Blue Memories

Inside to the Rain
Dean/Sam, PG-13, set between 4.10 Heaven and Hell and 4.11 Family Remains

Amidst dealing with an apocalypse and angels and demons and everything between Heaven and Hell, Dean becomes restless and insists they keep an eye out for the white-picket-fence, two-point-four-kids equivalent of a hunt that is unrelated to Lilith's schemes. Sam knows the signs and recognises them for what they are: if in doubt, kill things. It's Dean's motto, the only thing that seems to keep him upright in the aftermath of his revelation about his time in Hell. To some extent even Sam finds hunting takes his mind off more pressing things, the type that decides about the future of the world with Sam and Dean in the middle. It's tiring to think about having to stop Armageddon all the time. Sam can do without the pulsing headache for an hour or two.

There is something else he finds more calming, though. Dean tries to run, but Sam won't let him. At night, he has Dean stretched compliant under him, desperation running high in both their veins. Licking over every square inch of Dean's body that he can reach is all Sam can do to keep Dean in one place for a short while, fucking him open with his tongue and fingers and then finally, finally driving home with his cock up his brother's ass, sin that feels saintly. Afterwards, Dean always lies still on his stomach, face buried in the pillow until Sam goes looking for his own bed.

If nighttime means reassurance, in the daylight the impending apocalypse really kind of sucks, Sam finds. The weather has been growing increasingly violent wherever they are going, with seemingly no regard to time of year and location. It's early January; Sam feels exhausted. They've been hunting non-stop for about a month now, Dean driving them further and further and further still. Sam leaves him to it because he knows how pig-headed Dean can be. There's no way to stop him unless Sam ties him down. But Sam won't; he needs the reminder Dean is right here along with him of his own free will, not because Sam makes him. He's a ticking bomb set on pressure, and if Sam touches him wrong, he's going to go off.

Another night spent outside: the wind blazes sharply through the night, cutting a visible edge between here and everywhere else. The storm sends an army of snowflakes, little smiting warriors, against them as they are digging up the corpse of the ghost they need to lay to rest. The wind is raging around them, biting and unforgiving, the earth frozen against their shovels. The snowflakes cling insistently to Sam's hair, leaving it in wet strands dripping into the collar of his too-thin jacket. Dean isn't faring any better, fighting against the assault but too busy on a different front, the ground only hesitantly giving way.

At the end of the night, when the darkness lifts to eternal grayness, they are both freezing to death but sweating underneath their layers of clothing from the hard work. Needless to say, the two of them have won their battle and managed to salt'n'burn the remains: victory is a satisfied, momentarily peaceful glint in Dean's eyes.

Some wounds, though, show only a long time after the show-down. The next morning (or what counts as morning in their world, dark again instead of not-yet-light) Dean wakes up with a stuffed nose and his head about to explode. Not that he tells Sam as much, but Sam can read it from his face. Dean looks sickly pale, his eyes too bright, face swollen and nose red as he sniffles, and he keeps blinking as if his vision keeps tilting sideways. His breathing is labored and he coughs, and the fact that he doesn't say a word about it shows exactly how off-kilter he must feel.

Dean with a headache? Is a bitchy asshole. Dean with the flu? Is silent as a grave because he can't bear to be incapacitated and have Sam take care of him. He's worse at it now than he used to be, believing he deserves to be miserable; self-punishment at its finest. The stubborn guilt serves as a reminder that Dean is still, after everything, impossibly human, strong-but-almost-broken; the cracks are visible. Dean tries to cover them up himself, duct-tape holding everything in place, but the pieces keep jarring against each other nonetheless. Sam can't help himself. He loves Dean the more for it, though he wishes Dean would just let go, stop reprimanding himself for his every need or desire. Sometimes it's best to move on, a hard-learned lesson for Sam.

He ignores what Dean wants, of course. He needs to be the one to save the piece that will sooner or later make the structure break. He needs to put it back in place with precision and steady, sure hands before Dean botches everything up and is gone from under Sam's hands, a pile of shards at his feet all that's left. He keeps close to Dean all day, watching because touching is confined to the dead of night. He can't seem to help himself these days; it's all he ever does, tracing every familiar line of Dean's face with his eyes, his hands, his lips, caressing them over and over and over again.

***


Around dinnertime, after Sam has managed to keep Dean long enough in bed with the threat of making him do research if he insists otherwise, Sam leaves Dean's side for the first time in twelve hours. He wrenches himself loose because Dean looks more and more subtly wretched as time goes by. Of course, he doesn't mutter so much as a word that might even possibly be counted as a complaint, but Sam watches, and Sam knows. He returns to the motel stocked up on everything they might need for a couple of days, including, God save him (no wait, He won't), rented porn from a shop around a corner.

He crosses the short distance from the parking lot to the room's door quickly. The storm has quietened to a steady plunge of raindrops, temperature just above freezing. It feels no more comfortable than it did last night though, because the wind still slashes through the air. Sam feels relief wash through him when he fumbles the key to unlock the door. The warm and dry are calling to him.

A moment later this relief drains from him. The door swings open to reveal Dean standing up, outside of bed. He hasn't bothered to put socks on; he is shuffling around the kitchenette of their motel room in just his boxers.

"Dean!" Sam says sharply, walking into the room and closing the door behind him. His gaze never wavers from Dean, who slowly turns his head to look at him. "Are you out of your mind? What the fuck are you -"

"Sam, shut up, I'm fine," Dean says, wheezing subtly. Sam begins to shed his wet clothes, kicking off his shoes. Dean's nose looks like it's stuffed shut, its red a stark contrast to the white of his skin and blue bags under his eyes. Sam thinks of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, has to blink away the image of a reindeer with Dean's head that's forming in his mind. Dean might see. Besides, Christmas has come and gone, and it's really not appropriate for a grown man to miss the season, is it.

"You're not fine," Sam snaps instead, opting for annoyed. "Go to bed, take these meds and sleep before it gets worse." He throws a bag at Dean, who catches it but almost lets it fall to the floor with a curse. Sam could point the near miss out to his brother, but he thinks it better to just graciously ignore this lack of instinctive reaction on Dean's part. He will save it for later, should Dean want to suggest they go find themselves more work. There's plenty to do these days; they shouldn't be at a loss to find something if they really want to, and if they can't, the angels surely will have a helpful pointer or two. Sam will not risk this tonight, however. If Dean manages to get himself killed just because he isn't up to par and doesn't get the shotgun up fast enough, Sam's never going to forgive him.

Dean, as he sits down with an arched eyebrow at Sam and murder in his eyes, begins to sort through the bag's contents. It's filled to the brim with cough syrup (the sweet kind they sell for children, so that Dean will bitch about Sam forcing him to take it but be secretly delighted), pain killers, nose spray and, of course, tissues.

Dean puts every item back in the bag, lays it aside, turns away from the table, and resumes cooking himself something that smells like beans. Sam follows Dean's movements, eyes on the new scars that have formed since Dean got dragged out of the pit. Castiel's handmark is sill visible. Sam doesn't walk over to join his brother; just keeps his distance and tries to not stare hatefully at the handprint.

A short while later, Dean settles on the tiny, sagging couch in front of the TV, puts on the porn with a pointed leer at Sam, and proceeds to shovel the beans into his mouth. Great. Sam's going to have to sleep not only in the same room with a sniffing Dean, he's going to be exposed to the kind of body odor he really never ever wants to smell but has to too many times because Dean is a fucking pig.

His life strikes Sam as just a tiny bit unfair.

***


Two hours of tossing and turning into the night, listening to Dean cough and snivel and sneeze, and Sam really has had it up to here.

"Dean," he snaps through the night, voice low though they're both clearly awake. It's a left-over habit from when they had to control their volume at night, back when John would have come barging into the room if there was any indication they were still up past midnight. "Go spray your nose."

"No," Dean says, emphatically and just as low, "I don't fucking need it." He sounds sick now, nasal, his voice forced. Sam shifts on the bed, staring through the darkness to where he supposes Dean must be.

"Do you have a fever?"

"What? No!"

Sam sighs, then gets up and pads over to Dean's bed. Goosebumps immediately form on his skin when it comes into contact with the air, and a tremor runs through his body. It really is fucking cold. "Move over."

"Sam."

"Move. Over."

A moment later Sam hears the compliant jostle of the covers, protesting creak of brittle bed springs as Dean moves. It makes Sam smile and think of how Dean would react were he feeling just a tiny bit better. As it is, the fact that Dean doesn't utter another word tells Sam enough. When it's still again, he feels his way onto the bed and under the sheets, brushing against Dean shoulder to back. Dean doesn't even tense at this first contact, just keeps lying on his side sniffing miserably. Sam turns, moves closer; wraps his arm around Dean's waist as he aligns with the invisible line of his back. As he kisses Dean's neck, short spiky hair tickling his nose, he notices Dean is sweating, tangy taste against his chapped lips, and shivering with miniscule contractions of muscle as he's clutching onto his covers. Sam unconsciously shifts closer, tightens his arm around his brother's form.

In the dark of night lies their sole source of comfort.

"Take the goddamn spray," he breathes into Dean's skin; maneuvers his free hand somehow from out under his body to Dean's forehead to feel it. No surprise there, Dean's burning up. He whimpers a little as Sam's cold fingers come into contact with his skin, but it's neither a pleased nor an unpleased sound. "And something for the fever."

"No," Dean protests half-heartedly, so weakly that Sam gets away with rolling his eyes - which Dean probably knows he is doing - as Sam rolls away and out of the bed. He gets the meds sorted under the shine of the flickering lamp, freezing; the heater of their room is broken. He leaves the light on just because - needs to see for himself how bad Dean looks, though his instincts should be - are enough. But after months of being lost, strung along by Ruby, he can't stop looking, stop admiring. It should be embarrassing, but it's not; Dean had been the same after he had had Sam dying in his arms and made the deal. Same desperation, same bursting relief, a happiness so intense you think you must be glowing with it. Dean is still breathing, his heart is still beating. It won't falter just because he has caught the goddamn flu, but - but. Seeing Dean like this tears at scars not yet healed, grating on red, sensitive skin.

"Come back to bed, moron," Dean tells him then, when Sam is standing like an idiot at the foot of the bed staring at his brother. There is an affectionate undertone to the unnerved words, which soothes Sam just as it's intended to do; even when Dean is sick, he manages to comfort Sam.

"Take these," he tells Dean, who dutifully (for once) shifts onto his back and takes everything Sam hands him without comment. Then Sam gets back into the bed. After a moment's hesitation while Dean watches him, Dean inches closer until he touches Sam. He sighs, relaxes, then turns and wraps himself around Sam, burying his face in the crook of Sam's neck.

Sam keeps entirely still through the night, wide-awake even after Dean has dropped off into sleep, content to be, for once, Dean's comfort pillow instead of the other way around.

Two days later they are back on the road, Dean still coughing but not burning up anymore. He is restless again, snapping at Sam just for breathing wrong. The pause did them good, though Dean denies it. For him it's all just wasted time, no chance to repay his debt.

Sam wishes he knew a way to take on some of Dean's guilt, but he can't. They squeeze back into the Impala, their home, and drive on.

 

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