Title: And the Greatest of These…

Author: Swanseajill
Characters: Dean, Sam, Bobby
Pairing: None
Disclaimer: Don't own them, making no money from them.

Summary: 'Dean had his bases covered, a plan in case his words weren't enough to bring Sam back. A plan he couldn't share with Bobby. If Bobby knew what he intended, he'd try to stop him, and that couldn't happen. Dean was prepared to risk everything rather than lose his brother again.'

Author's Notes: This fic is set ten months post AHBL, but there are no specific spoilers for season 3 episodes and I've only slightly broken with canon! Grateful thanks as always to stealthyone for her fantastic beta job and for pointing out scenes that needed to be written to make this a far better story. You rock.

The story is complete, and I'll post a part a day over the next seven days.

And the Greatest of These…

And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corinthians 13:13

1.

The rusted nut stubbornly refused to turn, and the wrench skittered out of his hand, clanging to the ground. Bobby Singer cursed and stepped back from the truck, kicking the wrench in frustration and grimacing at the creaking of cramped muscles as he straightened his back. Damned pile of crap. He had worked on it for four hours, and it had barely been worth salvaging in the first place.

He glanced up at the sky, wiping an oily rag across his forehead to soak up some of the sweat running into his eyes. The sun was still a fierce ball of shimmering heat, but he spotted an ominous darkness on the horizon, and the air was still and heavy. A storm was coming in.

He glanced at his watch. Six p.m. Might as well knock off now; there was no time to finish the job before the storm struck. Tomorrow, the temperature should be down a notch or two. It would be easier to work on the truck when her bodywork wasn't hot enough to fry his balls to a crisp.

He jumped as the opening bars of Motörhead's 'Life's a Bitch' erupted from his jeans pocket and cursed Dean Winchester long and hard for the tenth time that week. He had to figure out how to change the ring tone back to something that sounded more like a phone than a heavy-metal concert. Course, he wouldn't have to worry about it in the first place if Sam had let him stick to his good old-fashioned landline. He had to admit, though, Sam's logic was faultless. They were right smack in the middle of a war, and it made sense for him to be available around the clock.

Irritably, he yanked the offending object out of his pocket and looked at the screen. Speak of the devil. He hit the go button with a grubby thumb.

"This better be good, 'cause I'm having a bad day," he growled.

"B….bby."

Something cold stirred in the pit of Bobby's stomach in response to the pain-soaked whisper.

"Dean! What's wrong?"

"N… need you… come… pick me up."

Pick him up? That meant either there was a problem with the car, or Dean was too badly hurt to drive. From the sound of his voice, the latter was most likely. In which case… "Dean, where's Sam?" he asked urgently. "Is he with you?"

A pause.

"Dean!"

"… not here."

"He's not with you?" Bobby's mouth went dry. "Where is he, Dean?"

"I don'…"

"Did someone take him?"

Silence.

"Dean! Did someone take Sam?"

"N… no. But he's… gone." Worry bled through the clipped words.

"Gone where?"

"I don'… know."

The chill in his gut morphed into a solid ball of fear. Sam would never just walk out on Dean if his brother were hurt. Maybe he'd gone for help, but Bobby could tell Dean was holding something back, and he had a gut feeling he knew what it was. Still, explanations would have to wait. Dean would never call for help unless he was desperate, and the first step was to get to him as quickly as possible.

"Dean, where are you?"

"'bandon… mine …"

Dean's voice faded out, and Bobby's grip on the cell tightened in reaction. He deliberately sharpened his voice. "Dean! Stay with me. Tell me where the mine is."

"Mitch… Mitchell Crossing."

"Mitchell Crossing, South Dakota?"

"Y… Yeah."

That was good. He could be in the Crossing in less than two hours.

"Dean, how bad are you hurt?"

A pause.

"Dean?"

"'m okay. Just… get here, Bobby."

"All right. Just tell me exactly where the mine is."

"I… don'… don't 'member."

"Sure you do. Try to focus, Dean, okay? Which direction did you head out of town?"

"I... south… on the 63."

Bobby blew out a sigh of relief. "Good, that's good. How far did you drive down the 63?"

"Five… six miles."

Good enough. "I'll be there soon as I can. You sit tight, you hear?"

"Not goin'… anywhere." There was the tiniest hint of humor in the words that reassured Bobby a little. Then Dean's voice changed. "Sam…"

Bobby's gut clenched. "Dean? What about Sam?"

"He's… he's not… he's… be careful…" The voice faded out.

"Dean! Stay with me, dammit!"

This time, there was no reply. Bobby cursed. He could tell from the static that the cell was still connected, which implied that Dean had probably passed out. Not good news if he was concussed.

With possible worst-case scenarios racing through his mind, Bobby slammed shut the old wreck's hood and headed for his favorite and most reliable truck, fishing the keys out of his pocket as he ran. If he floored the gas, he could be in Mitchell Crossing in ninety minutes.