The raggedly-clothed child waited patiently in the gloom of his hiding place, the sickly stench of rotting food more familiar to him than any sweet perfume.
This was where he had grown up, among the poorest of the poor.
He had no memory of the gentle caresses of his mother, driven to an early death by the hardships she'd suffered in bringing her babies into the world.
Her last words to her distraught husband John had been to make him promise to care for her young children above all else.
The child Samuel had not been witness to that moment, he'd been but a baby at the time, but his older brother Dean had watched, silently listening to the last poignant words of his dying mother, and the five-year old had vowed to keep his baby brother safe and defend him from the violent and uncaring world in which they lived.
Sometimes when Dean was in the mood, he'd tell his little brother Sammy how beautiful their mother had been, as beautiful as an angel with her long blond tresses, and how she'd cradle baby Sammy in her arms and sing sweet lullabies to make him sleep.
Sam would fall asleep with that image in his mind, curled up in the safe, warm arms of his older brother.
When John had died prematurely, destroyed by alcohol and remorse for the loss of his wife, the poor but relatively safe life the two brothers had enjoyed until then, had disappeared with him, and they had found themselves alone; two defenceless children in a city of poverty, cut-throat criminals and dangers of all kind.
Dean had been ten and little Sammy only six but the elder boy had risen to the occasion, his protective instincts and love for his little brother giving him the strength to carry on, finding food and shelter where he could, stealing and begging to keep his baby brother and himself from starving.
As the months passed, Dean came to realise he had a gift for this nomadic life on the streets, and it was a rare day indeed that he didn't find food to bring back to his younger brother.
This wasn't the first time that Sam remained in waiting here, hidden.
Dean preferred going alone to find food.
More than once the worldly-wise older sibling had noticed lecherous eyes staring greedily at his angel-faced blond-haired little brother, and Dean knew he hadn't a chance in hell of defending Sammy on his own against the rabble that walked the streets, many of them stalking little children to sell on to those who dealt in the buying and selling of human flesh.
Dean often thought how much safer Sam would have been if he had warts on his nose or a face that wasn't quite so cute.
He was on his way back to the alley in which he'd left Sammy; the sum total of his raid had been two apples, a hunk of cheese and a couple of pieces of bread he'd managed to steal from the stalls at the market.
He'd also been lucky enough to find a drunken old Gent who had thrown him some pennies as he had held out his hand in the manner of the other thousands of raggedy orphan children who infested the filthy streets of London.
The pennies would not be spent however.
They were for a rainy day; to be added to the little cache Dean had already stashed away in a hidey–hole, dreaming that one day he and Sammy might have enough money to leave London and all its misery.
He'd heard of the tall ships that went to America, had even seen one when he and Sammy had daringly wandered farther from their habitual haunts, down to the harbour.
Perhaps when they'd put past enough money, they could board one of those tall ships and make a new life for themselves there.
Dean was so caught up in his day-dreaming that he didn't notice the band of older youths who had crept up on him, and without warning he found himself thrown to the ground as they plied him with kicks and punches.
Dean defended himself as best he could, but five against one weren't odds that an undernourished twelve-year old boy could beat, and he soon found himself lying bloody and moaning on the dirty ground, his body a mass of pain.
He would probably have been finished off and left for dead had not the door to one of the nearby Gentlemen's clubs opened and a tall figure stepped out into the street.
Sir Robert Singer exited the exclusive Men's Circle open only to the Peers of the Realm, amongst whom he had the fortune to count himself.
It was early to be going home but he was heartily bored by the progressively drunken state and senseless chatter of his acquaintances.
Better alone than in the company of these imbeciles, he grumbled to himself as he made his way down the steps.
His attention was held by a bunch of scruffy youths beating down on something lying on the side-walk
He yelled at them, thinking they were torturing some poor animal, for brutalised cats and dogs were often found on the smog-filled corners of the city streets.
Lord Robert loved dogs and hated to see them ill-treated.
The gang ran off immediately as soon as the older man opened his mouth, the small booty of food and pennies Dean had gathered now in the hands of his assailants.
Even as his tormentors ran off, Dean couldn't summon up the energy to move. He'd been careless, distracted by impossible dreams instead of listening for potential danger from the other inhabitants of this shadowy world.
He heard the footsteps of the man who had probably saved his life and tried to focus his dazed eyes on him.
All he could make out was a beard and a top hat.
Sir Robert was not new to attacks of this kind.
The prisons were full of thieves, robbers and drunks, but like most of the wealthier population of the sprawling city, tossing a few pence to the occasional beggar kept their consciences at bay.
The theory was that there would always be the poor and the rich, and apart from the occasional philanthropist, the richer classes didn't bother all that much about the fate of the thousands of homeless children that roamed the streets.
However this was no dog, as Lord Robert soon ascertained, but a young lad no more than eleven or twelve.
As he bent down to examine him better, the boy turned his head towards him and fixed him with a stare from two fiery-green eyes, as if challenging him in some way.
He drew back a little in surprise.
Any child of his acquaintance would have been in tears after the beating this child had taken. He somehow felt drawn to the courageous boy.
"Come," he said" My carriage is near-by. I will take you back to my home and have your wounds attended to."
"No way," the boy answered in an emphatic whisper. "You could be worse than those who attacked me for all I know, old man!"
Sir Robert felt the strange necessity of convincing the child of his good intentions.
He wanted to know more about this oddly defiant slip of a boy.
"I only want to help you and get your wounds tended to, lad," Robert continued. "I assure you I have no ulterior motives. You may put your trust in me."
"And just why would I do that?" the boy insisted insolently. "I know nothing of you."
"Perhaps you have heard my name; I am Lord Robert Singer, one of The Queen's most trusted advisors." he declared rather pompously.
"Yeah, I was just conversing with her Majesty yesterday and she was saying how nice you were," the boy answered sarcastically.
Lord Robert was beginning to feel out of his depths with this strange child.
"What would make you trust me enough to let me get your wounds attended to?" he asked bewildered.
"Give me your purse with all your money and I'll come with you," was the immediate answer.
After a moment's hesitation, Singer yanked out his wallet and deposited it in the bloody, outstretched hand of the urchin, not quite understanding why he was bothering with this stubborn child.
Dean pulled himself up to a sitting position, brushing off the hand that Singer held out, and pushing the wallet into the pocket of his tattered trousers.
"Let's go," he stated calmly "but I have an errand to run before I seee to my wounds"
Sir Robert stretched out his hand once more, and this tine the boy latched on, showing a moment of weakness from the beating that he had taken.
Once ensconced in the carriage, Dean leaned back on the soft leather seat. "Tell the cabby to go to Castor Street. I have left something there I must collect."
“You heard the boy, “ Singer said.
The driver obeyed. He was familiar with that the street, it was in a nasty area of town and he wondered just why his master wanted to go there.
"Tell your driver to stop at the next corner," Dean slurred, his ribs and multiple bruises becoming ever more painful.
"You are in no state to walk, " the older man replied." I will send the driver to get it."
"No, Dean replied. "I have to go."
For the umpteenth time, Singer wondered why the Hell he had bothered offering his help to this hard-headed boy, but a little voice inside him was telling him that it was the right thing to do.
"Come then, if you must. I will accompany you, " Sir Robert sighed.
They man and boy advanced into the rubbish-filled alley and half-way in, Dean stopped.
"Hey, Sammy, it's me. You can come out now. " he called softy.
Sir Robert didn't know what to expect, maybe a dog, but the sweet-faced, grimy little boy with the wide soulful eyes that emerged from behind the heap, was the last thing he expected to see.
"This is my little brother Sammy, " Dean announced in a proud voice. "Where I go, so does he," he continued in the defiant tone he'd used earlier.
Lord Robert knew when he had met his match and he helped Dean back to the carriage, Sammy's little hand fisted into Dean's trousers.
"Dean, are you all right?" he heard the little one ask worriedly.
"You're all covered in blood. I was afraid you weren't coming back," he finished, his childish voice wavering at the terrible thought.
"Nah, Sammy. There s nothing that could keep me from coming back to you," the elder replied in a confident voice, and Singer felt a watery glaze coming to his eyes as he bore witness to the obvious love that linked the two children.
Years later ---------
Dean admired his elegant form in the full-length mirror. He thought he looked especially handsome in the bottle-green frock-coat and tight dark brown pants.
The ladies were in for a treat tonight, he grinned to himself.
"You finished admiring yourself yet, Dean?" his brother bitched. "We're late already, and Bobby told us to be on time for once."
"Now, now, Sammy, we're always on time, it's the others who arrive early,"
Sam just rolled his eyes. His big brother was incorrigible.
While Dean was eagerly pimping himself up for the evening, Sam had no wish whatsoever to attend another boring party with shark-like females all on the look-out for a rich husband, and if Sir Robert's fortune was anything to go by, he and his brother would be the exact kind of rich husbands that the girls were aiming for.
It didn't matter that they were not Sir Robert's own flesh and blood, as he had legally adopted them years ago and his monies would fall to himself and Dean.
Since the night Robert had taken them home with him, their lives had changed dramatically; no longer two waifs rummaging for food and shelter on the streets but fortunate young boys, kitted out with private tutors and all manner of lessons, from horse-riding to tying a perfect knot in a neck-tie.
Sam had discovered he was a quick learner; his curious mind a sponge for all and everything around him.
He especially loved Bobby's library, equipped with of thousands of books, and although Sam was an avid reader, there were still many volumes he hadn't yet touched.
His brother's mind was as quick as his own, but Dean's interests were as different from his as chalk from cheese.
Recently Dean had persuaded Bobby to invest in one of those new-fangled horseless carriages, and he spent hour upon hour with it, fascinated by its workings.
Sam would rather have passed his evening in the library but his brother had threatened that if Sam didn't come, he wouldn't go either.
Although they now lived in a fashionable London Town house with any amount of bedrooms, the two of them continued to sleep in the same room, the bond that had formed in the early years of their childhood just as iron-clad now as it was then; the need to know that the other was near at hand impellent.
Sam waited until Dean had finished his one man admiration society, then they made their way to the front door where their carriage awaited.
Jack, the driver, didn't have to be told where to go as Bobby had given precise directions, and before long they pulled up at the premises that hosted the party.
The brothers leapt down from the carriage, wondering what was going on as all was quiet, and there definitely didn't seem to be any party in course.
They looked at each other mystified.
"Jack, are you sure this is the right place?" Sam asked their driver, his voice doubtful.
"Yes, young master. Lord Robert said to bring you to this address," he confirmed.
"Come on, Sam," Dean pulled at his brother. "Bobby never makes mistakes. If he gave Jack this address then this is where he'll be."
He strode on ahead, yanking his recalcitrant younger brother behind him
They found two man-servants at the salon's double doors.
"Lord Robert awaits you within, " they informed, pushing open the doors.
The brothers were even more confounded as everything was dark. They were almost blinded when the illumination suddenly kicked in, and the more than a hundred guests all shouted "Surprise" and clapped their hands in a welcoming crescendo.
"What the Hell!" Dean cursed as his eyes adjusted to the light.
"It's a surprise party Dean," Sam informed him calmly.
"You don't say Sammy!" Dean snarked.
They saw Bobby coming towards them, a glass of champagne in each hand.
"What's all this, Bobby?" Dean asked.
"It's ten years to the day I found you boys on the street, and I wanted to celebrate the wonderful years I've had since you two little rascals brought joy and laughter into the life of a dry old man.
You've both made me so proud. Here's to my boys, Samuel and Dean Winchester-Singer."
The brothers' cheeks flushed pink at the unusually passionate words from their adopted father, while the guests came forward to greet them, the ladies especially eager to be first in line.
After all there were no more handsome men in London than Singer's two sons, and now they had a tailor-made excuse for planting their lips on such fine boys.