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Title: Breathe Me
Rating: PG-13 with bad language (Dean drops some bombs)
Chapter: 2 of 2
Spoilers: Beginning of Season 2.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Title taken from Sia's "Breathe Me".
Summary: Written for [livejournal.com profile] shangrilada's prompt at [livejournal.com profile] ohsam's fic challenge. Dean really doesn't want to do this, but Sam's cough isn't getting better, and so yeah, maybe the kid's been having some nightmares about hospitals, but they don't really have a choice, and it'll be fine. Sure.
Wordcount: 9,007 total. This section roughly 5,000.

A/N: There are two POVs in this fic, one past tense, one present. It'll make sense when you start reading it, but truly, I knew what I was doing when I wrote it. Really.



It's the longest hour of Dean's life, and that's saying something. He's had a ton of long hours. Waiting on a hunt, waiting to see if his little brother would live after a bad hunt, getting the pyre ready for his dad. Lots of long hours.

This one, though. This one goes down as the worst.

He'd finished Some Paperwork and turned it back in, after finding a pen that worked. By the time he was done Sam's nose was almost to his knees and his hands were wrapped around the back of his head, face firmly buried in his arms. He kept coughing and clutching at his chest, his hand permanently affixed to the area above his heart.

The doors would open a some point, a nurse calling out for someone to come back, and the noise from behind the doors would get louder. Sam would flinch and bury himself impossibly further and just fuck that shit, okay? Some random building isn't going to take his kid down. Dean might not be able to do anything against the damn infection spreading through his brother's chest, but he can do something about the hospital. Or at least try.

He pulls himself up with his gaze on one of the longer seats, the ones meant to hold multiple people, the one a young couple has just vacated. It's even further away from the doors, which makes it perfect. “Sammy,” Dean calls softly, this time making sure Sam's heard him before touching him. “Up and at 'em, kiddo. We're making a quick move.”

The slight movement of Sam's uncurling results in a coughing fest that leaves him gasping for air and looking greener around the gills than before. Dean catches his wrist and tries not to cringe at the speeding pulse. If someone doesn't come out soon...

“Whe....” Sam tries, only to cough some more. Dean takes the chance to pull Sam to his feet, only to wind up with an armful of six four not so little-little brother. Dean wraps his arms as tightly as he dares around his kid and steers them towards the vacated bench.

“Better digs. We're moving up in the world: we get the sofa now.” He sits them both down and now he can actually have Sam curl up next to him without those damn armrests between them. This works.

Except Sam's got other plans and keeps sliding down until his head's resting against Dean's shoulder, feet up and off the floor. It's a tight fit with Sam's Multiple Limbs Of Huge Proportions, but Dean's dealt with them before, and most things bow to their mighty size, though the couch looks like it might have something to say about them. Sam's feet wind up shoved against the armrest of the sofa, and the kid's neck has to be at an awkward angle, and that's why Dean moves him again, okay? Plus, now he'll have access to his pulse point better.

But truth is, the kid's gone past worrying him to a half second from panic with this coughing and racing pulse and fever, so if Dean winds up moving Sam's head from against his shoulder to Dean's lap, it's his prerogative, fuck you very much. Laying down probably isn't very good for his breathing but Sam actually relaxes a little, minute shaking easing to a slight tremor, and Dean lets himself shut his eyes for half a second.

“Sam Harrison?”

Well, so much for that.

The nurse is looking around, eyes not looking very interested, and Dean sighs but raises his hand. The one that's not resting on Sam's shoulder, that is, and damn if the kid hasn't tensed right back up again. Goddammit.

The nurse wanders over and says in a very firm manner, “It's going to be a little bit longer, on account of the car accident we had earlier,” and no, no no no, you couldn't have said anything else except car accident? and there goes Sam coughing, back to tiny breaths that leave Dean's lungs aching in sympathy.

At least that registers the nurse's attention. She bends down with her stethoscope and tries to gently pry Sam's hand from his chest. Sam reluctantly lets her, and as soon as the stethoscope hits Sam's chest, it's game over. Her eyes widen before she looks up at Dean, Sam seemingly forgotten. “How long has his heart rate been like this?”

“Since we got him in here,” Dean snaps, because fuck, his brother's sick and getting more freaked out by the minute, and her worry, as sincere as it might be now, isn't helping anything. It's just making Sam more tense and making his coughing that much worse.

The nurse either doesn't hear his sharp tone or chooses to ignore it, instead heading for the doors with a lot more pep in her step. Shit. “S'bad,” Sam whispers, voice shredded.

“Not that bad,” Dean lies. “Just rest up a bit. You're fine, I promise, okay? I got you. I'm right here.”

And it shouldn't matter so much but apparently it does. Sam goes nearly boneless on him, just a random shiver and raspy breath here and there, and the trust that Dean doesn't deserve for letting this go on longer than it has makes his eyes burn. God, his kid brother, his little brother who's not so little anymore but always his little brother with his big eyes and fingers wrapped around Dean's jeans like he'll never let go.

Dean keeps his one hand on Sam's shoulder and uses his free hand to run fingers through Sam's hair, brushing against the heat coming from his kid's forehead. It'll be a whirlwind in a little bit. But not now. Just not right now, please.



Everything went to hell so fast, Sam couldn't believe it.

Dad got mad, and when was that new? Never mind that one of his sons was lying a few rooms over, barely alive. Never mind that his other son was in front of him, barely standing. Sam felt worse than before, shivering in earnest, the light keeping him from seeing anything, and his head, oh god his head. Then he'd had to go and see Bobby about the Impala and Dad's list and Bobby had wondered why the hell he wasn't in a bed of his own at the hospital. Sam couldn't. Even with the sunlight shining straight through his head and not warming him at all and the world getting dizzy and god, his head, his head, his HEAD, he'd been out of the hospital for a little bit. Everything had been okay.

So of course the first thing he'd done upon going back into the hospital had been to throw up, this time in a bathroom stall at least. Then he was off to Dad with the things from the list, off to see Dean and talk to Dean through the Ouija board and god he'd missed his brother, and then the reaper and then Dean waking up and everything had been okay for all of thirty seconds. For all of thirty seconds, even with his stomach clenching, even with his vision still gray at the edges, his head out of sync with his body and his arm still burning from the drugs and the saline, everything had been okay. He'd gone off to get coffee with weak legs and a hopeful heart.

And then he'd seen his dad on the floor. Not breathing.

A time was permanently etched into his brain, the room was closing in and Dean, god Dean, the look on his face and the sheet being pulled over Dad's face and Dad

Dean falling against the wall, staring at nothing,

Dad

Sam's stomach refusing to stop clenching, nothing coming out,

Gruff voice firm voice soft voice

Nurses pushing them out of the room, ignoring Sam when his legs finally gave,

Hard eyes angry eyes smiling eyes

Dean getting him to a chair, Dean's face white as a sheet,

Sheet over his head, Dad Dad Dad

Daddy

The throbbing in Sam's head took over, and he mercifully let himself fall into the black.




There's still no room in the back of the ER apparently, no room at the inn for the Winchesters, but the nurse does come out with an IV bag to give to Sam. Sam lurches back and away from the needle, and Sam's many things, but he's not afraid of needles. Dean stitched him up two weeks ago back in some random motel, ten stitches total, and the kid didn't even blink.

Dean knows why Sam hates hospitals, has nightmares about them, or at least, he thought he did. Now, he's not so sure.

Between the nurse's patient insistence and Dean's coaxing, they finally get Sam to agree to the IV. “It's just some saline,” the nurse tells Sam, and Sam cringes but lets her do it. She offers Sam a pillow, a blanket, all of which Sam refuses, instead staying curled up on Dean's lap like Dean's all he's got left in the world. The truth of the statement makes Dean choke on his next breath and have to swallow it back fast. Sam's all Dean's got left. Dean's all his little brother has left. There's friends, there's Bobby, there's the car and their dad's journal. But all they've truly got left is each other.

A man in scrubs comes out from the ER, and the sound of someone's loud, panicked voice from ER beyond makes Sam shudder. Dean tightens his hand on his shoulder and makes sure not to move his legs to keep Sam steady.

“You're Sam Harrison?”

Dean glances up and blinks at the man in scrubs who suddenly appears before them. The man smiles and bends down in front of Sam. “I'm Mark, one of the assistants here in the ER. We're gonna see if we can get a doctor out here for you in a jiffy, how's that?”

“Anything a doctor can do about his heart rate?” Dean asks, forcing Mark's too cheerful smile up to Dean's face. Mark frowns, so Dean elaborates, pretty damn graciously on his part if he does say so himself. “The one that's been over 120 for, oh, a few hours now?”

Mark quickly takes Sam's hand – the one with the IV in it, of course, making Sam take in a trembling breath and Dean take in a sharp warning one – and frowns at the pulse. “Let's see if we can't get that to slow down a little,” he says. “How exactly did this happen?”

Dean, as calmly as he can, explains about the inhaler, why they needed it, and oh yeah, the cough that won't end, which Sam chooses that moment to exhibit. Mark's frown keeps dropping as Dean finishes. “With his cough, I don't want to go with oral drugs, which I'll verify with one of the doctors. Let me get him a cough suppressant and something for the heart rate, see if we can't reverse the effects of the inhaler.”

“N'drugs,” Sam manages to get out between coughs. “Don't...don't want...”

Mark's not even listening to Sam, and just keeps going. “Is he running a fever at all? It looks like he is. I'd like to get chest x-rays too, see how bad the infection is. Let me get another IV bag with a good cocktail, and we'll be set.” He turns to walk away and Sam lets out a soft whimper of frustration and fear, and that's it.

“You were going to check his chart first, right?” Dean calls, making Mark stop.

“Sorry?”

“Y'know, his chart. The thing I spent a god-awful hour filling out to make sure his allergies get taken care of, or was that just something fun to do? Because I'd much prefer word searches and coloring books, not random forms,” Dean says casually, but his gaze is hard as he glares at Mark. “And last I looked, I wasn't the patient, Sam was. Sam wants to know if there's any way to do this without drugs.”

Mark's lips pinch together in a very unflattering way. “I'm very sorry, sir, but drugs are sort of necessary at this point. You'll be speaking with a doctor shortly,” and storms off behind the ER doors.

Dean glares at the doors, trying to send his gaze all the way through until they hit Mark in the back of his goddamn prissy head, because who the hell does he think he is, playing with his kid's life like that? “Fuck you too,” Dean mutters under his breath.

“I hate 'sir',” Sam whispers, before letting out another cough. It's weaker and softer, nothing good.

Dean carefully turns Sam until his head's a little more upright on Dean's lap. “Yeah, I do too,” Dean says with a sigh. “Nothing good comes out of it. Just people that think they know best.”

“Got it a lot when...y'know,” Sam finishes miserably and when Dean looks down, Sam's staring at his hand with the IV. “Hate it,” he murmurs. “Burned like you wouldn't believe.”

Past tense, not present. Still not anything Dean wants to hear. Especially since he's apparently missing more than the general story than what the nurses at the hospital told him after...after Dad. One minute, they were calling the time of death, and the next, Sam was hitting the ground, out cold and looking like shit. Apparently had been that way for awhile. He'd been told the gist of it while they'd wheeled Sam down to another room.

He realizes now he's missing the little pieces, the things that matter the most to Sam and thus matter even more to Dean. Unfortunately, asking Sam now would border on cruel.

Another man, this one with a white coat over his scrubs, comes straight towards them, no looking around the waiting room required, apparently. Dean takes a deep breath and prepares to argue.

“Mr. Harrison? I'm Doctor Clemstat. If you'll come with me, we have a room for you in the back.”

That sort of takes the sails out of his argument, and all his energy is spent bringing Sam to his feet and half supporting, half carrying his kid into the hallway of the ER. It's louder inside, with nurses talking and the doctor ahead of them animatedly discussing what they're going to put Sam on, and Sam's taking smaller and fewer steps until they finally stop all together and Sam puts his feet in the Not Going Any Further position, the one he learned when he was five and figured out he couldn't go to school with Dean, and he wasn't having any of that. If Dean pulls really hard at Sam, Sam'll probably move, but he takes one look at the kid's white face, his stricken gaze, and decides talking might do better than walking at this point. “Sam. Sam. Sammy. Hey, look at me, kiddo. Sammy.”

Sam turns his head a little towards Dean, but his eyes are darting everywhere in the hallway. Dean'll take it for what it is. “Hey, we're gonna get something for the cough, all right? And your heart because dude, you can only be a mighty Superman with a pulse faster than the speed of light for so long, okay?” He has no idea if any of this is registering with Sam at all, if the kid can even hear him, but it's worth a shot. Sam's always been worth the extra mile.

Sam doesn't say anything, but after a long moment he nods, a short sort of jerky nod, and takes a step forward, and Dean couldn't honestly be more proud of his kid if he tried. Just...god, his Sammy.

They make it to the room and get Sam seated on the bed, where Sam sits on the edge and makes no move to lay down. “Let's get you down to give your heart some reprieve, how's that sound?” Dr. Clemstat says, already going to help pull Sam's legs up.

It goes downhill from there. Sam struggles to help and hinder both at once, and it takes both Dean and the doctor to get Sam up on the bed. Sam's breathing hard and coughing until his lips turn blue and there's no sound coming out of his mouth at all. The oxygen mask goes on, nurses come in fast with some drug that they pump into the IV before Dean can even say anything. Sam's eyes go wide and watery, his hand with the IV shaking helplessly as if to dislodge it, and Dean hates himself more than words can describe.

“It's just a small sedation to calm him down,” the doctor says somewhere off in the distance, or so it sounds. Dean's got no senses for anyone except Sam. Sam's eyes are falling shut despite his fighting, and he won't look away from Dean.

Dean swallows and takes Sam's flailing hand in his. “Right here,” he says softly. “I'm right here, Sammy. Not going anywhere.”

Sam's eyes slowly shut and stay shut, his hand going limp in Dean's. The oxygen mask keeps fogging with his weak breaths, and doctors and nurses are still working around him. If they've asked him to leave, Dean hasn't heard it. Not that he'd listen anyway. He's got more important things to do, like hold Sam's hand and brush the hair from his brother's face.

And sit and wonder about the last time they were in the hospital, because Sam's fear is way too great for him to ignore.



When Sam came to again, he was in yet another hospital bed. Different room, same lights, same smell. It made him want to hurl all over again, though the taste in his mouth told him he'd already done that at some point recently. His head ached, like someone had punched his brain and left bruises, but the sharp pain had faded some. The agony that had been behind his left eye was lingering in the background, just taunting him with the ability to come out and play. He felt like he'd been in a car wreck, he thought ironically. For the first time since they'd crashed, his pain matched the event. His dad usually said that he felt like roadkill after a hunt that went-

Dad. Used to say.

Sam slowly turned his gaze to his side, where Dean was sitting. Cuts and a few bruises danced across his brother's face, reminders of the accident that had almost taken his life but somehow, somehow, hadn't. Dean had been allowed to live, and Dad...

Dean tiredly lifted his head and blinked when he saw Sam staring back at him. “Got your bell rung pretty hard, apparently,” Dean said quietly. “Worst concussion the doctor's seen in years. Cracked your skull. Your left eye's gonna be a little messed up for awhile, but you should...should be okay,” he said, choking on a breath before coughing and continuing again. “Bad reaction to the pain meds they gave you. Said you were pretty sick, have been since you first woke up.”

“Dean,” Sam said softly, but Dean shook his head.

“I'm fine, Sam.”

Fine wasn't a word he'd use to describe either of them. Tears gathered in his eyes, but Dean didn't need them right then, and Sam couldn't afford them. Not when they made his eye twinge with pain and his head start throbbing again. “When can we leave?” he whispered.

“As soon as you woke up,” Dean said, and Sam realized his brother was in the same bloody clothes he'd worn at the cabin. There was blood staining the front of his shirt, a rip in the arm from the car wreck, dirt matted here and there. He looked like...like a man who'd survived a car crash and a demon attack.

Dad's clothes had been perfectly clean, and Sam felt like throwing up again.

Concerning his own clothes, Sam realized with gratitude that they were on, with only his boots missing again. “Are you okay to go?” Dean asked, his voice distant, like he was barely hanging on.

“More than,” Sam said emphatically, pushing himself to sitting. His head immediately burst into pain, stars crossed his vision, and his stomach clenched again, but he was through. His hand ached when he brought it down on the bed to steady himself, and Dean leaned forward, eyes widening as if to catch him. “I'm fine, Dean,” Sam said, aiming for the same firm tone Dean had used just a few moments before. There was nothing that was keeping Sam in the hospital where he'd suffered pain and nearly lost his brother and...

God, Dad...

He nearly pushed himself to his feet when Dean stopped him. “You need your boots,” was all he said, but he knelt and put Sam's boots on, like Dad used to when he was little. Sam bit his lip to keep the tears from falling, the memory sharp and straight through his heart. His dad was gone. His dad was gone, and there was nothing that was going to fix that.

Dean. Dean was here. He had Dean, hadn't lost him too, and Sam couldn't help but reach out and grab hold of Dean's shoulder if just to see that it moved, that he was alive, and Sam wasn't alone anymore. Dean inhaled sharply and glanced up, and there was a maelstrom of pain in his eyes that he was trying so hard to shove down.

Sam didn't care, so long as they left the smell of cleaner and the cold air behind. “Can we go?” he pleaded, his eyes burning. Oh god, he wanted to leave and never ever come back. Even though his stomach was sore and tight and his skin felt too hot and tight (fever, that's what it was, Dad had never told him after all) and his head just throbbed.

Dean cracked a little, worry and grief spilling out onto his face. “Sammy-”

“Sir? We have your paperwork,” a nurse said, sticking her head into the room. “We just need you to sign if you can.”

Sam could sign. He pushed himself off the bed and strode as best he could towards the door. His legs felt a little shaky but he gripped the pen in his tender hand and signed. It wasn't even his name, and he didn't care: he wanted to leave. He wanted to leave the place and never ever come back.

The nurse went away with the paperwork and Dean came up behind him, a hovering presence that made everything okay. Just a little okay for a bit. “C'mon,” was all he said, as if he hadn't been worried and concerned a few moments before. But his hand was on Sam's back, his shoulder up against Sam's to keep him steady, and Sam focused on that all the way out of the hospital.

The pain only got worse out in the sunshine, where Bobby was apparently waiting at the curb. Sam took his first breath of free air and thought of his dad back behind him, never breathing again.

He held his head in his hands the entire way to Bobby's and pretended it was because of the physical pain.




Turns out, the nurses did ask Dean to leave, but it didn't go past that, because apparently it's obvious that Dean's not leaving. Especially when Dean sits himself on the edge of the plastic seat and wraps his arms around Sam and Sam's shoulders, fingers on Sam's pulse point and in his hair. Dr. Clom-whatever said they were aiming for a pulse rate in the mid 50's. “He should be resting at about 55 with his lungs the way they are,” he said. “We'll get it down.”

Sam's pulse is coming down, slowly but surely; Dean's been listening to the sounds of the heart monitor for awhile that they hooked up after they took Sam's shirts and jacket off. He's in a gown now, though his pants are still on. They took the belt off, but allowed him to keep his jeans and his socks. His boots are in the corner with his clothes, just like they were last time.

Last time. It always comes back to last time.

“D'n?”

Dean's eyes jerk up to where Sam's blearily blinking. “Hey kiddo,” he says gently. “How's life?”

Sam slowly glances around the room, eyes still half-lidded and not tracking right. “Fuzzy,” is all he manages, the word slurred. Still drugged to the gills, then. He lets his head fall towards Dean and focuses on Dean briefly. “We go now?” he asks, and Dean's heart breaks.

“Not yet,” Dean says regretfully. Sam's trying to fidget now, but the drugs aren't letting him move much, and it's not going to take long for that to make the kid panic. Already his heart rate's kicked up a notch, and they've had him rocking around the 70-75 range. It's not great but it's better, and he'd even dipped down to a resting rate of 66 before he woke up.

“Hey,” Dean says. He curls his arms up, forcing Sam to turn towards Dean. The nasal cannula comes with him easily, thank god, because the last thing Dean needs is for the nurse to come in and holler at him. Not that Dean wouldn't holler back, but he doesn't need Sam upset. The whole point is to keep Sam not upset, so he brings Sam towards him, cradling his kid in his arms while he drags the chair with him with his foot until he's right up against Sam's bed. He leans forward until his forehead's up against Sam's, a light pressure that forces Sam to focus on him. “Sammy. Hey, Sammy.”

Sam blinks at him, still obviously not with it but listening all the same. The beeping of the monitor starts to drop off again, no longer as fast. Dean lets himself smile for the first time in what seems like weeks and really means it. “Hey,” he says warmly. “I'm right here. We're gonna get you out of here in no time, all right?”

“Hand,” Sam murmurs, barely lifting the hand with the IV in it. “Burned.”

“Does it now?”

Sam frowns a little, like Dean's speaking in Swahili, but then just closes his eyes and lets his hand drop. Dean's going to assume the answer's no. “Hurts,” Sam mumbles. “But n'like it did.” He coughs twice and takes a sharp inhale, like he's got to take in as much oxygen as he can, but then he doesn't cough anymore and Dean takes his own breath.

“Not like it did?” Dean asks. “In the waiting room?”

Sam shakes his head, his skin rubbing against Dean's. “Before,” he whispers with a sigh. “Dad.”

The other hospital. Dean swallows. “Did it hurt worse?” he asks, his voice still so low. Sam's right in front of him, literally, curled in his arms. Their own little world, just SamnDean and no one else allowed in. Sam's breathing in raspy breaths, though the color's returned to his face, thanks to the oxygen. He's got his kid drugged on god knows what, but he hasn't had an adverse reaction to it, and Sam's heart rate continues to drop.

Sam opens his eyes barely, but there's a stronger recognition in them now. “Head. Light, s'bright, and m'eyes...” He frowns a little. “Sick,” he mumbles. “Everythin' was wrong.”

There's a world of remembered pain there that Dean'll demand to hear when the kid's not barely hanging onto consciousness. He'll pack his brother into bed and feed him soup and make him watch cartoons and pull the pain out, one word at a time if he needs to. Give him hot cocoa and Lucky Charms and everything Sam could want.

For now, he'll settle with keeping Sam close. “Tell me what to do,” he says anyway, unable to help himself. “Tell me what you want, Sammy.”

Sam lets his eyes close all the way and slides in even closer to Dean. “Stay,” he murmurs. “Don't wanna be alone again. Jus'...jus' need you.”

The air gets a little harder to breathe and it burns in his eyes, that's the only reason Dean's eyes water. It has nothing to do with the fact that his little brother just issued him a platinum Big Brother Card that he doesn't deserve and told him he could keep it if he just sits where he is and does nothing except be there, and Dean's mind flashes him to the hospital with Dad and Sam passing out and that had only been after Dean had woken up, and Sam had done it all alone. Suffered alone, had no one there to hold his hand or wrap him up while he was in pain. Just nurses who'd probably done their best but hadn't known Sam, hadn't needed to know Sam to treat him.

Sam apparently decides Dean's not bleeding from the heart enough, because he takes his free hand and wraps two fingers around Dean's sleeve and god, this kid, his kid, his little brother, and Dean's never leaving his side, not ever.

“Right here,” Dean chokes out. “Nowhere else.” He places a kiss on his brother's forehead, closing his own eyes for a long moment.

When he opens them, the heart monitor on the other side of the bed reads 55, and Dean closes his eyes again when they start to sting. In his arms, Sam sleeps on, oxygen going full blast and letting them both breathe.

END



~Nebula
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