A/N: While this story is all through Bobby's pov, I realized as I finished it's very much a story about relationships, both the highs and lows, the joy and sorrow, and the questionable stuff we do as humans that rests in between. So it's not just about Bobby and the brothers. There are a lot of relationships, both subtle and not so subtle going on here. Some of the characters do some stuff that might be questionable, but I love all the characters.
Title: Driving with One Headlight
Category: Gen, Drama, Humor, Angst
Characters: (Past) Dean, John, Bobby; (Present) Dean, Sam, Bobby, Castiel
Spoilers: Through I Believe the Children Are Our Future
Summary: When Dean suffers a relapse of a debilitating supernatural illness he once had several years earlier, Bobby must bury his feelings of helplessness and inadequacy if he's to help Sam find a way to save Dean without reliving the mistakes of the past.
Word Count: 17,400
Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters are the property of Eric Kripke and co. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This is for entertainment purposes only; no financial profit has been gained from this story. This story is not mean to infringe upon the rights of the above-mentioned establishments.
The victims don't remember a damn thing. That is, if they survived, which was almost never. That was the way it went. But everyone else--family, friends, and any other unfortunate sucker who cared for the victim--got to suffer, and it hurt. Hurt like the dickens.
He'd have never thought he'd have to suffer through it twice.
Bobby stared out the cloudy window of his house to the Impala parked outside. Sam had his back turned to him, struggling with something in the backseat, but, hell, Bobby didn't need to see to know what was happening. He lived through it all once before, and it hadn't been pretty.
It was 2003 all over again.
January 10, 2003 - Council Bluffs, IA
Bobby pulled up to the side of an old diner in his Ford. The place looked busy, though he suspected most people stopped by for some eats before they hit the road again, and with the night winding down he figured the place would start to thin out. He hopped out of the tow truck and started towards the entrance, when he heard his name. In the small parking lot, he could see John standing by his Sierra. Parked at an angle, headlights on, motor running, the truck hummed with life. John obviously wanted to make this quick.
"Still can't find him?" Bobby asked as he approached John.
John shook his head. "Been days since I've heard from him."
"Dean's just a kid. He's probably off doing God knows what."
"I told him to finish up and meet me at Willow Crossing." John sighed. "He better not be fooling around the casinos if he knows what's good for him."
"It's preferable to bein' dead."
John didn't argue him on that point.
"Any particular reason why you needed the tow when I could have come in my Ram?"
"I found the Impala."
Bobby stiffened. "And?"
"It looks like it's been abandoned for days."
John was never one to beat around the bush. He either told it to you straight, or he didn't tell you nothing at all. And if you were foolish enough to find yourself stuck in the middle of that reasoning, then you damn well better figure it out.
Bobby knew Dean wouldn't just leave the Impala lying around. That car was his everything.
"Where?" Bobby asked.
"Not far from Ameristar. He's lucky it hasn't been towed or ransacked by now."
"I'll get her hooked to the truck." Bobby paused. He knew there was more to this. John wouldn't never call him just for a tow. "You gonna tell me what's really goin' on?"
"I think Dean was attacked by a bori."
Bori were demented suckers. Literally. They prayed on people's insecurities, just as much as they carried their own. Damn things were almost as bad as sirens. The bori tended to have the same MO: show up, mess with your head, and then suck the life outta you. Bobby had tangled with one once personally, back in '88, having bumped into the case while he was hunting down some protection charms, and even then he'd just gotten lucky. Victims died a slow, disoriented death. What was worse were the survivors.
That was what he'd told Sam on the phone.
Bobby backed away from the window and wheeled over to the front door. He slammed down the brake on his wheelchair and grabbed his gun, managing to undo the locks on the door, before using the end of his shotgun to unlock the highest one. When he was finished, he opened the door, unfastened his brake, and rolled away from the entrance. He heard Sam's shuffled steps approaching the house.
"The couch," Bobby called out to him.
Sam broke through the open doorway, his back turned to Bobby, though every few seconds his face would show over his shoulder. He had scratches on his cheeks, his nose, and his forehead, no doubt after a tangle with Dean, and he had that world-weary look that broke Bobby's heart.
As he backed into the room, he dragged Dean's unconscious body with him. Sam wasted no time hauling Dean across the floor over to the couch. Bobby didn't miss the fact his hands and feet were bound tight.
Sam dropped him onto the cushions and exhaled. "Hey, Bobby."
"Hey yourself," he mumbled, even if he didn't mean it. "Next time you call me as soon as something happens. Not a day later."
Bobby didn't give Sam a chance to come back at him with excuses or apologies, and Sam didn't bother to protest. Sam knew him well enough to get when he was teasing and when he was serious.
He wheeled past Sam and parked in front of the couch, studying Dean's limp body. Like his brother, he had scratches on his face, and some on his neck. His hands were marked, scabbed and bloody, but aside from that he looked fine. But unlike the scratches on Sam, Bobby knew these were self-inflicted. They were part of the desperate fights Dean was battling with himself.
A dozen or so things could be the cause of panicked fighting like this, but Bobby knew there was one big clue that would show him if it were a bori or not.
He pushed Dean's head away from him and folded back his ear. Bobby frowned. While there was some redness and a little swelling, the diamond shaped puck mark left by the bori's stinger was flat-out absent.
"Maybe not a bori after all?" Sam asked.
Bobby didn't answer. He pulled back and stared at Dean, rubbing his beard as he thought. Something wasn't right about this whole thing. Just not right at all.
"Tell me again what happened?"
"Uh…well, it came out of nowhere. We were traveling down the highway toward Omaha, and he started with a panic attack at the wheel. I steered the car to the side of the road, and he ran." Sam glanced at Dean and sighed. "I'm lucky he tripped in a cornfield. I've never seen Dean run that fast."
"And he ain't talking?"
Sam shook his head. "He hasn't spoken since the panic attack. He's just…" His voice quieted. "He's not Dean."
From what Sam had told him, it sounded like the work of a bori. But infection was near instantaneous and there wasn't no way a bori would've been in the Impala with the two of them unnoticed. The Winchester boys might get careless, but they sure as hell weren't that blind.
"All the symptoms match, but--" Bobby stopped, frowned, and turned to Sam. "Unless you're leaving something out?"
Sam shook his head. "He's been wild, like…like he's a caged animal. It's the best way I can describe it." Sam stopped, and Bobby could tell he was evaluating him. "What's wrong? What aren't you telling me?"
"Thing is, I ain't never heard of 'em striking twice. Even rarer is getting away twice. And it certainly weren't never gonna happen inside your car."
"Dean's had this problem before? When?" Sam shifted his weight impatiently. "Why didn't you tell me on the phone?"
"Didn't think chatting about it over the phone would be much help. Especially he if kept trying to run."
"Point," Sam said. "But I've never seen Dean this way my whole life."
"You were away at college. Back in 2003. Winter."
Sam frowned. "Dean called nonstop that year, you know, before we quit talking. I would have known about it."
"You really think he'd have told ya? With all his macho crap?"
Sam seemed to consider what he'd said and chuckled. "Nothing to affront his manhood." But the break in tension was short-lived as his smile faded. "Bobby, what the hell's going on?"
Bobby stared at Dean's unmoving body. When Dean woke up, all hell would break loose. They didn't have much time, and he was plain out of answers.
"Get me my books," he said.
The hours ticked by. Bobby pored over the stack of old, dusty books that Sam had dumped on the nearby table and instructed him to keep watch over his brother to make sure he didn't wake. The last thing they wanted was Dean going wild all over the place, and thankfully, Dean didn't say boo the entire time. Whatever Sam had done to him had stuck good; he wasn't waking any time soon. But as the daylight hours dwindled, Bobby's concerned shifted from one brother to the other.
"Get some rest," he told Sam. "I got it covered."
Sam glanced at Dean before turning to one of Bobby's reference books. "No, I'm fine," he said.
He looked anything but fine. Bobby knew for a fact the kid had driven to his house straight through the night, not stopping once in fear of Dean getting loose. His eyes were dull, his coloring a shade too pale, and the weariness just oozed off him like summer heat off pavement.
"What good are you if you pass out," Bobby said. He waved Sam away. "Now go. I'm gonna need your strength when he wakes up."
What was left of Sam's cool exterior didn't break, even if Bobby noticed he was clutching the book harder. "How bad is it going to get?" Sam asked.
Sam sighed. It took him a minute, but he finally closed the book and leaned back in his chair. Up came his feet onto a stack of paper, coupled with a determined but hopeful gaze in Bobby's direction.
"Fifteen minutes," Sam said.
He nodded. "Just go to sleep."
Sam didn't say anything more, but the pleading in his eyes told Bobby enough. He rested his hands on his lap and closed his eyes. Then, he was out like a light.
Bobby let him sleep. He knew Sam would be pissed when he woke up, but he also knew from experience that they'd both need every last ounce of strength once Dean woke from his stupor.
He didn't like where this situation was heading. He didn't like it one bit. And the more he thought about that time back in '03, the more troubled he became.