A/N I do not own supernatural
"I'm going to check out the Jefferson house again." Dean looks at the clock incredulously.
"It's 1AM Sam."
"The freaks come out at night." Sam replies nonchalantly grabbing his coat.
"You haven't had a goodnight sleep since we got here!" Sam isn't listening, which is odd because news of his 'condition' has put Sam in a seriously conciliatory mood. Without further argument Dean grabs the keys, someone has to keep them alive.
The house they pull up to is well kept, a pretty little ranch place you'd see on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. Sometimes in the houses they visit, especially the pretty ones, Dean looks around at the little pieces of home, children's heights etched into doorframes, closets filled with cleaning supplies and long lost winter gloves. Shaking off all thoughts of a nonexistent home Dean follows Sam down into the basement.
Sammy is staring at a locked cupboard door motioning silently for a lock pick. Moments later Sam flings the cupboard open quickly Dean drawing his gun.
"No!" A little boy curls protectively over a younger girl both children are crying even if the boy is trying to stop. Dean immediately lowers his gun as Sam kneels down too look at them closely.
The little boy is bruised and covered in dry blood, one eye is nearly swollen shut. He can't be much older than four or five even though he is defiantly pushing an even tinier girl behind him. The girl is in substantially better shape, dirty and shivering from cold but only a few bruises decorate her fair features. Both are green-eyed and bright-blonde, obviously related.
"It's ok I'm not gonna hurt you." Sam tries not to add 'yet' on the end of his sentence. This isn't the time to think about destiny. The boy shrinks from Sam's touch and the girl starts to cry.
"I bet it's scary down here."
"There are monsters." The little girl whispers peeking out from behind her brother as if he is a mere annoyance not a shield.
"Monsters?" Dean smiles kneeling beside Sam in the open closet. "I guess we'd better get you out of here then. We don't want them to come back." The little girl offers Dean the shyest smile he's ever seen and Sam's briefly wonders how Dean is able to charm all women off all ages.
"What about you buddy you're pretty banged up." The boy's eyes flash defiantly but he turns away.
"He doesn't talk." The girl crawls out from behind her brother obviously deciding she has made new friends. "Well he talks to me but he doesn't much like anyone else."
"Is that so?" Sam regards the little boy with interest who is watching every move Sam and Dean make carefully. Someone's hurt this boy before. Sam can tell, the hooded eyes, the protectiveness.
"You got some pretty bad scratches there buddy." The boy eye's Sam as he settles closer. "Can I look at them for you." The boy considers the request carefully than nods pulling himself upright and holding his hand out to his little sister. They're dressed in ragged clothes, shivering wildly.
"Where are your parents?" Sam asks without really thinking the question through. Both children freeze and Dean inhales sharply. They're dead.
"Who takes care of you?"
"My brother." The girl answers without any thought. Sam watches Dean's lips curve in a faint smile and wonders briefly if Dean is flashing back to their childhood. Dean kneels down in front of the little boy gently tiling the boy's chin up to get a better look at an angry looking gash.
"And who looks after you little man?" The boy shrugs quietly flinching as Dean touches him. These kids have nobody.
"Do you have any aunts or uncles?" Sam asks a hint of desperation in his voice. They probably should have run in to abandoned children a lot more than they actually did. Most of the time the proper authorities have already dealt with that kind of stuff by the time they got to town. The girl looks at her brother for a moment but his eyes give a clear no. The reality of the situation seems to be sinking in as her green eye' start to fill with tears.
"Hey, hey it's ok." Dean soothes suddenly completely out of his element.
"Are we gonna have to live in the sewers." Dean and Sam exchange a confused look with each other .
"That's where bad boys and girls go."
"What are your names?" Sam asks calmly seeing Dean's panic.
"I'm Emma this is Brad." Emma sticks her thumb in her mouth, exhaustion, hunger and fear beginning to cause her tiny body to tremble in protest.
"Alright Emma and Brad I'm Sam and this is my big brother Dean."
"Are you the mean people?" Sam looks even more confused. "Momma says if anyone finds out about the closet then the mean people come but we didn't tell we kept the promise." Sharp realization suddenly comes over Sam in a swift wave. These children weren't locked in a closet by a demon or a spirit, they were locked in by their parents. Every bruise, every cut suddenly seems so much deeper and painful than they did before.
"It's gonna be ok you're gonna come with us for now." Dean's sentence surprised himself but Sam doesn't even flinch at the comment smiling warmly at the two young kids instead.
Emma falls asleep before they leave the driveway her brother's arms wrapped tightly around her. Brad tries to stay awake, stay on guard but Dean can see sleep pulling at the boy's eyelids. Dean remembers the first few hunts. When Sam was still a baby and Dean had just learned monsters were real. He did the same thing keeping his tiny eyes open trying to keep watch, trying to keep Sammy safe.
Brad immediately stops Dean when he tries to pick his sleeping sister out of the backseat. Dean was protective of a younger brother he can't imagine what he'd be like with a younger sister and abusive parents.
"Can I carry her in so she can stay sleeping?" Brad nods, reluctantly letting go of her. The weight is pleasantly heavy in Dean's arms. Emma wakes almost instantly frightened, calming instantly when she recognizes Dean letting him continue to carry her. For some reason that makes his heart feel about 20 times bigger. When they get back to the motel he is almost reluctant to release her.
"I bet you kids are hungry aren't you." Emma looks down immediately.
"No thank you." Polite for under three.
"Sammy here likes those little potatoes with the happy faces on them." Dean tempts sitting beside the two kids. Emma looks even sadder but nods silently.
"Alright Sammy get them cleaned up." Sammy awkwardly wonders what level of bathing functionality the kids are at. Does he need to supervise? Because he knows he wouldn't want some random dude supervising his toddler's bath. He figures that it would be worse if the drowned so he marches the kids to the tub dismayed when he sees their bodies.
Brad's back is covered in scars, thick welts, some fresh, a lot old, tiny circular scars –cigarettes? – dot his arms and back as well. Emma has a few circular burns but no lash marks.
"Dean." Sam says weakly unable to pry his eyes away from the horror. Dean comes running at the sound of despair in Sam's voice stopping in horror when he sees the scars for himself. There is a lot of things Dean can forgive. He can forgive his father for taking off without a word, for dying. He can forgive Sam for ditching him for textbooks and student loans. He cannot forgive anyone who hurts their family, their children.
Sam gently washes around the cuts aware of Brad's fearful eyes and Emma's trusting ones on him the entire time.
After they are fed and changed into oversized t-shirts the day hits them full force. Both kids are exhausted utterly spent lying on top of the small twin bed. Dean hasn't spoken since he saw the cuts but there is a tension in his jaw Sam recognizes, righteous anger.
"Hey buddy I'm gonna check out your back for a sec ok?" Brad looks down but nods his assent as Dead carefully lifts the shirt up. Some of the lash marks are already infected, others aren't but will be soon.
"Is he gonna be ok?" Dean looks up to the wise, solemn eyes of little Emma who woke up at the whispered conversation.
"Yeah he's gonna be just fine." Dean directs the comment at Sam who opens their first aid kit.
"Ok champ this night sting a bit alright but it's gonna stop you from getting sick."
"It's ok Brad is the bravest boy in the whole world." Emma beams with pride looking at her brother with a look of complete hero-worship. Dean vaguely wishes Sam was three again.
"I bet he is." Dean has no doubt that the extra lash marks were from stepping in front of Emma. Reluctantly Dean cleans out the cuts wincing in sympathy. Tears start to leak out of his eyes soundlessly, how on earth did a child that young learn how to cry so quietly? Seeing her tough older brother cry is starting to upset Emma who continues to looks at Dean with wide beseeching eyes.
"He's sorry stop it!" She begs pulling weakly at his hand. "I'll take his punishment. I'll take it." Dean looks at horror at the little girl who is pleading desperately for him to hurt her instead of her brother. A feeling of nausea settles in Dean's stomach.
"Hey it's ok come here." Sam swiftly lifts the little girl into his lap. "That's medicine."
"Medicine?" Emma asks sceptically as Dean shakily continues. Sam nods settling a hand on Brad's hair. The boy flinches from the touch then reluctantly allows it. Sam continues to gently explain bacteria and cuts to Emma who listens solemnly.
"You know when we were kids my brother used to always bring me strawberry ice cream when I was hurt." Sam continues as he gently strokes the bright blonde mop of hair. In his peripheral vision Sam can see Dean's ministrations briefly stop before continuing again. He's obviously listening.
"No matter how hurt or sick I was I always felt better after ice cream. What do you think Dean? Do you think we should get Brad and Emma a big ice cream cone." Dean fastens the last bandage before letting his hand rest reassuringly on Brad's back for a moment.
"Maybe tomorrow." Dean says softly. Sam looks down to where Brad has passed out on the bed, exhaustion and Sam's quiet voice finally letting him drift off. Emma is already asleep in Sam's arms curled in a contented ball on his chest.
A warm feeling of contentment spreads through Sam as he tugs Emma closer to him, a tiny little person sleeping against his chest completely vulnerable. Sam never really understood Dean's over protectiveness until now, until he held something that needy and that dependant. Gently he places Emma beside Brad pulling the duvet over both of them as Dean watches a pensive expression on his face.
"What are we gonna do?"
Why are the vituresimport? Why is the mean the best?
Are the virtues the same for everyone.