Author: Mad Server
Characters: Sam, Dean, OC
Word Count: 3600
Summary: Ghost, funeral home, sick Dean, pissy Sam. Enter ye who dare.
Betas: I had a lot of help with this one. PADavis gave me Meemaw; sidjack found a spot where Dean wasn't sick enough; Enkidu07 called me on the confusing bits and helped me come up with guilty secrets; and pdragon76 laid the grammar/punctuation smackdown that hurt so good.
A/N: A few months ago, Soncnica, Enkidu07, PADavis and I gave ourselves a mini-challenge called H/C Dogme '09, or Needy Dean. We had our own Vow of Chastity and everything. This is my submission. For me the challenge was about trying to write sick!Dean that was consistent with what we see onscreen and not necessarily with what we see in fic. I love stoic!sick!Dean and nurturing!Sam, so much so that I wanted to tie my hands with some rules so I couldn't write them that way this time, and see if I could come up with something that was both satisfying h/c and consistent with what we see onscreen. It was also about getting to collaborate with some of my favourite fellow Dean whumpers and seeing what would happen if we built off each other's work - so watch next week for our remixes of each other's Needy Dean fics. Today Soncnica's putting up "Going Up In Flames," Enkidu07's posting "Left Behind," and PADavis is unveiling "Land of Enchantment," all for this challenge.
Disclaimer: They're really really not mine.
Dean rings the doorbell, then twines his other hand around the railing. He's flushed in the heat and the thick grey suit, his face glistening, grim behind the sunglasses. He sniffs, pinches his nose, and spasms forward, a strangled sound escaping as he stifles a sneeze. Then he grunts, wipes his hand on his slacks, and sighs.
"Feel like ass," he grumbles, voice deep with congestion.
Sam adjusts his tie, jaw clenching. There's sweat slipping down his back, and he's soaked through the armpits on his suit jacket. "Yeah, you mentioned that."
"Seriously," Dean says, turning to Sam and swaying just a little. He tightens his grip on the banister, palms his forehead. "Ugh. Head rush."
"Are you sure you don't wanna wait in the car?"
"I'm good. I think." Dean snuffles, pulls a length of toilet paper out of his pocket and blows. "Man. Ow."
"Ring the bell again."
Dean sneezes into the nest of tissue, groans. "Just a minute." He cleans his nostrils lethargically.
Sam rolls his eyes skyward, makes himself count to ten. At six Dean's breath hitches; at nine he sneezes convulsively, then whimpers.
"Dude, listen to me. I've got this one. You don't feel well - I get it. Just go hang out in the car and take it easy while I talk to these guys. Crank the a/c, crank the tunes, whatever. Then I'll take you back to the motel, and you can sleep it off."
Dean's cheeks go even redder, and he draws himself up, straightens his sunglasses. "I said I was good."
The door opens and a small, nervous-looking man blinks out at them. "Can I help you?"
"I sure hope so," Dean says, grinning way too brightly. "We're here to plan our grandmother's funeral."
So then it's on Sam to be the grieving one. He frowns all down the hall, into the room with the coffin catalogue and the water cooler and the big, comfy chairs. Burrows into the loveseat, thinking of dead puppies and hurricanes - not of Jess - and tries to work up some actual tears to show the funeral director.
"The opal's nice," Dean's saying, holding out a glossy page to Sam. "She woulda liked that, huh?"
"Meemaw hated opal," Sam spits, pleased when he hears his voice shaking. "You didn't know her at all. Gimme that."
Dean splutters, coughs into his fist, wet and gloppy. "OK, OK. You choose." He turns to their host, his tone confidential. "He was very close to our grandmother. Very close."
Sam flips through the pages, stops to rub his eyes and sniffle for effect. Something brushes his arm - Dean, holding out a soggy ball of toilet paper, poker faced. "Tissue?"
"This," Sam redirects, holding up the booklet and pointing to a coffin. "If you'd ever paid even the slightest little bit of attention to her, you'd know that this was the coffin she would have wanted."
Dean nods, sneezes blearily into the unclaimed wad, and turns to the undertaker. "You got that one in stock?"
"It ships overnight," the man says, and smiles uncertainly.
They choose the most expensive everything. That way, they already have a pretty good idea what the answer's going to be when Dean calls the funeral home later that day, and says this: "Look. My brother, he's pretty torn up about our grandmother's passing... I'm sure you see a lot of that. He wants the absolute best for her. I'm embarrassed to be asking you this, but he wants to come in for a closer look at your... facilities. I told him he was crazy - it's probably against your policy, am I right? But the kid has to see for himself. I guess he just wants to be completely sure that you guys are gonna handle everything the way, ah... Meemaw, would've wanted. He can't sleep, he can't eat. It's getting to be a real problem. I just want to get her buried, you know, laid to rest. What do you think, could we come in for another look around? Maybe tonight?"
The answer, of course, is yes.
Sam slinks along beside the undertaker, tries to look haughty, suspicious, dejected. His job is to point at doors, demand to be let in. Dean's trailing along behind, on sly EMF detail. It's been quiet so far, so Sam just keeps on getting them into more places they shouldn't be.
"What's down those stairs?"
"That's the embalming room."
"You're going to do that to her, right? Embalm her? I want to see in there."
"You understand, it normally would be off-limits..."
"Sam, he doesn't want to take us down there. I'm sure their equipment's all up to snuff." Dean's voice is low and thick, has started cutting out at intervals.
"It is up to snuff," the funeral director assures them. "Just a quick look, if you don't mind, gentlemen."
Sam stalks down the stairs, hears an electronic squeal behind him as Dean follows him into the basement. He turns with the undertaker and sees the instrument disappearing into Dean's pocket, his hand emerging with a well-used kleenex. "Excuse me," Dean says, and dabs at his red nose.
The undertaker turns back to Sam, and Dean waggles his eyebrows at him over the man's shoulder, mouths, "Yahtzee."
"You guys run a clean place," Sam says, watching the funeral director warm to the compliment. "I'm sorry I doubted you."
It's not every day they get a motel room with its own barbecue.
Sam's been into the little grocery store, and now he's juggling a pack of jumbo hot dogs and a bag of buns, sweating in the summer evening as he fiddles with the room key. He's thinking about the girl stocking shelves, with the butterfly tattoo, and how she's nothing like Jess, but still kind of cute.
He steps inside, into the welcome buzz of air conditioning... and stops. There's a swell of beige towel over the coffee table and the couch. And it's wheezing.
The towel emits a godawful phlegmy cough. Dean straightens up, slowly, the thick fabric tumbling down to rest on his shoulders. His face is red; his nose is streaming thin, watery snot; his hair's a mess.
"What'd I miss?" asks Sam, vaguely disconcerted, taking in Dean's rapid blinking, the bowl of steaming water on the low table.
"Tryig to clear out by siduses," Dean explains, shakily wiping at his face with the towel. Sam can see his chest heaving. "I dod't feel so good, Sab."
"I got hot dogs," Sam offers.
"Ugh." Dean lowers his head to the couch, arms winding around his ribcage.
Sam shifts, considers. "You need a bucket or something?"
"Baybe the bathroob."
He waits, squinting up at Sam through wet-looking eyes.
Sam puts down the hot dogs, shuffles closer to the snotty mass that is his brother. Dean latches onto his jeans as soon as he's in range and tries to pull himself upright, but mostly just gets Sam's pants down around his hips.
"Hey, whoa. Let go!"
Dean snuffles miserably, rolls onto his back and blinks up at Sam like a beached whale, hands plastered to his stomach.
"I hate beigg sick."
"I get it, man, I really do. Come here."
He hooks Dean under the arms, slowly drags him to sitting. Dean's hands burrow into Sam's T-shirt, stretching the material. Then they're on their feet, Dean still clinging, leaning heavily into him, and Sam can feel the heat coming off him now, enough of it that he wonders if it might be a problem.
"Got a fever," he tells Dean, supporting him awkwardly under an elbow.
Dean just sneezes into Sam's shoulder.
"Dude," Sam objects.
"I chaidged your diapers," Dean croaks.
Sam delivers him to the speckled bathroom tiles, then watches him marshal himself into a kneel, forehead on hands on floor. "OK?"
"Id a badder of speakigg."
Sam stands, waiting, but all that happens is that Dean shudders, his bare arms breaking out in goosebumps, so Sam goes back for a comforter off one of the beds.
"Just lie down, man," he tells Dean, bunching the blanket beside him. "I'm gonna go... start the barbecue."
Dean groans, pushes himself up, and starts to heave.
"Two guys die in the same funeral home," Dean husks later, when it's dark out. He's got the comforter, pale blue, tugged around his shoulders, and a roll of toilet paper in his hand. "Heart attacks. Weeks apart. They see their loved one's corpse; they drop on the spot. Witnesses say the bodies looked different, wrong, for just a second, but that maybe they were seeing things."
"It happened both times, so chances are they weren't seeing things," Sam points out, then frowns as Dean shudders elaborately. "Are you seriously cold?"
Dean sneezes and tugs the blanket tighter, sinks lower against the headboard, sweat bright on his pale face. "We, uh, still got that hot water bottle?"
"Not since Knoxville."
Dean nods, resigned, and Sam takes him in - hunched shoulders, mussed hair, smudged eyes.
"But... I could... I could microwave you a plate. And you could hug it."
Dean stares. Then smiles. Then frowns sternly. "Mm."
Soon he's welcomed it into his den, is bracing it with his elbows, blowing his nose. "So this funeral home. Something changed the bodies. And there's EMF in there. It's probably a ghost."
"The same ghost," Sam nods. "Sure. But whose?"
"Maybe somebody else died there," Dean says, "before. Or maybe it belongs to one of the bodies who've passed through that place."
"God," says Sam, "how many do you think that is?"
"I don't even want to know." Dean sneezes into his blanket, then snuffles, looking a bit startled. "I say we start by figuring out if anybody else died in that place, who could be doing this."
"Yeah," says Sam. He glances at the clock, then back at his ragged brother. "First thing tomorrow."
Morning finds Dean flushed bright in bed, hacking into a white cotton sock. Sam's holding a coffee up, away, waiting for him to settle. Dean spits into the material, makes a face, folds it over and licks the dry side as his skin drains back to grey, chest rising and falling fast.
"Jesus." Sam sets the cardboard cup down on the bedside table, plunks onto his own bed. "Good morning to you, too."
Dean struggles up against the headboard, lays his palms against his eyes. "Mmm."
"You gonna live?"
Dean coughs again, wipes his nose with the sock, and rasps, "Yeah."
Sam nods, decides not to ask about the sock and takes a sip of coffee instead. "So, the funeral parlor. I checked it out online this morning. Didn't turn anything up. I'm gonna go hit up the library now. You need anything?"
"I'll come with you." Dean kicks the comforter halfway down and stops to catch his breath.
"No. You look... no. I've got it. It's not a problem, really. I'll be back before lunch, all right?"
Dean peers at him, then trumpets snottily into the sock and scrunches back down in bed. "Close the blinds, wouldya?"
Sam pushes in the door, sweltering. "Dean?"
The room's hot, dark. It takes his eyes a few seconds to adjust. He can hear wheezy breathing, then grunting and a rustle of sheets. "Brought you some soup."
He feels his way forward, sets the paper bag on the bedside table. "How you feelin'?"
"I'm just gonna..." Sam clicks the bedside lamp on, sees Dean's eyes scrunch up, watery in a flushed face. "Huh."
"What?" Dean's shielding his eyes, fumbling his way upright.
"You look exactly like Dennis Franz's ass."
Dean coughs heavily, feet finding the floor, elbows finding knees.
"Bright red in the shower."
"Perfect." He's rubbing his eyes, picking out crusty bits.
"So look, according to the archives, nobody ever died in that funeral home before these other guys."
Dean's hand goes back and forth across his forehead. "'Cause that woulda been too easy."
"Yeah." Sam eyes him, pulls a box out of his pocket, holds it up. "Here. Extra strength. Sounded like you."
A frown ghosts across Dean's face, and he looks up, meets Sam's eyes. "You won't... take off or anything, right?"
Dean just points at the door, sneezes into his arm.
Sam stares. "Not... without telling you?"
Dean reaches for the toilet paper, nods as he unravels some, takes a swipe.
"Kay," he says, and holds out a palm. "Hook me up."
Sam pops out a pill. It lands right on his lifeline.
It's dark, and it's cool, and the air's finally moving. Sam's at the funeral home's back entrance, fiddling at the doorframe with his pocketknife. It smells good out here, like flowers and wet grass.
Dean's beside him, leaning against the wall, holding the flashlight for him. He's snored like a bear all afternoon, seems steadier now.
Sam finally spots the burglar alarm wire, well-camouflaged against the wood. He presses into it with the tip of his blade, makes a few quick sawing motions. The line comes apart.
He straightens and raises his eyebrows. Dean winks, trades off, and picks the lock. Then they're in, door closed behind them, flashlight on, making their way down the hall. There's nothing to hear but footsteps and Dean's sniffles.
They creep down into the basement where they stop, flip on the overhead lights - fluorescents, blue-white. Dean looks frigging awful under them, digging in their duffel for a shotgun and a couple of salt rounds.
"OK, Casper," he croaks. "Let's get this party started."
Nothing happens and Dean pulls out the EMF meter, flicks it on. It squeals, lights up. "We know you're in here. Come on, give us a sneak peek."
Sam eyes the shotgun. "Dean, maybe if you dropped the..." He raises his eyebrows significantly.
Dean frowns at him, follows his gaze. "Oh," he says loudly, "what, this? Yeah, no, I don't need this. I just wanna talk, is all."
He sets the weapon down on an exam table, shoots Sam a sharp look.
It pays off, though. The lights flicker and suddenly there's a pale kid - can't be more than eighteen - in the room with them.
"Yeah, I bet you wanna talk," the spirit says, and the words seem to come from everywhere at once. The gun flies across the room, smacks into a wall without discharging. "You love talking, don't you? You love the sound of your own voice."
"Is it my fault it's so melodious?" Dean asks, all gravel.
"But that's not all you love, Dean. Is it?"
Sam's inching toward the gun, watching his brother and the ghost circle each other.
"I'll tell you what I don't love. Skinny little freaks who kill people at wakes."
"Does Sam know?"
Sam freezes as the spectre turns to him, expectant. Then it snaps its fingers, and Dean's got a big, studded dog collar on.
"Does Sam know how much you love being somebody's bitch?"
Dean's touching the leather, scowling at the apparition, who's still watching Sam, has never stopped watching Sam.
"How badly you need somebody to pat you on the head and tell you you've been a good boy? How even a spanking can get you off, because at least then somebody's paying attention?"
Dean's face goes red, and his hands start tugging at the collar, his breath whistling. It takes a second for Sam to realize he's choking.
"Stop it," Sam tells the ghost. "Whatever you want from us, you're not gonna get it like this."
Then Dean's naked, except for black leather straps, spiked and buckled. The dog collar matches perfectly.
"Does he know how you beg, Dean? How you'll beg Daddy for treats, until he kicks you?" Dean's purple, dropping to his knees, clawing at his throat. The kid finally turns, looks.
Sam lunges for the shotgun, aims, and blasts the specter away. Dean drags in a scraping breath, starts to cough. He's still wearing nothing but leather.
"We better go," says Sam. He pulls Dean up by the elbow, herds him toward the stairs.
"Fuck," Dean chokes out, scanning the floor behind him. "Where're my clothes?"
"They're gone, man." Sam prods his bare back. "Go."
Dean's bundled in sweats, rolled up in a sheet and fetal on the couch. "Fuck," he breathes. It's four in the morning, and he's icing his throat, flipping through channels of static.
Sam's stretched out on his bed, sketching, down to his boxers and re-thinking those. "You gonna keep it?"
Dean glances at Sam. "What," he scrapes out.
"The leather." Sam rolls onto his back, fans his sweaty skin with the notepad. "I think you could pull it off."
The ice pack hits him in the shoulder, hard.
Dean's arms are folded on the long library table, pillowing his head beside a huge stack of newspapers. His eyes are shut, breath crackling.
"There." Sam taps his elbow, and he sucks in a breath. Dean hacks a couple of times, sneezes into his wrist, and straightens with a bleary snuffle.
"What?" Dean whispers.
Sam holds up an obituary and holds up his sketch of the ghost next to it. "Eric Wilder. Died age seventeen. Funeral service you-know-where, a week before the first heart attack. Looks like our pal, huh?" He eyes the wine-colored bruising on Dean's throat, watches him digest the information.
"Yeah." Dean rubs his nose, sneezes again, grips his larynx. "Ow," he exhales. "Yeah, it does. Nice work."
The clouds are thick, wide, blocking out the stars in slow drifts. Sam's digging by the light of a storm lantern and he's down a good couple of feet, almost done. Dean's sitting on the headstone, watching him work. They've got a circle of rock salt laid around the grave - a brainwave of Sam's, since Dean insists on being there, but is in no shape for another fight.
"What did he mean," Sam grunts on an upswing. "Begging Daddy treats."
"You are kind of a suck-up."
"Thanks a lot." Dean doesn't move at all as he speaks, like he's conserving energy. He's been doing that all day.
Sam leans on the shovel, palms sweat off his face. "What do you think it was about, anyway. This kid. These people."
"What are you doing?" It's the voice that comes from everywhere - Eric's. Sam looks up, and Dean's on his feet steadying himself against the granite slab. The ghost is right in front of him, just past the salt line.
Dean glances over his shoulder at Sam, looks back at the spirit. "We're taking care of a little problem," Dean whisper-yells.
"You're getting rid of me." He flickers, reappears closer to Sam, but still outside the boundary. "You're just like the others."
Sam starts in at the hole again.
"Stop," Eric says.
"Yeah," Sam hears Dean rasping, "we can't do that."
"I didn't even do anything," the apparition says. "I showed those people who their dead friends really were. If they couldn't handle it, that's their problem."
"What did you do," Dean wheezes.
"The big guy used to beat his dog. He was a monster. I gave him horns, and an extra set of teeth."
"...OK. What about the girl?"
"She was bulimic. That's not what killed her, but it would've. I shriveled her up a bit more, wrapped her up like a mummy, and put her finger down her throat. If her family couldn't handle her and her problems, they deserve what they got."
"Eric..." Dean's voice comes from between Sam and the ghost now. "That's kinda poetic... kinda... but... why'd you do it?"
There's a long silence, and Sam hits coffin, hops out of the grave.
"I came out to my parents... and... they..."
Sam's dousing the corpse, striking a match.
"I killed myself," the spirit says. "I was stupid. I should've killed them instead."
Dean glances over his shoulder at Sam. He's pale, wide-eyed, assessing. "Is that still how you feel?" he crackles at the ghost.
Sam drops the match, and Eric goes up in flames.
"Shut your mouth."
Dean's curled up on his bed in a thick, grey hoodie, a thermometer sticking out between his lips. It's mid-afternoon, and it's hot and stuffy, and Sam's really, really missing the a/c. He needs to get Dean better if only so Sam can wear dry clothes for more than ten minutes at a time.
The instrument beeps and Sam pulls it out, takes a look.
"Yeah. You're sick, man."
"Musta fuckin' sucked to be Eric."
Sam looks at him. He's white down to the lips, dark rings under his eyes. "Must suck to be you, right now."
Dean coughs into his fist, heavy lines forming on his brow.
"You're too hot, and it's been too long. You need antibiotics or something."
"Is that an order?"
Sam shifts, rests his chin on his hand. "Why, you want to be my bitch?"
Dean squints up at him through bloodshot eyes, sneezes into his sleeve. "Look... Dad's a good guy. I do what he says because he knows his shit and because he needs me. If you've got a problem..."
"No." Sam sets the thermometer on the bedside table. "It's all good. You do what you think is right when it comes to the big stuff. I know that about you."
Dean sniffles, scratches his cheek. "You're so the bitch."
Sam snorts, looks down at the carpet, back up at Dean. "Whatever."
A/N 2: Soncnica's remix of this fic is going up in early January.