Title: The Reason I Live
Characters: Sam, Dean, John
Genre: Gen, hurt/comfort
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: ~3,700
Summary: Sequel to I Wish I was a Growed Up and second story in the Wish 'verse. Something is lurking near Sammy and Dean's new school and John thinks this is the perfect opportunity for Dean to research his first hunt, but when things go wrong Sammy has to grow up fast to rescue his brother. AU hurt!!Dean protective!Sam Wee!chester Ages Dean 9 Sam 5 and 24
A/N: Please leave me some feedback. Comments are cherished.
The Reason I Live
Chapter 6 Nicknames are for Babies
Dean's emotions flood into Sam as soon as the Bunyip is dead; homesickness and gratitude, relief and anger, humiliation and surprise, fear and sorrow with an eclipsing adoration which Sam can sense is mostly directed at him. It's a good thing the effect is tempered by Dean's exhaustion or Sam might have found himself incapacitated by the range of emotions and the admiration he feels for his brother. Dean has been through so much and still his love of family, of Sam, is overpowering, undiminished.
Peeling the wet clothes off Dean's shivering body is as difficult as trying to peel an apple with his fingernails. Dean tries to help, but his feeble movements are more of a hindrance than a help. "Relax kiddo. I've got it from here. Let me take care of this." Sammy speaks quietly in the tone of voice that seems to calm his distressed brother.
The saturated clothing is covered in gore and stinks to high heaven. Sam really wants to get rid of it as quickly as possible so they can wrap Dean up in something dry and get him away from the scene of his captivity. At first he'd tried to use the knife to cut the clothes away, (they were garbage at this point anyway) but Dean's eyes had gotten so big that Sam had immediately tucked the knife out of sight. So now he's forced to tug and rip at the soiled shirt and parts until they finally give way and fall to the ground in a sodden mess.
Dean's skin is red and puffy, painful looking, everywhere the vines had been tied. John takes one look at the boy and removes his leather jacket, draping it over his young son. "Put that on him and take him back to the car. Turn the heater on. I'll be there in a minute." Then the hunter is gone, busy taking care of the corpse and cleaning up the area. By the time he's done, no one will be able to tell anything supernatural has ever been here.
Sam takes off his blue cotton hoodie and carefully threads Dean's arms and head through the appropriate holes. Dean moans softly, but otherwise is pliant, allowing himself to be manipulated into the overly large garment. The sleeve cuffs fall way past his hands and the bottom of the hem reaches his knees. So much the better for keeping him warm, Sam thinks. Next he bundles their dad's jacket around Dean's legs like a lap blanket, hefts him up with one arm under his knees and the other under his shoulders, and starts back towards the Impala.
Sleepiness isn't an emotion per se and generally isn't transmitted along their empathic bond, but it's impossible to miss the numbing weariness reflected in the dull slits of Dean's green eyes. He's mostly asleep and complacent, limbs lax.
Judging by how worn out the boy is Sam surmises that the Bunyip didn't let him sleep much or at all the whole time it had him. Which only makes Sam wonder what the Bunyip did with his brother for those two days and one night. Dean's reaction to its corpse and his scared yet angry commands to the creature to 'leave me alone' and 'don't touch me' are most definitely troubling.
As much as Sam would like to let Dean fall asleep, forget what happened and never mention it ever again, he knows this may be his best chance to find out what his brother suffered at the Bunyip's hands. It's important to know what they're going to be dealing with because its clear Dean isn't going to come out of this experience unscathed. He's going to need help and they won't be able to help him if they don't understand.
John will be joining them quickly once they reach the car and Sam knows Dean won't want to talk about what he's sure to see as his own weaknesses with their father nearby. The boy's defenses are rubble right now, but he'll probably begin building them back up shortly. It's either now or never if he's going to be able to get Dean to talk to him.
"Dean, did the Bunyip – the monster – did it hurt you?" Sam speaks in a low tone and continues walking to the car, his brother nestled safely in his arms.
Dean's eyes come up to half-mast and his eyebrows knit together as though he's puzzled by the question. "T-the ropes hurt. I c-couldn't move. I was scared." He answers uncertainly, voice tapering off to a whisper at the end. His tone is small and pleading as if he's asking forgiveness, as if he needs to be forgiven for being afraid.
"It's okay to be scared, nothing to be embarrassed about." Sam tries to reassure and hopes he can keep himself together long enough to figure out what kinds of issues his brother is likely to take away from his ordeal. "Did it keep you tied up the whole time? What else did it do? You can tell me."
"Y-yes, the w-whole time." Dean sounds like he's trying desperately not to cry and Sam feels a tight band constrict his chest. "It never stopped t-touching me, licking m-me." He squeezes his eyes shut and hitches a sharp breath in.
Sam hates having to do this, hates making Dean talk about being tormented. "I'm sorry, kiddo. I'm so sorry." He soothes. "Just one more question then you can go to sleep. Where did it touch you?"
"My face. My m-mouth. It smelled so bad and it said I belonged to it and no one would every find me, Sammy." The gush of words is desperate and so forlorn. Two tears spill over and run down Dean's grubby cheeks.
Sam can't help himself, without giving it a second thought he leans over and kisses the crown of his brother's head. Even though Dean is distraught and Sam feels terrible, it could have been so much worse. "Yeah, well…it lied." He breathes against the boy's hair, not caring about the filth matted into the fine strands.
They reach the Impala shortly thereafter and seeing as how Dean's already fast asleep, Sam cocoons him in the back seat under a pile of blankets he finds in the trunk before he starts the engine and turns the heat on full blast. He's sitting in the front passenger seat deep in thought when John creaks the driver's side door open and eases into the seat next to him. The acrid smell of smoke is immediately apparent.
Sighing heavily and digging the heel of his palm into first one eye and then the other, John twists around so he can see into the back seat. "How is he?"
"I don't know." Worry colors Sam's words. "He was too tired to tell me much. Aside from the abrasions on his skin I didn't see any physical damage. I doubt he's eaten or slept since it took him."
John nods and shifts the car into gear. They drive home in silence, each lost in the maze of his private thoughts.
All the lights are on in their little two bedroom rental when they get home which serves to remind Sam that they had left the apartment in a hurry at dawn after having stayed up all night searching for leads. He yawns and groans as he stretches and his spine pops with the movement.
"Yeah, bed sounds good right about now." John chuckles, giving his son a look full of light-hearted sympathy. The car doors squeal open and their father cocks his head towards the back seat. "See, I told you we'd have him home before nightfall."
Sam takes a second to think about that. They have Dean back and he's alright, he's going to be just fine. There's no point in worrying about new problems that haven't even surfaced yet. Letting his father's good humor infect him, Sam smiles. "Well, you had the time frame right, but you didn't say anything about him coming home smelling like a grungy fishing boat that's been out to sea for far too long."
John wrinkles his nose and walks up to the front door of the house, calling over his shoulder. "True, I'll let you decide what to do about getting him cleaned up. Have fun with that."
"Why am I not surprised?" Sam mutters to himself before leaning into the back seat and attempting to shake his brother awake. "Come on sleepyhead, let's get you into a bath and then into bed. How's that sound?"
Dean just snuffles and burrows further under the blankets.
Shaking his head indulgently, Sam says, "I kinda thought that might be your answer." Once Sam pulls Dean out of the car, the boy twines his thin arms around Sam's neck and falls back asleep with his head on Sam's shoulder. The sweet, trusting gesture is so heartbreakingly childlike and so completely unlike his brother. It makes Sam want to both cry and laugh.
He lays Dean on the couch while he runs the water for the bath. Crusty grains of dried muck flake from his skin and land on the worn upholstery. There's no telling what makes up some of the grime covering Dean's body, but Bunyip blood and other bodily fluids is a good guess for most of it.
The water level in the tub reaches an acceptable height and once Sam is comfortable with the temperature, he gathers Dean up, still sleeping, and lowers him into the warm water.
The effect is instantaneous. The moment Dean's legs enter the water he stiffens, a piercing scream explodes from his mouth quickly turning into garbled, whimpering pleas. "No, please no. No more water. Sammy…help me. I don't wanna go back there, please don't let it take me."
Sam, startled by the sudden and very unexpected outburst from his brother and thinking he must have done something to hurt the boy, jerks his supporting arms away and Dean splashes the rest of the way into the tub. Dean's eyes roll wildly as he tries to come to grips with where he is and who is looming over him. Since he's used to only being able to move his head, he flinches violently backwards until his head connects with the porcelain side of the bathtub hard enough for the crack to resound throughout the confining room.
"Hey, hey Dean, it's just me, you're alright. You're not going back there. I'm never letting anything take you again, I swear." Sam tries to get his arms around his brother or at least cushion his head from anymore accidental blows against the wall.
"Where is the monster? Where is it? Sammy, Sammy, Sammy." Sounding pitifully desperate, Dean moans and scrabbles out of arms reach.
As if there isn't already enough chaos, John chooses that moment to slam the partially open bathroom door the rest of the way open. "What's going on? What's wrong?"
"I'm an idiot, that's what's wrong. I'm trying to give him a bath after he just spent 48 hours being terrorized in the water. Dumb idea." Sam snaps at their father all the while trying to inch closer to Dean who is standing and cowering against the wall as far away from Sam as he can get, possibly attempting to become invisible or phase through the tile to put any kind of barrier between them. "Whoa, easy Dean. Take it easy."
"Have him take a shower then. He's going to have to get over it, he can't go around smelling like rancid tuna." John's hands creep up to his temples and he rubs the sides of his head impatiently.
Glowering at the insensitivity, Sam pointedly arches his eyebrows. "You're not helping, Dad. Why don't you back off and let me handle this? Go lay down or something, you look like you're nursing the mother of all headaches."
John narrows his eyes like he wants to tear Sam apart for being disrespectful, but after a beat or two he scowls and retreats to his bedroom.
Something about the defensive posture Dean has adopted makes Sam stop reaching for him and lower his tone to a softer register. "I'm sorry Dean. This one is all on me; I made a really stupid mistake. I'm sorry." He projects peace and acceptance through their link into Dean, infuses every cell in his body with a sense of calm understanding and hopes a portion of it reaches the haunted looking boy in front of him.
Clarity replaces the delirious, wild look in Dean's eyes now that he's fully awake and his shoulders slump, his head bows. "It's okay. I'm okay. Just…no touching. No touching."
Sam's heart sinks in his chest like a lead weight, but he keeps his voice light when he says, "You got it, no touching. So how about it, you want a shower? Or you could just use a washcloth and some soap. It's up to you kiddo, you call the shots."
"Shower, I guess." Dean won't meet Sam's gaze and his bashful voice is pitched so soft Sam can barely hear the words.
"Shower it is then." With a slow and easy twist of his wrist, Sam gets the water adjusted and flowing from the showerhead then flips the drain open to let the accumulated water run out of the tub. He smiles his most reassuring smile at his still skittish brother and leaves to get a towel from the closet.
So much for not worrying about new problems until they surface. It looks as though the Titanic of problems has just bobbed up from its watery grave.
Sam knows that Dean is shaken right down to his core. He can sense that the boy's confidence in his ability to take care of himself and, more importantly to Dean, his ability to take care of his little brother Sammy, has been shattered. Depression slithers across their bond like a living thing.
And this 'no touching' mantra is a sign of deep trauma. If John thinks Dean is just going to magically 'get over it' he has a big surprise coming. Another thing that's bothering Sam is the fact that Dean hasn't mentioned being hungry yet and the boy should be starving, ravenous even.
Dean needs a little breathing room right now, that much is obvious, so Sam places the towel on the bathroom counter next to the sink and quietly withdraws to the living room. The house is small and Dean won't be able to leave the bathroom without Sam knowing about it. There's no reason to hover or crowd the boy.
The house is deceptively quiet, silent other than the water running in the shower. No noise comes from their dad's room, no light shines from the crack under the closed door. Sam wonders what his dad is up to in there and then dismisses the thought; he has his hands full at the moment. One problem at a time and dad can take care of himself. All of Sam's attention is devoted to Dean for as long as his brother needs him. That's just the way it is and how it always will be.
Dean shuffles slowly from the bathroom with the towel wrapped loosely around his shoulders. It hangs down to his shins and makes him look like a homeless waif. The stench is gone, replaced with the clean scent of whatever soap had been on sale the last time Dean had gone shopping.
"Hey Dean, are you hungry? I can make you a sandwich." Sam offers.
A look of pure revulsion passes swiftly across Dean's features. "No, I'm not hungry, just tired. Can I go to bed now?"
"Of course you can. Do you need any help?"
Averting his eyes, Dean shakes his head. "No." He turns and then hesitates.
Dean's trying to be brave, to act as though he's unaffected, but it's a lie. Sam can tell he's torn between needing affection and not being able to stand the idea of physical contact. He remembers that Dean finds it difficult to sleep without the white noise provided by another person in the same room and the prospect of being alone is most likely intimidating right now.
"I'm beat, too. It's been a long couple of days for all of us." Sam leads the way into their bedroom and is pleased when he senses Dean's anxiety ease.
The night passes without evidence of the previous day's ordeal. No nightmares plague Dean's rest and Sam wakes in the morning hopeful that the much needed sleep has done the boy some good.
John is in the kitchen sitting at the table and writing feverishly in his journal when Sam emerges stealthily from the bedroom so as not to disturb Dean. A mostly empty cup of coffee is evidence that the hunter has been up for a while.
Sam pours himself a cup, leans back against the counter and crosses his legs at the ankle. "Morning, you updating your Bunyip information?"
"Yeah, I want to get it all down while it's still fresh in my mind. As soon as Dean's up I need to pick his brain too."
Nodding, Sam stares into his coffee cup. The rich smell is soothing and homey. "Just go easy on him. He's taking the whole experience hard. It's thrown him for a bit of a loop."
Right on cue Dean enters the kitchen and Sam's not sure how much of the conversation he's overheard.
"I'm glad you're up, kiddo. I want you to tell me everything you can about the Bunyip." John stands and puts his hand on the back of Dean's neck. He probably means for the gesture to be supportive, but Dean reacts as if he's been stung, visibly wincing and dodging out from underneath it.
"Don't call me that." He rasps. "I don't want you to call me that. Nicknames are for babies."
A small frown of confusion causes John's brow to furrow. "What? Kiddo? Sam calls you 'kiddo' all the time and you've never said anything about it before." John looks and sounds as though his feelings have been hurt which would be laughable under different circumstances.
"I-I don't…" Dean stammers to a halt, clearly not knowing what to say or how to explain the jumble of conflicting emotions.
Sam doesn't have to wonder at what his brother is feeling because the panic-inducing helplessness coming from the boy is overwhelming. "Dean, we won't call you kiddo if you don't like it. It's alright." Hoping that a change in topic will smooth things over, he says, "I'm going to make you some eggs and toast for breakfast, you've got to be starving."
The same look of revulsion from the previous night makes a reappearance. "I'm not. I don't want to eat." Dean denies, but the tremors running along the arms he has crossed over his chest contradict his retort.
"You have to have something, you don't get a choice here." John growls, reaching the end of his limited patience. "Look at you Dean, you can barely stand up you're so weak. How long has it been since you've had anything to eat?"
Suddenly John is in motion and everything happens in a blur of action and reaction. Getting a large hand around Dean's arm, John pulls the boy roughly towards a stool at the counter, apparently meaning for him to sit down for a healthy meal. Dean screams like a wounded animal and bucks ferociously, but only succeeds in causing their dad to tighten his grip and wrap both arms around Dean's heaving torso to hold onto him better.
All Sam sees is how fragile his brother looks caught up in the trap of John's unrelenting grip. The sight tugs at his heart.
John is beside himself and out of his depth. "Dean! Calm down! You can't let yourself get this worked over one monster, it wasn't even all that bad. Pull your act together and shake it off." Getting no reaction from Dean other than renewed frenzy, their dad tries another tactic. "You don't want your brother to have to keep on sacrificing his childhood to take care of you, do you?"
The accusation sizzles in the air between the three of them. The irony of the statement is almost more than Sam can bear.
Dean gasps. Guilt and horrified dismay slam into Sam's chest, channeled empathically from his brother.
Sam's fist is flying before he can actually make the conscious decision to take his father out. "Let. Him. Go."
A solid sounding thunk of flesh striking flesh accompanies Sam's right hook and John's head rocks back, his arms fall open.
( Chapter 7 )
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