Nicole (novembersguest) wrote,
Nicole
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Chapters 13-14: The Wake-Up Call: An SPN Fic

Title:  The Wake-Up Call,  Chapter 13-14
Author: November'sGuest
Rating: T (PG-13)
Characters: Dean/Sam/John/Missouri Mosley
Catagory: Gen/Angst/Hurt&Comfort/AU
Disclaimer: I don't own the boys or the show, just the story.
Spoilers: Season 1 is fair game.


Chapters 1-3/Chapters 4-5/Chapters 6-7/Chapters 8-9/Chapters 10-11/Chapter 12

  

Chapter 13: The Memory Remains


The radiant light of dawn nudged him toward wakefulness, announcing a new day’s beginning with all of its pink-gold glory. Basking contentedly in the warming rays of the sun filtering softly across the bed, Sam yawned and then stretched his lanky body to its full length, banishing the stiffness in his muscles.

Settling more deeply into his fluffy pillow, Sam idly wondered why his back felt so hot and sweaty. Jerking fully awake in remembered anxiety, Sam shoved himself upright and twisted at the waist toward the center of the bed, eyes immediately scouring the blankets for his ailing brother.

“Umph,” sounded Dean’s disgruntled moan at be being jarred so unexpectedly. The sound of his elder brother’s discontent was music to his ears and went a long way toward calming his racing heart. Sam closed his eyes in relief and drew in a deep, calming breath before fully shifting his body toward Dean’s huddled form.

Concerned by the apparent heat radiating off of his brother’s too dry skin, Sam reached over and felt Dean’s forehead to assess the severity of the fever. Still pretty high, Sam thought to himself with chagrin. Removing his hand, he scanned the older man’s face for other signs of distress, noting that his brother appeared terribly ashen this morning, much more so than yesterday.

Sam looked over his shoulder at the icy blue numbers emanating the time from the digital clock. Ten minutes until nine. Mentally calculating when Dean’s next dose of medicine should be given, Sam swore angrily to himself. They were an hour overdue. Placing a gentle hand on his brother’s heated shoulder, he began to rouse Dean by alternately shaking him and calling his name.

“Dean? Dean? C’mon, man – wake up.”

Dean’s brow wrinkled in a deep scowl as he groaned, “Dude, leave me alone.”

“Dean, it’s time for your medicine. I don’t wanna give your temperature a chance to go back up,” Sam replied, a touch of begging mingled in.

Voice raw from rough coughing throughout the night, Dean gruffly replied, “Give it a rest, Sam. I’m tired. Just give me a few more minutes.” Dean draped an arm over his eyes, hoping to shut out the intruding sunlight as it intensified, becoming hard to ignore – much like his younger brother.

Before Sam had a chance to respond, Missouri stuck her head through the doorway, calling out, “Good morning, boys.” Coming in to sit on the edge of the bed, she addressed Dean, asking, “How are we feeling today?”

Missouri mimicked Sam by pressing the back of her cool hand to Dean’s hot brow. He flinched out of instinct before forcing himself to relax under her touch. Mustering up all the strength he had, he lazily lifted one eyelid and gazed up at the woman, replying in a cracked voice, “Right as rain.”

“Dean Winchester, don’t lie to me. I can see right through you,” Missouri lightly reprimanded him. Then removing her hand, she commented, “Dean, honey, you’re still very warm. After breakfast, I strongly suggest you take some more pain relievers and lie back down. The rest’ll do you good,” Missouri continued, not leaving room for arguments.

“Breakfast? Ugh. I’ll pass,” he protested with a grimace.

“Dean,” Sam broke in, concern taking over, “you have to eat something. Even if it’s just a piece of toast.”

“Listen to your brother, he’s talkin’ good sense,” Missouri agreed. “Besides, you really should eat something before taking your medicine. At least have some milk to wash it down with. That’s some pretty strong stuff they’ve given you.”

Feeling cornered and maybe a little ganged up on, Dean heaved a weighty sigh and closed his eyes – wishing he could shut out the world as easily. Grudgingly, he began struggling to remove the covers and sit up. Lifting his head from his wadded up pillow, Dean was suddenly over come by a dizzy spell as it rocked the room and spun the walls in a whirling carousel ride.

“Whoa!” he called out, eyes clamping shut, one hand flying to his temple in an effort to halt the gyrating motion that threatened to flatten him out cold.

Quick as the speed of light, Sam was there, gripping his brother’s shoulders, steadying him. “Hey, you all right?” Sam asked, and then after a few seconds of silence, tried again, saying, “Dean, you still with me?”

“Yeah. Just…dizzy,” he answered, hoping to avoid more of Sam’s doting concern. Dean’s reply belied the intenseness of the swaying, pitching room.

Knowing his brother all too well, Sam continued to hold fast to his sibling, helping Dean to a sitting position. Missouri and Sam exchanged knowing glances before she said, “Dean, maybe you oughtta take breakfast in bed this morning. Last thing I need is for you to pass out on my breakfast table, or worse, share last night’s meal with the floor.”

“No,” Dean’s shaky voice answered, “I’m fine. Just a dizzy spell, that’s all.” Dean stubbornly moved to scoot out of the bed, forcing Missouri to stand up and make room for him.

“Stubborn Winchester men,” Missouri clipped out in irritation, folding her arms across her ample chest.

Sam helped Dean to the edge of the bed, loosening his hold only when the other man’s feet were securely resting on the carpeted floor below. Amazingly, Dean accepted his brother’s help with nary a word, which only served to increase Sam’s worried frown.

Dean blinked a couple of times and then allowed the hand cradling his pounding temple to fall by his side. Squinting up at the disapproving woman standing squarely in front of him, he croaked out, “Speaking of stubborn Winchesters…is Dad up?”

Smirking at Dean, she answered, “Oh, sure. I heard him bumpin’ around up there a few minutes ago. And just because I’m in an especially good mood today, I’ll run interference for y’all so you can have some peace while getting dressed.” Then, addressing Sam, she went on, “Are you gonna need any help? I’ll be glad to stay if you need me.”

“Nah,” Sam replied, seeing her eye his cane and then his walking cast. “We’ll be fine. Just try to stall Dad a few more minutes while Ring Around the Rosy here collects himself.”

Catching the playful eyebrows Sam raised in reaction to Dean’s glare, Missouri glanced between the two boys before dubiously answering, “Well, all right. If you’re sure?”

“Yeah, I’ve got it,” Sam confirmed, giving her a slight smile.

Shifting uncomfortably, Dean asked, “Hey, Missouri?” He waited until she turned back toward him, her expression questioning, and then mumbled, “Just…thanks.”

Her features softened at the simple show of gratitude, and she warmly answered, “You’re welcome.” And with that, she was gone, marching in the direction of the clumsy thumping that sounded on the staircase as John gingerly made his way downward.

Left alone with his brother, Sam moved across the bed to sit by Dean, shoulders and legs brushing together. Then, peering into his brother’s face, he concernedly asked, “Are you up to this, Dean? I mean, you still look like death warmed over. And, we both know how Dad can be.”

Not taking his eyes from the wall in front of him, Dean asked, “What else am I gonna do, Sam? I can’t hide from him, you know that. If I don’t go in there, he’ll just make a beeline in here and the result will be the same.” Feeling uncomfortable under Sam’s attention, he frowned down at his lap, saying, “Better to just get it over with and face him.”

Dean had been surprised by his little brother’s dead-on intuition. He was pretty sure he hadn’t said anything about how desperately he wished he could skip this confrontation with his father. And confrontation was likely what it would become, too, considering that Dean had no intention of telling John about his nightmare. It would be too painful for all parties involved and nothing would be gained by the telling of it. No, he had no intention of ever hurting his family by revealing what his screwed up mind had concocted this time.

Nodding in agreement, Sam focused on his nervous hands fiddling with some loose threads on his pajama bottoms. Then raising his eyebrows, he said, “Okay. You want the bathroom first?”

The unrelenting fatigue still evident in his eyes as they locked with Sam’s, Dean said gratefully, “You bet.”

The elder man’s tattered guise fell back in place, not completely intact, but the best he was able to muster. Sam stood first, ready to aid if necessary, as Dean slowly put his hands on both knees and used them as leverage to guide his movements upward.

Still feeling a little wobbly, he pulled himself up and shifted his weight into the first step. Swaying backward, Dean swore fiercely, feeling his arms shooting out in front of him, reaching and balancing. Sam’s arm shot out to steady him once again. Though it came at the cost of his pride, Dean allowed his brother’s sturdy assistance toward the bathroom. He knew he wouldn’t make it on his own since there seemed to be two bathroom doors dancing swimmingly in front of him.

Once in the bathroom, Dean eased down onto the closed toilet lid and then gave Sam a warning look, raising his hand in a shooing motion that indicated some things he would do by himself. Reluctantly, Sam turned to leave, but only after his brother promised he wouldn’t use the lock. After the door finally shut with a click, Dean dropped his head into both palms, squeezing his eyes shut in frustration and anxiety. He honestly didn’t know how he was supposed to do this. This accursed weakness that had overtaken his body and mind was both frightening and hated.

And to make matters worse, there had never been another person or thing in his entire life that could intimidate him like his father. While Dean completely loved, honored, and maybe even worshipped his dad, he also carried around a deep abiding fear of the man. Fear of disappointing him, fear of being found to be lacking in his father’s eyes. These were things that truly frightened Dean Winchester, whether he admitted it or not.

Dean was smart, sharp as tack in his own right, and he knew that demons and nightmares were not to be trusted for factual information. But he couldn’t help carrying the images and words around in his psyche, burning and pricking his brain relentlessly.

What if it was all true? What if it wasn’t a lie? Not counting the numerous times he’d let other people down in the last year, he could think of several more damning examples that proved he hadn’t been all John had raised him to be. Beginning with the Shtriga. He’d known how angry and disappointed his father had been with him for disobeying that order, almost getting little Sammy killed. Though they’d never really talked about it, he knew things between them had been different from that moment on. Dean had been busting his butt ever since that day, trying to win back his father’s trust.

Then, there had been that time Sam had nearly blown a hole in their unsuspecting father because Dean had failed to disarm and hide the weapon’s bullets where curious little fingers wouldn’t find them. Not to mention a couple of years later when he had taken his eyes off of Sam just long enough to allow the eight year old to fall through some thinning ice of a thawing pond. That one had been bad. John had stopped talking to Dean for nearly a week, except to bark out orders or give instructions.

And, while he had no concrete proof, Dean suspected that John felt his interference in Sam’s raising had ultimately led to his leaving for college. Several weeks after that night in the rain, when Dean had gotten better and John’s rage at Sam had lessened, Dean had gently urged his father to call Sam and make peace with him. John had simply looked at him and spat, “You know, if you hadn’t coddled the boy so much, this wouldn’t have even happened.” Sure, Dean had known that it was spoken out of heartbreak and worry, yet the memory remained.

But the most recent and conclusive evidence came when, not only had Dean used one of the Colt’s bullets, but he’d nearly handed the whole damn thing over to the demon himself. He knew without a doubt that this had to be a serious sticking point with John.

Maybe this was why his father had left Dean behind when he found the demon’s trail. If John hadn’t been strong enough – man enough – to force a momentary crack in the demon’s control, providing Sam the opportunity to snatch the gun, they both would’ve died that night and Sam would’ve become demon fodder, another mindless pawn in the war between good and evil.

All of it resting squarely on Dean’s shoulders for not seeing through the demon’s tricks, for putting them in that position and for not having the guts to pull the trigger when he’d had the chance. He was the oldest and, as such, all the responsibilities fell to him. John had given him plenty of chances to prove himself, and time and time again Dean had been a disappointment – to himself as well as to his father.

Laughing bitterly to himself, he wondered what good he was to any of them now. His body was so weakened by the demon’s attack, his damaged lungs so frail, that he could barely cross a room without mind-numbing pain or gasping like an old man with emphysema. It was degrading to have his family see him like this. Yet, he was powerless to make his body obey. This is the very reason he pushed himself to the brink of absolute exhaustion. To protect and contribute to the cause, to his family, to saving people – that was his duty, his reason for existing.

Suddenly overcome by a wave of pent-up fury, Dean clenched his fingers in his hair, silently screaming inside at the utter absurdity of his situation. Slamming a fist into the wall next to him, he cursed his body for failing him – for failing them. Wringing an unsteady hand through his hair once again, he took all of those helpless, useless thoughts and feelings and violently stuffed them down so far and so deep, that he hoped they’d never see the light of day again.

Forcing himself up off the toilet, using the walls and countertops as supports, he set about readying himself, knowing Sam was likely to be back at the door soon, demanding to be let in. He was grateful that Missouri had unpacked their stuff, including their clothes, while they had napped yesterday. Everything had been neatly stored in the spacious bathroom closet and cabinets.

By the time he had finished with all of his necessary dressing and grooming, his head had cleared enough that he was able to stand without feeling like he was going to toss his cookies. Throwing his shirt over one shoulder and gathering up the necessary supplies to redress his wounds, Dean reached for the brass door knob just as Sam rapped loudly on the other side, asking if he was okay. Dean answered by pulling the door open and drawing himself up to his fullest height, slapping on his best imitation of swaggering cool.

“What the hell, Dean? What took you so long? Dude, I was seconds from busting in on you.” Anxiety turned Sam’s fears into anger as he easily towered over his shorter brother, looking perturbed.

“Well, now, little brother, that could’ve proved a little awkward,” Dean smirked, unaffected by Sam’s height or his ire. “Although, I do have one fine-lookin’ ass,” he threw in, hoping to deflect Sam’s concern.

Dean tried his best to keep the ruse going as he sauntered toward the bed, but his traitorous knee completely wimped out about half way there and he felt himself tipping forward. As expected, Sam magically appeared right by his side, putting that same bracing hand under Dean’s forearm, this time also raising the other hand to the small of his brother’s back.

Infuriated by his own vulnerability, Dean ripped his arm away from Sam and growled, “Get off me, Sam.”

The words were said with such venom that Sam immediately let go, forcing Dean to latch onto the door jamb to keep from falling on his face. Hurt and angered, Sam demanded, “What the hell’s your problem, Dean? Excuse me for trying to help keep you from taking a nose dive into the carpet.”

Hanging his head in immediate regret, Dean clung to the entryway, leaning his shoulder against its cool solidness. Snapping at Sam wasn’t going to make anything better. Head still bowed, eyes closed in remorse, and his free arm hanging loosely by his side, Dean began, “Sam, I’m-,” then squeezed his face in a tight grimace before finishing in a whisper, “sorry.”

Afraid to risk further movement, Dean held fast to the doorway, mentally berating himself until Sam shuffled the few steps it took to close the distance between them. The younger Winchester clapped a hand on his brother’s shoulder and put his other hand back under Dean’s elbow, ready to help him the rest of the way into the room.

Sam’s body lost all of its tension as he soothed, “I know. Now, let’s get these dressings changed and see what Missouri’s cooked up in the kitchen. I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”

Turning his head slightly to look Sam square in the eye, Dean gratefully allowed a weak half smile to grace his pallid features before he faced forward again, nodding at Sam’s words. Dean shoved off the painted wood and let Sam bear some of his weight as his brother guided him over to the bed, where he paused to help Dean clean and redress his wounds before going to the bathroom and dressing himself.

By the time the boys were ready to head for the kitchen, John was already seated at the table, grousing at Missouri about this, that, and the other. As the boys approached the doorway, they could hear their father’s grumpy voice complaining about some nonsensical thing and they met each other’s eyes in a knowing look that said someone’s in a fine mood. Allowing Dean a moment to take a deep breath and ready himself, Sam paused at the doorway just a second or two before ushering himself and his brother into the sunlit kitchen.

Automatically, he could feel Dean’s muscles bunch up with tension. The tiny niggling at the back of Sam’s mind was warning him of a growing uncertainty in his brother that was most unlike the Dean he was familiar with. To have beheld Dean with eyes only, you would have never guessed at the emotion lying beneath the smooth veneer he’d painted on his face. Sam was a little taken aback by it. Dean was truly a master of disguise. Briefly, Sam wondered how many times he’d been conned in this very same way.

“Hey, Dad, how are you feeling this morning?” Dean called out with mock cheerfulness.

Sam avoided looking at their father as he helped Dean slip into his chair at the round oak table. Taking his place in between the two men, he glanced back and forth from one face to the other, scrutinizing each man for characteristic tells. With all the bluffing that was already going on, it was like watching a poker match.

“Me? I’m fine, but then I’m not the one scaring everyone half to death with screaming and seizures in the middle of the night,” John answered smoothly.

Point match, John’s favor.

“Yeah, sorry ‘bout that. But it’s over and I’m just peachy this morning,” Dean smoothed right back, flashing a tiny smile that didn’t quite match up with the weariness being reflected from his too shiny eyes.

“Really?” John questioned, and then continued, saying, “’Cause you’re looking a little peaked and rough around the edges.” Holding up a time-weathered hand, John put an end to the bluffing match that had ensued by demanding, “Enough, Dean. I think I remember someone promising me some answers this morning.”

John bore holes straight through Dean’s carefully constructed front, but to his credit, Dean only faltered a beat before it was all back in place. His face becoming blank, unrevealing, not giving off any of the undercurrents that Sam and Missouri both could feel churning under the surface.

“John,” Missouri interrupted, “why don’t you let the boy eat breakfast before shining the flood light in his eyes and subjecting him to an interrogation?”

Relenting a little, John answered, “What is for breakfast this morning?” Then a genuine smile warming his stony features, John remarked, “Missouri makes the best flapjacks this side of the Mississippi.”

Grateful for the change in subject, Dean stared grimly at the empty plate in front of him, now facing a new problem. His stomach, while not really nauseous any more, was still not interested in food.

Nervously watching the back of Missouri’s head as she continued to prepare breakfast, he ventured, “Uh, I’m not really…hungry…right now. Coffee’ll be fine…and maybe some toast.” The last part he added after getting a kick from Sam and raised eyebrows from his father.

Turning from the stove where she was frying eggs sunny side up, Missouri wrinkled her face in disapproval before announcing, “I make a mean omelet and it’ll take just a second to whip one up for you if you’re not feelin’ like fried eggs.”

Just the mere thought of eating any kind of egg made the bile rise in the back of Dean’s throat, causing him to break out in sweat along his upper lip and temples and filling his mouth with saliva.

“No, really,” he nearly pleaded, his voice strained and his face turning a sickly shade of green, “Just toast…and coffee.”

“Young man, you know you shouldn't be taking your medicine with coffee,” she reprimanded, her voice taking on a stern quality.

What is it with everyone and not letting me drink my damn coffee? he crossly wondered. Not feeling up to pushing the issue, Dean replied, “Okay, toast and milk it is.

“Now, that, I can do,” Missouri agreed, letting Dean’s cross thought go unchecked. The way she saw it, Dean was allowed some crankiness considering all he was going through at the moment.

After Missouri served everyone their breakfast, a thick blanket of uncomfortable silence descended upon the tiny room and was made absurdly noticeable in between Dean’s intermittent coughs and throat clearing. Gone from the little kitchen was the ease and familial warmth of last night’s dinner, replaced instead by stiff politeness and intentional topic avoidance. As such, it made the meal seem to draw out forever too long, leaving each bite feeling exaggerated and hard to swallow.

The emptier the plates became, the heavier the atmosphere grew, like the building of a springtime thunderstorm. It caused everyone’s nerves to prickle and rub raw. Sam felt himself becoming jumpy as the last bite was eaten and Missouri rose to clear the dishes. Predictably, John immediately picked right back up where he left off. Sam braced for the encounter and wondered how Dean would respond, considering his brother never fought with their dad…unless he was defending Sam.

“Okay, Son, I want to know what was going on last night and I want to know right now.” Pausing, John let the words sink in before adding, “And, remember, I don’t take no for an answer.”

John’s focus was unwavering and Sam could feel the bombardment of Dean’s amplified emotions as his brother geared up for battle, not backing down. With a blank face, he coolly replied, “You know, Dad. I love you and I would die for you...”

Oh no, thought Sam, don’t say it, Dean. Knowing what was coming next, he gripped the table until his knuckles turned white with the strain, his eyes widening in suspense.

“…but there are just some things I need to keep for myself.”

Hearing the very familiar words uttered with such conviction, Sam’s heart froze with paralyzing fear. The buzz in the back of his mind that he recognized as Dean grew more wildly frantic as his brother became increasingly upset. Sam knew his brother didn’t want this, but felt backed up against a wall. Sam couldn’t seem to force himself to look over to where his father was sitting absolutely still – lethally still. Licking his nervous lips, all Sam could think was, Oh, God, I think Hell just froze over.

Chapter 14: Unleashed

“What did you just say?” John seethed between tight lips, still not quite believing what his ears were telling him.

With a hint of nervousness, Dean replied, “Look, Dad, no disrespect intended, but I don’t see what this is accomplishing. It was just some crazy-ass dream. Nothing more.”

Visibly shaken by Dean’s rebelliousness, John said, “Son, it is more than just a dream if it wakes the whole household and is followed by a fit of convulsions. If I’m going to help you, I have to know what’s going on. Now, damn it, Dean, tell me what this is about.”

Sam tore his eyes from his father’s reddening face to his brother’s pale features, waiting with baited breath for a response. Dean’s upper lip and brow had broken out in a new layer of sweat, the flush of fever the only color left in his face as he whispered, “I’m sorry, Dad, but I can’t.”

Anger hardening his normally gentle eyes, John dangerously clipped, “Can’t or won’t?”

Meeting his father’s icy gaze with determination and strength of will, Dean sadly asked, “Does it matter?”

Slamming his large fist hard on the tabletop with a loud bang, sending the whole room jumping, John bit out, “I’ve had just about all the nonsense I’m going to take from you, Dean.” Standing to lean over the barrier between them, John narrowed his eyes and pinned Dean with a glare as he said, “I’m your father and I am telling you – no – ordering you, to tell me.”

Dean jumped up, nearly knocking his chair over, the overwhelming lightheadedness making him clumsy, then took a quick step backward, pleading, “Dad, don’t. I’ve never asked anything from you. But I’m asking now, just…please…don’t.”

Missouri achingly watched as John moved to stand directly in front of Dean, leaning heavily on his crutches. Sam cautiously stood and watched worriedly as things began to escalate out of control. The two bystanders wanted to intervene but were unsure of how to without making things worse, afraid that any movement might send either man over the edge.

“Dean, I’m losing my patience,” John growled, then stopped, idly noticing that he had backed Dean up against a wall. “Don’t disappoint me, again.”

And though the words held no hidden meanings or intended hurt, Dean’s heart began racing ninety to nothing, thudding loudly in his head along with blurs of something else beginning at the edges. Suddenly, the room felt too small and the air too thick. His legs were weak and his head swam dizzily, adrenaline being the only thing keeping him upright and face to face with his enraged father.

Dean felt like he was standing on the edge of a great vacant expanse threatening to swallow him whole. The floodgates holding his wounded soul inside were weakening, on the verge of splintering, making it difficult to keep it all in place. He was slipping and didn’t know how to stop, was powerless to stop, no matter how he clawed at it. He was coming undone and it terrified him beyond measure. What the hell was happening to him?

Sam flinched with the revelation as it plowed through his brain. Dean was in serious trouble and Sam was paralyzed with indecision. He could feel his brother’s fear and agony, but his mind was so full of Dean that he couldn’t think clearly enough to act on it. He knew his brother was losing some kind of internal battle, his seams coming apart, unraveling right before them all.

“Dad,” Dean breathed, his chin trembling in barely concealed emotion, “don’t.”

John leaned in, bringing his face inches from his son’s, causing bursts from the nightmare to sear through Dean’s mind, like flashes from Sam’s visions, winking in and out, getting mixed up with reality.

“Don’t what, Dean? What is wrong with you? I have a right to know,” John practically blared, worry fueling his ire. To Dean, it was a sneer, a familiarly terrifying sneer. Images continued to flash through his mind, causing him to unknowingly bring a shaky hand up to touch his temple, eyes blinking rapidly.

Still grasping his flimsy protective shield with all his might, Dean’s fevered mind continued flashing back and forth between reality and his nightmares as he yelled, “Right to know? Right to know! Since when, Dad?! Since when did you ever care about what was going on with me?!”

With rage, John slammed his fist into the wall next to Dean’s head, causing his son to forcibly cringe, but the hand at Dean’s temple stayed. John bellowed, “How dare you! How dare you question me or my feelings for you! Damn you, Dean!”

Sam saw the tremors shaking his brother’s weakened body, noticed the way Dean’s hand hovered near his head as if to ward off a gnat, eyes closed tight with his face twisted by unmatched anguish. Dean recoiled as John’s forgotten crutch hit the floor with a noisy clatter, causing his dad to pause his tirade. Three long strides and Sam was there – firmly, protectively, positioning himself between Dean and their father.

“Dad, stop. Stop it. Can’t you see what you’re doing to him?” Sam pleaded, trying to reason with John, hands clutching his dad’s shirt firmly.

Sam could feel the chills rocking Dean’s inflamed body, could hear the wracking coughs jerking him violently, could ‘see’ glimpses of images from Dean’s mind flickering in and out with reality – making it difficult to concentrate on diffusing the situation at hand. Sam knew their dad was not intentionally causing Dean any harm, but he also knew just as surely that he had to buffer the onslaught that was bombarding Dean’s mind by any means necessary.

“What I’m doing to him? I just want answers.” John paused, a hint of desperation shadowing his face. “And I want them now.” John knew something was up. One look at Sam’s frantic face told him he wasn’t getting the full picture and it scared him.

Feeling his urgency and helplessness turning quickly to anger, Sam spat, “Always got to be the one in control, right, Dad? You won’t be happy until you’ve whipped us both into obedience like your little lap dogs!” Guilt panged Sam as he saw the glimmer of hurt cross his father’s face.

“What the hell, Sam? I think you both have lost it!” Then, hurt and anger making him bare and honest, John hollered, “I just want to know what is wrong with my son, what you’re all hiding from me!”

Both men were gripping each other’s shirts, toe to toe, nose to nose – not backing down. Tension tightened around the inhabitants in the kitchen until everyone was stretched like a thin rubber band, ready to snap at any minute.

“Let go, Sam,” John enunciated pointedly, veins in his neck straining against his tightened, flushed skin.

Sam gave a stubborn shake of his stringy brown mane and resolutely whispered, “Not until you back off.”

“Sam,” John whispered, his voice brittle with warning. “Right, now.”

Glaring back at his father, his heart breaking with the words, Sam clearly pronounced, “I said… Not. Until. You. Back. Off.”

Instantly John sprang into motion, he and Sam scuffling against each other as more heated words spilled from their lips, cutting into the heart of the other, fists gripping at each other’s shirts in an attempt to gain the upper hand. Instantly the heated words were stopped by the reverberating sound of a crashing bowl as it dropped from Missouri’s hands, nearly blotting out the desperate keening as she screeched, “Stop it! Stop it both of you. Now!”

Shocked, their focus immediately flew to the near hysterical woman as she cradled her head between her shaking hands, eyes locked on something on the floor behind them. Following her gaze downward and behind them, they both gasped. At some point, Dean had slumped downward, knees drawn to chest, hands pressed against his ears, and head lightly banging on the wall while he weakly chanted, “Stop. Please stop. I can’t…stop it, please, please.”

Tears were steaming down his face, along with buckets of sweat, and he continued to rock and chant, eyes closed against the pain, the fighting, and perhaps the world. Dean was broken, his ravaged body no longer able to put up with the immeasurable stress it was under.

“God, Dean!” Sam yelped as he scrambled to the floor in front of his distraught brother, John quickly joining him.

“Dean!” John implored, “Son, what is it?”

Sam grabbed his brother’s arms and tried to force them away from his head, but Dean began to fight him off, as if being attacked. John also tried to contain the wildly struggling man in front of them with little success.

“Dean, stop!” John tried again, but lost his precarious balance and went sprawling backwards.

Grabbing Dean by the face, Sam forced him to meet his eyes as he held his brother’s fevered head still.

“Dean, stop it. It’s Sam – look at me! Dean, look at me!” Sam cried out, panicking at the sight of his big brother crumbling in his hands like a statue made of salt.

Dean’s crazed, swimming eyes locked onto Sam’s and he whimpered, “Sammy?”

And then Dean latched both of his heated palms onto Sam’s wrists, clamping down in a painful vice-like grip as he bared his soul with one meaningful look into his baby brother’s terrified eyes.

A brilliant sea of images and emotions drowned out all other thought as Sam was pulled into the boiling, churning mind of his brother. The breath was knocked from his lungs and every nerve fiber in his being was lit up in blistering torrents of pain. He was aware of shocking cold chills vibrating through his body, searing pain in his lungs, rapidly spinning walls and a relentless pounding in his head. Breathing through the worst of it, Sam relented to the visions in Dean’s head as they came to him with a startling viciousness.

(Flash): demon/John’s glowing eyes. (Flash): you’re no son of mine. (Flash): Layla spent and dying. (Flash): they don’t need you. (Flash): Sam’s anguished face as Jessica burns above. (Flash): your fault, Dean. (Flash): Shtriga over little Sammy. (Flash): more concern than he’s ever shown you. (Flash): gun pointed at demon/John. (Flash): all your fault. (Flash): Sam being possessed by the demon’s blackness. (Flash): you deserve to die, Dean. (Flash): Dean burning on the ceiling, screaming soundlessly as demon/Sam walks away, eyes now a glittering yellow.

Sam’s mind burst open in a cacophony of sounds, colors and feelings that overwhelmed rational thought, ate at his inner being, shredding and consuming his soul until a final clap of shocking insight into Dean’s soul thrust him backwards. Sam threw his hands out in surprise and caught himself before he completely lost his footing.

Tears stung his cheeks and his voice was lost for what seemed like forever, his Adam’s apple bobbing with unspoken emotion. For a few agonizing moments, Sam just stared at his fading brother kneeling in front of him, Dean’s eyes glazed over and dazed, arms lax beside him. Neither brother was aware of anything else in the room, only each other – the only movement being Dean’s trembling, panting body.

Then Dean blinked once, sending one fat, wet tear running pitifully down his white-washed face. Hoarsely, he cried, “Sammy.” Dean’s lips trembled on the last syllable and then his eyes drifted closed as Dean himself shut down, falling forward.

Sam moved to grab for his brother, pulling him into his waiting arms. The elder Winchester’s blazing head came to rest against Sam’s much cooler neck, the heat scorching his skin. Sitting in the middle of Missouri’s marble tiled kitchen floor, Sam clung to his brother’s unconscious form, not knowing if the shivering was coming from Dean or himself. His head fell on top of Dean’s soft hair and Sam allowed the tears to fall with slow motion sorrow, each drop echoing in his ears as the buzzing in his mind ebbed away, leaving him shaken to his core.

“Dean,” he brokenly mouthed against his brother’s head, not able to communicate anything more. “Dean.”

Missouri, face damp, moved quickly across the room toward the heart-wrenching sight of the two brothers locked together, bodies still quaking, in the middle of her kitchen floor. John, bewildered and stunned silent, clambered to join her. Cautiously resting a hand on Sam’s back, as if fearing sudden movements would frighten him, Missouri crouched beside him as she lightly called, “Sam…what just happened?”

But Sam didn’t answer, he just hugged Dean to him as if he was afraid his brother might disappear altogether if he let go, as if his unleashed essence might be sucked into the void forever. Resting her free hand on Dean’s cheek, Missouri’s eyes went round with alarm as she exclaimed, “He’s burning up, we have to get him in a bath. Now!”

John reached out as if to take hold of Dean but was brought up short when Sam’s grip on his brother tightened and he snapped, “Don’t you touch him. Stay away from him.”

Confused and stung by Sam’s reaction, John spoke softly, as if reasoning with a small child, saying, “Sammy, I won’t hurt him, I’m not the enemy. Son, listen to me, we have to get his fever down – now!”

“Sam,” Missouri intoned, “he’s right, we need to get him into a bath immediately. Please, Sam, you know we’re telling the truth.”

Snapping back to the present, Sam gave his head a slight shake and looked down at Dean. Unwillingly to let anyone else touch his brother, Sam blinked a few times and said, “Okay, but I’ll carry him.”

“Sweetie,” Missouri cautioned, “what about your knee?”

“It’ll be fine,” Sam answered back. “I can do it.” Something in his voice and eyes told the others quite clearly to back off and let him manage.

“Okay. John, go get the bath started, I’ll follow Sam and give him what support I can.”

With a short nod, John struggled upright using a single crutch as a fulcrum and then rushed toward the bathroom down the hallway. Meanwhile, Missouri did her best to support Sam as he stood with Dean – the elder boy’s head remaining tucked under Sam’s chin and his free arm and legs dangling loosely over his younger brother’s muscled hold.

Briefly, Sam reflected on how strange it felt to hold Dean’s body in his arms like this – like a limp, battered rag doll. It wasn’t natural, felt all wrong for Dean to feel so fragile in his arms. He knew how much Dean would hate this if he were awake. Sam also noticed how much lighter his older brother was compared to what he had expected, what he knew he should’ve been. More evidence of how poorly Dean’s appetite had been of late.

Tenderly, Sam cradled Dean’s body closer to him, and carefully, but quickly, made his way toward the bathroom, Missouri in tow. By the time he got there, the tub was already a quarter of the way full and John was sitting on the edge, testing the temperature with his fingers.

Shoving a pang of guilt aside when John’s worry-lined face turned expectantly toward him, Sam began the painstaking task of balancing Dean’s weight against him as he set his brother’s legs down along his own and began tugging at the burgandy over-shirt and then the grey t-shirt beneath that.

“Here, let me help you,” John mumbled, his remorseful voice echoing startlingly small within the confined space of the guest bathroom.

Not able to look his father in the eyes, Sam only nodded, his shaggy hair bouncing in his eyes as he and John set about stripping Dean down to his boxers. Then, with Sam’s arms firmly planted under Dean’s armpits and John gripping his legs, the two men lowered the young man’s fevered body into the tepid water, careful not to bang his drooping head on the hard surface. Not wanting to lose contact with his sibling just yet, Sam kneeled beside the tub and protected Dean’s head by placing his arm between his brother and the frigid porcelain surface.

“How long do we need to leave him in here?” Sam asked, looking up at Missouri standing behind him.

Automatically checking her watch, she answered, “I think ten to fifteen minutes will be good, but we really need for him to wake up and take his pain relievers, too. Really, he just needs to wake up.”

No sooner had the words left her mouth, than Dean’s head began to swivel back and forth on Sam’s tiring arm, soft moans escaping between chapped lips. As Dean’s eyelids began to softly flutter, his arms and legs began to buck against the chilling water. Although John had made sure the bath was lukewarm, it felt like ice to Dean’s fevered body and he fought to get out of it.

“Shh, Dean. It’s all right, just stay still. Try to relax for me, we need you to stay in the tub,” Sam soothed his brother.

“Sam-my?” the elder boy chattered, eyes trying to fix on Sam’s face.

Sam’s face softened and he leaned in closer before replying, “Yeah. It’s me, Dean. I’ve got you. Just stay in the water.”

“B-b-but,’s c-c-cold,” Dean complained, still pushing against Sam’s restraining arms keeping him in place.

“I know and I’m sorry, but you’re burning up, man. You’ve got to stay put. It’s either that or we’re taking you directly to the hospital,” Sam threatened, knowing Dean would do anything to stay out of the hospital.

“N-n-n-no, h-h-hosp-pital,” Dean squeezed out from between clenched teeth. After that, he wrapped his arms around his quaking body and willed himself to stay put, no matter how much his body resisted. Sam’s heart ached at how miserable his brother looked sitting there trembling, shoulders pitching with strained coughs.

“That’s it, just a little bit longer.” Sam hoped his words would help put his brother at ease and take away that utterly forlorn expression twisting his face in a deep scowl. Sam glanced at the now silent John Winchester who was twisting the knobs into the off position. His dad hadn’t said a word since getting Dean into the water and Sam wondered what was on his father’s mind. He got the impression that John was afraid of scaring Dean with his presence.

At the first sign of Dean’s return to consciousness, Missouri had slipped out to retrieve his medication and was just now coming back from the sink with a glass of water. Thinking better of it, she decided to fetch the thermometer as well, wanting to get a reading on his fever before giving him the water.

“Dean, open up and let me take your temp real quick,” she ordered.

He twisted his head away, raggedly coughing, and then grunted, “N-no…can’t s-s-stop c-coughing.”

“Dean, you have to. Just cough with your mouth shut.” Seeing the stubborn set to Dean’s jaw, Sam changed tactics and said, “Okay, that’s it. I’m taking you to the emergency room. Now.” Sam moved, as if to get up and make good on his threat.

Dean grabbed his arm and pulled his little brother back down. Obediently, Dean popped his mouth open and accepted the thermometer, hanging onto it with his quivering lips and doing his best to stifle his body’s cough responses.

“That’s what I thought,” Sam said, easing back down beside the tub, rubbing his face wearily. Seeing Dean like this was taking its toll on him and he felt much older than he actually was.

Missouri checked the time on her watch again, careful to time both the temperature reading and the amount of time Dean was in the water. Three minutes later, she took the glass instrument out and angled it toward the light, not quite sure the reading was correct.

Raising his eyebrows and nodding toward the thermometer, Sam asked, “Well, what is it?

Nervously, she raised her concerned eyes to his and pronounced, “One hundred five point four.”

Sam’s eyes flew to meet John’s, registering the alarm on the other man’s face before asking, “Dad, whatta we do? Should we take him to the emergency room?”

Upon hearing the words ‘emergency room,’ Dean began to fight Sam’s hold again, protesting weakly, “N-n-no, S-Sam. No h-h-hosp-pital. P-prom-mise.”

Blinking and licking his lips, feeling torn, John answered, “Wait…just wait. Help Missouri get those pills down him while I to go make a phone call to a friend of mine. Be right back.” He rose then and went in search of Missouri’s telephone in the living room, leaving the others to calm a panicky Dean.

After a few minutes of soothing words and vague promises, Dean relaxed back into the water and let his weighted eyelids slide shut. He could feel himself floating in and out of the beckoning darkness and it occurred to him that he should just let it come. He was so sick of fighting and struggling – his body resistant to all his efforts. I’m so tired. Just going to close my eyes for a second. Just a second, that’s all, he found himself thinking.

The other occupants of the bathroom watched as Dean hovered between wakefulness and unconsciousness, hearts racing. Frowning with distress, Sam whispered to Missouri, “He’s barely staying conscious. What do you think we should do?”

“I don’t know. But his fever’s way too high, much higher and it could cause brain damage. Getting it down is our first priority,” Missouri answered.

“Maybe I should just take him to the hospital – not wait for Dad to get back?” he ventured.

Gripping Sam’s arm in a reassuring squeeze, Missouri answered, “Let’s give your Dad a chance, Dean doesn’t need to be upset anymore than he already has been and you’ve seen how he reacts if you even say the word ‘hospital’. Your dad would never purposely put Dean in harm’s way, Sam,” Missouri tried to reason.

Reluctantly, Sam agreed, saying, “Yeah, I know. But if this ‘friend’ isn’t legit, I’m taking him straight to the emergency room.”

Accepting his words, Missouri hesitantly changed subjects, asking, “Sam, what happened in there?”

Bowing his head and massaging the spot between his eyebrows with his thumb, Sam sighed, and then deflected the question by asking, “What did you ‘see’?”

Before she could answer, John came rushing back in and announced, “All right, I have a buddy who’s a doctor, he lives nearby and he’s agreed to come over and take a look at Dean.”

Slight hitching noises suddenly garnered everyone’s attention, drawing their focus to the man lying in the tub. Dean’s face was crumpled by emotion as he stared up at his father, whispering, “I’m s-s-sor-ry, D-D-Dad.”

“Sorry? About what, Dean?” John asked, confused by the sight of his elder son, rock of the family, shedding tears that mingled with the bath water.

Dean stuttered, “F-for g-g-get-ting S-S-ammy p-p-possessed. M-m-my f-fault.”

“What the-” John stumbled, speechless for the third time that day. “No, Dean. Sam’s fine, he’s right here. Your brother is safe.”

Sam leaned in close to Dean’s face, using a hand to turn his brother’s head toward him, and said, “Dean, look at me. Look at me. It’s Sam, I’m here and I’m safe. You didn’t do anything wrong, do you here me? Nothing. I’m fine.”

The shaking man looked dazedly up at his little brother, searching his face for signs of harm. Delirium blurring the edges of reality and make-believe, Dean’s lips trembled as he pleaded, “S-Sam-my?” Seeing his brother’s nod, Dean whispered, “I n-n-never meant f-for Jess-ica to d-d-die. I’m sor-ry.”

Sucker punched and bare, Sam’s eyes welled up with unshed tears as he used his thumb to wipe away a tear from Dean’s face and whispered back, “It wasn’t your fault, Dean. I don’t blame you. No matter what else you believe, know that it wasn’t your fault and I never blamed you.”

“B-but,” Dean resisted, “he t-t-told me.” His eyes fixed on John and he accused, “h-he said you b-b-blamed me. S-s-said it was m-my fault. Said I was a d-d-disappoint-ment and d-d-deserved to d-die.”

“Son,” John jumped in, aghast at his son’s words, “that’s ridiculous. I would never say that. I don’t blame you. Not for any of this. I’m not disappointed in you and never have been.”

“No. H-h-heard you. S-s-shiny yel-low eyes – said lots of th-things,” Dean babbled. He was clearly becoming more and more agitated, starting to get worked up and uncooperative.

Turning quickly to John, Sam pleaded, “Dad, he’s not coherent right now. You can’t reason with him. Maybe it would be better if you went and watched for your friend.”

Rubbing a hand through his hair, John wearily remarked, “Yeah, maybe you’re right. It was my skin the demon used. Maybe I should stay with Bobby until he’s better.”

Hearing the despair in his father’s voice, Sam caught his gaze at the same time as he caught John’s shirt sleeve and said, “Don’t you dare abandon him again. That would just make it worse, trust me on this. Okay? He just needs some time.”

Giving Sam a short nod of trust, John rose up and said, “I’ll be on the porch if you need anything.”

“And, Dad?” Sam waited for John to turn back before continuing, “I’m sorry…about earlier.”

John nodded and gratefully said, “Yeah. Me too, Son.”

Then the older man slipped out of the bathroom and took up sentry duty on the front porch. Sitting alone on the porch swing, John Winchester let his emotions surface, scattered tears leaking from his saddened eyes. He ground them away with his palms and whispered into the still morning air, “What have I done?”

TBC


a/n:  Much thanks owed to Mady Bay for her vast supply of patience in beta’ing this multiple times and thanks to sojourner84 for helping me tweak a couple of things here and there. And thank you, God, for spell-check because I couldn’t spell my way out of a paper sack this week!

Yes, Unleashed is a song by Saliva – for all you music fans out there.


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Tags: the wake-up call
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