Disclaimer: Not mine

AN: Thanks to Jedi Sapphire for the beta.

Summary: Sam is sick, cranky and he won't let Dean take care of him. An idea inspired by the trailer for next week's episode "The Great Escapist."

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Sam had not been right since the first trial and the second one hit him even harder. He was sick and getting worse and he refused to let Dean take care of him. All he'd give in to was having a little of the stew Dean made for him. Since then Sam proceeded to push on with things like their search for Kevin as if he were fine, but the toll on his body finally hit its limit.

Two days later Sam collapsed on the floor in his bedroom.

Dean found him there and somehow managed to get Sam half conscious on to the bed where he shortly lost all consciousness.

Dean was a mixture of frantic, furious, and frightened out of his mind. Sam was a stubborn son of a bitch and now look at what it got him. Dean took off Sam's shoes and covered him with a light blanket. He then got a wash cloth and a bowl of cool water and tried to help lower his brother's fever by applying a cool cloth to Sam's forehead, neck and arms. It wasn't long before Sam came to.

"Dean." Sam barely managed to say.

Dean hushed him gently and told him to lie down and rest.

Instead Sam tried to sit up but couldn't. He didn't have the strength.

His brother's deflated and miserably sick expression hit Dean deeply. He attempted to help Sam sit up and found his help rejected. "I can do it myself." Sam huffed.

His brother's rebuff stung a little but Dean had been dealing with a grouchy Sam the past few days. So he backed off and let Sam try again himself, knowing this stubbornness and independent spirit was why he'd been successful at the trials and why he'd been able to withstand the changes happening within his body.

Sam's next attempt at sitting up failed and this was when Dean told him to stop being a stubborn bitch and let him help. Sam did.

Dean grabbed a couple of extra pillows from the bunker's storage room and propped Sam upright. Dean noticing his brother's fever had spiked again grabbed a couple of Tylenol and gave them to Sam along with a glass of water. He waited for Sam to take the medication and took the glass from him.

"Can I get you anything?" Dean asked.

"I'm sorry," Sam offered, his eyes full of tears. "All you've done is try to take care of me. You don't deserve the way I've been acting."

"Hey, it's okay," Dean spoke in a soothing voice. "You're sick and cranky and I get it."

"I'm sorry," Sam repeated. The tears began to spill down his cheeks with Sam wiping them away as they fell. Even in his sick feverish state of mind the private part of Sam was still trying to keep itself from being seen vulnerable and openly exposed emotionally in front of Dean.

"I should've listened to you Dean. I ruined any chance of passing the final trail." Sam's voice was shaky and emotional as he spoke. "You were right when you first doubted me being able to do this. I let you down. I let everyone down."

Dean knew this wasn't Sam thinking clearly but a culmination of him being sick, not eating and sleeping and the high fever he was running.

Not only had Sam reached his physical limit, he had reached his emotional one too.

Dean sat down opposite his brother and brushed the hair out of Sam's face by gently tucking it behind each ear. Sam's head was tilted down slightly along with his gaze, a shyness from the open affection he was receiving.

"There, I can see you know." Dean smiled, even with his heart breaking when Sam looked up and meet his eyes directly.

But Dean found the emotional footing to continue. "I know that you're not going to get better until you get this trial done as what this spell is doing to you physically, I can't fix. But let me take care of you and I promise I'll get you to the best possible place to achieve that, okay?

"Okay," Sam agreed.

"Good!" Dean breathed out a sigh of relief. This was progress. "Now there's one more thing you need to hear. I never doubted you could do this Sam. Not once. That was me wanting to protect you. I know you're an adult now but wanting to keep you safe will always be my first instinct. It's part of who I am and it will never change."

Sam couldn't help but notice the pride in with which Dean made this statement.

Sam, leaned in to rest his head on Dean's chest and Dean wrapped his arms around Sam, the open invitation not missed. He then pulled Sam closer and held him tighter. Sam sinking deeper into the embrace and it's healing powers.

"Hey," Dean forced himself to let go of Sam. He didn't want to but he had a promise to keep. "I'm starving. How about I make us something to eat?"

"Sure," Sam agreed almost too easily.

"Anything sound good?"

"Whatever you have I will too." Sam answered.

"No appetite yet?" Dean guessed.

"No, but I'll try to eat something."

"That's my boy. Just give me a few minutes and I'll see what I can whip up." Dean got up to leave.

"Dean," Sam called to him.

"Yeah?" Dean turned around.

"Thank you!" Sam told Dean filling those two words with much more than their usual courtesy.

"Anytime." Dean smiled warmly.

"Dean?"

"Yeah," Dean gave him a questioning look.

"So what you said about watching out for me. It really is a part of who you are?"

"Always." Dean answered with a loving certainty.

"It won't ever change." Sam asked.

"Nope. Not ever," Dean assured him.

"Good." Sam smiled. Dean matched his brother's smile. He needed this, the growing closeness between him and Sam. It was like fuel and much needed with knowing his biggest challenge to keep Sam safe was yet to come.