Chapter 3

A/N: I don't own a thing related to Supernatural other than DVDs and collectibles.


Amber-filled glass in hand, Bobby Singer went to his front door. He had heard the Impala's engine cut off a while ago yet no Sam. Bobby hadn't heard from Sam in over a week, and he hadn't answered any calls. Opening his front door, he saw Sam pulling himself up along the porch rail. Hearing Bobby, Sam wearily glanced up. He looked awful.

Setting his glass down by the door Bobby said, "Boy, where have you been? I called you I don't know how many times. I thought. . .I was . . ." Bobby didn't want to admit he had been afraid that Sam had gone and done something Winchesterly. Looking sharply at the boy, he noticed that Sam's awkward stance. "What's wrong?"

Taking a shallow breath, Sam finally reached the porch. He felt dizzy and only the pain was keeping him conscious. "I had a bad hunt. I can't reach it and really didn't want to go to a hospital." The drive here had been nightmarish. He'd been afraid he would pass out and destroy the Impala. Dean's legacy to Sam. That fear had kept him going.

He held out his left hand. Bobby didn't keep him waiting long as he handed him a shot glass full of holy water. Sam belted it down and handed the glass back.

"Where are you hurt?" Bobby reached out to Sam, but Sam sidestepped the mechanic.

"My back. I was after a ghoul about 400 miles west of here, and it moved faster than I did." Unsaid was the fact that Sam still expected Dean to back him up and patch what was hurt.

Sam slowly eased into the house before turning around. Bobby let out a long whistle. Something big had clawed Sam from right shoulder to left ribcage. His shredded shirt was stuck to his back by clotted blood. Sam was right; there was no way he could have fixed himself up.

"Come on into the kitchen." Bobby led the way pulling a chair out behind him for Sam to sit on. Turning it around so he could rest his arms on the back, Sam sank down gratefully. He had driven here directly from Sturgis, and he was exhausted from the six hour trip. It had been a long hunt and an even bigger disappointment. He did not want to explain to Bobby right now why he had found a job that was close to Table Rock; that was his business, his secret, his failure. Sam reached out to grasp the half empty whiskey bottle sitting on the table and took a long drink. He noticed another bottle, drained, sitting on the counter. Bobby's manner of grieving was as unhealthy as Sam's.

Bobby came back to Sam with a pair of scissors. "It'll be easier if I cut your shirt off, Sam, it's ruined anyways." Working slowly, Bobby managed to cut off most of Sam's shirt leaving only the pieces that were stuck to his back with dried blood. Pursing his lips, Bobby tried to figure out the best course of action.

"Sam?"

"Yeah?" came through clenched teeth.

"We have two options. Do you think you can get in the shower to soak off your shirt, or should I try to do it myself? If I try to do it, you'll have to lie down cause if you pass out, there is no way I can get you into a bed without hurting you some more. What do you want to do?"

"Shower." Sam hoped some hot water might help with all the other aches and bruises. He just prayed he had a bit more energy left in him. Pushing off the chair back, Sam stood up very slowly.

"Don't get started yet, Sam. I want to get you some clothes; mine sure won't fit. I want to make sure you don't take a header in the shower."

Smiling faintly at the jest, Sam inched towards the back of the house. He was walking so slowly that Bobby caught up with him as he reached the bathroom.

Dropping sweat pants and shorts on the toilet seat, Bobby said, "I'll be right outside. You make sure I don't hear a thump, alright?"

Nodding his head, Sam pushed the door to but not closed. The hot water felt great on his head, but when he turned around, a grunt of pain escaped. Sam bit his lip to stifle any sound; he did not want Bobby to come in to help. He would have accepted such help from Dean but only from Dean.

A plopping sound started Sam from his daze. Looking down, he saw the pieces of his shirt, released from the crusted blood, pooled around his feet. Time to get out.

Drying off was a challenge, but he was able to get his pants on and his chest dried off. Raising his arms above his head hurt too damn much. "Bobby?" Sam was shocked at his own voice. He didn't realize until then how close he was to the edge.

Bobby entered the bathroom and was handed the towel by Sam. The boy's mouth was pinched with pain; it looked like he'd bitten his lip. Sam turned around.

Looking at the mess that the ghoul had made of Sam's back, Bobby was amazed he had made it home. He must had driven with his back straight; there was no way he could have rested against the Impala's seat for long. This would definitely require stitches.

"Here, hold onto the towel." Bobby had rolled the towel up and now placed it around Sam's waist. "This will hurt." Holy water slowly rolled down Sam's back, dripping into the wounds. A bit of steam rose into the air.

All the air left Sam's lungs in a rush. Damn that hurt. It was almost as bad as when the ghoul had ripped into him the first time. His vision darkened down into a small tunnel, his breath came in pants, his throat burned with acid from nausea. The roaring in Sam's ears almost drowned out Bobby's voice.

"Let's get you into the bedroom before you pass out on me." Wanting to offer to help but afraid of Sam jerking away and reopening the wounds, Bobby followed closely enough so he could catch the boy if he needed to.

No need. Sam made it on his own power before slowly sinking onto the bed. Bobby had laid some towels down already so Sam braced himself and slowly lay down on his side before rolling onto his stomach. Sliding his arms under the pillow, Sam turned his head away from Bobby. "Do what you need to do; I'll be okay."

Bobby doubted that but it had to be done and soon. Aiming a maglight, Bobby began to search for debris in the wounds. With tweezers, he pulled out a few bits of cloth the shower had missed and flushed out each of the stripes torn into Sam's back with more holy water.

Lifting his med kit off the floor, Bobby selected some sutures and began the chore of sewing Sam together. His back was a ruinous landscape. Three more scars to add to the vertical one alongside his spine. Jake's murderous attack on Sam. Sam's deathwound. The crossroads demon had healed him, but she chose to leave a visible reminder. It had only faded a bit in the 13 months since Sam had received it. Now he had more battle scars. At least these did not look to be fatal. They had only torn muscle and not reached as deep as bone. Bobby would do his best to minimize the scars.

"What was it you said did this?" Bobby hoped that talking would distract Sam from the pain.

"A ghoul. It was in a graveyard near Sturgis tearing apart tombs and graves to find food. Anyways, I had tracked it down to this cave, and it got the jump on me. I wasn't watching my back. Obviously." Sam winced as Bobby pulled another suture closed.

"Almost done here, Sam; you doing okay?" Bobby knew he was hurting the boy. Sam's short panting breaths as he tried to resist crying out told him that. A nod was his only answer. Why had Sam taken off as he had? He'd left about ten days ago and hadn't answered any of Bobby's calls. Where had he really been? Why would he choose to go after a ghoul? Surely there were other hunts that would have been less dangerous. "So did you get it?"

"Uh-huh. I dynamited the entrance. It's trapped since that was the only way in or out." It was also the only thing he could do against the creature right then, and he didn't want to leave the job undone with the ghoul free to ravage the dead and the living.

"Done." Both men sighed with relief that the job was over. "I'll be right back, Sam." Bobby went to his panic room to get some antibiotics. The holy water should have taken care of any contamination that was spiritual, but there was still a high risk of infection. From what Sam had said, his wounds had been untreated for several hours. Digging through his medical supplies, Bobby decided to go with an antibiotic shot rather than pills. It would be a higher concentration and hopeful would be quicker.

Coming back into the room, Bobby realized that Sam was no longer conscious. Feeling for a pulse, he decided that Sam had finally allowed himself to relax now that he was safe. Sam didn't even wince when Bobby injected him.

Turning off the light, Bobby headed back to the kitchen. He would need to stay up to keep an eye on Sam. Glancing at the bottle of whiskey, he ignored it and chose a cold beer instead. He would need a clear head.

He headed into the library and pulled out a book. He wanted to be sure that sealing the entrance would keep that ghoul under lock and key or could it find a way out. Bobby settled down in the bedroom to read, to wait, and to hope.

Bobby was jerked out of his doze by the sound of muttering. Getting up stiffly, he went to see how Sam was doing. Not good. When Bobby turned on the light, Sam's back was covered with a sheen of sweat, his hair soaked and sticking to his forehead. Dammit. They did not need this. Sure enough, Sam felt hot and fevered. The wounds had a reddish tinge on the edges but it didn't look like he needed to cut the stitches to relieve any pressure, at least not yet.

Bobby always had ice packs in the freezer. They'd been put to good use for his headaches lately but now they would serve a better purpose. He packed them around Sam's torso hoping to get his temperature down. A basin of cool water and a cloth would help too.

The coolness roused Sam, and he began to speak again. Bobby was unashamed of the tears that came to his eyes listening to Sam. In his delirium, Sam was begging Dean to let him do whatever was needed to save him. He was willing to pay whatever price there would be. Surely it wasn't wrong to do so. It wasn't wrong to save the one person left to him that he loved.

The anguish Bobby heard wasn't surprising; he was actually relieved. After burying Dean, Sam had locked himself down. He refused any offers to talk about what had happened. Bobby knew of at least one night when Sam had slipped out and left for a couple of hours, but Sam had never admitted to the deed and nothing had happened. Whatever Sam had tried hadn't worked. Dean was still dead.

Hating himself, Bobby was grateful for that. If Sam brought Dean back, it would destroy them both. He had seen the emptiness in Dean's eyes as he watched over Sam's corpse. Dean would not live a moment longer than his brother if a different deal was made and he returned and Sam died. God, what a mess.

Turning back to Sam, Bobby checked his temperature. Still high, but not dangerously so. Time for another penicillin shot.

Dawn was breaking when Sam's fever broke. He sank into a silent sleep as his breathing evened out. Bobby leaned forward in his chair and covered his face with his hands. He'd given up caring for anyone after his wife had died, yet somehow these two boys, now one, had wormed their way into his life and his heart. "Family don't end with blood, boy." Those words were etched in his heart. Sam was his only family as he was Sam's.

********

Leaning against the bathroom sink, Sam tried to see his back in the mirror. Bobby had just taken out the stitches, and he wanted to see what was left. He snorted. What did it matter what he looked like? Sam was surprised and yelled, "Hey, Bobby, you should become a tailor! Not too shabby." Sam smiled briefly at Bobby colorful rejoinder. His back really didn't look too bad. There were lines that would fade in time, but they were smooth with no puckers.

Facing the mirror, Sam flashed to a memory of pulling a bullet out of his own chest and sewing himself up. His body had no scar; the scar was on his soul. Another time. Another place. That wasn't him now, but it might be. Dean was dead. He was alone. He would be a solitary hunter while he searched for something, anything to bring Dean back.

Sam hadn't admitted to Bobby the real reason he had been up near Sturgis. He'd found a 1836 Texas Paterson 38. Colt advertised online and bought it at the shop. Sam had taken it to the Devil's Gate.

Standing in front of the crypt's door, Sam felt the weight of the gun in his hand. Would it work? Sam swore to himself that he would go in and find his brother and bring him out again. He would save Dean.

Placing the Colt's barrel in the key, Sam twisted the gun, but it wouldn't move. He put more force into it but nothing. They needed the Colt and that bitch had stolen it, had sold it, had destroyed their one chance of killing Lillith. Sam felt a hatred for Bela that surprised him. He felt if he saw her writhing in torment that he would not lift a hand. That scared him. He'd always felt compassion for others. Others were the one thing that had kept him going. Dean had kept him going. Another chance to rescue his brother had failed. Failure to rescue Dean ate a bit more out of Sam's heart. Soon, there would be no Sam left. Just as the Trickster had warned. To hell with that. Sam would just keep searching. He would do something, find something, become something that would save Dean or destroy those who had taken him from Sam. Once he'd lived for months without Dean, and the Trickster had brought Dean back. Dean could come back, would come back, somehow.

Blinking his eyes to get rid of unshed tears, Sam resolved to look for another solution. But he would have to do it all on his own. He knew Bobby would try to stop him bringing Dean back, and he was tired of lying to him. He'd meant to stay away, but his wounds had stopped that plan. He'd try again. He needed to leave. To follow his own path wherever that would lead. His father and his brother had been and was in hell. And the path to hell was paved with good intentions. Sam intended to make a lot of demons pay.