72 Hours


A couple of weeks, at most, comes to a grand total of 336 hours. Sam knows this for a fact. Not only has he done the calculation in his head numerous times, but he's scrawled out the figures in shaky penmanship and consulted that stupid cell phone calculator, because the thought of sitting idle in a damn plastic chair scares him more than stark, dwindling numbers.

Maybe a month yields around 720 and even that number, regardless of the longer stretch of hope it brings, forces Sam's blood to run cold and a worried, helpless shudder to wrack his weary bones.

A glance at his watch reveals that it's been over an hour since Dean had given him the jarring, sarcastic acceptance speech that Sam shut out and swiftly down with a tense, defiant 'Watch me'. It was a challenge, one that was returned only by a tired sigh and slow blink before the dull jade closed completely and succumbed to a drug-aided sleep.

It's been over an hour, and still the nightmare of his god-like brother infiltrated with IV lines and bound to a sea of monitors, counting down each beat in a slow, unsteady rhythm hasn't ended yet. Sam waits in nervous, desperate anticipation for someone to barge in and announce that this isn't his life and that ghostly pale, dark-eyed man, lying helpless, isn't his brother.

No one does. And Sam's suddenly faced with the reality that no one ever will.

12 hours 10 minutes and 34 seconds

It's late. Or early, depending on the person you are. But it's the first time since the early afternoon Dean's opened his eyes. Sam's are bloodshot, and Dean's are sorrowful as he takes in the finger-raked hair and searching, pitiful gaze of his younger brother.

He doesn't know what to say, but figures Sam just knows, little brother always does, and offers a weak smile before letting his eyes slide shut once again and welcoming sleep.

20 hours 19 minutes and 52 seconds

Dean's body convulses for what he hopes is the last time as his rebelling stomach expels every ounce of the liquid concoction the hospital staff insists on pumping into him. The hands that brace his tightening chest are soft, gentle in a way uniquely feminine and the soft, motherly tone that's meant to reassure and offer some semblance of comfort only breaks his frail heart more as he's slowly rested back against the pillows that reek of disinfectant. The voice and hands belong to Nurse Ruth, not Sam, and that hurts more than his damaged heart.

Sam's not there. He hasn't been for some time, and Dean finds himself panicking for the first time since the accident because he was the one who told Sam to leave. For once, Dean prays that Sam will blatantly ignore him.

35 hours 12 minutes and 36 seconds

Sam shuffles into the small room, stacks of papers balanced precariously in his still trembling hands. It's all the research he can find aside from the men with medical degrees telling him it's all hopeless and better to accept than overexert himself.

He can't, and he won't. That's the way it's going to be.

The sound of daytime TV echoes in the dim room, and Sam instantly connects this moment with thousands of others from the past where the TV plays a symphony to Dean's snoozing, the remote resting in his slack hand.

It's just like those times, if he doesn't count the beeping heart monitor, sharp antibacterial smell, and the shell of a man that bears his brother's name. Sam decides he doesn't want to remember those times.

37 hours 15 minutes and 2 seconds

Tired, cramping fingers weave their way through darkened hair in exasperation. A new love triangle and murderous bride become a welcome distraction from the piles of dead ends and hopeless alternatives.

As Laura confesses her undying love, Sam almost misses the whisper of the sheets and the clouded hazel, recently awakened, that studies him for a brief instant as Dean shifts restlessly, a small smirk gracing the chapped lips before weakened slumber claims Dean again.

Almost.

48 hours 26 minutes and 18 seconds

Sam's head pounds and his ear aches as the phone conversations grow in number, each one longer and more desperate than the last.

Freedom Hospital? My name is Sam Winchester.

Yeah, Caleb, I know what the doctor said. But we can't just—

Dad, are you there?

No, tell Dr. Abrams I've been on hold for the past 30 minutes and he's going to talk to me if he wants to or not!

Pastor Jim? Hey, uh…you think God…does God know about Dean?

Sorrowful words of solace accompany the dial tone and screams to the growing darkness with tear-stained eyes warn of angry fists colliding against the motel wall.

59 hours 36 minutes and 19 seconds

It's been a little over two days, and Dean still tries to hide the breathless wince and stricken features that cause the nurses to rush to his aid and Sam to fall deeper into grief. He knows that's why his brother isn't here. He's not Dean anymore—not really, and he needs to be that again, needs for Sammy to see that he is that hell of a guy again.

He needs to escape.

His plan consists of refusing the daily meds and hoping Sam stays away for an hour or so more. He thinks that's all he needs until he tries to slip the IV from his hand and finds himself curling up and heaving shuddering breaths as agonizing pain and regret hit him like a freight train.

Winchester's—they Semper Fi and Dean opts to struggle with the pulse-OX and the heart monitor because the movements are easier. He tries not to find the irony in the screeching flat line.

60 hours 15 minutes and 45 seconds

Dean's struggling to stand and ward off the herd of scrub wearing Nazis approaching and addressing him like he's nothing but a child. He does his best to fight, but his once warring spirit has been replaced by tight, whispered words of spite and a sudden wave of nausea and dizziness rips through him, sending his aching body jerking and sliding to the floor bonelessly.

65 hours 12 minutes and 55 seconds

Sam's wondering if he should visit his brother again. But each failed phone call has sucker punched him deeper into failure and he can't bring himself to face his hero with such a thing. It's simply unacceptable.

He can stop it, he knows he can. He just needs time—but time is waning down…the hours are adding up and Sam fears they are flying by too fast.

A man named Joshua offers hope, but Sam knows Dean.

70 hours 12 minutes and 32 seconds

The doctor's droning about things to come, but it's nothing he hasn't heard before, except for the impending death part. He can handle it if Sam's there, although the staff thinks it's not really fair to burden his younger brother.

Dean snaps that they don't know his brother and silently wishes he didn't know Sam as well as he does. Because then the realization that one day, Sam is going to trudge in and find an empty room is a reality that is too harsh to handle.

Their last memory isn't going to be some shared soap opera moment. Dean's going to make sure of that. He's got a lot to say, when he's not drugged up, and he wants a chance to say it without desperately hoping Sam faces the situation, instead of trying to fix it, and shows up to see him.

He won't waste the time that's left, he can't. He needs it just as much as he thinks Sam does.

They say fear is only in people's minds, but Dean knows differently. He doesn't even object to the wheelchair escort and paid taxi ride just as long as he never has to die alone.

72 hours 10 minutes and 45 seconds

Sam sits guard over the crashed out, exhausted shell of his brother. He knows what he has to do. He knew it before Dean stumbled into the room. Before his shaky arms braced his brother's form, his eyes locked on the thudding pulse on Dean's neck and his palm feeling the hesitant beat of a deteriorating heart.

He knows that Dean will object, but he also knows that he's going to endure whatever it takes just as long as he can have Dean for years to come.

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