Author's Note: This came to me randomly while I had a migraine last night. I'd been struggling to keep one at bay for a few days and this story popped into my head. It is written while my head is pounding, so I apologize for any mistakes, I did my best to keep them to a minimum. It was only supposed to be a small one-shot, but I remembered a friend who ended up in the hospital once with a really severe migraine and decided to put Dean through the same agony.
Disclaimer: I wished on the first star I saw last night for the Winchesters but never got them, so sadly they still don't belong to me.
The rhythmic, heavy beat of Metallica thrummed through the Impala as Dean sped away from their most recent motel somewhere in Arkansas. They were headed out to do a bit more last minute research before finishing a simple salt and burn, dispatching the ghost of a soldier who had been re-enacting his death in the Civil War on unsuspecting visitors to the battlefield.
It had been an easy case so far and neither one had come out with serious injuries. The worst was Sam's sprained ankle, which hadn't been a result of the case at all. He'd tripped and turned his ankle getting out of the car. Other than that there had been a few scrapes and sore muscles that came from tramping around a battlefield for two days. All in all, almost a vacation when you're a Winchester.
They had a little bit of research left, in the county's historical records. They knew who the soldier was, when he'd died, where, how and why he was haunting the battlefield now, they just had to find out in which civil war cemetery he was buried in. Which meant going through old records to find out.
Tapping his fingers on the steering wheel in time with the music, Dean glanced over at his brother. Sam was slumped in the passenger seat, sound asleep. Instead of waking Sam in the most annoying way possible Dean let him sleep, instead reaching into the back and fumbling blindly for the blindly for the duffle bag he knew was there. He'd thrown the bottle of Advil into it when they had gotten ready for the salt and burn.
A headache that had been niggling at him all day just wouldn't go away, and he'd been taking painkillers regularly since waking up with it.
"Dean, watch the road. I'll grab the Advil."
Dean jumped at Sam's voice, his movement sending the car swerving onto the other side of the road. He was glad there were no other cars out this late at night. "Geez, Sam! Don't do that!" he exclaimed once he had the car under control again.
"Sorry," Sam replied, sitting up and blinking for a second, then reaching into the back and rummaging around, finally producing the bottle of Advil Dean had thought he had snuck into the bag without being seen. Shaking out two he handed them to Dean with a bottle of water.
"Thanks. Pulled a muscle," Dean said casually, taking the pills and tossing them in his mouth. Washing them down with water he chanced a glance over at Sam, to find his brother staring at him with his don't-lie-to-me look on his face.
"Dude, I know you have a headache. You've been doing that squinty eye thing all day. You don't need to hide it." Sam replied, rolling his eyes in disgust.
"Wasn't hiding it, it's just not a big deal. And I did pull a muscle; your brain is a muscle." Dean replied.
"And here I thought I was the one who went to college," Sam replied sarcastically, but Dean could hear the grin in his voice. "You must be over-taxing your brain with all the thinking you've been doing if you pulled that particular muscle."
Glancing over at Sam's grinning face instead of replying Dean pulled into the office of the county historical society and parked the car, sliding out and slipping on his sunglasses. He could feel Sam's following behind him and smiled to himself. It felt good to have his brother back with him.
"Hello, can I help you?" a perky young woman asked when the Winchesters entered the building and went up to the desk.
"Yeah, I'm Dean O'Malley and this is my brother Sam. We called yesterday about looking through the grave records," Dean answered smoothly. "For our Civil War thesis." Normally he would have flirted with the cute redhead, but he didn't feel much like flirting, thanks to his headache.
"Oh, you're looking for the information on Marcus Andrews?"
"Yes, that's us. We found mention of him in a few dispatches and wanted to know what happened to him," Sam replied with his honest college kid smile. "We were told we could look through the records to find out where he's buried."
"Yep, I pulled all the possible records for you right after you called last night. They're down in the basement, right this way." Bouncing up out of her seat the girl gave them a brilliant smile and set off down a corridor. Following her, they descended two flights of stairs before the girl, who introduced herself as Kerry on the way, led them into a small dimly lit room. A table sat in the middle of the room and was piled with boxes of files. Several more boxes sat on the floor in the corner and on a trolley.
"I'll leave you to your work then. We close at nine, so in about seven hours. If you're not done by then just let me know on your way out and I'll make sure nothing gets touched so you can come back tomorrow. There's a vending machine upstairs and a water cooler down the hall, and I'm right up at the desk if you need any help. Just don't spill anything on the records." Flashing another bright smile Kerry bounced out, shutting the door behind her. "Oh, and I set out some pens and plenty of paper in case you didn't bring your own," she added, popping her head back in briefly.
"There's got to be fifteen boxes in here, Sam," Dean exclaimed when the bubbly girl had left them alone, rounding on his brother. "How in the world are we supposed to find out where this guy is buried in time to get rid of him tonight?"
Shrugging Sam strode to the table, took the top off a box and carefully removed a stack of paper. "By reading the records," he replied simply, already bending over the first piece of paper and scanning it. "His name is here somewhere. Unfortunately all the graves are catalogued by number to make things easier for caretakers and historians since many of the gravestones are degraded and can't be read. But his name is on here somewhere."
"Great. Just great. That really makes it easier." Sighing and rubbing at his temples Dean followed Sam's lead. Grabbing a box of his own he sat in a chair at the opposite end of the table from his brother and pulled out a stack, beginning to scan the lists. Each number had a name beside it and then a location, unit number and date. They just had to scan the names and find Marcus Andrews. Easy enough, except when you had a steady beat drumming away behind your eyes.
~* ~~ ~*~ ~~ *~
Five hours later Dean leaned back, pushing the pile of paper he'd been looking at away and reaching a hand up to massage the bridge of his nose. The steady pounding behind his eyes hadn't diminished; if anything it had gotten slightly worse. He couldn't keep looking at lists of names, they were all starting to blend together.
"I'm gonna go get a drink and some more Advil, you want anything?" Dean asked, standing up and stretching. Rotating his neck he looked expectantly at his brother. Sam was bent over a new pile, his fourth box to Dean's second, and didn't look up. He didn't even look like he'd heard Dean speak to him. Taking two steps over Dean picked up a rubber band and snapped it in Sam's direction.
"What the hell Dean!?" Sam exclaimed when the rubber band hit him painfully in the ear, jumping in his seat and jerking his head up to glare at his brother.
"Earth to Sammy. I'm going to get a drink, you want anything?" Dean repeated with a smirk. "You're so into this I thought you and the records might want some alone time."
"Cute, real mature," Sam replied with his patented eye roll. "A can of sprite or some water, and don't be too long. We have a lot more to go through."
"Yeah, fun. Don't worry I'll be quick, wouldn't want to miss the riveting activity." Giving an eye roll of his own, which he cut it off when the motion only aggravated his aching head he slipped out the door and wandered back upstairs in search of the vending machine. As boring as it was he really didn't want to take too long; they only had two more hours to find the right grave before the place closed, and they couldn't come back for another day. They had to get rid of the spirit before he killed someone else.
At the top of the stairs, in a small room with couches and chairs, Dean found the vending machines. He scanned the offerings and grabbed a bottle of sprite for Sam as well as a bag of chips, and a bottle of coke and a bag of gummy bears for himself. Quickly downing three more Advil from the bottle in his pocket and washing them down with a few chugs of pop Dean returned to the basement.
Pushing open the door to the room they were in he found Sam sitting in the same position as fifteen minutes before. The only difference was that the younger hunter had an ink smudge on his forehead and a fifth box was open in front of him.
"Got you sprite and some chips," Dean announced, tossing Sam's snack down on the table beside him and flopping back into his chair. "Find anything?"
Sam sat back and grabbed his snack, crunching on a chip and taking a sip of sprite. "No, nothing. I did find his unit though, so that narrows down the search. They're mostly concentrated in the cemetery in town here, so I sorted the boxes; cut them down from fifteen to six, two of which I've already looked through. I'm on the third, so there are three left. With any luck we'll find him in the next two and a half hours."
Feeling slightly cheered, though not much, Dean took another drink of coke and set his bottle aside. He gave his gummy bears a glance and stuck them in his pocket, realizing he wasn't hungry. Reaching for one of the boxes Sam indicated he pulled out a sheaf of papers and started searching, scanning each sheet for the desired name and trying to ignore how the activity wasn't helping his headache any. It was keeping the Advil from doing it's job, he was pretty sure. An hour later he was just about to give up and take another break when Sam let out a triumphant shout and jumped up, grinning.
"Please tell me you found him."
"I found him. Marcus Andrews, plot 784 in the cemetery north of town." Scribbling down the information, Sam began packing the box back up, then quickly did the same to Dean's. "Let's go. We've got time for dinner before we head to the graveyard.
"Why don't we just head straight there? We can eat on the way back," Dean suggested, but Sam was already halfway up the stairs. Shrugging he followed his brother, saying goodbye to Kerry as Sam assured her they had found what they wanted and she could put all the records away.
Ten minutes later they were sitting in a booth at a small diner, glasses of ice water and menus in front of them. Dean just stared at his, resisting the urge to rub his temples and trying to figure out how he could get away without eating. He really didn't want anything; the thought of food was making him nauseous.
"What can I getcha boys?"
Looking up at the middle aged waitress that had appeared at their table, wearing way too much make-up and snapping her gum irritatingly, Dean shrugged. "Uh, I'll just have the BLT sandwich and fries," he told her. "And a coffee please."
"Gravy on those fries?"
"No, thanks, just plain."
"Okey dokey, and you honey?" the waitress said, jotting the order down before turning to Sam.
"I'll have the hot turkey sandwich and fries," Sam ordered. "And a coffee for me too." When she walked away after writing down his order and promising to be back with their coffee he turned to Dean. "You still have a headache?"
Damn, Dean had hoped Sam would forget, or not notice it was still there. "What makes you think that?"
"You ordered a BLT, for one, and no gravy. You only order remotely healthy food when you're not feeling well." Sam gave his brother a concerned look. "You gonna be ok to do this tonight?"
"Sam, I'm fine. I have a headache, that's all. There's no reason I can't do a simple salt and burn with a headache," Dean snapped. He paused when the waitress returned with two cups of coffee. "It's not like I haven't hunted in worse shape than this."
Sam gave him another appraising look, which Dean returned with a steady glare, silently telling his brother he was fine. In truth he wasn't feeling fine, though. His head was pounding and when the waitress returned with their orders a few minutes later he couldn't do more than pick at his fries and nibble at his sandwich. By the time Sam was finished his meal Dean had only eaten half his sandwich and a few fries. The waitress, snapping her gum again, took the plates and returned with a Styrofoam carton, saying she'd put Dean's uneaten meal in a take-away box for him.
Dean thanked her and slapped a few bills on the table for the cheque before standing up and heading out, purposely leaving the Styrofoam carton on the table. Sam followed behind, staring at him, Dean could tell. He stiffened his shoulders and straightened his back because of it. "I'm fine Sammy, stop watching me like I'm gonna break," he yelled over his shoulder as he slid into the car, purposely ignoring Sam's huff of displeasure and resisting the urge to rub his temples again. God, his head hurt. The Advil was doing nothing for it.
~* ~~ ~*~ ~~ *~
By the time they got to the graveyard and were heading to the grave Dean was wishing he'd admitted to Sam he wasn't feeling ok. His head was pounding, as if a really bad drummer was hammering away at a bass drum inside his skull. The pain spread all over his head, but was worst at the front, behind his eyes and in his forehead. It hadn't been so bad at first, he'd thought the Advil was working. But between the time they got to the diner and the time they hit the graveyard the pain had spiked again. He trailed after Sam with the weapon's bag, who was limping purposefully through the graveyard, counting graves and occasionally stopping to peer at the small numbers beside the gravestones.
"Here it is, 784 – Marcus Andrews," Sam said, stopping and staring down at a faded, weather worn gravestone. Stopping beside him Dean dropped the weapons duffle and stared at the grave. "Huh. Thought it'd be a little more dramatic."
Sam snorted. "What did you want, a banner announcing "here lies Marcus Andrews, angry spirit? Maybe some balloons or an oompa band?" Grabbing the shovel, he dug it into the ground. "I'll dig, you keep look-out."
Dean gave his brother a dirty look and, reaching out, plucked the shovel out of Sam's hands. "You watch, I'll dig," he told Sam as he moved up and started digging. He was aware of Sam behind him, pulling out the shotgun and setting the lighter fluid and can of salt nearby for when it would be needed, then moving to perch on a gravestone and keep watch.
At first the digging helped, the rhythmic motion of pushing the shovel into the ground, lifting it and tossing it over his shoulder gave him something else to concentrate on, soothing the pounding in his head slightly. But after half an hour of digging the soothing rhythm was gone; all that was left was an increased pounding that felt like the bass drummer had been joined by the marching band's entire drumline. Each shovel of dirt pulled on unusually sore muscles and made him move his neck and back in a way that made his head hurt even more.
He didn't realize he'd slowed down more and more until he was leaning on the shovel, his head on the handle, and Sam was climbing into the grave beside him.
"Dean? Here man, take the shotgun. I'll take over here; you keep watch."
Looking up blearily, Dean scrunched his eyes shut and gasped when the light from the flashlight in Sam's hand hit his eyes. "Damn, Sammy, you trying to blind me!" he exclaimed. Blinking a few times he clambered out of the grave and grabbed the shotgun, sinking down onto the nearest gravestone. God, his head hurt. He wished the damn headache would go away already.
He didn't know how much time passed while he sat there waiting for Sam to dig the grave. He stared out into the dark graveyard, but the shotgun was lax in his grip and he wasn't really thinking about the spirit. He was having trouble focusing on anything, and everything had a halo of light around it, like it was glowing. And his head was pounding. The pain was getting worse faster than he'd ever realized a headache could. What had been a small annoying ache when they'd left the historical society office had grown a hundred times worse. The marching band had been joined by a little man with a pickaxe, hammering and pounding away inside his skull.
"Hey, Dean? I'm done, you doing ok? How's your head?" Sam appeared in front of him, kneeling down and taking Dean's head in his hands.
Sam was concerned, that much Dean could tell, but it was hard to think about anything else. "Umm....hurts....you done?" Dean asked after taking a minute to get his scattered thoughts in some semblance of order. It hurt too much to think though, and Sam's voice was so loud.
Sam gave him a searching look and nodded. "Yeah, I'm done," he replied in a much quieter voice as if reading his brother's thoughts. "Let's get out of here."
Nodding because he didn't think he could talk properly Dean relinquished the shotgun in his hands and shoved himself to his feet. Immediately he was assaulted by what he was sure was the worst case of vertigo he had ever had. The world tilted dramatically to the left and then started spinning, looping and whirling like the octopus ride at a fair he'd gone to once as a kid. Along with the vertigo came nausea. Bile rose up to burn his throat and the next thing he knew he was kneeling on the ground, puking his guts up.
Each heave of his stomach sent a spike of agony up Dean's spine and into his head until the blinding pain cancelled everything else out. His world narrowed to the pain in his head and a strange, keening groan that only seemed to make things worse.
"Just breathe Dean, take it easy. It's ok, just relax and breathe, shhhh." The world slowly faded back into focus and Dean became aware that he was no longer on hands and knees. Instead he was sitting on the ground with Sam's arms wrapped around him, being rocked slowly. The keening groan was coming from him, his face buried in Sam's arm, his eyes scrunched tight. He wanted to stop because the sound was only hurting him more, but his head hurt so much he couldn't.
"Come on Dean, please. Dude, you're scaring me, just relax a bit," Sam crooned, his voice laced with concern and fear. "Take deep breaths and relax, you gotta relax or it'll just hurt more."
Concentrating on Sam's voice, Dean forced himself to relax, taking deep breaths to control the pain like they'd been taught. Gradually the pain subsided and he gripped Sam's arms to tell his brother to stop the rocking that was really starting to make him nauseous again.
Sam stopped rocking but held tighter when Dean tried to move away, hushing his protests. "Just relax, don't move yet or you'll throw up again. Give it a few minutes."
Slumping back against his brother Dean did as he was told. "Hurts, Sammy," he gasped, cringing at even that small sound. "What the hell's wrong?"As hard as it was to think he was sure they'd been hunting a ghost, not a witch or anything that could curse him, and he didn't think the thing had even shown itself in the graveyard. There was no way it could have gotten near him to do anything.
"It's ok, it's nothing supernatural," Sam replied, rubbing circles on Dean's back that Dean found soothing. He could concentrate on the gentle motion instead of his head. "You just have a migraine, I think, that's all. We'll get you back to the motel and settled in and hopefully you'll be ok in the morning."
While he talked Sam had climbed to his feet and pulled Dean up with him. Dean was concentrating so hard on the hand still rubbing his back that he didn't even realize he was on his feet until Sam had them moving towards the car. Stumbling along and leaning on Sam for support when his own legs turned out to be jelly, Dean kept his eyes shut and let Sam lead him where he wanted. The hand was no longer on his back, leaving him with nothing to concentrate on so the pain had spiked again, throbbing through his head in waves of white hot agony.
By the time they got to the car Dean knew Sam was practically carrying him, but he couldn't muster the energy to care. All he could do was stumble along where Sam led him. He felt himself being lowered into the Impala's passenger seat, then something soft, Sam's rolled up shirt he realized, was settled under his head and the door was closed gently. Soon as this is over I'm oiling the hinges on the doors, he thought when the squeak sent more shafts of pain digging into his brain.
"Keep breathing, nice and easy, ok Dean? The car ride isn't going to be fun."
"Kay," Dean whispered without moving, afraid of the pain any movement would cause. His head was settling down a little now that he wasn't moving, and he was becoming aware of the rest of his body. His muscles ached, and Sam was right. As the Impala purred to life and they pulled away from the cemetery the motion and sound of the car sent waves of pain and nausea through him. He was also exhausted, feeling like he did after a particularly gruelling hunt, but the migraine was keeping him from sleeping. All he could do was sit there and try desperately not to throw up.
"What'd you mean when you said I'd hopefully be ok by morning?" he asked Sam in an attempt to take his mind off the pain.
"Migraines can last a few days," Sam replied, sounding apologetic. "If it goes on longer than two days though we'll have to go to the hospital; it could mean something worse is going on then."
The car hit a pothole then, and Dean's head was bounced against the window. Even with Sam's shirt padding it he let out a choked cry of pain and curled in on himself, gasping in an attempt to breathe through it.
"Oh geez, shit. Breathe Dean, just breathe. It's ok, I'm sorry, just breathe," Sam was saying somewhere on the other side of the lightning bolts shooting through Dean's head. He latched onto them and slowly got himself under control.
"Don' do that again," he slurred after a minute, cracking an eye and turning his head minutely to glare at Sam.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Sam chanted as he pulled slowly into the motel parking lot. He cut the engine and Dean watched as he got out and ran to open the motel room door. By the time he got back Dean had worked himself, by inches, back into a sitting position and had opened the car door.
The walk into the motel room was thankfully shorter than the walk through the graveyard, which was the only thing Dean could find good about it. The world around him spun and tilted until he wasn't quite sure which way was up and he became aware that his neck hurt almost as much as his head; Any attempt to move it or use the muscles, he found out, was a seriously bad idea. The relief he felt at being eased down onto the bed almost made him cry.
He laid limply while Sam manipulated him, pulling his coat and shirt off, tugging off his shoes and pants, and working him into pair of sweats. The entire time one of Sam's hand remained on the back of his neck, gently cradling and supporting his head. When he needed both hands the younger Winchester made sure Dean's head was supported by pillows. Dean couldn't voice the gratitude he felt towards his brother, and couldn't manage to feel embarrassed that he was being undressed and re-dressed like a toddler.
"I'm going to turn you on your stomach, ok Dean? You'll be more comfortable that way."
"Kay," Dean whispered, letting Sam roll him onto his stomach while still supporting his head. He kept his eyes closed as his head was positioned, facing Sam, on the pillow. It amazed him when the pain subsided enough that he could open his eyes, peering through slits at the room and Sam's concerned face a few inches away from his own.
"Better? Doctors recommend lying on your stomach with your head in a comfortable position," Sam explained, one hand moving up to rub circles on Dean's back again.
"Yeah, thanks S'mmy," Dean said, a mixture of pain and exhaustion slurring his voice. "Cold though." As the pain in his head lessened he realized he was cold, which was bad because each shiver went straight to his brain. Sam tugged the blankets over him, adding the ones from his own bed. Dean sighed and closed his eyes again as the warmth surrounded him and relaxed into the feeling of Sam's hand on his back. The hand disappeared a moment later and he let out a small whimper. It had felt good. He didn't care about looking weak or any chick-flick moments, he was in pain and wanted his brother's comfort back.
"Shh, I'm just going to get you some pain pills and water, I'll be back in a minute." Sam soothed, his hand returning for a brief minute before disappearing. Dean listened to what Sam was doing, hearing his footsteps move across the room, the sound of the first aid kit being opened, the rattle of a pill bottle and the unique sound of water running in the sink. Then the footsteps returned to the bed.
"I'm going to put a cold cloth on your neck Dean, so tell me if it hurts." The mattress sagged and something cold landed on the back of his neck. Stiffening, Dean squirmed away from the cold that sent a jolt straight to his brain. He didn't have to say anything, Sam seemed to realize it hurt and the cold disappeared. "Now hot," Sam warned before a warm cloth draped where the cold had been a second earlier. Unlike the cold cloth, the warmth rippled through Dean, easing the pain a little more and making him sigh and relax into the mattress.
Sam chuckled softly and shifted. A cup with a straw appeared in Dean's line of vision and two pills were gently poked into his mouth. He obediently sipped from the straw, taking only enough to get the pills down his dry throat. Even that made his stomach do a flip-flop, and he swallowed convulsively until it settled down.
"Go to sleep Dean, you need the rest now," Sam said, setting the water down and pulling the blankets tighter around his shoulders. Dean felt him shift around and knew he was sitting on the other side of the bed. The hand returned to his back. Closing his eyes he let the soothing motion, his brother's presence, and the warm cloth lull him into a pain-free sleep.
~* ~~ ~*~ ~~ *~
It felt like only seconds later that Dean opened his eyes, cringing in the harsh light of the room. He whimpered faintly, or thought he did, and tried to curl in on himself. Strong hands grabbed him and pulled him back, forcing him to stay on his stomach. "Shh, take it easy. I know it hurts Dean, but curling up isn't going to help."
"S'mmy?" Dean whispered hoarsely, opening his eyes to slits. Sam was kneeling beside him, his body blocking what Dean now saw was only the light spilling out of the bathroom. It felt like someone had the whole room lit up like the sun. "Hurts."
"I know dude, I know," Sam replied, reaching out and running a hand through Dean's hair. He leaned into the touch as much as he could, cringing when even that slight movement hurt like hell. He licked his lips, realizing his mouth was dry and his throat was raspy and sore. He hadn't been out of it for just overnight. He knew what it felt like to wake up after being unconscious for a while and the way he felt was it, he couldn't really think much, concentrating was hard, but he knew that much at least.
"S'mmy how long?"
Sam returned his hand to Dean's back and began to rub circles on it again, frowning. "You've been in and out of it for a day and a half. This is the first time you've really been coherent though. I think you need to go to the hospital."
Dean frowned, ready to say no, when Sam moved slightly and the light hit his face. The world turned white with the sudden rush of agony, and by the time he was aware of anything again he was leaning over the bed, Sam supporting his head and chest while he dry heaved into the waste basket.
"Ok, you're going to the hospital Dean, no arguing," Sam said once he had eased Dean back down. Dean didn't argue since it felt like his head was splitting open on him, the pain was so bad. He'd never felt pain like it before; as a hunter he'd had some pretty bad injuries, but nothing had hurt as bad as his head felt righ then. He lay there, watching as Sam rushed around getting himself dressed, stumbling and cursing slightly in his haste in the barely lit room. When Sam came back to the bed he tried to sit up but every movement jarred his neck and head.
"Hey, don't move. Just let me do it, ok? Just relax."
"Kay," Dean replied and lay limply. Sam slipped a pair of heavy socks on him and wrapped him in a blanket. Dean was about to point out that he couldn't walk wrapped up like that but then realized he probably couldn't walk if he wanted to. His muscles ached, he was freezing cold, and every tiny movement radiated through him. He didn't want to think about what walking would feel like.
A minute later Sam bent down and shifted Dean so that the elder Winchester was leaning against him, head in the crook of his neck. "This is going to hurt, but I'll be quick, ok?" Sam whispered before he lifted up and, staggering a bit, carried Dean out of the room.
He was right, it did hurt, but Sam was being so careful, keeping up a litany of reassurances, which helped. Dean hung onto those as he was carried outside and settled in the car. He felt and heard Sam get in beside him and start the engine. As before the motion and sound of the car was agonizing, but his brother's voice was there, keeping him grounded. He drifted off, floating in and out of the pain and sound of Sam's promise that he would be ok.
He was aware of the car coming to a halt, then was lifted again and carried into the hospital. The sudden brightness of the fluorescent lighting seared his eyes, driving a spike of pain into his brain. He must have moaned because Sam's grip on him tightened and his brother shifted so his head fell into the crook of Sam's shoulder, his eyes shielded a bit more from the light.
"Sir, what's wrong? What happened?" someone's voice asked, too loudly. Dean moaned again against Sam's neck, stiffening.
"Shh, Dean. It's ok, shhhh," Sam murmured. "He's had a migraine for almost two days and it's gotten really bad." Sam explained to the person who was there. "He's extremely sensitive to light and sound, he's running a fever and no pain medication I've given him has helped. He's also thrown up everything I get him to swallow."
The other person said something and suddenly there was a flurry of movement. Dean felt himself set down on a gurney which began rolling somewhere. People were talking, prodding at him, and it all hurt. "S'mmy," he moaned, swinging one arm out in search of his brother. His hand was caught by a familiar one and suddenly Sam was there, carding his fingers through his hair.
"Dean, just relax, remember? You have to relax. They're going to help, but you have to relax."
"Hurts, S'mmy. Light." Dean moaned, attempting to curl onto his side and hide his eyes from the too-brightness. "Too bright, too loud."
Sam said something to someone Dean figured was standing nearby and the light dimmed to a tolerable level for him as long as he kept his eyes closed. "That's the best they can do for now, dude. They have to be able to see you."
"s'okay, better." Cracking his eyes open Dean tried to smile at Sam, but knew he had failed miserably.
"Like I said, just relax. The doctors are going to help."
Dean closed his eyes and sighed as people moved in around him again. He felt a needle prick the crook of his left elbow, followed by his right. "Dean? Mr. O'Malley? Can you open your eyes for a minute?" someone asked.
Cracking his eye lids, Dean peered into the face of a middle aged doctor. Or two doctors, he thought; twins. Or maybe it was one, he wasn't sure. Sometimes there was one and sometimes there were two. He tried to say something but all that came out was a faint groan.
"Just take it easy, don't try to talk. I need to look at your eyes, judge your pupil reaction, and ask you a couple of questions. This will hurt though." Without waiting for a reply the doctor flashed a penlight into his eyes. Dean cried out, arching away from the doctor and squeezing his eyes shut again against the red hot pain that shot through him.
"Hey, hey. Come on Dean, breathe and relax. Just breathe," Sam's voice called, hands appearing to hold him down on the bed. "I know, shhhh, I know. You gotta breathe though dude, breathe."
Concentrating on breathing, Dean waited until the pain subsided some before looking at Sam, bent over him beside the doctor. "Hurts," he managed to get out, reaching out to grasp Sam's hand with a shaking hand of his own. Actually, he realized, all of him was shaking, partly from cold and partly in pain and exhaustion.
"Just answer a few questions if you can, Dean, and I'll give you something for the pain. Only a few more minutes." The doctor patted his shoulder as a nurse moved in, readjusting the IVs in both arms and setting an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose. "Now, Dean, your brother says you've had a migraine for the past two days. Have you had migraines before?"
"No," Dean whispered.
"Have you hit your head or suffered a spinal or neck injury recently?"
"No," Dean repeated, wondering why the guy couldn't ask Sam the questions. They were ones he could answer.
"That's good. Your pupils are a bit dilated so I had to ask, but it looks like you're suffering from a simple migraine, nothing more serious. We're going to give you something for the pain and send you for an MRI to make sure though, then admit you for the night.
"Kay," Dean answered. Normally he would hate being in the hospital, but this time, like everything else that had happened, he didn't really have the energy to care. All he wanted was to warm up and get some sleep.
The doctor started talking to Sam, leaving Dean to close his eyes and drift slightly. He felt the heat of painkillers rush up his arm and the weird pressure at the base of his neck that told him it was morphine before the pain mercifully faded. His head still ached like nothing and opening his eyes proved to be the wrong idea when he tried, but it was a definite improvement.
"Dean, you still with us?"
Blinking and nodding slightly now that he had painkillers keeping every movement from hurting, Dean squeezed his brother's hand to tell him he was still awake.
"They're going to take you down for the MRI now. I'll be waiting for you up at your room, ok?"
Dean didn't want Sam to leave him, but he squeezed his brother's hand and nodded slightly again. "Kay," he slurred too, figuring he needed to vocalize his agreement. Sam squeezed back once, tightly, before letting go and tucking his hand under the blanket someone had draped over him. A minute later Dean was wheeled out of the darkened room into the rest of the brightly lit hospital. He moaned at the change in light, and something was draped over his eyes. "There you go Mr. O'Malley, it's just a cloth but it should help."
It did help, and before Dean knew it he was drifting off, the sounds of the hospital getting further and further away until they faded into medicated, pain-free oblivion.
~* ~~ ~*~ ~~ *~
Consciousness came back slowly. First Dean was aware of the antiseptic smell that told him he was in a hospital, then the warmth of a hand wrapped around his wrist. Finally he became aware of the slight throb in his head and the steady drone of a familiar voice. The voice itself took a while to turn into anything coherent, but when it did he realized Sam was urging him to wake up.
"'M awake, shuddup," he slurred after finding his voice. He wasn't sure anything useful came out, it sounded like a groan to him, and judging by the way Sam's grip moved from his wrist to his hand, wrapping around his fingers in a tight grip, it had been a moan.
"That's it, wake up Dean. Open your eyes, come on." Sam's voice sounded strained and worried, with a touch of fear. It was the touch of fear that did it for Dean. He'd been thinking of sinking back into the darkness when he caught the fear, and no matter what he couldn't ignore that. When Sam was scared he had to do whatever he could to soothe it away.
Struggling he tried to open his eyes, but they felt like they were glued shut. Something warm and wet wiped over his face after he struggled for a minute, taking care on his eyelids. When it moved away he was able to blink his eyes open, pleased to find the room was in darkness except for a lamp on the cabinet behind Sam, who was sitting leaned forward in a chair, looking anxious.
"Hey, Sammy," Dean whispered, blinking. He tried to figure out why he was in the hospital, but everything was still slightly fuzzy. The slight ache in his head reminded him though, and he smiled. "Migraine is gone."
Sam chuckled, though it sounded a little like a choked off sob. "It had better be. Dude, you scared the shit out of me."
"Just a migraine, Sammy. I'm ok." Dean replied with a frown, wondering why a migraine could be so scary for Sam. He knew it had hurt like hell and vaguely remembered waking up in the hotel to more pain than he'd ever felt before, and then fragmented memories of a hospital and a lot more pain.
"Dean, that wasn't 'just a migraine." Sam replied, clutching at his hand in a painfully tight grip as tears sprang to his eyes. "You've been here for two days. They had to sedate you for the last 24 hours so you could get some rest."
Dean just stared in shock at his brother. "Huh," he rasped finally and licked his dry lips. "Thirsty."
"Yeah, here. The nurse left some water for you." Reaching off to the side Sam picked up a glass of water off the table, pressing the call button on the wall at the same time. "Take small sips," he cautioned as he held the straw to Dean's mouth.
Cautiously, remembering how his stomach had reacted last time he'd swallowed water, Dean took a few sips, relishing the water as it soothed his dry throat. When his stomach didn't protest he drank a few more sips before Sam pulled the glass away. "That's enough, the doctor is here. You can have some more in a few minutes."
"Good morning Mr. O'Malley, I'm Dr. Scott. I've been taking care of you for the past two days." The same middle aged doctor Dean vaguely remembered asking him questions in the ER bent over him, shining a penlight into his eyes and checking his pulse and things. The light hurt, but not nearly as much as it had before, which was a relief. "How's your head?"
"Good," Dean replied. "Hurts a little, but not much."
"Very good. It looks like your migraine is finally clearing up."
Dean closed his eyes, tired even though he'd slept for four days apparently. "Good, that hurt like a mother."
"Doctor, do you know why my brother got such a bad migraine? He's never had them before." Sam piped up, his hand moving to grip Dean's again. Dean squeezed back and nodded his agreement with the question.
"Yeah, and am I going to get them again?"
The doctor shrugged. "I honestly can't say why you got such a severe migraine. The brain is still a mystery to medical professionals," he answered. "Generally migraines that aren't caused by injury are stress related. Triggers like sleep deprivation, hunger, dehydration and extremes in temperature or sound or light can cause them. Your brother says you two have a very stressful job, so that could be the cause, though he says you've been on vacation lately and have been less stressed than usual. In that case, this is probably more random. It's less common for migraines to be random but it is possible. A headache can easily morph into a migraine and go from there."
Shrugging again, the doctor removed the oxygen cannula Dean realized for the first time was under his nose. "I want to keep you around for a few more hours, to finish the bag of fluids you're on and make sure the migraine doesn't come back, but I don't see a reason you can't leave today, as long as you take it easy and don't push yourself for another day or two."
"Sure Doc," Dean agreed immediately, already itching to get out of the hospital.
"Good. I'll be back in two or three hours then to give you another check-up." With a pat to Dean's shoulder the doctor strode out.
"Dude, that sucked," Dean said once the door closed, his eyes drooping shut. "How did you know it was a migraine?"
"A friend at Stanford got them," Sam replied, shifting around and tugging the blankets up Dean's chest. "We had to take him to the ER once, but he never got them as bad as you did. 'Sucked' isn't the word for it." Tucking the blankets tight, Sam brushed a hand through Dean's hair, and he couldn't help leaning into the touch. "Go to sleep dude, I'll wake you up when the doctor comes back."
~* ~~ ~*~ ~~ *~
"Dean? Wake up, come on dude."
"Mmmmm, g'way," Dean groused, slapping at the hand that was shaking his shoulder. He was comfortable and he really didn't want to wake up. He was too tired.
The hand moved to his head, carding through his short hair, while another one squeezed his hand. "No, you can sleep back at the motel. Come on, wake up."
Blinking his eyes open Dean glared at his little brother, who smiled back at him and pulled his hand away from Dean's head. It hit Dean then that he was in the hospital, and looked around, blinking again. "Time to go?" he asked hopefully.
"Almost, Mr. O'Malley. I have a few questions and instructions first."
The doctor stepped forward and tapped a sheaf of papers on the table. "First, you need to take it easy and rest for a couple of days. No driving, extreme activity or drinking to excess. If your migraine returns you need to seek medical attention, do you understand?" When Dean nodded he did as well. "Fine, now how is your head feeling?"
"Ok, only hurts a little, just a bit of a headache," Dean replied after assessing himself. "Barely notice it." And he did barely notice it. Most people would call it a moderate headache, but to a Winchester it wasn't much at all.
"Are you feeling sensitive to light or sound?"
"No, not anymore," Dean answered after another pause to think about it. Sam had been speaking a little quieter but the doctor wasn't. His eyes did hurt a bit though. "A little with light."
Nodding again the doctor quickly checked his eyes before stepping back and tucking his penlight in his pocket. "Well, you can go. Your eyes will be a little sore and sensitive, it's a common side effect. You'll also probably experience fatigue and muscle aches, and a low-grade fever. Those are also common side-effects. They should subside in a day or two, but if they don't see a doctor about them."
With a goodbye the doctor turned and left again. Sam immediately reached out to help Dean out of bed and into the sweats and t-shirt that were waiting, along with one of Sam's hoodies. Dean almost refused the help, but he felt wobbly enough that he didn't argue, using Sam for balance while he slipped his sweats on and letting Sam help him with his t-shirt and sweater, then sitting while Sam put his socks and shoes on. It was a little embarrassing but neither brother spoke and Dean was still too tired to feel much.
Ten minutes later Sam had signed the discharge papers, picked up a prescription for painkillers just in case the migraine came back, and was pushing Dean through the doors. Dean had tried to refuse the wheelchair on principle but had been told by a stern looking nurse that it was SOP and he didn't have a choice. He was glad of it by the time they reached the car and was settled in the passenger seat with a blanket around him, drifting off before Sam even got into the driver's seat. Just getting dressed and into the car had exhausted him.
"Dude, this sucks. I feel like crap and all I had was a headache," he groaned as Sam pulled out of the hospital. "I shouldn't feel this shitty."
"It was a migraine, not a headache, and you went through a lot. It was a strain on your body. Just give it a day or two and you'll feel better." Sam replied, reaching over to rub gentle circles on Dean's back like he had before.
The soothing feeling of Sam's hand, coupled with the sound and feel of the Impala, lulled Dean into relaxation and towards sleep. "Thanks Sammy, for everything," he muttered before sleep got hold of him too much.
"You're welcome dude, now go to sleep," Sam replied.
Smiling and leaning into the hand on his back a little, Dean let himself drift off into a finally pain free oblivion, uttering a fond "bitch," as he did.
"Jerk," came the equally fond reply.