Firefly 'Verse -- Fishing With Bobby 1/1
By: Suz Mc
It was a perfect day for fishing. Not too hot. Sun coming through the trees on the creek bank with no chance of a shower to send you running back to the house. Wind just easy enough to keep you from dozing off.
Not that there was much chance of Dean's kid letting Bobby doze off.
Emily had embraced fishing during this outing, much better than the first time he'd tried. That first day she'd shown up with Dean and Sam, the little girl had him on probation. After what she'd been through, Bobby didn't blame her. She had only stayed down at the creek for thirty minutes, constantly looking back toward the house, toward where Daddy was waiting. When Dean had made his way down to them after unpacking, she'd been off the sandbar like a shot, nerves calmed, relieved to know the constant she was counting on was still there.
Now, with her little girl faith confident in the safety of this little corner of the world, Emily was fully here and turning out to be an enthusiastic student. Bobby had snagged a couple of beaten up lawn chairs for them to sit on and his new fishing partner was swinging her legs back and forth in the breeze.
"Oops!" She said it with a sharp squeak after casting her line once again into the branches of a tree on the other side of the fishing hole.
"Lil Bit, there aren't any fish in that tree." Bobby had given up walking through the water to untangle her line after the first three times and had taken to snipping it clean and adding a new hook.
"Sorry," she said, with a slight giggle. "Aimin' is hard."
Emily held the faded pink fishing rod still while Bobby tied on a new hook and twisted another worm to his death on the point. Emily was watching him intently while he baited the hook. She watched everything intently. When he'd shown her how to cast, how to be careful of the sharp points, told her about how the fish were in the deep water, she'd fixed her stare on him like his words were the most fascinating story she'd ever heard.
"It's okay. Got plenty of hooks." He dangled the line once again and said, "How 'bout we just move down a little on the bank so that tree won't be so tempting?"
"Okay!" Emily hopped down from her seat and took off down the sand, waving her pole around and leaving her shoes behind. Along the way, the little girl took a detour out into the water, threw a few rocks, and spent a good long while pondering spent metal shell casings that were shining in the water.
Once Bobby had hauled her chair and his down the bank and relocated the tackle box and cooler to their new spot, Emily had lost interest in the water and was back in her spot beside him, ready to start again. As she flung the line across the creek, she let out a big "Whoo!" as the bait hit right in the middle of the dark pool Bobby had told her to aim for.
"Good job!" He tossed his own line near hers then leaned back to relax in his chair. He'd spent a lot more time down here on the sand in the past few years. Being idle was one of the triggers he'd learned to avoid in those hours spent baring his soul at AA meetings. Of course, he'd given edited versions of his life to the other drunks just like him, but the feelings were real. He'd lost and suffered and had pain and failure that would only be beaten into submission by a hunt or a bottle. But he'd gotten his shit together so some other younger man who needed his shit boxed up and labeled could see it was possible. So, if he wasn't hunting or towing wrecks or digging through ancient nightmares to rid the world of a monster, he was down here catching fish.
God, it sounded sweet to hear a kid say that again.
"I like fishing."
"And you're good at it, too." Good wasn't measured in fish caught or in accuracy. Good was measured in the amount of peace you could pile up around you on the sand.
Emily reeled in the line and threw it out again. She did that pretty much every sixty seconds, so there wasn't much chance that a fish would have time to bite her hook, but she was having fun casting and reeling so Bobby just decided to save that patience lesson for their next trip.
"Did my Daddy like fishing?" She was leaning over, elbows on knees, watching her line where it disappeared into the dark still water in the shade.
"'Fraid not. He had too many ants in his pants to sit still, but he did like pulling parts off the wrecks in the junkyard."
"Did Uncle Sammy like fishing?"
"Nope. He wasn't much of a fisherman either, so looks like you're my only fishin' partner."
Bobby reached down into the cooler and pulled out a couple of drinks. Emily popped the straw in her juice box and sipped silently for a time. She'd go for a good long while before between bursts of conversation, like she was just getting used to communicating again. The look on Sam's face when she'd plopped in the chair beside him in the kitchen that morning and said, "Hey," was priceless. Dean had stood in the doorway grinning like she'd split the atom. Her little voice was soft and light with a funny Texas twang to her words that made you smile just hearing it.
"Mama took me fishing but we used French fries instead of worms 'cuz worms made her gag. Fishes didn't like 'em, though."
"Fish ain't too bright, that's why they eat worms."
"My Mama got burned up and went to Heaven."
She said it in a matter of fact way, like Bobby didn't know anything about the horrific thing that had been wrought on her world by a demon. She looked over at him with those big brown eyes that had seen far too much for a child. Death. Evil. Violence. Fear. It was all in there trying to process itself into something that made sense.
"I know. I'm sorry." And he was. He was sorry that what he learned at twenty-five, Emily had learned at four. He was sorry that some bitch demon had ripped her life to shreds and this little girl knew that the world wasn't safe. Bobby had known normal for twenty-five years before Hell showed up at his door. Emily's life hadn't been normal from the get go, from the night a demon used her parents to make her. There wasn't much he could do about that. When Sam had told him about Emily's talents, he'd wanted Bobby to say he had a spell or amulet or trick that would make them go away. But he didn't and he was sorry.
"But I've got my Daddy." She went back to watching the water and swinging her legs. "I love my Daddy."
"And he loves you, kid," he answered, smiling at the honesty of her little girl thoughts as they bounced through her head and right out of her mouth. No filter, just feeling.
"Yeah. He's trying to learn the mama stuff and he says he's sorry a lot."
"Well, your daddy had to be your Uncle Sammy's mama when they were little." Bobby still had a clear picture of six year old Dean on the afternoon John Winchester had first shown up at his door. John was pumping Bobby for information about werewolves, oblivious to the effort his first grader was putting into protecting a toddler from the dangers of a junkyard.
"Silly! Only girls can be mamas!" She was giggling all over her body. "You're funny." The sad eyes were gone and the happy little girl was back.
Emily went back to fishing for approximately thirty seconds before she was distracted again. She was smart, this one, quietly taking in details, and she'd focused on the fishing rod in her hands.
Emily was focused on the time worn letters painted in a circle on the cover around the reel. The letters were faded from age but they were still there. The question caught him so off guard it set off a sharp pain in his head.
"You read that?" Bobby pulled off his cap and rubbed the pain with the back of his hand. Betsy. He'd forgotten her name was there. He hadn't heard anyone say it in so long it sounded foreign, strange.
"There was a Betsy in my pre-K and I remember what it looks like but I can spell all kinds of things. Who's Betsy?"
Suddenly he felt ancient, older than he should and his first instinct was the one he used over and over. Lie. Say he didn't know who Betsy was and that old rod came from a junk shop down the road. He'd found it in the back of a wreck. Some other little girl had left it on the bank. It fell out of a plane. A little bird dropped it. She'd believe any of those.
"Betsy was a little girl who used to live here." It was out now. Damn it. Not that he hadn't let it out in AA before. As a matter of fact, he'd sat in the basement of the Antioch Baptist Church and talked about Betsy but he'd called her Jenny just because he didn't feel like he could say her name to strangers and keep standing even if they were as screwed up as he was and would understand. Betsy. Saying it made her real again.
"Does she like fishing, too?" Emily cast out the line once more, thankfully not looking his way.
"No, she was too little to fish went I got this." But that hadn't stopped him from buying it and painting her name on it. Even after she was gone, he'd kept it hanging in the shed with his other fishing gear. Sometimes, when he'd been really, really drunk he'd bring it down to the creek with him and cast the line out into the water and stuff the handle into the sand. The line would lay limp and slack over the water and he'd watch it until he passed out.
"Where is she?"
"She went to Heaven a long, long time ago."
Betsy hadn't been in his head for a while and now she was back, fat and giggling. The pang of guilt he felt when he hadn't thought about her in a while rumbled in his chest. It was a betrayal not to think about her, even if it helped his sanity stay stitched together and kept him from driving to the liquor store. No one on earth remembered her except him and if he didn't it was like she never existed.
Now, Betsy was back, right here with Bobby and Emily. Crawling around and babbling baby talk in his mind. It was better than the other image of her that had haunted him for way too many years, choking out the happiness and leaving only a bloody twisted picture where Betsy's smiling face should have been. He'd learned to hold onto images of her splashing in the bathtub or spitting baby food all over the kitchen floor instead of that other picture in his head. It took work. It took being sober.
"That's where my mama is. Was Betsy your little girl?"
Jesus. This was his own stupid fault. He should have gone and gotten Emily her own fishing rod instead of trotting out this relic.
"Yes, she was."
That whole fucking nightmare day played out in fast forward in his head. Betsy gone. His wife gone. Life gone. One year later, he'd still been immobilized until he found out how good it felt to dish it out to a demon or a shapeshifter or any other evil bastard so somebody else didn't have to have their heart ripped out in front of them. It got his feet moving again, kept him from wrapping his lips around a gun barrel.
"Where's her mama?"
"Heaven, too." She should be. He hoped she was some place nice. None of it was her fault.
"I cry sometimes because I miss my Mama and my dreams are scary."
She wasn't about to cry at the moment. She was intent on winding her fishing line back to the bank so she could throw it again. Emily was just laying it all out there, telling the truth. Kids were brutal sometimes about laying the truth out there. No internal editor to get in the way. She was honest about fear and pain and it gave Bobby hope that she was going to be okay.
"That's okay, Lil Bit. You just cry if you feel like it."
"Do you have ugly dreams? I do but my daddy fixes those. Bad dreams are scared of my daddy."
Bobby had laughed when he'd caught Dean stretched out on a twin bed with Emily sprawled over him. It was the same bed Dean had shared with Sam, hand twisted in Sam's t-shirt so he couldn't move without him waking up. Bobby was pissed at John for leaving that to a little boy until he'd come back later to find John's hulking body clinging to the edge of bed holding onto both of them. It's why he finally agreed to teach John what he knew, so at least he could keep his kids alive.
"Daddy's are good at that. You be sure to tell your Daddy any time you feel scared and he'll fix it."
"Yeah." Her attentions shifted again and her train of thought jumped to another track. "Mama says you're not supposed to use people's stuff without asking. Does Betsy mind me fishin' with her stuff?"
"No. I'm sure she doesn't. In fact, I think she'd want you to have it. When we get back to the house, we'll go down in the basement where the paint is and we'll just put your name right here. How 'bout that?"
"Cool! I can have it?"
"Yep, it's all yours."
Bobby had barely gotten the words out when Emily jumped out of her chair, half scared, half thrilled, hanging onto her rod as the line went taunt. "Uncle Bobby! Something's pullin' me!"
"It's a fish! You got a big one!" Bobby wrapped his arms around Emily's body, helping her reel in the palm sized brem and it dangled shiny and wet from the end of her line. "Just look at that. As fine a fish as I ever saw."
"Can we eat it?" She was bouncing around on the sand like one of the puppies waiting back at the house. The skinny little fish was struggling as Bobby pulled out the hook and tried to hold on.
"We have to cook it first."
That made her giggle again and it felt good to make her giggle. It was going to take all of five seconds to cook the teaspoon of fish he'd have left after cleaning that pitiful little thing but he'd promised to cook whatever she caught and there was no getting out of it. Bobby dropped the fish into a bucket and Emily grabbed it up to gaze at it like it was a ten pound trophy. Something caught her eye and Emily took off running toward the trees.
"Uncle Sammy! Look!"
Sam was leaning against a tree, way too settled to have just arrived. Crouching down, he examined Emily's catch with a huge smile on his face. "That's some fish, Em."
"It's AWESOME! I gotta show Daddy!" With that, Emily ran up the path and headed across the open field toward the house to show off her prize.
Bobby set himself to gathering the supplies and avoiding Sam as he walked his way. It was one thing to carry on his conversation with Emily in private but the last thing he wanted was that boy, looking that way, to ask him about what he'd heard.
"Looks like Emily's a better fishing buddy than Dean and I were."
"Yeah." God, all he wanted was to get this shit gathered together and go. No meaningful conversation. "Dean get his business wrapped up on the phone?"
Sam stood there, arms folded, staring a hole through Bobby's back. He could feel Sam examining him like a mental patient through one way glass. "Yeah, Calley's agent was the executor of her estate and she's sending us all the paper work about Emily's inheritance and custody. According to Calley's will, Ariel is Emily's legal guardian but she signed the papers to transfer that to Dean. Once he signs the paperwork, Emily's all his."
"Don't need paper to make that last part real." Bobby tucked the lawn chairs under his arm and didn't look at Sam's face. He could still feel Sam's stare, though. Relentless. Shit. "How long you been standing there?"
"Long enough." Sam grabbed the cooler and the pink fishing rod Emily had left behind. "So your wife wasn't the only one who didn't survive her possession?"
The pink rod was held still in Sam's hand, Betsy's name in faded letters saying hello to them all, demanding to be remembered.
"No, she wasn't. The demon made her kill the baby first so I'd find her, then had Marly come after me so I'd kill her." Facts. Plain simple facts. Step one, step two, step three in a demon's Saturday night party plan.
"I'm sorry." Sam took the lawn chairs out of his hands like he thought Bobby shouldn't have to carry another thing today. The compassion was touching and painful at the same time.
"Yeah, me, too." He took back the chairs and grabbed the rod so he could hold it a bit longer before changing it from Betsy's into Emily's.
Sam took the hint, letting the moment fade away so Bobby could keep his head closed up from any more examination. Sometimes the boy had good sense.
"Are you really going to cook that fish stick?" There were walking back now, leaving conversations about demons and dead babies behind them.
"Damn right, I am. You don't break promises to little girls."
They made it up the bank just in time to watch Dean grab Emily and her bucket into his arms and make a big production over examining her fish. At that particular moment, they were both happy. It was a snapshot minute neither one would ever forget. When Emily was grown she'd remember this moment. Hopefully, Dean would live to be old and remember it, too.
One good memory like this weighed more than a truck load of bad ones. Weighed about the same as the pink fishing rod in Bobby's hand.
THE END…FOR TODAY