The sun was riding low in the sky when Bobby heard the throaty growl of the Impala coming up the driveway. He stepped out onto the front porch, the screen door slamming gunshot loud behind him. It was late summer, and thick clouds of dust kicked up behind the car as it prowled its way up the dirt road. The dust settled thickly on twisted heaps of metal, coating the inside of Bobby's nose and mouth. Sun burnt trees reached skeletal fingers towards the brown sky as the sun sank even farther towards the horizon.
Wordlessly, Dean stepped out of the car, handing Bobby the grimoire as soon as he reached the porch. Bobby took it from him, suppressing the shudder that ran through his body at the wickedness he could feel pulsing at his fingertips. Bobby had dug the book up for Dean because it was the only thing he could do for the boy he had known darn near his entire life. It was the only way Bobby could contribute to the last hunt Dean would ever have.
When Bobby looked at Dean, standing silent and forlorn on the front porch, he remembered when he first met him. The boy hadn't been more than six, all scrapped knees, freckles and big green eyes. He didn't speak much, only responding when you asked him a direct question. Mostly he just watched with those green eyes. Watched, and waited. Looking for a mother who would never come home.
He had wandered around the junk yard with a little boy's interest, walking slow so his baby brother could toddle around behind him. It had been summer the first time they met, and Sam was wearing nothing more than a sagging diaper. The kid would fall on his rear in the dirt, and Dean was there to patiently help him back up. It would have been easier separating the sun from the sky, than to pull apart those two.
It wasn't until later, after the misunderstandings between family began to creep up, did those two stand on opposite lines drawn in the dusty, summer dirt.
"Beer?" Bobby asked out of habit, already knowing Dean's response.
Dean shook his head, stepping off the creaky wooden porch, circling around to the back of the house. Bobby sighed, his heart heavy as he retreated into his home. He placed the book in a hidden catch before walking out the back door.
Dean was already at the far end of the property, kneeling beneath a huge oak that still had most of its leaves. After John and Sam's funeral pyres, Bobby had gathered up as much of their ashes as he could. He buried them beneath the oak tree, erecting a couple of nailed-together crosses as markers. He didn't bother with their names, just carved their initials in the center. No one would be coming to pay their respects to the dead hunters; everyone who had loved them were standing over them at that moment.
Bobby struck a nail in John's cross, looping his wedding ring over it. Twenty years and the man never took it off. He remained faithful to his dead wife in more than just memory. Sometimes, when Bobby allowed himself to sit down and think hard about it, he hated Mary. Her death had destroyed three lives. It wasn't her fault of course, and her sacrifice saved countless others as John traveled the countryside eradicating evil, but still her loss had changed the course of her family's lives forever.
It wasn't that John hadn't loved his boys; it was maybe that he loved them too much. In the beginning it had been all about avenging Mary, but in the end, Bobby thought it might have been more about protecting his boys. A part of John believed that if he could kill every evil son of a bitch that lived, he could prevent his sons from waking up one night and seeing their wives burning on the ceiling.
That obsession of seeing his sons safe was the very thing that tore them apart. While John was busy researching some piece of obscure lore or off hunting the nearest evil, it had been Dean and Sam who were left alone to depend on each other. It wasn't John who had steered Sam away from the sharp bits of metal and pieces of glass littering the junkyard when he had been a baby. It had been Dean. It had been Dean that grew up taking care of Sam, while his father hunted. Dean had always been in the middle, mediating their squabbles, until eventually he became nothing more than a wall between the two. It had been Dean that had been constantly looking over his shoulder for the thing in the dark, or maybe to catch a glimpse of his mother who he hoped would be right around the next corner.
John and Dean had always been a little bit broken; but it was Sam, their glue, that had kept them together. When Sam smiled it was like looking into the face of the sun. It made you feel warm inside, and the effect was a little blinding. A person could go through life waiting to see that sun. Bobby was sure the reason Dean started talking again, started interacting with the world in general, was because the sunshine smile of his little brother. The goofier Dean acted, the more Sam smiled, and the more right the world seemed.
When Sam was angry though, thunderclouds couldn't compete with the fearsomeness of his expression. Sam pulled the entire world down with his frown; and as he grew older, his frown was nearly a permanent part of his features.
Together the Winchesters were fractured, but relatively whole. There was something vital missing from them, a hole where Mary had been, but they could still function. As a united front they were strong, seemingly unbreakable; but in reality they were like a porcelain cup shattered and glued back together. It still worked, but it leaked out around the edges and chips were gone.
After John's death there was no way for the boys to pick up the pieces and try to refit everything back together. There were too many fundamental parts gone. Dean tried to do what he thought was best for his brother, but he had been wrong. Distance and separation destroyed them.
Dean knelt before the graves of his family, his head bent. Bobby stood behind him, staring sightlessly at the crosses. There was nothing he could do to repair what had been broken. There was no quick fix by cleaning out the fluids or a way to switch out the old parts with new ones. There was nothing to replace Dean's loss.
His family was dead. A mother killed by a demon's greed. A father killed by a son's fear. A boy killed by a brother's rejection.
Bobby dropped a heavy hand on Dean's shoulder. Beneath his palm he could feel fragile bones under thin skin. Dean had lost weight since the death of his father a year ago and in the last six months during his hunt for Meg he had become nothing more than a ghost of his former self.
Minutes seemed like hours, and the sun sank beneath the horizon of twisted metal cars. Bobby sighed deeply, squeezing Dean's shoulder.
He wondered about the inevitability of life. He thought hard about destiny. Was fate something that was predetermined, or had there been a chance that things could have been different? In another world, in another time, did they have a chance or was it written that they were to die broken beyond repair.
"I love you, son," Bobby whispered, and Dean's chin touched his chest.
Bobby walked away, made it all the way to his kitchen, before a single sob built up into his chest and escaped his throat. He took a beer from the fridge, barely registering the sound of the bottle cap clattering on the kitchen table as he opened it. He sat down heavily in a straight back chair, but didn't take a swig. Instead he stared blankly at the amber bottle, absently picking at the label.
A gunshot echoed through the scrap yard, and the new pup Bobby bought began to bark.
Bobby took a swig of his beer, ignoring the tears rolling down his face.