Disclaimer: The characters of Supernatural are not mine; this story makes no profit and intends no copyright infringement.
The first time, they don't figure out what's happened until Dean starts to throw rocks at Sam's head and John thinks they missed a poltergeist or something, and then Dean starts laughing and Sam scowls.
"Best curse ever," Dean's disembodied voice says smugly. This lasts as long as the hot waitress at the roadside diner who ignores his eyebrow-flirting-technique. She gives Sam an extra slice of pie, and it's just not fair, Dean thinks to himself. Though Sam does nudge the pie over to him, and it's good, sweet peach melting on his tongue.
The next time, it's John, and only in patches – wherever the witch brushed against him. He doesn't have a forehead or a left hand anymore. Dean sends Sam out to buy flesh toned make-up (Sam goes under protest, and Dean says, "You're such a girl," and Sam stamps out the door all weedy scowling height) and digs out a pair of gloves for his dad to wear. John is rueful. They hole up at Pastor Jim's for a week researching how to make John visible again.
Sam is fascinated by the blank spaces on his dad's face. He thinks about how easy it is, to be erased.
John said to meet in a week, but Dean's thinking it might take a bit longer given that every time he tries to drive, he starts a brand new urban legend about a ghost car, and if it ever turns out that he has to investigate himself he might die from the irony.
Anyway, it turns out to be John's fault, the state Dean is in. He got whammied with a curse that affects only his descendents, which just figures. Dean's always going to be paying for the sins of the father, blah blah blah, and so he makes his way to Bobby's where Dad said to go.
For maybe two seconds while he's pulling into Bobby's driveway Dean considers pulling pranks on the old guy like how he did to Sam that time all those years ago. (But Sammy is in Stanford, ungrateful bastard, not even a backward glance – and Dean is mature now, he is above all that bullshit. He is going to deal with this problem of the occult in an adult manner – which, no, he doesn't mean in the porno way.) So he knocks on the door.
Bobby is shifty looking and terse when he answers, grabs onto the space where Dean's shoulder should be – Dean redirects Bobby's reaching hand to where his shoulder actually is – and pulls him in. "Siddown in the living room and be quiet," Bobby growls, as if all the inconvenience is somehow Dean's fault. So not fair. Dean didn't ask to be cursed. He didn't even do anything to be cursed. That's all on Dad.
So Dean has to shift impatiently for forty-five minutes while Bobby works his hoodoo, or whatever it is that he's doing, sitting on the lumpy sofa that has the spring that always digs in just so. He doesn't know why he didn't get the old and worn and comfortable armchair, he's kind of resentful about it, but every time he so much as moves to stand up the floorboards beneath him creak and Bobby shoots him such a venomous glare that Dean sits right back down. He is nothing if not well-trained in the ways of the curmudgeonly old dude telling him what to do.
After a while, when Dean finally somewhat relaxes, he leans back into the lumpy sofa and closes his eyes and breathes in and out, deeply, slowly. It's – relaxing, being back at Bobby's, one of the permanent places, the places that don't move, that Dean can come back to. Sort of like home, only not at all. Dean falls into a light doze, and his sleeping mind listens to the drowsy sound of another person breathing, and thinks, subconsciously, longingly, Sammy, and then a splash of vile smelling liquid is harshly cold on his face and Bobby is saying, brusquely, "There, you're done, now get out of here."
Dean splutters, looks down, sees his hands for the first time in four days, and can't deny that Bobby's methods work. It's his mode of delivery that Dean takes issue with. He looks up at Bobby, grins as smartass endearing as he knows how, and says, "What, no offer of coffee? It's a long night's drive ahead of me, Bobby."
Bobby always relents to Dean's strange brand of charm. Always, ever since Dean was just six, tow-headed and big eyed. Always, but not now. He scowls. "Come back in the morning and I'll give you coffee then," he growls. "Now get."
He's strangely eager to be rid of Dean, and Dean narrows his eyes suspiciously, but before he can start any kind of interrogation, Bobby is pulling him to his feet and pushing him out the door. Just as the door closes behind him, Dean hears a crashing noise further into the house – and he wants to know what's going on, but Bobby's a stubborn bastard, and he's late to meet his dad anyhow, so he should hit the road. He'll pry whatever it was out of the old guy later on.
(It never does occur to Dean that he's not the only descendent John has.)
Sam hunches in the armchair. It's ridiculous, trying to make himself smaller when no one can even see him, but – Dean – . Sitting there, standing there, so real, in a way that nothing has been real since Sam left, Dean's voice and the way he stands – and then Bobby pushing him out of the room, out of the house, and suddenly some desperate will is inside of Sam, he surges to his feet. He wants to chase after his brother, he doesn't want to let his brother out of his sight – he's five years old again, and he just wants to go home.
The door slams shut, and Bobby stamps back into the room. His face is thunderous. "You made me promise not to tell your brother or your dad that you came to me, boy," he says. "Don't waste all my work."
It's ridiculous. Bobby can't see Sam nod his head.
Sam nods anyway.
Dean doesn't know what 'touch' is anymore; whenever he feels the press of another person's skin on him, it means pain. He thought he'd get used to it, after a while; that it would get – old, maybe, something he could get habituated to. But instead it's new each time.
He's screamed his voice raw. He's screamed his voice until his voice is gone, until all he hears are echoes of his own agony inside his head. He remembers – he remembers – he doesn't know what he remembers anymore.
And there are hands touching him. He doesn't know what it means to be touched, but he's maybe remembering now, possibly – two large palms, long fingers – nimble, and the ropes of thorns and black fire that keep him chained in place loosen. He falls slack from their grip, and is caught. By who, he can't see; by who, he can't even begin to guess. But the clasp of those unseen arms feels like safety and comfort and all the things he doesn't think he knows anymore, but that his body still does.
"Shhh," a low voice hushes in his ear. "Be quiet. They can't see me."
Dean doesn't know why he rasps, "Sammy?" but it feels right, and the arms tighten around him.
"I'm breaking you out," that voice (familiar voice, Dean knows it, he knows it) says. "Just keep holding on to me. It's going to be all right."
Dean can't see, doesn't know, is exhausted and ragged, bloodied, broken. He's too tired to disbelieve. He has faith. He holds on.