Summary: Tag to 9x07, "Bad Boys" – Pre-Series – Sick Sam / Big Brother Dean / Awesome Bobby / Almost-As-Awesome Sonny / Not-So-Nice John – While Dean had briefly considered accepting Sonny's offer and staying at the boys' home, one look out the window had changed everything. Seeing Sam had changed everything.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Warnings: Spoilers for 9x07 and usual language
A/N: I read somewhere that the writer of this episode, Adam Glass, had originally intended the boys' ages to be 14 and ten. And that made better sense to me. So, that's what we've got here. Plus, after writing this, I really want Sonny and Bobby to be BFFs.
There ain't no place that I'd rather be, next to you, sittin' next to me. ~ Shenandoah
Dean was barely off the porch before Sam was out of the car and running towards his big brother, ignoring John's stern warning to stay in the backseat.
"But I can't," Sam offered as an excuse over his shoulder. "It's Dean!"
...as if that explained everything.
And in a way, it did.
Especially when you were ten-years old and hadn't seen your big brother in two months...
Dean winced at the reminder, feeling a twinge of guilt for allowing their separation to last this long. Knowing he could've easily run away from the farm at any time over the past couple of months. Could've tracked down his family, could've been reunited with Sam and back on the road, back on the hunt.
But all of that had meant being back with John as well, back to being a soldier for his father and a caretaker for his little brother...and truthfully, Dean had enjoyed the break from both responsibilities.
Had enjoyed the opportunity to just be a 14-year old kid, to go to school and become involved in sports and take guitar lessons and even have a girlfriend. Had welcomed his bond with Sonny, had finally known how it felt to have someone else take care of everything, including you.
Dean released a shaky breath, once again feeling dangerously close to tears as he prepared to leave all of that behind – safety and security, Robin and Sonny.
"I know you've already made up your mind...and I respect that," Sonny had told him when they had approached the front door of the boys' home as Dean had prepared to leave. "But I gotta make the offer one more time – are you sure you wanna go? Because I don't mind going to bat for you with your old man if you wanna stay."
Dean had swallowed against the tightness in his throat. "Thank you. But no," he had replied, his voice rough with suppressed emotion. "I have to go."
Sonny had nodded, his gaze flickering to the window and then back to Dean. "For Sam?"
Dean had smiled at how well the older man knew him. "Yeah. For Sam."
Sonny had nodded again, needing no further explanation since he knew how much Dean's little brother meant to him; had supervised – and eavesdropped – on all the phone calls Dean had received from Bobby regarding Sam while the ten-year old had stayed with the older hunter over the past two months.
Sonny had smiled, remembering his first encounter with Bobby Singer.
No pleasantries, no "Hello. How are you? I'm calling to inquire about one of your residents."
"Put Dean on the phone."
Sonny had arched an eyebrow at the unfamiliar gruff voice. "What makes you think we have a 'Dean' here?"
"What makes you think I'm in the mood for bullshit?" the voice had countered sharply. "I know he's there."
Sonny had snorted, not sure who this was or what the man wanted...but already feeling protective of his newest kid on the farm and refusing to let some stranger bully him over the phone.
The voice had said nothing, but Sonny had heard the man scowl at yet another bullshit answer...and then had heard a kid's voice in the background.
The words had been muffled but the tone had been unmistakably upset.
Sonny had frowned.
"It's okay, Sam. I'll be right there..." the voice had assured the kid, sounding soft and kind.
Sonny had blinked at the unexpected change.
There had been a pause.
"Listen..." the voice had finally said, less gruff than before. "I don't have time for a pissin' match with you. I've got a scared ten-year old kid who thinks his big brother is missing and whose dad just dumped him on my front porch before driving off to god knows where."
Sonny had tilted his head, beginning to realize the connection. "Sounds like the kind of guy who would leave his other son in a boys' home to rot."
"Mmhmm," the voice had hummed, bitterness and anger in those two syllables. "Sounds like you and me are finally on the same page."
"We are," Sonny had confirmed, instant comrades with anyone disliking Dean's dad as much as he did.
There had been another pause.
Sonny had nodded. "How did you know Dean was here?"
"Because I know everything," Bobby had replied, not cocky but matter-of-fact. "And I know that Dean wants to know what happened to Sam."
Sonny had nodded again, because Dean had already mentioned something about needing to find his little brother before Sonny had distracted the 14-year old with a chore outside.
"So when you see him..." Bobby had continued about Dean. "...tell him not to worry. Sam's with me. And I'll take care of the kid until this whole mess is sorted out."
"I'll tell him," Sonny had assured, watching Dean through the window as Dean had paced the length of the porch like a caged animal...or a worried big brother.
"Good," Bobby had returned. "I need to get Sam settled, but I'll call back later when I finally get him to sleep. Maybe Dean won't be busy then..."
Sonny had quirked a smile at the jab. "He won't be."
"Good," Bobby had repeated and had hung up.
But true to his word, Bobby had called back later that night...and almost every night after that for the past two months, asking about Dean and how he was doing before giving the big brother updates on Sam after the ten-year old had gone to bed.
Sonny had been there through it all, had listened to Dean and Bobby discuss Sam as though they were raising the kid together. The two bouncing ideas around about how to persuade Sam to eat, what to do to lull the kid to sleep after a nightmare, which was the best way to manage a fever...
That last topic having come up recently when Sam had gotten sick.
And it was then that Sonny had realized that Dean's time at the boys' home was growing short as he had seen the way Dean had looked while Bobby had listed the kid's symptoms and then had mentioned that Sam had kept asking for him...for Dean.
"I'm runnin' out of things to tell him," Bobby had confessed, sounding uncharacteristically tired and frustrated. "Your daddy wants to stick to the story that you're lost on a hunt and that he'll find you...but that explanation don't do much to soothe a ten-year old's nerves, especially when he's sick and all he wants is you."
Dean had nodded and had clenched his jaw against the emotions that had surged through him as Bobby's voice had filtered from the speaker phone.
Sonny had wondered what kind of "hunt" Dean was supposedly lost on...but had forgotten his curiosity as he had felt his own chest tighten at Dean's reaction along with the image of a feverish kid who just wanted his big brother.
Dean had rubbed his hand over his face, sighing. "Tell him I'll be home soon."
Bobby had sighed as well. "Yeah. It's been almost two months, and that ain't worked so far...but I'll tell him again." He had paused. "I gotta run. Sam's calling me."
"Okay," Dean had agreed, feeling his heart twist because he should have been there for his brother. "Just try to get his fever down. And Bobby..." he had added. "Tell him...tell him that I love him."
Sonny had blinked at the candid statement delivered in a shaky voice and had heard Bobby smile through the phone.
"Will do," the older hunter had assured and had ended the call.
Dean had been unusually quiet after that and had spent the remainder of the night pacing the floor...then had refused to attend school the next day, arguing that he needed to be available at the house in case Bobby called.
Sonny had reluctantly agreed.
And Dean had been right, Bobby having called mid-morning with a somewhat frantic update about Sam – that the kid's fever was climbing, his overall condition was worsening, and they were heading to the doctor.
"Oh, god. This is bad..." Dean had whispered, staring at Sonny after Bobby had hung up.
Sonny had shaken his head. "Maybe not. People take kids to the doctor all the time."
"Not Bobby," Dean had countered. "Bobby can handle anything."
Sonny had nodded, having gotten to know the older hunter through these phone calls over the past two months. "Well, maybe he's just – "
" – he's worried," Dean had interrupted. "If Bobby's taking Sam to the doctor, that means he's worried."
Sonny had said nothing, knowing that Dean was worried as well, and had helped keep vigil by the phone until it had finally rung again several hours later.
"Talk to me, Bobby..." Dean had ordered, answering in the middle of the first ring and hovering over the speaker to hear every word the older hunter said. "What's wrong with Sammy?"
Bobby had sighed, the sound muffled as he had shifted a sleeping ten-year old settled on his chest as he and Sam had sat together in the older hunter's favorite chair back at Singer Salvage.
"He's got a pretty severe case of acute bronchitis," Bobby had reported, his voice quiet. "The antibiotics should kick in over the next few days and help knock it out. But the doctor at the clinic is concerned about the aggressiveness of this fever...and frankly, so am I. None of our usual tricks are working to bring it down. And our kid is burning up, Dean."
Dean had swallowed at the news as his mind had buzzed, his heart had pounded.
Because Sam was sick – really sick – and Dean should have been there with him, holding him and soothing him and telling him everything was going to be okay until they both believed it.
But no...he was here, hiding from his responsibilities.
Dean had sighed as fresh guilt had stabbed through his chest...and then had frowned at the harsh, wet sound of Sam coughing.
"Easy, buddy..." Bobby had murmured.
Dean and Sonny had exchanged glances at the sound of Bobby patting Sam's back as the kid had continued to cough.
"Listen, fellas. I gotta go," Bobby had announced and had abruptly ended the call as he had tended to Sam.
The days that had followed had been intense as Dean's little brother had battled the infection that had stubbornly lingered in his lungs...and Bobby's calls had become more frequent.
During those calls, Sonny had offered his silent support as Dean had circled the kitchen table – both of them listening to Sam in the background, coughing and wheezing and gasping and sometimes even crying over how miserable he felt.
Meanwhile Dean had tried to think of anything they hadn't already done to make their kid more comfortable.
But there had been nothing.
All they could do was wait.
And then...one morning, almost a week later, Sam's fever had finally relented and his congestion had finally begun to loosen its hold...and Dean had finally been able to breathe again.
Sonny had felt relieved as well, thankful that Dean's little brother was on the mend – and selfishly thankful for another reason.
"So...guess that means you'll be staying with us a little longer?"
Because Dean hadn't seemed quite so eager to leave now that Sam was better...but Sonny could still see the restlessness just beneath the surface, could still sense Dean's priorities realigning now that he had been reminded about his importance in Sam's life...and about Sam's importance in his.
"Maybe," Dean had allowed about staying at the boys' home.
Sonny had nodded at the vague answer. "Well, at least stay until after the dance. Wouldn't want to stand up your lady..." he had warned with a wink, knowing about Dean's budding relationship with Robin and how the two kids were nervous but excited about the upcoming school dance.
It was a big event and definitely a first for Dean.
"Yeah," Dean had agreed but had still seemed homesick...not for a place but for a person.
Homesick for his kid, for Sammy.
Sonny had sighed, understanding but not wanting to lose one of his favorite kids; Dean having claimed a special place in his heart over the past two months as the 14-year old had lived and worked and flourished at the boys' home.
A few days later, Bobby had called to report that John had shown up at Singer Salvage and had taken Sam, loading the recovering ten-year old in the Impala and heading to collect Dean as well.
Dean had scowled at the information. "Sammy doesn't need to be on the road. He's still sick."
"He's better than he was," Bobby had allowed. "But you're right. He won't stay that way if he doesn't get some rest. He's still got a nasty cough and a fever that likes to return around bedtime. Plus, he's still got a couple days left on that antibiotic. John's got the medicine but who knows if he'll remember to give it to Sam..."
Dean had sighed harshly. "Why did you let Dad take him?"
Bobby had paused. "That's a good question," he had returned, regret in his voice. "But I did. And now they're coming for you, so you let me know when they get there and how Sam's doin'."
"I will," Dean had assured. "Thanks for the heads up...and for taking care of Sam."
"No problem," Bobby had replied. "You know I love that kid."
Dean had smiled – because he loved that kid, too.
"Yeah," Dean had agreed. "He kinda grows on you..."
Sonny had nodded his agreement, because hell...he hadn't even met Sam but he already loved the kid just from what he had learned about the ten-year old through these phone calls.
Bobby had chuckled at Dean's comment. "Alright, well...take care of yourself – and Sam, once he's with you. Then call me later," he had reminded and had disconnected the call.
Dean had stared at the phone and then had glanced at Sonny as the older man had propped on the edge of the kitchen table.
"Is this what you want?"
Dean had shrugged at the question. "I want to see Sam," he had admitted. "But..."
He had shrugged again.
Because Dean didn't want anything else – didn't want to leave, didn't want to see John, didn't want to resume his old life.
Sonny had nodded. "Well...guess we still got a few days to worry about it."
Dean had returned the nod.
"But for now, how 'bout we review how to tie a tie and how not to step on a woman's feet when you're dancing..."
Dean had snorted. "You're gonna teach me how to dance? Isn't that kinda like the blind leading the blind?"
"Hey. Watch it..." Sonny had growled, though there had been no heat in his voice.
Dean had smiled as they had left the kitchen.
Now two days later, it was the night of the dance...and the night John Winchester had shown up in the yard.
And while Dean had briefly considered accepting Sonny's offer and staying at the boys' home, one look out the window had changed everything.
Seeing Sam had changed everything.
And that's when Dean knew he had to go.
Because Sam needed him...and he needed Sam.
And that's why Dean was standing there in the walkway of the boys' home, waiting for an armful of little brother as he smiled at the floppy-haired kid running towards him – the floppy-haired kid wearing Dean's flannel shirt that swallowed his small frame.
The big brother's smile widened.
"Dean!" Sam greeted, almost knocking Dean off his feet with the force of his hug as he wrapped his arms around Dean's waist and buried his face in his big brother's chest.
"Hey, Sammy..." Dean murmured, holding Sam tight and feeling his eyes sting with unshed tears.
Because god he had missed this – had missed this kid he loved so much.
Dean briefly cupped the back of Sam's head, his fingers tangling in Sam's hair as he held his brother even closer.
Sam responded instantly, squeezing Dean tighter and pressing his face harder against Dean's chest.
Dean smiled, touched but also saddened by how desperate and scared his little brother's actions seemed...like Sam was afraid this was a dream, was only temporary and Dean was going to be snatched from him if he let go.
Dean sighed, then cringed as Sam suddenly coughed; the sound rattling in the kid's chest.
"Whoa. Easy..." Dean soothed and rubbed his brother's back, glancing at the Impala as he felt John watching them from the driver's seat.
Their dad only blinked at him, his scowl both impatient and disapproving.
Because there would be no hugs from John Winchester; no "welcome back" or "I missed you" or "I'm sorry" or anything said about the past two months.
This would likely never be mentioned again.
But Dean would never forget it, would never forget the time his dad had abandoned him...and in turn, had made Dean abandon Sam.
Maybe that had been Dean's true punishment.
Dean snorted – his opinion of their dad forever changed – and then refocused on the only person who mattered to him...Sam.
"Hey..." Dean called to his little brother. "I guess since you're giving me the longest hug ever, then that means you missed me?"
Sam nodded at his brother's teasing; his face rubbing against Dean's shirt before he briefly pulled away to look up at Dean with misty eyes.
Dean frowned, startled by his kid's tears. "What's wrong?"
"If I made you mad, I'm sorry," Sam told him, his voice hoarse and quiet from the chronic coughing caused by his recent illness. "But please, please never go away again."
The words sliced like a knife.
Dean shook his head. "You didn't make me mad, Sammy. I was just lost on a hunt, remember?"
Sam looked skeptical but didn't dispute the lie he had been told...over and over.
"But that doesn't matter now," Dean pointed out, brushing over the deceit. "'Cause here I am...right?"
Sam offered a watery smile and nodded.
Dean returned the smile and winked at Sam before turning serious. "How do you feel?"
Because the kid staring up at him looked pale and thin and tired.
Sam shrugged – a classic little brother dodge – and coughed once more, swallowing like it hurt to do so; his throat raw from the constant abuse.
"That's what I thought," Dean drawled about his little brother feeling like crap and draped his arm over Sam's shoulders. "C'mon. Let's get back to the car. This night air's not good for you."
Sam sniffled, allowing his brother to steer him towards the Impala, and then climbed in the backseat.
Dean hesitated, turning back to the house and waving – because he knew Sonny had been watching them from the window this entire time – and then followed behind Sam.
Sam tilted his head, confused that Dean was beside him instead of riding shotgun like he normally did.
But Dean only smiled, not offering an explanation to his little brother because he knew that John understood what he was doing; knew that his dad had felt the silent rejection and had heard the nonverbal "fuck you".
And that was strangely satisfying to Dean as he held John's gaze in the rearview mirror.
The silence that filled the Impala hummed with tension.
Sam's gaze flickered from Dean to the back of John's head...and then returned to Dean before he coughed, leaning forward as the force of it shook his small body.
Dean's attention instantly snapped to his brother, reaching for his kid and rubbing Sam's back. "Easy, Sammy. When's the last time you took your medicine?"
Sam shrugged, breathless. "Don't remember."
...which meant "not recently".
Dean shook his head in frustration, glaring at John.
"He can take it with dinner," John commented, easing the Impala out of the yard.
Dean arched an eyebrow. "You haven't fed him yet? It's past 8:30."
"He's not a baby," John replied about Sam. "He doesn't have to eat on a schedule, especially when we're trying to make good time."
...as if making good time on a road trip was more important than feeding a ten-year old his dinner and giving the sick kid his medicine.
Dean clenched his jaw as he continued to glare at the back of John's head, wondering how he could have ever idolized this asshole, how he could have ever made excuses for him.
Sam coughed again and then released a shaky breath, staring at Dean like he wanted to cry.
After all, it had been a rough couple of months...and Sam was still sick...and the kid had been stuck with John Winchester for two days by himself.
That was enough to make anybody want to cry.
Dean sighed and smiled softly at his little brother. "You're okay," he assured and pulled his kid toward him. "C'mere..."
Sam easily came, sliding across the backseat and leaning against his brother's side.
Dean held Sam close, rubbing the ten-year old's arm in a familiar, soothing rhythm as his gaze landed on the toy discarded in the floorboard.
"Where'd you get the airplane?"
Sam swallowed and cleared his throat.
But John answered first.
"I gave it to him."
Dean blinked at the unexpected news before snorting. "Well, that explains a lot..."
Because Sam didn't like airplanes.
They weren't really his "thing".
Sure, he'd play with it – and was playing with it when Dean had seen him out the window of the boys' home.
But Sam would play with just about anything since the kid was starved for toys.
And Sam was too sweet and polite to reject anything John gave him...especially since the occasion was so rare.
But what kind of dad didn't know what his ten-year old son liked and disliked?
And what kind of dad expected two months of abandonment to be forgiven if he just gave the kid a toy?
Dean shook his head, feeling Sam lean more heavily against him as the kid closed his eyes sighed – finally safe and happy.
There was silence, only the sound of Sam's congested breaths and the rumble of the Impala's engine.
Several miles passed.
"When we get to town, we're stopping so Sammy can eat and take his medicine," Dean told John, his anger making him bolder than usual. "And then after that, we're going to a motel so he can sleep in a real bed and get the rest he needs."
"And if that's too much trouble for you, then you can take us back to where you just picked me up."
Because Dean knew that Sonny would gladly take them in, would gladly do whatever they needed.
John glanced to the rearview mirror but said nothing as he kept driving.
Dean nodded – accepting John's silence as his agreement with that plan – and then glanced down at Sam as the ten-year old shifted against him.
The big brother smiled, continuing to hug his kid.
Because although Dean was already missing Sonny's place, he knew he was right where he needed to be, right where he belonged.
Right beside his little brother.