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Broken Bird

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The emergency room was rather empty that night. That's what the nurses would remember – it was just after three in the morning and most people in Fort Douglas were at their destination for the night. Oh, it'd been hairy for a while, with roughly a dozen people injuring themselves in car wrecks ranging from fender benders to one that had required the jaws of life. The big news in the hospital was that the sick kids in the ICU were starting to recover. It was curious, however, that all the nurses had overlooked the bundle in one of the chairs near the middle of the waiting area.

That was until two men walked into the emergency room, one of them cradling his arm, the towel in his other hand clenched on a bleeding wound. The injured man went and sat down to wait while his friend got a clipboard from the nurse and forms to fill out.

“Again, I'm sorry about the shirt.” The uninjured man, Scott Kenyon said, sitting down.

“It's fine.” His companion, Rick Boyle said through gritted teeth. “I'm just glad it was my arm and not something else you shot.”

“Do you know your blood type?” Scott was scanning the form the nurse had given him.

“It's O positive.” He frowned. “What is that noise?”

Scott lifted his head, looking around. A low whimper that seemed to be coming from their left was just barely audible – but it was wretched sounding. “It sounds like a wounded animal.”

Rick looked in the other direction and caught sight of something out of the corner of his eye. “Over there.” He shook his head. “Go see what it is. That can't be a good thing.”

“Sure.” Scott stood up, set the clipboard down and went down the row of chairs to a blanketed figure hunched in one of the chairs. It was too small to be an adult man, he could tell that right away. “Hey.” He wasn't sure if he should touch the person or not and went to the person's other side, where the blanket was slightly open. The narrow gap was enough for him to see something that made his heart drop straight to the floor. He turned and screamed towards the nurses' station. “What the fuck is this kid still doing here? He needs help, NOW!”

The doctor on call, who was standing at the station came over and parted the blanket and let out a stunned sound.

The kid looked even worse than Scott had originally thought. Both of his eyes were swelling shut from bruises and a thin trickle of snot was coming out of his nose. A cut ran along the side of his cheek, as if he'd been thrown against a table.

“Shit.” The doctor turned towards the station. “Need a stretcher over here!” He turned to back to the boy. “Need you to stay awake, okay?”

The boy didn't respond to the man's voice, his eyes, barely visible, looked back and forth, his gaze unfocused.

“Kid?” The doctor said again. “I want you to nod your head if you understand me.”

Again, the small boy didn't respond as two orderlies came over with a gurney and he was lifted onto it. As he was untangled from the blanket, Scott and Rick, who had gotten up from his chair and joined them, both gasped in shock. More bruises were visible under the cuffs of the boy's shirt and underneath his collar. Someone had beat the living shit out of the kid. A piece of paper fell to the floor and the doctor picked it up, unfolding it and frowning.

My name is Dean Winchester. I was born on January 24, 1979 at Douglas County Hospital in Lawrence, Kansas. I am deaf.

“What kind of sick fuck does something like this?” Rick said, his own outrage at the boy's situation overshadowing his own pain.

“We'll get him the help he needs.” The doctor said and followed the two orderlies, leaving the paper with the nurses.

Scott turned to his friend. “I think I shot the wrong person tonight.”

Dean Winchester was admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of pneumonia, much like the kids who were now on the road to recovery. Dean, however, had sixty-four bruises, one broken wrist and was twenty pounds under his ideal body weight added to his illness.

For his part, Dean laid in his hospital bed, worrying about Sammy. Dad didn't know how to put his brother to bed, how to tuck him and he doubted Dad could get him to eat vegetables. Not that Dad would ever hurt Sammy. Dad loved Sammy. Dad didn't love Dean. Only Mommy had loved Dean. Sammy might have loved him – but it was hard for Sammy to love him in front of Dad. Dad got angry if Sammy talked in sign language too much. Sammy was the only one who mattered.

Dad had said so.

Dean wasn't important.

That's why neither Uncle Bobby or Pastor Jim hadn't come for him yet and he was now in a foster home for boys with 'problems'.

Dad never wanted to see Dean again – that's why Dad left him here.

It hadn't been so bad in the hospital – his bed was warm, it was comfortable and the nurses hadn't taken his food away before he finished eating, the way Dad did sometimes. Dean never got that. He could be hungry and his stomach could be hurting and Dad would take his plate and eat the contents himself. Sammy was usually gone from the table by then.

Sammy got all the sugary cereal and Dean didn't even get the crumbs.

Dean hadn't minded it that much – Sammy could have it – but he could have least offered him a taste. It didn't matter if his brother offered him the toy – Dad would make him give it back to Sammy.

Sammy didn't have to share anything anymore.

Dean stared down at the book on his tray, trying to comprehend the words on the page. He hated being stupid. That must be one of the reasons Dad didn't want him. He was stupid and Dad didn't want Sammy to be stupid too.

He cradled his injured hand in the other, unable to stop the trickle of tears that were spilling down his cheeks. He didn't care that he was almost ten and he was a very big boy – right now there was just one person Dean wanted.

Dean wanted his mom.

Mom would cradle him in her arms, rock him gently and fix tomato rice soup that would help him get better faster than any medicine. But Mom wasn't coming – Mom was dead and no one would ever love Dean like that again.

Exactly one thousand, one hundred and seventy two miles away, a woman named Elisa Coulter was handed a folder by a foster care worker. She was only vaguely aware of the man still talking – she knew her husband was paying attention. She opened the folder and her heart broke at the sight of the pale, freckle faced boy starting at her from a photograph. His green eyes looked so utterly sad that it nearly made her cry as well. How could someone leave such a precious, darling child? How could someone be cruel to a face like that?

All Elisa wanted to do in that moment was gather that poor abandoned boy and hold on to him.

She'd walk barefoot through the snow all the way to Minnesota if she had to – that boy needed her – right now.

She and Michael would leave as soon as they could – and bring the boy in the photograph – Dean Winchester – home.

Her mind was already on the thought of making baked chicken, mashed potatoes and bread pudding. Her only dream for the sweet boy she hadn't met yet but already loved was that she wanted to see him smile – maybe even laugh.

Just one smile – everything after that would be a blessing beyond measure.