Disclaimer: Just playing.
Word Count: 1600
Optional Challenge Word: Profile
Secret Challenge Theme: 'Dean has a fever.'
A/N: For you, Mad Server. To ensure a Very Happy Birthday, we threw the word limit (as well as the word, actually) out the window and asked everyone to bring us Feverish!Dean. I hope you enjoy and that this is a wonderful end to your birthday weekend!
Sam gripped the steering wheel tight. He watched as his knuckles changed from soft pink to pure white. The ceaseless stream of complaints continued from the seat beside him. Dean had been nursing a cold for three days and the byproduct was a grouchy, irritable, vocal brother.
Over the last two miles Dean had complained that Sam was driving too slow, called him grandma, and made unflattering comments about turtles. "Sometime today, Sam? Or should we just plan on living out here on this road? Pedestrians are passing us. And could you try for a straight line? You're making me nauseous with the swerving..." Then he flipped out and worked his way into a coughing fit when Sam took a curve too fast, berating him for his lack of care and lack of skill. "You never break on a curve Sam, what the hell is wrong with you? Damn it, I taught you better than that. You learn that at Stanford? Do it again and I'm driving." Sam gripped tighter.
As Sam pulled up in front of the nursing home and slid into a vacant spot, he waited for some complaint about how he was parked too far from the curb or too close to the curb or at the wrong angle or in the wrong patch of sunlight or too close to birds or too close to a tree or in the general vicinity of old people.
Instead, Dean was shifting uncomfortably.
"I think I have a fever. Do I feel hot to you?" Sam glanced over and Dean was looking at him expectantly.
"You have a cold, Dean. It's a cold." Sam's response was sharper than he intended. Dean looked... chastised and his complaints died on his lips.
Dean cleared his throat, wincing slightly and reddening and his eyes darted down. "Yeah. You're right. It's just a cold."
Taking in Dean's profile, Sam immediately felt bad. Dean was pale and sweaty. His eyes were squinting in the evening light. His nose was rosy and his voice rocky. Sam tried to smooth it over. "Look, man. This is our last interview. Let's just get through this and we can head back to the hotel and catch up on some sleep. Can you hang in there for one more?"
Dean was already getting out of the car. "Yeah, I'm good. Let's just do it."
By the time Sam turned off the engine, Dean was halfway up the walkway.
Sam sighed and pushed forward to catch up.
When Sam reached the lobby, Dean was in full argument with a uniformed guard.
"What do you mean I can't come in? I'm a visitor and there are people in there," he made a wild gesture with his arm, "who want to be visited, man. You gonna deny them visitors?"
"Sir, our clients are elderly and some have compromised immune systems. They can not be exposed to unwell guests."
"You saying I'm germy?" Dean huffed challengingly.
"Sir, please understand..."
Sam finally caught up, "What's going on?"
"He says that I can't visit Aunt Sophie because I'm too germy." Sam took a look at Dean as he squawked indignantly, essentially tattling on the guard. His hair was plastered to his head and the collar of his t-shirt was damp with sweat. There were high points of flush on his cheeks and he was breathing heavier than usual.
"Dean. Okay. Why don't you just wait in the car, man? I'll, uh, visit, Aunt Sophie for a few minutes and then meet you out there. Okay?"
"Sorry, sir. If you've been exposed to him then you're compromised as well. You'll have to return when you're both healthy."
Sam stood gaping just for a second, but Dean turned on his heel muttering under his breath as he stalked away. "It's just a cold, Dean. Suck it up, Dean. You'll kill old people, Dean."
Sam took a breath, smiled placatingly at the uniformed man, and then turned, following his brother without a word.
Dean was strangely silent all the way back to the hotel. Sam cast glances his way and noticed he was holding himself stiffly. "Your stomach hurt?"
Dean shifted and shrugged, "Just kinda achy."
Now that Dean was quiet, Sam started paying attention. A whining brother generally meant Dean was fine. Dean quiet was more worrying.
Dean fell on top of his bed as soon as they got back to their room. Sam watched, and then began changing clothes.
"What are you doing?" Dean asked harshly from the bed, back to irritated.
"Well, we're gonna be here a few more days, so I'm going to go get some supplies, maybe a little cash."
Dean made a face and then pushed up. "I'll come with you."
"Dean. No. Take a shower. Get some sleep. I'll only be gone a couple of hours and you look like crap."
Dean sat on the edge of the bed looking a little like a kicked puppy, mouth open to breathe, and eyes red. He looked toward the bathroom and then at Sam, deciding, or maybe just zoning out because he didn't respond.
"Seriously, man. Shower. Sleep. I'll call if I need you."
Dean pulled another face and then fell back and grumbled, "Whatever."
Sam was gone longer than he intended but the bar was busy with rich kids on spring break. And, yeah, it ached a little watching their carefree group, but they made easy hustling targets and he came out of the deal with enough cash to last them a week or two even after buying out the local drugstore.
Back at the motel, he pulled into a spot far enough from their room to ensure that the Impala's engine wouldn't wake Dean. When he opened the door, however, Dean wasn't in bed where Sam expected; rather he was hunched over the laptop at the small corner table.
"What're you doing up?" Sam asked, flicking on a lamp.
"Waiting up for me?" Sam guessed wryly, eyebrows raised.
"Couldn't sleep," Dean grated out, voice sounding raw.
Sam raked his eyes over Dean. His shoulders were slumped, weary. His skin was pale and he winced on each swallow and sniff. His fingers moved sluggishly on the keyboard.
"Find anything interesting?"
Dean shrugged and didn't answer. Sam dropped the wad of cash on the table beside him. He watched Dean take it in and Dean's eyes finally flicked up to him. Sam was unprepared for the lackluster gaze and his self-satisfied smirk died on his lips. "What's wrong?"
Dean shrugged and looked away.
"Come again?" Sam sat close and reached out, unprepared when Dean tensed under his hand, but he didn't pull back.
Dean sighed. "Sorry I've been such a jerk."
Sam huffed and squeezed Dean's shoulder, then let his hand drop. He stood and shifted stuff on the table so he could unpack the shopping bags.
"Well, you're just lucky that I've had 26 years of vaccination. I am jerk-proof. Jerk-immune, if you will." Dean didn't actually smile, but his eyes came back up and he released a long breath. "Seriously, how're you doing?"
Dean shrugged. Then rolled his shoulders. "Crappy cold. Achy. Can't sleep. Can't breathe." He watched Sam pull stuff out of the bags. "Vicks rub? You're not getting near me with that."
"I'm not getting near you at all. You're germy, remember? You can rub it on yourself. At least put some under your nose, it'll help you breathe." Dean loosened the cap, sniffed at it experimentally and then his face puckered.
"I think I'd rather suffocate."
Sam snorted and threw him the Sudafed and sore throat lozenges. "Did you shower?"
Sam gave him some water and watched him wince down the pills. "You want to try to sleep again?"
Dean sighed but he shuffled himself toward the bed. "Oh. Here, I brought you soup. It's still kinda warm."
Dean stopped. He stuck out a hand to snag the soup, sniffed it, and then sipped cautiously. "Not bad."
"I also got these," Sam held up some action-packed mindless DVD's. Dean's face lit up for the first time all day.
"Nice. Pop'em in Sammy-boy."
Sam watched Dean settle into bed with his cup of soup in one hand, the lozenges clutched in the other, and a box of tissues under his arm. "You take your temperature?"
Dean shrugged and evaded Sam's hand. He gestured to the movies. "Play'em already. It's just a cold, remember?" Dean didn't say it with malice, but Sam felt bad anyway. Dean seemed to notice and caught his eye, grinning, "And you've been exposed and compromised, so you'll get yours."
"Shut up, jerk. I'm not getting taken down by a pansy ass cold." Sam changed into sleep clothes and crawled into his own bed as the movie started. Dean had already finished the soup and had slid down, curled around the bag of lozenges and watching the screen. He seemed more relaxed than he had all week.
Half way through the movie, Sam glanced over and Dean was out - eyes glued shut, mouth gaping open, wet spot on his pillow. Sam breathed out a laugh and got up to shut off the movie. Dean shifted at his movement, but didn't wake. Sam stopped over him, pulling the blankets higher and lightly pressing the back of his fingers to Dean's forehead. He felt warm, but not hot and when Dean's eyes cracked open Sam turned back to his own bed, softly saying, "Good night, Dean."
Dean grunted sleepily, snuffled noisily, shifted to get more comfortable, and fell back to sleep.