SUMMARY: A coda, of sorts, to Death's Door. As Sam and Dean wait for news about Bobby, they relive their own memories of their surrogate father.
SPOILERS: Takes place during 7.10. Anything up to that point is fair game, but no speculation beyond the closing credits.
DISCLAIMER: The characters of Supernatural belong to Eric Kripke & Co. I am playing in their sandbox, with their toys, thanks to their largesse – and with much gratitude.
A/N: Kleenex anyone? The mid-season finale was a heartbreaking trip through Bobby's 'custard.' This is the flip side to that coin – some of the thoughts and memories that went through each brother's head as they stood vigil. Hope you enjoy, and Happy Birthday, Caroline!
BALLS, BOOKS AND BULLETS
Dean focused on the pain in his hand; that he could deal with. The pain ripping his heart in two was in a whole different zip code.
The purple-to-black bruising forming along his knuckles suggested he'd cracked a bone or two when he'd slammed his fist into the glass case holding the hospital directory. Whatever. Broken bones would heal and that asshat administrator could foot the bill for the broken glass. Son of a bitch should never have asked about donating organs. You only thought about that when someone was dying. And Bobby wasn't dying.
He couldn't be.
Dean glanced over at Sam. His brother looked shell-shocked. Oh, he was trying to be all stoic, trying to be realistic, but he was also gripping his scarred left hand like it was about to fall off. The irony didn't escape Dean; Sam's hold on reality over the past few months had been tenuous at best – and here he was, clearly praying that that hold had slipped, that this latest nightmare was just another one of Lucifer's sadistic mind games.
Dean slumped against the wall and scrubbed a hand down his face.
"Get running, Dean. This hit's a high, fly ball, deep into centerfield."
Ten-year-old Dean sprinted across the park but his head was turned over his shoulder, his gaze locked on the ball that Bobby had lobbed high into the air. He cut to the right and raised his arm, the ball dropping into his glove with a solid 'thwack' while he was still on the move. He pivoted, grabbed the ball with his right hand and fired it back to Bobby.
Bobby had to move up only a few feet to catch it. "Good man. We need to find you a team."
Dean's smile faded as he jogged back to Bobby. "Not gonna happen. Dad's gonna be pissed enough when he finds out we spent a whole afternoon playing catch instead of shooting. No way will he let me sign up for Little League."
Bobby checked his watch and clapped his hand on Dean's shoulder, signaling it was time to head home. "You just leave your old man to me."
Dean shot Bobby a disbelieving look as they trudged back toward their battered old truck. "No disrespect, Uncle Bobby, but I don't think even you can change Dad's mind on this. He's kinda stubborn."
Bobby snorted, wrapping his arm around Dean's shoulders as they walked. "Yeah, I've noticed. But in case you've forgotten, I'm kind of a stubborn ol' coot, too. Let me work on him. I promise you, I won't give up without a fight."
Dean punched his fist into his ball glove, still far from convinced. "Well, you start working on Dad now, maybe he'll change his mind by the time Sammy's old enough to play. Course, Sammy's kind of spaz, so I think we have to find a different game for him – one that doesn't need him to catch anything."
Bobby chuckled. "Sam's six, Dean. Give him a year or two and you'll be surprised. Before you know it, he'll be playing right beside you in the outfield."
"Uh-uh." Dean shook his head for emphasis. "I'm not playing outfield. Too much standing around, just waiting out there. I wanna play shortstop – like Ozzie Smith."
"The Wizard? Well that works – on a few levels." Bobby pulled open the passenger side door of the truck and held it as Dean clambered inside. "Why him?"
"Why not?" Dean settled into his seat. "Best two-way player in the game right now. He's been an all-star nine times, won a Golden Glove ten times, he has a World Series ring, he can switch hit, he rocks stealing bases, he's-"
"OK, OK..." Bobby ruffled Dean's hair fondly. "But if you're gonna be the next Wizard, guess maybe we should schedule some batting practice, huh?"
"Could we?" Dean's shoulders slumped. "Nah. Dad'll blow a gasket if we even ask. Unless…" He turned to Bobby, a sly grin spreading across his face. "'We could always tell him we're taking the bats so you can teach me to bash a monster's head in. He'd go for that, right?"
"Damn it." Dean linked this fingers behind his neck and dropped his head. Right now, there was nothing he'd like better than to take a baseball bat to Dick's head, and take it clean off his shoulders.
He looked up.
Sam was studying him worriedly. "Y'okay?"
"No." Bobby's got a fucking bullet in his brain. Dean bit his lip to clamp down on his temper. He didn't want to lash out at Sam; his brother was as scared as he was. "Any news?"
Sam shook his head, then offered Dean a paper cup. "Here – got you a fresh coffee. Well, as fresh as you can call that sludge in the machine anyhow."
Dean took it, nodding his thanks. "How 'bout you? You holding up?"
Sam nodded, but the slump in his shoulders, the way he was digging his right thumb into his left palm said otherwise.
Dean took a gulp of coffee, biting back a grimace at the bitter taste. "Bobby's gonna come through this – he always does." It was a feeble attempt to convince himself as much as Sam.
"He's gonna be fine." The walls suddenly felt like they were closing in. "I… I need some air. Come get me if the doc shows up." Dean took off down the hall without waiting for a response.
Sam watched him go. He wanted to tell Dean everything would be fine. Hell, he wanted his big brother to tell him everything was gonna be OK, as he'd done so often since they were kids. And more than anything, he wanted to believe it – to buy into it without a single shred of doubt.
But he couldn't. He wasn't a kid anymore. He'd seen the bullet wound, he'd seen the faces of the ER staff… He knew. They both did.
Sam crossed the waiting room and sank into a seat with his back to the wall. It was instinct; a solid wall meant no one could sneak up on you – but walls didn't stop Lucifer, who seemed to be able to crawl inside his head at will. Sam jammed his thumb in his palm and stared across the waiting room, his gaze falling on a book someone had abandoned on a chair.
"There you are."
Sam's head snapped around to see Bobby standing in the doorway.
"It's past your bedtime, kid. Ten-thirty's a little late for a seven-year-old on a school night."
"I don't have a bedtime." Sam turned away from Bobby and ran his finger along the books jammed onto a shelf. "Well, Dean says I'm supposed to go to bed before him, cause I'm younger, but mostly we just go when we're tired, and then watch TV 'til we fall asleep."
Bobby crossed his arms and leaned against the jamb. "I don't have a TV."
"I know." Sam gave Bobby a reproving look. "And Dean's really not happy about that." He shrugged. "But it's like when we stay in really crappy motels. Most times the TVs are busted, so then we just read. That's what we do here, too. Dean's got a comic book. I had my book from school, but I finished it." Sam glanced around the room. "You've got more books than anybody I know. It's like a library – just messier."
Bobby smiled. "So that's why you're down here – looking for something to read?"
Sam nodded. "What kind of books you got?"
Bobby walked into the room to stand beside Sam. "There's all kinds – books about good guys and bad guys, about history, about magical places and magical things, about weapons, about medicine…"
"Medicine?" Sam scowled. "You're not a doctor."
"Nope." Bobby jammed his hands in his pockets. "But you never know when someone you care about might get sick or hurt, so it's good to know how to fix'em up, right?"
Sam considered that for a moment. "That how you knew how to fix my Dad when he fell down the stairs on that business trip?"
Bobby's smile didn't quite reach his eyes. "Something like that." He glanced around the room, taking in the books crammed onto every shelf and piled onto every flat surface. "One thing you'll learn as you get older, Sam – the more you know, the more you need to know. Books are great weapons if you wanna win that fight."
"Weapons?" Sam raised an eyebrow at Bobby. "You mean you find a heavy one and throw it at somebody?"
Bobby chuckled. "Not quite. Books – they can teach you all kinds of stuff. And the more you know…" He bent down and tapped Sam on the side of the head. "The more you keep up here, the more ways you'll know to protect yourself and your family. And if it ever comes to a fight, the more likely you are to win, because you'll know stuff the other guy doesn't."
Sam frowned at that. "Dean says if you wanna win a fight, you just punch the other guy in the nose. That's what he told me to do to that bully at my last school."
Bobby straightened up. "That how you ended up in the principal's office?"
"Yeah." Sam shrugged. "But Scott – the bully – he got a black eye and didn't come near me after that, so it was worth getting in trouble." He turned and stared at the bookshelves again. "Dean knows lots of stuff that I don't. If I read all these books, I'd know lots of stuff, too – right?"
"All of 'em, huh?" Bobby's smile returned. "That's a lot to cram into that little head of yours."
"Might take a while, but I can do it." Sam pulled a book off a shelf. "Is this one any good – for a kid like me, I mean?" He glanced over at Bobby, his expression serious. "It doesn't have to have pictures, you know. I'm seven, I'm good with words."
"So I've noticed." Bobby glanced down at the book Sam had picked, a fierce angel brandishing a sword engraved on the leather cover. "But I think maybe this one should wait until you're a little older…" He took the book, Milton's Paradise Lost, from Sam, then walked over to a bookcase on the far side of the room. There, he pulled a small volume with a battered cover from the top shelf. "I liked this one when I was your age. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It's about two boys – Tom, he's smart and loyal. Life's been kinda tough for him but he's always gonna make the best of things. His best pal, Huck, attracts trouble like a magnet, has a real potty mouth, too… but he's fearless and a boy never had a better friend."
"That sounds cool." Sam smiled as he took the book. "But if there's a new word and I get stuck, think maybe you could help me?"
"You bet." Bobby slid Paradise Lost back on the shelf, then gave Sam a gentle pat on the backside. "Now go on, back to bed."
Sam nodded, already moving toward the stairs. "You said Huck has a real potty mouth?" He grinned. "Maybe I can learn some new cuss words. Dean's been teaching me all the ones he knows, but it'd be good if I could teach him some, too."
"Damn it, Sam."
Sam jumped when Dean smacked him on the arm. "What? Something happen?"
Dean scowled down at his brother. "Dude, I just asked you the same thing. You were totally zoned out. I thought…" He shook his head. "Son of a bitch, don't scare me like that."
"Sorry." Sam cleared his throat. "I was just thinking about when we were kids. Dad taught us the need to research, to be methodical, to get all the facts…But it was Bobby who taught us to love learning... about the power of knowledge."
"Yeah. He had you pegged as a geek from the get-go." Dean sank into the chair beside his brother. "You lived in that damn library every time we went to his place."
Sam smiled. "He had great books, and not just the hunting ones. I loved Tom Sawyer, the first one he gave me, then Huckleberry Finn... When things got rough, I used to imagine you and me jumping on a raft and floating down the river, away from everything."
Dean stared at Sam for a moment, his own memories obviously playing through his head. "What was that book he gave you when you were around fifteen, the one that made you wanna be a lawyer?"
"To Kill A Mockingbird." Sam looked off into the distance. "The Finch family were outcasts like we were, 'cause of what they believed in. And Atticus... he showed me there were ways to save people without using a gun… without washing blood out of your shirt almost every night. He didn't win every case..." He slumped back in his chair as he stared over at the treatment bay where Bobby lay. "But neither do we."
Dean smacked Sam on the arm. "You should go for a walk – get some air, stretch those giraffe legs of yours."
"Yeah, you do." Dean was all big brother now. "This place…" He glanced around at the sterile décor and the sombre faces. "It'll suffocate you if you let it. Just… get some air – find out if Dick is still out there, while you're at it."
Sam nodded slowly. He was too drained, too numb to argue. And Dean was right; maybe a little fresh air instead of the warmed, disinfected stuff circulating through the hospital would sharpen his senses, help him shut out the voice harping at him inside his head. He stood up, started to say something, then changed his mind and simply headed down the hall.
Dean watched Sam walk away. It was hard to imagine the battle-scarred hunter his brother was now, a man fighting to hold onto his sanity thanks to Cas's parting salvo, as the idealistic kid he'd been just a few years before.
Bobby looked up as the kitchen door flew open and then was slammed shut as Dean stormed into the house. "Dean. Good to see'ya."
Dean gave Bobby a thunderous look before crossing the kitchen to the fridge and grabbing a beer. He popped off the cap, took a long swig, then began pacing, still without saying a word.
Bobby set down his mug and sat back, the old wooden chair creaking as he did. "You and your daddy have another spat?"
Dean shot him a glare. Translation: Yes.
"Thought as much." Bobby folded his arms across his chest. "And let me guess – it was about Sam."
"They're both being asses. Dad won't talk about it, Sam won't take my calls." Dean stared down at the beer bottle in his hand, looking like he wanted to throw it across the room rather than drink from it. "What the hell am I supposed to do?"
Bobby glanced at the door. "John with you?"
Dean shook his head. "I ditched him in Wisconsin. Since we're not speaking, didn't seem much point in hanging out."
Bobby used his foot to push out the chair on the opposite side of the table. "Then park your ass there and talk to me. Your dad's still pissed that your brother went off to school, huh?"
"The way Dad's acting, you'd think Sammy joined a fucking cult instead of getting a free ride to Stanford." Dean dropped into the chair and slammed the beer bottle onto the table. "And now Sam's being a bitch and ignoring my calls 'cause he knows I wanna get the two of them to work something out."
Bobby rested his forearms on the table, wrapping his hands around his mug. "Biggest problem, as I see it, Sam and your daddy – they're cut from the same cloth. Both stubborn as the day is long."
Dean snorted. "Thank you, Captain Obvious. I've been living with'em my whole life. That I know. And, trust me, this ain't the first time I felt like I needed a black and white striped shirt and a whistle to keep those two in the same zip code."
Bobby took a sip of his coffee, then returned his attention to Dean. "So what do you wanna do about it?"
Dean scowled. "What the hell do you think? I wanna fix it."
Bobby shrugged. "How? You're dad's bound and determined that Sam haul his ass back home, and Sam's just as determined to stay put in California. Neither one's gonna give in willingly so, unless you or John plan to shoot Sam with a tranquillizer dart and toss him in the trunk, you got yourself a stalemate."
"Thanks for frigging nothing." Dean shoved his chair away from the table, stood up and resumed pacing. "That I could've figured out without driving through the night to get here."
Bobby kept his voice even. "Look, if I could fix this, I would – but, Sam, he's been chomping at the bit for a while now…hasn't been happy hunting for even longer than that. You know that better than me. And, hell, he didn't exactly take off to wash dishes at Hooters. As for John…"
"Oh, don't talk to me like I'm four. I know all that." Dean was still pacing. "Don't get the attraction to signing on for more school than you have to, but whatever. If it's what Sam wants, more power to him. But how the hell am I supposed to be happy for Sammy when Dad's acting like he doesn't exist anymore? I mention his name, Dad just changes the subject or makes like he didn't hear me."
Bobby shrugged. "John's worried. If Sam's not around, he can't protect him."
Dean raised an eyebrow at that. "Right. It's better for Sam to be going mano y mano with the monster-of-the-week than sitting in algebra class because he's safer? That makes no sense. And neither does you taking Dad's side. This is the same guy you threatened to take a shotgun to not that long ago for not letting us 'just be kids.'"
"This ain't about taking sides." Bobby's eyes narrowed. "What happened to your mom…It broke your daddy in a way that can't ever be fixed. John and me, we don't agree on much, especially when it comes to you boys, but it don't mean I don't understand where he's coming from. You're his children and he would lay down his life in a second for either one of you." He shook his head. "This thing with Sam, it ain't coming from a place of common sense, it's coming from his heart – even if he does have the damndest way of showing it. Bottom line, if a monster goes after Sam, or you, when you're all together, John knows he can throw himself in front of you and take the hit. He can't do that if Sam's clear across the country." Dean was still scowling. "What about all the times he took off on us?" "He had you for back-up, right?" Dean stopped pacing. "Fine, Dad's a wall. So, what? I'm supposed to talk Sam into coming back?" Bobby picked up his mug. "Think you can?" Dean snorted again. "Hell, no. Like you said, he's Wall Junior." Bobby held Dean's gaze. "Then, I guess maybe it's you who needs to do the adapting." Dean stared at Bobby for a moment, then sank back down into his chair. "You suck at pep talks."
Dean was still scowling. "What about all the times he took off on us?"
"He had you for back-up, right?"
Dean stopped pacing. "Fine, Dad's a wall. So, what? I'm supposed to talk Sam into coming back?"
Bobby picked up his mug. "Think you can?"
Dean snorted again. "Hell, no. Like you said, he's Wall Junior."
Bobby held Dean's gaze. "Then, I guess maybe it's you who needs to do the adapting."
Dean stared at Bobby for a moment, then sank back down into his chair. "You suck at pep talks."
Bobby smiled. "In other words, I'm not telling you anything you ain't already figured out for yourself."
Dean slumped against the chair-back. "I just want us together, you know – with Dad being an ass, Sammy being a bitch and me playing ref. We fight, we get over it, we move on. That's us. This…this isn't."
Bobby thought for a moment. "Sam's doing what he wants, God knows John does exactly what he wants – so what about you? What do you want?"
Dean scowled. "I want my family back together."
Bobby shook his head. "No, what do you want for YOU. I mean, are you hunting 'cause you want to, or 'cause it's what your daddy's telling you to do?"
Dean started to answer, then stopped. "It's just…" He shrugged. "It's what we do."
Bobby pushed himself up. "Hunting's a bitch of a life. We make the world a little safer for ordinary folk, but no one knows we're doing it, so we never get thanked. You start each day saying a prayer to whoever you believe in, thanking 'em for what you got because it might be gone by sundown, and you don't make plans for the future because you rarely get one." He moved around the table to stand beside Dean. "Sam wanted out, and he got out – he's made his choice; I think it's time for you to make yours. If you wanna hunt, it can't be because John barks out an order. It's gotta be for you. Or if there's something else you've always wanted to try, maybe now's the time to look into it."
Dean looked up at Bobby. "I'm good at this…at hunting… and I like saving people."
Bobby smiled. "A white knight in armor made by Chevy." He clapped Dean on the shoulder, then moved over to the cupboards to grab another mug. "Tell you what, you work on Sam – not to bring him home, but just to get the two of you back on an even keel. Leave your dad to me."
Dean twisted in his seat. "Think it'll do any good?"
"Dunno." Bobby filled the mug with coffee, crossed back to the table and set the mug in front of Dean. "But I ain't had a good yelling match in ages, so it'll do my constitution good. In the mean time, I think you need to take a break."
"A break?" Dean frowned. "You mean crash here?"
"No. I think you should be hanging out with kids your own age, not a bad-tempered, drunken old gearhead like me."
Dean grinned. "You're not old."
"Idjit." Bobby cuffed Dean affectionately across the back of the head.
Dean shoved the beer bottle aside and picked up the mug. "Guess I could go down to Lauderdale for a few days. Met a waitress last time I was there – I would definitely like her to serve me again."
Bobby rolled his eyes. "Whatever. Just…step away from the life for a few days. If hunting's your true calling, there'll still be plenty of things to shoot at when you get back."
Dean looked up, surprised to see Sam standing over him. "Back so soon?"
"Soon?" Sam frowned. "I've been gone like fifteen minutes."
The pink flush in his brother's cheeks from the crisp fall air told Dean he wasn't exaggerating. "Oh."
Sam sat beside Dean. "You were thinking about Bobby, right?" He shrugged when his brother narrowed his eyes. "It's all I can do – how much we take him for granted, how many times we've never said thanks…"
Dean scowled. "You're talking like he's not coming back from this. He is."
Sam's voice was quiet. "I want him to, you know I do. But there's a really good chance that-"
"I can't do this, Sam." Dean pushed himself up, not knowing what he wanted to do other than not sit there anymore and not talk about Bobby. Not about what his chances were for pulling through, at least. "Damn it. I just…" He scrubbed a hand down his face, shook his head and began pacing.
Sam knew him well enough to just let him.
Sam had gone outside to clear his head but the whole time he'd walked, he'd been bombarded with memories of Bobby, everything from Bobby helping him to read as a kid and learn how to research for school and for hunting, to their old friend patching up him and Dean physically when a hunt turned bad or helping mend their relationship when they were fighting about something or nothing.
Throughout their lives, Bobby's place had been everything from a hotel and a hospital, to a safe-house, and a safe harbor in whatever storm was raining down on them at the time. When they needed to recharge their batteries and clear their heads, Dean would often lose himself in the garage, fixing up the Impala or repairing or replenishing their weapons, while Sam curled up on the couch in the library, losing himself in a book. And whenever they needed counsel, care or simple companionship, Bobby was there for them.
"Here you go, kid. The worst is over."
Sam peeled open his eyes as his head was lifted off the pillow and an old tin cup filled with water pressed to his lips. He drank greedily, his mouth feeling like he hadn't brushed his teeth in over a week.
"Whoa, now. Take it slow. We both want that water to stay down."
Sam coughed as the cup was pulled away, then blinked to force his vision to focus. He was in the panic room at Bobby's, handcuffed to the cot in the middle of the room. As he glanced around, he took in Bobby seated on the cot beside him, and Dean on the other side of him, unlocking the cuff which held his right wrist. "What…" He coughed again, his voice a hoarse croak. "What happened?"
"Give it a minute." The handcuff clanged against the metal cot frame as Dean dropped it, before moving to unlock the one around Sam's right ankle. "It'll all come back."
Sam glanced from Dean to Bobby and back to Dean, then closed his eyes as he sorted through the jumble of memories spinning through his head: Famine had sent demons after him. Starving for demon blood, he'd attacked them, drank his fill then gone after their boss. Famine's goons had Dean so he'd taken them out first, then ganked the horseman by exorcising the demons he'd consumed.
Sam's eyes snapped open and he stared at Dean. "Y'okay? Famine... he-"
"I'm fine." Dean unlocked the cuff around his brother's left ankle, before passing the key to Bobby. "You stopped Famine, but you've been a real mess since then." Dean looked tired – really tired. He shook his head. "This detox thing…it's getting old, Sammy. Seeing what it does to you, what the blood does to you…" He stared down at his brother. "You good?
Sam snorted. "No – but I will be."
Dean scrubbed a hand down his face. "I, um… I need some air. I'll be back." And with that, he was gone.
Sam looked at Bobby in alarm.
"He'll be OK." Bobby unlocked the final cuff, and unwound the bandage that had protected Sam's wrist from the metal shackle. "But this was a rough one – on both of you."
Sam vaguely recalled walking voluntarily into the panic room as he started to go into withdrawal, but he no memories since then. He smelled of old sweat and vomit, his hair and clothes stuck to him and as he rubbed the wrist Bobby had just freed, he noted bruising that had been hidden by the bandage. He'd been in there a while. "How long?"
"Two days – working on three." Bobby offered him another drink of water then, when Sam shook his head, placed the cup on the floor. "You were really out of it the first day, more catatonic the second. Today, you've been mostly sleeping it off."
Sam felt sick. "Did I hurt you or Dean?"
Bobby shook his head.
"Positive." Bobby reached for Sam's right wrist and unfurled that bandage. "You were making a lot of noise the first day, but we just kept the door locked. Wasn't easy for any of us, but it was for the best."
Sam swallowed against the nausea roiling in his gut. "I thought I had it licked…that I could control the craving. But-"
"It's an addiction, Sam. Alcoholics never stop wanting a drink – that's why there's AA." Bobby scratched his forehead under his ball cap. "I just don't know what the 12-step program is when your poison of choice is demon blood."
"God…" Sam raked his fingers through his hair, grimacing at the greasy feel. "Under the influence, I've attacked you, I've attacked Dean. If I ever-"
"Don't. Just…don't." Bobby pushed himself up. "Dean and me, we hate this addiction, hate what it does to you, what it makes you do – but we could never hate the addict."
"You sure?" Sam turned to the open doorway. "I saw Dean's face just now. He-"
"He hates that he can't fix this." Bobby snorted as Sam turned to him. "You're a bigger idjit than I pegged you for if you haven't figured that out. He's been that way as long as I've known you two. You broke your toy car, he'd fix it. You broke your crayon, he'd sharpen it. If a bully came after you-"
"He'd threaten to break his face."
"Pretty much." Bobby shook his head. "But this... angels vs demons, Heaven vs. Hell – you're both caught in the middle of something none of us has a freaking clue how to fix. Dean – he's burning himself out from spinning his wheels."
"Then I go and throw a relapse into the mix." Sam pushed himself up with a grunt, swung his legs off the cot, then closed his eyes as vertigo threatened to knock him flat on his back again. He felt a solid arm snake around his back, holding him steady until the dizziness passed, and when he opened his eyes, Bobby was sitting beside him. "Thanks."
Bobby nodded, dropped his arm but remained sitting beside Sam. "One thing all you Winchesters have in common is the nasty habit of beating yourselves up over crap beyond your control. This…this is one of those times." He cut off Sam as he was about to object. "Uh-uh. This one's on Famine. If he hadn't stuck his oar in, you'd still be clean, right?"
"No." Bobby waited for Sam to look at him. "Not, 'I guess.' The right answer's 'Yes.'"
Sam rubbed his bruised wrist. "You sure about that?
"Damn sure." Bobby raised an eyebrow. "Hate to break it to you, kid, but you ain't that good at hiding stuff. Me and Dean, we may not always know what you're up to, but we sure as hell know when you're up to something.
Sam snorted. "I'm finally starting to figure that out." He glanced again at the open doorway. "I should talk to Dean. Let him-
"Just let him be for now. There'll be plenty of time for talking later." Bobby clapped him on the knee, then pushed himself up. "In the meantime, to be blunt, you stink. Soon as you're ready to get vertical, make the shower stop number one.
Sam wrinkled his nose. "That bad, huh?"
Bobby's eyebrows disappeared under the brim of his cap."Worse."
"Why you smiling? Seems kind of…inappropriate. You know, given the circumstances."
Sam's head snapped to the left and he glared at Lucifer, who was sitting beside him. "Shut up. You're not real."
"Maybe not." Lucifer gestured with his head toward the treatment bay. "But old Bobby over there with a bullet in his brain – that's real, and that's all on you, Sam. What were you thinking, dragging the old coot into this mess? He's long past his prime, don't you think?"
Sam rubbed his scarred hand. "Bobby's one of the best hunters I know."
Lucifer snorted. "Then you must know some pretty crappy hunters. I mean, seriously? Taken out by a slug with a pistol? That's gonna look great on his headstone."
"Shut. Up." Sam turned away from his tormentor. "Dean's right. He'll make it through this…He has to."
Lucifer chuckled, clapped Sam on the shoulder and stood up. "You just keep telling yourself that. Repeat it often enough, you might even start to believe it – until Bobby croaks, of course. Then he's heading for my neck of the woods."
Sam glared at Lucifer. "The hell he is."
Lucifer's smile widened. "Kind of a Freudian slip there." He sat again next to Sam and leaned in conspiratorially. "The old guy hasn't really led an exemplary life, has he? Not quite the type they swing open the Pearly Gates for."
"Bobby's a good man, to the core." Sam glared at Lucifer. "But then, what the hell would you know about good."
"True. I know bad. Let's see…" Lucifer started counting on his fingers. "Bobby killed his wife – twice, actually. He really should get bonus points for that. He's lied, he's cheated, he's stolen – and that's just the stuff you know about." The devil was whispering now. "The stuff he won't talk about – now that's the really good stuff. He-"
"Shut up!" Sam shot out of his chair. "Get the hell outta my head – now! You-"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa…Get a grip, Sammy." Dean was suddenly right in front of him, tightly holding his forearms. "It's just you and me, that's it. Right?"
Sam, breathing heavily, glanced left, then right. The few other people in the waiting room shot him suspicious looks, but Lucifer was nowhere in sight. He turned back to Dean, swallowed, then nodded.
"Seriously, Sam - I'm having a hard enough time holding myself together, here. I can't do it for both of us...not right now. You gotta-"
"It's OK...I'm OK." Sam nodded at Dean.
Dean didn't look entirely convinced, but motioned with his head to the chairs. "How 'bout we sit?"
Sam nodded again and sank down into the nearest chair, his knees just a few moments from giving out. He exhaled slowly. "M'okay. It was-"
"I know." Dean's jaw clenched as he tried not to let his worry show. "What was he ripping into you about this time?"
"What do you think? Bobby." Sam stared at his hands as he jammed his right thumb into his left palm. "Just wanted to drive home the fact he's…he's not gonna make it."
"He's not real, Sam – and he's full of crap. Bobby's always been one tough son of a bitch and you know it."
"Yeah…" Sam leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. "When I think about all the times Bobby's been there for us, all the times he's patched us up, backed us up…"
"Chewed us out and kicked our asses."
"Yeah. Sometimes all in the same visit." Sam almost smiled. "Pretty sure we deserved it every damn time, too."
"Oh, I know we did. Or at least you did." Dean massaged the back of his neck, as he stared at the treatment bay. "Why the hell don't they tell us anything?"
Sam followed Dean's gaze. "They…" He felt sick, his mind suddenly replaying the trip to the hospital in the back of the van, as he tried to stop the bleeding… as he realized there was no exit wound. "They don't know. Dean, he-"
"Don't." Dean raised a warning finger at Sam, worry rapidly fraying his temper. "Nothing either of us say can make this better, so just…don't."
He was right, and Sam knew it, so they both sat in silence.
"I'm not an idiot, Dean. I know first-aid for a bullet to the brain."
If Bobby's life wasn't hanging in the balance, Sam's panicked snipe in the van would have made Dean laugh.
Before they were out of their teens, they both knew more about patching up knife and bullet wounds, not to mention claw marks, than most med students. But there was no first aid for a bullet to the brain. Even the damn doctors were struggling with what to do for Bobby.
Bobby. Dean slammed his head into the wall behind him. How many times had he saved their asses? But here they were, sitting around with their thumbs up those same asses, unable to do a damn thing to help him.
"Son of a bitch!"
"Damn it, Dean." Bobby shot the younger hunter a worried look as he wiped blood from Dean's side. "Do us all a favor, and just pass out already."
"Just get on with it." Dean lifted his head and growled the words at Bobby through gritted teeth.
"Hang in there." Sam winced as Dean tightened his grip on his brother's hand, then looked up at Bobby. "You've almost got it, right?"
"Yeah. Here we go." Bobby waited until Dean shoved the leather belt into his mouth and bit down, then gave the tongs a twist and a tug to successfully yank out the bloody bullet.
The belt fell on the floor and Dean's scream filled the library, his body going rigid as he fought the pain ripping through him. The scream cut off abruptly and he went limp, his head lolling to the side.
"Dean?" Sam's gaze darted from his unmoving brother to Bobby and back to Dean. "Is he-"
"No… Still here." Dean's eyes opened slowly. "Fuck, that hurt." He turned his head to face Bobby. "Don't give up your day job – but thanks."
"This is my day job. I fix cars for fun." Bobby glanced over to where Dean was still tightly gripping Sam's hand. "If you haven't broken any of Sam's fingers yet, you'll get one more chance." He picked up the bottle of Scotch. "Ready, Sam."
"Sam? Screw him," Dean panted out. "I'm the one with a hole in his side. Just do it."
Bobby did, pouring the alcohol right into the wound.
Dean screamed again, his eyes screwing shut and his body bucking off the couch. After a few seconds, again he went limp and fell silent. He was breathing heavily as his eyes opened and he turned to Sam. "So… I break any?"
Sam pulled his hand free, flexed his fingers, and smiled. "Nope. All still in working order."
"Damn." Dean scrubbed the sweat from his face, his smile more resembling a grimace. "Gotta try harder next time."
"How 'bout next time you just get the hell outta the way of the bullet." Bobby ignored Dean's hiss as he squeezed antiseptic ointment into the wound. "How they managed to hit you in the first place, is a miracle. I know the hunters who did this. They couldn't hit the broad side of a barn on a good day."
Dean snorted. "I think being possessed improved their aim. They – son a bitch!" He glared at Bobby, then snapped his attention to the needle that had been pushed through his skin. "You did that on purpose."
Bobby focused on tying off the suture. "Sticking a needle in you is kind of a necessary part of plugging this leak. Now hold still. It's gonna take twice as long if you keep jerking around like a worm on a hook.
Dean dropped his head back. "Man… I get you for a doctor and Sam for a nurse – I must've seriously pissed off somebody in another life." He waved his hand at the bottle of whiskey Bobby has used to sterilize the wound. "Gimme that."
"No." Bobby didn't look up, instead concentrating on tying the second stitch.
Dean swallowed. "I'm a man in pain, here. I need a drink. Don't be a bitch. I – ow!"
"Mind your tongue, boy." Bobby shot him a warning look. "I'm being gentle, right now. Real gentle. You want me stop, just keep it up."
"What I want is a drink."
"You've lost too much blood, Dean." That was from Sam. "You know alcohol's a blood thinner – we can't risk it."
"Don't care," Dean growled. "Just gimme-"
"No." Bobby shot Dean a look which clearly said the matter was closed. "I didn't go through all this work only to have you bleed out on me – so shut up and keep still."
Dean scowled up at Bobby. "Your bedside manner sucks."
"Sue me." A few minutes later Bobby was tying off the final stitch. He smeared more antiseptic ointment on the outside of the wound, then taped a gauze square over it. As soon as he was done, Sam was standing by with a blanket which he draped over his brother.
"You warm enough?" Sam slid another pillow behind Dean, elevating him slightly and taking any stress off his injured side. "I'll get you another if-"
"Just stop – both of you." Dean's glare traveled from Bobby to Sam. "You're like two freaking grandmas."
"I'll take that as a compliment." Bobby turned his back on Dean as he cleaned up the first aid supplies. "From what you've told me, Deanna Campbell was pretty hot stuff. Must've been for your folks to name you after her."
Dean's scowl deepened when he caught Sam grinning. "You, shut up."
"What?" Sam's eyes widened innocently. "I didn't say anything."
"No, but you were thinking it real loud." Dean sank back into the pillows, suddenly really tired. "All bitching aside, I owe you one, Bobby."
"One?" Bobby snorted. "You need to check your balance sheet. You…" His comeback trailed off when he turned around to face Dean. He moved quickly back to his patient's side, placing his hand on his forehead. "Dean? What's going on in there?"
Dean weakly batted away his hand, his vision sliding in and out of focus. Sam was now standing behind, Bobby looking equally worried. "What? Why do you two suddenly look like your puppy just died?"
"'Cause Casper the Friendly Ghost now seems tanned next to you." Bobby quickly took his pulse, then pulled down the blanket to check the skin around the bullet wound.
Dean's eyes started to slide closed. "Just tired, that's all..."
Dean jumped at the feel of Sam's hand on his shoulder. "What? I miss something?" He blinked his eyes open as he shoved himself up in the waiting room chair.
"No." Sam sat back slowly, but still looked worried. "You just fell asleep, but then it seemed like you were having a nightmare."
Dean scrubbed a hand down his face as he cleared his throat. "No… Just remembering that time I got plugged by those possessed hunters, and Bobby saved my ass."
Sam was massaging his palm again. "He's saved both our asses too many times to count. Our luck had to run out sometime." He snorted. "Even after I tried to kill him when-"
"Luck? Lady Luck is a bitch. Only kind she's ever given us is Lousy." Dean stared at the curtains which hid Bobby from them. "We got him here in time. That's fact, not luck. The doctors… they'll…" He couldn't finish the thought, and pushed himself up. "I need to do…something."
"What? We can't fix this." Sam stood up, too. "I'd give anything if we could, but-"
"Well, we can't just sit here and do nothing." Dean was clenching and un-clenching his fists. "We don't know what the hell's going on and my head just keeps filling in the blanks – and what it's filling 'em with makes me wanna puke."
Sam reached into his pocket. "Guess these wouldn't go down so good then, huh?"
Dean scowled at the package Sam held. "Licorice? You hate licorice."
Sam stared at the little plastic bag. "They're from the vending machine. I wanted the almonds…just something to do with my hands…but these came out."
Dean took the bag from Sam. "Little pieces of dirt... that's what you called 'em last time we had 'em. We were at Bobby's, right?"
Sam nodded. "Chuck Norris marathon. You said they were chewy pieces of Heaven."
Dean raised an eyebrow. "The hell I did."
"Gentlemen." The brothers snapped around to find a doctor standing behind them, his expression somber. "I have news about your uncle…"
A/N: And once again, we wait... I hope this little coda will help tide you over until new episodes return and we find out (gulp!) what happened to Bobby. In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you. Happy holidays to everyone and all the very best in 2012. Cheers.