Disclaimer: Dean and Sam own me...

Rated for some language and mild violence.

Summary: It wasn't that he didn't trust his brother's ability to con people out of their money. He did. He'd taught the kid, after all. It was the victims of the hustles who Dean didn't trust.

A/N: I MUST extend my thanks to Faye Dartmouth and geminigrl11 for pushing me to write this, and e-hugs and cookies to Faye for taking the time to beta. More on that after the story. ;)

Raising the Stakes

"What the hell were you thinking?"

Dean Winchester tossed the bloody washcloth aside and dug through he and his brother's meager first aid kit. It wasn't much -- a few gauze pads, ace bandages, cotton balls -- but more often than not, it kept the boys from making a trip to the emergency room when they ran into trouble. Hospital visits led to questions, questions led to lies and the lies only seemed to lead to more trouble, so whenever possible, Dean and Sam took to patching each other up in whatever rundown motel they happened to be calling home that week. It had been the Winchester way for over twenty years.

"Could you not yell? My head is pounding."

"What do you want me to say, Sam? That it was a good idea you had? 'Cause it wasn't." Dean handed his brother one of the ice packs he'd prepared from the contents of the motel's ice machine and instructed Sam to hold it over his swollen left eye. "What the hell was goin' through your head?"


It began like any other night off. Dean had dragged his brother to some remote truck stop in whatever small town they had been passing through that evening. Sam was fairly certain that they had crossed the state line into Maryland some time ago, although he couldn't be sure. What he could be sure of was that the food at this particular eatery was hot and cheap, and that's all he could have asked for at that point.

Following their standard meal of cheeseburgers and fries, the brother had checked into an inexpensive motel, if you could call it that, on the outskirts of town. Their room came equipped with two unbalanced beds, a fickle black-and-white television, and a small wooden table that threatened to tip over at the slightest touch. But despite the place's shortcomings, the sign in the window had promised hot water, and nothing sounded better to either brother than a hot shower. It didn't matter anyway; they'd be on the road again in the morning.

Dean dropped his duffle on the bed closest to the door and sat down to remove his shoes. He always took the bed closest to the door. It had become a habit of his ever since he'd picked his brother up from Stanford, a habit which had previously belonged to his father. Neither boy questioned it then, and Sam never questioned it now. It was just a given.

"You want the shower first?"

Sam pulled his laptop out of his bag and set it down gently on the old wooden table, careful to balance the device so it didn't cause the table's legs to give out. "Nah, go ahead. I'm gonna get a head start on this research for tomorrow."

Several minutes later, Dean emerged from the bathroom and fished through his bag for a clean shirt. They'd have to do some laundry soon. Or better yet, Sam would have to do some laundry soon. While Dean dreaded the chore, his brother never saw it that way. The kid thrived on stuff like that; laundry, grocery shopping, stocking their first aid kit with supplies. Dean attributed it to Sam's desire for a different way of life, and the older hunter figured that the more he sent Sam out to run the errands, the less his younger brother would long for the life he left behind in California. It was the one bit of normalcy he could offer the kid, and he was more than happy to do it.

Dean finished getting dressed and headed for his bed. Before lying down, he picked up the small piece of paper that had been sitting on the nightstand and tossed it into the trashcan.

"What was that?" Sam inquired from his position in the bathroom door.

"Credit card receipt. We're low on cash so I had to use one of the cards for the room. I'll see if I can make us some money before we head out tomorrow." Dean removed his knife from the bag of weapons and slid it beneath his pillow.

"You goin' to bed?"

"Nah, I'm gonna watch TV for awhile."

Sam nodded and latched the bathroom door. When he returned after his shower fifteen minutes later, Dean was sprawled across the double bed, out cold.

Smiling, Sam threw on some clothes, shut off the television, and pulled the covers up over his brother. The guy must have been exhausted. Their last hunt had been particularly taxing, and neither sibling had gotten much sleep recently.

Sam was used to it. He often went several nights in a row with short periods of rest here and there, but Dean was different. The older brother needed a few solid hours of sleep per night to be fully functional, and between hunting, driving, and sitting up with Sam when the younger man had had a nightmare, it wasn't always possible.

Sam felt guilty about that. He knew he wasn't directly at fault for the nights he woke up screaming, and Dean never once complained about staying up with him, but he still couldn't help but feel responsible for his brother's lack of sleep.

The younger hunter decided to spare his brother for tonight and perched himself at the small table to continue his research. As he maneuvered himself into the small chair, his long legs wound up knocking over the trashcan, spilling its contents but thankfully not waking Dean.

Sam leaned over to gather what had spilled when the crinkled piece of paper caught his eye. The credit card receipt.

He didn't know why the use of the cards bothered him so much. His father and brother had been pulling those scams for years -- he should be used to it -- but something about cheating innocent people out of money just didn't sit well with him.

If they couldn't work day jobs, he preferred it when Dean took to hustling to earn their cash. Sam figured that if those people were stupid enough to take his brother on, then they deserved to be robbed of their hard earned money.

While he favored that method of making a living over the credit card scams, it still bothered him that Dean had always been the one to do the hustling. He knew his brother took pride in being able to provide for the both of them, but Sam wished that, just once, he could pull his own weight and take some of the pressure off of Dean.

Why should Dean always have to earn the cash? Granted, the older hunter was much better than Sam at the game of pool, and it was true that the younger brother often felt out of place and uncomfortable in the bar scene.

While his brother was right at home in the smoke-filled rooms with loud music, rowdy patrons, and scantily clad waitresses, Sam much preferred the quiet atmosphere of a coffee house or restaurant. He supposed it was because of the years he'd spent at Stanford, foregoing the party scene in favor of a relaxing night out with Jessica and their small circle of friends.

A part of him wished he could convince his brother that splitting their time between smoky bars and quiet restaurants wouldn't be such a bad thing, but Dean rarely strayed from his comfort zone.

Still, that didn't mean that Sam couldn't hold his own in a game of pool. Dean had taught him, after all, and frankly, the youngest Winchester was tired of feeling like he couldn't pull his own weight.

All his life, his brother had made sure that Sam was taken care of. Dean had kept him fed, clothed, and sheltered in more ways than one, and that same relationship had continued into adulthood.

While Sam was appreciative, he also felt as though he had become a burden to his brother. A part of him knew that Dean would never think that way, but he couldn't help feeling as if he was useless to the man.

He looked over at his older brother sleeping peacefully beneath the floral comforter. Secure in the knowledge that he wouldn't be waking up anytime soon, Sam scribbled a note on the back of the discarded receipt and headed for the door.


One of the benefits of staying in such a small town was that everything was within walking distance. The small motel where the brothers had been staying seemed to be in the middle of everything.

The Laundromat was located a block away directly next to the car wash, and Sam realized that they'd have to stop at both before heading out. The Impala had picked up a good amount of mud on their last trip, and Dean had run out of wax. He refused to bathe his baby without waxing her too, and so Sam made a mental note to remind Dean to drive through the cheap car wash tomorrow.

Up the street in the other direction was Sal's Saloon, a small bar that, despite its name, was not something out of an old John Wayne film. It was actually quite the opposite.

When Dean and Sam had driven by earlier, the parking lot had been filled with several motorcycles and a few pick-up trucks.

As Sam approached the Saloon, he noted that many of the vehicles in the lot were the same bikes and trucks that had been parked there hours earlier.

It was a habit ingrained in both Sam and his brother at an early age. Always know your surroundings. No detail is too small. John Winchester had made it clear that a good sense of awareness could mean the difference between life and death, and so whenever Sam and Dean entered unfamiliar territory, they were always extra cautious.

Good, Sam thought. They should already be drunk. This will be easier than I thought.

Sam entered the establishment, ordered a beer, and immediately headed towards the two pool tables in the back room. He took a seat at one of the empty tables off to the side and began to get a feel for the place and its variety of patrons.

At the pool table on the far side of the room, two men had a game going as their girlfriends looked on. They didn't appear to be much older than Sam, and one of the men was sporting a Towson University sweatshirt.

Sam found himself wondering about this man - curious about his area of study, wondering whether or not the man still even attended school.

He'd always been a people person, interested in what was going on underneath, wondering about the hopes and dreams of complete strangers. Dean had always ragged on him for it, claiming it was better to simply learn the essential information and move on. It made sense, but it didn't stop Sam from wondering.

At the pool table closest to Sam, two rather large men were playing a game of Nine-Ball while a third man stood off to the side.

The first player, a muscular man in a navy blue bandana, cursed as he sent the cue ball sailing into the corner pocket.

"That's your third scratch tonight, Pete!" The second player clapped the muscular man on the back. Pete's opponent was burly and sported a thick brown mustache. He was donned in leather vest and boots, and a shiny black helmet rested on the table behind him.

"Keep it up, Dave. Pretty soon you'll be kissin' my ass like Jimmy over there!" Both men turned to face the third man, who remained off to the side.

Jimmy was much smaller compared to his friends, yet there was something about him that Sam immediately didn't like. Years of observing people going about their daily lives had instilled in Sam an uncanny ability to discern the good people from the not so good, and the young hunter had an uneasy feeling about this particular man.

Sam took a swig of his beer and eyed the competition. He considered approaching the man in the Towson sweatshirt and challenging him to a game but quickly reconsidered. He remembered what it was like to live on a college student's budget, and he would have felt horrible robbing the guy of what little cash he probably had.

His only other option was to challenge the three men at the table closest to him. Sam figured he could always wait for them to leave and take on the next patron who entered, but it was getting late and there weren't any guarantees that anyone else would have even come in at that point.

Sam downed the rest of his beer as he waited for the men to finish their game. When Dave set down his cue and accepted a handful of bills from Pete, Sam stood and approached the table.

It should have been routine by now. Swoop in, lose a couple of games for show, and then make his move. He'd seen Dean and his father con people out of their money for years, and there was no question that Sam knew what he was doing.

However, that didn't stop him from being somewhat nervous as he blew the first game against Jimmy. He still didn't trust the man, and Sam hoped that when it came time to get down to business, he wouldn't have to face this guy in a match.

The college students across the room had made their exit as the second game wrapped up and Dave pocketed the last of Sam's cash. Even if Sam hadn't been there to run the table, there was no way he could lose now.

Dave and Pete seemed friendly enough, but the hunter didn't want to find out what they'd do to him if he didn't pay up.

Several more games were played as more cash piled up on the table. It was rightfully Sam's now, but the hunter didn't want to appear too eager by pocketing it too soon. He had his opponents right where he wanted them, and he figured one more game should give he and Dean the money they needed to get through the next few days.

He should have quit while he was ahead.

For the first time since Sam's "practice game," Jimmy stepped up to the table. It wasn't that the smaller man was particularly good at pool or that he was intimidating in any way. Sam just thought he seemed…sneaky. The hunter decided to keep an extra close eye on that one.

The game had been going fairly well. Sam was careful to miss a shot here and there to keep up appearances but always stayed one step ahead of his opponent. Two more balls to sink and the game, and Jimmy's money, would be his.

Unfortunately for Sam, those last two shots had been particularly difficult, and as the 9-ball rolled into the side pocket, Jimmy slammed his cue on the table and turned to Sam.

"You little shit."

Sam stuffed the wad of bills into his pocket and feigned innocence, using every tactic he'd picked up in his twenty-three years of being a little brother to convey an angelic demeanor for the three men before him. "I'm sorry, what?"

"No way a beginner could sink two shots like that in a row." The smaller man turned to face his buddies. "That little fucker hustled us!"

Oh shit.

Sam mulled over his options in his mind. He could dart past Jimmy, weave his way past Dave, Pete, and the other pool table and bolt out the door…or he could stay where he was, try to talk his way out of this, and work on a better escape plan in the meantime.

Glancing at the exit on the other side of the room, Sam decided that door number two sounded good at this point.

As the hunter tried to explain the concept of beginner's luck to the furious men before him, Dave approached him and grabbed him by the collar.

"You've got two choices here, you little shit. Either you fork over our money and get the hell out of our sight, or we fuck you up and take the money. Your choice."

Door number two was getting shittier by the second.

Sam stared down at the livid face before him. He could easily give the money back, but who's to say they wouldn't try and kick his ass anyway?

And even if they were to let him leave unscathed, there was no way he was going back to Dean empty-handed. All Sam's life, his older brother had provided for him, and now that he finally had the chance to return the favor, Sam would be damned if he just surrendered.

Sam replied to Dave's ultimatum with a punch to the burly man's gut. Caught off guard, the biker doubled over and Sam used the opportunity to land and uppercut to the man's jaw.

Dave stumbled backwards into the pool table as his buddies approached Sam.

Jimmy swung at Sam with his right fist, but years of sparring with Dean had honed the young man's reflexes and he was able to block the incoming punch and counter with a jab of his own.

His small victory was short-lived, however, as Pete managed to land a right cross to the distracted hunter's face.


Dean awoke with a start and glanced around the small motel room.

He'd later tell Sam that his bladder had roused him, though both suspected it to be a lie.

The beds were dimly lit by the soft glow of the moon and he could see that his brother's bed was made and unoccupied. The kid had never gone to bed.

As a feeling of dread began to form in the pit of his stomach, Dean flipped on the lamp and took in the appearance of the room.

The bathroom door was open and the light had been turned off, and the laptop sat where Sam had situated it on the small table.

Thank God, the hunter thought. He's coming back.

In the back of his mind, Dean knew that his little brother would never just up and leave him behind without discussing it with him first, but he still couldn't help the sinking feeling he got whenever he didn't know where Sam had gone.

Dean was ready to attribute his brother's absence to a late night caffeine craving when he spotted the crinkled piece of paper next to the bedside lamp.

Dean -

Went to make some money. Back soon.

- Sam

As the older brother took a glance out the window and saw his Impala parked safely in the lot, the sinking feeling washed back over him. There was only one place Sam could have walked in a town this small, and Dean bolted out of bed and pulled on his shoes.

Dammit, Sammy!


Sam shook his head as if to ward off the effects of Pete's blow and retaliated with a roundhouse kick to the man's chin.

Being 6'5 had it's perks.

Pete stumbled backwards into Dave as Sam braced himself for another attack. Sure enough, Pete came back swinging as Jimmy managed to get a hold of Sam's arms and pin them behind his back. I knew this asshole was sneaky.

Pete landed a blow to Sam's chin before the hunter retaliated with a kick to the man's stomach, using his momentum to turn the tables on the man who held his arms.

Sam's much larger frame allowed him to work his way out of Jimmy's grasp, and he grabbed a hold of the smaller man's wrist and effectively hauled him forwards over his shoulder. Jimmy landed at Pete's feet with a thud.

Not to be outdone, Dave came up from Sam's left side and attempted to pin Sam's arms back once more. He ended up, however, with Sam's elbow planted firmly in his gut. The hunter then thrust his right palm upwards, landing it on the biker's nose with a sickening crack.

The burly man dropped to his knees and brought his hands to his face. "The bastard broke my nose!"

Seeing his buddy go down, Pete came forward once more and lashed out at Sam with a right hook. The hunter easily blocked and countered with a right cross, catching the muscular man in the jaw.

As his opponent stumbled backwards, Sam took a brief moment to collect himself and reevaluate his surroundings.

Dave was still kneeling on the floor, a trickle of blood now emitting from his nose. Pete was standing there in front of Sam, steeling himself for another round.

Shit. Where the hell was Jimmy?


The walk to the bar was brief - two minutes at best - but to Dean, it had felt like hours.

It wasn't that he didn't trust his brother's ability to con people out of their money. He did. He'd taught the kid, after all.

It was the victims of the hustles who Dean didn't trust.

The older brother knew that Sam could hold his own in a fight. Hell, he'd sparred with the kid long enough to know that his little brother could come out on top in almost any situation.

But Dean knew firsthand just how easily a hustle could go wrong, and he was even more familiar with being on the receiving end of a pissed off gambler's retaliation.

Dean picked up his pace as he neared the entrance of Sal's Saloon.

Making his way directly into the back room, Dean paused just beyond the doorway and evaluated the situation.

His brother was surrounded by two men, both of whom seemed to have it in for Sam.

A large man in a leather vest approached Sam from his left as Dean watched his brother land an elbow to the guy's stomach and follow up with a palm thrust to his nose. The burly man quickly dropped to his knees and held his face in his hands. "The bastard broke my nose!"

That's my boy! Dean felt a surge of pride as he watched the biker kneel on the floor, the blood now staining his vest.

The biker's buddy, a muscular man in a navy blue bandana, was leaning against the pool table, dabbing his fingers against his chin and checking for blood.

The older brother still hadn't gotten a good look at Sam, but judging by the carnage around him, the kid had been faring pretty well.

It was then that Dean spotted a third opponent, a much smaller man on the other side of the room. The hunter watched as the man lifted a pool cue from the rack and approached his younger brother from behind.

It wouldn't take Dean long to cross the threshold and prevent the man from taking a swing at his brother; however, he knew the sudden movement would distract Sam and possibly leave him vulnerable to be attacked by his two other opponents.

As the smaller man raised the cue and prepared to swing, Dean prayed that the trust placed in him by his younger brother would be enough.

"Sam, drop!"


Sam watched as Pete examined the blood on his fingers. He knew it wouldn't be long before the man countered with an attack.

Still unsure of Jimmy's whereabouts, the hunter resisted turning his head to look around. Taking his eyes off of the man in front of him could prove costly.

And then he heard it.

Sam would know that voice anywhere.

"Sam, drop!"

Ten odd years of hunting had taught Sam that hesitation could quite possibly mean the difference between life and death.

Twenty-three years of being Dean's baby brother had taught Sam that questioning the older man could quite possibly have the same consequence.

And so he dropped.


Dean's green eyes grew wide as the man swung the pool cue, aiming the butt of the stick for the back of Sam's head.

A sickening crack echoed throughout the smoky room as Sam hit the floor.


Sam looked up as the pool cue passed above his head and landed with a nauseating crack on the bridge of Pete's nose. The muscular man fell to the floor with a thud as the blood trickled down his lips and rested in the dimple of his chin.

As Jimmy stared down at his fallen friend, Sam rose to his feet and pried the pool stick from the man's hands and tossed it across the room. He then lashed out with a right hook, catching his opponent on the cheekbone.

Out of the corner of his eye, Sam could see Dave beginning to get his bearings.

As the biker lunged for Sam, he was met with an irate Dean Winchester.

Dean grabbed the burly man by his collar, effectively pulling him away from Sam.

Shoving the biker against the wall, Dean planted his forearm against the man's throat and glared menacingly into Dave's eyes, his words dripping with venom.

"Touch my little brother again and I'll kill you."

The older brother planted his knee to the man's groin and followed up with a blow to Dave's already broken nose, leaving no room for argument as the biker dropped to the floor.

Behind him, Jimmy's back was now facing Dean and the older brother got a good look at Sam's face for the first time since entering the bar.

Although Sam had been winning the fight, the kid had taken a beating himself.

The entire left side of his face was red and already beginning to swell, and the various cuts on his cheeks and forehead were sending trickles of blood down the hunter's face. Sam's defensive stance told Dean that bruised ribs were a possibility, and the kid's hands were stained red. The older brother knew that while a good portion of the blood belonged to the gamblers, Sam's skin had to have been broken by throwing the repeated punches.

Jimmy lashed out with a left jab as Sam blocked and countered with a left hook. By now, the young hunter was completely worn out and needed to lay his opponent out as quickly as possible before the adrenaline rush left his body entirely.

Sensing his brother's loss of energy, Dean grabbed Jimmy by the shoulder and whirled the man around to face him. Planting both hands on the smaller man's shoulders, Dean landed a knee to Jimmy's stomach and followed with a right hook to the man's jaw.

Stumbling back against the pool table, Jimmy fell to the ground and slipped into unconsciousness.

Dean shook his aching hand to try and relieve some of the pain. "Shit. You okay, Sam?"

The younger nodded and swayed unsteadily on his feet.

Dean grabbed his brother's arm and pulled him towards the exit. "We've gotta get out of here before the cops come."

Sam let himself be led by his brother out to the parking lot. As they turned the corner and headed for the motel, the last of Sam's adrenaline rush left his body and he collapsed bonelesslyinto his brother's arms.


Dean managed to half carry, half drag his brother back to the motel. He readjusted Sam's arm around his shoulder as he fumbled for the key, and he gently led his brother inside and placed him down on the bed farthest from the door.

"Sam? You've got to stay awake, buddy." Dean lightly touched his brother's cheek in an attempt to keep the kid from falling asleep. Until he had a chance to better assess Sam's injuries, it had to be assumed that the younger man had suffered a concussion.

Dean looked at his brother's slouching form and grimaced.

"Look, just hang tight. I'm gonna run to the ice machine. You gonna be okay for a minute?"

He took Sam's grunt as a yes and walked out the door, locking it securely behind him.

To his credit, Sam managed to get himself into a sitting position by the time Dean got back, his long legs now hanging off the side of the bed.

Dean retreated to the bathroom and returned with a damp washcloth. "How's your head feel?"

"Like a pissed off gambler mistook it for a punching bag."

Well, the kid was alert. Dean had to give him that much. The nervous feeling that had been laying like a brick in the pit of his stomach began to subside as Sam's smart ass comment implied the absence of a concussion.

Dean gently pushed the hair out of Sam's face and began dabbing his brother's forehead with the warm cloth. He winced as Sam hissed and he began muttering words of apology as he continued cleaning the cuts.

He managed to stop the bleeding on Sam's face and concentrated on bandaging the deeper of the cuts. As he worked, he mulled over the events of the night in his mind.

Dean was pissed.

Pissed at the bikers for daring to lay a hand on his brother.

Pissed at Sam for - no. No, this wasn't Sammy's fault. If Dean had anyone to blame, it was himself.

He was the older brother. The protector. The hero.

He was supposed to keep Sammy safe.

And what had he done? He'd fallen asleep on the job and Sam had gotten hurt. What would his father think?

His brooding was interrupted when Sam broke the silence.

"Hey, you okay?"


"It's just - your nostrils are flaring and you're breathing really heavily and -"

"What the hell were you thinking?" Dean exploded as he tossed the bloody washcloth aside and dug through the first aid kit for another bandage.

"Could you not yell? My head is pounding."

Ignoring Sam's request, Dean continued. "What do you want me to say, Sam? That it was a good idea you had? 'Cause it wasn't." He reached for one of the makeshift ice packs on the nightstand and held it out to his brother. "What the hell was goin' through your head?"

Sam accepted the ice and began pressing the freezing bag over the left side of his face. It stung at first, but he hoped that if he held it there long enough, everything would go numb over time.

"I was thinking it might be nice to help you out for once." Sam admitted bitterly.

Dean was now pacing the small motel room. "What the hell are you talking about? How does you throwing down with a bunch of drunks help me out?"

"How else are we supposed to make money? You won't let us get real jobs."

"Oh, so hunting's not a real job?" Dean shouted.

"Oh, come off it! That's not what this is about!"

"Then what is it about, Sam?"

"It's about the fact that you're getting pissed at me because I tried to help us out for a change!"

Dean stopped pacing and turned to look at his brother. "Jesus, Sam! I'm not pissed at you."

"Oh, really? 'Cause you've got a funny way of showing it."

"God, I should have been there, Sam! I should have been at that fucking bar!"

"Why? So you could show me up at the pool table?"

"If I had been there, you never would have gotten hurt!"

And there it was.

Dean had always managed to blame himself whenever Sam got hurt, hunting or otherwise.

Sam often thought his brother would blame himself for hurricanes and earthquakes if he could.

The youngest Winchester attributed it to big brother instincts combined with the overwhelming responsibility given to Dean at an early age to constantly look out for his brother.

Just another item to add to the laundry list of issues Sam had with his father.

Sam's voice was calm as he spoke.

"Dean, I left while you were sleeping. You didn't even know I was gone."

Dean, however, was still shouting.

"But I should have!"

As his brother continued to pace the small room, Sam came to realize that an angry Dean and a worried Dean were very much the same.

When Dean spoke again, his voice was barely audible.

"I should have been there."

"Dean, what the hell are you talking about? You were there. That guy would have bashed my brains in if you hadn't shown up."

"It wouldn't have even gotten to that point if I had been there to watch your back," Dean replied, running his fingers through his hair.

Sam sighed. "Look, you want to blame somebody? Point the finger at me. I'm the one who went without you."

"Don't you get it, Sam? I'm supposed to look out for you!"

"You do, Dean. Every day of my life! Just because I make some dumbass decisions doesn't make it your fault. Dude, you've had my back since we were kids."

"I didn't tonight."

Sam was exasperated. "Are you kidding me? You saved my life, man."

Dean quietly shook his head as Sam continued.

"Look, I get that you want to look out for me, and…thank you, but…I'm twenty-three, ya know? You can't blame yourself every time I get a few cuts and scrapes." Sam looked down at his aching chest and added, "And a couple of bruised ribs."

Dean smiled, though it didn't meet his eyes.

"Alright, just…promise you'll wait for me the next time you decide to piss off a bunch of drunk guys." Dean said.

"You mean you're actually gonna let me hustle again?"

"Well, that depends," the older brother began. "How much did you get?"

Sam carefully shifted his weight and reached into the pocket of his jeans. He handed the wad of bills to Dean and readjusted his position so it didn't feel as though his ribs were protruding through his skin.

Dean silently counted the money and looked up at Sam, an unreadable expression on his face.

"Look, I know I'll never be as good as you," Sam began. "But I really tried-"

"Sam, there's almost 400 bucks here!"

"You're kidding me."

"You done good, kid." Dean made his way towards the bed and ruffled Sam's hair. "Now take off your shirt."

"Excuse me?"

"Your ribs, you little perv. I've gotta check 'em."

Sam complied and removed his t-shirt, tossing it into their rapidly growing pile of dirty clothes. "We're gonna have to do some laundry," the younger brother pointed out.

"What do you mean, 'we'? That's all you, little brother."

"Oh, so now I have to earn the money and clean the clothes?"

Dean continued prodding his brother's ribs. "Hey, you just earned us 400 bucks. It took me at least a year just to make 300 in one night. I can't ignore that."

Sam laughed, despite the jabbing fingers that assessed his bruised torso. "Thanks, man."

"And don't worry," Dean said, smiling. "I've got your back."

Sam had never doubted him.


A/N: With this fic, I am now a proud member of the SFTCOL(AR)S, and I urge you all to take a peek at Faye Dartmouth's profile for further info. Pimp the Limp, baby.

And please review. :D