Author: Minx

Prompt: #
5 - Irresponsibility


Type of Story: General

Author's Website: Minx(blog) OR Minx(LJ)

Author's Note: This is set pre-series, Dean is 21 and Sam is 17. Beta-ed by the lovely Nocturnal08. (Thank you bunches, Sarah!). Disclaimer - I own none of these characters. They are the property of Eric Kripke and the CW. Any characters in this story are used simply for entertainment purposes, and I am not making any money from these stories.
[Definition: IRRESPONSIBILITY – (adjective): said or done with no responsibility; a form of untrustworthiness; showing lack of care for consequences; not feeling accountable for your actions.]

Flirtin' With Disaster

Fresh off a hunt that had required him to scale a precariously steep ravine one-handed while lugging a very heavy medieval-type glaive, Dean found himself smiling. He was tired, sore and covered in demon blood, but despite it all, this had been a nearly perfect day. Yes, even taking into account all the days of his varied and remarkable life, days too numerous to really count much less classify in any way, shape or form, this was definitely among the top three.

Most of the jobs he, Sam and their father went on left them battered, exhausted and limping – not exactly what one would call perfect. What made this one so close to that term for Dean was the fact that his father had let him take point, even though he knew this hunt would be particularly dangerous for them. Hell, in spite of that fact, Dean proudly reasoned. And knowing his father as well as he did, Dean fully understood the magnitude of that gesture. Dad had trusted him enough to handle being the lead in this situation and Dean had made darn sure not to let his old man down.

They had been tracking a rogue black shuck through the dense oak and pine forests of western Kentucky the past few days and had finally found the creature's lair nestled along a cliff above a mossy creek bank just that morning. The hellhound had made a home from a small, dank cave filled with the centuries-old bones of some early pioneers. The Winchester men had spent the day scouting, waiting until dusk to attack. They had made short work of the creature, killing it with the sanctified pole-arms they had brought along and then burning its remains in a small clearing in the woods.

Yup. Almost perfect, Dean reflected. He leaned his head back against the passenger seat of the Impala, letting the stiff muscles in his back and shoulders relax, his eyes pleasantly unfocused on the Kentucky hills as he listened to Judas Priest thrumming from the car radio while his dad drove them back to their motel. Only one thing would have made the day better for Dean. Sam should have been there, he thought.

Dean sighed pensively, chancing a casual glance over at his dad. John Winchester took no notice of his son's intense scrutiny. He was too busy dividing his attention between concentrating on the winding hairpin road before him and going over the hunt in his head, making mental notes to record in his journal once they reached the motel. Dean returned his gaze to the window, lips pressed together in a somber line, glad his dad was too lost in thought to hold a conversation. Not that it would have been much of a discussion anyway, Dean had to admit. John had pretty much said all he was going to say back at Bobby's house four days ago when he'd told Sam he could park his ass there for the rest of the week while he and Dean handled the job in Kentucky without him.

Much as he hated to entertain the notion, Dean felt the blame lay, in large part, on Sam. The kid just didn't know when to quit. It was the same old argument his younger brother and his father had been butting heads over for the past few months. Sam had made it quite clear that he wanted to attend college after graduating from high school, and Dad had been equally clear that hell would freeze over before he'd go along with that idea. Instead of letting things die down for a bit, giving their dad time to adjust to the idea, Sam had taken it upon himself to pester John to death. He took every opportunity to push his dream of a "higher education". College brochures were conspicuously left on the front seat of the Impala; admissions forms found their way into the various post office boxes John maintained; and Sam would persistently point out articles from newspapers or online about the importance of getting an education just to try Dad's patience. Sam should have known better, Dean concluded, but his younger brother's desire for the frat boy life was superceded only by his stubbornness to prove their dad wrong.

In the beginning, John had been very calm and rational, arguing that Sam being off alone at some university would be a bad idea. Sam's stubborn refusal to even listen made John more determined and less polite. He ended it, telling Sam absolutely not. Period. End of story. Of course, Sam only took that as a challenge rather than the transparent show of concerned over-protectiveness wrapped in a threat Dean saw so clearly.

Sam had been fairly quiet until this recent job Bobby had told them about in Plum Springs. The kid had picked up on the fact that the tiny Kentucky town was a mere five miles or so from Bowling Green, a larger town sporting a good-sized university. Right away, Sam had started asking if he could check out the campus while they were reconning the area for the hellhound. It hadn't taken much for things to escalate from there into an all out shouting match between Sam and their father until John slammed his fist down on Bobby's kitchen table and told Sam that if he wasn't interested in the hunt, then he could stay behind at Bobby's instead. Sam had left the table in a venomous huff and hadn't even come out of his room to say goodbye when Dean and John drove off the following morning.

If anything, Dean actually felt sorrier for Bobby than Sam. Dean knew from personal experience that being trapped for a week with a sullen, brooding teenager, overflowing with pent-up frustration and daddy issues was not what he would call buckets of fun. He and Dad were hoping that Bobby might be able to cut through Sam's defenses and maybe even get the boy to see John's perspective on things. At the very least, Dean hoped Sam would take the forced time off to calm down and regroup. Angsty, emo Sam was one thing. Bitter, bitchy, angry Sam was a completely different demon in Dean's mind and was one that was living on borrowed time if John Winchester had anything to say about it.


Dean's head snapped up and over as his dad's voice shook him out of his reverie. "Yes sir?"

John offered up a tired smile to his oldest. He'd done well today, and John's heart swelled with secret pride. "You hungry son? Want to stop and grab a bite before we hit the room?"

Dean shook his head, deep-shadowed eyes meeting his father's. "I'm really beat, ya know? Kinda wanna just go back and take a shower and then sleep for like two days."

John nodded in agreement. "I hear ya," he sighed, and then chuckled softly as Dean tried to stifle a huge jaw-cracking yawn. "Motel's only ten more minutes from here. Think you can hang on that long, kiddo? Or am I going to have to carry you inside and tuck you in like I used to when you were five?"

Dean gave his dad a sour look, shaking his head at the glint of mischievous glee in John's hazel eyes. "Ha-ha, real funny, Dad," he shot back dryly.

"Just trying to be a good father, son," John teased further, not able to keep the smirk off his stubbled face this time.

Dean let out a mock groan, thumping his head against the side window dramatically as if to say 'how the heck do I put up with this guy?' The younger hunter smiled again, closing his eyes, relaxing back against the firm leather car seat. Yeah, all in all, it had been a pretty good day.

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The first hazy notes of Zeppelin's "Kashmir" blasted noisily from Dean's cell phone, wresting him from a deep, hibernating slumber. He rolled over onto his side in the motel bed, squinting blearily at the faint swatch of sunrise peeking through the window beyond the closed drapes and peered down at his wristwatch in tired annoyance. 6:12 A.M. Who in the hell was calling him at six twelve in the freaking morning? With a low groan, Dean reached for where he'd laid the phone on the nightstand next to his bed. He glanced at the number, frowning a little, and flipped open the phone.

"Yeah?" Dean queried, his voice thick with sleep.

"You didn't tell me your brother knew how to hot wire a car."

Bobby Singer's hard twang assaulted Dean's ears, and he involuntarily flinched. "Oh hey, Bobby. So, uh... Sammy giving you some trouble?"

"Trouble?" Bobby sounded about ready to blow a fuse. "Well I don't know Dean. Kid's about to have an APB put out on him for grand theft. You boys consider that trouble or just another ordinary day?"

Dean now sat straight up in the bed, sleep forgotten, giving the older hunter on the other end of the cell phone his full attention.


"Your seventeen-year-old delinquent of a brother stole a Mustang out of my yard in the middle of the night last night and lit out for God knows where. I imagine he's probably headed your way though, since we all know he wasn't too happy about you two knuckle-heads dropping him off here the other day."

Dean ran a hand through his sleep-mussed hair not wanting to believe what he was hearing. The door to the bathroom suddenly opened across the way, and Dean shot his dad a nervous glance as John came out of the steamy bathroom, rubbing his still damp hair with a crisp white motel towel. John, sensing that something was wrong, dropped the towel onto the nearby bed and shot his son a questioning glance.

"What time did this happen, Bobby?" Dean asked, concern creeping into his voice to mingle with the irritation that was already present. He was beyond pissed right now.

"Not sure," Bobby replied. "Sam dragged his sorry ass to bed around midnight last night. I got up a little while ago to let the dogs out, and that's when I noticed that your baby brother was AWOL with my best loaner car."

Dean scowled, rubbing the back of neck as he did some quick calculations in his head, and swore under his breath. "All right. He probably drove all night, so that means he should get here around two this afternoon, if he just stops for gas along the way."

John shook his head, picking up on what was going on and not looking at all pleased about it. "He'll have stopped to either rest a bit or grab some food," he interjected, having caught the gist of the conversation. "That'd make it three or later before he shows up here."

"You tell your father that's one helluva boy he's raised up," Bobby sarcastically offered.

"Look, Bobby, I'm real sorry," Dean said, trying to assuage the man's white hot temper. "Sam can be a little headstrong at times -"

"Well that sounds about par for the course with you Winchesters," Bobby snapped. "You just keep an eye out for him, and I'll see if he's checked in with either Caleb or Jim Murphy by any chance."

"Yeah, sure, thanks Bobby," Dean said. "Call us if you hear anything."

With a heavy sigh, Dean ended the call and threw his phone onto the bed beside him in disgust. "Sonuvabitch," he muttered, his jaw rigid with annoyance. Dean shot his father a look full of tired uncertainty. "I told you leaving him there wasn't a good idea."

John gave him a rather pointed look in return. "Doesn't matter," he said quietly, his eyes darkening with anger. "Because I'm gonna kill him."

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John and Dean spent a nerve-wracking morning making several calls to friends and acquaintances in the hopes that Sam had talked to someone, anyone, since disappearing from Bobby's. No one had heard from him. Being more a man of action than words, John hopped in his truck around noon with instructions for Dean to stay put in case Sam showed up at the motel. He planned to hit the interstate and cruise its length for a few miles to see if he could spot Sam on the road. By quarter after three, John called Dean and let him know that he hadn't seen head nor tail of Sam. The restrained distress in his father's voice made Dean's throat tighten. He had a difficult time telling John that no, Sam still hadn't called or shown up yet at the motel either.

Agitated worry began to give way to fear and rising anxiety around four-thirty when there was still no sign of Sam. John was making a circuit of I-65 for the umpteenth time, and Dean decided he couldn't just sit in the motel room, waiting while his stomach did alarming flip flops. Making a sudden decision, Dean grabbed the keys to the Impala and speed-dialed his dad's number on his cell as he headed out the door.

"Yeah?" John's gravelly voice competed with the sounds of the road outside his truck.

"Still nothing, dad," Dean said as he slid into the driver's seat of his car. "Look, I know you told me to stay in the room, but I can't just sit there anymore, okay? I gotta be doing something... you know…to help..."

Dean's eyes began to fill with tears and he angrily swiped at them, wedging the cell phone between his shoulder and ear as he started the Impala, threw it into reverse and began to pull out of the parking space.

"I'm heading out to check around the town here and then see if maybe Sammy stopped in Bowling Green, like maybe at the university or something," Dean explained.

"Good idea, Dean," John tiredly replied. "I'll head in your direction after I make this last circuit. I'll call you when I get there."

John didn't wait for a reply from his son before hanging up. Dean dropped his phone onto the seat beside him as he gunned the Impala's engine and headed out onto the main street in front of the motel, his young face a mask of worry.

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It was just after seven when Dean dejectedly wandered into Dusty's, a typical college bar catering to the under-thirty crowd. Lots of loud rock music, dark, dirty interior and list of goofy-sounding drinks posted in glowing neon colors on a board on the wall. The place was only half full, it being a Thursday and still early. But Dean knew that in about two more hours, Dusty's would probably be standing room only as swarms of students, ready for a break from hitting the books, came in to relax and catch up with friends. The young hunter elbowed ill-humoredly past a few milling frat-boys to snag an empty table near the middle of the establishment.

Dean plopped down into the nearest chair available, his downcast face a stark contrast to the happy crowd around him. Where the hell could Sammy be? John had called awhile ago to let Dean know he was back at the motel room after having made a few passes through the city and would wait there while Dean continued searching the university.

Looking back, Dean realized what an impossible task he'd set for himself. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack full of needles. The college students had all begun to look alike to Dean which didn't help. His feet were sore, and he was tired and sweaty from having booked it from one side of the rambling college campus to the other for the past three hours, stopping passersby to show them a photo of Sam and asking if they'd seen him. He'd gotten nothing but the same useless answers from everyone he stopped. Either they hadn't seen him, couldn't remember if they'd seen him, or were positive that Sam was the cute hottie that had sat behind them in chem lab last semester and could Dean maybe get his number for them.

I thought college students were supposed to be intelligent, Dean sneered in frustration, half-heartedly sipping on a bottle of Bud, forcing himself to take a break from the search at the student bar across from the campus. He called it a break even though a frightened little voice inside his head kept trying to force him to admit that this was it. Sam had finally done it. He'd left…for good. He stubbornly refused to even consider the possibility that something might have happened to him. It wasn't hard to do really, because somewhere deep down inside, Dean's gut was telling him that Sammy was still alive and breathing. No doubt about it. He'd know if it were otherwise. He'd feel it…and he didn't…not yet. Dean's knuckles whitened as they gripped the beer bottle he held and he grimaced as if in pain. Once again, he fought back the brimming tears threatening to spill from his eyes. He hated feeling this helpless. Dammit, Sammy, where are you!

A familiar laugh suddenly wafted over the din of the noisy crowd inside the bar, and Dean felt a prickle of goose-bumps ripple across the tanned skin of his arms. Jeez, that sounded like Sam's laugh, he thought, his brows scrunching in dismay. You're losing it, Dean, he scolded himself, shaking his head and raising the bottle to his lips. No sooner had he swallowed the brew, when the same laugh came again from somewhere directly in front of him, and this time he was sure he recognized it. As he went to take another drink, Dean raised his head up to scan the faces around him, slowly panning from one end of the place to the other. The hand holding the beer stopped midway, frozen in the air somewhere between the table and his mouth. Not so thirsty anymore, he set the bottle down, almost knocking it over as he blinked, not believing what he was seeing across the bar. Impossible. It couldn't be.

"Oh, man, I'm seeing things," he mumbled out loud.

He couldn't be absolutely positive, but the gangly teenage kid in the faded jeans, grey plaid shirt and navy hoodie hoisting a beer at the bar counter sure looked like Sam from the back. Dean let out a short laugh at the ridiculousness of that. Nope. Couldn't be. He was just tired and giving in to wishful thinking he supposed.

Dean chuckled at himself again, raising the beer bottle once more to his lips sucking down the last sudsy gulp. And that was when he finally caught sight of the boy's face as the kid turned slightly, presenting his profile. Dean choked hard, the beer spraying the split wood tabletop in front of him and his flannel shirtfront equally. He got a few strange looks as he gagged, face turning red, as he tried to keep from inhaling any more of the liquid into his lungs. Holy crap! It was his brother! Seventeen-year-old Sam Winchester, leaning up against the busy counter of the bar, mug of beer in one hand, flirting with some honey blonde college type like he didn't have a frigging care in the world!

Dean was so stunned he couldn't move for a second. He did finally manage to clamp his jaw shut once he realized he'd had it gaping open like some slack-jawed yokel. He chanced another discrete look at his brother and the girl, who Dean noticed with a hint of disbelief, seemed more interested in Sam's tight jeans than in his conversation. Several thoughts crashed through Dean's brain at once, jockeying for position. His first relieved thought was: Thank God, Sam's okay! His second complete thought, which came after realizing that the chick Sam was working on was pretty hot, was: Way to go, Sammy! About damn time! And finally, the thought, that rapidly pushed the other two right out of his head, was: What the hell?! I'm going to kill the little brat!

Sam and his nubile female admirer turned back to the bar, Sam's moves somewhat loose and exaggerated, bringing Dean to the unhappy realization that his little baby brother was totally wasted! Oh, Sammy, you are in so much trouble, Dean thought with bitter amusement. The couple was oblivious to the fact that they now had an audience. They leaned on the bar moving their heads closer together, as if whispering. The girl laughed at something Sam said, brushing her long golden hair back with a flip of her hand. Sammy had never been that funny, Dean thought, rolling his eyes. Yet, as Dean watched on in growing astonishment, his little brother casually reached back and placed a hand on the girl's denim behind just below her belt loops as if not daring to go any lower lest she bat the hand away.

"Oh, he so did not go there," Dean muttered under his breath, his jaw dropping in amazement once again when the blonde chick not only did not remove Sam's hand from her perfectly round derriere, but instead giggled. Actually freaking giggled! When the hell had sasquatch learned that move?

Much as he loved his brother and was all for the kid getting it on, Sam was only seventeen which meant he was most definitely underage. He shouldn't even be in the bar, much less be trying to drunkenly score with a chick who was obviously over age and to be honest, Dean smugly decided, way out of Sam's league no matter what Sam seemed to think. And besides, Dean grimly reflected, his little brother already had a heavy date this evening - with their dad, and most likely their dad's belt – and John Winchester was not someone you kept waiting for any length of time if you knew what was good for you.

Speaking of which, Dean reached into his jacket pocket for his cell phone and quickly dialed his father, never taking his eyes off of Sam. Who would have thought a kid so frickin' tall would be so hard to keep track of? John picked up on the second ring.

"Dean? Did you find him?"

"Yes, sir," Dean replied. He could almost feel his dad relaxing in relief on the other end of the phone. "We'll be back at the room in fifteen minutes give or take."

"Where are you, son?" John asked, now hearing the babble of voices and loud rock music in the background behind Dean.

Dean blew out a breath before answering. "Uh, I'll let Sam explain that one to you, Dad."

"Dean?" John's tone was no nonsense now. "What's going on? Where did you --"

Dean cut him off before John could turn his question into an outright order. "Gotta go. Bad reception here." Dean tapped his cell phone a couple times against the table. "Sam can tell you the whole story when we get there. Bye." He quickly hung up with a guilty grimace and pocketed the phone. No way was he going to tell John Winchester that his teenage son was in a bar, three sheets to the wind and trying to get laid. Nope. Sam could catch the shit for that one all by his lonesome, Dean wisely decided.

That thought still in his mind, Dean suddenly rose from his chair ready to put an end to the flirt-fest before it went any further. A picture of cool, he calmly ambled over to the couple at the bar who had turned their backs to him again. A sinister smile on his lips, he interrupted their conversation by rudely reaching between the two to grab a handful of pretzels from the bowl on the bar counter in front of them.

"Hey, how's it going?" Dean asked casually, munching on one of the mini pretzels while he gave Sam a classic 'you're so totally busted' smile.

The older boy was pleased to see the dopey grin fall right off his younger brother's face. Sam's glassy eyes widened, instant recognition pushing through the drunken haze of his mind. He groaned loudly, swaying slightly as his lips twisted into a grimace, looking as if he'd just swallowed a mouthful of vinegar. This was so…not good.

"Aw, shit," Sam swore under his breath and hiccupped. He quickly ducked his shaggy head, not able to face Dean's stony glare.

College girl straightened up from the bar, a look of annoyed confusion forming on her pretty face. Dean noted with an amused eye roll that Sam still had his palm firmly planted on her ass. He wondered, in passing, if it was due to shocked fright or more of a protective move. Either way, it irritated Dean for some reason. The girl gave Dean a long hard look, her sultry full lips turning up into a hint of a haughty sneer.

"There a problem here?" she snottily questioned Dean.

"Uh, yeah, kind of," Dean lightly remarked, offering up a smile that contrasted with the boiling glimmer in his eyes. "I think Romeo here needs to take his hand off your ass if he knows what's good for him."

Although Dean's voice was even and measured, it was laced with a subtle warning. He knew Sam understood because the kid actually winced, swiftly removing his hand from the girl's rear as if it were a red-hot iron.

College girl was not happy with that. She shot Dean a nasty smile and then reached for Sam and drew him almost possessively up against her body. Sam was just tipsy enough that he didn't fight the move and actually grinned at his brother with a sloppy smile, enjoying the fact that, for once, it was him and not Dean who was on the receiving end of all the female attention. His left arm was now pillowed nicely against the pert side of the girl's sweatered chest. The move forced the swell of her breasts to fill out her low-cut blouse even more as the twin globes pushed against the thin fabric, leaving very little to the imagination. Dean bit back a groan of admiration at the sight, wondering once again how the hell his beanpole geek of a brother had managed to get his hands on that. Hell, he thought, if the timing had been a little better, he might have actually entertained the thought of making a move on her himself.

But he had just spent the better part of the day wasting time searching all over the town and its ridiculously sprawling college in rescue mode, his chest tight with worry over his missing brother, which tended to put a bit of a damper on one's libido. Besides, there was just no way he was fighting his seventeen-year-old brother for a piece of ass, no matter how tempting. Dean gave Same a hard, withering stare, flicking his gaze down to his brother's elbow where it pressed against college girl. He snorted under his breath as Sam actually cringed at his brother's stony look of disapproval. Just like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Sam twisted guiltily in college girl's grip. Good, Dean thought - he knows he's in deep shit. Sam tried to put some space between his gangly elbow and the side of his date's jutting breasts as Dean continued to glare at him. It's gonna be a long time before Sammy would be comfortable getting that close to a chick again, Dean thought with amusement. Geek boy finally got a chance to score and gets fouled out of the game! Talk about crappy luck. And it was about to get a lot crappier.

Dean's smile was pure evil as he leaned towards the couple. "Listen sweetheart," he started, the saccharine practically dripping off every word. "Sammy here-"

"Deeaannn, doaann't," Sam whined, slurring slightly, desperately giving Dean his classic wounded puppy dog look.

"What? You know this guy?" College girl frowned at Sam. She swung her head over to look at Dean, blue eyes narrowed in suspicion. The hint of a playful smirk came over her lips. She shot a thumb in Dean's direction. "He an old boyfriend of yours or something?" she asked in curious amusement.

"NO!" both brothers responded in tandem, their faces mirroring the disgust at the very idea.

Dean shuddered in distaste at the warped image the girl's comment had drawn, but Sam was too drunk to really care beyond his initial abhorrent protest. He gave the girl holding onto him an apologetic smile, swallowing hard around the dry lump of cotton that had suddenly formed in his throat. For some reason he was having trouble controlling his movements and his tongue seemed to have a mind of its own and kept sticking to the roof of his mouth. It vaguely occurred to him that the large amount of alcohol he'd recently consumed might have something to do with it, but he wasn't for sure.

"Dean's my...he's, um...he's m'brother." Sam's voice came out slightly cracking on the last word and Sam winced. Smooth Winchester, real smooth.

Sam looked over at Dean for confirmation, but Dean was too busy glowering at the girl as if she were something he'd scraped off the bottom of his shoe. Yeah, not so hot anymore, he decided. College girl, for her part, was neither impressed nor intimidated by Dean Winchester's surly front. In fact, she was giving Dean a run for his money in the 'I'm very pissed off right now and don't care who knows it' arena. With a snort of contempt that crinkled her freckled nose, she dismissed Dean as easily as if he were a child and fixed Sam with a questioning stare.

"Really? He's really your brother?" Sam hadn't sounded that sure.

Sam nodded miserably, leaning heavily up against the girl as his legs seemed to be a bit wobbly, and he loudly sniffed her hair which was hanging directly in his face now. It smelled like coconut, he thought, which for some reason, made him feel hungry. He shook his head attempting to focus again on the issue at hand, trying to remember how he'd gotten himself into this situation.

College girl seemed to relax upon getting Sam's assurance that Dean wasn't some old flame come to cause trouble. She still dismissed him with an insincere smile, looking ready and willing to give him a kick in the nads with one of her canvas wedgies should he attempt to interfere further. Sam sincerely hoped things wouldn't come to that, as he knew that Dean would absolutely not be sympathetic to his current plight if he was doubled over in pain, clutching his groin and cursing.

Despite the obvious dislike between the two, college girl actually offered Dean a broad conciliatory smile. Unfortunately, Dean didn't smile back. Instead, the older hunter took a moment to study the young woman in front of him with a cool detached look. This was a girl who obviously knew no fear and didn't like to lose, Dean surmised. Well tough, he thought, because neither did he, especially where his little brother was concerned.

"Chill out Sam's brother," the girl sweetly drawled when she noticed Dean's flat, unwavering stare. She kneaded Sam's shoulder with the hand that was still draped possessively around it. "I'm just chatting here with your brother. You know, over a few shooters? No harm. I'll have him back to his dorm before midnight so he won't turn into a pumpkin, okay?"

Dean ignored the girl's sarcastic remark, alighting on the new information she'd provided instead. He fixed a fake smile on Sam, nodding encouragingly. "A few shooters? Really? Not just beer for you tonight, eh Sammy?"

This was just getting better and better. Not only was his underage brother drinking but he didn't even know better than to mix beer with hard liquor. Have I taught the boy nothing? Dean mused, watching Sam a moment as the teen tried to maintain an upright stance without grabbing onto his companion for support again. Yup, those shooters'll do that to you every time, Sammy boy. The younger boy was now listing to one side a little as if the floor beneath him had tilted to the left all of a sudden.

"Having a little trouble with the floor there, Francis?" Dean questioned casually, trying hard to keep the merriment out of his voice.

"M'fine," Sam angrily mumbled, brows furrowed in deep concentration. *Why the hell was the floor moving so damn much?*

Dean raised an eyebrow skeptically, calmly watching as Sam paled slightly from the spinning in his head. He figured it was time to show some mercy and go in for a quick kill. He managed to plaster an insincere smile on his face as he addressed college chick.

" any chance, did my brother here tell you how old he was?"

College girl's brows knit in confusion and she shrugged. "He said he just turned twenty-one, why?"

"Twenty-one?" Dean repeated back, nodding as if impressed. He was finding it hard not to grin now as he watched his younger brother squirm and shoot him a pleading look. "You wanna tell the pretty lady how old you really are?" Dean asked, smiling smugly.

"Not really," Sam mumbled into his chest. He winced and shook his head, which wasn't a good idea because that just made the room spin even more.

Dean offered college girl an insincere, apologetic look. "He's seventeen," he answered for Sam.

"What?" College girl took a shocked step back from Sam, letting him go. She gave Dean an accusatory glare. "No way!"

"Yup. Fraid so. Seventeen and jail bait, right Sammy?"

"It's Sam," Sam hazily snapped in irritation.

Not that it really made any difference, he sadly realized. His credibility was totally shot with the girl at this point. What did it matter now if he was addressed as Sam or the more childish Sammy? Either way, he was road kill as far as his brother and father were concerned.

"Sorry, Sam," Dean made sure to emphasize his name with mock importance. "Didn't realize you'd gotten so big for your britches there."

Sam glared at his older brother, his face stained crimson in humiliation. "I hate you," he intoned darkly.

"You're a pretty lousy brother, you know that?" college girl snapped.

Dean blinked, shocked to find himself on the defensive all of a sudden.

"What?" he managed but the girl held up a hand in his face cutting him off from any further comment.

"I mean, seriously. Sam here is just trying to have a little fun and you're so jealous you have to resort to lying and trying to make him look bad? How pathetic is that?" she finished, shaking her head.

"Lying?" Dean stuttered, shooting a desperate look at Sam now. "I - I'm not lying! Sam, tell her -"

"Oh, you're not lying?" the girl snapped, raising a brow at Dean. "Really? Well, I know for a fact that you are because everyone gets carded at the door, genius, and you don't get in unless you're at least twenty-one!"

Much as Dean was enjoying toying with Sam in front of this girl, he figured things had gone far enough. Dad was waiting back at the motel. And this time, Dean decided, he wasn't going to play referee between them.

Sam had screwed up big time. He had disobeyed a direct order, taking off from Bobby's in the first place. Bobby was furious, and John didn't take kindly having to apologize to his old friend for his son's rude and irresponsible behavior. Add to the list of offenses stealing a car and driving all night with little or no sleep, putting Sam in the very real danger of falling asleep while driving, thereby getting into an accident, or risking getting arrested or injured or worse. And then to top off the circus of stupidity, Sam had, in his infinite wisdom, decided to stop for
a few drinks and a possible romp in the sack with 'bunny the bar tart'.

Dean shook his head. Definitely not one of Sam's better plans to say the least. Hell, even he wouldn't go that far for just the possibility of getting laid. No, Sammy deserved whatever dad had planned for him, Dean concluded. And he was pretty sure their father had something quite painful in mind. His simmering gaze flicked over to Sam who was now studying the tops of his sneakers quite intently. Well, either that or he'd fallen asleep, Dean guessed. He snapped his fingers under Sam's nose to get his brother's attention and then hooked a finger at him.

"C'mon loverboy. We don't have time for you to play tonsil hockey with the little prom twinkie here. Let's go."

Sam's head flopped up, his annoyed bitchface on and ready to roll but his little sidekick beat him to the punch.
"Prom twinkie?" she sputtered between her clenched teeth, her southern drawl taking on a hard edge.
Dean shrugged, offering her a sardonic grin. "Yeah, a twinkie - you know – blonde and nothing but fluff inside?"
Sam wished he could just drop dead from embarrassment and save his father the trouble of killing him. It was bad enough that Dean was treating him like a wayward five-year-old in front of his new friend, but now he was insulting her too. Sam offered the girl a boozy, apologetic smile that only hinted at his long suffering and rallied to her defense.
"Dean, Sherri happens to be a shy-poly..." Sam stopped a moment, frowning and tried again, "a solly-pie…" He pursed his lips a moment and let out a frustrated breath, speaking slowly, lips wrapping around each and every syllable. "a Poli-Sci major. And, and a straight know (hic)…whaddayoucallit, um, student," Sam angrily stated, his deep jade eyes trying hard to focus on just one of the two Deans now weaving in front of him. "I b'lieve twinkies are more up your alley, Mr....Mr….whatever-you-are," he drunkenly seethed, letting the alcohol and his temper control his words. "S-seriously (hic) duuude, m'not even sure you could, you know, even handle a girl whoosh, I mean whose, uh, what's it called? Oh yeah, whose IQ was above a...a thing...above a broccoli...a piece of broccoli!"

Dean's smile tightened and he colored a little as Sherri smirked openly at him. Arrogant little smart-ass, he thought with a hint of embarrassed anger. He fired off a nasty glare at Sam but refrained from retaliating further, knowing that Sam was in for a large dose of parental retribution in the very near future, and that would more than make up for the bitchy one-liners his baby brother was shagging at him now.

"You done, Mr. Wizard?" Dean quietly asked Sam, a hint of weariness in his tone. Sam gave a gruff nod. "Good, because it's time to go." He offered Sherri a rather insincere chuckle as he reached over and grabbed Sam by the back of his hoodie jacket. "Kids, you just can't take them anywhere," he curtly observed shooting a warning look at his little brother.

Dean abruptly turned away then, dragging Sam along beside him towards the exit of the place leaving miss straight A student to gape after them. Dean didn't let go of Sam until they were out in the parking lot.

"That was cute, Sam. Real funny back there," Dean snapped as he continued to walk along, his anger simmering just below the surface. "Glad you were enjoying yourself so much, because dad and I sure weren't! You know, when we thought you might be lying dead in a ditch somewhere!"

Sam raised his brows not saying anything as he easily matched Dean's heated strides despite the awkward listing steps he was taking. The pavement underneath his feet seemed, to his drunken senses, to be uneven out here also. He couldn't figure out what Dean was so pissed about when Sam was the one that had just been publicly eviscerated in front of a pretty co-ed. Feeling suddenly spiteful and being the taller of the two, Sam suddenly sped up a little and outpaced Dean. Unfortunately, that had the effect of putting his brother directly behind him, giving Dean a clean shot as he reached up and smacked Sam hard in the back of the head. Sam flinched from the stinging blow, stumbling a little as the toe of one sneaker caught the heel of the other one. He stopped to swing about on Dean, a sour pout appearing on his face as he reached up to gingerly rub at the back of his head.

"OW, Dean! What is your problem?"
"My problem?" Dean asked as he drew up alongside Sam, his usual laid back façade giving way to an uptight scowl. "What happened to waiting back at Bobby's like dad told you to?" he sternly chided. He threw his arms up in the air in frustration, eyes glinting darkly as he continued, now pacing hotly back and forth along the perimeter of the parking lot. "Dude you nearly gave us a heart attack when we found out you'd taken off. Oh, and smart move boosting one of Bobby's favorite cars, you idiot! You better hope you didn't mess it up or you won't be driving again until you're older than dad. And, seriously, Sam, how the hell'd you get in there anyway?" Dean chafed, hooking a thumb back at the noisy lit-up bar behind them, brows knitting together in annoyed wonder. "Twenty-one, my ass!"
Sam snorted, giving Dean a disdainful once-over as if his brother was just too stupid. He reached into the front pocket of his jeans, almost losing his balance once again as he fumbled around a minute, before yanking out a thin plastic card.

"Duh, Dean, fake ID's? You and dad use them all the time."

"Where'd you -" Dean started then clamped his mouth shut, grabbing the ID from Sam and holding it up to study it in the dim light. Dean's eyes narrowed, lips pressing into a thin line of fury as realization hit him. He angrily stuffed the card into a pocket of his leather jacket, shooting Sam a reproachful glower.

"Those are only supposed to be used for jobs, not for you to sneak into bars to get trashed and hit on co-eds! Let's go, Francis, time to get you into a cold shower."

Dean grabbed Sam roughly by the upper arm and began dragging him toward where the Impala sat in the far corner of the lot under a lone street lamp. But Sam wasn't having any of it. Inhibitions dampened by the booze, Sam rolled his eyes at his brother and yanked his arm out of Dean's grasp, fixing him with a dirty look. He reached up to rub the spot on his bicep, absently wondering if there would be bruising in the morning.

"Man, whadja have to ruin everything for, Dean?" Sam hissed, his features contorted into an intoxicated sulk. "You're such a total jerk!"

Dean stopped dead, blinking, his mouth dropping open in outraged disbelief. "I'm a jerk?" he replied, incredulous. Dean squared his broad shoulders, hazel green eyes boring into his little brother with a sense of injured rage. "I spend all day running around searching high and low for your sorry ass, worried that maybe, oh I don't know, something's happened to you, and this is the thanks I get, Sam?"

He wanted badly to smack the pissy look right off of Sam's face, really and truly felt compelled to do so. And it took every ounce of willpower to restrain himself. Dean looked away a moment trying to get his anger under control and then turned back, his features softening even though his voice remained hard.

"Jesus, Sammy, you scared dad and me half to death! Bobby woke us up at the butt-crack of dawn to tell us you were missing, and then for the next eighteen hours you're gone - just bam! Totally off the radar! No news, no phone calls to let us know you're still alive. Nothing. What the hell were you thinking? I mean, seriously, dude, you take off because you feel the sudden urge for a road trip and some drunken nooky? Man, that is not like you!"

"It wasn't like that, Dean," Sam quietly replied, swallowing hard, sweat now beading his pasty brow.

"Well what then, Sam?" Dean asked, his eyes full of puzzlement as he searched his brother's surly face. "Because I guarantee you, dad's gonna be asking you that very question when we get back to the room, and you better have a really good answer, genius, or your ass is gonna be toast! ...not that it isn't already," Dean added, looking away and shaking his head in defeat.

"Dean," Sam whispered, his voice suddenly rough. Dean's eyes flicked back up to meet the younger boy's worried look. Sam's face constricted into an anguished frown. "I think I'm gonna be sick."

With that, Sam swiveled away from his brother and hunched over, slender legs apart, hands on knees, to vomit up the liquid contents of his stomach in a convulsive spasm. He gagged hard, spitting, then quickly wretched again, eyes tearing from the effort as another torrent of alcohol hit the asphalt in front of him. He suddenly felt a steadying hand on his upper back.

"It's okay, Sammy," Dean softly crooned as he moved his arm up around his brother's shoulders, rubbing gently. The other hand went to Sam's arm, like a tether to keep him from falling over into his own puke. "Don't fight it, dude. Just let it go. You'll feel way better after. Trust me."

Sam didn't offer any response other than a low pitiable moan. He was too busy trying to keep his stomach from turning inside out as another violent spasm hit him. He bent lower, feeling Dean's hold tighten on him, and threw up once more. This was followed by a bout of dry heaves before he was finally able to catch his breath. Sam gulped in a lung full of the cool, balmy evening air, his head spinning and his stomach muscles aching now from wretching so hard.

"Man, drinking sucks, Dean," Sam gasped as he spit once more trying to get the taste of sour bile, stale beer and cheap tequila out of his mouth.

"Well, it sucks the way you do it," Dean chortled softly.

He helped Sam to straighten back up, thankful that his little brother had managed to miss his pants and his shoes with the projectile vomiting, because that sure wouldn't have been a pleasant smell to deal with on the ride back to the motel. His breath was bad enough. Dean rummaged through his pockets for a stick of gum to give him.

"C'mon, let's get you back to the room," he said, a touch of concern in his voice.

He started to move off, but Sam remained rooted to the spot and Dean, still holding onto his brother's arm, recoiled back slightly when he'd reached the end of his own arm span.

"Hey, Casanova. Let's go," Dean stated a little louder, giving Sam's arm a less than gentle tug and then frowning when Sam shook his head.

"No, Dean," Sam said quietly, staring at the ground. "I can't. I can't face dad right now. I don't know what to tell him." Sam's eyes flicked up to Dean's face, and Dean could see the pained uncertainty in his younger brother's eyes.

Dean gave a tense little laugh, a tight smile whispering across his lips. "Tell him? Uh, how about the truth?"

Dean let go of Sam's arm, feeling suddenly uncomfortable. Growing up, he had gotten used to being part of the collateral damage in his dad's and brother's little battles. Most of the time, Dean had tried hard to remain on the outside, an observer, or more often than not, a mediator between the two conflicting sides. But this time, the battle hit too close to home for him. Sam was talking about going off and living his own life. About leaving the both of them.

"Look, Sam," Dean started, clearing his throat self-consciously. "I understand how much you want to go away to school and all." Sam snorted, and Dean was quick to add, "No, seriously, Sammy, I do. But...I gotta see, don't you, that it's just not a workable arrangement with our kind of lifestyle?"

Sam swiped angrily at his face, almost clocking himself in the jaw, his reflexes still dulled by the alcohol. "Who says I wanna be a hunter, Dean? That's what dad wants, not what I want. Maybe I just want to, I don't somebody else...somewhere else," his voice trailed off as he tried to focus, his thoughts a whirling incoherent cloud in his fuzzy brain.

"You don't mean that," Dean said in a small pained voice.

Sam glared over at Dean. "Don't tell me what I do or don't mean, Dean! You sound like dad!"

Dean swallowed, trying to hide the hurt that had crept into his features. "You really want to leave? What about dad? What about me? What about finding the thing that killed mom, Sam? Doesn't that mean anything to you anymore?"

Sam's harsh laugh of disbelief made Dean flinch. "How long have we been chasing this thing, Dean? Huh? Seventeen years. Seventeen years, Dean, and not once have we even come close to finding it!" Sam threw his arms up in disgust, the gesture slightly exaggerated by his drunken state. "Don't you see? It's never going to end. Dad will just keep going on this wild goose chase, and you'll just keep following him like some loyal hound dog." Sam let out a long tired sigh as he fixed his brother with a determined stare. "I'm tired of him ordering me around – telling me what I can and can't do with my life. Screw that. I'm going to college whether dad likes it or not!"

Dean was silent for a long moment, jaw rigid with anger. When he finally spoke, his voice was low and carried with it a depth of emotion Sam hadn't seen in his brother before. "You are a selfish little shit, you know that?" Dean announced, his upper lip curling in anger. "Dad's sacrificed everything for us, Sam – EVERYTHING. And what does he ask for in return? Huh? That we show some support? A little respect? Maybe try to ease his burden every once in awhile?" Dean's eyes fell to the ground, one hand going up to rub the back of his head as he took another long breath in and let it out slowly. His somber gaze flicked back up to Sam, standing tipsily in front of him. "You don't want to do this for dad, then what about all the people, Sam? What about all the lives we save?"

Sam shrugged. It was a very casual motion to the eye and yet spoke volumes to Dean.

"You know, people die every day, Dean, from all sorts of bad things," Sam replied, his tone flat and tired. He'd heard the reasoning numerous times before. "Why do we always have to sacrifice our lives for a bunch of strangers who don't even care? Besides," he added, a bitter pout crossing his lips, "There are plenty of other hunters out don't need me."

Yeah, I do, Dean silently thought, his chest tightening with unspoken pain. While Dean's head told him that Sam's drunkenness was a major contributing factor to the teen's current state of mind, the older boy's heart told him a different story. It whispered that there was more than a grain of truth resonating in Sam's vindictive words. The hurt Dean was feeling was beyond description, and yet underlying the anguish, was a sense of righteous indignation. It was an unbridled anger at Sam's selfish, immature refusal to see the forest through the trees. Dean let that second emotion build, feeding it, until it became a frothing angry tidal wave that swept the heartache up and away, burying it deep underneath a torrent of fury.

Sam noticed Dean's posture quickly go from slumped defeat to rigid distemper, and he took an unconscious step back, half expecting his brother to suddenly explode like a hand grenade, scattering bits of himself about the shadowy parking lot where they stood. Dean's head came up, dark eyes flashing fire, face calm but mouth thinned to a tight white line.

"I'm sorry you're life is sucks so fantastically, Sam," Dean calmly seethed as he took a step toward his brother. "And I wish things could be different for you...for all of us…but it can't." He took another step, closing the distance between the two of them. "So, here's a thought for you. How 'bout you try and suck it up for once and maybe, just maybe, try not being so childish and irresponsible and instead, start thinking of someone other than yourself for a little bit."

"Dean -"

Dean cut Sam off, shaking his head and pointing a finger at his brother. "I don't wanna talk about this anymore. You're going to get in the car, and we're gonna go back to the motel. And when we get there, you're gonna apologize to dad for being an asshole and then you're going to go to bed, sleep off your Nick Nolte drinking spree, and forget all about this college crap."

"No," Sam said.

Dean blinked, not sure he heard correctly. "What was that?"

Sam straightened up to his full height as best he could, fighting the vertigo he seemed to be suffering from at the moment.

"You're not dad, Dean, so stop trying to be him!" Sam snapped.

Dean's face took on a stony look. "Yeah, well, I may not be dad, Sammy, but I'm still in charge right now."

"Says who?"

"Says me and dad." Dean's voice was low and full of warning.

Sam squared off and leveled a hard gaze at his older brother. "Yeah? Well, dad's not here right now, Dean, so I can do whatever the hell I want. So go screw yourself, okay? I don't feel like hopping in the Impala and going back to the motel to hear dad tell me what a disappointment I am."

Sam turned to stagger back toward the bar, giving a little derogatory, half-hearted wave at Dean over his shoulder, as if to say 'see ya, don't wait up for me'. That was all it took for Dean to stop playing nice.

"Get in the damn car before I bust your ass, Sam," he fiercely ordered, his raised voice carrying easily across the short distance between the two brothers.

Sam automatically stopped in his tracks at his brother's heated tone which was somewhere between a command and a threat. He swayed on his feet, biting his lower lip in hesitation, his back still to Dean. He stubbornly refused to turn around on principle alone. I mean who made his bossy older sibling lord high ruler over everybody, he thought sullenly. Yet he wasn't quite brash enough to keep moving forward either. So he stood there, unsure of his next move. Meanwhile, Dean's battered patience was quickly losing out to an overwhelming desire to do bodily harm to his obstinate brat of a brother.

Waiting impatiently a few steps away as Sam lingered in indecision, Dean was more than half-tempted to stomp over and deliver a sound smack to his younger brother's backside as an extra incentive to follow his order, but he held off on his inclination. For now, he reasoned. But if Mr. Bratty Mouth kept up the snippy pretense for much longer, Dean was pretty sure he'd do more than give him just a single swat, drunk or not. In fact, he was quite positive he'd be wearing his hand out on Sam's ass and enjoying every howl of outrage his little brother would offer back. He was beginning to see why his dad had been keeping such a tight leash on Sam as of late.

Sam finally pivoted slowly around, not a pretty sight as he wobbled unsteadily on his long, coltish legs. His glassy, booze-soaked eyes were full of adolescent rage and his chest heaved, the breaths snorting loudly out of his nostrils like a bull that had just seen red. Dean wondered with mild curiosity if his brother would actually lower his head and charge at him right there in the parking lot.

"I'm not getting in the car, Dean," Sam challenged, an ugly sneer plastered on his lips, his sea-green eyes stormy.

Dean closed his eyes and gave a sad shake of his head. "You couldn't be a happy drunk, could you, Sammy?" he muttered under his breath, taking a step forward with a look of grim determination set on his face. "Nope. Gotta be the belligerent, pick-a-fight type...terrific."

One slow, drunken blink later, Dean was at Sam's side. It took a second for the seventeen-year-old to fully realize his brother's close proximity. Sam stiffened, jaw clenching tightly, his fists balling up in preparation for a fight, but it never came. Dean just stood, invading Sam's personal space, green-flecked eyes narrowed in the self-assured confidence of one who'd taken on his share of drunken brawlers and lived to talk about it.

"What?" Sam chuffed loudly, his alcohol and vomit imbued breath causing Dean to lean back slightly out of respect for his own senses. It was evident to him that Sam's bravado was being bolstered by the liquor still churning through his system. "What're you gonna do, Dean? Huh? You gonna punch me?"

The agitated half-smile that had been sitting on Dean's lips for the past several minutes now turned icy cold to match his eyes.

"Oh, I'm not going to punch you, Sammy," Dean calmly asserted, his voice taking on a familiar menacing inflection that Sam, had he been sober and clear-headed, would have realized was a bright flashing 'DANGER' sign going off in his face.

Dean snaked out a hand, latching onto one of Sam's wrists with an iron grip.

"I'll definitely be hitting you," Dean continued, his face quirking into a grim smile. "But it's not gonna be in the face, bro."

Dean dragged his younger sibling, tripping and whining like a kindergartner, over to the front of the Impala, ignoring the small crowd of curious onlookers that had begun to gather on the sidewalk nearby. He let go of Sam's wrist only long enough to reach up and whirl the teenager around by the shoulders, forcing a small bleat of dizzy protest out of Sam. Dean then grabbed two fistfuls of the back of his brother's hoodie jacket and slammed Sam face down against the hood of his car, like an officer about to cuff him, pinning the younger boy down easily by leaning onto his back with his full weight. Sam grunted from the added pressure on top of him, struggling vainly to push himself back upright.

"Get off me, you bastard!" he hollered.

Dean ignored him and leaned down, his breath hot and seething on the back of Sam's neck.

"I know dad and I haven't exactly been giving you the loving attention you probably need and all lately, Sam, but let's face it, we've been a little busy. That doesn't excuse the fact that you've gotten way out of control here."

Sam bucked against the hood in fury, trying to squirm from Dean's hold. He cursed loudly as Dean wrested one of his arms from near his head to pin it tightly behind his back. It pissed him off that his older brother hadn't even broken a sweat yet, while Sam's shirt was now soaked at the armpits from the tussle. His muddled brain just wasn't able to put two and two together to realize that, in his current state, his reflexes, motor control and metabolism weren't working anywhere near their usual peak form. Sam continued to struggle. He didn't stand a chance in hell, but he wasn't ready to given in just yet.

Dean continued the lecture. "You don't seem to think about anything but what you want these days, Sam, no matter how much it might hurt anyone else. And today's thoughtless little game of hide-and-seek just proves that big time. Hell, you're not even sorry about it, are you? Ya know, I've kinda stood back and let you and Dad duke it out over this whole Gilmore Girls college melodrama crap of yours. But now? Well now, I'm seriously thinking whaling the smart ass out of you might just be the best friggin' idea I've had all week!"

With that, Dean delivered a hard smack to the center of Sam's backside, swinging from his shoulder to put his full strength into it. Sam, for his part, let out a surprised squawk of distress, and Dean took a bit of selfish pleasure from knowing he'd made an impression on his brother despite his rather anesthetic level of intoxication. He shook out the sting from the blow, raising his hand again. He wanted to make sure Sam understood perfectly who the alpha dog was around here, so he followed up the thunderous introductory swat with about a dozen more sharp hot smacks, covering Sam's entire butt with a prickling, uncomfortable sting, even through the thick denim of the teenager's jeans.

Sam felt a sudden burn crawl across the skin of his face which bloomed into a full blush of shame as he heard a few titters of laughter from nearby. Just great. They had an audience. He didn't know which was worse, the fact that he was getting publicly spanked by his older brother like some recalcitrant three-year-old who'd thrown a tantrum in the aisles of Wal-Mart, or the fact that his stomach and head were now both churning in the most nauseous and painful way from the alcoholic beverages he'd imbibed earlier. Neither was a particularly favorable choice, it seemed to him. But then, he recalled reading somewhere that alcohol impaired one's judgment, and he knew from experience that getting your ass whaled on made it kind of hard to get some critical distance on a problem as well.

Sam tried once again to find purchase on the shiny metal hood of the Impala with his free hand in order to push himself up and away from the degrading encounter, but Dean's weight against him was like a ton of bricks.

"Dean, dammit! C'mon!" Sam spat out in frustration when he realized he wasn't going anywhere of his own volition. He was at his brother's mercy. Dean stopped in mid-swing.

"You ready to tap out, Sammy?" Dean mildly taunted.

Sam didn't have to see his brother's face to know there was a conceited smirk of victory plastered all over it. The sanctimonious sonofabitch, he angrily thought.

"Dude, the only thing I'm gonna be tapping is your head against the asphalt in a minute – get the fuck off me!" Sam roared, gritting his teeth in exasperation.

Dean raised one brow in amused skepticism at his little brother. "You know, you might wanna rethink the whole mouthing off to the guy who's beating your ass concept." He calmly stated.

"Yeah? Like I didn't learn it from you, asshole!" Sam snottily shot back, and then yelped as Dean began spanking him again, increasing the tempo, landing swat after brutal swat in rapid succession on Sam's already burning rear end, forcing him to grunt in pain. "Okay - okay!" Sam shouted, wincing at the heat now radiating off his denim-clad behind. "I give!"

Dean stopped and leaned down close to Sam's face. "What was that, Sammy? I didn't quite hear you."

"I said I give, you jerk," Sam repeated sulkily. "Lemme up, Dean, please? I'll get in the stupid car."

Sam felt the pressure ease off his back as Dean moved away from him. He winced a bit when he swung his arm from behind him where it had lain trapped and slowly pushed himself up from the Impala's hood, still not believing what had just happened. He looked up and over, relieved that the nosy gawkers who'd been lingering were now rapidly dispersing, heading for their cars or back to the bar. Yeah, he thought miserably, show's over, why stick around? Dean had the passenger door open and was waiting impatiently, an expectant look on his face. It galled Sam to have to give in like this. It seemed as if he'd spent his entire life doing just that – if not with Dean, then certainly with his dad.

Dean cocked his head, giving Sam a hard look. "Dude, if I have to wrestle you back over that hood…"

Sam thought a moment longer. Then, with an irritated sigh, he nodded and trudged over to climb into the Impala, squirming a little on the seat as his abused bottom sang in protest. Dean slammed the door and went around to the driver's side. Sam didn't say a word; he just shot daggers at Dean as his brother slid behind the wheel and started the car.

They were only five minutes away from the motel before Sam finally broke the ugly awkward silence that had permeated the car since they'd left the bar. He was still angry about Dean spanking him – in the middle of a freaking parking lot, no less – but the more he thought about it, the more Sam reluctantly admitted that he was to blame. It was no secret that all three Winchester men had a bit of a temper, Sam readily granted, but it usually took a lot to get his older brother ticked off enough to actually come to blows with Sam.

Thinking back on the spiteful comments he'd made earlier, Sam felt a surge of guilt creep over him. He'd hurt Dean deeply, that much was obvious. The one person who'd always been supportive of him, who'd been his best friend and loyal protector…and Sam had basically told him to fuck off, that college and doing his own thing was more important than being a family and being together.
Sam sighed making a face, his stomach twisting now not just from the alcohol. "Dean, I'm sorry. I just…I've got a lot on my mind…look, I'm's…it's been a long week," he finished lamely, eyes downcast.
"Tell me about it," Dean gently groused, keeping his attention on the road. He accepted the half-assed apology, albeit somewhat reluctantly. "You haven't exactly been all sugar and spice here lately, Sam," Dean shot a sideways glare at his brother in displeasure. "In fact, I'd say you've been more piss and moan than anything else the past few weeks, which by the way, is a real joy to have to put up with for 300 miles in a car."
Sam could tell that Dean was still not happy with him, and he tried to ease his brother's scorched feelings a bit.
"I'm really, really sorry, okay?" Sam looked over into Dean's hurt hazel-green eyes and then back down to his lap. "I'm just tired and well, drunk, all right? I didn't mean anything back there at the bar, honest. My mouth just gets away from sometimes, you know?"
"Yeah, I know, Sammy," Dean sighed heavily, letting some of his anger fall away as they sped along the two-lane blacktop road. "You and your freaking mouth. Hey, not to change the subject or anything, but you and your mouth might want to start coming up with some really nice, flowery, ass-kissing kind of language to use on dad, because if you think the butt warming I just gave you was unpleasant? Heh, just wait."
It was not really what Sam wanted to think about, but at least they were talking again.
"Jerk," Sam huffed at Dean, slouching unhappily down in his seat, reaching down to rub at his still tingling backside.
"Bitch," Dean drawled in reply, a faint grin quirking the corners of his mouth.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

By the time Dean pulled into the motel parking lot, Sam was passed out against the door, face smashed up against the window with his jaw hanging open in a loud drunken snore. Dean noted the string of drool running down the younger boy's chin and snickered. He pulled his cell phone from his jacket and raised it up in front of him, centering his brother in the viewfinder, unable to keep a puckish grin off his face.

"Smile for the camera, sleeping beauty," Dean mumbled with glee, snapping a picture of Sam in all his boozy glory.

Getting Sam out of the car while he was unconscious and leaning up against the door would normally have proven a problem for Dean. But, he was still feeling a bit vindictive, and so with a certain aplomb, Dean slung the car door open wide, letting Sam topple over and fall headlong onto the hard asphalt with a soft thud.

"Ow! What the -" Sam snorted as he rolled over and pushed himself up onto his hands and knees. He squinted blearily up at Dean. "Dude, did I just fall out of the car?" he questioned in stunned disbelief.

"Something like that," Dean replied lightly, the grin still on his face. He offered Sam a hand. "C'mon get up. Dad's waiting."

Sam leaned heavily on his older brother, Dean staggering under the full weight, especially when Sam's legs proved to be uncooperative in moving him forward. It was like trying to carry a giant floppy rag doll, Dean concluded in exasperation. Once at the motel room door, Dean propped Sam up against the side of the building, keeping him in place with one hand, while he knocked with the other.

"What the hell took you so long?" John Winchester gruffly demanded upon yanking the door open and catching sight of his boys.

Dean could instantly sense that John had passed pissed quite awhile back, stopping off at irate along the way, and was now speeding toward blind fury with a sense of purpose. He held up a hand, trying to assuage his father's irritation at their tardiness.

"Dad, before you start in on me, I know we kinda took longer than fifteen minutes to get here, but Sam and me had, um…a few things to work out back there…and it took longer than I expected."

John frowned, unsure of what to make of that statement. But, before he could ask for clarification, Dean slung his arm back around Sam, who was still dozing against the wall, and muscled the six foot-four teenager into the room, dumping him unceremoniously onto the nearest bed.

"He okay, Dean?" John asked, a note of worry insinuating itself into his voice. The older hunter went over to where Sam sprawled fully clothed on top of the bed covers, trying to visually assess his son's physical condition. He turned a fierce eye towards his oldest child. "Is Sammy injured?"

"Just his liver," Dean dryly answered, taking a seat on the edge of the other bed. "He's fu-barred," he added as he bent down to pull off his boots with a tired grunt.

John's eyes widened, a dark frown creasing his brow. He crouched down by Sam's side, leaning in close and almost gagged at the alcohol fumes wafting off the teen. A sudden cold fury enveloped the older man. He stood up and wheeled on Dean in one fluid move.

"This was why you were late?" John thundered, taking an ominous step towards Dean. "You got your little brother drunk?"

"Whoa there, I did not get him drunk! He was like that when I found him, Dad," Dean firmly stated.

He went on to explain to John about how he'd happened upon Sam at the college bar, carefully omitting the part where Sam had tried to hook up with the snotty blonde. The kid was in deep enough as it was, Dean figured. No need to incense Dad any further. It would just get messy having to try to dispose of both bodies later by himself. John's blood pressure climbed steadily as he listened to Dean recount what had happened. He kept peering over at Sam's comatose form and then back at Dean, the muscles in his jaw getting tighter and tighter. Sam was obviously in no shape to deal with tonight, John concluded, and it was probably a good thing too. He had tried to maintain a calm, rational state of mind, but at this point, he was a hair's breadth away form killing his youngest child. Sam's reckoning would have to wait until morning, he grimly decided.

Noticing Dean still sitting half asleep on the other bed, John addressed his son in a gentle but firm tone. "Dean, hit the sack before you fall to the floor in exhaustion."

Dean made to stand, not looking forward to crawling in beside Sam, but John gently pushed his son back down. "No. You take this bed, son. I want to sit up awhile to make sure Sammy's going to be okay."

"I can do that, Dad," Dean sleepily argued and then shut up when John gave him a stern look.

"You can do what I ordered you to do, Dean," John stated with a touch more authority in his tone. He pointed to the bed. "Now."

"Yes, sir," Dean quietly replied, unzipping and shucking off his jeans and then crawling into the cool comfort of the empty double bed. He was so worn out that he was asleep before his head even touched the pillow.

John made his way over to Sam's duffel bag and grabbed a pair of sweats and a clean T-shirt from it, taking them over to where his youngest lay passed out on the bed. He bent down to unlace and pull off the teen's dirty sneakers, tossing them onto the floor and then reached up to unzip the kid's jeans, gently yanking them off and replacing them with the soft pair of sweatpants. Sam was so out of it that he barely made a noise other than a soft whimper as his dad rolled him onto his back after changing him into the clean tee and tucked him under the blankets of the bed. John let a smile catch the corner of his lips. I haven't had to change my little boy like that since he was a toddler, he realized with chagrin. The smile faltered a bit and then disappeared when Sam groaned loudly, his face contorting into a grimace.

John immediately went for the wastebasket and had it perched under Sam's nose just in time for the teen to puke into it. He reached up to place a hand on the back of his son's neck to steady him as the last of the spasms fluttered away. Sam flopped lifelessly back down onto the pillows, moaning in distress, until he felt a cool wet washcloth cover his brow. It felt sooo good, Sam thought.

"Here, kiddo, drink this."

John's familiar, soothing voice called to Sam and he managed to unscrew his eyelids, opening them halfway to peer up at his father now sitting on the edge of the bed holding a glass of water.
With his dad's help, Sam sat up in bed, John supporting him as he pressed the glass of water into the boy's hand and then popped two little tablets into Sam's mouth. Sam balked, trying to spit the bitter pills out, but John's big hand closed over the teen's jaw stopping him.

"Uh uh. Swallow," he ordered and pushed the glass up to Sam's lips forcing him to take a drink to wash the aspirin down.

"Thanks, Dad," Sam croaked, and offered up a weak smile.

John let Sam take a few more sips of water and then took the glass away, setting it on the nightstand as Sam lay back down. He replaced the washcloth back onto his child's forehead, watching as Sam closed his eyes, waiting for his breathing to become deep and slow, indicating he'd fallen asleep. John then kicked off his shoes and scooted up on the bed next to Sam, propping his back up against the headboard and stretching out. He rested his right hand on his son's head, gently ruffling the thick dark mop of hair as he closed his eyes and tried to get a little sleep himself.
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Sam awoke with a gentle snort and a groan, his brain still a bit fuzzy from the night before and his sour mouth arid as a desert in the middle of summer. His sea-green eyes quickly adjusted to the unfamiliar surroundings of the motel room as he sat up, yawning and stretching, cat-like, arms raised overhead, fingers splayed. He glanced toward the door to the room and over to the curtained window, and then froze, his eyes widening to the size of saucers.

A lone figure reclined casually in one of the overstuffed motel chairs to the left of Sam's bed. The man's unshaven face was half hidden by the late morning shadows. John Winchester remained silent as his son studied him nervously. His well-muscled arms were crossed comfortably against a broad chest that was covered by a faded USMC t-shirt, a half smile lazily playing about the corners of his lips, looking, for all the world, like a hungry mountain lion getting ready to toy with its prey.

"Hey dad," Sam attempted cheerful, but it came out shaky instead, "Um, whatcha doing?"

"Just waiting for you, son," John stated mildly, his eyes fixed on the boy in a sly, calculated glint.

With a purposeful move meant to capture Sam's attention, John slowly uncrossed his arms and casually placed the right one on top of the little motel table next to him. Aw crap, Sam silently groaned, his heart thudding in dread. He eyed his dad's 2-inch wide brown leather belt laying coiled on the tabletop near his father's elbow. Dad's already got the belt off and waiting...just friggin' great.

"Where's Dean?" Sam asked, hoping to stall the inevitable.

"Out retrieving the car you took from Bobby's," John answered, his tone harsh, making Sam squirm in guilt. "I told him to stop and pick us up some breakfast on the way back. He'll be awhile."

Sam didn't like the sound of that. No Dean meant no backup for when Dad decided to go ballistic on him.

"How are you feeling?" John inquired, ignoring the uneasy look Sam was giving him.

Sam shrugged. "Okay, I guess," he quietly answered.

"Still feeling sick to your stomach?"

Sam shook his head. "No sir. My head hurts a little and I'm real thirsty, but otherwise, I'm all right."

John motioned with his left hand towards the nightstand on the other side of the bed from Sam.

"There's still a full glass of water there from last night. Drink it up," he said.

Sam swiveled about to grab up the glass and drained it in three huge gulps, marveling at how good plain-old tap water could taste when your mouth felt like someone had stuffed it with sawdust and sewn in shut.

"Better?" John asked, and Sam nodded setting the glass back down on the nightstand. "Good, then how about you get up? You and me got a few things to discuss," John grimly suggested.

He scooted forward on the chair, placing his elbows on his knees as Sam slid off the bed to stand in front of him. Leaning forward, John fixed his son with an unwavering stare. "And I want to make this perfectly clear, Samuel, when we get through with this discussion? You'll be remembering it for a long, long time."

Sam swallowed hard, wiping his sweaty palms on his sweat pants. There was no mistaking what that meant. Nosiree. His eyes wandered back over to the belt on the table, and his heart skipped a beat.

"You know, Dad…Dean kinda already um…you know…sp - punished me last night…and so you, uh, don't really need to-"

"You telling me your brother had to bring you in line with a spanking when he found you?"

John already knew what had happened. Dean had told him the night before. Sam's face tinged pink under his father's accusing glare. His mouth opened and closed a few times in consternation.

"No, Dad…well, I mean yeah, he did…but, no, it…" Sam gave up with a deep sigh, realizing too late what a bad tactical move this had been on his part.

"I don't know what's gotten into you lately, Samuel," John admonished, shaking his head. "The attitude, the irresponsibility, the disrespect? I raised you better than that."

"Yeah, you raised me to be your obedient little soldier," Sam snapped irritably, not caring how he sounded.

"What I did, I did to keep you boys safe," John growled back, the anger rising in his voice. "And yesterday's dangerous little escapade just shows me that I've still got a ways to go with you. What was it Bobby said? Bang up job I'd done. Did you even think about the risks you were taking, Samuel? Taking off without reporting in like that? What if you'd had an accident or if something had gotten you? And getting so drunk that you were totally impaired? How many times have I told you that when you're out in the field by yourself, you need to keep your wits about you at all times?"

"I was hanging out with some college kids, not out on some hunt, jeez!"

John stood up, taking the few steps required to be directly in Sam's face. "Do you even care what you put me and Dean through?"

Sam gaped at John, his face covered in an odd mixture of guilt and anger.

"No parent should ever have to go through the fear and worry that I did yesterday," John reproached. "The possibility of losing you…over something as stupid as wanting to play big man on campus for a day, Jesus Christ -"

"Here we go again," Sam huffed under his breath.

John went rigid. "What was that?"

Sam stood his ground. "Wanting to attend college isn't stupid, Dad. You know, most parents would be happy their kid wanted to make something of himself. But, every time I try to bring up the subject with you, you just shut me down. Like what I want doesn't even count." Dimpled jaw clenching in determination, Sam met his father's fiery glower with one of his own. "Why does everything have to be your way?"

John's answer was short and to the point. "Because I'm the dad."

Sam slowly shook his head. "I'm not six years old, Dad. That explanation isn't good enough any more."

John looked as if someone had punched him in the face. His blinked, stunned, and then grabbed a fistful of Sam's T-shirt in one hand, rage flowing off him in waves.

"As long as you are a minor under my roof, Samuel Alan Winchester, you will do whatever I damn well tell you to do!" John announced, teeth clenched in fury. He reached back to the table behind him to snatch up the belt laying there. "And the butt whipping you're about to get should be a solid reminder of that for a long time, buddy boy."

John sat down on the edge of the bed, pulling Sam down with him. Sam tried to fight, but it was no contest. The forty-six-year-old ex-marine easily manhandled his lanky teenage son over his lap, locking a leg over Sam's to keep him from escaping.

"No!" Sam roared in further defiance when he felt his father's hand grab the waistband of his sweats, yanking them down, along with his briefs, to expose his naked backside. He felt like a helpless two year old at the moment, and that sent a staggering blow to his ego.

John ignored the fractious protest, raising the belt high, aiming for the top part of his son's rounded bottom. The leather whistled down and connected solidly with Sam's butt, leaving an angry welt across both creamy white cheeks. Sam caught his breath, eyes squinching shut from the sudden burning pain now broadcasting across his ass. He stiffened as he heard and then felt the belt come down again, another substantial lick that caused the teen to grunt in distress. A few minutes later, Sam wasn't sure how much longer he'd be able to keep from hollering out loud, especially when his father was being so thorough about covering every square inch of his rear end with white-hot stripes of agony.

"I will not tolerate this kind of irresponsible behavior and rebellious attitude from you anymore," John calmly lectured as he continued to spank his son. "Have I made myself clear here, Samuel?"

"Yes!" Sam practically bawled, the throbbing sting becoming almost unbearable.

Sam felt John stiffen underneath him and then he did let out a howl as the belt slammed down in three rapid, overlapping lines on his bare backside. Tears stung Sam's eyes as his father delivered a warning.

"What was that, son?"

Shit! What was wrong with him? "I mean yes, SIR!" Sam quickly responded, mentally kicking himself for his lapse in protocol.

John gave Sam a few more punishing smacks and then stopped, gazing down at his son's glowing hot behind with a sense of sadness rather than satisfaction. Sam sobbed tightly, making no move to rise. The anger John had felt earlier was gone, replaced with the heart-wrenching knowledge that his and Sam's relationship had just turned the corner for good. His little boy was gone and in his stead was a stranger, a child struggling to be a man and wanting to step out, away from all he knew, not so much for the sake of gaining independence, but for the desperate need to find a little thing that had been missing from his life, something he had never given either of his sons. A sense of normalcy. Of stability, of belonging somewhere permanent and fitting in with the rest of the world.

It tore cruelly at John, knowing these were things he couldn't give Sam. At least, not yet. Not until Mary's death had been avenged. He'd promised her, swore it that night he'd sat on the hood of the Impala with a wailing baby Sam and a frightened four-year-old Dean clutched despondently in his arms, sirens flashing as they watched their home go up in flames. Fighting back tears, John set his belt down on the bed beside him and carefully pulled Sam's pants back up, giving the teen's back a gentle rub before helping him stand up.

Sam should have been furious, but he wasn't. One look at John's anguished expression and all enmity he felt toward his father disappeared in an instant. The disconnected look in his dad's eyes hurt Sam far more than the belt whipping had, and that was saying a lot, he silently attested. Because his poor butt felt like it had just been napalmed, the incendiary fire of his dad's belt roasting his reddened flesh and leaving behind a deep throbbing bruising just below the surface.

"Dad, I'm sorry," Sam whispered, sniffling and reaching behind him to cup his sore bottom with both hands. "I never meant to hurt you. I just…I don't know…" his voice fell away as a choked sob escaped from his tightened throat. He swallowed hard, slightly embarrassed, and then gulped, realizing he couldn't hold it in as much as he wanted to. Sam began to bawl uncontrollably like a baby, his hands going from his rear to his face in awkward shame.

Not saying a word, John gathered his youngest son into his arms, holding him comfortingly against his chest, letting Sam cry as he rubbed his back in soothing circles.

"It's okay, buddy," John's own voice was tight with emotion. "It's okay, now. You're all right."

But Sam knew it wasn't all right. It would never be completely all right again between them. He'd hurt the two most important people in his life with his words and actions. Deeper than that though, he knew that he wasn't wrong in wanting what he wanted. The reason he felt ripped apart inside was that his path in life was about to diverge in a big way from his brother's and father's, from everything he'd ever known. Sam vowed that he would endure it. He'd just do it quietly from now on. No more bringing up plans for college, not until it was time to actually leave, Sam determined silently. He couldn't stand to see Dean and his dad so upset anymore, knowing he was the cause of their grief.

John felt Sam's hitching breaths slow, and he gently pushed his son to arm's length, studying the swollen, tear-stained face before him. He reached up to brush the boy's bangs from his eyes, eliciting a weary smile from Sam.

"I'm okay, now, Dad," Sam said, because he, too, wanted to pretend like this wasn't happening.

John gave a brief nod. "Why don't you go get washed up, kiddo, and then lay back down and get some rest. The bottle of aspirin's on the counter by the sink if you're still feeling hung over."

Sam did as his father suggested, downing a couple more pain-relievers as well, because his butt was now competing with his head for attention. Crawling back into bed, he was extremely careful to keep his tender rear from touching the mattress, quickly rolling onto his stomach, wrapping his long arms around his pillow as he closed his eyes. Sniffing tiredly, he heard his dad head for the bathroom. He almost sat up in stunned surprise when he caught what sounded like a small sob coming from his father before the bathroom door closed and the shower turned on. A few dark tears stained his pillow before he finally did drift off.

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Dean cautiously let himself into the motel room, fearful of what he might find. Sam appeared to be asleep, face towards the far wall. He didn't wake up as Dean sauntered in, dropping the keys and a grease-stained bag of breakfast burritos onto the table by the door. He saw the closed bathroom door and assumed his dad was in their showering from the sounds of it. He wondered if he'd come back too early maybe, and made a face. How to be sure?

Shrugging, Dean made a bee-line for Sam's bed, a malicious grin set on his lips as he plunked himself roughly down on the edge, jostling Sam and causing the younger boy to groan in defense.

"Jesus, Dean!" Sam barked, flipping his head around on the pillow, "Give me a break, would ya?"

"Oh, I'm so sorry," Dean replied as insincerely as he could. "Did I wake you?"

Sam gave him an evil glower, and Dean smiled. He reached down and gave Sam's butt a light pat, grinning with satisfaction when Sam swore loudly and flinched, putting his arm back to block Dean from any further ministrations.

"Well, I see you and Dad have already had your little 'chat'," Dean observed wryly. "And from the looks of it, I'm guessing you'll have to put your plans for sitting down any time soon on hold, huh? That's gotta be a personal best for you, Sammy. Two ass beatings within a twenty-four hour period, and a hangover to top it all off."

"Screw you, Dean," Sam groused sullenly.

Dean just chuckled in glee, digging the proverbial dagger in deeper. "So, I'm thinking you're probably ready to eat now, right? Lucky for you I'm such a wonderful big brother, Sammy, because I got your favorite – a big runny egg, cheese and sausage burrito – no charge for the extra grease."

Sam went green, swallowing hard, trying desperately to keep his stomach from shooting up and out of his mouth. "You are a SUCKY big brother," Sam hissed and turned away from Dean, moaning under his breath.

"Yeah, you love me and you know it," Dean gently teased, enjoying his little brother's misery. He grew serious for a moment. "Hey, you even remember last night, dude?"

Sam nodded. "Yes. I was having a wonderful time with a very hot Poli-Sci sophomore when my jerk of a brother interrupted me."

"A sophomore, huh? Not bad, Sammy. What's the Poli-Sci stand for? That some hot-chick sorority?"

Sam snorted in disbelief. "You dope. Poli-Sci stands for political science. It deals with the theory and practice of politics, and the description and analysis of political systems and political behavior."

"Wow, that's fascinating, Sam," Dean deadpanned. "Looked more like she was giving you an anatomy lesson to me, the way you had your paw on her ass." He moved as if to demonstrate, and Sam glared, quickly avoiding his brother's hand.

"DON'T touch me, you jerk."

"Good thing for you that chick was good looking," Dean continued.

"I can't disagree with you there," Sam replied, letting out a wistful sigh. Dean sniggered in amusement.

"Oh man, my little brother's all grown up now and has a thing for older women. I never thought this day would come," Dean joked, shaking his head derisively. Sam would've rolled over and punched him in the gut, if he wasn't so hung over. He settled instead for calling his older brother some rather crude names under his breath as he buried his face deeper into his pillow. Dean shot Sam a questioning smirk, not done with his ribbing just yet. "So, did you at least get to first base with her, Francis?"

"Dude! None of your business!" Sam choked, obviously flustered by the question. God, his brother had absolutely no tact whatsoever, and could he please just shut up and go away before Sam's head exploded? Although Sam was rolled onto his side facing away from Dean, the older boy could still see his brother's bare neck and ears from his vantage point and both were now tinged a bright crimson.

"Aw, c'mon, Sammy," Dean wheedled. "That Sherri chick was obviously into you. And even though she was a grade 'A' bitch, in my opinion, she still had a pretty hot body. So, was it worth the puking and the blistered ass, hm? I mean, seriously, dude, tell me you at least got to touch 'em with more than your elbow."

Sam said nothing. Instead, he presented Dean with a sly smile over his one shoulder and then turned back away slapping his pillow trying to get comfortable.

Dean grinned wide. "Heh, heh, that's my boy." Dean clapped his brother on the back, causing Sam to groan at him. Silence followed and then Dean cleared his throat. "So, um…were they real?"

"Oh, yeah," Sam couldn't quite hide the grin in his voice this time.

"Awesome!" Dean muttered with sincere admiration. He lay back against the headboard next to Sam, hands behind his head, and closed his eyes, a huge mischievous grin sprawled across his face. Images of perky college girls in tight sweaters filled his mind as he sat and waited for his dad to get out of the shower.

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