A/N: Written for the Summer of Sam Love Celebration, prompt included at the end of the story.
Sasquatch and Squash
Sam drove into the strip center's parking lot and slid smoothly into a parking slot halfway down the center aisle. Turning off the Impala's engine, he glanced at Dean, still zonked out in the passenger seat. Dean had been through the wars, not being able to sleep while under the threat of dream-master/kook Jeremy Frost and his death-dealing dreamwalking. He was still catching up on the three days he'd spent struggling to stay awake, and Sam decided he'd let Dean sleep while he took a strafing run through the grocery store, just long enough to stock up on the basics.
Sam extracted a small spiral notepad from his pocket, then reached for a pen. He started scribbling a note about his grocery run, knowing that Dean would absolutely freak if he woke up to a motionless, Sam-less car. Tearing the note off, Sam laid it on the dash, in front of Dean. Drawn to his sleeping brother, he noticed that Dean was sleeping so soundly – and soundlessly – that he almost appeared... No, Dean's fine. He isn't... it's only January, we've still got time. Dean's still got time. Sam vividly recalled the relief and renewed determination he'd felt when Dean had taken the huge step of admitting that he didn't *want* to die and go to Hell. Now they were finally on the same page, and they could get down to finding a "Get Out of Hell Free" card for Dean's crossroads deal. Purposely blocking the words of the Crossroads Demon that he'd killed in New York – "He made that deal of his own free will, fair and square. It's iron-clad." – Sam gazed at his still sleeping brother.
Dean was in rough shape. Sam knew his "I'm Batman" brother would never admit it, but their encounter with the dreamwalking psychopath Frost had left its mark on him. For one thing, Dean was exhausted after staying awake for almost three days straight. Sam was convinced that Dean hadn't just been dreaming about finding Sam in the woods, as he'd claimed. Sam had tagged along in Dean's dream and ended up Frost's batting practice, staked out like the intended victim of a horde of fire ants from some B-rated desert movie. Sam had beaten Jeremy at his own game and ended Dean's dream. He knew better than to tease Dean about the picnic with Lisa that he'd glimpsed, but he wished Dean would talk about what else had happened in his dream. Because something did. Winchesters didn't wake up gasping and defensive from pleasant, boring dreams. That was nightmare territory, as Sam knew from the times he'd woken up, shaking and flailing from his nightmares of Jess and that night.
At least Dean wasn't in complete denial. After Pittsburgh, he'd only driven until lunch-time before turning the keys over to Sam and pitching into uneasy sleep in the passenger seat. The next day, however, Dean had combed the internet looking for a hunt. Sam had been surprised by the return to business-as-usual. Dean hadn't suddenly acquired an interest in researching ancient tomes for possible deal-breaking methods, or scoured the internet for contacts or sources that might have some know-how in wriggling out of contracts with Hell and crossroad deals. Instead, he'd found a poltergeist hunt and seemed surprised when Sam had balked at the idea of hunting, NOW, when they should be focused on Dean's predicament.
Sam was beginning to realize that Dean might not be able to act any differently than he was, that he was always going to be hunter-big-brother Dean, whether he had sixty years or just over three months left on this Earth. And maybe that wasn't a bad thing; Dean was an awesome hunter, and he'd saved a lot of people over the years. He'd also taken a lot of punishment doing it. Witness their last hunt, where Dean had been thrown against a couple of walls before Sam had banished the poltergeist. Dean had insisted that he was fine, but Sam had seen the black and blue bruises on his brother's back as the older Winchester hastily dressed that morning. On top of his brother's sleep deficiency, it had shouted otherwise to Sam.
Taking care not to disturb Dean, Sam slipped out of the car, gently closing the Impala's door. It squeaked less than usual and Sam absent-mindedly patted the door. Even Dean's baby was doing her part to let him sleep. Rapidly striding towards Dale's Corner Grocery, Sam stopped a few feet outside the entrance and dug out his cell phone. "Hey, Bobby. How are you?"
"I'm fine. How's Dean?"
"Not great. A poltergeist slammed him up against a coupl'a walls yesterday."
"What? You let Dean go hunting so soon after Pittsburgh?" the cell phone squawked. "Sam, how could you—"
"You try stoppin' him." Sam interrupted. "You know what Dean's like when there's a hunt around."
"Tell me about it," Sam muttered. "Look, Bobby, we need a place to hole up for a few days. Some place remote and peaceful, where Dean won't be able to do anything BUT rest. Got any ideas?"
"Where are you now?"
"About twenty miles north of Evansville, Indiana."
"Southern Indiana, hmmm."
"Call me back in about twenty minutes. I'm making a grocery run." Receiving Bobby's okay, Sam entered the store. He grabbed a basket and headed for the beverage aisle. He'd just checked out when his cell buzzed.
"Got a place for you, a small cabin owned by a friend of a friend. It's in Erin, Tennessee, about two and a half hours south of Evansville. Nothing fancy, but the welcome mat's always out for hunters."
"Sounds perfect, thanks, Bobby." Sam wrote down the directions and headed back to the Impala and Dean.
Dean woke to the familiar slam of the Impala's door. He rubbed his eyes, tracking Sam in the rear view mirror as his brother yanked up the trunk lid and extracted two duffels. Oh, Hell no, Sammy. Dean opened the passenger door and lurched to his feet, striding determinedly towards the trunk. "I am not an invalid. Gimme my bag," he snapped, holding his hand out towards Sam.
Sam blinked, his own duffel looped over his shoulder and the weapons bag held in his right hand. "Your duffel's still in the trunk."
Dean deflated. "Oh, right." He stepped around Sam and grabbed his duffel, closing the Impala's trunk firmly.
Then he followed Sam's tall form to the log cabin that they had parked in front of. Dean's steps slowed as he glanced around. The setting sun lengthened the trees' shadows on the gravel parking area they crossed on the way to a log cabin, the only man-made structure in sight. It sure didn't look like a motel, and he wondered exactly what Sam had planned this time. Sam bent over the front door for a few seconds—Hunter's key, Dean thought, spying the lockpick in his brother's capable hands—then it opened and he followed Sam inside. His hulking brother pulled up short three steps into the cabin, and Dean plowed into Sam's back. "Plant it someplace else, Sasquatch," he grumbled, stepping past his younger brother. "Where are we, anyway?"
The town's name meant nothing to Dean. "And?"
"This is a safe house that Bobby told me about. Thought we'd settle in for a few days, get some rest."
Dean added two and two and got an unacceptable answer. Sam was coddling him again, attempting to be the big brother. "You told Bobby about the poltergeist!"
"Yeah, and I got an earful for doin' it, too." Sam winced and Dean remembered that Bobby's cursing could rival Dad's, and that was saying a lot. "He's pissed at you for even thinking about hunting, since you're still—oh, three nights' short on sleep."
"Yeah, yeah, I know." Sam snorted as he dumped the weapons bag and his duffel on the sofa in the middle of the room, positioned to face the fireplace along the cabin's right hand wall. "You don't need any rest, you just fall asleep ten minutes later when you're riding shotgun. And you don't yawn more than talk when you're having conversations, either."
"Aw, c'mon—" Dean involuntarily cut off his conversation to yawn hugely. "You did that on purpose, you made me yawn."
"No, Dean," Sam lectured. "Mentioning yawning doesn't cause another person to yawn, you have to actually do it to trigger the yawning mechanism. You yawned because you're tired—even after you've slept the afternoon away."
Dean didn't even respond to that bit of logic, busy taking in the large, square room that surrounded them. The walls were horizontal planks, smoothed and stained in typical log cabin style. A blue leather chair and a painted rocking chair flanked the sofa to their right, creating the cabin's living room, which was dominated by the flagstone fireplace on its wall. A working fireplace, he noted, seeing a short stack of logs in the hidey hole next to the fireplace's hearth. His gaze shifted to the open A-frame ceiling, sporting plenty of exposed crossbeams, and one lone wagon-wheel light fixture, situated over a round pine dining room table to their left. The kitchen occupied most of the back half of the cabin, with a closed door next to it that Dean fervently hoped led to a bathroom. He wasn't in the mood to deal with outdoor plumbing tonight.
There was an opening to the right of the supposed bathroom, and Dean stepped through it. He walked down a narrow, quickly darkening hallway that had two bedrooms on its left side and a single window on its exterior wall. Dean peeked inside the corner bedroom which had a double bed and two windows for cross-ventilation. He entered the other bedroom and casually dropped his duffel on top of its neatly made double bed. Then he walked back to the cabin's main room, taking a second to open the closed door he'd seen earlier. It revealed a compact but fully functional bathroom. One point in the cabin's favor, at least.
He found Sam in the kitchen, poking around its rustic wooden cupboards. Sam had turned on the lamp over the dining room table and some improbable under the cupboard lighting in the kitchen, too. "It's a good thing I stocked up in Evansville." Sam indicated the beer, soup cans, loaf of bread, jars of peanut butter and jelly and assorted bags of potato chips on the Formica countertop. "The cupboards are pretty much empty." He reached down and opened a lower cabinet. "Plenty of salt," Sam noted approvingly. "Two industrial-sized bags."
Dean looked at the rest of the cabin from his kitchen vantage point, then glanced back at Sam. "No TV."
"I noticed," Sam said. "But there's a radio on the kitchen counter."
"Probably only gets stations with hill-billy and Grand Ole Opry." Dean shuddered.
"My brother, the eternal optimist," Sam teased, smiling.
"Realist," Dean corrected.
Sam's smile faded and Dean just knew he was thinking about the harsh realities that they'd be facing in a few months. He braced himself for some emo-laden crap. Not that he didn't believe Sammy's sincerity, but he couldn't disregard Ruby's words from that parking lot in Sturbridge, either. He was, after all, a realist.
His brother's next words surprised him. "Go start a fire, and I'll rustle up some dinner."
Dean nodded and walked over to the fireplace. The cabin lacked central heating or a furnace, so the fireplace would be their only source of heat for the night. He removed the fireplace screen, checked that the flue was open, added a couple of new logs to the half-burned ones already in the fireplace and lit a match. He watched as the fire slowly encompassed the logs, building in size and heat and remembered staring at the flames of another, much larger fire as it consumed his father's remains.
Shaking off the memory, he placed the screen back on the hearth, and turned his back to the fireplace, glancing around the room for something else to think about. His gaze landed on the two windows on the opposite wall, each framed by an over-sized pair of shutters. His attention shifted to the closest window, between the fireplace and the door, facing the front of the cabin. It had the same shutters, and Dean stepped over to that window for a closer look at the extra-wide shutters. They were thick wooden slabs, set with heavy duty, well-oiled hinges. Dean reached for one shutter and swung it closed. It covered half of the window, the exposed backside showing notches for barricading the window shut. This cabin was built with defense in mind, and not the football variety of defense.
He once again examined the room, searching for oddities. The furnishings in the cabin were a hodge-podge of style and color. The leather sofa was tan, but the chair was brown leather. The two floor lamps on opposite sides of the sofa were mismatched, too, one was brass and the other was painted black metal. His attention drawn to the fireplace, Dean walked over to stand in front of it, staring at the intricately carved front of the mantle. So why is the fireplace so carefully, elaborately decorated? The solid oak mantle was quite thick, with the front side elaborately carved. Not folk carving either, the pattern was very deliberate, and one raised star cut-out attracted his attention. It was slightly lighter in color than the rest of the mantelpiece, and Dean impulsively touched the star. Running his fingers over it, it felt smooth, so he pressed down. The star yielded to his pressure, and a hidden drawer popped open to the right of the star push-button. Dean looked into the drawer and extracted a thin brown leather journal. He opened the pages and started reading.
He glanced up from the book to see Sam slam the refrigerator door shut. "Empty." Sam said, reaching to put the six-pack into the fridge.
"I know why," Dean said, walking towards Sam with the book still open. "This is a sign-in ledger, sort of. No surnames, but it does list the guests of this place, or at least the ones who admitted to being here. Five hunters holed up here for New Year's—they were recovering from a werewolf hunt and they ate everything in sight, left a thank you for the supplies."
"That's why the cupboards're bare, then. Good thing I made that grocery run earlier today."
"So what's for dinner?" Dean asked, the subject of food always a good one.
"Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and soup."
"Tomato, chicken noodle—the chunky kind, or clam chowder."
Dean made a face. "Well, at least it's a variety."
"Yeah, it is. We can augment our feast with something, though."
Dean's brows rose.
"There's a can of beans in the cupboard." Sam grinned.
"Oh great, y'know you're toxic with that stuff-"
"I am not! Besides, that's after a bean burrito, not canned beans."
"Well, we'll find out tonight, huh?"
Sam huffed. "Beggars can't be choosers." He looked at the remaining six-pack on the counter, picked it up and opened the top door of the fridge, to cool off the beer more quickly. "There's something in the freezer." Sam hauled out the package of frozen vegetables. "Squash, yummy. Want some?"
"Sam, green vegetables can kill you—they're evil."
"This is squash, Dean-it's yellow."
"Even more evil," Dean retorted, walking back to the fireplace. He put the journal back in its secret drawer without adding to the list of names. Sam called out that dinner was ready a few minutes later and Dean strolled over to the table. Sam had set two places at opposite ends of the table and was pouring tomato soup into one of the bowls, a dishcloth draped over his shoulder. Dean considered teasing his younger brother, saying Sammy'd make someone a great wife one day, but he refrained. A lazy night of peace and quiet with Sammy was a rarity and Dean wanted to savor this one. He suspected he'd have few additional opportunities to enjoy such quiet time with his brother.
So he didn't protest when Sam dragooned him into washing up the dishes after they ate, or squawk too loudly when he suggested a game of cards, even though it was concentration instead of poker. Dean watched as Sam carefully dealt the cards facedown in six evenly spaced rows of eight, putting the last four cards in a mini-row at the bottom.
Then Sam calmly and methodically beat him the first three games straight. "No more Mr. Nice Guy," Dean growled as he dealt the cards for the fourth game, trying to give Sam the impression that he *let* him win, completely ignoring the part played by Sam's almost photographic memory. Dean turned over two of the corner cards, a five and a jack, to start the game. Sam flipped over a couple of random cards from his side of the board, staring at the seven and four for several seconds before turning them back over. Dean chose the other two corner cards, revealing a five and an eight. Oh great, he'd just given Sam the first pair. But Sam ignored the matching corner cards, and turned over another pair of cards from the center of the board: a jack and a three.
Dean quickly pounced on the fives, and then matched up his corner jack with the one that Sammy'd just found, fourth card in the second row away from Sam. His back twinged as he stretched to turn the card on Sam's side of the table, but he ignored it, concerned about Sam's suddenly off-kilter playing. "You feelin' all right?"
"Stomach's a little...testy," Sam admitted, squirming in his chair.
"Ahhh, it's those beans, isn't it? Told you so," Dean smirked as Sam rose, knowing where he was going. "Don't forget to light a match."
Dean grinned as Sam flashed him the finger as he retreated towards the bathroom. Sam returned a few minutes later and the game resumed. Sam clearly wasn't playing up to par and Dean beat him handily. "Wanna play again?" Dean asked, shuffling the deck with careless ease.
"Nah. It's been a long day, think I'll turn in." Sam stood up.
"Long day? It's not even 10:30," Dean said, looking Sam over from head to toe. "You sure you're feeling okay?"
"Peachy." Sam said shortly. "I'm not going straight to bed, I wanna read for a while."
Well, Sammy always did love curling up with a good book, from the time he was old enough to read. "You've got the corner bedroom," he reminded Sam as his brother picked up his duffel from where he'd left it on the sofa.
Sam fidgeted. "The other one's closer to the bathroom."
"And closer to the front door, so it's my room." Dean really didn't mean to sound so territorial, but Sam knew the rules as well as he did. Dean always got the bed near the door, no discussion required.
"Fine." Sam walked over to the doorway leading to the bedrooms, pausing to turn around and throw a glance in his direction. "G'night, Dean."
"Night, Sammy." Dean watched as Sam disappeared down the hallway. He slipped the playing cards into their box and then rose to check the fireplace. It had enough logs to comfortably burn til morning, so they'd be nice and warm despite the cold January night. He considered salting the door, but decided that, since they weren't on a hunt, it was an unnecessary use of the cabin's salt supply. He turned off the lights, letting the firelight guide him to the hallway and his bed.
Dean woke to the unmistakable sound of gigantor-sized bare feet pounding down the hallway past his room. He sprang out of bed and quietly followed his brother down the hallway. The bathroom light clicked on and Sam stepped inside, leaving the door open. Dean heard the unmistakable sound of barfing and arrived in time to see Sam kneeling next to the open toilet bowl.
"Sammy! Are you—"
Dean's question was cut off as Sam vomited again, the stream of yellowish-green liquid spewing into the bowl with such force that some of it bounced back from the water, spraying Sam's t-shirt, and the immediate walls and floors of the bathroom with puke.
"Ewwwww, gross," Dean muttered softly, wetting a washcloth in the sink.
At the sound of running water, Sam turned towards him, face flushed with embarrassment and maybe fever. Dean gently wiped his younger brother's face with the cool, damp washcloth. "That it?"
"I think so—" An odd look crossed Sam's face and he turned towards the toilet again, spewing another round of high velocity puke into the bowl.
Dean quickly wet the washcloth again and waited a minute or so as Sam panted, and then slowly rose to his feet. Sam turned slightly to face Dean, and held out an open palm. Placing the washcloth in Sam's hand, Dean watched as Sam dabbed his face clean. Then Dean handed Sam a toothbrush with a healthy dollop of toothpaste on it. He stepped backwards towards the door to give Sammy room at the sink.
"Want some water?"
"No." Sam spoke as he brushed his teeth.
Even Sam's garbled voice sounded off to Dean. He really should take some aspirin. I'll get some soon as I get him settled.
"Let's get that t-shirt off," Dean suggested after Sam finished brushing his teeth.
"Should'a thought of this before I washed my face," Sam joked weakly, raising his hands and bending towards Dean.
"Close your eyes," Dean instructed as he pulled the t-shirt up and over Sam's head. The worrying thought that Sammy was too weak to take off his own t-shirt planted itself firmly in Dean's mind. He tossed the soiled t-shirt into the bathtub, to deal with later. "C'mon, let's get you back to bed," he coaxed, stepping backwards out of the bathroom, Sam following.
Once they were out of the cramped bathroom, Dean slipped Sam's right arm over his shoulder and put a hand around Sam's waist, supporting him from the side as they trudged down the hallway. Almost halfway there, Sam halted, pushed Dean's hand away and spun around, walking rapidly toward the bathroom.
What, again? Dean trailed Sam back to the bathroom, then he kept on walking, going into the living room. He strode towards the sofa, illuminated by the light from the open bathroom door. He yanked open the weapons bag that Sammy'd left on the couch, grabbing their medicine kit. Returning to the bathroom, he waited patiently through another round of Sam's ralphing, then cleaned up his little brother. They walked slowly down the hallway, again, Sam leaning more pronouncedly against Dean this time. That's it. As they approached the doorway to the first bedroom, Dean steered Sam towards his room.
Sam balked. "That's your room, Dean."
"I know that, Sammy. I wanna keep an eye on you, you're sick. Besides," Dean added the clincher, "It's closer to the bathroom."
Sam didn't resist as Dean guided him into the first bedroom and settled Sam on the bed. Dean then retrieved a fresh t-shirt for Sam and watched as his brother slipped it on.
"No covers," Sam said as Dean started pulling the blankets up.
"Sammy, it's less than forty degrees outside," Dean argued. "And it's not much warmer in here."
"No covers," Sam said, "I'm hot enough already."
"Just one blanket," Dean compromised, pulling the sheet and lightweight green blanket up almost to Sam's chin. "Be right back." He slipped out of the bedroom and into the bathroom, returning with the medkit and a glass of cold water. Setting the water on the nightstand, he withdrew two aspirins from the medkit. "Here, take these." He held out the pills to Sam.
"No, it won't stay down, Dean." Sam protested.
"You need to take those pills, Sammy. You're sick and I think you've hurled more than that time you were stinkin' drunk at that hotel in Connecticut. Now, open up." Dean held out the two pills and watched as Sam reluctantly swallowed them. Then he handed Sam the glass of water, nodding approvingly as Sam drank almost all of it.
"There. Feel better?"
"Not really," Sam's expression twisted and he tossed the covers aside, lurching out of bed and clambering down the hall.
"Sammy?" Dean followed, pausing only to switch on the hall light, the closed bathroom door dimming the hall lighting considerably. He yanked open the door to find Sammy seated miserably on the toilet. The room reeked worse than if Sam had eaten ten burritos. Dean closed the door and strode quickly to his room, extracting the Pepto-Bismol carton and a box of wooden matches from the medkit. He returned to the bathroom, stepping inside long enough to wordlessly place the two small boxes by the sink. Dean left, closing the door behind him almost completely, leaving it cracked open less than an inch.
Dean loitered patiently in the hall, hearing the toilet flush, then running water. In the night-time quiet, he also heard Sam opening the box of Pepto-Bismol and tearing open the packaging around the tablets. Then he heard Sam strike a couple of matches and finally the bathroom door creaked open. Sam stood silently in the door frame.
"Ready to try again?" Dean asked and gently walked his sick brother back to the closer bedroom. He got Sam resettled under the blanket. "Wait a sec." Dean popped into Sam's bedroom and snatched up Sammy's current paperback. Re-entering his own bedroom, Dean pulled the straight back chair from its position in front of a rough pine desk and placed it next to the night table, between Sam's side of the bed and the door.
Dean sat down, adjusting the lamp on the nightstand so that it shone more on himself and less on Sammy. Then he glanced at the back cover blurb of Evil Under the Sun. "Poirot? I thought you liked that old bat, Miss Marple best," Dean teased.
"Actually, Tommy 'n Tuppence are my favorites—a real partnership, but Christie didn't write nearly as many stories with them as the protagonists."
"Huh." Trust Sammy to use three-dollar words, even when he's sick as a dog. "Close your eyes and relax, Sasquatch, I'm gonna read to you, pick up where you left off." He quelled Sam's incipient protest with a classic big brother glower, found Sam's bookmark and started reading aloud.
It worked for almost half an hour. Dean started reading Chapter Five when Sammy squirmed, then sat up in bed. "I'm gonna—" he warned, but Dean was already in action.
Dropping the book, Dean rose from his chair and pulled back the covers, grabbing the room's wastebasket and placing it on Sam's lap. Sam grasped the trash can's edge, leaned forward and puked. Four lengthy spurts this time, Dean noted with concern. What is going on with you, Sammy?
Dean removed the trash can when it seemed that Sam—and his stomach—settled down. He took the thankfully lined trash can to the bathroom and flushed the revolting contents down the toilet, seeing a couple specks of pink in the disgusting yellow-green glop. So the Pepto didn't work either. Fan-freakin'-tastic. Leaving the trash can to soak in the tub, he walked to Sam's room, grabbed that room's trash can and returned to Sam. Placing the trash can in easy reach at the side of the bed, he said, "Take it easy, Sammy. I'll be right back."
Leaving the bedroom, Dean strode towards the kitchen, hunting up the trash can liners in short order. He scrubbed the first can clean, re-lined it and then returned to his bedroom, pretty sure he'd need the backup bucket before the night was over. Sam was sprawled on top of the bed, uncovered in the chilly night. "Samm" Dean almost growled, and Sam reacted, quickly resituating himself under the sheet and one blanket. Dean sighed, preparing to resume his seat and start reading. He glanced at Sammy's sweat-glistening face. Oops, change of plans. He quick-marched to the bathroom, returning with a damp washcloth, a new glass of water and Sam's toothbrush and toothpaste.
Sam sat up in bed, and Dean wiped the damp cloth over his younger brother's face. Then he handed Sam his toothbrushing gear. Sam brushed his teeth, spitting into the initial, almost empty water glass still on the night stand. Dean cleared away the stuff after Sam finished, and picked up the Christie paperback, still lying on the floor.
About to reseat himself, Dean changed his mind. Keeping a hold of the book, he walked around the double bed to its far side and climbed under the covers. He remembered little Sammy taking comfort from his mere presence, and he still had plenty of big brother mojo. Dean refused to think about how his permanent absence would affect Sam in the future, instead he opened the book. "Now, where'd we leave off?" He grinned to himself as he felt Sam settle more comfortably in the bed. Big brother still knows best.
They made it through the rest of a rocky night, Sam upchucking once or twice an hour, Dean methodically dealing with the results and coaxing Sam back to bed. Just before dawn, Sam started snoring and Dean took advantage of his temporary respite, hopping quietly out of bed. He grabbed his cell phone and walked down the hall into the dark living room. The fire was on its last legs, but he ignored it, flipping open his cell and dialing 9-1-1.
"I'm sorry, the number you have reached—"
Dean ended the call, cursing small towns and their limited access to crucial emergency services. Then he hit speed dial #2, their own personal 9-1-1 number.
"Whatta ya want?"
"Sam's sick, Bobby."
"What's the matter, how sick?"
"He spent the whole night barfing. Ya wouldn't believe the number of times the toilet's been flush—"
"TMI, boy. I get your point, tho'. What do you need?"
"Directions to the nearest ER or clinic. We're in BF Egy—Erin, Tennessee, but Sam said you already know that."
"Okay, gimme a few minutes and I'll call you back in ten."
"Thanks, Bobby. Bye." Dean clicked his cell off and lowered the ringtone volume, since he didn't want to wake Sam any earlier than necessary. He padded back into his bedroom and quietly dressed, grabbing his boots and returning to the living room. He sat down on the sofa, slipped into his boots and laced up the grommets. Still no call from Bobby. Dean went to the kitchen and half-heartedly opened a couple of cupboards, striking gold when he found an unexpected can of coffee in one. Spying a cheap home coffee maker on the counter, Dean started making a batch of coffee. He really needed some caffeine; he'd been keeping an eye on Sammy all night long and he had to drive Sam to the hospital or clinic or whatever, soon.
Smoke on the Waters played softly from his jeans pocket, barely discernible over the bubbling coffee maker, and Dean eagerly snatched up his cell. "Bobby?"
"Nearest hospital is in Waverly, about thirty miles southwest of Erin. Take Main Street—also known as Tennessee-49—to Tennessee-13 and stay on the highway. Three Rivers Hospital's right along the highway, on the feeder road, in Waverly. You can't miss it."
"Call me when you know more about Sam."
"I will. Bye." Pocketing his cell, Dean headed for his bedroom. He crossed to the bed and nudged Sam's shoulder. "Sammy. Rise and shine, bro."
"Mmphrggg," Sam mumbled, but at least he stopped snoring.
"Sammy." Dean prodded his brother again. "Let's go. Now."
Sam woke, sitting up in bed and gazing blearily at his brother. "Dean?"
Dean recognized the all-too-familiar expression that crossed Sam's face and he had the trash can positioned just in time as Sam upchucked again, beginning the day on a sour note.
"I was afraid of that. Sorry, Sammy." Dean helped Sam out of bed and down the hall towards the bathroom. "Get cleaned up and I'll bring you your clothes."
Ten minutes later Dean, already in his leather coat, kept his eye on Sam as his fully dressed but wobbly brother entered the kitchen. Dean finished guzzling his cup of coffee. "Ahhhhh," He placed the empty cup on the counter. "Let's go, Sammy."
"Where're we going?"
"Hospital. Nearest one's in Waverly, so grab your jacket. I left it on the sofa."
"Hospital? Why?" Sam questioned, then his face tightened. "Did you injure your back some more?"
"I'm fine, Sammy." Dean shook his head. The dude is up all night ralphing and he's worried that I need to go to the hospital. That's my kid brother, all over. Dean urged Sam towards the sofa. "You've been barfing all night, and that's not natural, bro."
Sam froze, one sleeve of his brown microfiber coat in place. "Y'mean it's supernatural?"
Dean's eyebrows rose; he hadn't even thought of that, but it wasn't that long since their run-in with that Coven in Sturbridge. He eyed the cabin's rafters above them. Should I be looking for hexbags?
First things first. Dean helped bundle Sam into his jacket. "You've been barfing non-stop for the entire night. My medkit cures aren't cutting it, Sammy—so I'm taking you to a doctor, now." He jingled the Impala's keys in emphasis and then shepherded Sam out the door.
Dean quickly loaded Sam into the passenger seat, then slid behind the wheel. Turning to face Sam, he instructed, "Warn me if I need to pull over. Barfing and my baby don't mix." Then he swung the Impala around, heading slowly down the driveway, speeding up when they got back on blacktop. Once they merged onto TN-13 Dean opened up the throttle and booked. They were five miles from Waverly when they had to pull over to the shoulder for a barf break.
Minutes later, Dean drove into the hospital's parking lot and unloaded Sam. Directing Sam to wait inside, out of the cold, he parked the Impala in the first legal space he found and tramped back to where he'd left Sam. Dean strode through the automatic doors, following the signs to the ER/admitting room. The room only had four occupants, so he easily singled out Sammy, sitting in one of those ubiquitous plastic cafeteria chairs, staring at a clipboard. Giving Sam a hasty pat on the shoulder, Dean approached the admitting desk.
He smiled at the middle-aged nurse seated behind the counter, quickly reading her nametag. "Hi, Doreen. Do you have a barf bag?"
The nurse frowned. "Excuse me?"
Dean gestured behind him, towards Sam. "My brother's been sick all night, and he's due for another round in a few minutes."
"Oh." Doreen rolled her chair back, rummaging in a cupboard for a minute, and then handed a kidney-shaped emesis basin to Dean.
Dean accepted the small bowl, shaking his head. "Thank you, but I don't think that's big enough."
"Come back if you need another one."
"Ah, yes, ma'am." Dean strode over to Sam, dropping into the empty blue plastic chair next to him. "Keep this handy." He presented Sam with the emesis basin and took the clipboard with the admissions forms on it. "I'll fill out this, you just try not to spew until the doctor can see you." Dean quickly started reading the form, surreptitiously checked to see what insurance ID he was currently toting and starting filling in the form's many blanks. This time Sammy was Sam Turner, an innocuous, forgettable name. When the form was finished, he walked back to the admitting desk and handed it to Doreen. Behind him, he heard the all-too-familiar sound of retching. The nurse shoved another emesis basin in Dean's hands and rose from her station. "I'll see if I can hurry things along for you, dear." She left the waiting area, passing through a set of swinging doors with an Authorized Access Only sign prominently displayed.
A few minutes later, the nurse returned, a wheelchair and an orderly in tow. "Sam Turner? The doctor can see you now." The orderly, who was wearing gloves, discretely removed the emesis basins from the unoccupied seat next to Sam as Dean and Doreen got him comfortably arranged in the wheelchair. "Do you want to accompany your brother?" Doreen asked.
"Of course," Dean said, and followed behind as the nurse wheeled Sam through the double doors. Doreen pushed Sam's wheelchair to a smallish room with a hospital gurney in its center, and various pieces of medical equipment along or attached to the surrounding walls. She and Dean helped Sam onto the bed, then Doreen took Sam's temperature, asked him if he still felt nauseous. Doreen noted Sam's answers on a clipboard. "Dr. Corrigan will be in to see you shortly, Mr. Turner," she said and then left.
Dean stood next to Sam. "You feelin' any better?"
"About the same," Sam said as the door opened and a white-coated man walked in.
"Hi, I'm Dr. Hal Corrigan."
"Dean Turner, and this is my brother, Sam."
The doctor walked over to the foot of Sam's bed and picked up the clipboard that Doreen left attached. "So, Sam, you're still feeling nauseous?"
"And when did this start?"
"Last night, around midnight, I guess."
Dean straightened. Midnight, the witching hour? Maybe this *is* a supernatural problem, after all.
Dr. Corrigan checked over the chart. "You've also experienced stomach cramps and diarrhea?"
Sam nodded yes.
"Do you feel dehydrated? Did you drink any water recently?"
"Tried. It wouldn't stay down."
"Neither would the aspirin or Pepto-Bismol he took with the water," Dean expanded on Sam's short answer. "So, yeah, he probably is dehydrated a little—he didn't get much sleep at all last night, too busy hurling."
The doctor nodded. "Have you been out West recently?"
"Uh, Colorado and Wyoming."
"When were you there?"
"About a month ago."
"Doc, what does our travelling have to do with Sam's illness?" Dean asked.
Sam answered. "Lyme disease, Dean."
"That's right, Sam. And you don't have it, the symptoms would've manifested before now if you got infected while in Wyoming or Colorado. Now, what have you had to eat in the last twenty-four hours?"
"Ah, the Swedish Passport breakfast at an IHOP in Ohio, then a turkey sandwich and a Coke for lunch, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chicken noodle soup, beans and beer for dinner."
"That last sounds like a home-made meal, right?"
"Yes, we were on the road most of yesterday, didn't even get to Erin til almost sunset." Dean explained, then frowned. "But I had the same dinner that Sam did last night and I'm feeling fine." He didn't mention his back, which was grumbling after his busy night, and he sure wasn't telling any doctor that he was functioning with a three day sleep deficit.
"Squash," Sam said suddenly. "I forgot about the squash. Dean didn't have any, he doesn't like it."
"Frozen. There was a bag in the freezer."
Dr. Corrigan glanced sharply at Sam. "Your brother said you just arrived in Erin yesterday. You're not locals, then."
"No, our job involves a lot of traveling," Dean said smoothly.
"So you weren't here two weeks ago, for the big storm."
"No," Dean said cautiously.
"We had a large, freak blizzard—rare for these parts. Most of the area lost power for a day or two, even longer in the more remote towns, like Erin."
"The squash must've thawed out and then refroze after the power came back on. And then I ate it."
"Giving yourself a nasty case of accidental food poisoning." Dr. Corrigan concluded. Dean saw him walk over to a locked medicine cabinet, unlock it and remove something from its contents. The doctor then shut and relocked the cabinet's door and approached Sam's bed. He swabbed Sam's arm, explaining, "Since you're still nauseous, I'm giving you a Dramamine shot to quell that, and an antidiarrheal shot, too." He efficiently dispensed both shots. "I want to keep you under observation for a couple of hours, see if the shots are working. Meanwhile, get some rest, Mr. Turner. I'll be back later and then you can go home. Take it easy for the next few days, don't drink any fruit juices, but do drink water regularly and try to start eating your usual meals as soon as you can." The doctor scribbled a note on the chart and put it back in its place, then left the room.
"Accidental food poisoning—from squash." Dean shook his head, dragging a chair next to Sam's bed. He ruffled Sam's hair. "Only you, Sasquatch." Dean settled in the chair, keeping watch over his recuperating little brother.
A/N: Termite's prompt was: Sam comes down with severe food poisoning.
FYI This story is also on my lj page, with amazing artwork by quickreaver.
Thanks for reading. This story isn't my usual fare; coming up with new and different ways for Sam to upchuck was, well—challenging, yeah, we'll go with that.