Disclaimer: Still not mine
They've been here for just over two weeks now. Dean hasn't said anything yet but Sam can tell he's getting itchy feet. He keeps looking through the papers and Sam has to admit he looks so much better nowadays.
The last flashback was three days ago. Sam doesn't kid himself. He knows his brother will continue to suffer for a long time. But the severity of the episodes has lessened and Sam's learning to recognise the signs.
He knows when Dean's shoulders stiffen, when the colour drains from his face and his breathing hitches Dean is on the cusp of another panic attack. Sam's learnt how to relax his brother, how to calm him down. It amazes him how simple it is. A few soft, reassuring words, repeated over and over in his ear, coupled with a firm hand on his arm and eye contact. Sam reckons most of the time he can get his brother back before the situation spirals out of control.
He's worked out most of the triggers. Some were easy. Like dripping water and the white noise from the television at shut down. Others were less obvious. Sam still has to be careful not to leave Dean alone for too long. He's okay for an hour or two but beyond that? Not so good.
Take Monday for instance. Sam had been so sure he'd be back within the hour. He felt guilty enough for going out but he'd been going stir crazy at the house. So he told Dean he was just going out for supplies.
But there'd been an accident on the way back and Sam got held up for over three hours while he waited for the road to be reopened. By the time he got back, Dean had retreated into himself, ignoring Bobby' pleas and cajoling.
It took Sam the best part of the afternoon to break Dean out of that one. It was a hard lesson for all of them and Sam still hasn't forgiven himself for it.
It doesn't bode well for a quick return to the hunt, he thinks, but maybe a simple salt and burn might do them both some good. They've imposed on Bobby's hospitality long enough and it's time to move on.
Dean wonders how to bring up the subject of leaving without setting Sam off on some over protective rant. The last two weeks have been restorative but he doesn't think he'll ever get back to being himself while they stay here. He needs to be out there being Dean Winchester - hunter. Staying here isn't going to help him rediscover his instincts.
Sam means well, he supposes, and he still needs him around a lot more than he'll ever admit, but there comes a point when a man has to say 'enough is enough' and suck it up. He's made a start and he's sure Sam's noticed him spending more and more time out in the yard with the cars. Bobby's been with him the whole time, maybe not in his back pocket but hovering with a cup of coffee or within earshot to pass a spanner or wrench. He's subtle about it, Dean admits, but over the last two days or so he's realised it's slightly irritating.
Dean can't really explain it but he feels safe out in the yard. Surrounded by crumpled steel and iron, husks of cars and trucks, he feels, if not invincible, at least in command. He's feeling more in control of things every day. Every so often he's taken over by rage, angry at Watts, angry at Sam, angry at himself. The yard gives him a safe haven to vent. Sam and Bobby don't question it when he lets loose on the shell of a pickup. They don't question the dents or smashed windscreens. They don't question the fresh scrapes and bruises on his knuckles.
But he's winning his battle against these rages. He's sure Sam would have an explanation for them but he doesn't really care. He just knows he feels better when he's released the pent up fury and he knows he needs to do it in solitude. Because anger is a personal emotion and he doesn't want to share it. He doesn't want to worry Sam because that would just result in a clingy, mother hen reaction from his brother.
Sam knows why Dean's been disappearing outside more and more often. He doesn't say anything, he's just thankful Dean has found an outlet for his mood swings. He knows Dean is going be running the gamut of emotions for some time and he's astute enough to know his brother won't appreciate any interference. Dean needs to work through some of this by himself.
But Sam also knows his brother has gained enough strength to come to him if he needs to. That doesn't mean Sam is just going to leave him be though. No, it means he'll keep an eye on things from a respectable distance. He'll let Bobby be the one on the ground for this. Bobby belongs out in the yard, he doesn't. It would be far too obvious if he started tinkering with cars.
Sam is the one who's there at night though. When the nightmares strike. And strike they do. He's the one who gently wakes Dean with a hand on his shoulder and quiet, reassuring words. He's been on the receiving end of Dean's fist once or twice as a result. Ironically he was delighted the first time it happened. Means Dean's reactions are kicking in. And he ignores Dean's heartfelt apologies in the morning. Tells his brother not to worry – to look at it as yet another breakthrough.
Yes, on balance, Sam thinks Dean is ready to move forward now. All they have to do is find an easy hunt to ease him back into the saddle.
Bobby knows the boys will be leaving soon. He reckons it's only a matter of days now. He's seen the signs from both of them and it warms his heart. He worries about Dean but he takes solace in knowing Sam is there and totally capable of looking out for his brother. It's a strange reversal of roles for them, he thinks, but Sam had a good teacher for this new role of his. And it won't be forever. Dean's stronger every day and soon he'll be snarking and causing trouble and breaking hearts all over America again. Bobby never thought he'd be looking forward to the day he receives a call to bail the Winchesters out of another jam but then life has a habit of throwing curved balls when they're least expected.
He's been watching them both and he has to admit that while Dean is on the up, he does worry about Sam. It's been hard on the boy. He spent six days worried out of his mind, stubbornly refusing to accept the possibility his brother was dead. Six days hardly eating or sleeping. Six days spent on a rollercoaster of emotions.
And he's spent the last three weeks so busy putting his brother back together that he's forgotten about himself. Bobby's tried to make sure he's got a full stomach every night and he's done everything he can to give Sam a peaceful night, but it's hard when the boys have an almost psychic link to each other. He's heard Sam shuffling around at 3 in the morning in answer to Dean's night terrors.
But he can't fault Sam for that. It was all he could do not to rush to Dean's aid in the early days. He never realised it would take such restraint to let the boys take care of their own. He was never blessed with children but if he had, this is how he would have liked them to turn out.
So Bobby's done what he can for the boys and he acknowledges, sadly almost, that his job here is done. They're as good as they're going to get here and they need to move on. The nomadic lifestyle they were raised in is too strongly ingrained in them to allow them to stay in one place for long.
He'll miss them like hell when they're gone, but he knows they'll never be strangers. He knows he'll always be the first person they call when they're in trouble or need help. They might even call just for the hell of it sometime. Maybe … or maybe not.
There are no long, drawn out goodbyes. It goes against everything they've ever known. Goodbyes are permanent and they both know they'll be seeing Bobby again soon. He's family and they'll never be able to repay him for what he's done for them. Deep down, they both know he doesn't expect anything but it doesn't remove the feeling of a debt owed to the man.
Sam's loaded their meagre belongings into the Impala, Dean is twirling the keys around his fingers and Bobby is watching them, pretending the house won't feel empty and lonely when they're gone.
There's a hunt in Michigan. Sam reckons if they drive straight through they can be there by nightfall. Dean reckons they'll be there earlier than that if Sam lets him drive most of the way. Bobby reckons they'll be fighting by the time they get out of the yard.
All things considered, it's been an interesting month. It's a month none of them are sorry to put behind them, a month none of them will ever forget. They've all learned things about themselves and each other.
Sam's learned his brother isn't the superhero he believed him to be when he was a child and he's learned that he will kill for those he loves without a second thought. Dean's learned it's okay to be scared sometimes and that family will always come through for you, whether they're blood or not. And Bobby? He's learned the Winchester boys have a bond unlike any he's ever seen and he's learned what it's like to be included in that bond, if just for a little while.
And they've all learned it's time to move on.