Title: This Is How We Save the World
Characters: Sam, Dean (gen)
Warnings/Spoilers: none; spoilers for 8x20: Pac-Man Fever
Rating: PG
Word Count: ~1,580

Summary: Before moving on to the next task at hand, it's movie night in the bat cave, thanks to Charlie. Coda to 8x20.

One thing Dean hasn't quite figured out yet about their new digs is what to do with all this space.

He and Sam aren't tripping over each other anymore, aren't competing for the shower, or for desk space, and at first it'd been kind of nice after so much time on the road. But lately Dean finds himself wandering around more often than not, wondering where Sam is, anxious when his brother strays from his line of sight, scared he's off somewhere hacking up a lung, or worse.

He'd meant what he said to Charlie– he's never, ever letting go of this, never again, but unfortunately, there's next to nothing he can do to actually help Sam. That, as it turns out, is pretty damn hard for Dean to get a handle on. He's working on it though, because he knows Sam needs his trust right now. And if it means letting his brother give him weird looks for hovering over him, for mothering him, for trying to take care of him when that's pretty much all Dean knows how to do right now, well, so be it. It wouldn't kill Sammy to accept a little attention from his big brother every once in a while.

He finds Sam in the library, duffel bag at his feet, squinting down at his laptop. He gets up when Dean comes in, unsteady on his feet for a second. Dean's throat tightens up, his heart seizes a little, but he breathes through it. Fights the urge to rush around the table, to grab Sam's elbow and steady him, stay there forever, maybe.

Instead, he meets Sam's eyes calmly, and offers him a nod, a confident nod, one that says he's okay with this, with all of it.

Because it's ridiculous for him to be this worried. Obviously they're going to be fine. That's what Charlie had said, right? Unstoppable.

"You ready?" Sam asks. His voice sounds rough and tired.

Dean frowns, then raises his eyebrows. He is, of course, more than ready, but…

"We're not leaving now."

"What, why? I thought we were going after Kevin."

Dean can hear the anxiety, the low-level panic in Sam's voice, like he's afraid Dean's going to bench him for good.

"We are. Relax, okay. I've got a couple of things I want to follow up on first. We'll leave in the morning."

"Okay," Sam says, sounding skeptical, but not arguing.

"Okay, so… Sit down, alright?" Dean heart doesn't stop jumping around in his chest until Sam slides into the chair again. "I'll make dinner. Maybe we can watch a movie later."

Sam stares up at him. Swallows and does that squinty, narrow-eyed thing at him for a second. Then he shakes his head and smiles a little.

"Sure, Dean."

Dean makes burgers for both of them, tosses up a decent looking salad for Sam, and carries everything down to what they've dubbed the TV Room – a den-type space that that they've recently outfitted with a 42-inch flat screen.

Sam has his laptop propped up on his knees and has changed into track pants and a hoodie. His hair looks as crazy and as unruly as usual, and his eyes have that hollowed out look, like he's been up for about three days straight. In other words, totally normal, totally Sam.

There's an NBA game going on the TV, but Dean's pretty sure if he asked Sam who was playing, he'd have no idea.

Dean raises his eyebrows as his brother turns to look up at him.

"Anything new?"

"Nope, nothing," Sam says. "CCTV's been quiet all day."

Dean nods, sets their plates down on the coffee table, and heads back to the kitchen for beers.

When he comes back the laptop is on the floor, and Sam is digging into his salad first, of course he is.

"You didn't have to make a salad just for me," Sam says, mouth full of leaves.

"Yeah, you're welcome," Dean says. He pops the tops off their beers and hands one to Sam. "I know how much you like that crap."

Sam smirks a little at that. Then he grabs his beer, takes a sip and coughs, hard and ugly a few times before he glances over at Dean apologetically.

Dean sighs. "Sammy, you're killing me here. You know that, right?"

"I know, I'm sorry. I'm fine though, just, you know, went down the wrong pipe."

"Yeah, whatever," Dean says around a mouthful of burger. "Just take it easy, okay?"

The rest of their meal passes in comfortable silence, the sound of the game on in the background, though neither of them are really watching. The deep underground vault's absence of sound means no street noise, no trucks barreling past and rattling the windows, no doors slamming down the hall. It means when the volume's turned down low on the TV, Dean can hear Sam breathing next to him, his nose whistling a little like it always does when he's under the weather.

After Sam finishes his beer, he turns and stretches out his legs out along the couch. His bare toes jut up against Dean's thigh. The temptation is far too great and it takes Dean all of three seconds before he reaches out and wraps his fingers around Sam's toes. They're cold and clammy, nubby little carrots of ice.

"Jesus, Sammy, your feet are freezing."

He grabs a blanket from the back of the couch. It's brown, like pretty much everything in the room – brown leather couch, brown throw rug, deep mahogany paneled walls – and throws it over Sam's lower half, taking extra care to tuck it tight around his feet.

Sam sits up a little straighter - his eyes are level with Dean's across the couch, as he stares over him. He tucks several strands of hair behind his ear.

"Dude," Sam says. "What is up with you today?"

"Nothing. What?"

"You're just… I don't know." Sam shrugs. "I'm not complaining. It's just different."

"I'm trying to look after you, that's all."

"I know," Sam says. He shifts a little, and there are Sam's toes again, right up in Dean's space. "Thanks."

The game is over now – the TV has switched over to the evening news. A fire, the opening of a new police station - nothing noteworthy. Dean rests his hand on the blanket on top of Sam's ankles – he's got them crossed now – and squeezes, feels the bones shift a little under his palm, and then keeps his hand right where it is, needing to feel that warmth for a second.

"You know, talking to Charlie made me realize something."

"What's that?"

"She made me realize how lucky we are. I can't imagine not having a little brother to take care of, you know? Can't imagine you not being here to watch my back."

Sam stares at him for a second. "Yeah, I—" He stops, clears his throat. "I know what you mean."

"I wonder what it's like," Dean says. "I mean, obviously Charlie's a great girl, she's made it through just fine, but not having any family around, dealing with the crap she's been dealing with. Must be tough."

"Yeah." Sam nods. "I'll bet. Lonely, too."

Dean squeezes Sam's feet again, feeling warm and content in a way he hasn't felt in a long time.

"After we find Kevin," he says, "we should invite her over for a weekend."

Sam laughs. His toes wiggle under the blanket, under Dean's fingers. "Yeah, we should."

Dean stares over at his brother for a moment. Even in the dim den-lighting, Sam's color looks a little better than it did this morning. Maybe since he's got some food in him. He hopes it's not a trick of the light, hopes Sam is actually getting better, and not worse, hopes for a happy end to these trials, that they can hold on to this tiny little pocket of home a little longer. He's got a lot of hope, really, which is interesting, and not entirely common, given his experience and world view. He has Charlie to thank for that, maybe. For making him realize how much he has to hold on to.

"So, what's this movie we're going to watch?" Sam asks, raising his eyebrows at Dean across the couch.

Dean hands him the DVD case from where he's stashed it by his feet.

Sam frowns. "The Avengers. Really? Let me guess - Charlie?"

Dean nods, shrugs. "She says we won't regret it. Says we could stand to see how other superheroes save the world."

"Right," Sam says, grinning; his face looks almost normal again, healthy, when he's smiling like this. "Well, better get to it then."

Dean pops the disc into the player, and when he settles back down onto the couch, he picks the middle, instead of the side he'd been sitting on, which of course means Sam's legs are in the way.

"Dude, what the—"

"Quiet," Dean says, as he picks up Sam's legs and plops them onto his lap. He shifts the blanket so that it's covering both of them. Sam's legs are warm and heavy, way too big, but Dean hardly notices. "I'm trying to watch a movie here."

Out of the corner of his eye, Dean watches Sam relax into the pillows as the opening credits start up, a tiny smile on the edge of his lips.

Yeah, Dean thinks, he'll hold onto this just a little while longer.