Bobby keeps trying to get me to eat. I wish I could. For him. Because even trapped under the crashing waves of depression and devastation and desolation that curl around me, drowning me in despair, constantly pulling me under without even the barest hint of relief, I am aware that I still love Bobby. Still feel an almost, just barely retrievable understanding of wanting to take care of him, care for him, care about him, as he has done for me most of my life. But I can't. I can't care for or about anything. Anything at all. I'm dead, you see. Oh, my lungs still draw breath. My heart still beats. But these are involuntary functions of a mind that doesn't yet realize the futility of keeping the body alive. My mind doesn't yet know what my soul already understands. I died the moment Dean did.
There is no relieving this grief. It's too overwhelming to even truly feel it. It's just… there. Never ebbing, never wavering, never fluctuating to even the tiniest degree. It's a presence in the way that Dean no longer is. My constant companion, the subject of every thought, the taste on my tongue. Hell took him from me then promptly settled upon me like skin.
"Janey, sweetheart. Please at least drink something. Please."
I know Bobby has been drinking something. I can smell it all over him. The only thing keeping him upright since Sam left us without a backward glance has been me. I don't know how long ago that was. A month? Two? Three? Time means nothing to me. It is all just one endless stretch of nothing. His fear that my body will follow my soul into the black keeps Bobby just this side of a black out of his own.
"Jane, damn it. It's been days, girl. What happened?" He's trying to sound angry, powerful, demanding. He doesn't achieve that goal. The worry in his voice sabotages all effort at strength. I look up into the face of the man so desperate to fix all that is broken in me with his own broken tools. I would cry at the sadness I see there if I still could. But I can't. I can't. "What took you away again?"
I was getting better, I thought. What a cosmic joke, a lie to surpass all others. Nothing has ever gotten better since that day in May when Dean was taken, the day everything that made me me disapperared. I had actually made it down the stairs, fully clothed, bathed. I had even brushed my hair. I had eaten some eggs, I think. I had gotten to the point where I could at least achieve those meager goals most days of the week. It hadn't been going on long, but it made Bobby happy, and that, too, was a goal.
Having opened my eyes to the living world around me, seeing that world through squinted, swollen eyes, I at last noticed the squalor with which my uncle had surrounded himself. I'd been moving through it for weeks, I guess, without noticing at all. Hoping to keep Bobby smiling, and perhaps close to sober, I decided to clean up a little. And then it all came crashing over me again.
A picture. One picture was all it took to reveal the folly of believing I could actually be alive. That I could in any way be a part of a world that lacked the one thing I required of it above all. A picture of me. And Sam.
We were children. At least, Sam and I were. Dean was never a child. Taken on the day that I came to live with Bobby when I was nine, Sam was ten, Dean was fourteen. And he'd made me smile. In the middle of the worst time of my life, the very worst until the day he was taken from me, Dean made me smile. Little Jane Downey, whose parents had just been killed by something nasty, whose Aunt Karen's husband Uncle Bobby had now become her only family, smiled. Dean was standing tall in this picture that shattered me. No gangly, uncomfortable in his own skin teenager was Dean. I was on his shoulders, giggling, while Sam looked up at me with the slight hint of jealousy that he felt for anyone who claimed a moment's attention from his hero.
I had always loved this photo. As a tween it was like a poster on my wall, better than any boy band, because he was my hero, too. In my teens, I was almost jealous myself of that little girl because in that picture Dean was touching her, something he refused to in regards to teen-me once I got boobs. And on my eighteenth birthday, the day he finally kissed me, the day we had apparently both been waiting for, we looked at that picture in its cheap frame on Bobby's desk, against which Dean was leaning me, and laughed together. How far we had come.
And now I hate that photo. It rips me to shreds, much like the hounds had done to my Dean. It kills me bloody like the teeth of Lilith's pets had done to him as I watched, tearing me apart until there is nothing left alive.
"The picture, Uncle Bobby," I croak with a voice dusty and cracked from disuse.
His face crumbles. That photo brings him a measure of comfort, I think. A reminder of the children he helped raise, the family he held dear, memories of Dean when he was whole, of Sam when he hadn't yet turned from us, of me when I allowed myself to live. And now I can almost recognize regret within my shriveled heart. Regret that as he gets up to leave, and heads downstairs, I know he is opening another bottle, drinking himself closer to his own abyss.
And then I hear a knock on the door.