"You boys want something to drink while you pick your dinners?" the waitress asks. Sammy can hear her chewing her gum even though she's got her mouth closed. She looks like a cow. "Coffee and chocolate milk," Dad says to the waitress, not raising his eyes from the menu.

"I want a coffee," Dean says. He's talking to the waitress, but his eyes are on Dad, defiant, pleading.

Dad looks at Dean over the top of his menu, his gaze assessing. It makes Sammy squirm just seeing it, and Dad's not even looking at him. Eventually Dad nods, and turns to face the waitress. "Two coffees," he corrects, like it's no big deal at all, like it doesn't mean anything when Sammy knows it's just one more way Dean and Dad are teaming up and leaving him behind.

The waitress smiles at them, quick and easy, and leaves them alone. Or as alone as they ever get, living in each other's pockets.

Dad orders for the three of them, a burger for Dean and chicken fingers for Sam, and they eat quietly, Dad going back and forth between his dumb-ass journal and the local paper, Dean talking to Sammy while he pretends he's not checking out the waitress. Sammy doesn't know what Dean sees in them; girls are gross, and smell weird, and Sammy especially doesn't like the way they sometimes look at Dean back.

Dean makes faces as he drinks his coffee- black, just like Dad, of course- and even gets a refill while Dad squints at the paper like it's got the answers to the universe in it. Dad's pen starts to move faster, back and forth between the paper and the journal, until he slams the journal shut and tucks the paper under his arm. Dean jumps up from his place beside Sam, bright-eyed from the coffee.

It's like that all the way to the car, Dean all yes-Sir no-Sir to every comment Dad bothers to make. Sammy trails a few steps behind, scowling at Dean when his brother throws a quick glance and a grin back over his shoulder.

It's still jarring when Dean climbs into the front seat instead of the back. It's been that way for months now, Dad giving one of his infrequent but infuriating talks. Sammy only caught the end, when Dad was saying how Dean was a man now, and men sat in the front.

Sammy jerks opens the back door of the Impala, the car rocking with the force of his movement. Dad and Dean have fallen quiet, and Dean turns around onto his knees to look at Sammy over the back of the bench. "You okay, Sammy?" he asks.

Sammy scowls and crosses his arms, and pushes his feet into the back of the seat. It presses him hard into the seat and one of his army men- the army men he and Dean used to play with- pokes him in the butt. Sammy waits until Dean rolls his eyes and turns back around before he throws it at his head.

It connects, and Sammy spends the car ride back to the motel arguing with Dean, Dad silent and grim in the driver's seat. It gets heated, Sammy flushing dark and pushing back tears, their voices raised so loud that Dad climbing out of the car and slamming his door closed comes as a shock. They're at the motel, the car ticking cool around them. Dean's mouth slams closed and he clambers out of the car, Sammy forgotten. Again.

Sammy doesn't follow them inside. He sinks down in the seat, shivering now that the heat of his anger has passed, choking back tears. Fighting with Dean is better than being ignored, but it doesn't feel good. He just wishes his brother were back where he belonged, with Sam.

He only realizes he's fallen asleep when Dad reaches into the car, his arms sliding around Sammy as he scoops him up and carries him into the motel. Sammy's head is tucked under his dad's chin, his bangs mashed up so his forehead meets with the sweaty skin of his dad's neck. He closes his eyes and pretends he's still asleep; he's tired, and lonelier than he knows how to say.

Dad lays Sammy down on one of the two beds and gently runs a hand through his hair. "You shouldn't fight with your brother," he says, quietly.

Sammy tenses, but Dad removes his hand and shifts on the bed, and Dean, somewhere out there in the room, answers. "I know. I'm sorry, Sir."

Sammy risks opening his eyes, just enough to squint through his lashes, and can just make out Dean's form standing by the door, shifting from foot to foot. He's got Dad's duffle- the one with all the guns that Sammy's not supposed to know about- at his feet, and if Sammy breathes in he can still smell the faint scent of gun oil.

Dad doesn't say anything more, just sighs and twists back around to press a kiss against Sammy's head; Sammy stays perfectly still throughout, hoping nobody will notice he's really faking it. Sammy doesn't want to talk to Dad. It's Dad who's taking Dean from him, bit by bit, minute by minute.

"Take care of your brother," Dad says, and his voice has fallen back into work-mode, a sure sign that he's leaving for the night. Sammy slams his eyes closed and chews on his lips: if things go as they should, Dad'll be gone soon and Sammy will have Dean all to himself again.

"Yessir," Dean mumbles as the door clicks closed, the soft tread of Dad's boots fading out right away.

Sammy waits for Dean to come to bed, but instead the silence stretches out for even longer, and Sammy snaps his eyes open, ready to go after them, to bring Dean back where he's Sammy's, and comes blinks as the dim green of Dean's eyes come into focus right in front of his face.

"Hey squirt," Dean says, and immediately steps back so that Sammy has space to breath, and falls back to flop on Dad's bed.

"You don't sleep there," Sammy says, confused. Then, when Dean doesn't move, he repeats himself. "You don't sleep there, you sleep here with me."

"I'm waiting for Dad," Dean says, and there it is again, the bridge that's opened up between them, Dean choosing Dad, Dad choosing Dean, both of them choosing each other like Sam's some hitchhiker they've just picked up but didn't know to leave the real family alone.

"If you hate me now you could have just said," Sammy bites out, vicious, and turns over so his back is to Dean, and yanks the thin blanket up over his head. It's dark underneath, but dark is good. Sammy doesn't have to think about the look on stupid Dean's face in the dark, or pretend he isn't crying.

The bed dips with familiar weight, and the blanket shifts and Dean wiggles his way underneath. Sammy yanks the blankets close and kicks his legs, but it's too late, Dean's already underneath with him.

"Hey," Dean says, quiet. "Hey. You know I don't hate you. Right, Sammy? I could never hate you. You're my brother."

Sammy curls his knees up, squirming down into the smallest ball he can manage. "Then why won't you even sleep with me anymore?" he whispers, half-hoping that Dean won't hear.

Dean sighs, and squirrels closer, until he's pressed up against Sammy's back and can wrap his arms around his brother, knees and all. It lasts for a few seconds- five, maybe ten- before Dean pulls back, because Winchesters Don't Hug Like That. "I told you," Dean says, and Sammy imagines he can feel Dean's breath filling up the blanket space. "I'm staying up to wait for Dad. He might need help when he gets back."

"He never needs help from me," Sammy mutters. He does turn over to face Dean, his brother's face familiar in the dim light that makes it through the threads of the blanket.

Dean's staring at Sammy like he's got something to tell him, so Sammy waits, patient now that they're alone. Eventually Dean looks away and flips onto his back, pushing the blanket off of his head. Sammy quickly follows suit. "It's late," is all he says when he finally breaks the silence. "You should try to get some sleep."

Sammy bites his lip and wiggles just slightly closer, until the heat from Dean's body meats his own. He can hear Dean breathing. "You'll stay here?" he asks, plaintive.

Dean smiles, and it starts out the way he smiles at strangers then melts into his real smile, the smile that's just for family and especially Sammy. "Yeah. 'Course I'll stay. Just don't get mad if I wake you up, deal?"

"Deal," Sammy agrees, and closes his eyes.

He's not awake when Dad walks in the door, not really, but he watches as Dean springs up to check on him. Dad's dirty, even more so than when he left, and he shoves Dean away when Dean starts hovering before making his way into the bathroom.
Dean stands there for a few minutes, staring at the door, before he slumps and joins Sammy on the bed again.

Dean back where he belongs, Sammy sleeps.