Blessed AssuranceRecipient: marietwistWord Count:
Mature (for language)Warnings:
With great prompts comes great responsibility. I took two, merged them a bit, blurred some lines and threw in a heavy helping of angst. Set after 12x06. It is my sincere hope, dear recipient, that you find something to enjoy somewhere in here. Summary: A family hunt gone bad stirs up unwanted memories for the Winchesters. With a fevered Dean between them, Mary and Sam sort through past and present in order to come to an understanding.
Sam, Dean, and Mary on a road trip post s12 (or mid-s12); Mary takes the time to know her kids; they talk about their past and she tells them what she knows about their ancestry. Family bonding time!
Pre-series, Dean's laid up with an injury from the previous hunt, and Sam walks off on his own and accidentally makes friends with the thing John's hunting right now. Maybe it looks like a dog? Or like a young boy? Either way, Sam and it become best buds! Too bad Sam's Dad wants to kill it, and Sam's brother is worrying himself sick over Sam wandering off all the time.
“Devil dog? Sam, what is he talking about?” Mary’s voice is saturated with worry as she runs the damp cloth over Dean’s face one more time. No matter how many times she draws the cooling water over his brow, the skin remains hot to the touch. “He’s burning up. We’ve got to bring his temperature down. Sam. Sam! You with me?”
There is no response from her youngest son who is holding vigil on Dean’s other side. His hair hangs in his face as he leans over his brother, gripping Dean’s clammy hand in his own.
Frustration boils over in Mary’s heart. She wants something to shoot, to hunt, something that can be dealt with and checked off a list. Feeling helpless as Dean suffers in front of her makes her want to crawl out of her skin.
“Sam, snap out of it.” Mary reaches over and pinches Sam’s forearm viciously.
“Jeez, ouch.” Sam startles. The deep inhale he takes seems to unlock something, and gears begin to turn again.
“What are we going to do?” Mary asks. “We’ve cleaned out the cut with holy water, given him antibiotics, but he’s getting worse. Did you try calling Cas again?”
Between them, laid out on a ratty hotel mattress with his leg swathed in soggy red bandages and sweat soaking his shirt, Dean mumbles incoherently. His mother's tender strokes and soothing whispers have no effect. “...don’t….sssnot what you….ammy...sammy...devil. Ssa vil dog”. The final word trails off into hitched breaths.
Sam’s voice is like steel when he says, “This is your fault.” Mary is surprised at his sudden venom. “Dean found this hunt so that we could be together. He jumped on a flimsy lead just so he could call you and draw you out,” Sam continues. “You wanted space, you pushed him away. He was hurting and now look at him.”
Sam is sorry as soon as the last words leave his mouth. Softening quickly, his apology is almost whispered compared to his previous outburst. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that. It’s not your fault. We would have been on this hunt with or without you. The damn Kitsune moved too fast.”
Mary holds his gaze for moment before nodding. She wants his words not to hurt, but they still do. And she knows he’s hurting too. She can’t help either son with his pain right now. “He jumped in front of you. He was trying to protect you, Sam. It’s not your fault either.”
“He wanted so badly for us to be a family. To make up for lost time, or whatever it is we’re doing. He wants you to be okay, Mom. He’s worried about you, too. He was distracted tonight. Always looking out for everyone but himself.” With a sigh, Sam releases Dean’s hand and stands. “I’m going to grab more cold water and towels.”
As Sam disappears into the bathroom, Dean fidgets and stirs, seeming to react to his brother’s departure. Mary’s hands never leave Dean as she says the first thing that comes to her worried mind, keeping her tone soft and rhythmic, matching the strokes of her fingers through his hair.
“We knew right away you were going to be the best big brother, Dean. As soon as we brought Sam home from the hospital, there was never a doubt in my mind. John--” Her voice breaks. “He was so proud of how you handled it. We heard from everyone that you’d probably be jealous of the new baby, that he would steal attention away from you. But you wanted Sam to be a happy baby. You wanted
to share your toys. Four-year-olds are not known for being generous. You were remarkable, even back then.”
In his fevered state, Dean noticeably turns towards Mary’s voice. She takes this as a sign that she’s doing something right. Her voice gets stronger.
“I remember when one of the neighbor kids wanted to play, his mom brought him over, and he brought Legos. We let you two play while we gossiped in the kitchen around coffee. Sammy was maybe 5 months old, it was just before… before I...left. The other boy got bored pretty quick because you were more interested in cheering Sammy on to roll over for the first time. You would’ve thought Sam had won a Nobel prize, the way you ran over to announce that your baby brother had finally rolled over by himself. Like you had a direct hand in it.”
“He did.” Sam interrupts the memory, drawing her back to the present.
Dropping more washcloths on the bed and a fresh bowl of water in front of Mary, Sam takes a moment before continuing, wanting to find the right words to express something so important to his mother. He wants to get this right. He wants his mother to know and understand at least this one thing. “He’s been a part of every good thing I’ve ever done. From then to now. He’s always been the voice in my head telling me I could do it. There wasn’t anyone else.”
Mary’s face falls.
“I don’t mean it like that. It’s okay, it’s not your fault. You couldn’t help that John turned...distant. Cold. His choices after you were gone were his choices, not yours. But Dean, Dean didn’t have you.” Sam picks up Dean's hand one more time. “But I had him.” He clears his throat before continuing.
“Dad didn’t have anything good to say, really. But Dean’s voice, man, I clung to every word he said. I may have flipped him off more times than I can count and acted like a spoiled brat, but, I swear, every
word, I took it to heart. So. I had him
. But he didn’t have anyone, really. He needed someone to tell him that it was going to be okay, that he could take a break and be a kid sometimes. He didn’t get that.”
Instead of feeling better by sharing all of this with his mother, Sam is agitated, shifting uncomfortably in his chair. Dean’s throaty whimpers are suddenly an unwanted assault on his senses. “But still, he gave me everything he could give. He’s the most selfless bastard on the planet.”
The visual of Dean, hurt once again because he was looking out for Sam, yet now finally with his mom at his side, is too much. It’s the very thing that Dean had always wanted, more than anything, but never gotten. It’s a hole that Sam could never fill for Dean.
Mary can see something more is going on in Sam’s head but before she can ask, he’s jumping off the chair like he’s been burned.
“I need air.”
“I’ll be back,” Sam interrupts, already halfway to the door.
“Sam, his fever is-”
“I’ll raid a pharmacy and bring something back.” As his hand turns the knob, he stops but doesn’t look at Mary when he says, “The devil dog is-.” A heavy pause. “I think he’s dreaming. The fever is giving him crazy dreams. That’s all.”
Mary wants to demand more. Guilt is written all over Sam’s face and it doesn’t make any sense to her.
“Take care of him. You’re here now. Just - be here for him now
,” Sam pleads. And without another word Sam is gone.
Sam is 12, Dean is 16
“Dean, Dad told you to stay in bed.” Sam’s bitchface is in full force.
“You don’t understand, Sam, something's not right with this kid. You are not going to his house tonight and that’s final.” As Dean struggles to stand up, the world tilts at an alarming rate. All color drains from his face and he ends up back on the bed in a graceless flop.
“See.” Sam is attempting to seem practical, but it comes across cold. He stuffs down any remorse because there’s no way he’s backing down now. He rarely has a chance to assert control and test his suffocating boundaries. He sees an opening and pushes. Hard
“I’m going to Daniel’s. His dad is home so you don’t have to worry about anything. I’ve told you every day for the past two weeks that we had this science project together, and now it’s our last night to finish it. He needs a good grade or his dad will go postal. You’re sick and just need to sleep. I’m doing this, so deal with it.”
Dean hasn’t been able to shake the flu that has kept him confined to his room for far too many days. John left before it started, and the distracted father still has no idea that his son is sick. But Dean is determined to tough it out, to take care of Sam. And now, all of Dean’s ‘something’s-not-right’ antennas are picking up something that won’t let him rest.
“Sam, I need you to listen to me. This stupid town has something hinky going on and I think Daniel’s family is involved somehow. I’m useless right now, so I need you to. Stay. The. Fuck. Home.” Dean uses every ounce of the air he has remaining in his ravaged lungs to drive his point home.
Sam looks at Dean through narrowed eyes. He can’t back down now, he won’t. “Is that an order?”
It’s obvious that Dean needs to change tactics if he’s going to get anywhere. Given the fact that their dad isn’t there to referee and Dean isn’t in shape to physically lock Sam in his room, Dean throws down his last ditch effort, hating every word. “Man, I really don’t feel good, can you just stay with me for tonight instead of going out? I could use the help.”
Sam seems to be considering this and for a moment Dean is hopeful. Maybe it’s Dean’s pride that leads him to try and make things lighter instead of begging him to stay. He adds, “You know, spoon-feed me some soup, mop my brow, change the channel for me.”
Whatever affect Dean had hoped his words would have on his brother, he was not expecting what comes out of Sam’s mouth next.
“I’m not your mom, Dean.”
The air is frozen around him and Sam knows he’s blown it. Caught between his own horror at what he just said and his stubborn refusal to back down now that he’s asserted himself, he stands paralyzed for a long minute. Then, not knowing what else to do but get as far away as possible, Sam quickly snatches his backpack off the floor and bolts to the door. He almost misses Dean’s words before he slams the door behind him.
It’s a quiet and wounded response. “Yeah. Okay, Sam.”
“Shhh, take it easy, Dean, you’re okay.” Words of assurance filter into Dean’s brain through the heavy fog and pain. “It’s okay, I’m here. You’re fine. Sam is fine. You need to calm down, kiddo.”
A cool hand keeps running down his face, accompanying the gentle words. Every bone in his body feels like it’s on fire so he attempts to lean closer to the source, chasing some semblance of relief. He’s determined to open his eyes, and after a few false starts, is successful. The room is too bright but he blinks until the blobs of light turn into a human looking shape.
“Sammy? You ‘kay? What happened?”
“Hey, welcome back, Dean.”
Confusion grips Dean and his heart responds by racing, taking his breath away.
“It’s okay, you’re okay, Dean.”
The misshapen blob of yellow light morphs into blonde hair and concerned blue eyes. His angel care-taker comes into focus. Her cool hands continuing to soothe him.
“What?” Dean’s eyes are still glassy with fever and he blinks like it’s going out of style. Looking past his angel he scans the room frantically, not finding what he’s looking for. “Where’s Sammy?”
“He’s-. Uh, he just went out for second. He’ll be back soon.”
An alarm in Dean’s head goes off loud and angry. He’s not even aware that he told his arms and legs to move, but regardless, his body is in motion. A flailing arm knocks into the saint sitting next to him, resulting in a pained grunt and curse.
“Dammit, Dean. Stop it, lay down, you’re not thinking straight.”
“He’s with the devil dog, he needs to get out of there, I need…I need to get to him...I can’t.” Dean’s energy leaves him as suddenly as it came, and he wilts back into the bed, still upset. Reaching out and grasping the arm attached to the healing hands, he grips hard to make his point.
“You need to get Sammy. I can’t. I can’t help him and he’s... he’s in trouble and you need to help him. I’m sick, I can’t… please…the devil dog, his friend, stupid kid, doesn’t know any better.” Dean’s voice fades and his grip loosens as he starts to sink back into unconsciousness.
“Okay, okay. I’ll help him. I’ve got him. You don’t have to worry.” Soothing assurance returns and it’s all Dean needs in order to let go and return to his fevered dreams.
As Sam reenters the hotel room, he pauses at the sight in front of him. Mary is tending to her adult son, tenderly feeling his forehead and wiping his sweat. He can hear her humming a tune faintly, leaning in close to Dean’s ear. The scene takes his breath away for a moment. He clears his throat to make his presence known. “Hey. How’s he doing?”
Sam’s not expecting the cold glare Mary gives him. Fear takes root. “What’s wrong? Did he get worse?”
“Why did you leave?” Mary demands. Since returning, Dean has been the one she was struggling to connect with, not Sam. Sam had seemed to embrace her, to welcome getting to know her. But today’s newfound persona of running hot and cold is making her spin out.
Sam takes a moment to answer, ashamed to admit that guilt from something he said as a kid was returning to completely throw him off kilter. “I just needed some air.”
“That’s not good enough.” Her eyes harden further. “He was asking for you and you weren’t here.”
Sam snaps. “Well, I could say the same thing to you.”
Mary pales, then all the fight leaves her. Sam can see it drain away. “Jesus, Sam, what the hell has gotten into you?”
Sam sheds his jacket and drops a white paper bag on the bed before slumping in the bedside chair, retaking his post on Dean’s right hand side. There is so much to say that the words get stuck in his throat. A hundred unspoken things hang between them and he doesn’t know how to triage which is most important.
Mary breaks the silence first. “Tell me about the devil dog,” she prompts. “I know you know something. Don’t deny it. He keeps saying it. Something about you being gone and needing help, and he couldn’t help you. What’s that all about?”
Dean shifts in his tortured sleep, as if the words spark his dreams to run wild again.
“It was a long time ago,” Sam begins. “I was in middle school. Made a friend at school. A kid who was...strange. He was a loner. We had changed schools so many times that it was natural for me to just try and coast by, keep my head down, not bother to try and fit in.” He sighs and settles into his chair as the memory surfaces.
“I felt sorry for him- Daniel. Maybe we had some things in common. His dad was a Marine and a jerk who pushed his son around. I thought maybe I could be a friend to him. Stupid.” He stops suddenly.
“What was stupid about that? Sounds like you were doing a good thing.”
Sam huffs out a sour laugh. “Taking in strays was Dean’s M.O., not mine. I wanted to be cool. I hated, no, I resented
, that we couldn’t stay in one place long enough to get noticed by girls or to make the honor roll. I was stuck in a loop of constant frustration. Dean was the one who would find friends wherever we went. He’d make everyone love him instantly. He could charm the pants off the teacher who was failing him, get the hottest girl in school to ask him out, and make sure that all of his classmates felt like a million bucks. Even the losers.”
The tension and worry in Mary’s face now blends into a soft smile.
“What? Why are you smiling?”
“It’s just that I, uh, I don’t know these things.” Mary’s expression turns sad. “I knew you as a baby, and now as an adult. But I missed all the in-between. I know you both turned out as good men. The way you’re talking about Dean right now- I wish I had been there to see it.”
Sam takes out a prescription bottle of the white pharmacy bag. At Mary’s raised eyebrow, he merely shrugs. “Mr. Seth Murkowski will be confounded when he tries to pick up his medicine tomorrow.”
As Sam carefully measures out a dose for Dean, he continues, “Well, I didn’t quite handle things the same way Dean did. I kept to myself, studied like crazy. I didn’t usually care about the outcasts. I was too busy being angry at Dad or just at life. But Daniel, he, uh, he was different.”
“Maybe I thought he could relate. Maybe I was trying to be more like Dean. Thought I could help someone. Dad didn’t let me help with anything. I don’t know, really. I decided I would be Daniel’s friend. So I was. And he needed it. More than I realized.”
Sam pauses to shake Dean. “Hey, man, time for some medicine. Wake up, Dean.” Together Sam and Mary rouse Dean enough to get him to drink the medicine.
“Yeah, Dean, I’m right here. You can rest, man.”
“Sammm, you cann’ go...ssnot safe. I can’t, I can’t…”
“It’s okay, Dean, I’m safe, you took care of it, it’s all over now.”
“Yep, you were a big damn hero, it’s all over. I’m okay. You’re okay.”
“S’good.” Dean relaxes into a fitful sleep once more.
Sam runs his hand up and down Dean’s arm, even after he’s no longer listening. “I’m right here.”
“Sam, what happened back then? Was Daniel in trouble?” Mary presses.
“Yeah, in a way. One of Daniel’s ancestors made a bad crossroads deal during World War I. A rogue hell-hound messed things up royally and it led to a generational curse. Unfortunately, the curse already had a grip on Daniel’s dad. You remember how he was a Marine? Devil dog is the nickname that Germans gave U.S. Marines during the war.
“So, Daniel hadn’t yet manifested the curse until this one night I was over there working on a school project. It’s a long story, actually. And I think Dean should be the one to tell it since he’s the one who figured out what was going on.”
Between them, Dean takes a deep breath and visibly relaxes, the medicine starting to work its way through his body. Mary feels his skin with the back of her hand. “I think his fever is starting to come down.” Both Mary and Sam share a look of relief. The tension in the air starts to shed right along with Dean’s fever.
“Dean didn’t want me to go to Daniel’s that night, but I said something really terrible and ran off. Dean was quite sick, but still, he, uh. He was the one who saved the day in the end. I wasn’t paying attention to the warning signs. Dean’s got great instincts, and honestly I was only a kid. I just, wasn’t- I don’t know. I was just trying to survive.” With this confession, Sam feels the twisted guilt around his heart start to loosen its grip.
“You did the best you could, kid. You all did.” Mary prays that someday Sam will truly believe this and absolve himself. Maybe someday she’ll believe that about herself, too.
Sam doesn’t acknowledge Mary’s exoneration but continues. “So yeah, when Dean feels better he should tell you the story of the devil dog and his stubborn kid brother who made friends with a monster.” Sam lets out a soft snort, the words leaving a bitter taste in their wake. Even back then, he had been lured in by the darkness and put his trust in the wrong people. First Daniel, then Amy and Ruby. Shaking his head, Sam tries to hold the shame at bay.
“Did Dean have to kill Daniel?”
“No, Dean saved me, saved Daniel’s mom too. But in the end, it was Dad who took care of Daniel and his father. Dean was too sick. I stayed and took care of Dean while Dad…” Sam trails off. “After that, I tried to trust Dean’s gut more, but I’m still pretty stubborn. And I tried to be there more for him when he needed it. But after that, he never asked for help if he was sick, or pretty much ever.”
“Thank you, Sam.”
“For telling me this. And for being there for him. You know, my great grandmother was a nurse during World War I.”
“Really. Her name was Edith. My grandmother would tell me stories about her. She sounded like Wonder Woman, the way Granny would tell it. Bad-ass before that was even a thing. Would go the extra mile to save someone. Wouldn’t give up for anything. It sounds like you and Dean both have some of her in you.” She offers Sam a small smile.
Sam accepts the smile and says in return, “How about later we swap the devil dog story for some stories about great-great grandma Edith?”
“Sounds like a deal.” Mary eagerly agrees.
Sam tests the waters. “Are you able to stay a while? Dean might be out of it for a bit longer.”
“Yeah, I can stay until Dean’s feeling better, Sam. Maybe spoon-feed him some soup. I’m sure he’ll hate that,” Mary laughs.
Sam stares long and hard at Mary, and she wonders what she said wrong.
“Yeah, that would be good. You should do that.” Sam once more clears his throat. “Since you’re here now.”