" Dean...psssst, Dean!"

" Go away...I'm sleeping here." Dean Winchester pulled his pillow over his head, hoping it would signal to his little brother, that he wasn't listening. But no such luck, a moment later, he felt Sam climbing onto the bed and under the covers. " Hey, cold feet, ya jerk! Get them off me!"

Frowning, Dean pulled the covers tighter around his shoulders and tried to go back to sleep, ignoring the brother sized lump that was stealing half the bed now. " Dude, you gotta tell Dad about it..he's gonna know sooner or later." He could feel his brother shake his head behind him.

" How's he gonna find out? You're not gonna tell him are ya, Dean?" The voice was so plaintive it hit Dean right in the chest.

" Naw, I'm not gonna tell, Sammy..but you know how Dad is. He's gonna check on us one night and if he catches you in my bed? He's gonna know something's up. Probably best to get in first..." Dean shrugged. The matter was closed for now and he could feel sleep tugging at his eyelids again. Behind him, he could feel Sam curl in that little closer, putting his icicle like feet on his ankles. " Sammy..."

" Yeah, Dean? "

" Nothing, go to sleep." Dean sighed, settling into his side of the bed. In minutes he was snoring lightly.

John Winchester checked his bag for the third time before he tucked another shirt into it. You could never tell how bad a hunt could go...it always paid off to be over cautious and carry extra clothes. He was setting off after a Chupacabra up near Turner Maine. A spate of livestock and pet deaths had been happening over the last few weeks.

" Now you boys know the rules. Dean, you watch your brother, don't let anyone in the hotel room and don't let anyone know I'm not around. " John looked at his sons as they helped to pack the weapons he would need. They were growing up fast. Dean was thirteen now and already had several kills to his name. Sam was nine and although he had grown used to sitting in the car while Dean and his Dad were on a hunt, this particular one had John a little worried. He wanted to know his boys were well out of harm's way.

" Yes, sir." Dean answered automatically, placing his father's favorite knife in it's pouch, then into the bag in front of him. He looked pointedly at Sam, then jerked his head ever so slightly towards their father. Sam shook his head, glaring at his brother.

" Something going on between you two I should know about?" John demanded softly, fixing his boys with a firm look.

" No, sir." Dean answered immediately. There was no way he was going to tell his father about Sam's problem...he'd given his word.

Sam stared at his feet for a moment, trying to pluck up the courage to speak. " Dad...I...I've got a problem."

" A problem?" John repeated, surprise reflected in his gravelly tones. " What sort of a problem?"

" I'm...I'm scared of the dark. Sometimes at night? When you're not here? I think I see something moving in my closet. " Sam sighed when he'd finished, feeling like a weight was off his chest. " But there's not...right? It's just my imagination?" He looked back up at his father expectantly.

John paused for a moment, then picked up the stainless steel Colt Commander off the table and handed it to his son. " You know better than that, Sammy. You take this and make sure it's nothing more than your imagination. You understand? It time to conquer your fears, son."

Sam's eyes grew to the size of dinner plates as he held the gun in his hands. It looked huge and unwieldy. A quick glance at his father told Sam that this was no joke. He'd been given a solution to his problem...Winchester style. " Y-yes, sir. "

He looked over at Dean, noting the look on his older brother's face that said he'd just been outdone. It wasn't his turn to protect his brother this time...and that had hurt.

" Alright, I'll be gone for three days. Dean, watch out for Sammy. Make sure you crack those school books too. " John instructed, laying a hand on Dean's shoulder. " If I'm not back in three days..."

" I call Pastor Jim. I've got it Dad...I know what to do." Dean protested. He wasn't a kid anymore, damn it.

John ruffled Sam's hair, then slung his bag on his shoulder and headed out the door. Dean locked it behind his father and stood at the window of their motel room, watching as the Impala pulled away and disappeared down the road.

The macaroni cheese Dean had cooked them for dinner was sitting like a lead weight in Sam's stomach as he curled up in bed. They'd watched TV until Dean had been forced to drag a half asleep Sam to the bedroom, tucking him in before collapsing into his own bed.

Now Sam was wide awake again, staring at the closet across the room while Dean snored nearby. The gun his father had left him was sat on the bedside drawers next to Sam. Every time a car drove past, it's headlights lighting up the room for a moment, Sam found his eyes drawn to the closet. The door was slightly ajar, the darkness beyond hiding all manner of scary images in Sam's mind. The more he stared, the more he tried to convince himself that it was all in his head. After all, nothing had even come out of there and Sam was pretty sure the things that went bump in the night had better places to be than the closet of the Winchester family. Especially if they wanted to keep living...

The door creaked open a fraction.

Sam's heart exploded in his chest, fluttering in panic like a caged bird. It had to be his imagination...it just had to be. Logic told him so...logic told him—

The door creaked again and opened up a little more. He could see movement from within the closet itself. His breath was coming in ragged gaps, his heart thundering in his chest as Sam took the gun from beside him and cocked the hammer back. He held out in front of him the way Dean had shown him once before with Dad's supervision. They'd been shooting cans on a farm outside of Wichita, Kansas. But this was more than cans now and Sam was finding it hard to keep his aim steady. The gun shook in his hands, both from fear and the weight of it trying to pull down.

The door creaked yet again and suddenly slid open as a dark shape began to move, falling out.

The gun jumped in Sam's hands as he fired once, twice, three times before it was yanked from his hands.

" Shit, Sammy! What were you thinking?" Dean growled, quickly switching on the lamp between their beds. He had the colt in one hand, his heart pounding as he looked towards the closet. There were two holes punched through the door and one through the ironing board that had fallen from inside it. " I guess you nailed that son of a bitch, huh?" He gave his brother a lopsided grin, relief starting to seep through his veins as he realised nothing was actually trying to kill them.

" You're not supposed to say those words! Dad said--"

" Dad's not here, you jerk and you're lucky he's not! Look at the mess you've made!" Dean snapped. The sudden explosive pounding of someone at the front door made both boys jump. Dean stuffed the gun under his mattress, switched off the lamp and looked at Sam. " Stay in here..."

Crossing the room towards the front door, Dean switched the TV on again, then opened the door as far as the chain would allow. " Yes? " It was Mr. Marlow, the hotel manager.

" What the hell's going on in there? I heard gunfire, there's been complaints. Where's your Dad, kid?"

" He's gone out for some cigarettes. Be back real soon. Sorry...it was my fault. I fell asleep watching TV, forgot how loud it was. I'll turn it down. Please...don't tell my Dad? He'll ground me for a month...I'm really sorry. " Dean poured it on thick, using all the charm and acting skill he could call on.

Marlow paused, looking past Dean through the crack in the door and seeing some late night cop show playing on the TV behind him. He sighed and scratched the back of his head. " Alright kid...I won't tell your old man. You guys are leaving at the end of the week, right?"

" Yes, sir. We going to visit our grandma in Arizona. " Dean informed him solemnly.

" Alright then...just watch the volume ok? "

Dean closed the door and leaned his forehead against it, closing his eyes and sending a quick prayer to whoever might be listening. He switched off the TV again and went back to the bedroom, turning on the lamp and taking a closer look at the closet. He could almost put his finger into each bullet hole in the wooden door.

" Dean? What are we gonna tell Dad? "

" Nothing. Dad doesn't find out about this." Dean gave his brother a firm look.

" But he's gonna see the holes, Dean...he's gonna be so mad with me." Sam's lip had started to quiver, his eyes wide and brimmed with tears.

Dean crossed the floor and sat on the bed beside him. He slid an arm around Sam's shoulders, " No he won't. I'll take care of it, ok? Now you get back under those covers and get some sleep. " He tucked Sam back in and sat with him until he was asleep before crawling back into his own bed.

" Sammy, I'm going out for half an hour. Lock the door behind me, don't answer it, ok?" Dean looked at his brother to make sure he got the message. " I'll take the key, so you don't answer it at all."

" Where you going? "

" Out. That's all. I'll be back soon." Dean waited until he heard Sam lock the door behind him before he set off. It was only a short walk to the hardware store he'd seen the other day. Clutching the money his Dad had given him several weeks before, Dean purchased a tin of wood putty and wood stain the same colour as the closet door. It left him with barely a dollar left out of the money he had been saving for a new knife he'd seen in a magazine. It was frustrating, but a small sacrifice to keep Sam from getting into trouble. There'd always be other knives.

Three hours after he'd returned to the motel room, the holes were patched up and any damage at all was only noticeable if you looked for it. Dean threw the putty and stain into the bin, then took the bag to the motel's main dumpster. There would be no evidence at all of what had happened.

" Anything happen while I was gone?" John asked as they sat down to a meal of pizza the night he returned. Dean had helped John to patch up a nasty gash under his ribs, but other than that, the older Winchester had gotten away unscathed.

" No, sir...everything was fine as always." Dean lied. He hated lying to his father, it felt like such a betrayal. He'd been left in charge, and yet things had happened that he had no intention of ever letting John know about. He was supposed to look after Sammy...and that was what he was doing.

"Really? Then how come Mr. Marlow informed me that there'd been a complaint about the TV being up too loud? " John demanded.

Dean felt the blood run from his face and he dropped his gaze to the table ashamed, " It was my fault. I didn't realise it was so loud until he knocked. It won't happen again."

" You're damn right it won't! Dammit, Dean...you know better! We can't afford people to catch you alone. What if they'd called Child Services?"

" I said you'd gone out for cigarettes..no one knew the truth, Dad. I had it covered. I always have it covered." Dean argued.

"Don't take that tone with me, son. " John warned, his words icy. Dean backed down immediately, knowing when it was time to retreat.

" But, Dad..." Sam spoke up, hating the fact he'd gotten Dean in trouble. He saw the look Dean gave him, the warning look and swallowed his confession.

" Sammy?"

" N-nothing...just stop fighting, please?"

John paused then, letting his temper cool. " Dean? Tomorrow you will detail the car, inside and out until I'm satisfied...do you understand?"

" Yes, sir." Dean said defeated.

Sam got up from the table, his heart aching for his brother. He returned a moment later and placed the colt on the table beside John. " Dad? I don't need the gun anymore..."

" You sure, Sammy? "

" Yes, sir. I'm not scared anymore...I...I conquered my fear." Sammy said with more maturity than his age should have allowed.

John nodded and tucked the colt away into his jacket. He ruffled Sam's hair and pulled him into a hug. " I'm proud of you, Sam. Real proud."

Sam looked at Dean, silently thanking him for taking the rap when it would have been easier for Dean to tell the truth and get praised for the way he had handled the situation. Dean gave his brother a smile, knowing he'd done what he'd always been taught to do. The job handed to him when he was four. He was looking out for his brother.

" Dean? "

Dean opened one eye sleepily. He'd spent the entire day cleaning the Impala until he was sure his fingers were glowing more than the damn car. But seeing it so clean and shiny had made his heart swell, as had seeing the look of approval in his father's face afterwards.

Dean could see Sam sitting on the edge of his bed across the room. He knew what the problem was. Sam's fear of the dark and the closet monster wasn't gone at all. He'd simply been more scared of that damn gun and what their father would say, to admit the truth.

Pulling back the covers, Dean patted the bed beside him. " No hogging the covers, you little creep."

Sam was across the room in seconds, snuggling up to Dean, a smile a mile wide on his face. " Dean?"

" What? I'm trying to sleep..."

" Why'd you cover for me like that? " Sam looked at Dean, sucking in his bottom lip, his smile slipping away. " You could have told the truth.."

" Yeah..I could have. But I didn't. Ok? I saved your ass, now go to sleep. " Dean rolled over, hoping that would signal an end to the conversation. He felt Sam snuggled up against his back, his head tucked in and resting on his shoulder.

" Thanks, Dean...you're the best brother I ever had.."

" I'm the only brother you ever had, dork. Now sleep."

" You're still the best. " Sam said happily, closing his eyes and letting himself be lulled to sleep by his brother's soft breathing. Dean lay awake for a little while, smiling. " Yeah...and don't you forget it, squirt.." He whispered softly before closing his eyes.

The end...