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: ~3,400
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 10 Tabloid News
"How you feelin', Dean?" Sam asks in a hushed tone as soon as Bobby leaves and they are alone again.
He doesn't really know what to say. It's a loaded question and he doubts his brother wants a one word answer, but Dean doesn't really have anything else. "Better." He hates lying to Sam, can't lie very effectively what with their bond and all anyway so 'better' is a close approximation of the truth. He does actually feel better. Of course it would be difficult to feel any worse than lying helpless and wrecked on the floor while listening to a monster tell him how little his dad cares about him or experiencing the excrutiation pain of having his dislocated kneecap manipulated back into its proper place.
Wrinkling his nose, he fidgets under Sam's worried gaze, fingering the blanket over his recently repaired knee. The ice pack pressed against the joint is slowly melting, condensation making the towel covering it damp. The somber mood is getting to him and he tries to think of some way to lighten it. "I guess we have to start calling Uncle Bobby 'Doc Singer' now." It's the best he can come up with.
A smile slowly makes its way across Sam's face and dimples flash. "Yeah, I guess."
Pleased with his success, Dean lets a faint smile of his own play across his features. "Next thing we know he'll be sporting a white jacket and a stethoscope."
"No way." Sam declares. "He'd never be able to keep a white jacket clean around this place."
Dean snickers at the mental image of Bobby wearing a surgical mask and a white doctor's jacket with the sleeves pushed past his elbows, hunched over a greasy engine holding a wrench in one hand and a tongue depressor in the other. "I don't know 'bout that. He might have better luck getting that old Mustang of his to run if he tried asking it to 'open up and say ahhhh'." The Mustang is a pet project of Bobby's and it's been a fixture in the scrap yard for as long as the Winchesters have been dropping by to mooch off the older hunter's hospitality, going on a couple of years now.
"That Mustang is a lost cause. He'd have to do major organ transplant surgery to bring it back to life." Sam stretches both his arms over his head and sighs as he relaxes back against the headboard.
"I'm going to tell him you said that." Dean threatens mischievously.
"You better not. I don't need Bobby mad at me."
"Yeah, we know what happens when he doesn't like someone anymore." Dean rubs at his cheek before he can stop himself and immediately wishes he could take that last bit back. They'd been having fun and he had just ruined it. "Don't worry; I'll protect you from the big, mean man." He puts on his best devil-may-care grin in an attempt to alleviate some of the damage, but it's too late.
"Dean," Sam says, soft and solemn. "Bobby still likes you. That's not why he…"
"'Course he does. What's not to like. I'm awesome." Dean hastens to interrupt, thrusting his hands out to his sides to display all of his supposed awesomeness. He doesn't want to hear about why Bobby hit him. The hunter surely had a good reason. Dean knows he must have deserved it somehow. All he wants is to erase the sad creases from around his brother's eyes and try to forget about the fact that the throbbing ache in his knee is getting worse again now that the pain killers are wearing off.
"Yeah, you are." Reaching a hand between them, Sam ruffles his hair and gives him a rueful look. "More than you know, kiddo. More than you know."
Steve comes in not much later, arms full of newspapers and the types of magazines found in grocery store check-out lines that sport headlines such as 'Aliens Land on Massachusetts Woman's Roof' and 'Likeness of the Virgin Mary Appears on a Piece of Toast'. The most obscure and outlandish of those articles - the ones that no one in their right mind would ever believe - those are the ones that are usually spot on. Dean knows hunters like Bobby and his dad often find things to hunt by reading the weekly tabloids.
The railway man's appearance causes a jolt of surprised warmth to spread from his belly outward and Dean feels like he's been thrown a slippery curve ball. It's hard for him to get a good grasp on the man's intentions. In his experience, people don't stick around long after catching a glimpse of the freak show life he lives. Sometimes they call social services or the police on their way out the door, but they never take it upon themselves to get personally involved. They never care enough to make that kind of effort on his behalf.
"Dean, Sam, how are you guys holding up?" Steve asks, standing at the foot of the bed uncertainly like he's afraid he may be intruding.
"We've had better days, but we're going to be okay." Sam answers for them both. "How about you? How are you taking everything?"
The stack of paper in his hands crinkles as Steve gives a half shrug. "It's a lot to process, but I'm trying to keep an open mind."
It's too much to ask of anyone. Steve's not prepared for this and he shouldn't have to be. Dean doesn't want him to have to keep an open mind or to have to learn about the existence of fundamental evil or to have his safety threatened. "You don't have to, you know? You don't have to worry about us. If you want to go home now, I won't blame you. You've done a lot already, more than most people would have, and it's okay if you want to leave."
Steve's eyes widen as he thinks this through and then he says, "I may not know anything about ghosts and goblins or whatever else Bobby was trying to tell me about, but it seems to me as though you can use all the help you can get and I don't aim to be the type of person who ditches his friends when they're in trouble. I'd like to tag along if you'll have me."
Dean ducks his head, suddenly bashful. He feels overwhelmed and unworthy. This is the first time he can remember anyone ever calling him their friend aside from the playground friendships that are here today and gone tomorrow.
"You're right. We can use all the help we can get." Sam gives Steve a heartfelt smile while sending a stream of empathic encouragement towards Dean. "Speaking of Bobby, where'd he get to anyway?"
"He's downstairs making phone calls. Asked me to bring these to you." Jiggling his armload of magazines, Steve raises an eyebrow. "Where should I put them?"
"Divvy them up between us and we can start looking for anything unusual happening near Chinook, Montana, anything that might catch a hunter's attention." Sam advises.
"What kinds of things are we looking for?"
"Anything strange that can't be easily explained: spontaneous combustion, people drowning where there's no water, wild animal attacks in populous areas. Those are the types of things that would grab John's attention."
Dean listens as his brother makes suggestions and for some reason it strikes him as funny. He can't help adding a couple of crazy suggestions of his own to the mix. "Maybe an article about a sofa that swallows people whole or a talking mouse." He grins when Sam nudges him in the side with an elbow and he looks up to see his brother's eyes sparkling in sincere amusement.
The happy, carefree time spent with his younger brother in the hotel room before their father returned from the hunt seems like ages ago, and yet it all comes flooding back at the touch of that elbow. It's no longer the skinny, pointy, dagger-like appendage of a six-year old boy. Not even close. Now it's sinewy and muscled. Still, it feels familiar and comfortable. It feels like family and home.
"Actually, I think I may have read an article about a man-eating sofa once. Turned out it was only eating the loose change out of people's pockets. And as far as talking mice go, I'm pretty sure Mickey lives in Florida, not Montana." Steve gets in on the act, winking conspiratorially at Dean.
The three of them spend the rest of the afternoon like that, cutting up and reading out loud from the magazines in their laps whenever they come across anything particularly funny or interesting. Dean and Sam lounge on the bed side by side and Steve sprawls in an armchair he drags in from another room.
At some point, Bobby pops in with snacks and more pills for Dean as well as a fresh ice pack. The older hunter stays long enough to hear Sam read aloud from an article with the headline 'World's Largest Shark Eats Low Flying Airplane', shakes his head with a scowl, and retreats back downstairs to continue making his phone calls while Dean laughs at the grainy, faked picture of a shark with an airplane in its mouth. The twitch of Bobby's mustache doesn't go unnoticed and Dean realizes the man is far less annoyed than he pretends to be.
As the evening progresses, Dean begins to feel the tug and pull of the pain medication making him drowsy. Even though he doesn't want to go to sleep, is having such a good time with Sam and Steve, and wants to continue searching for an answer to what his dad had been hunting in Montana, his eyelids start to feel heavy and the words on the page he's trying to read become blurry and unrecognizable. The battle to keep his eyes open is one he's destined to lose and when he jerks awake a short time later he finds himself slumped to the side with his head resting on his brother's arm. The lamp has been turned off and Steve is no longer in his chair.
"Gets you every time, doesn't it kiddo?" Sam chuckles softly and helps Dean scoot further under the covers.
Sighing lazily and feeling a sense of contentment that makes him lax and pliant, he surrenders to the inevitable and quickly sinks into slumber, not waking again until the sun crests the horizon the next morning.
As soon as Bobby knows he's awake, the gruff man presents him with a brace fashioned out of what looks like spare parts from a machine shop. The metal pieces are welded together, well crafted and expertly designed. Bobby had obviously been busy doing more than just making phone calls yesterday.
Once the device is fastened to his leg, Dean finds he can hobble along by himself with only minimal pain. The freedom of being mobile again is intoxicating. He feels like a caged bird released from its wire prison and finally able to fly again. He has the urge to run laps around the scrap yard and probably would have made the attempt if Sam hadn't restrained him with a hand on his arm.
"Not so fast, Dean. The brace is so you can walk, not run. You still need to take it easy and rest your knee as much as possible."
"Spoilsport." Dean pouts for a second, but soon gives it up as a waste of time. His brother isn't going to budge on this one. Instead he decides to show off his newly reacquired ability to walk and goes in search of Steve, finding his friend putting the finishing touches on his freshly shaven head as he eases the razor over the last of the stubble.
Curious, he asks, "Why do you do that? Why do you shave your head bald?" It seems like an odd thing to do and Dean figures friends are allowed to ask about stuff like that.
Steve doesn't answer right away. He stares at his reflection in the bathroom mirror, rubs a towel over the top of his head pensively like he's gathering his thoughts.
Friends must not ask each other about stuff like that. This 'friends' thing is new to Dean, he hasn't quite got the hang of it yet and apparently he got this part of it wrong. "That's okay. You don't have to tell me." Trying to escape from the awkward situation, he backs out of the doorway and into the hall.
"No Dean, come back, I want to tell you. I'm just not sure how to explain it." Steve turns to face him. "Shaving my head makes me feel close to Matt. It's something we did together before he went for his first radiology treatment, something between just him and me…something special. Does that make sense?"
Although he has no idea what the significance of radiology treatment is, Dean nods slowly because he understands loss and he understands the need to remember and he knows how important it is to feel close to someone he misses with all of his heart. Sometimes he has trouble recalling the way his mother's hugs used to make him feel and that scares him.
Placing a hand on the side of Dean's neck, Steve says, "I had a feeling you'd understand."
Breakfast is a joint effort, all three men and one boy nearly tripping over one another as they move around Bobby's cramped kitchen. They find all the ingredients to make pancakes, including a bottle of maple syrup which makes Dean happy as he doesn't really care for pancakes unless they're drenched in plenty of sticky, sweet syrup. Sam sets plates and glasses on the kitchen table while Dean pours the batter into a skillet on the stove and Steve mans the spatula. Bobby brews a pot of coffee with all the fervor of a devoted disciple.
John's evil clone must have talked himself into a coma last night because he's as silent as the dead, for which Dean is eternally grateful. In fact, he's so quiet inside the closet that it's easy to believe he's no longer in there and maybe that's what it's hoping they'll think. Maybe it wants them to open the door to check. Dean stays as far away from the closet as he possibly can. He's not going to fall for another one it its tricks.
Around big bites of fluffy hotcakes Sam brings up the previous day's productivity. "We didn't find anything even remotely promising in those magazines yesterday Bobby, unless you think we should investigate the levitating spoons in Chicago. I hope you had better luck with your phone calls."
"Levitating spoons, huh? Could be a poltergeist I suppose, but no, Chicago's a bit out of our way." Bobby takes a large gulp of his coffee. "I have a couple of leads I'm working on. Seems as though there have been a rash of grave desecrations in and around Chinook, bodies taken from fresh graves, that kind of thing…pretty hardcore. Couple of missing person's reports too. I'm waiting to hear back from some of my contacts, should have a better idea of what's going on later today."
An uneasy, dark sensation like thick fog settles over Dean at this news and he sucks his bottom lip into his mouth, glances over at his brother to see how he's taking it. Missing people, both dead and alive, that's definitely the type of thing his dad would be unable to ignore.
As Sam meets his gaze he feels a tentative prodding through the ever-present connection he has with the dark haired young man. You okay? Some things never change. Sam is just as concerned about him as Dean is about his brother. He sets his mouth in a firm line and cocks his head to the side. Yeah, you? Only after he receives a tight nod back from Sam does he look around to see Steve and Bobby watching them, curious, assessing expressions on their faces. Bobby knows about the bond between them, but Steve doesn't. There's no telling what the railway worker is making out of the silent communication going on in front of him.
Clearing his throat, Bobby says, "I did some research yesterday on a different subject."
"Research on what?" Dean wonders what could be more important than finding out what happened to his dad.
"Research on that stunt you pulled yesterday. The one where you tried to see how long you could hold your breath." The older man's eyebrows almost disappear under the bill of his cap as he stares at Dean.
"I wasn't…" Dean splutters indignantly.
"Boy, I know you didn't do it on purpose. It's not about that. Do you know how long you went without breathing?"
Dean shakes his head, speechless.
"Too long. You shouldn't have been able to hold your breath that long without passing out. So I got to thinking and...you ever hear of a trance state?"
The first thing that jumps into his mind is a cartoon he watched recently where Bugs Bunny hypnotizes Elmer Fund, making him walk around with his hands held straight out in front of him and a slack-jawed expression on his face. He doesn't think that's the kind of trance Bobby is talking about though.
Before he can answer Bobby's question, one of the phones in the living room rings and Bobby leaves to find out if one of his contacts has any new information. When he returns, his eyes have gone hard and flinty.
"That was Pastor Jim. He says another hunter has gone missing from the same area as your dad, a fella by the name of Bill Harvelle. He normally checks in with his wife on a regular basis and Ellen hasn't heard a peep from him in two days." Bobby pauses to take a breath. "Jim's sending as many hunters our way as he can scrounge up on such short notice. They'll all meet up here and we'll leave for Chinook before nightfall."
Dean's heart begins to gallop madly in his chest. He's not sure where the adrenaline rush is coming from, but he hopes it's from the idea of finally moving in the right direction, finally getting help for his dad.
Bobby turns to go back to the living room, presumably to make some more phone calls, then he stops and says over his shoulder, "Looks like your daddy's found himself a heap of trouble."
On to ( Chapter 11 )
A/N: I'd love to hear what you think of this chapter. Not a lot happened, but I hope I managed to move the plot along a little bit and I thought that after everything I'd put the boys through, they deserved a break. There should be more action in the next chapter if I have anything to say about it, although as we are all finding out, I don't always have control over these characters. They tend to do what they want to do rather than what I have planned for them. Comment please!
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