Three weeks after No Rest For The Wicked and an angry, grieving Sam is spiraling downwards on a hunt for Lilith. I'm taking a chance with one of the characters here and trying to answer one of the questions raised by the new season's premiere. And thanks go to Lillehafrue for her help (albeit unintentional)!

Spoilers for various season 3 eps and 4.01.

Disclaimer: Supernatural and all related characters remain property of Eric Kripke & WB.

The thing had doubled back on him. Worse than that, the fugly son-of-a-bitch had caught him off guard. Sam had little under two seconds to realize the fact before 250 pounds of furiously corporeal ghost slammed into him.

The impact forced the air from his lungs in a loud sob and sent Sam flying backwards out of the barn. He landed hard on the damp earth and was stunned, unable to breathe and watching a dazzling array of lights swirling across his vision.

Sudden recovery brought with it a painful gasp and his heart slammed into his chest. Lifting his head and trying to ignore the way the empty yard danced around him, Sam clenched his fists and began to sit up. And he was then aware of the distinct lack of weaponry in his hands.

His fingers briefly scoured the ground around him and found nothing but mud and water. The thudding pulse in his head quickening and his mind spinning, Sam looked across at what remained of the barn door and watched the apparition emerge.

Whether through satisfaction or amusement, or both, the ethereal figure was smiling broadly as it approached him and Sam wanted to offer a snide rebuke but none were forth-coming. He lay there on the sodden ground, warm stagnant water seeping into his clothes, and simply watched the thing step closer.

Truth was he had been far from ready for this hunt. Beyond tired, and somewhat distracted by lack of food, he knew he should have paused to take stock and prepare but stubborn determination had won through. That and an unquenchable craving to destroy every unnatural being that he could lay his hands on.

Jeremiah Frost was an easy find. Having lost the scent of his original quarry and drowned his frustration with the best of a bottle of Black Kentucky, Sam had overheard the locals complaining and had since picked up the trail of a standard haunting.

Realtors could not shift the abandoned property at the edge of town and demolition teams had allegedly run screaming from the site. Jeremiah was apparently not impressed with the presence of trespassers and banishing the old bastard had indeed proved harder than anticipated, his centuries old soul strengthened by years of anger.

There was a time when researching the story behind the haunting would be the first step and understanding the spirit would lead to a somewhat peaceful passing. Short on time and patience, Sam had opted to simply salt out Jeremiah and send him packing. Funny how it was always the simplest of plans that seemed to fail so spectacularly.

Jeremiah crossed the distance between the smashed barn entrance and Sam's sprawling form in a heartbeat. The smile dropped from his grey face and he cried out in fury as he slammed his booted foot into Sam's side.

Instead of rolling with the kick, Sam closed his eyes and absorbed the impact in silence. He put up no resistance as Jeremiah fell to his knees astride Sam's bruised chest and grabbed his neck with both hands, growling angrily as he tightened his grip.

For a moment the ease of the surrender was deliciously tempting. Sam lay there in the wet of the rain-soaked yard and let the blackness fill his mind as ice-cold fingers squeezed round his throat. But as much as he may have wanted to give in, instinct took over and he started to struggle. His chest was on fire as he tried to take a breath and his head felt about to explode. Scrambling in the mud beneath Jeremiah's weight, his arm brushed against something in the puddle beside him and sudden hope made him open his eyes.

Hidden in the murky water of the moonlit yard, the knife was barely visible but he could just about feel it's sharp form under his tingling fingers. His other hand shot up to grab at Jeremiah's face and Sam sunk his fingers into the spirits oddly real eye sockets as he tried to push him away from him. Jeremiah screamed in fury but his grip on Sam's throat loosened for a second.

It was enough to allow Sam to make a reach for the knife. He curled his fingers around the hilt and swung it upwards as hard as he could manage but lack of oxygen lessened the power in his arm and the blade merely skimmed Jeremiah's shoulder.

Shrieking in pain and outrage, Jeremiah grabbed at his smoking shirt and fell back onto Sam's legs. Suddenly able to breathe and his chest heaving with loud gasps, Sam took another swipe at the ghost and smiled in satisfaction as he felt the sharp iron sink into Jeremiah's thigh.

Determined to now kick his way free, Sam was panting hard as he pulled one leg out from under the crumpled form. He then watched in horror as Jeremiah growled in annoyance and pulled the knife from his leg. The angered spirit sprung forwards and lifted the dark, ectoplasm-stained blade high to swing it down towards Sam.

Sam deflected the initial arc and grabbed Jeremiah's forearm with both hands, grunting with the effort of holding the creature above him. Snarling down at Sam, Jeremiah pressed down with all his weight and slowly the blade began to sink lower.

" - No - !" Sam husked, his gaze flicking between the advancing tip of the blade and the cold hate in the spirit's eyes. " - Dean - !" He stared up at the spirit in defiance, his arms shaking with the strain.

Jeremiah growled and pressed harder, grinning in delight as he felt his prey's resistance weakening.

"Dean …!"

It wasn't life that flashed through Sam's mind as the inevitability of the blade's course became apparent. All he could see was death.

The murder of his mother all those years ago, not a memory of his own but a collection of details from others and images formed from the little he knew. The death of his father in a hospital bed, fading in front of him even as the medical staff fought to pummel life back into the pale body. The horrific memory of watching helplessly as Dean's body was shredded by an invisible foe, arterial spray and gurgling screams Sam's last memory of his brother.

This last death was still so raw, still so painful to dwell on. Bile caught in Sam's throat and sudden tears cast a welcome veil over the furious face glaring down at him. And once more it seemed so blissfully easy to give in.

Time seemed to slow and Sam found himself weighing up the options in some bizarre moment of contemplation. Let go and let the blade find it's quarry. Keep fighting and continue on through the pain and grief of life after Dean's death. And it was too close a call.

But suddenly the decision was out of his hands. A loud crack cut through the close summer air and Jeremiah's body shuddered. Sam blinked away his tears and watched in morbid fascination as dark blood dripped from the small hole in the spirits' forehead. Sam then arched his neck and peered behind him, smiling in welcome relief as he saw the figure approaching rapidly.

"Sam?" Bobby demanded breathlessly as he jogged across the muddy farmyard, gun still trained on Jeremiah.

Sighing in relief, Sam looked back up at the stunned ghost and waited for the inevitable combustion as the iron bullet in Jeremiah's brain did its job. His heart was racing as instead he saw only renewed anger in the pale eyes that bored into him.

Jeremiah gave a sudden surge of new strength and forced the knife down, offering a brief mumble of satisfaction before five more rounds were emptied into his head and his skull exploded in a mess of smoke and ectoplasmic gel.

"Sam!" Bobby gasped, skidding to a halt and quickly falling to his knees in the puddle beside Sam. "Oh shit …"

Sam was stunned, his mind empty and his body numb. He lifted his head and stared in horrified curiosity, sure that the knife protruding from the left of his chest ought to be causing more pain somehow.

"Sam?" Bobby's voice was quiet, shaken. He edged closer and peered at the damage, his flushed face suddenly losing its color.

There was nothing. Nowhere near the white hot agony he recalled from the last time he had been stabbed. But rather than bringing relief, the nothing scared him. "Bobby …" Sam whispered, slowly reaching his right hand towards the hilt of the small knife. Movement awoke the nerves in his skin and he was now aware of a slight stinging. His fingers brushing the knife then jarred all the stunned pain receptors and they screamed in protest.

"Easy!" Bobby urged quickly, leaning closer and pulling Sam's hand back from the knife. He groaned in sympathy as Sam arched his back and tried to roll away from the agony.

" - guh - ! - get it out!" Sam panted, his face tight with pain and his lips pulled in against his teeth. "Bobby - !"

"Lie still!" Bobby grated, reaching for Sam's other arm and struggling to keep the boys flailing hands away from the knife. "It's better in there." He urged firmly, "Lie still."

Trembling and fighting back tears, Sam turned to look up at Bobby and shook his head in earnest. " - god - ! God, it hurts!"

"I know, Sam. I know."

Sam slowly calmed and relaxed back into the soggy ground. His eyes tightly shut and his hands still shaking, he tried to steady his breathing.

Bobby loosened his grip on Sam's wrists and frowned as he again peered at the position and apparent depth of the partially sunken blade. "It doesn't look that bad." He offered hopefully, sitting back on his heels and sighing loudly. "Let's get you somewhere warm and dry where I can fix you up."

Sam suddenly smiled, his lips then flickering into a snarl as pain lanced down his arm. "You make it sound so simple." He managed.

"Hm." Bobby lifted his baseball cap to scratch at the flattened hair across his forehead and gave a weary shrug. "Son, with you nothing is ever simple." He got to his feet and held out his hands to help Sam stand. Supporting the muscular bulk of the taller man was not easy and he grunted with the effort of keeping Sam upright.

"Okay." Sam gently pushed himself away from the older man's embrace and clenched his jaw in determination. "I'm okay." Clutching his left arm close to his body to minimize movement across his chest, he took a deep breath and nodded firmly.

Bobby sighed in resignation and turned away from the barn to lead Sam back across the farmyard. Bobbys Chevelle and the Taurus Sam had lifted from somewhere sat hidden amid the sparse trees at the edge of the property and Bobby ignored the latter in favor of heading straight for his car. "Anything you need to get?" He asked, nodding towards the stolen sedan.

"Nothing that can't wait." Sam replied.

Bobby frowned in concern, sensing that getting Sam the hell away from there was going to be harder than he had hoped.

"Maybe the bag in the trunk." Sam added quietly.

Sighing quietly in relief, Bobby turned and held out his hand. "Keys."

Sam obliged and obediently continued on towards Bobbys car as the older guy made for the Taurus to gather Sam's few belongings.

Climbing into the passenger seat and hissing with the pain of folding his tall frame into the small car, Sam rested back against the sports seat and swallowed back the bile in his throat. Peering at the strange sight of half a knife protruding from his jacket, he chanced lifting the collar and assessing the damage. The blade had entered his chest just under the edge of his tattooed pentagram, about 1 or 2 inches having sunk into the muscle.

The instinctive need to pull the knife free was powerful but he knew the older man was correct; best to remove the knife somewhere where any subsequent bleeding could be better dealt with. It was now painful and the area pulsed in rhythm with his heartbeat but Bobby was right and it somehow did not feel like it was too serious.

Bobby opened the drivers door and threw Sam's duffel onto the back seat before climbing inside. "How you doing?"

Sam turned to meet gentle concern and it tightened his throat suddenly, allowing him to only nod in reply. He then closed his eyes and let his head sink back as Bobby fired up the engine and they pulled away from the farm.

It was a while before either of them spoke again and Sam's quiet voice seemed suddenly loud around them. "So you followed me, huh?"

Keeping his eyes on the road ahead, Bobby nodded an affirmative. "Been on your trail these past few weeks." He revealed carefully, giving an easy shrug of his shoulders but tightening his grip on the steering wheel. "Seems it was a good idea."

Stubborn indignation made Sam want to protest but he was too tired and did have to admit that he was glad Bobby had been there. "Thanks." He offered in a whisper, aware of the quick glance Bobby gave him and hoping that his friend had not been close enough to the struggle to see how near Sam had come to giving up.

"You've been chasing Lilith."

Sam nodded quietly.

"And when you find her?"

Turning to watch Bobby's frown grow in the dim light from the dashboard instruments, Sam's heart began to race. "I told you - "

"You were able to shield yourself somehow." Bobby recalled, sighing loudly. "But who's to say that will always be the case? How can you be sure she won't develop her powers?"

Sam heard the underlying 'what good will it do now?' that lay beneath Bobby's words and he groaned in dismay. "Bobby, we're not having this argument again."

Chewing his bottom lip in thought and a concentrated effort not to argue, Bobby gave a small shrug. He turned his attention to the road but was aware of Sam sinking lower in the passenger seat and sighing wearily. Sam's head slowly rolled sideways with the motion of the car and Bobby reached across to carefully feel Sam's pulse.

The embedded knife was gruesome to look at but had hopefully not done too much damage. Bobby took a deep breath and adjusted his posture in the driving seat, turning away from the local town and heading out towards the highway.

The gentle thud of the drivers door closing woke Sam and he blinked his eyes open, peering around the interior of the car in confusion. Turning his head towards the front, he looked out into the dull glow of daybreak and saw the mismatch of repairs that held together the front porch of a familiar house.

Frowning in intrigue, Sam sat up straighter and the movement suddenly made him gasp in pain. Biting back a sob, he looked down and saw beneath the coat that had been thrown over him the point of the small knife that still protruded from his chest. Keeping his left arm still and holding his breath, Sam pushed back the coat and looked down at the tattered leather hilt of the old iron dagger.

The passenger door opened and Bobby leaned into the car, at once concerned and wary.

"What the - " Sam husked, lifting his head up to frown at Bobby. "Why are we here?"

Bobby gave a small smile and moved back from the open door. "You fell asleep." He began quietly, shrugging a little. "I saw an opportunity."

"What?" Sam groaned, "To kidnap me?"

"Call it what you want." Bobby argued softly, "But you're safer here."

Too tired and in too much pain to protest, Sam sighed and nodded slowly.

"Come on." Bobby stepped close once again and held out his hands. "Let's get you inside."

It was easier said than done. Weeks of little sleep and scarce food had seemingly caught up with Sam and his tall frame crumpled wearily against Bobby as they staggered together up the front steps and into Bobby's front room. Collapsing noisily into the nearest armchair, Sam's right hand instinctively grabbed for the foreign object jutting from his chest and he groaned in frustration as Bobby quickly restrained him.

"Okay." Bobby soothed in sympathy, "Easy."

Letting his head rolling back against the chair, his face tight with pain, Sam closed his eyes and sighed in surrender.

Bobby nodded in relief and hurried into the kitchen to grab some supplies. Jogging back, he now saw the sheen of sweat over Sam's pale skin and was suddenly afraid that the three hour journey had been precisely the wrong choice. But there was little he could do about it now and even less point in second guessing. Setting the open med kit down on the floor and opening the half bottle of whiskey he had tucked under one arm, Bobby perched on the arm of the chair.

Sam opened his eyes and watched Bobby in heavy lidded silence.

Soaking a clean cloth with a measure of alcohol and then pressing the bottle to his lips to take a swig, Bobby glanced at Sam. "Ready?"

A small smile pulling at his tight mouth, Sam shook his head in quiet reply.

"Me neither." Bobby put down the whiskey and turned to face Sam. Leaning closer, he pulled the slashed shirt and t-shirt away from the small knife and wrapped the wet cloth around the exposed blade. He saw the way Sam shuddered at his touch and Bobby held his breath as he moved his other hand towards the hilt. "On three?"

Sam shook his head quickly, "Just do - ARGH!"

In one quick motion, Bobby had grabbed the knife and pulled it free then pressed down hard with the alcohol-soaked cloth.

Sobbing quietly through clenched teeth, Sam arched his neck and tried to roll away from the pain, involuntarily grabbing at Bobby's wrist and trying to push him away.

"I know. I know." Bobby soothed, persevering with keeping pressure on the wound despite Sam's whimpers and the tears blurring his vision. "Alright, Sam. It's alright." He caught the unexpected angry glare that Sam shot him and Bobby's chest began to ache.

Too exhausted and hurt to do anything else, Sam sank back into the armchair and let his head fall away. His lips trembled with quiet sobs but he barely flinched as Bobby chanced peering under the cloth to assess the gash.

"Ah. Good." Bobby muttered, frowning as he removed the cloth and saw the relatively small seep of watery blood. "It's not bad. Not bad at all." He continued, gently pressing at the edges of the inch-long wound and able to clearly see the thankfully shallow damage. "Just a clean up and a few sutures. I've got some antibiotics around some place - just to be on the safe side." He shrugged and moved away to pick some more supplies out of the metal tin. "But it's not bad. You'll be fine."

Turning back, he watched Sam look up at him and Bobby's heart jumped into his throat. There was so much sorrow and pain in the shadowed, wet eyes that watched him silently. Sure that Sam was about to say something, Bobby paused for a moment but Sam just closed his eyes once again and lay obediently still in the chair beside him.

Lost for words, Bobby set to cleaning the stab wound and carefully closing it with small, neat sutures. Apart from the occasional flinch, Sam was unmoving and quiet and Bobby could hear his own racing pulse pounding in his head. He had seen the last few seconds of the fight. He had caught the moment when Sam seemed to suddenly give in. And it had scared the crap out of Bobby. Not least because he understood the feeling all to well. He knew what it was like to lose everything, sink into the darkness and never want to climb back out. To be sure that the only peace to be found was at the dangerous end of a shotgun.

Covering his needlework with a gauze pad and then forcing Sam to swallow down some painkillers, Bobby quickly stood and cleared the threadbare couch. Without a word, he hurried back to Sam and helped him out of the chair before the boy became too tired to move.

Sam settled his long frame along the length of the couch and groaned wearily as he gave in to his exhaustion. He seemed unaware of Bobby draping a blanket over him and checking his pulse and temperature once again.

"I'm right here if you need anything." Bobby offered quietly, more to reassure himself than the already gently snoring Sam. "I'm right here."

Morning brought a gentle touch of warmth to his face and it stirred him from the icy darkness of yet another nightmare. Opening his eyes and seeing the familiar clutter of Bobby's overflowing bookshelves, Sam shuddered with the lingering fear that the blood-spattered images had left him with.


Turning, Sam saw Bobby slouched in the chair on the other side of the room. Coffee in hand and a gentle smile hidden amid his unkempt beard, Bobby looked half asleep.

"How you feeling?"

Sam frowned in thought and moved to sit up a little, regretting the action as pain darted through his shoulder. He hissed and closed his eyes as he flopped back down, groaning softly. "Groovy..." Taking a moment to catch his breath, he then looked back at Bobby in interest. "How long you been there?"

Bobby shrugged, "Woke early." He raised his mug slightly, "Want something to drink?"

Dragging his dry tongue across his bottom lip, Sam nodded gratefully.

Bobby pushed himself up out of his chair with a weary yawn and stretched out his arms. "Hungry?" He called back as he entered the kitchen.

"I guess." Sam made another attempt at moving, a little slower this time, and gradually achieved a semi-upright position amid the cushions. His head swam with the motion but he then eased his feet onto the floor and sat up on the edge of the sofa.

Bobby returned with a fresh mug of coffee and smiled in relief. "Ah. You're up. That's a good sign."

"Quick recovery kinda comes with the territory." Sam offered dryly.

Passing him the mug, Bobby considered this for a moment. "Maybe not this time, huh? You need to rest. Why not stay here for a while?"

Sam sipped at his drink in silence.

"I'll get you some breakfast."

Glancing up to watch the older man wander from the room, Sam could feel the sting of sudden unexpected tears. Swallowing back the lump forming in his throat, he got to his feet and steadied himself for a moment before heading after Bobby.

"Wo. Easy there!" Bobby urged in a panic, hurrying over to pull a chair out for a somewhat wobbly Sam. "Here. Sit."

Sam smiled coyly and nodded as he sank into the chair. His breath came in quick gasps and he closed his eyes from the dizzily dancing room. "Man. I feel like shit."

"You look worse."

Sam laughed gently, "Thanks, man. Cheer a guy up, why don't you."

Bobby grinned and returned to the stove. "How d'you want your eggs?"

Resting his elbows on his knees and letting his head hang forward, Sam closed his eyes tightly. "It's so hard without him, Bobby."

Stunned for a moment, Bobby dropped the frying pan down a little too hard on the stove and flinched back at the clatter. Lost for words, he turned slowly and held his breath as he took in the heavy sink of Sam's shoulders.

"So very hard." Sam echoed in a whisper.

Bobby nodded slowly and took a deep breath. "I can't begin to imagine." He offered quietly.

"I keep - " Sam sat upright and brushed away tears with a quick swipe of one hand, smiling suddenly. "I keep expecting him to walk through the door and - " The smile faded and he looked back down at the floor. "God, it's so hard …"

Wishing he knew the right words for such a moment, Bobby frowned in thought and moved forward to slide into the chair beside Sam. A few silent minutes passed between them, Sam continuing his intense study of the faded linoleum and Bobby trying to think of something helpful to impart.

"I thought - " Sam began hoarsely, clearing his throat and lifting his head slightly. "I guess I thought hunting her down would help."

Bobby smiled slightly, "Bloodthirsty revenge not the healthiest way to go."

Sam nodded, "Especially when I don't have a clue what would happen if I found her."

Considering this for a moment, Bobby sat back and sighed heavily. "Perhaps we ought to take a look at your strategy."

Giving a small laugh, Sam sat upright, "What strategy?" He winced and rubbed idly at his shoulder.

"Right …"

Sam shrugged wearily.

"Y'know …" Bobby took off his cap and dropped it onto the table, dragging his fingers through his hair. "I know where you're coming from, kid. I mean, some folks say that to placate you but I really do understand …"

Watching Bobby in silence, Sam managed a small smile.

"You're in a dangerous place, right now." Bobby continued, his face troubled and his shoulders tense. "You feel powerful with anger but really you're weakened by it. Vulnerable."

Sam could not help but give a slight chuckle. "Okay, Yoda!" The smart sarcasm was very Dean and it send warmth rushing through him, quickly replaced with an icy mourning.

Bobby sighed, "You know what I mean."

Sam knew all too well. A sudden recollection of what he had become after one too many Tuesdays made him shudder and he curled in on himself protectively.

"Sam, why did you leave the car behind?"

The sudden abruptness made Sam flinch and he stared at Bobby in confusion.

Bobby shrugged, "I was just real surprised. Would have thought you'd cling on to it."

Sam's mind was suddenly filled with the memory of a too tidy Impala and the thought of the neat, obsessively catalogued trunk. His stomach flipped over and he closed his eyes tight, trying to make the images retreat.

"Well … she's safe here, anyhow. I cleaned her up some but …" Bobby watched renewed sorrow fill what little he could see of Sam's face behind the shaggy hair. If it was possible, the boy looked even more tired than he had done on the journey back and Bobby decided to leave his concerned inquiries for the time being.

Bobby got to his feet and tugged his cap back on. "Let me get back to those eggs, huh?"

She was sitting close to the house at the back of the property, covered in a tarpaulin but her curves beneath the green material were unmistakable. Sam could feel his throat tighten as he approached and his tired eyes stung with the onset of tears. His heavy legs stumbled a little as he crossed the dusty yard and he slowed his pace as he neared her, watching the wind billow under the tarpaulin for a moment.

'Look after my car.'

The last few seconds before twelve had struck played out in glorious technicolor and Sam winced in pain at the memory. Guilt then stirred within him as he considered how he had ignored his brothers request and all but abandoned his baby. But it had been too hard to even look at the Impala. She was so much of Dean that it had hurt to be near her. That and the memory of the person he had become in the Trickster-led future he had been shown.

Keeping his left shoulder close against his body in an effort to minimize the pain in his shoulder, Sam carefully grasped a handful of tarpaulin and pulled the cover off of the Chevy. Underneath she was indeed clean, gleaming in fact. The fresh polish shone in the mid-morning light and Sam glimpsed his pale reflection in the roof. Looking away quickly, he opened the drivers door and climbed inside.

For a moment he sat in numb silence, feeling nothing as he stared at the instruments before him. Then he slowly turned his head to peer at the freshly cleaned interior and the last time he had been there came suddenly stampeding into his thoughts.

He had tried. Bobby had tried. Forcing air into Dean's mouth and pounding on his chest, trying desperately to bring him back. And Bobby had then pulled Sam away from the shredded remains, restraining Sam from doing any more damage and crying just as hard as he did so.

Sam shook his head firmly to clear the memory and was then taken back to the journey to Bobby's; a seemingly safe haven amid the chaos. Somewhere to rest and grieve and decide what the hell to do next. He had cradled Dean in his arms the whole way. Rocking his limp form and talking softly, praying for some sign that somehow his brother had escaped the horrific injuries that had long before stopped bleeding.

"Oh god … Dean …!" Sam sobbed, lifting his good arm and wrapping his fingers around the steering wheel. "I … I miss you …" He whispered into the empty car, hanging his head and letting the tears fall.

After a few minutes, his already weary body was exhausted from crying and his sobbing petered out. Sitting up straight, wincing at the movement, he rolled his head around on his tight shoulders and took a deep breath. His eyes then fell on the stereo and for some reason he was compelled to switch it on.

" - down in a blaze of glory. Take me now but know the truth. I'm going out in a blaze of - "

Gasping in shock at the loud music, Sam quickly turned off the stereo and stared at it breathlessly. He was taken back to that last drive with Dean when his rigid, bloody-minded brother had suddenly surprised him by playing not only a different album but an artist he had ridiculed more than once. Dean had insisted on a full tempo sing-a-long and Sam had complied, enjoying the moment for the relief it brought but more for the connection it suddenly gave them.

And suddenly Sam was smiling; in fondness at the memory and in affection for his dirty-minded, untidy, unruly brother. He leaned back against the bench seat, hearing the leather creak and breathing in the aged scent of the car. It was all that was left of Dean and Sam found himself glad to have her as he closed his eyes to let himself drift in the nearness of his brother.

He had heard Sam's slow exit from the house and had worriedly watched the boy's careful stumble across the wet yard. Seeing Sam now rested back against the front seat and apparently lost in quiet contemplation, Bobby pulled himself from his vantage point at the kitchen window. His face tight with concern, Bobby wandered across to the cellar door and took one glance back outside before sliding back the lock.

The cellar was dark and quiet, his first footfalls on the old wooden staircase creaking loudly and making him pause. He then flicked on the light and sighed out his tension, peering down into the wide open cavern beneath the house.

The figure sat huddled in the centre of the cellar floor was slowly stretching out aching limbs and peering up at him, blinking in the sudden brightness.

"So. You believe me now?" Came the husky greeting.

Bobby closed his eyes and tried to ignore the gentle chiding in her quiet voice.

"I told you this would happen." She continued, getting to her feet and sighing loudly.

Continuing his descent from the kitchen, Bobby met the ageless eyes of the small woman who was smiling easily at him. He watched her for a moment, recognizing again the folded arms and slightly tilted head that betrayed the being within this new disguise.

"You told me where to find him." Bobby shrugged, "Thanks for that."

"And I can help him."

He heard the desperation in the slight raise of her voice and it stirred unease somewhere inside him.

"He can't do this alone, Bobby."

"He's not alone!" Bobby countered quickly, pausing on the bottom step.

"You know what I mean." She sighed in exasperation, "He needs guidance, direction. He needs - "

"He needs his brother back." Bobby argued gruffly, "Can you do that for him?"

She watched him in silence, considering her response carefully. "I don't know."

Her apparent honesty surprised Bobby but he managed to not let it show, instead shoving his hands into his jeans pockets and frowning in thought.

"Just let me try." She urged, "Please."

Bobby glanced back and saw her face tighten in concern. It was a convincing performance, he had to give her that.

"And you can always send me back."

At this Bobby suddenly smiled and nodded in amusement. "Oh, believe me, I will." He took a deep breath and shook his head slowly. "I must have been crazy to summon you in the first place."

"It was the right thing to do."

"No!" Bobby spat and glared at her in warning. "It was a desperate last move. And as soon as I think of something better, I'll send you straight back to - "

"I know. I get it." She grated, taking a deep breath and letting her arms slide apart to hang loose at her sides. "So. We have a deal?"

Bobby nodded quietly.

"You gonna let me out, then?"

Glancing up at the haphazard design he had hurriedly scribbled on the crumbling ceiling plaster, Bobby's smile returned. "No."

"But - "

"I might have use for you, Ruby." Bobby offered lightly, "But I sure as hell don't trust you." He caught the glare she shot at him and tried to shrug it off, shuddering as he turned and began back up the stairs.

"I'm no threat to you, Bobby." Ruby called after him quickly, "Not now. Not after …"

Glancing back from the top of the stairs, Bobby saw memories of unknown terrors darken her face and the slight tremble of her sunken shoulders. "We'll see." He offered in a whisper, switching off the light and closing the door.

- fin -