Rating: 12 (US PG-13)
Word Count: 1,318
Notes: For the prompt - 2. An AU where John, and not Bill Harvelle, was killed on that hunt. This may not be exactly what you envisioned, but I really hope you like it all the same! (Title from Life of a Salesman – Yellowcard)
Summary: He sat in his car for a while, thinking about how both of the boys had changed.
Jim’s heart sank as he stepped out of the car in front of the motel room where he knew that Sam and Dean were staying, well aware that he was about to break their world up even further. Bill had called only a couple of hours ago, voice broken up by the unreliable cell reception, and asked Jim to pick up Sam and Dean, since he was closer to the boys’ motel in Minnesota. He told Jim that they’d been on a hunt and a demon had thrown John from a third storey window. By the time Bill had run down to his friend, it had been too late.
Walking up to the door, Jim glanced at the window as he passed. There was a gap between the curtains, allowing the streetlights to partially illuminate the boys sleeping on one of the beds. Young Sammy was curled up on his side nearest the window, thumb in his mouth. Dean, on the other hand, was on his front, one hand curled underneath the pillow. Jim knew exactly what he kept under there.
With a sigh, Jim knocked sharply three times on the door, just as John had told him to do if there was a reason to pick them up. Jim had no doubt that Dean had been drilled for this situation. But he also knew that no amount of drilling could possibly have prepared the boy for the shock of losing the only parent he’d had left.
A few moments later he heard the deadbolt being unlatched, and Dean’s sleepy face appeared at the door, grasping a shotgun in his fingers as he looked up at Jim in confusion. “Pastor Jim?" he whispered.
It wasn’t right; Dean was barely nine. Jim had always thought that John put too much on the kid’s shoulders especially with the way that he was put in charge of Sammy’s safety, and now Jim was going to be the one Dean always remembered as breaking the news that was going to crush his world again.
“Hey, Dean. We need to talk. Can you get your things together while I wake up Sammy?"
The phone was ringing when Jim got back from the Sunday sermon, and he ran to catch it before it rang off. “Hello, Jim Murphy speaking."
“Pastor Jim? It’s Sam. Sam Winchester."
A smile lit up Jim’s face. “Sammy! What can I do for you?"
There was a slight hesitation before Sammy spoke again, and when he did he sounded tentative. Which was unusual for the teenager; ever since he could talk he hadn’t ever been afraid to ask anything. “Pastor Jim…could you tell me about Dad? About what he was like, I mean."
“Of course, Sammy. But haven’t you tried asking your brother?"
“Dean won’t talk about it; gets mad if I keep asking people."
Unfortunately, this made perfect sense. After John’s death Dean had withdrawn into himself, and these days his way of dealing was to avoid thinking about either of his parents as much as possible. “So where is Dean now?"
“He’s on an errand for Ellen. I think she knew I was going to phone; he’s not going to be back here for a while."
Jim had to agree that Ellen probably had planned it. She was a good guardian for the boys, both she and Bill were, though Jim had his suspicions that Bill‘s offer to take the Winchester boys in at the Roadhouse was a little more to do with guilt than anything else.
“I first met you boys and your Dad back when you were barely a year old. He was still broken up and hell-bent on finding whatever demon killed your mother, but you and Dean were the most important things in his life. Never let any hunters in that place tell you otherwise, all right? John loved you. Made sure that you’d be taken care of if anything ever happened to him.
“John was a great man in many ways. He was a little blinded by the need for revenge, but he always wanted to help people too. A lot of people said that he was one of the best hunters in the country. It’s a real shame you never really knew him."
“I remember bits and pieces," Sammy said quietly. “After he came back from a hunt he’d wrap us in a hug and smell like smoke and gun oil. That he’d ruffle my hair and tell us that he’d missed us."
Jim’s eyes pricked with tears at the grief evident in Sammy’s voice. They talked for a long while more, Jim detailing every anecdote he had of John from all of those years ago. They’d both shed a few years by the the time they wished each other goodbye.
“Thank you, Pastor Jim," Sammy sniffed. Jim assured him that he was welcome to call at any time, and that it was no trouble at all.
“And make sure that you boys keep in touch."
“We will. See you soon."
It was a quiet time at the Roadhouse; most of the hunters didn’t stop by until later on in the day, or the evening. Jim wasn’t the only person in there, though; his attention was grabbed by Sam and Dean standing up from their table. They each embraced him, each hugging him tightly in turn before gesturing for him to sit down next to them. As he sat, Sam went to fetch him a cup of coffee from the kitchen.
“How are you doing, Dean?" Jim asked, watching the young man. He’d come a long way in the last twenty years; John would be proud, would have been proud of them both. But at the moment, Dean was looking sombre; much more so than Sam who had disappeared behind the bar with a spring in his step.
“I’m good." He paused. “We got it."
Jim sat up straighter. “The demon?"
Sam rejoined them and sat back at the table. “Yeah, the one that killed Mom and ordered the demon to kill Dad and Bill that night."
“Well done." Jim eyed them both carefully. “How do you feel about that?"
“We’ve completed Dad’s mission. Should be pleased, right?" Dean said, staring into the coffee mug in his hands.
“But are you?" Jim asked, knowing that he was pushing slightly.
“He should have been here to see it. Hell, they both should have been." Dean raised his mug in a small gesture of salute, and looked up at Jim with a small smile. “What brings you here, Pastor Jim?"
Jim slipped a hand into his pocket. “I was clearing out the house since I won’t be living there much longer now, and I found this." He pulled out the envelope and placed it on the table.
Sam was the first one to reach for it, curiously taking out the photos and the small gold ring. “Your Dad gave me those for safekeeping. Now it’s time to pass them on to you two."
Taking the ring and turning it over a couple of times, Dean looked up and smiled gratefully. “Thank you for this."
“No problem. They belong to you boys anyway. Now…are you both going to tell an old man what’s going on in your lives?"
They spent hours in the bar, talking and laughing, until other patrons started to arrive. By the time Jim left, giving both Sam and Dean one last hug, they were all in much higher spirits. He sat in his car for a while, thinking about how both of the boys had changed - had grown from the scared young children they had been after their father’s death into the confident, talented men they were today.
He looked out into the sun setting in the distance and, hoping that somehow he would be heard, murmured, “You should see them now, John. You really should."