Disclaimer – I checked, and sure enough, they're not mine. Just borrowing them.
Summary – What happens when the boys are stranded and one of them becomes violently ill?
Rated T for swearing.
a/n - Okay, so this started out as a one shot, right after ELAC, (I'm a slow writer) because Dean's inability to talk about his dad's death was driving me crazy. And I figured he would only open up if he was delirious. But then, my little one shot with Delirious Dean took a life of its own.
The story is set between ELAC and Bloodlust, before the Impala made its comeback, before we found out about John and Ellen's husband. Jo isn't in it, because the poor girl just isn't right for Dean, but Ellen is, because I like her and I think she can be the maternal figure the boys could use from time to time. There is nothing supernatural in it, just lots of Dean in pain, Dean in agony, Dean in pain and agony in his boxers, and Protective Introspective Sam.
And, although I did research the medical stuff, some of it just bored me silly, and I might have embellished here and there. Honestly, it's so much more fun to inflict than to cure. Just be glad I'm not your doctor. A big thank you to LP – she knows why.
This is my first SN fic, and there is no beta, so blame me for everything. And the story is complete. I will try and post quickly, as long as you like it, as long as you review…
The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother
He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother
The call from Ash came at 3:15 in the morning. At 3:21 they were in the car, heading back to Ellen's place. Back in time as recent memories dominated their thoughts. Truth be told, neither brother had enjoyed a decent night's sleep since their father's death. A phone call in the middle of the night, even one that promised only more uncertainty, was a welcome reprieve.
Sam stole a glance in his brother's direction, the only way he could look at him these days without eliciting his wrath. Or was that Sam's imagination? Was the guilt that was eating at him making him overly sensitive? It wasn't as if Dean was the epitome of charm and chatter on his good days.
Sam thought about all the times his brother had saved him from harm. From Bloody Mary and the wendigo. From demons to just plain nut jobs. He was always there. Could always count on him. But now, when he needed him most, where was he? Didn't he know that the feelings of despair that threatened to consume him were more dangerous than anything they'd ever encountered? Sam felt the guilt rise like bile. He hated how desperately he needed his brother. How much pressure his brother already felt to take care of him.
Sam appreciated Dean's attempt at small talk, welcomed the interruption of his thoughts. "We're about three, four hours away. Maybe longer," he replied. "Ash said it's been raining for hours, the roads might not be in the best shape. And this car," Sam's voice trailed as he patted the dashboard of the little Volkswagon Bug they had borrowed from Bobby. "May not go past 50 on a good day."
Dean nodded, his brother's presence a painful reminder of his inability to deal. With his father's death. His grief. Life.
"Pick some music. Anything loud." That's it. Give him something to do. Although he doubted it would be loud enough. Dean rubbed his temple. He'd had a headache for two days. Maybe loud wasn't the best thing. Then again, maybe it was.
Why couldn't Sam handle things the way he did? Why couldn't he just shut everything out and ignore it? Remove himself completely from reality? Listen to Bon Scott hit the high notes, pretend...Dean couldn't finish the thought. Why bother?
He took two aspirins out of his pocket and popped them in his mouth. The music was blaring. His head was throbbing. They had a lead on the demon that killed their father. He pressed on the accelerator. The Bug rumbled, the inside rattling like a jet hitting an air pocket. As the scenery escaped alongside them, the night drew closer.
The brothers huddled in their space.
Lost. Scared. Tired. Alone.
Sam shifted uncomfortably, his long legs needing to stretch. He was surprised to be waking up, surprised he had actually fallen asleep. It was pouring, and water was seeping in through the window, leaving a wet patch on his sleeve.
"How long was I out?"
"We almost there?"
"I'm not sure," Dean was straining to see through the windshield. Visibility was about two feet. "It's been raining like this for the last hour. If I read the last sign right, I think we're close."
"You want me to drive?" It was just for show. He knew what the answer would be.
Sam's eyes widened and he opened his mouth to say something, but thought better of it. He wanted to lean over and put his hand on his brother's forehead, feel for a concussion, a pulse, anything that would explain this turn of events. Instead, he watched silently as Dean pulled over to the side of the road, the car sputtering as it went through a deep puddle.
Dean was out of the car instantly, popping two more pills before Sam had a chance to get out. He rubbed his neck and his head, willing the pounding to go away.
Sam got behind the wheel, fighting the urge to ask Dean if he was okay. Even though it wasn't his beloved Impala, Dean always wanted to drive. He turned the key. The engine sputtered and then nothing. He tried again. No luck, not even a sputter this time.
"What's the matter?"
"I don't know." Sam tried again, pumping the accelerator. Nothing. He looked at Dean.
Sam did as he was told. Still nothing.
"Damn it," Dean swore under his breath. "I think it's flooded. Spark plugs must have gotten wet just now." Dean hit the dashboard with the palm of his hand. "Piece of shit." He could see the water rushing by them. Didn't like the look of it. "We gotta get out of here."
"Can you get it to start?"
"Not in this weather. The plugs have to dry out now."
"How do you propose we…" Sam raised his eyebrows.
"We have no choice, Sam. Look at the water around us. I don't know these parts very well, but we might be in flood country. If we get caught in a flood, this piece of tin isn't going to save us."
"But walking on our own will?"
"Get your bag." Dean was out of the car before Sam could respond.
The rain was coming down hard, cold, and the water on the ground was up to their ankles.
"Dean, this is crazy. Do you even know where we are?" Sam had to shout to be heard above the downpour.
"I think it's just a few miles." Dean had already started walking.
"A few miles?" Sam was running to catch up. "Five, 10, 20 miles?"
"Yeah, something like that."
Sam looked at his watch, surprised to see it was 7:15. The sky was so black, so cloudy, he had thought it was the middle of the night. They had been driving for almost four hours. Maybe they weren't that far after all.
"Dean, what was the last sign you saw?"
"I don't remember. I think it said 12 miles."
"How long ago was that?"
Dean looked in his brother's direction. Why was he asking so many questions? Why couldn't he just shut up and walk? His head was killing him. He was sure it was lack of sleep, lack of food. Neither of which he'd had in the last 48 hours. He tried to cut Sam some slack. Maybe his little brother wouldn't be so irritating if he felt better.
"About 10 minutes ago," he answered. He honestly didn't know when he'd seen the last sign, the road a boring blur for the last three hours. But the response got the desired effect. Sam was calculating in his head, trying to figure out how far away they were, how fast they were walking, when they might get there. At least it would keep him busy for a while.
"We're probably about two, three miles out," he said.
No peace for the wicked, Dean thought, nodding. The movement made him wince.
"Sam!" Dean turned at the sound of his brother falling beside him. "What the hell?"
"Ow." Sam was on his butt, rubbing his shoulder.
"What happened? You okay?"
"I'm fine. I walked into something." Sam let his brother pull him up.
They were standing directly in front of a road sign, all four feet by three feet of it.
"How did I miss that?"
Dean leaned forward, barely six inches from the sign before he could read it, the rain was coming down so hard.
"This is our turn off," he shouted, pointing to the left. "It's a good thing you walked into it or we probably would have missed it."
Sam laughed in spite of himself. It was the nicest thing Dean had said to him in days.
They followed the turn, finally getting their bearings almost an hour later, when they were practically in front of the Roadhouse. By the time they arrived they were drenched, their clothes soaked and ready to wring, their bodies shaking uncontrollably from the cold.
Sam reached the door first, pounding heavily, afraid nothing could be heard above the din of the storm. Ash said he'd be waiting for us, he thought, as he pounded again.
After several minutes that seemed like hours, a groggy Ash came to the door, almost surprised to see them.
"Damn," he muttered under his breath. "You're here." He didn't seem all that happy to see them.
"What?" The brothers couldn't believe their ears, and asked the question in unison.
"The storm, I mean…Damn."
"Ash," Dean shouted, clenching his teeth to keep them from chattering. "Are you gonna let us in or are you gonna let us freeze to death?"
Ash thought about the question for too long, forcing Sam and Dean to push their way inside.
"What's going on, Ash?" Dean's nerves were frayed, and he had no desire, or capacity, really, for games. "Didn't you call us, at three in the morning, telling us we had to get over here right away?"
"Yes, but," Ash stuttered.
"Ash!" It was spoken louder than Sam or Dean could deal with, and all three men turned to look at the woman who said it.
Ellen was furious. "I thought you told me you'd called them back. Told them to wait until the storm passed before trying to get here."
"I, well…" Ash looked at the two brothers, then back at Ellen. "I thought they'd turn around when they saw the roads were closed."
The roads were closed? How'd they miss that? Sam wrapped his arms around his body, trying to keep warm, and it was then that Ellen really saw them. Got a good look at them.
"Oh God," she said, walking up to them. "Look at you two. This is exactly what I was trying to avoid." She was undressing them, taking off their soaked jackets as she spoke.
"Why do you look like you walked here?" She didn't wait for a response. "I can't believe you're here. The roads have been closed since last night. And I can't believe Ash called you. That's what happens when you sleep all day, are up all night. Too much time on your hands without anyone to keep you from doing stupid things. Take your shirts off, quickly, before you catch something."
Dean was moving too slowly for her and she went to do it for him, hesitating briefly when her hand caught on his stomach. Why is he so warm?
Dean finished the job, more than a little bemused by the whole situation. "Ellen, we're fine," he tried to explain.
"Save it. I know the drill. The demon surfaced. Ash called. You bolted out of bed, yada, yada, yada. You Winchesters are all alike."
Sam and Dean looked at each other.
She turned to Dean, the oldest, the one that should know better. "Honestly, did it not occur to you that the roads were treacherous? That maybe you shouldn't be out on a night like this?"
"It wasn't raining when we left."
"Left from where? Oh forget it, I don't want to know. Why are you so wet? Did you drive here in a convertible?"
"Car stalled a while back," Sam offered, trying to take some of the heat off Dean.
"Car stalled. Jesus. You walked here?"
"Go, go, hurry up and change." Ellen was practically pushing them towards the bathroom. "And bring out the rest of your clothes so I can throw them in the wash."
"Yes, Ma'am," Dean said, following orders. For the first time in weeks he felt a little bit of weight lift, and was surprised at how grateful he was to have someone telling him what to do.
Sam, on the other hand, had a bewildered look on his face, and Dean couldn't help but smile.
"Nothing," Dean replied, enjoying the moment.
"She's a nut," Sam offered.
Dean nodded, a reminder of the headache that wouldn't go away.
"I still think maybe she and Dad had something, at some point."
Dean mulled it over. "I don't think so. I'm not sure she would've put up with Dad. I don't think she puts up with much."
Sam had to agree. It would have been tough to be in a relationship with his dad. With any of the Winchester men, really. The last thought stung, and he shook it out of his head, preferring to focus on his numb and frozen body. At least that was pain he could handle.
By the time they had changed Ellen had started a fire in her living room, which was just off the kitchen, behind the saloon, and Sam and Dean were given front row seats.
"You'll be lucky if you don't catch pneumonia with your little escapade."
"Ellen, we're fine, really." Dean's words were met with contempt.
"Can it," she said, giving them each a blanket. "When you do something stupid around here you lose the right to argue for a while."
"Where's Jo?" Sam thought he'd change the subject.
"She went to visit a friend yesterday morning, a couple of counties over. I talked to her right before the phone lines went down. She can't get out, so she's staying put until this thing's over."
Just as well, Dean thought. She'd probably be a distraction. Dean took the blanket and put it on the floor.
"Aren't you cold?" Ellen eyed him suspiciously.
"No. I'm not. It's pretty warm in here." Dean looked over at Sam, who was huddled in his blanket as if his life depended on it.
Ellen watched Dean for a moment, until he caught her staring and she looked away. "You boys hungry?" she asked.
"Starving," Sam said.
"I'm okay." Dean knew he had to be hungry. Starving, like Sam. He couldn't even remember the last meal he'd had.
"Coffee would be good," he managed, regretting it the minute he said it. Not even his beloved coffee sounded appealing.
Ellen nodded, disappearing into the kitchen just as Ash showed up.
"Sorry about all that," Ash fumbled for words, pointing in the direction of the kitchen. "She can be a bear when she wants to be. But she's really a pussycat. I didn't know how much you two meant to her." Ash didn't finish the thought.
"What?" Sam didn't get it. Ellen barely knew them.
"A lot of people come and go around here," Ash continued, almost in a whisper. "People that risk their lives every day. People that die every day. She's a master, man. She gets attached to no one. You should've seen her when she found out I'd called you. What you saw this morning, that was nothing compared to how mad she was at me. She's on your side, man. That's for sure."
"She doesn't even know us," Dean argued.
"She knew your father," Ash said solemnly, almost in awe of the man whose notes he'd had the pleasure of studying not too long ago. "That man brings up all kinds of emotions in her."
Sam and Dean exchanged glances, both wanting more information before Ellen came back.
"Here you are," she said, handing them each a cup of coffee and effectively ending the previous conversation. "I'll be right out with breakfast."
"Thanks." Dean took the cup, willing the heavenly smell to open up his appetite. No such luck. It made him gag instead.
"You okay?" Sam missed nothing.
"What? Yeah, I'm fine. I spilled some, it's hot." Dean turned to Ash. "Did she say anything about our dad?" It was a whisper.
"It was kind of a rant. At four in the morning. It wasn't pretty."
Ash heard Ellen returning and moved away, clearly uncomfortable having this conversation. Ellen was very good to him. He loved her like a sister, even though she treated him like a child. He would never betray any of her secrets, but he felt the brothers needed an explanation for her behavior. Didn't want them to think they weren't welcome, when in fact it was quite the opposite.
Ellen handed them a plate filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, toast. More food than they had seen in one sitting in a while. Sam devoured it, practically eating with his hands, the fork just too small to fit it all in.
Dean played with it, keeping the plate as far away as possible. Keeping the smell at a distance. It was hard to ignore the nausea rising in his throat.
"Aren't you hungry?" Sam asked, his mouth full.
"Yeah," Dean lied, forcing a bite of eggs into his mouth. He had to be hungry. He was sure the headache was the result of lack of food. Catch 22. Lack of food was causing the headache. The headache was keeping him from eating. He decided to break the cycle, forcing the food down.
He managed half the breakfast, leaving behind a couple of slices of bacon and some eggs Sam quickly ate.
"Good job," Ellen said, taking their plates. She was treating them like two year-olds, she realized. But she didn't care. They had acted like two year-olds. How many times hadn't she thought the same thing about their father? That single-mindedness verging on insanity that propelled him to risk everything in order to make something better that could never be better. That could never exist the way he had known it.
"Hey, Ellen, do you have any newspapers?" Dean was out of his chair, standing before her.
"Yes," she said, coming out of her reverie. "There's about a week's worth behind the bar." Dean nodded and walked away, unable to make eye contact.
What was it about him that was making her uncomfortable this morning? Ellen couldn't put her finger on it. But something wasn't right.
Dean barely made it to the bar, to the bathroom, far away from everyone, before collapsing in front of the toilet. The breakfast he had just forced down came up in one violent swell, leaving him shaking, heaving, his head throbbing mercilessly. He pushed himself away from the toilet, his back against the stall. He was trembling, his hands unable to settle long enough to wipe the sweat that was trickling down his face.
So, what do you think? Should I keep posting? Please review and let me know – it would make me so happy…