My first Supernatural fic! It's entirely the fault of all the wonderful stories everybody is writing and posting at this site, not to mention those infuriatingly brief promos for "Faith" that are making me hyperventilate. Here's my take on it, and though it'll be a moot point soon, when we find out how events really play out, I had to do this.

Disclaimer: The usual, blah, blah.

Warnings: Mush and smarm, probably way too much. Dean would hate it.

xxxxx

"Vigil"

Chapter 1

Sam sat in the horribly uncomfortable hospital chair and stared at his brother, lying there impossibly still and quiet, head turned slightly to one side. The doctor, whose name he had given up trying to remember, had delivered the shattering news just moments ago, and Sam thought perhaps he'd died himself, just sitting there. It certainly felt as though he'd stopped breathing. How could his heart still be beating in his chest? His entire world had come to a crashing halt.

Up until now, he hadn't been willing to give up. He couldn't afford to. Dean had told him, before, but he hadn't wanted to believe it.

"I'm gonna die," he said, with such a strange mixture of emotions shifting across his features that Sam couldn't even pin them down. Weary but wry resignation at the sheer inevitability of it all? Sadness and affection, then, directed at Sam, his dark eyes saying more than words ever would. "And you can't stop it."

Sam refused to believe it, that anything could happen to his big brother. Funny how fast things could change. On a dime. He sat and stared, numb with exhaustion, and tried to remember to breathe.

"Dean?" he whispered. "Dean, come on, man, don't do this to me . . . ."

Pale, his closed eyes looking sunken and bruised, Dean made no response to his quiet, desperate plea. He'd never known Dean to give up or back down from anything; he was too tough, and too damn stubborn, and sometimes, he was just too damn stupid, but that never stopped him from trying. Sam shoved his fingers through his hair, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes, and tried to pull himself back together. Not surprisingly, he didn't get much beyond remembering to breathe. He slumped forward in the chair, his long legs not quite stretched out under the bed. The small room seemed to grow smaller, and the forgotten cup of coffee was long cold. Numerous monitors kept up their beeping, and the unobtrusive background hum from the various machines had suddenly become far too loud.

"Dean." This time his brother's name came out as a strangled sob. Unable to gaze at the pale face that no longer looked quite like his brother, Sam closed his eyes and bent his head over his crossed forearms to rest on the edge of the bed. Leaning into Dean's shoulder.

"Your brother has slipped into a coma, Sam. We don't expect him to regain consciousness at this point. It's only a matter of time now, as his body has begun shutting down. I'm very sorry, son."

And if the doctor said anything after that, Sam didn't hear it.

So he sat, and waited, not daring to leave the room with its machines and white walls, with his brother lying there, with Dean's chest barely rising and falling, Dean lying there without so much as twitching a restless finger. Waiting for his brother to die. Wondering, as always lately, where in the hell their father was; angry, as usual, with John – hell, angry with Dean, how dare his older brother leave him alone like this . . . .

Minutes or hours later, Sam choked back another sob, finally raising his head. He reached out to gently rest one hand in Dean's hair, and stroked his thumb across his brother's forehead.

"Wake up," he said, his voice breaking, "and tell me to stop 'cause this is such a complete and utter chick flick scene, and I know how much you hate those. I'll just keep doing this until you open your eyes, Dean, I'm warning you."

His brother's face, surprisingly innocent and peaceful in sleep, had become thinner in the past few days, the finely sculpted bones even more obvious under the skin. Sam's thumb kept moving slowly over Dean's forehead, back and forth, back and forth.

"Prove 'em wrong, Dean," he whispered. "Show 'em what Dean Winchester's made of. Wake up, dammit." He swiped a hand over his gritty eyes, feeling the moisture on his fingers, and went on in a voice rough from lack of sleep. "You can call me Sammy all you want, I'll put up with your crummy taste in music, I won't ask to drive ever again, I'll eat at any and all greasy spoon diners you want . . . just please wake up . . . ."

He'd lost Jessica. That had devastated him enough to turn his back on Stanford and law school and everything he'd known in the last three-odd years to go after whatever it was that had taken her away from him. But losing Dean . . . losing Dean was something entirely incomprehensible. Dean was a constant, like the sun rising in the east, like a damn Star Wars sequel every two years. Though they'd spent those years apart, he'd always known Dean was out there, somewhere, kicking Evil ass. How could his big brother not be around forever, and why the hell had it taken Sam so long to realize how much he needed him, even now, especially now? Sam suddenly felt about six years old and all he wanted was his big brother to wake up, give him a hug, and tell him there really weren't any monsters under the bed.

"Shit," Sam murmured, his hand stilling in Dean's hair. "I'm sorry, Dean. Sorry . . . ." Sorry for those years of silence, for cutting himself off, for leaving behind the one person who truly knew him and loved him absolutely, unconditionally. He leaned forward, and in a gesture he hadn't made since he was probably seven, pressed his lips to his brother's temple for a brief moment. "Wish I could have those years back to spend with you," he whispered against Dean's pale, cool face. "Wish we could have another fifty or sixty years to hang out together and listen to your crummy music . . . ."

He pulled back, but didn't move his hand from where it rested. He sucked in a breath to steady himself, knowing how close he was to losing it completely, and studied his brother's face, taking in every line and feature.

Before the inevitable ugly scene of breaking the news to his father about leaving for Stanford, Sam had managed to take a few pictures of Dean – without Dean knowing why, at least not until Sam had left, at any rate. Sam had treasured those photos, had stashed them safely away, had taken them out more times than he could count and simply stared at them. Usually slumped on the couch with a beer in one hand at some ungodly late hour when he was up alone. He'd never shown them to Jess. She knew about Dean, knew Sam had a brother somewhere, but he could not bring himself to share Dean with her any more than that.

What could he possibly have said?

This is my older brother, my best friend, and hell, he even raised me after our father decided he didn't want the job. And, oh yeah, he kills ghosts and demons and other evil things that go bump in the night that most people, "normal" people, don't believe in. He's really good at it, too. That's Dean.

He remembered leaving; every angry, bitter word of that confrontation was burned into his memory. He remembered the hurt in his brother's eyes. What he didn't remember, but could see now, from all those photos, was how damn young Dean had been. Twenty-two. Sam's age now. Not that Dean was by any means an oldster at twenty-six. But at twenty-two, he had still looked . . . boyish, maybe even soft. Except for his eyes. Dean's eyes had always looked far too old for the rest of his face. But the intervening years had honed those boyish features into a face that was sharp angles and planes and a bit rough around the edges, a mask that he rarely let slip. "Soft" was not a word that one would immediately attribute to one Dean Winchester.

And his eyes were still too old. Dean's face, even if he lived to be a hundred, would never match his eyes.

Sam's red-rimmed eyes traced the line of cheekbone, lips, chin, and he felt another sob choking his throat.

He's not going to see twenty-seven, dammit, much less a hundred. It's not fair; it's just not fair.

Sam wasn't really sure what he believed in these days, faith-wise. He hoped there was some higher power out there, something, someone. There had to be, for any of it to make sense. He found himself sending thoughts upwards and outwards, begging, pleading, hoping for a miracle. He took one of Dean's limp hands in both of his, curled his long fingers around Dean's, and finally let the tears come as he buried his face against his brother's shoulder.

And he waited.

TBC…