Title: R is for Reassurance

Rating: I’d like to say R, just so it matches the title. But it’s more like PG-13
Fandom: Supernatural
Pairing: Sam/Dean

Sam had always been a little… particular about things. He’d toss a pinch of salt over his shoulder after laying down lines. He’d adjust his long stride to miss every crack in a sidewalk. He’d pick up a penny from the street and give it a good wipe down against the leg of his jeans before pocketing it. A little superstitious. A little OCD. Nothing they couldn’t handle. 


However, Dean did notice it had grown worse lately. If he thought about it—really sat back and thought hard about it—it had worsened after Dean confessed that his deal with the Crossroads Demon meant only one year left to live. Or, now, a matter of a few months. But that stint with the rabbit’s foot had really done a number on Sam.


That’s probably what had finally pushed him over the edge. He avoided black cats and dark gray ones too, just to be sure. He wouldn’t walk anywhere near ladders and if he spotted an umbrella in a house when they went in to interview someone, he turned right around and left, dragging Dean with him. The kid practically slept with his fingers crossed and knocked his knuckles lightly against any wooden surface he came across.


It was annoying, but it was Sam—just a weirder, more extreme version of Sam. The most annoying part didn’t come until they were headed west on dusty back roads, rolling past cornfields at a snail’s pace. “There’s gotta be a faster route,” Dean grumbled, rubbing the palm of his head against his throbbing forehead. “Keep on the lookout for highway signs.”


Sam squeaked. He actually, physically squeaked. Dean heard it, loud and clear, even though Sam tried to cover it with a cough. Then the younger man quickly folded up the map, careful to fold it along the proper creases before stuffing it into the glove compartment. “Stay on this road,” Sam ordered. “The highway isn’t safe.”


Dean eyed him. “You overheard something at the gas station back there?”


“Nope. This is just safer.”


“What do you mean? Route 66 is historic, yeah, but it’s still the fastest way to get to… Sam?”


Sam was shifting about in his seat, looking restless and uneasy. Sam chewed on a fingernail, jiggled his leg up and down, and tapped a finger against the window. Finally, he blurted out, “But what if we run into another six?”


It took a few seconds for this statement to sink in. Once he understood, he tried not to sound as frustrated as he felt. “666, Sam? Do you know how crazy that sounds? You’re worried about—”


“Some people say it’s the devil’s number,” Sam explained. “I don’t want to risk it. Not with you…” He shook his head. “Better to stay away. Map says this road’ll get us there eventually.” He stared straight out at the road stretched out before them, determined not to look at his brother. But his breath started to race, in quick, shallow puffs that were starting to get out of control. He was on his way to a full-blown panic attack.


Just telling Sam to calm down when he got like this never worked; if anything, that made it worse. And Dean recognized this as one of those times Sam would come apart when teased. Sam knew he was being stupid, irrational, knew he wasn’t thinking the way normal people did. But, even so, he knew it was something he had to do. He had no choice about it.


That didn’t mean Dean couldn’t be frustrated. It just meant he had to bite his tongue and look after his little brother. He reached over and ran his hand through Sam’s hair, a gentle petting, a simple sensation that had always seemed to help take Sam away from his obsessing for a few seconds. And that was long enough for Sam to take a deep breath. Long enough for him to relax back into the seat. Long enough to finally look over at Dean and realize he wasn’t in any real danger.


“Fine. We’ll do whatever you want,” Dean finally said, rubbing the back of his neck and then dipping his hand under his nose for a sniffle with a swipe. “But I’m heading there for the night.” Dean nodded to a billboard advertising a motel coming up that was two parts shabby to one part ‘doesn’t ask questions.’ “I feel like crap.”




Sam sat at the cheap imitation wood desk shoved up against the wall of the motel room, typing away at his laptop. He systematically dealt with his inbox, which wasn’t very full to begin with. Dean lounged in bed with a box of Kleenex, a bottle of ginger ale, and a car magazine. He’d taken some Ibuprofen but hadn’t wanted to take anything stronger. Sam seemed a bit off still, and Dean wanted at least one of them to be able to think clearly. He had a hard enough time dealing with his brother’s quirks normally; he had no hope of it when he was doped up and loopy on cold meds.


 Two minutes into an article on engines, Dean felt a sneeze coming on. He cupped a tissue to his nose and mouth and snapped forward, the cheap bed bouncing beneath him, springs squeaking. “hetChahhhh!” 


One minute into an email to a friend back at Stanford, Sam looked up from his laptop. “Bless you.”


“Thanks.” Dean scrubbed at his nose, balled up the tissue, and successfully made the shot into the trashcan. Sam grinned.


“You got yourself a cold?”


Dean nodded. “Yeah, I guess.”


“That sucks. Sorry, man.”


Six minutes into an article on sports cars Dean would never buy, he felt like sneezing again. He set the magazine down, finger marking his place. “huhhChuhhh!


Two minutes into a search for cemeteries in the town they were headed to, Sam paused. “Bless you.”


Dean met his eyes and, while sniffing, gave him a nod of appreciation, acknowledgment. Then he picked his magazine back up.


About twenty seconds away from finishing that same article, Dean tossed the magazine aside and grabbed for the tissues. “hahh-CHMphhhh!


Not doing any work at all now, Sam answered with a quick, “Bless you.”


Wiping his nose, Dean looked over at his brother. Sam had the laptop closed and was staring at him intently. In fact, Sam didn’t want to look away even for a second. It was kind of unnerving. Dean tried not to notice, but he could feel Sam’s eyes boring into him, even when he wasn’t looking in Sam’s direction.


Finally, Dean threw himself off the bed. “Gonna go take a shower,” he muttered. “See if that’ll help with this congestion.” He stumbled toward the bathroom, only to find Sam right behind him. He paused and turned in the doorway, Sam bumping into him and looking a bit embarrassed about it. “Somethin’ you wanna tell me, Sammy?”


“Ah…” He rubbed the back of his neck. “No…”


“You gotta piss?”


Sam nodded. “Yeah. That’s right.”


Dean sidestepped, sliding out of the bathroom. Gesturing to the now unblocked doorway, Dean said. “Be my guest. It’s all yours. I’ll shower when you’re done.”


Sam shifted from one foot to the other and back again. “Um, never mind. I’m fine.”


Dean studied him. Then he shrugged. “Suit yourself.” He stepped back into the bathroom and started to close the door. But Sam’s big shoe got in the way, keeping the door from closing. “Damn it, Sammy…”


Sam wouldn’t look him in the eye. He looked past Dean into the bathroom or down at the floor, or at the mostly-closed door. His foot didn’t budge. “You’re sick, Dean. What if you pass out in the shower and hit your head?”


“Not gonna happen.” Grabbing Sam’s hand, Dean put it to his own forehead. “See? I don’t even have a fever.”


 Sam pulled his hand back, gripped the molding around the doorframe tightly, as if he didn’t hang on, he’d go flying across the room. He still didn’t move his foot out of the way. And he leaned on the bathroom door, trying to casually use his weight to force it open. The plan wasn’t working, though; Dean kept a firm grip on the door, trying to push it shut. Sam tried to explain. “Look, I thought… maybe you could use some company. I could wash your back. I know you like that.”


Dean blinked at him, even though Sam still wouldn’t look at him. “I appreciate the offer, but I don’t feel so good. I’m just going to stand in the shower and breathe in all the steam. M’really not in the mood to fool around.” His toes bumped against Sam’s, and then his foot started nudging Sam’s back. He swung the door open a little then started to close it again. The door was almost closed when he sneezed. It was sharp, sudden, and wetter than all the previous ones. “hihh-HUHSchhhhhh!


“Bless you.”


But Dean wasn’t done. He turned, mouth hanging open, eyes closed, face slack. “huh…” He cupped both hands to his nose and mouth. “huhhhTschew! hehhShooo! K’shooo!


“Bless you, bless you, bless you.” Sam said automatically.


Dean mumbled a thank you and dragged his runny nose across his sleeve. He coughed and looked longingly back at the shower.


Without Dean trying to force the door closed, it was easy for Sam to slipped inside the bathroom.  


Rubbing his nose on his sleeve some more, Dean glared at him. “What the hell? Are you planning on standing here while I take a shower? ‘Cause that’s not creepy at all.”


“I just—”


h’TShughhh!” Dean sneezed into his arm.


Before even a second had passed, Sam offered up another “Bless you.”


“Out,” Dean croaked. “I want you out. This is too weird, even for us.”


Sam shook his head. “I can’t.”


“Sure you can. Just walk out the door and let me close it so I can take a shower.”


Sam wouldn’t stop shaking his head now. He sat down on the closed toilet seat and, hunched over, started running his hands through his hair as though to calm himself, head off the oncoming panic attack. It didn’t really work. His whole body trembled. His breath raced. Dean could almost hear the thumps of his heart speed up. Sam gripped the counter, swaying as he started to go dizzy from hyperventilating. His cheeks were flushed with heat and sweat shown on his brow but he shivered there. He clutched his chest, pain shooting through him like a heart attack or like his chest was going to explode.


He didn’t respond to Dean petting him now, Dean’s fingers combing through Sam’s longer hair with affection, concern. “Sammy, you’re gonna be okay.” Twice in one day. It was highly unusual for Sam to have panic attacks that often, even if the first one had been headed off before it could really begin. Dean wasn’t sure what he could do this time; Sam wasn’t even listening to him.


Plus, he was sick. Not wanting to sneeze on Sam, he turned and directed a quick sneeze into his shoulder. “hihfSHooo!


“Bless you.” Sam’s voice was strained but the words were clear enough. He looked up at Dean now, eyes searching, not wanting to miss a thing.


“Sammy… “ Dean tried running his hand through Sam’s hair again, and this time Sam tilted his head into the touch, craving the sensation.


“Sorry,” Sam whispered. “But I can’t hear you if you make me wait outside and turn the shower on.  And I need to know when you sneeze.”


Dean’s eyebrows rose. He squatted down, hands on Sam’s knees, wanting to keep that physical contact between them, like it would ground Sam, take him out of his head and keep him back in the world. “You don’t have to bless me every time I sneeze.”


“No,” Sam argued. “I do.” His voice was still soft, shaky, like the anxiety was still so close and he was worried about something going wrong to make it come back and kill him. “People used to think that a person’s soul left his body when he sneezed. And unless someone said ‘bless you’ as a shield, a demon could move right into his body. A demon already owns your soul, Dean. I don’t want to lose you. I don’t want you to go a second sooner than you have to.” He put his hands over Dean’s, squeezing.


Dean held back a sigh. “It’s just a cold.”


“I know.” Sam bit his lip.


“I’m not going anywhere right now. You’re not losing me yet.”


“I know,” Sam repeated, though it didn’t sound like he believed it.


Dean shrugged. “Okay,” he said, keeping his tone casual, calm. “You can come into the shower with me. But no playing around, you got it?”


Sam wasted no time in undressing and helping Dean do the same. And once they were under the pretty weak spray from the shower head, Sam wrapped his arms tightly around his brother.


Against his back, Dean felt the slow, steady thumps of Sam’s heart and the gentle rise and fall of Sam’s chest with each breath. Dean wasn’t sure which one of them was more grateful for the reassuring physical contact.