(A few weeks before Salvation)
"Why do you…they…you know…do it?…Why do what you do?"
It isn't an uncommon question, but his usual answer doesn't apply. Now, deep in thought, Jim Murphy drums his fingers against his desk.
"Why do what we do?" he repeats, more to himself than his young caller.
He doesn't answer completely. He knows why he's chosen this life, this duel-identity.
Jim's a Pastor by choice, and how completely he cares for his "flock". Cares for them, counsels them, shares their hopes and dreams, feels their joys when their babies are born, their sorrows when loved ones are lost. Besides the obvious, it's the greatest and most demanding choice he's ever made, and as stressful and mundane as it is at times, it's also rewarding beyond the treasures of the earth. He's a friend, a father, a comforter, a teacher...but amid those things, he's also called to be a warrior.
Whether it's a blessing or a curse, Jim knows about the things that go bump in the night, taking the lives and – God forbid – the souls of the innocent. In that sense, who better to fight against the dark? It's his purpose, his calling, because of the many gifts he's been given in this life, the knowledge and the tools to see it done are among them.
It's almost ironic. Some Pastors spend their lives helping others face their "demons". The demons Jim faces, well, they just happen to be real.
So why does he do it?
Jim sighs into the phone. "I can't answer for Dean or Sam but…but I can tell you this... I do it because saving lives is my job. Whether it's here in the physical or for God's Kingdom, when I save a life, I understand two things that most people live their entire lives without ever figuring out: why I was put on this Earth and how I can make a difference."
The other end of the line is silent, his young companion mulling over his words. "But it isn't an easy life," Jim continues, "Most have a reason they do it. Unfortunately, it's usually a nasty one." And every man's reasons are different. Jim's well aware that his convictions are unlike that of his "peers". Still, this isn't the kind of life he would wish on anyone. So he chuckles softly into the receiver and doesn't hold back as he goes over the pros and the even longer list of cons.
He can tell his caller is disappointed, that he hasn't given him the answers he had been hoping for, but the decision he's facing is a big one – a life-changing one, and he's the only one who can make it. He doesn't need Jim's influence, and Jim can't speak for the Winchesters, though he knows them better than most.
Though he knows the answer.
Why do what they do?
It was the life they'd chosen, the life they lived so that no other family had to experience the pain that the Winchesters had suffered. It was as easy and as complicated as that.
Jim fingers the rosary on his desk absently and contemplates his answer. There had been a time when Jim hadn't understood at all why John had insisted on bringing his boys up in such a dangerous world, when he resented him for dropping his children off with him and then disappearing for weeks at a time. Dean and Sam were always a joy to have…well, except for the time Dean put a frog in Ms. Heidi's chili at Easter potluck…or the time Sam broke into his office playing cops-and-robbers…or the time they chased old Peter Calhoon's cat up a tree. Now that one had been difficult to explain - the poor creature refused to come down for three days, and Jim strongly suspected that it'd had something to do with the handmade slingshot he'd found in Dean's room.
Jim wouldn't have wanted it any other way, though. Hunting never had been his first priority, but he'd had the knowledge and the tools to fend off anything that came looking for trouble. The boys had been safe with him.
And Heaven help him, but he'd enjoyed those times.
It was a small consolation. He'd cared for those boys in John's absence, and prayed fervently all the while that the idiot would come home from whatever crusade he'd embarked on.
But although he hadn't agreed, Jim had supported the widower, given his aide where he could. Hunting hadn't been just a job for John. He'd needed it to protect his family, to find his wife's killer, and…well…and to make peace with himself.
It was because of that Jim realized John had been, in his own way, doing the best he could. John had wanted his boys safe, shielded from the real terror he'd only recently learned existed. He'd survived his wife's death, trailing two innocent young boys behind him, so rather than digging himself a hole and hiding his family away in it, he had honed his own skills and, in turn, trained them to fend for themselves.
It was beyond rational thinking, but for a little while it worked. From afar, Dean and Sam were the perfect creations – adept fighters, more than capable of protecting themselves...intelligent, independent, street-smart. They were knowledgeable in all forms of weapons, both excellent marksmen, could read and speak Latin like a second language. They could con a conman, locks couldn't keep them out, and they could charm a Grandma out of her cookies…or a police officer from looking too closely.
Then Jim watched as John's small family fell apart. Though Dean had only been four at the time, he'd still had some memory of his mother, especially that terrible night. Sam, on the other hand, had never known the grief his father and his brother shared. Certainly he grieved alongside them for the mother and the life he'd been denied, but the anger in him had soon grown to resentment for his father's righteous drive for revenge. And the harder John held on to him, the harder Sam fought back.
John's calls became fewer and further between after Sam left for Stanford, the random updates that kept Jim in the know getting shorter and shorter until they disappeared altogether. It was like John had fallen off the face of the planet. The hunter's grapevine was always buzzing though, and Jim had heard through Caleb that Dean and Sam were back on the move, after a gruesome incident concerning Sam's college girlfriend. Those details weren't pretty and Jim knew that Sam's own personal suffering had upped a notch. Now, he had a reason to fight.
But still, no word from the Winchesters. Like father, like sons.
Then, "Jim? It's Dean."
Jim had immediately sat up straighter at the sound of the young man's voice. "Dean?"
"I'm sorry. I just…I can't find dad and I didn't know who else to call…"
His stomach had dropped, a chill creeping across the back of his neck and working it's way down his arms. Even now the memory of the phone call makes Jim's heart kick hard in his chest. Dean hadn't sounded like that since…well…Jim wasn't sure if he'd ever heard Dean sound as lost and as desperate as that.
There had been a lot to catch up on after that. Even more after Sam had been found.
Jim scrubs a hand over his face and reaches for the phone again. Dean and Sam. Until now, he hasn't thought about those two for a while - prayer aside, because Lord knows they need it - but he hasn't heard from them in some time and they'll definitely want to know about this.
After a few rings the voice on the end of the line answers, "Ghostbusters."
It's carefree, light, and it's been far too long since Jim's heard it sound like that. The unexpected boyishness of that rare tone has the corners of Jim's own mouth turning upward. "Hello Dean."
"Jim!" Dean says happily, "How the hell are ya?…Ouch!"
Jim shakes his head as he hears another voice in the background, this one definitely Sam's, chastising his brother. "Dean!"
"I am." Speaking back into the phone now, Dean says, "Uhh sorry…Good to hear from you, Pastor Jim," …and darn if that boy didn't stress the 'Pastor' on that one… "How's the 'hellfire and brimstone' going?…OUCH!"
This time Jim can't help but chuckle. Dean's exclamation was no doubt sibling-inflicted, probably a poke to the ribs or a playful jab to the side. Maybe a slap to the back of the head. Lord, he loves these two.
"The 'hellfire and brimstone' is going well. You boys staying out of trouble?"
"Not a chance," Dean's voice is cheerful again. "You hear from dad?"
"As a matter of fact he called a few weeks ago. Said you guys finally met up in Chicago. "
"Was that all?"
No, it wasn't, but Jim had made a promise to his friend that he wouldn't break. "He said you tangled with daevas and actually survived. I'm impressed."
"He tell you we were going our separate ways again for a while?"
"Yes, he did. But that wasn't why I was calling."
"Oh," Dean sounds disappointed.
"I just got off the phone with Justin Wheeler. You remember Justin…"
"Yeah, the kid from New Orleans. How's he doing?"
"Who?" asks Sam's voice in the background.
Dean unhelpfully ignores him.
"He's doing well. Maybe getting a little restless; doctor's still have him on bed rest."
"Yeah, well, taking two bullets will do that to a person."
"Hang on," he tells his brother. Then, "So he just call to give you an update?"
"No. No not really." Jim pauses. "He uh…he says he'll be starting therapy soon and when he's back on his feet he'd like to look into hunting."
"Are you serious?"
"Unfortunately. He wanted my opinion."
"And you told him no, right?"
"Told who no?"
"Hang on, Sam."
"Don't worry, I gave him enough to chew on that he won't be making any reckless decisions anytime soon."
"He sees one ghost and boom, he's ready to hunt? What the hell's that kid thinking?"
"Oh, I don't know," Jim says, letting sarcasm color his words. "Maybe it has something to do with losing your whole family and then suddenly realizing that every nightmare you've ever had is alive and out to get you. Add a young man on top of that who's made a lot of bad choices in his life and wants to make the world a better place. Sound familiar?"
"Have I ever told you I love it when you get all preachy on me?"
There really are times when Jim wants to cuss. "Point is," he continues, "I told him that hunting's not for everyone and that he'd be better off finding something useful to do and help in other ways."
Even now, Jim hopes the kid will take that route. There's just so much he can do to help besides hunting. There were hundreds out there, if you knew where to look. Doctors, lawyers, police, mechanics…people whom hunters had saved in the past and were looking to not only repay their debt, but aide in the extermination of all things evil.
"Well, I hope he's smart," Dean finally says, breaking into Jim's musings. "You went through an awful lot of trouble to drag his ass outta that fire, I'd hate to see him get himself killed."
They talk about a few other things, but the conversation is clipped and Sam, like a true little brother, is getting insistent, so Jim tells them to take care and bids them both goodbye.
Jim's about to hang up when he hears Dean voice on the other end, apparently oblivious to the fact that he hasn't hung up his phone.
"Yeah. Jim told him to get in contact with Jefferson if he was still fired up about it." There's a pause and a scuffle, like Dean shifting in his seat. Probably toward his brother. "…you think the kid could do it?"
"…it's not that. It's just…if I'd have had the choice, this life wouldn't have been at the top of my list. Hell, it wouldn't have made the top hundred."
"…kid was on the streets for a long time, learned everything he knows the hard way…might be able to do it, if he sticks with Jefferson, trains with a seasoned hunter."
"Did Justin say anything else?"
"Just the mushy stuff – like he appreciated everything we did for him and said to tell us 'hi'."
"Oh, well, that's nice."
"It's not nice?"
"Yeah, well, it is. But nice? What kind of sissy word is that?"
"Shut up, jerk."
"You love me and you know it, bitch."
Jim's shaking his head as he hangs up the phone. Winchesters don't show emotion, but words of love are always in abundance.
A/N: So there you have it friends, the answers we've been eluded to since chapter one. I didn't say anything at the beginning because I wanted to see how many readers could actually pick it up, and several caught on right away (snaps to you - you know who you are!) but I modeled this fic after the old noir films – you know, good cop/bad cop, the missing partner they're out to find, gangsters, moles, femme fatales and all that jazz *grins*. So yeah, if you go back and read it again, picture it in black and white. It changes your perspective.
Thank you all so much for following my little rabbit trails! Love to you all and God Bless!