Summary: Sam's hurt, but neither he nor Dean notices - there's just too many other things for them to think about. (tag to 7x19)

A/N: There's no beta for this, so I apologize ahead of time for all of the grammar mistakes you are about to read.

For khakigrrl who wrote an awesome prompt for this at ohsam on LJ.

Delayed Reaction

It's deathly quiet in the car, but the noise of his thoughts bouncing and tumbling around in his head more than makes up for it.

He still can't quite a firm grasp on anything and his head is a mess of unwanted ideas and visions. He turns his head ever so slightly to catch a glimpse of his brother surreptitiously from the corner of his eye, and if his pale face is anything to go by, then he knows that he's just as lost in a haze as he is.

Bobby is silent as well, but whether that is because he can't be heard or just doesn't want to speak them, he can't be sure. But either way – just knowing he's around – that he gave up heaven and a chance for eternal peace to help their sorry asses – well that's enough to deal with.

And he's really pissed about that.

And he's really overjoyed just to have seen him again.

And he's pissed again knowing that the man is trapped between two worlds and he doesn't want to ever have to think about dispatching Bobby the way he's put down hundreds of other ghosts.

God … he's so screwed-up right now he's not sure how to feel.

Sam clears his throat loudly, "I think I see a sign for a motel, Dean. Maybe we should turn in for the night – "

Yeah … as if sleeping on this will make all of the answers come to them by morning.

But when he turns his head fully towards his brother's weary and haggard face, he can't help but feel just as exhausted as Sam looks and he can't argue that they both don't need some rest.

He only nods in response, unable to trust his voice to function without spilling out all of the raw turmoil doing a dance in his brain and a few minutes later, he pulls them into the motel parking lot and books a room for the night.

Sam walks into the room without a word, his shoulders slumped and face even paler in the light of the streetlamps with a slight tint of green that makes him look like he could fold over and start puking at any second. Dean takes pity on his brother since he feels like Sam looks and doesn't mention it. He then goes around to the back of the car to get their bags from the trunk and the first thing he sees when he opens it is the flask.

He can't deal with it right now.

He grabs the duffels and slams the lid shut, leaving the flask behind.


Sam tosses one final time then gives up any hope of getting sleep that night – it's not like he hasn't gone without before.

His stomach protests the movement and sends a pang of nausea shooting up his throat. He swallows convulsively as his mouth fills with saliva, but he holds it in – he really doesn't want to retch – it'll just make things worse.

Instead, he sits up carefully and wraps an arm around his middle, feeling a wave of nausea and dizziness strike – shit … it was really starting to be a bother.

It wasn't this bad earlier and it was easy to discount the pain as butterflies in his stomach after seeing Bobby and worry over Dean's angry reaction to learning that the hunter had chosen to become a ghost. But the more he thinks about it, the more he realizes that it's more than just his nerves causing this - it was probably that damned ghost jamming his hand into his gut that was causing this and whatever he did to his insides was still affecting him like some kind of delayed reaction.

It really hadn't hurt this much before and in all honesty, he hadn't really given much thought to what Van Ness did to him, not when they had bones to burn and Bobby to deal with– and the pain had only been for a few moments and wasn't any worse than being impaled by a meat hook … or having his eyeballs burned out one at a time … or feeling his skin bubble and fry in boiling oil … or …

Shit … he needed to concentrate on something else – anything but that.

He ran a hand through his hair and grabbed a tuft, pulling it painfully to remind him that this pain was real – the pain of hell was just a memory – Satan didn't visit him anymore and wasn't coming back.

He's not coming back

He's not coming back

He's not coming back

Bobby … he needed to focus on him.

What were they supposed to do about him?

Dean was clearly P.O.'d that the man they considered their surrogate father had decided to blow off his reaper and his chance of going to heaven, but Sam just didn't have it in him to be angry with Bobby.

He was just so damned grateful that he was around – that he had made such a sacrifice to stay with them and help in any way he could. They could find a way to make it work – they had to – they owed Bobby that much.

He just wishes he could hug the man.

But at least he can talk to him.

"Bobby?" He whispers softly, trying not to wake his brother in the other bed.

There's no response.

"Look … "Sam sighs deeply, ignoring the twinge in his stomach, "I get why you stayed and I'm not mad … in fact … It's good to see you again. Losing you was … well … not easy. Not even a little."

The room is silent save for Dean's soft snoring.

"Bobby?" He called out again, slightly louder, "You in here?"

Again nothing happens and he's sure that he's been talking to the air. Sliding the covers off of his legs, Sam swings his legs over the edge of the bed and feels the room shift dizzyingly and the pain in his gut move up another notch.

He grunts quietly and moves the pain over to a hidden corner of his brain, pushing himself out of bed, his eyes darting around the room to find the flask to which Bobby was attached. Putting the stomach rolls aside isn't so hard to do – this pain is bearable -hurting Bobby is not.

He knows that the dead hunter heard his and Dean's conversation in the car – he has to know that Dean thinks that his reappearance is 'unnatural' as he called it, but he really needs Bobby to know that Dean didn't really mean it – that he just doesn't know how to handle it all yet – that he'll get over it in time.

But Sam can't find the damned flask –it's not in his brother's jacket – not on the table, and not in the bathroom. After a thorough search, he concludes that the flask must still be in the car and he groans a little to himself.

Shit … Bobby is gonna be soooo pissed.


"Balls …" Bobby mutters again for the tenth time in as many minutes.

He's been trapped in the car for hours, unable to leave because Dean - that moron - was mad at him and decided to punish him by leaving that fucking flask in the trunk.

Well … he was gonna give that idjit a piece of his mind – whenever he saw him again, that is. Judging by the utter blackness of the night surrounding him outside of this tin can of a car – it was going to be a while.

"Fuckin' balls!"

Bobby clamps down as much as he can on his simmering and growing anger, crossing his arms across his chest and closing his eyes. It's bad enough thinking that one day he'd end up a senile, insane spirit, bent on vengeance, and he really doesn't want that day to come any sooner. He just has to hope that when … if… he ever becomes like some of those ghosts back in the Van Ness house that Dean and Sam will do the right thing and destroy that damned flask, sending his soul packing to wherever ghosts go when they're put down.

Like he just did to Annie ...

He knows that's what got Dean's knickers in such a bunch and Bobby deflates a little at the thought, his anger at the boy fading into sadness. He feels the pain of watching Annie's body and spirit go up in flames all over again and he regrets the fact that one day it might fall on Dean and Sam's shoulders to do the same to him.

Maybe sticking around wasn't such a good idea after all and he can't help but feel like a ticking time-bomb counting down to the inevitable.

He shakes his head. Too late to do anything about that now – what's done is done and he's just has to be satisfied that he can at least keep an eye on the boys and has learned a few new tricks to this whole non-corporeal existence thing. Maybe he can actually help now that he's figured out how to communicate with them and 'Swayze' things without his hands passing right through them.

But right now … he really wishes he still slept or that Sam and Dean had at least left a book or something for him to read– at least then it wouldn't be so frickin' boring sitting around in the car and waiting for the morning to come.

Bobby feels the car bounce a little and hears the metallic snick of the trunk being opened. His eyes fly open and he twists his head around just in time to see the trunk lid slam shut and Sam walking towards the passenger door. He's got the flask in his hand as he opens to door and slips inside with a grunt, placing the flask on the dashboard.

"Well … it's 'bout damned time." Bobby grumbles. Sam jumps a little and turns his head towards the sound and Bobby can't help the grin spreading across his face - he's still amazed that he can finally talk and be heard.

Sam gets over his initial surprise and sighs, "Sorry, Bobby … I didn't know Dean didn't take the flask inside with him."

Bobby concentrates and zaps himself to the driver's seat. At least the whole transport by thought thing is pretty convenient, " Ain't your fault your brother's an idjit."

Sam is startled again by the change in direction of Bobby's voice, but recovers quickly, "I hear you Bobby, but I don't see you."

"Well … the full-manifestation thingy is still a little tricky," Bobby closes his eyes and calms his internal thoughts, focusing on making himself visible, "There … can you see me now?" He asks once he thinks he might have a handle on it.

Sam grins as his eyes land on him, "Yeah … sorry … still a little weird seeing you … ya know?"

Bobby snorts, "Yeah, I get that."

Sam sighs again and Bobby gets a good look at the kid. His skin is practically translucent in the dim lighting of the car and his hair is matted to his head, beads of sweat popping out on his forehead. Something ain't right with him and Bobby is immediately worried. He hasn't seen Sam look this bad since Lucifer took charge of his head a couple of weeks ago and the same damned black circles that haunted his eyes then are back with a vengeance.

"You okay, kid?" he asks, "You look like shit."

Sam grimaces a little, "Yeah … just tired."

"Right … and I'm mother Theresa."

"I'm fine." Sam reiterates unconvincingly, and swiftly moves to change the subject, but Bobby's keeping a careful eye on him, "I gotta tell you that I'm sorry about Dean … he's just … things were really hard for him when you died and I think he was just starting to move on a little – and seeing you again … I just don't think he knows how to handle it yet. But he will … he just needs a little time, Bobby."

"Yeah … I know." Bobby agrees, "Things haven't been that easy for any of us."

Sam nods knowingly. If anyone knows about having a hard time with things, it's Sam. He's been through the wringer the past month what with being tormented by Satan 24-7 and Bobby had front-row seats to all of his sleepless nights as he fought the hallucinations bombarding him. He aches for the kid – he doesn't know all of what had been going on in his damaged brain, but he knows that none of it was pleasant – he's just damned glad Sam seems to be doing better.

"Well … I also needed to thank you – you know … for helping me. " Sam says, looking at his hands in his lap, and then wrapping them around his midsection in a self- hug, "Things were screwed up in my head there and I'd probably still be at that hospital - or dead right now if you hadn't been there. So … thanks …"

"Shit, boy. What was I supposed to do? Just let Lucifer keep dancing the jig in your head?"

Sam mildly grins and looks up at Bobby with a twinkle in his eye, "Actually, it was the Macarena and he wasn't very good at it." He kids, smile widening.

Bobby chuckles along with Sam, glad to see the kid's sense of humor is still intact. But his smile quickly drops when Sam goes directly from beaming ear to ear to contorting his face in pain and losing what little color he has in his face. His breath hitches and he hunches forward, tightly wrapping his arms around his waist.

"Hey ... hey … what's wrong?" Bobby asked, unable to hide the panic in his voice and reaching out a hand to his hurting boy. His hand only passes right through Sam and Bobby bemoans the fact making himself visible seems to have weakened his ability to touch stuff.

Sam breathes heavily then forcibly attempts to relax a little after a few gulps of air, "I'm okay…" He grits out through his teeth.

Bobby knows he's lying and he's not afraid to point that out, "Bullshit, Sam." He says, "What's going on with you?"

Shaking his head, Sam lifts his head, pain evident on his features, "Uhhhgg … had a run-in with Van Ness earlier … wasn't so bad at first …" he groans and pitches forward again, "s'getting a little worse now."

"No shit …" Bobby can see that, but then realizes something with dread, "Crap … did he shove his hand inta ya?"

Sam nods in response and Bobby swears again, "How long?"

"I dunno … a couple seconds?" Sam guesses, "But I was okay after … just a little sore."

Bobby doesn't like the sound of that - he saw what Van Ness did to those kids – how he rammed his ghostly fists into them, doing God only knows what to their innards until they choked up blood and keeled over. It only took a few seconds for them die and while Sam hadn't been killed outright – Van Ness might have been in there long enough to cause some serious damage. And seeing how clammy and pale Sam's skin is, he just might be more screwed up on the inside than he first thought and Bobby can't rule out the possibility of internal injuries.

"Go wake your brother – he needs to get you checked out at the hospital." Bobby insists.

Sam shakes his head again, takes in another deep inhale then lifts his head, "Nah … I'll be fine … just a stomach ache – don't need a doctor."

"Sam … don't be a dumbass."

Shoulders slumping, Sam finally relents and unlatches an arm from his middle and opens his door. He turns to step his legs out of the car, but as soon as he has his back turned to Bobby and his feet touch the ground, he groans deeply and leans his head between his knees. The next thing Bobby knows Sam's whole body is shaking while horrid retching noises reach his ears.

"Crap …" Bobby reaches over for the flask, hoping he can get his hands on it so he can get out of the car and help the kid from face planting.

He's not surprised that his first attempt the grab the flask fails, but he doesn't give up and when he finally gets his hand wrapped around the cool metal, he's quick to get out of the car and over to Sam's side.

When he reaches him, he doesn't like what he sees.

Sam's head his still flopped forward with his hair obscuring most of his face, but Bobby can see right away from the mess on the ground that things are bad – real bad.

There's blood on the ground.

"Shit …"

"Bobby? …." Sam asks weakly, "Not feelin' good." He mumbles.

Booby feels fear hit him, "Hold on, Sam … I'm gonna get Dean. Stay here." He orders just before he takes off running.


Sam's talking to the thin air wakes Dean up.

At first he's a little panicked that his brother is talking to his hallucinations once again, but his tired brain finally catches up to what Sam is saying and he realizes he's trying to speak with Bobby even though the older, deader hunter is stuck out in the car with the flask.

Dean tries to be quiet and appear sleeping when he hears Sam get out of bed and leave the room. He probably figured out that Dean had left the flask out in the trunk and cnce he's gone, the room is silent again except for his own thoughts, leaving him to stew in his regret for leaving the container out there – and for literally shutting his old friend out.

He gives sleep another go, but Dean can't fully reach it and he's stuck somewhere between awareness and troubled dreams when he hears the door open.

He continues to feign sleep, expecting Sam to crawl back into bed, but a cold, icy touch has him flinging his blankets off in surprise, nearly jumping out of bed. He doesn't see what touched him a first, but there's no mistaking the flask floating in mid-air beside him or the loud voice filling the room, "Dean! Get up … it's Sam – he needs you."

"Bobby! What the hell?"

"Now, Dean!" Bobby demands without explanation and Dean doesn't really need one – Bobby's worried about Sam for some reason and that's enough to set off all kinds of alarm bells and whistles in Dean's head.

"He's in the car." Bobby adds as Dean grabs his jeans and slips them on. Almost as an after thought, he takes his shoes and shoves his feet into them without bother to lace them before charging for the door.

"What's wrong?" He asks on the move, needing a little more info than what Bobby has supplied thus far.

"Oh I don't know – could have something to do with that Van Ness guy trying to crush your brother's internal organs – something you could have mentioned earlier, by the way." Bobby snaps back with worry lacing his angry words which only makes Dean move even faster.

He doesn't have any time to really process the information before he's confronted with just how bad Sam looks as he approaches the car. His younger sibling is sitting on the passenger seat with his feet out of the car, elbows on his knees and head resting in his hands. Beneath him is a small puddling of sickness and Dean feels another round of distress stab him in the chest when he sees that it's tinted crimson with blood.

"Shit … Sammy," Dean kneels next to his brother and pushes Sam's hair out of his face, touching his sweaty skin and feeling his racing pulse. Sam lifts his head and Dean can see just how scarily white he is, especially compared to the bright staining of red blood dripping from his lips.

"Dean …" Sam moans and closes his eyes in pain, "God …"

"Okay … okay … you're gonna be fine, alright ? We're gonna get you some help."

Dean helps lift Sam's legs up and pivots him so he's completely in the car. Dean sees the rear passenger door open on its own and he confirms that Bobby's with them in the car when he dashes over to the driver's seat and starts the car and sees the flask sitting on the backseat through the rearview mirror.

Sam sits hunched over with an arm clenched around his stomach and his other hand gripping the dashboard, his knuckles brightly white against already colorless skin. Sam coughs harshly until he heaves, spraying droplets of blood on the dash before him.

"Hang on, Sammy." Dean says, trying not to sound as panicked as he feels.

He peels out of the parking lot and hits the streets, mashing down hard on the gas.

Dammmit, shit, mother of fucking hell … why didn't he see that Sam wasn't doing so hot before and why the hell didn't he check his brother out with more than just a 'you okay' after Van Ness attacked Sam?

He'd been so damned wrapped up in own angst over Bobby that he passed Sam's signs of illness off as stress over their reunification with their old mentor. But he couldn't blame Bobby for this – this one was on Dean for not paying attention – for not seeing the signs.

He's been slipping up a lot like this a lot lately when it comes to the care and feeding of his little brother. There used to be a time when Dean would jump at every little sniffle or boo boo Sam got, but now … he didn't even know how bad off Sam was with his whole Satan hallucinations until he got a call from the hospital saying he'd been in an accident – he'd even been surprised that the doctor there had seen how bad Sam's hallucinations were before Dean did.

God ... he was a shitty excuse for a brother these days.

Dean presses harder on the accelerator and Sam groans when the car hits a pothole, "Sorry …" Dean offers as he reaches his right hand over and grips his brother's shoulder.

I'm sorry, Sammy

I'm sorry …


This time Dean took the flask with him and stashed the darn thing in his pocket.

Thank God – carrying the container himself might freak a few people out to see it floating down the halls by itself and there was no way he's staying in the car this time around – not when Sam is hurting – not when one of his kids is in the damned hospital.

He's sitting next to Dean, but he's invisible to the living and keeps silent, not wanting Dean locked in a psych ward too for talking to an empty chair.

But at least Bobby is privy to what the short, squat doctor is explaining to Dean when he comes out to talk with him and he listens closely to the man.

" …I'm not sure how he did it, but we found a small tear within the lining of his stomach which caused the bleeding and pain, but we were able to repair the damage laparoscopically which isn't quite as invasive as traditional surgery, so his recovery should be rather easy. I'd like to keep him here for the next 24 hours to keep an eye on him and make sure there isn't any infection, but after that he should be good to go home. And when he does, he's going to need about a good week of bed rest and he'll have to take it easy for a while. I'll also write a prescription for a liquid diet that will be easier for his stomach to handle while it heals."

Dean nods and robotically shakes the doctor's hand and then they're waiting again for someone to come and show the younger man to Sam's room.

Pacing most of the time, Dean is irritated as almost an hour goes by before a petite, brunette nurse walks into the waiting room and bids him to follow her to the room where they stashed Sam, but as soon as he sees his brother lying pale and asleep in the bed, hooked up to machines and IV's, his annoyance at the wait melts away. He quickly crosses the room and pulls a chair up next to the bed.

"Sam? … Sammy?" Dean asks softly, touching his brother's shoulder lightly as if he's torn between wanting to let Sam sleep on and wanting to see him awake just so he can confirm that he'll be alright with his own eyes.

Sam stirs a little, making a soft little noise that's something between half a whimper and half a moan within his throat. The sound spurs Bobby to come closer to the bed himself while Dean places his hand over Sam's forearm and rubs circles with his thumb.

Eyes fluttering, Sam manages to slide them open a crack and peer blearily at his brother, "D …" He sighs, instantly comforted to see his brother.

"Hey,kiddo." Dean grins, relief clearly evident on his face. "How ya doing?"

"Sore." Sam replies, slipping his eyes closed again, the pull of drugs dragging him back down, "But I'll live … just tired …"

Dean ruffles Sam's hair, "No problem. You're gonna be just fine, so go back to sleep."

Sam immediately is out for the count again and Dean deflates like a balloon, letting go of Sam's arm, leaning back in his chair with an exhausted exhale before running a hand over his haggard face. Bobby doesn't know when it happened, but Dean suddenly looks twenty years too old and he finds himself missing the lighthearted kid he knew years ago, the kid who shrugged the bad stuff off of him with a sarcastic joke instead of the man he sees today who absorbs all of the hurt and pain and leaves it all trapped inside.

Dean reaches into his pocket and pulls out the flask, turning it over in his hand and contemplating it as if it might have all of the answers he needs. He's seen him do this before, usually followed by several gulps of whiskey, but at least this time he can respond and let the boy know that he's still around this time around.

"You still here, Bobby?" Dean asks now that they are alone in the room and out of earshot and sight of the hospital staff.

Bobby focuses on being seen again, "'course I am ya idjit. You got the damned flask, where else would I be?" he responds gruffly, but without any heat.

Dean is still turning the flask over in his hand and doesn't look up to meet Bobby's eyes, "Ya know … all of this time since you kicked the can, I kept saying to myself: "that damned old fool left us and I don't know what to do anymore." I was angry at you for dying because you were just … gone … and it took me a really long time to think that all of the crap we fight everyday was worth all of the people we lost – especially you. But now you're back … and I don't know why I'm so angry about that. I guess because I really had hoped that you had found some peace finally – you know – the kind of peace we can't ever seem to find around this God-forsaken place - that you were off in heaven somewhere reliving your best times –"

"Like heaven was such a picnic for you two when you went there?" Bobby retorts.

Dean gives him a serious glare, "You could've been happy there."

"Right … Happy like everyone in The Matrix is happy? It wouldn't have been real – it would have all just have been an illusion – sticking around so I could keep an eye on you two was what I wanted more than that poppycock."

Dean finally looks up, his jaw muscles working back and forth, "It's not what I wanted for you." Dean admits quietly.

"Wasn't your choice, kid. It was mine and I made it, so there's no use pissing n' moaning about it now. But for what it's worth – I understand why you're mad at me. I'd be pretty pissed off if one of you morons did the same thing. And I know you're thinking that one day you're gonna have to destroy that damned flask and me along with it, but you know what? I'm good with that."

Dean is silent again, back to playing with the flask and Bobby is half-tempted to grab it out of his hands and throw it across the room, but he lets the boy alone as he seeks out the empty chair next to Dean and occupies it.

Sam shifts with a small groan again and Dean perks up, his eyes on his little brother who somehow manages to make his gigantic body look small in the tiny bed.

Dean finally speaks again with a shake of his head, "I should actually be thanking you – for helping Sam ... I never would have found Cas if you hadn't given me that business card and Sam would have died in that hospital – if that had happened … well … that would have been it for me, ya know?. And this time around too – things could have been a lot worse if you weren't here to let me know he was sick ..."

"I guess there is some good I can do by sticking around." Bobby mumbles, still a little hurt that Dean thought that his presence was 'unnatural'.

Dean apparently has learned to read minds at some point because he turns to Bobby and says, "I didn't mean to say that I don't want you to be here, Bobby. Shit ... If you want the truth – I feel really selfish because I do want you here so badly – I just didn't want you to miss your chance to have something good, ya know? I didn't want you to waste your heaven on our sorry asses."

Bobby smirks, "Yeah well … I hear heaven is overrated anyway. Besides, I'd rather hang out with you two knuckleheads so I can see who wins the fight over whether Jean-Claude Van Damme is a better action star than Steven Seagal." Bobby reaches out and concentrates hard on gripping one hand on Dean's shoulder while his other one takes Sam's hand. He feels Sam squeeze back like he's been listening in on the whole conversation and Bobby smiles.

"Believe it or not – you boys are worth it."

The End