SUMMARY: Dean's sick, Sam takes care of him. This is brotherly schmoop, pure and simple – 10cc's (that's crack and comfort) written as a get-well present for Muffy. Hope you feel better soon, my friend.
DISCLAIMER: Nope, still don't own the Winchester boys. That pleasure belongs to the dastardly Eric Kripke. Rated T for some minor swearing. No spoilers, but takes place before Season 4 because, well, Season 4 has been a mostly schmoop-free zone. :(
WICKY, WACKY, WOO
Sam pushed the key in the lock and froze at the sound of his brother's throaty yell.
Sam dropped the paper and plastic bags and cardboard tray of drinks he was juggling, twisted the knob and kicked open the door even as he reached behind his back, pulled his gun from under his jacket and clicked off the safety.
Charging inside, his eyes darted around the motel room. He could see no obvious threat; the TV was playing but Dean was alone in the room, right where he'd left him less than an hour ago – lying in bed, head nestled in his pillows and cocooned tightly in blankets.
Dean stared up at him in glassy-eyed surprise as he burst into the room.
"Dean?" Sam's heart was racing, his gun still at the ready. "You okay?"
"No." The single word was enough to launch deep, rasping coughs. Dean squeezed his eyes closed and rolled onto his side, clenching the pillow with one hand until the coughing stopped and his breathing gradually eased. He scowled up at his brother, his voice a hoarse croak. "This sucks." He glanced at the gun Sam held. "Just shoot me – put me out of my misery."
Sam relaxed slightly, easing the safety back on his gun and lowering the weapon. "Jesus, you scared the crap out of me. Why the hell were you yelling for help?"
Dean opened his mouth to answer but just started coughing again, burying his face in his pillow and slamming his fist into the bed in frustration.
"Hang on." Sam placed his gun on the small table near the window and turned to pick up the bags he'd dropped outside the door.
Dean had been ill since falling into a Louisiana swamp while chasing a Black Dog. As the brothers worked their way north after the dog's carcass was salted and burned, Dean's cough had grown from an annoying tickle to chronic hacking.
Dean, being Dean, insisted it was nothing, but when over-the-counter medication stopped having any effect and he spiked a fever, Sam had dragged him to a local clinic. There he'd been diagnosed with a respiratory infection, courtesy of bacteria he'd likely aspirated during his dunking in the swamp, and prescribed antibiotics and bed rest.
After almost a week in their upstate New York motel room, the illness appeared to have plateau-ed. Dean was still plagued by a hacking cough and constant headache, but cabin fever now posed the biggest threat to both brothers' sanity.
Sam gathered up the dropped bags of food and supplies, dumped them on the small, formica table and then glanced over at his brother. "Talk to me, man. How're you doing?"
Dean rolled onto his back with a groan. His face was pale behind the stubble, his eyes rimmed in red and underscored with dark shadows. He dragged the back of his hand across his forehead, wiping away beads of sweat, then grimaced as he massaged his chest with the heel of his hand.
"Dean?" Sam's jaw clenched as he took in the pain lines that creased his brother's forehead and the corners of his eyes. "We can be at the hospital in five minutes if it's getting bad again. Just-"
"No. No hospital."
Sam's eyes narrowed. "Then why were yelling for help?"
Dean pushed himself up, only to weakly fall back against the headboard. He turned to Sam, scrubbing a hand across his face. "I wasn't."
Sam's eyebrows peaked questioningly. "Just now, you were yelling for me to hurry up. I thought you were in trouble."
"I didn't- Oh." Dean's puzzled frown morphed quickly into a tired grin. He snorted, which launched another coughing fit.
"Good move, Dean." Sam crossed to the still open motel door, frowning at the two upended cups that had popped their lids when the cardboard tray hit the ground. The spilled contents were winding their way across the concrete walkway toward the curb in two parallel trails. He picked up the tray and almost empty cups, closed the door and dumped the tray in the trash can next to the table. "So much for hot tea."
"I hate tea."
"Tell me something I don't know." Sam glanced again at his brother, whose breaths were rapid and shallow as the coughs subsided. "But warm drinks help stop you coughing and that means you can sleep."
"You could get me coffee." Dean's eyebrows peaked hopefully as he again struggled to sit up, but the change in position just fuelled more hacking coughs.
Sam pulled a bottle of orange juice from one of the bags and walked between the two beds. "Doctors' orders: No caffeine until you're done your meds. You won't drink decaf so, for now, this'll have to do." He twisted off the cap, poured the juice into the empty glass on the nightstand and handed the glass to Dean.
"Decaf's not coffee," Dean muttered, coughing again as he leaned forward to take a drink of the juice. "It's like a shapeshifter – looks like the real thing 'til you get up close and personal, then it's just evil."
"Stop talking." Sam grabbed the pillows from his own bed and shoved them behind Dean. "Besides, coffee won't help you sleep." He shook his head worriedly at Dean's pasty complexion. "And you really need to sleep for more than two hours at a time. I've seen zombies who look healthier than you do."
"Love you too, Sammy."
Sam smiled as he moved back to the table "Hopefully the soup I got you will help – as long as the lid didn't come off that too when I dropped it."
"Soup?" Dean's nose wrinkled. "No burgers?"
Sam's eyebrow quirked as he looked back at Dean. "Do I have to remind you what happened yesterday when you decided you were ready for 'real' food?"
Dean sunk back into his pillows, suddenly looking a little green. "Seemed like a good idea at the time."
Sam opened the bag of food he'd picked up from the diner down the street. While the Styrofoam bowl holding Dean's soup was upside down, the plastic lid was still firmly in place. "You're in luck. Your-"
Sam's eyes snapped over to his brother.
Dean's eyes widened innocently. "Not me." He jabbed a hand toward the TV.
Sam glanced at the screen; commercials had been playing when he entered the room but now programming had resumed. His eyes widened incredulously. "You've gotta be kidding me." He turned back to Dean. "You're watching curling?"
Dean scowled. "What? It's a cool sport."
Now it was Sam's turn to snort. "No, it's a cold sport. Since when are you a fan?"
Dean waved his hand impatiently at the TV. "Since we've watched every movie on pay-per-view, even the chick flick. Since it's three o'clock in the freaking afternoon and there's nothing else on but soaps, infomercials and Oprah – and Oprah hasn't been cool since Dr. Phil left."
He caught Sam's double-take, and froze. "That was my outside voice, wasn't it?"
A slow smile slid across Sam's face. "Oh yeah."
"I'm sick, Sammy." Dean coughed weakly to emphasize the point. "Can't hold that slip against me. Wouldn't be right."
Sam bit back a grin as he again walked around the bed, carrying the soup. "No, it wouldn't. But when you're better…"
Dean scowled as he took the soup from Sam, his scowl deepening as he stared into the bowl. "What the hell kind of soup is this?"
Sam passed Dean a spoon, then moved back toward the table. "Basically, it's chicken noodle."
Dean stirred the soup suspiciously. "Then why is there seaweed in it?"
"It's not seaweed, it's spinach." Sam sighed, stopping at the foot of the bed. "Look, it's Italian Wedding Soup – which is just chicken broth with pasta and meatballs."
"Fine – and spinach. Just eat it. It's good."
Dean didn't look convinced. "Looks like the swamp I fell in last week."
Sam's jaw clenched. "Well, unlike that swamp, the soup smells great."
"I can't smell anything." Dean sniffled to emphasize his point.
Cheers erupted from the TV behind Sam. Dean slopped some soup on the bed covers as he leaned sideways to try to see around his brother. "Move your ass, Sammy, you're making me miss the good part."
'The good part? How can you tell?" Sam moved to the side and turned to stare at the TV. The crowd was still cheering as the latest shot was replayed in slow motion from an overhead camera. The red curling rock slid down the sheet of ice, squeezed neatly through the narrow gap between two yellow rocks, clipped a third yellow rock to veer to the left where it collided with a fourth yellow rock, nudging it out of the centre of the marked circle and taking its place.
"Holy crap, did you see that?" Dean glanced over at Sam. "Right on the button."
"And I take it that's a good thing?"
"Good – it's stellar. That shot had more curves than the Nelson twins I met in Dubuque."
Sam shook his head. "I don't get the attraction – to curling, that is. The Nelson twins were no mystery." He glanced from the TV to Dean. "But, whatever. If curling makes you happy, have at it, dude."
He pulled the plastic container holding his salad from the diner bag, picked up a plastic fork and then flopped down in one of the chairs. He popped open the container and ripped into the sachet of dressing, dumping the contents onto the vegetables. He glanced over at Dean who was watching the TV intently, the spoon frozen halfway between the dish and his mouth. "Dean, don't let the soup go cold."
"Yes, Mom." Dean pulled a face at his brother but obediently took a mouthful of soup.
"So?" Sam used his fork to mix the dressing throughout the salad. "How is it?"
"The U.S. is the underdog but they're beating Scotland right now. They just need to-"
"I meant the soup."
"Oh." Dean shrugged. "Dunno. Can't taste anything."
Sam's eyes widened in exasperation. "Then why the hell were you making such a fuss?"
Dean grinned, then coughed as he waved his spoon at the TV. "Pay attention, Sammy. You might learn something. The U.S. is red, Scotland's yellow."
Sam canted his head toward the TV. "What am I supposed to learn from curling?"
"Strategy." Dean's eyes stayed on the TV. "It's like pool on ice." He scowled in annoyance as talking started him coughing again. "Son of a bitch." He swallowed another spoonful of soup and then turned to his brother. "You can't just think about one shot; wherever you put your rock, you have to consider how the other guy is going to play it and how it'll set up your next move."
"So, like chess?"
Dean rolled his eyes. "Yes, you big geek, like chess. But since players actually have fun while they're curling, talk it up, have a few laughs, go for a beer afterwards, it's more like pool than chess in my book."
A smile tugged at the corners of Sam's mouth. "So, the next time we're in Minnesota or North Dakota, you think we can hustle up some cash at the local curling rink?"
Dean scowled at his brother. "Shut up and watch the game."
Sam shoved a forkful of salad in his mouth, chewing slowly as he watched two members of the U.S. rink discus their options. Once their strategy was decided, one pushed off, sliding down to the far end of the ice using a skateboard-type motion, his right leg stationary while his left leg propelled him along. At the far end, he turned and crouched down, holding the handle of a rock in his right hand and balancing himself with the broom in his left. Concentrating for a moment, he swung the rock back and then forward again, sliding down the ice with it for a few seconds before gently lifting his hand and allowing the rock to continue along the ice without him.
Two more men, facing each other on either side of the rock, moved down the ice with it, rapidly pushing their brooms back and forth in front of the slowly turning stone.
Sam jumped as Dean yelled at the TV.
Dean's throaty croak was quickly echoed by one of the members of the U.S. rink. "Hurry! Hur-ry Haard!"
Sam shook his head. "This is what you were yelling about before?"
Dean nodded as he slurped down a spoonful of soup. "It's curling-speak for he wants those two guys to sweep harder."
"It polishes the ice, makes the rock slide faster."
"Why didn't the other guy just throw it harder?"
"Cause if he throws it too hard, it won't curl."
Sam frowned. "And he wants it to 'curl' because-"
"Because he's trying to hit that rock off to the left without knocking his own out of the way. You saw how he twisted the handle, right?"
"That makes the rock spin as it slides; the faster it spins, the more it'll curl off to one side."
In keeping with Dean's explanation, the red rock moved from the centre of the ice to the left, turning away from another red rock that had been in its path, and colliding with a yellow rock. The Scottish rock was bumped out of the circle while the U.S. stone came to a stop near the centre.
"Yes!" Like Dean, the crowd roared its approval. But Dean's shout just served to spark another spate of coughing.
Sam jumped to his feet, quickly grabbing the bowl of soup from his brother's hands before it spilled all over the bed, and setting it down on the table. Dean's fingers clutched at his t-shirt as he fought to bring the coughing under control.
Sam's chest tightened at the abject misery on his brother's face. Neither liked fuss when they were ill but each hated seeing the other suffer and did what they had to to get the ailing brother back to health as quickly as possible. And sometimes that meant crossing the 'fuss' line.
Sam moved quickly around the bed, helping Dean sit up, rubbing his back and holding him steady until the coughing stopped. When it did, he passed Dean the glass of juice, waited while he took a few sips, then replaced the glass on the nightstand.
Dean swallowed, nodded his thanks to Sam and slumped back against his pillows, exhaustion painted across his face.
Sam's jaw clenched. He grabbed the remote that was on the bed beside his brother and turned off the TV.
"Dude?" Dean's raspy croak was barely audible but the WTF expression on his face was loud and clear.
Sam crossed to the TV, placing the remote beside it. "Never thought I'd hear myself say this, but I think curling is just too much excitement for you right now." He moved back to the nightstand, popping open the bottle of prescription antibiotics, dumping out two of the big, orange pills and passing them to his brother. "You need to stop talking and get some rest so you can kick this bug for good."
"Amen to that." Dean tossed back the pills then washed them down with a few more sips of juice.
Sam watched Dean worriedly. "You want a shower? The warm water and moist air will help your breathing."
Dean considered the offer for a moment, then slowly shook his head. "My legs feel like Jell-o, man. Unless you feel like hauling my sorry ass there and back, I'm better off staying put."
Sam's expression softened. "If you want a shower, consider it done. I'm your personal pack mule."
Dean's eyes slid closed even as a small smile tugged the corners of his mouth upwards. "You picked the right animal. You're stubborn as a mule." His eyes snapped open as he felt the back of Sam's hand on his forehead. "What?"
Sam shrugged. "You're still running a low-grade fever, but it's no worse than before. That, at least, is good news." His eyebrows peaked. "Sure you don't want a shower?"
Dean shook his head. "Maybe in the morning."
Sam nodded. "Okay." He walked over to the table, pulling a pot of mentholated ointment from the drug store bag. "You should put some of this on your chest to ease your breathing and then, hopefully, coughing won't wake you up."
"You're acting like a five-year-old."
Dean pointed a finger at his brother as Sam walked toward him. "You come near me with that stuff, I'll shoot you."
Sam rolled his eyes. "I'm shaking in my boots, Dean." He held out the ointment.
"Not kidding, Sammy."
"I know. You said the same thing yesterday." Sam sat on the edge of the bed, twisted off the lid of the jar and held it in front of Dean. "But since your gun's in the car and you just admitted you can't cross the room without face-planting on this lovely carpet, it's kind of an empty threat."
Dean's scowl deepened. "Bitch."
"Jerk." Sam held his brother's gaze. "You've got two choices here; either you do it, or I do it."
Dean's nose wrinkled as he stared at the ointment. "I'm not sticking my fingers in that stuff."
Sam snorted. "This coming from a guy who routinely digs up dead bodies, has chopped the head off a vampire and doesn't bat an eyelash when he has to stitch himself up."
"That's work." Dean jabbed a finger at the pot of vaporub. "That stuff's just gross."
Sam shook his head. "Whatever. Hold still." He hauled up Dean's t-shirt, ignoring his brother's weak protests, as he dug out some ointment and smeared it on Dean's chest.
Dean pulled a face, giving an exaggerated shudder. "It's cold."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Wuss." He pulled Dean's shirt down, pulled up the covers and recapped the vaporub. "There. I think you'll live."
He moved to stand up but Dean latched his hand around his brother's wrist, a silent gesture of thanks. Sam nodded. "Get some sleep. I'll warm up your soup when you wake up."
"Tastes like swamp water," Dean muttered as he nestled his head deeper into the pillow. "Put the TV back on, Sammy. I wanna see how the curling ends."
"No. You'll just start yelling again, which will start you coughing, which will-"
"Sam." The pleading whine was back in Dean's voice. "I'm going nuts here, man. No classic movies, no Casa Erotica, no cartoons-"
"There's Oprah." That earned Sam a glare. "Look, I'll make you a deal. I found this in the bargain bin at the drug store." He walked back to the table and dug through the plastic bag, pulling out a DVD and holding it up for Dean to see. "We can watch it on my computer when you wake up."
Dean peered at the case Sam held. A big yellow $1.99 sale sticker masked most of the cover but Dean recognized it instantly. "Porky's 2?" He coughed again but a tired smile followed in its wake, even as his eyes slid closed again. "Sammy, you are the awesomest little brother ever." His grin widened. "Had to happen, since you were raised by world's awesomest big brother."
"What? It's a word."
"Right." Sam shook his head. His brother still sounded like a five-year-old but now, at least, it was a happy five-year-old. "So, sleep, first; DVD later. Deal?"
Dean nodded, yawning as he slid further down into the bed. "Deal." He peeled open one eye to stare up at Sam. "But then we watch curling."
A/N: The curling aspect of this story was inspired by Muffy and a PM conversation we had several months back. Since Dean hates daytime TV, I figured if he was laid up in motel room in the middle of the day, he'd head for the sports channels. Sometimes, in the middle of the week, in the middle of winter, curling is about all you're going to find. But, since there are definite parallels to pool, which we know the brothers are great at, I believe it would pique his interest – at least when the other options are infomercials and Oprah. :)
And, in case you're wondering, the title of this story is a curling term. (I swear - hand on heart.) It describes a (usually unplanned) shot where a rock bounces off two or more other rocks, ending up in an extremely advantageous position. You might not hear it used very often by TV commentators but it is, indeed, part of curling lore.
I hope you enjoyed the story. I'd love to hear from you. Until next time, cheers!