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] [Chapter 4]
Bobby wheeled into the kitchen after Sam. Sam didn't say nothing at first, opting to lean against the counter by the sink, which gave Bobby the impression he was choosing his words carefully. He kept quiet and waited for Sam to speak.
"I need you, Bobby."
Bobby rolled his eyes.
"No, I mean it. Last year…" Sam looked away and shook his head. He held the knife Dean had somehow confiscated and dropped it in the sink. When he faced Bobby again, there was new determination deep inside. "Last year, I made some mistakes. I thought I could do it all on my own. But I was wrong. I need your help if we're going to save Dean."
Sam kept looking to him for answers, but the truth was he didn't have none. Not this time. Bobby didn't have a clue why Dean was suffering from a bori sting again, and he couldn't figure out why the markings were different. He didn't know how to get through to Dean without destroying what little they had left as a family.
"Whatever you're trying to protect me from, it's okay. I can handle it. Just-just let's stop this game and get to the point. Dean doesn't have much time."
Bobby sighed. The kid was right. At least on the timing issue. But Bobby couldn't. He just couldn't let those flood gates open.
Bobby licked his lips and glanced to the counter, unable to look Sam in the eyes. "He tapped into some stuff from your childhood."
"I wasn't in the room." At least that part was true.
"So he found some strong memories from when we were kids?"
Bobby shrugged. "I guess. I didn't exactly press him for specifics, Sam. You know how John could get."
Sam didn't push Bobby for any more on that account, but the wheels in his head wouldn't stop turning. "Strong memories can be both good and bad."
Bobby felt his voice get caught in this throat. "Yeah."
By now, Sam had grown quiet. He remained leaning against the counter, but his mind was a million miles away. Bobby knew that look well. He'd seen it once or twice on John, in moments where he thought no one was looking, when he thought it was just him against the world. Sam didn't seem to care that he was exposing himself that way, at least not anymore, or maybe he never had. Still, Bobby knew what he was considering and it broke his heart. He kept hoping that Sam wouldn't go the same route as John, but at this point maybe they just were plum out of choices.
Finally, Sam pushed off the counter, his face grim and as determined as ever. "I'm going to end this," he said before he walked out of the kitchen.
Bobby hung his head in shame and closed his eyes.
No matter what he did, he couldn't block out the banging from his mind. Bobby nearly went into the closed room twice, once when he heard John hollering like a bat out of Hell and the other time when he heard a loud crash, one that sounded like his whole bookcase got overturned.
Now he just stood in front of the door, trying to remind himself that he wasn't Winchester flesh and blood. He had no right intervening.
For every crash, for every bang, for every shattering bottle, and snapping chair, or thump-thump of…Bobby didn't want to think about it. Just get through until the end. That was what he kept telling himself. It wasn't his place to tell John how to raise his sons.
But he sure as hell felt he had the right. He'd watched the Winchester brothers grow from boys into young men, and sure they might need a few good life lessons to rip them into shape, but they were well on their way to being real hunters. He'd even wager Sam could still mix it with the best of them, despite giving up on the life and going to school.
In the end, it didn't matter. Hunters or not, they still were like family to him. Hell, they were the only family he'd got. What John was doing just wasn't right.
Bobby could tell John was tearing through the room. He heard the roar behind those closed doors. He heard words like "your fault" and "one job." He heard the sounds of guns and pistols and shotguns loading and reloading.
Mostly he heard the deafening silence between the blows, the sinking feeling of fear that he knew was sweating off Dean in beads.
He heard the crackle of fire.
Bobby bolted in alarm. He pounded on the door, and jimmied the handle, cursing when he found it was locked. John didn't like no one messing with him when he was on a job. Even his so-called friends.
That's when Bobby started to smell smoke.
"John!" Each knock became harder and harder as he saw the smoke billowing from the slot under the door. "John, you son of a bitch, let me in!"
And that's when the screams began.
Bobby never forgot that day. Not even now, some six, seven years later. He sure as hell didn't want to see it repeat with Sam and Dean.
Dean sat on the floor, in a fresh change of clothes, his hair still damp. Bobby noted that he was wearing John's old leather jacket, slipped on by Sam, and had a bunch of odds and ends in front of him, things like Sam's laptop, a few pictures the boys managed to save of John, Mary, and the two of them, as well as some weird paraphernalia, like a dancing monkey, that Dean had accumulated at their various stops over the years.
Sam sat opposite him, his hands animated as he explained each and every little thing, or when he went on and on about their first real hunt together in North Dakota, or that time they accidentally slipped over the Canadian border and posed as Mounties, or even when they chased down possessed mascots at Disney World. Dean had loved those moments.
Today, Dean wasn't the least bit interested. He kept trying to peek around Sam to see the TV, which had become his newest object of fascination. Sam had tried showing him a movie not even ten minutes ago, and all Dean could seem to process were that things were moving on the screen. He had investigated the TV, back and front, tried to grab the pictures, finally settling on watching when he failed. Sam had snapped it off in frustration.
Hope was waning. Bobby saw the despair in Sam's eyes, in the way he spoke, in the curtness of his motions. Nothing they did seemed to get through to Dean, not even the memories Sam thought he would cherish the most.
They were getting closer to crossing that line that Bobby feared from the start.
"You're troubled," Castiel said from beside him.
"What'd you expect? Me to do a dance of joy?"
"I don't expect you to dance at all."
Bobby groaned and rubbed the back of his head. He didn't need any reminders, especially from a depowering angel.
"I've neutralized the poison so it can't be reactivated, but I don't have the power to undo what's been done." When Bobby wrinkled his nose, catching the faint whiff of pineapple, Castiel added, "I gave Dean a freshener that you use in your vehicles."
Oh, that was gonna go over big. If Dean ever snapped out of his stupor.
"I feel like I'm supposed to ask you what is wrong."
Bobby glared at the angel.
"You don't want to tell Sam what happened, even if it would save Dean."
When Castiel put it that way, it sounded like Bobby didn't want to help Dean. He wanted to help him more than anything, but what could he do? He couldn't do a damn thing now, stuck in this chair, and he couldn't stop John back then, even though he had full use of his legs and was without the whole apocalypse hanging over his head. Bobby had been one of the few people John couldn't intimidate, even on a bad day, and he'd still been powerless.
And Sam was just like John.
"I don't want Sam to know about it," Bobby said in a low voice. "They got so little from their daddy. He loved him. I know he did. Just…I don't want them to lose what they got left of him."
Castiel gave a slight nod, but Bobby couldn't tell if it was of understanding or if he was judging him. "What were Sam and Dean hunting in Omaha?" he asked abruptly.
Bobby shrugged, surprised by the change in topic. "They were tracking a pack of Atcen that had migrated down from Canada."
"Atcen don't migrate that far south." He gave Bobby a significant look. "Unless they were forced down for a reason."
"Feel like sharing?" Bobby had little patience for word games right about now.
"There are traces of mugwort on Dean's skin."
Bobby's stomach flipped. "Pagan gods?"
"I'm not sure which one, but I recognize their markings. It isn't a coincidence they concentrated on Dean."
Bobby had the sinking feeling he knew where Castiel was taking this line of thought. "What're you saying? That some pagan god used Dean as a dirty bomb on the whole vessel gimmick?"
"I'm not sure what a dirty bomb is, but if you're talking about sabotage, then yes."
Dammit. Bobby rubbed his beard and stared at the Winchesters. Sam had moved onto describing some surfing incident in detail, or more like the women at the surfing incident in detail, none the wiser about what Bobby had just learned.
If pagan gods were involved, they were screwed. It didn't matter if Castiel had counteracted the poison in Dean with whatever was left of his angel mojo. Now they had to deal with some crazy demigod hell-bent on interfering.
Not that the demon and angel thing was bad enough.
Bobby heard Sam let out a heavy sigh. He flipped the TV on and left Dean to try to grab the people on the screen and joined Castiel and Bobby. He exhaled and rolled his shoulders back, doing a piss-poor job at hiding his frustration.
"Bad news," Bobby muttered.
"Looks like some pagan god jumpstarted that dormant poison in Dean."
Sam's face paled.
"I'm unsure which one it might be, but it doesn't matter," Castiel said.
"Doesn't matter?" Sam shifted his weight and eyed them both. "Maybe the Trickster? Or something else? Look, we find it and force it to fix Dean."
"It will be long gone."
Bobby nodded. They had no leads. Chasing an invisible god across country and then some would just be a waste of the time they had left.
Obviously, Sam didn't feel the same. His eyes darkened, his face tight with anger. "That's it? We're just sitting back and letting what happens happen?"
"I'm not sitting back," Castiel said. "I just don't trust your judgment."
Sam didn't respond, but the corners of his mouth started to twitch. Bobby wasn't sure if he was going to blow or not, with all the stress he was under, or the anger he barely could control. Now wasn't the right time.
Castiel and Sam continued to glare at each other. Bobby knew he had to cut through this tension now or else things were gonna get ugly.
"Well, arguing ain't gonna change a thing," Bobby mumbled. "We'll think of something else."
Sam's gaze flitted to the extra storeroom on the top floor where Bobby stashed some quick-need weapons. The torment in his eyes was more than Bobby could bear; the weapons could unlock those dark memories within Dean. They could be strong enough to reach him, but what affect would they have on an already broken man? Or for Sam so eager to seek some kind of redemption?
He broke from the storeroom to glance at Dean, his face now haunted by a frown. Bobby followed his gaze.
Dean was partly kneeling, partly sitting on his ankles as he watched the commercials on the TV. It was his left arm that caught Sam's attention, and Bobby's as well. He had it resting on his thigh, while he used his right hand to try and grab the cars on the screen.
Bobby swallowed hard. Not resting. It plain weren't moving.
"What's wrong with his arm?" Sam asked, though Bobby suspected he already knew the answer.
It was too soon. Dean wasn't supposed to reach that point yet. The victims who survived this long still had days before their body's breakdown caught up with the damage to their minds.
"It's possible the poison is more virulent in its reactivated form," Castiel said.
"Or maybe you triggered something," Sam muttered.
"Don't matter," Bobby said quickly. "We don't have time to be snippy." He started to wish maybe he'd just told Sam straight out, consequences be damned. Now they were out of time. Dean could be dead in a matter of hours if the poison were that aggressive.
Bobby shook his head. "Sam, I'm sorry I didn't want--"
"Never mind," Sam said. "If I can't get through to Dean using his old memories, we'll make new ones."
"Are you sure that's wise?" Castiel asked.
"It's going to work," Sam said. He took inventory of the room, as if he were searching for something in particular. He locked onto Dean and hurried to his side. "You like the cars?" he asked, pointing to the TV.
Dean blinked at him.
"We'll go see the cars." With a grunt, he lifted Dean off the floor and slung his good arm over his shoulder.
Bobby watched in silence as Sam guided his off-balance brother toward the door. He frowned. Where did Sam think he was going?
"I need the amulet back," Sam said, pausing beside Castiel.
Castiel frowned. "I need the amulet."
"I know. I'll give it back." He motioned with his hand. "I promise. I need it now."
Without further question, Castiel reached into his pocket and withdrew the hideous looking thing Bobby had given Sam years ago. Originally, it had been meant as a way for Sam to feel connected to John. Bobby had always known the two had some problems seeing eye to eye. He'd never expected it back then, or even now, that the boys would get so sentimental over the thing.
Sam grabbed the amulet and threw it over Dean's head. Dean glanced down at it, mildly interested in the new shiny thing that was dangling on his chest. Bobby thought he was going to try to eat it, but he didn't. He just let it hang there as his eyes clouded over.
"Follow me," Sam called over his shoulder.