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the island of conclusions

Fic: Learning Curve

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Fic: Learning Curve

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Title: Learning Curve
Genre: Gen, teen!chesters (Dean 18, Sam 13)
Word Count: ~2.3K
Disclaimer: not mine, no profit
Summary: Sam was mostly pissed off to begin with, which he felt bad about later.

A/N: Written for this prompt at the spngenlove h/c commentfic meme: Dean's sick, John's AWOL, and Sam's scared out of his wits; he stays up all night tending to Dean. Tweaked because I wasn't satisfied with the ending or the title. So it doesn't exactly match the prompt anymore.

Learning Curve

Sam was mostly pissed off to begin with, which he felt bad about later.



What happened was this. They’d been parked in some godforsaken upstate New York town all winter, so that Dad could goad, taunt and harass Dean into finishing high school. And as if that weren’t fun enough already, in February Sam had ended up with the nasty flu bug that had gone around his whole class. And, okay, that wasn’t too bad in itself—sure, he’d felt like crap, but he gotten to lie on the couch and watch TV all day, and eat a lot of popsicles, and have the popsicles while he was lying on the couch, and it had been over in a couple of days anyway.

No, the bad part had been that Dean started to come down with it too, and Dad wouldn’t take him on the hunt like he said he would. “Goddamn ghost’ll hear your goddamn sniffling a mile away,” had been his exact words, Sam thought.

And it turned out the misery of being sick himself was nothing compared to being stuck in the house all weekend with a snuffling, grumpy, left-behind Dean.

So, yeah, Sam was a little cranky. First of all, it was boring. Usually, when Dad left them alone, they kinda had a good time. Nothing big—but they got pizza, and ate it on the couch with their feet up on the furniture, and Dean told Sam lots of really gross dirty jokes. And he’d been thinking that now that Dean was eighteen, that maybe they’d do something fun and grown up—not that he was really sure what that would be.

But Dean just lay on the couch hacking and bitching and making Sam do everything. And Sam knew that in the regular course of things he did more for himself than the average almost-fourteen-year-old, but there were still some things he was just used to Dean taking care of.

Like cooking dinner. Instead of staring at the from-the-box mac-and-cheese it had taken Sam ages to figure out how to make like he was trying really hard not to puke. Then pushing his chair back without a word, and staggering over to flop back down on the couch again.

Or listening to Sam, and his stories about school, or about the cool book he just read on the top ten trials of the twentieth century. And sure, Dean gave him all kinds of shit about being a geek and yakking on too much—but he did it in a way that let Sam know he was paying attention—like he got all the details right in his insults.

But now Dean seemed preoccupied when Sam tried to tell him stuff--preoccupied with not keeling over, seemed like—and just nodded in a vague way that really ticked Sam off.

And Sam had also gotten used to Dean driving them both to school. So when Monday morning came and Dean was still in bed even after Sam had gotten dressed and gotten his backpack packed and everything, Sam thought he could be forgiven for kind of poking his brother and saying,

“Hey—you gonna get up and drive us?”

“Bus, bitch,” Dean muttered, not really even opening his eyes.

“You’re not going to school?”

“Nah. Sick.”

Sam peered at him. He really did look awful, pale and sweaty and exhausted, though he’d been doing nothing but lie around and sleep all weekend. A sliver of worry pierced his fog of annoyance.

“You okay?” he asked, “you want some juice or something? You, uh, want me to stay home?”

“Don’t be stupid—“ Dean pushed himself up a bit, and got his eyes open, though it seemed to be an effort. “Just gonna sleep it off. Snag me the Tylenol before you leave, huh?” And he hacked out a hard cough that sounded like it hurt.

So Sam took the bus to school, which sucked, and then home, which sucked even harder.

***************

When he got home, the house was really quiet, which was weird—usually the TV or radio was on, and Dean yelled some kind of greeting when he heard the door open.

He came into the living room cautiously. Dean was crashed out on the couch, under their ratty old army blanket, so out of it he apparently hadn’t even heard Sam come in.

Sam’s annoyance flipped over into anxiety so fast he wondered whether it hadn’t been at least half worry all along. He approached cautiously, and kind of jiggled Dean’s ankle under the blanket. His brother groaned.

“Hey. Dean. You okay?”

Dean blinked, rubbed a hand up over his face. “Sam? You home?” His voice sounded thin, strained, and sort of flattened, like he didn’t even have the energy to rag on Sam like he’d been doing all weekend.

“Yeah, dude, it’s four o’clock already. You sleep all day?”

“Must’ve,” Dean sounded bemused, “Get me some water, willya?”

Sam scurried into the kitchen, grateful to have something to do. When he got back, Dean was more awake, but he looked worse. He was hunched over on the couch, blanket pulled around his shoulders, shivering. Sam handed him the glass, and felt something in go stone cold in his stomach when he saw his brother’s hand shaking as he tried to hold it. He closed his own hand around it, helping Dean lift it to his mouth. Then he tentatively put his other hand on Dean’s forehead.

“Shit, Dean, you’re burning up.” Sam didn’t mean to sound whiny or accusing, it was just what was he supposed to do about this? Dean being this sick was not something he was supposed to have to deal with.

“I’m getting the thermometer,” he finally managed. That was concrete, right? See what they were dealing with?

Sam expected Dean to protest or something, but when he snagged the thing off the top shelf in the bathroom and handed it to his brother, Dean just put it in his mouth like he was curious to see the damage too.

The thermometer beeped, and Dean took it out. He squinted at it blearily as if he couldn’t quite make out the reading. Sam took it from him.

“103.7,” Sam read it out. “Dean, that’s really high. That’s too high,” His voice squeaked a little.

Again, he expected Dean to reassure him, tell him it was no big deal and to stop being silly. But Dean was frowning, like he too thought this was bad news.

“I’m gonna call Dad,” Sam announced, feeling little whirligigs of panic start up in his chest. That suggestion brought Dean around some.

“No. Sam,” he said, getting the words out slowly, “What’s he gonna do? He’s two states over.”

“Then let’s call a cab, go to the ER.”

“Okay, now you’re being ridiculous.” Sam’s panic went down a notch, because that was the welcome sound of Dean pulling himself together. “Listen to me. You’re right, that’s too high—that temp’s too high. But it’s just the flu—it’s just the fever spiking. Freaking out isn’t going to do anybody good. Right?” Sam nodded, “So let’s try to get it down some. You gonna cowboy up and help me, or what?”

Sam nodded again. Dean didn’t have much of a voice, but he almost sounded like he was on a hunt. Not barking orders like Dad, but explaining things to Sam, making him feel that if they had the right information and the right plan, they’d be able to kill the monster, no problem. If he hadn’t been shaking like a leaf, and looking more fucked up than a zombie on a bender, he would almost think that Dean was talking about someone else, some third person who needed their help.

“Good,” Dean was saying. “So go back to the bedroom and grab the Tylenol, and on your way back, turn on the shower—get it lukewarm, yeah? Not too hot, not too cold.”

Right. Dad had done that with both of them before, put them in the shower, when they were really feverish. Sam would have remembered that himself eventually, probably. Once he got done panicking.

He did what Dean had asked, and then came back and helped his brother haul himself to his feet. Dean made it to the bathroom under his own steam, but once there, he collapsed on the toilet seat, clearly spent. He looked at Sam, face blanked out again.

“I, uh…Could you…?”

“Oh. Yeah—sure.” He awkwardly helped Dean get his t-shirt over his head, stand and pull off his sweats. Kept a hand under his forearm as he eased himself into the shower.

“Is it okay? Is it too hot?” Sam asked nervously.

“I don’t know, Sammy—you gotta be the judge of that—it feels like a thousand tiny icicle arrows to me.” Sam relaxed a little more, because Dean bitching at him, that had to be a good sign, right?

He put a hand in the shower. It felt okay to him, just about body temperature. Dean had braced his hands on either side of the shower pipe, and had his head bent under the spray, but Sam could tell that it was costing him a lot of effort to stay upright. The muscles in his legs were trembling, and the joints of his fingers pressing against the wall were white.

Without really thinking about it, Sam shucked off his clothes and nudged Dean out of the way so that he could get in the shower too. It was a tight fit, but he got his shoulder under Dean’s, and put his arm around his brother’s hot back. Dean had put on a lot of muscle over the past couple of years, so he was still much heavier than Sam, but Sam was getting to be almost as tall as he was, and with that new leverage he was able to support a lot of his brother’s weight. He thought Dean sighed a little as he leaned into him. The water sluiced over them both.

***************

Somehow, he managed to get both of them into dry clothes, and Dean back into bed. His brother had clearly decided the need for coherence was over. He followed Sam’s prompting like a sleepwalker, snuffling and coughing, but not contributing any more advice. That was okay. Sam felt he could think more clearly about the situation now.

He wouldn’t let Dean go to sleep without taking his temperature again, but the shower and the meds combined had gotten it back down around 101. Not great, but even Sam didn’t think that merited a trip to the ER. His brother fell asleep before the thermometer was even out of his mouth.

Sam stared at him for a few minutes, then wandered back out to the kitchen and made himself a sandwich. He leafed distractedly through his homework for a bit before he found himself making his way back to the bedroom.

Dean’s sleep had turned restless. He was muttering something into the bedclothes, his voice sounding no older than Sam’s. Sam thought he might be calling for Dad and moved closer so he could hear.

“Mom…” Dean was saying, low and pleading, “Mom.”

Something in Sam broke wide open at the word. But when it came back together again, he felt like a completely different person.

He hunkered down beside the bed, put his face right next to his brother's on the pillow, and ran his thumb over the short, damp hair at Dean's temple.

“Sshh…,” he murmured, “I gotcha. You’re okay.” He ran through all the semi-nonsensical phrases Dean or his father had ever used to get him through nightmares illnesses. The words sounded strange in his voice, too high, too light.

Dean didn’t seem to mind, though. After a few minutes of Sam’s unpracticed soothing, he settled into a more peaceful slumber. Sam stayed where he was—worried that moving would wake Dean up, and caught up in the strange, too close perspective on his brother’s weary face—until he fell asleep himself.

******************************

He woke with his hand splayed out on an empty pillow.

“Dude,” Dean said from across the room, “I can’t believe you fell asleep like that.”

He was shrugging out of his sodden t-shirt, and he gave it a disgusted look before balling it up and throwing it in the hamper. He was pale, his voice still rough with congestion, but it was clear that the fever had broken and the flu was starting to back off some. He grinned at Sam, but then cast his eyes down, as if he were a little embarrassed.

“Hey. You did good last night, Sammy. I’m…I’m sorry I scared you. I’m fine, you know that, right?”

Sam nodded, not sure what to say. He realized, maybe for the first time, how characteristic it was of Dean to apologize for needing help. He though about what that meant for a bit, and then he tossed the pillow at his brother.

“Yeah, I know, just don’t pull that shit on a school night next time—some of us have a grade point average worth maintaining, y'know?” Dean snorted.

And that was just what he would have done and said last night or the night before, but the joking felt more hollow this morning. Because maybe he had freaked out a little, but that was all over now. Dean should know that he didn’t need to apologize for leaning on Sam when he was sick—or any time, really. Sam was almost fourteen, and even if Dad was going to be gone so much, he was smart, and he could learn how to take care of things--even, sometimes, take care of his brother.

He would to find a way to let Dean know the truth of that. He would.

  • (no subject) - ex_calamity172
    • you're not late at all!

      you really made this feel like Sam was unsure of what to do and then it became one of those "growing up" moments

      Yay! I was really hoping to show Sam suddenly trying to grow up--maybe succeeding some--so I'm so glad that came through!

      (as for TBfK...I am chipping away at it...this section has a lot of plot, gulp...but I am swearing off commentfic now, til it's done--don't want you to have to come all the way to NC to nip my ankles!)
  • Enjoyed, thanks :-)
  • (no subject) - ex_hansons_
    • Hey--thanks for reading--I'm so glad you liked it!

      all my favorite things: respiratory-challenged/feverish/exhausted Dean; beautiful Sammy; references to how hard their lives are and have been. . .I could've read all day.

      Hee! Our tastes concur!
  • Eeeeeep! *tears up* Oh boys, this is lovely.
  • Oh, lovely. I enjoyed this version just as much as the other. ♥ What wonderful brothers.
  • Really, gloriously In Character. The perfect amount of Love, Snark and Oh, Dean.

    Sammy showing the burgeoning signs of Sam, and stepping up when it's called for.

    Yeah, I really enjoyed this.
    • Thank you! I'm really glad it felt in character for you--I wanted to convey a sense of Sam starting to want to step up--
  • Hands down, enjoyed that so much! I really enjoy your writing-style, and I thought you handled the 14yr-old mix of maturity.
    • I'm so glad you enjoyed it! thanks for reading and commenting--

      I have some half-sulky, half-sweet boys of my own, though they aren't 14, so it was kind of fun to try and get into that headspace--
  • I enjoyed this. I like the style, kind of indicative of dialog.

    Well done.
  • I feel like I have 10,000 things going on right now, but I find that I will always manage to make time for a little h/c *g*! I like both flavors of SPN h/c... fic where Dean is worried about Sam and vice versa. This was most welcome!
    • I feel like I have 10,000 things going on right now, but I find that I will always manage to make time for a little h/c

      Ha! that's how I felt when I was writing it! I feel that way about reading h/c, too. Glad I could give you a little time away from the 10,000 things--thanks for reading and commenting!
  • this is fabulous, I love your Sam muddling through and your Dean helping himself help Sam, and the all-around half-sulky half-sweet boys thing ... yeah, I know that one too *g* Feverish, wobbly Dean's always welcome, but oh your rite-of-passage Sam is wonderful too. Thank you!
    • Thanks so much for the kind words! And, yeah, something that was not an enormous crisis in itself, but unnerving enough to make Sam grow up a bit, or at least try to grow up, for Dean's sake, was what I was aiming for, so I'm thrilled that came through.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • Yay! I loved this one so much. So sweet, with panicky but caring Sam, and lovely sick Dean, asking for his mom...aww!
  • I enjoyed this, seems very true to the characters - thank you!
    • I'm so glad you enjoyed it, and that the characters rang true to you--thanks for reading and commenting!
  • I really liked this. :)
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