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: ~5,000
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 11 The Argument
The television bolted to the wall in their hospital room is fairly impressive, better by far than the one in the last apartment they lived in. It gets all the cable channels and the reception is excellent. Sammy finds a cartoon he thinks Dean will like and then mutes the volume.
Cathy's shift had started about an hour ago. Sammy knows this because as soon as she arrived at the hospital she had come to see how Dean was doing even though she doesn't work in the pediatric ward. They must have made quite an impression on her yesterday, either that or news of Dean's suspicious injuries and delirious ramblings are the subject of gossip around the nurses' water cooler, coffee pot, break room, or wherever. She's either concerned or curious. Either way, Sammy is the recipient of several used suspense novels she gifts him with to help him pass the time and a bagel for his breakfast.
Although he has several forms of entertainment as his disposal between the television and the books, Sammy finds his attention drifting to his brother more often than not.
Dean has been trying to wake up for a while now, twitching his fingers and snuffling quietly. It shouldn't be so endearingly mesmerizing, but Sammy finds himself analyzing his brother's every sigh.
Their daytime nurse, Sharon, comes into the room frequently, fiddles with gauges on the various machines, jots down readings, takes Dean's temperature, his blood pressure, and talks to him constantly the entire time she's in the room, a random stream of consciousness, her voice honey mellow. How're you doing, Dean?...Look at that, you're blood pressure is nice and low, just the way we like it…You have a very patient uncle who hasn't left your side for more than five minutes at a time. If she wonders where John went, she doesn't mention it.
"Talk to him." She encourages Sammy. "He can hear you even if he can't respond yet. It doesn't really matter what you say, it's more the tone of voice you use."
Sammy likes the idea of letting Dean know he's not alone, that he has someone waiting for him. Although he feels somewhat self-conscious with Sharon standing next to him, he's never had a problem finding something to say. "Whenever you're ready to wake up, Dean, I'm right here waiting for you."
Dean turns his face slightly towards the sound of Sammy's voice.
"See, I told you." Sharon grins at the validation. "He recognizes you. He doesn't react to me when I talk to him. Keep going." She prods his arm as though he needs additional enticement.
Reaching out to clasp Dean's wrist, he continues, "I found Batman cartoons on TV. They're your favorite, right? I can't guarantee how long they'll be on, but there's a whole station devoted to cartoons, so there's bound to be something good on whenever you decide to join us."
Dean's eyes crack open and slide slowly to Sammy's face.
"Welcome back, kiddo." Sammy whispers, cognizant of his brother's partially aware state.
Several bleary blinks later, sleepy eyelids slip closed again.
Disappointed, Sammy looks over to Sharon for her assessment.
"That's perfectly normal. He just needs a little more time. The sedative's still working it's way out of his system."
Nodding, Sammy leans back in his chair, content to wait. "Cold medicine affects him the same way."
It's late morning before Dean surfaces again. Sammy is engrossed in one of the novels, Watchers by Dean Koontz, so enthralled in the adventures of the golden retriever with human level intelligence bonding with his new family while being hunted by a grotesque beast, he misses the first signs of his brother's alertness.
"Sammy, s' quiet in here. S' like a library." The boy's garbled words attest to how groggy he still is.
Beaming widely and flashing deep dimples, Sammy scoots his chair closer to the bed, wanting to make sure he doesn't miss anything Dean has to say. After all, Dean hasn't been sharing many of his thoughts up to this point and if he's going to be talking, it would be a shame not to catch parts of it because he's too far away. "Hey, Dean, yeah it's quiet 'cause you were sleeping. How are you feeling?"
"M' not sleepin'" Indignant eyebrows meet in the middle of Dean's forehead.
"No, you're not sleeping now, but you were sleeping just a little while ago." Sammy's having a little too much fun with this groggy version of his brother. Dean's a tad on the goofy side and pretty cute when he's doped up and not as upset as he was yesterday.
Dean seems to think about the plausibility of Sammy's assertion then shrugs a maybe.
"You remember where you are?"
After looking around the room, gaze taking in the equipment, white walls, painted circus animals, Dean hazards a guess. "Doctor's?"
Close enough. "Yeah, hospital. Do you remember what happened? Why you're in the hospital?" Sammy fervently hopes his brother remembers what happened to land him in the hospital, dreads having to be the one to explain it to him if he doesn't. There would be no way to do it without implicating their father and Sammy can't watch the devastation caused by the revelation that their larger-than-life father isn't perfect. Not again.
"Ghost was mad at me…hit the wall…um…my arm?" At mention of his arm, Dean looks down, taps on the cast experimentally, shifts it in the sling, testing range of motion. There isn't much.
"She got you all right, but wow Dean, you saved me. You were amazing!" If Dean never hears it from anyone else, Sammy wants to make sure his brother hears it from him.
The praise seems to remind Dean of the one other person he'd like to hear say those words. "Dad's not here. He left." And it's a statement, not a question. The boy expects to be left behind, never more so than when he's sick or vulnerable, unable to contribute. Like if he can't hunt, Dad won't want him around. Some of Dean's drive makes a lot of sense when seen in this context.
"He's coming back, Dean." Sammy strives to reassure his suddenly too thoughtful brother without making any promises beyond his control to keep.
Dean swallows, looks at the television. Classic avoidance.
Sammy hates that Dean thinks his dad only loves him for the things he can do and not for the wonderful kid he is. He struggles with what to say to make things better. "Hey, it's just you and me for now, but that's all right. We'll take care of each other. We always do."
A pause stretches out between them while Dean mulls things over, searches the scratchy hospital blanket for any opposing point of view, and comes to a conclusion. Finally, he repeats. "We'll take care of each other. We're gonna be okay." His chin wobbles and his lashes are wet, but the look he gives Sammy is filled with determination and affection.
Dr. Amora comes by on his rounds not too much later. He's already heard from the pediatric nurses and knows Dean is awake, knows Dean has started talking, mostly to Sammy, but at least he's talking to someone.
The smile he offers Dean wilts when he turns to look at the tall young man blocking access to the child. His expression is pinched and Sammy recognizes suspicion, having been the unfortunate recipient of the emotion from this man previously. "Can I speak with you in private for a moment?"
"Of course, is everything all right?" Sammy worries his bottom lip between his teeth as he leads the way into the empty corridor outside of Dean's room.
Instead of answering the question, the doctor asks one of his own. "Where is the boy's father? None of the staff have seen him today and this concerns him as well."
"He had some business to attend to, but he'll be here this evening. He left me to take care of anything having to do with Dean. Is there something wrong?" Hands pushed deep into his jean's pockets, Sammy concentrates on looking sincere and harmless. Anything he can do to forestall the inevitable.
The inevitable comes regardless. That's why it's called inevitable.
"It has come to our attention that Dean may have been exposed to situations inappropriate for a child his age. I feel as though it's my duty to call in child protective services and I've called for a psychiatric consultation."
Sammy hears very little of what comes next. His mind races ahead to plan their escape. The last thing Dean needs is to be subjected to a psychiatric evaluation. Well meaning or not, it would probably rip him apart. He's not ready to put on a brave face and charm his way through endless questions about how his dad treats him and what his home life is like. He's not up to strapping on a fake mask, not yet, and maybe not ever again. The freckle faced boy will do whatever it takes, no matter the cost to himself, to keep what's left of his family whole and Sammy doesn't want to watch his brother sacrifice himself over and over.
By the time Dr. Amora takes his leave, Sammy has developed the sketchy basis of a rescue mission. Taking Dean out of this hospital is just about going to kill Sammy because Dean needs the medical care, but deep down in his heart he knows things will only get worse from here. So, Sammy, not John, will be the one snatching Dean and running for the hills. The irony smacks him right between the eyes, leaves him doubled over gasping for air, and changes not one darn thing.
He'll wait for John to get back for as long as he can. The psych evaluation is scheduled for tomorrow morning and child protective services won't arrive until after the evaluation has been completed. As long as John keeps his word and returns this evening they'll have plenty of time to smuggle Dean out. In the meantime, Sammy pumps the nurses for any information he can get on the medicine and therapy his brother will need, hoping all the while the nurses see his questions as well-intentioned concern for the remainder of Dean's hospital stay. Treatment consists mainly of rest, rest, and more rest coupled with pain management and medications for swelling and muscle relaxants, easily accomplished anywhere and not requiring a hospital environment for which Sammy sends forth thoughts of gratitude to the universe at large. Guilt still gnaws at him incessantly.
John arrives right on schedule and Sammy gives him the low-down on the situation in whispered tones so as not to wake a sleeping Dean. Predictably, their dad is easy to convince. Liberating medical supplies from a hospital is one of the many things Sammy knows how to do without remembering where or when he learned the skill. Nevertheless, John gives him a completely unnecessary lesson during the hours between dinner and the evening nurses' shift change.
The nurses typically congregate around the main pediatric desk before their shifts end so they can appraise their replacements of any unusual cases or special circumstances. This evening is no exception and the Winchesters take full advantage.
Oh, so very carefully, they truss Dean up in his blanket, gather their belongings and the confiscated medical supplies, and creep down the seldom used back staircase, evading nurses and doctors alike. The entire operation takes less than fifteen minutes and no one's the wiser. Easy as pie.
It's John's turn to carry his son, he makes that perfectly clear as though he's re-asserting his parental rights, leaving Sammy to carry everything else.
Dean puts up with the relocation without a word, but he's stiff , uncomfortable at being carried, eyes shuttered in embarrassment at his weakness. Having slept off and on most of the day, he's wide awake now, absorbing the nervous energy from his dad and brother.
"Settle, Dean." John commands.
The effect is instantaneous. Dean melts into the haven of his father's arms, complacent and docile. Elusive safety achieved and permission granted in two short words.
Sammy wonders at the resilience of his brother's faith in their dad. He's not sure whether to be happy or sad about Dean's capacity for forgiveness. Possibly it's nothing more than a reflex, ingrained muscle memory from years of dependence. One thing's for sure, Sammy isn't about to begrudge the troubled boy his fleeting feeling of security any where he can find it, any way he can get it.
The moonlit night keeps their secret well, near darkness cloaks their trek across the hospital parking lot to the Impala. The creaking of the car's doors makes Sammy cringe even though there aren't any people around to hear. They bundle Dean into the back seat and this time Sammy sits in the front passenger seat. It feels strange and he realizes this is the first time he's ever ridden up front. Weird.
"Where are we going to go?" He asks as they approach the nearest surface street.
Both John's eyebrows go up in surprise like he doesn't understand the need for the question. "What do you mean?"
"Well, obviously we can't take Dean to the condo, right? Because that would be insane. So, where are we going to stay?"
John stares straight ahead, taps one gun-calloused fingertip on the steering wheel, and eventually turns on the left turn indicator. "We'll find a motel." He acknowledges.
Sammy will probably never know if that was his intention all along or not. Honestly, he doesn't want to know.
Tulsa, Oklahoma is a large enough city to get comfortably lost in and it's close enough to the small town of Broken Arrow to enable John's continued hunt for the vindictive child-mauling spirit. He'll have to work undercover now since the hospital will certainly inform the condo association and CPS might pay Mr. Niland a visit in the very near future, obtaining the contact information from the insurance paperwork. So, yeah, there's more than one reason for ditching the condo.
There's no question as to whether or not dad will see the hunt to it's conclusion. The man never walks away from a case, doesn't have it in him to leave an evil creature behind once he knows it exists.
They check into a motel in the heart of downtown Tulsa, paying extra for double beds and a cot. The room smells predominantly of stale cigarette smoke with an undercurrent of dirty socks. Customers loitering at the 24-hour convenience store across the street provide a backdrop of noise and the occasional loud bark of laughter. Home sweet home for the foreseeable future.
Dean had a full round of medication at the hospital right before they flew the coup, so he's not due another dose for a couple of hours. It's late, way past his bedtime by any standards, and he falls asleep as soon as John places him in a nest of blankets and pillows on the bed closest to the bathroom. Sammy hopes the boy likes that particular bed because he'll be spending a lot of time on it for the next however many days, maybe even weeks.
John takes the other bed and Sammy stretches out on the cot. The canvas and wood structure is surprisingly comfortable, long enough to accommodate his 6' 4" frame.
Worries about how they're going to afford to stay in the motel while John hunts, what to do if Dean doesn't get better or if he gets worse, where they'll have to go if CPS finds them, and a host of other problems bombard him while he resolutely closes his eyes and tries to go to sleep. Despite the annoying thoughts swirling through his mind, the sounds of deep breathing from the beds on either side of him eventually lull Sammy into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.
In the morning, Dean is restless and crabby, impatient with the results of the muscle relaxants which cause him to feel like he's made out of rubber. Entertaining him soon tops Sammy's list of priorities after listening for the umpteenth time to a litany of how boring it is to be restricted to bed rest. And this is only the first day. A trip to the convenience store generates a deck of playing cards, a couple of word find activity books, and breakfast.
From there one day flows uneventfully into the next.
John spends most of his time in Broken Arrow, researching the history of the site where the condo is located, discreetly talking to those families he can find whose children were assaulted by the spirit, digging, both literally and figuratively, around the new wing of the condo at night when no one else is around, and perusing old records for unusual deaths involving a woman and one or more children.
When he's not working on the hunt, he's hustling pool at the local bars and pool halls. There are plenty to be had in Tulsa and the surrounding towns. He comes back to the motel mostly to sleep, sometimes to catch a quick meal from the convenience store with Dean and Sammy.
Dean recuperates with Sammy's help. He chaffs at the inactivity, like any eight year old boy would, but between the two of them they find ways to amuse themselves. Sammy monitors Dean's medication and physical therapy regimen, strictly following the nurses' suggested exercises for his legs and back as he tapers off on the hard core drugs. Charts showing Dean's progress are taped to the walls along with John's hunt research, making the boy feel as though he's accomplishing something. He's walking mostly unassisted, albeit painstakingly slowly, by the middle of the second week and although he still tires easily, he can usually make it through the day on only one midday nap.
John supplies the best distraction and they ply him for news of the hunt at every opportunity. Two weeks into it though, there are still no breaking developments and John is beginning to get frustrated.
"Anything new today, dad?" Dean asks, stuffing a handful of cheetos in his mouth and licking cheese dust off his fingertips.
The boy is sitting up in his bed, supported by all the pillows in the room, having just finished a round of intense physical therapy under Sammy's watchful guidance. The cheetos are part of the lunch John had brought with him after spending an unfruitful night at the condo attempting to lure the vengeful spirit to her demise.
"Nothing." John shakes his head. "I tried to summon her last night. She was a no show. I haven't seen her since…" Trailing off at Sammy's frown, John unwraps the cellophane wrapped sandwich, takes a bite, and flicks bread crumbs from the front of his shirt.
Dean squirms uneasily and shoots glances between the two men. "Why did you want to summon her?"
"I found a dispelling ritual, but the ghost has to be present for it to work." The look John levels at Dean has Sammy's hackles rising, it's way too appraising. As if John can feel the disapproval dripping from his floppy-haired son, he stands up from his seat on the unoccupied bed and squares his shoulders, unconsciously defensive.
Sammy had really hoped for a fast resolution to this case. Every day those hopes sink a little more and he can sense his dad's growing determination to put an end to the spirit in any way possible. "No luck on a simple salt and burn, huh?" He has to ask even though he knows the spirit would already be no more than a bad memory if it were that easy.
"There has to be a body to burn and if there is one, I haven't been able to find it." Deflating, John walks to the only window in the room, shifts the curtain aside, and scans the street in front of the motel. There's nothing of interest out there and they all know it.
The hairs on the nape of his neck stand at attention, he has a bad feeling about the possible outcome of this discussion. Desperate to help find some viable and sane solution, Sammy offers, "Her clothing looked old-fashioned, like she'd been dead for a while. Why do you suppose she's only now beginning to haunt the condo?"
"It's got to have something to do with the new extension they built. I've investigated the site inside and out though and no one was ever buried there, no unusual occurrences have ever been reported. The local archives go back to the Oklahoma Land Grab when the land was originally settled and there's nothing, absolutely nothing." John turns abruptly, his frustration evident.
"There has to be something, what about old artifacts or antiques she might be attached to?" Sammy pushes the rest of his sandwich across the tiny table he's sitting at, takes a long pull from his soda can.
"Nope. Everything for those units is brand spanking new. Not an antique in sight." John sighs. "Good idea though." The man grudgingly adds as though he would never have imagined Sammy could have come up with such a novel solution to the hunting problem on his own. Sammy isn't offended, after all, John doesn't know that the wish gives him all the experience of the hunter he's going to be along with the advanced age. They've never discussed it.
"Well, she only goes after children, so that's a clue, right? Have you found anything linking the children to one another?" Sammy thinks he may have made a technical error in bringing up the 'children' angle, but really, there's no stopping this train and he's fooling himself if he thinks otherwise. Doesn't mean he's giving up yet.
At mention of the young victims, Dean stops eating and stares wide-eyed at his brother.
"You mean like great, great, great grandparents who all knew each other?" John quirks one eyebrow up in surprise.
Purposefully not looking at Dean, Sammy clarifies, "I was thinking more along the lines of commonalities like only blond children or only boys."
John shakes his head and rubs his eyes wearily. "Nuh uh, she's an equal opportunity kind of spirit. They have to be children, but there are no other distinguishing features. She doesn't discriminate."
"Why does she want to hurt kids?" The bewilderment in Dean's question sets Sammy's nerves on edge.
He wants to come up with an answer for his brother, some way to explain the unexplainable. "She says 'How could you do this?' It could mean she was hurt by a child or it could mean someone hurt her child and she's reenacting what happened, almost as if she wants someone to recognize her loss." All Sammy has are theories, nothing concrete.
"Could be either one, I have no way of knowing, especially since I can't get her to materialize." John sits on the edge of Dean's bed, careful not to jounce the boy too much. "There's one other thing I can try, but I've been putting it off as a last resort."
Sammy flinches internally. Here it comes.
"No, John, just…no." The warning is spoken menacingly. Sammy doesn't think he can stand to hear John put his plan into words. He hopes to spare Dean from having to hear his dad talk about him like he's a tool or a weapon to be pulled out and used when all else fails.
Jaw set, John regards Sammy challengingly. "Do you have any other ideas? I'm open to suggestions 'cause I'm all out."
Someone has to put a stop to this, someone has to be the voice of reason. "How can you even think about using him like that?" Pushing his chair away from the table and leaning forward, Sammy rests his elbows on his knees, every line of his body conveying an earnest need to get his point across. "Didn't you learn your lesson the last time?"
"I made a mistake, Sammy. Don't you think I know that? Do you think I enjoyed seeing my son tossed into a wall and knowing it was my fault? I'm not going to let that happen again."
John's on his feet and striding to the door, but Sammy leaps up to block his exit. No matter what he says, dad refuses to see a view different than his own and it infuriates him.
"But you do want to take him back there? Use him to lure the ghost out? Have you lost your mind? How are you going to stop her from assaulting him this time?"
"I'll do it…I…I'll go." Dean's cracking voice stills the fuming men like nothing else could.
In the heat of the argument, Sammy had kind of lost track of the fact that Dean was in the room with them.
"No, Dean, you won't." Sammy says, trying for firm and caring at the same time.
John nods at Dean. "It's not your decision, Sammy."
"If I go…I can keep any other kids from getting hurt, right? So, I have to go." Dean's appealing to Sammy, begging him to understand. He's not choosing dad over Sammy, he only wants to do the right thing.
Great, so he's outnumbered and Dean is playing the 'saving people' card. There's no winning against that combination. Sammy isn't ready to fold quite yet, however.
Rounding on John once more, Sammy exclaims. "You're not seriously considering letting him go with you. You couldn't possibly be that irresponsible."
"Watch it, Sammy, you're on thin ice. " John snarls like a grizzly bear staking claim to its territory. "You heard him, he wants to come."
"He's eight years old and you're his father." Incredulity clear in his voice, Sammy points a trembling index finger at his dad, mere inches from the man's chest. "You're supposed to keep him from getting into trouble, not shove him into it."
"And you're four, Sam. How much do you really know about this situation?"
"Do I look like I'm four?" Flinging his arms out wide and standing at his full height, Sam opens himself up to his father's inspection. John wants to treat him like an adult when it serves his purpose and like a child when it doesn't.
"No, you don't look like you're four, you're just acting like it."
John's words stop Sam dead in his tracks because he does feel like he's having a temper tantrum and the rage coursing through his veins isn't going to help anyone. Looking over at his brother he sees the boy standing on his bed, eyes glassy with unshed tears in sad contrast to the arms crossed over his chest in defiance.
So, if he can't stop them from hunting, at least he can go along for damage control.
Back to ( I Wish I was a Growed Up Chapter 10 The Answer )
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