Title: Bonded and Broken
Characters: Sam, Dean, John, Bobby
Genre: Gen, hurt/comfort, AU, Wee!chester
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural except in my dreams where schmoop abounds.
Warnings: Those of you who think John Winchester was a good father doing the best he could under terrible circumstances may not like my portrayal. He's not deliberately cruel, but he is negligent and he treats his sons as though they are soldiers, not little boys. Just remember this story is AU and Sammy knows what his daddy does at a much younger age than canon Sammy.
Word Count: ~3,700
Summary: This is the third story in the 'Wish 'verse. I recommend reading at least the first story here before you read this one as this is an AU and it may be difficult to follow if you don't get the background. In summary: Young Sammy's wish to be a grown up whenever his big brother, Dean, needs help gets granted by a well-meaning gypsy. The unexpected consequences of the wish cause an unbreakable bond to develop between the brothers. A magical creature, the black imp, attempts to take the wish away from the boys, but is thwarted by John who is then cursed by the imp to forever be in pain when his sons are nearby.
In this installment Dean is 10 and Sammy is 6 until his brother needs his help and the Wish transforms him into a 24 year old. Dad comes home from a hunt and something is…wrong. Once more it's up to adult Sam to protect young Dean from danger and this time he can't count on John for back-up.
Bonded and Broken
Chapter 5 Breach of Sanctuary
Steve is a burly man, broad of shoulders and barrel-chested with arms like two-by-fours, but not really all that tall, maybe five and a half feet or so. His head is shaved bald, a matter of choice not genetics and his face is dominated by a bushy brown mustache.
"I'm Sam, this is Dean." Sam holds his hand out to shake Steve's proffered one and Dean gives a tentative nod of his head as though he's not ready to be friendly yet, reserving judgment for a later date.
"Where are you boys trying to get to?" Steve asks while leading them down a long platform and into the station's terminal.
"Sioux Falls. How close did we make it?" Sam replies.
He insists on picking Dean up once he realizes Steve is taking them through the bustling terminal. There's no point in risking the boy getting bumped into and putting additional strain on his knee or ankle. Plus it's faster this way and Sam suspects that, even with as much help as he can give supporting Dean's left side while his brother tries to shuffle along, any movement in the knee joint is a lot more painful than Dean wants to admit. His brother doesn't put up much of a fight when Sam lifts him up and braces him against his hip, just scowls before snaking his arms around Sam's neck for balance.
To his credit, Steve doesn't mention Dean's mobility issues and Sam credits good manners for the way the other man holds the door to the terminal open for them with a compassionate look on his rugged face, but no sign of pity or condescension.
The station must service mostly freight trains because there aren't any passengers in the small waiting area. Men driving forklifts loaded with pallets move purposefully around the platforms leading between trains and a loading dock attached to a warehouse next to the terminal. Weaving in and out of and generally adding to the chaos are other men in hard hats carrying clipboards with what Sam guesses must be cargo manifests attached to them.
"Well, I don't know where you started out from, but you made it to within about a three hour drive of Sioux Falls. You have anyone there who can come pick you up?"
Sam thinks about Bobby. He doesn't have their friend's phone number, but it shouldn't be too hard to look up a phone number for Singer Salvage. In the light of day and with the possible help of someone who appears to be friendly things don't seem so desperately out of control. "Yeah, if you have a phone we can borrow I think I know someone who will come get us."
Dean is pushing emotions at him – doubt, concern, and wariness strong among them. Don't trust him. The message comes across loud and clear. They had both been taught from the very beginning of their dad's crusade not to trust anyone and Dean's caution is well founded. Sam catches Dean's eye to let him know they're on the same page. They can accept help only to a point and no further. Evil comes in many disguises. Neither one of them is likely to forget that lesson any time soon, not after facing evil in the guise of their own father.
They walk up to a deli counter inside the terminal and Steve greets the vendor as if they're old friends. "Hey Dave. Can you get these young men something to eat and put it on my tab?"
Dave shakes his head with an amused grin. "Not again. You're such a soft touch, man. How many does this make now?"
"Cut it out," Steve gripes at his buddy. "They're good kids, just lost their way. I have a nose for these things."
"Yeah, yeah, so I've heard before."
"We'll pay you back." Sam quickly interjects. "Is there any work you need done around here?"
"This here's all union labor, son." Steve says with pride in his voice. "There's no work on the rail yard for you, but…let me think about it. I might be able to come up with something." He gives Sam's arm a pat and nudges him up to the counter. "Go ahead and tell Dave what you want to eat."
It's a little early for lunch, only about eleven o'clock, so the vender's stall is empty of customers. Sam gets his brother settled into a plastic chair at a small table nearby and goes back to place their order, a ham and cheese sandwich for Dean and turkey and cheese for himself.
Dave loads up a tray with the sandwiches, a couple bags of chips, two large red apples, and two cans of soda even though Sam hadn't asked for anything other than the sandwiches. He winks and shakes his head when Sam tries to decline the extra food. "I tease Steve about his strays, but he really does have good intuition when it comes to people. If Steve says you're okay then you're okay by me. We try to do right by people around these parts."
Sam ducks his head. "Thanks, you don't…that means a lot." The rare act of kindness hits Sam hard and he has to turn away before his emotions betray him.
"Naw." He hears Dean saying when he gets back to the table with the heavily-laden tray of food. "He's my uncle. My dad had to go to Canada for a family emergency. I was supposed to go with him, but we couldn't get my passport quick enough." The tilt of Dean's head, the round ingenuous eyes, and the slight pout are all carefully contrived. "My dad set us up with a way back home to Sioux Falls before he had to leave, but it fell through and we were kinda stranded."
The lie trips off the boy's lips as if he were an accomplished con artist; vague enough not to easily trip any wires yet detailed enough to have a ring of truth. Sam wonders how many times Dean has had to be creative with the truth in order to protect their dad or to keep the authorities from catching wind of two small boys left on their own for far too long.
"Uh huh." Steve nods and glances over at Sam. A quirk of the railroad man's mouth makes Sam think that, as good as his brother is, he hasn't quite managed to pull the wool over Steve's eyes. "Well, listen guys, you eat up and I'm gonna go get some more work done. I'm still on the clock, ya know. But I'll come back and check up on you in a bit. We'll see about getting you to a phone so you can call your friend."
"Thank you," Sam says, his appreciation genuine. "For everything."
Steve dismisses the thanks with a wave over his shoulder as he heads out the door and takes off in the direction of the warehouse building.
The closer it gets to noon the more people congregate in the terminal, many of them heading over to the deli kiosk for lunch fare. The majority of the patrons look to be railroad workers, men wearing heavy work boots, dungarees or blue jeans and Union Pacific jackets. As they eat, Sam notices a few curious stares, a few nods of acknowledgment, and a couple thoughtful frowns tossed their way. It's plain to see that everyone here knows everyone else and he and Dean aren't exactly blending in.
Suddenly, it feels like all eyes are on them and the back of his neck begins to prickle. Paranoia or real danger? The two can be difficult to tell apart. Sam sits back in his chair, feels the comforting press of the gun at the small of his back, and lets his hunter instincts take over. Glancing around, he sees that while people are definitely curious, no one appears hostile. In fact, most of the railroad personnel appear openly friendly in a small town, homey kind of way and Sam relaxes. He's not about to let his guard down, but until proven otherwise, maybe, just maybe, he and his brother can find a haven in this place.
"That wasn't dad back there, was it?"
Although Sam has been thinking the same thing for a while now, Dean's quiet question comes from out of the blue, indicating that their dad's strange behavior is constantly on the boy's mind. "No, I don't think so." Sam takes a bite of his apple to stall for a little extra time. "Dad wouldn't say those things to you, Dean. He wouldn't intentionally try to hurt you." He really hopes his brother already knows that their father loves him, in his own way.
Dean picks at the crust of his bread and schools his face into a carefully blank mask which does nothing to dampen the complicated mixture of profound yearning and anger eating him up from the inside. "No, he wouldn't do it on purpose." He cuts his eyes sideways and eats a few chips.
Sam watches the boy and feels weary beyond belief, the long night on the train with no sleep catching up with him. He searches for something meaningful to say, something that won't sound hollow and empty.
"Hey fellas, I want to introduce you to our shipping coordinator, Tim. He's one of the few guys around here with an office and a telephone." Steve approaches the table, effectively interrupting the conversation about their father. "Tim, this is Sam and Dean."
Smiling affably, Tim says, "So, I hear you guys are stranded and need to make a phone call."
It sounds so unbelievably simple, the answer to all their problems condensed into one tidy little sentence. Salvation is only a telephone call away. As if anything could be that easy.
Sam wants to simultaneously warn these hard-working, kind-hearted people about what's behind the curtain or build an impenetrable wall around this sanctuary to ward off all evil influences. He does neither, contents himself with returning Tim's smile. "Yeah, if you don't mind. I need to look up my friend's phone number and see if he can come pick us up."
"Tim can show you how to get to his office and in the meantime I was thinking Dean might want to see inside one of the locomotives, maybe pull the whistle." Steve suggests.
Just like any typical ten year old boy, Dean's eyes light up at mention of the train whistle, the thought of creating that much noise nearly irresistible to him. Such an insignificant thing has done what Sam has wanted to do since the topic of their dad came up earlier, take Dean's mind off his worries.
Tim chuckles. "My kids couldn't get enough of the train whistle when they were your age."
It's so tempting to let Dean have some fun. On the other hand, the idea of his brother being out of his sight - out in the open where anything could get him - with no one to protect him - even if it's only for a couple of minutes - makes his skin crawl with apprehension. He pushes inquisitiveness at Dean, but mixes it with doubt. Do you want to? I'm not sure it's a good idea.
"I'll stay with Sam." Dean decides and Sam is relieved because as much as he doesn't want to disappoint his brother the prospect of being separated from him makes him jittery. And just because these people seem honest and trustworthy doesn't make it true.
"A package deal, eh? That's fine, we'll save the train engine for after Sam's finished with his phone calls." Steve points at the tray. "If you're done eating we can go now."
Looking down, Sam realizes that between the two of them they have devoured all the food, leaving only some crumbled bits of crust and the apple cores. "Yeah, great."
With Dean riding on Sam's back piggyback style this time, they follow Tim through a door marked 'private' and into a hallway connecting the terminal to the warehouse. The weight of his brother on his back reminds him of the days following the Bunyip attack last year. Sam had spent those days as an adult packing as much childhood fun into Dean's life as he could think of. They had been some of the most rewarding days he can remember, doing nothing other than finding ways to make Dean smile.
Spaced intermittently along the hallway are doors which presumably all lead to offices. Tim's office is sparsely furnished with a desk, a swivel chair on rollers and a file cabinet. A fine layer of dust coats every surface as if the dirt from the railroad refuses to be kept out despite closed doors and any attempts that might be made at cleanliness.
"I don't spend too much time in here." Steve explains with a rueful grin.
An electronic voice gives him a number for Singer Salvage in Sioux Falls when Sam dials information on the black rotary phone. Ten rings later he sighs and hangs up the handset. "No answer."
He watches Dean's face fall and across their empathic link he catches the reverberating echo of Dean's hopes as they plummet.
In a subdued voice Steve says, "Maybe he just stepped out for a moment. You can try again in a little while."
"Sure." Sam says out loud while pushing optimism at his brother. We'll get there.
For the second time in as many days he thinks about hotwiring a car and driving to Bobby's. They could be there in three hours according to Steve. But…stealing a car when your father's evil doppelganger is threatening to do worse than kill you is one thing, stealing someone's only means of transportation simply because it makes your life a little easier is a horse of a different color. It just doesn't sit right with him.
"How about we go see the locomotive now and try again when we get back?" Steve grabs the back of the rolling office chair where Dean is sitting and begins pushing it out the door and along the hallway. The man is trying so hard to win Dean over, to turn what is obviously a horrible situation for a young boy into a more positive experience. Sam wonders why the man cares.
"I could get used to this." Dean crows as he is wheeled into the terminal and from there onto the platform outside. He turns around in the seat to make sure Sam is following.
"I'll just bet you could." Sam jokes, although he knows that Dean can't stand sitting still and the only reason he's putting up with the ride is because it's less humiliating than being carried, if only marginally.
Tim laughs out loud and reaches over the side of the chair to ruffle Dean's hair. Both men seem drawn in by the contrast in Dean's boyish exuberance and his stoic, often sorrowful demeanor. Dean can charm the pants off nearly anyone when he's trying, but his natural personality, when he's simply being himself without the bravado and the pretending, is even more endearing.
The wind blows and Steve takes off his jacket to wrap it around Dean's shoulders. The boy seems somewhat puzzled by the gift, but slips his arms through the sleeves nonetheless. They all pick up their pace in deference to the chill in the air.
The pathway ahead of them diverges and Steve leads their small procession around a curve in between two rail cars, pushing Dean's chair in front of him as though the boy is a VIP receiving a special guided tour. Tim follows and Sam brings up the rear.
There are only a few men and women still loading and unloading cargo, repairing equipment or tending to the multitude of chores necessary to keep the trains in good operating order. Most of the railroad workers are still on their lunch breaks. The platform ahead of them is bordered by a train on both sides and clear of pedestrians until a trio of men jump out of a rail car directly in front of them, timing their appearance such that they're within arm's reach of Dean's chair.
"This must be our lucky day." One of the men leers nastily at the incapacitated boy. "We were hoping to run into you here."
The trains on either side of them prevent anyone inside the terminal from seeing what's happening on this short stretch of pavement.
A crunch of gravel alerts Sam to the presence of someone behind him. He's caught off guard and curses futilely as a powerful kick causes his knees to buckle, sending him crashing to the ground in a heap. Sharply-honed reflexes and adrenaline combine to have him on his feet before whoever is behind him can press their advantage and he sweeps his assailant's legs out from under him, returning the favor.
A man in a ball cap snatches his brother roughly out of the wheeled chair. Dean twists an arm free and rams his elbow into his would-be abductor's stomach, a move which costs him dearly when, in retaliation, ball-cap-guy winds his forearm around the boy's throat and flexes.
"Guess I'm gonna hafta teach you to show some respect." With a cruel smirk he tightens his grip.
Letting out a choked whimper, Dean scrabbles wildly at the man's strangling arm and his jade green eyes get impossibly large.
The sound that comes out of Sam's mouth can only be described as a roar. In a display of outrage he throws himself at Dean's captor, using his body as a battering ram to tackle the man.
Stumbling backwards, ball-cap-guy drops Dean who crumples forward, clutching his leg in agony while gasping in a lungful of air. Steve swoops in, lifts the boy up and, cradling him possessively, retreats until he has his back pressed defensively against the barrier of the nearest train.
At this point it's hard to tell friend from foe. The impulse to snatch Dean away from Steve almost gets the better of him, but one look tells him that his brother is in good hands.
Their four attackers are circling like a pack of rabid dogs waiting for a sign of weakness. Sam goes for the gun at his waistband only to have it knocked out of his hand when all four of the men rush him at once, sensing that if they can take him out the rest of the group will be easy prey.
They didn't count on Tim.
Through a hail of kicks and punches and the press of bodies pinning him to the ground, Sam sees Tim pull a two-way radio off his utility belt.
"Emergency on platform 6! All personnel report to platform 6 immediately! Emergency! Emergency!" He yells into the device.
A kick to the head makes Sam's vision dim. He tries to resist the drag of encroaching darkness because he knows Dean needs him. Dean's frightened. He surges up, swinging, and lands a vicious right hook. But then a blow to his throat compromises his airway and all the fight drains out of him like water through a sieve.
He hears the sound of yelling and pounding boots on concrete and gravel. He feels his brother's desperate desire to be free of Steve's restricting arms and to get to him, to help him. His ears start ringing from the endless assault and his struggles get weaker. One final jab to his face and Sam sinks into calm, quiet oblivion.
"Sam! Sammy!" Dean's voice seems to be coming from very far away, but when Sam concentrates he can hear the hysterical tremor as if the boy has reached his breaking point. He can sense Dean's terror at being left behind at the mercy of strangers with no one he can trust and no one to rely on. But beyond the fear for himself is an overwhelming despair and the burden of a duty unfulfilled. The knife's edge of responsibility neglected.
He needs to tell his brother that he has never neglected his responsibilities. As far as Sam is concerned, Dean has fulfilled every duty, even those which never should have been his to fulfill in the first place. He needs to reassure Dean that he isn't alone and will never be left alone. Sam forces his eyes open and finds the boy's face so close to his own that he has to cross his eyes in order to see him and even then he's just a blur. Dean has both his hands fisted in Sam's shirt death-grip tight and is curled protectively around Sam's prone body at the expense of his torn up knee and still swollen ankle.
"Dean, it's alright. I'm alright."
On to ( Chapter 6 )
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