The night had gone from good...with Sam seeming to feel better and them both resting comfortably beside each other on their bed with Riot – to bad...with any sense of peace and security shattered by a ten-minute phone call.
Even now, several hours later, Amelia's heart raced when she thought of the man's voice so confident and smooth in her ear as she had sat on their bed, one hand rubbing Sam's back as he had continued to sleep while the other had clutched Sam's cellphone.
Even now she felt like throwing up as she remembered how the stranger had told her that he was coming – coming for Sam.
Amelia swallowed, even now telling herself that wasn't true; that the man was probably just some middle-aged loser who lived in his parents' basement; just some asshole who got his kicks from randomly prank calling people when he wasn't jacking off.
She had told herself that for hours along with several other versions of the bastard's pathetic existence; had even conjured images of what he must look like huddled in the dark corner of that basement, all tucked inside the safety of anonymity as he ruined strangers' evenings by making his way through his list of numbers to prank.
But if she was honest, Amelia knew that wasn't true, either.
As much as she wanted to believe otherwise, Amelia knew the man she had talked with on Sam's phone hadn't been a prank caller.
She knew the call hadn't been random.
And she knew it hadn't resulted from a misdialed number.
Quite the opposite.
The call had been planned, and the number had been precisely dialed, probably even double-checked beforehand to ensure its accuracy.
Because the man had known exactly who he was calling – Sam – and exactly what he wanted – Sam.
And the more that realization sank in, the more terrified Amelia felt.
Because what was she going to do?
What was she going to do?
"I don't know," Amelia admitted to herself quietly as she stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror; her pale face and dark eyes testifying to her stress and fatigue; her mind continuing to buzz in a distracting, dizzying swirl of what ifs.
What if the man had really been Sam's brother?
What if Dean was really alive?
What if Dean was really coming for Sam?
What if Sam wanted to leave with him?
What if, what if, what if...?
"Enough..." Amelia hissed, closing her eyes and trying to stop the unending loop of questions beginning to drive her crazy. "Enough..." she repeated and physically shook herself as she gripped the edge of the sink.
Knowing part of why she felt so strung out was because she hadn't slept since the man had called but had instead laid beside Sam on their bed for the past six hours and had replayed the conversation over and over and over.
Amelia shook her head in frustration. "Enough," she said once more, hoping she was actually listening to herself this time.
Because truthfully, if Dean was alive...and if he was coming for Sam...and if Sam wanted to leave with him...then there wasn't a damn thing Amelia could do about it.
And that was that.
But this was all ridiculous.
People didn't crawl out of their graves.
...which meant she was worrying for nothing.
Because she was sorry for Sam – she truly was – but Dean was dead...which meant Dean wasn't coming for Sam. And that was just as well because Sam was happy with her...and she was happy with him...and everything was going to be okay.
Everything was going to be okay.
Amelia sighed, opening her eyes and feeling marginally calmer than she had moments before when she had entered the bathroom inside their room.
"Relax, Amelia..." she told herself, ignoring the shaking of her hands as she reached in one of the top drawers of the bathroom's vanity; wincing as she roughly pulled her brush through her tangled hair and then twisted the bundled strands into a messy ponytail.
Amelia sighed again as she stood there in front of the sink, trying to pull herself together and focus.
Because as unnerving as the conversation had been earlier with whoever had called Sam's phone claiming to be Dean, she now had bigger, more immediate problems than the stranger's supposed imminent arrival.
...like Sam's rising fever and potentially worsening condition.
Both of which had become her primary concern about 20 minutes ago.
Amelia nodded, remembering the heat she had felt radiating from Sam's body as she had laid beside him...and remembering why she had come back to the bathroom – to return the thermometer and to retrieve a washcloth.
"Right," Amelia agreed, glancing at the thermometer on the counter by the sink and then reaching for a washcloth from the cabinet on the wall above the toilet; further grounding herself in having something to do.
Because maybe or maybe not some whacko was about to show up on their front porch claiming to be Dean; but right now, Sam needed her...and that was what she was going to focus on – not that stupid phone call.
Amelia nodded in agreement with herself and sighed, slowly exhaling her anxiety.
"Okay..." she commented, turning on the faucet and holding the washcloth beneath the cold water, hoping the coolness of the fabric would help Sam's spiking fever.
As she stood at the sink, a low whine caught her attention, and Amelia glanced down, slightly surprised to see Riot blinking up at her, his ears twitching nervously.
Amelia frowned, shutting off the water and glancing through the crack of the partially closed door; the bathroom's light falling on Sam as he now sprawled on his back, having restlessly flipped himself over from where she had left him sleeping on his stomach only minutes before.
Amelia glanced back at Riot. "Did he kick you out?" she asked the dog teasingly, knowing that was indeed what had happened – the restless movement of Sam's long legs having unintentionally given Riot the boot.
The dog whined again.
"It's okay," Amelia assured, knowing Riot wasn't upset by no longer being able to lounge at the foot of their bed but was instead sensing and reacting to Sam's obvious distress.
And Amelia had to admit that she was also concerned by Sam's increasingly agitated movements as he slept; the fitted sheet bunching beneath him and the blankets no longer covering him because he had kicked those to the floor as well.
Riot whined once more, looking up at Amelia as she lingered in the bathroom's doorway; the dog giving her an expression that implied he clearly expected her to fix Sam.
But Amelia was used to taking care of sick animals, not sick people, and she truthfully felt out of her element; her own anxiety increasing as Sam's condition seemed to worsen before her eyes.
And what the hell was that about?
Only hours ago, Sam had seemed to be feeling better.
But now Sam's fever was well over 100 – right at 104 when she had actually checked it a few minutes ago – and his breathing seemed more labored than before.
...which meant what? Was his bronchitis turning into pneumonia?
God, she hoped not.
Amelia sighed as she watched Sam sleep, thinking she should probably see if he would change positions on the bed to maybe help ease his breathing...and she should definitely use the wet washcloth still gripped in her hand to help ease his fever.
Amelia rolled her eyes at the realization and turned back to the sink to freshen the washcloth with cold water once again and then nudged Riot out of the way with her knee as she shut off the faucet.
"Move," she commanded when the dog stubbornly didn't budge from the bathroom's doorway.
Reluctantly, Riot obeyed; his collar and tags jangling as he trotted to the far side of their bedroom and sat down; his anxious gaze flickering between Amelia and Sam.
"Chill out," Amelia told the dog as she left the bathroom light on and crossed to the bed. "You're making me nervous."
And she certainly didn't any help with that.
She was nervous enough with the threat of Sam's dead brother arriving on their doorstep any second...not to mention the reality of Sam's condition steadily becoming worse.
As if to prove it, Sam suddenly began coughing; a horrible gasping noise that literally sounded like he was choking.
"Whoa..." Amelia blurted, startling at the unexpected outburst. "Easy," she soothed, setting the washcloth on the nightstand before perching on the edge of the bed beside him; her hand resting on his leg, her fingers lightly gripping the fabric of his dark blue sweatpants.
Sam continued to cough, seemingly caught in a continuous breathless cycle with each cough harder than the one before, causing the mattress to shake beneath them.
"Easy..." Amelia repeated, her heart beginning to beat faster as Sam struggled for breath.
She watched him, biting her lower lip and never remembering a time when she had felt so helpless.
"Please stop," she whispered like a prayer, willing the coughing to subside and Sam's lungs to cooperate.
But neither happened.
If anything, Sam's coughs seemed to intensify, and Amelia honestly wondered if he would pass out.
And if he did, then what?
"Oh god..." Amelia murmured, because she didn't know then what.
She didn't know.
A soft whine attracted her attention, and Amelia glanced over her shoulder at Riot now uncertainly standing at the foot of their bed peering over the mattress.
"I don't know what to do," she confessed to the dog and felt panic swell; her own chest tight with the anxiety caused by not being able to help someone she loved.
Determined to do something, Amelia reached for Sam; her hand settling on his sternum as she began rubbing his chest in the same way she had rubbed his back earlier; hoping it would have the same comforting effect.
And it seemed to...if only a little.
Unexpectedly, Sam opened his eyes, squinting up at her as though he didn't quite recognize who she was.
Amelia held still, knowing Sam didn't respond well to sudden movements – especially when he was on the edge of incoherence like he was now due to his fevered illness – and forced a smile as he continued to stare at her, praying Sam didn't ask for Dean like he had before in similar moments of confusion over the past week.
Or like he did so often when he would wake from a nightmare.
Or like he used to do when he would simply forget that his brother wasn't there.
Amelia smiled sadly at the memory.
Because thankfully, that didn't happen so much now with almost a year having passed and Sam very much knowing Dean was gone.
But when they had first started living together, Amelia had lost track of how many times Sam would call Dean's name from the other room – as if he wanted to tell or show his brother something – and then would step into the hall and call Dean's name again; his tone often irritated that Dean hadn't responded the first time...until Sam realized why.
Amelia sighed, remembering how devastated Sam would look when that realization hit, how utterly heartbroken and so damn lost.
It was hard to watch and impossible to soothe.
But these days, Sam was more careful and hardly ever mentioned Dean's name; the pain too much to bear.
Except in times like this when Sam was vulnerable.
If he was sick or hurt or freshly waking from a nightmare, Amelia always knew exactly who Sam would call for – his brother.
And though it often was a stab to her heart when he would do that, she had grown to realize that she couldn't replace Dean; that Sam might love her but she would never mean to him what Dean had meant to him...and still did.
Even though Sam never talked about it, Amelia knew that Dean meant everything to Sam – even now – and she was confident that Sam had undoubtedly meant everything to Dean.
And if she didn't feel so threatened by their relationship that had somehow remained immeasurably strong even after a year of one of them being dead, she would admit that Sam and Dean's brotherly bond – unbreakable by death – was heartachingly sweet.
But Amelia did feel threatened – especially now, especially since the earlier phone call was still haunting her even as she dealt with the current crisis of Sam's deteriorating condition – and if she heard Dean's name from Sam's lips tonight, she knew she would break.
But Sam said nothing; instead continuing to rest on his back as he noisily gasped for breath and alternated between staring at her and lazily glancing around their room, like he not only didn't know who she was but didn't know where he was, either.
Sam's gaze continued to wander, and Amelia suddenly had the distinct feeling that he was looking for somebody.
And god, please don't let him call Dean's name.
Not that she had to worry since Sam had no breath to speak at all.
Amelia frowned, freshly concerned by his lack of oxygen and by how disoriented Sam seemed.
She rubbed his chest a little harder to try to focus his attention. "Hey..." she called to him and waited for Sam to look at her, smiling softly as his blinks became longer with each passing second. "You're okay," she assured him.
He drowsily stared at her.
"You're safe," Amelia added, having learned over the past few months that "safe" was the word that Sam always needed to hear to relax. "I promise," she assured.
There was a beat of silence filled with yet another noisy inhalation and then a rasped word spoken with a hoarse, weak voice.
Amelia swallowed at the slurred name, knowing this routine well – that when Sam was disoriented like this, it wasn't enough for him to be safe; he needed assurance that Dean was safe, too.
Or else Sam wouldn't relax; wouldn't go back to sleep and get the rest his body so desperately needed to recover from this virus currently kicking his ass.
Sam coughed as he waited for her to respond, seeming to grow more agitated by Amelia's hesitation. "D'n...?" he asked again and made a feeble attempt to push up on his elbows.
Amelia shook her head at Sam's intention, lightly pushing against his chest until he was once again resting on the mattress. "He's fine," she told Sam about Dean and nodded for emphasis, feeling her ponytail bob behind her as the loose strands tickled the back of her neck.
"S – "
" – yes," she interrupted, knowing exactly which single word Sam was going to ask. "Dean's safe," she promised, ignoring how much it hurt her to offer this particular comfort to Sam tonight; the earlier prank call having completely rattled her to her core.
But this was what Sam needed right now...so she would give it to him; his peace of mind more important than her raw emotions further inflamed by paranoia and insecurity.
Sam blinked at her, his expression uncertain.
"It's okay," Amelia soothed, her hand rubbing back and forth over Sam's chest. "You're both safe, and everything is fine. Just relax and go back to sleep."
Sam blinked at her again in response, his breaths loud and shallow and entirely too fast.
Amelia shook her head. "Slow and easy," she urged. "Breathe slow and easy," she elaborated after a few seconds. "You're okay. Just breathe..."
Sam coughed instead and then shifted restlessly on the mattress, his sock-clad feet weakly kicking at the edge of the comforter that had somehow managed to hang on the corner of the bed earlier.
Riot barked as the comforter finally fell to the floor, joining the other blankets in their heap.
Sam startled at the sound, his attention flickering to the dog at the foot of the bed before coughing once more and then closing his eyes as suddenly as he had opened them.
Amelia sighed shakily. "You're okay," she told him again, hoping the words followed Sam down into sleep. "You're okay..."
Only she didn't know that.
She didn't know that Sam was okay.
In fact, she seriously doubted it.
Because Sam was struggling for every breath.
And he wasn't just overly warm, he was hot; the heat of fever burning through his body and making him uncomfortable to even touch.
Amelia frowned at the realization, her eyes scanning Sam's damp bangs and equally damp t-shirt; both hair and fabric clinging to his sweaty skin.
Amelia sighed. "You're a mess," she told him fondly and continued to rub Sam's chest as she reached for the washcloth on the nightstand. "I don't know what kind of virus you picked up, but you better not make me sick, too," she grumbled, her teasing tone unsuccessfully masking her worry.
Sam coughed again in his sleep; the sound deep and wet and alarmingly strained...like he physically couldn't breathe.
It was disturbing and frightening, and Amelia honestly didn't know what she was going to do if Sam continued to get worse. She knew he hated hospitals and remembered quite clearly their argument earlier in the week when he had refused to go to the doctor. It was only because Amelia had called in a favor with one of her doctor friends that Sam even had meds.
"Stubborn," Amelia commented and shook her head irritably even as she smiled down at Sam.
But Sam was oblivious to her fond annoyance and affectionate teasing, instead coughing harshly and then drawing in a whistling breath, like he was breathing through a clogged straw.
Amelia cringed at the sound as she carefully wiped his flushed cheeks with the cool fabric of the washcloth before folding it and holding it against his forehead. "You're really starting to freak me out," she confided to Sam.
Sam didn't seem to care as he continued to wheeze loudly.
Riot whined again from where he stood at the foot of the bed, lifting his head to see over the mattress.
"I know," Amelia agreed with the dog's obvious distress and then stood from her perch on the bed's edge. "He'll be okay," she soothed Riot – and herself – about Sam's condition and then turned, crossing back to the bathroom to freshen the washcloth.
But Riot whined once more, and Amelia suddenly realized why – because she could hear it now, too.
She narrowed her eyes, holding herself absolutely still as she stood in the bathroom's doorway and listened to the unfamiliar rumble of an approaching car.
Amelia swallowed, instantly remembering the hum of an engine in the background while she had talked with that man who had called Sam's phone earlier.
And remembering the man's parting words before he had hung up on her – I'm coming for Sam.
"No," Amelia whispered and shook her head in further denial because no way was this actually happening.
Only it was.
It was surreal and terrifying and most definitely happening.
The rumble of the car's approach grew louder as it pulled into the driveway behind the Impala; its headlights flashing through the bedroom window and then shutting off with the engine.
Riot tilted his head as a car door creaked open.
Amelia's heart hammered in her chest.
The car door was eased shut; the driver obviously not wanting to announce his arrival any more than he already had.
Riot's ears twitched as he listened to the driver's boots scuff the paved driveway as the man walked two steps and then stopped.
The dog glanced at Amelia still standing in the bathroom's doorway and then refocused on the window, continuing to listen.
Amelia listened as well, but there was no other sound of movement outside.
Several seconds passed.
"Okay..." Amelia whispered, psyching herself up to go look out the window.
Because that was the only way she was going to know who had just arrived at their house...and what that person was doing in their yard.
Tossing the washcloth into the sink, Amelia glanced at Sam still restlessly sleeping on the bed and then quietly crossed to the window; flattening herself against the wall and peering through the narrow space created by the curtain not fully touching the window frame.
And as expected, there he was.
Well...there somebody was.
Because Amelia had no way of knowing who was currently standing in their driveway.
From her angle by the window, she could barely see him.
But it was definitely a man she didn't recognize driving a car she didn't recognize.
And he was definitely surveying the area, much like Amelia had seen Sam do on several occasions – the man standing motionless as his gaze slowly crawled over absolutely everything; every tree, every bush, every corner of their yard as if he was looking for potential danger...though Amelia had no idea how he saw anything in the dark.
After all, it was – Amelia glanced at the bedside clock across the room – 2:00 in the morning.
Most people were sleeping, not casing a stranger's yard.
Amelia swallowed, feeling her earlier fear and dread return as she continued to watch from her post by the window; her neck beginning to cramp from the awkward way she was holding her body to spy on the man unnoticed.
At least a minute passed.
The man continued to stand motionless in the driveway.
...which was becoming more unnerving by the second.
Amelia sighed, her eyes widening when the edge of the curtain unexpectedly fluttered in reaction to her exhalation.
The movement was slight, but it instantly attracted the man's attention, and he turned to stare at the window where she was standing.
Instinctively, Amelia swallowed a gasp and snatched herself back to dodge the man's line of vision; pushing herself impossibly harder against the wall as if she could blend in with the wallpaper.
But Amelia knew it was useless, knew the man had already seen her.
The night just kept getting better and better.
Amelia sighed soundlessly.
Still standing by the foot of the bed, Riot watched her, whining his confusion at what she was doing.
Amelia cut her eyes at the dog, silently commanding him to shut up.
Riot whined again at her stern expression but then obeyed; the only sound in the room coming from Sam's noisy breathing and restless movement on the bed.
Amelia focused on Sam for several seconds, visually checking on him, and then took a chance by once again peering out the window behind the thin safety of the curtain.
To her relief, the man was no longer staring at the house, but he was still standing in their driveway.
Another minute passed.
Seeming satisfied that the area was secure, the man finally moved forward, pausing by the Impala and smiling faintly.
Amelia watched him as his hand fondly glided along the Chevy's frame while he walked beside it; his gentle, overly-familiar gesture reminding Amelia of the tidbit Sam had once shared about how much his older brother had loved that car.
...which just further explained why Sam took such good care of the muscle car; why he drove it everywhere and would sometimes just sit in the passenger seat for hours – because the Impala had belonged to Dean.
Just like that ugly necklace Sam used to wear had belonged to Dean, too.
Amelia sighed, vaguely wondering where that necklace was now since Sam hadn't worn it in over a month, and refocused out the window as she continued to watch the man stare at the Impala.
But just because this guy seemed to like the Impala, didn't automatically prove he was Dean.
Because any guy would like the Impala; hell...she was a girl, and she liked the Impala.
If this guy was about to show up on her doorstep claiming to be Dean – and Amelia knew that's what he was about to do – then he better have a damn good way of proving it.
Otherwise, she would be calling the cops.
She had too much to worry about and take care of – like an alarmingly sick boyfriend – to also deal with a crazy prank caller who took his game too far by actually showing up at somebody's house.
Who did shit like this?
Crazy folks – that's who.
Did this guy's parents even know he had escaped from their basement?
Of course, if they did know, they were probably pleased that he was out trying to meet people. At this rate, maybe he would actually move out of their house one day.
Amelia quirked a smile at her nervous humor and swallowed against her dry throat as she stood by the window and watched the man disappear from sight; the stranger leaving the Impala behind as he rounded the corner of the house.
Amelia swallowed again, knowing without a doubt that the man was now approaching their front porch; knowing without a doubt that one way or another, her life was about to change.
She exhaled a shaky breath as she turned away from the window; her back against the wall in more ways than one as she waited.