The Winchester Legacy
Out of habit, Bobby checked the wall clock as one of his phones rang. His brain automatically calculated time zones. As the go-to man for supernatural lore and for portraying any number of Persons of Authority for various hunters who needed fake ID backup, he was accustomed to keeping track of the time across the country. There was always a 2- or 3-hour window of potential timeframes, depending on where the call originated and the time of year.
Clock said it was 11:30. Four hours since breakfast; he had it in mind to start lunch in another thirty minutes.
Then he realized it wasn't one of his FBI/PD/CDC phones ringing, but his personal number. So when he answered, it wasn't with a fake name and tones of officialdom. Nor was it the business number for Singer Salvage. He answered as himself. Plain old Bobby Singer.
For a moment he heard nothing. Then finally an indrawn breath, quiet, but choppy and unsteady. "Bobby?"
The tone was thin. Pinched off. And then Bobby felt throughout his body the wash of dread, the chill of disbelief; the distant promise of grief to come. "Sam?"
"—Bobby . . . uh . . . "
He waited. Heard in the background the unmistakable sound of a hospital PA system.
Bobby felt the unaccustomed sting of tears at the back of his eyes. Remembered what Sam had said, what he himself had said, the day before.
'There's nothing to fix. The frame's a pretzel, and the engine's ruined. There's barely any parts worth salvaging.'
'Listen to me, Bobby. If there's only one working part, that's enough. We're not just going to give up on...'
Bobby had meant the Impala. But Sam . . . Sam had meant his brother.
And now? Bobby knew what Sam wanted to say, but probably couldn't. He also knew he needed to let Sam approach it in his way, to voice it himself, when he could manage it, rather than Bobby trying to put his own words in front of the boy's.
My God, but it hurt.
He hadn't seen them for years. A cocked shotgun because he and John Winchester had butted heads. Separation from John hadn't meant so much other than passing regret now and then, and the brief heat of anger transmuted to annoyance, but those boys? Yeah. He'd missed them for a good long time. And then they were back but a week before, strong and tall and grown, men themselves. And now . . .
"Bobby . . . he's gone."
Bobby stared hard into the distances, tried to compose himself. There were things he wanted to blurt out, but did not. Sam knew what he'd lost. So did Bobby.
God, but he knew.
Dean was—what? Twenty-five? Twenty-six? Too young, much too young, that was for damn sure.
Tears stung. Bobby drew in a trembling breath, steadied his voice. Went about business the way all hunters did. "I know how much your brother meant to you, Sam. I can't tell you how sorry I am."
Sam's breath hitched. "No . . . no, Bobby. It's Dad. It's Dad—"
Bobby felt his knees wobble. They literally gave, until he locked them back into place. He put out a hand, caught the edge of his desk, sat down very hard and awkwardly. "John—?"
"They don't know . . ." Sam sounded so much younger than his years. "They're going to do an autopsy. They said it may have been a clot from the injuries. But—he's dead. Bobby . . . Dad's dead—"
All Bobby could think to do was get to the hospital as fast as possible for the youngest Winchester, who never had wanted to be in the middle of this war. "I'm comin'," he said. "Hold on, boy—I'm comin'. "
The young nurse didn't know him. The older nurse did; she'd seen him a time or two when he'd come in a little busted up. Working a salvage yard and being an actual game hunter, as opposed to a hunter in supernatural terms, had bought him a greater acceptance of his presence in hospitals than might otherwise exist, because injuries occurred in both professions. And so the older nurse nodded, twitched her mouth in faint regret, told him where he could find the Winchester boys.
It was ICU, which did not surprise him; Dean was in a coma. But what met his eyes was nothing short of unbelievable.
Sam, yes; he expected that. But Dean conscious? Sure, he was slumped against the elevated back of a hospital bed and a stack of pillows, pale as death with a livid, stitched laceration stretching from hairline to eyebrow in addition to bruises and scratches . . . but he was conscious. No vent tube down his throat, no NG tube to push nutrients directly to his stomach, as Sam had described the day before. He was mostly upright, and clearly awake. Alert.
And he looked . . . lost. Utterly, incomprehensibly lost.
Sam had left the life. Sam had gone off to college. Dean had always been bounded by the brilliance, by the obsession, that was John Winchester. And with John dead . . .
Bobby felt the thump of grief behind his breastbone. It was one thing to have a falling out with a tough bastard because you were as stubborn as he was. Another thing entirely to know the man was dead—and had left behind two sons he spent a lifetime raising. Training. Shaping.
Bobby had not always agreed with John Winchester's parenting. But he understood it—and while you might fault a man's techniques, you couldn't fault a man who'd lost his wife to a demon for bringing his sons up to understand what the supernatural was all about, and its many dangers, when the Winchesters were themselves at great risk.
John's boys would have been dead one hundred times over without their father's training.
Now? Now Dean lay slumped in a hospital bed, somehow out of a coma so profound the doctors had said there was little hope; and Sam, seated beside his brother's bed, battered and worn, trying to support his brother while also dealing with a grief, and a loss, that was, as yet, impossible to grasp.
Bobby paused in the doorway. It was enough movement that they noted it. Sam's eyes brightened just a tad; but then, he'd known Bobby was coming. Probably he'd told Dean, but John's oldest was in no shape to comprehend the nuances of Bobby's presence.
His eyes, rising to meet Bobby's, were as painfully eloquent as anything the aging hunter had ever witnessed. The kid had always had expressive features. He was grown now, obviously a man, but his eyes were the same. Beyond the mask of charm, the laughter, the distractions, Dean had always told the truth with his eyes. If you knew how to seek, and find it.
Sam had looked to Dean as his world, when he found his father lacking. He had found a way out, a different life. But for Dean . . . for Dean, that world, that life, had always been John Winchester. Nothing more, nothing less.
Bobby met Sam's eyes. He saw in them acknowledgment that, in the midst of his shock, Sam had left out a massive piece of information. And yet there was also knowledge in Sam's eyes that despite him leaving out that information, it was a good surprise. A good thing to discover. In the midst of tragedy and grief, a son and brother survived when it was said he could not.
What more could a man ask, than to leave behind himself, in death, children worthy of his name, of the task he'd undertaken? The Winchester legacy.
It was, Bobby thought, wholly ironic, and so very tragic, that John should die of a medical incident rather than in battle against the supernatural. The man would have died for either of his sons, Bobby knew. But he'd never been given the choice.
John would have wanted to die fighting the demon, than die because of a failure in his body.
Bobby took off his cap, ran a hand through his hair, resettled the hat as he tugged on the bill.
"You boys'll come home with me," he said. "I won't hear of anything else." He looked at Dean, wanted to say many things, but spoke none of them. "The car's there, son. She's wantin' your attention."
Something shifted in Dean's eyes. Behind the sheen of tears, there was understanding.
Come home, Bobby thought, as he looked upon them both. My poor, broken boys . . . come home.
So little he could offer, in the face of such grief. But it was all he had. He hoped—he prayed—it might be enough.
For tonight. Maybe tomorrow.
For as long as they needed.
~ end ~