*hangs her head* Don't ask.

This was SUPPOSED to go up last week, but it fought me tooth and nail, and I abruptly realized why. So I had to go back and scrap 98% of it, and start over. I kept a few lines, so please, let me know if anything jumps out as horribly wrong. Or even slightly wrong. I get SO embarrassed reading over them later and realizing there's a huge typing error. I don't have a beta, it's just me, and my eyes like to put in/remove words as it's supposed to read. -_-

At the very end, is my explanation on the entire birth of this story. But for now, I'll let you get to the reason you clicked.

So...here you go.


Spoilers: None, just a tiny itty bitty teeny reference to a comment of Dean's, and I'm not even sure what episode. I think MAYBE 'Bugs', but don't quote me. You won't be able to pick it up anyway, I doubt.

TimeFrame: Pre-series. Sam is at Stanford.

Age: Adults.


He rubbed at his eyes, the light reflecting off the black paint job causing dry and gritty eyes to complain even worse. The watch on his wrist said it was almost ten in the morning…Sam should be out right now. He had his Criminal Defense Clinic at this hour, and while he hadn't spotted the youngest Winchester, it was possible that he had headed into the building much earlier. But the nagging feeling in his gut still had him stopping and waiting. Not that the youngest Winchester would ever know he was here.

He knew what apartment Sam was in, it wasn't that far from where he was now, a 3 minute walk on a good day. Hell, he could Sam's building from where he was parked. That was one good thing about having Sammy still on campus; everything was insanely close together. He had no doubt Sam would consider moving into another apartment soon; probably with that young blonde, Jessica Lee Moore, born January 24, 1984. He snorted lightly into the quiet…as if he didn't know every aspect of her life. It was nothing to track down everyone who touched Sam's life throughout the day…in their profession, it pays to be safe.

Twenty minutes later, and there was still no sign of Sam. It WAS possible that he had gone into class early. Hell, that was just like Sam. But he'd relied on his gut instincts for years, and that same gut feeling said that Sammy needed help. He'd just take a moment, slip in and check on the apartment, make sure Sam wasn't there and that everything was okay. That just involved moving the vehicle to a less conspicuous spot.

It was the work of moments to slip past the front clerk at the apartments, making his way down the hall to Sam's number. He glanced casually up and down the hall, but given the time of day, it was quiet, and there didn't seem to be any security cameras. He flipped his jacket open enough to fish out the set of lock picks from his inner pocket, and casually picked the lock. He hesitated for a moment…this could end really badly, about as badly as the last time they had seen each other, the night Sammy walked out for good. But that nagging alarm wasn't quieting, so he held his breath as he pushed open the door, absently eyeing the lack of salt on the floor. They would have a talk about that, no doubt.

The apartment was dim and quiet, and for a moment, he wondered if maybe he had the wrong apartment. But the stack of books on supernatural beings and various cultures of lore wasn't exactly commonplace, and when he heard the soft whimper from the hall, he knew he was in the right spot.

Sammy was slumped down in the hallway leading to the bedroom, hunched over himself as he shook. "Hey, hey, it's okay…" He reached out his hand, resting it on a quivering shoulder that was blasting heat like a furnace. "Oh man, kid…" Sam moaned low and turned his head away, quivering. "Sam?"

"Not the muffins." The sentence was slurred and soft, and a little crazy.

"Not the muffins? Sam, what the hell?" He cupped a hand under Sam's jaw, turning the younger man to face him. "Sam?" Yeah…he was gone already. His eyes were glassy and unfocused, searching aimlessly, and the heat radiating off of him was a little distressing. Sam shivered hard again, a rasping inhale startled out of him, and he shook his head.

"No. Wanna go home."

"Shh, you are home buddy. Come on, let's get you up." It was harder than expected…when the hell had Sam grown so freakin tall? He still had the muscle and weight from 18 years in the field, and the fever raging through him had him surprisingly combative. "Damnit Sam, settle down!" He ducked the half-hearted fist slung in his direction, grabbing it and tucking it firmly between their bodies. Sam keened softly at the entrapment, bucking for a moment before caving.

"Won't tell you." The words were still defiant, but Sam shook his head, slumping abruptly. "Nope."

"Shh. It's okay, you don't have to tell me anything. Come on bud, it's way past time for sick little boys to be in bed." Thankfully the apartment was tiny, and it wasn't more than a few steps before he could settle Sam on the bed, a soft push to the shoulder sending the young man horizontal on blue sheets. Sam groaned and buried his face in the pillow, going still and quiet instantly, and he shook his head. "Go figure. Just don't smother yourself." He worked on tugging Sam's shoes off, setting them just under the bed, before stepping back.

He never did like to sleep in jeans, said the seams dug in too much, but would he really want someone to be undressing him? The question was answered as Sam pulled his knees up a little, hand sliding down his stomach to fumble with the buttons. "Yeah, hang on there." Once the jeans were off and folded across the foot of the bed, Sam's shivering increased dramatically, the bed creaking with protests. "Hang on, hang on. Just…gotta get you under these covers." Once settled in, Sam sighed belligerently, brow furrowed as he grumbled.

"No muffins. Gremlins." The words were short, terse, and he raised a brow, glancing at the sick boy with an amused expression.

"Got it. No muffins. What about Gremlins?" At the word, Sam jerked, eyes wide as he slid down further on the bed, drawing the covers up and over his head. There were mutterings from under the linens, but after a moment, it went quiet. "Sam?"

Nothing.

He shook his head, and left the bedroom, fishing out his cell. He dialed in the number, and scouted the medicine cabinet in the bathroom as it rang.

"Yeah?"

"Hey, Caleb. Listen man, I'm a bit held up…it's gonna take me another few days to get up there. Something came up. Anyone else in the area you can get to help out?"

"Yeah, just a black dog. Heard there's a new Hunter in the area, I may check them out."

"Sorry. Let me know, okay?"

"Yeah." The phone buzzed with the dial tone, and he flipped it shut, sliding it back into his pocket. The cabinet was bare, just a generic bottle of aspirin in the corner, the lack of dust attesting to its usage.

Yeah, there were days it helped to take the edge off of old injuries that liked to flare up. He shook his head, shutting the glass, and went to see if maybe there was anything lurking in the kitchen to help. It was Winchester luck that the answer was no…just a milk jug that had clumps in the bottom, a bottle of apple juice that was hiding the furthest regions of the fridge, and grapes that had long since turned into raisins. A few herbs sat in studious rows in the cabinet, all used for various protections, and at least that was something.

The yell of "DEAN!" and the thud from the bedroom had him dashing back in, gun already drawn as he did a quick visual of the room. But it was just Sam, who was huddled on the floor, rocking as he pressed his face against his knees, keening softly.

"Hey, Sammy…what happened? It's okay. Shhh." The keening just grew more urgent, higher pitched as he shook, flinching as he set a hand on the thin shoulders. "Sammy. Hey, look at me." Sam just shook his head against his knees, rocking harder. "Sam. Look at me." He injected enough steel into his voice to make it an order rather than a request, and Sam slowly obliged, fever-bright hazels peeking up slowly. "What happened?"

"Gone. All gone." The voice was harsh and low, the horror still bright in it, and without any warning, Sam had all but launched himself, burrowing into the older man's frame. "All gone." The sob was what broke his reserves, and it wasn't anything to pull Sam into his lap, letting the man bury his face into a flannel-covered shoulder as he shook and keened. "All gone."

"Right here Sammy. It's okay, I'm right here. Nobody's gone." He pet sweaty locks, rocking soothingly as he had when the man he was cradling was just a toddler. Fever had always messed with Sam's mind, reducing him to incoherent terror as it ravaged through him. "It's okay." The sobs tapered off, leeching slowly into harsh breaths and coughing, and he pulled back enough to try to see Sam's face. "Sam?"

The younger man just shook his head. He sighed and rest his head back against the bed, continuing to stroke and pet as the shaking and panicked breaths faded off into the quiet and steadiness of sleep. "You don't do anything by half-measures, do you?" Still, it had been a very, very long time since he had the chance to hold the youngest Winchester, to be the one that he turned to when sick, and it was hard to pass it up, hard to say that a little part of him didn't enjoy just holding Sam, his presence enough to ward off the nightmares for a little while.

A bigger part though complained about the hard floor digging into his tailbone, and he sighed, shifting his load enough to get a grip on him. Hopefully getting Sam into the bed wouldn't be too hard…hopefully.

Sam's body had decided to shut down fully, rendering the lanky man unconscious as only fever could, so he manhandled the limp burden into the bed, settling him in before covering him with the blankets. He leaned his weight against the mattress, the edge digging into his thigh, and rubbed his eyes again, sighing. He didn't know how long Sam had been like this; fevers had always hit the youngest quick and hard, dragging it out for days at a time before vanishing. He knew the first aid box had both ibuprofen and acetaminophen, as well as the thermometer and some water. He should go get them, but he wanted to wait a bit longer, make sure Sammy was actually going to stay down for a bit.

Once he was sure the youngest was actually asleep, he decided to risk an extended departure, moving the black vehicle from the 2 hour parking spot as he headed into town, deciding to get some groceries to restock the bare kitchen and medicine cabinet before parking in a more long-term option. No way was he leaving Sam alone until he was feeling better. Or, at least, not muttering about gremlins. A wry smirk twisted his expression, and he shook his head, chuckling. All the horrors they had seen in the field, the terrors of childhood and youth, and the kid freaks over small furry critters from a movie.

The complex had parking relatively close by, close enough that it wasn't much trouble to haul the stuff inside, and he didn't even sneak this time, having swiped Sam's key on his way out. Two trips, one for the groceries, another for the med kit and the overnight bags, and he secured the front door, laying salt along it and the window, as Sam should have had the entire time.

They were gonna have a talk about that.

Sam was still curled under the covers, shivering as he muttered quietly to himself, and the elder Hunter shook his head. He fished out the thermometer, and took a bottle of water with him back in, along with some ibuprofen for this round. Sammy had always responded best to alternating the two, for some odd reason. He didn't even bother to wake him, just stroked along his cheek, and the youngest opened his mouth slightly, just as he had as an infant. It was a smooth practiced move to slip the thermometer under his tongue and guide his jaw shut, petting the tousled hair as he waited for the alarm to beep.

When it did, he eyed the reading with a raised brow. "Boy, you better hope this comes down with these pills. Else I'm dragging your happy, loopy ass to the clinic." Sam stirred at his voice, furrowing his brow as he groaned quietly. "Yeah, you gotta wake up a bit. Just enough to get some meds in you, then you can sleep some more, okay?"

It took five minutes, a black eye, and some yelling about tacos to get the pills in the kid, but he finally relented and swallowed the medicine, rather than spitting them across the room (at this point, he would have had no qualms with picking them up off the floor and shoving them down that throat again), and true to his word, he let Sam slide back into sleep, the blankets more crumpled and worse for wear after the mini war, but still a suitable nest.

Speaking of. He eyed the floor beside the bed, then the couch out in the living room. The couch would undoubtedly be more comfortable for his old bones, but the urge to stay close to the sick Winchester, and the habit of sprawling out in a queen, were too tempting by far. With a resigned sigh, he rummaged and dug and hunted until he found the spare linens, tossing a few blankets and a pillow down onto the floor in some assemblance of a bed. He checked the doors and windows one last time before sitting on the couch, tugging his boots off with a relieved sigh of appreciation. He tipped his head back, sprawling his arms along the length of the back of the couch, and stretched out lightly. The quiet, the absolute lack of a need to move move move, was so nice. He closed his eyes to better appreciate the stillness, just for a moment.

A loud crashing THUD from the bedroom jolted him awake, and he about tripped over his discarded boots to make his way in there, wariness increasing with each additional thud. He slid to a stop in the doorway, blinking as Sam grabbed books off the nightstand and continued to throw them on the floor, at the walls, and generally every direction.

"Sam? Whatcha doin?" He couldn't see anything, but that didn't mean much in their family.

"Spiders." He choked back a snort of laughter, and cautiously made his way closer to the bed.

"Spiders eh?"

"Spiders." The word was solemn and with the complete believe that only those lucid can really possess.

"Yeah. Let's check out that fever, shall we? Something tells me it didn't really go down." After a brief tussle, it was apparent that, so long as he wasn't stopped from killing the 'spiders', he didn't fight (or really, even seem to notice) the thermometer. A glance at the watch showed it had been four hours since he'd dozed off, and he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes as he waited for the beep of the device.

Actually, it had gone down. Not by much, but still. He had a bare moment to read the digital numbers before it was snatched out of his hands and hurled to the floor, followed quickly by a pillow. Apparently, Sam had run out of books. "Stay put tiger…I'll be right back." He quickly gathered the thrown items, stacking them on the bed to distract the fevered one as he hunted down the acetaminophen. Again, provided that he could continue to throw various projectiles at the invading arachnids, he was rather obedient, taking the proffered drugs without complaint. About ten minutes later he held the last book, eyeing the floor warily.

"They gone?" Sam nodded exhaustedly, and just sorta…slumped. He tipped sideways until he was leaning into the older Hunter's shoulder, letting out a tired sigh. "Yeah, tell me about it kiddo." Sam cleared his throat, which led to a fit of coughing, and he pulled the sick kid closer, soothing a large hand up and down the shaking back. "You're okay."

"Gone." The word was a broken whisper, and he nodded.

"Yup, you killed 'em all. Good job." Instead of reassuring him, the words seemed to reignite a fire in Sam, and he started struggling against the blankets, fighting against the hold on him. "Hey, whoa whoa whoa! Easy…they're all gone!"

"Noo…" Sweat-soaked hair hung limply as he shook his head, keening softly. "They left. All gone. Don't want me anymore."

"What?" A cold finger of awareness slid down his spine, and he cupped a hand against the hot jaw, tipping bright hazel eyes to his own. "Who left Sammy?"

"Everyone. Mom. Dad. Dean. Not good enough." He shook his head, tears welling up as he curled in on himself. "Don't want me anymore."

"Oh jeez. No Sammy, you left them, remember? You were good enough, they did want you. You left to go to school, remember?" Sam shook his head, and he wasn't sure if it was a denial of remembering, or him trying to insist that he wasn't good enough. "Samuel."

The broken whisper that drifted from him was heartbreaking and rage-inducing, all in one. "I killed Mom."

"No you didn't. That son of a bitch demon did. That same one we're hunting down. You didn't do anything wrong, you hear me? You didn't do anything." He caught Sam's jaw, turning the youngest one towards him and pinning him with a stern, heavy glare. "You. Didn't. Do. Anything. You hear me? You don't blame yourself for that. Not ever. You hear me?" Hazel eyes cleared a bit, and he saw understanding start to bloom. "That demon woulda got to her, if she was in your room or not. You being there made no difference, you got that?" He didn't know if that was truth or not, but he couldn't exactly say that he'd never lied to the boy in his life, so another white lie, this one to ease a burdened heart, shouldn't make much more difference. "You didn't kill her. That demon did."

Sam snuffled wetly, and nodded, looking for all the world like a lost little boy. He coaxed him into taking the thermometer again, making it clear that he wasn't leaving, just ducking into the kitchen to get some tissues. He was back before the alarm beeped, and read the numbers while Sam sloppily blew his nose into a small mountain of tissues. "Alright, we're getting that temp down some." Sam nodded distractedly, eyeing the floor again. "More spiders?" He shook his head. "You tired?"

"Yeah."

"I figured. Come on, lay down." He bundled Sammy under the covers with the practice of twenty some years, settling in and pressing his knee against Sam's back through the blankets with ease. "Just get some sleep tiger. I'll wake you up in a bit, okay? Just rest some." Sam nodded sleepily against the pillow, and it wasn't but a few more minutes before his frame went limp with sleep.

He realized he hadn't set his phone as an alarm when, five hours later, salt rained down on him from above, accompanied by muttered and growled Latin chants. Another wrestling match, shouts of Latin-based exorcisms, and several threats, and Sam had another round of medicine shoveled into him; this time dry, due to the fact that the bottle of 'holy' water was drenching the floor in a 'protective ring'. He snorted…at least even hallucinating, Sammy remembered enough to keep himself protected.

He made damned sure the alarm was set this time when he laid down, the Demon Hunter Extraordinaire finally passed out.

Thirty-six hours later, and the lucid awareness was lasting longer and longer, though he had his doubts that Sam was every fully back in normal land. He had dosed Sam about six hours ago, the fever bowing more and more to modern medicine, and was picking up the last traces of his time there. There was an alertness in Sam's eyes, and he knew he wouldn't be welcome…the words from their last fight were still ringing through his brain. He folded the blankets back exactly as they had been, tucked them away again. He couldn't bring himself to take back up the salt; that would be leaving the youngest weak and vulnerable, and really, he should have had the salt already laid down. He knew what was out there.

He gathered up a fresh bottle of water, and both bottles of pills, taking them with him into the bedroom. "Hey Sammy. Come on, up for another dose." Hazel eyes peered blearily at him, and a croaked "Dad?" had him confirming…it was time for him to leave. He pressed the tablets into Sam's hand, nodding with approval as he swallowed them without question, washing them back with water. "Go back to sleep." The words were gruff, and he winced, not surprised when Sam's shoulders hunched under the blankets.

"Thought I dreamt you." The words were quiet and slurred, and John hated himself for what he was about to say.

"You did. You're very sick Sam, and you're hallucinating. Get some rest, go back to sleep. I'll be gone when you wake up." Sam nodded like this made perfect sense, fighting against a yawn as he burrowed back down under the sheets. "Good boy."

He shut the door, locking it behind him, and sat in the truck for several long moments before he could bring himself to start the engine, and leave his youngest son behind again.


Anyway.

This fic actually traces it's roots back to a simple, innocent review left by SammyGirl1963, on the story 'Fevered': I'll admit to wondering if it was John or Dean who kept trying to comfort Sammy...

That blossomed, in my mind. Until I messaging Marianna Morgan, and sent her this idle bit: Someone reviewed 'Fevered' and said they weren't sure at first if it was Dean, or if it was John. O.O Man...talk about an evil plot bunny. *pokes it* I think this one may bite before long. A Stanford-era story, pre-Jess...cuz Dean did say that John stopped by to check on Sam frequently. *evil, wicked gryn*

Her reaction?: OMG! Love the possible storyline of John taking care of Sam in a fevered state while he's at Standford...YES! *nods enthusiastically*

Thus, in that tiny little chain of events...this was born. *sighs* I wanted a different title, but really, it's the best I can do, especially since it so solidly slams back to 'Fevered', which prompted ALL of this.

Who knows what might develop if you leave your own review? *shameless gryn*