Dean frowned. "BRB," he repeated as Charlie disappeared down the other hall. "What the hell...?"
"Be right...back," Sam translated breathlessly.
Dean processed that information, then arched an eyebrow at his brother.
"How do you know that?"
"Because I know shit," Sam responded dryly.
Dean chuckled at Sam quoting him. "No. I know shit," he corrected. "Stop using my lines."
Sam smiled tiredly.
There was a beat of silence.
Dean glanced at Sam. "So you don't have to dry-swallow meds."
Sam shook his head. "There's water...in the bathroom."
They cupped their hands under the running faucet in the sink and swallowed down pills all the time.
Dean nodded. "Right you are."
Sam snorted at the realization of Dean sending Charlie on an unnecessary errand just to get rid of her.
"That's wrong," Sam scolded.
"She...means well," Sam defended, thankful Dean was beside him as they walked.
Dean nodded, holding his brother steady. "I know," he agreed. "But she never shuts up."
Sam laughed lightly and then coughed. "She tries."
Dean shrugged again; his patience too thin to worry about being rude in his own house.
Besides, right now, Dean just wanted to take care of his brother in peace and quiet without an audience.
And if that was wrong, then fine...he was wrong.
Look at his face to see all the fucks he gave.
There was silence.
"How's your head?"
"Hurts," Sam answered honestly.
Dean nodded, knowing that was an understatement if Sam was actually admitting pain.
Sam coughed...and then coughed again.
"Hey. Don't start..." Dean warned, because if Sam fell into another coughing spell, Dean doubted he would be able to keep the kid on his feet.
He was barely keeping the kid on his feet now.
Sam nodded even as he coughed once more and then swallowed. "Did you...move...my room?"
Dean snorted at the question. "No," he assured his brother, freshly worried that Sam was so breathless; that this simple walk down the hall was nearly beyond his brother's strength. "Almost there, man. But first..."
Dean steered Sam into the bathroom, switching on the light with his elbow before carefully settling Sam on the closed toilet seat.
Sam sighed but didn't protest, quietly sitting on the seat and squinting in the glare of the lights reflecting off the mirror; knowing this routine and watching as Dean pulled the first aid kit from beneath the counter before grabbing a washcloth.
Dean glanced at his brother. "How you doing over there?" he asked, turning on the sink's faucet and holding the washcloth under the water.
"Fine," Sam replied, the response programmed.
Dean pulled a face. "Yeah," he agreed dryly, shutting off the water and twisting the saturated fabric over the sink. "You look fine."
Somewhere in the Batcave, a door slammed.
Sam's attention flickered to the hallway. "I think Charlie's lost."
Because there were no doors between there and the kitchen.
Dean shrugged. "She'll be fine," he replied distractedly, narrowing his eyes as he began carefully cleaning the blood from Sam's face and forehead.
"I can do this myself, you know..." Sam commented, even though he made no move to do so; only closed his eyes and allowed Dean to fuss over him.
Because sometimes it felt good to be the little brother; to let your big brother take care of you when you didn't have the energy to take care of yourself.
Dean continued wiping blood from his brother's face.
The sound of movement drifted down the hall as Charlie wandered around the Batcave in search of the elusive kitchen.
Neither brother commented.
"Good news," Dean announced, gently pressing his fingers around the gash at Sam's hairline. "No stitches."
Sam opened his eyes. "Good," he agreed, because he didn't think he could endure that tonight.
"Just a few butterfly bandages..."
Sam nodded, watching as Dean rinsed the washcloth in the sink and then handed it to him, gesturing toward his mouth.
Sam nodded again and rubbed the fabric over his chin and lips, clearing the blood he had coughed up earlier.
"Is your mouth still sore?" Dean checked, remembering Sam mentioning that earlier in the shooting range when the kid had first regained consciousness.
Sam shrugged. "Kinda."
Dean said nothing, knowing the amount of blood that had been on the lower part of Sam's face and on the floor of the shooting range had not resulted from a mouth injury but from coughing.
Lots of coughing...
But neither of them wanted to talk about that now, so…
Dean sighed, making a mental note to clean the floor of the shooting range, and then focused on the open first aid kit balanced on the counter, pulling out an alcohol wipe along with four butterfly bandages.
"Here..." Dean told his brother, taking the washcloth from Sam and tossing it in the sink before dropping the bandages in Sam's hand.
Sam sat still, quietly hissing as Dean dabbed the wound with alcohol and then gently pinched the edges of his skin together; expertly applying one butterfly bandage after another, accepting them from Sam each time.
"Alright. Let's see..." Dean leaned back to survey his handiwork. "Looks good," he commented, his fingers once again lightly skimming the swollen, bruised surface of Sam's skin. "How do they feel?"
Sam scrunched his face. "My whole head hurts."
Dean nodded. "Which is why we have drugs..." he replied and turned to the kit before turning back to his brother and rattling a bottle of pills.
Sam sighed, accepting Dean's help as he stood and crossed the couple steps to the sink; cupping his hand under the water his brother turned on and taking the meds Dean gave him.
"Your fever seems lower," Dean commented, no longer feeling waves of heat radiating from his brother as he stood beside Sam and packed away the first aid kit.
Sam nodded. "Maybe a little," he agreed, wiping his sleeve across his mouth as water dripped from his chin.
"Dude. Don't wipe your mouth on your shirt," Dean playfully admonished. "Who raised you anyway...?"
"I think we both know," Sam replied, shutting off the water and smiling at his brother.
Dean smiled as well, giving Sam a once-over as the kid braced against the counter. "You good?"
"Good," Dean returned. "Come on. Bedtime for Sammy."
Sam rolled his eyes but didn't protest when Dean once again grabbed his arm as they left the bathroom and continued down the hall toward Sam's room.
Somewhere in the Batcave, another door slammed.
Dean frowned. "What the hell is she doing?"
"Looking for the kitchen."
Dean scowled at Sam's smartass answer. "Thank you, Captain Obvious."
"But it's not that damn hard..." Dean grumbled about finding the Batcave's kitchen.
Sam didn't respond, once again too focused on actually walking to attempt the challenge of walking and talking.
Minutes passed before the brothers reached Sam's room.
"Finally..." Dean muttered and sat his brother on the side of his bed. "I feel like I've been driving Miss Daisy."
Sam glared with no heat. "Shut up."
Dean chuckled, crossing to the dresser and grabbing Sam's sleep clothes. "Here..." he told his brother, holding out the sweatpants and t-shirt. "You got this?"
Because some nights Sam did...and some nights he didn't.
And Dean was there for whatever Sam needed.
Sam nodded. "Yeah."
Dean arched a skeptical eyebrow but gave the clothes to his brother and crossed to the door; allowing Sam his privacy without actually leaving the room in case Sam changed his mind about needing help.
Sam quirked a smile at Dean's back, knowing what his big brother was doing and feeling strangely loved and protected.
Dean stared into the hall, listening. "Yo, Charlie..."
Because seriously...what the fuck was taking so long?
"Coming..." Charlie called back, apparently close enough to hear Dean's voice.
At least that was encouraging...
"She won't be happy when..."
Sam paused, grunting with the effort it took to change clothes.
Dean tilted his head at the sound but didn't turn around. "You good back there?"
"Yeah," Sam replied, tired and frustrated.
Because changing clothes shouldn't be this big of a deal.
"When what?" Dean prompted, distracting his brother from feeling sorry for himself.
Sam blinked. "Oh..." he commented, remembering. "When she finds out we didn't really need the water."
Dean shrugged, not sorry. "She'll get over it," he assured his brother.
Because Charlie was the least of his worries right now.
"You almost done?"
A few seconds passed.
Dean waited and then turned at the rustle of blankets behind him, watching as Sam crawled into bed and settled beneath the sheets.
"You need anything?"
Sam shook his head, his hair whispering against the pillowcase; his eyes already closed.
Dean watched him, silently counting down from ten as Sam's breaths evened out in sleep.
Dean smiled at his predictable little brother. "Night, Sammy..." he called quietly and then frowned when Charlie came stomping down the hall.
"Holy crap..." she bitched, suddenly appearing in the doorway of Sam's room with a bottle of water. "You should hand out maps to this place. 'You are here...' I mean – "
Charlie blinked as Dean's hand suddenly covered her mouth.
"Shut up," he growled, his voice hushed but his glare indicating how serious he was about those two words.
Charlie blinked again, confused and startled until her gaze traveled past Dean's shoulder to see a sleeping Sam.
Realization instantly lit in her eyes and she nodded.
Dean stared at her, further enforcing his warning, and slowly removed his hand.
"Sorry," Charlie whispered. "I didn't know he was already asleep. That was fast..."
And she totally missed the brotherly first aid scene...dammit!
Not to mention Dean getting Sam settled.
Charlie sighed and glanced at the big brother still standing in the doorway of Sam's room like a gatekeeper...and still staring at her.
Charlie arched an eyebrow. "What?"
"He's sick," Dean reminded her about Sam, indirectly explaining why his brother had gone to sleep within seconds. "And he's tired..." he added. "And if you wake him up..."
Charlie nodded her understanding of the threat, wondering if Dean realized he sounded like a mom pissed at the idea of someone waking her baby.
God, it was adorable...and sweet...and just GUH.
"I'm sorry," Charlie apologized again, being careful to bitch more quietly than before. "But I felt like I was in the freakin' Labyrinth looking for the kitchen. Like I was going to see the Goblin King around the next corner..."
Dean frowned. "Who?"
"The Goblin King," Charlie repeated and then pulled a face at Dean's continued cluelessness. "Oh my god. Come on. The Goblin King...David Bowie..."
Dean shook his head, annoyed and done with this conversation to nowhere. "Whatever," he dismissed and glanced over his shoulder at Sam, then back to Charlie. "Listen. I need to change clothes." He vaguely gestured to his pants and white shirt smeared with his brother's blood. "Watch Sam..."
"Watch him do what?" Charlie asked, because Sam was clearly out.
Dean scowled at the stupid question, reconsidering whether or not he should leave his brother alone with such a dumbass.
There was a beat of silence.
Charlie blinked. "Ohhh..."
She nodded, suddenly getting it and feeling like a ditz for not realizing sooner.
Because Sam wasn't going to do anything except lay there and sleep.
That was not what this was about.
This was about Dean temporarily putting her in charge.
This was the big brother asking her to watch Sam because Sam was sick and vulnerable and needed watching, okay?
This was an epic moment, and the most significant sign of trust – a changing of the guard in who watched over Sam.
Charlie smiled, ridiculously excited and humbled by this honor. "You can count on me," she assured Dean as he stepped aside and allowed her to enter Sam's room.
"Just watch him," Dean reminded as Charlie crossed the room and stood beside the bed, staring down at Sam. "But don't talk to him...and don't wake him up."
Charlie nodded, her gaze flickering to Dean as she raised her hand to her forehead in mock salute. "Aye-aye, Captain," she responded and smiled, then frowned as she noticed she was still holding that stupid bottle of water. "Oh..."
Charlie lowered her hand and pointed at the bottle.
"Guess Sam doesn't need this anymore..."
"Guess not," Dean agreed, twitching a smile before glancing at Sam and then leaving the room.
Charlie frowned, Dean's expression and quick retreat leading her to suspect she had just somehow been played.
"Huh..." she mused and set the water bottle on the bedside table.
Charlie sighed, focusing on Sam.
"Guess it's just you and me..." she commented like she was trying to pick him up in a smoky bar.
Sam didn't seem interested, continuing to lay motionless beneath the sheets; his head slightly turned toward her with his hair fanned out on the pillow; his eyes closed and his breaths even.
Charlie smiled. "You look really young when you sleep," she told him.
But Charlie felt her smile slip as her gaze took in Sam's pale skin; the light bruises of fatigue beneath his eyes; the slight flush of fever over his hollow cheeks.
"And sick..." she added about Sam's appearance, cringing at the truth. "I'm sorry."
Sorry that she had said that, though no one had heard her.
Even more sorry that it was true...
Because Sam looked bad – really bad.
And the swollen, bruised gash at his hairline wasn't helping.
"Sucks that I missed the first aid..." Charlie commented, truly disappointed she had not been around to see Dean clean Sam up and apply those butterfly bandages.
Man, that would've been sweet.
Charlie sighed and glanced around the room, deciding she should probably stop speaking; that she should instead do what Dean had told her – just watch Sam and not talk.
God forbid if she woke Dean's little brother with her rambling...
Charlie twitched a smile.
Charlie's gaze continued to roam the room, wondering how Sam had ever accumulated so many books...and how long it had taken him to alphabetize all of them.
"Wow..." she breathed and shook her head fondly as she looked back at Sam. "You're even more OCD than me."
It was a compliment.
Charlie smiled, glancing at the book on the bedside table and reaching for it; casually leafing through the pages and frowning when a sheet of paper floated to the floor.
"Oops. Sorry," she told Sam and crouched to pick it up; pausing when Dean, freshly changed into his own sweatpants and t-shirt, appeared in the doorway.
And of course he would return now.
Charlie sighed. "That was fast..."
Dean didn't respond, only arched an eyebrow.
Charlie stood. "I was just..."
Her voice trailed off as she gestured at the book and the paper and then shrugged.
Because she was just snooping...and now she was just caught.
"Sam's still sleeping," Charlie reported proudly and tilted her head toward Dean's brother. "See?"
Sam had not moved since Dean had left; was still in the exact same position on the bed.
That was good news, right?
Dean again didn't respond, only entered the room and crossed to her; taking the book and the paper and glaring his disapproval of Charlie invading his brother's privacy.
"Sorry," Charlie offered. "I was just looking. I was bored."
Dean said nothing but instead focused on the sheet of paper, reading what was written in Sam's careful print.
Charlie frowned at Dean's intense expression. "What?"
Dean shook his head.
Charlie shifted, angling for a better view of the paper and reading it as well.
Whosoever chooses to undertake these tasks should fear not danger nor death nor getting your spine ripped out through your mouth for all eternity.
"Oh my god..." Charlie cringed, blinking at the words and then reading them again. "Is that talking about the – "
" – yeah," Dean interrupted, confirming what he knew Charlie was asking. "The trials."
And leave it to Sam to not only remember what Kevin had said that day they had first found out about the three trials required to shut the gates of Hell...but to write it down and keep it beside his bed – readily available to read and obsess over.
Dean sighed. "Sammy..."
So much said and felt in that one word.
Charlie bit her lip, her gaze flickering to a sleeping Sam and then back to a worried Dean. "He'll be fine."
Dean snorted humorlessly and nodded at the paper he still held.
Because really? Had Charlie not just read the same thing he had?
"I know," Charlie agreed about what was written on the paper. "But you said it yourself back at the boutique – Sam is one tough sonuvabitch."
Dean twitched a smile. "Yeah, he is," he replied about his brother.
The word hung in the air – unspoken but there.
There was silence, only Sam's steady breathing filling the room.
Dean sighed, sticking the sheet of paper back inside the book and setting both on the bedside table.
Charlie watched as Dean gave Sam a visual once-over, making sure his brother was okay and resting soundly, before crossing to the other side of the bed; grabbing a different book from one of the bookcases and then carefully sitting on the mattress beside Sam.
Charlie smiled, recognizing this scene from the books; knowing that Dean was going to stay, was going to watch over Sam most of the night – if not all night.
The realization made something twist deep inside Charlie's chest; the bittersweet pang of knowing she would never be loved this much.
She sighed, feeling shaky with restrained emotion.
"You really are the best big brother ever," Charlie told Dean, meaning every word.
Dean glanced at her but said nothing as he continued to settle beside Sam; stuffing the extra pillow behind his back as he leaned against the headboard; one hand lightly resting on Sam's chest while the other propped the book against his knee.
Charlie watched; would be content to pull up a chair and watch all night.
Because she would never get tired of seeing these brothers interact, even when one was deeply asleep and could not reciprocate.
Somehow that just made it sweeter, more special.
Charlie sighed and then realized Dean was staring at her. "What?"
Dean nodded at the door. "Close that when you leave," he told her, indirectly ordering Charlie out of the room and out of his and Sam's space.
And that was cool.
Sam belonged to Dean, and sometimes the big brother didn't want to share.
Charlie got that.
"Yeah. Sure..." she agreed, taking her cue and crossing to the door. "Need anything before I go?" she checked. "Another bottle of water perhaps?"
Dean chuckled quietly at Charlie's overly polite offer, knowing that she suspected he had sent her on a needless errand earlier just to get rid of her.
"Nah," Dean replied. "We're good."
Charlie smiled. "Yeah, we are," she agreed, indirectly accepting his indirect apology...even if Dean hadn't intended it that way.
There was a pause.
"Okay. Well..." Charlie lingered in the doorway, reluctant to leave. "Guess I'll see you in the morning. Hope Sam feels better..."
Dean nodded, glancing at his brother as Sam continued to sleep beside him.
"Alright..." Charlie sighed. "Good night...bitches."
Dean smiled at the typical Charlie farewell and watched as she disappeared into the hall, closing the door behind her.
Dean shook his head and glanced again at Sam, making sure his brother was okay.
Sam continued to sleep, had turned his head toward Dean but otherwise had not moved.
Dean nodded, assuring himself that Sam was fine, and then affectionately rubbed his brother's chest as he settled in for the night.
A/N: Two chapters in one day...yay! Happy SPN Finale! :)