Title: V is for Virus
“ihhh!” Sam takes a hand off the wheel and claps it to his mouth, index finger pressed to the bottom of his nose. His breath catches and he hopes it won’t evolve into a sneeze. He needs a little luck. The method’s worked for the past four sneezes. And he’s under no delusion that it will work every time, but he hopes that this time it’ll be number five.
He fights the urge to close his eyes as his nostrils flare and breath races. He tries to hold his breath, tries to squish his palm against both his nose and mouth. But it doesn’t do any good. The sneeze comes out wet and strangely smothered against his hand. “ihh-hxxtshff!” His eyes are only closed a split second, and it pitches him forward a little, but he’s still driving straight in his lane.
Quickly, he glances over at Dean. In addition to not crashing the Impala, it looks like he also hasn’t woken his brother. Dean sleeps in the passenger seat, covered in the thick wool blanket from the back. And his jacket. And Sam’s jacket. As he sleeps, his face goes from pale to flushed and Sam would pull away his layers, but that will wake Dean, and the guy’s felt so shitty today Sam doesn’t want to disturb him for anything. Besides, Dean will wake up if he gets overheated.
Sam wipes his hand on his jeans and puts it back on the wheel. Nineteen more hours ‘til they get to Bobby’s. Really, it’s nineteen hours and twenty-two minutes, but at the speed he’s going, Sam’s pretty sure he can shave that twenty-two minutes off. They’ll have to stop a couple times for fuel, but refueling the Impala is an art form they’ve got down cold now. So it’s still safe to say nineteen hours. And that countdown is the only thing keeping Sam going right now, especially as Dean’s given in already.
Seventeen hours away:
It’s not the Croatoan virus. It’s not. Definitely not. But it’s still pretty shitty. And it hit them both at the same time. Usually one of them gets sick first. The other catches it in time, of course; you can’t spend all day and night enclosed in a car with someone coughing and sneezing up a storm and not catch it. But there’s usually enough of a delay that one of them can keep driving and fighting until the other’s on the mend. This time, though, they both come down with it at the same time. The moment Sam realized he had a runny nose, he noticed Dean sniffling. The second Sam realized it hurt to swallow, Dean coughed and choked on his coffee. And exactly when Sam felt the first sneeze coming on, Dean sneezed into the crook of his arm; Sam’s followed behind half a second later. And after that, the sneezes had not stopped.
“hih!” Hand to his mouth, pressing to his nose, Sam holds his breath. Waits. Forces his eyes to stay open. It works. Sam glances at Dean. Still asleep. Lucky bastard. Dean had been sneezing so much that morning he’d had to pull over and let Sam drive.
“ihhhhh!” Sam quickly pinches his nose. The tickle plays maddeningly there, dancing about, starting and stopping and trying to have its way with him. Finally, it backs down and Sam drops his hand back to the steering wheel. This time, he looks at the time. Seventeen hours and eleven minutes. Damn. And he can’t pull over and get a room somewhere or that’ll just put them further behind. Though Sam thinks fondly of bed. Of a box of tissues—even rough, industrial, crappy motel tissues.
“hehIHSCHKKUHhhh!” Sam claps a hand over his nose far too late and winces. He sniffles wetly into his palm then wipes the side of it back and forth against his nose.
Sam nearly hits the gas pedal by mistake as he feels fingers brush the back of his neck. They press and rub, a little sympathetic massage from a brother who, until five seconds ago, was in a deep sleep. As a ‘bless you’ now seems superfluous, Sam settles for the sentiment behind the rub. It helps him calm back down. “How’re you doing?” Dean’s voice is rough, and he doesn’t even bother clearing it.
Sam shakes his head. He fights the overwhelming urge to ask Dean to take over so he can curl up in the backseat and sleep. “Okay,” he only sort of lies. “Did’t bead to wagke you ub. Ode of us should get sub sleeb.”
“Mmm. Kay.” Dean pats his cheek, takes a sip from a bottle of water, then nestles back into his blanket and coats, letting the seatbelt cradle him and the door provide support. But he can’t get comfortable. He coughs and sniffles and coughs again. Then he shoves the coats down and fidgets. “Sammy?”
“We cad’t stob. Gotta get to Bobby’s, rebebber?”
Dean hesitates. “Right,” he finally agrees. He closes his eyes and forces himself to fall back to sleep.
Fourteen hours away:
Sam pulls into the gas station, parks by a pump, and closes his eyes to give himself just a moment of rest.
A honk from a fellow car wakes him with a start. He looks around to see the car in front of him has pulled away and, as he hasn’t started pumping, he’s supposed to pull all the way up to make room for a waiting car. Sam waves an apology and pulls up.
Then he drags himself out of the car and thrusts a credit card into the card reader. As gas starts pumping into the Impala, Sam circles around the car and opens the passenger door. “Gas stob,” he says, pinching his nose to keep from sneezing; the tickle’s been relentless and he wants to get the words out before the next one strikes. Only it makes his voice silly and high-pitched in addition to congested. “Get out add shake it. Thed get sub ludch for us.”
Dean drags himself up and follows his little bother’s orders. Sam uses the bathroom and, seeing Dean still in line at the counter, crawls into the back seat. Ten minutes. He knows he probably will only get seven or eight at the most, but ten would be brilliant. There’ve got fourteen hours and thirty-something minutes until they get to Bobby’s. Ten minutes seems like an acceptable allowance.
Thirteen hours away:
Sam rolls from the seat to the floor of the Impala and grunts. He sits up, pulls himself up, which takes effort as he’s wedged in pretty well. But once he’s up, he sees they’re on the interstate. Panic sets in, though he coughs before he can express it. “D… where…?”
Dean glances back at him. “Hey sleepyhead.” He whispers it with strength and Sam has the impression that Dean’s voice is so shot that that’s all he can manage. “We’re about thirteen hours from Bobby’s.”
“You okay drivig?”
Dean nods. “I couldn’t wake you back cough! at the gas station. And I feel better after that nap.”
“You soud like saddbaber.”
“Sandpaper?” Dean guessed. “You sound a two year old kid who doesn’t know how to blow his nose. Sammy?”
“Blow your nose.” He tosses a tissue box into the backseat.
Sam smiles and lies back down across the backseat. He straps himself in this time and dips into the tissue box repeatedly.
Eleven hours away:
“What do you wadt?”
Dean presses a fist to his nose. “hah-ARSCHHHH!” He shakes his head. “Not hungry. Sniff!”
Sam digs cash out of his pocket and shifts bills around to find the singles that the vending machines at the rest stop will take. “Peadut Eb add Ebs?”
Dean chuckles. “Give up talking, Sammy.”
“Shut ub, or I’b gettig you sudflower seeds.”
Ten hours away:
“Sniff! Sniff! We’re dot goig to bake it.”
Dean’s curled in the passenger seat again. He shivers as an answer and sneezes unrestrainedly. He doesn’t bother to take his own advice and blow his nose. “Three hours left? Four?”
“Ted,” Sam replies, feeling guilty for admitting it. “Add twedty bidutes. At least.”
“Fuck. Sniff! Sniff!” He cranes his neck and rubs his nose on his shoulder. “We’re not going to make it to Bobby’s. Sniff!” He clears his throat. “Are you okay driving?”
Sam’s eyes are on fire. His head throbs, pounds. His nose is so stuffed he breathes in pants through his mouth. His nostrils twitch and he pitches forward in a quick but forceful sneeze. “Dot really.”
Still ten hours away:
“There’s a… a… ihhhh-HIPTSHHH!”
“Fuck!” It comes out as a squeak, which is all Dean’s voice can spare. “The road!” His eyes are wide and he clings to the seat.
Sam turns the wheel back as the wheels hit rumble strips and the car glides just short of the guard rail. Then Sam slides his wrist and back of hand under his nose with a monstrous sniffle. He clears his throat and fights—absolutely fights with all his energy as if this were a hunt—to keep his head equally clear. Then he tries again. “There are a botels at this exit.” He glances over at Dean, just daring him to protest. They’d both agreed when they came down with this virus that the best thing to do was to get to Bobby’s as soon as possible.
But Dean can barely move. He closes his eyes. “Find some place near a drug store.”
Still still ten hours away:
“Sam?” A hand grazes his cheek, fingers threading through his hair. “Gotta take your temperature, son.”
For one brief second, he thinks it’s his dad. But then he remembers. And then he’s confused again. He opens his eyes and looks around the room. It’s the motel room where he and Dean had crashed, with Dean in the other twin bed and a gun on the nightstand between the two of them. It’s not Bobby’s house. And, yet, it’s Bobby sitting on the bed next to him.
“Your brother’s got a fever of one hundred and one point three. You think you can beat that?” He holds up a digital thermometer.
“Yeah,” Sam agrees. “I thig I’b hallucidatig right dow.” He opens his mouth and lifts his tongue. The hallucination slips the thermometer under his tongue and watches the little numbers on the reader climb. Funny thing is, the thermometer feels real enough in his mouth. And he can’t work out how it would get there otherwise. Unless, somehow, Bobby were actually here. Sam pulls a hand out from under the covers he doesn’t remember pulling up. He reaches out and pokes a very real Bobby Singer.
Then he pulls back, startled.
“Relax, kid.” Bobby smiles at him. “Dean called me. Took me a while to figure out why he was whispering, but I got the address and jumped in the truck. Must be some virus for both of you to be down for the count. Can’t believe you idjits thought you could make it all the way to South Dakota like this.”
The thermometer beeps and Bobby pulls it out. “Lucky Sam. One hundred and one point five. You win an Aspirin.” The bottle rattles and the water is cool against Sam’s hot throat.
“Lucky,” Sam repeats with a smile, finally feeling it.