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In the Deafening Silence

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Dean can hear them talking from all the way out in the living room where he sits nursing a beer. His shoulder is packaged up in a thick swathe of bandage and antibacterial cream, hiding the place the wendigo tore into him deeply enough for bone to gleam through, but he isn’t feeling any pain. Partly that’s because of the drugs Dad stuffed down his throat before starting the drive here, but mostly Dean thinks it’s just the same numbness that has been hollowing him out for the past week.

Grimacing, he takes another swig from the bottle and lets his head drop back against the couch. Bobby’s dog, allowed inside for the first time in Dean’s memory, continues to stare at him from its spot on the floor. Even though he can’t actually see the mutt from this angle, Dean knows it’s still watching; he can feel its eyes on him. It’s just a dumb dog, though, and easy enough for Dean to ignore as he listens to Bobby and his father talk—aw, hell, who is he kidding?—fight in the other room.

“—don’t even know how goddamned long this has been going on!” Bobby shouts now as Dean rests the bottom of the bottle on his thigh.

“I had other things on my mind.”

From the sound of Dad’s voice, he’s either really pissed off or feeling defensive and guilty about something. No way for Dean to tell which, of course, even if he were thinking clearly—he never bothered to learn the difference. Never needed to learn, not when both emotions require the same response.

It isn’t for Dean to understand the hows and whys of Dad’s moods, just to interpret the warning signs and modify his own behavior accordingly. Play sounding board when Dad wants to talk through a new theory, or errand boy when Dad needs someone to do a little legwork, or mouth off a little bit when Dad needs a target for some of that unfocused anger that’s always building up as the search for Mom’s killer continues uneventfully.

Used to be Dean also deflected Dad’s attention from Sam like that, when Sam was being particularly stubborn or infuriating. Used to be he’d make himself and Sam scarce when Dad needed a few hours of solitude to unwind. Not that either of those tactics are going to be required from him any longer.

But Dean isn’t thinking about that right now. He isn’t thinking about Sam at all, not thinking about the way Sam’s hands felt on him, or how easy it was for Sam to shut the door and walk away. No, right now Dean is thinking about what this particular mood of Dad’s calls for. He’ll have to walk soft until some of the bitter venom lacing his father’s voice eases.

Bobby has never learned to back off, though. It’s the same thing every time they come here: couple of junkyard dogs, the two of them, forever fighting over some worthless scrap or another.

“What the hell kind of an answer is that?” Bobby demands now. “He’s your son, John! I know you like to pretend he’s some kind of wind-up soldier you can bark orders at whenever you damn well please and toss back in the toy chest the rest of the time, but you can’t keep ignoring him like—”

“I have never ignored my boys.”

“Really? When was it you last heard Dean talk again? You were so prompt with an answer for me the first time I asked. Jesus Christ, John: would you ever have noticed if it didn’t interfere with a hunt?”

Dean scrapes his thumb against the bottle label and the paper, saturated with condensation, peels easily. His throat is too tight for some reason, or maybe too full. His insides are unsettled and restless, urging him to move somewhere else (somewhere he doesn’t have to listen to Bobby list all the ways he fucked up this time), but his body isn’t working so hot right now, and the best he can manage is turning his head to one side, angling his face away from the kitchen where Dad and Bobby are arguing.

As if it has standing orders from Bobby to torment him, Rumsfeld immediately heaves itself up and trots over to the couch so it can rest its head on Dean’s knee. Dean moves his leg, dislodging the animal, and Rumsfeld whines. Damned thing’s as bad as Sam.

Dean’s hand tightens on the bottle in a reflexive clutch—everything always comes back to Sam, like metal filings drawn by a magnet—and he shifts against the couch again. The burn has been gone for a few days now, but sometimes it still feels like Sam’s inside him. Sometimes it feels like Sam is still draped over him, taking everything Dean has to give.

Taking more.

The couch dips beside him and Dean glances over to find Rumsfeld flopping gracelessly down on the cushions. This time, when the dog puts its head on his thigh, Dean doesn’t bother shaking it off with a quick jog of his leg—mostly because he can tell it wouldn’t be anything but a wasted expenditure of the energy he doesn’t have right now. He doesn’t shove it away with his hands, either, because his right is pretty much useless until the muscles in his shoulder knit, and his left is busy hanging onto his beer.

Speaking of which …

After he takes another swig, Dean holds the alcohol in his mouth for a moment, savoring the bitterness, and then swallows. He considers the bottle briefly, then tosses back the rest of its contents before dropping the empty on the floor. Although he hasn’t really moved, his head spins alarmingly as he swallows, and he sluggishly wonders whether it’s a good idea to be mixing alcohol with the pills Dad forced down his throat earlier.

The question brings the memory forward, sharp and clear, and Dean’s too muddled to figure out how to push it away again.

His world is narrowed to fear and pain and guilt. Dad is tying his shoulder off with the torn pieces of his shirt, alternately yelling at him and slapping him as he tries to fade down into blackness.

“—thought you were doing—you pay attention when I’m talking to you!—what the fuck was that, huh, Dean?—you could have gotten us both killed, use your goddamned head for once in your life—hey! Wake up. You stay with me. Right here, eyes on me—Jesus Christ, Dean, next time you warn me, you don’t—Dean! goddamn it, son, talk to me—”

He wants to apologize—wants to say he tried to shout a warning and couldn’t work his voice any better than he’s been able to since Sam walked out of his room and his life—and can’t. He shuts his eyes and tries to fade out again and this time Dad’s slap actually rocks his head to one side, making his eyes fly open and his mouth gape soundlessly.

“—don’t you dare do this to me—not now, not—focus, Dean, come on, just a little longer, okay? I can’t carry you out of here. You’re gonna have to help me.”

He shakes his head. His right arm feels like it’s on fire and his entire body is feverish. More important than that, though, is the weariness. God, he’s so fucking tired …

Then Dad digs one finger into the meat of his shoulder, sending a wave of fire down his arm. He tries to curl over on himself protectively as he heaves in shallow, fast breaths. He wants to scream and can’t. Can’t get his voice unstuck enough to even manage a whimper.

“Get the fuck up, boy, or I’ll do it again.”

Fear of pain outweighs his exhaustion long enough for him to somehow make it to his feet with his father’s help. He doesn’t track the walk out of the woods very well, but the world comes back into blurry focus at the feel of Dad’s fingers digging into the corners of his jaw and pulling his mouth open. Pills are pushed onto his tongue; the bitter taste of dissolving medication mingles with something coppery and familiar.

Blood on the pills, blood in his mouth, blood on his father’s hands.

He’s beginning to think he might have gotten hit by something.

“Dean?”

It takes Dean a few seconds to hone in on the voice, and when he does he remembers that he’s at Bobby’s with his shoulder stitched and dressed. High on painkillers and buzzed half out of his mind. There’s a warm weight on his leg and when he looks down he sees that Rumsfeld is still there, rolled half on his side and tilting his head up into Dean’s absent scratches.

“Dean, you with me?”

Dean drops his head against the back of the couch, searching for Bobby with ponderous effort, and finds the man standing right in front of him with a worried, unhappy frown on his face.

“How’re you feeling?”

Dean shrugs with his good shoulder.

“You want to tell me what happened out there?” Bobby prods.

Dean lets his eyes drift away from the man’s face and runs his fingers over the softness of Rumsfeld’s ear.

“Yeah, okay,” Bobby sighs, and then, more briskly, adds, “You’re gonna stay here for a little while. I got the spare all cleared out for you.”

Nodding, Dean slowly pushes to his feet. Rumsfeld gives him a mournful look and then follows. It takes Dean a moment to adjust to the room’s tilt, but after that it’s easy enough to aim himself for the kitchen. He’s fucking wiped, all right, and the thought of the bed that’s waiting for him is really tempting, but first he has to make sure Dad’s set. Make sure he isn’t too pissed off about Dean’s most recent fuck up.

Bobby’s hand on his left arm stops him before he’s gone a few steps.

“He isn’t in there, son,” Bobby says softly. “He … Your dad had a few things to take care of.”

At first, Dean doesn’t understand what that means, but his disordered brain eventually works through the words to the meaning beneath. Understanding hurts, deep and throbbing, but he isn’t really surprised. After all, he fucked up the hunt: could have gotten Dad killed if he hadn’t been able to push between his father and the attacking wendigo in time. Dean can’t blame the man for cutting his losses.

So, this is what it’s like to receive dishonorable discharge.

As he redirects his steps toward the stairs, Dean wonders how much his father paid Bobby to take care of him until he’s well enough to strike out on his own. Wonders where he’s gonna go once his shoulder has healed up enough.

Bobby’s hand on his arm stops him again. “He’s coming back, Dean.”

Dean smiles hollowly at nothing in particular and starts moving again.

Dad’s coming back.

Sure he is.

They both are.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Having Dean around is more than a little unsettling. Bobby thinks, initially, that the vagueness in the boy’s eyes is from the drugs and the alcohol, but when Dean shuffles into the kitchen in the morning, he looks just as lost. Like something reached inside him and gave his mind and soul a good scramble.

Bobby has the list of suspects narrowed down to two, but for once he doesn’t really think John’s to blame. No matter how angry he is with the man for dumping Dean on him and running, he can’t quite bring himself to lay this particular disaster at John’s door.

And Bobby is angry. He’s fucking furious.

Sure, John’s hurting: raw with Sam’s departure and the guilt of not having noticed that his oldest boy's head isn’t screwed on right anymore. Sure, he’s afraid of owning up to that guilt: is terrified of failing Dean yet again. But none of that excuses his behavior. Man’s a goddamned coward, running the way he did. Not so much as a goodbye.

And now Bobby’s left watching Dean ease himself down into a chair at the kitchen table. The boy’s eyes are moving around the room like he isn’t sure where he is, or maybe like he’s looking for someone. His father, maybe, or Sam. Although he has to have noticed Bobby standing by the counter, he hasn’t given any sign of it.

“Dean,” Bobby calls, and after a moment those empty eyes swing toward him. “How’re you feeling?”

Dean blinks once and then looks down at the table. He isn’t exactly avoiding the question, but then again he isn’t acknowledging it either.

Frustration tightens Bobby’s throat, and he wonders if he’s gonna be able to fix this with a few small shows of affection and a damned dog. Healing power of animals his ass: Rumsfeld isn’t even doing his duty. Damned thing is probably off drooling on Bobby’s notes right now.

As though his thoughts have summoned the animal, the clack of nails on hardwood floors alerts Bobby to Rumsfeld’s approach. The dog pads into the kitchen, tail wagging lazily, and looks back and forth between the two humans for a moment. Dean is still staring at the tabletop: doesn’t startle when Rumsfeld makes his choice and drops his head insistently on the boy’s knee. When his hand belatedly moves down to scratch behind the dog’s ears, Bobby can tell Dean isn’t aware he’s doing it.

He doesn’t know if that’s a good sign or not. Doesn’t know if he’s qualified to piece Dean back together when he doesn’t know what happened to the kid in the first place. The damage can’t just have been caused by Sam’s departure—the boys were close, wrapped up in each other far more tightly than was healthy for either of them, but this reaction seems a tad extreme. No, sometime between that last, epic fight John told him about and Sam’s departure early the next morning, something happened.

Well, whatever it was, Bobby isn’t gonna figure it out just staring at the boy.

“You hungry?” he asks. He doesn’t really expect an answer, but there isn’t any harm in trying for one. Besides, after Sam, food always has been the best way to get Dean’s attention.

The boy doesn’t look up, but his uninjured shoulder lifts in a shrug. It’s as much of a reaction as Bobby expected, but he can’t help feeling disappointed.

“I’m gonna whip up some eggs and then, once you’ve eaten, we’ll take a look and see how that shoulder’s doing, okay?”

This time, there’s no response at all. Bobby might as well be having this conversation with the kitchen cabinets. He stifles the sigh he wants to make and turns his attention to the stove, where he’s doing his best not to burn breakfast onto the bottom of the frying pan.

Dean still hasn’t moved when he brings the eggs and bacon over five minutes later. Rumsfeld perks right up at the scent, panting with his tongue hanging out one side of his mouth and begging shamelessly. Dean’s response is pitiful in comparison, and it hurts to watch the boy clumsily shovel a couple of forkfuls into his mouth before abandoning the attempt to prod listlessly at the rest of his breakfast.

“C’mon, it can’t be that bad,” Bobby says.

The joke falls flat between them as Dean continues to toy with his eggs.

Regarding the boy with a more critical gaze, Bobby notes the hint of gauntness in Dean’s face, the way John’s shirt hangs loose on his frame. It takes a hell of a lot longer than a week to lose that much weight, which means that Dean was sinking even before Sam left. And John didn’t notice.

Bobby wonders whether Sam did. Whether Sam said anything or tried to snap his brother out of it.

“You have to eat,” Bobby says more firmly. “You don’t want eggs, fine. But you’re not leaving this kitchen until you’ve gotten something down.”

Dean brings his eyes up again and this time Bobby can see a flicker of something behind those glassy green irises. Anger, maybe. Hopefully.

After a moment, Dean starts shoveling food into his mouth again. He eats with mechanical movements, but he’s at least eating. Baby steps, Bobby tells himself, and then leaves Dean to it and goes to pour the boy a glass of orange juice. When he puts it in front of Dean, the boy lifts the glass and downs the juice as methodically and disinterestedly as he cleared his plate.

Bobby swallows the urge to praise him for the effort—that’d come across as patronizing, no matter how honestly it’s meant—and puts a hand on Dean’s uninjured shoulder.

“Okay, let’s go into the living room and I’ll take a look at that shoulder.”

Dean gets up with no protest. Walks into the living room and stands there, looking nonplussed, like he’s forgotten what they’re doing. Bobby doesn’t like what that says about how clearly the boy’s thinking.

“You need help getting your shirt off?” he prods gently.

Dean looks down at himself—at the same loose sweats and oversized shirt he was wearing when John brought him in—and then ponderously starts trying to get the t-shirt off. Bobby watches him struggle with it for a few minutes—boy needs to do this for himself if he can manage it—and then moves in to help. Between the two of them, they manage to get the shirt off without too many noiseless winces of pain on Dean’s part.

Tossing the shirt on the couch, Bobby turns his attention back to Dean, who’s standing like a stringless puppet in the middle of the room.

John’ll be lucky Bobby doesn’t pepper his ass with buckshot when he comes back. He deserves worse for the mess he made of his oldest boy.

“Okay, son, you can sit on the—” Couch, Bobby’s going to say, but all the spit in his mouth has dried up on him and he can’t do it. He’s too busy staring.

The sweats are too big for Dean—John’s probably, same as the discarded shirt—and they hang lower than they should on his hips. Low enough to reveal the fading, yellow-green bruises on the boy’s skin.

“What the fuck is that?” Bobby growls. Grabbing Dean by his good arm, he yanks the boy around to get a closer look, and those bruises are exactly what they looked like at first glance. Handprints. Someone grabbed the boy from behind and held him still and …

Jesus Christ.

“Who was it?” Bobby bites out. His mind is rifling through possibilities and casting them aside one by one, circling ever closer to a conclusion he doesn’t want to reach. “Who touched you? Answer me, damn it!”

He shakes Dean unthinkingly, but although Dean’s eyes are waking up, he remains as mute as ever. And the emotion in the boy’s gaze isn’t anything Bobby wants to see: not that cringing fear.

Goddamn it, he thinks, eyes watering with unshed tears. Releasing Dean’s arm, Bobby grasps the boy’s face, trying to keep his hands as gentle and reassuring as possible.

“I’m not gonna hurt you, Dean. I’m not angry with you. I just need you to—you gotta tell me who did this.”

Dean meets his eyes—wrecked and hurting, but there for the first time since John dragged him through the door—and Bobby makes himself say it.

“Dean, did your daddy do this?”

The violent way Dean shakes him off—and the flash of outraged anger on his face—reassures Bobby on that count, anyway. His chest loosens. He didn’t want to think John capable of something like that, but the man obviously dressed Dean in these clothes, which means he must have seen.

Better a crappy, unobservant father than the other.

“Who?” Bobby presses. The sick anger in his gut is getting stronger by the minute. Fuck the law. He’s gonna kill whoever did this. “Who was it, Dean?”

Dean’s eyes flicker up, wet and devastated, and Bobby knows.

The realization hits him low in his stomach and shocks a grunt out of him. He watches the tears in Dean’s eyes spill out and wants to throw up. Wants to punch right through the fucking wall.

He thought he was appalled at the idea of John touching Dean like that, but that’s nothing compared to the nauseous shudders running through him now. And the thing is, he doesn’t know why his mind didn’t come here first because he saw this coming: hell, he would’ve had to be blind to miss the way that the boy was always following Dean with his eyes. He even talked with John about it once and got a fist in his face for his troubles.

“Sam?” he gets out finally in a strangled voice.

Dean’s face goes white at the sound of his brother’s name and, still crying, he drops to the floor and pukes. The eggs and bacon and orange juice come up in a revolting mess and Dean flops over onto his side. His left hand comes up to cradle his injured shoulder as he curls in on himself.

Bobby crouches next to him and doesn’t know what to say, doesn’t have the first fucking clue how to fix something so screwed up. The bruise on Dean’s right hip—the one that would match Sam’s hand if he were here—is mocking him.

Gonna get you through this, he thinks, trying to get his arms around Dean without jarring his shoulder any more. Fucked if I know how, but I will.

And then he’s gonna load his shotgun in the car and take a little trip to California.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Dean’s skin is feverish and his muscles are weak and his shoulder is on fire and the inside of his mouth tastes like eggs and bacon and orange juice and bile. Worst of all, though, is how he feels inside: bruised and exposed and sick.

Bobby knows.

Bobby took one look at the fading marks of Sam’s hands on Dean’s hips—marks that Dad must have seen fifty times over the last week if he saw them once, but never remarked on—and he went shocked and appalled. Disgusted by what Dean let happen. Dean doesn’t want to know what Bobby will say when he finds out Dean liked it, that it was his fault in the first place, but he figures he’s gonna find out anyway.

Right now he’s sitting on the couch with an ice pack on his throbbing shoulder and Rumsfeld’s head in his lap. Bobby has cleaned up the puke and is currently banging around in the kitchen, but it’s only a matter of time before the man reemerges, and when he does he’s going to want answers.

Sure enough, a moment later Bobby appears with a glass of water. Detouring briefly to snag a chair with his free hand, he drags it over and sits down in front of Dean. Then he hands over the water, which Dean takes gratefully and uses to wash the disgusting taste from his mouth.

Bobby gives him a few more moments of peace and then fishes a small pad of paper and a pen out of one pocket and tosses them into his lap. When Dean touches the notepad hesitantly, Bobby says, “I know you aren’t talking right now, but I think you also know that I’ve got questions that need answering. So you’re gonna nod for yes and shake your head for no, and if there’s anything we need to clarify, you’re gonna use those. Are we clear?”

Dean can’t help but shrink a little from the coldness in Bobby’s voice. His stomach moves alarmingly, as though he’s going to hurl again, and then settles. Dropping his eyes, he nods.

“Sam touched you.”

It isn’t a question, but Dean nods anyway: he can tell from the tone of Bobby’s voice that the man wants a response. Besides, there’s no point in lying when he’s already given himself away.

“Did he—” Bobby pauses to clear his throat and then continues, “Did he rape you?”

Dean is startled enough by that that he looks up as he shakes his head no.

Bobby’s expression wavers somewhere between skepticism and hesitant relief. “So there wasn’t any ... intercourse.” He flushes a little and stumbles over the word, which Dean would have found amusing in different circumstances. Right now, though, there’s just the continued, dull ache of exposure.

Dean shakes his head.

Bobby’s face scrunches in confusion. “No there wasn’t, or no I’m wrong.”

Dean’s head hurts just trying to follow the man’s logic. This is too confusing: the negatives and the statements that aren’t quite questions. He fumbles the pad open, takes the pen clumsily in his left hand, and scrawls, Fucked me.

Bobby reads the note and Dean can’t figure out what the expression on his face is. A little sad, maybe, and angry, and something else. Resigned?

“Dean, that’s—I know this is tough for you to wrap your head around because it’s Sam, but it’s still rape.”

Dean shakes his head hard enough that his neck pops and then flips to a new page to write, Liked it.

His hands shake as he passes the note to Bobby. This is it. Now Bobby’s gonna tell him what a sick fuck he is, he’s gonna kick Dean out on the street and Dean doesn’t know what the hell he’ll do then with only one good arm. Whore, maybe. Sam seemed to think he’d be good at it, and a guy has to eat.

“Dean, look at me.”

Dean has never wanted to do something less in his life. But there really isn’t any point in avoiding it. Dean lost that chance when Bobby got an eyeful of his hips. When he looks up, Bobby’s face is very, very still and expressionless.

“Are you trying to tell me that you wanted Sam to touch you like that?”

Dean’s throat burns and he flushes with shame. He can’t do this. Can’t look at Bobby anymore. Cutting his eyes to one side, he swallows thickly. Although he didn’t actually nod, Bobby swears like he has.

Dean can’t tell whether the man’s voice is disgusted or angry, but it doesn’t matter which it is. He can’t stay here anymore. His skin is crawling: his breath coming too shallow and fast to really do any good. One of his knees is bouncing up and down like a broken piston and now he pushes himself to his feet as it comes down and starts for the door.

Bobby’s up and after him in a flash, gripping Dean’s arm and halting him. This time, when the man speaks, there’s no mistaking the anger in his voice for anything else. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?”

Out, Dean wants to say, but he still can’t remember how to work his voice, and how fucked up is that? How pathetic is he when a little sex has left him this broken? Pretty goddamned pathetic, that’s what. His throat goes even tighter, painful enough now that tears are threatening, and he pulls against Bobby’s hand. He should be able to get free easily, but for some reason his muscles aren’t working right: body trembling too much for him to get any strength behind his struggles.

“Dean, stop, son. Sit down before you hurt yourself,” Bobby says, his voice deceptively soft.

Dean shakes his head because he knows that means ‘no’ even if he can’t get the word out.

“Sit down before I put you down.” And there’s that hard, lashing tone Dean knew was coming all along. He responds to it without thinking, letting Bobby pull him back to the couch. He doesn’t so much sit as allow his legs to give out on him, collapsing onto the cushions with a suddenness that jars his shoulder and makes him wince.

Bobby stands over him, close enough to block any attempt Dean might make to get up again. Dean can feel the man’s eyes on him and has to resist the urge to shift uncomfortably. Bobby already knew how worthless Dean is from the way Dad dropped him here like a piece of unwanted baggage: now he knows the rest of that sorry story. Now he knows how fucked in the head Dean really is.

God, but Dean hates the crawling, exposed feeling in his chest. He hates the way his cheeks are flushing with shame. Hates the way that, despite his best efforts, he’s starting to fidget beneath Bobby’s gaze.

Look at me,” Bobby says.

Dean’s heart speeds. He can’t. He won’t be able to stand the scorn and disgust he’ll find there.

“Look at me, Dean,” Bobby repeats.

The words crack out: a command that Dean doesn’t have it in him to refuse. He raises his eyes and wishes he could be relieved at the absence of disgust he finds on Bobby’s face. The man’s expression is too tightly warded for that, though—he could be thinking anything behind those blank eyes. Could be calculating how long it will take the cops to get here so he can throw Dean at them and get him off his hands.

Dean wonders how much time they give you for fucking your little brother.

“Now you listen up real good, son,” Bobby says in a voice bound tight with iron. “I’m not angry with you. Hell, I ain’t even upset with you. I could just about strangle your daddy right about now, but none of that’s on you, you hear me?”

Dean nods slowly. It doesn’t make any sense—no reason for Bobby to be angry with Dad because Dean’s wired wrong—but Bobby hasn’t asked if he understands. Hasn’t really even asking if Dean buys into the crap he’s being handfed.

“Good,” Bobby sighs, sitting back down and holding the pad back out in Dean’s direction. “Now, where did you think you were off to?”

Dean takes the pad—mostly because he’s worried Bobby’ll chuck it at him if he doesn’t—and then hesitates. He can’t answer the question because he doesn’t know. The half-formed thoughts of escape that were ricocheting around in his head weren’t clear enough to offer him more than a vague sense of Away and Alone. Finally, because he can sense Bobby’s going to wait until he gets an answer, Dean offers a one-shouldered shrug.

Bobby sighs again and pushes his cap up a little so that he can rub his temples. “Well, this is a fine mess,” he grumbles.

It doesn’t seem to require an answer, so Dean sits there silently and runs his thumb across the top of the pad, thinking about what it would feel like to be Away and Alone. Can’t be much worse than being here.

Bobby gets his attention again by shifting in his chair. When Dean chances a quick look, the man is pursing his lips with an awkward, reluctant expression. Dean’s insides sting tighter, aching, and he looks down again as Bobby finally blurts, “About Sam, are you—are you sure? Because sometimes, something can feel good without you actually wanting it.”

Dean heard Bobby ask about rape before, but the word didn’t really sink in the first time, when Dean was still trapped in the numbing nausea of shock. It does now, though, and he feels a flicker of anger that Bobby could think Sam capable of something like that, followed by a stronger surge of indignation that Bobby thinks Dean’s stupid enough not to be able to separate rape and sex out in his mind. It’s the most Dean’s felt like himself since Sam shut the door on his room, on his offer to call, on Dean himself, and he clings to the familiar emotions.

This time, he writes for almost a minute before tearing off two sheets and passing them to Bobby. The words are heavy and jagged, the paper torn in places where Dean’s shaking hand pressed the pen down too hard.

Fuck you for thinking Sam would ever do that. I wanted him. This’s been coming for a long time and the only thing he did that I didn’t want is leave. So fuck you Bobby.

Bobby reads the note and then, incredibly, his lips twitch in a weary smile. “So you are in there somewhere,” he says, lifting his eyes to Dean’s.

Dean shoves the persistent ache in his heart and his nausea to one side and gives the man the finger, but the gesture only seems to please Bobby more. Angry and confused and disgusted with himself for being such a pathetic asshole, Dean clenches his jaw and looks away before the nervous energy coursing through him can send him to his feet and right out the front door. Leaving is looking better and better all the time, but if he moves now he’ll punch that smile clean off Bobby’s face on his way out.

“I’m not going to tell your daddy about this.”

Dean jerks, startled. The thought that Bobby might tell Dad about him and Sam hadn’t crossed his mind before, but it’s thundering through it now. Dad will come back then, all right. He’ll come back to yell: probably to go a few rounds, and fuck whether or not Dean’s in any condition to defend himself. And then, once Dean’s bloody and beaten on the floor, he’ll say the words that Dean can’t hear, no matter how true they are. Hell, Dad’ll shout them loud enough that Sam will be able to hear all the way over in California.

It’s your fault he left, you fucking pervert! Fucked your own brother and weren’t even a good enough lay to keep him around for a repeat performance. I shoulda cut you loose years ago.

“Dean!”

The sound of Bobby barking his name cuts through the imagined accusation and Dad’s voice fades from Dean’s mind. When he looks up, he gets the feeling from the way Bobby’s watching him that the man has been trying to get his attention for a while.

“I said I ain’t gonna tell him,” Bobby says again.

This time the message gets through uncorrupted and the fist around Dean’s heart eases its grip a little.

Bobby nods, leaning back in his chair, and continues, “But this thing with you and Sam, it isn’t healthy, son. And I’m not talking about you two being brothers: I’m talking about what it’s done to you.”

Dean gestures for the notepad and, when Bobby hands it over, he writes, Doesn’t matter. He left. Not gonna happen again.

Bobby grunts when he reads the words. “Maybe he’s gone for good and maybe he isn’t. But he’s not my concern right now: you are.”

At the insinuation—that he’s weak, that he’s nothing more than a goddamned civilian—Dean’s stomach does its best to curl in on itself. Suck it up, he tells himself sternly. Then, pressing his lips together, he writes, Can take care of myself. Underlines it three times for good measure.

Bobby laughs when he sees the note and then pinches the bridge of his nose with two fingers. “Goddamn Winchesters,” he mutters into his hand. His voice is thick with disgust, like Dean is failing him (of course he fucking is, story of his life) and Dean bites the inside of his cheek to distract himself from the burn behind his eyes.

Fingers aching from the unaccustomed activity, he scrawls a new message beneath the last and then holds the pad out. He has to whack Bobby in the elbow four times to get his attention, and the man sighs as he accepts the note. As he squints down at the words, Bobby’s expression darkens.

“Like hell you will,” he growls.

Scowling, Dean pushes to his feet. He isn’t going to argue about this. Bobby claims to be okay with the whole Sam thing, but Dean can tell that it bothers him. Dean being here at all bothers him, which isn’t all that surprising considering his own family couldn’t stand him, and that leaves him with only one clear option.

“Park your ass, boy,” Bobby barks, but this time Dean resists the urge to obey, moving for the door. He has no shirt, no shoes, no cash, no voice, and one busted shoulder, but he can’t stay here. Pathetic as he is, he isn’t going to be anyone’s charity case. Not anymore.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The boy’s trying to leave again.

Bobby crumples the note—Don’t worry I’ll get out of your hair—in one fist and goes after him. He’s a little rougher than he means to be when he grabs Dean’s arm and yanks him back—partly from fear, partly from plain old frustration—and Dean goes white, hunching and grasping his injured shoulder protectively.

And the damned kid wants to go out on his own.

“What the hell do you think you’re gonna do out there, huh?” Bobby demands as he gives Dean a little shake. “You gonna hunt with your shoulder like that? Huh? You gonna hustle?”

He means pool, but he knows instantly that isn’t how Dean takes it. The boy’s eyes snap up, burning and overly wet. His mouth is twisted into a bitter, self-mocking sneer.

“I didn’t mean,” Bobby says, floundering. “Damn it, boy, I was talking about pool! You can barely hold a pen, let alone a goddamned cue.”

Dean jerks free and, although the violent movement drains him of even more color, he manages to make a lewd gesture with one hand. Bobby wants to believe that the boy’s just goading him, but he knows better. He knows better and can’t reckon which Winchester he wants to punch most: John for being too pig-headedly blind not to notice what his vendetta was doing to his children, Sam for taking everything his brother had to offer and then grabbing just that little bit extra, or Dean for valuing himself so little that he’s willing to sell his body to the highest bidder.

He doesn’t even hesitate before making the one threat he knows will get through to the boy.

“You even think about doing that and I’ll tell your dad everything, I swear to God.”

Dean stares at Bobby for a long moment, his chest heaving like a cornered animal’s, and then turns and shoves a lamp onto the floor with his good hand. It breaks with a crash, spraying glass and ceramic everywhere, but Bobby is too relieved to see a normal (normal for a Winchester, anyway) reaction to care about the damage.

“You break as much as you want to, Dean, but I’m not letting you set one foot out that door, and I sure as hell ain’t gonna let you do something as stupid as that.”

Dean’s crying for real when he turns around again: tears streaming down from both eyes in an uncharacteristic display. He fumbles on the floor for the pad and the dropped pen, tears off the top page, and then scribbles another note, left hand clutching the pen in an awkward fist.

Why not? Bobby reads when the boy throws the pad at him. Just what people already think I’m doing. Doesn’t fucking matter.

“What people?” he asks, sickened by the extent of the damage he’s dealing with. “Sam?” He never would have thought that Sam would say anything so cruel to his brother, but then again he never really thought that Sam would give in to his urges either.

Dean’s jaw jumps and he turns his face away to glare at the door, which is all the answer that Bobby really needs.

“You know he didn’t mean that, don’t you?” he offers gently. Dean hitches his good shoulder in a shrug and wipes at his eyes furiously with the back of his hand.

Although Dean’s body is finally starting to fill out, muscles bulking up in a build similar to his father’s, the boy looks strangely frail standing there. His scarred, pale skin and bruised, tapered hips (got to get some more chow in him, that’s step one) make him seem ill. Bobby’s throat goes tight and pained as he watches Dean rub his face clean.

“We’ll figure this out, okay?” he offers after a moment, and steps close enough to lay a reassuring hand on the back of Dean’s neck. “You’re gonna be fine.”

Dean’s muscles move against his palm, and for a second Bobby’s actually grateful that the boy’s playing mute because he’s pretty sure that Dean’s laughing at him like the old fool he is.

Old fool or not, though, Bobby’s all the kid has right now, and he damn sure isn’t going to let him down.

“Sit down, kiddo,” he says, taking his hand back and turning away so that he won’t have to see the jaded expression on Dean’s face. “We’ll get the dressing on that shoulder changed.”