A/N: Here's a little one shot that was inspired by a small family get together where I watched my brother in law handle his slightly rebellious five year old daughter. My favorite niece. She so reminded me of Sammy that I had to write this. The only part inspired by my brother-in-law was John's words. My niece Kylie is the first to get the best of her big brother Rian, but also the first to stand by his side. The situation the brothers are in is made up. (of course) This also helps me get over two weeks of burn-out incited writer's block. Please drop me a line and let me know if you like it.

Lessons Learned

"De-eean! Give it!" Four year old Sam said petulantly, reaching high over his head for the scrap of his blanket that eight year old Dean had pulled out of his chubby fingers. His blanket, the blue one he'd been pulled from his nursery fire cocooned in was a tattered, stained mess and Dean was determined to break Sammy of his need for the thing. It was worn down to about a third it's original size from years of having been used for everything from Superman's cape to a way to cushion Sam's trip down a dilapidated fiberglass slide in a defunct playground last week. The splintered slide had shredded the blanket and Sam's jeans, but still the boy laughed aloud when his big brother caught him at the bottom.

"Awww, does baby Sammy miss his blankie?"

Tears welled in Sammy's expressive hazel eyes as he watched Dean wave the scrap just out of his reach. Sam blinked back the tears suddenly and charged Dean, a tiny sneaker catching his brother on the shin with all the force the chubby little leg it was attached to could muster. The stained blanket floated to the grass as Dean howled and clutched his shin with both hands. Sammy grinned victoriously and snatched it up, cradling the worn material to his cheek like the most precious of treasures. "Deanie- Meanie!" Sam crowed and took off at a full sprint for the door of their dingy motel room. Dean growled low and took off after his brother, determined to get the pathetic remains off of Sam and give it to Bobby for a grease rag. He had just about rounded the corner of the motel from where they had been in the yard out back when he heard Sam cry out in fear.

"Sammy!" Dean yelled as he came around and saw Sam on his bib clad butt in the gravel. A man loomed over him with the darkest eyes Dean had ever seen.

"HEY! Get away from my brother!" Dean screamed, running up to put himself firmly between the man with the scary eyes and his baby Sammy. The man reached down and grabbed Dean by his shirt collars, lifting him effortlessly from the ground. Dean clutched the man's wrists with both hands as he fought to free himself to no avail. Sammy seeing Dean being hurt, stood and ran up to the man, braver than any four year old should be. He kicked the man in the shin just as he had Dean.

"Mean man, let Deanie alone!" Sammy cried out in an angry little voice. The man smirked and backhanded Sam, sending him crashing to the gravel. Sammy wailed and tears flooded his eyes, running down his cheeks in torrents and cutting a wet trail over the inflamed hand print that crossed from his temple down his little cheek to his mouth. Blood leaked from the corner of his split lip. Dean cast worried eyes over his sobbing brother and threw himself away from the man, ripping both his shirts in the process. Dean landed hard on his hands and knees, the gravel biting into denim and flesh.

SNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSNSN

John had just pulled in with the Impala, his back protesting as he eased out of the leather seat. A shrill cry of pain caught his ears and he instinctively knew it came from his baby boy. He pulled his Glock from his waistband and released the safety, knowing it was ready to fire. Sprinting to the source of the sound he saw Dean falling after wrenching himself out of a man's strong- too strong- grip. Dean was clear and John raised the gun. "HEY!" He bellowed, catching the man's attention and noticing with heart stopping clarity the man's black eyes. A demon found my boys?! John fired repeatedly into the man's chest as Latin fell from his lips effortlessly. Dean scrabbled across the couple feet of rough gravel that separated him from his whimpering fearful baby brother. Dean gathered Sam into his arms, not caring that his palms were bleeding and staining Sam's hair and bibs. Dean stared on after turning Sam's head away from the twitching, hissing black eyed man and buried it in his own shoulder. He held Sam tight, glad that the little boy was okay and watched his father face the scary man. The man flinched one last time and Dean put his hands forcefully to Sam's ears as a maddened scream tore from the man's throat. Dean flinched and buried his face in Sammy's soft waves as black smoke tore out of him and shot into the clear sky. The body fell and lay motionless on the gravel only a few feet from Dean. As he turned horrified eyes to it he held Sam all that much tighter, eliciting a whimper from the toddler.

John quickly knelt and turned Dean's scared eyes away from the man. "Don't look, son." John said as he dipped his head to meet his oldest son's green eyes. Dean nodded hesitantly and John pulled both him and Sammy to their feet. Sam squirmed and turned in Dean's arms to look at his dad. Thankfully John's broad shoulders blocked Sammy from seeing the dead man.

"Daddy!" Sam wailed, tears still falling. "Bad man hurt Deanie and me."

John pulled Sammy into his arms and held him tight, cradling the back of his head to his chest to shield him from any chance of seeing the dead man lying in the gravel. "You alright Sammy?" John felt Sam's head shake side to side against his chest as the youngster hiccupped a sob. "What hurts baby?"

Sam lifted his head just a little, John releasing his hold enough to meet his baby's hazel eyes so like his mother's. John growled low as he saw the inflamed hand print that was beginning to bruise on his baby's cheek. Sam touched his cheek, tiny hand trying to cover the redness. "Hurts Daddy. Deanie hurts too." Sam said, touching sticky blood on the strap of his bib overalls. John stared at the blood and then looked down at his oldest. Dean had silent tears in his eyes, not allowing them to fall. His chest was heaving with barely contained but silent sobs. John knelt in front of his boy.

"Dean, how bad is it?"

Dean stifled another sob and simply held out his ripped palms for his father to see.

John reached out and smoothed Dean's close cropped hair before allowing his hand to drift down Dean's flushed cheek, sending Dean leaning into the touch for comfort. "Let's go inside."

"Yes daddy." Dean whispered, stifling another sob. His eyes drifted to what he could see of the dead man.

"Eyes front Dean. Inside." John admonished. Dean instantly stiffened and turned, walking just a few paces ahead of his father into the motel room. Dean shut the door behind John and Sam without looking back outside and then moved to the table in the kitchen. Sam had snuggled into John's arms as his sobs died to sniffles. John sat Sam down on the worn couch and tipped his head to see the split lip. Sam whimpered when John gently touched the small cut. "I'm going to make it all better Sammy. I'll be right back." John stepped into the small bathroom and retrieved the med kit. He quickly but gently cleaned the cut and applied a pain relieving anesthetic.

"Better kiddo?"

"Daddy help Deanie now?"

"Yeah, baby. Daddy will help Deanie now." Sam nodded and laid down on the worn couch, curling up into a small ball. He sniffled again and his eyes drifted closed.

John went to where Dean sat silently at the table. He placed the med kit on the table and took the chair next to Dean, reaching for the hands Dean gingerly kept on his lap. "Let me clean your hands Dean."

"Yes, sir."

John flushed the wounds with saline, trying to avoid the sting of peroxide. He slowed down when he saw a black speck buried deep in Dean's palm. It was a small piece of gravel about the size of a pea. "Son, I have to get that sliver out of your hand."

"I know dad. I'm ready." Dean bit his lip and hid a wince as John used tweezers to pull the sliver. John cleaned the rest of Dean's hands and then his knees through the tears in the denim, not looking at his son's face when he saw tears drop into Dean's lap.

"What happened Dean? Why were you and Sammy so far away from the room?"

"We were out back playin' like you said we could. Sammy had that scrap of blanket in the dirt and then tucked the corner of it in his mouth. I took it off him and…" Dean trailed off.

"What happened Dean?"

"I was teasin' him. Holdin' it up where shorty couldn't get at it. He kicked me in the shin to get it back and took off. I let him run. He got outta my sight Dad." Dean whispered the last part knowing that would seal his fate.

"What?" John said flatly.

"I'm sorry, sir. It was stupid." John turned his back on Dean and stood, moving to the island in the shabby kitchenette. He leaned both hands on the scarred butcher block top and looked at his oldest.

"You let Sam out of your sight?"

"Just for a second. I'm sorry." Dean said as he cast his green gaze to his sore hands and knees.

"Dean, I've told you before how important it is to keep Sammy close at all times! How could you shirk your responsibilities like that?"

"I was close to Sammy when he screamed. That – that man just- he was there before I saw him. He hit Sammy and he grabbed me. He was… scary dad."

John turned to his oldest, realizing it was time to tell Dean about some things. "Dean, come here." Dean stood and scrambled to the island, facing his father from the other side. He stood at attention, looking much older than his eight years. John's bluster left him.

"I've told you before how important it is to keep Sammy close."

"Yes, sir."

"You know when it comes to protecting your brother you are the only one who can be with him all the time."

"Yes sir."

"I'm going to tell you something Dean. Something that will help you protect Sammy. You know if it's important then I would never tell you anything but the truth?"

"Sir?" Dean said as if asking his father to continue.

"There are things out there, like that man, which would do terrible things to get their hands on you and your brother. It's very important to know that these… people would hurt you and your brother. I'm trusting you to never let them get you or Sammy. I know they're scary son, but I believe you're brave, and I know you're strong enough to protect your brother. But you need to be on your toes. You need to be at your best no matter what. And you need to keep Sam close. Understand?"

"Yes, Sir." Dean said.

"Sam!" John barked. Sam jumped and woke from his doze, fearful eyes finding his father as he hopped down from the couch. "Come here, Sam."

Sam hurried to Dean's side and stood like his older brother, his chubby body shaking just slightly as he faced his father, the red hand print standing out on his pale face.

"I asked Dean to tell me what happened. He told me you ran away from him. Did you?"

"Yes, sir." Sam said, casting his eyes at the worn linoleum floor.

"Look at me Samuel. You too Dean."

"Sorry sir." Sam said, making his back ramrod straight to mimic his brother's pose.

"Never again. Do you hear me?"

"Yes, Sir." Two voices answered.

"Dean's job is to watch you, Sam. Your job is to stay with Dean. Understand?"

"Yes, sir." Sam said softly.

"Did you kick your brother?"

"Yes." Sam said, meeting his father's gaze. "He mean to me! Called me a baby. I'm not a baby! Dean was bein' dumb!"

"Samuel Winchester. Do not take that tone. Understand me? Apologize to Dean."

"Yes, sir. Sorry sir. Sorry Deanie."

Dean smirked at his crestfallen little brother. John cleared his throat. "Dean." Dean turned his eyes back to his dad, quickly losing the smirk. "Is that the way to accept an apology?"

"No sir, sorry sir."

"Apologize to your brother."

"Sorry Sammy." Dean said.

"Now, I want you both to remember how important both your jobs are. I want you to stay here and do not leave the room until I come back. Understand?"

"Yes sir." Two voices answered automatically.

"Dismissed."

Dean put his hand on Sam's shoulder, gingerly avoiding touching the rough denim straps with his raw palms. "C'mon Sammy. Let's go color." John left to take care of the motel manager's body, planning to leave as soon as the remains were burned and buried. John stood outside the thin wood door, listening to his sons' soft voices. He felt his heart swell with pride, also feeling a twinge as he realized his babies were growing up much too fast.

"K, Dean." Sam said, turning to the living room. He slid to the floor and reached for his scrap of blanket and the coloring supplies before looking on solemnly as Dean joined him. "Deanie?"

"Yeah, Sammy?"

"I'm not a baby anymore. I don't need blankie." Sam said, blinking furiously even as he was brave enough to hand it over to Dean.

"Keep it Sammy. I was wrong to take it off you."

Sam smiled and clutched it to his sore cheek sliding close enough to Dean where his brother lay on his stomach on the threadbare brown carpet. Sam put the blanket and his head on Dean's shoulder and sighed. "Deanie look after Sammy?"

"Yeah, shorty, that's m'job."

"Sammy look after Deanie too."

"Okay kiddo. We'll look after each other. Long as we're together nothin' bad can happen." Dean said as he pulled his brother's head off his shoulder and tucked it and the tattered scrap of blue close. Dean laid his own head on the blanket, his cheek against Sam's hair. Both boys dozed quickly, the adrenaline of their scare leaving them as two sets of eyes closed.

A/N: Hoping this one has more closure in it than my last one shot. I have nothing left to make this one a two shot. Just a little bit of real life influencing fan fiction. Remember to let me know what you think about this one. Every single word is very much appreciated.