AN: This came out of a Daddy Drabble I've been fussing with. Hope y'all like it, it's a little different than what I usually do.
Hello my old heart
It's been so long
Since I've given you away.
And every day I add another stone
To the walls I built around you
To keep you safe.
"Hello My Old Heart" –The Oh Hellos
Bobby Singer led a simple life. Well, simple for a Hunter. He got up, checked his answering machine in the kitchen, turned up the volume on the police scanner, and then made himself a cup of coffee. After he walked to the end of the driveway in his robe, he'd poor over the newspaper because Bobby liked to keep a knowledge of what was happening in the world. Made him feel better prepared, even for the stuff that didn't get reported on.
Then he'd get dressed and park himself at the kitchen table where he would flip through pages of old lore until his fingers grew soft from the dust. Around midday, he'd stand and stretch, listening to the knobs of his spine crackle against the cold South Dakota air. The afternoons were reserved for tinkering on cars because Hunting be damned, he wasn't about to let any monsters get between him and automobiles. Bobby lived and breathed the heaps of metals; he had since he was a young boy.
Sure he still participated in Hunts – had to keep himself spry somehow – but it was more of a once a week kind of thing. He had connections to maintain, covers to keep up for the rest of the fulltime Hunters out there. Which was why he wasn't surprised when Pastor Jim had called him a few days ago to warn him that he'd sent a new Hunter Bobby's way.
The guy's name was John Winchester and his wife had been killed by God knows what. Jim hadn't said much more but then again, he rarely did. Hunters weren't usually chatty fellows.
So Bobby wasn't surprised when he had just sat down to a healthy helping of venison stew and a knocking came on the door.
"Showtime," he grumbled to himself, more annoyed that his meal had been interrupted than anything else. He figured he'd give the guy the details, load him up with weapons, and let him stay the night. New Hunters never stuck around for long, not once he put a silver knife in their hand and silver bullets in their gun. Half of them got themselves killed but Bobby had stopped being sentimental a long time ago. Ever since…well, ever since he had started living alone.
He opened the door mid knock and came face to face with a tall, dark-haired man who obviously hadn't shaved or slept in days. His cheekbones were gaunt, the skin stretched tight and almost an ashen gray. The dude looked positively haunted. And not in the way Bobby was used to.
"Bobby Singer?" the man said, each syllable was pushed out of his mouth by exhaustion.
"Yeah. You John Winchester?" John nodded and almost fell over. "You injured or something?" Bobby asked suspiciously. He wasn't one to take on these kinds of surprises, he preferred to be decently notified if someone was coming to him bleeding out or whatnot.
"Nah man," John Winchester said, shifting slightly and tugging at something behind him. "My kids is sick. Been up with him for the past two days. Was on a Hunt before that."
But Bobby's mind had gotten snagged on the word kid and that was when a young boy stepped out of his father's shadow. John pushed him gently forward until he was standing before Bobby.
He had sandy brown hair and was thin and lanky, wearing sweatpants that showed his ankles and socks that were obviously too big because they were six kinds of wrinkled. He had his head bowed to his chest but Bobby could hear his labored breathing, interrupted every few seconds by a loud sniffle.
Pastor Jim hadn't said a single word about a kid.
"Shit," Bobby said. He swiped his baseball cap off his head and scratched the matted hair underneath. The kid flinched at the word but didn't lift his face.
"You got a name?" Bobby said eventually after John failed to say anything else. The guy kept turning around and gazing back at his car, but he snapped back around when the kid didn't answer.
"Go ahead," John said. "Answer the man."
"Yes, sir," came a voice and it wasn't small or frightened like Bobby had expected, but strong and clear. "It's Dean, sir." He dragged the sleeve of his shirt across his face and then lifted his head, showing off a pair of emerald green eyes that shook something loose inside of Bobby. A corner of his heart began to thaw at the open, vulnerable expression of the boy and the way his eyes were glassed over with fever, his cheeks a rosy, unhealthy red. He looked miserable.
"Best come inside," Bobby said, because he couldn't believe a child was standing at his door in March with no shows and yet he wasn't about to turn away a sick kid. The little boy – Dean – turned to his father.
"I have to get Sammy," he said.
"Go on then," John said. "Sorry," he said, turning back to Bobby. "But I gotta take a piss. Do you mind?"
"Sure," Bobby. "Second door on the right. Don't touch anything!" he called back as the other man stalked past him into the house. Dean was already headed down the porch stairs, holding on the railing and trying to avoid the last of the melting snow at the same time. Bobby followed him out into the yard.
"Nice car," he said once he got a good look at the Impala. It was in better condition than the boy who tugged open the backseat door, the paint fresh and unchipped, the tires hardly worn at all. Bobby stayed back a bit, not wanting to get too close to the kid because…well, Bobby didn't much care for children. He was only out there to make sure the boy didn't keel over before he made it into the house.
"Thanks," Dean said, voice muffled from where his head was stuck in the car. He appeared to be looking for something, mumbling to himself. "Hold still, Sammy, I have to – hold still!" Bobby figured he was searching for an action figure or even a stuffed animal.
"Hurry up," he said gruffly. "I ain't got all day."
"Yessir," Dean said, pulling back for the car, holding the end of something that was way too big to be a toy. As Dean backed away from the door, something large – something very alive - followed him.
"Dee?" It was a toddler, a pipsqueak of a kid with large hazel eyes and shaggy hair that looked as if it had been trimmed by a pair of exceptionally blunt scissors. Which it probably had.
"Shh, Sammy," Dean said, letting the boy past him and then going back into the car, this time pulling out a duffel bag the size of the toddler's body.
"Dee!" the little boy whined and wrapped one pudgy hand into the fabric of his older brother's oversized tee-shirt. His own footie pajamas were thin and rustled against his body when the South Dakota wind brushed by. Sammy pushed himself against his brother, sticking his free thumb into his mouth. Dean's hand automatically went around the little kid.
"This is Sam," Dean said. "He's my brother."
"I see that," Bobby said, still staring. Damn Pastor Jim had said nothing about one kid, let alone two of the monsters. He doubted the little one was even potty-trained.
"Dee, cold," Sam whined, turning his face away from the strange man in front of him.
"I know," Dean said and then coughed, reminding Bobby that one of them, if not both, was sick.
"Let's go," Bobby said, turning on his heel, seething on the inside at the colossal mess this night had become. He liked his life as predictable as he could make it. What the hell was he supposed to do with two children in his house? It sure wasn't toddler-proof, that he knew. The little one would probably off himself by accident on all the knives laying around.
But it turned out he didn't have to worry about little Sam running around touching things he wasn't supposed to. The child didn't move from Dean's side. In fact, the entire way into the house and through to the living room, he kept a firm grasp on Dean's shirt while the older boy lugged the duffel at his side. If Bobby had been more sentimental, he would have offered to help carry it. But he was not sentimental. Sam sat down on the ground when Dean told him to and stopped whining when Dean told him to and as far as Bobby could tell in the next ten minutes, did everything his older brother told him to. Bobby had never quite seen anything like that, although he didn't hang out with kids in his free time so he didn't think much of it at the time.
"Pastor Jim didn't say nothing about you bringing kids," Bobby accused John. They were standing in the dingy kitchen, a space that Bobby tried to avoid as much as possible because this is where Karen had liked to spend her time. The boys were still in the living room, sitting on the floor because the couch was littered with old journals and books that Bobby had placed strategically for an upcoming Hunt.
"Not my fault. He knows I have 'em."
"What are you doing hauling two kids around, hunting no less?"
"None of your business," John snapped and Bobby raised his eyebrows.
"Yer in my house, it damn well just became my business. You can fill me in or you can get the hell out of here."
The two men glared at each other for a moment, the silence between them interrupted only by Dean's hacking from the other room. John closed his eyes at the sound.
"He's got something bad," the father said, his voice lower than it had been a second ago. "I couldn't keep him on the road. Can he stay with you until he's stronger?"
"What about the little one?" Bobby asked. "He gonna cause trouble? I ain't got time for infants."
"Sammy's not a problem," John said. "Dean looks after him."
"How old are they anyway?" Bobby asked suspiciously. Dean might have been older but he didn't look near old enough to be taking care of his brother.
"Six and two. Attached at the…I'd say hip but it's more like chest. Don't go anywhere without each other. Hell, Sam listens to Dean more than he listens to me."
Bobby thought that wasn't the greatest parenting right here but he kept quiet. Dean coughed again, this time accompanied by retching.
"Alright. Y'all can stay until he's strong enough to move on. Suppose there are some things I've got to teach you anyway." Bobby watched as John's ego grew three times over.
"I already know enough," he said. "Been Hunting for over a year now." Bobby snorted and waved his hand at the man; if he was like the rest, he wouldn't last six more months on the job with that attitude.
"Dad?" Dean was standing in the doorway, Sam just behind his brother like a shadow. He peered at Bobby from behind Dean's side and Bobby glowered at him. The younger boy hid his face.
"I don't feel well." Somehow, the kid looked even worse. Gone was the rosy flush from his cheeks; now they were pale and gray-looking. His eyes seemed to water as if he were on the verge of tears.
"Well, Bobby here is gonna take good care of you," John said.
"Excuse me?" Bobby said. John looked at him.
"You just said that they could stay with you." Bobby gaped at him, at a loss for words. Well yeah, he had said that but he'd meant the whole family could stay here. He wasn't no babysitting service.
"Well I meant y'all could stay here," Bobby said, expression growing dark. He didn't like being taken advantage of and that was exactly what was going on. "But I'm not so sure of that anymore. I think you take those two boys with you and get the hell off my property!" The last of the words ended up coming out at a shout and Bobby knew his face was getting all red and patchy like it did when he was upset.
"What the fuck are you talking about?" John shouted right back at him. Bobby noticed Sam flinch out of the corner of his eye when his father yelled. Dean just watched with wide eyes. "We drove all this way, came to you for help, and now you're turning us away? What kind of Hunter are you?"
That was it for Bobby. He snatched a gun from where it was hanging by the front door and bullied John Winchester right out the front door. He had absolutely no intention of ever seeing this man again, that was for damn sure. Mr. John Winchester could take his no-good, arrogant, self-righteous, stubborn, gloating ass and shove it-
There was the boy with the green eyes again and now there were tears tracks down his face, perhaps out of pain or frustration or fright, Bobby didn't know. He knew though that Dean was trying his best to stand up straight with the weight of the duffel bag forcing his small shoulders down and a little brother clinging to his shirttails.
"Say goodbye, Sam," Dean rasped around another cough.
"Bye-bye," Sam said, waving five plump fingers at Bobby's gun.
He didn't even like kids, couldn't stand the messes they made, and how their fingers were always sticky even straight out of the bath. He hated the crying and snot and the annoying little clothes with equally annoying little buttons and zippers. But…
There was something about these two, about the way they moved together, almost in a dance, to meet their son of a bitch father. He imagined them driving away, imagined not knowing where they would end up or if they would survive the night, let alone until their teen years. He had known John Winchester for all of thirty minutes but he didn't trust the man with his own children.
Bobby Singer sucked in the breath that would change his life.
"Fine," he called out. John turned around, face practically glowing with anger. His eyes swept over Bobby and then down to the two boys traipsing barefoot back to the Impala. Dean looked over his shoulder at Bobby, and when they their gazes met, Bobby swore he saw a younger version of himself staring back at him.
"I'll take 'em," he said. "The boys."
Dean whipped his head back to his father who was obviously trying to decide whether to swallow his pride and let Bobby take his kids or whether to finally let himself be free to hunt without constant distraction. Sensing the wavering tension in the air, Sam started to whine and tug on Dean's shirt, but the elder child just swatted at his brother's hand and told him to shush.
"Alright," John said. "Thank you."
"Just for a little while," Bobby warned. "You better come back to get them." John nodded and walked over to his sons.
"Be good for Mr. Singer, okay?" he said, crouching down next to them and showing the first paternal instinct Bobby had said this whole time.
"I want to go with you," Dean said, wiping his eyes with his shirtsleeve. "I'll be good, I promise."
"I good," Sam echoed and reached out for his father. John held Sam close, burying his face in the little boy's messy hair just for an instant, but ultimately pulling away, causing Sam to start crying.
"No!" the toddler screamed, kicking at Dean who was trying to hold him back.
"Take care of your brother," was all John said before he stood up.
"Yessir," Dean said, who looked an awful lot as if he would like to cling to John's legs as he walked back to the Impala.
"Everything they need is in the duffel," John said to Bobby as he opened the driver door. "They don't have much."
"We'll make do," said Bobby, easily slipping into the plural. "Don't get yourself killed," he added, immediately regretting it when he saw Dean's stricken face.
Then with a wave and the spin of tires, John Winchester was gone. Almost as if he'd never been there at all.
Except he had. Because there were two small children in Bobby's driveway, one of them still screaming his head off, the other looking as if he were about to pass out any second. Bobby sighed. What had he done? It had been a stupid, irrational, impulsive act. He didn't know anything about kids, let alone taking care of them. He wished Karen was still here; she'd know right what to do with them. He tried to think like his wife.
"Let's get you out of the cold," Bobby said. Dean looked away from the now-empty driveway and toward Bobby.
"Yessir," he murmured. "C'mon Sammy, stop crying. It'll be okay," he soothed. Sam stopped the god-awful shrieking but he was still crying as he wrapped both arms around Dean's legs. Dean brushed a hand through his brother's hair. "It'll be okay," he repeated and then, "You hungry?"
They must have been the magic words. Sam's tears stopped.
"Hungwy?" he said, and the hopefulness in his tiny voice almost broke Bobby's heart of stone. Almost.
"Yeah," Dean said. "I have Cheerios in my bag." Sam smiled and reached for the bag. "When we're inside," Dean instructed. "Come on."
"Alright, you both can sleep in here," Bobby said after he had lead them into the house and up to the second floor. It took forever because Sam's short little legs couldn't climb all that well yet and so Bobby and Dean had to wait patiently for him to scramble up the stairs on all fours.
The room was the smaller of the two guest rooms in the house, but the other had a ton of weapons in it and the bed wasn't put together. But from the way the two boys never got more than a foot away from each other, he figured putting them in the same room was okay.
"You'll have to share a bed," Bobby apologized.
"It's okay," Dean said. "Sammy likes to sleep with me anyway."
"There's a chest of drawers in the closet for yer clothes." Bobby bit his lip. What else was he supposed to do? What did kids need?
Dean dropped the duffel on the ground, seemingly dazed as he glanced around the room. Sam wasn't so concerned with his new home.
"O's?" he asked.
"Yeah," Dean said. "Hold on." He bent over the duffel and began rummaging around its contents. Bobby was standing in the doorway but he heard Dean's soft gasp and then he definitely heard the boy start coughing. It was a painful sound, the loud hacking of the kid's lungs struggling to pull in enough air. Bobby moved forward to help just as Dean fell to his knees, abandoning his search for Cheerios.
"Whoa, champ," Bobby said, rushing in and wrapping an arm around Dean's chest to keep him from completely hitting the floor. The boy wriggled in his grip but gave up a second later when his body spasmed with another coughing fit.
"Easy does it," Bobby said, lowering his stiff knees to the floor. He could feel Dean's chest heaving under his arm, could feel the shudders that wracked his lean frame as he gripped onto Bobby's hand, trying to breathe. When the coughing finally subsided, Dean was spent. He hung limp in Bobby's grasp, head bowed, breathing hard like a winded racehorse.
"Let's get you into bed," Bobby said. Again, Dean tried to pull away but he was too weak and instead, just let Bobby scoop him up. The Hunter couldn't believe how light the boy was – almost as if he weighed nothing at all. As if his baggy clothes were hiding a skeleton underneath them.
Sam trotted after them as Bobby set Dean on the bed and peered over the edge of the mattress.
"S-sorry," Dean mumbled.
"Ain't no need to be sorry," Bobby said, shaking out the blanket at the end of the bed. "I 'spect you got yourself pneumonia. Probably from walking around without any shoes on."
"Yeah," Dean sighed, eyes closing. Bobby slid an arm under his back and put another pillow there to support him. Dean coughed feebly as Bobby laid him back down.
"Dee!" Sam said, clawing at the bed.
"Hold on, pipsqueak," Bobby said, lifting the toddler up next to his brother. Sam glared at him and snuggled up next to his brother. In one of his chubby hands was a half eaten miniature bag of Cheerios, the kind they gave out at breakfast bars in motels.
"Let yer brother sleep," Bobby said, eyeing the younger kid dubiously. You weren't supposed to leave a kid by themselves, right? But Bobby didn't want them to feel like they were being spied on. Well, Dean wouldn't know the difference. He was already sleeping, every breath sounding harsh and making Bobby wince. He wondered if he had any cough syrup tucked away in a cabinet somewhere and was on his way to find it downstairs when one of his phones rang, the one marked 'Home'.
"Hey Bobby, it's Jim." Bobby growled and settled down in one of the kitchen chairs.
"I got a bone to pick with you, Pastor," he said.
"Ah. I suppose John Winchester showed up at your door?"
"You suppose right," Bobby said. "And not just him but two little ones as well. You gonna tell me why you didn't warn me he was dragging around a couple of rugrats?"
"Probably because I knew you'd turn them away before you even saw them," Jim said easily. Bobby sighed into the phone and ran a weary hand over his face. "I'm sure you noticed they aren't in good shape," Jim continued.
"They sure ain't," Bobby agreed. "The older one is pretty sick." This time it was Jim's turn to sigh.
"I told the father to get him to a free clinic but he didn't seem too concerned. I'm sorry to hear he's worse. How's the little one?"
"Gun-shy," Bobby said, referring to the way Sam walked only in his brother's shadow. "I don't know what I'm going to do with them." Pastor Jim made a surprised noise.
"What are you talking about?" Bobby sat up straighter.
"That bastard, Winchester, dropped them and ran. I thought you told him I'd watch the boys."
"N-no," stuttered Jim. He sounded distressed. "I would never do that to you, Bobby. I had no idea what he was planning."
"Son of a bitch," Bobby said. "When I see him again…what happened to him anyway? What's his story?"
"Lost his wife," Jim said hesitantly, as if he could feel Bobby stiffen up at the last word. "Something pinned her to the ceiling and set the house on fire. Barely got the boys out in time, he said."
"Yeah. He's a rough one. Not sure he did the right thing by keeping those kids around. In my opinion, they'd be better off living with grandparents or something."
But there was already something growing in Bobby's gut, a protective feeling over the two youngsters upstairs. He didn't know why he felt so strongly over them, but he knew they might be something special. Damn, he was getting sentimental.
"I've got 'em," he said gruffly.
"Thanks, Bobby," Pastor Jim said softly. "I know you never wanted – I know Karen - ,"
"I'll talk to you later," Bobby said and hung up. It took a while before he could pull himself together enough to leave the table. His chest had constricted at the mention of his wife, his airway just a bit tighter than it had been before. Bobby's head reeled and he drew in a breath, trying to steady himself against the onslaught of emotion that always accompanied the memories. It'd already been so many years and still the pain hit him fresh every time. He glanced around the house, hearing Karen chastise him in his head, telling him it was no place for a child – children – to be in.
With that, he stood and started tidying up. Not cleaning exactly but he cleared counters and tables of knives, tucked away the bars of iron, the bags of salt. Then he went about adding even more protection to the already riddled walls of the house because he wasn't about to take any chances. Little kids couldn't protect themselves.
After a while, his aching back needed a break and he figured now was a good a time as any to check up on them again. He loitered outside the bedroom door for a good couple minutes before getting up the nerve to go inside, half-terrified of what he'd find. What if they had died or something? Or escaped?
But no. Both boys were exactly as he had left them an hour ago. Dean was sleeping, fussing lightly in his slumber, and Sam was sitting on the bed, something in his hand. The empty bag of Cheerios was at the end of the bed and it looked so tiny, not even the size of Bobby's palm. His stomach shriveled at the thought of just how little the brothers had had to eat lately.
Sam stilled at once when Bobby took a step in to the room.
"Hey," Bobby said, lifting a hand in greeting. Sam's eyes narrowed and he crept closer to his sleeping brother. "Whaddya got there?" Sam didn't answer, and his eyes didn't leave Bobby as the Hunter walked further into the room. "Is that a toy?"
It was. A small, paint-chipped action figure that looked familiar. Sam clutched it to his chest as if he was afraid Bobby was going to take it from him.
"How's yer brother?" Bobbys said, coming around to the other side of the bed. Sam scrambled backwards, away from the man, as Bobby sat on the edge of the mattress, frowning when he felt the intense heat coming off Dean's skin. "Not good, huh?" he said, more to himself than the toddler.
"Dee," Sam said.
"Yeah," Bobby said. "I heard you two like each other a whole lot. That's good," he added after a moment. "Wish I'd had someone to share tough times with." When he looked up, Sam was watching him blankly.
"You wanna come downstairs?" Bobby said, standing. Sam shrank back. "I got a TV," Bobby said. "We could probably find some cartoons. You like cartoons?"
Sam didn't answer.
"Huh," Bobby grunted and then remembered what Dean had said earlier. He eyed the empty cereal bag. "You still hungry, pipsqueak?" Just like before, he could see the kid perk up automatically.
"Hungwy?" he asked and scooched a centimeter closer to Bobby.
"Yep," Bobby said. "I got lots of food downstairs in the kitchen. Pizza, cupcakes, cookies."
"Oh yeah," Bobby said in an exaggerated tone. Of course he probably had nothing of the sort in the cabinets but Sam didn't need to know that.
"No, your brother has to stay here," Bobby said. Sam still hadn't made a move and
Bobby made a show of walking halfway to the door. When he glanced back, Sam was looking between his brother and Bobby, clearly torn between leaving the safety of Dean and going downstairs for food. Bobby grinned when he heard Sam finally decide and little feet hit the hardwood floor. However, Sam froze when he saw Bobby watching him. So the Hunter made his way out the door, waiting for the footsteps to follow him.
And follow they did. All the way down the hall and toward the stairs. In fact, Bobby was all the way down the stairs when he realized Sam was no longer following him. Slowly, he turned around as not to startle the child and was surprised to find Sam at the top of the stairs.
"Come on," Bobby urged. "Cookies this way." But Sam was just shifting from foot to foot. "Ah," Bobby said after a moment. "You can't come down the stairs by your lonesome, can you?" He trudged back up the stairs and before Sam could process what was happening, Bobby scooped him up. The toddler went stiff as a board and Bobby almost dropped him.
"Hey now," Bobby said, huffing out a breath as they descended the stairs. "I ain't gonna hurt you." It wasn't until they were back into the kitchen that Sam clung to Bobby with his arms and the man was pretty sure that was because Bobby's Rottweiler, Rumsfeld, had just started barking at the back door.
"Don't mind him," Bobby told Sam, but inside he was unsure. He didn't think Rummy had even ever seen a child before in his life, let alone had to share his house with one. "We'll let him in later," Bobby said. Sam's head swiveled this way and that as they crossed the kitchen. When Bobby tried to dump him in a chair, the kid hung on to his neck.
"Okay, you gotta let go," he explained. "So I can get your food." But Sam was stubborn and wrapped his arms and legs around Bobby like a monkey. "Alright," Bobby said, hitching the child up on his hip. "Let's see what grub I got."
The fridge was full of spoiled food and old leftovers. Bobby pined for the days where the freezer would be full of homemade dinners and there was always a pie in the oven. Karen had been the cook, not him. Sure he made a mean venison stew but he doubted the kid was going to eat that. Finally, he found a package of spaghetti and some tomato sauce.
"Spaghetti it is."
"Sketti," Sam said and Bobby nodded. The child's small body was warm against his own but, like with his brother, Bobby could feel the thinness beneath his pajamas and it worried him.
"But I'm gonna set you down so I can make it, okay?" Bobby said. Sam allowed himself to be put on the floor but he clutched the folds of Bobby's jeans in his chubby fist, making maneuvering around the kitchen infinitely more difficult.
If Bobby thought that he was messy, feeding spaghetti to a two-year-old was on a whole different level. By the time Sam had finished the bowl, there was more spaghetti on his face and clothes than in his stomach. Bobby sat opposite of him and watched as the little kid swirled a finger in the mostly-empty bowl and then sucked it clean. So much for the starving kids in Africa; he had one in his kitchen.
Bobby managed to dig out some age-old molasses cookies from the back of some cupboard and even though he was sure they were stale, Sam bit into one enthusiastically. That was when they heard the shout.
It was more like a strangled scream, caught between desperation and fear.
There was a split second of Bobby and Sam staring at each other and then each was on his feet, rushing to the stairs. Bobby took the stairs two at a time, paying no attention to the toddler scrambling up behind him. When he reached the guest room, he found Dean awake and out of bed. The boy was hanging onto the doorframe, almost bent double with coughing. At Bobby's approach, his head snapped up.
"S-ssam," he gasped. Bobby's heart plummeted when he saw blood dribbling down Dean's chin. Pneumonia it was.
"He's right behind me," Bobby said. "We were having some dinner." Dean's only response was to tremble, his eyes searching Bobby frantically, suspicion leaking through the pain.
"Easy, champ," Bobby said, both hands up in the air. "I ain't gonna hurt you," he repeated the same line he'd said to Sam. Something wasn't right about such little kids being untrustworthy. What had happened to them? A part of Bobby didn't even want to know.
"Dee!" Sam had finally made it up the stairs and rushed to his big brother, almost knocking him over as he flung his arms around Dean's middle. There was visible relief on Dean's part and all his strength seemed to seep out of him. Bobby caught him as he sagged.
"Back to bed," he said. Nothing about the boy suggested a struggle. His clothes were damp, his body radiating heat like a furnace. When he coughed, blood splattered onto Bobby's shirt front. Dean's eyes widened.
"Sorry," he said.
"Don't worry about it. Ain't the worst that's happened to me. Not even close." Once he laid Dean down, he hoisted Sam up beside his brother who snuggled into Dean's side, glaring up at Bobby again. And they had just started to make progress. Dean coughed. The kid needed medical attention now. Lucky for him – and lucky for John Winchester – Bobby could help. He'd never let on to anyone other than Pastor Jim but once he'd started tending to wounded Hunters, he'd taken a couple of classes in EMT training.
"I'll be right back," he said after propping Dean up with several pillows grabbed from Bobby's own bed. Downstairs in the medical supply closet, he grabbed a whole bunch of stuff, eyes drifting to the phone. He should call a doctor. A real doctor. Sure Bobby knew how to stitch and set bones and whatnot, but that was all with adults. Kids were bound to be different. But he was sure as hell John Winchester had no health insurance and Bobby was also sure that the guy probably didn't want his kids' names entered in any kind of system.
"Okay, I'm back," he said, arms full of supplies. Sam watched him intently as he came around Dean's side of the bed and pulled a chair close to the mattress. The green eyes fluttered open, wandering at first and then focusing on the Hunter.
"That's right," Bobby said. "Just keep looking at me. We're gonna fix you up. You know what an IV is?" Dean shook his head and Bobby held it up. "It's a bag of special medicine that goes right into your veins to make you feel better." He started prepping Dean's arm.
"Hurt?" Sam asked, peering over at Bobby's ministrations.
"Yeah," Bobby said. "Your brother is real sick. But we're going to make him feel better."
"Choochie," Sam said and pulled a crumbling cookie out of his pajamas. He pressed it into Dean's hand.
"That was nice of you," Bobby said, although he was kind of alarmed he hadn't noticed the two-year-old snatch cookies right out from under him. "Okay, Dean, here we go," he said as he slid the needle into the back of Dean's hand. The boy hardly even flinched. His eyes rolled.
"Good job," Bobby said, taping the needle into place and hanging the bag on a nail above the bed. "That was the worst part." Dean's lips parted, the ghost of a sound coming out but Bobby didn't catch it. "What was that, champ?"
"I want…my mom." It was just a whisper, a quiet plea, and it made Bobby bite down on his lower lip. He busied himself getting the oxygen tank ready.
"These are gonna help you breathe, maybe stop your chest from hurting so much," he explained as he wound the nasal cannula around Dean's ears. Now the boy was staring straight at Bobby, his expression burning a hole in the Hunter's skin, making him uncomfortable.
"Where's my mom?" he asked, eyes flickering over to Sam and then back to Bobby.
"Not here right now," Bobby said, turning away. He cleaned up the medical stuff and walked out of the room without another word, aware that two sets of eyes were watching his every move.
Bobby made it to his room before his knees gave out. He collapsed onto his bed and let the creaking of the springs jar him back in time, flashes of his own mother appearing like fireworks in his mind.
Her fear when his father opened the fridge and reached for a beer.
Her helplessness when he beat her, the way she cowered under his gaze.
Her look of utter betrayal when Bobby thought he'd fixed their problem for good.
He'd never understood why she had felt so much loyalty toward the monster. Could she have truly loved him, the man who sent her bed with bloody lips and broken fingers? When he thought about it – and god he tried not to – that was when he'd first started treating injuries.
Bobby raised his head with a weary sigh. It'd been so long since he thought about his mother and it drained him. Just like thinking about Karen did. He was so tired of losing people and he knew that's why he kept everyone at arm's length. He couldn't afford to get attached.
It scared him how the two boys down the hall seemed to have already carved out a piece of him. It'd hardly been half a day. What was wrong with him?
Bobby turned when he heard the small voice. Sammy was standing in his doorway, clutching his action figure.
"Uh-oh," he said again, turning a hand palm up in what Bobby thought was probably the cutest thing he'd seen this year.
"What's wrong, pipsqueak?"
"Dee uh-oh," Sam said and then tottered back down the hall out of sight. Bobby grabbed what he'd come into the room for in the first place and followed the toddler.
The "uh-oh" became apparent as soon as Bobby walked into the room and the stench of vomit assaulted him. Dean was leaning over the side of the bed, coughing and spluttering his way through the end of the vomiting episode.
"Balls," he said.
"Uh-oh," Sam said again, pointing to the pool of throw up.
"Yep," Bobby agreed. "That is a big uh-oh." Dean was in the process of swinging his legs over the side of the bed.
"I c-can clean it u-u-p," he stuttered, shrinking into a ball when Bobby took a step toward him. "I'll clean it u-up."
"No you won't," Bobby said, putting a hand on each of Dean's shoulders and forcing them to stop moving. The oxygen tubes had gone askew and Bobby fixed them with gentle fingers before squatting in front of the boy.
"Listen here," he said and Dean's obeyed the command, allowing his gaze to drift upwards. He flinched when he met Bobby's gaze and the Hunter gave him a small smile, trying to be comforting even though he didn't know how.
"I don't know what's been going in in your life, but you're safe here. I ain't got much but I'm gonna take care of you for a while. You hear me? You're safe, champ. And your little brother too." Bobby didn't know how long he could offer this haven but Dean didn't need to be burdened with that right now. No six-year-old should.
"O-o-kay," Dean say, sniffling and rubbing the glimmer of tears out of his eyes.
"Good," Bobby said. He helped Dean back into the bed and made quick work of cleaning up the vomit.
"Good as knew," Bobby said, throwing the dirty towels out into the hallway. "Now let's get you two changed and ready for bed."
"Night-night?" Sam asked.
"That's right," Bobby said, stripping the covers off of Dean. Sam was laying on the other side of the bed, eyelids growing heavy. Dean was already mostly asleep. They were both worn out from the overwhelming stress of the day. "It's time to go night-night. But first we're gonna get you washed up because I bet y'all have some dirt behind your ears." He grinned at Sam who smiled shyly back and then hid his face in his pillow. Bobby chuckled.
He slipped off Dean's too-damp clothes, leaving the boy in just his underwear, his pale skin looking almost bruised in the dull light of the bedside lamp. The Hunter took a warmed up washcloth and slid it over Dean's body, scrubbing gently at the dirt and overall grime.
"There we go," Bobby said gently as Dean's eyes opened for a moment. "I got you one of my nice soft shirts until we get you some more clothes. We should probably burn what's in that duffel of yours." He threaded Dean's arm through an old flannel of his and then buttoned it up and drew the blankets back over him. Bobby's heard thudded hard when he heard Dean let out a content sigh before falling asleep.
"Your turn, pipsqueak," Bobby said. "Come on, let's go to the bathroom for you." This time, Sam followed him willingly, even helped take off his own clothes, although he couldn't quite work the old zipper on the footie pajamas.
"Into the bath," Bobby said, lifting the boy and setting him in the tub. He wasn't going to draw a full bath because he doubted the toddler would stay awake that long. Instead he just administered the same washcloth bath that he had to Dean, albeit with more soap.
"Can you say Bobby?" he prodded. Sam tilted his head to one side, looking astonishingly like a puppy. "I know," Bobby said when only silence followed his question. "You don't talk much, do ya?" He turned Sam around to get at his back. "That's okay," he continued. "You take as long as you like. I'm sure you'll have plenty to say when the time comes."
He ended up carrying the child back to the room, Sam's cheek resting on Bobby's shoulder, his action figure never having left his grip. Bobby pulled another shirt of his over Sam's head and knotted the bottom so the child wouldn't trip over it. Once Sam was underneath the covers, he scooted up next to Dean and stuck his thumb in his mouth. Dean's body seemed to automatically curl around his baby brother although he remained asleep.
Bobby pulled up a chair.
"I'm just gonna watch out for you," Bobby murmured as Sam's eyes closed. "Just tonight, though. Not gonna make a habit out of it," he warned no one in particular.
As tired as he was, Bobby couldn't close his eyes, couldn't stop staring at the sight of the brothers snuggled together. How quickly his life – and theirs – had changed within a day.
Bobby Singer had never expected to have family again. And yet, he had an inkling – call it a Hunter's sixth sense – that these two boys were about to be part of his life in a bigger way than he could imagine.
Yep, he was definitely sentimental.
AN: What did you think? I've been so nervous about publishing this because it's my first time really writing Bobby.