Summary: Fourth of July, Pre-series – Epileptic Sam / Big Brother Dean – It seemed like all lessons had to be learned the hard way...including finding out Sam's seizures could be triggered by fireworks.

Disclaimer: Not mine.

Warnings: Language...and possibly an overload of BroMos

A/N: Hope everyone who celebrates it had a wonderful Fourth of July yesterday!

I see a fire in the sky...then lights go out. ~ Emmure

It seemed like all lessons had to be learned the hard way.

Like a mom shouldn't check on her fussy baby in the middle of the night...because she might mistakenly interrupt a yellow-eyed demon while he was collecting on a ten-year deal and thus end up bleeding and burning on a ceiling.

Or a dad shouldn't try to raise his sons on the road while seeking revenge for his wife's death...because he might unintentionally create a cycle of chronic absence and occasional neglect, leading to quiet resentment and lasting regret, and thus end up haunted by yet one more thing he failed to do right.

Or a big brother shouldn't take his epileptic little brother to see a fireworks display on the Fourth of July...because he might unexpectedly discover the kid was photosensitive and thus end up sprawled on the ground holding a convulsing child.

But although experience should have taught him otherwise – because after all, all lessons had to be learned the hard way – Dean never suspected July 4, 1995, would be the fucking disaster it was and had wished for weeks afterwards that he had never seen that stupid, splashy ad in the newspaper promoting the town's annual fireworks display at the park.

But he had.

And being the awesome big brother he was, Dean had immediately known what he and his little brother were going to do that night.

They were going to watch fireworks just like every other kid in America on July 4th.

And Sam was going to love it; a slice of normal for a 12-year old who craved normalcy like Dean craved pie.

It was going to be awesome.

Dean smiled to himself and glanced at Sam over the edge of the newspaper he held as they sat across from each other at the diner; their motel-of-the-week – and the Impala – clearly visible on the opposite side of the street as they sat in the morning sun that brightly shone through the window booth.

"Hey, Sammy..." Dean called, having already finished his breakfast and wondering why his brother ate so damn slow. "What d'ya say we check out the fireworks tonight over at the park?"

Sam glanced up from where he was using his fork to swirl the syrup around on his plate; preferring to play with his pancakes instead of actually eating them; wondering how his brother could inhale such disgusting food in record time.

"Fireworks?" Sam repeated, as if he thought he had heard wrong.

"Fireworks," Dean confirmed and smiled. "That's what people do on July 4th, right? They watch shit blow up."

Sam laughed at Dean's description of the long-honored holiday tradition. "Well, yeah..." he agreed, continuing to swirl his fork in the syrup on his plate. "But that's not what we usually do."

"Well, that's what we're doing this year," Dean informed and glanced back at the huge colorful ad covering the entire middle page of the newspaper before turning it around to show his little brother.

Sam stared at the paper; his eyes scanning the red, white, and blue...the stars and stripes and rockets bursting in air. "Wow," he murmured and smiled. "That's awesome."

"Damn right it's awesome," Dean heartily agreed. "Awesome people only have awesome ideas, so..."

Sam rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah," he replied, wondering if he would be as cocky as Dean when he was 16. He paused. "Are we really going?"

"Yep," Dean responded simply; pleased to hear the guarded excitement in Sam's voice.

Because the kid had never seen fireworks except on television or in pictures...and that was ridiculous – to have lived 12 years and to have never seen fireworks for yourself.

Dean felt a twinge of sadness at what that said for their lives; at what that implied about the kind of childhood Sam had experienced.

"What about Dad?" Sam asked, his tone if he was afraid to get his hopes up for something that probably wouldn't happen because John would forbid it.

Dean shrugged from across the table. "What about him?" he challenged. "He's out of town and two states over. What he doesn't know won't hurt him..."

Sam quirked a doubtful smile at his brother and continued to swirl his fork in the middle of his plate. "Dad wouldn't see it that way."

"Well, Dad ain't here to see it one way or another," Dean pointed out. "So we're going."

Sam nodded. "Okay," he agreed – because it did sound cool – but then paused. "Do you think..."

Sam's voice faded as he paused again.

Dean frowned at the incomplete question. "Do I think what?"

"I don't know," Sam replied and shrugged; the casual gesture meant to imply his unspoken concern was no big deal though the rest of his body language and the tone of his voice indicated otherwise.

"Sammy..." Dean prompted and pinned his brother with a hard stare. "Let's hear it."

Sam shrugged once more. " you think the fireworks know..."

Sam again didn't finish his question but vaguely gestured toward his head.

Dean arched an eyebrow and nodded, knowing exactly what Sam was worried about...because the kid always worried about it.

And truthfully, Dean did, too.

Dean worried every second of every day about his brother. He worried about what was going to happen to Sam at any given moment...and about what might trigger one of his brother's seizures...and about how many seizures the kid would have each day – because Sam always had at least one a day, even with the medication he took.

Dean worried about where they would be when a seizure finally occurred – at a the a a the middle of nowhere.

It was nerve-racking as hell.

But no matter where they were when a seizure finally hit, Sam was never alone.

Dean was always there; always made sure he was right there beside his brother to help keep Sam safe while the kid uncontrollably shook on the floor or ground; Sam often injuring himself despite Dean's best efforts to clear the immediate area.

After the seizure was over – sometimes lasting only one or two minutes...or sometimes lasting too fucking long – Dean would help orient Sam and get his brother back to the safety of their room or the Impala...whichever was closer if they weren't already at either location.

Sam would usually rest for a few hours afterwards – sometimes the remainder of the day depending on the strength of the seizure – and then Dean would start the cycle of worrying all over again.

It sucked, and they both hated it.

But it was their life; the cards they had been dealt, and the hand they had learned to play...over and over and over. As with poker, sometimes they won – and had a good day with only one seizure; and sometimes they lost – and had a bad day with multiple seizures.

Dean never knew how their day would turn out.

But this far, so good. Sam seemed fine sitting across from him, playing with his food instead of eating it...just like the kid always did.

Sam sighed, staring at his brother. "Dean. Did you hear me?"

Dean blinked, realizing Sam was staring at him expectantly; still waiting for an answer about what Dean thought in regards to the risk of the fireworks causing a bad reaction and setting off a seizure.

Dean nodded. "I heard you. I was just thinking," he smoothly covered; not mentioning that he was thinking about Sam's epilepsy in general and how the kid's seizures often dictated their lives.

"Well..." Sam huffed in that classic 12-year old way. "Do you think it might happen?"

Dean sighed. "Do I think the fireworks might cause you to have a seizure?"

Sam nodded; his fork still swirling around in the syrup on his plate as he nervously bit his lower lip.

Dean shook his head. "No way," he assured. "Bright lights have never bothered you, Sammy," he reminded. "And flashing lights don't usually bother you, either. You'll be fine."

Sam stared at his brother. "But what if – "

"Sammy..." Dean interrupted, still feeling his brother's anxiety from across the table and knowing what the kid was going to say. "Would I take you somewhere if I thought whatever was there would cause you to have a seizure?"

"No," Sam instantly responded and shook his head; looking almost alarmed that Dean would suggest that.

Because Sam knew his brother would never purposefully put him in danger.

"Exactly," Dean agreed and held his brother's gaze. "It'll be fine. And if things get screwy for whatever reason, I'll be there...and we'll handle it. Okay?"

Sam nodded hesitantly.

"Dude. Don't nod at me like that," Dean scolded and lightly kicked Sam under the table. "You're gonna be fine. And we're gonna have a kick-ass time tonight," he told his brother, again pointing at the newspaper ad. "Let's see a little enthusiasm, Sammy. Hot shit blowing up. What more could a guy ask for? It's gonna be awesome!"

Sam laughed at Dean's excitement and nodded his agreement a little more eagerly; his smile widening as his gaze flickered back to the newspaper ad Dean still held up in front of him.

"This is gonna be awesome," Sam declared and then paused, glancing at his brother. "Thanks, Dean."

Dean nodded and turned the paper back around to face himself. "Don't mention it, Sammy," he quipped, even though his heart swelled with love for the kid sitting across from him; excited to share this experience with Sam.

Because it was gonna be awesome.

And they deserved something awesome...especially on the Fourth of July when everybody else across the country was celebrating and having a good time.

There was a beat of silence – cooks calling out orders from the kitchen; waitresses alternating between refilling glasses and delivering food; an oldies song humming in the background as other diner patrons sipped their coffee, ate their bacon, and discussed their plans for the holiday.

Dean smiled to himself – because for once, he and Sam had something fun planned as well – and then frowned as he noticed Sam's untouched food swimming in syrup on the kid's plate.

Dean sighed; annoyed about constantly having to fight this battle of getting his brother to eat. "Sam..."

Sam glanced up but said nothing.

Dean scowled as Sam stared at him expectantly and continued to rake his fork through the congealing, amber syrup; realizing that Sam wasn't just stalling on finishing his breakfast; the kid was done...even though he had barely eaten more than two bites.

"You know you have to eat," Dean reminded, trying not to sound as irritated as he felt. "Bad shit happens when you take your meds without food."

Sam wrinkled his nose, not needing the reminder...because he was the one who threw up when he took his meds on an empty stomach, not Dean. "I know," he agreed, his tone slightly bitchy. "I ate."

Dean pulled a face. "Yeah. Like two bites..."

Sam shrugged. "That's all I wanted."

Dean sighed; because he wanted to have a good day...not a day screwed over because his brother didn't eat like he should and thus the kid's meds couldn't work properly.

"Sammy. I'm not trying to pick a fight with you," Dean began reasonably, staring meaningfully at his little brother across the table. "But eat the fucking pancakes. Seriously."

Sam glared; his jaw clenching in that stubborn way it always did.

There was a beat of silence.

Dean sighed. "Is there something wrong with them?" he ventured; his gaze flickering from Sam to the plate of pancakes sitting in front of the kid on the table; further communicating his question.

Sam shrugged, propping his left elbow on the table's speckled surface and resting his chin in his palm as he continued to swirl his fork 'round and 'round.

"This..." Dean imitated Sam's shrug. " not an answer," he informed his brother. "So we'll try the question something wrong with them?"

"They taste weird," Sam reported and swallowed like maybe he was having trouble keeping the food down just talking about it.

Dean frowned, folding the newspaper – the fireworks momentarily forgotten in the face of a potentially pukey kid brother – and grabbed his own fork. "Weird how?" he pressed and reached to sample Sam's food for himself; stabbing a couple pieces of the syrup-soaked pancakes.

Sam watched him but didn't respond.

Dean shook his head and swallowed. "They taste fine, Sam."

"Not to me," Sam defended – his tone dangerously close to a whine – and pushed the plate away. "You can have 'em..." he told his brother; the syrup dripping in sticky strands from his fork as he set the utensil on the table and slid the plate closer to Dean.

Dean sighed, wondering how his scrawny little brother was ever going to grow if the kid never ate. "I don't want them," he replied, even as he took a couple more bites.

After all, food shouldn't be wasted...especially when there was nothing wrong with it except it didn't meet the incredibly high standards of a picky eater.

Sam smiled tiredly – knowing Dean would finish his plate – and shifted on the red vinyl of the booth's seat; seeming restless as he sighed and then shifted again; leaning back and resting his head on the seat before glancing out the window and squinting in the bright sun, briefly closing his eyes against the light.

Dean frowned; not liking the way things were suddenly adding up – Sam having no appetite, being quiet and lethargic but also restless and vaguely moody; and most concerning, Sam squinting like his head hurt.

"Sam..." Dean called; his eyes scanning his little brother as the kid sat across from him; wondering if he had somehow missed earlier signs of a potential problem; if a seizure was building even as they sat there in that diner booth.

It was hard to say.

Because sometimes the kid's seizures gave warning signs – usually for Sam it was altered taste, nausea, headache, sudden fatigue, general anxiety.

And sometimes there were no warning signs at all; no indication there was a problem until Sam was convulsing on the floor.

Was that about to happen now?

Dean felt his own heart begin to beat faster at that possibility – that Sam would seize in the diner – and suddenly felt the overwhelming need to leave; to get back to the privacy and relative safety of their motel room.

Because Sam having a seizure sucked enough – but Dean absolutely hated it when Sam seized in public; well-meaning people getting in the way while others openly gawked; his shy, sensitive little brother always apologetic and embarrassed in the aftermath...especially given the incontinence that usually occurred during one the kid's grand mals.

Stupid fucking seizures.

Dean sighed, willing himself to stay calm.

Because maybe he was reading this wrong; maybe Sam was just being his grumpy, picky self. The kid certainly wasn't a morning person sometimes...

"Sam..." Dean called again and waited for his brother to look at him. "You okay?"

Sam didn't answer.

But as far as Dean could tell, Sam had certainly seemed okay when they had woke up that morning; had followed their usual morning routine without any issues; had taken his medication without complaint and had said he was hungry as they had crossed the street for breakfast. The kid had even talked nonstop about something he had read the night before in one of his books and had drilled Dean on whether he thought it could be true.

But now...

Now Sam was quiet...and was squinting like his head hurt...and was blinking like his vision was blurred...and was swallowing like he wanted to throw up...and was probably not even aware of how his right hand was slightly twitching as it rested on the table beside the kid's fork.

But Dean saw it.

Dean saw everything, especially if it related to Sam, and knew what was coming – his brother's first grand mal of the day.

Dean sighed, inwardly preparing to handle what was about to happen.

Sam continued to blink at him from across the table; the vague, detached expression implying the kid was already checking out.

"Alright, Sammy..." Dean called, trying to attract his brother's attention. "If you're done, let's head back to the room..." he casually suggested – as if they weren't suddenly racing against an invisible countdown – and slid out of the booth; tossing enough money on the table to cover their bill whenever the waitress returned to deliver it and tucking the folded newspaper under his arm before reaching for his brother.

Sam's right hand twitched – a hard, spastic jerk – and knocked his syrup-coated fork off the table, sending it clattering to the black-and-white tiled floor.

The other diner patrons glanced in the brothers' direction at the echoing racket before resuming their own conversations; assuming it was just the commotion of a clumsy kid...and not a kid about to have a grand mal in the middle of the floor.

Sam stared up at Dean as he continued to sit in the booth, blinking as if he suddenly realized what was about to happen. "Oh my god..." he whispered, sounding panicked and helpless...just like he always did before a seizure. "Dean..."

"It's okay," Dean soothed and smiled encouragingly at his brother even as the kid's right arm began to twitch as well; both hand and arm now looking like a squirming snake hanging off the kid's body. "You're okay. We've still got time. Let's just go..."

Sam nodded jerkily and slid across the red vinyl until he was sitting on the booth's edge; his right arm practically banging against the table's surface.

Sam's eyes were wide and misty as he stared up at Dean.

"It's fine," Dean assured and pulled his brother to his feet; holding Sam against his side and thus helping to immobilize the kid's twitching arm against his own body while also shielding Sam from prying eyes as they approached the door.

"Everybody's looking," Sam murmured; his right leg beginning to twitch and making him stumble.

"Only because I'm so amazingly hot," Dean replied smoothly, further stretching his arm around Sam's thin, narrow shoulders to help keep the kid steady on his feet as they walked. "People stare at me all the time. They can't help themselves."

Sam tried to laugh but coughed instead; his breaths becoming shallow as they often did as the seizure drew closer. "Dean..."

"I know, Sammy," Dean quietly soothed; hating when his brother sounded so distressed. "Just hang on, kiddo..." he urged as they exited the diner and approached the sidewalk's curb; pausing long enough to check traffic both ways before stepping into the street. "We're almost there..."

And they were.

Only a few more steps before the brothers would be safely inside their motel room.

Sam inhaled a shaky breath, tears welling in his eyes as he leaned more heavily on Dean with each step. "I don't w-wanna have a seizure."

Dean clenched his jaw against the mixture of emotions that surged through him at his brother's quiet, tearful confession; because he didn't want to the kid to have a seizure, either. He wanted Sam to be healthy and happy and to have the normal the kid so desperately craved.

But Sam would never be normal; he would always have to worry about his seizures happening at the most inopportune times and at the most inconvenient places.

Because Sam's epilepsy wasn't some passing phase – this was their life.

Dean sighed; feeling Sam twitch and tremble against him as he held the kid up while quickly unlocking their motel room door. "Hang on, Sammy..."

Sam nodded, blearily blinking and feeling himself moved forward; Dean's arm steering him through the door. "This wasn't s'posed to happen t'day," he murmured, as if Dean didn't already know how much he always wanted holidays to be seizure-free...even holidays like July 4th. "D'n...the fireworks..."

"Don't worry about that now," Dean replied, wanting his brother to hush; hating when the kid started slurring his words because he knew what wasn't far off – a full-on grand mal. "Sammy, I want you to –"

But that was as far as Dean got before Sam's eyes rolled back and he collapsed in a shaking heap on the motel room floor.

"Whoa..." Dean commented at the suddenness with which Sam dropped and then sighed. "Okay..." he breathed and then sighed again, willing himself to stay calm.

Because although it sucked every single time, Dean had seen this happen before – every day of Sam's life – and knew what to do; how to keep his brother safe and comfortable until the seizure was over.

"It's okay, Sammy..." Dean called to his convulsing brother – more for his own benefit than for Sam's since the kid couldn't hear him – and quickly dropped the folded newspaper he had carried from the diner and moved the small table and two chairs out of the way so Sam wouldn't hit them while he violently shook on the floor.

Dean scanned the motel room, making sure the immediate area was clear, and then carefully crouched beside his brother; allowing enough room for Sam to complete his seizure but still being close enough to touch the kid if he was needed.

Dean glanced at the clock on the bedside table and removed his leather jacket; folding it over and expertly tucking it under Sam's head as his brother continued to shake.

"Almost over, kiddo..." Dean promised his brother; his attention flickering between Sam and the clock. "Almost over..."

Willing that to be true...

Another minute ticked by.

Dean sighed; his heart racing as Sam continued to convulse. "Anytime, Sammy..." he called to his brother. "Wrap this up, huh? It's been three minutes already, kiddo..."

...which was about average for Sam's seizures, but it still freaked Dean out.

If Sam seized for more than five minutes, a hospital trip would usually be in their future.

And Dean really didn't want that.

Not today. Today was supposed to be fun.

Dean sighed again and glanced at the clock before directing his attention back to his brother. "C'mon, Sammy..." he encouraged his brother; willing the kid to stop shaking. "Almost over, right?"

And in the next few was.

As suddenly as it began, the shaking stopped; the seizure having lasted four and half minutes.

Dean smiled, relief flooding his chest as he exhaled a shaky breath; staring intently at Sam for any obvious signs of injury or distress – but only seeing a wet, motionless little brother whose eyes were closed and whose lips were starting to lose their bluish hue as the kid's breathing slowly began to return to normal.

Dean's smile widened. "Atta boy, Sammy..." he praised – always thankful for signs that Sam's body was quickly rebounding – and brushed the kid's sweaty bangs from his eyes as he approached; further assessing his brother's condition before gently lifting the kid and placing him on the bed farthest from the door.

"Alright, dude..." Dean began conversationally; as if it was normal to talk to your unconscious little brother at 10:43 on a Tuesday morning. "Let's get you changed and settled, huh?"

Expectedly, Sam did not respond; the shallow rise and fall of his small chest being the only indication he was even alive.

Dean swallowed and shook his head – not wanting to think about Sam being anything but alive and with him – and set about his task; crossing to his brother's duffel sitting on top of the dresser and removing dark blue sweatpants and a grey t-shirt.

"The things I do for you, huh?" Dean affectionately teased and carefully eased Sam out of his sneakers and soiled clothes and into the fresh clothing he had brought over to the bed; hoping the kid wouldn't remember that this particularly sucky part of a grand mal seizure had happened...again.

Dean certainly wouldn't mention it.

Sam had enough to deal with; he didn't need to worry about or be embarrassed by things he couldn't control...things like his bladder while he was violently seizing in the middle of the floor.

Dean nodded in agreement with himself – because it didn't bother him at all; he would always do whatever needed to be done for Sam – and tossed the dirty clothes to the floor; gently pulling Sam forward and sitting his brother up on the mattress; holding the kid with one arm while using his other arm to maneuver Sam under the blankets and roll him to the recovery position to ease the kid's slightly labored breathing.

Dean hovered beside the bed, staring down at his brother.

Sam made no movement or sound; always frighteningly limp and silent and still after a seizure.

Dean sighed shakily – reminding himself that was normal for Sam – and quickly scooped his brother's clothes from the floor and added them to their laundry bag before locking their motel room door.

"Well..." Dean said to himself, deciding he should make himself comfortable too since it seemed they were going to be spending at least the rest of the morning – and probably the afternoon – in the motel room.

Dean sighed, grabbing his leather jacket from the floor and tossing in on his bed as he sat on the edge of his mattress and removed his boots; glancing over his shoulder at Sam every few seconds and pausing when he realized the kid was staring back.

Dean blinked in surprise and smiled; dropping his second boot to the carpeted floor and crossing the few steps to his brother's bed. "Sammy..."

Sam scrunched his face and swallowed.

Dean frowned. "You're not gonna throw up, are you?"

Because sometimes Sam did after a seizure.

Sam shook his head once and swallowed again.

Dean nodded. "Good. Let's keep it that way, huh?"

Sam blinked at his brother. "'Kay."

Dean smiled – always relieved to hear that slurry, croaky voice – and crossed to the mini fridge in the corner of their room; removing a bottle of water and grabbing a straw from the stash they always kept nearby for times like this when Sam couldn't manage sitting up to drink.

"Here..." Dean offered, uncapping the bottle and inserting the straw before guiding it to his brother's lips.

Sam drank and swallowed; closing his eyes.

"Hey..." Dean called, setting the water bottle on the bedside table and still crouching beside the bed to stay in Sam's line of vision. "You okay?"

Sam blinked his eyes open and nodded. "Think so."

"Good," Dean praised; figuring that was true by his own assessment of his brother but always wanting to hear Sam say it after a seizure.

"How long?" Sam asked, closing his eyes before blinking them open again.

"Not long," Dean reported casually; because Sam didn't need to know they had only been 30 seconds away from a possible hospital trip.

Sam sighed and shifted on the bed. "Here?"

"Yep," Dean confirmed. "Your often practiced, almost perfected impression of a dying fish was for my eyes only this time."

Sam glared, though there was no true heat in the expression; hearing Dean's worry masked behind the teasing. "Jerk."

Dean smiled and affectionately tousled Sam's hair. "Bitch," he responded and patted his brother's shoulder as the kid continued to blink, obviously tired. "Go back to sleep, Sammy. We're just gonna hang out here for a while."

Sam frowned. "All day?"

Dean shrugged. "Maybe," he replied, though he hadn't thought that far yet.

Sam blinked, suddenly looking close to tears. "What about the fireworks?"

Dean shook his head. "I don't know, Sam," he admitted, still wanting to go to the event as much as his brother but unable to promise that right now. "Let's just see how the rest of the day goes, okay?"

Sam inhaled a shaky breath; his eyes misty with unshed tears – because life was so unfair sometimes.

"Sammy...don't. It's okay," Dean soothed, knowing his brother's thoughts. "I want to see them, too. And I'm not saying 'no'. I'm just saying let's decide later. Let's see how you feel after you get some rest, okay?"

Sam nodded, still blinking against his tears...and breaking Dean's heart.

"Sam..." Dean called, rubbing his brother's shoulders as the kid continued to lie on his side in the bed.

Sam nodded again. "Okay," he agreed and then was quiet; his expression pinched in more than just fatigue and emotional distress.

Dean frowned, knowing even before he asked. "Does your head hurt?"

"Kinda," Sam admitted, blinking at Dean as his brother continued to crouch beside his bed. "And my neck and shoulders kinda hurt, too...and my back..."

Dean nodded – knowing "kinda" was an understatement – and crossed to the bathroom; briefly turning on the light to find pain reliever in their first aid kit.

Sam listened to his brother move around behind him and then blinked as Dean suddenly appeared in front of him again; once more offering the straw protruding from the water bottle along with pills this time.

Dean helped Sam prop up on his elbow to swallow the medication and then eased his brother back to the mattress. "Alright, dude..." he sighed, settling beside Sam on the bed and making sure the water bottle was within his reach on the bedside table in case the kid needed it again. "Go to sleep."

Sam closed his eyes, leaning into Dean's side. "What are you gonna do?"

"Just sit here and be awesome," Dean quipped and rubbed Sam's back as his brother snuggled close; the kid always clingy in the aftermath of a seizure.

Sam laughed softly. "Good luck with that..." he commented and then inhaled deeply; his breaths slowly evening out in sleep.

Dean chuckled at Sam's typical little brother comeback and reached for the remote on the bedside table; clicking on the television and situating himself against the headboard; preparing to channel surf while keeping watch over his sleeping brother; allowing Sam the time his body needed to recover from the stress of the seizure.

Hours passed.

Shows came and went – some really good, some fairly decent, and some complete crap.

Dean shook his head and kept flipping from channel to channel while Sam continued to sleep beside him; big brother alternately glancing between the kid and the TV across the room.

Around late afternoon, Sam finally began to stir; shifting beside Dean and rubbing his face against both the pillow and Dean's leg.

Dean glanced down and waited.

Another hour passed before Sam sighed and scrunched his face; blinking his eyes open and then yawning as he remembered where he was – their motel room; and why – one of his seizures.

Dean muted the television. "Sammy..."

Sam hummed his response and slowly rolled to his back, blinking up at Dean. "Hey."

Dean quirked a smile. "Hey yourself, Sleeping Beauty," he quipped; giving his brother a once-over. "You okay?"

"Mmhmm," Sam sleepily responded, rubbing the back of his hand over his eyes and sighing. "What time is it?"

Dean shrugged as if he had not been counting the hours until Sam had woken up. "Almost 6:00."

Sam's eyes widened as he quickly sat up, trying to see the clock on the bedside table. "I've been sleeping all day?" he asked, sounding alarmed. "Why did you let me do that?"

"Hey. Easy," Dean soothed, pushing his brother back against the headboard. "Relax. I let you sleep for as long as you needed. And apparently your body needed all day."

Sam scowled at that explanation. "But now the whole day's gone, and – "

"Dude..." Dean admonished and rolled his eyes. "Enough with the drama. You've slept all day before. Everything's fine. You slept, I watched's all good."

Sam sighed. "I guess. I just..." He paused, seeming to notice for the first time that he was no longer wearing the clothes he had worn that morning...and instantly knowing why. "Dean..."

Dean shook his head. "It's fine, Sam," he assured his brother. "No big deal, right? You can't help what happens during a seizure, man. And it's just me..."

Sam nodded even as tears welled. "I know, but..." He inhaled shakily. "I'm sorry."

"Stop it," Dean lightly scolded. "You don't get to be embarrassed in front of me, remember? I handled it, and it's over now. And frankly, I'm bored talking about it."

Sam twitched a smile at Dean's attempt to redirect their conversation and blinked against his tears. "Fine," he replied. "But I'm still sorry."

Dean smiled, nodding his understanding as he patted his brother's blanket-covered leg. "It's okay, Sammy," he assured again, knowing the kid needed extra reassurance in the aftermath of a seizure; his little brother's emotions always all over the place.

Sam sighed. "Today was supposed to be fun."

Dean shrugged. "I've had fun."

Sam rolled his eyes. "Yeah, right. You've been stuck in here all day with me."

The thought made Sam clench his jaw, freshly wanting to cry from frustration; because it wasn't enough that his life sucked...but he had to make Dean's life suck, too.

"I haven't been 'stuck' anywhere," Dean corrected. "I've been catching up on my soap operas."

Sam quirked a smile.

"You wouldn't believe the crazy shit I've missed over the past few days..." Dean further commented and winked at his little brother; knowing he was drawing Sam out of his funk whether the kid wanted to be cheered up or not.

Sam's smile widened; knowing what Dean was doing...and knowing that Dean was only half-kidding.

Because his big brother really did watch soap operas sometimes.

It was hilarious.

There was silence between them; Dean leaning back against the headboard, and Sam listing toward him as he also leaned back.

"Dean..." Sam called, resting against his brother's shoulder and staring at the muted television across the room.

"Yeah, Sammy..."

Sam swallowed; unsure if he even wanted to ask...but unable to stop himself. "Are we still going to see the fireworks?"

Dean sighed but said nothing.

Sam glanced up at his brother, knowing Dean's silence was not a good sign. "Please?"

Dean chuckled, wondering when that one word said in that tone would stop getting Sam what he wanted...and deciding it probably never would. His brother knew how to work those huge eyes and floppy hair; Dean had to give the kid that...

"Dean..." Sam called again, sitting up a little straighter against the headboard as he continued to sit beside his brother as if that proved he wasn't still exhausted from the earlier seizure. "We don't have to stay late. And if I start feeling weird, I'll tell you. You know I'll tell you. And I've only had one seizure today. That makes this a good day, right? So, you know...we can still go. It's gonna be awesome, and we'll miss it if we're not there."

Dean chuckled again.

Because the kid was certainly making a good case.


Dean sighed. "I don't know, Sammy," he replied; freshly concerned that maybe Sam's seizures would be triggered by the fireworks display.

They discovered new triggers all the time.

And Dean wasn't sure he wanted to face another episode like Sam had had earlier that morning...especially in public.

Sam scowled, sensing Dean's concern. "I'll be fine. Lights don't bother me, remember?"

Dean glanced at his brother; never surprised by how well he and Sam knew each other and how they were always able to read each other's thoughts. "Yeah, I remember," he agreed.

"Alright, then..." Sam responded as if that detail made the decision.

Dean shook his head. "Not so fast, kiddo. There's a first time for everything."

Sam shrugged. "Maybe. But I'll be fine. I've seen fireworks on TV before, and they didn't bother me."

"Yeah..." Dean drawled. "But they were on TV, Sam. I've read that it's sometimes different when an epileptic sees fireworks for real."

"Dean..." Sam sighed, appreciating his brother's concern but still wanting to go; wanting to experience fireworks for himself and not just hear about them; wanting to be normal just this one night and participate in what every other kid was doing across the country.

Dean glanced at his brother.

Sam looked up through his fringe of bangs. "Please?"

Dean held Sam's gaze and shook his head. "You're a manipulative little bitch, Sammy," he told his brother good-naturedly and then shook his head again. "I hope I don't regret this…" he muttered under his breath. "But yes. Sure. Why the hell not? Fourth of July only comes once a year, right?"

Sam beamed, dimples and all. "Really?"

Dean nodded. "Really," he responded and swung his legs off the bed; standing and watching as Sam did the same; making sure the kid truly seemed recovered enough from his earlier seizure to venture away from the relative safety of their motel room.

Sam glanced at Dean, realizing he was being watched. "I'm fine," he assured his brother and crossed to his duffel; pulling out jeans and another t-shirt along with a hoodie.

Dean nodded again and grabbed his boots; watching as Sam disappeared into the bathroom and then emerged a few minutes later. "You still good?" he asked his brother as he finished tying his boots and tracked the kid's movements for any sign of trouble.

"I'm fine," Sam said again and smiled; tossing his sleep clothes on his bed and plopping on the mattress across from Dean. "You worry too much," he told his big brother as he reached for his sneakers Dean had thrown beside his bed earlier.

Dean rolled his eyes and stood; crossing to the bathroom to handle his own business and keeping his comments to himself about Sam how worried just as much as he did.

But if the kid was in a good mood and said he was fine, then Dean was rolling with it.

After all, they deserved a good time; deserved to have fun and enjoy the fireworks celebration like everyone else...especially after the day they'd had.

And Dean would be right there with Sam if something happened.

It would be fine.

Dean nodded at himself in the mirror as he washed his hands and then exited the bathroom.

Sam was lingering by the door across the room. "Can we go now?"

Dean snorted at his brother's eagerness; times like this reminding him that as mature as Sam was for his age, his little brother was still just a 12-year old kid.

"Can we?" Sam pressed.

"Yeah," Dean agreed and grabbed his leather jacket from his bed before approaching the door. "But a few ground rules before we leave..."

Sam rolled his eyes. "I know," he replied, preparing to dutifully recite his big brother's list of dos and don'ts. "Don't try to do too much. Tell you if I feel weird. Tell you if I – "

Dean held up his hand to stop his brother from talking. "Just one rule tonight."

Sam blinked up at his brother expectantly.

"Stay right beside me," Dean ordered; his tone slightly hard to convey how serious he was. "You hear me?"

Sam frowned; confused. "I'm usually right beside you."

"I know," Dean replied. "But it's really important tonight. We don't know what might happen with these you might I want you right beside me in case something happens."

Sam seemed to pale at the warning.

Dean shook his head. "I'm not trying to scare you, Sam. I'm just saying I want you close by in case your brain decides to go haywire."

Sam swallowed but nodded his understanding; touched by Dean's obvious concern and protectiveness. "Okay," he agreed quietly and nodded again. "I promise. Right beside you all night..." He paused and quirked a smile. "Does this mean we have to hold hands or something?"

Dean scowled. "Smartass," he growled and lightly smacked Sam's back – but not his head...never the kid's head – as he opened the door and exited the room; slipping on his leather jacket and hearing his brother laugh as Sam followed behind.

"Just askin'..." Sam defended playfully and fell in step beside his brother.

Dean glared even as he laughed as well and slung his arm around Sam's shoulders; affection and protection in one gesture as he led the kid down the sidewalk while scanning the street for signs of danger as they walked to the park only a few blocks away from their motel.

Ten minutes later, they arrived.

"Now what?" Sam asked, sticking close to his brother as they made their way through the massive crowd gathered to watch the fireworks.

"We grab some dinner, and we wait," Dean replied, spotting a hot dog stand on the far side of the park and falling in line behind a leggy blond chick; nodding appreciatively at how short her shorts were.

Sam rolled his eyes and glanced over the crowd; accepting the hot dog that Dean handed him minutes later even though he didn't want it.

Dean frowned. "Eat it, Sam," he told his brother. "You barely ate breakfast, and you didn't have lunch."

Sam shrugged – because he really didn't care about food the way Dean did – but took a couple tentative bites of the hot dog; eating half of it before handing it back to Dean.

Dean frowned again but didn't push the issue; knowing Sam's appetite was usually off after a seizure and wordlessly ate the rest of his brother's hot dog even though he had already finished two of his own.

"Do you want something else?" Dean asked, wondering if he would ever stop worrying about how little Sam ate.

"Nah," Sam responded truthfully. "I'm not really hungry." He glanced over the crowd again as he and Dean stood beneath one of the park's trees. "When do the fireworks start?"

Dean shrugged, looking up at the sky. "Shouldn't be too long. It's starting to get dark..."

Sam nodded, watching a father chase around his young sons and feeling strangely sad as they laughed and played...and maybe a bit jealous, too. "Did Dad have a hunt tonight?"

Dean snorted at the obviousness of that question and followed his brother's gaze. "Dad always has a hunt, Sammy."

"Yeah, I guess," Sam agreed and then paused, glancing back at Dean. "Do you think he'd be mad if he knew we were here?"

"Hard to say," Dean responded; not that he cared what John thought about this.

Their dad had always made it clear that Dean was in charge while he was away.

"I bet he would be," Sam declared and looked slightly nervous at that thought.

Dean shrugged. "Maybe...but maybe not. You know how moody Dad can be." He paused and winked at his brother. "Which must be where you get your bitchiness from..."

Sam scowled and shoved his brother. "Shut up."

Dean chuckled. "You shut up," he returned and then reached for Sam. "C'mon. Let's go closer to the front, so we can get a good spot to watch the fireworks."

Sam nodded his agreement and allowed Dean to steer him through the crowd; slipping through the tight spaces between people until they were indeed near the front; facing the small pond in the center of the park and waiting with everyone else for the fireworks to begin.

They didn't have to wait long.

Within minutes the sky burst into a kaleidoscope of patterns; lights flashing and illuminating the darkness; colors exploding and quickly spreading across the black sky as though they were playing tag with each other and connect-the-dots with the stars.

Dean smiled as he watched his brother's reaction; the kid awestruck and indescribably happy. "You okay?" he checked.

Sam nodded distractedly as he stared up at the sky; wide-eyed and speechless.

Because while he had heard about fireworks and had seen photos and video footage of various displays on television, nothing compared to this – to actually seeing them and hearing the boom and smelling the smoke.

It was awesome.

It was amazing.

It was beautiful.

It was breathtaking.

It was...

Sam blinked and squinted; feeling strangely disoriented in a way he had never felt; his head suddenly throbbing in warning.

"No," Sam whispered and closed his eyes; willing himself to stop feeling whatever he was feeling.

Because he wanted to stay at the park; he wanted to enjoy the fireworks with Dean…not have something else added to his ever-growing list of seizure triggers.

But the feeling didn't go away.

If anything, it intensified when Sam closed his eyes; the tiny pinpricks of color and light following him into the self-imposed darkness and continuing to flash behind his eyelids.

Sam blinked his eyes open; anxiety clenching his stomach as he saw star-like patterns pan out across his field of vision; the stars having nothing to do with the fireworks but being an aura Sam knew only he could see.

"No," Sam whispered again – because he only got auras when a bad seizure was coming – and immediately reached for Dean; thankful he was standing right beside him as promised.

Dean glanced down as Sam's small hand grabbed his arm; his brother's grasp desperate even though the kid didn't speak.

Dean frowned. "Sammy?"

But Sam didn't respond; staring instead into the distance, blinking rapidly.

And Dean instantly knew.

Because Sam only blinked like that when the kid was seeing an aura; and his brother only saw auras when a bad seizure was on its way.

"Shit," Dean hissed; trying to ignore how much Sam's right arm was beginning to twitch as he grasped his brother's shoulders and began steering the kid through the crowd, retracing their steps from earlier; knowing they would never make it back to their motel room before this seizure struck...but hoping to at least get Sam to a more spacious, private area before the kid went down.

But it was not to be.

Dean had only taken a few steps before Sam went rigid beneath his touch and then completely limp; making a garbled sound before collapsing to the ground and instantly beginning to shake; his eyes rolled back; his arms and legs violently flailing.

Dean immediatelly went into action.

"Move! Move! Move!" Dean shouted to the people standing around; physically pushing them back to allow room for Sam to seize without hitting them or injuring himself.

The surrounding crowd glared and bitched at the perceived rudeness of being manhandled during a fireworks show...until they realized what was happening within inches of them – a kid violently convulsing on the ground.

The crowd instantly became a buzzing hum of gasps and murmurs; people trying to see around each other for a better angle of the action; openly gawking and exchanging glances full of worry and shock and pity.

"Oh my god..." a middle-aged woman whispered; decked out in a gaudy red, white, and blue t-shirt with matching shorts. "Is he okay?"

"Does he look like he's okay?" Dean snapped and pushed her back.

"Somebody call an ambulance!" a man's voice yelled from the middle of the crowd and a few other voices joined in their agreement.

"No!" Dean yelled, shrugging out of his leather jacket and crouching beside his brother; once again tucking the jacket under Sam's head while trying to shield Sam as much as he could from the strangers who were staring at him. "He's fine."

"But he's seizing..." another woman pointed out as if Dean couldn't see that.

"He's epileptic," Dean sharply informed. "And this will pass. Just give him some space..."

"Epileptic?" the middle-aged woman echoed, stepping forward again. "My goodness." She shook her head. "Poor thing."

Dean glared up at the woman as she continued to hover; because they didn't need her pity or her help. "Back off," he growled, continuing to pin her with a hard stare.

The woman's eyes widened at Dean's harsh tone, but she nodded and did as she was told; joining the surrounding crowd as they stared down at the brothers; the fireworks continuing to burst overhead but forgotten by most as they instead watched the drama of a medical emergency unfold before them.

"This is just like in the movies..." someone whispered and another person nodded.

Dean clenched his jaw at the comment – because this wasn't a fucking was their life – and felt his heart hammer in his chest as he glanced at his watch.

"Okay, Sammy..." Dean called to his brother as the kid continued to shake on the ground. "Three minutes, kiddo. Let's wrap this one up, huh? Come on, buddy..."

But Sam continued to shake.

And the crowd continued to murmur and stare.

And the fireworks continued to explode in colorful bursts of light overhead; shading the people in reds and blues and yellows.

"You're missing the fireworks, Sammy..." Dean commented quietly and felt like crying as he watched his brother shake on the ground for another minute and a half before the kid stopped just as suddenly as he had started.

"Oh my god..." another woman whispered from the crowd; her hand resting on her flag-covered chest in concern and shock. "Is he – "

"He's fine," Dean snapped, hating how fucking ignorant people were, and immediately drew closer to his brother. "Sammy..."

Sam remained motionless on the ground; covered in dirt and blades of grass; blood trickling from his knuckles and right temple where twigs and small rocks had scraped his skin as he had convulsed.

Dean sighed, feeling slightly relieved – because all of that could be cleaned up and taken care of back at their room – and continued to visually assess his brother; his heart breaking when he saw that it had happened yet again...the front of Sam's jeans wet with urine.

Sam would be mortified.

"Oh my goodness..." an older woman commented as she had obviously just noticed as well. "Bless his little heart. Poor baby..."

Dean clenched his jaw; quickly reaching for his leather jacket beneath Sam's head and instead draping it over his brother to protect what dignity the kid had intact.

"Do you need help?" a man asked, stepping forward with two other men on either side.

Dean shook his head. "I've got him," he replied, his tone clipped; his expression hard as he dared them to touch his brother.

The men nodded their understanding and rejoined the crowd.

Dean sighed, knowing Sam wouldn't rouse for at least ten minutes after such a long seizure. And even when he did, the kid wouldn't be able to walk back to their room.

So Dean would carry him.

He carried Sam all the time.

Dean nodded at his decision. "Alright, Sammy..." he called, carefully lifting the scrawny kid into his arms; one arm under Sam's knees while the other supported his brother's head. "Let's go home, huh?"

Sam remained motionless and silent as Dean protectively held him against his chest; the amulet hanging mere inches from the kid's face; the leather jacket still covering Sam even though Dean could feel the moisture from the kid's saturated jeans soaking into his own shirt and knew Sam's bloody temple was staining his shirt as well.

Not that Dean cared.

"Should you move him?" the middle-aged woman asked as Dean walked past her. "I don't think you should move him."

"Yeah," a man's voice agreed. "I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to move people after a seizure."

"He said the kid has epilepsy, so maybe it's different?" another man asked and received only a shrug from the man standing beside him.

"An ambulance is on its way..." a woman's voice informed. "My husband called them. They'll be here in about five minutes..."

But Dean ignored them.

Because he knew it was okay to move Sam...and he sure as hell didn't need an ambulance full of medics to tell him how to do his job.

Because Dean knew what he was doing; had spent his life taking care of Sam and wasn't about to start taking advice from strangers.

He was the Sammy expert; no one else.

The crowd parted; watching as Dean carried his brother out of the park and disappeared into the darkness; the fireworks having ended in a flashy, expensive finale...but no one really noticing as they had focused on the brothers.

Dean could hear the crowd murmuring behind him, but he kept walking; alternately glancing down at Sam to check the kid's condition and looking ahead as he drew closer to their motel; ignoring the strange looks from those on the sidewalk who undoubtedly wondered why he was carrying a 12-year old like a baby wrapped in a leather jacket.

The answer was simple – because Sam needed him to.

Dean smiled at the secret – because the world would never understand him and his brother – and kept walking.

Within minutes, a familiar neon sign glowed around the corner, and Dean felt a surge of thankful relief.

"Alright, Sammy..." Dean called, years of practice allowing him to snag the key from his pocket and unlock the motel room's door while still holding his brother. "Home sweet home, kiddo," he commented as he kicked the door shut behind him and carefully laid Sam on his bed.

Sam didn't respond.

Dean smiled. "Good thing I like talking to myself, huh?" he teased his unconscious little brother and then stood.

Dean sighed as he crossed back to the door; locking it before crossing to the bathroom to collect their first aid kit along with a damp washcloth.

Seconds later, Dean returned to Sam's bedside; sitting on the edge of the mattress as he gently cleaned the drying blood from his brother's face and hands.

"You hurt anywhere else, Sammy?" Dean asked, his eyes scanning his brother twice but seeing no other signs of injury. "Guess not," he answered himself and nodded his relief. "Good," he praised and opened the first aid kit in his lap, lightly rubbing an alcohol wipe over Sam's knuckles before dabbing antibiotic ointment across the scraped skin and then covering it with a bandage.

Dean paused; his eyes flickering to Sam's face before repeating the same process as he tended to the scrape running from the kid's hairline down his right temple. "You gotta be more careful, Sammy..." he fussed and gently ran his fingers through the kid's floppy hair; double-checking for any other bumps or scrapes that couldn't be seen.

Because Sam had shook hard and fast during this seizure; had practically beat himself against the ground, and Dean hoped he would never have to see that happen again...even though he knew he probably would.

Dean swallowed at the fresh memory of what had happened a the park and sighed in relief as he felt no further injuries to Sam's head.

"Good deal," Dean praised and closed the first aid kit; setting it on the bedside table before removing his leather jacket from where it still covered his brother and tossing it to his own bed.

Dean sighed. "Okay. Let's get you cleaned up and changed, Sammy..." he commented and repeated the process he had done earlier that morning; quickly and smoothly changing his brother's clothes and settling the kid beneath the blankets on his bed.

Dean hovered for a few seconds beside Sam and then grabbed his supplies; once again stuffing the dirty clothes into their laundry bag before returning the first aid kit and washcloth to the bathroom.

Dean paused as he stood in the bathroom's doorway and decided he would change, too; crossing to his duffel and removing his own sleep clothes; not closing the bathroom door as he returned; keeping an ear out for Sam as he handled his business and changed clothes.

A couple minutes later, Dean doubled-checked the security of their room and then was back beside Sam's bed; turning off the lamp on the bedside table and turning on the television as he settled on the mattress alongside his brother; vaguely wondering why they always got a room with two beds since Dean rarely slept in his; always having to keep constant watch over Sammy, who was usually in various stages of recovering from a seizure.

Dean clenched his jaw; freshly bitter that his kid brother had to live with such fucked-up condition...and freshly pissed that he couldn't always protect Sam from that condition.

What happened tonight being a prime example...

Dean sighed harshly – willing himself to get a grip because experience had taught him that being bitter and pissed wouldn't change anything – and began flipping through the channels as he had done earlier that morning.

An hour passed as Dean waited; the big brother smiling as he felt Sam shift finally beside him.

"Sammy..." Dean called, muting the television and rubbing his brother's chest; further encouraging the kid to wake up and tell him he was okay.

Because that was all Dean ever wanted to hear.

Sam shifted again and blinked his eyes open. "D'n..."

Dean nodded at the slurred, quiet voice. "The one and only," he quipped and winked at his little brother as Sam blinked up him. "How you feelin'?"

Sam scrunched his face as he seemed to take an internal inventory. "Like crap."

Dean huffed a laugh at the expected response; because the seizure in the park had been a rough one. "Yeah, well..."

Sam frowned as Dean's voice faded and rubbed his sore right temple, noticing the bandage covering his knuckles. "Wow," he commented; his tone slightly alarmed as his frown deepened at the evidence of what had happened even though he barely remembered. "That bad, huh?"

Dean shrugged.

Because Sam didn't need to hear how bad it was; didn't need to know how he had violently shook on the ground while strangers had stared and had asked stupid questions; didn't need to know how helpless Dean had felt or how the fireworks had continued to burst overhead like nothing was Dean's world wasn't falling apart with each of Sam's convulsions.


Dean shrugged again and lightly patted his brother's small chest. "It doesn't matter now, Sammy. It's over."

And thank god for that.

Sam nodded, too tired to force the issue. "How long?"

Dean sighed; wondering if Sam realized they always followed this same pattern of questions after a seizure. "Not too long," he lied.

Sam didn't force that issue, either; a further testament to his level of exhaustion.

There was silence as the television quietly cast blue-hued shadows over the room.

"Everybody saw, didn't they?"

Dean swallowed at Sam's whispered question; knowing Sam wasn't just asking about the seizure but about what also usually happened during one of the kid's grand mals...because his brother obviously knew he was once again wearing different clothes.

"Didn't they?" Sam pressed; his voice impossibly quieter; his tone indicating he was close to tears.

Dean clenched his jaw against his brother's pain and embarrassment; hating that Sam got so upset over things he literally could not control and wishing he could take the condition from his brother.

Because Dean would become epileptic in a second if it meant sparing Sam.


Dean sighed at Sam's voice and resumed rubbing the kid's chest; offering silent comfort and reassurance. "Don't be such a drama queen, Sammy," he lightly admonished. "Believe it or not, you don't always have to be the center of attention. People were there to watch fireworks...not to watch you flop around on the ground."

Sam scoffed a laugh; the sound soft and watery as it came through barely contained tears; knowing Dean was trying to joke and make light of what had happened because Dean had been scared and didn't want Sam to be scared or embarrassed...but also knowing that Dean was lying.

Because Sam knew that while Dean had tried to protect him and shield him from others, strangers had still stared at him while he had shaken uncontrollably on the ground and had peed himself, too...because apparently seizing in public wasn't enough humiliation by itself.

Dean glanced at his brother. "Sammy..." he called, knowing Sam had a vague idea of what had happened but not wanting the kid to dwell on it. "You still being a drama queen over there?" he asked playfully, nudging his brother and knowing the kid always heard the love and concern behind his teasing.

Sam smiled faintly, taking comfort in Dean's touch. "M'okay," he responded tiredly and sighed; the sound shaky from exhaustion, lingering pain, and raw emotions.

There was silence.

Dean continued to lean against the headboard; watching the muted television and rubbing his brother's chest; lulling the kid back to sleep.

But first...

"I'm sorry about tonight," Dean finally said; knowing what had happened wasn't his fault – not really – but unable to stop the apology. "I never would've taken you to see the fireworks if I had known what would happen, Sammy. Never."

Sam blinked up at Dean. "I know," he assured his brother. "I wanted to go. S'okay, Dean."

Dean shook his head; because it wasn't okay. "I should've known, Sam. It's my fault."

Sam scowled weakly; wondering why Dean always thought everything was his fault. "Now who's being the drama queen?" he asked his brother and quirked a tired smile.

Dean laughed and then glared. "Hey. Watch it, kid," he warned even as he patted Sam's chest affectionately.

Sam laughed softly and sighed. "It's fine, Dean," he further soothed. "You can't know everything that's gonna happen."

Dean nodded his understanding of that logic...but he still hated it.

Because he had to protect Sam; that was his job. But that was hard to do when Dean never knew what the next trigger could be...or when the next seizure would come.

There was silence.

"Dad will be pissed when he finds out..." Dean commented, already picturing John's disapproving scowl as their dad would undoubtedly deliver a lecture about protecting Sam.

Sam shrugged. "What he doesn't know won't hurt him..." he responded, quoting Dean's earlier words about going to the fireworks event without John's knowledge.

Dean chuckled appreciatively; taking full credit for Sam's sneaky way of thinking. "Guess not," he agreed and let the issue drop.

Because they had plenty of secrets between them that John didn't know about...and never would.

There was more silence.

"Hey, Dean..." Sam called sleepily, turning to burrow closer into his brother's side as Dean continued to sit beside him on the mattress.

"Yeah, Sammy..."

"Thanks," Sam said simply; hoping Dean knew he meant that; that he meant that for everything.

Dean smiled affectionately and nodded. "Anytime, Sammy."

"And thanks for the fireworks, too," Sam added. "I know what happened, but..." He shrugged; his bony shoulder digging into Dean's thigh. "It was worth it. They were pretty awesome. At least what I got to see..."

Dean nodded again. "Awesome like me?" he teased, glancing down at his brother as Sam practically wallowed against him.

Sam smiled and closed his eyes. "How can anything be as awesome as you?" he returned and relaxed more fully against his brother; knowing Dean needed the contact as much as he did...and knowing Dean needed a little verbal encouragement sometimes, too.

Dean chuckled; knowing what Sam was doing. "Good point," he agreed and protectively wrapped his arm around his brother as Sam's breaths evened out in sleep; wondering if Sam knew how much he loved him – one scrawny, floppy-haired epileptic kid being the reason Dean got up every morning.

Dean sighed; his attention flickering to the television across the room as video footage of the town's fireworks display soundlessly flashed across the screen during the evening News.

Dean twitched a smile; still feeling mixed emotions about what had happened only a few hours ago but glad that Sam had at least gotten to see some of the fireworks before all hell had broken loose inside the kid's head.

"It was worth it," Sam had said – and Dean had to agree.

Sometimes taking a risk was worth the experience...even if you had to deal with the consequences.

Dean nodded to himself – feeling surprisingly content – and glanced down at his brother. "Happy Fourth of July, Sammy..." he quietly said and reached for the remote; turning the television's volume on low and resuming his channel surfing as Sam slept against him.


A/N: Please double-check that you're logged in, so I can respond to your review. You know how I love to talk with y'all! :)