Fasten your seat belts ladies and gents, we're off again!


I.

As far as Sam could remember, Dean had only really been ill twice before in his life.

Once when they were very young and Sam was perhaps two and a half – a sketchy recollection of their father perched on the edge of Dean's bed, gently pressing a cool washcloth to his oldest son's head and talking slowly and calmly, eyes full of gentleness and patience. The second time however, Sam remembered only too well. He'd been twelve years old, Dean had caught the flu from God only knew where – probably the inside of a girls' mouth – and John had swept back in from a job itching to move them on. It had been the first time Sam had told their father 'no'. Stood up straight, looked him in the eyes and said it.

"No. Dean's too sick. He's not moving."

Later of course, such rebellion was to grow into an almost daily occurrence, but back then it had been the defining moment of his life, all done for his older brother.

He'd watched over the previous days as Dean's 'cold' had turned into a full-blown case of the flu, watched how the weariness had turned into exhaustion, how the waning appetite had died altogether and how the slow shuffle had turned into more of a blind stumble across the room leaning heavily on any piece of furniture that came into contact with his hand. He'd almost fallen and cracked his head on the basin at one point, which had been the moment Sam had decided to ditch school and care for him instead. After all their dad wasn't there and Dean was too ill to argue it, in a strange way it had almost been nice to care for his older brother, to go across to the convenience store for medicine and energy drinks in an attempt to be useful. Dean had been caring for him his whole life, returning the favour made Sam feel like a man. Albeit a little one. He'd even made soup, in the microwave admittedly but Dean had said it was the best he'd ever tasted – which Dean would. But he'd still been sick, bordering on hallucination when John had strode back in, all barked orders and muddy boots,

"Pack your things boys, I want to be out of here by tonight."

"Dean's sick."

"What?"

A flicker of concern towards his eldest for the first time, lying pale and sweaty in one of the beds.

"I think it's the flu."

A flicker of hesitation, torn between concern and urgency,

"Sammy – ,"

"No."

The 'no' had surprised them both, especially John who seemed to move rapidly through a range of emotions before finally trying again,

"Sam."

He'd been turned down a second time too.

Sam could remember his fists trembling from where they'd been balled by his sides, his eyes glaring up furiously. He didn't care if his father grounded him for a month or heaped extra training on him, he could do what he liked, Dean was not moving and he knew it as surely as he knew his brother would fight the same way for him. He owed Dean that much and apparently even John had realised it, letting out a long sigh, wiping a hand across his face and nodding in defeat.

"Okay Sammy, you win."

Maybe it was that single concession that had made him believe he could win the war against his father, maybe that moment had given him the strength to believe he could shape his own life after all, either way the fact remained that he'd done it all for Dean – stood up and fought for him when he'd been too weak to do it for himself. What was more, he'd have gladly done it again too.

He didn't realise he was about to get that chance…