Title: The More Things Change

Author: tarotgal               

Rating: G
Pairing: Gen
Disclaimer: Not my boys. No money made. Just for fun.
Summary: What happens every time Dean gets sick.
Warning: V-ing during the flashback

Notes: A couple lines in my fic “How?” made this story pop into my head



The More Things Change


Sam stomped the snow from his sneakers and peeled off his damp sweatshirt. His heart still pounded after the brisk run. When he checked his watch, he found it wasn’t yet eight. Dean probably wouldn’t be awake yet, though he’d need to be if they wanted to make it to the mountains by nightfall. If they drove straight through, they’d get to California by this time tomorrow.


Sliding his keycard in the lock, he waited a second then headed inside. Sure enough, Dean was asleep. Sam dropped his keys on the table, jangling loudly enough to make Dean stir. “C’mon. Up and at ‘em. Time to hit the road.”


“Afrshwr,” Dean mumbled, pulling the comforter up over his head.


Sam sighed. “Okay. I’ll let you sleep until after I shower. But then we really do need to get going.”


There was almost nothing as good as a cool shower after a long morning of running. It was energizing and invigorating. And when he emerged, he was ready to tackle his brother. Sam packed up what little lay around the room; the Winchester boys were not in the habit of ever really unpacking, which made moving on much easier. He bought Dean as much time as he could. Then he hovered over him in bed again. “Final call, lazy butt. If you get up now, I’ll buy you a coffee on our way out of town.”


Dean hesitated to answer. Then he gave a weak and uncertain moan.


Over the years, Sam had gotten good at identifying Dean’s moans. He’d been away for a few years, but Sam still knew immediately what kind of a moan it was. It wasn’t the moan of a guy who just wanted to sleep another ten minutes. It wasn’t the moan of a guy just pissed off at how much of a morning person his annoying little brother could be. It wasn’t even the moan of someone who had been out drinking and having is way with a girl or two the night before.


It was the moan of someone who really didn’t feel good. Sam took an involuntary step back.


“What is it, Dean? A cold? Flu?”


Dean lifted his head, blinking tired, bloodshot eyes. Then he buried his head in the pillow to muffle a sneeze that shook him as well as the bed. “hffummm!


A cold then. Dean didn’t look feverish and sneezes weren’t usually a primary symptom of the flu. “Do you feel well enough to drive?”


Immediately, Dean shook his head. Then he lifted a heavy arm and pointed behind him. He rolled over and redirected his pointing to behind him but to the side of the bed. “Floor. Jeans. Back pocket.” His voice sounded awful already—rough and strained.                


Sam went over to retrieve the car keys, only to find that it wasn’t the keys at all. It was Dean’s wallet.


“Blue Visa card. Tell ‘em  we want to pay for two more nights. Better get yourself a room too. I’ll see you in a couple of days when this passes…” He buried his face in his pillow again. “huh-KFShmmmm!


Sam stared down at the credit card in his hand.




John’s keys jangled as they slid from his pocket. “Grab your sneakers, boys. Time to run some laps.”


Dean groaned but tossed Sammy his shoes as he slid his foot into one of his own. Sam knew better than to complain. He marked his place in the book and set his notebook and pencil aside. He hadn’t been able to finish off the second grade properly and the Winchesters traveled light so he didn’t have too many books, but he had been busying himself during the summer by assigning himself book reports. Dean, on the other hand, had been busying himself with his brand new Nintendo Game Boy. But when John Winchester announced a training session, his boys dropped everything.


The track at the local high school was a twenty minute drive from the motel their dad had chosen the day before. But John made a pit stop at a gas station along the way. He stretched his arm out, gripping the passenger seat headrest as he turned in the driver’s seat to look over his shoulder at his sons. “Just getting some drinks. I’ll be done in five. You boys wanna come in or sit tight?”


“Sit,” Dean answered for them both, looking distracted and not at his father.


As soon as John disappeared into the gas station, Dean unbuckled and launched himself forward. He scrounged around and finally produced a napkin from one of their many takeout bags. He folded it and cupped it to his face. Turning away from Sam, his body snapped almost in half. “h’Schhhhh! Heh-hehSCHooo!” He moaned miserably, rubbing at his nose.


“Bless you.”


“Thah… thags.” Dean winced at the honk as he blew his nose, refolded the napkin, and blew again.


Sam was suspicious, but didn’t want to say anything about it. So he scooted his foot over and nudged Dean’s foot.


Dean sniffled, rubbed his nose, and looked over. His eyes were pleading. “I think I caught a cold, Sammy. Sniff! I don’t want Dad to think I’m weak. Plus, he’ll be mad at me for getting sick.”


“That’s not your fault, though,” Sam was quick to point out.


“Doubt he’ll see it that way.” Dean blew his nose again and tucked the napkin into his pocket before John returned with two bags with clinking contents that he promptly dropped onto the passenger seat of the Impala. “Okay. We’re off.”


Sam shot Dean a worried look but Dean stared out of the window. And pinched his nose between thumb and forefinger.


John Winchester’s training sessions were nothing to sneeze at. Dean, however, was having trouble not sneezing. Sam had been so absorbed in his improvised school work, he hadn’t noticed Dean’s struggle all morning. But now he was kicking himself for not noticing. Dean kept rubbing at his nose every time he needed to sneeze—which was starting to become often.


It wasn’t so bad when they were on the far side of the track from where their dad stood with the stopwatch. Dean coughed and sniffled softly, wheezing as he fought for air as he ran. But his symptoms seemed to magically disappear when they got closer. Their dad’s voice would bellow out, “C’mon you girls! Is this the best you can do? You know what happens in this family to the one who comes in last.”


Usually Sam had to fight just to keep up with Dean, but today Dean was the one lagging behind. When their dad looked down at his watch, Dean would drag his sleeve under his nose and sniffle wetly, trying to keep his nose from running visibly when they came back around.


It wasn’t until their seventh lap that Sam got the feeling that something serious was wrong. Dean was sweating and wheezing badly when they were far from their dad. But when they got closer, Dean held his breath, face red from the effort of restraining. If it went on any longer, Sam thought Dean would either explode or pass out. Possibly both. “Dean, you’ve got to tell Dad,” Sam whispered when they were far enough away, their backs to him.


Sweat pouring down his face, Dean shook his head. “Cad’t.” He put on a brace face as they rounded the curve. They’d slowed down considerably by their eighth lap, coming up on what was a little more than two miles. John usually had them run five to start out, then the real drills came, then more laps. Sam was sure that Dean wouldn’t be able to make it much longer.


And, sure enough, as they got closer to their father this time, Dean slowed down considerably. It was like every step was painful, every breath was its own battle. Dean tried to hide it, but then he bent forward.  Dean gave an involuntary whimper and wrapped his arms around his stomach.


“Pathetic. It’s just a cramp, Dean. Man up and run it off. If something bad’s following you, it’s not going to give you time to feel better, I guarantee it.”


Dean tried to straighten up. He tried to keep running. But his legs seemed wobbly, unsure of themselves. He stumbled forward, throwing himself forward to keep his momentum in the right direction. But then he gasped for breath and something caught in his throat. Before Sam knew what was happening, Dean had stumbled right off the track, dropped to his knees, and coughed so much he was sick on the grass.


“Oh, great. Very nice,” John rolled his eyes.


Sam slowed and left the track as well. He crouched next to his brother, putting a hand on Dean’s back and rubbing the way Dean did for him when Sam wasn’t feeling good. But Dean pushed him off roughly. “Dod’t touch be. Just go,” he insisted. “Keeb ruddig or...” He coughed hard and got sick again.


John could hardly fail to miss this. He jogged over, eyes blazing with anger. Sam felt like running again just to get away from that look, but he stood his ground.


“What the hell is—”


Dean was shivering now, and Sam moved closer, not rubbing Dean’s back but leaning against Dean to try to keep him warm. “Dad, Dean’s sick.”


 “He’ll wish he really was by the time I’m—”


“No,” Sam shook his head. “He’s got a cold or flu or something. He’s been coughing and sneezing back when we were in the car, and you can’t make him keep running, you just can’t.” Sam didn’t have any way to stop him, but maybe just this time his words would be enough.


Dean snuffled and coughed, then spat into the grass. “Sabby,” he moaned. “I told you I did’t wadt Dad to dow.”


“Sorry, Dean. I had to.” Sam stared up at his father, begging the man to be fair and kind and nice to Dean. Dean probably felt crappy enough already; there wasn’t very much their father could do to Dean to make him worse.


There was silence among the three. Uncomfortable silence. Silence broken only when Dean snapped forward with a sneeze and immediate apology.


John sighed. “All right. Into the car. Sam, you sit up front. Dean, you cover your nose when you do that.”


“Yessir,” Dean mumbled, snuffling into his sleeve. He pushed up from the ground and got to his feet.


John added, “And we’ll have a talk later about lying to me.”


“Yessir,” Dean said again.


Sam followed his father and older brother back to the car. Dean hadn’t lied, exactly, he just hadn’t offered up the whole truth. It was the exact same thing their father had done about demons and the real way mom died. How could he get mad at Dean for something he did for years? And, yet, Sam knew he would be mad. ‘Cause it was so easy to get him mad these days. Especially if your name were Dean Winchester.


They got back to the car and Sam sat up front, though he wanted to be in the back. Dean looked cold and lonely back there, snuffling and coughing and shivering. Sam wished they’d at least pulled one of the blankets out of the back for him to curl up with. Heck, he wished he could be back there for Dean to curl up with. Dean’s face was still damp with sweat, but his eyes were alert as he caught Sam’s gaze. And, wordlessly, Dean communicated with him. Sam gave a nod of sympathy and understanding and turned back again. It really was best to not get their dad any angrier than he already was.  


When they got back to the motel, John had Dean stay in the car and made Sam get out. He went straight for the office to purchase another room. Then he moved most of their things into the new room, including Sam. Sam sat on the new bed, arms wrapped around his legs, hugging them against his chest. He hated sleeping in strange motel beds without Dean beside him. He’d done it the last time Dean was sick and the time before that. And all the times before those.


Not that it did any good. Sam always ended up catching the bug anyway, and none of them got much sleep. John would have to go from room to room, checking on his boys. And Dean and Sam would try to sleep in their own beds in different rooms, unable to get comfortable enough to drift off. The nights were long. The days were long too. This time, Sam got more reading done, which he should have been happy about. But he started to develop a headache. Hoping it was just because of too much reading, he ignored it and didn’t tell his dad.


“Gonna go check on Dean. Be right back.” John grabbed his coat. The new room they’d gotten was a carbon copy of the old room, right down to the oil painting of a sailboat. But the difference was that one room was missing John and Sam and the other room was missing Dean. If they could just be merged together somehow, it would make one whole family again. But the rooms were five apart from each other; they couldn’t even knock in secret code to each other through the wall. And even local calls cost money.


“Tell him I hope he feels better,” Sam blurted out as quickly as possible, even though the door was already closing. He hoped his dad had heard, but wasn’t optimistic


Sam returned to his book, head pounding, and didn’t notice his sneeze until he had crept right up on him. “ahhKschhhh!” Sam clapped a hand over his nose, surprised. He blinked, feeling another tickle in his nose, and held his hand there. “ah…” This one came with a warning he didn’t need. “ahh-Kitchoo!” Sam got up, finding toilet paper in the bathroom, and wiped his nose. Then he washed his hands and went back to his bed, where he flopped down.


Once again, he’d caught what Dean had. Their dad was not going to be thrilled when he got back. For a moment, Sam thought about trying to hide the symptoms, but that hadn’t worked out so great for Dean in the end. And at least this meant he could once again ride in the back of the car with his brother.


The next morning, bundled up in a jacket, hat and scarf, John put Sam in the backseat of the car. He tucked a blanket around him and left another blanket there for Dean, along with a large roll of toilet paper liberated from the motel room. Sam sat for a while, feeling like he could fall asleep but trying not to until they at least got on the road. A few minutes later, their dad appeared with Dean in tow. Dean looked miserable, red-nosed and bleary-eyed. And when he crawled into the backseat, he lay down on his chest, lying on the blanket instead of sitting with it around him.


“You all right?” Sam asked.


Dean nodded. “Just can’t sit down right now,” he whispered to his brother.


Sam understood and offered over the roll of toilet paper.


“I didn’t mean to get you sick, too. M’sorry you caught my cold.” Dean muttered, blowing his nose into a few squares.


Sam merely shrugged. “It’s not too bad.” He sniffed but gave his big brother a reassuring smile to show he was being tough in the face of misery. Then he patted his leg and Dean scooted a couple inches closer, laying his head in Sam’s lap like a pillow. Sam rubbed his big brother's back, careful to stay up near Dean's shoulder blades where it didn't hurt.




Sam stared down at Dean’s credit card. Then he tucked it back into the wallet. “No.”


Surprised Sam was even still in the room, Dean lifted his head. “Sammy, get out of here. You’re gonna get sick.”


“Yeah,” Sam agreed. “I always do.” He waited for Dean to cough a little then carried on with resolve, sitting right down on the corner of Dean’s bed. “Think about it. All those times Dad got us separate rooms, I still caught whatever you’d come down with. Every single time. Not once did it work. We were in the car together all day, breathing the same air, and all night here in the room. I’ve probably already caught it. So what good is another room going to do me?”


Dean shook his head. “Dad always…”


“Dad’s not here.” The statement was a bit harsh and hit them both harder than Sam had intended. He tried to soften it a bit. “And until we find him, it’s just the two of us. So I suggest we do things our own way, with our own rules. And the first one should be, when one of us is sick, the other doesn’t have to sleep in a separate room. It doesn’t work anyway.”


Dean looked like he wanted to object, but pressed the back of his hand to his face instead. His breath raced, body tensed, eyes closed. “ehfShixxhhh!” He sniffled wetly, dragging his hand back and forth beneath his nose.


“Bless you. And here’s another rule. When you’ve got a cold, you get a box of Kleenex.” Sam retrieved his own set of car keys. He turned to see Dean trying to haul himself out of bed. Sam reached over and pulled the comforter back up all the way. “Hey, you. Stay in bed.  Stay warm. I’ll be right back.”


Dean coughed. “First you want me to get up and promise me coffee. Then you tell me to stay in bed and promise me tissues. Heh… hehhh-EHFShuhhh! Make up your mind, Sammy.”


Sam patted his big brother’s back through the blankets. “I’ll go get you both.”