A/N: Another oldie that I thought I'd already posted here. When it was fresh, this was a tear-jerker, so you might want to grab a Kleenex.

Echoes and Pieces

By Swellison

A mass demon exodus is an impressive, bone-chilling spectacle. I watched from across the street as the silhouetted row of suburbanite hosts all craned their heads skyward and billowing, black smoke rushed upwards from their mouths. The departing streams of smoke merged into one roiling, thick cloud, blocking the moonlight, and then dispersing into nothing several seconds later. No screams, which meant a voluntary evacuation; these demons had not been forced to go by hunters' exorcisms.

Then the humans started moving, glancing at the rotating sprinklers spraying their neighbor's yard, shaking themselves and conversing lowly. Wondering what they were doing out in the street in the middle of the night. I could've told them, but they wouldn't have believed me. They started splitting up, walking back towards the other houses in the cul-de-sac and the surrounding neighborhood, singly and in pairs. I left the cover of the house across the street, joining them, figuring they wouldn't notice one more man, even a stranger.

I walked across the holy water soaked lawn and ghosted up the short flight of stairs and across the porch to the front door. It was locked and as I reached for my lock pick, I noticed a fresh gouge by the lock, evidence of previous and probably frantic lock picking. I picked the lock and was through the door in seconds, walking through the eerily quiet living room, adjusting my step to avoid the silver-haired woman lying dead on the floor. I slipped down the hallway, heading for the room at the end of the corridor, with a double-doored entrance.

One French door was open, and I heard the sound of muffled crying as I entered the room. I'd known how this was going to end when I'd glanced at my pocket watch a few minutes before midnight, and knew we were out of time. Still, the sight of Sam, kneeling next to a torn and blood soaked Dean shook me. Hell hounds don't leave any doubt as to the status of their victims, so I turned to check on Ruby, sprawled in an unmoving, ignored heap on the floor, a few feet from the brothers. Although she was still, there wasn't a mark on her, and when I felt for a pulse on her neck, I found one. Amazing, since I, myself, had shot her at close range with the Colt, but apparently, the demon Ruby had taken pains to preserve her human host's body intact.

I heard Sam's broken "no, Dean" and knew his heart was breaking. Quietly, because he was a hunter in unsafe territory.

"Sammy." It was a name I never used. I watched as Sam's head jerked up and swung left, glancing at Dean's stilled face. Then Sam turned to me, crushed hope in his eyes. Oh hell, I hadn't meant to… but I had his attention. "We need to go. Now." I hesitated, then asked, softly, "Do you need help carrying-?"

"No." Sam carefully gathered Dean up in his arms, resting Dean's head against his shoulder so it wouldn't loll free, seemingly unaware that his hands and jacket were now smeared in Dean's blood. As he rose with his precious burden, memory threw the reverse image at me: Dean, staggering to his feet on that deserted street in Cold Oak, somehow managing to carry his inches taller, little brother to our temporary shelter.

I scooped up Ruby and draped her over my shoulder in a practical fireman's carry, then turned to check Sam's progress. He was also on his feet, cradling Dean's body. "Let's go." I walked past Sam and out of the room, making sure I heard his footsteps fall in behind me as I walked down the hallway and back out the front door.

The Impala was parked on the street behind the house, three doors down, gleaming in the moonlight. When we reached the car, I glanced up at Sam. "Keys?" I'd seen Dean wordlessly shove the keys into Sam's hand when we arrived here, about an hour- a lifetime- ago.

"My back pocket," Sam answered hoarsely.

I got the keys, opened the driver's door and deposited Ruby temporarily behind the wheel. Then, I stooped to reach over the seat and unlock the back door. Backing away from the car, I saw that Sam had moved far enough away to give me full access to the rear driver's side door. I opened the door and stepped back, knowing Sam wouldn't accept any help getting Dean situated. Sam bent and slid himself and Dean into the back seat. These old Chevys had miles of space in the back, compared to today's SUVs and what-not. Sam painstakingly arranged Dean's body so it was stretched out across the whole back seat, his head resting in Sam's lap. Sam frowned slightly. "He's cold."

"I'll get a blanket," I said gruffly. We had a few hours' drive to Jefferson's cabin retreat and the blanket would hide Dean's appearance from casual scrutiny. I stepped to the trunk, making sure my hands didn't shake as I stuck the key in and opened it, pulling out a navy blanket. I slammed the lid, stepped back and passed the blanket to Sam through the open back door. Sam painstakingly unfolded the right half of the blanket, completely covering Dean's feet and then spread out the remaining half, gently covering Dean almost up to his chin. Memory threw me back a year, and I stood in the doorway, silently watching as Dean laid Sam's body on that bare mattress, gently folding his arms over his chest, tipping Sam's head to face the bedroom's open door.

I shook myself out of the past and closed the back door. Then I walked around to the front passenger door and unlocked it. I reached in and pulled Ruby's still unconscious form towards me, settling her in the passenger seat. No seatbelts, so I didn't have to worry about that, just leaned her back so she looked like she was sleeping. I pushed the inside door lock down and held the outside handle in, closing and locking the passenger door. Then I rounded the Impala's grill and slipped in the driver's seat. I chanced a glance at Sam in the rear view mirror; his eyes were downcast, focused on his brother.

As I started the Impala, I heard Dean's voice, firm and uncompromising, from—was it just yesterday? "We are not going to make the same mistakes all over again." I agreed wholeheartedly with that. I would give Sam time to grieve, hell, a shoulder to cry on, if that's what he needed. That's what family's for, after all. But I won't leave him alone; he'll have no chance to sneak off to the nearest yarrow-lined crossroad and deal with demons. Not on my watch.

A/N: I don't usually write in first person, but I wanted to try my hand at Bobby's POV, and first person seemed the best way to capture Bobby's tone.