Chapter Title: Without
A/N: Takes place right after AHBL Part 1
Heart lurching, Bobby stumbled as he slid to a stop--not even noticing as the man he had pursued so passionately a moment ago disappeared into the woods. As he turned around, panting, to look in the direction he had left the boys, the rain, the rustle of trees, even his own heartbeat suddenly slowed. Hesitated.
Only one thing could make Dean cry out like that.
Legs pounding across the wet earth, he ran back to the fallen brother's side.
Coming upon the scene that would forever remain etched in his mind, Bobby stopped as his brain tried to comprehend what his heart already knew. "Jesus" It wasn't a prayer. Prayers held hope, however slim. The scene before him held none.
Dean had his arms wrapped around Sam wholly. Greedily. Rocking him in the rain and murmuring words his little brother could no longer hear. But Bobby knew better. He wished to God he hadn't.
Cautiously he approached, and he watched the arms tighten as he did.
"He'll be okay."
"He'll be okay!" Half demand, half plea. "I jus…I just gotta get him outta here. Gotta get him to where I can take care of him." Determined, he tried to stand—Sam hanging limply from his trembling arms like a six-foot-four-inch rag doll.
Falling back to his knees, Dean choked back sob--the weight of his grief and lifelong charge too much for him to bear. "Come-come on, Sammy," He was struggling to stand again before his knees could even sink into the mud. "Jus…" his voice broke under the weight of the truth he continued to deny. "just hold on to me."
In response, Sam's head lolled against his chest.
/ "Can you fix me?" Four-year old Sam asked, eyes brimming with tears--though he held his head up bravely as Dean dutifully set out the first aid supplies.
John had dropped the boys off a few days ago so he could tend to a wendigo up north. Bobby wasn't too thrilled about it, he wasn't a babysitter after all, but he owed the man. /
When Dean failed a third time, falling back to soggy ground and impossible reality, the once indifferent man could stand by and watch no longer. "Dean…" Bobby started--his throat tight as he raised a hesitant hand, placing it over the grieving boy's shoulder.
"Don't!" As if burned, Dean jerked away and wrapped his arms even tighter around his lifeless brother. He would not abandon his job…even if death had stolen it from him. Chin trembling, he tried, but failed to force strength into his voice.
/ "I got 'im."
With wary eyes, Sam leaned in towards his guardian.
Holding up a placating hand, Bobby stepped back. He was just gonna help get the bleeding, snotty rugrat outta the house quicker, but the way Dean had tensed and placed himself before the kid, had him thinking otherwise.
Bobby Singer wasn't afraid of no kids—unless possessed, or otherwise influenced by evil—but this Dean character…that fierce determination set in his eyes, that protective stance…
He realized right then and there that John Winchester wasn't kidding.
Don't try and get between the boys. /
Washing a shaky hand down his face; the hunter in Bobby eyed their surroundings for anymore possible threats. Not finding any, the man in him—the one that let himself get so deniably attached to wide-eyed little brothers and steadfast, protective older brothers--let his eyes cloud with tears.
Demons he could handle.
/ "Can you fix me?"
"Of course I can fix you." Dean smiled a smile Bobby sensed was solely reserved for the younger boy. "I'm the big brother, aren't I?"
It was the first time the hunter had seen such dimples. /
"I can fix him, Bobby." Dean dug his fingers into the moppy brown hair, desperately clinging to twenty-four years of his life. Grimacing, Bobby had to look away. The scene alone was crushing the seasoned soldier…the truth would certainly destroy the man before him.
"I can fix him." A choked whisper this time as the last tendrils of hope fell away.
Looking back at the bodies that had been entwined since childhood—one limp now, one grasping, and both forever lost, Bobby forced the acidic words past his lips, shaking his head with his own despair. "Not this time, son." He answered hoarsely, "Not this time."
/ Dean was putting the last of Mr. Singer's supplies away when Sam jumped up, wound already forgotten.
"What's this?" he asked.
With a glance, "That's a stethoscope." Dean said absently.
"What's it for?"
"To listen to your heart."
Eyes wide, Sam looked down at his chest, then leaned in across the table at his brother. "What's mine say?" he asked in a hushed tone—clearly not wanting his heart to hear and change its story.
Dean smiled at the innocence he tried so hard to preserve. Taking the instrument, he placed it on his little brother, "You tell me."
Face scrunched up in concentration, "All it says is 'thump thump thump'" Sam's face fell, disappointed.
Dean snorted and nodded, then set back to cleaning up their mess. He froze though when he felt the cold instrument placed against his own chest. Looking down he was alarmed to find Sam's eyes filling up with tears. "Sammy?"
"Your heart…" /
Tears and rain streaming down his face, Dean's arms tightened around the memory—around a four-year-old little boy he hadn't yet failed.
/ "Sam, what?" The eight-year-old was starting to get concerned.
"Your heart…" Sam tentatively placed his other hand beside the stethoscope still pressed against Dean's chest.
"Listen," Unexpectantly, he ripped the instrument off of himself and thrust it at Dean.
Dean did and was relieved to only find the customary 'thump thump thump'. Before he could get angry at his little brother for scaring him like that though, huge, wide eyes looked up at him in amazement. "They're the same."
He had said it in such a way—with so much awe, that Dean found his own heart suddenly in his throat. Sometimes he felt like he didn't deserve him.
"Is that cause we're brothers?" His voice was still so soft, so careful—as if he were afraid of breaking a magical spell.
Tears unexpectantly filling his eyes, the freckled-face boy knew he should probably tell him the truth--that all hearts beat that way. But deep down he knew he'd be lying if he did. Sammy and his heart beat special after all. They were linked. Always in tandem—even when they fought. "Yeah" he finally rasped and was rewarded with those dimples for a second time in one day. "And nothin' will ever change that, okay?"
An even bigger smile. "Okay."/
The absence of a heartbeat filled the night air. A brother strained to listen for it, but it never came.