Funfetti, Forty-Fives, and Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers

"There's a fresh carton of juice in the fridge, and soup on the stove. All you gotta do is heat it up."

"Dad—"

"The forty-five is on the counter, don't touch if you don't have to. Do you have your knife?"

"Dad—"

"Do you have your knife? Don't roll your eyes at me, young man, just show me the blade. Okay, good. Eat your dinner, do your homework, check the salt lines, window and door, don't let anyone in, don't answer the phone, and get to bed at a reasonable time. Your brother and I will be back when we can. Are we clear?"

"But Dad—"

"I said, are we clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good. Now go get your brother."

Miserably, Sam shuffles off to the second bedroom of their tiny apartment and throws himself onto bed. Dean barely glances up from where he's kneeling by closet, packing weapons into a canvas bag.

"Don't pout, it makes you look like a girl even more than usual."

Sam pouts harder at that, topping it off by sticking out his tongue. "I don't understand why I can't come along."

Dean sighs and zips up the bag, coming to stand next to the bed. "Because you're sick, doofus, and this hunt is dangerous. We don't want you getting in the way."

"I won't, Dean, I promise." Sam refuses to beg, but he can ask. For the sixth time tonight. "Please let me come. I'll stay in the car the whole time, unless you need—"

"No, Sammy." Dean sinks down on the mattress next to Sam and reaches out to ruffle his hair. Sam smacks his hand away. "Come on, buddy, you know this is the way it's gotta be."

"Just because Dad says—"

"Yes, because Dad says. And because you've been running a fever and hacking up mucus for three days now. Any ghost within fifty miles is gonna be able to hear you sneezing, it's like a freaken nuclear bomb going off. So you stay here and rest up, Sammy, and the next slimy stinking thing that comes along, I promise we'll let you handle it all by yourself."

Sam huffs and pulls another face, because he knows that's not true. Dean and Dad rarely let him come on hunts as it is, and when they do the most he gets to do is wait in the car or maybe hold the flashlight while they dig up a grave. It's not that he particularly wants to involved in the fighting and burning parts, it's just annoying that Dad and Dean don't think he can be. They think he's too young— he turned thirteen last month, that makes him a teenager, just like Dean— that he'll get hurt— he's known how to use a gun since he was nine years old, and Dad taught last week him how to make a flamethrower, like a some sort of action hero— or that he'll get in their way— he's as good at research as Dad is, and he knows when to duck.

Sam also hates being left alone when he doesn't know if Dean or Dad will ever make it back.

"You know, most kids your age would love to get a few hours to themselves." Dean nudges his leg, and Sam can hear that joking, prodding tone in his voice that means he's trying to get Sam to smile. "But I bet you're just going to spend it doing homework, aren't you, dorkface?"

Sam snorts, but sits up and lets his shoulder rest along side Dean's. "It's vocab tonight."

"Vocab?" Dean grins, proud as when Sam was sent to the principal's last week for punching out a bully in the cafeteria. "Don't you usually finish that in two seconds because you know all the words?"

"We have to make them up this time. Five words each. Then we vote tomorrow in class, and the person who came up with the best words wins."

"You better get cracking then, cause Winchesters always win."

Sam pictures Dean on the ground, writhing in pain and bleeding out while the monster that killed him sets into Dad. I hope you're right. "I have one word already."

"Yeah, what is it? Something naughty?"

Paralipomenon, noun. That which has been left out. Sam throws his arms around Dean in a brief, impulsive hug, then scoots off the bed and heads back to the main room. "I'll tell you when you get back."

.

After Sam eats his soup and drinks orange juice straight out of the carton— which is kinda gross, but Dean does it all the time, and this juice was unopened so for once Sam can get him back by doing it first— Sam curls up on the couch with his notebook and a battered old dictionary and the forty-five. He'll put the gun back on the counter before his Dad and Dean get home, it just makes him feel safer to have it close by. It's not like he's accidently going to shoot himself with it or anything.

Pretermit, transitive verb. To neglect, to leave without mention or notice.

Sam scratches his pen across the page, considering ripping the paper out and starting fresh. The silence in the tiny apartment presses in on him like a physical weight. He knows there's a James Bond marathon on TV but it's not as much fun watching it without Dean shouting comments and drooling over all the girls and guns. And as much as Sam hates the silence, it makes it easy for him to hear every little noise in the dark, empty apartment.

Sam really hates being left behind.

He pictures Dean and Dad, strolling through a graveyard or an abandoned house, their grins brighter than the beams from their flashlights. Dean always gets jittery before a hunt— not, nervous-jittery like Sam, but excited-can't-believe-his-luck-jittery. The moment he climbs out of the Impala, shotgun or dartgun or silver knife in his hand, all that energy morphs into something precise and powerful. Dean becomes focussed and deadly like a weapon, the perfect little piece in Dad's arsenal.

When a hunt goes well they both come back laughing, trading jokes and memories that have no place for Sam. Remember that poltergeist in Albany? And then the magazine bent right out of the forestock and I'm left with no gun and an order of french fries, hoping there's enough salt on them to keep it away. How about when we took down that kelpie in Oregon? You looked like a damn fool coming out of that lake with seaweed in your hair.

When a hunt goes badly they both come back silent, shoulders set in identical ways, eyes on the ground except when they share looks full of pain and regret that are not meant for Sam.

No matter what happens, if they come back happy or they come back wrecked or they come back bleeding and nearly unconscious, Dad and Dean always check on Sam first, as if they expect him to have lost a limb or fallen on the sharp end of a knife during their absence.

Sam knows he should probably be grateful.

Mollycoddle, transitive verb. To pamper, to treat with an absurd degree of indulgence and attention. Also, noun. A weak, effeminate boy used to being pampered.

Sam hates it.

He hates that Dad and Dean don't think he can protect himself, and are willing to get themselves hurt or even killed in order to do it for him. He hates thinking they might be doing it out of some sort of obligation to his mother, who had probably been trying to do the same thing when she faced a demon in his nursery. He hates the idea that one day Dad and Dean might remember that and realize Sam's not worth any of their protection after all.

Oriflamme, noun. A banner, symbol, or ideal inspiring devotion, courage, sacrifice.

He hates the thought that his mother probably realized he wasn't worth it once she died.

Sam doesn't know her, will never know her, but she died for him and this is what came of that. A new town every few weeks. Dozens of different schools, too many faces to bother trying to remember them, and forget about ever holding onto a name. Dad with a darkness deep in his eyes and a fondness for liquor that lets him retreat into the numb gray spaces between night and dawn. Dean, who once had a home and his own room and a mother to kiss him goodnight, sharing a hard bed with his brother and wearing jeans with holes in the knees. A family that once lived in the light instead of the shadows torn apart.

All because Sam had been protected.

Catalyst, noun. A person or thing that precipitates an event or change, causes activity between two or more persons or forces.

They hadn't told him about the demon until a few years ago. Yet another lie from his father, another thing kept from poor little baby Sammy. Before then it had been "a car crash" then "monsters got her" and when Sam asked exactly how Dean got all tense and frightened and Dad got quiet and furious and went out back to shoot things. Dad's journal had mentioned the fire and the demon, but Sam had no idea if that was a real thing or just a name their Dad had given to it.

So Sam quit asking, and vowed he'd figure it out himself someday— he was good with research, now that they finally let him help, he could do it— but then on the day he turned ten Dad sat him down like he was going to give him a present and told him everything he knew, what a demon was, and how this one had killed Sam's mom in his nursery. Then Dad had gotten in the car and headed out for a hunt that took him away for three days.

He never remembered it had been Sam's birthday.

Dean remembered, though. Dean was there with Funfetti cake and chocolate frosting and action figures he won and coerced out of other kids at school. Dean didn't talk about the demon but he let Sam pick what to watch on TV and ramble about the book he was reading for English and eat three pieces of cake even though they gave Sam both and a sugar high and a stomach ache.

Then, at the end of the day, when Sam crashed and was lying on the couch with his head on Dean's lap and his feet trailing on the floor, Dean gave him his real present. He talked about Mom.

It was just a few memories and vague impressions, but Sam drank them in like they were the most important words he'd ever hear in his life. This was something Dean owned and didn't have to share with Sam. He could keep it to himself forever, and Sam would have understood, even if hurt. It's always been clear, despite all the talk of demons and family and revenge, that Sam has no right to Mom, no right to this woman whose death probably meant his life.

But Dean shared, because in the end, he and Sam always share. He gave Sam the comfort and pride of being able to say "I had a Mom who loved The Beatles" and "I had a Mom who liked to go barefoot" and "I had a Mom who could speak a little bit of Spanish and French." It's so much better than "I had a Mom who was murdered in my nursery."

If Sam cried then, most of the tears were lost in his hair, and Dean pretended not to notice the few that made it down to speckle the thighs of his jeans.

Indemnify, transitive verb. To compensate for damage or loss sustained. To guard or secure against anticipated loss; give security against future damage.

Sam wishes Dean were here now. He coughs and slouches deeper into the sofa, trying not to imagine all the ways Dean or Dad could be getting hurt while Sam sits on a couch and does vocab homework. He coughs again, feeling wretched. His cold has been getting better but it's always worse at night and when he's worried. If Dean were here he'd probably force Sam to take some ibuprofen and drink more of the orange juice, then pretend to strangle Sam in one of his old flannel shirts before wrapping it around him tight as a straight jacket and manhandling him into bed.

The bedroom is at the back of the house, where it's harder to hear the front door or the sound of tires on the driveway. The hallway is closer, but there's no light there, and the shadows sometimes look like hands and sometimes look like flames. The kitchen is closest, but the floor is cold, and the orange juice stopped tasting like victory after the first swallow.

Sam stays where he is, curled up on the couch, dictionary and messy list of words and scribbles pushed to the floor. He clutches the pistol to his chest like a security blanket, and wonders what it would be like to have a Mom tuck him in at night.

.

The sound of a key in the lock jolts Sam from his half-sleep several hours later. He scrambles to sit up, still holding the forty-five, and doesn't unclench his fingers until he hears his Dad's, "It's just us, kiddo."

Dad and Dean aren't laughing when they come in but they aren't glowering either, so Sam figures the hunt must have gone okay. He still checks them over, Dad when he comes over to clap a hand on Sam's shoulder and gently pull the gun from his hand, Dean when he throws himself on the couch with a grin and a half-eaten sandwich from the fridge.

"Everything okay?" Dad asks while Sam makes a face at Dean chewing with his mouth open and Dean sticks out a food-covered tongue.

"Yes, sir." Sam picks up the dictionary and his notebook, making sure to elbow Dean in the side as he bends down. "And you?"

"The hunt was easy as pie, Sammy, you didn't miss a thing." Dean throws an arm around Sam's shoulders in a gesture that's half-hug, half-headlock. "Jesus Christ, when did you start running a fever again? You're hotter than that waitress in Laramie with the pierced—"

"Dean, get your brother to bed." Their Dad sounds exhausted, but he's as close to smiling as he gets on nights like these and is gaze his soft. "Sam, take some medicine, I want to see you ready to get back to training by tomorrow, understand?"

"Yes, sir," they chorus, and it earns them each a quick pat on the back as they head off towards their bedroom. Sam leans against Dean because he can, and when Dean throws his arm around him once more Sam rubs his congested nose against Dean's shoulder.

"Gross, dude!" Dean punches him lightly in the stomach with his other hand, but he doesn't pull away.

"I finished my homework," Sam tells him.

"So what, is this some sort of nerd celebration ritual? Rubbing your snot all over me?"

"Wanna hear my five words?"

"I want to take a chemical shower, clean off all your germs. Dude, you suck."

"The first one is 'communicable.'" Dean smells like leather and smoke and gunpowder. Sam rubs his nose on him again. "Meaning capable of being easily transmitted, like diseases."

"You're sick, you know that? Like in the head."

They reach their room and Dean prods Sam until he starts changing into his pajamas.

"My second word is microorganism. An organism too small to be viewed by the unaided eye, like bacteria, or viruses. The deadly kind that eat your brain."

"You're a virus." Dean pushes Sam towards their adjoining bathroom. "Take some ibuprofen and brush your teeth."

"My third word is pulmonary edema."

"That's two words, smartass. Hand me the toothpaste."

"It's when your lungs fill with fluid." Sam shoots him a grin full of frothy mint. "You can drown like that."

"I'm gonna drown you soon if you don't shut up." Dean strips off his hunt-dirtied t-shirt and pulls back the shower curtain but then turns to Sam, crowding him back into the bedroom.

"My fourth word is viral hemorrhagic fever, like Ebola." Dean pulls back the covers and shoves Sam onto the bed. "It liquifies your insides and you bleed out from every orifice."

"You are such a freak, Sammy, I can't believe we're related." Dean pushes on Sam's shoulders until he lays back against the pillows, then pulls the covers up and arranges them over Sam's chest.

"Dean."

"What? Is your next word some disease that makes people's dicks fall off? Wait, don't answer that, I don't think I want to know."

"Are you tucking me in?"

Dean pauses in the act of arranging the pillows behind Sam's head so they're stacked exactly the way he likes them. For a second he looks surprised and embarrassed, like he was caught doing something he's not supposed to, then he cuffs Sam on the head and goes back to tugging on the covers.

"What's the fifth one?"

"What?"

"What's the fifth word, Sammy? You only told me four."

"Oh." Sam snuggles down in the bed. Dean really does know how to get the pillows just right. "Eudaimonia."

"Bless you."

Sam laughs and closes his eyes. Dean's hands have stilled now, one retreating to his lap while the other rests on Sam's shoulder, not moving or holding, just there.

"It means being happy. Being content because everything is alright."

"Huh."

Sam cracks his eyes open to sneak a peak at Dean's face. He's smiling, not his normal cocky or sarcastic grin, but the soft, barely-there curve of his lips that Sam has long since suspected Dean doesn't let anyone else see.

"It's a good word," Dean says once he notices Sam's gaze on him.

"Yeah it is." Sam leans forward to drag his runny nose one more time across the back of his brother's hand, then, giggling at Dean's disgusted growl, slips into sleep.

.

The next morning Dean helps Sam come up with four vocab words that are as close to dirty as they think he can get away with without getting detention or getting expelled. They keep eudaimonia as the fifth one.

After school, Sam runs over to where Dean is leaning against the side of the Impala, his face split with an enormous grin.

"Did you win?" Dean asks, even though it's obvious.

"Of course." Sam's not going to hug his brother out here where all these people can see him, but he can hip check him and imagine the day when he'll be tall enough to do it properly. "I'm a Winchester."