Rating: T, for a bit of language
Word Count: 3300
Characters: Dean, Sam, OFC
Summary: A hunt goes badly for Dean, who gets a shoulderful of poisonous quills. But don't worry, Sam is there. Delirious!Dean, snark, snuggles.
A/N: Um... so this is just some super-duper-gratuitous h/c. It's an extended re-mix of "Ice Pack," and it's for deangirl1, Supernoodle, AmyNY, kogsy21, silverbella, and especially Enkidu07, because they asked so nicely, and also for heather03nmg 'cause she was just like, 'Make him sick some more?' Funnily enough I discovered that the ice pack would have been a dumb thing for Sam to use, so, it's not in the story anymore. Many thanks to justruth and ispeaktongue, both of whom beta'd me admirably, especially ispeaktongue who came up with the ending (she's so smart!).
Disclaimer: I don't own these guys, I swear.
They chased the creature away from the screaming woman, back into the woods.
They'd never seen a weryl before, and as they ran, Sam and Dean were unsettled. The flash they'd got of it in the woman's back porch light had revealed long, clear cactus-like quills on an eerily human-shaped body, which was one thing on paper and another, much more fucked up thing right in front of you.
They snapped on their flashlights as the light from the house bled away behind them, knowing that this made them easy targets but also knowing they had no other way to spot the weryl and take it down. Dean had a crossbow at the ready, armed with one of the silver-tipped arrows they'd spent the afternoon casting.
Losing the trail, they slowed to a trot and then stopped altogether, straining in the cold night air to hear over the sound of their own harsh panting.
'Which way?' hissed Dean.
Sam cocked his head, at a loss, and played his flashlight over the area, slowly and deliberately.
The beam came up against a spiny foot. He jerked the flashlight up and there it was - the weryl - come back to play.
'Dean,' breathed Sam.
Dean turned and saw it. The face was disturbingly expressionless, blank eyes reflecting light.
'Dude, that's all kinds of fucked,' whispered Dean, training his crossbow on the weryl's head. Then, louder: 'You've eaten your last housewife, freak!' His finger tightened on the trigger, but he hesitated when he saw its belly changing color under Sam's flashlight, lizard green to sky blue, nudging something from their research toward his conscious mind.
'Huh,' said Dean. 'I think he likes me.'
He heard a thud off to his side. Turned, and saw that Sam had hit the deck.
'Dean, get down!' Sam shouted.
And then Dean's shoulder blade was jammed full of white hot pain.
'Son of a bitch,' he growled, turning back to the weryl and hefting his crossbow. The weryl was on the move again, but Dean still managed to get it square in the head. It toppled heavily, and that was that.
'Shit,' Sam groaned, picking himself up and going over to his brother, who was pulling experimentally at the quills lodged in his shoulder. 'Dean.'
'I think they have little hooks on the ends,' said Dean. He shone his flashlight in Sam's face, suddenly remembering something else. 'Hey, aren't these things poisonous?'
'Yeah,' Sam squinted, pushing the flashlight away. 'Yeah, they are. Shit, Dean.'
Dean swallowed. 'But it wasn't, like, bad poison, right? 'Cause I'm pretty sure I would have remembered that.'
'It won't kill you, if that's what you mean.'
'Good,' said Dean. 'I like not being killed.'
It wasn't a long way back to the house, but Dean was sweating by the time they got there, and Sam could see in the light spilling off the house that he was already much too pale.
'We have to tell her she's safe,' said Sam, climbing the back porch. 'And maybe we can use her place for a minute. Get you looking less like a pincushion.' He knocked before Dean could object.
'Yeah, 'cause she was so receptive earlier,' groused Dean, wax-faced and irritable. 'I bet she'll be begging for our autographs and shit.'
'I think she's scared out here by herself,' said Sam. 'And now she's seen the weryl. Might not seem like such a bad idea, having a couple of humans around.'
'Whatever, dude.' Dean thumbed sweat out of his eyes.
'Hey, listen.' Sam turned to face him. 'You don't want those things in you. They're going to keep leaking shit into your system right up until we get them out. We do this here, you don't get as badly poisoned. So back me up on this one.'
Dean rolled his eyes, but climbed onto the porch to stand beside Sam.
'Wildlife Services!' Sam called, knocking again. 'It's just us, ma'am!'
The curtains rippled, and a couple seconds later the door eased open as far as the safety chain would allow, revealing a pair of wide brown eyes in a pale face.
'Is it really just you?'
'Yes ma'am, it's really just us,' said Sam in his most reassuring, utterly benign voice. 'We were able to track down that mammoth porcupine. It was rabid, so we were forced to put it to sleep. It won't be bothering you anymore.'
The woman just stared, so Sam kept talking.
'My partner's been hurt. I need to give him some first aid. If we could borrow your kitchen for just half an hour, it would save us both a giant headache.'
The woman's eyes sought out Dean, who rotated to show her the quills. Then her gaze flicked back to Sam.
'OK,' she said. 'You can come in.'
Her kitchen was white. White walls, white cupboards, white fridge, white tile floor. The woman herself was pretty white too, shocky and disheveled, must have been in her mid-thirties. Not as white as Dean though, who collapsed heavily into a turned-around kitchen chair with hardly any encouragement.
Sam's eyes went from Dean to the woman and back.
'I'm going to get our first aid kit out of the car,' he announced, heading for the door. 'I'll be right back.' And he was gone.
Dean and the woman looked at each other.
'I'm not that good with blood,' the woman said to Dean.
'That's OK,' said Dean. 'My brother and me, we're experts. We've got it covered.'
'I thought he was your partner.'
Dean cursed under his breath, rolled his burning shoulder.
'We're brothers, but we're also partners. We work together.'
Luckily the woman seemed satisfied with his explanation.
'What's your name, sweetheart?'
'Marsha,' she said.
'Marsha,' he repeated. 'That's good. My name's Dean.'
Sam sat at the kitchen table, rummaging through the first aid kit. Marsha was in the other room, where she wouldn't have to see the blood, bundled in a blanket at the brothers' suggestion, definitely a bit shocky.
'I don't get it,' Dean mused, downing the Tylenol Sam slid his way. 'Its belly turned blue.'
'Blue is the mad colour, Dean. It means back off 'cause I'm about to let you have it.'
'What? I thought that was red.'
'Red means let's fuck like bunnies. Did you even read the stuff I gave you?' Sam asked, finding the tweezers and clacking them together experimentally.
'I skimmed it,' said Dean defensively.
Sam snorted, pushing the first aid kit aside, and took a good, hard look at the mass of long clear slender quills sticking out of his brother. There had to be at least fifty of the things. He scooted his chair up close to Dean's, finding himself a good vantage point from which to work.
Dean still had his outdoor gear on, heavy boots and leather jacket. Up close Sam could see that the quills were effectively pinning the jacket to his body. He eyed the sweat trickling down Dean's neck and decided the jacket might be a problem.
'Look, I don't think your coat's going to come off, but I can try.'
Dean was hot as hell. He nodded and shrugged out of the sleeves, swallowing against the hurt as the quills took on the jacket's weight. Sam took hold of the jacket gave a few gentle, experimental tugs. Dean saw stars, felt himself break out in goosebumps.
'Forget it,' Dean said through gritted teeth. 'You're just gonna tear the holes bigger. Help me get it back on.'
Sam complied, not missing the tightness in his voice. 'You need anything before we get started? Some water?'
'Christ, I'm fine,' grated Dean.
'OK, OK.' Sam picked up the tweezers again and centred them around a quill near the edge of the cluster. 'Here goes.'
He clamped down and pulled, gently at first but gradually adding force, angling the quill around to see if he could work the hooks free and minimize the tissue damage.
'Dude,' Dean said eventually, 'just yank it.'
Sam gave up and ripped the quill out. He was surprised how hard he had to pull; the things were really effectively embedded.
'Son of a bitch,' gasped Dean, turning to see.
'That's what you get for not doing your homework,' Sam said, and held up the quill. Its end was dripping blood, and it had a bit of flesh still stuck to it.
'That's just great,' said Dean.
With forty-five quills remaining (sixteen down), Sam noticed Dean starting to do controlled breathing, which told him the pain was getting to be a problem.
'Fuckin' weryl,' Dean muttered between careful breaths.
Eighteen quills later, Dean was white as a ghost, and his hair was absolutely drenched with sweat. Sam cupped a hand to Dean's forehead and felt his mouth go dry.
Dean shook him off and snapped, 'What?'
'So I'm told,' Dean chuckled, but the sound was strained.
'Easy there, smartass.' Sam got up and went to Marsha's sink, where he wetted down a handful of paper towels. Came back and pressed them against Dean's forehead.
'Come on,' said Dean, shying away, but Sam grabbed his hand and brought it up to hold the wet towels in place.
'Dude, seriously. You're really hot.'
Sam let go of Dean's hand, and was surprised to see his arm trembling with the effort of just staying up. He noticed now the way the chair back was taking all of Dean's weight, the way Dean was breathing harder than he should have been.
'Be right back.'
Marsha had a guest bedroom on the first floor, and she told Sam he could use it.
'Time for a change of scenery,' he announced, coming back into the kitchen. Dean was staring at the floor, where the wad of paper towels had dropped, looking blanched and forlorn. 'Think you can walk?'
Dean didn't look at him, just pushed himself to his feet by way of answer, then swayed dangerously to the side. Sam was there in a flash, awkwardly supporting him around the quills, not at all liking the heat coming off him.
The bedroom was a surprising shade of maroon, the bedspread patterned with deep red roses on a white background. Sam laid out his jacket for Dean to bleed on, and got him onto the bed, flat on his stomach.
Dean groaned at the change in altitude, then licked his lips. 'Look,' he said, 'I can't stay long. I have to meet Donald later.'
Sam cocked his head, uneasy. 'Donald?'
'You've met Donald,' said Dean, turning glassy eyes on Sam. 'Tough guy. Always getting mad. Cutest little beak.'
Sam knew this would probably be hilarious later, but right now it was scaring the shit out of him. The weryl's poison wasn't strong enough to kill Dean, but the fever it had triggered could still cook his brain. They were wanted men and had to steer clear of hospitals whenever they could, but of course Sam would take him to one if it came to it. He just really, really hoped it didn't.
He grabbed the thermometer out of the first aid kit and pressed it into Dean's hand. 'Put this under your tongue,' he said when Dean just frowned at him.
As Dean cooperated, Marsha came into the room. She eyed the bloody mess of Dean's shoulder and quickly looked away.
'It wasn't a porcupine,' she said, 'was it.'
Sam sighed his frustration. 'What else would it be?'
'A monster,' she blurted out.
'Monsters are real,' Dean mumbled around the thermometer, eyes bright and unfocused. 'They're all real, and some of 'em like to ski.'
'Don't mind my partner,' said Sam with what he hoped was a charming smile. 'He's having a bit of an allergic reaction. It was a porcupine, and you're safe, and everything's fine, but I really have to finish up with these quills now, so...'
Marsha just stood there, but Sam was stressed enough that he got up and ushered her out of the room and back to her couch.
'I know it was scary, but you're going to be fine. We'll be out of your hair in no time. We'll call someone for you, you won't have to be alone. Where's your husband?'
'Seattle,' she said. 'Business trip.'
'We'll get him on the phone for you, just as soon as we're done. Would you like that?'
Marsha nodded, and Sam gave her shoulder a quick squeeze.
'Hang in there.'
When Sam came back into the bedroom, Dean was twisted around on the bed, prodding weakly at the quills in his shoulder. 'Have you seen these things?' he said to Sam, like he'd just noticed them for the first time.
'Yeah man, I've seen them.'
Sam's stomach was tight. He had to get the rest of the quills out fast. He sat down on the edge of the bed, picked up his tweezers and surveyed the damage.
Dean was sprawled belly-down on the bed, pale and sweaty, shivering, breathing hard around the thermometer like he'd just run a mile. His leather jacket was dotted with pinholes, his shoulder still sprouting a full twenty-seven of the long, clear quills.
'Brace yourself,' said Sam, and ripped out a quill. Dean flinched, and turned to face him.
'Jesus,' he spat around the thermometer, his eyes glassy. 'What the hell?'
Sam eyed him and sighed. 'I have to get these out, remember?'
Dean blinked and squinted irritably. 'You have to do it like that?'
'Yeah, I do. I know it sucks, OK? Just sit tight.'
Dean still frowned uncertainly, so Sam rubbed a few quick circles into the small of his back, then gave him an affectionate thump.
At this contact, Dean's face melted into long, sad lines, his eyes going even glassier, such that Sam froze, hand still on his back, wondering if he'd hurt him.
'You need a break?' asked Sam.
'I'm sorry,' Dean mumbled around the thermometer, his face going red, woeful eyes locking onto Sam's.
'It's fine,' Sam said, suspecting he was missing something. 'We can take a couple minutes. No biggie.'
'No,' Dean said urgently, and a shaky hand came up to grasp Sam's collar. 'College, man. I'm sorry I took you away from college.'
Sam reeled at the change of topic, wondering again about Dean's temperature. 'You didn't take me away, all right? I make my own choices.'
Tears spilled down Dean's mopey face and he sniffled pitifully. 'You could have been happy.'
Sam didn't know whether to laugh, cry or call 911. He settled on pulling Dean into an awkward hug, the hot forehead pressing against his neck, Sam's palm soothing long strokes down the leather-clad back, careful to avoid the remaining quills. Dean's fist stayed locked on Sam's collar, and he snuffled and shivered under his brother's warm arms.
Finally Sam gave him one last squeeze and pushed him back gently, smoothed back his hair, then plucked the thermometer out of his mouth. Cocked his head at the readout: 105.2.
'Jesus,' he said, his stomach in knots. 'Fuck.' But he knew brain damage territory was up past 107.
He got a glass of water and helped Dean drink it all. Wet down his face with more paper towels. Wrestled him out of his pants and wiped his legs down, too. Then he got back to work.
'There,' said Sam an eternity later. 'That's the last one.'
He added the blood-tipped quill to the pile on the floor and set the tweezers down. Then he eased Dean out of his coat and peeled off his bloodied shirt, grimacing at the sight of the shoulder, smeared red and full of small, rough holes.
'It's cold,' Dean whined, more lucid now. 'Hurry up.'
Sam cleaned the wounds quickly and thoroughly, then got his brother bandaged up and into a clean T-shirt, one Marsha said her husband wouldn't miss. Smoothing the medical tape onto Dean's back, Sam could feel he'd unmistakably cooled down a couple degrees, and he finally let himself exhale.
'All right,' said Sam, 'we'd better jet.' He helped Dean back into his pants, packed up the first aid kit, wrapped up the quills in the garbage bag they'd been resting on, and went to find Marsha.
'Hey,' he said, finding her on the couch. 'We're going. You should call your husband.' He spotted the phone on the coffee table, picked it up and handed it to her. 'Go ahead, I'll wait while you get him on the line.'
Marsha dialed slowly, watched Sam as it rang. 'I know it wasn't a porcupine,' she said.
'It's gone now,' was all Sam could think to say.
When Sam woke up the next morning, Dean was already awake and thumbing through some papers in bed.
'Hey,' said Sam. 'How you feeling?'
'Like eight kinds of ass,' Dean croaked, 'and none of them are Lucy Liu's. But I found something.'
'Yeah?' Sam propped himself up on an elbow and eyed the pages, recognizing them as his own weryl research.
'I was right,' Dean smirked. 'He liked me.'
'Who liked you?' Sam asked, reaching for Dean's forehead.
'The weryl,' said Dean, ducking the hand. 'You got your colors wrong, geekboy. Blue was the mating color. Admit it, man: I did my homework, and you didn't.'
'Blue was for mating?' Sam sat on the edge of Dean's bed and palmed his cheek. 'Then why'd it attack you?'
'It wasn't attacking me,' Dean gloated. 'It was trying to have my love child.'
Sam looked at the pages scattered on the bed and saw that Dean was right. The quills were how weryls defended themselves, but also how they mated. Their seed just happened to be poisonous to humans.
'Huh,' said Sam, pulling back the sheet for a look at Dean's bandage. 'So basically it made you its bitch.'
'Shut up,' said Dean.
'Or was the feeling mutual?'
'Oh my god,' said Dean. 'So juvenile. Forget I even mentioned it.'
Sam got up to make some coffee. 'Do you think your friend has a friend for me?'
He ducked the pillow just in time.