Author's Notes: Thanks to tecetyeintyale for the wonderful and helpful beta, and to my regular cheerleading team for encouraging me through this one. Biggest thanks go to the prompt, though, which inspired my muse so quickly I got this one written in one afternoon! The prompt I chose was "4. Sam and/or Dean make an enemy (or enemies) at school." The title is from a Tom Wilson quote, "About the only time losing is more fun than winning is when you're fighting temptation" and the very helpful balefully helped me pick it out.
Summary: Dean couldn't believe that Sam was this much of an idiot. There was a reason you never talk to the quarterback's girlfriend.
Sam shuffled through the kitchen door with the air of someone carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. His footsteps were leaden and he let his bag fall to the floor with a thud, followed by a sigh that sounded more labored than wistful.
Of course, Sam was sixteen, so this was really no different from any other day. Dean didn't even look up from the sandwich he was eating at the breakfast table, just swallowed his mouthful and asked whether Sam wanted a glass of milk.
"Fuck off, Dean."
That wasn't really the expected response. Most of the time, Sam only swore if there was a reason, and this time Dean hadn't even provoked him. Offering him milk didn't usually get him to curse, let alone do much more than grunt in reply.
"Hey, man, I just asked if you wanted some mil-" Dean cut himself off when he turned around. "Dude, what the fuck happened to your face?"
"You know Bryan Johnson?" Not that Dean was at school, but he actually paid attention when Sam spoke about it. Most of the time. Bryan was the star quarterback - enough said. "Ran into his fist."
"You what?" Dean couldn't decide whether to laugh or to yell at him, which probably showed on his face because Sam gave an exasperated sigh and rolled his eyes.
"It wasn't my fault. I was just talking to Nikki," Nikki, the big, beefed-up quarterback's gorgeous and well-developed girlfriend, "about our history presentation, and he just snapped and caught me with a fucking roundhouse."
Dean couldn't believe that Sam was this much of an idiot. There was a reason you never talk to the quarterback's girlfriend. It should have been obvious, really, but apparently Sam missed the lesson on social survival skills. The way Sam touched his cheek gingerly and sucked his breath in quick through his teeth just made it all that much funnier and he couldn't keep the laughter in anymore.
"You know you're a fucking retard, right?"
"I was just talking to her about the history assignment!"
"Sam, you talked to the guy's girlfriend. It doesn't matter what you were talking about, to him you look like some little weed trying to hit on his girl."
"I'm not a weed, Dean!"
"Yeah, but you look like one." As he spoke, Dean grabbed a dish towel and moved to the fridge to get some ice. If there was one thing he knew, it was how to keep down swelling. "And he really doesn't need to know you could take him down. That's just asking for trouble."
"Oh, like you were such a saint at school, Dean."
Dean shrugged and folded some ice into the dish towel expertly. "Maybe not, but at least I got in fights for actually hitting on the quarterback's girlfriend." With that, he smirked and pushed the hand-made cold compress against Sam's cheek, the other hand clapping his brother on the shoulder. "So, what are you going to do now?"
"What do you mean, do?"
"Well, you think he's going to let you get away with this?"
"I didn't do anything, Dean! And we're in a group presentation together, I have to talk to her." Sometimes, Dean wondered if he had sounded this whiny and pathetic when he was in high school. But then he remembered that Sam - while he had his merits - was way more lame than he ever had ever been.
"Dude, did you not listen to anything I said?" He leaned against the kitchen bench and watched as Sam adjusted the dish towel on his face, flinching like a baby as he did so. "This dick head isn't going to care. He won't listen to what you say, he probably won't even listen to what his girlfriend says, so really, you have two options."
"Oh yeah, and what would those be, Yoda?"
Dean frowned briefly at being likened to a diminutive, wrinkly green alien, but then he remembered that Yoda was awesome, so he just shrugged it off and counted off on his fingers. "One, you can ask your teacher to change the groups so you don't have to work with Nikki. Or two, you can use your brain and block him the next time he tries to throw a fist at your face. I think the choice is clear."
Sam seemed to be ticking over the options in his mind, thinking about them and weighing the pros and cons, and Dean thought to himself that someday, Sam would think himself into insanity.
"You're right," Sam said finally, but before Dean could congratulate himself, there were more words. "I should just punch him right the fuck back next time."
"Woah, Sammy," Dean said, his fingers tightening over Sam's shoulder. "That wasn't even one of the options."
"What, you're allowed to start fights in high school just because it's Tuesday, and I'm not even allowed to pull one punch because some dick won't even listen to reason? I'm just supposed to let it go, let people think I'm a pussy just because I'm not meant to know how to fight?"
".... That's the general idea, yes."
"That's bullshit, Dean. Maybe you can't see it because you're Dad's favorite or whatever, but you got away with a hell of a lot more than I do at school, and that's just not fair."
Seriously, how old was Sam?
"Dude, I'm not Dad's favorite, do you even know the kind of shit I got in for starting those fights? Don't you remember Dad making me sleep outside in the fucking middle of winter in Michigan? Or the time he made me write that apology letter and read it out loud to the kid's mom? I didn't get away with it, you know, I fucking paid for those fights and they weren't worth it.... Generally."
"Well then why did you start them in the first place?"
"Nice deflection, Sammy, but we're not talking about me. We're talking about you being dumb enough to start a fight just because you're itching for a pissing contest."
"I don't want a pissing contest, I'm just sick of pretending I can't stand up for myself." The argument was so weak, Dean almost didn't feel like it was necessary to shoot it down. Unfortunately, he knew that Sam believed every word of it, so he had to give it a last-ditch effort.
"Look, Sam. If you want to take him down a peg, that's one thing, but fighting isn't going to do that. You might beat him up, but what's going to happen the next day? You'll have the entire football team on your ass, nobody will to talk to you again - including your little history partner - and you'll have the teachers and administration watching your every move. Not to mention Dad will be fucking pissed. It's too risky, man. If you want a fight, I'll promise not to hit too hard. If you want to teach this guy a lesson, put a bag of dog shit in his locker or something."
The idea seemed to flit through Sam's brain, and he almost took the bait, but in the end he shook his head and stood firm.
"Fuck that. I'm going to defend myself next time."
Dean saw the look in his brother's eyes - that stubborn and determined look he'd seen in his father's eyes before - and he knew there was nothing he could do. Sam would argue his point until he was blue in the face and there was no way Dean could convince him otherwise. So he gave up, moving away from Sam with a shrug.
"Whatever, man. It's your funeral."
It didn't take long for there to be a next time.
Two days later, Sam came into the kitchen looking like he had just gone three rounds with a Chupacabra. Which probably wasn't far off the truth.
"Fucking hell, Sammy." Dean wasn't laughing this time. Not because he didn't think his brother was an idiot, of course, because he was - a stupid, adolescent, testosterone-filled idiot, and Dean knew exactly how funny that was - but because he had thought (perhaps a little optimistically) that Sam might have let the whole thing drop. Dean just really didn't want to be there when their Dad saw the damage.
He kept the tirade in and got up from the breakfast table wearily - Sam looked like shit, but there were no gaping wounds to worry about. With a sense of routine neither of them even noticed, he reached on top of the fridge for their old and battered first aid kit. Sam didn't say anything, just sat down heavily in the chair Dean had vacated and hung his head, dripping bright red blood all over the white Formica table top.
The next few moments passed in silence as Dean filled a bowl with warm water and pulled out a couple of clean dish towels, organizing the supplies on the table as a makeshift sick bay. He pulled up a chair, sat down, and forced Sam's chair around to face him. Sam looked completely wrecked - split lip, bruises over his cheekbones, a blossoming black eye, and who knew the damage under his clothes - but as soon as he was facing Dean, he lifted his head and grinned through bloody teeth.
"You should see the other guy," Sam said, bloody saliva stretching between his lips as he spoke.
Dean coughed up a laugh then, purely at the sight of his idiotic little brother grinning even though he'd just gotten the shit kicked out of him, and shook his head. Sam laughed, too, but it was abortive as it turned into coughing and a hand-around-the-gut reaction that screamed "rib injury" to Dean.
"Sammy, Sammy, Sammy. What happened?" Dean asked, taking one of the towels and wetting it. He didn't know where to start cleaning up his brother's face, so he worked from the top down, mopping at a cut at Sam's hairline.
"I was meeting up with Nikki for our report, and I was waiting across the road from the school parking lot out back, because we were going to go to the town library. So she turns up after a while and is all like, 'we've got to go now, come on hurry up' and of course, I know what's going o-ow! Fuck, man, that hurt."
"Sorry, dude, the class ring cut on your face was a little deeper than expected," Dean replied dryly, smirk hovering at the corner of his mouth as he swapped the towel for cotton balls dipped in disinfectant. "So, rest of the story, bitch. While we're young."
"So, I knew what was going on, she was obviously worried I'd get slammed in the face again, but instead of running off like she's asking, I stall her. Ask her what's wrong, what's going on, hand on her arm and everything, and she tries to hurry me away but I can see Bryan out the corner of my eye." To his credit, Sam was only flinching a little at the disinfectant instead of fighting Dean's help like usual. Not that Dean was sure he could concentrate on anything else but telling his heroic story in his patented photographic-memory detail.
"You were really itching for that fight, weren't you Sammy?"
Sam rolled his eyes, but it lost its effect when one eye was bloodshot and the socket of the other was a pale purple color, and Dean bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing. "Anyway, so he lopes over looking like a fucking werewolf with his teeth bared and Nikki starts yelling at him about the history project and I could see the punch a mile off but I played dumb and let him have the first one. That's the black eye, I'm guessing." Dean couldn't help but crack a smile at the way the words poured from his brother's mouth as fast as blood was dribbling from his split lip.
"Anyway, he lands the first punch and I took it. You know, gave a little so it didn't hurt too bad, but then I gave back just as hard. The first one surprised him, of course. You should have seen his face, Dean, I could have knocked him out right then just because of the dumb surprise on his face. Because like you said, you know, I don't look like much, and he sort of staggered and then.... Then it was just a fucking brawl, man." The delight on Sam's face was so obvious it seemed pointless even mentioning it.
Dean was sure he shouldn't encourage this sort of attitude, but busted face or no, this was the most excited he had seen Sam in a while. He couldn't work out where it was coming from, though - he had thought it was just another manifestation of Sam's desire to rebel against Dad, but he wasn't so sure anymore. It was tension of some sort, something bubbling and boiling under Sam's skin that needed to be let out, but Dean didn't know what it was.
As far as he could tell, everything was situation normal for a sixteen year-old kid, which meant that he was having issues with classes (he'd started debate team this year and loved it, but neglected everything else), he was having issues with friends (he never made any, they left too often, and Sam was too lame for friends), he was having issues with girls (as far as Dean knew, Sam was still a virgin), and he was having issues with his father (sometimes Dean wished they would realize how alike they were instead of fighting). There were reasons for Sam to be acting out, but usually that meant picking a fight over who was going to cook dinner, not picking a fight with someone twice his size.
Maybe Sam just needed to get laid.
"So did you fight smart? Or did you just start wailing on him? He obviously got some good shots in." Dean was now mopping up the cut on Sam's lip, which was much smaller now that it had stopped oozing blood all over the place. Thankfully, nothing was going to need stitches, but Sam was going to have to stop grinning for the lip to heal. Which would probably happen when the adrenaline started to wear off.
"Well, I started out fighting smart but it was just boring."
"Seriously, dude, when did you become a masochist?" Frowning didn't help the split lip either.
"That wasn't the point, anyway. I knew I could kick his ass to the ground in a second, but if there's no showmanship, there's no point. Anyway, there was a crowd eventually and if they wanted to see a fight, I fought enough to keep him from doing any serious damage but he still got his punches in. It's not that bad, a fucking banshee would do worse."
"Who are you and what have you done with my bookish little brother?" Dean decided that Sam rolling his injured eyes would never stop being funny, and he laughed as he sifted through the first aid kit for some bandage strips and the Neosporin.
"Hey, your bookish little brother just got suspended from school for next week." Dean raised an eyebrow at that, smearing some Neosporin roughly over the deeper cuts because seriously? Dad was going to have a fit when he found out Sam had beat up someone who was ostensibly bigger and stronger than he was (which was kind of everyone except the chess club), but getting suspended? There weren't words to describe how bad it was going to be.
"Dude, you're so fucking screwed."
Sam grinned again, blood still bright between his gums and oozing from his lip, his eyes bright behind the bruising.
"Yeah, but it was so fucking worth it."