Authors Note: Okay! So this third part (which was promised a long time ago) is finally done. I have no excuses for why this is so late, other than life is nuts. I promise that the next story I post will (if I post something else…inspiration has been lacking…) it will either be a one-shot or a multi-chapter in its entirety. Hope you enjoy this last part. All mistakes are my own, as I have no Beta. Reviews = Love
Warnings: Teen!chester, pre-series, slightly-AU, some foul language
Disclaimer: If I owned these characters, I would no longer be in student debt. I'm just borrowing them.
3. I'll Always Be Your Brother
Bobby wasn't surprised when the big black truck and the Impala pulled into his driveway. The neighborhood was quiet even on lazy end-of-summer days, and he heard the engines of both vehicles from when they were still a few blocks off. Bobby hadn't seen the Winchesters for a while, perhaps close to half a year, but his door was always open to them when they were in town. John usually called ahead, but not always.
Bobby sat on his front porch in his grease-stained coveralls with a beer in hand and watched the two vehicles pull to a stop behind his own car. John was out of his truck, duffle bag slung over his shoulder and head hung low within seconds.
"Hey, Bobby," John said as he approached the porch. His voice was soft, as it usually was when not playing drill sergeant to his boys. Bobby thought that he looked a bit more worn than the last time he'd seen him, but the hunt did that to people.
Bobby put his beer down on the step beside him and stood. "John," he said with a curt nod as they shook hands. John's hands were dry and callused from years of manual labor. His knuckles were slightly swollen and covered in rough, dirty scabs beginning to show the red of infection around their edge. If it had been one of the boys, Bobby would have said something about poor hygiene. But John was a grown man. If he wanted to dance with blood poisoning, that was his business.
"Listen, Bobby," John seemed to be grasping for words. He scratched the back of his neck and looked over his shoulder toward the Impala where neither of his boys had yet to emerge. "Is it okay if we stay here for the night?" When John turned back to him Bobby realized it was more than just the hunt causing dark circles under his friend's eyes.
"Of course. You know where everything is," Bobby said, and John looked more grateful than he should.
"Thanks," John said gruffly as he walked past Bobby and into the house.
The door closed quietly and Bobby sat back down on the porch to wait for Sam and Dean. He wondered happened. It was just another day in the neighborhood when Sam and John had a tiff. But for Dean to sit mutinously in the car along with his brother was something a bit more serious. Dean didn't go against John. It wasn't in the boy's programming.
Bobby grabbed his beer bottle and listened as the downstairs shower turned on to full blast. He had never realized the sound carried outside, and was suddenly grateful he didn't sing in the shower like some people did. Knowing his luck, the sound would travel across the neighborhood.
The driver's side door to the Impala opened as he took the last swig of his now-warm beer, and Bobby wondered if Dean had spent the entire time talking his brother out of whatever murderous plans Sam had developed for their father. But Dean was the only one to exit. Black duffle bag thrown over his shoulder, Dean closed the door to the Impala and locked it. No shadows moved in the car. Dean looked like he had been run down, backed over, and run over again. A ball of dread settled in Bobby's stomach as the young man approached.
"Hey Dean," Bobby tried, but Dean's eyes didn't climb off the ground. He wasn't limping or bruised or showing any sign of physical injury, but it didn't erase the irrational fear the absence of the youngest Winchester produced.
Bobby caught Dean's shoulder as he tried to walk by. "Where's Sam?"
"Gone," Dean said and his voice was rough, low and pain filled, and then he pushed by Bobby and entered the house.
Bobby didn't know whether to mourn, cry, or storm into the bathroom to rip John from the shower and force answers from him. Instead he ran a hand over his face and cursed at the dead brown grass of the front yard.
Dean passed out on the couch in front of the TV, and Bobby could see the little boy he had once been in his face. The windows were open, and a slight breeze blew through the house, the curtains rocking to the lullaby of crickets.
John took a sip of his beer and the bottle clinked when he put it on the table. "It's the first he's slept." John said as he looked at Dean, and there was unmistakable fondness in the slightly slurred voice. John loved his boys, would die for them. He was also an obsessive, stubborn egomaniac. The two sides of John personality couldn't have been more mismatched if he had tried.
Bobby still hadn't heard what happened. He still didn't know where Sam was; was hoping that the youngest Winchester was still alive. Half of him was terrified of the answer, the other half was rational. John was still partially functional and not completely drowning in a bottle. He was just angry and ready to rage at anything. It gave Bobby hope.
Silence stretched between them, and Bobby could tell by the way John was staring at the beer bottle that he was working up the courage to ask for a favor. "Listen Bobby," John started and stopped. Bobby waited. John glanced back at Dean and then met Bobby's gaze. "There's a hunt a few states over. Bringing Dean when he's like this would be a catastrophe waiting to happen." Bobby still didn't say anything, and John shrugged. "Do you mind if he stays here? Just for a little while. Just until he gets his head back in the game." Dean had been walking around like his heart was torn out, and part of Bobby couldn't imagine how long it would take for the boy to 'get his head back in the game.' But John was fidgety and a ball of walking anger. He wanted to be gone, off hunting because that moment of killing things, helping people gave him the control in life he craved.
"Dean can stay here as long as he wants," Bobby said, not mentioning that if Dean wanted to chase after John in the morning when he found his father was gone, Bobby wasn't going to stop him.
John's shoulders sagged in relief. He'd unburdened himself of Dean and whatever Dean's broken heart represented. Bobby wasn't about to let him off that easily. "John. What happened? Where's Sammy?" Bobby asked, and watched the other man's shoulders tense all over again.
John snorted and finished his beer with one last gulp. "Sam's gone," he said as he swallowed. "And he's not coming back." It was angry, bitter, and filled with the self-loathing John was so good at, that Dean was getting to be so good at.
"Gone where," Bobby asked incredulously.
John shook his head. "Doesn't matter. He's gone."
"Well, of course it matters," Bobby said, feeling the edge of his own temper hone. "He's your son, ain't he?"
"It was his choice. He left; abandoned his family when we needed him. He's gone." John stood and shoved his chair back into the table. He strode to the door, hefting his re-packed duffle over his shoulder. It took everything in Bobby not to storm over to the other hunter and knock him on his ass. "I'll be in touch," John said and was out the door.
Part of Bobby thought good riddance, another had a fleeting thought that John shouldn't be driving. Then he looked at Dean on his couch: exhausted, beaten, and heartbroken.
Bobby looked at his desk covered in newspapers, magazines and handwritten notes. There were no hunts that he could find in the nearby states. And Bobby was good at research. If there were something to find, he would have found it. Or he would have been called in by one of the other hunters. And if not called in, at least informed. So John had been lying when he'd said the hunt was close. Not that Bobby was surprised. He knew the other hunter had just wanted to dispose of Dean who was only serving to remind John of his failure with Sam.
Bobby sighed as another gun shot rang out like a scream in the quiet of the late August day. Dean hadn't said anything after finding out John had left, and Bobby didn't know where the other Hunter had gone. He had spent most of the morning listening to Dean pace back and forth from the kitchen to the living room or up and down the hall. Not being able to take the thunk-thunk-thunk of Dean's obsessive circuits, Bobby had dragged the young man outback, stocked him up on guns, ammunition, tin cans and targets and let him be. Dean didn't know how to talk when he was hurt, so he let the gun scream for him.
Bobby hadn't been told what happened or where Sam was, but he had a terrible hunch he knew. He was praying he was wrong, that he wouldn't be pulled into the middle of this Winchester family war. But he was pretty sure he was right.
Sliding his desk chair back, he opened up the middle desk drawer. With one sweep of his hands, he gathered all the papers within and deposited them on the desk before carefully pulling the drawer out to access the hidden compartment in the bottom. There wasn't much there: a picture of his wife on their wedding day, the perfect skipping stone as dubbed by a 5-year-old Sam, a vial of holy water, a single silver bullet, a long werewolf claw gifted to him from a 12-year-old Dean, and a sealed envelope. Bobby barely spared a glance at the other items as he pulled out the white envelope and replaced the draw in the desk.
There hadn't been a gunshot in a while, and Bobby figured Dean had probably run out of ammo for the pistol. As the birdsong hesitantly started back up, he wondered which weapon would come next. Hope he doesn't fire all the expensive rounds, he thought idly as he looked at the envelope in his hands.
Seven months before, right before they had left, Sam had pulled Bobby to the side and handed him the envelope. The boy was thin bordering on scrawny with hair that fell into his eyes when he refused to look up from the floor. "You'll know when to open it," he'd said quietly, his eyes never leaving the white envelope in Bobby's hands. Bobby thought that maybe Sam was still debating something, wondered if he just imagined the shaking of the young man's hands as he wiped them on his jeans and shifted from foot to foot. And then Dean was shouting for Sammy to move his princess ass and the moment to ask was over. Sam threw a look and a questionable finger at his brother, causing the older sibling to laugh and turn up the Impala's radio. Then Sam had given him a quick, rough hug, and said "Thank you, Bobby," as if he'd never see the older man again. Bobby was left dumbfounded on his own porch as Sam jogged away.
If Bobby had been a smart man, he would have opened the envelope that day. But he wasn't a smart man and had never claimed to be. But he was faithful. So he had tucked the envelope away in the safest place he could think of, partially hoping he would never find out what the contents were.
Now the two oldest Winchesters had showed up on his door Sammy-less and heart sore, and Bobby couldn't help but marvel that Sam was right: he did know that it was time to open the envelope.
Gunshot again screamed through the birdsong, this one somehow heavier, deeper, silencing the nature for miles around. Bobby recognized it as the old hunting rifle he barely ever used. It was in poor repair, and he was partially surprised it still worked.
Sliding a small knife carefully along the creased edge, the envelope opened easily. Inside it was a smaller sealed stationary envelope and a yellow post-it note. On one side of the post-it note was an address written in Sam's curling, swirling handwriting. The address was in Palo Alto, California. On the flip side of the paper were the words: Let me know where they are. The envelope had Dean's name on it.
Bobby was never taking another letter from Sam.
One week. One week and no sign of John. He wasn't even answering his phone. The Impala sat collecting dust in the driveway, and Dean still walked around like half his heart was missing. Bobby had run out of cheap rounds and undented cans, and Dean wasn't about to leave Bobby's of his own accord. He kept saying he was waiting for his father, like a good son.
For the past few days, Dean had planted himself in front of the TV, 5 o'clock shadow turning into a beard. Bobby was starting to think that Dean's imprint would be in the couch cushions forever. John was going to buy him a new sofa, Bobby decided; something plush and upholstered in black leather.
Jerry Springer was on air again, and Bobby wondered just how many episodes were shown in one day. Too many to be healthy, surely. He groaned and rolled his eyes at the TV screen, but Dean was captivated.
Bobby stood and stretched. "Alright, enough of this," he muttered. He turned off the TV and stood in front of Dean. It was early evening, just barely twilight, and without the light of the television the two men were not more than murky shadows in the dying light. Bobby held a hand out to the younger man, ready to pull him from the couch.
Dean stared at him incredulously. "I was watching that."
"You don't need to lose any more of the brains you got," Bobby said, not budging. "I'm afraid you're going to become part of my couch and then I'll be stuck watching bad daytime TV for the rest of my life."
"Hey. You leave Days of Our Lives out of this." Dean said.
Bobby rolled his eyes and this time Dean let himself be pulled to his feet and led to the kitchen. Bobby pushed him down into one of the chairs before swiping a slightly dusty bottle of scotch from the top shelf of the cabinet along with two small glasses. Bobby poured himself one and then Dean another. He pushed Dean's glass into his hand with a stern look.
"Drink." He said.
After clinking glasses with Bobby in an unspoken salutation, Dean did. They drank in silence together, listening to the crickets out the open windows, the frogs singing some place in the woods beyond the junk yard. When Dean's glass was empty, Bobby filled it back up and gave the command again: drink. It was a short time that stretched into eternity. Gray twilight became full dark, and they both sat drinking in the kitchen without turning on any of the lights. Bobby thought it was better this way, no need to shed too much light on the darkness slinking around inside Dean's head and heart.
Dean's eyes were glassy and Bobby could feel his own head spinning before he finally got around to talking. "Is acting like Sam's dead helping you, Dean?"
Dean froze, framed in blue moonlight shining in from the window, the glass half way to his lips. His eyes didn't widen, but his jaw clenched. "What?"
Bobby clinked his glass onto the countertop and repeated himself: "Is acting like Sam's dead helping you?"
Dean's jaw clenched again and Bobby wondered if the other man would deck him. "He left us. In this family, that's as good as dead." It sounded as if it were straight out of John's mouth, Dean nothing more than an elaborate puppet.
"Us, Dean?" Bobby said with every drop of skepticism in him and raised eyebrows.
Dean sniffed and looked away, out the window, as if the moon held better answers. "Yeah. Me and Dad."
"And where is your Daddy?" Bobby asked very slowly, letting each work drop heavily into the cricket-song filled air.
Dean's face tightened down into a scowl. He was as stubborn as John. "He's working, he'll be back. He always comes back." To be patched up, drink himself stupid, or move everything he owned to another godforsaken town. Bobby didn't say these things. He didn't have to. They were in the air without being vocalized.
Bobby filled his own glass again then topped off Deans. "And Sam won't?" He asked, voice light . Dean just shook his head, still looking out the window. "Why wouldn't he?"
"Because Dad…" Dean's voice trailed off, his eyes distant as if he was reliving his worst nightmare.
"What?" Bobby pushed, not really wanting to know but wanting Dean to vocalize the answer, as if the memory and idea of it were poison waiting to come out.
Dean turned back to him then, met his gaze. The moonlight and shadows smoothed out the hardness manhood had brought him, and Bobby thought for a moment that he was staring at the over-protective and frightened boy he had first met years before. Dean's voice was quiet when it came, as if he hadn't yet dared voice the words. "Dad said that if Sam left, he couldn't come back. He wasn't part of this family."
Bobby wanted to shoot rock salt into his friends backside. Instead he clenched his teeth, carefully placed his glass on the counter before it broke in his grip, and let out a deep breath. He let the sounds of the night fill the air for a moment as he considered how to respond. Finally, he pulled up a chair opposite Dean, his eyes momentarily noticing that the whole interior of his house seemed to be faintly glowing blue.
He spoke slowly, carefully, making sure he had Dean's whole attention for each syllable. "And when was the last time Sam listened to anything your daddy said?"
Dean looked momentarily stricken, but Bobby knew he had chosen the right words. It was better to put the defiance Bobby was pushing Dean toward onto Sam. Sam was the defiant son, Sam was the one who talked back, and fought, and left. Sam, for some unknown reason, could be rebellious. Dean wasn't programmed to not follow every instruction uttered by his father. He'd self-destruct if he thought of himself as something other than John's perfect soldier.
Out of his pocket, Bobby pulled the yellow post-it note. He had given the letter to Dean earlier, but not the address. Dean hadn't been ready to know what to do with it yet. Now, Bobby thought, he was as close as he was going to get. He handed it to Dean, the swirling hand-writing face-up: Let me know where they are.
Dean looked at it, then at the address on the back, as if it were pure gold. Or an end to all the madness. Out of his own pocket, Dean pulled a crumpled piece of stationary paper, and held it beside the note. Both notes had the same curling, bubbly lettering. Bobby read the stationary paper over Dean's shoulder: I'll always be your brother.
Sometimes, Bobby thought perhaps Sam was psychic, hoped Sam was psychic; because a 17 year old orchestrating so much to coincide was a little frightening in its brilliance. Bobby also found himself hoping that there was nothing supernatural to it. That Sam just knew his brother well enough to know what he'd need to hear, knew his father well enough to suspect that John would abjure him in his anger.
"So, let me ask this again," Bobby said slowly, "Sam won't be back?"
When Bobby woke up the next morning, the Impala was gone and his couch was empty. There was still-warm coffee on the kitchen table, and the middle cushion on the couch sank in more than the others. John still wouldn't answer his phone, but Bobby left him a simple message that John probably wouldn't appreciate until much, much later.
"You're welcome, you stubborn bastard."
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