"Dean," said a voice that he was pretty sure was imaginary, since it didn't sound like it could be from a human throat.
It was only four am, according to the neon glare of the bedside clock, so Dean rolled over onto his stomach and tried to get back to the dream he'd been having.
"Dean," the voice croaked again. Dean managed a grunt, which he hoped would be interpreted as "leave me alone, strange alien voice, I'm sleeping."
"Dean," the voice insisted, and the sound of a hacking cough filled the room. With a sudden clarity, the kind that always kicked in when Sam was in trouble, Dean recognized the voice. In about ten seconds, he'd thrown off the last of his sleep-induced confusion and made his way to the other side of the room. Sam's hair poked out of the blankets on his rickety motel bed, the only part of him that was visible, and Dean would have thought how ridiculously cute his brother looked if it weren't for the fact that Sam was apparently deathly ill.
"Dean," Sam whispered, flailing his arms around under the covers in a doomed attempt to sit up. "I'm sick."
Dean sighed, and went for his duffle bag. "No shit, Sherlock," he said under his breath, returning to Sam's side with Dayquil-knockoff pills and a bottle of water, and leveraging him into a sitting position. Sam looked even worse than he sounded, with red puffy bags under his fever-glazed eyes.
"Come on," Dean said, "just take these and then you can go back to sleep."
Sam obediently swallowed the pills with a grimace and closed his eyes, slumping over into Dean's shoulder. Dean sighed again, suddenly struck with nostalgia for when Sam was small enough to carry around easily, and helped Sam lay down again. Once Sam was settled, Dean started toying with going out. They'd need more food, and medicine, and definitely some juice, especially if this lasted as long as Sam's bouts with the flu usually did. He'd gotten dressed and was halfway to the door when Sam started calling for him again.
"Dean," and then a little louder, although he didn't manage to even lift his head from the pillow. "Dean!"
"I'm here, you giant baby," Dean said fondly, sitting on the floor by Sam's head and running a hand down Sam's shoulder.
"Dean," Sam said again, and then added in a very small voice, "what if I have the swine flu?"
"You don't have the swine flu," Dean replied, trying not to laugh.
Sam raised his head a fraction and looked at Dean blearily. "How do you know? Are you psychic?"
"Not that I'm aware," Dean said, shaking his head.
"You could be," Sam insisted. "What if you were, and you never noticed?"
"I think I'd notice that, Sammy."
Sam shook his head slowly and pointed a finger at Dean. It was the finger that usually meant this is serious business, Dean, but given Sam's level of general comprehension, it looked more like a five-year-old's attempt than a grown man's. "You never know when you might get psychic powers."
"Okay, you're right," said Dean. "I have psychic powers, and they're telling me that you should sleep."
"They are not," Sam protested. "Psychic powers don't work that way. They might tell you that giant pandas are about to become the dominant species on earth so that you can get in good with the panda leaders while you can, but they don't do stupid things like tell you to go to sleep."
Dean didn't stop his laugh this time. "Okay, seriously, you need to sleep, and I need to go get you some more medicine." Sam with a fever might be hilarious, but Dean didn't actually want him to stay that way.
"Dean," Sam said, ignoring him completely, "what if it's not the pandas? What if it's sharks?"
Dean gave up on going to the store right away. "I don't know, I guess we'd get in good with them, instead of the pandas."
Sam sighed, coughed for a minute straight, and sighed again. "That's ridiculous. Sharks live in water. How are we going to convince them that we deserve to survive the coming slaughter of humanity?"
"I guess we're fucked," Dean said, shrugging his shoulders. Sam nodded gloomily.
"I'll miss you," he said, trying to pat Dean's shoulder, but missing entirely so that he was patting the air beside Dean's face instead.
"I'll miss you, too," Dean replied as seriously as he could. Sam closed his eyes and sank back onto his pillow, apparently satisfied. This time he actually went to sleep, his breath rattling noisily and his head back under the covers.
Dean should have gotten up then, gone to the store to run his errands, but he stayed, watching Sam breathe and being thankful for his giant, hilarious little brother.