Stay With Me and I'll Be Just Fine
Dean watched as Sam pushed away his cup of coffee, looking slightly nauseated. "Gee, Sammy, I'm hurt," he commented. "My coffee's not that bad."
"It's not the coffee," muttered Sam, without looking up from the book he was reading. "I'm not thirsty, that's all." He didn't feel the need to mention that he'd just spat some blood into his cup and as a result his appetite for coffee had greatly diminished.
Dean shrugged. "Well, all right." He tried to appear unconcerned as he cleaned the guns, but out of the corner of his eye he continued watching Sam.
The results of his investigation weren't pleasing. Sam was hunched over his book, his face pale and bags evident under his eyes. Twice or thrice he rubbed his eyes with his knuckles, driving home the fact that he wasn't getting enough sleep. Dean didn't miss the way his little brother's hands shook every time he turned a page, or the fact that his food was completely untouched.
He decided not to point any of his findings out. Sam was stubborn as a mule and would deny each of Dean's concerns until he was blue in the face. On top of all that Dean knew Sam wasn't going to move until he'd finished the book he was reading – an old research journal about (surprise) Hell and demons. They hadn't heard back from Kevin yet, and there were no cases so far, so in the meanwhile they read up on every single book on demons that they could find.
Half an hour later Dean looked up from his guns to find Sam slumped over a thick tome, clearly asleep. He raised an eyebrow as he appraised his brother's appearance – Sam's skin was shiny with sweat and he looked uncomfortable even in sleep, his face scrunched up and his muscles tensed. Dean leaned across the table and put a hand to Sam's forehead, only to discover his hunch was correct – Sam was running a fever. A very high one, at that, as revealed by a thermometer a couple of minutes later.
Dean frowned – he should have seen this coming. Sam had been wearing himself to the bone for the past few weeks, staying up until late at night just to read, refusing to eat or drink unless it was absolutely necessary, and not venturing outdoors unless forced to by Dean. It was bound to have an effect on him. Dean didn't understand how he hadn't realized until now. Looking carefully, the physical effects were clear.
Deciding to beat himself up about it later, Dean got up and walked around the table. "Hey, Sammy," he said gently, shaking his brother. "Wake up. Let's get you into bed."
Sam raised his head slightly. "Huh?"
"I said, let's get you into bed. You're running a fever."
"I'm fine," Sam muttered, in typical Winchester fashion.
"No you're not, geekboy," Dean pointed out. "Your temperature's 102. Get up, now."
When Sam was sick and refusing to listen, the John Winchester tone of voice was sure to work, as observed from years of experimentation and experience. Of course, the John Winchester voice was a last resort, and had been even when the man had been alive. It was hard to talk to Sammy in anything other than a gentle tone, he was just too adorable.
(Not that Dean would ever say that, of course. What were you thinking? Psh.)
Sam grumbled something about tyrannical big brothers, but got up anyway, holding on to his chair for support. Dean pretended not to notice Sam's tight grip, and said, "Come on, now. Bed."
He began walking in that direction, confident that Sam would follow. He turned when he was halfway across the room, only to find Sam still standing there, squinting at Dean. "Come on, Sasquatch," encouraged Dean.
Sam took a step forward and swayed dangerously; his grip on the chair was the only thing that prevented him from falling and cracking his head open on the edge of the table. Dean watched, alarmed, as Sam tried to steady himself, failed, and then looked at Dean. "There's two of everything!" he said, his tone slightly panicky.
"It's okay," Dean assured, moving quickly to his brother's side. "You're all right. Nothing a bit of rest won't take care of, you hear? Come on, now." He grasped Sam's arm and jerked it forward slightly. "One step at a time, Sammy."
Sam obeyed, copying his brother's steps and somehow managing to get to his room. When he neared his bed he collapsed into it without bothering to take off his shoes, his face buried in his pillow. Dean shook him again. "You've gotta change, Sam," he reminded him. "I'm not letting you sleep in multiple layers of clothes."
"But it's cold," protested Sam weakly, not removing his face from the pillow.
"It's not," contradicted Dean. "It just seems that way to you. Come on now, up you get."
Somehow Dean managed to get Sam to change into a pair of trousers and a light cotton shirt, and then guided him back to bed. Sam looked almost completely out of it by now – his eyes were half-closed and he was walking like a drunk person, too sleepy to bother walking on his own.
Dean watched with his eyebrows raised as Sam toppled on top of the covers and stayed there. "Sammy," he began, but decided it would be useless, and instead walked forward and pulled the sheets out from under Sam's frame. He spread them over Sam and then went to get a glass of water.
He returned to find Sam lying on his side, shivering. He had the blanket clutched tightly around him, but it was useless – Dean could make out his tremors from across the room. Tamping down his worry, he made his way over to the bed and gave Sam the medication he had with him, along with the glass of water.
Sam swallowed with some difficulty before looking up at Dean and asking, "Do we – do we have any extra blankets?"
"Why?" asked Dean.
"It's cold," Sam told him, looking impatient. Dean almost chuckled at the expression.
"No it's not," he reminded Sam. "Just sleep and you'll be fine in the morning."
Sam lay back down. "Okay," he said reluctantly. "Good night."
"Good night," Dean replied. "If you need anything just yell."
Sam pulled a face (I'm-An-Adult,-Dean,-Treat-Me-Like-One, also known as the Classical Bitchface. Dean really didn't understand how the owner of a face that bitchy could also make some epic puppy eyes. The universe really wasn't fair sometimes). "I'm not a baby, Dean. I'll be fine."
"I know you will." And with that, Dean left for his own room.
He returned an hour later, at 1 AM, to check on Sam, knowing Sam wouldn't like it but doing it anyway. Mother-hen instincts honed and carefully polished over a period of thirty years were not so easily ignored.
He found Sam curled up in a ball and shivering violently. The kid looked asleep but only just – he still didn't looked like he was getting any rest at all. Dean put a hand to his forehead and nearly snapped it away in shock – Sam was burning up. Keeping a hand on Sam's forehead, he used the other to gently insert the thermometer into Sam's mouth.
It read 104.5. The fever had climbed. If Sam had been awake he'd probably be delirious.
Dean got up and walked to the kitchen, opening the freezer and rummaging around until he found what he was looking for. Crushing the ice pack between his strong hands, he placed it on Sam's head and watched as Sam seemed to relax, but only a little. His skin was still hot, but Dean figured it would take time for the temperature to go down.
He made to get up but was stopped by a hand pulling at his sleeve. Sam was looking up at him, his nose red and his eyes shining. "Dean?" he croaked. "I don't feel too good."
"No shit, Sherlock," Dean said. "You're on 104.5. How long have you been feeling unwell?"
Sam scrunched up his nose, thinking. "I don't know," he finally replied quietly. His fever made him more vulnerable, and Dean took advantage of it. He knew Sam would otherwise never admit to being sick.
"Yeah well, next time you get so much as a runny nose you're telling me," declared Dean. "I figured you'd be old enough to know that by now."
Sam nodded, having the decency to look a little abashed. "Sorry, Dean," he muttered.
The tone of his voice softened Dean somewhat, and he said, "Don't apologize, Sammy. Just take care of yourself, okay?"
Sam nodded again. "Okay, Dean."
"Good," said Dean. "Do you need anything right now? Water, anything?"
Sam shook his head. "I'm good," he answered.
"All right, then," said Dean. "Call me if you need anything."
He was woken at half past two by what sounded a lot like sobbing, and the first thought that entered his mind was, Sammy's hurt. He shot out of bed and sprinted to Sam's room, to find him thrashing around in bed and whimpering in his sleep.
Sam was having a nightmare.
Dean could make out words as he got closer. His heart clenched painfully in his chest as he heard Sam plead, "No, please, not Dean, not Dean..."
Dean sat down on Sam's bed and laid an arm on his shoulder. "Sam. Sammy. Wake up. It's all right. It's just a nightmare."
Sam bolted upright and looked around wildly, his eyes wide. "Dean? Dean?"
"I'm right here," Dean said, squeezing his shoulder. "I'm all right. You're okay, we're okay. It was just a nightmare, Sammy."
Sam looked at Dean uncertainly. "Just... a nightmare?"
Dean nodded. "That's right, college boy."
"He's not here."
Sam's entire body seemed to relax. "We're okay?" he asked, looking hopeful.
"We're okay," confirmed Dean. "Wait here, I'll get you some more aspirin."
As he went through the first-aid kit looking for the pills, Dean reflected on how little Sam seemed to become when he was ill – it was as if the fever washed away all traces of the hardened hunter, the broken man that Sam was, and left behind a five-year-old who just wanted his brother. Sometimes it was endearing, but other times, like now, it made Dean's heart ache. This life was bad enough without sickness and nightmares amplifying its horrors thousandfold.
Sam was sitting up in bed when Dean got back, but there were tears streaming down his face. Alarmed, Dean asked, "What's wrong, Sammy?" The last time Dean had seen Sam cry had been when Bobby had died, and that had been well over a year ago.
Sam refused to answer, instead shaking his head and looking away, accepting Dean's pills wordlessly and downing them in one go. Dean waited patiently until Sam was done, before asking again. "Sammy, what's wrong?"
"I'm sorry," Sam whispered, so low he might not have spoken at all, but Dean heard it clearly. He didn't, however, comprehend it.
"Sorry for what, Sammy?" he asked, bewildered.
Sam looked at Dean, his face wet and his eyes red. "I've let you down," he said in that same low tone. "I've hurt you."
"What are you talking about?" asked Dean, a little more harshly than he meant to.
"Everything," said Sam hoarsely. "I drank demon blood, I chose Ruby over you, and I didn't tell you I'd lost my soul, and I didn't even look for you, and – and I left you for a girl, and–"
"Sam, shut up," interrupted Dean forcefully. His assumption was correct; Sam was delirious as hell. Sam obeyed, looking helplessly at Dean. Dean hated that look, because it indicated Sam was scared of what he was going to say. Sam was not supposed to be scared. He had Dean.
So Dean said, "Sam, that's all in the past. Water under the bridge. Some of it was your fault, but mostly you were manipulated and in any case, you always did what you thought might be best."
"But I've let you down," Sam whispered.
"No you haven't," Dean contradicted. "Sometimes you've made me angry enough to want to murder kittens, but you've never let me down."
"I haven't?" The hopeful look was back, in full force.
"No, you haven't," Dean confirmed.
Dean stiffened. "What about Dad?" he asked cautiously.
"I've hurt Dad," Sam said, sounding miserable again.
"You've made up for it," Dean assured him. "Over and over again. You made peace with him, and you're living life the way he's taught you. He would have been proud of you, Sammy."
Sam sniffed. "Really?"
"Really," Dean said. After a pause, he added quietly, "I know I am."
The impact of Sam's smile wasn't diminished by either the tears of the fever, and Dean felt the old urge to hide Sam somewhere so that no one could find him return. The hardened hunter, the broken man, was gone, and in his place was Dean's Sammy again, the little boy with the smiles and eternal, undying optimism. The one that kept Dean going, against all odds and everything they'd faced.
His thoughts were interrupted when Sam started retching, holding his hands tightly over his mouth. Dimly Dean noticed his complexion was greenish. He left and came back in record time with a bucket, which he shoved unceremoniously under Sam's chin and ordered, "Puke."
Sam didn't fail to comply, emptying the entire contents of his stomach into the plastic bucket. There hadn't been much to begin with, and soon Sam was dry-heaving painfully, clutching his abdomen even as Dean rubbed his back with his free hand. "It's okay, Sammy," Dean was whispering. "Come on, let it all out."
The ice pack combined with the vomiting had brought some of his lucidity back, and with no small amount of panic Sam noticed flecks of blood staining the sides of the bucket, mixing with the clear liquid he'd thrown up that passed for his recent meals. Dean couldn't know about that, he just couldn't. If Dean found out he'd take the trials upon himself, and that would get him killed. If Dean died Sam would never forgive himself, in fact, he might just kill himself as well.
He hoped hope against hope that in the darkness Dean wouldn't see the spots of blood in the dim light, but Dean had ESP when it came to his brother, and as he squinted into the bucket with his breath held, he narrowed his eyes and looked up at Sam. Setting the bucket down, he asked, "What's this, Sam?"
"What's what?" asked Sam, hoping to avert the inevitable ass-kicking by playing dumb.
"You're throwing up blood."
"Am I?" Sam's voice didn't sound convincing even to his own ears.
"How long has this been going on?" Dean's voice had taken on a dangerous quality.
Sam didn't answer, staring at his fingers knotted in his lap. Dean couldn't know, he just couldn't.
"Answer me!" Dean all but yelled. His previous worry was translating rapidly into anger – Sam had obviously been keeping things from him. After having promised not to.
"A while, okay?" Sam finally surrendered, looking resigned. "I didn't tell you because–"
"Because you knew I'd take on the trials myself," completed Dean, looking livid.
"Dammit, Sam!" barked Dean, and Sam flinched. Undeterred, Dean went on, "You can't just hide this sort of thing from me! You've been throwing up blood for God's sake, and you never even felt the need to let me know?"
"You know why, Dean!" urged Sam. He felt weak, and he didn't want to argue, but most of all, he wanted Dean to understand.
"You think it's easy for me?" asked Dean rhetorically. "You think I'm enjoying this, knowing my brother might die, and now I find out he's been coughing up blood, and I never even knew!"
"I didn't want you to know!" Sam said. "Dean, please–"
"Please what?" Dean cut through. "'Please sit back and watch as my baby brother gets himself killed? Please do nothing about it?' Sorry, Sammy, no can do," he finished abruptly.
After a slight pause Sam said softly, "You haven't called me that in a long time."
"Called you what?" asked Dean, crossing his arms so tightly they looked tangled up together.
"Your baby brother," Sam answered.
Dean looked somewhat surprised, before saying gruffly, "Yeah well, that's what you are, okay, and I can't sit back and watch you suffer, Sammy. I can't. No matter what."
"I'm not asking you to," Sam said, his tone firm. "Please Dean. All I want – no, need you to do is let me do this. Let me try, Dean. Because if it's not me, it'll be you, and I don't want that for you."
"You think I want it for you?" Dean almost whispered, undoing his arms.
"I know you don't," Sam replied. "Neither of us asked for it, Dean. But we've got to do this, and I could do it alone and probably fail, but we could do it together and succeed. Stay with me and I'll be just fine. And maybe, just maybe, things will get better."
"You really think so?" Dean asked after a minute.
Sam nodded. "I believe so, Dean."
There was something in the way his little brother said his name – resolve and determination both rolled up into one, with a little sprinkling of pleading. It was the last that got to Dean. He knew Sam was perfectly capable of taking on the trials alone, but he didn't want to. He needed Dean by his side.
And to be quite honest, Dean needed Sam by his side too.
And so, in an uncharacteristic display of affection, Dean framed Sam's warm face in his hands and leaned forward so that their foreheads were touching. "All right, Sam," he said.
Sam looked surprised, both by Dean's acqueiscence and the close proximity. "You'll let me do it?"
"You won't try to do it yourself?"
Sam smiled. "Thank you, Dean."
Dean closed his eyes. "Don't thank me."
They sat like that for what felt like hours but could have been minutes, leaning against each other, eyes closed, Dean unconsciously stroking Sam's face with the pads of his thumbs, both simply sitting in silence and drawing comfort from each other's presence. Predictably it was Dean who drew away first, though he looked reluctant to do so.
"Sammy," he said. "How do you feel now?"
"Better," Sam said.
Dean put his hand to Sam's forehead. The ice pack, which had fallen aside when Sam had sat up, lay forgotten at their side. Sam's temperature wasn't as high as it had been, though the fever hadn't broken yet. Sam's face was still both flushed and pale, and he looked tired.
"Lie down," Dean said. "You should be fine by morning."
When Sam was settled in bed again, he looked up at Dean. "I'm sorry," he said sincerely. "You should be sleeping right now."
"Don't be stupid," Dean said, waving his hand around. "It's my job to look after you, remember?"
Sam nodded, smiling slightly. Then he asked, somewhat hesitantly, "Can you stay then?"
Dean looked at his brother's face. The timeless innocence was back, and Sam was looking up at Dean with childish anticipation. When he saw Dean's hesitation his face slipped into the old puppy dog eyes routine, and Dean groaned.
"That's playing dirty, Sammy," he complained. "You know I can't say no to that."
Sam didn't reply, just upped the ante until Dean gave in, grumbling. "Fine, then."
Sam smiled brilliantly at Dean. Dean couldn't stop his own answering smile. Wordlessly Sam shifted aside so that Dean could sit more comfortably, which Dean did. He wrapped the blanket around Sam and tucked him in, something he hadn't done in over a decade. Sam relished in the attention and comfort offered by the simple act, wriggling onto his side and settling down into his pillows with a small, content sigh. It was rare, feeling this happy, and Sam intended to take full advantage of it.
Dean, for his part, felt calm and content for the first time in a long time, ever since he'd returned from Purgatory, actually. His decision to let Sam take on the trials still weighed on his mind, but the burden was considerably lighter now that he'd promised to help Sam, guide him every step of the way. And who knew? Maybe if they tried hard enough, they might both make it out alive. And that was a cheering thought, if any.
Sam's eyelids were drooping again, the conversation with Dean having drained him of whatever little energy he'd had. Still smiling, Dean tenderly brushed Sam's hair out of his eyes and let his hand rest on Sam's cheek. The kid was almost asleep by now, but even then he was leaning into the touch, as if it was instinct.
Dean didn't realize he'd been humming until Sam's breathing evened out and his expression relaxed, his body finally going slack. Astonished at himself – he hadn't sung Sam to sleep since he'd been fourteen and Sam ten – Dean couldn't help feeling as if their childhood had crept up upon them and overwhelmed them. The last few hours felt like they'd been stolen from another life.
But it was all right, Dean reflected as he sat there, his brother sleeping soundly by his side. Their life was hard and unforgiving, and it didn't look like it was going to cut them a break any time soon, but they were together and that made everything okay.
They were okay, really. They had each other, after all.
Forever trusting who we are
And nothing else matters
So here you go. It just came to me and refused to leave my head. I was assaulted, ASSAULTED I SAY, by these plot bunnies.
But meh, I'm being productive... sorta... I should be studying for my exams.
So yeah, people, this fic is like a return gift, or a thank you of sorts, to xxDodo and agent iz hyper for the wonderful story they wrote me. You can read it on Dodo's profile :)
Reviews ensure Sam and Dean are always together, forever :')
I SWEAR THOUGH, IF SOMEONE DIES AT THE END OF THIS SEASON I'LL SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUST. I CANNOT TAKE THIS ANY MORE, IT'S MESSING WITH MY LIFE
ALSO, IF THEY CAN DO A HARLEM SHAKE DURING A HELLATUS THEY CAN SURE AS HELL RELEASE MORE EPISODES UGH
Okay, okay, I'll stop ranting now. *waves* bye, and don't forget to leave a review :D