Today marks my one-year "post-a-versary." Yep—one year ago today, I posted my very first fanfic, "Parenting Your Gifted Child." The response from everyone—readers, reviewers, other writers—was overwhelming and completely blew me away. You all made fanfic writing such a rewarding venture for me that I haven't been able to stay away. *grin* Thank you! To everyone who's read, reviewed, favorited, or put me on alert over the past year—THANK YOU for your support and encouragement. It means more to me than I can ever express! This story is for all of you—I hope you enjoy celebrating with me today. *hug*
As many of you will recognize, the idea for this is based on the E/O Challenge prompt that went out for my birthday: hypothermic!Dean, protective, caring!Sam. The challenge word was "over." A special thanks to all those who did a birthday drabble for me—it totally made my day! Here's my contribution.
Thanks to Laura for the medical advice, and to Swellison for her help with the ever-important process of coming up with a title!
Frozen in Memory
"R-r-really, who uses a fr-fr-friggin' icehouse, an'm're, an'way?" Dean complained, wincing at the chattering sound his teeth made. It made him think of those gag gifts you could buy where the teeth clattered and chattered when you turned the key. He had about as much control over his own body right now as over one of those things once it got going—which is to say, none. His body was still so cold it didn't even feel like it belonged to him. Uncontrollable shivers wracked him; he was pretty sure he'd never be warm again.
"Uh, that'd be the Amish, Dean." Sam finished settling the warm water bottles against Dean in key spots, then pulled the covers up over his brother. That done, he began to strip down to his boxers and muscle-shirt. At least Dean was shivering, that was a good sign. It meant the measures he'd taken on the drive back to the motel—blasting the heat in the car, making Dean drink warm coffee, forcing additional layers of clothing on him—had worked to start bringing Dean's core body temperature up.
As soon as they'd gotten back to the room, Sam had insisted on Dean taking a warm shower, which couldn't have hurt any either. Despite Dean's very vocal protests—especially when he'd found his little brother hovering outside the bathroom door, listening to make sure he didn't lose his balance on still-wobbly legs—Sam was sure he could detect a slight increase in Dean's color. Which wasn't saying much, considering that when Sam'd found him, ice had had more color than Dean's face. Well, hopefully blankets, warm water bottles, and body heat would do the rest.
"S-s-stupid poltergeist," Dean grouched, huddling beneath the covers, shaking and exhausted.
Sam couldn't have agreed more. He thought of the too-long hours he'd spent frantically searching for Dean…the panic when he'd realized his brother was trapped deep in the frozen earth, surrounded on all sides by ice and snow…the desperation to get to him through a door iced shut and hidden beneath farming equipment. He shuddered at the memory that chilled his heart as much as the event itself had chilled his brother's body. Dean's lips still hadn't completely lost their blue tinge, and just looking at him had Sam's heart pounding in remembered terror.
All things considered, the poltergeist's bones had burned much too quickly.
"Scoot over, Dean." Sam nudged his brother's shoulder with a hip, urging him toward one side of the bed.
"Lemme 'l-l-lone. Y'got your own b-b-bed, S'mmy," Dean whined, somewhat suspicious. His brother was totally going overboard with the mother hen impression. Next thing he knew, the kid would want to snuggle or something to share body heat. Well, no way Dean was putting up with that.
"Yeah, but you've got all the blankets. You wouldn't want your little brother to freeze, would ya?" Sam decided hypothermia definitely justified playing the "little brother" card. Heck, he'd pull out the puppy dog eyes, too, if that was what it took to get Dean warm.
"F-f-fine," Dean grumbled, but moved over. "B-b-better keep those fr-fr-freakishly long limbs t' y'rself, S-s-sammy. I m-mean it—no c-c-cuddling."
"Yeah, yeah, Dean. You do what you gotta do, I'll do what I gotta do." Sam slid into the bed, scooted over as close as he dared. The frigid cold of his brother's skin caused chill bumps to rise immediately on his own.
"N-not k-k-kiddin', Sam," Dean warned sternly. "I have a g-gun, kn-kn-know how to use it."
"I'm terrified, Dean," Sam replied dryly. "With the way you're shaking, you couldn't hit the broad side of a barn." He was counting on the insult to Dean's shooting skills to distract him from the arm Sam oh-so-subtly maneuvered over his brother's torso.
"C-c-could s-s-so." Dean's shivering ramped up as he started to get just a little warmer. Those water bottles must be doing the trick, though he didn't remember Sam putting one on his chest.
"Nah, if we were doing target practice right now, you wouldn't even hit the paper, man, let alone the target." Dean stiffened, but as Sam had hoped, it was because of the insult and not because of the way Sam oh-so-slowly pulled Dean closer to him in miniscule movements. It took some finesse, but Sam eventually managed to trap his brother back against his chest, one arm tight around him to prevent him from moving away, like a giant teddy bear he needed to fall asleep. Dean was far too busy being outraged at Sam's slander to even notice any of this happening. Which was pretty much exactly what Sam had been banking on.
Dean huffed at the unfair accusation. "Y-you sayin' I'm a lousy sh-shot, S'mmy?" A nice heat had begun to seep into Dean's bones and the bliss of it made him drowsy. Who knew the blankets Sam had piled atop him would start working so quickly? Almost felt like there was a full-length heating pad wrapped around him.
"'Course not, Dean. I'm just sayin' you're not in top form right now." Sam began to ease his legs closer to his brother's frozen limbs, the cold shock of icy toes against his calf almost making him yelp.
"Yeah, well," Dean paused as a long shiver ripped through him, "e-ev'n on a bad day, I c'n outshoot you." His body relaxed as it warmed, muscles unclenching as the heat worked its magic. His eyelids began to droop. "Jus' remember that, S'mmy."
"I will, Dean," Sam murmured against his brother's hair as he held him close, sighing in relief as he felt Dean's shivering ease and his breathing deepen as he dropped off into a peaceful slumber.
Sam thought of the sight that had greeted him when his flashlight had first shone into the darkened, frozen pit—his brother pale and still, hair crusted with frost. He remembered how the sight had ripped through his chest like lightning, like an ax blow. He hadn't breathed again until he'd torn down the ladder to Dean's side, feeling the oh-so-faint pulse that beat at his neck.
He remembered desperately whispered prayers and pleas, and how the green of Dean's eyes when Sam had finally coaxed them open had warmed him like spring after a long, brutal winter. Remembered that the feel of Dean's pulse beating beneath his fingers had felt like hope, like redemption, like the sun thawing his frozen heart.