There's an unseen danger in the boys' motel room, and it's not just from the carpet stains ...
Sam stepped out of the Impala and sighed.
After a constructive afternoon's work at the town's pleasantly modern library, despite the frustration of the book he really wanted to look at being unavailable because someone else had already borrowed the damn thing, his sense of satisfaction deflated rapidly once he arrived back at the craphole motel the brothers had checked into earlier.
As motels went, it was skeevy even by the Winchesters' low standards. It didn't appear to have seen a decorator's brush (or a cleaner's mop for that matter) for the better part of a decade, and seemed to be held together largely by rust, mould and unfathomable carpet stains. Yep, Sam's initial assessment of the room as 'downtown cootie central' was spot on.
Add to that the fact that three phone calls to Dean whom Sam had left hours ago, sitting on his bed contentedly cleaning his guns, had gone unanswered; and Sam guessed his brother was either engrossed in watching porn, asleep after a lengthy flirtation with the magic fingers or gleefully enjoying a long shower, with the specific intention of using up all the hot water.
Whatever it was, all the signs were that Sam's evening was not shaping up to be a memorable one.
He sighed again as he cautiously pushed the door open.
"Hey dude," Sam glanced across the room toward where he had left Dean and frowned in confusion at the sight that met him.
Sitting slumped on the side of the bed, it was clear that he had showered some time ago; his thick, unkempt hair was spiky and slightly damp, and he appeared not to have bothered getting dressed beyond his T shirt and boxers. He was leaning listlessly against the wall, his head drooping onto his chest as if he was struggling to stay awake.
Around him, the detritus of his afternoon's work was still scattered across the bed. Partly-stripped guns and oily rags surrounded his inert body, and that's when Sam started to worry. Dean may have been a big kid at times; sure, he liked to goof off and play the clown, but one thing he never joked about was the brothers' arsenal. He knew well enough their lives depended on those guns and he never mistreated or neglected them. In that respect he was always deadly serious.
The realisation dawned on Sam that Dean had never acknowledged his original greeting; in fact he didn't seem to have noticed Sam was there at all.
"Dude?" Sam frowned as he began to slowly approach the bed; "you been drinking?"
This time Dean flinched, looking up in Sam's direction. Sam could see his eyes, heavy-lidded and glassy, drifting softly in and out of focus as he squinted, trying to make sense of where the voice came from.
He mumbled imperceptibly, a sound rumbling deep in his chest, and blinked slowly.
"S'm?" he slurred, the word sounding like he wasn't in full control of his mouth, and tried to push himself up away from the wall, swaying droopily as he did so.
Sam dropped to his knees before him and stared up into Dean's vacant face, clutching his hunched shoulders to steady him. His breath caught in his throat when he noticed the faint blue tinge to Dean's lips and nose; "Dean, you look like hell, what's wrong?"
Dean blinked again, shakily licking dry lips which seemed to make them only drier.
"H'dache," he murmured.
"You got a headache? Is it bad?" Sam asked, his hand moving down to grasp one of Dean's limp hands as he tried to make sense of his brother's strange condition, confident by now this - whatever it was - was nothing to do with something as simple as alcohol.
Dean stared blankly at him as if the question was difficult to comprehend.
Sam looked up into the glassy, green eyes and could see they still weren't focussing on his face; "pie? Dude, you never said anything about pie."
Dean's head seemed to droop again, as if he was nodding back to sleep, but he managed to regain his equilibrium. Licking his lips again, he gazed at Sam from under unevenly matched eyelids, and drooping lashes. "Wan'pie."
"Dean?" Sam squeezed Dean's hand; "c'mon man, forget the pie, you're scarin' me; what about your headache?"
He noticed Dean's chest heaving, pulling in harsh, shallow breaths; pausing to swallow deeply and noisily as if he were choking back a wave of nausea.
"S'mmy? You there?" Dean mumbled plaintively, looking straight through Sam's concerned face.
Sam scraped a hand through his hair as his eyes scanned his brother's hunched body, and it was then the awful realisation dawned. He saw it; on the wall behind Dean's bed.
An ancient, rust-caked water heater.
A poorly maintained water heater in a poorly maintained, poorly ventilated room; Sam's eyes widened in horror as two words floated through his mind.
The time for talking was done. Without hesitation, Sam stood, stooping deeply and grasped both of Dean's arms, pulling his brother unceremoniously over his shoulder. Gripping his precious burden tightly, he turned and strode across the room.
Throwing the door open he stepped outside and headed for the Impala. He could hear Dean's quietly confused protests at the rough and undignified treatment, but he couldn't take the time to care as he unlocked her and gently decanted Dean into her back seat.
Winding down all her windows in the hope that the resulting breeze would kick-start Dean's recovery process, Sam jogged back to the room, briefly pondering what to do about the abandoned guns.
In the end, he threw a comforter from the other bed across them, and slammed the door behind him. Later, Dean would probably bitch and whine at such cavalier treatment of his beloved arsenal, but right now Sam had far more important things to worry about.
Returning to the Impala, he climbed into the drivers seat and gunned the engine.
He glanced into the rear-view mirror, seeing Dean's listing figure half-sitting, half-laying behind him.
"Dude, no sleepin' you hear me," he scolded gently.
All he got for his trouble was a muffled murmur, barely audible over the wind rushing across the Impala's interior through all her open windows.
"Dean," louder this time; "stay with me man, talk to me."
Dean murmured quietly; "where'shmypie?"
"Soon bro, pie soon,"Sam allowed himself a smile as he heard Dean stir, and felt his knee bump the back of the drivers seat; "until then, tell me what you know about this job."
There was no audible response.
A low grumble was all that Sam got for his trouble.
"No dude," Sam snapped sternly; "no sleepin', not until we're at the hospital."
Sam could feel his heart racing; he needed Dean to stay awake but he couldn't watch Dean and watch the road at the same time. He knew that if Dean slipped into unconsciousness, then recovery could be a longer and harder road; he needed Dean to fight.
He watched Dean's shoulders slump as his body listed wearily to one side, and Sam suddenly knew what he had to do; he would have to take advantage of Dean's disorientated condition.
And it broke his heart to do it.
He lowered the register of his voice and spoke; "Dean," he barked gruffly, "you gotta man up son; I said no goddamn sleeping."
Despite the fact that the words came out of his own mouth, the voice sounded so much like John's it even scared Sam.
Dean flinched and gripped the back of the drivers seat, hauling himself into something resembling a sitting position. His glassy eyes suddenly wide with alarm; "yessir; s'rry," he mumbled meekly.
Sam inwardly begged for Dean's forgiveness for pulling such a low trick as he floored the accelerator.
He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the imposing hulk of the local hospital looming up toward him. At the same time he could see Dean's watery green eyes staring out from beneath his furrowed brow in the rear view mirror. Dean had barely so much as blinked since his 'father' had spoken.
Two hours later, Sam found himself sitting beside a hospital bed containing his brother. Dean lay propped up against a mountain of pillows staring at him from over the top of an oxygen mask, his eyes crinkled softly as he managed a watery smile under the mask for Sam's benefit.
Moderate levels, they had said; moderate levels of Carbon Monoxide in Dean's blood. In real terms that meant Dean would feel like crap for a day or two, but he would recover, almost certainly with no ill effects. Sam closed his eyes and inhaled deeply when he thought about that other book he'd wanted to look at. If he had found that book and spent another hour at the library …
He wanted to find whoever had borrowed that book, and shake them by the hand.
However, until then, he owed Dean the best pie he could find.