Characters: Sam, Dean
Summary: Sam takes care of his injured brother
Spoilers: None
Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters do not belong to me

Originally published in Chinook #6

Standing Watch

The attack had seemingly come out of nowhere.

The old walkman-transformed-into-an-EMF-meter had only registered residual readings, so the two young men had searched the rundown warehouse, flashlights in one hand, shotguns in the other.

Not exactly sure what they were looking for, since the descriptions they'd read in various newspaper articles and on the net were all different, ranging from things like "a strange creature" and "a human-like shape," to "an alien from another planet," they'd moved as one, alert to every noise and movement. But by the time Dean's meter, tucked inside his pocket, had let out an almost deafening squeal, it was already too late to react.

Too late to prevent Dean from being injured.

There wasn't anything Sam could have done. He knew that. Couldn't have been any faster, any stronger, any... anything. But knowing something in your head doesn't necessarily mean that your heart can be convinced to feel the same way.

Three fifty-something a.m. The bright red numbers of the cheap clock sitting on the bedside table were supposed to provide a weary traveler with the accurate time, but only the three and the five could actually be seen, so the last number was a mystery.

Sam took a quick glance at his watch, using the faint light provided by the bedside lamp, set on the lowest setting, to see. Three fifty-seven a.m. Four hours. It had only been four hours since they'd returned to the hotel room, battered and bruised. It seemed more like a lifetime.

He'd thought Dean was okay.

While a concussion was nothing to play around with, even a mild one, it was also something they had dealt with before, and Dean would never have agreed to go to the hospital, choosing instead to lay low in their room, fussing when Sam tried to take care of him, arguing that he was fine, just fine, and suffering silently until he felt better.

And the two small bites on Dean's thigh hadn't bled much.

So Sam had dosed him with tylenol and treated his wounds, and while few doctors would have recommended using a combination of antiseptic cream and holy water, that's what he'd used, just as a precaution. Dean had muttered curses under his breath, then finally let himself slump back on the bed.

Sam had been glad at first, relieved that Dean could have some relief from the pain, however short-lived.

But then, he hadn't regained consciousness. And it had been more than four hours.

Sam's heart skipped a beat as he remembered the moment Dean had been thrown into a solid wall, headfirst, then attacked by the whatever-it-was. Large. Luminescent. Fanged.

He'd lain motionless, unresponsive to Sam's frantic calls, even when the younger hunter had emptied an entire clip at the thing menacing him. Twice. Rock salt hadn't done the trick, and precious time was lost when Sam was forced to lay aside his weapon and lunge for Dean's, loaded with consecrated iron rounds.

And then the creature was dead. As dead as something already dead could be, anyway. Dean was trying to sit up, cursing, twisting around to check on his brother, using one hand to cup his head.

And Sam thought that maybe they'd been lucky again.

Four hours later, he wasn't thinking that anymore.

Across the room the a.c. unit clicked on, and the blast of cold air made Sam shiver. At least he thought it was the air. Goosebumps dotted his bare arms, and he reached for Dean's leather jacket, hanging on the back of his chair. Laying it across his shoulders, he pulled it around him tightly, expecting the shivering to stop.

It didn't.

At first Sam had talked almost non-stop, intent on providing a life-line to his brother, in case it was needed to pull Dean back from wherever he had gone. Reminding him of him what had happened, where he was, what Sam was doing. But as the hours had gone by, he'd grown weary of talking to himself.

Now, the silence was almost oppressive.

Sam reached for the television remote, a move born of habit more than desire. He couldn't count how many times, on the road with his brother and father, or just with his brother, he'd filled the late night hours watching mindless programing when he couldn't sleep. The 19-inch television, precariously perched close to the edge of the imitation wood dresser, came on slowly, providing a faint light that illuminated the room just enough to dispel most of the shadows. He quickly turned the volume down, and stared at the image on the screen, the same choice every T.V. offered in the middle of the night. Infomercials. And if he'd actually had a need for a magic sweeper, he probably would have jumped at the "save twenty dollars if you order in the next five minutes" offer, which despite its advertising, would be offered over and over again, throughout this night and the next.

But he didn't.

Letting out a sigh, Sam turned the television back off and got to his feet, moving closer to the bed. He used the back of his hand to check Dean's temperature, although he'd read somewhere that only a thermometer could provide an accurate reading. He shrugged, knowing it would have to do, since the thermometer usually found in their first aid kit was unexplicably missing, and he wasn't comfortable with the idea of leaving his brother alone while he ran down to the drugstore, even though it was only a few doors down.

Finding Dean's skin a lot warmer than he knew was normal and heading toward hot, he shook his head before retrieving a heavily bleached washcloth from the bathroom. The ice in the small ice bucket was steadily melting, providing enough cold water to wet the cloth, and wipe it over his brother's face and neck. Finishing that task, he lowered the comforter slightly, dipped the wash cloth into the cold water again, and did the same over Dean's bare chest. He thought for sure that the icy cold water would bring about some kind of reaction: a flinch, a gasp, a "That's cruel, dude."

But it didn't.

Sam returned the washcloth to the bathroom, rinsing it out in the sink, and hanging it over the side of the tub. He took a few seconds to take care of some personal needs, washed his hands, and tried to avoid looking in the mirror.

It didn't work.

Clenching his jaw he stared at his own reflection. Red-rimmed eyes stared back at him, vividly standing out amidst his pale and drawn features. It hadn't been his fault, despite the guilt he felt. He'd done nothing wrong. He knew that. But he couldn't help it. Trusted to watch Dean's back, he felt like he'd failed in a big way. He let out a sigh. If his brother had been awake, Dean would have been reassuring him that it wasn't his fault, throwing Sam's own words back into his face: sometimes bad things just happen. But the bedroom remained quiet, his brother silent.

Turning the faucet back on, he quickly splashed some water over his face, dried his hands and face on the waiting towel, and returned to Dean's side.

In the short time he'd been gone, Dean had moved, however slighty. Seeing his right hand was now uncovered and hanging slightly over the edge of the bed, Sam tucked the errant hand back under the blankets and gave his arm a gentle pat. Dean would have been irritated by the hovering, had he been awake. Conscious.

But he wasn't.

Sam glanced at the clock. Four twenty-something a.m. Time to check the puncture wounds again. The small marks left behind in the attack had looked innocent at first. Just a little red. Not very sore. Something to be treated, covered with a bandaid and forgotten.

The second time Sam had checked, the wound looked different. Radiating heat that could be felt by placing one's hand just above the injury, it looked... ugly.

If he'd been in a better mood, he might have even called it "fugly," one of Dean's favorite words. But levity had been the farthest thing from Sam's mind. He'd treated it again, cleaning it with soap and water before applying the same mixture he'd used before, and then covered it with a fresh bandaid.

Almost holding his breath, Sam carefully lifted the comforter, uncovering Dean's thigh. The bandaid was still in place, and there were no tell-tale signs that the redness had spread. His shoulders relaxed slightly, having half expected to see vivid red lines making their way from the wound and toward Dean's heart.

He carefully removed the bandaid, glad that the adhesive wasn't putting up a fight, and took a look. The two bite marks, while still slightly red, were no longer angry-looking. There was no sign of blood, pus, or anything that would indicate the infection was spreading. In fact, he couldn't see any signs of infection at all.

Heaving a sigh of relief, Sam replaced the bandaid, and then pulled the comforter back into place.

Resting his hand on Dean's head, not sure if he was offering or receiving comfort, he closed his eyes for just a moment, before hooking a chair with the toe of his shoe, and sitting back down.

Five forty-something a.m. Sam's stomach unexpectedly rumbled, surprising him. They had skipped dinner, planning on eating after their job was finished despite the late hour, but circumstances had dictated otherwise. He had made some soup earlier, thinking that Dean might wake up hungry and need something that would be easy on his stomach, but when his brother had remained unconscious for so long, he'd thrown the soup out, not even thinking about eating it himself.

Several plastic-wrapped packages of saltine crackers, two to a pack, were on the small table across the room, and Sam thought briefly about eating them, but then scrunched up his nose, really not in the mood for a few dry crackers. Instead, he decided to make do with the hotel-provided coffee he'd been sipping every once in a while, and maybe in the morning, Dean would be up to eating breakfast.

And answering questions. Like "What's your name?" "Where are you?" What year is it?" "Who is the president?" All of the typical questions that concussed patients were expected to be able to answer, regardless of the fact that the questions were usually asked upon waking said patient out of a sound sleep. Sam snorted, remembering the last time Dean had suffered a concussion. Like the diligent little brother he was, he'd faithfully woke his brother every two hours or so, asking him asinine questions, and watching Dean get more and more frustrated at the interruptions to his sleep. His final attempt, occurring somewhere near the six a.m. hour, had resulted not in correct responses, but the oh-so-subtle raising of a certain finger.

He couldn't really blame him, though, Sam admitted to himself. He'd reacted the same way, back when he'd received a concussion of his own. Minus the finger, of course.

Or so he thought.

It wasn't really the concussion he'd been worried about, though. Dean had been coherent after the attack, and his pupils were both equal and responsive. Sam had made sure of that. It was those bites. Sam heaved another sigh of relief. Maybe it was just coincidence that the suspected infection had cleared up after two "supernatural" treatments, but he doubted it. It was more likely that the creature's fangs had left some sort of poison, causing Dean's temperature to rise, and only a Winchester-type solution would have worked.

Speaking of temperatures, Sam thought, it was time to check Dean's again. When he found that his brother's skin was only slightly warmer than what would be considered acceptable, he decided that an ice water wipe down would be unnecessary this time around. Instead, he simply returned to the bathroom, retrieved a clean washcloth from the stack folded above the toilet, and folded it in thirds. Leaving it folded, he dunked it into the ice bucket, then squeezed it out and placed it on Dean's forehead. It might not be necessary for a fever any longer, but it might help with the headache that Dean was sure to have upon waking.

Six something-something a.m. Sam blinked. The clock's third number had apparently given up the ghost, and now the current time was anyone's guess. He almost lifted his arm to check, but changed his mind. It didn't really matter if it was six thirty or six something something.

Either one was fine.

Sam leaned back in his chair, trying to find a more comfortable position. Now that the morning sun was beginning to stream into the room, he could do some reading, some research, some... thing. He almost reached for the magazines stacked beside the chair, magazines that had apparently been left behind by a previous occupant and ignored by the cleaning staff. He'd browsed through them earlier, back when they'd first arrived, but when he'd found himself trying to choose between more-than-a-year-old copies of Women's Day, Family Circle, and Good Housekeeping, he'd snorted and dropped them to the floor.

They didn't look any more appealing now. In fact, he couldn't believe he'd even looked at them in the first place. Dean had shaken his head, giving him that disbelieving, "Sammy!" look, before turning back to cleaning his weapons in preparation for the night's "field trip."

The weapons they'd taken were locked back inside the Impala's trunk. Intent on getting his brother into the hotel room and examining his wounds, Sam had still made sure the guns were locked safely away. And while Sam could have spent some of the early morning hours checking and cleaning the weapons, he knew Dean would prefer to do it himself. They'd spent many an evening, Sam doing research on the computer, Dean caring for the weapons. It was just the way they did things.

Yawning, and scrubbing his face with his hands, Sam lifted his feet to the edge of the bed, being careful not to disturb his brother. A brief nap sounded good. In fact, it sounded really, really good. And closing his eyes for more than a minute or two would probably result in just that.

But he couldn't let go just yet. He was still on duty, still watching his brother's back, and until Dean was awake, aware, and his normal annoying self, he'd stand watch.

Just like Dean always did when Sam was the one in need. He had always been the one pushed to "watch out for Sammy," and he didn't take that job lightly. And while it may have started out that way, way back when he was just a four year old, carrying his infant brother out of a burning house, it wasn't something he now did out of duty. It was out of a need to keep his brother safe.

It was out of love.

Sam's lips twisted in a smile. He could just picture the expression on Dean's face if he'd said that out loud. The king of "no chick-flick moments" would have been groaning with embarrassment. At least, he would have pretended to be embarrassed.

But Sam knew his brother's heart.


"Dean?" Sam sprang to his feet so quickly the chair fell on its side behind him.

Dean's eyes were barely open, but he graced Sam with a faint smile before asking, "Wha' 'appened?"

Sam smiled back. "Nothing you need to worry about right now."

"You 'kay?"

"Yeah." Sam leaned a little closer, patting Dean's chest gently. "And you're okay, too. Or at least you will be."

"Good." As Sam watched, Dean's eyes drooped closed again, and he snuggled a little deeper into his pillow.

"Go back to sleep," Sam said softly, deciding that the questions didn't need to be asked after all. "I've got your back."

And reassured, Dean did just that.

Two out of three wasn't bad, Sam thought, as he picked up the fallen chair, moving it back into position beside Dean's bed. Dean was awake and aware, or at least had been. And he had no doubt that once his brother was up and around again, Dean would be as annoying as ever. But until then, he was going to stay right where he was, at his brother's side.