Bobby opened the door and gasped in surprise as Sam, rumpled, damp, and reeking of whiskey, grabbed him around the neck in a ferocious hug and kissed him smackingly on the cheek. "Bobby! Dude!"

Dean was right behind him, mouth tight, eyes furious. "We're on a job and he gets drunk!" The Impala, both doors wide open, waited behind him. "We don't have time for this crap!"

Sam crossed his eyes at Dean. "Blah, blah, blah." Laughing hysterically, he reeled into the house.

Bobby stared after him. "What the hell?"

"I don't know," Dean snapped. "Listen, I'm sorry, I've got a Rugaru getting ready to snack on a family of four. Gotta go."

Listening with one ear to the sound of Sam's stumbling progression through the house, Bobby asked, "You need help? I can always lock him up."

"What? Oh, no, thanks. I got it. Sorry for the drunken asshole. I'll be back later." He ran back to the car, doors slammed and the Impala roared away.

From inside there was a whoop. "Beer!"

Bobby rolled his eyes. "Oh, balls."

"One beer!" Bobby handed Sam a bottle, steered him to the sofa in his office. "Sit!"

"I love you, Bobby," Sam said fervently.

"Yeah, yeah."

Sam made a kissy sound, laughed, tipped the beer back and drank.

Knowing he probably wouldn't get anything but drunken bibble babble, Bobby still asked. "What's going on, Sam?"

"Huh?"

"Why are you drinking?"

"Why aren't you?" Sam shot back, giggling.

Resigned to a long night, the older man watched as the boy drained his beer.

When Sam tried to get up off the couch to go get another beer, Bobby pushed him back. "No more, Sam."

"Huh?"

"No more drinking."

"Why not?"

"Because you've had enough."

There was a flicker of anger in the hazel eyes. "No, I haven't."

He tried to stand again.

"Stay down, Sam, or I'll put you down."

Drunk or not, Sam wasn't going to go at it With Bobby. He subsided, stewing.

Bobby stood over Sam long enough to be sure he was going to stay on the couch, mad or not, and then went to his desk, sitting back down to the research he'd been doing when the two brothers had arrived.

After a while, he looked over to see that Sam had fallen asleep, head back, mouth open. With a sigh, he got up, pulled his charge into a more comfortable sleeping position, tossed a blanket over him, and went back to work.

Hours passed. Night fell. Bobby cooked dinner, ate and cleaned up, all without a sound or movement from the couch. Thinking about Dean and the Rugaru, he stayed up, worked on translating a text Rufus had found a few months back in an Appalachian cave.

"I never told Dean."

Startled, he looked over. Sam was still prone, but his eyes were open, staring up at the ceiling.

"Told him what?"

"What happened with the trickster."

Bobby frowned. "He held you guys prisoner in a time loop. Kept killing Dean over and over again, trying to show you couldn't save Dean from hell. That's what you guys told me."

"Yeah."

"Isn't that what happened?"

"Yeah."

"What else?"

Sam didn't want to tell it. But it was eating his guts. He had to get it out.

"That Wednesday, when we thought it was over - Dean went down to load the car, alone." Sam swallowed. "He was shot. He died. And I didn't wake up."

Bobby kept still.

"The cops arrested the junkie who killed him. I buried him. I stood over his grave for days. But I still didn't wake up." Moving slowly, still a little drunk, Sam sat up.

"The trickster kept us in that time loop for more than four months. Dean was dead for six months more after that."

Bobby kept his gaze level, didn't say anything, knowing Sam needed to get this out more than he needed sympathetic words.

"I kept hunting. I was looking for the trickster, but the leads were so few and far between, I had to do something to keep myself from going crazy."

He thought back over those long, horrible months, tried to smile.

"Truth is, I was already crazy. I just had to keep moving. If I stopped, if I thought about Dean being dead, in hell - some days it was all I could do not to put a gun in my mouth.

Bobby flinched.

Sam, staring into the distance, didn't see it. "Seven months," he mused. "Seven months of flushing out demons and vampire nests, in between trying to track down leads on that murdering bastard. I even tried that crossroads whore, but it was no good."

He looked at Bobby now, grinned faintly. "Killed her."

Bobby couldn't help it. "Jesus, Sam."

Sam shrugged. "I wasn't doing too good by then. I started getting more reckless. Almost got killed a couple of times." A short laugh. "Probably would have died but I had an edge."

"What was that?"

Sam shrugged again. "I didn't give a crap. The only thing I cared about was staying alive long enough to find the trickster and make him bring Dean back. If he wouldn't do it, nothing else really mattered."

"And then you called."

"Me?" Bobby said, surprised.

"You said you'd found a summoning spell for the trickster. You told me to meet you in Broward County, at the Mystery Spot. When I got there, you said the spell needed four quarts of blood. And it had to be fresh. " He drew in a shaky breath. "Even that didn't phase me."

"Sam -"

Sam rolled over him. "You said you wouldn't let me kill an innocent man, that you'd only brought me there to stop me looking for the trickster. When I still wouldn't listen, you asked me to kill you instead."

Bobby paled.

"You said it would be better if I killed you, instead of an innocent. It was your gift to Dean and me. So I killed you."

The silence was deafening. After a minute, Sam went on. "I can tell you that I only did it because I'd figured out by then it wasn't you; it was the trickster, screwing with my head. But I still did it. I didn't even hesitate. I put a stake through your back, into your heart.

Bobby rubbed unconsciously at his chest.

"There was a minute -" Sam stopped - "a really long minute - when I thought I'd been wrong. I thought it was you, lying there." He looked at Bobby. "If it had been you - I would have been done."

"Finish," Bobby said hoarsely. "Get it done, boy."

"I begged him," Sam said in a monotone. "Begged him. He went over all the reasons why he wouldn't do it. None of them mattered. The only thing that mattered was turning the clock back, getting Dean back."

"And he did it."

"He did it," Sam agreed, suddenly exhausted. "That Wednesday morning, when I woke up -" he stopped, unable to go on, the bittersweet emotion of that moment impossibly fresh and clear.

After a minute, he looked up at Bobby, unshed tears shining in his eyes. "Did we do something to deserve all this?"

"Sam, no!" Bobby protested.

"Mom. Jess. Dad." Sam's voice shook. "Dean." He tried to speak past the lump in his throat. "What the hell am I going to do, Bobby? The trickster said he was trying to teach me a lesson. The only thing he taught me is that I can't do it without Dean. I can't."

Sam could feel himself starting to lose it. He pulled himself up on shaky legs, spoke in what tried to be a normal voice.

"Man, I'm going to feel that booze in the morning. Sorry about that, Bobby. I'm going to get cleaned up."

At the door, he stopped, fighting to master the emotion tearing through him. One last confession.

"Dean doesn't remember being dead, being in hell. I don't want him to. But I remember. Every day, every hour, every minute he was gone."

Rage, his constant companion these days, filled him. He lowered his head for a moment, fighting for control.

"Making me remember - I'd like to kill the trickster for that. I hate him for that, more than anything else."

He went quickly out of the room, leaving Bobby white and shaking. The older man poured himself a whiskey, drank it slowly. He pulled out his cell phone and scrolled to Dean's number, but after a long moment, closed it.

Sometimes the price of friendship, is knowing when to listen, and when to say nothing.