This is a disclaimer.

AN: For keks, for Showing Me The Light. Hope you like it!

Spoonful of sugar

"You're nuts," Dean tells his Dad flatly. "I don't get sick."

John Winchester gives an exasperated sigh. "Dean. You're still running a fever. Bed. Now. Until further notice."

"Further notice being when you get back?" Sam says once Dean had slouched off, grumbling. John's eyebrows climb.

"There's a poltergeist two towns over," he says. "And Dean can manage. It's just the flu."

"Dad," Sam says quietly. "Caleb's not two hours away. And Dean really doesn't get sick."

He looks disturbingly like his mother as he says that, low and pointed and pleading. And he's right. Dean doesn't get sick. It just… never happens. He has always been as healthy as a horse. The last time John can remember him being ill was before, in the height and heat of a Kansas summer, and he and Mary had spent four days bringing him cool damp cloths, making him swallow sickly-sweet medicine and reading him stories while their baby twisted and coughed and sniffled miserably, completely unable to get comfortable.

Finally, John sighs, and picks up the phone.

Sam settles back into his chair with a triumphant smirk.

But for all the good that it does, John might as well have left after all. Dean's face lights up briefly when he crawls out of his bedroom and finds his Dad still there, but nothing John does helps him, not really. He can't sleep, the cough mixture hasn't helped one jot, and the thought of eating, even if it's only soup, makes him shakes his head tiredly and cough even more.

When he just wheezes in place of telling his Dad which film he'd like to see, John phones the doctor.

"Sounds like bronchitis to me, Mr. Winchester," the doc says. "Keep him inside, keep him warm, dose him with cough mixture, and wait for it to go away. That's all you can do if it's not serious. And I doubt it is."

Dean pitches a fit when John tells him the doc's diagnosis. A coughing fit. His Dad's pretty sure it was meant to be yells and denials and indignant you-can't-keep-me-inside-for-weeks!, but the fact that it's not kinda seals the deal as far as John's concerned.

He hands all his latest research over to Caleb, and begins the tricky operation of being there for Dean without letting his oldest know, because Dean will, at first anyway, resist all attempts at coddling, or helping, or just looking after him, with a vengeance.

Take the next afternoon, for example. Dean's fast asleep in the armchair when John gets home from working at the garage in town, and John can't bring himself to try and get him to bed, because he'd just shake him off and stagger there himself, refusing any assistance. John stands there and watches him sleep for a while, because he can't bear to watch Dean push him away again and wonder what it was he did wrong that his son can give, and give, and give to this family, but never accept anything in return.

Sam gets back ten minutes later with an armful of cough medicine and chocolate ice-cream to ease his brother's sore throat, and then produces a brand-new copy of The Lord of the Rings, because the last one got left behind someplace between Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Louisville, Kentucky, and leaves it all at his brother's side before dragging John out the door.

They clear the driveway free of snow together, laughing and teasing and tossing occasional snowballs, and by the time they're done, the ice-cream's gone and Dean's in Middle-Earth. He's reached Buckland already.

In the evening, the three of them play cards and watch a movie – all right, two movies – nearly three, but then Sam starts yawning and John packs them both off to bed.

The next two – nearly three – weeks go by in much the same way. Wonder of wonders, Sam doesn't pick a single fight with his Dad for the whole time Dean is stuck in the house, and John is quietly grateful that his youngest has at least one of his priorities right.

They stay in and watch films, play cards and listen to music and read books and talk about nothing and everything, and every day Dean, who hates to take any kind of medicine in case it 'screws with his body chemistry', which is Dean-speak for 'makes him feel like a wuss', tries his best to get out of taking the stuff, so Sam practically sits on him to get him to swallow it down.

Mary had hated it too but for different reasons; she'd had a… bad experience… with narcotics in high school, and never even drank beer. John has told the boys a few things about her, little snippets here and there, when he could, when it hurt least, but that's one thing they'll never know. She was always pretty ashamed of it.

Most nights, when Dean's twisting and turning and coughing into his pillow in exactly the same way he did when he was four, Sam slips silently out of their room to get John, and then falls asleep in his Dad's bed. John sits with Dean and holds him and rubs his back as he coughs up his very lungs, and once, when he's slipping into an exhausted, miserable sleep, John sings him, soft and slow and brokenly, the songs Mary used to sing both their sons to sleep with, rock classics all, because she never could remember any lullabies, and Dean rests his head on his Dad's shoulder and sighs, relief and peace and comfort in it, and drifts off.

After that, he gets steadily better.

It's maybe a week later that John lets him out of the house for the first time, still pale and thinner than before, but otherwise pretty good, jaunty and cheerful. The timing of his recovery is a lucky coincidence to say the least; there's a pretty nasty poltergeist in Amherst, Jim says, and can John take care of it, or is Dean still sick?

They pack up, Sam looking mutinous again now that Dean's well, as if his brother's good health gives him a weird sort of permission to be pissy, but John gives him driving privileges for the Impala over Dean's protests, just in case, and the responsibility shuts Sam up quite effectively.

Dean's the last to leave. He stands in the doorway with his bag over his shoulder, coat on, looking round the lifeless rooms he's been trapped in for half a month, thoughtful and, for the first time in long while, regretful that they're moving on. "I should get sick more often," he whispers into the now-unwelcoming silence.

"Dean!" Dad calls from the bottom of the drive. "You forgotten anything, son?"

"No, sir!" Dean calls back, a little hoarse still, and locks the door on his way out.