Title: The Fever Called Living
Summary: Part of the Fusion 'verse. Sam has the flu, and Dean has a bad day. Sort of written for the latest prompts at silverbullets: His whole life, Sam's always loved Dean best, and His whole life, Dean's always loved Sam best.
Characters: Dean, Sam, brief OC appearance
Disclaimer: Everything recognizable is the property of the CW. All of the mangling is my doing.
Warnings: Angst. Oh God, is there angst in this one. Sick!Sam, and a little more hurt!Dean for people who like pain with their limping. ;)
Neurotic Author's Note #1: Yeah, more Fusion. I'm procrastinating on actual writing commitments, can we tell? This is set right after Top 10 Attractions.
Neurotic Author's Note #2: Uh, this was originally meant to be schmoop. I managed to sneak some in just at the end, but mostly there's angst. /o\
Neurotic Author's Note #3: So I gave Sam a bunch of good days in previous entries, I figured it was high time to rectify that. It wouldn't be Fusion without some Sam-whumpage, right?
Dean is almost sure that anxiety is not a sign that he's losing his mind. It's perfectly normal to worry about your brother if he has the flu and you left him alone at home when he has a tendency to have traumatic flashbacks or wander off or both. It's even more normal to worry if said brother hasn't answered the phone all damned day. It doesn't mean he's overbearing or neurotic or crazy or whatever.
After the fourth time she catches Dean hanging up the phone Sophie takes pity on him. "Why don't you take off early?" she offers. "Either that or I'll just have the phone surgically grafted to your ear and save you time."
Dean feels himself flush a little bit. "Sorry. I just… he's not picking up."
"So go home early and check on him. It's not like I haven't closed up here before. Used to do it all the time before I hired you, you know."
He resists the urge to wring his hands –Sammy's rubbing off on him a little too much, it seems. "I know, but you've given me a lot of time off the past year or so, and I don't want to leave you short if I don't have to–"
"Dean," Sophie interrupts, and he doesn't know whether to be annoyed or relieved to see that she's biting back a smile. "This isn't Borders. It's Tuesday night, and the store isn't exactly hopping, here. I already told you I don't care about sick days unless you're going to be gone for more than a couple of days. I swear, if I didn't know your brother I'd say you have the worst guilt complex of anyone I've ever met. Go home. Your job will still be here tomorrow."
Dean's already shrugging into his jacket, which is Perry's signal to bounce up from her bed behind the store counter and sit down at his feet, panting happily now that they're going home. "It's just that he caught this stupid bug that I had before," he explains a little lamely, giving Perry a pat on the head and scratching behind her ears. She's a good dog, and it never hurts to reward her for being awesome on a regular basis. "And now he's not answering the phone, and he never does well when he's got a fever."
Sophie hands him his cane as he grabs Perry's lead. "I know, which is why you should go check on him. Call if there's anything, all right?"
Dean's pretty sure he answers something affirmative on his way out the front door, but his thoughts are already hurrying ahead of him through the damp streets. He shouldn't have left Sam alone, not when he was sick, but Sam'd been doing so well for the past couple of months that he'd thought it was worth trying, just for a day. God, how stupid could he get? The last time Sam had a fever Dean had found him wandering nearly half a mile away without so much as a jacket to stave off the chill in the air. Sam's always been prone to high fevers when he's sick anyway, and now it just screws with his already fucked-up brain and takes him right back to the Cage.
"Shit," Dean mutters under his breath, wishing, not for the first time, that he was still able to sprint all the way home. His hip is already sore from being on his feet for most of the day, and he's glad that he doesn't have to maintain the punishing pace he's set for too long, because there's no way he'll last more than a few minutes.
Perry whines as he fumbles with his keys, picking up on his anxiety, and noses her way past the front door, waiting a little impatiently for him to unhook her working harness, then whines again and thumps her tail against his leg. The house is eerily still apart from them, none of the lights on downstairs, which makes Dean uneasy the way nothing else can these days.
"Sammy?" he calls out, not that he's expecting an answer. He gives Perry a pat on her rump. "Find Sam, Perry."
He lets her race up the stairs, starts switching on the lights in the living room and kitchen, and isn't surprised when he finds no sign of Sam's having even gone into those rooms today. Perry barks once, sharply, from the top of the stairs, and Dean feels tension he didn't even realize was there drain suddenly from his body. At least Sam is still at home, still safe in the house instead of out wandering in the cold, confused and alone. Dean leans heavily on the banister, his hip protesting the treatment as he makes his way upstairs. He'll probably have to go back to Amanda and see if he hasn't got bursitis again –and there are no words to express just how much that sucked the last time.
He gives Sam's room a cursory glance, but doesn't bother checking it further when he sees that Sam's bed is empty. Knowing Sam, he'll have curled up on Dean's bed, because that's where, for some benighted reason, he still feels safest when things go badly. It's a little humbling, to know that after everything, after all the shit they've been through, that after demons and angels and well over a hundred years in Hell, that Dean's status of big brother is still intact. To think that, somewhere inside Sam's screwed-up head, he still trusts that Dean can stand between him and the darkness and emerge victorious. No matter how untrue it is, Dean still can't quite bring himself to let Sam in on that little secret. If Sam trusts him to have his back, fucked-up leg and nightmares of Hell and borderline alcoholism and all, then Dean's damned well not going to let him down.
Sam's not on Dean's bed either, but Perry is pacing back and forth just inside the door of the bedroom and drops to her haunches when Dean goes in, so Dean flicks on the light, half-afraid he's going to find Sam unconscious on the floor, or worse.
It's a slight hitch of breath that attracts his attention first, and Dean's heart has a hard time deciding if it wants to drop into his stomach or climb right out of his throat. Sam has wedged himself in the furthest corner of the room, as though he's trying his damnedest to just melt right into the wall, arms up over his head, curled into the tightest ball he can manage.
"Shit," Dean breathes. "I knew I shouldn't have left you. Hey, Sammy…" he limps over, makes Perry sit with a hand signal. "Sammy, can you hear me? It's me, dude," he leans over, brushes his fingers against Sam's shoulder, only to have Sam flinch away with a muted whimper. Dean swallows hard. "Sammy… Sam, come on. I'm sorry I left, okay? Can you look at me, at least? Please?"
But Sam's locked himself away tightly in his own head, the fever Dean can still feel rolling off him obviously wreaking havoc with the precarious balance he's managed to maintain for the past few months. He's shivering, still dressed in nothing but the sweatpants and ratty old t-shirt he usually wears to sleep, and Dean isn't sure that he hasn't been here the whole time, caught up in his own suffering with no one to snap him out of it.
"Sam, you can't stay on the floor. Come on," he tries again, but it's useless. He's not going to get anywhere like this, but he's tired and his hip aches and just the thought of sitting on the floor feels exhausting. He sighs, braces himself against the wall, leans on his cane in order to slide down, right leg carefully extended, then nudges Sam with his shoulder once he's seated. It's not as uncomfortable as he feared, now that he's down, but getting up again is going to be a bitch. "You could at least acknowledge I'm here. This isn't as easy as I make it look, you know."
Sam shakes his head. "Not real," he murmurs, and fuck if that doesn't make Dean want to punch something as hard as he can.
"Of course I'm real. You think if I were imaginary I'd cripple myself? Sucks, dude. And if it's your imagination, well, you and I are going to have words about your screwing up my knee in your make-believe world. Hey, Sam, look at me," he reaches over, tugs at the closest of Sam's arms, and this time Sam uncurls a little bit.
"'m cold," he says, but Dean is too busy staring in horror at the scratches at his temples, very clearly self-inflicted, at the dried blood in his hair and on his cheeks, the rust-coloured stains on his t-shirt. "You're not supposed to be here," Sam tells him, and Dean thinks he might throw up.
"What the fuck did you do to yourself?"
Sam just shivers harder. "You're not real," he says again. "Not here. Not here. You're not Dean. Please," he says abruptly, "please just stop."
"Stop what, Sam? Are you hurting?" Shit, but Dean is out of his depth, here. Sam's out of his mind with fever, hurting himself the way he hasn't since long before they moved to this town, since the first few weeks following his return. "Sam, please…"
Sam shakes his head. "I'll go back. I promise, whatever you want. Whatever you want, just –just stop. Not with his face, please!"
Dean lets his head fall back against the wall with a painful thump as Sam curls right back into himself, eyes closing against some unseen horror. Perry whines from where she's lying on the floor where Dean ordered her, too well-trained to get up but clearly anxious to come and help. Dean snaps his fingers and she bounds to her feet, comes over carefully to nose at Dean's hand and gives his wrist a careful lick. He pats her head.
"Sorry, baby girl, we're not going anywhere just yet. Sammy's having a bad day," he tells her, and she flops next to him on the floor with a sigh, her head conveniently placed so that he can pat her without straining. "Yeah, at least you're low-maintenance." He looks over at Sam, still shivering, and wonders if his brother can actually hear anything he's saying over the sound of screaming in his head. "Sam?"
It could be worse. It's Dean's personal mantra on bad days, even though it doesn't really help. It could be so much worse. Sam could still be in the Cage with Lucifer and Michael, trying to shield Adam from whenever the archangels got bored with having Sam as their favourite chew toy. Sam could be a drooling vegetable, or violent, or still addicted to demon blood. There are thousands of ways in which this could be worse, Dean reminds himself, except that he's tired and his whole leg is throbbing where it hasn't gone numb, his back is starting to ache and there's a pile of unpaid bills on the table by the front door, waiting for Sam to go through them and figure out if they can pay any of them at all. Of course, it's not like Sam's going to be able to do anything like that anytime soon, not in the state he's in, and Dean rubs a hand over his face, trying to stave off the bone-deep exhaustion that thought provokes. He's been relying too much on Sam for these things of late, and he's not even sure where to start anymore.
What he should do is get up, get Sam's meds from the bathroom, and the first aid kit for that matter. Get his brother cleaned up, just like they've always done for each other all through the years when one or the other and sometimes both came home in rough shape. He stays right where he is, squeezes his eyes shut when Sam lets out a choked-off sob, as though that'll somehow keep his heart from breaking. This time, though, when he puts his hand on Sam's back his brother doesn't flinch away, let him rub circles over his spine.
"Did they use my face a lot?" he asks softly, opening his eyes, and Sam nods. "Anything I can do to convince you you're not back there? That this is just the fever messing with you?" Sam shrugs, but it's better than before, better than nothing, so Dean tugs on him a little, and is rewarded when Sam unfolds a little. "Sam, talk to me," he pleads, aware that he probably sounds more than a little desperate by now, but all that gets him is another sob, half-stifled, and another headshake, and the next thing he knows Sam has pulled away from him again, face buried in his arms.
"Come on!" Dean looks up, unsure whether he's directing the plea to Sam or the heavens or what. The ache in his hip and back has turned into a line of pure fire. He's definitely going to have to see Amanda, and there's no way he can spend another minute on this floor. "Fuck." He scrubs at his face some more. "Sam, I gotta get back up. I fucked up my hip and... please, Sammy, just come away from there?"
There's nothing, just a quiet hitching of breath, and Dean has a sudden vision of himself, turning around and punching a hole right through the wall out of frustration, because this is all far too fucking unfair for words. Instead he levers himself to his feet using the wall and both hands, gritting his teeth against the pain, and staggers over to sit on his bed, still bent over like an eighty-year-old man. He leans back against the headboard shifts until he can extend his right leg on the bed, but leaves his left foot on the floor. He'll get up in a minute, he tells himself, closing his eyes when they unexpectedly start to sting. Just a minute, while he tries to ignore the fact that he just left his baby brother crying on the floor.
He starts a little when the bed dips all of a sudden. For all that Sam's about ten feet tall, he can still be pretty stealthy, a fact which never fails to surprise Dean, even though he should be used to it by now. Dean opens his eyes just in time to find himself with an armful of oversized little brother, his stupid overly long hair falling in his eyes. Sam buries his nose in Dean's shirt, presses up against him until he's as close as possible without touching Dean's bad leg.
"They picked you because I don't love anyone else like I love you."
It's too much. It's the kind of awful thing that Sam says sometimes that makes Dean want to take to his heels as fast as he can. Except, of course, that Dean isn't going to run anywhere ever again, and even if he could he's got about two hundred pounds of Sam pinning him to his bed and soaking through Dean's shirt with his tears. So instead he pets Sam's stupid hair and pretends not to notice when Perry jumps up on the bed even when she's not technically allowed and curls up just behind Sam. Sam's overheated, hair damp with sweat, but he's still shivering, so with a grunt of effort Dean sits up, shrugs off his jacket and drapes it over Sam's shoulders. It's a little small, but Sam relaxes against him with a shudder of relief. Dean pets his hair again, because it's easier than talking. Sam was always better at this girly shit than he is, anyway.
Sam nods. "'m sorry."
"Don't be. For what it's worth, I kind of like you too, sometimes. You're totally doing the laundry when you're better, by the way. My leg hurts."
Sam snorts and wriggles until it feels like he's trying to tunnel through Dean's ribcage. It hurts, but it's the best thing Dean has felt all day. "I always do the laundry."
"Not the point. Anyway, we can figure that out in the morning. You need anything?"
This is Dean's cue to make a joke about growing ovaries, but for once he can't find it in himself. He settles a little more comfortably, Sam still in his arms, Perry tucked up alongside them, and lets out a long, slow breath. Sam's fine, or as fine as he's going to get, anyway. In a few minutes he figures he'll have recovered enough to get up, get painkillers for himself and all of Sam's meds, including the NyQuil, and get them both settled in for the night. Screw dinner, they'll just have a big breakfast in the morning. He won't even complain when Sam gets too hot in the night and kicks off the blankets, not if it means Dean will be able to reach over to his heart's content to make sure he's still there, still alive, still breathing.
Yeah, he thinks, fingers tangled in Sam's hair, things could be worse.