When Dean woke up he felt like he’d been on a bender. It felt like one of those mornings where he’d woken up in some chick’s bed, halfway across town, with no memory of how he got there or what this girl’s name was, half naked, pounding headache, dry mouth and the urge to vomit up whatever alcohol remained in his system. But he wasn’t drunk. And there was no girl. And he was in his bed, at home. And he was just really, really ill.
It took him a moment to get his head around what had happened, to try and piece together things from the previous night. He glanced around the room and saw a bucket of water with a few towels in it. The covers were pulled down and his shirt was off. He must have spiked a fever. His muscles ached, especially in his arms and chest. He was sore all over. He rolled to the side and coughed weakly, not wanting to hurt his abs or chest from the force of it.
He managed to get to a sitting position and the way it left him out of breath told him he maybe needed a nebulizer treatment. He could feel the crackles in his lungs. The machine was on his bedside table so he set it up, pouring the medicine into the mask with shaking hands. The humming whir of the machine almost put him back to sleep. He drifted, eyes slipping open and closed as he sat hunched on the edge of his bed.
For some reason he had this pain in his chest… and it wasn’t from the pneumonia. He felt on edge, worried, and just… crushing sadness. He knew he’d had nightmares. There were bruises on his arms, he noted, feeling sweat prickle out of every pore. But there was nothing particular about this day that would make him notably sadder than usual, and still he was. For a moment he didn’t feel any reason to get up out of his bed. He could just stay there. Forever.
He opened his eyes and realized more time had passed than he thought. The machine was pushing out air but the medicine was long dried up. He pulled the mask off his face and turned it off. Taking a moment to feel the ease of breathing now that he had some relief. When he mustered the strength to stand he crumpled forward, catching himself on the wall. His back was tight and stiff, and the muscles in his chest didn’t seem to like stretching out over his ribcage as he straightened. He decided to forgo looking in the mirror. He didn’t want to see his own face today. He found his crutches and tucked them to his sides, and began his shuffle down the hallway.
Sam was still tired the next morning. He forced himself up, early, because he knew there was work to be done. He did a few loads of washing and was sticking one in the dryer when Bobby came up behind him.
“You want some breakfast, son?”
Sam jumped a little, and turned, “I was just about to make it. Just finishing up the laundry.”
“I’ll put it on, Sam. You’re busy enough.”
“But… No. I can, I can do it, Bobby. You just got back from a hunt, you’re probably exhausted. And you stayed up with Dean all night.”
“Naw, Sam. He settled down. I got enough sleep. Just let me look after you both, would ya?”
Sam huffed a smile and relaxed, “Okay. Thanks, Bobby.”
Bobby smiled, sighed an ‘idjit’ under his breath as he left to go make breakfast.
Dean could hear people talking in the kitchen and when he got there he was surprised to see Bobby had come back, after avoiding speaking to him since he’d messed up a few days ago and said something pretty awful. They both glanced in his direction as he walked in. He still hadn’t put a shirt on, and was walking pretty stiffly, even with the crutches as an aid. Bobby seemed to tense up when he saw him, and he knew, even if his apology was accepted, Bobby would never be the same with him again.
“Morning, Dean,” Sam came over to him, assessing eyes checking him over as his hand hovered near him, as though he didn’t trust him not to fall, “How are you?”
Dean went to answer but a cough stole his breath and Sam ended up catching him under the arm.
“Easy, dude,” he soothed.
Dean cleared his throat, “M okay.”
God, his voice was wrecked. Practically all air and no sound, scratchy and painful.
“Geez, Dean,” was all Sam said, visibly wincing at the sound of his voice.
Dean coughed again lightly and continued walking to the couch. He nodded at Bobby, saving his abused throat the pain of speaking.
“Guessing your throat’s sore today?” Bobby added, wryly.
Dean nodded, massaging his adam’s apple as he let Sam help him to sit down.
“What the hell was I doing last night?”
Sam looked sheepish.
He swallowed, “You were having a pretty bad nightmare… screaming and thrashing around.”
“Guessing you did that,” Dean said, gesturing to his arms.
“Oh, man. I’m sorry. You were just… you were gonna hurt yourself if I didn’t –“
“It’s okay, Sam,” Dean said, feeling more tired than he’d ever been.
Sam stared at him for a moment, steeling his jaw. Before Dean could growl at him to quit it he relaxed.
“You up for some breakfast? Scrambled eggs should feel good on your throat.”
Dean flicked his eyes over to Bobby who was spooning eggs onto a plate in the kitchen, pretending like he wasn’t listening.
“Sure,” Dean smiled.
At some point during the day Dean found enough energy to shower and put on clothes. There was weird vibe in the house with Bobby there. Because Sam had been with them the whole time and it kind of seemed like Bobby only spoke to Dean out of formality, of duty, or some crap. And if Dean wasn’t on edge to begin with… he didn’t want to feel uncomfortable in his own house, dammit.
He was sitting at the breakfast bar, pushing around his mug of luke warm coffee. He glanced at Bobby, sitting in the armchair, and realized that now Sam had gone to work, it was just the two of them. Dean swiveled on the chair and grabbed his crutches. He got to his feet and crutched over to the couch, standing there awkwardly in front of Bobby.
“Bobby,” he said, his voice husky.
Bobby finally raised his head to look at him.
“Something you need, Dean?”
“Dean,” Bobby folded his paper, began trying to stop him.
“Would you just… let me say something? I’ve been trying to talk to you for days. You won’t answer my calls. You’ll talk to Sam though.”
Bobby frowned, looking down.
“Now, would you listen to me?”
Bobby lifted his gaze.
“I’m sorry for what I said to you. I hadn’t slept in 3 days and I was… I was out of line. And, I mean, it’s not an excuse. You’ve always been there for me, for us and…
“Dean, you don’t have to –“
“Just listen! God, I’m trying to talk to you.”
Bobby stayed quiet.
“Now, I’m a stupid son of a bitch, and I’m losing my mind, and I say things I don’t mean, and I just… I need you, Bobby. We need you. And you don’t have to be here all the time. I know you gotta be out there huntin’, but just… come back.”
Bobby finally smiled, “I always do. And I always will.”
Dean felt himself welling up, “Well, good.”
“Now, do we have to talk about our feeling all damn day?”
Dean smirked, “Not when there’s cookin’ to be doing. Get in the kitchen and make my favourite chili.”
“You’re pushing your luck.”
“Sorry,” Dean ducked his head, trying for cute.
“Aw, hell. Fine. Sit your ass down,” Bobby said, getting out of the chair.
“Yes,” Dean celebrated.
“Don’t get used to it.”
“’Course not,” Dean smiled wryly.
Bobby took Dean to rehab after lunch and walked him inside. He tried to make it seem like it was because he wanted to be there in case he fell, but Dean knew at least a little part of him was doubting whether he’d actually go or not.
“Hey, Dean,” Katie said, wandering past him while he was doing leg exercises with his physio, Grant.
“Hey, Katie. How you been?” Dean grunted, pushing his leg into Grant’s hand with gentle resistance.
“Good. Healing,” she smiled.
Dean looked at her a moment. Her hair was curled softly around her face. It was shorter now, cutting off just above her shoulders.
“Okay, that’s good. You can stop there, Dean,” Grant said, straightening.
“I’ll talk to you later,” Katie said, leaving them to it.
As she walked away Dean realized she was wearing short yoga pants, and for the first time he saw her prosthetic. But he wasn’t really paying attention to that… because her ass was incredible.
“Hey. Earth to Winchester.”
Dean looked back and Grant was staring at him expectantly.
“Sure you were,” he smirked, “I may not be the best at picking up on these things… but I think she likes you,” he added sarcastically.
Dean laughed airily, his voice still struggling after the night before, “Nah.”
“Dude, she was always going up to the hospital to see you.”
“Yeah, but she volunteers there.”
“Only one day a week,” Grant said, helping Dean up onto the bed.
Dean sat down and stared ahead for a second.
“You didn’t know she was coming up to see you,” Grant said, more of a statement than a question.
Dean cleared his throat, looked down, “No, I… I didn’t.”
Dean finished a little earlier than Katie, but he hung around so he could talk to her. She looked a little tired walking out of the physio room, but perked up when she saw him sitting at reception.
“Hey, what are you still doing here?” she asked, happily.
Dean had asked himself the same question a hundred times. He’d had several arguments with himself and lost them all. He’d missed seeing Katie nearly everyday. He’d missed her unshakable positivity, her understanding. The way she would just listen to Dean and stay silent when there was no way to respond. He liked how she talked when he needed to hear something other than his own thoughts. And he liked how they could sit in silence together. She cared so much about other people. She had so much emotion. And maybe that’s why Dean liked her, because he saw in her exactly what he lacked.
“I wanted to see you,” he rasped, his voice almost failing him.
She blushed, and sat down next to him when he made no move to get up.
“You sound a bit rough, sweetie,” she looked at him with a furrowed brow, like she wanted to mother the crap out of him.
“I’ve had better nights,” he winced, coughing.
“How are you?” she asked, and he knew she was asking more than the usual casual introduction. She wanted to know exactly how he was, physically and mentally.
She nodded, and Dean knew she could see right through him.
“Did you want to maybe,” Dean cleared his throat, “have a dr –“
He stopped. Have a drink. That was what he was going to say.
“Coffee?” she finished for him
Dean felt his face heating up and he cleared his throat yet again, “I, uh, yeah… did you want to get coffee or something, sometime… with me?”
Katie smirked, “Dean Winchester, are you asking me out on a date?”
Dean felt his chest tighten. He was so close to calling the whole thing off, bolting for the parking lot, except he couldn’t exactly bolt.
“I guess I am,” he said, voice thoroughly wrecked.
Katie leaned forward and planted a soft kiss on Dean’s cheek.
“I’d love to go on a date with you.”
Dean could feel his heart beating a mile a minute. He felt like a stupid high school kid. The whole thing seemed ridiculous. Why was he even doing this?
“Take a breath, honey.”
Dean took a breath in, looking back at Katie’s face, realizing he’d been starting to panic again.
“Sam picking you up?”
“No, uh, Bobby’s picking me up. I should call him,” he said, taking his phone out of his pocket.
“My mum’s out the front. Do you want her to drop you off? It’s no trouble.”
Katie had moved back in with her folks since her accident. Something they’d talked about on one of their breakfast dates at the hospital.
Dean rubbed a hand up and down his thigh nervously. He wanted to talk to her more. He wanted to set a date and time for their little catch up. He wanted to look at her face a little longer. But he didn’t want to meet her mum. And he didn’t want them going to his house, knowing where he lived. It should have been an easy question to answer but…
“It’s okay,” she said, shaking her head softly.
“No,” Dean cut her off, “That’d be great if you could, uh, give me a ride.”
She smiled, and stood up, “Come on then.”
She bent to help him, watching how he got up like Grant watches him, making sure he’s doing it right and isn’t going to hurt himself.
Katie had her hand under his upper arm as they walked together out to the parking lot.
“That’s my mums car,” she pointed, directing him towards a blue Toyota corolla.
Dean veered towards the back door but Katie opened the front passenger door for him, leaning in to say something to her mum. Katie adjusted the seat so it was all the way back, accommodating for Dean’s 6’1” frame. Dean felt awkward having Katie help him into the car. He’d had to get used to several people doing that for him lately. He was a little uncomfortable adding pretty girls to the list.
“Hi, Dean. How are you?” Katie’s mum smiled warmly at him. She was pretty hot for her age. Dean could see where Katie got it from.
“Hey, how are ya?” Dean replied casually, as Katie got in the back seat.
“Dean, this is my mum, Carol.”
“Nice to meet ya,” he rasped.
“Oh, darling, you need some honey tea.”
Dean coughed, feeling weak and sick.
“Mum makes amazing tea. She makes me honey tea anytime I’m sick, I swear, it’s a cure all,” Katie chirped happily from the back.
Dean chuckled, deciding it was for the best to save his voice.
Dean directed Carol to the house using as little words as possible, smiling as they made casual chit chat between each other, mostly leaving him out of it, probably out of respect. Picking up on the vibe that he was one hundred thousand percent done. If he didn’t have to be giving directions he’d already have fallen asleep.
“I’ll help you inside,” Katie said, as they pulled up in the driveway.
Dean didn’t have enough time to protest. His brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders lately.
“It was nice to meet you, Dean,” Carol said, smiling at him.
Dean nodded to her, “Thanks for the ride.”
“Not a problem at all.”
When they got up to the front door Dean could feel himself sweating.
“Uh, thanks,” Dean said, looking down at her. He always forgot how short she was until she was standing right next to him. “So, uh, when do you want to… hang out?”
Katie smiled and looked down shyly, “I’m free tomorrow. How about 11?”
Dean cleared his throat, “Sounds good.”
“Get some rest, Dean,” she said, rubbing his arm.
“I’ll text you later,” Dean’s voice cut out and he coughed into his shoulder, hands still on his crutches.
Katie smiled at him, “I look forward to it.”