Something for you while you wait for chapter 3 of Never Come Back [up soon, I promise!]... ;-) Written for a great prompt from 27JaredJensen over at Hoodietime on LJ… Spoilers up to The Song Remains the Same.
Warning F-bombs and blasphemy incoming.
Half Past Dead
Sam's hacking cough is like trying to sleep next to a construction site and Dean comes awake with a jolt, bleary, eyes gummed together so he has to force his lids apart, sticky clumps of dreck blurring his vision. His mouth is claggy and he swallows carefully, thinks there might be a hot cinder lodged in there.
Saving people, he thinks suddenly. Hunting things. "Hunting things to save people who then cough their fuckin' germs out all over you," he croaks, because now he's giving it the thought it deserves his throat feels like the county works department just laid a fresh coat of boiling blacktop on it. "They're buildin' a road in my mouth," he complains. "Sand and crushed rock heated to three hundred fuckin' degrees, and those sonofbitches are spreadin' it out in there."
He pushes up onto his elbows, snorts just barely, experimentally, and feels snot bubble out of his nose, wonders briefly how big he might be able to blow it before it pops, thinks of the aftermath and sucks it back so hard he can taste the postnasal drip on the back of his tongue. He plucks listlessly at piles of discarded tissues. "My Kleenex are all still wet," he wheezes. "You got any dry ones that aren't too crusty? I'm holding in snot over here." He glances over at the other bed, into eyes as fever-bright as his own, flushed cheeks, pinkie-in-the-electric-socket hair. "You look like cousin Itt," he husks. "You need a fuckin' haircut."
Epic Bitchface of Doom #nine. "I told you we should've had the shots, Dean," his brother grates back. "Twenty bucks at Walgreens would have been worth it to avoid this. And you know, Apocalypse, like, now. No time for haircuts. Check the bathroom. There's toilet tissue."
He shifts in the bed, feels like he's lying inch-deep in his own cold sweat. "Apocalypse now," he mutters darkly. "No time for flu shots, bitch. And you could buzz it. I buzz mine."
He needs to piss, heaves himself upright, and his body aches so bad even his skin is painful. "Jesus. My clothes are hurtin' me," he grouses, and he cackles inwardly. He's had worse. Way worse, and the memory makes him shiver, and he shuts it down, hugs himself against his freezing chills, "J-J-esus. F-f-f-freezin'," snags the nearest pile of fleece and slithers it over his head.
"That's my hoodie, Dean."
"Don't drip your snot on my hoodie."
"Don't be a whiny bitch."
He staggers to the bathroom, hands out for balance, head spinning like a top, feels a sickly lurch in his gut that has him retching dryly over the can for a few seconds before he hits the head. He soaps up his hands, stares into a milk-white face sheened with sweat, Coco the clown cheeks, dark circles under his eyes because even without the flu he looks gray-faced and ill with exhaustion these days. He leans down, runs the faucet on his head, swirls the water up onto his face, gulps palmfuls of it. He hoiks up luminous yellow phlegm, spits it out in glutinous lumps, wipes his mouth on his hand, twirls the empty cardboard tube on the toilet tissue dispenser, and props himself up against the doorjamb.
"I'm coughin' up stuff that's chewy," he announces to the room. "That's so wrong. And there's no toilet tissue."
His brother huddles further down under the blankets along to a torrent of muffled expletives. "The fuck, Dean? You're making me feel sick…er. Enough."
He scowls, shuffles back over to the bed, sucks on the thermometer for the required two minutes while he glares disconsolately at the empty bottle on the nightstand. "A hundred and three point six." He sniffs or maybe burbles, because it's like there's yogurt up there. "Snurbles," he murmurs. "I snurbled." He looks down at himself, across at the mound of blankets, down again, gathers up a handful of fleece, lifts it to his face.
"Dean! For crying out loud!" Sam surfacing again, face even redder than before.
"I'm snurbling," he says defensively. "I need to blow my nose."
"Use something of yours! Or the sheet. And what the hell is snurbling?"
He's already burying his face in a swathe of sheet, letting rip, feeling sludge ripple out into the threadbare cotton, and his head throbs with the effort. He wipes his face. "That was snurbling," he croaks, and he gathers up the sheet into a fabric baggie, raises it with his finger and thumb. "Man. That's gotta be a half cup at least."
"Is there any more Tylenol?"
"Nope," he says regretfully. "But there's a Walmart, about half a mile back up the road."
"You can't drive with a fever, Dean," his brother gripes. "Call Cas. Tell him to bring hot lemony stuff. And syrupy stuff too. And toilet tissue."
He scowls, rests his aching head in his hand for a minute. "I did call him. Four fuckin' times. It went to voicemail." And what the hell is he doing anyway, he thinks, and then he throws it out there. "What the hell is he doing? I'm his job. Why is his phone turned off?"
Eyebrows quirked and quizzical. "Looking for God, maybe," his brother offers. "And you're pretty vile when you're sick, Dean. Maybe he took you seriously when you told him to piss off." Sam chews his lip for a second. "Does he have a voicemail message, then? One he did himself?"
"Leave a message for Castiel after the beep."
They stare at each other and Sam reaches up, rubs hard at his eyes. "In a world of weirdness, that somehow is even weirder than usual," he says. "An angel of the Lord sitting and reading his cellphone manual so he can learn how to set up his voicemail. I wonder if he downloaded any ringtones."
He raises an eyebrow, gets this image of Cas recording the message maybe two, three times to get it just so. "What do you reckon his voicemail PIN is?" he ventures. "I mean, it's not like he has a birthday." He thinks on it a minute, gets a quivery thrill of satisfaction. "My birthday," he says. "Gotta be. Or the day he raised me. Something special like that. Yeah."
His brother crosses his eyes at him three or four times. "Dean and Cas sitting in a tree," he mocks. "It's probably Jimmy's birthday." He retreats back under the covers, pulls them up over his head again.
Buzzkill, he thinks sourly. And he waits ten minutes or so until Sam's snores are loud and regular before he pulls on his jeans and boots. "Hot lemony stuff," he mutters. "Syrupy stuff. Toilet tissue. Liquor. Yeah."
He comes awake, bleary, eyes gummed together so he has to force his lids apart, and sticky clumps of dreck blur his vision. The back of his head throbs and he reaches up to rub at it, or tries to, finds he can't because he's hugging whatever he's leaning up against and his hands are secured at the back. He squints, flips back through the images on his mental smart card. Cold, rain, walk, floaty head, dizzy, cough, sneeze, spit, walk, puddles, bright lights, Walmart, hot lemony stuff, syrupy stuff, Tylenol, soup, Jack, lurch, cough, parking lot, dark, rain, "Hey Deano! Fancy running into you here!", smack, stars, Mister Bluebird on his shoulder, and then inky, comforting blackness.
And he cracks his lids open properly, and her navy blue eyes are about an inch from his own.
"Deano! You're awake…"
"Meg," he breathes out. "Of course. Of. Fuckin'. Course."
Her eyes are sparkling and her teeth are bared in a smile that looks like a snarl, and he thinks about Ellen, about Jo, and he says the first thing that springs to mind.
"Have some slug juice."
And he snorts it out at her, from the tiniest bronchioles up, spatters her until she's dripping with ropes of snot and she looks like the money shot in a triple X movie.
She's struck dumb, stock still, doesn't even move to wipe it off, but her eyes go wide, and he shrugs, smirks. "What? I was afraid you were gonna kiss me again."
And then his cheek catches fire and his brain shimmies into the side of his skull with the force of the blow, and it all goes black again for a while.
When he comes to it's like a mule kicked him, he's shaking, hot, cold, feels sweat soaking through his tee, trickling down past the waistband of his jeans and on down into his crack, and he clenches his ass against the tickle. His teeth are clacking frantically, percussion to his throbbing head, and he thinks vaguely that if his throat wasn't on fire he could maybe sing along to the beat, make a club classic out of it.
She's sitting further away, cross-legged, and he peers at her through the tiniest slit in his eyelids, feels sure she's practicing her sneer.
"You're practicing your sneer," he scoffs weakly. There are stains spattered on his front and he licks his lips, tastes copper in his mouth, hacks a blood-streaked spitwad out onto the ground, and squints over at her. "Do you do that in front of the mirror?"
She looks ice and frost at him. "What the fuck was that?"
"Slug juice?" He smiles. "Little game I used to play with Sammy back in the day."
He nods sagely, regrets it as his head swims, leans the back of his skull against the strut he's tied to. "It's been said. And while we're on the subject, exorcizamus te, omnis immundus—"
She's right up close again, hand pressed to his mouth, up under his nose so he struggles to breathe in air, and she holds something up in front of his face. "Duct tape," she sneers. "Now, I'm going to take my hand away, Dean, and you're going to stop right there. Because I will happily tape your trap shut if I have to." He gazes back at her, nods minutely, and she shuffles backwards, sits down again.
"Only because my nose is blocked and I can't breathe through it," he says morosely.
She chuckles, leans forward, parks her elbows on her knees, props her chin on her hands. "Of all the Walmarts in all the towns in all the world, you walk into mine."
He gapes. "Fuckin' bitch. You just ruined Bogart for me. That's – cruel and unusual punishment."
She raises an elegant eyebrow. "Not as cruel and unusual as my father has in store for you, Deano."
He blinks for a second. "Your father. The one I plugged, you mean?"
She doesn't react, doesn't flinch, keeps smiling. "Oh, Dean. I mean my father. As in our father."
He cocks his head, wonders abstractly if he might look as innocent as Cas does when he's doing it, and she smiles wider. "Oh I forgot, you're the dumb Winchester," she says. "You got all the looks, but none of the brains. Our father, who aren't in Heaven, hellish be his name…"
He shifts uneasily. "Lucifer's coming here?" His chest tightens, he can't draw breath, feels an itchy burn at the back of his mouth, clears his throat and jumpstarts a fit of coughing that has him gasping, drooling, and suddenly she's right there behind him, hand walloping him between the shoulder blades as he splutters out lugies the size of eggs. And finally, when his vision is starting to get spotty, his throat relaxes and he sucks in air like a man breathing his last, which he is really, he supposes. His face aches with it, pressure at the front and across his brows, and his jeans are globbed with greenish slime. "Green," he mutters. "It was yellow before."
She fists her hand in his hair, pushes him back against the wood, studies him. "Jesus, a sick Winchester. I'm just not getting the breaks," she breathes, shakes her head.
"I need to blow my nose," he says forlornly. "It's gonna start dripping sl—
"Yeah, slug juice. I know."
"Kleenex. In the bag."
She swings her ass as she walks, and he wonders if she's doing it on purpose. And he drifts for a second, thinks of denim-clad asses and lost opportunities, comes back to himself as a wad of tissues is thrust up under his nose and he snorts out a good lungful of sludge, makes damned sure it goes on her hand, and he hears her mutter out indeterminate noises of disgust as she mops it up, twirls it around, makes another pass to wipe his lips, which is pretty thoughtful of her all things considered.
She grimaces down at her hand, wipes it on the back of the hoodie, frowns. "You're pretty hot."
"It's been said."
"Cocky bastard," she snaps. "You won't be so cocky when the boss gets here."
He snorts. "Where is he? Off somewhere chopping up kittens?"
She smiles, pretty girl on the outside, black and brutal inside, and he knows because he was one of them down there. "He's getting things ready for Sam."
"Isn't gonna happen," he says faintly, past the pounding in his head and the hollow nausea clenching his gut. "He doesn't know where Sam is."
She's rooting in the bag, looks up and over at him, reaches into her pocket for something. "Yup," she says gently, holds it up. "Your cellphone, Dean. And who's number two on speed dial? Little Sammy. All we have to do is call him up and get you singing a happy tune down the line, and hey presto."
He swallows, whispers, "He'll never say yes."
She sighs out, mock concern. "Oh you'd be surprised what Lucifer can make people do," she simpers. "He can be very persuasive. And I think we both know Sam lacks your staying power. Let's face it, Dean, we're not looking at thirty years here. He won't even last thirty seconds."
"Yeah, well. I won't be singing," he mutters, isn't sure how convincing he sounds or even how convinced he is.
She shakes her head, peers back into the bag, fishes out a can and examines it. "Tomato soup. Oh… kay." She smiles over at him again. "Anyway. I see you have your boyfriend up top of the list," she says. "Maybe we'll get him here, have him watch. Lucifer would sure like to pow-wow with Castiel again."
He forces out a laugh. "I'm surprised you want Cas anywhere near you, given what happened last time," he drawls and she looks up sharply. "I know what he told you. About what Crowley said." And then, more irritably, "And he isn't my fuckin' boyfriend."
She doesn't reply, and her eyes are shuttered. He stares back at her, and feels the heat rising under his flesh, feels spaced out suddenly, sees his vision tunnel. And it could be seconds, it could be hours, but then she's shaking him back to awareness and his exhaustion has gone up tenfold and his peripheral vision is non-existent, and his head flops about aimlessly on the end of his neck.
"Are you back?" she's saying harshly, and she's slapping his cheeks lightly. "Dean. Can you hear me? Can you see me?" He focuses on her finally and she recoils slightly. "If you slug juice me, I swear I will knock you into next week," she growls.
She's holding his face in her cold hands, which is all kinds of weird. "You seized," she snaps. "Are you epileptic?"
"No," he slurs. "Too hot. Makes me seize. Always has."
"I need to cool you down." She pushes up, walks away, and he can hear her pottering about somewhere behind him, hear the sound of running water.
He calls back hoarsely over his shoulder. "Best thing is to strip me to my shorts and sponge me down with lukewarm water. S'what Sammy always does, and then he—"
The water is freezing, a bucketload hoisted up and tipped over his head, and he's so taken aback he does nothing but flap his lips soundlessly for a few seconds as it drips down his face and off his eyelashes. "Wraps me up in a towel and puts me to bed with a hot toddy," he finishes, through gritted teeth.
She throws back her head, brays out an unexpected guffaw. "In your dreams, Winchester. Though we do have the toddy thanks to your little shopping expedition… cold do you?"
He stares daggers at her as he nods, and she crosses in front of him, roots out the Jack, heads back, sits down shoulder to shoulder with him, unscrews the cap and puts the bottle up to his lips. He chugs a couple of mouthfuls, slants his eyes at her. "Drink's on me," he says.
She nods, raises the bottle, "To Armageddon," downs a couple of fingers herself.
She presses her hand up to his brow. "You're still too hot."
"I feel really sick," he croaks. "Syrupy stuff. In the bag. And Tylenol too. And I need to blow my nose again."
She shakes her head, puffs out derisively, supports him through another foghorn explosion of brownish snot, and it feels like the inside of his head is too big for his skull and his nostrils might be giving birth to his brain. "Are there brains in that snot?" he says cautiously.
She glances down into the tissues, blanches. "It's brown," she commiserates affably. "Sinus infection. You should really be on antibiotics." She tips his head back against the wooden strut again. "Don't lean forward. It'll feel worse if you do."
She launches herself onto her hands and knees, crawls over to the bag, hooks it in her hand and shuffles back, retrieves the box, makes a face that reminds him of his brother. "Children's Cough and Sore Throat? Really?"
"I like the taste," he leers. "It's cherry flavor."
She rolls her eyes, reads the label. "Children twelve years and older," she murmurs, shoots him a look. "That'd be you. Two spoonfuls." She pulls out the small bottle and plastic cup.
"Oh, we just guesstimate usually," he offers tiredly. "I'll just swig it from the bottle, with a handful of Tylenol."
"You'll do no such thing," she says thinly.
She waves the box. "This has acetaminophen in it."
"So does Tylenol. You can't have both, especially not after the liquor. It's bad for your liver."
He goggles at her. "Seriously?"
"Yes," she says primly. "Acetaminophen overdose is one of the most common poisonings worldwide."
"The fuck?" he sputters out. "What are you, a fuckin' nurse? Give me the damn meds. I'm sick. I double up all the time. And your boss is gonna hand me the farm anyway."
"Yes, I am actually. And no."
"What? Yes? No? Am what? What? What are you?" He's shaking his head, thick cobwebs in there, sticky fifties science fiction movie strands he can't see through, and he's confused, so much so he even tells her. "You're confusing me."
"A nurse. Or the meatsuit is. Was. And no, you can't have the pills as well."
"A nurse. You. It. She. A nurse… was."
"Yep. Pediatric nurse, actually. Here."
He sucks it out of the cup, manages to swirl his tongue round to get the dregs before she puts it down on the floor. His eyes are sagging closed and he's yawning, and breathing through his nose is like breathing underwater. "I want my soup. You and little kids. That just isn't right. Not. Right. Soup…"
"Dean. Wake up." Fingers snapped in front of his face, cold hand on his brow again, and he gives her his blue steel stare, glowers at her through his shakes.
"You're still pretty hot," she murmurs. "It's been a couple of hours. You should be cooling down." She wrinkles her nose at him. "Shame. If you were cold we could maybe share body heat."
He flinches at the mental picture, feels snot start dribbling out of his left nostril and trickle down to his top lip.
"Neti pot," she says thoughtfully.
"Backatcha, bitch," he slurs, and he blinks hard. "Uh. I feel really sick."
"Neti pot. Little ceramic doohickey with a spout, about so big," she continues, cupping her hand. "You put warm water in it and let it trickle in your nose, right up there, like you're inhaling it. Then let it drain out the other side and it loosens all the snot, washes it away."
Right, he thinks. "I'm pretty sure big Al did that to me in Hell."
She sniggers, butt shuffles to sit opposite again, and she's holding a can, stirring around inside it with a plastic spoon, and he gapes at her.
"What?" she snaps. "You've been raving on about your soup. You even called me mom." She holds it up to his lips. "Blow."
He does as he's told.
"Open wide." She tips it in there, rich tomatoey goodness, and he thinks of his mom, and his heart flip-flops in his chest and he gulps, has to blink back the burn of tears, and he bricks the memory up so he'll never see or hear it again.
"Talking of big Al," she ventures. "Must've been a hell of a shock to know little Sammy had that much juice. Ruby, man, she was on top of her game, she led him by the prick and he—"
"Shut the fuck up," he grinds out. "If you think I'm spilling my guts to you about my brother then you—"
"Oh, you'll be spilling your guts, Dean," she sing-songs. "Sooner than you think."
He narrows his eyes at her. "Back in Dakota, at Bobby's," he says. "All that crap about Hell being a prison of whatthefuckever. You think Hell on earth is gonna be any better?" He chuckles mirthlessly, twists his head and leans to spit out phlegm. "You think you're gonna strut about in your Jimmy Choos when the ground is opening up under you? Your boss isn't planning on remodeling. He wants to burn it down. And you're gonna fall into Hell with the rest of us, Meg. Unless…"
He trails off, finds he's wracked by shivers, feels his guts lurch. "G'n be sick," he mutters. "Fuck."
"Take deep breaths," she's saying from far away. "I'm not rubbing your stomach for you, Dean. Deep breaths."
He pulls up his legs, rests his forehead on his knees, and the pressure in his face is overwhelming, and he thinks he might moan with it, and he sucks in air along to her chanting in-out-in-out until the nausea passes.
After a minute's quiet she clears her throat uneasily. Oh yeah, he thinks. Got her.
He cracks his eyes. "Unless what… what?" he says, sniffs in hard again. "Man. I feel really sick. Mike's not gonna be pleased about this." He fixes her in place with his eyes. "Mike. You know? Archangel Mike. Who kicked your guy to the curb last time."
She looks baffled, and he waits a beat. "Oh…" he breathes. "Lou never told you." He clucks his tongue, shakes his head ruefully. "I guess it was need to know."
She's frowning, chewing at her lip. "What's need to know?"
"Well," he starts. "It's like this. You know how your guy's supposed to close out this deal wearing my brother?" He pauses for effect. "Thing is, I'm supposed to close it out wearing his brother." He feels his chest clench tight again, a fist in there crushing his lungs in its grasp. "Mike's gonna be pretty pissed if his one true vessel dies of swine flu, don't you think?" He starts coughing, drooling, sneezing, spitting, meets her gaze again through streaming, stinging eyes. "And I can guarantee you won't like him when he's pissed," he squeezes out, because now tiny cleaning ladies are making their way down his throat, sprinkling scouring powder on his flesh and scrubbing away at it with wire wool, and his head is swelling even more, like someone is checking the tire pressure of his brain, inflating it bigger and bigger, forty four pounds per square inch, until it pops inside his cranium and squirts out of his ears.
He's lying flat, wracked with chills, something cool and moist on his brow, and he splutters, feels himself rolled onto his side, patting sensation on his back, damp cloth wiping his lips and his nose, and he pants, shivers, groans out his misery.
"How the hell does your brother put up with this," he hears her say, and her voice is faint, muffled, coming from a galaxy far, far, away, and she rolls him over onto his back again.
"Dean. Wake up. Is it true about Michael? And what Castiel said… how do you know Crowley?"
Her voice is sharp, urgent, and he looks groggily up at her, floats in a daydream for a second, feels water dripping on his lips. "Crowley," he whispers. "What is it with Crowley's long good Friday lock, stock and two smokin' barrels act, anyhoo…"
"Dean," she barks. "Keep up. What you said about Michael, is it true? And your angel said Crowley thinks Lucifer's just using us… that we're cannon fodder, that he'll destroy us when he gets what he wants. Is that true?"
He smiles drowsily. "Crowley, yeah… he said that… time to choose sides, Meg…"
"But where is Michael? And how do you know Crowley? Dean? Dammit. Fucking Winchesters. Dean. Dean?" And then he feels her breath right next to his ear as it all fades to a purple haze blowing his mind. "Can you hear me? You better remember this, Dean. When it goes down, you better remember this."
He comes awake, bleary, eyes gummed together so he has to force his lids apart, and sticky clumps of dreck blur his vision. He's still shivering and his butt is wet because he's sitting in a puddle, propped up against a wall, his plastic bag beside him, and he's staring out into a deserted, rain-soaked parking lot. His phone is ringing, and he fumbles it out of his pocket.
"I didn't know where you were staying. I dropped you back at Walmart."
"It's dark thirty in the morning, and it's cold and wet here," he says balefully. "And I have the fuckin' flu."
"You better remember this, Dean," she says tersely. "You better remember I helped you."
And then she's gone, and he hacks up more sludge, hoiks it out so it splatters on the tarmac, palms his aching head. "You dumped me in a fuckin' parking lot in the middle of nowhere, and I have the flu," he mutters through chattering teeth. "I'm committing it to memory, bitch. It's number three on the list right under you messing with my brother and sticking your thumb in my shoulder. And you better not add my number to your contacts."
He squints at his phone, presses number one. Leave a message for Castiel after the beep. Super. "Cas, this is the fifth fuckin' message I've left," he croaks. "Bring a neti pot."
He presses number two. "Sam. Of course it's me. At Walmart. What? I got sidetracked. No, wait a minute, it wasn't…" He snaps the phone closed. "…My fault."
He stares into the gloom, and after ten minutes or so there she is, cruising into the lot, his baby, huge and black and shiny under the streetlamps, sending up a spray of mist as she tools to a halt in front of him, and his brother's ghostly face peers out the window.
"Dean. What the hell are you doing sitting in the Walmart parking lot? Have you been drinking?"
He scowls, reaches for his plastic bag, pushes up, leans heavily against the car as he feels his way around the hood to the shotgun door, collapses into the seat. "No, I have not been drinking," he spits out.
Sam reaches across, snags the bag. "Thank God," he mutters as he peers inside it. "Syrupy stuff. Drugs. My head's killing me."
Could be worse, he thinks, and he settles back against the worn leather, rubs his aching shoulders against his baby's hide, and she massages him back, gets him right there where he needs it most with her ridged seams, and he wraps his arms around himself as he shivers.
"Have you had any of this, Dean?" Sam's nudging him, and he tilts his head, looks into guileless puppy dog eyes, and isn't that a rare sight these days, he thinks, with a pang of regret for the fact it'll never be the same as it was. And then Sam's big hand is resting on his brow. "You're burning up, man. What the hell were you thinking?"
"Just give me the Jack," he murmurs. "S'all I need."
"The Jack. In the bag."
"There's no Jack, Dean. Just toilet tissue, Kleenex, and the meds."
"She kept my fuckin' Jack," he breathes out, crestfallen. "Bitch kept my Jack. That's going on the list. Number four. Bitch. Can you believe that? She kept my booze…"
Sam's goggling at him. "You hooked up? Jesus, Dean, you have the flu…" He leans in close, sniffs. "And you have been drinking, haven't you?" he snaps. "I can smell it on your breath. I'm sick as a dog and I've had to drag myself out of bed to come find you while you hit the bars, and—"
He raises a finger, cuts his brother off mid-flow. "Sammy," he sighs, and he lets out a tiny squeak of discomfort, takes a deep breath, sees Sam's eyebrows furrow, concerned again.
Too fuckin' late for that, he thinks, and he smirks.
"Have some slug juice."
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