Bobby stared at the clumsily scratched letters on the wall.
House of Antiquities …
There was only one house of antiquities that Bobby was interested in right now.
He'd been expecting a visit of some kind from the emperor when there was something finally going down with the boys. Partly because he'd put the fear of God or Mars or whoever into the emperor's hapless spirit during their brief chat, and partly because of the binding spell he'd quickly recited over the fire when he burned the boys' message because he didn't trust the pig-faced asshole further than he could spit.
Thanks to that binding spell, the mighty emperor Gaius Posthumus, ruler of millions and scourge of ancient Rome, was Bobby's bitch. Even if he did succeed in staging his goddamn tribute to Mars whether it be through the Winchesters' efforts or not, he wasn't going to gain triumphant entry into the halls of immortality to bask in the eternal gratitude of the mighty Warrior God – not without Bobby's say so.
And if Bobby found out that either of those boys had died as a result of his stupid, lameass obsession, well; let's just say salting and burning would be the least of the emperor's worries.
Bobby turned the coin over in his hand. It was easy for us, the breathing, corporeal beings of the living world to commune with the spirit dimension, but for spirits to cross the veil, not so. Very often their words came out cryptic or garbled, voices distorted or so quiet as to be unheard; sometimes they could only make their presence known physically – like knocking a picture off a wall or rapping on doors; messages were often written in archaic or foreign languages and in whatever medium came to hand, like traced into dirt or on a steamy window or scratched into someone's forehead.
Or in this case, their wall.
And the coin? Bobby considered the tiny gold disc in his hand. An incentive maybe, to compel Bobby to break the binding spell, or … his heart sank as the possibility crossed his mind … compensation for a grievous loss?
He snapped back into his purpose. Maple Museum was only about two hours away, so why was he still sitting here moping around with his thumbs up his ass? He snatched up the keys to his truck and drove like a man possessed.
Bobby crept through the dark and deserted museum; a thin film of dust had settled over the buildings' abandoned galleries since his last visit and as he picked his way cautiously and quietly through the empty halls, the packed and covered exhibits stood around him like silent witnesses to the museum's neglect.
He suddenly realised that, despite mulling over every possible eventuality in his frantic mind on the drive over, he had absolutely no idea what he was going to find here. The emperor's message had given nothing away. He had no guarantee he was going to find the boys, alive and well, alive and unwell or even at all.
It was with no small sense of trepidation therefore that he stepped into the shadows of the depressingly familiar Roman Antiquities chamber, and halted in his tracks when he heard a sound that warmed his heart and sent a chill down his spine at the same time.
Tripping over his feet as he rushed through the gloom, Bobby dashed in the direction of the sound, which seemed to have come from behind the massive stone carving where the whole nightmare had begun days ago.
The sight that met him as he charged around the side of the sculpture made his blood run cold.
Sam sat slumped against the tall glass case, listing sideways over Dean's still figure which half-sat, half-lay beside him, leaning heavily into Sam's bruised and bloody side.
Bobby sucked in a quiet gasp as he skimmed the flashlight over the two motionless bodies and got a first look at the damage; damage that they had inflicted on each other by their own hands. Because that's what Bobby had told them to do.
His eyes began to sting; in weeks to come he would swear it was the dust.
He dropped to his knees beside them, ignoring the crackling of his protesting joints; "hey boys," he whispered, gently patting Dean's blood-caked face; "you're home - can y' hear me? Holy hell boys, tell me you can hear me."
A quiet throaty groan rumbled through Dean's bruised and bloodied chest and Bobby watched as his eyes flickered open, gazing without focus through Bobby's face and closing again almost immediately.
Scraping a shaking hand over his beard, Bobby scolded himself; "c'mon Singer, get a goddamn grip."
His mind whirled as he surveyed the two bruised and battered figures. slicked with an oozing crust of blood and sand and barely conscious, they were both clearly alive but dazed; certainly not lucid; neither brother had yet acknowledged Bobby's presence. Did they need a hospital? Could they be moved? More to the point, was it really advisable to call an ambulance? Explaining away two guys battered half to death, lying unconscious on the floor of a closed and locked museum dressed as gladiators? Yeah, Bobby was a gifted flimflam artist, but that? That would test his powers of invention to the limit.
Better, if it were possible, to get them home to his place, get them out of this godawful S&M gladiator crap, cleaned up and dressed in some sensible gear then he could spin some yarn to medics about a bar fight or a car crash or at least something within the realms of sanity should the need arise.
With a renewed sense of purpose, Bobby reached out to squeeze Sam's shoulder; "you're okay son, all over now – gettin' you home."
Muttering an awkward apology to both brothers, he tugged open the tight straps across the brothers' chests and efficiently conducted quick manual checks, feeling for broken ribs, back injuries and obvious signs of any internal damage.
Once he had satisfied himself that the brothers' injuries didn't appear to be immediately life threatening, and buoyed by the fact that both men had begun to move; Sam reacting vacantly to Bobby's voice and Dean incoherently protesting his wandering hands, he made his decision – get them home and think once again about their wellbeing there.
Taking a deep breath he stooped deeply, leaning into Dean, grabbing his arm and apologising gruffly as he slipped an arm beneath his knee before hoisting him up into a fireman's lift.
He stood slowly, stumbling sideways and shifting his load until he had regained his balance, working hard to convince himself that having a half-naked gladiator wrapped around the back of his head wasn't in any way awkward.
Bobby was impressively strong for a man of his vintage, but Dean was heavy; jeez it was like the kid was stuffed with lead. Bobby cursed silently under his breath as he slowly staggered rubber-legged under his weighty burden through the museum's winding corridors toward his truck making a mental note of his medical insurance number for the extensive spinal surgery he was sure he was going to need when this was all over.
His heart sank when he reminded himself he still had to go back for Sam …
Bobby dropped a bloodstained facecloth into the bowl of tepid, pink-tinged soapy water beside him and stood, stretching the kinks out of his abused back. It was clear to see that both the boys had lost weight during their ordeal, but they both still weighed a freakin' tonne. Bobby's back wasn't going to let him forget this night, he guessed; not for a long time.
The brothers lay in the room's two beds, sleeping relatively peacefully. Bobby's time spent cleaning and treating their injuries had laid bare the full extent of the damage and it made Bobby sick to his stomach to see their bodies criss-crossed with bloody wounds and stained with darkening bruises. He looked down on their faces, marred by signs of the brutality they had been forced to endure; Dean's broken nose and split lip and Sam's bruised and swollen cheekbone, black eye and broken tooth, and bit back a tirade of obscenity.
Pouring himself a coffee, he settled into a chair beside the beds preparing for a long night of watchful care.
It was around eight in the morning when Bobby heard Sam stirring; the springs in his ancient bed groaning under his weight.
He glanced up at Bobby, through his one good eye that wasn't swollen shut, blinking blearily as if he couldn't quite process what he was seeing.
Eventually he spoke; "Bobby?"
Bobby let loose a deep sigh of incalculable relief. ""hey son, it's darn good to see ya at last."
Sam blinked again, wincing as a he brought a hand up to touch his swollen eye. "oh man, it's good to see you too. I thought it was a dream."
Bobby shook his head; "It's all me son, it's real," he offered a glass of orange juice to Sam; "drink this," he coaxed, "looks like those sonsofbitches were starving ya."
'Didn't feel like it', Bobby's back reminded him.
He turned when he heard the rustle of blankets and a soft groan from the other bed, to see Dean looking quizzically across at him, only his eyes and the top of his tousled head visible from under the quilt.
"Bobby? S'at you?"
"It's me," Bobby grinned, reaching for a second glass of juice.
Dean grimaced as he snuffled noisily through his bloodied, swollen nose.
"You got pancakes?" he mumbled hopefully.