Of course, he knew he should have known better – Winchester luck and all - but just once, he glanced up at the universe and asked, would it be too much to ask for Dean to have a happy birthday?
Sam even felt that he was partly to blame in this particular debacle, although common sense told him he wasn’t. Ultimately, though, he was the one who’d suggested they go out for the evening on Dean’s birthday. Although to be fair, he’d tried very hard to steer the conversation toward a classy new bistro that had just opened downtown; real cutlery, tablecloths – the works. As it turned out, however, Dean was the one who’d decided on the edge-of-town spit and sawdust joint they ended up in.
Whilst Sam had been fully expecting to have to carry Dean into his bedroom on the night of his birthday, he’d imagined it being due to excess alcohol consumption, and definitely not due to Dean being barely conscious and bleeding after being viciously assaulted by a group of redneck assholes with seven brain cells and one good tooth between them, who had unfortunately crossed their path.
Clearly objecting to being hustled out of their hard-earned after an evening at the pool table and, Sam had to concede, Dean could be a smug bastard at times, they’d slunk away ingraciously in defeat – and in poverty – but had subsequently decided to come back and form a welcome delegation for their tormentor outside the bar at closing time.
Two of the five men had ambushed Sam from behind, pulling him away from the safety of a street-lamp’s amber glow before he even had time to react, while the remaining three had dragged Dean into some pitch black, piss-stinking alleyway along the side of the bar.
Sam knew that Dean was a strong guy and could fight his way out of most unfortunate situations. However, taken by surprise in the dark, and with his senses dulled by alcohol, even he would struggle against three angry dudes armed with blunt instruments and a sense of righteous indignation.
Driven by his fury and concern, a red mist engulfed Sam and within moments both of his assailants were out of the picture. Unable to see clearly through the moonless night, he’d used a lethal combination of his head, his elbows and finally, when he had room to swing, his fists. He had wasted no time at all in immobilising both men, quite possibly for a good few weeks to come. He’d never been so relieved that he’d only drunk sparingly that evening, someone had to drive the Impala back to the bunker after all, and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be Dean.
Stepping urgently over the two prone bodies, he’d picked up the ridiculously large wrench one of them had been brandishing and charged around the corner of the bar to join in the fray.
He had arrived just in time to hear Dean’s three attackers whooping in triumph as they high-tailed it down the alleyway into the blackness beyond; their nefarious work done.
Their brutal and cowardly attack had left Dean lying broken and helpless on the filthy, rain-soaked ground.
Sam hadn’t even noticed it was raining.
Now, after a frantic drive back to the bunker, both brothers were back in the safety and comfortable security of Dean’s room and Sam barely knew where to start in putting his brother back together.
He briefly reflected on whether he should have taken Dean to hospital on the way back to the bunker; there was a lot of blood and swelling round Dean’s face, and he guessed that concussion was a very real possibility
He wasn’t too concerned about repercussions. In that backwater rathole they’d just come from, bar fights where a nightly occurrence and, in his experience, bar owners didn’t generally appreciate visits from the cops because they could open whole other inconvenient cans of worms - like iIlegal gambling, that can; unlicenced hooch, that can. However there was always the chance that some well-meaning patron might have called 911, and if so, the police could be sniffing round the local hospitals right now.
Besides, Dean was arguably the world’s most impatient patient and would hate all the fuss and attention that came with a hospital visit. In that respect, he’d no doubt end up discharging himself, and in doing so would make the whole enterprise pointless anyway.
They had patched each other up and sat up on concussion watch countless times before, and Sam made the decision that this would be just have to be another one of those occasions.
Dean was silent and still, lying in the bed, dazed, but a least he was conscious. Placing a hand on Dean’s shoulder Sam let him know that he was there, and Dean’s bloodied lip quirked slightly in response. It was as if Dean had been aware of Sam’s inner conflict about the potential hospital visit and was in full agreement with the outcome.
Sam looked intently into Dean’s face and quietly instructed him to open his eyes and look at him. That was going to be easier said than done, given the blackened swelling that reduced Dean’s left eye to a mere slit. He internally rejoiced when Dean complied as best he could, gazing back at him unfocussed, his mismatched pupils adding to his general air of disorientation.
"Y'gonna be okay while I go and get some water? Sam murmured, maintaining his grip on Dean’s shoulder.
Dean nodded slowly, "yeah," he grunted breathlessly, his voice slurring over a foamy trickle of blood that escaped his lips, "thanks Sam."
Sam’s trip to the bathroom to fetch a bowl of warm water and some facecloths was done at a speed that would have made an Olympic sprint champion proud, and he grimaced as he gently pressed a warm, damp facecloth against the blossoming bruises over Dean’s battered ribs. He guided Dean’s hands to the facecloth, instructing him to hold it there firmly, in doing so making sure Dean’s arms and hands were occupied and less likely to interfere with Sam’s work as he began to clean up the blood around Dean’s snuffling blood-caked nose, softly rinsing the matted, drying bloodstains around his cheekbone and jaw.
He swore beneath his breath as he tried without success to find an undamaged spot to hold Dean's face still, wanting so much to rain down the most violent fury he could muster on the three bastards who did this. He muttered soft and meaningless reassurances as he worked, the water in the bowl turning a faint pink as he rinsed the facecloths again and again.
"Sorry, bro'," he whispered, taking Dean's clenched hand and ghosting his thumb over the grazed knuckles, “I’m all done now,” he reassured.
Dean managed a faint lop-sided smile as Sam settled into a nearby chair, steeling himself for a long, watchful night.
The following evening, Dean seemed to be recovering from his ordeal well and had ventured out of his bed. Currently he was ensconced in the bunker’s main hall, buried in Sam’s biggest hoodie. Cleansed of all the bloodstains from the drama of the previous night, Dean’s face, although battered and bruised, was significantly more pleasant to look at. He was sporting a pair of impressive black eyes, a bust lip which give him a remarkably fashionable trout-pout and a spectacular purple duck-egg on his right cheekbone, but there was nothing that wouldn’t be healed and gone within a week.
Sam was ever-present; monitoring him for concussion even though he was sure the risk was minimal now, checking his vision, checking his bruised ribs, making sure he wasn’t cold, making sure he wasn’t hot, and most of all, making sure Dean didn’t tire of his attentions and make any reckless escape attempts.
At the moment, however, Dean didn’t seem to be in any particular rush to escape.
He was sitting back in one of the big armchairs in the bunker’s main hall with his aching ribs padded with Sam’s pillow stuffed behind him. Why it was Sam’s pillow and not Dean’s, Sam still hadn’t established, but he guessed right now, Dean needed it more than he did, so was prepared to let it slide for now.
And apparently Dean needed the extra large pepperoni pizza with a side of pickle chips that Sam gone out in the pouring rain for, the six pack of Corona, the family-sized cherry pie from the grocery mart down the road – yes, another run out in the freaking monsoon that was raging outside - the three bags of peanut M&M’s and the latest copy of Musclecar Monthly.
Just like he needed the Dr Sexy MD afternoon marathon, and he needed to borrow Sam’s laptop because his cartoon porn – sorry, anime – looked so much better on the bigger screen.
It was when Dean announced that he needed to watch the late night zombie B-movie double bill, oh, and some popcorn would be nice too, maple flavoured please, that Sam knew for sure Dean was playing him like a fiddle and milking the situation for all it was worth.
And that was fine with Sam.
All he needed was for Dean to have that happy birthday.
Even if it was a day late!.