12 April 2012 @ 02:58 pm


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Then: Four Years Ago

Bobby slams the door of the beat up Chevelle he’d fixed back up to get him through his hunt with Rufus. The Roadhouse parking lot is empty of any other cars; it’s the first time Bobby’s seen that when it isn’t the hours of the day Ellen keeps it closed. But the sun is just setting in the west, casting pink-orange hues of light over the old bar and there should be at least three cars somewhere around. Even when there aren’t hunters around, Ellen’s place gets a few customers out this way that have nothing to do with the supernatural and everything to do with getting a drink or three before heading back to whatever awaits them at home or in their motel room in town.

The only reason for it to be this empty is Ellen shutting the place down for the night - and Bobby can’t remember a time since he met the woman that she’s been willing to do that. Hunters are always in need of a place to unwind in relative safety and she has never been one to deny them that. He’s even known her to let a few in during their closed hours; since Bill, she doesn’t seem to feel right sending people away. They’ve all got a reason for showing up at her bar, after all.

So Rufus wasn’t pullin’ his leg, then. Or so out of his mind with Johnny Walker that he was making crazy things up. It’s been known to happen more than once, and Bobby don’t appreciate getting sent on wild goose chases. But this one was too close to home to ignore.

A kid named Sam, being tossed between a demon and a shifter. A kid named Sam with slanted hazel eyes and floppy brown hair who looked all of fourteen years old.

The description is too familiar and he felt too much hope blossoming as Rufus described the kid he’d saved - the kid who needed their protection, and Bobby doesn’t think he’s ever seen Rufus care like that since the man helped him deal with what happened to Karen - to not check the man’s story out at the risk that it might all be some alcohol induced episode.

Inside the bar is just as empty as its parking lot and Bobby heads behind the counter. He goes into the back, past the small kitchen right behind the door and further towards the larger dining area where Ellen and Jo make and eat food for themselves. He's just about to push into the room when he hears a small, quiet voice so painfully familiar his heart clenches in his chest.

"I'm fine."

It's a little muffled through the door, already spoken so softly that it takes him a second to process what he's heard, but he does hear it. And his heart is suddenly stuck in his throat because Bobby knows that voice. It's been four years since he's heard it, but Sam's voice obviously hasn't changed yet.

He's also using the Winchester's signature line. John never could accept if they were anything less than fine. Seems Sam picked that up himself, even when he's probably as far from fine as can be.

Pushing the door open, Bobby peeks inside to find them seated at the dining table. Ellen's putting a spoon of something – he thinks it's mashed potatoes – back into its bowl from where it had been hovering over the empty plate in front of someone Bobby would recognize anywhere, even after all these years.

"Sammy?" he breathes, almost disbelievingly because it's nearly too much to hope that this really is Sam.

But when wide, hazel eyes shoot up fearfully before shaggy bangs fall forward to hide their expressiveness from the world Bobby knows he can't be anyone else.

He’s grown. Still small for his age - God can little Sammy really be a teenager already? - but taller than he’d been at ten, even sitting. And too skinny to be anything but unhealthy, though the way Ellen was eying the kid’s empty plate and the spoon she’d put down, she’s planning on doing something about that.

Bobby steps further into the room, letting the door shut behind him. But the look on Sam’s face is enough to give him pause. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen Sam look so scared before. Not when looking at him, not even after Bobby found out Sam knew what John did - why they sometimes stayed with Bobby if John would be gone for more than a couple days at a time.

"Uncle B-Bobby?"

It's been too long since he's been called that – Dean's taken to callin' him by name, without the title since he's gotten older – and he hadn't realized just how good the title makes him feel. How important to have become family to John's boys. Even after four years, even looking as scared as a mouse faced with a house cat, Sam called him that.

"It sure is good to see you, boy."

Ellen is looking between them, eyes darting back and forth without moving her head and drawing attention to herself, and Bobby can't help but be surprised that it looks like she hadn't discovered just who Sam is yet.

Unable to stand still anymore Bobby steps forward, slow and careful to not spook the boy whose eyes grow wider at his approach. By the time he makes it across the room and around the table, he's sure the only thing keeping Sam from bolting out the door is Ellen's strong, reassuring hand on the kid's shoulder.

He rests his own hand on Sam's other shoulder, and it's too bony and breakable under even the gentle touch. Sam is trembling, minute little shudders Bobby wouldn't have noticed if he didn't reach out to the boy, but it's just as heartbreaking as the fear clear in his watery eyes and Bobby wants to assure Sam that there ain't anything to be afraid of. From him or Ellen or even Rufus.

Letting go of Sam, Bobby stoops down enough to wrap his arms around Sam's skinny shoulders and pull him close to his chest. Sam whimpers, like he expected something else – like he expected to get hit – and Bobby wants to know what happened to him in the years he's been missing to cause a reaction like that in him.

The trembling is worse now but Bobby just holds tightly onto Sam. He's had four years of not knowing where Sam was, if he was okay or even alive, and there's nothing that will make him let go of the kid before he's ready. "God, I missed you."

The sound that comes out of Sam is muffled against Bobby's shoulder. It sounds almost pained but before Bobby can pull away, or even loosen his grip, Sam's skinny arms tangle around his back and the boy burrows closer. The tremors ease off as Sam buries his face against Bobby.

Sam sniffles, fingers curling into the back of Bobby's shirt, and the gruff hunter isn't surprised to feel a damp patch start to grow. He sees Ellen watching them with a small smile on her face and returns it with a watery grin, refusing to let any of his own gathering tears out yet. Sam needs this more than he does, needs to just let everything out of his system before they can talk about everything – before Bobby can ask all the questions he's had in his head since Sam disappeared.

"You don't hate me…"

The words come out soft and awed, like Sam doesn't quite believe what he's saying but hopes they're true.

"Why would I hate you, Sam?"

Sam stiffens in his arms and tries to pull away. Bobby loosens his hold and leans back just enough to look the boy in the eye – or try to, but Sam turns his head down and shakes his hair to cover his eyes. He'd used that move back when he was ten and scared but didn't want Bobby to see it, even though it was always obvious and went without question that a young Sam would be upset about his Dad and brother going on another hunt.

"Sammy," he says quietly, forcing himself to ignore the way the kid flinches, "I would never hate you."

It's clear Sam doesn't believe him, briefly struggling harder to get away before he slumps in Bobby's hold. Every line of the boy's body screams defeat and fatigue and Bobby wishes he knew what exactly he's dealing with here.

"John and Dean hate me." Bobby hadn't known five words could possibly contain so much pain but those slice through him, sharp as the silver knife in his belt. "Why wouldn't you?"

"Your Daddy don't hate you, boy," he starts, but Sam shakes his head furiously. The boy's body is trembling again and he isn't surprised when more tears start to stream from his eyes, leaving new tracks over previously dried ones. "Why would they hate you?" He has to ask, needs Sam to see, to know, that his family could never hate him. Because he needs to know how Sam got the crazy notion in his head in the first place.

"M'worthless," Sam whispers, eyes flicking up to Bobby's for barely a second before he's looking back at the hands curled in his lap. The words are like a slap to the face and Bobby wants to interrupt but Sam is opening his mouth again and finding out where the boy is getting these ideas from is more important than refuting the obvious anyways. "Only worth what they paid for me."

Ellen looks just as taken aback as Bobby feels when he chances a glance at her. "What who paid for you, Sammy?"

Sam's eyes trail slowly up from his hands to meet Bobby's gaze head on. His face is blank, almost slack and empty of emotions. "Belial and the shifter. The things he sold me to."


It's been weeks since Bobby came to the Roadhouse. Weeks since he saw Sam for the first time in four years. It feels longer, like a lifetime since Sam Winchester told him what John did, what the kid's Dad told him before selling him to a pair of monsters without a second glance.

He doesn't know what else Sam has been through. There's a lot of time unaccounted for in between John selling him at age ten and Rufus saving him a month ago at fourteen. But that night Sam was spent, exhausted with the effort of retelling what had to be one of the most painful experiences in the kid's life and Bobby doesn’t have the heart to push for any more. They've got Sam back and safe at the Roadhouse and Bobby has only been back home once; long enough to grab everything he needed to strengthen the wards already in place on the grounds – and add a few new ones. They'll worry about helping Sam through the other memories of his past in time.

Right now Bobby has something else he can put his focus on.

Sam's washing the dishes from dinner. Jo stands next to him, drying each one he hands her and prattling on about nothing at all. She's been doing that since he showed up – Bobby wouldn't be surprised if she'd done it before the hunter had gotten there – but it seems like the constant chatter doesn't bother Sam in the least. In fact, Bobby's seen tension built up in the kid's shoulders melt slowly away until they just barely droop, no longer scrunched up to his ears, with each word Ellen's daughter says. It's probably nice to have something to pay attention to other than his thoughts.

That's something Bobby hopes to help with.

"Hey Sam?"

The boy barely pauses in his scrubbing, noticeably more comfortable than he'd been even two weeks earlier. Bobby made sure his steps were heavy enough to be heard, but the second night he'd spent there – and more than a few nights following it – that hadn't been enough to keep Sam from shooting up like someone had taken a cattle prod to him. Some of the tightness in Bobby's chest eases with the evidence that Sam's already made progress. His cheeks are even starting to fill out, losing some of their gaunt, hollowed look now that he's got Ellen feeding him.

"Yeah?" Sam's voice is still quiet, but he was always quieter than Dean and John so Bobby isn't sure that's something they need to work on fixing as well.

"When you got a minute, I got somethin' I want to talk to you about."

If he wasn't listening for it Bobby would have missed the minute stutter in Sam's "O-kay." He doesn't sigh, doesn't want Sam to hear something in it that isn't there, but he feels the urge bubbling in his chest.

Bobby retreats from the kitchen with a nod of his head, thankful to hear Jo's voice trailing after him and filling the otherwise silent room as he starts up the stairs.


Sam's heart is beating harder than the night Rufus brought him here and he didn't know what to expect from these people, this place. He might be worried that it would jump right out of his chest if he hadn't been in situations far worse than anything he imagines Uncle Bobby might be planning for him right now. But he's been waiting for this, really. It was too much to hope that the hunter doesn't actually hate him. That his father didn't tell the man just why Sam wasn't around anymore and now Uncle Bobby is finally ready to admit everything.

The stairs have never felt as ominous to Sam since he's been staying here, even when under Ellen's watchful eye. As much as he's tried to prepare himself for whatever Bobby is going to tell him now, he doesn't want to hear how right John and Dean were to have gotten rid of him while they had the chance. But he can get through it; he's no stranger to taking care of himself and when Bobby tells Ellen he's too much trouble Sam will handle that as well. He's been doing fine at it for years as it is, even managing to stay clear of Belial.

Bobby is sitting in the room Ellen set Sam up in the night Rufus killed the shifter – he'd rather not think about what that will mean for him the next time the shifter's demon boss finds him. The hunter is looking through a pile of papers, flipping and scanning each page, eyes darting side to side. Sam pauses at the door, reluctant to step past the threshold and snap Bobby out of his reading.

It's taken out of his hands when the floor creaks, giving slightly under the shifting weight of his feet where he can't get himself to stand still. Bobby looks up over the papers in his hands, lips stretching into a smile that Sam wants to believe is pleased at seeing him standing in the doorway but can't let himself hope too hard.

He's been seen so there's no excuse to keep standing outside the door. No matter how badly Sam wants to turn around and run down the stairs, out of the Roadhouse and as far away as he can if it means he doesn't have to be reminded how worthless he really is. But Bobby is looking at him expectantly and Sam can't deny the man he'd once thought of as family anything, doesn't deserve to do anything but what the hunter wants him to. Taking a deep breath and pretending he doesn't feel the shake and hitch audible in it, Sam steps into the room and sits on the bed across from the desk Bobby is perched at.

"You wanted to… talk to me about something," he said quietly, running his fingers over the soft, warm comforter on the bed. It helps a little, giving him something else to focus on while he waits for Bobby to start talking.

"Relax Sam," Bobby starts, as soft as Sam's ever heard his voice. Softer than he thought the gruff hunter could possibly be, even after he'd first shown up at the Roadhouse while Sam and Ellen and Ellen's daughter, Jo, were sitting down to dinner that night a month ago. "You're not in trouble or anything, okay?"

Confused, Sam looks up before he knows what he's doing. Bobby's still got a smile on his face, though, and Sam feels his shoulders ease a little, muscles relaxing where he hadn't even noticed they were tense.

"I wanted to talk to you about school, actually."

Whatever Sam had been expecting the man to say, that isn't it and he's floored. He doesn't know what to say, even as the corners of his lips twitch down into a frown. He hasn't thought much about school since he woke up in a dark room with Belial and that shifter staring down at him with wicked smiles painted across their stolen faces. Everything in his mind shouted at him to find a way out, and when he'd finally done that it was an endless stream of Don't get caught, can't get found, Dad hates me, Dean hates me, What did I do? What do I do now? Don't get caught…

"What do you think about me tutoring you? Just until you're caught up enough to get back into a real school, of course."

It's almost too much to hear. How could Bobby even think about wanting to help him get back into school? Where is he going to go? He doesn't have any of those motel rooms to stay in like he'd had back before John got rid of him – back before he'd known he isn't worth the effort.

But he can't help but hope. School was the one place he felt like he belonged. It didn't matter that he was always the new kid and sometimes it hurt that he couldn't make friends. Hurt worse when he couldn't keep the ones he did find. But he's always loved books and learning. Research was the one side of hunting that Sam thinks he could have enjoyed helping with if given the chance. He knows now that he would have just been more of a liability, a burden, than anything else to his family, but he would have done his best while he could. And the possibility that he might be able to get that little piece of normalcy back… It fills his ears with a faint buzzing, blood rushing past and heart racing as though he's just done the laps John used to put him and Dean through.

"Really?" he asks, trying desperately to keep his voice even. Despite how hard he's tried – how often he's had to keep himself calm and collected to survive – Sam hears how breathless and wistful he sounds.

Bobby doesn't seem to mind, smile and eyes brightening like Sam's just found some priceless tome that hasn't been seen in centuries. Sam can't remember the last time someone looked so happy over him, over something he said. Genuinely happy. Not the sneering smirk the demon is so fond of wearing every time he catches up to Sam, always the same no matter what body he's possessing. "Yeah, I went to one of the schools in the next town over and got everything I'll need to try and catch you up – and find out where I can get the actual books and materials."

"U-Uncle Bobby, you didn't have to – "

"I want to."


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