Characters: Sam and Dean Winchester
Word Count: 2,500
Disclaimer: Don't own them.
Sam knew all too well that when the words 'just a ...' were ever applied to a description of Dean's physical condition, Trouble with a capital 'T' wasn't going to be far behind.
'Just a cold, Sammy...' yep, I remember, that was the 'cold' that turned out to be pneumonia;
'Just a scratch, bitch ...' oh, that's right, the scratch that needed thirty-seven stitches, a month's worth of antibiotics and a rabies shot - yeah, good call bro';
'Just a bug, dude ...' now let me see, oh yeah - salmonella food poisoning from a skanky chicken burger somewhere out west. I was reduced to peeing in the bushes behind the motel because the bathroom was out of commission for four days!
So, when Sam finally managed to wheedle the words 'just a friggin' headache' out of Dean in response to two exasperatingly persistent days of questioning about why all their aspirins had been vanishing and, while we're on the subject, what's with the permanent squint and all the pained forehead kneading; it was a heavy sense of foreboding rather than relief that settled over him.
Sam wasn't sure at first what time it was that he was woken, but he was pretty sure it was some ungodly hour that qualified comfortably as the middle of the night.
He wasn't sure of much as he rubbed his heavy, sleep-muzzed eyes to focus slowly on a shaft of light under the bathroom door, but he soon became aware of the unmistakeably painful sounds of violent retching.
Instantly awake, his mind leapt into action. Dean's being sick; was it something he ate? Come to think of it, he hadn't eaten much over the last couple of days. It hadn't really registered before, but now that Sam thought clearly about it, Dean's last few meals had involved listless sessions of pushing his food unenthusiastically around his plate, citing excuses such as 'already eaten' or 'the fries are cold'.
Dammit Dean, why have you always got to be such a devious bastard?
Swinging his still-sleeping legs over the edge of the bed, Sam tottered, rubbed-kneed across the floor to the bathroom.
"Dude, everything okay?" he asked, timidly tapping on the door, even though the noises coming from within made it patently clear that everything was far from okay.
Sam's antennae twitched wildly, and eventually, ignoring all the brothers' unwritten codes of propriety, he barged into the bathroom to find Dean slumped bonelessly over the toilet bowl heaving and gasping miserably.
The Winchesters' itinerant lifestyle involved eating in many and varied roadside diners; some respectable, some far from it. Many turned out to be the sort of place where each meal came with a complimentary cockroach. This unfortunately meant that the occasional encounter with a rogue burger was an unavoidable fact of life which the brothers reluctantly accepted.
But Sam knew that, whatever this was, it was a whole lot more than a rogue burger.
Dropping to his knees, Sam threw a long arm across Dean's hunched back in a tender gesture of unity as Dean retched so hard and so violently that Sam fully expected to see a dislodged spleen appear anytime soon. His sickly pallid face was streaked with tears, his gaping mouth and chin soiled with a slick glue of bile and saliva. Between each heaving bout of nausea, his whole body convulsed, quaking through harsh, yawning gasps; each melting into a breathless sob which fired a burning, white-hot bolt of pain through his head.
Eventually, the nausea subsided and likewise, Dean subsided helplessly against the solid wall of Sam's support, eyes scrunched closed, his hand gripping his forehead as if his life depended upon it.
"Hur's Sammy - oh, God it hurts ..." he whispered weakly.
The harsh pained sobs softened into a keening moan, and as Sam looked down into his brother's grey, sweat-beaded face, he could see it was clenched into a tight mask of pain.
"Hey bro', is it your head?" Sam asked. Reaching up for the toilet paper, he spun off a length and gently began to wipe Dean's face clean.
There was no response to his question, except for the pained groans as Dean squirmed miserably, flinching away from Sam's touch.
"C'mon man, you're scaring me here, tell me what's wrong," Sam tried again.
"Head," was all Dean managed to force out between gritted teeth, before he looked for all the world like he was about to hurl again.
"Head, hur's so bad ..."
"Hey, s'okay, just relax dude, shhhhhh ... take it easy;" Sam kneaded Dean's shoulder, keeping up the quiet reassuring mantra, although who was benefiting from it most, he wasn't sure. He was just relieved that it seemed to do the trick, as Dean calmed, sinking further against Sam's solid presence.
"Please - light," Dean whispered.
Sam heard his brother's voice, unsure at first as to what Dean wanted; and then the meaning hit him. "Oh crap!" he realised that even though Dean's eyes were firmly closed, the harsh, undiffused light of the bathroom was still hurting him.
He reached up, as far as his long arm could reach, and just managed to put fingertips to the lightpull, switching it off and plunging the brothers into darkness. Now their only light came from the faint amber glow of the streetlights across the parking lot.
"Damn. I'm sorry dude, I should have realised," Sam inwardly admonished himself, but was glad to see that Dean had already seemed to relax a little more in the darkness.
"Seein' stars," Dean croaked; "made me puke."
"Stars?" Sam asked, "have you hit your head recently, and not told me about it?"
Dean wormed back, burying his face into the nook of Sam's armpit as he shook his head slightly, "no, wd've tol' you," he murmured thickly.
Sam was starting to form a picture now. Headache for a few days, flashing lights, sensitivity to light, nausea ... all the signs were pointing to a classic garden variety migraine, and although neither brother had ever suffered a migraine before, Sam had known plenty of people who did, so he had a good idea of the horrible pain Dean must be suffering. He was also aware that they were both sitting on a draughty bathroom floor, and that Dean, dressed only in T-shirt and boxers was shivering violently; something that was definitely not going to help his sore head or his nausea.
"Hur's, Sammy," Dean croaked, his weak voice muffled against Sam's chest; "wan' it to stop."
"It's ok," Sam replied, rubbing soft circles across Dean's back, trying to give him something to focus on besides the pain and the cold; "I think you've got a migraine," he whispered, keeping his voice as soft and as panic free as he could manage; "lets get you back into bed and hopefully you'll be fine by morning."
Dean's head emerged from it's hiding place; "hopefully?" he had partly opened his eyes in the darkness, and Sam could see the panic in them.
Sam smiled apologetically; "sorry dude, sometimes migraines can last for a few days," he responded, "but seeing as you've never had a migraine before, if you're no better soon, I think we should get you to ER."
Dean's head sunk despondently onto Sam's chest, his breathing began to spiral into those same harsh gasps again.
Sam set his hand to circling Dean's back again, he kept up a soothing chant of utter nonsense until he felt Dean begin to calm again. Every now and again he felt Dean's body tense as another spike of pain drilled it's way through his head.
He was confident that his eyes had adjusted to the darkness well enough that he could guide Dean back to bed without incident, but he knew moving Dean was going to be no mean feat. "D'y think you can walk?" he asked gently, knowing that the need to get Dean - and himself for that matter - somewhere warm was becoming urgent; Dean swallowed harshly then grunted something vaguely affirmative.
Seeing no point in delaying the inevitable, Sam climbed to his feet and carefully pulled Dean up with him, being careful to maintain that gentle pressure on his back the whole time. Dean was trying so hard to focus on the soothing touch that he didn't even realize he was on his feet until Sam had them stumbling towards the bed.
With legs like water, Dean leaned heavily into Sam for support, allowing himself to be guided toward his own abandoned bed. The motion was starting to reignite the pain which burned through his head in waves of tearing agony, and by the time they'd crossed the darkened room, Sam was practically carrying his brother, well aware that Dean's breathing had degenerated into that terrible keening moan again.
Dean, for his part, couldn't muster the strength or energy to care. All he wanted was for the pain to stop, and if being manhandled into bed like a friggin' helpless infant was what it took to achieve that then bring it on.
Dean's knees buckled as he felt himself being lowered onto the bed, and as his throbbing head touched the pillow, his moan of pain turned into one of relief.
He began to curl onto his side, but felt strong arms holding him still, then gently pushing him onto his stomach. "Doctors reckon this is the most comfortable position for migraine sufferers," Sam explained softly, carefully cradling Dean's head as he rolled him over.
"Hmmmm..." it was Dean's acknowledgement and permission for Sam to do whatever he saw fit. His rag-doll weak body no longer belonged to him; it was Sam's to do with whatever needed doing. Dean knew that Sam would know what to do, he would make it all better.
Laying flat on his belly, Dean could feel his pounding heart pulsing against the mattress, his head resting in the crook of his arm between two pillows. Dammit to hell if Sam wasn't right. This was the most comfortable he'd felt all night; the spiking agony tearing his head apart had subsided to a thunderous throb, the nausea diminishing along with it.
He was aware, however, that the reassuring pressure on his back had lifted, and he felt adrift without it. Somewhere a million miles away, he could hear Sam moving around, shuffling footsteps, water running, his soft voice saying ... stuff; stuff that Dean couldn't hear or understand. Dean didn't care about any of that, all he wanted was that hand on his back again, that warm, firm touch that he could cling to like a lifesaver keeping him from drowning in a black ocean of pain.
He cautiously cracked his eyes open, and squinted through the darkness to find Sam. Tiny pinpricks of light sparkled and burst on the edges of his field of vision, threatening to revive the nausea. He closed his eyes again, burying his face into the pillow and swallowing back a deep breath.
He could still hear Sam's voice, a white noise somewhere in the background over the the hammering, pounding pain in his head, and took in a sharp breath as the mattress dipped beside him; a faint smile spreading across his face as that much-missed hand took up it's rightful place on the small of his back.
"Dean, d'you feel up to taking some pain meds?" Sam asked quietly, guiding two aspirins between Dean's lips. With great effort, Dean hauled himself up onto one elbow and chased them down with a sip of cold water, taking just enough to force the tablets down his parched throat.
The threatening nausea grumbled menacingly, and Dean gave a couple of convulsing swallows, focusing on Sam's warm hand which had moved up to cradle his neck until the rolling queasiness had receded enough for him to relax back into the mattress.
Sam stood, and pulled the quilt up around Dean's shoulders, returning his hand almost instantly to it's former position on Dean's neck. Letting out a faint groan, partly of pain and partly of relief, Dean tried hard to focus on the long, nimble fingers carding through the spiky hair at his nape, and allowed the comforting sensation to carry him toward a deep, pain-free sleep.
"Than's 'mmy," he managed to murmur, the edges of his words dulled by pain and fatigue.
Wakefulness rolled over him slowly. He was aware of a faint aching tightness around his head, but nothing that he couldn't cope with.
"Hey, dude;" he familiar voice was close and reassuring.
Dean tried to open his eyes, but they felt as if they had been nailed shut, so he just burrowed down into the bed and lay there, sprawled across the mattress and enjoying the sensation of not being in indescribable agony.
"That's it, time to wake up now," Sam coaxed gently, lowering himself onto the side of the mattress; "open your eyes man."
And there it was, that hand on his neck again; softly kneading, encouraging him back to the land of the living.
With much groaning and huffing, he managed to haul himself up onto his elbows, and cracked his eyes open slightly, blinking back stinging tears against the dull half-light of the unlit room, drawn curtains providing a blue shield against the daylight.
As his eyes focussed, the first thing he saw was Sam's smiling face, the second thing was a glass of water which Sam thrust into his hand.
"Whass' time?" he mumbled hoarsely.
"Six thirty," Sam replied quietly.
"In the morning?" Dean's sleep-crumpled eyes widened.
"No," Sam snorted, "in the evening; you've slept for eighteen hours straight, dude!"
Sam smiled, "how're you feeling?"
Dean took a cautious sip of the water, and licked his dry lips; "better," he croaked, "lot better."
"Good," Sam looked genuinely relieved; "I called the walk-in clinic downtown while you were asleep and they said it sounded like a standard migraine, but as it was the first time you've ever had one they also said if you weren't much better when you woke up, I was to get you to ER."
Dean took another timid sip of the water and nodded, rubbing his neck.
"Any pain?" Sam prompted.
Dean considered for a moment, flexing his neck and shoulders stiffly; "jus' a ..."
Sam shuddered; "Dean, please don't say 'just a headache'."