Chapter 12

For the next week, things went pretty smoothly. Brad visited daily and soon had Sam's morphine regimen fine-tuned to the point that he was awake most of the day, allowing the Winchester boys to spend some time catching up. And It was great, being stuck together in a motel room with countless hours to fill in the blanks - at first, anyway. As they quickly discovered, even after months apart you can only spend so long sitting and chatting before you run out of things to chat about. So, in pursuit of something to keep them both from going stir-crazy, Dean raided the motel's games room.

They tried Clue, but that felt a bit too much like work. Scrabble wasn't a fair fight, and crosswords were out of the question too, because God knows Sam didn't need anyone's help with those. They even braved a few brief rounds of Sorry and a short-lived game of Monopoly before finally settling on poker - it was slow with Sam's damaged hands, but he could do it, and though Dean was a vastly better player (even when Sam wasn't drugged to the eyeballs with morphine) he let his baby brother win occasionally.

When they weren't playing games or talking, Sam read voraciously - eBooks mostly, downloaded on the laptop. Dean was doing everything he possibly could to keep him comfortable, but Sam just didn't trust his taste when it came to buying actual bound, paper books - knowing Dean he'd wind up with comics, or worse. The older Winchester didn't exactly buy his reading material for the articles, after all.

While it was nice to spend some quality time together, the reality of the situation was never far away. There were always weapons within reach, just in case, and Dean was still getting up a couple of times a night to inject morphine into Sam's IV port - not that he minded, as he was usually already awake anyway. And, as it turned out, it was his insomnia that got him a front-row seat when Sam started having the nightmares.

It wasn't even dawn on Saturday morning, but Dean had already given Sam his prescribed dose of morphine and was sitting at the table savouring his first cup of coffee for the day when he heard soft moans coming from Sam's bed. That saw him up and by his little brother's side almost instantly, but it was immediately obvious Sam wasn't awake. His eyes were shut and flitting rapidly from side to side under their closed lids - the kid was having a nightmare.

"Please - stop. I don't know." Sam groaned the words louder this time, and stirred some more. He murmured something else Dean didn't understand, eyes scrunched up tight and beads of sweat forming on his forehead.

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Sam hung limply by his wrists from the rafters, swaying slightly, the toes of his boots just touching the floor. Ray smiled as he walked back over to the table of 'toys', winding the werewolf-skin whip back into a tight little coil as he went, but Owen didn't move from his spot in front of Sam. He already had his instrument.

"You're Satan's anointed one, Sammy. You've been palling around with demons for years," he drawled, and Sam glared back at him. They were asking him the same questions over and over and over again, and it was starting to grate on his nerves.

"That doesn't mean I'm in on their plan...!" he repeated, for what seemed like the millionth time that night. Owen leaned in and studied him for a second, close enough that Sam could smell his stale breath. He held a cattle prod in his hand, and he tapped it thoughtfully against the opposite palm.

"See, I don't believe that." He took a step back and briefly touched the prod to the youngest Winchester's side - there was a short, sharp buzzing noise, and Sam stiffened as a wave of hot pain radiated from his side and through his entire body. He shot another murderous glare at Owen, his chest heaving as he tried to catch his breath, but if it bothered the other hunter he didn't show it.

"I'm not real sure about how deep you're involved in their endgame," he said, his voice harder. "Maybe you're floating around on the edges, or maybe you're neck-deep in it. But you are in it."

"I'm not in it at all!" Sam barely got the sentence out before Owen touched the cattle prod to his stomach. His entire body jerked, and he couldn't help the grunt of pain that escaped him.

"Don't lie to us, Sam," Owen admonished him, low and intense, the tip of the cattle prod hovering barely an inch away.

"I'm not lying to you!" he gasped, but Owen just shocked him again. It was longer this time, and the current sent Sam's respiratory muscles into spasm - he struggled to breathe even after the electricity stopped flowing.

"It's not my fault you're too fucking dimwitted to see it!" he panted, and spat a mouthful of blood at his captor.

Without a word, Ray grabbed the cattle prod from Owen and jammed it into the left side of Sam's chest. That entire side of his body went into painful spasms, pulling cruelly on his wounds and broken ribs. He threw his head back and screamed, the smell of burning meat filling his nose, but Ray just pushed harder.

After what seemed like an eternity there was the sharp, acrid smell of smouldering electronics, and the flow of electricity suddenly and mercifully stopped. Ray swore and tossed the cattle prod away, sending it skittering across the floor. It smashed into a wall and sat there, smoking.

Sam went limp and dropped his head, fighting to even breathe, but Ray grabbed his chin and jerked his head back up. "You better show us a little respect, boy," he snarled in that thick Southern accent, his nose mere inches away. His fingers dug into Sam's jaw as he struggled to keep his eyes open. "I'm looking for my pound of flesh, remember."

There was a distinctive metallic swishing noise as Ray flicked open a four-inch butterfly knife and held it up between them, millimetres from Sam's cheek, where he could see it nice and clearly. It glinted in the light from the globe hanging above him, and it looked sharp.

"You ever seen Se7en, Sammy?" he asked, but before Sam could answer he felt the the cold steel blade touch the skin over his left pectoral muscle, in the front of his shoulder. He suddenly got very still as Ray pressed down a little - that small amount of pressure was enough to slice through the top layers of skin, drawing tiny scarlet beads of blood along its length. It stung, and Sam did his best not to breathe so as not to push it any deeper.

"I can cut a pound of flesh from you, you know. There's lots of places on the body I could slice into without killing you." Ray paused, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. "Not right away, at least."

Sam stared back defiantly, ignoring his racing heart and keeping his mouth firmly shut, so Ray pressed down harder. The knife bit and Sam let out a strangled gasp of pain as he started to cut, agonisingly slowly, dragging the blade diagonally down towards the bottom of his sternum and leaving a gaping red wound in his pec that went almost all the way to the ribs beneath.

"You got anything you wanna tell us, boy?" Ray asked pointedly, as Sam bit down on another cry. He pulled back, trying to get some distance between himself and the blade, but beads of sweat rolled down his neck and chest and ran into the laceration, searing the raw flesh like liquid fire.

"Yeah," he rasped, glaring as he panted through the pain. "That 'pound of flesh' thing is actually from Shakespeare, you philistine."

Ray actually smiled at him then, baring a mouthful of rotten, tobacco stained teeth as he flicked the knife closed. He looked back at Owen, who was perched on the edge of the table with his arms folded across his chest.

"Owen, go get that modified taser, willya?"

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Sam woke drenched in sweat with his heart racing to find someone shaking him by the shoulder.

"Dean?" he asked, blinking bleary eyes.

"Who else would it be?" Dean looked concerned, hovering over the bed like he had been when Sam first woke up a week ago.

Sam looked around, relieved to see the familiar, bland surroundings of the motel room in the early dawn light, and felt his heart rate start to slow. You're not in the warehouse, he told himself, taking a deep, calming breath - as deep as his ribs would allow, anyway. You're miles away, with Dean right beside you. You're safe.

Sam blinked some more, gathering his thoughts. "Was I dreaming?" he asked, forehead creased in a frown.

Dean nodded and took a seat in the chair beside the bed. "More like a nightmare. You remember what it was about?" he asked, trying to sound casual and failing miserably.

"Not really," Sam told him, hoping it wasn't as obvious a lie as it felt. Under the covers he pressed his shaking hands against the mattress, resisting the urge to reach up and touch his left pec. He didn't know why he was having these dreams now all of a sudden, when he'd been sleeping fine all week, but he didn't want to talk about it. He didn't even want to think about it.

Dean saw straight through the lie, but he didn't press it. "That's cool. Morphine dreams can be weird, man," he said knowingly, like he knew from personal experience.

That piqued Sam's interest. "Are you well-acquainted with - what did you call it? Miss Emma?" He asked the question not just because he wanted to change the subject, but also because - despite his better judgement - he was curious.

"Not personally, no, but Miss Emma has an Aunt Nora," Dean admitted. "And a couple of cousins, named Christina and Lucy…" he added, but trailed off. Sam just looked at him. He already knew his brother was no altar boy, but he didn't want a freaking list.

Dean cleared his throat. "Anyway - whether it was clowns or midgets or whatever, the morphine is probably what did it," he suggested, after a moment of silence.

Sam didn't look like he was buying it. He just lay there, very quiet and still awfully pale, with a faraway look in his eyes like he wasn't really hearing what his brother was saying. Dean recognised that expression, because he'd seen it in the mirror - it was the kind of look you got while your mind was replaying your nightmares behind your eyes, full-screen and in technicolour.

"You know, you should go back to sleep. It's hardly even dawn yet," Dean said, trying to keep his voice light.

"Nah. I'm pretty well awake now anyway," Sam replied, trying to hide an involuntary shiver. He had a sinking feeling he wasn't having nightmares so much as flashbacks, and he had no desire to revisit that warehouse anytime soon.

To Sam's considerable relief, Dean didn't press the issue. "Okay… tea, then?" he asked, instead.

"That'd be good," Sam replied gratefully, and Dean was pleased to see him smile a little - it was brief and a little anaemic, but it was a smile all the same. He barely had time to get out of his chair before there was the familiar crunching sound of Dr. Sinclair's BMW pulling up in the gravel carpark outside.

Dean had the door open before he could even knock, and as usual, Brad was careful not to disturb the salt line at the doorjamb as he stepped inside. He was carrying his usual black bag in one hand, full of stethoscopes and instruments and things, plus a small cardboard box of dressings and wound care supplies in the other that he immediately palmed off on Dean.

"Hi boys." He put his newly-freed hand to his mouth to stifle a yawn. "Sorry I'm so early, but I got off work sooner than expected and I'd really love to get home to bed."

"That's fine. We were up anyway," Sam said, putting on a smile that Dean thought was somewhat forced.

"Your job has worse hours than ours," Dean observed, and shoved a stack of board games, books, playing cards and a shotgun to one side of the coffee table so he could set the box down. He caught the Monopoly box just before it pitched over the edge, and tossed it onto the couch. It settled in the corner with a rattle of tiny plastic buildings and Dean went to stand beside Sam's bed, opposite the doctor.

"Yeah, I try not to think about that." Brad gave Dean a tired but genuine smile and pulled the covers back to check out Sam's damaged right foot. It still wasn't pretty, but the swelling was subsiding, the wounds were mostly healed and the bruises were turning from scarlet red to inky purple and blue, and even sickly shades of yellow and green in places. It created a rainbow effect that was actually kind of cool, in Dean's opinion. Sam hadn't agreed.

"When did you give the last dose of morphine?" Dr. Sinclair asked, taking a closer look at the small toes. They were starting to look like toes again, rather than split sausages, and were healing well considering the meatball surgery that had been employed to close the wounds and set the bones.

"About half an hour ago," Dean replied, and the doctor nodded as he pulled the covers back further to check out the burns and cuts on Sam's legs. They were coming along nicely, so he pulled the covers back down again and moved up to check Sam's upper body.

"And how's your hip feeling?" Dr. Sinclair asked the younger Winchester, checking the nail beds of his plaster-encased left hand. There were a couple of games of noughts and crosses scrawled on the back of the cast.

"It's good, actually. Just kind of aches sometimes when I've been sitting up for too long," Sam replied, wincing as Brad leaned over and gently pulled back the dressing from the bone-deep burn just above his left elbow. That one had gotten infected, and the halo of hot, red inflammation around it was only just starting to settle down. It still hurt like hell.

Apparently satisfied, the doctor straightened up and shrugged out of his jacket. "So let's get you up and around, then," he said, without preamble.

The two Winchester boys reacted very differently to that. Sam sat up a little straighter and his face immediately split into a wide smile - Dean, however, faced the doctor with his brow furrowed and arms crossed over his chest. "What, today…?" he asked, his tone making his lack of enthusiasm for the idea obvious.

Dr. Sinclair didn't miss a beat. He'd been expecting Dean to resist a little - he'd only known them for a grand total of about two weeks, but had realised very early on that Dean felt responsible for his little brother. He was going to make absolutely sure that whatever they did wasn't going to hurt Sam.

"It's earlier than we would usually get him up, admittedly, but I think it would do him good to start moving around a bit," he assured Dean, before he looked back at Sam. "I don't want you doing laps of the motel or anything, but we need to get you mobile as soon as possible." He didn't add 'just in case you need to run for your life', but it was obvious he was thinking it.

"Yeah." Sam's smile faltered a little, and he glanced down at his various dressings, splints and casts. "So does this mean I can I take a shower?" he added, looking back up at the doctor hopefully.

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Brad smiled, and draped his jacket over the back of a nearby chair. "Since you're going to be up and around, do you have a robe or something you could wear?"

Sam shook his head. "Everything I own is either shredded or a couple of states away," he replied ruefully. Right now, everything he owned was sitting out of reach in a box in Sioux Falls.

"Not to worry - I think I've got a hospital gown in the car," Brad assured him, and went back out to check. Dean watched him, frowning - he'd actually forgotten that Sam was stark naked under the covers, but that wasn't what was bothering him.

He waited until the doctor was out the front door before he spoke. "You sure you're ready for this?" he asked, his voice low.

Sam sighed. He'd been expecting that. "Dean, I'm going mad here," he said. "I have to get out of this bed - I don't care how much it hurts."

Dean pursed his lips. "I just don't want you to push too hard and set yourself back because of whoever may or may not be looking for us."

"I can do it," Sam insisted. "What I can't do is sit here all day anymore and play Clue and Battleship and frigging Monopoly."

Dean studied him for a moment, thinking. He didn't like to admit it, but he had wondered a couple of times if this day would ever come. Owen and Ray had done all they could to see that it didn't, that was for sure, and yet here they were - Sam was healthy enough that the doc thought he could get up and around, and that was good.

Well, it's a solid-gold fucking miracle, really...

"What, you wanna play Twister instead?" Dean asked, unable to help the smile that touched his lips. Sam was alive, and well enough to get out of bed, and yeah - that was definitely a good thing.

Sam beamed at him. "You know what would help? That cup of tea."

Dean rolled his eyes, but he was smiling as he turned to go back into the kitchen. He turned on the kettle and tore open a paper-wrapped bag of the non-caffeinated herbal tea he'd dubbed 'flower water' - it had antioxidants or vitamins or something in it that were supposed to help with wound healing, though, so he was trying not to tease Sam too much.

"And, hey, look on the bright side - I'll be able to get up and make my own tea now," Sam pointed out, and Dean chuckled as he dropped the tea bag into a cup and filled it with near-boiling water.

"I s'pose it's about time, you lazy bastard. Been laying around for nearly two weeks now, getting waited on hand and foot," he teased. "And let's face it, Sammy, you could do with that shower."

Sam resisted the urge to poke his tongue out at his big brother as he brought the cup over and set on the bedside table to brew. "Ha ha, very funny. But tell me, Dean, what am I going to wear?" he asked instead, looking at him pointedly.

Dean thought about it for a second, and a smile spread across his face as an idea came to him. He went over to his duffel, rummaged around a bit, then stood up and displayed a pair of dark blue cotton boxer briefs emblazoned with Batman's insignia in bright yellow, right over the crotch.

Sam raised an unenthusiastic eyebrow, and Dean laughed. "They're the only clean ones I've got. I mean, I can give you a plain black pair, but…" He let the sentence hang, grinning, and Sam wrinkled his nose. He wasn't that desperate. Hell, he'd walk around naked before he put on Dean's unwashed underwear.

"You know, I think I can live with just a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt," he suggested hopefully.

"My sweatpants aren't exactly clean either," Dean pointed out, digging around in his bag some more. "Plus, they'll be like shorts on you, Sammy."

Sam sighed - he had a point. Two points, actually. "Wanna go shopping...?" he asked, watching anxiously to see what would appear next.

"Tell you what, next time I'm out I'll get you something that'll fit. In the meantime..." Dean tossed the Batman briefs and a grey Superman t-shirt over onto Sam's bed.

"You got the entire Justice League in there?" Sam asked, picking up the briefs between two fingers. After a quick inspection, he decided that they did indeed look clean. Good thing, too, because he hadn't really been looking forward to walking around naked.

"All except Wonder Woman. She's somewhere in the stack of Playboys in my trunk," Dean replied, getting a wry smile from Sam.

He was saved from further discussion about Dean's Playboy collection by Dr. Sinclair coming back through the door. Sam's eyes lit up when he noticed there was now an aluminium cane in his hand, but he frowned slightly when he saw that's all the doctor was carrying.

"Bad news, Sam," Brad said apologetically. "I meant to bring a hospital gown with me, but I haven't slept in 36 hours and it seems to have slipped my mind. Looks like we're going to be wrapping you in a sheet."

That made Dean smile, but the younger Winchester obviously wasn't thrilled by the prospect. The flat sheet was old and entirely too flimsy for his liking - the damn thing was so worn it was almost see-through, in fact.

"Once you're up and around, you can start wearing actual clothes," Dean pointed out, by way of encouragement.

Sam sighed, looking down at his bedcovers. It wasn't ideal, but he didn't see another solution.

You can cope for a few minutes. It wasn't all that long ago you were considering walking around naked, anyway…

"Just make sure the curtains are shut, okay?" Sam relented. He didn't mind the doctor being there, and it wasn't uncommon for either Winchester to briefly go towel-less after a shower, but he drew the line at putting on a peep show for random passers-by.

Dean grinned, but he checked the curtains as the doctor stripped the blanket off the bed, leaving only the off-white sheet covering the younger Winchester. The worn, threadbare, awfully translucent sheet. Sam resisted the urge to fold his hands across his lap, and fixed his attention on Brad instead.

"So we're going to do this gradually. Dean and I are going to sit you on the edge of the bed, and you're going to stay there for a minute before we try and stand you up. It's probably going to hurt, and you're probably also going to get a sudden drop in your blood pressure which is going to make you feel a bit woozy," Dr. Sinclair explained.

Sam nodded. "So let's do it." He took as deep a breath as his ribs would allow and exhaled slowly as Brad leaned over to grip his ankles, trying to ignore the way his heart rate was climbing. He wanted to get out of bed more than anything, but he was quite sure it was going to hurt like hell and he wasn't particularly looking forward to that bit.

"On three, I'm going to swing his legs off the bed and you're going to help him sit up," the doctor told Dean. He nodded and went to stand by Sam's shoulders, giving him what he hoped was a reassuring smile as Brad started the countdown.

"One…"

"…two..."

"…three."

The doctor swung Sam's legs smoothly around and off the bed as Dean simultaneously pulled his little brother upright, and Sam let out a gasp of pain as his broken body moved in ways it hadn't for a week and a half. Then everything suddenly went a little fuzzy and he started to feel very lightheaded as his heart began thumping harder in his chest, trying to get more blood up into his brain.

Brad gave him a moment to adjust while he took a couple of long, slow breaths, and the dizziness started to fade. "Think you can stand up?" the doctor asked, and Sam nodded.

"Okay, Dean - let's stand him up."

Sam felt them take an arm each, and they next thing he knew they were hauling him up to stand on his feet. Just as Brad warned, the second he got upright his blood pressure dropped suddenly and dramatically through the floor.

His gasped as his head started spinning, swaying alarmingly as big orange and black spots appeared in his vision - if Brad and Dean hadn't been holding him, he would've gone straight down again. He knew all this was the result of gravity pooling blood in his lower limbs, but that wasn't much comfort while his world was spinning nauseatingly around him. On the plus side though, the dizziness and nausea took the lion's share of his attention - the pain in his chest, pelvis and feet was just background noise.

"Shouldn't we lay him back down?" Dean's voice wafted in through the hypotensive fog, and he sounded stressed.

"It's okay - he's just feeling a bit faint. It'll pass." Dr. Sinclair was reassuringly calm as he put a hand to Sam's neck to check his pulse. It was a little fast, and his blood pressure was indeed low, but that was normal when someone got vertical for the first time in a week.

It took half a minute for Sam's vision to clear and the room to stop spinning, but eventually he was able to stay up on his own. He stood mostly on his left foot, his right heel touching the floor only for balance, and it hurt. A lot. His ribs protested, his hip ached, and the partially-healed wounds all over his body stretched painfully with his skin, but Sam didn't care about that or the fact he was completely naked and only loosely wrapped in a translucent sheet. He was standing, despite Owen and Ray's best efforts, and he found himself smiling widely.

"You doing okay there, Sammy?" Dean asked warily, noticing the ridiculous grin on his brother's face.

"God, it's good to be out of bed!" he laughed, and looked over at Dr. Sinclair. "But you know what I really want."

The doctor smiled and put the aluminium cane into his right hand. "Get to the bathroom with some help from your brother, and I'll remove the catheter and give you some waterproof dressings," he offered, and Sam grinned again.

"Deal."

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Things stayed quiet at the motel for the rest of the weekend. In fact, trouble waited until the Monday afternoon before it tracked them down.

It was a cold, grey, miserable day outside, and for once Dean was happy to be stuck inside their shoebox of a room. He was sitting at the kitchen table doing a little net surfing and just generally keeping up with the outside world when there was a rustling sound from the couch, and he looked up to see Sam struggling to his feet.

Tomorrow would be two weeks to the day since he'd launched his daring rescue, and Sam was really starting to get better. He was getting more use back in his hands, and doing a lot more stuff for himself with less and less help from his brother. Just as he'd promised, Dean had bought him some sweatpants, a hoodie and a couple of t-shirts so he could hobble around by himself. He never complained, but Dean could see from the way he moved that his ribs hurt like hell and his hip still wasn't awesome - he had a noticeable limp that had nothing to do with his damaged feet.

Sam used his right arm to push himself up off the couch, holding his broken left wrist close to him, and winced as he put a little too much weight through his injured right hip. He grabbed his aluminium cane and started gingerly towards the kitchen, being careful not to put too much weight on his right foot with all its broken bones and healing wounds. Dean winced just watching him, but didn't offer to help. Getting a slice of his independence back made him feel better, so Dean left him to it and went back to his net surfing.

Sam hobbled to the kitchen, poured himself a glass of orange juice, and shambled back to sit carefully on the couch. He turned up the volume on the TV and Dean looked up, wrinkling his nose. The theme music sounded ominously soap-opera-ish.

"What is that crap you're watching, Sam?"

"All My Children," Sam admitted, after a pause. Dean let out a derisive snort, and went over to the coffeemaker to pour himself a cup. He was just sitting back down at the kitchen table when someone rapped on the door.

Both Winchesters froze. There shouldn't be anyone at the door. The motel's housekeeping service had strict do-not-disturb instructions and the only other person that even knew they were here was Dr. Sinclair - and he wasn't supposed to be back until tomorrow.

Dean glanced over at Sam, whose full, wide-eyed attention was fixed on the door. There was no further communication from whoever was outside, just the sound of the rain on the corrugated iron porch roof.

Dean felt his heart rate rise as he stood up and gathered his stainless steel Colt. He disengaged the safety as he crept forward, gun held in both hands, pointing low. Then, suddenly, a voice called out from behind the door.

"Dean…?"

He immediately recognised the voice, as did Sam. The younger Winchester relaxed into the couch as Dean flicked the safety back on and tucked the Colt into the waistband of his jeans, muttering curses under his breath as he undid the chain and unlocked the door. It swung open to reveal Cas standing on their doorstep, looking even more dishevelled than usual.

"You told me to ring the doorbell, but you don't appear to have one," he said by way of greeting, and Dean sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face.

Of course it's Cas. Who else would turn up silently on your doorstep and scare the living daylights out of you?

"You can't just sneak up on us like that, Cas! Do you have any idea how close I was to shooting you through the damn door?" Dean demanded, glaring at the angel.

"It wouldn't have hurt me," Cas replied, after staring obliquely at Dean for a second.

"God save me from His frigging angels," Dean muttered, rolling his eyes skyward. "Get in here." He grabbed Cas by one beige lapel and dragged him inside before anyone could see him standing in the doorway in broad daylight.

"Hey Cas," Sam greeted him cheerily from the couch as Dean took a quick look outside then locked the door securely behind him.

"Hello, Sam - you're looking much better." Cas smiled. They'd had their differences, but there was genuine warmth in his voice - he was glad to see the younger Winchester was on the mend.

"So what made you kick over this rock we're hiding under?" Dean asked, setting his Colt back down on the kitchen table. He sat on its edge, arms crossed over his chest as he looked at Cas.

All traces of the smile vanished from the angel's face, and he got straight to the point. "You and Sam need to leave. Immediately." He looked around, suddenly pensive, like someone might break down the door at any moment.

"Why?" Dean and Sam asked, simultaneously.

"You aren't safe here. Your kidnappers had friends, Sam, and those friends will arrive in this town by tonight."

Dean's eyes widened and he felt his heart skip a couple of beats. "How the hell did they find us?"

"They haven't found you, as yet. They arrived in Blue Springs yesterday evening and found a lead that is bringing them in this direction," Cas explained.

Dean sighed, chewing on his bottom lip. He glanced over at Sam sitting silently on the couch, suddenly looking very pale, and could almost hear the wheels turning as the kid considered all the evil things these guys might do if they found him.

"How do you know these people are connected to the bastards that took Sam?" Dean asked, tearing his gaze away from Sam and fixing it firmly back on the angel. Cas just looked back at him.

"I am an angel of the Lord," he replied, like that should explain everything.

"Right. Of course you are." Dean got up and grabbed his duffel from the corner. He tossed it onto his bed and started reaching for clothes to throw into it.

Cas watched him, and just as he seemed to be about to say something he suddenly went very still and his eyes drifted out of focus until he was staring into the middle distance. He tilted his head to the side like he was listening to something, his forehead creasing as he frowned.

"Not good news on Angel Radio?" Sam asked, apprehensive.

The angel blinked a few times, then focused on Sam. "Unfortunately, no." He sighed wearily, and turned to look at Dean. "I'll keep watch on your pursuers, but I have to leave. You two need to get out of this town as soon as possible," he reiterated grimly.

"As soon as the car's loaded, we're history," Dean agreed, and paused to look up. "Thanks for the heads-up, Cas," he said, and the angel gave him a nod. Then, with a rustling of feathers, he was gone.

"So I guess we're going, huh?" Sam asked, watching Dean cram every piece of clothing within reach into the olive drab canvas bag.

Dean didn't stop packing. "Feel like an interstate road trip?" He tried to keep his voice light, but this was the last thing he wanted to be doing. He didn't want to have to ask Sam to move. Hell, the kid couldn't breathe without painkillers.

Sam wasn't thrilled at the prospect either, and it showed in his voice. "What choice do I have? We can't stay here like sitting ducks and wait for them to find us." His hip twinged as he thought about the Impala jouncing down miles and miles of back roads and badly-maintained auxiliary highways…

Dean stopped what he was doing and looked up at his little brother. He looked anxious and awfully pale. "Sam, if you don't think you can-"

Sam interrupted him mid-sentence. "We have to get out of this town - hell, out of this state. I can take it," he said, sounding much more confident than he felt.

Dean frowned - Sam wasn't fooling anyone, but he didn't really see another option here. He glanced over at his stainless steel Colt on the table, and for half a second he actually seriously considering sticking around and making a stand. If he had to, he'd shoot these ones too - to protect Sam, he'd kill every last one. That would put a permanent end to this madness, at least, but he didn't like his chances. These guys were hunting the men that killed their buddies and they'd come loaded for bear.

Dean turned his gaze back to Sam and studied him for a second before he spoke. "Okay. Well, if you're just gonna sit there, at least make yourself useful - call the doc and tell him we've gotta blow town. I'm sure there's a prescription he should be writing for you or something." Dean paused to toss Sam his cell phone and went back to packing, trying to zip the duffel shut and giving up after a few tugs on the zipper. His 'shove everything in and hope' method wasn't exactly a space-saver.

The phone landed on the blanket Sam was sitting under, and it took him a minute to pick it up with his immobilised, slightly shaky hands and dial Dr. Sinclair's number. As it turned out, Dean was right: he did indeed want to see them before they hightailed it out of Columbia. He didn't have to wait long, either - the Winchesters were packed, loaded up and checked out barely fifteen minutes later.

When they got to the hospital Dean parked in a small lot out the back, away from prying eyes cruising the main road out front. Brad was waiting in a covered walkway, sheltered from the rain, and he shepherded them inside to the privacy of an exam room. He didn't say anything on the walk through the ER, being that it was full of staff and patients, but his expression told them all they needed to know - just as they'd suspected, he wasn't pleased to see them going.

Brad led them to an exam room in the back of the department that was about the size of a shoebox, and Dean pulled the door shut behind them while Sam took a seat on the edge of the gurney. He blinked when the doctor dumped a cardboard box full of dressings, disinfectant and other wound care paraphernalia on the foam mattress beside him - it looked like there was enough stuff in there to supply the entire ER for a week.

Brad gave them both a stern look as he drew up a syringe of morphine. "Are you boys sure you have to leave? I'd really like Sam to rest for a few more days at least."

"We've got no choice," Dean replied, leaning against the olive-green wall and watching as he slid the needle into the IV port in the back of Sam's right hand. "If those assholes find us, the last two weeks will have been for nothing. They'll shoot us both right between the eyes."

"You really think we'd be that lucky?" Sam asked softly, flexing his fingers as the doctor removed the syringe and dropped it into a bright yellow plastic sharps container. He and Dean both knew that after what they'd done, or at least been perceived to have done, their deaths wouldn't be that quick and painless.

Dr. Sinclair looked from Sam to Dean and back again, brow creasing slightly at the haunted look in Sam's eyes. "You're sure they're coming here?"

Dean let out a short bark of laughter. "Yeah, our source is pretty well connected, doc."

Brad sighed, resigned - he wasn't happy about it, but if there was a chance Sam's captors were on their trail he knew they couldn't risk it. "Okay. If you have to go, you have to go. But if there are any problems, call me - if we can't solve it, I can at least give you a cover story to use when you turn up at God-knows-which ER," he said, and took a resealable plastic bag out of the box of supplies. He held it up so Sam and Dean could see the contents - fresh needles, disinfectant wipes, familiar ampules of morphine, and a couple of prescription slips.

"There's enough liquid morphine in here to last you a couple of days, including a few extra injections to keep the pain at bay while you're on the road. After you get wherever you're going you can remove the IV port - there's a script here for a few weeks' worth of Percocet. By the time you get through those, you should be able to manage the pain with over-the-counter meds like codeine or ibuprofen." He put the bag back and held out a hand to Dean, who smiled and shook it.

"Thanks, doc," he said, simply. He felt like he should say something more, but what can you say to adequately thank the guy that saved your only living family…?

"Thank you," Sam chimed in, pushing himself up off the gurney with a barely-noticeable wince. "You saved my life - somehow, 'thank you' doesn't seem like enough." He held out his right hand, out of reflex more than anything else, but the doctor smiled and shook it carefully.

"All in a day's work. And besides, you boys saved me first." He opened the door to let Sam limp slowly out into the hall as Dean scooped up the cardboard box. "When this is all over, call me, okay? Let me know how it turned out," he added, and Dean clapped him on the shoulder as he followed Sam out.

"If they don't hunt us down and slaughter us, we'll be sure to let you know," he replied, only half joking.

By the time they made it back out to the Impala, the extra shot of morphine had its claws well and truly into Sam and he was finding it hard to walk straight. Dean got the back passenger door open just before his knees went to jelly, and he flaked out across the back seat. Dean passed him a blanket and pillow he'd souvenired from the motel, then climbed into the front seat.

"You okay back there?" he asked, waiting for a beaten-up white Mondeo to pass by before he pulled out of the space.

"Yeah, I'm good," Sam sighed, putting the pillow under his head. He could feel the hazy, disconnected sensation that comes from being extraordinarily well-medicated creeping up on him, and he yawned. "So, where are we going?"

"Honestly? I have no idea. I was thinking west," Dean said cheerily, pulling out of the hospital carpark and onto the road. He did it slowly so as not to bounce Sam around too much in the back seat, and got a few angry honks from other drivers for his trouble.

"Why west…?"

"Well, we can't go much further north before we hit Canada. Can't go east, either, 'cause…" Dean paused for a beat, completely ignoring the ire of the other drivers around him as he tried to take the turn towards the M63 as slowly and smoothly as possible. "Well, let's just say there's some folks back there by the interstate in southern Illinois that wouldn't be too happy to see me."

Sam yawned again, struggling to keep his eyes open as the morphine really started to take hold. He couldn't even be bothered to ask what kind of mess Dean had made in Illinois that he didn't want to go near the place. "What's wrong with South Dakota?" he asked blearily.

Dean heaved a sigh, tapping one hand absently on the wheel. He'd considered that, and he didn't like the idea. "I don't wanna bring this down on Bobby."

"Do you have a better plan…?" Sam pulled the blanket up over him and closed his eyes, stifling another yawn.

"Not really." Dean sighed again and turned the radio down. God knows I don't wanna lead a posse of bloodthirsty hunters to his doorstep, but what choice do we have...?

x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- x-x-x

Owen and Ray hit Sam with blow after blow from bare fists, brass knuckles and steel-toe boots until it felt like his entire body was one big bruise. Then, when his eyes and mouth were full of fresh, flowing blood and he was only semi-conscious, Ray flicked open that butterfly knife and abruptly sliced through the rope a few inches above his wrists.

The younger Winchester's broken feet couldn't even begin to hold him, and he collapsed to the ground like a 6'4", 200lb sack of potatoes. The point of his right hip hit the concrete floor and he cried out at the explosion of hot pain that radiated through his abdomen, down through his leg and up into his back. Owen drove one more kick into his stomach for good measure, and he curled up around his injured midsection with a groan.

Ray walked past him towards the table of instruments, making sure his boot came down on the back of Sam's right hand as he went. Two or three bones snapped like dry twigs, and it took a second before he could even get enough breath into his lungs to let out a yell.

There was a rough grunt of laughter from Ray and Sam tried to pull his hands in closer to his body, out of harm's way, but Owen slammed a work boot down on his left wrist hard enough to bruise. He winced, trying in vain to pull his wrist free, but Owen leaned all his weight on that one foot and Sam couldn't budge it.

"Oh no you don't," he chided, as Ray turned and came back. Sam braced himself as the feet came closer, and he wasn't disappointed. Ray stomped harder on this hand and he couldn't contain the howl of pain.

This time, though, his bones weren't the only thing making cracking noises. The concrete under his palm split into a spiderweb of radiating, interwoven fissures when Ray stepped on it. Sam blinked at them in disbelief, wondering briefly if he was having a stroke or something.

Ray laughed again and gave him another stomp for good measure, and through the haze of pain Sam noted that the floor actually shook. The cracks widened and spread out further, shooting off in all directions, making a sound like fracturing ice.

Owen and Ray just walked away from him, seemingly unaware, and the floor shook again under him. It was more violent this time and he saw the cracks in the floor spread to the cinderblock walls, running up them impossibly fast towards the high ceiling. Pieces of the concrete blocks dropped away, shattering on the floor and sending rubble and chips of cement flying. He heard the roof above them start to groan under the stress-

x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x- x-x-x

Sam woke with a start and a groan of pain. It took him a second to register that he was in the back seat of the Impala, rattling down an anonymous section of rough-as-guts two lane blacktop in the fading late-afternoon light. Dean was doing his best, driving under the speed limit and trying to avoid the worst of the potholes, but there just wasn't much he could do. The road was pitted and disintegrating, and Sam could hear loose stones being flung up into the wheel wells.

"Sorry, man. I've gotta take the back roads," Dean said apologetically.

"I know," Sam replied, the strain obvious in his voice as he struggled to sit up straight. His hip burned and his ribs felt worse than they had in days.

Dean turned back to glance at him briefly. "So, what were you dreaming about?" He tried to keep his tone neutral, but it was obvious he knew Sam had been having a nightmare.

Sam took a shaky breath, considering his options. He wasn't about to tell his brother he was having flashbacks to his own personal Hell on Earth - he was sure that's what they were now. And as if that wasn't bad enough, the way the movement of the Impala twisted it into a nightmare about the building collapsing on him like that… he shuddered. Flashbacks that mutate into nightmares. Awesome.

"Lollipops and candy canes." Sam looked out his window at the trees rushing past, deliberately avoiding eye contact.

Dean sighed, turning back to the road. He remembered the last time Sam said that.

"So where the hell are we?" Sam yawned, reaching up to run a hand back over his mussed-up hair. He was obviously trying to change the subject, and Dean let him. He was rapidly running out of free passes, though - one day very soon Dean intended to pry the lid off that can of worms.

"Some Godforsaken little goat track by Route 291." Dean winced as the Impala jounced over another depression in the road, and Sam sucked in a breath and put his hand to his hip. "We're about to hit Independence, and then the plan is to skirt around Liberty and shoot through into South Dakota."

"So we are going to Bobby's then?" Sam asked, trying to keep his voice casual even though the pain was breaking through the morphine every time the Impala hit a little bump in the road.

"Yeah," Dean replied, and his tone of voice made it obvious he wasn't keen on the idea.

"It'll be nice to have my stuff back." Sam missed his laptop and his clothes especially. The last time he saw any of it was that evening he went to work, the night before Dean rolled into town.

"Tell me something - why were you going through Blue Springs anyway? On your way to a job?" Sam asked conversationally. Dean shifted uneasily in his seat and kept his gaze steadfastly forward - now it was his turn to avoid eye contact.

"Dean?" Sam prompted, his interest piqued.

"Well, I didn't actually strictly need to go through Blue Springs..."

A slow smile spread across Sam's face. "You didn't need to go through Missouri at all, did you?"

"I came to see you, all right?" Dean admitted. His eyes were fixed firmly on the road ahead, away from Sam and this chick-flick moment.

"Well, I'm glad you did," Sam told him, smiling as he remembered the little flutter in his chest when Dean called to say he was coming through town. Of course he would never, ever tell Dean about it, because that sort of thing was likely to get him laughed at and referred to as 'Samantha' for the rest of the day.

Dean chuckled from his spot up front, oblivious. "Yeah, I bet - otherwise, no-one would've noticed you were missing."

"Not only that," Sam paused. "It was a long few months, you know?" he said, meaningfully.

"Yeah, Sammy, I missed you too." A smile touched the corners of Dean's mouth. Sam couldn't see it from his spot in the back seat, but he heard it in his voice.

Sam turned his head to look out the window, still smiling, just as a sign blew past on the side of the road - the exit for Kansas City was coming up soon. "You said we're going up around Liberty, right?" he said innocently.

"Yeah," Dean replied.

"Which means we're going past Kansas City."

"Yeah..." Dean repeated, slower. He was starting to sense there was a point to this.

"I want my book back."

Dean glanced back at Sam, not quite able to believe his ears. He inadvertently jerked the wheel as he did, and the Impala almost swerved out of its lane before he corrected. A big rig in the lane beside them blew its air horn as it flew past in a cloud of dust and small stones, but Dean ignored it. He couldn't believe what he'd just heard.

"There are three hunters dead back there and their buddies are on our trail, but you want to stop and pick up a book?!"

"I want the book, yeah, but I also want to meet the woman that basically saved my life," Sam replied, as if it were the most reasonable thing in the world.

"Really, Sam?" Dean studied him in the rear view mirror, the expression on his face suggesting he was trying to decide whether he was high or not. "'Cause last time I checked, I was the one nearly getting my head blown off saving your Gigantor ass!"

"And I'm grateful, believe me." Sam put on his best puppy dog eyes, all their destructive power focused on his older brother. "I just need ten minutes, Dean. That's all."

Dean kept glaring for a long moment, but then sighed and looked away with a familiar look of exasperation that let Sam know he'd won. He half-heartedly smacked the steering wheel with one hand, cursing under his breath as Sam sat gingerly back in the corner of the seat with a little smile on his face.


On the road again! :) I think we can all agree we've spent quite enough time in that shoebox of a motel room - but rest assured, we're in the home stretch now, back on the twists and turns of the highway of drama and unpredictability! Only two or three more chapters to come...