OUTSIDE THE BOX
Sam's good at thinking 'outside the box'. This isn't always a good thing.
The 'flu had come on frighteningly quickly.
This morning, Dean had been fine; well, fine if you took into account the headache that he was clearly nursing. Bless him - he still hadn't worked out that Sam could read the sneaky squinting, brow wrinkling and temple-kneading like an open book.
You know, for a smart guy, Dean really was a bit slow on the uptake sometimes.
But it wasn't all bad; he had wolfed down an oil-slick of a breakfast like a man starved, so Sam just pretended he hadn't seen the two aspirins slip down with Dean's second coffee.
That had been the last time they saw any signs of civilisation as the Impala sailed through mile after achingly dull mile of featureless agricultural landscape with her increasingly sickening driver slumping lower and lower over the steering wheel, viewing a blurring, swimming world through glassy, tired eyes from under leaden lashes.
It was when she skidded over onto the verge with Dean tumbling out of the door as breakfast made a sudden and highly vocal reappearance that Sam, as much out of a sense of self-preservation as a sense of sympathy, felt compelled to take over driving duties.
It was early evening before, to Sam's incalculable relief, the suburbs of a small town began to appear through the Impala's windshield in the fading light; and just a further five minutes before she rolled to a halt into the parking lot of the Sleepeeze motel.
Sam had to shake Dean awake before he could attempt to help him into the room, sucking in a sharp breath when he felt the heat radiating through his brother's jacket.
Dean's breathing had taken on a harsh wheeze, and the glistening flush blossoming across his cheekbones was the last sign that Sam needed to know for sure that they were both in for a rough night.
Sam decanted Dean into the room's first bed, wrestling him out of his top layer of clothes and guessing that the catsick green walls probably weren't going to help Dean's fragile belly in any way; in fact he reflected how they were making him feel queasy and he wasn't even ill.
He decided to allow his brother to drift off into the healing sleep that he clearly needed, making himself a coffee and having a brief shower before he judged the time had come when Dean's need for medication outweighed his need for sleep.
"Dean;" Sam gently shook his brother awake.
"Nnnnguuuh; wha … g'way;" Dean blinked painfully, watery eyes struggling to focus on Sam's smiling face.
"gonna give you some meds."
Groaning softly, Dean sunk back down into the pillow, huffing out a shuddering breath.
"Dean!" Sam shook a little harder
"C'mon Dean, open up;" Sam carefully slipped a mercury thermometer between Dean's creamily pale lips.
Dean drifted cross-eyed as he tried to focus on the thermometer in his mouth. He looked up hazily at the concerned face hovering over him.
"S-S-ham?" he murmured clumsily around the thermometer.
"Fou' our 'momter wa' b-roken?"
Sam smiled; fluent in Dean-mumbleze, he understood exactly what his brother was trying to say.
"It was," Sam replied softly; "I managed to get hold of a new one today."
"'Ow?" Dean asked, stifling a cough as he irritably manoeuvred the thermometer with his tongue; "we ain' s-seen a siggle st-hore all day …"
Sam nodded in agreement.
"Yeah, I know; but I saw a vet's truck parked outside one of the cattle barns we drove past, so I parked up the Impala while you were having some shut eye an' I just kinda helped myself while no-one was looking."
Dean spat out the thermometer so hard it bounced off the wall.