I was a mess. I went out as far as I could into Bobby's yard, hoping to find nowhere somewhere, so nobody would find me. Dean was still rebuilding the car with something approaching manic zealousness and I was trying to not throw up every time I thought of Dad.
Back at the far back of the yard, I found some rusted hulks near a stockade fence I bet nobody has been near since before I was born. The ground was hard and the weeds were monumental and I found a spot between a Gremlin and a Rambler that seemed like it would keep me from prying eyes, and I sank down with my back against the Gremlin and my guts twisting up like somebody was trying to lace boots with them.
Dad thought I hated him. Dad died thinking I hated him. He sent me out of the room so he could talk to Dean. He didn't need to talk to me. He didn't want to talk to me. He didn't even want to fight with me anymore he was so through with me. He didn't even know I tried to save him after he collapsed. He didn't know I didn't hate him. And I didn't know if he didn't hate me.
I wasn't gonna cry. I wasn't gonna cry for somebody who wouldn't have cried for me.
No, it wasn't always that way. I remember when Dad was still Daddy. I remember when I'd climb into his lap as soon as he sat down and he'd hug me so tight I couldn't breathe and I didn't mind. I remember when he was a giant who could pick me up with one hand, and he'd toss me up and catch me again. I remember when he'd find me reading something and sometimes he'd have the slightly bored, slightly annoyed tone, "We've got work to be getting done." And sometimes it was the slightly amused, actually proud tone, "What're you learning now?"
I remember when Dad did still love me.
So, I cried. Sitting with the Gremlin and the Rambler among the weeds that would hurt me if they fell on me, I cried for the Daddy I lost years ago, and for the Dad I'd lost less than three weeks ago.
It hurt, all the missed chances, all the lost time. Maybe if I'd come home from school once in awhile, no matter what Dad said, maybe things would've been different. I didn't know how they'd be different, but maybe they would've. Or maybe I could've gone to school online. Lots of people do it. Maybe I didn't have to go away to school. Maybe – maybe – maybe.
I got so angry, so frustrated trying to make something better that wasn't my fault to start with I thought I was going to have a panic attack. I had to fight the urge to pull my hair out and start screaming. I didn't have anything. Dean had his car and his anger and his memories. I didn't have anything that connected me to Dad except the brother I couldn't even talk to right now. I didn't have anything.
I didn't hear the footsteps until it was too late to run or hide or even scrub my face dry.
I shook my head.
"Wanna be alone?"
I was set to nod. All the brain cells were firing necessary to make that gesture. Nod, my brain said. Nod.
But something else that wasn't my brain made me shake my head.
Bobby settled down on the ground near me. Not straight on, just off to the side a little where I didn't have to look at him if I didn't want to. He didn't say anything, he looked around at our surroundings for a minute.
"Please tell me I'm not paying taxes on this piece of paradise."
I smiled but that's all I could manage and it didn't last long.
"You thinking about your Dad?"
"Yeah." I wiped at the tears.
"I wish I had something I could tell you kid, something that would make it better. Truth is, it hurts and it's gonna keep on hurting. Probably as long as you're alive."
"No it's not."
"It ain't? What makes you say that?"
I didn't want to tell him. I already knew Bobby preferred Dean to me; I didn't want to give him any more reason to think that way. I wasn't gonna spill my guts to him.
"Just – I don't think Dad would want that. I think he'd want me to – just – keep going."
"And you will keep going. And beside all the love and pride you feel for your Daddy, and that he felt for you, there's always going to be a spot of pain there too."
"He didn't love me." So much for not spilling my guts.
"Kids always think that about their parents." Bobby didn't sound surprised or pissed or even mildly amused. "You know your Daddy loved you. You know how proud he was of you."
I figured I was supposed to give a soft-toned 'yeah I know' and maybe get all warm and fuzzy, but I couldn't. I just couldn't.
"No, I don't know that. And you want to know why? Because he never told me. He mighta told other people he was proud of me, strangers even, but he never told me. I got a full ride – a freaking full ride to Stanford – Stanford – and you know what he told me? That if I went to school, I shouldn't ever come back. How proud is that? How much love is that? I lost my home, I lost my family, I had nowhere to go. Weekends, holidays, summers – I had nowhere to go. For two years I had no letters, no phone calls from Dean. Nothing. And I never got anything from Dad. He wasn't proud of me, he didn't love me. I was just supposed to shut up and stay in the back seat of the car and do what I was told. You think that's love? You think that's pride? 'Cause I sure as hell don't."
"Yeah I heard about that." He said it like I'd said I got a flat tire on my way to the store. "Sounds like things got pretty nasty."
"Huh – uh yeah."
"You wanna know why it was nasty?" Bobby asked me. "You wanna know why your Daddy was so hard on you?"
"I do know – because I wasn't doing what I was supposed to be doing. Because I wasn't gonna let him control me anymore. Because he wanted me just as far away from him as he could get me."
"No y'idjit. He threw you outta the house because he wanted to protect you, he wanted you to be able to survive out there in the real world."
"Oh yeah. And that makes all the sense in the world. Protect me by disowning me. Right."
I was expecting at some point that Bobby was going to have enough of me and either yell at me or storm off. But he kept talking like he was explaining something to me, like he was answering a question I'd asked him.
"Y'seen butterflies haven't you? Y'seen cocoons and how caterpillars turn into butterflies, right?"
"Yeah. Yeah – that was a science experiment at one of the schools I went to. We got to watch 'em hatch. Or – or whatever it's called."
"Good – you remember seein' how hard they had to fight to get out of the cocoon?"
"Yeah – I guess." It sounded familiar anyway.
"Did you know that if you help a butterfly out of its cocoon, it'll die? It won't be able to survive. It needs to fight to get out of the cocoon or it won't be strong enough to fly once it's free."
Bobby gave me a look like I was being intentionally dense.
"You never spent day one on your own before you went off to school did you? Did you even spend one night not sleeping in the same room with Dean? Were you ever farther than one shout or one phone call away from either him or your Daddy?"
"Sure. Probably. Maybe. I don't know." This was annoying me. "What're you getting at?"
"You know, it wasn't just spooks and spirits and demons your Daddy wanted to protect you from. You do know that, don't you? Just living every day in the regular world can be hard. Being out on your own for the first time can be damn near impossible. Now I'm not saying John came to this realization logically and rationally. I think it was pure instinct. But he knew you were leaving and he knew – the way that sometimes only Daddies know – he knew that if he didn't make you fight for it, you'd never survive on your own."
"I woulda survived. I woulda survived a whole lot better if I'd had my family on my side."
But I thought about it. I started college when I was nineteen, a year older than most of the other freshman I started with, but I remembered how young I felt around a lot of them. I remembered how much I hated the ones who could call their parents for anything they needed. I remembered all the times I would've picked up and run home if I could have because the work was too hard, the days were too long, the nights were too lonely. Bobby must've read my face.
"Those first days or weeks or even months, were hard weren't they? A lot of times you thought about packing it in."
"But whenever things got bad, what'd you do?"
"I'd think what a jerk Dad was and decide again that I was gonna show him."
Bobby nodded like I'd said something profound.
"John loved you, he was so damned proud of you -." His voice caught there. "Kid, I wish he could've told you. He did the best he could and you and Dean don't seem to have turned out too bad for all that John Winchester was a typical clueless father. He musta done something right."
"Well, I've got a business to run and I better get back to it." He pushed himself up off the ground. "See y'back at the house. Supper'll be ready soon."
I didn't sit there long after he was gone. I walked back to the house and sat down on the couch with Dad's journal and went through it, page by page by page. Usual stuff. All the stuff I remembered. New pages in the back about the vampires. Some notes about the Colt. Some photographs. A few pages of things I couldn't decipher. Yet. And it felt like I was looking at it, touching it, for the first time ever.
Dad. All the things I never understood about Dad. And maybe he understood me a lot better than I ever thought he did. My Dad.
I was sniffling and wiping my eyes when Dean came into the room.
"Sam? What's wrong?"
Just for the fun of it I had to say,
"Bobby called me a butterfly."
"Bastard." He said it so seriously and so facetiously at the same time I had to laugh. "So -." He gestured with his head to the journal.
"Yeah. I just – I miss him. I wish I could – I wish I could've known him, as an adult. Maybe I would've understood better. Why he did what he did. Maybe I could've – shown him better – or told him – or – or…"
"You know what Sam?" Dean asked. He sat down next to me. "He knew. He knew. All right? Dad knew everything about you."
"Yeah. I guess he did."
"Good." He smacked my knee and stood up. "So flap those wings, Butterfly. Supper's waiting."
He managed to duck the book I threw at him.