Home Improvements
K Hanna Korossy

Bobby was just opening up the ladder when Sam wandered into the living room, shoving back unruly hair.

"That brother of yours finally asleep?" Bobby gruffed, ceding one side of the ladder to Sam without comment when the kid moved forward to help.

The fact that Sam smiled, even if just a little, told Bobby a lot already. "More like finally passed out, but yeah." Sam gaze shuffled past him. "Thanks for having us back, Bobby, especially after—"

"You wanna save yourself some embarrassment and not finish that sentence?" Bobby kept his tone dry, but it was with admitted fondness that he shook his head. Idiots. Like Sam getting himself possessed would have stopped Bobby from inviting them back the minute the kid confessed, small voiced, that his brother had passed out from an infected bullet wound. "But if you're still feeling guilty, you can help me fix this ceiling."

"Yeah, sure." Sam was suddenly animated, whole bearing perking up. Like a puppy, Bobby sighed to himself.

The demon the boys called "Meg," even when she'd been in Sam's body, had cracked the plaster on the ceiling to break the devil's trap painted there. Bobby had already surveyed the damage and figured out that, thankfully, the structure of the room wasn't damaged, the joists and floor above unbroken. It was just a straightforward replastering and repainting job, but he was getting a little old to be on a ladder for hours at a time, stretching to work on something above his head. Sam was a far better candidate, between his youth and his height. Not to mention the fact he seemed to feel like he had some kind of penance to work off. He was always at loose ends when his brother was laid up, anyway. Just like Dean when the tables were turned.

Bobby mixed the plaster and directed from the floor while Sam labored above. They worked well together; Sam had never minded taking orders from Bobby, not since he was a kid. Singer had tried to tell John Winchester more than once that he'd get a lot further with his youngest if he treated him with respect rather than ordering him around like a soldier, but the stubborn ass had never listened.

"How's Dean's shoulder looking?" Bobby asked offhandedly as Sam smoothed a trowel full of plaster in place.

"Infection's almost gone," Sam spoke to the ceiling. "He's still having trouble moving it, but since nothing's broken, I think the swelling just needs time to go down."

"Sounds about right. How 'bout you and that arm?"

Sam glanced at his right forearm with near surprise, as if he'd forgotten the ugly burn there. Not that Bobby had missed that he was doing most of the work with his left. "It's fine."

"Uh-huh," Bobby said disbelievingly.

Sam paused, then his arms dropped. When he looked at Bobby, there was real sorrow in his eyes. "I shot Dean, Bobby. I killed another hunter, and I don't even know what else. I mean, yeah, okay, I know it was really Meg. But…that doesn't make it all better." He shrugged helplessly. "It was still my body, still me they all saw doing those things."

Bobby sighed. "I know, kid. But I also know you have to let it go. Dean's not holding it against you, right?"

Sam huffed a laugh. "No, sir," he said quietly, shaking his head a little.

"Well, don't you think if the guy who got shot can forgive you, you're being a little hard on yourself?"

Sam tapped the trowel absently against his leg. "Maybe," he finally admitted.

"No maybe about it, son. Think about it: was there anything you could have done differently?"

Sam's mouth twisted, like it hurt to admit it. "…no."

"Okay, then. So, quit with the hand-wringing and move on, or you won't be any good to—"

A floorboard creaked upstairs.

Sam was down off the ladder before Bobby even registered what the sound meant. "Hey, uh…I think I should go check on—" He pointed vaguely toward the stairs in the other room.

Bobby snorted. "Go on, make sure that moron doesn't fall over and break his head open on top of everything else."

Sam gave him a grin, the first Bobby had seen on his weary face in too long, and trotted out.

Oh well, Bobby sighed, looking at the ceiling. The plastering was almost finished anyway, and would need to dry before they repainted. Maybe after lunch, if they could coax Dean into taking another nap…

Bobby found himself smiling, too. He wouldn't ever tell them, but for all the trouble those two were, it was sure good to have them there.

00000

"So, tell me again why you broke these in the first place?"

Dean wasn't trying to be snarky, but Bobby bristled at the question anyway. "You wanted the Colt to work again, didn't you?" He etched the next symbol into the wood post a little more deeply than necessary.

Dean, on his part, was sanding out the old wards, the one Bobby had cut through the week before. "Oh, I'm not arguing. And thank you again for the gun, by the way. Just…you had to invite Ruby in to do it?"

"You expected me to set up a workbench in the yard?" Bobby snapped. He checked the book to be sure he was getting the final sigil right, even though he already knew it by heart.

"Actually…kinda, yeah. Or, even better, kick that black-eyed bitch off your property and do it yourself."

Bobby blinked. Dean had always given his father too much credit, but this was the first time Bobby had felt that blind belief extended to him, too.

Sam huffed from the mass of blankets he was cocooned in on the porch above them. Fresh from surgery necessitated by being thrown, hard, into a car by a possessed priest, Dean had bundled him up as soon as he was able to be moved and brought him to Singer Salvage. Bobby was just surprised Dean had let him sit outside for a while, albeit wrapped tighter than a mummy. It was probably only so he could keep an eye on the kid.

Dean looked up, pointing a finger at the invalid. "No comments from the bench."

It took effort to look peevish when you were pale and sick, but Sam seemed to pull it off just fine, Bobby thought with a quiet smirk. To Dean, he just said, "You done with that yet?"

"Yeah, I got it." Dean stood, stretching his legs and back, then glancing up. "Devil's trap under the awning?"

"Under the porch," Bobby corrected ruefully, echoing Dean's grimace. But the boy was too well brought up to even think about letting his elders crawl around small spaces. Thank God for that.

It didn't stop him from cursing as he wriggled beneath the wooden porch, but Bobby couldn't blame him there.

Bobby got to work repainting the symbols on the lintel, patting Sam's shoulder as he passed the lounge chair. "Didn't see you complaining any when the gun worked," he called out loud enough so Dean could hear him through the porch floorboards.

"Hey, I had the situation totally under control," Dean called back.

Bobby and Sam exchanged a look at that. "Really," Bobby answered, heavy on the skepticism.

"Yeah! Sam's the one who was all, shoot first, ask questions later."

"Ask him about Ritchie," Sam murmured to Bobby.

"I think Ritchie might have felt different," Bobby called down.

"Shut up, Sam," Dean grumbled loudly back.

Sam's mouth bent up and he settled back into the blankets.

A thump from below and more cursing. Finally, Dean crawled out, dirty and disgruntled. "Anything else, Bobby? You need some foundation dug up or concrete repoured, maybe a little remodeling done?"

He'd overlook the sarcasm considering the circumstances. Besides, there was something else to think about. Bobby tipped his head toward the mound of blankets beside him. "Yeah, actually, but I think Sam here's had enough."

Dean's face smoothed out instantly. He was up on the porch in two bounds, peeling blankets back to examine the kid who, judging from the congested breathing, had fallen asleep. Dean crouched next to him, adjusting covers, talking so softly that Bobby couldn't understand what he was saying. Didn't need to, as Dean coaxed a still half-asleep Sam to his feet and into the house, not sparing Bobby a second glance.

Bobby shook his head after them. Sometimes he imagined this was what having sons would have been like, pains in the asses he loved more than he could say. It was…kinda nice, actually.

"Featherweight," Bobby softly chided himself and got back to work.

00000

"I think that's got it." Sam studied his work from the top of the ladder.

"You 'think'?" Bobby asked skeptically. "That's gonna be holding up a couple hundred pounds of iron over our heads, Sam—you'd better do more than just think."

"No, it's…" Sam nodded. "It's good. Hand me the chain."

Bobby grunted but did as he asked, feeding the chandelier's chain up to him.

He could've gotten this fixed earlier, of course. Ellen had been there and would have helped, or Bobby could have rigged up some kind of pulley. But first he'd been a little occupied with Dean collapsing after the attack of The Witnesses, and then Sam had shut down and taken off. It'd been a few long days until those two blockheads had finally gotten back on the same page and driven off together…only to return a day later when—surprise, surprise—they realized they weren't hunt-ready yet. There was the small fact that Dean was exhausted just crossing the room and still slept more than he was awake. But then there was also Sam, okay physically but emotionally all screwed up. Almost losing your brother after just getting him back did that to a guy. Bobby gave them beds and three squares, and let them do what they needed to do to figure out the rest.

Except for the chandelier, which Dean had shot down to stop Meg, and which Bobby hadn't seemed to get around to rehanging until Dean was asleep and Sam had some time on his hands.

Speaking of, the kid had finished feeding the chain through the hook in the ceiling and climbed down the ladder, hopping down the last few rungs. "Ready?" He looked at Bobby.

"Whenever you are," Bobby answered, and grasped the chain behind Sam.

They worked in comfortable quiet broken only by grunts and a little swearing. An iron chandelier wasn't the easiest thing to hoist up, but Bobby had picked iron for the very reason Dean had brought it down: it made a good ghost booby-trap. Sam wasn't complaining, either, not even when his arms bulged from the effort of lifting the thing.

"That's good," Bobby wheezed when the fixture was finally high enough. "Over here, Sam."

Between the two of them, they tugged the chain over to the second hook in the wall and, with a pair of groans, forced a link over the hook to hold the chain fast. Gasping, they stood back to survey their work.

"You think it's high enough?" Sam finally ventured.

Bobby gave him a withering look. "Don't have many giants come through except for you, Goliath."

Sam hid a smile at that.

Bobby took a deep breath, rubbed his hands. "Beer?"

"Beer," Sam gratefully agreed.

Halfway down the stairs, they automatically quieted their steps, almost tiptoeing by the time they reached the bottom. Dean was still where they'd left them, curled into the recliner in front of the TV, deep asleep. His eyes were still a little sunken, lips pale, but he looked so much better than a week before, Bobby felt himself breathing easier at the sight.

Sam had paused, too, scrutinizing his brother's face for any signs of distress. He stood there so long, Bobby was ready to move on to the kitchen without him, when Sam finally spoke.

"I almost lost him, Bobby."

It'd seemed, when they got back, that the two of them had already had this conversation, so Bobby hadn't brought it up. But Sam always had dwelt on things, even as a kid, and maybe for something like this one conversation wasn't enough anyway. Bobby licked his lips. "Dean's tough, Sam. Guy pulled through Hell—a ghost wasn't gonna take him down."

He regretted the glib answer as soon as he heard Sam's sober, sad voice. "He's not-he's not as strong since he got back. He doesn't want me to see it, but…he's scared."

Bobby thought a little more before he answered this time. "Seems to me he's earned the right to be. But everything takes adjustment, son, you know that."

"You think he can?"

It wasn't an honest answer he wanted. Sam's voice twisted up at the end like a little kid looking for reassurance, and Bobby swallowed, knowing that Dean wasn't the only one who needed time to adjust. "I think…Dean's a lot stronger than even he knows. And he's not alone anymore, either. We'll get through this, Sam."

There was a pause, then Sam took a deep breath and nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, okay." He reached down to pull the sagging blanket back up to Dean's chin, then ran a hand over his own eyes while Bobby looked away. "I'll get those beers," he finally announced and turned toward the kitchen.

Bobby grimaced at the retreating back, then turned back to the sleeper in the chair. "You hang in there, kid," he said quietly. "For all our sakes." He patted the top of the recliner once and headed out to the kitchen to make sure their youngster wasn't making a mess.

00000

"Top left corner's still stuck, Dean."

"Got it." The answer came out more as a grunt as Dean shifted his weight on the crowbar. A low rumble of effort turned into a cry of victory when the stubborn window frame gave way and toppled out into the yard. He turned back to beam at Bobby. "See? Piece of cake."

"Congratulations," Bobby said, bone dry. "I've got a big hole in my wall without a frame now instead of a big hole with a frame."

Dean made a face. "You're a real killjoy, Bobby, you know that?"

Yeah, he did. He'd never been one much for self-pity, either, but being stuck in a wheelchair was hard enough without then having your wife come back and having to kill her, again. Bobby figured he was entitled to be a little self-indulgent. "So sue me," he grumbled back.

"Nah. What would I do with a junkyard?" The question was an idle one, Dean absorbed in examining the boards around the window he'd just removed. The zombies had crashed through the glass with enough force to crack the window frame and strain the wall around it, but Bobby was pretty sure there was no real damage. Lucky him.

Bobby rolled a couple feet back, glancing again at the sofa as he did. Despite all the noise, Sam was still out like a light on the couch, facing them with his arm hanging off the side and his feet sticking over the end. His mouth was parted in a soft snore thanks to his swollen, busted-up nose, and Bobby felt something soften inside despite himself. "You sure we shouldn't wait with this until Sleeping Beauty isn't here?"

Dean's attention moved from the window to his comatose brother. It was probably the longest he'd looked away from Sam since finding the kid stumbling down the road, bloody and half-conscious. Bobby got that folks of Sioux Falls had been shaken up by the rising of their dead, but he still seethed at the thought of some of them taking it out on the Winchesters. "Sam? Nah, he's fine," Dean answered. "Dude could sleep through a hurricane these days."

"Huh." That was new. Sam had battled nightmares and insomnia ever since Bobby could remember, first as a sensitive kid, then as a young man who'd seen too much, and finally as an old man in a young body, responsible for the Apocalypse, hunted by Heaven and Hell, and struggling most of all to find his way as a brother again. Somehow, sleeping well now didn't sound like a good thing. "He's off the…you know," Bobby made a drinking motion with one hand, "right?"

Dean must've gotten the reference to the demon blood because his face darkened. "He's clean, Bobby. He screamed it out of his system downstairs the other week, remember?"

Oh, he remembered. But Bobby also remembered Dean's shattered face after that face-off with Famine, and even Castiel's restless distress. It'd just been pain and misery around there of late; it was a wonder the boys still stopped in at all.

Despite all the tragedy that surrounded the Winchesters, though, losing them was the only thing Bobby didn't think he could bear.

"He's just worn out," Dean continued huskily, oblivious to Bobby's wandering thoughts. "Getting his body swiped, meeting Mom, going crazy, then going cold turkey—it takes a lot out of you. I'm glad he's sleeping." His eyes were soft with grief as they rested on Sam, and so weary, too. Yet there was still compassion in them, compassion and love.

Bobby dropped his gaze, unaccountably chastened.

"I think these two boards are gonna need replacing."

Dean's shift of tone brought his head back up, and said that the subject, the moment of vulnerability, was over. Thank God; Bobby didn't think he had it left in him to deal with more. He rolled forward to take a look. "I think you're right," he said gruffly.

Dean looked at him, eyes narrowed. Then his face twitched, and he thumped Bobby's shoulder gently, just once. "I'll go get the wood," he announced, and turned and tromped off into the yard.

Sam sighed in his sleep behind Bobby, like he knew his brother had just left.

And that left just Bobby Singer sitting there like a lump between the two, yet again.

00000

"You wanna tell me one more time why Balthazar had to send you two crashing through my window?"

Dean licked his lips. "It was this symbol, Bobby, it opened a portal—"

"Yeah, but it had to be on something we could go through," Sam eagerly picked up the thread.

"I guess he figured a window would work best."

"Beats a wall." Sam shrugged, then looked at Dean, who nodded in agreement.

"But then we landed on the other side in Bizarro world…"

"…and when Raphael brought us back, it was at this motel, like the motel set."

Bobby's gaze bounced between the two. He wasn't getting much the wiser, but it was definitely entertaining.

"So Cas ended up zapping us back here, after he sent Raffi packing."

"And…when we got back here, everything was like this."

Sam's gesture encompassed a room that was wind-blown, waterlogged, and, oh yeah, missing a third of a wall. Naturally, whatever the Winchesters and their angel buddies were up to had to take place during the biggest storm of the season, and while Bobby was away in town. He'd gotten back to find two Winchesters frantically trying to pick up the mess that had been Bobby's library, and doing a godawful job of it.

"Sorry, Bobby," Dean added meekly, inviting a vigorous head nod from Sam.

Bobby groaned. He wanted to chew them out, but really, it didn't sound like it had been their fault and…it was like tearing into two remorseful kids, the way the pair of them shuffled in place, looking worried and shy. He knew when he was beat. "You're gonna help me fix it," he grumbled.

"Yes, absolutely," Dean said quickly, brightening.

More emphatic nodding from Sam. Kid's head was gonna come off soon.

"You know where the supplies are." Bobby only managed a halfhearted scowl as he took his jacket off and rolled up his sleeves.

The two scurried away like they'd rehearsed it, Dean heading for the tools in the basement, Sam for the broom in the kitchen.

Bobby picked up damp books and scattered papers while the two cleaned up the mess of the broken window and stretched a tarp over the hole. They'd have to buy a new window—again—and you didn't do work like that in the pouring rain anyway, but the boys already knew how to make temporary repairs. They'd messed up—and helped fix—the house enough before.

He listened to them talk quietly as they worked, Sam saying something in low tones, Dean snorting a laugh in response. Whatever they'd been through over the last hour—and Bobby still wasn't really clear on what that was—it had apparently been real amusing. Good to know they'd had fun while the library they relied on so often had gotten a good soaking, Bobby thought sourly.

But…it was hard to stay annoyed as he worked. When Dean melodramatically held out first one cupped hand, then another to Sam, muttering something about a lock and key, and Sam laughed and shoved him, Bobby found his mouth tugging reluctantly upward. It'd been a long time since he'd seen those two so comfortable with each other, let alone having fun. He never thought he would see that again, especially not after Sam went into the cage. God knew they deserved it, after all they'd been through and sacrificed. Even if the whole house had been wrecked, to get this back again, to have them safe and together and home again…

"Hey, Bobby." Dean had stopped working to frown at him. "You okay?"

Sam was peering worriedly at him as well. "Oh, man, something really got messed up, didn't it. We can try and fix it, or-or find you another one…" He was still a little uncertain around Bobby, as if he were on probation for his soulless self's attempt to murder the older man. Like Bobby hadn't forgiven him in about a day.

Bobby croaked a laugh, shaking his head. "Not on your life, son. I like the ones I've got."

The boys—his boys—looked at each other, puzzled.

Which just made Bobby smile all the more. "Get back to work, ya idjits," he groused, knowing his grin was taking every bit of sting out of the words and not really caring. "That hole isn't gonna patch itself."

The End