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: See previous posts.
Bobby followed John into the alleys near the Ameristar casinos. He'd already hooked up the Impala to his tow truck, but he didn't feel right just heading off without giving John a hand in helping find his boy. Bobby had grown fond of him and Sam over the years. The thought that Dean's brain might be dog chow for some greedy monster made his stomach turn.
"What makes you think it's a bori?" Bobby asked.
John didn't reply right away. He poked around one of the alleys, searching every corner, crevasse, and crack for Dean. In most of the shadowed sections of the alley, the melted snow from earlier in the day had started to ice over, and many of the little cardboard box huts had a sheen of frost over their tops. Before long, the temps would drop another ten, and everything would be frozen.
Bobby hated the thought Dean could have been exposed and alone in the middle of winter. John paused to check a few of the boxes, but after finding nothing, he let out a frustrated sigh and turned to him.
"Dean called me to tell me he'd found something here in Council Bluffs."
Bobby felt an unpleasant wave of discomfort wash over him as they moved to the next alleyway. "He's hunting on his own?"
"Of course not," John said, making it a point that Bobby saw the annoyance in his eyes. "We were working a simple ghost job in Willow Crossing, and I had him come into town to get some more supplies. Not long after, he called me. Textbook bori." John paused and looked back into the darkness. "I had him do some recon."
"Dammit, John. You know he--"
"He knows how to follow orders." And John said nothing else on the matter.
Bobby shook his head. John Winchester kept his boys on a tight leash, and while Bobby knew John was terrified to lose them, he also knew all the hard-assed military control was bound to backfire. Sam was the perfect example.
Dean might be more in line than his younger brother, but Bobby knew the boy was itching to prove himself. He had been for longer than Bobby could remember. He hoped to God Dean hadn't been stupid enough to pick a bori hunt as his next claim to fame in his daddy's eyes.
His gaze turned outward down the length of the alleyway. It was nearly empty, having only a few stragglers here or there. The cold must have chased many of the homeless away, but if Dean had been infected by a bori, Bobby wasn't sure he'd have enough sense to make it to a shelter.
Part of Bobby wished Dean had gotten careless and had lost track of time playing in the casinos. The smackdown from his daddy would be far, far better than anything he might've been going through with a bori.
"Some of the workers I talked to say they keep seeing a boy that matches Dean's description back here early at night," John said, stopping to give the alleyway another once over. "I've been here four days in a row and haven't found anything."
Bobby drove his hands deeper into his pockets. Four days in this weather was killer. He'd been out just over an hour and already he wanted nothing but to double back to John's truck parked on the street behind them. He couldn't imagine Dean living like this.
Next to him, Bobby felt a sudden shift in the air, a new strain that made the cold feel even colder. He shivered and felt his own muscles tighten, on edge as John tensed.
It was him.
Bobby didn't know if was luck or something more, but sure enough, there was Dean. The sight just broke his heart to pieces.
He was at the end of the alley, leaning over the top of a garbage bin that was about three-fourths his height. When he stretched forward, his feet nearly lifted off the ground, forcing him to balance his weight on his stomach while his hands darted through the mess below. Bobby watched in silence as Dean rummaged through the trash, digging deeper and deeper as he became more desperate. Eventually, he found a half eaten burger, and took a bite, letting the rest hang out of his mouth as he resumed his search.
Bobby glanced at John. He knew that seeing his boy this way must be tearing him apart inside, but if it was, John made no lasting outward sign to show it. He set his jaw and stepped forward.
Dean jerked his head and stiffened.
Bobby wasn't sure if he recognized his name or not, or even if he recognized John's voice, but the command in his tone was enough to grab Dean's attention. He remained still, his bloodshot eyes locked on John's slowly creeping form.
"Son, come on with me."
Dean tensed and cowered back a step. There was a gleam in his eyes that Bobby knew all too well. John knew it, too.
Before either one could shout out orders, Dean bolted.
"Dammit," muttered Bobby. He took off down the opposite side of the alley, not even waiting for John to bark out orders. While John pursued Dean around the corner, Bobby doubled back and rushed down the next lane, the one that ran parallel to where they had first seen Dean.
The alleys were narrow and tight, and with the temperatures falling at a rapid rate, Bobby felt the squeeze like a vice on his chest. He sucked in a chilly breath and gasped, feeling the air freeze his lungs. Still, he kept running, despite the age weighing down his limbs, and the patches of ice that tricked the grips on his boots.
Dean emerged from the shadows, slipping and sliding on the glassy pavement, his breath uneven as he slammed into an empty trashcan. As Dean righted himself, he glanced behind his shoulder and, apparently mustering enough sense to defend himself, tossed the trash can lid at John, who was hot in pursuit.
Bobby pushed harder, trying to make the most of Dean's distraction. With Dean's focus still on John, Bobby thrust his body weight forward and tackled Dean, holding him tight to cushion the blow as they both hit the cold pavement.
Dean's mouth opened to let out a cry, but all that came out was a strangled gasp. He wriggled under Bobby's weight, trying to weave his way out from under him. Bobby found it harder and harder to keep Dean still. The boy was relentless in his struggle, twisting and turning and even baring his teeth, like that would help.
John jogged over to where Bobby had him pinned.
"He ain't gonna come quietly." Bobby clenched his jaw, feeling Dean's knees ram into his stomach.
"My truck's just out front," John said. "Let's get him to it."
"Good luck with that." Bobby knew they were going to need it.
While Bobby worked on keeping him still, John slipped his arms under Dean's and prepared to lift him. Bobby took his cue and let go, quickly grabbing Dean around the knees before he tried to kick him.
Dean did anyway.
Bobby winced at the pain in his shins. Dean was heading for a good smack if he didn't calm down soon, though Bobby couldn't blame him. Ignoring the pain, he tightened his grip on Dean's legs, and after a quick nod to signal John he was ready, the two of them hoisted him off the ground and started down the alley.
They had both hoped Dean wouldn't put up much of a fight, but all that hope was for naught. Dean squirmed like he was full of bugs; he twisted his torso from side to side, kicked his feet, and clawed his hands. Bobby grunted as he struggled to keep his balance, while John shook his head at Dean's repeated efforts to knock him back.
"Cut it out, Dean," John muttered, grunting as Dean slammed his upper body back repeatedly.
John's command fell on deaf ears. Dean continued to fight against them, and he was causing quite a stir while he was at it. As they neared the end of the alley, one of the many displaced folks that hadn't made it to a shelter poked his head out of his cardboard box and frowned.
"Hey!" he shouted, his weather-beaten face marred with disgust and anger. "Hey, you!"
"We gotta get him outta here," Bobby mumbled, nearly slipping on a patch of ice as Dean kicked at him. "The cops'll be here any minute."
John nodded, and after a brief pause, he motioned with his chin toward the side of a building. "Over there. Get him against the wall."
Bobby hesitated. He wasn't sure he was going to like this, but with the homeless man more agitated than ever, he didn't have time to think about it.
He shuffled his feet as he followed John's lead toward the side of the alley. When they reached the wall, John let his grip loosen and after Bobby did the same, he knocked Dean against the brick surface.
"Dean," John started, "you--"
Dean let out a muffled noise that sounded like something between a hiss and growl. He snapped at the air while his arms thrashed out against the two of them. Bobby ducked, nearly hit with one of Dean's wild blows.
John reared and punched him hard in the face. Dean slumped to the ground.
Bobby stood shocked. He knew that they had to quiet Dean before the homeless man squealed on them, but he hadn't expected that kind of swift action from John, at least not on his own son.
"Help me get him to the truck."
Again, Bobby helped John lift Dean off the ground, this time with more obvious ease, as they carried his limp body back to John's truck. He could still feel the homeless man's eyes on them as they disappeared to the street, but they would be long gone before any police showed up to question them. Not that anyone really cared about the homeless around these parts anyway.
They dropped Dean into the passenger's seat. John kept quiet as he withdrew some rope and bound Dean's hands and feet. He gave them a quick tug, and once satisfied, he shut the door and headed for the driver's side.
Bobby grabbed him by the arm. "Bring him to my place," he said. "We'll figure out how to cure him there."
"I've got it covered."
"The hell you do. Where you gonna keep him? In your truck the whole time? I got space. Don't be a fool."
John said nothing. Bobby took it as a yes.
"I'll follow you up. You know the way."
He took one last glance at Dean's unconscious body and started back to where he'd parked his tow truck. It was going to be a long ride back to South Dakota.
It had been a long ride back to his house. Once it was over, Bobby had hoped never to experience something like that again. But here he was, living it all over.
He rubbed his eyes and looked down at the book, frowning when the words blurred together. He must have fallen asleep.
Bobby's eyes locked onto the couch. It was empty.
Dean was gone.
Bobby tossed the book aside. As he wheeled away from the table, he searched the room, peeking into open doors as he weaved past the stacks of papers and books on the floor.
He parked by Sam and gave his leg a shake. "Get up."
Sam started, nearly kicking over the paper bundle where his feet rested. The glaze over his eyes quickly burned off as the confusion faded away. Bobby didn't need say a thing. Sam turned his head and stared at the couch. His eyes sparked with anxiety.
"I'll check 'round here," Bobby said.
Sam was already to his feet. "I've got outside."
He rushed out of the house and shut the door. As it clicked behind him, Bobby finally let out a frustrated sigh. He hated that he couldn't be out there, like he normally would, on account of his damn legs. Sam would be faster and cover more ground without him.
Bobby cursed under his breath and pushed the paper bundle aside. He was about to head into one the rooms adjacent to the living room when he heard small clang coming from the kitchen.
Slowly, Bobby wheeled toward the noise, heading past the double sliding doors to the kitchen. When he poked his head inside, he found Dean half-obscured by the refrigerator door. The sight made Bobby's heart sink. He had a still-wrapped stick of butter hanging from his mouth, a package of lunchmeat tucked under his arm, and a couple bottles of condiments and baking soda perched on top. Fragments of rope clung to his bruised wrists.
He must have felt Bobby's eyes on him. Dean stiffened and turned his head; the lack of recognition in his eyes told Bobby everything. This was definitely something to do with a bori.
He wheeled into the room, pausing by the doors. Dean inched back against the inside of the fridge. Bobby knew that if approached any closer, Dean would bolt. Any noise, really, would startle him into a panic.
Knowing he didn't have much time, Bobby let his hand roam to the cupboard to his left. Dean was watching his every move, the anxiety in his eyes rolling into a quiet storm. His weight shifted to his right foot, and Bobby had a feeling he would sprint any second.
Bobby opened the cupboard and took out one of his candy bars he kept stashed and out of sight. He ripped the wrapping at the top of the Milky Way and tossed it on the table nearest Dean.
"It tastes a helluva lot better than baking soda," he told Dean.
Dean cocked his head, but didn't concentrate on his voice for long. Instead, he took a tentative step towards the table, and without abandoning his newfound treasures, he quickly snatched the candy bar off the table.
Bobby kept quiet as Dean spit out the stick of butter and chewed off a section of the Milky Way. His eyes lit up after the first bite and he went for another, dropping everything he was carrying so it made a loud crash on the floor.
Bobby grabbed another candy bar and tossed it on the table. Dean's greedy hands grabbed the Kit Kat, and to Bobby's surprise, he started munching on both at the same time.
He fumbled through the lower cabinet and threw Dean a Snickers. He knew he couldn't keep this up for long. He didn't have that much junk.
While Dean munched on the Snickers, Bobby looked over his shoulder for any sign of Sam. He didn't want to call out to him and scare Dean away, and he stupidly left his phone on the table where he'd fallen asleep.
Bobby grabbed another Milky Way. Dean stepped closer--closer than Bobby thought he would ever come--and took the candy bar. As he munched on it, he leaned forward, trying to steal a peek into the cupboard.
"Take a look all you want," Bobby said. He wheeled backwards to give Dean more space. Then, he motioned to the shelf.
Dean eyed him with suspicion, but didn't seem too scared by the wheelchair. He took another tentative step forward, and then another, but he stopped by the cupboard's edge. While keeping an eye on Bobby, he slid his hand inside and started to feel around for more snacks.
He found some. Dean grabbed a bag of chips, some hard candies, and a big pack of Twizzlers. Under normal circumstances, Dean's candy hoarding would be mock worthy, but the sight left nothing but pain for Bobby today.
Bobby pointed to the bag of chips and opened his hand, motioning for Dean to toss them to him. Dean frowned and stepped back, clutching the food harder.
With a sigh, Bobby rolled his eyes. "I'm not trying to steal it, you moron."
Dean held back.
Without another word, Bobby reached into the cupboard and grabbed another bag of chips. He ripped the top off and shook the bag before handing it over to Dean.
Dean hesitated again before finally taking the open bag. He sniffed the inside once and then, with renewed vigor, shoved his hand inside to withdraw as many chips as he could. Bobby remained speechless as Dean devoured the whole bag.
Again, Bobby pointed to the unopened bag in Dean's hands. Dean looked down at it, tracing his finger over the edge before he looked up. Slowly, Dean reached out the bag toward him. Bobby knew this was amazing progress for a bori infected person, and he was surprised Dean had enough sense to be making connections. He was going to make sure he took advantage of it.
Bobby tried to look as friendly as possible as he reached to meet Dean halfway.
A loud crash cut through the air, echoing from behind the house.
Dammit. One of the cars must have lost its bumper.
The noise was enough for him to lose that vital connection. Dean froze, his eyes wild, as he tried to make sense of the noise. Then, before Bobby had a chance to try to reestablish any kind of link with him, Dean let out a mute squeal and darted toward the door.
Nothing he could say would get through to the kid. Dean charged forward, abandoning all his snacks, and rammed into Bobby. His chair tipped over and he crashed to the ground. Pain shot through his shoulder and into his chest, while the lack of feeling in his legs reminded him just how useless he was. When he turned his head, he could see Dean already scrambling to his feet. Bobby swore, feeling helpless as he lay flattened on the floor while Dean took off into the living room.
They were gonna lose him.
Sam tackled him sideways.
Bobby watched as Sam grabbed Dean by the waist and threw him into a stack of books. The two, nearly out of his line of sight, struggled against each other, the pages of old manuscripts, newspapers, and ancient books flying around them.
Both Sam and Dean disappeared from view, but their grunts carried into the kitchen. From what he could tell, it sounded like they were getting into it pretty heavy, and all he could do was lie on the floor.
Sam had size and strength on his side, but Dean had that unbridled bori vengeance. Bobby couldn't let them tear each other apart.
Summoning whatever strength he'd built in his arms, Bobby started to pull himself from under his overturned wheelchair toward his study and living room. Just as he reached the doorway, he saw Sam and Dean wrestling in the corner. He couldn't see much. Sam had him pinned, but Dean wasn't giving up. His hands were ready to claw Sam's eyes first chance he got, but for now, Sam had his wrists restrained tight.
"Dean!" Sam yelled.
Yelling wouldn't do squat. Bobby knew they had to get Dean back under control, and this time chained up good.
"You gotta tie him up," Bobby shouted. He fumbled for anything nearby, but his strength was waning. He couldn't drag himself any more.
Dean didn't give up the fight, but neither did Sam. He maneuvered around Dean's kicking legs and squirming body. These two were used to scuffles. Bobby knew that for sure. But fighting was hard when one of them was working primarily instinct.
And Dean's instinct finally got the better of him. Bobby didn't have time to shout out a warning before Dean's teeth met Sam's forearm. Sam let out a cry as he broke the skin, but to his credit never let Dean go. After what Bobby thought was a flash of uncertainty, Sam reared back and punched Dean in the face.
Dean crumpled into an unconscious heap on the floor.
Sam let out a deep breath and staggered to his feet, holding onto his forearm. He winced and looked back at Bobby.
Bobby knew what he was thinking and waved him away. "Don't worry about me. Go get that cleaned out and then, then we got to get him some place secure."
Sam frowned, staring at him with puzzlement. There was an unspoken question in Sam's eyes, maybe even a flare of accusation from the not-so-old memories that still remained fresh in his mind.
Bobby felt bad enough about the panic room. He wasn't about to tie either one of them in there ever again, if he could help it.
"The room next to the study," he told Sam. "There's space in there. Hurry before he wakes up again."
Sam nodded, despite the hesitation in his eyes. He stepped away from Bobby and headed for the bathroom to rinse out the bite.
Bobby stayed on the floor, where his body had given out on him, to watch Dean. He and Sam were going to need to have a serious talk about what to do, and Bobby knew he couldn't put it off much longer. As much as he tried to avoid it, he was going to have to tell Sam the truth, and when he did, he knew Sam wasn't going to like it one bit.
The table where Bobby was sitting had a perfect view into the room by the study. He barely used that room, not since his wife had been taken by the demons, and over time it had just become another dump for his books, maps, and other occult paraphernalia. Today it served as Dean's own personal prison.
Dean was slumped on the floor, still unconscious, with his right hand raised and secured with an old pair of handcuffs to some exposed tubing Bobby had never bothered to repair. He wouldn't be out for long, likely less time than last, and when he woke they were going to have a whole new set of trust issues.
Bobby sighed. This wasn't going to be easy.
Sam emerged from the kitchen, carrying a beer bottle in one hand. When he came to stand beside Bobby, he did a quick check of the wheelchair and then placed the beer on the table. Without a word, he collapsed into the seat across from him.
"I'm fine. The chair's fine," Bobby muttered, accepting the beer. It had been embarrassing to have Sam lift him into his own little mobile prison, but they had bigger fish to fry at the moment. He took a swig from the bottle and gave a vague motion with his free hand to Sam. "Thanks. How's the arm?" Bobby asked.
"Okay. It's not bad." He touched the bandage before glancing over his shoulder to look at Dean. Bobby wasn't exactly sure what was on the kid's mind, but he did know that neither one of them could afford to mope over him. Sam was smart enough to understand.
"What happened that year?" he asked, his attention still turned toward Dean.
Bobby looked down at the beer bottle. He wished he could just skip this part and find an answer.
"You've told me about what the bori are, but you haven't told me what happened to Dean."
"Your daddy and I found him witless in the back alleys of a casino. We knew it was a bori. Doesn't take a genius to see it." He stopped, feeling the beer catching in his throat. He cleared it. "We brought him back here to work on breakin' the spell."
"Then let's break it."
"I told ya. They don't strike twice."
"So we're not going to try?"
Bobby scowled. "Of course, we'll try. Gimme some credit."
Sam fell silent. Bobby wasn't quite sure where his mind was going this time. Sam could be impossible to read on the best of days. But he was a smart one, and as the silence grew Bobby had this sinking feeling the boy was about to open a new can of worms.
"I don't understand why we don't just fix him the way you did before."
Bobby swallowed down that killer lump in his throat and went to the bottle. "It's complicated."
"Well, uncomplicate it."
"It ain't that easy!"
And that was when he saw the explosion in Sam's eyes.
"Why? Why not? We've been spending hours looking for answers to something I don't understand and you refuse to tell me. You know what to do. You've done it before. So why are we looking through your books?" He picked up one of Bobby's old dusty hardcovers before slamming it down on the table. "I can't even find anything in Dad's journal or your papers. It's like you're purposefully hiding the right information from me."
Bobby felt his cheeks flare with irritation. "They don't strike twice, boy. Anything we do to him, anything, might hurt your brother, so check your anger at the door, sit down, and help me find something."
Sam rose and gave him such an intense glare that Bobby thought he might blow right then and there. The defiance in his eyes was both terrifying and familiar; Bobby didn't think he'd ever see that look ever again.
Then again, Sam was his father's son.
"What're you doin'?"
Sam grabbed his jacket and headed toward the door. He stopped for a minute, an apology almost on his lips, but the words never came. "I'm going to find something to help Dean," he said instead, and without another word, slammed the door.
Bobby let out a heavy and sigh and rubbed his forehead. He couldn't run after Sam to stop him. He couldn't shake Dean out of his stupor. He couldn't do a damn thing.