Title: Sincerity and the Truth

Author: Wintereden

Summary: The social worker had read the case file, and even at seven, Dean had run rings around the poor sucker sent in with a lollypop and sympathetic eyes. At thirteen, he was bound to cause some headaches.

Disclaimer: I just build castles in Kirpke's sandbox.

Notes: After watching Nightshifter, I was so very tempted to add a little epilogue on to the end. See what you think. Title borrowed from the mind of the George Orwell.

Not to expose your true feelings to an adult seems to be instinctive from the age of seven or eight onwards.

Part of the reason for the ugliness of adults, in a child's eyes, is that the child is usually looking upwards, and few faces are at their best when seen from below.
-George Orwell

David had had a pretty nice childhood, if he did say so himself. White house, two up, two down, flowers in the forecourt. He could have managed without the brother, and the lack of a dog had been a bummer, but hey, he was allergic to fur. Life was a bitch that way, and the brother had turned out okay in the end.

There had been one detention for truanting, but it was the last day Return of the Jedi was showing on screen, and his old man had long held a secret fear of C3PO, something about it reminding his of his mother-in-law. He had had to go, and hand on heart, the hour spent copying from the dictionary after class was worth it for the Scrabble skill points alone.

Then there had been Jenny Harrington in the tenth grade, oh boy. The things she had introduced him to, all of them awesome, most of them illegal, and again, worth every pulse racing second.

But no, David had had a pretty nice childhood, and he wasn't afraid to admit it. He hadn't become a social worker to save others from the misery he himself had endured- the department was full of those jaded, cynical types, and quite frankly, they gave him the willies. Why work a job that just dug up old dirt all day long? No, thank you. He'd have been straight of to Florida working on a beech shack if that were the case.

No, David had become a social worker because he had seen the good in the world, and he wanted to help others find it for themselves. Sometimes he was successful, if he got them when they could flourish under loving, impartial guidance. Sometimes he could only hand over the map, and hope that the lost soul could find their own way. And yes, sometimes he just had to give them a kick up the ass to get them out of the door.

He just wasn't really sure which 'sometime' this job was going to work out as. He was beginning to give up hope. Not on the kid, hell no, he'd never met a boy with more potential, just…give up.

The kid's case file was thicker than his daughter's dissertation, and that monster was a novel in itself. Dog-eared and battered, the file was the perfect reflection of its subject.

"You want a drink, Dean?" The kid's glare could have frozen Niagara. Impressive. David popped a root beer and thrust the can across the laminate table. A well-practiced flick of the hand, and the file opened. The words that popped out gave him a headache. God almighty, he if he lived to be a hundred, he would never understand his fellow man.

Dean Winchester, thirteen, piped the CPS' radar when he was just seven years old. Doctor- he checked the notes- Hillary, she set the little boy's arm after it had been broken in three places and reported the incident that very same night. Dean and his family were gone by the time an officer reached their…now the report used the word 'residence', which David supposed was the polite variation on hovel, cess pit or plague-infested shit-hole. He'd seen the pictures. Not a pretty sight.

"That's a nice left hook, you got there." Oh boy, was it! He'd never seen a scrawny little kid like Dean take down an eight-foot-and-pushing-it giant like Luke Tyler before. Picture fricking perfect. Thank god the cameras caught it. Friday night had a new feature film -Tyler Gets His Ass Kicked by Hundred-Pound Teen. Oscar winning material. "You want to tell me why you felt the need to assault one of my colleagues?"

Dean finally looked up, and David got a good look at the youth the scared little seven-year-old had become. Damn, he was every father's nightmare come to life- a stunning kid, one who promised to grow into a man capable of decimating an army of women with a single look. David looked at the case file again, at the doctor's reports and the police statements. It would be a miracle if the kid lived long enough to grow into his looks.

Still, pretty or not, his green eyes were defiant, cold, and far too serious for David's liking. Boys like Dean should be out smoking on street corners with a band of hippy friends. Not sitting at the desk as if he were about to be handed his own head back on a plate.

"My dad told me not to talk to strangers." They'd moved on to the mocking stage. Bypassed the 'you can't make me' and landed knee deep in the 'I'd like to see you try'. Fine by him, the screaming just made his ears ring. Dean's smirk wobbled at the corners, the only sign that gave him away for what he really was- a scared kid, bruised head to foot, and locked into an 'interview' with a stranger. Yeah, sometimes his job was a bitch, he was paid to be the bad guy.

"What about Luke Tyler, huh? You talked to him, he's a stranger." And a bruised one at that.

The kid looked away, his adult eyes looking everywhere but at David. Fear, he thought at first, until the gaze lingered a little too long on the camera, and not long enough at the door. Christ, David thought, caught between awe and a weary acceptance. Dean was scoping the place out. Looking for blind spots, a real Charles Lytton in the making.

"Kidnappers deserve everything they get." Dean said sourly, his expression making certain that David should include himself in the kid's category of devilish characters to be dealt with. Somehow David got the impression that Macaulay Culkin at his burglar busting best could have leaned a thing or two from Dean Winchester.

It wasn't very difficult to keep his voice mild, for all that Dean should probably be locked up for the safety of the general public, he inspired something akin to affection in David. It was probably the Oliver Twist look the teen was sporting, but he wasn't going to read too heavily into it. "So we kidnapped you, huh?" Yeah, this kid was a real piece of work.

Dean gave him a 'well duh' look and took a drag of the cold beverage. "Do I want to be here? No. Are you holding me against my will? Yes. Did Attila the fucking Hun manhandle me into his car? Yes!" Dean held up his bruised arms for David -and the camera- to see. "The bastard assaulted me first. But hey, I'm willing to let it go, if you let me go." His green eyes darkened ominously, and not for the first time since meeting him David marvelled at the teen's ability to stare down a man four times his age and twice his height.

Affection, yes, and not a small amount of inappropriate, but unavoidable respect. That wasn't right. Was it? If he respected the kid, then he might as well be encouraging him, and god knows that that thought made him break out in a cold sweat.

"Let's not be hasty here, Dean." Because David had read the case file, in all its War and Peace like glory, and even at seven, Dean had run rings around the poor sucker sent in with a lollypop and sympathetic eyes. He was sure there was a footnote on page 47 speculating Dean's true parentage, and hinting that Winchester might have a few things in common with certain characters from a film called Omen. Pure speculation, mind you.

"I'm not hasty, Genghis, I want to go home." The kid didn't even whine about it, he growled.

"Right, because home is all it's cracked up to be. Apple pie for dinner, white picket fence." David knew how to work with kids like Dean. To hell with the gentle tactics, you needed full infantry and several grenade launchers to go up against the likes of Winchester. He didn't buy into the cotton candy version of events. He could be as kind and soothing as needed, but he wasn't going to allow the kid to think him weak, and kids like Dean saw kindness as just that; weakness.

"You know fuck all about my family." The teen snarled, his fingers clawing at the arms of his chair.

"You going to keep quiet and let me tell you what I think about your family?"

"Depends," Dean smirked nastily, "you gonna keep quiet and let me tell you where to shove it when you're done?"

When he'd finished strangling the kid, he might just adopt him himself. No way could he inflict Dean Winchester on the innocent foster carers of Blackwell Bay.

"You have the right to voice your opinion." David said reluctantly, seeing the can of worms open up and spill all over his desk that very moment.

Dean was apparently sitting on the same page. "Right," he drawled, looking and sounding the way David imagined a young Jesse James did right before he decided it would be a neat idea to join Quantrill's Raiders. It wasn't that he expected the kid to turn around and kill a bunch of people, it was just that Dean looked somewhat…unstable. "I have the right to have everything I say taken and misquoted against me and my dad."

David crossed his arms over his chest and raised his eyebrows. "Kid, this isn't Sears, we're not a free gift with purchase organisation. You want to go home, you gotta tell me how you ended up looking like a Rocky reject. You want to stay home, you gotta convince me that it isn't going to happen again, understand?"

The teen shrugged sullenly, sinking further into his chair. He suddenly looked more Tiny Tim than evil genius in training. David wasn't fooled. He had Darth Vader's protégé sitting in the chair in front of him. Sooner or later the kid was going to veer across to the Darkside, and god almighty, David didn't want to see that happen. "Talk to me, Dean."

Nothing, not a twitch.

David sighed. The hard way it was, then.

"Says here you got kicked out of your old school. Fighting."

Defensive and a little weary. "He started it."

"Picked on your brother, right?" David could sympathise. He had a kid brother, and been forced to take up the sword in his defence more than once. By the sounds of things, though, Dean hadn't taken up so much as the sword, but a big fucking tank.

"Sammy's only little. He needs me to take care of him." And there was the truth of it, in Dean's own words. How often had he taken the rap for something Tommy had done? How often did Dean get the crap beaten out of him in order to protect a terrified nine year old? The sooner they found Sam Winchester, the better.

"Right." He was all business now. He didn't need Dean to tell them his old man was using him as a football, all they needed was the boy's word that things weren't safe at home, wherever home was this week. "Ok, so you look out for your brother."

"Protect Sam." Dean said seriously, sounding as if her was reading from the Bible. "Nothing is more important."

"Ok," David nodded, he could understand that. "But kid, you can't protect Sam if you're beat to hell. Look at you, I don't need a doctor's report to know you're running on empty. When was the last time you slept? Huh? Or ate? Your teacher says you're barely able to keep your eyes open in class, and you skip periods everyday. How's that doing Sam any good?"

Christ…either he'd hit a nerve or Dean was allergic to oxygen. The kid's eyes grew teary in his pale face before he swallowed so hard it looked painful.

"I-"

He waited, hopeful. Come one, kid, he thought, let me help you.

"I-"

Yes…come on…

"I want to go home."

Oh, for f-

"David?" The door opened before he could spit out the curse, saving him from both embarrassment and a potential lawsuit. He looked up at the small blond woman peering around the door, steadfastly refusing to even glance in Dean's direction.

"Melanie?"

"There's a gentleman here to see you." She stuttered nervously. Three days into the job and she was dealing with kids like Dean. Never said it was easy.

"Now?"

Her eyes finally darted to Dean, who, with his back to her, couldn't tell. "Yes sir."

He got the message.

"You want another root beer, kid?" It didn't escape his notice that Dean had drunk the whole can, and eaten the bag of M&M's Melanie had given him earlier in the day.

"Bite me." Dean said.

David left, fighting the urge to throttle him. "Uh, mister?" The steel haired man-a priest if the clothes were any indication- met him in the hallway.

"Jim." The priest thrust out a hand. David took it. "Jim Murphy. I am a pastor over in Blue Earth."

"Minnesota?" David's sister-in-law lived that way, he thought he'd driven through Blue Earth once or twice.

Jim nodded. "That's right."

David directed him towards the flimsy red plastic seating in the hall. Melanie offered to make coffee, to which both men refused, and quickly scampered back to her desk. David kept the door to Dean's room in sight at all times. He didn't trust the kid not to try a Houdini on them.

"Pastor Murphy-" He waited for the 'please, call me Jim' which never came, and found his curiosity raise. "To what do I owe this meeting?"

The pastor was blunt. "Dean Winchester."

David didn't wince-he was a professional, but he wanted to. "Ah yes, Dean."

"Dean is my godson." Jim continued, "and he most assuredly does not belong locked away in your cell."

"I hardly think cell is the right-"

"I can appreciate your concern for Dean, it does you credit, but the boy belongs with his family."

Bristling at the abrupt way in which this man completely disregarded several major issues with the teen, David drew in a sharp breath. "Perhaps his family can explain why he passed out in school today? Or why he is bruised from head to foot? No?" He didn't give the pastor a chance to argue. Dean Winchester was many things, a future Oscar winner being one of them. The boy was hurting, and David couldn't allow that to continue. "If his family is so concerned about him, where is his father?"

Because David wanted to give Jonathan Winchester a fist shaped piece of his mind.

The steely eyes of the pastor softened slightly. "Dean's father has recently been in an accident at work. I discovered this yesterday, along with the fact that Dean has apparently been working long hours outside of school in order to supplement the income the family has lost due to Jonathan's injuries."

The anger that had quickly bubbled in David stopped simmering once taken away from the heat, and he thought carefully about what the pastor had said, wondering if he could possibly have misunderstood Dean and his situation so extensively. Of course he knew that there were plenty of places a boy as resourceful as Dean could make money. Places that didn't ask questions, and whose protection at work policies were shadier than New York City at sunset.

So the boy wasn't being abused at home, but was suffering in order to put bread on his family's table. David found he didn't like that idea any more than he did the other.

"Come with me, please." He stood abruptly, and lead Jim to the room he had been interviewing Dean in. The change in the child at the sight of the pastor was remarkable. He didn't say a word, obviously not sure if he were supposed to, but his entire body relaxed in a way that showed he obviously felt safe in the man's presence. He trusted Jim Murphy to fix things.

That made the pastor alright in David's book.

Though granted, his book was a little dog-eared and written in pig Latin.

"Hello Dean." Jim stepped into the room and up to the boy without a seconds hesitation. He wasn't acting like a man trying to soothe a skittish horse, but like a favoured uncle who knew his presence would not be rebuffed. Dean didn't even flinch when his face was taken between the pastor's long fingers and tilted towards the light. The bruises on his skin glowed, dark and abhorrent on his young face.

"Oh Dean," Jim sighed sadly, "what have you been up to?"

Feeling more and more like an outsider peering through murky glass, David took the opportunity to observe his subject in a more natural environment.

Dean's voice was hushed, but the social worker heard it loud and clear. "Is Sammy okay? And dad?" His bright eyes were genuinely worried. He was openly afraid for the first time David had seen. Afraid, not because of his father, but for his father. Misplaced guilt? Victims of abuse often carried a loyalty for their abuser that conflicted with any personal survival instincts.

"He's worried, naturally." Jim responded in the same quiet tone. "As is Sammy. They both are. I think between them whomever made such a mess of your face is going to find themselves very uncomfortable." There was a touch of a smile on the older man's face, and it was echoed on Dean's. "I think your father plans to beat them to death with his cast."

David wondered if the man would accept any help in the matter. He had a perfectly good baseball bat that he probably wouldn't miss…

He watched as the smile melted from Dean's face, and was strangely disappointed at its loss. "He's not mad, is he?" David unconsciously held his breath. This was what he had been waiting for. He recognised the look on Dean's face -had worn it more than once himself.

Jim chuckled. "Oh, I think you'll be cleaning out the Impala for the next decade, young man."

"Yay." Dean said morosely. Jim's chuckle turned into a full-fledged laugh. With one arm around the boy's shoulders, he turned them both back to David.

"Do you plan to charge him with anything?"

He thought of Tyler and his bloody nose.

"No."

"And are you still suffering under the delusions that the boy is in any danger from his loved ones?"

David flushed. It was his job to be sure, to keep vulnerable young people like Dean safe, even if they couldn't see the benefit themselves.

"No, sir." He winched, wondering what it was about Dean Winchester and his cohorts that could tear him between amusement, anger, and the unwarranted desire to jump to attention and salute the flag.

"And is there any paperwork you require me to fill out before we leave? Dean is not here formally, I trust?"

Yes, there was paperwork, and yes, David would be at it all night if he just let them walk out of the door. But no, Dean wasn't formally being taken into protective custody.

"No, sir."

Dean was smirking at him from behind the pastor's back. God damnit, that boy was going to wind up in worlds of trouble when he was older.

Just so long as he was just that…older. Once he hit eighteen, he wouldn't be David's problem. He had a sneaky suspicion he would be keeping an eye out for the name Winchester until he was retired. Just in case.

He walked them both to the compound entrance. Past Melanie, who was flirting weakly with a bruised Luke Tyler -he noticed both Tyler and Dean refrained from looking at each other. The sun shining through the glass doors cast Dean in a whole new light.

"Well Dean, behave yourself." He wasn't sure what else to say.

Dean rolled his eyes. "I know, I know. Big Brother is watching me. I get it."

He grunted. "Darn right he is."

He held open the door, and Dean had already crossed the threshold into freedom when he turned around and asked, "Can I ask you a question?" It was polite, and so unlike the soggy cat like anger he had been faced with all afternoon that he simply nodded.

"How do you sleep at night?"

"I'm sorry?"

"You're telling me you can take kids from their families and still sleep at night?" Jim Murphy's hand fell to rest on Dean's sharp shoulder. David wasn't sure if it was to comfort or restrain, and he wasn't sure he liked the coldness Dean's words invoked in his chest.

He cleared his throat, met the pastor's gaze, and then those of the small Uri Geller's. "I have a clean conscious, Dean. I'm trying to help people, here."

Dean's eyes were once again too old for his young, battered face. "You know," he said calmly, "people with clean consciences usually have short memories." With that, he let the pastor lead him down the steps towards a parked car. They weren't at the bottom when a small, dark haired bundle of energy ploughed into the teen and clung for dear life.

Orwell had him down. When it came to Dean, he was doublethinking. On the one hand, he knew Dean was probably going to grow up to be a sociopath. On the other, he knew Dean was probably going to grow up to be a damn fine -if sardonic- man. Two conflicting trains of thought, and yes, he accepted both of them.

Strangely, that was alright by him. After all, he did this job because he could see the good in the world, and he wanted to help others find it. It had just taken him a while to realise that Dean saw things exactly the way he did.