Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural. Written for fun, not profit.
Notes: Written to fill the hc_bingo square "pneumonia" and for the Sick!Dean Mini Challenge over at hoodie_time (Live Journal). Title is the result of listening to too much CCR.
Someday Never Comes
The hunt is on, but—
Dean gets this look on his face, like he hates himself, and Sam figures that's really nothing new. He's always wearing it these days. Then Dean's eyes water, which would probably be a good reason for that expression, because Dean hates when his eyes water—even if, God, Sam knows those aren't tears, because Dean keeps every to himself until he actually needs them. So, it must be the chill November air stinging his brother's eyes, brightening his gaze.
Can't be the cold he's been trying to shake. Can't be, even though the tip of his nose is pink and wet, and just under the sound of squirrels tree-hoppin' are quick, shallow breaths and a soft, accompanying whistle.
It might as well be a rattlesnake in his brother's chest, threatening to strike. Sam stiffens, but stops himself from saying the first thing that comes to mind ("you lied"). He asked once; he asks again.
"Don't." It's tight and clipped, but the warning is enough to ward off the rest of the question.
Sam knows his brother, knows he'll keep his body moving if he's on the job, knows he won't risk them both just to keep moving on. Knows, but forgets the part where he doesn't seem to know Dean at all since Dad died. It's all background observations, hidden in his head but doing back-flips in his stomach. He ignores it, like he might ignore a gum wrapper falling out of his pocket so he doesn't have to be the one to pick it up.
After all, there are other things on which to concentrate. The movement ahead of them, for example.
"Ready?" comes out with a muffled cough.
Sam nods. The hunt is on.
The monster is beautiful, as they sometimes are, and Sam isn't sure why that's the observation which sticks with him as he tumbles down the shallow ravine. Dying blackberry briars cling to him, as if trying to slow him to a stop, but the ice-cold stream at the bottom is what does it. The few inches of running water manages to soak his whole left side before he scrambles onto his feet, looking for a way back up the hill without slipping on wet orange leaves and landing on his ass again.
Above, not fifteen feet, but far from within sight, he hears the scuffle continue. It's both too loud and too quiet: a body crashing through limbs, a hissing at the Pontianak's lips, but not a word from Dean.
It's went to Hell, the hunt. It was sloppy and wrong, and they went in on bad info. The thing haunting the backwoods gravel road and leaving dead deer hunters mangled in their wrecked trucks was not a lady in white, as the lone witness had described. Not the poor guy's fault, Sam reminds himself, because who would have guessed it was a vampiric Indonesian revenant dining on locals in rural Georgia—and a kunti wasn't all that different from the usual spirit in its white dress and its taste in male victims. Both were once human, too, but the killing it part…that's where they differed.
So much for the salt rounds.
Sam grabs hold of the briars, wincing at their bite, but uses them to haul himself up a few feet, until he can dig his fingers into a nest of raised roots. By the time he stumbles up onto flat land, he hears his brother.
Coughs: broken, wet, constant. Dean's belly down on the damp forest floor, dragging himself out from under the creature, but she's not afraid of catching his cold, and she flips him over, straddling his groin.
She's no longer beautiful, eyes blood red and curling claws vicious, swollen pregnant stomach sticking out like a tumor. Sam is frozen just long enough to realize that Dean can't catch his breath, can't suck in fresh air much less toss her off. She's got his shirt ripped open, her hungry eyes on his belly, and her nails ready to dig into her supper, when Sam slides across the leaves.
He thinks he knows what he's supposed to use, is sure this thing was mentioned in the journal, but he isn't sure. Doesn't matter. An iron knife to the head is always a nice starting point.
Sam slams the short blade through her temple and falls back away from her, waiting for something. Anything. Instead the Pontianak falls forward, still, and begins to melt, white flesh dissolving into red and yellow pus. It's disgusting, but he can't help but count the lack of a necessary clean-up as a good thing.
He turns to say as much to Dean and sees his brother is still on the ground, pale as the monster once was and sucking in rapid, short breaths.
Sam's hands are on his brother's stomach before he can stop himself, and he's already checking each of the long scratches there. Shallow, all of them, so it's not the wound that's the problem. For the first time, he realizes the skin he's touching is radiating heat.
"Christ, Dean, I knew you were sick—how bad is it?"
It's a stupid question, and he expects to be told as much, but when he leans down, fever-bright eyes are staring up at him in wonder instead of annoyance. There's something else behind their spark, too. Surprise. And reverence.
Dean's parched lips open a bit wider. "Dad," he whispers, "knew you'd come."
Two tall figures in browns and greens and denim don't stand out in the forest, despite the noise they make as they walk. One walks. The other leans, heavily. Sam is sure they'd move faster if he simply tossed his brother over his shoulder, but Dean's lungs can't handle a move like that unless there's no other choice.
Pneumonia. Sam's almost sure of it, and he's not certain how he missed it until now. The last time he had it himself was a year and a half ago, and it stood out in his mind, if only because it was such an alien event, having his Jess watch over him, when he was so used to his brother being the one to heat up his soup and call his school and hand him meds…
"We were looking for you."
The words are muttered against the collar of his jacket, but Sam hears them and winces. They're not intended for him, and it hurts, thinking too hard about the clarity that's guaranteed to hit his brother at any moment.
"It's me, Dean," Sam says, softly, and keeps them moving. The Impala isn't far, and there's medicine there, in their trunk. Blankets and water, too. All the things Dean needs in that cherry black beauty.
Sam wishes he could be wherever, whenever, Dean is right now, in his head. They've both always been prone to vivid fever dreams, but Dean's never been this lost while conscious. It's worrisome, but Sam isn't sure it's entirely due to the heat he feels soaking through Dean's damp clothes. Some illnesses come from somewhere deeper than the lungs.
He doesn't mean to, but Sam answers back. "I'm here, Dean."
"Thought…" Dean breaks off, coughing. When he's stable again, feet dragging up soil and twigs, face flushed at his cheeks and pale everywhere else, he shakes his head, eyes cinched shut. "Thought you wouldn't come…Didn't when I was sick. Why?"
Sam's confused a moment until he sees his brother kneading his fingers into the front of his tattered shirt, just over his heart. He knows then where Dean is, and why, and if he's honest with himself, he feels a bit of that old bitter anger at his father once again. He thought that died with him. He was wrong.
Sam called, back then, when he thought his brother's heart was giving out. When he thought Dean was dying, he called, and Dad didn't answer. Dean's there, right after that moment, again. All the monsters he could be facing, and this is the one his brain chooses. Sam would laugh if he could manage to smile.
"You weren't there."
The mutter is laced with confusion instead of hate, instead of outrage, and it makes Sam want to stop walking, stop talking, stop everything. Instead, he clears his throat, tightens his grip on his brother's side, and nods to himself, wishing the hot tears at the corners of his eyes belonged to Dean instead.
"I…" Sam presses his chin against the top of Dean's head, the way he remembers his father doing, back when Dean was barely only enough to lift a shotgun. "I'll tell you someday, Dean. I'll tell you why someday."
Dean doesn't speak again, and Sam is certain that by the time they reach the motel, Dean will have forgotten the conversation ever took place. And if he recalls a word of it, he'll think it was just a dream, but Sam knows better. Knows, even if he'd forgotten for a moment, that someday never comes.