Disclaimers: Don't own; mo's the pity.
Notes: Sequel one-shot to Surprise Party.
Star Trek to the After Party
There was something wrong with this picture. Something that had Sam's eyes fluttering open and trying to make sense out of the world. It took him a second to realize what it is. There was a deep chest rattling cough coming from somewhere in the room.
That wasn't what was wrong.
Dean was in the throes of... whatever Dean had gotten, and had been working on removing both of his lungs from his chest ever since.
Nope, the problem was that the coughing was coming from the wrong side of Sam, not from the bed where Dean should be, but from the side of the room near the windows. A dim light flashing in the room let Sam know that the laptop was open, and when he turned his head on his pillow, sure enough, he saw the form of his brother sitting at the table, the glow of the screen in the dark casting shadows that made his pale features seem gaunt.
Dean snuffled back thickly, before turning his head towards Sam. "Shouldn't you be asleep?"
"I could ask you the same question. Man, you shouldn't even be out of bed." The bed springs creaked as Sam sat up, taking a longer look at his brother, who had sweatpants and a flannel on over the worn t-shirt he was wearing, besides being wrapped up in one of the blankets off of his bed.
Dean shrugged his shoulders and focused his attention back on the screen in front of him. "I kept on waking up."
"Last I checked looking at porn isn't gonna help you get back to sleep."
Dean snorted a laugh. "I dunno 'bout you, but I always feel real relaxed after jerking off."
Sam rolled his eyes and got out of bed, went to the bathroom and promptly went back to bed, glad that blankets were still warm after being exposed to the chill of the room.
The rain, which had been going on for days, and almost seemed to have been following them around from town to town, picked up its torrential downpour again, sounding like a dull roar against the flat roof of the motel.
Sam laid there, trying to go back to sleep, his brother adding his own additions to the white noise the weather provided, a hacking cough so wet it seemed to be a storm of its own. He tried to tell himself that Dean was an adult, that if he wanted to be stupid and stay up all night while he was sick, by the window - where the draft was - then that was his own mistake to make.
That line of reasoning was acceptable for maybe about ten minutes.
"Dude, seriously." Sam sat back up in bed.
"You should at least try to get more sleep." Sam yawned unexpectedly, his mouth opening like a lion roaring on a National Geographic special. Dean, who had been opening his mouth to declare how very awake he was, barely got two words into his own sentence before following suit, his lips gaping open in a prolonged yawn.
Sam raised an eyebrow at Dean's attempted rebuttal. "You wanna try that again?"
"Shuddup. You're the one spreading yawns around." Dean pulled the beige coverlet around himself with a shiver.
"The only thing contagious in this room is you." Sam stood to his feet, wrinkling his nose at the scattered snotty Kleenex all over the table, some on the floor.
"Germophobe," Dean muttered.
"Whatever. Am I seriously gonna hafta confiscate my own computer?"
Dean narrowed his eyes at Sam in the dark, as if judging whether or not Sam actually would. "I'll just go get mine from the car."
"You mean the one you spilled beer on and fried the motherboard?"
Dean gazed up at his looming brother, and instead of acknowledging Sam had a point, he aimed his thumb and forefinger carefully, flicking one of the snot-filled balls of tissue.
"Dean!" Sam sidestepped the bacteria ball easily as it sailed across the room and was about to open his mouth with what would probably be a long lecture, but stopped himself short. The goal wasn't to argue his brother into submission. The goal was simply to get his brother to lay the fuck down.
"Look, take the laptop with you, or I'll watch something on TV with you, but just get in bed." Sam's voice was calm, steady... and a bit pleading, the arm that was pointing at Dean's bed straight as an arrow.
Dean was about to protest when his cough interrupted him, stole his air and left him turning purple for a moment as his chest struggled to make space for oxygen. Sam crossed the room in two strides, clapping his hand on his brother's back as if it would help. He winced as he felt the struggle going on beneath his palm.
When Dean was finished, turning his pale and sweaty face upward to look his brother in the eye, Sam pushed a bottle of water toward him, waited patiently for him to take a sip, to try and hock a few more phlegm balls up and safely tuck them away in tissues. Sam took all this in and simply uttered one word.
Sam placed his hand on Dean's elbow, pulling him upward. Although Dean grumbled a bit, he followed, allowed himself to be led as Sam gathered up the blanket that Dean had snatched up to try and stave off the chill invading him. Dean tucked the laptop under his arm protectively, eyeing his brother suspiciously, as if he expected Sam to renege any minute.
Sam waited patiently (okay, maybe somewhat impatiently) as Dean crawled into his bed and tried to get comfortable. And as his older brother squirmed and grunted and punched his pillows, it really occurred to Sam how miserable Dean actually looked, a seemingly permanent expression of mingled pain and pissiness drawing his pale features into a tight frown.
He decided, as he spread the blanket in his hands over Dean's body, that they were going to be staying here a few days. Sam decided, as he crawled back into his own bed and flipped on the TV until they got to old Star Trek reruns, that they'd have that particular discussion tomorrow.
He also decided to bite his tongue and not re-start the old argument about how Picard was a better captain than Kirk. No matter how much Dean tried to bait him.
Not that the baiting lasted long. Kirk hadn't even had a chance to sex up the alien yet before Dean was snoring, his mouth gaping open as his head leaned back against the pillows. Sam waited until the end of the episode to flip off the TV, turning onto his side to face the snotty, gross, stubborn, awesome guy across from him.
Staying wasn't even a discussion. Sam managed to win the argument about staying the next day, mostly because he didn't make it an argument at all. He just went to the office and paid for the extra time, letting Dean sleep through check out. Obviously, he made the right decision, because his brother was so out of it that he didn't even realize what Sam was up to until the second day.
Sam has been called worse things than a 'sneaky sonovabitch.'
The rain still poured down outside, the greyness of the world outside making things seem drearier than they were, making Sam feel like he was catching a chill too, even though he wasn't the one shivering in a nest of blankets.
Day three and Dean sent Sam out to get more tissues and Nyquil. He had asked for whiskey too, and Sam had refused. That might have part of the reason Dean chugged the Nyquil as soon as Sam got back.
Sam ignored the challenge in Dean's eyes and swung a plastic bag onto his brother's bed.
"You totally don't deserve this."
Dean pulled the bag toward him and looked up with a wide grin. "Orange popsicles?"
"Orange the fruit, not orange the flavor." Sam clarified, figuring he'd get some Vitamin C into Dean one way or another. Dean had already pawed the box open, taking one out and tearing the waxy wrapper off. Sam put the rest of the box in the mini-freezer, having to stuff it inside the thick layer of frost coating the inside.
When Sam heard the words "set phasers to stun," he realized what was on the TV. Staring incredulously at the screen, he turned to Dean.
"How is this on again?"
"It's a marathon." Dean coughed for a moment, before adding with a wide grin, "Because Kirk is the better captain."
Sam urged himself to take a deep breath, to not take the bait. Instead, he grabbed his laptop off of Dean's bed and searched for new jobs, challenged some strangers on the internet to Scrabble... the usual.
A voice piped up just as Sam was about to crush the competition with 'quixotic'.
"Tribbles are cute."
Sam blinked, looking over at Dean, who was obviously feeling the effects of the Nyquil. The TV showed Captain Kirk getting buried by furry balls of fluff that squeaked.
"They're home-ec projects gone awry, and you think they're cute. Now I know you're sick."
"Don't get me wrong, Sammy. If they got in my baby, I'd shoot every last one in the face."
"Uh-huh." Sam concentrated on the laptop, not looking up. "You know, it's called 'recommended dosage' for a reason." By some stroke of luck, he finds he can play 'dosage' next, securing his victory and ending the game.
When he looked over to the next bed, Dean is sitting there quietly, scrunching up his face like he's working out how many licks it takes to get the Toostie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop.
"What?" Sam asked.
Dean paused, finishing the last bite of his popsicle. "...do Tribbles have faces?"
Sam sighed with a smile on his face and shook his head. "The world will never know."
And same as the past two nights, William Shatner's cadence seemed to be the lullaby Dean needed to drop off to sleep.
Sometime that evening, the fever broke and the cough started to sound less like a lawn mower and more like a small weed whacker. The next day, Dean was suddenly awake more than nodding off constantly, and with it came the restless energy that comes from cooping up a Winchester in one place for too long. The rain stopped too, the cloud cover slowly breaking up and parting ways to clearer skies as the day wore on.
While Sam was out getting dinner, Dean put all his restless energy to work packing up the car. Leaving wasn't even a discussion. They weren't even staying the night. Time to move on.
On the way to the car, Dean stopped cold in his tracks. For a minute, Sam worried - had a moment of doubt that maybe they were taking off too soon after all, until he realized Dean's gaze was focused up to the sky.
Sam took in a breath as he looked upward, adjusting the duffel he had slung over his shoulder. Small trails of the departing clouds swirled on a gigantic canvas of inky blue-black, what seemed like thousands of pinpoints of light shining their brilliance down on them. He looked over at Dean, looked at the calm smile spreading over his brother's face, nearly erasing the days of sickness, and the days of loss and pain that came before it.
They stood there for a few minutes, side by side in a motel parking lot, not saying a word to each other as they gathered what peace they could from the universe, from stars which had burnt out billions of years ago, but whose light still shone down.
They looked over at each other, some unsaid thing between them that urgently needed to be said. Sam took a deep breath and spoke up first.
"Jean-Luc Picard could kick Kirk's ass any day of the week."
Dean opened the car door and tossed his bag into the backseat, a cocky smile playing on his lips. "Feel better now, Sammy?"