A Place in the World to Call Home
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Beta'd: By the talented Wysawyg and Carocali! Thank you girls for all the invaluable feedback.
I tweaked and tweaked after they beta'd so any remaining errors are obviously mine alone!
Special Thanks: To Muffy, Gem, Caroline, Wysawyg, and Sherry. Ya'all know why.
Time Line: Immediately following 5x1 Sympathy for the Devil. Spoilers abound.
Bobby had almost found a comfortable position, well, one that didn't send his back screaming in muscle spasms, when a shadow crossed his door. He looked up only to find Sam, hovering in the doorway, back again when he hadn't expected to see the kid until tomorrow.
"What are you doing here?" Bobby asked, pain adding gravel to his words. The boys had only left a few minutes ago. He didn't know why Sam was back so soon, but he could well imagine the reasons and most of them weren't good. He nearly sighed at the flinch on Sam's face, gone as quickly as it appeared.
"I, uh, thought you might like some company. Maybe see if you needed me to get you something, but I can leave," Sam said, turning on his heel.
"Don't be an idjit. Where's your brother?" All Bobby received in response was a shoulder shrug. "Sam?"
"He - we needed some space," Sam said, finally. "It's been - it's a lot to take in."
Bobby ignored the corrections the youngest Winchester was making, gesturing him to a metal folding chair beside the bed. "Don't go. Looks like we both could use the company."
Sam slumped into the chair, staring at his boots, hands jammed into his coat pockets. The hospital air was warm and humid, but Sam made no effort to take off his coat. How someone so big managed to make himself look so small was beyond Bobby. They sat in silence for several minutes until he wasn't sure he could ignore the awkwardness anymore. Bobby opened his mouth to speak, but Sam beat him to it. "Does it hurt?"
"What?" Whatever Bobby had been expecting Sam to say, that wasn't it.
"The uh," Sam looked up, making eye contact for the first time. He circled his hand, gesturing to a spot on his side. "Does it hurt?"
Bobby shook his head. "Not too bad, they've got me doped to the gills." Sam winced and this time Bobby did sigh. Talking to the younger man was a conversational minefield.
"I remember how it felt," Sam said quietly.
So quietly, Bobby was fairly certain the boy hadn't meant to talk at all, and it didn't help him figure out what was going through Sam's mind in the least. It could have meant the time he was stabbed by Jake, or when he was possessed by Meg, or God knew what else.
In spite of the fact John's youngest son liked to talk, asking endless questions and probing into everyone's business, when it came down to Sam himself, eighty percent of what he was thinking stayed in his head.
"I think the Vikings are playing," Bobby offered and Sam nodded jerkily. The kid would probably have agreed to watch cake decorating if it would break the tension in the room. He reached for the remote only to have long fingers snag it before he could. He let out a small, pained grunt from the effort.
"You shouldn't be doing that," Sam said. "The doctor said you need to heal before you start pushing it."
"I just wanted the damn remote," Bobby snapped. He knew Sam was trying to help because he cared, but being stuck in a bed, side-lined before the apocalypse heated up? It sucked hind tit. He didn't regret his actions though, not for a second. He'd fought off the demon long enough to save Dean's life and these boys, John's boys, meant more to him than he cared to admit.
"I know," Sam said, meeting his gaze, barely reacting under Bobby's scrutiny. "But Dean and I are here. You don't have to do this alone." He turned on the game, hitting the volume button until the sound was barely audible.
"You and your brother need to be out there," Bobby insisted, ignoring Sam's head shake to the contrary. "Fighting for us, kicking those demons back to hell where they belong. We can't afford to have you at home playing Florence Nightingale and besides, these doctors don't know squat. I'm too ornery to stay down for long."
"Sam," he waited until Sam looked at him. "I ain't stupid, boy. I know things aren't great right now, but you're going to have to buck up, get back up on that horse, and ride this thing out."
"I know what I have to do." Earnest hazel peered out from under floppy brown hair.
Guilt and insecurity raced across Sam's face.
Sam examined his hands and Bobby waited, hoping Sam would say more. When he didn't, the older hunter scrubbed a hand down his grizzled beard. He couldn't really think of anything to say. What could be said to help someone feel less guilty about opening one of the seals, the final seal? There wasn't much he could say and nearly everything he thought of felt entirely inadequate.
So, here they were, the world's best shot at stopping this war from totally annihilating all life on the planet: a cripple, a recovering addict with paralyzing guilt, and a POW with lingering PTSD and two armies gunning for him?
They were so screwed.
Bobby cleared his throat. "You know, the important thing is, you keep trying."
"And what if I'm wrong?" Sam asked, fear lancing every word. "God, Bobby, how many of my mistakes can the world handle?"
"You're not the only one who made mistakes," Bobby said, frustration and pain tightening his words. He missed the morphine drip. He shouldn't have insisted they take it away.
Sam snorted, his eyebrows peaked with incredulousness. He stood, moving to gaze out the window. Although, Bobby doubted he could really see anything through the night reflective glass.
"Believe what you want, but this ain't all on you."
Sam's hands tightened into fists, his back and shoulders rippled with tension. His voice, however, was calm. "I know what the score is, I know what I did, I know – what it cost me." Sam turned around, his forehead curled, eyes projecting deep regret. "I know and I can't possibly say I'm sorry enough, but I don't know what else to do. I just know I have to do it for myself."
"Kind of what got you into this mess, don't you think?" Bobby asked, shifting, trying to ease the stabbing pain in his side. He needed another dose of painkillers soon, but he wanted to resolve this with Sam first.
The look of uncertainty was back, brows knitted. Sam tugged on his lips, lost in thought, guilt bowing his shoulders. "I'm just sayin' you don't have to do this on your own."
What Sam really needed was to learn that being independent didn't mean he couldn't accept help, advice, or support from him or Dean. Bobby snorted, reaching up to scratch under a hat he wasn't wearing.
He had about as much hope of convincing Sam of that as he had of persuading Dean to believe that his brother's autonomy wasn't a personal rejection and that Sam would always need his brother, just not the same way he had when they were kids.
"Dean's got enough to worry about with demons and angels after him, and," Sam paused, his relieved grin from thirty minutes ago dimmed to a thin, wry line, "and I need this chance." He crossed the room, easing back into the uncomfortable metal chair. "It's all I got left."
Bobby loved these boys, but sometimes they drove him crazy and tonight, if reasoning didn't work, he wasn't above kicking Sam in the ass, or in lieu of that, popping him one with the IV pole.
"It's not all," Bobby said. "I told you, I ain't cuttin' you out."
The smile was back, however fleetingly. "Thanks." Sam frowned suddenly, leaning over Bobby carefully to push the call button. "You should have said something."
"I got no idea what you're talkin' about." Bobby shifted and groaned as throbbing pain ratcheted up yet another notch.
Sam shot him a well-deserved look of disbelief.
The nurse must have been waiting outside his door to pounce because she arrived in less than a minute. "What can I do for you, Mr. Singer?" She bustled into the room carrying the sickening sweet, medicinal smell characteristic of hospitals. "How's the pain?"
"Been better," he admitted. Sam hovered just off his left elbow until the medication was administered and Bobby's eyelids began to droop. He turned his head to the side and lazily watched as Sam repeatedly checked his phone before finally slipping it into his jacket pocket.
"I'm going to leave and let you get some rest," Sam said, giving his arm a light squeeze. "I'll be back tomorrow."
"You don't have to go," Bobby mumbled. "You're welcome to stay."
"I need to get going. Dean's probably waiting," Sam said, the tone of his voice not as convincing as his words.
"He picking you up?" Bobby asked, narrowing his eyes. He doubted Sam had any money for bus or cab fare, not that he doubted the kid's resourcefulness.
"Nah, I want to walk."
Bobby had no idea how far the motel was from the hospital, but it couldn't be terribly close. The ride in the back of the Impala on the way here had felt like an eternity of agony. Sam's frantic first aid, applying pressure to his wound with one of those gigantic paws of his, and Dean's erratic, faster than the speed of light driving not withstanding. "You sure?"
"It's one of the few things I am sure about," Sam replied, dryly, "but we'll both be back in the morning."
Bobby's eyes slid shut and he heard the soft rustle of clothing as Sam made his exit. "Sam?" He pried his lids open, blinking at the tall, brown blur in the door that could only be the younger man. "It's okay, as long as you come back."
It was silent for a long time, until Bobby couldn't hold his eyes open any more, until he was sure Sam hadn't understood. Just before he slipped into blessed unconsciousness the nearly whispered response reached his ears. "I will, as long as you let me."
AN: I wrote this, selfishly, for myself (with a push from Phx). We all have our way of dealing – this is mine.
Thanks for reading!