Author's note: this story was written for a recent remix challenge on the Dean h/c community on livejournal called 'hoodietime'. (A remix is a retelling of another story – a missing scene, an alternate POV, etc.) Sea Change is a remix of a sick!Dean story called 'Reversing the Tide' which was written in 2006 and was volunteered for this remix challenge by the author, embroiderama. (Check out the original story and her other fics, too!)
There were still another 198 or so miles to the next hunt. Sammy knew this because the last mile marker he'd seen said 236 miles and that was 35 minutes ago. He'd kept the Impala at a steady 65 mph, but rounded it to 66 because he was feeling lazy. And because no one was grading the math in his head. So, 35 minutes at 1.1 miles per minute was 38.5 miles. 236 minus 38.5 equaled 197.5 miles to go, if he wanted to be precise...
Numbers were reassuring to Sam, settled his nerves when he was outside his comfort zone. Books were even better. When Dad had grudgingly agreed to let him drive, Sam had poured eagerly over the road atlas, his finger tracing the bold highway lines, memorizing the exits he'd be looking for.
Dean had ruffled his hair, laughing. "It's not homework, genius. It's just driving."
Easy for Dean to say. Everything always seemed so easy to Dean.
One hundred ninety-eight miles to go. Give or take. Another hour and a half plus change… unless he let the speedometer creep up a little, and Dean would rap him with a rolled up newspaper if he ever tried that.
Sam sighed. No question, the thrill of being appointed the designated driver had worn off hours ago. He tried rotating his shoulders to loosen the kinks, but his muscles still felt bunched up like that time Dad trussed them to the kitchen chairs and timed how long it had taken them to get free. Sam cracked his neck, his shoulder roll morphed into a shrug, and with a deep breath, he gave in to temptation. Flexed his fingers and let his hands slide from ten and two on the steering wheel to nine and three.
And Dean didn't give him hell about it.
Dean didn't poke him. Or say anything at all. Which was, now that Sam thought about it, all kinds of weird. Sam flicked a glance to his right and saw his brother slumped against the passenger side door, slack-jawed and oblivious. Flashing a dimple, Sam turned his attention back to the endless road unspooling hypnotically ahead, yellow dashes against the black asphalt spelling out "oommm" in Morse code. Maybe that had put Dean into a meditative trance?
Still. The smirk faded. It wasn't like Dean to nap when Sam was driving. Dean was always hyper-alert then, still coaching and correcting even after Sam got his license. And as Sam tried to stretch his spine again, he realized that Dean would never have let him drive this many hours without making them swap places.
"Hey, De-an?" Sam flushed red to the tip of his ears when his voice shot up an octave in mid-syllable. It sucked being this age. He didn't remember Dean's voice ever cracking like that.
There was no answer, which was maybe for the best because it meant Dean wouldn't be making fun of him. For a moment, Sam considered asking Dad if it was time to switch drivers, but a glance in the rearview mirror revealed a dark mass sprawled across the back seat, and Sam decided it was better not to rouse the sleeping bear. Especially one with a hangover.
One corner of his mind took guilty pleasure in Dad getting to experience first-hand just how cramped it could get spending hours trapped back there, twisted like a pretzel. How frustrating it is when you can't quite make out what's being said in the front seat, stuck staring at the back of people's heads.
But Dad wasn't feeling Sam's usual pain. He was snoring, dead to the world. He'd feel it when he woke up though. Sam took small consolation in the fact that Dad had to have been feeling pretty hung over to agree to crawl into the back seat and leave the driving to a 14-year-old kid, who only had a license because they'd spent a large chunk of the summer at Uncle Bobby's, and you could take your road test that young in South Dakota.
Not that Sam wanted Dad to suffer, really. Just – it wasn't wrong to want Dad to see things from Sam's point of view once in a while. Right?
At least Dean made an effort sometimes…
Which brought Sam back to the fact that Dean was asleep, and Sam couldn't remember Dean ever sleeping while Sam was driving. Of course, he'd never driven this long before, but… If Sam knew anything about his brother, it was that Dean had a protective streak even longer than his bossy streak. It wasn't like him to let Sam push his limits and not keep at least a furtive eye on him. Sam checked the speedometer, the traffic, the threatening clouds, and then let his gaze swing back to his brother. Dean was huddled in his jacket, hands tucked under his armpits like he was cold. In the waning light, his face looked pinched in a way Sam hadn't noticed before.
And when had it started to get this dark? Sam frowned at the sky and thought - Dean would normally have pointed out the need for headlights before now. He flicked them on, and the growing worry pulled at the knots in his shoulders like a taut line hitch.
Something was wrong with Dean.
An eighteen-wheeler blew past them, the Impala rocking in the truck's bow wave, and Sam's knuckles tightened on the steering wheel. The rumbling sound didn't fade as the truck pulled away, and Sam realized it wasn't coming from the semi. Lightning ripped across the sky and it started to rain, heavy drops stabbing the windshield and then coming faster and faster until the wipers could barely keep up. Visibility sucked... Dean would grin and say it was like driving through a car wash, but Sam flinched as another truck barreled past, spray from its massive tires slapping Sam's window.
He felt battered by the weight of everything piling on his shoulders, and he didn't know what to do. Dad and Dean were always bossing him around - and now, one time he wouldn't resent it, one time he'd actually welcome his know-it-all brother telling him what to do...
Why didn't Dean wake up?
This... Sam gnawed his lip. This, he knew, was exactly why Dad always left Sam home alone when a hunt was going to be particularly dangerous. Too dangerous for Sam anyway. Dad could always count on Dean's help. Dad's recent criticism still stung. "Sure, you're good with research, Sammy. Dead languages, too. No doubt about it. But the answer isn't always in a book, kiddo. You'll never be able to pull your weight on a risky hunt unless you develop some instincts."
Dean had just sat there, silently scraping monster guts off his boots, saying nothing. But Sam could tell by the look on his face that Dean thought Sam relied on books too much, too. Sam always wanted to research more before they acted.
"Hunts don't always go according to plan, Sammy," Dad had added, frowning as he inspected claw marks in his leather jacket. "You have to be able to improvise, to make decisions on the fly. Like your brother."
Dammit. He hated it when Dad was right. And Dad was – because Sam didn't have a plan for this and he didn't know what he was supposed to do.
In the heavy downpour, Sam almost missed seeing the next exit sign. It wasn't the turn-off he'd memorized, but there was a big blue highway sign under the exit marker that promised silverware and beds for stick figures nearby. Right now Sam didn't care if he got chewed out for making a bad decision; at least he was going to make a decision. He was going to pull off the road.
The motel was called The Lighthouse Inn, even though Sam was pretty sure there weren't any lighthouses within a hundred miles. With a barely suppressed sigh of relief, he coasted into an empty parking space, shut off the engine and turned toward his brother. Under the flashing Vacancy sign he could see the shallow rise and fall of Dean's chest, and if he listened hard, under the sound of rain sluicing off the Impala, Sam thought he could hear his brother wheezing. Dean stirred as the Impala went still, and his eyes blinked open in confusion.
"Hey, Dean, you okay?" Sam asked.
Dean blinked again, and wiped a hand across his face to erase a fleeting look of surprise that the car was stopped and Sammy was still behind the wheel. "Yeah, dude. Just your slow ass driving put me to sleep."
Jerk. But Sam was so relieved that Dean sounded normal he didn't say it out loud. Twisting in his seat, he reached behind him to put a hand on his dad's shoulder. "Dad, we're here."
Dad mumbled something incomprehensible, lurching up and then out of the car, and headed toward the motel office.
What next? Sam ran through the routine in his head. Dad would get them a room – two if they could swing it. Meanwhile, he and Dean needed to get their duffels out of the trunk. And the hunting gear, too. Dad would want to sort through the weapons and pick out what they'd need to hunt werewolves tonight. A frisson of excitement ran down Sam's spine. Not that he liked hunting – he didn't. But what he hated more was being told he wasn't good enough, and being left behind to lie awake worrying if Dad and Dean would make it home in one piece. This time, this time…Dad had said he'd think about letting Sam come along.
Assuming Sam hadn't screwed up by stopping forty miles short of their destination…
He shrugged. Nothing he could do about that now. Sam popped opened the trunk, and then suddenly Dean was there beside him, tugging the weapons bag out of his hand. His face looked sickly pale under the motel sign's neon glare.
Sam hauled out the duffels and Dad strode past them both to unlock the door to their room, no sign of the hangover that had driven him to crawl into the back seat all those hours ago. The last one in, Sam used his foot to close the door and looked around. The room was shabby, but it wasn't the worst place they'd stayed. Two double beds with corduroy navy bedspreads sat under cheap prints of stormy seas hanging on the wall. There was a dresser with a portable TV sitting on top of it, and a closet with a sliding door hanging loose and off the track.
Sam dropped the duffels on the closet floor and straightened, knocking aside a couple wire coat hangers and a thin chain leading to a bare light bulb. He looked over his shoulder and cast a longing eye toward the bathroom and the prospect of a hot shower to knead the knots in his shoulders, but he knew he had to wait for Dad's orders first. He turned his attention back to the room and was surprised to find his brother flaked out on top of the nearest bed, sweaty, chest heaving like a damp fish twitching on the bottom of a boat.
"Dean?" Dad's growl made Dean flinch. "What the hell are you doing? You think that werewolf isn't going to feed tonight just because of a little rain? We've got to get ready to go after it."
"Sorry, sir." Dean's answer came out rough, like tires spinning on gravel. "I, uh-"
"He's sick, Dad." Sam couldn't keep the irritated tone from his voice. Was Dad blind?
"I'm fine." Dean climbed to his feet like a dutiful soldier, but Sam noticed he had to put a hand out to steady himself, and couldn't quite make it fully upright.
"Dammit, Dean, you can't be out there backing me up like this."
Sam's heart beat a little faster. Dad was right. Dean couldn't go. And if the hunt was still on, and Dean had to stay behind, then for sure Dad would need Sam as back up.
"I'll be okay," Dean rasped hoarsely. "Just-"
Dad didn't even look up, just finished checking his gun's clip to make sure it was filled with silver bullets. "No, I'll have to handle this one myself. Sam, stay with your brother. I should be back by tomorrow night."
Sam couldn't believe it. After everything – getting the incantation right on the last hunt, driving hours to get to this one. Doing just as good a job as Dean would have. And now Dad still wasn't going to trust him to be his back up. Again. "But, Dad…!" He paused. He knew Dad wouldn't listen to him, but maybe when Dean jumped in...
But Dean didn't say anything. Sam hovered impatiently, rocking on the balls of his feet. For sure, any second Dean would argue to go along. Or at least claim he was fine by himself, and didn't need a freakin' babysitter, and Dad should take Sammy. But Dean just wilted back against the pillows and closed his eyes. Sam's shoulders slumped. It was pretty obvious that when it really mattered, Dean didn't trust Sam to back anyone up either.
Sam turned toward his dad, not giving up, determined to plead his case, but Dad just waved one hand dismissively. "Sam, I gave you an order. Stay with your brother. I'll see you tomorrow." He gave Sam 'The Look' - the one that said Another word, and youwon'tlike the consequences.
Sam swallowed his argument, tasting bitter frustration. He tried to meet his father's eyes but just couldn't bring himself to do it. "Yes, sir," he muttered.
"Dean, get yourself well. I can't have you out of commission."
Of course not, Sam thought bitterly as their dad walked out the door. Dean was the soldier Dad was raising them to be. The reliable back up. The one who knew what to do when things fell apart. The good son.
"Yes, sir," Dean croaked, but Dad was gone. He hadn't even waited for an answer. There was no need.
For a second, Sam kind of hated his perfect brother. The one Dad did want at his side. "This sucks."
"Yeah, well, life sucks and then you die, baby brother. Welcome to my world. You know how many times I heard that 'watch your brother' speech?" Dean broke off, rolling on his side to cough wetly into the crook of his elbow.
"Yeah, I guess." Sam sighed. He couldn't really stay mad at Dean, not when Dean looked like crap. And Dean did look genuinely awful, tiny furrows around his eyes revealing a monumental headache. Dean flopped weakly on his back, spasm over. "Look, I'm just gonna catch some sleep. For your sake, I hope they've got Skinemax on the cable here."
"You're such a dog." In a weird way, Dad had kinda put him charge, Sam realized, and he figured maybe he ought to do something. He bent to fish out a bottle from the med kit, determined to enjoy his chance to be the bossy one. "At least take some Tylenol."
Dean didn't argue with him. Sam expected to be called Florence Nightingale or worse, but Dean just swallowed the tablets, stripped down to his t-shirt and boxers with shaking hands, and dragged himself under the covers.
Sam sat motionless on his own bed. Listened to the rain drumming on the roof and the rattle of Dean's congested lungs.
What was he supposed to do now?
Sam hadn't ever been left in charge of someone else before; he didn't have a reference. Dad thought Sam didn't function well without a plan. Maybe Dean thought that, too. Well, Sam would just show them. After all, he'd been left on his own plenty of times; he had a mental checklist for that.
Top on the list – stay calm. Don't dwell on what might happen to Dad and Dean.
Next on the list: stay safe. Salt the doors and windows, and keep a weapon handy. Sam took out the salt and had the sills treated in record time, and when he put the salt back, he stared at Dean's knife in the bottom of the duffel.
Dean always slept with that blade under his pillow.
Hell, he'd practically have to be on death's door to…
Christ, Sammy! Melodramatic much? Sam could practically hear his brother mocking him. After all, the odds of Dean having something like pneumonia, or even meningitis, like that kid in his class three schools ago…
Sam told his internal worrywart to shut the hell up and ran a hand through his hair, tugging the bangs off his face. Why didn't they carry a simple Family Health Guide in their medical kit? They had some dog-eared old military field manual that told them how to tie a tourniquet and how to fashion splints, but nothing on routine illness. Because Winchesters didn't do routine.
He took a deep breath, and made himself think rationally. First rule – stay calm.
Think. Something about three schools ago tickled a memory…
Sam remembered writing a paper about Linus Pauling at that school. What he recalled most vividly about the scientist was the fact that Pauling had gotten into college even though he didn't have all the credits needed to graduate from high school. It only took forty-five years after he won his first Nobel Prize before Washington High reluctantly gave him his diploma. Now, whenever the Winchester boys were uprooted in the middle of a semester, Sam thought about Dr. Pauling, how gaps in his high school transcripts hadn't stopped him from going to college.
Of course, what most people remembered when they thought of Linus Pauling was his conviction that Vitamin C would help fights colds or flu. Which was the more useful piece of information in this situation.
The motel probably had a vending machine, and if Sam was lucky, it might carry juice. Only one problem: Sam didn't have any money. He knew what was in his pockets without looking - a pencil stub, a stick of gum, and a wallet with nothing in it but his brand new South Dakota driver's license and a Tennessee library card that he'd probably never use again.
Maybe Dean had…?
His brother's clothes were piled in a haphazard heap on the floor, and Sam started searching through the jeans. A pool cue chalk, a condom, an empty wallet and thirteen cents: hardly a jackpot. Sam froze when Dean muttered and rolled over, guilt rushing though him even though he had a perfectly good reason to be rifling his brother's pockets.
Dean ignored him and just moaned in his sleep, burying his face in his pillow like the light hurt his eyes.
Sam straightened and moved to the closet, planning to turn on that light and turn off the one in the main room. As the bare bulb in the closet clicked on, pull chain swaying against the hangers, a mental light bulb clicked on, too. He rummaged through their gear for a small flashlight, and then grabbed the empty ice bucket. Stepping between the beds, he paused long enough to tug the covers up over his wheezing brother's chest, then shut off the bedside lamps and slipped out of the motel room and into the rain.
First, he headed for the little alcove between the two motel blocks of rooms, offering a quick prayer to Saint Julian - patron saint of motels according to Pastor Jim. Even though Sam figured Jim was pulling his leg. But maybe he wasn't after all - because when Sam checked, there was a fully stocked vending machine and it had orange juice.
Next step was to look for a vehicle parked in the shadows, away from the flashing motel lights. Sam ducked his head as the rain pelted down on him, and sprinted toward the one farthest away, a dilapidated pickup truck parked on gravel by a chain link fence. With a quick glance around to make sure no one could see him, he threaded the straightened coat hanger he'd snagged from the closet out of his sleeve, and wiggled it into the gap on the driver's side window. I can do this, he told himself. If I can do this when Dad's timing me with a stopwatch, I can do it when it matters. Before he knew it, he was tugging up on the lock and the door was open.
Sam set the ice bucket down on the gravel and climbed inside the pickup, propping the flashlight between his teeth so he could use both hands to search the truck's interior. He found some loose change tucked in the back of the seat cushion, and more under a half-empty pack of cigarettes in a cubbyhole under the dash. There was a dime wedged under the passenger side floor mat. When he'd found all he could, he hurried back out, wincing at the creaking metal sound of the door closing behind him, even though the thunderstorm probably drowned it out. Then he squatted on his heels, leaning with his back against the wet front fender. Rain made the coins slick on his open palm as he pushed them around with his index finger, counting.
Damn. He was still five cents short.
Car number two seemed like a gift; it wasn't even locked. Unfortunately, it also must have been owned by a neat freak; there wasn't even a piece of lint to be found. Car number three took the longest to break into, but Sam was rewarded with a little plastic container full of change and recent toll road receipts. He took a nickel, left the rest, and trotted back to the vending machines.
By the time he slipped back into their room, his wet hair was plastered to his scalp and he was drenched. From the dim closet light, all he could see of his brother was just a shadow huddled under covers. Sam set the juice in the bucket of ice, trying to be quiet so Dean wouldn't wake up, and listened carefully.
No coughing, or wheezing any more either. Dean's fine, Sam told himself, letting relief flow over him warm and dry, chasing the cold rain that still slid down his neck. Dean was always fine. Sam had been worrying over nothing. Ruefully, he peeled off his soaking wet shirts and dragged his duffel into the bathroom. A hot shower was long overdue.
Twenty minutes later, Dean's garbled shout made Sam knock the tube of toothpaste to the floor as he finished getting ready for bed.
"Dad! Look out!"
Sam ran into the other room to find his brother thrashing against twisted sheets that had trapped his arms.
"Sammy? Oh God, Sammy, no…"
"Dean!" Sam found himself kneeling on the floor at Dean's side without having made a conscious decision. "Dean! Wake up! It's not real." He clicked on the lamp between the beds and tugged at the sheets to free Dean, finding the scratchy cotton damp with sweat. Sam could feel the heat radiating off his brother without even touching him.
This was bad.
Free of his tangled cocoon, Dean curled in on himself, eyes squeezed shut, arms hugging his chest as another coughing paroxysm rattled his ribcage.
"Dean? You okay?" Stupid question, Sam thought as soon as he'd said it. Dean couldn't answer even if he did hear him. And it sounded like Dean was too busy hacking up a lung to hear whatever dumb thing Sam said. Slowly, Dean rolled to a sitting position and looked around, confused, heel of his hand pressing against his sternum as the coughing spell finally began to ease.
His throat sounded so raw; it had to be killing him. Sam remembered when he'd been little and was laid up with whooping cough one winter. How good it had felt when Dean had brought him a glass of water, sweetened with a couple teaspoons of honey. They didn't have any honey now, but water was easy enough. Sam climbed back to his feet and grabbed a plastic cup off the bathroom sink, filled it half full from the tap, and then returned to sit on his own bed across from Dean. He held out the cup and Dean took it wordlessly, drinking it slowly, wincing as he swallowed.
Sam tried to remember what else Dean had done when he was sick, and impulsively stretched out a hand toward Dean's face.
"Get off me, bitch," Dean growled, batting Sam's hand away.
Sam flushed. "Well, excuse me for caring, but you have a fever, Dean." He couldn't help the hurt tone from creeping in. Sam hated being fourteen, still a kid whose stupid feelings got hurt when he was trying to do the right thing and got brushed off. Why couldn't he be more like Dean, and not take everything to heart?
Dean noticed. Of course he did. "Ah, man, don't get your knickers in a twist." One of Dean's hands went up to massage his sore throat. "We got any more of that Tylenol?"
"Yeah, here." Sam checked the clock, and then tapped out the next dose. Unsure whether or not he was going to get shot down again, he reached toward the ice bucket and said tentatively, "I got you some juice, too."
Dean looked puzzled, glancing from the bottle of OJ to the rain-soaked shirts hanging off the back of the chair. His gaze lingered on the straightened coat hanger next to the ice bucket, then crossed to settle on Sam for a moment before returning to the tempting bottle of juice. Slivers of melting ice slid off the label, dripping on the carpet. He took it in an unsteady hand and brought it up to his face, letting the chilled damp surface cool his hot skin. Then he unscrewed the lid, tilted his head back and drank it all down in a series of long swallows. When the bottle was empty, he passed it back to Sam and sank back against the pillow.
Sam thought he was going to drift back asleep, but Dean surprised him, fighting to keep his eyes open long enough to catch Sam's eye and say, "Thanks, Sammy."
Sam felt warmed inside for the first time since he'd started driving that day, and he reached for the switch to turn off the bedside lamp. "You're welcome. Go back to sleep."
Sam sat upright on his bed, propped against his headboard while Dean burrowed under the blankets Sam had heaped on him after he'd passed out again. Sam didn't think he should sleep. In his head, he knew that it would be okay if he did: if Dean got worse, it would probably wake him up. But in his heart, he was certain that Dean would watch over him if the situation was reversed. And Sam was committed to doing whatever his brother would do: keep watch, and find something useful to occupy his time. Sam used his flashlight instead of the room's lamps, so the glare wouldn't bother Dean, and he pulled out the cigar box they kept with the makings for creating new IDs. Sam was still too young to pass for anything other than a student, but Dean was almost nineteen and looked older. He could pass for a lot of things if he had decent ID to support him.
Sam was so engrossed in the fine, careful work that he startled when footsteps pounded across the room. He heard the bathroom door bounce on its hinges and then the unmistakable sound of Dean throwing up everything he had in his stomach. Including maybe his stomach lining.
For once, Sam didn't go through a mental search engine to see what he should do next. He didn't even find himself asking What Would Dean Do? He saw Dean huddled on his knees with his arms around the toilet, and Sam just knelt down beside him and slid his hand under Dean's thin tee shirt so his palm was flat against Dean's spine. He could feel his brother shivering, his skin cold and clammy, and for a moment Sam wondered why fever and chills went together, why didn't they cancel each other out or something? But then Dean sagged back weakly, and Sam stopped thinking and just spread his fingers against Dean's shoulder blades, trying to push more strength and warmth into his misery-ridden brother.
Dean wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Ugh, god, kill me now."
"No way, man. Dad told me to watch out for you, and I don't think killing you was what he had in mind."
"My luck, you pick now to actually listen to the old man."
Sam smirked, filled another plastic cup with tepid water and passed it to his brother. "Small sips, okay?"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah." Dean rinsed out his mouth, spat, and then took a few cautious sips. "Thanks."
"You ready to go back to bed?"
"Yeah. I guess."
Sam slipped one hand under Dean's elbow, and pulled Dean to his feet before Dean could summon the energy to try. With Dean a little hunched over in pain, they were nearly eye-to-eye. Sam studied his brother worriedly – the spots of fever high on his cheekbones, the sweat clinging to his sideburns, the way he still hugged his stomach and wavered a little until Sam tightened his grasp. Then he noticed Dean was looking at him, assessing him, too. And he wondered what Dean saw.
Once Dean was safely tucked in (and Sam looked forward to teasing Dean about that when he was better), Sam crawled back onto his own bed and looked longingly at the pillow. He was so tired. But his watch wasn't over yet. He checked under his pillow to make sure Dean's knife was there, and then he stretched his long legs across the top of the bedspread and settled back against the headboard for the rest of the night.
He stayed awake while the night's storm blew past and faded into a steady, muted drizzle. He was still awake when Dean's fever broke, when he stopped shivering and tossing and grew still. Sam even risked getting up and touching the back of his fingers to the side of Dean's face then, with a gentleness he'd never had cause to extend to his brother before. Dean felt cool; the wheezing seemed less. His eyes fluttered briefly, but in the darkness Sam couldn't tell if there was any awareness in them. They drifted closed again, and after a moment Dean's breathing evened out, slow and deep.
Sam sank back on the other bed, feeling weak in the knees, knowing it was due as much to relief as to exhaustion. He settled into his sentry position against the headboard again, determined to stay awake now till Dad got home, even though it seemed like the danger was over.
He tried. But in the end, he never heard the Impala pull into the parking space outside their rooms, didn't even hear Dad enter.
A low murmured conversation started to tug him back to the land of the living, a gradual process because even half-asleep, he still recognized the voices and felt safe. Bit by bit, he began to make out that Dad was back, safe and sound. He'd found the werewolves, but there was more than one – maybe a pack. So he'd be going out again tonight to finish the job.
"You up for it, sport?" Dad asked Dean, and Dean's voice came back strong and sure.
"What's Sammy doin' asleep? Don't tell me he's getting sick now, too." Dad's voice was a low, disappointed rumble, and he didn't wait for an answer. "Well, let him sleep if he needs the sleep. Just leave him a note, tell 'im we'll be back by dawn. Not to worry."
Sam had started to come fully awake, on the verge of blinking his eyes open and sitting up. But his dad's words sent a chill through his veins and froze him to the spot.
"But if it's a pack, Dad? We need all the backup we can get."
Dad sighed. "This isn't something we can plan A through Z, Dean. If we're outnumbered, I'd bet the farm we're gonna have to improvise. And Sammy is fine – better than fine – when it comes to research and memorizing rituals and following a plan. But I'm not sure we can count on him when we're making it up as we go along."
Dad made a small noise; it sounded like a scoff.
"We can count on him, Dad. Even if we have to go off-script – I trust Sammy to watch my back."
"You sure about this, son?"
Sam held his breath. He cracked his eyes open a slit and saw with surprise that it was evening already; the curtains had been pulled back a little and he could see the parking lot lights shimmering through the rain-streaked window. Dad wasn't in his line of sight, but Sam could see Dean standing tall between their beds, dressed now in jeans and a couple layers of shirts. Looking strong and confident and ready to go. And then Dean answered their dad, "Yes, sir. I'm sure."
"Then wake your brother up. We're moving out in five to grab some dinner and hit the road." Dad's footsteps were silent, but Sam heard the door shut behind him as Dad headed back to his own room.
Dean slapped his brother's knee, barked "Rise n'shine, Sammy!" and sat on the end of Sam's bed to start pulling on his boots.
Sam sat up, stretching. Smiling. He was almost sorry now about the ID he'd finished crafting while his brother was burning up with fever. Dean might not appreciate the chance to flash the name 'Weldon Rumproast'. Then again, Sam had spent a lot of the last twenty-four hours thinking What Would Dean Do? And that's exactly what Dean would do for a sick bro. So - no regrets. In fact, Sam was feeling pretty good. He felt like he'd passed a surprise test that he hadn't been allowed to study for.
He had Dean's back. And Dean believed in him.
And, when it came to butting heads with Dad, it looked like maybe Dean had Sam's back, too.
~ END ~