Day 1

Title: Day 1
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Supernatural
Rating: PG
Pairing: Sam/Jessica
Disclaimer: Not my characters. I wish they were mine. I definitely don’t get paid for this.
Summary: It's finals week and Sam is committed to studying, even though he's got a cold.
Notes: Written during my 12 Ficlets in 12 Days in 2018-19 project project for cowboyguy


h’IHschhhh! Huh huh huh-IHHschhhhh!” Keeping his eyes closed against the pain, Sam reached for the tissue box. His fingers found the rectangular cardboard, dove in through the opening, and found nothing but cardboard. He groaned and opened his eyes. They didn’t tell him anything he didn’t already know. The balled-up tissues strewn about the table and the empty tissue box were clear as day. This cold of his had gotten worse, not better.

Feeling the congestion as pressure in his ears, behind his eyes, and of course in his nose, Sam felt around for a tissue that he could reuse. It was either that or stand up and go find something else he could blow his nose into. But that would take time. Which meant valuable minutes he wouldn’t be studying. And he’d already lost so much time this week feeling too sick to study. So his goal was to keep his butt in the chair and his mind on his school work.

Sam blew his nose a little, coughed a lot, and then turned his attention back on his laptop, spiral notebook, and textbook. He hadn’t worked so hard to have a normal life, escape hunting, and get into Stanford only to waste his opportunity now because of a little head cold.

After another hour, he made progress studying, but he also did plenty of coughing as well. Sam was just thinking of violating his no standing up rule in order to get a fresh cup of tea. Strong ginger tea seemed to be just about the only thing that made his throat feel better and made the coughs back off for a few minutes at least.

Before he could decide whether or not to get tea, he heard the front door open and close again. And then came the sound he loved the most: Jess’ absent-minded humming. Sometimes it was a song stuck in her head, other times it was something entirely her own. She hummed without realizing she was humming, and she always got shy and self-conscious when he pointed it out to her. So he learned to just secretly enjoy it and not say a word. Today, it sounded like some sort of opera song, and he wondered where that came from, but it made him smile immediately.

“How’s the studying going?” she asked, walking around the table, peeling off her light coat, and draping it over the back of the other chair at the table. Christmas in California meant temperatures in the mid-fifties. It was kind of nice to be someplace where he could feel comfortable all year round in jeans, a t-shirt, and a flannel. Even if he wasn’t a hunter any more, those clothes were what he’d grown up in and what he went back to when he wasn’t feeling so good. Though, sometimes, he threw a hoodie on if he wanted to be toasty warm.

Sam shrugged. “It’s going all right. I won’t ace the final, but I’m on track for a solid B—excuse—“ he broke off, succumbing to a coughing fit. Pain radiated throughout his chest when he coughed.  His coughs were strong and wet, like he was trying to cough something up and couldn’t. It was just all the congestion in him. He really needed to kick this cold and do it soon.

Jess frowned, leaning on the chair in front of her for a moment before walking back around to him. She put her hands on his shoulders. “I really don’t like the sound of that cough. What did the doctors at health services say about it? Did they give you anything to take for it?”

Sam shook his head. They hadn’t given him anything because he hadn’t gone to see them. He’d seriously considered it, but in the end, he had decided his time was better spent studying for his finals. Besides, he was only going to get sicker sitting around a waiting room with a bunch of sick people. He didn’t need their fancy diagnosis or prescription medicines anyway. He’d grown up taking Tylenol for everything, and if that was good enough for Dean to give him, Sam wasn’t about to question the results. This was just a cold, after all. It would run its course and go away on its own eventually. Until then, there was nothing he could do but wait, rest, take more Tylenol, and drink more tea.

Jess sighed and squeezed his shoulders. “Let me guess, you didn’t go to health services today.”

Sam shook his head again.

“Sam! You promised me you’d go this time!”

“I know, I know. But I really got on a roll studying… and I was feeling better, really I was,” he protested.

“Until you weren’t?”

This time he nodded. “Yeah. Until I wasn’t.” He coughed again. “Think you could get me some tea?” He picked up his cup and rocked it around in midair, showing it was as empty as could be. “Please, please, please?”

She plucked it out of the air, out of his hand. “Of course. More of that ginger stuff?”

“That’s it, yeah. Thanks, Jess. You’re a life saver.”

She laughed. “Just you wait until you’re better, Sam Winchester. And then you’re going to owe me big.” She licked her finger and then drew a small, vertical line in the air, making a tally mark.

Sam smiled. He owed her far more than even she knew. And he planned on spending the rest of his life making sure he showed her how much he loved her and cared for her and respected her. “huh… huh-H’KTshhhhh! Hi-IHHTschhhhhhh!” Right after he got over this awful cold. “And a box of tissues?” he called after her. “I just ran out,” he lied, not wanting her to know how lazy he had been. “I think there’s a spare box under the bathroom sink.” Calling down the hall to her scratched and hurt his throat, making him cough some more.

When she returned to the small nook barely big enough to fit a dining table into, He was hunched over in his seat, coughing so hard he had tears in his eyes. His body was trying to rid itself of all this congestion and phlegm. It wasn’t at all pretty, and it felt even worse. But having her place the mug of tea in front of him and then rub her hand up and down his back until the coughs subsided made him feel infinitely better. He took a few big gulps of tea, letting the hot liquid slide down his throat as slowly as he could. The tea soothed his throat as it went down, even if it stung a little still when he swallowed. That was always the first symptom he had when he came down with a cold and also the last one to go. But it was only a matter of time, especially now that he had more tea. And Jess.

“I think that was the spare box,” Jess said, gesturing at the empty tissue box on the table. “This is the best I could do.” She placed a roll of toilet paper down on his laptop keyboard.  Then she leaned sideways and kissed his cheek, rough with stubble; he hadn’t bothered shaving much when he was sick. “How about I go on a grocery run? Some homemade soup has to help that cold, right?”

Sam didn’t feel especially hungry. In fact, he felt slightly nauseated at the thought of dinner just now. But he nodded his approval of the idea, mainly because it meant more tissues. “huhh… h’IHHSchhhhh!” Sam definitely needed more tissues. He unrolled a handful of toilet paper and blew his nose lightly into it, testing it out. It was flimsy and hardly ideal, but if he used enough of it at a time, he could make it work. Still, there was nothing like the real stuff. “Get me more cough drops and tissues?” he asked hopefully.

“Cough drops and tissues,” she repeated, placing another kiss on his cheek. “I won’t be gone long.”

He reached back and took her hand, squeezing it. “Thanks, Jess.” He didn’t want to kiss her and get her sick. In fact, he was impressed she hadn’t caught this from him already. “Love you.”

She gave him a beautiful, soft smile. “Aw, I love you, too.” She pulled back, grabbed her jacket and purse, and headed back out.

Sam stared at the laptop in front of him, his head pounding. His chest rattling a little every time he took a deep breath. He was fairly certain Jess hadn’t heard that, or she would have mentioned it. He forced himself to cough again, trying to clear himself out. But it didn’t seem to make any difference at all.



“That boy,” Jess whispered, shaking her head as she headed from her car to the apartment building, laden with purchases. When she had left him, he had been snuffling into a wad of toilet paper, diligently studying for final exams. Missing the final week of class, which was usually exam review, had been tough for him. But she had never met anyone so focused and devoted to what he wanted. She was just glad that one of the things he wanted was her.

Her plan for the day was to make a fresh pot of chicken noodle soup, do a bit of last minute cramming for her own finals, and then watch whatever sappy Hallmark Channel Christmas movie she could find on. She was determined to make Sam watch it with her and relax, whether he wanted to or not. Maybe she would even take him to bed and make him sleep in the next morning. He looked exhausted, and there was no better way of fighting a cold than to rest.

Humming the jingle that had been playing on the radio when she got out of the car, Jess climbed the stairs to their apartment, did a bit of plastic bag juggling in order to get her key in the lock, and headed inside. “All right, Sam! I’ve got you tissues and cough drops and nasal spray and chocolate-covered espresso beans. It’s everything you could possibly need to get through final ex--”

She stopped short, terror washing over her. Sam was right where she left him, but instead of sitting hunched over his laptop and notes, he was sprawled out on the floor of the dining nook. He lay on his back, arms thrown out to either side, one leg still hooked around the chair he’d been sitting in. The chair, too, had toppled over onto its side and lay beside Sam’s body. Jess dropped the bags and ran to his side. His chest rose and fell, though each breath was strained and wet, like he was breathing in water. At least he wasn’t dead. Thank God for that. “Sam?” Gently, she squeezed his shoulder, but he did not stir. She thought about shaking him to see if he would wake, but she didn’t want to hurt him. “Sam, I want you to wake up for me.” She felt his forehead and pulled her hand back the second it made contact with his skin. He was burning up. “Oh no you don’t!”

She was already digging her phone out of her purse. She only hoped that Sam’s college-provided health insurance covered ambulance rides, because Sam was far too big for her to carry down the stairs and into an emergency room.

The seven minutes she was on hold felt like the longest ones of her life. But a wave of relief followed by panic seized her when someone finally answered, “9-11. Please state the nature of your emergency.”

“Yes. I just got home to find my boyfriend passed out on the floor. He’s been sick with a cold for about a week, but now he’s running a really high fever, and I can’t wake him up. He might have hit his head when he fell out of his chair, I don’t know. I wasn’t here when it happened. But he needs help and I--”

The operator. “All right. I need you to try to remain calm. My system has your present location.” The operator read off the correct address.

“We’re in apartment 4B.” They had been thinking of moving, somewhere without so many stairs. But their lease wasn’t up until the end of the school year. But now she wished they lived somewhere it would be easier for the EMTs to get to them.

“Apartment 4B,” came the confirmation. “An ambulance has been dispatched and is on its way to you. Now, let me go over the details again to make sure I understand them.” The operator repeated what she had said. He was unconscious and unresponsive. He was running a high fever. He had been sick. “Do you know if he took anything? Alcohol? Drugs?”

“No,” Jess said, thinking of the bottle of Tylenol in the bathroom she’d seen Sam dive into a hundred times over the past week or two. Even before he’d caught the cold, that was his go-to for headaches or pretty much anything, really. But that was the only thing she could imagine him taking. He wouldn’t have taken enough to overdose on it… would he? “Only Tylenol. I kept telling him to go to Stanford’s health services, but we’ve got finals coming up, and he couldn’t find the time and now…” Her words caught in her throat. Sam might be dying. She couldn’t say it, but it was the only thing she could think. Over and over again like a song stuck there. Sam might be dying. Sam might be dying. Sam might be dying. She stared at his chest, watching it rise and fall, worried that if she looked away for even a second, Sam might stop breathing. Her eyes filled with tears, but she wiped them away, intent upon keeping a close watch on Sam’s chest. She felt a little more in control now.

The operator tried to calm her down as well. “It’s all right. Paramedics will be there in less than three minutes. I’m going to stay on the line with you until you see them, all right?”

“All right.”

“Is there any change?”

“No, he’s still passed out.” She placed her hand on his forehead again. She knew what to expect this time, so she didn’t pull back with surprise. She kept her hand on his hot forehead and pushed his unruly hair back from his face.

In less than two minutes, she heard the sound of sirens that normally would have put her on alert but now made her feel relieved. Help was on its way. Help was nearly here. Within another minute, there was a knock at the door. She hated leaving Sam’s side, but she practically flew to open the door. “He’s there on the floor,” Jess said, pointing past the living room to the dining nook. “They’re here,” she told the 9-11 operator who was still on the phone. “Thank you.”

It wasn’t until she was halfway to the hospital, riding in the back of the ambulance to watch over Sam as the paramedics repeatedly took his vitals and gave him oxygen, that she realized she’d left all the groceries—including the chicken on the floor of their apartment. It was a good thing they’d never gotten that dog Sam always talked about. Jess looked down at the tall, motionless body of her boyfriend and decided that if he pulled through, he could have as many dogs as he wanted. She would cover him in puppies if that was what he wanted. She just wanted him to live.

When they got to the ER, she watched helplessly as the EMTs rolled Sam into the back, leaving her to deal with the front desk staff and admittance forms. She wished she had thought to take Sam’s wallet off him before they took him back.

The top of the form was easy enough: Samuel Winchester, born May 2, 1983. Male. Unmarried. Nonsmoker. She knew his current address as well, of course. But what she didn’t know about were the details of his health insurance. The provider was the university, but she wasn’t sure of anything beyond that. She skipped that section, put herself down as emergency contact of course, and then froze at the personal and family medical history section. She stared at the questions, not having the faintest idea about any of the answers. She scribbled down that the only medication he took was Tylenol, and then she walked back to the check-in desk.

“Excuse me,” Jess said, placing the clipboard and pages down. “My boyfriend’s insurance card is still in his wallet. And his phone has his family’s contacts in it. Could I—”

“They’ll be brought out to you,” the receptionist answered without even looking up from her computer screen and keyboard.

“Can’t I go back to be with—“

“No.” The tone more than the word left little to argue with. So she stood by the desk awkwardly, waiting. She thought about taking a seat, but she worried they would forget about her and forget she came in with Sam. So she hovered nearby and waited. And waited. And waited…

And when Jess was just about to lose her patience entirely and self-destruct with worry, an ER doctor came out with a bag containing Sam’s clothes, shoes, and personal effects. At first, Jess was terrified to see it. Did this mean Sam was dead? But, no, he was still being evaluated, hooked up to machines. “You say he’s been fighting off a cold for a week now?” the doctor asked her.

Jess nodded. “Yes… maybe closer to two weeks now?” Why didn’t she know for sure? She should have been paying closer attention. What had they been doing when Sam had first started feeling sick?

The doctor nodded. “Well, it’s no surprise. He might have caught something because his immune system was already weakened.”

“Like what?”

“We’re not entirely sure yet. Our first step is to get his fever down and get some fluids into him. Once he’s out of the woods and stable, we’ll be able to run some tests. He wasn’t wearing a medical alert bracelet, but so few people do these days. Do you know if he’s allergic to any medications?”

“I don’t know.” She shook her head.  

“Does he have family nearby?”

She started to shake her head at this as well, but honestly, she had no idea. Anybody in this waiting room could have been related to Sam, for all she knew. He’d mentioned having a brother, but she couldn’t even remember his brother’s name. “I’m… not sure. Can I see him?”

“Family only right now, I’m afraid.” He handed over the bag. “See if you can get ahold of someone. I’ve got to get back to my patients.”

“Of course.” She stood there numbly for a minute after the doctor had retreated back through the “Authorized Personnel Only” doors, until the receptionist gave her an irritated look. Then Jess quickly found another empty seat in the waiting room and started going through Sam’s belongings. It was a strange form of intimacy she wasn’t prepared for, even having known him and slept with him for years.  She found his insurance card in his wallet, and gave that to the receptionist to photocopy. It had been tucked between a photo of two young boys—presumably, one of them Sam himself—and a scrap of paper with something written in Latin. A prayer, maybe? Had Sam studied Latin in high school? Had he been Catholic? He certainly didn’t attend Church services now. She flipped through his wallet, but found only his driver’s license, school ID, and a credit card.

In one of his pockets was a pocket knife she had seen him use on multiple occasions, to open mail or pry off the cap of a beer. There were some crumpled tissues in a pocket that she put straight into the nearest trash can. There was also a small, plastic bottle of salt. Salt? Sam seemed to like chips and fries as much as the next person, but she had never seen him whip a bottle of salt out to add extra to his food. In fact, he was a pretty healthy eater. Why would he be carrying this around? Maybe he gargled with warm salt water when he was sick, to help his store throat? That had to be it.

The only other thing she found was his cell phone. Luckily, she knew the access code to it by heart. She typed it in and went straight to his contacts list. Her heart warmed to see that she was the first in the list, followed by Brady, Joseph, Leanne, and Russel—all of their closest friends at school. He had his academic advisor listed next. Then the weather and alert hotline number. Then the library information desk number. Following this was a long list of restaurants at which they frequently ate or ordered from. There was the number for the garage mechanic a couple blocks away. There was the number for a dry cleaner about a block beyond that. And, just as Jess was about to give up any hope, there was a contact strangely labeled “Dean Primary.” This was followed by “Dean Secondary,” which had a different area code entirely. As she looked at the rest of the list, she found they all had different area codes. There were “Dean Fed,” “Dean Local,” “Dean Backup,” “Dean Backup 2,” “Dean Backup 3,” and then “Dean Emergency.” That was it. That was the end of the list.

Not knowing what else to do, she selected the first one on the list and tried calling. All she got was a recorded message that the number was no longer in service. She tried the second on the list and got the same thing. When she called the third number, there was a prerecorded message about leaving a voicemail for Federal Agent Lars Ulrich. In a panic, she quickly hung up before the beep. When she called the “Dean Local” number, she reached the voicemail of Detective John Landis and, similarly, quickly hung up. Then came the backup numbers. One by one, she tried them. The first gave only a strange busy signal. The second led to a man who only spoke Spanish and definitely had never heard of a Sam Winchester. The third turned out to be a casino, but they hadn’t heard of Sam Winchester either. And that left just one more number. One more ounce of hope.

Jess selected it, pushed the call button, and closed her eyes as she listened to it ring. One ring. Two. Three. Four. Five. And if Jess hadn’t been so tired and worried and desperate, she might have hung up at that point. But, a moment later, she was glad she hadn’t.



“What the…” Dean kept one hand on the steering wheel as he leaned almost all the way to the side, flipping open the glove compartment, and fishing around inside for whatever phone was ringing now. One phone had rung a few times, and then another one had. He knew which phones they were and both could wait until he was off the road and out of the snow. But this third one couldn’t. He recognized the ringtone, but he hadn’t heard that phone go off in years. Who the hell even had that number except for his dad?

Finally, he located the phone and straightened back up just in time to correct the Impala’s direction and keep from veering off the road into a guard rail or tree. Dad would never let him drive the car again if he got into a wreck for no good reason. But this was his emergency phone. No one ever called him on his emergency phone.

Glancing at the number of the caller didn’t help at all; it wasn’t anything he recognized. He swerved a little with the car and vowed to keep his eyes on the road as he answered. “Hello? This is Dean Winchester. Who is this?”

There was an audible sigh. “You’re related to Sam Winchester?”

“Yeah, of course. He’s my brother. Who is this?” he asked again, getting suspicious this time.

“This is Jessica Moore, Sam’s girlfriend.”

Well, this was interesting. First of all, Sammy had a girlfriend? And, second, what was Sammy’s girlfriend doing calling him on the emergency phone? Ohhhhh fuck. Panic washed over him. It must mean… “Is Sammy okay? Is he hurt?” Must’ve been a demon attack. Or a witch; Dean hated witches.

He heard her breathe again, shaky, uncertain. And his panic immediately snowballed into dread. “Is he still… alive?” Dean didn’t know how to bring anyone back from the dead. But for Sammy, he’d figure out a way.

“I came home to find him passed out. He’s in the hospital now and they won’t let me in to see him because I’m not family.”

No wonder she’d used the emergency phone number. This was definitely an emergency. “Is he at the Stanford Health Care Emergency Department?”

There was silence for a moment before the woman—Jennifer?—replied, “Yes. How did you know that?”

Dean didn’t have time to explain he’d checked out every important resource in Stanford, including the hospital system. And he wasn’t about to explain that a couple times a year since Sam had left for college, Dean drove by his dorm room or apartment or through campus, waiting for a glimpse of his baby brother, just wanting to make sure he was alive and well. And, until now, he had been. “I can be there in about sixteen hours.” It would take a normal person at least eighteen hours to get there from Montana, but Dean had absolutely no intention of following the posted speed limits, not when his brother needed him. And once he left the northwest, he’d be out of the snow and ice anyway. He could make it in sixteen, maybe even fifteen if he pushed it and got lucky with gas stations along the way. “I’m on my way.”

She whispered a soft, “Thank you. I’ll be right here.”

They ended the call, and Dean’s foot pressed down heavier on the gas pedal.

Dean should have been relieved to know that Sammy wasn’t in the hospital alone, even if his girlfriend—Genevieve?—wasn’t allowed back with him. But he was too worried about his brother to feel much else. He was supposed to be the one to take care of Sam, to look after him. How’d Sammy wind up in the hospital? It had to have been something Supernatural.

In the end, it took him only fourteen and a half hours to get to Stanford, California and another fifteen minutes to figure out the damn parking garage situation. 

Dean checked in with the hospital information desk and found out that Sam had been transferred out of the ER and admitted to the hospital. He was in a private room on the third floor. Having just spent more than half a day in the car, Dean took the opportunity to stretch his legs by taking the stairs up. Through floor-to-ceiling glass surrounding it, Dean could see that the ward was quiet at seven in the morning, with health care staff quietly going about their duties and monitors beeping from various rooms. On this side of the glass, some friends and family members sat or dozed stretched out in plastic seats. Dean figured one of them had to be the woman who had called him, but none of them looked geeky or pathetic, which was historically Sammy's type.

He walked up to the part of the nurse's station that opened up to the waiting area. “Morning,” he said, giving the woman at the desk a chin raise as a nod. “I'm here for Sam Winchester?”

The woman typed the name into her computer without even looking up at him, and Dean was glad he hadn't wasted his charm on her. “He was just taken for X-rays,” she told him. “It'll be about half an hour before he's back. You can have a seat right over—”

“Can you tell me what's wrong with him?”

“Are you family?” she countered, still not looking up.

He dug out his wallet and flipped through several fake Ids until he arrived at one with his actual name on it. It was safer to not keep it right up front in case his wallet got stolen. “Brother,” he said, pressing the piece of plastic to the Plexiglas.

Only then did the woman look up. She seemed unimpressed. “Great,” she said. “But I can't tell you anything. You're going to have to wait for a doctor.”

Dean turned, swearing under his breath, and headed to the chairs. There was a gorgeous woman uncurling from a seat where she had tucked her knees under her chin and wrapped her arms around her shins. “Are you Dean?”

He nodded, watching her twist a lock of her long, blond hair around her finger. This was Sam's girlfriend? “And you're... ah... sorry. I drove straight here. Can't remember what you said your name was.”

“Jess,” she said. “Did you find anything out about Sam?”


“Yeah.” She nodded. She must have known about that already. “I saw him being wheeled somewhere and got worried. But they won't tell me anything. He wasn't looking as bad as when we brought him in, so there's that at least.”

Dean dropped into the seat beside her. “What the hell happened to him? Did he get attacked by...” He trailed off, not sure how much Sam might have told her about this. “Did the temperature drop? Did lights flicker?”

She looked at him like he was crazy. “No. He was fighting off a bad cold. It's finals week, so he's been working himself pretty hard. I came home and found him unconscious with a super high fever.”

Dean rolled his eyes. Working himself too hard? Now that definitely sounded like the Sammy he remembered.

“The woman said he'd be back soon. When I get to talk to a doctor, I'm going to insist they let you in, too.”

She smiled at him gratefully. Then she pulled her feet back onto the chair and hugged her legs again.



When Sam opened his eyes, he was disoriented for the second time that day. The first time, he'd expected to be at home, and he'd found himself in a hospital room with an IV and a heart monitor attached to him. After a thorough examination and some blood work, they had explained his crackly breathing and wet coughs meant he most likely had pneumonia, but they needed to take an X-ray just to be sure. He must have fallen asleep during that, because he woke up, expecting to still be in that room, only to find that he was back in his hospital room again.

This time, however, he was staring at something he didn't quite understand. Jess was curled in a chair in the corner of the room, sleeping. But her head was resting in his brother's lap. Dean? What in the hell was Dean doing here? And what was he doing with Jess? Sam coughed and cleared his throat. “Dean?” His voice sounded weak, raspy. He tried to clear it and only ended up coughing more.

“Hey,” Dean tapped Jess' shoulder to wake her up. “Hey, he's awake,” he said softly. Dean gave her a little push to help her sit up. Then he stood and walked over to Sam. “You okay? You need water or something?”

Sam shook his head. He just needed to stop coughing. The problem was that coughing fucking hurt now. But so did everything else—breathing, laughing, sneezing. He tried to clear his throat again. He knew it wouldn't work, but his instinct was still to do it. “What are you—” Sam began.

At the same exact time, Dean started asking, “What do the doctors—” Dean sighed and motioned back to Jess, who was standing up now. She'd slept for about two hours as they waited for Sam to wake up, which was apparently the only sleep she'd had the whole time. She seemed groggy but trying to wake herself up. She came over to Sam and took his hand, despite the tube just a few inches up his arm. “Your girlfriend called me. They were asking for a family member.”

“Better you than Dad.” And then he went as white as a ghost. “Please tell me Dad isn't—”

“No. No, he’s not here. He doesn't even know I'm here. He's on a hunt in Florida. Ah...” Dean glanced at Jess. “He’s hunting alligators. And I was in doing a job in Montana.”


They both knew what Sam was asking, but Dean avoided the answer. When Sam had left, he'd made his big brother promise to be safe, especially on hunts. And doing a job alone was definitely not the definition of safe. “Yeah, well, I hadn't had a chance to pick anyone up for the night,” he joked.

Sam didn't find it funny, but even if he had, he would have tried hard not to laugh. His lungs hurt too much for that.

“Anyway, they wouldn't let Jess back. They wanted a family member here in case you died or something.”

Sam smiled, trying to look reassuring. “M'not going to die. It's just pneumonia.”

“Shit, Sammy, people die from pneumonia!”

“Old people and children die of pneumonia. They gave me antibiotics. I'll be fine.”

“You're in a hospital, Sammy! You're obviously not fine! You spent all your time studying and not taking care of yourself when you caught a cold. Did you call me? No, of course you didn’t. Did you ask your teachers for extensions? I bet you didn’t. And now look what happened.  Did you at least tell the doctor this wasn't the first time this has happened?”

Sam had in fact done that last one, but he didn't want to discuss that time in front of Jess. He'd been hiding a head cold from both Dean and their dad and hunting a werewolf out in the snowy Adirondack Mountains had completely worn him out. “Dean, I…” He felt the need to sneeze again; his cold hadn’t entirely been pushed aside by the pneumonia. Apparently it was possible for both to coexist inside him. “huhhhh… excuse hahhhh! Mehhh… ehhh...

There was a box of tissues on the counter across from the bed that Sam eyed. Attached to the monitor and the IV drip, he couldn’t get up to grab them. Pinching his nose with one hand and pointing at the box with his other hand, he tried to wordlessly communicate his need and what was about to happen.

His big brother understood him right away. And, within seconds, there were tissues pressed to his nose to catch a sneeze. Sam’s nose was tickling too intensely for him to even thank Dean for doing that. “hahh! Huhhh-IHXXshhhooo! Ow!” He had tried to hold it in a little, but it had been too strong. And the force of the sneeze hurt in his chest. He winced, bearing the pain as best he could.

The time for sympathy passed, and Dean jumped straight back into the yelling. “Just look at you! You can’t even sneeze without getting hurt. What the hell were you thinking?”

Sam narrowed his eyes at Dean, wishing he had the lung capacity to yell back. “If you drove all this way just to scold me, you can turn right back around. I don't need you.”

“Clearly, you do!” Dean gestured to the IV and hospital bed and monitor and the entire room in general.

Jess, who had been listening patiently and somewhat curiously, seemed to decide it was time to interrupt the brothers. “Dean was very worried about you, Sam. We both were.” She took a breath and spoke more quietly. “We both are.”

Though he was already starting to reply, Sam stopped at this. He squeezed her hand in his and tried to calm down. “I'm sorry,” he said, still feeling a little on edge. Waking up to find his two very different lives had collided had not been pleasant. Dean turning over-protective on his hadn't either. But he knew Dean only got like that when he was worried Sam and felt helpless.  “But I really will be okay. They said I had a bad fever? I don't anymore.”

She put her hand to his forehead and smiled. She stroked his head comfortingly, running her long fingers through his hair. “I'm so glad. I didn't know what to do when you wouldn't wake up. I had to call 9-11 for an ambulance. And then I found Dean's numbers in your phone.”

Sam blanched again, remembering how many phone numbers Sam had stored in his phone for Dean—probably half his phone was Dean. “About that...”

Dean gave his head an almost imperceptible shake. “It's all right,” Dean said quickly. “I told her all about that.” And Sam's panic intensified.  He had worked so hard to leave that part of his life behind. He had carefully evaded every question about his childhood and his family that Jess had asked him, telling her only the minimum and nothing more. Certainly nothing about ghosts or supernatural creatures or the demon that had killed his mother and turned his father into a mindless, uncaring revenge monster. The beats in his heart monitor increased. And then they increased again as he panicked that she might notice the number had risen or that doctors might burst in, thinking something was wrong with his heart.

Dean continued, “I told Jess how I've changed jobs a lot over the past few years and moved around. And I told her how bad you've always been at clearing old contacts out of your phone. Just about as bad as you are at taking care of yourself, apparently.”

Jess shook her head. “Don't start again.” She bent over and kissed Sam's forehead. “I'm so glad you're better.” She petted his head again. “And I don't care how many finals I miss. I'm staying right here with you.”

“Finals!” Sam moaned, with a little too much effort. It sent him into a nasty, painful coughing fit.

Dean helped him sit up and lean forward as he coughed. And Dean got him a couple more tissues to cough into, holding them up to Sam's face for him. “I'm not going anywhere either,” Dean made sure to impress upon him. Sam was familiar with Dean’s insistent tone.

Sam knew he would make Jess would go home at the end of visiting hours for the day to sleep, if not before then; it wasn't mid-morning yet and already she looked exhausted. But Sam knew Dean wasn't exaggerating. Dean would sweet talk a nurse into letting him stay the night. He'd probably start a poker game with some of the staff.

“But he's going to be nice and not yell at you again,” Jess said. “He's going to remember that you're sick. Isn't he?” She looked pointedly at Dean.

Dean stared back at her, almost not sure what to make of her. Then Dean grinned and looked back at Sam. “I like this girl, Sammy. You've got better taste since you started college.” He sat down on the edge of the narrow hospital bed. “Jess, you have got to tell me how the two of you met.”

“Sam's roommate at the time introduced us,” she told him. And as she launched into the story about how Brady had guessed that they would be perfect for each other, Sam felt his eyelids growing heavy. By the time Jess got to the part of the story where they went on their first date, Sam felt himself drift to sleep.