All R's fault
K Hanna Korossy
The last two days have been kinda weird.
It started with the accident, which was totally the fella in the car's fault. I saw it all, from the way the Honda—you never can trust those Japanese cars—swerved around the bus, to how it ran up on the sidewalk and, next thing I knew, people were flying. Well, one guy, anyway.
The jerk in the car took off. I went over to take a look-see at the guy who'd been hit, but he was already back on his feet, pushing the old biddies away who wanted to help him. Said he was just fine, even though he was bleeding and looked like he was coming off a two-day bender. Couldn't help noticing he hadn't let go of the wall, either.
The last do-gooder finally beat it, and then it was just me and him, and I wasn't exactly sure why I was still there. Except…he did look kinda rough. I may not be Humanitarian of the Year, but I still felt bad about leaving him there looking like that.
"What're you staring at?" he finally growled. Hadn't let go of his head, either.
"Nothin'," I said. "Hey, I'm headin' right by the hospital—you want some company?"
"I don't need a hospital," he said, and fell to his knees.
"Uh-huh." Fella was more stubborn than a pit bull. He obviously didn't like me touching him, but he didn't pull away from me, either. Probably knew he'd splat on his face if he did. "Name's Bob," I offered.
I got him on his feet, and he wobbled for a minute, but at least he was looking a little less green. I felt sorry for the guy, but getting puked on was a little above and beyond. He kinda glanced at me, then away, and I started dragging him down the street with a frown.
"You got a name?"
"Sure I do. Doesn't everybody?"
He did make me grin, I had to say that for him. Wasn't one of those pushovers like the day-shifts that come in when one of the guys calls in sick. Might even've been one of us, the way I saw his hand go to his jeans like he was expecting a tool belt there or something. Couldn't place his accent, though: sometimes I thought I heard Texas, other times it was the Midwest.
I shrugged. "Gotta have something to call you if I'm gonna haul your ass down the street, kid."
He looked more white than green now, which wasn't that much of an improvement. His mouth got this stubborn line I knew from my dad. Yeah, I was thinking I had this one figured out.
"Check your wallet," I said.
He looked relieved, just for a second. Pulled away from me long enough to dig into the back pocket of his jeans. His clothes looked like they'd seen better years, but his leather jacket obviously meant something to him. If he had a car, I was betting it wasn't a Honda, either. Yeah, definitely no white collar on this guy.
No wallet, either, seemed like. Probably was just running out for a beer or something and forgot it. I felt even worse for him, especially when he was trying not to look scared.
"I think you're a John," I decided. Surprised him, too, the way he stared at me.
"But you don't know me…?" It was a question. Hoo-boy, I guess he was worse off than I'd thought. Hospital was only one more block, though, and he wasn't leaning too much. Even dizzy, he moved like a guy who was pretty sure of himself and who you didn't mess with. Thumped the hood of a car when it came too close and honked at him. I was liking this kid more and more.
"Nope. Just look like a John."
He tasted it, rolled it around in his mouth like a swallow of beer. "Yeah, okay, sounds right. John…Bonham?"
"The drummer?" My eyebrows went up. "Well, at least I can tell you that much: sorry, buddy, but you ain't him."
He kinda shrunk at that, and I felt bad. But we were almost there and then the docs could have him and I could get back to picking up dinner. My meatloaf was probably cold by now.
Didn't exactly work out that way.
Turns out the hospital doesn't like guys showing up with no name or insurance. They seemed to think I was responsible for him or something, and they kept sending me new people to argue with until, I swear to God, I was ready to drive my truck through the front wall and tell them what they could do with their regulations, like Bruce Willis on some righteous mission.
Anyway, they kept right on arguing until John sorta sighed and fell over, out like a light.
Well, I couldn't exactly leave him like that, right? At least the old hag I was talking to shut up and got him a wheelchair.
Concussion, amnesia, blah, blah. John woke up during the exam, and he wasn't bad at hiding it, but I could tell he was scared. White walls, white coats, white bandages—made me kinda twitchy, too, even without the head injury. I waited with him just to keep him a little company, threw out a few more names to get his mind off stuff, but he was sticking with John.
And with me.
Hey, I never set out to adopt anybody, okay? Let's just get that straight. Rich people have closets bigger than my place, and the only other folks I ever invite up there either have pizza and beer or curves and condoms. I wasn't looking for a roommate.
But when they finally fixed John up, told him to take it easy and things would probably come back to him soon, I said my goodbyes and wished him luck…and got totally suckered. I mean, geez. The look he gave me, it was like his last friend was taking off on him.
Come to think of it, I sorta was, wasn't I?
So, I didn't really want to stay, and John, he never asked. Got the feeling you could tear out all his fingernails and he wouldn't ask. But he was alone, didn't even have himself or a bottle of beer for company, and me? Yeah, I know, sucker. Probably would have served me right if he'd slit my throat while I was sleeping and stolen my stereo.
But he was barely on his feet by the time we got back to my place—without meatloaf—and he sank down on the floor just clean worn out while I got him my sleeping bag and an extra blanket.
And then he asked for salt.
I gave him a hard look, wondering again what kind of lunatic I'd brought home. He doesn't want food or water, but he wants salt? I got it for him, the shaker I'd picked up at the Salvation Army store along with most of the other stuff in my kitchen, and he just put it down by the sleeping bag. Looked like it made him feel better, anyway and, boy-howdy, I didn't want to know the details. John just curled up on the bag then, patted the pillow I gave him like he was expecting something else, made a face, and went to sleep. He might have muttered "Sam" when he was almost out of it, and the way he said it, kinda with longing, made me hope it was short for Samantha.
I would've locked my bedroom door if the lock hadn't been busted, but I stuck a chair under the knob, anyway. If John came looking for money or blood or a little companionship during the night, I'd know it.
But he was still asleep when I got up, and I took a chance on leaving him to go run down to Nick's, apologize for the meatloaf, and get some eggs and bacon and toast instead. And two big coffees, 'cause I had the feeling we were going to need them.
He woke up sudden and completely when I walked in the door. I couldn't help but see his hand went back to the pillow, then to his belt again. Maybe the kid was a cop? He had the haircut for it, and I was kinda thinking he wasn't going for a tape measure when I showed up. Reminded me a little of my army days, actually, being on guard even when you were sleeping.
"So, you remember anything?" was what I started with when he pushed himself up and rubbed a hand through the rumpled hair, wincing when he hit the bandage. He took the coffee and drank about half of it in the first gulp.
"John?" he finally said, like he was trying it out.
"Yeah, that's present, not past, buddy. Before you got up close and personal with the car."
He looked sorta far away for a second. I think it was the mention of the car that did it, but then he cleared up and didn't look any wiser. "No clue."
I sighed. This could get old.
Outside in the hallway, Mrs. Wexler next door banged the door open and threw her garbage bag against the opposite wall like she always does. Sounded like she had some cans in there, the noise it made.
John was on his feet, and I knew that stance. This boy was a fighter.
"Uh, jumpy one, ain't ya?" I asked slow and smooth, because you didn't move all controlled and held-back like that when you were a hothead. He was sharp and trained and, come to think of it, there wasn't an ounce of fat on the guy, either. Military, I was pretty sure now.
Worth a shot.
"Stand down," I barked suddenly. And damned if he didn't go loose, all instinct instead of memory, fists uncurling and legs bowing.
He was staring at me like he wasn't sure what it all meant. "John," I said, "I think you're a Marine or something."
John looked at me hard, then sat down and dug into his coffee and breakfast. Grunted a, "Dude, quit staring at me," about halfway through that made me grin. Cops I respected but steered clear of, but a Marine I could get behind. He was a good-looking kid, young and old at the same time, but I bet he knew how to take care of himself, and how to have a good time.
First, though, I had an idea. "Okay, well, no bases around here, so you didn't walk off one. And you didn't have ID or a phone with you, so I'm thinking you were close to home when you got hit. Figure maybe we can walk around, see if anything looks familiar to you."
"You need a haircut," he said absently while he ate, and I could've sworn he wasn't talking to me. He froze the next second, looked up, and I just cocked an eyebrow at him. He made a face and went back to eating.
His clothes had some blood on it, but it wasn't too bad. If this turned out to be longer deal, we'd have to get him some fresh duds, but I was really hoping not. The weekend would be over the next day, and I had to go back to work. I wasn't about to drag junior with me, or leave him at my apartment. One way or another, we'd have to find him a place today. I wasn't built for taking in strays.
I noticed he took the saltshaker with him.
Now that he was feeling better, I started seein' a little more of the real John. The way he moved was almost scary, all stalking and alert. Definitely military, maybe some kind of special ops or something. He grinned kind of hard, too, and never just plain smiled. Seemed to me like maybe he never had. Sometimes he looked a little lost, but never scared, not since the day before. Fella was tough as nails, but there were moments when I saw something else, a scared kid underneath. I think I wanted to find him his people as bad as he did, and not just so he wouldn't be on my neck any longer.
Except, nothing we went by was ringing a bell. John clammed up a little more each hour we didn't have any luck. Maybe he was a spy or something? I started to wonder.
Then he suddenly stopped, listening. I stopped, too, and joined him. Nothing weird that I could hear: traffic, a siren, a pretzel vendor yelling out deals. Some guy across the street yelling for a "Dean."
Running toward us.
John went stiff. Not ready for attack, 'cause you tense up like that and a good punch'll take you down. Naw, this wasn't danger, this was…
Actually, wasn't too sure what it was.
The guy was running across the street without paying attention to the cars. John only relaxed when the kid—he was even younger than John—reached the sidewalk safe, and I realized John had been worried about him. Not like he looked at the new guy with any kind of recognition.
The new fella had a few inches on both of us, and looked college-age. His hair was in his eyes and his face was all twisted up like he'd tasted something bad. But the way he moved…I recognized that.
"Dean!" He grabbed for John, who stepped back from him. The kid frowned. "What's the matter with you—you scared the crap out of me, man. Where've you been?"
John—Dean?—didn't look like he was answering any time soon, so I took a step forward. "You know him?"
Eyes the same color as John's and suddenly just as hard tried to carve a hole through me. He was sorta edging between me and John, and I moved a little not to let him. His eyes narrowed. "Of course I know him—he's my brother. Who're you?" Surface-polite.
"Bob." I didn't volunteer more, didn't offer my hand. I wasn't too sure about this guy yet. But he'd earned a point with our little dance; that move was pure protection, not threat.
"Sam," he said, short like he didn't want to bother with me, then he turned away, back to John. "Dean? What's going on?" He didn't sound as mad anymore, which was another point in his favor. So, he was Sam?
John swallowed. "Who are you?"
Sam reeled. I could almost see his blood pressure take a nosedive, and, yeah, I started to feel a little sorry for him. "W-what? Dean, it's me. It's Sam…Sammy."
No Sam I knew would let himself be called that by anyone besides a lover or family. I was starting to believe this kid, and like him despite myself.
But John—Dean—was shaking his head. "I don't know you."
Sam blinked, and for a second I was afraid he was going to turn on the waterworks. John's brother, huh? Yeah, I guess being denied by my own kin would have taken me down a few pegs, too.
He suddenly seemed to remember me and looked up. And, huh, that eye-thing he did, from all warm and dewy, to cold and hard in a second flat? Scary. It was getting easier all the time to believe he was Dean's brother, because these two were something else.
"What happened to him?" He looked like he was considering killing me with his bare hands if I gave the wrong answer, and the stupid part was, I believed he could do it. So much for the floppy-haired college kid.
I shrugged kinda carefully. "Car. Went up on the sidewalk and threw him around some, then took off. I hauled him off to the hospital when he couldn't stand up straight."
That lowered the kid's hackles. Probably would have killed him to say thanks, but he didn't look like he'd take my head off anymore. "Amnesia?" he asked, softer, and looked at Dean with too much worry to be faked.
"Doc said it should clear up soon," I confirmed.
Sam nodded, but he wasn't really paying attention to me anymore."Dean… Okay, fine, what's your name?"
"John." This Sam wasn't exactly bringing the best out in John; he sounded kinda hazy, like he wasn't sure about anything.
Sam went even paler. Soon, he'd be the one keeling over. "John…Winchester?" He perked up a little "Or, wait, Bonham? Dean—I mean, John. John Bonham?"
We both looked at him suspiciously. There was no way John was the drummer for Led Zeppelin, so what was this, some sort of shared delusion?
It was weird, but Sam looked relieved at that. "Dean," and he said it soft, like he was worried. "You use those names sometimes, but you're Dean Winchester. You're my brother. And…" He glanced up at me. "Could you excuse us a minute please?"
"No." Dean surprised both of us. "No, Bob stays."
"Dean, I can't…I mean, I can't tell you everything with him—" He glared at me suddenly. "Would you mind?"
I shrugged but didn't back off. Long as Dean wanted me there, I had no place else to be. I still wasn't sure I trusted little brother here. Not that I knew for sure when I'd started trusting Dean.
Sam frowned at me another few seconds, then he turned away. Clever kid, too; he planted himself right in between me and Dean this time. Dean started to move, shifting back to me.
Sam grabbed his arm.
I sorta expected the explosion then. If there was one thing I'd gotten from the hospital visit and wandering around the city all day, it was that Dean didn't like being touched. If he'd had a gun on him, this was where I'd have started ducking.
But he didn't blow up. Tensed up a moment. And then…relaxed.
That was when I knew this Sam guy was telling the truth.
Dean, though, he wasn't convinced. Threw me enough glances while Sam talked that I slid back over next to him. Sam didn't like it, but he could just go to Hell for all I cared. Where had he been when Dean was bleeding all over the place? He still looked tired and kinda sick; walking around the city all day probably hadn't done him a lot of good, and meeting his long-lost brother was bound to be a shock. It sure would be if Sam were my brother.
But the way the kid looked at Dean…gotta say, my brother never looked at me that way. Half the time, Gus and I are ready to tear each other's throat out. Sam seemed like he was wishing it was him instead of Dean standing there lost.
Little brother was talking low and urgent, holding on to Dean's arm like he owned him. I noticed Dean wasn't complaining any. I just caught snatches of what Sam was saying to him: something about hunting, and their dad, and an Impala. Classic Chevy—I knew it.
But Dean hadn't said anything, face kinda hard and blank like it was whenever I'd tried to jog his memory before. Sam wasn't liking that and, next thing I knew, he was reaching for his wallet.
Which reminded me, "So if you know him, what was he doing going out yesterday without his wallet or a phone?"
Sam froze. That glare of his made ice look warm and toasty. "He ran out to get a paper. It wasn't supposed to…" He surprised the heck out of me by suddenly choking up.
Dean winced the same time I did, and I don't think it was 'cause Sam's fingers were digging into his arm now.
I backed off a little. If these two were really brothers, I was getting in the middle of something that was really none of my business.
But each time I started to take a step away, Dean gave me that look, and I stopped. Sam had to be his brother, we both knew that, but I was still more familiar than Sammy was, I guess. Who clearly wasn't liking the company, but tough. A fella's gotta stick by his friends, right? Even new, head's-a-little-messed-up friends.
Dean suddenly cursed, pulled away from Sam. "I don't…back off, dude, okay?" He was looking for a weapon again, and curled his hand into a fist when he couldn't find one.
Yeah, just a helpless little victim.
"Dean." And suddenly the kid just looked like a kid again, more at a loss than Dean. "Dean, I'm not… Look, I can prove who you are, all right? I have a picture…"
He fumbled out his wallet, and we both kinda leaned forward, interested. I'd feel better with a little proof, too, and Dean looked like it would take a lot to convince him. Seemed to me he looked…I don't know, hopeful, too. Like maybe he wanted Sam to be right. Like maybe he needed a brother more than a buddy.
That was one job I was not signing up for, no way, no how. Not seeing the way these two moved and stared at each other and didn't seem to think it all kinds of weird one of them was pretending to be a rock star.
Sam pulled a few pictures out of his wallet, and I caught glimpses: first one blonde woman, then another. Boy had been busy apparently. But that was when I realized Dean had frozen stiffer than a Thanksgiving turkey.
Sam stopped, too, not moving as Dean's shaking hand pulled one blonde lady's picture away.
Someone passing behind me almost shoved me into Dean, and when I turned to glare at the guy, I almost missed Dean's whisper.
Mom? Stepmom, maybe, because she was too young…but then I realized how old the picture looked.
Huh. A pair of good sons, too, these Winchester boys. Somehow, I wasn't too surprised.
Sam leaned forward, and he was as quiet as Dean. "Mom," he agreed. "You remember?"
I think we were both holding our breaths.
Dean suddenly shuddered, and I almost reached to grab him but found Sam in the way. But then Dean was steady again, tilting his head up, and I knew it. Knew from how his shoulders seemed to bow under renewed weight before they squared, knew from the way his eyes had gone old and shuttered. Knew before he opened his mouth. "Sammy, you keep a picture of me in your wallet?"
Sam blew out his breath hard and grinned. "Jerk."
Now that sounded more like me and Gus.
There was a few seconds there when I was starting to feel like I was butting in. The Winchester boys didn't say a thing, just stared at each other. Sam held on to Dean's shoulder like he was afraid he was gonna disappear or something, and I was a little worried again he'd start bawling like a baby lamb right there. Or Dean, even, the way he was swallowing and leaning into his brother. But then he actually smiled, and just like that the John I knew, edgy and shaky and lost, was gone, and Dean was looking at me.
"Uh, listen, Bob…"
"Hey, kid, don't sweat it. You found your place—that's what matters. I was only sticking around until you figured things out."
"Yeah. I gotta keep Sammy out of trouble." And if I wasn't sure about this, the way he ducked away from Sam's swat without even looking would've clinched it. "But, seriously. Thanks."
"Maybe we should give him some—" Sam started quietly behind him.
I glared at him. "I wasn't doing this for money, junior, so you keep your handouts to yourself. I'm just glad things turned out okay. Maybe one of these days you can tell me what the military thing's all about, too." Because there was no way Sam was a Marine, but…they worked together. You could see it.
"Deal," Dean said, nodding. "Thanks, man," and he held out his hand.
I shook it. Felt good, like I'd done something right. Better way to spend my time than down at O'Toole's Bar, anyway. Although, I kinda had a feeling Dean might've enjoyed the place.
And then they were walking off, Sam doing that hovering thing that would've had me checking Gus's place for high heels if he'd tried it. Although Gus never looked half as scary as Sam could, neither. I couldn't figure out either one of them, truth be told.
Didn't really want to bother trying, actually. I'd planned to go bowling with the fellas from work this afternoon, and if I hurried, I could still probably make the second round. Eddie was gonna screw up our league average without me. And I had to go pick up another saltshaker, too.
I turned away, didn't give the Winchesters another glance.
But I grinned as I heard Sammy's fading squawk.
"Dude, you replaced me with Bob?"