Author's Note: This was written for the OhSam comment fic meme going on at Livejournal. The prompt was: "Sam should get sick, maybe in season 5 when the boys weren't that close again yet, and then sad that his big brother didn't notice and fix things right away. With Dean being awesome in the end."
It didn't end up exactly following the prompt, but what the hell.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything you recognize.
Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break.
- William Shakespeare
The day after they burned the picture in Bobby's fireplace, Sam woke up with a throbbing headache. He rolled away from the afternoon sunlight streaming through the dingy window, feeling miserable. But considering the last couple of days, he was hardly surprised. The hardware store explosion still echoed through his mind like a sick soundtrack while Lucifer's chilling words played like a song on repeat.
"I think it'll happen soon. Within six months. And I think it'll happen in Detroit."
"That's good, Sam. You keep fanning that fire in your belly. All that pent-up rage. I'm gonna need it."
"I was a son. A brother, like you, a younger brother, and I had an older brother who I loved. Idolized, in fact. And one day I went to him and I begged him to stand with me, and Michael—Michael turned on me. Called me a freak. A monster. And then he beat me down. All because I was different. Because I had a mind of my own. Tell me something, Sam. Any of this sound familiar?"
Sam's stomach turned and he stumbled out of bed in a desperate dash to the bathroom. He crashed to his knees and heaved violently into the toilet, every single drop of alcohol he'd consumed in the last day and a half coming back up in a painful torrent. The moment he and Dean had gotten back to Bobby's minus Ellen and Jo, all three had hit the bottle, stopping only to burn the picture in the only gesture of a hunter's farewell they could muster up for their friends and then eventually pass out.
He'd had never been able to hold his alcohol like Dean or Bobby so the hangover really didn't come as a surprise to Sam. The older hunters could drink him under the table and still not be affected the next day; once that had been a source of consternation for Sam, but at the moment he was just glad no one else needed the bathroom to puke. Plus, if they were drowning out their sorrows, it meant they weren't paying attention to Sam; just as well since sweaty and trembling on the bathroom floor was not how he wanted to be seen.
Sam draped one arm across the toilet seat and rested his damp forehead on it as he rode out the tremors racking his frame. He felt like he'd been turned inside out, but couldn't tell how much was from the vomiting and how much was from Lucifer's words. The moment the Devil had stirred and knocked Dean into that tree, a cold, dark pit had opened up in Sam's chest, sucking in everything but grief and despair. Even the angry fires that had long raged in his gut were tempered by the frigid hopelessness.
He shivered as another wave of nausea passed over him, and he dry-heaved into the toilet until he was sure he'd been systematically hollowed out like some twisted Sam-o-lantern, ready to be filled in by Lucifer to celebrate the Apocalypse. Sam choked back a broken sob at the thought and shakily pushed himself to his feet. He rinsed his mouth out and splashed some water in his face then glanced up. He hardly recognized the pale, sickly man looking back at him in the mirror.
Drunk or not, Bobby and Dean didn't need to see him like this, so Sam headed for the second floor library that Bobby kept some of his more obscure tomes in. He'd abandoned the thing since being paralyzed, occasionally needing Sam or Dean to grab an item from it for research. Sam had taken to the room as a kid, holing up in it for hours when Dad had dropped him and Dean off during a hunt. Bobby didn't use it often—more for storage than anything, though there was an ancient easy chair set up for reading that Sam had loved curling up in—so it felt like a secret refuge from the family Sam was starting to realize he didn't belong in.
And right now, what Sam needed was refuge, real or imagined.
He slipped into the room, turned on the light, and shut the door behind him. Dust jumped into the air as Sam moved around, and he sneezed. He crossed the room and opened the window that probably hadn't seen a washing in well over a decade.
The window overlooked the salvage yard, and Sam could hear mechanical clacks and bangs drifting across the air. Dean had fled to Bobby's garage yesterday afternoon to work on some of the cars Bobby hadn't been able to get to after his injury. Bobby needed the money and Dean needed the distraction—and with no Impala to rebuild, he'd turned to the next best thing. He'd only come back into the house to grab something to eat or drink, quickly retreating outside if anyone else was in the kitchen, or to shower and crash on the couch while Sam took the guest room they'd taken over as kids.
Sam briefly wondered if running the power tools in the garage drowned out the sound of the exploding hardware store in Dean's mind, or if cranking the wrenches and other tools made him, at least for a few moments, forget the feel of pulling the trigger on the Colt only for it to fail so spectacularly.
With a shake of his head, Sam turned to the bookshelves and started scanning titles, hoping to find something to take his mind off everything.
It was dusk when Sam realized he'd been sitting in the easy chair with a fat tome open in his lap that he hadn't turned the page of in over an hour. He didn't even remember what the book was about, only that looking at the words made his eyes hurt and trying to decipher any meaning made his head pound worse than it already was. He still felt queasy but didn't have anything left in his stomach to give up. His nose was running and his throat starting to itch, but Sam attributed that to sitting major dust build-up.
He closed the book and coughed at the dust cloud that blew into his face before exiting the library. He headed for the hall closet where he knew Bobby kept an extra med kit with painkillers and cough medicine. The usual med kit downstairs was mostly depleted from recent exploits and Sam didn't feel up to heading out to the Impala to check their own stock, especially when it could mean running into Dean.
Dean had been putting Sam ahead of himself since he was four years old. Whenever Sam had gotten sick as a kid, Dean had dropped everything to look after him, no matter what. But Dean needed time to himself right now to work through the loss, and Sam didn't want to distract Dean from that. It would be easier just to keep Dean from finding out at all.
But it was more than that, Sam realized with a sharp jolt as he dropped the med kit on the empty bed in the bedroom; things weren't the same as when they were kids. Sam had betrayed Dean for a demon and started the Apocalypse.
As much as Sam had rebelled against his overprotective family over the years, running to Flagstaff as a kid and eventually to California, he'd relied on the fact that they would always be there if he fell—which he always did. And they always had been. But Sam was sure he'd pushed Dean too far this time, and Dean's words right before they'd faced Lucifer pretty much confirmed it.
"I think I'm good."
He swallowed. More than anything, Sam didn't think he could bear Dean realizing he was sick and not worrying. That would break him faster than anything Lucifer could ever do or say.
Sam woke up the next morning, feeling hungover about ten times over, only he hadn't had anything to drink but water the day before. The early morning sunlight wafting through the window felt like a blinding spotlight on his face, and he rolled away from the window to find Dean's bed unused. He must have crashed on the couch again; considering Sam had woken up coughing during the night, that was probably for the best.
Lucifer had come to him in his dreams again last night, like most nights. Sam didn't remember much besides the patient, understanding look on his vessel's face and the gentle, affectionate tone that promised honesty and protection and peace.
"There's no need to hurt so much all the time, Sam," he'd said. "Fighting only brings you pain and suffering, and I would never hurt you." Sam had stood immobile as Satan caressed his cheek in a disturbingly parental gesture. "Say yes, and you'll finally be at peace, like you've wanted for so long."
Bile rose in Sam's throat and he nearly fell out of bed in his effort to bolt to the bathroom. He'd eaten some toast the day before—though it had turned to ash on his tongue and he'd avoided food after—and that made a violent reappearance. His throat burned like sandpaper and his head pulsed angrily with every heave.
Once it passed, Sam wiped the sweat from his brow and turned on the shower. He was covered in sticky sweat and the stale odor of illness and just wanted to be clean. He was about to step in when another bout of nausea twisted up his insides, and he slumped in front of the toilet and gagged for what felt like hours. Once he could see straight again, he decided a shower would take more effort than he had in him and turned off the shower before falling back against the tub in defeat.
Hours turned into one day, then two, and passed in a mixture of hasty staggering trips to the bathroom to throw up any meager amounts of food and water Sam got down so he wouldn't be trying to puke nothing and lingering stretches of lying in front of the toilet and on the bathroom floor as the shower ran to drown out the sounds of the sickness that left him exhausted and sore.
A couple of times Dean had irritably banged on the bathroom door when Sam was too spent to move and turn off the water.
"Bobby's gonna be furious about his water bill," he called through the door the first time. "Hurry it up."
The next time he'd been more impatient. "Come on, Sam," he growled. "Teenage girls don't spend this much time in the bathroom. Move it already."
Sam had willed himself to sit upright and turn off the water and give some reply Dean must have accepted as good enough both times.
On one hobbled trip back from the bathroom, Sam heard Dean and Bobby talking downstairs as he neared the stairwell. He passed his door and paused at the top of the stairs with one hand on the wall to keep his balance, listening.
"Last I remember, it was in the closet," Bobby was saying.
"I already checked there," Dean replied with an audible grimace.
"Well what do you want me to do about it?" Bobby grumbled. "Not like I can get up there and look."
"Yeah, I know."
"Did you ask Sam?"
A pause. "No, haven't seen him."
"He's been upstairs for the last three days. I hear him moving around the library and bedroom."
Bobby huffed an annoyed breath. "You're avoiding him."
"He's avoiding me," Dean shot back.
We're avoiding each other, Sam thought, surprised that the realization hurt. He'd been avoiding his brother, yes, but to hear that Dean was actively avoiding him as well irrationally bothered him. God he was screwed up.
"Whatever. Either go ask your brother about the kit or suck it up, ya idjit. Didn't think Winchesters whined for painkillers when they stubbed their toes."
Sam didn't wait to hear Dean's response. He turned away from the steps and shuffled back to the bedroom, which was littered with empty water bottles he'd nabbed to keep hydrated as well as used tissues and paper towels that he'd tried to shoot into the trashcan from the bed but missed. The med kit was spilled over Dean's bed with open pill bottles scattered across the bedspread.
He climbed back into his bed and wrapped the quilt tightly around his body, shivering at the slight breeze coming through the open window. He'd hoped to keep the sick smell from the room, but the moving air just made him colder, though he continued to sweat against the blankets and hoodie he'd donned. He shut his eyes against the heavy exhaustion weighing him down. He didn't expect Dean to come in and ask about the med kit, so he wasn't disappointed.
When Sam wasn't curled up on the bathroom floor sweaty and trembling or hung over the toilet as nausea and gagging racked him like he was a punching bag or stifling his burning coughs in a pillow on his bed or lying in bed watching the ceiling spin like a carousel haunted by a malevolent spirit, he slept.
And it was there Lucifer waited every single time.
The worse Sam felt, the harder it was to wake up, which gave Lucifer more time in his head. He didn't usually remember his dreams play-by-play, but the sentiment remained the same: Say yes. No one cares about you but me. You're all alone. Only I understand you. I can bring you peace. I can protect you and the ones you love. Say yes. Yes. Yes.
Sam always felt worse when he woke up from those dreams, which only worsened the whole circle of sickness. He was starting to wonder if he'd ever get out of it.
And he wondered once more when—or if—Dean would notice his situation.
Or if he would care.
The last thought made him just as nauseous as Lucifer's presence in his mind.
Sam's hands were braced on either side of the sink as he rinsed the taste of vomit from his mouth. The shower was still running in the background and the prospect of moving the five feet to shut it off was intimidating—and that wasn't even considering the walk back to the bedroom. Sam spit the water back into the sink and a wave of vertigo hit him. He shut his eyes and waited for it to pass with a quiet moan. Yeah, he might just spend a little while longer in the bathroom.
Sudden pounding on the bathroom door made Sam start in surprise, the motion making his queasy stomach gurgle in protest and Sam clamped his mouth shut.
"Bobby's in the downstairs bathroom and I've got to piss, Sam," Dean called. "You've been in here for over an hour! Open up!"
Sam opened his mouth to say…something, but he couldn't manage to form any words. Even breathing made his throat scream and his head was fuzzy, so formulating sentences seemed a bit too advanced at the moment. He considered his escape options instead. If he could just open the door, Dean would shove past him and lock himself in, giving Sam the chance to flee to the bedroom and avoid his brother's scrutiny.
He took a breath and straightened himself, but vertigo struck again and his vision swam. His feet tangled up beneath him and he stumbled backward. Sam's back slammed hard into the towel rack and his head whipped back into the wall with a crack. Pain flared behind his eyes and his vision went white; then he was floating, weightless, before everything went dark.
Sam's head floated above the clouds, which didn't make any sense since the rest of him felt weighted down, like his bones were made of lead. A breeze blew lightly across his face, ruffling his bangs—which weren't sweat dampened, he realized in surprise. He wasn't sure why they should have been, only that something was different.
He frowned when he noticed there was a sound on the air…something familiar. It came closer and he realized it was a voice. The breeze was warm and moist as it brushed his face, like a breath.
Sammy… the voice whispered. C'mon, bro. It sounded tired and worried and familiar and safe.
"Dean." It took Sam a second to realize that he'd spoken. But it felt right. Something inexplicably loosened in his chest.
"Sammy?" Dean asked, voice turning hopeful and recognition slammed into Sam like a two-by-four.
His eyes flew open only to be assaulted by the light. He screwed them shut again. Wait, light? Last he remembered, he'd been in the bathroom, and it didn't have a window. He opened his eyes more slowly this time and blinked up at the ceiling of the bedroom.
Sam turned his head toward the voice, mildly surprised that his head didn't want to explode at the movement, and saw Dean sitting on the edge of his bed leaning toward him, arms dangling between his knees. He looked pale and tired and like he hadn't shaved in a couple of days. But why…?
"Dean," Sam repeated, blinking tiredly.
"That's my name," Dean replied lamely.
Sam swallowed roughly and Dean grabbed a water bottle from the bedside table and stuck a straw in it. He helped Sam ease up a few degrees to take a long sip. That took just about all the energy Sam had and he slumped back onto his pillow, staring up at the ceiling. He was suddenly too nervous to look at his brother after all the avoiding they'd been doing since Carthage—this had been the exact situation he'd been trying to avoid, and yet here they were.
"What happened?" Sam asked after a long moment.
Dean shifted uncomfortably. Not sure what to make of that, Sam turned to look at his brother. There was a curious mix of expressions crossing Dean's face that Sam wasn't entirely sure what to make of in his hazy state.
"I found you passed out on the bathroom floor three days ago," he said at last.
Sam blinked blankly. "Oh."
Sam read the irritation flashing across Dean's face loud and clear. "Oh?" he echoed. "Oh? Jesus, Sam. After Ellen and Jo—" He cut himself off and tried again. "I was sure something…" He trailed off again, shaking his head. "How long have you been sick, Sam?"
Sam turned away again and licked his lips. This was it; this was what was going to break him after everything. He was going to answer truthfully because he was done lying to Dean, and Dean was…going to be angry or, worse, simply not care.
"How long, Sam?" Dean repeated, voice practically a growl.
"I was out three days?" he asked. He felt Dean's nod rather than saw it. "A week, then."
"A week." Dean's voice was flat.
"Yeah." Sam shut his eyes, unable to bear what he knew was coming next.
Sam's mattress dipped at his hip and he opened his eyes in surprise. He glanced in Dean's direction and watched as his brother ran a hand through his spiky hair. His posture was tired, downtrodden—just as Sam feared—but the looks crossing his face…
Worry. Anger. Guilt. Frustration.
Those weren't the looks of a brother who didn't care. But Sam wasn't sure if he was imagining it, sick and probably drugged up as he was, if he dared to hope…
Lucifer's voice echoed through his mind, catching the slow-building hope in his chest. You're all alone, Sam. He doesn't care about you, not really. Not like me.
"You were really sick," Dean said. "Bobby's pretty sure it was the flu. From the stress." He rolled his shoulders, like he'd rather be anywhere but here. His eyes were darting around the room, as if he couldn't bring himself to look at Sam. And Sam couldn't really blame him for either, as much as the thought hurt. Maybe Lucifer was right…
"Your fever didn't break until this morning."
"Dean—" Sam started. His brother didn't need to stay now that Sam was recovering, not when he clearly didn't want to share air with him.
Dean cut him off, grabbing onto Sam's wrist and gripping it tightly. Sam winced but Dean didn't let go. And Dean turned his gaze on Sam, who found himself unable to look away despite every instinct in his body screaming to flee, flee, flee.
"You scared the hell out of me, Sam," Dean said.
"Sorry," Sam whispered, barely able to find the words at the intense glint in Dean's eye. "I just—"
But Dean shook his head. "No, I get it. I get it way better than I wish I did."
Dean let out a harsh laugh that sent a shiver down Sam's spine. "I'm such a jackass," he said. "I should have seen the signs—the running shower and missing med kit and vanishing paper towels…"
That was just about the last thing Sam had been expecting to hear, so he stayed silent. He'd had a hard time reading his brother since Dean got back from Hell—not that he'd made much effort on his own part considering the demon blood and Lilith. How had they gotten so messed up around each other?
"We've been avoiding each other; of course you weren't going to tell me. You and Dad were usually the ones to get laser focused on something, but I…" Dean sighed and Sam thought back to the constant stream of clanks and thuds drifting in through the windows from the salvage yard while he was laid up. "I wasn't giving you much reason to talk to me. So believe me, Sam, I get it."
Dean quirked a wan smile and let go of Sam's wrist. "Doesn't mean I liked hauling your ass to bed, though. You're heavy, Sasquatch."
Sam grimaced at that, imagining what Dean must have thought finding him unconscious on the floor. By his look, he hadn't left Sam's side to change or shower in the three days he was out, either.
Really looking at his brother, Sam felt a rush of shame for thinking that Dean wouldn't care that he was sick. Despite everything—even the voicemail they hadn't dared broach—Dean had come for him in the convent, hadn't abandoned him to Lucifer. Yeah, there were trust issues, but Dean had called Sam back in despite his reservations, still hunted with him, and was willing to face both Heaven and Hell with his ex-junkie of a brother at his side.
"I'm sorry, Dean. I should have told you." Sam balled his hand into a weak fist and let it go. "It was just, after Ellen and Jo, I didn't want—"
"I told you, Sammy, I get it," Dean broke in. "And I mean it." He gave his brother a pat on the leg. "Just don't do it again, alright?"
Sam forced his own small smile at that. "Deal."
Dean nodded to himself. "Get some rest, kiddo. You've been out of it for awhile."
Sam yawned at the mere suggestion but fixed Dean with as much of a stare as he could muster. Considering Dean's amused look, it must not have been very impressive. "As long as you do, Dean."
Dean raised an eyebrow at that, but his smile widened just a bit. "Yeah, alright."
Sam nodded and shut his eyes as Dean rose from the mattress. Already nodding off, he listened to his brother's familiar footsteps head for the doorway, but he caught himself when the footsteps paused.
"I think I've got a job for when you're feeling better," Dean said and Sam opened his eyes. Dean was standing awkwardly in the doorway, looking back at Sam nervously.
"Yeah?" Sam asked, acknowledging the olive branch for what it was.
Dean relaxed slightly. Message received. "Got a call from an old hunting buddy of Dad's yesterday—Martin Creaser. Said he had a monster problem he could use some help on. If you're game. When, you know, you're feeling better."
Sam smiled slightly at that and nodded. A good old fashioned monster hunt could be just what they needed. "Yeah, sounds good."
Dean nodded, looking relieved and Sam shut his eyes once more. He didn't dream of Lucifer that night.