Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural. It's Kripke and Co. that are paid to rip your hearts out. I just do it because I like it.
I leaned over the sink and finished rinsing my mouth. I could hear the baby crying in the next room and Dean leave his perch on the bed. I heard his muffled, weak attempts at comfort
"Dean, get back in bed."
"But Daddy, Sammy's-"
"Yes, sir." I cringed at how quickly Dean had become this tiny soldier hellbent on protecting his baby brother from the world. We had been on the road, hunting supernatural creatures, for about two months now, and I felt like an idiot for the first time since I had uprooted the boys. We had been eating at questionable diners for weeks now and this wasn't supposed to be the one that gave us food poisoning. It was a small blessing that the baby wasn't eating solid food yet.
I felt a presence scurry past my knees and turned around in time to see Dean kneeling by the toilet. I rubbed his back and tried to soothe him, though I was more concerned with not joining him in upchucking. I sensed it would be a long few days.
"Daddy, I don't feel good. My tummy hurts."
"I know, champ. I think we got some bad food."
"How can food be bad?"
"Sometimes if food isn't cooked right or it's left out too long it can go bad and make you sick." Dean looked at me, and he seemed confused. It was a look I had gotten used to in the past few months, but for the life of me I couldn't remember seeing it before Mary died.
"Mommy wouldn't have let us eat bad food." He looked at me with determination, challenging me to question his declaration. If someone had told me six months ago that I would be intimidated by my four year old I would have laughed at them; now I was faced with the reality of it. Dean had grown up; really and truly become an adult, since he had started talking again and I saw hardness in his eyes I didn't think a four year old was capable of producing. He watched me clean the guns after every hunt, holding his brother close. The soldier in me said he would be a damn good hunter when he got older, but the bigger part of me- his father was afraid that that would be exactly what he would become. I realized he was waiting for me to respond.
"No, she probably wouldn't have." Part of it was a concession, but mostly it was just true. If we had been on some road trip and had driven past that diner she would have looked at me in a way that conveyed I had better not seriously be contemplating stopping there. I needed my wife. I could barely function without her and I didn't have a clue what to do with the boys. Sammy cried harder when I sang to him and Dean seemed to blame me for not being able to stop him, to protect them from everything bad. My stomach lurched again and I bolted for the bathroom.
By the time I reemerged I wasn't entirely surprised to see Dean preparing the baby's bedtime bottle instead of being in bed like I had told him. He had changed his brother to the blue pajamas- the ones he had been wearing the night Mary died.
"You need some help with that, champ?" I knew Dean could mix Sam's formula- I also knew that he shouldn't know how to do that, probably better than I could.
"Are you feeling better?" I was talking to him like he was an adult and I had to suppress a shudder. Of all the things I had learned about the Supernatural, the community of hunters, I worried about what that knowledge would make of my sons the most.
"No, but someone needs to take care of Sammy." I cringed, wondering how long those words would haunt me, and when Dean would realize that I should be the one taking care of Sammy, if he would resent me for letting him do it.
"Why don't you go take a bath and I'll feed Sam tonight?"
"I got it." I watched as he finished mixing the formula, and sat down next to his brother on the floor. He picked him up, and the baby cooed happily and began eating.
"Good job, Sammy. Don't eat too fast. That'll make you sick and Daddy and I are already sick so we wouldn't be able to take very good care of you." I knew I was a horrible father, and I couldn't think of a way to change it. I was sitting here watching my toddler take care of the baby while he had food poisoning. There's no way I would have allowed it to happen before- we hadn't even allowed him to pick Sam up. Suddenly, I found myself wishing that more than anything I could give the boys a normal life. Dean finished feeding the baby and picked him up, toddling over to me. I took him as he yawned and placed him in the hotel crib. After a few more trips to the bathroom between us I got Dean to take a bath and in bed for the night. I turned the lights out and a few hours later I felt a small hand nudging me awake.
"Daddy, I don't feel good." I rolled over, my stomach churning in protest.
"I know, Dean. You probably won't for a few days."
"I need to throw up but nothing will come out." I rolled over, and heaved myself out of bed. I had a four year old with dry heaves- it was finally time for me to be the adult, at least I would be as soon I was done with my mad dash to the bathroom. I heard little footsteps follow me, quietly so he wouldn't wake the baby.
"Daddy, are you ok?"
"I'm ok. Just sick like you are. Remember you told that to Sammy?"
"I don't like seeing you sick. It'll be ok though." He came into the bathroom and patted my back lightly, like I had done earlier. As soon I moved though, he resumed dry heaving. Eventually I stood, thinking of something that might help, and after assuring him I would be right back I fished around in my bag for the Dramamine. It had helped some of the guys in the Marines and I carefully cut one of pills in half.
"Here buddy. This'll help." I handed him the pill and a plastic cup of water, "Little sips, Dean." He quit gulping the water, and hurt eyes looking up at me broke my heart. There was nothing I could do to make it better. I scooped him up and carried him back to the beds.
"I wanna sleep next to you tonight, Daddy."
"Ok," I relented and I hoped it would help, just a little with the sickness. I also hoped he remembered this- that I did take care of him, that I was capable of that. I knew in my heart that it would never be this simple again- that his problems wouldn't be things that Dramamine and cuddles could fix. I knew what I was doing to my sons, what they would become and that there was no turning back from the road I had put them on.
A/N: So this is more of a drabble than a story, but it was itching to be told anyway, so I did. I hope you liked it.