So this is what cabin fever felt like.
The rickety old bed creaked rather alarmingly as Dean shifted in place, trying to find a comfortable spot against the headboard. Two weeks, just two weeks crashing at Bobby’s place, and he didn’t think he could take much more of it. All this getting up and going to school and eating at a normal time and finishing his homework before Bobby tore him a new one was not as glamorous as it had first appeared. “Civilian” life was definitely overrated in some ways.
But with Sam’s new situation, things had definitely needed to change.
After the fateful encounter with that witch, Dean was left with a much smaller responsibility, physically speaking, but it couldn’t have been more important. Shrunk down and basically helpless, a three-inch Sam did not have good odds against a world built for Dean. Hell, he’d barely survived the first couple minutes at that size, sparking a fear that Dean soon had constantly buzzing at the back of his mind.
Hence the reason Dean was cooling his heels at Bobby’s and back to doing homework on a regular basis like a normal teenager.
Or in this case, ignoring it – also like a normal teenager.
Not that he didn’t want to be here, acting as Sam’s first line of defense – far from it. To be perfectly honest, the only hands he really trusted with Sam were his own.
Needless to say, it made hunting a bit difficult.
So here he was, spread out on his temporary bed in his temporary bedroom with a gun magazine he’d found in an old desk in the corner. Dean sighed, tipping his head back to look at the ceiling for a moment before turning to the next ad-covered page.
Damn, if this inactivity wasn’t starting to wear on him.
“Dean, I don’t feel so good…”
Glancing up from the magazine, which he’d been only half-heartedly perusing anyway, the fourteen-year-old took in the little form staggering across the bedside table toward him with a hint of worry. Sam appeared to have just woken up from his impromptu nap, but his hair was a sweaty mess and even from two feet away, Dean could see the flush coloring his little brother’s cheeks.
“C’mere, Sammy, let me get a look atcha,” the older Winchester murmured, lowering his voice for the benefit of tiny ears. For the last couple days, Sam had been complaining long and loud of a headache and a slight runny nose, but they hadn’t thought much of it, it being the regular cold season and all.
Guess they were wrong.
The older boy leaned across the bed and held out a hand, which Sam wearily climbed onto and flopped in the center of. Dean nearly jerked his hand in surprise – the tiny body felt like a mini furnace cooking away in his palm. A sudden wave of concern instantly kicked his heartrate up a notch.
“Man, you’re burning up,” Dean mumbled, trying to get a good look at his brother’s tiny features. Sam just coughed a couple times in reply, his eyes glazing over as he gazed tiredly back. “C’mon, we’re gonna go see Bobby.”
Cupping his hands to his chest, Dean carefully slid off his bed. The stairs made it difficult to keep Sam from bouncing around, but Dean did his best, going slow and careful down each step. Then he shuffled into the living room in front of the massive wooden desk, where he knew the older hunter had holed up for the day amongst his many tomes and artifacts.
“Think we got a problem, Bobby.”
At this, the man glanced up from a thick, dusty book, eyes narrowing a touch in concern. “And what’s that?”
In answer, Dean held out his hands, Sam’s limp, rumpled form curled up in the middle. “Sammy’s hot and he looks terrible.”
As if on cue, a tiny sneeze emanated from Dean’s hands.
His eyebrows rose, but Bobby stood up and pulled Dean’s cupped hands closer for a look. All it took was one glance at Sam wiping at his runny nose, rosy red face peering back at him, to make a diagnosis.
“Probably the flu,” the hunter muttered, laying a calloused finger gently on the boy’s little head to feel the heat. “You hurting anywhere, boy? Any aches or pains?”
Sam nodded wearily, his mouth partially open to bypass the congestion that had built up.
“Definitely the flu,” the older man confirmed, giving the messy hair a slight ruffle before pulling away. “You boys head back on upstairs and I’ll bring up some cold water for the fever. How’s chicken soup sound to the both a ya?”
“That’d be great, Bobby, thanks,” Dean said with a small grin, but Bobby saw the concern in those green eyes.
“He’ll be fine, ya idjit. Just needs a few days’ rest, that’s all.”
The look Dean left with was uncertain, but hopeful, and Bobby sighed a bit fondly as he turned to find a glass.
As soon as the water arrived, accompanied by a scrap of fabric Bobby had cut out of an old washcloth, Dean got the two of them comfortable on his bed – or at least as comfortable as Sam could get.
After arranging one of his shirts on the bed in a sort of nest and letting Sam crawl sluggishly into it, Dean stretched out on his side next to it, one arm propping his head up while the other lay half-on the little bed he’d created, partially encircling the little form in a wall of flesh. Sam curled up in the middle, unable to keep still as his illness ran its course and giving a quiet whimper now and then.
If Sam were normal-sized, Dean would take this sickness in stride, just like all the other times Sam caught something disagreeable.
But this time was different.
It wasn’t that he didn’t believe Bobby, it was just…
Sam was so tiny.
But enough of that – he had a sick brother to take care of.
Dutifully, Dean soaked the tiny cloth in the cup, squeezed it between his fingertips to wring the excess out, and then placed it on Sam’s head. He repeated the action for the next few minutes, refreshing the cloth each time it warmed up or when Sam complained that it was dripping in his eyes, at which point he’d call Sam a baby and they would bicker for a few moments before falling silent again.
“Dean, I’m cold.”
A wry smile appeared as Dean dropped the cloth he’d been wiping Sam’s forehead with to one side, then pulled a bit of the shirt over Sam to make a blanket. “With this fever of yours, I’m not surprised.”
Too tired to say any more, the boy pulled the soft shirt up to his chin and rolled slowly away from Dean, shivering like a leaf as he tried to settle.
The smile quickly dropped.
“Hey, it’s just the stupid old flu, Sammy. You’ll be right as rain in a few days, promise,” the older brother said softly, raising a finger and running the tip down the small, sweaty back. His mouth tightened as Sam let out a little moan and curled up a bit tighter – there were the aches Bobby had been talking about. They couldn’t really risk medicine, however, not knowing how much to give Sam in the first place at his size.
It was a bit hard to feel useful when Sam was barely the size of his pinky finger.
Slowly, the minutes drifted by in silence as Dean continued to stroke Sam’s back. Sam coughed every now and again, occasionally using the shirt as a tissue, but Dean could’ve cared less at this point. All that mattered was getting Sam better again.
The barely audible question brought Dean out of his thoughts and he leaned a little closer.
“What’s up, Sammy?”
The little form wriggled around to face him and Dean’s heart dropped to see the fever shining in his brother’s eyes.
The next moment, Sam startled him by grabbing his nearby index finger and hugging it close. The tiny little body was uncomfortably hot against his skin, but he didn’t budge an inch. Certain things were more important than his comfort and his brother’s safety was always one of them.
Then Sam gazed up at Dean, his exhausted little face hopeful.
“Can you sing, De? Just like you used to?”
The request took Dean by surprise – he hadn’t sung to his little brother in years. It had once been a common occurrence, what with toddler Sam often being overtired and restless during the night after a long day in the car. He would never admit it, but it was a nice little ritual to end the day with – a bit of normalcy amidst all the chaos.
Once Sam had turned four, however, Dad had put an end to the activity, saying that Dean was babying Sam too much. It was one of the rare times Dean had argued with his father.
Yet the older boy found himself smiling. “Sure thing, Sammy.”
Sick as he was, Sam beamed up at him, making the older boy full-on grin. Gently scooping Sam up in one hand, Dean shifted to lay on his back. Once he was comfortable, he deposited the little form on his chest, then gave Sam back his right index finger, which the boy immediately snuggled up to and wrapped his arms around. His left hand formed a miniature cave over his little brother, keeping him warm while the thumb comfortingly stroked his back.
Then Dean began to sing.
As the first, slightly off-key verse of “Hey Jude” rolled over him in a soft, slightly cracking baritone, Sam let out a content sigh, hugging his older brother’s finger tighter. He relaxed as the song rumbled through him from below, soothing the aches in his little body. The heat radiating off the massive chest beneath him served to make him pleasantly drowsy and before long, his tiny little eyes were drifting shut, the fragile little chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm.
Dean just smiled, still gently rubbing the small back and singing as his little brother slept peacefully.
An hour later, Bobby poked his head into the room to check on them. A soft smile appeared as the older man took in the sight of Dean stretched out on the bed, his hands curled around Sam, both of them out like a light.
“Idjits,” he muttered fondly, and closed the door without a sound. “Guess the soup’ll hafta wait.”
Out of Reach
So this is my contribution to the Brothers Apart Contest 2018! Went with the Brothers Together AU this time.
I hope everyone enjoys!