Down But Not Out

Author: Cheryl W.

Disclaimer: I do not own any characters or any rights to Supernatural, nor am I making any profit from this story.

Summary: - When Rufus unknowingly comes between an injured Dean and Sam and Bobby, he remembers what a pain and what a pleasure it is to be part of a family. Set after "Like a Virgin" No slash.

Author's Note: I ssssooooo shouldn't be posting this story. Not when I'm supposed to be frantically updated my other story. But this tale has been around for months, scribbled on slips of paper and multiple note pads and receipts and I just wanted to put some of it out here, needed to know if it was worth continuing. So my apologies to anyone thinking that this was an update to my DA crossover, be reassured that will be coming. But in the meantime, I hope somebody enjoys this story and maybe wants more of it.

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"Go already. I'll man Bobby's phones while you two are taking care of Casper," Dean assured his brother, who stood at the bottom of the stairs, indecision warring on his features.

"Stay off my phones," Bobby yelled from the interior of the Impala, though he didn't even think his two cents mattered in the confrontation he was witnessing. 'Like the kid ever listens to a word I say.'

"Seriously, you're going to rest, right? I mean, that's why we came to Bobby's, so you could heal up," Sam put on his soft, reasonable tone. He hoped his brother realized that he wasn't going anywhere, not until he heard Dean promise to not overexert himself, to not open up the twenty stitches in his side.

Dean rolled his eyes at his brother's mothering. "Yes, Sam."

"No working on cars or hitting the local bars or …"

"Having any fun," Dean cut in, giving Sam his most insincere smile.

"Dean," Sam drawled, a plea in the very way he said his brother's name.

"Chill, Dude. I'm not going to bleed out all over Bobby's kitchen while you're off ganking a ghost."

Sam nearly winced at Dean's words. Words that caused just that type of worry to spring to his fertile mind. "Great, thanks for that mental picture."

Admitting to himself that he was being a jerk, was busting Sam's chops for caring about him, Dean dropped his attitude instantly. "Sam, I'm just going to kick back here, watch some tv, liberate Bobby of some of his booze. Might even turn on a soap, learn who's sleeping with who this week." That got the desired effect, Sam smiling and shaking his head. "So get going before your hunting partner there gets all stiff and crotchety."

"I'll show you crotchety," Bobby's threat drifted over to Dean.

Dean winked at Sam. "See I got him in a good mood for you."

Sam laughed sarcastically, "Yeah, thanks for that." But with most of his worry abated by his brother's vow, he turned around, headed for the Impala.

As the Impala rumbled to life and began to make her way out of the salvage yard, Dean caught Sam's eyes seeking him out in the rearview and he gave a wave. He stood there a moment, watched the car make the turn and disappear out of sight.

Finally able to let his pain show, he dropped his arm with a wince and pressed his hand on his wound. The truth was, just breathing hurt, irritated the deep slashes and bruised ribs on his left side. Course he hadn't told Sam that. He had his pride after all. Not to mention Sam would have never left him if he knew.

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Dean jumped when the phone rang the first time, harshly erupting the deathly quiet that had stolen over the house with Sam and Bobby's absence. It took him some time to lever himself off the couch and cross to the kitchen, took him another few seconds to answer the right dang phone from the five lined up on Bobby's wall. "Agent Ronks," he answered the FBI line.

And that was the start of it. No sooner had he hung up verifying one hunter's story then another phone would ring, would be someone wanting advice on a hunt, for him to scour through Bobby's massive library for some long forgotten lore.

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Across the Impala's benchseat, Bobby watched Sam, could detect the kid's edginess a mile away. "If you're gonna be all twitchy nervous like a new mother separated from her baby, turn around now. I'll do the hunt on my own."

Choosing not to rise to Bobby's taunt, Sam kept his eyes on the road ahead. "It's a two man hunt and you know it."

Recognizing that Sam didn't deny his insinuations about his uneasiness, Bobby sighed, knew it wasn't the time to be hard on the kid. Whatever friction used to live between the brothers, it didn't now. And, for good or for bad, that sometimes made the two men awfully reluctant to let the other out of his sight. After all they had been through, the times they had lost each other, almost forever, he sure wasn't going to judge them for that. Considering he felt sick himself every time they walked out his door, he would be a big ole hypocrite if he did.

"I can call some other hunters to take care of this," he offered, though he would bet his salvage yard the answer he would get. 'Stubborn Winchesters.' But the look Sam shot him, it hovered on indecisive and he wondered when he would ever figure out the two men he considered sons.

Giving a gentle smile of gratitude for Bobby's offer, Sam ruefully admitted, "Dean threatened to shoot me if I didn't stop playing Nurse Jackie. He needs…some space," he forced out, knew that he shouldn't be taking that personally.

"Ok." But Bobby heard loud and clear what Sam wasn't saying.

The very last thing Sam wanted was to be somewhere his brother was not.

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Dean was hunched over a dusty tome on Bobby's desk when the phone rang again. Using his hands to help push himself to his feet, he clamored across the room, picked up every phone on the wall only for the ringing to keep on going.

"Crap," he grumbled as he realized the phone that was ringing was Bobby's regular phone, the one he had on the steps. Trying to hustle over to the phone before it clicked over to voice mail, he was breathless as he answered, "Yeah."

"Dean, are you alright? You sound out of breath."

Of course it had to be Sam, unleashing his worried little brother voice. "Just had to dash across the room to make sure I didn't miss your call, Sammy" Dean drawled out with sickening sweetness, hoping to dissuade his brother's tendency to overreact.

"Sorry," came Sam's remorseful reply. "I didn't mean to make you run for the phone."

"No problem. So how's the ghost wrangling going?"

"Haven't seen it yet but we're set to do an all-nighter."

"An all-nighter? With Bobby? Wow, I wish I could be there."

"Sure you do," Sam chuckled even as he knew Dean did wish he was there, that his brother was never one to enjoy being sidelined, no matter how bad the survival odds were. That thought conjuring up more than one do-or-die situation they had encountered, he couldn't fight the urge to ask, "You doing OK?"

"Just fantastic," Dean delivered bitterly.

Reading the restlessness and frustration in his brother's tone, Sam sighed, sympathetically agreed, "Yeah, I know. I'll check in with you tomorrow."

"'Kay. Remember to call me before I get on the school bus, Mom," Dean taunted, but slipped in "Be careful" before he disconnected the call.

Smirking at his brother's sarcasm and heartened by Dean's order to be careful, Sam slid his phone in his pocket. 'Yeah, Dean, I'm the nurturing one' he thought with an internal snort.

The phone still in his hand, Dean stood there a moment, alone, the house as quiet as a grave. And God help him, he knew, first hand, how quiet that was. Suddenly, the satisfaction he had gleamed from manning Bobby's phones all day vaporized. He felt lost, useless and he knew why. He wasn't where he should be.

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He was dozing on the couch when the phone rang again, Bobby's phone that he had kept by him ever since Sam's call hours ago. Only in case Sam needed his expertise on the hunt, of course.

With his brain still muddled with sleep and his tongue out of practice of speech, his "yeah'" came out slurred.

"Singer?" a familiar voice questioned, uncertainty carrying in the gruff tone.

Sitting up, giving a rough rub to his eyes, Dean mentally processed the voice he heard. "Rufus?"

"Put Bobby on," Rufus bad-temperedly ordered.

"He's not here."

The line fell silent. Then a curse drifted into Dean's ear. But it was the hint of unease in the seasoned hunter's voice that caused tension to wipe away the last of Dean's sleep. "What do you need?"

His offer was met with bitter laughter and disdain. "Like you can do anything about it."

More than a little put off by Rufus' doubt in his abilities, Dean shot back, "Hey, you don't want my help….."

Without preamble an unfamiliar voice piped up from Rufus' side of the connection. "One more minute, buddy."

Instantly Dean put two and two together, got four, and knew exactly where the older hunter was. With a fair showing of smugness, he finished the sentence he had began, "…that's fine but you only get one phone call from the Big House."

Accepting that the gig was up, Rufus sighed. "Yeah, yeah. They're charging me with carrying an unregistered weapon."

"Where?"

"Philipsburg, North Dakota."

"What's your alias?"

"Norman Frankfort."

Before Dean could slam Rufus for his uninspired alias, the unwelcome voice once more spoke up, growled, "Time's up."

Next thing Dean knew, he was listening to dial tone.

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Rufus wasn't sleeping, not with the company he had in his cell.

He wasn't expecting to hear a familiar voice.

In the game long enough to know not to show his poker hand, ever, he forced himself to play it cool. Keeping his eyes trained on the cell door, he didn't twitch a muscle, didn't blink an eye as Dean Winchester, wearing a suit and tie, strolled into the holding area, the sheriff at his side. The two "lawmen" spent some minutes joking about having better things to do than hauling prisoners around as if they were their personal travel agents.

It took less than half an hour later before Dean and Rufus walked out the front door of the jail.

Cupping his hand around the back of his ear, Dean leaned toward Rufus, "I'm sorry I didn't hear you."

"I didn't say anything," Rufus grumbled, stalking down the sidewalk, anxious to get out of sight before the real FBI decided to put in an appearance.

"I just saved your butt," Dean gloated, was still pretty proud of his awesome 'I'm here to collect my prisoner' shtick considering he felt like crap.

Eyes scanning his surroundings but never landing on the man at his side, Rufus demanded, "Where'd you park that rust bucket of yours?"

That broke Dean out of his warm and fuzzies. He pointed a threatening finger at the older hunter. "Dude, you slam the Impala again and I'll call 5-0 on you myself."

"So where is it?" Rufus deadpanned.

"Nebraska."

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Sam was ready to get out of the Impala and scout a stakeout location in the warehouse when Bobby grabbed his arm. Startled, Sam stopped mid-motion, looked expectantly to Singer.

"Go ahead and call him," Bobby said not unkindly, his eyes meeting Sam's.

Sam tilted his head as if he didn't understand what Bobby was talking about.

"You won't be any good to me if you don't," Bobby managed to say without a sigh of frustration at the kid's belief that he was actually hiding anything from him.

Dropping his pretense, Sam rubbed a fingernail over the steering wheel. "I said I would call him tomorrow," a touch of sulkiness in his tone.

"So?" Bobby challenged, would push the kid if it got the job done.

Sam didn't answer him, chose instead to look out the windshield. But he also didn't make a move to reach for his phone or the door handle.

Bobby didn't fight his sigh this time. He knew this was coming, had been coming for quite some time. "Alright, out with it."

"Out with what?" True confusion sparkled in Sam's eyes as they dared to meet Bobby's.

"Whatever question you've been choking on ever since we put one hundred miles between us and Dean."

Chagrined, Sam deflected, "It's…nothing."

But Bobby knew Sam, knew what was haunting his waking hours more than he would ever admit. "You want to know something about your lost year."

Sam changed up his focus to the side window.

At Sam's prolonged silence, Bobby grumbled, "I'm not a mind reader. You want to know something, you gotta ask, Sam."

Without facing Bobby, Sam achingly confessed, "I don't have the guts to ask the hard questions. Too terrified of the answers."

It cut Bobby to the quick, Sam's pain, his guilt. Rubbing a hand over his mouth, he realized why he hadn't pressed Sam to talk about any of this before. As much as Sam didn't want to hear the answers, Bobby didn't want to give them. But if Sam was asking, if there was a slim chance he could lighten the boy's load, he'ld do it. After all, he had faced Hell itself for these boys, certainly some soul searching couldn't be too much to ask. "As much as he wasn't you, part of him was, Sam."

Sam convulsively swallowed, wondered how Bobby could stand to even be in the car with him, how Dean could ever look at him. "And you can't forgive me," he concluded, nodded his head in acceptance, didn't blame Bobby, not when it was all on him, soul deprived or not.

Bobby's face scrunched up in a scowl and his tone was a frustrated reprimand, "No, you idgit! Now let me get where I'm going." Pausing a second, he exhaled and then plunged headlong into it. "Some of your good was there, in him."

Turning earnest eyes onto Bobby, Sam bitterly challenged, "Ok, then tell me what "good" part of me could stand there and let Dean get turned into a vampire!"

"The part that didn't lop off Dean's head," Bobby bluntly shot back. "Instead he called Samuel and his magic cure to the rescue. The part that put him smack dab outside Lisa's place the second he was sprung from hell, the part that nearly exsanguinated himself to save Dean from being a ghoul snack. The part that, even when Dean was more likely to kill him than look at him, wouldn't leave Dean, told Dean that he was stuck with the soulless guy and he'ld have to get over it."

A slow smile stole over Sam's features, "Sounds like he had my stubbornness."

"In spades," Bobby agreed, holding Sam's gaze steadily, hoping the young man knew whatever guilt he was carrying over what went down with them, it had met its statue of limitation. "You got five minutes," he announced, gave Sam's shoulder a pat and then he got out of the Impala, left Sam alone to call Dean.

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"So what were you hunting?" Dean casually asked, shooting Rufus a look across the interior of the car he liberated from Bobby's salvage yard.

Rufus turned to lean his back against the passenger door and eyed up his companion.

Dividing his attention between the road and his passenger, Dean noted the measuring look Rufus was eyeballing him with, wondered if the man could tell he was off his game, way off. Thought maybe Rufus knew he wasn't sweating because the air-conditioner in the car wasn't working.

"Let's get something straight. I don't need your help," Rufus insisted as if Dean had challenged his skills. But his next words were in direct contrast to that. "But if you insist on tagging along, it's my hunt and that means you do only what I tell you to do."

Startled that, instead of calling him on his bluff, Turner was ungraciously inviting him along on his hunt, Dean slowly smiled. 'Goodbye boredom.'

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TBC?

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So any takers for more? I don't want anyone disappointed so I will say I'm planning on this being a drama/harm/comfort/overprotective little brother & surrogate father tale …not an action one.

Have a great day!

Cheryl W.