His knees are aching, his heart pounds and Bobby knows, sure as hell; he can't run like he used to.

He does anyway, even increases in speed, because that son of a bitch . . .

Bobby searches almost compulsively, cursin' and hurtin' and trying not to think of anything but finding the kid and doing what needs to be done.

He searches, still cursin' and hurtin' and breathing heavy, his knees complaining all the while, but the kid is gone, disappeared with his tail between his legs. Bobby knows he should get back, it's been at least five, maybe fifteen minutes and Sam had gone down fast, too fast.

Bobby knows he's got it round the wrong way. His knees are pounding, and his heart is the one doing the aching.

It takes him another couple a minutes to school himself and turn back, running again with his knees whining and hating him, and he really can't run like he used to. Finally, he gets back - and maybe it hasn't been that many minutes - to where he'd left Dean and Sam.

Only it ain't Sam when he returns; the boy's gone, and from the look of the scene, maybe it ain't Dean either. The boy's never been one for tears but Bobby supposes, even as he struggles to hold back his own, that this might just be an exception.

Sam had been fourteen that day, and his attitude confirmed the age, even when his height was deceiving.

Growth spurt, John had muttered. Then, this is Sammy.

Fourteen the day Bobby had met him, and with all the it's Sam and gangly limbs flying everywhere, Bobby still had barely taken any notice. Standing behind Sam's permanent scowl had been Dean, eighteen with his nose level to his brothers.

Bobby had felt for the boy; he probably wasn't going to do much more growing and there was nothing like being shorter than your baby brother to make you feel tiny. Bobby knew from experience, and he had handed Dean a beer.

John had gone into a spiel in the way that only John Winchester was able to, about some demon all up in Rhode Island, and this was a mean sunnavabitch Bobby, what do you think we should do? had flown from his lips while Bobby had still been stuck on Dean.

Boy'd been quiet. Attentive to his dad, to don't call me Sammy, and to Bobby. He'd never been one to be unnerved, but damn if there wasn't something in Dean's eyes to make Bobby think.

Too pretty as well, Bobby had noted, with those lips surrounded by a pathetic attempt at face fuzz; if his father's beard was anything to go by, Dean must've been a late bloomer, and soon would join the best of them with five o'clock shadows. But then, there'd been nothing to run home to mom about, and that was just fine because Dean didn't have a mom, but damn if Bobby hadn't wanted to clock the boy one. Maybe on the cheek, perhaps the eye, or split that lip of his, if only to rough him up a bit.

Dean had caught his gaze, his daddy up to I've exhausted all my resources, Bobby, you know I don't come runnin' for help lightly and Bobby had held the gaze; he'd returned back to unnerved, because there had been something there that made Bobby want to throttle John and string him up for the wolves. For letting his boy turn into some sort of warrior when he couldn't even grow a beard worth shitting about.

It's fifteen minutes this time - Bobby's sure of it because it can't be just five, that ain't near enough for the pain – till Bobby gets Dean organized and off the ground. Organized. Bobby supposes being technical helps in a situation like this, perhaps it's even the right word because Dean is falling apart. He wouldn't know organize if it bit him, so Bobby tries to fix that, tries to help the boy and ends up failing. No way could he have won in a situation like this, and Bobby wonders how many times he's going to think that. Situation like this. Sam's dead, situation seems so harsh and uncaring when he should be hugging Dean and holding him like John should have all those times, but instead his hand is on the boy's shoulder. Soft words, we should go Dean, I'm sorry, I'll carry him, its okay.

The words are flat, because it ain't okay, but he is sorry, more than anything, and when Dean wakes up enough to shake his head, I'll carry him, Bobby feels like he's failed. Hears the boys daddy's voice in his head, you know I don't come runnin' for help lightly, and he wishes that Dean would come for help just this once.

Dean's offering, but his hands are still in Sam's hair hanging next to greying skin, his legs splayed awkwardly beneath him and Bobby supposes that it's a good thing the sobs have stopped, even if the tears are still there. He shakes Dean with more care than he's ever thought necessary, helps the boy untangle his fingers; helps him stand. Supposes this is what it's like to take care of a toddler, all stilted words and unco-ordination. Bobby isn't sure if he missed out on anything not having kids, Dean and Sam were the closest he ever had, and God, it's only Dean now.

Takes three tries getting Sam into Dean's arms, not that Bobby's counting. He's half tempted to clock the boy one, if only to stop him from needing to do this, and carry Sam himself. Dean would understand, after, when they'd had a few too many whisky's and he'd see that Bobby was just trying to do the right thing.

Bobby almost laughs at the thought, and what an inappropriate time – Dean probably wouldn't notice if he did – because Dean would never see it as the right thing.

So it takes three tries to get Sam in Dean's arms, and for the first time since he was fourteen, even with the long limbs hanging over, Sam looks smaller than his brother. And ain't that a trick, Bobby can't help but think.