The Fox and the Hound
By San Antonio Rose

Someone told me long ago
There's a calm before the storm,
I know,
Been that way for all my time...

It's been this way all their lives, since Dean was four years old. Every time he has a fever—every time—the hallucinations start.

No, Daddy, I don' wanna move... Sammy's just made friends... we got a baseball game Saturday, Daddy, please let us stay a few more days...
I'm sorry, Dad, I s-sh-sh-shouldn'ta gone to the arcade... is Sammy okay? The, the shtriga didn't hurt him, right?
Mommy, Mommy, I miss you so much, why'd you have to die...

Mom wasn't dead. Dad never forced them to move. Nobody'd ever heard of a shtriga or half of the other things that showed up in Dean's fever dreams. And nobody knew why Dean got these spells. At first they only embarrassed Sam, but the older Dean got, the worse the dreams got, and the more worried Sam got—so worried, in fact, that he turned down Stanford in favor of going to the police academy with Dean there in Lawrence because a dangerously feverish Dean pleaded with him not to leave. Sam thought then that maybe ensuring that their world was nothing like the hallucinations would make them stop.

It hasn't. Not even moving to Las Vegas has. They've only gotten worse in the last three years, and they've had zilch to do with the nightmarish stuff the brothers have seen as homicide investigators. And Sam thinks it's only the grace of God that's kept Dean from turning into an anti-social functional mute like Sheppard.

Just yesterday, in fact, Sam found himself spilling his guts about Dean's latest bout of flu—dude has the worst immune system, seriously—to Keller, the new assistant ME. Why, he had no clue. He doesn't even like her all that much, and even if he did think she was attractive, she's got something going with that new FBI agent, McKay. But she is a doctor, and Dean had been raving about demons and hellhounds and killing Lilith, pleading with Sam not to use his powers (!) to get him out of some kind of deal, and Sam... just didn't know what to do anymore. Keller listened sympathetically and told him to call if Dean got any worse; she knew of a place out in the desert where he might be able to get some help.

Dean's worse, all right. He's convinced he has hours to live, and the shivering he's doing isn't all from the chills. Every time the dog down the street barked, Dean flinched. So Sam called, and now he's following Keller's directions through the starlit desert, CCR on the Impala's stereo and Dean curled up beside him on the front seat, a quivering ball of feverish fear.

When it's over, so they say,
It'll rain a sunny day,
I know,
Shining down like water...

Suddenly the headlights fall on what looks like an old man with long white hair and black clothes crouched by the side of the road. He doesn't seem to be in much better shape than Dean is, and Sam gets the sense that he really needs help. So, against his better judgment, he pulls over, checks his sidearm, and opens the door.

Dean's teeth are chattering. "S-S-Sammy... c-careful... d-d-d-don't listen to Ruby... can't trust demons..."

"I'll be careful, Dean, I promise," Sam whispers, running a hand through Dean's hair before he slides out of the car.

It's quiet out tonight, and dark; there's not even a moon for the coyotes to howl at, which makes Sam glad. He doesn't think Dean could handle hearing coyotes right now. As it is, the loudest sound he can hear is the gravel crunching under his feet as he makes his way down the shoulder to the spot where the old man is hunched against the desert wind, seemingly freezing despite his elaborate leather coat, his skin grey in the headlights.

"Sir?" Sam says, gently putting a hand on the man's shoulder. "Would you come with me, please? I can get you some help—" He breaks off with a gasp when the man slowly lifts his head and Sam gets a good look at his face.

Yellow, reptilian eyes. Shiny grey skin with prominent veins. Holes that look like nostrils on his cheeks. No eyebrows, but a starburst tattoo around his left eye. A patch of white beard beneath a mouth full of sharp teeth. But whatever it is—it, not he, it's not human, it can't be—it's clearly not well; its eyes look glazed, and it shivers beneath Sam's hand.

"I hunger," it rasps in a harsh, distorted whisper.

Sam swallows and resists the urge to put a bullet in the thing's brain. "Come with me, then. We'll get you some food."

Its right hand flexes as it stands slowly, looking at Sam and sniffing a little like a cat. Then it chuckles weakly. "No. I will take nothing from you—it would be... ungracious."

Sam blinks. "I can't just leave you here."

"No. I will come... Sam Winchester."

Sam's eyes fly wide open, and he recoils a step. "How do you know my name?"

It chuckles a little again. "They say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."

And suddenly Sam hears Dean staggering up behind him. "S-Sammy... Wraith..." He says the word like he's trying to warn Sam not to step on a rattlesnake.

The not-man—the Wraith?—makes a little noise like a harsh hiss. "He knows. He sees."

Sam frowns at it as Dean stumbles into him, catching his brother without looking. Dean's burning up; it's a wonder he has the strength to stand at all. "Are you saying... my brother's psychic?"

"After a fashion," it replies, stepping closer, its hand still flexing. "Other worlds. But he is dying. I can help... but I hunger..."

"Sammy, no," Dean breathes.

Sam swallows. "Do what you have to."

It pulls open his shirt—good thing the shirt has snaps!—and slams its right hand onto Sam's chest, and for a moment all Sam knows is searing pain and Dean screaming in his ear. Then the pain stops and the Wraith backs away, looking better but making a visible effort to stop himself from taking more of whatever he took from Sam. It pants harshly a couple of times, then advances on Dean, who struggles in Sam's grasp but can't get away before the same hand makes contact with Dean's chest. Dean cries out... but the fever breaks, and the Wraith backs off, looking slightly the worse for wear.

"What the hell did you do?" Dean demands, sounding breathless but lucid.

"Brothers... you would give your lives for each other," the Wraith replies, sounding oddly gentle. "I simply... performed a transfusion."

Then it collapses.

Dean helps Sam get it into the back seat of the Impala, and they go on to the place Keller told Sam to go to get help for Dean, which turns out to be Area 51. Keller's actually waiting for them when they get there, and a bunch of Marines hustle the Wraith away while Keller runs tests to figure out what's going on with Dean. Her best theory is that, like the Wraith suggested, Dean is mildly psychic in a way that allows him to see into other realities when he's feverish, and the Wraith apparently took five years off Sam's life and gave three of them to Dean. The thing's an alien, one of a race of space vampires (at least that's Dean's summary of Keller's explanation). It may or may not have fixed Dean's immune system; it's too early to tell.

Three days later, the FBI insists that they transfer to Colorado Springs. A few months after that, they hear through the grapevine that Sheppard was killed in the line of duty, chasing down a serial killer. They go back for the funeral, but nobody else seems to actually mourn the poor guy, and Dean resents that on Shep's behalf. Sure, Shep had his problems, but Dean knows there's another reality where they were the ones living in their classic car and hunting down monsters no one else knew about. And he wasn't that bad of a guy if you got past the silence.

A month or two after that, Dean catches a cold. Sam finds him in the bathroom, paused in the middle of rubbing Mentholatum on his chest to stare at the scar the Wraith had left behind, five finger points and a long slash from the slit in its palm. Sam's the only one who ever gets to see that scar; he's got one just like it.

"Dean?" Sam asks quietly. "You okay?"

"Yeah," Dean returns. "I still... I still see it sometimes, Sam. It's still there. But I think... I like Todd better than Cas. Todd got it, y'know? Cas doesn't, not yet." And he rubs at his left deltoid and shivers a little.

"Doesn't get what?"

Dean meets his eyes. "You and me. That we'd give our lives for each other, no matter what. We might go at it completely the wrong way—"


"—but we're family, right? We save each other. That's what we do."

Sam pulls his shivering, sniffling brother into a hug. Apparently that's one constant in both realities. "Yeah. We do."

I wanna know,
Have you ever seen the rain
Comin' down on a sunny day?