Pairing: None/Gen (pre-series)
Disclaimer: Not my boys. I’m sad about that, but that’s how it is
Summary: Sam’s sick. So sick the school nurse needs to send him home from school. But that’s okay with Sam because he feels lousy and knows Dean’s going to take care of him and make it better. Except that Dean doesn’t do that this time…
Notes: This came about as a convergence of three things: 1-Hospitalized!Dean week at hoodie_time; 2-a prompt I wrote for a different week at hoodie_time; 3-a random prompt that came to me in the mail from my NaNoWriMo swap-bot group write-in organizer who had no idea how perfect that prompt was in my hands.
“Young man, are you all right?”
Feeling like he was moving in slow motion, Sam nodded at the lunchroom monitor. Unlike some schools he’d been in over the years where students got to sit outside or even leave campus to go get lunch at fast food places down the street, this high school kept a close watch on all its students. Teachers even took turns patrolling the lunch room. It kept fights from breaking out, but it also didn’t really give the students much time to relax mid-way through the school day. It had taken Sam all his concentration to make it through his morning classes. The world seemed foggy and out of reach to him today, that cough he’d had yesterday was getting worse, and his nose just wouldn’t stop running.
“You don’t look so well. Are you sure you wouldn’t like to visit the school clinic?”
Sam shook his head and looked back down at a lunch he hadn’t touched, apart from taking the beat up, smushed peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of its plastic baggie. Then, without any warning, he sneezed loudly, spraying his food.
The teacher walked him to the clinic to be sure he made it without incident.
“How long have you been feeling sick?”
“Ssshhhd efhherah er ehhhph.”
“Excuse me? I can’t understand you.”
Sam reached up and took the thermometer out of his mouth. “Since yesterday, I guess.”
The school nurse wheeled around. “Put that thermometer back in this instant!”
Sam obeyed, scowling. Why had she asked if she hadn’t wanted an answer? Adults could be so stupid sometimes.
Trying to breathe through his nose with his lips pressed tightly around the thermometer was no easy matter. He could only get a little air in through one nostril and the other leaked into a tissue he kept pressed to his nose. Dean had one of those forehead strips in the first aid kit. They weren’t always precise, but at least he wouldn’t have to hold his breath the whole time or struggle for just a little air.
When the school nurse determined it was time and pulled the thermometer out, he gasped for air and then coughed as the cool rush of air struck his sore, itchy throat. He hunched over on the edge of the cot, coughing, snuffling, and coughing some more. But he tried to lift his head to look up and read her expression. He didn’t really feel like he was running a fever. He felt a little warm, sure, but the school had been stuffy and warm since they’d switched the heater on last week to do battle with the late autumn chill that was settling over the town and the first frost. That frost had made Dean swear up and down when he’d had to spend an extra three minutes scraping ice off the Impala’s windshield one morning when they were already running late trying to get Sam to school on time.
He couldn’t read the school nurse’s expression, however. She looked concerned or maybe conflicted, like the course of action wasn’t really clear. Sam suddenly worried that she was going to put the thermometer back in and try again, so he grabbed a few more tissues from the box and blew his nose into them, trying to clear his nose just a little in case he would be required to try to breathe through it again.
But, instead, she set the thermometer down. “I’m calling your parents to come pick you up.” And she strode from the little room.
“Wait!” Sam called after her, but his voice was weak, hoarse. He coughed and looked expectantly at the door, but she didn’t return. Sam leaned back. The little room was big enough for a small counter and storage beneath it, about the size of a bedroom nightstand, and a metal cot that made plasticy rustling sounds whenever he moved on it, even though the mattress was wrapped in a sheet. Sam was sleepy, but he didn’t want to lie down. His nose was so full and his head so packed full of congestion that lying down now would kill his sinuses. But sitting up straight was hurting his back. So he leaned back, sitting with his feet on the floor but his back against the wall. It looked like one of the most uncomfortable positions in the world, an unnatural way to lounge, but it felt kind of good. At least, until the school nurse returned and scolded him for it.
“I can’t reach your father at the number I have for him.”
Relief filled Sam. Usually not being able to get ahold of Dad would send him into a panic. But, this time, he was glad. John Winchester was out on a hunt four states away and wouldn’t be back until sometime early next week, if all went well. The last thing Sam wanted was to distract his Dad with thoughts about a sick son back home. If his cell phone was off, that meant he was out in the field where being reached could dangerously alert others to his position. “My dad’s out of town on business,” Sam told the school nurse. “My older brother’s looking after me. He’s twenty-one.”
Sam scribbled down Dean’s cell phone number on the back of a blank permission slip the woman brought him. Then she left to go call Dean. Sam waited a few seconds, then sat back again, coughing and sniffling and wishing he could either just go back to class and get his mind off his nose or go home where he could be in his own, comfortable bed with a million pillows propping him up so he could breathe better.
The school nurse reappeared a few minutes later. Sam sat up straight at the sound of her footsteps, to make himself look presentable. “Your brother’s on his way. Should be here in a few minutes. Just sit tight, Sam.”
“Thanks,” he replied, before snapping forward with a particularly strong sneeze. The school nurse frowned and left the room again, and Sam began envisioning in his head where Dean was—how long it would take him to grab his jacket and lace up his boots, if he wasn’t already wearing them. How long it would take him to walk down the five flights of stairs from the apartment to the car. How long to start the car and maybe put on gloves if the wheel was particularly cold. How long to drive out of their apartment complex, through the division, and down the main road toward the school. He tried mapping it all out in his head, factoring in traffic lights and slowing down when entering the school zone. And then he looked up at the door, knowing Dean would walk through that door at any moment and knowing for a fact that his older brother would be all understanding and comforting. Dean would hug him and pat his back reassuringly, telling him he was sorry to hear Sam wasn’t feeling so good. Dean would help him get his things and carry his heavy backpack for him. Dean would walk him to the car and close the car door for him then take him home by way of the drug store, where he’d pick up the medicines that worked best on Sam’s colds.
But the doorway remained empty. No Dean. No school nurse, even. Sam figured Dean must have hit every red light between their apartment and the school. That was three—no, four—traffic lights. Sam backtracked a little, revising in his imagination. He closed his eyes and didn’t open them again until he was sure enough time had passed. But, when he did, there was still no one there.
Sam threw himself forward, out of bed. He paced the small room, managing to go from one side to the other in just a few strides. Still no Dean. Anxious and worried something came up, Sam left the room. “My brother isn’t here yet?” he asked the school nurse, who was sitting at her desk.
“No. You should go lie down. I’ll let you know when he—“ She stopped, her gaze going past Sam.
Sam turned and saw Dean standing there. A smile broke out on Sam’s face.
“Hey, kiddo. You ready to go?” That was it. Just a flat, to-the-point greeting. No smile. No hug. Not even a ruffling of Sam’s hair. Sam nodded and followed his brother out.
As they passed the school office, Sam stopped, even though Dean kept going toward the door. “Dean!”
Dean stopped, turned. “What?”
“You have to sign me out. And I need to get my jacket from my locker.”
Dean sighed. “You said you were ready to go.”
“Yeah, but I—”
Dean hurried past him, into the office, where he scribbled down Sam’s name, the reason Sam was leaving, and then signed his name. He rushed out of the office then stopped, not knowing where Sam’s locker is.
“My locker is just down the first hall on the left. I’ll show you.” Sam led the way, coughing and sniffling softly into tissues he had liberated from the school clinic. Sam picked up his jacket and a few text books, in case he needed to stay home from school tomorrow.
As soon as the locker was closed and the lock spun, Dean practically marched Sam out of the high school and to the impala in the visitor’s spot. Feeling grumpy and confused, Sam got into the passenger seat and hugged his backpack to his chest. He laid his head upon it and closed his eyes as Dean un-parallel parked the car out of the school parking lot. By the time they hit the street, Sam had fallen asleep.
He woke at home, with Dean shaking his arm and barking out that they were there. The five flights of stairs up were a problem. Sam climbed them slowly, feeling weak and winded. Dean was behind, huffing impatiently the whole time at how slowly his brother was going.
When they got to the apartment, Dean slammed the door behind them in frustration and threw the deadbolt. “Go lie down. I’ll get you some medicine.”
Sam hesitated. He set his heavy backpack down by the door, glad to be relieved of it finally. “Can I sleep on the couch? It helps me to breathe if I sit up.”
“Sure,” Dean said, gesturing vaguely in the direction of the couch. He disappeared into the bathroom and didn’t return for another ten minutes, though to Sam it might as well have been ten years. Dean dropped a tissue box onto the couch then handed Sam a handful of pills. “Decongestant and Tylenol.”
Sam took the pills and stared at them. What was wrong with Dean today? “Um, I need water.”
“Water. Right,” Dean repeated, sounding almost annoyed. He popped into the kitchen and delivered a cup of water. “Try to get some sleep, kiddo. I’ve got a lot of research Dad wants me to do. Call if you need me.”
“Thanks,” Sam said, swallowing the pills one by one. He stretched out on the couch and pulled the afghan off the back. They didn’t have cable, but it didn’t matter what he watched on TV as long as it was something he could fall asleep to.
Sam woke with his head pounding and throat on fire. “Dean?” he called out, but it made him cough, and each cough was a shot of pain at the top of his mouth and down the back of his throat. And Dean didn’t come. So Sam got up, draping the blanket around his shoulders like a cape, and walked over to the kitchen area. The apartment was so small, the living room and kitchen were practically the same room. He and Dean shared a bedroom, even, though they at least had separate beds. Sam rooted through cupboards, looking for tea. He was sure they had a couple teabags left the other day, but he couldn’t find them.
Clearing his throat, Sam called out again, loudly this time, “Dean? Dean, do we have any tea left?”
No reply, though by now Sam didn’t expect one. But he needed tea. How could they have a stock of cold medicine but no tea? Maybe Dean could pick some up later if he went out for dinner. Sam headed to their bedroom to ask. “De…” Sam stopped short.
Dean lay on his stomach on the bed, fast asleep. There were no books or files he was working on. Instead, there was a bottle of extra strength cough syrup, a bottle of green cold medicine, and a tissue box. Dean was surrounded by a sea of balled up, used tissues. Timidly, hugging the afghan around himself, Sam walked into their bedroom. “Dean? Dean, are you okay?”
Dean didn’t wake, didn’t stir. And he didn’t look good. Sam hadn’t noticed how pale he had looked before, or the bright flush in his cheeks. But Sam knew what that meant. He went and dug the first aid kit out from beneath the bathroom sink. Then he returned to Dean with the forehead thermometer. Sniffling into his shoulder to quiet the sound, Sam pressed the thermometer to Dean’s head; Dean didn’t even stir. As he counted to twenty, he saw the colors change and numbers increase. It stopped at the 103 and 104 degree mark. The thermometer wasn’t exact, but it was close enough to make Sam panic… assuming it was right. Sam rushed to the bathroom and tried the thermometer on himself. Watching in the mirror, he saw it only went up to 99 degrees. So the thermometer was definitely not broken. And Dean had a dangerously high fever.
Sam wet a washcloth with cold water and went back to Dean. “Dean?” he tried again. “Wake up. Hey, how much of this medicine did you take?” Sam didn’t know how much was too much, but Dean wasn’t waking up, even when Sam shook him a little. Was that due to the medicine or his fever? Maybe both?
Sam sat down on the edge of the bed, holding the washcloth to Dean’s warm forehead, and considered his options. He could call an ambulance, but they didn’t have the money for that. Sam wasn’t even sure they had the money for an emergency room visit. Sam could maybe take Dean to the emergency clinic downtown; that was about a ten or fifteen minute drive. But that meant he’d have to drive the impala, and Dad only let him do that when he was learning how to drive. But this was an emergency. Dean needed help. And even if Sam did drive, how was he going to get his brother all the way down the stairs to the car when he couldn’t even wake Dean up?
Knowing he was probably a dead man for doing it, Sam picked up the telephone and dialed 9-11.
Sam woke up to the sound of coughs that were not his own. He lay in a hospital bed that was positioned at an incline so that he could breathe easier. Sam rubbed at his nose and rolled onto his side to look over at the other hospital bed in the room.
Dean looked around and swore profusely at the sight of the hospital room.
“Good morning to you too, Dean.”
With a sigh, Dean lifted his hand and rubbed at his forehead. “M’sorry, kiddo. I thought I’d be all right. I was trying to kick this bug without worrying you.”
“I know. You should have just told me you were sick, too. You had me wondering… it’s the first time in my life I’ve ever gotten sick and you haven’t tucked me into bed and sat by my side through it.”
Dean gave a little smile. “How are you feeling, Sammy?”
“I’m okay.” Sam sneezed and turned his head, embarrassed. “Well, almost. Still feeling sneezy, I guess. Mostly I’m relieved you made it through that fever.” He didn’t tell Dean how worried he’d been, how he’d sat there sniffling into tissues while hospital attendants had rushed around with cold packs, trying to lower Dean’s temperature. How Sam had stood wrapped in a thermal blanket outside the room where they’d been working on Dean, trying to stay awake until four in the morning. How no one would tell him what was going on until it looked like Dean was out of the woods. How they’d had to wait another hour for a room with two available beds so Sam could keep an eye on his brother. “How are you feeling now?”
Dean looked down at the IV drip in his arm. “Alive, apparently. But I have a feeling I’m going to be paying this off for the next three years of my life. Did you at least use the fake health insurance cards and IDs?”
And Dean’s eyes widened. “Oh shit!” He rubbed his head harder.
Relaxing, “Just kidding. Of course I did, Dean—or should I say: Paul.”
Dean sighed deeply. “Good work, George.” He coughed again, deeply, and Sam got up, out of bed.
“I’m supposed to let the doctors know when you’re awake.”
“Wait a second. C’mere.” Obediently, Sam went over to his brother, who reached his arm up and ruffled Sam’s hair affectionately. Dean pulled his hand back as quickly as he’d extended it, cupping it to the lower half of his face as he sneezed.
Sam laughed and pulled the tissue box over from the little table and nestled it next to Dean in bed. As he headed out of the room and toward the nurse’s station, he could hear Dean sneezing again.
Prompt #1: Sam's sick. Not horrible, dying sick, but need
to be sent home from high school during an important exam week sick. Dad's out
of town, and Dean's the responsible barely-adult on call. Dean's had ton of
experience over the years taking care of his sick baby brother. The problem
this time is that he's sick too. And whatever Sam's got, Dean's got it worse.
He tries his best to not look sick when he's at the school clinic or when he
goes to pick meds up for Sam at the store. Most of all, he doesn't want Sam to
know he's sick. But he's getting worn down trying to hide his symptoms and take
care of Sam's every need and can't keep it up for long.
Prompt #2: “He sneezed loudly, spraying his food”