It started with a sneeze. Well, a sneeze for Dean. Sam quickly found himself in the dark, firmly pressed between two warm walls of skin while a large “K-tchhhh!” was sneezed overhead. The big nose sniffled loudly when it was over.
“Sorry Sammy, that one snuck up on me.” Sam was uncovered by his brothers right hand in to the light and allowed to move back to his normal spot not far from the area he was pressed against a moment before. Sam was four inches tall, so when his brother sneezed, he had to make sure Sam wasn't thrown off his shoulder from the sudden movement. It hadnt happened often, but the few times it had Sam usually received a heads up a few seconds before finding himself held down.
“No biggie.” It wasn't, Dean was just protecting him, as per usual. The drive continued on with Black Sabbath wailing from the old cassette tape. Even if Sam wanted more modern music, the old songs were a familiar comfort.
Less than half an hour later, Dean had a tickle in his throat. Clearing it didn't stop it, aggressively clearing his throat didn't work. He tried a cough.
“What's up?” When a throat three times your size makes any kind of sound, one tends to notice it, especially if they are sitting a few scant inches away from it.
“Just a throat tickle.” the older Winchester reassured. A clear stretch of empty road allowed him the luxury of leaning over to open the glove department and rummage around for something sugary to suck on. He struck gold with a small blue lollipop. He vaguely recalls picking it up from a business office a few months ago. He manages to unwrap the candy with an elbow on the steering wheel. The lollipop was slightly broken, leaving small shards of blue in the wrapper.
“Candy?” Dean offered his little brother. “Thanks.” The larger hand passes the wrapper to the smaller hands. The crinkling under his ear was annoying for a few seconds as the younger brother got his own candy. The wrapper was dropped onto Dean’s lap, who moved it back into the glove compartment.
For Sam, the candy was cumbersome, like sucking on a large jawbreaker, but a welcome treat all the same. Sam hears the lollipop click and clack against Dean’s teeth along with the occasional sucking sound from the mouth nearby. He tolerates the odd sounds without a word.
The sucker did stop the tickle in Dean’s throat.
For a while at least.
Then it came back with reinforcements.
First it was the tickle, followed by a small cough. Not too long after came several hearty and wet sniffs.
“You’re sick!” The small voice on his shoulder proclaims.
“Nuh-uh!” Dean Winchester, king of comebacks.
“I thought you were feeling warmer!” A tiny hand he can barely feel presses against his neck. Dean focuses on his body and is surprised when he does feel a wave of heat pass through his chest and head followed by another cough.
“Pull over at the next town.” Dean tightens his lips and keeps his hands on the steering wheel. The tiny hand slaps his neck.
“You shouldn't drive, you’re coming down with something!” Dean tries and fails to suppress another cough.
“See?” Dean grumbles wordlessly as an answer and readjusts his hands on the steering wheel.
Sam lets out a soft sigh, he’s too small to make Dean do anything he doesn't want to do. But Dean is a mother hen at heart and Sam knows how to tug at his heartstrings.
“If I was coming down with something, we’d stop for the night.” He starts by stating honestly. Dean grimaces slightly, knowing that his little brother is right.
“It's not like we’re headed anywhere specific.” The little voice speaks again a minute later. Sam’s right again. They were just headed in a southern direction to beat the winter chill. Hanging around Minnesota in February was not good for those who couldn't keep warm, like Sam. Dean whines under his breath, knowing that his defenses are crumbling. Sam knows how to coerce his older brother into doing what needed to be done.
“If you pull over at the next stop, I’ll let you have the remote” Sam cajoles. His little brother is offering him what little choice he has over his life just so he will pull over to rest. Dean turns on the blinkers and shifts lanes, getting ready to get off the highway at the next exit. Sam rejoices internally, glad he convinced Dean to rest. Finding a motel is easy, almost always near the highway by the exit. Just look for the neon.
At the check in desk, Dean manages to grab a handful of tissues from a box in time to blow his suddenly runny nose. The older woman behind the desk frets kindly.
“This weather gets everyone sick, what with the dry air and nippy wind. Take care hun.” She passes him a cough drop along with his key.
The room is almost too warm with heat hissing from the radiators, a pleasant change from the single degree windchill outside. He sets up Sam’s stuff under the nightstand easily and drops onto his bed. It's not late by any adult standard but it's already been dark for hours. Dean closes his eyes for a moment. He’ll get food and wash up. In a minute.
He wakes up when small hands tug his earlobe. “Dean!” A small, familiar voice chastises, bringing him out of the comfortable darkness of the nap.
“Mnh?” He questions.
“You’ve been asleep for over an hour. Let’s get some food and go to bed for the night.”
“Mhm.” Dean turns his head, opens his eyes, and manages to cover his mouth before he sneezes over his brother, which triggers a round of coughing. The coughs are becoming deeper, more from the chest. Not a good sign. He sits up with a groan, body aching, taking a few moments to asses the symptoms. He’s too warm, his back aches, has a cough that threatens to appear every time he breathes too deeply, and to top it off, a runny nose.
“Order room service.” The quiet voice surprises him. His thoughts are so muggy that he’d forgotten that he wasn't alone. He’s not hungry at all, but Sam shouldnt have nothing just because he’s sick. He picks up the phone on the nightstand with the intent of ordering a small salad when the small voice pipes up.
“Could you order chicken soup?” The request is surprising, because Sam rarely voices a choice for food, but Dean can understand a desire for something warm and filling. It's not even eight yet so the kitchen is still open.
After he hangs up the phone Dean downs a tylenol and searches for something stronger. There’s still half of a small bottle of nyquil in his duffel! But he can't take that yet, he has to be up to receive the food for Sam, and that'll be in about half an hour. If he takes the medicine now, he’ll be sleeping by then. Dean grabs a pillow and sits down on the floor, placing the pillow between him and the wooden footboard of the bed. If he sits on the bed he knows he’s going to nod off. He flips through a decent amount of stations and settles on some kind of romantic comedy movie. A chick flick, but better than the local news station discussing the weather. Sam makes his way down the bed to settle himself not far from his bigger brother.
With the older brother on the floor and the younger on the bed, Sam is nearly at the others eyeline. They share a small smile at the seating situation and enjoy the movie.
A small pile of dirty tissues grow on the blue carpet at Dean’s side as he blows his nose often enough to be annoying. The tissue box from the bathroom rests on his lap in a state of near constant use.
They stay quiet for the most part other than the occasional cough or nose blowing. The one comment Sam said made Dean laugh but that made him cough and for a few scary seconds he couldn't catch his breath. So they stay silent, Dean letting Sam think that he didn't notice the look his little brother gives him if his breath wheezed.
Dean manages to catch himself when his eyes closed for too long in between blinks. His body was yelling at him to rest, to recuperate and sleep. It was a good thing Sam demanded they stop for the night, he probably would have kept driving until the coughing ran him off the road.
Not that he would ever admit that out loud.
When a knock sounds at the door Dean quickly scoops up his brother and quickly but carefully places him on the floor by the nightstand. Sam understands and rushes to his designated safe area with only a small backwards glance. A teenage girl holds a covered tray in the biting wind, shivering despite the puffy coat, gloves, hat, and scarf adorning her. Dean tips her five dollars for coming out in this weather.
“Grubs up.” placing the tray on the floor, he pulls away the fancy metal dome to reveal a large, steaming bowl of chicken soup, bright with vegetables and poultry, and several packets of crackers on the side. Dean snags two of them and retreats to the bed to wrestle with the plastic wrappers.
The bowl is almost bigger than Sam's old home under the floor and is full of a hearty soup whose scent makes him salvate. But that isn't why he asked Dean to get it.
“Hey!” The blankets on the bed crinkle as Dean leans over the edge to see Sam standing on the tray by the soup that looks like a swimming pool compared to the younger hunter.
“Y’need help?” Dean wonders.
“No. Well, yes. I do. I also need help finishing it.” Dean frowns as he processes what he heard. Sam wants to share?
“This is for you too! You got me soup when I wasn't feeling well.” When they were kids a lifetime ago.
“Sam-” Dean’s voice was strained with what little force was behind it. He was too tired to argue.
“Please? Just a little?” Sam pleads. As if Dean could ever say no to those tiny, beseeching, puppy eyes. He exhales a world weary sigh before shifting his legs over the edge of the bed. He makes one last attempt at convincing his brother.
“I’m really not hungry.”
“Bull. You’re always hungry.” A smile tugs at the corner of his mouth, because Sam is once again right. But this sudden sickness has sapped his appetite.
“If it’ll get you to stop griping.” Dean leans over to the carpet and picks up the tray, brother, soup, and all and shuffles over to the (surprisingly real wood) table. Sam was knocked off balance at the surprise ride but suppressed a bitch face when he realized Dean was giving in. Dean digs through his pockets for Sam’s bottle cap after setting the tray on the table. Sam fiddles with something from his bag as Dean picks out small chunks of meat and vegetables with the heavy spoon the motel provided.
The warm, scented steam that wafted and curled from the soup made Dean drool a bit. It smelled wholesome, hardy. It was a long time since he had food like this just for the sake of comfort food. Not only that, but it was someone else who wanted it for him. He knows Sam would have gotten it himself if he could, but that was out of his little brothers reach, so he found his own way to get the soup.
He placed the bottle cap in front of his little brother, full of hot soup along with half a cracker. Sam looks up at him with a grin. He doesn't need to say anything.
The soup warms Dean’s throat as it goes down, soothing the ache that was beginning to become bothersome. Sam slurps his own portion of soup with a tiny spoon made from tin foil that Dean could only see when the light glinted off of it.
Even though he said he wasn't hungry before, Dean manages to eat most of the soup before he feels it would be a bad idea to keep continuing. Feeling comfortable and sated, Dean wants to hibernate for the winter in this motel room. But no, he has responsibilities. Sam was also feeling the effects of a full belly and warm room. Dean watched him fight the slow blinks that lasted longer and longer. He offered his hand which Sam accepted, slowly moving limbs heavy with contentment.
“Sleep.” Sam yawned. Dean drops of Sam by his “room” and goes for the nyquil, throwing back the thick liquid like a shot. He changes into sweatpants and a softer shirt before bundling up under the blanket, enjoying the soft, clean sheets. Dean pulls the pillow under his face, arm wrapping around it, the other pulling the blanket over his head, making a blanket cave that soon became overly warm with his breath. It was easy enough to make a breathing hole for fresh air near his mouth.
“G’night Sammy.” it took a few moments for Dean to hear the reply.
“G’night Dean.” Assured that all was well, Dean soon dozed and slipped into a deep sleep.
“Dean! Wake up!”
Dean awoke suddenly who knows how long later, panting heavily and covered in sweat. The memory of running and searching for someone left him with the residual feelings of being scared and upset. It was just a dream. A nightmare. His blanket had been kicked off of the upper half of his body that's now cold, sweat cooling on his skin. He takes in and releases a shuddering breath, trying to relax. He finally notices a small hand stroking near his ear.
“I'm here.” The tiny hand continued to rub over the small patch of skin. It was immensely soothing. They shared the silence like that. Sam continuing to smooth over the small amount of stubble, and Dean trying to calm his panicked breathing. It takes a while but with Sam’s comforting presence nearby and reassuring, Dean is able to calm down and pull the blanket up over his shoulders again.
“What are you doing here half-pint?” Dean doesn't even turn his head, knowing that he might knock Sam over if he does.
“Well, not too long ago I had nightmares, bad ones. Night after night I was tormented and couldn't sleep unless my brother managed calmed me down, and when that didn't work I slept with him, and finally got a break from the bad dreams. So when I hear my brother mumbling my name in his sleep I thought I could help him out like he helps me all the time.”
Dean stays quiet, staring at the dark ceiling displaying faint shadows from outside. He didn't know he had been talking in his sleep. Was Sam who he was looking for in his dream? Dean falls back asleep with the tiny hand assuring him of his brother’s safety.
The second time he wakes up, he's nauseous, and there’s something cool on his forehead that feels amazing over his overheated skin. He reaches with an unsteady hand and takes off the thing on his forehead to look at. It takes a few seconds for him to recognize the small cloth as Sam’s blanket, sopping wet.
“‘Ammy?” He rasps, coughing to clear his throat. A soft sound to his left has him turning his head to find Sam, asleep on the bed’s other pillow. He looks so small and vulnerable, the only dark spot on the off-white surface. Dean thinks better of waking his brother but the next moment his thoughts are consumed by a sudden and violent wave of nausea that has him running to the bathroom. He thanks a deity he doesn’t believe in that he made it in time. The next ten minutes are spent clutching the toilet as the chicken soup and what feels like a week's worth of meals make an encore performance. Finally, at long last, Dean feels like he can move away from the commode and stands on wobbly legs that manage to hold him up long enough to rinse out his mouth and get back to the bed.
He drops onto the bed face first and buries his face into the pillow. Since he’s no longer feeling too hot or too cold or about to puke the world seems like a much better place.
“Feel better?” A head tilt sideways shows the smaller man trekking down the pillows and closer to Dean’s head.
“Mmm. Yeah.” Dean closes his eyes for a few moments, fighting the urge to just relax and sleep when he feels something cool and wet pressing against his face. His eyes open to see Sam rubbing his face with his wet blanket. The action is a caring one, no one has taken care of him like this in a long, long while. It takes Dean a moment to realize that Sam must have gotten his blanket wet from the small cup of water that he always gives him, and then climbed up the bed with the sopping blanket! He closes his eyes and lets Sam wipe his face, relaxing his entire body and letting himself get cozy. As soon as Sam drapes the cloth over his larger brother’s forehead and tries to move out of the indentation the big head has created in the pillow, Dean curls his hand over his brother, effectively trapping the shorter Winchester between the pillow and his palm. Sam doesn't even squirm away from the hand covering him.
“Dean?” When Dean doesn't open his eyes or reply, Sam pats the closest finger.
“You gave me your blanket, I can be your blanket.” He’s not sure how coherent his words are, but Sam doesn't leave, he just hunkers down further under his palm to get cozy. Keeping his eyes closed, Dean waits until Sam’s breath has evened out, letting out tiny snores that Dean can only just hear. For the final time that night Dean falls asleep.
The next day is spent in bed. Even though he’s not coughing as much, Dean is still too hot for Sam’s liking and the younger brother refuses to even think of leaving until the next day. Dean spends the day napping, watching movies on his laptop, and sipping water. He complains in the morning but stops early enough for Sam to suspect that maybe Dean appreciates being taken care of, even if it’s only what few things he can do, Like boss his brother to drink more water, or let Dean hold him while he naps. Sam finds a scarf under the bed. Dean pulls it out with ease. It must have been left by the previous guest. The scarf was grey with blue edges and strings at both ends, and was soft enough for even Sam to approve. The faint smell of chemical strawberry from a lip gloss or perfume means that the owner of the scarf was a youngish girl. But Dean has no qualms about claiming the forgotten accessory and tosses it over his coat. Sam knows with certainty that it won't take long for the scarf to smell like Dean.
For some reason Dean is much more clingy than normal, well he’s being clingy period. Sam isn't sure if it's because he’s sick, or the unsettling nightmare Dean had last night, but he can stay close if it makes Dean feel better. He tries not to mind as his brother shifts him around, allowing to be handled just today as dispensation for his sick brother, otherwise he would never allow himself to be moved too much like this. Sam thinks Dean is going through a 24 hour virus, and hopes that its not a longer one because even though his brother might feel better now,the symptoms might come back with revenge.
The brothers watch movies, they talk about their life, and the last time they were sick.
“Must have been about five years ago, I had a fever, and was confined to bed. Walt and Mallory-my-uhm, they made sure I was okay. They kept watching over me in shifts, making sure I was being kept cool with wet cloths. Walt left long enough for a trek to another part of the motel, one of the other families had an aspirin pill, and even though it was old, it did help.” Dean cups his hand around Sam’s back in solidarity as he thinks back to the last time he felt this horrible from being sick rather than an injury from a hunt.
“Last time I was sick, Dad and I were in the middle of nowhere Arizona. I caught food poisoning from a can of old vienna sausages that Dad bought in a ninety nine cent store. The desert theme in the motel we stopped at was so realistic, it even had the desert sand in the carpet! Though I spent most of the time in the bathroom. That ugly, bright orange, and peeling wallpaper bathroom.” They share a laugh after Dean shudders from the memory.
The next morning they head out. Dean is still a little warm, but with no other symptoms, Sam can't convince his brother to rest another day, he was lucky to get Dean to stay all of the previous day. Sam is tucked next to his brother’s neck, staying warm from the scarf wrapped around himself and Dean. Sliding into the car, Dean lets the engine warm up before doing anything.
“Want me to move the scarf?” He offered. Hands nearby, anticipating the answer.
“ Between still-too-warm-you and this cotton wall, I don't think I’ve ever been this warm comfortably.” Sam rearranges the scarf to see and lay over his chest and legs. “Almost like a cocoon.”
“My brother, Mothman.” Dean teases. Soon they leave the Ava’s Place motel, watching it disappear in the headlights.
“I’m thinking Texas.” Dean speaks to the air.
“Sounds warm. Lead the way.” Refreshed in both body and mind from the mini sick vacation, the brothers are ready to fight whatever evil they can find.
Far away from the black car, a creature sniffs the air for food. It has been sleeping for so long, the hibernation has left it hungry and weak. It finds its meal in a small farm nearby its sleeping area. A child screams from its bedroom nearby, watching the creature eat its fill. Her parents see nothing outside as her scream alerted the creature that someone was watching. The next morning almost the goats on the farm were found dead with the exception of a young kid who is wedged into the wall of the barn and terrified. The girl tells a classmate of what happened. The other child nods and remembers a story his abuelita told him. “It’s El Chupacabra.”