Bobby felt sick.
From where he was standing a few feet away from the boys he had a clear view of the black eyes and seeing them shocked him just as much as it did the brothers. He’d been so focused on the standoff between Sam and the yellow-eyed demon he hadn’t noticed the ominous figure of John approaching the battlefield. So when the voice finally sounded so close to them he’d been as shocked as everybody else by the appearance of what he’d first hoped was John Winchester himself.
He couldn’t miss the turn of events when the demon had shown itself and addressed the boys, speaking in a voice that was so familiar that he’d been fooled into believing it could be the dead patriarch of his adopted family.
For just about one second.
The words of whatever had crawled out of Hell and the flashing of black eyes had a devastating effect on the brothers. From where he was leaning heavily against Ellen Bobby could make out how the two younger men struggled with this awful reality: Sam was weaving dangerously behind Dean, staring wide-eyed at the demon. The remaining color was slipping from his face and his knees started to buckle, forcing him to lean heavily against his brother’s back as he fought to stay upright. Dean was wearing a very similar grimace of disbelief and his hands were shaking almost as much as his brother. He was staring at the demon just as intensely as the rest of them and slowly his features changed from relief into something akin to fear mixed with an emotion Bobby couldn’t quite make out over the distance.
The thing wearing John’s face didn’t move; it just studied the boys, how they wavered on their feet so very close to it. Its proximity to them, the very real danger that was almost palpable in the air around them choked off Bobby’s air for a moment and had him moving in their direction, slowly letting go of Ellen who nodded once and stepped away from him. He needed to get over there, to move between them, protect the boys against the one thing they had never been able to protect themselves against.
Just like he had sometimes wanted to do when John was still alive.
The yellow-eyed demon was watching the brothers with a satisfied smile on his face and, unnoticed by the young hunters, he got to his feet, keeping his eyes on them as he brushed his hands off on his trousers. It looked so content and gleeful Bobby wished for the Colt to shoot that grin off its face.
All eyes were on the two brothers, on Sam who was more and more fighting desperately to remain standing but obviously lacking the strength to do so and Dean, how he visibly fought with emotions which flashed across his face, too brief to make out.
But then instinct triumphed over feelings and Dean was the first to move, a step backward, closer to Sam, away from ‘John’. In a way Dean did what he always did, he chose Sam over everything, everyone, even over some thing wearing their father’s face.
And then the moment of doubt and maybe even hope was over, reality smacked them in the face, all of them, waking them from the trance they’d found themselves in.
Sam was moving, or rather, his body decided he wouldn’t be standing on his feet any longer and he gave a small, distressed sound before pitching forward against Dean’s back, reaching out to catch himself on his brother’s frame. The next second some instincts seemed to be kicking in, his body straightened and he took a shaky step back, away from Dean. Bobby understood what he was doing; giving Dean space to move should ‘John’ decide to do… something. Dean didn’t take his eyes off the thing’s face but moved with Sam, taking the same step away, one hand reaching back for his brother.
“No…” Sam’s weak voice drifted across the place and he continued to stare in disbelief at their black-eyed ‘father’. “Oh God, no…”
The demon’s eyes focused on the youngest Winchester and its lips spread into what might have been a kind smile on John’s face. “Sammy, it’s so good to see you again…” it crooned with the familiar voice, sounding so much like him. The younger man paled in reaction and shied back, fingers twisting desperately into Dean’s jacket as he weakly tried to pull him back from it.
When ‘John’ moved Dean immediately tensed and braced himself, squaring his shoulders, shielding his shaky brother with his body and trying, but failing to look pissed and dangerous.
But he needn’t have worried, the (possessed?) Winchester turned slowly so that he was facing the yellow eyed demon, looking at him with a thoughtful expression.
“You were right, it is good to see my boys again.”
Yellow Eyes didn’t fight against the contented grin that started to spread his lips and he nodded at John, a fake thoughtful expression briefly clouding his features. “I can imagine that… But I’m afraid we’ll have to break up this very emotional family reunion now, don’t you agree, John? Your boys have a lot to talk about and we should give them some time to work things out.” His glowing eyes once again settled on the brothers and he smirked, giving them a mock salute. “See you later, boys.”
A wave of his hand, a shift of reality and they were gone.
Bobby was panting heavily next to him as they jogged towards the town. It was raining slightly and more than once they had tripped over something on the uneven ground, just barely catching themselves to avoid slipping in the mud. He could feel his heart beating in his throat and it had nothing to do with their trip through the woods. He knew Sam was there, he was certain of it, he could almost feel his brother’s presence somewhere in front of him and that thought alone was enough to quicken his steps once again.
Next to him Bobby grumbled something about not giving their presence away, but he didn’t care, didn’t care for anything but his brother.
And then Sam was there, stumbling across the middle of a dark, empty, muddy street, looking lost and scared. He was hunched over in a way that instantly told him his brother was in pain and his eyes slid to the arm Sam held cradled against his chest.
He heard his own voice call out for his brother again, even before he realized he had opened his mouth, and Sam looked up at him, the lost expression instantly changing into one of relief.
And then a dark shadow rose behind Sam—
—and he was down on the ground, blinking up dizzily at a stranger with yellow eyes.
“Really. I should be thanking you. For what? Wiping out my whole family?”
The man quirked his eyebrow at him, fixing him with a stare. “Your whole family. Isn’t that a bit of an overstatement on your part?”
Anger bubbled up inside him like some volcano, unstoppable, forcing the words out through a tight throat. “You weren’t content to take away my parents, you had to go and take Sam, too.”
“Oh, I didn’t take Sam. I just borrowed him for a little while. See for yourself.“ He didn’t really understand what he was talking about, but then there was movement behind the creature and Sam—
—was a heavy weight against him, the dark head lolling limply, lifeless against him. He could feel his brother’s chest struggle through his final breath before he just collapsed against him, tension, life gone from his body, leaving him clutching a dead weight against his chest—
He snapped upright, almost hitting his head on the coffee table next to him as he scrambled to get into a sitting position. For a few minutes he couldn’t remember where he was; the room he was in looked too unfamiliar from where he was sitting. He blinked rapidly to clear his sight enough to get his surroundings into view; he was sitting on a makeshift bed on the floor, in front of a vaguely familiar couch, with sunlight streaming through a window, blinding him for a moment and he reached up, shielding his eyes. His breath was still coming in short puffs for air and after verifying that he wasn’t under attack he closed his eyes for a second, trying to get his breathing under control. He remembered this room now, he was still at Bobby’s and—
It had been that dream, again, like every time he closed his eyes, every friggin night he tried to get some rest he had to face his failure, how he couldn’t save him, how that guy—Jake—had stabbed that knife into his brother’s back, had killed him because he hadn’t been fast enough. Sam was dead because of him, he was gone, he was alone and--
His eyes snapped open and he whirled around, then froze.
His first thought was that he was still dreaming, still caught in one of those nightmares because… It couldn’t be, he couldn’t believe his eyes, what he was seeing was impossible.
Sam was lying on his side, face buried halfway into one of the cushions, completely relaxed and sound asleep. One of his legs was hanging over the side of the couch, revealing a still booted foot and his right hand was dangling off as well, fingers twitching ever so slightly as he dreamed.
Just like he had seen him a hundred times before. Like he had never been de—gone at all. Like Cold Oak hadn’t happened.
Like he hadn’t burned Sam’s dead body a week, an hour, a lifetime ago, the smell of burning flesh and wood still choking him when he didn’t concentrate on keeping it away.
He was back, Sam was alive.
He didn’t know how much time passed while he was sitting next to the couch, blanket clutched around him in tight hands, staring at his brother, taking in the way his back rose and fell in a steady rhythm, movement that had not been there the last time he had looked at him.
He didn’t realize he was reaching out for Sam until his fingers touched his brother’s ankle where his leg was hanging off the couch and he held his breath for a second as his fingers brushed across mud-encrusted jeans. For one awful second he feared Sam would just fade away like the dream he was pretty sure he was having at the moment, disappear like the illusion he was—had to be—but that second passed and Sam was still there, twitching ever so slightly beneath his hand.
The whispered word was over his lips before he could stop himself and his eyes followed the length of Sam’s blanketed body until they came to rest on what little he could make out of his face that was hidden beneath the familiar mop of tousled hair. He frowned when he could make out bits and pieces of mud still clinging to Sam’s head, the hair stringy and filthy in a way that would have him run for the bathroom if he had been awake to see it.
Dean didn’t care; he was mesmerized by the way Sam’s chest was moving up and down, slowly, in that familiar rhythm that told him his brother was completely and utterly out of it. His brother looked just as tired as he felt.
Sam was back.
He didn’t have black eyes like… like him.
A shudder worked its way through his exhausted body and he winced, almost pulled the blanket closer around him against the sudden chill that was spreading throughout his limbs. Only that it wouldn’t help against the emotional coldness.
It couldn’t be, whatever they had seen, whatever trick Yellow Eyes had played on them, it wasn’t their father, it wasn’t John, he would never… right? It was just some demon riding his body… which they had burned so that this could never happen, he couldn’t be used like some cheap suit. They had burned him, just like he had burned S—
Don’t go there.
But it was strange, he’d burned Sam’s body as well and now Sam was back and himself and it didn’t really make sense. Maybe…
Do not go there, for God’s sake!
He almost flinched at his own inner voice and blinked. A somewhat shaky smile crossed his lips and he ran a hand over his face, surprised to find his eyes leaking. God no, not that, not now, Sam would be laughing his ass of if he ever—
But Sam was asleep, completely out of it. Apparently, being raised from the dead took a lot out of you.
He shoved those thoughts away and leaned back against the couch, listening to the even breathing behind him, studying the lax hand that was hanging over the edge of the couch, tracing the outlines of some muddy spot on the back of it, tuning his senses into the presence of his brother, alive and breathing behind him, losing himself in the moment.
The quiet voice shook him out of his musings. Who would have thought Bobby was still able to sneak up on him?
Dean jerked around to meet the older hunter’s concerned eyes. From the look of it he hadn’t been awake for long, the ever present trucker hat was still absent and he looked as if he’d just fallen out of bed. Dean didn’t trust his voice enough to answer so he just nodded.
He knew the older man was checking on them to make sure they hadn’t made a mistake last night by accepting it was really Sam who was back. He couldn’t really blame him.
“No, thanks, Bobby, we’re fine.”
“You wake him up and get some breakfast, we need to talk.”
Yeah, right, they needed to do that. As Bobby turned to leave, Dean grimaced and then sighed softly, turning back to the couch to wake Sam.
Who was squinting up at him sleepily from the pillow.
There was this moment when he didn’t dare move, just looked at Sam, took in his brother’s tired features. Sam blinked at him and didn’t say anything either. Something unspoken passed between them, a tentative question Dean looked at his brother.
Sam blinked again and seemed to think about it, then his eyes softened for a moment and he nodded slowly.
His voice was scratchy, sleepy, just like Sam sounded right after waking up, the usual, like always. To think he had lost this, if only for a few days had him fighting back angry tears and he found himself pulling back, trying to get distance between them, not wanting his brother to see how much it was still hurting him. So he settled for a simple nod, then couldn’t stand it any longer and moved away from the couch, stretching his cramped back once he got to his feet.
“Come on, sleepy head, get up, you look like something even the cat wouldn’t drag in.”
Sam watched him for a moment, then slowly sat up, running a hand through hair that was sticking up in every possible direction. He glanced at the hand and then down at his T-shirt, mouth curling into a slight grimace which got even more pronounced as he sniffed at his shirt.
“Man, I stink…”
There were a hundred things Dean could say to that, jokes, teasing words that crossed his mind, would tumble out of his mouth in a heartbeat, but it felt strange so he settled for a non-committal,
“You take the first shower then….”
Sam gave him a still somewhat sleepy grin and got to his feet, shuffling toward the door. He was almost out, before turning suddenly, his gaze sweeping the room, looking for something.
“Where’s my stuff?”
It took Dean a too-long moment to understand that question and another one to think about it, to remember that he hadn’t yet taken Sam’s backpack out of the car, that it would still be in the trunk, where it should be. The sudden realization that he’d almost had to take them out forever had him clearing his throat until he trusted his voice enough to choke out an answer.
“Trunk, they’re in—in the trunk.”
Sam cocked his head to the side when he stumbled over the words, but let it go, just gave him a small nod and then left. A moment later Dean could hear the front door open and he sank down onto the couch, burying his head into his hands, feeling so very much alone.
The boys were not okay. That’s all Bobby could think as he puttered around his house.
It didn’t take a mind reader to see that neither of them had really processed what had happened the night before. Neither Dean pretending to be all good nor Sam’s ‘reassuring’ I’m-fine-smiles were fooling him into believing that everything was okay. Hell, he was still having a hard time himself understanding that Sam was back and not a friend— son to mourn anymore, that, through whatever miracle the young man was standing next to them, breathing and taking tentative sips of the strongest coffee Bobby had ever drunk.
Sam looked better though; now that the once mud-stained hair was clean and he’d changed into fresh jeans and three layers of shirts he no longer looked like he’d gone up against a mud monster and lost. He was still moving with all the grace of a man at least twice his age and more than once he’d caught the younger man stretching his back or shaking his limbs as if he was trying to get used to moving in his body again. But then again maybe Sam had always been doing that and Bobby’d just never noticed since the kid’d never died before with his body fucking burned.
And maybe Bobby wasn’t over that little detail either.
Dean was watching Sam like a hawk, Bobby had yet to see him separate from his brother’s side, it seemed like he couldn’t get comfortable if he wasn’t in Sam’s personal space. The younger man didn’t seem to mind or even realize it, if anything he relaxed when Dean nudged him with an elbow or bumped against his shoulder. Sam seemed tense, was watching them with an expression that told him the younger man knew something had changed, had happened, something he didn’t know about, and not for the first time Bobby found himself wondering about how much Sam did remember about his resurrection.
As far as Bobby was concerned the night before had been more than just awkward; after Yellow Eyes and ‘John’ disappeared they’d all pretty much just left as fast as they could. The brothers had taken the backseat of the Impala, both of them too out of it to drive, and he’d gotten them back to his house as fast as he could. The drive had been silent, he’d found himself throwing glances at the rear view mirror every so often to watch as Sam slowly dozed off, leaning heavily against Dean’s side until he finally fell asleep. Dean had been watching Sam with a weird expression twisting his features but would give Bobby a small grin whenever he became aware of his glances.
Once they’d arrived at his house Bobby ran done some tests on Sam, he just had to make sure it was indeed Dean’s brother back with them. He thought Sam would mind them but he found the younger man really cooperative; he watched as Sam drank a whole glass of holy water, stepped three times over various salt-lines Bobby had lain out in front of him, endured no less than four exorcisms and even slurred half-heartedly through a fifth one himself as he fought visibly to stay awake. When the Japanese exorcism of a monk from roughly 1000 years ago only caused Sam to finally fall asleep on the couch, completely unfazed by the weird words Bobby was throwing his way, Ellen and Dean had finally stepped in, interrupting the older hunter and calling it a night.
So Sam was back, alive and kicking. That was a start.
And whatever the reason was for his return, Bobby couldn’t stop smiling in relief whenever Sam met his eyes. That smile had died on his lips when they had gathered in the kitchen for breakfast.
The moment Ellen had seen Sam she gathered the unsuspecting Winchester into a tight embrace which left him gasping for air while she did her best to hug the stuffing out of him. When she’d finally become aware of the rather surprised look Dean had thrown her she muttered something under her breath that made all of them freeze for a second.
“Happy birthday, sweetheart.”
The silence that followed had been the most deafening pause he ever heard.
He didn’t know how Ellen knew but she had been right, it had been Sam’s birthday the day before, the very day he’d been brought back from the dead.
The effect of that realization on Dean had been hard to miss. The older Winchester had paled visibly and all but frozen for a moment before finally mumbling about having forgotten something in the car and then hurriedly excusing himself. Sam’s worried gaze wouldn’t leave his brother until the door had closed behind him and then he’d turned a rather helpless look on Bobby who nudged Ellen softly and then steered her into the kitchen while Sam followed his brother outside. Ellen had given him an apologetic grin but hadn’t said a word about it while they searched his fridge for something that would pass as a half-decent breakfast.
That had been almost two hours ago and they hadn’t heard anything from the boys yet.
Yes, they were both adults, two of the best hunters he’d ever met, grown men absolutely capable of looking after themselves. He knew that. And he also knew they would bite his head off for what he was about to do, but dammit, right about now he just couldn’t care less.
The junkyard was quiet, nothing moved, there was no sound to be heard. The impala was still parked in front of the house so they still had to be around somewhere.
A familiar voice suddenly stopped him dead in his tracks.
“… and I have no idea how I did that, Dean…” Sam’s voice was soft, strained; if Bobby didn’t know better he would have thought the younger man sounded scared. He craned his neck, trying to get a look at them, but they were hidden behind the bulk of a half-rusted mini-van.
“You know, I’m just saying… you were seriously kicking that bastard’s ass yesterday, how did you know how to do that?”
“I—uhm, I don’t really know, it was… just… it came out of me, like with Max, when I was in that closet, you know? Just came out like a punch, I don’t—didn’t know…” Something in the soft voice made Bobby stop behind the van and he frowned slightly. He couldn’t remember anything about a closet or somebody named ‘Max’, but then the boys didn’t tell him every detail about every case.
For a moment he was lost in thought and Dean’s voice was so low he almost didn’t hear him. “Maybe we can use that… Turn this… this… power against him—“
In contrast to his brother Sam’s voice was strong now, determined as he cut his brother off. “No.”
“No, okay? Just… no.” Bobby could almost see the shaggy hair flying in every direction as he imagined how Sam would shake his head to emphasize his point.
“Sam…” Dean sounded as if he was trying to calm him down, make him see something Sam didn’t want to realize, but once again the younger brother cut in, interrupting him.
“Look, I don’t know how I did that, okay? I don’t know what the hell that was, I just… I just know I shouldn’t—I won’t do that again, okay? Ever.” His voice had risen with every word until at the last word he was all but shouting.
“What happened to you, Sam, what did he do to you?”
“I’m not blind, something happened to you and you’re terrified, I’ve never seen you like… like this before, what did that bastard do to you?”
There was a soft, almost disbelieving laugh from Sam, before he answered in a pained voice, “You mean besides having me killed?”
“I—Sam…” Even from where he was standing hidden from them he could almost see Dean wince, but maybe that had something to do with the fact that he’d cringed as well at the soft words. Before he could decide how to react, what to do, Sam was speaking again, voice so low the older hunter almost missed the words. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have… I’m sorry.”
There was a long pause and he could hear one of them move, slow steps which led away from him, but he couldn’t tell whom they belonged to.
“Look, Sam, I know you’ve been through He—It was hard, okay? Yellow Eyes, Jake, he—he stabbed you and you died and that son of a bitch got you back and I can’t really be mad at him for that but I know I should and I just need to know what he did to you, okay? Please?” This had to be one of about three times he’d heard Dean beg for anything, he almost didn’t recognize the pleading voice, was shocked to hear the underlying note of desperation clinging to it. Dammit, he had to get out there, had to do something to help them—
“He didn’t do anything to me… that night… he showed me something…”
There was a pause and Bobby froze; he could almost feel Sam’s hesitation wash over him, could literally sense how the younger man fought against whatever was keeping him back. Something was off, so very wrong it made the hair on the back of his neck stand up and he braced himself, determined to get out there, help them through it.
His feet refused to move.
Dean’s voice was softer now. “What did he show you, Sammy?”
This was wrong, he shouldn’t be doing this, he should not be spying on the boys, he had no right to do that. And still his feet didn’t move.
Sam’s voice was hard to make out amid the familiar background noises of the yard and he didn’t realize he was holding his breath to keep as quiet as possible. “That night when Mom… when she died… he was there, he was in the—in my nursery, at my bed.” If possible the pained voiced dropped even lower. “He—he was doing something… to me…”
There was another long pause. No movement could be heard but Bobby didn’t really need to see them to picture how Sam would squirm under Dean’s gaze, avoiding his eyes in any way he could while Dean had his arms crossed in front of his chest and was all but staring his younger brother down. He wondered for a moment just when he had gotten so used to having them around that he no longer needed to—
“He was giving me his blood…”
Bobby froze and from Dean’s choked off voice he was sure the older Winchester was just as shocked about those quietly whispered words as he was.
“He was bleeding into the baby’s—my mouth… I—I have demon blood in me, Dean…”
Bobby had been around the boys when their father had died a year ago, he had seen them the night before when some demon had ripped their world apart and he had looked after them when a poltergeist hadn’t played fair and called for backup and the resulting ambush had left both of them beaten within an inch of their life in some deserted warehouse. He’d always been pretty sure he’d seen both of them at their lowest but the misery, if not plain fear in Sam’s voice took his breath away. The kid was terrified and if what he’d just heard was true he had every reason to feel that way.
What the hell had that bastard done to him?
Dean seemed at a loss for words, there was no sound from him.
Another pause followed, but this time Bobby wasn’t aware of the passing time, too shocked by the revelation.
“You think that’s what Dad meant?” Sam was barely audible, thoughtful. “You think that’s why he told you to… you know, kill me? You think he knew? About the blood? About everything?”
He wasn’t really listening at first, still too caught up in his thoughts, so he didn’t understand what Sam was saying, or rather mumbling to himself. But when the words finally registered—John told him to what??—he could barely breathe, couldn’t really process what he was hearing. This was a joke. Had to be, there was no way any of that could be true, the boys had realized he was listening and were playing a joke on him. The weirdest, not-funny-at-all joke he’d ever heard, but a joke nonetheless. It couldn’t be true.
John would never—he just wouldn’t—
“Sam, stop, okay? Stop that. Dad wouldn’t—he didn’t tell me to kill you, you know that!” Dean sounded as appalled by Sam’s words as Bobby was feeling.
Sam sounded as miserable as he’d ever heard him. “But what if he knew, Dean? What if he knew what I was going to become?”
“What you were going to become? Sam, you haven’t become anything, okay? You’re still you, you hear me?”
“No, Sam, enough, I won’t allow that son of a bitch to do that to you, not any longer! Whatever that was… whatever you did yesterday doesn’t make you anything, okay?”
“I—Dean, I don’t know…”
It was the quiet, dejected voice that sounded nothing like Sam at all which had Bobby open his mouth before he could stop himself. “This stops, right now.”
He stilled, couldn’t have moved even if his life had depended on it. The boys had fallen silent, he could hear neither of them move, couldn’t make out anything besides a quiet gasp.
And then he stepped around the mini-van and into their line of sight, met Sam’s terrified eyes staring at him out of a pale face. The younger hunter looked as if he was about to bolt, just run away from him, apparently utterly horrified over the fact Bobby knew. Dean was watching him with a worried frown; before he could say anything at all the older brother was already moving, stepping between them, the worry slowly turning into an uncertain, anxious frown.
And then he exploded. “You stupid, stupid sons of bitches, how could you do that? Huh? How could you not tell me something like that??”
He knew he was shouting, felt almost—almost—sorry for how Sam all but jumped back from him at his outburst, the scared eyes growing even larger, but dammit, this was too much. He was angry, downright furious at those idjits for keeping that from him, for not telling him. How could they have done that, how could they not have told him something important—horrible like this?
Dean tried again, but couldn’t get more words out when he turned to him, regarding the older Winchester with a warning glance as he growled, “No, you shut up now, Dean. I cannot believe this,. Why on earth would you keep something like this from me? Your idjit of a father tells you to kill your brother and you don’t tell me? Are you insane?”
Dean winced and behind him Sam dropped his gaze, swallowing thickly, looking everywhere but at him. Bobby could see he was hurting them, that his harsh words were not the right thing to say nor the right approach, but he didn’t care, couldn’t stop himself from fixing Dean with an angry scowl. “He really tell you to do that?”
Dean couldn’t hold his gaze, settled for staring at something on Bobby’s shoulder as he nodded, his face a miserable grimace.
Bobby forced himself to take a deep breath, silently counting to five, before he looked at Sam, then back at Dean, fighting to keep his voice steady. “We need to talk.”
They would talk. And demon or not, if he ever saw the face of John Winchester again only one of them would be left to care for the boys.