Title: Bonded and Broken
Characters: Sam, Dean, John, Bobby
Genre: Gen, hurt/comfort, AU, Wee!chester
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural except in my dreams where schmoop abounds.
Warnings: Those of you who think John Winchester was a good father doing the best he could under terrible circumstances may not like my portrayal. He's not deliberately cruel, but he is negligent and he treats his sons as though they are soldiers, not little boys. Just remember this story is AU and Sammy knows what his daddy does at a much younger age than canon Sammy.
Word Count: ~3,600
Summary: This is the third story in the 'Wish 'verse. I recommend reading at least the first story here before you read this one as this is an AU and it may be difficult to follow if you don't get the background. In summary: Young Sammy's wish to be a grown up whenever his big brother, Dean, needs help gets granted by a well-meaning gypsy. The unexpected consequences of the wish cause an unbreakable bond to develop between the brothers. A magical creature, the black imp, attempts to take the wish away from the boys, but is thwarted by John who is then cursed by the imp to forever be in pain when his sons are nearby.
In this installment Dean is 10 and Sammy is 6 until his brother needs his help and the Wish transforms him into a 24 year old. Dad comes home from a hunt and something is…wrong. Once more it's up to adult Sam to protect young Dean from danger and this time he can't count on John for back-up.
Bonded and Broken
Chapter 6 Pictures That Tell A Story
Railway workers are milling all around, crowding too close, demanding to know 'what happened' and 'who's hurt' and 'what needs to be done' in loud, dissonant voices.
Some of them had gone in pursuit of the four men who had attacked Sam, but many of them had arrived too late to witness the ferocious beating. It had been horrifying, a frenzy of battering blows and disabling kicks, it had been animalistic…inhuman.
And now Sam is lying on the train platform unconscious with strangers swarming all around him and Dean has to get to him, help him, protect him. He squirms and snarls, not even recognizing his own voice, until he is able to slip free of Steve's sheltering grasp. Once he reaches his brother he starts calling his name, desperate for a response, while simultaneously using his body to shield Sammy from all the people crushing in on them. "Please Sam, please. Sam! Sammy!"
Cracking open unfocused eyes, Sam mumbles something that sounds like 'Dean, I'm okay' or 'It's alright' and even though neither of those things are remotely true it still makes him heave a shuddering breath of relief because Sam is awake and talking and Dean's unforgivable lapse hasn't resulted in the tragedy it could so easily have turned into. This is the first time Sam has been hurt while trying to keep him out of danger and Dean feels wretched.
It's the first time Sam has been hurt while protecting him, but it's not the first time Sam has been hurt because of him. No, that would have been the Shtriga attack from a few months ago and Dean had sworn a solemn oath to never, ever shirk his responsibilities like that again. Dad had been furious then and Dean shudders to think what the hunter will do have to say about this.
"Everyone, please move back. Give them some room. A little space here, please." Pushing through the mob with his hands in front of him like he's trying to part the red sea, Tim soon has the concerned railroad personnel dispersed to a considerate distance where they congregate in clumps to discuss the latest excitement. Tim may not be the largest or the most intimidating man around, but with his long legs and commanding voice he has a certain presence and his co-workers obviously respect him.
Steve squats down nearby and places a gentle hand on Sam's shoulder to keep him from trying to sit up. "Easy, take it easy. Do you need an ambulance?"
"No ambulance. It looks a lot worse than it is. I'm fine." He sounds like he's talking around a mouthful of marbles, but Sam's gaze is clearer and he looks right at Dean, puts his hand on top of the two Dean has fisted in his shirt. "It's not that bad, kiddo." Through their link Dean gets indignation, forgiveness, humor and deep abiding affection. Stop beating yourself up. None of this is your fault.
Unconvinced, Tim says, "It looked pretty bad. Are you sure we can't call you an ambulance?"
"I'm sure. All four of them were so intent on getting their licks in that they didn't bother putting all that much force behind their swings." Sam grimaces as Steve gives up and helps him to a more or less sitting position.
Ignoring the razor blades that seem to be imbedded in his kneecap, Dean rakes his eyes over ever part of his brother he can see, anxiously cataloguing every red puffy mark and contusion. The steady thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump of Sam's heart is like a siren's call to him and he finds himself in his brother's lap, ear pressed to his heart, which is probably a good thing because he hasn't figured out how to make his hands relax their grip on Sam's shirt yet. He might be embarrassed later, but right now he's still stuck in a loop of panic and guilt and fear and remorse. Regardless of how it looks to anyone else, he needs this contact, proof that his brother is here with him.
"Who were those men, Sam? They sounded as if they were after Dean. What did they want?" Steve's eyes are piercing; disturbed in a way that makes Dean think this is the first time anything like this has ever happened at the train yard.
"I don't know who they were. I've never seen them before." Sam rubs his jaw, fingering the tender area where a bruise will most likely appear tomorrow.
Steve glances at Tim as though he needs some backup and then rests a work-roughened hand lightly on the top of Dean's head. "Just tell me…look, I need to know I'm doing the right thing here. Are you in some kind of trouble?"
"You don't have to tell us everything. I know sometimes things get out of hand and it's hard to know where to turn. We just want to help." Tim joins in. "We've all been there at some point."
"I doubt you've ever been where we are." Sam clenches his teeth, a dead giveaway to how upset he's getting. The barrage of questions following the fight and the worry brought on by their father have all taken their toll and Dean can sense his brother reaching the end of his rope despite his best efforts to be strong.
The need for reinforcements has never been greater. If only they could get to Bobby's, let Sam take a break, everything might be better. Help is so close and yet it seems further away than ever. Dean looks at Steve, at Tim, assessing. Or they could take a chance on these men and let the chips fall where they may. Not that he's ready to let the cat out of the bag completely, but maybe they could be slightly more honest than they've been up until now.
"Can you at least tell us how Dean hurt his leg?" Tim asks hopefully like maybe that story will be an easy starting point.
And Dean can't take anymore without speaking up. "My dad's in trouble." He can feel his chin quiver and hates how he can't control it. He hates the tell-tale quiver because he doesn't want Tim and Steve to see how weak he is, doesn't want them to think he can't handle this. Never mind that he's basically huddled in Sam's lap right now. Sam's not the only one who has taken one too many blows lately. Dean had almost lost his brother and sometimes…well, sometimes his thinks Sam might be the only thing standing between him and utter despair.
"What kind of trouble?"
"I don't know what kind." Dean states miserably.
"Those four men who tried to take Dean may be involved with John, Dean's father." Sam squeezes the nape of Dean's neck in a show of support and now that the young boy has taken the initiative to tell their new friends more of the truth, he seems content to follow his lead and add more to the explanation. "It seems like too much of a coincidence for them to show up here acting as if they know us for it all not to be related somehow."
"Okay, that settles it." A determined expression steals over Steve's kind features. "You boys are coming home with me tonight."
"No. We couldn't do that." Sam pinches the bridge of his nose and then brushes his wayward bangs out of his eyes. "I don't want to put you in danger. Those men might come back."
"If those men found you here by following the train and checking the first stop along the train tracks, then they won't know where you're going to go next. They don't know me and they don't know where I live. They won't be able to follow you to my house." Steve tries to reason.
Stubbornly, Sam shakes his head. "We can't be sure of that. I can't take the chance."
When it looks as though Sam wants to stand up, Tim steps forward and holds his arms out to Dean.
The silent offer startles Dean. He's not sure he's ready to relinquish his grasp on his only anchor and yet he can't expect his brother to continue to sit here indefinitely cuddling him like a spoiled brat. So, he's going to have to get up and he knows Tim is being really nice, asking in a non-threatening way if he can help by picking him up. Tim is a good guy. Who knows what might have happened if the lanky shipping coordinator hadn't been smart enough to rally the railroad workers to come help Sam. Dean doesn't want to make him feel bad by rejecting the offer. It's that thought more than the hot throbbing from his abused knee that makes him unclench his fists from his brother's shirt and lift his arms out to Tim in acceptance.
Sam watches with a look of amazement as Tim gets Dean settled as comfortably as he can in the chair once more. The anxious concern he pushes at Dean comes as no surprise, Dean would feel the same if the roles were reversed. He wouldn't want anyone else taking care of Sammy.
Taking his cue from Tim, Steve pulls Sam to his feet, keeping a hand under his elbow to steady him just in case. Sam's hand jerks up to cover his ribs, a crinkle of pain evident on his brow.
"No offense son, but you look like a stiff wind could knock you over." Tim eyes Sam's hunched form critically. "You're both done in."
"Where else can you go? I'm your best choice, maybe your only choice." Steve takes a step back and rubs a worried hand over his shaved head. "Come to my place. You can get a good night's sleep and in the morning I'll drive you to Sioux Falls myself."
"Why can't you take us now?" It's rude and it's wrong and Sam hasn't even agreed to let Steve take them anywhere yet, but Dean can't keep from asking. Steve is right, Sam is shaky at best and they need to get to Bobby's. Now.
"If I take you now what're you going to do if your friend still isn't there? Do you have anywhere else you can stay?"
Dean chews his lip, no answer forthcoming. There isn't anywhere else they can go. They don't know anyone else is Sioux Falls.
"And even if he is there, how do you know he can help you?"
"He can help." Dean has to believe Bobby can help.
Sighing, Steve pleads, "How about this – you call again and if he answers I'll take you right now or he can come get you, whatever you want. But if he doesn't answer you come with me, let me ease my conscious by making sure I'm at least sending you off in better shape than you arrived. Please. I want to do this. Please let me."
Sam's eyes narrow to suspicious slits. "Why?" He asks. "Why do you want to help us?"
"I may not be exactly where you are now," Steve concedes. "But I've seen my share of dark days, days when I wasn't…" Eyes shining, he stops, coughs roughly. "All I'm saying is - I had help and I just want to pay it forward, I guess."
The nod Sam gives Steve is both resigned and full of sympathy, recognizing the emotional scars left by a hard life survived. "How can I say 'no' to that?"
More than one of the railroad workers makes a point of coming over to make sure they're alright as they limp back to the terminal; Dean looses count after a while. The story has spread like wild fire, just like any juicy gossip among a community of people who work closely together and are interested in everything that affects one of their own. Each one wants to express their outrage over the attack and to offer whatever assistance they can. Because of this and because of Sam's ambling gait, progress is slow.
All the attention makes Dean feel strange. He's used to living in the shadows, flying under the radar, and generally trying not to be noticed. Dad wouldn't be happy about this. Dean's stomach flutters uneasily. He hitches the borrowed coat up around his ears, scrunches down in the chair and tries to make himself into an inconspicuous lump. Sam's emotions are churning along similar lines.
Steve must see how uncomfortable they are because he begins running interference, heading people off and promising to convey their heartfelt apologies for the unfortunate event that had happened at their station, as though they should have been able to prevent it simply due to the fact that good people work here. Tim continues to push Dean's chair and by the time they reach the quiet peace of his office they all look like they've run the gauntlet.
Sam pulls the scrap of paper he'd written Bobby's phone number on out of his pocket and takes a shallow breath, rubbing a hand lightly over his ribs as if coaxing them to behave. After waiting through what must have been twenty rings or so he shakes his head and hangs up.
"I need to make arrangement to take the rest of today and tomorrow off." Steve says on his way out the door. "Will you be okay to wait here for a bit?"
"I'm going to get you some water and aspirin." Tim twists the wedding band on his finger distractedly and follows Steve, leaving Sam and Dean alone for the first time since lunch.
Sam is perched on the edge of the desk closest to the door with his head hanging loosely on his neck, long, brown hair obscuring his face and Dean's chair is pushed at an angle on the opposite side of the heavy piece of office furniture. The distance seems like a gapping chasm.
"Sam? You okay?" His voice sounds thread-bare, tattered.
Sam's head comes up slowly, eyes fixing firmly on Dean's. "I'm fine kiddo, I promise. I don't know what those guys were trying to do, but they can't separate us that easily." There's finality in his words and a strength that Dean latches onto gratefully.
They each take a couple of aspirin with the water Tim brings back and it's not too long before Steve is ready to drive them to his place. Tim walks them to Steve's car and makes them promise to keep in touch. Yeah, it's a nice sentiment, not likely to happen though. No matter how much Dean wishes otherwise.
As soon as they get inside Steve's modest two-story house, his gaze is drawn to the family photos adorning the wall leading to the staircase. Dean is fascinated by the pictures other people choose to take and keep because he only has a small handful of snapshots taken of his family. He keeps them in a shoebox along with a few other prized possessions. The pictures he keeps in that shoebox tell everything about what he holds near and dear to his heart and he imagines that the pictures other people keep tell a story about what they treasure most in the world too.
The pictures on Steve's wall tell a story of a happy family, small but joyful. There are photos of the three of them together, father, mother and child. The Steve in those pictures is younger with thick black hair and twinkling eyes. The mother has an oval face and a button nose that turns up at the end. The child, a boy, has his father's dark hair and his mother's blue eyes. Many of the pictures are of just the boy; in a baseball uniform holding a bat and grinning proudly, wearing a suit with his hair combed carefully straight and parted on the side, formal school pictures and casual photos. The boy's age ranges from infant up to about twelve or thirteen, something like that.
"My son, Matt." Steve says, following Dean's gaze to a picture of the boy riding a bicycle. He smiles and it's the saddest smile Dean's ever seen.
Voice forcibly lighter, Steve says, "Okay, who's going to be the first to suffer through my questionable first aid skills?" He carries Dean into the living room and lowers him to a comfortable couch, careful to keep his left leg as straight as possible.
Crazy how even after almost two full days of being reliant on other people to cart him around, he just can't get used to the feeling of helplessness. His nerves jump and his skin crawls at the thought of what a vulnerable position they're in. He tries to act convincingly calm, but with John compromised and Sam out of commission, it's all up to him to keep them safe and he doesn't have a weapon, can't even walk.
Sam sits next to him gingerly, wincing at the pull on bruises and sore muscles. "Relax, kiddo. You take the weight of the world on your shoulders too quickly." He whispers for Dean's ears only then turns to answer Steve's question. "Let's take a look at Dean's leg first. I haven't been able to do a proper job of it myself."
"Yeah, I have some clothes he can change into. I'll be right back." When Steve returns he's carrying an armful of clothes. He rummages through the pile until he finds what he's looking for and tosses a pair of soft sweat pants and a fleece hooded sweat shirt over the back of the sofa and into Sam's lap. "They were Matt's." The simple statement hangs in the air as though waiting for someone to attach the significant meaning onto it that it deserves. Before Sam or Dean can think of what to say, Steve disappears down the hall again. "First aid kit." He calls in explanation for his departure.
Dean looks around the room, wondering where Matt might be. He cocks his head at Sam and Sam returns the unspoken question with a raised eyebrow and a slight frown.
Getting the blue jeans off is just as much of a royal pain as Dean thought it would be, pain being the operative word. The drag of the jeans against his knee causes the kneecap to shift and grate, pulling tendons and cartilage into unnatural configurations. He holds his breath and closes his eyes as the pain jolts through him and he swears every nerve ending in his body including the ones in his hair are standing on end, electrified and raw, by the time it's over.
Sam's hushed "Jesus" makes Dean open his eyes and look at the disfigured joint. The sight does what all the yanking to get the jeans off hadn't accomplished, it pulls a moan from his throat and he's suddenly cold and tingly all over. "Shhhh, it's okay. Close your eyes." Sam soothes and gets him lying down just as Steve reenters the room toting a large white box with a big red plus sign on the cover. He can't even be embarrassed because he's concentrating so hard on taking the deep breaths Sam is coaching him through.
The sweat pants are a size too big on him, loose but warm and comfy. He snuggles into the fleece hoodie and closes his eyes because Sam told him too, not because he's tired. And besides it's the middle of the afternoon and he's not going to nap. Dean Winchester hasn't needed an afternoon nap since he was four years old. Letting himself drift, he feels the tug of ace bandages being applied and hears the muffled whispering of conversation.
He must sleep through the treatment of Sam's injuries because the next thing he know someone is carrying him – probably Steve – and chuckling quietly. "Yeah, the bed in the guest room is big enough to fit you both. I think Siamese twins are less attached to each other than the two of you."
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