The helplessness spills through Dean, and he can’t stop it, can’t help pushing fingers roughly through Sam’s hair, hates the heavy weight of his heart in his chest because Jesus he should fix this. This is his job, his only job and he can’t even get Sam to hold down a drink of water long enough to absorb some. He’s sweating, and shaking and every time he swallows a pill to help this it comes right back up again. and Dean is so tired of seeing that damn thing that he wants to scream.
They’re hiding out again, lying low to throw the Leviathans off their track, and they can’t risk a hospital, not after the horrors in the last one. After three days of this though Dean wanted to try to, wanted to take the risk because God, Sam is going to die if this goes on, and Dean, he can’t fucking handle that. Can’t watch Sam die from whatever the fuck this is, infection or stomach bug, whatever without lifting a finger to help. The one time he tried though, almost wrestled Sam into the car, Sam fought him every inch of the way, begged him in a hoarse whisper leave it, it’ll get better, I promise Dean and it’s like he’s ten years old again, making promises he can’t possibly keep.
Sam was as weak as a kitten, his shove bounced off Dean, but he trembled and shook when Dean caught him, breath hot and rapid against his neck, and Dean closed his eyes breathed in deep, and cursed himself for a cowardly fool when he promised he wouldn’t make Sam go anywhere he doesn’t want to go, even though he knows all too well what could be waiting for them, that Sam even ill is being sensible with this.
They’re squatting of course, even the skeeziest motel won’t let them in looking like this, the last one threatened to call the cops on them when he offered cash up front, and it can’t be doing anything good for Sam. The blanket is new, the mattress isn’t, and the house is fucking falling down around their ears. When Sam opens his eyes this time, they’re fever-bright and glassy, and he tries to moisten his lips desperately with a mouth as dry as a bone. In vain hope Dean dribbles a little more water in, and for a second Sam keeps it down and Dean lets a tiny flicker of relief flame until he coughs it right back up again, the water running out the corners of his mouth, so weak he can’t raise a hand to wipe it away, and wrung with pity Dean uses his sleeve to get it, tries to avoid thinking of carrying baby Sammy out of the flames and wiping his drool away with the corner of the blanky he was wrapped in. Look how far they’ve come, he thinks and he wants to howl.
Sam’s eyes have fallen back shut and he is breathing fastly, shallowly with a nasty hitch in his chest that Dean doesn’t want to think about, and grabbing his jacket he stands, tugs Sam upright, but the other man is so limp he falls right back down, takes Dean with him, and he has to grin at that, makes a pitiful attempt at normality. “Your fault for being such a giant,” he grumbles, and debates leaving Sam. He’s as safe as he’s going to get here, and Dean’ll travel faster alone. He tugs the extra duvet he’d bought from Walmart over Sam, makes sure his phone is next to him, the two bottles of water and the pills if he wants to make another attempt while Dean is gone.
The first all-night pharmacy he comes to is a washout. An unhelpful clerk points him at a shelf of generic pills, and when he explains Sam can’t keep down anything at all, she offers him a homeopathic liquid remedy that she claims is sure to do the trick. He refuses and gets out, searches for what feels like miles until he finds another. This pharmacist is young and tired looking, and on a different day he might have hit on her just to see her smile. Tonight though, he just explains as fast as he can, feels her calm clear eyes measuring and evaluating him.
“You should take him to the ER,” she says finally. “It sounds like a stomach bug, but not keeping down water isn’t good news and he’s going to need to be on an IV sooner rather than later. At the very least take him to the doctor immediately.” He laughs, and it comes out low and cracked, and he realises for the first time he must look like a madman.
"I can’t,” he says roughly, and clears his throat. “S-Simon is incredibly phobic of doctors and anything medical really. He’d never forgive me if I took him there, and I’d have to sedate him to do so. Please, isn’t there anything you can do?” he’s tired enough to beg, hopes that the desperation comes through, suspects it does from the softening around her mouth.
She’s away behind the counter for a few minutes, and Dean begins to entertain the worst suspicions. She’s in league with the Leviathans, somehow they’ve put out a general alert on them, and she’s contacting them right now. Or maybe she’s just suspicious of him, is calling the cops as he waits like a fool. He’s on the verge of walking out the door, then running when she finally comes back carrying two things. She’s clear when she tells him about their use, clinical and concise, repeating things until she’s sure he knows, and he’s glad there’s no-one waiting behind him.
The first thing she gives him is the Phenergan. “This isn’t over-the-counter,” she explains, and he understands what she’s saying, that she’s risking her job for a complete stranger she doesn’t know from Adam. He doesn’t know why, can’t understand why she would, but she is. She looks at him directly. “I never do this,” she said, “and if it comes back to bite me in the ass I’ll probably deserve it. But I’m trusting you that you really badly need this, and that you can’t go to a doctor. It’s a suppository, designed as an anti-emetic. Once inserted it must remain in for twenty minutes at least to give it time to dissolve. With any luck when it takes effect, your brother will be able to hold water down, and his medication as well. When he’s reached that point give him one of these,” she held out a small bottle. “They’ll bring down his fever. Acetaminophen should help with that as well. If he gets any worse though, you have to take him to hospital. He could be having an allergic reaction, or have something really seriously wrong.”
Dean nods, takes the items and holds them as she explains the suppository. “You’re going to have to help him with it,” she says matter-of-factly. “If he hasn’t kept anything down in two days, he’s going to be too weak to do it himself, and you can’t afford for it not to be done properly. So listen carefully. On his side is best, one leg extended and the other pulled up. You’ll be best off using some lubricant if you have any handy, but not Vaseline. By this point for the love of dear God make sure you’ve washed your hands and put on some gloves,” she paused for a moment and added some disposable gloves to the pile, then went back to explaining. “When you insert it, it has to go right in. Well past the sphincter, so there’s no risk of it slipping out. Make him stay on his side, with his legs pressed together for at least a few minutes. Then give him a little bit of time and try him on the water.”
He can’t quite explain how this is actually slightly grosser to listen to, than having monster-guts on his hands is, but Sam is depending on him to take this in, to remember every detail and he nods along. When she stops, he looks at her dead on. “Thank you,” he says simply, because there is nothing more to be said, and she nods at him. He pays over the amount in cash though it wipes out most of his readies, but something tells him it’s best to keep this completely off-card, and he suspects it’ll make it easier for her to sort it out. “How will you explain it?” he says, and a small smile lightens her face.
“I’ve a doctor-friend who can help,” she says and he nods. He knows the sort of friend she means, and he hopes bone-deep that things go okay for her. He understands a little now why she’d do this for him, gets that he does the same thing day in and day out, risks stuff for people he doesn’t know, because it’s usually the right thing to do, gets that this takes her own brand of personal strength to do. Maybe he's just not used to decent people, to someone offering something with no catches. He thanks her one more time, then slips out the door and gets back to Sam as fast as he can.
Sam’s no better when he gets back, still asleep, soaked in sweat. He doesn’t even shift when Dean walks back in, and it’s with a panic he hasn’t felt in what feels like a lifetime that Dean bends over him, looks for chest-movement. It’s there, and he’s filled with blinding relief, swamping him until he feels almost dizzy, light-headed himself. “C’mon,” he murmurs and strips off the blanket, rolls Sam over onto his side. “Wake up Sam,” he says, and waits. He’d found it so funny as a kid that when Dad told Sam to wake up, he’d roll back over for an extra five minutes sleep, but Dean could always get him up on the instant. He’d used to think it was just Sam finding another way to irritate their dad, but when the habit had stuck around he began to doubt it a little. He uses it now, watches Sam’s eyes flicker half-open, struggle to focus on Dean.
“Deannn,” he says and it’s slurred and soft. “Dun’t feel so good,” and that by itself is enough to tear Dean apart. Sam hasn’t sounded like this in so long, after everything they’ve been through he’s hardened like Dean, like he had to, given up on turning to his big brother for every answer and every need. The illusion is shattered when Sam drags himself upright, lets his chin drop on his chest for a moment then yanks it up. “We gotta move,” he says, and actually tries to stand. Dean could press him back with one finger, but he uses a hand and Sam sinks back.
“Going to make you feel better,” Dean says quietly. Sam looks at him then, manages to focus, and Dean turns him on one side. “Pants down,” he says, and Sam doesn’t question him, just undoes the zip with fumbling hands. That’s the hard part done thinks Dean with a little bit of humour, no easy way to take another dude’s pants off without alcohol. Sam doesn’t resist until Dean pulls them down all the way, then he rolls back over.
“What’re you doing?” he says, and Dean can’t quite pinpoint the look in his eyes. He thinks it might be fear.
He tries for reasonableness first, though he doubts Sam will take much of it in. “I’ve got to do this dude. You’re not getting any liquids, and you can’t keep your meds down. So this will help you.” And like that a switch is flipped, Sam gets what he’s talking about and he fights. Fights as best as he can, curls right up against the wall and wraps the blanket around himself, lashes out when Dean comes close. It feels fucking bizarre having to kneel beside your brother and convince him to do something you’d pay good money not to have to do to him, but this is for Sam. He’s not going to get better any other way and Dean can’t take seeing him in this kind of pain, he’s not going to let it continue like this. It’s something Sam doesn’t get a say in anymore, not after what happened last time he offered himself up.
With one strong arm he pins him down, stares into dilated frightened eyes, and waits. Waits for Sam to get it, that Dean isn’t going away. That Dean will never hurt him, that he’ll do anything for him including this, and eventually Sam quietens. His resistance isn’t gone, Dean knows him too well to believe that, but he's biding his time waiting for the right moment, and someday, one day Dean is going to ask exactly what happened to him, is going to listen until he gets an honest answer.
When he’s sure Sam’s not going to pull out a knife and fight him off, he goes back to getting ready, suppository in its little white covering by his side, pulling on the plastic gloves and worming them on, trying his hardest not to look at Sam’s face. He’d considered rigging up some sort of sheet so Sam didn’t have to see him do this, so he could lie back and fever-nightmare himself into believing it was a doctor doing it, but some instinct told him that wouldn’t help, might send Sam over the edge, so he just doesn’t look, focuses on the physical, gets Sam back on his side, tugs down his boxers and for the first time hesitates. It’s weird doing this, but he doesn’t have a choice and Sam is co-operating for the moment which is a sight lot better than five minutes ago. The instant he tries though the tension is back, and Sam seizes right up, curls in on himself, and Dean wants to scream with frustration.
“You have to relax,” he says, and he can hear himself how stupid it sounds. Yeah sure Sammy, relax while I shove this up your ass when you’re feeling so weak you can’t stop me, but he has to give it a go. “Sammy, I need you to do this for me,” he attempts, comes close to begging for the second time tonight, and sees a miniscule flicker run through Sam. At least he’s awake and can understand. “Please,” he tries again, and this time there’s a shift towards him. Dean takes advantage of the opportunity, and with one hand holds him down while the other snatches up the tube of lube and gives it a quick squirt, then picks up the suppository and rips the cover off with his teeth. He feels an almost hysterical bubble of laughter rise up in him at the action. It’s not exactly ripping a condom open. The suppository falls into his hand, blunt and harmless looking, not as big as he’d thought, and it’s even awkward to hold. Sam is thrashing now, his temporary calm a lie, like Dean always knew it was, but he’s so easy to restrain, it’s so easy to push one hand down, feel the too hot smoothness of his skin, hipbone sharp and clear in a way it shouldn’t be, not after so few days, but what about this is ever the way it should be?
He sets the pill down, if he’s going to do this he’s going to do it right. The lube is splattered over Sam’s hole, and he uses a finger to push it in, slick up the entrance well enough that this should be easy even for a tight-ass like Sam, then leans over and sets the full weight of his torso on Sam’s side, presses his head down so Sam can only see him, only feel warmth and closeness, and lets his fingers press in the suppository. It comes right back out again, and Dean pauses, tries to find calm in himself, to remember what the pharmacist had said. He needed to push it right in, and make sure it stayed. Easier said than done, slippery fingers and slippery meds did not a good combination make, but eventually he got it back in, slid his finger inside with it, tried not to think about what he was doing, listening only to Sam’s short sharp breathing, the gulping swallows he was making like he was trying to hold back noises, doesn’t speak, because he doesn’t think he can say anything Sam wants to hear right now. At least he’s not fighting now, Dean doesn’t think he could take that.
The seconds tick by like minutes, and Dean cautiously pulls out, fairly sure it’s going to stay. It slides back out with him though, and he squeezes his eyes, bites his tongue and fumbles for a new one, changes gloves as well, he doesn’t want to mess up at this stage. Sam’s limp now, eyes shut like he’s ignoring this completely and has managed to fall asleep, but Dean knows he’s awake, knows it like he always does. This time it slides in easily, and he stays in for three minutes, counting it down silently in his head, listening to the soft thump of Sam’s heart for his measure, and this time when he leaves, the pill stays, and if God wasn’t such a fucking jerk Dean would be thanking him right now.
He strips off the gloves, and throws them aside, gets off Sam fully, and straightens his leg for him, pulls back over the blanket. “Dude, you’ve got to keep your legs together,” he says, and his own voice is rough and strange. “Like a virgin on prom-night remember.” Sam acts like he doesn’t hear him, but Dean’s pretty sure he tightens up. He hesitates, not sure whether to go or stay, maybe get some more juice or just drive and drive and find a place to be quiet in, where he can tilt his head back and just let this drain from him. Sam settles the matter for him, shifts over until his back is against the wall, the space a clear invitation.
Dean takes it up however little he wants to. This isn’t about him, or what he needs. He scrouches down awkwardly, this mattress was never designed for two, and he doesn’t want to touch Sam right now, not anymore than the bland benign contact of knee against knee. He’s too warm, fully clothed, two blankets and the space-heater that’s Sam in front of him, but he doesn’t really want to move now either. If he stays like this, then Sam will and maybe that pill have a chance to do it’s work. At some point he falls asleep, a short nightmare filled doze, and he wakes up an hour later, and decides now is as good a time as any. With careful hands he tilts the bottle of water to Sam’s mouth, lets him take a swallow then takes it away and waits. Five minutes later it’s still down, and so are the pills Sam carefully took with more sips of water, lips already looking less dry and cracked, and Dean rolls over onto his back to stare up at the ceiling, because otherwise he’s going to say something really cringeworthy, the sort of thing that belongs in magazines that litter doctor’s waiting rooms.
Beside him Sam is asleep now, a better sleep than before, and Dean runs his hand once down his side, breathes in deep and keeps watch.