Teenchesters. Somehow, Sam and Dean end up in the same class in high school. Maybe it's an elective, maybe they're just going to a school in a really small town. Anyhow, Sam woke up with a bit of a cold that morning, but he insisted he was fine and they both went to school. Now, it seems to be getting worse. All of Dean's mothering instincts are telling him to take care of Sammy, but he has to force himself to stay in his seat and let Sam take care of himself.



They’re Just Sneezes


Dean almost didn’t say anything. Sammy was getting older and could take care of himself more and more. He didn’t need a big brother to cut up his food or hold his hand when he crossed the street. And that was cool; it gave Dean more time to do his own thing--which usually amounted to training with Dad or going after whatever girl he judged to be hottest this week.


So this time, Dean almost didn’t say anything as he drove them to school. Almost. “Hey, you’ve been pretty quiet this morning.”


Sam shrugged and concentrated on the boring sameness of the neighborhood houses flying past out of the car window.


“Is it because you’re sick?”


Sam’s head turned away from the passenger side window and his mouth dropped halfway open. “How did you know?”


“You’ve sneezed four times this morning.”


“They’re just sneezes.”


Dean glanced over at him, eyebrows raised. 


“Sometimes a sneeze is just a sneeze, Dean.”


Dean looked at him again, eyes narrowed in a ‘are you seriously trying to pull that on me?’ kind of expression.


“Okay, so they’re not just sneezes this time. But it’s just a little cold. I don’t feel so great, but I definitely feel good enough for school. I don’t have a hard day. No tests even. And just baseball in P.E. class. I’ll be fine.”


Dean didn’t look convinced. “You go straight to the school clinic and ask for me if you start feeling worse, you hear me?”


“Kay, but I’ll be fine,” Sam tried again, with more feeling behind it. And this time was almost convincing. But then he sneezed. “huh-Yihtchh!


Dean anxiously adjusted his grip on the steering wheel. “That’s five.”


“Quit counting my sneezes.”


“You know, there was a time you counted everything including my sneezes when I caught a cold.”


“Yeah, but I was a little kid then, and you’re old enough now to know… know… h-how annoy… annoy...an-ahYuhshoo!


“Six now. I swear, Sammy, if you get to ten before we get to school, I’m turning this car around.”

Sam made it there with only nine, but that was due in part to the thumb and forefinger pinching his nose closed through the last couple minutes. Dean hadn’t said he couldn’t do that, and the kid was good at keeping quiet on hunts. He’d be fine at school. So Dean slapped him on the back and sent him off to the side of the building the seventh and eighth graders had classes in while Dean walked in the opposite direction toward first period where he would have an excellent show of Donna Ashton in the desk in front of him doing her eye makeup for the first fifteen minutes of class, like she did every morning.




Throughout the morning, Dean kept expecting class to be interrupted by an office messenger asking for a Dean Winchester to go down to the clinic. But Sammy and his little bit of a cold apparently made it fine through first period. And second. And third. The class door didn’t open. An office messenger never arrived. Word that Sammy needed him never came. Maybe Sam didn’t need him anymore?


During fourth period, Dean got an unexpected surprise. Instead of his regularly scheduled pre-algebra, the class filed out after attendance and headed for the school auditorium. Assemblies could be fantastic or nightmarish, but generally not anywhere in-between. A reprieve from math might be welcome, but only if it didn’t mean being trapped in a giant room with one thousand fellow bored students listening to someone in a suit drone on and on about being the best you that you could be.


Today’s assembly wasn’t half bad, though. A local minimalist theater troop wanted a practice audience before their first performance. It was a little bit Shakespeare, a little bit dramatic, a little bit amusing, and a whole lot entertaining. Except Dean found his gaze wandering. His attention was barely on the stage and was, instead, on the audience.


At first, he hadn’t been able to find Sammy in the crowd. They seated everyone by grade and then by class. So Dean was near the back, the fifth-to-last row, and Sam was somewhere closer to the front. But it didn’t take long for Dean to hone in on his little brother. All it took was a sneeze. Or three of them, to be exact. Not that Dean was counting.


Okay, yes, he was counting. Of course he was counting. It was Sam. And Sam was sick. Dean had known it since those four sneezes that morning and now most of the school knew it. Sam’s sneezes weren’t all that much louder than they’d been in the car that morning, but they sounded louder in the quiet auditorium during the play’s most dramatic moments. And though they could have been anyone’s sneezes, Dean would have known his little brother’s sneezes anywhere.


So there Sammy was, third row from the front, two hands clapped over his nose and mouth and guilt in his eyes. And there Dean was, in the back, trapped with more than a dozen classmates on either side and teachers sitting on the ends of each row to make sure no one escaped. There Sam was, sniffling and suffering. And there Dean was, helplessly listening with a Kleenex in his pocket that he couldn’t get to Sammy.


heyishhh! Ihtshhhh! H’YITShoo!


Dean watched him rub at his nose and then lower his hands. But he didn’t wipe his hands on his jeans. Good. That meant his sneezes were strong but not wet. It also meant he wasn’t going to be branded as the middle schooler who wiped his snotty nose on his sleeve like a five year old. If he became that, he might as well be that kid who counts cars on the road and carrots on his plate again.


Sam’s hands snapped back up, but they didn’t do much to muffle the sound as the kid snapped forward. “huh-Yuhshhh! Chushhh!


Poor Sammy. Dean glanced around, instinctively trying to figure out how to get to him, but there was just no way. Even if Dean had been able to get there, he knew he shouldn’t. Better to be a kid with a sneezy head cold than one with a mothering big brother hovering over him and thrusting a Kleenex at his runny nose in front of the whole school. Damn it, he should have made sure Sam had Kleenex in his pockets before leaving the Impala this morning. Sam’s nose must be running pretty badly by now. Sam’s nose always got runny.


But Sam dropped his hand and leaned to the side slightly. He fished around in his pocket and pulled out a Kleenex. He dabbed politely at his nose. And he closed his eyes. He had to have been tired. Sam never slept well when he was coming down sick.


He didn’t look like he was sleeping, though. He looked relaxed, but more like he was concentrating. Dean concentrated, too, on Sam. The actors on the stage were completely forgotten. Even from the back of the room, he saw Sam’s nose wrinkle and twitch with an oncoming sneeze. Sam rubbed his nose with the Kleenex then lowered it. Big mistake. Sneezes tended to sneak up on Sam when he least expected it. Dean gritted his teeth, expecting the worst.


Nothing happened. Maybe it was good luck, which the Winchesters had never had before. Maybe it was mind over matter and little Sammy was made of stronger stuff than Dean had thought. Or maybe he had some talent for suppressing his symptoms that he’d only just discovered here and now. Whatever it was, Sam wasn’t sneezing.


hah-YIHSHHHH!” Or not much. Sam cupped the Kleenex to his nose and, this time, kept it there. His head snapped down again almost immediately. “ihh-HIHyshh!


“Bless you.”


The girl sitting behind him kicked Dean’s seat with her boot and gave a sharp “Shhh!”


Dean rolled his eyes. With all the noise Sammy was making, Dean’s whisper was really that distracting?




See? A lot louder. But no one seemed to be noticing now. No one but Dean, that is. And Sam, obviously. But even Sam’s attention was fixed on the stage again. He was going to make it through this fine.


But Dean fully expected to see an office assistant show up in the middle of his fifth period class to call him up to the clinic to collect Sam.




Sam’s nose was a little red. His eyes were a little tired. His voice was a little congested. “Hey, Dean.” He slid into the passenger seat and set his backpack down next to him.


“You made it through the day. I’m impressed.”


Sam sniffed hard. “Don’t be. I’m miserable.” He rubbed his nose on his sleeve. “D’you have a tissue?” Sam’s hand was already making its way over to Dean’s pocket.


Dean chuckled as Sam slid the Kleenex out of his pocket. “I just have the one. You’ve got to make it last until we get home.”


“Kay.” Sam folded it over his nose just in time. “ihhh-Yihtshhhh! Ihshooo!” He bounced in his seat, sniffled wetly, and then quickly fastened his seatbelt so they could get going. “Two hundred and thirty-three.”


“Hmm?” Dean glanced back over his shoulder and pulled out of the parking space. They joined the line of cars leaving the parking lot when Dean started laughing. “You counted?”


Sam smiled back. “Bet I can’t get to two-fifty before you get me home and get some cold medicine in… me… YihhTchoo!


Dean had no problem making bets he knew he was going to win. But this time he just laughed. He reached over and mussed Sammy’s hair. Like he said this morning, he’d be fine. There might have been two hundred and thirty-four of them, but they were still just sneezes.