Disclaimer: I don't own Sam and Dean. But, boy, if I did…
A/N: Okay, so here's the first chapter of the longer story I promised. I've finished the first daft and am half way through the second so I figured this would be a good time to start posting. I know a few of you have me on Author Alert and I didn't want to keep you waiting. Hope you enjoy!
Set early in Season Two.
Sam burned with fever for three days.
He woke to a lecture from a thoroughly frazzled Dean about cleaning and disinfecting cuts and scrapes, which Sam thought was rather unfair because, first of all, he felt like crap and didn't feel up to arguing, and second, he had cleaned the cut in question. Dean had watched him do it, and it wasn't his fault that it had gotten infected.
Anyway, three days of delirium was punishment enough. He could really do without Dean stomping around the motel room, even if he knew that Dean's anger was fueled by worry.
The shower was a welcome escape. Sam leant against the tiled wall, wearily washing the scent of sickness from his body. God, he felt like he'd just come out of a coma or something, all fuzzy and not quite there. The shower was good though. He simply stood, letting the water cascade over him, playing over the bruises that seemed to cover him.
Weird, he hadn't thought the poltergeist had knocked him around that much. It had been a fairly simple banishment and if the cut on his arm from some flying glass hadn't flared up with infection they would probably be halfway through their next case by now. No wonder Dean was going stir crazy.
Sighing, Sam turned off the water and readied himself for the day.
Dean was sitting at the wobbly motel table when Sam stepped into the room, toweling his hair, leaning over the laptop with a cup of coffee in his hand. Sam noticed with relief, and a lot of gratitude, the second cup of coffee sitting waiting for him. Caffeine, just what he needed. He felt sluggish, his motor functions not entirely in sync with his brains commands.
"Don't spill that on the keys," he warned, picking up his cup as he slid into the seat. Thanks.
Dean ignored him. No problem.
"I got one," he said instead, turning the screen to face Sam.
The first thing Sam saw was a picture of a young girl, maybe in her twenties, smiling for the camera, beautiful, not a care in the world, happy. And under the photo was an article about her murder.
Dean shuffled round so that he could see the screen too and clicked on a few pop-ups, articles of murders, all by strangulation, all in the same month the girl had died.
"Haunting. Should be an easy salt and burn."
Sam heard the silent 'You up for it?' in Dean's words and nodded. He was tired, drained from three days of hallucinations and fire, but he was a Winchester, and Winchester's sucked it up and dealt with it.
He definitely needed more coffee though.
It seemed that the ghost of Valerie Wright didn't have time to bother with two young men digging up her grave. Probably too busy scaring the bejesus out of people.
It was a simple case. Two days drive, the girl's burial plot hadn't been hard to locate and halfway through digging she had still failed to show. Piece of cake.
It didn't deter Dean from his vigilance though. It was difficult, digging while keeping an eye on Sammy, while watching out for angry spirits but Dean was practiced and he didn't miss it when Sam's digging slowed.
He threw a shovel full of dirt over his shoulder. "Take a break," he nudged, wiping sweat from his brow
Sam paused, leaning back against the wall of their hole. He took a few deep breaths. "Nah, I'm okay. May as well get this over with."
Dean planted his shovel and leant on it. Damn stubborn little brothers.
"Dude, three days ago I was ready to take you to hospital. I've got this one, Sammy. Go sit down."
"It's Sam," Sam muttered, but he climbed out of the hole without further argument, sinking down next to it and picking up the shot gun.
Kid must've been feeling pretty crap to give in so easily. Dean eyed him for a moment, wondering if perhaps they should have waited another couple of days before going back to the hunt, but this simply earned him an eye roll so he shrugged it off and resumed his digging. Scoop toss, scoop toss, until finally he scooped and hit something solid. Scoop thump.
"Yahtzee," he muttered to himself, quickly clearing away the remaining dirt until he could smash through the coffin lid. He had just dragged himself up to the lip of the grave, already fantasizing about a long, hot shower and bed, when Sam yelled for him to drop.
In accordance to years of training, and practice, Dean did just that. He released the edge of the hole and let himself drop down into the smashed open casket. He heard, and felt, bones crunch beneath his steel-capped boots, just before a shotgun blast left his ears ringing.
Moments later, Sam appeared above him, reaching a hand down to him.
"Come on, before she comes back."
Dean accepted the hand and hauled himself up.
"You alright?" he asked, sparing Sam a quick glance as he pulled the salt from the duffle bag.
Sam looked pale in the moonlight. The break from digging had seemingly done nothing to cure his shakiness, but he held the shotgun steady, eyes alert and watchful.
"Yeah," he answered unconvincingly.
Definitely having a few days break after this one.
Dean liberally sprinkled salt over the decaying corpse. He was reaching for the lighter fluid when he saw her.
Faded violet dress, long dark hair falling in soft ringlets down her back, Valerie Wright was quite a looker, in a psychopathic spirit kind of way. Dean didn't even have time to shout a warning before Sam suddenly wasn't next to him anymore but flying through the air and skidding to a halt just short of a tombstone.
Dean grabbed for the lighter fluid but that too found itself airborne, out of his reach. Cursing, Dean spun, and found himself face to face with an extremely pissed off dead chick. Next thing he knew, he was a good twenty feet away from the dug up grave, wincing and blinking blood out of his eyes.
He'd made it to his knees when ice-cold hands wrapped themselves around his throat, pulling him upwards and suddenly there was no air. Valerie loomed in front of his face, her eyes as dark as the bruises around her neck as she played out her murder once again.
Dean could hear himself making choking, gasping noises, before the rush of blood pounding in his ears drowned even that out. He scrabbled frantically at the ghostly hands but to no avail. His vision had just begun to gray around the edges, white spots dancing in front of his eyes, when Valerie suddenly reared back, dropping him to the ground as she exploded in a blaze of brilliant white light.
Dean fell to his hands and knees, welcoming the rush of fresh air to his lungs. Gah, that hurt. Maybe he should ease up on teasing Sammy about his choking fetish. Speaking of Sam…
Dean looked up, eyes searching for his younger brother. They found him by the grave, silhouetted by the burning corpse. He opened his mouth to croak out a thanks, when Sam swayed, staggering slightly, then crumpled to the ground.
For a moment Sam thought that he was back in the motel room, waking from his feverish unconsciousness. Damn, these beds were hard.
"Saaamm?" Dean's voice came as if underwater.
No, let me sleep.
Sam moved to bury his face in the pillow, but… there was no pillow, and he could feel a breeze on his face. Were these beds made of dirt?
He forced his eyes open and the world did a full 360. Nausea crawled out of his stomach and up his throat and he clenched his eyes back shut, waiting and breathing until it subsided.
"Sam?" came Dean's voice again. It sounded better now, not so murky and far away, but heavy with worry. What the hell was going on?
Sam carefully opened his eyes again, relieved that the world had slowed its spinning. He blinked up at the blurry face of his brother.
"Hey, you with me?"
Sam nodded slightly, just as much as he dared.
"Wha' happen'd?" he asked, letting his eyes search their surroundings. Oh, right. Graveyard. Salt and burn. He tried to push himself up but Dean's hand on his chest gently but forcefully held him down.
"You passed out. Did you hit your head?"
Sam took a moment to process his brother's words, and then raised a hand to his head, brushing it through his hair, feeling for lumps or stickiness.
"Don't think so."
Then Dean was shining his little torch in his eyes, checking pupil reaction. Sam groaned as a headache flared up, then died down as he pushed Dean's arm away.
Dean hardly looked convinced, and Sam couldn't really blame him. To be honest, sinking into the ground right now seemed like a better idea than dragging his body into a standing position, but admitting to that would only cause Dean to hover over-protectively for a few days, and anyway, Dean had enough to worry about, what with their father's death still recent enough to leave an ache in his chest whenever he thought about it.
So Sam pushed himself up on his elbows, gently testing his body's reaction to the change in altitude. Satisfied that he wasn't about to keel over, he accepted the hand Dean held out for him and let his older brother pull him to his feet.
"Can you make it to the car?"
Sam nodded, not wanting to risk opening his mouth. Maybe he had hit his head. This sure felt fairly similar to a concussion. He let Dean lead him to the Impala, feeling a rush of relief as he was guided onto the familiar leather seat. Sitting down felt like the best thing that had happened to him all day.
The relief was short lived, however, as his brain sped to catch him up on the evenings hunt. He jerked upright, ignoring his body's protests.
"Are you okay? The spirit, she was…"
Dean brushed him off with a nonchalant one-shoulder shrug. "I'm fine. Indestructible, remember?"
Sam eyed the forming bruises around Dean's neck.
Dean shot him a look, "I'm good, Sam. Worry about yourself."
Sam frowned. "I'm okay."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Yeah, 'cause everyone who's okay faints."
"I didn't faint," Sam argued fruitlessly, "I just…"
"Fainted," Dean finished for him, before sending a sly grin his way, "Like a girl."
Sam gave up, leaning back against his seat and closing his eyes.
Over the next few days, Sam… slept.
First, Dean was amused. The kid argues so hard that he's "Fine, Dean!" and then sleeps for 14 hours straight, which is practically a world record if you're Sam Winchester, but as the days trudged on and the time between waking and crashing diminished until Sam was barely able to keep his eyes open for more than a few hours at a time, Dean sped past amused, stopped briefly at exasperated and then slammed into worry.
A week should have been long enough for his younger brother to recover from the infection, two should have had him climbing the walls in search of something to do rather than just sitting in a motel room, but instead of regaining strength and stamina, Sam lost more, getting worse instead of better.
The younger hunter was still dead to the world when Dean returned from his breakfast run, exactly two weeks and three days after they put Valerie Wright to rest, carrying bagels and two cups of coffee. Frowning at the sleeping figure, he dropped his load on the counter, taking his own coffee and bagel over to his bed and picking up the remote to flick the TV on, lowering the volume.
When Sam had still failed to rise after two re-runs of The Simpsons, Dean's coffee drained and Sam's own turned to cold sludge on the bench, Dean reluctantly slid off of his bed to shake his brother awake.
"Hey, rise and shine, Sammy."
Sam mumbled something incoherent, burying his face in the pillow.
The coffee churned unpleasantly in Dean's stomach. "Come on, Sam, it's almost midday. Gotta get up sometime."
"'M tired," came Sam's muffled voice.
Dean crouched down next to the bed, "I think it's time we took you to a doctor."
Sam moaned into the pillow, "Can't I just sleep?"
Dean clapped a hand on Sam's knee, "Nope, not a chance, Sammy-boy. Come on, get dressed."
With much grumbling and some curses that made Dean grin, even if they were directed at him, Sam finally emerged from his cocoon of blankets.
"You look like crap," Dean observed lightly, but it was true, Sammy wasn't looking so hot.
"Bite me," Sam groaned.
"Nah, might catch something."
It took an inordinate amount of time for Sam to drag himself out of bed and pull his clothes on. Dean watched closely, taking in the sluggish movements, the dark circles under his brother's eyes, despite the copious amount of sleep. He placed a hand briefly on Sam's forehead before Sam half-heartedly batted it away. Maybe a bit too hot. Yup, a trip to the doctors was definitely in order.
Dean was shrugging into his jacket when he paused, frowning down at Sam's bed.
"What's this?" he asked, moving in for a closer inspection. He carefully fingered the dark red marks on the sheets.
Sam, still sitting on the bed, looked down at them in weary puzzlement for a moment before a light went on and he turned his hand over to reveal a still seeping cut.
"From when Valerie threw me."
Dean narrowed his eyes, "I thought you said it didn't need stitches."
"It didn't," Sam said, prodding at the wound, "It was barely more than a scratch."
"So why's it still bleeding?" Dean asked. It came out almost like an accusation as he appraised the cut himself but Sam just shrugged apathetically.
"Must've bumped it or something."
"It should have healed by now."
Sam shrugged again. Still frowning, Dean let it go, dropping the stained sheets and turning back to his brother.
Sam made an effort to stand but had barely cleared the bed before he sunk back down on it, bracing his hands on the mattress.
"Sam?" Dean was in front of him, kneeling to try and get a look at his face.
Sam shook his head. "Dizzy," he muttered, before taking a deep breath, raising his gaze to meet Dean's. "Help me?"
Dean's Big-Brother-Something's-Wrong-Ometer went nuts but he stayed silent as he hooked an arm under Sam's shoulders and helped him to the car.
"You said doctor, not hospital," Sam argued, as soon as Dean turned into the entrance.
"Dude, when you can't walk 20ft by yourself, it means hospital," Dean said firmly.
He waited for the anticipated protest but it never came. Sam sat silent as he parked the car, forcing his worry up a notch.
"What, you not gonna bitch at me?" Dean forced a small grin but it was wasted. Sam was leaning his head against the window, eyes shut. He shook his head, rolling his forehead along the glass.
Dean's grin dropped along with his stomach. "Sammy?"
Sam made a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat.
Chewing anxiously on his lower lip, Dean exited the car and strode quickly around the bonnet to his brother's door. "Come on, Sam, lets go."
Sam curled in on himself. "Dean, I just wanna sleep," he pleaded, and Dean almost gave in right then. He could take Sam back to their motel room, smother him in blankets and look after him until he was better. He could. He'd been looking after Sam his whole life. He knew what to do. But a voice in the back of his head whispered that this was serious, that it was more than a simple Winchester-fixer-upper, and the feeling of dread balling in his stomach confirmed it.
Dean had learnt very early in his life that instincts were never something to be ignored, so he steeled himself against Sam's plea – and damn it was hard to deny that kid anything when he looked so ill – and dragged his brother from the car, practically carrying him through the automatic doors and into the entrance of the hospital.
He dropped Sam in one of the dozen hard plastic waiting chairs, making sure he wasn't about to keel over before going to talk to the bored-looking woman at the reception desk. By the time he returned, loaded down with paperwork, Sam was half asleep, slumped down in the seat.
Dean eyed him for a moment in concern. This wasn't right. This couldn't be right. He'd seen Sam turn into a sleep-deprived zombie before, quite a few times actually. Dean dealt with stuff by drinking, or yelling, or, whatever, he just dealt. Sam dealt, or tried to deal, by refusing food and sleep. This was different though. Sam barely did anything but sleep and yet here he was, drifting off in front of him barely an hour after waking. Dean felt a sudden spike of fear at the unwelcome feeling that Sam was drifting away from him. Maybe there was something very wrong with his little brother.
Dean shucked off his leather jacket and gently draped it over Sam's shoulders. Sam mumbled something that could have been a thanks and Dean dropped down into the seat beside him to make a start on the mountains of forms.
The nurse – a petite twenty-something year old in scrubs – examined his bruises while Sam tried to stay awake. He was so tired. God, how was it possible to be this tired? He wanted to sleep for a month, longer maybe. He wanted the nurse to hurry up so Dean could get him in the Impala and he could just sleep. Moving required insurmountable effort. He didn't want to be at the hospital. Why couldn't Dean have just let him sleep?
"How old is this?"
Sam looked up, forcing his eyes open. The nurse was holding his hand up, frowning at the cut there.
"'Bout a week?"
"Nearly two," Dean corrected. He was standing to the side, holding himself tensely, arms folded defensively across his chest, chewing on his bottom lip – a sure sign that he was worried. If it wasn't such an effort Sam would have told him to calm down. Just tired, De…
"Hmm," the nurse said.
Sam let his eyes fall closed again, vaguely aware that the nurse was still fussing around him. Dean was talking but not to him, to the nurse. He didn't bother listening. It was even hard to think…
"Hmm," the nurse said again, "Blood pressure's low."
"How low?" Dean demanded. Sam opened his eyes and shot Dean a look. He didn't have to be rude. Sam felt sorry for any nurse that had to deal with his overprotective brother. Dean wasn't looking at him though. His eyes were fixed on the nurse. He stood closer now, almost encroaching her personal space.
"How low?" he repeated, his voice low and deadly. God, Dean, calm down.
If the nurse felt threatened she didn't show it. Maybe she was used to overprotective big brothers. She carefully noted something down on her clipboard.
"80 over 40," she answered Dean, still frowning. "I'll get the doctor."
The nurse – had she told him her name? He couldn't remember. Did it matter? – swished out of the room.
"That's low," Dean told him, as if he didn't already know that.
"I know," Sam replied anyway.
Sam got the feeling he was losing chunks of time. No hospital worked this quickly. Maybe he'd fallen asleep. Maybe he was never really awake to begin with. Either way, the doctor had appeared. Sam didn't bother listening to whatever he was saying either. Dean could listen for him. It didn't really matter…
He felt a quick, sharp prick to the inside of his elbow and realized the doctor was taking blood. He wanted to ask what they were testing it for but a moment later had forgotten that he cared.
The doctor examined the bruises. Sam felt him pressing them lightly. He swore he had more now than he did after the Valerie Wright case but was that important? Who cared? He didn't. Didn't care about anything other than closing his eyes, trying to sleep, but Dean kept saying his name, tying him to consciousness.
The doctor moved on. He could feel him prodding at his cuts. The one on his arm that had become infected still hadn't healed, and the one on his hand leaked blood through the gauze. That couldn't be right. Surely they should have faded by now. It felt like his body had gone on strike. Sam wondered what it was holding out for.
Dean found himself in a rickety chair in the corner of the room, watching Sam sleep in the sterile white hospital bed. Curled on his side, facing Dean, one hand trailing over the edge, it was the same position Sam had slept in as a child. Dean felt a pang of nostalgia, again wresting with the urge to simply gather Sam up in his arms and take him away from this cold impersonal place, find somewhere to hunker down and take care of Sam himself.
He restrained himself. The doctor would be back soon, probably tell him that Sam had some sort of virus, prescribe antibiotics and send them on their way. Another week or two and they'd be back on the hunt, Sam's illness left in the past.
So why was his stomach balling into uncomfortable knots of dread?
He studied Sam's sleeping form intently, washing a hand down his face as if hoping it would erase the worry. Sam didn't look too bad, just tired and pale. Those bruises though… dark purple, grapefruit-sized bruises marring his brothers legs and abdomen. He hadn't seen those before. Where had they come from? Any bruises from their run in with the ghost of Valerie Wright should have faded. His had. And how does a person manage to get such vicious bruises when all they do is sleep?
Dean inhaled, exhaled tension, trying to push it from his body. It was just a virus. Sam's clumsy. He gets bruises a lot. He's just tired. It's just a virus. It had to be just a virus.To Be Continued…