty, he needs some support, damn it. He fumbles for his phone and holds it out in front of him, squinting as he tries to find his dad's number. He's so damn hot. Finally, he gets the right number dialed and waits for his dad to pick up, mumbling 'pickuppickuppickup' under his breath. As soon as the phone clicks, he starts talking.
"Dad, please, I know that-"
"This is John Winchester. If this is an emergency…" The familiar voicemail stops him mid-sentence and Dean feels tears well up unexpectedly. Shit.
"Dad, I don't know where you are, but I'm scared, Dad. I-uh, something happened and, uh- anyway, please call me back. I just, uh, I just need to talk to you, okay? Please, Dad. Please call me back tonight. I'll be up."
He hangs up and wipes his tears and lays there panting and shivering, suddenly freezing. And isn't that a kick in the pants, since two seconds ago he thought he was going to die of heat exhaustion? What the hell was in that motherfucking scorpion's tail anyway?
It takes him another second to dial Sam's number and he finds himself doing the same chant, praying for Sam to pick up his damn phone.
He gets the voicemail again, and for a split second he isn't sure if he can leave another message.
"Hey Sammy, I know it's been awhile, but, I, uh, I really need to talk to you. Um, tonight, please, if you can, because, well, I'm not doing so hot and, uh…Sammy, please. I just need you tonight, okay? Please call me back. I'll be up all night, bro, so, uh…anyway. Stay safe, get into some trouble for me, okay? Love you, bitch."
He hangs up and flings the phone across the room, painfully aware that he's burning up again, sweating and gasping for air. His stomach cramps with a sudden intensity and he rolls over to the side of the bed and vomits. He mentally apologizes to the cleaning lady, then realizes she'll probably be a little preoccupied with his lifeless corpse to be worried about the puke.
He picks up the phone and calls both Sammy and Dad again, though he doesn't leave a voicemail this time. That's partially because he starts retching again almost the second after he snaps his phone shut, vomiting profusely until there's nothing left anywhere in his stomach and maybe nothing left in his whole body, but he somehow manages to keep puking.
Finally done, he collapses back onto his back and tries to think about something other than the pain that's now a constant in his stomach, that's shooting up his spine and down into his groin and legs. There isn't a whole lot else to think about, though. He thinks about Sammy, about all the time they spent together and the hunts they went on, prank wars and standing up for each other…and then he remembers coming home to Sam's bags packed and outside of the door and shouting coming from inside the room. Sammy left the next day.
He thinks about Dad, but then he remembers Dad's drinking and his sadness and the nights that Dad's forgotten but that Dean still has the scars to show as proof, and then he remembers getting a text with coordinates and coming home to an empty motel room.
Everyone leaves him. And he doesn't fucking deserve it.
His breath is coming harder, and he suspects that maybe it's coming down to it, that maybe these next few minutes will decide his fate. Dean's eyelids go heavy and he starts to drift to sleep, jerking himself awake with a gasp. He only manages to keep his eyes open for another few minutes before he starts to drift off again.
As he goes off to sleep or to death, he can't help but think that if he wakes up in the morning, nothing's going to change. He'll tell his dad and Sammy that everything's fine, that he's okay now and they don't need to worry, and he'll go on being alone and abandoned.
Then he falls into the black and knows nothing more.