A/N: In this one I give both boys' POVs. First Dean, then Sam. Hence it being longer than all the others. Takes place sometime after "Fallen Idols."

5. Sick

It's not a noise that wakes Dean, rather it's the silence. His first instinct is to steal at glance at the alarm clock.

Three in the morning? Three in the morning. Three in the morning...

His sleep-slowed brain chugs it over. It takes him about 10 seconds to match the information with the uneasy feeling.

He has been asleep for three hours straight. That hasn't happened for...at least a week and a half. Because Sam...

He glances past the alarm clock and takes in the empty bed for the first time.

Where's Sam?

His heart rate doubles in seconds flat. Then he hears it. The familiar yet muffled sound of coughing from...somewhere. Somewhere not in this room.

The same coughing that's been keeping him awake for the past two weeks—keeping them both awake.

But the bathroom's dark and empty, and Sam's...Sam's...outside?

"What the fuck..." Dean groans to himself, slides off the bed. Shuffling towards the door, he grabs his jacket and tries to negotiate the armholes, blindly lets his feet wiggle their way into his loosely tied shoes.

Sam's sitting on the curb that separates the motel's sidewalk from the parking lot, staring out at pretty much noting. He jumps, startled, when Dean opens the door behind him. Glancing over his shoulder, he meets his brother with guilty eyes.

The moron doesn't even have a jacket on, just a worn-thin hoodie that should have probably been replaced a couple of years ago if the holey elbows are any indication.

"What the fuck, Sam?"

Sam stares back with drunk-looking eyes, blinks once. "Sorry," he says hoarsely, clears his throat. "Did I wake you?"

"No!" Dean answers angrily. A cold wind blows some loose snow from the bank at the edge of the lot right into his eyes.

Great.

Sam's brow furrows, an unspoken, "And that makes you mad because...?" on his face.

Dean wraps his arms around his middle, lets out a sigh that physically transforms into a white cloud in the frigid night. This is so not what he wants to be doing at three in the freaking morning.

Before he can yell at his brother for being such a fucking moron—which he is—Sam turns back towards the parking lot, starts to cough wetly into the arms propped up on his knees.

Dean bites his tongue, comes up beside Sam, sits down on the cold cement and waits for the terrible coughing to end. The curb must be covered in a thin layer of ice because, within seconds, Dean's ass is wet through his sweats.

Awesome.

As soon as Sam is quiet, Dean asks, "So are you going to tell me what the fuck you're doing out here?"

Sam pulls the sleeves of his hoodie further over his hands, shrugs and like it's the most obvious answer in the world, says, "I didn't want to keep you awake."

What? Since when?

"Yeah, well you gave me a freaking heart attack."

"Oh," Sam says, realization crossing his features. "Sorry. Just figured there was no point in us both not sleeping."

And then Dean knows where it's coming from. They've both been walking zombies for days. And last night, when he couldn't seem to put a gun back together after cleaning it, Sam made some comment about how he's losing his touch and in his frustration, Dean snapped, "Maybe if I could get some decent sleep I wouldn't be finding this quite so difficult."

He meant it; he just didn't think Sam would care. Since when do they feel guilty about things they have no control over? They've got enough to apologize for without that being the case.

"So you thought freezing your ass off all night would be a good idea?"

Sam's eyes are closed now, his chin propped up on his forearms. "You have a better idea?" he challenges lazily, then drops his face into his elbow and coughs a few more times, and for a second Dean thinks it sounds like there's more crap than air coming out of Sam's lungs.

Dean accepts the challenge, jumps to his feet, starts walking down the sidewalk while Sam's still too busy to ask where the hell he's going.

*****

"Where'd you go?" Sam asks in a broken voice as soon as Dean's back in sight.

Dean doesn't answer, instead he crosses the remaining ground that separates them and holds out his offering.

Sam hesitantly pulls his hands out of his sleeves and reaches out to accept the paper bag and the key being forced on him.

"What is this?" he asks.

Dean rolls his eyes. "Don't be nervous, Sam. It's not a time bomb."

Sam doesn't bother to examine the two objects he's now clutching, instead he holds Dean's gaze. He still looks drunk, but that can't be right. Fever's a more probable explanation, though it's hard to believe anybody could be anything but hypothermic in this weather.

Dean lets out an exaggerated sigh. "It's cough syrup and a room key," he explains sharply.

Sam flips the key over in his hand. "You got me my own room?" he asks, confused.

Dean holds his arms out at his sides. "Well you're not going to sleep out here!"

Sam stares at the key, smiles and shakes his head. "All right. Whatever."

You're welcome, Jerk, Dean wants to say, but doesn't because Sam's apparently taking things far too personally these days. And clearly, they're not quite there yet.

Dean makes a move back towards his room, opens his door before he realizes Sam's still sitting on the curb.

He barks a quick, "Sam!"

Sam grumbles, "Yeah, going," under his breath, stands and straightens slowly, grimacing like his ginormous body is frozen in that hunched position, which, hey, it probably is.

"'Night," Dean says as he ducks into his room. Sam gets a nod in before the door closes.

Dean leans back against the wall of the motel, waits until he hears the door to the next room squeak open. He almost laughs at how clear the sound is through the paper thin walls.

He doesn't, though. Laugh, that is. Not out loud. Because Sam would surely hear him, and Sam would realize that if he can hear Dean, Dean can surely hear him too.

And Dean's not interested in any further arctic adventures this evening.

He is careful not to make any noise as he slips out of his jacket and shoes. He dives under the covers, curses the thin blankets. Ten minutes out there and he's a freaking popsicle...

Through the wall, he can hear Sam unwrapping the bottle of cough syrup, smirks when his brother curses at what must be the worst tasting shit in the world.

The worse it tastes, the better it works, Dad used to say.

There's bed springs squealing, a light switch clicking off, and, of course, the damnable coughing that persists on and off for the remaining hours until morning.

Dean doesn't get any more sleep than he has any other night in the last couple weeks, he no longer has any cash left for breakfast in the morning, and his ass stays frozen from that stupid icy curb for way too long.

But, hey, at least his brother won't feel compelled to make himself sicker than he already is by sitting outside all night in the dead of winter.

In the morning, he'll fight to get Sam to go to the clinic. An argument Dean will probably lose and he'll spend the rest of the day with high blood-pressure and the urge to rip something's head off.

But he'll do it anyway. Because as much as things have changed between them, some things will always stay the same.

Yeah, I'm an awesome brother.

*

Sam doesn't feel good. No surprise there; Sam hasn't felt good for well over a year.

But the pretty-damn-shitty feeling that has been accompanying this cough/cold/flu/whatever the fuck he has had for the past couple of weeks is starting to really piss him off.

He's tired of the yo-yoing fever, tight muscles, relentless cough that barely does anything to ease the ache in his chest. But most of all, he's tired of not sleeping—or tired because he's not sleeping. If he were sleeping he could probably distinguish between the two, but he's not so he doesn't even bother trying.

He knows Dean's just as frustrated, and Sam can't really blame him. They've been chasing distractions for weeks, with no plan and no real goal to speak of, so they don't speak of it because what would be the point? At least Dean's anger has simmered. He no longer looks at Sam like it's his fault the world is coming to an end. Which it is, but hey, save the accusing glares because Sam's well aware of his degree of fault.

So when, the previous evening, Sam teases his brother for his lack of coordination—justly so, Dean had fumbled the gun five times already—and receives an equally just and accusing comment in return, Sam's stomach clenches with the familiar guilt that had up to this point, slowly tapered off to a more manageable level.

When he wakes up coughing yet again, he decides it would probably be best to clear the room, let Dean get at least one solid night's sleep to, if nothing else, keep his irritability from escalating into accusations that would do more than make Sam's stomach clench.

Sam silently slides out of bed, slips on his shoes, grabs his hoodie from the back of a chair and quietly steps out the door.

And...shit. It's fucking freezing.

When did that happen?

He had found it almost warm when they'd arrived at the motel yesterday, warm enough to walk around outside in a single layer, but that was probably just the fever messing with him because now that he thinks about it, Dean was most definitely wearing two layers and a jacket.

He's definitely feeling the temperature now. He barely has a chance to get the zipper on his hoodie pulled up before the cold air irritates his lungs. He settles onto the curb and lets the coughing roll out of him unabated. It actually feels good not to try to hold it in like he has been doing every night for the past couple of weeks. Dean, to his credit, has pretended not to be bothered—usually just rolls over without a word.

Even a few nights ago, when a particularly ruthless fit forced Sam out of bed and into the bathroom (just in case), the cold bottle of water sitting on the nightstand upon Sam's return was the only indication that Dean had actually gotten out of bed. Sam whispered his thanks as he peeled off the lid and drank, a grunt from the sleeping back on the bed across from him was the only response.

Eventually, he numbs out and doesn't feel the sting of the cold wind anymore. He passes the time between coughing fits by counting the cars on the highway in the distance—absently wonders where all the normal people in the world are going at two in the morning.

He's momentarily distracted when a car pulls up down the lane, and a man emerges with what can only be described as a two dollar hooker. Sam makes sure he meets the guy's eyes, because what's the point of being cold and miserable if you can't have a little fun at someone else's expense? The guy looks like a deer caught in headlights, seems to be debating whether to run or go through with it. If Sam had one of his fake I.D.s handy, he would have busted the guy. Just for kicks.

When they've nervously run out from under the street light and into their room, Sam laughs to himself, coughs (as punishment, he's sure), buries his face in his arms and closes his eyes. He's actually somewhat close to sleep when a noise behind him makes him jump.

"What the fuck, Sam?"

A glance over his shoulder reveals a disheveled and fairly pissed-off looking Dean. Sam's stomach resumes its clench.

"Sorry," he says hoarsely. "Did I wake you?"

"No!" Dean answers angrily.

Sam's pretty sure that's a good thing. Dean's body language is saying something entirely different.

But Sam's tired and, as a result, kind of slow; he mentally blames his fatigue for not being able to figure out why his brother looks like he wants to drop kick him across the parking lot.

Dean pulls his jacket tightly around him, lets out a frustrated sigh.

Sam's getting a crick in his neck, so he turns back to face the bland parking lot, starts to cough again into his sleeve. He's vaguely aware of Dean taking a seat next to him.

When Sam's got himself under control, Dean asks, "So are you going to tell me what the fuck you're doing out here?"

Sam feels his body becoming defensive; he'd sit up straighter if he had the energy.

What does he think I'm doing out here?

Something horrible, of course. But, hey, precedent speaks for itself.

He tries to stretch the hoodie a little further over his numb fingers. "I didn't want to keep you awake," he responds honestly.

Dean mutters something about Sam giving him a heart attack.

"Oh..." And then Sam realizes that Dean doesn't think he's out making deals with demons or other unfavorable activities Sam has been known to partake in in the past. He's just...worried? "Sorry. Just figured there was no point in us both not sleeping."

It's as if the word alone compounds his exhaustion. His eyes slips shut on their own accord, his chin resting heavily on his forearm.

Dean shakes his head. "So you thought freezing your ass off all night would be a good idea?"

"You have a better idea?" he asks in his best smart ass voice, which would have been a lot more effective if he didn't start coughing roughly afterwards. He can feel Dean staring at him but at this point, Sam doesn't care, just keeps coughing until his lungs are satisfied they've tortured him enough. When he finally opens his eyes again, Dean's gone.

Sam's suddenly positive he has gone crazy.

Was that a...hallucination?

He glances right, then left, and sure enough, he can make out the dim silhouette of his brother marching down the sidewalk. If Sam's feet and ass weren't iced to the pavement, he might have tried to follow him.

*****

Sam stares blankly in the direction Dean disappeared until, 15 minutes later, his brother reappears from around the corner. "Where'd you go?" Sam asks when Dean's close enough to hear his cracked voice.

Dean doesn't answer, instead he crosses the remaining ground that separates them and holds out his offering.

Sam hesitantly pulls his hands out of his sleeves and reaches out to accept what appears to be a paper bag and a key on the end of a bright red key chain.

"What is this?" he asks, thoroughly confused and, frankly, a little worried.

Is that for a car?

How would Dean get a key at three in the morning? More importantly, why?

Dean rolls his eyes. "Don't be nervous, Sam. It's not a time bomb."

Sam holds Dean's gaze, his heart beating just a little bit faster than it probably should.

Dean lets out another exaggerated sigh. "It's cough syrup and a room key," he explains sharply.

Sam flips the key over in his hand, noticed the large "7" drawn on both sides. "You got me my own room?" he asks, confused.

Dean holds his arms out at his sides. "Well you're not going to sleep out here!"

Huh. Sam wants to laugh, a little at his own ridiculousness, a little at his brother's. They maxed out their last card last night, and it's not like they're pulling in enough cash right now to justify separate rooms. Dean probably blew what was left of their meager food money on this. But Sam's not going to call him on it.

He doesn't laugh, but he does smile a little bit. "All right. Whatever."

Seemingly satisfied, Dean walks towards their...his room. There's a second or two of silence and then, "Sam!"

Sam grumbles, "Yeah, going." Every muscle in his body screams when he tries to stand. He grunts and arches his back in a painful stretch.

"'Night," Dean says as he ducks into his room. Sam manages to nod back before the door closes in his face.

Room seven is, conveniently, only five steps to Sam's right. His fingers are being stubborn and won't cooperate—slow and sluggish from lack of blood flow. On the third try he gets the key in the hole, can barely convince his hand to close over the doorknob and turn.

The warm air makes his face flush, toes burn as they begin to thaw.

He kicks off his shoes in the middle of the floor, flicks on a light, then opens up the paper bag Dean gave him.

He recognizes the cough syrup from when they were kids. They feared getting sick because at the first sign of illness—any illness—their dad would force this awful tasting shit down their throats. Appropriate or not.

Sam's eyes water as he downs the small cupful of thick syrup. "Fuck," he groans when it stings his throat like peroxide in an open wound.

He leaves the bottle on the nightstand, drops onto the squeaky bed with a sigh and turns off the light. He doesn't bother taking off his hoodie or getting under the covers—all energy spent. Instead he curls up onto his side, relieved that he can let down his guard and cough without restriction. Sleep pulls at the edges of his mind almost immediately.

In the morning, he'll thank Dean. Or maybe not.

Yeah, probably not.

Some things just go without saying.

***

Thanks to everyone for reading. I've had fun. Sam has not.