Disclaimer: They were never mine and never will be *sobs*
Beta: Laura, who did a perfect job for a first timer. Why haven't I found you before? But if there are mistakes still, have mercy on our poor souls.
a/n: I know I had promised two chapters the next time I update. But I can't help it, I feel too bad about making you wait for so long. I'm so sorry I have to break my promise and update only one for now. God knows how long will it take if I were to upload this chapter together with the next one. Since today is my birthday, instead of getting gifts, I giving this to you. The greatest gift is to give one to someone special. And that special someone is you, you and you.
It Takes Two to Tango
The clock ticked away as Dean and Sam sat silently in the motel room. There had been no talking done between the two of them since Bobby left with the kids.
Dean looked at Sam who was sitting at the table, fidgeting with his wrist band nervously as he pretended to look at the laptop screen. His brother might have grown into a 6 foot 4 giant who was more annoying than ever – little brother never ceased to be annoying – but in some aspects, he was still the same Sammy. Looking at Sam now Dean was reminded of the jittery Sammy – the way he twitched nervously, the way he pursed his lips now and again, and how he was avoiding looking Dean into the eyes – yeah, some things never changed. Perhaps he had never really lost his little brother like he thought he had.
Dean huffed. "Are we going to sit like this for the rest of the day?"
That startled Sam completely. He opened his mouth as if to say something but decided against it and frowned with annoyance instead.
Dean chuckled. Okay, it was official. Sam was acting Sammy-ish. Now if Sam had been wearing his oh-so-favorite hoodie his childish appearance would have been complete. Where was his hoodie… 'Oh yeah'. Dean shook his head in disbelief. He was getting forgetful nowadays.
Stretching over, Dean reached out for his backpack on the other side of the bed. The abrupt movement caused an intense spasm of his chest muscle. He groaned involuntarily, gaining the attention of the mother hen who had been hovering over him from the other side of the room.
Sam was instantly on his feet and with a few strides he was standing at Dean's side. "Dean?" He hovered over Dean's personal space – ready to jump to his brother's aid.
Dean ignored Sam and reached for the bag still, regardless of the stinging sensation he was feeling in his chest. He was well aware that with a damaged heart a chest muscle spasm could spell disaster but the disturbing feeling was not there and he knew he was going to be all right. He felt Sam's strong hand grasping his biceps with great tense. His brother was freaking out, clear albeit not as loud as any other mother hen would be. Dean would let Sam have it his way, for now.
Just as Sam was pulling him up the backpack was already on the bed by Dean's side. Sam leaned him against the headboard, retreated to the other bed and watched him cautiously. Dean waited for his breath to even out again before rummaging through the content of the backpack. He took out a laundry bag and handed it over to Sam.
Sam stared at the laundry bag, baffled, looked up to Dean and groaned with disgust. "You're not making me wash this."
"Open it already smartass." Dean grunted impatiently.
Sam rolled his eyes and opened the laundry bag - expecting nothing but a not-so-fragrant prank. However no evil stench seeped out from the sack but it smelled of fabric softener instead. His suspicions went into the drain as he pulled out his hoodie – newly washed and pressed - from the laundry bag.
Sam's mind went into overdrive as he tried to remember how Dean could have gotten his hands on the hoodie and why it should be washed in the first place. Oh yeah, Dean had used it to wipe off the mess Sammy caused on the Impala's backseat. But he never expected his big brother to actually get it cleaned.
"Tell me one thing Sam," Dean requested – feeling a little amused at how Sam was holding his hoodie. He looked as if he had just gotten a birthday gift. "Why do you love that jacket so much? It's not like it fits anymore." He gestured to Sam's overgrown build and was rewarded with a scowl.
Sam answered. "You gave it to me."
Hearing it made Dean's throat go dry. "I did?"
"Yeah, it was before Stanford."
"Oh!" It was all coming back to Dean now.
He did give it to Sam on his brother's last birthday before Sam went to Stanford – before everyone knew he was going to Stanford. It was just another birthday where Sam was being grumpy about Dad being too occupied with hunting and they couldn't live a normal life. It just happened that Dean bought the hoodie with the money he earned by going undercover as a mechanic during the previous poltergeist hunt. He didn't even know what made him buy that hoodie instead of other things Sam would have liked.
"I'm sorry I got it dirty," Dean smiled seeing the look on Sam's face.
Sam choked up as he mumbled "Thank you." He fidgeted with the hoodie's zipper, smoothed the fabric of the jacket and Dean knew they were about to have one hell of a Kodak moment afterwards.
"Sam…" Dean might as well get started now and end it once and for all.
Sam stopped him halfway though. "Look Dean…I'm sorry. I…" he was choking up. "I didn't mean what I said before. I was just angry at myself for the things I couldn't do." Sam was talking without making any eye-contact with Dean. He kept his head down and his eyes fixed on the hoodie. "I couldn't share whatever you're carrying on your shoulder. I feel so helpless and now…seeing you dying, again…I…" Sam fumbled for words.
Silently, Dean sighed – blaming himself for whatever Sam was feeling. He was too engrossed in his own sorrow he had failed to see how that would have troubled Sam, of how it would torture him too.
"No, listen to me Dean." Sam didn't give Dean a chance. "Just listen before I feel I'm being too mushy."
"Mushy?" Dean mumbled to himself, slightly amused by Sam's choice of words. "Ooooo-kay."
"I want you to know that I never stopped trusting you Dean…not even a second. I trust you more than ever now, since you're the only family I have left. I can't trust you more than I already do, even if I want to." Sam's fingers were nervously rubbing the collar of the hoodie and Dean was sure if he had given Sam a ball of yarn and knitting needles, Sam would have started knitting a sweater.
Sam didn't look like he was going to stop anytime soon so Dean let him continue.
"I would never doubt you…but the way I see it now, you're drowning in the post Hell trauma that you refuse to talk about." Sam looked up for the first time since he started talking. He studied Dean's face for a sign of denial. Though he found none he still ended up saying: "You may deny it all you want all day long but it's there Dean…and it's killing you, every single day."
"Do you know how hard it was to see you die again and again…just because you're being less careful about everything?" Sam's eyes were brimmed with tears. Everything had been too much for Sam to handle. The kids, the wraith and Dean dying - again. "I couldn't bear watching you die Dean…I barely survived when you died last time and I don't know if I'll survive if you die again. It was too painful and watching you killing yourself like this hurts the worst."
Sam's voice was hoarse and dry as he gathered himself after the painful revelation. "And Ruby…" Dean could hear a faint sob at the mentioning of Ruby. "God honest truth I couldn't even stand the sight of that bitch. But what choice did I have? When you…" Sam swallowed the word and continued. "The world came crumbling down on me. I tried to get you back, God knows I did, in any way I could…killed any son of a bitche that got in my way but I couldn't do it without her. Not alone." Sam ran a weary hand through his hair. He dared not look at Dean any longer, afraid he might see anger in his brother's eyes.
"I needed her to be strong because without you I was weak Dean…very weak. All my life you were the one who kept me strong and you kept me on my feet." Sam wasn't going to stop now. He started it and he might as well get it over with. "When you di…were gone, I was lost. I had nowhere to go…I didn't know where to start…hell, I didn't even want to live when I figured out that I could never bring you back."
Dean let out a heavy sigh. Things Sam had gone through – Dean had no idea they were that bad.
"I need to be strong…because I have to forget you." Sam rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hands, drying his tears before they could ever be shed. "The day you came back…I felt like kicking myself in the butt for turning to Ruby but it was too late to turn back. If I could only turn back time…"
Dean was about to ask: "You're done?" but decided Sam was done when he didn't say anything after a little while. His brother was still avoiding his eyes and Dean knew for sure that Sam was trying hard not to cry. The sight of his little brother in despair made Dean feel like cursing himself for lashing out on Sam earlier. He was an ignorant fool – drawing the wall down around him and pushing Sam away him when his brother needed him the most.
What had he changed himself into? Where had the time gone when he'd let Sam in and knock senses back into his head?
Dean cleared his throat. "I'm sorry too Sammy."
Sam looked up at Dean and waited.
"I'm sorry you had to go through all that." Dean was never good at letting out his feelings. Sam always did better.
"Well…you're back now and that's all I ever wished for until now." Sam often knew when to throw the lifeline. "Now I only wish you'd trust me to share your burden." Sam said, almost whimpering.
"I wish I could Sam…but every time I try…" Dean huffed tiredly. "I am reminded of what happened down there. What they did to me, what I did…I wish I couldn't remember anything." He felt a sob coming and he quickly shoved it down his throat. "I don't even know where to start."
"Maybe you can start by believing you're back here and I got your back."
"I know…but it's so hard." Dean shook his head. "Everything is not the same anymore. I mean, you and Ruby…I don't even know if you're the same brother I knew."
Sam's eyes burnt with unshed tears. He quickly blinked them away and braced himself for the next revelation.
"Yes, you're stronger. Trust me in certain cases I'm glad you are but you're not only stronger…all those secrets you're keeping from me…made me feel you're somewhat different." Dean revealed, hoping that he would not lose his brother as a result. "Almost like a stranger."
Silence cut through the room.
"I don't know," Dean gazed out the window. "It seems like you don't need me anymore and I'm not even sure why I'm here and what reason there is for me to be back."
"Shit!" Sam held his breath. This 'talking' was a lot harder than he thought it would be. "Dean…" the tears he was holding were threatening to let themselves free. When was the last time he cried? Not long ago – when he allowed himself to give up finding ways to get Dean back, when he resigned to the fact that he was not going to get Dean back.
"I need you Dean…you're the only one I need now," Sam murmured faintly. "You're my brother." He was choking up with words and surge of emotions. "Please trust me on that."
That confession made Dean feel warm all over. Then again for Sam to remind him that they were brothers was a clear sign of how distant he had become from his brother. "It's not entirely your fault though…" Dean turned to look at Sam and was a little taken aback by how pale Sam looked. Sam looked at him in return and rewarded him with a sad smile.
"What do you mean?"
"I was so afraid of losing you I didn't see that I haven't been myself either since I got back."Dean smiled. Sam was getting paler and Dean was aware there was one hell of a fight dwelling in his little brother.
Dean cleared his throat and said, "I'm sorry Sammy."
"I think both of us had our share in this," Sam rubbed the back of his neck, feeling a little embarrassed. He felt like a kid admitting his mistakes to a parent, orabigbrother.
Dean raised his brows, bit his lower lip and nodded. "Fair enough."
"I can't promise to stay away from Ruby but I promise I'll try." Sam confessed. "You just have to trust that I can handle things on my own and I will ask for your help if I can't."
"We'll start with small steps." That was Dean's promise. "It's not easy I know…but we'll do fine."
Sam nodded as he smiled, flashing his best dimpled smile. "Yeah, we will." Then he remembered something. "One more thing Dean…please don't carry the burden alone. I'm here to share…I am your brother too."
"Yeah…okay." Dean smiled before his mind registered something. "Hey! What do you mean 'too'? You're the only brother I have."
Sam's blushed cheeks stood out against the pale parlor of his face. "Doesn't look like it since the kids came."
Dean tried to stifle a laugh but ended up chuckling instead. "Dude! Is that jealousy I hear?"
"What? Nooo!" The rosy tinge on Sam's cheeks got intense. In a dash he bolted up to his feet and went to the table. "Why should I be jealous?" throwing his hands in the air Sam sounded as if Dean had just come up with the most absurd idea.
Sam's voice was trailing behind him but it was loud enough for Dean to prove his theory. Yep! Sam was jealous of Dean's attention towards the kids – oroneofthekids. He watched with amusement as Sam pretended researching from Bobby's book. The nervous Sammy was back in action - thewayhetwitchednervously,thewayhepursedhislipsnowandagain,andhowhewasavoidinglookingDeanintotheeyes – yeah, his brother was back.
"You know what?" Dean got up from the bed and grabbed his towel. As he headed to the bathroom, Dean walked passed Sam, reached out and ruffled Sam's hair. His hand stayed on Sam's head for a moment or two before he let go and said, "Let's go join Bobby and the kids at the ice cream shop."
Sam was still overwhelmed by Dean's gesture and his throat croaked as he uttered: "Ice cream?"
"Yeah, as soon as I'm done in here," Dean stepped into the bathroom but then he turned around and said playfully. "And you're so not taking my cherries," before closing the bathroom door.
Sam straightened up, confused by Dean's remark. A little bit of brain drilling and he had it all coming back to him.
"Aww! Come on! That was like twenty years ago!" He shouted over his shoulder towards the bathroom. Returning to his laptop Sam mumbled, "It's not like I stole every charry on your ice cream."
-At the Candy Bar-
"Get in Sammy." Bobby opened the passenger door and helped Sammy into the truck. The toddler waggled his legs and giggled like mad as Bobby lifted him off the ground.
"Up, up and away!" Sammy shrieked happily as he posed like Superman flying in the sky. The kid was very cheery after the ice cream treat. Bobby was sure the little guy is having one hell of a sugar rush. But when Bobby tried buckling the seatbelt over him, Sammy screamed painfully.
Every time Bobby touched him Sammy would yelp and yank himself away from him. After two or three attempts, Bobby backed away – fearing he had somehow hurt the little guy. He looked at Sammy nervously. "Where does it hurt?"
"Nothin' hurt." Sammy blinked innocently and looked at Bobby as if he had asked him the most ridiculous question.
Bobby stared at Sammy incredulously. "Then why are you screaming like you're hurtin'?"
"Your fingers are co-cona-conaminated with Kwypton—kwytonite." Sammy answered with a cheeky smile.
"Kwyptonite?" Bobby was baffled. In the realm of hunters, he was known as the walking dictionary but this was one language he didn't speak.
"Kryptonite," Dean explained. Bobby glanced down beside him, hoping the Sammy Advanced Learner's Dictionary to elaborate. The kid sighed jadedly and rolled his eyes, looking somewhat annoyed and cocky at the same time. "You know…Superman?"
"Oh!" Realization dawned on him and Bobby felt like kicking himself in the butt for the slow pick up of his brain.
"Uncle Bobby…" Dean called – his voice a little strained. When Bobby looked down to him, he raised his pinky and grinned sheepishly. He was jumping on his heels - one foot after another.
Bobby pinched the bridge of his nose. Whynow? Why now when they are ready to head back to the motel? They were in the shop nearly a couple of hours and nobody asked for a bathroom break. These Winchesters, young or old, seemed to be developing a pattern of bad timing.
"Go, just go now." Bobby waved the older kid off and looked at the younger one suspiciously. "You need to go too?" Bobby's eyes
Sammy bit his lower lip and scrunched his nose, thought for a moment or two and shook his head vigorously. "Nope, 'm fine."
"You're sure?" Bobby still wouldn't believe the little guy. He had had so much experience dealing with the youngest Winchester. Sam was not as innocent when he was young as he was now. He was a real cheeky monkey back then – and now.
"U'huh." Sammy nodded as he fidgeted with his shirt button – indifferent of the older man's glare thrown his way. "Wee wee says no."
"Wee wee?" Bobby was perplexed. He realized he had just dismissed the only dictionary he had to understand Sammy's language. "What's…" He didn't finish his sentence when he saw where Sammy's eyes were directed at. "Ooooo-kay." He didn't want to know more.
Sammy grinned. "Deannie called him that."
"Okay kid, stop." Bobby rubbed his temple. The kid had just referred to 'that' certain part of his anatomy as 'him'. Waytoomuchinformation. "Just stop."
The little one blinked owlishly and then: "Tee-hee," he giggled and presented Bobby a huge hug. His chubby arms enveloped Bobby's waist tightly, fingers clenching the sides of his shirt in vice-like grip.
Bobby's heart melted. His eyes burnt with unshed tears. God!He'sgoingsoftthesedays.
When Sammy released him and looked up to him with a bright smile Bobby had to restrain himself from dragging the little one back into his arms. He felt a sudden urge to protect him from what the future was going to hold for him.
"Uncle Bobby?" Sammy stared at Bobby with confusion. "You gonna cry?" He asked solemnly seeing Bobby's sudden change.
Bobby blinked back the tears that were brimming in his eyes and looked down to Sammy. The kid mirrored him – close to the verge of breaking into tears. He offered a big smile to lighten the mood. "No kid. There's dust in my eyes."
"You wan' me to blow them for you?" Sammy wiggled out of his seatbelt and stood up on the seat, using the door as the leverage. He took Bobby's face into his hands and searched his eyes intently.
The older man smiled. He took Sammy's small hands into his and squeezed them lovingly. "It's gone now." Bobby sat the boy back to his seat and buckled him up. "I'm fine now that I got a Superman looking after me." He patted Sammy's head and brushed his hair.
"You sure you don't need bathroom break?" He asked again.
Sammy seemed to be in doubt. But then he looked to his Mr. Wee wee and said "He—.." he couldn't finish his sentence when Bobby interrupted.
Once again making sure that Sammy's belt was fastened and his door was locked Bobby walked around the jeep towards the driver's side. He looked into the side mirror and waited for Dean to appear at the diner's door.
Bobby sighed exasperatedly. He felt for the kid.
"Uncle Bobby, where's dad?"
Bobby rubbed his face nervously.
The question had rendered him speechless. His heart skipped a beat and his throat went dry. The time span between Dean asking the question and Bobby taking the time to answer was the longest Bobby had ever felt.
Bobby looked at Dean and lowered his gaze as he saw Dean looking at him intently. The kid was as adamant and as firm as ever. Although Bobby was not going to answer him anytime soon, he didn't seem to be tired of waiting for Bobby to answer him. This was the time where Bobby had hoped Dean is had been an adult – when things unspoken would mean everything he needed to know.
He was working his brain on how to deliver the news when Dean suddenly muttered: "He's gone isn't he?"
There was nothing more hurtful than realizing that Dean had always been anticipating tragedies to fall upon the older Winchester. He must have prepared himself for the worst and to think that he'd been living with that reality for the rest of his childhood was painful for Bobby to bear. His stomach clenched and he felt nauseous at the thought.
"Daddy's gone?" Sammy had stopped eating and was now holding on to his brother's arm, looking at Dean anxiously. He was already on the brink of tears. "Deannie? Where does Daddy goed?"
Sammy's lips trembled as Dean continued sitting there, stiff and quiet. His brother was taking too long to answer him and that was enough to trigger the idea that something was wrong.
"I'm sorry kid." Bobby confirmed the news and raised his gaze to meet Dean's eyes. For a moment there he could see the tears pooling in the green eyes but as soon as the boy blinked, the tears were gone. What happened next was something Bobby wished he would never see. It was a sight that was grim enough to make him shudder.
The boy smiled. He smiled an honest to God smile. Dean looked down to Sammy and said teasingly: "Dad left to find another son."
"What?" Sammy's face fell. All colors had vanished from his face and he gripped Dean tighter causing his knuckles to turn white. "Why?" He whimpered sadly. His bright brown eyes were brimmed with tears.
"He wants another boy in the family."
"Because he already has a boy and a girl, he wants one more." Dean smirked mischievously.
"I'm not a girl!" Sammy cried.
"And I didn't say anything about you being a girl either." There was a naughty grin on Dean's face as he uttered "Oh wait! Were you implying that you're a girl?"
It took him a brief second to register Dean's remark and when he did Sammy released his annoyance by fervently hitting his big brother. Dean laughed as Sammy landed small punches to every part of his body his hands could reach.
"You even fight like a girl," snorted Dean. "No boys like cherries on top of their ice cream." Sammy's pouty face didn't stop his mischief. At least now that he was annoyed, he was not feeling miserable anymore.
Sammy's babbling and Dean's laughter echoed with the excited screaming and shouting of the kids entering the diner but Bobby couldn't hear a thing but a terrible buzzing sound inside his head. His vision was hazy and he had to blink to clear it only to have it return to its previous state.
If he didn't know better, Bobby would have laughed at the scene in front of him. He knew the Winchesters too well to fall for their façade. Dean was laughing and smiling but Bobby knew for sure it was all fake. The seven year old was trying to be strong for his baby brother – like he had always been his entire life.
The laughter and smiles radiating from the boy were making him sick in his stomach. His blood boiled with anger and his eyes singed with tears that he couldn't show.
'Darn you John!' he was angry at John – both for raising the kid to be an adult before his age and for dying and leaving him to deal with the boys, first the adults and now the kids. But mostly he was angry at himself for not being able to protect any of the Winchesters, John, Sam or Dean.
Inside, Bobby cursed his bad timing and luck. The kids had been with the older boys for days and they chose him to ask about their father. That was the most dreadful question an adult could ever get from a child. Ghost and monsters were easier to handle compared to dealing with a death related question.
Bobby was starting to think Winchester's luck was finally getting on him.
"Uncle Bobby?" Dean's voice was what startled him and brought him back to reality. He looked at the boy and found him staring at him – with that smile on his face. Damn! Bobby hated that smile. It was the same smile Dean gave him about two years ago when he revealed the nature of the deal he had made with the crossroad demon to bring Sam back to life.
"Can we go?"
"Yeah…okay, yeah." Bobby slapped the money on the table, waved at the diner's keeper and stood waiting for the kids. Dean and Sammy walked ahead of him as he followed with lazy steps.
He hoped for no more questions or he would make sure the older Winchesters were going to get his piece of mind.
Payback's a bitch.
Sammy's voice snapped Bobby's mind away from the revelation moment in the diner. Everything seemed to have returned to normal since then. Dean didn't ask anymore questions and Sammy didn't throw another tantrum about their dad's whereabouts.
Bobby turned to Sammy and found the toddler looking up to him expectantly. "Yeah?"
"Deannie…" Sammy started to whimper. His chubby fingers were wrapped around Bobby's wrist and he tugged at it desperately. "Where's Deannie?" There was worry written all over his face.
This didn't look good. Sammy was very alert about Dean and somehow these two shared some sort of subconscious relation that usually worked among twins. So when Sammy worried about Dean Bobby knew he should be worried too.
After all Dean had gone for quite some time just to relief himself.
"Let's go." Bobby ushered the tot out the jeep and they went into the diner to look for Dean. The first place they searched for was the restroom.
There were only two booths in the restroom and none of them were occupied. Bobby's heart sank. His heart was beating viciously. He didn't realize he was gripping Sammy's hand tightly until he heard the kid snivel in pain. He pulled Sammy with him and immediately exited the restroom, heading towards the diner's counter where the keeper was attending to his account.
"Excuse me, have you seen one of my boys?" Bobby was just starting to describe Dean when the keeper recognized him at an instant.
"Yeah. I saw him." The Candy Bar's keeper nodded excitedly. "He entered the shop about five minutes ago and stood at the door looking out at something." The kid was acting weird and it got his attention. "I asked him what's wrong but he didn't say anything…he just smiled and left."
Bobby's heart clenched and he could barely breathe. His blood ran cold and Bobby felt his body going numb.
"He'd left?" was all Bobby could say as Sammy started to sob uncontrollably next to him.
"I wonder how Bobby is doing with the kids." Sam mumbled as he watched Dean lock the door. His brother was fumbling with the keys, hissing and grunting with frustration. Sam eyed him cautiously and saw the slight tremble coursing through Dean's hand. He cursed aloud when the keys slipped off his hand and fell near his feet.
"Here, let me give you a hand." Sam picked up the key from the pavement and inserted it in the lock with no hassle. He pretended that he didn't see the flush on Dean's face and the wheezing in his brother's breath.
Dean's health was deteriorating and it was deteriorating fast.
Dean cleared his throat, trying to be oblivious of how Sam easily locked the door when before he had quite a trouble doing it. He huffed. "Bobby would do just fine."
Sam turned around and asked: "Huh? What?"
"You wondered how Bobby's doing with the kids," Dean reminded him and continued, "he would be fine. Dad used to leave us with him often." He turned and walked towards the Impala, aware that Sam was following close behind. He could feel Sam staring at his back.
"Yeah, I remember most of the times we were with him." Sam smiled fondly as his mind replayed the images from his childhood. He remembered giving Bobby quite a headache when he was a kid, not to mention a very impressive makeover on Bobby's wall which now he had smoothly covered with stacks of books and dusty bookshelves. "He's one hell of a man for being able to deal with us," approved Sam.
"Not to mention grumpy too." Dean added and shuddered.
"Talking about the devil." Dean took out his cell from his jacket pocket and read Bobby's name on the display. "Sometimes I wonder if he's a psychic." He flipped the cell open and answered the call.
"Bobby…" Dean was cut short and Sam could hear Bobby practically screaming into the phone at the end other end of the line. While the call went on Sam watched as Dean lost all the colors on his already too pale face. When Dean ended the call and turned to face him, the look on his face was unreadable.
"We've got a problem."
The pounding in his chest was so loud he could practically hear it. Whatever news Dean had coming for him Sam was already fearing for Sammy, Dean and Bobby. It could be any one out of so many. The wraith? Demons? Avenging hunters? – just to name a few.
a/n: Does this chapter makes up as my atonement? Again, thank you for waiting for so long. What have I done to deserve all of you. Enjoy!