Title: Any Flavour You Want
Summary: Dean comes down with a stomach bug. Sam looks out for him.
Characters: Sam, Dean
Disclaimer: I think, in light of this fic, Sam and Dean are very glad that I don't actually have any legitimate claim to them.
Warnings: swearing, gastro-intestinal TMI.
Neurotic Author's Note #1: Written for the lj comm="hoodie_time" a href="."tags challenge/a. I got three tags and decided that shameless, plotless h/c was the way to go, so I picked the nausea/vomiting tag. I know.
Neurotic Author's Note #2: Unbeta'd. This practically qualifies as comment-fic, except that there was no prompter. ;)
Someone's nudging him gently. Dean squeezes his eyes more tightly shut, curls up further on himself, arms pulled in over his stomach. The nudging turns into a gentle shake, but when he tries to tell whoever it is to knock it the fuck off, all that comes out of his mouth is a moan. Fuck. He cracks open an eye, wonders if he's going to puke again, or worse, soil his sheets.
"Come on," Sam's voice cuts through the layer of fog. "I just need you to sit up for a couple of minutes, okay? Not even that long, and you don't have to sit up all the way."
He honestly doesn't remember how long it's been. Distantly he remembers feeling a little weird a couple of hours after a funny-tasting tuna surprise at a diner, his stomach churning and his head starting to ache, until he'd had to abruptly pull the Impala over to the shoulder in a squeal of tires for which he'd normally never forgive himself and pitch himself out the door in order to puke until nothing was left except bile and saliva. Sam had exited the car almost as fast and hovered behind him uncertainly, torn between respecting Dean's exasperated order to leave him the fuck alone and his obvious desire to do something girly like rub Dean's back or maybe hold his hair for him.
Beyond that, he doesn't remember much except feeling like he was roasting alive and shivering like he was stranded in the arctic with nothing but his underwear on. Sam found them a motel room in record time, and since then it's been nothing but unending misery. Nothing stayed down, and whatever was in Dean's system was forcibly expelled by whatever means his body deemed necessary. He hasn't even bothered to pull on so much as a pair of boxers, is just doing his level best to fuse with the now-filthy mattress and ride out the worst of the cramps and nausea and humiliation, except that Sam keeps poking at him and not letting him sleep.
"F'ck 'ff," he manages.
Something damp and warm brushes against his face. It takes him a minute to identify it as a washcloth, which Sam is deftly using to wipe away what feels like ten layers of grime from his face, neck and chest. He feels gritty, like something's stuck to his skin —maybe dried puke, he thinks forlornly, because God, he's pretty sure there is nowhere he hasn't managed to be sick— and the sensation of getting even a little cleaner is heavenly. Sam pulls the washcloth away and nudges him again.
"Okay, we're going to sit you up now."
He tries to shake his head. "Nnngh," he protests, but Sam is already sliding an arm under his shoulders and pulling him up. Surprisingly, it's not as awful as he thought it would be. The room stays still, and nothing in his digestive tract tries to void itself spontaneously.
Sam picks up something that looks like a juice box, complete with a bendy straw, holds it to Dean's mouth. "Small sips, one at a time. See if you can keep that down."
"Nngh," Dean says again, but the straw pokes his lip, and he knows he's not getting out of this without a fight he really can't win. He gets his lips around the straw, sucks on it tentatively, and is rewarded with something slightly artificial-tasting. "Grape?"
"They didn't have a cherry flavour, sorry. I got the other flavours too, so you can pick whatever you want after. There's apple, strawberry and some sort of fruit punch."
He swallows again, pauses to make sure nothing awful is happening, and Sam shifts a bit so that Dean ends up propped entirely against his broad chest. It shouldn't feel this safe, he thinks with a twinge of guilt. He's supposed to be taking care of Sam, not the other way around. As usual, Sam reads his mind.
"Just drink, dumbass. You can't be responsible for all of the world, all of the time, no matter how much you want to. If you're not well enough to start rehydrating by now, then I need to take you to a hospital and make them start an IV."
"Can't risk a hospital."
"We'll manage the risk. Keep drinking."
He rolls his eyes, sips at the grape stuff. He's already feeling less gross, and thinking and talking aren't nearly as hard as they were five minutes ago. He thinks that's probably a good sign. "What is this stuff?"
"Nope. Easier on the stomach, and it'll help restore your electrolytes. Besides, it comes in four delicious flavours that your kids will love. When you can manage all that without puking, we'll move on to grown-up food."
Sam huffs a laugh, much to Dean's annoyance. "I clean up after your wicked bout of gastroenteritis for three days and all you can come up with is 'fuck you?' That's reaching new heights of bullshit macho stoicism, even for you." He takes away the now-empty juice box, and Dean feels like an absolute shit, because this is the last thing Sam should have to deal with on top of everything else —Hell and his now non-existent wall and Cas and all of it— but Sam doesn't let him pull away. "Come on, don't be a bitch. That's my job, remember?"
For a second Dean thinks he might throw up again, but the feeling passes almost as fast as it came over him. He lets himself slump a little, thinks how nice it would be to just lie down again and go back to sleep. Sam, of course, has other plans.
"Time for you to get cleaned up, dude. No offense, but you reek. So you get a choice: either you can't get up and I give you a sponge bath, or I help you up and you take a nice, tepid bath with real soap. Which is it going to be?"
There's no point in arguing with Sam when he gets like this, and the idea of being subjected to a sponge bath is a little too humiliating, even though he's pretty sure that whatever happened over the last few days while he was mostly out of his head is, objectively speaking, a great deal worse. "I'll get up."
Sam lets him stay curled up on the bed a while longer while the bath is running, but all too soon he drags him out from under the filthy sheet that's the only thing shielding him from the outside world and helps him hobble into the bathroom while the blood starts circulating in his legs again.
"I'll be right outside the door," Sam promises. "You tell me if you need anything."
The bath feels wonderful. He lets himself sink down as far as he can in the too-small tub, lets the water close over his head, then slowly begins soaping away the remnants of sickness still clinging to his skin, and does a half-assed job of shampooing his hair, ducking his head under the tap to rinse off afterward. It's awkward, but he manages well enough, and when he lifts his head, still dripping water onto his shoulders, Sam is waiting with a large, clean towel to wrap him up. Dean perches on the closed toilet lid, shivering, legs trembling too hard to hold him up on his own, while Sam uses a second towel to dry him off, rubbing his hair dry and even applying a comb to it after so it won't stick out all over the place, his movements brisk and gentle. It's more than he deserves, after everything he let happen.
Dean squeezes his eyes shut when they start to sting, and if Sam notices he doesn't say anything. He tugs a clean t-shirt over Dean's head, lets him deal with his boxers himself, pulls him to his feet to help him back into the bedroom. In another day, when Dean's had something to eat and doesn't still have what feels like a residual fever, he's not going to need to be propped up by his little brother. He blinks a little in surprise when they get back to the room.
"You changed the sheets?"
Sam snorts softly. "I wasn't letting you get back in that bed, man. It's gross. I aired out the room a little, too, while you were in the bath. Come on." He pivots them until they're both sitting on the bed, and Dean lets himself sink back onto the pillows. The pillow-cases smell like commercial detergent, and he doesn't care at all. "You want to try another juice box?"
"That wasn't exactly a request. More of a politely-phrased order," Sam hands him another box of the Pedialyte. "That one's strawberry."
Reluctantly Dean sits up again, letting Sam fuss with the pillows at his back. The strawberry doesn't taste as good as the grape, but he forces himself to drink anyway. "How you doing, Sammy?"
Sam pauses, still perched on the edge of the bed next to him. "I'm fine. Actually, as much as it sucked to have you this sick, it gave me something else to think about. Turns out that real distractions are pretty effective. If you don't like the strawberry I can get you an apple one," he adds, almost out of the blue.
"It's fine." Dean's almost finished with it anyway, takes a last swallow and inches slowly back under the sheets.
He finds himself watching his brother for —well, he's not sure what. Maybe signs of imminent breakdown, or something, but there's nothing in his face except concern and maybe mild amusement. For a moment he thinks Sam is going to get up, and he feels a weird pang of loss even at the idea, but then Sam just shifts closer and pulls the sheets up over his shoulders, and if he lets his hand linger on Dean's arm, well, Dean is too tired and sleepy to call him on it.
"You think you can go back to sleep?"
"That's the plan."
"Let me know if you need anything."
That should be Sam's cue to leave, but he just stays put, as though it's the most natural thing in the world for him to be half-perched on the bed next to his brother, one foot on the floor, the other leg pressed up against Dean's back, solid and warm and comforting. So Dean does what any self-respecting older brother would do and punches him neatly in the thigh before curling up more comfortably and going back to sleep.