Here's to role reversal in the Dizzo household :D *raises glass*
On the subject of role reversal; I'm rather partial to a spot of Winchester role reversal with a sensible Sammy looking after a poorly Dean!
Therefore, as a follow-up to my story, In Sickness and in Stealth, posted yesterday, I post a prequel which covers the dramatic pneumonia / pleurisy / spitting blood / midnight hospital dash referred to by a bitchfaced Sam in that fic.
JUST A COUGH, SAMMY
Word Count: approx 9,000
Disclaimer: I own nothing, It's quite tragic really ...
Sam scraped his hand over his face; his crushing fatigue weighed like a ten-ton weight on him, but sleep felt like a million miles away. The hand he grasped was cold and clammy, it's grip weak, but desperately tight. He stroked the back of the hand with his thumb, hoping that he could provide a crumb of comfort through that simple motion, although he wasn't entirely sure who the comfort was more for the benefit of.
Fear glazed green eyes stared wetly from charcoal dark smudges, the only features in a face as pale and colourless as death itself.
Dean's dark blond hair clung limply to his damp forehead, serving to reinforce the vulnerability of his appearance; stripped of his fearless hunter's disguise; his aggressively spiked hair, massive, broad-shouldered overshirt, heavy boots, cowboy swagger and badass smirk, he looked exactly what he was; frightened, sick, and reaching out for the touch of one person who could make it all better - his brother.
Sam ruffled Dean's damp hair; "hey dude" he smiled unconvincingly, "you're gonna be alright, this is gonna help, ok?" He swallowed heavily, "we'll be back on the hunt before you know it!"
Dean nodded slowly and weakly, propped up against a mountain of pillows in his hospital bed and fighting for each laboured breath. The oxygen mask over his face prevented any kind of verbal response, but his glassy eyes remained latched, unblinking, onto Sam, and for a brief moment, Sam shared the fear and regret in them.
Trying his hardest to keep his eyes from Dean's disinfectant stained chest and the narrow tube which snaked out from under his armpit, disappearing into a canister hidden under the bed, Sam listened to the soft rhythmic beep of the heart monitor, and watched the lazy drip, drip, drip of the IV.
He would never get used to seeing his brother like this; weak, scared, dependent on machines and tubes and medicine; he could even less accept it when the whole sorry episode was largely self-inflicted. A whirl of emotions conflicted within him, fury and fear, love and sadness; he didn't know whether to hug Dean, or punch his lights out.
"I know you're gonna fight this" whispered Sam, his fingertips still playing with Dean's hair, "no stupid chest infection is gonna get the better of my badass big brother". Sam almost laughed out loud at the description; how could a 6 foot, 180 pound man possibly look so small and helpless?
Sam took a deep breath and scraped his hand over his face again. He watched a solitary tear slide down the side of his brother's face, and wondered "how the hell did it come to this?"
Sam could remember almost exactly when the whole sorry episode started. It was at a salt and burn in a flea bitten little town whose name escaped him, a few miles down the freeway from Arkansas, about three months ago.
They really ought to had named Murphy's Law, 'Winchester's Law', because anything that could go wrong on that night really did go wrong; the spirit pummelled seven bells out of both brothers in the graveyard, rain hammered down on them the whole time and by the time they trudged their weary, bruised and soaking way back to the impala which they had parked outside the rear gates, it soon became clear that she had been broken into.
Their jackets had been rifled, so no funding meant no motel. Cue a cold, damp and extremely uncomfortable night spent hunkered down in the Impala with the February chill whistling through the broken window.
By morning, the cold and damp had taken its toll; both Winchesters were miserable, shivering, stiff, and ached all over. They were ravenously hungry, but no money meant no breakfast.
Fishing around in his duffel, Sam found a Granola bar. He broke it in half, and passed the bigger half to Dean, who took it ingraciously, muttering about it tasting like it had been picked up off of a stable floor. Fretting over his poor damaged baby (not his freezing cold, hungry brother), and with a coffee-less day looming, Dean's mood hovered somewhere between royally pissed-off and murderous.
Then things started to look up; they managed to sneak, unseen, into the local sports club and enjoy a warm shower, a shave and an opportunity to freshen up there. As a result, they looked and felt vaguely more human when they went out to face the world.
Thankfully, the one thing that they hadn't lost was Dean's ability to play pool and wrap the local low-life round his little finger; he spent a lucrative evening in the town's bar, plying his skill, while Sam sat in the Impala and filled in a fistful of fraudulent credit card applications.
By the end of the evening, Dean had enough notes in his sticky mitt to be able to book a hotel room for the next couple of nights, order in a pizza and even to think about getting started on his baby's broken window.
The motel room, although lavishly unappealing, was one of the most beautiful sights either of them had ever seen. After a cramped, freezing night in the Impala and a cold, thirsty and hungry day spent wandering the streets, although the bar's beer was like gnats pee, the beds were lumpy, the shower was feeble and the pizza didn't have enough cheese on it, they were both in heaven.
Then Winchester's law reared it's head again …
The following morning saw the two men conked out in bed; pitiful sniffs, coughs and groans filled the room.
Sam rolled over onto his back, sending red hot pain skewering between his temples, he sneezed twice, and in the absence of a tissue, ended up with a snail trail along the back of his hand. His throat felt like a blast furnace, and the effort of standing upright, going for a pee, finding some tissue and trudging back to bed more or less wiped him out for the rest of the day.
Dean wasn't faring much better. He lay on his left side, afraid his face might cave in if he turned on his back. He knew it was always a sign that things were bad if he snored; he knew things were even worse if he snored while he was wide awake. Irritated by the constant dripping of his nose, he also attempted a stagger to the bathroom, trying to ignore his spinning head, burning throat and the crushing weight on his chest.
And so, the next three days passed in a blur of fitful sleeping, headaches, sneezing, coughing, snotty tissues, aching limbs, Tylenol, throat lozenges, and croaky, wheezing, slightly delirious conversations revolving around exactly what Dean was going to do to the scumbag who broke into the Impala if he caught up with him.
After the third day, Sam felt well enough to move around. He felt desperately tired and wrung out like an old dishrag. He was still coughing and sniffling, but he definitely felt over the worst of it.
He surveyed the room and cringed. A mess of screwed up tissues, lozenge wrappers, empty tablet packs and discarded sweat-soaked T shirts covered the floor.
Sam did a double take when he glanced at the other bed. His brother lay face down on the bed snoring softly and hugging his pillow; the covers had been kicked off the bed, and with his left knee bent under him, Sam was confronted with the sight of his brother's boxer-clad ass staring him in the face.
Sam smiled and resisted the urge to slap it.
Dean was the untidiest, most fidgety sleeper Sam had ever known. He had been like it as a child and it was a trait he had never come close to growing out of. He was in sleep as in wakefulness, a throbbing bundle of nervous energy, and Sam marvelled at some of the positions he managed to fidget his way into during his so-called rest.
Smiling about the spectacle before him, Sam headed towards the bathroom, the thought of a good refreshing shower too attractive to ignore. He turned and studied his reflection in the mirror.
Lank hair was slicked greasily to his head, his gaunt, pale face was adorned by three days stubble, watery hazel eyes stared back at him … he looked away, it was just too horrible.
Half an hour later, showered, shaved and generally freshened up, Sam stepped out of the bathroom back into the bedroom and gagged as he was hit by the smell of three days confined illness; a pungent cocktail of menthol rub and stale sweat.
In the midst of the miasma, Dean was stirring stiffly in his bed, "S'mmy" he croaked, staring around himself vacantly, "whassa time? His voice sounded like he had been gargling with razor blades.
Sam headed over and sat on the side of his bed. "It's Wednesday, dude!"
Dean rubbed his chest, gave a spluttering, breathless cough and stared at Sam. "Feel like crap S'mmy …"
Sam reached out to feel his brother's forehead and had his hand slapped away.
"You look like crap too bro'" he smiled at the pasty, gaunt face.
Dean moved to sit up, but was promptly pushed gently back down into the bed, "why don't you just rest?" Sam smiled at his brother's blank face as he pulled the sheets back up over him, "we've got nowhere to go, and you know how these…"
Dean glared, "if the words, 'you know how these things always affect you worse than me' come out of your mouth, I will hurt you!" He tried to look stern and authoritarian, but the whole effect was ruined by a spectacular sneeze and a wheezy coughing fit.
Sam wiped the spit off of his face, and rubbed his brother's back as the coughing subsided; "you don't scare me!" He grinned, "now rest up - stinky!"
Dean stared at him, then turned and sniffed his armpit. He cringed …
It would be another few days before both brothers felt fit to move on, a few more until they were fit to return to the hunt …
… but Sam still had his doubts.
Over a month had passed since the episode with the flu / cold / flesh-eating-death-bug /just a cough (description varied depending on Dean's mood and the context of the conversation), and they gradually settled back into their usual routine of driving, squabbling, hunting, lousy motels and bad diner food.
Dean had lovingly restored his baby back to her former glory, working her over with tender care and skilful hands, all the while whispering sweet nothings and promising that when he found the loser who did this to her, he would knock him down and run him over carefully so as not to damage her chassis.
Sam reflected that it was a shame Dean wasn't as enthusiastic about his own welfare, five weeks on and he was still coughing lavishly. Sam was still laying awake most nights listening to his brother's wheezing breaths; watching Dean slyly knuckling his chest when he thought Sam wasn't looking.
Sam's repeated suggestions to visit a Doctor were met with anything from flippant derision to sullen silence.
The final straw came, however, after the Winchesters had tried to chase down a vengeful spirit that had been persecuting a small backwoods Colorado town. Dean had made it all of fifty yards before collapsing to his knees in a choking, gasping heap and throwing up in his own lap.
The following morning, the brothers were packing up and shipping out, another successful (except for the chokey, throwy up bit) hunt behind them.
Sam was giving Dean his full-on bitchface after yet another unsuccessful plea for his brother to visit a doctor had turned into a slanging match. They had gone to sleep in a sulky silence, their backs to each other.
In an attempt at peacemaking, Dean tossed Sam the Impala keys, "wanna drive, bitch?"
Sam caught the keys and stared tight-lipped at his brother, "Jerk …" he muttered, and turned to walk out of the room. Dean grinned and locked the room behind him, spluttering over a suppressed cough as he went.
Settling back in the passenger seat, Dean rested his head back and closed his eyes as he heard the familiar and beautiful purr of his baby's engine, he sighed as the Impala slid smoothly out of it's parking space.
He opened his eyes abruptly when he felt the Impala glide to a halt not ten minutes after setting off.
Looking up out of the windscreen, he saw a sign in front of him, 'Elm Hill Medical Centre'. He glared at Sam.
"What the f…?"
Sam looked squarely at him. "Seeing as I can't make you see reason, I'm going to have to be unreasonable myself." He nodded towards the building, "they do walk-ins; you're going in."
Dean's jaw dropped.
"You can shove it up your ass, dude," he snorted. He held out his hand, "gimme the key."
Sam slowly placed the key in his inside jacket pocket. He turned to his furious brother. "You're going in Dean; you can walk in like a grown-up, or I can drag you in. Your choice!"
"I don't need no friggin' quack!" Dean roared, "it's just a cough; now, turn us the hell around!"
"Dean," sighed Sam, "I'm bigger than you and, right now, I'm stronger and fitter than you." He leaned closer to his brother, "I don't want to do it, but I WILL carry you in there if you force me to."
For the first time, Dean looked slightly afraid.
He tried a different tack; it wasn't only Sammy that could do the puppy dog eyes. "Sam," he sighed, softening his voice, "Sammy." He turned on his biggest, roundest, velvet-greenest eyes. "I appreciate what you're doing, but there's no need, honestly," he turned on the hi-octane smile as well, "I'm feelin' much better - it's just a stupid little cough!"
Sam glared. Dean smiled beatifically.
"It ain't workin', dude," announced Sam, "I'm immune to your smarm - you're goin' in".
Dean's face dropped into a scowl, a deep rumble erupted from inside his chest and he coughed loudly.
"Well, screw you," he grunted, "I ain't goin' nowhere." He folded his arms petulantly.
"I can wait!" announced Sam.
They both settled into a sulky silence in the parked car.
An hour later, Dean broke the silence, "oh, for heaven's sake - ALRIGHT!" He opened the door and climbed out of the car, stomping off across the car park. Sam clambered out and trotted up behind him.
"I don' need you to hold my hand!" Dean grunted.
"No, but I'm comin' in, I wouldn't put it past you to climb out of the window in the bathroom," scolded Sam.
Dean huffed and punched the door open, timing it perfectly so that it would swing back and clout Sam in the face.
They had been sitting in the waiting room ten minutes before they heard the call over the PA system, "Dean Winsborough."
The brothers both rose.
Dean turned and poked Sam in the chest, "don't even think about it!" He snorted. Sam sat back down, "tell her the truth!" he hissed. Dean walked off towards the surgery door giving the finger to Sam behind his back.
"So, Mr Winsborough, what seems to be the problem?" Doctor Watts was a middle aged lady with unruly grey hair and an obvious wardrobe fixation for purple.
"Um, well," Dean glared daggers towards the door, "about a month ago, me an - my sister - had really bad colds, an' although we got over it, it's been a month now an' I'm still coughin' and wheezin' a bit, " he hesitated, "not much really, but my sister is naggin' me, an' I'm sure it's nothin' but we were jus' passin' through and …"
"Let me be the judge of that, Mr Winsborough," smiled Doctor Watts, reaching for her stethoscope. "Can you lift your shirt for me?"
Dean sighed, rolling his eyes, and lifted the hem of his T shirt.
Doctor Watts listened to his chest thoroughly; he obediently deep breathed and coughed when asked. Then she walked round behind him pulled the back of his shirt up and tapped her fingers across his back. He frowned, why don't doctors ever warm their freakin' hands?
As she pulled him about, she asked him lots of questions which he answered economically; why the hell does she want to know what colour his phlegm is - how many freakin' colours can it be?
When she had finished manhandling him, he rearranged himself and listened for the verdict.
"Your lung capacity is quite compromised, it seems to me you picked up a very nasty virus."
"Is that all?" he grinned.
"Well, it's not to be taken lightly," she warned, "viruses can linger for weeks, months even, and they can lead to serious infection if the circumstances are right."
She continued, "Your lungs seem clear, but very weak - it's most important that you rest, look after yourself, eat lots of good food, vitamins and such, drink lots of fluids and most importantly, if it doesn't improve in the next few days, I would like you to go back to your local hospital where they can do a more thorough exam.
"Yeah, sure thing Doc, an' thanks." Dean jumped to his feet and marched out of the surgery.
He punched Sam in the back as he stomped past, "C'mon bitch!" he commanded, and Sam trailed after him into the car park.
Dean turned on his heel, "Key." he held out his hand.
"What'd she say?" asked Sam, gripping the key tightly.
"It's a virus," snapped Dean, "gonna get better of it's own accord."
"Anything else?" asked Sam.
"Nope." Grunted Dean, "key, now!"
Sam sighed and handed over the Impala's key. He walked round the back of the car to the passenger side, glancing across to see his brother cough and rub his chest.
"Virus!" Dean glared at him, "now get in the friggin' car; we've wasted a whole morning on this pointless exercise - we've got a job to do.
Sam crossed his arms and sat in silence as Dean cranked up the music effectively putting a veto on any further conversation. Somehow he didn't feel quite as reassured as he thought he was going to be …
Apart from the reception, only one window glowed alight in the Blue Meadows Motel; the one in the bathroom of room 4.
Dean sat on the edge of the bath, shivering and tearful; he had been there for almost an hour now. Yeah, he was cold, he was uncomfortable, but it was no more than he deserved; friggin' stupid dick.
He'd sat on his stupid, useless ass, and let this illness take hold and hadn't lifted a finger to stop it. Doctors appointments and stuff would only have worried Sammy, better to let it run it's course … yeah right. That's the sort of crap you would expect a pathetic waste of space coward to come out with; a coward who wanted to take no responsibility. No wonder Dad gave up and left.
Sleep had become a distant memory - lying down was too much of a chore; he was in far too much pain, it was as much as he could do to walk upright without collapsing in a breathless heap. Forget the job, he hadn't been able to make a meaningful contribution to the hunt for a couple of weeks now; he looked sicker than some of the corpses they'd dug up.
Two months had passed since Dean had seen that Doctor back at Elm Hill, and then only at Sammy's insistence. The virus would linger she had said, and boy, had that sonofabitch lingered. Not only lingered, but gathered reinforcements.
Dean had never felt so ill in his entire life, feeling like his chest was full of cement, each breath was a Herculean effort; and he was scared. So freakin' scared.
He stifled a cough behind tightly closed lips so as not to wake Sam, and grimaced as his chest constricted into a fiery knot.
The Doctor had also told him to get his sorry ass down to a hospital if it didn't get better. But no, that was far too logical for Dean friggin' idiot Winchester. Nah, pretend it ain't happening, pretend it's all getting better, and that coughing your lungs up and spitting blood is all just a silly little cough. Moron.
He listened to Sam on the other side of the door, shifting uncomfortably in his bed, and sighed; the kid was scared out of his wits. Unlike his big brother, though, he wasn't stupid, despite all Dean's protestations, he knew this was bad; he'd begged Dean to go to hospital and got nothing but smartass abuse back for his trouble. Dean shook his head, "way to go, you idiot sonovabitch!" he thought bitterly, "keepin' quiet hasn't protected little brother, you've scared him half to death."
He stared dully into the mirror, unmoved by what stared back at him. His gaunt face had lost any trace of colour; it was a sickly, jaundiced grey; previously killer cheekbones looked cadaverous, casting dark shadows across his two-day unshaven jawline. The dark smugdes beneath his fever-glazed eyes glistened with tears. He scowled at his reflection; "yeah, that's right, turn on the waterworks - do what you do best when things get tough."
He looked down at his bare chest; it was a pitiful sight. Ribs and collarbones jutted out starkly, where previously a firm layer of muscle had softened and thickened their outline. His weight loss had been so gradual, it hadn't really registered with him until Sammy had commented on it a couple of weeks ago. He had been wearing his belt a couple of notches in, and his appetite had gone a.w.o.l. some time ago, so it really shouldn't have been a surprise to him. He had taken to dressing in the locked bathroom since then, away from Sam's eyes. Dean snorted at the thought of his own insecurity. "You're not protecting Sammy", he told himself sourly, "you're trying to convince your own inadequate, insecure ass that you're not knocking at death's door"
He suppressed another coughing fit, lurching forward to the sink as the overwhelming urge to vomit gripped him. His clutched his side, hanging limply over the basin, completely paralysed as his ribcage felt as if it were being torn apart from he inside.
He watched in horror through a haze of tears as frothy scarlet drops spilled from his gaping mouth and spattered the white porcelain; each gasping breath felt like a hot dagger twisting between his ribs, and he was scared, oh, so scared …
Then the bathroom door was flung open and a pair of strong, warm arms encircled his heaving chest.
Sam's face blanched as he saw the blood in the basin, "I got ya bro'" he whispered, his voice cracking as he tried to hold it together, "I got ya." He gathered his brother's trembling body into his arms, and held him close, as he carried him back into the bedroom.
"Sam" Dean gasped, "Sam …"
Sam shushed his brother softly, and set him down on the bed, working him into his black hoodie, blinking back tears as Dean coughed violently again and scarlet froth trickled down his chin.
"I'm sorry … gonna die, my fault … deserve it …"
"Shhh, don't talk like that," Sam gathered Dean up in his arms and hugged him against his chest as he carried him out to the Impala, "you're not gonna die, and you certainly don't deserve to," he whispered softly, planting a kiss on his brother's eyebrow. A kiss? Where the hell did that come from?
Dean moaned softly, against Sam's neck, wheezing wetly into his collar.
"Here we are," Sam smiled weakly, as he opened the door, "your baby's gonna look after you an' take you to hospital".
"Sorry, Sammy … so sorry … my fault … my fault … don't blame you if you hate me."
Sam leaned over Dean as he placed him in the passenger seat. "Dean, I don't hate you, why would you think such a thing? You're my brother and I love you". He took a deep breath to compose himself. "An' you're not gonna die!" he whispered, ghosting his thumb across Dean's sweat slicked forehead, "I won't let that happen." He gently closed the door then ran round to the driver side, "'cos when you're better, I'm gonna kill you myself," he muttered under his breath.
The drive to the hospital was terrifying and seemingly never-ending, Sam talked incessantly to his brother, listening to his ragged, pained breathing, and wet, choking coughs, commanding him to stay conscious. When he first caught sight of the hospital's well-lit car park, he almost cried with relief.
Abandoning the Impala somewhere close to a parking space, he briefly reflected that Dean would have had a word or two to say about Sam's cavalier treatment of his baby; as it was he meekly allowed Sam to gather up his limp body, and run into the ER.
"My brother's really sick!" Sam yelled to anyone who would listen, "he can't breathe, he's coughing blood."
Within moments, they were surrounded by uniforms. Dean was pulled out of Sam's arms, and laid out on a gurney; voices, strange hands surrounded him, touching, pressing, pulling; there was noise, talking, questions, questions he couldn't understand; over it all he could hear Sam's voice somewhere distant. He blindly reached out a hand, and let out a choking cry for his brother.
His pained breathing hitched as long fingers grasped his wrist. "I'm here Dean, not goin' anywhere …"
Sam gripped his brother's wrist as the medics worked around them ; Dean's plaintive cries for his brother had been silenced by an oxygen mask which had been fastened over his face, and which the stubborn ass had yanked off twice. Only when Sam had snatched it out of the nurse's hand and pushed it over his brother's face, ordering him to keep it on, had he complied without question.
Sam jogged alongside the gurney as it was wheeled out of the ER reception area, still gripping his trembling brother's wrist when he felt a hand on his arm.
A young Doctor turned to him, "We're taking your brother into an examination cubicle, Mr Winsborough," he hesitated, "I'm afraid I'm going to have to ask you to wait here". He saw Sam's face drop, "we'll keep you informed as soon as we have anything to tell you."
Sam sighed, "Please," he implored, "can I go in with him? He's got this thing about hospitals, and, look at him, he's scared to death." Sam regarded the Doctor's impassionate face, "that's a lot of the reason why he's in this state, he couldn't bring himself to get it checked out".
"I'm sorry," the doctor began …
"Please," Sam resorted to begging; "we lost someone very close in a hospital a while ago, it was unexpected and it kinda screwed him up about these places."
They both looked round to see Dean bucking weakly on the gurney, muffled coughs fogging the oxygen mask; his saucer-wide eyes, darting frantically round the room, he clawed at the mask again, as a nurse scolded him and fought to keep it on his face, his arm reached out, groping blindly for the brother that had been dragged away from him.
"He'll be much easier to handle if I'm there …" Sam offered.
The doctor looked back at Sam, "you're Dean Winsborough's brother?
"Yeah," said Sam, "my name's Sam – I'm the only family he's got."
The doctor sighed, "My name's Jenkins; under the circumstances, I suppose we can make an exception." Sam sighed in relief, itching to get back to his increasingly agitated brother's side, "but you need to keep out of the way and be prepared to leave if anyone asks you to."
Sam nodded smartly, and stepped over to the gurney, grasping Dean's outstretched hand. The effect was instantaneous; Sam gestured to the nurse who had been wrestling the oxygen mask back onto Dean's face, and she let go. There was no further attempt to remove it.
"It's ok, bro'", Sam whispered, a close as he dare get without pushing his luck, "let them do their stuff, I'll be here with you." He thumbed a tear from his brother's pallid cheek before stepping back out of his line of vision.
Dean squirmed miserably, grimacing with pain as he felt strangers' hands all over him, unzipping his hoodie, feeling his pulse, fingertips probing his jawline and neck, tapping his ribs, pressing on his belly, a stethoscope doing the rounds on his chest, something poked in his ear – a thermometer? All the while, there was one hand which stayed constant, which didn't hurt or poke or prod, just a reassuring, warm, soothing presence belonging to the only person in the room he trusted.
There were voices; in particular a man's voice, barking out orders; he wants bloods, he wants chest X-rays, he wants fluids; "he wants a smack in the teeth!" thought Dean irritably; but in the end, it was just noise to him. There was only one voice in the room Dean was listening to. As long as that voice was there, everything would be alright.
After a few moments, Doctor Jenkins took Sam aside.
"I'm afraid, I'm going to have to ask you to sit outside now," he whispered apologetically, "we're taking him down for X-rays, and need to run some other tests. We'll let you know as soon as there's anything to report."
Sam nodded reluctantly. "What do you think?" he asked.
"Our initial belief is that it's pneumonia – severe pneumonia," Jenkins rubbed the back of his neck as he spoke, "but we can only tell so much from a manual examination; the X-rays and blood tests will tell us much more."
Sam took a long breath, "but when he went to the Doctors a couple of months ago, she said it was only a virus."
Jenkins nodded, "usually, pneumonia is caused by a bacterial infection; but the weakness and damage caused by a virus can lay a person open to picking up such infections if their immune system is compromised enough." He thought for a moment, "I'm surprised the Doctor didn't tell him that!"
He crouched down beside Dean, and placed his hand on his head. "I've gotta go, dude"; Dean's ragged breathing hitched. "They need to do some X-rays and stuff." Dean's eyes widened and fixed on Sam's face, his head began to shake, and his hand reached for Sam's again.
"I'll be right here waiting when they're all done, bro'". He tried to keep his voice light.
Dean's knuckles turned white as he gripped Sam's hand fiercely, shaking his head violently, his breath coming in heavy, pained pants which fogged the mask over his face.
"Dude", Sam felt his eyes beginning to well up, "please, do what the Doctors want, please …" He took a deep breath and wiped his eyes, "let them help you, please - for me." The desperate plea in his voice was enough for Dean to slowly let go of his hand and gently pat his brother's face.
Sam stepped back shakily as the gurney carrying his brother was wheeled away.
Sam wasn't sure how many hours he had sat in the corridor, how many times he had looked at his watch, looked out of the window or read the same magazine. All he knew was that he was mightily relieved when he saw Doctor Jenkins walking towards him.
"What's the news?" Sam leapt to his feet before Jenkins opened his mouth.
"Well," Jenkins hesitated, "firstly, you need to understand, your brother is a very sick man." He gestured to Sam to sit down, and sat with him.
"We took a series of chest X-rays, we also took some blood tests which we are continuing to look at", Jenkins looked at Sam and continued, "I think it's fair to say your brother was - um - somewhat distressed during the process".
Sam's head drooped; "I should have been there with him," he whispered, "I told you, he's sick, and in pain - he's scared to death being this sick, and being stuck in here," he added, more aggressively this time.
Jenkins sighed. "He has severe pneumonia in his right lung, the same again, but much less advanced on his left." He let the news sink in for a moment. "He also has a very heavy inflammation of the lining of his lung on his right side; it's a condition we call pleurisy, that's what's causing the intense pain he's been experiencing."
Sam tried to process the information he had just been presented with, rubbing his hand over his hair, he eventually found his tongue.
"OK, but you can do something, right? Can I see him now?"
"There is too much inflammation around his lung for us to disperse it medicinally," Jenkins explained, "We are going to have to insert a draining tube in his chest to do that job."
Sam cringed at the thought.
Jenkins nodded, "yes, I'm afraid it's not a pleasant procedure", he admitted, "but a very effective one" he added brightly.
"We already have him on a heavy antibiotic drip, and that, together with the drain, should start to improve things."
Sam nodded, "Can I see him?"
Jenkins shook his head, "I'm sorry, he's being prepared for the drain insertion procedure", he squeezed Sam's shoulder and got up, "when that's all done, you'll be the first to know."
"Will you do it under a general anaesthetic?" asked Sam.
"No" Jenkins replied, "under a local, we will need him to breathe in a controlled way during the insertion, we need him conscious".
"You said he was distressed when you did the tests and X-rays - can I be with him when you do this?" Sam asked in a small, hopeful voice.
"I'm sorry, this must be done in a sterile environment, it's absolutely out of the question." Doctor Jenkins closed the conversation apologetically and gently.
Sam closed his eyes, took a deep breath and mentally clutched his brother's hand; "it's okay Dean, I've got ya, I'm here", he whispered.
In a brightly lit, clinically bare room on the next floor, two gowned nurses prepared the equipment they needed.
Behind them, Dean lay propped up on a narrow bed, queasily swallowing back a terrified nausea. Shivering, through fear or sickness he didn't know, he scanned the room for his brother; he wanted to see Sam so badly. Sammy must be so scared, so worried, not knowing what is happening; why were they keeping Sam away from him?
Then his fingers curled into a loose grip; he slowly closed his eyes, and a ghost of a smile played across his masked face.
This bit is based on things a friend told me about his experiences having a chest drain inserted after a sporting accident and a collapsed lung - it sounds like a revolting, painful procedure. Throw in a large dose of trembly, sick, miserable Dean ...
Instant angst/fanfic heaven!
The two nurses clucked and fussed around Dean, "you did really well, honey." The elder one, whose name badge announced her as Jean, stroked limp, damp hair back from a sweat soaked forehead. "Nearly done, now. You just hang in there, handsome!" She gently adjusted the clear perspex mask covering her patient's nose and mouth.
The younger nurse, who had introduced herself as Helen, busied herself cleansing the neatly sutured wound, and taping the dressing in place. She looked up at their patient with a keen smile. It was clear that her interest in this particular patient wasn't just clinical, and the older nurse smiled appreciatively.
Under normal circumstances, Dean would have been flirting shamelessly with both women and lapping up the attention, but this was a different Dean; this Dean was sick, desperately, woefully scared - and missing his brother so badly it hurt.
The nurses' original assessment that they had 'a wriggler' was not an entirely inaccurate one; the fear in the glassy green eyes was palpable from the moment they saw him. Each touch was met with a violent flinch; and they knew they would have to work hard to soothe their nervous patient before they could even attempt any kind of procedure.
When they had satisfied themselves that he was a little calmer, they made a start; Helen gently lifting his arm and manoeuvring it behind his head, softly talking him through the process all the time as she sponged the whole side of his chest with dark, bitterly pungent antiseptic.
She'd begun to explain the procedure; a shot of local anaesthetic at the base of the armpit, that's where the incision for the tube would go so that they didn't have to go slicing through thick slabs of pectoral muscle. It was when she got to the bit about having to feel inside the incision to check there was a clear path for the tube, that they both heard a loud retching sound, and just managed to shove a basin under his chin as the meagre contents of his stomach made an unwelcome appearance.
Jean smiled kindly and gently wiped his face. He looked up sheepishly; an embarrassed blush had added some colour to his deathly grey face. "Hey, honey, you're not the first to do that," she chuckled, patting his cheek, her heart melting at the frightened gaze.
They both decided minimal detail was the way to go with this one.
Jean took his hand. talking soothing nonsense as he flinched from the pinch of the needle as the local anaesthetic was injected into his sensitive side. They waited a few moments , then Jean reached across and shielded his face so he couldn't see as Helen began to make the incision. She explained that she needed to feel inside the incision to check for any obstructions; giving him time to compose himself, she waited patiently as he fought to stop coughing and calm his breathing under her partner's patient instruction. When she began, he squirmed violently at the touch, gasping at the alien sensation of the finger probing the cavity of his chest.
"You're doin' great honey", Jean fussed as Dean fretted beneath her gentle touch, "nearly done now," she smiled, "a nasty bit coming up now, so you keep looking this way, honey; best not look at what's going on over there!" She looked up from the stricken face and winked at her partner who set to work.
Dean bucked as he felt the pull on the incision; his ragged breathing quickened into a stream of violent, wet coughs.
"You need to try to keep your breathing steady," she murmured softly, "we can't get the tube in if you're coughing and breathing too heavily," she placed her hand on his chest, quietly, softly guiding his breathing until it had slowed.
Helen began to gently ease the tube into place; Dean's back arched abruptly, and he recoiled violently against the pain. "no," he pleaded, "No, no …"
"Hey, hey, hey - it's ok!" Jean pressed him back onto the bed, " careful now, nearly done, nice slow, deep breaths now". Dean fought to maintain some kind of control against the rising wave of panic, his hands fisted and clawed the white sheet under him; the pain of the tube violating his chest burned red hot, and eventually, unbidden, the tears began to flow.
"Almost there, honey", Helen's comforting word took on a sense of urgency, "almost there, you're doing great!"
Eventually, the repellent crawling within his chest stopped. The tube had stopped moving.
"All done!" Helen smiled. "Just need to get it stitched into place, then you're all done"
Dean panted heavily, trying hard not to cough, his tearful, shell-shocked face looked more pallid than ever. His laboured breaths sounding so shallow that Jean felt the need to fasten the oxygen mask back over his face.
She sat and gently stroked his hair as her partner placed the last few sutures through his skin into the incision.
Glazed, heavy lidded eyes looked up at her, "hur's" he whispered groggily, "I know, honey" smiled Jean, the back of her hand stroking his stubbled cheek "we've put something in your IV that's gonna make you feel a lot better soon."
She looked up to see Doctor Jenkins standing in the doorway, "and look", she smiled down at her wheezing, shivering patient, "here's something else to make you feel better." Dean looked up to see Jenkins step aside.
There in the doorway stood the most beautiful sight he'd ever seen; a six and a half foot, sleep-deprived, unshaven, mad-haired, tear stained, beautiful sight …
Sam didn't wait for an invitation, he strode over to his brother, and wrapped long arms so gently around his shoulders. "Oh, God Dean," he choked, shocked by his brother's devastated appearance.
Dean pressed his face against the curve of his brother's throat, tugging off his mask, "S-Sam", he wheezed, "don' go …" he gripped the back of Sam's jacket.
Doctor Jenkins gave a discreet cough behind them, "I can give you some time together then, Dean, we need to get you down for an X-ray to make sure the drain is in place."
Sam bristled angrily, and Jenkins sensed it, even from the back, "after that, he's all yours, please feel free to stay as long as you need to."
Sam crouched by the bed, holding Dean as tightly as he dared, his tear-stained face buried in the damp, spiky hair at his brother's crown.
Jenkins guessed that now was the time to give the brothers some space. He beckoned Helen and Jean out of the room, and left them alone.
Sam gently released his brother, cradling his head as he laid him back against the mound of pillows; he pulled up a chair and sat back, to survey the damage. The sight of the bloody tube emerging from his brother's chest made his stomach lurch, and he decided that was enough surveying for today.
"Hey, bro' you'd better get this on", he reached for Dean's discarded oxygen mask and placed it over his brother's face.
Heavy lidded eyes blinked owlishly over the clear Perspex.
Sam smiled, grasping Dean's hand, "you're gonna be alright, this is gonna help, ok?"
Dean nodded, wheezing through the pain. Of course it was gonna be alright, Sammy was here; that's all Dean needed to know.
Doctor Jenkins was as good as his word.
After yet another X-ray, Dean was taken to a room where his brother was waiting for him. Sam never left Dean's side from that moment on; he sat uncomplaining, all the while talking to his groggy brother, watching him sleep, waiting for the sparkle to return to the glassy green eyes.
Three days on, and Dean's condition had improved noticeably, the combined efforts of the drain and the antibiotics were doing their job well; he was far more coherent and consequently much noisier. The oxygen mask was long gone, replaced by a nasal catheter, so was the softly beeping heart monitor. The tired dark smudges beneath Dean's eyes were fading, in Sam's words he looked less like he'd been punched in the face and more like his mascara had run.
On the fourth day, he was taken to have the drain removed. His improved health and spirits made him a nervous, but much less challenging patient.
The young nurse, Helen visited him regularly afterwards to check his wound and change his dressing; Sam observed with a grin that it must have needed checking and changing a heck of a lot if the amount of visits she made was anything to go by! He stood behind her, miming exaggerated kissing, slurping gestures, as she fussed and cooed over her patient who was sitting on the bed relishing the attention and calmly giving his brother the bird.
By the end of the first week, Dean's recovery was gaining momentum. The dreaded catheter went (boy, was Dean disappointed that Helen didn't get that job!) Then the IV went and finally, as if his improvement needed further confirmation, Dean started grumbling about the hospital food. He seemed to spend most of his endlessly dull time flicking or throwing it over Sam; Dean's laughter the time Helen had walked in on them and Sam was picking sweetcorn out of his hair, was like the sweetest music to Sam, even though he had threatened to give his brother a good pasting when he was better.
It was also around that time that Dean had started asking about getting out.
"You don't have to rush to get out", Sam said, "You need to recover properly; you nearly died Dean."
Dean looked into his lap, "I know" he murmured.
Sam blinked; Dean would never normally admit his sickness, this was entirely new territory.
"Dean, that Doctor back in Elm Hill; did she say it might get worse if you didn't look after it?"
Dean looked into his lap again.
Dean chewed his lip and looked up at Sam, "Yeah, she did, Sam." He mumbled sheepishly.
"Well?" Sam demanded
" I – I didn't want to worry you …" he trailed off, looking at Sam's face which displayed all the classic signs of crippling fatigue, his pained hunch as night after night in a hard chair continued to wreck his back, the noticeable weight loss, the crumpled clothes ...
"I didn't do a very good job, did I?"
Sam resisted the urge to scream every obscene word he had ever learned at the top of his voice.
"No." he muttered, clenching his trembling fists.
He took a deep shaky breath, leaning in close to Dean, he grabbed his hand. "It doesn't matter," he sighed, "it doesn't matter, just promise me, please, please promise me, you won't ever do anything like that again".
Dean pulled him into a hug, winching as the motion pulled on the incision in his chest, "I promise", he whispered, "I promise." He let his brother go, "Now stop bein' a woman and go and get me a coffee!"
Sam glared at him, "I've a good mind to go and ask that male nurse – the one with the high pitched voice and the funny walk - to come and give you a bed bath!" he snorted.
By the middle of the second week, the recovery was starting to lose it's appeal for Dean, "Dean, get back into bed."
"I'm bored, wanna go for a walk …"
Sam sighed, "Dean, do you even know if you can walk?"
"Sure I can", grinned Dean, "S'easy, one leg in front of the other – learned it years ago."
" I mean – you haven't walked further than the bathroom for four days. On top of what you've been through, your legs might not be strong enough. Let me get a wheelchair …"
Sam glared at his brother, "an' don't give me 'the look'."
In defiance of his brother, Dean sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. Sam grasped his elbow.
"Hey bitch, we can dance later, you can buy me dinner first ." Dean shook the hand off of his arm, and stood shakily, grinning triumphantly at his brother.
"Woah, okay man, I've got ya!" Sam suddenly found himself clutching two sweaty armpits as his brother crumpled into a heap.
At the end of the second week, Sam grinned as he walked into the room with a big bag of M&M's, "hey, bro, Doc Jenkins says you can go."
Dean's face lit up, "really?" he grinned.
"Yep, they need to take you down for one last chest X-ray before they'll release you, then, if that's good, we can go."
Dean scowled, "If I have any more freakin' X-rays , I'm gonna glow in the dark …"
"I've arranged with Bobby, we're gonna stay there at least a month while you recuperate," Sam began stuffing Dean's things into his duffel.
"I don't need to recup…"
"Ok, ok," Dean visibly shrank, "maybe I do!"
Doctor Jenkins sat on the bed next to a dressed and antsy Dean. He had taken to these guys and was glad that everything had worked out for them. Sam leaned against the wall in front of them.
"Right" said Jenkins, "you're good to go."
Dean looked at Sam with a smile.
"But, you're not out of the woods yet," he continued, "it's very important you accept that - lots of rest, take lots of care of yourself."
Dean rolled his eyes and nodded.
"You need to be aware that this kind of illness can cause serious or even permanent lung damage;" He paused for a moment as the brothers glanced at each other. "With that in mind I'm going to recommend a follow up program." Jenkins looked at Sam who nodded, and Dean, who didn't.
"I would like you to come back in a month for a check up and an X-ray" he said, "after that we'll look at you again three months later."
Dean opened his mouth to protest …
"He'll be there," said Sam, matter-of-factly.
"Do you have your meds?" asked Jenkins. Sam held up a paper bag full of tablet bottles, and shook it with a smile.
"Right, then", he said, "get out of here!"
The three men shook hands.
Doctor Jenkins turned to Dean, "you know, I've got a big brother who used to look out for me", he smiled, "probably still would if I let him!" He reflected for a moment, "he took care of me when I was a kid and being bullied. If it wasn't for him, I'd never have done so well at school and had the confidence to go on to med school." He gestured to his white coat, "I owe this to him", he smiled.
"Big brothers rock", he grinned, patting Dean on the shoulder, "you're lucky to have Sam!"
He walked out of the room, leaving behind a beaming Sam and a wordlessly gaping Dean.
Eventually, Sam stopped laughing enough to speak.
"C'mon, little bro'" he sniggered, beckoning to his outraged sibling, "let's go, d'y want a lollipop on the way out?"