Summary: AUish Tag to "After School Special" – Teenchesters – Sick Sam / Big Brother Dean – There was a distinct line between feeling like you might throw up...and knowing without a doubt that you were definitely going to throw up. Such was the horrifying realization as Sam shifted uncomfortably and swallowed hard while he stood beside Dean in the hallway of Truman High.

Disclaimer: Not mine. Just felt the need to wallow in some classic hurt/comfort...

Warnings: Usual language, plus spoilers for 4x13...and maybe an extra warning for squeamish folks since there's a fair amount of vomit flying around later.

A/N: Amanda Heckerling's comment (quoted below) has always made me wonder just what she witnessed between Sam and Dean to make her clearly admire how Dean acts when he's around his little brother. Not only her words, but her expression and tone in that scene imply that she was touched by whatever she saw. So, pair my curiosity about the backstory of this one line with my unhealthy obsession with sick Sammy and big brother Dean...and here we go.

I thought maybe...underneath your whole "I don't give a crap" bad-boy thing, that there was something more going on. I mean, like, the way you are with your brother... ~ Amanda Heckerling to teenage Dean in 4x13, "After School Special"

There was a distinct line between feeling like you might throw up...and knowing without a doubt that you were definitely going to throw up.

Such was the horrifying realization as Sam shifted uncomfortably and swallowed hard while he stood beside Dean in the hallway of Truman High. The 14-year old wishing he had confessed to his brother how crappy he felt before they had left the motel that morning instead of dismissing Dean's concern.

Because Dean had known something was off.

"What's with you?"

Sam had shrugged at the question, had been aware that Dean was watching him as he had fidgeted with his breakfast; his fingers crumbling the edges of the Pop-Tart as he had pushed it around on his napkin.

Dean had narrowed his eyes, reading Sam's silence and reluctance to eat as a sign of trouble beyond the regular hassle of dealing with a moody little brother who was picky about his food.

Because Sam had been uncharacteristically quiet and sluggish since Dean had gotten him up...and Dean had immediately suspected a sick kid.

"Sammy. Don't bullshit me," Dean had warned as he had finished his second Pop-Tart. "If something's wrong, save us both some time and tell me. 'Cause you know I'll figure it out. You know I know you."

Sam had twitched a smile. "Yeah."

Because no one knew him like his big brother.

"But I'm okay," Sam had assured quietly as he had continued to sit across from Dean at the small table in their room, picking at the Pop-Tart and staring at the milk in the glass beside it.

"Mmhmm," Dean had hummed skeptically about Sam being okay. "Then why do you look like you're gonna puke?"

Sam had wrinkled his nose and had swallowed at the mention of the word "puke".

Dean had noticed.


"I'm okay," Sam had repeated stubbornly and had finally raised the Pop-Tart to his mouth as if to prove he was fine by eating his breakfast...even as he had wondered how the hell he was going to choke down even half of it.

Because eating the cold pastry – straight out of the box – was hard enough on mornings when Sam didn't feel like he was going to puke...and it had been almost impossible this morning when Sam had felt nauseous since the instant he had opened his eyes.

Sam had sighed at the thought and had resisted the urge to gag as he had taken a bite of the Pop-Tart, attributing the vague queasiness that had greeted him when he had woken up – and was still lingering over breakfast – as residual anxiety about their new school.

That theory had seemed accurate when the uneasiness in Sam's stomach had worsened as he and Dean had left the motel and had walked to Truman.

But what Sam felt now barely ten minutes after they had arrived on campus had nothing to do with frazzled nerves caused by being the new kid at yet another high school.

What Sam felt now was hot and shaky and sick.

What Sam felt now was regret for having made himself eat that stupid Pop-Tart...and then wash it down with milk.

What Sam felt now was the growing panic that he was about to throw up in a hallway full of strangers.

Beside him, Dean was the picture of cool with the collar of his leather jacket turned up as he stood with his back against a row of lockers; the 18-year old looking calm and confident as he practically held court in the hall before the first period bell rang.

Sam's big brother already the most popular guy in school on his second day at Truman, commanding the captivated attention of at least half a dozen girls – including Amanda Heckerling herself – and even a few guys...those poor bastards who used to be cool before Dean had rolled into town.

But now, everyone was in the same proverbial boat – all wishing they were half as awesome as Dean, and all crowding around to hear Dean talk about...something.

Sam was too distracted by his cramping stomach to keep up with the details of his brother's story.

But that Amanda girl seemed especially enamored with whatever Dean was saying, staring at Dean like she was hanging on every word...and staring at Dean's lips like she couldn't wait to sneak back to the janitor's closet for another make-out session between classes.

Sam's gaze lingered on her, acknowledging that she was pretty but not understanding the big deal Dean had made about her boobs the previous night when Dean had been recounting the gory details of groping and French kissing as the brothers had eaten dinner at a local fast food joint.

"They're nice," Dean had told his little brother and had nodded appreciatively, holding his hands out as if he was still cupping Amanda's boobs.

Sam had cringed and had glanced around the other booths, hoping no one else had seen Dean's suggestive gesture.

"Really, really nice," Dean had emphasized.

But Sam was staring at them now...and they just looked like boobs to him.

He didn't see anything to get excited about, so maybe he was missing something?


But Sam couldn't be bothered to figure it out as he suddenly realized how hot he was. The fringe of his hair feeling wet against the back of his neck; his bangs feeling sticky and damp against his forehead...just like they did when he had a fever.

Sam tugged at the front of his hoodie and then pushed up his sleeves, wishing he wasn't wearing so many layers.

He shifted under the weight of his backpack; the straps suddenly feeling tight and suffocating as they pulled against his shoulders.

Sam swallowed, reminded of his breakfast sitting heavy in his gurgling stomach along with the milk he had drank...which had been a bad, bad decision.

Even as Sam had emptied his glass back at their motel room, he had known the milk would come back to haunt him.

And it seemed that time had arrived.

Any second now...

Sam swallowed once more and glanced around the group of juniors and seniors facing him and his brother, trying to determine the best escape route...and trying to remember the location of the closest restroom.

But even as Sam tried to map out a plan, he knew it was useless.

He would never make it.

The group erupted in laughter over whatever Dean was saying...and Sam wondered if they were really moving, or if it was just his dizziness causing his vision to waver.

It didn't matter.

Whether they were moving now or not, they would all definitely move when Sam started spewing.

Sam wrinkled his nose, feeling his stomach churn in preparation even as he continued to swallow against the impending uprising.

And really...didn't his life already suck enough without having to endure the humiliation of puking in public?

Sam briefly closed his eyes in renewed dread of what was about to happen and shifted restlessly from one foot to the other.

But the swaying movement was too much for his body to tolerate.

Feeling his breakfast slosh in his overly-sensitive stomach, Sam wrapped his arm around his middle and turned slightly so at least the milky, half-digested Pop-Tart mess that threatened to launch from his mouth at any second would land on the floor and not on Dean's new friends.

Because Sam knew the upperclassmen had accepted him – the scrawny freshman who looked like he still belonged in middle school – into their presence only because he was Dean's little brother...and puking on them was probably not the best way to make a first impression.

Sam opened his eyes and breathed shallowly through his mouth as life continued on around him.

No one in the group seeming to notice Sam's changed position as one of the girls asked Dean a question while Amanda reached for Dean's hand.

But Dean ignored them both, instead glancing down at his brother when he heard Sam moving.

Sam stared up at him through the damp fringe of his bangs.

Dean frowned at the expression of alarm on his kid's pale, sweaty face...and at the telltale sign of Sam's arm hovering protectively over his stomach.

...which only confirmed what the big brother had suspected back at the motel – that Sam was sick.

And not only did Sam feel sick and look sick, but the 14-year old was about to be sick.

Dean pushed away from the lockers, turning his back to Amanda and standing to his full height as he felt his whole demeanor change – felt the lightness of the moment abruptly end; felt everyone else fade into the background as he focused on Sam, his own stomach twisting with dread as he asked what he already knew.

"Sam. What's wrong?"

"I'm gonna throw up..." Sam mumbled, barely able to speak over the urge to gag.

Dean's frown deepened as he realized that Sam meant he was going to throw up right now; that Sam wasn't warning Dean so his big brother could relocate him to somewhere more private...but that Sam was leaning forward even as Dean was watching him.

In the next instant, Sam made good on his prediction as he retched loudly; the sound echoing in the hall, attracting even more unwanted attention as vomit splattered on the floor.

At first, nobody moved.

The group's reaction delayed as the upperclassmen all stared wide-eyed at Dean's little brother, stunned by the sudden turn of events.

Because one minute they were all laughing and having a good time before class started...and the next minute they were witnessing the result of a sick kid.

A few other students who were passing by in the hall had now stopped as well, taking in the shocking scene.

No one said anything as they exchanged glances; their expressions both uncertain and slightly disgusted.

Because hello – puking kid.

This was the kind of situation parents or teachers or school nurses handled.

But Dean was right there, instantly transformed from "cool new kid" to Sam's big brother – all concerned expressions and soft words and gentle touches.

Amanda watched him, feeling a surprising warmth spread through her chest as she caught glimpse of an unexpectedly tender Dean.

"Whoa. Hey..." Dean called and reached for Sam, his hands settling on his brother's bony shoulders as he carefully turned the kid, angling Sam away from the gawking crowd and shielding the 14-year old with his own body as he now stood behind his little brother. "Sammy..."

Sam hummed a distracted response as he felt Dean's arm loosely wrap around his chest, thankful for Dean's support as he curled forward and threw up again; the remnants of his breakfast reappearing as soggy bits of Pop-Tart coated in a milky, slimy mess.

Amanda lifted the back of her hand to her mouth as she stared at the vomit within inches of her shoes.

"Oh my god..." one of the other girls gasped.

Another cringed as some of the vomit speckled Dean's boots...while another girl gagged reflexively at the stench beginning to fill the narrow hallway.

"Is he okay?" someone asked.

"I'm going to get the nurse," someone else announced.

"Yeah," another voice agreed. "I'll come with..."

"No," Dean told them, not even looking up as he remained focused on Sam. His back still turned to the group; his arm still wrapped around his brother's chest while his thumb rubbed soothingly over the kid's collarbone. "He's fine. I've got this."

Because Dean didn't need some school nurse telling him how to take care of Sam.

This was certainly not the first time – and not likely to be the last time – that Dean had dealt with a sick little brother.

He could handle this.

He just wished Sam had told him that he didn't feel well before they had come to school.

It wasn't like Dean hadn't given the kid several opportunities to do so.

But Sam had insisted he was fine...and here they were.

Dean shook his head at his stubborn little brother, hating that Sam was not only sick but was embarrassed as well.

Because Dean knew his kid...and he knew Sam was mortified.

Dean could feel his brother shaking against him. "It's okay..." he murmured, ducking his head so that only Sam could hear him. "You're okay."

Sam inhaled an uneven breath, dangerously close to tears. "Th-they're staring."

"Fuck 'em," Dean dismissed at his brother's whisper, pissed that he could indeed feel the group of teenagers watching them.

Didn't these losers have better things to do than make a sick kid feel even worse?

Dean clenched his jaw against his anger, his thumb still rubbing over Sam's collarbone. "Don't worry about it, Sammy. I'm right here."

Sam said nothing but slowly reached up to grasp Dean's hand.

Amanda watched as Dean laced his fingers with his little brother's and squeezed, holding their clasped hands against Sam's chest as he continued to brace the kid against him.

Dean not hesitating to give Sam comfort even as an entire hallway full of other students looked on.

Because it was obvious that for Dean, only Sam existed right now – and god, this was the sweetest thing she had ever seen.

Who knew that the cocky bad boy she had made out with yesterday – the guy who was an impressive kisser and the dirtiest talker she had ever heard – could also be such a sweetheart?

It was fascinating.

Amanda couldn't look away as she found herself wishing that Dean would treat her with the same candid tenderness that he was currently showing Sam.

The other girls could keep their flowers and their boyfriend's class rings and letterman jackets because Amanda suddenly realized what love really looked like.

It looked like this.

Amanda smiled softly.

Dean sighed. "Let's get this off of you..." he told Sam, easing the straps of Sam's backpack off Sam's shoulders and handing the bag to one of the guys standing nearby.

The guy arched an eyebrow. "What the hell am I supposed to do with this?"

"Hold it," Dean snapped, cutting his eyes at the asshole who seemed to think Dean had time for shitty attitudes and stupid questions.

The guy blinked at Dean's threatening expression and accepted Sam's backpack without another word.

The rest of the group glared at him.

Because seriously...stop being a dick.

"Sorry," the guy muttered, though all attention had returned to Sam and Dean and the unfolding crisis.

Sam continued to pant shallowly through his mouth as he sagged in Dean's hold, his back fitting more snugly against Dean's chest since the bulk of his backpack had been removed.

Dean's thumb rubbed over the back of Sam's hand. "Sammy..." he prompted, feeling the heat radiating from his brother.

The kid was burning up.

And leave it to Sam to spike a fever in the short amount of time it had taken them to walk from the motel to Truman.

Dean shook his head as he unzipped Sam's hoodie and pulled it off his overheated little brother – first one sleeve, then the other – and then did the same with Sam's outer shirt, leaving the kid with just his t-shirt...a familiar t-shirt.

Dean paused, realizing the shirt that Sam was wearing used to belong to him.

The Metallica image having once been a lot less faded than it was now, but the fact remained – this used to be Dean's shirt.

Dean smiled softly, feeling his heart twist at yet another sign that Sam hadn't felt well since he had gotten up that morning.

Because Sam was more likely to wear Dean's hand-me-downs when the kid was sick.

It was just one of those little brother quirks; just another way Sam could feel close to Dean when he was feeling vulnerable.

And it was just another reminder of how much Sam loved his big brother...and how much Dean loved his kid.

Dean's smile lingered before he blinked, cutting his eyes to the right as the guy still holding Sam's backpack stepped forward and reached for the hoodie and shirt in Dean's grasp.

Dean nodded his thanks and handed them over before glancing back at Sam.

"Hey..." he called to his brother, his voice soft and low and meant only for Sam. "Talk to me. Better now?"

...though Dean knew it wasn't.

He could tell by Sam's tense posture, ragged breathing, and repeated swallowing that this show wasn't over.

Round two was building.

And wouldn't that be fun?

Especially now that it seemed word had spread and the entire junior and senior classes had assembled in this one area to see the spectacle of a puking freshman.

Dean silently fumed – once again hating that this was happening here – and wondered when the bell would ring so these assholes would remember to mind their fucking business and go the fuck away.

Dean briefly closed his eyes, willing himself to calm down.

Because there would be time to kick asses later if he had to...but right now, Sam needed him.

And Dean was always there when Sam needed him; was always there to take care of his little brother – even when the kid was puking in the middle of the fucking school.

Dean twitched a smile – because only Sam would have this kind of shitty luck – and then opened his eyes, feeling completely refocused on the scrawny kid he still held in front of him.

The scrawny kid who hadn't answered him...

Dean frowned. "Sammy. Are we done here?"

Because Dean really wanted to get his brother home to the motel, away from prying eyes and gossiping whispers.

But as predicted, Sam shook his head.

"No," he choked, the word ending with a sharp intake of air as his stomach cramped in warning. "Oh god. Dean..."

"It's okay," Dean soothed, hearing the renewed panic in his kid's voice and squeezing Sam's hand still held in his grasp.

Sam gagged – producing nothing – and then swallowed audibly before he lurched forward, violently retching; the fresh vomit splattering on the lockers before pooling on the floor with what he had spewed the first time.

"Whoa..." Dean commented, startled by the force with which Sam threw up, and tightened his hold around his brother. "Easy, Sammy."

Sam coughed and then heaved again, the milky Pop-Tart mixture now replaced with watery vomit as the kid's body had nothing substantial left to give.

"It's okay, it's okay..." Dean murmured as Sam gasped noisily and then shuddered, his head bobbing forward.

Dean instantly slid his hand under Sam's bangs, blocking the kid from smacking his forehead on the lockers.

Sam relaxed into Dean's touch with a hitched breath.

Dean frowned at the amount of heat still radiating from his little brother.

Because whatever this was, was kicking Sam's ass, and Dean's kid needed a fever reducer...and fluids and fresh clothes and rest...and he needed it now.


Sam turned toward his brother's voice but then immediately turned away as he threw up once more.

Dean waited as Sam coughed, then spit, then swallowed...then moaned deeply.

The sound stabbed through Dean's heart.

"It's okay," the big brother repeated, wishing he could take this from his kid...all of it.

Sam released a shaky exhale, his eyes squeezing shut; one hand gripping Dean's while the other fisted his brother's jeans as breath-stealing pain twisted his stomach.

Dean felt a brief flutter of panic – the way he always did when Sam was this sick – but then quickly pushed it down, reminding himself that he could handle it.

He just wanted to get his kid home.

"Easy," Dean whispered, still supporting Sam against him as he carefully pulled his brother closer and smoothly slid his hand from the kid's chest to his stomach. "Breathe through it," Dean instructed, his hand splayed across Sam's rigid abdomen.

Sam squirmed, making a sound that was half whimper, half grunt.

"Shh. Just relax..." Dean continued to coach, his palm applying light pressure; his fingers gently coaxing the kid's tense stomach muscles to unknot. "We'll go home as soon as you relax."

Everyone in the hall continued to watch the brothers, speechless and spellbound and startling when the bell finally rang overhead; its shrill echo signaling the official begin of the school day.

"Get to class," a female teacher's voice suddenly ordered, dispersing the crowd as she approached.

And where had this woman been for the past ten minutes when Dean could've used a little assistance in crowd control?

"Let's go, let's go, let's go..." she told them, clapping her hands like she was trying to scatter livestock. "If you're late to class, you'll stay late after school. It's your choice. Let's move it..."

At the threat of detention, about half the crowd began to drift away; their gaze lingering on Sam and Dean as they turned and then continued to watch the brothers over their shoulders.

The teacher noticed their distracted walking.

"Watch where you're going," she warned and then frowned as she realized every student that passed her seemed mesmerized by whatever they were leaving behind.

Curious, she pushed forward, worming her way through the crowd of juniors and seniors that remained gathered around whatever was worth gawking at in the middle of the hall.

"Alright...what's the big deal?" she demanded, annoyed that the students hadn't followed her orders, and then blinked at the scene that greeted her – the new kid in her English class with a much smaller kid held in front of him.

In fact, she could barely see the other kid from the way Dean was clearly shielding him; Dean's body language both protective and possessive.

But what she could see – and smell – was unmistakable evidence that the smaller kid had been sick...multiple times.

No wonder the other students were gawking.

It was no surprise since adolescents were strangely fascinated by grossness and the humiliation of others.

But what was surprising was that Dean was taking care of this kid; was clearly protecting him as well as giving comfort and reassurance.

Dean...the student who was cocky as hell and didn't seem to give a shit about anything.

"Huh," she mused, feeling something soften within, and then glared at the students who had the balls to still stand there. "Do I need to ask the nurse to schedule some hearing screenings?" she asked rhetorically, her tone reflecting her anger and annoyance. "I said get to class. Let's go!"

Two more teachers joined her efforts, herding the upperclassmen down the hall with their own words of encouragement and direction.

The students finally obeyed, too dazed by the surreal events of the morning to make a fuss as they followed each other down the corridor, whispering about what had happened.

"You too, honey..." Dean's English teacher called, gesturing to Amanda. "Show's over. Let's go."

Amanda hesitated. "Yes, ma'am. Just..."

She paused, reluctant to leave; not wanting to miss a second of Dean taking care of his little brother.

Because this...this had been amazing.

Amanda had only met Dean yesterday, but she had no idea this side of Dean even existed.

And now that she had seen it, it was the only side she wanted to see.


Amanda nodded, acknowledging the teacher and then turning back to the guy she now considered her boyfriend. "Dean. he okay?"

...which was a stupid question because Dean's little brother certainly didn't look okay.

She had never seen anyone throw up as much as this kid had done in such a short time.

Amanda wrinkled her nose at the amount of vomit that covered the floor.

But Dean seemed unfazed, which was also strangely sweet.

"Dean. Is – "

" – he's fine," Dean responded tightly, not even looking at Amanda as he wiped his wrist across Sam's mouth and chin and then settled his brother against him; his hand lightly rubbing the kid's chest – soothing and comforting and grounding.

I'm here...and you're okay...all in one small gesture.

Amanda watched, feeling a fresh wave of love at the sweet tenderness.

"What can I do?" she asked, her tone genuine and concerned.

Dean glanced over his shoulder. "Nothing. Just give us some space," he told her, then turned back to Sam.

Amanda frowned and once again hesitated, wanting to stay but knowing Dean would not react well to her doing so...especially after he had just dismissed her.

She sighed.

"I hope Sam feels better," Amanda offered, wishing it didn't sound so lame, and moved away from the brothers.

The teacher watched her go and then approached the guy still dutifully holding Sam's backpack, hoodie, and long-sleeved shirt.

"I'll take these," she informed, relieving him of his post. "Go to class."

The guy nodded, then glanced at Dean. "Sorry about before," he commented, apologizing for his earlier reluctance to help. "No hard feelings?"

Because he really didn't want his ass kicked later.

"We're good," Dean assured, still rubbing Sam's chest as his brother leaned against him.

The guy nodded again and turned, one of the last students to clear the hallway as he ducked into his classroom.

Now left alone with Dean and whoever Dean was holding, the teacher sighed...not quite sure how to proceed. "Is this your brother?"

Because that was the only explanation that made sense...

"Yeah," Dean confirmed as he held his kid. "This is Sam."

The teacher smiled. "Hi, Sam."

Sam glanced at her but said nothing, completely drained...and utterly humiliated.

It wasn't enough that Dean's friends had seen him throw up but now Dean's teacher was staring at him, too.

The teacher shook her head, instantly understanding. "It's okay, sweetheart. You can't help it if you're sick."

She turned her attention to Dean.

"There's a virus going 'round. Hits fast, shows no mercy...then moves on in 24 to 48 hours. I'm sure that's all this is."

She paused.

"Do you need me to page the nurse?"

"No," Dean refused, his tone sharp at the suggestion of someone other than him tending to his little brother. "I can take care of Sam. I just need to get him home."

"Of course. Absolutely," the teacher agreed. "Do you need a ride? I can call your parents..."

"No," Dean repeated...because there was no one to call.

Their mom was gone.

And for that matter, so was John.

Just gone in a different way.

...which meant Sam and Dean only had each other.

And that's how they liked it, how they preferred it.

Dean sighed. "We don't live far from here," he commented, hating it when teachers looked at him with that mixture of confusion and pity. "If Sammy's up to it, we can walk."

"We can walk," Sam murmured, feeling and sounding and looking exhausted...but determined to walk out of Truman on his own; confident that if he couldn't make it much further than the school doors, then Dean would carry him.

And right now, Sam really couldn't find the energy to care if his brother carried him like a baby.

Because he was weak and hot and still nauseous as hell, knowing this current reprieve was just a lull as his cramping, gurgling stomach promised more vomiting in his future.

After all, the teacher had said the virus lasted 24 to 48 hours.

...which implied 24 to 48 hours more of this.

Sam swallowed at the thought and shivered, suddenly cold standing in the hallway in just his t-shirt; the fabric damp with sweat and stained with dribbles of spit and puke.

He was certainly a sight to behold, leaving dazzling first impressions with upperclassmen and teachers alike.

Sam once again felt close to tears and then groaned as his stomach twisted with a fresh wave of pain.

On instinct, he leaned more heavily against Dean, seeking strength and comfort and reassurance that this too would pass.

Dean instantly responded. "It's okay, Sammy..." he soothed, patting Sam's chest and then reaching for Sam's hoodie. "We're going home. But let's put this on first. Kids with fevers don't need to catch chills..."

The teacher smiled warmly at the comment, at how much Dean sounded like a parent – or more accurately, a mother hen. Her smile lingered, wondering about these boys' story as she watched Dean maneuver his little brother into his sweatshirt.

"Looks like you've done that before..." she remarked and winked at Dean when he looked at her.

Dean twitched a smile and nodded but didn't otherwise respond as he accepted Sam's other shirt, stuffing it inside his brother's backpack before shouldering the bag.

The teacher continued to watch them. "Are you sure you don't want your parents to come pick you up?"

"No," Dean replied and shook his head as he carefully turned his brother. "I've got him," he assured, wrapping his arm around Sam's shoulders and rubbing the kid's arm. "Right, Sammy?"

Sam nodded and glanced up at Dean; his cheeks flushed with fever, his bangs sticking to his forehead, his eyes squinted in discomfort and fatigue.

"We'll take it slow," Dean promised, knowing better than to unnecessarily jar his nauseous brother or to rush his exhausted kid.

"'Kay," Sam hoarsely agreed and glanced at the teacher. "M'sorry about the mess..."

The mess of vomit splattered everywhere in the hall.

The teacher waved her hand to indicate it was no big deal and that Sam should worry about something else. "It's alright, honey. We'll take care of it. You just feel better, okay?"

Sam hummed a response and leaned his head against Dean.

Dean ruffled his kid's sweaty, floppy hair.

The teacher smiled, touched that these brothers were obviously so close. "I'll make sure you're both checked out in the front office," she assured Dean, wrongly assuming that he cared about such formalities. "And I'm not a nurse, but make sure that he gets lots of fluids and rest. We want you back here in a few days..." she told Sam. "...not in the hospital from dehydration."

Dean cringed at the thought, though he knew he would never allow that to happen.

Sam wouldn't end up in the hospital on his big brother's watch.

Dean already had plans for a quick supply run at the corner store to stock up on ginger ale and Gatorade and popsicles and other sick little brother necessities.

"And remember our policy..." the teacher continued. "A student must be fever free for at least 24 hours before returning to school."

Dean nodded, though he didn't need a policy to tell him to keep his kid home if Sam had a fever.

The teacher returned the nod.

There was a beat of silence.

Dean squeezed his brother's shoulder, moving his hand to rest on Sam's neck; his thumb rubbing underneath the kid's hair. "Alright, Sammy. Let's go..."

Sam sighed at the monumental task of walking but stepped forward with Dean, shuffling beside his big brother as they made their way to the school's exit.

Still standing in the hallway, the teacher watched them move along together; her heart warming at the sight of Dean keeping his brother close, steering the kid down the hall and steadying him when he stumbled.

Several minutes later, Truman's doors were closing behind the brothers...and Amanda Heckerling was spying on them from the window of her first period class, cataloging their every move.

Because this, this version of Dean was the Dean she wanted – the one who was sweet and gentle and so tender and caring that it made her want to cry.

And yet through it all, he hadn't lost his badass edge.

Amanda had no doubt that in the midst of taking care of Sam, Dean would've kicked somebody's ass if they had needed it...if they had pissed him off enough or had interfered with him tending to his little brother or had further upset Sam.

And that's what she wanted – a badass teddy bear.

Amanda smiled at the thought, watching the brothers continue down the sidewalk and wondering what they were saying to each other.

Outside, Dean hadn't given another thought to Amanda; the big brother focused only on Sam, the kid too quiet and shaky for his liking.

"Almost there," Dean reported about their proximity to the motel, even though the motel was still several blocks away. "You still okay?"

Sam swallowed and nodded as they walked, grateful for Dean's support...and hell, just grateful for Dean.

Because no one had his back, no one took care of him like his big brother.

And this morning had been particularly unpleasant...

Not to mention what was still to come as this virus ran its course.

Sam swallowed again at the thought, waiting several seconds to speak when he knew he could do so without gagging.

"Thank you."

Dean smiled at his kid's hoarse voice and pulled his brother a little closer, affectionately rubbing Sam's shoulder. "Don't mention it, Sammy. It's my job, right? Take care of my pain in the ass little brother..."

Sam snorted tiredly, hearing the love in Dean's classic sarcasm and knowing Dean would always be there for him, would always do what was best for him even if that meant Dean exposed his own weakness.

Because even superheroes, even big brothers had an Achilles' heel...and Sam was honored that he was Dean's.