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: ~4,000
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 8 It All Comes Crashing Down
Their considerable distance from Bobby's house doesn't stop the angry tirade from reaching them. His dad's voice is loud and strident, the meaning clear even if the words are indecipherable. John is furious in a way which would normally have Dean doing whatever it took to diffuse the situation. As it is, the sound scrapes across his eardrums like sandpaper and he stiffens, pulling back slightly from Sam's encircling hold so he can look up into his brother's face.
Sam's eyes are darting from the house where John and Bobby had disappeared only moments ago to Steve who is standing nearby with his mouth hanging open to Dean where they finally come to rest and soften. The emotions Dean can feel coming from his brother when he opens the link between them are a worried kind of disappointment that is skewed toward weary disheartenment with a heavy dose of the ever present protective determination. The gist is clear, Sam is tired and he feels like he has to protect Dean…again.
Resolve courses through his bones as Dean watches the young man in front of him begin to square his shoulders in preparation to take on whatever trouble is brewing inside the house and he's had enough. He can't take one more second of standing idly by and allowing his brother to do his job, the job that Dean is meant to do. It's his responsibility to take care of his family and he's going to do it no matter what the cost.
Steve is a good man, a good friend. He doesn't deserve to bear witness to whatever is about to happen, whether that be their drunken father taking his frustrations out on his sons or a monster tearing off its John disguise and trying to rip Dean apart. Either way, Dean figures it's his burden and no one else's.
The respite he'd had with Steve was no more than an illusion, a fairytale. He's angry at himself for letting the railroad worker get so involved. He's even angrier at himself for enjoying it as much as he has. The fact that he'd wanted it for his brother as much as for himself doesn't make it any more attainable.
That life is a life that doesn't belong to him, a shoe that doesn't fit and suddenly he feels like the ugly stepsister in a Disney story – well, except for the girl part. He's not a chick. So it's time to stop dreaming and get back to reality, his reality.
Pasting a cocky smile on his face, he pretends his father is not screaming bloody murder in Bobby's house. "You don't need to come in with us. We're good from here." If he could send Sammy away too he would, but he's not foolish enough to think his brother would go. He'll just have to find a way to get in between his dad and his brother when the time comes. It's not like he hasn't done this sort of thing before.
"I'm not leaving you here, Dean." Steve's gaze reluctantly slides from the source of the yelling and comes to rest on Dean's upturned face. "There was nothing I could do when my only son died of leukemia but watch him suffer." His eyes fill with tears and he rubs a shaking hand over his shaved head. The moment drags out for a while as the burly railroad worker regains his composure. "Now there's something I can do about this and I'm not letting the two of you go into that house. I'm not going to walk away and just let this happen. I can't."
Dean feels the grin on his face crack into a million pieces. The stark loss radiating from the man who has been so kind to them hits him with all the weight of a sledge hammer. Lifting a hand to touch his friend's arm, he whispers, "I'm sorry."
Sam reaches over Dean's head to lay a sympathetic hand on Steve's shoulder. He doesn't say anything though and Dean gets it. There's nothing to say that can make Steve feel any better or make his pain go away. There's no vengeance to be vowed or justice to be granted and the only comfort to be given is the comfort of understanding and shared sorrow.
The silence is finally broken by Steve, his voice thick. He nods his head, wiping the back of his hand across his eyes. "I'll take you back to my place. We'll give Dean's dad some time to cool off, sober up, then we'll come back."
Dean can only imagine how his father will react if they try to get back into the Lancer and drive off. The fit John must currently be throwing at Bobby will look like a friendly game of poker by comparison. He thrusts his cold hands deep into the pockets of the coat Steve had lent him before they left his house that morning. Matt's coat. "It'll only be worse if we go now." He tries to explain without explaining anything.
"Hey, at least John is here. We don't have to go looking for him. That's better than we expected, right?" Sam tilts his head questioningly, almost like he does when he is six year old Sammy looking to his big brother for advice.
And he's right. This is better in a lot of ways. They know where dad is, even if they still don't have a clue as to what dad is. They have Bobby for back up - hopefully. Dean nods. "We have to go in. I have to go in," he amends, looking at the pale blue house with its grimy windows.
"We'll all go in then," Steve says so firmly that Dean knows there's no chance of changing the man's mind. "Besides, who else are you going to get to cart you around?" He asks in a playful manner while gently lifting Dean up and securing his busted knee in an immobile hold at his side for the walk to the house.
Dean gives his self-appointed pack mule a petulant scowl but it's just for show and he's pretty sure Steve knows it because he cocks an eyebrow and winks at Sam. Truthfully, the release of pressure on his knee from being picked up doesn't come a moment too soon. The joint is throbbing with the sensation of jagged glass imbedded under the skin and every second he'd spent trying to support himself had been agony as the loosened tendons threatened to give way even with the tightly wrapped ace bandage. His ankle is still swollen and hot inside his sneaker, making it feel as though flames are licking the bottom of his foot.
Of its own accord, a sigh slips from his lips and he relaxes into Steve's arms. He can tell Sam is surprised by his easy surrender - and maybe a little hurt by it - the same as he was surprised by the way Dean had leaned into Steve's touch earlier. He's a bit surprised at himself really, but the way he sees it, this is a once in a lifetime chance so he might as well savor the feeling of extended family and leech a few more drops of caring out of Steve while he can. Soon enough it'll be gone. This is his way of saying good-bye to the fantasy of a life he can never have.
After clearing his throat, Sam speaks up. "Hey Steve, if you're coming with us there's something I need to tell you. I know you think we're dealing with a drunk or possibly an abusive father situation." His brother rubs a hand along his strong jaw line, scratches the back of his neck. Dean wonders how Sam is going to come up with the words to warn Steve of what may be coming. "Actually, it could be something much worse than that. You have to promise me that if things start to go sideways in some terribly strange way you won't stick around to ask questions. If things start getting weird - dangerous - promise me you'll take Dean and run. Take him back to your house, trust me to handle this and I'll come find you when it's over."
Steve says a hesitant, "I promise," at the same time as Dean shakes his head vehemently. No, that's not the way this is supposed to go down. No way.
The railway worker simply tightens his hold and starts walking up the long gravel and dirt path to Bobby's front door, Sam a step in front on him.
Bobby meets them on the front porch, stands with his feet spread apart and his arms out to the side like he's become a brick wall that they won't be allowed to pass. The older hunter eyes Dean being carried by Steve. Something that looks like concern flickers swiftly across his face and then he turns to Sam. "We need to talk."
Their father's howls have become quieter, but now that they're closer the words are clear. "Bobby, let me out of here. You're making a big mistake. Huge."
Sam appears to be trying to catch a glimpse inside the gloomy confines of Bobby's house when he asks, "What's going on, Bobby?"
"That ain't your daddy in there, is it?" Bobby answers Sam's question with one of his own.
A miniature whirlwind sends a pile of brown, brittle leaves skittering across the scrap yard. They dance in a widening circle nearby, reminding Dean of fairies at play. Or maybe imps. He shudders and a spike of queasiness rattles him. He wants his brother. He wishes Sam was standing closer so he could touch his hand, needing the contact and the reassurance only Sam can give.
"We aren't sure. What makes you think he isn't? Sam's attention is riveted to Bobby once more, his gaze intense.
"I didn't just start hunting yesterday, you know?" Irritated, Bobby presses his lips together in a disgruntled frown. "He passed all the normal tests, holy water, salt, silver, but something was…off. Wrong. For one thing, no way in hell would your daddy camp out at my place drinking like a reject from a frat house when you two boys were missing. He gave me some song and dance about it being a difficult time for him and how he was sure you'd come 'round here eventually. I didn't buy into his nonsense, not for a minute. And then the two of you show up here, Sam's Wish has kicked in and he's in full-on protective mode and Dean's as wobbly as a stool with one leg cut off. Doesn't take a brain surgeon to put those pieces together." The gruff hunter rocks back on his heels and pulls the bill of his cap, setting it more firmly on his head with an air of finality as though everything has now been fully explained.
Dean cringes at the wobbly stool analogy and Steve shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot, looking really confused. "Wait, so…that's not Dean's dad?"
A series of staccato bangs precedes John's voice which sounds as though it's coming from behind a wall. He's changed tactics and is now talking in a rational, cajoling tone. "I know you're out there Dean, Sam. I can hear your frightened little hearts beating." The crackle of splintered laughter reaches their ears. "Come on, let me out of here. Your crazy Uncle Bobby has locked me in the closet. You know how he can be sometimes." There's another burst of banging noises and Dean assumes the pretender is either kicking or beating at the door of whatever space Bobby has him locked in.
"If that isn't John then why does it look like John and how does it know so much about us? It knew we'd come here. How did it know we would come here?" Sam gives voice to some of the questions swirling around Dean's mind.
"And where is my dad?" Dean adds for good measure. Might as well get it all out there, no point in holding anything back.
Bobby locks eyes with Steve. It's obvious to Dean that the hunter is sizing the other man up, taking in the defensive posture and the shielding way in which Dean is being carried and trying to determine how much to say in front of him. "How much have they told you?"
"I'm beginning to think there's a lot I don't know." The resignation in Steve's voice is rapidly replaced with determination as he continues. "I'm here for these boys though, whatever it takes."
"Okay." The older hunter draws the word out like he's not quite convinced, turns a penetrating stare on Sam, and lowers his voice to barely a whisper. Dean has to lean awkwardly in Steve's arms to catch the hoarse conversation. "I don't know who or what I just locked in my closet. I've been trying to figure it out ever since it got here last night, going along with its game and hoping it'd slip up and give itself away. Once you boys got here though, I couldn't continue to let it walk around free so I sprung my trap and got it locked up good and tight." Bobby smoothed a hand down his beaded face and across his chin. "Like I said, no reaction to holy water or salt so it's not a demon, no reaction to silver so it's not a shapeshifter. Do you know what your old man was hunting last time you saw him?"
"He didn't say. You know how he can be with his need-to-know-basis military bunk." Sam chips a bit of peeling, white paint off the doorframe with his thumbnail and Bobby frowns, but doesn't tell him to stop.
John calls out, "Anybody ever tell you it's rude to whisper? Let me out and let's talk, man to man, before I get my eye poked out by a coat hanger in here."
Giving the hem of his faded flannel shirt a brief tug, Bobby shakes his head slowly. "Might be best to just ask it outright. I wouldn't hold my breath on getting any kind of truth out of it, but it's worth a shot."
Sam swallows hard and steps past the whiskered hunter who stands aside for him to pass.
"You comin'?" Bobby asks Steve, a wary expression on his lined face.
Steve nods and walks inside, holding Dean firmly at his side.
The house seems dreary, gloomier than Dean remembers. He wonders whether the entranceway to Bobby's house has always given off the impression of a cave or if the oppressive feeling has something to do with the thing impersonating his dad. Wallpaper is peeling from the walls in patches and Dean is having trouble remembering whether these rooms looked this shabby the last time they were here. Unbidden, a picture of Steve's bright, clean home pops into his mind. He chances a quick glance at Steve from the corner of his eye, but his friend is being carefully neutral, his face a mask of indifference.
They don't need Bobby to tell them which door the imposter is behind because the banging and bumping sounds of fists hitting wood make it pretty obvious. The closet is off the hallway leading to the downstairs bedroom. There are sigils and runes etched into the molding around the doorframe.
The older hunter cocks his head to indicate the carved wood and says, "Don't worry, it won't be able to get out."
Sam runs his fingertips along the edge of one of the symbols. Dean recognizes it as a containment rune and he's sure Sam knows what it is as well. That particular containment rune is part of a set of runes in a book Dad had made them memorize the previous summer. A book he'd borrowed from Bobby. Yeah, whatever that thing is, it won't be getting out of the experienced hunter's trap unless Bobby decides to let it out.
"What are you and where is John?" Sam tosses the questions at the closed door as though they were fire crackers or better yet hand grenades and then waits for them to explode on impact.
"I am John Winchester and you'd best unlock this door right now or you'll be doing training maneuvers until you reach the ripe old age of sixty-five, Sammy." The emphasis on Sam's nickname is deliberate. John's clone knows about the Wish, it knows about Sam's transformation. How it knows is what worries Dean.
Ignoring the niggling doubt, Dean says, "You're not my dad!"
"What makes you say that, Dean? Because I didn't come looking for you right away after you ran off?" Disgust taints John's voice. "Because I choose to enjoy a little down time without you two brats nipping at my heels? Did it ever occur to you what a pain in my backside you are? Maybe I was happy you were gone. Maybe I was glad to be rid of you."
All the blood drains from Dean's face, leaving him feeling sick and lightheaded because he's wondered if his dad felt that way, there have been times when he's definitely gotten that impression from his father. But to actually hear the words said out loud in his dad's voice…shakes him to his core. "Shut up." The hollow quality of his own voice makes Dean tighten his hands into fists just to prove he still has substance, that he's not about to disappear from the inside out.
"Being anywhere near you makes my head ache. Did you know that?" John's bitter rant continues regardless. "I've devoted the last six years of my life to training you, countless hours, and look where it's gotten me. Absolutely nowhere. A waste of my time." He sneers.
Instead of the sheltering embrace of mere moments ago, Steve's arms now feel like a constricting vice around his waist, claustrophobic. He can't breathe, can't breathe, can't breathe.
"Down, put me down." He chokes out and pushes hard against Steve's chest when the man doesn't comply quickly enough. "Put me down!"
Steve's grip only tightens so Dean begins to thrash desperately. He wants to get out of this house. He can't listen to another word. He doesn't want to hear what he fears may be the truth.
Through the ringing in his ears he hears Sam say, "It's okay Steve, put him down."
As soon as his feet touch the ground a warning flare of pain shoots from his ankle up to his knee and back down again. Sam puts a hand on the back of his neck. "Easy Dean, take it easy kiddo."
He brushes off the light touch easily as it was meant to sooth not restrain. He makes it five steps, six, seven steps towards the kitchen and the back door - freedom - before something in his knee pops. The sensation is so intense he swears he can hear the ligaments snap like rubber bands and then his leg disappears from under him, sending him wind milling gracelessly to the ground.
Helplessly lying on the floor, incapable of even getting out of the house by himself, Dean decides there's nothing for it but to employ a defensive strategy. He begins to build up his barricades higher than they've ever been, closing the shutters and drawing the blinds. It's a coping mechanism he hasn't used in a long time, not since his bond with Sammy made it irrelevant, but desperate times call for desperate measures and all that kind of stuff.
His own dad doesn't care about him, so why is he trying so very hard? It doesn't make any sense. He doesn't want for other people to matter to him anymore, it hurts too much. He imagines every one of his cares, worries, dreams, and hopes as a candle flickering in the darkness and one by one he snuffs them all out. The ensuing darkness engulfs him like a wave he can drown under and it's good.
He's numb and the room is spinning lazily around him. It's perfect. He can't feel a thing.
And then Sam is in his face yelling at him to, "Breathe Dean! Do you hear me? Don't do this, don't you give up. You breathe! Please!"
Dean doesn't understand why Sam sounds so frantic. Everything is all right. He wants to let his brother know that he's fine, he's calm and there's no need to worry, but when he opens his mouth no sound comes out.
Through a dense cloud of hazy detachment, Dean watches as Bobby stomps closer. His hand rears back and then flies forward in a stinging slap right across Dean's face.
Gasping in a deep breath which causes his lungs to burn, Dean stares at Bobby in disbelief. He'd thought Bobby liked him.
"I'm sorry, I really am, but it had to be done." The older hunter rubs his hands together as though he can erase his actions or maybe the cause of them.
Sam's blue-green eyes are blazing and his long hair is a tangled mess.
All those cares and worries and dreams and hopes begin to crash back into him like ten thousand anvils falling from the sky and with them comes the pain. A pathetic whining sound finally breaks free from his throat and Dean is immediately humiliated by it. He tries to swallow it down which only results in a choking, hitching moan.
Sam's face crumbles and his arms open. Dean curls up against his brother, closes his eyes and fights the tears for all he's worth. Crying won't solve anything and he's too old for it anyway. He's too old to sob into his brother's shoulder. Much too old.
A large hand cups his chin and Sam's strong fingers gently trail over the reddening hand print on his cheek, soothing the sting away.
When he opens his eyes sometime later he sees Steve leaning against a wall with his head in his hands. Bobby is standing nearby holding out a glass of water and a couple of pills. "Take these Dean. We need to do something about your leg and then you boys need to tell me everything you can think of, everything that's happened from the very beginning. We're going to figure this thing out."
On to ( Chapter 9 )