A Pocketful of Sunshine
Dean sat down on the edge of his bed with infinitesimal care so that he wouldn't jostle it too much. Sam was resting and he didn't want to disturb his brother. Sighing unhappily at the unhealthy paleness of Sam's skin, he brushed his hair off his forehead and whispered, "I'll be right back, Sammy."
He made to get up, but a weak tug on the hem of his jacket stopped him. So he'd woken Sammy up after all. Dammit. The kid's nights were spent coughing and vomiting, and he needed all the rest he could get in the daytime. "Where you goin'?" he asked Dean now, looking up at his blearily with those eyes.
"Just need to get a few things," Dean answered, sitting back down and smiling at Sam. "We're out of beer, bread and eggs."
"How long will it take?" asked Sam, blinking sleepily. He was just so tired all the time now. He literally had not gotten out of bed since Dean had half-carried, half-dragged him into the Batcave right after the angels fell, except for bathroom breaks.
"I'll be back before you know it," Dean told him, laying a hand on his chest. "Just close your eyes and rest, 'kay, Sammy?"
"Okay," answered Sam, shifting a little until he was comfortable. "Don't take too long," he mumbled into his pillow.
"I won't," promised Dean, bringing Sam's blanket up to his neck and tucking it in around Sam's shivering, curled up form. "Want me to turn the heat up?"
Sam just made a 'hm' sound in response, so Dean took it as a yes. "I'll be back, Sammy," he said softly, before switching the lights off and closing the door as quietly as possible.
Dean browsed through the shelves in the convenience store, absently looking at a few magazine covers without really seeing them. His mind hadn't left Sam even for a second since he'd stepped out of the Batcave. He'd thought that once Sam quit the trials he'd begin to get better, but so far he was being proved wrong at every turn.
He had gotten Sam home as soon as he could, worrying too much to even care about the falling angels and the 'shooting stars' still lighting up the night sky. He couldn't, didn't want to care about them, not when Sam was at stake. It was now a month to that day, and Sam was still the same, if not worse.
He'd considered hospitals and professional care, but had given up on that thought in a matter of moments. What Sam had couldn't be fixed with IVs or surgery or meds. The doctors would probably not even know what was wrong in the first place – but Dean knew the first conclusion they'd jump to was drugs, and the marks on Sam's arm where he'd drawn his own blood would not help.
So he'd settled Sam on his own bed in the Batcave, knowing that Sam would be comforted by the familiar scent even in the rare moments when Dean would not be in the room. He himself slept in a camping bag next to the bed, ready to wake at a moment's notice or at the slightest sound. It wasn't exactly comfortable but he didn't care, and he refused to have a wall between him and Sam. He'd sworn resolutely to himself not to get their life back on track until Sam was well.
"Excuse me, sir, can I help you?"
He jolted out of his thoughts, smiling at the teenage girl who'd talked to him. She was short and slender, with straight dark hair and brown eyes, and clearly worked there. "I'm good," he told her. "Thank you."
She nodded and smiled, and said, "I'll be behind the counter, then."
He nodded back, and she left.
It didn't take him more than a minute to get the beer, eggs and bread. He set them on the counter and then went off in pursuit of anything that might make Sam feel better. Banana milkshake, chocolate cake, Frosties… that ought to do it, decided Dean. It was going to be a monumental task getting Sam to eat even a little, but Dean would only persist, and the kid's favorites should at least make it better.
Checkout was only a matter of a couple of minutes, since it was too early for anyone else to be in the store. Dean thanked the girl, grabbed his bags off the counter and went off in the direction of the Impala.
He hadn't, however, counted on being stopped in his way, considering the Impala was parked right outside the store. He tried to shift the bags in his arms to at least see what had run into his legs, but it was no use. Finally, he settled on putting the bags in the backseat and then looking around by his feet.
Of all the things he might have thought it could be, a smallish dog wasn't on the list. It looked up at him with wide eyes strangely reminiscent of Sam's, and then let out a small yip. "Huh," muttered Dean, squatting so he could get a better look at it. "Where'd you come from?"
The dog – it looked more like a puppy, to be accurate – yipped again.
Dean straightened again. He wasn't really an animals' person; that was all Sam. "All right, then," he told the puppy, "I'll see you around." He walked over to the other side of the car and was just about to open his door when he heard a yip and looked down to see the puppy standing next to him.
It was really small,noted Dean as it lifted its front paws in the air and turned hopeful eyes on Dean, tongue lolling out. It barely came up to the middle of his calf. Its fur was a light uniform golden-brown. Dean didn't know much at all about dogs, but he knew enough to tell that it was a golden retriever.
"What do you want me to do?" he asked the puppy, scratching the back of his head. He had a pretty good idea of how stupid he looked, standing in a vacant parking lot at half past five in the morning, talking to a dog.
"Yip yip yip!" it told him excitedly. "Yip yip!"
"I don't speak dog," Dean told the puppy. "My brother might, though. I'm pretty sure he's like, half Yorkshire terrier or something. Got the looks, too."
"Yip! Yip yip!"
"Don't you have someplace to go to?" he asked, not even expecting a reply. He could see no collar on the animal, and no one nearby, so he assumed it was a stray.
"He's homeless," came a voice nearby, and Dean turned to see the girl from the store standing next to him. "He's been hanging out here for a couple of weeks, and I feed him occasionally. No one's tried to claim him or put up posters."
"So why don't you keep him?" he asked her.
She shrugged. "I want to, but I can't," she said regretfully. "My mom hates animals, she'd drown him or something."
Dean frowned. "So give him up to a shelter or something. It's cruel to have him out like this, fending for himself. He's so tiny." For some reason the damn dog reminded him of a baby Sam, and the imagery wasn't doing much for his parental instinct. The fact that Sam was currently sick didn't help much either.
"The shelters are full," the girl explained. "It's a small town. The authorities said to shoot him, but of course I couldn't do that."
"So what, he just stays out here till he dies of exposure or something?" Dean wasn't going to pretend that he understood why he felt so strongly for the dog all of a sudden. All he knew was that he'd feel bad if he knew it didn't have a home and was doomed to die out on the streets.
"I don't know," the girl said sadly. "I wish I could keep him. No one I know is willing to take him in."
"That sucks," said Dean, now feeling sad too. "That really sucks."
"He seems to really like you," noted the girl.
"What? Yeah." Dean looked down at his feet to see the puppy curled around his shoes, nuzzling his leg. "Hey, don't do that!"
"Yip," said the puppy in protest, looking up at Dean with sorrowful eyes.
"I'm not some giant mama bear," he told the puppy crossly. "You can't just… cuddle up to me." Only Sam gets to do that.
Clearly the puppy didn't, or wasn't willing to, understand. It yipped again and jumped to lick Dean's hand. He failed to move it in time, though, and ended up with a wet hand and dog drool on his jacket sleeve. "That's disgusting. You're disgusting," he told the puppy, wiping his hand on his jeans. The puppy just grinned, its tongue sticking out of its mouth. "Not funny," Dean told it sternly. "Not funny."
The girl laughed. "Look at you, all talking to him!" She grinned at him. "I think he likes you." The puppy was once again attempting to lick Dean's fingers.
"What am I supposed to do with him?" Dean asked her, trying to shake the puppy off.
"What do you think?" she asked rhetorically in return.
"I don't know," Dean said, frowning once more. A look of dawning comprehension followed when he realized just why exactly the girl was looking at him in such an expectant manner. "Wait – you want me to take him home?"
"He likes you, and he has nowhere else to go," she said. "It's only logical."
"Kid, you don't get it," he told her. "The kinda job I have, I can't take care of him all the time like he needs."
"Why, what do you do?" she inquired. Her expression clearly stated that she didn't think any job was worth picking over a puppy.
"I'm a travelling salesman," he replied. "I don't stay in a place for too long."
"But you've been in Lebanon long enough," she persisted. At his surprised look, she went on, "I've seen you around. You're with some other guy who's really tall and has long hair. Do you live together?"
Dean found himself nodding. "He's my brother. We moved in a few months back."
"Yeah, so see? You've been here long enough. You can take care of him."
"Kid, I really can't."
She crossed her arms. "You know what I think? I think you can, but you don't want to, because you're a cruel and heartless person who wouldn't care if the poor thing died out here, simply 'cause you were too lazy to take him in and look after him." She glared, like he'd just murdered a thousand kittens and forced her to watch.
Dean stared back, determined not to back down, but he was thinking. A dog. Why the hell not? Sammy would like it. He's always liked dogs. Besides… it can't be that bad, can it? It's just a puppy. And it's so sweet. It's not like… not like Hellhounds. It can't hurt me. Can it? Nah. I don't think it can. It couldn't hurt a damned fly.
And besides, Sammy would like it. Sammy would love it.
That made up his mind, and he blinked. "All right," he muttered. "Fine. I'll take the little son of a bitch in."
The girl smiled brightly at him. "You're an angel," she declared, before stooping, picking up the dog and handing it to him. "Here ya go. You take good care of him, you hear?"
The puppy yipped excitedly as Dean took it in his arms. As soon as it was close enough it licked Dean's face. "Don't do that," Dean grumbled. "It's gross."
Sam had damn well better appreciate this, he thought as he gingerly placed the dog on top of the newspapers he had covering the Impala's upholstery.
The Batcave was silent when he got there, and instinctively he knew Sam was still asleep. Setting the groceries down on the library table, Dean sifted through and separated Sam's food from the rest, the puppy secured under one arm so that it wouldn't run off and cause chaos. Somehow the animal was extremely quiet, as if it knew that someone was sleeping and shouldn't be disturbed. It was looking with alert eyes at its surroundings, moving its head around here and there.
"All right, little fella," Dean muttered to it. "We're going to see Sammy now. You stay quiet, hear? He's sick, and I don't want you to make noise and disturb him."
The puppy yipped once, as if it understood. "Good dog," said Dean, and began the walk to his room.
Sam was curled on his side in the middle of the bed, his blanket tight around him. He seemed to be comfortable, a fact Dean was grateful for. He wasn't shivering, nor was he sweating like he would have been if it had gotten too hot for him. He seemed okay, in fact.
Dean set Sam's things down on the dresser, and then sat down on the bed and gently shook his shoulder. "Sammy, wake up," he said softly. "Wake up, kiddo. I got something for ya."
Sam stirred a little and then opened his eyes. "Dean?"
"It's me, Sam," Dean answered, brushing Sam's hair out of his eyes. "I'm back. And I got you a little something while I was out."
Sam didn't seem to have heard anything after the first few words, though. As soon as he was assured that Dean was with him, he moved his head so that it was resting on Dean's thigh. "Stay with me," he murmured so quietly Dean almost didn't hear.
"I'm not going anywhere, Sammy," Dean told him, running his free hand through Sam's hair. "And I got you something, look." He held the puppy up just as Sam raised his head to see what it was. As if on cue, the puppy yipped happily before leaning forward and licking Sam's face.
Sam looked astounded as he regarded the creature in front of him, looking at him excitedly with its tongue lolling out. "A puppy?" he questioned, as if not quite believing it.
Dean nodded. "Yeah. I found him in the store's parking lot. He didn't have anywhere to go, so I figured I'd bring him here for you. You like him?"
"Dean, are you sure?" Sam countered. "You don't like dogs."
"I'm sure, Sammy," Dean answered with a small smile, setting the puppy down on the bed. It bounded up the sheets and sat down on Sam's chest, yipping in his face. Sam was assaulted with a gust of dog breath, and he winced.
"He needs a bath," he told Dean. "But–"
"It's okay, Sammy," Dean told him. "I'm fine with it. I brought him here, didn't I? And look," he said as the dog licked Sam's face again, making him laugh. "He likes you. And you like him too."
Sam sat up and ran a hand over the puppy's back. "Yeah, I do," he said softly. "Thank you, Dean."
"Don't mention it, Sammy. Now what are we gonna name him?"
They fell into a thoughtful silence, both pondering this new dilemma. The puppy, not really bothered, began playing around in the sheets, running here and there and jumping between Sam's legs. Once or twice it stopped to lick either Sam's face or Dean's hand, and then bound off out of reach before Dean could grab him and tell him off.
"I've got it," Sam finally said. "Let's call him Sunny."
"Sunny," mused Dean, testing how it sounded. "Sunny. I like that. What do you think, eh, Sunny?"
Sunny yipped and bestowed licks on both of them. "He approves," Sam laughed, delighted. "Thank you, Dean," he repeated.
To see you laugh like that again? It's worth it, Sammy. Out loud he said, "It's nothing, kiddo."
Unexpectedly Sam leaned forward and threw his arms around Dean. Surprised, Dean patted his back before wrapping his arms around him too. They sat there for a few minutes, silent, while Sunny the puppy bounced about on the bed.
It took some more licking from the puppy to separate them. "Dude, he does stink," Dean said, scrunching up his nose. "What say we give him a bath, huh?"
Sam nodded excitedly, his hair flying here and there. "Yeah, let's give him a bath."
Dean helped Sam out of bed and then wrapped an arm around his waist, providing support as they began the trek to the bathroom, with its fancy antique tub. Sam didn't protest; he was much too weak to get there without stopping. Whatever the sickness was, it had taken a lot out of him, and recovery was going to be a long road.
But he'd make it, he knew. He had Dean, and now Sunny too. He'd be fine.
Sam, Dean, and a puppy. I can't think of anything better.
Every time you review, Dean brushes Sam's hair out of his eyes and hugs him. Every time you review, Sunny licks Dean's hand and Sam's face. Just letting ya know.