Please tell me somebody got the name of the guy driving the bus that hit me. I hadn't felt that bad topside since after I got electrocuted. My head ached, my ribs ached, my sides ached, my mouth tasted like burned peanuts, my sinuses were solid and my eyes were stuck shut.
I repeat: Ugh.
After some trying, with an audible thwick my eyelids came apart and I looked around the motel room. Sam was asleep at the table, with his head pillowed on his arms. Cas sat across from him, reading the same huge-ass book that Sam had been reading in the car all day.
"What time's it?" I asked. I looked at my watch but with my sticky, blurry eyes, the dial was too fuzzy to make out.
"I beg your pardon?" Cas said, looking up from the book.
"What time is it?"
Cas shook his head.
"I'm sorry. I know you and Sam are able to precisely interpret each other's speech patterns when you're ill, but I find it difficult if not usually impossible -."
Finally, just to stop him talking, which was making my brain rattle around more than it should, I lifted my arm and pointed to my watch.
"Oh, I see. It's currently three forty-one a.m."
I dropped my arms and tried to gain a little energy for my next move.
Which was basically reaching over to the bedside table and drinking what was left of the orange juice.
I gave that a minute or two to take effect then I powerhoused myself off the pillows and sat up.
"Why is Sam sleeping at the table?" I pointed at my sleeping sibling to hopefully get my question across. The gesture apparently worked.
"He stayed awake several hours to determine the efficacy of the medication he had given you. Shortly after he declared himself assured that you were recuperating satisfactorily, he rested his head on his arms and fell into a deep slumber."
"He should be in a bed. His neck is going to kill him when he wakes up."
As I tried to get myself more out of the bed so I could wake Sam up, Cas lifted his hand and said,
"WAIT." I stopped him before he could divinely relocate Sam. On top of colds & flu, Sam didn't need digestive disturbances. "I'll get him."
My muscles hurt even worse standing upright than they had lying down and I ended up shuffling over to the table and Sam.
"C'mon, Sam." I shook him. "Wake up so you can go to sleep. You can't afford skimping on the beauty sleep, y'know."
"Dean?" He asked as he came awake. "Y'okay? Timezit? Y'need m're med'cine?" He sounded like his mouth was as dry as mine.
"I'm okay. You need to be in bed. C'mon. C'mon, Sammy."
I tugged on his arm and he unfolded to his feet and struggled to the bed that had no blankets on it, where he collapsed onto the mattress and was back to sleep before his feet left the floor. I looked around for the blanket then remembered I'd trashed it, and I covered Sam with the blanket from the bed I was using.
Then I dragged myself to the table and took his chair.
Well, I didn't take it as much as I surrendered to it.
"So - you and Sammy have a nice visit?" I asked Cas.
"It was quite pleasing, actually. Your brother is quite an agreeable companion, more so than I had anticipated. We managed to pass several hours in very wholesome conversation. I learned many things I hadn't expected about him."
"Y'don't say?" I asked, tired enough to prop my head up in my hand.
Cas took a breath like he was about to launch into a rousing description of his evening with Sam. Then his eyes narrowed.
"Was that another rhetorical question?"
"Uh - yeah." I levered myself up and away from the table to scout the kitchenette for anything liquid. "I learn something new about Sammy every single day."
By the contents of the trash can, Sam and Cas had drunk their way through a third of our hot chocolate stores. Sounded good to me. I turned the stove on under the tea kettle and took a few steps back to the table to grab Sam's cup to use instead of getting another one dirty.
"Want some more hot chocolate?" I asked.
"No. Thank you. Really."
Well, that was kind of emphatic, especially from Cas. I checked the trash can again.
"You didn't like it? Seems like you two drank enough of it."
"Yes, well…" He set the book down on the table and looked like he was about to tell me some really bad news. "In this instance, the offer was much more palatable than the beverage."
"Well, well, well, look at that. The Angel of the Lord has a soft spot for the Boy with the Demon Blood."
Cas did that head roll, kind-of-grimace expression that told me he was not happy with the answer he was about to give me.
"I had been presented with a certain perspective on your brother from the outset of my mission, that did, I admit, lend a certain amount of prejudice to my initial and somewhat ongoing impression of him as we -."
His long-winded explanation was making me miss the nausea.
"So -." I interrupted him. "You like Sam."
Good, short answers I could handle.
"Good. You should. He's a good guy. He's sure a better person than me."
Cas looked at me so confused, it was almost funny.
"He broke the last seal." He said it like that was the whole and only word on the subject.
"You really want to start that conversation?" I asked him, thinking of every which way we'd been screwed by hell and Heaven.
I most definitely did not want to engage in a conversation outlining assorted personal responsibility regarding the breaking of the seals, and so I remained silent while Dean made some poor hot chocolate for himself. I watched Sam, sound asleep on his bed.
"May I ask you a question?" I said to Dean as he took his seat at the table once again.
"When you and your brother are ill, are you ever both asleep at the same time?"
Dean took a sip of his beverage and turned his gaze toward his brother as well.
"Not usually, not unless we're at Bobby's. Somebody's got to keep watch."
"And how do you decide who that will be?"
"The one who can make the other one stay in bed wins."
"Wins? Wins the burden of maintaining a sleepless vigil despite being ill himself?"
"It's not a burden." Dean answered immediately and with some fervor. "Taking care of each other, protecting each other - it's a privilege. It's a right. Winner wins the right to watch out for the other one."
I sensed I had touched upon a point of some tenderness with Dean and I was going to let the matter drop, but he continued.
"At least that's how it used to be…"
"These have been very trying times for you." It was an obvious statement, but one that I hoped would be comforting by being spoken out loud.
"To say the least." Dean responded, drinking more of the hot chocolate. "I just hope we're both still standing when it's over."
Sam stirred then, lifting his head from his pillow briefly, looking at the blanket and picking at it like he was confused by it. Dean tensed, watching him, but not going to him. And indeed, in another moment, Sam dropped back to his pillow, turned to his other side, and pulled the blanket closer around his shoulders. A moment later his breathing indicated he had returned to sleep.
Dean let out a breath and sipped more hot chocolate.
"So -." He turned back to me. "You staying the rest of the night? I can bunk with Sam if you want a bed."
"Why is it," I had to ask, "that when Sam is ill or in an otherwise weakened condition, you exhibit no hesitancy in sharing the same sleeping space with him, even going so far as to cover him with your arm, so that should he require anything during the night, you will be instantly aware. Yet, when you were quite ill earlier this evening, Sam would not take the same liberties with you. He remained awake and vigilant to your condition, instead. He would not even consider taking a place next to you on your bed."
Dean looked at me, as though expecting something more.
"Is there a question in there?" He asked.
"Why the dichotomy?"
He rolled his eyes and the expression on his face led me to believe I had asked an inane not to mention ridiculous question. I felt that the next word out of him would be -
"Duh." His toned indicated the answer should be obvious. "Big brother's prerogative."
"Isn't that unfair to Sam?" I inquired. "To make him remain awake for hours at a time, even though he may be unwell himself?"
"Well…" Dean set his cup on the table and pushed it around in a circle with his finger on the handle. "Difference in temperament I guess. Or - just one more way he didn't want to be like Dad maybe." For whatever reason, that thought caused a smile to form on Dean's face. "Dad would sleep with his arm across us when we were really little. Sam - maybe he's more visually oriented or something. I don't know. He preferred sitting up, watching. I always told him he didn't have to, but you know Sam - he can't do anything by halves. Even when his half is anybody else's whole. After awhile I just started saying it was 'cause I didn't want him sleeping next to me when I was sick. That way it was on me, not him."
I could not help the smile that formed on my face - a brother's love camouflaged behind bluff and bluster. Dean, however, did not share my elation.
"What?" He demanded of me. "A guy can't watch out for his brother without getting smirked at for it? Things like that don't happen in Heaven? God, kill me now."
At that moment, a choked sound that wasn't a cough came from Sam on his bed. That was all. No movement, Sam didn't call for Dean, he expressed no further distress.
It was enough for Dean.
He drained his cup of hot chocolate and removed himself from the table to the beds. He spared me look of aggravation and chagrin, pulled a pillow and blanket from the bed he had been sleeping in previously, and placed himself unceremoniously in the bed next to his brother.
I smiled again.
next chapter underway