Set vaguely in Season 4
I was surprised to find the boys at my front door in the middle of the night; I was even more surprised how bad they both looked. Sam was flushed red, Dean was pale green. And instead of the usual Sam standing just behind Dean’s shoulder, they stood a good arm’s length away from each other. Something was going on.
“You boys radioactive or something?”
Dean at least attempted a sarcastic expression. Sam only glared at the both of us.
“Well come on in before you collapse on my porch.”
They both took a step, they both stopped. Dean said,”Go on in,” and Sam snapped, “Don’t tell me what to do.” His voice was as rough as my driveway.
“You’re the one with the flu.” Dean said.
“You’re the one with food poisoning.”
“And the both of you are gonna be sleeping in your car if you don’t get in here right now.”
Well, they glared at each other another couple of seconds then Dean growled something and started in first. He got a little greener and kind of wavered. Sam put a hand under his elbow which I took as a good sign until Dean pulled away.
“I don’t need your freaking help.”
“I’m not helping you jerk. I’m getting you out of my way.”
Great, I get to be Ground Zero of a Winchester firestorm.
Still, Sam waited, watching, until Dean was through the doorway before he came in himself. Dean plunked himself down on a chair in the library as soon as he could. Sam stayed by the library doorway. Both looked sick and angry. I could’ve asked what was going on but at this point I didn’t give a rat’s ass. Dean was going down fast and Sam wasn’t going to be too far behind him.
“You go collapse in the guest room.” I told Dean. “Sam, you go take a hot shower. I don’t want either of you dying on my carpet. Meanwhile I’ll see if I can scrounge up some Pepto and cold medication.”
And they still hesitated like taking the first step would be a sign of weakness or something. Finally they both started shambling their way to their respective destinations. Sam hefted his backpack on his shoulder but Dean dragged his duffel behind.
“You drag it like that, you’re gonna catch it on something and tear it open.” Sam said.
“Bite me, Princess.”
This was promising to be a long night.
“Go on.” I ordered.
When I heard the bed springs squeak and the shower turn on, I hunted up my supplies and went to Dean first. He was on top of the blankets, looking pale, sweaty, still green, and still angry. He came all the way back from hell and got food poisoning. Somehow that don’t seem fair.
“Here, take a belt of this.” I held the Pepto out to him. “Then maybe you’d care to tell me what’s going on.”
“Bad burger.” He said after a gulp of the medicine.
“That ain’t what I’m talking about and you know it.”
“What? You mean my pain in the ass brother? Why don’t you ask him? He’s been Level 10 Pissed for three states.”
“And you’ve been nothing but pure sunshine all that time I suppose.”
“Well, excuse me but I’m sick.”
“So’s your brother in case it slipped your notice.”
“And is that my fault? I told him to stay in bed. The moron’s got like a hundred and three fever. I told him to stay in bed and take the damn medicine. What does he do? Follows me out into a rain storm into a situation I had perfectly under control.”
“And did he save your ass?”
“Yeah – you shoulda seen him Bobby. He was awesome.” Dean’s grin of pride didn’t last long. “That’s not the point. He shoulda stayed in bed.”
These boys are like sons to me, but sometimes they make me glad I don’t have kids. At least now I had an idea what was going on.
“Get some rest and try to keep your guts all in one place will ya?”
I got him a couple more blankets and a bucket just in case and made sure the path to the bathroom was clear. When I got back to the kitchen, Sam was huddled over a hot cup of fizzy cold medication. He looked miserable, feverish and shivering, with his hooded jacket zipped all the way up.
“So, you and Dean aren’t each other’s favorite people right now.”
“He’s an idiot.” If possible, he sounded even sicker than he did when they first walked in.
“Care to elaborate?”
I’m getting too old for this.
“Well, I put extra blankets on the other bed in the guest room for you -”
“I’m not staying in the same room with him.” He said it like I’d suggested he put his hand into a beehive.
“When you were little, you’d sleep in the same bed with Dean.”
“And he’d steal the blankets.”
“Did he?” I asked.
Sam wanted to say yes. He tried pretty darn hard to, but finally he shook his head.
Hmm. Didn’t think so.
“You finish drinking that and I’ll get you set up on my davenport if you want.”
I went back to the guest room to get the blankets and pillows for Sam.
“You’re not letting him sleep on the couch.” Dean informed me. “He’s gonna sleep in a bed if I have to put him there myself.”
“You know Dean, he is twenty-five years old.”
“So? He’s a kid.”
“Your Dad didn’t turn twenty-five until a few months after you were born.”
“Yeah, but -.”
Then the idea seemed to grab hold of Dean and it downright flummoxed him.
“He didn’t? He was Sam’s age when I was born?”
“A few months younger actually. You still think Sam’s a kid?”
“As long as he’s younger than me, he’s a kid.”
And so we were back to it.
“Get some rest Dean.”
“No.” He started to try and get up. “If Sam doesn’t want to be in the same room with me, fine. But he takes the bed, not the couch. Hell, he doesn’t even fit on your couch.”
When he collapsed back onto the bed, I told him,
“If you can walk out to the davenport under your own power, you can have it. In the meantime, Sam’s sick but you’re sicker so shut your yap and get some rest.”
Then I left Dean and went to make up the davenport. Sam was still in the kitchen nursing his Theraflu when I finished.
“You should finish that and get under some blankets.” I told him.
“Don’t you start bossing me around, too. I’ve had all I can take from Dean.”
“And is that what started this whole stand off? Dean being Dean?”
“He treats me like I’m five years old. Like I don’t know how to take care of myself.”
“And are you five years old?”
“Then don’t let him treat you like you’re five years old.”
“How am I supposed to stop him?”
I really wanted to smack him across the back of the head.
“You know for being so bright, you sure can be dim. Lay down on the davenport, don’t lay down on the davenport. I’m gonna check on Dean again.”
And I left Sam in the kitchen with one very confused look on his face.
Dean was throwing up. All that Pepto he’d taken a little while ago.
“No better, hunh?”
“Oh, I’m ready to rock and roll.” He said when he fell back on his pillows.
“I’ll make you some mint tea, maybe that’ll settle your stomach.”
Dean nodded and tried to punch the air with his fist.
“Bring it on, Bobby.”
He looked to the door, and toward my davenport I figured, where we could hear Sam trying to cough a lung up. But Dean didn’t say anything and if he wasn’t going to ask about his brother, I wasn’t gonna offer.
“I’m only trying to protect him.” He said.
“You don’t gotta wrap him in cotton wool you know. Sam’s not glass, he ain’t gonna shatter.” I said. Dean started to answer that but I cut him off. “He ain’t shattered yet,” I reminded him.
“I’d answer that but I’m going to throw up again.” And he did.
“I’ll get you that mint tea. If that don’t work, I’ll have to go find you something stronger.”
So back to the kitchen I went. Sam was on the davenport, mostly sitting up with his legs stretched out and his head resting against the back. Dean’s right of course, Sam don’t fit on my davenport. He can’t stretch out entirely on it. He didn’t say anything to me and I didn’t say anything to him as I went into the kitchen. Better he rest.
Better nobody pissed me off anymore.
While I was steeping mint tea for Dean, I made a little something for Sam. When it was ready, I carried it out to him.
“What is it?”
“Whiskey sling. It’ll help your fever.”
“Who says I have a fever?”
“That sunburn you’re sporting on a rainy day.”
“Save it.” I shoved the cup in his hand and kept walking.
Dean was still chucking up his guts when I got back to him with his mint tea.
“If you don’t stop trying to turn yourself inside out, we’re gonna need to take you to the hospital.”
“I’m fine.” He all but gasped out. Seems I heard that somewhere else recently.
“Have I ever lied to you?”
“I’m not even gonna answer that. Here, can you drink this?”
He grunted what I chose to interpret as a ‘yes’ and pushed himself up. He asked, “How’s the pain in the ass?”
I know the boys have their fights and being sick can sure only make it worse, but this was getting wearisome.
“You’ll have to be more specific, ’cause I got two pains in my ass right now.”
He grumbled at me under his breath, but sipped his mint tea.
“How’s that seem to be taking?” I asked him after a minute or so. “It gonna stay down?”
“I’ll let you know in seven minutes. That seems to be how long it takes.”
“Seven minutes. Great. I’ll be back.”
I was just about out the door when Dean asked me, “Really, how is he?”
“He took some medicine and he’s resting on the davenport.”
“I told you, he doesn’t fit on your davenport.”
“And I told you, when you can walk out there under your own power and wrestle him into submission, you can have him sleep wherever you like. Until then -.”
“I know, shut my yap and get some rest.”
Back to the front room I went then, wishing both of my patients would go to sleep so that I could go back to sleep. Sam’s eyes were closed. He was still flushed so I stopped to put the back of my hand against his forehead. Dean was right, he was burning up. He was so hot I first suspected hallucinations when he woke up asking,
But then his flush flushed deeper. He looked embarrassed and turned away from me and pulled a blanket up high to shield his face from me.
It was midnight, I was tired. All I could say was “Sorry kid,” and bring him some Tylenol and Echinacea tea. Then for awhile Dean was quiet, Sam was quiet. I could sit down, put my feet up and enjoy my own little siesta. I must’ve dozed off and I woke up to Sam shaking me.
“I think Dean’s sick again. I can’t – I can’t -.”
He was trailing blankets and waves of fever, shaking so hard from it he was gonna drop where he stood.
“All right. I’ll check. You sit before you fall.”
I followed the sound of retching down to the bathroom. “Dean? How’re you doing?”
“Just peachy.” He called to me from behind the door.
“You’re still throwing up?”
“Uh – yeah.”
Something didn’t sound quite right in his tone.
“You all right? Dean? What’s going on?”
“Uh – well…” The bathroom door opened a crack and Dean looked around. “You ever hear the phrase ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction?”
It took me a minute but -
“Ohh. Okay. You gonna take a shower?”
“Yeah. Uh – yeah. I just need my duffel. I need some clean clothes.”
“Okay. I’ll get ‘em for you. I’ll leave ‘em inside the door.”
As I crossed the hallway to get back to the guest room, I saw Sam on the davenport, sitting up, leaning forward, looking my way. Worried, but not enough to actually come check Dean for himself. Two o’clock in the morning and I’m stuck with the idiot twins. Too close not to care more about the other than they care about themselves, too stubborn to actually talk to each other.
I waved Sam to lay back down again. If people thinking fighting evil is tough, try taking care of two sick Winchester boys.
The water was running in the shower so I set the clothes down inside the bathroom door and went to wait for Dean in the guest room. If he wasn’t any better, I was planning a run to the nearest store at the very least.
“Sam was talking about Dad?” Dean asked me, before he was hardly through the doorway. He’d put on the clean clothes and was drying his hair with a towel. He looked a little healthier, but not much.
“You listening at doorways now?”
“It’s just – nothing freaky is it?”
“No, nothing like that. He was sleeping, I felt his forehead. He woke up thinking it was your Dad checking him. That’s all.”
Dean gave a chuff of laughter. “Who’d think he’d have a memory like that?”
“Why do you say that?”
“C’mon, you know Sam. Seems like he threw away all the good memories. I mean Dad was tough, but he loved us. All Sam seems to want to remember is the fights.” Dean shrugged as he set himself down on his bed. “I’m just surprised he’d have a memory like that.”
“I expect you’d be surprised the memories Sam has.”
I got the puzzled look I was expecting. I know Dean knows that he doesn’t know everything about Sam. He just needs to be reminded sometimes is all.
“Uh – is there anything I can do for him?” He asked.
“Talk to him?”
For an answer, I got the patented blank Dean Winchester look.
“I meant beside that.”
Idiot, stubborn, Winchester men.
“Go to sleep Dean. Let Sam sleep. Right now that’s the best thing for both of you.”
“Yeah.” He untangled his blankets and got back into bed. “Let me know if he gets worse.”
I left Dean to rest and hopefully sleep and went back to the library.
Sam was still sitting up, leaning forward, looking down the hallway.
“Is he all right?”
“He’ll be fine.” I told him. “So will you be if you’d get some sleep.”
“I will. I’m cold.”
“You’d be warmer in bed.”
He looked down the hallway again but shook his head.
“Dean wouldn’t want me in there.”
“Do you boys even know each other?”
“What d’you mean?”
“I’ve met a lot of people in my time but you two boys are without a doubt the most stubborn, mule-headed, bass-ackwards matching set of dunderheads I have ever come across.”
“Why are you yelling at me?” Sam asked.
“Because I don’t understand what you’re mad at.”
“I’m mad because Dean treats me like I’m five years old. ‘Stay in bed, take your medicine, don’t come out in the rain.’ Like I don’t know how to take care of myself.”
“Do you get mad when he puts salt down when you stop for the night? When he cleans the guns? Does it ever occur to either of you not to check your supplies of Rosaries or holy water when you pass a Catholic church?”
“No, of course not. But that’s -.” He was confused and wondering where I was headed. “That’s what we do. That’s all part of what we do.”
“And Dean bossing you around when you’re sick is part of what he does too. It would never occur to him to not look after you before everything else.”
“I can look after myself.”
“Then why don’t you?” I asked.
“Why do you keep putting this back on me? He’s the one who keeps doing it.”
“Have you ever thought of ignoring him?”
“Ignoring him?” Sam got a look on his face like I said the world was about to flip upside down. “Ignore Dean?”
“Yes, ignore Dean. Don’t argue. Don’t fuss. Just do what it is that you want to do. Ignore Dean.”
“But – I can’t – ignore Dean?“
All I could do was shake my head and walk away. You’d think I’d asked him to cut a lung out.
So, I got a couple more hours of sleep. Nothing in particular woke me up, but I woke up so I decided to check on the patients. Sam was folded into the davenport. Flushed still with fever. But asleep. I let him sleep.
Dean wasn’t so easy. Now he was gray-green over pale. And awake. At least he wasn’t puking.
“If he’d just slept in the first place…” Dean shook his head. “…we wouldn’t be having this trouble.”
“Oh? Him not sleeping gave you food poisoning?”
“No. Him being sick made him not hungry which made him not eat which made him not get food poisoning.”
“You two are just the biggest pair of chuckleheads I’ve ever met.”
“Me? What’d I do?”
“Did you ever think, has it ever occurred to you, to let Sam decide how to take care of himself?”
“Sammy? Of course he can take care of himself.”
“And when it’s raining outside and he’s got a 105 degree fever?”
“Then he takes care of himself by doing what I tell him.”
“That boy survived four years at college without you.” I reminded Dean. I was not about to mention those four months last summer, because we were all of us still trying to figure out if Sam had survived them at all. Dean didn’t answer but he got a funny look on his face. “And you hated every second of those four years, didn’t you, Dean? You and John both.”
He thought about it. He shrugged.
“He’s my little brother. I gotta look out for him.”
“That’s a load of malarkey and you know it. No, I know. You do look out for him. I ain’t saying you don’t. Ft. Knox ain’t protected like that boy is around you. But did you ever ask yourself if he needs the protecting?”
“That’s like asking if he needs to eat or sleep or put clean socks on.”
“And has there ever been times he hasn’t slept, hasn’t eaten, hasn’t put on clean socks?”
“Well, yeah. Of course.”
“And did he die? No.” I didn’t give Dean a chance to answer. “Did he suffer? Maybe. Did he die? No.”
“He died once.” Dean said quietly.
“Not because you weren’t looking out for him.”
“He still died.” He said, in a smaller voice.
“Dean…” I was tired and cranky. “Do you have any idea what it’s like being the youngest Winchester in the world?”
“Yeah, it’s a pretty sweet deal.”
“Sweet? You think it’s sweet to have somebody – and sometimes two somebodys – watching every step you take, sizing up every decision, every action, deciding for you what’s good or not good to do? Does that sound sweet? Did your Dad treat you that way?”
“No, of course not. I’m older.”
“That argument’s got holes big enough to drive a minivan through. Sam’s just as old as you were four years ago.”
“So? I’m still older.”
“Go back to sleep Dean. I’m not having this conversation with you now.”
“Yeah – um – you got anymore of that tea?”
“You still feelin’ sick?”
Ever Dean Winchester, he wouldn’t admit weakness. He took a moment to think.
“Maybe.” Then he admitted without being asked, “I uh – might – have a kinda bad headache too.”
I rolled my eyes.
“I’ll be right back.”
“Uh – Bobby? Maybe you could hurry?” He flushed dark red then gray green then he started turning himself inside out again. He shoulda been getting better, not still puking five hours later.
“I think I’m gonna have to go get you something stronger.”
“Please tell me by ‘get’ you mean going to your kitchen.” He managed to get out between spasms.
“Sorry kid. Road trip to the nearest quickie mart with something approaching a pharmacy.”
“Great.” He fell back onto his pillows with a groan. “Just hurry.”
On my way to get my boots and my jacket, I shook Sam awake. He could keep on being pissed at his brother later; right now he needed to keep an eye on him.
“Dean’s still sick. I have to go out and find something stronger for him.”
“Is he worse?” Sam was awake in a heartbeat and off the davenport a heartbeat after that.
“Not worse, pretty much the same. Not much left to bring up but he keeps trying. He’s got a bad headache too.”
“He’s dehydrated.” Sam said. “Dad had a remedy, a – where is that?” He went to his backpack and rummaged around inside of it. “Bobby, do you have – I think we need – vinegar, hot water, sugar…” He got John’s journal and flipped to the back and pulled out an index card.
“How do you know he’s dehydrated?”
“All the places we’ve eaten, we get food poisoning a lot. You throw up too much, you get dehydrated, you keep throwing up. Even after the bug has passed. I don’t know the physiology behind it, I just know that’s how it seems to work. Dad always had the supplies to make this.”
“Let me see.” I took the card. “Basic stuff. I’m pretty sure I have all of this. I’ll take care of it.” I headed for the kitchen.
I turned back to Sam who was looking from my kitchen back down the hall to where we could hear Dean being sick again.
“What? You don’t trust me to make this?”
“No. Yeah. No. I just -.” He looked tired and sick and a little lost. “Maybe I should check Dean? Bring him something for his headache?”
“He’ll just tell you to go back to bed.” I said without thinking. But they were the magic words. Sam straightened his shoulders and set his jaw. He still looked sick and miserable as death but he was John Winchester’s boy and when something needed doing, it got done.
“You bring me that when it’s ready.” He said. He pulled a bottle of aspirin out of his backpack and marched down that hallway like he owned the place. In a few minutes the concoction was ready and I brought it down to them.
Gone were the battling brothers. Well, one of ‘em anyway. Dean was still griping while Sam was moving him from one bed to another. Dean could barely sit up much less walk. Sam was handling him with ease though.
“What’re you doing?”
“His bed’s all sweaty. He needs a new bed. C’mon Dean, I’ve got you.” He had an arm around Dean’s shoulder and a hand under his elbow. Dean was huddled and shuffled like an old man. Still trying to get his own way though.
“Leave me in the bed will you? You need to lay down too. You’re every bit as sick as I am. Sam – Sammy -.”
When Dean invoked the nickname, I knew it was serious. When ‘Sammy’ ignored it, I wondered not for the first time what all the fuss was about between them. Sam kept moving Dean to the other bed like he didn’t hear a word he said.
“All right. Sit back. I’ve got you.” Sam said, sounding every bit as much like Dean as Dean ever did. “Here, Bobby’s got this for you to drink. Dad’s old remedy. It’ll make you better.”
That was another Deanism. He couldn’t be sure it would make Dean better, but dammit it would because Sam said so.
“I’m fine.” Dean tried.
“Shut up and drink it.” Sam answered. He sounded firm but affectionate. He sat on the bed and kept the cup in his hand like he was intending to hold it for Dean while he drank.
“Dude, my hands aren’t broken.” Dean said.
“Just do what you’re told.”
Dean threw a glance my way and I thought maybe he’d rather I wasn’t around to see him being fed by his brother. As I walked back down the hallway, I heard Dean grouse,
“What is this? Hornet juice? That is the nastiest stuff I’ve ever had in my mouth.”
I got clean sheets and pillow cases from the upstairs closet to remake the other guest bed. I took my time though, hoping those idiots might let common sense have a chance. Of course, ‘Winchester’ and ‘common sense’ never did seem to fit together in the same sentence.
Halfway down the hallway from them I could hear Dean still trying to boss Sam. “Get in that other bed and get covered up. You’re shaking worse’n -.” Whatever he was going to say apparently got interrupted with another dose of home remedy. “You’re gonna get pneumonia if you don’t take care of yourself. Sammy, you will get in that bed or so help me I will put you there myself.”
‘Sammy’s’ continued silence told me more than it apparently told either of them. Anybody who could withstand that tirade surely could withstand anything.
I dropped the bedding on the other bed. “How’re you boys doing?” I asked, more to be a pain in the ass than any other reason. Dean had somehow wrestled the cup from Sam and he glared at me over the top of it.
“Will you tell this idiot he needs to be in bed? Look at him, he’s got a fever, he’s shivering, he’s coughing, he’s gonna collapse if he doesn’t lay down.”
All Sam had to say was, “Bobby, do you have ice? I think ice chips would be good for him.” Like he didn’t hear a word Dean had to say.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure I do. I’ll get some for you.”
“Does anyone notice that I’m in the room?” Dean asked. Sam looked at him, looked into the cup and took it out of Dean’s hand.
“I’ll get you some more of this too.”
We both left the room, left Dean sputtering some threat or another at the both of us.
“He’s got a lotta lung power for a dying man.” I said.
“He gets that way when he’s sick. I don’t pay him any attention when he’s like that.” Sam said it like it’s everyday business to ignore Dean. I wished I had a tape recording of our earlier conversations so I could ask him what all that fuss had been about. And I wished I could record him now so he could listen to himself the next time he thought Dean was bossing him around.
With a cup of ice chips in one hand and a refill on the homemade electrolytes in the other, sniffling, coughing, shaking and feverish, Sam shuffled back to take care of his brother.
I decided to let them wrangle it out between themselves for a while and sat myself back in my chair. I had a whole new admiration for John, raising these boys on his own. Forget things that go bump in the night; just the normal routine of a normal day had to be daunting. Mix that up with two stubborn, headstrong boys, and everyday life had to be downright exhausting.
‘Cause Lord knows I was finding just a few hours with them exhausting.
I waited until the room had been quiet awhile then I meandered my way back down. And was met by the absolute sweetest sight I have ever seen. Made me wish I had a camera handy ’cause blackmail could come in useful with these two. Dean looked asleep in the bed, tucked in under the blankets. Sam sat next to him, legs stretched out on the bed, head down over the half empty cup of ice chips he held.
Well, if Dean wasn’t nagging Sam to get into his own bed, I wasn’t going to waste the breath to do it either. I took the cup out of Sam’s hand to set on the bedside table, tossed a blanket over him, then left the twins alone and finally took myself back to bed.
I had myself a nice long sleep. Okay, not long enough, but uninterrupted for three hours at least. It was daylight at last. There was no noise from the spare room or anywhere else, so I went into the kitchen to get the coffee and medication started before I went to check on the boys.
They were pretty much the same way I left them, Dean laying in bed, Sam sitting up next to him. I wondered if I had time to find myself that camera.
“How y’feeling, Dean?”
“The hoe down in my head has calmed down at least.” He pushed the blankets back and pushed himself up. He gave a look to Sam but didn’t say anything. Yet.
“And your guts?”
“They seem to be turning themselves right side out again.”
“Now that’s the best news I’ve heard in a while. You feelin’ up to anything solid? Or you want some more of the hornet juice?”
“Let me get my feet under me again and I’ll let you know.” He started to maneuver himself out of bed around his brother. “Hey Sammy, c’mon. What’re you doing still sitting here?”
I was having myself visions of a slow day, with my two patients sleeping themselves back to health, letting me get more sleep and maybe get some work done. Then Sam, apparently awake, had to spoil it all by saying,
“Sitting up -.” He took a deep breath that sounded awful congested. ” – it’s easier to breathe.”
Dean was a flash of movement. He jumped out of bed and crouched next to Sam, turned his face towards him and felt his forehead.
“Sammy – did this come on fast or slow? Bobby – where’s your vaporizer?”
“Vaporizer? What makes y’think I’ve got a vaporizer?”
“Slow.” Sam answered the question that got spit at him, without much energy behind his words.
“What d’you mean you don’t have a vaporizer? OK, Sammy. Good. Slow means it’s probably not your throat swelling up like back in ’99.”
“It’s just – just -” Sam pulled in another hard breath, watching Dean like he held every answer. ” – just congested.”
“I don’t have a vaporizer ’cause I didn’t have kids until last night.”
“Congested, good. We can take care of that. Well we need something to make steam, we gotta clear up the congestion. C’mon.”
I was having a hard time keeping up with the conversation and right at that moment I wasn’t sure who Dean was “c’mon-ing” until he hooked his arm under Sam’s and pulled him to his feet. I thought he’d be moving him to the other bed but they headed for the door, poor Sam tripping over the blanket that fell at his feet. Dean kept him upright and kept him moving.
“Okay, Bobby – we need something to make steam, something like a vaporizer. And Vicks, please tell me you have Vicks, and a wool sock, and if you don’t have decongestant -.” He kept rattling orders off to me, moving Sam to some unknown destination.
Turned out it was the bathroom, he set Sam down on the edge of my tub and turned the hot water on full and in a minute or so the steam started to rise.
“Okay Sammy, you hang out here, Bobby and I are gonna get supplies. We’re gonna take care a’this, okay?”
“Yeah, Dean. Okay.” Sick and congested, he even sounded grateful.
I followed Dean to the kitchen. When these boys were feeling better, I was gonna bash their heads together. What the hell – what the hell – had the last eight or so hours been all about?
“How you feeling, Dean? You’re not looking one hundred per cent.” He was pale still and his hands were shaking as he raided my cupboards.
“I still have a headache, and yeah – I think I need some more hornet juice.”
“Okay, I’ll make it for you. Tylenol is over the sink. I got more Theraflu for Sam too.
For the next little while we each did our own thing, then went back to the bathroom. Sam had dropped to his knees next to the tub and had his head resting on his arms on the edge. His face was flushed, from the steam or the cold or both.
“How’re you doing, Sammy?” Dean asked.
“How’re you?” ‘Sammy’ asked back. I couldn’t tell if he sounded any better. He must’ve seen that Dean had his own cup of medicine in his hand as Dean handed him the Theraflu. “You’re still sick -.” He started to get up but Dean kept him down with a gesture.
“Hey.” He pointed his finger at Sam. “You stay there.”
“You keep drinking.” Sam said.
“And you keep breathing. Bobby’s getting the room set up to get you back in there. Until then…”
“I know – stay here. You take something for that headache?”
“Who says I got a headache?”
I had no interest in experiencing another argument between them so I left to take care of the room. The closest thing I had to a vaporizer was an electric tea kettle. I plugged it in next to the bed, changed out the bedding, and kept an ear on the boys.
They were discussing, but not arguing.
“All set.” I called down the hall to them when I was done and the tea kettle was steaming, and I went down to see if they needed any help. Dean was already bringing Sam back down the hall, one hand carrying both cups of medicine, the other hand held behind Sam’s back, like that was the only thing keeping him upright.
And right then, it just mighta been.
“Okay, here we go. Let’s get you in bed.”
“I don’t wanna lay down. I can’t breathe laying down.”
“You’re not gonna lay down, you can sit up, we got enough pillows here. We got the – vaporizer.” He shot me a dirty look. “And we’re gonna put a blanket over you to -.”
Sam saw what he was talking about right away.
“Dude, really – a blanket fort?” He didn’t sound happy.
“To keep the steam in.”
“You’re not gonna build a blanket fort over me.”
Dean wasn’t having any of it.
“You force fed me hornet juice, tucked me in and practically held my hand all night, now you’re telling what you don’t want? Shaddup.”
I braced for impact but Sam only laughed. Laughed. It was a weak, croupy sound; it sure wasn’t the explosion I was expecting. I began to regret pointing that shotgun at John the last time he was here – with these two, he deserved being in a bad mood all day every day.
“C’mon, Sammy -.” Dean helped him ease down onto the mattress, leaning back against all the pillows against the headboard. “The sooner I get you set up, the sooner I can go get myself a real breakfast.”
“No breakfast.” Sam insisted. The effort made him cough and made his voice sound strained. “You eat solid food and you’re just gonna hurl it up again.”
“I’m fine. You got no idea what you’re talking about.” Dean said. He worked on getting the blanket tucked over the headboard to make the steam tent.
“Bobby – don’t you let him eat solid food. Or coffee -.”
“No coffee?” Dean complained. “Watch me.”
Sam grabbed an edge of the blanket being put above his head and he glared at Dean.
“No solid food, or no blanket fort.”
I really thought Dean was going to force the issue, but then Sam sneezed and coughed and started shivering so hard the bed squeaked.
“Okay?” Sam asked, taking a hard deep breath afterward.
“Okaaaaay.” Dean caved. “I’ll have more tea and – whatever.” You woulda thought Sam asked him to eat snake. “So let me finish taking care of you.”
“Okay. Dean – I’m – f-f-f-reez-z-z-ing.”
“I know, Sammy; I’ll get you warmed up.”
“I’m gonna go get myself some coffee.” I told them. “You boys just -.” Didn’t see any point – or need – of finishing that thought. I waved them to do whatever suited them and left the room.
Dean didn’t come out to the kitchen like I expected him to. I could hear Sam coughing and Dean moving around, even going out to his car once. I had the mint tea waiting for him and some toast, but he didn’t come out to the kitchen. On my way out of the house to get started with work, I stopped one last time in the guest room.
There next to the bed sat Dean in a hard chair. There in the bed, was Sam, asleep. Beside the tea pot filling his little cubby hole with steam, he had the world’s ugliest knit hat on his head, a heating pad on his chest, and a wool sock coated with Vicks Vapo Rub pinned around his neck. I was about to ask Dean if all that was payback for the rough time Sam had given him, but then I saw his face.
‘Sammy’ was sick and it was no holds barred to get him well.
“Dean – got some ‘Sammy-approved’ food for you out in the kitchen.”
“Yeah, thanks Bobby.” He didn’t even look at me. He kept his eyes on his brother.
“Is he breathing easier?”
“Don’t let that tea pot boil dry.”
“And get some rest yourself.” I said. He looked at me then.
When I checked them again at lunchtime, both boys were sound asleep, Sam under a pile of blankets and Dean on bare sheets. Seemed the war was over. Finally.
It was Sam who appeared in my kitchen while I was getting grub together for everybody to eat, complete with his hat and ‘scarf’. I’m not sure he even knew I was there. He managed himself some Tylenol and a glass of water, then walked out of the kitchen again carrying the glass and the medicine bottle.
Not five minutes later, Dean shuffled into the kitchen, put the glass in the sink and the bottle in the cupboard, and shuffled back out again.
I followed him down the hallway and I know I don’t walk fast but they were both asleep again when I got there. Sam’d given – because I doubted Dean had taken – the extra blankets and pillows back and they were both bundled up and comfy looking.
This was a phase of illness I could handle.
The next couple of days passed pretty much the same way. The boys would ghost in and out of the kitchen, taking care of each other before they took care of themselves. They maybe quibbled a time or two – every hour – but it wasn’t cantankerous like when they showed up, instead just arguing who had better ideas of healthcare. Other than that, they mostly slept.
On the third day they were both recovered enough to have lunch and dinner with me. The fourth morning, after breakfast, they were packing up to get on the road again.
“Bobby’s a good guy.” I heard Dean say as they headed together to the spare room.
“Yeah.” Sam agreed. Just as I was feeling pretty good about myself, he added, “Bossy though.”
“Gee yeah, tell me about it. I’m sure he means well but – c’mon. Does he think we can’t take care of each other?”
Me? Bossy? They had the nerve to call me bossy? This from the family that invented the word bossy?
Still – it’s something to be the person these boys turn to when they need help.
“You boys don’t wait so long the next time you get sick.” I told them as I saw them off.
“We won’t.” Dean told me and apparently thought I was too far away to hear him mutter to Sam, “You’re right - bossy.”