A/N: Bobby Singer gets psychic postcards from the Winchesters on the road. Italics indicate Bobby's visions. I also use a different verb tense. Hey, it's the very last chapter of Dog. Chapter title taken from "If You Never Say Goodbye", PM Dawn, Songs In The Key of X (X Files).
There's an extended Author's Note at the end of this chapter.
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, but boy, I wish I did.
Legs of a calf, head of a man
Eyes on the camera shaking everyone's hand
Vultures circle, and smack their lips
Sky goes black as the lightning rips
Stars are all mute, moon without pity
As waves of blood roll over the city
It's not a rehearsal, or special effects
It's the end of the story, it's what happens next
And I say (and I say)
It's coming any second
And I say, and I say
In the blink of an eye
And I say (and I say)
With a bang and a whimper
And I say it's okay
if you never say goodbye.
--- If You Never Say Goodbye, PM Dawn
Songs In the Key of X (X Files)
Dog Eat Dog
Epilogue – If You Never Say Goodbye (Bobby's POV)
It doesn't take Bobby long to pick up on the pattern. The emails and phone calls came later, but the dream visions come first.
It was midnight when he finally went to bed. That much he remembers. He's on his feet now, fully dressed, blinking under the mid-morning sun. He recognizes the terrain and the mountains in the distance. Desert southwest. Arizona, New Mexico, more than likely. He'd hunted out there in the beginning, years ago.
He knows his body is still in South Dakota. This is elsewhere. Elsewhen.
'bout time, Bobby grumbles to himself. You never call, and you never write.
It's a message, and Bobby accepts it.
He accepts it all.
That long battered brown leather duster Dean's wearing, the bear Dean's talking to.
It's a huge black bear one minute, standing upright on legs as thick as ancient tree trunks, a large bald black man wearing blue jeans the next.
"Take care of her for me, will ya? I owe you one," Dean says. The bear nods, and Bobby doesn't even blink.
Bear grins, bright and infectious, and claps Dean on the shoulder with one oversized hand. Dean doesn't even stagger, and that seems to please Bear even more. "I'll put it on your tab," the black dude rumbles, and he stands there staring at Dean for a moment longer.
Oh yeah. Awkward.
Dean fidgets. He looks wary. "What?"
"I'm seein' a side of you that I haven't seen before, Old Man. Being with this kid suits you."
Dean stares at him. "Dude, we're not gonna hug, are we?"
Bear chuckles, and slaps him on the shoulder again. A little more force behind it, and this time Dean does stagger a little. Bear snorts, and Dean shakes it off.
The Navajo woman sits there on the porch swing, and Bobby notices the change in Dean's attitude as he walks up the stairs towards her. He's not the lethal hunter Bobby's gone on hunts with. He's not a demi-god, either. There's something shy, almost awkward about Dean this time, and Bobby gets it. There's a connection between her and Dean. Family. Blood ties.
Bobby gets the feeling that Dean really wants to kneel in front of her, but she won't let him do that, not with Bear around, not with John and Sam standing over there by the corral with the horses, waiting. They're dressed for the road, for the hunt, saddlebags packed with John's journal, salt and silver, duffels filled with herbs and knives, blessed wood and amulets.
John holds the reins of a huge black mare and a tall red roan colt. Sam stands there stroking the neck of his big grey gelding as he watches his brother.
Bertha stands up as Dean walks up to her, and she smiles a little as she steps into his arms. The hug is fierce and lingering, meant to last for a while, it's I'm sorry I never meant for this to happen and It's not your fault and I'll bring him home, alive and safe, I promise. It's an age-old song. It's the hunter's lament.
Dean finally breaks first, steps back and nods. He turns and he doesn't look back. Dean strides over to his father and his brother, spurs jingling, moving easily with each step. He squares his shoulders, lengthens his stride. He's back in hunting mode now; all three of them are. There's a fire in their eyes, a smoothness to their every motion.
They've got work to do.
John hands off the reins of the big black to Dean, and John, Dean, and Sam mount up easily. Bobby's never seen any of them on horseback, didn't even know they could ride before this. Dean takes point, and they head off at a slow, leisurely trot, towards the mountains, towards the open country.
No backward glances. No last words.
There are some things you never say out loud in this business, and goodbye is one of them.
Bobby's alarm clock wakes him up, tinny and just as annoying as ever, and this time he cusses up a blue streak. Whatever else you might say about those Winchesters, they surely know how to make an entrance.
He stores the Impala in the shed out back in the yard.
His eyes water and his throat closes up a little whenever he's near that damn car.
He ignores it.
After the first few months, some mornings Bobby wakes up certain that the car's vanished during the night. That might have been John's way, but Bobby was pretty sure if Sam and Dean had anything to say about it, they'd knock on his door first, Sam all lanky and still somehow awkward, Dean all cocksure with that easy grace of his.
"Hey, Bobby. How the hell are ya?" They'd make small talk, then take their leave.
Bobby wouldn't have minded seeing that yellow glint in Dean's eyes. He figures he and the Old Man have reached an understanding, let bygones be bygones. Life's too short to hold a grudge.
He washes and waxes the Impala until it shines. He runs the engine for a few minutes every day. He doesn't turn on the radio or play any of Dean's tapes. That's too much like meddling, like taking over instead of taking care, and that's a line Bobby won't cross.
Don't sell the car, you bastard, John said with a slight grin. I'll kick your ass if you do.
If…when he ever lays eyes on John Winchester again in this life, Bobby promises himself he's going to knock Big John flat on his ass.
There were other items in his house that Bobby held on to. Tamara and Isaac's duffel. Daniel Elkins' bible. They took up space in his home, but Bobby didn't mind. They were fellow hunters, damn good people, every last one of them. It was the least he could do, and he did what he could.
He hears the rumors, of course.
John Winchester was dead. Dean Winchester died in a little town in Illinois. Dean dying was the last straw for baby brother Sam. Sam went up to the north country and committed suicide by fugly, courtesy of a wendigo. In other stories Sam and Dean were turned into werewolves during a botched hunt down south and they spend their nights prowling the 9th ward down in New Orleans.
Ellen calls after she hears that one. "Have you …have you seen Sam or Dean lately?"
She sounds hoarse, shaky, and Bobby's surprised at how calm he sounds. Ellen's steady, reliable, one of the few people Bobby would trust to have his back. She knows how to keep her damn mouth shut, so he tells her.
All of it.
It feels good to let it out, to talk about what happened in that godforsaken little town to another living person. Ellen sounds dazed by the time Bobby finally runs out of words. She promises to drop by soon so they can talk in person.
Bobby feels a little lighter after he hangs up.
The stories flow like a river throughout the hunting community. Depending on who you talk to both Sam and Dean were dragged down to hell by demons. John went down to bring his sons topside. He bargained with the devil to release his boys, stayed down there so they could come back, but they came back wrong. Both of them did.
Bobby listens, and he doesn't say much.
No one makes the connection. It's like hiding in plain sight.
Bobby never hears the name Winchester connected with any of this.
Robert Plant. Dave Matthews. Steve Winwood.
Elwood MacGillicuddy. Bobby smiles a little and shakes his head when he hears that.
The more things change…
Three men, two young ones and one older man. They move a little too quickly, seem to know what other folks are thinking even before it was said. It was said these three could communicate with each other without saying a word. They have guns and knives that kill demons. The green-eyed one with the charming crooked smile was said to be able to kill with the sound of his voice and call lightning down from the sky. All three could exorcise demons and spirits with the touch of a hand.
They save people. That's the bottom line. Bad stuff happens before they arrive. Once they're on the scene, all the badness and the killing of innocents stops.
All three of them are fuglies, depending on who you talk to. Hunters with abilities? Everybody knows there's no such thing.
It's also rumored that Coyote the Trickster is back.
He's inhumanly beautiful, yellow-eyed, and charismatic. News of his return is provided by various fuglies who've been caught, and they babble out the information, try to bargain with the hunters who've trapped them just before they're killed outright or sent back to hell.
Hunters all over the country perked up when they got the news. Coyote's legendary, one of the oldest, one of the First. They'd hang that thick brown pelt of his up on the trophy wall if they could, but no one can get a handle on him. He's searching for something, someone. He hunts and he kills evil with a vengeance.
Bobby uses his best poker face when he hears that one.
Eleven months later, and ain't life grand.
The visions come less frequently now, enough to make him start worrying. Once or twice a week in the beginning, down to maybe twice a month at times.
What little he does see scares the crap out of him.
Flashes of sharp jagged teeth and panicked humans with guns. The air's filled with blood and fear. Civilians caught in the crossfire between Dean and Coyote, John and Sam and God knows what. Nightmare things that shift into other shapes, both animal and human. Evil that kills their own flesh and blood, family members, and laughs as bones break and blood splatters.
Bobby sees Sam, Dean and John holed up somewhere. They've gone to ground, all three pretty much beaten to hell, and Dean caught the worst of it while he protected Sam and John as always. Not that they want his protection. Sam bitches at him, as usual. That much hasn't changed.
It's a cabin somewhere in the desert, and John's stretched out on the only bed, eyes glazed, wracked with fever, calling out for Mary. Dean and Sam take turns tending to him, their eyes dulled by pain and grief.
Sam falls ill not long after. He sits jammed into a corner, his skin flushed with fever.
Dean sits on the edge of John's bed, helpless, glancing from his father to his brother. Dean looks horribly young, lost and alone. He's feverish, and his hands shake.
Bobby draws a complete blank after that.
The days were the worst. Bobby wasn't much for taking a nap in the daytime. Waste of damn time, and besides with running the yard and taking care of his dogs there was just too much to do.
He starts to dread night time, not for what he sees when he closes his eyes, but for what he doesn't see. Then, just when Bobby's convinced things have gone south, and communication's cut permanently, Coyote shows up.
He keeps a distance away from Bobby. He looks like any number of coyotes who've ventured into the yard, only to be chased off by Condie or Rumsfeld2, except Coyote's twice as large as normal, twice as beautiful, and those eyes of his are wide and green, framed by ridiculously long dark eyelashes.
The Old Man's skittish. He nearly dances in place as he watches Bobby's hands and eyes.
I make this old boy nervous, Bobby thinks with amazement. He stays still, keeps his hands out at his sides where Coyote can see them.
Coyote lifts his head and their eyes lock. Despite that soft yellow glow Bobby can see Dean.
Coyote tilts his head to one side as if he's listening to something only he can hear. Then he smirks a little, shakes his head ruefully.
Keep your shirt on, he growls roughly, and that deep voice echoes inside Bobby's head. I'm comin', all right?
He looks at Bobby, and the smirk gets a little wider.
They said for me to tell you we're okay.
Bobby nods. Once.
Coyote turns around in a tight, quick circle and fades from view.
It takes Bobby a couple of seconds before he realizes that he's standing in the yard. It's broad open daylight, and he's been awake all this time.
Son of a bitch.
Dean sits his big black mare up on top of the hill, still as a statue, focused on the landscape below. John rides up next to him, trail dust speckling his boots and the legs of his red roan horse. "Well?"
"Down there," Dean nods. The black mare bows her neck like a warhorse, shifts her weight as she idly paws the ground with her left foreleg.
"Here there be dragons," Sam says quietly as he rides up on the other side of Dean.
Dean's all sun-bleached hair and light blond stubble. John's hair has grown out, almost to his shoulders. Sam's still shaggy, surprisingly older looking with dark stubble of his own.
"Yea, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we shall fear no evil, for we're the meanest sonsabitches in the valley," John says clearly.
Dean smiles and so does Sam.
They sit there for a moment, creak of leather, salt in their saddlebags, razor sharp silver knives and special ammo loads. Death and blood and vengeance. Justice and light. Dusty blue denim and worn leather marked with protection runes painted by fingers dipped in holy water.
They're in their glory now. Saving people. Hunting things.
"It helps if you don't fall off, Sammy," Dean calls out. His eyes glow golden, soft like the morning sunrise. He clicks to the mare, and she wheels around smoothly, on a dime. Stretches out in the sun like a cat, and they're gone.
John huffs. "You gonna let him get away with that?"
Sam's eyes narrow as he focuses on Dean and the mare as they pull away. "No, sir," he says smartly. He nudges the grey with his heels, and the horse leaps forward.
John allows Sam to get a few jumps ahead of him, then urges his red roan forward. He's not gonna let Dean get away with that, either.
Another dry spell, another blank spot that stretches on for a couple of weeks.
The last dream was nothing. Wishful thinking, maybe. There was a slow, careless, dreamlike quality that made Bobby a little uneasy. It was different from the rest, not as sharp or clear. It was like crossing over, but Bobby couldn't tell, crossing over from what to where.
That dusty road winds on forever, and they walk it three abreast, Dean in the middle, John and Sam on either side of him, and all three men walk relaxed and easy.
A large black bear lumbers in the dust in front of John. Coyote trots smartly in front of Dean. And over Sam Winchester's head a large brown hawk curves and soars in the bright afternoon air.
That morning Bobby gets up and spikes two six packs of beer with holy water.
He doesn't know exactly what it all means, but you can't be too careful.
He spends the rest of the day overhauling that truck engine. He thinks about going into town to gather supplies, but thinks better of it. He wants to stay close to home that day. No particular reason.
Doesn't make a damn bit of sense, but Bobby goes to sleep that night feeling that it wasn't time. Not just yet. Just because he wants it to be, doesn't make it so.
The next day Condie and Rumsfeld2 follow him out to the truck, and both dogs whine like month old puppies until Bobby opens up the passenger side door and motions for them to jump up.
He goes into town. Just on a whim Bobby picks up four cartons of fresh blueberries and the fixin's for pie crust and such. He used to bake pies. Was damn good at it, or so he'd been told.
You've gone Martha Stewart in your old age, old man.
Hours later, he cuts himself a slice and sits down at the kitchen table. He takes a bite and grins a little. It's a pretty damn good piece of pie.
He stops chewing when he hears the knock on the door. No commotion from outside, no dogs barking or anything, so at first he thinks he's misheard.
He swallows when the knock repeats itself.
Shotgun's underneath the table, and he grabs it. Just in case.
He opens the door, stops and stares.
"I'll be damned," Bobby grates out, and John's grin gets a little wider. "Knew you were comin', you son of a bitch."
The crack of his fist against John Winchester's heavily stubbled jaw is mighty satisfying. John staggers a little, but he doesn't go down.
So much for knocking him flat on his ass.
Behind them, Sam skritches Condie underneath her chin, right in the sweet spot, and the damn fool dog grins like a maniac.
Sam looks up and smiles. "Hi, Bobby." He goes back to scratching Condie and Rumsfeld2 sidles over, butts his head against Sam's leg, impatient for his own turn.
"Hey, Bobby. How the hell are you?" Dean drawls warmly. He shifts his duffel over to his right shoulder. There's a slight yellow glow in his eyes. The sun's overhead, so it could be natural highlights, or it could be Coyote.
Right now Bobby doesn't give a damn.
They're here. They're home. Alive and in one piece, and that's not a bad thing in this line of work.
Not a bad thing at all.
Dean immediately spots the pie cooling on the counter, and the other one on the table. He grins, bright and genuine. "Huh. Pie. So, you gonna eat all of that?"
A/N: Well, that's it. Dog Eat Dog is now Complete. I want to take this time to thank everyone who read and reviewed, everyone who sent me private emails, everyone who put me on their Author Alerts, Favorite Author, and Story Alerts, everyone who lurked. I met a lot of interesting and good people while I was writing this story. I had a ball, and I'm glad to know that you enjoyed reading it just as much as I enjoyed writing it. I love and appreciate every last one of you, and I will say it again, I could not have come this far this without you.
If you can, drop me a line and let me know what you think. I've got a sequel planned, in which the war against the Others is told from Coyote's POV. I'll start posting that one by the end of this week, I think.
Well, the music's started up and it's time to go. Thanks!