A/N I discovered this quote and it just instantly made me think of Dean & Sam, so I wanted to include it here. It is what inspired the story actually…
"Sibling relationships – outlast marriages, survive the death of parents, resurface after quarrels that would sink any friendship. They flourish in a thousand incarnations of closeness and distance, warmth, loyalty and trust." (Erica E Goode)
Sam tensed as the sound of a sneeze echoed across the graveyard. When there was no sign of any movement after a few seconds he turned round and glared at the source of the sound.
"What? Seriously? How about the fact that you're making enough noise to – literally - wake the dead!" came the hissed response.
"Oh don't exaggerate, Sam, it was one sneeze."
"No, it's been four sneezes and none of them quiet – do you want this thing to hear us coming?"
"I don't know, shall we stand here and argue a little longer to find out?"
Sam bit off the retort that was on the tip of his tongue and turned round again, stalking forwards in a way that telegraphed he was definitely not done with this yet. Dean muttered something under his breath about 'overreactions' and sniffed as he followed behind. He was already feeling lousy and he could have done without Sam's hissy fit on top of that – it wasn't like he was really trying to attract attention to them after all.
An hour later and he'd moved on from feeling lousy to feeling like something that should have been buried underneath their feet with the rest of the bodies. Despite Sam's complaining, they'd got the job done with the minimum of fuss and – amazingly - no injuries for either of them. What it had done, however, was start raining and they were now both soaked to the skin. Dean sneezed violently again and winced when his headache protested the loud noise.
He glanced sideways, seeing Sam looking at him with concern this time instead of annoyance. "Whatever." he said, shoving his hands further in his pockets and trying in vain to pull his collar high enough to stop the rain trickling down his back.
Sam kept quiet but continued to watch Dean as he walked, noticing now the job was over just how pale he looked. He frowned and thought back over the last couple of days, realising now that this had been building for a while. The signs were there for anyone to see, if you looked hard enough – the depleted appetite, the sneezing and sniffing, the red rimmed eyes, the fact that the heating had been full blast in their room last night even though it was relatively balmy at the moment. Sam mentally kicked himself as he saw that his brother had been sickening for something for days, and he'd been too preoccupied with the hunt to even notice.
Sometimes he shared more with their father than he would have liked.
Almost back at the car now, Sam reached out, grabbing Dean's arm and earning himself an irritated look.
"Keys. I'm driving." he said and was somewhat surprised when they were thrown in his direction without further argument. Just about managing to catch them before they hit him in the face, his frown deepened. Dean must be feeling really rough if he wasn't even going to put up a token argument.
Having grabbed a towel for the seat and scraped as much mud off his boots as he could, Dean got into the car and immediately hunched down against the door. He shivered and pulled his coat tighter round him, which was a somewhat redundant move since it was cold and wet. The rain had been coming down so hard it had even begun to darken the leather in places. Sighing he reached out and turned the heater up to full, leaning to look out the window at what was taking Sam so long.
"Would you get in the damn car and turn the heaters on?" he called out and the door opened, revealing Sam's annoyed expression. Whatever complaint he'd been about to make though was abandoned when he saw just how rough Dean looked in the glow from the interior light, and he instead spread his own towel across the seat and jumped in, quickly gunning the engine.
As they pulled away Dean closed his eyes and tried not to shiver too much, knowing Sam was watching him as much as he was looking where they were going. He was too tired to tell him to quit so he settled for ignoring it instead, something he'd perfected over the years. He didn't know why Sam was suddenly making such a big deal anyway, it wasn't like he was sick.
Dean Winchester didn't get sick.
By the time they pulled into the motel parking lot Sam could only just about see through the windshield, the combination of two damp bodies and a heater on full having covered the glass in condensation. He'd barely had time to switch off the engine and put it in park before Dean was out of the door, stumbling a little as he weaved his way towards their room. Sam quickly grabbed the weapons, knowing some of them needed drying out, and followed him.
He could already hear the sound of the shower coming from the bathroom and he nodded to himself, knowing that it was for the best that Dean get warm again as quickly as possible. Shutting and locking the door behind him, Sam dropped the weapons bag by the table and crossed the room to reach Dean's duffle, which was shoved in the corner. Rummaging inside he pulled out a pair of sweatpants and a long sleeved tee shirt, adding some warm socks and underwear. Holding the bundle away from himself, so they wouldn't get wet, he knocked on the bathroom door.
The voice sounded scratchy and Sam winced, adding sore throat to the list he was making in his head of Dean's symptoms.
"I got some dry clothes for you." he called back, waiting for a response.
"It's not locked."
As Sam turned the handle he wondered if that was because Dean had been in a hurry to reach the shower or because his brother had, for once, had the foresight to realise that locking the door might not be a good idea when there was the possibility he might keel over any second. Blinking at the cloud of steam that hit him when he opened the door Sam dumped the clothes on the toilet lid and grabbed a towel for himself, so he could at least stop dripping everywhere.
Dean heard the door open and close again but didn't really pay it much attention, concentrating instead on the relief the hot water was bringing to his aching muscles. He was slowly starting to feel less like a popsicle but other than that he was no better. His head still pounded, his muscles ached like he'd just run a marathon, and he could only breathe by keeping his mouth open. Something which was not helping the rawness in his throat. He was fine though, of course.
Nothing a good night's sleep wouldn't cure.
Deciding to leave Sam some hot water, since he'd gotten just as wet as him, Dean summoned enough energy to wash himself and turned the water off. Even in the humid warmth of the bathroom he shivered as he stepped out of the shower and he smiled slightly when he saw that Sam had dug out his warmest and most comfortable clothes. Quickly drying himself he pulled them on, hung his towel over the rail and opened the door.
Sam was hidden in the depths of a towel as he tried to dry his hair and he peered out of the folds comically as he heard the bathroom door open. Dean smirked at the sight, not to mention the various angles Sam's hair was standing up in, and dropped onto his bed with a stifled groan.
"Better?" said Sam, mildly, running his hands through his hair to try and regain some semblance of control. Judging by the look on Dean's face it was a good idea, before he went out in public.
"Warmer, yeah." Dean replied, closing his eyes against the brightness of the light. He opened them again a few seconds later when the light against his eyelids dimmed, noting with surprise that Sam had switched off the main light and put on the lamp that sat between the two beds. He nodded his thanks, then remembered why moving his head wasn't a good idea right now.
Sam put his towel back in the bathroom and came back out again, pulling his lighter – but more importantly, dry – jacket out of his own bag. Dean noticed what he was doing and frowned. "Where are you going?"
"To the store. There's a few things we need and I was gonna pick up some food. I won't be long."
Dean grimaced at the 'f' word and swallowed, feeling like he had razor blades stuck in his throat. "Nothing for me, thanks. I'm not hungry."
Sam shrugged as he grabbed the car keys from the table. "I'll get some soup or something, just in case."
Dean didn't bother to reply, closing his eyes again instead as a second marching band started drumming in time with the first, in his head. He idly wondered where Sam had left the guns and if he could possibly reach one of them and put himself out of his misery. A picture of Sam's expression should he voice that out loud popped into his mind and he reluctantly dismissed it as too much trouble.
Maybe he could get his brother to do it for him?
"I'll be back in a minute."
Dean managed to raise one hand in a vague wave and he heard the door open and close behind Sam, also hearing the lock click in place seconds later. Rolling over he managed, with some difficulty, to pull enough blanket out from underneath him to wrap round himself. Burying his head in the pillow he concentrated on not swallowing and also trying not to breathe too loudly.
A feat pretty much unachievable, given he was doing it through his mouth. He groaned.
The gun was definitely looking more and more attractive.
When Sam got back less than thirty minutes later he wasn't all that surprised to find Dean asleep. Dumping the bag full of stuff on the table he took off his jacket and went over to the bed, putting the back of his hand gently against Dean's forehead. He was slightly alarmed at just how hot it felt, moving his hand only at the last second as his brother tried to bat it away without even waking up. Deciding that medicine was definitely in order, even if the food would probably have to wait till later, Sam went back over to the table and started unpacking what he'd bought.
The voice that cut through the haze he was currently floating in was annoying and persistent. He tried to ignore it but it refused to go away and was accompanied now by a shake of his shoulder that felt like it was making his brain rattle against his skull.
"I swear, if you don't leave me alone I'm gonna you beat you to death with your own arm."
Sam might have been more bothered by the threat if it hadn't been croaked at him at a volume he almost had to strain to make out. Resisting the urge to laugh, since Dean was obviously feeling pretty crappy, he nonetheless persisted in trying to get him to wake up properly for at least five minutes. "I need you to sit up so you can take some of this stuff," he said.
Dean cracked open one eye and Sam's face came into view. He didn't know what the stuff was nor did he care right now. "Go 'way, Sam." he mumbled, trying to bury his head under the pillow.
Sam grabbed his shoulder, stopping him before he could manage it. "I wouldn't do that, not unless you wanna take your eye out." he pointed out, and Dean fuzzily remembered that he had his knife under there, as usual.
Giving up on that manoeuvre he opened the other eye as well and glared at his brother. "Are you trying to irritate me to death? Cos if so I'd appreciate it if you hurried it along." he said, with feeling.
"Funny. Look, just sit up for five minutes, ok, and take this stuff then I promise I'll leave you alone."
Deciding that he couldn't possibly feel any worse, and Sam obviously had no intention of leaving him to die in peace, Dean managed to get upright. And immediately reconsidered his confidence that he couldn't feel any worse.
Sam acted quickly, handing Dean some pills and a glass of water which he took with pained look. Getting the pills past his throat was agony and almost brought tears to his eyes. He turned his head, slowly, as he realised Sam was reaching past him to put something on his pillow. He eyed the damp looking patch with suspicion, raising one eyebrow.
"It's eucalyptus. It'll help you breathe more easily." said Sam, putting the lid back on the small bottle. Dean didn't look convinced but was obviously in no mood to argue. For a change. Taking advantage of the silence Sam pulled out the thermometer and managed to get Dean to grudgingly slip it under his tongue. Sam counted in his head then took it out.
He looked up at the croaky question. "Not bad. Not what it should be, but not too high yet. Those pills should help bring it down anyway." he said and Dean just looked uninterested. If he wasn't about to die that second, he really didn't care all that much.
Sam got up and put the thermometer, glass and bottle of eucalyptus on the bedside cabinet. He went back over to the table and came back with a bottle of Gatorade. Dean made a face and pointedly ignored it when Sam poured some into the glass and moved it nearer Dean's bed. He began to lay back down again, only to have Sam grab his shoulder and stop him.
"Hang on, let's get the blankets out from under you properly then you can get comfortable."
A few minutes of pushing, pulling and the occasional swearword later Dean was properly tucked in and heading for sleep again. He was still shivering on and off, even though Sam had turned up the heating so high he was beginning to sweat. Rummaging around in the cupboards Sam made a triumphant noise when he pulled out an old water bottle. It was faded and clearly probably older than they were but it looked intact and didn't leak when Sam tested it. Satisfied, he filled it up with hot water and pulled back the blankets long enough to slide it in next to Dean. He grinned as his brother immediately latched onto it and curled round the warmth.
The next few days passed in a bit of a blur, for both of them. Sam spent most of his time cleaning their weapons, surfing the net for their next job or lightly dozing with one ear listening out in case Dean needed him. Dean's temperature had actually risen in the first twenty four hours and with that had come a restless sleep plagued by nightmares. Sam had done what he could, at times resorting to reading aloud from John's journal or the local paper when it became clear that even just the sound of voice seemed to have a soothing effect. He would never admit to Dean what he'd heard, or the things Dean had said, instead settling for hoping that his brother would one day open up to him about that stuff of his own free will. Not that he really expected that to happen of course. When the time came, many years from now, Sam fully intended to have 'I'm Fine' put on Dean's tombstone. As it was, for now he would have to settle for knowing that at least he could chase away the nightmares just by being there, for which he was grateful.
By the third morning Dean's temperature had been steadily coming down and he was starting to lose the flushed look. He'd slept on and off the whole time, not even waking properly when Sam had helped him stumble to the bathroom or forced yet more pills and liquid down his throat. It was mid afternoon when he finally came round and he lay there for a while, watching the shadows on the ceiling and listening to the tapping sound of Sam's fingers on the keyboard.
"Hey, you awake?"
Dean turned his head at the question and nodded, not keen on trying out his throat yet. It no longer felt like he was swallowing crushed glass but it was still a little inflamed. He raised his eyebrows and Sam understood the silent question.
"Wednesday. You've been out of it since Sunday night. Your temperature's almost back to normal though and your breathing sounds a lot easier. I reckon the virus is on it's way out." Sam pronounced, cheerfully.
Dean rolled his eyes. "Thank you, Florence." he whispered, pushing the covers back as he sat up. The room tilted for a second and he paused as he waited for it to move back to where it should be. He looked up to see Sam had stood and was now hovering a few feet away.
"You need a hand?" he said, knowing better than to just dive in.
Dean shook his head. "No, I got it."
Sam watched as he slowly got to his feet and made his way, somewhat unsteadily to the bathroom. He waited and was pleased not to hear the lock click in place. He sat back down as he heard the water running, turning his attention back to what he'd been reading. Ten minutes later he glanced up when the door opened to reveal Dean, wrapped in a towel, on the hunt for clean clothes and looked again when it opened for the second time as Dean came out, now fully dressed. He noticed that his brother had added a long sleeved shirt still, even though the room was practically tropical.
Sam stood up. "You hungry?"
Dean thought about it, his stomach rumbling slightly at the idea of food. "I guess so."
"Ok, well sit down and I'll sort something out."
Dean did as he was told, straightening his covers and then sitting back on the bed with a sigh. He felt better than he had done but he was still certain that someone had dragged him out of bed at some point and kicked the crap out of him, then put him back as if nothing had happened. Even his hair ached.
He hadn't realised he'd closed his eyes until he felt Sam nudging him. Opening them he saw his brother standing next to him, holding out a steaming mug in one hand and a plate of dry crackers in the other. His stomach rumbled again, louder this time, as he got a whiff of what was in the mug. "Is that chicken soup?" he said and Sam grinned.
"Yep. What else?"
Dean grinned back and took it eagerly, balancing the plate of crackers on his legs. He softened them in the soup first, aware of his tender throat, and forced himself to have the patience to cool the liquid down before drinking it. It was just what he needed and as he felt the warmth spreading out from the inside he remembered the few times he'd been sick as a child, when it had been John who had brought him chicken soup whenever he was well enough to eat again. He felt a slight pang at the memories but the sadness was overridden by the sense of comfort they ignited, and by the simple fact that Sam had remembered and gone to the trouble of taking over the ritual.
Before he'd even swallowed the last mouthful the mug was whisked away and more pills put in it's place, with a glass of water. Dean opened his mouth to say that he didn't need them anymore but one look at Sam's face and he instead put the pills on his tongue and swallowed them. Sam nodded approvingly and took away the glass, replacing it with one of Gatorade which Dean wrinkled his nose at.
"You need to replace the fluids." said Sam, using his 'Dad' tone of voice, and Dean sighed but drank it anyway.
"Happy?" he said, when he was done and Sam smirked. "Ecstatic."
Having discovered that there was nothing on TV, and with Sam insisting he stay sat on the bed, they ended up playing poker for the rest of the afternoon. As Sam lost his sixth hand in a row he shook his head. "You are so cheating, Dean."
"I'm not cheating! I don't have to, not when you play that badly."
"I don't play badly, I just don't cheat."
"Yeah, you keep telling yourself that. It explains why you didn't want to play for money mind you."
"No, I didn't want to play for money cos neither of us has any."
Dean reshuffled the cards as Sam got up to make some coffee. He reached out and switched the lamp on with one hand, the early evening light beginning to fade outside the window. As the cards flew through his fingers he looked thoughtful.
Dean came out of his reverie at Sam's question, noticing the mug being held out to him. He took it, putting the cards down on his legs. "Yeah, I'm fine."
Sam chuckled at the response and got a confused look in return.
"What's so funny?"
Sam shook his head. "Nothing. Just something I was thinking about the other day. Anyway, what had you so deep in thought?"
Dean took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Nothing really. I was just thinking about when I used to get sick as a kid. The stuff Dad used to do." he said, a little wistfully.
Sam smiled, softly. "Yeah, he could actually do the nursemaid thing pretty well when he wanted to."
Dean laughed out loud. "Oh yeah, he'd love to hear you call it that, Sammy." he said and Sam ducked his head a little.
Maybe nursemaid wasn't the right word, come to think of it.
"Just made me think, that's all. It wasn't all bad, not really." Dean continued and Sam raised his eyebrows.
"You do realise you're saying that the only good memories you have are when you were sick, because that's when Dad would actually stick around and take care of you for once?"
Dean tensed slightly and shot Sam a warning look. "Don't start, ok? Not now."
Sam duly backed down, knowing it was an argument he wouldn't win and also that Dean was still most likely feeling pretty crap. Even if he wouldn't admit it. "Fine. You wanna play another hand?"
Dean nodded, grateful that Sam wasn't going to push it for once. They settled into the game again and Sam was busy contemplating his next move when Dean eventually broke the silence.
"You did a pretty good imitation."
Sam looked up from his cards. "Of what?"
Dean deliberately tried to look casual, still looking down at his own cards as if they were monumentally interesting. "Of Dad. With the whole taking care of thing. Not that I needed it. I could have handled it myself." he added, missing Sam's incredulous eyeroll.
"Right. I'm sure you could. You were just giving me something to do."
That earned him a grin. "Absolutely."
Shaking his head Sam took a card from the deck and forced himself not to curse. Dean was definitely cheating. Either that or he was having the worst luck in history.
The quiet word dragged his attention away from his abysmal hand and he saw that Dean still wasn't looking at him. "For what?"
Now he did get a look, one that told him not to be so stupid and that there was no way he'd be getting further explanation out loud. Realisation dawned and he smiled slightly.
"Oh. Right. Well, you're welcome. It was no big deal."
And that, Dean realised, was the best part about it. As far as Sam was concerned, spending three days cooped up in a motel room in the middle of nowhere while he waited hand and foot on his sick brother really was no big deal.
Because it was what they did.
As he contemplated how to turn the game around so that Sam won this one, Dean smiled to himself. Maybe getting sick hadn't been quite so bad after all.
Because sometimes you needed reminding, that it was the little things that really counted.