Summary: As if surviving hell hadn't been hard enough, dealing with the aftermath and a brother who couldn't accept him was almost too much for any Winchester to take.
Author's Note: Just a little post Season 3 fic that deals with life after hell for Dean Winchester. Was inspired by the episode Mystery Spot and how Sam acted after Dean's death was caused by the Trickster. I promise you all that I really love Sammy even if he does play the ass for part of this fic. Characters featured are Dean, Sam and Bobby. Rated T for language, language, oh and more language not to mention some seriously bloody torture.
And for all of my readers waiting for an update on my Charmed story please be patient. I hit a brick wall on it and had to do something to get over my writer's block so I started something new and different. Please forgive me.
Chapter 1: Wounds
"Sam, when are you gonna stop by again?" Bobby asked automatically. He had asked the same question every time he had managed to speak to the young hunter during the last year and the answer had always been the same.
"When I'm not busy, Bobby," Sam answered in a dull lifeless voice.
"Sam, you can't keep going like this forever, son," came the older man's reply. "You're walking a very dangerous tightrope and sooner or later you are gonna fall."
"I'm just doing the job," Sam replied sighing deeply in exasperation. He had heard this same lecture from Bobby too many times now already.
"This is about a lot more than the job, kid, and you know it." Bobby had watched his young friend, the only person he had left that he considered family, slowly but surely cut himself off from every thing he cared for in life. None of the contacts they shared had heard from Sam since his brother's death. Not Pastor Jim or Deacon or any of John's other contacts. Ellen had even rebuilt the Roadhouse but neither she nor Jo had seen or heard from the last surviving Winchester. Bobby seemed to be the only one that Sam would even answer a phone call from, and Bobby suspected that he only did so to gain information about the demons that followed Lilith.
"No, Bobby, this is all about the job. There is nothing else." With that the phone clicked off and Bobby murmured a curse at once again blowing a chance to somehow get through the walls that the boy had built around his heart.
His thoughts then turned to the one they had lost. To Bobby the Winchester boys had been as close as he'd ever get to having sons himself. He knew he could never replace John but they had still made room in their hearts for him after they had lost their father. For that Bobby had been ultimately grateful. But to lose one of them had showed him a depth of grief that he had never even imagined possible and there had been more than a few times in the past year that he had cursed himself for caring so much for the cocky young martyr.
He had always thought he'd be the one whose bones they would have to burn someday. But a year ago on this very day he and Sam had stood by the pyre and watched helplessly as the flames consumed one of their own. And neither of them had been the same since.
He had had faith that they'd somehow find a way to save Dean. Hell, he would have offered his own soul in trade if he thought the demon bitch would have taken it. But what the hell would she want with the soul of an old washed up hunter like him? Nothing, that's what.
He wondered though if Lilith had realized just what she was in for when she took Dean away from his brother. Sure the older brother had been Sam's weak spot but now that he was gone Sam had become a near unstoppable hunter. No demon was safe from his wrath, and he was systematically working his way through her ranks like they posed no threat whatsoever to him, and for the most part they didn't. He still had Ruby's knife and he had memorized every exorcism he could find.
Not to mention the fact that since the day that Lilith failed to kill him no demonic power seemed to work against the young hunter. Oh, he felt pain and he bled the same as any human, but no demonic power could hold any sway over him. He seemed to be immune to it all. That in a way comforted Bobby, or at least it worried him less seeing as Sam was out there alone. But he also worried that Sam's newfound confidence in his own abilities would someday lead to his downfall and the idea of losing him too was more than the old hunter could stand.
Bobby's thoughts were pierced by a loud banging noise outside and the barking of one of his hound dogs and he found himself standing next to his front window peering through the darkness outside. He could see the newest of his hounds standing next to the front fence and the dog was barking wildly at something slumped against the chain link. The old hunter instinctively found his hand wrapping around the sawed off sitting next to the door, which was kept full of rock salt at all times, and within seconds he had crept from the house and was quietly making his way towards the downed figure.
He could see very little movement coming from the lump of flesh and tattered clothing as he approached it but in the darkness there was no telling what evils might be trying to trick him into lowering his guard. "Whoever you are, I might suggest you get up and move along, if'n you want to keep your head attached to your shoulders that is. This ain't no place to be squattin'."
The form moved ever so slightly and tilted its face into the moonlight giving a small smile that wasn't quite as bright as it normally would have been. "I'm afraid moving along at this point is just too much for me right now, Bobby," his voice came out strained and cracking as if it had been overused quite recently.
"Holy Mother Mary," Bobby called out in utter surprise but hesitated only a second as he brought the shotgun up in a more serious posture ready to use it if necessary. "Whatever the hell you are, you better be gone, now!"
For a brief moment they stared at each other, neither breaking eye contact, but finally the figure on the ground groaned slightly and let his gaze drift to the dirt before him. "Damn, wasn't a year in hell enough punishment?" he whispered trying to get his arms underneath him so he could rise and leave.
Bobby had just barely caught the whispered phrase and he couldn't help swallowing hard as the tone of voice sounded so much like the one he'd lost. "You aren't him. You can't be," he whispered back more to convince himself that he had to move, had to take action against whatever creature was torturing him like this.
The intruder had managed to get up to his hands and knees but doing so cost him dearly as he started panting from the exertion he had put forth and he had to stop moving for a moment as everything started to swim before his eyes. Maybe he shouldn't have tried to climb over the fence. The actual climb hadn't been so hard but the eight-foot drop on the other side had been a real bitch, especially the landing. His forehead dropped to the dirt as he waited for everything to stop spinning again. After his breathing had slowed he managed to answer the unasked question in his former friend's voice. "If I'm not me then I don't exactly know who the hell I am. But whoever I am needs a strong drink, about eighty hours sleep and for god's sake food. Damn, I've forgotten what a cheeseburger even tastes like."
Bobby paled at the statement knowing it was something Dean would have said to him in any similar situation. His penchant for thinking with his stomach was almost as famous as the one that thought with another body part slightly south of that stomach. He licked his lips nervously as he stared down to the figure that was so familiar. He knew he should just fill it with rock salt, and chock it up to some demon's sick idea of a joke, but his hands had started shaking and he knew how impossible it would be to pull the trigger unless he was sure. He had to be positive. If there was any way in hell that this was his boy… god, his boy. When had that thought slipped into the heart he had tried to deaden with hours upon hours of alcohol-induced numbness?
He knew he had to make a decision. Either kill it or give it a chance to kill him. But wasn't the chance worth the risk? If it was Dean… it was worth all the risk in the world wasn't it?
"You think you can make it to the house, idjit?" he asked using the familiar nickname that he used for both his boys.
A large relieved sigh erupted from the downed figure and he pushed himself up slowly grabbing the fence and using it to pull himself to a standing position. He leaned heavily against the chain link not caring that the metal was cutting into the open wounds on his back. He took only a moment to draw on his reserve energy as he glanced at the shotgun still pointed at his chest. Well at least it was only rock salt. It might sting like hell but it wouldn't kill him for sure.
He pushed away from the fence not making any sudden movements, as if his body would allow it anyway, and then moved towards the house with cautious easy strides on legs that felt as if they'd forgotten how to walk. He could feel Bobby's glare on his back as he moved forward and knew the shotgun was surely still trained on him. Any other time before his death, and Bobby would have been next to him holding him up as they both rushed together towards the relative safety of the only permanent home either of them had known. But things would be different now. He had expected it. After all he wasn't even supposed to exist anymore was he? Oh how he wished nothing had changed. It would be a nice change to have someone to lean on again.
Once inside the house he moved slowly into the den making sure to cross through the devil's trap he knew was drawn on the ceiling there. He didn't bother to look back at the older hunter, who he was sure would be wearing an astonished look. There wasn't a demon that they knew of that could cross through that circle and not be trapped and Dean had just walked right on through until he reached one of the beat up overstuffed couches that he and his brother had slept on from time to time during their visits to 'Uncle' Bobby's. He let his tired and aching body sink into its soft comfort and his eyes shut on a contented smile. He felt a moment of pain shoot through his back as raw skin touched leather through his torn shirt but he pushed it from his mind more concerned with his need for rest and nourishment.
The room was completely silent for one tense moment until he let his eyelids rise wearily again to gaze at Bobby's almost concerned features. Just almost though. There was still doubt, he could see it. "Can I have something to drink, Bobby?"
The older hunter nodded and began to back out of the room, but stopped uncertainly as he considered his next move. "You want a beer, kid?"
Dean smiled knowing that Bobby laced his beers with holy water just in case any unknown came visiting. "I'd settle for the flask of holy water you got in your pocket. It'll produce the same results you are looking for, and I have to admit I'm sorta craving water. It sure was scarce where I've been."
Bobby's eyebrows shot up in surprise and he made a sound that sounded like a cross between a snort and the words "I bet." But just as Dean had suggested he pulled the flask of holy water from his pocket and tossed it towards the youngster. He hadn't yet lowered the shotgun and he felt sort of silly holding it on someone who sure as hell looked and acted like Dean.
Dean unscrewed the cap and before drinking raised it in a mock salute towards the older hunter then downed the contents in one large swallow. At first the liquid burnt through his unused throat and he started to sputter as a small amount found its way into his windpipe.
Bobby saw the reaction and felt a painful pang in his heart, knowing that he had somehow wanted to believe that this was Dean, but that reaction could only mean one thing. He moved closer drawing the shotgun bead in on the chest of the creature he knew he'd have to kill.
But before he could pull the trigger a weak hand came up in a begging motion and his voice again was heard once the coughing was under control. "Hey wait… Not burning, I promise. Just forgot how to swallow is all. Went down my windpipe." The words came out disjointed but Bobby could see there was no steam accompanying the coughing fit. "Believe me, give me a gallon of the stuff and I'll lick the bottom dry right about now."
He continued to stare at the young man on his couch for a moment and then made a decision. "I'll get you some more to drink and something to eat, then…" His words cut off, not sure what else he had planned to say.
"I know, then we'll see," Dean answered for him and leaned his head back tilting the flask trying to draw any last drops that might be left in it onto his parched tongue. The few drops there only managed to increase his thirst. He wondered if he'd ever be able to quench his thirst again.
Bobby lowered the shotgun but did not lay it down just yet as he wondered off to the kitchen. When he returned his visitor was half sitting half lying slumped to the side on the couch with his eyes closed. He had pulled an old worn out throw from the back of the couch and was huddled underneath which seemed odd to Bobby considering the temperature outside had to be somewhere in the eighties, but then again after a year in hell up here had to seem like the arctic circle to the kid. Damnit there he was again thinking of him as Dean. That just wasn't possible.
"Hey, wake up sleeping beauty. Got ya some iced tea and food," he said kicking at the young man's leg.
He came to with a start and for just a moment Bobby could see total and utter terrified panic in his eyes but just as quickly as it had showed itself the emotion was gone replaced by a dull lifeless gaze. "Thanks," he said pushing himself up and reaching out for the large glass of sweet tea and plate full of sandwiches in Bobby's hands. He wondered for a moment if Bobby had laced the tea with holy water but didn't honestly care as he gulped down some of the cool liquid. This time he did not choke and emptied half the glass before he stopped drinking.
"If you really haven't had anything to drink or eat in a while you better slow down. You'll be sick in no time at that rate," Bobby pointed out sitting across from him on the arm of another couch with the shotgun resting across his lap.
Dean glanced down at the sandwich he had just picked up and was eyeing greedily. "Since when does food make me sick, Bobby?" he asked with a little bit of the old devil may care Dean in his voice. "Besides at this point it'd be worth it."
"Just saying," Bobby answered and watched as the young man tore into the first sandwich, which was resting on top of the other four on the plate.
After chewing for a few seconds Dean swallowed hard and made a face. "Ugh, Bobby, rock salt on ham. Do you want me to chip a tooth?" he asked running his tongue along the line of his teeth checking for any permanent damage.
"Just had to check. The other four are normal," Bobby answered a little bit more confident now that the young man had passed three demon tests.
Dean smiled and picked up another of the sandwiches and scarfed it down along with the rest of the iced tea but as soon as he was done his stomach began to ache and he didn't go for another sandwich. Bobby had sat silently watching him and Dean couldn't take it anymore. "Listen, let me make this easy on you. I can't be a demon. No demon could cross the devil's trap without any effect whatsoever. The rock salt would have destroyed a spirit. I'm pretty sure I'm not a thought form. I mean you and Sam are the only ones that would want me back bad enough to conjure me and I doubt either of you would be that stupid. Skin changer…" he paused for a moment.
Bobby waited for him to continue but could see the serious thought running through his mind with no words coming to mind. "So, how do you disprove that one, idjit?"
He looked up and scowled. "I'm thinking. Give me a moment. I sure as hell ain't gonna let you shoot me in the heart with no silver bullet if that's what you're thinking."
Bobby chuckled and had to admit the thought was crossing his mind. "Well, I believe that silver should still affect a skin changer somewhat even if it doesn't pierce his heart."
Dean looked him square in the eye and waited expectantly. Bobby took out one of two matching silver knives he kept hidden in a side pocket on the couch and tossed it across the room. It landed in the wall right above the young man's head, which brought his eyebrows up in surprise. "If you were aiming for me your aim is worse than I remember."
The older hunter's face turned slightly sour at the insult but did not speak as he waited for the young one to pull the knife from the wall. For an instant worry flowed through him as the Dean looking thing hesitated. Had he caught him at his own game? He watched carefully as the youngster eyed the knife and his shirtsleeve that he hadn't pulled up yet. Something was going through that mind and Bobby wondered if he should be reaching for the other knife about then, but it seemed as if whatever was worrying him subsided as he laid the knife in his lap and then unbuttoned the sleeve of his shirt and started to roll it up.
Bobby couldn't hold back the gasp that left his lips as he saw numerous deep gashes, some not even near healed, lining his arm from wrist to elbow. As he picked up the knife it was hard to decide exactly where to make the cut. There wasn't much unmarred flesh left to use. He finally decided on a two inch section on the inside of his forearm that was relatively untouched and closed his eyes as he drew the knife along the skin cutting deep and letting bright red blood flow freely.
He hadn't been watching Bobby as he did this and was surprised to see the older man suddenly appear in front of him kneeling on the floor, his hands groping towards the young hunter pulling back tattered cloth to reveal so many more wounds that were in various stages of healing. "My god, boy, why didn't you say you were hurt this bad?" In the instant that he saw that knife pierce Dean's skin Bobby had known. He didn't have to see his reaction. He knew that this was Dean, the boy he had thought he'd lost forever. The shotgun had slipped to the floor and the second silver knife had been forgotten. All he could think of was taking care of the young man and never letting anything happen to him again.
Dean though felt a sudden moment of panic as Bobby's hands descended on his skin. It was just too eerily familiar to the months he had spent with god knows how many demons pawing, and clawing at his already tattered body, ripping him to pieces only to have that bitch return and put him back together again over and over so her pets could enjoy the sport she had provided them. A small whimper escaped his lips and his hands grabbed Bobby's holding them still but not forcing him away.
Bobby glanced at his face and saw that look of panic return there, something he had never imagined on the face of this Winchester. Not Dean. He was the strong one. The one that had held the makeshift family together, the one that gave them all the strength to carry on when things were too hard. But now it was he that needed their strength and he needed it worse than any of them could ever imagine. What had they done to him? What kind of sick revenge had that demon bitch concocted against the only Winchester she could get her filthy hands on? "It's okay, son. I'm not gonna hurt you. I just want to help. These wounds need some serious tending," he said in as soft a voice as he could muster.
After a moment or so the stoic mask that he was used to with Dean slipped back on his face and he took a deep breath and let go of Bobby's hands. His face then adopted a mischievous look, which was accompanied by a quirky smile. "Well you did buy me dinner so I guess I should at least let you cop a feel. Just don't get too handsy there. I don't normally swing that way."
Bobby couldn't help the smile that cracked his lips at that statement. That was the Dean he knew, always coming up with the wisecracks and lifting everyone else's spirits by doing so. But even if he could smile at the thought it didn't change what he had seen in those eyes a moment before. Dean was wounded in more than just his body and it would likely take most of his life to get past everything that had been done to him. "Funny, smart-ass! Come on, let's get you sitting up so I can get these cloths off and take a look at your wounds."
Dean looked up at his friend, the friend he had wished for, the one who would hold him up when he was falling down and he felt a wave of relief wash over him but he couldn't just obey blindly. That wouldn't be Dean, and he had to be Dean no matter how much it hurt inside. "You know, Bobby, you are seriously beginning to scare me dude. No guy has ever tried to get into my pants this hard before in my life."
Bobby wasn't gonna let the youngster have the last jab though. "I don't know, Dean. If you'd dress a little nicer and wear some make up some times you might get more offers."
Dean scowled not liking the fact that his friend had not been floored by his risqué wit and had actually managed a decent come back on him. He must be losing his touch. "Bobby, bite me!"
By then Bobby had managed to get Dean into a position where he could get his shirt off and had just stripped it from the youngster and tossed the blood smeared cloth to the floor. He'd be sure to burn it later along with the pants he would somehow wrangle the young hunter out of soon enough. He glanced at several of the wounds and breathed deeply seeing skin that was mottled with old and new scars alike. Some of the wounds themselves looked infected and there was no doubt in his mind that the cold the man was feeling was probably due to the infection setting in. "Looks to me like someone else has beat me too that. Are these teeth marks?" he asked in concern seeing several sets of fang impressions running up his ribcage.
"Probably," Dean answered his voice losing the jovial tone of a moment before. "It's sort of hard to remember it all. There's just too much to process right now."
'Right now? Try forever,' Bobby answered silently in his mind. He didn't want to bring Dean's apparent lack of strength to light until he thought the young man was ready to deal with it and he'd need his brother if he were ever going to manage to get passed all this. That was the one thing Bobby was sure of.
"Listen, Bobby, don't tell Sam about this," Dean's voice came out softly as he glanced down at the floor motioning to the wounds covering his body.
Bobby was slightly surprised at that. The Winchesters had been patching up each other's wounds for years now. Why wouldn't Dean want Sam to know he was injured? "Why?"
Dean didn't speak immediately but let a sad sigh escape his lips. "I just… it's just… well damnit, you know he's gonna blame himself if he knows."
Bobby nodded agreeing with that statement. It would be a hard blow for any man to know he had inadvertently caused so much damage to his own brother. "Fine, I won't say a word. I've got some long sleeve shirts that are dark in color, so at least the blood won't show up so bad, but you will still need to be taken care of. A lot of those wounds look infected."
He found the medical kit he always kept nearby and began to work on cleaning and bandaging the wounds. There were a few that he would have to stitch and those were the ones he most feared dealing with. He knew how painful it would be and hadn't Dean already been through enough pain? But there was no fighting it. So he prepared the needle and thread he'd need and got ready to do his worst. But Dean's voice stilled his hand just as it drew near. "Are you sure about me, Bobby?" his voice asked hesitantly. "I mean really sure. You are taking an awful big risk trusting me."
Bobby wandered what had brought on the question but no matter what he would assure him of his worth. "I think it's a risk well worth taking, and besides, of course I'm sure, ya idjit."
Dean smiled at the answer but couldn't just leave it at that. Bobby was sure, but how sure was he really? "Maybe you oughta spout out one of those exorcism chants while you work here, just to be one hundred percent positive."
"Boy, I don't need that," Bobby came back with in complete confusion but then it struck him. Maybe Dean did. Maybe he was just as confused and scared as Bobby himself had been when he first found him. "Yeah, okay. Just to be sure," he gave in concentrating on the task at hand as he spoke a random exorcism he had memorized years before. The Latin words came to him like they were second nature as his hands deftly started to stitch some of the deeper wounds. It didn't escape him how Dean also muttered the words under his own breath as if they were a mantra that could keep his mind off the pain of the stitching.
Bobby had worked his way through five chants and over a hundred and twenty stitches by the time the task was complete and it wasn't hard to see tiny beads of sweat standing out on Dean's forehead. He hadn't made one sound during the ordeal and that worked to frighten Bobby even worse. How much pain and agony had the young man faced to be able to withstand that kind of treatment without even one sound escaping his lips? It must have been horrendous.
Once Bobby had managed to get all of Dean's wounds treated and got him redressed in clean cloths, he bedded the youngster down on the leather couch he had claimed as his own long before.
Instead of going to his own room Bobby stayed on the couch opposite Dean watching as the young man stared at the ceiling above him as his eyes only rarely closed. During those brief moments that those eyes were closed Bobby could see all the painful emotions overtake the youngster's face but it never lasted long as Dean seemed to wake himself from his nightmares. The older hunter was at a loss as to a solution to the problem. Dean was seriously messed up both physically and mentally. Then a thought entered his mind. So was his brother emotionally. They needed each other. Between the two of them he had seen miracles occur and only the two of them together could fix what was wrong with them.
His fingers shook slightly as he dialed the number that he knew by heart. What would he say to Sam? How could he soften the blow enough to keep the younger brother from truly going off the deep end? Part of him feared that Sam wouldn't even bother to pick up the phone, but he had to try.
After three rings the phone did click over and he heard a groggy, "What?" come from the receiver. Hell, it was the middle of the damn night.
"Sam, its Bobby. I need you to get here ASAP," he said in a commanding voice hoping the tone would convince the youngster to just obey.
"What the hell, Bobby? I'm on my way to Wichita. I don't have time to swing by for a visit. You know that," came Sam's testy reply.
"Well make the damn time you selfish S.O.B!" Bobby said letting some of the anger he had been holding onto for the past year slip into his voice then instantly regretted it. Sam didn't deserve that no matter what. "Listen, this is important. It's about your brother."
His voice had drawn a pair of bright green eyes to rest upon him and he saw confusion in them but Dean didn't comment as he waited for Bobby to finish the conversation. This made the older man swallow hard. He'd have to talk to Dean about Sam and very soon.
After a moment of silence Sam's voice came back on the line slightly unsteady but still there. "Okay, Bobby, I'll swing by after Wichita."
"No, you'll swing by before Wichita. You need to get here like yesterday and don't argue with me. Just do it." He knew he was pushing it this time. Sam didn't have to take his orders but he hoped that the bond they once shared would be enough to give Sam a push in the right direction.
"Fine." He could hear the steel that had crept back into Sam's voice and it made him shudder. How was it that the only thing that could shake him from his self-inflicted exile was the mention of his brother? God they needed each other.
Once the line went dead Bobby glanced to his charge, who was still staring at him and he could see that Dean knew something wasn't right but decided to try to push that conversation off until morning. "Sam should be here sometime in the morning. You need to get some sleep, kid."
For a moment he could see the need to question in those eyes but the need sunk as exhaustion won out instead and the bright green depths were hidden by heavy eyelids. Bobby stood and checked that Dean was covered completely and reached down touching his forehead feeling the heat there. He had given him something for the fever but the medicine had yet to take affect. Maybe he should have taken him to the hospital, but then how could he have explained the condition the young man was in? And if he had to be honest with himself he would have to admit that the thought of him being out of his sight for more than a few seconds frightened him. He couldn't bear the thought of losing him again. "Don't worry, kid, we'll get you over this," he whispered pulling the blanket up making sure it covered every inch of his torso. Bobby was rewarded with the sight of a small smile touching the young man's sleeping features. At least that was a start.
A/N: Well, what do you all think? I tried to write Dean as not being changed too much on the surface but having a lot of inner turmoil to deal with. It's just the way I can see him being after hell. And I promise future chapters will explain how and why he got out of hell.