Sam ran through the abandoned warehouse, his way lit by moonlight shining through the occasional window, kicking open each door he came to, running on to the next when he didn't find what he was searching for. He didn't have the option to take his time and search quietly.

Why, for once, couldn't Dean find some patience and do what they'd agreed on? Sam had left him outside behind the safety of a dumpster while he'd gone for more weapons, unsure what they were up against. What the hell made Dean go in alone? He wasn't stupid, impatient maybe, but far from stupid. He had to know Sam would come after him; would be running gun cocked in one hand, machete in the other. That was hardly a safe thing to do. Running scared, nearly in a blind panic, meant Sam would shoot first and ask questions never.

Okay, sure, Dean was known as careless and reckless when it came to his own safety and well-being, but rarely did he ever do anything to endanger Sam's. He yelled for his brother as he ran. If anyone or anything had him, they would be sure to hear Sam coming. That is, if Dean was even in the warehouse. Sam was going on the assumption he was because he wasn't where Sam had left him and there was no other building anywhere nearby.

He skidded around a corner, slipping in something slick on the floor. He threw his arms out, trying to gain his balance but he went down hard on his ass. He managed to retain his hold on the gun but had to scramble after the machete. Head shot or chop a head off, Sam for either. He clambered to his feet, wiping his hands on his jeans, head jerking up as he heard his name being yelled in answer.

He took off running, Dean was alive and conscious, all Sam had to do was find him before someone found Sam and tried to stop him. Lured by Dean repeatedly calling his name, he burst into the room and with one swing of the machete, sliced through the rope that held Dean captive. Dean's hands remained tied together but he was no longer bound to the pipe over his head.

He whirled to assist Sam fight off the three men who came charging. He dropped the machete in favor of the knife and the demon was soon done away with. The other two didn't flash black eyes and Sam realized with a hesitation that nearly cost Dean his life, they were human. He stopped the crowbars descent towards Dean's head by throwing his right arm up. He wasn't able to catch the arm that swung and his wrist took the full force of the impact. He grunted, driven to his knees from the pain. He would have been able to fight through the momentarily blindness but a choked cry from Dean stilled any movement on his part. He remained kneeling, but his head came up, eyes hard with fury.

"Just try it." the smoke coarse voice said. "Go ahead, tough guy." the words when spoken, were in outright hate. "Ain't got that swagger no more when a knife is held to his throat, huh?"

"You don't want to hurt him." Sam sat on his knees, ignoring his wrist. He wanted to hug his hand close, cradle it to try to ease the throbbing agony but he'd be damned if he showed any weakness while they had him and Dean at a disadvantage. "Just let him go and we'll walk out of here."

"Just like that, huh Sam? I don't think so."

"Look." Sam held his hands up in surrender; teeth gritted against the pain and gained his feet. "We don't have any problem with you, that," he pointed to the dead man on the floor. "That is all we were after. He's dead, and we're done here."

"See Sam, you may think you don't have a problem here, but you do. The two of you do nothing but cause problems."

"And what did we ever do to you?" Sam asked, breath coming in pants. "Damn it." he muttered under his breath, plan flaring.

"Not all demons are evil."

"I don't want to kill you." Sam winced, hand stabbing him. "Don't force me to."

"How about you drop that there special knife and kick it over this way?"

"And if I do, you'll let Dean go?"

"I don't recall saying that." he tightened his hold, causing Dean to stifle a grunt. Sam started, only to stop when the man holding Dean motioned Sam to remain still.

"The knife for Dean." Sam bargained. "Fair enough trade."

"Sure, the knife for Dean. You kick it over here and we'll let him go once we're far enough away from you, you can't chase us, how's that for fair?" he countered. "See, the thing is Sam, I don't trust you. Only thing anyone's ever found that rattles that control you have, is Dean here. Course, goes both ways, don't it? He came along with us real nice and quiet-like when it was your life we laid on the line."

Sam shook his head, eyes locked on Dean, his raised right eyebrow telling Dean to get ready to duck and elbow punch. Dean blinked back in understanding.

"I guess I don't have a choice." Sam said evenly. "But I don't see that as fair and if you hurt him, if you do anything to him, I will hunt not only you down, but any family you may have. A wife, a mother, a sister, I will go for the women first. I don't have to kill anyone to make them suffer for life, I know how to do that, hurt, maim, destroy, you take him away from me and there's nothing to stop me from dedicating the rest of my life to hunting you and your family." he dropped the knife to the floor and kicked it to the man who had done all the talking.

"Yeah, sure, good luck with that." the man with the bruising grip on Dean sneered.

"Don't think since I don't know who you are, I won't find out. I hunt, finding people, finding secrets is what I do." he backed away, giving the two men free access to the outside door. Dean was already hurt but he was conscious and able to stand on his own. "Locked doors won't keep me out, security systems won't deter me, changing your name or moving to another country won't stop me. Try and get credit, try to get a job, try to live a life, try me…or just take the knife, let him go, and get the hell outta here."

"You sure do talk tough." the second man spoke up. "You ain't the one in control here Sam. You can't stop us from doing what we want with him, you can't stop us from leaving with him. I can break a finger, I can cut it off, he loses some toes, he might never walk right again and there ain't a damn thing you can do about it."

"You don't want to do that." Sam said evenly. "I promise, I will ruin you."

"I don't believe a word you're saying. I think you're all talk. You gonna kill us Sam? You're just a hunter, a hunter of evil, not humans."

"What I am, is an educated hunter of all things evil. How much do you really know about me? You think I'm going to just let you walk away after you've hurt him? Only way you will ever stop me from coming after you and your family is to kill me; might as well do it now."

The two men exchanged a look. That was what Sam wanted, doubt to cloud their concentration. Dean ducked, Sam fired, one man went down with a bullet in the knee cap and the other received an elbow in the gut and a knee to his chin. Sam retrieved his knife, cut Dean's hands loose and kicked the man he'd shot in his knee.

"Don't think this is over." he wrapped an arm around Dean to help him keep his feet. Hell, they couldn't have had Dean more than thirty minutes, what the hell had they done to him?

Sam waited until they were back to the car before taking a moment to look Dean over and find out why he'd been limping along. Dean willingly went belly first over the hood of the car and let Sam feel out his arms, legs, back and shoulders for any broken bones. It was kinda the unspoken rule between the two. Once out of immediate danger, the one who showed signs of injury subjected himself to an examination by the other. No argument, no protesting, no resisting.

Dean fisted his hands, Sam didn't need to be quite so rough and being sprawled across the car was not exactly comfortable. Sam had thrown him down over the car and he surmised Sam was pissed off. He grunted, cheek sliding with a squeak along the hood when Sam probed fingers along his knee, thumbs pressing slightly on the back while his fingers reached around to manipulate the knobby knee cap.

Not dislocated, nothing broken or Dean would have been in a heap on the ground upon first touch. Injured though, would swell and was obviously painful by Dean's grunting and tense posture. Other than some split knuckles, it wasn't easy to make a proper fist and throw a punch with your hands tied together, Sam couldn't immediately find any other injuries.

This wasn't the time or the place to do a more thorough examination. He would have to question Dean and take his word on whether or not to take him to a hospital. Sam stepped back, shaking his right hand, knowing without being told something was broken. It felt exactly like it did the last time he'd broken it.

"Dean? You need a doctor?" Sam pulled him off the car, opened the passenger door and pushed him into the front seat. He squatted down outside the door and took hold of Dean's chin. Whatever they'd used on Dean's face had left marks that promised to bruise. Couldn't have been brass knuckles, there were no broken bones or split skin. His nose wasn't broken, quick prodding with a finger revealed no lose teeth, he didn't cringe in pain from the hold on his chin so his jaw was fine. His eyes were bruised, eye socket to cheek bone swollen, almost as if something had squeezed his head from either side. "Hey, you need a doctor?"

"No." his patience with Sam over, he slapped at him until Sam let him go and stood up. "Just go back to the motel."

"You ok?" he slid behind the wheel in the driver's seat and closed the door.

"Will be, just bruised."

"What the hell happened? I left you for minutes Dean, you were supposed to keep an eye on the place, not willingly enter it." Sam turned the engine over, put the car in drive then sat looking at Dean, waiting for an answer.

"I didn't." Dean squirmed in the seat, wishing Sam had shoved him into the backseat so he could lie down.

"You didn't what?" Sam pushed, watching Dean try to find a comfortable position. "So?"

"Go in willingly." he let his head rest against the window. "More like dragged in by the scruff of my neck."

"By the demon?" Sam questioned quietly. He knew it wasn't fair to badger Dean while he was trying to keep up the front that he was ok, but if he didn't push now, he'd never get answers.

"Aaaah." Dean began to rub his forehead but stopped with a wince. "Shit."

"So, by the guy who held the knife to your throat?" Sam reasoned, pulling out. Dean, who was dealing with his own misery, at first didn't pay Sam much attention. It was Sam's continued silence that finally made Dean take notice of the side profile of his brothers face.

"Sam?" he struggled to sit up in the seat but gave up in favor of remaining slumped against the door; less painful that way. "Drive to the hotel. Whatever the hell is going through that mind of yours, forget it, you hearing me?"

Dean wondered if it was something he had done in a previous life or whether it had been some ancestor, probably on his mother's side, but whoever had done what, he felt he was the one cursed. He'd been the one caught unawares, captured, dragged, taunted, beaten and threatened by humans working with a demon. He'd been the one manhandled and treated roughly by the person who had come to his rescue and now that person was pissed at him and it wasn't even his fault that they were in this situation.

Why was he always on his own? Why did he always have to get through what was thrown at him alone? He hadn't gone into that warehouse of his own free will. He hadn't disregarded Sam's warnings to wait until he got back. He hadn't been the one to leave in the first place. He wasn't to blame for any of this, but once again he would be taking responsibility for something he hadn't done.

He didn't need to worry about what Sam might do. He shouldn't have to push down his own discomfort, ignore his injuries and put aside his need for comfort to try to head off Sam's course of self-destruction. Why was he always the one to put everyone and everything before himself?

"Sam." he growled, stretching his leg out, Christ but his knee hurt. "Sam, don't be thinking…."

"Worry about yourself for a change." Sam said absently. "Not me."

"Dammit Sam! Come on! I don't need this!" his fist punched the seat next to his thigh. "Christ, just once...can't you.." a choked cry he couldn't control escaped when the car hit a pothole. The fingers of his left hand gripped the dashboard as he tried to bring his breath that was coming in pants, back to normal. "You can't…Sam, ok? You can't go after them. I know they were working with a demon and that demon is now dead. Let that be enough." he blew his breath out in an attempt to gain control. "Don't do this, I'm asking you not to do this."

"Thought you said you were ok." Sam ignored Dean's plea.

"Said I would be."

"You also said you didn't need a doctor."

"I don't."

"Sure, you're always pale and panting."

"Sam, promise me, promise you won't go after them." Dean begged. "It's a road you don't want to go down, trust me." He waited but Sam wasn't moved to agreement. Not yet. "Please? I don't need to deal with you being arrested or on America's Most Wanted. I've got enough to worry about and I sure as hell don't want to add you to that list. Not now."

Sam was quiet, hands tightening on the wheel until pain flared and forced him to loosen his grip. Not much in his life could cause rouse his anger to the point that he was hell-bent on revenge. Pretty much everything had already been taken away from him: his mother, his father, his girlfriend, a normal childhood, the life he always dreamed of living, his sense of safety and his belief in normalcy. He'd known pain, suffering, helplessness, fear and cruelty. He'd experienced heartache, heartbreak and a loss so deep, he'd never gotten over it. He'd lost the man sitting beside him before, in more ways than one, he wasn't about to risk it happening again.

"I won't kill anyone." Sam said finally. He'd made a vow to himself, one he would never share with anyone that he would listen to his brother; not always to agree with him or to obey him, but to listen. He'd been forced to admit that in the past he'd made questionable decisions when he hadn't been thinking with a clear head. Decisions that caused him to make mistakes he had no intention of ever making again. There would not be a next time when Sam was too stubborn and set on revenge to listen. "But I won't let them get away with it either."

"Guess that's gotta be enough." Dean sighed. Somewhere in the back of his mind, a memory tickled at him, one he knew he should remember and address. He drowsily recalled he'd yet to ask Sam if he was alright, thought somehow he wasn't, but he was too tired and the pain too much for him bring his thoughts into words.

Sam kept quiet about his arm and drove back to the motel. He meant to get Dean out of the car and into the room, but Dean wasn't moving by the time they arrived at their room and when Sam tried to rouse him, he yelped in pain. That was it. Sam left him in the car, packed their gear, loaded the car, checked out and headed to Bobby's.


"Sam?" Bobby eased the door open. "Sam?" the lack of any audible response gave Bobby hopes that Sam had at last managed to fall asleep. It'd been three days since Sam had shown up on his doorstep without warning, dragging his brother with him and grudgingly allowing Bobby to help him settle Dean as best they could. Sam had yet to confide in him, only answering questions that pertained to the care Dean had so far received.

Today had been the first time Bobby had pushed at Sam and it hadn't gone well. He hadn't escaped whatever had befallen Dean and though he had let Bobby tend the cuts and bruises, he'd had to go to the local clinic to have x-rays on his right wrist that once again resulted in a hand cast; having broken the same thumb to wrist bone he had several years ago.

Getting Sam to go to the clinic had been a series of battles. Getting him to admit there was something wrong with his swollen, discolored hand had been the first battle. Forcing him to let Bobby see it had been the second. Getting him to leave Dean had been the next one. The fourth battle was convincing Sam he needed to go to the clinic. The fifth battle had immediately followed when Sam realized Bobby intended to take him and leave Dean alone at the house. The final battle was Bobby ceding to Sam's wishes and convincing Sam to willingly get into the Sheriff's car and allow her to drive him to the clinic.

Bobby had stood his ground. Sam had matched his defiance with attitude but all it took was hearing his name uttered from the injured man on the bed and he relaxed and muttered 'sorry' to Bobby. And Dean? Well, all he'd done since arriving was sleep. Someone had seriously kicked the shit outta him yet no one wound was life threatening. No broken bones, no serious knife wounds, no gunshots or severe blows to the head or back or belly.

Just bruises and swelling in one knee and his knuckles. While he didn't have a black eye, his eye sockets were swollen and bruised, giving him the appearance of a masked raccoon. No teeth were knocked loose, but his tongue was bitten through and swollen. His nose wasn't broken nor was either of his cheek bones or his jaw, but he didn't like his face touched, scowling and smacking the hand away. Startle him and he jerked away too quickly, chances were you made him sick. He would rouse enough to swallow water and the pain pills Sam forced on him but refused food and only crawled out of bed to find his way to the bathroom.

Bobby stood in the doorway, letting the hall light shine into the room so he could see where Sam was. He didn't want to turn a light in the room on, knowing it would wake Sam if by some chance he was actually asleep. He'd searched the boy out with the intention of talking him into at least eating a sandwich. He hated to resort to manipulation but he wasn't above it. One down and out Winchester was all he could handle.

Passed out on his back, Sam was sideways on the bed, feet on the floor, still dressed with casted hand lying on his belly. Bobby called to him softly as he crossed the room, carefully swinging Sam's legs up on the bed when he didn't get a response. Sam went with the motion, squirming his way right-ways on the bed, curling his left arm around the pillow. His eyes briefly focused on Bobby, then closed with a slight nod of his head as Bobby tossed a blanket over him, leaving him dressed and in his boots.

So, all it took to take down a Winchester brother was, a fight that had most likely been life or death, a broken bone, pain meds, minimum three days without decent sleep or food, stress, concern and panic over his brother, and retreat to a place where he felt safe and secure and had complete and utter trust in the person who would be keeping vigil over them both.

Bobby backed out of the room, leaving the door ajar. The room across the hall was where Dean currently slept. He knew it would probably be a waste of time, but desire beat knowledge so Bobby poked his head through the doorway to see if Dean was awake and able to talk to him.

"He go down?" the question caught Bobby off guard and he fell through the door, falling into the dresser. "Bobby?" Dean called sleepily. "Where you at?"

"I'm right here." Bobby rubbed his aching hip and approached the bed. "So, you finally decide to wake up? Surprised you know me and where you are."

"Sam lay down?" he gingerly rubbed his eyes. "Ow!" his breath sucked in with a hiss. "How'd he make out with his hand?" he flexed and fisted his fingers several times, stopping when the pain became apparent.

"Dean, that was two days ago."

"Ain't deaf." Dean retorted. "The two of you sure yelled loud enough…." he yawned. "Wait…..days?" he felt first his nose, then cracked his jaw. "Shit, mmm, ow."

"Broke the same bone as before, it's in a cast and yeah, he's asleep, question is, why aren't you?"

"Been awake on and off, just easier to sleep, you know?"

"No, I don't know, I don't suppose you're up to telling me either?" Bobby said grumpily. "Sam's been tight-lipped unless it's to argue with me."

"Hunt didn't go to well, one was a demon, and the others were human."

"Aah, Sam no longer able to handle injuries inflicted by humans?" he asked, waiting but got no answer. "Ok, I get that but since there aren't any gunshot or knife wounds, why not go to a hospital? Why come here?"

"Last resort Bobby, life or death injury, you know?"

"No, I don't know!" Bobby reiterated. "What the hell ails the two of you? Your brother had a broken wrist! He delayed getting proper treatment and brought you here instead! That bone doesn't set right; he could lose full use of that hand! And you! Don't get me started what's wrong with you!"

Too late, Dean thought to himself as Bobby proceeded to rant and rave, hands flailing. Not up to this, so not up to this, Dean mused as he let his eyes close. Sam was in the house, under the watchful eye of Bobby, and though he might be in some pain, he was ok, that was all that mattered. Bobby finally wound down and turned to the bed, fully expecting an answer from Dean, only to find him asleep.

"I'm too old for this." Bobby muttered. He tottered off, shut the house up for the night and took himself off to bed.

When Bobby got up the next morning, he found Sam in the kitchen, drinking coffee at the table. "Morning." he greeted. "You hungry? Can scramble some eggs, fry some bacon?"

"No." Sam said quietly. "Thanks though."

"Sam, I ain't gonna pry, your business is your own, but kid, you haven't eaten since you got here." he held a loaf of bread. "Toast at least?" he pulled the toaster forward; relying on the fact most people couldn't resist the smell of toast. "Dean woke up last night." he got out butter, shoulder deep in the fridge so he didn't see Sam's reaction. "Seems he heard us arguing about your hand and wanted to know how you made out."

"It's ok."

"Yeah, it's what I told him, he said a hunt went bad and there were humans involved and neither of you went to the hospital because it wasn't a life or death situation. Care to elaborate on that?"

"No." he hunched his shoulders, he didn't want morning conversation, he wanted coffee and solitude.

"Didn't think so." Bobby set a plate of buttered toast on the table and poured himself a cup of coffee. He didn't take a seat at the table, resting his butt against his counter top instead. "Gonna take it easy today, aren't ya? Can't imagine that hand feelin' to good." Sam was showered and dressed but looking tired, worn out, really.

"I, uh, gotta run into town, I have something to do at the library." Sam eyed the toast then looked away. "Figured Dean will sleep, you'll be here, right?" his eyes kept straying to the toast and finally took a piece. Bobby treaded carefully, one wrong word and the toast would be dropped, Sam would fall silent, retreat to his room and whatever it was he wanted to do at the library would be delayed.

"I ain't goin nowhere." Bobby sipped his coffee. "You sure you feel up to driving?"

"I'm fine Bobby." he gave the older man a slight grin, "Yeah, my hand hurts some, and yeah I was stupid for waiting so long to get it looked at and the swelling is rather severe, but it's good."

"Are you taking the pain meds?"

"No." he shook his head. "Don't need them."

"You sure about that? Don't look you slept much last night." Bobby sipped more coffee, watching Sam eat the toast and savored the small victory.

"Had other things on my mind and doesn't really hurt that much, just the swelling, you know?" he got up and rinsed out his mug. "I'll be gone a couple of hours, need me, call me."

"Sure, you going to do some research? Mind telling me what?"

Sam shrugged. "Just need to be in a place I'm familiar with."

Bobby didn't like Sam going off on his own, not when something bothering him. That was Sam though, he ran. Dean bottled up and shoved down, and Sam ran. He figured once Dean could stay awake and some of the swelling subsided, Sam would take him and they would go. They would and they would deal with whatever had driven them to Bobby's house their own way.

"So." Bobby drawled, hiding behind his coffee mug. "You will be coming back, right?" he still didn't know why Sam had come home with Dean in the first place. Dean wasn't in any danger nor was he hurt badly, Sam easily could have gone to ground in a half way decent motel and let Dean recover with – or without – him there.

Sam's head jerked up and his eyes widened. "What the hell?" he sputtered. "Fuck Bobby…."

"Well, seems you take off whenever you have to face something you'd rather not. You brought Dean here, stayed until he woke up coherent, now that you know he's gonna be ok, you leave."

"To go to the library Bobby. I'm not leaving him."

"You know damn well I would never toss him out." Bobby continued. "You also have to know he'll go after you."

"I'm taking his car and I am going to the library. I'm coming back. If you think I'd leave him, you don't know me as well as I thought you did."

"You don't have it in you to lie to me Sam. You're planning to do something stupid, I know that look and I know when you're being evasive. Just, whatever it is you're thinking of doing…don't do it."

"Bobby…..." Sam held his hand up to ward him off. "I'll be back." he reached for his jacket, turning his back on Bobby to pull it on and search his pockets for the car keys. "If he….call me."

"Dammit Sam, don't shut me out. I've known you since…since someone had to take you by the hand to the bathroom. Don't kid yourself I don't know you." Bobby walked after him. "What do you need at the library? I got every book you could possibly need to research lore…." Sam walked out the back door. "Sam, don't do this!" Bobby yelled after him. "Dammit."

Sam got into the car and pulled out. Bobby was right, every part of his being urged him to hit the highway and keep driving. To drive until fatigue forced him to pull over, to drive until he had no idea where he was, to drive until physically he could go no further. But lessons learned and loyalty ruled his emotions and the only place he was going was into town. Leaving Dean was not an option.

When he left Bobby's, it would be with Dean and it would be a week or so before Dean would be able to travel. It would be a month or so after that before Dean would be able to resume hunting but Sam intended to be on the road before then. They would find someplace to hole up and heal. Sam would give his brother the time he needed to regain his strength and mobility. Sam's wrist would be in cast for 6 to 8 weeks and while he still had use of his fingers, he was limited in what he could do with his hand. The library wouldn't open for another half hour so Sam drove to the town's only coffee shop and ordered a bagel and a coffee. He sat at the table and stared out the window.

Cup of coffee held in his hands but untouched, the bagel forgotten, he brooded and sulked, upset by the brief discussion with Bobby. Okay, yeah, as a kid, he had run when he didn't get his way, but hell, he'd been a kid. He'd tried to put his past behind him as a teenager and forget what he how he'd been raised and not one good thing had come of it. Someone he loved had died a horrible death, he'd hurt the one person in his life he cared about the most, he'd never had the opportunity to completely mend the rift with his dad and he'd lost Dean.

Dean got him through Jessica's death and without him Sam knew that he would have gone down the same dark path he had when he'd lost Dean. He'd been emotionally lost when he'd found Ruby, had focused on revenge and vengeance but he hadn't run, he'd stayed and faced his actions and the resulting consequences and he sure as hell wasn't running now.


Bobby was down waiting for answers. He cleaned up the kitchen then went upstairs to Dean's room where he intended to wake the boy up and get some damn answers. He stood next to the bed, unable to shake Dean awake because, damn, if the kid didn't look worse than he had the night before.

"What?" Dean sighed, sensing Bobby standing next to the bed. "Go'way."

"So, you're awake?"

"Guessin' you want me to be." Dean eased onto his back. "What?"

"Want some answers."

"About?" he yawned. "Can't it wait til later?"

"No." Bobby sniffed, narrowing his eyes at Dean. "Don't suppose you'd be wantin' a shower?"

"Not really." the thought of standing for the length of time even a quick shower would take made him shudder. "No."

"A bath then?"

Dean gave it some thought. He did feel sticky and grimy. He itched and running his tongue over his teeth made him wonder if teeth grew mold, his were certainly fuzzy. His eyes were crusty and his face felt tight and rough from the unkempt beginnings of a beard. The idea of laying down in hot water sounded rather appealing so he nodded. If he could make it to the bathroom to piss, he could make it to the bathtub. Course, he might need a shoulder to lean on to get there and since Sam had yet to pop in, Bobby would have to do the honors.

"I'll throw in some Epsom salts, might do you some good, you need to get up and move around anyways."

"Okay." he fought his way into sitting upright. He hated to admit he was weak enough that he required assistance to get up. He might be prideful but he wasn't stupid. The last thing he needed was to refuse help and get up on his own only to fall and hurt himself. One broken bone in the family was enough. "You gonna stand there and watch me or lend me a hand?" Dean growled at Bobby who responded with a smirk.

"I said I'd throw in some salts, not give you a bath." Bobby retorted.

"I don't need you to bathe me." Dean shot back in disgust. "Just help me to the bathroom, though it would be nice if you would start the tub filling."

"That I can do." Bobby helped the younger man out of bed and let him sling one arm across his shoulders. "Got a toothbrush with you?" Bobby asked.

"Uh, yeah, should." Dean closed his eyes; standing caused his head to flood. He didn't know if he did or not but it was the type of item Sam would think of as a necessity, so he was sure he had one somewhere. "Need….my…razor..too."

"I think not." Bobby gave him time gain his balance and force the dizziness into submission. "Beard is kinda long to shave with an electric razor and you ain't holding a blade 'til your hands don't shake."

"I'll make do." his knees buckled and he reached out to stop himself from falling by grabbing the dresser. "No." he felt Bobby easing him down to the bed. "I'm good."

"You sure?" Bobby wasn't but he pulled Dean back up to his feet.

"Yeah, I go down now, I ain't getting back up."

How then, did he expect to get himself out of the tub? Bobby wondered then shrugged. What did it matter, Dean needed a bath and Bobby understood the need to be clean. Bobby left him clinging to the sink with one hand, toothbrush in the other and started the tub filling with hot water. He went out to the hallway to get the Epsom salts and when he returned, he found Dean exactly as he had left him.

"You gonna stand there and stare at yourself in the mirror 'til noon or brush your teeth?" Bobby reached around him to open the medicine cabinet and remove a tube of toothpaste. "Using some of this might do more for you." he held Dean's hand steady by grasping his wrist and squeezed paste on the bristles. "Can you handle the rest?"

"I ain't helpless you know." but the snark didn't hold its usual depth of sarcasm. It was taking a toll to stand at the sink and find the strength needed to coordinate raising hand to mouth.

"Yuh-huh. Do you need to sit down?" Bobby asked in playful disdain. "I can hold a mirror in front of you, you can spit in the toilet." he waited, he'd been speaking out his ass, but if Dean took the notion seriously, Bobby wasn't going to make fun on him. "Razor cord will reach."

"I'm good." Dean said faintly. "Just need a minute."

Bobby added the salts to the tub and adjusted the temperature of the water by adding some cold. He gave up planning to get answers from Dean. The man simply wasn't up to focusing on a conversation when it was taking everything he had just to remain on his feet and perform the simple act of brushing his teeth.

"Still wanna shave?" Bobby plugged the electric razor in. There was no way in hell he was going to hand Dean a razor blade. "Doesn't gotta be perfect, you can shave properly when you're feeling better."

Dean's left hand didn't weaken its grip on the sink, holding so tight that his knuckles were white. His right hand put down the cup of water he'd used to rinse the last of the toothpaste from his mouth and took the razor from Bobby. He so didn't feel like shaving, he wanted to lie down, pull the pillow over his head and let Sam worry about satisfying Bobby's curiosity.

"Where the hell's Sam?" he turned the razor on, took a deep breath, forced his eyes open and made them focus with a determination that caused him to pale and break out into slight sweat.

"Oh Sam, yeah, he left this morning to go to the library." Bobby sat on the side of the tub, one hand trailing in the water to help dissolve the salts, the other just under Dean's left elbow. He'd wouldn't be able to catch him should he fall, but if he were to sway or list, Bobby would have time to grab him before he hit the floor.

"How long we been here?" he tilted his head back to get at his throat and then he'd be done.

"Four days today." Bobby turned the water off, the tub full of hot, steamy water. Dean finished shaving and turned the razor off. He might have been dosed on pain killers for the length of time he'd been at Bobby's but he knew Sam had been there no matter the time of day or night Dean had wanted to get up or had wanted a drink or an extra blanket. He didn't recall Sam saying much nor did he recall any conversations between Sam and himself.

The loud argument between Sam and Bobby was the only conversation he could remember and it had been what prompted Dean to ask Bobby about Sam's hand. He figured Bobby told Sam he'd been awake and coherent and Sam now deemed it safe to begin researching his next course of action. "Any idea what he might be doing at the library?"

"Yeah." he pulled hit t-shirt off over his head. Bobby's breath sucked in and whistled out, causing Dean to look over his shoulder at him. "What? Oh, a bruise or two? Yeah."

"Wanna tell me how you managed to bruise your eye sockets and not break a cheek bone? You look like a damned raccoon." he went back out to the linen closet in the hallway to get a clean towel and washcloth, giving Dean privacy to get in the tub.

"Hell, I dunno, hafta ask Sam." boxer briefs joined the discarded t-shirt on the floor and he braced himself by one hand on the wall and the other on the side of the tub. "Guy sure knew how to throw a punch." he literally crawled over the side of the tub, balancing one shin on the tub side as he put his opposite foot into the water to test the temperature. "And you know the strength a demon possesses. Bitch can squeeze with his hands with a grip a human can't break. This?" he eased himself completely into the water and laid his head back as he sank down so that his shoulders were under water. "Was from his thumbs." he waved a hand over his face. "And a fist, mmmm….gawd! This feels sooooo good."

"Guy? You don't mean Sam, right?" Bobby collected the discarded clothes and set soap and shampoo along with the clean wash cloth within easy reach. Dean grunted what Bobby took for a no. "You me, hollar, don't go bein' a dumbass." he turned to leave, fairly confident that Dean wouldn't be stupid enough to try getting out of the tub on his own. "I'll bring you some clean clothes."

"Bobby?" Dean called. "He didn't walk out on you, he's coming back." the water sloshed as he moved around trying to find, if not the most comfortable, then the least painful position. "You just don't have the books here he needs."

"I have every book, journal, diary and article known to hunters Dean, no library is going to have more."

"He's not after lore." Dean said quietly. "He's researching the state laws of Minnesota, he needs law books."

"What for?" Bobby asked bluntly. He turned around to face Dean but he was completely submerged under the water. What the hell had the boys gotten themselves into this time?

Bobby had his doubts he'd see Sam again that day, expecting him around dinner time, if at all. He left the bathroom door ajar so he could hear Dean when he yelled for help to get out. He stayed in the house, despite having work to do out in his garage. He half expected to hear a thud and a yelp that would tell him Dean had stood up in the tub and fallen but neither came. He checked on Dean twice, draining water out and adding hot but didn't ask to get out.

"You can't stay in there all day."

"Watch me." Dean muttered. "Soon, I'm starting to wrinkle."

"Starting?" Bobby snorted but left him be. "You resemble an old dried up apple."

Sam was back two hours after he left. He had several books with him, as if to prove he'd gone to the library but all it proved was Dean correct. The books Sam had brought back with him were indeed law books.

"He get up?" Sam asked taking his coat off and hanging it on a hook by the back door. "Eat anything?"

"Haven't asked him to eat. He's up, well, in the tub, keeps falling asleep. Lets water out and adds hot, I say he's water-logged by now."

Sam hid a grin but Bobby caught it anyway. He didn't know what Sam was smiling about, Dean was nowhere near ok.

"What you got there?" Bobby asked casually. Sam might not be willing to talk to him yet, but he wasn't trying to hide anything either. He hadn't known when he'd carried the books into the house that Dean was awake and Bobby'd had the opportunity to talk to him.

"Books." Sam set them on the kitchen table. "It's, um, been awhile since school, wanted to catch up."

"Anything to do with the state laws of Minnesota?"

"Huh." Sam ran a hand through his hair. "Guess Dean's feeling better then."

"You already knew that, didn't you? Or you never would have left him. I saw your face when I told you he woke up last night. Til then, you weren't going anywhere. Oh, sure, you left him to go to the clinic and I dunno if it was because you were in a lot of pain or because he was sleeping without pain killers, but you didn't wake up this morning and decide to go to the library."

"He was always going to be ok Bobby. Yeah, he's in some pain, not to comfortable but all he got was the shit kicked outta him." Sam pulled a bottle of water from the fridge. Bobby gave him a look, there was plenty of beer and Sam didn't usually ignore it in favor of water. "What?"

"Why didn't you leave him until now Sam? Why didn't you go to the library the day after you got here? If he was so fine, and you weren't worried, why'd you stay with him?"

"For the same reason you accused me of!" anger flared in his eyes. "I didn't want him to wake up and wonder where I was. I didn't want him to be confused on meds and think he had to get up and go after me."

"You didn't want him to think you had taken off and left him. Didn't want him thinking you'd gone back to where ever it was he'd gotten hurt, am I right?" Bobby was stunned Sam had put Dean first. Had put Dean's needs ahead of his own, had set aside his own feelings and desires to ensure his brother was taken care of. Sam had been the one to force the pain meds on Dean and as long as Dean had taken them, Sam hadn't left him.

Bobby didn't have to really think about why that was. Dean hadn't taken any meds after supper last night and was clear-headed when he had talked to Bobby about Sam. A medicated Winchester made for a confused Winchester, and Sam was right; Dean wouldn't have been able to separate present reality from the past while taking meds. Yet, the moment Sam had found out Dean was lucid, he had split, hadn't even told his brother he was leaving.

Oh, he had returned but the fact remained he left. Dean though, hadn't been the least bit concerned, he'd asked after Sam and when Bobby had told him where he'd gone, he'd gotten into the tub, Sam's whereabouts forgotten, confident his brother would return.

"Bobby, with all due respect, now is not the time to push me." Sam warned quietly.

Hell, Bobby knew that. The fact Sam was drinking water and not beer was the only clue he needed to know Sam was teetering on a very fine line. Bobby took a moment to decide whether he truly wanted to go there. Yes, oh yes he did, but…he conceded, now was not the time, not with Dean still in the tub and who would require help getting out. Course, if he did push Sam, he wouldn't run, wouldn't leave Dean….no, no. Bobby sighed.

"You took those pain meds, didn't you?" Bobby said suddenly, the real reason for the consumption of water dawning on him. "What did you do?"

"Do to what?" Sam looked up.

"Your hand?" Bobby eyed him suspiciously. "Sam? Your hand ok?

"Um, yeah, picked a heavy book up, it's fine."

"If you say so." Bobby let his doubt sound in his voice, wouldn't hurt Sam to know when Bobby wasn't buying his less than truthful answers. He picked up one of the books and thumbed through it. "You find you need help, you let me know. I may not understand any of this but you tell me what to look for, I can find it, you hearin' me?"

"Yeah, I hear you."

"Go get your brother out of the tub." Sam had insisted on a fiberglass cast with a waterproof lining. "Bring him down here for some lunch, you both need to eat."

Sam nodded and went upstairs. Dean greeted him with a wave then held both hands out for Sam to pull him from the tub.

"You doin ok?" Sam asked handing him a towel once he had both feet on the bath mat, back turned. "Smell better."

"I'm fine, sure as hell didn't need to be kept under for nearly four days on pain meds." he stepped into a pair of jeans.

"Dude, the meds alone didn't keep you under, you slept on your own." Sam handed him the thermal shirt Bobby had left. "Name one part of your body that isn't sore, swollen, bruised or split open?"

"Hey, no broken bones." Dean toweled his hair dry. "Thanks by the way."

"Better my arm broken then your head?" Sam grinned. "Still don't know how you didn't end up with at least one busted rib."

"Well, no, but less damage done."

"Dean, we both know if that crowbar connected with your head, you'd be dead or I'd be scraping your brains off the floor and no doctor would ever be able to make you right. I can handle a broken bone, done it before, I can't…" he hung the towel to dry. "Come on. Bobby's nesting again, wants to feed us."

"Kinda surprised you came here." Dean sat down on the tub side to catch his breath.

"Ain't leaving you alone until you can hold a gun steady." Sam put away the shampoo, toothbrush and razor. Wrung the washcloth out and tossed the bath mat over the shower rod. "You won't do me much good in a fight."

"Better find a way to rethink that." Dean retorted. "You ain't leaving me here alone while you go off traipsing after them by yourself."

"Relax, I'm not going to do anything stupid. I can bring myself to do just about anything but ain't quite to the point I can just waste a human for beating you up."

"But by coming here, Bobby's gonna have questions and he's gonna demand answers." Dean knew he sounded frustrated and didn't miss the way Sam lowered his head. "Dammit Sam, I don't mean it like that!"

Sam shrugged. It seemed he couldn't do anything right these days. No matter what he did, what decision he made, what course of action he chose to follow, Dean was always annoyed.

"I didn't know how badly you were hurt." Sam said softly, staring out the doorway to focus on the wall in the hall. "It was late and dark and cold and I didn't know if I was gonna be able to take care of you on my own."

His hand, Dean realized. Sam had known then he had broken it and though he'd had enough sense to come to Bobby's, he'd been too stubborn to get medical treatment immediately. Dean had been content to float about in a restful state with the only two people in the world he trusted taking care of him. Of course, that explained why Sam fed him pain meds every six hours for three days. A sleeping Dean was a quiet Dean who couldn't nag or badger his brother into seeking treatment for a broken hand.

"Three days Sam, three freaking days and Bobby had to force you to go get your hand taken care of."

"Yeah, days ago Dean, don't start, you ready? Time to eat."

Bobby never did find out what Sam needed the law books for. They stayed a week and while Dean shared a bit of what happened, Sam didn't share what he intended to do with the knowledge he gained from those books and Bobby never got the answers he wanted. All he knew was they were returning to Minnesota to wrap up some lose ends.


"Heard from them young-un's lately?" Rufus asked dealing the next hand in a game of poker being played in Bobby's kitchen.

"They were here, what two weeks ago?" Jodi sat down with four beers. Luke, a hunter who hunted with both Bobby and Rufus on and off, filled out the foursome. "Saw Sam of course, but Dean was laid up."

"They were here about a week, had some business to clear up." Bobby tossed a chip into the center of the table. "Sam shutting down scares the hell outta me, I expect it from Dean, but not Sam, he's always so willing to talk and share his feelings whether anyone wants to know about 'em or not."

"He was pretty angry about something." Jodi commented. "Sulking."

"Plotting." Bobby corrected. "Dean got hurt during a hunt, I got outta him humans were involved and Sam's got a one track mind when it comes to anyone hurting his brother."

"Revenge." Rufus nodded. "Boy has some anger issues Bobby, not good."

"Demon involved is dead, Sam won't outright just kill a human." he paused. "Well, he might if Dean were….anyway, he spent a week reading about Minnesota state laws. I'd say he went back to find those who hurt Dean and get revenge. He made a promise to Dean, so I'm guessing he's going about it a legal way somehow."

"Huh." Jodi said. "Don't know Sam all that well, but what I do know, he has the patience and the intelligence to get revenge however he sets his mind to do it."

"It's what scares me." Bobby admitted. "Dean's been able to reel him in so far, but anything happens to him there'll be no controlling Sam."

"He came here." Luke spoke up. "I don't know theml, knew their daddy, but never had the opportunity to meet the boys. Heard plenty about 'em though, seems they don't let many people close but Sam chose to come here, gotta mean something."

"He came here 'cause his arm was busted."

"Because he trusts you." Rufus said.

"And your point?"

"He came to you Bobby. Doesn't matter if it was because he broke his arm, you are who he came to." Luke said.

"Anything happens to Dean, he will come here."

"He didn't before."

"Lot has happened since then. He ain't the same boy that lost his brother some years ago." Rufus pointed out. "They both learned some harsh lessons, I doubt he's gonna try to go through anything like that again on his own."

"He is now." Bobby shrugged. "I dunno what all happened, Sam was running scared when he showed up here and when he does that, he tends to run. I expected him to take off, I expected Dean to have to go after him, I dunno, maybe you're right, he did come here, he brought Dean, and he stayed here and when he left, he took Dean with him." he got up for a bottle of whiskey and was sitting down when the sound of the engine brought silence around the table. "Well, speaking of….."

Dean charged in, he didn't knock, just threw the door open, whipped his keys across the room, stalked over to the fridge and grabbed a beer. He slammed the fridge door closed, popped the cap on the beer and while drinking from the bottle, went over to the sink and retrieved a bottle of hard whiskey from the cupboard underneath.

"And Good Evening." Bobby greeted, breaking the silence. Dean didn't bother with a glass; he alternated drinking from both bottles. "Dean, anything you wanna tell me?"

"Nuthing to say." he chugged the whiskey, wiping the excess from his mouth with the back of one hand. "Don't suppose the Sam's here?"

"Should he be?"

"Hell if I know, haven't seen him in four days."

"He's not here Dean, I haven't heard from him either."

"Didn't really expect him to be." Dean took another swallow. "Same old."

"Yeah ok, how about some coffee? Then you can sit down and tell me what the hell's going on."

"I don't need coffee." he scowled.

"Sure." Bobby motioned to Rufus to get up and start a pot. "Hey, gimme that….now just a minute, Dean, give it up." he tried to wrestle the whiskey bottle from his grip. "You snot-nosed little…god dammit….I swear…..oh now hey."

"HEY!" Dean protested when Jodi stood up and plucked the bottle from his hand while his attention focused on keeping it safe from Bobby. He didn't try to take it back but his eyes followed as she carried it across the room.

"When was the last time you got any sleep? Or ate a decent meal? Hell, when did you last eat anything?" Bobby let him keep the beer. "Hard liquor ain't gonna do you no good in your condition, you'll thank me come morning."

"I ain't staying, I'm only here for a specific book and some more ammo."

"Sit down." Bobby shoved him into Rufus's vacated chair. "Now talk to me, how did you lose Sam?"

"He took off!"

"You sure about that?"

Dean opened his mouth to retort but no words came out. He frowned, thumb and forefinger pinching his forehead between his eyebrows. He made a face then scowled, teeth worrying his bottom lip.

"Dean, are you pissed or worried?" Bobby coaxed. "Christ, what's going on?"

"I don't know what to think Bobby. He promised me he wouldn't go hunting those two men. I know he had a plan to go after them legally, but I dunno, he scared the hell outta me when he threatened to go after their families. I know he found out who they were, where they live, where they work, I know what he's capable of but he promised he wouldn't and I believe him Bobby, I believe he'd keep his word. Four days ago, he said he had to go out, would be at the library for a couple of hours and would bring back dinner, never saw or heard from him again."

"He can't be possessed, right?" Rufus said. "No way a demon could find a way to override that tattoo?"

"No. I've looked everywhere. I even went to the police, it's like those freakin' hillbillies again, or when he took off that time and met Ava or when he was possessed."

"You're gonna sit in my house, tell me Sam is missing, has been for four days and say you came back here only for ammo and a book?" Bobby asked incredulously. "Ever think of picking up the phone and calling and asking me for my help? I would have dropped everything to drive out there and help you, you damn fool."

"Hell, Bobby I didn't know what to think. He's taken off on me before and he's been taken from me before and now? Hell I'm past panic. There's no trace Bobby - trust me - I know how to track him, and he's nowhere to be found."

"He's gotta be somewhere and we'll find him. Start at the beginning, with the hunt where you got hurt and he broke his arm, tell me everything." Bobby put a hand on his shoulder. "There are five of us Dean, we'll come up with something. Now, let me make you something to eat then I want you to lie down for a couple of hours. We'll leave at dawn."

"You don't think he just left, do you? He up and took off?" Dean let his shoulders slump and his head hang. He was exhausted, sick with worry and fear.

"No, I don't. He wouldn't do that Dean, you're hardly back on your feet, and he wouldn't have willingly left you alone in a motel. Someone or something has taken him and pity on the fool who we find has him."