Second Opinion
K Hanna Korossy

"All right, now that we've talked about everything else, you wanna clue me in on the real reason you all came halfway across the country to 'stop in'?" Bobby deliberately made his tone non-confrontational, but also non-negotiable.

Dean gave him a sideways look. Then he got up, retrieved a bottle of Bobby's finest from the cabinet, and returned to the kitchen table to splash a liberal amount into his coffee.

Bobby sighed. "Well, if it's gonna be that kind of conversation, might as well top me off, too." He held out his own mug.

Dean obliged. Then he took a sip, made a face, then pushed his drink a few inches away with a sigh. "It's Sam."

"Didn't see that coming," Bobby muttered. At Dean's irate look, he rolled his eyes. "When was the last time we had a conversation that wasn't about your brother?"

"Sorry if I'm boring you," Dean said stiffly, making like he was going to get up.

"Sit down, you idjit," Bobby growled at him as he grabbed his arm. "I didn't say I wasn't listening. Just meant you've practically been wearing a neon sign since you showed up: Worried Big Brother."

"You saw the way Cheney growled at him," Dean urged. "You remember any of your dogs ever doing anything but offering their bellies and slobbering all over him before?"

"He probably smelled that she-demon on him. You know that don't mean anything, Dean." And, okay, he was lying a little bit, because he trusted his dog's intuition more than his own—he hadn't even recognized the new Ruby was a demon, let alone one they knew—but still. This was Sam they were talking about, family for them both.

"Means he's been spending too much time with a demon," Dean shot back. "You know what he's been up to with that witch bitch?"

"Yeah, he called, told me all about it. Sounded pretty ashamed of it, actually." Bobby sat back. "Is this why you brought him here? Some kinda intervention to make him stop playing with fire?"

"No." Dean grew muted. "He's stopped. That's what he said, anyway."

The floorboards creaked over their heads, and they fell silent a moment, listening. The Winchesters were both recovering from concussions, and Sam had gone up to take a nap. A handful of seconds later the toilet upstairs flushed, then the bedroom floor groaned again under footsteps. Quiet descended once more.

"He give you any reason to doubt him?" Bobby picked up the conversation. "Dean?"

"…No."

"Right. Remind me again what we're talking about here then?"

He'd pushed Dean too far. He saw the boy's face shut down a second before Dean started to move.

Bobby was gentler this time when he took Dean's arm, asking instead of ordering. "Let me tell you something, kid."

Dean sank back down like a spooked horse, ready to bolt at a moment's notice. Bobby forgot sometimes all he'd been through, how much he carried on those twenty-nine-year-old shoulders. In fact, if you counted Hell-years, Dean was even older than he was. He laid his concern bare for Dean to see, knowing he needed it. "You know, one of the plans Sam came up with to get you out of the Pit was to open the Hell's Gate again. Had to talk him down from it, pointed out that he'd be letting another big batch of demons out like last time. He didn't care. Only thing that convinced him was the fact that even if he opened the gate, you weren't gonna be walking out of there, and he couldn't go in." Bobby took a swallow of his Irish coffee. "It tore him up a little more each time I had to shoot one of his ideas down."

"Bobby…" Dean said into his mug, his voice gritty with pain.

"He's got survivor's guilt, Dean," Bobby talked over him. "That's what's really wrong with him. He told you he'd find a way to keep you from going to Hell for him, and he failed. Only reason Ruby got to him. And I'll tell you what I told him: he's not the only one who did things he's not proud of while you were down below."

Dean's face contracted as if the words hurt. Probably did.

That wasn't exactly his goal, but he had to make the boy understand. "A year ago, we were worried that Sam came back wrong. Hell, took me a few weeks after you came back to stop expecting you to go off like some kinda Trojan Hell Horse. But I didn't see either of you giving up on the other."

"You got a point?" Dean interrupted.

"My point is that Sam's still Sam no matter how Carrie he gets, and you're still you, and the two need each other more than ever right now. You're gonna get through this the way you always have, with understanding, loyalty, and that blind Winchester faith in each other."

Dean toyed with his mug, took a drink Bobby could tell he didn't taste, slowly nodded. "So…you think he's okay?" he asked in a small voice.

"I think you both are more screwed up than any ten hunters I know."

Dean gave him a look that was hearteningly indignant.

Bobby breathed out. "But then, you pretty much inherited that along with your last name. Do I think he's messed up more than usual? Maybe, but that's because you were dead, Dean, not because some demon was calling his shots."

Dean snorted. "You see the way she didn't even blink when we showed up at the hotel? Just…put on an act without missing a beat."

"You need me to define the word 'demon' for you?" Bobby asked dryly.

"And Sam played along with her."

"I seem to recall that was after he made sure you were real and then clamped on to you like a boa constrictor. Kid's head was reeling, Dean."

Dean was nodding, still a little hurt but less wounded now. He knew about shame and lies.

Bobby tossed back the last of the cooled coffee with a grimace, then half-tipped his chair over to reach the refrigerator without getting up. He nudged it open and snagged two beers by their necks.

Dean's eyebrow lifted, but he didn't comment, just accepted one of the bottles.

Bobby flicked off the top and took a drag. "How'd the hunt with Travis go?"

Dean winced. "He's dead."

"The rugaru, or Travis?"

"Both." Dean pushed his coffee aside and chugged half his own beer. "Travis jumped the gun—Montgomery killed and…ate him before we could get there."

Bobby swore into his bottle.

"Oh, it gets better. Turns out Montgomery's wife was pregnant."

He cursed in Japanese this time. "So in another twenty years, some poor sap of a hunter gets to do this all over again."

"Maybe," Dean said, one shoulder lifting. "'Less you wanna burn the baby after it's born." He flinched. "Literally."

Bobby glared at him.

"Yeah," Dean sighed, "me neither."

He hedged a moment. "Maybe it won't make the same choices."

Dean held his gaze. "Maybe it doesn't really have a choice."

"There's always a choice, son," Bobby answered just as straight.

There was a long beat. Then the air seemed to go out of Dean. He nodded. "Yeah. All right."

The floorboards creaked above them again. There was a yelp, then a crash that shook a little plaster dust onto the table.

"Giraffe Legs strikes again," Dean said with a wince. "I should—" He pointed back over his shoulder.

"That might be a good idea," Bobby said, deadpan. "Kid's brains are scrambled enough."

A little smile slipped out before Dean turned and darted out, leaving beer and Bobby behind.

Bobby exhaled, chugging the rest of the beer before finishing off Dean's. He'd have to make a note to keep an eye on Montgomery's kid, to let the community and any next of kin know about Travis, and to tell Rocky that the Winchesters wouldn't be available to help him out with that chupacabra down south. They needed some time to get back on their feet, and comfortable with each other again.

And he wanted to keep an eye on them both a little longer…just in case.

The End