Title: Gone (2/2)
Author: Still Waters
Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural. Just playing, with love and respect to those who brought these characters to life.
Summary: "Dude, we've got a hatless Bobby standing out back over a supposed grave neither of us even knew existed. What part of that doesn't freak you out?" Set in late Season 2. Brotherly Sam/Dean, Bobby h/c.
Notes: Set after 2x17 (Heart) but before 2x21 (All Hell Breaks Loose). Final author's note at the end of the story.
"'Meaty?'" he echoed mildly, fixing Dean with a solid look. "It's a rawhide bone, ya idjit – a damn chew toy, not the remains of some demonic Godzilla."
Dean's eyes lightened at the reference.
"Besides," Bobby continued, "if it was, would I be standing here burying the damn thing?"
Sam's face fell. It certainly sounded like Bobby….. "Well, you wouldn't," he offered.
Bobby nearly winced at the force of the resulting eye roll. "Yeah, I read the incantation and you can save it for someone who's, you know, actually possessed."
Sam frowned. "You read it?" he puzzled. Comprehension dawned. "Bobby, you lip read?"
Bobby just shot him a look – the patented 'you boys are total morons' look that somehow never came across as anything other than completely supportive. No one else, human or demon, could manage that.
Sam and Dean lowered their weapons, hands moving to erase the insult.
"Sorry Bobby," Sam ducked his head, chagrined.
Bobby waved away the apology. "Nah, you boys're right to be careful…..though I wish I knew how my standing out here translated to demonic possession and…." He smirked slightly, recalling Dean's words, "reminiscing over Meaty the supernatural freak's bones."
Sam and Dean cringed simultaneously. Sam looked to Dean, who shot him a 'please don't make me say it' look. Sam acknowledged it with a quiet nod before replying for both of them. "We saw you out here alone by what looked like a grave," he explained.
"And then there was the freaking bone," Dean interjected.
Bobby sighed. "Rawhide. Like I said, it's a beef bone - a glorified chew toy."
"Chew toy for what?" Dean exclaimed, gesturing at the size of the bone.
"For a dog," Sam suddenly responded, so softly Dean barely caught it.
Dean's brow furrowed. "Bobby doesn't have…" he began, trailing off as he watched Sam move forward past Bobby's body to the far end of the cairn, where a simple wooden cross stood, a single word carved shakily into the knotted pine.
Sure, Bobby didn't have a dog.
He had a dog.
Killed by Meg when finding a reckless John Winchester had driven Sam and Dean to Bobby for help.
Dean sighed heavily. "Crap, Bobby, I'm sorry. I didn't know…" he motioned toward the grave.
"We didn't know," Sam clarified.
Bobby's face suddenly blossomed with understanding. "So you two saw me from the house standing over what looked like an unmarked grave that neither of you knew anything about…." he shook his head ruefully. "So….demonic possession?" he repeated their thought process drily.
Dean shrugged, half-apologetic, half-realistic. "Like Sam said, we didn't know."
"Yeah, well, instead of gettin' ready to exorcize and shoot me, you could've just asked," Bobby pointed out. "You know, thrown a 'Christo' in there first."
Sam and Dean looked to each other with a muted 'why didn't you think of that?' look.
"Idjits," Bobby sighed, brief irritation smoothed by growled affection.
"Sorry Bobby," Sam repeated, face pinched with regret.
"It's all right," Bobby assured them.
"No, it's not," Sam insisted gently, eyes lingering over the dog's name. He wasn't referring to his and Dean's mistake.
Bobby blew out a heavy breath. "Yeah," he admitted gruffly.
Sam's gaze flickered to Dean, who began slowly backing up toward the house, recognizing the connection and holding to his earlier promise. "Okay?" he mouthed to Sam, double-checking.
Sam nodded and turned back to Bobby, face open and ready. Under all the chick flick insults and jokes about Dean's allergy to serious discussion, the truth was that they both knew each other's strengths better than they knew their own and instinctively stepped aside for whoever was better suited to the job. There were times Dean's manner and experience connected with people, and times Sam's did. With Bobby, it was usually Dean.
But today, even though Dean didn't know the full reason why, he knew that Bobby needed Sam.
And that was enough.
Sam stood in silent support, waiting for the older hunter's lead.
Bobby's eyes never left the grave when he finally spoke. "Got one of those reminders for his shots in the mail today. The vet's office always sent one of these slimy bastards," he gestured toward the bone, "with the card." He chuckled painfully. "He was a stubborn sonuvabitch – in the beginning, he wouldn't even walk into the building. One day, they tried giving him one of those bones and he let them do whatever they wanted – exam, shots, blood work, you name it. Became sort of a running joke – they started sending one before his visit to soften him up." His eyes clouded. "So, I had to call today and tell them he was dead – and then come up with a reason why. Not like their system has an option for 'erased from existence by a demon," he swallowed.
Sam cringed, eyes shifting from Bobby's dejected posture back to the grave marker. "You know, I always wondered where you came up with 'Rumsfeld.' Only thing I could think of was Donald Rumsfeld, which always seemed kind of weird for a Rottweiler."
Bobby huffed a laugh. "Nah, you got it right," he confirmed. His eyes darkened. "I found him locked in the trunk of an old Ford a buddy of mine towed over for scrap. Some bastard probably shut him in there hoping either the heat'd kill him or he'd starve. Anyway, I'm checking the car out when I pop the trunk and find this six month or so old dog layin' half-dead on his side….and the damn thing starts tryin' to wag his stump of a tail at me. I go to get my buddy on the phone and this dick of a customer comes tearing in, screaming about how he was gonna kill me for rippin' him off – apparently thought my fixin' a totaled Volvo, even after I told him to scrap it 'cause it wasn't worth it, shoulda been free. Moron pulls a knife on me and before I could grab the shotgun, this half-dead dog that doesn't know me from Adam leaps out of the trunk, latches onto this bastard's arm like one of those police dogs, and takes him down. By the time the sheriff got here, he was sittin' next to me, leanin' against my leg 'cause he could hardly stay upright, but still growlin' anytime that guy so much as thought of movin'. Well, at that point, I figured we were stuck with each other, so I brought him to a vet to get checked out. They asked what I was gonna call him, and I said 'Rumsfeld.'" Bobby shrugged. "First thing that came to mind."
"A secretary of defense was the first thing that came to mind?" Sam chuckled.
Bobby shrugged again. "I kept thinking of how he took that guy down – he was a ruthless little bastard. Same words Nixon used to describe Rumsfeld. And since I found him in a Ford and Rumsfeld served under Ford too…."
"'Rumsfeld.'" Sam supplied.
Bobby nodded. "I don't know - it just fit somehow."
"Pretty deep, Bobby," Sam offered.
"Yeah," Bobby snorted, looking up briefly before his eyes returned to the cross.
Sam let the silence settle for a few moments. He didn't want to push, but Bobby had been receptive so far, so he continued. "He always seemed pretty smart for a guard dog – like he was seriously thinking when he watched me and Dean pull in."
Bobby smiled wistfully. "Yeah, he was pretty smart. I'd get back from a hunt and he'd just look at me – I swear, like he was readin' my mind and figurin' out exactly what he should do. You know how animals usually freak out around hunters that've just come off a job, like there's this supernatural smell or aura or something? Rumsfeld never did that. He'd watch me, then either park his big ass in my lap, lay down nearby, or grab one of his toys and start rolling around like he lost his damn mind. But whichever one he did was exactly what I needed."
Sam swallowed back sudden tears at his own memories of southwestern independence and seventy-five pounds of intuitive canine companionship.
Bobby suddenly laughed. "'Course he could also be a total moron," he shook his head with the memory. "Stuck his head in a beehive once, got stung, then went and did it again. By the time I got him to the vet, he couldn't even see, his face was so damn swollen."
"Not his finest moment," Sam grinned.
"Hardly," Bobby snorted. His face relaxed in positive reminiscence. "He could be a royal pain in the ass sometimes – head big as a rock and just as stubborn. Chewed the hell out of some of my books the first month – left the real important ones alone, but apparently had somethin' against Socrates and Plato."
Sam grinned. "Can't say I blame him. I had to read 'The Republic' for a philosophy class at Stanford," he grimaced.
"Pretentious load of ass-kissing, isn't it?" Bobby rolled his eyes.
Sam laughed in agreement.
Bobby's gaze drifted again. "He was always chasing stuff - balls, squirrels, rolling hubcaps. He'd knock 'em down with one paw, pick it up like a Frisbee, and come trotting over and drop it at my feet, all proud of himself. In the winter, I'd put a fire on and he'd sprawl out on his back in front of it, hoggin' all the heat. And, somehow, even after the bastards that locked him in that trunk, he couldn't get enough of people. Immediately knew which ones were dangerous, but everyone else? He'd run up to those customers like they were long-lost friends – they'd be pettin' him and gettin' licked to death while talkin' to me about what they needed done. Some even started bringin' him treats." His eyes clouded. "But then I got one guy who was afraid of dogs – saw this big doofus runnin' at him and freaked out. Couldn't really blame him, I guess. I put Rumsfeld inside, apologized, got the guy his car, and figured I wouldn't see him again. Turns out, guy calls me a week later – he was so happy with the car that he wanted to bring me regular work – he had some sort of delivery business and a whole fleet of trucks….but he said he couldn't do it if Rumsfeld was out. Normally I'd have told him to go somewhere else, but with all the demons and omens lately there've been a lot more jobs and those supplies ain't free. I was short on cash - I needed that kind of business. So, I made a deal with him – I wanted Rumsfeld outside because he'd always head off anyone stupid enough to try something. So I told the guy that I'd chain him up near the house on days he came by and he agreed." Bobby swallowed thickly. "That's why he was chained up that day. Guy was gonna drop a truck off right after you boys came by." He paused. "And I know it wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference, but I can't help thinking, if he had been loose when she showed up…." He cleared his throat roughly, ducking his head to hide well-worn guilt.
Sam took a steadying breath, intimate with that feeling, as his own guilt at bringing Meg to Bobby's doorstep surged. "Bobby…." he began.
But Bobby's head jerked up, shining eyes narrowed into a clear, wordless demand. One Sam had seen for years on Dean's face when the guilt refused to acknowledge such perceived platitudes as 'it's not your fault', 'there's nothing you could have done.' A single, firm, unspoken word:
Sam backed down in respectful silence as Bobby struggled for control.
"I miss him," Bobby finally said simply - everything, an entire life, in those three words. "But you know what really pisses me off?"
Sam watched him in wordless response as Bobby's eyes drifted down from the cross to the stones and he continued.
"That dog was the one thing in my life that wasn't tied to the job. And a demon kills him." He swallowed hard, shifting on his feet. "So now his life, all those memories…..it's all…tainted. By the same evil sonsuvbitches he helped me forget." He paused. "Bitch didn't even leave me a body. Ended up buryin' some of his toys and tags instead. I had to melt the chain down the next day 'cause I couldn't even look at it." He turned slowly, red-rimmed, hauntingly honest eyes meeting Sam's. "It was just…well, you boys…you and Dean've always had each other. I never had family like that. Until Rumsfeld." He looked down, a flush of embarrassment stark against the pain. "And I know it sounds ridiculous, but he became family. I knew I had him."
The tremor Bobby's voice was desperately trying to hide stole the breath from Sam's chest. He had never known, never considered, this side of Bobby – that Rumsfeld had been more than just a junkyard guard dog. Never thought a few minutes of silent presence and encouraged memories would bring something like this to light and break his heart.
"Bobby," Sam said quietly, "you know you have us too, right?" his eyes shifted briefly back to where Dean was leaning against the Impala.
Bobby swallowed roughly. "Yeah," he breathed softly, the subsequent "thanks" even softer.
They stood in companionable silence for a few moments before Bobby, in another familiar move, visibly shook himself out of guilt-laden memories and desperate emotion. "So," he cleared his throat, shifting his body away from the grave, "tell me about this job of yours. The book help?"
But his eyes met Sam's with a staggering, sincere gratitude. A silent 'thanks for listening. And caring enough to ask.' And Sam responded just as silently – 'anytime – that's what family's for.'
Sam saw something shift in Bobby – a sort of peace and newfound resolution, as if he hadn't truly realized that he was just as much family to Sam and Dean and they were to him.
Sam swallowed back fresh guilt at that new revelation, and joined Bobby's push forward. "Bobby, that book was amazing. Where did you even find it?" He began filling Bobby in on the details as, in the distance, Dean instinctively pushed away from the Impala to meet them.
As they left Bobby's that evening, Sam got on the laptop and asked Dean to stop by a nearby religious supply store.
"We need something?" Dean asked, wondering if he had missed something in their last trunk inventory.
"Yeah," Sam said quietly.
Their eyes met. Both knew the trunk was fully stocked.
But Dean started driving anyway.
And only asked for directions.
A week later, Sam was on the phone with Bobby about a particularly stubborn poltergeist in rural Oklahoma. "Thanks Bobby," he said as he went to hang up, armed with a promising new plan.
"Yeah, you too," Bobby replied.
Not his customary 'no problem', 'yeah', or 'watch your asses and keep me posted.'
Sam knew Bobby would've heard the Impala returning that night.
So if the underlying gratitude in that roundabout response had anything to do with the St. Francis of Assisi medal that appeared on Rumsfeld's grave marker the morning after their conversation….
Neither said a word.
They didn't have to.
Because that's what family was for.
Dedicated to the memory of my beloved dog Mel. It's been five years since you crossed the Rainbow Bridge, and though I wish we could have had longer, I'm so grateful for your presence in my life. I miss you, my handsome man.
Final Note: This story idea came to me before I wrote "Bones", and it took writing that other tale to inspire me to finish this one. I'm sure many others have explored Rumsfeld's role in Bobby's life better than I, but this story came to my mind so clearly that I had to give it a voice. Rumsfeld's back story came about after I explored his name and found that quote from Nixon. For all his sarcasm and gruffness, I've always seen Bobby as a sensitive soul, and at this point in the series, I could imagine that, as a mentor and resource person for both the Winchesters and other hunters, that while he might have been part of the greater hunting family in general, and that he considered Sam and Dean as close family, he probably didn't feel like he had anyone to reliably watch his back. Hunter loyalties could change quickly, and Sam and Dean don't really start referring to Bobby as a father figure, and Bobby doesn't really start referring to them as his sons, until Season 3 and beyond. I could see Bobby developing that trust with Rumsfeld, and being quietly devastated when his one, sure support was killed. In the light of 5x16 and the story of Sam's dog, I felt that, even while no one else knew about Bones yet, that Sam would have the greater connection here with Bobby, and it was nice to explore their relationship, since it's usually Dean who is the most connected to him in a father/son sense. For those unfamiliar with Catholic saints, St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint and protector of animals. For an idea of the rawhide/beef bone referenced in this story, Google "Dentley's Meaty Mammoth Bone." Thank you for reading. I hope I did the characters and emotions justice.