Title: Aches and Pains

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Supernatural

Rating: PG-13 for swearing and violence

Disclaimer: Not my characters! Not making money!

Prompt: Sam always powers through his colds, because there's usually a job to be done, and he's not going to let something like getting sick get in the way of that. He's up, he's dressed, he's researching and hunting baddies.
So when Dean finds Sam still in bed, wearing the same sweatpants and t-shirt he was wearing last night, he knows it must be really bad.



Aches and Pains


Yesterday had been a busy day. They'd rolled into town at four am an crashed for just a couple hours before getting to the morgue by eight when the medical examiner started his shift. After examining the bodies and coming to a consensus that it definitely wasn't normal to have bodies where the lungs have been ripped out, they'd set to work trying to figure out what might have done it. And that meant research. And interviews. And visiting the locations where the bodies had been found, not that too much evidence remained after two days and three feet of snow. It was bitterly cold out. They'd detoured for coffee five times during the day, partly to stay awake but mostly just to stay warm. It had been nearly midnight by the time they got back to their motel room, only to find the hot water was out and the heat in the room barely worked. They'd gulped down a little whiskey to take the bite away and to help them sleep.


Maybe Dean had had a little more than a few gulps. Maybe he'd finished off the flask. Damn it. Why was it his life to have to look at bodies mauled like that, knowing there was supernatural shit out there most people were blissfully unaware of? Why did he have to sleep at night knowing what was hiding in the shadows when everyone else got a restful eight-to-ten hours? Why did he carry Dad's diary around, leafing through it hoping to find answers even though he had memorized nearly all of it and nothing in there had to do with creatures who fed on lungs?


Yesterday had been a busy day. A shitty day. And today wasn't going to be much better unless they figured out what the hell was doing this. So far it was just two dead.


His cell rang at a beautiful five-thirty in the morning. It was a number Dean didn't recognize, but the area code was local. So he cleared his throat and tried to sound awake and professional. “Agent Hayes here.”


“Agent, good morning. You told me to call if we got another case like the two before?”


Dean's stomach dropped with dread. They hadn't been fast enough. “Give me the address.”


Dean didn't know the town well enough to know how far away it was, but he promised they'd be right over. Then he hung up and downed two Aspirin. A headache stretched across his forehead, and he had a feeling it didn't have anything to do with how much whiskey he'd had before bed.


Sammy had been sick for the past two days. Nothing serious, just a whole lot of sneezing and coughing and maybe a mild fever; it was hard to tell as they hadn't stopped moving long enough for Dean to get a feel in and find out for sure. Sam had made-do with whatever was in the med kit—a couple small packs of Kleenex that fit into the pockets of his suit, a bottle of something green that might have been expired or might have been unnaturally able to endure through a nuclear explosion, and a pack of extra strength cherry cough drops he popped like candy in-between cups of coffee.


Having been breathing in the kid's air and basically not leaving his brother's side during the drive and the whole trip, it made sense that Dean was coming down with whatever little bug Sam had. He wondered how much of that green stuff was left in the bottle. “Up and at'em! Two more dead bodies.”


Dean had a suit hanging on the post of his headboard. He put on a clean shirt and tie then climbed into the suit, feeling like he had never left it. He tied his black shoes and looked over at the other twin bed. Sam wasn't moving. Dean wasn't even sure Sam was awake yet, though he had to have heard the phone ring.  “Hey, Sammy?” Nothing. “Sam?” Dean got up and was about to slap his brother's leg to wake him up when something stopped him. His hand moved, instead, to turn on the bedside lamp.


Sam lay on top of the covers, even though it was pretty damn cold in the room, the heater sputtering and only churning out little bursts of warmth whenever the hell it felt like it. He wore a pair of dark green sweatpants and a thin white t-shirt. He lay on his stomach, one arm clutched to his chest, the other stretched out over the bed, hand hanging off the edge. His head was turned on the pillow, half his face hidden and the other half pale apart from a bright red cheek. And a bright red nostril. “Sammy?” Dean tried again. Sam didn't even stir.


“Oh God, Sammy?” Dean took advantage of Sam lying still and palmed his brother's forehead. Fuck. The kid was really burning up. Dean headed straight to the bathroom.


He should have known. Sam never complained when he didn't feel good. This was the guy who'd fought a shifter even though he had a broken arm and a concussion. This was the guy who had dove into a frozen lake to rescue a little girl, knowing it was going to trigger his asthma. This was the guy who'd interviewed two witnesses with sweat running down his face and made it out to the car to sit down before his appendix gave out and burst.


There wasn't any hot water again this morning, but that was okay; Dean only wanted cold. Dean wrung a wet washcloth out until it stopped dripping and then folded it in thirds as he walked back to his sleeping brother. The second he laid it upon Sam's forehead, Sam gave a violent shiver. He was on top of his covers, so Dean pulled the comforter off his own bed and draped it over Sam, to to his waist, not sure how warm his already hot brother would want to be.


But it was enough to make Sam stir and wake. He tried to pull away from Dean's hand and the washcloth, but Dean held it in place. “You okay, Sam?”


Sam wheezed, trying to take a full breath but congestion making each breath heavy and short. “Head-ache,” he managed, but just barely. The word was soft, not even a whisper. He coughed wetly, turning his head toward his pillow to muffle the sound, and Dean had a suspicion that he'd done that all night, which is why Dean had managed to sleep right through without waking up in the middle of the night to find out just how bad Sam was. Sam's voice was weak, filled with exhaustion when he added. “Every-thing-ache.”


Sam was great at powering through. He was amazing at hiding how sick he was. But was he really this good at it? Dean was usually able to tell. Dean was usually the one who insisted he slow down. And Dean was always the one to pick up the pieces after a case was over and take care of him.


Except the case wasn't over yet. Hell, the local cops were expecting them on the scene of another double homicide in a few minutes. And this was their best shot at evidence. They'd get to see the bodies before they were moved and while they were still fresh—oh joy. But they'd also get a better look at the scene and first crack at witnesses.


Sam turned his head again, burying it in the pillow. “Uhfchuff!” His whole body shook, shoulders snapping forward violently. He lifted his head and tried to suck in air. He wheezed, a high-pitched sound deep in his lungs. But his red nostrils twitched again. He raised one tired hand and tried to scrub at them, but it did no good. “Uhkxgshh! heptukxsh!” Even his sneezes sounded weaker today, like he'd used up all his energy... or maybe all his breath.


It had been years since Sam had last needed his inhaler, but that didn't mean Dean didn't keep it on hand, just in case. Prescriptions were easy enough to forge and no one looked twice over something like that. Dean found it in the bottom of his bag and shook it, walking back to the bed. Sam had kicked down the comforter. When he saw the inhaler, his eyes lit up, but he didn't open his mouth. “Fide...” he insisted. But he wheezed again and again, unable to catch his breath.


“If you really think I'm going to believe that, you must be even sicker than I thought. Now take a puff.”         


Sam hesitated then dropped his mouth open. Dean made sure his little brother wasn't about to sneeze again, because he didn't much want his hand sprayed right about now. Sam breathed out then took the inhaler in his mouth and gave a nod to signal Dean. Dean pushed it and Sam took a breath. He held it for a second. Two seconds. His nose twitched. Three seconds. Four. His nose wrinkled. Five. He rubbed his nose. Six seconds. Seven. Eight. His nostrils flared and eyes closed. But Sam was tough. Nine. Ten, finally. He let his breath out and immediately pressed his nose into his shoulder. “h'wifshikk-uhhh! Uh-huptushuhhh! Huhkwihshhhh!


After the sneezes, he wheezed again and coughed, propping himself up on both elbows.


“Need a second one?”


Sam shook his head and coughed. “Deed to blow by dose.” He scrubbed it into his shoulder, snuffling wetly.


Dean grabbed the tissue box from the bathroom and pulled tissues out on his way back to the bed. He handed them over and Sam almost started blowing before getting them to his face. He blew and blew, and then gestured he wanted more tissues as he kept blowing. Dean handed more over and Sam switched hands and kept blowing.


When he was done, he collapsed onto the bed. But he breathed freely now, barely a whistle in or out. The washcloth had fallen off in all the activity, so Dean picked it up and pressed the coolest side against Sam's hot forehead. Sam shivered again, this time not quite as bad. “I think you have the flu.” Damn it, he knew they should have gotten flu shots.


“I think you're right. I haven't felt this bad in y-years-kahChttxgh!” He rubbed again at his nose. “Dean?”




“Why're you dressed already?” His overbright eyes focused on Dean's tie. “Wait, there was another murder, wasn't there?” Sam was already pushing himself up off the bed.


“Oh no. You're staying put.” Dean put a hand on his brother's shoulder. It was wet to the touch from the sneezes and Dean pulled it back involuntarily.


That second of space was all Sam needed to get up out of bed. He stumbled over to his bag and pulled out clothes. “Five minutes. Give me five minutes.”


Dean gave him ten. Dean would have given him hours. Dean thought about leaving without him. He probably would have except for the fact that he knew Sam would kill him when he came out from the bedroom and found Dean gone. And Dean wanted to keep an eye on Sam. He couldn't do that when he was out at a murder scene and Sam was back at a motel. But Dean did make sure Sam had Aspirin and green stuff and all the tissues he could fit in his pockets before they left.


Turns out that the crime scene was only a couple blocks away from the motel. It was nice that it was so close, because it meant it was such a quick drive. It was terrible that it was so close because it meant that the whatever-it-was had been near them and they hadn't even known in order to stop it.


And, man, Dean wished they'd been able to stop it. The victims were a pair of twin girls in their early twenties, lying in an ally, chests ripped open. It was twice as grisly as Dean had imagined, and he was almost glad to have a sick brother in tow because his concentration was split.


But he still noticed the scorch marks on the brick walls. And he still saw the white powder on the girls' snow boots. “Sam,” he whispered, stepping back and letting the medical examiner try to figure out time of death. Out of the corner of his mouth, he said, “It's got to be a Belardi.” This was met with silence. Knowing Sam was right behind him, Dean turned to make sure his brother had heard.


Whether Sam had or not, he was in no condition to comment. Sam had two tissues folded over the lower hand of his face. His eyes watered. His eyebrows twitched. Then he shot forward. “ehhhh-HIFSchukxshhh! Heptshuhh! Ehkshihhhh!” When he sucked in breath and wheezed painfully, wincing and trying again but panicking, Dean knew he never should have let Sam come. It was freezing out, snowing lightly, though every flake that hit Sam melted instantly.


At once, Dean took him by the elbow and marched him straight to the car. Once inside, Sam's asthma attack was twice as loud, twice as urgent, twice as real. He flailed his arms slightly, desperately trying to ask for help when all he could do was gasp and wheeze and squeak and snort and snuffle and cough and wheeze some more.


“Hang on, hang on.” Dean had brought the inhaler; of course he had. He dug it out of his pocket and shook it three or four times. This time there was no hesitation. Sam took it between his teeth at once and inhaled. This time, he pinched his nose as he held his breath for ten long seconds. Dean rubbed his arm through the suit jacket the whole time to keep him calm.


After Sam exhaled carefully, he rested his head against the window of the car. “What... what does Dad's journal say about Belardis?”


Dean gave a weak smile and turned on the car to get the heat going. The cold air was even making his own nose run. At least, he hoped it was just the cold air. “They eat organs. Each clan seems to have a specific taste. They're not easy to find unless it's they're feeding season which, I'm going out on a limb and guessing is right about now. Simple to kill though. Bullets wound them, fire destroys them.”


hehh... hehhhhhhUhfshuhhh!


Dean's head throbbed as if he hadn't taken any Aspirin at all. “Sam...”


Sam dug his knife out. “Let's hunt us some Beladis.”


Dean could have commented about how comical Sam looked with a knife in one hand and tissues in the other. He could have said that they didn't know where the creatures were right now or where they would strike next. He could have said that Sam was in absolutely no condition to face anything right now except for maybe his bed. Instead, he started down the street. “Let's hunt.”


They drove, looking for scorch marks. Or, rather, Dean looked for scorch marks. Sam, on the other hand, sneezed a lot. That was about all he did. He didn't wheeze, though, so that seemed to be an improvement.


After a couple of hours, Dean found what he was looking for. It was an old, abandoned building, simple to overlook. It could have been empty. It could have had druggies or squatters inside. But Dean could tell by the abnormal scorch marks around the entrance that this was the place. “Stay in the car.” He told Sam as he grabbed the sawed-off he kept on the floor on the driver's side.


He got out of the car and headed up to the house. But he heard footsteps behind him and found Sam at his heels, knife in one hand, blowtorch in the other. He sighed. “Sammy...”


“If you think I'm letting you go in there alone, you're the feverish one.”


Dean didn't bother telling Sam he was probably running a fever. But Sam was on his feet and ready to go. Knowing it was probably the wrong idea, he took a deep breath and led the way inside.


They searched extensively, expecting danger around every corner, but the first floor was clear. Dean refused to split up, so they headed upstairs together. They checked the first room. Second. Third. It was clear someone or something was living there, but it was still vacant. All that was left was the basement. Of course the basement. Just as Dean was thinking he might have been wrong about the house, he saw something wet on the stairs leading down to the darkened lower level of the house. His flashlight showed it wasn't just wet but red. “Get ready,” he told Sam.


Sam coughed but followed close behind. Dean was worried the dusty basement might trigger Sam's asthma again. Dean was worried there might be more Beladis than the two of them could handle. Dean was worried they wouldn't make it through this intact and then those stupid cops would be standing around staring at their bodies without a clue as to what really happened.


But he hadn't remembered how good a fighter Sam was, even when sick or injured. And he definitely hadn't remembered the paragraph in Dad's journal about the Beladi focusing so exclusively on its organ of choice during its feeding season.


One of the blue-skinned creatures leaped out of the darkness at them, its long-nailed fingers scratching at Dean's chest, its mouth screaming and aflame. Dean tried to pull away but the nails dug into his chest. He yelled and thrashed and raised his gun. Sam had the blowtorch ready and aimed it at the creature. Before he could light it on fire, however, it cried out and pulled away. It screamed and another  Beladi appeared, followed by another. All three closed in on Sam. But one touch to his chest made them recoil angrily as well. Just as Dean understood what that meant, the blowtorch lit and all three creatures went up in flames.


Pain and agony were too good for them. Dean thought of the young women in the alley today, the sisters. If they'd only had the flu, too, they would have been safe. He turned to tell that to Sam, but what he saw was Sam leaning against the wall, barely able to stand. One hand was on his forehead. The wrist of his other hand rubbed at his nose. “D... ehhhhUHFshhhhh! Huptshhhhhh! eh... ehhhUhshhxxksh!


Dean put his arm around Sam and helped him up the stairs. The wood beams of the basement ceiling were catching fire. And the Winchester boys weren't exactly light on their feet right now. Sam stumbled. Dean slammed into a door frame. But they managed to make it out of the house before the floor gave in.


Sam collapsed into the car, coughing harshly and without stop. No coffee sat in the cup holders. No water bottles were stashed in the backseat. Sam needed something, though. Dean popped the trunk, threw the blowtorch in, and grabbed the only thing he could think of. “Drink this,” he said, pressing a bottle to Sam's lips.


In went a stream of cool water. Sam swallowed carefully, deliberately around the coughs. The water soothed his throat enough for it to stop its spasms. He opened his eyes and looked at the bottle. Then he let out a laugh that didn't trigger another cough. “Did I just drink our entire supply of Holy water?”


“We can always get more of that.” He couldn't get another Sam. He felt Sam's forehead again; it felt even hotter. “Back to the motel.”


Sam nodded and closed his eyes again. He didn't try to speak again, but he didn't fall asleep. He spent most of the drive blowing his nose and not noticing that Dean was rubbing at his own nose.


When they got back to the motel, Sam fell on his bed. He wriggled out of his suit jacket and dress shirt while Dean pulled his shoes off for him. Sam swallowed more medicine and passed out, but only after one more sneeze muffled into his pillow. “uhhkuhfffff!


Dean took a shower—a cold one, because the hot water still wasn't working—then crawled into his own bed, not planning to wake up for a week.


Except he did wake up about seventeen hours later a s the glow of dawn lit up the curtains. The sound of sneezes filled his ears, sounding closer than they should have been. And a hand reached out and pressed against his forehead. He gave a start, coughing, and found he was too weak to lift his head. He ached all over, ached so much he couldn't move anything but his eyelids as they opened to see Sam standing there beside the bed, looking concerned. “Up and... up-uhhHahshhhhh! Up and at 'em?” Dean guessed. Sam always powered through. Sam never let a cold or even the flu stop him.


But Sam shook his head as he held out the bottle of green stuff and a blister pack of Aspirin tablets. “I'b sorry you caught this frub be,” Sam told him, his voice all stuffed-up but free of the wheezing whistling sound.  He reached out and patted Dean's leg through the black sweatpants he'd put on the night before.


Dean was barely able to shake his head. “M'not. If it means not getting my insides eaten by Beladi, I'm never getting another flu shot.”