'Dean isn't going to be happy about this at all', Sam thought to himself as he desperately attempted to scrub the dried blood off his face.

What was his big brother going to do about this? Dean always did something crazy at times like this.

Dad was away and Dean remained in charge. That meant Sam was cared for by his big bro most of the month. Not that he really didn't want his Dad around, but Sam really didn't know his father that well anymore. John Winchester was always chasing after the yellow-eyed demon that had killed his wife. Sam didn't know his mother. Sometimes he wondered if John cared about his sons as much as his dead spouse. He didn't say that aloud when Dad was home since he didn't want any trouble.

Dean was at the motel they called home, his Impala was parked close to the stairs that led up to their room. Dad had gone with another hunter, leaving them with the car.

The brothers were the only residents on the right side of the motel, that's how John liked it. He thought that was safer.

Sam took every step up the stairs slowly, half out of apprehension, half because his ribs hurt like Hell. He came to the brothers' room and took a breath before sticking his key in. The warm air hit him in a rush. He had forgotten that it was the middle of November because adrenaline-heated blood was coursing through his body.

"Hey," said the familiar voice of his eighteen-year-old brother as he rounded the corner from the kitchenette that was blocked from view by a wall.

Sam jumped almost unperceivable. Dean frowned at him as he regarded his little brother.

"I was just about to call you," Dean said as Sam crossed the room to throw his backpack and coat on his unmade bed.

Sam gave him the best casual look that he could muster, "Sorry I was late. One of my teachers wanted to talk to me after school."

Dean eyed him from the mouth of the kitchenette before breaking his gaze to go to the stove. Sam didn't like that look. It seemed too...he couldn't really describe it, but it was just off. He had the feeling that what he was trying to pull wasn't quite on target. Then again, he was probably feeling guilty because he hated lying to Dean.

"I made your favorite," Dean announced as Sam took a seat at the small table.

Sam smelled the air and it was indeed his favorite. Spaghetti, not with red tomato sauce either, it was the good Alfredo kind that cost a lot more than regular red sauce. Sam's mouth watered as Dean fixed his plate.

"So where were you really at?" Dean asked after they had wolfed down the main course, "You would've called if you were still at school."

Sam didn't look up from his bread that he was pushing around his plate. He could feel his brother's eyes intently staring at him. Dean wanted a straight answer from him and he was going to seek it. Sam instinctively smoothed his long hair down over his bruised forehead.

"Sammy." Dean's voice was hard, but yet soft at the same time. Sam had often wondered how he could do that.

He lifted his head and said quietly, "Its nothing, I just got a little beat up."

Sam watched as his brother's loving gaze hardened into what Sam called 'Dean Protective Mode'.

"You got beat up?" Dean asked as if he didn't believe his ears.

Sam's face grew hotter. Dean had always been one to hold his own in a fight. It was a disgrace to the Winchester family name that Sam hadn't been able to do the same. If his father had been there, Sam would have another bruise. In his father's eyes, Sam was already a failure as a hunter. There had been too many jobs Sam had screwed up to the dismay of John Winchester. Dean had told him that it was alright. Sammy doesn't have to be a good hunter for Dad to love him, Dean had implied that same idea years ago. The retort had been along the lines of: then why does Daddy love the great hunter son Dean Winchester? Dean hadn't answered that question.

"Yeah," Sam nodded, giving up and pushing his hair back so Dean could see the bruise, "Not a big deal."

Dean struggled with his conflicting courses of action in his head. It was either let Sam be an adult about this or run to the rescue for his Sammy. Rescuing Sam like he always did wouldn't help his little brother grow up and be a man. Sam was already fourteen and a freshman in high school. Their father would say that was the age where a boy became a man. Dean didn't always agree with that. Forcing Sam to grow up wasn't a great option either. That would just add more bruises and hurt. Along with that, Sam would look at him and ask why he didn't intervene. Dean wasn't particularly ready for that yet. Hell, it wasn't about him though! Dean resolved to let Sam choose for himself.

"So what are you going to do?" Dean asked gruffly, hating himself.

Sam looked up, surprised, "I don't know, what should I do?"

'Dammit, Dean, don't tell him wrong,' Dean warned himself.

"I think you should go on living normally," Dean winced at his choice of words, normal was so fake in their family, "and if you think it's best to take them out, do it. If you decide to take them out and you need some backup, give your badass senior brother a call. You understand that I can't fight your battles for you anymore, right little bro?"

Sam nodded solemnly and Dean felt a mixture of sadness and pride.

"Sure," Sam nodded, "I get'cha."

"Cool. So do you want pie for dessert?"

Some things would never change.


Please R&R!