A Christmas Without You
Summary: A fight between them on Christmas Eve leaves Sam alone to face more than the tension with Dean as he also must struggle to survive being out in a snowstorm while sick. Will Dean find his brother in time as Sam tries to keep a promise they made to one another years ago. Sick!Sammy/ Big brother/worried!Dean
Spoilers: Nothing real spoilery. Happens in Season 4 after the episode with the Siren.
Warnings: Some minor language.
Disclaimer: I don't own the boys or anything to do with them. This is written for fun.
Author Note: A little late but it's still winter so sorry for the delay. Enjoy.
SPN SPN SPN SPN SPN
"Sammy, it's better this way."
"No. You said we'd always be together on Christmas, Dean. I don't want to spend it somewhere else."
"Yeah, well, at least your school pal's folks have real food. All that's at the motel is peanut butter and jelly and…"
"Then we'll eat PB&J but at least we'll be together…like you promised."
"Just like you promised…"
Sam Winchester's brain might've been burning with fever, concussed and scattered right then but he still recalled the promise his older brother had made to always spend Christmas together. They'd been apart his four years at college but since getting back together they'd spent the holidays together…even the last one before Dean went to Hell.
He'd been looking forward to Christmas this year to maybe make up for his hesitance last year and to hopefully break through the barriers Dean had been putting up since coming back but he'd felt the distance between them getting bigger until this last mess with the Siren really screwed things up.
Coughing into his hand, Sam pulled the hood of his heaviest hoodie that he'd thrown on to help deal with the cold weather tighter around his face as the wind seemed to pick up.
Sam had known that his brother was having trouble adjusting to things since his return, since learning that Angels were real, since finding out that Sam had been using his abilities to help Ruby kill demons. He'd known that and had tried to be patient but when Dean began shutting him out more and more it had hurt more than Sam expected.
He accepted that a lot of what Dean was saying was true, especially about Ruby but there was still some piece of him that wavered when she was around and that was what had caused this latest fight and ended up with Dean walking out that morning and how Sam found himself walking with his duffel bag through the heavy snow to find someplace for the night since he hadn't been expecting the cold he'd been fighting for a week to rear its ugly head just as he was confronted in an alley by a small gang of hoods looking for an easy mark on top of a mix-up at the motel landing him without a room.
So as he walked along the deserted road to where he hoped would be some type of shelter until the morning when he could find a phone to either call Dean or Bobby since he was reluctant to call on Ruby after she'd been the one to ignite the fight with Dean, Sam forced his mind to stay alert by recalling the other Christmas's that he'd been apart from his brother.
Only the years while he'd been at Stanford could he recall not being with his brother during the holidays and despite what most people might think, despite spending most of those with Jessica's family, he just hadn't cared for spending Christmas without Dean.
Sam had grown up on the road. Living in motels or in the Impala occasionally and it had normally always been him and Dean for Christmas. Oh, he accepted that his Dad had tried to do the best he could for them but considering how single minded John Winchester was about hunting, there were usually more important things than spending Christmas with his sons so it ended up being him and his big brother alone and managing the best he could.
When Sam was small, he understood now how hard Dean had worked to make sure he had food on the table and a roof over his head in those times when John didn't come back on time. He understood now how hard it had been on his brother to keep up the façade of a normal life for Sam, to make sure he kept his innocence for as long as possible and he recalled the pain in Dean's eyes the Christmas when he lost that innocence.
Coughing again, this time Sam lost his balance as the heaviness in his chest seemed to make breathing difficult and he finally gave up, sitting down on the side of the road until he got his breath back and things stopped spinning so much.
"Damn," Sam knew he should've told Dean he was sick but after the tension between had increased thanks to Ruby and the Siren he hadn't wanted to since he was almost afraid to find out that his brother didn't care one way or the other.
Wishing his phone still worked after he'd dropped it in the alley even before the attack while giving his heavier coat to an older woman along with most of his cash, Sam's hand slipped into his duffel bag and felt the small box that he'd just wrapped that morning for his brother.
He'd been unsure what to get Dean this year for Christmas since while they always had spent it together and it had always been important to his brother, their gifts to one another had normally been silly or gag gifts. Sam couldn't recall the last time he'd given his brother an actual gift that had held meaning…except for the year he'd given him his amulet.
Last year Sam had been so raw during Christmas, knowing it was Dean's last before going to Hell that he hadn't had the heart to buy what he'd wanted to get and had fallen back on the standard porn magazine and a quart of oil for the Impala.
This time he'd planned ever since he realized that Dean was really back, that he wasn't alone anymore, and had chosen what he'd hoped would be the perfect gift. Now he wondered if he'd ever have the chance to give it to him because he was fast realizing that between the wet cough, the spinning of his eyes and the fact that he knew he was running a fever on top of being in the middle of no where in what was fast becoming a snow storm that his odds of even surviving the night were slim.
"Dean…" Sam whispered, scrubbing a hand over his eyes and was unaware of the tears that were slowly turning to ice as he struggled to try to get back to his feet in order to either keep moving before he succumbed to the cold or to move back further from the road to what little shelter the thin row of trees offered.
Sluggish legs seemed to have a hard time moving in the deeper snow here as a sudden coughing fit mixed with a hard sneeze took the young hunter down to his knees and he finally collapsed onto his duffel which had kept him from falling face first into the cold, wet snow.
"…hate…snow," he mumbled, giving up on trying to stand again, Sam just twisted so he was on his back with his head on the duffel to stare at the starry night sky that seemed to be coming out now that the snow had turned into a soft downfall.
Cold and stiff fingers seemed to gravitate toward his broken phone as he stared at it for a long time before his feverish mind seemed to lose focus and dialed by hand a number he knew he'd never forget. Even though the still lucid part of him knew the phone was dead and no one would pick up the other part, the sick, frightened part just knew even speaking to his brother over an imaginary call might keep him going through the night or until he passed out.
"Hey, Dean, it's me…Sam. Um, I know you aren't getting this but I thought I'd pretend you're on the other end. I know you thought I wanted to spend Christmas with Ruby but…I didn't. I told her not to call or come around cause I just wanted it to be us. I wanted this year to be better for us since I gave you such a hard time last Christmas…kinda wanted to make up for it this year but…I guess I can understand if you don't want to spend it with me…considering what I've done or stuff."
Blinking to clear his eyes, Sam struggled to try to roll to his side to get to an elbow as his chest seemed to want to close in on his lungs and he was forced to cough and wasn't sure the rattling he heard was a good thing but had to fall back when he was too weak.
"Screwed up…got us tossed from the motel so I'm glad…you took your stuff and that my…laptop was in your bag so it won't get wet in this snow. Broke my phone…kinda have been sick so I don't think I'll be going anywhere now," he murmured, reaching up to rub his eyes only to learn that he couldn't move his fingers real well so he shoved back the sudden burst of fear that was settling on him as he wished his brother could hear him, could find him. "I…got you something so…if you ever find it…me…or well something…anyway, I'm gonna go now cause I'm sure you're busy or something…or warm at least…just wanted to let you know that I…I'm sorry you're mad at me, I'm sorry I disappointed you and…I'm sorry I finally made you break your promise to spend Christmas together. Merry Christmas, De'n…"
Sam closed his eyes to try to get rid of the blurry vision caused by both tears he couldn't seem to explain and the fever he assumed was spiking since he wasn't feeling quite as cold anymore. Laying his head back on his duffel, he glanced up one last time before deciding to try to sleep the night away and frowned a little at the too bright looking star that seemed to be in the sky directly over him.
"Star of Bethlehem," he mumbled with a small smile, recalling the Christmas Eve nights that he and Dean would sit out for a short time so he could look for Santa and Dean would always tell him the story of the First Christmas and how the Three Wisemen had found the baby Jesus.
Thinking of those nights made him recall how simple his life had been when it was just him and Dean growing up. Before the problems of recent years had begun to come between them and finally had cost him both his brother and very likely his life since he knew was still lucid enough to know the cold would kill him long before Dean got interested in finding him.
Closing his eyes, Sam rolled over to try to shield himself from the snow even as the fever and the cough took a final toll and he felt himself falling down into darkness with thoughts of his childhood and Dean running free in his mind and the last thing he thought he heard was his name being called when things finally went black.
Warmth surrounding him even as cool cloths touched his face and wrists, Sam moaned while trying to move only to find his wrists held down by a firm grip that he tensed from instinctively until the grip shifted to squeeze lightly, reassuringly.
"Sammy, wake up for me before I really do have to take you to an ER or worse Bobby shows up with that mustard pack recipe he was trying to tell me over the phone. I was gagging just from the ingredients so I'd hate to actually smell the damn thing."
Nearly convinced the fever he knew he had was making him hallucinate, Sam once again tried to move only to gag when his nose was pinched shut and he swallowed in reflex only to nearly gag on the foul tasting liquid that burned all the way down his throat.
"Yep, that was the only way I could get you to swallow medicine when you were a kid too. Only then it was a helluva lot easier to sit on you than it is now," the dry voice sounded calm but the undercurrent of concern could still be heard by someone who knew the man speaking, even if it was hard to believe the voice was real until the hand that was gripping Sam's moved up cautiously to card long strong fingers back through sweat soaked hair with a mutter about fevers, snowstorms and pain in the ass little brothers. "Sam, give me a sign that you're in there or the next call I make is 911."
Struggling to open a tired eye, or at least the one that was willing to open just then, Sam was a little panicked when all he saw at first was nothing but a black blur until he realized he moved his hand just enough to touch and felt the material of a T-shirt which made him relax until his memories came back and he tried to sit up, move and speak all at the same time and found himself gasping for air.
"…De'n?" he managed to get out in between gasps as his chest seemed to burn and his head pounded in time with his rapidly beating heart. "You…how…this real?"
Giving his still fevered, in shock, badly sick and hurt little brother a chance to get his bearings, Dean Winchester stood back a little bit from where he stood close enough to make a grab if he thought he'd have to but looked at Sam with the critical eye of an older brother who had raised the young man in question.
Dean had been kicking himself from the moment he walked out on Sam earlier that day but his already injured pride and bitterness kept him from going back…until his own guilt finally had gotten to him.
He knew Sam and despite the changes in his brother these past several months there was one thing that Dean knew that Sam hadn't let go of and that was the promise to always spend Christmas together and he'd tried to keep that promise at least…except for the years that Sam was in college and even then he'd made it a point to swing by to check on his brother.
This year he'd known that Sam had been trying to make up for the last year when he hadn't wanted to celebrate it at all because it would be their final one before Dean's deal came due. Dean wasn't sure if it was the stress between them, the involvement of Ruby or what it was that had caused the final fight that day. He just knew that his brother really hadn't deserved the crap he'd laid on him before storming out.
Dean wasn't blind or stupid. He'd suspected that Sam was getting sick because his brother had little tells that he'd always shown when sick. Yet he'd still been too hurt, too willing to allow the darker emotions stirred up by the Siren and Sam's belief in Ruby to keep him from doing what he knew he should have.
It wasn't until the first call had come in that warned him that he'd woefully underestimated just how sick his brother was and how well he'd hidden it from Dean. The motel manager's wife had called Dean's phone to apologize for the misunderstanding that had caused them to lose their room and she was hoping his brother had caught up to him since he hadn't been looking good after those thugs in some alley had jumped him while he'd been giving his coat to some old woman on top of clearly being ill.
The anger had begun the moment he'd heard that the motel manager had tossed Sam out with no warning, at night, and with no where else to go. The anger turned to rage when he realized his brother had been jumped by some punks and while he knew Sam was more lethal now than he was used to, he also knew Sam still wouldn't have killed a normal human…especially if they got the jump on him. Finally, the word sick, fevered, coughing sank in and Dean knew he'd let it go too far.
Then as he'd been trying to call his brother or locate him by GPS, the second call had come in and while something told him that his voice was going through, he listened to the soft, slurred, fevered voice of his sick brother and the more Sam talked the more panicked Dean was getting until one of the last phrases was heard and Dean used that as a homing beacon to find Sam passed out on the side of the road, covered in snow, burning with fever with a rattle in his chest that Dean recognized right off as the beginning of pneumonia.
"Yeah, I'm real, Sammy," he finally replied, reaching for a flailing arm to help his brother back onto the hastily gotten motel's only bed left on Christmas Eve. "You probably won't be listening to that for the next few days until this fever breaks fully but right now plant yourself back in bed before you faceplant on the floor."
Looking at the hand that was gripping his bicep carefully as if it didn't want to hurt him, Sam slowly slumped back on the double bed to look through bleary, watery eyes to begin to bring into focus his brother.
Letting himself be settled back on the bed with pillows placed carefully around him as they would be when he'd been small so Dean and their Dad didn't have to worry about a fevered Sammy rolling out of bed in his restless sleep, he strained to get a good look and was surprised at what he could see.
Dean had shed both the leather jacket and the long sleeved overshirt in favor of just a black T-shirt to combat the heat of the motel room as he struggled to keep Sam warm despite the fever. He also noticed his brother's short hair was showing signs of restless fingers being run through it…much like he knew Dean did when on edge or worried…but he still couldn't figure out how his brother had even found him much less why he'd be worried about him.
"How'd you…why're you…De'n?" Sam's head fell back to the pillow to feel something cool lightly lay against his forehead.
"Yeah, Sammy?" reaching unerringly for the bottle of Gatorade he'd stocked up on earlier, Dean uncapped one of the blue drinks to hold it up for his brother to sip from. "Drink this."
"I feel…like crap," Sam mumbled, wanting to toll over and just go to sleep only to have a hand keep him flat while his fever was again tested.
Dean chuckled, slightly more at ease now that Sam's fever was slowly coming down. "You are so sick, dude," he acknowledged, then frowned a little as he stared at his brother's pale face to the skinny little tree that he'd managed to find last minute. "When that hit, Sam?"
"Started before the Siren thing," Sam yawned, blinking as he suddenly began shivering violently and a warm blanket was quickly being wrapped around him. "Figured I could handle it…then it got worse and…why is it so cold?"
Big brother knowledge and years of dealing with a sick brother told Dean what was happening and while it was good in one way, he knew that the next few hours as Christmas Eve dawned on Christmas Day were not going to be fun for Sam as his fever broke finally and his body was now readjusting.
"You're fever broke, little brother. That's all," Dean quickly reached for another blanket but then discarded that in favor of grabbing his battered leather jacket to wrap it around his brother much like their Dad would when either of them had been sick. "You're gonna be fine, Sam. Just go to sleep and…I'll be here when you wake up."
Blinking sleepily, Sam fought sleep now to watch as Dean eased up to the headboard to sit beside him while flicking the TV on low just so there'd be noise in the room. "You…said…" he yawned but didn't seem to be aware of when he eased closer like he would as a kid.
"I made a promise, Sammy. We'd always spend Christmas together and…I'm sorry I made you think I didn't want to," Dean replied quietly, waiting until he'd felt his brother relax more into sleep to lay a newspaper wrapped package next to him on the bed so Sam would see it when he woke up. "I'm sorry I walked out and that you didn't think I'd want to know if you were sick. No matter what else, we're brothers and I'll always have your back."
Sam's mind was deep into sleep but he still heard the words but more importantly he felt the familiar signs being lightly traced on his shoulder which was something his brother would do when they'd been younger and Dean would be trying to reassure his brother or soothe him after a nightmare.
Now, it let Sam know he wasn't alone on this Christmas Eve and his brother had kept his promise. Sam wouldn't be spending Christmas alone after all…he just had to get over this and wake up before the New Year to appreciate it.
Waiting to be sure Sam was asleep, Dean eased off the bed to see what could be salvaged from his brother's snow covered and wet duffel. Laying the wet or damp clothes to one side so he could dry them once things were open again, the elder Winchester reached into a side pocket to bring out a small newspaper wrapped box with his name on it.
"What's this, Sasquatch?" he turned the bag inside out to dry before sitting on the floor with this back to the bed so he'd still be close in case Sam woke during the night.
Tearing the paper, he frowned at the plain box then blinked when he opened it and gingerly removed a still encased in plastic wrap cassette tape of the very tape of Def Leppard he'd lost the year Sam was fourteen and being testy.
"Sonuvabitch," he whispered, looking up at his sleeping brother to see that Sam had finally managed to roll to his side on the edge of the bed closest to him while drawing the leather jacket tighter around him to keep warm and with a full smile, that was rare for him these days, Dean eased up to tuck his jacket in more around Sam but left his hand on Sam's shoulder. "Thanks, Sammy," he murmured, hearing a soft mumble and chuckling. "Merry Christmas to you too…bitch."
"…Jerk," Sam mumbled in his sleep then relaxed into sleep only to wake sometime later to the sound of Church bells off in the distance as they rang in Christmas Day. "Dean?"
Looking around for his brother, Sam felt a brief burst of panic at perhaps Dean had left only to look down beside the bed to see his brother sacked out on top of a thin blanket since he'd used all the heavy blankets to keep Sam warm.
Moving a weak arm to pull a blanket off the bed in order to give it to Dean, Sam's fingers touched the package next to him and despite still being weak and sick since his chest still felt like it had glue inside it, he was curious as to what his brother would've wrapped that felt so lumpy and large since normally they just got each other small things.
Trying to peak inside without tearing the paper and waking Dean, Sam felt soft material under his fingers then his curiosity won out and he tore into the gift to stare. The new jacket was warm with pockets inside and out and he could tell it had an attached hood that could be removed. Running a hand over the jacket, Sam felt his eyes sting when he pulled a note from the pocket.
"'Always seemed to me being the one to buy you new jackets, Sammy. I noticed the one you had was looking kinda worn so I'd already planned on buying you a new one…then you decided to get the crap kicked outta you while giving that one away so I guess it became a necessity as well as a gift.
"'We have issues now, little brother and we probably will have but no matter the problems…you're still my baby brother and no one jumps you without me feeding them their lungs. We will always spend Christmas together, Sam because you will never spend another one alone…like you did junior year of Stanford. So, Merry Christmas, Sammy and…when you wake up from this…you are so cleaning my car for the mess you made in it…'"
Staring at Dean's writing, Sam's hazel eyes shifted to watch his brother sleeping. He'd hated Junior year at Stanford because he just couldn't deal with another holiday away from his family. He'd called his brother once only for it to go straight to voicemail and had assumed Dean was out hunting with their Dad so he'd spent it alone in his dorm since he hadn't wanted to deal with Jessica's family.
He'd fallen asleep at his desk working on some paper for when classes resumed only to wake up in bed with a card laying beside him, unsigned but with two hundred dollars in it and orders to buy a new jacket before he got sick.
"Thanks, Dean," he murmured, again touching the new jacket but not removing the leather one that still reminded him so much of his brother. "How'd you find me?" he asked, knowing by the change in breathing that Dean was awake.
Laying still as if deciding if he wanted to risk the possible chick flick moment, Dean slowly opened his eyes to look up at his still pale brother and propped himself up on a elbow. "You called me, Sam," he replied, shifting his eyes to the broken phone on the table. "No clue how since that thing's beyond repair but…I still got the call and heard everything you said."
"I called…" Sam stared between his brother and his phone, confused since he knew he hadn't had a dial tone when he'd made that imaginary call. "The phone was broke, Dean. You couldn't have…"
"I'm considering it Mom looking over you because if I hadn't gotten that call, I wouldn't have been able to find you until the sun was up and by then it would've been too late, Sammy," Dean sighed, moving so he could sit on the side of the bed next to his brother. "You mentioned the star and I saw it, followed it right to you and then just hoped I'd gotten to you in time because you were ice and it's…been awhile since you were able to scare me that bad, kiddo."
Lifting his eyes up from the jacket, Sam met green eyes that he realized for the first time since his brother had learned about Ruby, his use of his powers, and what he'd been doing, Dean's eyes weren't tight or hard as they met his and this was the better gift that Sam could've gotten this year.
"Thanks for finding me, Dean," he coughed into his hand, wincing at the pain that the rattle caused but didn't jerk like he normally would have a few days ago when his brother's hand touched his back to begin lightly rubbing it as he would when Sam was a child and suffering through a chest cold. "Thanks for not letting me spend Christmas without you,"
Keeping his touch light as his brother slowly settled back into sleep, Dean glanced toward the broken cell on the table then to the tiny tree beside it before recalling the text he'd gotten shortly before his brother's impossible call had come through.
The coordinates and the very short but direct message in a tone that Dean could still recognize even today when his Father would very sternly order him to 'go get your brother'.
"Thanks, Dad," he whispered, moving up to sit beside Sam as he slept much like he would when feeling the need to protect his sick little brother and slowly falling to sleep. "Merry Christmas, Sammy."
As the Winchesters slept and Christmas Day dawned, neither felt the presence in the room or the soft touch of a hand that gently stroked over the heads of two sleeping boys that she wished could have avoided this life.
"Merry Christmas, boys."