Title: The Opposite of Nostalgia
Disclaimer: I hurt them because I love them. But I don’t own
them. And I don’t get paid for this.
Summary: Dean has a hell of a cold. Problem is, so does Sam.
Notes: I kept starting SPN fics then getting a good idea for another in my head and starting those. This is one I started and abandoned and had to go back and finish because who doesn’t love some pure indulgence fic? Heehee
The Opposite of Nostalgia
Dean rests on the only bed in the motel room, a pillow rests on his lap, and Sam’s head rests on the pillow. Sam’s arm, used so often that day to catch his runny nose as he snuffled, is now curled around Dean, hugging him close and keeping him from moving. Dean’s hand slides repeatedly through his brother’s hair; there isn’t much else to do. He’s got some horror movie on the crappy old television, but the sound is off so it doesn’t wake Sam. The TV doesn’t have closed captioning, but it doesn’t take a graduate degree to figure out the slutty girls are going down first.
He listens to Sam’s breaths as they go from struggling to slow. They’re deep and there’s a bit of a congested click when he inhales. Not that Dean’s noticing. Of course not. But after spending two days listening to nothing but Sam’s horrible coughs and strong, wet sneezes, the near silence is exactly what he’d hoped for.
And that’s why he gave Sam the last of the Nyquil. By all rights, that cupful of medicine should have been his. He’d been the one who had stayed up all night digging up the grave in the cold rain. He’d been the one driving all day long while Sam curled up in the back seat, shivering under both their coats. He’d been the one to find the bottle of medicine in the bottom of one of their bags, after a somewhat exhaustive search through everything they owned. But he’d given it to Sam in the end because he knew that even with the medicine, he wouldn’t get any sleep with the racket Sam was making. He could either dose the kid up or go sleep out in the Impala all night. And given that it was below freezing out there, this dive of a motel was a better deal. It was obvious they weren’t going to make it one town further on the highway. Of course, this one is in the middle of nowhere and everything closes at dinnertime; no drug stores or grocery stores to raid for supplies until the morning.
Dean feels a sneeze coming on and pinches his nose with thumb and forefinger. He feels his nostrils twitch helplessly for a moment, two, then they calm and the urge is gone. Sam is sleeping the sleep of the highly medicated, but an almost full dose of slightly expired off the shelf cold medicine is not foolproof. Dean doesn’t want him waking up until absolutely necessary. At least one of them should get some sleep tonight.
He tries to remember the last time both of them were sick at the same time. He remembers that time in Texas when Sammy came down with the sniffles, but Dean had looked after him just fine and it had passed in about a minute with the only casualties being a box of generic tissues and half a box of capsules. He remembers that freakin’ miserable migraine he had last year, but Sam had gotten him an ice pack and drove him up and down a highway in the Impala, letting the long stretches with the steady rhythm put him to sleep until the pain died down. When one of them is in trouble, the other bails him out. That’s the way the Winchester boys always play. Sure, sometimes they’re both injured or knocked flat on their asses by some demon, but they manage to pull each other to safety in the end.
Then he remembers that time years ago, before Sam left for Stanford, when Dad had been off on some hunt in Georgia and something ghosty and terrible had sprung up in San Francisco. Dean and Sam to the rescue had been a great idea until Dean had come down with the flu. They’d gotten the job done, like always, with Dean doing the salt and burn like a pro—Dad would have been pleased—while Sam distracted the spirit. But before they could celebrate the victory, Sam passed out with a fever of 103 degrees.
Dean had gotten them into the car and had insisted on driving, that way he could pull over on the side of the road any time he needed to get sick. It had taken days to get there at that rate, but they rolled up to Bobby’s place in South Dakota in a pathetic state. Bobby had helped them both inside, setting Sam up in the bedroom and Dean on the couch. It was the only place Dean had felt safe enough to sleep, knowing someone was looking after Sammy, someone with a gun, knowledge of what was out there, and Dad’s phone number if things got worse.
They don’t have that luxury this time. But they have a room at a motel and that has to count for something. The heat is cranked way up. The shower still has some hot water. And the room even came with a tissue box in the bathroom that had been relocated to the bed the second they invaded. Dean takes a tissue out and folds it over his nose. It’s running. Not the tissue, his nose, of course. He risks a blow, something wet and useful but soft enough that the sound won’t wake his brother. But once he starts, he realizes there’s a problem: this is an endless task. He blows and blows. He goes through tissue after tissue, using so many for his nose but using them up completely because he doesn’t want to run out—the middle, each end, each side, then balled up so he can wipe his nose one last time before dropping each onto the bed. Sometimes he drops them onto Sam without meaning to, and the man flinches but doesn’t wake. Mostly Dean tries to throw them over the edge of the bed, but they don’t always make it that far.
Dean feels that urge to sneeze rise up in him again like it’s never left, like all that tending to his nose has been for shit. He has half a mind to just let it drip from now on if it’s just going to do this to him anyway. Because the feeling’s strong, this intense prickle he can’t sniff away, even though he’s trying. Even pinching his nose isn’t working this time. His eyes closing is involuntary, and Dean hates this cold because of that. There aren’t many times that Dean loses control, but to lose control to a pathetic little sneeze is just plain pathetic. So he holds his breath. His lips quiver and nostrils flare, but the sneeze stays put until the urge backs away. “Gotcha,” Dean whispers.
Triumphant, he relaxes again. His hand slides across Sam’s forehead. It’s real hot, and Dean doesn’t know if it’s a good sign that he can tell when something’s hot so his own temperature can’t be too bad or if it’s a bad sign that Sam’s running a fever. Could be both. He debates whether he should risk waking Sam in order to get up for a cool compress and decides to stay put and keep petting. It’s not much, but at least he feels like he’s doing something instead of just staying awake all night watching a cheesy horror movie marathon.
On the television, the teens are splitting up to investigate what looks like the old remains of a train wreck. Dean wants to shout and tell them to stay together, but they’re inside the television and he knows they won’t be able to hear him there. Nothing good ever comes from splitting up; Dean knows that far too well.
He remembers that one job in Newport News, the one where that demon possessed sailors and shipped off to sea inside them in order to devour the whole ship out on the open water where there’s no chance of anyone escaping. There had been a fight—a big one—and he’d thought Sam had been left on the land when the ship pulled away from the dock. So when Dean ran into the sort of trouble where his life started flashing before his eyes, he swore up and down about getting separated. Sam had been on board the whole time, of course, biding his time before the rescue. The teens on television were not half as lucky, getting picked off one by one in the bloodiest ways the director and screen writers could have imagined. Horror movies weren’t anywhere close to the truth.
“huh!” He holds the involuntary breath, eyes shutting and nostrils flaring. He pinches his nose and for a moment—a fleeting moment—he thinks he might actually sneeze. But then the sensation dies down. He wrinkles his nose and sniffles, then works his way through tissues again like it’s some demon-banishing ritual that requires all his attention. Blowing, rubbing, wiping. And it still tickles, just a little, like that sneeze is just waiting for the right moment.
The credits roll, squished on the bottom of the screen as the next movie starts. This one’s a sequel and, therefore, predestined to be about ten times worse. Dean’s kind of excited about that. Anything to take his mind off how awful this cold is making him feel as he sits there almost alone, just watching the minutes of the night creep past him.
He watches as, on the screen, a gang of kids have a bonfire party on a beach. The kids are sloppily drunk, easy targets, and Dean sees the murderous rampage happen even before the figure emerges from the darkness, machete stained with blood. Dean looks longingly over at his coat, across the room. His flask is in the pocket. He wonders if Sam thought about that fact before they settled in for the night like this.
He remembers one night, spent in the impala, when he slept in the backseat with a broken leg. Sam kept reclining the passenger seat to get more room and hitting Dean’s shoulder or knee. Even then, crammed in the car, injured and miserable, Dean had managed to get more sleep than he is getting tonight.
“hih!” Dean pinches his nose tightly with one hand and covers his mouth with the other. It was so close, that tickling, needy urge. “heh!!” His body tenses, and any second now he expects to pitch forward. But, miraculously, it backs off. He holds his hands in place anyway, taking a few normal breaths through his mouth, warm against his fingers. Then he relaxes.
For a moment, eyes closed, leaning back against the piled up pillows and solid headboard, he thinks he might be able to get to sleep. Sure the light is on and he’s sitting upright, but he’s so tired that doesn’t matter.
Then Sam rolls slightly from his side to his back and gives a monstrous snore to let Dean know he’s still properly asleep. Dean practically jumps at the sound, eyes flying open. He nudges Sammy as his brother snores again, rolling him back to where he was. Sam stirs, mouth hanging open because his nose is so stuffed, but doesn’t wake.
Dean pets him again. His arm is so tired, moving it feels like a chore. But the feel of Sam’s hair through his fingers is so familiar, comforting, it’s worth all the effort.
One breath out of a billion catches in his throat and Dean starts coughing. He buries his face in the crook of his arm, trying to keep them quiet. He holds onto the post of the headboard, trying to keep himself from shaking too much. Not waking Sammy is Dean’s only mission.
He remembers hunting a ghost with Sam up in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Sam’s allergies had been bothering him and he’d spent half an hour stifling sneezes into Dean’s arm to keep quiet as they waited for the cover of darkness before they could dig up the bones for a salt and burn. Sam got steadily worse and worse, having trouble staying quiet as his nose got itchy and tickley. Twice the noise had summoned the ghost, but rock salt and a salt line kept her from them. Luckily, the rain had come and washed away a lot of the pollen and he’d been all right the rest of the night.
God, Dean’s nose is tickly. It is only a matter of time before he sneezes. And any sneeze of his would certainly wake Sammy up. Dean scrubs violently at his nose. Every second that passes is another second Sam gets to rest. Dean tries not to be too envious. And he tries to control his breathing.
Bored with the horror movies, Dean flips through the channels. He avoids news, not needing some story to catch his attention and demand action and not needing to get more depressed about a world he’s been trying to save over and over again since he was a kid. Infomercials aren’t much better, full of catchy graphics and false promises. What’s he going to do with a NordicTrack or a collection of greatest hits from the ‘60s anyway? He winds up right back watching the masked murderer slay a pair of canoodling twenty-somethings. Dean holds back coughs, his body shaking, and can only imagine the screaming and violins that would make up the soundtrack for the muted movie.
It wasn’t as though Dean and Sam never touched or stole a kiss here or there while out hinting, but sitting in the middle of a forest when there’s a known killer on the lose is just plain beyond dumb. Dean remembers one time they got back to a motel room after a hunt, both completely worked up. They’d fucked like two desperate rabbits, just trying to get it out of their system. But even after that, the urges were there. They’d stayed in bed all day. Much like Dean wished they could have done today, though for a much different reason.
If only he could close his eyes for a few minutes and get some sleep. His head feels heavy, stuffy. His eyes burn. His throat itches. His leg is asleep, tingling with pins and needles. His body is in a state of rebellion against him. His breath catches and out comes a sneeze that takes Dean Winchester entirely off guard. “h’SHEHhhh!”
Almost immediately, there’s another sneeze on its way… building… fast. Dean cups the tissues to his face, trying to quiet it as much as possible. “ihftchhh!” It isn’t loud, not nearly as loud as the last one. However, the sneeze is strong enough to shake his weak body and to shake Sammy awake.
Sam stirs, tries to open his eyes, and flares his nostrils. Dean notices the expression all too well. Though he’s still got a tissue at his nose, he pulls another from the box and presses it to Sam’s face. “ehhhhhhhhh-EhTschhhhhh!” The sneeze is wet and Sam’s nose is all twitchy through the tissue in Dean’s hand. That can only mean another is on the way. “eh-ehgggg… ehktshhhhhh!” Dean rubs the tissue at Sam’s nose, and Sam tries to pull back.
“Uh-uh,” Dean shakes his head, pinching his nose through the tissue then giving it a rough wipe. “Blow your dose, Sabby.”
Sam looks up at him, but the defiance isn’t there any more. He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and blows a gurgling blow into the tissues. Dean balls it up and wipes a dry spot at Sam’s nose. “I’m not five any more,” Sam insists. He sounds congested and exhausted. His voice has a rasp to it. And, yet, he sounds infinitely better than he had the night before. “You don’t have to help me blow my nose.”
Dean is too exhausted to flash back to that cold Sammy had way back in Kalamazoo in ’88 when he’d had to teach his little brother how to blow his nose. They’d gone through a while box in an hour, Sam’s nose all drippy and sniffly, and had had to make do with toilet paper until Dad had returned with supplies. Dean’s yawn rattles his body and he shivers violently.
Sam sits up, giving his brother a good, long look. His hands press into the mattress and balled-up tissues slide to cover them. The extremely loud bedspread is awash in them. “How much rest did you get last night?”
Shaking his head, Dean closes his eyes and rests his head back against the wooden headboard.
Sam climbs off the bed and lifts up the covers at the corner. “Your turn then. Slide on down.”
So sleepy, Dean doesn’t even try to object. He snuggles into the bed, head on the pillows, hugging to his chest the pillow Sam had used all night. Sam’s hand strokes his head, petting soothingly, having learned that technique from the best. But Dean hears Sam’s breath catch and knows the man is going to sneeze again. His arm heavy, Dean throws it out and makes contact with the tissue box. He pulls one out and swings it up toward Sam. But instead of handing him the tissue or holding it to Sam’s nose, his hand makes contact with Sam’s jaw, clocking him.
Sam pulls away with a surprised gasp and an uncovered sneeze. “egggg-HITChhhhh!” He rubs his shirt sleeve at his nose. Then he rubs his jaw where Dean hit him. “Dean, you’ve got to quit helping me before you kill me. I can get my own tissues. I was almost there.”
“Al… bost?” Dean yawns again.
“You know my sneezes always sneak up on me. Almost is great.”
“Albost odly coudts id horseshoes add had gredades. It’s that kide of behavior that bade be catch your cold.”
“Catch your…? Oh no, I definitely caught this beauty of a bug from you… hehhh-ERTChooo!”
Dean jumps in surprise at the loud noise. Then he whimpers and pushes the pillow up over his head. There’s no way he’s going to get any sleep with Sam sneezing every five minutes and Dean feels so tired he could cry.
Sam pulls the pillow down again. “Okay. I get the hint. I’m feeling well enough to drive, so I’ll go pick up some breakfast and get some medicine while I’m out.”
Dean feels the tension slip from his shoulders, draining away at the idea of medicine. “Yeah, but dowing you, you’ll cobe back with girly tissues.”
This subtle hint disguised as a complaint earns him a petting, Sam’s large hand sliding through his hair. “Yeah. I’ll probably get the girly tissues.”
Dean thinks fondly about those ultra soft ones with just a little lotion that just feel so good against your nose you almost want to sneeze again just to use another. “Bitch,” he says, sleepily.
“Jerk,” Sam replies with another pet and lips pressed softly to Dean’s forehead. Dean feels the mattress rebound when Sam gets up. But he doesn’t hear Sam walk across the room, grab the keys, and leave. So when he wakes, an hour later with Sam wrapped around him in bed, it’s like his little brother never even left.