Chapter 5: The Pieces that Remain
Bobby pulled up quickly into the dark yard. His hands shook as he switched off the ignition and ambled out of the truck, the gentle chirrup of crickets lost to him as his hand automatically reached for his brow to wipe away a drop of sweat that had escaped the confines of his baseball cap. He sighed with relief at the sight of Dean, but it was only a fleeting sense of peace as his mind registered the boy's state. It was a sight that would haunt his memories for the rest of his life.
Dean sat rigidly on the porch steps, his frame hunched over to a degree that had to be terribly uncomfortable. His shoulders trembled in erratic, patternless heaves of despair, and his fingers dug tightly into the muscles of his legs so that Bobby imagined the tips of his nails piercing through the denim and drawing blood from his flesh. Yet, most terrifying of all were his eyes. They were dead eyes that didn't look up to meet his gaze. Hopeless, distraught, and nearly numb eyes that were slicked with heavy tears and stared straight ahead in unseeing madness.
But it wasn't the first time Dean had donned such eyes. Oh no. Bobby could remember a time…a time in Cold Oak not so long ago when Dean had looked just like this. When the usually strong, game-faced, shit-happens-but-nothing-can-bother-me Dean Winchester had let it all fall to the wayside and shatter at his feet like the world had betrayed him for the last time.
And that's when Bobby knew, just from the look in Dean's eyes…
Sam was dead.
Bobby didn't move towards the younger man right away. He couldn't. Sam had always been mostly Dean's, a job (no, not a job but a promise) that the older brother took to heart, but he was Bobby's too. How could he not be? Sam had still been an infant the first time he'd laid eyes on the little tike. Bobby had raised Dean, and Dean had raised Sam, and Bobby had helped when Dean had let him. And John? Well, he'd been there, and then he hadn't, and then he had again. But really it was mostly Bobby and Dean and Sam and one odd dog or another.
He sucked in a shaky breath, knowing he needed to approach this situation with caution. He remembered Cold Oak all too clearly, and Dean was quite volatile when it came to Sam dying – a situation that should not be able to happen multiple times, but that was their life. Taking off his hat in his own display of mourning, Bobby slowly approached the shaking form on the porch. He cleared his throat so as not to startle the boy, since the truck roaring up the drive and squealing to a crooked halt on the front lawn hadn't seemed to alert Dean to his presence.
"Dean," he ventured. He took another step closer when the boy didn't respond. "Dean, son…"
"How could I let this happen? Why wasn't I watching him?" Dean mumbled almost inaudibly, proving that he did know Bobby was there. That was a good sign at least. "It's my job to protect him, and I knew he wasn't okay, but I let this happen."
Dean's words cut the aging hunter's heart to the core.
"Now, you listen here, idjit," the grisly man demanded. He found it difficult to find his voice through his own grief, but he needed to set this damn fool straight before he tried to join his brother. "Now, I don't know what happened tonight, Dean. I don't know what Sam's gone and done…if he's made a new deal or what. But whatever it is, you ain't responsible for it any more than he was responsible for you going out of your fool head and selling your soul to get him back. You made your choice, and so did he. If ya ask me, you're both damned idjits, and I don't know how many times the two of you have to die or come close to dying for one another before you realize how much you're actually hurting each other." Dean flinched at his words, but Bobby continued anyway. "You ain't your brother's keeper, boy. Now, this needs to end before you both end up in hell! It's bad enough I lost the one of ya! I ain't losing you too! I just ain't."
"It's too late now anyway, Bobby," Dean said.
"He in there?" Bobby asked with a nod of his head toward the decrepit farmhouse. Dean finally looked at him, guilt written all over his face. A face that has seen too much, Bobby thought. But he'd have to deal with that later. After all, no one did guilt better than a Winchester, Bobby knew. But first, Sam had to be taken care of and if Dean couldn't do it then it was up to him. "You gotta get it together for your brother, Dean. He deserves a hunter's funeral this time around. Not some foolhardy scheme where you run off looking for some demon willing to cram his soul back into his meat suit."
Bobby knew he was being harsh, but he was hurting too. Damn, was he hurting. And Dean responded to tough love more than any other kind. It had always been John's way after all, and Johnny always had his way. Even in death. But Bobby didn't get the response he'd intended to elicit. In fact, Dean's face merely crinkled up into a look of confusion, as if he'd forgotten something, and then went slack again.
"Bobby, you don't understand…"
There was the protest Bobby had been waiting for. Or was it? There was no weight behind the words.
"What do you mean?"
"Sam what?" the older man prompted. Then something dawned on him. "He isn't dead?" Bobby asked, but he was hesitant to put any hope behind the question. The way Dean had looked…
"He's dead," Dean admitted flatly, face growing hard and unreadable as he tried to pick up the pieces of his shattered façade. "He's just not…dead."
"You're making about as much sense as nonalcoholic beer, Dean. I need some sort of explanation. What happened to your brother?" Bobby rested his hand on the younger man's shoulder.
"It's complicated," Dean finally answered, heaving in a deep breath. "Really complicated. I don't even know where to start, Bobby." He rose to his feet suddenly and moved closer to the time-warped door of the paint-chipped house. "I don't even think I have the energy. It's probably best if you just saw for yourself."
Bobby didn't know what to expect when Dean opened the door and ushered him in, but it certainly wasn't what he found there. The room was large, heavy with dust and abandoned webs. The floorboards were old enough to draw the word "ancient" to the mind, and they creaked and groaned with only the slightest touch. Pale moonlight washed in from the open windows lined with shattered glass, and it washed the room out in an eerie blue glow. But Bobby saw none of that because the room's most striking feature was its single occupant. In the middle of that ghostly living room was none other than Sam Winchester himself. He was sitting up straight in an armchair, tense and pale as can be, but alive. Alive! Bobby released a heavy sigh from his tight lungs, replaced the cap on his head, and approached his youngest boy.
"Sam. Thank God, boy."
Sam's head snapped up in an instant, but not with recognition or even with curiosity at the sound of another voice in the room. No, Sam moved like a predator catching wind of a tasty morsel. His pupils dilated, and he fixed the older hunter with a cold, calculating stare so completely unSam like that Bobby felt himself cringe. It was like the boy didn't even know him. Suddenly, a set of pearly white fangs descended, bared at Bobby in a very clear threat.
Bobby was a practiced hunter. More than a good hunter, and certainly more knowledgeable than most. He understood the lore on a menagerie of supernatural creatures, knew a multitude of languages, and could trap a demon in his sleep. But the sight of Sam was just too unsettling. He stumbled back. That sudden movement…was a huge mistake.
The vampire was on his feet in an instant, completely oblivious to the desperate pleas of his brother. He was just… So. Damn. Hungry. He was on Bobby just as fast, knocking the hunter off his feet in a rather impressive show of supernatural strength and agility. It didn't take long to pin the experienced hunter to the dusty, wooden floorboards. He struck for the neck with those deadly fangs, aiming to kill, but not before tasting that sweet, human blood.
But hands were on him before he had the chance. Hands that were prying him away from his intended meal. Hands he found it difficult to resist too strongly, but oh how he wanted to.
"Sammy, no!" a familiar voice shouted at him.
Arms were around him now, firmly holding his own arms securely to his body. But the human on the floor was groaning! So he decided to struggle, to fight against that grasp and get to his prey. He had to be easy, though. It was the ultimate taboo to hurt your own nest leader after all. Absolutely unforgivable.
"The hell…" Bobby grumbled as he pushed himself back up.
"Sammy, you got to calm down," Dean whispered into the vampire's ear in a soothing voice that made Bobby want to whack the boy over the head. Was he seriously trying to reason with a vampire? A damn hungry one at that!
"Dean, we gotta get him detained somehow."
"I know!" Dean growled as he continued to wrestle with one irate supernatural creature. Bobby shook his head, but the cogs in his mind were already turning.
"I have some rope in the truck. Is there something we can tie him to?"
"There's an adjoining bedroom," Dean suggested. "It's furnished. We could tie him to the bed?"
"It'll have to do," Bobby said. "You get him in there if you can. I'll grab the rope."
Dean nodded as Bobby darted out the door. He had to half drag Sam into the bedroom, but he made it just in time for Bobby's return.
"Good. Now, let's get him onto the bed," Bobby said with more calm than he felt. Sam was growling at him viciously, eyes gleaming with every catch of moonlight.
Dean pushed his brother onto the lumpy mattress. The bed was barren of any coverings and so worn that the springs were visible in several places. Bobby guessed that rats were probably living in the thing, and almost laughed at himself for even thinking such a thing when there was a much bigger issue demanding his focus. He tied Sam's feet to the bedposts as Dean sat sprawled across Sam's stomach holding his arms above his head.
"Okay, you get his left arm and I'll get his right."
Dean crawled off the vampire, keeping a secure grip on the wrist of his left arm. He pulled it harshly up against the bed post and tied it in a thick knot. Sam struggled all the while. Bobby was just finishing his knot when Sam's head lurched up and sickeningly sharp fangs pierced into his flesh just below his wrist.
"Balls!" Bobby screamed. But Sam had him in a Rottweiler's grip and he wasn't letting go.
"Sam!" Dean shouted at him in his grisly bass – his command voice. Sam didn't hear him or didn't care. His teeth sunk in further and he drank from the arm in deep, noisy slurps that made Dean sick to his stomach. What had gotten into Sam? Just five minutes ago he was perfectly fine! Well, maybe not perfectly fine…but not a wild animal!
Dean reached towards the scene, but Bobby batted him away with his free hand.
"Don't!" he warned in a rasping, strained voice. "He's got those fangs in there real good, Dean. If you pull on him he'll rip a real good chunk outta my arm right where the vein is." The hunter's teeth were grit in pain, and his breath was ragged against that shooting agony.
"What do you want me to do?" Dean asked, his own heart thumping wildly now. But Bobby made no move to answer him. The pain was too great, and Sam was just so hungry. He could feel the blood rushing out of him, and he was helpless to stop it. So Dean did the only thing he could think to do. With a quick "Sorry, Sammy," he grabbed a loose board from beside the bed and slugged his baby brother over the head with it. Hard.
Sam was out, and so were his teeth. From Bobby's arm that is. The older hunter grasped the pained limb with his good hand and winced. That was going to sting for a while! Dean took off his outer shirt and shredded it before tying it around the injured arm. Then he glanced once more at his "sleeping" brother, determined that he was okay and would probably be totally healed by the time he regained consciousness, and pulled Bobby from the room.
"That's a vampire!" the older man growled at him the second he closed the door.
"I know that!"
"Well, you could have at least warned me. I almost lost my damn arm."
"Well, you didn't, did you?" the younger hunter reasoned defensively. Bobby decided to just let it go. He fixed Dean with a stern look instead.
"Look, I got a machete in the truck-"
"I said no!" Dean shouted venomously. "That's my brother you're talking about."
"Look, Dean," Bobby started with a heavy sigh, "you have to know that ain't Sam anymore. It's a vampire. I know it's hard, but we're gonna have to just face the facts. You can't think he wants to go on this way?"
But Dean wasn't to be persuaded. Not after everything he'd been through in the past 24 hours. That was still his brother, vampire or not. He'd seen that. He was certain of it. Sam was Sam. Whatever just happened…there had to be an explanation for it. There just had to be. Sam was…Sammy. Always.
"No, Bobby. You're wrong," he said at last. "He wasn't like this before. I swear it to you, old man. He was Sammy. We were talking and everything."
"Well, maybe that's so. But he sure ain't Sam now," Bobby argued. Dean was being a damned fool. An idjit. He knew where the boy was coming from, sure. But if Sam really was Sam, somewhere deep within that hungry vampire exterior, then Sam didn't want this life.
"Please, Bobby…" Dean was begging him. "You have to believe me. We can help him. Get him on cow's blood or something. He won't drink it now, but we can get him to Lenore. She'll know what to do."
Bobby ran a calloused hand over his grizzled chin, but his resolve was already breaking down. He sighed. Oh, Sam…
"What happened to him? And how is it you're still here?" he asked at last.
And Dean told him a tale he wished he'd never had to hear.
Dean paced, stopped, ran his fingers through his short hair, and then paced some more. Bobby was watching from the armchair where Sam had been sitting when he first arrived. They were trying to figure out their next move because leaving Sam tied to a bed screaming and giving himself rope burn was not going to work out.
"I think the solution is right in front of us," Bobby ventured after a while. Dean stopped the frantic pacing at last and turned to face his father figure.
"I already said I won't kill him," he reminded the man. He took both hands and placed them intertwined on the back of his head.
"Nah, I wasn't talking about that," Bobby explained. He was watching Dean knowingly. Sam screamed in the background and both men cringed. Bobby continued: "He's just hungry, Dean. You've got to feed him."
"You think I haven't tried that? I have a whole jar of cow's blood that he refuses to drink."
Bobby chuckled, inappropriate as it may be. "Sounds about right. He's always been a picky eater."
"This isn't funny, Bobby," the younger hunter warned impatiently. He resumed his pacing, even more frantic now as the screams grew louder and louder. That rope wouldn't hold him if he was determined enough to escape. Dean knew that perfectly well. The youngest Winchester was resourceful, bright, and determined. Of course, at the moment he was more like a wild animal and perhaps clear thought wasn't even possible.
"No, it ain't," Bobby admitted at last. "But he needs to drink something. You'll just have to get him something else." Sam screamed like something was ripping him apart. Way to be melodramatic, Sammy Dean thought.
He grabbed his jacket and keys and headed for the door.
"Where are you going?" Bobby asked, cutting him off by grabbing him by the arm and tugging him back. Dean turned his head and looked him right in the eye.
"To get him some blood," he said seriously, as if it was the most normal confession in the world. The word "human" was left out, but they both heard it. Sam wasn't going to drink anything else right now. Stubborn, stubborn Sammy.
Bobby released Dean's elbow and nodded: "Just don't get arrested."
And Dean was gone, leaving Bobby alone in an empty house filled only with the desperate, angry screams of the remnants of the boy he helped raise. The pieces that remained.