Chapter 6: Wisconsin

It was all Bobby could do to stand it, sitting in a hard wooden chair at Sam's bedside and watching the boy struggle and shriek like someone was sticking him full of tiny knives. Eventually, well after an hour, he stilled. That didn't make it any easier on poor Bobby's nerves, though. Sam was too quiet for his own good if you asked him. The vampire just lay there staring straight ahead, zero expression on his face, fangs still out, and chest as still as the rest of him.

"So…Dean should be back any minute now," Bobby said awkwardly. What? Someone might as well at least attempt conversation here and it didn't look like Sam was going to initiate it any time soon.

Sam didn't respond. Predictably.

"You fool idjits are going to be the death of me," the gruff hunter continued. "It was the same when you were boys. Something happened to one of ya, and the other just threw caution to wind to make it better. I remember this one time," he mused with a chuckle, "Dean and your Daddy were out hunting a kelpie somewheres in Wisconsin and you were stayin' with me at the time. You were barely eight years old. Anyway, Dean tripped over some big rock at the river bank and twisted his ankle up pretty bad…" Bobby stopped his story to spare Sam a glance, see if the boy was listening (if he was even capable of listening). It was hard to say.

"So anyway," he went on, "John calls me up to tell me how the hunt went and there's that brother of yours hollering in the background like the damn limb just fell off. And of course you hear your brother screamin' from where you're sittin' because that boy's got a real set of lungs on him." Bobby shook his head fondly at the memory. "So later that night I call you down for dinner, but you're nowhere to be found. You gave me a real scare, ya idjit. I searched the house high and low, and you sure as hell weren't in it. I found you two miles down the road, an eight-year-old kid, trying to hitch a ride to Wisconsin."

"I remember that," a small voice startled Bobby out of his reminiscence. "I remember thinking, if it was Dean he would have made it to Wisconsin."

"Sam?" Bobby asked hopefully. "You with me, boy? You lucid?"

Sam turned to look at him then, really look at him for the first time since the older hunter arrived. His eyes were clear hazel, stained with tears and a despair that made Bobby's heart ache, but undeniably Sam all the same.

"Hi, Bobby," the younger boy said with a nervous crack to his voice and a small, hesitant smile that flashed a set of fangs seeming so out of place in that mouth.

"Well, hi there, Sam," Bobby said, unable to hold back his own tears as he pushed his chair forward with a heavy creak. Suddenly, Sam's demeanor changed entirely and he shook his head vehemently.

"No, Bobby, don't get any closer," he warned. "It's not safe."

Bobby backed off immediately, returning to his original position. After all, Sam knew what he could handle and what he couldn't. Bobby was just glad that the kid recognized him again.

"All right. Anything you say, Sam," he placated. The vampire seemed to calm down for a second, but then his eyes drifted down to the hunter's bloodied and bandaged arm and his face immediately contorted in mortification.

"I did that," he said. "I don't remember doing it, but I remember the taste. I'm so hungry. You smell so good to me right now, Bobby."

Bobby couldn't stop the shudder that went through him at his near-son's admission. It was pretty creepy to say the least! But he didn't want to respond badly to the boy and make him feel even worse for something he had no control over, so instead he tried to lighten the mood.

"Well, that's a first!" he said with a chuckle. "I never thought I'd hear anyone say that to me."

Sam didn't laugh.

"Where's Dean?"

"He'll be back soon. He went to get you something to eat."

"He went to get blood. You can just say it."

"Sam…" Bobby sighed, not really knowing how to comfort the boy. Balls, this sucked! Why did it have to be freakin' vampires? At least if the boy was a werewolf they could just tie him up during the full moon and he could at least pretend to be normal the rest of the time. But no! Life was complicated, Sam was a vampire, and that kid was going to have to face that every damn second of every damn day and it was never going to be easy.

"You have to kill me, Bobby."

"What?" He couldn't have heard that right, could he?

"It'll be easier while he's gone," Sam explained. "He'd never let you do it if he was here. He'll be upset, but he'll understand. Eventually. He just needs time to get used to the idea, but I know he'll forgive you. He can't face it now, but you and I both know-"

"Now you just stop right there!" Bobby shouted, slamming his fist against the wall to make sure this kid was good and listening. "You think I'm sitting here telling you stories because I like to hear myself talk? I'm making a point to you, boy, and you're going to shut up and listen. I know this situation sucks balls, and if I was in your position I'd be asking the same thing you are. But this is what a hunter's life is, Sam, and you two idjits signed yourselves up for it-"

"I never wanted to be a hunter!" Sam interrupted angrily, yanking hard at his confines and eyes flashing with predatory rage. Like that was going to shake Bobby!

"Then you should have stayed out when you got out!" Bobby yelled back. He could get angry too, and Sam needed to hear this. He hadn't had as many fatherly talks with Sam as he should have. With Dean, sure. But Sam was the responsible brother, the one who knew what he wanted and had all his crap together and his ducks in a row. Bobby regretted it now, though, because it turned out Sam didn't have one god damned thing together. He was a mess, just as much as Dean if not even more so. Sam was the kid being pulled in every direction until he was so twisted, so knotted up inside, that he didn't know up from down anymore. Sam was the kid with nowhere to go and no one to talk to because everything in his life was one great big secret. Sam was the kid made to feel like an outsider in all of his environments, too abnormal to truly fit into the standard world of school, friends, relationships, but too different from John and Dean to feel a valued part of his family of hunters either.

It was one big Winchester puzzle, and Sam set himself aside as some warped piece that no matter how you turned it would never fit into place. What he couldn't see was that none of the pieces fit just right, all too disfigured by a fire that happened over 20 years ago. So Sam put a sign on his back, a label saying "I don't belong here. I'm normal. Please believe me!" But Sam was the one who didn't believe it, who looked in the mirror each night and called himself freak.

And now that he was a vampire? Well, that was the ultimate confirmation that Sam just didn't need right now.

"You should have stayed out, Sam," Bobby repeated. "And that brother of yours should have got out with you. I tried to tell John that, but that idjit never listened to anything I ever had to say. Why do you think I ran him off my property and threatened to fill'm full of buckshot? I tried to warn him where a hunter's life was going to get his boys. Sooner or later, no matter how good you are, you get killed by something you're hunting…or you get turned into it."

"No kidding," Sam grumbled. "But there's no going back now. What am I supposed to do?"

"You're supposed to keep being that stubborn kid that snuck out my back door just to get to his injured brother 400 miles away," Bobby told him with a knowing smile. "Listen, Sam, I ain't telling you this is gonna be easy. But Dean's not ready to let you go. You know that. And if your actions in the last couple of days tell me anything, then you're not ready to let him go either. If you want to be the kid that makes it all the way to Wisconsin, then you do it. But you lean on me and your brother for support along the way, you hear that? Because an eight-year-old alone on the highway in the dark? That ain't never okay, Sam. Never. Besides, didn't I take you straight to that brother of yours minute I found you?"

"You sure did," Sam answered. The tears in his eyes were no longer sad.

-SPN-

The unmistakable creak of the front door interrupted the much needed conversation. Dean, the two men registered in unison. Suddenly Dean entered the small bedroom with a black duffle slung across his shoulder and tired yet accomplished smile on his face.

"So what's going on in here?" he asked, noticing Sam seemed calmer and more lucid. He still looked about to keel over at any second, though.

"Just catching up," Bobby said. "You get what you needed?"

Sam's eyes widened and followed Dean's gaze to the duffle. There was blood in there; he could smell it.

"Yeah, but man, those blood banks are more secured than you'd think. Cameras and security guards, and this dork in clerical with a major attitude." Dean shook his head at the memory as he hoisted the bag uncomfortably farther up his shoulder.

"Run into any trouble?" Bobby asked.

"Nothing I couldn't handle."

Sam's stomach took that moment to make its presence known, grumbling hungrily in anticipation. Dean glanced over at the sound and spotted his brother straining against the confines of the bed, eyes glued to the duffle like a big, dumb dog catching scent of a prized steak.

Right. Dean dropped the bag to the dusty floorboards with a loud thud. Leaning down, he unzipped the bag and shuffled quickly through the contents. A second later he was pulling out one of the blood bags. It was unnerving the way Sam watched his every move, focus never leaving the bag of blood. It was like a cat regarding its prey, eyes locked and glued and head turning with every scant movement.

Sam wasn't going to leave him any time to find a bottle or anything. Anyway, the vampire looked like he needed to sink his teeth into something so Dean figured it was best to just give him the bag as is.

He approached slowly, not knowing what state of mind his little brother was in at the moment. When he was within reach he held out the blood bag. Sam accepted it greedily, teeth slicing into the plastic with eager determination as Dean held it in place. He drank deeply and impatiently, and Dean felt his own stomach lurch at the sight.

The last thing he needed was to throw up in front of Sam. Make the kid feel even more self-conscious. So he did the big brotherly thing and held it together.

"I think you can untie him now," Dean told Bobby with a nod towards the ropes. To be honest, he really didn't want to keep holding the blood bag for Sam. He would if he had to, but…

Bobby saw the look of distress on the young man's face, shot Sam a quick evaluating glance, determined the threat to be minimal, and untied the boy. Sam's large hands immediately fisted around the plastic bag and massaged out every last ounce of blood he could get.

Dean, having let go, backed off and looked at the floor until Sam finished. When he finally looked back up what he saw shattered the little composure he had left. Sam was sitting on the edge of the bed. He held the now empty blood bag tightly in his lap and stared down at it in complete horror. Dean never saw his brother look so broken - never imagined anyone could look this broken.

"Hey, Sammy," Dean spoke softly as he sat down next to his brother and rested a comforting hand against his cold back. "Everything's going to be okay. We're going to figure this out."

"That's easy for you to say. You're not the one who has to drink blood."

"I know," Dean said sadly. "But this will work for now. I know you'd rather be on animal blood, man, and we'll make that happen. I promise."

"Don't make me any promises, Dean. Not ones you can't keep," Sam said, defeated.

"Lenore can help us. We have to believe that. Get some rest, kiddo. We'll head out in a bit, and we will find her."

Sam nodded his head in reluctant agreement before looking back hopefully.

"Hey, Dean?" he asked. "Maybe we could check in Wisconsin?"

The older Winchester turned a curious face toward Bobby who sat watching the interaction with a small smile. Wisconsin? Why would Sammy want to go there?

"You got a lead for us, Bobby?" Dean asked.

"Nope," the older hunter replied. "Sam and I were just doing a little reminiscing while you were gone."

Now Dean was even more confused, but after seeing how hopeful Sam looked despite everything that was going on…

"Okay, Sammy," he conceded with a pat on his brother's back. "We'll go anywhere you want to. We've gotta start somewhere, so why the hell not Wisconsin?"