There were crappy motel rooms and then there were crappy motel rooms. This was one of the latter. No matter how he jiggled or thwacked the temperature controls, the air just would not cut on. The result was a stiflingly humid room Sam couldn’t breathe in. On top of that, the windows didn’t even open. He’d thought about opening the door a crack or even throwing something through the window, just for a chance at some cool, fresh air. But he didn’t want his dad to wake up and find he’d messed up the salt line or caused damage management would make them pay for.
So Sam lay in bed, trying to breathe. But his head felt so hot and stuffed. Every breath in was agony as it hit the back of his throat. How had his dad and brother managed to fall asleep like this? Granted, these days John was out before he hit the bottom of the bottle of Jack, and Dean had always been good at dropping off when John was there. When it was just him and Sammy, he was always the last to fall asleep and first to wake up. Even though Sam was a teenager now, Dean still looked after him like he was a little kid. Sam wondered when that would change.
He wondered if it would change. And he wondered it while lying on his side of the crappy motel room bed, listening to his dad’s steady snores and Dean’s heavy, slow breathing. Sam wanted to be sure they were both asleep before he got up. He kept an eye on Dean the whole time, half-expecting his brother to get up. But Dean slept on, passed out on his back with one arm draped over his chest, the other dangling off the side of the bed. If Sam believed in monsters under the bed, that hand would soon be gone for sure.
But Sam didn’t believe in those. He did, however, believe in every other kind of monster. Because he’d seen them. He’d fought them. And they were a whole lot scarier that something that lies in wait and nibbles your fingers while you sleep. Demons were devious and cruel. Creatures were violent and unpredictable. And witches were self-centered and unforgiving.
Sam wasn’t sure which was at work on him right now, but he meant to find out. Cautiously, he crept over to Dad’s bed and searched around in the dark until he found a duffel bag so heavy it could have been used to haul bowling balls around. The sound of the zipper as Sam slowly, oh so slowly, unzipped the bag was loud enough to make Sam’s ears buzz. His heart pounded, and he kept his gaze trained on the bed, expecting his big brother to wake up at any second.
Finally he got the bag opened and pulled out the book that was on top of the stack in there. He wasn’t sure which book it was, but it didn’t matter; he planned on going through them all tonight. Because something was most definitely wrong.
It wasn’t just the stifling heat of the room that was getting to Sam. Dean was sleeping without his shirt off, but he was half under the covers and there wasn’t a bead of sweat on his forehead. Sam, on the other hand, kept dragging his sleeve across his forehead as he felt sweat starting to trickle down his face. His head thumped painfully as he sat in the bathroom, trying to make out the words by the light of a dimly glowing bathroom light switch. The tiles that were starting to come off the wall dug into his back. He kept banging his arm against the rusty pipe under the sink. And his whole body hurt to sit there, even after he stuffed one of the rough bathroom towels under his butt as a sort of cushion.
Most of this book was in Latin. Sam could make out a lot of it, but this meant he couldn’t skim it for words like ‘fever’ and ‘aches’ and ‘sore throat.’ Oh God, his throat. The thing felt like it was on fire, hundreds of degrees hotter than it was supposed to feel. This wasn’t normal. Sam had been sick loads of times before. But this wasn’t how a cold or even the flu felt. So this had to be something supernatural. And, with any luck, he’d find it in the book and figure out how to fix it before his dad or brother woke up.
Sam ruled out demonic possession pretty quickly. He figured he wouldn’t be in the right might to research if that were the case. It still could have been a curse or a hex. Or some residuals leftover after their last hunt. Or… or… well, Sam didn’t really know. That’s why he was reading.
But that would have been easier to do if he felt better. Every breath out felt hotter than the one before. It was starting to get even harder to draw breath in the stifling room. Setting the book down on the peeling linoleum bathroom floor, Sam got up and turned the water on in the sink. It was just a little trickle, soft enough so that it wouldn’t wake his dad or Dean. Sam ran it cold and shivered as his fingers passed through the water. He cupped his hand there and caught enough for a quick gulp. He slurped up the blessedly cold water, letting it linger against the roof of his mouth and back of his throat for a second before swallowing.
Or, rather, before trying to swallow. As soon as he tried, he recoiled, coughing. A few drops made it down, but the rest of the mouthful of water spilled down his shirt. All of that could have been dealt with all right, but he’d also let out an involuntary scream of pain. It felt like someone was stabbing at his throat from the inside with a dull, serrated blade.
Damn it! Sam coughed and dragged an arm across his face as Dean let himself into the bathroom. His sleepy older brother blinked in confusion, taking in Sam, the book, and the still running water. He had a knife in one hand, his sawed-off in the other. Neither was going to be much help to Sam right now.
“What the hell’s wrong?”
Sam shook his head. His hot, stuffed, throbbing head. “Don’t know,” he said, his voice a little higher in pitch and a lot rougher in tone than normal. “Might be a curse?”
Dean set the gun down by the side of the sink, turned off the water, then flipped the light switch.
Sam winced as the room was flooded with light, squeezing his eyes closed tight. As such, he was taken by surprise to suddenly feel Dean’s hand cup his forehead. “You’re burning up, kiddo. You hurt anywhere? Ears?”
Sam shook his head and tried to speak again. “Th…” He cleared his throat three times and wished drinking would help, but that pain had been excruciating. “Throat,” he finally managed.
“Yeah?” Dean’s hand travelled down to Sam’s neck, feeling around and pressing on spots that hurt. But Sam did not best not to cry out again. “Go ahead and open your mouth for me?”
It was a request, not an order. This was Dean, not Dad. But Sam obeyed at once. He stood there, feeling foolish and worried both at once. What could this be? A parasite? Some bad hoodoo?
“Strep throat. How’d you manage that?”
Sam shrugged, glancing over at the book. Strep throat? That seemed too easy a solution. And, anyway, that was for little kids. What was he doing at fourteen with his first ever case of strep throat?
“I’ll get you some Tylenol to help with the pain,” Dean told him. “And we’ll wait to see what Dad says in the morning, but I think you’ve earned yourself a trip to an emergency clinic.”
Sam groaned, forgetting how much it hurt to do that. He very nearly cried out again. Dad was going to kill him. They had a schedule to keep, and getting sick wasn’t anywhere in the plans. “You sure it isn’t a hex?”
Dean chuckled as he headed out of the bathroom, feeling around the room in the dark to find their first aid kit.