Second Hand Sons
The boy reminded John of nothing so much as a kicked puppy. Huddled in a corner of his father's cheap motel room, trembling with fear. But there was something else there, something that reminded him of his beloved Mary. Maybe it was the light dusting of freckles across the bridge of his nose. Maybe it was the fire hidden in those deep green eyes that said he was cowed but unbroken. Or maybe it was those full bow shaped lips set in a line of grim determination that he would get though this one way or the other. He couldn't help thinking that if his and Mary's first baby had lived, he would have been a lot like this kid. Only he wouldn't be scared shitless of his own damn father.
John realized that the other man in the room was talking, but he'd completely missed what he'd said. Or at least he hoped he had because what he thought the man had said was too horrific to even contemplate. With his usual eloquence he glared at the man and barked, "What?"
"If you help me with this hunt, I'll share the boy with you. You ain't seen nothin' till you see those lips stretched around your cock."
John didn't know which urge was stronger, the one to throw up or the one to bash the man's face in until there was nothing left of his head but a wet stain on the filthy carpet. He gritted his teeth until his jaw ached. He'd seen a lot of fucked up shit in his time, starting with 'Nam and then the thing that took his Mary and their unborn second son, but this… this was a step too far. He suddenly hated this man more than any supernatural son of a bitch he'd ever run across. At least none of them were passing their own damn kids around like party favors. It took every bit of his willpower not to wipe the leer off the bastard's face with his fist. "I'll help you on this job under one condition. You don't touch the boy while we're on it. In fact, he stays in my room."
The man snorted. "Don't you think that's a little greedy? I know he's a pretty little thing, but he's mine."
His. Like the boy was a sex toy or a piece of furniture. John felt his hands tighten into fist, his short nails biting into callused skin. He was in no mood to explain his motives to this sick fuck. "You want my help or not? You go up against this thing alone, and you ain't comin' back alive."
The man considered it for a moment before giving a tight nod. "Just don't damage the boy. And no marks on his face."
John didn't say anything, just grunted as he watched the boy gather up his meager belongings and obediently follow him out into the night air. He glanced at the boy, who was outright shaking now. Better the devil you know, John figured. At least the kid knew what to expect from his sick fuck of a father. John was an unknown quantity. "I ain't gonna hurt you boy. Ain't gonna touch you either. What's your name?"
"Dean, sir," the boy said softly, just loud enough to be heard.
"Dean," John repeated, feeling a tightness in his chest. "That's a good name."
John realized that Dean obviously didn't believe him that night when he crawled into bed with him and began rubbing against him. "Dean?"
"What're you doin'?"
Silence. When the boy finally spoke he sounded confused and scared. "Don' t you like me? I can be a good boy for you."
John felt dread crawl through his gut. "I like you plenty. Now get in your own bed."
"Please, sir. Let me stay here." There was a desperation in this boy's voice that worried John.
"I… had a dream about Mom. Can I please stay here? I can do better. I promise."
Shit. "Turn over, boy."
Silently the boy obeyed. John spooned behind him so that his chest was pressed against the boy's back. He could feel the kid trembling. He tried not to think about what he thought was going to be done to him. "It's okay. Just relax and go to sleep. I got ya, kiddo."
He rubbed soothing circles into the boy's chest until the trembling finally stopped. Soon the boy's deep breathing let him know that he was asleep. What kind of life had this kid had that made him think the only way he could get comfort after a bad dream was to offer his body to the nearest person? He buried his nose in the boy's hair as the overwhelming desire to protect him slowly ate away at the hunter and made sleep almost impossible.
"Bobby," John said as he carried a sleeping Dean inside Bobby's house. The boy had cried himself to sleep and now his face was swollen and red.
"John," Bobby returned as he peered out the door, probably to verify that there wasn't someone else out there. Like a parent. He closed the door and narrowed his eyes at his old friend. "Pickin' up strays now?"
John grunted. "His daddy died on a hunt. Couldn't just leave him." Without waiting for a response or asking permission, John took the boy upstairs and laid him down in the room he always used whenever he stayed the night. Usually when he was too wounded to move on. When he came back, Bobby was pouring them shots of whiskey.
"Somethin' wrong with child services?"
John took his and tipped it towards Bobby in wordless thanks before draining it. It went down smooth. Bobby always had to good stuff. That and his books were his only indulgences. "Boy was terrified of goin' to the state. Cried himself to exhaustion before I could convince him I wouldn't turn him over."
"It sure as hell's better 'en this life. 'Specially they way you live it. Like a damn nomad."
"Yeah, well what he came from's worse."
"Bastard of a father offered to share the kid with me as payment for help on a job."
"Offered…" Bobby's voice trailed off as understanding dawned. "Fuck. What is the boy? Eight? Nine?"
"Ten. Small for his age. Way he eats… like he's afraid you'll take the food away before he's done, 's enough to break your damn heart."
Bobby finished off his own drink before leveling a frank gaze at the younger man. "How'd he die, John?"
John glanced at Bobby, then looked away. "Werewolf."
"Werewolf," Bobby repeated, looking none too convinced.
John shrugged. "Firing mechanism jammed. Shoulda took better care o' his weapons."
Bobby grunted, a ghost of a smile on his lips. "I guess so. Brandon Masters, right?"
"How'd you know?"
"Heard of the son of a bitch. A lotta people would say you saved 'em a bullet."
John snorted out a laugh. "Not me. Just another huntin' accident."
"Whatever Winchester. Still haven't told me watcha doin' here."
"Need papers for the boy. And I need a doctor I can trust to take him to. Get him checked out."
"So you're really going to keep the kid. Winchester, this ain't no stray dog we're talkin' about."
"Dammit Singer! I know that!"
"Do ya? Do ya really?"
"Yeah, I do. He… he trust me now, Bobby. If I give him away now… There's only so many times a heart can be broken before it won't mend right anymore."
"This kid really got to ya."
"He's the age our firstborn woulda been. Has the same name even." He and Mary had named the baby even though they'd known he wouldn't live. He'd been born too early and his lungs hadn't developed enough. They'd held him till he took his last labored breath and buried him in Lawrence with a simple headstone with his name, an angel and a single date carved into it. Mary and his unborn baby brother were buried right next to him.
"You can't make this about you, John. That boy deserves better 'en to be a replacement."
"I know that. It's about him too. If I thought it would be better for him I'd've given him up before I left town."
"What if somethin' happens to you on a hunt?"
"What if someone who works at the children's home likes pretty little boys? What if he ends up in a home where he's abused? The way he is now, he'd just bend right over for it and he'll never have a damn chance. How about the fact that he'll never be able to talk about what happened to his parents, or lay a salt line without people thinking he needs a psychiatrist? I can make sure he has your number and Pastor Jim's number if he needs help or I don't come back from a hunt. But dammit, Bobby, I can't just turn my back on him."
Bobby huffed out a breath in defeat. "Fine. I'll help you, you stubborn fool. Don't let this bite you on the ass."
John smiled. "Thank you."
John stumbled onto the situation. He thought it was a simple haunting in a town he and Dean were about to leave behind. Just whispers about creepy things happening at the old Johnson house. A boy's face, pale and eerie, could be seen through an upstairs window. Wailing was sometimes heard by neighbors. Only a young widower lived there. Michael Roberts had moved to town a year previously and as far as John could tell he was on a long, slow slide down. According to neighbors, he stayed in the bottle and rarely climbed out. John found records of a boy, about five, who'd died in the house over twenty years ago. The circumstances had been tragic – what death of a child wasn't – but not violent or overtly criminal. Usually it took some combination of rage, violence and injustice to make a ghost. Especially one that wailed. But it wasn't unheard of for a spirit no to cross over because it was too afraid or just didn't want to and then became angry if it simply didn't understand what had happened to it or why things were different.
The strange things didn't start happening until Roberts moved in. Still not unheard of. Sometimes ghosts lived happily in the memories of their past until someone disturbed them. That's usually when a previously harmless ghost got dangerous, trying to get rid of the foreign element it perceives to have ruined its happiness. What John couldn't figure out was why the man stayed there. Maybe in his loneliness he thought of the spirit as a companion. In which case it probably wasn't dangerous yet. To John's way of thinking, the best thing for both the spirit and Roberts was to just move on.
"We gonna salt and burn the bones?"
John smiled. The two had fallen into a good routine. John wasn't hunting much and Dean finally began to trust that John loved him without wanting him on his knees. It confused the boy at first, and even now he became terrified whenever he made a mistake. The boy had rebounded from his malnutrition well and it was already clear that he was going to be tall. Right now he was sitting in the passenger seat of the Impala joyously stuffing his face with a burger and fries from McDonalds. Somehow John doubted the boy would ever stop eating like he was an inch away from starvation. For some reason that seemed to add to his charm. Reminded John of the military, where you had to eat quickly and keep marching.
"We?" he raised an eyebrow, amusement coloring his voice.
"Aw, come on Dad! I'm old enough. I can hit the bullseye with the knives and the gun."
"I know son. You're going to make a hell of a hunter one day. But not today."
Dean sighed, sounding much older than his twelve years. "Yes sir."
"Alright. You know the drill. If you see Roberts come back…"
"Honk the horn three times."
"Good. Stay out of sight and don't open the door for anyone but me. Got it buddy?"
"Got it Dad."
John smiled and ruffled the boy's hair. "Good man."
"Sweet Jesus." That was the only think John could think of to say when he opened the closet door to reveal a skinny boy huddled in the corner, all arms and legs and right angles. The boy looked back at him with impossibly big green eyes. Lighter and browner then Dean's, but still an unusual shade. The kid didn't look like any damn ghost he'd ever seen. He knelt in front of the kid and the boy flinched. Johns gut was telling him that all his assumptions were dead wrong. He didn't like the implications of that at all.
"What's your name?"
Sam. That wasn't the dead boy's name. Fuck. "Got a last name?"
Fuck, fuck, fuck. Why didn't anyone know Roberts had a kid? "What're you doin' in the closet, son?"
"Daddy said I have to stay here till I learn to be a good boy."
Fucking son of a bitch. "You look like a good enough boy to me."
Sam shook his head. Those big eyes enough to break his heart. "Good boys don't kill their mamas. Daddy said."
John squinted at the boy. "How old are you?"
"You were just a baby when your mama died."
"Daddy said that's what makes me evil. I can… I can do things."
"What sort o' things?"
"I have dreams that come true. Scary dreams. And I can move things sometimes just by thinkin' about it."
Telekinesis and precognition. Shit. Still didn't make the boy other than human, not in John's book anyway. Poor kid was probably a magnate for the supernatural though. No reason to abuse the boy and make him think he was responsible for his own mother's death. Of course there was always the small possibility that the kid had killed his mother. That he really was a monster. John dismissed the idea. "How did you kill your mother?"
The boy flinched again, shrinking impossibly deeper into the corner, and John cursed his gruffness. "I don't know. Daddy keeps asking me, but I can't remember. Honest!"
"Okay." John held his arms out, trying to placate the boy.
"Please don't hurt me." The kid was already crying.
"It's okay. I won't hurt you."
The boy seemed to fold in on himself and crossed his arms around his stomach. "I'm sorry I was bad."
"No, no… you weren't bad."
"But I couldn't answer all your questions."
Suddenly John understood why the kid was so talkative. He'd seen this before. This was how a POW behaved when he'd been broken. The poor bastard would answer any question from anyone. Anything to avoid more pain. "Do you want something to eat?"
"I can't eat unless I'm good."
"You are good," he said as calmly as he could, fully aware that he couldn't undo at least a year's worth of programming in one conversation. "And I brought you food." One good thing about traveling with a perpetually hungry 12 year old was that he had the car well stocked with food. He heard the Impala's horn honk three times. Good. There were a few things he wanted to talk over with Roberts. "I'm gonna have a little talk with your daddy. Stay here and I'll be right back."
It nearly killed him to close the door on the boy, but the kid didn't need to see this. Some of the things he wanted to say to Roberts could only be adequately stated with his fists.
When John arrived at Bobby's house with a second boy in tow, his old friend threw out his hands in the biggest show of emotion he'd ever seen the man give.
"Another one, John? What, are you startin' the John Winchester Home for Wayward Boys?"
John just laughed as asked him if he could do the papers or not.
Dean behaved as if John had brought him a puppy. He made sure that Sam ate, bathed, brushed his teeth and, when the boy had finally been deprogrammed enough to go to school, did his homework. It was like the older boy was a big brother the whole time just waiting for a younger brother to prove it.
"He's not my father!" Sam hissed, trying to make sure that Jess didn't overhear him.
Dean paused and stared at Sam as if he'd suddenly started speaking Latin. Well, Latin he'd understand, but the words coming out of his little brother's mouth right now didn't make a damn bit of sense. "What the fuck?"
"The man stole me, Dean!"
"From a bastard who used to beat you and leave you locked in a fucking closet for hours! Sometimes days! Only fed you when he remembered, which wasn't often since he spent most of his time completely drunk off his ass. Dad saved your miserable life."
"You don't understand. You're his real son."
Dean's eyes widened in surprise. It had never occurred to him that Sam didn't know the truth. Dean never talked about his past and John never mentioned to anyone that either boy was 'adopted.' In fact, most of the time Dean just liked to pretend that he didn't remember anything from the first ten years of his life. But he did. He cleared his throat. "First time I ever laid eyes on John Winchester, I was ten. Son of a bitch who called himself my father was offering my mouth as payment for help on a job. Dad turned him down and demanded that he keep his hands off me as long as they hunted together. Took me to his room just to make sure the bastard did. Next thing I know, Dad's coming back from the hunt alone. Took me damn near a year to understand."
Sam was too shocked to speak at first. He'd always felt like the odd man out. Even though he ironically always looked more like John then Dean, he always felt like Dean was favored and assumed it was because Dean was blood. "To understand what?"
"Real fathers don't expect you to get on your knees for them. They don't lock you in fucking closets. They don't forget to feed you. They don't use you to pay strangers for help. I really don't give a damn who's DNA I have or whose blood is in my veins. John Winchester is my real father. Always has been. Just like you're my real brother." Dean turned and began to walk away. "I'm gonna find my Dad now," he spat over his shoulder.
"What's going on?" The two men looked up to see that Sam's girlfriend had walked into the room, standing in the doorway wearing the cutest pajamas Dean had ever seen. Smurfs. Huh. He'd always thought the little bitches were evil, but damn if Jess didn't make them look good.
"Jess. This is my brother, Dean. Dean this is Jess. We sorta live together." Dean wasn't sure what was the more interesting sight. Jess in her skimpy outfit, or Sam turning red and trying to look nonchalant. "Dean came by to tell me that our father is missing. I'm gonna be gone for a few days. Maybe a couple of weeks."
"Thought you had something important to do Monday," Dean said, eyebrow raised, a gesture so like John's that Sam had a moment of doubt about Dean's story. But Dean had never lied to him, would never lie to him. Not about something like that.
"Yeah. But he's our father."
A/N: Reviews are much appreciated! If you love this story, it has exploded into it's own 'verse. Check out my profile for the rest of the one shots... -Angie
PS - This story is now a 'verse. There are three other one shots: Becoming a Winchester, Fathers and Heroes, & Broken Soldiers.