A/N: I got to wondering what happened the next morning.
I woke up, face to the floorboards, back twinging, joints complaining, and my spidey sense telling me that someone was watching me.
Another wonderful night of sleeping in Bobby's library.
I turned over and sat up from my makeshift mat of blankets, with my muscles and joints and especially my spine barking out their disagreement at the movement. I found Sam already awake and upright on Bobby's couch. His feet were on the floor, his shoulders were hunched, his eyes were red, puffy, and black all at the same time, and only half open at most. He had the blanket pretty much twisted all around himself.
"Hey." I said and got a tiny head-lift in return.
"Hey." Sam harshed in reply, and - man - he needed a big glass of water.
Out the window, the sky was mostly as black as Sam's eyes, with only a little daylight poking over the horizon. Early, early morning then.
"Been awake long?" I asked. He shrugged.
"Don't think so." He sounded puzzled, like it could go either way and either way wouldn't surprise him.
I turned so that I was facing him, and my spine really wasn't happy with me. I sighed and tried to reach the spot between my shoulder blades that was complaining the most.
"You shouldn't sleep on the floor." Sam said then.
"All right," I told him. "Scooch over."
That got me a short-lived smile. Sam didn't move, but his fingers twitched enough to pull the blanket a half inch closer to himself. I took that as my cue and my invite and I pushed myself up only enough to get next to him on the couch. Heat was rolling off of him; I wondered if he had a fever.
"How're you doing?" I asked him but I only got another shrug.
"Alive. I guess."
"How d'you feel?"
"Like warm paste."
"Yiiick. All right, let me get you some aspirin, then you can get some more sleep. Upstairs, even, if you think you can walk that far."
I started to stand up, but Sam got a pinch of my sleeve in his fingers that kept me where I was.
"What?" I asked when he didn't say anything and he looked down at his fingers like they'd grabbed hold all on their own and without his permission.
"Is there soup?" He asked. It hurt me just to hear his dry, scratchy voice. His fingers stayed where they were.
"Yeah." I did a fast mental track. There was cooked rice in the fridge and cans of tomato soup in the cupboard, both just waiting to be two halves of an impromptu Sammy-Snack. "It'll just take me a minute to heat it up."
But his fingers stayed where they were.
He gave me the puzzled look and I moved my arm to make him remember the weak and iron grip he still had on my sleeve. And he looked down but it didn't seem to register with him.
"I can get the soup." He said, like that might be why I hadn't moved from his side yet.
"Sure you can. If you can manage to get to the kitchen, find the fridge, and work the microwave, all in the 'upright fetal position'. How about you let me do it, instead?"
"I'm tired." He said.
"I bet you are."
"Aren't you tired? Dean? Aren't you tired? All the crap keeps falling on us?"
"I'm tired of all the crap that keeps falling on you, Sammy."
He puzzled at me, and kind of nodded, and finally let go of my shirt sleeve. He looked away.
"Thanks for the soup."
Before I got started on the soup though, I brought him water and aspirin, and felt his forehead while he drank down the whole huge glass of water in a few gulps.
"You feel feverish?" I asked him.
"I'm not sure I even feel my head."
"Right now, that might be a plus."
He chuffed an agreement and I took the glass and got him more water and then went into the kitchen to make him soup. I'd gotten as far as pulling the pot of rice out of the fridge and the cans of soup out of the cupboard when I heard the couch springs squeak and the floorboards creak and Sam was dragging himself out of the library.
"Y'okay?" I asked him.
"Yeah, just -." He gestured down the hall toward the bathroom as he shuffled in that direction.
"Shout if you need help." I told him. He stopped walking for a second, then shuffled on, probably too tired for a witty comeback.
By the time he made his physical comeback, shuffling into the kitchen and easing himself into a chair at the table, the tomato rice soup was heated through and I set a bowlful of it in front of him.
"Thanks." He mumbled but stared at the soup instead of digging in.
"No, you did not ask for ice cream this time." I told him, in case that's why he was hesitating. "Same as last night, you get ice cream after you finish your soup."
He just took in a really deep breath, then let it out again. He put his hand on the spoon but didn't lift it up for another long minute. I didn't want to push him - all right, I did want to push him; I wanted him to eat and go back to bed and get another twelve hours of sleep and wake up looking at least halfway like a human being instead of a fright puppet with his strings unraveling.
But I didn't want him to think I was pushing him to get to bed just to get rid of him.
So I got myself a bowl of soup and sat diagonal to him at the table. I couldn't tell if he even knew I was there.
"How is it?" I asked and Sam's shoulders gave a twitch, like the question or just my voice had startled him. He gave me a fast glance then picked up his spoon and took half a taste.
"You mix things together very well." He said after he swallowed. And then he smiled like somebody suddenly whispered in his ear that he ought to smile, if even for a half second.
Maybe he really did want ice cream instead.
"You don't have to eat the soup, if you don't want to." I told him, even though he'd asked for it. "If you want ice cream, or whatever you want, I'll get it for you."
And for awhile, Sam didn't answer me. We used to have conversations like this back before he could actually talk; I'd do all the verbal communicating and just infer Sam's reply from his expression.
Right now, I wasn't inferring anything but complete exhaustion.
"I want the soup." He finally said, like I was supposed to have guessed that from his utter lack of enthusiasm about it.
"I'd believe you a lot more if you were actually eating it."
So he swallowed another spoonful, and then another, eating the soup like it was just something he had to get through to get to the next phase of whatever was going to happen, not like he wanted it or was enjoying it.
I finished my soup with probably only slightly more enthusiasm than Sam seemed to be feeling and put my dish in the sink. I tried unsuccessfully to pop the knife out of my spine and then I watched Sammy for a few minutes as he finished eating the soup, looking like he was afraid he was about to fall off a high building.
He finally finished eating, and seemed to fall asleep where he sat. He still had the spoon in his hand and his hand resting on the table, and his head was down and his eyes were closed.
"Sammy?" I moved closer and put my hand on his shoulder to wake him up and keep him steady while he woke up. "C'mon, I think it's back to the couch for you. We'll try for upstairs later on today. C'mon."
He twitched awake, or maybe he hadn't been completely asleep, because he twitched awake saying,
"What? But - you said -"
"I said you if you could make it up the stairs, you could sleep up there. I don't think you're gonna make it up the stairs. And honestly, my back isn't in any shape right now to help you. "
That got me the confused face.
"But you said…"
I could understand him not really wanting to sleep on the couch. It's tough fitting six and a half feet of Sasquatch comfortably on four and half feet of couch, but it was better than losing him - or both of us - halfway up the staircase.
"I'll tell you what, Sammy. I'll go up and get all the pillows we use and we'll see if we can't make the couch a little more comfy, okay?" I pried the spoon out of his hand and put his dish in the sink and headed for the stairs. "Don't go anywhere."
Climbing the stairs somehow translated into fresh agony for my back so I sat for a minute or three on the bed, trying to massage the pain out or stretch it out or just plain will it out of my spine, then I grabbed the four pillows and eased my way back down the stairs again.
Something was going on in the kitchen, I could hear the cupboard door squeaking and plates clinking. Tell me Sam didn't do the dishes while I was upstairs. I didn't want to wake Bobby, so I didn't call down to Sam, but so help me, if he did the dishes, he was going to be so much deader than he already was.
"What are you doing?" I asked as I hit the bottom of the stairs, dropped the pillows, and turned into the kitchen. "You should be - "
I stopped walking and talking both at the same time because I nearly ran into Sam who was walking out of the kitchen carrying a glass of water and a horse pill. We both stopped a minute until Sam lifted his hands to me.
"Your back." He said. Rasped. "Your back hurts and you haven't taken anything for it."
"Where'd you get this?" I asked, because it wasn't one of ours.
"Up." Sam said, like he could barely say that much, and he jerked his head toward a high cupboard. "Bobby's stash."
"Sammy - ." I didn't need drugs, I needed Sam tucked away asleep again, then I could dose myself up with the mega pill. But Sam urged the pill and water on me again and rasped in his sandpaper voice,
"C'mon, Dean. You need this. Please."
Please. So of course, I caved. I took the pill and drank the water while Sam watched me like he needed to be sure I could get it done on my own.
"All right." I said after I choked that thing down. "Let's get you back on the couch. The sun's only just up, you got another five or six hours until it's even noon, so -"
"No." Sam said, and told me again, "You said."
For all the friggin' times I never wanted him to sleep on that cereal-box-size couch, now he was giving me grief? Now?
But he turned away from me and walked back to the cupboard and if my back wasn't in agony I would've grabbed him and bodily put him on the couch and I still came pretty close to that because he would sleep on the couch because I said so.
And then he turned back to me from the cupboard .
Holding two bowls of ice cream.
"You said." He said again, like he was winning an argument. "Ice cream after soup. You said."
And because I was tired and in pain and completely taken off guard, I had absolutely no comeback for that except,
"You're right, I did say that."
He nodded and set the bowls on the table, and we sat down and ate the ice cream together. Turns out, we were both a little more enthusiastic about the ice cream than we'd been about the soup and we were both almost all done before I asked him,
"How're you feeling now? Feel your head yet?"
"No, but I can sure feel my throat."
"I'll dig out some of those cough drops for you, they're good for sore throats."
He nodded and ate the last of his ice cream.
"How's your back?" He asked me.
"You'll live with a pain in your back."
"I already live with a pain in the neck who's also a pain in the ass, so it's a trifecta."
Even with his black eyes, I could tell he was giving me a death glare. He sucked the last of his ice cream off of his backward spoon and threatened,
"I'm telling Bobby you said that."
"Ahhh - even with a bad back I can run faster than he can wheel." I said.
"Yeah, but he can aim and fire faster than you can run."
Twenty four hours before, Sam'd been seizing and retching, incoherent and messed up in every sense of the word. Now he was making jokes and giving me ice cream. Life was looking up.
And it'd be looking more up the sooner I got Sam to lay down again.
"All right," I said. "I'll go get the cough drops. Whyn't you make yourself comfy on the couch, as comfy as possible anyway."
He nodded and unfolded himself upright, or nearly upright, and scuffed to the library, scooping up the pillows from the foot of the stairs on his way. I put our dishes in the sink and went back upstairs to scrounge the cough drops out of my duffel. The horse pill Sam had made me take was working fast so my back wasn't much in agony anymore, but I was moving slow and by the time I got to the library, Sam had made up the couch with a couple of the pillows and the blanket he'd been covered with.
And he was already on the floor on the 'bed' I'd been sleeping on, with the other two pillows under his head and my blanket pulled over himself.
Try again, Sammy.
"Hey, genius, couch." I told him.
"Hey, genius, live with it." He said back without looking at me. Then he pushed himself up. "Do you have the cough drops?"
"Yeah." I put one in his hand. "C'mon, Sam. Really. Couch."
He shook his head as he unwrapped the cough drop and put it in his mouth.
"I'm not the one with the bad back. For once. You take the couch."
He only shook his head, "Not this time, Dean," and laid back down.
Maybe it was my back in agony, maybe it was the horse pill nudging me into oblivion, but I caved.
I set the rest of my handful of cough drops on the floor near Sam's pillows and folded myself into the couch and onto the pillows and under the blanket and started dozing off.
Maybe it was knowing that my brother still had my back - literally this time - no matter what.
"When you wake up again, Sammy, you're going upstairs and sleep in a bed."
He sighed, but then laughed.