Three weeks had passed since the Winchesters' fateful encounter with the Leshy, and they had spent the best part of those three weeks licking their wounds back in the safety of the bunker. The only saving grace was that the Leshy was dead. Thanks to Baby, it was very, very dead, so that wasn't something they would have to concern themselves with.
In the immediate aftermath of the hunt, the brothers had never been so grateful for the closeness and discretion of the hunters' network. A quick call to a contact only an hour away had seen the brothers returned to the bunker via a local ER unit with a hastily concocted cover story involving a bolting horse and zero riding ability to explain Sam's broken wrist. Said contact had also seen to it that Baby was towed away to a place of safety, all without the inconvenience of having to involve the law, the parks authorities, and any other of those troublesome official bodies that like to ask way too many questions.
The downside of this, however, meant that far from resting up, which would have been the sensible option for someone who had come within a heartbeat of being fatally throttled, Dean spent his time pacing the bunker like a caged animal for five full days until finally the necessary arrangements were completed for Baby's wreckage to be returned to him.
And that was pretty much the last that Sam saw of him.
Standing in the middle of the bunker's spacious garage, Dean stared despondently down at the crumpled shell in front of him. This was Baby; a car – but yet suddenly so much more than a car. The pain of Dean's bruised neck and his assorted other injuries was nothing compared to the pain in his heart as he looked at what Baby had done to herself.
She'd done it to herself for him and for Sam; to save their lives. Dean didn't even know how to begin to reconcile himself to that knowledge.
As he bent down, he picked off a tiny cube of clear glass that was hanging from her smashed headlight and sighed as he slipped the tiny fragment into his shirt pocket, close to his heart.
"Gonna get you all fixed up now Baby," he whispered, running a hand along her crumpled bodywork; "whatever it takes, however long it takes, I'm gonna have you back good as new. You know that, don't you?"
He paused, half hoping, half waiting for a sassy response; and tried not to be disappointed when none came.
Over the following days, every time Sam ventured down to the garage, he would find Dean, wrench in hand, working like a man possessed; tightening bolts, bending crooked metal and replacing all manner of broken components. The smears of grease across Dean's face didn't hide the grey circles of exhaustion that were darkening under his eyes, but Sam knew better than to suggest that Dean got some rest. Repairing Baby was Dean's rest. Sam knew that asking Dean to walk away from her right now would be more tortuous than anything the Leshy could have done to him.
On one occasion when he'd headed down to the garage, juggling a mug of coffee and a plate of cookies with his one good arm, he'd found Dean sitting in the driver seat slumped, fast asleep across Baby's steering wheel.
Dean had looked so peaceful; sprawled over her fractured dashboard, his quiet breaths softly misting the windshield; that Sam hadn't been able to bring himself to wake him up. Carefully taking off his thick overshirt, he'd spread it across Dean's shoulders and quietly retreated, satisfied that Dean was getting some rest – in whatever form it might take.
But now, Baby was starting to look whole once again. Under Dean's expert attention and devoted care, she was taking shape more and more. Every day, Sam would see Dean come and go, stocking up on anything and everything; oil, tyres, primer, spare parts, and a myriad other various items, some of which Sam didn't even know the name of. As each day progressed, and Baby was a little closer to completion, Sam was sure he could see the hint of a sparkle returning to Dean's eyes. The day that Dean drove her out to a local spray booth to get her paintwork fixed up was the day that both brothers had longed for. This was the day they both hoped that she would finally come back to them.
When Sam heard the familiar growl of her engine, as she returned from the spray booth, he bolted down to the garage to meet Dean and, of course, Baby. She looked magnificent.
"How is she?" he grinned, looking down at the Impala's glossy black bodywork with delight.
"She's running great," Dean replied, rubbing a hand over the sleek contours of her roof; "I got her running as well as I've ever done before."
Sam's grin fell into a frown. He could see immediately that the proud smile playing on Dean's face belied an inner darkness, as if the light had gone out in his eyes.
"What's wrong?" He asked cautiously.
"Nothing's wrong," Dean replied cagily; "except … she's got a problem with one of her headlights – the damn thing keeps flickering."
Sam paused, glancing between Dean and the car that stood between them. "It's more than that …" he murmured, shaking his head; "… Dean, what's wrong?"
Dean paused, seemingly fortifying himself before he spoke. "I couldn't really find many parts here after the ones I put in her last time," he began hesitantly, "I've had to get the rest from outside; you know, local suppliers, scrapyards, those sorts of places."
Sam nodded. The silence that settled between them hung heavy in the air.
"I've been working on her for three weeks, Sam," Dean sighed; "and she hasn't said a word."
"Sam, I think we've lost her."