Word Count: ~1900
Characters/Pairing: eventual Sam/Dean; Bobby, Ellen, Jo, Ash, Madison, Andy.
Summary: When tragedy strikes Sam Winchester's life, his notoriously unreliable brother Dean is the last person he expects to help him get through it. And yet, here he is, acting like Sam is his responsibility or something.
Warnings: None for this chapter.
Notes: This story is an AU set in the alternate reality from WiaWSNB. Dean and Sam are somewhat estranged; Mary is still alive; there has never been any hunting. That, however, is where it veers off. Beta'd by the lovely writewanderlust. Title from the lyrics of Zep's What is and What Should Never Be.
A/N: This chapter kicked my ass a little bit. I hope you guys enjoy it! Also, with the advent of NaNoWriMo and midterms/finals season approaching, I'm gonna try and come up with some sort of weekly posting schedule. I'll keep you guys updated. :) <3
Sam didn’t sleep at all that night, ignoring the nurses’ orders to rest when they came in for their nightly rounds. His headache got worse by the hour, the uncomfortable, simmering sensation only exacerbated by his spiraling thoughts.
He should feel guilty, and, on some level, he did. He knew Dean had cared about Mom and Dad--could remember holidays and family vacations from just a few years ago--and he knew this was hard for Dean too. He also knew that Dean cared about him, or at least he had once. He had the memories of countless movie nights and wrestling matches and soccer games and road trips to attest to that fact. But he also remembered the way Dean had all but disappeared a couple years ago; ignoring his calls and texts, breaking plans, and barely giving him the time of day when he did bother to visit. Sam had been worried at first, especially when it became apparent that Dean was drinking and smoking more than he should have been. Then he’d been angry--he was still more hurt by the whole thing than he really cared to admit. He’d looked up to Dean, he’d been best friends with Dean, he’d--
No. Not going there. Absolutely not.
After he’d shut that whole mess of thinking down he actually tried to sleep, but his body felt heavier and more achy than it had since he’d been there, and no matter which way he shifted, he couldn’t get comfortable enough to relax. When he heard a knock at his door a couple hours later, his head was on fire and he felt frustrated to the point of tears. He calmed down a little, though, when he saw Bobby walk through the door.
“Hey, kid, how’re ya doin’?” Bobby asked. He stood next to the bed, his hands resting awkwardly on the guardrail.
“Okay,” Sam lied.
“Sorry I didn’t get here last night,” he said, tugging his cap farther down his forehead. “And I can’t stay long. Wanted to stop by before work, though.”
Sam nodded, feeling a little guilty at his instinct to ask Bobby to stay. Bobby and John had been partners, running a small but generally successful garage in town together for as long as Sam could remember. They only had a couple other mechanics working for them, so without his dad, Sam imagined Bobby must be in a little over his head.
“Have you been able to keep up on work there?” Sam asked. “I mean, I know you’re short on workers right now because of everything and you’ve been visiting here a lot, and you don’t have--”
“Sam, it’s fine. You’re more important than a couple jobs, ya hear? Besides, Dean’s gonna be starting out there in a few days, picking up after your old man, a little.”
And that was a little weird, since Dean rarely held actual jobs, but whatever.
“Anyways, I’ve gotta head out, but Ellen’s bringing up Jo and Ash and Andy and Madison this afternoon, and I’m sure Dean’ll be here soon. See you later, kiddo.”
Sam smiled a goodbye, figuring Bobby hadn’t talked to Dean after he’d stopped by last night, and he didn’t really want to bring it up himself. Either that or Dean had realized Sam was being a complete ass and was going to just ignore his shit.
But when a couple hours passed without his brother appearing, Sam had to admit that Dean wasn’t coming. His guilt over how he’d treated his brother was a little stronger this morning, his stomach churning even though he hadn’t eaten yet. He tried to distract himself with the car magazines Dean had bought him. He wasn’t particularly interested in them, but he’d appreciated the gesture of all the same. His headache made it hard to focus, though, all foggy thinking and painful movements. A harried looking nurse came in around noon, checking different monitors and recording her findings on the chart.
“I’m not feeling too good,” Sam mumbled after a few minutes. The nurse looked at him and frowned, reaching over to press a hand to his skin.
“You’re running a little fever,” she said, glancing at her watch. “A few of the people on our floor caught a stomach bug this morning, so we’re doing the best we can, but I’ll try to find a doctor to come in and look you over, okay?”
She made another note on Sam’s chart and then bustled out of his room again. Sam dozed a little, but it was a restless sleep, his aching muscles and body’s inability to decide if it was too hot or too cold keeping him in a state of discomfort. By the time he heard footsteps shuffle into his room again, he was fairly disoriented, and could feel his hair sticking against his forehead and neck.
Sam felt a hand rub up and down his arm, but instead of being comforting, it hurt his skin. He opened his eyes and saw Ellen leaning over him; Jo, Madison, Ash, and Andy were all gathered behind her, holding balloons and flowers and candy and books. Jo looked like she was holding his quilt from home, too. All of them were smiling at him, but they looked more concerned than cheerful, and he wasn’t really sure why.
“Where’s Jess?” he asked. He watched Jo’s expression crumble, and Ash wrapped his free arm supportively around her waist. Sam looked up at Ellen, whose eyebrows were scrunched up with worry. He felt confused. “Whasamatter?”
“Sam, are you okay?” Ellen smoothed Sam’s hair back from his forehead and gently pressed her icy palm to his skin. “Ah, shoot. Jo, go find a doctor or a nurse, okay?”
Jo stepped forward to place Sam’s quilt on the bed before leaving the room, glancing back over her shoulder a few times. Ash, Andy, and Madison hovered anxiously behind Ellen, who was still leaning over Sam, stroking his hair. He could sense the tension in the room and it was making him nervous. He tried to sit up, but his head hurt too badly to even lift his neck.
“What’s going on? Is my mom here? Where’s Dean--is he here? I want Dean.”
Ellen looked at him closely for a minute, her hand frozen on his head, before she calmly resumed her petting. “No, honey, they’re not. I can get Dean here for you, though.”
“Yeah,” Sam nodded. It made him dizzy and for a few seconds he thought he was going to throw up. “Call Dean. I want Dean.”
Sam saw Jo come back into the room and say something to her mom. Ellen nodded and Jo whispered something to his other friends--he couldn’t really focus on the words, though--and then they were depositing their bags and balloons on the chair and leaving. Sam felt kind of bad; he hadn’t even gotten to say hi to them.
Sam closed his eyes, and when he opened them again Ellen was still there, and now there was a doctor, too. The doctor was pulling on a pair of blue latex gloves and nudging Ellen out of the way.
“Okay, Sam,” she said, reaching into the pocket of her lab coat. She pulled out a thermometer and stepped closer, dragging the cool rubber across his forehead. “Let’s see what we’ve got here.”
When Dean’s cell phone rang, he was four beers into a six pack, and so what if it was 4 o’clock in the afternoon? He considered not answering, but with all the life-altering news he’d been getting lately, he figured he really probably should.
Ellen’s voice yelling into his ear was the last thing he expected.
“Dean, where the hell are you?”
“Um, in my apartment?”
“And do you know where your brother is?”
“...In the hospital?”
“Yes,” she said, her voice icy. “Yes he is. So is there a reason why you’re not here?”
Dean sighed, and chugged down the rest of his beer. “Listen, Ellen, I’ve been at that damn hospital every day. Can’t I take a day off?”
There was silence on the other end of the line for a minute, and then Ellen was speaking in a quiet way that made Dean sit up a little straighter. “First of all, Dean, do not give me that tone. I changed your diapers when you were little--you don’t get to be an ass to me. Second, no, you don’t get to take a day off--”
“Ellen, you don’t understand. We got into a fight last night; he doesn’t want me there. He was pretty damn clear about that.”
“Dean, I don’t care what the kid said to you last night. That boy is your responsibility, and right now he’s got a fever from some infection he picked up and he’s delirious and scared and asking for you, so you’d better get yourself down here. Do you understand me?”
“Good,” she said, in a considerably warmer voice. “Be here soon.”
Dean stood outside Sam’s hospital room for a few minutes before he could work up the balls to open the door. He knew it was a little ridiculous to be scared--it was just his baby brother, after all--but he was. He still wasn’t sure that Sam would really want him there, even though Ellen said he did, and after everything that’d happened in the past two weeks, he didn’t know if he could really handle the rejection again. He almost turned tail and ran, but then he heard commotion from inside the room.
“Sam, I need you to calm down for me,” he heard Ellen say. Her voice was tight, like she’d said the same thing too many times and was losing patience.
“Where’s Dean? You said you’d call him. You said he was coming!” Sam’s voice was loud and scared, and that was all it took to give Dean the courage to open the door and walk into the room, interrupting whatever Ellen was about to say to Sam.
Sam and Ellen both turned to look at him, Ellen with relief and Sam with wide eyes like he was a little kid all over again.
“See,” Ellen said, turning back to Sam. “He’s right here.” She smoothed her hand over Sam’s hair one more time before walking out, shooting Dean a warning glare as she passed by.
“Dean,” Sam said, still staring. “You’re here. You came. You weren’t here, you left, and I thought you were gone.”
Dean ignored Sam’s babbling, taking in his flushed face and glassy eyes, and walked to the bed. He noticed that the blanket on top was the quilt his mom had made Sam one Christmas when she’d tried to take up sewing, and smiled sadly. Sam was still mumbling, and Dean felt like someone kicked him in his stomach when he looked up to see that Sam was crying now, too. After a second of hesitation, Dean sat on the bed next to Sam and wrapped his arms around his brother, careful not to pull any of the wires or jostle Sam too much. Sam pressed against his side almost immediately, turning his face into Dean’s neck, still crying and feverishly hot.
Dean just held him, rubbing his hands up and down his brother’s sides, whispering against his hair, “It’s okay, Sammy, I’ve got you. You’re okay now.”