A/N: Sorry for the extended hiatus of fic; Uni got a bit crazy. Always does at the start of the year. BUT! I have fic for you. Another idea I had about a month after the finale aired, and I've finally had the time to clean it up.

Dean swore it wasn't more than a second. One minute, the hellhounds were ripping at his skin, tearing screams from his throat and desperate, begged pleas from Sam.

The next, he was in the middle of Bobby's yard, shivering and shaking.

Bobby was working on a wreck and shouted in surprise, darted away and grabbed for something beyond him. When Dean saw it was a gleaming knife, he forced his limbs to move. "Whoa, whoa," he tried, his voice gruff and torn. He cleared his throat three times before he sounded vaguely normal again. "B-Bobby, take it easy."

Bobby did stop at that, staring at him, but not releasing the knife. "The hell do you think you are?" he asked angrily, but Dean heard the tremor underneath.

"Dean Winchester. In...serious amounts of pain," he gasped. His arms he'd managed to get under him gave, and he crumpled to the ground, inhaling shakily. He belatedly looked down at his body, but there was no blood, nothing torn. Just his usual gray t-shirt and jeans, the shirt soaked with perspiration.

What the hell had happened?

The cool feel of the blade against the back of his neck made him freeze. It slid, flat sided, against his skin, causing even more goosebumps to rise. In an instant Bobby had one of Dean's arms in his grasp, and he carefully dragged the blade across his forearm. Dean hissed but didn't say anything, only waiting for Bobby's response.

The knife was cast aside, silver, Dean realized a bit late. "Dean?" Bobby managed, staring at him now in shock.

"On the same page," Dean whispered, giving a trembling grin. "Cool." Then he passed out.

The moment he came to, Dean was sitting up, startling the hell out of Bobby. "Where's Sam?" he demanded weakly. He knew his brother, hell, he knew Bobby. If Sam wasn't here, Bobby would've called him at the very least, and he'd have been here by now.

But Bobby didn't answer, and Dean felt sick. "Where's Sam?" he asked again.

Bobby sighed and lifted his cap to run a hand through his hair. He looked older, more gray and a few patches of white, and Dean suddenly realized that even though it'd been a second for him between moments, it obviously hadn't been that way here. "Dean, I-"

"What day is it?" he whispered, trying to regulate his breathing.

Bobby winced but said quietly, "It's still 2008, son. You've only missed a few months."

Months. God. "Sam?" he pleaded.

"I don't know," Bobby said truthfully, sounding pained. "He...he took off, a month ago. I haven't been able to contact him. Tried to find him, but when your brother doesn't want to be found, well..."

"How long was I gone?" Dean asked. His arms were extended to brace him on either side of the bed, and Bobby carefully wrapped his hand around one of them.

"How about we get you something to eat, drink, and I'll explain everything," he said quietly. Dean nodded and let Bobby help him to his feet, then to the kitchen, where he explained it all.

Three months. Three months to the day that Dean had, apparently died. Sam had burned him three days after, on a pyre, and then had spent the next month at Bobby's, fluctuating between anger and rage that had been vented on the cars in the yard to staggering grief that had made him sick.

Then, after the month, he'd shut down, gathered his things, and left.

"He came back a few weeks later, but not before I'd heard the stories," Bobby said, taking a swig of his coffee. Dean did the same, tasting the whiskey that was more prevalent than the coffee.


"Seems Sam went on a mission to destroy anything demonic or supernatural, and he damn well did it." Bobby pursed his lips. "Vampire nests. Poltergeists. Hell, an entire town of possessed people, and he blew through them all like it was nothing. Took care of spirits and zombies, killed shifters and black dogs, left a trail wide and obvious. He wanted someone to pay attention, wanted someone to come after him."

"Lilith," Dean whispered, his stomach twisting. Dammit Sammy. "Then what?"

Bobby shrugged. "He stayed a few days here, refused to listen to reason. I told him he had to stop, or he was gonna get himself killed. He said he'd only stopped by for a book, one he knew I had. It was just an old theology textbook that had a few good symbols in it, but he held onto that thing like it was the holiest of holy grails. Then he left, and I didn't hear any more stories after a week. I didn't hear anything. Tried calling him, did that locater across the entire U.S...nothing. You brother just...disappeared," he finished, closing his eyes.

Dean stared at him. "How long ago was this?" he managed.

"'Bout three weeks ago," Bobby said with a sigh. "I can't find him. I've tried everything, Dean, but I can't find your brother, and I'm terrified as hell he-"

He pulled himself up short. Like he needed to: Dean could fill in the blanks easy enough.

Terrified as hell he got himself killed.

Wouldn't that be an irony? Dean managed to get himself back, and Sam managed to get himself killed.

"We gotta find him," Dean said, pushing his chair away from the table. "I don't care how, but we've gotta find him."

"I hear you son, but..." Bobby rubbed at his eyes, looking far older than he was. "I've tried everything."

"You tried Ruby?"

Bobby's head jerked up at that. "Dean, no one's seen her since the night you died. Lilith told Sam she'd cast her out or somethin'. I don't know how we'd find her, and I don't make it a habit to work with demons."

"She's easy. That's just a simple summoning spell, right?" Dean let a tiny piece of hope flare inside of him. "Ruby could find him. If he got himself mixed up into something demonic, she could find him."

Bobby bit his lip but nodded. "Worth a shot."

The summoning spell was easy, and five minutes after the candles blew out, they re-lit themselves, and the corpse of a young, blonde woman appeared in the center of the room. Dean grimaced at the rotting flesh, seconds before she inhaled and the skin healed itself.

Her eyes moved around the room in confusion before they landed on Dean. "I'll be damned all over again," she breathed, before she smirked. "Dean Winchester. You managed to get out."

"Yeah, little sketchy on the details," Dean said, and she frowned. "Why the corpse?"

"I liked this body," Ruby said defensively. "Besides, now I'm not sharing it with anyone. Host went on to a better place, and I got a pretty decent body. It all works out, though seriously, don't touch me right now. I've gotta put this thing back together."

"Looks pretty back together to me."

"I'm pulling skin over patches so you won't be grossed out, okay?" she said, before she rolled her eyes. "And it's not that I don't appreciate your pulling me out of Hell which, for some reason, you don't even remember, but-"

"Sam's missing," Bobby cut in, and she froze, horror growing on her face.

"You're not serious."

"Yes he's serious; where the hell is he?"

Ruby pushed herself up slowly, eyes on the ground in front of her. "I don't know, but it's not good. He was stirring up a lot of waves down there, with his rampage across the country. Pissed off a lot of demons, including her," she spat suddenly, eyes flaring black for a moment. Then they were normal again, and she was gazing at Dean. "If he's missing, it's not just a coincidence. He enraged way too many demons for that; they have to be behind this."

"You have to find him," Dean said, feeling fear curdling low in his belly. "We've tried everything; you're our last option."

"No pressure, right?" Ruby muttered, but she was finally standing, taking in slow breaths. "All right. I'll see what I can find. Sit tight, and...try not to do anything stupid again, okay?" Before Dean could even respond, she was gone, body and all.

Silence fell on the room. The only thing Dean could hear was the roaring in his ears, Sam's possible screams flowing through his mind. He had to be okay.

A hand fell on his shoulder, gentle and solid. "Let's get you your strength back," Bobby said softly. "Maybe even figure out how the hell you managed to get out of...well, Hell. Didn't happen all on its own."

Dean nodded and let Bobby pull him away from his thoughts.