A little something for the latest Hoodietime comment-fic meme over on LJ… hope you like. :-)

WARNING The usual blasphemy and bad language [sorry: can't do it front of the kids so I have to work it out of my system somehow!]. Spoilers up to The Song Remains the Same.

Sunshine State

He hates Florida in fuckin' August, and he swallows past whatever the hell is growing on either side of his throat and tells his brother just that as they meander up forty-one behind crumblies with their left indicator lights stuck on permanent flash and just the tops of their tightly permed heads poking over the top of the driver's seat.

"Get out of the left hand fuckin' lane," he growls, and he waves frantically, gestures obscenely, and tailgates them so closely his brother's knuckles go white on his thighs.

"Jesus, Dean. Any closer and we'll be able to see what radio station they're tuned into."

He bristles. "The fuck is she even doing still driving? I bet she's operating the pedals with her walking stick. How can she even see out?"

And anyone who isn't a hundred and twenty drives like a maniac in the sunshine state, and just as he's thinking it he has to jump on the brakes with all his feet as a Tacoma veers across in front of him. His voice croaks like he's fourteen again as he hollers a stream of abuse in its wake, the words limping out through a throat so dry he thinks it might look like those pictures of deserts he used to see in Bobby's National Geographic magazine, sand split and rutted into crazy paving. And he feels feverish and thinks he must be a tad delirious, because now he's giving it serious thought there are bleached oxen bones laying in the arid landscape just left of his larynx, and to the right there are Bedouin trailing along on camels, led by Peter O'Toole and Zorba the Quinn.

"You're thinking out loud, Dean," his brother says mildly. "You're doing the Lawrence of Arabia fantasy again." And Sam reaches across, presses a cold hand to his brow. "Pull over," he announces. "I'm driving. You're sleeping."

He smacks Sam's hand away, spies salvation, skates across three lanes on two wheels like a Redneck born and bred, and bounces the car up a gravel incline, throwing up satisfying clouds of white dust in her wake. The Frosted Mug, and it's like an oasis, and within five seconds of sliding his baby into the nearest slot he's gulping down a cold one, slapping skeeters on the back of his neck, and asking Bobby-Jo if she knows how to mix up a Four Horsemen and Hell Follows, because he remembers the days when those sonsofbitches were drinks, and God knows he preferred them that way.

Bobby-Jo simpers, and what the hooha, she might be pushing fifty and squeezed into a pair of Daisy Dukes and a tank top proclaiming Bike Week! Myrtle Beach! Bad Girl! she stole from her granddaughter's closet, but she's a cheerful soul and friendly too. By the time his brother is back from hitting the head she's onto her third marriage, now Dougie, he never kilt no one, well least not on purpose, cuz that gun goin' off wuz an accident…Just why the two old timers and the gaggle of demon chrome sharing the truck stop are sitting at the farthest away tables becomes evident as she twitters on, and he drifts off, comes back to reality when Sam gestures, and extricates himself with some lame excuse he can't even remember once the words leave his mouth.

Sam sips his beer, fixes his tray of shot glasses with slitty, critical eyes.

"What?" he husks out.

"You sure that's wise? Can't be all that comfortable with your throat as bad as it is."

"My throat's fine," he cheesegraters out irritably. "Anyway, it's medicinal." He gargles a mouthful of each glass to prove it, lights up the Bacardi with a flourish, and his brother's hand snakes out, snatches the glass up and away, tips it out onto the gravel.

"You've got to be fucking kidding, Dean," Sam snaps. "Your voice is hurting me. There's no way."

"It was to cauterize the—"

"No," Sam insists. "I was just talking to a guy in the can who—"

Dean smirks. "Is that what they're calling it these days?"

His brother bitchfaces at him briefly. "Vern," he says pointedly, and he raises a hand and nods over Dean's shoulder.

Dean turns and sees old timer #three nod in return. The guy is missing his left leg below the knee, and he wonders idly if one of Bobby-Jo's husbands ripped it off in a fit of temper.

It's hot, a steamy, muggy heat buzzing with noseeums that whiz right up into his face, and his tee sticks clammily to that patch between his shoulder blades at the back, and he can feel sweat dripping down the small of his back and on into his crack.

"Moist jeans are no fuckin' fun," he grouses. "My socks are damp. I can feel my toes crinkling up into lizard skin and I bet they stink. I'm hot. And my throat really fuckin' hurts."

Sam leans in close. "Say aah. But don't breathe on me, I don't want your germs."


His brother winces. "Oy. There are white patches in there, Dean. Strep, I think."

"Well of course it is," he croaks morosely. "Why the fuck wouldn't it be?"

Sam sinks the rest of his beer, holds out his hand. "Keys. We should hole up. Vern said there's a Walmart about a mile up the road, we can get some meds there."

Too fuckin' right, he's thinking ten minutes later, as he liberates a quart of Jack from its cruel prison in the liquor aisle and slips it into the cart under his Twinkies.

"Comfort food," he says defensively, up at the checkout, and he drapes himself out across the bench seat when they get back to the car, downs a couple of ibuprofen with a whisky chaser, and Sam shakes his head upfront and mutters darkly about ulcers.

"Cas will fix me," he says loftily, and he smirks because he's feeling nice and floaty in his head and the motion of the car is lulling him off into drowsiness.

"Like he fixed Bobby's legs?" Sam shoots back. "I wouldn't count on it, Dean. He's getting weaker."

"No he isn't," he rasps out, because it's scorching sore in there now. "He isn't getting weaker. He's – saving himself for me. I'm special. Different. That's what it is."

He lies there and stares at the roof of the car, thinks about Cas giving it all up for him, killing for him, losing everything for him, everything he's known and held dear going back into antiquity for Christ's sake. And he thinks about how Cas is getting weaker. And he shivers because of what it could mean for him, mean for his brother, because maybe Cas is their last line of defense but he took three days to come round from their little trip back to the seventies, and now whenever they're nose to nose and Cas is staring at him like nothing else matters, he can see something in the angel's eyes that might be anxiety, fear, maybe even regret. And when he sees that it sticks in his heart, because he thinks maybe he isn't worth it.

"You're thinking out loud again, dude," Sam says softly from the front. And then a minute later, "I'm pretty sure Cas thinks you're worth it."

He must doze for a while because the next thing he knows Sam is shaking him awake, motioning over his shoulder. "Best Western. Seems to be all there is."

Sam reaches down, hauls him up, and now when he goes to speak his voice comes out like some desiccated death rattle, and the sting brings tears to his eyes.

His brother winces. "I'll do the talking."

He trails along behind Sam into the lobby, gapes at the price. "We don't want to buy the fuckin' room," he cuts in painfully. "We just want to sleep in it. For one night."

The receptionist's eyes widen, scream Hazmat suit! Quarantine! Unclean! at him, and she recoils. He glowers at her, forcibly steers his brother back outside.

"We might just have to suck this one up, Dean," his brother is saying. "You're running a fever, you sound—"

"It's low season and the housing market is in the Pit here," he wheezes. "If we drive into one of the subdivisions there's bound to be eleventy billion foreclosures we can pick and choose from, squat for a night or two. Or a holiday rental, maybe even something with a pool."

And it's the life, he muses an hour later, as he flops poolside on a lounger, in a pair of lurid board shorts Sam found in one of the bedrooms. His baby is safely hidden in the garage, and it's secluded enough that they can't be seen but not so secluded he can't keep a close eye on the cute sweaty chick opposite, who's sweaty, and clad in cut-offs and dripping sweat as she industriously and sweatily mows her double lot with a pushalong. And Jesus, but it's sweaty work, he thinks, and it gives him a warm feeling low in his groin that has nothing to do with his fever and everything to do with dripping sweat, beads of it, soaking through her tank, and even the seat of her cut-offs is damp with it, and he's just reaching down to the waistband of his own borrowed shorts because man, it's getting tight in there, and he thinks he might just have to—

"Sam tells me you're unwell, Dean."

"Jesusfuck," he croaks piteously, and he flys his hand up from much more interesting pursuits to clutch at his throat, because he's full sure it sprouted a coat of dryer fluff while he lay there birdwatching. He flaps his hand wildly, hacks out something that was proper words when he thought it up in his head but comes out as the noise of plant machinery.

Sam ranges up behind Cas and he cocks his head. "He needs a drink," he declares confidently.

Cas frowns, ponders for a moment. "I speak every language, yet I'm not familiar with that one," he muses.

"Yeah, it's Wookiee," Sam offers. "With a touch of Stevie Nicks and a sprinkling of Louis Armstrong."

He's quaffing from a bottle of Bud and Dean heaves himself up from the lounger, lurches a few steps forwards, and the world starts to rock and roll around him and he reels, falls, and hands catch him, and faces peer down at him.

"You're extremely hot, Dean," Cas says, and his eyes are doing that anxiety-fear-nothing-else-matters thing, and his hand is gentle on Dean's brow.

He snorts. "Knew you wanted me," he slurs tiredly, and it all goes black.

The first time he comes round he cracks the crusty stuff sealing his eyes shut to find himself cradled up against something that definitely isn't softly female, slants his eyes to see Cas's white dress shirt, spattered with something that looks regurgitated.

"Did I puke on you?" he whispers.

"You did, Dean," Cas replies neutrally. "Unfortunately I wasn't aware that your request to talk down the big white telephone was an indication you wished to be taken to the bathroom to be sick."

He swallows claggily, feels like he just ate a mouthful of ground up glass.

"'M sorry," he whispers.

"You don't have to be, Dean," the angel replies simply.

"Throat. Feels like barbed wire. Hurts."

"I know. Rest, Dean."

He thinks Cas might be rocking him, and he leans into the warmth and tells himself he damn well isn't snuggling with his angel.

The second time he comes round, a gigantor hand is using a washcloth to sponge him down, and he's shivering, and his teeth are chattering.

"I don't want to die, Sammy," he hears himself mutter painfully. "Don't want to go to Hell. Please. Don't let her get me."

And then he can feel Sam's breath on his face, and his big hand on his cheek. "Dean. Look at me," he's saying, and his voice is stern. "It's over, done. You're never going back there."


"I'm sure. Now you have to drink this, it'll make you feel better."

Sam lifts him up, touches something to his lips. "Suck."

He does as he's told, grimaces. "Fuck. Whassit?"

"Ginger tea, honey, lemon juice. It'll help."

"'Kin – yuck."

"It's natural."

"So is cancer."

"I found the recipe online," Sam races out. "Grated ginger, freshly squeezed lemon juice. Manuka honey, it's anti-inflammatory, Dean, and it's a natural antibacterial agent… Cas went to New Zealand for it."

Dean squints down at it, frowns, scratches it out balefully. "S' a Dora the Explorer sippy cup."

"It's easier this way."

What the fuck, it is. And so he sucks down his natural throat remedy for no other reason than that his brother researched it online and made it himself with honey his angel flew to New Zealand to fetch. And that gives him a warm feeling inside he'll never admit to as long as he lives.

"They should have these sippy cups in bars," he whispers. "And at rock concerts."

The third time he comes round he makes it as far as his duffel and his bottle of Jack, and he downs a third of it before Cas finds him curled up under the bed hiding.

Puzzled blue eyes stare at him and he goggles back.

"Why are you hiding under the bed, Dean?"

He brandishes his bottle by way of an answer.

"I see." And Cas reaches into his trench, pulls out his own. "I prefer Jose Cuervo myself," he says reflectively, starts unscrewing the cap.

And suddenly all Dean can see is stoned, smiling Cas, hopelessly fuckin' devoted and going to his death because of it, and even though his head and his muscles ache, and he's seeing double, and his throat still feels like it's being spot-welded back together, he wriggles out from under the bed and snatches the bottle away, aggressive.

"No," he wheezes. "No fuckin' way. Not you. You don't ever do this, ever. Do you hear me? I never want to see you like that again, never."

Cas stares back at him. "It makes the world turn quiet and disappear," he says softly. "But the world always comes back, and louder than before."

Dean can feel himself listing over, comes to rest with his head on Castiel's shoulder.

"We stop," he murmurs. "Both of us. We're not going to be those guys, Cas. I mean it."

The nth time he comes round he feels better. He swallows experimentally and it's sore, but it isn't Fahrenheit 451 in there any more. He sniffs experimentally under the sheet too, and winces. Fuckin' rank. He pushes up, and he's a tad lightheaded but he makes it to the bathroom and manages to soap his armpits and his crotch without keeling over.

He drains the lizard, tugs his board shorts back up, pads out into the house, to the back, poolside. The sun is low in the sky and Cas is floating on a lilo, wearing a pair of shorts even more lurid than his and skinnier than he expected out of uniform. He stares down at his own pale, freckled skin, and seethes briefly because he just damn well knows Cas tans evenly. Just as evenly as his brother damn well tans.

The angel is holding a large cup of some brightly colored club tropicana brew with mini umbrellas and a slice of orange, and he opens a lazy eye as Dean lowers himself down on the top pool step with a groan.

"Are you alright, Dean?" he says sincerely.

"What is that?" he asks pissily, because even if he has been out of his head for God knows how long, he knows damn well they talked about it.

"It's a Tervis Tumbler," Cas says placidly. "I believe they're famous in these parts."

"The drink," he rasps out, because it still is sore in there after all.

"It's a Shirley Temple," Cas replies, and he raises his head up slightly. "It's non-alcoholic," he adds. "Sam found the recipe on Babyzone."

So he does remember. "Babyzone," Dean echoes. "Am I still delirious?"

"I believe it's a website for women who are with child," Cas says solemnly. "And you don't appear to be delirious."

He eases himself further down into the water, because if he needs anything after however many days in bed in the heat without washing, it's chlorinated water. "Shirley Temple," he muses. "Had to be named after some simpering little brat in ribbons and a party dress." He shudders at the memory, blots it out, moves it along, focuses on soothing closed-eyed bliss in water warmed by the sunshine. "Where is Sam?" he says after a minute. "I'm hungry. Tell him he needs to do a Burger King run."

"He is weed whacking the ditches at the house opposite," Cas drawls. "The young woman who lives there is apparently without a strong man to do yard work, so your brother offered."

He heaves himself out of the pool like a Discovery Channel killer whale leaping out of the surf to grab the nearest seal, reels dizzily as he peers through the trees. "I don't see him."

Cas sniffs. "He said she had a plumbing problem that needed attention."

"I'll bet he fuckin' did." He shakes his head admiringly. "Sly dog."

He sits down again, trails his feet in the water. "I'm still hungry," he says mournfully.

Cas is gone and back in the wink of an eye, board shorts and all. "Your Burger King meal, Dean," he announces, setting the bag down. "There is a large soda-type beverage included, unless you would like me to mix you a Shirley Temple?"

He's doing his measured stare, and for a second Dean wonders what happened to the booze, because he passed out in there, has no clue what the hell Cas did with it after he slung him back in the bed. He snorts, shakes his head. "The cola's fine."

He wraps his chops around his burger, closes his eyes in appreciation as he chews, washes it down with the syrupy sweet fizz. The sun is setting, and cicadas are singing and maybe Florida isn't as bad as he thought. He tells Cas this.

"Florida isn't as bad as I thought," he says, between chews. "Pool, good company. Cowmeat."

Cas considers, comes to sit next to him. "Al Gore predicts that Florida will be submerged under water at some point in the distant future," he offers.

He scowls. "Way to kill the mood, Cas."

The angel shrugs. "Still, it seems like a good reason to appreciate Florida while we can," he says carefully. "Without thinking about other things that might stop us from enjoying this peace and quiet." He nudges Dean. "Even if it's just for another day, perhaps we shouldn't think of those things. And perhaps it's good that Sam isn't thinking of them either. That he is also enjoying himself, seeing to his new friend's plumbing…" He smiles suddenly, and it's more than his usual almost-smile, it's like a proper smile, and it twists in Dean's gut for a minute because it reminds him of the way the other Cas smiled.

But he smiles back. "Dude," he says. "You do know the plumbing thing isn't really plumbing…"

Cas is deadpan. "Sam said something about inserting a snake into her pipes to unblock them."

Dean plants his hand firmly on Cas's back, sends him in face first, and he surfaces spluttering and thrashing.

"You keep enjoying Florida, Cas."

I hope you enjoyed it and I'd love it if you reviewed…