Title: Back in the Saddle
Rating: PG (for language only)
Spoilers: Set during early Season 1
Disclaimer: Not my boys. I make no money off this
Summary: Now that Sam’s rejoined the hunt, it’s just like old times. Almost.
Notes: I started writing this 6 months ago based on a prompt from my comment fic meme. The story kept going through my head every time I was in the library volunteering. Took until today to finally write it down.
Back in the Saddle
There were lots of good things about having his brother back with him on the road. Now that Dad was missing, it was important to have someone he trusted watching his back. Though Dean preferred to be the one behind the wheel, it was great having someone to take over a shift or two of driving every so often so they could travel through the night without stopping. But as far as Dean was concerned, the best thing about having Sam back was having someone to do the bulk of the research.
Never mind that Sam had been sick for the past few days, because it really didn’t take too much energy to sit in the middle of a library thumbing through dusty old volumes of boring local history. Dean didn’t even care that Sam had him doing the grunt work, diving into the stacks with list after list and reappearing with armfuls of books.
Breathing out heavily with relief, Dean set the latest pile on the table where Sam had set up base camp. “That’s it. I think we’ve officially got every book on that shelf.”
Sam smiled and reached for the top book. He thumbed through it to find the index then the table of contents. Dean did likewise with the next on the stack. This one was about early history in town, with tales of barrels being pushed down the road from the mill to the river port and of local families that kept marrying each other, creating a complicated web that made Dean’s head hurt.
A loud squeak made him look up. No one was walking by. Sam was staring down at his book, head resting on his hand. He looked back down at his book, trying to find where he’d left off skimming for strange deaths that had to do with the river that wound its way through the town.
But then it came again. That weird squeak. And this time it didn’t sound a thing like shoe against library tile floor. And this time he lifted his head at just the right moment to see Sam pinching his nose as his head bobbed. “Sammy?”
Sam gave a soft little sniffle, dropped his hand, and looked up, blinking.
“What the hell was that?”
Sam cleared his throat as quietly as possible. “A sn—“ he broke off, pinching his nose again. His chest rose and fell several times. Then his eyes squeezed shut and his head bobbed forward again as another squelching sort of squeak sounded.
“Ugh… sometimes it just makes me need to sneeze more…”
The limit of Dean’s patience—which wasn’t too big to begin with—had been reached. He got up and grabbed Sam’s arm. “C’mon.”
Sam looked about the table, covered in laptop, paper, pens, and a couple of balled-up tissues in addition to books. He started gathering his things. But he was too slow and Dean was growing impatient.
“Forget the books, Sammy. We’re going right now.” He swept the rest of the things into their bags and hauled Sam out of the library, across the parking lot, and into the Impala.
“What’s your problem, Dean? It took us all morning to get those books. We still had a dozen to go through.”
Dean didn’t care about the books; he cared about his brother. “What the hell was that back there? Because it wasn’t a sneeze. You’ve had this cold for two days now, and that’s a lot of sneezing. I’ve been taking care of you since you were born; I know how you sneeze. Sam Winchester has great big, wet sneezes that wake me up when I’m trying to sleep and make me jump when I’m trying to drive. So what the hell was that supposed to be?”
Sam quietly shredded a tissue in his lap, sniffling. “I was stifling my sneezes. They’re too loud.”
Dean leaned forward a little. “Come again?”
“I was told my sneezes are too loud. I was trying to be quiet. It’s a library, Dean.”
Glancing back at the doors to the library, Dean shifted in his seat, itching for some action. “You’ve got a cold. It’s not your fault you need to sneeze. Who told you they’re too loud? ‘Cause whoever the hell told you that’s going to get a taste of—”
“Not someone here,” Sam said, shaking his head.
He hesitated before answering, “Jess.”
Dean sat back. Sam hadn’t talked much about Jess after she died. The things he had said made her sound like an angel. He hadn’t said a single bad thing about her… until now. “Are you kidding me? I mean, forgive me, Sammy, but that’s a kind of fucked up thing to say.”
“It wasn’t like that.” He grabbed another tissue. This one he folded in half, folded again, and then unfolded again. “It was exam week. We were studying together, not long after we first met. Her roommate at the time smoked. She was smoking outside, but it still triggered my allergies. And when I sneezed, it surprised Jess. She laughed and said ‘Wow, that was loud!’ I guess I was embarrassed. And I didn’t want to wake her up in the middle of the night or anything with my sneezes. So I stifled them.”
Dean wasn’t exactly sure what to say about that. “Well whoever who taught you how to stifle is a damn idiot.”
“I taught myself.”
“I rest my case.”
Sam folded the tissue again. Then he pinched his nose between thumb and forefinger, eyes closing, breath racing.
Dean reached over and pulled his hand down with a “Don’t!” just as Sam snapped forward with a sneeze.
“HehkkkTIHSHOOO!” He cupped the tissue to his face too late to catch the spray. “Dabb it, Dead…”
“No. You don’t have to do that. You shouldn’t. You could hurt yourself.”
“Been there, done that.”
Dean thought back to that case a few weeks ago when he’d called out to Sam and Sam hadn’t seemed to hear him at first. If Sam had lost his hearing because of some stupid comment…
“My ear was killing me. I thought I might have blown my eardrum or something, but it was just an ear infection.”
That didn’t exactly calm Dean. Even his sigh sounded like he was losing patience. “Okay. Here’s how it’s going to work.” He pulled Sam’s laptop out. “I’m going to go back in there and read every damn book. You’re going to borrow their internet, stay here, and sneeze as much as you need to. And we’ll call each other if we find anything related to the case. Got it?”
Sam nodded and sniffled. His nose twitched and he grabbed another tissue. “hah… hahh-TXXCHOOO!”
Dean reached over and patted Sam’s shoulder. “Yeah, that’s what I like to see.”
As Dean headed back inside, he had a hard time not laughing. It was good having Sam back on the hunt with him. Someone to help with the research and the driving and the fighting. But he’d almost forgotten all the other things that came with having Sam around. Things like needing to watch someone else’s back for a change. And things like needing to take care of his little brother when he wasn’t feeling so hot.