Summary: Pre-series – Sick Sam / Heroic Big Brother Dean – While the brothers slept, the blaze had already consumed half the motel and was greedily racing to devour the rest.

Disclaimer: Not mine

Warnings: Minor language. Plus, I guess it could be argued that there are vague spoilers for the Pilot...but I think we're beyond giving warnings for that, aren't we?

A/N: Began as a drabble for the challenge word "balcony" and then kept going well beyond 100 words.

déjà vu – from French, literally meaning "already seen"; the phenomenon of believing an event or experience has occurred in the past; an experience that causes you to remember something.

You remember your childhood in fiery sequences. ~ Stevie Nicks

It started small; as most things did.

Just a cigarette carelessly left on a motel room balcony; rolling away from where it had been forgotten as the night's breeze blew it across the cracked pavement of the parking lot and nestled it in the dry grass; the blades long ago faded brown from the summer's brutal drought.

It was the perfect match.

Within seconds, the glowing end of the cigarette ignited the motel's small yard; the tiny flames latching onto the brittle blades and then slowly crawling across the grass as though they were sneaking up on the unsuspecting lodgers sleeping in their beds within the motel's rooms.

Minutes later, the flames gave up their creep and attacked; doubling, tripling in size and launching themselves at the building; the blaze now consuming half of the motel and greedily racing to devour the rest.

Because if the element of surprise was the key to claiming victory, then the flames were going to win; were going to melt and singe and cremate until there was nothing left.

But the flames were too cocky.

They didn't know there was a hunter in their midst; didn't know there was an expert who was no stranger to fire and who in fact had developed a sixth-sense of detection for the element identified by smoke and heat.

Dean awoke with a start; sitting straight up in bed with the overwhelming and unshakeable feeling that something was wrong; that something bad was about to happen...and that he didn't have much time before it did.

Dean blinked in the darkness of the motel room as his gaze first snapped to his brother asleep in the opposite bed; then to the salt lines still intact by the door; and finally to the thinly curtained window – seeing the familiar outline of the Impala parked across the street...and the shadow of smoke as it wafted past the glass along with the eerie orange-red glow of approaching flames.

The recognition was instant.


Dean's heart stuttered to a stop at the realization and then immediately began beating again; hammering in his chest at the rush of memories that flooded his mind, even after all these years, anytime he saw flames – a burning nursery...a dying mother...a frantic father...a crying baby Sammy.

Take your brother outside as fast as you can!

The echo of John's words from that night in '83 were as clear now as they were then; as if John was standing beside Dean in this motel room tonight instead of being two states away; as if John thought Dean needed reminding that it was up to him to once again save a vulnerable Sam.

But Dean didn't need reminding.

Because he would always save Sam; would protect the kid no matter what.

It was his job – being a big brother – and was the only responsibility he took more seriously than hunting.

Dean blinked again – jarring himself into action – and flung back the blankets as he climbed out of bed; his bare feet having just touched the stained green carpet when the room's smoke alarm suddenly began to blare its delayed warning.

Dean startled at the piercing sound, but Sam didn't flinch; the 12-year old still deeply unconscious in a drug-induced sleep; having been medicated and put to bed early in hopes of him shaking whatever virus had been stubbornly sticking around over the past week.

Dean glanced at the smoke curling beneath the motel room's door and felt the urgency of their situation instantly increase.

"Sammy..." Dean called, not expecting Sam to wake up but leaning over his brother anyway; hearing the kid's congested breathing as he smoothed Sam's damp bangs away from his eyes and felt the warmth of fever still radiating from his brother's forehead.

Dean frowned – because Sam didn't sound any better or feel any cooler than he had three hours ago when the kid had gone to bed – but reminded himself that while that sucked, it didn't matter right now.

Because it was time to evacuate...and that included sick, fevered little brothers.

The smoke alarm continued to blare as more smoke slipped under the crack of the door.

"Alright, Sammy..." Dean sighed and then coughed in the increasingly smoky room. "Let's get the hell outta here, huh?" he asked conversationally; folding the comforter back from his brother while keeping the kid wrapped in the sheet and top blanket and then expertly sliding one arm beneath Sam's knees and the other behind the kid's head.

Sam remained motionless; his head lolling toward Dean's shoulder as Dean lifted him from the bed; then resting securely against Dean's chest as his brother held him; his slightly flushed face mere inches from the amulet.

Readjusting his grip on Sam, Dean snatched the Impala's keys from the dresser and visually swept the room; confirming that anything lost could be replaced at the nearest thrift store or Walmart; their clothes and toiletries being the only items scattered around.

Dean nodded his approval; glad that they had left everything except their duffels in the Impala's trunk earlier that night since Sam had still been sick and Dean had been interested only in getting the kid medicated and in bed; had decided everything else could wait – the research, the gun cleaning – and had figured he would bring it all in later today while Sam rested.

But...change of plans.

It seemed any resting or researching or gun cleaning would take place at a different location since their current home was literally going up in flames and smoke.

Much like another home once had.

Dean swallowed. Because although it had been 12 years, he could still remember the indescribable heat and ferocity of the fire as it had engulfed their house in Lawrence.

Dean could still sense his dad's overwhelming shock and panic as John had pushed a squirming, crying Sam into his arms and had yelled at him to go outside; to run as fast as he could and not look back.

Dean could still see the upstairs windows breaking; shards of glass spraying into the dark sky as the flames had burst forth – refusing to be contained – and had scattered in the grass; the small bits reflecting that which had destroyed it as the fire had continued to rage above.

Dean could still hear himself telling a baby brother that everything was okay...even though it clearly wasn't; could still feel John sweeping him from his feet as their father had grabbed him – along with Sam – and had carried them to safety across the street; had sat on the hood of the Impala and had held them.

It felt like it had happened yesterday.

Dean sighed and shook his head – scattering the memories of then and focusing instead on now – and squinted in the smoky darkness; his eyes burning and watering as he coughed from the thick smoke filling the room as well as his lungs.

Dean frowned at the realization; because if smoke was getting in his lungs, then it was also getting in Sam's lungs...and that was unacceptable.

Dean coughed once more as he supported most of Sam's weight with one arm and then awkwardly reached with his other arm to pull the blankets wrapped around his brother up over the kid's head; lightly draping the fabric across Sam's face in an attempt to prevent an already sick, congested kid from inhaling any more smoke.

In response, Sam shifted weakly in his brother's arms; breathing noisily as he turned his face toward Dean's chest and sighed before settling again.

Despite their situation, Dean quirked a fondly amused smile – because Sam didn't have a clue what was going on – and crossed to the motel room's door; pausing long enough to hold his bare elbow to the door's surface to test for warmth; not seeing flames through the room's window but not wanting to take any chances considering the precious cargo he was carrying.

Dean held his breath; blinking rapidly as the smoke continued to pour beneath the door but feeling no heat to indicate that fire was waiting in ambush on the opposite side.

Feeling his chest tighten from lack of oxygen, Dean reached for the doorknob; turning it, opening the door, and finally exiting the motel room in one quick, smooth motion; the sidewalk warm and rough beneath his bare feet as he carried Sam from the burning building.

Once outside, Dean's breath left him in a whoosh as his starved lungs deeply inhaled the relatively fresh night air; coughing as a result but continuing to tightly hold his brother against him as he jogged across the motel's small yard; staining his feet with the black soot that covered the area where the fire had started.

But Dean didn't care – not about his feet or anything else as long as he had Sam – and continued to move further away from the blazing motel; crossing the street to the safety of the Impala parked beside the curb and feeling an unexplainable sense of relief wash over him.

Because while motels and the occasional apartment came and went, the Impala was their constant – was their true home – and it always felt good to be with her...just like family.

Dean smiled at the comforting thought as he leaned back against the Chevy's hood and pulled the blanket away from Sam's face to check on his brother; still holding the kid against him as he gave Sam a thorough once-over; taking in Sam's flushed face and sweaty bangs as he listened to his brother's noisy inhalations – like the kid was breathing through a clogged straw.

Dean frowned – because whatever respiratory infection Sam had picked up on the road was definitely kicking his scrawny little ass – and hoped that the small amount of smoke Sam had just inhaled wouldn't make the kid's condition worse.

Dean sighed; shifting Sam in his arms as he continued to rest against the Impala; trying to deepen his own breaths while watching the scene in front of him.

Because all hell was breaking loose across the street.

The surrounding chaos of fire engines, police cars, and ambulances was bright and deafening; red and blue lights flashing, sirens whining, and smoke alarms blaring in unison from the motel rooms' open doors as other people spilled into the parking lot and beyond.

There were kids screaming and babies crying...mothers and fathers calling out to one another...lovers barely clothed...old folks shuffling as fast as they could...firefighters barking orders as they managed their enormous fire hoses...police officers managing traffic along with the growing crowd of onlookers...medics assessing potential patients.

And through it all, Sam slept soundly; not a flutter, not a flinch, not a whimper.

Dean chuckled. "That must be some good shit, Sammy..." he commented to his brother about the medication Sam had taken earlier that night which had good and truly knocked the kid out.

Because Sam remained blissfully unaware that his life had been in danger...again; that he had been saved from a fire...again; and that Dean had been the one to save him...again.

Dean smiled – proud and thankful to be his little brother's savior...again and again and again – and then shook his head at the kid still sleeping against him in his arms; not surprised but still amused that a simple over-the-counter decongestant along with Tylenol – both of which were meant for kids – had put Sam totally under.

"Lightweight..." Dean affectionately teased and hoped the rest Sam was getting would at least help make the kid well; because Dean could still hear his brother's congested breathing and could feel the warmth of lingering fever through his t-shirt as Sam's head continued to rest on his shoulder.

Sam sighed and coughed quietly but made no other response.

Dean smiled again and then coughed himself; his breaths finally coming easier but his lungs still recovering from the slight smoke inhalation.

Several minutes passed before Sam shivered and then blinked; opening his eyes to thin slits and staring up at Dean.

Dean glanced at his brother, sensing Sam was awake and tugging the sheet and blanket tighter around the kid. "It's okay, Sammy..." he soothed; echoing the words he had said to his little brother 12 years ago as they had watched their home burn...and their mother along with it. "You're okay. Go back to sleep, kiddo."

Sam blearily held Dean's gaze before his eyes dipped closed; not needing further encouragement to sleep as the medication's effects pulled him back under.

Dean quirked an affectionate smile – always touched by Sam's absolute trust in him – and then readjusted his hold on his brother; knowing he could put Sam in the Impala but feeling uncharacteristically clingy; preferring to keep the kid right where he was for now – in his arms – as he continued to stare at the burning motel and allowed the reality of what had almost happened sink in.

Because what if Dean hadn't woken up? What if the smoke alarm hadn't worked? What if Dean was still asleep in that motel room – and thus Sam was still asleep as well?

Dean swallowed as he stared at the blaze now completely engulfing the motel; knowing the likely outcome if he hadn't woken up...and being incredibly thankful that he had woken up; that he had been able to save himself and his brother from yet another uncomfortably close brush with death by fire.

Dean exhaled a shaky breath and continued to watch the emergency workers handle the frantic scene surrounding the burning motel; remembering how he and Sam had sat on the Impala's hood with John that night in Lawrence back in '83 and belatedly realizing why their dad had kept them close; why John had not tucked them inside the car that night.

It was for the same reasons Dean was now sitting on the Chevy's hood with Sam.

Because sometimes – especially after a close call – you just wanted to hold your kids; to assure yourself that they were still with you; that they were okay; that they were safe.

Dean nodded his agreement with that reasoning as he glanced at Sam still sleeping against him; knowing exactly how that felt – to just want your kid to be with you; to want your kid to be okay and safe.

And Dean would always make sure of that for Sam; would always ensure his brother's well-being and matter how many times he had to pull the kid from a burning building.