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.
[Chapter 1] [Chapter 2] [Chapter 3]
Ever since the pie incident, Dean followed Sam around the house like a puppy. Or maybe a guard dog. Bobby couldn't be too sure.
On the bright side, it meant they didn't have to worry about chaining Dean up anymore. On the down side, they had to deal with Dean's stink.
"Ugh." Sam turned his head and covered his mouth as Dean flopped down beside him.
Bobby struggled not to gag. Dean smelled worse than a wet diaper in the sun. "We're gonna have to do something 'bout that."
Sam nodded. Bobby swore his eyes were watering.
They had spent the last couple of hours keeping watch on Dean and looking for any additional bits of info on supernatural relapses. Sam sat at the largest table, flipping through a couple of old manuals Bobby had collected from a dealer out in Texas. Dean hovered by Sam's side, leaning over his shoulder to look at the words and pictures. Bobby knew he couldn't understand a word of it, but whatever interested Sam suddenly interested Dean.
Bobby parked himself diagonal from the two of them long enough to catch another good whiff of Dean as he leaned forward.
Sam groaned again and slapped the manual shut. Dean jumped at the noise. After shooting Sam a deadly glare, he disappeared under the table. Bobby frowned and tried to catch a glimpse of what he was doing, but the frustration in Sam's voice distracted him.
"There's nothing in here."
Bobby sighed and shut his book. Sam was right. No matter how hard they searched, they kept coming up empty. They would keep coming up empty. Bobby wasn't sure what he'd been hoping to find. Nothing in these old books would help. Not with this. He'd just hoped…
"So what happens now?"
"I dunno. What are you asking me for?"
"You don't know?"
"Well, hell, Sam. We never got this far last time."
Sam frowned. "What?"
"Bori victims just aren't meant to last long. The bori infects its victim, their mind turns to sludge, and then within seconds the bori's having lunch. Your daddy and I?" He waved toward the spot where Dean had been sitting. "We found him after a week had passed. He was in rough shape. We broke through right at the end before…well, their poisoned minds just can't function for long."
He and John never had to deal with any of this mess. They were either going to get through to Dean or not. Whatever Sam had done had helped, but all he'd managed to do so far was tame Dean, not break through to him.
Bobby didn't need to say any more. Sam got the point.
"What are we looking at for time?"
Bobby shrugged. "A week? Two weeks tops."
Some of that thrumming anger returned just below the surface. Bobby saw it swirling in Sam's eyes, just waiting to burst into a raging storm.
He managed to hold back.
"I don't know why you won't tell me what you and my dad did, but if what you're saying is true, Dean doesn't have much time. I need to know what to do to save him."
Bobby wheeled back and glanced under the table. Dean was busy trying to pick a hardened wad of gum off the floor. If and when Dean was successful--and he had no doubt he would be--Bobby didn't want to think about what Dean would do with the month-old gum.
In a week, it wouldn't really matter. Dean would be dead.
There were no other options. Bobby just hoped that this time things would go down differently.
"I found an old Hausa tale, back the last time this happened, that said something about reaching their mind through their emotions. Heart, I think."
Sam leaned forward, pressing his fingers to his lips as he thought. His eyes lit up with understanding. "Memories?"
"That was our best guess. Seemed to work last time. Eventually," he added under his breath.
"So, we just try to make Dean remember?"
Bobby nodded. "More or less. Your daddy used different memories to try to break him."
Sam fell deep into thought. Most of the anger was gone from his face, replaced with the beginnings of newfound hope. Bobby had seen that look on the boy before. He just hoped Sam wouldn't be too disappointed when his way of trying to reach Dean didn't work.
"Then, we just have to find memories that will snap Dean out of this?"
"That's the gist of it."
Sam nodded. "What did my dad do to get Dean to remember?"
Bobby watched John dump a whole slew of weapons onto the table. "What's all this?"
Though John didn't look up, Bobby saw him sneak a wary glance in his direction. "What's it look like?"
"Looks like a machete, a .45, double-barreled shotgun…" Bobby stopped and gave up. The amount of heat John was packing was enough for a small army, not for a scared and confused boy chained in the adjoining room.
"What's this got to do with memories?" Bobby asked, though part of him feared he already knew the answer.
"Memories are both good and bad." John screwed a spout onto the small propane tank at the edge of the table.
Bobby felt his hands go cold. John wouldn't even think of it. No way he could be so stupid as to make his own son remember the pain and terror of some of those hunts gone wrong or whatever other trouble Dean had bumped into over the years.
"John, this ain't the answer."
"Dean understands this. You have to be direct with him."
"Direct, yeah. Not sadistic."
John spun so fast that Bobby stumbled back. A storm raged in his eyes. "I don't hurt my boys."
"I didn't say you did."
"Never laid a hand on them. Not once."
"So, tap into that," Bobby said. "Not all this."
"He doesn't have any good memories. Not any I can give him."
"You're his father," Bobby said. "Ever think maybe just being alive is a good enough memory?"
John didn't say anything. With the shotgun tucked under one arm and the propane tank in the other hand, he walked into the room where Dean was chained. The boy's eyes widened at the sight of the weapons, making it obvious that despite the poison withering his brain, Dean could understand danger. He backed away, close to the tubing, the fear in his face breaking Bobby's heart.
John shut the door.
Bobby didn't tell Sam about the more aggressive stance John had taken with Dean. He knew that John didn't mean no harm. He just practiced tough love. Made an art of it, really. And in the end, John was just as screwed up as the rest of them.
Didn't mean Bobby had to like it. Or like him.
Still, Bobby couldn't help but tense up when Sam reentered the house carrying an overfilled duffle bag. He wheeled away from Dean, who had taken to stacking some of his magazines on the floor, and met Sam at one of his large tables.
"What's all that?"
Sam unzipped the bag. Bobby held his breath as he reached inside.
He set aside a small stereo. Bobby breathed a sigh of relief. "Music?"
Sam nodded and held up a few tapes. "Zepplin, Dean's favorite group. Metallica, his relaxation music. And…" Sam held another tape. "Scorpions for a trip to the past."
Wearing a satisfied grin, Sam grabbed the stereo and the tapes and headed for the center of the room. Dean, who was now sitting on the floor eating a pizza as he stacked the mags, cocked his head with curiosity and after a few minutes of careful watching, slid over to where Sam was working on setting up the stereo, a slice still hanging out of his mouth.
Bobby kept his distance, not wanting to disturb the fragile trust between the two. Dean had become fairly comfortable with Sam, and though he also seemed okay with Bobby, he didn't want to chance another fit.
As Sam opened the cassette deck door, Dean hovered over him, studying his actions. He munched on the last of his pizza as Sam took the cassette out of its case and went to slide it into the deck.
Dean shut the door and started pressing various buttons.
Sam slapped his hand away. "Don't touch."
Dean scowled and slapped back.
"Just sit and listen." With that, Sam hit play.
The music sounded familiar, but Bobby couldn't pin it. All of Dean's music sounded the same to him anyway. Just like John's music had just been buzz noise to his ears back in the day.
None of that was important. How Dean reacted was the key.
When Bobby shifted his chair for a better view, he could see that Dean was listening. He cocked his head at the sounds of the guitars and drums, and as the singer wailed about something. He even stopped to touch the speaker, and there. Almost. Bobby almost saw Dean.
Sam sat straighter.
"You remember that time when you were…fourteen, I think? You and Dad had finished off that ghost in Tennessee and even though he told you not to, you went around bragging about it for days. You even had your own theme song--this song--and made a complete fool of yourself. I didn't let you live it down, but really…I guess I thought it was kind of cool and I wanted to be cool, too, even if you looked like a moron." Sam stopped and sighed, watching with disappointment as Dean broke from the stereo and tried to eat the cassette case. "Never mind," he said under his breath.
Bobby broke his gaze and shook his head. He knew it wasn't going to work. He wished to God it had, but bori were nasty. It never was this simple.
Sam wouldn't give up. He tried another song, another memory, another album, another fleeting recollection, another band. He repeated the cycle for hours.
Every so often Bobby was sure he saw a spark in Dean's eyes, as if a memory was trying to poke through. Each time the confusion would win and cloud them over until there was no shred of Dean there, not even the echo of his loud personality.
After three hours of nothing, Bobby hadn't been able to take it anymore. He wheeled out as Sam explained something about Led Zepplin, and parked in the kitchen. Reaching over, he opened the cupboard and grabbed a bottle of whiskey. Not even bothering for a glass, he just tossed off the cap and started to chug.
He felt the burn and closed his eyes. He wouldn't drink enough to get drunk, not in case Sam needed him. Besides, they'd need all the drinks they could get when this was all over, one way or another.
What was he thinking? Like Sam needed him.
He rolled his head back and took another drink.
Sam had tried all day and all night to get Dean to remember. He had played a variety of different songs, which still all sounded the same to Bobby, and even had attempted playing cards, pulling out some weird Americana memorabilia that Dean kept hidden in the trunk, and a last minute brief ride in the Impala around the lot. All that had accomplished was to stink up the car and give Dean motion sickness.
By now, Dean was passed out in a pile of sheets on the floor. Sam sat near his feet, silent and still, the occasional glare shot toward Bobby for good measure.
Sam could stay pissed at him. None of it would do any good anyway.
"Don't beat yourself up, Sam," Bobby muttered as he rested the half-empty bottle by his side. "Bori are deadly for a reason."
"There has to be something. Dad did it. But I've tried all of Dean's favorite things."
Bobby shrugged. "Maybe it got nothing to do with favorite things."
Sam shot him a curious look, though Bobby didn't miss the suspicion in his eyes. "What do you mean?"
"Just saying that just because you like something, doesn't mean it makes a strong memory."
If Sam understood what he was implying, he didn't admit to it. He glanced over to Dean again, studying him hard, before he turned back to Bobby.
"I don't know what his strong memories are. At least not anymore."
"This ain't an exact science," Bobby said. "It's always different. It always is when you're dealing with people's memories. Who knows what memories are important to your brother. He's always saying one thing to act all macho when he means something else."
That was the tricky part. Sam might be more reclusive than Dean, and impossible to read, but he sure as hell was easier to pin when it came to what mattered. Sam never wanted much, but when he did, he told you and he told you straight out if he liked it. Or maybe he was just a damn good liar.
Dean would go and say he wanted this, that, and some other thing, but at the end of the day he'd got all mushy about the way a card was written. It was like living with a girl.
"It's not just that. I'm not exactly in Dean's good graces right now," Sam said quietly. "At least not the way I used to be."
Winchesters. Bobby would throttle them all if he could. He'd never seen two brothers act like such big pansies.
"I know you and Dean are not in the best place these days," Bobby said. "But it's getting better, right?"
"Then focus on the good, quit your belly-aching, and do something."
"Sounds like good advice." He gave Bobby a pointed look.
"Yeah." Bobby took another drink.
Sam pushed himself off the floor and took out his phone. Bobby frowned, unsure where this was going.
"What're you doing?"
"Doing something." He held up a finger and turned his back to Bobby as he spoke into the spoke. "Hey, Cas. It's Sam. We're at Bobby's. It's about Dean." Sam shut off his phone.
Angels. Just what they needed.
"Calling your angel friend?"
"No friend of mine," Sam said.
Both turned to find Castiel standing in the center of the room. As usual, he was dressed in that dusty old trench coat of his, and the expression on his face was somewhere between indifference and agitation. He didn't seem to react much to Sam's comment either way.
Didn't stop Sam from looking guilty. "Thanks for coming," he managed to say.
"What's the problem?"
"Dean's been infected by a bori."
Castiel looked to Bobby for confirmation. He just shrugged and nodded. "That's what it looks like."
"I'll need to see him." Castiel frowned. "Where is he?"
The three of them turned to the now empty pile of blankets on the floor. Dammit. Dean was more slippery than a wet eel.
Bobby started to search the room, trying not to think about the possibility that Dean had snuck out of the house while they'd been preoccupied. If he managed to hit the woods, run into town, or stowaway on any of the trailers that parked round these parts, they'd never be able to track him down.
Luckily, Bobby didn't have to worry for long. He caught sight of Dean prowling behind the couch, a large knife in hand, as his murderous gaze followed Castiel. Before Bobby had a chance to warn Castiel or Sam, Dean leapt from behind the furniture, the knife aimed at Castiel's chest.
Castiel's fingers touched his forehead. Dean hit the floor like a sack of potatoes.
Sam blinked. "What was that about?"
"A natural bori reaction to my form. That will be difficult to overcome." Castiel paused. "He smells unpleasant."
They all looked down to Dean's body, which was sprawled across the floor. His stink was worse than ever.
"So it's definitely a bori?" Sam asked.
"His reactions lead me to believe so," Castiel said. "I'll need more time to look into his mind. Something…seems wrong."
Bobby eyed Sam, who was trying his damnedest not to look too nervous. Bobby couldn't blame him. Right from the start this whole thing stunk, and he wasn't talking Dean's body odor. Bori don't strike twice. They just don't. And now they got confirmation from an angel no less.
But first they had to do something about Dean's smell before they all passed out.
Always two steps ahead, Sam grabbed a nearby bucket and sponge and shoved it into Castiel's arms.
"What's this for?"
"Give you some bonding time," Bobby said alongside Sam's firm nod of agreement. "Bathroom's around the corner."
Castiel's face was full of puzzlement, as if he was expecting to be handed a much more vital job. To his credit, he didn't say anything this time, and took the bucket without complaint as he turned to Dean. By the time Bobby had pivoted his chair to face them, they had both disappeared.
Bobby wasn't ever gonna get used to that. With a sigh, he turned back to Sam, not at all surprised at what he found.
Sam was back to that just-on-the-edge look, like he was about to burst and wasn't doing a good job of holding it inside.
"We need to talk," Sam said.
They sure as hell did.