Usual disclaimers apply. RL has stunk bigtime and (hangs head in shame) I have yet to play catch up in saying my thanks to all who have reviewed. Everyone has been appreciated – helping this lardy asd writer to type just a little faster. Again also my heartfelt thanks to Carocali whose sharp eye and telling comments has whipped this chapter into readable shape. Rozzy
Chapter 4 – Robert Singer ain't never been anyone's fool!
Dean ran, his heart pounding loud in his chest, desperate to keep up with the longer stride of his father. He was both exhilarated and scared shitless, but the buzz was winning over the fear as he followed after the more experienced hunter.
John Winchester could hear his oldest behind him and was satisfied he was able to keep up. Getting separated at this late stage of a hunt could prove fatal, especially as Hudson had upped the ante by trying to bring the tunnel roof down on them only minutes before.
"We're getting too close for comfort, son." John barked over his shoulder with a bright telling smile.
"Yeah, Dad, but whose comfort are we actually talking about here?" snapped back Dean nervously.
John drew to a halt as the grey apparition slithered into solid rock, and he cocked his shotgun at the point where it had disappeared. "Hudson's running scared son."
Dean brushed loose the dirt from his head and shoulders that had been showered on him earlier and grunted his disbelief. "Ya think? That old bastard tried bringing down a whole freaking tunnel on our heads back there, Dad!"
"Almost isn't the same as actual." John looked down at his boy with a knowing grin. He was having fun despite the circumstances. "We're getting close to what anchors him to this world and he doesn't want us getting anywhere near it, is all."
"Oh goodie!" Dean felt the burn in his throat lessening after his race through the tunnels and admitted, "Just I didn't expect a spook to have the ability to tear down a ton of crap on us, is all."
John laughed; a deep rich sound that filled the tunnel as he clamped a hand on his oldest son's shoulder. "You've a lot to learn about this hunting game, kiddo. Hudson is an angry spirit. He doesn't play by any rules but his own. Got to learn to out-fox him and up your end game."
Dean nodded his understanding, revelling in his Dad's affection. It had been an age since he'd felt such warmth and with that unbidden touch, he knew he had called it right by going on this hunt with him. "That's why I'm here -- to learn from the best."
"And you're doing just fine, son," smiled back John. His hand held his son's shoulder for another long lingering second before he let go, and he returned his focus back on hunt.
With sharp eyes, John let his fingers trace over loose brickwork before he tossed a look back to his skilful protégée, "Heads up, Dean, time to put an end to Hudson and his macabre head fetish."
Dean groaned, "I wish you'd stop using that word, Dad. "It's kinda freaking me out."
John looked down at his son, his deadpan face masking his amusement as he asked, "Head? Is that what's spooking you out here, Son?"
"Yeah, as in I want to hold on to my own. Sammy's expecting us back without anything missing, if you get my drift."
Dean's eyes darkened, thinking on his brother and a sigh escaped. He missed Sam with all his annoying observations and mannerisms. That much the last four days had taught him. Not having his little brother by his side was almost like a physical loss and he wondered if his Dad felt the same.
John, as if sensing where his son's heart and thoughts were at, nodded his understanding. "I know where your head is at, Dean, but we have a job to do here. The sooner we get it finished the sooner we get back to Fort Wayne. Stop worry about your brother, he's doing just fine with Bernadette. She won't let anything happen to him."
"She better not, Dad!" warned Dean darkly.
Raising his forehead off the cold flooring, Sam tried to make sense of why it felt so heavy or why there was a marching band playing up a storm inside of it. Wincing, he rubbed at a sore spot above his right temple, feeling a small lump that hinted at a painful meet of skull and marble flooring.
Blurry eyed, he instinctively whispered for the only person who always made things right; who he knew would put an end to his headache. "Dean?"
When there wasn't the familiar response, Sam couldn't hide his disappointment and let his too heavy forehead slip the two inches back on to the floor with soft thud. Dean wasn't here and he was all on his own.
The cold against his skin was a welcome relief and Sam would have carried on resting there but save for someone calling out his name. It wasn't Dean, that much he knew, the voice to watery and thin. If it wasn't Dean calling for him then he couldn't really be bothered to listen and irritably he batted a weak hand in the air to shoo the sound away, wanting nothing more than to go back to sleep again.
The thin voice turned to a holler, and sleep became impossible. Letting out a groan, Sam opened his eyes, thinking it peculiar that the world seemed so skewed from the horizontal angle he viewed it at.
Sam heard someone calling his name again, with an urgency about it that couldn't be ignored. Tiredly, he pulled himself up on to his elbows wondering why most of his bones felt like jelly and every part of him felt bruised and battered. It felt like he had gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson and lost every round.
Then the events of last night played out in slow motion in his head. A reel of disjointed images; being dragged out of bed by an alcohol-fuelled Mrs Doyle whose plans for a short back and sides had truly terrified him. He could remember fighting back; trying to get away before things got out of hand and they ended facing planting themselves at the foot of the stairs.
Swallowing back bile Sam knew he was lucky that the widow hadn't killed him.
As he tried to assess the damage done, it was his throbbing head and sore left wrist that seemed to make themselves known above any other hurt. Cautiously, he rotated his wrist, tender and a little swollen, but thankfully not broken. A little sprained he figured, having done the same with his right sparring with Dean a month ago when he got a little too rough house.
Then, for the first time, he noticed the lazy sunshine dappling the hallway; telling him that night had turned into morning, and that he must have slept through the transition. Confused as to how long he had been allowed to lay there, his thoughts returned to the widow. The Mrs Doyle of last night would have dragged him up and shaken him awake, screaming blue murder, rather than let him rest like this.
Her absence sent a shiver of worry through him – even now the old witch could be in the kitchen rooting around for the scissors she had been threatening to scalp him with. Panic turned to action and he scrambled up onto his knees, ignoring the wave of nausea washing over him with the movement. The last thing he wanted to be was to be left lying vulnerable on the floor if the old witch came at him with scissors.
A hoarse whisper called out Sam's name again and he turned his head towards the sound, familiarity making him freeze. Mrs Doyle. Anticipation of another temper-fuelled encounter vanished the moment he took in her broken form and a gasp of shock escaped.
Mrs Doyle lay stiffly propped up against the foot of the banister rail, her skin bleached white from pain.
Her head was bloodied, crimson stains drying on her temple and cheek, but what made Sam gasp out loud was the sight of her left leg. The brilliant whiteness of shin bone protruded through traumatised tissue, blood pooling to stain the floor underneath.
"Holy shit!" whispered Sam out loud, any thought to his language forgotten as he continued to gaze in appalled fascination at the damaged limb.
His own aches and pain were forgotten as years of being John Winchester's son took over and he got himself over to Mrs Doyle in a few unsteady strides. "Oh Jeez, you've busted your leg good and proper Mrs Doyle..."
Filmy eyes clouded by pain heard his words and the woman snaked out a hand to grip his wrist, fiercely pulling him down to kneel besides her, "No thanks to you, Sam Winchester. You almost killed me, you young hooligan."
"Me? I, no… I didn't do this to you..." denied Sam eyes wide in surprise at her accusation. Any fuzziness in his head evaporating at her words. "You were drunk and fell down the stairs. Remember?"
Mrs Doyle juddered at the implication behind his statement and her voice, tremulous with the pain, admitted, "All I wanted to do was help you boy, and this is my reward." She passed a shaky hand over her broken leg. "If you hadn't fought against me, this wouldn't have happened."
Sam pulled away from her hold and stood up tall, defiance on his face, not willing to play the fall guy for her mistakes. "You act crazy, crazy things happen. You did this to yourself. Not me!"
Mrs Doyle's looked up at him shocked by the coldness in his too mature voice. "Samuel?"
Sam eyes travelled back up the stairs and he added tellingly, "You're lucky we didn't break both our necks. With all that stuff about the Devil and saving my soul, you would have pushed me into so-called freaking Limbo all by yourself."
The implication hit the woman hard and her face crumpled and the self justification for her actions went with it. "Oh, sweet Jesus, no...never that. To think I could have... Oh Lord forgive me..."
Guilt ate away at her and she shot out her arm to reach him again but the movement swung her broken body forwards and a sharp cry of pain followed.
The need for blame vanished as Sam took in her distress and he grabbed at her hand to comfort her. "Shush, don't move, Mrs Doyle. I'll get help, call 9-11"
Noticing how she was shivering, Sam guessed she was going into shock, it didn't help he figured that she had been lying helpless on the cold floor for so long.
Rubbing back the thump gnawing away in his temples, Sam stood up, "I'll get something to make you comfortable first. Okay?"
He didn't wait for a response and headed for the living room and grabbed up some cushions and an old woollen throw the widow liked to wrap around her legs at night.
Before he headed back, he picked up the phone; his need to call his Dad overwhelming no matter how far away he might be. His father would know how to sort out this mess and tell him what to do next.
When he got only an automated message saying his cell was out of range, Sam swallowed back his disappointment and he headed back to the widow. Arms full.
"I tried calling Dad but he's out of range," he murmured sadly to the woman as he dropped the cushions in a soft thud to the floor. "He would have known what to do better than I do."
She nodded her understanding, her face contorting in agony as he slid the cushions behind her back, only for it to soften as the support gave her immediate relief from the pain gnawing away in her hip.
Sam's eyes travelled down to the open fracture and he chewed on his bottom lip, wondering if he should do something about her leg before help arrived. Uncertainty won out, deciding to leave it to more professional hands, as he draped the throw around her.
His touch, however lightly given, was a comfort to the woman, and she threw him a rueful smile. "Thank you, Samuel. Any woman would be happy to call you son, including this foolish old woman."
The praise made him duck his head feeling a little ashamed of his harsh words of earlier, "I'll call 9-11. They can fix this."
"Wait up, child," demanded Mrs Doyle, eyes watering as she fought against the pain. "Call Father Hennessy first."
Sam shook his head in disquiet, "But you're hurt, Mrs Doyle. You need a hospital."
"Please, Samuel, I need to talk to the Father first."
Dean shifted the weight from one foot to the other trying to keep the feeling in his toes. His Dad had been pulling the thick partition wall apart brick by brick for the last hour and he had been left sidelined to just watching. The inactivity had left him half frozen.
"How much longer, Dad?" asked Dean, cringing inwardly at hearing the whine in his voice.
John huffed out his irritation, "Jesus! could you sound anymore like your little brother right now, Dean?"
The blush crept up Dean's neck to redden his cheeks, hating the comparison to Sam whose ability to wind up their father with just a few words were legendary.
John turned his head and took a long look at his son and a sigh escaped. The boy appeared close to freezing, the layers of clothing he wore not able to offset the subzero degree conditions in the tunnels. "Look, why don't you take a turn. Might keep you focused to be of some use here."
"Really? Awesome! Thanks, Dad," beamed back Dean the cold forgotten as he stepped up to the wall.
John held in check his own smile, his boy was just so eager to please and it felt good to be at the receiving end of it.
A gruff voice hid his emotions as he said, "Just remember to pull the bricks out one by one and for Christ sake just make sure the whole damn wall doesn't came down around you. We just want enough space to get to the other side if we're going to have any chance at getting to Hudson."
"Sure thing, Sir," answered Dean as he tried to lever out his first brick with the crowbar that had been handed to him. It was harder than he thought, chipping away at the old cement and filling that kept the bricks in place. His Dad had made it look so easy that he was soon cussing under his breath.
John stood back, on guard, though with a smirk on his face as he lightly teased, "Put some backbone into it, Dean, didn't think I was raising some pansy-assed girl all these years!"
Dean grunted out a dark response and a brick flew free, and triumphantly he held it up high for inspection. "Got the little sucker!"
"Good work, son. Now you've only got another thirty or so to shift by my reckoning."
Dean gulped, swallowing back a sarcastic comment. He wanted this, to be part of his Dad's world and having to use more than a little bit of elbow grease wasn't going to put him off. Not one little bit.
Titling his head to his Dad as he managed to lever off the next brick he asked, "Why don't we just get a stick of dynamite and blow a hole in the freaking wall. It will be a lot quicker, don't ya think?"
"Sure thing, though best you call in advance the Coroner's office for the body bags cos' that how we'd be taken out of here."
Dean cocked an eyebrow of disbelief at him and John added, "These tunnels are not structurally sound. You shove some nitro into the walls and the whole place is coming down around our ears."
"So, its brick by freaking brick?"
"You've got it. You have to learn to have patience if you're going to be any good as a hunter. Patience and learning to keep a wise head on your shoulder."
"Gee thanks, Dad, you with the whole head thing again!" came back Dean sourly, gingerly feeling his collar.
"Hello, Father Hennessy here."
Sam gabbled out his words, "Mrs Doyle fell down the stairs. Broke her leg and she needs you to get here fast."
"What on earth! Is that you, Samuel?"
"Yeah," answered Sam before adding, "She won't let me call for an ambulance… not till she sees you first."
"Why on earth not?" asked the priest before quickly changing his mind. "Never mind I know how stubborn that woman is. Can I speak to her, son?"
"Yeah sure, here you go," Sam readily agreed as he shoved the phone into the widow's hand. "Father Hennessy wants to talk to you."
She sniffed back her tears and her voice wobbled, "Callum…thank the Lord."
"Sam said you fell down the stair. How bad is it Bernadette?"
"My leg is broken and I think my hip too…." she stopped, her voice breaking with the pain. "I need you here, Callum."
"Okay, Bernie, I'll come straight over. But why haven't you let the boy call for an ambulance?"
Mrs Doyle shook her head, her face paling as the movement sent stabbing pains thorough her lower extremities, "Remember what we talked about last night? Child Services is going take Samuel away for sure now unless you get here and take him first."
There was a moment of silence before the priest confessed, "I can't do that Bernadette. You know how bad it will look for me, alone with a boy his age."
"No. It won't work. Have you tried calling his father to get him to come back and pick him up?"
"Sam did already but there's no answer. Knowing John, we'll be lucky to see him the right side of Sunday." She stifled back another groan of pain, her eyes watering. "You know, once the child is in the system things happen…"
"And you know how much of a scandal it will cause if I just upped and took that lad home with me. The Church has enough lawsuits on its hands as it stands."
She knew what he was hinting at and her pain intensified. "So, because of a few sick individuals we have to risk this child's soul and well being?"
"Bernadette, it will only be for a few days and I can keep track of him, makes sure he goes to a good foster home. It won't be so bad for the lad."
Her breath came out in painful puffs. "I told you last night I won't let Samuel fall through the cracks. Whether it be Child Services or his father's inattention, the boy is well on the path to ruin."
"You need to stay calm, Bernie. I'll be with you in ten minutes and we can try and sort something out then. Okay?"
"Ten minutes!" huffed back the widow in disbelief. "You'll be breaking every traffic law there is if you manage to do that, Cal."
"There shouldn't be much traffic this time of the morning, so if I run every red light from the parish to you house - ten minutes it is!"
Despite her pain the old woman smile, "Anyone ever tell you have the Devil himself in ya at times Callum Hennessy."
"Only you, my old friend, only you!"
Panic had shot through Sam like a bolt of electricity at hearing the widow say the two little words that he had learned to dread above all others: Child Services.
All his life, it'd been drummed into his head that it was the closest thing to hell on earth and had to be avoided at all costs. If Sam let them get a hold of him he might never see his Dad or brother again. He knew once the priest got here, things would be put into motion that he would have no control over.
Ten minutes, that's what the widow had said before Hennessy turned up. That left him with less than nine minutes to get a plan together to make sure he didn't end up in an even worse hell than the widow's home.
Sam forgot about his aches and bruises and flew up the stairs two at time. When he got back to his room, he threw on some clothes, hastily shoving the remainder of his belongings into his backpack before racing back down to the ground floor.
He paused when he reached the bottom of the stairs to take another look at the barely conscious widow. Despite everything that had played out, he couldn't help but feel sorry for her. She was shivering in shock and pain, the anaesthetic of alcohol having worn off totally now.
Remembering how dehydrated his Dad got after a bender, he headed of the kitchen to get a glass of water before he left. That one small comfort Sam could afford to give he reckoned as he continued to count down the seconds in his head.
His trip to the kitchen proved useful as he acquired a small carving knife and a tub of salt to shove in his bag. He also found the money the widow had left in an old candy tin that his father had given her. It didn't feel like stealing he reasoned, as the money had been left for his care and the widow was hardly able to do that now.
Feeling a little more confident, Sam returned to Mrs Doyle and left the glass of water and the phone within easy reach. Tucking the comforter up to her chin he whispered softly, "I'm sorry you got hurt, Mrs Doyle. I have to go now before the government people turn up."
A hand reached out for him but he jumped back wary of getting trapped, "Help is coming. You'll be fixed up soon enough."
Mrs Doyle lifted her head, eyes rummy with pain. "Don't leave, Samuel. I know things got out of hand, but you have to stay. Father Hennessy said he'd watch out for you."
Sam shook his head. "Dean always said we have to run if Social Services ever turned up on the doorstep and I aim to do just like he said."
"And go where?" demanded the woman, shifting her weight in a lean towards him despite the flare of agony it invoked from her broken leg and hip, "Your Da isn't answering his phone and won't be coming back for a few days, if even then. You can't just hide out till then, it's not safe. All sort of things are out there waiting for a boy like you, Samuel."
Taking another step back he answered confidently as he swung his backpack over his shoulder, "I'll ring Pastor Jim. He'll sort something out."
Callum Hennessy quirked an eyebrow in surprise at seeing the front door ajar, but stepped quickly inside anxious to get to his friend. He found her sobbing softly at the foot of the stairs, propped up by cushions and wrapped in a grey blanket.
Racing to her side, he knelt down and lifted her chin up and flinched on seeing such raw pain in her eyes. "Ah, Bernadette what the hell happened to you?"
"I made a mistake, got over anxious for the child…and now I've ruined everything."
Pulling back the comforter, the priest's face froze at the sight, "Sweet Joseph and Mary, this is a bad break."
The priest reached down and picked up the phone by her side and quickly called for an ambulance. "They'll be here soon enough, Bernie, just hang on."
"He wouldn't stay with me. I begged him not to leave me here alone, but he wouldn't stay…" she whispered back teary eyed.
The priest frowned, noticing Sam's absence with a shiver running like ice down his spine. "Sam. Samuel?"
The woman shook her head again, fresh tears flowing, latching onto his wrist with frigid fingers. "Fool boy wouldn't listen to me. Never did. Not ever."
Hennessy's heart sank as he digested the implication behind her words. "Where'd the wee lad go, Bernie?"
Wiping a hand over her wet eyes, she shook her head, "Gone off to meet up with that charlatan Pastor Murphy he's so fond off."
"And where does this Pastor live?"
"Blue Earth, Minnesota."
The priest rocked on the balls of his feet, an exhale of surprise escaping, "For Petesake, the boy is only eight-years-old! How on earth does he think he's going to get all the way to Minnesota?"
She sighed knowingly, "He's the son of a hunter, Callum. Boy is clever smart despite his young years. I figure maybe he'll get the Pastor to come get him and even take him on to his Da. If not, he'll make his way to Minnesota."
"Bloody hell, this is a real mess, Bernadette. What do I tell Child Services now?" asked the shaken man. "We have a missing boy who isn't even in the system. Legally where do we stand here? Do I call Child Services or the police first?"
The widow shook her head, tears drying as she reconciled herself to losing Sam. "Not much we can do now. Leave the authorities out of this. Any chance I had of keeping him gone. His dad will have him back and ruin whatever good is inside of him."
The Father shook his head. "Bernadette, I can't in good conscience keep quiet and not say anything to the authorities. How can I just let a boy go off like this knowing all the dangers out there?"
"The police will never catch him. John will have trained him too well for that. He'll get by them and back to that fool Da of his."
"You really think that possible?" asked the priest.
"The boy is stubborn enough to get to the moon and back if he set his mind to it. He'll not let anyone, anything, stop him now."
The widow clung hard to the priest as she sadly admitted finally as the truth won out, " I don't know where my mind was at thinking that I would ever be able to keep him. John has too strong a hold on him and poor lad idolizes him so much all he can see his need for him. He's lost to us, Cal, really lost to us."
Sam wanted to scream out his frustration as the phone went dead in his hand, the last of his change eaten up without any success. Instead, he sucked in an annoyed breath, fingering away the headache still beating loud in his head before gently putting the receiver back.
All his plans were proving a bust. His Dad's cell still wasn't in range even after half a dozen attempts. As for Pastor Jim, the automatic message saying that he was away at some Seminar till the weekend left him feeling well and truly screwed. He had tried Professor Jennings and even Bobby Singer -- neither were picking up. It was like all of Dad's friends were playing hide and seek at his expense.
Now, he was out of names to call and the panic was starting to set in.
Sam knew his options were thin on the ground, especially with only a slim wad of cash in his pocket, but it didn't negate the fact that he still had to get out of Fort Wayne before the police or Child Services got a hold of him.
It had taken him a full hour of walking, ducking and diving into the shadows every time a police car sped by, to get to the bus depot. Throughout out the long walk, his headache refused to lessen and each and every bruise on his body made itself known. The only thing that made the journey any easier was at least he knew how to get to the station, having passed it on the way to Church on Sunday.
When he walked into the depot, it was surprisingly busy despite the early hour of the morning full of fellow travellers. Sam was able to slink into the booking office without drawing any attention to himself. Cautiously, he looked around, trying to see where all the exits were if he had to make his escape. If he had to walk into the Lion's den, he at least needed to know how to defend himself.
Sam waited a full hour, taking in the bustle of people and the questions they asked before he headed with mock confidence to the first vacant ticket booth. It took him a few polite coughs before a thin-faced, middle-aged man looked his way.
Swallowing back the dryness in his throat Sam asked, "How much is it to Minnesota, please, Sir?"
The ticket master cocked an eyebrow in surprise at him but gave him his answer. Sam mutely nodded his thanks and walked away, his frustration heavy in his gut knowing he didn't have enough cash to purchase a ticket. He could feel the ticket master's eyes tracking after him and his stride lengthened till he was out of sight.
Sam voiced his confusion on leaving the building and sat on a secluded bench. "What do I do, Dean? I know I've gotta get away, cos I don't want to lose you or Dad but they won't let me just buy a ticket all by myself.. I think I'm screwed…."
He was tired, thirsty and more than a little scared but thinking on his brother, on what he might do, gave him back much needed courage. Dean wouldn't let anything stop him from making his escape. Chin squaring in determination Sam figured that if Minnesota was off the list of doable things, he would just have to change track.
He waited patiently for the right moment, loitering at the back of the station for his chance, keeping out of sight of any that looked official. It took another hour before the eight-year-old sucked in a breath as he clocked the ticket office change of staff and as he looked around his eyes narrowed on finding his mark. Big brother had taught him well and skilfully he zeroed in on the elderly man, looking somewhat confused as he tried to work outthe ever changing departure board.
"You okay, mister?" Sam asked innocently. "Know where to board?"
"Eh?" cupped the elderly man, obviously hard of hearing. "Going to see my daughter in Sioux Falls, and they said I had to get bus 27."
Sam looked up the board, a knowing smile lit up his face on seeing his destination. "Well isn't that lucky – it looks like we're going the same direction, Mister. Don't worry, I'll make sure you don't miss your bus."
Dean could feel the sweat trickling between his shoulder blades but still grinned silly as he dug out more bricks. The hard labor was worth it as the thick wall was slowly yielding and he had made enough of an in-road so that he could now squeeze his slim shoulders through the gap.
The flashlight perched on the lip of the hole revealed the outlines of a room but not much else; the beam of light not strong enough to cut through the solid blackness.
"Dean, hold up for a moment," demanded John, his nerve ends tingling as the air curled around him in a grey mist before the stench of rotting flesh filled the air.
It was a warning too late as Dean gave a small squeak of surprise before he felt himself being pulled through the hole and away from the safety of his Dad.
"Dean," screamed out John, racing to the hole with his shotgun cocked, his face reflecting his terror at seeing his son being snatched away from him.
"Dean?" he called out again when he got no answer. Panic pulled him into action and he pushed his shoulder into the side of the hole, sending a shower of bricks down around him. It created a large enough space for him to squeeze through, and ignoring the sting on his scalp after taking a sharp hit from a brick, John hauled himself through to the other side.
"Hang on, son, I'm coming," John hollered out again as he got to his feet swinging his flashlight wildly around the small room.
His face soured on finding no trace of his boy and he yelled out a warning to the empty room, "Hudson, you let him go, ya hear me, man. Let my boy go."
His answer was to hear his son screaming. Loudly. For him.
John growled out his inner hurt, having no idea where his son's cries were coming from. Swinging the flashlight beam around the room, he finally had a hint as he spied a small doorway.
Heading towards the sound at a run, he offered up a prayer under his breath, "Please, God, keep my boy safe. Please, I can't lose him too…"
The heavy set rotweiller curled its top lip and growled its threat, before jumping off the hood of the beat up truck. In the dark, its acute senses smelled the intrusion before it appeared and he barked out a series of warnings.
A door to the house opened, flooding the immediate area in a soft halo of light and Bobby Singer stepped out, shotgun in hand.
"Whose ever out there best turn back, now," he commanded in a deep voice, "My dog will tear a chunk or two out of yer! Not been fed since yesterday! Either that or you get filled with buckshot."
His warning was met with a soft giggle and Bobby Singer's eyes bugged out in disbelief at seeing his so-called fierce guard dog. He was licking furiously at the face of a dark-haired child, whilst his docked tail thumped a retreat on the hard ground in delight.
"Well, I'll be a blue-assed fly," Bobby exhaled in surprise. "Sam Winchester, is that you playing silly buggers this time of night?"
Bobby rubbed at his whiskers, confused as to why he hadn't heard the familiar throaty rumble of John's car and he looked past Sam expectantly, his frown growing when it was still only the boy.
Just what the hell is John Winchester playing at here? Is he that obsessed to be putting his boy through another training exercise at this time of night?
Pushing the dog off him, Sam stood up eyes wide in alarm at seeing the shogun aimed in his direction and with a quiet voice pleaded, "Please don't fill me with buckshot Bobby. You were the only place I could get to."
Bobby lowered his shotgun, feeling a little sheepish at threatening the boy with it only seconds earlier. He stepped off the porch and pointedly asked, "Where's your daddy and that smart-mouthed brother of yers?"
The boy blinked, losing all color from his face as he admitted, "In Cincinnati, on a hunt."
"Cincinnati?" growled Bobby in disbelief. "You yanking my chain, cos' I ain't finding this funny, kid."
When Sam looked up without a hint of guile, Bobby's face blanched on realising how close he had come to hurting John's youngest.
"Jesus H Christ, you know I could have blown your head clean off yer shoulders, you little idjit. Turning up in the dark like this and all."
Sam shivered, his eyes remained locked on the shotgun as he admitted, "I didn't mean to get here so late, but the bus took forever... I tried calling you from Fort Wayne but there was no answer, so I just took my chances and made my way here. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to spook you."
Bobby lowered his shotgun to let it hang loose again his leg, his mouth dropping open in disbelief. "You got here on a bus from freaking Fort Wayne? All on yer lonesome?"
Mutely, Sam nodded, not sure of his welcome as the man continued to scowl fiercely down at him.
Bobby scratched his head in confusion. "Your daddy know you're here?"
Dipping his head low, Sam gave him his answer. "His cell was out of range and I had to get away. They were going to put me in a home. Dad would have killed me if I let that happen."
Bobby took in a steadying breath, realising that the time for admonishments could come later as the kid looked all but done in. "Best come inside, Sammy. Let's get some chilli in yer belly to warm you up, then you can tell me what the hell's been going on."
Relief washed over Sam and a brief flash of dimples appeared as he gave a shy look up at the man. The fear that had sat heavy on his shoulders that he might be chased away evaporating. "Thanks, Bobby. I didn't know where else to go."
"Just don't sneak in like this again, scaring the crap out of me. Make some noise next time you come a-knocking close to midnight," the older man responded gruffly, his fear for what the boy must have gone through skilfully masked.
When the large rotweiller went to follow after the boy, Bobby scowled down at it, "Git back and do your goddam job. Some freaking guard dog you've turned out to be, as soft as soggy pancakes and about much use to boot."
The dog looked suitably chastised and slunk back to his favored spot near the truck. Dropping like a lead weight, it watched Sam and Bobby enter the house with a soft wuff in the air.
Sam ruefully turned his head at the sound and mouthed a silent good night. A thin smile of relief ghosted across his face as he followed after the older hunter, feeling the tight band of fear that has wrapped itself around his chest all the way from Fort Wayne slowly starting to ease off.
He trusted Bobby, that with him he would be safe till his dad and brother came and got him.
Sam stepped into the cluttered living room and sighed out his happiness at the familiar sight. The place was a mess, with books and charts sitting haphazardly on every surface, taking up the width of the sofa and a lot of the floor space.
Gingerly Sam put down his rucksack on the floor before one stack of ancient looking books and followed after the retreating back of the man into the kitchen, which when he entered was in the same state of disarray.
As if noticing the boy's eyes travel over the mess in judgement Bobby bristled, "Weren't expecting company, if you get my drift."
After the clinical tidiness of Mrs Doyle's house Sam welcomed the difference, "It looks fine to me, Bobby. Better than fine..."
Bobby looked down at his newly acquired lodger and saw the truth in his eyes. Flinching he turned away, hating the way the boy held such power with just a look. It made him uncomfortable to be around him at times. The way he could with just a glance strip a person bare of any emotional pretence.
It was a gift. A gift the youngest Winchester didn't even know he wielded yet here he was looking at him so expectantly, with such trust it twisted Bobby from the inside out hoping that he could measure up to such naked need. All he knew he would have done anything at that moment of time to keep the boy safe, and he was left wondering just how John Winchester had survived eight years of seeing that 'look' and still managed to be such a hard-nosed bastard with the kid at times.
Battling against the affection stirring up inside him for the boy he tersely nodded to the table, "Go sit yerself down Sammy. I'll rustle up some supper and you can tell me all about what made you up sticks to get yer skinny ass to my neck of the woods."
Sam nodded, sinking his sore frame onto the chair with a sigh of appreciation, but as he watched Bobby at the stove warming up some chilli a frown formed and then his stomach knotted in fear. What if Bobby knew Mrs Doyle and he liked and respected her just like his Dad did? Would he be so welcoming if he knew that the woman had ended up hurt because of him, that he had run out on her and left her broken at the foot of the stairs?
Bobby as if alert to his change of mood turned to face him, "So I guess you need to be telling me what made a short-stop like you take off alone from Fort Wayne?"
Gulping softly Sam admitted the truth, "Dad left me there, for a week he said, but then Mrs Doyle got hurt..."
Bobby stiffened before turning back to the pan now starting to bubble its aromatic contents. Stirring it with added vigour he tried to hold in check his anger. "Bernadette Doyle, huh! Your daddy left you with her?"
Nodding Sam said, "He said it would be good for me, that I had to stop being so selfish, holding Dean back from hunting and everything..."
Bobby with his back still to Sam listened to his confession and swallowed back a curse. Trust John Winchester to use his son's guilt to control him and leave him with a total stranger.
Knowing how the widow's mind worked Bobby wondered just how bad a time the boy had with her. He filled a bowl with chilli and put in front of Sam and found himself asking, "Still doesn't tell me why you're here, Sammy."
Sam bit his bottom lip, "She got hurt, busted up her leg and I her heard her talking about Child Services."
"So let me get this straight, that's when you just decided to take off?"
Sam seemed to shrink under the harshness of his tone, "I didn't mean for her to get hurt. Honest Bobby. I know you're her friend and all but please don't be mad at me. Please don't make me go...not tonight."
Bobby snaked out a hand to hold the boy's shoulder in a fierce grip, "That's enough Sam. I ain't gonna be chucking you out, you foolish pup. That freaky bitch Doyle is a lot of things but one thing she's never been to me is a friend."
Eyes rounding in surprise Sam gasped out, "But I thought... it just seemed as if everyone liked her." He paused before adding tellingly, "Except Dean. And now me, I guess."
"That old battleaxe might be able to wrap soft headed idjits around her little finger like candy sugar, but Robert Singer ain't never been anyone's fool!" The hunter paused before sniffing drly, "Something your daddy might want to learn."
Sam sucked in a tremulous breath, eyes bright as relief swept over him, that he wasn't going to face fresh censorship from Bobby.
Bobby took a step back, away from those took expressive eyes, hating to see how close to breaking the child had been. Swallowing back his discomfort, he dropped a spoon onto the table and ordered, "You just eat up, Sammy. We can sort this mess out later."
Feedback always warmly welcomed, despite my tardy response status!
PS. I sort of fiddled with parts of this chapter so any mistakes are all mine (sorry Caroline..!!)