Summary: Pre-series – Upset Sam / Big Brother Dean – Sam didn't expect to cry over a dog he had only known for two days. But he did.
Disclaimer: Not mine
Warnings: Minor language
A/N: Based on the true story of a rough couple of days...
Crying over you... ~ Roy Orbison
Sam didn't expect to cry over a dog he had only known for two days.
But he did.
That morning in the shower – where all good crying is done – he released the tenuous hold he had maintained over his emotions while in front of Dean just minutes before and finally let his tears roll; let the salty moisture mix with the shower spray as he held his head under the steaming hot water and cried.
Because even though Sam had been taught long ago that life was unfair and usually sucked, sometimes being reminded of those facts just hurt so deeply that he had to cry.
Like with this stupid dog...
Sam squeezed his eyes shut – feeling fresh tears seep through his lashes – at the thought of the mutt; the dog he had named Leroy – just because he thought it was funny – even though Dean had warned him not to; had said that you only get more attached to things you name.
And as usual, Dean had been right.
Because without meaning to – and over the course of barely two days – Sam had become attached to a dog that had never really belonged to him except in his heart...which was probably why this hurt so much.
Sam leaned further into the shower spray as more tears broke free; remembering Leroy's small, scrawny body but long legs; his short, somewhat coarse black and tan fur; his perky, pointed, triangle-shaped ears that twitched back and forth whenever Sam spoke to him; his long tail that wagged whenever Sam approached; his brown, wide-set eyes that looked up at Sam like the kid had all the answers.
But Sam didn't.
Sam didn't have all the answers.
All he had were questions.
Those were all he had had from the beginning.
"Where did you come from?" Sam had asked as he had stood in the motel's parking lot and had held the dog's dirty black leash; had been startled that Tuesday afternoon when he had first seen the dog appear around the Impala's back tire.
But at the sight of the dog, Sam had immediately abandoned his search in the Chevy's trunk for one of his books and had quickly stepped on the leash the dog had been dragging behind it before it could run off.
The dog had not resisted; had allowed Sam to pick up its leash; had watched curiously as Sam had slowly approached and had easily followed behind the kid when Sam had led it back to the motel room door; had twitched its ears when Sam had called out for Dean and had blinked at the older boy when Dean had instantly appeared at the sound of his brother's voice.
"What the hell is that?"
Sam had rolled his eyes at the obvious question. "It's a dog."
Dean had rolled his eyes in return at the obvious answer. "I can see that, smartass," he had replied dryly.
Sam had smiled – taking the smartass description as a compliment – and then had tightened his hold on the dog's leash as it had startled and had tried to pull away from him when a car's horn had suddenly honked in the parking lot.
Dean had frowned – not liking the way the dog had bodily tugged his scrawny brother forward – and had stepped out of the motel room's doorway; reaching to take the leash from the Sam's grip. "Hand him over..."
Sam had shaken his head. "I've got him," he had assured his brother even as the dog had continued to pull against him.
Dean had snorted but had said nothing else as he had taken the leash from Sam; not wanting to see the kid face-plant in the parking lot...and feeling strangely uncomfortable in letting Sam handle a dog they knew nothing about.
Sam had sighed – as annoyed, overprotected little brothers sometimes did – and had watched as Dean had given a hard pull on the dog's leash; had nonverbally communicated who was Alpha in this situation and then had glared until the dog had obediently sat.
Sam had smiled; had gone from annoyed to impressed in the span of two seconds as Dean had silently glared a dog into submission. "That was awesome!"
Dean had returned Sam's smile – knowing he was awesome...but always enjoying his little brother's admiration – and then had glanced at the dog sitting mere inches from them on the motel's sidewalk. "Where did he come from?"
Sam had shrugged as he had stared at the dog staring back at them. "I don't know. He just showed up around the back of the Impala while I was looking for my book."
Dean had arched a suspicious eyebrow at Sam's explanation; because in his 16 years of life, experience had taught that people, animals, and things rarely "just showed up" without a reason...and the reason usually wasn't good.
At the thought, Dean had immediately scanned the motel's parking lot; had visually searched for any signs of something or someone –either human or supernatural – that would use a dog as bait to attract the attention of his 12-year old brother.
But there had been nothing; no signs of danger or impending trouble; just the same cars that had been in the parking lot all afternoon.
Dean had sighed and had glanced back at Sam as the kid had continued to stare at the dog and smile; had known exactly what kind of plans his brother had been silently forming since the kid had found the dog minutes before and had decided to remind Sam that those plans were not an option, especially not with their lifestyle.
"You know you can't keep him."
Sam had glanced at Dean as he had spoken – had known by Dean's expression that his big brother had already realized this situation with the stray dog would not end pretty – but had frowned in response; had been annoyed that Dean always assumed the worst outcome.
Dean had scowled at the dumb question; because his brother knew damn well why not. "Sam..."
"He's not with anybody," Sam had argued reasonably. "He just came out of nowhere. Finders, keepers...and all that...right?"
"No," Dean had replied bluntly and had pointed to the dog's black collar and leash. "He didn't buy those himself, Sam. And he didn't put them on himself, either. He might have just wandered up to you out here, but he belongs to somebody."
"Then why isn't he with them?" Sam had countered with the stubbornness of a 12-year old kid who wanted to keep a dog. "And why doesn't he have a tag on his collar?"
Dean had glanced at the dog's collar – double-checking the absence of an ID tag – and then had sighed his annoyance. "I don't know, Sam. But the point is you're not keeping him. He doesn't belong to us. And I can already see Dad's face when he gets back and finds out you've adopted a dog..."
"Dad likes dogs," Sam had replied; had sounded offended that Dean would imply John didn't. "Everybody likes dogs."
"Not everybody," Dean had assured his naïve, dog-loving brother; had failed to mention that he suspected the dog had been put out on the side of the busy highway and had wandered up to the motel from there.
Because while the leash had been dusty and worn, it hadn't been broken to imply the dog had snapped his tether and had run away from his home. And the dog himself hadn't been extremely dirty or skinny to imply weeks on the run.
"Well, whatever..." Sam had scoffed about not everybody liking dogs. "Dad likes 'em."
Dean had snorted. "That's not the point, either, Sam. Whether Dad likes dogs or not, he's still not gonna let you keep it. You know that."
Sam had frowned; his gaze flickering between the dog and Dean. "But why not?"
"Sam..." Dean had snapped; had been tired of the conversation and of his brother acting so clueless; had known the kid wanted a dog – had always wanted a dog – but had also known they didn't have time to waste in the parking lot discussing the issue, especially since John expected them to have their research completed when he called them later that night.
Sam had glared at his brother's tone of voice. "You don't have to be a dick, Dean."
"And you don't have to be a dumbass," Dean had sharply countered to his brother. "You know you can't keep the damn dog, Sam. It can't ride in the Impala, it can't ride in Dad's truck, it can't stay at motels, and we sure as hell can't afford to feed it and take it to the vet and all that crap. I wish we could..." – which had been true; Dean had always wanted to let Sam have a dog since the kid had always loved them – "...but we can't."
There had been a beat of silence; the sounds of the highway barely audible beyond the trees that lined the far side of the motel's parking lot.
Sam had said nothing; had refused to look at Dean – to acknowledge the truth – and had instead continued to stare at the dog.
Dean had sighed. "Do you hear me?"
San had nodded.
"Good," Dean had replied brusquely and then had sighed again; wondering why everything had to be so damn complicated. "Now take the dog to the motel's office and leave him there in case his owner is looking for him." He had paused; making sure Sam was listening as he had handed the leash back to his brother. "And then get that book you were looking for earlier out of the trunk and then get your ass back inside this room. We've still got a shitload of work to do, in case you forgot..."
"I know," Sam had groused; hating that they always had to do research when sometimes he just wanted to be a kid and play with a dog...even if the dog wasn't his.
"Good," Dean had said again and then had pointed in the direction of the motel's office. "Go. And don't drag ass, either..."
Sam had glared but had done as he was told; had started walking toward the office – feeling Dean watch him every step of the way – and had smiled as the dog had eagerly followed behind him.
Sam sighed shakily under the shower spray as he remembered how the dog's leash had jangled on its collar as they had walked down the sidewalk and how the motel's manager had said that no one had reported a missing dog but that he would keep it around for a few days just in case.
And that had been that.
Sam had reluctantly left the dog in the motel's office, had gotten his book from the Impala's trunk, and then had joined his brother back in their room; had read ancient print until his eyes had watered and burned and then had shrugged when Dean had suggested a dinner break.
Dean had scowled. "Are you gonna be like this all night?"
Sam had glanced at his brother from across the small motel room table. "Like what?" he had asked defensively.
"This," Dean had replied and had vaguely motioned toward Sam to indicate the kid's overall mopey, bitchy demeanor.
Sam had sighed and had crossed his arms over his chest. "Leave me alone, Dean."
"I would if I could," Dean had quipped and had stood, grabbing his leather jacket in preparation to leave the room. "But you're kinda my responsibility, so I don't see that happening. Let's go..."
"I can take care of myself," Sam had informed with the bitter whininess of a disappointed 12-yeard old. "And I could take care of a dog, too, if you would let me."
Dean had rolled his eyes as he had slid his arms into the sleeves of his leather jacket; not surprised that their conversation had come around to that topic again. "Sam – "
" – I know," Sam had interrupted, not interested in hearing another lecture about why they couldn't have a dog, and had stood. "Let's just go..." he had mumbled – even though he wasn't hungry – and had crossed to the motel room's door; opening it and then gasping when two paws had landed squarely on his chest and had pushed him backwards.
"Sam!" Dean had called out and had lunged forward; had caught his brother with one arm – breaking the kid's fall – while he had pushed the dog away with his other.
Sam had leaned heavily against Dean and had coughed as he had tried to get his breath back.
"Easy..." Dean had soothed his brother and then had snapped his attention to the dog from earlier that was now sitting in the doorway of their motel room.
The dog had tilted its head as he had watched the brothers.
"What the hell?" Dean had demanded; heatedly glaring at the dog like he had expected an answer for why the mutt had launched itself at Sam as soon as the kid had opened the door.
But expectedly, the dog had just blinked from where it had sat and had wagged its tail.
Dean had shaken his head. "Stupid dog..." he had muttered and then had turned his attention back to his brother still leaning against him. "Sammy. You okay?"
Sam had nodded jerkily and had swallowed as he had tried to catch the breath that had been knocked out of him by the dog's "attack".
"I need a more convincing answer than that," Dean had informed his brother and had continued to support the kid; had kept one arm wrapped around Sam's back.
"M'okay," Sam had managed between breaths and then had glanced at the dog. "Where did he come from?"
Dean had snorted. "I think we already had this conversation," he had replied dryly. "I think the better question this time is why the hell he's not in the motel office. That's where you left him, right?"
Sam had nodded. "Maybe he got out when somebody else went in," he had reasonably suggested and had breathed deeply before continuing. "Like, you know...slipped out the door when nobody was looking?"
"Maybe," Dean had agreed, still glaring at the dog. "But why would he come back here to our room...?"
Sam had smiled. "Because he likes us."
Dean had rolled his eyes. "The feeling is not mutual."
Because anything that attacked his brother – even if not done viciously or with intent to harm – earned itself an automatic place on Dean's shit list.
"Don't be that way, Dean..." Sam had lightly admonished. "He didn't mean anything by it," he had assured his brother about the dog jumping on him seconds before. "He was just excited to see me."
Dean had arched an eyebrow but had said nothing; had helped Sam regain his footing and had kept his hand hovering over the kid's back as his brother had stepped toward the dog. "Be careful, Sam."
"It's okay," Sam had replied confidently and had continued to slowly reach for the dog; smiling when the dog had licked his hand in return and had wagged its tail again. "See?" he had asked over his shoulder to Dean. "He likes me."
"Only because he doesn't know you..." Dean had quipped and then had winked at his brother as Sam had flashed a bitchface. "Relax, Princess. I'm sure he likes you just fine. But that's not the point..."
"I know," Sam had responded and had nodded for emphasis. "I do, Dean. But..." His voice had faded as he had shrugged. "Can we keep him until Dad gets back? Maybe his real owners will come looking for him, but what if he gets run over on the highway?"
Dean had inwardly cringed at Sam's words; because he had already thought about that possibility and certainly didn't want his brother traumatized by seeing that, especially since the kid had already seemed attached to this mutt.
"Please?" Sam had asked; his tone genuine, not manipulative; his expression hopeful.
"Jesus..." Dean had drawled and had shaken his head at his brother; because even when the kid wasn't trying to work those huge eyes of his, they still tugged on Dean's heartstrings.
Sam had smiled knowingly. "Is that a yes?"
Dean had snorted. "Yes. But listen to me..." He had paused and had pinned Sam with a hard stare. "This dog is not hitting the road with us, understand?"
Sam had nodded.
"And he's not sleeping in here..."
Sam had nodded again.
"And you can give him scraps since you hardly eat your meals anyway, but we are not buying him food..."
Sam had nodded once more.
"And when it's time for us to leave – "
" – I know," Sam had interrupted. "When it's time for us to leave, we leave the dog, too."
"Exactly," Dean had confirmed and had paused. "I'm not kidding, Sam. You're not stashing this dog in the back of the Impala."
Sam had laughed at the idea; could picture Dean's face if the dog popped up in the backseat several miles down the road.
"I know," Sam had responded and had smiled at his brother. "It'll be okay, Dean. I promise. I just wanna have a dog for a couple of days. I might not even like it..."
"Yeah, right..." Dean had replied dryly; because it had already been obvious how much Sam had liked having a dog just in the few minutes the dog had been back with them.
And as usual, Dean had known his little brother even better than Sam had known himself.
Because Sam had loved having a dog...but that was over now.
Another batch of fresh tears slipped from beneath Sam's lashes before he sighed and leaned back from the shower spray; wiping his hand down his face and trying to pull himself together; trying not to think about how much fun he had had since that Tuesday night when they had unexpectedly discovered the dog had returned outside their motel room.
Trying not to think about how he had named the dog and how Leroy would eat whatever Sam gave him – even though Sam knew Dean suspected he was purposefully eating even less than usual, so he would have scraps to box up at the diner and then share later with the dog.
Trying not to think about how Leroy would sleep outside their door and would wag his tail whenever he saw Sam in the mornings and would playfully nuzzle Sam's hand until Sam petted him.
Trying not to think about how Leroy would lick his face; would make him feel just like any other normal kid playing with his dog.
But that was just it – Leroy wasn't his dog.
Leroy wasn't even called Leroy.
He was called Freckles...which was a dumbass name for a dog but was to be expected when a five-year old had done the naming.
Sam swallowed against his tight throat as he remembered the happy little family that had greeted him and Dean earlier that morning; had been escorted to their room by the motel's manager and had been so relieved and excited to have found their dog; had half-heartedly reprimanded Freckles for having wandered away from them on Tuesday while they had set up their tent at a nearby campground.
Sam had smiled bravely as the five-year old girl had promptly pulled the dog away from his grasp; had kept the smile in place while the girl had showered her Freckles with hugs and sloppy kisses and had told the dog how much she had missed him; had barely resisted the urge to cry when Dean had wrapped his arm around his shoulders in silent comfort and support while his big brother had pleasantly answered the family's questions about their dog and had refused their offer of monetary compensation for taking care of Freckles over the past two days.
"It was our pleasure," Dean had politely assured the man and woman as they had smiled at their five-year old still clinging to the dog on the motel's sidewalk.
"Well, we really thank you," the man had replied. "I would hate to think what might've happened if Freckles had wandered out into the highway instead of up to your door."
The woman had cringed. "Let's not think about it..." she had urged and had turned her attention to Sam. "Thank you, sweetie. The manager said he had seen you taking care of Freckles the most; said he thought the two of you had really bonded over the past couple of days."
Sam had swallowed; had wanted to reply but had only been able to nod; had felt like he would throw up if the family didn't leave soon; had just wanted them to take their dog and go.
The woman had seemed to understand – perhaps a mother's intuition – and had returned Sam's nod; had graciously smiled and then had taken her cue to round up her family.
"Alright, gang..." she had called and had reached for her five-year old's hand while her husband had accepted the leash from Dean and had attached it to the dog's collar. "Let's head back to the campground, so these boys can get back to whatever they were doing."
Dean had smiled tightly – thankful they were finally getting the hell out of his face so he could drop the act and deal with his upset little brother alone – and had waved at the family as they had walked away; Freckles happily going with them; his tail wagging as he went; not looking back at the kid who had taken care of him and had called him his own over the past two days.
Sam sighed and reached to turn off the shower as he remembered how Dean had kept his arm around his shoulders and had steered him back into their room so he didn't have to watch "his" dog disappear with some other kid that wasn't him.
Sam wetly chuckled – feeling tears threaten again – as he dried off with one of the motel's white scratchy towels and thought it was strangely funny that he was jealous of a five-year old girl.
Jealous that she had a dog...but he didn't; jealous that she had a dad and a mom...but he didn't; jealous that she had a home somewhere – a real home – but he didn't.
Sam inhaled a shaky breath. "Stop it," he quietly reprimanded himself; because thinking about those differences between his life and other kids' lives wouldn't help; it never did.
Sam sighed again and then startled slightly at the light knock on the bathroom's closed door.
"Sammy..." Dean called from the main room. "You almost done, kiddo?"
Sam swallowed at his brother's soft, candidly caring tone; knowing he had been in the shower a long time and knowing Dean knew why; knowing this was Dean's way of checking on him.
"Yeah..." Sam called back and then cleared his throat when his voice cracked with the remnants of tears shed over a dog that wasn't even his. "I'll be out in a minute."
"Okay," Dean replied, and Sam could see his brother's shadow beneath the crack of the bathroom door as Dean continued to hover. "I've got everything packed, so I'm gonna load the Impala while you finish up..."
"Okay," Sam agreed and watched as Dean's shadow moved away from the door; listened as his brother gathered their duffels and other bags and left the room; knowing Dean had left the motel door cracked wide enough to listen for Sam; his big brother always on duty.
Sam smiled – comforted by Dean being Dean – and quickly finished up in the bathroom; drying his hair and getting dressed; putting on his jeans and hoodie and knowing he had already wasted a lot of their time this morning; knowing their dad would be calling soon to ask where the hell they were.
As if on cue, Sam heard Dean's cell phone ring as he opened the bathroom door; watched as Dean sprinted back into the room and snatched the phone from the bedside table.
Sam cringed at Dean's greeting; knowing John would not like that if it was indeed their father on the opposite end of the line.
Dean's expression was unreadable as he listened to whoever spoke in his ear.
But Sam could hear John's raised voice predictably demanding where they were since they were an hour late in meeting him like had been discussed the previous night.
"We've been busy," Dean replied bluntly, not offering any further explanation. "But we're about to hit the road now. After breakfast, we'll head your way."
Sam perched on the edge of his bed and slipped on his socks and sneakers; not catching John's response to the news that they were not hurrying; that they would just meet him whenever they got there.
Dean clenched his jaw at whatever John had said and then hung up without further comment.
Sam stood from the bed; his eyes widened slightly at the implication of the abruptly ended call. "Is Dad mad?"
Dean shrugged – clearly not giving two shakes of a rat's ass how John felt about their delay – and focused instead on what he did care about: Sam.
"Is he?" Sam pressed anxiously; because a pissed John was the last thing his already frazzled nerves needed today.
"Forget Dad," Dean advised; his hard tone indicating he would handle John and wouldn't tolerate any crap from their father that would further upset Sam. "He's an ass."
Sam quirked a smile. "Sometimes," he agreed quietly; like he was afraid John would hear him even across statelines.
Dean chuckled at his cautious little brother and then reached for the kid as Sam stood in front of him; Sam's shower-damp hair covering his knuckles as he squeezed the kid's neck; affection, encouragement, and comfort in one gesture.
"How about you?" Dean checked; giving Sam a once-over. "You okay?" he asked simply; knowing the kid had been crying – would've known even if he hadn't heard Sam's quiet sobs echoing against the bathroom's tile – and hating anytime his brother was upset...especially when he couldn't fix it.
And Dean couldn't fix this.
The dog belonged to someone else...just as he had predicted; and Sam had gotten attached to it...just as he had predicted; and now the kid's feelings were crushed...just as he had predicted.
Dean sighed; wishing he could have a do-over; preferring to deal with Sam's bitchiness for a few days over not being allowed to care for the dog than having to deal with the kid's current emotional fallout.
But...here they were.
Dean sighed again. "Sammy..."
Sam smiled as Dean squeezed his neck once more; knowing Dean was being uncharacteristically gentle with him...and appreciating his brother all the more for it.
Sam inhaled a shaky breath. "I'm okay," he quietly assured and nodded to convince both himself and Dean; because they both knew he was still upset about what had happened that morning.
But Dean didn't push the issue. "Alright," he agreed instead and smiled; keeping his hand on the back of Sam's neck and steering the kid toward the motel room's door. "Let's hit the road. You got everything?"
Sam briefly glanced around the room. "I think so."
"Good," Dean praised and pushed his brother out onto the motel's sidewalk; closing the room's door behind them. "Now…I say we eat waffles for breakfast and then blare 'Fat-Bottomed Girls' all the way to Nebraska."
Sam smiled as he crossed to the Impala's passenger side; knowing that Dean didn't like waffles and that his brother hated that Queen song...but also knowing that Dean just wanted to make him happy and was offering two of Sam's favorites in an effort to achieve that goal.
"Dude..." Dean called as he slid behind the wheel. "You hear me?" he asked as Sam joined him across the Impala's bench seat.
Sam nodded; his smile widening to show his dimples. "Sounds good," he replied; his eyes suddenly misty for a whole new reason – because he loved his brother and hoped that Dean knew how much he appreciated him.
Because yeah, that five-year old – and other kids like her – were lucky in life; they had a dog...and a dad and a mom...and a real home.
But they didn't have what Sam had – they didn't have Dean as their big brother.
And the way Sam saw it, that made him the lucky one in this life; to know that no matter what happened Dean would always be there to help pick up the pieces.
It was a good feeling – to be loved and protected.
What kid could ask for more than that?
Sam smiled to himself – feeling better than he had all morning – and knew without a doubt that Dean was the best big brother a little brother could ask for.