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: ~4,200
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.
Additional Chapter Warnng: Show level gore in this chapter.
A/N: To those of you who are still reading: Thank you for sticking with me. I apologize for the long wait in between chapters. I was on a forced break due to some surgery, but am healing nicely and busy writing once again. Hopefully this chapter will be worth the wait. Happy reading!
Bonded and Broken
Chapter 9 A Vision is Worth a Thousand Words
Sam grunts and braces his ribs with one arm as he gets to his feet. Dean's eyes are dry and vacant, but the truly scary emotions, the ruthless despondency and abject depression, are no longer slithering like slimy worms along the empathic connection he has with his brother.
He understands Dean's need to escape, he could sense the barriers hastily being erected and the desperate withdrawal into the barricaded space within his head that quickly seemed to spiral out of Dean's control. He knows his brother didn't mean to shut down completely, to check out the way he did, he just got lost in the process, too intent on distancing himself and shoring up his defenses to halt the course of action once it had started.
Bruised ribs or no bruised ribs, Sam takes a deep breath and leans down to scoop up the huddled ten year old, clutching the boy in a firm yet gentle hold. "I'm going to take care of you, kiddo. Everything's going to be all right." He whispers into Dean's ear. His shattered brother is struggling to hold himself together in any way he can think of and Sam needs to do something to help him or his Wish and their bond and everything they've gone through together will have been for nothing, pointless because Dean will have disappeared..
John is still spouting a venomous diatribe and Sam tries really hard not to listen to any of it. He looks down at Dean who is staring straight ahead at nothing in particular, seemingly oblivious to everyone including John or at least pretending to be.
"I need to get Dean away from that." Sam juts his chin in the direction of the closet as if there were any doubt as to what he might be talking about. He should have known better than to think John's double would only be a physical threat. He hadn't considered the power of its words alone and for his lapse in judgment Dean had paid a heavy price.
"Upstairs." Bobby's voice is rough as he leads the way to the second floor spare room.
Sam can't help but glare at the older hunter's back for a split second before following him. Bobby had only done what he felt needed to be done to break through Dean's crippling and possibly deadly lassitude. Sam knows that. Still, he hasn't quite forgiven the man for hitting the boy, not yet.
As though he can read Sam's mind, Bobby says, "I hated having to do that, you know. I'd rather shoot myself than hurt either of you boys." There's a ring of truth in that statement and the ice around Sam's heart thaws a little.
"I know." He concedes.
Steve's boots make a clumping sound on the hard, wooden stairs behind him. Sam can't blame the man one little bit for not wanting to stay alone anywhere in the vicinity of John and his tirade. He's actually baffled by why the railway worker from the tiny town where things are usually quiet and peaceful hasn't asked more questions or bolted back to his normal life by now. Why he hasn't denounced them all as a bunch of raving lunatics, what with the talk of demons and shape shifters and with locking Dean's father (who really isn't his father) in a closet, is a mystery, one that Sam isn't going to question at the moment because Dean seems to be taking a measure of comfort from the man's presence.
That line of thought brings up another question. "Hey, Bobby, how did you get John locked in that closet so fast? We were only outside talking for a couple of minutes before we heard him start hollering and then you were standing on the porch by the time we got to the house."
Hand trailing on the banister, Bobby glances back at him with a wry grin. "This old dog knows a few tricks."
"You're not that old." Sam feels obligated to point out, after all Bobby's most likely only in his forties.
"Yeah well, I feel about as old as the hills and then some." The other man takes his cap off to scratch the crown of his head, sighing gustily. "Anyway, I had the trap all set and waiting. Told him I had some more booze stashed in that closet as soon we got back to the house and he went willingly enough, more interested in continuing his drinking binge than he was with helping me fix something to eat. All I had to do was give him a shove, close the door, and put the final cross hatch on the containment rune. Whatever it is, it isn't the brightest bulb if you get my meaning."
"It's smart enough to know we'd come here eventually." This creature's ability to track them down is still really bothering Sam because it knows way too much about them. It knows things only their dad could know. "How could it know that?"
"How about we save that question for later and concentrate on Dean's leg for now. One thing at a time."
With a start Sam realizes they're already standing in the spare bedroom. He'd just been following along behind Bobby without paying much attention to where his feet were taking him. Like many of the rooms in Bobby's house this one is decorated in dark colors, the headboard and side table are stained a deep mahogany and the curtains are navy blue. There is no overhead light and the blinds are drawn, giving the room the impression of twilight despite the early hour. Bobby switches on a lamp beside the bed and the room brightens tremendously.
This room is on the opposite side of the house from the downstairs closet so even if John's look-alike is still talking its voice doesn't carry all the way up here and that's certainly a blessing.
Dean is a limp weight in his arms and the boy doesn't attempt to shift into a more comfortable position when Sam lowers him onto the blue and green striped bedspread, just continues to stare at some point over Sam's right shoulder through dull, unfocused eyes.
Fear blossoms in Sam's chest as he watches his brother. "Dean." Speaking softly, Sam sits on the edge of the bed and tests their empathic connection. Through it he senses that Dean is still fully with them as opposed to camped out behind his barriers, but his normally vital essence is muted somehow. Suspicious, he looks away from the dilated gaze the boy turns on him at the sound of his name. "What was in those pills you gave him?"
"Tylenol with codeine." The hunter replies, unapologetic. "I think he's going to need it. I wish I could give him something stronger, but that's all I have on hand."
"What's he going to need it for?"
"I'll have a better answer for you once I've seen his leg." Bobby removes the blanket from the end of the bed, draping it over Dean's lap while Sam gingerly lowers the boy's loose-fitting sweat pants past his decimated knee and over his swollen ankle until he can drop them onto the floor.
Dean's leg looks worse than the last time Sam had seen it if that's even possible, a riot of excessive bruising and traumatized flesh. When Bobby slides his hand over the knee joint and manipulates the kneecap with his thumb and forefinger, Dean tries to squirm away, biting his bottom lip between his teeth.
"Dislocated." Bobby grunts. "I thought as much. I think I can get it back in place, but you're going to have to hold him down while I do it and in case you were still wondering, that's what the codeine is for."
A dislocated kneecap is a tricky thing. Sam knows it's possible to realign the joint just as it's possible to realign a dislocated finger or a dislocated shoulder, but it takes skill and precision. He's never done it before and it's not a part of the field medic training knowledge he has access to in his grown up state. The fluttery feeling of fear returns with a vengeance, causing Sam's heart to skip a beat or two. The answer to his next question is obvious and yet he has to ask it just the same and dreads the answer all the more. "It's going to hurt him?"
The older man just looks at him as though he's being unbelievably slow on the up take. "Yeah." He says quietly. "It's going to be unpleasant, but he should be able to walk on it in a couple of days once I'm done."
Sam is going to have to have faith that Bobby knows what he's doing. Trusting Bobby is easy, trusting Bobby with Dean, trusting anybody with Dean...not so much.
Startling both men, Dean speaks up for the first time since his confrontation with the thing in the closet pretending to be John. "Just do it and get it over with. I can take it."
Sam nods. The sooner they do this the sooner it'll be over and the sooner Dean can begin recovering. Anticipation is often worse than the actuality. "Steve, can you hold his shin? The less movement in his leg the better." Leaning over to take his place at Dean's thigh, he tries to take his mind off what they're about to do by acting instead of thinking.
Even though Steve's skin has gone an unhealthy shade of greenish-white, he steps forward to hold Dean's shin steady and Sam has another opportunity to wonder at the man's character and what there is inside him that makes him want to help a band of people who must seem completely out of their minds. Steve must be wondering why they don't take Dean to a hospital. Not so long ago Sam would have been wondering the same thing, maybe even demanding it.
A hospital would be so much better, even a clinic would be an improvement, somewhere Dean could have access to a local anesthetic and round the clock monitoring and care. But hospitals mean questions and protocol and rules and he's learned the hard way that those things don't mix well with the life his family leads. This small room in a house surrounded by scrap metal with a gruff hunter playing doctor and minimal pain management isn't ideal by any stretch of the imagination and it's not what Dean deserves, but it's the only thing they've got so they're going to have to make the best of it.
He puts enough of his weight across Dean's thighs to hold him still, using his hip to press him into the mattress and then grabs the boy's hand in one of his. "Squeeze my hand as hard as you need to." On his side facing Dean, Sam can't see what Bobby is doing. The only indications he has that anything is being done are the changing expressions on his brother's face, the grinding pressure of Dean's grip on his hand, and the way the young boy's body spasms in agony beneath him.
At one point Dean's entire back arches off the bed so that his only contact with the mattress from his thighs up is the back of his head. The boy bucks hard and Bobby curses, low and guttural. "Hold him still!"
Sam makes a soothing, hushing noise, places his free hand on Dean's chest and rubs back and forth lightly until the boy stops trying to twist away. For only a second he considers pushing the calming emotions into his brother like he had the previous night and then discards the idea as though the mere thought is capable of corrupting him. Controlling another person's emotions goes against every moral code he can think of.
"Got it." Bobby's exclamation is softly triumphant. "Now we need to ice it." The older hunter disappears out the door and returns just as quickly carrying two plastic bags filled with ice and wrapped in small hand towels.
Dean groans as one bag is placed over his knee and the other is wrapped around his ankle. A glossy sheen of sweat covers his face and the fine tremors of reaction run ceaselessly from head to toe.
Steve smoothes the blanket over Dean's legs, looking for all the world as if he has something to say. He never does, simply gives Dean's uninjured leg a gentle pat on top of the blanket and goes to stand next to the door as though he's uncertain where he should be.
The uneasy silence is broken by Bobby. "I think Steve and I have a few things we need to chat about so we're going to go downstairs and chew the fat for a while, maybe rustle up some grub like I promised earlier. Sam, you can come with us if you like, or stay here. It's your call."
The grip Dean has on his hand intensifies and Sam has to hide a grimace because his hand already feels like every bone in it has been pulverized from his brother's crushingly strong hold. "That's okay. I'll stay here for a bit." There's no place he'd rather be than providing his brother the anchor he seems to need.
Sam suspects that Steve is about to get the standard hunter indoctrination speech and he wonders if it's the same one a bereaved John Winchester received six years ago. Whether the railway worker will believe everything Bobby has to tell him remains to be seen. The curtain is usually only drawn aside once a person has already had a glimpse of the things behind it and is ready and willing to hear more. Steve hasn't experienced anything remotely supernatural yet, nothing that can't be easily explained away.
Sitting on the bed with his back against the headboard next to his brother, Sam lets the boy cling to his aching hand as though they were adhered to each other with super glue. Minutes tick by and neither of them are ready to break the quiet mood with chatter. Eventually, Dean's grasp relaxes and Sam looks over to see that his eyes are closed, lips parted slightly in sleep. Pain medication and Dean - knocks him out every time.
It's nice – peaceful – to be able to let his guard down and just breathe. He lets his mind wander, trying to imagine the discussion going on downstairs, wondering what types of stories Bobby will tell Steve to convince him of the possibilities he might encounter if he chooses to stick with the Winchester boys. Maybe it's time to let their new friend in on the fact that they're brothers and not uncle and nephew.
Taking a nap is the last thing on his mind. Nevertheless…
He's standing in the same clearing as before only now his father isn't the only person staked out on wooden beams that have been pounded into the loamy dirt. There are at least a dozen people, all different ages, ethnicities, and genders and all in various stages of health or lack thereof.
His dad looks the worst and Sam figures that's because he's been there the longest. The gash on his forehead has stopped seeping blood completely, the scab fully formed, but a multitude of new abrasions riddle his arms and chest where his shirt has been cut away. None of the cuts appear to be very deep and they probably didn't bleed for very long, just shallow nicks really, just enough for something to take a taste. Not enough for a meal.
Trying to communicate with his father or searching for a hiding spot never occur to Sam as potential courses of action. Somehow he knows he's here to observe and nothing more. These people cannot hear him or see him; they can't sense his presence in any way.
A man wearing blue jeans, a cream colored thermal shirt and an insulated vest approaches John, carrying a bottle of water and what looks like a handful of dried fruit slices. "Look what we have for you today." He says with a greasy looking smirk once he reaches John. "Wouldn't want you to die of malnutrition or dehydration before the big event, now would we?"
At first Sam doesn't think the incapacitated hunter is going to swallow the water that dribbles out of the tilted bottle as it's pressed against his lips, however as soon as the liquid reaches his mouth John gulps it down greedily. Sam recognizes the strategy, can almost hear his father's voice in his head: 'Number one rule in a captive situation – always eat whatever you're given. You have to keep your strength up and be ready to act on only a moment's notice. Depriving yourself of food just to spite your captors will only make you too weak to escape.'
Since John's arms are tied out to his sides, his captor has to feed him the fruit slices one by one. An expression of disgust flits across John's face at every bite. There's no telling where that food has come from or what it has come in contact with and yet his father carefully chews and swallows each piece.
"What big event?" John asks in between bites.
"Call it a coming out party if you like." The vest-clad man stands back and surveys his prisoner. "My kind are tired of hiding in the shadows, living off the dead like scavengers. It's time for us to rise up and take our rightful place higher up on the food chain. We have a leader now and he's going to make sure we get our fair due. Halloween is the chosen night. On that night all humans will learn to fear us." His eyes shine with a fanatical light.
One second the man is talking to his father and the next second he is moving toward a terrified teenage boy while holding a wickedly serrated knife in one hand.
Brown eyes impossibly wide, the boy jerks in his bindings and begins pleading. "Nononononoooooo, please no."
Ignoring the pleas, the man brings the knife up and runs it firmly in a long cut the length of the teenager's forearm. Blood wells up in a thick line before being consumed by the man wielding the knife. He laps at the blood like a cat would lap at a bowl of cream, the look on his face just as satisfied. "Mmmm, who'd have thought fresh meat could be so much more satisfying than the rotten stuff we normally eat." His grin is streaked and stained a deep, vibrant red.
The sound of screaming fills Sam's ears.
"Sam! You need to wake up, son. Sam!" Bobby's voice filters through his disorientation and Sam wakes to a strong hand shaking his shoulder.
When he blinks the sleep from his eyes, he sees Dean's green irises staring at him and he senses his brother's worry. Apparently he had been moving around or making enough noise in his sleep to wake his brother up and bring Bobby running. Great.
"Care to tell me what that was all about?" Bobby's face is stern which, Sam has learned, only means the gruff hunter is concerned.
"Just a nightmare." Sam mentally sifts through the vivid images from his dream. "I had a similar one last night. About John. In my dream he's being held captive, staked out in a clearing somewhere with a bunch of other people."
"You had the same dream last night?" Bobby questions.
"Not the same, just kind of along the same lines. Last night, John was there alone, today there were other people, all tied up. John looked a lot worse this time than he did last time."
Bobby makes a thoughtful noise and runs a calloused hand over his beard.
"They're just dreams, Bobby. Well, nightmares really 'cause they get pretty gory. But they don't mean anything."
Pointing to a plate of sandwiches on the bedside table that Sam hadn't even noticed were there, Bobby says, "Let's eat and I want to hear what's been happening to you from the very beginning. And don't leave anything out."
So they eat and Sam tells Bobby everything starting with John coming back to the motel room after his hunt. It feels strange, putting their lives into words like he's telling a fairy tale. He explains how weird and violent their father had acted at the motel and Dean fills in bits and pieces as he goes along. When they get to the train ride, Dean smiles briefly, a rare expression these days. Bobby listens carefully to the parts about the attack at the train station and their stay with Steve culminating with the drive to Bobby's house. He doesn't interrupt, just lets the story unfold at its own pace. Nothing gets omitted, Sam even goes into as much detail as he can remember about both his weird dreams although he doesn't see how dreams can be of any help.
The story ends as Sam puts the last bite of sandwich into his mouth. Only then does he think of Steve and his conspicuous absence. "Where's Steve?"
Dean tenses as if he's already sure his friend has taken off and left them behind like so much unwanted trash and he needs to brace himself for that reality. Another slice of Sam's heart breaks for his brother.
"He went for a walk. I think he just needs a little time to mull things over, you know? I bet he'll be back soon." Bobby is watching Dean with a hawk's eye, voice uncharacteristically warm, leading Sam to believe that he may not be the only person in the room who can see through Dean's painstakingly crafted façade.
Sam knows Dean is uncomfortable under the scrutiny and does what he can to shift Bobby's focus. "Where do we go from here?"
"Best thing I can think of is to do some research into what your daddy was hunting in Chinook in the first place. If we can figure out what he was after we might be able to put some more of these pieces together and come up with an answer that fits."
"Right, and to do that we just need to read the local papers and look for anything unusual going on in the area." It's so simple Sam wants to kick himself for not thinking of it earlier, but really, he'd been kind of busy getting Dean out of the line of fire and hadn't had the luxury of time to hash out much of a plan.
"I'll make a few phone calls, see if any other hunters have heard about anything going on in that area. The two of you can start reading through the weekly rags I have downstairs. Maybe we'll get lucky and you'll find something in them that sounds promising. If not, we can always take a road trip out to Chinook and get the scoop straight from the locals. But I think we need to move fast because it seems to me as though Halloween is an important date in all this and that means we only have four days." Bobby takes the empty sandwich plate downstairs with him and leaves an atmosphere of purpose and optimism in his wake.
It's the first taste of either the Winchester brothers have had in a long time.
On to ( Chapter 10 )