Little brothers, Dean decided, were the worst when they were five. They couldn't get any more annoying than that, and he was really looking forward to Sam being six. Sam at five wasn't fun anymore. He hadn't been this bad even when he'd been two!
Dean hadn't been this bad at five. He was nine now, so he'd have remembered that. He never got the deep sighs that Sam always got from Dad. He hadn't been as noisy, either. Sam was always making noise.
He was also always mad at Dean, which was fine with Dean. He didn't care. Not really.
Seriously, what was the little twerp always mad about, anyways? He always got the last thing of Lucky Charms, he always got to pick what they watched on TV, he always managed to find the last cookie...it wasn't fair. Sam shouldn't be mad at him; Dean was the one who could be mad, here.
"You almost done in there, twerp?" Dean called through the bathroom door. He could still taste carrots instead of the cheeseburger, and he wanted to brush his teeth. As always, of course, Sam had gotten in there to wash his first. Brat.
"Don't call me a twerp!" Sam yelled through the door, but the door stayed closed.
Dean clenched his fists. "Fine. You almost done in there, shrimp?"
The door flew open, and Sam's angry face appeared. "Stop calling me that!" he said, lips pinched and eyes narrowed.
"Yeah, well, it's true," Dean shot back. "You're a pain in the butt, so I can call you whatever I want."
"Why can't I call you anything I want? Huh? 'Cause you're a big ole pain in the butt, too!" Sam snapped.
"Boys," Dad called from his seat at the table. He was looking through his journal, or at least, trying to, juggling his attention between the journal and the fight. It wasn't Dean's fault that Sam was getting angry and mean. It was Sam's fault that Dad couldn't concentrate on what he needed to do, to save lives, even if Sam didn't know that yet.
If anything, that just made Dean angrier. "At least I'm a smart pain in the butt," he spat at Sam. "You're just a stupid, ugly brat."
"I am not!" Sam shouted, getting up in Dean's face. "YOU'RE the stupid one around here! You're just a big, dumb idiot!"
"Least I'm not a shrimp or a twerp like you are!"
"You're always so mean! You're never nice! You're a horrible, rotten, mean person! Mean Dean!"
"Boys," Dad said, his attention half focused on them now.
"Shrimpy Sammy," Dean sing-songed in return, making Sam even more furious.
"Why are you so mean all the time! Why, when you're older and you get to do everything! It's not fair!"
Dean's eyes got so big it almost hurt. "It's not fair? It's not fair?! YOU'RE the one who always gets the last of the cereal. YOU'RE the one who always gets first pick on the TV. YOU'RE the one who always gets the bathroom first! It's not fair for ME! You've got it all!"
Sam was practically quivering with rage. "That's not true!"
"Yes it is!" Dean shouted, putting his arms out wide. "You're the littlest brat who gets everything!"
"I wish you weren't my brother, and I hate you!" Sam screamed, then froze, fury dropping away into shock in an instant.
Dean's own anger disappeared in a flash. Sam's words ran through his head, and all Dean wanted to do was run himself. Run away, far away from-
He didn't have to worry. With a strangled sound Sam turned and ran for the bedroom they shared, slamming the door shut behind him.
Dean stood and stared.
He heard a sigh from behind him, and then the creak of a chair as Dad stood up. "He didn't mean it, Dean," he said gently. "If he hadn't said it, you probably would've said it."
No. Dean never would've said it. Ever. That was the one thing they didn't say to each other. 'Hate' didn't belong in their vocabulary when they were talking about each other. They could hate broccoli, or hate the rain for keeping them inside, but they never ever said they hated each other.
I wish you weren't my brother!
They never said that, either.
Dean stood there for awhile more, eyes locked on the closed door.
That night, they slept turned away from each other. Sam had looked at him when he'd come in, but Dean had kept his eyes on the walls the entire time. The clock showed that it was almost one in the morning, and still Dean couldn't sleep.
Sam hated him. Hated him enough that he wished they weren't brothers. The words wouldn't stop running through his head, again and again and again.
His chest felt tight, and it hurt even more the longer he thought about it. He finally closed his eyes around two, and told himself that the reason they burned was because he was up so late.
The next morning at eight, Dean finally stumbled out of bed. Sam glanced up at him when he came in, biting his lip, but he didn't say anything. Dean quietly took his seat and poured himself some cereal.
"I'm gonna be out working today with Uncle Bobby," Dad said from the sink of their little apartment. "Think you guys can hold down the fort on your own?"
"Yes," Sam said. Dean just nodded.
"Good. I'll be back for dinner, or maybe even earlier; depends on how work goes," Dad said, wiping his hands on the towel. He was already wearing his jacket, and the familiar green duffel bag was by the door. "You know the rules, right?"
"Won't forget," Sam promised. Dean finally hazarded a glance up, and his Dad gave him a smile.
"Hold down the fort," Dad repeated. Dean nodded after a moment.
Then Dad was gone. The silence he left behind turned awkward fast.
Sam cleared his throat about five minutes later. "Do you want me to...to rinse out your bowl?"
Dean shook his head. "I got it," he replied, standing to do so. Sam's was already rinsed, the first one in the sink.
I wish you weren't my brother, and I hate you!
Dean rinsed his bowl in silence.
The rest of the day was spent in much the same way. Sam would ask hesitant questions, and Dean would respond with quiet yes or no answers of some sort. Most of the time, Dean couldn't bear to look at Sam. If he did, he was so sure he was going to see the angry face he'd seen yesterday, glaring at him in hate.
Dean shuddered and pulled his blankets up around him.
The TV was off in the other room, and Dean had decided to read comics in bed. He was still tired from the lack of sleep last night, but he was too tense to actually fall asleep. He wanted-
He didn't know what he wanted. He wanted Sam to say he was sorry. He wanted yesterday to have never happened. He wanted his brother to tell him that he loved him, like they did in those stupid girl movies.
The entire thing was making his stomach turn, and it wasn't a fun feeling. Sam, for once, wasn't making noise, and it would've made Dean worried any other time except for now. He didn't know why Sam wasn't making noise; it wasn't because he cared about Dean, right? Because he hated Dean.
His eyes burned, and he quickly wiped the back of his hand over his eyes.
This was so messed up. The comics weren't funny, nothing was even remotely close to funny.
He'd carried Sam out of the burning house; didn't that count for something?
He tossed the comic books aside, then crawled underneath the covers. Sam would scream if he needed help, and Dean would help him. He always had, always would. It wouldn't hurt to sleep for just a little bit, and if Sam really needed him...well, if he needed him...he knew where to find Dean.
His eyes closed, and sleep finally overtook him.
He was cold. That was his first indication that something wasn't right. Something cold was on his head, and he mumbled and tried to pull away.
When he finally got his eyes open, Sam was standing next to him, looking scared. He wasn't asking for help, though, just gazing at him with a trembling lip. Like he didn't want to ask for Dean's help.
Dean slowly closed his eyes again, Sam's frightened whisper of his name the last thing he heard.
"Dean? Dean, wake up."
Dean slowly blinked his eyes open, then forced them to stay open once he realized it was Dad. "Dad? What'sa matter?" His voice sounded wrong, and he frowned.
Dad was opening a small bottle, though, and it turned out to be medicine. Liquid aspirin, if Dean was reading right. What...? "You're running a fever, kiddo. I need you to take some of this."
There was still light outside, so why was Dad home? Dean pressed his hand against his forehead, which was suddenly pounding. He was still cold, too, but his skin felt warm.
"How'd you know?" Dean asked, sitting up in bed slowly. "To come home, I mean?"
"I didn't; Sam called me, said you were sick." Dad reached to help rest Dean against the headboard, then held up the spoon. "Swallow it all down."
Dean didn't even make a face when the nasty grape taste hit his tongue. He was still too surprised over what his Dad had said. "Sam...Sam called you?" Did Sam even know how to use the phone right?
Dad gave him an odd look, before he nodded. "He's been pretty worried about you, bud. He was pretty upset when he called me; I barely managed to figure out what he was saying."
It was only then that Dean realized there were two eyes peeking into the room from around the door. Sam still looked scared, like really scared.
I hate you!
...Maybe he really hadn't meant it, then. You didn't get scared and upset for someone you hated, right?
"Sammy?" Dad called, apparently having seen the eyes too. "You want to come in? Dean's okay, I promise."
The two eyes disappeared instantly, answering that question.
Dad sighed. "He still mad at me?" Dean asked hesitantly.
Dad turned and stared at him for a moment, before slowly shaking his head. "No," he drawled. "Sam thinks you're mad at him."
Dean frowned, all hesitancy gone. "He what? I'm not mad at him! I thought he was mad at me!"
"Sam, come in here," Dad called, standing. "Sam!"
Two miserable eyes peeked in again. "You come in here, and you talk to your brother," Dad said sternly. "This thing between the two of you has to end. Okay?"
"'Kay," Sam whispered. Only when Dad began began to move towards the door, though, did Sam finally step inside. He glanced up at Dean, then glanced away just as quickly, biting his lip.
Dad gave them both a meaningful look, before closing the door behind him. Sam stayed standing near the end of the bed, eyes on his shoes. He looked...almost as bad as Dean felt, and Dean wondered why he hadn't caught onto that before.
"I'm sorry," Sam blurted out. "Dean, I didn't mean it, I swear, 'cuz I wouldn't want another brother, I only want you for a brother, a-and I don't hate you, I love you, I really d-do, I promise-"
"Sammy, it's okay," Dean said, waiting until Sam looked up to give him a small smile. "I know you don't, okay? I swear I know."
And he did know. Even if he hadn't known, he could see it on Sam's face. The kid adored him, always had. His first word had been 'Dean', for crying out loud.
Sam wouldn't have said that if he hadn't been so angry that he didn't know what he was saying. And the reason he'd gotten so mad in the first place was because Dean had picked on him. Well, Sam had picked back, but really, Dean had started it.
A sniffle made him refocus on Sam, who looked this close to bursting into tears. "Sammy," was all Dean said, and when Sam looked up again, big eyes glistening in the dim light of the room, Dean held his arms open.
Then Sam was diving in, holding on tight enough that Dean could feel his little fingers digging into his ribs. It was okay, though, because Dean was pretty sure his fingers were digging into Sam's ribs. "I'm sorry too, Sammy," he said quietly.
Sam pulled back, looking appalled. "But you didn't do nothing wrong! I did! I messed up! I said..." He swallowed hard and looked ready to cry again.
"Yeah, I know what you said," Dean muttered good naturedly, and Sam gave a watery giggle. "But you wouldn't have said it if I hadn't pushed at you. So yeah, it was kinda my fault."
Sam vehemently shook his head no, though, so Dean just let the matter rest. He'd apologized because he knew he'd been as much a cause to what had happened as Sam had been. He'd made it right with himself, even if Sam wouldn't believe him.
The thought of Sam getting angry with himself for what he'd said, though, and completely blaming himself didn't make Dean happy in the slightest. Before he could say anything, though, Sam whispered, "I'm sorry I made you sick."
Dean pulled all the way back to look his brother in the eye. "Okay, you didn't make me sick. It was probably school; everyone's sick. Which reminds me; if you keep hugging me, you're probably gonna get sick too, and I don't want that."
Sam bit his lip, but he looked almost in awe, too, which confused Dean. "What?"
A shake of long, dark hair. "Nothin'. Just thinking."
"About?" Dean prodded.
Sam shrugged. "School. Must not be a lot of fun, you know, if kids get sick all the time, right?"
Dean frowned. Sam had been bouncing around, waiting for fall so he could finally go to school. Dean had taught him how to read and write a little bit, after what his teachers had shown him, and he'd warned Sam that it was boring, but Sam couldn't be convinced of that.
His frown deepened as he recalled just what one of the points of the fight yesterday had been about.
"Why, when you're older and you get to do everything! It's not fair!"
"It's not fair for ME! You've got it all!"
"That's not true!"
"Sam, you do know you're gonna get to go to school like I do, right?" Dean said. "I mean, it's only next fall, and then you'll be in it for like twelve years." He scrunched his nose up at the thought. "So really, it's a cool thing, and waiting's not bad, right?"
"I know, but..." Sam glanced up at him. "You're bigger than I am, and older, and Dad tells you stuff he doesn't tell me 'cuz I'm little and he doesn't think I'll get it. And he lets you open the door to the motel rooms all the time. And you get your own key. And you get to help pack."
Sam's insistence to be the first one to do some things made a little more sense now. And yeah, he and Dad had some private conversations, but it was because they didn't want Sam to know about what was really going on. They'd been protecting him, not excluding him because he wasn't cool enough.
Sam didn't really understand that, though, and while it made Dean sad to hear it, it also made him happy deep down. It meant Sam didn't know what was really going on. At least, not yet.
"Then how about this: if you forget about yesterday's fight, and don't blame yourself for it, I'll let you open up the motel room next time we go to one. Okay?"
Sam's eyes lit up. "Really? You promise?"
"I promise," Dean said.
The next day, while Dean was still in bed with a fever, Sam brought him a bowl of Lucky Charms, and managed not to spill it everywhere. Dean found out later when Dad went on a grocery run that it had been the last in the box. Sam brought him everything he asked for while resting, whether it was a Popsicle or the remote control.
Dean was so going to let Sam help him unpack next time they moved. Little brothers, he decided, were the best at five.