Sam nodded at Rosa's invitation, eager for the new experience of collecting eggs.
"I've never been on a real farm," he commented, falling in step beside the woman as they crossed the yard.
Gus trotted behind them.
"Most boys who come here would say the same," Rosa replied. "And you are younger than most."
"I'm ten," Sam supplied without being asked, the way children sometimes did about their age. "And Dean's 14."
"Only four years apart," Rosa noted, having expected the age difference to be greater considering the drastic difference in size between the two brothers.
Sam nodded again.
Rosa smiled at the cute child walking beside her. "So, tell me, little one...why are you here?"
Because Sam didn't fit the profile of the kids who usually ended up at Sonny's farm.
"I came with Dean."
Rosa nodded at the simple explanation – a little brother tagging along with his big brother.
Though where were the parents while these children were out getting themselves into trouble?
Rosa shook her head, reminding herself to ask one question at a time.
"And why is Dean here?"
Sam glanced at Rosa but didn't respond, not wanting to rat out his brother...although he knew she would likely find out the reason from Sonny later, so...
"Dean got caught stealing," the ten-year old reported, looking guilty himself.
Rosa nodded once more, familiar with that offense since most boys at Sonny's house had gotten caught doing the same.
"What did he steal?" she asked as they approached the chicken coop.
Sam rubbed Gus's head as the dog came alongside him. "Bread and peanut butter," he replied. "And he would've gotten the jelly, too, but that's when the guy at the store caught him."
Rosa frowned in thought. "Your brother was stealing food?" she clarified.
Because most of the boys at Sonny's place had stolen small electronics or...
"Mmhmm," Sam hummed distractedly, still rubbing Gus's head as they walked.
Rosa's frown deepened at the implication that Dean had stolen not out of mischief but out of necessity.
He and his little brother had been hungry.
And she somehow knew this wasn't the first time the big brother had stolen food.
It was just the first time he had gotten caught.
And again...where were the parents while these children were stealing to survive?
The suggestion of absence and neglect made Rosa's heart pound with anger.
She and Carlos couldn't have children...and yet those who could didn't seem to cherish them as they should.
It wasn't fair.
She and Carlos would have given their children the moon if they had been blessed with the ability to have sons or daughters.
Yet people who did have children didn't meet those children's basic needs and certainly couldn't be bothered by their wants.
And it wasn't fair.
Rosa sighed, willing herself to calm down as she was reminded that she didn't know the whole story.
Sam and Dean's parents might be good people who were just experiencing a bad time, and it wasn't her place to judge them.
But Rosa longed for a child, and she couldn't help her reaction whenever she suspected a sweet child like the one standing beside her wasn't appreciated for the blessing he was.
Rosa glanced at Sam as he watched her open the wired door of the coop and shoo the chickens away from the entrance.
"Stay," she commanded Gus while motioning for Sam. "Come."
Sam hesitated, then did as he was instructed, carefully entering the coop and sticking close to Rosa as the chickens flapped and squawked their displeasure at being disturbed.
Rosa laughed lightly, sweeping her long black hair over her shoulder as she latched the door behind them.
"You are okay, little one," she soothed, not wanting the child to be afraid but feeling strangely honored that Sam trusted her to protect him.
The ten-year old's small hand fisting the fabric of her skirt as he shrunk against her while an ornery hen pecked at his foot.
"Detener!" Rosa scolded, swatting the chicken away from Sam. "Dejar!"
Sam blinked at the unfamiliar words.
But the hen seemed to understand as it stopped pecking at Sam and waddled across the coop.
Sam wrinkled his forehead, determined that a chicken was not going to be smarter than him.
"What did you say?"
Rosa smiled at the curious child. "I told it to 'stop'...detener. And then I told it to 'leave'...d – "
" – dejar," Sam finished, correctly pronouncing the word he had heard only once while also matching Rosa's accent surprisingly well.
Her smile widened. "Muy bien."
"Si," Rosa praised, proud of this little guy still fisting her skirt and staring up at her. "You, little one, are a fast learner," she told the only child on Sonny's farm who had ever shown interest in her native language.
Sam ducked his head shyly. "Thank you. I like learning new stuff," he admitted and glanced over his shoulder at Gus as the dog sat patiently outside of the coop...and then looked beyond Gus to the other boys on the far side of the yard.
Rosa followed his gaze, knowing Sam was searching for Dean...and not surprised that Dean was staring straight back.
The 14-year old gloved up and participating in the chore assigned to him while also keeping a sharp eye on his little brother.
Sam noticeably relaxed beneath his big brother's attention and released his hold on Rosa's skirt as he smiled and waved at Dean.
Dean dropped the bale of hay he was carrying but didn't wave, instead gesturing with his hand.
Sam nodded and returned a different gesture.
Rosa watched, fascinated that the brothers were clearly communicating in their own language.
"What did he say?"
Sam refocused on the woman standing beside him. "Dean asked if I was okay."
Rosa nodded, both amused and touched that Sam and Dean had been separated for less than five minutes...yet the big brother was already checking on the ten-year old.
"And what did you say?"
"I told him I was fine," Sam answered and repeated the gesture, spreading his hand into a "five" and tapping his thumb to the center of his chest twice.
Rosa did the same.
Sam smiled as the woman imitated him. "Muy bien."
Rosa laughed at this adorable child. "Gracias," she replied with a wink, appreciating Sam's quick wit. "That is sign language, yes?"
Sam shrugged. "Kinda," he allowed. "Sometimes we use real signs...but then sometimes we use signs we made up, so only we know 'em."
Rosa arched an eyebrow, equally intrigued and impressed as she wondered why these brothers would need a secret language.
"This is a real sign, though," Sam clarified, repeating the gesture once more. "It means 'fine'."
Rosa nodded. "I will remember it," she promised and tilted her head toward the enclosed area at the back of the coop where the chickens laid their eggs. "Ready?"
Sam shifted where he stood, suddenly nervous. "We won't hurt them, will we?"
Rosa smiled at the sweet child blinking up at her. "No, little one. Some of the ladies will not be happy that we are taking their eggs," she admitted about a few of the hens. "But taking them will not hurt them." She paused. "And I will not let them hurt you."
Rosa held Sam's gaze after she spoke, feeling like a motherhen herself.
Maybe it was the little guy's age...or how small he was.
Or maybe it was his innocent and trusting nature.
Or maybe it was a combination of everything about this child that made her fiercely protective of him.
But regardless of the reason, the feeling was there, and Rosa understood why Dean had asked multiple questions before allowing Sam to work with her. She understood why the big brother was reluctant to allow the ten-year old beyond his reach and why Dean was watching Sam even now from across the yard.
Because this child had a certain vulnerability that drew you in, that made you want to shield him and take care of him.
And Rosa was a goner.
Sam had captured her heart in less than an hour.
She smiled once more, offering her hand to him. "Ready?"
Sam released a slow breath and nodded at the repeated question. "Ready," he replied and grasped Rosa's hand as he again glanced over his shoulder at Dean.
The big brother still watching his every move as Rosa led Sam further back in the coop.
Gus whined as the pair disappeared from view and then laid down in the dirt with a sigh, waiting for their return.
"These are the nesting boxes," Rosa told Sam, gesturing at the wooden partitioned boxes that lined the wall in the small enclosed space. "Our ladies lay their eggs here."
Sam nodded, taking in the clucking hens sitting content on their nests, and then wrinkled his nose at the unpleasant smell.
Rosa laughed. "They are not good housekeepers," she agreed about the hens. "But they are hard workers," she defended, squeezing Sam's hand affectionately before releasing it and clapping in the direction of the chickens. "Fuera! Fuera!"
The hens erupted in a commotion of squawking and flapping, dust and feathers swirling in the air as they left their nests in a huff.
Sam frowned – concerned that the chickens were upset – and then flinched as one of them pecked at his foot...again.
"Fuera!" the ten-year old ordered as he clapped his hands, having no idea what the word meant but knowing it had worked for Rosa.
The hen instantly responded, shying away from the noisy child and crossing to the opposite side of the coop.
Sam smiled, proud of his success, and then glanced at Rosa as she hummed a laugh behind him.
"Bien hecho, little one. Already you are a farmer," she praised with a wink and motioned for Sam to join her, smiling as he approached. "Look..." she whispered, pointing at the eggs nestled in the hay within the box.
Sam's eyes widened. "Wow..." he breathed, staring at the eggs. "That is so cool!"
Rosa nodded. "Cool," she agreed, understanding the slang term. "But also warm," she countered, scooping one of the eggs from the nest.
Sam watched as she reached for his hand, cradling it in her grasp while she placed the egg in his palm.
The ten-year old smiled at the unexpected warmth radiating from the white shell.
Rosa returned the smile, wishing all the boys on the farm were so easily delighted; were so eager to learn and experience new things; were so sweet and kind by nature.
"You are a treasure, little one," she told the child blinking up at her; her heart already brimming with love and attachment barely an hour after meeting him.
But Sam seemed startled by the comment and ducked his head, shy and uncomfortable; the youngest Winchester unaccustomed to such statements of open affection...and unfamiliar with the attention of a woman.
Was this what it was like to have a mother?
The thought caught Sam off guard, and he felt his expression change.
Rosa frowned. "What is wrong?"
Sam shook his head, unable to explain why he sometimes missed a mother he never knew.
Rosa's heart broke as she stared into the ten-year old's misty eyes. "It is okay," she soothed, wishing she knew what had upset the child so quickly.
Sam said nothing but released a shaky breath as Rosa took the egg from his hand, returning it to the nesting box, and then clasped both of his hands within her own.
"It is okay," she repeated, and Sam was tempted to believe her.
Only she didn't know.
Rosa didn't know their mother was dead and their father was gone.
She didn't know that Dean was everything to Sam...but sometimes the ten-year old still cried because he wanted his mom and he missed his dad.
She didn't know how much Sam wanted Mary to hold him and how sometimes he just needed John to hug him.
She didn't know.
Sam sighed, trying to push away the sadness with a smile. "M'sorry."
Because his problems weren't her problems.
But Rosa shook her head.
"No need," she assured about the apology.
Because his problems were her problems now.
She cared about this child and wanted to make him happy, wanted him to know that everything was going to be okay.
Rosa offered a soft smile of understanding.
"Life is hard, yes?"
Sam's own smile wavered beneath the weight of that simple question.
"Yes," he agreed.
Life was hard.
Rosa nodded, realizing this ten-year old – and his big brother – knew that fact more than children should.
"But some people have it worse," Sam pointed out, something he always reminded himself whenever he felt like this. "At least me and Dean have each other."
Rosa nodded again. "Si," she replied, her heart warmed once more by this child who was wiser than his years...and by how close these brothers were, how they were everything to one another. "You also have me now," she told the ten-year old, meaning every word. "And Carlos and Sonny..."
They would gladly accept Sam and Dean as family.
They already had.
Sam stared up at her, his eyes misty for a different reason.
Rosa squeezed Sam's hands still held within her grasp, smiling down at him as a beat of silence passed between them.
"Well..." she sighed, knowing Sam had been out of Dean's sight long enough; that if they didn't collect the eggs and return to the yard in the next few minutes, the big brother would come looking for what was his.
The thought made her inwardly cringe.
"Here..." Rosa instructed Sam, guiding his hands to the hem of his hoodie and both inverting and lifting the fabric to form a billowy pocket, perfect for carrying eggs from the coop to the house. "Hold it like this."
Sam nodded, his fingers fisting the fabric as he watched Rosa turn toward the nesting boxes.
A few hens lingered nearby, clucking their impatience.
Sam eyed them warily.
"So, tell me, little one..." Rosa began, her tone conversational as she set out to distract the child from whatever had upset him earlier. "Where are you from?"
Sam hesitated – never sure how to answer that question since they were from everywhere – and glanced out the small window of the coop, wishing Dean was with him to respond the way the big brother usually did whenever strangers became nosy.
But Dean was across the yard...and it was rude not to answer.
Sam sighed. "We were born in Kansas," he finally replied, figuring that was a good place to start.
"Kansas," Rosa repeated, her voice muffled from the way she was leaning into the nesting box. "You are a long way from home then, yes?"
Sam shifted from one foot to the other, increasingly uncomfortable with this line of questioning.
Because home was ambiguous as well.
"We don't live there anymore. We left Kansas when I was a baby."
"Oh..." Rosa commented, turning back to face Sam with several eggs expertly balanced in her grasp. "Then where is home now?"
Sam shrugged. "Wherever."
Rosa frowned at the vague response, confused as to why this honest and open child was suddenly dodging her questions.
Sam cleared his throat, resisting the urge to squirm beneath her gaze and hating how nervous he felt.
But he knew he wasn't supposed to talk about how he and Dean sometimes slept in the back of the Impala...or how they were usually left for weeks – or sometimes even months – by themselves in a motel room or rundown apartment.
Not that any of that really mattered.
For Sam, home had always been a person, not a place.
The ten-year old smiled as the thought crossed his mind, having his answer.
"Home is wherever I'm with Dean."
Rosa felt warmth spread through her chest as tears stung her eyes. She opened her mouth to speak but said nothing, momentarily overwhelmed by the amount of love and trust in the child's statement.
Home was wherever Sam's big brother was.
It was possibly the sweetest thing she had ever heard...spoken by the sweetest child she had ever known.
Sam stared up at her with those big eyes, his forehead wrinkled with concern.
"Did I make you sad?"
Rosa laughed, blinking away her tears as she shook her head. "No, little one. You bring me nothing but joy."
Sam smiled shyly, beginning to like it when she said such things to him...and when she called him "little one".
He liked that in the same way he liked whenever Dean called him "Sammy."
It made him feel safe and loved.
Rosa returned Sam's smile, carefully settling the eggs within his hoodie as the child continued to hold up the hem of his sweatshirt to create a makeshift basket.
Once her hands were empty, Rosa moved to the next nesting box, shooing away one of the hens stubbornly refusing to leave her nest.
"Adiós, mamacita..." she told the chicken in a sing-song voice, ignoring the hen's irritated pecks across her knuckles as she lifted it up and out of the box.
"Chickens aren't very nice."
Rosa laughed at the ten-year old's observation as she set the chicken on the ground covered with hay and dirt and sawdust.
"That is why we eat them," she quipped with a wink and laughed again at Sam's startled expression. "What? Do you not eat chicken?"
"I do, but..."
Sam's voice faded as he cringed, having never given much thought about the chicken nuggets on his plate having once been a live animal.
Rosa laughed once more. "Relajarse, little one," she soothed. "We do not eat these chickens. We keep them only for these."
Sam smiled as Rosa turned to him with several more eggs, adding them to those already nestled within Sam's hoodie.
"Are they getting heavy?" she asked, noticing the slight tremble of the child's arms as he supported the increasing load.
Sam shrugged, not one to complain. "Maybe a little."
Rosa nodded, her gaze roaming the inside of the coop until she found an acceptable replacement to hold the eggs.
"Here..." she told Sam, shaking out an old feed bucket discarded in the corner and crossing back to the ten-year old. "We will put them in here to give your arms a rest. I did not realize the ladies would be so generous in their laying today."
Sam smiled – liking how Rosa kept referring to the hens as "ladies" – and watched as she carefully transferred each egg into the bucket.
"Todo hecho," she announced, placing the last egg on top of the others.
Sam tilted his head.
Rosa hummed a laugh. "All done," she translated and smoothed the fabric of Sam's hoodie over his stomach, brushing away dirt and hay. "I will wash this later."
Sam nodded, even as he doubted Dean would allow her to do his laundry.
His big brother most likely wanting to do the chore himself...just like Dean hadn't allowed Sonny to make Sam's sandwich earlier.
The ten-year old smiled.
"Where are your parents?"
Sam blinked at the question, his heart suddenly pounding in his chest in reaction to the unintentional sucker punch.
"Your parents," Rosa repeated, rubbing her hands across her skirt. "They know you are here, yes?"
These were tricky waters to navigate.
"Well...our dad does," he replied.
Though he guessed their mom did, too, since he liked to imagine that she was everywhere. That Mary watched over him and Dean and knew where they were and what they were doing, rarely approving of either.
Sam felt his earlier sadness return, never wanting to disappoint their mom.
But whenever he mentioned the worry to Dean, his big brother always assured him that Mary didn't blame them, that she wouldn't be disappointed.
She would be proud of them.
And Sam hoped so, even if the thought made him want to both smile and cry.
Rosa watched different emotions flicker across the ten-year old's face, her heart once again breaking that this sweet child was so obviously tormented by things he couldn't talk about.
"Is your dad coming for you?"
Because sometimes the boys who ended up at Sonny's farm only stayed overnight as they waited for their parents to make arrangements to come and get them.
Or if the boys were staying at Sonny's while court proceedings were worked out, the parents would at least visit their children regularly.
But Sam shook his head.
The deputy's words from earlier echoing as the man had repeated John's response about Sam and Dean being at the boys' home.
Said let 'em rot in jail...
Rosa frowned. "Where is your dad if he is not coming here?"
Sam shrugged, because he didn't know.
John rarely announced where he was going.
He just left.
And then he was just gone.
And that was just that.
"You don't know?" Rosa clarified about the location of the child's father.
Sam shook his head once more. "He's working somewhere," he reported about John, hoping Rosa didn't ask what their father did as a job. "I don't know where, but I think Dean does."
Dean always seemed to know everything.
Always took care of everything.
Rosa nodded even as she felt angry at this man she didn't know; this man who considered his job more important than his children.
"Well, then...where is your mother?"
Because surely a mother would come for her children, unless...
Sam's eyes instantly misted at the question.
And Rosa instantly knew.
Their mother was dead.
Rosa's eyes misted as well. "Oh, pequeño niño. Lo siento."
She paused, swallowing against the tightness in her throat and reminding herself to speak in English since she always reverted to Spanish whenever she became emotional.
"I am sorry. So very sorry..."
Sam blinked, a few tears dripping off his lashes and rolling down his cheeks.
"It happened when I was a baby," he whispered, knowing he wasn't supposed to talk about Mary's death – especially not in front of strangers – but sometimes he just needed to.
Especially on days like today when everything had gone wrong...and his defenses were down...and he really just wanted a hug from his mom.
Sam inhaled a shaky breath. "It w-was a long time ago," he dismissed, attempting to pull himself together.
But Rosa shook her head, crouching in front of the ten-year old and placing her hand in the center of his small chest.
"That does not make the pain any less," she told him, validating the child's tears before pulling him into a hug.
Sam didn't resist, leaning into her embrace and feeling her rub his back...just like Dean did whenever he was upset.
And suddenly Sam just wanted his brother.
"M-may I go see Dean n-now?"
Rosa smiled at the polite request, lingering in the hug before easing the child away from her shoulder.
"Of course you can," she replied, thumbing tears from Sam's flushed cheeks. "Just promise you will not tell him I made you cry?"
Sam laughed, the sound wet and sniffly. "You didn't mean to," he pointed out, always eager to forgive. "But I promise," he assured, amused when adults seemed afraid of Dean.
Rosa winked at the ten-year old, brushing aside his bangs and kissing his forehead before she stood.
"I think you and I will be great friends, little one."
Sam nodded and smiled. "We already are, Ms. Rosa."
Rosa's heart felt as though it would burst.
She nodded her agreement, lifting the bucket of eggs and offering her hand to the child blinking up at her.
Sam grasped her hand in response and followed Rosa out of the chicken coop.
Fuera = out, shoo
Bien hecho = well done
Relajarse = relax, chill out
Pequeño niño = little boy
Lo siento = I'm sorry