A little after midnight, Sam was alone in the hotel room, browsing the Internet for cases to hide from Dean. Although he would have preferred his brother here, where he could be looked after, he was content with knowing he had bought another night off the road. Still he grimaced to thinking of the Pearl and Dean playing doctor. The images the two had planted in his head over dinner… well they would not soon be forgotten.
Only an hour had passed since he dropped Dean off at the address so he was surprised when his brother walked, shivering, into the hotel room.
"Damn it's freezing out there."
"Did you walk here?" Sam gasped. "I could have picked you up. Why didn't you call?"
"Figured you'd be asleep," Dean answered through clenched teeth as he held his hands over the room's heating unit.
"Oh yeah, so walking two miles in the Colorado winter is better than waking me up. That makes total sense."
Dean interrupted the lecture with two sneezes into his sleeve. When he finished he winced and swallowed.
"And you're sick to boot."
"I'm not sick." This statement was followed by Dean pinching his nose to hold back a strong, third sneeze. He winced again, "Ow."
"You shouldn't hold them back like that."
"Bless you by the way."
"Yeah, yeah," Dean waved it off. He stalked across the room and started to bury himself under the covers of the second double bed. "Have you found a case for us?"
"Nothing," said Sam, discretely closing the a window on his laptop. "Looks like we can bum around here for a few more days. Maybe you can spend more time with Nurse Pearl. You're home early, by the way. I would have thought there'd be a few more rounds of General Hospital role play."
Dean grunted as he pulled the comforter to his chin. "Naw. I didn't seal the deal."
"No kidding. It seemed like a sure thing."
"She's a nice girl. I didn't…" Dean trailed off but this time, it seemed, he was trying to conceal something.
"You didn't what? Want to warm her stethescope, play with her tongue depressors? What?"
"Nothing." Dean started to cough again, snatching a tissue from beside the bed to press to his lips.
Realization dawned. "You didn't want to get her sick." Dean's face reddened and Sam knew he was right. "Well, Dean, isn't that chivalrous of you."
"Sammy this bed is the warmest I've been in the last two miles. Don't make me get out of it to kick your ass."
Sam chuckled to himself and turned back to his computer. Not five minutes later when he turned back, Dean was asleep, snoring lightly.
The next morning, Sam wasn't surprised to be awake before his brother. It seemed Dean had kicked the sheets off during the night and struggled to reclaim them later. Now he was twisted up in blankets with half his body still exposed. There was a faint pink blush to his cheeks and Sam wondered whether checking for a temperature would wake him.
He opted against the risk, instead pulling the comforter from his own bed and draping it over Dean before stealing off into the wintry morning.
When Sam came back an hour later, he bore coffee and cold medicine, curtesy of last night's gas station. He had thoughts of sneaking some Dayquil into Dean's cup but decided against it. There was enough deception in his life.
Sam struggled to balance the cups while opening the motel room door. He nearly dropped both in surprise when the door flung open on its own.
"Dude, it's albost 11. Whed were you pladding od waking be up?"
Dean's hair was matted and his cheeks were even redder. His voice had both the horrible accent of congestion and the hoarseness of a sore throat. Sam struggled to keep sympathy from his eyes.
"Relax Dean, what's the rush?"
Dean sniffed angrily before responding. "Demons, Sammy, remember them? Trying to bring on the apocalypse. Doesn't seem like the sort of thing a guy would forget."
He snatched a cup of coffee from where Sam had rested them on the coffee table, passing over the cold meds without a second glance.
"Dean, I'm telling you," Sam said calmly sipping from his own cup. "There's nothing out there. I can't find a single case."
"You just don't know where to look," Dean grumbled. He snatched his brother's computer from the foot of the bed and began to browse.
Determined to keep a relaxed attitude, Sam meandered back to his bed and began to flip channels on the TV. Appearing interested in the morning's talk shows, Sam kept his eye on Dean as he scanned the Internet. The man had donned a second sweatshirt this morning but chills still made his jawline tremble from time to time. He sniffled thickly, always turning his head away from Sam, still under the guise of health.
"Hyechew!" he sneezed strongly into the floor, his fingers still on the keyboard.
"Bless you," said Sam automatically.
"Thank you," Dean said hoarsely, wiping at a watery eye.
It was a suprising response and one, Sam knew, brought on by the fuzzy head of a fever. Maybe he should try pushing the Dayquil now.
Before he could make the suggestion, Dean's breath began to hitch. His head tilted back and he breathed slowly, waiting for the sneeze that tortured him.
The deep voice of Castiel appearing broke into the silence of room and Dean jerked back.
"Dammit Cas," he cursed, rubbing at his nose.
"You are not well." The angel stared keenly at his charge's face, tilting his head to one side with the hint of concern.
"I'm fine," Dean echoed himself.
Castiel continued to stare. "You are lying."
"Why are you here, Cas?" Dean's gaze was fixed and Sam rose to join them at the table.
The newcomer shook himself from reading Dean and replied. "There is demon activity that requires attention."
"Awesome," Dean clapped his hands together and smiled. Sam broke in.
"Is it a seal?"
Before responding, Castiel reoriented his body to fix his eyes on Sam.
"It is not a seal."
"Then we can't take it," Sam's voice was firm. Dean, already shoving things into his knapsack, stopped and turned around again.
"And why the hell not?" he asked in a gravelly voice.
Sam spoke only to the angel. "Dean's sick. We need a couple of days to rest."
"Is he in danger?" Castiel's eyes were now alight were worry.
"It's just a bad cold. Humans get them all the time," Sam said reassuringly. "Still it could turn into something worse if he doesn't take care of himself."
Castiel nodded with understanding before Dean broke in.
"Excuse me but are you my mother now?" His voice was a mixture of disgust and incredulity. "I'm completely able to hunt. We're not stepping aside because I have a sniffle."
Castiel looked back at the indignant man. "Your brother is right," he said serenely. "You need to rest."
"I don't need to rest. I need to hunt. I need to kill some damn demons. I need to stop the Apocalypse." With each sentence Dean's voice got louder and angrier. When he finished talking he glared at both of his companions, trying to hold on to the enraged visage.
He swore to himself when he realized his nose had other ideas. The tingling in his sinuses had crept back and now tormented him. It would not be assuaged. He broke from the stare down and launched into a thunderous sneeze, bending at the waist and cupping his nose and mouth between two hands.
But he was not done. He didn't remove his hands until he had released three more sneezes, each louder than the last.
"HAA-chew! Hichew! Hihchew!!"
"God bless you," said Castiel solemnly. He took another step towards Dean who shook his head to try and clear the dizziness.
Castiel's eyes bored deeply into Dean's fevered ones. He nearly reached a comforting hand to the man's shoulder but recognized it would likely be an unwelcome gesture.
"You believe you deserve to be sick," Castiel's tone was almost questioning but his voice was steady and clear as he read into Dean's thoughts. "You do not think you have the right to rest while others are suffering. Whatever befalls you is only what you deserve."
Castiel stepped back for a moment as his eyes drained of concentration. When he spoke again, it was only his own thoughts.
"Dean, you are wrong. You have earned a rest. You have earned so much more than a day's rest. Circumstances being what they are, I'm afraid, that is all you will get. But be sure, you have earned at least that."
Sam watched silently from his chair. He hardly dared breathe as Castiel spoke. He was uncomfortable at being privy to his brother's innermost fears but, at the same time, his heart was wrenched with pity.
Dean's jaw quivered slightly as he stared the angel down. He did not respond for the longest moment.
Finally, still facing Castiel, he walked by and sat on the bed. He plucked the box of tissues from the table beside it and sat them into his lap. Then, Dean leaned back against the headboard, and began to flick through channels on the TV. Although his eyes were still bright with pain, he grinned tightly at his brother as if to say, "happy now?"
"Wow," whispered Sam, unnmoving behind the angel. "Maybe there are such things as miracles."