I've completed the final chapter of this fic now, so will be posting it pretty regularly. Thanks to Maygin, Vanessa and Sojouner84 for the great beta work!

This was written for AgentSpooky who was kind enough to bid on me at Kazcon. She asked for a fic about the brothers relationship with emphasis on Dean getting hurt watching out for Sam.

This story gets pretty dark, some chapters do contain mature subject matter, they'll be marked.

Supernatural, not mine, I just borrowed for a bit

This place was rough even for Dean Winchester. He hated these places, but the simple fact was he and Sam were down to their last twenty dollars between them. Using credit cards right now, with the Agent Henrickson on their tails, wasn't the smartest thing to do. They'd avoid it at all costs. It was bad enough Dean had to bring himself in here, it was worse he had to bring Sam with him.

They'd come across the small establishment, bar slash pool hall slash hangout for maniacal psychopaths. Well, Dean figured, even maniacal psychopaths needed to drink and be entertained. However he would have much preferred to not join them.

To make it worse the psychopaths were fairly poor. He was playing small stakes tonight, for more than one reason. He liked his head where it was. Liked Sam's head where his was even better, so winning large sums of money from any one person at a time was out of the question. His plan was to get enough money to fill the tank and get fifty or a hundred miles away, find a motel and crash.

This place made his skin crawl. Sam in this place was making his skin crawl and his heart race.

Shifting his eyes away from the shot he was lining up for a split second to check on Sam, he couldn't help his lip from curling in a silent snarl. Not where he'd been sitting ten minutes before, Sam had moved seats…again. When they'd gotten there Dean got himself involved at the pool table right off. The faster he was in, the faster they were out. Sam settled himself with files to read at a table in the back, nursing a beer. He'd been yawing for over an hour, would probably give up the beer soon in favor of coffee if they had it here. The thought of these people…and boy did Dean use that term loosely…on caffeine was scarier than the thought of them as they were now.

Two men, seedy even among these people, the type of seedy men who gave other seedy men a bad name lurked close to Sam, mildly harassed him for a bit. The kid, ever wanting to stay in the background, simply got up and moved. Once resettled he'd met Dean's gaze for a few seconds, half a subtle shrug, a flash of a grin and an arched eyebrow…leave it alone, no harm done, not worth the trouble. Dean remained watchful, covert glances tracking his brother's movements between every shot taken at the pool table.

Dean would have preferred his young brother not be here at all, but Sam always insisted when Dean was out for a game, he come along. Generally Sam stayed in the shadows, found a quiet corner, read files, took his laptop if it was somewhere with Wi-Fi. They made an effort to appear strangers to one another. No one giving Dean a hassle over losing money ever suspected the quiet kid in the corner was his back up. People severely underestimated Sam, thought he was harmless, meek. He wasn't aggressive, but he was far from meek and harmless. Many a sore loser found out the hard way Dean hustled with a partner, one quite capable of helping him out of a tight spot in a fight if need be.

These morons stalking the kid around this bar were different. Dean knew these types, had spent a lot of time growing up keeping Sam (and himself) away from them. He had an idea what they wanted, and if they caught Sam alone, off guard, they'd get it. Dean suppressed a shiver wanting to course down his back, refocused on the pool table and shot. Another thirty dollars in his pocket. He barely had time to take a sip of his beer, make a casual sweep of the bar with a glance, another check on Sam, before he was up for the next game.

For the minute things were going well.

If he could win another fifty or better a hundred bucks without incident they could leave. He wanted nothing more than to grab Sam and get out. He intended to do just that as soon as he could. Hopefully, in an hour or so, they'd be far enough from this place it'd be a bad memory.

The first part of the next game went smoothly enough. Sam sat, unbothered, appearing to ignore everyone. Dean knew better, Sam was as focused on him as Dean was on Sam.

Lining up a shot, simultaneously glancing up, moving only his eyes Dean barely stopped himself from swearing out loud. Sam moved again. Met Dean's eyes and shook his head ever so slightly. The boy would put up with this shit all night long if Dean needed him too; it was what bothered Dean the most. Quick and efficient, Dean landed his pool ball where it was needed, another twenty was his. Straightening, leaning casually against his cue he tracked the two men across the bar with a covered glare.

Carefully replacing the cue stick, he clapped his opponent on the shoulder. "Need to take a leak, man." Eyes skimming the players, "Anyone want a beer?" He smiled at the group.

"Gonna come back so we can win our money back, right?" One fat, toothless guy slurred.

"You betcha." Dean's smile widened, he laughed a bit. "But first…" He waved at his pants.

Slipping through the crowd, Dean resisted the urge to retrieve the cue stick and swing it on his way to Sam. He'd moved to a table with a booth this time. One of the men slid along the booth, sidling up to Sam. The other blocked Sam from moving away. Dean saw Sam's eyes, wary and guarded, search him out. His head jerked away from the man sitting next to him as the guy reached for Sam's face. Sam's hand blocked him, the guy standing on Sam's other side dropped one meaty, paw onto Sam's shoulder.

A quick glance down, Dean swore to himself, the table was bolted to the floor. Unable to over turn it, Sam was completely trapped. Twisting through the crowd, shouldering past people, ignoring the snarled expressions, grumbling comments, Dean stopped at the table, stood directly opposite Sam, hand coming down firmly with enough force the two men heard the thunk, turned to him. Dean kept his eyes riveted on Sam's.

"Been looking all over for you." Dean snapped out. "You were supposed to meet me an hour ago." When the heavier of the two men, the one blocking Sam's escape route turned to him, Dean cut him off before he could open his mouth. "Got a problem here pal?" Eyes settling on Sam again, "Sober up."

"No problem. Just some friendly conversation, eh there boy?"

Sam glared at the guy for a few seconds before focusing on Dean. Dropping his chin he mumbled, "Sorry."

"Yeah, you're always sorry, aren't you?" Reaching across Mr. Side o'Beef, Dean took a firm hold of Sam's arm, pulled insistently until Sam moved slightly toward the end of the booth, toward the slab of beef blocking him.

"Whassa matter, horning in on your territory?"

Dean really hated this guy. "Here to get my brother, he drinks too much."

"Brother?" The guy laughed foul breath in Dean's face.

"My kid brother." Dean enunciated every word.

The guy studied him, then Sam, for a minute more. Dean was beginning to think he was going to have to start swinging. He'd be on his own; Sam was trapped and until Dean could free him, he wouldn't be very helpful. His goal was to get out quietly, avoiding the guys at the pool table as well, avoiding trouble. For a few seconds it looked as if that weren't going to happen.

Side o'Beef, his arms were bigger than Dean's thighs, nodded to Dean, then turned and patted Sam's cheek. "Maybe some other time."

"Yeah, another time." Sam growled, sliding along the seat to his feet, grabbing his files up, and stepped close to Dean in one fast motion.

Dean herded Sam ahead of him, hustled the two of them through the bar, a winding path taking them away from the pool tables, toward the door. Sam offered no resistance as he moved along, glancing back every few seconds at Dean. Dean gave him a slight push between the shoulder blades, more to let the kid know he was right with him than to move him faster.

"Ahh great little get-a-way spot." Dean coughed, cleared his throat as he stepped from the smoky, acrid air of the bar to the crisp, fresh outside. The sky was clear. Stars littered the deep purple sky. He caught Sam looking up too.

"Yeah, we should come back again." Sam said.

Dean heard the grin in his brother's voice, knew he was no worse for the wear, but needed to ask anyway. "Are you all right? What the hell were you thinking putting up with that shit?" He hadn't meant it to sound as harsh as it did.

Sam's gaze shifted from the sky to Dean at once, making Dean feel a twinge of guilt. It wasn't Sam's fault the world was full of morons intent on badgering them. "No harm done." He muttered.

Which, Dean realized wasn't quite the same as ok. The kid was visibly shaken and what was he doing? Snapping at his brother. Nice Winchester, real nice. He met Sam's eyes, turned the corner of his mouth up a bit, nodding ever so slightly. "Good." He made sure to keep his tone soft. Sam gave him a hint of a shy smile back. Sam hadn't been the only one rattled by the encounter.

"Asshole wasn't even going to buy me dinner first." Sam snorted, then smiled in earnest at Dean's horrified expression.

"Not even funny Sammy." Taking Sam's jacket sleeve, he tugged on it gently, moving off toward their car. Sam stepped along behind him, Dean felt his shrug.

They'd parked at the farthest edge of the lot. Dean tried to do that whenever he could, the car was farther away, but the road was closer to the car. Easier to get out fast, and he rarely was blocked in by drunken patrons.

"We got enough to fill the tank, I figure if we don't find somewhere to stop in an hour or so, just sleep in the car tonight."

Sam nodded, waited patiently while Dean unlocked the car door for him. He leaned on the window frame, eyes scanning the lot, darting to the bar door, in case they'd been followed. After Sam folded into the car, Dean hit the lock, pushing it down and shut the door. He caught the smirk and slight head shake from his brother. Sam had long ago given up trying to make Dean stop doing these things. Dean reasoned Sam probably knew he'd never stop, but he still felt compelled to point Dean's actions out to him every now and then.

"Want to make sure you don't fall out, 'cause I'm sure as hell not stopping to scrape your lanky ass off the road." Dean said, sliding into the car, starting the engine.

"Yes you will." Sam turned an amused gaze on Dean.

"No. I won't." Pulling a blanket from the back he dropped it on Sam's head.

"Um humm…sure." Sam arranged the blanket over his shoulders, draped it down to his feet. Dean caught a glimpse of Sam twisting around to get something else from the back. Dean's leather jacket. He didn't wear it in the bar, it was too smoky, dirty and gross in there. The thing was a bitch to get clean. Sam folded it, propped it under his head for a pillow.

Eyes shifting sideways for a second before turning onto the road, he complained, "You sleep on that more than I get to wear it."

Sam yawned.

"And don't drool all over it."

"I don't drool." Sam's voice was already thickening, his words drawn out.

"Ha! Bullshit you don't."

"Whatever. Let me know if you want me to drive." Sam yawned again, squirming around until he apparently found a comfortable position, then settled and stilled.

"Ok." Dean agreed, knew full well Sam didn't expect him to ask. Sam liked spending their car time reading through cases, or annoying the crap out of Dean. He'd drive if Dean asked him to, or if he had to for some reason, but Dean couldn't remember a time Sam requested, wanted to drive. Sam barely drove in the two years since they'd been hit by the semi. He never said anything to Dean about it, Dean never pushed, but he knew the crash was a large part of it. He could practically pinpoint to the days Sam stopped driving and stopped being annoyed by Dean's protectiveness.

Being too wired to sleep for a bit anyway, Dean knew he had an hour, maybe two in him before wanting to stop for the night. If there was no motel to be found, he'd boost Sam in the back seat. It wasn't the first time they'd slept in the car, wouldn't be the last. Dean's eyes spent the next twenty minutes shifting between the road, his brother, rear view mirror and the gas gauge. It was the gas gauge that had him the most worried, it was sinking lower and lower to that big, red 'E'.

Finally the glare of lights from a gas station broke the flat desert landscape, deep night. Dean hated these back of nowhere roads, these places in general. Sam never seemed to mind them. However, it wasn't Sam's brother who always managed to find trouble in them either. Happy they hadn't been followed, Dean pulled into the station. Reaching across Sam's chest he pushed on the door lock again, reassuring himself it was securely locked. The car stopping, driver's side door opening, closing, Dean moving around never caused Sam to so much as stir. He'd grown up in that car. Dean thought sometimes it was the only place he truly slept deeply. Warm memories of Sam as a small child, tucked to Dean's side while their Dad drove flooded Dean's brain. Some nights their father packed them in the car just to get Sam, a cranky, over tired toddler, to sleep.

Seem things hadn't changed much.

Watching Sam sleep for a few seconds Dean considered if he should wake him, or let him sleep. If he woke the kid he could reclaim his jacket, maybe. Shrugging off his unease, he was being silly, Dean quietly exited the car. Filling the tank, Dean kept a wary eye on the road, their surroundings. Still not fully convinced they'd not been followed. The creeps in the bar had been a little too persistent with Sam, and Dean wondered why. There were plenty of other people to pick a fight with, certainly others more willing to accept their 'offer' than Sam had been. The thought crossed his mind maybe the men realized Dean and Sam were a team, but it still didn't make much sense. Dean hadn't done anything other than play pool, he hadn't bothered anyone. The other pool players had been friendly enough to him, didn't seem to mind the stranger in their midst. They'd been maniacal psychopaths, but friendly ones.

Another mental shrug, Dean replaced the gas nozzle, a glance back at his brother, sleeping, locked in the car, Dean headed into the station, sand and gravel scrunching under his boots. He wandered the aisles for a minute, gathered up some snacks, sandwiches, was on his way to the counter when he spied the hot chocolate machine. Normally Dean was a coffee man, but sometimes hot chocolate just sounded good, this was one of those times. He got one for Sam too, doubted he'd drink it now, but he could reheat it later. He paid for his gas, purchases and headed back outside.

The instant he stepped free of the station store he knew something was wrong. Every nerve he owned tingled and jumped, setting off more alarm bells in his head than most fire stations owned.

It took a few seconds before his brain comprehended what geared him up in the span of an instant. The inside dome-light was on, Sam's door was open.

Sam was nowhere to be seen.

"Sam. Sa-um!" Getting quickly to the passenger side of the car, Dean's feet tangled in the blanket, his jacket hung half in and half out of the car. There was no answer. Dean scooped them up, threw them in the back seat.

Sam hadn't left willingly. He'd never leave the door open, never leave Dean's jacket like that. The scene was left to make it plainly obvious Sam had been forced away. Yet Dean hadn't heard a thing, no startled yelp, no sounds of a fight, nothing. Sam might not be aggressive, but he sure wasn't defenseless, not to mention he was taller than most people. For someone to snatch him that way, jimmy the lock open and grab him without at least Sam landing a few punches made Dean's senses whirl. Other than the blanket, there was no sign of a struggle.

"Missing something?"

Dean spun to the voice, dropping his bag, the cups of hot chocolate. He recognized that voice at once. It sent chills through him, what was this guy? Where was Sam?

Concentrating on keeping panic, desperation off his face, not trusting his voice yet, Dean set his best blank glare on the man. The side of beef from the bar sat casually on a Hog, one leg to the side keeping the bike upright. Dean purposely cleared any hint of emotion from his eyes, his expression. He stared at the man, knowing an answer wasn't really required, expected or wanted.

Dean lifted one eyebrow, cocked his head to one side, folded his arms over his chest and waited.

"Maybe," Side o'Beef spit tobacco juice out, slipped a bit more into one cheek, "That sweet faced brother of yours?"

Barely able to stay calm, not pull his pistol from the glove compartment and shatter this guy's grin with it, Dean forced himself still.

"Nice boy you have there."

He was being baited, taunted, and he knew it. Eyes meeting Side o'Beef's Dean kept his voice low, even, measured. "Where is he?" He forced the words past dry lips.

"He's not really what I'm looking for. Wanted a fighter."

"Try ESPN."

Side o'Beef snorted a laugh, straightened and started his bike. Grinning, missing a few teeth, he jerked his head to one side in a 'follow along' motion. "Knew I pegged you right." He spun the bike around. In a spray of dirt it careened onto the road.

Dean was in the Impala in a flash, roaring after the guy. This wasn't over a few dollars in a pool game, he knew that. He wasn't entirely certain this guy was completely human, but he ventured a guess he'd have time to find out. Fingers gripping the steering wheel until his nails dug into his palms, leaning forward, Dean never took his eyes off the bike in front of him.

What the hell had they gotten themselves into?