Author's Note: I'm on a sick!Sam kick and I heard this song today and the plot bunny that sprung forth practically held me hostage and made me write this. Updates for other stories will be coming soon (hopefully) barring some other plot bunny grabbing hold of me. Season 8 spoilers abound. Please enjoy this one-shot!

"Hold my hand and swear

You'll never cease to care,

For without you there what could I do?

I could search years

But who else could change my tears

Into laughter after you?"

John Barrowman, "After You, Who?"

She takes him off-guard.

One minute, he's trying to decipher some ancient text about prophets and the next thing he knows, she's sitting across from him, a gentle smile on her ruby lips, looking as radiant as she did when he first saw her. Her eyes hold his gaze captive, not that he's complaining. She tilts her head to the side, ringlets of golden blonde hair kissing her shoulders.

"Jess," Sam's voice rasps. He's been coughing non-stop for the past few hours and his throat is scratchy. Dean told him to stop talking since it does nothing but aggravate his throat, but there are exceptions to every rule, and to be honest, Sam's willing to face his big brother's wrath if it means getting to spend some time with her. "Jess."

He knows deep down that she's not really here. On some level, he acknowledges that because he's had eight years to come to terms with her death and while time has dulled the pain, it has never fully extinguished it. Occasionally, he dreams about her burning on the ceiling, blood dripping from her stomach, her voice asking him why—

"I've missed you, Sam." She tells him quietly, and God, her voice is exactly as how he remembers it—the tinkling of bells mixed with an undercurrent of power—and her skin is as soft as he recalls it to be. He grips her hand within his own, relishing the cool feel of her and he never wants to let her go.

He had forgotten how much he needed her around.

He had forgotten how good it felt to have her by his side.

"Jess, what are you doing here?" His voice falters at the end and he finds himself coughing, his vision clouding by the involuntary reflex of tears. Suddenly, a soft hand is on his back and he finds that he can breathe easily. The coughs dissipate and he Jess wraps her arms around him.

"Sam, you're sick," She whispers, voice tinged with worry. "You really should take better care of yourself." She releases him before grabbing the book and shutting it.

"Jess—" He tries again because he wants to hold her while he still can. Illusion or weird fever induced dream, it doesn't matter. He won't waste the small bit of time he has left with her with her worrying over him. He wants—needs—to see her smiling at him again.

"I know you have a lot of work to do," She starts, making a small pile of his books and pushing them away from the edge of the table. "But if you run yourself into the ground, you won't help anyone." Satisfied with the books, she picks up the discarded blanket beside his chair and wraps it around his shoulders, pressing a kiss onto his temple as she does so.


"You're so silly," She sighs. "Midterms aren't for three more weeks. You have plenty of time left!"

And it suddenly clicks.

He remembers this. He had gotten really sick when they had been together for about three months. She had come to visit him and promptly taken all of his study materials away and kicked Brady out for the afternoon. The memories were a bit fussy, but she had stayed by his side, taking care of him.

"M'fine." He whispers and Jessica laughs.

"Right, and the fact that you're bundled up in three layers when it's practically 80 degrees in here totally proves your point." He shivers slightly and she smiles at him. "You want me to get you some soup?" He shakes his head but she steps towards him and places her palm on his forehead. Her cool skin feels good on his burning forehead. "Sam, you're burning up."

"I've missed you." He wants to pull her to him and never let go.

"I know, I've been busy with work," She tells him with a rueful grin. "But tell you what, as soon as you're better we'll go out. How does that sound?" Her eyes sparkle with anticipation and Sam presses down the grief that threatens to consume him.

"It sounds great."

"Good," She straightens up and steps away from him. "Now, let me get you some soup." She winks at him before vanishing down the corridor. Sam sighs and pulls one of the books back towards him, only for a strong arm to grip his shoulder.

"Sammy, you need to rest," Dean's concerned gaze sweeps over him, checking for any other signs of illness and the youngest Winchester decides to abandon the books. It's a hopeless case, it would seem. "Enough looking for Kevin, okay?"

"Yeah, okay."

"And you need to take some medicine," His older brother continues. "You're burning up." He's hauling Sam up now and guiding him towards his bedroom. Gently, Dean lays him upon the mattress and helps pull off the sweatshirt that Sam's wearing. Judging by the worried look in Dean's eyes, he's not pleased with Sam's condition and normally Sam would assuage his fears, but he doesn't have the energy. Exhaustion has caught up with him now and all he wants to do is sleep.

"Dean, s'okay." He manages to slur and a small smile tugs at his older brother's lips.

"Yeah, Sammy, it will be," He cards a hand affectionately through Sam's hair. "You get some rest, okay? I'm gonna make some food and get your medicine. I'll be right back." Sam nods and Dean disappears down the endless corridors.

"Better?" A feminine voice asks and the bed dips with pressure. He forces his eyes open and Jess beams at him as she softly touches a wet cloth to his forehead. "Just get some sleep, okay? I'll be here when you wake up."

He knows it's a lie.

She had stayed with him and nursed him through when they had been at Stanford, but that had been so many years ago. All he had left of her now were memories and this illusion, which would dissipate once the fever got under control. Still . . . for this one moment, he could pretend. He could pretend that she was alive; that he wasn't slowly slipping away, that Dean wasn't staring at him with a mixture of grief and sheer devastation, and while he was at it, that Bobby and John were alive and that everything was going to be okay.

It was an illusion—a fever induced fantasy—but he would embrace it.

If only for a few minutes of peace of mind.

"Love you." His eyes are closing now, against his will and he hears her laughter reverberate throughout the room.

"Love you too," The cloth is against his forehead, making him smile as the some of the burning heat faded away. "Now, go to sleep."

He does so.

When he wakes up a few hours later, Jess is gone and Dean is in her place.

"Hey there," His older brother's expression is worried—it always is worried now—but he manages a quick grin as Sam's hazel eyes meet his. "How are you feeling?"

"Better," Dean sighs, relieved. "What happened?"

"Your fever spiked. It was pretty high there for a bit," Judging from the darkness that flashes in his older brother's eyes, "pretty high" meant "really fucking, almost dying high" and a hospital run probably had been in his future if it hadn't broken on its own. Dean leans forward and palms Sam's forehead, nodding, seemingly relieved. "Just try and get some more rest, okay?"

"Dean?" His eyes are closing, seemingly against his will, but dammit, this is important. He pries his eyelids up and meets his brother's gaze. Quickly, Sam grabs his brother's wrist and squeezes it gently. "M'not going anywhere. Gotta show you the light, right?" His older brother instantly relaxes, a grin on his lips.

"That's right, Sammy." Sam smiles and lets himself fall into the dark.

He dreams about Jessica singing softly as she bakes cookies. She laughs when she catches him trying to steal some of the cookie dough and hits him gently with the wooden spoon she has in her hand. He pulls her close and kisses her. The dream shifts and he's with Dean, watching some crappy movie on TV. His brother laughs out loud and Sam finds himself chuckling along. They share a few beers and though it's nothing special, it's what Sam misses the most since the trials began.

This is what keeps him going.

This is what helps him push through the pain that trials cause.

And yeah, it's just a dream and when he wakes up, Jessica will still be dead and Dean will be watching him like a hawk, waiting for him to suddenly collapse, but the idea of having a few carefree moments with his brother, that's what he fights for. For the record, he's glad that he took on these trials instead of Dean, but he wishes that he could erase all the pain caused from the worry that is consuming his older brother.

He will make it through this.

He has to make it through this.

If not for his own sake, then for Dean's.

Author's Note: Wow, this became a lot longer than I anticipated and pretty much spiraled out of my control . . . Still, I loved the way it came out and I hope you did too. Please review if you have a second!