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ratherastory ([personal profile] ratherastory) wrote2012-11-17 01:35 am

Sometimes, All I Need

Title: Sometimes, All I Need
Summary: Fusion 'verse. After wandering out into the cold during Dean's office Christmas party, Sam gets sick.
Characters: Castiel, Sam, Dean
Rating: PG
Wordcount: 4,349
Warnings: Swearing, the usual
Disclaimer: Do I still need one of these? I think by now we all know I own diddly squat.
Neurotic Author's Note #1: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the lovely and talented [livejournal.com profile] shangrilada wrote me a story, and I recklessly promised her a Fusion story in return, focusing on the days between Bless Us, Every One and Among Your Friends and Kindred when Sam had pneumonia. Naturally, because this is a Fusion story, it became a story sort of about Cas in which Sam happens to be sick. And, of course, in the end, it still turned out to be a story about Sam and Dean. I don't even know.
Neurotic Author's Note #2: God, how long has it been since I wrote any Fusion? It feels like years. I have so many ideas, but it feels like my writing brain has shriveled up and died. So, yeah. I'm kind of sorry for how it doesn't flow as well as a lot of my earlier writing. I'm working on that.
Neurotic Author's Note #3: Title is taken from "The Air That I Breathe," which was originally by the Hollies, I believe, but the version I know best is the one by K. D. Lang. Because, yeah, doesn't that one lyric totally describe the boys? I think it does. <3




When Castiel opens his eyes, sunlight is streaming in through the kitchen doorway to the living room of Sam and Dean's little house, which has become his home over the past few months. He sits up, untangles the sheets from his legs, and runs a hand through his hair, knowing full well Dean will mock him for what he terms "bed-hair" later. He's a little surprised to have awoken on his own—Sam is usually the first one awake in the mornings, and it's his quiet presence in the kitchen that always signals to Castiel that it's time to get up. Now, though the clock tells him it's a few minutes after seven o'clock, the house is all but silent.

He eases himself out of bed carefully, curling his toes against the aging hardwood floor, waiting for the stiffness to leave his body. His injury has long since healed, but he still tires more easily than he did, his grace not entirely replenished. He has no idea how long it will take for it to come back, nor if it will ever fully return, though he's cautiously optimistic on that last front. Once he's worked out the kinks in his joints—feeling a little more human than he would like—he bends to fold the sofa bed back in. It's a matter of seconds to restore the living room to order, very important in light of how difficult it is for Dean to navigate in tight quarters.

The creak of floorboards above his head tells him that someone else is up, at least. He pauses, head tilted to the side, listening until he hears the uneven gait that tells him it's Dean he's hearing. He heads up the stairs, taking his time and making sure that he makes some noise so as not to startle either Dean or Sam, should the latter be up. Neither of them deals particularly well with surprises these days, even small ones, Sam especially. Just out of sight, he hear someone coughing, probably Sam. The sound is coming from his room, for one thing, and for another Castiel knows he's been nursing a chest cold, as Dean put it, for several days now, with no sign of improvement.

Dean pokes his head out of Sam's room just as Castiel reaches the landing. "Oh, Cas, I thought I heard you. Dude," he cracks a small smile, moving forward to lean in the doorway. Just behind him, Castiel can see Perry curled up at the foot of Sam's bed, ears cocked expectantly. "You should see your hair."

Castiel stifles a snort. "I am aware that it's in disarray, Dean, you tell me that every morning."

"That's because you and Sam are neck-and-neck in the 'worst bed hair' race. You go ahead and take the first shower, I'm going to sit with Sam for a few."

Dean looks more worried than he usually does, which is enough to make Castiel pause before taking advantage of the invitation to take the first shower. "Is everything all right?"

"Oh, sure," Dean shrugs a bit. "It's just he's not shaking this cold, or whatever. Actually, I don't think it's a cold—he spiked a fever in the night, and it's not going down. I've got him dosed up with more cough syrup and Advil, but I think he should take it easy, sleep in if he can."

Castiel nods. He can understand why Dean is anxious—Sam needs his routines in place in order to feel secure, and getting up late or staying in bed all day is bound to throw all of that out the window. "Take your time. I'll make sure breakfast is ready."

He takes a quick shower, tames his hair into a semblance of tidiness, and uses the razor that Dean bought for him to shave carefully. None of this is strictly necessary, of course, but he prefers to preserve his powers rather than squander them on small things like personal grooming.

Even dressing himself has become an exercise in the mundane. A few months ago Dean insisted that he wear clothes other than Jimmy Novak's Sunday best ("Seriously, Cas, if you're going to live with us for a while, people are going to notice that you only own a single suit. You need to blend in.") and had taken him out to purchase a few pairs of jeans and some shirts in his size. He and Dean are of a height, but Dean is considerably broader in the shoulders, and when it came down to choosing clothing, Castiel discovered he felt more at home choosing white button-down shirts with a few sweater vests, rather than the style Dean and Sam favour. Still, it makes him feel that much more at home, knowing that he has his own clothes tucked away in a couple of the drawers in Dean's room.

Dean is still in Sam's room, talking to his brother in tones so low that Castiel is sure he wouldn't be able to make out what he was saying if he didn't have hearing far more enhanced than any human's. Politeness dictates that he not eavesdrop, even though Dean is saying nothing he likely wouldn't say if Castiel were in the room with him, mostly checking on Sam's state of health. Sam, on the other hand, doesn't sound especially lucid, keeps asking anxiously about the time, the way he always does when he gets off schedule.

"It's fine, okay?" Dean is saying. "You just stay put, and Cas will take care of everything. You just get some more sleep, make sure you get better."

That's Castiel's cue to head to the kitchen and put on the coffee. A few months ago he'd needed Sam to show him how it worked twice. It was a little humiliating, how tiny little human things like this exceeded his abilities. In theory he understood perfectly how the machine worked, and might indeed even have been able to draw up the schematics for one simply by looking at it, but in practice he was all thumbs and could never remember the sequence in which things were supposed to go. Dean had teased him mercilessly for it, right up until Sam had looked at him, shoulders hunched, hands in his pockets, and said quietly:

"Dean, that's enough."

Ridiculous, to need to have Sam leap to his defense, but it had made him feel better. He'd felt even better when Dean had apologized, looking a little sheepish, and mumbled something about not meaning anything by it.

Now, though, he has no trouble at all making his way around the kitchen. He's not as good a cook as Sam or even Dean, but he can manage coffee and oatmeal at least, and so he has the pot simmering on the stove by the time Dean makes his appearance, Perry trotting at his heels.

"How is he?"

Dean shrugs. "Good as he's going to get, under the circumstances. I should have known he'd get sick after that little stunt at the costume party. We should talk to Amanda about how his immune system is for shit these days, too. That can't be normal. You think it might be because of Hell?" he asks suddenly.

Castiel blinks. "What?"

"I don't know. I mean, I got sick all the time after you pulled me out, that first year. Remember? Always dragging around some shitty cough or running a fever or whatever. Fucking miserable. Does Hell screw with you like that?"

"I don't know," Castiel gives the oatmeal a last stir, then pours it into two bowls and hands one to Dean, along with a pitcher of milk. "I don't think so, not in the way you mean. But coming back, living with those memories, it's extraordinarily stressful—"

"No shit."

"—and that," he continues, unperturbed, "might explain it better. Stress is known to depress the immune system, and Sam lives in what is essentially a constant state of siege." He sits at the table and digs his spoon into his oatmeal, only to realize Dean is staring at him open-mouthed. "Did I say something wrong?"

Dean shakes his head. "No. No, not at all. I just—no one's ever put it like that before."

Once Dean has left for work, leaving a string of instructions that's as long as it is unnecessary, Castiel takes it upon himself to bring up a bowl of oatmeal for Sam. He finds him still curled up under his bedclothes, coughing miserably into his pillow.

"I've brought food. And before you tell me you're not hungry, you should eat it anyway," he says, setting the bowl on the night table. "Have you taken your pills?" All he gets is an unintelligible mumble, so he reaches over and shakes Sam gently by the hip—always a safer bet than trying to touch his arms. "Sam."

Reluctantly Sam pushes himself to a sitting position, then coughs convulsively into the crook of his elbow. It's a wet, rattling cough that sounds like it's coming from the deepest recesses of his chest, and Castiel knows enough about human anatomy that he doesn't think it sounds good at all.

"Would you like some water?" he asks, when Sam has quieted again.

"Dean brought them," Sam answers his first question instead, leaning on both hands, his face all but obscured from view. "I'm not hungry, Cas, really. But thanks. What time is it?"

"Just after eight, and you still need to eat. How sick do you feel?"

Sam looks up at him, expression surprised and a little wary. "It's just a cold."

"You don't have a cold. If you did, you wouldn't be running a fever or have that bad of a cough. You're not fooling anyone, and I'm not sure why you and Dean both insist on trying to downplay when you're not feeling well. It doesn't help anyone, least of all yourself."

Sam grins sheepishly. "Force of habit, I guess. Different, when we were on the road."

"But you're not now, and you haven't been for nearly three years," Castiel feels obliged to point out. "You should let me take your temperature, at least."

"Fine," Sam capitulates with less of a fight than he would have put up with his brother, Castiel thinks. He seems surprised when Castiel simply reaches out and presses two fingers to his forehead. "Seriously? You can tell by doing that?" he asks before starting to cough again.

"Certainly. And your fever is high enough to indicate infection," Castiel hands him a glass of water. "I think you should consult your doctor friend and have her prescribe antibiotics."

Sam shakes his head. "No."

"Sam…"

"No. I can't. We can't afford it," Sam points out, and Castiel winces in spite of himself, because of course Sam is right.

It's nothing he's ever had to worry about before—angels have no need for currency, after all—but living among humans has taught him that money can mean the difference between food and starvation, shelter and freezing, and even between life and death. When they were hunting, it seemed as though Sam and Dean never worried much about where their money came from, living as they did from fraudulent credit cards and whatever money they could hustle from unsuspecting bar patrons, but living in one place means they have to abide by an entirely new set of rules. Castiel has already seen the lengths Sam goes to in order to "stretch out" the meager paycheck Dean brings home, as he puts it, and even then, the end of the month always seems to weigh heavily on both of them.

"If you're not better by tomorrow," he tries for a compromise, "will you let me take you to the doctor?"

Sam just coughs, and Castiel gives it up as a lost cause for now. Sam does agree to take some ibuprofen for the fever, and ends up falling asleep again after a while. Normally he'd be up and cleaning the house, or working on his translation projects, and Castiel wonders if he shouldn't do something to help, to keep things on track, but Sam finished the last of the translation work days ago, and the house is all but spotless. He settles for washing the breakfast dishes and consulting the binder in which Sam plans out his menus so that he can make sure dinner is ready by the time Dean gets home.

Dinner isn't that difficult to prepare, since Sam made a large quantity of stew nearly a week ago and froze most of it, so it essentially entails pulling it out of the chest freezer in the cellar in order to thaw. Sam is in the kitchen when he comes back upstairs, though, barefoot and shivering and looking a little bewildered.

"What are you doing up?" Castiel puts the container of stew on the counter and moves toward him. "You should be in bed."

Sam just shakes his head. "No, I… there was something…" he stops, squinting a little at Castiel as though he can't quite place him. "I'm supposed to pull out the stew for dinner. I remember, I wrote it down."

Castiel points at the counter. "It's already done. Come back to bed, all right? You look like your fever is worse. Come on, I'm going to take your arm now," he warns, before wrapping his fingers around Sam's elbow. Sam flinches but doesn't panic or even protest. "Come with me back to bed, all right?"

"I was supposed to… what time is it?"

"Nearly one o'clock. Would you like soup? There's bread left as well. I'll bring you some in a minute."

"It's not right," Sam resists Castiel's gentle attempts to get him to follow. "I'm supposed to be helping. Dean's going to be home, and I'm not helping—"

"Dean wanted you to stay in bed today, remember? You won't help him if you make yourself sicker. How about the sofa, then?" Castiel suggests a little desperately. "If you sit there with a blanket, we can have lunch. You haven't eaten anything all day."

"Not hungry. What time is it?"

He's obviously more confused than before. "Ten minutes past one. I want you to take something for your fever and lie back down, all right? Please?"

It takes a lot more coaxing, but eventually Sam lets himself be led to the sofa in the living room, where Castiel settles him with several blankets and an admonition to stay put. Sam's not making much sense, but he doesn't seem to be having a 'bad day,' as he and Dean tend to refer to those days when he can't distinguish between reality and Lucifer's Cage. He asks for the time repeatedly, and when Castiel leaves only to returns with a mug filled with tea he's up again, the blankets discarded, coughing harshly into his elbow.

"I forgot about Christmas," he tells Castiel hoarsely, his expression anxious.

"It's still a few days away, you haven't forgotten. It's fine. Sit, Sam, please. Please sit down, or Dean will have my head." He reaches over, making sure to telegraph his movements, and presses two fingers to Sam's forehead again. "Your fever is rising. If you won't see a doctor, you need to at least lie down."

"Don't want to sleep," comes the petulant retort, but Sam drops reluctantly back onto the sofa. "Can't, anyway."

Castiel sits next to him. "I can make you sleep, if you want," he offers, but Sam shakes his head vehemently.

"No. No, please. I can't—no. Please don't."

"All right, if you're sure."

"I don't like it."

"I won't do it without your permission," Castiel promises, and that appears to appease Sam for the moment.

He submits to being covered with the blankets again, agrees when Castiel offers to put on a movie, and to Castiel's surprise curls up against him and promptly falls back asleep with his head in the angel's lap. There's no way to get up again without disturbing Sam, so Castiel simply settles himself as comfortably as he can, one hand resting on Sam's shoulder, monitoring the laboured sound of his breathing. When the movie is over he risks easing himself to his feet, pauses to make sure Sam hasn't awoken, and picks another out of their small collection of DVDs—something about an archaeologist who uncovers the Arc of the Covenant, as far as he can tell. It seems like it should be interesting enough to keep him busy until Dean comes home, he thinks, slipping the disc into the DVD player.

Sam sleeps through most of that movie as well, doesn't so much as stir when the front door opens and Perry comes trotting through ahead of Dean, dropping obediently to her haunches so Dean can unfasten her harness. Castiel glances at the clock, surprised.

"You're early," he says, careful not to raise his voice, hitting the "pause" button on the remote control.

Dean nods. "Yeah, Sophie let me come back to check on Sam, since I'm going to be working a lot of overtime in the next week or so. Never figured you for an Indiana Jones fan, Cas," he says, grinning at the television screen.

"It's an entirely inaccurate—"

"Cas," Dean forestalls him with a raised hand. "It's fiction. Just entertainment."

"I know that," Castiel huffs impatiently. "Still."

"So how is he?" Dean bends over and presses his hand to Sam's forehead. "Been giving you any trouble?" He clucks his tongue as he pulls his hand. "He's burning up."

"No trouble, but he's getting worse. I think he ought to see a doctor."

Dean rubs a hand over his mouth, his face clouding over. "Right." For a moment it's as though Cas can read his thoughts, can see him making all the necessary calculations for the cost of an appointment, the medication. Then he gives himself a visible shake. "Okay, then. We'll go now, before this thing gets any worse. If we're lucky, we'll have caught it in time. Can you stay here? Hold the fort? We'll take a cab, but that means I gotta leave Perry."

"I'll watch out for things," Castiel promises.

"Good man," Dean claps him on the shoulder, and Castiel doesn't bother correcting him. "Hey, Sammy, wake up," Dean leans down to shake his brother gently by the knee. "Sammy."

Sam comes awake with a startled jolt that sends him into another coughing fit. "Dean?" he croaks, when he can breathe again.

"You sound terrible. Come on, up, we're going to see Amanda right now. No arguments."

Sam doesn't argue, just pushes himself awkwardly to his feet, swaying slightly where he stands. Dean and Castiel exchange a surprised look, but neither of them are about to look a gift horse in the mouth. Castiel calls Ted—the only local taxi cab driver—while Dean chivvies Sam into putting on his shoes and his winter coat. Within minutes they're out the front door in a blast of cold air, leaving Castiel alone and somewhat at a loss. He looks down at the dog, who looks back up at him expectantly, tongue lolling.

"I suppose I'd better start dinner, then," he tells her, and gets a half-hearted thump of her tail as his only encouragement. "Would you like food too? I'll bet you would."

Perry follows him into the kitchen and immediately buries her nose in her dish as soon as Castiel has poured in a scoopful of kibble. He sets the stew on the stove at a low heat—there's no telling how long the doctor's appointment will take, after all—and begins chopping up what's left of the broccoli and green beans in the vegetable crisper to be steamed whenever Sam and Dean get back. Perry nudges his thigh with her nose and whines, never happy to be separated from Dean for long.

"They'll be home soon enough, don't make a fuss," he tells her, trying to sound stern. He's pretty sure he fails, because she looks entirely unimpressed and nudges him again. "Would you like a treat while we're waiting?" He rolls his eyes when she wags her tail so hard that her entire body wriggles in counterpoint to it. "Oh, fine," he reaches for the biscuit tin and holds up a treat. "Sit! Good girl," he compliments her, and allows her to delicately take the treat from his hand before swallowing it almost whole. "Greedy."

Dean brings Sam home more than two hours later. He doesn't so much as pause at the front door, just waves Castiel back to the kitchen and ushers Sam up the stairs, following as best he can. Not one to be easily deterred, Castiel simply waits a few moments, then follows in turn, when he's sure they've made it all the way up.

"I'm fine," Sam is protesting, though his voice is so hoarse that he can barely speak. "You can stop hovering."

"Yeah, no," Dean says sharply, and Castiel knows him well enough now to realize just how worried he must be. "'Pneumonia' is the opposite of fine, genius. So that means you're going back to bed and you are staying put and taking your antibiotics like a good patient. Otherwise I will tie you down, you hear me?"

Castiel slips into the room just as Sam starts to cough again, deep and wet. He's already on his bed, jacket slung over the back of the wooden chair that's normally tucked away in a corner, and is tugging ineffectually at his boots, trying to get them off.

"Let me help," he offers, and Sam rolls his eyes, keeps coughing, and yet still does as he's told. "Pneumonia?"

"Trust Sam never to do things by halves," Dean snorts, lowering himself gingerly to sit next to Sam on the bed and rub circles on his back until the coughing subsides. "I meant what I said."

"I'm liable to freak out if you tie me down," Sam points out, infuriatingly reasonably, and Dean twitches, because it was imaginary restraints that got them into this mess to begin with.

"So do us all a favour and rest and get better, then."

"Christmas is next week," Sam says, although Castiel has no idea what possible bearing that could have on the situation. Dean understands, though.

"Yes, it is, and it will still be next week whether you have pneumonia or not. My vote? Christmas with no pneumonia. That means you don't get to deep clean the house or spend four days straight cooking ten different kinds of pie." He nudges Sam until he gets the message and lies down, fussing with his pillows until he's comfortable. "Capisce?"

"I thought you liked pie."

"I do like pie. What I like better than pie? You without pneumonia."

Sam coughs into his fist. "Saying it over and over again won't make it go away."

"Here," Dean pulls Sam's hand open, pops a pills out of a foil package and deposits in in his palm. "Take your pill. You want a hit off that inhaler now?"

"I'm good."

"Yeah, pretty sure you're not, but whatever, you keep right on lying to me, Sam, that always goes well," Dean says tightly, and Castiel has to physically bite his tongue and refrain from intervening. Some things, he has come to understand, albeit belatedly, need to work themselves out on their own.

Sam coughs, swallows the pill dry, then sits up again, reaching out to catch his brother by the wrist and pull him close. "Hey," he says, and Castiel can see his expression soften, understanding in spite of the fever, "Dean…"

Dean lets himself be pulled, doesn't so much as protest when Sam wraps both arms around him and presses his forehead against Dean's clavicle. "Don't you 'hey, Dean,' me," he says, but Sam ignores him.

Instead he turns his head just enough so he can look at his brother, and smiles gently. "I'm okay, Dean. I'm just sick, that's all. Nothing else. I'm okay."

There's a subtle emphasis on the last word, and Castiel can see the moment when the tension leaves Dean's body in a rush, leaving him looking deflated, like a dirigible coming to rest. Because if there's one thing Castiel has learned—and he thinks that perhaps Sam understands this, if only on an instinctive level—it's that Dean has always needed Sam to be all right, in order to be all right himself. In the same way, Sam has always needed for Dean to be all right, in order for his own world to make sense, and remain safe. It's the sine qua non of their bond, but it suffices, too, and sometimes Castiel envies them that.

He clears his throat, trying to find a polite way to interrupt and failing. "Are either of you hungry? I heated the stew."

Dean wipes at his eyes, and Castiel politely pretends he hasn't noticed the way they're shining a little more brightly than usual. "Uh, sure, Cas. Let me come help you with that."

"It's not necessary. I'll bring up a tray. We can eat in here, so that Sam can stay in bed. Stay, I'll be right back."

He leaves them where they are in order to fetch dinner from the kitchen. In a few minutes they'll all be sitting on Sam's bed, and Dean will have kicked off his boots and will pretend not to notice that Perry has snuck up onto the bed beside him. He'll tell Sam and Castiel about his day, about how the holiday season is making the customers crazier than usual. Sam will fall asleep with his head on Dean's thigh, and Dean will pretend not to notice that too, except for the fact that he'll let one hand come to rest on the nape of his neck, tracing circles there with his thumb. And when Castiel eventually removes all the plates and settles in his own bed, he knows that Dean will stay right where he is, right up until the sun rises, just listening to Sam breathe.

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