THE MAN IN THE MIRROR
A rest for the boys and a surprise for Jimmy
An uneventful week passed during which life settled into a peaceful routine.
Staying over at the chaotic jumble of rooms adjoining Tom's little clinic, Dean grudgingly took the rest that he had been advised by the doctor (and threatened by Bobby) to take, while Sam busied himself fussing over Dean and routinely getting nothing but grumbling abuse for his troubles.
Tom and Bobby finally managed to grab some long-awaited downtime, and even managed to enjoy one of their much-loved John Wayne movies, despite the fact that Dean sat crunching popcorn all the way through it.
Jimmy for his part was relishing every moment of his new life; caring for his rabbit, sitting for hours while Sam and Bobby showed him how to read, learning how to cook, listening to music and discovering the joys of movies and bad daytime TV, although, despite Dean's protestations that it was 'educational', Sam drew the line at exposing him to online porn.
Jimmy learned voraciously and, although being far from worldly-wise, his capacity and enthusiasm for learning was formidable. It was a joy to watch him grow and develop day after day, becoming more comfortable and confident, his speech becoming less stilted and more natural.
The day that he beat Dean at Poker prompted, as well as much hilarity amongst onlookers, the most spectacular sulk that Sam had been privileged to witness since Dean's teenage years.
But despite the general air of relief and good feeling that pervaded Tom's modest accommodation, there was one massive, unspoken question hanging in the air.
Now Jimmy finally had a long term future, what was he going to do with it?
It was at breakfast on the eighth day, that Tom spoke up on the subject.
He was well aware that Dean's recovery was all but complete and as a result, the elder Winchester was starting to get itchy feet. The hunt was calling; and calling loudly.
Tom, for his part, couldn't blame him. Tom's place wasn't tiny, but it wasn't huge either and with only two aging beds and one bathroom, accommodating five grown men at the same time was proving demanding in the extreme.
Sitting at the head of the breakfast table, he took a long draught of his coffee before he addressed the assembled company.
"I've been thinking," he began.
"Dean glanced up; "do we need to call the fire department?" he mumbled through a mouth stuffed with chewed bacon.
He was rightfully ignored.
"I've been thinking," Tom repeated, with extra emphasis for easily distracted ears; "if there's one thing this whole caper has taught me, it's that I'm not getting any younger."
Sam, Bobby and Tom shot him quizzical looks; Dean was still far too engrossed with his breakfast to tear his eyes away from his burgeoning plate.
Tom smiled; "I know it's difficult to believe, looking at this Adonis-like physique," he patted his barrelesque midriff and grinned; "but there's more years gone than there are left to go, and hell, I must've aged ten freakin' years when we were doing that damned incantation."
"Don' worry Tom," snorted Dean; "you'll still be a hundred years younger than Bobby."
He received a slap upsides the head for his trouble and nearly choked on a mushroom.
"But Tom, you're fine," Jimmy smiled, pausing momentarily before the smile fell into a look of fear so abject it was heartbreaking; "you are, aren't you?"
"I'm fine son," Tom smiled as he gave the clone's arm a reassuring pat; "but I gotta face facts that in ten, maybe fifteen years, I'm gonna start getting to an age where I ain't gonna be fit enough to do the things I do now." He glanced pointedly at Dean; "like haulin' heavy-assed unconscious hunters around."
"So, what ya sayin'," Bobby asked, his brow furrowing in concern; "you givin' it up?"
Tom shook his head firmly; "no Bobby, not at all, the opposite in fact."
"See, the thing is, when I was in the police, I know it's a cliché, but I really was married to the job. Never found me the time to meet a nice Mrs Mathews. I got no children," he paused; "or none that I know of anyway," he added with a wink, "and lately I been getting to thinkin' that without a kid to hand my little empire down to, who's gonna be taking care of our hunters when I'm too freakin' antique to do it?"
Bobby's face softened into a knowing smile; suddenly he knew where Tom was going with this.
"Tom, you need an apprentice," he prompted.
Dean finally found the attention to look up from his scrambled egg.
"I do," Tom smiled with a slow nod. He turned to Jimmy whose saucer-wide eyes clearly indicated that he had some notion of what was being discussed; "job's yours if you want it, son."
"M-me?" Jimmy stammered, looking around the table to see if anyone was laughing at a prank being played. He saw nothing but supportive smiles.
"Why not?" Tom encouraged quietly; "you're young, you're strong, you're clearly smart, and the one thing that makes me believe you'll be an amazing doctor is that you've got so much compassion in you, I can't even begin to imagine where it ends."
Jimmy's mouth dropped into a shocked gape, as he looked around the table.
"I think you'd be awesome," Sam grinned, slapping him on the back; "and you couldn't have a better teacher."
"You couldn't have better DNA either," Dean added with a wry grin; "'course you're smart – you got my brain."
"Yeah, only he chooses to use it," grunted Bobby, ignoring Dean's outraged pout.
Jimmy turned back to Tom; "I can stay here?"
Tom nodded; "yeah. It ain't a big place, but there's only me rattling around in it; I can spare a couple of rooms to give you your own space."
A loaded silence fell across the table as Jimmy stared in stunned silence at the figures around him; his family. The expression on his shocked face suggested he was either going to laugh or cry.
Leaping up out of his chair, he pulled the first person he could reach, who happened to be Sam, into a bear hug.
"I'm going to be a doctor," he gasped, as if Sam hadn't just been sitting beside him for the whole of the conversation.
Delighted enough to momentarily abandon his breakfast, Dean reached across the table to shake Jimmy's hand," well done, dude," he smiled; "you gonna make the rabbit your nurse?"
"Oh," Jimmy's laughter ceased abruptly as he turned to Tom; "Please can Sam stay too?"
Tom grinned; "well not that Sam," he clarified pointing to the tall, wild-haired hunter standing beside Jimmy; "he's got work to do, but the other Sam can; I might need to ask for a few extra donations to keep the greedy little bugger in carrots though."
Sam rolled his eyes as he heard Dean snigger behind him.
He was never gonna live that damn rabbit down.
Three hours later, the Impala was finally on the road. Dean sighed as he sat back, relishing the caress of his baby's leather steering wheel moving through his fingers as he toed the gas pedal. She purred her approval in response.
Sam was relaxing, sitting sprawled across the passenger seat with his eyes closed and his head lolling limply on the back of the seat, and the quiet time gave Dean a chance to reflect as he watched Tom's little clinic recede into the distance through the rear-view mirror.
It had certainly been a roller-coaster.
He'd been duped and violated in the most ridiculous way possible, and everyone had suffered as a result, not least of all poor Jimmy. But through all the ups and downs of the whole fiasco, Dean knew that thanks to his misfortune, the hunting fraternity was now going to be in safe hands for very many years to come.
And d'you know what? That was a pretty darn good feeling.