TITLE: Sounding
AUTHOR: mad_server
GENRE: Mild slash
SPOILERS: S2 (haha)
WORDS: 600
SUMMARY: The world's a different place when your dad is dead.
A/N: i_speak_tongue, my rockin' beta, you always know which questions to ask. Thank you so much bb.

It's not the way Sam pictured it. Last night his flashlight showed him the peeling floral wallpaper and the cracks in the bedroom ceiling. He knew that the bare mattress was printed with long blue stripes, that the closet was missing its door. Somehow though, in full light, the room is unfamiliar.

Dean's not in bed with him, so Sam tugs on a sweatshirt and sneakers and steps over the salt line into the hall. He smells coffee and woodsmoke and follows his nose through the big house, over floorboards gently warped like a rolling sea. The big black stove gives off a soothing warmth and Sam lingers near it in the kitchen, examining a faded sepia portrait on the wall, then the pencil marks in the archway with names and dates beside them. Cathy, he reads, July 1953. Burt, summer '87.

He finds his brother on the front porch, in the big bench swing they'd spotted on the way in. The screen door clacks shut behind Sam and Dean looks up, a tissue cupped over his face. He blows into it with a long, wet crackle, then wipes his nose and stuffs his hand into the big front pocket of his hoodie.

Sam looks out over the dew that glitters on the shadowy lawn. The air is crisp and clean. "Nice morning."

"Yeah," Dean croaks, and explodes in a wrenching cough. Sam studies his pale forehead, the crazy peaks of hair inside his hood. "There's coffee," Dean manages after awhile.

"You caught a cold."

"Guess I did." Dean reaches for the steel percolator by his feet and refills his mug. He tilts the pot from side to side, raising his eyebrows meaningfully at the sloshing sound. "Not much left. Better hurry."

The wind changes direction, blowing their chimney smoke out over the yard. Sam watches his brother's face alter. With a quivering breath, Dean sets down the carafe. The sneeze echoes around the lawn, jiggles the chains on the swing. A second one follows like an afterthought, and then Dean sits back panting.

"Wow," Sam says. "Bless you. I think you spooked a deer."

"We're dot talkigg about it." Dean buries his flushed nose in his Kleenex.

Plagues come and go and leave Dean untouched. But he caught cold when his first girlfriend dumped him. He caught cold when they moved after staying all summer in one place. And now Dad's gone.

"All right, I'm not talking about it." Sam sits down beside Dean on the porch swing, the vinyl-covered cushion hissing flat under his ass. He smoothes the hair off Dean's forehead with careful fingers, not surprised to find he's feverish. Then he tucks Dean flush against his side and rubs encouraging circles into his chest.

"You're cuddling me," Dean observes.

"Hey, you never said no cuddling." Sam kisses the top of Dean's head through the hood and feels his brother turn and snuggle into him, hears him snuffle. Hot arms slip around his middle and Sam brushes a palm up and down Dean's shoulder. He looks out at the edge of the lot, at a Frisbee caught in a tall, scraggly pine. Eventually he says, "It would be messed up if this didn't mess you up a little."

"I'll sneeze on you," Dean warns. Sam squeezes him tight and rocks them gently in the swing. He listens to the creaks above their heads from the wooden planks that hold them suspended. Unseen birds trill. He pats his brother's hip.

"Strange new world," Sam says.