Rain hammered against the old house, rattling the upstairs window panes in their slowly rotting wooden frames. Wind howled through the chimney, moaning and wailing like some restless spirit begging to be let in, but Bobby Singer took no notice – he had lived in the place for a long time and he knew that any ghosts that might have haunted him had long been put to rest.
In the corner of the living room, the wood stove was burning, casting a warm glow across the shelves of books that lined this room and almost every other room in the house as well, and Bobby had almost dozed off in the cosy warmth as he sat in his favourite chair, a glass of Jack Daniels in one hand and the latest Stephen King paperback in the other – kind of a Busman’s holiday, he knew, but he enjoyed the way the guy put a story together.
Suddenly, there was a loud knock at his front door and the book fell to the floor as the old hunter jumped, his glass almost following. It was almost midnight and he didn’t get many visitors at the best of times, let alone this time of night and in the middle of a storm. Cursing loudly and putting the glass of whiskey on the sideboard, he picked up the Smith and Wesson that sat next to it and got wearily to his feet. It had been a long week and he wasn’t in the mood for any funny business. In fact, if it wasn’t the Hawaiian Tropic girls asking to use his phone because their bus had broken down as it was passing his house, he really didn’t want to know.
Bobby didn’t always take a loaded gun with him to answer the door, it tended to scare the postman and then there was that incident with the Girl Scouts and the cookies, but in his line of work, you just couldn’t be too careful. He wasn’t a man with a lot of enemies, but on the other hand, he didn’t have too many friends – none that would be calling at his house this time of night anyway, and he stood still, listening to the noise of the storm outside.
The knock came again a few moments later and the hunter peered through the spy hole. He knew he should really start to think about things like CCTV cameras and other types of modern security, but Bobby was from the old school and his home was heavily protected against intruders of a slightly less natural nature rather than burglars. Plus he had Rumsfield - the biggest damn Rottweiler that ever lived. And even if the dog was soft as a kitten and probably hiding out from the storm in his dog house in the yard, he looked the part.
Cocking the pistol and holding against the door, Bobby squinted out into the dark. The porch light was out, another job he needed to get round to doing, but he could just about make out the figure of a man standing outside, hunched over and shivering, trying to shield himself from the rain.
“Who’s there?” The hunter yelled through the door, raising the pistol so that it was level with the man’s head.
“Bobby?” A familiar voice yelled back. “It’s me – it’s Dean.”
Bobby frowned, quickly un-cocking the pistol and putting the gun in his pocket. Dean Winchester – he hadn’t seen the kid for getting on a year, but knowing what the Winchesters were like from old, he could guarantee this wasn’t a social call, and he quickly opened the door.
“Jesus, boy.” Bobby cried as Dean almost fell through the open doorway and the hunter grabbed his visitor by the arm, kicking the door shut behind them with his foot to keep out the rain.
“Hey Bobby.” Dean replied, looking up and the hunter winced. Rain had plastered the kid’s hair over his forehead but Bobby could see that his face was a mess – the kind of mess that going ten rounds with Mike Tyson might leave. Blood was running from a cut above his eye and down his neck from round the back of his head, and although he was soaking wet from the rain, it wasn’t just water that was dripping off him onto the floor.
“Christ, Dean. What happened to you? You look like you got hit by a truck? Where’s your Daddy?... Where’s Sam?”
Dean swallowed hard, not meeting the hunter’s gaze. “S-Sam and Dad aren’t w-with me. I was w-working a job on my o-own... D-didn’t go so w-well.”
“Y’think?” Bobby replied, trying to take it all in. Dean Winchester on his own was something he never thought he’d see. He and Sam were joined at the hip – at least they had been when they were little. Plus John letting his boys out of his sight? Something wasn’t right with this picture. Sighing heavily, the older hunter began to guide Dean towards the kitchen.
The range was burning brightly and depositing his shaking visitor onto a chair beside it, Bobby turned on the overhead light so he could get a better look at the kid and almost wished he hadn’t. He’d seen Dean beaten all to hell before, more times than he’d like to remember, but it was the utterly defeated look in the kid’s eyes that was the killer.
“Take your coat off Dean, and your shirt. I’ll get you a towel and clean sweater.” Bobby told him, disappearing into the little laundry room that was adjacent to the kitchen, running back a moment later when he heard a loud crash to find Dean on his ass on the floor next to and overturned chair. He’d got as far as taking off his heavy leather jacket, but the shirt seemed to have been one step too much for him.
“Look at the state of you, boy.” He growled, kneeling down next to Dean, taking hold of his collar to keep him upright. “You’re a mess.”
“I’m s-sorry, Bobby. I j-just... I...” he gasped, and with those words, Dean’s face crumpled. “I d-didn’t have anywhere e-else to g-go.”
The older hunter sighed heavily, slipping a steadying hand round the back of the kid’s neck, feeling him shiver beneath his touch. The Winchesters weren’t blood, but they were the closet thing to it that Bobby had left. Dean and his little brother Sam were like the sons he’d never had and it hurt to see one of them in such a state. “Don’t apologise, you idjit. You know you are always welcome here.”
Dean nodded, wiping away a stray tear from his cheek with the back of his hand and Bobby noticed his knuckles, all swollen and scraped up like he’d been bare-knuckle prize fighting. Which knowing Dean, wasn’t outside the realms of possibility.
“Come on, let’s get you up off your backside. You think you can make it to the table?” The older hunter asked gently, and when Dean nodded again, he took him under the arms, feeling how cold he was through his shirt and pulled him to his feet. The younger man wavered dangerously, and when Bobby was sure that he wasn’t just going to drop again, he walked him slowly over to the kitchen table and sat him in one of the oak chairs.
“Now sit still. I’m going to get you something dry to put on before you freeze to death.” Bobby told the younger hunter and when he was sure Dean had followed what he’d said, Bobby went back to the laundry room and picked up the towels and sweater that he’d dropped the first time, stopping on the way back to pick up a blanket off the chair by the back door.
When he returned to the kitchen, Dean was once again struggling with his shirt, his hands seemingly too swollen and sore to allow him to undo the buttons, and he was trying unsuccessfully to pull the wet flannel over his head, pulling up his T-Shirt in the process and exposing the small of his back for Bobby to see the almost perfect boot shaped welts that marred his pale skin.
“Jesus Christ, kid.” Bobby sighed, quickly putting the clothes on the table beside Dean and he began to carefully tug the shirt off of Dean’s back, followed by the T-shirt and that’s when he saw the blood soaked dressing that had been crudely slapped over the skin just above his left hip. “What’s this?”
Dean looked up, his eyes glazed, full of hurt and Bobby could see the kid was fading fast. The shivering was now a violent shuddering and his teeth were chattering so much that when he did manage to reply, Bobby could barely make out what he said.
“It’s okay – It w-went right t-through.” Dean forced out and Bobby’s heart sank. Picking up the biggest towel, he wrapped it gently round the young hunter’s shoulders and Dean clutched it to himself as his whole body shook, then he pushed him forwards gently until he had a clear look at the dressing poking out of the waistband of his jeans, and gently pulling the adhesive tape away from Dean’s skin he uncovered a little round hole surrounded by puffy pink skin.
“Jesus, kid.” Bobby sighed, pulling Dean back, ignoring his wince and there, to the left of the bullet hole on his back was another blood soaked dressing on his side and when Bobby pulled this one away, he uncovered a ragged exit wound.
“I c-couldn’t g-go to the h-hospital, Bobby.” Dean began, blinking his eyes rapidly like he was trying unsuccessfully to clear his vision. “Dad h-has the f-fake insurance with h-him... And b-bullet wounds are r-reportable. Don’t n-need the cops a-after us – me - right n-now. ”
“Where is your Daddy, Dean?” Bobby asked quietly, picking up the blanket and wrapping that around the young hunter’ shoulders as well as he thought frantically what to do with the kid. Dean was right, bullet wounds were always reported to the police and they could all do without the cops sniffing around – what with the elaborate credit card scams that John seemed to derive most of income from, that and the massive about of weaponry that Dean carried around in the back of that old muscle car of his. Bobby didn’t even want to imagine what the police would make of the stash of mystical artefacts that he had stashed away in various corners of his house.
Dean seemed to miss the question and Bobby shook him gently, trying to rouse him from the daze he seemed to be slipping into. “Dean! Where is John? And Sammy? Where’s your brother? Are they okay?”
Dean let out a snort of something that sounded almost like laughter and he looked up at Bobby, his eyes sparkling with fresh tears. “Sammy’s at college, Bobby. He left a c-couple of months ago. Dad told him to g-go and never come b-back – so he did. And Dad’s d-down in New Orleans on a j-job...” he told him, his voice raw, like the very words were hurting him to say them.
Well done, John. Bobby thought to himself, silently cursing his old friend. He and John Winchester had always had a kind of love/hate relationship and Bobby struggled sometime with how he treated his boys. It seemed to Bobby that John had always tried to make his children into soldiers, especially Dean, and Bobby knew that a lot had been put on the kid’s shoulders since a very young age. When he’d first met John and his boys, he’d been struck by the way Dean followed his daddy round like a little lost puppy, desperate for his approval, desperate to please – almost as if he thought that if he did something John didn’t like, then he would disappear, just like his mommy had, only John had never seemed to notice. He just took Dean’s behaviour for obedience and put more responsibility on the boy’s shoulders. He had literally put little Sammy’s life into the kid’s hands.
Maybe if he’d had kids, he would have understood. Maybe if he and Karen had got the chance to have a son of their own, his view would be different – but he’d always had a soft spot for the brave and selfless kid who was now sitting, shot in the back and beaten all to hell, in front of him. And if his daddy wasn’t around to help him, Bobby sure was.
“It’s gonna be okay, Dean.” Bobby murmured softly, pulling the boy into a quick but gentle embrace. “I’m gonna fix you up good as new.”
Dean took a deep, shuddering breath, resting his head against Bobby’s shoulder. “I miss him, Bobby.” He whispered, voice cracking. “I miss Sam.”
“I know you do, kid.” Bobby replied gently. “I know.”
It was two days before Dean’s fever broke and Bobby was beyond relief when he went into the little upstairs guestroom to find Dean resting easy in the little single bed. He’d listened to Dean’s delirious cries, listened to the kid sob with pain in his sleep and it had almost broken his heart – especially when Dean had been calling out desperately for his brother.
He didn’t know what had gone down between the boys and their dad, but knowing John, he guessed it hadn’t been pretty. Sam was as strong-willed and stubborn as his dad and Bobby had been witness to many a showdown between them over the years. He’d also been a witness to Dean’s attempts to keep the peace between them - neither Sam or John realising how much they were hurting the kid in the process. Dean had spent much of his life playing piggy-in-the-middle, acting as a buffer between the two hotter headed members of his family and it was bound to take a toll. Both Sam and John relied on Dean far too much, he was so much more than just a brother and son to both of them, and it was a wonder that the kid hadn’t been the one to take off himself – instead, Dean had stayed and they’d both screwed him over as thanks.
Well, he wasn’t going to screw Dean over. He was going to be there for the kid as long as he wanted, which knowing Dean wouldn’t be very long.
“Hey Son.” Bobby said gently, sitting in the chair by the bed and Dean’s hazel eyes slid round to meet the old hunter’s, giving him a hesitant little smile.
“Hey Bobby,” he croaked, rubbing a hand down his face and frowning at the dressing Bobby had applied to the worst of the cuts across his cheek and the scratch of growth on his chin. “How long have I been out?”
“Night before last. You turned up at looking like a drowned rat. How you feelin’?”
“M’okay.” Dean replied with a yawn, and attempted to elbow himself up, not realising what a bad idea that was until the stabbing pain of healing muscles registered in his foggy brain, and he groaned through gritted teeth and slipped back down to the mattress.
“I was just going to tell you to take it easy, Dean.” Bobby sighed, patting him gently on the chest. “But as usual you go off all half cocked. You’ve been laid out for a couple of days and I’ve patched you up best I could, but you need to take it slow, okay?”
Dean took a couple of steadying breaths and looked up the old hunter. “I gotta pee, Bobby.”
“Yeah, thought you might. I can go get you a bottle if you want, or you wanna try for the bathroom?”
Dean just looked at him and Bobby grinned. “Bathroom it is then. But I’m gonna help you, okay?”
“Fine.” Dean sighed.
“And while we’re on the way, you can tell me just who the hell shot you in the back!”
A day later Dean was strong enough to get out of bed, even though he only got as far as the curling up on the sofa in the living room for a marathon of old movies. The day after that, he was a little better still and made it into the shower on his own.
“You’re one lucky son of a bitch, you know that, boy?” Bobby said quietly as he stuck the new dressing over the healing hole in Dean’s back. The kid was rigid as he sat back to front in the kitchen chair, and although the huge bruises on his back were fading, they were still pretty spectacular. Bobby could still see the outline of a boot and he sighed. “The bullet could have hit your kidney, Dean - or your spine.”
“Yeah, I’m lucky alright.” Dean chuckled humourlessly, and he hissed in pain and flinched as Bobby stuck the last piece of tape over the dressing.
“Who did this to you?”
“Doesn’t matter...” Dean replied quietly, and he looked over his shoulder. “Are you done?”
“Yeah. I’m done. You want something solid to eat? You gotta be starving. I can hear your stomach growlin’ from here.”
“You gonna make me breakfast, Bobby?” Dean grinned. “You gonna try to finish the job?”
“Funny!” Bobby replied. “Think I’ll let you starve now.” And he got up from the table and dumped the old dressings in the bin and put away the huge first aid kit under the sink. “How about we go into town instead? You up for some fresh air?”
Dean shrugged, and began to slowly get to his feet. “Can’t stay here forever, can I?” he replied, holding the old hunter’s gaze for a moment – and Bobby could see the loneliness in the green depths of the kid’s eyes.
“Dean...” Bobby began. Of course the boy could stay. He could stay forever if he wanted, but they both knew that it wasn’t going to happen.
“You gonna help me get dressed then, old man?” Dean asked looking away, and he began limping towards the laundry room where Bobby had his freshly washed clothes piled up on the dryer.
“What part of take it easy are you not quite clear on, you idjit?” Bobby yelled after him, and sighing heavily, he followed the kid across the kitchen.
Dean managed half a stack of pancakes and most of a side of bacon, before admitting defeat and sliding exhaustedly across the booth until he was being propped up by the wall. Bobby had tried his hardest not to keep his eyes on him as they ate in amiable silence, the kid had enough people staring at his battered face already, and Bobby knew that Dean couldn’t stand anyone fussing over him. He had watched the boy squirm when the waitress had begun clucking over him, and taking pity on him, had sent her packing with his lecherous old man act.
He’d tried asking Dean again who had worked him over like that as they ate, and all he got in reply was a shrug – and Bobby wondered if the kid really didn’t know. The cut on the back of his head was evidence of a good crack to his skull, and maybe Dean didn’t really remember what had happened, or it could have been some random act of violence, and the kid didn’t know his attackers. Another option was that Dean had got himself mixed up in something that he didn’t want Bobby to know about. Either way, the result was the same – Dean had been shot in the back and probably left for dead, and neither John or Sam had been there for him. It made his blood boil.
“You alright, boy?” he asked the kid, draining the last of his coffee and pulling some bills out of his wallet.
Dean’s eyes were glazed with exhaustion and he was gripping the cushions beneath him so hard that his fingers were white.
“Dean?” Bobby whispered. “You want to get out of here?”
The kid gave him a tight lipped nod, and began slowly sliding himself out of the booth, and eventually got to his feet using the table for support. “You alright walking?” Bobby asked him quietly, and Dean nodded, and began to head slowly out towards the carpark.
“Stubborn bastard,” Bobby sighed under his breath and followed behind close enough to catch the kid if he dropped.
Dean slept for most of the rest of the day and Bobby was busy fixing dinner when the younger hunter appeared in the doorway of the kitchen. He looked a bit brighter than when Bobby had had helped him back to bed, and had showered and shaved before coming downstairs. Bobby dropped the steak he was preparing onto the counter, and made to help Dean make to the chair but the kid waved him away.
“I’m alright, Bobby.”
Bobby eyed him appraisingly. “Well, you don’t look like you’re about to drop anymore – I’ll give you that.”
Dean chuckled and eased himself into the chair closest to the range – the chair they’d both begun to consider as his. “Must be your magical healing hands.”
Bobby smiled in return. “I’m a man of many talents, boy. You hungry?”
Dean peered at the steaks sitting on the counter top. “Man, I could eat a friggin’ horse.”
“How about a cow instead?” Bobby replied, and picking the steaks up, he dropped them into the griddle pan on top of the range.
Bobby watched in mild amusement as Dean virtually inhaled his dinner and when they were both finished, he cleared their plates and replaced them with an apple pie that he’d picked up from the local store earlier in the day. He knew Dean was a sucker for red meat and pie and he’d just wanted the kid to get some food inside him.
Dean eyed the pie eagerly as Bobby cut a huge slice out of it, before dumping in it in a bowl and sliding towards him, and watched with amusement as Dean tucked in.
“You’re not having any?” Dean asked around a mouthful of crust and Bobby shook his head and began to wash the dishes. “I’m not big on pie, Dean. I got it for you.”
Dean swallowed his mouthful with seeming effort and put down his fork and Bobby frowned. “What’s the matter? You don’t like apples now?”
“No, no – I do.” Dean stammered, shaking his head and taking a deep, shaky breath, the kid turned away from him and the old hunter realised with shock that Dean was crying.
“Goddammit, Dean.” Bobby sighed, dropping the dishrag and wiping his hands on his shirt, he walked round the table and put an arm round the boy’s shoulders. Dean stiffened at the touch and wiped his eyes quickly with the back of his hands, but Bobby didn’t let go – instead he pulled the boy closer to him until Dean’s defences cracked and crumbled to dust under his rough old hands and a moment later, the boy was sobbing into his shirt like his heart was breaking.
“It’s not your fault they left, Dean,” he soothed, stroking the boy’s spiky dark blonde hair, feeling the sobs rack though Dean’s battered body, and he silently cursed John Winchester. Dean was a good kid – loyal, and brave and selfless, and he didn’t deserve this life, he didn’t deserve any of it. No-one did.
“It’s not your fault, boy... It’s not your fault. Not your fault...”
The next morning Bobby came down to find a note sitting on the table. Dean was gone, but he wasn’t surprised.
He’d finally got out of the kid what had happened after a long night of talking and beer. John had sent him out blind on a job, but instead of people needing to be saved, Dean had found an old buddy of John’s with a grudge. John had a bad habit of making enemies – hell, Bobby himself had threatened to fill John’s ass with buckshot the next time he saw him, but this guy, Del Williams – best friend of Bill Harvelle - was more than a little un-hinged after one too many years on the job.
Dean had basically walked into trap meant for his Dad.
Picking up the note from the table, Bobby folded it up and slipped it into his breast pocket unread. There were some things just didn’t need to be said.
“Look after yourself, boy,” he murmured, stopping to look at the empty chair closest to the range, then the old hunter headed out into the yard to feed Rumsfield.
First posted on FF.net, this is as a one-shot set Pre-Series, just after Sam goes off to college. This fic has been whirring round in my brain for while now - I started this waaay back in December 2008 (slow writer, you say?)
As usual, it's an angsty little H/C number, completely un-beta'd and everything but the first chapter written in one night, but I think one or two of you guys out there might just like it. Anyhoo - hope you enjoy it,
PS. Any similarity to Good Will Hunting is entirely due to the fact that I love that film and couldn't resist :-)
1. Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
2. As much as I wished I owned Dean, I don’t... I just like to play with him.