He hears the scream and he staggers several paces before coming to a halt. It's carried on the wind and echoes through the forest, and for the first time in over twenty years Bobby lets his prey go. The shit-faced kid he's been chasing keeps running, not even pausing at the sound of the destruction he's caused, disappearing into the trees. Bobby grunts at the strain on his knees as he spins around and races back the way he came.

Wayward branches catch in his beard and scratch at his face, and an old man like him isn't even supposed to be running this fast, but images of the Winchesters throughout the years drive him on: John Winchester standing on his doorstep twenty years ago, two little boys at his side, demanding in that confident, infuriating way of his way of his to be let into Bobby's world, even when he promised himself that no one was allowed but himself and his dogs. He saw Sammy sitting on his floor, laughing at nothing, little fingers tracing the designs painted on the hardwood. He saw Dean's slow, easy grin at seventeen, a smile that revealed the real boy underneath all of the military precision and darkness that surrounded him.

He clears the edge of the treeline and stumbles through the deserted town, knowing,just knowing that it's too late for everything. Sure enough, he rounds the last set of abandoned buildings to see Sam and Dean exactly where he left them, except Sam is slumped over in his brother's arms, his head at an odd angle on Dean's shoulder, and Dean himself is sobbing, rocking back and forth and choking out words Bobby can't identify.

His heart is already pounding from the run, but it actually starts skipping beats, too, as he takes in the scene in front of him. Sam is an awkward, limp bundle in his brother's arms, and he knows Dean would never break down like this if there was even a chance . . . nothing has to be said, because it's obvious that John's little boy is dead.

"Ah, God," he mutters under his breath, his throat aching.

Bobby cautiously walks towards Dean and drops into a kneel beside him. Cold mud soaks his jeans and this close Bobby can hear what Dean is saying, catches Sam's name, God's name and lot of "no's" in the broken litany. Dean's eyes are squeezed shut, but there are tears running down his face and his knuckles are white against the muddied tan fabric of Sam's jacket.

"Dean." Bobby says, softly, because he knows he's intruding. When Dean doesn't respond, he risks laying a hand on his shoulder. As expected, Dean jerks away with a shout of denial and clutches Sam more tightly. Sam's head lolls sideways and he slumps further into Dean's lap, causing both boys to overbalance.

Dean lands on his back in the mud, Sam still clutched in his arms, and Bobby jerks backwards to avoid getting taken down, too. He manages to right himself just as Dean shoves his brother off him and rolls him onto his back on the wet ground.

"I'm gonna fix this, Sammy. I'm gonna fix this." Dean repeats, leaning over his brother.

At first Bobby's not sure what Dean is doing, but when he raises his hands, fisted palm over palm, above Sam's chest he realizes what Dean is planning. He feels tears burn his eyes, because God, the kid deserved better than to bleed to death at twenty-three in the mud and rain in the middle of God-knew-where. Bobby would give his own life up to bring Sam back if he could, but he knows better. Sam hadn't been breathing for a good ten minutes, and his lips were already blue, and any rituals performed to bring him back wouldn't be worth the cost.

"Dean, son . . ."

"Shut up!" Dean shouts, still crying, and uses a shaky hand to pinch Sam's nose closed. He manages to get two breaths and one compression in before Bobby grabs his shoulder and yanks him backwards.

"Dean, stop, he's gone!"

It was probably the wrong thing to say because Dean flails and fights him as he tries to pull him away from Sam, but he's completely traumatized and Bobby subdues him fairly easily, locking his arms above his head. Bobby holds him there until he stops struggling and his heaving breaths turn back to sobs again.

When he thinks it's safe, Bobby loosens his hold and pulls Dean into a hug, realizing suddenly that he's never hugged the boy before, not even when he was a runt. Sammy always accepted a hug from anyone who would give one, but never Dean, John's perfect little soldier who never cried, not even when he fell off a car in the junkyard when he was eight and needed ten stitches in his hand.

That little is boy is long gone now. Dean's crying now, sobbing into Bobby's shirt, fingers digging into his back.

"I'm sorry." Bobby says, because he can't think of anything else.

He wants to keep still for a moment and give Dean time to collect himself, but they can't stay here. Even if it wasn't the demon's playground, the town is still haunted ground and it isn't safe.

"Dean, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, son, but we've gotta get outta here. The demon's still out there, and this place is haunted. It ain't safe."

For a minute he thinks Dean hasn't heard him, or is just plain ignoring him, but finally the younger hunter pulls back, wiping at his still-streaming eyes and sniffling. They stare at each other for a long moment.

Tears glisten on Dean's cheeks and eyelashes, mingling with the drizzle that was falling, and he turns to look back at Sam's still body. "Bobby . . ." he chokes out.

Bobby wants to cry, too, for Sam, for John, for everyone that had been lost to them over the years. No one would ever know who these men had really been and what they'd done, and no would care, either. Sam and John deserved so much more than that.

He swallows his own tears and grasps Dean's trembling shoulder. "I know. I know, but I'm still here and I'm gonna help you."

It was a promise. Sam and his daddy had died for all of them, and Bobby would, too, if that's what it took to see this through.

There were five rivers in Hades: The Acheron (river of woe), Lethe (forgetfulness), Styx (hate), Phlegethon (fire), and Cocytus (lamentation). In Greek mythology, Charon ferried newly dead souls across the Acheron and into Hades if they had a coin to pay.