A/N: After several false starts and fighting with this chapter I realized what was going on. Dean wants to talk a bit and so I backed it up a tiny bit to when Sam leaves the room to go eat. Dean's fevered experience is based a little on life—I get delusional, too. Sorry it took so long to get this up folks! I really intended to write in LA but I was distracted a little. But I'll make it up to you with fast chapters from now on!
The room was quiet except for the sound of the television and the soft noises of the various hospital gadgets surrounding him. Dean sighed a little, his fever was rising, he could feel the heat starting in his chest and flowing over his body. I never noticed it did that before. Hey, Sammy, I'm having hot flashes. He felt a small grin start on his face, he tried shifting a little, focusing on "The Simpsons" but nothing could really distract him from the heat and the growing agony in his hand.
The nurse came in. And wow, hot. Not to mention the accent, hot British nurse Alex, nice. After I get out of here…She checked his vitals. He tried smiling the smile at her, the one guaranteed to make women melt, but it didn't seem to be working. Damn. After she had replaced the ice pack under his neck, she smiled at Sam and left the room. Hands off my nurse, Sammy.
His fever was still rising. The ice pack seemed to provide relief for a few seconds and then the heat began again. It felt like his blood was beginning to boil in his veins, his hand was throbbing in a steady beat and his head was beginning to pound in time with his hand. Odd visions occasionally passed before his eyes, unraveling in his head, reality fading in and out. He was with Sam in the room one moment and then someplace else the next. I don't think I'll mention that to Sam, he worries. I'm just not good with a fever. He let his eyes close and lay listening to the television. I think I stopped sweating. Okay, that is not good. Dean tried to remember any of the many first aid books their father had him read. I know not sweating is bad. It's like when you are hypothermic—not shivering is bad. So this is bad? How bad?
A cool hand came to rest on his forehead. Dean opened his eyes. "Sammy?"
"It's okay, Dean," Sam said with a gentle smile. How does he do that? Know what I'm thinking? When we were kids, sure, but now?
Dean heard Sam's stomach growl and grinned a little. "Have you eaten?" Sam paused, frowning at him. Dean could see the emotions playing across his brother's face. "Sam?"
"No." Still with the little frown between his eyebrows.
"Go get something," Dean said, trying to ignore the sudden acceleration of his heart at the thought of being alone in the hospital room. Fever, it is starting to get to me. I'd better get Sam out of here for a bit, before it gets bad. And I think it is, sorry Sam. "I'll be okay, you won't be gone long." He smiled at his brother and quirked an eyebrow. "Maybe the hot nurse will be back if you leave."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Of course." Sam turned to go and then turned back, concern on his face. Dean nodded at him. "Okay, Dean, I'll be right back. The cafeteria is just down the hall."
"It's okay, Sam, I'm not going anywhere." Sam smiled at him and walked out, Dean watched him go before letting his eyes close again. Not doing good and it was a cat. A CAT. I can't believe it. I guess it could be worse, it could have been some fluffy kitten. Dean lay listening to the television. "The Simpsons" had ended and "Family Guy" had started. Adam West must be insane. Dean chuckled.
After awhile he realized he could hear a conversation just outside his door, a female voice and a male voice. The male voice had a barely noticeable accent, not British like the nurse, but something else. He thought they might be talking about him.
"It is like the other?" the male voice asked.
"Fever is rising, and his hand is getting worse, much worse," the female voice answered.
"We need to watch it, we don't want to lose another." Lose? What the hell are they talking about?
"Do you think it's like that?" she asked.
"I don't know, we need to keep a close eye on him. If it gets bad we need to act before…" Are they talking about me? Sam? Time to come back.
"Yes," she said. "I'll do that now."
Dean lay perfectly still. They were talking about me. What did he mean? Act before…? Before what and act how? Sam? Dean could hear the light footsteps of someone in the room. He felt a hand brush his face. Panic suddenly flared in his chest. Something is going on, something is very wrong. Sam? Where are you? The hand moved from his head down to his injured hand. Pain shot up his arm, the hand continued its gentle prodding.
"Stop," he groaned. "Please." He tried to pull his hand away. "Stop."
"No," it hissed. He opened his eyes, glittering black cat eyes shone back at him. No, no, no! He tried to fight the woman as she held him.
"Let me go." He struggled against her.
"I need help," he heard a small voice shout. Someone else ran into the room, hands held his shoulders down, black eyes glaring back at him.
"No, please. Sam! SAM! SAM!" He was trying to fight off the hands holding him down. Something was putting restraints on him. No, please no. No. Panic had transformed into terror, his heart was slamming against his chest blocking out everything except the need to escape. "Sammy! Please! Sam! Sammy!"
"I'm here, Dean." A hand pressed against his arm. "Dean, I'm here."
"They're…it's…Sammy…please, Sam, get me out of here." Dean could hear himself sobbing in fear, still trying to struggle free. Part of his mind, a tiny part, was telling him nothing was wrong, it was the fever and nothing else. The rest of him was screaming in terror.
"It's okay, Dean," Sam said gently. "Does he have to be restrained?" His brother was talking to someone, his voice hard. "It'll make it worse, trust me."
"If he calms down, we can take them off."
"Help me, Sam, please." Dean opened his eyes, trying to see what was going on. The black eyes were gone. "Sam, please."
"Dean, it's okay, it's okay," Sam said, putting a hand on Dean's head. The contact calmed him. Sam's here, it's okay. Something cool ran up his arm, the world started fading.
"Sam?" He held his brother's eyes for as long as he could before he closed them.
"Here, Dean. It's okay, I'm here."
Don't leave again, don't let them act, whatever that means. Please Sam. What came out was, "Don...Sammy…" And the world was gone.
Awareness crept back, releasing him from terrifying dreams of blood, cats and screams filling an empty house. The screams, some in his voice, some in another voice, were slowly replaced by the drone of a television program. The blood covering his body in a hot film disappeared, replaced by a cool sheet. The weight on his arm, the only anchor in the storm of fevered dreams, turned out to be Sam's hand. Dean knew that even before he was all the way awake, he'd known it during the dream, the only thing holding him to sanity had been that weight on his arm, a cool, calloused hand. I wonder if he knew that? I wonder if he knows…
His hand was a ball of agony, white-hot, immobile. The finger with the bite was throbbing, aching, the pain was now bone deep, pounding in his joints. He could smell the distinctive scent of pus slowly oozing from his hand. Yummy. One of my favorite smells. He was still floating a little, distant from reality, although the world seemed less frightening than it had before.
"Smy?" Dean mumbled. That didn't come out well. Trying again, louder. "Sammy?" The word came out a little clearer that time, but still whisper soft. Sam are you there? Sam? Panic was back. "Sam!" His brother's hand tightened on his arm.
"I'm here," Sam said quickly.
Dean tried to get his eyes open, they didn't seem to work right. "Sam?"
"It's okay, Dean, I'm here." He moved his hand onto Dean's forehead "It's okay."
"Wha's penning?" Dean said, still trying to opening his eyes.
"You're in the hospital, remember? The cat bit you?"
Really? You think? "Fee weir…"
Sam chuckled softly, the sound reassured Dean. "It's okay, Dean, they gave you something to relax."
Oh, yeah, I was a little insane, I think. "What?" Dean got his eyes opened, blinked and then tried to focus on Sam.
"They had to give you something to help you relax."
"Fever…Sammy…makes me…crazy." Dean said, his eyes drifting closed again.
"Always," Sam said softly, giving Dean's arm a squeeze.
"Yeah, always. Don't leave, Sam." Dean opened his eyes to look at his brother.
"I won't leave, Dean."
"Promise." Sam smiled.
"Sorry, it's the fever, Sammy."
"It's Sam," his brother said with a gentle smile. "I know, Dean."
"Remember the last time?" Dean smiled at his brother, trying to focus.
Sam suddenly looked sad. "Yeah, I remember."
"You know, I don't remember much, really. Didn't I punch dad?"
"You…yeah…you punched dad."
"He'd called you?" Dean said, letting his eye close, listening to the sound of Sam's voice.
"Yeah, he called. I was away at debate camp…"
The hall was filled with laughing students. The leftover scent of lunch drifted along the corridor as they made their way back towards the dorms for a break before the afternoon activities began. Sam had finished lunch and was headed out into the quad to spend a little time with a book he had snagged from the library. It's been almost a week, a whole week—without dad, without Dean, without anyone bugging me about my nose in a book. Sam sighed as he walked out of the building, the sun warm on his face, despite the cool breeze.
"Hi, Sam," a soft voice said from beside him.
"Uh, hi," he said, looking down at the girl beside him.
"What are you going to during break?" she asked a little shyly.
Sam shrugged. "I was thinking of reading for awhile." He could feel a blush spreading up his cheeks. Is she talking to me? "I, uh, I found a book in the library." You found a book in the library? Very smooth, there Sammy. Said a voice in his head that sounded a lot like Dean. Sam smiled at the thought.
"Oh, really?" She put a hand on his arm.
"Uh, yeah." He tried to pull his hand away without being really obvious about it. Dean would laugh at me.
"Can I read with you?" She was steering them towards a bench under a tree.
"I…uh…" Sam swallowed. "Okay." He let her lead him to the seat and settled down, trying not to look awkward as he stretched his legs out in front of him.
Sam looked up. "Yes?" His debate coach was standing in front of him.
"There's a phone call for you, urgent, in the office. Get your ass in there."
"Sure," Sam said. Mr. Edwards thinks he's a football coach sometimes. Sam jogged to the office, suddenly nervous. Urgent calls usually meant a disaster. "I'm Sam Winchester," he said to the woman behind the front desk.
"Oh, good." The receptionist looked relieved. She handed him the receiver of the phone and punched the hold button.
"I need you home now," John Winchester snapped without preamble.
Sam's heart stopped. "Dad, what's wrong?" He swallowed. "Is Dean okay?" He heard his voice crack on the last word.
"Dad, leave Sammy alone," Dean said, his voice muffled in the background.
"Damn it, Dean, get back into bed," John barked out the order. "Home, now," he said into the phone.
"Stay there, Sammy!" Dean shouted.
"Dean!" John shouted. Sam heard the phone drop and something that sounded like a scuffle in the background. John was swearing when he picked up the phone again. "You brother is sick. I need you home now."
As worried as he was, Sam grinned. "Fever?"
"Going up," John growled. "He says it's not serious, but his fever is going up…" And suddenly, under the gruff, growling voice there was worry, tinged with a little fear.
"Leave Sammy alone," Dean was saying in the background.
"I need you," John said softly, his voice carrying over Dean's protests in the background. "You know when he gets this way…"
"I know, dad."
"I already arranged a ride, don't take too long packing." John's voice was back to normal when he broke the connection.
"Thanks," Sam said, handing the phone back to the receptionist. He walked back towards the dorm room he'd been sharing for the week. Sam shoved his things into his backpack and wondered what to do next, when someone knocked on the door. His debate coach was standing outside the door. "Mr. Edwards?"
"Your dad asked me to drive you home, Sam. He said your brother was sick?" The man's voice was full of worried compassion.
"Yeah. Dad said it wasn't serious, but, well Dean can get a little funny with a fever," he said, talking nervously, trying to still the shaking of his hands. How long has it been since Dean was sick? Four years? He had pneumonia four years ago.
"Funny?" Edwards said as he led Sam to his car.
"Yeah. Last time he was convinced fairies were after him." Sam chuckled. Of course, worries like that are a little more real to us than most people.
"Your dad can't take care of it?"
Sam swallowed and looked out the window, then shrugged. "Dean…" He stopped, wondering how much he should say. The Winchester code of "loose lips sink ships" suddenly at the front of his mind.
To his surprise his coach sighed sadly. "My brother…Well, when he was sick, I was the only one who he'd let close to him."
"Really?" Sam asked curiously.
"Yeah," the man glanced over, Sam was surprised to see the bright edges of tears in Edwards eyes. "When he was…" He cleared his throat. "When…the last days, he was really out of his mind, he wouldn't even let the nurses near him most of the time. I stayed with him. He said the only thing that kept him sane was knowing I was there. I kept a hand on his arm, letting him know I was there, even when he was sleeping. I…I was there when he…" He scrubbed one hand over his face. "Brothers, they're a pain in the ass aren't they?"
"Yeah," Sam said. He was quiet, watching the scenery go by. Was that story supposed to make me feel better? It didn't. Dean's okay, it'll turn out to be just flu or something, just enough to get his temperature up enough to make him loopy. Mr. Edwards' brother died? No, Dean isn't dying. He just has the flu and dad doesn't want to deal with him. More to the point, he can't deal with him. I think it bothers dad that I'm the only one…
"Here we go." The coach had pulled up in front of the apartment building they were staying in. "Sam?" he said as Sam opened the door. "If you need anything, you call. I understand. Okay?"
"Thanks." Sam grabbed his backpack and walked up the stairs to the apartment, his slow steps became a run when he heard raised voices. Shit. He threw the door open, Dean was standing in the hallway, facing John, a set look of fury on his face.
"I told you…" Dean's face was bright red, his eyes glassy with fever.
"Get back to bed…"
Dean lurched towards their father, before John could react, before Sam could reach the two of them, Dean had swung. It was a hard swing, and unexpected, John staggered back from Dean, rubbing his face. The swing had unbalanced Dean and Sam caught his brother as he fell.
"You need to be in bed, Dean," Sam said, keeping his voice level. Dean was burning up, Sam could feel tremors running through his brother's body as he hauled Dean back to his feet.
"You shouldn't have come, I'm fine," Dean said as Sam helped him back to their bedroom. "I'm fine," he repeated as he dropped onto the bed. Sam pulled the covers over his brother.
"It's over tomorrow, Dean, it was getting boring anyway." Sam sat on the edge of the bed.
Sam raised his eyebrows and looked at Dean.
Sam put his hand on Dean's forehead. My god, Dean.
Sam got up, went in the bathroom, grabbed the thermometer and shoved it under Dean's tongue. When it beeped, he looked at it, up at Dean, back down and then up again.
"Right, 102 is fine, Dean."
"Hitting dad is fine, too."
"Hitting…? That wasn't a dream?" Dean looked at him. "Huh. I kind of thought that was a dream. Something about…huh…"
"Have you taken anything?" Sam said, grabbing the Tylenol from the bedside table. I know the answer, Dean, so don't even try to say…
"Yeah, I did."
"Uh…" Dean smiled. "Fine, give me more." Sam gave him the pills and handed him a glass of water. "Thanks," he said grudgingly.
"I'll make something to eat, I'll be in the kitchen, okay, Dean?"
"I'm fine, Sam," Dean huffed before turning on the TV.
Sam smiled at Dean and walked into the kitchen. John was sitting at the table, staring into a cup of coffee. "Dad?"
"How's your brother?"
"I got him to take some Tylenol. I'll make some tomato soup."
"I tried that already." John gestured towards the wall, a large splash of red was still visible by the door to the kitchen. "He didn't want to drink blood."
"He has a fever." Sam grinned. "It makes him crazy."
"Always has." A gentle smile crossed his father's face. "Your mom did too, not like Dean, but she was always a little funny when she had a fever."
"I think we all are, dad." Sam opened a can of soup and put the pan on the stove. "What's going on?"
"We went out hunting over the weekend. Figured since you were off at camp…"
"I'm sixteen, you can leave me home alone," Sam said, his voice sharp.
"I know, but Dean…" John shrugged. "We went out hunting. I think he got into something while we were out. When we got back he said he had a headache. Next morning he said he was stiff, then a sore throat…"
"This started Sunday? Or Monday?" Sam snapped.
"Monday," John answered.
"How long has the fever been going on, dad?"
"Day or two, no more."
A day or two, dad? This could be serious. You and the suck it up Winchester. Dean could be sick, really sick and you…Sam took a deep breath. "Must have been fun."
"Very." John sighed. "I'm sorry I called, but…"
"I understand, dad." Sam poured the soup into a cup. "I'll sit with him."
Dean was watching television when Sam walked back into the room. He looked over and smiled. "What's that?"
"Tomato soup." Sam handed him the cup.
"Thanks, Sammy," Dean said as he scooted up enough to drink the soup.
"Sure, Dean." He sat down on his bed and looked over at Dean. "Tell me about it."
"Not much to tell. Caught a cold or something."
"Something like that, I'm fine. Dad shouldn't have called." Dean took a drink of soup. "Tastes good."
"I left the blood out."
"Never mind. What are you watching?" Sam turned around so he could watch the television and still keep an eye on Dean.
"Movie monster marathon. 'Tarantula' is next." Dean smiled. "I'm okay, Sammy."
"Right." Sam leaned back on the bed, watching the movie with his brother. Dean eventually nodded off and Sam slipped back into the kitchen to make himself dinner. Their father was sitting in the living room going through his journal. Sam wandered in and sat down across from John.
"No!" Dean's voice drifted down the hall, there was a note of panic in his voice. "Sammy?! No!" Sam was up and moving. "Sam!"
As he rounded the corner of the door, something caught his eye, just in time. "Dad, down," Sam shouted to his father who had followed his mad dash down the hallway. The sound of the .45 shattered the quiet apartment as the bullet ripped through the doorframe where Sam had been standing.
"You never…" Dean broke into his brother's narrative. "I could have killed you, Sam." He looked at Sam, trying to remember that night years before. A brief vision of Sam covered in blood floated through the haze. Is that a memory? Or something left over from the fever? Do I want to know?
"You didn't know what you were doing, Dean."
"Me and fevers, eh?" Dean opened his eyes and tried to smile. Sam was swimming in and out of focus and every once in awhile his brother's eyes would glitter black. Dean took a deep breath, pushing the visions away. It's the fever. It's just the fever.
"Yeah," Sam said with a sigh. "Doctor?" He looked up as the tall woman came into the room.
She smiled at them, calm compassion. Oh, that look is so not good. Sorry, Sam. "Mr. Strummer…"
"Yeah?" Dean said, watching his brother. Sam had paled.
"We are going to change your treatment, see if you'll respond better to something different."
"Why?" Sam snapped. Calm down, Sam.
"We've encountered some problems and we think something else might work better."
"Problems?" Sam said, his voice still hard. Uh, hello? I am lying right here, Sam. I can ask questions for myself. Dean glanced at the doctor, black eyes glittered at him, blood dripped down the doctor's face. Or maybe not.
"Dean isn't responding as well as we hoped and we think this will work better," she said gently.
"What does that mean?" Sam persisted.
"The infection is continuing to spread."
"His fever is still going up, too."
"Yes, we are working on that, we think a different treatment will help."
"You know I'm lying here, right?" Dean said, ignoring the huge gash that had appeared in the doctor's neck.
She smiled at him. "We'll get you started here in a moment."
"What about the other doctor?" Dean asked.
"What other doctor?" She frowned suddenly, glancing nervously at the door.
"The man? I heard a man's voice discussing my case." Dean stopped. Or maybe I imagined it?
"I'm the only doctor assigned to your case," she snapped. "The nurse will be in." She turned and quickly left the room.
"What was that about, Dean?" Sam asked, looking at him.
"I thought I heard, before…he said something about losing someone before, about stopping me before…He didn't finish, but it sounded bad." Dean sighed. "It's the fever, isn't it? I'm starting to get paranoid."
"You always do." Sam tried smiling, Dean could see worry painted on his brother's face.
"Yeah. Sammy…" He shifted a little, trying to get his hand a little more comfortable. The joints in his hand were aching with a hot pulsing sensation. "If this goes bad…"
"Don't even start that. I won't listen." Sam stood and paced over to the window.
"Dean, no. Just no. Don't bring it up, no jokes about the Impala, no cracks about nurses, nothing. No. Not funny, not hearing it."
"Damn it, Dean. No." Sam stood with his back to him. Dean could see the tension is his brother's muscles as he stood at the window. "I won't hear it. You are going to be okay, you are going to get out of here."
Okay, how do I talk myself out of this? How do I get him to listen? Sam's head had suddenly started oozing blood, the bright color running down his neck and shoulders. Dean blinked. There was movement at the corner of his eye, something flitting in and out of the room, a voice had started whispering to him.
"Sam, come here." Sam stayed by the window. Dean took a breath. "Sam, I said come here and sit down." Sam turned and walked with dragging steps to Dean. Score one for big brother. Sam? Sam's eyes were black, shading to red. It's the fever? No. I…"This is bad, Sammy."
"I know, Dean," Sam said, the words grating out of him.
"I…" Dean took another breath, not wanting to worry his brother, but suddenly needing to voice his growing fear that something was seriously wrong—something more than just a fever, something more than the infection. "There's something wrong, Sam."
Sam laughed, a choked, strangled sound. "Something's wrong, Dean? Really?"
"No, I mean more than just the fever and the infection."
"Just? Dean—my god Dean do you realize what they told me?"
"Dean, you're…they said…septic…they said the infection…"
"Sam? You're the smart one. Complete sentences would help."
Sam took a deep breath, Dean watched as his brother got himself under control again. "They said it was serious. I…"
"I tried to call dad."
That serious? Am I dying, Sammy? If I ask will you tell me? "He didn't answer?" Dean shook his head. "There's more going on, I think," he said a little desperately, trying to get through to his brother. A knife handle was sticking out of Sam's chest. "The fever—it feels different."
"What do you mean?" Sam asked, frowning.
Wipe that look of your face, Sam, or I'll kill you. The vision of his own hand running the knife into Sam made him stop for a moment, breathing hard, his heart pounding with a combination of fear and rage. "This is different, I'm seeing things."
Sam patted his arm gently. "You always do, Dean."
"No, Sam, this feels different. I…it's different."
"It's the fever, and probably a little of the drugs they are giving you. They had to give you a pretty good dose to relax you earlier."
"No, it's different."
"Dean?" Sam put a hand on his shoulder. "Calm down."
Dean struggled against the restraints. He could feel his arms still held down, but he could also see his hand, he knew it was his, plunging a knife again and again into his brother's body. "Sam, please!" he heard his voice shouting. Sam was trying to talk to him, blood flowing out of a slash in his neck. Dean could hear someone else screaming, he didn't recognize the voice. "Different. Something's wrong, Sam, please." He forced the words out through the visions, through the screams surrounding him.
"Dean, calm down."
"Don't let me hurt you," Dean said. "Different, Sam, it's different." Other people were there, glittering black eyes staring at him, the man was there, his accented voice talking to them, talking to Sam, telling him something. The words made no sense. "Sam, don't leave."
"I'm here," his brother's voice came from a long way. "I understand Dean, I'll see what I can find out."
"Promise?" Dean asked. He heard his voice calmly talking to Sam, but he knew he was fighting the restraints, screaming to escape the room and the monsters holding him captive.
Darkness was suddenly creeping up on him, his body relaxing despite his efforts, despite his struggle. Please, Sam, please. Everything had faded except for Sam's hand resting on his arm.
Please, Sam, before it's too late.
To Be Continued