Supernatural isn't mine
A small announcement: it's fairly likely that I will stop posting my fic at this archive once The Crow on the Cradle is finished. My fic will still be available at my LiveJournal, which can be found at kroki-refur dot livejournal dot com. You don't have to have an account there to read or comment.
As for this fic, it's a tag for All Hell Breaks Loose and contains spoilers for both parts. It makes reference to events in my previous story, The Hardest Thing You'll Ever Learn, but it's not necessary to read that one to understand this one. Hope you enjoy!
These External Manners of Lament
Bobby's a good two hundred yards into the trees at the edge of town before he admits defeat. He's a good tracker, even though his skills are rusty, but it's dark as the pit of Hell in the woods and the guy's gone, he's just gone. Bobby needs to get back, anyway, needs to help Dean get Sam patched up and back to the car. He wants to beat the shit out of the guy, whoever he is, knows Dean will want words with him too, but he puts that aside, because those boys need him right now .
He's not a young man any more, and it takes him a good ten minutes to get back to where he left Dean. It's lighter out here in the open, between the buildings that lurch like drunken ghosts, but even so, his eyes aren't what they once were and it's not until he's almost on top of them that he sees the way Dean is holding his brother, just holding him, clinging like he's trying to make himself a part of Sam. Dean's face is buried in Sam's hair. Bobby stops, stands still, and feels the world break around him.
Sam's heavy. That's no surprise, of course, it's obvious; Sam's six foot five, for Christ's sake, and Bobby well knows that most of that is muscle. All the same, it comes as a shock, how heavy Sam is, and he realises that the last time he carried him was years ago, when Sam was just a skinny sixteen year old, bleeding all over the car, Bobby's couch, his family. That was the last time, but not the first; back when he was still the smallest member of his little tribe, Sam loved to be held, and Bobby always acted like he didn't like it, but he would give anything to have that solid weight of child in his arms again now.
That's not what he has, though. He has six foot five of man, the man Sam became. He has six foot five of nothing, and maybe that's why it's so strange that Sam is so heavy, because there's nothing in there. He's not even taking the brunt of the weight – Dean's doing that, just like he always has, arms wrapped around Sam's torso, supporting Sam's lolling head like somehow that'll help – but it's enough, the weight of Sam's life, everything Sam is, everything Sam was. This is all that's left.
Bobby's not a young man, not any more, but he bears the weight without complaining.
Bobby knows Dean isn't going to make it.
It's not that Bobby's melodramatic – he likes to think he's the opposite, and certainly compared to any given Winchester, he's the picture of pragmatism – it's just that he knows what it's like to be a man with nothing to lose, and he knows Dean. John's loss hit the boy hard, but this, this is something different. Sam and Dean have been SamandDean for as long as Bobby's known them, as long as Sam's been alive if Bobby's any judge, maybe even longer. Twenty-four years of SamandDean and now there's just Dean. Sam is laid out in the back of the car, but Sam is gone, and when Bobby looks in Dean's eyes, he knows Dean's as good as gone, too, that it won't be long before it's SamandDean again.
Bobby's lost one of John's boys tonight; he's damned if he's going to lose the other one, too.
There's an abandoned house on the other side of town from Bobby's place. Bobby's checked it out a few times, made sure nothing's coming out of the woodwork there, and it's good enough, roof is sound, well out back. They don't know what's going on, what's coming, what happened to Sam in Cold Oak; Bobby doesn't want Dean at his place, where anyone might come looking for him.
They lay Sam on the bed. The mattress is old and torn, and Bobby wishes they had something more comfortable for him, catches himself thinking it, tries to put things in perspective; it doesn't work.
Dean sits on a chair and stares; Bobby leaves him be. He can't help, not yet. He's not Sam.
Dean hasn't eaten since Sam went missing. Bobby doesn't want to leave him alone, but he doesn't want him to starve, either, so he goes out, brings back Chinese. He eats half, watches the back of Dean's head. There's no electricity, and the light from the little gas lamp Bobby brought in from the Impala doesn't reach as far as the bed. Bobby's both glad and disappointed – he doesn't want to watch the colour leave Sam's face, but at the same time, he does, he wants to take those last moments, his last chance to see Sam. They're not his to take, though; they belong to Dean.
In the morning, Dean's half of the food is untouched, and Bobby goes out again, gets pizza this time. Sam's been gone ten hours, and Dean hasn't moved from the chair, hasn't said a word. The morning light shines in, and Bobby's missed his chance – Sam's skin is grey, and there's no mistaking it now, no way to pretend, even for a moment. Bobby lays the pizza on the table and leans against the wall, feels like maybe everything that's wrong and unjust about the world is lying there on that bed, sitting on the chair beside it. He can't let himself break, though; Dean needs him. Bobby's not a young man, not any more, and sometimes he wonders if he ever was. Dean is a young man, and Bobby wants to see him grow old.
It's been two days, and Bobby's brought chicken this time. Dean's found a bottle of whiskey from somewhere, and his skin looks greyer than Sam's. Bobby's scared now, real scared, and not just because it seems like this really might be the end of the world; Sam's been gone two days, but what used to be him is still lying on the bed like Dean thinks maybe he's just going to wake up.
When Dean tells him to leave, Bobby knows he's failed. He's not psychic, hell, he's not even fanciful, but he's pretty sure when he walks out the door that it's not going to be long now before it's SamandDean again.
In the event, it turns out he's right.
Bobby parks his truck by the side of the road in Wyoming. It's three hours since the gates of Hell opened, since John Winchester walked right on out like the stubborn bastard he always was, since Dean killed the thing that's been haunting the Winchester boys their whole lives, but Bobby's not thinking about any of that. He's thinking about opening his door and seeing SamandDean. The pit in his stomach, because he knew Dean had done something monumentally stupid, and the flush of guilt, because he was glad. Anger and fear and relief and joy, all tangled into one, and isn't that always the way with Winchesters?
The Impala flashes by on the road, two heads silhouetted in the front, an arm waving out of the window. They're screwed, but those boys have been screwed their whole lives, and somehow, they always pull through. Bobby's not a young man, not any more, and he's seen a lot in his life, a lot of deaths, has long since schooled himself against hope. All the same, if there's another word for the feeling in his chest, he doesn't know what it is.
Bobby leans his head against his arms and lets himself break.