Supernatural belongs to Eric Kripke and the CW. I am just playing with the boys for a little while.
Thought I would have a go at a young Winchester story. My first attempt.
Sam is eight and Dean is twelve.
I hope you enjoy.
by Eryn Grant
Winter had arrived suddenly during the night with the first snow fall covering the small town in a heavy white blanket. Pastor Jim Murphy shoved his hands in his pockets as he trudged through the deep snow towards his small home. He had forgotten some books he needed in order to write his sermon for Sunday. He cursed himself and his age for his forgetfulness. The church and his home weren't too far from each other but the deep snow made it heavy going. He stamped his feet as he pushed the door open and was nearly knocked over by eight year old Sam Winchester running along the hallway.
John Winchester's youngest looked up at him guiltily. "Sorry Pastor Jim," he huffed as he brushed his hair out of his eyes. Hatless, Sam was wrapped up in what Jim recognised as Dean's warm jacket. A red scarf had been looped around his neck several times and Jim could see a pair of red mittens stuffed in one of the jacket pockets.
"Where's the fire?" Jim asked with a smile.
"Gonna build a snowman before the snow disappears," Sam answered holding up a carrot in one hand and a large brown paper bag in the other.
"What's in the bag Sam?" Jim asked curious.
"Stuff for my snowman," Sam answered with a grin. "I've got some stones for his mouth, some buttons for eyes, a hat and a scarf," he listed with a happy smile. "And Dean made me a sword. It's really cool. The best sword ever."
"For your snowman?" Jim asked with a laugh.
"Yeah," Sam grinned again. "It's gonna be a hunter snowman."
"I see," Jim said slightly saddened that even when the Winchester children played hunting lurked in the background. "I'm sure it'll be the best hunter snowman ever."
Sam nodded enthusiastically and gave Jim a huge beam. "Do you think Dad will like it?" he asked earnestly his expression changing from happy to anxious. "And do you think the snow will last until Dad gets home?"
"I am sure that your father will love it," Jim said reassuringly. He offered up a silent prayer, as he had done every evening, that the boys' father would get home soon. They both needed him. "And I think the snow will be with us for a little while yet," Jim assured the young boy as he looked up the hallway. "Is Dean going to help you?"
Sam gave a long dramatic sigh and brushed his hair out of his eyes again. "No. He says he's busy right now," Sam gave a little smile. "But he did promise to come and look when I'm done."
"What's he doing?" Jim asked.
"Baking and other stuff," Sam replied. "He says we gotta do stuff around the house. So Dad won't be mad and ... and," Sam bit at his lip and kicked idly at the floor falling into silence. "Not meant to say," he mumbled.
Jim bent down and tilted Sam's chin up so he was looking directly into the boy's eyes. Jim nodded smiling at Sam encouragingly. "I promise that it'll be our secret," he assured.
Sam looked back up the hallway and then back to Jim. He lowered his voice to a whisper. "I think Dean is afraid that if we don't do stuff you'll send us away. And then Dad will get mad at us."
Jim bit in a sigh. Sometimes he wanted to strangle John Winchester with his bare hands for his complete lack of understanding of his own children and their innate insecurities. He straightened up looking down on an anxious Sam. "That will never happen," he ruffled Sam's unruly mop of hair. "You and Dean are always welcome here. I like having you around."
"You do?" Sam asked with a small hopeful smile. "Even though I'm too noisy sometimes," he bit at his lip again nervously. "Dean says so... but I really try to be quiet. It's just hard sometimes," he said a serious look on his little face.
Jim tried to stifle a chuckle at the look on Sam's face. "I know you do Sam," he assured. "And I don't mind. Really. I like you both being here. Noise and everything. OK?"
Sam gave a small nod immediately convinced by the older man's reassurances. "Pastor Jim?" Sam looked up at the older man through his long hair that insisted on falling over his eyes. He brushed the hair out of his eyes yet again and kicked distractedly at the floor again. "Do you think Dean's OK?" Sam asked, a worried frown creasing his forehead.
Jim gave a frown on his own and knelt back down so that he was eye level with Sam again. "Why do you say that?" Jim asked kindly. He knew that Dean had a tendency to keep things to himself and it worried the older man that may be he had missed something.
Sam shrugged. "He ... you know still looks tired and sick," he replied. "Dean's just not Dean," he said shooting the Pastor a frustrated look not sure that his words described what he wanted to say.
"Sam," Jim said softly. "Dean was very sick but he's getting better. He just needs to rest. So you and me," he touched a finger to the small boy's chest. "Will just have to keep an eye on him. Make sure he's resting and getting stronger. Back to the Dean we all love. OK?"
Sam thought for a moment concentration dominating his features. "I could give him lots of hugs," Sam brightened at the idea. "Like he gives me when I'm sick."
"I think Dean will like that," Jim gave Sam a smile. "So that's agreed. You're in charge of hugs and I'm in charge of the other stuff. Now go and start your snowman. I'm going to see what Dean is up to."
"He's making cookies," Sam said as he hurried out of the door his carrot and bag clutched tightly in his hands. "See you later Pastor Jim," he called over his shoulder as the door slammed behind him.
Jim shook his head wishing he had the enthusiasm and energy of the eight year old. He quickly stopped off in his study to look for the books he needed. He cursed himself for being so untidy as he rummaged through the stacks of books haphazardly balanced on the desk, all the chairs in the room as well as on the rickety looking shelves. Jim searched through the piles of books on demon lore, supernatural beings and several Latin texts and translations frantically searching for the books he needed to help him write his sermon. He grinned to himself sorely tempted to write his sermon based on demon lore but after chuckling for a few moments decided against it knowing that some of his more serious parishioners wouldn't see the funny side at all. Twenty minutes later with three books tucked under his arm, Jim ambled towards the kitchen. The kitchen was empty and Jim moved towards the table putting down his books. He looked around. The kitchen was tidier than it usual. All the surfaces had been wiped down, kitchen utensils put away and the floor had been swept. A pile of neatly folded laundry lay on one of the chairs. Jim could see some of his own shirts folded amongst the smaller t-shirts, sweaters and jeans. He sighed to himself knowing it had been Dean's doing.
Jim's gaze drifted towards the table. Two pies and a dozen or so cookies had been placed carefully on the table to cool. Jim bent over the table sniffing at the wonderful aroma. Slumping into his favourite chair he snagged a cookie from the tray and sat back to wait for Dean to return.
As he waited for Dean Jim's thoughts turned to a month before when a panicked John Winchester had burst through his door cradling his eldest son in his arms a frightened looking Sam following behind. He had taken one look at Dean and grabbed Sam's hand and propelled them back out of the door towards his own truck. Not taking no for an answer he had bundled Sam into the front seat and pushed at John until he slid in the vehicle as well Dean still cradled in his arms.
The child had been unconscious, his face pale, his body sweating and trembling from a high fever, his breathing rattling in his chest and he was covered in an angry red rash that Jim recognised immediately. The doctor at the hospital had confirmed his suspicions. Dean had somehow contracted the measles. Although now a rare disease Jim had found out from a tearful Sam that they had been living and going to school in a small community for over three weeks while John hunted an angry spirit who was terrorising one of the families. From Sam's description Jim doubted that the townsfolk believed in vaccination and Jim very much doubted that Dean himself had been vaccinated. It wouldn't have been on his John Winchester's list of priorities but something told him that Dean would have made sure that Sam had been vaccinated.
He had sat a terrified Sam on his knees and cuddled him close to his body while John Winchester paced up and down the hospital waiting room. Jim had never seen his friend so frightened and could see the guilt tearing John up as he paced. Sam told him later that Dean had been sick for two days hiding his illness from his father before he had collapsed while preparing dinner.
Dean had spent two days in the PICU and a further week and a half in the hospital due to a nasty bout of pneumonia coupled with bronchitis, a common side effect the doctors had assured John and Jim. As soon as Dean had regained consciousness and started to slowly improve, John had drawn Jim aside and told him that he had been called away on a hunt with Caleb and asked him to look after the boys. Jim had been angry with his friend and tried to persuade him to stay saying that Dean needed him. But despite his pleas John had gone on the hunt two days later leaving Sam and Dean in Jim's care. He sensed that Dean was upset about his father leaving but decided against saying anything not wanting to cause the boy any more misery than was necessary. His heart broke every time he came back to the room knowing that Dean had been crying and he silently cursed John Winchester for being so uncaring and unthinking of his eldest son's feelings and needs.
Jim loved having the boys stay with him. During the summer he had even redecorated the room they used filling it with a small array of second-hand toys and books they could use when they visited. He had noted with pleasure that the battered teddy bear that he had put on Sam's bed had mysteriously disappeared after their last visit at the end of the summer and wasn't a bit surprised to see its head poking out of Sam's backpack this visit. The furniture was sparse - a wardrobe, a chest of drawers and a bedside table placed between the two beds he had managed to squeeze into the room, a queen for Dean and a single for Sam instinctively knowing that Sam would spend most of his nights in Dean's bed due mainly to the relentless nightmares he suffered most nights.
Sam's incessant talking and noise filled his small house making it seem less lonely. Dean was much quieter and more reserved saying little and always on guard. Jim knew that if he had to chose a favourite it would be Dean for some reason he couldn't really explain. Despite his efforts to be strong, self-assured and older than his twelve years Dean epitomised vulnerable making Jim just want to hug the boy even though he knew it wouldn't be welcomed. But he never played favourites loving both boys equally and enjoying their company. Jim sometimes wished that John would leave the boys with him for longer spells so they could go to school and make friends, but he knew that if he suggested it, he would lose both John's friendship and any chance of having the boys stay with him. So Jim had long ago resigned himself to the short visits and concentrated on enjoying every moment while desperately trying to give the boys some semblance of a childhood. He sighed as he snagged another cookie leaning back in the chair writing parts of his sermon in his head while he waited.
Dean leaned up the window frame as he stared out at the snowy landscape. He kept himself out of sight as he turned his attention to watching Sam and making sure that his little brother was OK.
He had really wanted to help Sam build his snowman but Dean knew that his father expected him to help around the house so he had spent the morning baking some cookies and pies, tidying the kitchen and doing the laundry finishing up with the ironing. He kicked at the floor distractedly wanting desperately to be outside but Dean knew he had responsibilities and he didn't want to let his father down.
His thoughts turned to his absent father. Dean loved his father, worshipped and looked up to him but at the moment he hated him. Hated his father for leaving them again. Hated him for caring more about demons, werewolves and the supernatural than Sam and him. Dean had desperately wanted his father with him at the hospital but as usual the Hunt had beckoned and enticed him away. Dean had been terrified, had never felt so ill and helpless in all his young life and had just wanted his father. He had nearly pleaded but had bitten back the words knowing that his father would be disappointed in him for being weak and childish. Dean had to be strong and hide the hurt he felt because he desperately wanted to prove to his father that he was worthy and would one day make a strong and skilful hunter. But needing to be strong hadn't stopped Dean from wanting to cry desperately craving a hug from his father. Pastor Jim had been there with him every day but it just wasn't the same. He loved the Pastor but wanted his father. A father that more often than not forgot he was even alive.
Dean sighed and absently ran his finger up and down the condensation on the window. Every now and then Dean wished for a normal life for himself and Sam. He knew he would never have that life but deep inside him Dean wished for a normal life for his brother. The demon had murdered his mother, taken his father and stolen his and Sam's childhood. Dean couldn't help feeling deserted and he hated the feelings his father was evoking within him. He tried to push them down deep but the feelings of despair, disappointment and discontent with their nomadic life were overwhelming at the moment making him feel confused and bewildered. He sighed again, sometimes Dean couldn't help feeling abandoned, lost and alone.
The only bright spot in his life was Sam. His brother made him laugh and even though he was nearly a teenager Dean still craved Sam's hugs, his gentleness and the innocence of his comforting words. Sam was his responsibility and Dean took it very seriously. Sam was everything to him and he had a sneaky feeling that Sam felt the same. Dean didn't need friends - he had Sam. They did everything together and he felt a certain degree of pride when Sam brought home awards that he had been given for good school work. Sam was his whole life. Concentrating on bringing Sam up and giving him as much of a childhood as he could distracted Dean from their crappy life and his feelings of isolation. And somehow thinking about Sam had the effect of making Dean feel less lonely.
Dean turned his attention back to Sam grinning as he watched his brother march up and down the front path his hands on his small hips as he surveyed the front lawn from all possible angles. Dean couldn't help laughing at the look of pure concentration on Sam's little face as he began to roll a ball of snow towards the middle of the lawn area. Once in position Sam began to pat the snowball into a "body" shape. Sam stepped back to admire his work before starting to roll a smaller ball of snow towards the snowman's body. Satisfied that Sam was alright Dean pushed off the window frame and made his way back to the kitchen.
Halfway along the hallway Dean felt suddenly dizzy and swayed slightly. He reached out towards the wall to steady himself. He lay against the wall taking deep breaths trying to force the dizziness away. He closed his eyes hating himself for feeling so tired and weak. Dean held onto his chest as he coughed. Although still a hard bark like cough it was getting better and hurt less but it still rattled in his chest and he still wheezed slightly when he breathed. The darkness was trying to claim him but Dean resisted breathing hard against the feeling as he slid down the wall to the floor. He continued to cough as he rubbed absently at his chest trying to calm himself. Dean blinked and after a few moments forced his eyes fully open to find Jim kneeling at his side. Dean didn't know how long the Pastor had been there and he had no knowledge of how long he had been in the hallway. He flushed in embarrassment and gave Jim a weak smile.
"You OK there Dean?" Jim asked concerned having found Dean half collapsed against the wall coughing and holding onto his chest.
"Fine," Dean took a deep breath and struggled to his feet pulling himself up to his full height determined not to look weak in front of his father's best friend. Dean glared at Jim cursing himself for letting himself be caught.
Jim cocked his head to one side regarding the child in front of him. His face was pale with flushed cheeks from the coughing fit but his green eyes had a look of steely determination in them. It always amused Jim that every expression of Dean's seemed to have its own unique glare contained within it, but even with the glare Dean gave him this time Jim wasn't convinced that the twelve year old was fine. "Let's go and sit in the kitchen for a while," he put a firm hand under Dean's elbow giving his young friend no opportunity to escape his grip. He led Dean slowly towards the kitchen.
Jim sat Dean down at the table and prepared them both hot chocolate placing a mug in front of Dean. "Here you go," he said kindly as he slumped down in his own chair.
Remaining silent Dean regarded Jim with veiled emerald eyes. The hint of hardness and suspicion that was constantly present just under the surface of Dean's expressions always shocked and saddened Jim. It was a hardness borne out of misery and seeing things that a child should never see and it made Jim's heart ache for the child in the man's body sitting in front of him fiddling with his mug. For as long as Jim had known Dean, the young boy exuded an air of suspicion and distrust; it enveloped and smothered him like a dark shroud. Even at twelve Dean was confident and expert with all types of weapons and the strength and self-assuredness he displayed on the outside would make him a formidable hunter when he was older. But every now and again, when he was sick or hurt, Dean let his guard down and showed the world the real Dean Winchester. Gentle, caring and vulnerable, all traits his father despised convincing his son that they showed weakness. So Dean hid himself never letting anyone get close accept one person. His eyes and demeanour only softened and relaxed when he talked to Sam or talked about Sam. Dean became a boy again, like any other boy, and his eyes and expression gentled and shone with laughter and happiness as he talked to or teased his little brother.
Dean bit at his lip. "I'm fine," he repeated in case Jim hadn't understood the first time. He tried to stifle a cough but it forced itself despite his efforts.
Jim gave a small chuckle. The colour was slowly returning to Dean's pale face and the boy didn't seem to be wincing in pain when he coughed. He was sure that the dizzy spell had been caused by Dean overdoing things that morning. "OK," he decided to agree. "If you say so."
"I do," Dean said determined giving Jim another glare. He immediately flushed and looked away from the Pastor knowing that Jim didn't believe him for one moment. Dean decided to quickly change the subject away from himself and his health. "Is there anything else you want me to do? " he asked. "I could tidy up the living room and your study," Dean offered.
Jim sighed. "No," he replied.
"But," Dean started to say before looking down at his hot chocolate.
"But what?" Jim asked gently.
"Nothing," Dean shrugged. "I thought I could help out around the house," he bit at his lip again turning away from Jim again. "I like helping."
"I know you do Dean," Jim put a hand on the young boy's hand. "Look at me," he persuaded. Jim waited patiently until Dean finally turned his head and stared at him silently, a hint of defiance in the expression. Jim sighed to himself again. Despite the defiance he could clearly see that Dean was worried and Jim could also see a little bit of fear reflected in the greenness regarding him quietly. "Mrs Dorchester comes in to clean for me," Jim said gently. "You don't need to do stuff around the house. Mrs Dorchester will get upset and you don't want that do you?" Dean shook his head reluctantly. "And you were very sick and you need to take care of yourself and get better. You've only been out of the hospital a week," Jim patted Dean's hand.
"But I'm fine now," Dean interrupted displaying the stubbornness that he had obviously inherited from his father. "And I need... I have..," he stammered not able to force out the words. Dean coughed again and absently rubbed at his chest.
"Dean," Jim said firmly waiting until Dean had finished coughing. "You and Sam are always welcome here. Any time. And I don't care if you don't do anything around the house. It's not important. And most of all its not necessary."
"But," Dean protested.
"Look," Jim sighed in frustration. "We'll compromise. OK?" He waited for Dean's approval before continuing and was rewarded with a small nod of Dean's head. "Right. I'll take care of the house and stuff with Mrs Dorchester's help of course. And you can take care of Sam. But," he tapped Dean's hand to get his point across. "You also have to take care of yourself. No cleaning up the house or yard or doing my laundry and ironing. If I want you or Sam to do something for me, I'll ask. Now do we have a deal?"
"That's it?" Dean couldn't help the surprise in his voice. His father expected him to take care of everything when they stayed in a place for more than a week - the cooking, cleaning, laundry, looking after Sam as well as training and schoolwork, and he wasn't used to only having to look after himself and Sam. It all seemed alien to him and he searched Pastor Jim's face to find a hint of a lie or untruth but he only found truth and kindness reflected.
Jim held Dean's stare not flinching sensing that it was important that his young friend recognised the truthfulness of his words. "That's it," he confirmed with a smile. "Except that you have to make cookies again. And by the look and smell of those pies, more pies." He grinned at Dean as he snagged yet another cookie. "So do we have a deal?" Jim leaned back in his chair nibbling at his cookie as he watched Dean try to come to his decision happy that the twelve year old seemed satisfied with what he had seen in his expression.
"OK," Dean finally agreed giving Jim a smile. "Are the cookies really good?" he asked shyly. "They're Sammy's favourite."
"Mine too." Jim said as he popped the last bit of the cookie into his mouth. "And the ladies in my Womens' Guild would kill for them," he confirmed with a smile.
Dean flushed pink with pride. "I made the pies for Bobby because you said he was coming by later," Dean said. "And cherry pie is his favourite."
Jim couldn't help noticing Dean's happy expression at the thought of Bobby visiting and knew it had been the right decision to invite him to call in on his way home from a hunt. Bobby was someone Dean trusted and liked. "You're spoiling us all," Jim hauled himself out of his chair and gathered up his books. "Now I have a sermon to write and it won't write itself. Will you be OK?"
"Yeah," Dean gave Jim a genuine smile. "I feel much better now," he admitted shyly.
"Good. So why don't you go and help Sam build his snowman," Jim suggested. "I know he'd like that. And I'll be back later to see how you're both getting on."
"OK," Dean gathered up the mugs and carefully put them in the sink for washing later.
"Put on an extra sweater and wrap up warmly," Jim warned. "I don't want you getting sick again," he said as he moved towards the door. "There's a warm coat of Caleb's in the hall closet that should fit you. And enjoy yourself," Jim smiled as he closed the door behind him.
Dean hurried along the hallway pulling on his thick sweater. Retrieving Caleb's warm jacket from the closet and wrapping a scarf around his neck Dean was now looking for his gloves in the living room. He glanced out of the window to see how Sam was getting on.
His mouth dropped open in horror and he stood transfixed to the spot. The snowman was gone smashed into the ground. Looking to the edge of the lawn Dean saw Sam facing three larger boys. They were yelling at him and shoving him trying to knock him over into the snow. Sam bravely stood his ground his pose stubborn with his arms folded across his chest. The larger of the three boys, at least ten pounds heavier and three inches taller than Sam, suddenly stepped forwards grabbing for Sam's red scarf . Using the scarf he tried to pull Sam towards him.
With a small yelp Sam stepped back pushing at the boy's hands in a desperate effort to escape. Before Dean knew what was happening the larger boy caught Sam off guard knocking him to the ground. He leapt on top of Sam and they rolled in the snow. The other boys cheered on their friend as he rolled Sam onto his back and sat on him. Dean could see Sam tenaciously fighting back trying to push the boy off him but the boy had one of his arms pinned on the ground. Sam cried out as the boy twisted his arm.
The sound jolted Dean into action and he rushed outside slamming the door behind him. "Hey," he shouted angrily advancing on the boys. The two cheering boys saw Dean heading towards them, saw the murderous glare on his face and nudging each other turn-tailed and ran down the street. Dean ignored them as insignificant and concentrated his efforts on Sam. Barely controlling his temper he dragged the other boy from Sam's stomach by the collar of his coat. "Just what do you think you're doing," Dean snarled at the writhing boy.
"Leave me alone," the boy screamed as he wriggled in Dean's firm hold. "I wasn't doing anything."
"Oh yeah," Dean shook the boy angrily. "So why were you sitting on my little brother? And what happened to his snowman?"
"Nothing," the boy managed to squirm out of Dean's grip. "He's just a stupid little kid with no Mom or Dad or family. With a stupid big brother who got a little kid's disease. Charity kids," he shouted as he ran down the street. The boy stopped suddenly. He turned scowling at Dean. "And his snowman's stupid."
The boy yelped loudly as Dean's large snowball hit him firmly in the chest knocking him to the ground. Dean followed the first snowball with a second, a third and fourth snowball - all expertly on target - covering the boy with a thick dusting of snow as the missiles exploded on his body. "And if I catch you near my little brother or his snowman again," Dean yelled as the boy scrambled to his feet running down the street again. "I'll hit you with more than a snowball." The boy disappeared around the corner.
Dean immediately turned back to Sam who was still lying on the ground his breath was coming in harsh pants and he had wrapped an arm across his chest. "You OK Sammy?" he offered his hand to Sam.
Sam scowled at the use of his nickname but nodded as he accepted Dean's outstretched hand. "I had it under control," he wheezed as Dean hauled him to his feet.
"Yeah right," Dean chuckled as he helped Sam brush the snow off his now soaked jeans and jacket. "I could see that," he teased.
"I did so," Sam protested with a small cough. He gave Dean a glare.
"OK," Dean put his hands up in defence. "But I'm gonna show you a move that might help next time some dude decides to sit on your stomach."
"Really?" Sam asked. Dean nodded with a smile. "Cool," Sam breathed.
Dean noticed that Sam's breathing was still slightly harsh and he was still wheezing. "Sammy. You're not hurt anywhere are you?" he asked concerned as he patted his hands down Sam's body looking at his small face for any signs of pain or discomfort.
"No," Sam answered wiggling away from Dean's hands. "I'm OK. Just outta breath from where Aaron sat on me." Turning away from Dean, Sam ran over to his destroyed snowman flopping down in the snow. He picked up the carrot nose turning it over in his small hands - it had been broken in two.
"Hey," Dean leant down close to Sam. "Let's go inside and get you outta those wet clothes. I'll even make you some hot chocolate. OK?"
Sam looked up at his brother biting at his bottom lip. He could feel the tears threatening and really wanted to cry for his lost snowman but knew that his brother would only tease him and call him a baby. "OK," he murmured carefully pocketing the carrot. He hauled himself to his feet grabbing his bag and the sword that Dean had made him. With a last look over his shoulder at the pile of snow that had been his snowman, Sam followed his brother into the house his head down.
Dean moved around the kitchen preparing the hot chocolate and setting out some of the cookies onto a plate. He knew that Sam was upset over the snowman having seen the threatened tears in his brother's eyes and he sighed angry with himself that he hadn't got there earlier. Dean poured the hot chocolate into two mugs. "Hot chocolate's ready," he shouted as he heard Sam coming down the stairs. The door burst open and Dean couldn't help smiling to himself - even miserable and dejected, Sam was unnecessarily noisy. Sam slid onto a chair with a huge sigh crossing his arms on the table. He lay his head on his arms staring distractedly into the distance.
"Here you go," Dean offered Sam a mug of hot chocolate with a smile. "Have a cookie," he pushed the plate towards his little brother. "They're your favourites."
"Not hungry," Sam mumbled staring up at his brother.
"What's wrong Sammy?" Dean asked.
"Nothing," Sam murmured as he slowly dragged himself upwards resting his elbows on the edge of the table his hands under his chin propping his head up. He stared down at his hot chocolate despondently.
"So," Dean sat next to his brother nursing his own mug of hot chocolate. "You know this Aaron dude then?"
Sam nodded taking a sip of his hot chocolate. "He's in my class at school," he answered. While they were staying with Pastor Jim they had been enrolled in the local school even though Dean had yet to attend due to his illness. Instead he was doing schoolwork at home while he recuperated from the measles and the pneumonia.
"Is he always so mean?" Dean asked. Sam shrugged avoiding looking at Dean, instead staring into his hot chocolate. "Or is it just you, he's mean to?" Dean asked gently. Sam shrugged again. Dean sighed nudging Sam's shoulder with his shoulder. "I thought we talked about this. You can tell me. That's what big brother's are for."
Sam turned his face towards his older brother, his eyes large and anxious. "I know.. but ... but you've been sick and... and I didn't wanna worry you," he stammered his eyes filling with tears.
"Hey," Dean put his arm around Sam's shoulders hating when his little brother was upset.
Sam burrowed his head in Dean's shoulder. "Sorry," he whispered with a sniff.
"It's OK," Dean replied. "But I'm getting better now so you can tell me anything OK?"
Sam nodded looking up at Dean. "But it's OK really," he said quietly. "He don't bother me all the time." Dean unconsciously tightened his hug of his brother. "Just calls me names and runs away."
"Like charity kid?" Dean questioned. Sam nodded and buried his head in Dean's shoulder again. Dean grit his teeth and really wished he had put big stones in the snowballs he had thrown and vowed that when he was back at school he would be having strong words with Aaron and his two friends followed up by his fists. "Sammy," he pushed at his little brother. "We're not charity kids. And we do have a family. We've got Dad. Pastor Jim. Bobby. Caleb and each other. That's a good family, one of the best."
"I know," Sam sniffed again. "But he says you're stupid all the time. And you're not stupid. You're the best big brother in the whole world. And I love you."
Dean smiled at Sam. He didn't care if other children thought he was stupid but it was important to him what Sam thought of him. "I love you too Sammy," he whispered. "Even if you're a pain in the ass sometimes." Dean punched his brother's arm lightly. Sam giggled as he leaned up against Dean snuggling against his brother's warmth. They sat is silence for a few minutes as they sipped at their hot chocolate.
"Dean," Sam adopted his best serious expression shifting in his chair. "Do you need a hug? Because Pastor Jim said I'm in charge of hugs."
Dean pulled a face. "You can give me one later. Before we go to bed. OK?"
"OK," Sam agreed. "But you get two. One for now and one for later."
Dean laughed lightly suddenly feeling much better. Sam fidgeted in his chair again before nudging his brother. "About my snowman?" he whispered.
"It can be fixed," Dean said determined. "Go get your coat Sammy. We've got a snowman to build," he grinned at Sam. "And hunter snowman never give up. They always live to fight another day."
"Really? You mean it?" Sam asked his voice doubtful. He bit at his lower lip again his expression full of uncertainty. "But you've been sick and I've gotta look after you. Pastor Jim said so. And I don't want you to get sick again."
Dean smiled at Sam. "I promise to put on a thick jacket and wear my hat and scarf," he promised.
"And your gloves?" Sam asked with a matching smile.
"And my gloves," Dean rolled his eyes at his brother.
"Yay," Sam nodded his small face shining with happiness. He leapt to his feet and hurried towards the hallway in a flurry of arms, legs and noise. "Come on Dean," he shouted over his shoulder. "Hurry up."
"Boy," Dean murmured to himself. "The things that big brothers have to do for their little brothers," he grinned to himself as he made his way into the hallway. Shrugging into the jacket he wrapped his scarf around his neck and pulled on his hat before joining Sam on the front lawn.
John Winchester watched from the shadows . He had an excellent view of his children - he could see them but they couldn't see him. He watched silently as his sons played in the snow together. It wasn't something that he agreed with or condoned but couldn't help smiling as he watched them build a large snowman impressed as they worked as a team. Dean seemed to have recovered from his illness although John heard the occasional harsh barking cough from his eldest as he rolled yet more snow towards the snowman.
The snowman was large and fat with arms fashioned from branches. A hat he recognised as Jim's sat lopsided on the head of the snowman. John squinted. The eyes of the snowman were large black buttons and it had a broken carrot for a nose with a row of shiny stones for its smiling mouth. He chuckled to himself as he noticed that the snowman was holding a home-made sword in one branched hand and it looked like it was brandishing it in the air. In the other branched hand it held a bag which had the word "salt" scrawled across it in his youngest's handwriting. The chuckle died in his throat leaving a bitter taste as he suddenly realised that his children had built a snowman that was obviously a hunter. It saddened him and the familiar guilt rose up threatening to choke him and John could hear the little voice that always sounded like his beloved Mary chastising him. John always tried to convince himself that it was the demon that had destroyed the boys' childhood but he knew deep inside that it was he, and he alone, that was guilty of that crime. Wrapped up in his own relentless quest for vengeance, John had stolen their childhood from them. Both Sam and Dean deserved better. He desperately wanted to be the father that they deserved but a coldness and emptiness within him prevented him from giving them the love they needed. He loved his boys so much but John found it so hard to show or tell them that they were loved and so often he wanted to just hold them close, hug them, but he knew that they had to be strong so he kept them both at arm's length.
John hadn't even noticed that Dean was sick until he had collapsed and had been horrified to learn that his eldest son had the measles. A disease he should have never contracted but John vaguely remembered he had been pursuing a werewolf when he should have been taking Dean to the doctor's office for his vaccination. While Dean had been in the hospital John had searched through the official papers he kept in a leather folder and had found meticulous doctor's records detailing all Sam's vaccinations but none for Dean. The discovery added another layer of guilt to the mountain he already carried around and he had promised himself that he would make it up to Dean. But then Caleb had called and he had forgotten all the promises he had made to himself. The Hunt, as usual, won over the needs of his sons, calling to him like the siren that had lured sailors to their deaths. This time it was a poltergeist terrorising a family two counties away.
His life was so full of regrets and broken promises and John knew that he was to blame for it. It was nobody's fault but his own and his sons were caught in the middle suffering in silence innocent victims of his obsessive revenge on the demon that had killed their mother.
John bit down the tears that threatened as he turned his attention back to his precious sons. Sam and Dean were in the process of wrapping a blue and white scarf around their creation and John could hear their childish laughing ringing out. They were happy and playing in the snow like any other child. John could hear the excited and loud voice of his youngest talking and laughing as they worked. Dean put his arm around Sam's shoulders hugging him hard as they stepped back to admire their work.
John looked upwards. The sky was darkening to dust but John instinctively knew that his children were safe. Jim was angry with him for leaving while Dean was still in the hospital but he knew that the Pastor would protect his boys with his life. As if on cue Bobby Singer appeared with one of his legendary hunting hounds at his heels although you wouldn't know it as the hound bounced and frolicked like a puppy with his boys before knocking Dean over into the snow in its excitement. Bobby looked in his direction and John pulled back into the darkness hoping that his friend hadn't seen him. He watched as Bobby looked around him and up and down the street before calling the hound to heel as he hauled Dean to his feet, brushing the snow from his over-sized jacket and giving him a quick hug. John felt a momentary sting of jealously as his eldest son hugged the older hunter back saying something about cherry pies and his favourite. Bobby gave the boy another hug and John noted with another jolt of jealousy how his oldest stayed close to his hunter friend. He heard Bobby complimenting his children for a job well done, could hear Sam's excited squeals and Dean telling his brother to calm down. John Winchester suddenly felt very alone.
John stepped out of the shadows making a move towards his children. He stopped as his cell phone vibrated in his pocket. He stepped back into his hiding place retrieving the cell phone from his pocket. "Yeah," he snapped into the phone listening to the voice at the other end while looking up every now and again at his children playing in the snow. A fight had begun with Sam and Dean pelting Bobby with snowballs. Bobby's hound bounced around them all barking and yipping with excitement as the older hunter retaliated with his own barrage of snowballs.
"OK," he answered. "If I get going now I'll be there in two hours or so." He listened again. "No. No problem," John ended the call flipping his cell phone shut.
John took a last long look at his children playing happily before turning and jogging back towards the parked Impala. The Hunt beckoned him away from his children again but he knew they were safe and well cared for and he promised himself that he would be back with them within a week.
"Lights out in ten minutes Dean," Jim appeared at the bedroom door. After the snowball fight and scolding Bobby for getting the boys soaked Jim had insisted that both Dean and Sam have hot baths, not wanting Dean's bronchitis or pneumonia to return. He had then supervised Dean taking his medication before bundling them both up in pajamas, heavy dressing gowns and thick socks. They had enjoyed dinner with Bobby before Jim had hustled them both up to bed to read the comics Bobby had given them. He smiled to himself. Sam and Dean were cuddled together in Dean's bed. Dean was quietly reading his comic and Sam was fast asleep curled against his brother who had a protective arm around him. He smiled again - he could just see the furry head of the teddy bear poking out from the top of the blankets. "I see the batteries wore down," Jim nodded at a sleeping Sam.
"Yeah," Dean smiled at Jim cuddling Sam closer to his warmth. Jim turned to leave the room. Dean bit at his lip. "Pastor Jim?" he whispered looking down at his brother. "Dad was here," he said as he put his comic to one side. "When we were playing with Bobby."
"I doubt that," Jim assured as he turned back towards the boys. "He's with Caleb two counties over chasing down a poltergeist." He held his breath hoping that Dean would leave it there. The young boy's instincts were well honed and fine-tuned, and once again Jim was struck by the thought that Dean would make an excellent and outstanding hunter probably and very likely surpassing his father as his skills and proficiency grew and developed.
"No," Dean said stubbornly. "He was here. I know it. I felt him. He was watching us." He looked down fiddling with the edge of the blanket. "But he didn't come over," his voice wavered slightly and he bit back the tears that threatened.
Jim sighed in frustration making a mental note to have strong un-Pastor-like words with John Winchester. Walking back from the church he had seen the familiar shape of the Impala hidden behind the trees and had seen John jogging towards the vehicle. John hadn't seen him and Jim had watched the Impala roar off into the distance. Jim was saved from telling a lie by Dean. "Don't tell Sammy," Dean pleaded as he wiped at his eyes. "It'll only upset him," he said as he absently hugged the smaller body of his brother even closer. He coughed as he struggled to get himself under control. Dean sniffed, wiped at his eyes again and stared at Jim pleading with him silently.
"I won't I promise," Jim promised. Dean was one of the most generous and gentle children he had ever met always concerned about other people's feelings never about himself. From the tears in his eyes Jim knew that Dean was hurt by his father's thoughtlessness once again but his only concern was Sam. It broke his heart. Jim gave Dean a warm smile deciding that the twelve year old deserved a treat. "Tomorrow. We'll do whatever you want. OK?"
"Really?" Dean whispered not able to disguise the surprise in his tone.
"Really," Jim confirmed. "It will be Dean day. Now get some sleep young man."
"Cool," Dean breathed as he slid down the bed pulling Sam and his bear with him. "Thanks Pastor Jim," he murmured as Jim left the room turning the light out. Dean snuggled close to his brother. Sam murmured in his sleep tightening his hold on the teddy bear and curling closer to Dean. "It's OK Sammy," Dean whispered. "I'm here. I'm not gonna leave you."