Summary: Pre-Series – Bloody, Vision, Angsty Sam / Big Brother Dean – It was the pain that woke him. But it was the blood that got his attention. Because it was everywhere.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

Warnings: It could probably be argued that this has vague spoilers for Season One, but I think we're beyond giving warnings for that. Otherwise, just the usual language.

I have these nightmares...and sometimes, they come true. ~ Sam in 1.09, "Home"

It was the pain that woke him.

But it was the blood that got his attention.

Because it was everywhere.

Even in the relative dark of the motel room, he could see it. The bluish glow of the moon and the orangey burn from the lights in the parking lot, mingled and mixed and flooded through the thin curtain drawn across the window, illuminating the room; making the bright red stand out in stark contrast to the white fabric.

The blood was smeared across the pillow, where he had been lying face down until a few minutes ago, when the exploding pain in his head had awoken him. Even now, a blur of light flashed behind his eyes every time he blinked.

And he was blinking a lot as he tried to make sense of the blood also streaked on the sheets – both fitted and top – as if he had rolled in it in an attempt at some abstract art project. It was smudged on the top edge of the comforter, where he had pulled the paisley, mint green cloth up around his neck; skimming the bottom of his ears, because he had been cold when he had first crawled under the sheets an hour ago.

Even now, standing barefoot beside his bed, Sam shivered; but it was no longer caused by the temperature of the room. The broken heat was the least of his worries now. Because not only was the mattress and the linens covered in blood; he was also covered.

There was blood on his forearms and across the backs of his hands; crusted in his nail beds and in the creases of his palms. Glancing down, Sam could see it on the front of his sleep shirt – a faded AC/DC t-shirt that had once belonged to Dean – that now looked like it had been decorated by a paintbrush dipped in his blood; wide swaths of red from his stomach to his chest and even on the edges of his sleeves. And probably on his collar, too, if the sticky cooling dampness was any sign.

With shaky, crimson-stained fingers, Sam touched the saturated fabric, smearing more blood across his collarbone and neck as he felt his heart slam in his chest at the growing panic.

Because he was covered in blood but did not know why.

Because his head hurt, and he kept seeing disjointed bursts of color and light; kept hearing an acoustic jumble of music and voices. Not enough to make any sense of what he was seeing or hearing but still feeling upset and confused by the images and sounds and their underlying urgency.

Because even though he was 14-years old, Sam was freaking out and suddenly only wanted the one person that always made things better.


But Dean was...

Sam shut his eyes as a particularly bright flash of light burned through his head and then squeezed them tighter as the blurred images slid into focus, revealing his brother in the middle of a raging fire; speaking but unable to be heard over the piercing screams that surrounded him as people pushed by him.

Sam gasped as the image dissolved, pulsing pain taking its place behind his eyes.

"No," Sam whispered to the empty room, because what he just saw wasn't true.

Dean was fine. He was down the street two blocks away at a bar; hustling pool – because their dad was on a hunt a few states over, and they were low on cash – and drinking beer while flirting with older women – because his fake ID and genuine charm were the perfect combination.

Dean was fine.

Sam nodded even as another stab of light forced him to his knees; his body slumped forward on the bed as more images came of fire and Dean...and people running...and fire...and then Dean, Dean, Dean.

Sam moaned low, pushing his forehead deeper into the mattress; feeling the scratchiness of the sheets and the fresh smear of blood and sweat across his face.

The images gave one last glimpse of Dean – burning in orange heat – and then were gone; replaced once again with piercing pain that stabbed at Sam's eyes; a constant agonizing ache that pulsed in his temples and drummed behind his forehead.

Sam inhaled shakily, fisting the comforter as he pushed to his feet. He felt himself sway – dizzy from the disorienting pain – and reached out to steady himself; his hand resting on the nightstand, his fingers mere inches from the clock – 11:38 – and the rotary phone.

Sam stared at the wet crimson streaked across his flesh – having momentarily forgotten about being covered in blood in the midst of images of fiery chaos – and felt himself start to tremble, sniffling against the welling tears and...


Sam sniffled again, feeling the heavy, clogging moisture in his nose and realizing all at once that he was breathing through his mouth. In the next instant, he became aware of the dampness on his chin and upper lip and tentatively slipped out his tongue to investigate, tasting the unmistakably warm coppery tang of blood.


Sam exhaled a shaky breath – just a nosebleed – and then swallowed, coughing as blood slipped down his throat; wrinkling his nose because he hated the taste of blood.

But it was just a nosebleed. No big deal.

Except maybe it was.

Because although he had experienced nosebleeds before, Sam had never had one this bad; one that literally left him soaked in blood; one that accompanied the worst headache of his life.

Sam glanced at the clock again – 11:40 – and bit the inside corner of his mouth as he tried to decide what to do, if he should call Dean. Because even though he was freaked out, Sam knew he could deal with the physical issues; could clean himself up and take a couple Tylenol.

But the other...

Was what he saw a nightmare of some sort...or was it real? It certainly seemed real. But if it was real, then it would have been some kind of premonition...and that was just weird.

Sam sighed, turning away from the nightstand as another flash of light and burst of sound assaulted him; so bright and so loud that Sam grabbed either side of his head before collapsing on the stained carpet of the motel room; kneeling as he rocked back and forth.

Disjointed images of fire...then Dean...followed by screams of people being burned alive...then more fire...then flashes of Dean, Dean, Dean.

Sam gasped as the images cleared and felt bile rise in his throat at the same time he realized blood was freshly pouring from his nose. Not trickling or sluggishly flowing the way most nosebleeds do – but gushing in direct correlation with the pounding in his head left in the wake of...whatever the hell that was.

Sam coughed and closed his eyes – wondering if it was possible for someone's head to actually explode from pain – while he lifted his shirt to his face, trying to stem the flow of blood with the already saturated fabric.

But it wasn't working.

Gagging on the blood running down his throat, Sam coughed once more – feeling the pressure spike in his head because of it, feeling himself shiver from the cold air of the room on his bare stomach – and opened his eyes, gaze seeking out the phone.


In the next instant, Sam crawled over to the nightstand – leaving bloody handprints on the carpet – and snatched the receiver from its cradle; still sitting on the floor, his back against the bed; his blood-soaked shirt lowered; his hands shaking so badly he misdialed Dean's number twice before finally getting it right.

Holding the receiver to his ear with both hands, Sam averted his gaze from his red fingerprints decorating the phone's wheel and waited, counting each ring.


C'mon, Dean...


Pick up...




Sam closed his eyes, willing himself not to cry from the desperation he felt. Because he was scared and confused and in pain and all he wanted was his brother. "Dean..." he whispered, drawing comfort just from saying the name.


Sam startled, eyes opening at the sound of Dean's voice; not realizing his brother had finally picked up. "Dean..." he repeated, relief flooding his chest, scattering the panic that had settled there with each unanswered ring.

"Dude, you better be bleedin' or dyin'..." Dean warned, which was his usual response when Sam called while Dean was out at a bar; brother code for I'm in the middle of a game or I'm about to get lucky.

But tonight, the words held different meaning for Sam – because he was bleeding and he had seen Dean dying – and that was all it took for Sam to lose it. Tears welled in his eyes as his breath hitched. "Dean..." he pleaded, unable to say anything else around the emotion – and blood – clogging his throat but knowing he had said enough.

"Sammy..." Dean responded, and Sam could hear the transition in his brother's voice; from gruff to gentle, from annoyed to concerned. "What – "

"Who's that, honey?" some woman's voice interrupted on the opposite end of the line, and Sam imagined her – red lips pouting while she ran a teasing finger along the neckline of her dress, attempting to draw Dean's attention back to her breasts on full display.

Dean made a dismissive sound, and then Sam heard shifting and knew Dean had turned his back on the woman and was probably pressing the phone tighter to his ear.

"Sam?" Dean called, a little louder this time as the live band began to play. "What's wrong?" he asked, alarm in his tone, and Sam knew it was because Dean could hear his tears. "You okay?"

"I-I don't know," Sam responded, hating that he sounded like a miserable five-year old; hating even more that he felt like one.

"Are you sick? Did you have a nightmare?" Dean pressed, and Sam could hear two women laughing, could picture them perched on either side of his brother as Dean leaned against the bar. But Dean didn't seem to notice. "Sammy?"

"I don't know. I don't think so," Sam replied honestly, hearing the tremor in his own voice. "But my head hurts, so I woke up and...and there's..."

"There's what, Sam?" Dean asked impatiently, the hard edge in his voice conveying his worry.

"Blood," Sam replied, looking down at his red-streaked flesh and stained shirt. "Lots of it, Dean."

There was a beat of silence – filled with the blare of an electric guitar – and Sam knew Dean was trying to sort out what Sam was telling him. "What do you mean there's blood, Sam? Whose blood? Yours?"

"Yes," Sam answered simply, feeling the blood continue to run over his chin and down his neck. It was no wonder he was covered in it if it had bled like that for who knew how long while he had been sleeping. "It's just a nosebleed, but it's..." Sam swallowed, resisted the urge to gag. "'s a really bad one, Dean. And my head really hurts..."

"Like another migraine?" Dean sought to clarify; his voice tense because Sam had suffered a lot of those recently, averaging about one every two weeks over the past few months.

"It feels like it," Sam confirmed, closing his eyes briefly as another stab of pain pulsed behind his eyes.

"So your head hurts and your nose is bleeding?" Sam knew Dean was shaking his head even before his brother said, "I don't like that, Sammy."

Sam opened his eyes, feeling the dampness of his lashes as he blinked. "Me, neither," he whispered, then sniffled. "I think – "

"Hey!" another woman's voice suddenly yelled, and Sam knew from the volume that she must have been mere inches from Dean's face, undoubtedly trying to regain his brother's attention just as the other woman had. "Did you forget about us, sugar?"

Dean made no verbal response, but Sam knew his brother was cutting his eyes at them; no longer the flirty, easy-going charmer but all at once transforming into a person you didn't want to fuck with.

But the woman didn't seem deterred, either too stupid or too drunk to take cues from body language. "Who is that?" she whined, and Sam could hear a muffled thump as she tried to reach for the phone, to take it away from Dean.

And this time, the response was immediate. Dean made a guttural sound – thoroughly pissed, instantly lethal – and then there was the scraping of a stool across the floor that made Sam wince.

"Fuck off!" Dean growled, and Sam imagined the almost feral expression on his brother's face as Dean stood in the middle of the bar; along with the shocked, then equally pissed expressions on the two women's faces.

"Why?" the woman from earlier asked, her tone 100% bitch. "Is that your wife or girlfriend or something?"

"No, it's my kid," Dean answered brusquely, but Sam heard the underlying affection and felt fresh tears well in his eyes; because Dean was serious. As far as Dean was concerned, Sam belonged to him; was truly his kid. And while that possessive trait sometimes irritated Sam, tonight it only made him feel loved and protected.

There was another beat of silence, during which Sam could hear the music and voices in the background – all unnervingly familiar – before they grew quieter, and Sam knew Dean was walking toward the bar's exit.

A door banged, and then Sam could hear traffic and the general noise of people walking and talking on the sidewalk.

Sam listened as Dean's boots scuffed the pavement – his brother's distinctive gait, brisk and confident – and could picture Dean scanning the street for danger as he walked, jaw set in a hard line, eyes slightly narrowed; on alert for potential trouble – as he was trained to be – but still focused on Sam – which had always come naturally. "Sammy?"

Sam leaned his head forward, resting his forehead on his knees he had drawn up to his chest, suddenly exhausted. "M'still here."

"You okay?"

"My head really hurts, Dean..." Sam admitted quietly; his voice muffled as he once again held his shirt under his nose, dabbing at the blood that continued to flow freely.

"Yeah, you mentioned that," Dean responded, his tone light but Sam could hear the concern underneath. "Scale of one to ten?"

"Eleven," Sam answered with a sigh, knowing Dean was still surveying his own surroundings as he triaged Sam over the phone.

"Was your head hurting before I left?" and Sam heard the trace of guilt in his brother's voice.



"Honest, Dean," Sam assured, knowing Dean always felt responsible for anything that happened to him.

Dean sighed, his voice barely audible over the roar of a passing bus. "Okay...tell me about this nosebleed."

"There's a lot of blood," Sam reported, knowing there was a huge difference between hearing that information and actually seeing it. "A lot," he emphasized, knowing Dean was going to freak when he saw him.

"Are you applying pressure?" Dean asked, even though he knew the answer; could hear the nasality of Sam's voice that indicated the kid was pinching his nose.

"Yeah, but it's not working," Sam replied, feeling some of the earlier panic returning as a fresh wave of pain crashed behind his eyes. "And my head still hurts."

"It's okay," Dean soothed. "Just hang tight, kiddo. I'm almost there..."

Sam nodded, still sitting on the floor between the beds; lifting his head from his knees to gaze at the motel room door, willing Dean to hurry.

Sam winced, hearing a dog bark, followed by the blare of a car horn. And then realized he was not just hearing the horn over the line; he was hearing it for himself out in the parking lot.

Which meant...

Sam heard the lock turn a second before the doorknob did the same; then watched as the door was pushed open, revealing Dean. From his position on the floor, Sam could see his brother standing in the doorway and was instantly at peace.


Dean's eyes swept the room – giving it a customary once-over, but also looking for Sam – and felt a slight jolt of panic when he did not immediately see his little brother in the darkened room. "Sam..." he called, both into the phone he still held and to the room itself.

"M'here," Sam assured; raising his arm and then hanging up the phone as Dean did the same with his.

Dean sighed – always calmer when Sam was within sight – and closed the door, locking it as he stepped over the salt line and pocketed his phone and room key in his leather jacket; then removing the jacket and tossing it over one of the chairs in the corner.

And then froze.

Because in the time it had taken Dean to cross over to the beds, Sam had stood and was now facing him, illuminated by the soft glow of the lights from the parking lot that filtered through the curtained window. And the kid had not been exaggerating; he was absolutely covered in blood.

"Holy shit!" Dean blurted, momentarily stunned as his eyes catalogued every inch of his brother, seeing blood literally everywhere but – his eyes drifted back to Sam's face – seeming to only originate in one place. "What kind of fucking nosebleed is this?" he ranted as he closed the gap between him and Sam and reached for his brother. "C'mere. Let me see..."

"I told you," Sam responded quietly as Dean lifted his chin.

"Yeah, well...seeing is believing," Dean commented, shaking his head. "You're a mess, kiddo."

"You're a mess," Sam retorted tiredly, and then smiled when Dean chuckled.

"Dude. We gotta work on your comebacks," Dean advised; his smile lingering as he swept Sam's bangs from his eyes and then fading as he took in the kid's dilated pupils and hooded squint of pain. "Alright, kiddo..." Dean sighed, looking beyond Sam to the bathroom. "What d'ya say we get you cleaned up and drugged up, huh? Sounds like good times..."

The corner of Sam's mouth twitched, appreciating Dean's effort to keep things light, to put Sam at ease while taking care of him – per usual. "'Kay."

"Okay," Dean agreed, glancing at the lamp on the nightstand. "Now know the drill. The light in the bathroom will be too much for you right now, so I'm going to turn the lamp on out here."

Sam nodded, understanding the rest – because they had done this before a few weeks ago during another migraine – and closed his eyes, feeling Dean's hand then lightly cover his eyes as well, further shielding them from the brightness that was seconds away from flooding the room.

In the next instant, Sam heard the click of the lamp being turned on and flinched from the slivers of light that still managed to find his eyes. He gasped, then moaned; feeling bile rise in his throat.

"I know," Dean soothed quietly. "Just hang on..." he urged, keeping his hand over Sam's eyes while settling his other hand on his brother's bony shoulder, steering the kid into the bathroom.

Just in time for Sam to throw up in the sink.

Dean sighed – hating that Sam had to endure this – and unshielded his brother's eyes long enough to turn on the water, before covering them again; supporting the kid's head – bangs drenched in sweat – while his other hand rhythmically rubbed Sam's back – damp shirt clinging to quivering muscles.

"Easy..." Dean whispered, even as his own heart slammed in his chest from seeing the blood spew from his brother's mouth before swirling in the water and disappearing down the drain.

Although Dean knew such an occurrence was common with nosebleeds – and had seen it happen twice before with Sam – it was still unnerving. And while he was sure Sam could taste the blood, Dean was thankful his brother could not see it splattered on the dingy, cracked enamel of the sink.

Dean blinked, refocusing on Sam; lightly rubbing his thumb over the kid's forehead as he listened to the white noise of the running water mixed with the shallow pants and audible swallows of his little brother.

Sam took a shuddering breath; his arms trembling as they braced against either side of the sink; his head sagging into Dean's hold. "D – " he began but was abruptly interrupted as his body lurched forward, retching once more.

"Shut up, Sam," Dean gently admonished. "You know I'm not going anywhere. Just do what you gotta do, man. It's just us..."

And that was just the way Dean liked it. The last thing he needed – the last thing Sam needed – was John trying to do Dean's job. That point had been proven last week when Dean had been out on a food run and Sam had suffered a similar – though less severe – attack. Although John had meant well and had been in the midst of trying to help Sam when Dean had returned, their dad had been at a complete loss. John had readily let Dean take over and then had made himself scarce; had returned later when he knew Sam would be asleep; had said nothing but had stared at Dean in haunted realization that somewhere along the way, he had failed them on the most basic level.

Dean blinked again – haunted himself by that expression on their father's face – and sighed, noticing Sam's deeper breaths, and then gently patted the kid's back. "Sam..." Dean paused, gauging the situation for himself before asking, "You good?"

Sam sighed, coughed, then nodded; his head bobbing in Dean's grasp, as his hands continued to grip the edges of the sink.

Dean nodded as well. Thought so.

Still supporting Sam's head, Dean reached around his brother with his other hand, quickly splashing away the remnants of bloody saliva in the sink before cupping water in his palm and bringing it up to the kid's face, gently swiping it over Sam's mouth and chin. Dean repeated the motion twice, cleaning Sam's face once more before offering the water to drink; patiently waiting for his brother to do so.

Sensing Dean's hand mere inches from his lips, Sam exhaled shakily and then leaned forward to drink; taking a few sips, then holding the cool liquid in his mouth before swirling it around and spitting it out.

"You know, one day you're gonna spit on my hand, dude..." Dean complained, though they both knew he was just talking to distract Sam; that he had anticipated what Sam was going to do and had moved his hand in plenty of time. And even if he hadn't, that over the years, Dean had suffered worse than Sam just spitting on him. "You ready?"

Sam nodded and heard Dean shut off the water; then felt his brother carefully lift his head, straightening him before shuffling him over to sit on the closed toilet.

All at once, Dean's touch was gone, and Sam opened his eyes, alarmed; then gasped softly at the pain that spiked in his head and closed his eyes again. "Dean..."

"I'm right here, Sammy," Dean assured, glancing over his shoulder. "Hang on a sec..." He closed the bathroom door to a mere crack to further block the light from the main room and then turned back to his brother. "Okay, now open your eyes."

Sam did so cautiously, blinking and squinting; staring up at Dean like a sleepy toddler.

Dean quirked a smile – remembering when Sam was just a sleepy toddler – and reached behind his brother to snag the first aid kit always stationed on the toilet's tank for easy access.

Sam watched – his eyes mere slits – as Dean unzipped the kit and palmed one pill, giving it to him before turning to get a glass of water. Sam eyed the capsule – not recognizing it but knowing it must have been stronger than Tylenol, since he was usually dosed with two of those – and then took the water Dean offered, swallowing down the medication.

Dean nodded his approval, taking the glass back from Sam and glancing at his watch; knowing he had about 15 minutes to get the kid cleaned up and back to bed before the pill took its full effect.

Dean's eyes scanned his brother's face, noticing that the blood from Sam's nose had slowed to a much more manageable sluggish trickle. But the blood from earlier was still smeared everywhere on Sam's body; was still saturating the kid's shirt; and was still freaking Dean out.

"Okay, shirt off..." Dean ordered, snatching a washcloth from the rack hanging over the toilet and holding it under the sink's faucet as Sam did as he was told.

Wordlessly, they made their exchange – clean washcloth for ruined shirt – and Dean watched as Sam scrubbed at the dried, crusted blood that streaked his skin; chuckling at his kid brother's tired, uncoordinated movements.

Since Sam was always a lightweight when it came to medications, maybe they had less time than Dean thought, which meant...

Dean held out his hand, staring meaningfully at Sam until the kid realized what he wanted and handed over the washcloth. With the speed and efficiency gained from years of experience, Dean wiped off Sam's hands, arms, neck, and chest; pausing to rinse the fabric before gently rubbing it over his brother's face; smiling when Sam sighed at the coolness as it swept under his bangs; the kid's hair sticking out in all directions.

"You know your hair is ridiculous..." Dean commented good-naturedly, moving the cloth down Sam's face and cupping the kid's jaw, smiling a little wider when his brother leaned into his touch and sighed again.

"Your face is ridiculous," Sam mumbled, closing his eyes.

Dean laughed, dabbing the washcloth along Sam's upper lip before folding the fabric inside out and then gently pinching the kid's nostrils closed, pulling Sam's head forward.

Sam's forehead pressed into Dean's stomach, feeling the solid, comforting presence of his brother as much as the pressure on his nose as Dean clamped it shut. "M'tired," he whispered after a few minutes, slumping against his brother.

"I know, kiddo," Dean responded, tilting Sam's head up and back to check the clotting before resuming his hold on the kid's nose. "Just a few more minutes, and you should be good to go back to bed, okay?"

There was a beat of silence.


Dean arched an eyebrow. "No?" he repeated. "No, what?"

"Not my bed."

Dean nodded, instantly understanding because he was already ahead of Sam. No way was he planning to make Sam sleep in a mess of bloody linens. "No...not your bed, Sammy. You're gonna bunk with me, okay?"

Sam nodded and then lifted his head, blinking up at Dean; clearly starting to feel the full effect of the pill Dean gave him.

Dean frowned. "You okay?"


Dean shook his head. "For what? Making me leave the bar?" He snorted and rolled his eyes. "Did me a favor, dude. The pool tables were cold, the beer was hot, and the women were ugly."

Sam smiled weakly, knowing that Dean was probably lying but appreciating him all the more for it; thankful his brother was here with him and not burning to death in the middle of a raging fire.

Sam felt tears well in his eyes at the memory; still confused as to whether or not what he saw had been real or was just a nightmare.

Dean noticed the fresh moisture on Sam's face and shook his head again – don't,'s okay – and then winked at his little brother, because there was really nowhere else he'd rather be than with Sam.

Sam gave a watery smile in response and leaned forward again.

But Dean stopped him, once more tilting back Sam's head and then frowning as he reassessed the kid's nose; because as usual, Sam's blood was refusing to clot. John's and Dean's blood always ran dark and thick; but Sam's had always been bright red and worryingly thin.

Dean sighed, deciding he would give it a few more minutes. "Hey..." he called, feeling Sam fold against him. "Don't go to sleep yet."

"M'tired," Sam whined, rubbing his face against Dean's stomach.

Dean shifted his weight, his back beginning to ache from standing in one position. "I know," he agreed, sweeping his free hand through Sam's hair, over the kid's head, and then settling on his brother's back. He paused, trying to think of something to keep Sam awake. "Hey, I know...tell me about what happened tonight before you called."

And although Sam did not verbally respond, Dean felt his brother's shoulders tense; felt the kid's back muscles bunch under his hand.

Dean narrowed his eyes. "Sammy?"

Sam shook his head as his body began to tremble, instantly remembering what he had seen.

Sam's breath hitched, and he pressed his forehead harder into Dean, desperate for comfort and reassurance. "Dean..."

Dean tightened his hold, instinctively responding to Sam's distress. "What, Sam?"

Sam lifted his head, staring up at Dean as tears blinked free from his lashes.

Dean removed the blood-spotted washcloth from Sam's face and crouched in front of his brother, returning the kid's gaze at eye level while keeping his hand lightly resting on the back of Sam's neck. "It's okay. Just tell me."

"" Sam closed his eyes, opened them. "I saw..." He sighed. "There was a that bar...and were in it...but I couldn't talk to you. I could just see you...and you..." Fresh tears slipped down Sam's face. ""

Dean nodded, gently squeezing Sam's neck; not needing to hear anymore to know exactly what Sam saw. The Winchester men would forever be haunted by fire; especially death by fire.

"It's okay," Dean soothed, his face within inches of Sam's. "You hear me?" He thumbed a trickle of blood from the kid's upper lip. "I'm okay. You're okay. Everything's okay. Okay? It was just a dream."

Sam stared at his brother before slowly nodding; tears continuing to flow as he leaned forward, resting his head in the hollow created by Dean's shoulder and neck. "But real," Sam choked out, exhausted and emotionally spent; his hands bunching the fabric of Dean's shirt. "And my head hurt...and there was...there was blood everywhere...and you were...I thought you might be..."

"Shhh..." Dean whispered – hating it when Sam was this upset – and folded his brother into a tight hug; holding the kid with a patient tenderness that most would not expect from Dean Winchester; that most would never see because it was reserved solely for Sam.

My kid, Dean thought sappily as he held his brother and then smiled wryly at his own sentimentality, even if it was true.

They stayed that way for several minutes; Sam clinging to Dean until he eventually calmed, his breaths hiccupping in small puffs against his brother's neck.

Sam sighed shakily, his gaze drawn to the amulet hanging around Dean's neck, resting mere inches from his own face. "M'sorry," he apologized quietly and then sniffled.

Dean shrugged his shoulder, glancing down at Sam. "For what? Crying like a girl?" He smiled affectionately, easing Sam to sit up and thumbed the remaining tears from his brother's cheeks. "It's okay. I'm used to it by now..."

Sam laughed softly, ducking his head even though he knew Dean was teasing, was showing love in one of the more accepted Winchester ways. "You're such a jerk, Dean."

"Rather be a jerk than a crybaby bitch..." Dean replied, lightly pushing the kid's shoulder – further confirming he was joking – before standing and tilting his brother's head back as he once again checked Sam's nose.

"It feels better," Sam commented, watching as Dean inspected each of his nostrils – which would be strange for most, but not for them – and then closed his eyes when the strain of doing so made his head flare in pain.

"Believe it or not, I think it's stopped," Dean reported, which seemed counterintuitive since Sam's crying should have only worsened the flow, but...whatever. Dean would take what he could get. He glanced at Sam, noticing the kid's closed eyes. "How's your head?"

"Still kinda hurts," Sam responded, sounding even more tired than before.

"Bet so," Dean agreed, squeezing Sam's shoulder – time for bed – and then waiting for his brother to stand, supporting the kid when he swayed a bit. "Easy...and keep your eyes closed."

Sam nodded, hearing Dean open the bathroom door and then reach back for him; repeating the earlier routine of shielding Sam's eyes with one hand while steering him into the main room and over to the bed closest to the door with the other.

"It's freezing in here," Dean commented, having just seemed to notice now that the crisis with Sam had passed.

"I know," Sam replied, shivering as the cold air hit his bare chest. "I think something's wrong with the heat."

"You think?" Dean quipped, pulling back the comforter and sheets and then easing Sam to sit on the mattress before clicking off the lamp on the nightstand. "Sit tight," he ordered, going over to the table to dig through his duffle, pulling out a clean t-shirt – AC/DC no less – and then tossing it to Sam.

Sam felt the fabric lightly hit him in the chest and opened his eyes; staring at the shirt in his lap, confused.

"Put it on, genius," Dean snarked, shaking his head as though Sam was a dumbass.

"But it's yours, Dean. You just got it a couple weeks ago..."

Dean shrugged, now going through Sam's duffle. "It's too small on me."

Which they both knew was a lie.

Sam felt tears well in his eyes, knowing what Dean was doing – replacing his blood-soaked shirt that was still on the bathroom counter – and was touched by his brother's gesture. "Dean..."

"Dude, if you start crying again, I'm gonna kick your ass. Not even joking," Dean responded, his tone gruff but his expression the exact opposite. "Got it?"

Sam smiled, dimples and all. "Yeah."

"Good. Now put on the damn shirt," Dean ordered and then tossed Sam's hoodie over as well. "And then put that on, too. This room is freezing, and I don't want you getting sick..."

Sam's smile widened, wondering if Dean realized how many times he transitioned from snarky big brother to clucking mother hen throughout an average conversation with him. Slipping the t-shirt and hoodie over his head, Sam crawled beneath the sheets; eager to get warm and go to sleep; hoping that tonight really would seem like nothing more than a bad dream in the morning.

In the corner, Dean adjusted the thermostat, glaring when nothing happened. "Piece of shit..." he swore, as though name calling would suddenly make the heat spring to life.

Dean sighed. It didn't matter. They would be leaving tomorrow, and tonight they were bunking together anyway, so they would be fine. He glanced over at Sam – not surprised that his little brother was already asleep – and then ducked into the bathroom; quickly taking care of his own needs before grabbing a couple towels and an extra washcloth and returning to the main room.

Dean pulled the comforter over the bloody sheets on Sam's bed – because neither of them would want to see that in the morning – and then spread the towels on the carpet, covering the bloody handprints left behind when, he assumed, Sam had crawled to the phone.

Dean shuddered, deeply disturbed by that image, and then placed the washcloth on the nightstand – just in case of another nosebleed – before crossing to his duffle and changing into his sleep clothes.

In the distance, Dean thought he heard the siren of a fire engine, and by the time he was pulling his t-shirt over his head, the siren was blaring past their room, red lights flashing through the window as the truck raced by.

Instinctively, Dean glanced at Sam, making sure the kid was still asleep, before giving a final check to the salt lines and crawling into bed; snagging the remote from the nightstand and turning the clock so he would be able to see it whenever he woke.

Sinking into his pillow and switching on the television, Dean simply lifted his arm as Sam rolled toward him in his sleep; smiling affectionately as the kid burrowed into the warmth and security of his big brother.

Dean angled his head so that he could see Sam's face – blood-free and pain-free – and then settled himself, pulling the comforter higher over both of them as he began to channel surf, too keyed up to sleep.

Late night TV sometimes sucked as much as daytime TV, but Dean had just found a surprisingly interesting documentary on the mating habits of armadillos – which he would bring up at the most publically inappropriate time to embarrass Sam later – when the local station interrupted with breaking news.

A fire.

Two blocks away.

At a bar.

Details were still sketchy, but over 20 were presumed dead, while at least 15 were critically injured or burned.

More details as they became available.

Tune into the morning broadcast.

Now back to your program, already in progress.

Dean stared at the screen, his heart slamming in his chest as he remembered Sam's words from earlier; feeling confused yet strangely grateful and 100% freaked out.

There was a that bar...and were in it...

Dean swallowed against his suddenly dry throat – an ominous feeling creeping up his spine, somehow sensing this was just the beginning of something important – and glanced down at Sam as his brother shifted in his sleep, small hand twitching against Dean's chest.

...and you were...I thought you might be...

Dean brushed back Sam's bangs, his eyes scanning the kid's face before he tightened his grip on his brother; a surge of fierce protectiveness instantly overriding everything else. real...

Dean glanced toward the window as another fire truck rushed by in a blur of light and sound; his jaw clenching against what he could not deny.

It had seemed real, because was.