Title: The Wake-Up Call, Chapter 15
Summary: How will the Winchester's pick up the pieces after "Devil's Trap".
Characters: Dean/Sam/John/Missouri Mosley
Catagory: Gen/Angst/hurt!dean/AU/hurt & comfort
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/Chapters 13-14
Chapter 15: Until it Sleeps
So tear me open and pour me out
There's things inside that scream and shout
And the pain still hates me
So hold me, until it sleeps
Until it Sleeps…Metallica
Once Sam had finally coaxed Dean into gagging down his pain relievers, he left his brother in Missouri’s care long enough to lay out a fresh pair of Navy blue boxers, a white t-shirt and a pair of once-white socks. He had decided against sweatpants since Dean’s heated body needed as much ventilation as possible, and had added the t-shirt at the last minute just in case his brother insisted on it.
Dean wouldn’t want anyone gaping at his chest wounds, most especially their father, but given the state of his brother's high temperature, Sam was hoping he would let it go at just the gauze dressings. When he had returned to the bathroom, Missouri had just pulled the plug jammed in the drain and was hovering near the toilet, ready to help him anyway she could.
Sam still hadn’t figured out how to change Dean into dry boxers with Missouri present, but he also knew that he needed what little help she could offer given the fact that his brother was too out of it to stand and his own knee was beginning to throb from overuse.
Understanding Sam’s dilemma, Missouri kindly suggested, “Okay, Sam, you get him out of the tub and wrap the towel around him, then I’ll support part of his weight and hold the towel secure while you change him out of those wet under things. Okay?”
Seeing no other way around it, Sam nodded his approval and bent to scoop Dean’s weak, pliant body out of the draining tub. While Dean’s eyes still sparked with fever and he continued to shiver violently with chills, at least he had stopped trying to apologize for every imagined wrong he’d ever done.
Sam was divided on whether to be glad for his brother’s silence or distressed by it. On the one hand, he wasn’t up to any more of his brother’s incoherent confessions, especially after all he’d witnessed in his brother’s mind and the whole Jessica apology. But, on the other hand, silence could mean that Dean’s condition was worsening, that his brother was growing farther away from him – and that thought outweighed any other in terms of sheer fright.
As Sam lifted his brother out of the rapidly cooling water, Dean’s damp head lolled back onto his arm and Sam caught a glimpse of despair in his brother’s features. The part of Dean that he recognized as the independent, self-reliant older brother was deeply troubled at being so exposed, so vulnerable and dependent on someone else – and maybe that was the worst part for him.
Perching himself on the edge of the countertop, Sam sat Dean on his upper thigh and rested his brother’s upper body against his chest as he reached for the towel Missouri was holding out to him. Sam used one hand to wrap his brother into the soft folds of the towel while steadying him in a semi upright position with the other.
Sensing that Dean’s turbulent emotions weren’t abating; Sam stopped and bent his head so that the other man was looking him square in the eye, then said, “Dean, man, you can’t help this. You’re sick, not weak. This is not your fault. So, just stop and cut yourself some slack” Giving Dean a single pat on the arm, he smiled as he said, “Besides, it’s time I repaid you for all those dirty diapers you changed, right?”
His stronghold of protection gone, Dean could only nod, barely managing to stave off the building emotion – all save two rebellious tears that mingled obscurely with the water as it rolled off his skin and splashed silently against the faded yellow towel. Although some of the guilty embarrassment eased from the young man’s posture, the frustration marring his features remained. Dean’s guard might be down leaving him bare and exposed, he might even be delirious with fever, but he was still Dean. And at the core, Sam knew his brother was a born protector, a caretaker of those around him, needing only to be needed by others. To be the one in need was unacceptable.
As if on cue, the elder man passed out cold, his body falling limply against Sam, forehead coming to rest against his little brother’s neck. Once the initial surprise wore off and Sam was confident that Dean was relatively okay, he was glad for this small mercy to Dean’s pride, sparing his brother from the embarrassing task of having his wet boxers switched for the dry ones.
The sudden shift in weight had thrown Sam off balance, causing stabbing pains to lance through his tender knee; the younger man immediately began searching for a solution to his precarious dilemma. Missouri quickly came to Sam’s aid as she shuffled into the bedroom and spread another large towel out across the bed, giving him a place to deposit his heavy load. Grunting with effort, Sam lifted his swaddled brother fully into his arms and carried him into the room where he gently deposited him on top of the waiting towel.
Making sure Dean was appropriately covered, Sam quickly tugged the wet boxers out from under the towel, tossing them onto the wooden floor of the hallway, and then replaced them with the navy blue ones. Then he and Missouri worked in conjunction to get the bottom towel pulled out, having dried him off with another, and Dean’s legs shifted comfortably under the crisp cool linens on the bed.
Opening the towel still draped around Dean’s shoulders, they quickly set about redressing his wounds and wiping down his body with cool, wetted washcloths. As they worked, Dean’s head began to swivel against the pillow and he groaned under his breath, sometimes uttering a cryptic word here or there that would cause his caretakers to pause and stare at each other with concern and sometimes puzzled confusion.
Focusing on the task at hand, Missouri hesitated, then casually asked, “Sam, tell me what happened before, in the kitchen.”
Thinking back, Sam tried to put names and words to the things he had experienced, had seen or felt when Dean had connected with him – knowing his words were inadequate to describe the sensations, the fear, the pain and the guilt that he had experienced with his brother. When he finally finished, Missouri sat mute, shaking her head in dismay and wonder at what was going on inside of Dean.
Stunned by Sam’s revelations, she finally breathed, “That boy has taken a whole world of trouble on his shoulders, and means to suffer it alone. It’s no wonder his body is failin’ under the strain, with him heapin’ injury upon injury on himself like that.”
Sam nodded and, never taking his eyes off of Dean’s face, said, “Yeah. But, I think it’s more than that.”
“What do you mean, Sam? What did you see?”
“Dean’s afraid of Dad. It’s like his mind can’t separate Dad from the demon. He keeps replaying the scene from the cabin over and over, sometimes adding memories that didn’t actually happen. The thing is…Dean’s smarter, tougher than that. After everything we’ve been through, why is now different? He knows demons lie; he knows they mess with your head. Why is he letting this get to him? He’s never had nightmares like this, never been so unsure of himself.”
“Well, not that you know of, anyway,” Missouri responded. Then she soothed, “Besides, Sam, your brother’s never been through this exact situation before. This kind of traumatic event can have lingering after-effects, much like post traumatic stress. Even your most hardened soldiers can become crippled by it.”
Missouri paused thoughtfully before continuing, “Dean has been carrying this baggage for so long, it’s had so much time to build under the surface…I can feel the crushing weight of his burden, his need to keep this part of himself buried, to be strong for the rest of you.” She shook her head again and said, “He doesn’t feel like he can share it, like he’s alone in his misery – and that makes it ten times worse. And, I sense a new fear. I think he’s afraid that if he fails to protect you, he will lose you in a way that’s more painful for him than death.”
Frustrated, Sam insisted, “But I’m not a little anymore. I can take care of myself. It’s not his responsibility to take care of me, to feel responsible for me.”
“Sam,” Missouri interrupted, “you’ll always be his responsibility. Always. Even when you’re fifty years old, Dean will see you as his responsibility and that will never change. Asking him to stop protecting you, taking care of you, would be like asking him to stop breathing. It’s not possible.”
Eyebrows lifting and a solemn look gracing his face, Sam replied, “Yeah, and that’s what really scares me. I don’t want to be the reason Dean dies. Especially not after Mom and Jess. They both died because of me. I can’t lose Dean, too, I just can’t.”
Missouri watched as the anguish twisted the younger man’s face, tears welling up unshed in his bloodshot eyes. Before she could speak a word of comfort, Dean reached up an unsteady hand and clasped Sam’s fist full of cloth in mid wipe, bringing it to a standstill as he squeezed firmly.
Struggling to make the sounds, Dean’s dry lips formed the words, “I’m not goin’ anywhere, Sam.” He motioned Sam closer, raising his head beckoningly toward his little brother and continued, voice cracking, “None of this is your fault. Not Mom, not Jess – not me. Demon’s fault, not yours. Never yours, understand?”
Sam blinked through his tear-blurred vision, seeing his brother’s parched throat bobbing with the effort to swallow, Dean’s eyes glazed and distant, but still fixed on Sam’s. Unconsciously, Sam reached up and laid his free hand on Dean’s shoulder, unsure of what to say.
When he didn’t immediately answer back, Dean prodded, “Sam…you understand?”
Grateful for Dean’s absolution, Sam muttered, “Yeah, I understand.”
Dean’s hold faltered, then his hand fell loosely against his chest, too weak to maintain the contact. Then Dean’s stare fixed on something invisible in front of him and he fell quiet once again. Had it not been for the shallow, congested breaths parting his lips and moving his chest, Sam would’ve feared the worst, but instead he recognized it for what it was. Dean was still with them, just too tired to say or do more.
Moving to resume the swabbing, Sam winced when his brother’s body convulsed in another round of labored coughing. Moving off the bed, Missouri left and came back in with the thermometer, saying, “We’d better check his temperature again. We need to see if it’s come down at all.”
This time she placed the instrument under Dean’s armpit, lightly holding his arm still as she timed the five minutes. Once up, she plucked the thermometer out and squinted at the tiny lines. Then she announced, “One hundred four point three. Better, but still not good.”
Voices coming from the hallway halted any comments as they turned toward the doorway, anticipating the arrival of the newcomer. First John, and then the man he’d been speaking to entered the room and stopped at the end of Dean’s bed.
Dressed in faded jeans and a plain denim shirt, nothing unusual stood out about the man standing casually in front of them. Nothing except the long, dark braid falling down the middle of his back and the fact that his skin was a deep brown born of heritage rather than sun. His eyes were coal black, just like his hair, and he looked to be in his middle thirties.
John spoke first, making introductions as the stranger took Missouri’s place beside Dean. “This is Jay Penagashea, a friend of mine. We met a few years back. If anyone can help Dean, he can.”
“Wait a minute,” Sam interjected. “I thought you said he was a doctor?”
“Sam-” John began before Jay stifled the reprimand with one look and then turned toward the worried young man sitting across from him.
Sticking out his hand in greeting, he said, “You must be Sam, the younger one? Listen Sam, I’m gonna take good care of your brother. I’m a licensed MD who just happens to practice on a reservation rather than in an office or hospital. I like to combine my formal education with everything I’ve learned as the son of a fourth generation Medicine Man. Sometimes modern medicine alone isn’t enough to heal certain kinds of wounds…especially wounds bred of evil, or wounds of the soul.”
“Now, describe for me, in detail, your brother’s condition,” the doctor continued as he probed Dean’s body, feeling the heat rolling off the young man lying before him.
Still clinging to consciousness, Dean followed every move warily from between his lashes, his body automatically tensing up as the unfamiliar man touched him, attempting to assess his condition. When Jay went to remove the bandages swathing Dean’s chest, the younger man feebly grasped his wrist as it moved above him, stopping the action.
Dark eyes locked with Dean’s and held the position, neither man relenting as Jay reasoned, “Dean, I understand. But I need to see. You can trust me.”
And, somehow, instinctually, Dean knew he could trust him. The very air surrounding this man whispered of kindred spirits, of ageless wisdom and of knowing. Letting his arm go lax beside him, Dean allowed the older man to peel away the layers of gauze and tape.
Cautiously, Dean waited for the typical response – a shocked upending of eyebrows, confusion about what could’ve done this and then the sympathetic eyes murmuring apologies and maybe even pity. Bracing himself, he waited, but looking into Jay’s face as the man studied the deep, jagged grooves, all Dean saw reflecting back was…respectful understanding and maybe a tinge of curiosity. No pity, no shock and no fear were any part of the man’s demeanor.
“These are healing nicely,” the deep bass voice of the other man sounded.
Just as Dean began relax, he caught his father’s pained expression as he, too, took in the sight of Dean’s bare chest for the first time. Everything he’d feared from the stranger he read in John’s face, everything plus guilt. He could see the guilt etched in every wrinkle, every line of his father’s face and it left him feeling exposed – ashamed – before the man that was his hero. Reflexively, Dean tried to hide his injuries with his arms and hands, emotion threatening to choke him with its voracity.
Jay turned around just in time to catch the horrific expression glimmer across John’s face as he looked away. Softly, Jay suggested, “John, maybe it would be better if the rest of you waited in the living room while I finish with the initial examination.”
Dean clutched at Sam’s sleeve, keeping him in place at his side, causing the doctor to add, “On second thought, I need you to stay, Sam. You can answer any questions I might have.”
Immediately, Missouri began pushing the reluctant John toward the doorway, saying, “He’s right, John, let’s get out of his hair and let the man work. I don’t know about you, but I hear a fresh pot of coffee calling my name.”
John allowed himself to be led out of the room, suddenly deeply ashamed for reacting in plain sight of his son. His guilt was his, not Dean’s and he regretted that he’d allowed it to show. Scrubbing his face blank, John joined Missouri in the kitchen, where she had set about pouring coffee for the both of them, thankful for the distraction of the hot, bitter liquid.
Left alone with his patient and Sam, Jay eased the young man’s hands back down to the bed and pretended not to notice the sudden blinking and desperate swallowing actions as Dean struggled to regain his composure. Ignoring the way Sam was gripping his brother’s shoulder while shooting murderous looks in the direction their father had gone, Jay turned to the younger brother and started asking questions, listening attentively to each answer as his hands continued to assess and evaluate.
“Has he had any kind of medication?”
“Uh, yeah,” Sam answered, licking his lips, “we gave him his pain relievers about a half hour ago.”
“And what did they prescribe for him?”
“What’s the dosage?” Jay continued to fire pertinent questions at Sam.
Sam grabbed the bottle off the table and answered, “Um, it says, one to two tablets every four to six hours…and they’re five milligram tablets. We gave him two.”
“Did you take his temperature?”
“Yeah, he was one hundred five point four when we put him in the bath. Since then it’s come down to one hundred four point three,” Sam answered.
“Okay, good. Now, describe his symptoms as best you can remember them,” Jay instructed as he bent to gather some medical instruments from his bag that had been inconspicuously dropped beside the bed.
“Well, he’s been coughing a lot, but the doctors said that was normal – because of the ARDS from his lung injuries. Last night he had another convulsion that lasted about a minute or so. The first one happened at the hospital and they told us that it isn’t uncommon for patients with head injuries to have them and to just monitor it and report it if it happened again. We first noticed the fever last night after the seizure, but it wasn’t nearly this high.” Sam paused, wracking his brain for more symptoms.
“Anything else?” came Jay’s question, softly urging.
“He’s been dizzy and after the fight with Dad, he passed out. Later, he became delirious – not really aware of things.” Sam’s voice shook with worry and he kept fidgeting on the side of the bed, unable to keep still. “He’s been drifting in and out of consciousness since then.”
“Right. Okay, well, your dad filled me in on all of his injuries from the demon and the accident. How long was he in the coma?” Jay watched as Sam began chewing a hangnail on his right hand.
“About four days.”
“And he was released from the hospital a couple of days ago?”
“How long was your brother in the hospital all total?”
The young man paused, staring at the finger he’d been chewing at before answering, “Mmm, about a month. He had to stay for respiratory therapy and they wanted to keep him on intravenous antibiotics for a while. He was on the ventilator for about week or so and then took oxygen through a nasal cannula for another week.”
Raising his eyes to meet the doctor’s, Sam began rubbing his thighs in a back and forth repetitive action.
“They released him once he was able to get up and walk around with assistance and no longer needed intensive therapy. We promised to continue his breathing exercises at home, starting with the second day after he was released, but after all that has happened…
Jay processed that then looked to Sam again, asking, “What did they say about his concussion?”
“Just that it could’ve been worse and that they didn’t think there would be any lasting effects from it.”
Pausing his exam of Dean, the doctor gave Sam his full attention. “Has he been complaining of being cold?”
“Not in so many words,” Sam began. “But he’s constantly shivering. Even with an extra quilt he still seems to be cold all the time, no matter how bundled up he gets.”
“Okay, and the rest of it.” Jay gave the boy a steady, expecting look.
“The rest of it?” Sam echoed.
“Yeah, the rest. Odd behavior, any non-medical observations, any strange occurrences, etc.” Jay waited patiently.
“You mean like nightmares, the episode in the kitchen,” Sam saw the man nod and wondered how he could’ve known. Dad hasn’t had time to tell him everything. Besides Dad doesn’t even know all of it, Sam thought.
“C’mon, Sam. I’m not just a doctor, remember?” Jay’s piercing stare went right through any of Sam’s attempts to hedge.
Sam hesitated, unsure of what to do. He knew that an accurate treatment plan might depend on his being forthcoming, but it wasn’t his secret to tell. Feeling awkward, Sam pointedly asked, “Dean?”
“Tell him, Sam,” Dean answered, a stiff nod accompanying the words, his breathing shallow and ragged.
That was all the permission Sam needed as he tentatively began, “Well, he’s been having nightmares. Bad ones. Right before the seizure last night, he woke up with one. He also had another dream in the hospital about a ghost that we believe was real and another one on the way home from the hospital, in the car.”
Sam stopped and drew a breath. Somehow, he trusted this man with the knowledge he was about to impart. So, he spilled it all, the dreams between he and Dean, the feelings he could sense, the niggling of Dean constantly at the back of his mind, and the visions of Dean’s nightmare in the kitchen. Everything he knew or suspected. Surprised by Dean’s lack of response to his words, Sam wondered if his brother had already known about their new constant connection.
As he talked, Jay calmly continued his exam, flashing a light in Dean’s eyes, thumping his patient’s skin with his knuckles, listening to his heartbeat and respiratory sounds. All the while Dean lay silently and let Sam do the talking, responding only when asked to by Jay. He seemed to be fading right before their eyes, not just losing consciousness, but draining away as if his batteries were going dead and the light inside was dimming.
Finally, Jay sat back and let Sam finish up with the telling of the incoherent comments made in the bathroom. He noticed how uneasy Sam became as he told of Dean’s apologetic ramblings and erratic behavior, obviously not wanting to upset his brother who could still hear what was being said.
“I said what?” Dean’s voice croaked feebly, his face paling further if that was possible. “Dad,” he whispered, squeezing his eyes shut with the realization of how his dad must have reacted. Then his eyes shot open as he looked up at his baby brother and said, “Sam…what I said about Jess…I didn’t mean to...” Dean’s stammered apology was cut short as his shoulders shook hard with more spasmodic coughs that rattled deep and wet.
“Sam, some water, please,” Jay asked, trying to bunch Dean’s pillows up under him a little further.
Sam was back in a flash and, with Jay’s help, raised Dean up while held the water glass to his brother’s lips, allowing a few swallows to slide down Dean’s aching throat, then lowering him back down again.
“What now?” Sam asked, his face all innocent trust and full of worry.
“Now,” Jay responded with a raise of his brows, “I go shopping.” With that unexpected response, he rose and began detailing how Sam was to care for Dean in the meantime, already edging toward the door to leave, Sam rising to follow him.
“But, Doc, what’s wrong with him?” Sam asked, voice low so Dean couldn’t hear, stopping the other man in his tracks just outside the room.
“Well,” he chuckled humorlessly, “what’s not? His body has been ravaged physically and spiritually. Not only is he still coping with some major wounds and illness, but the demon’s taint has been left on his soul. On top of that, he’s refusing to face his fears, which are germinating in the form of night terrors and heaping more illness upon him.”
“Your brother is a very sick man, ill inside as much as out. He needs more than modern medicine can afford him. We’ll treat the taint left behind by the demon with a purification rite, keeping him hooked to an IV for hydration. Hopefully, during the ceremony he’ll be able to confront his fears and overcome them. After that, I think the physical stuff will take care of itself, providing he rests and gives his body time to heal.”
Pinching the bridge of his nose and grimacing, Sam breathed, “I knew there was more to it than the doctors were saying.”
Jay reached over and gripped the young man’s shoulder with a sympathetic squeeze. “Look, Sam, he’s going to be okay. Providing we can neutralize the damage left behind by the demon’s contaminant and as long as he cooperates, he’ll be just fine.”
Jay Penagashea’s words brought Sam’s head up with a snap. Dread hanging heavy on every word, Sam asked, “What do you mean providing we can neutralize the damage and if Dean cooperates?”
“I mean,” Jay began, meeting Sam’s eyes unflinchingly, “it’s been quite a while since the attack; the evil’s had time to fester, grow, dig deep into Dean’s spirit. There is a chance that its poison has spread too far, grown too strong."
"Also, if your brother resists facing up to his fears, resists my methods in any way, then his inner being will continue to disintegrate. Look, let’s be honest here, if Dean refuses to face up to this, if any part of him is unwilling to fight for himself, for his life, then there’s not much more I or anyone else can do for him.”
a/n: A big, huge thank you to Mady Bay for working so hard on this with me despite the fact that there’s still no naked Dean (sorry folks, just isn’t in me). Please forward all cheesecakes and any other gift to her as she deserves it.