Dean was not sure what woke him up. Perhaps it was the door slamming shut a few doors down or the dog barking in the room above his motel room. However, he blamed it on his brother who sat a few feet away. He was looking at his computer with way too much intensity. He looked like he was thinking loud enough to wake Dean. Dean mentally marked Sam down as the guilty party.
He wasn't sure what Sam was doing here. Last thing Dean remembered, he'd been fighting a shapeshifter. It'd changed out of the skin Dean had seen it in and changed into clothes that weren't covered in its last victim's blood. The outfit had been blood-free until the thing stabbed Dean at least.
All three of the victims so far had been college students. It was why Dean had taken the case and left Dad alone on a werewolf hunt. Dad couldn't leave that case, so Dean had to come alone. They couldn't risk leaving a case to wait when it involved college students near Sammy.
Dean turned slightly to get a better look at Sam and was instead reminded of the wound in his side. It was the sharp pain he would have expected. It felt like he had taken some kind of pain medication, but Dean had left it in the Impala. He hadn't had it with him. And he certainly didn't remember taking anything. But then, he also didn't remember how he got to the motel and for the life of him, he couldn't remember why Sam was there.
Dean was supposed to get in, solve the case, and get out of California before Sam had a chance to find out Dean was even in the area.
Instead, they were both in a motel room. Sam had his laptop set up on a table the Dean remembered being on the far side of the room. Sam probably dragged it over so he would be closer.
He was a lot taller than he'd been the last time Dean had seen him. Sure, the kid was already tall when he left for college, but now... He was probably taller than Dean. It wasn't a thought Dean liked.
"What are you working on?" Dean asked, causing Sam to jump. Usually, Dean wouldn't have been able to startle Sam so easy, but once Sam focused on something, he had a tendency to drown out the rest of the world.
"Um, an essay. I got an extension from the professor. It doesn't matter." Sam shook his head. He turned his attention to Dean with enough focus to frighten the average person. ""What happened?"
Dean frowned. "I was hoping you could explain that," Dean said. "What are you doing here?"
"You called me. I had to find you bleeding out behind a restaurant."
Dean didn't remember any of that. When the shifter had stabbed him, he hadn't been near a restaurant. Had he walked that far with a hole in his side?
"I wasn't bleeding out," Dean said. "Don't be dramatic."
"Would you have called me if you weren't?"
He wouldn't have called Sam and they both knew it. It'd become an unspoken rule between his Dad and himself. Neither mentioned Sam. It was better that way. Besides, if Sam had a problem he'd call. There was no need to discuss it.
But just because Sam had a point didn't mean Dean had to admit it.
Dean grabbed a knife off the bedside table. He handed it to Sam.
"I'm running a shifter case. I need to know you're you."
Sam scowled, but rolled up his sleeves. He made a shallow cut on the back of his arm. Sam gave the knife back to Dean and grabbed a towel to cover his arm.
"I already checked you," Sam said, when Dean started to make a cut on his own arm. "Your hand."
Dean looked down. Sure enough, his hand was already bandaged. Dean nodded. Not bad.
"What did you give me?"
Sam shrugged. "I found some kind of pain meds in the Impala. But they're going out of date soon, so you're going to need to switch them out."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Thanks, Mom."
"Where is Dad? I went back and searched the area after I stitched you up, but I couldn't find him."
"That's because he isn't here. He's in Colorado. Werewolf."
Sam raised his eyebrows. "You're here alone? You're doing a shapeshifter case by yourself?"
Dean shrugged and chose not to admit this was the first time he'd done a case by himself. "There were two cases. Dad took one, I took the other. It's not a big deal."
"You could have died last night."
Dean grinned. "You of all people know that isn't as big a deal in our line of work. We're almost in a 'could have died' situation."
Sam shook his head. "Your line of work. I'm not doing that anymore."
"Right," Dean said, smile falling. He looked away from Sam. "How could I forget?"
Dean moved the blankets and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He moved too fast and the wound in his side made its self-known again.
"Dean," Sam said, starting to stand.
Dean stood, choosing to just ignore the way the stab wound was now alternating between throbbing and feeling like he'd been stabbed all over again. "I'm fine."
He walked over to the mini fridge and pulled a beer out.
It'd been a year since Sam left him. Since Sam chose to leave everything and everyone and go to college. The past year had been the worst year of hunting that Dean remembered. He was constantly looking in the passenger seat to tell Sam something only to find it empty. He'd taken way too many hits from behind during hunts, because he was used to Sam having his six. He would think of a bad joke about a messy situation and he wouldn't have anyone to tell it to. He didn't get the same enjoyment out of hunting. Sure, it was nice still having Dad and Dean couldn't imagine a world without him, but Dad wasn't Sam.
But between the two, at least Dad had chosen to stay.
When he turned back around, Sam was looking at his computer again.
"I saw the files while you were out," Sam said, not looking at Dean. "That kid, Thomas-"
"Yeah. He was going to Stanford. So was Emily Pitterson."
"Is that why you came here? Because I'm here?"
Dean didn't look at Sam. It was Dean's job. Before being a hunter, before being a son, his job was being a brother. And sometimes hunting things that targeted people like Sam came with the brother job.
Instead of saying that, Dean shrugged. "I was in the area."
"You were in Colorado."
"See? Like I said. In the area."
Dean picked up his jacket and pulled his shoes on.
"Where are you going?" Sam asked, glancing up from his computer.
"I have a case to finish. Besides, it's not like anyone else is going to do it."
Dean grabbed the keys and walked out of the room before he said something he couldn't take back.