Author's Notes: Hi all! This is my first one-shot in the SPN community. I've got a chaptered story I'm uploading right now, and it's definitely the format I'm used to. But I just got hit with this inspiration to write this short fic, and I thought I'd go with it and see how it worked out. It's all about sickly!Sammy and protective!Dean, which is my favorite kind of Dean. :) I ended up liking it a lot more than I did originally, once I read it over. There's no real set time for this fic, so I'll just let you all fit it in wherever you think it would have the best effect. To each their own, right? I do make a reference to some of the flashbacks in A Very Supernatural Christmas, so there's VERY slight spoilerage for that. Other than that, though, everything should be fine.

I'd love to get feedback on what people thought of this short fic! So please, by all means, leave me a review and let me know what was good, what could be fixed, etc. I love exploring Dean and Sam's brotherly relationship, and the intricate ties they have to each other. You can see more of it in my chaptered story, The Choices We Make.

Please enjoy!

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"Thanks, Dean."

Sam's words were strained, and followed by a thickly congested cough. He reached out and took hold of the bag that Dean extended towards him. Inside was the medicine necessary to help Sam sleep better.

Dean, not wanting to catch his brother's illness, hastily retreated from the other's bed and moved toward the small table near the window that overlooked the snowy city of Marquette, Michigan. They hadn't planned on making a stop on their way through the state, but when Sam started looking worse for wear, they had no choice. He needed to recuperate. That, and Dean didn't want to sit in a car listening to Sam cough and groan for hours upon hours.

It had been a long time since Dean had seen Sam this sick. As he sat at the table, staring out the motel window over the snowy streets below and watching the seemingly never-ending flurry of snowflakes fall from the grey skies above, his mind drifted back to that time—back to when Sam had scared him senseless with how ill he was.

Dean had been about twelve then, and Sam, just a couple of months shy of turning eight. The younger Winchester had had the sniffles and coughs the entire drive up into the mountains, and John, although worried, had had more on his mind than the health of his son.

A small farm town situated at the base of Mount Elbert in Colorado had experienced several signs that Dean would later come to know as those which signified Azazel's presence. At the time, however, all that these signs meant to him was that their dad was in demon hunting mode. He himself was in parent mode, making sure that Sam was wiping his nose and coughing away from him. And, most importantly, that he wasn't making a mess in the back seat of the car with his snotty tissues.

The little inn where they had lodged couldn't have been more than a couple of shacks strung together, in Dean's opinion. Everything had been made out of wood and had a strange smell to it that he could still recall to this day. Once they had paid for the room, John ushered them upstairs into it, where he deposited his kids and his belongings, and then took off in search of old Yellow-Eyes.

The room itself had been dingy and suspect at best. Heavy frost clung to the small, square window near the bed, which didn't even close completely, permitting a draft to invade their dinky room. They had brought blankets with them from the impala, including Sam's comfort blanket, which he had wrapped around himself so tightly that it seemed almost a part of him. Even those, however, didn't seem to really keep them warm enough.

And that was why Dean had spent quite a few minutes—nearly twenty, in fact—trying to reduce the draft that poured into the room. Cold wind from outside whipped across his face as he did so, but he fought with that damn window until just about every inch of it was covered in some way or another, whether by a blanket or curtain.

His little brother was sick. He didn't need the draft making it worse.

John hadn't come back that night. To Dean, this wasn't surprising. To Sam, it was worrisome. The youngest Winchester, even despite his sniffles and coughs, was more concerned with where their father was. This, of course, had taken place before the events in Broken Bow, Nebraska, where Dean had gotten pretty fed up with having to lie and cover their dad's tracks. For now, he knew he needed to, for the sake of both his dad, and more importantly, Sam.

Somewhere past ten that night, Sam had finally fallen asleep. Dean kept watch over him for about an hour longer before he, too, drifted off, draped out on the bed beside his little brother.

During the night, things had taken a turn for the worse. Dean woke up to the sound of Sam's violent coughing first, and to freezing cold second. It took him a moment to wake up completely and realize that he had been curled up in a ball, trying to keep himself warm. And not only that, but also that the covers he had put over the window to stave off the cold had fallen to the floor while they slept. The entire room felt like the inside of a freezer.

Dean had put as many blankets on Sam as he could then before going over and attempting to fix the window. The falling snow whipped through the icy wind, splattering on his face and clinging to his warm, flushed skin. It stung like fuck and he felt cold as hell afterward. But, in a matter of minutes he had fixed the problem, but that left one bigger one: Sam.

Sam was giving off wretched cries, dispersed between heavy, hacking coughs. It had scared Dean how fast his brother had gotten worse, but then again, Sam had always been very sensitive to illness in ways that John and Dean seemed not to be.

His immediate thought then had been to try and find some way to warm Sam up. If he was cold, then the remedy was simple: he needed heat. But in wrapping more blankets around him, it seemed that Dean had only made things worse. Sam's face was blotched with patches of red and white—from the coughing and the cold, respectively. The look that he had in his eyes was from sheer misery. It wrenched Dean's insides to see his brother so ill and in such discomfort.

He remembered asking Sam if he was okay more than ever before that night. And truthfully, Sam wasn't. He had had a nasty fever that spiked thanks to the cold, and because of it, his body had reacted the only way it knew how: by attempting to expel the invading illness and burn up what didn't go.

How Dean had managed to get Sam through that, he didn't know. He doubted he ever would. Everything from that night was so vividly imprinted in his mind, and yet, now faced with his brother being terribly sick again, he felt just as scared and ill prepared as he had back then.

But, he didn't show it. Couldn't show it.

Dean looked over his shoulder at Sam, who was breathing laboriously and attempting to undo the safety seal on his Nyquil bottle. He wore a look of sheer frustration and exhaustion. The bottle was clearly winning the fight.

"Let me see that," Dean said suddenly, uprooting himself from the table and heading to the bed.

Sam gave him a lost look before doing as told. Dean held it by its triangular base, then dug his nail under the white plastic seal. He had it off in one swift movement, and afterward, he smirked.

"Do I need to give you your meds, Sammy, or can you do it yourself?"

"Funny," Sam muttered. He made a 'gimme' motion with his hand. Once Dean handed over the medicine, he began to now struggle with the child-proof cap. The groan that escaped him sounded like a tired, exasperated whine. But, it was soon drowned out a sudden hacking cough that had Sam up and leaning over the bed, his already flushed face turning cherry red.

Dean picked up the medicine bottle, which had fallen onto the bed, along with the cup that came with it. While Sam continued to hack up a lung, the older Winchester popped the cap off, poured some of the medicine into the cup, and waited.

Without a word, he offered it to Sam once his brother was able to sit back up again.

"Thanks," Sam murmured.

Dean gave a noncommittal grunt and a dismissive wave of his hand. To him, no thanks were necessary. Sam was his baby brother. He not only needed—but wanted­—to make sure that he was healthy.

"Just don't barf it all up on the floor," Dean said while plopping himself back into the chair near the window. "I'm not cleaning it up if you do."

Sam stared at him for a few moments then with an unreadable expression. Dean, uncertain as to why, simply offered a small smile in response before turning his attention away toward the landscape outside.

He still felt scared. He always did when Sam got sick like this. He always would, too. It was like a preprogrammed system within him.

Instinctively, Dean's eyes traced up and around the rim of the window. He didn't realize that his head had moved ever so slightly in doing so.

Good, he thought. No cracks.

From nearby, he heard Sam snort faintly. He turned his head.

"Phlegm," Sam lied.

"Uh-huh," was all Dean said in response.