Author's note (and self-aggrandizement): I've started posting my "real" stories (OK, one so far) on fictionpressdotcom - my site is fictionpress .com/u/605043/Clair_Beaubien
Sam was sick. He was so sick, I thought he might be dying. OK, I didn't think he was dying, but he sure was sick. He had a high fever, severe chills, ear aches, muscle aches, sore throat, gummy eyes. What I had was no medicine, no painkillers, and no help.
And Heaven and Hell both wanting us for paybacks.
"Dean?" Sam was flat out on the motel bed, flushed, hot, eyes half opened, stripped down to his t-shirt and boxers, restless under the blankets from both beds. "Y'here?"
"Right here, Sammy. I told you, I was just getting another towel."
I came out of the bathroom carrying another sopping wet towel. Out on the road, on the way to track down and tangle with one more nasty, evil, slime-slobbering bad thing, Sam decided to become deathly sick, too sick for me to want to keep driving even when he kept insisting he was OK. So I found us a third rate motel in a second rate town to try and keep him alive.
Now, two days later I was out of painkillers, coffee, and options.
"Hurts." Sam said.
"I know. Here, I'm gonna get you set up with another cold towel then hit the closest pharmacy."
I pulled the blankets back and exchanged the towel across Sam's chest. He wasn't happy about that.
"Don't. C'mon. M'cold enough already." He tried to push the towel off but I pushed his hands out of the way.
"Stop it. We need to get your fever down before you set the fire alarms off, and you're too big for me to haul into the bathroom for a cold shower."
"Doesn't work anyway." He muttered.
"What doesn't work?"
"Cold showers, cold baths, don't work. I read that. Gotta lower temp'ture slow. Shower's too fast. Dangerous. Medicine's better."
"Thank you Dr. Know-it-all." I said. "So wait here while I go get some more medicine."
"I know. Here, here's your phone. Got it?" I folded his fingers around it. "I'll be back as fast as I can."
I hated leaving him alone even for the fifteen minutes I was hoping it was going to take me to drive to the drugstore for Tylenol, Gatorade and convenience food.
"I'll be back as fast as I can." I said again.
"I'll b'fine." I could tell he was trying to sound confident, but his eyes couldn't even focus on me as he said it.
God, I hated leaving him alone like that.
I turned to the door to get this job underway - and almost ran into Castiel. My heart just about jumped out of my chest.
"Geez - scare me to death, why don't you?"
"You were supposed to be in Cross Village yesterday morning."
Nice to see you too, Cas. Don't mind the pleasantries.
"How'd you know we were here?"
"Bobby. He knew where to find you. You should be in Michigan."
I stepped aside so Cas could get a good look at my sick little brother. Sam turned his face away but I wasn't sure if it was just being sick, or if he knew Cas was there.
"He's very ill." Cas deduced after a few seconds.
"Y'think?" I had to ask. I tried not to sound snotty, but Sam wasn't getting any better, it was two days before Thanksgiving, or maybe two days after, I couldn't be sure, and I'd had five hours of sleep in three days. Not all at the same time.
And the week before, we'd lost Jo and Ellen
"Shouldn't you take him to a hospital?"
"I don't know who to trust anymore." I pulled my jacket on. "Watch him for me. I'll be back in fifteen minutes."
"Watch him? What can I do?"
"Just keep him safe. He's got his phone, call me if anything happens." I leaned over Sam, checking his fever, checking how aware he was of what was going on. "Sammy? How're you doing?"
OK, he wasn't doing that good.
"I haven't left yet Sammy. Cas is here. He's gonna wait with you while I'm gone, okay?"
"Y'got me a babysitter?" Sam asked, and even tried to laugh. "Y'got a hot date?"
"Shut up. Don't give him any trouble, all right? I'll be right back."
"Dean?" Sam sounded scared then. He reached up with both hands, even the hand holding his phone, and grabbed onto my jacket.
"What? Sam, what is it?" Was he in pain? Was his fever spiking? Was he gonna be sick?
I knew he was. So, so sorry for every little thing that could be laid at the feet of the Apocalypse, which meant it got laid on the shoulders of Sam. Only, to him, there was no little thing.
"I know you are. It's all right. Just rest now. Okay? Just rest." I folded his hands back down over his chest. "The sooner I get outta here, the sooner I get back. Right?"
"Hurts. Dean - it hurts."
"I know it hurts, Sammy. I know it does. I'm going to get you some more medicine. Okay? Everything is going to be okay."
Maybe I could just bundle him into the car and take him with. That'd make him ten minutes closer to the ibuprofen at least. I was just about to grab his clothes and wrap him up when Cas reminded me he was in the room too.
"You should hurry, Dean."
"Yeah, yeah, I will." - after one last look at Sam, who had his eyes squeezed shut and his phone death-gripped in his hand. "Take care of him."
Take care of him?
Concern for Sam notwithstanding, my true concern was that I wouldn't take care of him to the satisfaction of his brother. I could only imagine Dean's reaction if his brother's condition deteriorated on my watch. And given the current physical state of Sam Winchester, I felt the odds were not in my favor.
"Is there anything you need that I can get you?" I asked. Sam shook his head but didn't open his eyes or turn his head toward me.
If I had been possessed of enough mojo, as Dean is wont to refer to my abilities, I would've healed Sam and left the premises. Being with the man who had broken the last seal and freed Lucifer was not pleasant for me.
It reminded me of the part I had played in the matter.
If I hadn't freed Sam from his cell in Bobby Singer's house, another angel would have and the result would have been the same. But as the truth stands, I did open it, and every soul in the world bears the consequences.
Perhaps none more than Sam Winchester.
I have yet to tell the Winchesters that I opened that door. I don't know that I ever will tell them, since I can determine no purpose it would serve.
And I have no desire to bear another knife in my vessel's sternum.
So, for the time being, I sat watch over Sam and hoped Dean would accomplish his mission quickly.
Of course what I hoped would be a fifteen minute trip turned into nearly an hour. I practically steamrolled some old lady in line in front of me who was cashing out her Milk of Magnesia with bottle tops and Green Stamps. I didn't call Sam as much as I wanted to because I didn't want to disturb him if he'd managed to fall asleep. So those fifty-one minutes passed a little tensely.
Finally, I got out of there with Gatorade, pre-packaged sandwiches, cans of soup, maximum strength painkillers, coffee, Vicks, eye drops, ear drops, cough drops, and some powdered eucalyptus something or other to put in a hot bath to soothe a cranky child.
I got that one for me.
Sam was pretending to be asleep when I got back. Avoiding Cas. Eyes closed, faced still turned away, squeezing that phone like he had to crush it.
Cas was sitting at the table, staring at Sam like taking his eyes off of him would be a sin.
"Y'holding on, Sammy?" I asked, as quietly as I kept my movements back into the room.
"I believe that your brother is sleeping."
"Holding on." Sam answered me, surprising his 'babysitter' either that he was awake, or that I could tell he was awake.
"It's OK. I've got the medicine for you. You'll feel better in no time."
Sam turned to look at me. I didn't like the look on his face. He was in all kinds of pain and in spite of his flushed face, inflamed eyes, and sandpaper voice, I knew most of his pain wasn't physical.
"Back already?" He asked me.
"Back already. Didn't give the babysitter any trouble did you?"
I gave a glance to Cas, but he only looked stoic and long-suffering.
Sam didn't answer me, except to lift his hands toward me, like he couldn't see me, or wanted me closer.
"Give me a second, Sammy. Let me get your medicine for you."
In a minute or less I pried Sam's phone from his hand, got three painkillers and a glass of Gatorade in him, put saline drops in his eyes, medicated drops in his ears, a heating pad under the ear that hurt him the worst, a fresh cold towel on his chest, and the blankets pulled all the way up.
"There you go. You'll feel better in no time, okay? Then we'll try some soup."
"Nnn-gree." That came out on a moan.
"Okay. We'll wait and see how you feel in a little while."
"K. L'tcha know."
"Okay, good. That's good, Sammy. You try and get some rest now."
Another moaned answer, as he closed his eyes.
"You're welcome, get some sleep."
I watched him a minute, made sure he stayed put, then turned to get myself some of that soup, sandwich, and coffee. Cas hadn't moved from the table. Poor guy probably didn't have anywhere else to go.
"You understood him?" He asked me, meaning Sam and his non-speaking speaking.
"Yeah, I understood him. Why not?" I went into the kitchenette behind Cas and popped the pull top on the can of chicken noodle soup.
"He seemed rather - unintelligible."
"Not to me. You hungry?"
"No. Thank you. I am not."
"No, thank you."
"Okay, well, pull up a cloud and keep me company."
I stayed with Dean while he made soup and coffee, and while he consumed it, and while he cleaned up afterward, and I made note that he accomplished it all while keeping his brother in view.
"The medications appear to be working on your brother." I said. Dean had taken his seat at the table again with more coffee and I felt I should say something.
"Yeah, he'll sleep for awhile…couple of days we should make it to Cross Village."
"Won't it take longer than that for Sam to completely recover?"
"It'll take that long for him to be able to travel. He can finish recovering on the drive."
"Is that wise?"
Dean shrugged and looked at Sam's sleeping form. Again.
And he was distinctly unhappy with that necessity.
"Is Sam as solicitous of your health as you are of his?" I asked. Dean shook his head and I was surprised that Sam would be any less unrelenting than his brother, but Dean followed that gesture with a laugh.
"Sam never woulda let the medicine run out. He's OCD that way."
"OCD?" That sounded vaguely familiar. "Is that 'oppositional combative…?" I couldn't think of the final word. My question only succeeded in making Dean laugh again.
"That's ODD. Oppositional Defiant Disorder. And yeah, Sammy's got that in him too. OCD is obsessive compulsive. He wants things the way he wants them. And they better be the way he wants them or nothing else gets done until they are the way he wants them."
"And you endeavor always to ensure that he obtains what he wants."
Dean shrugged and shook his head and didn't meet my eyes.
We had passed an hour more or less in varying measures of silence and conversation when Sam roused on his bed. Dean was at his side in an instant.
"Dean?" Sam's voice was weak, questioning his brother's presence, not even looking where Dean had placed himself on the edge of the mattress.
"Right here Sammy, right here." Dean took Sam's hand into his own. "Told you I'm not going anywhere, didn't I? I'm right here. See?" Sam still did not acknowledge Dean's close proximity, until Dean turned Sam's face toward him. "See? Right here."
"Dad's gonna be mad."
Being well aware that John Winchester was no longer among the living, I wondered what Dean's answer would be.
"Well he's been mad before hasn't he? He always gets over it. You don't have to worry about that."
"Yeah, I promise."
Then Sam was quiet for a few seconds and a few seconds only before he twisted in the other direction on the bed, whimpering and in distress.
"Here Sammy. Right here."
"S'my fault. Everything - s'all my fault."
"Don't talk like that. Don't you talk like that. Just get some rest, okay? It'll be better in the morning. Everything'll be better in the morning."
Sam tossed again on his bed. He pulled his hand free of his brother's grasp and then immediately searched for it again. He grumbled something unintelligible. It sounded argumentative.
"C'mon Sammy…" Dean urged him. "Close your eyes and get some rest for me."
Dean asked Sam to rest, not for himself, not for the hunt, not to hasten his recuperation. Dean had asked Sam to rest for his sake, for Dean's sake. Evidently that was the right request to make. Sam grumbled something again and it sounded resigned.
"Yeah." Dean said and I wondered what question or comment of his brother's he was responding to. "Little while, OK?"
Sam sighed. He sounded content.
Dean was also able to take that as an answer.
"Good. Now tuck in and get some more rest. Y'got a few more hours yet until your next dose of medicine."
I have seen Sam Winchester kill demons as powerful as Alistair with nothing more than intent, I have seen him ingest demon blood. I have seen him stand between Dean and heaven and hell and anything created or devised that he deemed a risk to his brother. His demand: "Miracle. NOW," and his immediate and utter dismissal of me when I could not provide that miracle for Dean still rang in my ears. I have been witness to his actions loosing the most vile, destructive force onto mankind.
But right at that moment, I was witness to Sam Winchester calming on his bed of pain, turning his face into his pillow, easing toward his brother's voice and words of comfort, completely vulnerable yet utterly safe. I began to see how easily the battle of Armageddon could have been avoided if the Winchester brothers had been allowed to protect each other instead of being goaded into battling each other.
"There you go Sam. Just sleep now. I'll be right here."
Even I could accurately interpret the way Sam relaxed and the long sigh he exhaled.
And I began to see what a Herculean effort it had to have been to drive these two brothers apart at all.
When I could be sure Sam was sound asleep, I tucked his hand under the covers and went back to the table and my lukewarm cup of coffee. As soon as I finished that, I was going to offer Cas the other bed and take my spot next to Sam for the night.
"You love him." Castiel said. OK, time to revisit our little talk on personal space and how it isn't all physical. I wasn't going to answer that startling bit of 'no, gee, really?' but Cas kept looking at me like he could will an answer out of me.
"Dude - what d'you think? He's my brother."
"Cain and Abel are brothers." He said. In that same bland, neutral tone that I can't decide if he's serious or sarcastic. I shrugged and grabbed my duffel and tugged it open. With Sam asleep and Cas sticking around, I could finally take a shower.
"They're not Winchester brothers." I pointed out. "You sure you don't want something to eat? Coffee?"
"No. Thank you."
"Okay, well I'm taking a shower then turning in. You take the other bed." He didn't answer me when I said that, he was staring at Sam. I turned to look what he was looking at but Sam wasn't moving or stirring or doing anything but sleeping and breathing. "What? Why're you looking at Sam like that?"
"You've taken care of your brother all your life, haven't you?"
And again we were venturing into 'personal space' territory.
"Since I was five more or less, I guess. Why?"
"That must've been a heavy burden."
"No." Was all I said. Never, not ever would taking care of Sam be a burden. I pulled clean clothes out of my duffel and tossed it back on the floor. "You're not gonna start singing, are you?" I asked him to change the subject. And anyway, I was so not in the mood for 'he ain't heavy, he's my brother…'
"No. I have no intention of singing." He said. Dead serious. I started to roll my eyes at him but then his tone perked right up. "Although - before I obtained this vessel I often celebrated the Gregorian chants of - " I was giving him a look and he saw it. "But - that was a rhetorical question, wasn't it?"
"Uhh - yeah." I bundled up my clothes and made my break for the bathroom and a hot shower.
Dean was not out of the room long. He came out of the bathroom, placed the clothes he had been wearing into his bag, and gestured to the beds.
"I'm turning in. You take the other bed."
"You'll sleep next to your brother?" I asked. The beds were large but certainly not that large. "I don't require sleep. I needn't put you out."
"I've been sleeping next to him anyway, that way I know if he needs anything during the night. Besides, the thought of you sitting up all night watching me creeps me out. So – take the bed."
He lifted the top blanket that was over Sam , pushed the other blankets out of his way, and laid down next to his brother with the one blanket spread across both of them. Sam didn't stir, even when Dean put his arm out across Sam's sleeping form; the better to realize if Sam ever did stir I presumed.
"I mean it about you not sitting up all night." Dean told me and I crossed the room to lay myself down on the offered bed. I would not sleep, but I could keep alert. And think.
Dean seemed utterly dismissive of my attempts to pay tribute to the bond he and his brother share. Did the Winchesters truly not know what a gift they had in each other? Did they not grasp that their bond is so strong that it took the machinations of heaven and hell to even put a tear in it? And that heaven and hell combined still were not strong enough to completely sever it? Weren't they aware that the majority of people in the entire world longed for a relationship as strong, selfless, and devoted as theirs?
If they truly have been chosen from all time for this struggle, perhaps it isn't because of their habitual and occasionally violent inclination to be at odds with each other, but because of their instinctive drive to always forgive each other…
"Sam loves you too." I said.
"Yeah, and I hear the sun's coming up tomorrow too. Go to sleep."
…perhaps that will be what saves us after all.