Journey's Nadir

A/N: This is a tag to S3 finale "No Rest for the Wicked" so spoilers ahead for various episodes from this season. I have no rights towards Supernatural; all belong to Kripke, et. al.

Drowning. Sounds muffled. Taste of brine on lips. Vision blurred. A tugging on his shoulders. Reality slammed into Sam. Muted sounds sharpened into Bobby's voice calling his name. Sam blinked tears away, and his vision cleared. To see the nightmare again. Dean's still body, his green eyes glazed over staring into a world of fire and brimstone that only he, of the three, could see. Sam had broken many promises over the years. But this broken promise to save his brother tore him asunder. His shoulders began to shake again as tear followed tear to mingle with the blood spatter on Dean's face. You couldn't separate one from the other.

"Sam?" Bobby tried to bring the youngest Winchester, the only one left, back to him. "Family don't end with blood." Ever since the two Winchesters had darkened his doorstep after John had been taken, his life had taken a sharp right turn. He'd known the boys since they were little and had watched them grow up.

The boys had stayed with him after John's death. He'd dealt with their tempers and silences and Sam's nightmares. He'd been startled one afternoon to realize how much they'd come to mean to him. Bobby Singer. Crusty old bachelor with a dog for a companion. Sure, he'd many acquaintances in the hunting community, some of them he even called friend. But these two, they had unknowingly wormed their way into his heart.

Now his heart was breaking too. The devastation he saw in Sam's eyes was the worst thing he'd ever seen in all his years.

Bobby crouched down on the other side of Dean's body away from Sam. Placing a hand on the shredded chest, he felt a small patch of warmth centered upon a small, hard object. It seemed to be working. Maybe they could still save Dean.

Early February 1992. John Winchester had shown up at his door with nine year old Sam and a truculent teenage Dean. Battered and bloody from an encounter with a pissed off ghost, John needed a place to hole up in for a day or two, and Bobby's salvage yard had been close. What had startled Bobby more than the wounds on John was the amulet around Dean's neck. Not John's as he'd intended.

Sam refused to meet Bobby's eyes that entire evening. Watching the family together, Bobby noticed that Sam's being was focused entirely on Dean rather than their father. The next morning, John was sleeping late and Dean had already left the house to wander around the yard looking for a part. Bobby was sitting at the kitchen table alone when Sam straggled in. When in danger, retreat. That was Sam's current standing order from John. He started to back out before Bobby saw him. Too late.

"Sammy, wait. I'm not mad at you."

Disbelief colored Sam's voice, "You….you're not? Why not? I disobeyed you."

Sighing, Bobby replied. "It wasn't what I had intended, but what's done is done. But son, why?" He stood up and gathered bowl, cereal, and milk to add to the clutter on the table. "Come on, sit down."

Sam pulled out a kitchen chair, sat down, and poured some cereal and milk. Cramming his mouth with cereal, Sam gathered his thoughts to explain. "You said the necklace needed to be a gift of love. That you couldn't give it because it wouldn't mean the same."

A glimmer of understanding grew in Bobby's eyes. Lately, he'd seen John treating his boys more like soldiers than children. Giving orders and no explanations.

"I know Dad doesn't sell things. He fights things."

The softly-spoken admission rocked the mechanic. "How? Did Dean…." Sam's curiosity had gotten him into trouble more than once lately.

"No. I stole Dad's journal and read it. He's not crazy is he?" Hope warred with fear in Sam's eyes. If John was just crazy then things wouldn't be out there to get any of them.

"What did Dean tell you?"

"Everything. About Mom and that Dad hunts and that there are monsters out there."

Bobby scrubbed his face with his hands. He had never had much luck dealing with children and none of the other hunters he knew had children. John Winchester was a law unto himself. Looking the youngster in the eye, Bobby confirmed everything. "That necklace I gave you, it's not just something cool looking. It's an amulet."

"What does it do?"

"I'm not exactly sure but I know it's some kinda protection against demons and the things they can do."

"Will it keep Dean safe?"

"Safer. He can still get hurt but this might protect him from a big bad."

"Is that why you wanted Dad to have it? Cause he's looking for the big bad?"

"Yes, I had hoped to help him but…" Noticing Sam's eyes filling with tears, Bobby hastened to reassure him. "Your daddy, he's smart. He's a good hunter. Dean's younger so this amulet will help him until he gets as strong and smart as your daddy. You did a good thing giving it to Dean."


"Really. Now finish your breakfast and go help your brother find that part he's looking for."

Bobby was amazed that Sam didn't choke as he inhaled the rest of his breakfast. The person who'd sold Bobby the amulet hadn't known its full story; he just knew that it might, with the right spell, stop a demon in its tracks. But he hadn't known the spell or even if it would really work. Bobby would find that spell, but he prayed he'd never need it.

Lifting his hand from Dean's chest, Bobby reached out and grabbed Sam's chin. "We need to go. Now."

"What's the point? We lost. Lillith. . .left." Sam didn't want to acknowledge his role in her departure. He didn't know what to tell Bobby when he'd ask. Sam hadn't done anything…that he recalled. He'd thought she was going to kill him, felt a fiery wave heading towards him, held up his hand, and then…..Nothing. He had opened confused eyes to meet confused white pits. Lillith seemed to have had no idea how he'd stopped her. It didn't matter then. He stood up determined to destroy her and she'd run…or flown…or whatever. Leaving behind three corpses. Dean and Ruby and Sam. He was dead too; his body just didn't acknowledge it yet. Without Dean what was the point?

He'd survived without Dean when the Trickster had played his little game but this….this was real. There was no chance of reliving the day. He could smell the copper of Dean's blood, feel the slickness of it on his hands. But the worst thing was Dean's eyes. Eyes are the windows to the soul. If Sam peered closely enough, would he see Dean? He leaned down.

"Sam." Bobby grabbed the younger man and pulled him back. "We have to get moving." He didn't want to tell Sam, not yet, not until he was more certain, that he didn't think Dean was in hell. That he could be brought back without some kinda deal. Bobby didn't want to give him any false hope.

Bobby had found a spell to invoke one of the amulet's aspects. Had cast it as soon as midnight had struck. He hoped it worked. He knew that Dean had worn the amulet always. There may have been a time or two it had left his neck but for the most part, it was a part of him now. In a way Dean and Sam never knew.

The amulet, when given with love, was supposed to carry a part of the giver with it. Carry a part of their soul. Well, the demon couldn't take two souls; it had made the bargain for one. Dean's. That little piece of Sam held Dean back long enough for the amulet to do its job. To bind the wearer's soul to itself. If he was right, Dean wasn't in hell. Not yet. His soul was in the amulet. Trapped.

They needed to get someplace safe so he could rescue Dean's soul and put it back into his body. But they needed to get Dean patched up enough so he could stay alive. And they couldn't do that here.

"Come on! Sam! Grab his arms and I'll…"

Sam shrugged off Bobby's assistance and picked up his brother. No one would take care of Dean but him. He nodded at Bobby to lead the way. Where they were going, he didn't care. A bleak future stared him right back in the eyes. Yes, Bobby was there and would be there for him. But it was Dean who'd always led the way. Maybe Sam could follow this one last time.

Ruby had said his gifts were dormant. Ava had talked about a "switch" inside that triggered them. Lillith's attack had triggered…something. He had a lot of learning about himself to do. And fast. She'd be back, and Sam Winchester vowed over his brother's body to be ready.

Please let me know what you thought of my little story. I think the amulet will have a role in rescuing Dean. Counting down the days until September 4 when we get the next new episode.