Summary: Set early in Season 2, following John Winchester's death, the brother's are at Bobby's and all is not well as Sam's heath starts to deteriorate.

Disclaimer: I'm just playing with the characters.

Notes:Many many thanks for the reviews – I know I didn't reply to everyone – but a giant thank you! Also, as I've been ridiculously busy, I only gave my wonderful beta, Supernaturaldh, the opportunity to read the first part of this posting, so all remaining mistakes are quite definitely mine.

Here is Chapter 3 (parts 6-8).


6. On The Way Down

Bobby watched Sam leave. He had to fight the urge to go after him, but a final backward glance from those pleading eyes as Sam shuffled out stilled him in his chair.

His fingers tightened around the beer bottle as he reluctantly drew his eyes away from Sam's retreating back. Regardless of his protests to the contrary, he mentally catalogued the contents of the fridge, deciding what he could toss together for dinner. Dean was just as likely to order pizza, and of one thing he was sure, Sam needed some wholesome home cooked food if he was going to get some color back in his cheeks. How Dean couldn't see what was staring him in the face was beyond him. Sam was a walking bag of bones, his skin washed out and his eyes shadowed. The kid looked as though anything more than a gentle breeze would knock him over, and right now, Bobby didn't think that was too far wrong.

Taking another long swallow of beer, he thumped the empty bottle back on the table and scraped his chair against the timber floor as he stood up with sudden determination. He met Dean's questioning glare across the table and had to bite his tongue to prevent himself from spilling forth all his concerns about Sam. Damn Sam and his stubbornness.

Bobby just shook his head as he stepped away. "Just goin' to check on your brother," he stammered out, not meeting Dean's eyes.

Dean frowned, his own beer bottle hitting the table. "Uh huh. Any reason?" He asked, pushing up from his chair to follow Bobby.

Bobby glanced back and met Dean's frowning face, but didn't reply.


Fate seemed determined to block Sam at every turn.

The stairs loomed in front of him, taunting him for his weakness. He felt like he was two years old again, wanting to reach out and grab someone's hand to hold onto, to guide him up and make sure he wouldn't fall.

Unwanted tears pooled in his eyes, but he refused to let them fall.

He needed to be strong.

He hunched over as a sudden shiver racked through his body, and he wrapped an arm around his chest for support. The stairs weaved in his vision and Sam had to blink rapidly to try and get his eyes just to focus. He could feel himself falter, like standing on the precipice, waiting for the eventual fall.

Reaching out and gripping hold of the banister, Sam leaned against the polished wood, relishing the sturdy support.

He could do this.

He needed to do this.

He was a Winchester. A few stairs weren't going to get the better of him.

Tightening his grip on the banister, he hauled himself up the first step, then a second, and then a third. His lungs screamed, but he felt a sense of achievement spread through him. With barely a pause he dragged himself up another, and then another, his hold on the banister iron tight now as his vision flashed between light and dark.


Everything was spinning and he was caught in the middle. He stumbled, body slamming into the banister as he fought to hang on.

He wrapped both hands around the railing, disorientated as his surroundings continued to move, picking up pace and making him dizzy. His head felt like it was rolling on his shoulders, and more than anything he wanted to sit down. Lie down.

But he couldn't let go.

Couldn't move.

No longer sure which way was up and which way was down.


Startled, Sam turned towards the voice, his foot slipping on the stair as his balance was disrupted. His grip on the banister started to slide with his body, gravity working against him.

He fought to hang on, scrambling to find purchase even as his feet skidded out from under him. Timber scraped against his palms, one knee going down to smash against the edge on a stair as his body started to fall.

He felt the panic then, the total loss of control, as his limbs flailed and the breath caught in his throat.

He opened his mouth to call out, but the air caught and no sound would come.

Seeing the shadowy outline looming towards him, he blinked back the darkness and released his desperate hold.


7. Subterfuge

Dean leapt past Bobby, taking the stairs two at a time to reach Sam.

Reaching Sam, he fisted one hand in Sam's shirt, wedging himself against the banister and bracing his legs as he took the full force of Sam's weight. His other hand hung on to the banister for dear life as he tried to stop Sam's untimely descent.

"Christ! Sam?" Dean muttered, his arms straining to keep their hold.

"Hmmmm," Sam groaned, before going completely slack in Dean's arms.

Bobby coming up beside him was a welcome relief, his hold on Sam precarious at best. But he wasn't letting go. Wouldn't let Sam fall.

"Bobby?" Dean questioned, relinquishing some of Sam's weight to the other man.

"Let's just get him off the stairs Dean." Bobby thwarted further discussion, pulling one of Sam's arms across his shoulder to support the unconscious man. "Put him on the couch," Bobby huffed under the exertion as they made their way towards the bottom of the stairs.

Sam's feet dragged against the floor as they carried him between them, before gently heaving his lanky form onto the couch.

Dean wedged a cushion under Sam's head, getting a close look at his brother for the first time in days.

He didn't like what he saw.

"What the hell Bobby?" He demanded; placing a hand against Sam's forehead, not happy with the heat he could feel there.

"Sam? Sam can you hear me?" Bobby asked, reaching for the top button of Sam's shirt. He wasn't surprised when Sam remained unresponsive.

"Bobby?" Dean questioned again.

"We need to check his ribs – make sure he didn't do any more damage," Bobby instructed, his fingers fumbling to undo the buttons on Sam's shirt.

Dean reached across and made light work of Sam's shirt, pulling the cotton edges apart. He physically flinched as he took in the vivid bruising on Sam's skin, mottled colors blending together and decorating Sam's chest like some bad tattoo.

Dean touched Sam's skin tentatively; almost afraid his gentle touch would cause more damage, would hurt. With careful fingers he traced the outline of Sam's ribs, looking for damage, realizing with it that Sam was thinner now, his ribs more pronounced as if he'd lost weight. How could he not have noticed?

"When Bobby? When did this happen?" Dean placed his hand on Sam's chest, feeling it rattle with each breath that Sam inhaled.

"When did it happen? When the hell do you think it happened?" Bobby barked with exasperation. "Christ Dean, did you think he walked away from that crash unscathed? Hell, you've seen the Impala, you know as well as I do that that was one hell of a crash."

"But, he…"

"He what? Damn fool kid thought he could ignore his injuries and given enough time, they'd heal by themselves. He didn't want you to know. Thought you had enough on your plate, what with your dad…" Bobby paused in his tirade, half expecting Dean to start swinging his fists.

"Sam tell you that?" Dean asked.

"Damn kid's as stubborn as your old man. Said he didn't want to worry you. Found him half passed out on the stairs earlier and took him to see the doc in town. He made me promise not to say anything to you."

"He made you?"

Bobby shrugged. "You know Sam."

"Has you twisted around his little finger," Dean muttered, brushing the hair off Sam's forehead with gentle fingers, before looking shrewdly at Bobby. "So, what is it you're not telling me?"

Bobby looked down at Sam, giving him a silent apology. "Sam should be in the hospital, but he refused point blank to stay. Said he could recover just as well back here." Bobby explained.

"Yeah, bang up job he's doing with that." Dean muttered, urging Bobby to continue. "And?"

"He smashed up a few ribs in the crash and did some damage to his right lung, among other things. The doc ran some tests, took some x-rays; seems Sam's managed to add pneumonia to the list."

Dean placed a hand against Sam's chest, feeling the rise and fall, the strained irregularity of each labored breath. "And you thought you could keep this from me? Thought it was something I didn't need to know?"

A protest rose automatically to Bobby's lips. "Hey, I didn't…"

Dean cut the other man off. "Hell Bobby, he's my brother."

"You think I don't know that? You think this was my choice, to be caught in the middle between you two knuckleheads? You think I'm to blame 'cause you've been too damn blind to see what's going on right under your nose? You tell me Dean - why Sam got it into his head that he couldn't come to you, now of all times? Hell, the boy's been running to you with his problems since he was knee high." Bobby paused, knowing he was at risk of letting his heated words run away from him.

Taking a deep breath Bobby pushed himself upright; giving the brother's a final glance before stepping away. "I'll get a damp cloth. We need to get him cooled him down."


8. Life's a Bumpy Road

Sam groaned as he came to awareness, eyes opening sluggishly and blinking against the subdued lighting. The voices that had subsisted on the periphery of his consciousness suddenly stopped and he was greeted by nothing but eerie silence.

Uneasy, he narrowed his eyes, slowly focusing on his surroundings. Two faces stared down at him, and the feeling of being examined under a microscope had him itching to scramble away. He tried to lever himself upwards, but his bruised ribs made a sudden and decisive protest, causing him to slump back against the couch with a painful grunt of remembrance.

"Hey, don't try to move," Dean instructed; a firm had on Sam's shoulder preventing another attempt. "How're you feeling?"

Sam met Dean's concerned gaze. "Okay I guess."

"You took a swan dive on the stairs Sam."

"I ah, lost my footing, slipped."

"You're a crap liar Sam. So; how're you going to explain these bruises, huh?" Dean waved a hand over Sam's chest. "Or the pneumonia? You got some sort of lame explanation for that too?"

Sam felt as if his whole world was crashing down around him, one miserable brick at a time, as he turned accusing eyes towards Bobby. "You told him?"

"Had to Sam. I'm sorry." Bobby apologized.

"Hey, don't go blaming Bobby. What the hell were you thinking Sam, keeping this from me? We keeping secrets now, is that it?"

"No," Sam whispered in denial.

"That's crap Sam and you know it."

"Sorry," Sam muttered; all effort of pretence falling away now that Dean knew the truth. He was so tired and maintaining a strong front was wearing him down. Maybe now, he could sleep.

Resigned now, Sam let his eyelids lower, welcoming the dark haze that swirled around him and drifting towards it.

"No Sammy, stay with me here, open your eyes." Dean pleaded, his anger falling away as he cupped a hand under Sam's chin and tilted his face upwards. "Sammy?"

Sam could hear Dean's words, like they were coming through thick cotton wool, barely penetrating. He wanted to obey, could hear the need and desperation, but however much he tried to climb towards the voice it seemed to teeter just out of reach.

Again, he let the blackness claim him.


The familiar scent of antiseptic registered first, followed closely by the other signs Sam wanted to block out, but recognized all too clearly.

He wanted to keep his eyes tightly closed, to remain in denial, but the tug towards full consciousness was unrelenting, offering no chance of escape.

"Come on Sam," Dean persisted, his throat gravelly from the hours spent in one-way conversation.

Sam blinked, head rolling to the side, angling towards his brother's voice. "Dean?"

"The one and only," Dean smiled, leaning in closer to Sam. "God, it's good to see you awake. You gave us all a scare Sammy."


"'Fraid so."

Sam felt the weight of recent memories. "I'm sorry Dean."

"Hey Sam, you've got nothing to be sorry 'bout …except for maybe the keeping secrets part - which by the way, you're not real good at. Next time …next time, you come to me, tell me what's goin' on okay?" Dean brushed a few strands of hair off Sam's forehead. "And I'm sorry too Sam, sorry that you felt you had to hide things from me. I should've seen what was goin' on; it's just that, you know, after everything…" Dean's voice trailed off as he reached across and pressed the call button.

Sam grabbed Dean's wrist as panic washed over him. "God Dean, how long? How long have I been here?"

"Couple of days, why?"

Sam lowered his voice until it was scarcely a raspy whisper. "I had to, you know; ditch our last I.D.'s, after Dad and everything."

Dean shook off Sam's concerns. "Don't worry about it. Bobby's got it covered."

"I've got what covered?" A smile spread across Bobby's face as he strode into the room, happy to finally see the youngest Winchester awake and alert.

"Sam's having an identity crisis," Dean replied with a laugh.

"Not funny Dean," Sam huffed, coughing to try and clear his croaky throat. "We don't have any insurance or cash – we've got to go, now." Sam followed the line of tubing running into the vein in his arm, looking at how to pull it out so they could leave.

"Yeah, about that. I ah, kind of told the hospital you were family Sam." Bobby replied with a chuckle and a shrug of his shoulders. "Seemed easier at the time."

"Family?" Sam raised his eyebrows at Bobby.

"What?" Bobby ran his fingers through the coarse hair on his chin. "You don't see the resemblance?"

Sam sighed and let his eyes drift closed again, not feeling up to dealing with Dean or Bobby's antics right now. "Still want to leave," he whispered.

"And you can, when the doc says you can Sam," Dean replied.

"Hmmm." Sam muttered, saved from further argument by a nurse bustling into the room. He lay compliant as she flustered around him, asking questions and updating his charts. He just wanted it over with as quickly as possible so that he could go back to sleep.

He barely registered her leaving the room, just the gentle shuffling of rubber soled shoes on the linoleum floor followed closely by Bobby's heavy tread.

Thick silence descended on the room.

He could feel Dean's presence beside him, vibrating with suppressed energy, ready to snap. He fought the urge to move away, to put some distance between himself and the bolt of disappointment that he felt was about to be unleashed. Everything he'd tried to spare Dean from he'd failed, and they'd ended right back where they started - at the hospital. The last place either of them wanted to be. Thoughts jumbled in his head as he searched for a solution, for some way to make things right.

"I know you're not asleep." Dean spoke quietly, his voice so controlled that Sam found the energy to blink his eyes open and search out his brother's face.

Dean stared back at Sam. "It's not your fault you know, any of it. Everything that's happened, everything I said, about you and dad …I was just angry. And I'm sorry Sam; I shouldn't've taken it out on you.


Dean gave a tear filled grin. "No, let me say this. I know Sam, that he was your dad too, and I'm sorry that I got so caught up in being angry at the man, for what he did, for leaving … but I shouldn't have taken it out on you. The things I said? I didn't mean…"

"I know Dean, and I'm sorry too." Sam whispered, struggling to take in a few deep breaths. "We good then?"

"Yeah." Dean leaned back in his chair, feeling suddenly lighter. "But don't think for one minute that I've forgotten that you're a lying…" Sam closed his tired eyes and listened to the sound of Dean's voice, a smile drifting across his face as he heard the concern, thinly disguised beneath the passionate reprimand. Maybe, just maybe, everything would be alright.


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