TITLE: Love in the Time of Pneumonia
AUTHOR: mad_server
CHARACTERS: Sam, Dean, Bobby, Dr. Robert, Eva
PAIRING: None
RATING: PG13
SPOILERS: 7.06
WORDS: 2000
A/N: A giant giant thank you to onefulloctave for the gracious, insightful beta. This is for i_speak_tongue on one of her many awesome prompts for Challenge 6 at Hoodie Time. THINGS I AM PRETENDING. 1. Dean broke his arm fighting Leviathan!Sam and Leviathan!Dean at the police dept in Ankeny. 2. The whole killing-Amy fiasco never took place. 3. Sam has no post-hell issues.
SUMMARY: Stuck between a rock and a hard place, Sam takes a very sick Dean to Dr. Robert.


"Can you make it to Omaha?"

Dean grunts unhappily in the Pontiac's passenger seat. He takes one last look at the side mirror, then settles back. "Take a week to get there in this piece of crap." With a degree of caution that would be appropriate to a member of the bomb squad, he extracts his flask from an inner pocket.

Sam frowns worriedly, scrutinizing his pale face. "I think there's some good-time pills kicking around in my bag."

"Nah." Dean wrestles with the mickey's cap one-handed. "I'll stick with the classics." He fumbles the container, almost drops it.

"Here." Sam takes a hand away from the wheel and twists the top off the liquor while Dean holds the base steady. They both give his freshly broken arm a wide berth. "Two hours, all right? Two hours and we'll get you in to see a pro."

:::

The bag of ice Sam liberated from a corner store is dripping onto Dean's jeans, onto his coat. Dean's shiny-eyed from whiskey, cradling the cold plastic sack to his forearm.

Sam plugs Dean's electric clippers into the cigarette lighter. The buzz when he turns them on draws a curious, bleary look. He pushes a breath out through his lips. "Here we go."

When he's finished, he sweeps his long locks regretfully to the floor, then turns to Dean. "Don't touch this," he orders, tamping a fake mustache under his brother's nose. "Listen to me. It's important."

Dean stares at him like he's a unicorn.

:::

The plaster's still drying, but Sam saw that nurse's face. She's recognized them.

"C'mon, man. Time to split."

He smuggles Dean down the hall in a wheelchair. All Dean wants to do is rub Sam's close-cropped head.

"Yeah," Sam murmurs as the elevator doors close around them. He brushes aside Dean's exploring fingers, huffs out a nervous laugh at Dean's furry upper lip. "I look hilarious."

:::

"You look hilarious."

Sam rolls his eyes to Bobby for help.

"Dean, your brother GI Janed himself for you. You gotta be a dick-monkey about it?"

Dean turns his face into the couch cushion, tears of laughter streaming down his cheeks.

When he falls asleep, Sam writes I LOVE COCK across his cast.

:::

They know whose ghost they're after, but tracking down the bones is presenting a challenge.

"Somebody should invent a metal detector," Dean says from his perch on the stained mattress, "but for bones. A bone detec... detect-HH-hehh... HHH-hg-KTCHshooh!" He sneezes on his cast again (I LOVE COCKATOOS) and coaxes a soggy-looking tissue out of his pocket.

"Gesundheit. Someone's gotta know where to find this guy, right?" Sam digs into a shopping bag and tosses a fresh box of Kleenex onto the bed, where it skids across Dean's notes.

Dean looks up from his scattered pages, flushing with inspiration. "Yeah, they do. They just might not be alive anymore."

:::

The Ouija board points them to a spot along the wooden fence that used to keep the sheep from wandering off. Dean leans against the old slats and shines his flashlight around the yard, his sawed-off propped beside him.

Sam forces his shovel into the tight earth with his boot. The first clump of soil falls with a thud.

"Work it, Sam," Dean manages before dissolving into a scary barking-seal cough.

Sam plants the tip of the spade and listens. The sound goes on and on. He tries to make Dean out past the glare of the beam. "Dude."

:::

The drive-thru worker is lonely and cute and gives Sam his four jumbo hot waters free. At the house he empties them all into a cooking pot somebody abandoned there and parks Dean over it, draping a towel to trap the steam.

"I feel ridiculous."

"Humor me."

Dean sighs, which triggers a fit of ripping coughs. Sam smoothes the towel down over his shoulder blades.

When Dean emerges, red-cheeked and blinking woozily, I LOVE COCKATOOS has been blacked out by a careful, apologetic drawing of the Impala.

:::

"Looks just like her," Dean says with a wobbly smile, tracing Sam's sketch of the car. He's said it ten times a day for the last three days. Sam sits forward in his chair and tests Dean's temple with the back of his wrist. Wincing, he sponges down his face.

Dean's hand drifts to the edge of his cast, where he scratches along the rim, then digs a finger down under the plaster.

"Hey hey hey." Sam wraps his hand around Dean's hot knuckles, flattens Dean's palm against the mattress. "We gotta be careful with that arm." He wipes the itchy, drying sweat from all of his exposed skin as consolation. "Whaddya think, can you keep down a couple more sips of water?"

Dean heaves a wheezy sigh and rolls toward Sam, his skin going white as the shivers start up again. He buries his face in the balled-up hoodie he's using as a pillow and hacks exhaustedly. It spatters red.

Sam runs his fingernails over his strange, shorn scalp. He packs their things.

:::

Fruit flies hover above the spread of vegetables in front of the grocery store. Sam swallows and steers his burning brother inside. The butcher waves them toward the back of the store, but not before Sam sees the alarmingly dirty rag on his cutting board.

The air in the back stairwell reeks of incense and spices and the paint is chipping off of Dr. Robert's door. Sam's knuckles come away greasy when he knocks. He must make a face because Dean's crackly voice says, "Don' worry. Clear'n it looks." Sam hugs him closer.

"Hello, hello," a bearded man greets them from the open doorway. Sam sets his jaw and thinks about beard nets.

"Hi," Sam chokes out.

"Doc." Dean teeters and coughs into his good hand. His palm comes away from his face gooey and dark. Sam tucks a stray spike of hair behind Dean's glowing ear just to touch him more.

Dr. Robert's eyebrows go up. "Well, well, well. What have we here? Eva!" He grabs Dean's wrist. "Swab please."

Skull-shaped earrings glint as the infamous goth assistant appears. She glances at what Dean's just coughed up and prods it into in a petri dish, then shoots Sam a malevolent look and disappears into the room.

"Where are my manners?" the doctor smiles. "Step into my office, said the spider to the fly."

Sam helps Dean in and hovers with him near the exam table, hesitating. "So, you guys run your own tests here?" he stalls. Dean's furnace-hot against his side, gazing around the room with an air of dopey nostalgia.

"We're equipped for lab work, yes."

"That sample you just took. What are you checking it for?"

"Your brother's got quite the cough. Could be pneumonia." He gestures to the bed. "Please."

Sam turns to Dean, who gives him a wink. "Shoulda seen when he killed me, Sammy. Total pro."

Looking to the ceiling, Sam takes a deep breath and lays his brother out on the table. "Do you guys have a blanket or something? He's been getting chills like you read about."

"When did that start?" the doctor asks as Eva reappears and stabs a thermometer into Dean's mouth.

"Uh." Sam gives her a hard look, then addresses Dr. Robert. "It's been about a week for the fever. Really bad in the last three or four days."

"And the cough?" Robert takes the stethoscope from around his shoulders and runs the chest piece up under Dean's shirt. His brother's white as a fish belly, almost blue. Sam rests a hand on Dean's knee.

"He caught cold maybe two weeks ago. It was just a regular cough, and then..."

Eva threads a belt around Dean's arm and yanks it tight enough to elicit a grunt, then jabs him with a hypodermic and pulls up a fat payload of blood. There's no alcohol swab beforehand, no cotton ball afterward. "Hey," Sam grits out, but she's already squirting the red liquid into a series of sample jars. Thumbing away the dot of blood on his brother's skin, Sam catches sight of two used-looking needles on the instrument tray and takes a calming breath.

The doctor sits Dean up, supporting him with a hand in the small of his back as he listens to Dean's lungs. "Deep breath in," he instructs, and Dean sucks in a halting breath around the thermometer, then spits it into his lap in a fit of bubbling coughs. Sam picks the instrument off Dean's jeans, peers at the red line threading up through it.

"And?" Eva asks, suddenly beside him, perfectly sculpted brows raised just a fraction.

Sam reads it out. "One-oh-three point six." He pulls a tissue out of his pocket, passes it to his brother as the assistant makes a note in Dean's file.

"Oh dear," says Dr. Robert, watching Dean dizzily lie back. "Yes, we'll need that x-ray, Eva." As she wheels a gangly machine toward the bed, he turns to Sam and clasps his hands together. "You don't mind settling up now, do you?"

"Oh. Uh." Sam pats his pockets and pulls out a roll of twenties, one eye on the rusty device. "Here you go. Look, I don't mean to be rude, but how old is that thing?"

The doctor smiles enigmatically as Eva forces a sheet of film under Dean's shoulders. "It gets the job done."

Sam heaves a sigh. "Let me give you a hand with the lead blankets. He likes them a certain way."

Robert gives him a fond look, then reaches out and pushes a button. Sam falters. "Did you just... was that it?"

"The risks are wildly exaggerated."

Mouth tight, Sam straightens Dean's shirt and gathers him down off the table. "Yeah. C'mere. We gotta go."

"I'll be in touch about the lab results," Dr. Robert calls after them as they stumble out to the odorous hall.

:::

"He's doing better," Sam says, "right?"

He and Bobby watch Dean totter from the bathroom back to the couch, his palm skimming along the wall. He stretches out gingerly, hugging his broken arm to his chest.

Bobby lifts the brim of his hat and scratches his forehead. "He's taking his prescription?"

"Yeah. I watch to make sure."

"His fever's down."

"Way down. It's hardly anything."

"He ain't spewing bodily fluids every which way."

"Right. So he's better." Sam frowns at Bobby. "Right?"

:::

"Wake up," Sam tells Dean, jiggling him.

Dean straightens in the passenger seat. It's nighttime but the car yard's floodlights are bright enough to make him squint. "Hmm?"

"Got you a present, sicky."

Sam's already picked the lock and he shepherds Dean in through the tall, wiry gate, down the row of derelicts. He watches Dean's face, waits for the moment when Dean...

"Oh, baby." His eyes go watery-bright and Sam looks away for a moment. Recovering, Dean paces toward the car, runs a reverent hand along her flank. She's dusty and his palm leaves a trail down her side.

Dean looks so right behind the wheel. He grips it with his good hand, caresses the worn material with his thumb. Glancing out at Sam, he calls, "You coming or what?"

It's just a few miles, just a joy ride, but when he parks her back in her spot in the yard, there's more color in Dean's cheeks than Sam's seen there in a long time.

"You big suck," Sam smiles, pulling the Pontiac out onto the road.

Dean flicks on the radio, his eyes twinkling happily in the dark. He turns to face the side mirror and watches until the lot disappears from sight.

:::

end


Prompt: Dean's sick and not getting better. He's had a high fever for days, and he can't even keep water down anymore. Sam takes him to see Dr Robert (did you know that the guy who plays him is FREDDY KRUEGER? Because didn't until just now! CRAZY). You know, over the sketchy asian butcher shop? Doc Robert is weird (though well-meaning) and Goth Assistant is mean and Sam is even more OCD than Dean about the place and is super extra protective of his sicky bro and feels so crappy about how they can't go to a legit hospital. He watches every little thing the doc and creeper assistant do to Dean like a freakin' hawk and asks a zillion questions because, dude, HELLO SKETCHVILLE. And this is DEAN'S HEALTH AT STAKE. THIS GUY BETTER KNOW WHAT HE'S DOING. And Dean is all deliriously trying to convince Sam it's okay, but he keeps mumbling about how the guy KILLED him, and THAT'S NOT REASSURING DEAN. NOT REASSURING AT ALL.