Title: Game of Wills
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Supernatural
Rating: PG
Pairing: None
Disclaimer: I make no money off this. Not my boys at all. Lucky for them, because I’d torture them all the time if they were mine.
Summary: Sam takes a few hours to nurse his cold and Dean winds up in trouble.
Notes: Happy birthday,
 [info]ladykorana! I hope you like this!

Sam woke with a start as the car door closed. He straightened in his seat, arm still bent against the window. His neck hurt badly from sleeping in a folded position for the past… how long had it been? Sam checked his watch. It must have been running slowly, because it claimed he’d only been asleep for thirty-five minutes. Had Dean found a motel with a vacancy already? Sam leaned forward, looking out of the window to find Dean gesturing toward the motel office. “Guess so,” Sam answered himself.

Closing his eyes only lessened his dizziness; it still felt like he was floating on water, unable to grab hold of anything to stop himself. He had a cold. He’d tried all morning to deny that fact, but ignoring a threat had never worked for any of the supernatural beings they’d faced and it sure as hell wasn’t working for this bug. “hah… hahh-IRSchhhhh!” Sam directed the sneeze into his shoulder, but the pain in his neck kept his nose from actually reaching his shirt. He sniffed wetly in need and plunged into a search for tissues.

Checking the glove compartment produced nothing he could use. There were a half dozen phones, a couple fake IDs, and a tire pressure gauge. He searched around his seat, hoping for at least a crushed box with a couple tissues still in there. What he found were an empty soda can, a couple receipts that he really didn’t want to resort to using, and—ew—a few stale onion rings.

“huhh…” He continued searching around as his eyes closed involuntarily. “ehhh…” Finally, yes, a napkin crumpled in the bottom of takeout bag. It wasn’t perfect, but he’d take it. “hehhh-Ershoooo!” The napkin was rough against his nose as he snuffled into it.

After blowing his nose and regaining some control, he stretched and got out of the car to start unpacking.

heh… oh no…
 ehEhshkkll!” Sam could feel his nose running as he bent over, but he didn’t do anything about it until he’d pulled both their duffle bags out of the backseat and straightened up. Then he pressed his cuff to his nose and sniffed. 

Dean emerged from the motel office swearing up a storm. He stopped when he caught sight of a sheepish Sam. “Your nose still bothering you?”

Nodding, “Do we have any tissues?”

Dean shook his head and took his bag. “No, and now we have no cash either.” He led the way into the room and tossed his bag onto one of the beds. The room was a bit bigger than what they were used to, with two beds, a table, and a desk, but also a kitchenette and a flat screen television bolted to the wall. “Son of a bitch manager insists they don’t take plastic. Everything else in a fifty mile radius is booked—”


“And you’re coming down with a cold. No more driving. No more hunting. We’re crashing here so you can rest and kick this thing.”

Sam knew better than to argue when Dean used his big brother voice. He also thought that bed looked pretty damn good. Before he knew what was happening, his head was on his pillow, a blanket was thrown over him, and a roll of toilet paper landed beside him.

He reached out for the latter, tearing off a bit in time to cup it to his face. “ehhhhhh-Ershphhhh!” Thin and soggy, he had to add another dozen layers before it was even useful. But when he opened his eyes, he found Dean standing in front of him with an almost empty bottle of green stuff and a cap poured full of it. Reluctantly he took it, downed it like a shot, and pulled a face. “Yeugh! That’s nasty.”

“Yeah, but it’ll help you rest. I’ve got twenty bucks left. Should be enough for some Tylenol, OJ, and a couple burgers.” The car keys jangled in his hand. “I’ll be back in half an hour.”

Starting to nod, Sam only managed to bow his head before sleep overtook him as if he’d been cursed.


Little black specs floated in front of Sam’s eyes when he opened them. Blowing his nose and trying to stay on his feet without bumping into unfamiliar furniture, he dragged himself to the bathroom where he gulped water until it didn’t hurt quite so much to swallow. He could already tell this was going to be one of those colds where he could function but everything was just bad enough to make him truly miserable.

He frowned at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. His nose and the area beneath it were quite pink. There were faint bags under his eyes and his hair needed some serious combing. He gave a strong sniff, watching his nostrils flare, and sighed, looking up.

The lights over the mirror were a little too bright and made his already sensitive nose tingle with the need to sneeze. Sam quickly cupped one hand over his nose and mouth while making grab for the toilet paper with the other; he didn’t make it in time. “h’IHTChhhh! Kerftchhh!” Miserably, he cleaned himself up and splashed some water on his face.

His mind was foggy enough that when he looked at his watch, it seemed like minutes before he registered that the watch must be broken. They’d rolled into the motel around two in the afternoon and his watch read that it was after ten. Sunlight streamed in through the blinds over the windows, so he knew it couldn’t be nighttime yet.

Sam perched at the end of his bed with the television remote and flipped through until he found a twenty-four hour news channel. The time in the top right hand corner confirmed that it was just after ten. Ten
 in the morning. Shit! That green guck really had helped him sleep. 

He’d spent half a day, all night, and much of the morning in bed while Dean… Dean’s bed was still perfectly made, untouched.

“Dead?” Oh God, he sounded awful, with his voice all raspy and his nose all stuffed up. Clearing his throat and blowing his nose yielded little result. “Dean’d?” He brother was definitely nowhere in the room.

A hundred awful thoughts popped into Sam’s mind. Sure Dean had just popped out to get some food, but anything could have happened to him. And without Sam to watch his back, it looked like something had.

Quickly, Sam pulled out a cell phone and called him. It rang. Repeatedly. And just as it was about to go to voice mail, Dean answered. “’Lo?”

 Cough! It’s Sam’b. Where the hell are you?”

“Sammy!” For someone who could have been tied to a chair and tortured or had his insides slowly removed by a hideous creature, he sounded quite relaxed and happy. “I’m makin’ us some money.”

Sam was familiar with that tone of voice as well. But it was too early in the day to be hustling pool.

“You sit tight. I’ll be back soon.” And there it was, a click and a dial tone as Dean hung up on him. Sam fell back on the bed, coughing. Dean hadn’t even said where he was, so charging to the rescue wasn’t an option. Even so, the impala would be easy enough to spot in a small town. Loading his pockets up with fistfuls of toilet paper, Sam zipped his coat up and headed out to find his brother.


Down the road from the motel was a convenience store. There were no cars out front, but there was every chance Dean had made it this far. Maybe he’d even gone in and bought the stuff he’d promised to get.

Sam headed inside, meaning to go straight to the counter with a photo of Dean, but ending up instead in the isles, plucking a box of tissues and a box of decongestants from the shelves. The convenient store, as it turned out, took credit cards just fine. And the man behind the counter kindly drew no attention to the fact that the sniffling man in front of him was buying embarrassingly obvious items. Sam avoided looking up at the overhead light, not wanting it to trigger a sneeze, and caught sight of a bulletin board just behind the guy. One glance at it told him exactly where Dean had gone.

$5 minimum buy-in
526 East Main St.

“Anything else I can help you with?” the man asked in his thick Indian accent, or maybe Pakistani.

“I thidk I’b all set,” Sam answered, grinning.

West Main Street was a few blocks over, and then a thirty-minute walk to the address from there. His head was pounding and his chest aching for rest by the time he made it. Every cold breath he sucked in through his mouth—his nose being too stuffed to be of any use—made his chest burn. He stopped twice along the way, wheezing, leaning against a telephone pole or a mailbox for support, not sure he could make it any further.

When Sam finally got there, he felt like falling apart. Not as bad as most of the injuries he’d suffered at the hands of ghosts or vampires or whatever, just bad enough to make him want to kill Dean for making him get out of bed when he already felt crappy. The tissue box was a vast improvement, however, and he stood outside sniffling and blowing his nose until he was somewhat presentable.

The address corresponded to a black building squeezed between a Chinese restaurant and a realty’s office. Location, location, location. Most importantly, the car was parked across the street. There was a parking ticket tucked under one of the wipers, but if the car was here, Dean probably was too. Descending the stairs into number 526 sent a chill through Sam. Or maybe he was developing a fever. Either way, he shivered and shoved his hands into his pockets, the plastic bag with his convenient store purchases dangling from his wrist.

At the end of a dimly lit hallway, a man stood guard at a door. He eyed Sam. “You got five bucks?”

Sam didn’t. If he went through all his pockets, all their bags back at the motel, and the seats of the Impala, maybe he could scrape that much together in singles and change. Or he could find a bank with an ATM. But he hadn’t seen one on the walk over and didn’t have the time or energy for that. “I just wadt to dow if by brother is here. I just need five minutes.”

The man considered him a moment. Then he smiled, showing off a flashy gold filling in a back tooth. “You’ve got two.”

That would be more than enough. Sam was granted entry into an equally dark room. The only light inside was directly over the table where three players and a dealer sat. Chips and cards were scattered across the table. Stacks of chips sat in front of the three players, but the sizes of the stacks was what first caught Sam’s eye. All three of the players had huge, heaping piles of chips. As Sam watched, the final card was turned over on the table and the three players all erupted in victorious shouts and exclamations. As the pile was split among them, Dean even did a little dance in his seat, pumping his fist in the air and gyrating with excitement.


Dean looked up, his expression vacant for just a second. Then, “Sammy boy! Look what I’ve won!” His pile was an impressive one. He knew Dean was good at poker, but after so long away, he’d felt sure Dean must be losing and would need bailing out. Instead, he gestured to his chips. “I’m up eleven grand.”

From five dollars. “Oh by God…”

“I know, right? I can’t lose!” He was dealt another hand and showed his cards to Sam. Two aces.

“Dean’d… baybe you should quit while you’re ahead.”

“Right, right. After this hand.” Dean made his bin by pushing half his chips into the center. The other players matched him.

“Time to go.”

Security had arrived.

“Dean’d?” Sam coughed.

“Move along.”

“De—” Sam broke off, coughing. A strong hand closed around his arm, tugged at him. “Wait, I—”

“You’re leaving. Now.”

Sam tried to pull away, but he didn’t seem to have his usual strength, because all he could do was lean and stumble as they forcibly removed him from the game room. They didn’t take him back the way that he’d entered, however. He was ejected through a different door, deposited in the alleyway behind the row of businesses, thrown down onto his hands and knees. He palms scraped the pavement and his head spun so much he thought he might be sick.

The sound of crying caught his attention, however. And as he struggled to his feet, he caught sight of a woman just a few yards away. She was bent over a body, sobbing, a sight Sam wished he wasn’t so used to seeing. “Hey,” he walked over and squatted down, fishing around in his pocket for a cell phone and finding instead useless wads of toilet paper. “Did you call ad abbuledce?” He wasn’t sure so she could understand him, but he offered her a tissue and that made her look up.

“Yes,” she gasped between sobs. “But it’s too late.”

The man looked as if he’d been literally wasting away—unnaturally blue-gray skin, hollow eyes.

“It killed him.”

Sam felt that same chill run through him again. It had to be an ‘it’ didn’t it? Not a him or a her or any name. No, it was an ‘it.’ “What?” he asked, voice hoarse with worry. He knew what she was going to say even before she said it.

“The damn poker game.”


hih… hih-EHShukffff!” Sam massaged his sniffly nose through the tissue as he held the phone to his ear and listened to it ring. Dean had stopped answering his phone. Sam’s options were limited.


“Bobby, it’s Sab.”

“Holy crap, kid. What’d you do, swallow a pack of gauze?”

“Got a cold. Add a brobleb with by brother.”

“No kidding. What’s that idjit gone and done now?”

 Ugh… Bobby…” 

The note of desperation in his voice must have triggered some sympathy. “Relax. And tell me what’s happened. And I’ll stop you if I don’t understand.”

So Sam explained as best he could about Dean going off and getting mixed up in what was clearly a magical poker game that sucked the life out of you. No one walks away from a poker game while on a winning streak and the game made sure that somehow every player won every hand.

“I’ve beed through two bodths of dewsbaber articles add bore thad a dozed people have died of starvatiod and dehydratiod. They’re just blayig udtil they waste away.”

“But Dean said he’d leave?”

“Hours ago. He did’t. The wobad I bet, Jade, said she’d begged her husbad to go, eved tried draggig hib out. But did’t go add thed he refused to go. They just dubbed his body whed they were dode with hib.”

“Dubbed his body?”

A few wet honks into a handful of tissues produced, “Dumbed?” That was the best he could do.

“Dumped. Man, you’re…”

“Forget be; have you ever heard of this before? Ady way to break the sbell? ‘Cause if it’s a batter of goig id, guds blazig, I’d feel a lot better with Dead at by side.” His tickling nose was at it again. He tried pinching it between thumb and forefinger, but it wasn’t helping.

“Could be witchcraft, could be a demon. Lots of demons feed on energy. I’ll look into it and see what I can find. In the meantime, you’d better—”


Bobby sighed. “You got somethin’ you can take for that cold?”

“Yeah. Add it’s dot subbosed to but be to sleeb. So call if you fih… fide subthig?”

“Of course.”

“Thadks.” Sam hung up and sighed deeply, producing a cough and some sniffs. He lay back on his bed, taking stock of the situation. There was a magical poker game. He had proof that the game was killing people. He was down one brother, who had wandered right into the trap, and Bobby was too far away to get there in time. He had some books, some weapons. He also had a head cold and far less energy than usual.

hehhh…” Tiredly pulling another tissue from the box, Sam tensed up, waiting for the sneeze to strike. It played in his nose a little bit, tickling, his breathing heavy and fast, until his head snapped upward. “ehhFTchhuhhh!

The decongestant he’d taken wasn’t putting him to sleep, but it wasn’t much helping with these sneezes either. And Sam still felt tired, like the cold was literally sucking out his energy, maybe the same way Dean’s energy was being sucked out. And he was hungry, probably the way Dean…

Sam sat bolt upright. Whatever spell or mojo the demon was working, it couldn’t possibly be stronger than Dean Winchester’s love of a good meal. Or, more specifically, a deliciously unhealthy meal.


Five dollars was enough to buy into the game, so flashing a bill got Sam in the door. He was careful to put it away, out of sight, as soon as he stepped inside that room, however. The last thing he wanted was to get roped into this. The dealer, decked out in black robes, did not look up. He merely dealt the cards and divided up the pot amongst the three players before him. The single light over the table lit Dean just enough to show his bloodshot eyes and the trembling of his hands when he reached for the cards.

“Hey, Dead.
 Sniff! Sniff! I brought subthig for you.” Eight pieces of greasy fried chicken and two biscuits smelled delicious from a foot away, but Dean didn’t look away from the cards. “Okay. Dot idto chicked. But you’ve gotta love this.” A double bacon cheese burger dripping in catsup, mustard, and special sauce, still warm, and a large order of fries. Dean made a high bid instead of making a break for the food. “Thed how about a beer?” Dean didn’t flinch at the sound of the top twisting off. “What about this?” Sam pulled out a small Styrofoam container, popped it open, and held the beautiful piece of pie right next to Dean. Dean almost went for it. He seemed to hesitate. His hand twitched as if it might reach for it. 

But instead he went for his cards, flipping them over and grinning as they showed an Ace and a King of the same suit. Royal flush. He accepted his winnings and immediately threw in a few poker chips as ante to begin the next round. The chips sounded musical as they hit others in the pile.

It was pretty clear Dean wasn’t budging. Out of ideas, Sam threw himself toward the table. If he killed the dealer, the game would have to end. Out came his gun. But the bullet went straight through the dealer, as if he weren’t actually there. It lodged in the far wall beside what Sam now realized were other, equally ineffective bullets.

The hand around his arm was tighter and stronger this time when it gripped him. Sam tried to yank it free, but the man was just as big and wasn’t fighting a raging head cold. Sam tried to throw a punch, tried to throw the food in the guy’s face, tried to hit him with the glass bottle. But again he found himself thrown out into the alley, knuckles bleeding and nostrils twitching. “heh-EggTSHhhhhhh! Sniff!
 Dab it!” And now he couldn’t even swear properly. 

The only good thing was that now he had dinner and there was no crying woman or dead body in front of him.

Sam got in the car to drive back to the motel, the box of tissues riding shotgun.


Sam was passed out when Bobby called back. It was early; this time, Sam trusted his watch when it told him it was five-fifteen in the morning. Sam groggily reached for the phone, coughing instead of offering a greeting.

“Aw, hell. This ain’t gonna work if you’re too sick ta—”

“Fide,” Sam said, sounding about as far from fine as possible. His nose tickled madly, even though he scrubbed his rough knuckles against his pink nostrils. “I’b fi-fide…
 hah-hah-Ihhtchhhh! Sorry. Sniff! Do you hab subthig, Bobby?”

“I did a little research. I’m pretty sure it’s a demon running a game of wills. Best way to hold someone captive isn’t with ropes, it’s to give him exactly what he wants and to keep giving it to him. In this case, it’s money. The only way a soul can go free is if he wants to go free more than he wants the money. ‘Cept once he gets a taste of the money, it’s even harder to gather the willpower to break away and want anything else.”

“He hasd’t had adythig to eat or dridk id a day add a half.”

“Chances are, his death will be drawn out. The demon will want to feed as long as possible on each victim. A human can only survive without water for a few days. He’ll be hungry and thirsty, but not in danger of dying just yet.”

“I tried food, but he would’t eved look at the bie.”


Sam shook his head. “Dever bide. So what cad I do?”

“Don’t know yet. We’ve gotta think of a something that Dean wants more. What about pie?”

Sam closed his eyes. They were running in circles now, and that wasn’t helping anyone, least of all Dean. “What about the debod? Cad’t I just gadk it?”

“The problem will be finding it. Demons who do this apparently hit a town, start a game in motion, and then take off. Could be halfway to China by now. Hell, it could be in China for all we know.”

Sam rubbed his hand against the back of his neck, then his forehead. He needed more Tylenol. And his brother. He needed his brother.

Sam blinked, considering this. “Bobby, I thidk I have ad idea.”


Sam shivered as he stood in the game room again, watching the players play their hands, watching the dealer give them an exorbitant amount of winnings. “Dean’d, I really don’t feel so good. I deed you.”

Dean paused. He actually paused. He’d been reaching for his cards, and he hesitated.

“You were goig out to get be subthig to eat, rebeber? ‘Cause I’b sick.” He coughed into his fist, whole body shaking. He’d meant to give a cough or two, maybe a sniffle. But one forced cough turned into about a million involuntary ones. He leaned back against the wall, wanting to go to Dean, wanting to touch him, to try to drag him away. But his head started to spin. He felt hot and cold, burning and shivery, like the coughing was taking away all his energy and leaving him nothing but this illness. “Deeeeeeead?”

He closed his eyes, trying to hold on. That horrible, urgent tickle was back in his nose, and he couldn’t even lift a hand to try to stop it. “I…
 ehh… haveta-ehhhh… sn…snehTchshtttttttt! Ehggtchhuhhhh!” They bent him almost in half. He felt himself slipping down against the wall, about to crash to the floor. He tried to reach out, tried to stay on his feet.

A hand grabbed at him, holding with that tight grip again. Sam didn’t have the energy to fight the guard off again. “Leave be alode,” he said, trying to hug his arms to his chest, keep them to himself. Dean had hesitated; that’d been such a good sign. Just a little longer and he might have made it.

“Sammy, stop struggling. I’ve gotcha.” Prying his eyes open, he realized Dean was right beside him, holding him up with whatever strength Dean had left. “Must be some cold to knock you on your ass like this.” He blinked hard, smacked his lips. “Man, I’m thirsty.”

Sam slipped his arm around his brother’s waist. He knew the way out well enough by now. “Dridks back at the botel.”


Sam didn’t remember how they got back to the motel. He remembered arguing over who was in better shape to drive. He remembered Dean’s hand brushing his forehead. He remembered the feel of the keys heavy in his hand. But that was all he could remember. The next thing he knew, he was wearing boxers and lying under the covers of his bed back at the motel.

There was a box of tissues on the pillow in front of him, blocking his view of the room, so he jumped when Dean suddenly sat down on the edge of the bed. Dean had a bottle of water in one hand and a bowl in the other. “Get it while it’s hot, Sammy.”

Sam sat up, shivering a little, and accepted the bowl. Tomato soup with rice. The first spoonful warmed him right up, relaxed him, made him forget all his worries about how they could have crashed and died on the drive back, whoever had done the driving. Dean looked a lot better already. He was drinking slowly but continually. And the mountain of trash in the can across the room told Sam that Dean had had a bite or two to eat as well.

“You all right?” Sam asked.

Dean nodded. “You?”

 Heh, heh… ihTchuhhhhhh! Sniff! Okay, I still have this cold… but otherwise…” He rubbed a couple tissues at his nose. “Do you rebeber what just—”

“Oh yeah,” Dean cut him off. His eyebrows rose as he took another sip of water. “I think next time I’ll just stick to fake credit cards and ATMs.”