warning: language in the form of teenspeak/pottymouth.
A/N: it has been far too long since last i updated my story or wrote much of anything for that matter. some time has gotten away from me and a few blocks have severely discouraged me, resulting in the lack of any and all attempts at some of the stories i've started. but, being prodded by a persistant friend has led me to write a short oneshot to get my feet back under me and hopefully entertain anyone who happens to come across this. reviews are most appreciated, so get to it!

Brave Kid.

A soft, dejected whimper filtered through the steady patter of rain against the window of the tiny room and settled on the sleeping Winchester two feet from origin of the cry. Tear filled eyes greeted his own as he blinked sleepily in the direction of the noise and took in his little brother's stark appearance hovering between the decision to stay standing or take refuge in his own bed not four feet away.

"Sam?" Dean's voice found himself in a yawn as he saw the scrawny form of his brother still rejecting the idea of turning to creep back to bed. "You okay?" Worry slipped into his speech. "What's going on?"

Sam just shook his head. "Nothing, I just — Nothing. Sorry, just go back to sleep." He turned, hugging himself tightly to cover the vast distance between the two beds in the midst of not only a storm but a heavy blanket of darkness that made even the tiniest shadow seem threatening.

Brave kid.

Dean's subconscious agreed even in the absence of the current circumstances surrounding his eleven year old brother.

"Hey—" Dean took hold of his arm, wheeling him back to the side of his bed as he hoisted himself into sitting position with his free arm. Sam's tear streaked face met his concerned green eyes with a sniff and a shiver as he shifted nervously from foot to foot. "What's wrong?" He found himself whispering, unaware of the concern dripping from every syllable. A sense of failure was sneaking up on him, convincing him of the countless ways he could have fucked up in the time it took Sam to bottle up the courage to walk to his bed.

Sam screwed his face in reluctance to the tears that came, heaved through the sob that overtook him, and launched himself onto Dean's front, digging his face into his collarbone and clinging to his back to complete the wounded cry. Fear was the second emotion, siding with his first sense of failure as he wrapped his arms protectively around his sibling and tried to steady his own hammering heart beat.

"It's okay, shh. You're okay, Sammy, it's okay..." But there were a thousand reasons why it might not be okay; a thousand ways Dean could have failed to protect him. He was rubbing circles on his back, desperately fighting the urge to crush his spine in worry to no affect. "I've gotcha, Sammy, I'm not going anywhere. I've got you..."

If possible, Sam cried even harder.

Dean was nearing panic mode.

"It's okay, Sammy." He tried to keep the alarm out of his voice to calm his brother down. Dean was pulling Sam from the floor he had remained rooted to before he could attempt a response, lifting him around the waist and onto the bed with ease. Seeing Sam look so small and helpless, knotting his hands in his lap and biting his lip, threatened to shed the tears welling in his own eyes. No matter what the reason he would never get over the knot that formed in his stomach each and every time his brother came even close to crying, and this time he was full out sobbing. He blinked them away, knowing that would do no good for his little brother, currently on the verge of crying all over again. He heaved another sob, covering his face with his hands and avoiding Dean's eyes.

That hurt.

Dean tugged his wrists away to hold him by the cuff of this neck with a million worries racing through his mind. Was it another night terror? Images of the past years that plagued his baby brother's sleep made him physically sick — he hadn't had a night terror in years though, it couldn't be that. Did he somehow get hurt? He gave him a quick look over with no injuries visible in the dark room lit only by the light of a distant streetlamp traveling through the rain and blind-covered window. Was it just a regular nightmare? Why was he avoiding him if that was all it was? Had he made it worse? He settled for asking. "You wanna tell me what's wrong?"

Sam finally met his eyes with the welling puppy dog pair that Dean both loved and hated. He opened his mouth to speak but only managed a hiccup and a fresh stream of tears and shook his head. He looked like the six year old that just knew the only thing in the world that could make everything go away was his big brother. Only this time Dean didn't know how to make whatever it was go away, so he did the next best thing.

Dean pulled him close, wrapping an arm around his shoulders, and lay back down. He scooted to his right, making room for Sam in the twin-size bed and tried to ignore the sinking feeling in his gut and focus on the fact that Sam wasn't physically hurt, he just had something on his mind. He took comfort in the faith the kid had in him as he took the inside of Dean's shoulder over the pillow. Dean tightened his grip around Sam's shoulders, allowing him to settle further.

Sammy was eleven years old and already smarter than most adults, easily more mature, and that was just messed up. It was fucking wrong. It was wrong that Dean was more of a father to him than their own dad was. It was wrong that Dean had quit being a child at four years old and wrong that Sam never had the chance to know what those four years were like; what it felt like to have a mom. His life was screwed and his mentality was shit compared to most kids his age and he accepted that.

But why should his brother have to grow up as fast as Dean did?

Sam wrapped an arm around Dean's chest to cling to the worn shirt below his shoulder, his other arm curled in on himself and against Dean's side, and his face hidden in his brother's chest. Another sob racked through his body as he furrowed his head deeper into Dean's shirt and struggled to cease his crying. As he took to entangling his fingers in his brother's hair, Dean knew it wasn't just a nightmare that kept him from the reprieve of sleep. He also knew Sam wasn't going to be doing a lot of talking at four in the morning and didn't need to. He silently asked the god he wasn't sure he believed in to give Sam a break and let him sleep, wishing he knew the right thing to do.

After fifteen minutes of Sam's labored breathing and continuous sniffling Dean began breathing deeply in encouragement, willing his brother to do the same. He complied; ending the unnecessary activity on Dean's part with a final hiccup and a grateful, sleep-deprived look. Dean couldn't help but smile at the way Sam's head dropped in exhaustion and nuzzled even closer to him as sleep finally overcame the troubled Winchester.

Dean, however, was far from being able to sleep, far from relaxing his hold, and far from easing his mind. He absentmindedly continued running his hand through his brother's hair, unaware that it was what had coaxed him into sleeping in the first place. Dean's birthday was only a few hours away. It wasn't as if expected something magnificent or the car so many others received, he just didn't know whether to expect his dad to remember the date or not. After his fifteenth birthday came and went without being so much as mentioned, he was reluctant to expect much, if anything at all. He couldn't rightly say that he would even be home for the occasion. Hunts seemed to last longer and longer these days, and Dean couldn't bring himself to fully blame his father for not remembering to call in the middle of battling a shape shifter three towns away.

Still, it isn't everyday that you turn sixteen.

He smiled affectionately down at his sleeping brother. Sam would remember.