As a good couple of hours passed, Sam grew more and more antsy. "I should go up, see if he's OK;" he kept glancing at the stairs, fiddling with his beer bottle, pacing back and forth; "what if one of them turned on him?"
"Will ya sit down;" Bobby snapped, "you heard your brother, he don't want anyone there, he's real cut up about this whole business; he won't appreciate anyone bargin' in on him Sam; not even you."
"It's just a crappy situation all round," sighed Tom from a chair in the corner of the room.
Sam sat at the table and took another swig of his beer before leaping to his feet again, "there must be something we can do, somewhere we can take them; we just need to think logically about this."
"Bobby wearily scraped a hand over his face; "If they stayed that size, then yes; but you must appreciate that more than most; you've seen one of these damn things up close and personal, you've seen the size of it. It's twenty or thirty foot of practically invisible, man eatin' dragon with venomous halitosis and a vile temper; you tell me what we can do with it."
Sam flopped back down into the chair with a defeated sigh; "Sam, these are the creatures that medieval dragon lore was based on; they were so vicious and violent, that in most European lore they were symbols of all mankind's fears; people were rightly terrified of them."
Bobby crossed his arms across his chest and stared at Sam; "You wanna be responsible for unleashing that on the population?"
Suddenly the three men fell silent as they heard a creak on the landing.
They looked up to see Dean making his way slowly down the stairs. Sam leapt out of his chair; "dude, you ok?" he gasped.
"They're dead." Dean announced quietly.
Sam felt the tears prick, and reached out to grasp Dean's slumped shoulder. "You killed 'em?"
Dean shook his head, looking up through hollow eyes at Sam. "I couldn't." His lip curling in self-disgust.
Bobby closed his eyes briefly, then looked at Dean, "So what happened, son?"
Dean shook his head, looking despondently back at Bobby; "... didn't have the stomach."
He tried and failed to read Bobby's expression. "I know, save your breath," he sighed, "you don't have to give me the lecture. You can't hate me any more than I hate myself right now."
He stared defiantly, daring Bobby to shout him down; but the older man spoke calmly and sympathetically. "I don't hate you, kid, just tell me what happened."
Dean shrugged, "dunno; I picked them up, thinkin' they'd wrap themselves roun' me again so I could …" he hesitated, his eyes dropping to the floor in shame, "… take them out to the Impala, to, er, take them away somewhere; but they were all limp an' barely movin', they didn't change colour an' their eyes were all cloudy."
He paused sheepishly to gauge Bobby's reaction to his revelation, but if Bobby were angry or disappointed, he made no show of it.
Dean continued, "I bundled them up on my lap for a bit, thought they might've got cold, I'm sure I read somewhere that reptiles don't like the cold, but they just stayed there, and never moved again. I'm pretty sure they're dead." He murmured.
Bobby glanced across at Tom who was remaining a discreet distance from the exchange hugging his empty beer bottle.
Tom nodded smartly, "I'm on my way," he beckoned Dean, "C'mon Dean, in case I need a bodyguard."
Shrugging his shoulder out of his brother's grasp, Dean trudged up the stairs behind the Doctor.
Watching his brother unenthusiastically climbing the stairs, Sam turned to Bobby; "We should never have asked him to do that," he spat furiously, "look at him; he's in bits."
Bobby sat at the table and sighed heavily; "Sam, you're such an open book. I can read your thoughts as easy as I can read the TV Guide, but your brother; it's so easy to forget what a soft heart he carts around inside that damned suit of armour he wears." He groaned miserably, "this is without a doubt the most crappiest, crapped up situation I have ever gotten into in the whole time I've been doin' this crappy job."
Sam's face softened as he watched Bobby vacantly examining the label on his bottle; "Jeez, we're all like this over two snakes;" he smiled, "God help us if that was two puppies up there!"
"Yep, they're dead alright;" Tom confirmed, trudging back down the stairs alone.
"How?" Bobby and Sam asked in unison.
"Don't know" Tom shrugged, "my guess would be dehydration. Maybe malnutrition;" he shrugged. "Look, they're infants; it's been a week since their mother was killed, I'm guessing they wouldn't have eaten or drunk since then. That little burst of energy when they latched onto Dean was probably all they had left."
"Where is Dean?" asked Sam, "still upstairs; uh, tidyin' up," Tom replied softly.
Sam dashed up the stairs two at a time.
He opened the door slowly and peered cautiously into the room. Dean was sitting slumped on the side of the bed, elbows on his knees, staring at the coiled bodies.
Sam walked over and stared down at the limp grey coil on the floor "Poor little dudes," he sighed, sitting on the bed next to Dean; "I wish we'd never taken this job."
Dean nodded mutely in agreement.
Sam's uninjured arm instinctively moved across his brother's hunched back, feeling Dean's muscles tense at the touch. Sitting together in silence they stared sadly at the creatures until eventually Sam spoke up; "at least they spent the last few minutes of their lives curled up with their Mom."
Dean slowly turned to him, glistening green eyes blazing with anger; "friggin' shit apology for a mother I was, just sat on my ass and watched them starve to death."
Sam leaned against his brother, relishing the closeness; "Dean, they were dead from the moment I killed their mother. If anyone's to blame I am."
Dean looked up and shook his head, "we were on a job; we were gonna kill her one way or the other. I should never have been dumb enough to put you at that sort of risk.
A familiar voice from behind the door chimed in; "I'm gonna knock your damn heads together, if you don't stop blamin' yourselves; neither of you are to friggin' blame. It's just one of the crappy things that goes with the territory in this godforsaken job."
Bobby strode into the room and stood, arms crossed, glaring at the brothers.
"I know that," Dean snapped back, "it's not that I'm angry about." He looked up at Bobby, his tearstained face a mask of anger.
He took a deep breath; "I'm angry because I freakin' care."
Sam and Bobby both stared at Dean.
"I shouldn't care;" Dean shrugged; a scowl crossing his face; "they're friggin' lizards. I'm a hunter, killin' things is what I do; and here I am sittin' snivelling' over 'em like a five year old," he snarled through clenched teeth.
"Dean, you're bein' hard on yourself …" Sam's reply was cut short.
"It's a hard job," Dean snapped back, "we find somethin' Supernatural, we kill it. End of story", he shouted angrily.
Shaking his head, Sam tried to calm his brother, "It's not as simple as that."
"Yes it is; we kill them and we don't show them any mercy, 'cos they don't show us any." Dean snorted.
Bobby smiled, "I've heard those words before, but not from you."
He walked over to the bed, "scoot up" he muttered, waiting for the brothers to shift up and make room. He sat down, turning to face them.
"Now you listen to me, Dean Winchester," Bobby snapped, "the day you stop carin' will be the day you break your momma's heart."
Dean physically jolted at the words; Sam flinched and pulled him closer, squeezing his shoulders.
"All that stuff about not showin' mercy? Those are your daddy's words." Bobby smiled, remembering his old friend, "your daddy was a strong, hard hunter, an' a good, good man, and yes, sometimes he did have a strange sense of persective; but you both know as much as I do, he was all broken up inside." Bobby looked straight into the bemused green eyes which were fixed on him; "sometimes he did things that a rational man wouldn't have done; but he only ever did the things he did because he thought they were the right things to do; he cared – in his own way."
The brothers sat in silence.
"I remember something else your daddy said once;" Bobby smiled, "He told me all about your mom and told me she was beautiful in every way it was possible for a person to be beautiful;" he smiled, "he told me she cared so deeply about everyone and everything around her; the love that came from within her was so strong you could almost hold it."
Both Winchesters stared at Bobby, Sam absently rubbing his brother's back, like two children listening to a bedtime story.
"Dean, you're not just your daddy's son, you're your momma's son too." Bobby continued, " in fact, you're far more like her than you were ever like your daddy; you look like her, you think like her and whether you like it or not, you have her kind and loving nature, so suck it up, tough guy!"
"I've seen you, torturing yourself over bein' too late to save someone, or killin' an innocent." He smiled, "You act the macho meathead, like nothing' matters to you, jus' brushin' off tragedy with a smartass comment and a table full of shots, but the fact is, you just ain't very good at it; everyone who knows you knows when you're hurtin' boy.
Dean looked up to Bobby, the tears glistening in his eyes; "But Bobby, you can't do the job when you're all wrapped up carin' about everythin', it's stupid; it clouds your judgement. I mean, perfect example; look at the state of me, frettin' over two dead lizards."
Bobby smiled, "Bein' a good hunter don't mean you have to be uncaring; that just makes you cruel, turns you into a monster like Gordon Walker." He explained, "bein' a good hunter means sometimes havin' to make crappy horrible decisions for the greater good; an' sometimes it hurts you so bad, it all but breaks your heart." he sighed, "Those poor little fellers did you a good turn, and you saw something in them other than bein' evil scaly maneaters; you cared about them, and it hurt you to think you would have to waste 'em."
"Yeah, all very virtuous an' all, but what good is it if in the end I didn't have the jewels to do it?" sighed Dean.
"Boy," snorted Bobby, "I'd rather see you agonising and frettin' over doin' something unsavoury, I'd rather see you refuse to do it than see you just marchin' in and doin' it without a second thought."
"Bein' able to care makes you examine all possibilities an' alternatives before you jump in and fire the gun. It makes you a good, strong, FAIR hunter."
He prodded Dean in the chest, "an' you, princess, are a good, strong, fair hunter, you friggin' moron."
"Do you think I wanted you to kill those things, 'specially after what they did for you?" Bobby asked, "heck, I'd have made a pen in the barn for 'em myself if I knew they weren't gonna grow big enough to eat the house – with me in it."
"So, I don't wanna hear any more of this crap about not carin', otherwise, God help me, I'll find the nearest Lyndworm an' feed you to it myself."
Dean looked up at the older man and gave a wet-eyed smile.
Bobby got up with a grunt, patting the elder Winchester on the shoulder; "Now let's get ourselves downstairs and give those critters a hunters' send off, c'mon we'll drink to their scaly asses with a cold one".
Tom hung around for a couple more days, keeping in the background, quietly, subtly keeping an eye on Dean. When he was confident the elder Winchester was completely mended, nad sam's arm wasn't going to give any trouble he announced that he was heading home.
"I've spent so long here lookin' after your pretty, pretty ass, I'll probably get back and find a pile of dead hunters on my doorstep," he laughed, standing in the yard, shaking hands with Bobby and the Winchesters.
"Hey, you've been freakin' privileged to be anywhere near my awesome ass, dude," Dean countered.
Sam laughed, "that's not what you said when you were takin' his temperature, was it Tom?"
Dean's eyes widened in horror as the three men doubled up laughing.
As the laughing subsided, along with the elder Winchester's blush, Tom spoke up; "seriously man, I'm so glad you're better, it really was touch and go for a time, but you are one tough, stubborn sonofabitch!"
"Yeah, thanks to you", Dean smiled sadly, "an' I did have a bit of help from a couple of friends."
"Now, next time we meet can we do it over a beer?" Said Tom with a smile, "not a damn sick bed."
"You got it!" smiled Sam, "an' thanks - again."
Tom turned to walk away, then hesitated. "Oh Dean," he grinned, turning back to face the three men; "don't worry ... in the ear" he mouthed with a grin, sticking his finger in his ear.
Dean stared nonplussed; "what's he mean?" He turned to Sam, "what's he talkin' 'bout?"
Sam and Bobby exchanged glances with a laugh and walked back into the house leaving the elder Winchester standing, perplexed, in the yard as Tom's truck pulled away with a honk.
Another day passed before the Winchesters took their leave from Bobby's with fond farewells and hit the road again.
"Feels good to be back in my girl," Dean smiled broadly, "it's been too long."
Sam smiled, turning to his brother, "You owe her an apology dude; last time you were in her you spent the best part of the trip puking all over her - an' me!" Bobby was all day out here cleanin' her up while you were out of it.
Dean cringed; "oh, my poor baby;" he lovingly patted the steering wheel, "I'm so sorry baby, I'll make it up to you, I promise. I'll give your leather the full works at the next town; an' a complete oil change, how's that honey?"
"Hey, what about me - don't I get an apology?" Sam snorted; "I had to spend the best part of half a day sitting in your puke!"
"Nah," grunted Dean, "call it payback for all the times I had to change your diapers when you were a noisy, stinky little rugrat!"
The brothers sat in amiable silence for some time as the Impala sailed along the endless highway.
"Bobby's right you know," Dean broke the silence, "'bout all that caring stuff; friggin' scary how he knows me better'n I know myself."
"I do care; I hate it, but I do. Every time I see some poor bastard who don't deserve it get iced, it beats me up. I've tried so hard to hide it over the years; Dad told me to suck it up otherwise it would get me killed." He turned briefly to Sam, "but this friggin' episode with those two little dudes has really shook me up; I mean is everything we hunt evil?" He pondered; "was that Lyndworm evil or was she just a mom feedin' her babies?"
"Feedin' her babies on people," corrected Sam; "there you go again," he added with a smile, "doing all that girly carin' stuff again…"
Dean sighed, "crap, my life has suddenly become so much more complicated," he thought for a moment; "I've spent so long tryin' to be like Dad, and buryin' all the touchy feely stuff, tryin' to be the perfect huntin' machine; hard, clinical, focussed; it never occurred to me that whatever I did, or said, or wore, in the end, the simple fact is that I'm nothin' like him."
"It's no shame bein' like mom;" Sam ventured, watching Dean closely; "No" Dean smiled warmly for the first time in days, "No it's not; not at all." He paused for a moment as if in thought, "In fact it's awesome."
Silence reigned again, all that could be heard was the soothing thrum of the Impala's engine. Dean's eyes flickered across to his brother.
"Quit lookin' at me like that!" he snapped.
Sam beamed broadly, "so, are we havin' chick flick moment, dude?"
Dean cringed, "it feels like the whole friggin' movie, complete with trailers and popcorn!"
"Awesome" Sam smiled broadly.
Dean huffed, "Oh God, we're not gonna end up chuggin' Darjeeling and discussing recipes and PMT are we?" He gripped the steering wheel, "gimme a break, I'm havin' issues here, man, it's freakin' embarrassin', I mean all that carin' an' sharing' stuff; that's your department."
"Apparently not any longer," smiled Sam. He turned to his brother with a mischevious grin, "Hey Dean?"
"Does this mean I'm still 'bitch' or do you want to have a go?"