And Now I'm Lost, too Late to Pray

(Lord I Take a Cost, Oh the Lost Highway)

Fandom: Supernatural

Category/Rated: Slash, R

Year/Length: 2007/ ~26,686 words

Pairing: Dean, Bobby, eventual Dean/Bobby, mentions of Dean/Sam

Spoilers: spoilers through the end of season two.

Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit, only having fun.

Warning: Slash, language, whump. spoilers through the end of season two.

Summary: Dean smiles, soft and crooked, sort of shrugs like he's asking for forgiveness, and waves, too. He looks tired, worn and stressed, the corners of his eyes are squinted tight. He says, "Hey. Um. They tell me my name is Dean. I, uh, was wondering what to call you?"

Author's Notes: So, realpestilence, who feeds me plot bunnies like crazy, was like, wanna hear about a Bobby/Dean idea? And I was like, yeah, bring it. And so it got brung-ded. And so I wrote this. And lo', it is shaping up to be epic size, and there shalt be porn, and angst, and craziness. Title from the song Lost Highway by Hank Williams. Chapter title from Empty Spaces by Fuel.

Beta: marysue007, the most awesome and supremely amazing. Seriously. It's a title, and should be used.

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Chapter One: Mister Could You maybe Lend a Hand (To Help a Drowning, Starving, Soulless Man)

"Sam, stop, just-just, think about what you're doing here for a minute. You can't just leave him-"

Sam talks over him, agitated and tense, "Don't you understand that I'm doing this to help him? I'm going to find a way to fix this, to bring him back-" Bobby's never had any occasion to apply the term spitting mad to an actual person before, but staring at Sam, shaking with barely restrained rage, he does. He can feel an answering anger in his own chest, cuts Sam off.

"He's right here, stop talking about him like he's not here, goddamnit, Sam. He's your brother-"

In the space of a heartbeat Sam's got Bobby by the lapels of his jacket, up against one of the pillars of the porch, the old wood digging into his back and shoulders. There's a sneer on the boy's lips, anger such as Bobby has never seen twisting up his fine long features into something ugly. His voice is wicked soft, quiet, dangerous, each word is bitten off like it has a foul taste that he can't stomach. "That's. Not. My. Brother."

It's horrible, and for a half-second Bobby can't even comprehend the sheer and utter terribleness of it. Not with Dean standing right there, stiff and uncomfortable beside the Impala, looking lost and out of place, tired and hungry. Bobby cuts his eyes towards the fair haired man, looking for hurt on his features at Sam's words, but there's nothing. Just the same kind of detached hurt that's been there since they pulled into Bobby's driveway five minutes ago.

Bobby figures, staring up into Sam's furious fox green eyes, that if Dean's not going to get angry on his own account then someone else is just going to have to do it for him. He gets a hand around both of Sam's wrists, squeezes and twists till Sam winces and loosens his grip. "He is Dean. He is your brother. And he needs you now more than ever."

But Sam's not listening, his eyes are already distant, a hundred miles away and moving further every minute. He steps back from Bobby, turns on his heel and just keeps walking till he's back at the Impala. Doesn't say another goddamn word till he's sitting in the driver's seat, his white knuckled grip on the steering wheel giving away his state, "I'm going to leave the car in town for you to pick up later. I can't-I mean-it's his. You know. Not mine."

Bobby just stares, flat and disbelieving and angry. He hates how furious he sounds, the anger in his voice, leaning down so he can stare into Sam's eyes when he speaks. "You're a sorry excuse for a man, Sam Winchester."

Sam doesn't say anything, not another word, just rolls the window up, puts the car into gear and drives away. Bobby restrains the urge to kick a stone after the retreating fender, because goddamnit he grew out of that kind of behavior thirty years ago. Instead he turns, pivots to face Dean and sighs.

Dean smiles, soft and crooked, sort of shrugs like he's asking for forgiveness, and waves, too. He looks tired, worn and stressed, the corners of his eyes are squinted tight. He says, "Hey. Um. They tell me my name is Dean. I, uh, was wondering what to call you?"

And Bobby feels more anger at Sam burst brand new and huge in his chest. He walks over to Dean, offers the other man his hand to shake, says, "I'm Bobby. Bobby Singer." For a long second Dean just stares at his hand, brow furrowed in question, and then, slowly, hesitantly, he reaches out and closes his fingers around Bobby's rough, callused hand.

"Hello, Bobby. It's, um, good to meet you. I'm sorry about all that." He's still squeezing Bobby's hand, softly, absently, and waves with his other hand in the general direction that Sam had sped off in. Bobby opens his mouth, closes it again, because what do you say to that? Dean continues, calluses rough over Bobby's knuckles, "Is it, um, is it okay if I stay here? He said it was, but I wanted to make sure."

Bobby tries to think of a way to extricate his hand from Dean's grip, stares for a long second down the road, prays that Sam will buck up and turn back, but the road remains empty. He takes a deep breath, turns back to meet Dean's eerily focused green eyes, staring at him with such naked intensity it gives him a chill. He clears his throat, motions towards his front door helplessly, "Let's get some coffee, okay?"

SsSsS

Dean stands uncomfortably beside the kitchen table, he keeps making aborted movements to grab the back of the chair in front of him, shifting his weight uncomfortably from foot to foot. Bobby watches the coffee brew, stares at it hard, so that he doesn't have to look at Dean.

He made the coffee strong, thick and black, because that's how the Winchester's have drank their brew since the time John brought his twelve and eight year old sons into his house all those years ago. He sets the thick, ceramic mug on the table, hoping Dean takes the hint and sits himself the hell down. After a minute the younger man does, slides heavily into the chair and wraps both hands around the mug.

"Is this how I like my coffee, then?" He blows on it, breathes the steam in. Bobby sighs, sits down across from him with his own brimming cup.

"Yeah." Dean shrugs, lifts his eyebrows and wiggles them, and then takes a long hit of the coffee. His eyes flutter closed, and he makes an appreciative sound in the back of his throat. He downs the coffee in three long swallows, and Bobby pushes his chair back from the table, retrieves the coffee pot and refills Dean's cup. "So, can you tell me what happened? What's going on?"

Dean sets his coffee down, just a little bit to heavily, cuts his eyes side to side and then up to Bobby's. He holds the eye contact, like he's not sure when to look away or if he should or not, "Two days ago I woke up in some crappy motel room with that guy that left me here. He got, uh, upset I guess. Shoved me in the car and brought me here." Dean pauses, takes another drink of coffee, "Who was he? You said something about him being my brother earlier?"

Bobby wonders, absently, if this situation could in fact be any more awkward. He thinks not. "Yeah, your younger brother."

Dean hunches further over his cup of coffee, lips tugging downward into a scowl and it's not like Bobby can really blame him for that. He's still surprised by the younger man's next question. "Where's the rest of my family?"

Bobby freezes, feels something twist tight and sour in his belly, opens his mouth and closes it again because how do you answer that? He can remember, the complete and utter horror of finding out that his family was dead, murdered, taken years and years before their time should have come. Somehow, he'd never anticipated having to inflict that pain on another person.

Somehow, Dean must read the truth on his features, must be able to see what Bobby can't vocalize. Bobby watches the younger man's face close off, watches it go very still, watches his eyes get hard and focused. Dean takes a drink of his coffee like he's angry at it, but then sets it down gently as if it were the finest china.

"Did I have other siblings?" Dean's voice is far away, soft and level as though he were just asking about the weather.

"No. No, Dean. I'm sorry." He is. God, more sorry than he's been for a long time. He knows only from observing the man that his mother's death scared him perhaps deeper than it did his father and brother. If nothing else, in a different way. He knows what John's death did to him. To have to watch it again is horrible. To have to be the one delivering the news is almost unbearable.

"Did they-" his voice cracks around the word, and Dean clears his throat before trying to speak again, "Was it... was it peaceful? Death. Their deaths, I mean. Did they die good deaths? I-was it painful?"

Bobby doesn't even have to consider lying, he knows immediately that he will. That he'll tell Dean that his parents died peacefully in their sleep. Maybe carbon monoxide poisoning, maybe they had bad hearts. Something gentle and painless.

His expression must give him away, because Dean just blanches. All the color just drains from his face, leaving his freckles in stark relief against his cheekbones and across his nose. Bobby watches the other man's knuckles go tight and white around his cup, watches a muscle in his jaw jump up and down and up and down.

"Did I get the bastard that did it?" There's nothing but ice and steel in Dean's voice now, something cold and hard and dead. Bobby sighs, sets his coffee aside and reaches across the table. Dean's wound tight, flinches when Bobby wraps his thick fingers over the back of his hand.

"Look at me." He squeezes Dean's hand till the younger man stops staring down into his coffee and meets his eyes. There's loss and bitterness and anger there, and Bobby starts to withdraw his hand because there are some things a man has to handle on his own. But Dean catches his wrist before he can, long callused fingers around his wrist holding him in place. He doesn't try to pull away. "You got the fucker. You hear me? You did the mother right."

Dean sags in his chair, lets his shoulders drop and breathes out like he'd been holding his breath for an eternity. "Good. Good. Thank you."

The silence between them stretches and pulls and starts to fray at the edges as outside sounds start creeping back in. Crickets, the steady dripping of his downstairs faucet that he's never managed to fix, the rumble of semis roaring down the highway two miles away. He sits, letting Dean hold his wrist, watching the other man's face as he digests the information he's been given.

When Dean speaks again, he's apparently moved on, "Where's your dog?"

Bobby startles, believes for a half second that everything has suddenly gone back to normal. "You remember?"

But Dean's already shaking his head, half-smiling, "No. Still nothing. It's just that you've got a bunch of cans of Alpo over there. Kind of a give away, you know."

And it seems that their conversation just can't stay away from death. He rubs his free hand over his face, takes a deep breath, "Rumsfeld died. About two years ago." Dean grunts, soft, starts pushing his cup around the table with his knuckles.

"Did you get the bastard that did it?"

Bobby smiles, can't not, as he stands and grabs the cups to set in the sink. "You got the fucker."

Dean smiles, then, a real full smile, and Bobby thinks for the first time that maybe this won't be so bad. How long can it possibly last, in any case? Sooner or later Sam's going to realize he's being an idiot and come back for his brother. Bobby figures he just has to take care of the other man until then.

Should be cake.

SsSsS

Chapter Two: It's a Dream within a Dream (Lost and Lonely)

SsSsS

Bobby Singer dreams about his little girl's face, her thick brown hair and her big brown eyes, and her pale skin all smeared with blood. He wakes to screams, and is only really surprised that they're not his own.

There's a knife under his pillow and a revolver on his nightstand and he has both before his eyes are all the way open. The light in the room is watery and gray, ridiculously early morning, which means he's hardly been sleeping at all. Dean had been strangely reluctant to leave the table the previous night, had only conceded to going to bed after he fell asleep and almost toppled backwards in his chair.

The scream cuts off abruptly, is followed by the unmistakable sound of someone being sick. Bobby sighs, settles his gun back in its place and slides his knife back under his pillow. The wood floor is cold and hard under his feet, but so familiar he sometimes imagines he's worn a groove in it through long years of familiarity.

He finds Dean in the bathroom, wedged between the toilet and the tub, head tilted up towards the ceiling, eyes closed. He says, "You alright there?" while hovering in the doorway, debating on going in and dragging Dean out, or letting himself sort things out on his own.

Dean rubs a hand up over his face, and Bobby notices with a start that the silver ring the man's always worn is gone. The skin just slightly paler in the place where they usually rest than anywhere else. And for some reason, that sets more ill with him than anything else.

"Just a bad dream." Dean, speaking while levering himself up off the floor. He bites the words off, like he's angry or scared. Apparently he was sleeping in all his clothes, because he's fully dressed now. The lines around his eyes look deeper in the harsh bathroom light, manages to make him look so pale as to be nearly translucent.

Bobby wonders, absently, how it is that Dean has nightmares when he doesn't remember anything. But then Dean's pushing past him, sparing him a quick tight smile that looks more like a grimace, and padding down stairs. Bobby sighs, casts a longing look back towards his own bed, probably still warm, and follows Dean. Apparently he'll not be getting any more sleep tonight.

He finds Dean in the kitchen, and apparently the other man had been paying attention, because he's making coffee with a minimal amount of fuss. Bobby leans in the doorway, watching, wishing he'd thought to grab his robe before parading around his home. Goddamn the Winchesters, anyway.

He clears his throat, because the other man is ignoring him, and Dean startles, fumbles the coffee mug in his hand and almost drops it. When he whips around, locking eyes with Bobby, there's something wild and scared and angry there that has Bobby tensing, the hairs on the back of his neck standing up. "Dean?"

Dean blinks, cuts his eyes to the side and turns back to the coffee. He's tense, his body all hard angry lines, his jaw working. When he speaks his voice is gravel rough, "I don't think-I don't think I can talk right now."

And all the alarm bells in Bobby's head go off.

He's seen that look on men's faces before, lost, pissed off, fear translating itself smoothly into anger. He's seen it on men with guns, and men with knives, and men screaming at him in other languages while trying their very hardest to kill him before he killed them. It's been decades, since the war, since the last time he saw it, but he remembers.

He takes a half step back, bracing himself, watching the rapid rise and fall of the other man's chest. When Dean speaks again he's still staring off to the side, clenching and unclenching his free hand, "I don't think you should let me stay here. I think maybe I was-am-was a-" Apparently Dean can't put into words what he thinks he was, because he just sort of trails off.

Bobby sighs, and takes another step back, and speaks even though he doubts he has any chance of getting through to Dean, "Whatever you're thinking, you're wrong. You were always one of the good guys, Dean." When Dean doesn't answer, doesn't even look at him, he turns and pads back upstairs. The shower is calling to him, and Dean apparently needs to be alone for a while with his coffee and dreams.

SsSsS

He takes his shower hot, so hot it burns and stains his skin crimson, and jumps out feeling like he's on fire. The house is silent around him, no matter how hard he strains his ears he can't hear even a whisper of sound from Dean, and after a moment he gives up. He'd never admit, later, even under fear of death, that he rushed through the rest of his morning ritual to make sure Dean hadn't done anything to himself.

He needn't have worried. Dean is sitting in the middle of his living room, Bobby's old books and journals spread in a circle around him, sipping on a cup of coffee and munching on a piece of toast. Dean's bent over a little one-subject notebook, filled with cramped, sharp handwriting that Bobby knows to be his own.

The pages are yellowed, starting to fade, and Bobby knows exactly what's in there. His first hunts, his research, his plans and hopes and anger when he hadn't been able to funnel it all out into the bang of a shotgun in his hand or Latin around his tongue.

Every hunter Bobby's ever met had one thing that they hated most, one monster that they hunted with a passion and fury that knew no bounds. The Harvelle's hunted angry spirits, poltergeists and women in white and he never found out why, but always heard it had something to do with Jo's grandmother. The Winchester hunted demons, for the obvious reasons. Gordon hunted vampires. They all hunted other things, too, but that was all peripheral to whatever they hated the most.

Bobby hated gods. More than anything. He'd hunted and killed more of them in his life than he'd ever known existed, and from every pantheon imaginable. He wonders which one Dean's got, wonders how long it's going to take for the other man to decide that he's insane.

But Dean just nods at him when he enters the room, offers a tiny half smile that could mean anything or nothing, and turns back to the notebook. Bobby watches him, stares hard for a few minutes, before realizing that Dean has absolutely no intention of finishing his reading any time soon. And well, visitor or not, Bobby has chores to do.

He finds himself checking on Dean at least once an hour, concern and the buried hope that if he keeps checking sooner or later Dean will look up and recognize him and this whole nightmare will be over. But aside from changing his position till he's sprawled out across the floor, and apparently making himself a sandwich at some point, Dean barely moves.

He's moving through the journals like they're the most interesting things he's ever read, and, well, Bobby supposes that they must be. Bobby almost asks him what he's looking for, but he suspects that Dean's looking for something he's not likely to find in any book, something that Bobby can't give him in any case.

It's not until midday, when he glances at the calendar hanging in his entry foyer, that he realizes things are even odder than he'd assumed. There's a big X three days back, no words and no explanation provided, because none had been needed.

He stares hard at the day that Dean was supposed to have died, and supposes there is more than one way to take a life. And any hope, however small, that he had been holding out that Sam would find a way to bring Dean's memory back, to bring him back, dissolves in his chest.

He thinks about saying something to Dean about it, but decides against it. After all, you can't very well tell someone that they should be glad their memories gone, because it could have been worse. Instead he gathers his tools and a jug of water and wanders out to the old VW bus he's been working on for the past week, and tells himself not to think about it anymore.

SsSsS

He bashes his forehead up into the engine when, hours later, someone rests their hand on his knee and squeezes. He's cursing, and rubbing at the bruise he can already feel forming, as he pushes himself out from under the bus.

"Shit, I'm sorry," and that's Dean's voice, and those are Dean's hands, pulling him to his feet and trying to prod at his forehead. The other man looks, if possible, even worse than he did this morning, and Bobby wonders one more time what Sam was thinking leaving him here.

"It's okay," Dean is apparently a fusser. Bobby hadn't realized this before, and he has to actually grab Dean's wrist and hold it away to keep him from trying to see the injury. It's almost funny. "You get tired of reading my chicken scratch?"

And Dean, to Bobby's complete and utter shock, actually brightens at that. Some of the tension drains out of his shoulders, and the lines around his mouth ease. Bobby remembers, for the first time, that Dean is under thirty. He's staring, surprised, when Dean speaks, "I thought I was going crazy, you know, the dreams. I'm glad I'm not."

"No need to go somewhere you've already been," Bobby means it teasingly, but regrets it immediately, because that's really not encouraging at all. But Dean just smiles, shaking his head and for a half second Bobby thinks he might laugh.

"Is that what me and Sam did, then? We hunted things?" And then, carrying on without giving Bobby a chance to answer, "My parents? One of those things-it killed them?"

Bobby's starting to think that he must be completely translucent about death, because Dean reads the answer on his face without him ever having to speak. Dean winces, looks away, and Bobby watches the play of emotions across his face. He's not sure he's ever seen Dean quite this open before, this willing to admit that something is wrong instead of covering it over with laughs and bullshit and charm.

It's unnerving.

Apparently Dean agrees, because the next second his face is smooth and calm as it ever was. When he speaks his voice is cheerful, and the strain barely shows, "I'm going to go for a walk." And then, staring at his feet, "I'll come back."

Bobby watches him go, and tells himself that he doesn't need to be half as worried as he is.

SsSsS

It's dark, by the time Dean comes back, and Bobby tells himself that he's out sitting on the porch because it's a clear night and the stars are all out. Dean's running when he comes into view, all out, arms pumping in time with his legs, shoulders back, head up. He's got decent form, but lands too heavy on the heel of his left foot and Bobby wonders why John never corrected that.

Bobby watches him come, leaning against the railing, scanning the horizon behind Dean on the off chance that maybe he's running from something instead of running for the hell of it. Dean waves, short and fast, when he notices Bobby, smiles and slows to a walk.

By the time he reaches the porch he's got his breathing slowed down to something resembling normal. He's soaked through with sweat, shirt and jeans and hair. He leans against the rail beside Bobby, stares up at the sky and doesn't say a word. Bobby picks up the conversational slack, "Good run?"

Dean just shrugs. "There are cows up the road."

Bobby whistles, because the closest people with cows are the McClintock's, and their farm is almost five miles away. "You must have made it almost to town." Dean just shrugs again, runs his hands back through his hair and smiles grimly when he shakes the sweat off afterwards.

The night air is cool and still around them, and Bobby stares up at Ursa Minor and looks for the man in the moon and wonders if this is all a very odd dream. Dean's voice is soft when it breaks the silence, "You're sure he's my brother? By blood, I mean."

Bobby glances at him, leaning against the porch railing, eyes on the heavens, and wonders what the preoccupation with Sam being his brother means. He doesn't sound particularly angry or bitter about being left. The only emotions Bobby can hear in his voice and read on his face are bemusement and confusion. "I'm sure."

"Hm." And that's the end of that.

"There's chicken and potatoes inside, if-" and that's all the further he gets before Dean flashes a hung smile and takes off at a dash towards the kitchen. After a moment Bobby realizes that Dean, in fact, might intend to eat all of it, and abandons his contemplation of the celestial bodies to secure his share of dinner.

SsSsS

It's the first night in years that he locks up his guns before going to bed. That he slides the revolver under his pillow and removes the knife, just in case. He doesn't think Dean would hurt him, even in his present state. But he's seen men try to find out what a bullet tastes like for less reason than Dean's been given, and sees no reason to tempt fate.

He prays, to whatever god dares accept his prayers, that Dean managed to so thoroughly exhaust himself throughout the day that he'll have no dreams. He sleeps fully clothed, just in case.

Bobby dreams about his wife, beautiful as she was in life, her skin soft and supple beneath his hands, laughing up into his face as he laid her down beside the river and drank in the site of her. He dreams of her cold and sticky, of her body curled up tight and stiff in death, of the scream that seemed etched on her face even after death should have granted her peace.

He wakes to screams, and goes looking for Dean.

Chapter Three: Learning to Breathe (I'm Learning to Crawl)

The nightmares don't let up. Dean refuses to say a word about them, avoids Bobby for hours after each one. Bobby lets him, because it's impossible to not see the barely bridled violence in Dean's movements after one of the dreams, and the war gave Bobby enough self-preservation instinct to know when a man's about to blow.

It takes three days, three days of screaming and throwing up and once punching a hole through Bobby's bathroom door, for Dean to apparently decide that he's just not going to sleep anymore. He just looks up at Bobby from the bathroom floor, and says, "Enough of this bullshit." There's a stubborn set to his jaw that Bobby hasn't seen since Sam very briefly died.

Dean drinks more coffee than Bobby has ever seen a human being consume. Does nothing for hours but read and pour caffeine down his throat. Bobby watches from the edges, pausing in his errands as often as he can. Dean doesn't move more than a few inches, hunched over a book, a hand over the back of his head, fingers rubbing and prodding at his scalp.

When he comes back from his run, which has become habit, he sits in the bath for almost two hours, until Bobby gets worried and bangs on the door. He's thinking about the razor he left on the side of the sink, thinking about the dark shadows under Dean's eyes and the fact that the man had mastered a fake smile in the last two days.

There's no answer from within the bathroom, and he knocks louder, shouts, "Dean?"

"Bobby." Dean sounds breathy, far away, and there's the echo of splashing water. Bobby feels the worry in his chest notch up, tests the doorknob and is relieved when it turns. He doesn't push into the room, not yet, just keeps a hand on the knob, weight against the frame.

"I just needed to get the towels to wash." It's an easy, harmless, lie. He hears Dean curse, softly, under his breath, and then more splashing and a thump. A half second later there's pressure against the door, and then Dean's pushing out, head ducked, smiling huge. He's got one of Bobby's threadbare towels wrapped low around his hips, is still dripping with water, like he didn't actually take the time to dry off. There's a lump of bubbles sliding slowly down his neck.

And he's blushing, crimson from the bottom of his ribs to the tops of his high cheeks.

Bobby cocks his head to the side, watches the man brush past him, trying to figure out what the hell just happened. Dean hesitates outside the door that has become by default his, turns while fiddling with the doorknob. "Aren't you supposed to be getting those towels?" And then he's in his room before Bobby has time to stammer out an apology for staring.

He's still not sure what happened a half hour later when Dean slumps down to the living room, cradling a mug of coffee and already jumpy with nerves. Dean shuffles his feet over to him, sinks down onto the other end of the couch. He says, "How are the towels?"

"Rinse cycle."

Dean makes a humming sound, cracks his neck and takes a big hit off the coffee. He's bouncing his legs, staring somewhere off into the middle distance. Bobby inspects the new lines around Dean's mouth, the bruised skin beneath his eyes and the angry scabs over his knuckles. He thinks, again, some more, that Sam made a big mistake leaving Dean here. He doesn't know how to help him, how to make him better, how to rearrange all the broken pieces of him back into some cohesive whole.

It's not really a surprise when Dean catches him staring again, but it is awkward enough to make him stand up, to seek the refuge of the kitchen. He warms up the steamers he made for dinner, the fried potatoes and onions that he made that are just starting to congeal in the bottom of their container.

When he comes back into the room holding a plate brimming with food in each hand Dean is doing jumping jacks. He does over a hundred while Bobby sits and waits. When Dean sinks back onto the couch he's radiating heat and Bobby shifts away from him, uncomfortable with his presence and heat and smell though he couldn't say why.

They make small talk over dinner, about the weather, the cars that litter Bobby's lot, the television shows that Dean's rediscovered that he may or may not have liked in the past. There's no mention of the nightmares, or of the notebooks. There never is.

Dean does jumping jacks every other hour, whenever he starts to nod. He's still at in when exhaustion drags Bobby up to his bed and down into dreams.

SsSsS

Near as Bobby can figure, Dean doesn't sleep for close to a week. He's moving like a man mostly dead by the end of it, dragging his feet and staring out at the world from hollow eyes. Bobby thinks about taking away the caffeinated coffee, but that won't let Dean prove whatever he's trying to prove to himself, and so he doesn't.

He just waits, and when Dean falls asleep on the couch, head tilted back, limbs all askew Bobby covers him up and shoves a pillow under his head. He has a feeling about how this is going to end, and so he stays close, mutes the television and works on decoding a text he got from an auction nearly three months ago.

When Dean starts whimpering, terrible tiny animal sounds in the back of his throat, Bobby sets the book aside, careful of the age and frailty of the text. He pulls gently at Dean's shoulders, tugs the man over into him, rearranges his limbs as gently as possible till Dean's snoring softly against his thigh, whimpering intermittently.

Bobby never had occasion to comfort his daughters. The twins hadn't been anything more than babes when he'd left for the war. But his wife had woken with nightmares more often than not, screaming and fighting and pleading and if he'd never asked what it was her daddy did to her it was only because he didn't think she wanted to tell him.

He cards his fingers through Dean's hair, murmuring nonsense words and just rubbing the younger man's head. He thinks about Marie, with her soft Georgian accent and big brown eyes, about untangling her brown hair gently with his fingers when she woke yelling. Calming her, gentling her back down into a sweeter sleep.

Dean shifts against him, yelps, high and sharp as a dog being kicked in the ribs. Bobby traces circles over the man's temples, keeps murmuring, keeps making promises he can't bank on.

Dean stills without another sound and Bobby sighs, reaches for his book. He's pretty sure now that it's a dialect of Hebrew that he's vaguely familiar with, which is excellent news. Shouldn't take nearly as long to translate it.

He's somewhere in the middle of a six page long lineage for someone who appears to have been a minor lord or possibly just a farmer, when Dean jerks, bites off a scream in the back of his throat. He's still sleeping, eyes screwed shut, and Bobby whispers and soothes and considers praying.

They go on like that for hours, and then, like a switch being flipped, Dean takes a deep long breath, then another, and finally sinks past the nightmares. It's a relief, because Bobby's left ass cheek has been numb for the past forty minutes, and his eyes have started the blur from the strain of reading the tiny print.

He eases out from under Dean, tucks the blanket around him, and heads off to find his own bed.

SsSsS

Dean sleeps for a day and wakes up looking human again. He eats like a starving man, and takes another of his ridiculously long baths, but this time Bobby doesn't interrupt him. He's almost glowing under his skin afterwards anyway, so Bobby figures it's all for the best.

They don't talk about this, either, but Dean takes to sleeping on the couch, eventually just relocating his pillow and blankets downstairs. The nightmares don't stop, but Bobby hadn't expected them to. But he can usually keep Dean from waking up, and the other man's moods settle down substantially.

And somehow it all becomes normal. He doesn't startle when he rolls out of bed and lumbers down into the kitchen to find Dean frying eggs or pancakes or sausage and gravy with biscuits. He gets used to cooking for two people, for sharing bathroom space, for using the right toothbrush instead of accidentally grabbing Dean's.

It is a surprise when he comes back from the store one day to find Dean under one of the junkers in the back. The man's covered with grease and sweat, has tools spread around him in a haphazard pile, and is crooning up into the old Chevy like it's a new lover.

Bobby settles on his haunches beside him, watching Dean grope around amongst the wrenches strewn by his elbow. "What size you looking for?"

Dean doesn't startle, doesn't even break his steady stream of encouragement to the car. After a moment he addresses Bobby, "The one that'll fit. I don't-I mean-it's this big." He holds his thumb and forefinger apart and Bobby guesses and hands him a nine-sixteenth.

Dean grunts, and doesn't throw the tool back, so Bobby assumes it must have been the right size. He feels the need to say, "She won't run." He's not sure what the previous owner did to the truck, but he tried to fix it and ended up throwing his hands up in surrender after a futile week. Sometimes vehicles just died.

"Don't listen to him baby." Dean's voice is low and thick, full of promise. "He doesn't know you the way I know you."

Bobby laughs, shakes his head and settles back, trying to get a look under the truck and not quite able to manage it. It's not long before Dean squirms out from under the vehicle, rubbing his hands on his jeans and leaving behind smears of black oil. There's a little cut above his eyebrow, sweat mixing it with the grease along his chin.

He nods a greeting to Bobby, and crawls into the cab. There's silence for a moment, and then the engine stutters over. It takes three tries, and then she starts. It's a rough, choking, rumble, but it's definitely running, getting stronger every second. Dean cuts the engine off, murmuring softly to her and dragging his hand across the dash.

Bobby watches him slide out of the truck, smirking, looking immensely proud of himself. And then Dean's in his space, all sweat and grease and easy grace, saying, "Sometimes you just need a little extra love to get 'em going."

Bobby doesn't watch him walk away, he's too busy peering under the truck, wondering just what the hell Dean did to it.

SsSsS

Dean adds working on the junkers to his daily routine after that, and it's the one thing they actually manage to talk about. He names them all, talks about them like they're old friends over lunch and dinner. Calls them Myrtle and Abigail and Cassie. Bret and James and Michael. Sometimes Bobby wonders if the names are memories bleeding through, but has no way of knowing if it's true or not.

In any case he's got a skill for it, for mending them and making them run. More than that, for making them purr when they're well beyond the state they should ever be able to purr in again. He gets a Rabbit to make a sound that Bobby's never heard one make in all his long years.

One day Bobby finds him out in the yard, staring over the cars and scowling fiercely. "There a problem?"

He shrugs, shakes his head, and Bobby doesn't ask again. Figures that Dean will tell him when he wants to, or he won't. It's no use pushing the man, can't get a word out of him unless it's because he's giving it.

In the end Dean doesn't have to tell him a thing. That night he comes back from his run in the driver's seat of a very familiar long, lean, black car. He makes no move to get out, just sits and runs his hands over the steering wheel and listens to the radio.

Bobby brings him dinner out, and Dean pops the passenger door open for him. They eat fried chicken while listening to the Marshall Tucker Band and watching the fireflies dancing in the night air. Bobby finally speaks, sucking the meat off a leg, "You know how to drive?"

Dean shrugs. "I know how to drive her. She's mine. He said she was, and he was right. I can tell."

Bobby's noticed Dean's reluctance to name Sam, and wonders about that, too. Wonders what happened in the two days it took them to get to his place that had left all this strangeness behind. Dean voice is soft when he speaks again, "You're sure he was my brother?"

He asks at least once a day. Bobby stares at him out of the corners of his eyes, and sighs. "Yes."

"Is there more chicken?" There is. Dean eats a hell of a lot of food, and Bobby learned quick to cook far more than he ever thought two people could eat. He nods, and Dean slides out of the Impala, says, "I'll be right in. There's some stuff in the trunk I need to grab."

Bobby heads in, shoves some chicken on a plate and into the microwave for a minute. The front door bangs open and then closed, and whatever Dean brought in sounds heavy when he drops it on the living room floor.

Bobby abandons the chicken, wanders into the living room, and stops in surprise. Dean's got a sheet Bobby doesn't recognize spread across the hard wood, and on it, arranged neatly, guns and knives. Dean looks up at him after a long moment, all seriousness, "They need cleaned."

"You want help?"

Dean takes a long time answering. Staring at Bobby with his head cocked to the side, eyes sharp as broken glass. Finally he pats the ground beside him, smiling crookedly.

He cleans the guns the same way he works on the cars. Efficient and gentle, like they're old friends getting reacquainted. He's got a rhythm, a pattern he falls into almost immediately, and Bobby keeps one eye on him while he works.

There's a lot of guns. Shotguns, both full length and sawed off. Pistols, large caliber down to a little Tomcat that feels uncomfortably small in Bobby's hand. Lots of knives, too. Steel, silver, copper, one that might be gold, soft as the metal feels.

They clean them all, and the chicken is cold again by the time they're done.

SsSsS

Time flies, and the weather starts to warm, starts edging into the uncomfortable heat of summer. They've got a comfortable rhythm now, between them. The only thing that's still off is Dean's sleeping arrangements. He's set up permanent camp on the couch, not that Bobby can really blame him.

They're eating dinner out on the porch one night, grease still under both of their fingernails, when a car roars up, tires sliding against the gravel when the driver tries to stop too quickly. For a half second Bobby dares think that it might be Sam, but the figure that steps out of the old Pontiac is about three times smaller than the youngest Winchester.

Jo Harvelle is shoving her hair out of her face when she steps up onto the porch, looking more like her mother than ever with her worn jeans and oversize flannel shirt, with the tired lines around her eyes. She opens her mouth, spots Dean, and closes it again.

And Bobby can see this situation going downhill really damn fast. Does what he can to salvage it. "Hey, Jo. Been awhile since we've seen you. Your momma called looking for you last week, wanting to know if you'd been hunting again."

She's staring at Dean when she speaks, frozen on the top step, "I thought-I mean-what day is it? It's-I thought, like, weeks ago, right? I talked to Sam. I told him-I thought-I-"

Bobby will never quite understand exactly how Dean put that all together, but he does. Sets his dinner down, stands and spreads his arms in a shrug, says with a teasing smile, "Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

And she laughs, just like that, tosses her hair and stares up at Dean from under her eyelashes. Bobby watches, too surprised to speak, when she steps forward and punches Dean in the right arm, pointing at his left shoulder. "How's the arm?"

Dean grins, leans down towards her, oozing charm and Bobby wonders if she really can't read the uncertainty and the lie of it in his eyes. "It's fine. Wanna see the scar?"

She smacks him again, pushing past him into the house, calling over her shoulder, "My work, scarred? I think not." Dean casts a desperate look at Bobby behind her back, hand extended as though he intends to grab him and drag him along. Bobby stands to spare them both the indignity. "So what are you doing here? Where's Sam? Thought you two were all joined at the hip or whatever."

Dean lies like an old pro, which shouldn't surprise Bobby as much as it does, "Bobby had some info he needed to give us, wards he found, you know. And since Sam had some business to take care of down in Kansas I came to get it. He got sidetracked down there, convinced he's found a nest of gargoyles though I think it's just some kids."

She bobs her head, staring at the nest that Dean's got setup on the couch.

Dean is making panicked eyes at him again, but there's anger there as well, something deep that he's saving for later. Bobby touches Jo's elbow to catch her attention, nods towards the kitchen, "You want some coffee?" Coffee makes everything better.

SsSsS

Turns out Jo's hunting vampires, which is completely out of her league, and she knows it. She came for help, or baring that, for Bobby to set her up with some other hunters. She's got maps and plans and a gallon of dead man's blood in her trunk, and what she reckons to be four vampires to kill.

Bobby made the decision a long time ago to never turn down someone coming to him for help, though John Winchester had very nearly become an exception to that rule. When Jo asks if he can go with her in the morning he starts thinking about what he has to pack and sends her off to get a good night's sleep.

Dean's waiting for him in his room, pacing back and forth, a bundle of angry energy. Bobby startles, because he keeps his door locked, and knows damn well that the key is still in his pocket. Doesn't have the chance to ask how Dean got in, because the man is in his space the moment he's through the door, furious, "I'm supposed to be dead? And, what, you didn't think that was pertinent information?"

"Dean-"

"Anything else you neglected to tell me? I got a wife and kids somewhere I should know about? I mean, who killed me? Meant to kill me?" He laughs, "How pissed off are they gonna be when they find out I'm alive?"

"I'm sorry." And then, since that doesn't really seem sufficient. "It's okay." And when Dean gives him a look so sour it could curdle milk, "It'll be okay."

Dean wipes a hand over his face, takes a deep breath and then another, and curses viciously. And just like that it's over, his anger exorcized, "You gonna be okay with her? She's so young." Bobby shrugs, starts throwing things in the duffle at the foot of his bed. He's going to have to be.

There's silence, as he works, and then Dean catches his arm, holds him for a second and stares at him hard. "Make sure you come back, okay?"

Chapter Four: All the Things I've Once Held Close to My Heart (Are Now Gone)

Bobby's worked with a lot of other hunters over the years. Got himself something of a reputation through the eighties of being the man to talk to if you were hunting something big and bad enough to warrant serious concern. It got around that he hunted gods, the ones with names and actual worshippers. The kinds of things that had been walking the earth for millennia.

He'd hunted with fools who were just waiting for the opportunity to get themselves killed. He'd hunted with broken men with nothing but the killing left to live for. He'd hunted with kids and old men and the odd woman, though there were never very many of those in this line of work.

For the most part, he always liked hunting with women. They planned more than the men did, they tended to look after partners better, and when it came right down to it, he'd never seen one hesitate over a kill.

Jo's got the plan, the weapons, and the anger. He thinks, watching her in the driver's seat of her old Pontiac, that someday she'll be a force to be reckoned with herself. But she's got years to go, experience to gain, before she gets to that point. Now she's just cutting her teeth, and vampires are vicious little bastards to start teething on.

She interrupts his musing, "I expected Dean to come."

She'd said as much back as his house, staring expectantly up at Dean earlier that morning. Bobby had stepped between them, hand on Dean's elbow, squeezing, said, "He's going to have to be getting on his way, actually. Sam called late last night, needs a hand with those gargoyles."

Dean had leaned towards her against Bobby, all charm with his voice conspiratorially low, "It's just kids, but what can you do?"

She'd laughed, smiled huge and blushed, and Bobby had been surprised by the sharp jag of irritation down his spine. "He'd lose his mind without you," the words had been soft and teasing, but Bobby had felt Dean tense up, and had hurried her out the door.

Now he shrugs, settles deeper into the seat, trying to ignore the faint banana smell of the car, "Gargoyles are damn hard to kill. Wouldn't try it with one man.'

She hums, and Bobby stares down at his hands and thinks that Dean would have come if he'd been given half a chance. But that's just a risk that Bobby is in no way willing to take. It's hit or miss what Dean seems to remember, he knows how to fix a car but not the names of any of the engine parts or the tools. Knows how to drive, but only the Impala, though really it should be the same concept. Knows how to clean guns, but Bobby doesn't want to find out if he remembers how to shoot them.

"How'd he get out of the deal? Last we all heard he was... well, good as dead."

Bobby considers making something up, some wildly heroic yarn where the Winchester's fought off the very legions of hell, full of Shakespearean twists. He smiles for a half second at the thought of Dean running around in tights and puffed sleeves and pointy little shoes. And all he says is, "He wouldn't say. I think it was..." he lets himself trail off, lets her fill it in however she wants.

"Mom says you're a first rate conman, Bobby Singer." She doesn't say it accusingly, just matter of fact. He wonders if that means she doesn't believe him, or just that she maybe suspects that she shouldn't. "Says you could talk a dog away from his bone, or a woman out of her clothes, if you had a mind to."

He aims for rakish with his smile, "Your mother is a damn smart woman." She laughs, long and sweet, like it was surprised out of her, and lets the subject drop. She cranks the radio up, some song that he's never heard, all electric guitar as some boy screams about grenades and apparently a dance floor.

SsSsS

The vampires are holed up in an old boathouse, three rundown vehicles in front of it, windows all boarded over. They ease up just as dawn is breaking brilliant across the lake in front of them, turning the water to spun gold.

It's quiet, looks abandoned, but Bobby can smell blood on the air, fresh and wet.

They stand over her trunk, gathering weapons, making sure everything's been thoroughly coated with blood. She's tense, movements short and sharp, brimming with either fear or anticipation or possibly both. Bobby straps a machete around his waist, hefts a crossbow, and waits for her to settle her nerves.

Eventually she steps away, face set, eyes grim, and they exchange a nod without words. It's barely twenty yards to the shack, and Bobby goes in first. He counts heads the moment he's through the door, and knows that things are going to go all to shit when he gets to six and has to keep going.

SsSsS

So, technically, they should still have been able to take care of them. The vampires were sleeping, and you could take a head off with one swing with the right force behind it. But they had dogs, two big mutts in the middle of the room that had lifted their heads and flattened their ears before springing to their feet and charging while barking loud enough to wake the dead. Or the undead, for that matter.

Bobby shoves Jo out the door, and takes eighty pounds of big angry dog in the chest. He has time to see sharp gray teeth descending on his face, and then Jo makes a sound that would have done the Amazon's themselves proud, and the dog's head goes spinning away from its body trailing blood.

Bobby pushes its body off, rolls to his feet and has time to see Jo hacking at the other dog before the vampires themselves come pouring out of the shack. He drops the crossbow, grabs the machete, takes off one of their hands at the wrist and gets punched hard enough that for a second his vision spots up.

Jo's screaming, but it sounds more like rage than fear or pain. Bobby blinks at the spots, swinging the machete and hoping for a miracle. Like maybe a freak sun flare or something with a crazy amount of ultraviolet radiation.

Jo goes quiet, with the sudden awful finality that means she didn't just happen to run out of breath. Bobby grits his teeth and stops hoping for a miracle, starts expending his energy in more useful ways. The snarling vampire in front of him moves a second too slowly, and he takes its head off. Is vaguely aware that some of them are jumping into one of the cars and attempting to just leave instead of fighting. He'd feel better about the odds if it still wasn't just him against however many of them decided to stay.

Ten against two are bad odds. Six against one are worse.

He blocks a blow from a stick as big as he is, feels the sting of it down his arm and up into his shoulder. Goes to a knee and blocks another blow, dares one of his own and feels the blade sink into soft flesh. The vampire goes down whimpering, the poison of the dead man's blood while not killing it, at least temporarily crippling it.

Jo is somewhere to his left, he can see the bright spread of her pale hair over the dark earth. The vampires seem to be ignoring her in their rush to kill him, and he hopes that maybe she'll wake up and run the fuck away.

He can hear the whine of the engine of their vehicle as some of them leave, and jumps when it's interrupted by the sudden sharp crunch of metal against metal. Thinks that they managed to run into the Pontiac and curses as he tries to push back up onto his feet again.

One of them kicks him in the back, and he catches himself on one hand, tries to keep his guard up and thinks that this is really not how he planned on dying. Tries to stand, one more time, because if he has to die, then he doesn't want it to be on his goddamn knees.

Somewhere a door slams, and someone screams, "Get down! Bobby, get fucking down!" And he does, because when someone yells at you to get down, you best listen.

He hits the ground, soft and cool, and the retort of a gun echoes in the early morning air. He hears running feet, treading too heavy on the left foot, the wet sound of steel against flesh, and then there's a heavy thud beside him. He looks to the side at the headless corpse beside him, and starts to push to his feet.

A hand catches him and hauls him the rest of the way up, and he looks into Dean's face and sees nothing but hard, flatness. Dean squeezes his elbow, and then he's spinning away with a trail of blood dripping off the end of the blade in his hand.

Bobby fights and ducks his way towards Jo, worried by her stillness, by the unnatural pale of her skin. Around him the vampires scream and scatter and Dean follows them, silent grim death on their heels.

Jo's breathing, bleeding terrible bad from a ugly cut along her brow line. She's out cold, and Bobby leaves her, marches back into what's left of the fight. Ends up watching Dean hurl the machete overhand at a running vampire, watches it catch it in the back, and watches the monster go down. Dean is on it in seconds, yanks the blade free and chops its head off.

And then there are no more.

Dean turns back to face him, soaking with blood from his collar to his waist, offers up a smile, and Bobby watches his expression unthaw with relief. Dean wipes his hands awkwardly on his jeans, leaves blood in the creases and under his fingernails, says, "I decided to make sure you didn't need an extra set of hands."

And Bobby says, "Good. That's good." Because what else can he say?

Dean walks up to him, looks him over, poking at the cut on his cheek that Bobby hadn't even noticed, the deeper gash on his right arm, and moves on, apparently satisfied. Says over his shoulder as he moves to Jo, "Cassie didn't make it. Took out four of the bastards all by herself, though."

It takes Bobby a half second to realize that Dean's talking about the old Chevy he got running all those weeks ago. He looks over his shoulder at the wrecked cars, and can't help but smile. He wonders how Dean managed to arrange a head on collision that he walked away from.

"Is she okay?" Dean nudges Jo with his foot, and Bobby has to cover his grin at that.

"Probably should get her to a hospital." Dean shrugs, bends and lifts her like she weighs nothing. They walk slowly back to the Pontiac, smelling like blood and death and, also, underneath the rest, dog drool. Bobby looks at Dean over the roof of the car, says, because it's been bothering him for weeks, "You know you favor your left leg when you run?"

SsSsS

They drop Jo off at the local hospital, put in a call to her momma and leave it at that. She walked away from the hunt alive, with a few more kills under her belt and a lot more experience, and that's the best you can generally ask for.

They themselves end up at a junky motel on the south side of town, beside a Waffle House and a Amoco and a old boarded up photo hut. They grab dinner at Waffle House, and various first aid supplies from Amoco, and then they head back to the dirty dark room they're calling theirs for the night.

Dean watches him stitch up his own arm with an intensity that's unnerving, like he's committing it to memory, and he probably is. It's not too bad a wound, especially considering that there had been a few minutes back there that Bobby had been sure he was going to die.

The minute he slides the first aid supplies away Dean is on his feet. Bobby's amazed he set still that long, he's been all energy since the vampires, bouncing and talking too loud and grinning like a fool. All that excess adrenaline, singing in his veins.

Dean disappears into the bathroom and Bobby starts channel surfing, because he knows damn well how long the younger man can take in the bath. He can hear water running, the muffled thumps of clothing hitting the floor, and jacks the volume on the television up higher.

For a few minutes the sounds all blend together, the running shower, the commentary of the local news reporter on the violent deaths of ten people out at the old Grayson place. Apparently the victims had all been beheaded, their pet dogs cut to pieces as well. They were calling it a heinous crime, and further proof that the sheriff was losing his hold on crime in the community and action needed to be taken and blahblahblah.

Bobby's zoning out, tired and aching, when the low moan from the bathroom suddenly has him on his feet. He's thinking that maybe Dean was hurt and didn't say anything, he's thinking that maybe they didn't get all the vampires and one of them followed them, and he's halfway to the bathroom when he hears it again and realizes he's wrong.

Dean's trying to muffle it, but these places conduct sound and water tends to amplify it even more. Bobby stops with his hand hovering over the doorknob, thinking about the fact that Dean Winchester is beating off in the shower not three feet from him.

Well. He takes a moment to examine what he's feeling, and decides that it's embarrassment. And also that he really shouldn't be standing here when Dean comes out.

He has to listen, for the next ten minutes, to the choked on sounds that Dean's making. He tries not to, tries to ignore them, to focus on the game show on the television, to focus on the traffic outside, to focus on the couple arguing loudly in the next room over.

It's not like he doesn't understand. He does. He remembers what that was like, can remember needing release so badly it hurt back in the war. It hadn't mattered, then, that there were a dozen other men sleeping within arm reach of him. That they knew him, that at least one or two of them had to be awake, had to be able to hear what he was doing. What did it matter? They all did it.

It's just that Bobby can't really remember thinking of anyone in relation to sex for over twenty years. Not since his wife. Not since his little girls. Not since the police told him, while he sat in his blood covered living room, that the bastard that had killed his family had raped them before finally giving them the peace of death. His babies. His little six year old girls. His wife.

Bobby puts his face down into his hands, and takes deep breaths until the bile settles in his stomach and the anger starts to ebb. He can't even remember being hard since then, wanting anyone, wanting even his own hand.

He's not hard now. Doesn't even think he can be, anymore.

When Dean comes out, loose and relaxed, Bobby is staring at the wall without seeing it. Seeing instead his girl's, Jeanie with her pale hair and gray eyes, Amelia with her momma's brown hair and eyes. God, they had been so beautiful, so young. They would have been beautiful women, given him beautiful grandchildren.

Dean must read something of his mood, because he stops in his tracks steps out of the bathroom, just freezes. Bobby makes himself look at him after a moment, at the towel around his hips, at the scars covering his chest and arms, some dark, some pale as mother of pearl. Dean has his head cocked to the side, frowning, brows drawn together as he stares. Says in a cautious voice, "You okay?"

Bobby doesn't try smiling, because he knows it would be an ugly, terrible thing. Doesn't try speaking, either, not around the cotton in his throat, just nods.

And Dean, bless his heart, just drops it. Crawls into bed ten minutes later and pretends to be asleep, and Bobby sits up through the night, staring at the wall and reliving the worst day of his life over and over and over again.

Morning takes a long time to come.

Chapter Five: Looking for Anything (to Keep Me from Drowning)

It becomes nothing short of impossible not to notice Dean after that. Not to take mental note every time Dean disappears into the bathroom. Not to see the way he blushes afterwards, or the way he's so awkward in the mornings if Bobby happens to be in the living room when he wakes up.

Bobby tells himself that it's just friendly concern, and it must be, because it's not like he ever finds himself physically able to do anything about the looking.

Jo calls a few days later, she sounds groggy and says that they just took her off the painkillers, just started letting her walk around on her own. Apparently she'd been pretty severely concussed by whatever had hit her. Said it had been iffy for a day or two, and that her mom was real glad that he'd been there to get her out.

She says she doesn't know how he managed to get them out of there, and he opens his mouth to admit that it was not without help but Dean is shaking his head back and forth violently across the table and so he says nothing. He figures what's one more outrageous rumor to add to his resume? Bobby Singer, Vampire Slayer.

She asks if he's heard from Dean about the whole gargoyle thing and he says that the Winchester's called last night and said that it really had been just a bunch of kids. When she asks, hesitantly, after a second, if she can talk to Dean herself it surprises him.

He must pause a little too long, because she says, softly, "That's what I thought." The line goes dead before he can say another word.

Dean stares at him over the top of his coffee, eyebrows raised, eyes big and wide. Bobby sighs, sits the phone down and thinks about shoveling a piece of toast into his mouth to delay answering. Decides against it. "You know, there's no harm in her knowing. In anyone knowing. There's no shame in this."

The cup almost shatters when Dean drops it, when he jerks to his feet so fast the chair flips behind him. He makes a grab for the mug he dropped, catches it and for his trouble ends up with scalding coffee across his knuckles. Curses, and makes a beeline for the sink, Bobby following, completely befuddled by this response.

Dean's skin is already turning an angry red, as he shoves the hand under cold water. Bobby grabs for it, can see clearly exactly where the coffee hit, curses and releases Dean. "What was that about, exactly?"

Dean tries to twist away, and when Bobby blocks him in flashes angry eyes up to his face. He's voice is low and calm, which Bobby is learning to see as Dean's very angry tone, "It ain't their business. I'm-I will be-as good as I ever was. I don't want their pity, or-or-or whatever. I don't need it, and I won't fucking have them coming around here looking at me, like I'm on display."

Bobby blinks, startled. Sometimes it surprises him, that Dean's still the same man he was, even without his memories. Dean's eyes are spitting flame, and he shoves past Bobby, righting the toppled chair as he goes, out the door before Bobby can find the words to say.

SsSsS

Dean disappears for the rest of the day, is just gone.

Bobby wraps up his dinner, and then sets on the porch and waits. He's not used to lying to himself, and so he doesn't. He's worried. Thinks that maybe Dean just took off, maybe he started a fight, maybe he just got so smashed he shouldn't have been driving.

When the Impala rolls back into his drive it's two in the morning, and Bobby had been seconds away from going looking for Dean. Dean doesn't stumble getting out of the car, doesn't stumble across the gravel, doesn't stumble up the steps, and does not stumble up to Bobby.

But he smells like whiskey, on his skin and on his breath when he leans his body into Bobby's, when he leans his head onto Bobby's shoulder and breathes against his neck. Bobby finds himself frozen, surprised and shocked.

Dean drawls, "Miss me?" And just like that, he's gone, through the front door and into the house. He leaves behind the pale shadow of his warmth, and his smell. There's the liquor smell, strong and heavy, but under that the smell of sweat and perfume and sex.

The anger sneaks up on Bobby, a hot pulse of it up his spine, and he follows Dean into the house, feeling sharp words on the tip of his tongue and not sure what they are or how to articulate them. He finds Dean in the kitchen, picking at the leftovers Bobby had wrapped up earlier. His hand is still vivid red and Bobby feels some of his anger fade, still unsure at it's cause.

Some of it. He leans against the doorframe watching Dean, "Was she pretty?"

Dean shrugs, like he's rolling water off his back. "Not particularly. Had a nice laugh. Looked lonely." There's a bruise on Dean's neck, oval and uneven, and in one corner what might be a little scab. Bobby stares at it, like if he looks hard enough it'll go away.

Dean looks up, and his eyes are dark, there's none of the glow to him that Bobby would have expected. "She didn't know me. She called me William." When Dean laughs there's no mirth in it. "Found something else I'm damn good at, though."

And suddenly Bobby just wishes he could make this all better. That he could just wipe this day away and let them start it over. He grabs Dean's wrist, looks at the inflamed skin, says, "I got some aloe in the bathroom, let me get some on that."

Dean smiles.

SsSsS

They exist in a sort of uncomfortable silence for days after that. Dean digs a huge hole out behind the house and buries Cassie's keys, shoves a cross into the earth once he's filled it back in and Bobby wonders if maybe the other man really has gone slightly insane.

His runs get even longer, and he starts coming back shirtless, dripping sweat, muscles standing against his skin. Bobby starts cataloging the other man's scars, fascinated by the war wounds, trying to guess what each is from.

He's got a series of penny sized scars across his chest, almost white, in a spread that reminds Bobby of buckshot. A gun shot wound on his left shoulder, another cradled against his right hipbone. It's impossible to keep track of them all, the gouges, slashes, and Bobby doesn't know how to ask for their stories.

Dean leans against the side of the porch beside him, sweat tracing a trail around a almost perfect circle of scar tissue that if Bobby had to guess would say was from a broken beer bottle. He says, "Can you teach me how to play cards? Poker?"

Bobby shrugs, "I can teach you the rules."

"And pool. I think I'd be good at that. I could make some money, you know, help with the bills. Stop being such a bum." Dean sounds light, but Bobby thinks there's something going on beneath the words that he needs to tread carefully around.

He nudges Dean in the shoulder, hands him the beer he's been nursing, "This place has been paid for since before you were born. We're on well water, septic, electricity is next to nothing out here. And besides," he pauses, watches Dean take one long drink of the beer and completely drain the bottle, "I should be paying you for the work you do on the cars."

"And my titillating company."

"Can't forget that." He feels on steadier ground now, even if his beer is gone. It's worth it anyway, watching Dean twirl the bottle back and forth, palm it from hand to hand, rolling the bottle and tossing it into the air.

Finally Dean hands it back, warm from his skin, says, "Gonna go take a shower." And Bobby does not think about the sounds that Dean had made in that motel bathroom. He does not think about Dean at all. He watches the stars, and rubs his thumb over the peeling label of the beer bottle.

SsSsS

Summer finally hits with a vengeance sometime in the next week. Temperatures hit ninety and edge closer to a hundred every afternoon. Dean apparently decides the clothing is highly overrated in general, starts working on the cars in jeans and his boots. Bobby starts holing up in his living room with books he needs to work on and avoiding looking out the windows at all costs.

He always ends up feeling guilty around one when Dean hasn't come in for lunch, though, always ends up making a sandwich and grabbing a beer and heading out. He finds Dean hunched over the engine of his old Humvee, one arm in down to the elbow, tongue caught between his teeth as he concentrates on whatever it is he's doing.

Bobby leans into the side of the huge vehicle, says, "How's he doing?"

Dean squints up at him, chewing on his bottom lip, holding up his free hand for silence and squeezing the other impossibly deeper into the engine. And then he smiles, and extricates his hand, holding a twisted piece of pipe victoriously. Says, "She'll be fine. Thanks."

He not sure how Dean assigns them gender, because if he'd thought any vehicle would be male, it would have been the Humvee.

Dean inhales the sandwich, chugs the beer, and leans against the Humvee to tilt his face up to the sky. He's got a fresh cut over the bridge of his nose, blood smeared across the cheek where he tried to wipe it away and didn't quite achieve it. Bobby tugs the handkerchief out of his back pocket, offers it up. Dean scrubs at his cheek, hands the cloth back smudged with rust colored blood, flaking off as it dries.

"They're going to find out, aren't they? No matter what I do."

Bobby blinks, backtracks through past conversations trying to figure out where Dean's coming from with this. "It doesn't make you any less than you were." It makes him more, near as Bobby can see, that he's lost himself and rebuilt.

Dean shrugs, turns back to the car and turns the conversation off. Bobby watches for a few minutes, just to make sure he won't be needed, and then heads back inside. Dean's voice catches him half way to the door, tense and slow, "Hey, Bobby, did I ever hurt Sam, do you know? I mean, did he ever say anything about that, or come around with weird bruises? Or limping?"

He doesn't mean to laugh, he really doesn't, it's just a completely absurd thought, "You never raised a hand to him, that I ever knew. Would never have even contemplated the idea." He starts to turn, to look back at Dean, gets interrupted.

"Don't. Just." There's a tiny pause, and Dean forces his next words out in a huff. "Did he ever, he's bigger than me. I mean. In a fight. Could he?"

Bobby stares forward, and thinks about that, which mostly means trying to decode what the hell Dean's trying to ask him. Finally he settles on, "I know he shot you at least twice. But my understanding is he was possessed both times."

Dean huffs, Bobby can hear him scuffing his feet. "Okay. Okay. I'm just trying to figure some stuff out. You know. Thanks." And glad that the conversation is apparently over, Bobby beats feet for the porch. He watches Dean work for awhile, against his better judgment. Wonders what's going on in his head, and if he could survive knowing.

That night Dean doesn't come back from his run until the sun is starting to stain the sky pink and gold. Bobby had waited, had an idea where he'd gone, worried anyway or maybe due to what he suspected. In any case he was there when Dean sprinted up, and so he had to see all the things that he would have rather been unaware of.

Dean had gone shirtless, and so there's nothing to cover the bruises peeking out above the waistband of his jeans, nothing to disguise the shape of palm and fingers on his shoulders and around his triceps. Dean's bottom lip is swollen, one of his elbows scraped and bloody, there's the imprint of teeth on his collarbone.

He smells like sex and unfamiliar cheap cologne and if Bobby felt anger last time Dean came back like this, then he's feeling white hot rage now. Dean pauses at the bottom of the steps, arms wrapped around his middle but doing a valiant attempt to look like he's only crossing his arms. He's voice is sex rough, "I think that I'm going to take a shower."

"Did he hurt you?" Because if he did there'll be hell to pay.

Dean blinks, seems to startle out of a daze, to focus on Bobby for the first time. His fingers drift over the bruises, then jerk away like they burn. "No." He wipes his palms on his jeans, cuts his eyes out over the horizon and then back to Bobby. "Why are you doing this? Letting me stay here?"

"Titillating company, is the going rumor." Dean chuckles, looks away again, and any chance for actual conversation is lost. Bobby's relieved, there's some things he just doesn't want to have to talk about with Dean.

SsSsS

Fifteen minutes later, sitting in his room, he wishes that he were having any conversation at all. Anything to distract him from the track his thoughts have decided to take him down without any permission from him. He thinks about Dean, broad shoulders and narrow hips and all the skin in between, there where he can see it, all the time.

He thinks that no one in Dean's life has ever done a very good job looking out for him, and that he's doing no better. He thinks that he should be ashamed of himself, and is. He thinks, that probably, Sam should be more than just fucking ashamed, wherever he is.

He thinks about Dean's skin, and rubs his fingertips together, and tells himself that he is not trying to imagine what it might feel like. He thinks about Dean's kiss stung lips and tells himself that it is friendly concern. He thinks about the bruises on Dean's body and tells himself he would never even consider putting them there himself.

But he would. He knows it. All he's ever brought to those he cared for was blood and pain.

He thinks it would be better if he could just beat off, get this energy out of his system, get it somewhere safe and controllable. But he can't. Doesn't matter what he thinks of, how he strokes or pulls or pleads. His body won't cooperate, and apparently Dean's won't either, because he's out of the shower in under twenty minutes.

He calls Bobby down for breakfast, and Bobby goes, cursing the gods he has yet to kill.

>Chapter Six: Convinced on the Inside (There's Something Wrong with Me)

Bobby spends the next week avoiding Dean as thoroughly as possible, which means being gone from the house from sunrise to sunset. He realizes that this is not mature behavior, but he's run out of other options. He pulls a favor with one of his old Corp buddies who has connections with the government to get a search out for Sam.

Dean starts leaving him dinner out, and one day manages to wake up early enough to catch Bobby before he leaves. Doesn't say a word, just sits at the kitchen table while Bobby eats, watching, fiddling with his coffee cup. Bobby tells himself that he doesn't hear the crash of ceramic against drywall when he leaves.

That night when he gets back there's a folded piece of paper beside his wrapped plate on the table. He's not a coward, and so he doesn't put off reading it, dreading and hoping at the same time that it's a goodbye. It's worse.

Dean's got big, blocky, writing, like his thoughts are moving too quickly to be adequately transferred onto paper by a human hand. But it's easy enough to read, and it's not that long a message, in any case. Bobby curses, drops it, spins on his heel and sprints back out of the house, still reading the words on the insides of his eyelids.

Bobby-

Been tracking a woman in white upstate (SR 88 outside of Marshall (apparently there's a railroad bridge)). Going to go check it out, cause she's killed five men this year. Know where she's buried, just planning on burning the bones and coming back. There's not enough salt in the chicken, you might want to add more.

Bobby is almost running by the time he's off the porch, which is fine except that he left his keys inside anyway, and has to go get them. He's cursing a steady stream by the time he settles behind the steering wheel of the Jimmy, the last sentence, written in a different color ink, even sloppier, like it had been tacked on as Dean was going out the door, echoing in his mind: Think I was faithful?

SsSsS

It's a three hour drive to Marshall, Bobby makes it in two, and he didn't even know the Jimmy was capable of moving that fast. He wonders if Dean's been tinkering around with it. He wonders what the hell Dean's thinking. He wonders where Mac Kingston is and why the man isn't answering his phone, because the man's been living in Marshall for the last twenty years and damn well should have taken care of a woman in white haunting in his backyard.

The moon is up, huge and bone white against the obsidian sky, by the time he hauls ass past the city limits sign. There's at least four graveyards in the tiny town, one of the old coal cities that has more dead citizenry than living.

He knocks them out in the order he reaches them, looking for the long, low lines of the Impala, for Dean's light hair, for the ruddy light of flame. But there's nothing but the dead to be found, and they all appear to be resting peacefully, and Bobby curses because Dead hadn't said the cemetery was in town, had he?

She might not even be buried in a cemetery, depending on when she died. There weren't many farmers in these parts, the earth was too rocky and dead, but there had been a few, and they'd kept to themselves and their own old religions. So had the miners, for that matter, the Finns and the Poles and all the rest.

He wonders why he didn't think to get Dean a goddamn cellphone.

Bobby starts taking turns randomly, where it feels right, giving into the feeling that sometimes if you just let go you can find what you've lost. He feels like he's been across every square inch of town, possibly more than once, when his phone buzzes against his hip.

It's Kingston, and he sounds more than drunk, slurring into Bobby's ear at a quarter after midnight. Bobby cuts him off, worried and impatient. "You know there's a woman in white in your goddamn town?"

There's a pause, and Bobby can picture the other man's big, honest face screwing up in thought. "No?"

His irritation is hot and unpleasant in his gut, and not going to help things, he pushes it down. "She might have killed herself on the railroad bridge to the east, you remember that happening? Hearing anything about a suicide there, anything at all?"

"What, you mean that Covington woman, did for herself last year?"

Bobby blinks, feels relief burbling up inside him. She must have been a very angry spirit, he's never heard of one coming back that quickly. He wonders what her husband did, and how many children she'd killed before taking her own life. Mostly, though, "Find out where she was buried. Call me back."

Mac's voice catches him right before he slides the phone shut. "Well, it ain't around here. Her kin claimed the body, took her back down your way. Heard they was farmers. Livestock, pigs or cows or something."

"Fuck." This is just not happening. "Get me an address." And he throws the phone into the next seat before grabbing it back. He spins back south, and puts his foot on the gas. Mac calls him back within minutes with a graveyard that Bobby's heard of, even visited a time or two for a funeral of an uncle or cousin.

It doesn't matter. By the time he's close enough to start picking up the police scanner from the area they're already reporting a grave desecration, some freak setting fire to the body and coffin, probably to cover up whatever they stole.

Bobby goes home, full of unspent worry and anger.

SsSsS

Dean is bleeding all over the kitchen sink. He's got his back to the door, hunched, and there's iodine, alcohol and rolls of gauze scattered over the counter beside him. There's also a roll of thread, bouncing as Dean jerks at it.

Bobby barely sees it, crosses the room in loud, furious, steps. Grabs Dean by the shoulder and spins him and almost doesn't stop himself from punching the stupid fucker in the face. Dean himself is eerily calm, one eyebrow raised, lips thin and tight with either pain or impatience. Bobby shoves him into the counter, till there's a flicker of pain through his eyes, hisses, "What the fuck were you thinking?"

Dean's eyes widen, like he's surprised, "Maybe that she was killing people and I should stop her? You know, cause killing people is bad." He's trying to turn back to the sink, to the long trail of stitches he's putting in his forearm as the blood pours out, pools in his palm and runs down his fingers. Drips into the sink.

"And that it'd be a good idea for you to do that yourself? What, did you wake up this morning and decide maybe you'd like to kill yourself?"

He'd forgotten he was talking to Dean. He must have. Because if he'd remembered then he would have known he wouldn't get a sane response to that. "I'm already dead, aren't I? Everyone thinks I am. The people that know I'm not sure as hell seem to wish I was."

Bobby opens his mouth, and then closes it, feeling the words like a slap. "I mean, my brother was attached to me at the hip before, right? Woulda went mad without me? Where is he now? Do you know, cause I don't. He didn't even give me a phone number, any way to get in contact with him."

"Dean-"

"And fuck, I wouldn't want me here, if I were you. You got a life, a good life, last thing you need is some fuck up here making messes and puking all over your shit all the time." And then, "I broke your coffee cup, today."

"You done?" Dean blinks, then shrugs, and it's not hard to see the anger in the gesture. Bobby figures he'll have to fix that here in a minute, but first, "Gimme the needle, you look like you're trying to sew up a goddamn football."

There's brief silence, as Bobby works and Dean stands there stiff as a board, radiating fury. The cut is deep and jagged, but Bobby's an old hand with field medicine, and figures it should heal up neat enough. He pours alcohol over it, rinses it, thinks about wrapping it but decides it should probably breath, "What happened?"

"Bitch broke the Impala's window." Dean tries to push past, and Bobby puts a hand on the counter, blocks him in.

"You're not here because Sam asked if you could stay here, Dean. I never owed him a damn thing, and this isn't a favor. You're welcome here as long as you want to stay. Which I would prefer be a long time. Okay?" It isn't entirely true, there is a part of Bobby that would like him to stick around for the foreseeable future. It's just that the rest of Bobby isn't sure what to make of that part.

Dean stares at him, hard, then licks his lips and says in a whisper. "I'm not a good person, and I'm sorry." Bobby starts to protest, and to ask what the hell he's sorry for, but never gets the chance. Dean rocks forward, head tilted to the side, and when he kisses him Bobby startles and stumbles backwards.

Dean follows, pushing the kiss from a brush of lips to something solid, fisting his good hand into Bobby's collar and holding them together. Bobby thinks about how this is really a bad idea, full of all kinds of wrong and taking advantage and Dean doesn't remember, goddamnit.

But yesterday Bobby couldn't remember what it felt like to kiss someone, and now he's got Dean's lips against his, and it's hard to think of all the reasons he shouldn't. And so he kisses back, unsure exactly what he should be doing, it's been a long, long time.

There's a surprised noise from somewhere in Dean's mouth, and then there's a slick hot tongue in Bobby's mouth that is not his own. Dean presses closer against him, like he's trying to crawl into Bobby's skin, and Bobby braces a hand at his hip, unsure if he's trying to pull the other man closer or keep him where he is.

Dean pulls away, just a few inches, his eyes bright and sharp on Bobby's face. His skin, around his mouth, is red and agitated from Bobby's beard, and Bobby watches himself rub a thumb across Dean's chin without quite realizing that he's doing it. And then Dean smiles, slow and dirty, and says, "Okay then," before kissing Bobby again.

The only problem, of course, is that Bobby can feel Dean's erection pressed into the bottom of his stomach, and the absence of his own between his legs. He wonders how long it's going to take Dean to notice. How long it's going to take for this to all for apart.

He's surprised to find out that he doesn't want it to.

He wonders how long he can keep Dean adequately distracted. Finds his mouth sliding off Dean's, tracing idle patterns over the heated skin of his jaw and throat. Finds one of his hands flattened against Dean's spine, sliding up, sliding down, brushing the waistband of his jeans and the surprised stutter of Dean's hips and the sound he makes are magic.

Dean breathes his name up to the ceiling, hands everywhere, still pushing Bobby slowly and incessantly backward. He stops when Bobby runs into the kitchen table, and Bobby can picture the smug smirk on Dean's face, can read it in the stretch of tendons in his neck and the sudden sureness of his hands, one braced on Bobby's shoulder as the other slides down his side.

Dean doesn't hesitate at Bobby's zipper, or the waistband of his underwear, and there's only the briefest pause along his fingers when he finds Bobby completely limp.

It's a shock, the touch of another person, unfamiliarly thin fingers with new calluses and softer skin. And it feels good, it would be a lie to even try to pretend it doesn't, and for a half second he even thinks that maybe... just maybe...

But it doesn't matter and it doesn't change anything and in the back of his head there's a little voice saying that's probably for the best.

He's not sure how long Dean strokes him, but he can feel the puzzlement through Dean's mouth on his, and when Dean pulls away from him he can read it in the other man's eyes. He thinks, at least, that he doesn't have to worry about Dean saying that this happens to all guys sooner or later, because there's no way Dean would have heard that yet.

He expects it to just end there, with Dean looking at him curiously, while he leans on his kitchen table with his jeans hanging loose around his hips. So, okay, yes, it is a surprise when Dean drops a quick kiss on his lips, and slides to his knees like they're not on a hard wood floor.

Dean risks a look up at him, and Bobby opens his mouth to say, something, anything, to keep this from happening. But Dean's faster than he is, and the wet heat of his mouth makes Bobby yelp in surprise, which is hardly the sound he would have preferred to make. Dean chuckles around him, flashing his eyes up to Bobby's again, and there's nothing but amusement there.

Bobby doesn't want to have to watch that disappear, and so he looks away, closes his eyes, and waits for the humiliation that's got to be speeding towards him. But when Dean finally gives up, long minutes later, there's only confusion in his voice when he speaks, still on his knees, "Bobby?"

"I-" and his voice would have to crack, wouldn't it, just to make this all complete.

"Something you'd prefer?" Dean sounds faintly amused again, and also like he has a few suggestions himself. Bobby looks down at him, bright eyes, lips stained dark red, cheeks flushed, and tries to think of the easiest way to admit that there's just something wrong with him.

He settles for direct. He's never been very good at beating around the bush, anyway. "I haven't been able to for a long time. I should have said. Um." He wonders if he could tuck himself back in or if that would be bad etiquette or what's supposed to happen now. He wonders if Dean would let him touch him, and how he could go about asking that.

Dean rocks back onto his heels, and Bobby can see the line of his erection against the seam of his jeans. "Hm." Dean's brows are drawn together, and there's a distracted look on his face when he stands. He stares for a long time, so long Bobby starts to think he's forgotten to blink, and then he gives a little half smile. "You could have just said you weren't gay."

Bobby recognizes an out when he's handed one, and thinks about whether or not he wants to take it. But Dean's gone before he can decide, out of the kitchen and up the stairs and Bobby stands there, frozen in the humid summer night.

SsSsS

Dean sleeps in his own bed that night, even though it's mostly morning by that point anyway. He moves all his things off the couch, disappears behind the thick oak of his door.

When the nightmares come, when the screams jerk Bobby out of his own fitful sleep, he goes looking for the younger man. But Dean's got the bathroom door locked, and he won't open it, and so Bobby leans against the wall outside, and lets the guilt eat him up from the inside.

Chapter Seven: I Wanna Do Real Bad Things (With You)

Bobby's not sure how to fix something this broken. Dean is apparently making a conscious effort not to touch him, and Bobby hadn't realized how often they did brush hands or bump shoulders until suddenly they weren't. They still talk, but the conversations always end up stilted and awkward when Bobby finds himself just staring when he should be talking.

He misses the easy companionship, misses hearing Dean talking about the cars like they were alive, telling him what they were doing or thinking or feeling. He misses soothing Dean to sleep, he misses the other man's sharp sense of humor. He just misses.

He's never been one for grand gestures. He and Marie had both been the quiet type, he'd asked her to marry him while they were bailing hay. And even if he had been, he's not sure it would have helped. Somehow, he doesn't think that chocolate and flowers would have patched things up with Dean.

And so he wracks his brain, and watches the wound on Dean's arm heal.

He's watching Dean washing the Impala when it finally hits him, watching the bend of Dean's hips, the extension of his arm, the focus of his gaze across the hood. He can feel himself grinning as relief soaks through him.

He waits till they're hunched over dinner before he says anything, clears his throat, "You still want to learn how to shoot pool?" Dean's head snaps up, his eyes wide, fork frozen half way to his mouth. After a moment he manages a nod. "Good. We can go into Ed's place later, if you want."

Dean dares a smile, cautious, and Bobby feels things begin to slip a little bit back towards normal.

SsSsS

It's not a surprise that Ed is on a first name basis with Dean. The barkeep leans out over the bar the minute Dean walks through the door, waves a beefy hand in Dean's direction, throws his booming voice across the smoky room, "Winchester! Been wondering where you were. Buddy and Mickey were gonna go have a look up at the farm, make sure Singer hadn't done for you."

Dean laughs, waves Bobby in and calls back, "He's done plenty for me. Gonna get me done drunk tonight, ain't that right?" Bobby nods to Ed, who grins back, and winks.

"Beginning to think you were spending you money elsewhere, Singer." Ed's a big Norseman, hair so blond it's almost white, a strong jaw and eyes the color of bad ice. They've been acquaintances for ten years, since Bobby started frequenting this bar. There was a time he watched Bobby's place for him when he was going to be out of town for awhile, and they'd always gotten on well.

"Just been busy." He follows Dean up to the bar, where the younger man is leaning on an elbow and eying the bottles of whiskey on the shelves beyond speculatively. Ed pulls down a bottle of Jack without being asked, pours a shot and slides it over to Dean, before raising an eyebrow at Bobby. "Yeah, I'll take one, too."

The whiskey burns going down, leaves a bitter taste behind his lips and under his tongue, the sweetest poison he can think of. Dean leans his head back when he drinks, eyes shut, makes an appreciative sound and licks his lips. Bobby doesn't watch, instead he directs his attention back to Ed, "It alright if we steal your pool table for awhile?"

"It's yours. Won't be much of a crowd here tonight, anyway." He waves them off and Dean salutes with his glass before swaggering over towards the table. Bobby rolls his eyes, and follows.

Bobby cleans the table the first game, Dean watching every shot he makes with laser sharp intensity. His own shots are a little off, sloppy, close but lacking just that last little bit of coordination. He's biting on his lips, leaning low over the table, concentrating hard. Bobby orders them more shots and some beer when he sinks the eight ball, hands Dean some quarters to put something on the jukebox.

The second game Dean's noticeably better, takes the time to line up his shots and leaves a smear of blue chalk across his cheekbone halfway through. He also takes to leaning into Bobby's space when he's taking a shot, making quick little comments about utterly random things and spinning away laughing when the shot goes just a little wrong.

And well, turnabout is fair play, isn't it?

The next time Dean leans low over the table, tongue caught in the corner of his mouth, Bobby braces a hand on the table on either side of his hips, leans into his space and just breathes. Dean jerks, completely misses the cue ball, and flashes Bobby a dirty look.

Bobby wins, but it's a near thing, and they've started to attract a crowd. They're women, mostly, some so young they don't look like they should be drinking, some old enough to be their grandmothers. They're all watching Dean.

The third game the women start bringing Dean drinks, which he smiles and accepts before splitting them with Bobby until Bobby stops taking them, because someone has to drive. It also gets silly, mostly because Bobby's buzzed and Dean's well on his way to drunk.

Bobby's making the shot for the eight ball when Dean sidles up to him, one hand on Bobby's back, voice keyed low and roughened by the whiskey, "You're good at this." He sounds accusatory, and Bobby can't help but laugh, even if it does completely fuck up his shot.

"You're hardly bad."

Dean shrugs, and the movement transfers itself into Bobby, sends a chill down his spine. Dean's gone solemn when he answers, right in Bobby's ear, "I'm very bad." He's going to protest, but, "Bobby. Do you want me? Because I can't tell, and usually I can."

This is really not the place to have this conversation, not in a biker bar in a conservative little town that's barely seen a change in the last seventy years. And in any case, it's a question that he'd always planned on lying about. That was better, that was the noble thing, that was the only thing.

He never gets the chance to say anything, because at that point someone grabs the back of Dean's shirt and starts dragging him steadily backwards. Bobby has time to see a flash of long red hair and a short denim skirt, and then Dean's on the dance floor, staring down at the woman wrapped around him in surprise.

And Bobby knows he shouldn't be jealous, knows that this is what he should hope for, for Dean to find some nice girl.

Bobby abandons the game and his half full beer and marches onto the dance floor. Dean's trying to extricate himself from the girl, motioning back to the pool table and starting when he notices Bobby's not there anymore.

He's looking around, craning his neck because the woman is persistent, is wrapping her arms around his neck and trying to get him to sway with the music. Bobby catches hold of his belt, angles his mouth towards Dean's ear, and hisses, "Yes." And then there's nothing for it but to pull Dean out of there.

SsSsS

Dean's really very drunk, leans heavily against Bobby all the way out to the car, and sort of slumps against him through the drive home. Bobby can't help but noticing that it's not exactly stopping Dean's hands from wandering. Neither is it stopping Dean from singing, soft and on key, along with the radio.

By the time they pull up in front of Bobby's place Dean's got his tongue curled around Bobby's ear, whispering filthy things that he has no right knowing.

But Dean goes limp the minute Bobby tries to pull him out of the car, laughing giddily up at him, squirming aside when Bobby grabs handfuls of his shirt and belt and yanks. Dean tangles their legs together when he's finally standing, slings an arm around Bobby's neck and just melts against him. He's making a rumbling noise that reverberates through them both, sucks on Bobby's neck, wet and sloppy.

Bobby laughs, can't not, starts walking slowly towards the house, towards the privacy of four walls and a door. This involves taking a step with one leg, lifting Dean bodily and moving him forward, and then taking another step. Dean's a mess of laughter and teeth and burning hot skin, of hands sliding under clothes, of hardness pressing into Bobby's thigh.

They almost trip on the steps, Bobby stumbles over Dean's legs, catches part of the railing with one hand and barely keeps them upright. Dean's not helping, wrapping a leg behind Bobby's knee and trying to pull it out from under him. He's laughing into the side of Bobby's neck, knocking his hat off with one hand, his other fingers dancing across Bobby's lips right up to the point that Bobby slides his tongue out and circles them.

The door proves another obstacle, he pushes Dean into the wood, fumbles for his keys, and Dean flat out moans, slams his head back into the door, and jerks his hips desperately. It takes a half second for Bobby to realize that the moan was his name, drawn out of Dean's throat in a tight whine.

And then the door's open, and they're stumbling through, and he barely manages to kick it closed with his heel as they trip forward. Dean's gripping at his shoulders, long fingers desperate, pleading low cut off words into the air around them. Bobby barely hears, "-please, need, please, need you, oh God-"

And honestly, hasn't Dean been denied enough in his life, really?

It's seven steps to the kitchen table, and the moment he feels Dean back into something solid, he drops his arms, gets a hand wrapped around each of Dean's legs right below his ass, lifts and tips him onto the table. Dean makes a surprised sound, grabs handfuls of his shirt and drags him down, crushes their mouths together and jabs his tongue past Bobby's lips.

Dean's legs are kicking, scrambling for purchase in empty air, he knocks a chair over and kicks Bobby in the knee. Bobby lifts him again, slides him further onto the table, and braces a hand on one of Dean's legs, holding it still. His other hand finds Dean's belt buckle, and he's surprised with his own surety, with his nerve, tugging it open and working Dean's jeans loose.

Dean flails an arm out when Bobby grabs his waistband and tugs down, knocks something breakable off the table, something that shatters upon impact with the floor. Bobby wonders what it was, but then he has to take a quick step out from between Dean's legs, taking the jeans with them, and they get tangled with Dean's boots at his ankles.

He curses, grabs Dean's legs and lifts them while Dean starts laughing again from the table. He darts his eyes to Dean's face, concerned, but the younger man looks as happy as he's yet seen him, grinning huge, eyes shining with delight. His boots land with twin thuds, and his jeans with a far more satisfying whisper a second later.

Dean's voice is thick, low and sweet as sin itself, "No naked with socks on."

Bobby raises an eyebrow, cuts his eyes down to Dean's loose white socks, up across his body, over his shirt, back to his face. "You ain't naked."

Dean reaches one hand out, grabs the back of Bobby's neck and drags him down, kisses him filthy and moves his body like a promise. Rumbles into Bobby's mouth, "Gonna be, ain't I?" Bobby concedes this point, keeps kissing Dean and reaches a hand behind his knee, draws it up, braces it over his shoulder, and peels the sock off.

Dean's choked off, "Ohgodyes," comes as a surprise. Bobby pauses, flattened over Dean, face buried in the crook between the other man's neck and shoulder, and thinks. He's not entirely sure what he's doing, seeing as he's never done this before, but he has ideas. And encouragement like 'Ohgodyes' is always good to hear.

He leaves Dean's leg where it is, slides his hand down the firm flesh, grinning at the tickle of hair under his palm, cupping the line of Dean's hip when he reaches it. He can feel Dean's body arch against him, he can feel the sound Dean makes, the desperate curl of his fingers around Bobby's arms.

"This is usually," Dean's voice breaks, he jerks his hips, whines out the next words, "where I'd tell you to fuck me."

Bobby freezes, and wishes that he could, so strongly that it surprises him. But there's still no response from his body, he's given up on that. It's a good thing that he's a creative man. He thinks about his options, and drops a quick fast kiss on Dean's lips before spinning away, slamming open cupboards, shoving spices and cans of food aside as he goes.

Dean's voice sounds thick and out of it, "Bobby?" And Bobby spots what he's looking for, grabs the bottle and trips his way back over to the table. Dean's up on his elbows, watching him, smiling a little crookedly. His shirt is pushed up around his ribs, legs almost dangling to the floor, his one sock hanging on defiantly.

The oil is thick and cool against Bobby's fingers, he pours it while resituating himself between Dean's thighs, watching the other man watch him. His own voice is surprisingly thick, "This what you want?" He braces a hand in the center of Dean's chest, pushes him back flat on the table, grabs his leg and shoves it back over his shoulder.

Dean makes another pleased sound, wriggles his hips up against Bobby's body, thrusts gently. Bobby lets his forehead rest against Dean's shoulder, bites his lip in concentration, and slides his free hand under Dean's hips, his oil slick fingers tracing the curve of his ass inward. Dean bangs a fist against the table, hisses, "Oh fuck yes. C'mon, c'mon, fuck yes."

Bobby figures what the hell, and just goes for it. It's tighter than he expects, around his finger, hot and smooth, and Dean arches so high off the table that he almost topples Bobby backwards. Bobby pushes back down with his own weight, feels the rubber soles of his shoes start to slip against the floor and curses under his breath.

He crooks his finger, is surprised when Dean drums his heel on Bobby's back, when he moans and swears. He straightens his finger, pushes at the tighter ring of flesh by his fingertip and Dean almost comes up off the table.

Bobby grunts, braces his feet and absorbs the arch of Dean's spine, worried in some disconnected part of his mind that they're going to break the goddamn table. Dean's got his other leg hooked across Bobby's hips, now, locking them tighter together, rocking up into him in time with the slow explorations of Bobby's finger.

When Dean gasps out a request for more, breathy and strung out, Bobby isn't really sure that it's the best idea. He has thick fingers and everything feels so tight, and he's not sure he could take hurting Dean. But the words become a plea, jagged and desperate, and Bobby can't help but comply.

Dean hisses at the new intrusion, goes briefly still, and then jerks when Bobby finds that tighter spot again, pushes and curls his fingers against it. Dean's making sounds that Bobby's only heard in certain off color drive ins and from Gunny McKay whenever Captain Sheppard had come around with reports or to check on their progress.

Bobby wonders if he should do something about the other man's erection directly, but Dean seems to have found his own rhythm up against Bobby's sweat slick skin where his shirt has ridden up, and so he leaves it. Concentrates on his motion of his own hand, on Dean's body beneath his, on the sounds he's wringing from the younger man's throat.

And then Dean says, "Jesus," soft and awed as though maybe the son of God himself had appeared in Bobby's kitchen, and then, "Bobby." His next three thrust are made with his entire body, and Bobby finally losses his footing. Would have ended up sprawled on his ass, except that Dean's holding onto him so tightly he can't actually go anywhere.

There's a spread of hot wetness against his belly, and Dean's gone loose and limp beneath him, is making a happy little humming sound.

Bobby disentangles himself from Dean's legs and arms, leans back and looks at the man. His eyes are closed, but he's not asleep if the wide grin is any indication, laying loose limbed across the table, idly swinging one leg from side to side. He's still humming, deep enough that the sound reverberates through the kitchen.

Bobby rolls his eyes, grabs a dishtowel, and cleans the mess off his stomach before tossing it at Dean who cracks an eye open and stares at him. "'m sleepy." It's indignant and Bobby feels the corner of his mouth twitching up into a smile.

He gives Dean a quick clean up, and then hauls him off the table, since he seems disinclined to make a move himself. Dean sways into him, and then stills, Bobby can almost feel him sobering. His voice is almost a whisper against Bobby's neck. "I'm sorry."

He's not sure what Dean's apologizing for, to know the proper response. Dean doesn't elaborate, and so Bobby settles on, "Um," while moving them towards the stairs.

By the time they reach his door he thinks that Dean's sunk into some level of sleep, and Bobby wonders if he should just be automatically assuming that Dean would be okay with these sleeping arrangements. Well. He should have stayed awake if he wanted to protest.

He settles Dean onto one side of his bed, and indeed, his eyes are closed and his breathing is slow and even. Dean's wearing his shirt and one of his socks, curling up as he settles himself, and Bobby's far to amused by the picture this presents to think about changing a thing. He toes off his boots, and waits for the nightmares, either his or Dean's.

SsSsS

Chapter Eight: If it Keeps on Raining (The Levee's Gonna Break)

Things get much more complicated once Dean's not drunk anymore. Funny how that has a way of happening.

It's obvious, always been obvious, that Dean craves physical affection. It becomes equally obvious that he is painfully uncomfortable getting that affection from someone who can't or doesn't enjoy it as well. One second he'll be arching up into Bobby's touch, the next his eyes will be dark and ashamed, as he hangs his head and pulls away to drown himself in cars or running or guns.

Bobby watches helplessly, wanting so badly something he can't have. Watching Dean beat himself up about something not even his fault, and after a while, watching Dean let other people beat him up for it. Dean starts coming back from Ed's with split knuckles and black eyes, with thick blue and purple bruises across his ribs and once with the clear outline of a boot toe in his back.

Bobby wishes he could just tell Dean what happened, but there are some things too difficult to force through his throat, and he can't make himself. Not even when Dean breaks his hand putting it through some poor bastard's face, when Bobby starts locking up his guns and knives again. Bobby watches the flood waters rise, and isn't surprised when the levee finally breaks.

Dean's leaning against him on the couch, broken hand cradled against his chest, scribbling in his own journal, though Bobby's not sure exactly what. He thinks it's things Dean sees or remembers in his nightmares, but isn't certain. He'd teased once that it was poetry and Dean had laughed so sweetly it had made Bobby's chest ache.

It's been days since he touched Dean, since Dean had jerked to his feet and fled the room when Bobby had slipped his mouth down the sharp ridges of Dean's stomach. He raises a hand cautiously, traces fingers over the nape of Dean's neck and feels him shiver.

Dean leans back into the touch, makes an appreciative sound, and then seems to catch himself. He jerks forward, hunching in on himself, bites out, "You don't have to, okay? I'm not going to leave or something if you don't. Just. Just, you don't have to. I love you anyway. Please don't."

Bobby says, "Dean." But it's too late, Dean's off the couch and out the door. After a second there's the sound of breaking glass, and then the sharp scream of metal against metal. Bobby jerks to his feet, skids over to the door and watches Dean beat the crap out of a twisted hunk of scrap metal that had once been a screen door.

He thinks about Dean loving him, and he thinks about the dark circles under Dean's eyes, the ugly split down the middle of his bottom lip. When Dean finally comes back in, drags himself mutely up the stairs, Bobby sits at the kitchen table, drinks coffee till the sun rises.

There's things he needs to say, when Dean stumbles down for breakfast, but he can't. Not looking at rough stubble along Dean's jaw, which stays clenched tight, not looking at his tired eyes, one red from burst capillaries. Neither of them says a word, and when Dean leaves, spinning his tires on the way out, Bobby wonders if maybe he didn't lie the previous night.

SsSsS

Bobby doesn't hear a word from him for three days. There's a part of him that never expects to hear from Dean Winchester again, and knows that he probably deserves that. But then there's the roar of a familiar engine, and Bobby's out on his porch without conscious thought.

Dean pulls right up to the porch, almost hits it, and when he slams the door open all Bobby can smell is blood and smoke. Dean stumbles getting out, goes to his knees, and Bobby swears, scrambles down to him and catches him under the arms before he can collapse completely.

He's soaked with blood, wet and thick enough through his hair to make it look black as sin, smeared across his face, clumping in his clothes. He's trembling, and Bobby curses again, grabs handfuls of Dean's clothing and drags him over his shoulder, lugs him into the house and up to the bathroom.

He can hear his own voice, from somewhere far away, asking what happened, what the fuck happened, as he turns the water on in the tub and grabs a pair of scissors from the first aid kit. Dean's head is lolling around on his neck, his eyes aren't focusing right, and Bobby can feel the panic building hot in the back of his throat.

He slices Dean's shirt down the middle, peels the sodden material away from skin stained crimson. There's cuts everywhere, some deep, some shallow, a long constant spiral down Dean's right arm, ending with a deep gouge into his wrist. Bobby has the sudden, terrible thought that maybe Dean did this to himself, and pushes it away.

He lifts the bloody man with an arm around his middle, pops his jeans open and has to drag them down, while Dean beats at his shoulders, hiccupping, "Don't. Don't. Don't. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Don't."

There's so much blood, and Bobby tells himself that it's making everything look worse than it really is. Grabs Dean around the shoulders and under his knees and deposits him in the tub, under the pounding of the lukewarm water, and starts scrubbing at the blood. It's long, terrible minutes before the water running down the drain starts to fade to pinkish instead of deep, rich red.

Dean's got a nasty head wound, a thick cut stretching from right above his left eyebrow up into his scalp. And some bastard took a knife to his chest and arms and hands, lots of defensive wounds, and the terrible spiral down his right arm, bleeding so much that his entire arm is running with it again. The cast on his left hand is gone, the bones crushed and mangled. Bobby figures that Dean's lost a hell of a lot of blood, and can't afford to lose anymore.

He'd call 911, but those bastards never can find his house, and so he lifts Dean out of the tub, stumbles and slips his way down to the Impala, and puts the pedal on the floor. He keeps it there all the way to the hospital, trying to get Dean talking, trying to keep him awake.

SsSsS

The police come around, ask him lots of pointed questions. He tells them Dean works for him, that he left without notice three days ago, came back like this. Apparently Dean's got some receipts in his pockets that validate that he was out of town, and Bobby's got alibis at Ed's place that say he never left.

Dean, when the doctors finally finish stitching him up and pumping bags of blood into him, tells them that he got jumped by a group of men, trying to steal his car. He gives vague, but thorough descriptions, and looks so helpful and earnest and young that one of the cops slips him his number before leaving.

He won't look at Bobby.

Bobby doesn't push the issue, not till they're safely back in his kitchen, Dean avoiding watching him fry hamburgers. He tries to keep his voice casual, "What was it? That got you?" Dean startles, Bobby catches the full body flinch out of the corner of his eyes.

Dean's a good liar, gets the tone and infliction perfect, "Four guys, after the Impala. I mean, not that I blame them, have you seen her, she's-"

Bobby moves the burgers off the heat, takes a quick step towards Dean and watches him jerk, and bring an arm up automatically, defensively. He feels something in his jaw tighten, hears his own teeth grind together. "It wasn't me, Dean."

"It looked like you." Dean's voice is whisper soft, and he meets Bobby's eyes, finally. If there's fear there, it's hidden deep and well. And even though Bobby had suspected, it still hits him like a punch in the gut, he grabs the counter, takes deep breathes till the rage and shock of it start to ebb.

"I wouldn't hurt you." Dean nods, but it's a nod that could mean anything. He starts to try again, "I-"

"I killed it. It thought I couldn't, because it looked like you. But I did. I waited till it wasn't paying attention and then I beat on my left hand till the cast came off and stepped on it till it was small enough to get the handcuff off. And then I walked up behind it and strangled it. I shot it, too. Shape shifter. You know. Silver bullet." Dean taps his own chest, over his heart.

Dean's eyes had gone unfocused while he spoke, he refocuses them now, on Bobby's face, sharp and broken. "I knew it wasn't you. But it looked like you. It hurt me." It's all so matter of fact, and that's what cuts the most. Bobby shudders.

He moves slowly, sinks to his knees and walks on them to Dean, puts a hand on his knee gently as he can. "I would not hurt you." He's pretty sure that can't be emphasized enough.

Dean shrugs, "But that's why you can't fuck me, isn't it? Cause you think you're going to. That's why you're the way you are about sex." Bobby blinks, surprised and speechless. Dean dares a smile. "I'm not stupid, and you're not as inscrutable as you think you are. And you talk about it in your sleep. That helps. Who was Marie?"

"My wife." He hasn't heard anyone say her name for so long. Hasn't talked about her since he buried her.

"Jeanie and Amelia?" He wants to be out of here, to be away from his conversation, but he can't move. His hand on Dean's knee binding him in place, Dean's broken-glass eyes boring into his and dragging the answers out of his soul without his permission.

"My daughters."

He can see the next question forming on Dean's lips, wishes that he could freeze time and flee before he can speak it. "What happened to them?"

He's never told anyone. Not a soul. None of his hunting buddies, none of the men he had served with in the service, those closer to him than brothers. He never told her family or the police or even any of the gods that might have been able to redeem him of the knowledge.

He'll never know why he tells Dean. "I enlisted out of high school. We were at war and I probably would have ended up drafted anyway. Marie was a year older than me, and we'd been married when I was sixteen, after I got her pregnant. I kissed her and my babies goodbye and told them I'd be back in no time." He pauses, swallows heavy.

"I was over there almost four years, my entire term, after boot camp. Probably would have been over there my two years of inactive service, except the war ended. Six months before I left, we came upon this little village. Nothing special, the same as a hundred other little villages we'd dealt with, everyone had weapons, all these people just staring at you..." He doesn't want to remember, not this, not this.

"There was this holy man there, though. A shaman, I guess, chanting off to the side, I didn't know what he was doing at the time. That took a lot of research back stateside, but I felt different, leaving there. They told me, later, that I wasn't myself those last six months over there. I knew it, but none of us really were, anymore. I'd seen... things. I didn't think anything of it, but I should have." He should have.

"But I was going home, and that was all that mattered. I was going to see my babies and my wife and I didn't care about anything else." He trails off, can't keep the words going, and Dean reaches out, brushes a knuckle across Bobby's cheek, and the gentleness of it burns.

"It was a god." Dean's not asking, it's just encouragement to keep going.

"A war god. Immigrated over from China at some point, was very pissed off by his people being slaughtered. He rode me over, hiding in the dark places of my mind, on the backburner right up to the point my wife threw herself into my arms."

He thinks that he can't say anymore, but his tongue proves him wrong, "I had to watch. What it did. To my wife, to my baby girls. They were only six years old. They didn't even look like people when it was done, and I don't know how many more it would have killed. A man named Bill Deatrich found me, a old hunter, and exorcized the bastard. Killed it dead."

And what else is there to say? He feels scraped out, naked and empty on his kitchen floor. Dean slides out of the chair, on his knees beside Bobby. When Bobby reaches out, wraps his arms around him and just rocks back and forth, Dean lets him, and does not flinch away from the touch.

SsSsS

Days pass where Dean doesn't do much but sleep and heal. The left hand is so fucked up the doctors aren't sure it'll ever heal right. Dean hates the grogginess the pain pills leave him with, the nausea, and so after the first two days he just refuses to take them. The pain etches lines into his face, but he won't take anything but Advil, no matter how much Bobby cajoles.

He takes to sleeping in Bobby's bed, though, and Bobby gets used to waking up with Dean tangled against him. Gets used to Dean's being hard in the mornings, and to him squirming out of bed before Bobby can make a move or suggestion.

They're in a holding pattern, balancing on the blade of a knife, and Bobby wonders which side they're going to fall off into. And then Dean's shifting into wakefulness beside him one morning, already rolling away, and Bobby throws an arm over him, just tight enough to hold him in place. He can feel the sudden fast blinking of Dean's eyelashes on his shoulder, lets the other man think. "Bobby?"

He's not sure how far he should push, is tired of Dean running away from him all the time. Settles for saying something he should have said long ago, anyway, and letting go. He drops a quick kiss to Dean's temple, rumbles, "I love you," and lets the other man roll out of bed.

The next morning Dean doesn't move, Bobby can almost feel him thinking in the idle trace of his fingers across Bobby's side. Finally Dean takes a deep breath, and rolls over onto his back. His voice is still rough from sleep, "I want to do something." It's the first time Dean's ever asked, and Bobby rolls slowly to face him, looking for hesitation or doubt in the man's fine features.

There's nothing but bull headed stubbornness, echoed in Dean's voice, "But you have to listen, okay?"

"Okay." What else is he going to say? He wants this to work, this thing between them. Knows, logically and because it's just common sense, that Dean needs touch. Is more than willing to give that, wants to, would give anything.

Dean stares at him hard, and then something in his expression relaxes. His fingers are warm around Bobby's hand, lifting it and moving it to his stomach. Bobby flexes his own fingers over the fabric of Dean's tee shirt, feels the muscles beneath jump at his touch, hears Dean go, "Mmm," very softly.

He moves slow, gentle exploration with his fingers, till he reaches the hem and Dean lifts his shoulders enough for Bobby to wrestle it off over his head. Dean's going to have new scars soon, their places marked by bandages and stitches, put there by something with Bobby's face. He hesitates over a cut down the left side of Dean's ribs, and Dean's hand covers his. "You're not going to hurt me."

He opens his mouth, starts to speak, "Dean-"

"No. Hey, I told you to listen, didn't I? This is not a conversation right now." Dean pushes his hand flat, pulls Bobby's hand up till it's over his heart, beating hard in his chest. "I'm not made of glass, and you're not going to break me. And even if I was, you wouldn't."

He releases Bobby's hand, traces up Bobby's arm, down his side, rests his own hand lightly on Bobby's hip, falls silent.

Bobby resumes mapping Dean's skin, gently as he can around the agitated red skin, knowing his fingers are rough no matter how soft he tries to be. Dean lets him go slowly, murmurs soft encouragement almost constantly into the still morning air. Bobby drags his knuckles along the bottom edge of Dean's ribs and the younger man's knee jerks, he bites his lip around the moan in his throat.

He watches his hand drift lower, can see the muscles in Dean's stomach ripple when he crosses them, can hear Dean's breathless laughter when he traces his belly button. There's golden curls below Dean's belly button, thickening the lower his fingers trace, till he's brushing the waistband of Dean's boxers and he tells himself his hand is not shaking.

"Hey." Dean's voice, low and thick. "This is me not being hurt at all, okay? Please, continue not hurting me before I die."

Bobby laughs, feels himself relax, and smiles down at Dean, feeling something deep in his chest ease when Dean smiles back. And then Dean squirms under his hand, bouncing his hips, "Please, I'm serious. Please."

He lifts his hips for Bobby to remove the boxers, and Bobby hesitates again, because this is usually the point that Dean panics and makes a mad dash for the bathroom. "Bobby Singer, please, please, please put your hand on my cock now, okay?"

So he does.

Dean groans, his fingers on Bobby's hip tighten. "That's, mmm, very good. See, doesn't hurt." Bobby shakes his head, slides his thumb is a slow circle and Dean jerks, breathes in sharp through his nose. He makes happy grunting sounds for the next few minutes, as Bobby gets used to what he's doing. Things get sticky but not exactly wet, and he's not completely forgotten that friction is not always your friend.

When he removes his hand to spit in it Dean whimpers and makes a grab for him, and Bobby laughs, soft, and is pleased when the slide of his palm and fingers around Dean becomes much easier. Dean is, Bobby thinks, making a conscious effort to be still, not rushing or pushing. Bobby looks at him, head to toes, at the hot wet glimpse of his half open mouth, at the glaze over his eyes, the flush that's covering him from forehead to stomach.

He rolls his wrist, a sort of accidental experiment, and Dean makes an incoherent noise, so he does it again. Dean's hips jerk, and he slurs out, "'m sorry, s'good, s'good." Bobby leans down, and kisses him, and twists his wrist, and Dean comes in hot spurts across his own stomach and Bobby's hand.

Bobby wipes his hand on the sheets, they need washed anyway, while Dean burrows into his side, making happy noises in the back of his throat. "Bobby?" Bobby looks down at him, and Dean smiles, slow and lazy and sweet as molasses, "You see how I'm not hurt at all, right? You look, make sure you see, okay?"

Bobby looks, and when he's done he meets Dean's smiling eyes. There's laughter in Dean's voice, "So what's your verdict?"

"This a conversation now?" Dean shoves him in the shoulder, snorting, and Bobby relents, "You are, apparently, unharmed."

Dean nods, and looks pleased with himself, "That's right. I am. Now, look down." Bobby blinks, raises an eyebrow, but Dean just stares, so he does. For a second he's not sure what he's supposed to be looking at, and then Dean snorts again, and slides his hand on Bobby's hip.

Bobby's not hard, even he's pretty sure he would have noticed that happening. But neither is there nothing going on, and the shock is like white hot electricity up his spine. He feels whatever was happening fade, and Dean laughs, low and thick, and is gone from the room before Bobby can say another word. Calling over his shoulder, "We are gonna get this bitch figured out. You watch."

Chapter Nine: Some of the Ugliest Things (Took the Longest Time to Make)

Bobby learns a lot over the next few weeks. First and foremost, of course, is that Dean's middle name is Stubborn. Not just about sex, though certainly that's affected as well. Dean pulls his own stitches out before they're due, because he says they itch, does an insane amount of the physical therapy exercises they gave him for his hand.

He learns that Dean doesn't like things snuck up on him during sex, that if Bobby's going to go down on him or touch him somewhere unexpected, he better damn well state his intentions. He remembers this, because Dean leaves him with a black eye the first time he tries it.

He learns that Dean's dreams aren't the vague, shapeless things he had assumed. Whether they're coherent memories or not, he still doesn't know, but he catches a glimpse of Dean's journal, enough to know that Dean's piecing things together. There are diagrams all over the pages, sentences with arrows pointing to other sentences, long rambling thoughts that don't tie into any of the surrounding writing.

He sees: John tried to kill me (possibly possessed) scar from that or ribs 7-10 on left side. Then burned him? (While still alive? Is this an exorcism?) Sam shot me (while I was unarmed) scar from that across chest, very white. Shot me six more times? Blanks? I killed Jo's father? My father killed her father? Not sure. Think I might have fucked her once, were we dating? Did we have an apartment somewhere?

Bobby had looked away immediately, because they're not his memories, and if Dean wanted his opinion he would have asked.

And time dances on around them, summer fading to fall with a few last scalding hot days. They take Dean's hand out of the cast, and though it's nearly half the size of his right, it is fully functional. Bobby begins to think that things will be okay.

He still doesn't really believe that he'll ever be able to do everything with Dean that he wants to do. Dean believes enough for them both, and sometimes Bobby dreams about his voice, gone low and thick, asking or begging or just moaning. He can't deny that there are definite changes, in any case.

It all happens so slowly he barely notices, thick lazy moments with Dean that build on each other, that work steadily and sneakily tearing down something in his head. And then one day Dean's grinning at him through the spray of the shower, hand sneaking down and cupping Bobby's erection and it fades almost immediately, but it's something.

SsSsS

This is how things almost go really, really wrong, immediately after going extremely right. He's dreaming about Dean's voice, low with promise, about Dean's body and Dean's mouth, hot and wet and open beneath his.

He wakes slowly, head thick with sleep, aware that the dream doesn't seem to be fading as readily as it should be. There's pressure across his stomach, heat seeping down into his gut, and tight wetness below that's so sweet it's almost painful.

He arches into it, hands groping in the predawn gray, finding something soft and silky and cupping it. And it's only when Dean hums around him, and flicks his tongue, that Bobby realizes where he is and what's happening. The surprise and heat and shock of it wake him up, and he opens his mouth to say something, he's not sure what, when Dean sucks hard and bobs his head and what comes out of Bobby's mouth is, "Guhn."

He tries to get fingers in Dean's hair, tries to pull, because he's pretty sure that it's rude to just let go without any warning. But Dean smacks his hands away, and flicks his tongue again, and Bobby arches up off the bed, feeling everything tighten in his entire body and then release.

When he opens eyes he hadn't realized he'd closed Dean is looming over him, grinning smugly as the cat that caught the canary. He singsongs, "You had an orgasm. I gave it to you." And then he bursts into laughter and falls over sideways.

Bobby can feel himself flushing, and would say something but he really just kind of wants to go back to sleep now. He settles for slinging an arm over Dean and pulling him in snug against his body, for tangling their legs together and letting himself sink into the other man's warmth.

Dean's still laughing softly, threading their fingers together. He knows that Dean's got to be hard himself, and slips a hand down Dean's stomach, mumbles into Dean's ear, "Mind if I return the favor?" Dean's laughter fades into a groan, and he thrusts into Bobby's grip.

The noise of the door slamming open is so out of place that at first Bobby doesn't recognize it. And then it computes and he goes for the knife under his pillow as Dean lunges for the top drawer of the nightstand. He hears, "-the fuck are you doing! You son of a bitch-" and then Dean's out of the bed so quickly that he had to have been pulled out.

There's the sound of flesh on flesh, and Dean's growling, low and unhappy. The intruder curses and Bobby finally gets his eyes to focus. It's not a surprise, really, to see Sam Winchester again. The boy looks worn thin by his time away, skinnier, harder. He also looks furious, is rubbing at his jaw while Dean takes two quick steps away from him.

Dean's voice is a hiss, "Get out, you bastard." Bobby slides out of bed, wondering what the hell Dean did with his boxers, figuring that the knife makes up for not having them. Sam cuts his eyes between them, takes a step towards Dean.

"C'mon, I'm taking you out of here. Right now. I'm so sorry-"

Dean dances backwards, and for the first time since Sam dropped him off, Bobby sees fear in his expression. His voice is whisper soft, "Don't touch me." Sam waves the words away, follows him, and Bobby watches Dean's entire body wind up. He thinks that Dean killed a monster by strangling it with a broken hand, that Dean killed a shit load of vampires without flinching.

He says, "I think that it'd be best if you listen to him, Sam." Sam switches his focus without blinking, turns his whole body towards Bobby, radiating barely controlled rage.

"You mother fucker. Don't you even talk to me. I asked you to fucking take care of him, not this." Sam's actually shaking, and his hand keeps drifting to the waistband of his pants, Bobby's sure that there's a gun tucked in there somewhere. "I'm going to kill you."

"You won't." Dean's voice is vicious, and he's stepped forward, body loose, eyes like daggers.

Sam startles, refocuses on Dean, face slack with surprise. Bobby can guess why. He can't remember a time when Dean didn't stand up for Sam, when he hadn't been Sam's own personal guard dog, and to have it reversed must have been a shock to the youngest Winchester. "He's mine, and you won't lay a hand on him."

He looks between the brothers. Sam, a half foot taller than Dean, overflowing with rage, burning like fire under his skin. Dean, in his underwear and tee-shirt, hard and cold and implacable as a glacier. He wonders, briefly, if Sam knows what he's taunting.

Apparently Sam's not completely stupid, he backs down a step, hands extended palms open at his sides. Keys his voice towards pleading, "Please, Dean, I'm sorry I was gone so long, I had to try to find a way to make this right, I had to. I'm sorry. Please, just come with me, please."

Dean's expression doesn't change, his voice is flat, "I never hurt you. I asked Bobby and he told me I never would have."

"What?" Sam looks as surprised as Bobby feels, wondering where this is coming from.

"So you hurt me. I'm your fucking brother. What was it, after your girlfriend fried you got lonely, or what? How could you do that to me? Huh? Why'd I fucking let you? I won't again. You'll have to kill me first, you bastard."

Sam's expression collapses, rebuilds itself into something soft and sad. He dares a step forward, hands extended in supplication, "Dean, no one was hurting anyone, I swear. It's not-it's not like that. I love-"

"How's it like? Cause I remember, pieces, bits of things, when I dream. I can remember you putting a bullet through me here," he yanks aside his shirt collar, jabs angrily at the scar, "I remember you sticking your thumb in the wound and twisting. I can remember you pining me to the ground and pulling the trigger of a gun into my face. I can remember you slamming me into a wall, I can remember pleading. I can remember you knocking me out, and waking up on the motel room floor, not knowing what happened."

Dean pauses, cuts eyes filled with rage and hurt towards Bobby, and then levels them on Sam. "You're my brother. How is it that when I woke up without my memory-" he chokes on the words, makes himself go on with visible effort. His voice still doesn't make it above a hiss, "How come your dick was in my ass, bro? Hm?"

Sam looks sick, takes another step, hunching his shoulders in, trying to make himself smaller. His hand is almost touching Dean, Bobby watches it, watches this all unfold, watches everything he had assumed get proven correct and hating it. Sam's voice is thick, soft, "Oh my God."

"What god would want you?" The words are quiet, sharp and cutting.

Sam flinches like he'd been slapped, "Well, there's an awful lot you don't remember then, isn't there, Dean?" He's edging forward, and Bobby wonders if he'd be stupid enough to grab Dean, and isn't really surprised when he does.

He folds himself around Dean, long arms encircling him, ducking his head, and Bobby's through watching. Sam kisses Dean like a drowning man tasting air and Dean punches him hard in under the ribs, the exact moment that Bobby grabs a handful of his hair and yanks his head back to brace his knife at the boy's throat.

Sam's shouting, "Tell me you don't remember. Tell me you don't know how much I needed you, how much you needed me. Tell me you don't remember the night we cremated dad, the time the Impala's tire blew in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a fucking blizzard, when we went to the lake and you scared the crap out of me, falling in the water and going hypothermic."

Dean spits, snarls, "I don't remember."

And Bobby presses the knife tighter against Sam's throat, to get everyone's attention.

"You're going to leave here now, you can leave your phone number on the table if you want, and if Dean wants to talk to you sometime, he can call you. But you don't come back here, and you don't lay a finger on him again. Ever. Or me and you are gonna have a real short conversation punctuated with a bang, understand?"

"Dean?" It's a desperate plea, and Bobby feels sorry for the boy despite himself. Dean doesn't seem to share the sentiment, his face is still as stone, his fists clenching and unclenching at his sides.

He says, "Get out. Get out. Don't come back." And Sam just deflates, all the fight goes out of him, and Bobby drops the knife away from his skin. He thinks that Sam might just fall to his knees right there and never get up again, but the boy just blinks several times in quick succession, and then turns on his heel and walks out.

Sam pauses in the doorway, half the size he was when he entered the room, says carefully, "I love you." And then he's gone.

SsSsS

Dean heads for the bathroom like a shot the moment he's gone, Bobby listens to him get sick, violently, and follows when he finds a pair of pants. Dean's rinsing his mouth, one hand braced on the side of the sink, unable to meet his own eyes in the mirror. Bobby leans into the doorway, says, "Hey."

Dean flinches, grimaces, says, "I didn't want you to know." And then, the words falling out of his mouth like he can't stop them. "He might be right, about, about what we were. I don't know, one hundred percent. I'm sorry."

And Bobby says, "Sh," because he doesn't know what else to say, rubs a hand slow up and down Dean's spine. Says, "It's okay." And Dean butts his head against Bobby's shoulder, and doesn't say a word, so Bobby says it again and again until it might be true.

Chapter Ten: I've Conquered Hills (But I Still Have Mountains to Climb)

They don't go back to normal, because they have no normal to return to. But Dean doesn't run off, and while they don't exactly talk about Sam's visit, they still manage to talk to each other. Dean doesn't flee his bed and they finally settle into a sort of rhythm. It might not be good, not yet, but it's close.

He's not surprised when Dean takes up hunting again, not just the odd job here or there, but actively searching the newspapers and internet, looking for things to kill. He'll be gone for days or weeks, come back with new wounds and new shadows in the corners of his eyes. He lets Bobby patch him up, lets Bobby put him back together again, and usually it only takes a day or two for him to relax, for him to stop jumping every time Bobby touches him.

He brings things back, sometimes, old weapons or books that he leaves on Bobby's pillow like presents. Once be brings back a litter of puppies, black and brown mutts with big paws and ears and matted coats. Dean hesitates, holding the runt in one wide palm while the puppy sucks on his skin, says, "I thought you might want one."

He's already got a bag of kibble in the backseat of the Impala, the remaining puppies trying to scale the side of the cardboard box they're in to escape.

Bobby wonders what they are, but they're too young to say anything definitively except that they'll be monster big when they're done growing. Three of them, staring up at him with liquid brown eyes, and one with a blue eye and a brown. Bobby thinks that he's probably going soft in his old age, when he picks up one of the dogs, stares into its wide canine grin, and says, "Oh, what the hell, we'll keep 'em all."

It's worth it for Dean's smile, anyway.

SsSsS

Rumors filter through to him, everyone seems to have a different theory on why the Winchesters aren't working together anymore. More than a few hunters seem perfectly willing to believe that Sam's gone over to the other side, that Dean just can't bring himself to kill his own brother. Others that say it's Dean that changed, that he finally lost his mind, the way the best of them sometimes do.

He hears that Sam's gone down into Mexico, north to Canada, that he died in a fire in Memphis or shot himself in the head in New York after he got bit by a werewolf. He hears that Sam hooked up with some girl in Texas, some princess from Spain or Portugal or something, and that she took him back to her castle and made him a concubine.

He hears that Dean can hunt anything, and does, but that you'd best not try to hunt with him. That he's not human anymore, that the demons took his soul and that the angels are using him as their Vessel on Earth. That he's a witch. That he's a god. That he's not even real, that he's something the hunters made up.

But Dean's just a man, who comes home tired and hurting, eaten away by all the things that people ask from him, either intentionally or unintentionally. He carries the memories of the people he can't save, whispers their names and what they looked like and how they died into Bobby's ear when they rest in bed.

He hears that Dean's gorgeous, that he has a girl in every town and that they all sit around waiting for him to come around.

He knows that Dean was born beautiful, that those eyes and lips and cheekbones of his could be the envy of models. But life has broken him, has left him scarred extensively, physically and emotionally. Bobby can't trace fingers across Dean's skin without feeling the rise and fall of scar tissue, and it's not pretty, the discoloration and disfigurement. Can't hold a conversation with Dean without tripping over things that make him flinch and darken his eyes.

He rarely hears about himself, anymore, the rumors about him faded in the late nineties, which was a relief. He knows what he is, and doesn't care to hear any of their theories and assumptions about what he may or may not be.

He has Dean, and the dogs, growing up with something of Labrador in their faces and something of Rottweiler in their bodies. There are two females and two males, and Dean names them Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny, and they all answer to all of the names. Bobby's not sure if there's any way to differentiate them at all, except that one who is potentially Jessie or Violet has the blue eye.

It is a nice life, and he relaxes into it, content with this, if it is to be his lot. He thinks that he will die first, that he will never have to bury someone else he loves, and that there is something like relief about knowing that. Really, he should have known not to be so sure about that, what with Dean's line of work, and all.

SsSsS

Dean's been gone two weeks when Bobby's phone rings. He answers it absently, watching the dogs, half grown but still full of their puppy-glee, wrestle in the middle of the yard. He grunts a hello, nursing a cup of coffee, and hears, "Bobby?"

It's not a voice he'd thought he'd hear anytime soon, and he chokes on the coffee, "Sam?"

Sam makes a sound that might be a sob, "You have to come, you have to come. I tried, but I don't know, and they say friendly voices help and he probably doesn't think I'm very friendly and please, you have to come, he'll want you here."

Bobby sets the coffee down carefully, feeling his chest go cold as ice, "What the hell are you talking about?" He has a horrible idea that he knows, and doesn't want the knowledge. The dogs, out in the yard, go still, swing their heads towards him, ears up and alert as they scent his distress.

"It's Dean, please, they say he might die-"

Bobby sways into the wall, grabs for something to steady himself and ends up with a handful of curtain. "Where is he?" The dogs are at the front door now, scratching at the door, making low concerned whining noises in the back of their throats.

Sam gives him the address and Bobby doesn't register another thing until he's driving down a highway hours later. He's still got the house phone clenched in his hand, beeping its displeasure at being taken so far away from its base.

SsSsS

Sam's in the hospital room, hunched over the bed, when the nurse shows Bobby in.

The boy has soot smeared heavy at his temples and in the lines around his mouth, like he tried to wipe it off and didn't manage it. There's a recently stitched cut over his eyebrow, and a cast around his left wrist. He's got one of Dean's hands in both of his, knuckles against his lips, eyes focused on Dean's face like there's nothing else in the world but him.

Bobby steps up beside him, looks down at Dean's still face, the tubes in his mouth, the barely there rise and fall of his chest. He hears his own voice, from far away, "What happened?"

Sam sounds even more disconnected, is rocking very slowly back and forth in his seat, "He was hunting a kitsune, by himself, the goddamn fool. I don't know what he was thinking. He killed it, somehow, but it brought part of the building down on him. I-I barely got him out. He'll be okay."

Bobby doesn't ask if that's a medical opinion or just Sam's. There's a burn down one side of Dean's neck, across the back of his left hand, but they're not that bad, not really. But he can see thick bandages under the hospital sheets, over his chest, his legs. He says, "What were you doing there?"

"I follow him." He's sure now that Sam's not really here, that he wouldn't be admitting this if he was, "When he hunts. To make sure that he's okay. He scares me, the things he does." And Bobby can hear the love in the other man's voice, no matter how much he doesn't want to. Knows that whatever sins can be heaped at Sam's feet, he wouldn't have hurt Dean, not the way Dean thinks he did.

"He's a fighter, Sam, it'll be okay."

Sam laughs, low and harsh, reaches out with one hand and brushes his fingers down the side of Dean's face. "I didn't do what he thinks I did. I love him. Always. Always loved him." Bobby can tell, can read it in every line of Sam's body now that he's looking for it. Can see it in the glitter of silver at Sam's breastbone, Dean's missing ring held there by a chain.

"You know, last time he did this, he fought a reaper to stay alive. For days. It's how our dad died, trading his life for Dean's. And then Dean traded his life for mine, but I'd rather that he'd just let me die, than this." Sam finally blinks, focuses on Bobby, "Sorry."

Bobby doesn't say that it's okay, because it's not. Just shrugs and shoves his hands deeper into his pockets, torn between grabbing hold of Dean and sitting in the chair in the corner and pretending this isn't happening. He doesn't want this to be happening, but that's not stopping it.

He says, "So what are they saying is wrong?"

"They're not positive. At first they thought he was in a coma, you know? But his brain activity is off the charts, he's got all kinds of activity where there shouldn't be any. I don't know." Sam waves a vague hand at the computers stacked around the room, then returns it to Dean, low on his brother's stomach.

Bobby feels heat and jealousy race up his spine, opens his mouth, and Dean's eyes snap open. He's making a sound, muffled by the tube down his throat, grabbing at the tube with his free hand and trying to rip it free and Sam's on his feet, yelling for help.

By the time the doctors and nurses flood into the room Dean's managed to rip the I.V's from his arm, is tearing at the scanners affixed to his head. Bobby watches as they hold him down, remove the tube down his throat and try to get him to lie back down.

Dean's having none of it, throwing punches and screaming at the top of his lungs, face shut down with pain. Sam's cursing and shoving hospital staff out of the way, and after a moment Bobby joins him, because they're not helping matters.

And then Dean rolls off the cot, goes to his knees, arms wrapped over his head, scream muffled as he turns his mouth into his shoulder.

Sam goes over the hospital bed to reach him, throwing himself to his knees and pulling his brother to him. And Bobby watches Dean angle into him, watches Dean grab a handful of Sam's shirt and cling, watches him push his face into the crook of Sam's neck, his scream tapering off into ragged pants.

He finally manages to shove the nurses out of the way, drops beside Dean, trying to get a look at his face, at his eyes, trying to read this situation.

Sam's rubbing Dean's back, huge circles, rocking him back and forth, holding him tight like he's afraid he'll be pulled away. And Dean, gulping down huge swallows of air, finally manages to speak, words that rasp through his bruised throat, "I remember. Oh, God. I remember. I remember."

Bobby's insides freeze, turn to solid ice, and he rocks back on his heels. Sam's meeting his eyes over Dean's head, eyes huge and hopeful and Bobby knows that's not the expression on his own face.

Dean's relaxing against Sam, eyes screwed shut as Sam curls around him, pressing kisses into his hair. And Bobby can feel the last year slipping away, can feel the pain and loss spearing up through him, the disbelief, cutting through him like a hot blade through butter.

And then Dean jerks, suddenly beating at Sam. Bobby grabs for him, and Dean slams the heel of his hand into Sam's nose and scrambles into Bobby. Dean settles there, in the circle of his arms, right where he belongs. He gets fingers into Bobby's shirt, wound tight in the fabric, gets his head tucked in close under Bobby's chin. His voice is rough, fading like he might be losing it, "I remember everything, Bobby."

Bobby meets Sam's eyes above Dean's head, and faces the stubborn naked want there with a snarl.

::go to 'Or Am I too far Gone (to Get Back Home)' —>::

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