Genre: Hurt/comfort, sick!fic
Summary: Was Sam's cure as effective as he thought? Could he still be infected or is it something else? Missing scenes and tag to 11.2
Boy, it has been quite a while since I wrote anything for Supernatural -- almost six months, in fact. Things have been a little crazy in my world with what was supposed to be part time job turning into something more and I just haven't had the time or the energy to write much. Yet somehow this story asked to be written and I couldn't say no. So here is a somewhat longish tag set right after 11.2 and just before 11.3. It seemed to me that Sam never really told Dean that he was infected by the rabids and then in episode 3 all of the bruises Sam had the first two episodes were suddenly gone, so of course, I had to come up with an explanation for that all while turning the hurt/comfort factor up a little.
I just hope it's not crap.
"You good, man?" Dean asks from the car window as Sam practically drags his weary body towards the passenger side, thankful to finally be leaving Superior and it's hospital full of corpses.
"Yeah." Sam replies without elaborating as he settles into his seat with a deep sigh. Going non-stop for 60 hours or so without sleep, from nearly having his head chopped off by his brother who then killed Death, to getting caught within the darkness, to being chased by rabid people and then being infected by them too as well as finding a cure not only for himself but for the rest of the town was more than just a little tiring.
He's exhausted beyond anything he has ever felt before.
So, needless to say, Sam isn't in the mood for going into details about how it all went down after Dean left with Jenna and the baby, so he lets Dean get what had happened to him of his chest. He'll tell Dean what happened after he closes his eyes for an hour or 20.
Dean talks but gives Sam very little in the way of details other than to say that Crowley showed up and then Jenna's soul was eaten somehow by the baby. Jenna then killed her grandmother by slitting her throat, apparently just for the heck of it and then Crowley finished her off.
Sam doesn't need to see Dean's face to know that his brother is feeling guilty about Jenna. Hell, he feels bad about it too. She seemed liked a good, decent woman. Her's is not the first death they have failed to avoid and there will no doubt be others, but it never gets any easier.
Leaning his head against the window, Sam listens to the story with a minimal amount of alertness as Dean talks and drives on into the night. He closes his eyes, only intending to rest them for a few moments, but the bumps in the road and the sounds of Dean's voice are more soothing than any lullaby.
He is deeply asleep in moments.
"So, that's pretty much it. Jenna's dead, the baby's gone, if it can even be called that, and Crowley is out there looking for it. God only knows what the dickwad will do when he finds her." Dean stops to catch his breath. "What about you? You haven't even told me how you pulled the cure for those people out of your ass yet.
Silence meets Dean's ears.
He turns to see Sam snoring.
He really isn't surprised. The kid looks like hammered crap. He's got bags under his eyebags, uncombed hair, filthy clothes stiff in some places with dried blood, and he smells like he really is a sasquatch. But he can't hold that against Sam. Neither of them had gotten much sleep the last few days and Dean is pretty sure he doesn't smell like a rose garden.
Dean decides that it would be best to let Sam sleep as he drives the rest of the way back to Kansas straight through. He's still too keyed up about Jenna and Crowley and whatever it is that connects him to the Darkness to even think about sleep.
And he can't stop thinking about what happened to Sam in Superior. How did he stop the infection? Tomorrow he'll pry the story out of Sam.
For now, Sam is safe and Dean just wants to get them home.
Sam jolts awake.
He's immediately alert, his instincts kicking into overdrive by a brain that has had far too much adrenalin soaking it in the last few days. His head whips around, looking for danger, but he sees, to his relief, that it is only the car stopping that has woken him up.
"Mornin'", Dean is pushing the gear lever into Park when he looks over at Sam and grins. "Sleep well, Rip Van?"
Sam groans and peers out the window. A long, deep yawn catches him and it is several seconds before he can speak. "We're at the bunker already?"
"Great detective work there, Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch could take lessons from you."
"Benedict Cumberwho?" Sam asks, honestly perplexed.
Dean just shakes his head and snorts derisively, "Guess you're not a fan."
Sam rubs at his eyes. To be honest, he still feels like shit. Ever since he literally burned the Hell out of himself to cure the infection, he's had a headache, his neck hurts, and a persistent case of nausea has him in its grip. He's also had plenty of fevers to know that he has one, but he's also had plenty of fevers to know that he's had much, much worse. He's not worried though as thinks that it's just after effects of the cure and it's a hell of a lot better than being a rabid zombie.
He opens his door at the same time as Dean but is slower to get out of the car. His whole body feels laden with weights and every one of his muscles screeches at him, begging for mercy. He grunts and drags himself out of the car and stretches, but it does little to appease his overworked body. Though he slept for what must have at least six hours, he's still weary to his to his core. His only desire is to get inside, take a shower and then sleep until the next apocalypse, which with the darkness still out there, means that he might only get in a power nap.
He follows Dean into the bunker, agrees with him that they could use a maid when he sees the pile of books that greets them and is just as shocked as his brother to find Cas laid out on the floor asking for help.
Cas looks like he's gone ten rounds with Ronda Rousey. His eyes are bloodshot and his clothes are ripped and bloodied. He gives a breathless explanation of how Rowena cursed him and then made him try to kill Crowley against his will. Since then he can't control himself and he fears that he will become an unstoppable killing machine. He demands to be locked up securely in the dungeon before he hurts anyone else.
Sam's nap is put on hold as they take care of Cas. He can see that Dean really doesn't want to hold him in the dungeon, but the angel insists that it is best for all of them. Dean takes charge of Cas and appoints Sam as chief curse/Darkness/Rowena researcher before leading Cas down to the cell.
Sam watches them go and then runs a hand through his hair, stopping to grab a handful at the roots. He doesn't even know where to begin. All of their books, each and everyone one of them, the ones Sam had so painstakingly maintained with his own brand of the Dewey Decimal System, are piled into a mountain by the telescope. He wants to help Cas, he really does, but he also wants to rip his hair out in frustration because he's so tired he can hardly see straight.
But he won't let Cas down, he decides firmly. He just needs to mainline caffeine for the foreseeable future, take half a dozen aspirin and forget about blossoming migraine he feels expanding in his skull.
He has work to do.
Dean pours himself yet another cup of coffee. His stomach replies harshly. objecting to more of the stuff being dumped into it without food by sending a sharp pain signal to his brain. He ignores the bellyache and impending heartburn in favor of a few more hours of alertness and gulps down the entire cup in just a few moments.
In the past 30 hours, he's only had snatches of sleep here and there. He's caught in between helping Sam research the curse Rowena put on Cas (mostly he just digs through the pile of books for whatever his brother asks for) and the rest of the time, he's checking on said angel. So far, he hasn't gotten any worse than a little agitated, but the chains Cas demanded are holding for now.
Dean hates everything about this new shit storm that's dumping on them. Take for instance, that moment when he walks into the library and sees his brother hunched over a book, head held in one hand, his face scrunched up in what Dean recognizes as Sam's migraine face. His eyes are red rimmed and squinting, his face pale and slightly green. Dean can almost feel the exhaustion rolling off Sam, but then again, a lot of that might be his own weariness he's feeling.
He realizes then how futile their efforts and sees the toll the last few days has taken on them. They weren't doing anyone, especially Cas, any favors by pulling another all-nighter. The answer might be in there somewhere, but they have to admit that they're going to have to find Rowena so she can reverse the spell on Cas.
This has to stop, he decides, watching Sam rub his eyes and wince. They're running themselves into the ground with little to show for it. Sam looks like he might puke or pass out and if Dean doesn't put his foot down, he knows Sam will probably do both in that order.
Sam doesn't look up from his book, or answer as he rubs his neck like he's got some kind of crick in it that he can't get rid of.
Dean walks over to Sam and shuts the book on him. "C'mon. Time for bed.
Sam looks up sharply, his eyes glassy, and unfocused, "What?"
"Bed, Sam. You know, that long flat thing that some people use for sleep?"
"I haven't even identified the spell Rowena used and there are at least ten more books to go through-"
"I know. But we're not going to find it tonight. Neither of us has slept a full night in days and man, we are running out of gas. I need sleep, you need sleep. End of conversation."
Sam looked like he's going to argue, but to Dean's surprise and delight, he sees him give in with a little nod.
"Fine." Sam pushes back his chair and stands, swaying a little on those tree trunks he calls legs. Dean makes a move to steady him,but Sam holds out his hand to fend him off. "M' fine. Just a little head rush."
Dean rolls his eyes at his brother's stubbornness as Sam begins to walk in the general direction of the living quarters. He suddenly stops only two steps later and his face turns a milky shade of green. He closes his eyes and lays a hand against the wall to support himself while his other one snaps up to his mouth. Sam is panting and Dean knows exactly what was coming next.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, Sammy. Let's get you to the bathroom before we have another mess for our fantasy maid to clean up."
Dean grabs Sam's elbow and he can feel the unusual heat emanating from him through his shirt and feels like an ass for not noticing how terrible his brother was faring sooner.
Sam keeps his hand clamped tight over his mouth and by some miracle they make it all the way to the first toilet they can find before Sam lets it rip in a spectacular way. There's hardly any food in Sam's stomach so he pukes up mostly coffee followed by several painful sounding bouts of dry heaving. Dean knows Sam is a grown man and doesn't really need him to be there, but he's worried about this fever that Sam seems to have picked up. He really doesn't want to have to repeat giving his brother an ice bath he had to back when Sam was undergoing the trials.
Dean fills a Dixie cup with some tap water after it seems like the worst is over. Sam is sitting cross legged in front of the toilet, arms dangling while his head rests on the seat. Dean hands him the cup and Sam mumbles something that might be a thanks as he takes the cup with shaky hands, swishes the water around in his mouth then spits it out into the toilet.
Dean takes the cup and tosses it in the trash while Sam flushes the toilet and refuses to look Dean in the eye as if he hasn't had the pleasure of tossing his cookies in front of his brother many, many times before.
"Alright, big guy. Let's get you in bed."
Dean extends his hand for Sam to grab so he can haul him up and when Sam takes it without complaining or making a show up getting himself up, he knows that his brother must really be feeling lousy.
After a little bit of grunting of both of their parts, Dean gets Sam to feet, albeit unsteadily. Dean begins to lead him out of the bathroom, but Sam stops and shakes his head.
"Need a shower first."
"You planning on sitting in it? Because standing on your own doesn't seem to be in your skill set right now." Dean points out. "You might be rancid, but you need sleep more than a shower. C'mon, you can take one in the morning."
Dean leads Sam to his room where he strips down to his boxers and climbs into bed with half open eyes. In the meantime, Dean digs out an aspirin bottle from the nightstand and shakes out two. Sam takes them without a word and then drops his head to his pillow, already asleep.
Walking to the door, Dean flicks off the light and silently closes the door, hoping that for once, everything will be better in the morning.
Dean wakes, instantly alert.
He's not sure what woke him up and his head whips around the room, looking for danger. Grabbing the knife hidden under his pillow, he slips out of bed and quietly opens his bedroom door a crack.
He sees nothing, but he can hear distantly the sounds of muffled grunts coming from the bathroom. It's Sam's voice he hears, but he can't make out what he's saying.
He tosses his knife onto his bed and clad only in a t-shirt and his briefs, Dean approaches the bathroom. He can hear Sam better now.
"Goddammit get out!" He hears his brother mutter.
Dean raps on the door, "Sammy? You in there?"
There's no answer and Dean's blood pressure spikes.
Dean hears a thump and a curse and the sounds of metal clanging. "Sam!"
He doesn't wait for a response. His hand tries the doorknob and it swings open to reveal Sam in his underwear, a flaming cotton ball gripped within a set of clamps in his hand, raised towards his neck as if he's trying to set his jugular vein on fire.
Very little time elapses before Dean is in the room and grappling the clamp away from Sam and tossing it in the sink. It hisses on contact with the water and goes out.
"What the fuck are you doing?!"
Sam gazes at Dean in surprise, his eyes glistening with fever and glazed over. He's breathless as he mumbles, and rubs his neck, baring it to his brother. "It's in me, Dean. Don't you see it? I'm not clean. Billie says she's going to toss us into the nothing and I'm not clean. I gotta ... I'm gonna burn it out."
Sam makes a lunge for the cotton ball again and knocks over the jar they keep the holy oil in, knocking it onto the floor.
Dean grabs Sam and is practically the only thing keeping him vertical as he shivers in his arms and draws in ragged breaths. His bare flesh is clammy with sweat and almost painfully hot to the touch. Sam's legs become wet noodles and he moans as Dean lowers him to the floor and cups his face so he will focus in him.
"What are you talking about, Sam? Burn what out?"
Sam trembles and his eyes are red with tears, "It came back. It's inside of me. You gotta get out of here. I'll infect you too."
Dean feels a pit open up and his stomach drops into it.
He hopes that it's just the fever talking, and that Sam is talking nonsense, but he's scared shitless that his sick little brother really does know what's going on. He checks Sam's neck, but it is clear, unlike those rabid people back in Nebraska. It can't be that, can it?
Dean knows that it is likely that his brother was infected himself back in Superior, but he's kept those suspicions to himself since they've been so busy and preoccupied trying to find a fix for Cas that a heart-to-heart has been put on hold. He had hoped that Sam would come out and confirm it to Dean on his own, but maybe not in such a dramatic way.
Sam grabs Dean's arm and looks up at him with suddenly pleading eyes, "I can't let you go into the nothing."
Half a second later, Sam's eyes roll up into his head and he slumps boneless into Dean's arms.
Cas hears the door unlock just before a beam of light expands from the opening of the door. He looks up and is not surprised to see Dean. He's been in and out of the dungeon to check on him, bringing him a blanket and keeping him company despite Cas' warnings. Even with the supernatural-proof chains keeping him tied to the chair, he still fears the dark curse inside of him. He can feel it coiling within and one wrong move could set it off, ready to strike at the nearest target.
He can only hope that Dean is visiting him to tell him that they have found a counter to Rowena's curse, but one look at Dean's exhausted and worried face tells him that something else is going on.
"What's wrong?" he asks.
"It's Sam." Dean walks over to Cas and begins to unlock his shackles.
"Dean, no. You need to keep me locked up. You don't know what I am capable of."
"I know exactly what you're capable of and Sam needs your help. You're the only one with the mojo to fix him."
Cas shakes his head. "I can't. I might hurt him."
"Cut the crap." Dean drops the chains to the floor. "You've been sitting here for days and you haven't moved a muscle. You say you're some kind of killing machine but I haven't seen any proof of this. Me, on the other hand, now I really was a killing machine when I had the mark, and let me tell ya something … you ain't got nothin' on me. I totally win. So quit your hand wringing and let's go."
Dean holds out a hand for Cas to clasp, and he softens his tone, "Please, Cas. Sam needs you. I won't let you go berserker if that's what you're afraid of and I can lock you up again afterwards. Okay?"
Cas takes Dean's hand and allows the mortal man to help him to his feet as a symbolic gesture that he will help.
"What's wrong with him?" Cas asks.
"I don't know. But it's killing him."
Dean leads Cas to Sam's room where the youngest man is laid out on his bed, curled into a ball, shivering into his blanket. He doesn't seem aware of them as they enter, he just rocks himself back and forth, clasping his neck and moaning.
Sam's hair is slick with sweat and sticks to his forehead as Dean pushes a lock of it away so he can lay a hand on his skin and gauge his temperature. His last thermometer reading was 105.7 and that was with the medicine Sam managed to keep down. It doesn't seem to be any lower.
Cas is cautious as he approaches Sam, hesitant to touch him.
"How long has he been like this? Cas asks.
"He hasn't looked good since I picked him up from that hospital with all of those rabid people, but he wasn't really out of his gourd with fever until a few hours ago and I can't get it down."
Dean latches onto Cas' eyes and lowers his voice as if he's betraying a confidence to the angel. "Sam was talking all kinds of crap about being infected … I think he might have been, back at the hospital ... but he never actually said it. But do you think … could he still be infected somehow? I mean, the others, they all had black veins in their necks and Sam's is clear, but what if this cure, whatever it is, isn't as effective as he thought. What if it's back?"
Cas shakes his head, "I can't say until I have a look."
Dean backs away and allows Cas to move closer. He raises his hand and with his fingertips, touches Sam on the forehead. Sam shifts and moans a little, but is otherwise unresponsive to the angel's touch.
Cas closes his eyes and focuses into Sam. He goes beyond the flesh and muscle layers, into the veins, deeper and deeper he goes until he is at the microscopic level. He sees red blood cells, lymphocytes, eosinophils, and neutrophils. Then he sees the invader … the thing that should not be there. There are so many of them, millions of them, replicating themselves exponentially. They are on the attack and winning.
He isn't worried though. There is nothing supernatural about the infection running rampant through Sam's body and Cas merely has to think 'be gone' and the enemy is obliterated.
But there is something else there. It's dark and vague, almost like a shadow or an after image. Cas isn't sure what it is, but it is ancient and it frightens him a little. However, he realizes that what he's feeling is more likely a residue more than anything immediately threatening.
Cas opens his eyes and is grateful to see that Sam has already stopped shivering and appears to have slipped into an easy sleep. Even the bruises on his face have dissipated.
Dean is beside his brother in seconds, checking his fever, sighing in relief when he finds it gone and then turns to Cas with an expectant look.
"Well? He's infected, isn't he?
"Yes." Cas answers and upon seeing Dean's eyes widen, hastily adds, "With what I believe you call bacterial meningitis. That would explain his fever and symptoms, including his sore neck."
Dean's eyes are nearly bugging out of his head, "Christ. Meningitis? How?"
"The hospital would be the logical source of infection, given how much bacteria are present in such places, especially with the amount of dead bodies you describe. If Sam had any injuries or abrasions the bacteria could enter through them and make him ill."
"Yeah, he took a little bit of a beating before I reaped Death." Dean takes on a look of shame. "I did that, so this is on me."
"No, Dean. Bacteria is at fault here, not you." Cas takes the blanket that's around his shoulders and tightens it around himself. He's not really cold, but he finds it strangely comforting, "However, there is something in Sam that concerns me. What exactly it is, I can't say, but it is … " he struggles for the right word, "like a footprint ... it's there, but not an issue for now."
Dean swallows. "For now? The infection from The Darkness is still there?"
"No. It's something else. I don't know what, but at least we can be certain that the infection The Darkness caused is well and truly gone."
"Which he should have told me he had well before it got this bad." Dean throws his hands up and clenches his teeth. "I'm gonna kick his ass when he wakes up."
"I think talking to Sam about it without violence might be in your best interest, Dean."
The younger man closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose.
"For now, I suggest sleep … after you lock me back up, of course."
"Okay, but you're staying up here from now on. No more dungeon. If you get worse … well, we'll worry about that if it happens." Dean shakes his head wearily, "I don't think we're going to find the counter to the spell that bitch put on you without Rowena herself and it wouldn't hurt to have your help in finding her.
"And Metatron," Cas adds, "and the Book of the Damned, and the Codex, and not to mention the Darkness-"
"Okay, Cas. I get it." Dean sighs, "We got a lot on our plates."
Sam awakes refreshed and feeling better than he has in days. His muscles are still a little stiff and sore, but blessedly, the killer headache he last remembered, is gone.
He stumbles out of bed and pulls on a pair of sweatpants before heading to the bathroom, in need of a shower. He desperately wants to be clean.
Along the way, he sees Dean's door is open a crack and he stops to peek inside for a second. His brother is fast asleep, fully clothed on top of his covers. At least Dean is finally resting and for that, Sam is glad.
He leaves Dean's room silently and then walks down the hall to the bathroom. He opens the door to find the room littered with all kinds of strange items. A bottle of holy oil is on the floor, a pair clamps next to it, there's a charred cotton ball-
His mind flashes to an image of Dean grabbing the flaming cotton ball and then he is shown his brother lowering him to the floor. It's all fuzzy and disjointed and none of it makes sense.
Sam's mind snaps back to the present and he catches his reflection in the mirror. The bruises on his face have completely disappeared. Last time he looked, they were healing, but nowhere near fading yet.
What the hell happened?
He wracks his brain. More memories come. He sees himself crawling out of bed, feeling sticky with sweat … unclean. His neck is killing him. He thinks the infection is back. He thinks he's dying and he's afraid of the nothing the reaper told him about. He recalls thinking that he need to cure himself again, gathering the holy oil, a Zippo, and a bag of cotton balls all while in his underwear, but then Dean shows up and the rest is a blur of pain and fever.
He thinks he should feel embarrassed by what he remembers, but the memories don't really feel like they actually happened to him. They're like watching a movie of himself in the first person; it's all so very depersonalized and just plain weird.
He shakes his head. Cas must have healed him, that's the only explanation he can come up with that makes any sense.
But what was wrong with him?
That question looms heavy in his mind. Did the infection really come back? Was the cure only temporary?
He turns to walk out of the bathroom and demand answers from his brother when he practically rams right into the man himself as he blocks the door.
Sam is startled, "Shit! Can't you knock?"
"Sure. I could, but the last time I tried that, you were too busy trying to set yourself on fire to let me in."
Sam sighs, "Sorry, man. I really had no clue what I was doing."
"So you remember that, huh?"
"Just bits and pieces. Dude, what happened?"
"Basically, your brain went into meltdown. Cas says it was a case of meningitis and fixed you up, but at the time, you thought you were infected with whatever those people in Superior had. But that would be crazy, because if you had been infected you would have told me, right?" Dean says sarcastically and with more than just a hint of anger.
Sam is confused by Dean's reaction. His brother knew that he had been infected, didn't he?
Okay, maybe he didn't actually say the words 'Hey, some rabid person bled into my mouth and now I'm one too' when he talked to Dean on the phone while he was trapped in the hospital, but he just hadn't been able to say the words out loud at the time. Maybe he thought that Dean would just pick up on the tremor in Sam's voice or the way he carefully worded his need to find a cure.
"I thought you knew." Sam counters.
"How? By telepathy?"
"I told you that I had no choice but to find a cure. I thought you would figure it out. Besides, you never asked."
Dean's face turns red and he looks like he's about to let Sam have it, but to his surprise, he doesn't yell, and maybe that's a little worse. He almost sounds defeated, like he's tired of the same things happening over and over again.
"Fine. You're right, I didn't ask. Lord knows I should have, because God forbid you should ever volunteer such information."
Sam doesn't back down and he doesn't want Dean to either. It's messed up, but that's what he needs. He needs Dean to fight. "Look, I'm sorry, Dean, but if I had told you, then you would have come straight back there and chances are you would have gotten infected too and I couldn't let that happen. You have no idea what it was like …" Sam doesn't mean for his voice to crack, but it does, "to see people, who were good people once, turn into these … empty, evil creatures, attacking people that they once called friends. And to know that I was going to die in the same way, out of my mind with rage, like some kind of rabid dog … I didn't want you there to see that. And if it hadn't been for a reaper showing up, I would be just like the rest of them."
"A reaper?" Dean's anger almost dissipates with curiosity at that last bit of info and he gives Sam the cue to go on.
"She said her name is Billie and she's a little pissed that we killed her boss. But really, I think she's looking to fill his shoes and take over the death business. She gave me a little clue about how to cure the infection, but ..." Sam swallows hard, "she also said that when we die next that that's it. We're dead, dead. Like, tossed into a void of nothingness dead. No coming back and no heaven or hell for us."
"Really? No heaven or hell?" Dean actually grins a little at that and Sam feels the tension in the room give a little, "Sounds like she might actually be doing us a favor."
Sam snorts at that,suddenly seeing things differently. Up until that moment, he was been afraid of what the reaper told him and the thought of there being no afterlife was frightening, but now that he thinks about it, it doesn't seem all that bad. No angels, no demons, no monsters, no ghosts, no witches … he and Dean would just ... cease to be.
That actually sounds ... pretty restful.
Sam starts to laugh at the absurdity of it all and so does Dean. They really do lead such messed up lives that being snuffed out of existence sounds like the best retirement plan ever.
Finally, after their sides recover from the hysterics, Sam manages to shove Dean out of the bathroom so he can take a long, much deserved, hot shower.
And when he is done, he steps out of the room finally feeling completely clean.
A/N: If you are wondering what it is that might be inside of Sam that Cas mentions in this story, it's my own pet theory that the vision Sam had while infected in the hospital is a sign of perhaps some returning powers. I dunno ... just wishful thinking probably.
Also, on a completely unrelated side note. I really think that "S.O.B." by Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats should be Dean's unoffical theme song. If you haven't heard it, you need to right now.
Thanks for reading! :)