Love and War

A/N: I'm doing a clear out of all my old writing books so this is the first of what will probably be several stories I started ages ago and then abandoned, given a quick touch up and posted mostly just so I can get it out of my head and move on. Hope you enjoy!

Set early season one.

XXX

Dean watched from the corner of his eye, strangely anxious and slightly sickened by the guilt worming it's way through his stomach. He tried his best to push the feelings down under the stronger sense of big brother righteousness. All's fair in love and war, right? There was no doubt that he loved his brother, even if things like that were rarely admitted to out loud, and he could rationalize that this was a war, of sorts. A battle to keep Sammy from falling apart before his eyes.

There wasn't much he could do about that grief that clogged Sam's ever move, leaving him pale and vague, picking at food as though he's forgotten what it was for, and Dean wasn't quite ready to resort to actual force-feeding, though the sharpening cheekbones in Sammy's face tempted him, which left thing. These never-ending sleepless nights fueled by enough caffeine to cause a heart attack, were something he could tackle.

Sam was blinking at the laptop screen, forehead creased with a hint of confusion. The table before him was littered with notebook and scattered pens, print outs and photocopied, a couple of old books, and an empty takeaway coffee cup. If Dean was right, the crushed pills would start to take effect in three, two...

Sam's eyes slid shut again, for longer this time, his hair falling over his face as his head bobbed. That was Dean's cue.

"Alright, kiddo," he said gently, sliding off of his bed and moving to Sam's side. "Sleepy time for Sammy."

Confusion had melted into muddled suspicion by the time Sam pried his eyes open and looked up at Dean. He shook his head, trying to clear the fuzz, palms pressed against the tabletop in an attempt to stay upright and focused. "Di' you..." he started, shaking his head again. "What'd you do?"

Dean watched Sam's gaze land on the coffee cup and betrayal flashed across his features, darkening his eyes, deepening the groves around his mouth. "Di' you drug me?"

"You haven't slept more than two hours in three days," Dean said in explanation, his stomach tightening with fresh guilt. Sam couldn't keep going like this though. He needed rest and it was Dean's duty to make sure he got it. He really hoped the kid would understand when he woke up.

"C'mon." He hooked his hands under Sam's shoulders and pulled him out of the chair, bracing himself with Sam stumbled. It was no where near as hard as it should have been to drag Sam over to his bed. He'd lost too much weight in the last few weeks for it to be a challenge.

"...can't believe you..." Sam muttered as Dean set him down on the edge of the bed furthest from the door, crouching down to undo the buttons on Sam's over-shirt. "...such a jerk."

"That's why you love me, bitch," Dean replied lightly. He might have been doubting himself but there was no reason to let on to Sam. If he's going to pull the righteous big brother act then he has to at least pretend that he's sure that he's doing the right thing. Maybe Sam would forgive him if he saw how necessary Dean's actions were. Hell, maybe he wouldn't even remember that Dean drugged him.

Sam was listing sideways now. Dean quickly tugged off the over-shirt and guided him down onto the bed, bending down to unlace his shoes.

"Can't sleep," Sam mumbled plaintively, trying to force his eyes open. "Gotta... gotta find... thing that killed..."

"It can wait 'til tomorrow, Sammy," Dean promised. "Gotta get you back on your feet first." He reached out a hand and rested his palm over Sam's eyes, feeling the flutter of eyelashes as Sam fought the drugs. "Sleep," he ordered.

Sam batted at him feebly but when Dean moved his hand away, his eyes stayed closed and his breathing evened out, finally succumbing to the sleeping pills.

Dean sighed, scrubbing a hand down his own weary features before tugging Sam's shoes off and setting them on the floor at the foot of the bed. He adjusted Sam's legs until the position seemed comfortable and pulled the blankets up over his brother, tucking him in as he had countless times during their childhood. A tight sensation squeezed his chest as he found himself wishing for the days when all Sam had to worry about was homework and bullies and all Dean had to do was hug the kid to make everything better. Life was just so much simpler back then, even when it had seemed complicated. He'd give anything to go back, do better, be better and somehow avoid this tragedy.

Finally, he stood back and cast a quick, longing glance at his own bed. Sam's lack of sleep and nightmares had left Dean's sleep short and broken too; he could feel it in the scratchiness of his eyes, the growing grumble of his muscles. A nap sounded so good right now, but...

Sam's research was still spread out on the table, laptop still powered up with a dozen different tabs open in the browser. It wouldn't hurt to look over it, see if he could find anything new, and maybe, if Sam saw that he'd been working on it, the kid wouldn't be quite as angry when he woke up. Maybe.

END