It was the pounding on the door, matching the pounding in his head, that dragged him from his restless slumber and had him half way to the door before he was even truly awake. Dean opened the door to the motel room and squinted at the man on the other side. It took a moment for his brain to register Bobby's face.
"Well are you gonna let me in or what?" Bobby pushed past him and walked into the room, stepping over the salt line and stopping. "Boy this room is a bigger dump than the house I live in." The gruff old hunter lifted the clothes from the seat next to the table before collapsing into it and lifted his cap to scratch his head as he took in the scene of devastation in front of him. "Jesus Dean, no one can live like this."
Dean slammed the door and threw himself down on the bed nearest him. "I have a system."
"What? Wear it until it can walk on its own and then it can go to the laundry and wash itself?" Bobby leant over towards him resting his arms on his thighs. "It smells like a brewery in here kid, what's being going on with you?"
"Been busy Bobby that's all, needed some down time." Bobby noted that Dean didn't look him in the eye as he spoke; only sat forward and played with the cover on the bed beneath him.
"You heard from your old man or that brother of yours lately?"
Bobby realised that he'd hit the nail on the head of the problem as Dean shook his head, got up and took a slug from the whisky bottle on the table. "Hair of the dog." He made the comment knowing that Bobby was staring at him, seeing through his walls, the mess in the room a testament to the equally big mess inside Dean himself.
The younger man started to gather some clothes together, still in the sweatpants and the worn, grubby t-shirt that he had obviously slept in. "Give me a minute, I'll get cleaned up and dressed and we can go get something to eat." Dean stepped into the bathroom and stopped. "How did you find me anyway?"
"A hunter in a '67 Impala isn't that hard to find it you know the right places to look."
"Yeah, suppose not. I won't be long."
Bobby was glad Dean hadn't pushed on how he'd found him. It would have been kind of hard to explain why Bobby had been tailing him for the last month, worried at Dean's tone the last time he'd spoken to him. He'd gotten in his truck right after the call and headed to where Dean had told him he'd be. He then spent the time following him and trying to dig up a gig that he'd need help on just so that help could be Dean, whether he liked it or not.
He smiled at the memory of the couple of times the kid had almost caught him, Dean was a good hunter but Bobby's luck had held mainly because of the contents of the half empty bottle in front of him. A sober Winchester would have rumbled his tail well before now, but Dean had been anything but sober over the last few weeks. He cursed and saluted the whisky bottle on the table at the same time.
Bobby took in the empty beer bottles in the bin and the state of the room in general and realised that Dean was sorely in need of a friend in the absence of his family, the feeling that he had almost left it too long himself nagging at him. He knew that Dean hated being on the road on his own and that the younger hunter had been just drifting from job to job, filling his time until his father deemed to lower himself to call his son when he was in need of his help if not his company.
Bobby spotted Dean's phone lying on the table and hesitated only for a moment. He flicked the phone opened and looked at the calls lists. Dean had obviously being trying to get a hold of his dad, ten calls that he had made in the last week were all to John and Bobby had no doubt that they had gone all to voicemail. He noticed that there was one in the middle of them to Sam.
The elder hunter sighed. Dean had given up everything for the other two members of his family and they had all but abandoned him. He cursed the other Winchesters quietly under his breath.
Dean appeared from the bathroom and grabbed his jacket from the bed. "You fit?"
"Yeah, let's go."
They walked down to the diner in a comfortable silence.
Sliding into the booth they ordered a couple of coffees while they decided what to eat, Dean casually mentioning that he wasn't really hungry despite almost devouring the menu with his eyes. Bobby wondered just how low on funds his companion was running. "Get what you want, this is my treat for agreeing to help me on this job."
Dean smiled. "I haven't agreed to anything yet." He knew what Bobby was up to, but, having spent the last of the little money he had on alcohol, he was too broke and too hungry to call him on it.
Bobby lent over and tapped the top of his hand. "Oh, you will."
Dean crossed his arms, mock annoyance on his face. "I will, will I? Why?"
Bobby flicked his eyebrows at him. "'Cos I'm irresistible….and this is a paying gig."
Dean laughed this time, the joy in it reaching his eyes and making Bobby smile back in return. "Well it'll have to be a yes then, won't it."
The waitress brought their coffee and took their order and Bobby smiled as Dean couldn't resist a little flirt with her, her face lighting up at the attention from his good looking companion. When she brought the food the elder hunter didn't miss the napkin that was folded and placed next to the middle Winchester; another number for Dean's not so little, little black book. He coughed into his hand as Dean folded it into his pocket. "So what's this job that you need a hand with?" Dean dragged his attention back from the waitress and closed his eyes briefly, savouring the coffee hit as it worked it's way through his system.
"An old shopping mall in Hamilton, huge place if a bit run down. I know the guy that does the security there and he's not happy, more than a few strange things going on; usual cold spots, one shop caught fire with no obvious cause and a few of the staff have had some nasty accidents. James called me to take a look around the place but its too big for me to search through on my own, I need someone that I can trust will do the search right….I don't want to have to do it twice."
Dean smiled and lent across the table. "It's ok, I'm a sure thing, you don't have to butter me up but it's appreciated." He fell back against the back of the seat again and draped his arm along the back, smiling again at the waitress as she passed by. "So what's our in?"
"Join Jim's team. Mall security."
"Don't tell me it's beneath you to pose as security?"
"Nah. I just hate wearing a uniform, that's all."
Bobby grinned. "But it's a pretty green colour…go with those eyes of yours."
Dean made a face and took another mouthful of coffee. "So angry spirit trying to empty the place?"
"Looks that way, truth is the mall is half empty anyway. I've got a couple of culprits for the ghost, if that is what this is. Two guys killed doing maintenance over the last year and a shop worker that was electrocuted switching on the air conditioning."
"Ouch." Dean nodded. "Ok. So when are we going?"
"How soon can you pack?" Bobby signalled for the check.
"Soon as I've finished eating." Dean crammed another mouthful of food in.
"We'll take my car, the car park in this old centre is tight, the Impala'll have trouble getting in. I phoned Brian, he's gonna bring the low loader up and tow your 'baby' home to mine. Tuck it up until you get back."
Dean raised his eyebrows. "You want me to drive the piece of crap that you think passes for a car?"
Bobby grinned. "You could always take yours but don't come whining to me if you need a paint job by the time your through trying to park her or some old lady swipes her with a car door."
"Good point." He threw his keys over to Bobby. "You get her towed and I'll pack." He slid out of the booth and almost into the hovering waitress.
"You enjoy your meal?" She touched Dean's arm as she spoke.
"It was fine, thanks." He made to walk by her and then stopped, whispered something in her ear that made her blush from chin to hairline and then walked out, one backward glance over his shoulder at her as he did. Her colour deepened.
Bobby shook his head and handed the waitress some cash. "Here's a tip." He pushed a ten into her hand. "And here's another one. I love the guy like a son but he's not worth the trouble, love 'em and leave 'em type of guy."
She smiled at him shyly as he went to walk out. "I bet…but I bet that the first makes up for the latter though."
Bobby hid his grin and just kept walking.
They aimed to hit the road once Dean had ensured that his car was secure and undamaged on the back of the transport.
Bobby couldn't help noticing the look that crossed the younger man's face. "What? Dean…it's just a car, it'll be fine." He rolled his eyes and climbed into his own car.
Dean spoke quietly to himself. "No she's not. She family…and she's all that I've got left of it." He wiped his hand down his face and got in beside his friend. He sat watching as the last member of his family, the one that never let him down was taken away from him too. He shook his head, sighed and then snapped himself out of the funk that he'd slipped into.
"You ok?" Bobby cast him a worried glance as he started the engine.
"Yeah." Dean settled back in the seat. "Wake me up when we get there?"
"You know I will, just don't snore the whole way there…I might have to leave your ass at the side of the road if you do."
"Such love." Dean closed his eyes and drifted.