Author's Notes: As always, thanks for reading and to everyone who left a review.
Dean's muscles strained as he held onto his brother and not for the first time, he cursed the extra height that made Sam so difficult to carry. He was trapped, effectively dancing with an unconscious sasquatch as he tried to shift position to give himself a little extra leverage and keep Sam from slipping.
"Bobby!" He yelled again, a hint of desperation creeping in as the seconds ticked by without any sign of the older hunter. He hoped to hell the other man was within hearing distance.
"Sammy, you with me?" Dean whispered as he heard a soft groan from his brother. "Come on dude, I really need you to wake up here – you know you're not as light as you used to be."
"Dean?" Bobby rushed into sight, a revolver held steady in one hand.
"Little help here Bobby." Dean beseeched the other man, taking a small staggering step backwards as he tried to keep balanced. The last thing Sam needed was another fall and Dean would do everything within his power to stop that from happening.
"Christ Dean, what did you do?" Bobby questioned as he tucked the revolver into his waistband and moved beside Dean to take his share of Sam's weight.
"What did I do? You're the one who thought it'd be a good idea to let him help with the car." Dean glared at Bobby as they maneuvered Sam between them.
"I thought you'd be keeping a close eye on him, making sure he didn't overdo things." Bobby tried to justify his actions even though he felt in some way responsible for Sam's collapse. He'd thought the boy was looking better and that a little fresh air and activity couldn't hurt. Knowing that maybe his intentions had caused more harm than good was like a swift kick in the guts. "How about we argue 'bout this later. Right now, I say we work on getting the kid back up to the house."
"Yeah. Watch his ribs." Dean cautioned as Bobby hooked an arm under Sam's shoulder.
"What the hell have you been feeding this boy? He weighs a friggin' ton." Bobby muttered as he took a moment to grip onto the back of Sam's belt to keep him from falling.
"Ready?" Dean asked.
"Let's do it." Bobby agreed, silently questioning whether they'd actually be able to complete the straight forward task.
With Sam balanced between them, arms hooked under his shoulders and feet dragging on the ground, they headed back towards the house, making slow progress.
Sam's head bobbed in time with the sluggish pace as Dean and Bobby dragged him towards the house. It took him a moment to realize where he was and what was happening. That he'd passed out mid-sentence when talking with Dean was bad enough, but having to be carried back to the house by Dean and Bobby was even worse. This one was going to be added to their story books for sure and he'd never be allowed to forget it.
His head felt heavy when he tried to lift it, and he groaned under the unexpected effort.
"You back with us Sam?" Dean whispered close to his ear.
"Never left." He responded, getting his legs to cooperate in supporting some of his own weight.
"Nearly there Sam, just hold on, we've got you." Dean reassured, keeping Sam clasped closely to his side.
Sam tried to pull against the arms holding him. "No, 'mmm 'kay Dean, I can walk."
Dean paused mid stride and gave Sam an incredulous look at the blatant lie. "Obviously Sam, that'd be why me 'n Bobby are carrying your heavy ass."
Sam took the opportunity to try and twist out of the firm hold.
"Quit ya wriggling Sam." Bobby barked; his grip tightening as he pulled Sam in closer.
Sam's breath caught in his throat as he was held in the vice like grip. Pain ricocheted through his chest, sharp and unrelenting, and he struggled just to draw air into his oxygen starved lungs.
"No," Sam gasped, fingers clawing at the arm wrapped across his chest. His vision narrowed, legs folding, as once again he sank into the dark.
"Christ." Bobby struggled to retain his hold as Sam suddenly went limp again and surrended his full weight to the two men carrying him. "Dean?"
"Yeah, I got him." Dean reassured, his arm secure around his brother.
Together they managed to get Sam up the front steps and into the house, laying him down on the tatty couch that had become Sam's second home over the last week.
"Jesus!" Bobby muttered, still catching his breath, as Dean unbuttoned Sam's shirt and bared his chest. The bruises had faded from deep purple to mottled yellow, but they still stained one side of Sam's torso with dramatic color.
Dean feathered his fingers over the bruised and scarred flesh, trying to ascertain if there was any further injury. "I just don't know Bobby. I though he was getting better, but…" Dean ran a hand through his hair. "I just don't know."
"Maybe we should take him into town, get the doc to look him over." Bobby stood at the end of the couch, his eyes locked on Sam's bruises in morbid curiosity.
"Yeah maybe." Dean answered Bobby, not taking his eyes off Sam. "Come on Sammy, you need to wake up, let me know what's going on with you."
Sam wanted to move away from the incessant voice calling his name, but his traitorous body refused to cooperate. Instead he opened his eyes and looked into the concerned face of Dean hovering just inches from his own.
"Sam." Dean said the name on a sign of relief. "Thank God."
"Hey. Ah, what happened?" Sam asked, looking around and trying to remember coming back inside.
"You decided to take a little swan dive is what happened." Dean moved away a little, but still remained perched on the edge of the couch as he let his eyes drift once again over Sam's bruised chest. "How're you feeling kiddo?"
"I'm fine Dean." Sam replied without giving the question any thought.
"You know, it wouldn't hurt to tell the truth every once in a while." Dean swore if he heard Sam say he was 'fine' one more time he'd maim the kid just to prove him wrong.
Sam met the concerned looks of the other men. "I'm fine, really."
Dean gritted his teeth and raised an eyebrow, prompting Sam to continue.
"I just jarred my ribs, twisted the wrong way or something." Sam used his fingers to trace along the lines of his bruised lower ribs and hoped he hadn't damaged them further. He wanted to hold the area, feeling like his ribs needed support to keep his chest held together. Every inhalation of breath caused his chest to expand and it felt like his bruised ribs would just crack under the simple everyday action. The pain was intense and unrelenting and if not breathing was an option; he'd be giving it serious consideration.
"That all?" Dean prompted, not willing to settle for any half truths this time.
"Couple of pain pills wouldn't hurt." Sam stated although he wasn't quite willing to voice just how much his ribs and chest actually bothered him. He was sick of the boredom and the relentless cycle of throbbing pain that made even the simplest of tasks an exhausting chore.
"You been doing those coughing exercises doc talked about?" Dean questioned, trying to fathom if there was more to Sam's recent collapse than he was letting on.
"Yes Dean." Sam fidgeted, hoping the half truth would suffice.
Bobby stood a few feet away and watched the exchange between the brothers. Dean was acting all mother hen and Sam was saying what needed to be said to placate his older brother. They were idjits, the both of them. With an exasperated shake of his head he made his way out to the kitchen, more than happy to let the two of them work it out between themselves.
Dean felt his frustration grow as he observed Sam closely. "You can't keep doing this, you know? Carrying on like nothing's wrong."
Sam met his brother's worried gaze. "It's just a bit of bruising, a couple of fractured ribs. Not like we haven't had worse."
Dean frowned at the flippant response. "It's not just that Sam, its you. Running around like you've got something to prove. Hiding things – since when the hell have we kept secrets from one another? Tell me, 'cause I sure as hell don't get it Sam, why you've got to pretend like you're not hurting, cause I gotta say, I sure as hell know what a bitch a cracked rib feels like, and on top of the surgery and everything else, that's got to be some serious pain."
Sam subconsciously rubbed his bruises before pulling his shirt closed across his chest. "I just -. I know you've got a lot to deal with, you know, with Dad, with the car and everything, and I just don't want you to feel that you've got to look after me too. It's just that you've spent your whole life doing that Dean, and now, don't you want some time to, I don't know, focus on something else?"
"And what is it exactly that you think I should be focusing on?" Dean questioned.
Sam thought for a moment. "I don't know. But that's just it Dean, don't you want something more?"
Dean shook his head. "We can't change who we are Sam, how we were raised, what we do. It's who we are."
"But hunting, it doesn't have to define us Dean." Sam whispered the words, scarcely loud enough to be heard.
Dean looked down at his recuperating brother and images flashed through his mind. Sam as a baby, held tightly in his arms as he ran from the burning house. Sam's first day of school, Sam learning how to swim, Sam watching intently as he taught him how to drive. Looking out for Sam, its what he did, what he'd always done. It was an irrevocable part of who he was.
"Don't go confusing me with the people you watch on those daytime soaps you're so fond of." Dean gave an exaggerated shudder. "I got everything I need right here." Dean watched as his words sunk in. "Plus, the car's nearly fixed as good as new; and, as soon as you're back on your feet, I'll get to have your whiney ass tagging along, to, I don't know, make sure I don't have too much of a good time or anything."
"Someone's got to keep you out of trouble." Sam smiled.
"Yeah, and you do it so well." Dean pushed up off the couch. "I'll go get you those pain pills." He strode towards the door, stopping for a second to glance back at Sam. "Oh, and if I come back and see you've moved -."
"I'm not going anywhere Dean." Sam closed his eyes, safe in the knowledge that Dean wouldn't be far.
Author's note: Well, this was my first ever sequel. I have to admit, writing it (the second chapter) was a struggle as I just could not find inspiration. In hindsight, I think I should have left the first story alone - but who would have thought that my hurt!Sam muse would abandon me at a time like this.