A Long Road.
For Sam, the road to recovery was, quite literally, long.
Set any season. No spoilers. Medical facts are a big fat lie... the usual.
Sick, injured Sam with guilty, protective Dean.
Nice and simple.
Unbeta'd so all mistakes are mine.
"Dean, where are you? Are you ok? Look… just call me when you get this message."
Sam sighed and threw his cell phone on the bed.
Dean had obviously spent the night with the cute waitress from the rock café across town, and it was now midday. It was entirely possible he was just being vindictive, but he had at least sent Sam a text a few hours ago. Apparently, the waitress also doubled as a masseuse and Dean was totally addicted to chicks like that. Given his love of 'Magic Fingers', it could be hours before Sam heard from him again.
Sam had left the bar early the evening before, sick of his brother's cold shoulder, but handed over the remainder of his cash as a peace offering. Dean had pocketed the money without a word of thanks, just gave a grunt of dismissal.
Sam scratched at his leg again. It'd been itching like a sonofabitch the last few hours, despite him having piled on peroxide and antiseptic cream. Black Dogs were a pain in the ass and it was the first time Sam had actually been injured by one, but at least he wasn't gushing blood.
Maybe he should've gotten the wound checked out, but it was nothing, barely a graze only just breaking the skin. He hadn't even mentioned it to Dean, which was just as well. Last thing he needed was his brother's sarcasm on top of everything else. Sam wasn't too popular with Dean at the moment, a little issue called a broken tail light from when Sam threw the Impala into reverse, skidded to avoid the Black Dog and hit a guard rail instead.
After they took the damn thing down, Sam was sent to Coventry with a one way ticket.
Dean would get over it, he always did, but in all honesty, right now Sam wasn't feeling too good. Tired, sluggish, and he was pretty sure he was running a low grade fever.
He shrugged. It was probably just flu or something.
Sam sank down on his bed and waited for Dean.
He hadn't meant to fall asleep.
Sam blinked and slowly sat up, feeling shaky and uncoordinated. His leg throbbed angrily, and when he tried to move it…
"Ah shit!" he hissed in pain.
The limb was so hot and swollen against his jeans that he struggled with peeling the denim back to examine it.
What this little venture revealed wasn't a pretty sight. Red veins snaked down and round his leg from the scratch, blood stained pus had begun seeping out, and the whole wound looked seriously infected.
Sam reluctantly admitted to himself that it was time to seek advice, but when he Googled free walk-in medical clinics in the area he was dismayed to learn that the nearest one was at least four miles across town as straight the crow flies, and he didn't have money for a cab. He'd given it all to Dean the night before.
Another phone call to his brother yielded no results, and Sam didn't bother leaving a message this time.
He was exhausted.
The long walk on an injured and infected leg had sapped what little strength he had left.
Sam virtually collapsed against the reception desk of the clinic some hours after leaving the motel, face flushed and sweaty with a full on raging fever.
"P-please," he panted, clinging onto the desk for all he was worth. "I-I need to s-see a d-doctor…"
The receptionist didn't look up at him.
"Do you have an appointment?" she asked, in a tone of voice that suggested she didn't care either way, and that life in general was boring the crap out of her.
Ever the considerate gentleman, Sam responded immediately by passing out.
The woman looked up and, seeing no one, peered over the top of her desk in confusion.
"Huh…" she muttered, frankly impressed.
It wasn't everyday a woman her age saw such a good looking guy lying unconscious on the waiting room floor.
Things are finally getting interesting around here.
"Can you hear me? Open your eyes, son."
When Sam came round again a short while later, a guy in his mid-forties was wrapping a cuff round his upper arm.
"You ok?" the guy smiled, worriedly. "Gave us all quite a scare."
"Wha…?" Sam wearily lifted his head to check his surroundings and discovered he was still in the waiting room by the reception desk. Several people hovered nearby, watching him anxiously like he was some crack-head about to go postal, but most importantly there was no sign of his brother.
"Can you tell me your name?"
Sam blinked and looked up at the guy again, this time taking in his white coat and nametag. A good squint revealed it was one of the clinic's doctors, but that was all Sam could make out in his fevered state.
"S-Sam… Sam Hunter," he whispered.
"I'm Dr Lee, Sam. I'm going to take care of you, ok?"
Sam wasn't really listening. The effort of answering left him a little breathless and weak. How the hell was he supposed to get back to the motel like this? Dean was gonna kick his ass… speaking of… Sam tried to fumble for his cell phone.
"N-need to call m'brother," he said, groggily.
"Just take it easy, Sam," the doctor advised him. "Let's get you into one of the exam rooms and check you over first."
Sam blinked owlishly at him. "Huh?"
Doc Lee signalled to someone Sam couldn't see and a gurney rolled up beside him.
"No," Sam slowly shook his head and struggled to get up. "No… I c'n walk."
"I don't think that's such a good idea right now, Sam…"
But Sam was determined enough that no one could stop him. He crawled up onto one knee, keeping the injured leg out-stretched, then with a gargantuan effort managed to haul himself up onto both feet, swaying dangerously and fighting the urge to be sick.
"Ok," the doctor nodded, a little taken aback, but gently grasped his patient's arm and herded him through to the exam rooms. "So, where you from? Can't say I've seen you around here before."
"The A-apple Tr-tree Motel," Sam stammered in due course, once he'd figured out the question.
"You drove all the way over here like this? Really?"
The doctor sounded a little alarmed at the idea, so Sam decided to reassure him the only way he knew how.
"Nah, m'bro's got the car," he explained, as they entered the first room on the left, Sam swaying and nearly dropping on the spot. "I walked."
Dr Lee's eyebrows almost hit the ceiling, while he clutched at his young patient to keep him from face planting.
"Hurts," Sam added mournfully.
"What hurts, Sam?" the doc asked, gently pushing him down onto a sturdy exam table.
Sam pointed to his left leg and pouted like a seven year old.
"Ok, let's take a look huh?" Lee nodded, and wondered for a brief second if he was dealing with a mentally disabled patient, but figured it was probably just the pyrexia talking.
After a few failed attempts to roll up Sam's jean leg, the doctor grabbed a pair of scissors and decided to cut the material instead.
Sam watched dispassionately as the denim was split up to his knee, revealing the white gauze he'd taped to the wound before he left. Worryingly, it was stained yellow from fresh leakage.
Doc Lee cut away the gauze and barely kept in a gasp.
"I'm gonna need to flush this out, Sam, and run some blood work," he told his patient, calmly. "I'll give you a shot of broad spectrum antibiotic, but you're gonna need to stay here overnight for observation, ok? So we'll call your brother…"
"No!" Sam snapped, suddenly sounding coherent and anxious. "Just give me the drugs and I'll leave. I don't need to stay."
"You're burning up, and there's every chance you have septicaemia," said Lee, but he'd seen how stubborn this guy was and knew he wasn't going to make him see reason. "Trust me…"
"I don't trust anyone but Dean," Sam's quiet response silenced the doctor's protest. "I'm not staying the night. Now give me the damn drugs."
The two men stared each other down.
Sam shivered and sweated, but remained defiant until the doc lowered his gaze and pulled a blanket round the kid.
Dr Lee sighed. "I'll be back with the antibiotics in just a minute, but please, I beg you, at least have the blood work done and leave me a contact number," he said. "That way, if anything shows up critical I can contact you and get you straight back in for further treatment."
Sam nodded, but Lee got the distinct feeling he was about to get fake-numbered.
There was a way around that, but it was kind of sneaky.
"Ok. You call your brother," Lee sighed, reluctantly, and headed for the door. "I'll get the shot and patch up the wound with a fresh bandage."
By the time Lee returned, Sam had left yet another message on his brother's voice mail.
"No luck getting through, huh?" asked the doc, as he swabbed the inside of Sam's arm with an alcohol wipe. He clicked his tongue when Sam shook his head, looking sad and downcast.
We're back to the pouting seven year old again.
In truth, while he felt sorry for the kid, it just made it easier on Lee's conscience with what he was about to do. He was prepared to face the consequences later if need be.
"I'm sure he'll respond soon, Sam," he said. "In the meantime, why don't you make yourself comfortable and get some rest. I'll come and wake you when he gets here."
"What?" Sam blinked. "No… I'll walk back…"
He was suddenly overcome by a strange lethargy, and a weird sensation flowed through him. Glancing at the needle in his arm, then up at the doctor's impassive face, realisation dawned.
Lee noticed his patient trying to scowl, but he came off looking like a lost and chastised puppy.
"Wha' ya donnne t'meeee?" he slurred, blinking drunkenly and looking comically panicked.
"Nothing to be scared of, Sam," said Lee, gently. "You're safe here. This is just a little something to help you sleep…"
Sam was out cold before the doc finished his sentence.
Lee sighed and administered the antibiotics. He really didn't like himself too much for this, but he spent some time taking care of the wound, then settled back to watch over his vulnerable patient.
He should have been doing other things, had other less urgent cases to assess, not to mention a sea of paperwork, but... he just couldn't bring himself to leave Sam all alone.
Someone shouting for Sam out in the waiting room three hours later told Lee big brother had arrived.
Something also told Lee it might be prudent to brace himself for what was coming…
He didn't have to wait long before a furiously pissed Dean Hunter presented himself in Sam's room, most notably without knocking.
At least he left the door intact, thought Lee, and introduced himself as calmly as possible under the circumstances.
However, any calm state of affairs he sought went right out the window when he told the older brother why Sam was out for the count.
"You did what?"
"I drugged him so he couldn't leave."
Narrowed green eyes glittered angrily in the overhead strip lights, and the doc instinctively ran through a little list in his head.
Life insurance all paid up?
Last will and testament updated?
Funeral arrangements in place?
What are the chances I can outrun this guy?
Are you fucking kidding me?
And so, with that in mind, Lee bravely fought the urge to run for the hills, and stood his ground. Not that he had much choice, pinned to the wall as he was.
"You unethical sonofbitch!" Dean shook him like a rag doll. "How dare you?"
"Your brother is sick, I had no choice!"
"No choice my ass! You jumped up, God-complexed, dick!"
Bricking it though he was, Lee felt himself bristle with indignation.
No way was he taking this shit lying down, and poked Dean in the chest with a decidedly shaky finger.
"Did you know he walked four miles on an infected leg to get here? Huh?" he said, fighting every instinct that told him to withdraw the fucking finger or lose it, you fucking idiot! "Risking septicaemia and god knows what else? All because he couldn't get hold of you?"
The older brother froze and glanced over at his sleeping sibling, which Lee took as a good sign that he was finally getting a true grasp of the situation.
"He what?" Dean's brow wrinkled with raised eyebrows, in part due to surprise but, mainly, Lee suspected it was down to a good deal of guilt. "Sammy…"
He let go of the doc instantly, almost dropping him to the floor, and strode across the room. Leaning over the kid, he frowned and pressed a hand to the side of his little brother's face.
"Is he gonna be ok?" he asked, suddenly sounding meek and worried.
Lee's feet scrabbled for purchase until he managed to stand upright.
He adjusted his white coat with as much dignity as he could muster, and joined Dean by the exam bench.
"The infection was pretty bad," said Lee, quietly clearing his throat and trying to pretend he hadn't just suffered one of the most humiliating experiences of his life. Thank god the nurses didn't see that. I'd never live it down. "I'd like to keep him in a while longer just to make sure we caught it, but yeah. I think he'll be fine."
Dean nodded, not taking his eyes of Sam.
"Whatever you say, doc," he whispered. "Whatever Sammy needs, he gets. Whether he likes it or not."
Lee stared from the brother lying unconscious on the bench, to the one standing beside him. Dean seemed more parental than brotherly, that over-protective streak more commonly seen in mother-bears watching out for their cubs.
He inwardly shrugged. If it meant Sam got the proper care he needed, then that was just fine by Lee.
"I have another couple of patients to see," he lied through his teeth. "But I'll be back later to check on you both and see what Sam's blood work turns up."
Dean nodded again, hand still on the side of Sam's face. He turned his head slightly to look over at the doc.
"Sure. And, uh… thanks," he mumbled, a little shamefaced but met the man's gaze out of respect. "For keeping him here…"
Lee raised a hand, dismissing the apology before it really got started.
"Don't mention it," and left the room before Dean could reply to that.
Dean turned back to his sleeping brother and sighed deeply.
"Aw Sammy. What m'I gonna do with ya, huh?"
Dean woke up to a sore back, a numb ass, and Sam staring dazedly up at the ceiling through half closed eyes.
The doc had moved his little brother to a more comfortable room with a proper bed some hours ago.
Shame the damn seats weren't an improvement, thought Dean, and blinked rapidly to clear his vision.
"Hey," Dean called softly, and sat up straight.
Sam whimpered. His large, shaky hands began grasping desperately at his blankets, and he panicked when he tried to sit up and couldn't find the strength.
"Whoa, down boy!" Dean reached out to his brother, palming the kid's sweaty face and gently pressing him back into the pillows. "It's ok, Sammy. Just take it easy."
"Huh?" replied Sam, and turned his head towards Dean, eyelids heavy over fever glazed pupils. "Wha…?"
Dean frowned, briefly struck dumb by guilt. Sam was almost panting, like he couldn't get enough air, and his skin felt like it was on fire.
Sam suddenly grabbed Dean's hand, his grip surprisingly strong in spite of everything.
"D'n," he whispered, breathlessly, squinting up at his older brother. "M'sorry 'bout the c-car."
Dean closed his eyes for a second in despair. "Sammy…"
"I d-didn't m-mean to," his brother sobbed out, heartbroken, and obviously misinterpreting Dean's response as rejection. "P-please… d… don't hhhate me?"
Dean's eyes snapped open and fixed on Sam.
"Sammy, no!" he snapped, angrily. "Don't you dare start that crap!"
Sam looked shocked and his mouth fell open.
After a pause, his bottom lip started trembling and he turned his head away, eyes scrunched shut and sniffing back tears.
"M'sorry… m'sorry… m'sorry…" he whimpered over and over.
"Shit!" Dean muttered, and stood up to lean over his brother. "That's not what I meant..."
Sam wasn't listening, too lost in fever and his guilt over the car, still rambling apologies and begging for forgiveness.
"Sammy look at me." Dean grasped the kid's chin and gently forced him to comply. When he had Sam's full attention, or at least as much as the fever would allow, he stroked a few damp strands of hair away from his little brother's flushed face.
"I was being a dick about the car. You did all you could, Sam, and I'm so damn sorry I gave you so much shit over it."
Sam's frown combined with those sad, puppy dog eyes would have been funny under other circumstances, but right then Dean wasn't laughing.
He stared back at Sam, eyelashes wet with tears.
"And I'm also sorry I didn't listen to your messages sooner," Dean told him. "But you shouldn't have walked all that way on your own with an injured leg. Why didn't you get a cab?"
Sam's breathing hitched a few times before he answered.
"Didn't have any cash," he mumbled, simply, sounding ashamed and lost.
Dean shook his head and sniffed. "You gave it to me before you left the bar, huh?"
Sam nodded slightly but otherwise didn't answer. Instead, he began chewing nervously on his bottom lip and watching his brother guardedly, as though unsure any of this was, in fact, real.
"Sammy?" Dean eyed him, worriedly. "Are you hearing me, kid?"
Sam blinked, opened his mouth and shut it again. His gaze searched Dean's face intently, still squinting and struggling to keep his eyes open.
"Are you really here?" he asked, softly.
Dean pursed his lips and sat down on the edge of the bed, hands still grasping Sam's face between his hands.
"Yeah, Sammy," he whispered back. "I'm really here. Not going anywhere."
Sam offered a tentative smile that told Dean he was finally starting to believe.
"You're stayin'?" he asked, eyes all big and hopeful. "P-promise? Don't like this place, Dean. M'scared. D-don't wanna be alone here."
He bit his lip again, waiting anxiously for confirmation.
"Yep, I promise, now get some sleep ok?" said Dean, and smiled back, silently blessing all little brothers everywhere.
He gently stroked the side of Sam's face and, though he would never admit it out loud, his heart melted like a big girl when Sam snuggled closer. Kid probably didn't even realise he'd done it.
"You're safe here with me," said Dean, watching as Sam obediently closed his eyes and let sleep take him. "I won't let anyone hurt you, Sammy. Least of all me."
Once the kid was all the way out, Dean snorted softly and felt a burst of love so deep it could have come from the very foundations of the Earth.
Sam still trusted him, in spite of everything. It was a close call, a lesson Dean would take to heart and learn from.
This is a two chapter story, already finished.
Shite really hits the fan in the final chapter.
Want to read it?