Title: Formaldehyde and Lace
Author: Jain
Pairing: Sam/Dean
Rating: PG
Word count: 3600
Summary: Dean's a bit under the weather, so Sam takes charge.
Author's notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] runedgirl for [livejournal.com profile] spn_j2_xmas.
Permanent link: "Formaldehyde and Lace" on AO3

A clump of sodden snow fell onto the windshield with a dull thud and Dean cursed under his breath, turned on the wipers to clear the windshield again. "See, this is why I don't like going north of the Mason-Dixon line in the winter. Dude, this is completely unnecessary. New Orleans alone could keep us busy for a month."

"Yeah, but New Orleans doesn't have a mysterious death that Bobby specifically asked us to check out, like Buffalo, Minnesota does," Sam pointed out reasonably.

Dean glared at him from out of the corner of his eye. "When did you get so gung-ho about this assignment, anyway?"

"I don't know. When did you stop?"

"I think it was around the same time that my nuts decided to crawl up into my large intestine. Jesus fuck, I hate this weather."

"Stop whining. It's warm enough in the car."

"Are you joking, dude? It's fucking freezing in here."

Sam turned to look at his brother, who was clenching the steering wheel with white-knuckled fingers and shivering lightly. "Hey, Dean?"


"I think you're getting sick."

"I'm fine, Sam."

"You're shivering, and it is not that cold in here."

"Says the man who was wearing short sleeves last week."

"We were in Maryland," Sam said, raising his voice to be heard over Steppenwolf as Dean turned up the volume.

"Sorry, Sammy," Dean said, miming deafness.

Sam just shook his head, leaned back in his seat, and closed his eyes.

He woke up with a headache and a dry mouth less than an hour later. The music was low enough to be background noise, but Dean had turned up the heat while Sam had been sleeping and the car was like an oven.

Sam rummaged around on the floor beneath the seat for a bottle of water and swallowed half of it down in one gulp. "Where are we?"

"The ass-end of nowhere, same as we've been for the last six hours."

"Okay... Any idea when we'll arrive at Buffalo?"

Dean shrugged. "Maybe another couple of hours." He coughed suddenly, from deep in his chest, and swallowed with a grimace. "Mind passing me one of those?" he asked. Sam dug up another water and twisted it open for him. "Thanks."

"You want to pull over, let me drive for a bit?" Sam asked.

"I'm fine."

"Yeah, I can tell," Sam said dryly. "But I'm wired, and you've been driving since we stopped for lunch."

"Whatever," Dean said, but he pulled over onto the shoulder. "Fuck," he added when Sam opened the door, letting in a rush of frigid air.

Sam got out quickly and slammed the door shut. By the time he'd walked around to the driver's side, Dean had slid across the seat and was settled in on the passenger side. He had his hands tucked under his armpits and was shivering again.

Sam struggled out of his coat and tossed it over his brother.

One of the sleeves ended up draped over Dean's face, and he pushed it away irritably. "What the hell?"

"I'm hot, okay? Just shove it on the floor if it's bugging you."

"So now I'm your coatrack, on top of everything else?" Dean groused, even as he curled up underneath Sam's coat and closed his eyes. His breathing deepened almost instantly, and Sam carefully slid one of his own cassettes out of the box that lay between the two of them and slipped it into the tape player. A quick glance at Dean showed him still out like a light. Sam nudged the heat down a notch and pulled back onto the highway, savoring the taste of victory.

Buffalo had a whopping two hotels to choose from, which was still two more than they got in some other towns they'd had to stay in. It really was a crying shame when a Motel 8 was a welcome sign of civilization.

"We there yet?" Dean asked, waking up with a start when Sam opened the passenger-side door.

"We've been here for nearly fifteen minutes," Sam said. "I already checked in and got all our stuff inside. Come on."

"Yeah, okay, I'm coming," Dean said. He slid out of the car, jamming his hands into his pockets and shivering in the winter air. He disappeared into the bathroom as soon as they got inside, and Sam fidgeted outside the bathroom door for a solid five minutes until Dean came out again, the hectic flush on his cheeks just visible in his fresh-scrubbed face.

By the time Sam was done peeing and washing his hands, Dean was already asleep, sacked out on top of the bedspread. Sam shook his head and took the blankets off the other bed to spread them over his brother. Then he started up his laptop and got to work.

The sunlight seeping in around the curtains was dim and orange by the time Dean finally stirred. Considering that they'd gotten in around noon, that was a pretty impressive nap.

Dean coughed a few times, then sat up and leaned against the headboard. "Hey, Sam?" he rasped.


"I think I've got the 24-hour flu, or something."

Sam rolled his eyes, but didn't say anything. Admitting you had a problem was the first step, and it barely mattered that Dean was predicting recovery within a day as long as he was willing to admit to being sick. "Yeah, it sounds like it," he said neutrally. "You want some water?"

"I can get it myself," Dean snapped, and Sam held his hands up in a conciliatory gesture.

"Hey, I was just asking."

"Whatever." Dean shuffled to the bathroom, not bothering to switch on the light. The tap ran for a few minutes, and then he shuffled back out, dropped onto the bed, and pulled the covers around himself.

"I'm gonna go pick up some supplies and grab us something to eat, okay?"

"Yeah, get out of here," Dean mumbled into his pillow, already half-asleep.

"Drink some more water."

Dean waved his middle finger in the air, and Sam grinned as he closed the door quietly behind him.

Unsurprisingly, Dean was still dead to the world when Sam got back an hour later, loaded down with food, cough syrup, Tylenol, and Kleenex. He considered letting him sleep, but the food would get cold, and then Dean would no doubt bitch at him for much longer than would do his throat any good.

"Hey, Dean," he said softly, and Dean's eyes fluttered open. "I brought dinner."

Dean managed half a container of lo mein before he was racing for the bathroom to be violently ill. Sam sighed and pulled a bottle of ginger ale and a carton of saltines out of the shopping bag.

"Okay, this officially sucks," Dean said when he finally emerged from the bathroom.

"Yeah, I know," Sam said. He pointed to the cup of ginger ale and the package of crackers he'd set on the bedside table. "See if you can keep those down, and I'll tell you what we've got so far."

Dean sat on the bed and started crunching crackers grumpily. "Fine."

Sam turned his laptop around so that Dean could see the headline: "Tragedy at the Winter Formal."

"Mandy Wilkinson, a seventeen year-old high-school student, collapsed suddenly on the dance floor last week," Sam said. "They couldn't determine the cause of death--I'm reading between the lines, there, but the official reason is heart failure, and that's pretty damn unlikely for someone that young. There are the usual expressions of shock and grief from her date--" he tapped the picture of a dark-haired, freckled boy "--and some of her classmates. She's survived by her mom, stepdad, and younger sister. As far as I can tell, all of her friends and family check out okay...online, anyway. Her dad died when she was a kid, lung cancer, nothing suspicious looking about it. I've found addresses for Mandy's family and most of the students quoted in the article."

"Okay, so, tomorrow morning we head over to the family's first, then hit up the boyfriend and maybe a couple of Mandy's friends, and see where to go from there. Sound good?"

"Except for the 'we' part," Sam said. "You're sick, Dean. How forthcoming do you think anyone's going to be when you have to keep borrowing their bathroom to puke in?"

"I just need a good night's sleep," Dean said, with only one break in the middle for an imperfectly stifled coughing fit.

"Right," Sam said skeptically. He grabbed a pillow from his bed and threw it at him. "Why don't you get on that, then?"

The fact that Dean actually took his advice with no further grumbling was faintly alarming. Sam watched in disbelief as his brother curled around the pillow with a grumpy nod. A hand pressed to Dean's forehead revealed him to be hot but nowhere near burning up, though, so Sam pulled off Dean's shoes, then tugged the blankets over him more snugly and let him sleep.

The next morning, Sam sneaked out early to hit people up for interviews. Dean had been up half the night coughing; with luck, Sam wouldn't get an enraged phone call until noon.

His luck turned out to be so good that it became worrisome. When twelve thirty had gone with no word from Dean, Sam cut short his final interview and headed back to the motel. He opened the door, his stomach turning slightly with anxiety, only to relax when Dean's head popped up from his pillow and he blinked blearily at Sam.

"You look awful," Sam said, looking the door behind himself. It was true; Dean's skin was dull and feverish, his nose was running, and his lips were chapped and rough.

"Thanks," Dean muttered and let his head drop back onto the pillow. "Where've you been?" he added, his voice muffled by the fabric.

"Conducting interviews."

Dean's death glare had lost most of its force...not that it had been intimidating since Sam had been, like, eleven.

"Don't get too worked up," Sam said dryly. He took a cassette tape out of his coat pocket and waggled it at Dean. "You can listen to it, if you want, but it's basically a whole lot of nothing."

"Get out the tape player," Dean said, already shuffling towards the bathroom.

He didn't bother with a shower, for which Sam was grateful; he didn't quite trust Dean not to collapse in the tub, and Dean tended to get squirrelly whenever Sam 'hovered' (as he put it). Sam's hanging around inside the bathroom waiting to catch Dean in case he fell in the tub probably counted. In other circumstances, Sam might have used shower sex as a cover, but: nasty flu; Dean looking like a plague victim. Fucking his brother seemed like even less of a good idea than it usually did.

In any event, Dean ran the sink for close to five minutes and then emerged looking marginally more like himself. Sam nodded him over to his bed, with the tape player laid out on the bedside table. "It's all set up. I'm just going to get us some lunch; I'll be right back."

Dean waved him off absently. There was a deli Sam had noticed when he'd been driving around Buffalo earlier, and he headed back there now. Almost the first thing he saw when he walked in was the sign advertising their fresh pies made daily, and he spared a moment to be glad that Dean couldn't see it. He'd inevitably insist on getting a slice of the--Sam considered the offerings--the rhubarb custard, and it would only end in tears and vomit. Instead, Sam bought two orders of chicken wild rice soup.

The soup smelled pretty incredible, so it least there was that. Sam hurried back to the motel as much from hunger as from the desire to make Dean consume something other than saltines and soda, with just a quick stop to pick up orange juice and more cough syrup.

"You're right, there's nothing here," Dean said when he entered the room.

Sam nodded. He dropped his bags on the table before taking off his coat and gloves, which he tossed onto the chair by the radiator. "I didn't get the chance to check the library archives yet, and my internet search wasn't exactly extensive. We're not stumped yet."

"Well, great," Dean said. "Because I definitely wanted to stick around here a while longer." His words lacked sincerity, though, so Sam didn't bother saying anything, just set a plastic container of soup and a spoon out for Dean and got a plastic cup from the bathroom for his orange juice.

"I think I've got something." Sam angled the laptop so that Dean could see it from his bed if he wanted.

Dean sniffled and wiped his nose on the back of his hand. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. Also, that's completely disgusting. I got you the Kleenex for a reason; don't make me come over there and wipe your nose for you."

"Whatever," Dean said, rolling his eyes, but he snatched some tissues out of the box and blew his nose loudly. He tossed the used Kleenex over the side of the bed and missed the trashcan by six inches. "Better?"

"Much," Sam said dryly.

"So, what have you got?" Dean asked, oblivious.

"I was searching for accounts of girls who died mysteriously at dances. I turned up one in '99 in Rockford, another in '85 in Medina, one in '56 in Plymouth, and--the earliest--one in '53 in Minneapolis."

"No pattern in how many years passed between deaths," Dean said.

"Nope, but check out this photograph from '85," Sam said, turning the laptop to face his brother's bed. "Some kid at the dance had his camera with him and took a picture right after the girl collapsed."

"She's wearing the same dress as Mandy Wilkinson," Dean said.


"Hey, isn't there an urban legend kind of like this? Girl goes to a dance and drops dead, and then they find that the dress she's wearing belonged to a corpse?"

"Right. According to the legend, the undertaker removes the dead girl's dress after the viewing so that he can sell it. The second girl actually dies of formaldehyde poisoning; she gets overheated at the dance and it makes the formaldehyde leech into her skin."

"That's not what's happening here, though."

"No. If you think about it, the original legend doesn't really make much sense. If the dress was soaked with enough formaldehyde to cause someone's death, then it would smell foul enough that no one would wear it. Not to mention that these girls probably all washed the dress when they brought it home from the secondhand store."

"Okay, so what's the real story? That first girl you turned up, do you know if she'd bought the dress new or used?"

"Better than that," Sam said. "Her older sister sewed it for her in home ec. They did a whole human interest article based around that. She's definitely the first of the bunch."

"So...road trip to Minneapolis?"

Sam shook his head. "Medina. Apparently that's where her mother's family was from, and for some reason they decided to bury her there. And you're not coming."

"The hell I'm not," Dean said.

"What are you going to do, sneeze on her? Scare her off by hacking a lung up onto the ground at her feet?"

"You can't go up against this thing alone," Dean said, his voice raised, only to break into a fit of coughing after he'd gotten the last word out.

Sam waited for him to catch his breath. "Dean, you can't even stand up straight. If you came along, you'd only be a liability."

"I can stand," Dean said, but it didn't sound very persuasive. He knew as well as Sam did that standing wasn't the same as hunting. Sam made a face at him, and Dean shrugged. "So we wait until tomorrow night and go after her together."

"And give her the opportunity to hurt somebody else? Just because the other deaths all took place years apart doesn't guarantee that she won't kill the next girl tonight. Come on, you know this is the only way."

Dean glowered at him. "Fine. Go," he bit out.

"I'm going." The car was ready. All Sam had to do was pull on his coat and gloves, wrap a scarf around his neck, and he was set. Right after he set the orange juice on Dean's bedside table in easy reach.

Sam unlocked the hotel room door as quietly as he could and eased it open. He needn't have bothered to be so careful; Dean was lying curled up on his side, his eyes glittering in the half-dark.

"How'd it go?" he asked hoarsely.

"Fine." Sam dropped his backpack on the chair, hiding a wince as the muscles in his right arm twinged, and turned to lock and chain the door. "She kind of got the jump on me, but she's salted and burned now." He held his breath, half-anticipating another lecture, but Dean just smiled.

"You did good, Sam."


Apparently that was the signal for Dean to start coughing. He struggled to sit up, and Sam was across the room in an instant, helping him lean against the headboard.

"So, you feeling any better yet?" he asked. His hand hovered at his side for a moment, and then he reached out to press the back of it against Dean's cheek and forehead.

"Oh, yeah, loads."

"So you're not delirious any more?"

His brother punched him in the arm, and Sam grinned. "I was never fucking delirious. Stop blowing everything out of proportion."

"You told me that you were going to become a marine biologist and study octopuses in their natural habitat," Sam lied.

Dean's face went blank for a few precious seconds, and then Sam giggled and Dean punched him again. Hard.

"Ow, watch it," Sam said.

"Hey, if I'm in pain, everyone should be in pain," Dean said, right before he let out two sharp coughs. He didn't get his arm in front of his mouth quickly enough, and Sam wiped away the fine spray that hit the side of his face.

"You know I'm going to get your cold now," he said conversationally.

"Yeah. Sorry 'bout that."

"Don't worry about it. Just one of the many perks of life on the road. Speaking of which, I'm thinking we should maybe stick around here for another day or two. We don't have any pressing business, and it'd give you a chance to rest up."

"A chance to rest up in fucking Minnesota," Dean groused.

Sam shook his head. "Okay, seriously, you have got to get over your issues with this state. This hotel room is warm. You're under a six inch pile of blankets. You pretty much can't get cozier than this."

"Fine," Dean said shortly. "But the day after tomorrow, we're headed south."

"No arguments here," Sam said.

They sat together and breathed for awhile--Sam with rather less difficulty than Dean--and Sam had almost dropped asleep when he felt a warm pressure on his shoulder: Dean's head coming to rest against him as he dozed off. He probably should've eased Dean off and made him go to bed properly, but it was...nice. Dean wasn't really big on cuddling whenever he wasn't running a temperature; even when they had sex, Dean usually kicked him out of bed afterwards so that they could each spread out to sleep.

Which was really not something he ought to be thinking about right now, Sam reflected as his dick got more interested in Dean's sleepy, pliant warmth than it had any business in being. Time to put Dean to bed. Sam slid an arm around him to support his descent, only to be thwarted by Dean awakening. "Huh?" he said. Then, "Oh, sorry. I'm kind of wiped."

"It's fine," Sam said automatically, and if his voice wasn't quite as smooth as he'd like, well, he had just cause.

Dean peered at him with suspicious eyes, and then something in Sam's face must have tipped him off, because he grinned. "Is that all? Go right ahead."

"Dean! You're sick."

"You've already gotten as many of my germs as you can get. I don't think having sex will increase your chances of getting sick," Dean said, very seriously.

Sam rolled his eyes. "I meant I'm not going to fuck you while you feel like shit, not that I'm worried about catching your flu."

"Oh." Dean thought about that a moment, then shrugged. "I'm fine. Seriously, Sam."

Seriously, Sam shouldn't even have been considering it, but it was true that Dean looked better: his voice was hoarse, but he wasn't coughing every few seconds anymore, and his fever was down a bit. Not all the way, though, and Sam couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to feel Dean's fever-hot skin from the inside out, to fuck him while his blunter edges were softened by illness and tiredness.

He reached under Dean's shirt to stroke the small of his back, feeling Dean shiver at the touch of his cold hands, and realized that he'd already made up his mind.

"All right," Dean said, "Dr. Love is in the house!" and what was that Sam had just thought about Dean's edges being softened? Still, he couldn't help but grin as he pushed his brother to lie down flat on the bed and covered his body with his own.

From: [identity profile] dine.livejournal.com

poor Dean doesn't do well as a patient, does he? I really liked their interactions, caretaker!Sam is lovely

From: [identity profile] ash-carpenter.livejournal.com

That was so adorable! I love a belligerent Dean and a caring Sammy and the banter was great. Awesome ending too :D ♥

From: [identity profile] ronny-of-yore.livejournal.com

This was positively lovely. Sick!Dean was so adorable and so was Caretaker!Sam. I think my favorite line was this:

He didn't bother with a shower, for which Sam was grateful; he didn't quite trust Dean not to collapse in the tub, and Dean tended to get squirrelly whenever Sam 'hovered' (as he put it).

I think the word "squirrelly" fits Dean so much for some reason. Nice read. Thank you!