Title: I Am Weary Let Me Rest
Summary: Written for the Dean-focussed schmoop comment-meme being held at the hoodie_time LJ community, and because I am sneaky that way I used all four prompts! An interlude in 5.21, "Two Minutes To Midnight." Set just after the boys and Cas defeat Pestilence, but before they get to Bobby's. It turns out that Pestilence had just one last trick up his sleeve...
Spoilers: All of Season 5 right up until 5.21
Warnings: Schmoop. Is that even a warning? My usual casual abuse of the "F" word. More schmoop than has ever schmooped in my fic before (I'm serious: the prompts involved bed-sharing and clothes-sharing and Sam's hoodie. I cannot be held responsible for this).
Disclaimer: If they belonged to me, they'd be sicker a lot more often. *cough*
Neurotic Author's Note: Yeah, so after swearing up and down that I wasn't inspired to write anything, I sat down and churned this out tonight. I don't even know, please don't ask. On the plus side, the schmoop challenge dovetailed nicely with another plot bunny I had in mind for this summer, so I killed two birds with one stone, as it were.
Neurotic Author's Note #2: Plot? What plot? This is all sick!Dean, all the time, with extra sick people as a surprise bonus! (Stop looking at me like that!) I haven't written nearly enough sick!Dean lately.
Neurotic Author's Note #3: The usual: no beta, no revision, no nothing. Read at your own peril.
Neurotic Author's Note #4: Title of the fic is taken from the Cox Family's song of the same name.
Sam isn't surprised at all when Dean gets sick. In fact, he's only mildly surprised that it took this long. They've been running on fumes for two years and more (much, much more, in Dean's case, though Sam never lets himself dwell on that for too long), and, not to put too fine a point on it, Dean's immune system is shot. Has been ever since he came back from hell and, in his own horrific phrasing, got 're-hymenated.' Turns out that returning pure as the driven snow has its drawbacks as well as its advantages: Dean's managed to catch every single cold, flu and other virus that has so much as flitted in his general vicinity for the past two years, and every single time it's made their life even more of a living hell than it usually is. So, Sam is definitely not surprised when Dean gets sick after their run-in with Pestilence.
However you feel right now, it's going to get so very, very much worse. Straight from the Horseman's mouth, as it were. Sam figures they've lucked out: with Pestilence's powers so very greatly diminished, Dean isn't dying, or even dangerously ill. He's just coming down with what sounds like a doozy of a head cold.
"Hold still," he says sternly, trying to splint the two fingers Pestilence broke when he stepped on them, while Dean sneezes miserably into his sleeve for what seems like the hundredth time already. He's sitting in the passenger seat of the Impala, the heater on full even with the door open, a luxury he wouldn't normally allow even himself, which tells Sam he must be feeling pretty terrible.
"You hold sdill," Dean retorts, sniffling. "I'b dyig, here."
Sam rolls his eyes. "You're not dying. It's a cold."
"Probably swide flu. Fugk."
"It's not swine flu. It's just a bad cold."
"Fugkig Pesdiledce. Fugkig hadte Horsebed."
"Stop talking, you're making my throat hurt just listening to you."
"Fugk you. Hetschuh!" Dean wrenches aside to sneeze into his sleeve, jerking his hand out of Sam's grasp. Again. Sam hands him a napkin from the drive-thru they stopped at earlier, and they both studiously avoid mentioning the gesture. Because, you know, that would be awkward. "How cobe I'b always the ode who geds sigk? Id's dot fair."
"It's 'cause your immune system is shitty. You should eat more salad."
Dean's answer is forestalled by another sneeze, but Sam assumes it would involve more uses of the words 'fuck' and 'you,' delivered in congested yet indignant tones. When Dean does catch his breath, all he does is mutter mutinously about it not being his fault he doesn't have antibodies anymore.
"It was an unforeseen side effect," Castiel volunteers from the back seat of the Impala. "The purification was necessary to purge your body and soul of the—"
"Save id," Dean snaps, and breaks into a fit of coughing. Castiel lapses into silence. With a put-upon sigh, Sam pulls a bottle of tepid water out from under the seat and hands it to his brother.
"Play nice," he says.
Dean sneezes wetly into his napkin and glares. He lets Sam drive, though, which is something, dozing uncomfortably in his seat. The rain, which has been falling intermittently for days, begins falling in earnest. In the rearview mirror Sam can see Castiel staring blankly at the fog-covered countryside, chin cradled in his palm, elbow resting against the door. He looks impossibly tired, damp hair plastered to his skull, his suit and trench coat crumpled beyond recognition, stained and even torn in places from what must have been a long and exhausting journey for a being accustomed to traveling thousands of miles in the blink of an eye. In a past life, Sam would have found something comforting to say, but right now he'll be damned if he can think of anything that might even remotely be appropriate or bring consolation to his friend (he still marvels that Castiel chooses to define their relationship thus), who has given up everything he had, everything he believed in, all for their lost cause.
Dean is, not surprisingly, a lot better at talking to Castiel, but he's all but dead to the world, huddled in on himself and trying not to shiver too conspicuously. It's the Winchester code of illness: showing weakness is inviting trouble to rain down on your head, so you crawl into the nearest hole like a dog and wait for it to kill you or pass you by. He does rouse himself long enough to protest when Sam suggests stopping for the night.
"We deed to ged bagk to Bobby's," he croaks, swallowing more water.
"You can barely talk. You need a good night's sleep, at least."
"Fad chadce of thad. I'b fide," Dean manages, before starting to cough again.
It's impossible to tell which of them is more astonished by the soft sneeze from the back seat. Sam and Dean twist in their seats to stare at Castiel, who's staring wide-eyed right back at them. Under any other circumstances, Sam thinks, his expression would be comical. Sam pulls the car over before he wraps it around the nearest pole.
"Uh, gesundheit?" he offers uncertainly.
Dean is more straightforward. "Cas, whad the hell was thad?" he demands.
Castiel shakes his head. "I —I'm not cert... heiishh!" he sneezes again, head snapping forward, hands clenching in his lap.
"Cas... you feeling okay?" Sam asks.
Another headshake. "I don't —heiishh!" he follows the latest helpless sneeze with a bout of coughing that leaves him gasping.
Sam twists further in his seat, and reaches out to brush the back of his fingers against Castiel's forehead. If it were Dean, he'd have a broken wrist by now, but Castiel is a lot more accommodating about that sort of this. "You're burning up."
Castiel sniffs gingerly. "This doesn't feel like when I was in the hospital."
"Doesn't mean you're not sick," Sam assures him, just as Dean sneezes into his own sleeve. "Sounds like you've got whatever Dean has."
"Yeah, we established that already."
"We should sdob."
"You want to stop now?" Sam blinks stupidly as his mind races to catch up with the complete 180 Dean has performed.
Dean nods, scrubbing at his nose with another napkin. "Fide a blace to grash for the dight. Sleeb id off." He glances back at Castiel, whose nose is running, and chews on his lip. He rummages in the glove compartment, produces a fresh napkin, and hands it over. "Wipe your dose, Cas."
Mechanically, Castiel accepts the napkin and does as he's told, though he does kind of a crappy job, and Sam feels a sudden fierce ache at the thought that he's never learned to do this for himself because he never needed to. Should never have needed to.
"Okay. First motel we see, we'll stop."
Sam isn't sure who he should be more worried about: Castiel, who's well and truly sick for the first time in his existence, or Dean, who looks like he's about to keel over at any moment. For all that Castiel appears to be mostly human, he doesn't appear to be suffering quite as badly as Dean. Not yet, at least. It's early days yet, Sam reminds himself. He stops at a Motel 6 which has exactly one room left, and books it without so much as asking the others for their opinion. Dean is half-asleep in the car by the time he gets back, and Castiel looks as though he's trying his very best to disappear into the seat. Sam hauls Dean out of the car, keeping a firm grip on his elbow. Dean doesn't do much more than grumble half-heartedly at that, though he swats irritably at him when he uses his free hand to check him for fever.
"Gedoff. I'b fide."
"Sure, you're fine," Sam scoffs, then looks at Castiel. "You okay here for a minute? I'll be right back."
To his surprise, Castiel pulls himself upright. "I am all right. I will come with you."
Castiel lowers himself carefully into a chair the moment they're inside. Satisfied that the former angel isn't about to collapse or anything quite so dire, he concentrates on getting Dean settled. "Come on, tough guy. Take a shower and get into bed. And don't turn it up too hot, neither of us wants me to have to drag your naked, feverish ass out of there. I'll go pick up some supplies in a few minutes. And leave some hot water for Cas, too."
A few minutes later he's unpacking their duffel bags, the thrum of running water coming from behind the closed door. He glances at Castiel, who hasn't budged from where he first sat down, watching him with an unfocussed look to him, listing a bit in his seat. He sighs, crosses the room toward him, drops to a crouch and puts a hand on his arm.
"Hey, Cas," he says gently. "You'll be more comfortable out of that trench coat. You want some help?"
For a moment Castiel doesn't answer, and Sam is about to seriously start to worry when he snaps forward with another wet sneeze. Sam barely has time to jerk his head back to avoid getting sprayed, and makes a mental note to instruct Cas in the finer arts of covering his mouth at some point that day. He nudges Castiel forward in the chair, and tugs the trench coat off, the sleeves turning inside out as he does so.
"Better?" he asks, and Cas nods, but doesn't say anything. "As soon as Dean's done, you should take a shower too. It'll help, I promise. Uh, you don't uh... you know how, right?" he feels a flush creep up his neck, then deepen and flood his whole face at the glare the question earns him. "Right. Sorry. Let's pretend I never asked that."
Dean emerges not five minutes later, for which Sam is infinitely grateful. He can't remember the last time he felt this awkward around Castiel —or rather, he can, and he doesn't especially want to think about it— and having Dean around as a buffer is welcome, no matter how sick and out of it his brother is.
"All yours, Cas," Dean says, voice all but gone already, although the shower appears to have helped revive him a bit. "I eved left you sobe hot water, id spite of what sobe people bight have ibplied," he levels an injured look at Sam, which loses some of its impact as he sneezes again, keeping a tight grip on the towel he's got around his waist.
Castiel takes a bit more nudging, but eventually Sam gets him into the bathroom and shuts the door behind him —angels deserve some privacy too, he reasons, even if they don't understand the concept of personal space.
"I'm going to head out for half an hour, pick up some NyQuil and tissues and whatever," he says to Dean, who's pulling on a t-shirt and sweatpants and eyeing the bed closest to the door with a look that's positively lustful. "You going to be okay while I'm gone?"
Dean crawls under the covers and pulls them up over his head. "I'b dot goig to digdify thad with a respodse. Dod't get the gross cough drops."
"I know, I know. Cherry. No echinacea, on pain of death."
"Dabb sdraight," Dean smothers a sneeze into his pillow. "Go 'way."
Sam rolls his eyes. "You're welcome. Keep an eye on Cas, okay? Make sure he doesn't pass out in the shower?"
He gets a grunt from the bed, figures that's as good a response as he can expect, and heads back out. It takes a little longer than he'd like to pick up the basics: tissues, NyQuil, Tylenol, and of course cherry cough drops. The drug store is on the other side of the small town, and for some inexplicable reason every appears to have decided to do their shopping at this exact moment. He invests in a box of tea bags, having caught sight of a complimentary coffee pot in the motel room, and makes a detour by the grocery store for a pot of honey and a box of Lipton's Cup-a-Soup —a poor substitute for tomato rice, but when all you have to work with is a coffee maker, you take what you can get. All in all, it's well over an hour before he makes it back to the room, and his only consolation is that neither Dean nor Castiel have felt it necessary to call his cell, which must mean they're mostly okay.
He stops short in the doorway, trying very hard not to let his jaw drop. He fails. "Uh, Cas?" he asks softly.
Castiel is sitting propped up on two of the motel pillows in the bed nearest the door, his face still flushed with fever, blue eyes brighter than ever. Although Sam hasn't ever seen the former angel lie down anywhere, it's not that which surprises him so much as the sight of his older brother half-draped across Castiel's chest, cheek resting just below his shoulder, fast asleep. He's wearing the worn brown hoodie that used to be Sam's a million years ago and which Sam hasn't worn since... well, since Dean nearly died in Nebraska. As far as Sam is concerned, it belongs to Dean now, though Dean only ever wears it when he's sick or badly injured.
Castiel looks up from where he's wrapped his arm loosely around Dean's shoulders. "You're back," he says, careful to keep his voice low. "You should be quiet, or you will wake him."
Sam nods, then feels the corners of his mouth tug into a smile in spite of himself. "Uh, Cas? Are you wearing my hoodie?"
Castiel tries to smother a cough, as though realizing that it might disturb his sleeping charge. "And sweatpants. Dean told me it made him feel better, so it seemed reasonable enough."
"Oh," Sam's throat tightens unexpectedly, forcing him to clear it before he can speak again. "You, uh, might not want to mention that you said that to me."
"It would embarrass him," Castiel agrees, looking down at Dean, and for the first time Sam can remember he looks sad. He looks, Sam thinks, exactly the way Jimmy Novak looked when he realized he was losing his family forever.
"I bought some stuff that ought to make you feel better," he says, opting to change the subject rather than delve into territory that's far too frightening to contemplate for the moment. He fills two glasses of water at the bathroom sink, and hands one to Castiel when he returns, along with two Tylenol. "That's for the fever, and when you've taken that, you're going to have two spoonfuls of the cold medicine. Okay?"
Castiel is a lot more agreeable a patient than Dean ever was, and follows the instructions to the letter. "I don't feel any better," he says after a moment, and Sam just barely manages to bite back a laugh.
"I'm sorry, Cas. It won't work for a little while yet. Give it ten minutes or so. It won't cure you, but it'll help. Best thing to do now is sleep as much as you can. Does your throat hurt?" He gets a careful nod in response, so he gives him one of the packets of cough drops. "Suck on one of those if it gets bad —it'll help too."
He goes around the bed, eases himself up onto it next to Dean, only to be stopped by Castiel. "You'll wake him," he says. Sam wonders if he realizes that one hand has dropped protectively over Dean's head, the tips of his fingers brushing against Dean's forehead, soothing. Probably not. The fever isn't exactly making him think clearly.
"Can't be helped. He'll just wake up feeling worse later if he doesn't take these now. I'll let him go back to sleep straight after, I promise. Trust me on this."
Castiel pauses to think about that, but before either of them can do much more, Dean wakes himself up with a coughing fit, shoving away from Castiel and curling in on himself. Sam pounces on the opportunity and tugs him gently upright. Dean blinks blearily at him, eyes watering.
"Of course it's me," he says in fond exasperation. "Who'd you think it was?"
"Thought Cas was here," Dean mumbles, eyes not quite tracking.
"Cas is here too, just on your other side. I need you to swallow all this, okay?" he doesn't wait for Dean to agree, just pushes the pills past his lips and tilts the contents of the glass of water into Dean's mouth until he swallows. Years of dealing with Dean when he's sick have taught Sam that getting him to take any sort of meds is a lot like pilling a cat: shove the pills back as far as they'll go, clamp the jaw shut, and pray that he swallows instead of spitting them back out.
He lucks out this time: Dean is still mostly asleep and disoriented from the fever to boot, and he swallows reflexively. He doesn't even balk at the NyQuil, though he does make a face at the taste, and the cherry cough drop produces a contented sigh.
"I am right here," Castiel manages to sound a little miffed at not being noticed.
Dean's head lolls back in the opposite direction, and a happy grin spreads over his face. "Hey, Cas. Wus wodderig where y'were at. There y'are." He twists back into his original position, head nestled under Castiel's arm. "Y'still sick, Cas?" He sounds worried, under the layers of fever and medication.
"I will be fine, Dean," Castiel murmurs, resuming his earlier stroking motion, and Sam can't even bring himself to feel the normal pang of jealousy he gets whenever Castiel and Dean seem to be sharing something ever-so-special that he'll never get to know. He doesn't remember the last time Dean looked this comfortable. He starts to slide off the bed, is surprised when Dean catches his sleeve with two fingers.
"Where y'goig, Sabby?"
"Going to put this stuff away, and then I'll turn in, I guess. Big day tomorrow." Understatement, he thinks.
Dean coughs into the blanket that Castiel has pulled up over them. "Y'should stay. Jus' for a while."
Sam's breath catches in his throat. For a moment he stays frozen exactly where he is, poised halfway on the bed, one foot on the floor, waiting for Dean to take it back, to say something about chick-flick moments. To shove Sam back to the far bed, where he belongs. He glances away for a split-second, feeling exhaustion creeping up on him like shadows at twilight. Then Castiel tilts his head and looks at him, blue eyes sharp and momentarily clear. Sam swallows hard. Tomorrow they go after Death. After that...
He toes off his running shoes, eases himself onto the bed behind Dean, and wraps an arm around his waist; huffs a laugh when Dean wriggles until he's comfortable again. His brother cracks open one eye.
"Wha's so fuddy?"
He rests his forehead against the back of Dean's neck. "You are so totally the little spoon."
Dean snorts, but doesn't answer, and the last thing Sam hears before he drifts to sleep is Castiel's voice.
"I fail to see the relevance of cutlery to the situation."