Character(s): Wee Dean and Sam, John
Rating: PG-13 (for language)
Word Count: 2476
Summary: John flashed a dangerous smile. “Much obliged for your help, ma’am. But if you don’t mind, I’ll be keeping a hand on my son.”
Author's Note: Coda to the past events in Something Wicked. Much thanks to dotfic for the beta. She rocks hard, ya'll.
Tomorrow, they’d stop for sure.
They’d hit the Montana state line as the sun came up, unless something happened --
Sam coughed from the backseat, a wet, hacking sound and John felt the back of his neck tense up. The kid had been nursing a cold or something for the last few days and the cough was really beginning to wear on his nerves.
“Dean. Give your brother some more of that cough medicine I bought.”
Just hold on a little while longer, Sammy. We’ll stop when the sun comes up. Promise.
It had been a week. One week since the Shtriga got away. It couldn’t be because of that, could it? This wasn’t because of the Shtriga, it hadn’t been over Sam long enough to do this kind of damage. It was just a cold. It had to be.
Two days since he picked the boys up from Pastor Jim’s and Sam’s been sick ever since. Pastor Jim tried to get them to stay for awhile, but John couldn’t stay.
He had to put his boy back together again.
“Did you give him the medicine like I asked?” John said, looking in the rearview mirror. Dean was nodding at him over the back seat; his pale face illuminated in brief flashes from the oncoming headlights. “What, son?”
Dean turned his head and looked down at his little brother, waiting patiently until another of Sam’s coughing fits diminished before meeting John’s eyes in the mirror. “I think Sammy’s really sick.”
John gripped the wheel under his hands a bit tighter. It was times like this he missed Mary most. “I know, little man. Just let me drive a little bit farther…”
Dean’s small hands settled over the back of the Impala’s front seat. He kneaded the leather as Sam began to cough again, the ugly sound ricocheting off the glass and feeding the slow pounding in John’s head.
“Dad? I mean, Sammy’s really sick. He’s burning up.”
John glanced into the rearview mirror again, his eyes meeting Dean’s scared ones. “What?”
“He’s really hot, Dad. I think he’s got a fever or something and he’s shivering really bad. Daddy, I can’t get him warm.”
Shit, how long's it been since Dean called him Daddy? John took his foot off the gas pedal and turned to look at his younger son. Sam lay hunched in a ball against the back passenger side door, his breathing ragged and shallow. His cheeks were flushed and his tiny hands were clenching John’s brown leather jacket up to his chin. His trembling was so pronounced, John could see it.
“Son of a bitch,” John said.
John pulled into the first motel he could find with a vacancy sign, and pulled Sammy out of the car and into his arms. He could feel the heat radiating off of his body through the layers of clothes he wore. Sam’s head fell forward and rested against John’s neck. The little boy groaned, and the wet wheezing noise John felt as much as heard stuck a dagger in his heart.
“Jesus Christ,” John cursed, the fever burning him. “Come on, Dean.”
They hurried into the motel office. The front desk clerk ambled out of the backroom, took one look at the coughing Sam in John’s arms and called out for his wife.
“Look mister,” the clerk said over John's protests. “My wife’s a student nurse up at the university hospital. Your kid, he looks pretty sick. Sounds horrible. Let my wife…”
The wife came through the door, and John stood up straighter. Long blonde hair, white nightgown and John shook his head. Not Mary, no, not a white nightgown, green scrubs. Not even a blonde, damn it. Sam barked out another set of deep hacking coughs. His head slipped off of John’s shoulder and fell limply against his arm.
“My God,” the wife said, trying to take Sam from John’s arms. “How long has he been like this?”
John flashed a dangerous smile. “Much obliged for your help, ma’am. But if you don’t mind, I’ll be keeping a hand on my son.”
“Follow me then,” she said, gesturing him into the open doorway. “Right inside the door on your left is an empty bedroom. Lie him down on the bed. Tom, go grab my bag from by the front door. Pull me out the thermometer in the inside pocket.” She turned towards Dean. “Hey there, buddy. Can you do me a favor? Right inside the door where your Daddy’s going are some extra blankets. Can you grab them and put them on the edge of the bed for your brother?”
Tom the motel clerk came back with the duffle bag stuffed under his arm. “This is the one you’re looking for, right Rosie?”
The wife nodded, putting her hand on Sam’s head. She reached out her other one towards the case her husband handed her. “Damn it, he’s burning up. Have you given him any over the counter medicine?”
“Uh, yeah about forty five minutes to an hour ago.” John slid his eyes to Dean, who nodded.
“He shouldn’t still have such a high fever, then,” Rosie turned her head and stared at the wall for a moment. “Unless the fever was crazy high to begin with.”
“The fever is new. Just tonight. He’s had the cough for a few days now.”
“Go ahead and take that coat off of him.”
Sam moaned and batted against John’s hands as he pulled the heavy leather coat off his body. Rosie unzipped the case and pulled out the thermometer, unbuttoning his shirt low enough to tuck the thermometer under his arm. With her free hand, she rummaged in until she found a stethoscope. “Can you hold him up for me?”
John nodded and pulled Sam into his lap. She breathed on the end of the stethoscope before putting it on his chest. Listening, she looked up at John, her brows furrowing. “He’s definitely got something going on in the chest. It’s way too noisy in there.”
Sam’s hand hung limply in her grip as she counted his pulse and the sound of wet wheezing filled the room.
“What?” John said, but Rose shook her head at him.
“Mister,” Rosie said without taking her eyes off of Sam. “I’m not a doctor, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt your little boy is very sick.”
She took the thermometer from under Sam’s arm, glanced down at it and did a double take. Jumping up from her knees, she said, “I’m calling an ambulance,” as she rushed out of the room. John glanced down at Sam in his arms, stood up, shifted him onto his hip and carried him into the kitchen.
Pulling the phone off the wall, Rose cradled it between her head and shoulder, handing John the thermometer. Rose punched in three digits with her index finger as he looked down at the sliver of glass in his hand. Three times he had to twist it until he could see the reading clearly. 103. Close to 104. Fuck.
Rosie gave the dispatcher the address of the motel, turned to speak to John and found Dean beside him. “Hi, bud,” she said to him. “I know this is scary right now, but we’ll get your brother better, okay?”
Dean nodded and glanced up at his father still holding Sam tight against him.
“Wouldn’t it be faster if I drive him to the hospital?”
“I hear them!” Sam rasped against John’s chest. “Don’t you hear the red bells, Daddy?”
“He’s hallucinating.” Rosie looked up and stared at John for a moment, gazing at him as if she knew exactly what he was thinking and then she shook her head. “That fever needs to come down. If you gave him medicine already and it’s not working, either it didn’t have a fever reducer in it or his body is resisting the cool down. It might be nothing more than bronchitis or pneumonia, or it could be as serious as meningitis. I’m only a student nurse, I don’t know. The doctors at the hospital will be able to diagnose and treat him there. But if you leave with him and wait and don’t get him medical attention,” Rose took a deep breath and shook her head. “Your son may die.”
He'd wanted a girl.
Towards the end, it had been a tricky pregnancy. Mary ended up on bed-rest for the last few months because her blood pressure kept spiking. He and Dean had become a team, both of them bonding over the lack of Mary’s day to day influence.
Late at night, there had been many conversations of this is it, no more kids, I can’t do this again, I won’t lose you, Mary.
And maybe it had been wrong to think it, but John figured if the baby was a girl, their family would be complete. Even though deep in his heart it didn’t matter as long as the baby and Mary were healthy, he found himself daydreaming about pink ribbons and pigtails, blonde curls and Dean being an over-protective big brother.
And then Samuel was born. And six months later, Mary was dead.
He fought for a long time against loving Sam. Especially as he delved deeper and deeper into Mary’s death, why she died. How she died.
For Sam. Because of Sam. And if it weren’t for Sam, she’d still be alive.
But how was that fair to Sam? He was as much of a victim as both himself and Dean. It wasn’t Sam’s fault he'd been chosen. It wasn’t Sam’s fault John hadn’t woken up in time to save Mary. How could he blame an infant for his own shortcomings?
Who was he to wish it had been his son who died instead of his wife?
So he pushed his feelings down, repressed them, ignored them and made them go away.
Now he was being punished for it.
John was in a fog when the doctors gave their prognosis. Not good, not responding to antibiotics, viral pneumonia, slipped into a coma, touch and go, too soon to tell.
Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.
John sat at Sam’s bedside, forehead resting on his entwined hands.
How does one pray to God when he’s not even sure He exists?
Red fucking bells, his ass.
Two trips out to the Impala. One to cry, the other to try and drink his thoughts away. He met the woman on the way back into the hospital, her smile infectious even as his son lay on the brink of death floors above.
“It’ll be all right, she won’t let him die,” John thought he heard as he walked through the automated doors, but when he turned, she was gone.
He entered the room with whisky on his breath, and Dean rested his small hands on his shoulders when he sat down in the chair beside the hospital bed.
They could do this, the two of them. They could save Sam. If they couldn’t pray to God, maybe they could pray to Mary. John reached for Dean’s hand and clenched it tightly to his chest.
Our Mother, who art in Heaven…
He was sleeping when he felt the hand wrap around his wrist. He awoke with a start, disturbed to find the room empty, so sure she’d been there. The only sound he heard in the room was the machine keeping his boy alive. He stood; stretched and picked Dean up from where he'd fallen asleep on the cold tile floor. That kid could always fall asleep anywhere.
Before he thought about it too much, he put Dean down alongside of Sam. Dean curled his body along his brother’s, his hand snaking his way under the blanket and over Sam’s chest.
John turned from his boys and stared out the window at the lights in the darkness. He couldn’t remember what she smelled like any longer. Did that matter in trying to conjure her ghost?
His son was dying and he was sorry. He was sorry he ever thought he didn’t love him. He was sorry he wished it were Sam instead of Mary. God damn it. He was sorry. Wasn’t that enough? Hadn’t he been punished enough?
All he wanted right now was for his son to live.
If there were demons in this world, if there was a Hell, why couldn’t there be a Heaven? If demons walked the earth hidden in the shell of humans, couldn’t angels as well?
Help me, Mary. I don’t know what to do anymore.
John awoke with a start, the hair on his face raspy against his palms. Morning light shone through the window, lighting on the hair of his boys. Side by side they lay, Dean’s arms tight around Sammy, the nurse on the other side of the bed checking Sammy's vitals.
“Good morning,” she whispered with a smile. “He’s doing so much better today, Mr. Remington. His fever is down and he’s breathing on his own. I didn’t have the heart to move your other son and honestly, I think Sam is doing better because he knows he’s there.”
John nodded, and waited for the nurse to leave before standing. He stared down at his boys, wishing he could give this up, give up the hunt, the quest, the thirst for revenge. They deserved better than this, they deserved their own beds with their own sheets instead of huddled together under blankets in a hospital bed, registered under a false name so they could skip out on the bill. They deserved swing sets and birthday parties, best friends and bicycles.
They deserved to have their mother, and that was the crux of it all. If the boys couldn’t have their mother, they at least deserved the chance to destroy what took her away from them. Giving up the hunt would be giving up on Mary.
John shook his head and rolled his shoulders, trying to release the tension he held there. He stared down at Dean, his face angelic in sleep.
His little killer. The way that kid handled a gun was nothing short of amazing. That boy never ceased to astonish him with his ability to adapt to change. How easily John took advantage of it. Why couldn’t he see his son was still a child? Why couldn’t he allow Dean to make mistakes?
Christ. Hadn’t he made enough of them himself?
There was something John needed to say to Dean. Something he’d forgotten to say, something he should have said a week ago. Something Dean needed to hear to ease the wounded look he’d carried on his face since leaving Pastor Jim’s.
Something John would never say until it was much, much too late.
It wasn’t your fault.