Title: I WIsh I was a Growed Up
Characters: Sam, Dean, John
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural except in my dreams where schmoop abounds.
Warnings: Those of you who think John Winchester was a good father doing the best he could under terrible circumstances may not like my portrayal. He's not deliberately cruel, but he is negligent and he treats his sons as though they are soldiers, not little boys. Just remember this story is AU and Sammy knows what his daddy does at a much younger age than canon Sammy.
Word Count: ~2,800
Summary: Sammy has just figured out that life isn't fair for his older brother, Dean. He wishes there was some way he could help. When his wish comes true their lives are changed forever. AU hurt/sick!Dean protective!Sam Wee!chester
I Wish I was a Growed Up
Chapter 3 The Opportunity
Dean is a very sick little boy and Sammy is starting to think that his wish didn't just change him into an adult so he could feed Dean soup and make him take his medicine, that maybe it's much more serious.
Later in the afternoon the nausea begins. Dean barely makes it to the bathroom in time, face paling, feet stumbling, bent over holding his stomach with one hand. Sammy is right there with him, one arm across his chest, holding him up, the other hand rubbing his back in a soothing up and down motion as Dean retches pitifully into the toilet. Wave after wave of gut-wrenching spasms shudder through him until he's dry heaving, nothing left to bring up but bile, strings of saliva hanging from slack lips.
"You need to stay here or do you want to go lay down in bed? Does your stomach still hurt?" Sammy asks when it looks like it's over and surveys Dean's features, watching for the grimace that precedes each stomach cramp.
"Still hurts, gotta stay here." The words are spoken through short ragged pants.
It doesn't look like Dean's going to be able to remain standing much longer though, even with Sammy's arm helping to support him. The retching has left him shaky and pale, sweat damp hair sticking to his forehead.
"Tell you what, I think you'll feel better if you're lying down, so how about we get you into bed and I'll bring you something to throw up in if you have to? That way you'll be more comfortable and won't have to jump up and run to the bathroom again." He waits for his brother's answering nod before using a wet wash cloth to wipe his face and then usher him to his bed, a hand on the small of his back to guide him.
Once Dean is settled in bed, Sammy begins to worry about what else might go wrong. Dehydration may become a factor with the vomiting and the fever. A visit to the hospital is the last resort. It has always been that way for the Winchesters, but now more so than ever. If he has to take Dean to the hospital there's a good chance social workers will be contacted because Sammy has no ID and no way to prove he's related to Dean in any way. The weight of responsibility he has taken upon himself hits him like a sledge hammer, Dean's life in his hands, so fragile and precious.
Pacing a tight circle in the confines of the tiny bedroom, Sammy pulls on his lip nervously. Hooded eyes watch him wearily from the battered mattress on squeaky bedsprings on one wall. The apartment they are renting came pre-furnished, so everything is understandable well worn. Sammy's matching twin bed fits snugly against the opposite wall of the same room.
Another coughing spell, rattling and wet sounding in the back of his throat, almost causes Dean to begin gagging again. When it's over he sinks further into the pillow, huddling under the blankets drawn up to his chin, shivering with the chills of fever.
Pulled from his anxious pacing, Sammy races back to the living room for the extra blanket and tucks it firmly around Dean's trembling body, speaking words meant to reassure himself as well as his brother, "Take it easy, Dean. You're going to be all right."
The next temperature reading shows 102.1, still inching steadily higher. A person's temperature can reach 103, even 104, with no permanent damage, he knows, but Sammy's apprehension increases. He sits beside Dean's bed feeding him ice chips between coughing bouts and holding cool compresses to his forehead. The ice chips are the only thing Dean can keep down, a painstaking lesson learned after both the juice and water make quick reappearances. Thankfully, the ice helps cool while also hydrating. Talking hurts Dean's throat, so he remains silent most of the evening, lethargically flipping through the pages of a crumpled comic book. After a while Dean's shivering subsides and his eyelids get heavier and heavier, until they finally drift closed and stay closed. Air soughs between parted lips, shallow in order to avoid more coughing. A fierce protectiveness makes Sammy's breath hitch and his chest tighten as he gazes at the sleeping child. He sifts a hand through Dean's silky honey-hued hair before quietly leaving the bedroom in the hopes that his brother will be able to get some much needed rest.
No sooner has he returned from the kitchen after wolfing down a ham sandwich and propped his feet up on the coffee table in the living room than he senses Dean's presence at his elbow.
"I thought you were sleeping. What's the matter, Dean?" Sammy questions soothingly.
Downcast eyes dully reflect back the fading day's light filtering through the west facing window of the apartment and Dean sways loosely backward and forward, more asleep than awake.
"Can't sleep if I don't know where you are." Dean mumbles, picking at a frayed thread on the couch's upholstery.
Sammy huffs a fond chuckle. Huh, Dean's either still trying to look out for him or he just isn't used to sleeping in a room without the a younger sibling nearby. "OK, you win. I'll stay with you, but you have to stop fighting it and go to sleep."
Scooping the boy up into his arms, Sammy heads back to the bedroom. Dean's arms snake around his neck and a tired head finds his shoulder.
"How's your stomach? Do you think you can keep some medicine down? I want to give you a little more before you go to sleep to help lower your fever." Sammy says, sitting his brother gently on the edge of the bed.
"I'll try, Sammy." Skepticism tinges Dean's answer and he seems to impossibly pale even further with just the thought.
"We'll go slow. You're being really brave, Dean." Sammy's own stomach flips over in sympathy. He hates asking Dean to risk further discomfort, but if his body doesn't reject it, the medicine should help him sleep by lessening the painful burn in his throat and the constant coughing, as well as lowering his fever.
The medicine still sits on the coffee table in the living room where they last used it, so he makes another trip out to retrieve the sticky bottle, measures a portion, and hands it to his frowning brother, mental fingers crossed.
"Just take your time, no rush." Sammy, not so discretely, readies a plastic bag when Dean brings the plastic cup with the viscous liquid up to his mouth.
Several dainty sips taken between long intervals and the medicine appears to cause no fresh stomach cramps. Both boys let out a sigh of relief, Dean's shoulders curling inwards into a relaxed slouch on the exhale.
With Sammy sitting vigil, Dean is soon asleep again. Shadows lengthen around him with the coming of night and the only sounds are the soft snuffles of Dean breathing and occasional footsteps coming from the apartment above theirs.
It's been a long day, long and strange. He's been so tied up with convincing Dean to let him help, worrying over the huge responsibility of taking care of his ailing brother, and doing everything he can to make Dean comfortable so he can get well, that there hasn't been any time to reflect of what it all might mean. There aren't any books to tell him what to do in this situation. As far as he knows, this is the first and only instance of a four year old boy becoming a twenty four year old man in the blink of an eye. He has no way of knowing how long it's going to last, what will happen when he changes back, or even if he will change back. Just guesses.
The only thing clear to him is his purpose. Every cell in his body quivers with the desire to help Dean. As if there are now two pieces of the Sammy puzzle, a four year old with bright-eyed love and puppy-like devotion to his brother and a twenty four year old with a strong protective streak and moral sense of obligation. The two pieces combined create the ultimate 'big' brother whose sole reason for being is to care about Dean. It make perfect sense. He is the embodiment of his wish.
The wish is a priceless gift, not to Dean, although hopefully Dean will feel the value of it, but to himself. The opportunity to know and appreciate his brother through the eyes of a grown up while his brother is still a child, to shape his future in a way that otherwise would be impossible, to unlock the doors to Dean's self-esteem so he can see the goodness within. All that and more is now at his fingertips, all he has to do is maximize his opportunity.
Yawning, Sammy climbs under the covers of his own bed. His bare feet hang over the edge of the mattress and yet it's comfortable, familiar, warm. Darkness lulls him until he's floating on the current of a limbo world, skimming along the surface between dreams and reality. Not asleep, not awake, existing in a space apart.
"Sammy..." Dean's voice, crackling like autumn leaves rubbed together, manages to tug him back from the peaceful cocoon-wrapped land.
"Dean? Do you need something?" Sammy pushes up onto his elbow, rubs his bleary eyes.
"Please." The one word plea is charged and full of unspoken meaning.
Sammy doesn't need Dean to say anymore. He can read Dean like an open book, sees everything that Dean would never put voice to, never say out loud for fear of rejection. The expression on his face is desperate need and want and hope and fear all rolled into one bundle of tough-as-nails eight year old boy. Tough because Dean faces the bitter reality of his life without complaint. Tough because he shoulders the responsibility of his entire world and asks for more. Tough because he feels so much, yet denies himself release from those feelings. It's probably only because illness has lowered his defenses that Sammy is able to see so clearly into his brother's heart right now. But maybe not, maybe Dean just chooses carefully who he shows his most guarded secrets to.
"C'mere, Dean." Sammy invites by lifting up the blankets and beckoning his brother over with one hand.
Dean scoots into the bed and leans into him, listless and heavy, like the walk from one side f the room to the other drained every ounce of energy from his body. There isn't any room on the small bed to move over and accommodate another person, but neither of them seems to care much. The warm weight pressed against him relaxes him and Sammy understands why parents derive as much comfort as their children from such close contact. Instinctive urges to shelter his brother from all harm are satisfied by the connection.
To get an idea of how Dean's fever is progressing, Sammy palms his forehead and then his cheek. If his estimate is anything to go by, Dean feels relatively cooler. Children's temperatures often fluctuate up and down during illness and Sammy is relieved that his brother is catching a break.
Curling up under the blanket, nestled close and using Sammy's arm as a pillow, Dean quickly submits to the steady tug of sleep. Whatever is in that cold medicine does a real number on him. Sammy recognizes their current positions as a reverse image of a common sight. When Sammy feels scared or gets sick, he is usually the one curled up next to Dean. He smiles into the shadowy room and dozes off to the sweet picture conjured in his mind.
Sometime later that night, Sammy wakes again to the sound of is brother's voice, this time accompanied by squirming.
"No...don't." Dean gasps, his head jerking frantically from side to side.
Peering down at his brother's face in concern, Sammy asks, "Don't what, Dean?"
It looks like Dean is having a bad dream, eyes rolling under closed lids, legs shifting under the blanket. "I didn't mean to." He whimpers.
"Shhhhh, it's OK. You're all right." Sammy tries to sooth, but his words don't reach Dean through his dream.
With a shudder, Dean cries out, "I'm sorry...my fault."
Enough is enough. Sammy sits up, pulling Dean, still squirming, with him until Dean lies draped across his lap. Come on, Dean. Wake up. It's just a dream."
But the dream won't release it's grip. "No...'s my fault." Dean moans and tries to roll back onto the bed.
"Nothing's your fault, Dean. Time to wake up now." Sammy holds his brother tight until he goes still and pliant.
Dean's normally a light sleeper, waking up at the slightest noise, so his lack of alertness during what amounts to manhandling, has Sammy skirting the edges of panic. His heart hammers a staccato beat as he rubs Dean's cheek, trying to get a response. "Hey Dean, c'mon. Please, wake up for me."
When Dean's eyes open they're muddy and opaque, darting around the room as if he's looking for something or someone before locking hard on Sammy.
"Dean? Are you with me?" Sammy sits back slightly, not surrendering his hold, but giving his brother a bit of space to shake off the lingering nightmare. "Can you tell me what you were dreaming about?"
With no warning, Dean launches himself at Sammy, clinging to his t-shirt and sobbing into his shoulder. The broken sobs sound like nothing so much as the fracturing of an innocent soul.
"Hush now, it's OK. I got ya." Sammy croons, masking his confusion and surprise, focusing solely on the trembling bundle in his arms.
Something is bothering Dean, something manifesting through his dreams, but now is not the time to try to unearth the mystery. Not while Dean is so emotionally vulnerable. Sammy feels as though it's important to get to the bottom of this and eventually he'll give his curiosity free reign, just not right now. Instead he murmurs words of comfort to his brother while rubbing his back until the jagged crying quiets.
In the morning, Dean is sullen and silent. The night spent in fever and nightmares has done little to restore his health or energy levels.
Although Sammy tries several times to bring up the bad dream, Dean refuses to talk about it, claiming he doesn't remember. Sammy knows he does.
At around eight o'clock the phone rings once and then goes silent. Two minutes later it begins ringing again, Dad's signal that it's all right to answer. By mutual agreement, Dean is the one to pick up. They are fairly certain their Dad would not react well to a strange man answering the phone, claiming to be Sammy. Dean visibly steels himself before swiftly moving the receiver up to his mouth.
"Hi, Dad." Dean's voice comes out raspy and congested.
There's a pause while Dean listens to whatever Dad's saying. Sammy can hear the deep rumbling of their Dad's baritone, but he can't make out the words.
"It's just a cold. Everything's fine. Sammy's fine." A quick glance over at Sammy seems to verify for Dean that he's telling Dad the truth and Sammy is, in fact, fine.
Not 'I'm fine' Sammy notes and he wonders if that's because Dean isn't fine or he just doesn't think Dad cares about whether he's fine or not.
In a whispered stage voice Sammy says, "Tell him you're sick and you need him to come home."
Dean is doing much better now, but if he gets worse it would be nice for Dad to be here to take him to the hospital. Dean just looks at him like he's grown antennae and a blue beard.
Suddenly Dad's voice is powerful, like he's right there in the room with them and Dean jerks the hand piece away from his ear with a flinch. Dad's talking so loudly that Sammy can hear every word from three feet away.
"I'm going to be home in a couple of days, Dean and I'd better not find out that you're using that cold as an excuse to slack off. Do you hear me? You need to be training every day. I'm going to drill you on those hand-to-hand maneuvers I taught you before I left and I expect you to be picture perfect. Shake off that cold and do your job."
As he listens, Dean sets his jaw and squares his shoulders. "Yes, sir."
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