Title: Watching

Author: ghost4

Rating: M

Warnings: Rating for Language (the boys do like to curse.)

Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural. This is an original work and any similarities to persons alive, dead, or wandering the world in ghostly torment are completely coincidental. This work is a non-profit, amateur effort not intended to infringe on the rights of any copyright holder.

Summary: Post ELAC: Bobby and Dean have a chat.

Author's Note: Thanks to sendintheclowns, for the wonderful beta-ing, the feedback, and the encouragement. Her work was awesome, and any lingering mistakes are mine. This would not have posted at all without her handholding.

I'm still not sure about this fic – this is yet another rather dark view of the boys childhood, and Sam's in particular. It's not that I have no sympathy for John, I think he's kind of an awesome character, but the boys just seem to want to talk about stuff that they don't generally bring up, lately. I started this fic years ago when I first saw ELAC. It's waited for an ending until this month. And now that it has one, I guess I should post.

As always, any feedback, good, bad, or indifferent, is welcome.

Bobby stiffened as the screen door slammed. He watched Sam go up to his brother through the dust rimed window in the kitchen – and though he had no idea what the brothers had said, he had a pretty good notion of what had passed between them. Again.

These last few days had been something of an eye-opener. He'd known John and his boys for years, and had thought he'd known them well; at least until that fight that had John cutting ties with him. But John had always been stubborn that way: if you didn't agree with him, or at least keep your mouth shut, you risked being tossed from his life. Obstinate sonofabitch.

Till then, he had always thought he'd been close to John and Dean. More-or-less. As close as he got to anybody, at least.

Dean was a hunter from early on. He'd pulled his weight, hauled his gear, moved his ass, and done his job, even as a kid. He'd also partied like a hunter; fully one of the group from the get go. They'd go out, do a little hunting, get a little bloody; then come in to get a little loose and a lot drunk. And Dean had kept up with them damn near every step of the way, generally with John somewhere just beside him.

Yeah, he'd known Dean and John a long time….

Sam though…. Over the past few days he'd come to figure that he'd never really gotten to known John's youngest as much as he thought. He'd always thought of the boy as too small to really be worth knowing, truth be told. Big enough for John to put a gun in his hand, but too small to hang with them afterwards. Too much a screw-up to be interesting.

Yeah, the past few days had been pretty damn telling about some things.

Bobby turned as the door thumped again and watched the younger boy come back into the house. Kid really didn't look good, and the lingering bruising swelling around his eye, distorting his features was only part of it. The boy was pale, hands shaking. His shoulders stooped. Bobby cleared his throat and the kid glanced up, his eyes red from an exhaustion that bit deep enough to dull his gaze.

Truthfully, Bobby was worried. The kid seemed to forget that he was also recovering from a major auto accident…and everything else. He wasn't sleeping, wasn't eating, wasn't taking his meds. He wasn't doing much of anything, except poking at his brother.

Which was another thing that Bobby was watching with interest.

But that was neither here nor there at the moment. The kid was literally swaying on his feet. He was looking in Bobby's general direction, but Bobby was pretty sure he wasn't really seeing him. Nothing much was really registering with the kid outside his own head and his own misery at the moment. Except for his brother, who had always seemed to be a bit more there for Sam than anyone else.

The same brother who now didn't seem to want much of anything to do with being around him; so Bobby couldn't much blame the kid for being a little…disconnected right now.

"Hey, Sam," Bobby said, still leaning against the counter.

The wandering gaze focused sharply. "Hey, Bobby. Didn't realize you were in here." The 'sorry' was applied in the tone. His shoulders were hunched and his eyes were squinted even in the dim sunshine of the kitchen.

"S'all right. How's your brother doin'?"

A twisted look flickered over the boy's face, something between despair and a bitter humor, and was gone again in an instant. "I don't know. Better ask somebody he thinks is worth speaking to."

"He don't mean it that way, kid."

"Yeah, I know," he said, voice rough. "I'm…I'm just tired." He rubbed at his head.

Tired hell. The boy was damn near bleeding with a … a desolation that Bobby didn't think he'd ever seen in a living human.

Just then there was a crash of shattering glass from outside, and the repeated, grating bang of metal on metal – and Sam flinched, closing his eyes. The wobble in his legs seemed to get worse with each distant blow.

Bobby fought not to look out the window and see just what kind of damage Dean was doing. He figured he'd find out soon enough. Instead he focused on the boy he knew he couldn't help. "It ain't you."

Sam just made a raw, barking sound that might have been a laugh, one hand pressed to the skin between his eyes. "Yeah. Yeah, it never is." Sam took a lurching, blind step away; away from him, away from the noise, away from his brother – and Bobby gasped as the boy's knees unhinged.

Bobby moved to grab the kid, but all he could do was try and steady him, keep him upright long enough for him to find his feet. "You stay up, boy," he warned, breathless under the kid's weight, because Sam was a freakin' giant, "you stay up, 'cause if you go down I ain't gonna be able to get'cha back up."

Sam made an understanding kind of noise, and Bobby could feel him struggling to bear his own weight. Could feel the kid's panting breath on his neck as his legs finally locked. The trembling body was much too hot. The boy was so unstable that Bobby kept one of his arms across his shoulders even after he began to take his own weight.

"You okay?" Bobby asked.


"Yeah-huh," Bobby grunted. "You are headed to bed, boy." He half tugged, half pushed the kid toward the living room and the back bedroom beyond. The boy went. He only balked as he realized that they were passing the nest of blankets he'd been using as a bed in the far hall.


"You're takin' the bed tonight, kid." Bobby only had the one extra bed, and Sam had given that to Dean without thought. Sam, too long for the old sofa, had staked out a place on the floor. The only problem with that arrangement was that Dean, while once the more injured of the two, was perfectly healthy now, all contusions mysteriously and miraculously healed – while Sam was still sporting a wrenched knee, two cracked ribs, and Technicolors under his shirt.

Boy was sleeping in a real bed tonight.

And Sam was either disinclined to argue for once…or just too worn down.

He got the kid into the room, and dumped him carefully onto the bed. It wasn't made and the sheets were less than fresh, but Bobby figured Sam wouldn't mind sharing with his brother.

He just wasn't sure the opposite was true anymore.

As soon as his ass hit the mattress, the boy tumbled over. He curled up, fully dressed, on his side, one hand pushed against his eyes like his head was going to split. His eyes hadn't opened since the hall. "Thanks, Bobby," he said, voice already reedy and distant. "I'm sorry about Dean. I'll clean it up." The offer was automatic. And wrenchingly familiar. The mind behind it was already shutting down. Bobby sighed.

"Just go to sleep. We'll deal with it later."

The kid shuddered massively, then stilled – not so much falling asleep as just not fighting the exhaustion. The boy was so still. And yet his muscles were still desperately tense, and Bobby could see the lines of pain around his eyes from his headache. He seemed trapped on the edge of sleep, unable to drift off and too dog-tired to wake fully. Bobby found it vaguely… unsettling.

Clearing his throat, Bobby quietly left the room, pulling the door shut. He hoped the kid would rest better without an audience in the room. The boy really needed to sleep for a good long while, and Bobby was pretty sure that he'd be going under as soon as his over-grown frame relaxed. Though it was still afternoon, Bobby had no doubt that once the kid went out, he'd be out for the duration. He looked bad enough to be, at any rate.

Bobby stepped into the kitchen and poured himself a mug of coffee from the day old pot. Then he dropped a couple of ice cubes in it, in deference to the heat. It was better than that overpriced Starbucks iced fuckacheno shit.

It was quiet outside now. Bobby took his mug with him and stepped out onto the porch. He sipped at it as he cataloged the new dents and rips in the Impala's body, knowing they kind of matched the new dints and rips in Dean.

He sat down on the porch steps, wondering when they got to be so far down.

Dean had been watching him from the far side of the car. The older boy's eyes followed Bobby's every move, without a single twitch from any other muscle.

Bobby just looked back, letting the dust settle.

Dean swallowed. "Gonna need a new trunk lid."

"Uh-huh." He swigged some more coffee.

Dean's eyes dropped and he ran a hand roughly through his hair. "I, uh…"

Bobby shrugged. "It's your car."

The wind kicked up a bit, and died again. Bobby put a hand over his mug to keep the dust out.

"Where's Sam?"

"Sleepin'," Bobby answered, aware that the question was asked with more caution and less concern than Dean would have used back in the day.

Dean seemed surprised by the announcement. "Huh. That's new."

"You mean Sam sleepin' in the day, or Sam sleepin' at all?" Bobby asked.

Dean just sighed. "Didn't realize his insomnia'd gotten bad enough for anyone to notice."

"'Sides you, you mean."

"Yeah," Dean said sadly. "Besides me."

"Huh," Bobby muttered, sipping again at his coffee, watching as Dean carefully didn't look at anything. "Ain't the only thing I've been noticin'."

Dean's eyes snapped up, meeting his in a glare as cold as it was scared. "What the fuck does that mean?"

Bobby shrugged, not rising to the heat in the kid's tone. Normally anybody who mouthed off to him in his own yard would be getting a shotgun up the ass – but with everything that had happened, he figured he could cut the kid a little slack. 'Sides, he wanted to see how far he could push this. How much Dean might let slip; before the boy punched him in the face.

"Don't mean much," Bobby said. "Just noticin' some stuff. Puttin' some other stuff together. Stuff from when you boys was little; stuff your daddy said sometimes."

Dean glared. "You don't know shit, Bobby."

"No. I don't. But I ain't stupid, boy, and I've been doin' this work for a long time. After awhile you start to get a feel for places, for things, that are…tainted. Touched. You know it, Dean. I've seen you feel out a room. Hunter's instinct." Bobby nodded, looking out over his yard, taking a sip of his coffee.

Dean shifted, glancing over the yard, then back. "So?"

"Been feelin' that …itch for awhile now."

Dean ignored him.

"Ever since you boys walked through my door, in fact."

The young hunter's gaze sharpened. "Fuck you, Bobby."

Bobby glared. "I ain't sayin' anything you don't already know, Dean. That boy in there, he's—"

"Shut up!" Dean shouted. "There's nothing wrong with Sam! Nothing! Hell, we spent enough time here when we were little that you should know that there's nothing wrong with him!"

Bobby looked at him.

"What I know…" Bobby finally said, "what I get now, is that your daddy spent a lot of effort to make damn sure nobody ever really took much notice of Sam. You, oh, you he'd put in the center, tellin' tales and drinkin' and carryin' on. Life of the goddamned party. Sam, though… we'd get in and your dad would find some reason to get pissed at him, somethin', some little thing that we'd not question, and he'd set him in the corner with a book, or cleanin' weapons, or doin' extra training. Never could figure out why that boy could never please John. Guess I know now. It was to keep him away from us – all us hunters. And us away from him. Hunters ain't got much use for fuck-ups; which is exactly what your dad wanted us to think of Sam. If we had no use for him, we'd never look too close, never realize that he was tain-"

"Stop." The word was quiet, and low. The glint in the young hunter's eyes was deadly. Bobby, for the first time, felt that he was coming dangerously close to a full out fight with the man standing across from him.

And he felt a thin shiver, knowing he'd lose.

"You listen," Dean hissed, the danger in the tone only emphasized by the hush. "Sam is fine. Whatever shit you think you know, whatever it is you think you're picking up on, it ain't nothing. In less than a year my brother has lost his girlfriend, his future, and his fucking father. He's dealing with shit that…. " Dean shuddered and snatched a breath.

"That kind of stress," Dean continued, and Bobby noted that he had dropped what he was going to say. "That kind of shit, it can fuck with anybody. Hell, I ain't my normal, shiny self either, if you haven't noticed, Bobby. We're both over-emotional and…and fuckin' whacked right now, and we'd both probably set EMF's pinging if we got too close."

Dean rubbed a hand through his hair and blinked hard, staring out over the rusted hulls that lined the neat rows of the yard. And Bobby did have to admit that the boy wasn't wrong – people who were under severe emotional stress could produce enough electromagnetic variation to mess with meters…and instincts.

"That's all you're picking up on Bobby," Dean said, not looking at him, sounding as exhausted as Sam had looked. "We're just…raw. Not tainted, not spooked. Just…" he laughed bitterly, "just fucked up and fucked over."

Bobby sat quietly for a long time. Dean's gaze was wandering over the yard, his jaw working as he fought to control himself.

Bobby sighed. "If that's true," he said, and just saying the words made him tired. "If that's true, Dean, then why are you frightened of him?"

Dean stood there for a moment, in what looked to Bobby like total shock. But what Bobby couldn't tell was whether he was shocked that Bobby could think that he was frightened of Sam… or shocked that Bobby had picked up on it.

When Dean spoke it was with a voice as raw as any Bobby had ever heard. "I am not scared of Sam. I'll never be scared of Sam. Never." And Bobby was astounded to see tears well up in the boy's eyes. "But I'm freaking –" He broke off, panting, turning his face away from Bobby, trying unsuccessfully to hide the fact that a few of those tears had gotten loose. "I'm just … I'm just so damned scared for him."

The words sat heavy in the humid air between them. Bobby searched for something to say, some way to … help, but there was nothing, no way to make things better. Dean scrubbed the tear tracks off his face with rough, angry movements. He sighed, sniffing and giving Bobby an embarrassed grin. "Fuck it. It's not like being scared is anything new for us. Hell, I spend most of my life fucking terrified. Nothin' new, right? Scared for him, scared for me, scared for my dad – but, hey, at least that part's over. Unless being pretty fucking scared that dad's in Hell counts as still being scared for him." Dean sighed, his eyes darting around the yard aimlessly.

"Dean," Bobby tried. But Dean's eyes focused in on him like a hawk, and all the unsurity left his body language so fast and so completely that Bobby would have been hard pressed to admit he'd seen it at all.

"Look, Bobby. Sam is fine. I am fine. We're getting back to fine, at least. You want to help us? Don't become another thing for me to worry about. Don't keep thinking what you're thinking about Sam. He can't take one more person… looking at him like that. He got more than enough of that shit from dad. And I can't take having one more friend that I have to watch my back around. I just can't." He took a breath. "So decide now. Do you really feel anything … off about Sam – or me? Say it, and we'll be gone. Out of your hair permanently. Or not. Your choice. But I can't have you behind us if I can't trust you with Sam. I can't fight that too."

He stood there, hands braced on his ruined car, staring at Bobby like he had already been convicted and he was waiting for Bobby to pass sentence. And Bobby sighed, knowing that there wasn't really a decision to make.

"Damn it, boy, don't be an idiot. That car ain't near ready to travel, and we both know you won't leave without it, and that's fine because both you and Sam are welcome here. You know that. So quit puffin' up and settle down. Look, kid, there ain't none of this that's your fault. Nor your brother's. I don't blame you for anything, and whether Sam's a little…well, that don't change Sam, if you follow me. Said the same thing to your daddy, but the damned fool never would listen."

Dean blanched; the blood just poured from his face. "You told dad…" he repeated in a weak voice. Suddenly his knees folded and he went down, disappearing behind the car.

Bobby huffed, rolling his eyes. Idjits, the both of them. All three of them if you counted in their daddy. The boys had come by it honestly.

Bobby picked himself up off the stairs and went around the car.

Dean was on his ass in the dust, leaning against the side of the battered Impala. His eyes were open, but hollow – there was no awareness in them.

And Bobby could figure why. His shirt was soaked through, he was covered in grime, but he was no longer sweating despite the ninety-five plus heat.

Bobby hunkered down next to him. "How long has it been since you had any water, boy?" he asked derisively. "Workin' for hours in the sun without a break and not hydrating. You're asking for heatstroke, if you haven't got it already." His tone carried the implied 'dumbass'. "And the histrionics didn't help much."

Dean blinked. He tried to swallow, and Bobby heard the click in his dry throat. "You told Dad…?"

Bobby sighed. "I told your dad the same thing I'm trying to tell you. Whatever there is going on with you or with your brother – that ain't your fault. And it don't change who you are. What you do means more than what you are. Always has, always will." Bobby made a disgusted sound. "Not that John ever took his head out of his ass long enough to listen to anybody, rest his soul. Just threw a fit, pulled a gun on me in my own house and took you boys off. Never did see him again. Bastard," the word was muttered in a friendly, almost nostalgic tone. Bobby had pulled his own shotgun that night, but hell, a person was allowed to protect themselves and their home.

Dean looked at him, his eyes dry and red, his color was a little off. His hands were shaking. "Things that aren't normal, things that are tainted… it's our job to destroy those things, Bobby."

"What asshole ever told you that, Dean?" Bobby snapped back. "The world just ain't that simple, boy."

Dean bristled, real anger lighting his eyes. "Yes. It is."

Bobby frowned, leaning back a bit. "Jim Murphy, you remember him?"

Dean nodded, his eyes narrowed. "Pastor Jim. Of course."

"He could see spirits. Not just pissed off ghosts, but honest-to-god spirits."

Dean's brow furrowed. "No way."

"Yeah. They were drawn to him as a kid. He would play with them, until one got mean and killed his twin brother. So he joined the clergy and stated hunting." Bobby sipped at his coffee. "Not surprised you didn't know. Not something he wanted to get around. Not with the way most hunters think. You know Missouri Mosley?"

Dean nodded, eye wide, expression shocked.

"Well, ain't never met her personally, but she had one hell or a reputation for hunting back in the day. She's the one taught your dad the basics. Started him out on the path. She had to give it up when a couple of hunters got wind of her abilities. They came after her. She hadn't never hurt a pure human, but that didn't matter. They just wanted to kill, and any excuse was good enough. Hunters can get like that sometimes. Get to the point they can't see anything but the taint in a person… they can't even acknowledge that there's a living, feeling, thinking person in there – sometimes the person is just doing the best they can, sometimes they're even helping save others. But that don't matter to the black and white thinkers. To them 'monster' is an easy word – and a death sentence. Your daddy was a good man, but he had a streak of that in him."

Dean swallowed again. "But not you."

Bobby shrugged. "I went through that. Got over it pretty quick, though. I met too many people who were psychics and mediums and healers. Learned too much about Shamanism and Callings. I had to face the fact that some of this shit is as natural to some people as blue eyes are to the rest of us. And then there's the other fact."

Dean looked up, "Other fact?"

"That some normal humans can get up to some very inhuman shit. You want to tell me Gacy didn't deserve to get hunted? Or Dahmer? Or any of the hundred others we could both name?" Bobby turned his head to the side and spit. "Just being untouched don't make you good, Dean, anymore than havin' been touched makes you inherently evil. All people have choices. Always. Now, truth is I don't know shit about your family, or what John suspected about anything. But I do know how he treated that boy… and I know that the quickest way to turn somebody into a monster – tainted or not – is to treat them like a monster. You'll get them to become exactly what you want, sooner or later."

Dean blinked at him. His voice was rusty. "So what do I do?"

Bobby rolled his eyes. "First thing you do is get up, go inside, and drink some water. Then you take a shower. Then you have some dinner."

Dean shook his head. "No. I meant about Sammy. I don't know. I just –" he looked up at Bobby and he was so confused, so lost, that Bobby thought for a second he would break. "Dad… Dad, he told me something, Bobby. And I don't know what to do."

Bobby sighed, as Dean dropped his head again. "John was no fool, Dean. He knew his shit. So whatever he told you might be true. And it might not. Either way, it has nothing to do with you or your brother."

Dean's head jerked around, he searched Bobby's eyes. "What?"

"Whatever John said to you – and no, I don't want to know – it don't change a damn thing, Dean. It only comes between you two if you let it. Now you can watch and be suspicious and be a hard-ass hunter all you want; and I guarantee that you'll find what you're looking for. Or you can be Sam's brother."

Dean pulled up a knee, resting his head on it, hiding his face. "Like it's that simple."

"It is. Be a brother to that boy, and he'll be a brother back. That's all you have to do. That's all you've ever had to do." Bobby levered himself up, tossing out the dregs of his cup, leaving a long, sticky patch in the dust. "Only one who didn't understand that was your father. C'mon now, boy. You can help me fix supper."

He had to help Dean get to his feet. Even then, the boy wasn't too steady, shaky and just generally sun-sick. Bobby shepherded him into the house, sat him at the table, and shoved a large glass of tepid water into his hands. He watched as the boy sipped it… then grunted his approval, turning to the stove. It was only ham steak tonight. And then he thought that some fried potatoes would go well, and so he plunked them and a knife in front of Dean.

He ignored the dirty look.

Forty-five minutes later he was setting the hot pan on the scared table. Dean had some color back in his face. And though the sun was still a couple of hours from setting, the heat of the afternoon had finally broken and the kitchen was cooler and calmer than it had been all day.

Maybe it was the smell of the food that rousted Sam out. Maybe it was his brother's growing composure. Bobby hated to think the kid had been laying in the back bedroom awake and in pain this whole time.

Either way, Sam crept into the room looking like hell. His face still bore pain lines, his gait was off, his whole body listing slightly in deference to his cracked ribs. His eyes automatically snapped to his brother. He hesitated in the doorway; his shoulders were hunched, like he was expecting to be exiled… again.

Dean glanced up from his plate.

Bobby kept his gaze fixed firmly on his own plate. Whatever was between the two of them, they'd have to sort it out themselves.

Then suddenly Dean huffed, the tension in the air receding with his breath. He kicked out the chair next to him. "Hey, Sammy. Dinner's ready. We didn't think you'd be up so we started without you. Sorry."

Sam tentatively made his way to the chair. He cleared his throat. "You sure there's enough?" Bobby could see where his knuckles had gone white, he was clinging to the chair his brother had offered so hard.

Dean snorted. "You know that when Bobby cooks he makes enough to last out the week. Sit."

Sam sat, dropping into the seat closest to Dean with a look of almost relief. Dean heaped his plate with potatoes and ham, and Bobby could tell that Sam wasn't feeling like eating, but he watched the kid force down a few bites just for the excuse to sit next to his brother.

Bobby sat back and watched as Dean teased and fussed, and teased at Sam. He watched as Sam smiled, then grinned, his head down. And he watched the sadness in their eyes... the loss and fear and worry in Dean's and the resignation and worry and pain in Sam's and he knew it wasn't over.

He saw Dean laugh.

It wasn't over. But it was a beginning. Only time would tell if the boys could see it, and each other, through to the end.

And Bobby decided then and there that he would watch over them both, till they got there.