Word count: 1367
Summary: But, yeah, that’s probably what this is, this sickness. Sam thought those sniffles were just the product of a new orphan’s tears, but apparently they were something more and something worse, and there’s another something inside his chest, a guilty something, strong-arming him every time they hit a pothole because his brother is tired and sick and deserves a smooth ride.
Author's Notes: Thanks everyone, for all of your kind words on...well, every fic I've ever posted, but the last one as well. I should be less lazy and say it to all of you individually because it does mean a lot to me that you read and you tell me your thoughts, but I feel it would always come out as a ♥. Which I suppose is probably close to enough as that lovely heart symbol is what you make me feel. Thank you so much again.
The road is full of holes. Sam tries to avoid them, to sneak his way around them but the car is a home, not an expert in the art of evasion, not a ninja or a wild cat, or what-have-you, and it doesn’t have the power of silence or mystery or whatever the hell it is those sneaky bastards have. The Impala is loud and full of memories that neither Sam, nor Dean will ever shake away, and that’s just fine, but her wheels keep dipping and the jolts keep on coming. Dean moans a little in his sleep, or near-sleep, or whatever state he’s in now, sniffles as his fevered head bumps against the cold window.
“Sorry, Dean,” Sam says quietly. “This road is shit.” He sneaks a glance at his brother, even though he knows what Dean looks like: pale and tired and shivering under a jacket draped over his upper body like a blanket. Miserable.
It was probably that little girl two towns back with the too-big eyes and the too-long hair, all matted and gross because her parents were in the basement she was too afraid to step into, thank fuck. Kids shouldn’t see shit like that. Kids shouldn’t see their parents with grey skin and bloodless hands. Kids shouldn’t hear the buzz of the flies, shouldn’t be privy to the knowledge that all corpses are devoured by something or other, be it fire or insects or time.
Sam’s knuckles are still raw from the kill. That’s what happens when you lose your silver weaponry for a too-long stint. It’s just flesh on flesh, or non-flesh, or whatever it is shapeshifters are made out of. Endless flesh. Flesh that doesn’t end. Redundancy. Shapeshifters are made out of redundancies. Kill, shift, kill, shift, kill, shift. Sam gets how monsters work. What he doesn’t get is how they keep going, how they don’t get tired of it, the same gritty process over and over again until it loses all meaning. Sam’s tired of it. Sam’s been tired of it since before he even started it.
But he keeps going. Sam gets how he works, too. He works like his father worked, and like his brother works. You keep going until you can’t go anymore.
Sam remembers his brother’s tired limbs and his tired face, how he knelt down and told that little girl with her too-big eyes and too-long hair some contrived shit about how her parents were in heaven now. How they were happy and pain-free and they loved her, but she wouldn’t be seeing them again. Not for a long, long time anyway.
And she cried. And Dean’s voice sounded like sandpaper when he told her it was going to be okay, that it sucked, but she’d survive. Just like he did. And Sam did. Just look at them.
And she looked at them and cried harder.
Sam remembers how Dean let her cling, because she was so small, and he didn’t know what the fuck else to do, how he looked terrified and out of his element but he sat on the couch with her in his arms and rocked back and forth, made those shushing sounds against her head as Sam sat on the floor and wrapped his bloody hands in bandages.
Dean brushed her hair because she asked him to. It was quiet and awkward, but his hands were as gentle as he could manage. She didn’t want Shannon down the street seeing her this way, and he understood. Sam understood, too. You learn to man up when your parents are nothing but ash, or fly-bitten corpses, or whatever they are after the monsters get them.
They took her as far as Shannon’s front yard, then walked away, hid themselves and watched to make sure the door opened for her.
They called the police. They sped out of town.
But, yeah, that’s probably what this is, this sickness. Sam thought those sniffles were just the product of a new orphan’s tears, but apparently they were something more and something worse, and there’s another something inside his chest, a guilty something, strong-arming him every time they hit a pothole because his brother is tired and sick and deserves a smooth ride.
It used to be Sam, who did all the comforting, back when Sam was pretending to be something he wasn’t. Back when Sam was on the smart track to normal. It’s not that he doesn’t want to make people feel better anymore. He does, but he doesn’t always have it in him. It’s always in Dean.
Sam keeps driving. He’s been driving for a long time now and he’s getting tired, but he keeps driving until the road smoothes out and they’re about to hit empty.
Five miles later and they’re at a gas station next door to a motel and Sam is thankful for these little conveniences, because Dean’s eyes open slowly when the Impala comes to a halt in front of a vacant pump.
“Just filling up.”
Dean shifts, and winces like he aches “How long you been driving?”
“Long enough to get us here.”
“I felt those fucking potholes. I’m gonna have to check her tires.”
“I’ll check them.”
Dean snorts derisively.
Sam glares. “What? I will. We’re gonna check into that motel over there. You have to sleep in a bed, Dean.”
“I do not have to sleep in a bed.”
“Stop being such a stubborn dick about everything.”
“Stop being such a little douchecanoe.”
The conversation ends there. Sam gets out of the car and fills her up, all the while trying not to laugh at his obnoxious brother’s choice of insult.
They check into the motel. Dean collapses face first onto the bed closest to the door, worms his way up the mattress as he expertly kicks his boots from his feet. They tumble to the floor with a thud.
Sam drops their bags next to the dresser and shuffles into the bathroom. Of course, the washcloth he so considerately wets with cool water is thrown back in his face less than a minute later.
Dean pins him with his pissiest of expressions, growls, “Dude. Don’t even with that mother hen shit.”
Sam rolls his eyes. “Dude. You’re sick. You have a fever.”
“And it’ll pass.” Dean points a stern finger at Sam, repeats, “Don’t with the mother hen shit.” Then he buries his face in a pillow and sighs in what sounds like relief.
Sam stands there with the wet cloth in his hand and glares at his brother’s prone form, until Dean turns his head and looks at him again, grunts, “Get some sleep, Sammy.”
Sam raises his eyebrows.
And now it’s Dean’s turn to roll his eyes. “You’ve been driving for hours. You look like shit. Get some sleep.”
“M’not asking. I promise I’ll wake you up to hold my hair back if I start puking. Get some sleep. When you wake up, you can go back to the gas station and get me a fuckin’ bear claw or something.”
Sam’s eyebrows seem to be trying very hard to disappear under his hair. “And what if I don’t want to get you a bear claw?”
He sees Dean’s smirk, the corner of the lip rising up just above the pillow. “You will. M’sick. I have a fever.”
Sam doesn’t know why he gives in. It might be because he is, indeed, tired. Or that it makes Dean feel better in some sense when he feels like he’s in charge, that he actually full-on smiles when grumbled profanity emits from Sam’s mouth.
This is annoying.
“Jerk,” Sam says, and pulls off his boots.
“You’ll thank me when you wake up all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and still too-tall for your own good…”
The words taper off and Dean just lies quietly, breathing into his pillow. Sam follows his example, tries not to think about it as doing what he’s told, and lies back on his own bed, stares at the ceiling, soaking in the quiet stillness of this room that isn’t their home, but somewhere that’s temporary and semi-comfortable. A decent place to just stop until they have to go again.