Dean glanced at his brother sitting beside him on the back row of the auditorium as the lights began to go down.

Ready? he asked, crossing his middle and index fingers into "R" shapes and moving his hands outward from his sides.

Sam shifted in his seat and nodded, reaching over to Dean's lap and placing his hands on top of his brother's; his palms resting on Dean's knuckles as they prepared for the grueling task of the next two hours – Dean tactile signing while Sam followed along.

Thank god there was going to be an intermission between Acts because they were both going to need the break.

Dean flexed his fingers and rotated his wrists, feeling Sam's hands move with his. "You good?" he asked his brother, making sure the kid was comfortable before the play began.

Sam squinted in the dimming light of the auditorium, reading the two words on Dean's lips, and then nodded even as he shifted again in his seat to ease the already burning muscles in his back protesting the way he had turned and slightly leaned towards Dean.

Dean watched him. "Better?"

Sam nodded again.

Dean did the same.

They waited, the lights seeming to take forever to go completely dark.

"What the hell is taking so long?" Dean muttered irritably and then cut his eyes to the right as he noticed a girl on the opposite side of Sam openly staring at them...maybe even outright gawking.

Sam frowned at Dean's intense gaze looking past him and turned to see what had attracted his brother's death stare.

And there she was, some girl Sam had never seen before – dark hair with glasses, probably about Dean's age – that was staring right back at him...or more precisely, at them.

"Problem?" Dean asked, his voice quiet but his tone promising trouble if she said something stupid.

The girl shook her head. "No," she responded, even as she remained fixated on the brothers' hands. "I was just, you know, wondering if y'all were, like, together?"

Sam's eyes immediately widened, having read her lips and known exactly what she had said, exactly what she thought...about them.

And it made sense that she would think that, that she would assume that.

After all, it did look like they were holding hands, especially in the way Sam's fingers overlapped and interlaced with Dean's as he waited for his brother to begin signing.

Sam swallowed, stunned and mortified by the girl's assumption, and felt his heart hammer painfully in his chest as she continued to stare at him and his brother.

Dean glared at the clueless, tactless bitch blinking back at them expectantly, feeling even more pissed when he realized that Sam had read her words; his brother making a guttural sound – the one reserved for when the kid was deeply distressed.

Dean clenched his jaw as fresh rage pulsed through him, and he gripped Sam's fingers a fraction of a second before the kid tried to snatch his hands away from Dean's.

Because no...they weren't doing anything wrong.

This was a big brother helping his little brother in one of the most selfless ways possible, and the rest of the world could think what it wanted to think and fuck off.

Dean was sick of this kind of shit.

And most of all, Dean was sick of this kind of shit upsetting Sam.

The kid had enough to deal with in this crappy life without having to endure the insensitive stupidity of inconsiderate assholes labeling him with their assumptions and stereotypes.

"I'm not judging..." the girl insisted about what she perceived the guys' relationship to be and continued staring at them; her gaze flickering between Sam and Dean. "I was just wondering..." She paused. "So, are you? Together, I mean?"

Sam swallowed, his fingers shaking in Dean's unrelenting grasp as he turned away from the girl and stared wide-eyed at his brother.

Dean didn't miss a beat. "What's it to you, sweetheart?" he replied smoothly, staring straight at the girl who was now staring only at him; his tone and expression advising her to shut up and mind her fucking business.

The girl blinked, her mouth gaping in startled shock as she clearly received the message to back off. "," she lamely apologized and offered a strained smile. "I was just..."

She shrugged, realizing that trying to further explain was probably not a good idea.

"Sorry," she said again and leaned back in her seat, directing her attention to where it belonged in the first place – on the stage.

Dean snorted his disgust, quietly fuming before turning his attention to his little brother; the kid's fast breathing and teary eyes testifying to just how upset Sam was about this.

Because this was exactly what Sam feared, was exactly the kind of thing the kid worried about, especially in public – attracting unwanted attention and having strangers stare at him and make up their own truths.

And it pissed Dean off that the kid had to deal with this shit tonight, especially when his brother had calmed after being anxious earlier.

Sam once again tried to pull his hands away from Dean's, only to feel a strong resistive grip as Dean refused to let him go.

Sam blinked at Dean pleadingly.

Dean shook his head.

Because they were not leaving...and they certainly weren't leaving because of what had just happened.

Sam's hands squirmed in Dean's grasp, his expression increasingly panicked.

Stop, Dean mouthed, knowing he didn't have to add voice to the word for Sam to read it on his lips. I mean it. Stop.

And to Dean's vague surprise, Sam obeyed; blinking at Dean and then glancing at the girl still sitting on the other side of him.

But the girl stared straight ahead, being careful not to look in the two guys' direction again for fear of facing the wrath of the older guy.

After all, she wasn't that stupid.

She may not have known for sure the nature of the two guys' relationship, but she did know that she wouldn't be asking again.

The older guy seemed unpredictable...and maybe even a little dangerous if provoked.

...which was just another reason that she would ignore the guys on her left and watch the play she had come to watch, even though she could feel the younger guy looking at her even now.

She swallowed, refusing to look back.

Sam returned his attention to Dean, clearly still worried about what the girl beside him thought about him...about them.

Dean scowled his dismissal of her and her opinion. Fuck her, he told his brother, wishing he could scream it.

Sam soundlessly snorted, because that was Dean's reaction to anybody he didn't like – fuck 'em.

And Sam knew his brother was right.

Because who cared what other people thought?

They were brothers, and Sam wouldn't trade Dean for anything. Absolutely nothing else could replace Dean in Sam's life, and he was damn lucky to have a brother who did everything Dean did without even blinking, without any hesitation at all.

If Sam needed it, Dean did it.

And that was that.

So who cared what other people thought?

Dean clearly didn't.

And Sam shouldn't, either.

The 16-yeard old sighed shakily as he briefly closed his eyes and squeezed Dean's fingers, feeling the returning pressure of his brother's grip; drawing strength and courage from Dean as he pulled himself together.

After all, they had a play to watch.

Sam sighed again and opened his eyes, feeling slightly embarrassed by how upset he had gotten – because who cared what that girl thought? – and offered a small smile to his brother.

Dean narrowed his eyes as he stared at Sam – making sure the kid was truly okay – and then nodded, releasing his crushing grip on his brother's hands.

Sam quickly flexed his fingers and then relaxed them again; his palms resting on top of Dean's knuckles.

In the next second, the lights finally went all the way down, plunging the auditorium in complete darkness.

Prelude music began playing, and Dean rolled his eyes because of course there would be lame-ass music to introduce a lame-ass play.

And as an added bonus, music like this was a pain in the ass to sign.

Thankfully, Sam could sometimes feel the beat of real music – like when Dean played 80s rock full blast in the Impala. But since the light, feathery crap currently filling the auditorium had no bass, Sam was clueless.

And the kid looked clueless, blinking his confusion at Dean as to why they were sitting in the dark but the curtain was still closed on the stage.

Dean sighed, briefly signing "music" – waving his hand back and forth in the crook of his elbow – and then grabbed Sam's hand, tapping out the basic melody of the song being played on a flute...or something.

It sure as hell wasn't a drum set or an electric guitar.

Dean sighed again, beginning to wonder how long the damn song was going to last when finally it stopped and the curtain was pulled back, revealing student actors dressed in period costumes.

Sam sat up a little straighter in his seat and smiled, glancing at Dean.

Dean couldn't help but smile back; not enthused at all about any of this crap but happy that his brother seemed happy, that the kid seemed suddenly excited about the anticipation of a live performance.

And away they went...

Dean began signing from the moment the first actor spoke the first word; his hands pressing against Sam's as he signed and fingerspelled and the kid followed along.

Throughout the first Act, Sam nodded his understanding of what Dean was telling him – his hands feeling the shapes of his brother's as Dean signed.

Dean nodded as well, relieved that Sam was keeping up – even if they were a few words behind the actors onstage – and that this plan seemed to be working; his brother seeming to not only comprehend the flow of dialogue among the actors but to also enjoy the play itself, laughing and smiling at all the appropriate times with the rest of the audience.

Roughly an hour later, intermission finally came.

Dean breathed a sigh of relief and stood in front of his seat as the curtain closed and the lights turned on in the auditorium.

Sam stood with him. You like? he asked, pointing at Dean before signing "like" by pulling his hand forward from his chest while bringing together his thumb and middle finger.

Dean shrugged.

Because while it wasn't as bad as he had anticipated, it was still Shakespeare...and was still boring to Dean.

Sam quirked a smile at his brother, deciphering Dean's opinion of the play from that one if he hadn't already known.

You like it? Dean asked, as if he didn't already know Sam's response as well.

Sam nodded enthusiastically and smiled, his dimples briefly flashing.

Dean chuckled at the expected reply. "Good," he commented, because that was all that mattered to him – that Sam was happy and having a good time.

And truthfully, except for the show he had to endure, Dean was having a good time, too.

After all, he was with his kid brother...and Dean could ask for nothing more.

Dean sighed, stretching the kinks out of his back as he glanced around the auditorium, making sure everything – and everyone – still seemed safe and secure, that nothing had changed in the past hour while the room had been hidden in darkness and he had been distracted by concentrating on signing into his Sam's hands.

But no...everything seemed fine.

Dean nodded his approval and then blinked as he felt a familiar hand nudge his shoulder.

He turned to look at Sam still standing beside him in the aisle.

Sam barely gave his brother time to focus before launching into an excited discourse about what had happened onstage during Act One; his hands flying as he pointed out how the live performance slightly differed from the written version of the play he had read the week before...and what he liked and didn't like...and on and on.

Dean patiently watched his brother while he massaged his tired, vaguely aching hands; nodding and smiling at the previously shy, anxious 16-year old now seeming calm and too excited to care who saw him sign like a maniac in the well-lit auditorium.

The girl on the opposite side of Sam stared up at him in mesmerized fascination as she continued to sit her seat, belatedly realizing why Sam's hands had been on top of Dean's and looking appropriately embarrassed over her previous assumption about them.

Dean arched an eyebrow as he caught her watching his brother, glaring at her and daring her to speak again.

Because if she said something else stupid to upset Sam after the kid had relaxed and was actually enjoying the play, so help him...

But the girl only blinked and looked away.

Dean smirked – because damn right she looked away... – and then refocused on Sam, his brother too preoccupied with his recapping of the first Act to notice anything else.

And that was fine with Dean.

Because he had Sam's back; he was the kid's ears and eyes and would watch out for his brother.

Besides, Sam deserved the luxury of being distracted sometimes – especially since the kid usually noticed too much...and thus worried too much.

But not now.

Sam seemed at ease and happy, and that made this crappy performance worth it for Dean.

The big brother smiled; flexing his hands, rotating his wrists, and cracking his knuckles in preparation for round two as Sam continued to talk in their own language.

Fifteen minutes passed, and the lights began to dim again.

Sam blinked and then frowned at the sudden change, glancing at Dean.

Dean shook his head, indicating everything was fine, and then motioned toward their seats.

Sam instantly understood and nodded.

The brothers sat – their movements perfectly matched – and settled in beside each other as the auditorium became dark once more.

Sam eagerly reached for Dean, his hands resting over his brother's as they started the whole process over again for Act Two – Dean's tactile signing and Sam's following along.

Per usual, the second Act didn't last as long as the first. And in another 45 minutes, they were back on their feet with the rest of the audience; proud friends and family clapping and cheering during the cast's curtain call while Sam and Dean twisted their hands in the air – the sign for applause.

Dean watched his brother as Sam smiled and applauded, the kid's gaze flickering between him and the stage.

Dean winked and affectionately patted Sam's back; proud of his brother for clapping in his own way and letting the kid know it.

Sam beamed, proud of himself – especially since he usually just clapped his hands with everyone else so he didn't stand out – and basked in Dean's praise as he continued to twist his hands in applause while the student actors took their bows.

Dean lowered his hands, flexing his tired fingers while his gaze once again checked their surroundings in the auditorium and found everything to be fine.

The applause faded.

The curtain closed.

The lights came up.

Sam blinked in the sudden brightness and turned to his brother expectantly, always allowing Dean to take the lead when they were in public...and especially when they were in crowds as large as this.

Because Dean could hear what was going on but Sam could only judge a situation based on what he could see...which sometimes was deceiving.

So Sam had learned to wait for Dean's direction and did so now, patiently staring at his brother.

Dean twitched a smile at the kid he considered his own – always grateful for Sam's complete trust in him – and settled his hand on his brother's back; nudging the kid forward and steering him through the slowly dispersing crowd.

Sam walked up the aisle of the auditorium, comforted by the solid presence of Dean beside him as others pushed past.

Dean scowled his annoyance at rude people and pushed back; one arm around Sam as his hand remained on the kid's back while his other arm cleared the way through the hoard of moving people.

Sam swallowed and glanced at his brother, hating how overwhelmed and disoriented crowds sometimes made him feel.

Dean shook his head – indicating there was nothing to be anxious about – and fingerspelled against Sam's back.

Ok, Dean told his brother, knowing Sam would interpret those two letters in the way they were meant.

You're okay.

Sam nodded, knowing that was true – after all, Dean was there with him – but still appreciating his brother's reassurance...because crowds freaked him out.

Dean smiled fondly at the tense kid and patted Sam's back as he continued to steer his brother toward the lobby.

Once they were there, Dean slightly grimaced at the incredibly loud roar of voices filling the small space while audience members excitedly talked about the performance and waited to greet the cast.

Sam frowned at Dean's expression.

Loud, Dean signed, briefly pointing to his ear and then shaking his fist.

Sam nodded his understanding even as he wondered what that was like; because he knew the concept of something being loud but had never experienced it.

Not that he was sure he wanted to, since most people's expressions usually made "loud" look uncomfortable. Dean's expression now.

Sam winced in sympathy and walked faster as Dean pushed him through the lingering crowd in the lobby, thankful when they finally exited the building.

The brothers stood for a moment on the sidewalk.

Wow..., Sam signed, shaking a loose "5" shape in front of his chest.

Dean chuckled. "Yeah. Wow..." he agreed dryly.

Sam smiled. Home? he asked, his fingers and thumb held together as he touched them beside his mouth and then again beside his ear.

Dean nodded, returning the sign. Home, he agreed...or at least their motel room of the week...which was the same thing. You hungry? he checked, his hand shaped like a "C" moving down the center of his chest before pointing at Sam.

Sam shrugged.

Dean rolled his eyes, used to having to force feed his tall, lanky brother. "Well, hungry or're eating," he informed the kid, speaking slowly and chuckling when Sam wrinkled his nose.

Pizza? Sam predicted, his way of signing the word always looking like he was actually shoving pizza into his mouth.

Dean arched an eyebrow at his smartass little brother, knowing the kid signed the word that way because Sam had once told him that he did so based on the way Dean ate pizza.

Sam smiled and then laughed as Dean stared at him; his big brother clearly trying to look annoyed and not amused...but failing.

"Just for that, you're not getting any pizza..." Dean commented, even though he and Sam both knew he was lying.

Sam laughed again.

Dean quirked a smile. "Come on..." he told his brother. "Let's go..."

Sam nodded, his smile lingering as he followed Dean.

"Did you like the play?" Dean asked as they stepped off the sidewalk's curb.

Sam nodded. It was awesome! he responded, signing "awesome" with the same sign as he had used earlier for "wow".

Dean cringed dramatically at his brother's description, because that sure as hell wouldn't be the word he would choose to describe the performance they had just watched.

Sam scowled good-naturedly at Dean's reaction and shoved his brother's shoulder as they walked. It was good, he defended, his fingers touching his lips before moving forward until the back of his right hand rested in his open left palm.

"Oh, absolutely," Dean agreed dryly while he scanned the parking lot as they navigated moving traffic on their way to the Impala. "I've never been so culturally enriched."

Sam frowned, tilting his head and staring at Dean as he didn't quite catch the last two words on his brother's lips...but having no doubt they were something smartass – because that was typical Dean.

Sam shook his head and rolled his eyes...and then grunted as Dean's hand was suddenly against his chest while his brother's other hand gripped his upper arm; both holds effectively halting Sam's steps.

Sam blinked his surprise but didn't struggle; knowing from experience that if Dean was holding him back, then there was a good reason.

"Turn on your fucking headlights, jackass!" Dean was yelling angrily as Sam refocused his attention forward and realized what had almost happened.

In his distraction to figure out what Dean had said, Sam had momentarily ignored his surroundings...and had almost gotten hit by the driver of the car Dean was currently swearing at.

The driver who had been speeding through the parking lot, too much in a rush to beat the rest of the traffic to pay attention to pedestrians or to even turn on his headlights.

And because Sam wasn't looking – and couldn't hear the car's approach – he had come dangerously close to becoming this guy's hood ornament.

Sam blinked again, feeling sick at the realization.

Thank god Dean had been there; had seen what Sam didn't, had heard what Sam couldn't and had snatched the kid back.

Thank god.

Sam swallowed – overwhelmed by what might have happened if his brother's reaction time had been a second too late – and felt his entire body shake with delayed response as adrenaline flooded his system.

Dean felt the tremors coursing through his brother as well as he continued to hold the kid in place and momentarily glanced at Sam.

Sam blinked back, his eyes impossibly wide.

"You're okay," Dean murmured, realizing Sam would not be able to read his lips since he had barely moved them but knowing the kid would still understand what he had said.

Sam nodded jerkily.

Dean frowned, freshly pissed by what had almost happened, and directed his attention back to the driver who shouldn't even have a license if he was going use his car as a deadly weapon to run down kids in parking lots.

What a fucking asshole!

Dean glared heatedly at the man staring back at him from the driver's seat of the car, speechless and clearly terrified.

The man's expression was strangely satisfying to Dean, and he launched into another swear-filled rant; hurling sharp words at the careless sonuvabitch who had almost hit his kid brother...who could've taken absolutely everything from Dean in the blink of an eye.

Just the thought further enraged the protective big brother.

Beside him, still held securely in Dean's grasp, Sam continued to shake.

Without even looking this time, Dean responded to his brother's distress; his thumb soothingly rubbing over Sam's collarbone as his hand remained in the center of the kid's chest.

Sam's reaction was immediate, instantly calming beneath the familiar gesture.

Dean kept up the motion.

Sam swallowed, feeling himself further relax but still feeling too rattled to read the words being exchanged between his brother and the man behind the wheel.

But the 16-year old knew from how tightly Dean was still gripping his arm and pressing against his chest that the close-call of an accident involving Sam had scared his big brother – and when Dean was scared, he was angry.

...which in this case resulted in the current scene of a pissed Dean bitching at the driver of the car that had almost hit Sam.

Sam shifted where he stood; watching as a small group of onlookers gathered and stared, making him uncomfortable with the unwanted attention.

Sam closed his eyes, shutting out the world...which was remarkably easy for him.

Several seconds, and several stuttered apologies, later the man finally drove off, slower than before when he had almost run over Sam and being sure his headlights were now on.

"God, what an asshole!" Dean ranted, watching the guy drive away while memorizing the car's license plate number.

Just because that was the kind of shit Dean did.

Some asshole didn't get to almost kill his brother with his fucking car and then just drive away into the night like nothing had happened.

It wasn't that easy.

Dean held grudges.

And that asshole better hope and pray that Sam was truly okay, or else Dean would track him down.

The big brother sighed harshly, resisting the urge to growl his frustration, and then glared at the crowd that had gathered; staring them into dispersion before directing his attention to Sam.

But Sam wasn't looking at him.

Dean frowned as he realized his brother's eyes were closed, which was what Sam did when he felt overwhelmed – he shut out the world.

No sight, no sound...nothing.

It was a trick Dean had taught Sam years ago, a way the big brother could ensure the kid was safe, not hearing or seeing anything scary – be it an actual monster...or a heated argument between Dean and John. Whatever was deemed scary, Sam could just retreat, could stay tucked inside his own dark, silent world until Dean "came to get him"...which Dean did now.

Dean sighed. "Hey..." he called, rubbing Sam's arm and waiting for the kid to look at him.

Sam did, instantly opening his eyes at the familiar signal that everything was fine.

Dean watched as his brother's gaze flickered around the parking lot and then settled back on him; the kid obviously relieved that everyone was gone, that the crisis had seemed to pass.

"Sammy..." Dean called, releasing his hold on his brother as he both spoke and signed at the same time, the way he always did when he wanted to make sure he had Sam's full attention. "Are you okay?" he asked anxiously, giving Sam a visual once-over. "Are you hurt?" he pressed, barely resisting the urge to physically triage the kid.

Sam shook his head, familiar with this routine as well. Not hurt, he assured his big brother; his fisted "A" hand shape moving forward under his chin before he extended his index fingers toward each other and twisted.

"You sure?" Dean pressed, his gaze scanning Sam for any indication that his brother was injured...because some injuries produced no pain until later.

And if Dean's kid was even scratched, that asshole driving that car would...

Not hurt, Sam repeated, once again signing the phrase and interrupting Dean's inner rant. Promise, he added, holding his index finger to his lips and then flattening his hand and bringing it down to rest on top of his fisted left hand.

Dean sighed harshly, staring at his brother in the dimly-lit parking lot.

Fine, Sam signed against Dean's chest, the thumb of his "5" hand shape tapping beside the amulet and effectively refocusing his brother's attention. I'm fine.

And for the most part, he was.

Sam was just shaken up about what had almost happened.

They both were.

But it was over now.

Sam forced a strained smile. I'm fine, he repeated, once again signing against Dean's chest before pausing. You fine?

Dean snorted at the relative question. "Yeah," he answered dryly. "But I'm not the one who almost got run over by a fucking car."

Sam swallowed at the blunt reminder as he read his brother's lips. I know, he signed, touching his fingers to his forehead. But you were here.

"Damn right I was," Dean replied, not even wanting to think about what would have happened if Sam had been alone.

...which was why Sam was rarely alone, why Dean couldn't stand to have the kid out of his sight – because something might happen.

Dean sighed again.

Sam watched him, allowing his brother the time and space he needed to calm down.

Several minutes passed.

Thank you, Sam finally signed, his fingers touching his lips before his hand extended down and toward Dean.

Dean scowled at the unnecessary thanks. "Like I would let you get run over..." he responded sarcastically.

Sam quirked a smile.

Dean shook his head, sighing once more as he recovered from the scare. "Jesus, what a night..." he commented. "Get arthritis in my hands and then have a fucking heart attack in the parking lot," he continued to bitch, pausing before cutting his eyes at his brother. "You better get an A on this damn assignment, Sammy."

Sam snorted, his smile widening as he took Dean's words for the rough affection they were meant to be.

"You hear me?" Dean checked, always finding it vaguely strange that he asked his deaf brother that question...but he often did.

And Sam usually nodded, like he did now.

Dean smiled at the kid, having no doubt Sam would ace the assignment. His smart little brother always did.

Sam smiled back.

There was a pause.

"Alright..." Dean sighed, reaching for his brother. "C'mon. Let's go before I have to save your ass from something else."

Sam rolled his eyes but maintained his smile as Dean grasped his shoulder and steered him in the direction of the Impala; the big brother remaining hyper-vigilant for rogue drivers as they crossed to the far side of the lot.

Sam's smile lingered as they walked, feeling his brother beside him and hoping that Dean realized how much he appreciated him; hoping that Dean knew how much he loved him.

Because although Sam's world was silent and often lonely, he knew that he would never be alone.

Because Sam had Dean...and that somehow made everything better.

Even being different...


A/N: I think yet another 'verse was just born. :)