Bonded and Broken 7/?
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: ~3,500
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 7 Beyond Empathy
His dad is staked out in a woodsy clearing, arms tied out to his sides and head dangling limply as though he's been there for a while, days maybe. A bonfire crackles and pops nearby, Sam can feel the heat from the flames as they dance among the pile of rotten logs, he can see the smoke shift with the changing direction of the wind. His attention is drawn to a group of people just entering the clearing. He recognizes about half of them - the four men who had tried to abduct Dean at the railway station. The other four are women and he's pretty sure he's never seen them before, they don't seem familiar at any rate.
A man wearing a mud brown parka, fur lined hood pulled over his head, saunters up to John. He's the guy who tried to sneak up behind Sam at the station. "Your kids are more wily than we gave them credit for. They got away again." Despite the nature of his words the man looks more amused than angry, smug even.
John lifts his head with what appears to take every ounce of strength he has left and growls, "You leave my kids alone."
"No can do Johnny boy. They have an important role to play and once we get our hands on'em we can finish tenderizing them, get'em good and bloody in time for our Halloween party."
"If you dare touch…"
"It's a little late for that. We've already had some fun and we have more planned. So much more. Besides, when are we ever going to have the chance to toy with a hunter's children again? Especially a hunter as notorious as the great John Winchester."
There's a partially healed gash on the side of his father's head. One of the women smiles sweetly and runs her fingers along the crusty edge until it begins to seep sticky red fluid. John groans and twitches in his bindings, but there isn't anything he can do to stop his tormentor. Her grin widens, becomes feral, and she smears the blood with her fingertips, lifts them to her mouth.
Sam awakens from his dream slowly, as if his dream and reality are in an evenly matched tug of war with his consciousness. The sounds of his father's futile protests swirl around and intermingle with a murmured conversation between Dean and Steve. For a while Sam lies there trying to parse the two together, trying to make sense out of why his brother and Steve have appeared in the clearing with his dad and hoping they haven't been captured as well.
He's still so tired, his head aches and his eyelids feel like they have weights attached to them. Sleep beckons.
"Try to relax, the muscle is all bunched up."
"I can't. It hurts."
Dean's muffled whimper jolts Sam fully awake and he rolls toward his brother's voice, hissing as his bruised ribs take the brunt of the sudden movement. "What's goin' on?" He grumbles, exhaustion making him sound like a grumpy six year old. Huh, irony anyone?
Entire body rigid on the queen sized bed next to him, Dean is on his stomach with his face smooshed into a pillow which is probably why his voice is so muffled. Steve is kneeling next to the bed, massaging the calf of Dean's injured leg with a grimace on his face that looks as though he'd happily absorb the pain through the palms of his hands if it meant he could spare the young boy who is currently muffling his cries into the pillow.
"Charlie horse." Steve says, glancing over at Sam. "I heard noises coming from your room and thought I'd better check on you guys. I don't think Dean wanted to wake you up."
It bothers him that Dean would rather suffer by himself than wake him up. It bothers him even more that he didn't wake up as soon as his brother needed him. How their bond failed to warn him he has no idea. He had been tired, but he hadn't been that tired. Not tired enough to sleep through noises that Steve heard from down the hall and through a closed door. His dream must have had a pretty strong hold on him, his ultra realistic and vivid dream…
"Ahhhh!" Dean cries out again, punching the mattress with one fist and Sam's heart lurches against his ribcage.
"Sorry, I've almost got it, just a little longer, hang in there." Steve rambles a string of hopeful yet ineffective prattle and then turns to Sam to explain. "The muscle is tied in a knot. If he could relax I could work the knot out, but I think his knee is making it worse, a vicious circle of pain and stress and tension."
"Do you have a heating pad?" Sam asks, moving in to replace Steve's hands on Dean's calf.
"Yeah, I'll go get it."
The muscle is a hard, tight bundle under his hand. It feels like a tiny slinky that someone has pulled straight and released to form a chaotic snarl. Sam can't even imagine how much it must hurt what with the dislocated kneecap on the same leg.
He pours calm and relaxation through their connection, envisions it flowing from his hands and into his brother like sand filling a bucket. They've never tried anything like this and he's not sure it's going to work, but even if it only helps a little bit it'll be worth the effort. He wills a sense of serenity into the boy. It's different from what they normally do because it's not so much letting Dean feel Sam's emotions as it is trying to make Dean feel something he can't feel by himself. It's not so much pushing his feelings at Dean as it is pushing his feelings into him. The distinction is subtle yet all-encompassing.
Dean shudders and curls his upper body forward, reaches around to grasp Sam's wrist. "Sam," he says as though he's whispering a heart-felt prayer.
"I know kiddo. I know it hurts. Just…take a deep breath and hold it. I'm going to try to release the tension." Composed and centered, Sam breathes in at the same time Dean does and presses the thumbs of both his hands into the tight coil of muscle. The slender calf jerks desperately and Dean grits his teeth through a moan. Holding the boy's leg as steady as he can, Sam kneads his thumbs firmly into the knot and feels it give slightly so he follows through, continues to press and knead and stroke the muscle while sending thoughts of sedate tranquility along his connection with his brother in an ever strengthening stream.
He's so intent on what he's doing that he doesn't hear Steve come quietly into the room to stand discretely behind him until the muscle loosens and lays flat beneath his probing fingers.
"Ohhh," Dean sighs on a long exhale. Relief flutters languidly across their bond.
Steve plugs in the heating pad and positions it under Dean's leg, rolling the boy, limbs now pliable and slack, onto his back where the pad can do the most good pressed against the quivering calf muscle. "There now, that's better." He says and smoothes the blanket back into place, lays a lingering hand on Dean's cheek, the gesture so ripe with longing that Sam aches to see it although he doesn't quite know why, before retiring to his own bedroom.
"How're you feeling, kiddo?" Sam asks, cautious.
The mellow, heavy-lidded gaze his brother bestows on him reminds Sam of the way Dean had acted in the hospital dosed up on anti-anxiety drugs after his first run in with the vengeful spirit two years ago. "Good." The corners of the boy's lips turn up in a lazy, goofy expression as his eyes slide shut.
Sam can't help but smile at the blissed-out look on his brother's face and he tries to ignore the fretful icicles of dread creeping along his spine. What has he just done?
Steve fixes them bacon, eggs and toast for breakfast once the sun crests the horizon, orange juice for Dean and coffee for Sam. Everything tastes wonderful. Even though he's still tired from the strange night, his bizarre dreams and Dean's painful muscle spasm, he feels much better overall for the rest and the care shown by Steve.
The bruises he is now sporting match Dean's in abundance and variety of colors. A black eye had stared back at him from the bathroom mirror earlier, the shiner easily recognizable despite the ice pack Steve had given him last night. The purples and reds of the bruise on his jaw are also hard to overlook. His ribs are the worst though, tender and sore. For as much as they aren't broken, they're still preventing ease of movement, keeping him from being able to look after Dean the way he'd like to and making them both somewhat dependent on Steve. He and his brother look like they've been through the wringer and that's not so far off from the truth.
Dean seems chipper at the breakfast table, all trace of his calm stupor gone. The results of whatever crazy mind mojo Sam had inadvertently forced upon his brother hadn't lasted through the night. Thankfully. And Dean doesn't mention it; doesn't say he felt weird or ask what Sam did to him and Sam's not sure how to bring it up without freaking himself and his brother out.
He will eventually, they'll need to talk about the implications, just not yet.
"Can we go to Bobby's now?" Dean eagerly pops the last bite of toast into his mouth.
"You sure I can't talk you into sticking around a while longer?" Steve picks up the empty plates and takes them to the sink, nonchalant in a very purposeful way. "I've been thinking about what you asked me yesterday, about whether there's any work for you to do around here."
The railroad man doesn't understand their lives, he doesn't know the kind of danger John is in, the urgency required. Sam can't blame him for trying to keep them here when all he's trying to do is help. A part of him wishes they could take their benefactor up on his offer.
Dean's eyes get big and Sam starts shaking his head to forestall his brother's emphatic reaction. "No, we have to be getting on. I'd like to pay you back for your kindness. Maybe we'll make it back this way someday." He doesn't mean for it to sound so melancholy, so dejected.
Steve regards them both closely and adds, "It's just that my brother-in-law has a farm the next county over. Grows corn, soy beans, raises some pigs. He's always looking for help, doesn't ask too many questions. You could rest up here for a couple days and once you're feeling up to it, I could take you over and introduce you." Furrowing his brow, the man turns away slightly as if anticipating the negative answer, steeling himself for rejection.
Voice soft and projecting an unusual amount of compassion for his age, Dean says, "Steve, we can't stay. My Dad needs us." His brother's eyes are liquid, somber and ageless. They exude a beseeching quality, a magnetic pull that captivates Sam for a moment.
If Steve's next words are anything to go by, he feels the boy's influence just as deeply.
"I know you have to go. I had to try though. I couldn't let you leave without giving it a try." The man nods and tosses the dish rag from his shoulder onto the countertop. "This belongs to you." He opens a drawer near the sink to remove the glock and hands it to Sam who quickly tucks it into the waistband at the small of his back where it slots into place like the missing piece of a puzzle. "I picked it up after the fight. Didn't want anyone to see it and bring on more trouble. Reckon you boys have enough of that to last you a lifetime and then some." As if it's as simple as that Steve drags a hand across his mustache and says, "Let's get this show on the road then."
Steve is as good as his word and they pull up to Bobby's scrap yard three hours later with Sam giving directions and pointing out the turns.
They're only about halfway down the long gravel drive leading to their friend's business and home when Dean leans forward from the back seat, pointing, he says, "Dad's here."
Sure enough, the shinny, black Chevy Impala is parked at the side of the house, surrounded by other cars, inconspicuous with only its nose sticking around the corner as if it got impatient while playing hide and seek. Trust Dean to spot the car amongst all the others from such a distance.
Torn between wanting to tell Steve to throw his Dodge Lancer into reverse and spit gravel in their haste to get away and wanting to rush into the house in the hopes that their dad is really and truly back in all senses of the word, Sam compromises. "Stop here."
The car rolls to a stop but continues to idle as Steve sits on the brake, hands griping the wheel tightly. All three of them stare at the blistered paint on the deceptively run-down house. Even though it may not look like much, the house contains mysteries beyond most people's imaginings.
A loud banging noise makes them jump. The screen door is flung aside and their father is framed in the doorway for long indecisive seconds. Bobby appears behind him and then their dad is moving. They watch as if frozen as the giant grizzly bear of a man comes charging toward the car, impressive in stature as well as demeanor. Dean is staring at the man like he's studying for a test that his life depends on his passing.
Steve shifts nervously in his seat. "That's Dean's dad?" He asks without taking his eyes from the rapidly approaching figure.
"Yeah." At least it's possible that figure is their dad. There's also a pretty good chance it's not. Sam can't be sure one way or the other. "Stay here." He says and then does the only thing he can under the circumstances. In keeping with priority number one, he opens his car door and quickly moves to intercept John before the man can make it all the way to the car and Dean.
The smell hits him from ten feet away. John reeks of cheap whiskey, thick and cloying as if he's been bathing in the stuff. His head-long rush stutters and stops at Sam's advance. "Where in blue blazes have you been?" He bellows. "I've been out of my mind looking for you. Can you even imagine how I felt coming back to that empty motel room? Do you have any idea what that was like for me?" He teeters sideways as though the dirt beneath his feet is pitching and yawing, catches himself improbably and squints red-rimmed eyes at the car.
Sam wishes he could say he's never seen his dad like this, wishes this was abnormal behavior and he could use its existence to deny the man in front of them as their father. But that just isn't the case. If anything, it may prove the opposite is true.
Bobby clumps up and puts a hand on Sam's shoulder. "Sam, it's good to see you son. You're daddy's been worried." His words are weighted with meaning, but what that meaning is exactly escapes Sam.
"Is Dean in the car?" John takes a step forward, gestures widely with one hand and nearly loses his balance. "Dean, get out here right now! That's an order!" He yells.
Sam pushes hesitance, patience, and caution at Dean, gently and carefully avoids pushing the emotions into his brother. He's unwilling to make that mistake a second time. Stay put.
The driver's side door and the back door of the Dodge open at the same time. Sam grits his teeth and tries not to feel betrayed. Apparently Dean is ignoring Sam's order in favor of his father's and Steve isn't content to stay safely in the vehicle while the boy goes to meet his fate. It's all beginning to feel like a bad farce that's spiraling out of control.
Steve makes a move to pick Dean up out of habit, but Dean evades his outstretched arms and shuffles a couple of steps using the car for support. "Dad? You're here?"
The question is much more complicated that it seems because of the underlying doubt regarding which version of their father is here or, asked another way, whether this is their real dad or the imposter. Only Sam and Dean are privy to all the different layers involved.
Sam needs to grapple this situation back into some semblance of control quickly. He still has the gun and since it worked to dissuade the pretender last time he has no reason to think it won't work again if it comes to that. That knowledge makes it easier for him to put his haphazard plan into action. Play it cool, stay alert.
"John, Bobby, this is Steve. He's helping us out of a jam by giving us a lift." Sam hopes the introductions will diffuse their father's volatile temper. The man is unpredictable when he's drunk.
Steve and Bobby shake hands, then Steve and John. The later is stilted and gruff, the two men seemingly measuring and taking notes.
"Mighty good of you to help our boys out." Bobby inserts himself between them. "Can you come in for a bit? Take a load off and let me get you something to eat for your troubles."
"Don't mind if I do, although it wasn't any trouble. I was happy to be able to help." Dropping his hands to Dean's shoulders, Steve smiles down at the boy. "Your son is a pleasure, but I'm sure you already know that."
In an unprecedented move, Dean leans into Steve's touch and Sam is floored for a moment. The shy, comfort-seeking gesture is unusual coming from his brother, extraordinary in that the recipient is not Sam.
John's eyes narrow, but he nods his agreement and seems to deflate some. "Right, he's a good kid, does what he's told most of the time."
"Sam, can I have a word with you, please?" Steve tightens his fingers on Dean's shoulders. It's a promise to the boy and a clear signal to everyone else.
John looks like he's about to protest, but Bobby links an arm around the taller hunter's neck and starts steering him up to the house. "Sure, take as long as you need. John and I are going to put a pot of coffee on and scrounge up something to feed everyone."
Sam is surprised by how easily John gives up on his tirade. Undoubtedly the man is merely saving it all for later. He sends a silent 'thank you' to Bobby for his presence of mind.
"That's Dean's dad?" Steve asks for the second time like he's really hoping for a different answer this time.
Sam wants to tell Steve that he's not certain whether it is or isn't. He wants to open his heart and explain…everything. "He's not always like that," is what he says instead and tugs his brother into a shuddering hug.
On to ( Chapter 8 )
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