Introductions among the boys were always awkward.
And today was no different.
Six kids ranging in ages from 12 to 16 stared at the two new kids as they stepped off the back porch of Sonny's house.
Everybody sizing each other up before a single word was spoken.
Dean kept his little brother close, his hand resting on the back of Sam's neck as he steered the kid across the yard.
Sonny followed behind them, impressed by Dean's fearlessness as the 14-year old boldly approached the group.
Standing at either end of the row of boys, Carlos and Rosa exchanged glances with each other and then with Sonny. The couple having seen the patrol car arrive and depart over an hour ago and having expected a new resident at the house as a result...but not two new residents.
Sonny nodded – confirming their suspicion that this was a two-for-one situation – and then focused on the group of boys.
Six pairs of eyes stared back, their attention flickering between Sonny and the new kids now standing in front of them.
"Fellas..." Sonny began, addressing the group. "I'd like to introduce you to – "
" – Dean," the older of the two brothers interrupted, cutting his eyes at Sonny to indicate he could speak for himself.
Sonny arched an eyebrow but nodded, allowing Dean to take the lead.
"I'm Dean," the 14-year old repeated, making eye contact with each of the boys. "And this is my brother, Sam," he continued, gesturing at the ten-year old behind him.
The big brother having stepped in front of his little brother, assuming a protective stance and providing a barrier between Sam and these other kids the brothers didn't know.
Sonny expected no less.
From what he had already observed, he knew no one got to Sam unless they went through Dean first.
And this was no exception.
Dean was on high-alert, his body language tense but precise as he stood guard.
Like a soldier ready for combat.
The similarity was undeniable, and Sonny wondered if their dad was ex-military.
A few of the younger boys tilted their heads, angling for a better view of the floppy-haired kid barely visible from behind Dean's taller frame.
Sam peeked out from beside Dean's arm and stared back, big eyes and shy smile.
Rosa touched her chest, instantly in love with the cutest kid she had ever seen.
Carlos shook his head good-naturedly at his wife's reaction.
Sonny twitched a smile, knowing exactly how Rosa felt.
Sam Winchester was one cute, sweet kid.
A rarity in their world since that description didn't fit most kids who ended up at Sonny's farm.
There was a bark from inside the barn, an old black lab briefly attracting everyone's attention as he entered the yard and joined the group. Ears forward, tail wagging; the dog welcoming the newcomers in his own way.
Sam smiled and glanced at Sonny. "Gus?"
Sonny nodded at the whispered question, his heart warmed by how happy this little guy was at just seeing the dog.
But Dean's reaction was opposite. The big brother scowling at the dog in warning as Gus approached, heading straight for Sam.
On instinct, Dean moved slightly to the right, blocking Gus's path.
Because nobody – not even a dog – was allowed to interact with Sam until Dean said so.
And until Dean knew this dog was just a dog, the animal wasn't getting anywhere close to Sam.
Gus paused midstride, staring at Dean.
His tail wagging slowed, then stopped.
Dean's little brother was off limits.
Gus whined softly – confused and disappointed – but perked up as he trotted over to sit beside Sonny.
The dog smart enough to figure out a way to be close to Sam without direct contact...or maybe he was just responding to his master's silent command.
Maybe Sonny had been the one to figure out a way for Gus to be close to Sam without causing Dean to feel like his little brother was threatened.
Sam glanced again at Sonny as the thought crossed his mind.
Sonny winked, confirming the kid's suspicion.
Sam's smile returned.
It would be their secret.
Sonny nodded in agreement – feeling ridiculously happy about this small step in bonding with the ten-year old – and reached down to scratch behind Gus's ears as he refocused on the group.
The silence in the yard becoming awkward as it stretched.
The boys becoming restless as they continued to stand in line.
But Sonny stood relaxed and waiting while he allowed time for one of them to make the next move.
Dean was waiting as well, and Sonny knew this was a test.
The first of many Dean would require before trust would begin to build.
A few more seconds passed until one of the boys rose to the challenge.
"I'm Max," the kid introduced, stepping forward and extending his hand.
But Dean didn't return the gesture, instead staring at the fellow 14-year old as he spoke a single word.
Max blinked at the unusual greeting and glanced at Sonny.
Sonny narrowed his eyes, watching as Dean quickly scanned each boy for a reaction to the word and then focused on Rosa and Carlos as he said it again.
No one moved.
The awkwardness of introductions suddenly a lot more awkward...and a lot weirder.
Sam sighed loudly, knowing it was important to check strangers for demon possession but hating how uncomfortable it made everyone.
"Dean. Stop freaking people out," the ten-year old admonished – covering for his brother as if Dean was just playing games – and then stepped around Dean to grab Max's hand. "Hi. I'm Sam."
"Max," the boy repeated, smiling at Sam but keeping a wary eye on Dean.
Dean stared back, unfazed and uncaring of what the others thought of him.
Because safety came first.
And Dean would sleep better tonight knowing there were no demons hiding in plain sight within Sonny's house.
Maybe he would even begin every morning with a "Christo" greeting just to make sure it stayed that way.
Dean nodded in agreement with that plan – already imagining the expressions around the breakfast table tomorrow morning – and then focused on another kid stepping forward from the line.
And so it went.
Each boy stepping forward to say his name and shake hands with Dean and his little brother.
The process remarkably smooth and pleasant after the rough start...until they reached the end of the line.
Sonny shook his head in annoyance at the one kid he knew would be a pain in the ass.
Andy glared back, crossing his arms over his chest in defiance.
"Hey, man..." Sonny began, shrugging indifferently. "If you want this to be your third strike, that's up to you."
Andy's expression darkened, knowing he was being manipulated into participating in this meet-and-greet bullshit...but also knowing Sonny wasn't bluffing.
It was house rules.
Three strikes and you were out.
And Sonny would gladly ship him off to another boys' home after the other two stunts Andy had pulled earlier in the month.
Since 12-year old Jacob's left arm had been cradled by a sling up until three days ago as a result of what Andy had done...and Gus still flinched every time Andy came near after what had happened last week.
Andy resisted the urge to smile as he remembered, his gaze flickering between ugly, freckle-faced Jacob and that stupid, smelly mutt still sitting beside Sonny.
"We're waiting..." Sonny announced, his posture remaining relaxed as he continued to stand in the yard beside the two new kids...but his tone and expression daring Andy to refuse an introduction.
Andy sighed, keeping his arms over his chest. "Fine," he snapped, then paused. "My name's Andy," he told the two brothers, focusing on Dean. "And I don't give a shit about you..." He glanced at Sam. "...or him."
"Watch your mouth," Sonny warned, not usually bothered by mild swearing since these boys were a little rough around the edges and Sonny had learned a long time ago how to pick his battles.
But he also knew if he gave Andy an inch, the kid would take a mile...and there would be f-bombs dropped before this conversation was over.
And that wasn't tolerated.
Andy rolled his eyes, ignoring Sonny as he finished his speech to Dean. "And maybe you're the new kid, but I'm not shaking your hand or kissing your ass like these other losers."
Sam's eyes widened at the hostile tone, but Dean snorted dismissively, not rising to the bait or giving Andy the satisfaction of any other response.
Rosa smiled and glanced at her husband, knowing from his expression and from the way he was staring at this new kid that Carlos was as impressed as she was.
Sonny gave a slight nod of approval, feeling an unexpected swell of pride in the way Dean handled himself.
After all, confidence was often silent...while insecurity was loud.
Not getting the reaction he wanted from Dean, Andy shifted his focus to Dean's little brother.
Sam continuing to stare at him with wide eyes, the 16-year old huge compared to the scrawny ten-year old.
"What the hell are you looking at?" Andy growled, uncrossing his arms as if to make a move.
But Dean moved first, smoothly tucking Sam behind him and facing the bully head on; his hand splayed in the center of Andy's chest as he shoved him away from his little brother.
Andy blinked but quickly recovered, sweeping Dean's hand from his chest. "You got a problem?"
Dean quirked an unreadable smile but still said nothing, allowing Andy to squirm in the silence.
Only steps away, Sonny watched, ready to intervene if needed – and so would Carlos.
But both men knew the proverbial pecking order had to be established among the boys...especially these two.
A kid who thought he was a badass finally confronted by a kid who really was a badass.
And again Sonny wondered about the brothers' dad and what kind of training the man had given them, especially Dean.
This 14-year old who could clearly put this 16-year old on his ass if he wanted to.
This 14-year old who was incredibly protective of the ten-year old standing behind him.
This 14-year old who was just what this farm needed.
Sonny nodded, selfishly hoping Dean and his little brother stayed at the boys' home indefinitely.
Still in line, the other kids shifted uncomfortably, having witnessed showdowns like this before only to see the new kid put in his place by the asshole that was Andy Davis.
But this time seemed different.
Because it was.
Dean hadn't even said anything yet, but it was still obvious that he wasn't taking Andy's shit.
Charlie and Max exchanged glances, both 14-year olds smiling as they identified a new friend in this new kid.
Dean continued to stare at his opponent. "I'm only gonna say this once," he advised, his voice eerily quiet as he held Andy's gaze. "If you mess with Sam, you mess with me." He paused to further make his point. "And you don't wanna mess with me."
It was like something out of a movie.
But no one doubted Dean's words.
Not even Andy.
The message was delivered loud and clear.
Dean's little brother was to be left alone...unless someone wanted trouble.
There was a beat of silence.
Andy trying to form a comeback but quickly realizing he had nothing.
All eyes were on him.
And he had nothing.
The 16-year old clenched his jaw, silently fuming and vowing this wasn't over.
Dean had revealed his weak spot...and this wasn't over.
Rosa glanced at Carlos who glanced at Sonny.
Sonny nodded, agreeing that it was time to move on.
Introductions were complete.
The pissing match was at a standstill.
And there were chores to finish before dinner.
Carlos returned Sonny's nod, preparing to put the boys back to work. "Alright, muchachos…" he called, readjusting his hat as he spoke and glanced up at the sky. "Daylight's burning. And that trailer's not gonna unload itself."
Sam smiled, fascinated by the man's accent.
Carlos winked at the kid leaning out from behind his big brother and then refocused on the older boys. "Vamonos."
The boys sighed and grumbled at the order but followed behind Carlos as he turned and crossed the yard, leading the group toward the far side of the barn. A few of the boys glancing over their shoulders as they walked, not wanting to miss any action as Andy and Dean continued to stand in each other's space, neither giving an inch.
Until Sonny spoke...
"Enough," he told them, stepping between Andy and Dean and then nodding in the direction the other boys had gone. "There's hay to unload."
Andy snorted. "I'm not working with him," he refused, glaring at Dean.
Dean glared back, still keeping Sam safely behind him.
And Sam obediently stood there, the ten-year old undoubtedly occupying this position numerous times throughout his short life.
Protected, shielded behind his big brother.
Because whatever wanted Sam had to come through Dean first.
It was fascinating.
Sonny blinked, refocusing on the situation at hand. "Your choice," he told Andy with a shrug. "Either work with him..." He glanced at Dean. "...or work with whoever you meet at the new boys' home."
Andy said nothing, hating the power Sonny had over him with this stupid "three strikes" bullshit as he stomped off to join the others.
Dean watched him go with a satisfied smirk.
Dean glanced at Sonny, arching an eyebrow. "Me, too…what?"
"Help unload that trailer," Sonny replied, gesturing at the flatbed trailer stacked high with bales of hay. "Everybody here works, including you two."
It was tough love.
The part of his job Sonny sometimes disliked.
Especially when he really liked the kids he had to be tough on...
Dean sighed, his attention shifting to Sam as the kid now stood beside him.
"Not him," Sonny clarified, referring to Dean's little brother being excused from this particular chore. "Some of those bales are as big as he is."
It wasn't an exaggeration.
Even the 12-year olds who were older and bigger and stronger than Sam were struggling under the weight and size of some of the bales.
The challenge was good for them as was the sense of accomplishment they would feel after the chore was done.
But tackling those hay bales would be dangerous for Dean's little brother.
"We'll find something else for Sam to do," Sonny commented, glancing at Rosa as she approached.
The woman nodded in agreement, eager to have this sweet little floppy-haired cutie all to herself.
But Dean shook his head, wrapping his arm around his brother's shoulders and pulling his kid close.
"No. I'm not leaving Sam alone."
"He won't be alone," Sonny assured, the suggestion of Sam being by himself making even him nervous. "He'll be with Rosa. And Gus..."
Dean glanced at the woman and then at the dog; Gus having been a silent observer to everything that had happened in the yard as he had sat next to Sonny's leg this entire time.
"Hi," Rosa greeted, the simple word sounding exotic inside her Spanish accent as she attracted Dean's attention.
Dean did not.
He only stared at her, much like he had done from the window earlier when he had watched the boys in the yard.
Rosa shifted beneath Dean's gaze, slightly unnerved by its intensity.
Sonny sighed, having expected to meet resistance when he tried to separate the brothers but...
"It's okay," a quiet voice spoke up, and all eyes turned toward the little guy.
Sam shrunk back against his brother, uncomfortable with the attention since his words had been meant only for Dean.
And Dean was listening, his focus solely on his brother now as he waited for the ten-year old to make his case as to why it was okay for Dean to leave Sam with a woman – and a dog – they had met barely ten minutes ago.
But Sam only shrugged, his narrow shoulders rising slightly under the weight of Dean's arm still wrapped around them.
Dean snorted good-naturedly and shook his head at his brother's silence.
It took a few seconds before Sonny realized what Dean already knew – that Sam didn't have a reason. He was just more trusting than his big brother and more likely to see the good in people instead of the bad...and he was asking Dean to do the same.
To focus on what could go right instead of what could go wrong.
Sonny smiled, appreciating how good these brothers were for each other; how much they balanced each other.
Sam continued to stare up at Dean, blinking those big eyes under that fringe of bangs.
The kid not saying another word but still managing to convince Dean to loosen the proverbial apron strings.
...which was just another interesting part of this relationship – that Dean's role in Sam's life did seem more maternal, more motherhen than big brother.
As if Dean had literally raised Sam.
And if that was true, then where the hell had their father been?
Sonny tightened his jaw at the question, angered more than he should be since he had just met these kids.
But the answer was clear.
Their father had been absent...just like he was now.
And since their mother was also absent – most likely dead, if Sonny assumed correctly – then these kids were essentially orphans.
Sonny's heart suddenly pounded in his chest as he felt a renewed sense of protectiveness. An overwhelming need to keep these kids safe, to keep them with him as he silently vowed Sam and Dean would never be alone again...even if ensuring that meant lawyers and court documents.
Sonny swallowed at the thought.
Because while he had never sought custody of any of his boys before, none of his boys had ever been like these two brothers...and Sonny refused to allow them to become separated and lost in the system.
They deserved to be together.
They deserved to have a home.
And Sonny would make sure they got what they deserved.
He nodded, knowing he was months away from having to make any legal decisions or motions...and also knowing he should probably be concerned by how attached he was to Sam and Dean already.
But he wasn't.
He embraced it.
And Sonny would embrace these kids as part of his life if they would let him.
The possibility was almost too much to imagine – too much to hope for – and Sonny felt his emotions becoming scattered.
He needed to get a grip.
Sonny sighed and then blinked as Dean sighed, the 14-year old finally giving in to the power of Sam's expression – those big eyes and slow blinks.
"You know...you're not as cute as you think you are," the big brother told the ten-year old with a quirked smile.
Because actually, yeah...the kid was that cute.
Sam knew it.
Sonny knew it.
And Dean definitely knew it.
And maybe one day Dean would be able to resist Sam looking like a pleading puppy...but that day wasn't today.
Sam returned his brother's smile. "Does that mean yes?"
As if the kid didn't already know.
"Yes," Dean relented, hoping he wouldn't regret this. "You can work with Rosa."
"And Gus?" Sam added, pushing for what he really wanted.
Dean glanced at the dog still sitting beside Sonny, wishing he had something silver to test for a skinwalker.
But the deputy had taken his knife during the arrest, and Sonny probably wouldn't like Dean slicing into his dog "just to check", so...
Dean sighed once more. "And Gus," he agreed about Sam being allowed close to the dog.
Sam beamed, briefly hugging Dean around the waist to thank his brother, and then crossed to Gus. "Hi," he greeted, staring into a black face with brown eyes and gray hairs along his muzzle.
Gus perked his ears and wagged his tail, swishing the dirt in the yard as he sat and enjoyed the attention of a little boy with a big heart and a special love for dogs.
Sonny smiled, his heart warmed by the interaction.
Dean glanced at Rosa, strictly business. "What will Sam be doing?"
Rosa glanced at Sonny and then gestured to the chicken coop across the yard. "I still have eggs to collect," she told the big brother, hoping he would approve of that chore.
Dean nodded, knowing Sam would like that. "And then what?"
Rosa hesitated. "Well, I'm not sure," she admitted. "I have some things to do in the house, so I thought your brother could help."
Dean nodded once again, even though the big brother had mixed feelings about Sam being out of his sight.
"He'll be fine," Sonny assured, noticing the return of Dean's tense body language and reading the 14-year old's thoughts. "Sam will be safe with Rosa."
"And where will you be?" Dean asked, glancing at Sam to check on the kid as he continued to fawn over Gus, and then glancing back to Sonny for an answer.
"Figured I'd stay out here. Help keep an eye on things..." Sonny replied, turning to look over his shoulder at the other boys still unloading hay bales under Carlos's direction.
Dean followed Sonny's gaze, feeling a connection to the man since he knew they were both concerned about the same thing – Andy.
Sonny didn't want further trouble between him and Dean.
And Dean didn't want that prick anywhere close to Sam.
So, maybe Sam collecting eggs with Rosa and then going in the house was a good plan...
Dean sighed, focusing again on Rosa as she stood beside Sonny. "Be careful with him," the big brother warned, not needing to call Sam's name for the woman to know who he was talking about.
Because for Dean, it was always about Sam.
Rosa nodded, understanding the weight of this responsibility and knowing if anything happened to Dean's little brother on her watch, she would have to deal with Dean.
Dean held her gaze and then glanced at his brother. "Sammy..."
Sam looked up at him, blinking expectantly as he continued to rub Gus's head; the dog leaning into the ten-year old's touch.
Dean closed the space between them. "You're gonna work with Rosa for a little while, okay?"
Sam glanced at the woman and then back to Dean. "Okay."
Well...that was easy.
Sonny smiled, again struck by how different these brothers were in their personalities.
Dean needed convincing while Sam just agreed.
The kid undoubtedly knowing all the details had been ironed out and approved by his big brother, so he had nothing to worry about.
If Dean was fine with him working with Rosa, then Sam was fine with it.
It was that simple.
Trust in its purest form.
"While you're with her, I'm gonna be right over there," Dean told his brother, nodding at the trailer of hay at the far side of the yard.
Sam stopped petting Gus long enough to turn and look.
"Okay," Sam repeated, refocusing on Dean.
"If you need me..."
"...I call you," Sam finished, familiar with this routine whenever Dean left him and knowing his big brother would be right there if Sam called his name.
"Damn right," Dean confirmed.
And Sonny wondered if it was always like this whenever the two brothers were separated.
This drawn out process of outlining plans – of who was where doing what – and then following up that plan with a backup plan.
The only backup plan Sam had likely ever needed – calling for Dean.
Sonny smiled, both amused and touched that Dean was acting as though he was leaving his little brother and going across the country instead of just across the yard.
Dean glanced at the dog now standing beside his brother, needing to take care of one last thing before he joined the other boys in unloading the hay.
Sonny watched as Dean crouched beside his dog.
"And you..." Dean began, lowering his voice and staring straight into Gus's eyes in case there was a person in there. "If I find out you're a skinwalker, there will be a silver bullet with your name on it."
The dog tilted his head but didn't otherwise respond.
Sonny frowned, reminded that these brothers also had a dark side.
In addition to being a lousy father and most likely some kind of drill sergeant, had their dad involved these kids in some kind of cult as well?
What else would explain these mentions of werewolves and skinwalkers (whatever the hell that was) and silver bullets and Latin...and that thing around Dean's neck – an amulet to protect him against "bad things".
It was both intriguing and disturbing, and Sonny would have to wait until the right time, would have to ask the right questions to find out about that side of the brothers' lives.
There was a beat of silence before Dean stood; the 14-year old satisfied that Gus was just a dog.
Sam smiled at his brother as Dean stared down at him. "Told ya."
Dean pulled a face. "Yeah, yeah," he dismissed about Sam's earlier declaration that Gus wasn't a skinwalker. "But better safe than sorry, right?"
"Right," Sam agreed and wrinkled his nose at the thought of being bitten by something supernatural.
Dean was just looking out for him...like always.
Sam's smile returned as Dean brushed his bangs across his forehead, the ten-year old recognizing affection and a stalling big brother when he saw one.
Dean needed a little encouragement.
"Ms. Rosa and Gus are gonna take care of me," Sam assured his worrying brother. "And Mr. Sonny and Mr. Carlos are gonna take care of things over there," he continued, motioning toward the trailer beside the barn. "And then we'll be together again. The end," he concluded as though he had just told Dean a bedtime story.
Dean snorted as Sam gave him a cheeky smile, well aware of what his kid was doing.
"Fine," the big brother chuckled and glanced at Rosa, signaling that the changing of the guard was occurring now.
Rosa nodded, stepping closer to Sam and accepting the responsibility...even though it overwhelmed her – being left alone with this cute, sweet kid who was clearly everything to his intimidating big brother.
Sonny smiled at Rosa, silently assuring the woman of his confidence in her, and then glanced at Dean. "You ready?"
"Yeah," Dean replied, once again tousling Sam's hair and then patting the kid's back before crossing the yard with Sonny.
Sam watched them go, not surprised when Dean turned to look at him over his shoulder.
"He loves you, little one."
Sam's attention shifted to Rosa. "We love each other."
Rosa smiled, feeling tears unexpectedly sting her eyes at the simple, honest response of a child.
"I can see that," she told Sam and gestured toward the chicken coop. "Shall we?"
muchachos = boys
vamonos = let's go