"Yeah, it's me."
"You don't usually call. What's the matter?" The man on the other end sighed deeply. "Come on man tell me."
"The Winchester boy."
"Yeah." Bobby's body went cold with the confirmation. Mark was a doctor that Bobby sent hunters to when there was no other recourse. He didn't ask questions and he accepted a variety of payments in kind for his services. Mark was a damn good doctor and he never called Bobby unless there was a problem. It must be really bad.
"Dean." Mark started. "Dean came to me complaining of not feeling so well, well I did tests and he…he's sick Bobby."
"How sick?" Singer was a realist, and he knew that it wasn't something as simple as a cold or the flu, but just for a second he wished he was a man who was prone to bouts of optimism and hope.
"Like, not going to make it much longer sick." Bobby fell back against the chair he was sitting on; he could actually feel the blood drain from his face.
"John fell off the radar."
"What do you mean?"
"Dean doesn't know where he is."
"That boy is always on his daddy's heals."
"I think John got wind of the demon and abandoned Dean."
"And Sam is at Stanford."
"Yeah. And Dean isn't going to tell him I don't think."
"What?" Bobby asked incredulously.
"He doesn't want Sam bothered, threatened to kill me if Sam got any wind of the news. And Bobby, sick or not sick, I think that boy would use his last breath to take out anyone who hurt his brother's chances for happiness."
"Yeah, the idjit values Sam more than his own life." Bobby ran a cold hand down his face and when he looked down at his hand he realized that it was shaking. This couldn't be happening. It simply couldn't. "Did he say you could tell me?" Bobby finally asked.
"All he said was that he was heading to your house. I wanted to give you a heads up, and I wanted you to see if there was anything on the supernatural front that could help the boy. Because on the medical front, he…he's simply dying Bobby. His body just can't survive this."
"What is it?"
"Yeah. All I can say is that I gave him pain meds for when he's at the end. He will be in a lot of pain when the end comes."
"I'll take care of him. Thanks Mark."
"No problem Bobby." Bobby hung up the phone and looked around his house. He could see the ghost of child Dean in the kitchen fixing cereal for his little brother, teen Dean drinking a beer in front of the television, laughing at something on the idiot box. He pushed the memories away, and focused on the present. He had to figure out how to help Dean.
Dean arrived at the salvage yard a day or so later, and he came in with all of his usual swagger and charm. He tried to tell Bobby that he was in between hunts and he just wanted to check in with the old man. He went to the kitchen and got a beer out of the refrigerator, leaned against the counter crossing one boot clad foot over the other, popped the top off of the bottle with his ring, and then took a long draught from the bottle.
"So what's new?" Dean asked.
"Your cancer." The bottle didn't make it to his lips a second time. It ended up on the counter behind him, arms spread, hands clutching the edges of the counter top, and his head hanging.
"I don't want to talk about it."
"We will talk about it."
"Or what? You'll ditch me? Too late Bobby, everyone already has. It doesn't matter. I didn't think I'd get to live older than 30 anyway. Doesn't matter." Bobby crossed the distance quickly and grabbed Dean's shirt in two fistfuls and brought his face mere inches from his own.
"Boy. Don't you ever act like I don't care about you. When Mark called, the news just about brought me to my knees." Bobby was shaking him now. "I want to know what is going on. You will be staying with me. You aren't to hunt anymore. You are to stay here and just be a kid. You are going to…"
"You're not my father."
"No, your father is God knows where, hell bent on revenge."
"What if I don't want to stay here?"
"And go where? Act like a dog and go away to die? Go in the middle of the woods and let yourself get eaten by a Wendigo?"
"Better than watching myself wither away and die. At least that way I'll die strong."
"Boy. Boy. There is more to being strong than dying with your body intact."
"Not for a soldier."
"You are a person first." Dean looked down clearly not believing him. Bobby shook him again. "You are a person Dean Winchester. And you are going to stay here. You are going to have a stable life for once in your life. There is no arguing. This will happen. I can disable that car of yours and I will."
"I'll walk out of here." He said with his last ounce of defiance.
"No you will not." Dean licked his lips and looked into Bobby's eyes and Bobby read the fear in them as clearly as reading a book.
"I'm scared Bobby." He said softly and the elder hunter let go of his shirt and held the child a fierce hug that he hadn't given since Dean was small and had broke down after the whole shtriga thing. Dean was suddenly that child again, and Bobby Singer cursed John Winchester for not seeing Dean as what he really was. He missed this boy's childhood, teen years, and now he was going to miss what was left of his son's life.