Bobby Singer was feeling kinda good as he drove his truck toward home. The trip to an a auction in Nebraska had yielded one of the last copies of an ancient Egyptian text he'd been wanting for years. With Egyptians, it was sometimes difficult to tell the gods from the demons--and sometimes there actually wasn't a difference--but they were detailed in their writings and their recipes for appeasing/destroying the gods/demons were usually golden.

And every little bit helped.

So as he sang along with Marvin Gaye--Motown was his secret vice thanks to his late wife whose voice had been as honey sweet as her chocolate skin--he wasn't contemplating anything more complicated than what was in his fridge, when suddenly his foot eased off the gas pedal. What was that? A dark speck in front of the Singer's Autos sign. It wasn't-- Naw. Not-- Damn, he thought as he got near enough to be certain. A '67 Chevy. Black Impala.

Winchesters. Damn.

Then he shrugged. Maybe it was just the boys. John had given Dean the car for his twenty-first birthday last year and he didn't think Dean and Sam rode in anything else. Yeah. Just the boys. He could deal with them. Sam would probably get a kick out of the Egyptian tome and Dean, well, Dean was easily entertained. Target practice out in the yard. A bottle and old tales in the front room. Some meat thrown on the grill. Yeah, the younger Winchesters would be no problem.

But why hadn't they gone on into the yard? Sure, the gate was locked, but John's boys wouldn't let that stop them for more than a couple seconds. And his fierce, junkyard dogs, especially "hang around the house to scare the meter readers shitless" Rumsfeld, rolled over like puppies for the boys. He frowned and pulled in behind the boat of a car. He could see one head. Short-haired. In the driver's seat. He looked around for the second half of the dynamic duo or infernal idiots, depending on the situation.

Hmm, no Sam.

That...wasn't good.

He got out of the truck and slowly approached the car. Caution was always a good thing when it came to Winchesters, even the younger ones. John had gone a bit feral after his wife's supernatural murder, and kids followed by example so.... "Dean?" He had to yell to be heard over the cock rock blaring from the open window.

Overcompensation at its best.

"Bob-bee!" Dean Winchester slurred loudly. "Whacha doin' here, dude?"

Bobby eyed the bottle that had been hidden beneath the steering wheel. Damn. What was worse than a Winchester appearing at your door? A drunk Winchester appearing at your door. "I live here, Dean. See the sign?"

Dean turned his head and squinted out the window. "Oh, yeah." He turned back and smiled up at Bobby. "Hey, man."

Bobby rolled his eyes, then lifted his baseball cap to scratch his head. He really needed to ask, but was afraid to. Balls, man, he thought to himself. You have a couple. Use them. "So, Dean, where's your better half?"

"Better half," Dean snickered, then sniffed. "Yeah, he really was, wasn't he?"

Was? Something tightened in Bobby's chest. "Where's Sam, Dean?"


Bobby took a deep breath. "Gone where, son?"

"Cal-i-forn-i-a," Dean drawled dramatically. "Swimming pools, movie stars..."

What the-- "Huh?"

"Stanford. Full sholar-scholarship. Bye-bye, Deany. Bye-bye, Daddy. Daddy say, 'You walk out, don't come back.'"

Well, hell. Only the fucking Winchesters could turn a fucking windfall into a pile of steaming shit with only a few chosen words. Speaking of-- "Where I>is your daddy, son?"

Dean shrugged and tossed back another swallow. "Woke up this morning in the motel room. Note on the other bed said, 'On a hunt. Be in touch.'" The young man sniffed again, rubbing the back of his hand across his nose. "Know what happens when a guard dog ain't got nothin' to guard, Bobby? Dropped on the fuckin' side of the road, man. Guess it's better than bein' tied in a bag of rocks and tossed off a bridge, huh?"

Not by much, Bobby thought, fighting the urge to sniff too.

"Need 'nother dog, Bobby? Rumsfeld and me, you know we're tight, man. I'm sure he'd let me share his blanket. Can curl up on the porch outta the way, bark when I see a car or somethin'."

"Shut up, idjit," Bobby muttered. "Come on with me in the truck. I'll get some coffee in you and then maybe you'll start making sense."

Dean shook his head. "Ain't leavin' my baby by the side of the road. Only thing I got left. Only thing that ain't left me."

Oh, hell no. This boy was not going to make him tear up. "How long you been nursing that bottle, son?"

"Just since I got here. My baby needed me, all of me, on the road, you know?"

Finally, some sense. "How long you been on the road?"

"Sammy left me in Ar-kan-sas. Sounds like a freakin' country song, don't it?"

Damn. It was a wonder the Impala wasn't wrapped around a tree on some back road somewhere. Sober or not, Dean had to be hurting. John had pushed them boys to be closer than was natural. Hell, Sam was more Dean's son than John's. Sam always looked to Dean for reassurance when he tried something new, and nothing could make the boy smile more than Dean praising him for one thing or another. And Dean was a hell of a better teacher than John when it came to Sam's training.

John, who was gonna be met with a shotgun if he ever darkened Bobby's door again. Sam going off to college, yeah, it had to be a shock, but damn it, telling the boy not to come back again? And abandoning the one son he had left? Hell, maybe he wouldn't wait to shoot the bastard. Maybe he'd just track his ass down and have at it. Miserable sonovabitch.

"You think you can drive a straight line up to the house?"

"Define straight," Dean replied seriously.

"Can you make it to the house without driving into a ditch?" Bobby clarified. Never argue with a drunk. It only led to head-banging and cussing. And you usually ended up with two drunks instead of one.

"Sure. Once drove two hours with a concush-concussion. Saw three of everything. Made dodgin' the trees a bit difficult, but didn't even scratch the paint on my baby." Dean patted the steering wheel fondly.

Okay. Maybe he could put Dean to bed, track John down, and be home in time to give the boy some aspirin and coffee in the morning. Sounded like a plan. He marched over to the gate, unlocked it, and pulled it open wide. "Come on, Dean. Up to the house, boy."

Dean nodded, screwed the cap on his liquor, cranked the car and rolled smoothly up the road. Scarily steady and straight.

It was easy after that to get Dean inside and into one of twin beds he and Sam usually occupied when they visited. He gave a faint smile as he saw the amulet. A gift for John from Sam that had somehow ended up hanging around Dean's neck. He'd never seen the boy without it. Just like a proud papa.

He put a trashcan beside the bed, made the boy drink a bottle of water, then pulled up the covers when Dean went down for the count. He set a bottle of Advil on the bedside table, hoping it would ease the pain of the inevitable headache, but knowing it wouldn't do a damn thing for the heartache Dean was suffering. Dean, who'd always been too damn loyal, too damn accommodating, and too damn sacrificing. He'd known sooner or later that one of the boy's two loves, his daddy or his brother, would shatter his heart by dying or leaving. But for both of them to do it at the same time...

He couldn't fault Sam. Opportunities like a full ride to Stanford didn't come every day. And, God, Sam loved learning so much. He should be in college. But he should be able to come home someday, too. That--wasn't right. John was being an ass, plain and simple. Bobby laughed at himself. How in the world could he be surprised John was an ass? If the man hadn't been so annoying competent from the moment he'd met him, he'd have kicked him to the curb long ago purely on principle alone.

Because Bobby was a practical man, he set aside his hunt for John Winchester, and read his book as he sat by Dean's bedside. He only faltered for a moment when Dean cried out for his brother in his sleep, but decided being there for the boy was more important than kicking his father's ass. Dean had been left behind enough.

Morning found Dean Winchester sheepish, apologetic, and so close to the edge that Bobby hid the Impala's keys and made sure his weapons were locked away. His precautions weren't necessary because Dean spent most of the next two days in bed, just staring at the ceiling.

He finally prodded Dean out of bed by saying the Impala needed a tune up. Working on the car cheered him up a bit, and he joined Bobby at the table for supper. By the end of the week, Dean had many of his "junked" cars up and running. He sold two of them and split the money with Dean. However, the boy gave him most of it back for "room and board." Bobby shrugged, but set the money aside in an envelope.

He'd just put on the morning pot of coffee when Dean came into the kitchen with his duffel slung over a shoulder.

"Dad called. Needs me in Montana."

Bobby nodded, knowing John would call Dean to heel as soon as he'd worked through his pain, not caring if Dean had worked through his yet. Or if Dean would ever work through his. "Put your gear in the car. I'll fix you a thermos to go."

Dean looked at him thoughtfully, then reached out and squeezed his shoulder. "Thanks, man. For everything."

"Just take care of yourself, son. No more of that 'side of the road' shit, okay? You feel tossed aside again, you know where the pound is, right? Me and Rumsfeld. We're gonna be here, okay? And if you can't get to us, just call and we'll get to you, yeah?"

Dean gave a mocking smile. "I was a moody sonovabitch, wasn't I? Sorry for all the emo shit and girly drama."

"Dean, I'm going to give you a piece of advice, all right? Your dad's a big enough asshole for all you Winchesters. You don't have to go being one, too, understand? Call me if you need me. Swear it to me on the name of the Impala."

"Gee, Bobby, pulling out the big guns, huh?" Dean asked, forcing himself to grin.

"Remember what I said about being an asshole."

Dean sobered and nodded. "I promise, Bobby. I swear on the name of the Impala that I'll call if I need you."

"Thank you, son. That makes me feel much better. And tell that Daddy of yours, he's not welcome here."

"Bobby," Dean began to protest.

Bobby held up a hand to quiet him. "He's your daddy and you forgive him. I get that. But he ain't my daddy and I don't have to do shit, but what makes Bobby Singer feel good. Because of the way that man is treating you and your brother, shooting John Winchester will make me feel extremely good. But for your sake, and Sam's, I suppose, I'm going to give him a chance. Tell him to keep his ass away from me, and he won't be plucking out buckshot for the next six months."

"I'll pass that along." Dean shrugged. "Not his fault, you know. He and Sam--they are who they are."

"And who are you?" Bobby asked shrewdly.

"Just along for the ride."

Bobby hated all the Winchesters, including the one standing next to him. Yes, hate. Or something like it. Or maybe not. Heartbreakers. Every goddamn one of them. "Go on out to the car. I'll bring out the coffee, maybe pack you a little something for breakfast and lunch 'cause I know you won't be stopping with John waiting on you."

Dean walked out, humming one of those obnoxious tunes he liked. Hell only knows what Mary Winchester listened to when she was pregnant with him. Whatever it was, must've been loud. While the coffee perked, Bobby put together some sandwiches and threw them in the bag, along with an apple and a couple muffins they had left over after a run to the store a couple days ago. He could already hear the house settling into its usual peace and quiet, and although he welcomed it, it was going to take some time to get used to it again. Walking through the house, he stopped by his desk and picked up Dean's "room and board" envelope, tossing it in the bag with the food. Hustling while being depressed was just asking for trouble.

He found Dean and Rumsfeld having a discussion next to the car, Dean talking, Rumsfeld nodding along. Guardians. Faithful companions. Ignored until needed or they made noise. But Dean wasn't a noisemaker. Not when it mattered. Not when he was hurt.

His hand itched for his shotgun and John Winchester. Might even give him a running start.


"You ain't teaching my dog none of your stupid tricks, are you?" He handed Dean the bag and thermos. "Last time you left, I found him jumping around on two legs every time he heard some music."

"Can't help it if your dog likes to boogie, man."

Bobby sighed. "Just boogie your ass on down the road, idjit. Keep in touch, okay?"

"Sam was the researcher in the family, so when Dad sends me off to the library, I can guarantee I'll be dialing you up."

"You know, if you didn't waste so much time pretending to be dumb, you'd be as smart as your brother."

Dean laughed. "Got an image to keep, dude. Later, Bobby."

He watched until the big black car was just a memory on the road. He wondered how long it would be before he saw it again. And how many Winchesters would be in it. "The world changes," he told Rumsfeld. "Gotta be able to change with it. Old dog, new tricks, and all that. Think Dean can handle the new tricks, boy?"


"Yeah, me too. I've known that boy since he was a little thing. He held on to John when the man almost went off the rails after his wife's death. He held on to Sam when he was just a squirmy toddler and was as slippery as a greased pig. He'll hold on until Sam comes back. That's what he does, Rumsfeld. He holds on. Guess he doesn't need any new tricks after all."

After checking Rumsfeld water and feed bowls, Bobby headed back into the house and sat down with his Egyptian manuscript. Gods and demons he could handle. Winchesters?

If only there was a book about them.


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