Bonding and Healing
Several hours past and it started to get dark. Dean woke up and could hear Bobby snoring in the next bed. He lay on his back, his hands behind his head, and he thought back over everything that gone on over the last two days. It had been an emotional roller coaster ride for him. Yet, and he'd never thought he would say this, it had helped. He and Sammy had gotten things sorted. Castiel had appointed himself the guardian of his emotions, and he realized that they were right. It would be hard, but change was good.
Dean decided to get up and quietly picked up his clothes and slipped out the door. He saw Cas reading in one of the chairs. He slipped into the bathroom, brushed his teeth and got dressed. Walking into the sitting room, the hunter could hear the flute music playing softly. He quietly asked, "What are you reading, Cas?"
"A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I must admit, this is a bit morbid for a holiday that seems so festive." He was over half way through the book.
"Well, it has a good ending, I think?"
"I have not gotten that far but will let you know. Did you rest well?"
"Yeah, I did. Don't even think I dreamed. I really needed it. Didn't think I did. Thanks. We got some cider in there. Would you like for me to heat some, put a little spices in it?"
"I have never had hot cider. I would like to try it," Castiel answered with a half smile.
Dean went into the kitchenette, got out some cloves, cinnamon and a couple of other things. He put some cider in a pot and added the spices and other ingredients. He brought the cider to a boil and put it on simmer. He looked to see what kind of cookies Bobby and Sam had bought. There were a number of them. One bag had gingersnaps covered with frosting and sprinkles. Dean raised his eyebrows at that but thought what the hell. He put some on a plate.
He tasted the cider, then removed the spices and kept the cider barely on heat to keep it hot. Ladling two cups, he brought the cider and the cookies into the sitting room. He set the plate on the coffee table and handed Cas a cup.
The angel took a sip, eyes widening. "This is very good."
Dean smiled. "Thanks. Missouri made it for us when we were there once. I paid attention to what she did. I remember my mom making it and letting me have a little on Christmas Eve."
"Another good memory. You should share this with Samuel later. I think he would appreciate it." He tilted his head. "I have an idea that might make for a gift for him. It would also be for you too."
"You should get a notebook and write the memories you have of your mother and even good ones of your father in it. Even something as simple as smells or pictures that you remember. This way you both can share in them."
Dean thought about it. "I'm not very good about writing, Cas, but Sammy is. Maybe, if I share them, he could write them down."
He nodded. "I think it's something both of you would enjoy."
"I'll talk to him about it. Thanks, Cas."
"Most welcome, Dean." He continued sipping at the cider.
Dean held the cider, breathing in the smell of the spices, his mind thinking back to his mom. It was a good memory. Most of them were. Sam did need to know. When he gave him the cider, he'd talk to him about her and writing down the memories.
Sam stumbled into the area a short while later, yawning and rubbing his face to try to wake up. "Mmm….that nap hit the spot."
"Yeah, it did. Want some spiced cider? I made it fresh."
He perked up at that. "I'd love some."
"There's cookies there if you want some." Dean went and fixed Sam a mug of cider. He gave it to his brother and sat back into his chair getting comfortable. He watched Sam for a few minutes.
Sam sipped at the hot beverage and sighed. "Mmm...oh yeah, you haven’t lost the knack. I almost expected Missouri to come waltzing through."
Dean laughed softly. "Mom used to make it."
"Really? I bet she did a great job with it."
"She really did, Sammy. She'd let me have a little. Said it was too spicy for my age. I usually got just little on Christmas Eve. She let me put some out for Santa with cookies she'd made.. She said it was too cold for milk."
Sam listened to the memory, eyes glistening as he tried to picture it.
"Sammy, I wanted to ask you something. If you say no, it won't upset me. Okay?"
"Sure, Dean, go ahead." He drank more of the cider, enjoying the warmth that made its way down to his belly.
"Well, Cas suggest something. It would be good for both of us. He thought I ought to write down all the good memories of Mom and Dad and put it in a journal or something. It would help me remember things and help you get to them back before everything went bad."
His face lit up. For a long time, he'd wanted stories of their mother but Dean hadn't really shared them due to the fact their father didn't want talk of her much. "I would love that."
"Well, here's the problem. I know the stories, Sammy, but I'm not good at writing stuff like that and making it interesting. Would you be willing to write them? I mean, if I told you the stories, would you put them in a journal for me...for us?"
"You bet I would!"
"Thanks, Sammy. That would be great."
"I'll have to find a notebook. You're welcome, Dean. This will be great to have."
"Yeah, I think it would. And Dad was a good dad back then, Sammy. He really was. He started teaching me how to play baseball. We'd go to the park on Saturday afternoons after he was through at the garage."
Sam listened, trying to picture this John Winchester.
"We would drive over and play ball. Mom would bring a picnic supper. We'd eat after I got tired. Mom made a great fried chicken. She'd make lemonade, Sammy. I guess that's why I quit drinking it. Even Missouri couldn't get that right."
Castiel listened as well, watching the two brothers connect on a different level. Dean was providing them both with something they needed...roots.
"Dad worked a lot of hours in the garage, but Mom was always there, Sammy. She smelled so good.”
"What did she smell like?"
She didn't wear perfume, but she always smelled like the outdoors. We didn't have a dryer, so she hung everything outside. She smelled like the sun and the wind, even fresh mowed grass. It reminds me of her."
Sam bit his lower lip. "You know, when I was little, I'd catch that smell when we were in whatever motel we were in at the time. Some reason, it never freaked me out even when I caught it in the dead of winter."
"Maybe she was watching over us, Sammy."
"I like that idea," he said with a gentle smile.
“Dad was different back then. He didn't drink more then a beer once in a while. He came home every night. He always helped mom tuck us in. She told me that the angels watched over us.”
It felt great to hear these stories...bittersweet but it made Sam feel a part of the past.
Dean shook his head. "That should get us started, Sammy. I'll tell you more every night. I don't want to forget. Not really. I did for a long time, but it's still there."
"I'll see if I can get a notebook to put these in, Dean. This is...I can't tell you what hearing these mean to me."
Dean realized that he'd robbed his brother. "I'm sorry, Sammy. She's your mom too and you have a right to know. I had no right to keep these from you. Cas, thanks so much."
“Well, I thought maybe we could find something to eat at the Strand. We didn't let Ben know about supper, so is that alright? When you and I were on the Strand yesterday. I thought I saw a few places. Did you notice there was a train station and museum there? Old one."
"That sounds good to me. There's a train museum here?" Sam perked up.
"Yeah, I picked up a pamphlet on the Strand laying on the counter at Colonel Bubby's. I meant to show it to you. We might spend some time on the Strand tomorrow. They have concerts every evening for Christmas at an opera house there. The museum is huge and at the end of the Strand. They even have carriages pulled by Percherons. Let me get the pamphlet. It tells all about the Strand. We could eat one block over, but it's all seafood."
Dean slipped into the bedroom and came back with the pamphlet.
Castiel shook his head. "Well, we are on an island. It's inevitable to continue to run into seafood restaurants."
"Yeah, but do you really want seafood? I thought it's supposed to be Dickens. There ought to be somewhere on the Strand that's serving that kind of food."
"I'm sure there's other places to choose from." Sam got the hint and went for his laptop.
Dean grinned. "Good researcher, my Sammy." He grinned.
He chuckled, typing some information into the search engine.
"Sammy, don't they eat pot roast and some kind of pudding?
"Yeah, what flavor is it?"
Sam quietly told him what he'd read up on it, and his brother's face looked green.
Castiel's face was rather impassive, and his voice was flat when he responded. "I believe I shall pass on that."
"That doesn't sound good at all. I'll go along with Cas on that."
"I'll agree with you on that one," Sam answered.
“Come to think of it. I don't remember seeing many English restaurants, have you? Maybe they don't have good food."
"They'll probably have food booths there to sell to people."
"Yeah, might be the way to do it. If we really want to get a feel for the thing."
Bobby's voice broke in. "You have a good idea there."
"Evening, Bobby. You sleep good?"
"I did and am ready to get out and enjoy the sights of the festival."
"Well, let's go. You know the area better, Sammy, from following it all on the computer. You want to drive?"
Sam grinned. "Sounds good to me."
Dean tossed him the keys and went to turn off the stove. "Remember, guys, we have a walking date after the festival." He grinned at Cas and headed out the door, holding it for Bobby.
Sam caught the keys and headed out after Bobby rolled out of the suite. He was getting excited about this.
He started the powerful engine and headed out, knowing Bobby would be behind him in his truck.
The carols chimed from the Impala's radio. Dean was watching the sites as they drove. He felt calmer than he had in years and was thoroughly enjoying himself. Healing might hurt, but afterwards, it felt good. He was grateful for Cas.
Sam pulled into a parking area and turned the car off, exiting the vehicle. It was a gorgeous evening, perfect for this outing. His brother was listening to singing in the distance. It sounded like carolers. Dean was bouncing on toes and heels, waiting on Bobby and Cas. He looked at Sam and grinned. This just might be fun, Sam thought.
Bobby and Cas showed up a few moments later. "Ready to have some fun?"
"Yeah, let's get moving and get some blood circulating. I'm getting cold." Dean grinned and blew on his hands and shoved them into jean pockets to warm them.
The trio followed him, taking in the sites.
They purchased their tickets and entered the Strand, stepping back in time a couple of hundred years. Dean looked at costumes, the way the street was decorated. The music, the smell of food, it was all calling to him, and he really didn't have any idea where to go first. Sam's stomach growled at the smell of all the good food. There was music and so much to see.
"Let's go see what they got to eat and find some place to sit and eat it. "
The group agreed. Everything smelled wonderful and it called to them Dean spotted a food booth and pointed towards it. "Want to see what they have?"
They trailed along with him, listening to the idle chatter. It was a happy area.
"Hey, college boy, I need to pick your brain. I thought corn and turkeys were from here? Did we import to England in the 1800's?"
"Think so. Trade was important back then to keep things going and alive."
"Okay. They got battered deep fried corn on the cob. It looks good, turkey drumsticks, and a weird sounding soup called mulligatawny? And hot tea. You want me to get all of it and we can meet at those tables over there? I'll bring the food."
"Sounds good, do you need help carrying it?"
"They got trays. Think I'll need more then one? Yeah, maybe I better have some help. Four soups, four hot teas, four corns, and four drumsticks. One tray probably won't hold it all."
Castiel stayed with Dean while Sam and Bobby went to find a place to sit down to eat. Dean ordered the food and paid for it. In a few minutes they had two full trays, and he took the woman's suggestion and brought sugar, honey, lemon, and cream for the teas.
Sam looked up. "Wow, that's a lot of food."
"It didn't look like that much when I ordered."
Castiel set his tray down, taking a seat. "It didn't. I would swear it multiplied on the tray if I didn't know better."
Bobby chuckled, handing out the food.
Dean looked at the hot tea. He sniffed it, took a sip, and made a face. "Okay, what will help this?"
Castiel was pouring honey and cream into his. "Do you want it sweeter or what do you think it needs?"
"Hell, if I knew that, I wouldn't be asking. It's bitter. Not like coffee which doesn't need anything. This needs help."
Bobby handed him honey. "This will help."
The older Winchester put the honey in the tea and stirred it. He took a sip. Smiled. "That's not bad. I thought cream was for coffee. Cas is drinking it in his tea. I can't imagine. I don't like it in my coffee."
"It gives it a softer flavor."
"It gets rid of the bitter taste? Can someone hand me one of those cream things?" Cas handed Dean a creamer. He added to his tea and stirred it really well. Taking a sip, Dean's face lit up.
Sam bit back a laugh at Castiel, who was gnawing on the turkey drumstick. It was hard to look dignified when eating one of those.
Dean bit into the battered fried corn. Juice was running everywhere. There was a roll of paper towels on the table and he grabbed a bunch to get the juice off his face. "This is good."
The soup was the first thing Sam tried. The hot liquid tasted really good to him, and it helped warm him up from the inside.
Dean put down the corn and sniffed the soup. "What's mulligatawny? That does look a little like chicken in it.” He took a sip, nodded , and drank some more of it.
The meal passed with idle chit chat, enjoying the food and company.
When they had cleaned up and tossed the trash in a bin, they looked around deciding where to go first. "They got something going on at the opera house. You want me to run over and see what it is and if we can still get tickets?"
Bobby smiled at that. "Sounds good to me. I'd like that."
Dean ran across the street and asked about the show. They could see him buying tickets. He came back in a few minutes. "Well, it's some group of singers from different bands of the 60s and 70s doing a Christmas show. We wouldn't know them, probably, but Bobby would, so I bought tickets. Hey, it's a Christmas show."
"Who knows, we might enjoy it. I'd have never pinned you for enjoying the flute music," Sam commented. Tastes changed and it would for Dean, who hadn't been exposed to other things before.
“Some guy from a group called Herman's Hermits was one of them. And a monkey? And one of the Beachboys. I've heard of them.”
Bobby started laughing. "You'll enjoy it then."
"Okay, but will you?"
"Yup, I definitely will."
Dean grinned. " Let's go. They got seating for wheel chairs close to the stage. I told them we needed those."
The others rose, walking along side Bobby. "Are we going to see a monkey sing?" Castiel stared at them.
Dean looked at him, "Your guess is as good as mine, Cas."
Bobby snickered, knowing the boys would be surprised.
Dean got some programs. "Okay, Micky Dolenz of the Monkees, Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits, Mark Lindsey of Paul Revere and the Raiders, Bobby Sherman, and Brian Wilson from the Beachboys. This says it's gonna be a rock and roll and Christmas show. They are all gonna perform together backing each other up. Doing their stuff and the Christmas songs. Bobby, these guys are really famous? Cause other then the Beachboys, I never heard of them."
The older man nodded, explaining the background of the groups.
"Bobby Sherman was an actor? And a singer? Huh..." The music started and the older rock 'n rollers put on a tremendous show for 2 1/2 hours. When the last encore had occurred, the men waited until the opera house had cleared, giving Bobby an easier exit.
"So, what'd you boys think of it?" He'd enjoyed himself and had noticed them tapping their feet as well.
Dean was quiet as he listened to the others discuss the show. He smiled at comments and looked around at the activities going on around them on the strand. "You guys want to try mulled wine?"
"I think Sam and Cass can get that for us. What did you think of the show, Dean?" Bobby hadn't missed Dean's silence on that.
Dean waited ‘til the others left to get the wine. He sat down on a bench next to Bobby and looked straight at him. "Bobby, it was great." Dean clammed up again, looking at things around him.
He poked his adoptive son. "Just great?"
Anger flashed in Dean's eyes for a second, and he looked away. He had stiffened. Finally, he relaxed and he turned and looked at Bobby.
"I'm sorry, Bobby. I don't want to mess up this evening. It's just that I'm so mad at Dad right now, I could knock him out cold if he weren't dead. We had to be little soldiers okay. He had set music, set lifestyles, set activities, even set recreation. I couldn't read a book without being made fun of. I wasn't Sammy, okay. That music tonight was awesome! I never heard it before. Now, don't get me wrong. I love the music I listen to. But, damn it, Bobby. I listened to it because I was trying to be him. It's not even as important to me as it used to be. I keep wondering what else I've missed. Damn it."
Bobby didn't react to the anger, just simply patted Dean on the shoulder. "We'll find out and expand your horizons. I warned John before on that, but the damned fool didn't listen. You have time to make up for it now and we'll help you."
Dean looked at Bobby. "Thanks, Bobby. Man, it's half a lifetime I've missed. Sammy knows more about things then I do. I can hunt. That's it."
"Like I said, we'll help you."
"Okay, Bobby. I'm gonna hold you to that."
Dean looked up and saw the others coming. "Never had mulled wine, have you?”
Castiel shook his head at Sam‘s question, handing the cup he was holding to Dean.
Dean took a cup and sniffed it. "Whoa! That's got more spices then my cider! It's hot. Who heats wine?" He took a sip and whistled softly. "This isn't half bad."
Bobby sipped his slowly. "It's a good way to warm up."
"Yeah, the temperature's dropping pretty fast today. It was in the 80s yesterday," Sam replied.
"It's got some kind of fruit juice in it. I can taste it. Wouldn't mind making this a Christmas tradition. It gets a lot colder in the Dakotas."
"You guys wanna take this and walk and see the sites a bit before we go on our date? I mean, we hadn't planned on a rock 'n roll show. Want to see more of the Dickens stuff?"
The three of them nodded, still enjoying their wine. This was a nice change of pace and they were enjoying it immensely. The men took a slow pace for awhile, until all three could see Bobby was getting tired. Dean snuck up behind him and pulled the chair off it's front wheels, tilting Bobby backwards. "My turn to be the motor, Bobby." He set the chair back on all four wheels and slowly pushed.
"Works for me," he joked.
"Good, cause I didn't offer a choice," Dean teased.
"Onward, Jeeves," was the teasing response back. Sam snickered from behind his cup.
"All right, he's laughing. What's Jeeves?"
"It's usually the name for a butler or a chauffeur, Dean." Sam laughed as he explained.
Okay. I'm the chauffeur. I need one of those neat hats they wear. " Dean laughed as he pushed Bobby along. He leaned down and whispered in Bobby's ear. "We'll have to get an Impala name to put on the back of the chair. Only limo I'm driving."
The older man roared in laughter. "Dean, you idjit!"
Dean's head went back and a roar of laughter erupted. He pushed Bobby through the crowds and caught up with Sam and Cas.
Castiel's eyes were twinkling, obviously pleased with the light hearted play between Bobby and Dean. This was a very good improvement in the angel's mind.
"I don't know about the rest of you guys, but we've just about seen what can be seen. I wouldn't mind coming back during the day to see things that were closed. Cas, shall we take them to our spot?"
"I think that's a good idea, Dean."
"All right, let's get out of here. Sammy, you can drive if you want to. I can tell you where we're going. Bobby, you can follow."
They agreed, heading back to their cars so they could get out of the crowds. It had been a great time with a lot to see and do.
Dean got into the passenger side of the Impala. "We're gonna take a right on the Seawall, Sammy."
"All right, Navigator Dean."
After they had turned and knew Bobby was behind them, Dean turned, "We're going to drive almost to the end of the seawall and turn around and head east. We go about a mile and find a place to park on the wall."
"All right," he followed his brother's instructions. Traffic was a bit heavy but not too terrible.
"Traffic is moving which is not too bad. Won't be too hard to find parking. Not too many interested in the seawall at night in the winter."
"True, it's a bit cold. You know, I think there's a sleeping bag in the back. We might could open it and use it for star gazing. This way Bobby won't feel bad about being carried the whole time."
"Well, I was wondering if we stayed out of the wet sand, we might be able to put the chair down there but the salt air might not be good for it. A sleeping bag would be good."
"Metal and salt air is one big rust issue. I'd love to find him a more comfortable upgrade…lighter model. Hmmm..." He'd research that one later.
"Yeah, I'd like to find him one that was light, and had a motor and could be used either normal or under power. That way he can still get his upper body exercise but keep going when he gets tired."
Sam nodded, bouncing the idea around.
"If he goes to bed before we do, let's surf the net and see what we can find."
"That's a great idea. I think he might just go to bed before us tonight. We tired him out on the Strand."
"I know. But it was nice to spend time with him."
Dean looked at his brother as he addressed what was on his mind in regards to Bobby.
"I miss not getting to. His injury makes it so hard now. He can't hunt. He can only help from home and it's killing him. That's why we need to end this thing as soon as we can. Go home."
"Is that why you've been calling him more often for research help?" Sam glanced at his brother before looking back at the road.
"Sammy, he contemplated suicide. I told him we needed him. Not just the research but he's the closest thing to a real dad we've ever had. I told him that. I'm gonna call and ask for help every chance I get. Bobby's got a lot of info in his head, but he also needs to know we need him and miss him. So I do it. I've been calling in the evenings when you go to get coffee, just talk, tell him about the day and get his ideas."
He was quiet for a moment. "I wish you'd told me. Better yet, I wish I had been alert enough to see it. Damn...I'm an idiot."
"Naw, Sammy. We were having our own issues. This happened after you saved my life in that card game. We talked to Bobby and he was teasing you about the win. You left. I was supposed to grab my burger and leave. I tossed that burger, Sammy, and I talked to him. He opened up and told me. I told him we couldn't lose him. I couldn't lose him. He knows he's needed, but, Sammy, I think he'd like it if he knew you did too. I think it's time you accepted what he is in our lives. Dad was never there for us except for a few times. Sometimes I think his being there hurt more then it helped. Okay? Bobby, now, he loves us for who we are. He might yell at us, call us a fool, but never hurt us. He might be mean to get through to us, but never, never has he ever hurt us. He's crippled now so he couldn't hurt me."
Sam was blinking back tears. "Why the hell didn't you tell me, Dean? I love Bobby as much as you do. Damn it...I could have been helping too."
"Sammy, I promised I wouldn't. Damn it, don't get mad at me. We had issues, man. I was trying so hard to let go of things and trust you. I promised Bobby. I think we've got over our issues. Least I hope we have. On my part, we have. Bobby don't know I'm telling you. I'm doing this cause, I'm trying to open up and not keep things a secret any more. You've been asking me to do that for years. So, here, I'm talking. I'm sorry it hurt you, but damn it, Sammy. You've no idea how hard it's been not telling you things."
He looked at his brother. "I'm glad you finally did. Now we can both work together to keep him in the loop and remind him that he's very important to us."
"Okay. There's a couple of spots. We can park close together. The stairs a ways down still, We'll have to walk it."
Sam pulled in, shutting the Impala's engine off. "You go get Bobby, and I'll grab the bag."
Dean nodded and walked back to the truck. "Sorry, Bobby, but no chair for this one. I'm carrying you." Dean smiled, leaned in, got his arms situated, and lifted Bobby into his arms, holding him close.
"Cas, can you lock it up? His keys are still in the ignition."
Castiel nodded, doing just that and following them. Sam had something in his arms and Bobby didn't protest being carried.
"When we reach the stairs, I'll need some support. They're slick. Just stay in front of me and be ready to stop me if I stumble. Otherwise, we're good."
The angel went down the stairs backwards, ready to catch if Dean slipped. Sam was on alert behind him as well. Neither of them would allow anything to happen to either Dean or Bobby.
When they finally reached the bottom, Dean headed west. They walked a couple hundred yards, when he stopped and said, "This okay?"
Cas nodded. "It's perfect. Away from the lights." Sam spread out the sleeping bag after unzipping it.Dean set Bobby down, and helped him get comfortable. They all found a spot and lay on their backs.
"You can really see the stars. If you look out over the water, you can see the oilrigs and ships that have anchored. You can close your eyes and hear the waves crashing and the seabirds."
Sam and Castiel stared up at the sky. The view was incredible. The stars gleamed against the dark night sky like dew drops on black silk. It was radiant and breathtaking.
Bobby was listening to the birds and waves, enjoying the view of the sky. Dean lay next to his father figure, his eyes closed. The wind was strong and blew even his hair. He could feel drops of salt water hit his face when a wave crashed the beach and the wind the caught the spray. The sound of the water was almost deafening. He felt that it blocked everything out, sealing him in a cocoon. A smile crossed his face and he imagined what kind of music could be written as a chorus to the wind, waves, and birds. He imagined the waves being cymbals and drums.
Sam looked up at the vista provided by mother nature, listening to the beautiful symphony going on around them. This...this was what made hunting worth it. Family and a simple reminder that the innocents needed them too…the creatures that provided so much pleasure simply by being there.
Dean sat up and faced the water. He pulled his legs up and laid his arms around his knees holding them close. He watched the moonlight on the water. It sparkled like jewels. He let out a sigh that no one could hear over the roar of the waves. The rigs and ships looked so close, but he knew they were a ways out. He wished the water were warm. He'd kick off his shoes and wade in it. They'd have to come back another time when it was warmer.
"We have to come back during the summer. Maybe do some deep sea fishing. I've never fished before...it'd be fun." Sam was on the same wavelength as his brother.
Dean grinned. "Yeah, I'd like that. Never done that either. I used to like to fish that stream on Bobby's property. Catch little perch. You remember, Bobby?"
The older man chuckled. "I remember. You both near fainted on me when I tried to teach you how to clean them. Second time you went fishing, you did better."
"Well, dang it, Bobby. I'd never even been hunting yet. I'd never seen the insides of anything. You're right though." Dean conceded.
"The fun part was teaching you boys how to deer hunt. I thought you were gonna go all wailing on me when you figured out that deer was the same as Bambi."
"Was I really that bad?"
"Sam surprised me. He was the one who hugged you and explained about the whole circle of life thing. You...you went vegetarian on me for almost a month," he chuckled. Sam blinked. He didn't remember that one.
"I did? Vegetables? Seriously?"
"Oh, come on, Bobby. You're pulling my leg."
"I have a picture of you at home, ear to ear with spinach on your face. It's got a shot of the table...you have veggies and Sammy's eating hot dogs. You wouldn't even touch those." He laughed softly. "You finally broke down when I made my special burgers and realized that if you didn't eat meat, you wouldn't get to have any."
Dean sat beside Bobby, a look of shock on his face. "How old was I, Bobby. I mean if Sammy was talking circle of life stuff, I had to be at least 9."
"Right around your eighth birthday. Sam had gotten into some books and was all into reading about nature." He smiled up at the sky. "Damn you two were fun to have around. Hell to keep up with though."
"Sammy did start reading pretty early. I forgot that. I spent so much time reading to him. He started picking up words at four. Wow. He was so smart. I never could keep up with him after he started reading."
"You devoured them too when I finally got you to understand that books were a good thing. It was a challenge finding the materials you liked and didn't bore you."
"I don't remember that. What did I like to read?"
"Hardy Boys to start with, then you branched out into some of the classics. I had some of the classics for children that my mother had gotten for me. You went through Conan Doyle faster than Sam did."
Dean looked at his mentor, curious now that he was hearing all of this.
“You sure, Bobby? I know I read after Sammy left for college, but only when I was hurt and Dad was out on hunts. But, Dad always said I wasn't book smart like Sammy. He said I had street smarts. Sammy had the brains. How could I possibly go through books faster then Sammy? He was always a voracious reader. Started that at four. There's no way I could keep up with him. Everyone said so."
"That's because John was an ass. He never saw it and didn't think to supply you with what you needed. I did when you were with me. Hell, I'll show you the books next time you stop at the house. I still have one of the homemade bookmarks you made to keep track of your place. You're not dumb, Dean. You just weren't encouraged to grow. Lord knows I tried." Bobby hated John for that. How the boys were raised had been a huge bone of contention between the two friends.
Dean sat there, dumbfounded. His voice sounded almost childlike in its softness. "I'm not dumb?"
Sam piped in. "Nope, you're not. Dean, you helped me with my homework. Granted you played at making a fuss over it but you picked up on things really fast. That's another reason I was going to ask you to come with me. I knew you'd make it at school."
Dean looked confused in the moonlight. "I don't understand. Why? Why would?" Dean got up and walked down the beach.
Castiel got up, hurrying after the other. He soon caught up and fell into step with tense young man. The angel said nothing, simply lending his silent support and waited for Dean to share what he was thinking.
Castiel’s voice was soft, barely audible over the crashing of the waves against the shore.
"Your father had serious problems, Dean. Sometimes, it is difficult to see or acknowledge the truth even when it is in front of you." Castiel organized his thoughts. "I think, perhaps, that he may have had a grudge against your brother for a while. It was Sam the demon was after...it was his nursery that was set on fire. He probably realized it soon and overcompensated for it. It's also possible he treated you that way to keep you from reminding him of what he'd lost. According to Bobby, you are a great deal like your mother. If he pushed you to be more like him, it wouldn't continue to needle at a wound he refused to allow to heal."
"You're telling me he made my whole life a lie because he didn't like who I was? I finally realized I wasn't him, Cas. I understand that I've got a lot of my mom in me. He dumped us at Bobby's because I wouldn't talk. Did you know that? I didn't talk for a long time. Bobby finally got me to say something. That's what Dad said. So he wanted me to be stupid? He was proud of Sammy and his brains."
"I think he was afraid of Samuel and his intelligence. Sam was too much like him and it scared him. There was too much stubbornness, and he didn't have the will power to fight back. He knew you were a pleaser, you have been since childhood."
“I'm trying real hard right now not to hate my father, Cas. Are you trying to tell me that because I was a pleaser, he let me think I was stupid so he could keep a pleaser? Did he even realize I was smart? Come on, Cas. You knew who we were and what was coming? Were you watching us? Is that how you know these things? If you did, then tell me. Did my dad keep me stupid on purpose?"
The angel’s words were gentle, trying to help his friend.
"I think he wanted his soldier and would do anything he could to keep it that way. That's one reason he and Bobby continued to butt heads. He was trying to keep Sam on a lower level too but because he was as stubborn as John Winchester was, he didn't succeed as well."
"As well? How'd he hurt Sammy? So he taught me the streets, and how to hunt, but he wanted me stupid as far as everything else. Told people I was stupid. That's why Missouri treated me like she did. Why Ellen didn't like me at first. But Ellen changed her mind. Why? Since you're actually talking to me about this, I'm asking. Cas, I got to know things."
Castiel stared out at the ocean, pulling the words together to try to answer the questions given to him.
"Missouri treated you as she did to push you out of the shell John was molding you into. She had hoped that discipline and her tough love might help you fight, keep the spark that Mary had given you. Sam...she was tough with at times but also softer because of his stubborn streak. She read your temperaments and played off of them well." He drew in a breath. "Ellen thought you were your father. You looked like him from the jacket on up. It wasn't until she got to know you that she realized that you were Dean Winchester, not John Winchester the Second. You are your own person, and she helped you to realize that. You have had a lot of support growing up, Dean. You may not realize it but you have. It's why I am looking at Dean Winchester right now."
"This is one crazy mixed up mess, Cas. Cause, I don't know who Dean Winchester is."
"Then let me hold up a mirror for you and see if I can get you to see him as Sam, Bobby, and I do. Answer the questions freely and without shame. Agreed?"
"Dean, what would you do to protect family? The ones you have claimed as heart family."
"I'd give my life, Cas. They're my family. I went to hell for Sammy."
Castiel nodded. "Friends?"
"Same thing, Cas. You don't let down a friend."
That brought a small smile. "Look around you, Dean. Tell me what it makes you feel. Don't think about it...just share."
"I see my family. I see a beautiful world that's in a lot of trouble. I've been watching people all day who have no idea how bad it really is and I fight to protect them. I love my family, Cas. I worry about this world. I'm tired. I want the apocalypse over. I want normal. I care but I want to quit when it's over. Am I wrong in that?”
The twinkle in Castiel's eyes didn't fade as he met his adopted brother's gaze.
"Then I shall now share with you what your brothers and adoptive father see…what those who care about you see. They see Dean...the human who is flawed like all humans. And yet, despite those flaws, you fight to overcome what you see as weaknesses. You uphold your family, fight and die for them with a heart that is stronger than any human's I've ever seen. You have the courage of a lion, the wisdom of a sage at times, wit, intelligence, and even better...the one thing that drew me more than anything else - compassion."
"Cas? How in the hell do I live up to that?"
"You do it everyday by just being you. You are Dean..son and friend to Bobby Singer. Dean..brother and friend to Sam and Castiel. You have no need to change..simply continue to grow." He rested a hand on Dean's shoulder. "Is it wrong to want to quit once this is over? No...you've given a great deal. Afterwards, relax...you have earned your retirement and a true life is the reward that I hope to share in."
Dean looked at his new brother. "I want to share that life with all of you, Cas. Retirement sounds good. Just be me? Grow. Okay. You better stick close, brother, I'm gonna fall flat on my face." As he continued to speak, he reached out and hugged the angel. "I don't know what I'd do without all three of you."
Castiel hugged him back. "That's the thing about friends and family, Dean. They pick you up and dust you off when you fall flat. You do the same for them...we will do the same for you."
Dean nodded. "Okay. I'm smart? Wow."
He chuckled. "Yes you are. You saw the seal once to drive the angels away and reproduced it perfectly. That should've been a tip off right there."
"I thought that was just being a hunter."
He gave him the flat Castiel look.
Dean grinned. "Anna did it once too. Didn't see how she did it. Just saw the design."
"Good, for a moment there I thought I would have to hit you again."
Dean laughed. "I hope I didn't upset them again. I'm getting really good at that. Cas, there's just so blasted much wrong in my life, and it's all coming to a head at one time. It's not easy."
"That's why you have us, Dean. You have to remember that."
"I know that, Cas. Honestly, I do. I just don't want to hurt anyone. My messed up emotions and life hurt people. Sammy told me we weren't natural and needed to change it. He's right. I'm trying so hard. It's not easy. "
"You can't go through life keeping things internalized for fear of hurting someone. That caused the epic arguments you and Sam have had in the past.”
"Really? Okay. You know I started trying when Sam hounded me about hell. Sam did not respond right then, Cas. He thought I couldn't do the job any more. My death, hell, his inability to deal, and Ruby all but destroyed him. I just want to know if he can take whatever I say. I love him, Cas. He's my brother."
"And he loves you, Dean. I can't tell you how many demons went down because he was trying to get you back. What happened...was the addiction that caused the personality to shift. You have Sam back now...the real Sam."
It was almost too much to hope for. Dean drew in a soft breath, questioning his angelic brother on that fact he’d shared with him.
"You swear to that, Cas? Cause that's what I want, but not like it used to be. I want a real brother. I want him to be who he was meant to be. We work together. Pull together. That's how it's got to be." Dean did not hear his brother come into hearing distance or know that he had been listening.
"Take a look in his eyes, Dean. It's Sam...the Sam you raised."
"I will, Cas. I need to be able to be weak sometimes. Can he handle being the strong one sometimes?"
"He can because you're allowing him to. He's growing up too. Besides...you also have Bobby and me to lean on."
"Yeah, that is true. I guess I need to figure out how to say this to him."
He shook his head. "Sometimes you just have to come right out and say it. No fancy words. Just simple truth."
"Okay. I've been trying that lately. You are right. It does work better. I think I've made him angry a few times but I did explain my reasons. That helps."
Castiel’s voice was flat, knowing how bad the fights could get between the two. Both brothers had terrible tempers at times.
"And the explanations have calmed him down. That is how healthy communication works. Or so I am told."
"You and Bobby are the only two people in the world who know how to do that, Cas"
"You get to be my age, you tend to learn a few things" was the dry response.
Dean threw his head back in laughter. Something made him turn seconds later and he saw Sam. He stared at his brother, wondering how much he'd heard.
Castiel smiled, heading back to Bobby while Sam approached his brother. "You know...he's right. We both have been growing up and I have to say, my big brother is still the best in the world."
Dean stared a minute, his eyes getting misty. He wiped them and grabbed Sam and held him. "I still have the bestest and smartest little brother in the whole world, Sammy. I trust you. It's been a while since I could say that. I'm so glad I can now."
Tears filled Sam's eyes as he hugged him back. "I'm damned happy to hear it, Dean. I never want to lose your trust again. Family is what's important and I will never ever forget that."
"Me neither, Sammy. Me neither. It's getting late and a lot colder. We need to get Bobby back to the B&B and warm him up. I love you, man."
"I love you too, Dean. I may not say it a lot, but it's true."
"I guess I'm the worst at that. I built a nasty shell around myself, Sammy. It was self-preservation for me. It really was. But that shell grew so thick, and it was so much easier to pretend the hurt didn't exist. I just blew it."
"It may be easier to hide it than to talk about it but the side effects are nasty. Don't do it anymore, Dean, and I'll be more open too." He leaned against his brother, offering warmth and comfort.
Dean held on. I guess you heard much of what I said. I am not a super hero, Sammy. I make mistakes, I fail, I fall. and I'm gonna need you during those times to be the strong one. I never thought I’d say this." Dean tried to smile and laugh it off but it didn't quite make it. "We can do that for each other, and the others."
Sam looked at Dean for a moment and then did something that he'd used to do to his little brother to cheer him up. A finger beeped Dean's nose. "You are worrying too much, Dean. You raised me pretty well, I think, and now that I'm growing up, I want to be here for you as you were for me. I'll be there, I promise."
Dean nodded. A real smile reached his eyes. He clapped his brother on his back. "Let's get Bobby off that cold ground and back to some place warm."
"Only if you'll make some cider when we get back?"
"That's a deal. You got any of that gingerbread left?"
"Yup. He bought a few loaves of it," Sam grinned. "Race ya back!" He took off running back to the blanket
Dean took off after him, knowing he'd never catch his brother with those long legs of his. It was all in the fun of the chase, not the winning.
Bobby heard them coming before he saw them. The two of them were laughing like loons, chasing each other across the sand. He smiled to himself, watching them enjoy themselves. He was glad he'd forced them to do this. It was giving them a chance to heal and really bond as they needed to.
Dean hit the sand next to Bobby, gasping for breath. He was still laughing. "You ready to go, Bobby? It's getting a lot colder."
"Yeah, as much as it's gorgeous to watch, I'm getting cold. Thinking a movie and something hot to drink. What do you boys think?"
"Sammy wants hot cider. Movie sounds good. Doesn't have to be a Christmas one. There were a bunch of good ones in the cabinet. "
"All right, let's get rolling. I'm shivering now." He groused at them playfully.
Dean took a couple of deep breaths. He leaned, stood up, stretched, then squatted down next to Bobby. He reached his arms in and grabbed the man and held him close to him. Everyone could hear the grunt as Dean started to stand up. He lost his balance for second and went down on one knee. "It's okay, Bobby. I got it." Taking a deep breath, Dean got onto both feet. Stood still for a second to make sure of his balance and started a steady stride towards the stairs, which were a couple hundred yards away.
Castiel had moved fast to brace him, making sure Dean and Bobby were stable. Sam shook the sleeping bag, zipped it and rolled it up before heading to follow them.
"Thanks, Cas," Dean said as they strode towards the stairs. Dean's stride was not quite as long as it had been earlier, but he was still making good time. His only thought was to get Bobby some place warm.
The angel moved ahead, unlocking the car and tucking the keys into Bobby's hand once Dean got him into the seat. Sam had the Impala unlocked and sleeping bag stowed away.
"You okay, Bobby?"
"Will be once I get the heater on."
"Okay, I gonna let Sam drive us home. Unless you want to stop for something, or order in, we can eat the Chinese leftovers. To be honest, I'm not really hungry. Ya'll can decide. If you want to stop, call me on the cell."
Castiel shook his head, and Bobby agreed. "I think we have enough snacks to last us. Let's just head on back."
Dean looked relieved. "That sounds good to me, Bobby. See you at the B&B."
He nodded, cranking the engine.
Dean saw Sam standing by the car. "Would you drive, Sammy? I'm really tired."
The younger brother gave a small smile. "Not a problem, Dean."
Dean climbed into the shotgun seat and leaned back and closed his eyes with a sigh.