Word Count: ~5800
Warnings: Minor language and violence. Sick, fevered Sam and worried, protective Dean. Could be set in any season. No spoilers except to the premise of the show.
Author’s Notes: This is for ladykiki. I’ve sort of worked a couple of the prompts into this, though I’ve also taken some liberties with the interpretation. I really hope you like this! As always, a huge thank you to my beta, who will remain anonymous until reveals.
Summary: Sam and Dean are hunting a cockatrice. But Sam’s the one who did the research, and now he’s sick and more out of it than with it. Dean needs to bring his fever down, make sense of his rambling, and kill the monster. All in a day’s work for a Winchester.
“Remember the time I sleepwalked when I was a kid?” Sam asked.
He looked like he was only half-awake now, but Dean was too worried about the fever Sam was spiking to enjoy his spaced-out expression.
“I remember the time you scared the crap out of me by falling down a flight of stairs while sleepwalking when you were a kid,” Dean said. “You hit your head on the way down. There was blood everywhere. I had to take you to the emergency room and I was terrified you were going to bleed out in the car before we got there. I remember that.”
“Deeeeean,” Sam protested, drawing out his brother’s name like he always did when he was sick or tired. “You’re ruining the atmosphere.”
“We’re camping, Dean. You’re supposed to tell stories.”
“First, we’re not camping. We’re hunting, and that damn cockatrice is kicking our asses.” He paused, checking on the soup bubbling over their little campfire. “Or at least, that damn cockatrice is kicking my ass. This fever is kicking your ass. Second, you’re supposed to tell scary stories.”
“Cockatrices aren’t real, Dean,” Sam said.
“What do you mean cockatrices aren’t real? You’re the one who did the research and told me that’s what this is – and it looks exactly like you said it would.”
“Research?” Fever-bright eyes looked at Dean through the tangle of Sam’s hair. “Is there a library here? I can look it up for you.”
Dean shut his eyes for a moment. Of course. The fever. Sam was confused.
“You already did the research,” he said reassuringly, reaching out to brush hair off Sam’s forehead. Sam’s skin was hot enough to make him wince, but it was dry. So were his lips. All the throwing up earlier had probably dehydrated him. “Don’t worry about that.”
“I said it was a cockatrice?” Sam asked suspiciously.
“Yeah, kiddo, you did.” Dean ladled some soup into a bowl and set it down to cool. “You want to try sitting up, Sammy? See if you can keep some water down, and then we’ll try the soup.”
“You only make me soup when I’m sick. Am I sick?”
Dean sighed, getting behind Sam and hooking his hands under his brother’s arms. “I’m going to sit you up now, OK?”
“Am I sick?”
Dean knew there was no avoiding the question. Sam could be a persistent little brat. “Yes, Sammy, you’re sick.”
“I was hoping it was just a cold, but your temp’s too high for that. I’m pulling you up on three, OK? One… two… up.”
The change of position brought on a coughing fit. Dean waited it out with a hand on Sam’s back, finally relaxing when the coughs had subsided to shaky gulps of air.
“You don’t know what I’m sick with, do you?” Sam’s voice was hoarse.
“Drink,” Dean said firmly, holding the cup to Sam’s lips. “Slowly. We’ll talk about it later.” He let Sam take a few sips before he took the cup away. “You feel OK?”
“Fine,” Sam mumbled, turning his face into Dean’s shirt. “Am I going to die?”
“What?” Dean gasped. “Where the hell is that coming from? Do you feel that bad?”
“I don’t know. You won’t tell me what I’m sick with.”
Dean sighed, reminding himself that there was no need to panic. Sammy always got emo and clingy when he was sick.
“I don’t know what you’re sick with, kiddo. Maybe it’s just a really bad case of the flu. But we need to get you to a doctor to be sure.”
“No doctor,” Sam protested. “There were clowns.”
“When I sleepwalked and fell down the stairs. There were clowns.”
Thinking back, Dean did remember clowns on the wallpaper of the Paediatric Ward. It had freaked Sam out, and Dean had had to sit by the bed until he fell asleep.
“There won’t be clowns,” Dean promised. “Do you feel like you’re going to throw up?”
Sam made a face. “No.”
“Great. Soup time.” Dean picked up the bowl. It had cooled just enough that Sam wouldn’t burn his tongue. “Open up, Sammy.”
Sam obediently opened his mouth for the first spoonful.
“I read about cockatrices,” he said after he swallowed it.
“Yeah?” Dean asked, trying not to let his voice betray his excitement. If this was a period of lucidity, it might be short, and he couldn’t afford to scare it away by startling Sam. He needed the info too desperately. The last forty-eight hours had made it clear that the only way they were getting out of this goddamned forest, the only way he could get Sam to a hospital, was by killing the monster currently terrorizing it. “What did you read?”
“They thought it was the same as a basilisk.” Dean fed Sam another spoonful of soup. “It’s not, though. Well, it’s the same in one way. You die if you look it directly in the eye. But you can’t kill it like a basilisk.”
“How do you kill a basilisk?” Sam made a little movement that was half-shrug and half-shiver, followed by a short cough that fortunately didn’t turn into more. “You cold?”
“No,” Sam said, but he tugged the blanket closer around himself. “Snake.”
“What, kiddo?” Dean nudged Sam’s lips with the spoon. “Open up.”
Sam swallowed the spoonful and then said, more forcefully, “Snake. You can kill a basilisk like a snake. Cut off its head or whatever, just don’t look. Doesn’t work on a cockatrice. Not a snake. It’s got dragon hide. No blade we’ve got can penetrate that.”
“So how do you kill a cockatrice?” There was no answer. Dean shook Sam lightly. “Hey. Sammy. How do you kill a cockatrice?”
Sam stared up at him. “Cockatrices are real?”
“Crap,” Dean muttered.
“I know you’re cold. You need to stay under the blanket, OK?”
“But you have to stay with me!” Sam stuck a hand out to grab Dean’s shirt. “You have to stay with me, or they’ll come.”
“Hands inside the blanket,” Dean said, disentangling Sam’s fingers from his shirt.
“But they’ll come.”
Dean really wanted to ask what Sam meant, because his brother’s delirious rambling could be pretty hilarious – and provide incredible blackmail material – but there was no time. He had to figure out what to do about the cockatrice.
“Don’t look,” Sam said suddenly.
“If the cockatrice comes, don’t look – not even in a mirror.”
“Sam, what are you talking about?”
“It’s not a basilisk. You can meet a basilisk’s eyes in a mirror and you’ll be fine. Like Medusa. Because they’re all snakes. All Medusa’s snakes. Like the basilisk. Not a cockatrice. It’s a dragon. Can’t look at it in a mirror.”
Dean’s breath caught.
“How do you look at it?” he asked.
“You don’t. You kill it.”
“Don’t look at it in a mirror,” Sam said again. “It’s fatal to meet a cockatrice’s eyes, even in a mirror.”
“Yeah, I get that. But how do I kill the thing?”
Sam opened his mouth to speak, but ended up coughing instead. Dean waited, running a hand through his hair, until Sam finally said, “It doesn’t come from a rooster’s egg.”
“That’s what people believed. Maybe they thought that was how it got its name. Rooster’s egg.” Sam sighed. “No such thing.”
“Sam,” Dean said, trying his best not to sound frustrated, because that would only be counterproductive, “there is such a thing as a cockatrice. You did the research, four days ago when you weren’t so sick I had to spoon-feed you soup, and you told me that cockatrices are a real thing and this is a cockatrice. I’m willing to stake my life you were right.”
Sam looked at him like was crazy. “Of course cockatrices are real. Rooster’s eggs aren’t.”
“Sammy, please. Try to remember. What do I need to do? How do I track it?”
“Pliny called it a calcatrix. That’s how it gets its name. Means a tracker.” Sam smiled beatifically at him. “You don’t track it, Dean. It tracks you.”
Dean’s blood went cold. “Could it be tracking us now? I thought we were safe here.”
“Maybe. But it won’t come while you’re standing guard.”
“Sam, I’m flattered you have that much faith in me, but –”
“That’s not what I mean.” Sam grabbed Dean’s shirt again, using it to lever himself into a sitting position – which, of course, made him cough. Little idiot. “It’s a stealth killer,” Sam got out at last. “It doesn’t attack watchful prey. It waits for the crocodile to open its jaws. That’s when it strikes.”
“This thing attacks crocodiles?”
“Nile crocodiles,” Sam said, sounding drowsy now. He settled his head under Dean’s jaw, apparently deciding his big brother made a better pillow than the rolled-up jacket Dean had tucked under his head. “Big. Not as big as saltwater crocodiles.”
“Crocodiles keep growing. As long as they can get food, they don’t stop growing.”
“Sammy, listen to me. I need you to focus. As long as I’m awake and paying attention, it won’t attack, is that what you’re saying?”
“It attacked us this afternoon. I was awake then.”
“You weren’t paying attention.”
“What are you talking about? Of course I was paying attention.”
“Not to the cockatrice. You were paying attention to me.”
Dean sighed. He had been paying attention to Sam, more worried about his little brother’s fever and weakness than about the monster they were hunting.
“So what do we do?” he wondered aloud.
“Stop worrying about me,” Sam said, in the big brothers are so stupid voice that he could pull off perfectly even when he was half-conscious.
“Like that’s going to happen,” Dean muttered, lowering Sam to the ground and draping the blanket over him again. “Next time, Sammy, we’re carrying your notes with us, even if they do weigh eight thousand pounds and your gigantor brain is capable of remembering everything.”
“I do remember my notes,” Sam said indignantly. “I remember all my notes. Even from that one Art History course I took.”
“Go to sleep, Sam.”
“Nile crocodiles attack by ambush too,” Sam muttered. “So it serves them right cockatrices get them the same way. Or got them the same way. I don’t know if there are that many still left.”
“Nile crocodiles aren’t endangered. I meant cockatrices.”
“Of course you did. Go to sleep, Sam.”
“You need to go.”
“You can’t stay awake forever. At some point you’ll fall asleep. Then it’ll just get us both. It’s much more sensible if you –”
“Sam, finish that sentence and I will kick your ass when you’re better. I’m not leaving you alone here when you’re sick and there’s some kind of terror-monster out to kill you by looking at you.”
“Can’t kill me by looking at me. I have to look at it.”
Dean paused. “So… If I blindfolded you and left you here and went back to the motel for your notes, it couldn’t hurt you?”
“So you’ll go?”
“Answer my question – and don’t you dare lie to me, Sammy.”
Sam shrugged. “Legend says cockatrices can also kill people by breathing on them. But it’s not been conclusively proven.”
Dean shook his head. Legend was enough for him. It was at least a five-hour trek back to the motel, or to any kind of civilization. Five hours there, five hours back, he wasn’t leaving Sam alone that long unless he was completely certain the thing couldn’t hurt him.
“Sleep, Sam,” he said. “And maybe in the morning you’ll feel better and remember how to kill it.”
“I told you how to kill it,” Sam mumbled, shutting his eyes.
“What? How?” Dean patted his brother on the arm. “Sam!”
Sam groaned and opened his eyes. “What?”
“How do you kill a cockatrice?”
“A cockatrice? Like Pliny’s cockatrice?”
Dean suppressed a sigh. “Go back to sleep, kiddo. We’ll talk in the morning.”
They didn’t talk in the morning, though.
Sam got worse overnight, congestion increasing in his lungs until he was struggling for air, great wheezing gasps that gave him too little oxygen and made Dean’s heart hammer in desperate fear.
“Let’s try to elevate you a bit,” he grunted, lifting Sam and wishing more than ever for a hospital, with beds you could raise and pillows you could stack behind kids who needed their airways clear. “Better?”
“Dean.” Sam’s voice sounded shredded.
Dean ran a hand through his hair. “I know, Sammy. You just hang tight. I’ll get you to help.”
“No clowns,” Dean agreed. “Sammy, I can’t give you more Tylenol – you’re maxed out on your daily dose already, even taking into account that you’re the size of like three normal people.”
“Dean no clowns.”
“Don’t look.” Sam’s hand flailed out wildly, grabbing at air for a moment before finding Dean’s sleeve. “You can kill it but don’t look.”
Dean tickled Sam’s wrist until his fingers unclenched and his hand dropped to rest next to his head on Dean’s knee. This was hopeless. He should’ve known better than to leave all the research to Sam just because he’d wanted to spend time with Andie. Sam was good, but right now Sam was sick and their only hope of survival lay in Dean’s ability to make sense of his fevered rambling.
He shut his eyes, thinking back to their motel room. Sam had had a hunter’s wall set up. Dean had seen it. Sam was meticulous about his research, and annoying as that could be, it also meant that the answer had been somewhere there.
If Dean could only remember it.
His cell phone and Sam’s, both dead, were sitting uselessly in his rucksack. They had enough food to last a few more days, and there was a stream not too far away – Dean remembered Sam’s mumbling about crocodiles and shuddered – and if Sam had been healthy, they would have salted and burned the cockatrice and been out by now.
They had meds, too, but Dean was starting to lose faith in the first-aid kit. Nothing he’d done had made the slightest dent in Sam’s fever. Dean wasn’t even using the thermometer; a touch was enough to tell him it was high and if he didn’t do something about it, it would get dangerous.
“Sam?” Dean said, jiggling his knee a little. Sam mumbled something, but he didn’t open his eyes. “Sam.”
Sam blinked awake. “Dean?”
“Sam.” Dean squeezed his brother’s shoulder. “Sam, is it safe to go to the stream? I need to get you in the water, kiddo. We have to break the fever.”
“No crocodiles.” Dean was sure of that, at least. “But what about the cockatrice? Is it more powerful in the water or something? How does it attack the crocodiles?”
“The Nile turned red. It’s normally muddy. All the silt.”
Dean frowned. It seemed like Sam was trying to tell him something, as much as he could through the fever-induced delirium, but what?
“Clear water, Sam? Does that help?”
“You’re so smart.” Sam sounded delighted. Dean tamped down his pleased smile – of course he was smart, he was Sam Winchester’s big brother – and brushed a few strands of hair off Sam’s face. “Too late,” Sam added.
“What’s too late?”
“Too late. Remember when I fell down the stairs?”
Dean swallowed. “I remember, Sammy.”
“Shut up.” Sam started coughing. “Crap. OK, I’m just going to sit you up for a moment, come on…” Dean tugged Sam up, propping him against his rucksack. “Sit tight, OK? I’ll warm some water, should have some tea bags in my pack. You want tea?”
Without waiting for an answer, Dean poured some water from his canteen into the pan and put it over the fire.
“Hey, Sam?” Dean asked suddenly. “Does fire keep the cockatrice away?”
“It’s an animal.”
“And so it’s scared of fire.” Dean looked at the fire for a moment. He could leave it burning, he could pile up some wood and Sam would just have to keep feeding the fire every now and then –
He shook his head, appalled that he’d even considered it. There was no way he was leaving his little brother here alone. It was too big a risk. He’d just have to figure it out – or hope that Sam’s fever came down and he could tell Dean how to get rid of the damn thing.
The water boiled, and Dean poured it into a tin cup and dropped in a tea bag. While he waited for it to steep, he palmed Sam’s cheek again. Hot. Way too hot.
His canteen was half-full and Sam’s was mostly full. He could use that. It wouldn’t be enough, but it might keep Sam going till morning. Assuming that was Sam meant by too late, assuming Sam even knew what he was saying. Normally Dean would trust Sam completely when it came to research and knowing weird bits of lore, but…
“Better not be babbling, kiddo,” he muttered, picking up the cup and going to Sam. “Be careful. It’s hot.”
Dean watched dawn break over the treetops with a sigh of relief. He’d spent the rest of the night wiping Sam’s face and chest and arms down with damp cloths. It had helped a little, but not much.
Sam had woken a few times, wracked with coughing. He hadn’t been lucid. The last time he hadn’t even known Dean. He’d clutched at Dean’s sleeve, begging him to, “Please get my brother.” Dean knew it was just the fever, but it still made his chest ache that Sammy hadn’t recognized him.
Dean was pretty sure it wasn’t the flu. Maybe pneumonia, though Dean wouldn’t be surprised if the damn cockatrice was messing with Sam’s head somehow. However delirious Sam was, he always knew Dean.
A couple of times Dean thought he saw something moving in the shadows outside the circle of light cast by the campfire. He was never certain, and it always disappeared before he could check. Not that he was planning to check, not if they were facing a thing that could kill people by breathing on them.
He laid a hand on Sam’s cheek. It was burning.
For a moment, Dean was actually afraid. He had no idea what to do. Sam was sick and getting sicker. They were facing a cockatrice and Dean had no clue how to kill it other than Sam’s incoherent mumbling about basilisks and crocodiles and clear water. There was a very real chance they were both going to die.
That wasn’t going to happen. They were Winchesters, they were hunters, and they weren’t about to be taken down by some sort of imitation dragon with a chicken’s head.
Right. He just had to deal with this one thing at a time, and the first thing was to make sure Sammy was OK. That was the first rule, Dad’s rule, his rule, the most important rule: take care of Sam.
“Hey.” Dean tapped Sam’s cheek. “Hey. Sammy. Can you hear me?” Hazel eyes opened and looked at him uncertainly. “Sam?”
“Oh thank god.” Dean got an arm around Sam’s shoulders. “We have to get you in the water, Sammy. Need to break the fever. I just hope it doesn’t make your coughing worse.”
“Water,” Sam mumbled.
“Yeah, the stream.”
“No.” Sam pulled away. “No. Dean!”
“Hey! Hey, hey, calm down. Calm down, it’s OK. I’m here.” Dean grabbed Sam again. “I’m sorry, Sammy, but you need to get in the water.”
“The lake. Lakes are better.”
“Sammy, the lake’s too exposed.”
“The lake,” Sam repeated, eyes getting big and damp. “Dean, please.”
Dean sighed. One thing at a time, and the first thing was to get Sam’s fever down. Even sick, Sam was a big kid, and Dean wasn’t going to be able to drag him to the stream against his will. Besides, Sam did have a point. The stream had a slippery, mossy bed, but the lakebed was mostly sand. The last thing they needed was a head injury.
“OK,” he agreed. “We’ll go to the lake.”
Dean put their stuff back in their rucksacks. He pulled some brush over the rucksacks to hide them – no sense making it easy – scattered dirt over the ashes of the campfire, and hauled Sam to his feet. Sam managed to walk. He was leaning heavily on Dean, but that was better than Dean had expected.
By the time they got to the lake, the exertion gave Sam another coughing fit. Dean rubbed his back through it, and when it was finally over, he stripped off Sam’s jacket and boots, along with his own, and led him into the water. It was beautiful, still water reflecting the cloudy sky above, but Dean was in no mood to enjoy it.
“No heroics,” he grunted. “We can’t have you falling over and drowning in this. Stay with me, OK?”
“That’s my boy.”
Dean walked them in until they were chest-deep – or, well, until he was chest-deep – and then stopped. He gave Sam a moment to get comfortable against his shoulder, and then he started sluicing water over him. Sam shivered and bitched and squirmed, but Dean stayed firm, using one arm to hold him in place and the other to splash him.
“Yeah, I know it sucks.” Dean tightened his grip to keep Sam from getting away. “You’re so hot the water must feel like ice. But we have to do this, Sam.”
“Cold,” Sam said, and suddenly he was coughing again.
“Crap.” Dean had known this was a possibility, but he’d had to risk it, had to find a way to bring down the fever. “OK, it’s OK. Just hold on.” Dean hesitated – this was probably a colossally bad idea, but Sam’s skin was still warm. What was the point putting the kid through it if he wasn’t even going to do it right? “Just a minute more, OK? A minute more, then we’ll get out and dry off.”
“Cold, Dean,” Sam said between coughs, in the tiny voice that meant he expected Dean to fix everything.
“I know, kiddo. I’m sorry. We’ll get you warm soon. Just hold on for me, can you do that?”
“Cold,” Sam repeated sadly.
“Crap.” All of a sudden, Dean saw something move in the trees at the edge of the lake. “Double crap.”
“It’s OK, Sam.”
Dean reached for his gun before remembering he didn’t have it with him. He’d left it by the shore to keep it dry. Crap crap crap.
He pulled Sam around, so he was between his little brother and the monster, and fumbled for something to throw. His hand found the knife tucked into his belt – he’d forgotten to take it out. Sam had said the cockatrice’s hide was too thick to be pierced, but it was the only hope he had.
He waited for the thing to come out of the cover of the trees, and flung the knife with all his strength.
An unearthly shriek pierced the air. For a moment Dean thought he’d got it, but then he saw it moving, and it didn’t even seem to be injured.
His knife must have bounced off, just like Sammy said.
A moment later, the thing launched itself into the sky.
“Crap,” Dean hissed, when he got his first good look at its sinuous body, leathery wings and curved beak.
It flapped its wings a few times, gaining altitude, before it turned. Dean shut his eyes quickly, pushing Sam’s head down onto his shoulder to make sure Sam didn’t look directly at it either. There was a rush of air as it whooshed overhead.
“Sam, what do I do?” Dean snapped.
Sam coughed. “You cried.”
“Sammy,” Dean said in despair.
He sneaked a glance upwards out of the corner of the eye. The cockatrice was a dark shape against the clouds, wheeling, obviously trying to work out the best angle to attack. It screamed again. The hairs on the back of Dean’s neck stood on end.
“OK, we have to get out of here. Into the trees while it’s still doing a Bond villain monologue –”
“No? What the hell, Sam? I’m not standing around waiting to get eaten –”
“No.” Sam pulled back just enough to look him in the eye. Sam’s eyes were clear. He was exhausted and he was weak, but he was Sam. “No. Trust me. Don’t move. Not a single inch.”
“Sammy,” Dean whispered. “You with me?”
“OK.” Dean pushed Sam’s head down again. “Keep your eyes shut, kiddo. I’ve got you.”
“I’ve got you,” Dean repeated.
The cockatrice made another circle and finally ended up across from them, several hundred feet in the air above the far side of the lake.
Dean swallowed. Sam was between him and the monster, and every instinct was screaming at him to switch their positions. He couldn’t use Sam as his shield. He felt sick at the very thought. If it was going to get one of them –
But Sam had told him not to move an inch.
Dean tightened his grip on Sam and shut his eyes. Sam coughed again, but he stayed in place.
“I hope you know what you’re talking about, kiddo.”
There was another high, eerie scream.
Sam jerked in Dean’s arms. “Is that a ghost clown?”
“A ghost clown.”
Crap. “No, not a ghost clown, kiddo.” Dean rubbed Sam’s back. “Don’t worry. I’ll protect you. You’re safe.”
“Cold,” Sam said, coughing again. “Dean, I want to go.”
“In a minute, kiddo.” Dean half opened his eyes and shot a quick glance at the cockatrice. It was exactly where it had been, hovering in place, moving up and down slightly as its huge wings flapped. “We’re just waiting for…” For what? Dean didn’t even know what they were waiting for, and Sam was out of it again. “We’re just waiting.”
“You said we could go,” Sam complained. “You promised.”
“I know – I know, and we can go.” Sam started to pull away. “No,” Dean hissed, tightening his grip. “No. Not yet. Stay here, Sam, that’s an order.”
“But I’m cold.”
“We’re almost done, kiddo, I promise.”
“You promised before.”
There was another scream, and Dean knew without looking that the cockatrice was diving.
“Dean, please,” Sam whimpered, sounding terrified now. “Dean, please, they’re coming, they’re coming.”
“Nobody’s coming, Sam,” Dean said evenly, wrapping both arms around his brother. Maybe the cockatrice’s talons would dig into Dean’s arm instead of Sam’s back. “Nobody’s coming, you’re fine.”
“Dean, please. Please, just take me away from here.”
There was another shriek, closer, and oh god, oh god, it was going to take Sam. Dean shouldn’t have listened. Sam was delirious. It wasn’t the kid’s fault; he was sick and tired and dehydrated. Dean was fine. He should have known better. Dean had been an idiot, and the cockatrice was going to get its talons and beak in Sammy and his brother’s blood was going to be in the water and –
Every instinct told him to pull Sam behind him, to dive under the surface –
But Sam had told him to stay still.
“You’d better have been right,” Dean murmured. “I’m trusting you with your life.”
The last shriek was so close Dean felt as though his eardrums were going to explode. He prepared for pain – the pain of the cockatrice tearing into him, or the pain of it tearing Sam from his arms; and he knew which would be worse –
There was a splash, and silence.
Dean waited a moment. When nothing happened, he opened his eyes.
The cockatrice’s yellow eyes with snake-like slitted pupils were looking right into his.
He opened his mouth to scream but he knew he’d be too late – he was going to die, he’d failed, he’d failed Sammy. He was going to die, and Sam was going to die, and –
Dean wasn’t dead.
He let out a slow breath. He was alive. Sam was trembling in his arms. Sam was alive. They were both alive. And the cockatrice was –
Dean suddenly realized there was no spark of life in those yellow eyes.
“Keep your eyes shut,” he told Sam. He wasn’t taking any chances.
He pulled away from Sam, though he kept an arm around him to keep him standing, and took a step towards the cockatrice. He waved a hand in front of its open beak, touched the red comb on its head, and finally reached under the surface of the water to lay a hand over where its heart should’ve been.
There was no question about it.
The cockatrice was dead.
“Mr. Smith?” Dean got to his feet. The doctor smiled at him. “No need to look so worried. It’s pneumonia – a bad case, and he’s going to need some care. But your brother’s a strong young man. There’s no reason he shouldn’t make a full recovery.”
Dean nodded. “Thank you. You have no idea – he’s all I have left.”
“I understand. He’s awake now, and asking for you. Would you like to see him?”
“Yes. God, yes.”
“Come with me.”
Dean followed the doctor through the double doors. “When can I take him home?”
“We’d like to keep him for a couple of hours to see how he does, but you can take him home after that. But that doesn’t mean he’s better – he’s going to need a lot of rest and care. If that’s going to be difficult…”
“I can take care of him,” Dean said promptly.
“Good.” The doctor paused in front of a door and knocked on it before entering the room. “Hi, Sam. Your brother’s here.”
“Dean,” Sam said.
His voice was hoarse, but his smile was all for Dean, and it made a little flare of warmth light up in Dean’s chest.
“Hey, Sammy.” Dean tilted Sam’s head up with a finger. “You look like a zombie, dude.”
“So do you,” Sam retorted.
“Yeah, well, I’ve been worried sick about my little brother. What’s your excuse?” The doctor cleared his throat. Dean turned. “Sorry, doc, I… Um. Yeah.”
“No problem,” the doctor said, looking amused. “As I was saying, Sam’s going to need care. He’s very weak, with how long he’s been sick before you brought him.” The doctor shrugged. “You were lucky the rangers found you when they did.”
“I didn’t want to leave him by himself,” Dean said, squeezing Sam’s shoulder. “And my phone was dead, so we had to move at Sammy’s pace.”
“I understand. There have been reports of the occasional bear in that part of the forest… Anyway, I’ll write out a prescription for the medication he needs. One of the nurses will be by to brief you about dosages. You need to make sure he gets plenty of rest for the next few days, and takes plenty of fluids. He can eat whatever he feels like, but make sure he doesn’t skip meals. I’ll see him again… I think Saturday should be good. But if he can’t keep food down, or if he has trouble breathing, bring him right in.”
“Sure thing, doc.”
“Great. I need to go see another patient now, but I’ll be back before the nurses discharge Sam. You can have one of them page me if there’s a problem.”
“Yeah.” Dean shook the doctor’s hand. “Thanks so much, doc.”
“Just doing my job,” the doctor said, smiling.
When the door had shut behind him, Dean pulled a chair up next to the bed and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees.
“So I figured out that the cockatrice died when it saw its own reflection in the water,” he said. “And we had to stay still to keep from making ripples, so there was a clear reflection. You know, you could just have told me that, Sam. It would’ve saved me a lot of worrying.”
Sam looked apologetic. “I thought I did tell you that. I guess I didn’t express myself very well.”
Dean snorted. “You didn’t express yourself at all.” He reached out to pat Sam’s arm. “But that’s OK, kiddo. It’s not your fault. You were sick. Scared the crap out of me.”
Dean shook his head. “You’re OK now – or, well, you will be OK soon – we’re both alive, and the cockatrice is dead. That’s all that matters. We haven’t done a salt-and-burn, but I guess that’s all right.”
“It should be. All the lore says it dies instantly when it sees its own reflection.” Sam sighed. “I should’ve told you that before we started.”
“I could’ve asked you, instead of spending all my time flirting with Andie. We both dropped the ball on this one. Why didn’t you bring a mirror, though, if you knew seeing its own reflection would kill it?”
“We’d have had to get too close, if we’d used a mirror. It has to be right up close, meeting its own eyes, not seeing a distant shadow of itself in a mirror twenty yards away. It had to be the lake.”
“That’s why it had to attack us.”
Sam nodded. “When it got close to us, its reflection was, too.”
“You know, you didn’t need to run a temperature hot enough to fry eggs, Sammy. You could just have told me about the lake thing.”
“Sorry,” Sam said again.
Dean ruffled his hair. “Well, like I said, we both dropped the ball. Next time we’ll make sure to discuss everything before we go in. And next time, if you’re even a little sick, we’re waiting till you’re better before we go camping.”
“Hey! What about if you’re sick?”
“Dean Winchester doesn’t get sick.” Sam rolled his eyes. “Anyway, I’ve got us a different motel. That last place was full of mould. Probably why you got pneumonia in the first place, princess.”
“You found a motel without mould?”
“I found a motel where they have room service.” Dean grinned. “Only the best for my baby brother.”
“You can thank me brokenly later. And if you wanted to – I don’t know, maybe wash the Impala everyday for a month to show how grateful you are, that would be OK.”
Dean laughed. “I knew I could get a bitchface from you.” He patted Sam’s arm. “Get some rest, kiddo. We’re stuck here for a couple of hours anyway. Might as well make the most of them. I’ll be here when you wake up.”