Title: In a Perfect World
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Supernatural
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: none (Gen)
Disclaimer: Not my characters. Seriously. I make no money from this.
Prompt: Dean wears hearing aids. He's not totally deaf, he doesn't sign at all (or not very much), he's just hard of hearing. And he usually takes his hearing aids out at night to sleep. But that means he can't hear Sam sneezing in the middle of the night, and doesn't realize that Sam is miserably sick until Sam wakes him up in the middle of the night, feverish and shaky.



In a Perfect World


Sam woke up at still dark o'clock in the morning. He knew at once that something was wrong. His everything tingled, from nose to toes, even after he threw off his blanket. Everything that touched his skin made him hurt; he would have thought it was a curse of some sort if not for the fact that this bug had been passed around at work for the past two weeks. Ever since the intern at the front desk started sniffling, Sam knew it was only a matter of time before he came down with it. He'd tried to stay in his cubicle, tried to wash his hands more than usual, but here he was with the cold anyway.


Or was it the flu? Or maybe some fucked up cold-flu hybrid especially developed for maximum misery. It was the Jefferson Starship of bugs. And it was hitting him hard.


He needed... something. Aspirin? A cold compress? Kleenex?


hehhh-Ingushhhhhh! Huhkshuhhhh!


Fuck yeah, Kleenex.


Sam started to get up but his body screamed at him. There was pain between his shoulder blades when he tried to sit. His arms hurt when he tried to push off the bed. His head pounded when he tried to roll over. And his throat burned when he tried to hold his breath and gather his energy to move.


Sam managed to turn his head. The nightstand had a lamp, a Vonnegut hardcover book, and his tablet. But there was no tissue box. Not even a glass of water. If this had been a perfect world, Sam would have anticipated this. Instead, he was sneezing without tissues.


hehhh!” Oh no. Not “hehhhhh...” not another “heh-eh-hehhh-IHKUHshhhhhh! EhhHIHKTSHOO!


There was a time that a sneeze that loud would have Dean by his bedside in five seconds flat. But that was before the fight, before the explosion, before Dean lost a lot of his hearing. It was before their lives were filled with terms like severe sensorineural loss and a degree of 75db and companies like phonak and unitron. They learned about the importance of a good repair plan and to always have extra hearing aid batteries on hand. They learned that as long as Dean had his hearing aids in, he felt almost normal again.


But not normal enough to keep hunting. There was too much he could miss. And even though Sam was okay with giving it a try, Dean declared them officially retired because he wouldn't risk Sam's safety out there.


They both got jobs at a local convention center. Dean was in charge of the food vendors and Sam was in scheduling and public relations. It was strange how much of their skills hunting things could be applied to dealing with throngs of convention attendees or tightly-wound event planners with more than a touch of OCD. Neither of them loved their jobs, but they paid the rent on their townhouse, kept the Impala fueled, and had enough leftover for a night or two every month filled with six packs of beer and DVDs of whatever movies they'd missed over the years.


The townhouse. It wasn't the bunker, but it was safe enough. And it felt like home, though it had taken a while to settle in. Now Sam couldn't imagine being anywhere else... but a townhouse seemed like the worst situation for him now. The tissues were in the pantry downstairs. The Aspirin was in the bathroom downstairs. And his brother was all the way down the hallway. Sam's was an easy decision to make.


“Dean?” He called, hoping against all logic that Dean maybe fell asleep reading some hot rod magazine and had forgotten to take his hearing aids out. Not hearing anything, Sam tried again, louder. “Dean!” The louder bit, which should have worked, only managed to bring coughs and no caring big brother to look after him.


Sam tried again to get up off the bed. And, again, his limbs felt like lead, his torso felt chained in place, and his head felt like it was going to explode. “Dean!” he moaned again, knowing there was just no way his brother was coming, though it made him feel better to call.  Because Dean always looked after him. His whole life, Dean was there, watching out for him, taking care of him. When he was a kid, Dean wiped his runny nose for him and put band-aids on his boo-boos. As an adult, Dean sacrificed his soul for him and sewed up his hunting wounds. Dean would know how to make him feel better, though it probably wouldn't take much, considering how horrible Sam felt now; anything would be an improvement.


So if Dean wasn't coming to him now, he would just have to go to Dean. Even if that seemed impossible. Luckily, the Winchester boys specialized in impossible.


Sam threw himself out of bed, using every bit of strength he could muster. With great difficulty, he got his feet firmly on the floor and got his body up off the bed. The second he did so, however, he regretted it. Standing upright, even as he leaned against his bed, made his head spin with dizziness so badly he lost his balance and ended up on the floor on his hands and knees. For a moment, it felt like he might pass out. But then the wave passed and back came the repetitive throbbing in his head and a nose that seemed hell bent on running perhaps somehow sensing its owner had no tissues.


ehhhh-EH-EHHKtshhh! EHHKTSHooo!” He sneezed, spraying the carpet and not caring. All he cared about was getting to Dean. Okay, maybe he cared a little bit about keeping his nose from running by rubbing it into his t-shirt-clad shoulder. But mostly he cared about getting to Dean. And Dean's bedroom was all the way down the hall. One linen closet, one stacked washer-dryer combo, and one bathroom away from where Sam's bedroom was. “ehhh-eh-eh-ehhhhhh-EHHH-IHKRSHUHH!-huh...” Dean's bedroom might has well have been in China.


Knowing he couldn't stand up again, Sam crawled along the floor. Even using the wall and carpet to help himself along, it was slow-going. Inch by inch, Sam shuffled and forced his limbs to move, pulling himself forward. The thumping in his head intensified, spreading to his body. His hands hurt, his side hurt, his everything hurt. “ehhh-ehhCuhh-Huhshuhhh!” When he sneezed, the dizziness was nearly unbearable.  “ehhhhhh-ehshershhhh!” Inch by inch became centimeter by centimeter. His forward motion became just a fight to stay upright. “Dean!” he called again; he knew Dean wouldn't come, but it made him feel better to try. But, at some point, it all grew to be too much and Sam Winchester passed out.


When he woke, he found his cheek pressed into the carpet, his body stretched out along the hallway. Sam wasn't sure how long he'd been out, but he knew that Dean hadn't been by. If Dean had been up, he would have woken Sam, would have known something was wrong. Feeling stronger, renewed, Sam continued onward. But his arms and hands shook when he tried to crawl, giving out beneath him over and over again each time he tried to make good progress down the hall.


In the end, he inchwormed his way along, fingers digging into the carpet to help pull his body forward. Past the linen closet. “Dean?” Past the laundry station. “Dean!” Past the bathroom. He considered stopping there to grab some toilet tissue, but the doorknob seemed so high up and Dean wasn't in there. He needed Dean. He wanted Dean.


So he had to get to Dean. Sam pulled and pushed and got himself all the way down the hallway. It seemed twice as long as the last time he walked down it and wondered if there might be some magic or curse at work. But then he remembered he had a fever. And fevers did crazy things to his mind. As long as he wasn't seeing Lucifer, though, he knew he'd be all right. And Dean would make him better than all right. Dean would make him better.


hahh-Ihhshhhhh! Ehh-ehhh-ehh-Hehshhhh!


Coughing from the congestion the sneezes brought to his head, Sam fell against the door to Dean's bedroom. It was cracked open, so the door swung easily. Light from the window cut a path through the middle of the room, showing a large gray bed with a body sleeping in the very center. There was his brother. So close. “Dean!” Sam called pointlessly. “De... eeeeee-yihshhh! EhhHih-EH-EHHShuhhh! H'uhhshhh! Uhhh... Dean?”


Sam pulled himself along. Every bit of him cried out to stop. But he was so close to Dean. Just a few more feet, a few more inches, a few more centimeters. And then his fingers brushed the blankets where they hung down. He grabbed hold, intending to pull himself up. Instead, he buried his nose into a bit of it. “ehhh-IHschmfffff!” Sam rubbed his nose into the blanket, so glad to finally have something to dry his nose off with. He coughed again and closed his eyes, gathering what remained of his strength.


With hands clutching the blankets and his center of gravity thrown forward to give him the momentum he needed, Sam pulled himself up to his feet. He stood there, looking down at his brother's sleeping form. Dean looked so peaceful, contented. Sam almost didn't want to bother him now.


But this raging fever made the decision for him. Sam swayed and fell forward onto the bed. He fell across it, fell across Dean's feet and lower legs. Embarrassed and uncomfortable like this, Sam tried to get up. But his body wouldn't obey him. He tried to get it to move, but it refused. All he could do was pull his legs up onto the bed with him and curl into a fetal position.


“Sammy?” Dean stirred then sat up. “Sam, what's going on?”


Sam tried to answer. “Dean... I don't.. I... I ehhhhHehh! EhhhSHOOooo!” He shook, curling up tighter on himself.


Dean reached over and grabbed a tissue box off his nightstand. He kept a tissue box on his nightstand. Of course he did. Dean pulled a whole bunch of tissues out of the box and held them to Sam's nose. “Gotta sneeze again?”


Sam nodded into the tissues. Of course he did. “ehh-EHHPhshhhhhhh!


“Bless you. Here. Take these.” He tried to hand them off to Sam, but Sam couldn't move his arm. So Sam reached over with his free hand and took Sam's hand. It shook, but Dean squeezed reassuringly then guided it to the tissues at Sam's nose. Sam shivered and blew his nose before readjusting the tissues so a dry spot pressed against his nostrils.


The covers were bunched on Dean's lap from where he sat up, and he pulled them out now. He lifted and then folded them over Sam. They were warm from Dean's body heat still, and Sam felt the heat spread through him and wanted to both pull the covers closer and push them off, but he was preoccupied. “eh-ehh-ehh-ehhhhhhhphishhhh!


“I'll be right back.” Sam's eyes widened at Dean. No. “Five minutes. Just give me five minutes, Sammy.”


Dean pulled his legs free from under Sam and climbed out of bed.


Sam regretted letting him go. He'd gone through so much to get to his big brother and now Dean was gone again. A flush filled Sam's cheeks and he used his shaking hands to throw off the blankets.


When Dean returned, he made a tisking sound and pulled the blankets back up again. “Believe me, you'll be glad of them in a minute. Now hold still while I take your temperature.” Two fingers stroked Sam's cheek then slid up and tucked his hair behind his ear. Then he poked the thermometer into Sam's ear.


It only took a second before it beeped and Dean pulled it back. “Shit, Sammy. No wonder you're such a mess. 104.1. I should take you straight to the hospital with a fever like that.”


Sam shook his head. “No, I... hahh-Ihffshhhh!


“I'm going to need you to sit up just a little bit for me.” Dean rolled his eyes. “Don't give me that look, kiddo. You've got a high temperature and you need to take something right away.” He grabbed one of his pillows and started pushing it under Sam's head. “First one incoming.” Sam could barely lift his head, but Dean helped him. As soon as the first pillow was in place, a second slid under, raising Sam up a little higher. “Good. Now a third...” that one slid under Sam's shoulder and chest, raising him up even higher. It was still just a few inches, but enough for Sam to be able to swallow comfortably.


Sam had to admit it felt good to his head, too. The dizziness was still there, sure, but the elevation seemed to loosen his congestion a little. When Dean pressed a tiny plastic cup to his lips, he knew he should swallow it all down. But he wasn't up as high as he might have liked and he ended up coughing as much as swallowing.


Patient, Dean stroked Sam's throat to calm it. Finally, Sam choked down the rest of the medicine and buried his face into his brother's pillow with another pair of sneezes. “ehhh-Ihschphhhh! Eh-ehh-ehh-EhFSHOO!


When the sneezes had passed, Dean pressed something cool to Sam's forehead. Suddenly, he was thrilled to have those warm covers folded back around him. He lay on top and beneath of the same blankets. And Dean lay down next to him. They lay across the bed, in the wrong direction. Dean's feet hung off the edge, and Sam knew his would as well if he weren't curled up like this.


“Bet you caught that crap Winterson has been spreading around, huh? I wouldn't let him near my food vendors, for good reason. But a quarter of my staff's still out sick this week. This thing hits hard. Why didn't you tell me you were sick?”


“I tried...” Sam started, then trailed off as he realized Dean wasn't wearing his hearing aids. They'd had a whole conversation without them. Sam raised his shaky hand and gestured toward his ear and then pointed at Dean.


“All right. All right. I'll put them in.” Dean pulled back and reached for the hearing aids which he also kept on his nightstand. He switched each on and put on the left one then the right. “There. Happy now?”


Sam shook, cold and hot and sniffly and achy and miserable. But at least Dean was here. Dean would make everything better. Sam wasn't happy, of course he wasn't. “ehh-HUHSHhhhhh!” Sam tried to get more tissues, but he couldn't get his hand to the box. He struggled and huffed and sweat trickled down the side of his face.


“Relax, Sammy. Try to get some sleep.” Dean handed Sam some new tissues.


Sam nuzzled his face into them. They were so basic, so simple, but felt so good against his nose. Sam glanced over at the glowing digital clock on Dean's all-powerful nightstand. “You should sleep too. You've got work in two hours.”


Dean chuckled. “Neither of us are going to work today.”


“No... we only get five sick days, Dean. If you catch this bug from me, you'll probably need all of them.”


Dean lay back down in front of his brother. “We'll see. I'm not leaving you alone like this unless your temperature drops another two points at least.”


That seemed fair. And Sam was in no position to argue. He sniffled and closed his eyes, feeling exhausted suddenly. The trip down the hall and all the sneeze and sitting up and everything had done him in worse than an intense hunt. This really was a rotten bug. But there was no talk of Sam going back to his bed. Dean would watch over him right here. Sleepily, Sam said a soft, “G'night.”


Dean smiled back. “Night.”


It didn't take long for Dean to fall asleep. And Sam would have followed right behind, if not for that tickle in his nose. “ehh...” He tried to hold it back, tried to keep quiet. But without any energy, he had no chance. “ehh-HAHSHooo!


Dean woke again with a start, disoriented for only a moment.


“Sorry,” Sam said. And then the perfect solution struck him. It was so simple, so obvious. “Dean, take out your hearing aids again.”




“I'm going to keep you up with these sneezes if you don't. ehh-heh-EHTIHSHphhhh! Sniff!”


Dean hesitated. “What if you need me?”


“I'll punch your arm.” Sam's arms still hurt, shook, and tingled from his fever, but after what he'd just gone through to get down the hall to Dean's room, reaching out and shaking Dean's shoulder should be simple enough.


So Dean took his hearing aids back out and settled back down in the bed. He smiled at Sam, and Sam smiled back. After all these years, after so many ups and downs, they didn't always need words to communicate anyway.