Reggie wrangled two mugs of tea, two cheese sandwiches and a frozen bag of peas into the living room. "Hey, Gimpy. Catch!" Bobby caught the package of peas before it smacked him in the neck. Tugging his pajama leg up with a grunt, he settled the bag over his knee, swollen and sickly-yellow and purple.
"That's pretty," Reggie quipped, setting Bobby's sandwich and tea down on the TV tray next to the recliner.
"I'm known for my looks." Bobby took a sip of tea and sputtered, not expecting the sharp taste of Kentucky bourbon. "Ever think of putting in any actual tea in this?"
Reggie raised one thick white eyebrow. "That would lessen the medicinal effect."
"You're gonna medicine me right into passing out."
"Which makes tonight different…how?" Reggie spoke through a mouthful of cheese sandwich.
Bobby took a bite and chewed. "Love how you go all out for me."
"It's food, ain't it?" Reggie inhaled half his sandwich in two quick bites. "What can I say. I'm a shit cook."
Rolling his neck on his shoulders with a wince, Bobby gingerly took another sip of his tea-laced hot whiskey. "If it weren't for Nathan, you'd have lived on Fritos and canned chili."
Reggie nodded ruefully, took a swig of tea, and sank back into the couch. Bobby dutifully ate his cheese sandwich, bag of peas perched on his knee, letting the silence exist between them comfortably.
"Where?" Bobby looked around.
Reggie blinked slowly. "Nathan. Made a pot roast so good, you'd lick the plate clean." He took a deep swig of his drink and smoothed his hand over his moustache.
"You ever gonna…" Bobby gestured into the air in a vague motion. "You know. Someone new?"
"Are you?" Reggie speared Bobby with his gaze, bright blue eyes questioning.
Bobby barked out a laugh, dropping the crusts to the plate. "That ship has sailed, been shot at and sank." He rubbed his beard. "It was just her, you know? It was only ever her."
"So you just…" Reggie shot a playful glance at Bobby's hands.
"I'm not lacking for company, if that's what you mean," Bobby protested. "I'm old and fat, but I still got the charm."
Reggie snorted. "I don't doubt it."
"But nothing…" Bobby paused.
"Not in this line of work. 'Less I shack up with a hunter."
Reggie fished a toothpick out of his pocket. "You asking?" His moustache crooked to the side as his mouth curled up with amusement.
"Hah! You wish." Bobby adjusted his position in his recliner, tugging on the collar of his pajamas.
"Sorry to break it to you, old man. Love you like a brother, but you're not my type." Reggie chewed on his toothpick. Bobby pretended to be offended. Reggie just grinned, strong white teeth showing.
Bobby pressed his fingertip into the crumbs on the plate and ate them. "Damn it, now I'm craving pot roast."
Reggie's mouth twitched. "Me, I could go for some lasagna."
The phone on the side of the kitchen wall rang, a sharp, high sound that reverberated off the cabinets. "You mind getting that, honey?" Bobby popped a pain pill with the last of his whiskey tea.
"Not yer damn wife," Reggie grumbled in a show of displeasure. And answered the phone.
"Hey." He gnawed at his toothpick. "Thought you two were gonna hide out until tomorrow." He listened a moment, then covered the receiver with the palm of his hand. "Boys wanna come over. You up for it?"
The broad smile that spread over Bobby's bearded face was all the answer Reggie needed.
When Dean knocked on the door, Bobby was standing up, balanced on one crutch. Dean was first through the door, and Bobby folded him into a one-armed hug. "How's he doing?" Bobby whispered into Dean's ear. Dean's chest rose and fell in a deep sigh, answering Bobby without a word.
Sam stood in the hallway, dark circles under his eyes, hands clasped in front of him as though he was somehow afraid, in some deep recess of his mind, that Bobby didn't really want him to come in.
Bobby read Sam's body language clear as day. "Get in here, kid." Dean pulled free of Bobby's arms and braced him as Sam thumped into Bobby's arms, eyes tightly shut.
Bobby gripped him in a bear hug. "It's ok, son." Sam whimpered, once, so softly only Bobby could hear. Bobby stroked Sam's hair. "It's ok. There you go. It's ok now." Sam snuggled in closer, breathing in Bobby's scent that had always reminded him of good whiskey and old books.
"Missed us that soon, huh?" Reggie clapped Dean on the shoulder.
Instead of making a quip, Dean answered, simple and honest. "Yeah."
Reggie's cheeks turned a faint shade of pink. He went to the refrigerator and began looking through the middle shelf. He emerged with two drinks in each hand. "I got chocolate milk and strawberry soda. What do you want?"
Muffled by Bobby's chest, Sam said, "Both."
"Both it is."
Sam finally broke from Bobby's embrace, looking up into his face with an intense expression, then pushed himself into Reggie's arms, who tried to hug back the best he could with his hands full of cold drinks, clearly unaccustomed to the full force of a teenager determined to hug the crap out of him. "I missed you too, kid."
"How're you healing up?" Dean eyed Bobby up and down, noting the improved color of his skin.
"Not bad, actually. I've been using this cream that Juliane gave me." Curiosity piqued, Sam accepted a cold can of strawberry soda from Reggie and went into the living room to look at the jar of cream Bobby was holding.
"Arnica! That totally works." Sam fixed Bobby with an earnest look and took a slurp of soda. "It reduces inflammation." Suddenly, he looked worried. "You're not putting it on broken skin, are you?"
Bobby couldn't repress a laugh. "No, Sam. I'm being real careful."
"It's poisonous if it gets into your bloodstream." Sam's eyes were wide.
Bobby settled back down in his recliner and tugged his pajama leg up. "See? Skin's fine. No cuts or nothing."
Dean whistled at the sight of the swollen knee and mottled skin.
"It looks worse than it feels. And it's getting better. See?" Bobby bent his knee slowly, carefully, to a 45 degree angle and back. Even from the kitchen, Reggie could hear the crackling of the joint.
Sam's eyebrows drew together in a frown. "Bobby—"
"That?" Bobby laughed. "Hell, that's what my knee sounds like on a good day. Welcome to getting old."
Sam made Bobby bend and straighten his knee a few more times before he believed him that this was in fact a vast improvement from right after the accident.
"Hey, Dean." Bobby pulled his pajama leg back down.
Dean slurped the last of his chocolate milk through the little straw. "Yeah?"
"What say tomorrow, you park me on a stool and we take a look at my damn car, come up with a plan to fix 'er up."
Dean's eyes lit up. He loved working on cars, and had an instinctive affinity for it. "Yeah. Absolutely."
Sam looked away, focusing his attention on a painting of the Yukon on the wall above the couch. Whenever talk turned mechanical, John and Dean nattered away and John only made a cursory attempt to involve Sam. And he never showed Sam how to change a fan belt or lap valves. "He's more interested in his books, Dean," he would say when Dean tried to get him to invite Sam along. And while that was true, it still stung.
Sam straightened his back, expecting Bobby to say, "And you might want to check out the library while we're busy."
Bobby said, "High time you started learning your way around cars."
Sam looked up quickly, blinking in surprise. "Really?"
"Unless killing Lucifer's general is enough for you boys for the rest of the decade."
"Wouldn't exactly blame 'em," Reggie interjected, bringing in a carton of chocolate milk for Sam, and a strawberry soda for Dean.
"We wouldn't exactly blame you." Bobby settled back in the recliner, the vinyl creaking beneath him.
"No. I'd like that." Sam shot a glance at Dean. "I'd really like that." Sam stabbed the plastic straw into the carton of milk and slurped some up, then grinned. Dean rubbed Sam's shoulders and looked at Bobby like he'd just pulled a lost puppy out of a well. He blinked slowly, long lashes thick and dark against his skin. Thank you.
"Bet you'll be real good at it, too." Bobby raised his eyebrows at Dean. "You better watch out. He might put you to shame."
"Probably." Dean ruffled Sam's hair. "Sammy's better at everything than me."
"Am not!" Sam protested.
"Chess? Better. School? Better."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Fighting? You're way better. Inventing stuff? You're totally better. Being a badass? You—"
"Sam, you tapped out your location in Morse code while they were torturing you. You never begged for mercy. You went to take down Azazel all by yourself—"
Sam shook his head. "That was stupid, that was—"
"That was brave, is what that was." Dean bit his lower lip. "That was…you did that to protect me. You were going to sacrifice yourself." His voice cracked. "To save me."
Sam opened his mouth, but Dean covered it with his fingers, so gently. "Sam. You're just better than me. And that's a fact."
"Dean," Bobby began.
Sam's eyes glistened. "You just don't get it, do you." He smiled, dimples standing out strong. "Everything I do, you taught me to do."
"Come on. Dad taught you plenty. Hell, Bobby taught you plenty-"
"How to find a way, when you didn't know what the hell to do next? You taught me that. How to keep going when you hurt like hell? You taught me to do that." Sam stared at Dean like he was a stack of gold bricks piled chest high. "You don't even know how good you are, Dean." The muscles in his jaw worked. "I hate him for making you think you were nothing."
Bobby rose to his feet with a grunt, and settled his hands on Sam and Dean's shoulders. "You're my boys now. Right?"
Sam and Dean looked at each other, then back at Bobby, nodding in unison.
"Well, I do things a little differently than…" Bobby caught himself. "Than John. He was old school. Marine bullshit. Tried to toughen you up by being a drill sergeant."
Dean's eyes closed, trying to stave off the memories. Walk it off! Jesus, Dean. Call yourself a hunter? You won't last a minute in a real fight if you coddle yourself every time you stub your damn toe.
"That's what he knew how to do. But I know a lot more." Bobby's attention focused on Dean. "And I know how good you are, Dean. As a hunter. A man. And you're smart. Smart as hell."
A slow tear fell from beneath Dean's closed eyelids.
"You're every bit as smart as Sam," Bobby continued. "And when I get you two boys back home with me, you and me are going to crack open some books and I'm going to show you what you can do when someone isn't throwing obstacles in your path and telling you you can't."
Dean opened his eyes and met Bobby's gaze. Another tear welled in his eye and spilled over onto his cheek. Bobby squeezed Dean's shoulder.
Sam looked at Bobby with such adoration, it was almost palpable. "See? Dean. I told you," Sam whispered.
"And you." Bobby nodded toward Sam. "You're gonna learn how to reassemble a damn carburetor."
"Yes, sir." Sam beamed.
Bobby kissed Sam's forehead. "Don't call me sir. Alright?" His voice was gentle.
Sam nodded. "Alright."
"What say you two park it and we watch a movie?"
Sam grabbed more soda for him and Dean, and insisted Bobby join them on the couch. Bobby settled in on the end, propping his leg up on an ottoman. Sam sat between him and Dean. Reggie made two big bowls of popcorn. They bickered in a genial fashion over which Western to watch. Dean wanted High Noon or Outlaw Josey Wales. Sam wanted Tombstone. Bobby argued for anything with John Wayne.
Reggie stuck a cold beer into Bobby's hand and settled down in the recliner with a tumbler half full of whiskey on the rocks. "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," he drawled.
Everyone looked at each other and nodded.
Sam took his shoes off and curled up on his side, shoving his feet under Dean's thighs, and nestled against Bobby's side, eating popcorn from the bowl in Bobby's lap. Bobby kept his arm around Sam. They laughed and watched and drank too much soda, Sam tossing kernels of popcorn at Dean and seizing with laughter as Dean caught each one, making the sound of a dog snarfing a treat from midair. Sam squirmed when Dean tickled his feet, and talked throughout the movie, high on sugar and happiness, and he and Dean spoke the lines they knew by heart in perfect time with the actors.
Bobby watched the boys, hugged Sam closer, nonchalantly reached his free hand up and rubbed his eyes like he was tired.
Reggie wasn't fooled.
Sam tugged one of the small pillows from behind him, propped it on Bobby's leg, rested his head on it and threw his long legs over Dean's lap. Dean rubbed Sam's calves.
Within a few minutes, Sam was fast asleep.
Dean and Bobby exchanged a look over Sam.
"Boy never could hold his soda," Bobby remarked.
"Yep. Bounces off the walls, then he's out like a light." Dean smoothed Sam's hair away from his face, green eyes soft and wide.
They stayed like that for a long time. Reggie filled Dean in on the tape recordings they were making of Nathaniel sharing everything he remembered from Azazel possessing him. Dean winced at the more sordid details, mouth tightening at what Nathaniel revealed about Azazel's original plans for Sam, taking it all in, listening intently and thinking—staying silent until he had something pertinent to say that revealed how fast his mind worked at making connections and interpreting things.
Sam slept, Bobby's hand on his shoulder, Dean's hands on Sam's thighs.
Dean asked Reggie to find out as much as they could from Nathaniel about how Azazel had locked Rosier into his vessel. If they could replicate that, they could cure demons that were topside, just like they had inadvertently cured Rosier.
Eventually, Dean squirmed. Bobby shot him a knowing look. "Yeah, I gotta pee like a racehorse." He looked down at Sam, fast asleep with his head in his lap. "Don't have the heart to wake him, though."
They let Sam sleep, gladly bearing the discomfort. Finally, Sam stirred. "Pizza…" he murmured.
"You're just a bottomless pit, aren't you." Bobby ruffled Sam's hair.
Sam sat up, bleary, a lock of hair sticking straight up. "Seriously. Pizza."
"I could get us some pizza. Sure." Reggie leaned forward.
"No. Let's go out. All of us. Danny and Juliane too."
Bobby and Reggie stared at Sam like he was crazy.
"It's safe. We killed Azazel. We can come and go now. We can even get you to a hospital, get your leg checked out." Sam told them what the demon Gus had imparted to him. No one on Earth is safer than you two. You killed Azazel. No demon will touch Sam or Dean Winchester. They are afraid.
Their expressions softened.
"C'mon," Dean grinned. "Let's blow this popsicle stand."
After Bobby and Dean took turns relieving their liquid-induced discomfort, Sam and Dean went ahead to the common room while Reggie helped Bobby change into real clothes. Juliane beamed when she saw them, eyes lingering on Sam for an extra beat. She examined Dean's face where she had removed the stitches, and evaluated the bruises that were visible from when Azazel had sent him flying into the mirror.
"We're going out. For dinner."
"Pizza," Dean added.
"You have to come." Sam took Juliane's hand. "Please."
She inhaled deeply, hands moving to the ponytail at the back of her neck. "It's been a long time since I did that."
Danny watched the series of emotions flicker across her face, not urging her one way or another. Waiting for her to make her own decision.
"Ok. Let's do it."
Danny put his arm around her waist and squeezed. "Proud of you," he whispered.
"Well, we haven't even left yet. Let's see how proud you are later."
Juliane and Danny did a quick check on Nathaniel and the two remaining survivors of the attack out of the five they had brought into the sanctuary. Three had left, not able to remember what had happened to them and completely accepting of the fiction Danny had concocted for them. Two remained, not quite ready to be released back into the world. They and Nathaniel gratefully accepted a sedative, and Danny locked them into their rooms, just to be sure that no one wandered where they shouldn't go.
The six of them—Danny and Juliane, Sam and Dean, Bobby and Reggie—emerged from the front office into the frosty air. The sky was pure indigo, in that brief moment before day turned completely into night. Reggie and Dean helped Bobby into the front seat of the van, and they all climbed in.
Danny steered the van over the salt speed bump. Out of habit, they scanned for demons, but there was no one. He drove them to a local pizza and Italian food restaurant that he declared was the best in town.
They were seated almost immediately at a large table in the back. Sam and Dean led the way.
They passed a booth where a waiter was setting down a large pizza in front of two men and a woman. All three turned pale at the sight of Sam and Dean. The woman knocked over her soda, spilling it all over the vegetarian special, and she hastily slid out from the booth and headed for the front door, breaking into a run as she passed the register. The two men followed fast on her heels, sending black-eyed, terrified glances over their shoulder at the two young men in jeans and flannel shirts.
"Hey!" the waiter called after them. "You gotta pay for that!"
"That's right, bitches," Dean said so only his party could hear. "You better run."
They sat around a large round table, Juliane in the most private and protected seat with her back to the wall, Danny on her right and Sam on her left. Dean, of course, sat next to Sam. Bobby sat next to Dean, and Reggie sat with his back to the main room, tugging his chair back so he had a better vantage point, out of long habit.
Danny ordered iced tea, as the designated driver, and Reggie ordered two pitchers of beer and a pitcher of cola. Sam insisted on ordering far too much food for the six of them. Garlic bread, minestrone, a massive bowl of chef's salad, fried mozzarella sticks, and three extra large pizzas, one plain pepperoni, one with every meat on the menu, and a black olive and anchovy.
The waitress brought the drinks out first, then returned with the soup, salad and appetizers on a huge round tray that she set down on a fold-out support. Before she'd even set down the plate of mozzarella sticks, Dean had snatched two up, handing one to Sam.
"Boys," Bobby warned. "Mind your manners."
Sam inhaled the mozzarella stick in three quick bites. Dean tore the tip off the straw wrapper and blew the white paper at Sam, hitting him right between the eyes. Sam batted it away and did the same thing with his straw to Dean, who tipped his head back and caught the paper wrapper in his mouth.
The waitress, a thin dark-haired woman with pronounced cheekbones, smiled as she set down a pitcher of beer in front of Bobby. "You got two sweet boys there."
Sam and Dean looked up.
"Yeah." Bobby sat up straight, tugging his flannel shirt down. "Yeah, I sure do."
Bobby and Reggie worked on their beer like consummate professionals. Danny ate with his left hand, keeping his right hand on Juliane at all times, rubbing her back gently or simply holding her hand beneath the table. Juliane warmed under the light and laughter at the table, eyes bright as she watched Reggie gesticulate, miming how a vamp had nearly gotten free but fell into an open sewer, flailing his arms frantically, right before Reggie took his head off with a machete; roaring with laughter as Bobby told the tale of the demon who poured half a glass of lemonade down its throat before it realized it was full of salt, not sugar; watching Sam and Dean bump shoulders and steal each other's pizza while the other wasn't looking, and pick thin strips off anchovy of Bobby's pizza and menace each other with them until Bobby told them to stop playing with his damn dinner.
They ate and drank and ate some more, then pushed back from the table with a groan. Until Sam ordered cheesecake for everyone. "You aren't totally full. There's still the dessert pocket left," he protested.
Sam fought back a grin. "The dessert pocket. You can eat and eat, but there's this pocket inside your stomach, see, just for dessert…"
Bobby rolled his eyes. "Dessert pocket…" But sure enough, when the waitress returned with six tall slices of New York style cheesecake gleaming with mixed berry sauce, each of them managed to eat the entire thing.
Reggie cleared his throat, wiping his moustache with a napkin. Then he raised his glass. "To family."
Bobby sniffled, and raised his glass. "To family." Sam and Dean raised their glasses of cola, and Sam nudged Juliane. "That means you guys too."
Juliane's mouth fell open. Danny blinked rapidly, and stammered, "But…but…"
Bobby raised his glass higher. "Family don't end with blood, boy."
Juliane and Danny raised their glasses, and the six drank a toast.
Sam refused Juliane's offer to pay, pulling bills out of his wallet. The waitress packaged up the pizza they had not managed to finish, and they walked back to the van. Danny settled Bobby into the front seat again, whereupon he belched.
"It's a sign of respect in some cultures to burp after a good meal."
"Yeah, well, not in this one." Dean replied, eyes darting to Sam to take in his appreciation of Dean's teasing.
"Keep sassing me, boy." Bobby tried to look stern.
"It's just 'cause I love ya." Dean grinned. Bobby swallowed hard, and reached his hand back to squeeze Dean's.
Danny turned the radio to a country station, and they rode back to the Sanctuary, enjoying the music without anyone feeling a need to make chitchat. When they arrived, everyone tumbled out of the van and headed into the common room.
Reggie watched as the boys practically toppled over onto the couch, in a moment of affectionate roughhousing, as Bobby beamed at them; as Danny followed Juliane into the kitchen and kissed the back of her neck. His mouth worked, moustache twitching. "Hey y'all."
All eyes turned to him.
"You seem pretty ok here, and I need to ask a favor. There's something I need to do. It'll just take a couple of days. I thought I'd head out tomorrow, if y'all don't mind."
Bobby looked surprised, then nodded. "Sure. You do what you gotta do."
"What's… what are you…" Sam began.
"I made a promise to a friend." Remembering the feeling of Marcus's hand in his. The offer he'd made to make Reggie dinner. When I find the boys and make sure they're safe, I'll come back and take you up on that.