It was wave_obscura's birthday the day before yesterday, and she requested respiratory distress! So I obliged, and beat up on Sammy for her a bit. Happy birthday, sweetie!
Title: I Hear Arizona's Nice This Time Of Year
Summary: Sam and Dean go hunting a rawhead in the Louisiana Bayou, which does nothing to help Sam's asthma. Very little plot, lots of sick!Sam. :)
Spoilers: General for Season 5, nothing super specific, nothing for recent episodes. Up to 5.04 to be safe.
Word Count: 2,636
Warnings: Bad language, but nothing you haven't seen here before.
Disclaimer: Sera Gamble threatened to do terrible, VILE things to me if I didn't give 'em back, and because she's a scary woman, I did as I was told...
Neurotic Author's Note: Happy birthday wave_obscura! I hope you enjoy this mostly plotless little fic full of Sam with respiratory issues. :)
Neurotic Author's Note #2: So, as it happens, my basement flooded a couple of weeks ago, and now I have MOULD down there. I figured, if I'm going to run the risk of severe respiratory ailments, I'm damned well taking the Winchesters down with me!
Neurotic Author's Note #3: As usual, written in a hurry, no beta, no re-read, no nothing. Just me whipping together some Sam-whumpage for general entertainment purposes.
After twenty years of dealing with it on and off, it's not a big deal anymore. At least, that's what Dean tells himself, when he bothers to think of it at all. The first few times were scary, sure. Watching your six-year-old brother panic as his airways close up isn't exactly a relaxing experience. But Sam's mostly grown out of the childhood asthma attacks, and he's got his meds and his rescue inhaler, and Dean doesn't even remember the last time it's been an issue. For a while, he even lets himself forget about it entirely, because it's hard to reconcile his six-foot-four brother who's built like a brick shithouse with the skinny kid with the inhaler that he used to be.
Sam's a damned powerhouse these days, can easily outstrip his older brother in most ways, and it's all that power he has that frightens them both so very badly, because they both know that if Sam ever really decides to go back down that dark path, there is absolutely nothing Dean can do to stop him. So they ignore the elephant in the room, make up a cheesy name for themselves and Cas to convince themselves it's all under control, and Dean takes them out hunting again while Cas flaps off in search of God, or whatever it is he does when he's not around. The hunts are for normal stuff: ghosts and poltergeists and even the occasional rawhead, even though hunting those still makes Sam twitchy.
The last rawhead is a bitch to deal with. It's set up shop in the basement of yet another gross abandoned house near the Louisiana Bayou. The place is damp and filthy, and they spend the better part of the whole night waiting for it to come back to its lair from hunting children. Then its just a question of separating the kids from it, and getting them outside. That part he leaves to Sam, whose job always seems to default to saving the victims while Dean goes after the fugly bastard. Only these things never go the way he wants to, and in a sickening moment of déjà vu the rotting staircase gives way beneath Dean's feet and sends him sprawling painfully to the hard-packed floor, and his shot goes wide. The rawhead is almost on top of him when Sam lets loose with the tazer, and Dean can almost hear his frantic mental prayer that there's no water around —because that went so well the last time— before the rawhead shrieks and sizzles and dies, collapsing on top of him.
"Oh, gross!" Dean shoves at it ineffectually —it weighs a goddamn ton— until Sam comes and hauls it off him, breathing hard.
"Dean? You okay?"
He grunts. "Yeah. Gonna feel that tomorrow, but I'm okay. Get me up."
Sam hauls him to his feet, still out of breath. "Kids are outside."
"Okay. We get 'em home, then get the hell out of Dodge. Goddamn rawheads."
Sam shoves him up and out through the cellar door —the stairs back into the house are a write-off— coughs into the crook of his elbow. "You're the one who wanted to hunt this thing," he points out. "Next time, let's do it somewhere that's not so goddamned damp, okay?"
Except that, because their lives are destined to suck no matter what they do, they discover three more of the evil suckers lurking around, grabbing children and presumably dragging them off to suck all the marrow out of their bones. So they stick around, take to lurking in basements themselves until the whole damned pack of the things is deep-fried and crispy, fit for Colonel Sanders' kitchens, Dean tells himself, and then resolves never to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken ever again. By the second day, Sam is bitching about the cold, and by the fourth day he's developed a cold, complete with nasty-sounding cough. He drags after Dean, muttering under his breath about the damp and the cold, even though they're in the middle of Louisiana and it's seventy degrees out. Because it's part of his job to give his little brother a hard time about everything, Dean immediately jumps on that and starts accusing him of developing arthritis in his old age.
"Or maybe it's because of all those unnatural growth spurts of yours," he says, casually tossing the tazers back into the trunk of the Impala. "That's bound to screw around with your joints."
"I don't have arthritis, jerk."
"Then quit bitching about the damp and move your slow ass. Besides, I think I have a valid theory. You deserve some sort of karmic retribution for being taller than me."
"Not my fault you inherited the short genes." Sam chuckles, then yelps as Dean tries to pull him down into a headlock. "Dean! Get off!" He twists his hips, dislodges Dean with a practised move, then practically bends double in another coughing fit.
"Y'okay, Sammy?" Dean picks himself up off the ground, reaches out to grab his shoulder, stops short. He's never sure, these days, just how much he can get away with, and he thinks maybe he's pushed it too far.
"Fine," Sam gets the fit under control. "But if I get pneumonia and die, I'm blaming you."
Dean rolls his eyes. "Drama queen. You're not going to die."
Sam flinches. "No, I guess not," he says quietly before pulling open the car door and slipping into the passenger seat, and not for the first time Dean wishes he could just find Lucifer and beat the living shit out of him for poisoning everything good he and Sam ever had. Fucker.
As usual, the cold settles happily into Sam's lungs, and he drags it around for two miserable weeks. To his credit, he quits bitching about it about two days in, just hunches in on himself and tries to ride out the cough and the low-grade fever he starts to run, but it doesn't lessen the misery for either of them. If Sam sleeps badly, then Dean sleeps badly, and it's not like either of them have been overly blessed in that department for the past few years. They're running on fumes already, and this newest development doesn't exactly help their tempers. After listening to his brother try to smother yet another bout of coughing for the umpeenth time since they got in the car, wheezing quietly, Dean finally feels the last thread of his temper snap.
"Don't you have your inhaler or something?"
It's not usually something they talk about. The infamous Winchester code applies to this too: unless it's immediately life-threatening, you don't talk about illness. Sam's always been self-conscious about his asthma anyway, the way he is about anything that draws attention to him. Sam turns his head to glare at him, showing him in no uncertain terms that he's crossed the line into dangerous territory.
"Yes," he says curtly, and they leave it at that. No sense poking at sleeping dogs.
Dean sits on his hands not to say anything when Sam pokes listlessly at his salad during lunch, and stifles another cough into his hand. It's not like Sam's wasting away or anything, but he hasn't eaten a full meal in days. He probably thinks Dean hasn't noticed, but Dean Winchester wasn't born yesterday, and Sam isn't nearly as sneaky as he thinks he is. Sam shoves his salad aside, finally, and another cough bubbles up in his chest that, this time, he can't keep down. He waves a placating hand in Dean's direction.
"Gimme a minute," he wheezes, reaching in his pocket for his inhaler. "Fucking cold. Wish it would just go away already."
"Maybe if you ate better. All that lettuce, it can't be good for you. Look at me, healthy as a horse," he gives Sam his best shit-eating grin. "Red meat, Sam. Can't beat it."
Sam just rolls his eyes, glares, retreats to the washroom while Dean settles up, once again trying to deal with his misery on his own, much to Dean's frustration. He's never entirely understood Sam's tendency to crawl into the nearest metaphorical hole, like a sick dog waiting either to die or get better. He waits for a few minutes, fiddling with the change from their meal, trying not to worry too much about how long it's taking for Sam to come back. After everything they've been through, he figures Sam's entitled to whatever small amount of privacy he has left. He changes his mind pretty damned fast, though, when a man in a cheap suit approaches him, looking uncertain.
"Uh, are you Dean?"
He narrows his eyes. "Maybe."
The man shrugs. "Whatever. Your buddy's in trouble in there. You better go get him. I'm gonna get someone to call an ambulance for you."
Ambulance? Fuck. He's out of his seat before the guy even has time to finish his sentence, sprinting toward the washroom and shoving open the door with his shoulder. "Sammy?"
Sam is hunched over the sink, racked with rattling, wet-sounding coughs, inhaler clutched in one hand. Dean slides over to stand next to him, puts a hand on his shoulder, and feels his heart stutter when he sees splotches of red on the white porcelain.
"Shit, Sam, is that blood?"
Sam pulls in a thin, wheezing breath. "Something's wrong," he manages.
Dean catches him as his knees give out, props him up again the wall. "Did you use your inhaler yet?"
"Didn't work..." Sam tries to draw in another painful-sounding breath, whimpers faintly when he starts to cough again.
"Okay, okay," this is Dean's cue to stay calm, to keep them both held together, but he's not sure he remembers how to do that anymore, because Sam is coughing up blood, and isn't that a symptom of tuberculosis or something horrific like that? "We're going to get you to the hospital, okay? We'll do like we used to, okay? You match your breaths to mine, and we'll get you sorted out."
Once, when he was fifteen, Dean nearly drowned hunting a water wraith with his Dad. Fifteen years later he can still remember the terror and the pain, and he wonders if this is how Sam feels every single time he has an asthma attack. He grabs Sam's hand, puts it against his chest, concentrates on keeping his breathing even, remembers holding Sam in his lap when he was still small enough to hold, both of them in the back seat of the Impala while Dad broke every speed limit on the way to the hospital, Sam's small hand fisted in his shirt, hazel eyes wide, filled with fear and trust, each breath whistling harshly in his throat.
It turns out some feelings never change, and Dean is damned sure he's never going to get used to the sound of his little brother struggling to breathe. They're not waiting for the ambulance, not out here in the middle of nowhere. Faster to take Sam to the hospital himself. He hauls Sam to his feet, baby-steps him back through the door, out to the car, and thinks he might deserve a medal for not complaining about just how damned heavy Sam is now. There are days he wishes Sam was still small enough to carry to safety.
Sam curls up on himself in the Impala, eyes slipping shut, and Dean reaches over and thumps him on the shoulder. "You stay with me, Sammy. You hear me? Stay awake!"
It's the longest ten minutes of his life, but soon he's dragging Sam back out of the car and through the sliding doors, and using his perfectly-functioning lungs to yell for help, and before he knows it Sam's being swept away in a flurry of nurses and doctors and shouted instructions, leaving Dean to flounder in their wake. He looks around, bereft, finds a pile of insurance forms being thrust into his hands, and barely resists throwing it back at the receptionist's head.
He paces, throwing dark looks at anyone who gets in his way, practically throws himself at the doctor who comes and calls out his latest alias. "Where's my brother? Is he okay? Can I see him? What the hell is wrong with him?"
The doctor puts a reassuring hand on his arm, and Dean thinks he might deserve a second medal for not ripping the doctor's arm out of its socket. "Take it easy, son. Your brother's going to be fine."
The tightness in his chest he didn't even realize was there eases instantly. "What's wrong with him? He was coughing up blood, for chrissakes!"
"We're still running tests, but it looks like allergic bronchopulmonary asperigillosis. The symptoms certainly point to it."
The doctor smiles briefly. "It's an allergic reaction to mould spores. Given your brother's asthma, it's not surprising it got this bad this quickly. It's a good thing you brought him in: it can be fatal if it's left untreated."
"Shit," Dean runs a hand through his hair. "But you said he's okay?"
The doctor nods. "He should pull through just fine. I'm going to have him admitted, though, just until his oxygen levels are back where they should be. I'll give you a list of instructions, things to watch out for. You should get your home tested for mould, incidentally. Your brother's condition made him more susceptible, but it's a serious health hazard for anyone living there. If it's not your home, then it's probably his place of work."
"Right, okay, sure," Dean stopped listening after 'fine,' just wants to go and make sure himself that Sam's still alive and breathing. "Can I see him now?"
"Sure. The nurse will show you to his room."
He's always surprised at how small Sam manages to look in hospital beds, as though the very fact of being in one makes him shrink. He's lying back, eyes closed, the nebulizer mask firmly strapped in place. He opens his eyes at the sound of Dean's footsteps, raises a hand in a weak wave, and Dean feels his chest tighten all over again.
"Hey, Sammy. How you feeling?"
Sam shrugs, makes a 'so-so' motion with the same hand, the other arm being hooked up to an IV. Then he vaguely flaps at Dean in a clear invitation to sit, so Dean drags up a chair and drops himself into it.
"The doctor said you've got something that sounds like an artificial sweetener. Asper-something-or-other. Mould allergy." Sam just nods tiredly, so he keeps going. "That's just begging for some sort of fungus joke," he grins when Sam pointedly gives him the finger. He pats Sam's knee. "Yeah, okay. I'll wait until you can talk so you can at least pretend to defend yourself against my razor-sharp wit."
Sam looks up at him, makes a writing motion, and Dean searches his pockets, comes up empty. He finally locates a pen and a pad of paper in the top drawer of the small table near Sam's bed, places both carefully in Sam's lap, and watches curiously while Sam scribbles a single word on it: Arizona.
"You want to go to Arizona?" Sam nods. "Why? What's there?"
Sam smiles under the mask and scribbles more. Dry there. No goddamned swamps.
Dean snorts, but they both know that by now he's ready to take Sam to China if that's what it'll take. "Sure, Sammy. You got it."