Title: A Spot of Bother
Summary: Sometimes it's not until the hunt is over that the fun really begins.
A/N: Set early season one. Thanks go to Sendintheclowns and Gidgetgal9 for providing beta and handholding duties
It had been dead for three hours when Sam discovered the first one, towelling off after a nice refreshing mucus eradicating shower. The body had been salted and burnt and they'd made it back to the motel, disinfected their machetes along with themselves, and he'd stitched up the 'scratch' on his brother's shoulder. He'd hung back while Dean got ready for bed, and then Sam had finally hit the shower. Dean might have got on the wrong side of those talons but it had been Sam on the business end of its repelling mucus spray, and Sam wasn't convinced he'd got the fair end of that deal. It was a testament to how good a brother he was that he'd waited patiently until Dean was no-longer bleeding and all stitched up before succumbing to the need to wash the itchy green gunk out of his hair.
And that was when he'd found it.
One large red welt, about the size of a dime, standing proudly on his left hip. Not the weirdest thing he'd seen all day, granted. Not even the weirdest thing that had been on him, but this one wasn't washing off.
It didn't hurt, it didn't itch, in fact he couldn't feel it at all. But now he'd seen it Sam was very aware that it was there. And really wishing it wasn't.
A quick scan of the rest of his body threw up no further blotches, or an explanation. It wasn't a bruise or a burn. It looked like the beginning of a rash. One large lonesome spot.
For a brief moment the hypochondriac in him (the part that still saw himself as about seven years old and Dean a height of maturity that could never be reached) considered waking his brother and showing it to him. But he was quick to bury that impulse. Besides ridicule, there wasn't really anything Dean could do. He was sore and he was tired and he really wanted sleep, and one little welt was hardly a life threatening condition. He would just go to bed, and hopefully it wouldn't be there in the morning. And if it was… well then he'd deal with it then.
It wasn't gone in the morning. In fact, it seemed to have invited a few friends round during the night.
It was definitely a rash now, spreading downwards from his hip to take in his entire left leg. Seven… no eight large, angry looking blotches, the largest on the back of his calf was the circumference of a coffee mug.
And Sam was officially freaked out. Dean was the one who'd been scratched by this thing, why the hell did he get to have the allergic reaction?
Sam became aware of the sound of his pulse throbbing in his ears and his chest was starting to feel tight. Whatever this was it had spread a large distance in a short space of time. By the time they'd got in and cleaned up last night he'd barely made it to bed for a couple of hours. What the hell he was going to look like in a couple more hours' time was anyone's guess.
Oh God. He was going to have to tell Dean. That prospect was a whole lot less appealing this side of sleep, in the daylight. But if this was some kind of Supernatural mucus infection, then not telling Dean wasn't an option. And to be fair, Sam was a little too close to freaking out to think clearly about this by himself.
It wasn't that Sam didn't expect Dean to work to make this better, and he knew there would be some comfort to be found in his brother's direction, but he was also resigned to the heavy duty mocking that would come along with his brother's assessment.
Keeping this to himself had not worked out too well so far.
But he had to finish brushing his teeth and washing up first. He was in no way hiding in the bathroom to build up the courage to face his brother.
Dean was bored. He'd only been up for half an hour so even he would be the first to admit it was an achievement, but there was no escaping the facts.
It had been quite an interesting hunt. Of all the things they were used to terrorising small communities, a half-lizard half-goat with a barbed tail that spat slime was a first. There'd been a few confused faces while they'd tried to piece the facts behind that one together.
But now the job was over and Dean could find himself slipping into that post hunt lethargy. The excitement of slotting the puzzle together was over and the adrenaline of the chase had left him. Now he was just aching and sore, with only the prospect of cleaning blood and other unpleasant bodily excretions from his upholstery to entertain him. He'd had the awareness to make Sam sit on a towel at least, but the slime encrusted hand prints around the passenger door were not going to pass un-discussed.
But chewing out little brother was going to be the high point of his day. There wasn't going to be another hunt like that any time soon, and after the obscene amount of corpses they'd had to salt and burn in the past couple of weeks, malevolent spirits were starting to seem a little… ordinary.
His boots had made it on and he was toying with the energy needed to get up and started on the car, but sitting at the table and moulding his take out coffee cup into a work of art still felt the more attractive option.
The bathroom door clicked and Dean turned his eyes lazily in that direction before turning his attention back to his cardboard and polystyrene sculpture.
He waited a few seconds but Sam made no attempt to either destroy or criticise.
The tone was hesitant, his voice low. Dean let his eyes flit back up to find Sam had not left his spot hovering in the bathroom doorway.
"What's up?" He tried to keep his tone mildly curious, figuring if he pressed his brother on why he was chewing his lip and staring at the carpet with his arms wrapped around himself it would only cause the kid to bolt. Sam looked suspiciously embarrassed though, which meant Dean might be in luck with having something entertaining happen today after all.
"I think…" Sam faltered.
"What? I can't hear you over there." It would be less entertaining if it made Dean get up.
Sam took a few more steps towards him, hovering uncomfortably in the middle of the room. "I think I have some kind of weird rash," he announced, still not looking at Dean. "Do you think… could you check it out?"
Sam sounded all of about five years old which caused Dean to nod automatically, right until Sam moved to stand next to him and started unfastening his belt.
"Whoa!" Dean exclaimed. He didn't need to see that. "What the hell? You really think I'm the best person to share your little 'rash' with. Cause I gotta tell you…"
"It's on my leg Dean. Seriously." Sam wouldn't have been any redder if Dean had painted it on. "You know what, never mind."
"No, wait." Dean reached out and grabbed Sam's arm as he made to move away. "Lemmie see." Sam was obviously concerned about this or he wouldn't have raised the issue at all.
Dean was determined to appear sympathetic, but "Ugh. What the hell did you do?" were the first words that somehow made it out of his mouth when he finally took in the sight of his brother's blotchy skin.
"Thanks Dean. And I don't know."
"I think you're having some kind of allergic reaction. It looks like you're coming out in hives."
"Yeah, but allergic to what?"
"Well you did get exposed to that green slimy shit last night. We don't really know what that stuff did. I mean, it smelt pretty toxic."
"I thought that too, at first. But it got me in the face Dean, it didn't get down my pants."
"Anything else get down your pants recently that you want to tell me about?"
"No!!" Sam huffed.
"Is that 'no, nothing got in there' or 'no, nothing you wanna tell me about'?" Dean smirked.
"Dean!" If Sam's body sent any more blood to his cheeks he was going to fall over.
"Alright. But don't think I haven't noticed you didn't answer the question."
Sam sat down on Dean's bed in just his underwear, jeans around his ankles, looking thoroughly miserable, and something within Dean melted. Not that he would ever admit to it, or phrase it in quite that way. It was definitely an allergic reaction, Dean had been on the wrong side of poison-ivy enough times to know that, and from what Sam was telling him it was definitely spreading.
"We got any antihistamine in the kit?" Sam asked at last, drawing Dean's attention to the fact they had both fallen silent.
"Yeah, I'll fetch it… Get dressed."
"Oh… sorry," Sam scrambled to comply, obviously distracted. He was clearly actually worried about this thing. He'd been living the cosy life for too long, and it had been a while since he'd last encountered some of the weirder and more embarrassing side effects of their job. Sometimes annoying stuff like this just happened. But even so, Dean could admit it was a little disconcerting. Sam didn't have any allergies that he was familiar with, and the only thing he'd either ingested or come into contact with recently that Dean hadn't, all joking aside, was a supernatural bodily fluid. They had no idea how this was going to play out.
"How are you feeling otherwise than, you know?" he indicated to Sam's leg, stepping back into the room with the tablets and water. "You feel sick at all? You got a temperature?"
"Yeah… no… I don't know."
"You wanna try that again to make less sense?"
"I feel kinda weird," Sam admitted softly, and that was not what Dean had wanted to hear. "But honestly? I don't know if I actually feel ill or just think I do. Like I should feel sick so I'm convincing myself I do."
It made an annoying kind of sense, but Sam's psychosomatic symptoms weren't going to help them narrow this down any.
"You feel sick?"
"A little. And kinda dizzy. My chest hurts a little, and I'm kind of short of breath."
"That's classic anxiety though." He knew Sam wasn't bitching and looking for sympathy by listing his symptoms; he was working on the assumption that Dean might need to know. Because if Sam was feeling the effects of something paranormal, they needed all the information they could get.
"Here, see if you've got a temperature," he instructed, handing over their thermometer. That at least would be a symptom Sam couldn't imagine.
"Well that's hardly worth writing home about," Dean sighed, then realised, "But that's a good thing."
They'd never really ascertained what this creature was, and why it had used its slime spray as a defence mechanism when it had a perfectly functional barbed tail and crushing jaws. The more symptoms they had the more avenues they had for research, but that didn't mean he actually wanted Sam to get sick.
"Do you still have a sample of that stuff?" he asked instead. "If not I'm sure you can scrape enough residue off your clothes. Only we never did get around to analysing it."
They'd been going to bluff their way into the university's open lab sessions, try and work out what they were looking at, only not long after the plan had been formed an account of a guy out hunting in the woods having clipped something with a shot gun pellet, and its apparent response to pain, had caused that avenue of investigation to stall. Whatever it was it seemed to be mortal, and they were more than capable of tracking it and riddling it with holes. Having it dead and no-longer terrorizing people had always been their priority, and if they didn't need science to do it then all the better as far as Dean was concerned.
He just hoped their lack of thorough research hadn't come back to bite Sam in the ass.
"Take it easy for a while. I'll call around; see if anyone's heard of anything similar happening. Get some rest."
"I have hives Dean, I'm not five. I don't need a nap; I'm still capable of doing some research." Sam snapped. Dean tried not to take offence at his tone, knowing it must be pretty galling to his brother to have Dean call up a bunch of contacts Sam hadn't spoken to in years only to tell them that two months back in the field he'd come down with demonic hives.
"Knock yourself out," he said, gesturing elaborately to the laptop and notes still sprawled over every spare surface of their room.
It was going to be a long day.
He was tired and he was irritable, and his eyes hurt from staring so long at the screen. They hadn't been able to find much information on this thing before they'd killed it, so what made them think they'd be able to do any better now it was dead?
Dean had called the majority of their father's contacts and drawn up a blank, complaining loudly after every dead end, and Sam was beginning to worry that Dean might be starting to resent this sudden unscheduled stop. Because of all the stupid things it was possible to do, getting infected by demon slime was pretty high up there.
And he was starting to think he was definitely infected. His eyes were dry and raw, his head felt thick and woolly, and he was finding it increasingly hard to concentrate.
He scratched absently at his arm as he flicked off another useless web-page, his watch strap digging uncomfortably into his skin, and noted that the skin around his wrist felt raised. Looking down he realised why.
"Crap," he muttered to himself, rolling up his sleeve to get a better look at the skin below. The whole of his left arm was now covered in those same angry red welts.
"What you doing over there?"
And now he'd alerted Dean with his squirming.
"Nothing. I just… I think it's spreading." If Dean had caught on to what he was doing he may as well go the whole hog. His right arm was blotchy too, but Sam still felt the need to lift his shirt to check his stomach, already knowing what he was going to find.
His chest was covered, and there was one spreading from his side around his back that was the size of his hand.
"Jesus Sam," Dean's hand resting on his shoulder made him jump, and he dropped the shirt back into place. "They hurt?" Dean asked, voice low.
Sam shook his head. "Just annoying." Dean's hand was pushing him forward slightly into the table, his other hand raising Sam's shirt again to take in his back. Dean's pursed lips told him everything he needed to know.
"You take another dose off those tablets at lunch?" he asked quietly.
"I took more than another dose at lunch," Sam admitted wearily. Now he was aware of them, his skin felt hot and clammy. If a patch on his lower leg had freaked him out a little, the knowledge they had spread to more or less shoulder height downwards was making it a little hard to breath.
"I think you're gonna need something stronger." Dean said, releasing him at last.
"And what do you suggest?"
Dean was silent for a long time before answering.
"There's a clinic in town, other side of the records office. I think maybe we should…"
"And tell them what? That I'm having an allergic reaction to some demon slime?" It came out slightly more high pitched and panicked than pissed, but Sam didn't care. This wasn't Dean's fault and he didn't want to start snapping at the one person he had in his life, and the one person who might be able to tell him what was going on.
"We'll tell them we don't know what's causing it. Which we don't. And they're not exactly gonna think you're faking it at this stage. You might have been able to fake the small stuff to get out of getting your hair cut when you were five, but even you're not this good an actor. They'll give you something."
"They're gonna want to do tests." Sam still wasn't convinced. Showing Dean had been one thing. Going out in public looking like a mutant was another thing entirely.
"That might not be a bad idea," Dean offered cautiously. Sam just glared at him.
"Look. This is a little outside our normal remit, okay. I don't know what to expect. If this thing spreads any higher it could impair your breathing or… I don't know. I just… I don't want to take any chances, okay."
"Okay." He didn't know whether it made him feel better or not, the realisation that Dean was worried too. It meant maybe he wasn't being a baby about this, but Dean had always been this larger than life protector. Sam might have been old enough now to know his brother wasn't superman, but he was a safe harbour Sam had needed over the last couple of months, and he wasn't sure if he was ready to give that up yet. There were enough uncertainties in his life, too many worries and hurts that Dean couldn't fix, and Sam had spent too long now pretending by focusing on the ones he could.
But this was medical, and was beyond the both of them. But the Supernatural element that could be behind it – that was definitely something Dean could try and fix. Even if it was just finding out what other symptoms, if any, they could come to expect.
"Call that Michael's kid," he instructed, "He'll be able to get you in, and should hopefully be able to analyse the samples we have. You might be able to meet him at the lab after you drop me off, see if you can get a heads up on what that stuff was. If it contains anything we need to worry about. But maybe it's not that at all. Maybe I'm allergic to that cruddy detergent you bought or something."
"And it just happens to bring you out in hives hours after you come into contact with this stuff," Dean pointed warily at Sam's discarded, slightly crusty, t-shirt. "And anyway, I'll hang with you; we can meet him together later this afternoon."
"They're probably just gonna give me a shot, but who knows how long I'm gonna be waiting. It's flu season Dean, I could be in there for hours. I'll come find you as soon as I'm done."
Dean argued, but Sam's insistence that it made no sense for them both to waste the afternoon finally wore him down. Sam knew Dean wanted to be supportive, but he couldn't hide the look of relief that crossed his face looking in through the window at the crowded waiting room and screaming babies and knowing he didn't have to go in there.
An hour and a half later and Sam was wishing he didn't have to be there either. The admission form had taken him all of five minutes to complete, and unless he developed a sudden burning interest in Paris Hilton's love life there were no magazines to help him occupy the time. He was beginning to wish he's brought some research with him, but some of their old tomes were pretty conspicuous.
There was nothing to draw his mind from his itchy skin or how miserable he felt. Dean was no doubt equally as bored hanging out with their Good Samaritan science geek, and he could have done with his brother's people watching commentary to brighten up his mood just then.
By the time he was finally called into the consultation room he was tired and achy and beginning to wish he'd never gotten out of bed at all.
Man this guy was boring. It turned out science was painfully slow, and not having Julie Conner as a lab partner just made the wait even longer. There was only so long jars of pickled foetal pigs could keep a guy entertained, and not being able to reach Sam on his cell was doing nothing for Dean's patience.
Michaels had run through five incredibly boring tests and told Dean more about the composition of mucus than he had ever wanted to know, but he had found nothing that could account for Sam's bizarre symptoms, and even an understaffed clinic during flu season should have ingested his little brother and spat him back out again my now. He was going to have to have words about Sam being such an upstanding citizen and actually obeying the 'please switch off cell phone' notices when he saw them.
He know logically that Sam would call asking to be picked up when he was done, or at least ring to find out if Dean was still at the lab before heading over here to meet him, but that didn't stop Dean from trying his luck whenever it looked as though Michaels was about to start explaining some particularly tedious bit of scientific methodology to him, stepping outside to listen to Sam's voicemail message yet again.
Only by call twelve it didn't divert straight to voicemail, but actually started ringing.
A real live voice on the other end of the phone for the first time in three hours actually threw Dean so much he didn't answer.
"Yeah! Hey. You heading over now?"
"Nah, not quite."
"They haven't seen you yet?" Dean asked incredulously, "You've been there for hours."
"Yeah, it's just gonna be a little longer."
Sam was sounding shifty now, not that he hadn't been sounding slightly shifty ever since admitting to Dean about his rash. But the sound of sirens and bustle in the background of the call were making Dean's suspicions rise.
"Where are you?" he asked casually.
"C'ny hpt," Sam mumbled in a small voice.
"Community Hospital." And it amazed Dean how Sam could manage to give a direct answer and still sound evasive at the same time.
"What's going on?" Dean was moving on autopilot, not even aware of what he was doing until there was fresh air in his face and he was half way across the parking lot. He hadn't even stopped to tell the kid he was leaving, but Sam was in a hospital and instinct had taken over.
"It's just some tests, I'm okay."
"You don't sound okay." Sam's voice sounded tight, and alarmingly subdued.
"I'm just… It's been a long afternoon," he explained, "I'll be glad when it's over. But I'm okay. What about you? Find anything?"
"Nothing that made a great deal of sense. I swear, half the time he wasn't even speaking the same language. What about you? Are you at the outpatient's clinic or…" he trailed off waiting for Sam to supply him with a location.
"Yeah… look, you don't need to…"
"It's no sweat. I was going out of my mind listening to Dexter the science geek and the fascinating world of bacteria."
"I'm on the Allergy & Immunology wing but I'm probably not even going to be here that long, I can make it back to the school before… you're already half way here aren't you?"
"Yup," Dean answered proudly, revelling in the depth of Sam's sigh. "Hang tight; I'll see you in a few." He flipped the phone closed before Sam could protest further. He'd expected the clinic to give Sam a shot and send him on his way – a hospital had not exactly figured into his plans. He didn't know how Sam as a student was covered for medical insurance, but hopefully they would get away relatively lightly. Not that they'd stick around if they didn't.
Sam looked like the personification of misery when Dean finally found him. He got lost twice in the generic corridors and had to sweet talk a candy-striper to lead him. Sam was hunched over in his seat, hair obstructing Dean's view of his face, and he didn't even look up as Dean approached, which they would be having words about. In fact, he didn't acknowledge Dean at all until he'd dropped into a seat beside him and swatted Sam on the knee.
"Hey?" He hadn't meant to let his concern show, but up close Sam looked worse than Dean had remembered – his eyes were ringed and bloodshot. The rash had spread again and Dean could see the tell-tale hint of red on Sam's neck, and another on his left cheek. Either Sam didn't know it had spread that far or he was too tired to care, but he didn't try to hide it, and even tucked a few loose strands of hair behind his ear and gave Dean an unrestricted view.
"Hey," Sam croaked, before curling into himself with a body-racking cough. When he'd finally got it under control the hand raised to his mouth was shaking.
"Whoa," Dean's concern spiked, "What's going on? Has anyone given you anything yet?"
"Just more antihistamine at the clinic."
"Well it's not doing much."
"Not a great deal, no." Sam sat back in his seat and closed his eyes. He was shivering slightly and looked exhausted. Dean didn't miss the way he winced as he spoke, and recalled again his fear the rash would spread down Sam's throat and impede his breathing.
"How long have you been waiting?" Dean asked, glancing around. The waiting room was not too crowded, but even so he was fighting the urge to go and make someone examine his brother.
"Not long," Sam winced "Checked my messages before I came in. That's when you called."
He'd been going to bitch at Sam for turning off his phone at all, but he looked so depressed Dean didn't have the heart. Any criticism would probably bounce off him right now anyway.
"So what did they say? Why send you out here?"
"Some kind of blood test I think." Sam grimaced.
"They couldn't do that at the clinic?"
"No. Because the bus ride over here was the highlight of my day," Sam bitched. "I think she wanted a second opinion or something. Let the big-wigs take a look just to be safe. They can't do a proper test to see what I'm reacting to because they need a patch of clear skin to test."
"And that's not really working for ya?"
"No. Whatever this is she didn't think it was something my skin came into contact with, 'cause the reaction's too uniform. I figure they think it's in me rather than on me."
"And the blood test will help them work out what it might be?"
"Maybe. They wanted to give me some stronger drugs too, reduce the swelling just in case – you know," he pointed to his throat and winced, and Dean swallowed. "Maybe they didn't carry it, I don't know. They didn't really look prepared for anything that wasn't a case of the flu."
"So the specialist knows you're here?"
"Yeah, but who knows how long it's gonna be?"
"You swallow any of that stuff last night?" Dean asked quietly, with concern.
Sam shrugged. "I didn't think so, but now…" he trailed off with a sigh. "God, I dunno," he finished, leaning forward again and resting his elbows on his knees, fingers massaging the bridge of his nose.
"You got a headache?"
"Among other things."
"Things like what?"
"Let's just say my psychosomatic symptoms are not so psycho anymore."
"And when the hell were you gonna tell me this!" Dean had been sat on his ass observing the science experiment from hell while Sam had been sat across town on his own getting steadily sicker. It might have been a while since they'd been on the road together but Sam should know – that just wasn't how things were done.
"And what exactly were you gonna do?" Sam groaned wearily. "Staying with Michaels was the most useful thing you could do, you know that."
Dean did know it, but that didn't mean he had to like it, or that he would leave now he was here.
They fell silent, and Dean had only his thoughts and Sam squirming to get comfortable to entertain him. Today had promised to be such a truly unspectacular day, and now listening to Sam coughing beside him he was looking back on the morning's boredom with nostalgic fondness.
Dean looked up to see a small Asian woman in a doctor's lab coat approaching their end of the chairs. "If you'd like to follow me…"
Sam scrambled to his feet and shook her hand, following her down the corridor as she turned to lead him back to an examination room. Dean also stood, but before he could take a step in the petit woman's direction Sam turned and fixed him with an eyebrow-raised stare. Dean just shrugged and made a move to go, but Sam's glare hardened.
"I'll just… wait here, shall I?" Dean muttered, indicating back to the uncomfortable blue chair he'd been dying to leave for the past twenty minutes. Sam just nodded tightly and turned away from him.
"Okay then…" Dean breathed out, sinking back into his seat and watching Sam's progress until a bend in the institutionalised hospital walls swallowed him from view.
"And you can think of nothing unusual you might have ingested recently?"
"Okaay…" Dr Patel sat on a chair opposite him and marked something down in the clipboard in her lap. "Have you eaten a lot of shellfish recently, or nuts, anything at all in larger quantities than is usual for you?"
"No." Well… he'd eaten an obscene amount of fast food and microwave tacos recently, but apart from that there had been nothing worthy of report. "Look, they asked me all this over at the clinic." He croaked.
"I know, but they're routine questions.
"Do you have a headache?" She asked him, no doubt taking in his posture, "Is your throat sore?"
She wheeled the chair over and started probing gently at his throat and neck. "Your glands are swollen" she muttered, nodding to herself. "Well, we're going to run come blood work just to be sure, to make sure there's nothing sinister going on, but from your symptoms and what you've told me I'm pretty sure I know what the problem is."
"Yeah?" Sam issued hopefully at the prospect of being able to go home and to bed. And to stop looking like a mutant.
"You have a cold Mr Winchester."
"You… I… What?"
"A cold. Your glands are tender, you have a cough, a sore throat, and your sinuses ache – am I right?"
"Ummm?" Sam uttered, nonplussed. When she put it like that the diagnosis made sense. He was tired and he was achy and he felt like he was coming down with a cold, and maybe he would have been able to come to that conclusion by himself if he hadn't been pre-occupied with demon slime and his horrific skin condition.
"But I'm covered in hives," he finally stuttered out.
"Yes, you are." She smiled gently.
"Doesn't that mean I'm allergic to something? That there's something else?"
"It's possible. And that's why we're going to draw some blood. As they told you down town, we can't do a skin test until the rash clears up and gives us a clear patch to test, and with the amount of antihistamine in your system at the moment the results might be inaccurate anyway. We can run a blood sample and it will hopefully be able to show up anything in your system that might be causing your body to react in this way. But if you haven't ingested anything out of the ordinary recently I think it's far more likely that you simply have a cold.
"You have a virus Sam," She reiterated clearly when he continued to stare at her, confused, "And your body is allergic to it."
"I'm allergic to a cold?" he puzzled, "I've never…"
"There are literally hundreds of different cold viruses out there, thousands. And because they're all slightly different, occasionally you come across one your body dislikes more than usual. Sometimes this is the way people react."
"So I'm wasting your time," Sam cringed, feeling utterly miserable. "I just have to wait until this cold passes and I'll be fine again?"
"You're having a strong allergic reaction Sam. Just because it's to a virus you have doesn't mean it isn't real. You did the right thing getting checked out. We still have to give you a shot of some stronger anti-allegiants, and I'm going to give you some steroids. Your cold symptoms have been developing throughout the day, am I right?"
"It's probably been in your system laying the groundwork for a few days. I think it's unlikely at this stage that your allergy is going to get much worse, but you don't want to give any more ground to this thing if you can help it. So get plenty of rest and take it easy for a few days. I'm going to give you the shot just to be safe. It should keep the reaction under control for a while, reduce the swelling, but if it gets worse or you have any additional symptoms I want you to come back in and we'll keep an eye on things for you."
"Okay…" Sam murmured, still not sure what to make of this turn of events. His mind wandered to Dean in the waiting room; if he'd been nervous about approaching his brother this morning that was nothing compared to now, knowing that he had to go out there and tell Dean he'd spent hours being bored out of his mind for apparently no reason at all. He'd been fairly sure he hadn't actually ingested any of the green gunky spray, but the sheer presence of the spots on his skin had caused him to doubt his own recollections.
And going back to the motel and crawling into bed with a mucus induced illness was one thing, but abandoning the hunt for their father because he had a cold was something else entirely. Something he wasn't sure if he could even bring himself to do. The desire for action, for revenge, was still too strong.
But he was pretty sure he didn't actually want to find John Winchester at the moment either. Their last fight had been pretty spectacular, and he couldn't help but admit it was a pretty galling prospect that the first time his father laid eyes on him in over two years he was covered in hives. It would be proof that he couldn't even have a simple cold without turning it into a drama.
"Sam? You okay?"
Sam started to find the doctor watching him with concern.
"Yeah," he breathed, running a hand across gritty eyes in an effort to clear them.
"We'll get this over with quickly, then you can get some rest," she smiled, removing a needle and syringe form a draw behind her. "We'll draw some blood first, okay?"
It turned out the day had been boring in a way Dean had not anticipated. No hunt, no direction, and valet duties were a different kind of dull to sitting around in a hospital waiting room trying not to stare at the guy across the aisle with the scaly film on his arm, and wondering what the hell was taking Sam so long to get some blood drawn and leave.
When Sam finally appeared around the bend in the corridor he was staring at his feet and holding some cotton wool against his arm, sleeve rolled up and exposing his blotch left forearm to the world, but Sam's posture told Dean he was too tired to care.
"Hey, you ready to go?" he stood as Sam approached.
"God yes," Sam groaned. His movements were sluggish and he was still shivering slightly as he followed Dean through the hospital corridor.
"They have any idea what's going on with you?" Dean asked, stopping to hold a door open for his brother.
"Uh, yeah. Kind of." Sam was looking shifty again.
"Oh God, let's hear it."
"Let's wait until we're…" Sam nodded his head to the automatic doors at the ward's entrance and the parking lot beyond. Dean pursed his lips grimly – if it was something Sam felt they shouldn't discuss in public, that didn't bode well.
They made it to the car in silence, and Sam waited until they had both climbed inside and shut the doors, he'd stared out of the windshield for a couple of minutes, coughed a bit, and Dean was on the verge of repeating the question before he finally spoke.
"She… uh... She thinks I have a cold."
"No shit," Dean smiled, "Did she use all her years of medical training to work that one out?" It wasn't something that had actually occurred to him, but when Dean thought about it, it was a pretty obvious diagnosis. All Sam's symptoms fit. "What about the…" he waved a hand vaguely over Sam's red and patchy form. "You know. She have any idea what's causing it."
"I have a cold," Sam repeated wearily, as though Dean hadn't heard right the first time. "She doesn't think there's anything I've eaten recently that would cause a reaction like this."
"Apart from Demon slime" Dean interjected.
"Well I didn't exactly mention that. And I'm not even sure I swallowed any of that stuff," Sam admitted. "In fact, I'd be sure I hadn't, if not for the whole…" he trailed off with a sigh and Dean frowned.
"She's running a blood test," Sam continued, "and they can do some allergy tests when my skin clears up, but she's fairly confident they won't find anything."
"So what's causing it?" Dean raised his eyebrows.
"Dude, you're allergic to yourself?!" Dean crowed, "There's nothing actually causing it? Guess now you know how the rest of us feel being around you."
"I'm allergic to the virus Dean," Sam reiterated in a pissy voice.
"Yeah, but you'd probably have got that anyway. It totally doesn't count."
"Doesn't cou…" Sam shook his head, rendered speechless first by Dean's awesomeness and then by coughing. Dean chuckled quietly to himself, which no doubt irritated Sam further, but he was just so stupidly relieved. He didn't know why Sam was so miserable – apart from being sick and having hives. Dean had been assuming crash positions all day, running through every worst case scenario in his head. Some of the stories other hunters had rattled off about demonic skin irritations and viruses this morning had been pretty disturbing, and had almost always ended in tears.
"Hang on a sec," Dean suddenly thought of something. "Did I just spend three hours looking through a microscope at mucus for nothing?" he let out indignantly.
"I'm sure it was educational," Sam offered innocently, lips twitching in a way that made Dean's afternoon of frustration almost worthwhile. "You should probably call Michaels and let him know he can stop running tests and things now." Sam continued.
Dean thought about that for a second. "Nah," he declared. "Geek seemed happy enough. I think he was enjoying the challenge.
"Dean!" Sam sounded scandalised now, which was worth it for a completely different reason. "You can't just… what if he actually, I don't know… finds something. You think we should have left that sample with him?"
"I dunno. It should be okay. From all the tests he'd done before I left, it just seemed like mucus. Don't know what that means, but maybe demon or human, mucus is just mucus."
"I don't know if that makes me feel better or not," Sam grimaced, one hand scrubbing through his now clean hair with a shudder.
"Come on," Dean turned away and set the car running, "Let's just get out of here. Have you even eaten anything today, you must be starving."
"A little," Sam relented, seemingly reluctantly.
"How about I drop you back at the motel and head out for some supplies. We could do with some more Tylenol, and some cough medicine and the like. I'd like to be able to sleep at some point tonight," Dean raised his eyebrows pointedly as Sam fell into another bout of loud coughing.
"I can come with," he croaked when he'd done.
"Yeah," Dean agreed, "But why bother. You should take it easy, you look exhausted."
"I can still…"
"Dude, can you honestly tell me you want to do anything other than lie down right now," Dean smiled.
Sam sighed, defeated. "Yeah, okay. But in the morning we're…"
"In the morning we're doing nothing," Dean stated firmly.
"I have a cold Dean, we can still…"
"You're still having an allergic reaction Sam. Did the doc tell you it was okay to just blow if off like this?" Sam sulked guiltily. "I thought not. We're gonna stick around close to the doc and her good drugs until you stop looking like the creature from the blue lagoon, and then we'll see about getting back on the trail for Dad. We don't know where to look anymore Sam," he offered gently. "We can chase out tails sitting in the motel just as easily as we can sitting in the car."
"I need to find him Dean," Sam whispered quietly, earnestly, and Dean knew he did, but Dean needed him well again more.
"I know," he said quietly. "But you can't hunt sick dude, and I think you need the downtime a little more right now. A little more sleep, a little more food, and a bit of sunlight now and again isn't going to hurt."
"Hey, I don't have a cold." Dean continued reasonably.
"Not yet anyway," Sam muttered maliciously.
"A couple day's rest, that's all I'm asking."
Dean tried to ignore how much the agreement sounded like defeat.
He pulled up in front of their motel room a few minutes later and watched as Sam hauled himself wearily out of the car. He had to fight the urge to get out and take Sam's arm and guide him to their room as his brother stumbled, knowing that would tip Sam from grudging acceptance of their time off, into obstinacy.
He might have to put up with Sam sick, but he was going to do his best to avoid sick and cranky. Sam might not be a moody teenager anymore but he was still pushing to show Dean his independence, and hovering over him too overtly was only going to push him away. Hot chocolate and a movie was a form of coddling Sam had not yet objected to, and if he did it wearing a face mask Dean would not only limit the chances of catching his brother's germs, but probably make Sam think Dean was checking his temperature and plying him with fluids purely to be an ass rather than as a show of genuine concern. Which would probably allow him to get away with it more.
Nursing, the Winchester way.
Along with the painkillers and decongestants he would stock up on vitamins and iron supplements. Hopefully by the time they caught a lead, or their dad deemed it fit to meet up with them, Sam would no-longer be toxic and Dean wouldn't have to face the criticism that he couldn't take care of Sam, stop him from getting sick, for two months by himself.
On the way to the checkout he reached over to snag a bottle of pedialite.
Yeah, it had been a while, but he could take care of Sam just fine.