Title: The Rift
Author: *bright
Rating: G
Warnings: none, pre-series
Disclaimer: Me own nada.
Author’s Note: 9200 words.
Prompt: Dean and John go off on a hunt and leave teenager-Sam with Uncle Bobby. However, when Bobby's place is attacked by a demon (or a really pissed off spirit), Sam has to save Bobby.
Summary: Pretty much the prompt, with some added h/c and Bobby's take on the Winchester family dynamics and especially Sam and his role in it.


Sam can't believe his father and brother are doing this to him!

Okay, so Bobby's place was close but there was no need for them to just haul him here in the middle of a hunt! It wasn't the first time he'd taken a blow to the head and he had not been out for the count, no way. He had just been resting his eyes when Dean found him. So what if he didn't remember how he ended up curled around a tree stem in the middle of a steep slope? He was sure he'd tripped and fallen. Could happen to anyone in the dark, right? And it was the crappy sandwiches Dad had picked up and then left to brew in the backseat of the Impala for ages that made him hurl. Dad and Dean were just lucky they hadn't eaten one with mayonnaise, the mere thought of which still had Sam's stomach in upheaval. They'd be hurling too if they had.

Sam glares at his own feet for not having kept him upright and functional when Dad and Dean needed him to be.

He did not have a concussion. This morning he had been tired, that's why he had walked into the door frame, he so wasn't seeing double. It was just that everything got a little fuzzy when he moved his head; his focus was a little off, but he had been tired. Not concussed, tired.

So now he sits here, on Bobby's porch, leaning up against a pillar, which paint is coming off in flakes, while Dean and Dad are readying themselves to go back and get the Black Dog. He's just too tired to argue with them and he knows he messed up, again. Negotiating for a second chance had fallen on deaf ears, always did when it came to Dad. But what the two of them didn't seem to realize was that's it's worse to be left behind to worry. He can't do a thing to help them if something goes wrong, he won't be there! Hunting is not what makes his day but being left behind to worry is worse than any hunt. Not knowing what's happening, fearing that one of them won't be retuning is something he doesn't wish on his worst enemy. Because he knows how dangerous it can get, knows the perils of even a seemingly mundane hunt. They've been up against Black Dogs before, they know how to handle them, know what to do. But there's always danger; a misstep, a miscalculated angle, or just plain old accidents. Any given second could be their last, no matter how good they both are at hunting, the danger is always present. And Sam wants to be there with them, just in case something goes wrong and he can prevent what he fears most.

He's had a lifetime of worrying for one of them not to return and he's had enough.

Dean is expertly checking the guns, and Sam closes his eyes; he can't even remember a time when he didn't fear losing what little semblance of control over his life he had. He'll never be as good a hunter as Dean, never as strong or confident. Sam relies on that expertise and confidence. Losing Dean would rip the world apart and he'd be left in an ever spiraling vortex.

Maybe he needs to face that fear? Leaving Dean and Dad would actually be a relief from the fear of losing either of them. It would benefit them all; they wouldn't have to drag around an inept hunter and he'd not be left behind to expect the worst.

The letter from Stanford burns in his pocket; a constant reminder of his one and only chance at normalcy. In three weeks he'd have to make a decision. A life-altering one that he's hoped and worked for since he was around twelve.

Still it burned with the total betrayal of who he really was and what was expected of him. Betrayal of who he loves and depends upon. The one person he's been with constantly in his life; though sticks and stones and broken bones. Leaving Dean would be the hardest thing in life. But staying behind is worse.

He opens his eyes when he hears Dean's footsteps coming in his direction. Looks up and squints against the light from the lowering sun.

“Still can't keep your peepers open? Sammy, you need to get your thick head checked out, seriously. I told Bobby to drag your ass to the ER if you start rambling or puking again.” Dean says, standing still, towering over him now that he has the chance. Sam's outgrown Dean and he knows it bugs his big bro something fierce.

“I was not rambling, I was giving you very convincing arguments why this was a stupid move. Still is. The Black Dog may have decided to emigrate while we were coming here. How we gonna find it then, before it has another feast? Stupid.” Sam frowns at Dean.

Dean sinks to his haunches and eyes Sam. “I don't think even your ugly mug can scare that one away, Sasquatch. If the SOB didn't laugh itself to death at your swan dive, that is. Go get some rest dammit. I swear, if you're not looking any better when we get back, I am dragging you to the ER myself.”

Sam blinks and tries to focus on Dean's squinted eyes. “You're too short to drag me anywhere any longer.”

“Wanna bet?” Dean gives him his most cheeky grin. “Dude, I can still kick your scrawny ass from here to next week, any day! And twice on Sundays.” Dean rises to tower over him again and Sam knows he'd be no match, not today. Probably not ever.

“Can it,” he mumbles and looks away, having to swallow the wave of nausea that hits him. “And don't do anything stupid.”

“Nah, Sammy, you're the expert in that department.”

Dean doesn't sound mad and he reaches out to box Sam's shoulder amicably. “Get some shut eye you girl,” he adds before he turns and walks away.

Sam follows his steps over the gravel. Watches him get in the car while Dad is talking to Bobby. Then he too gets in the car. They leave in a cloud of dust. It's been incredibly suffocating today, unusually hot and humid for this time of year and Sam is sure that's the cause for his pounding headache. Dad does wave his hand in Sam's direction before they drive off. It feels more like a dismissal than a salute.

Sam looks down at the small pup pressing itself up against his leg. He knows what it feels like to be the runt of the litter.

“Sam, you okay?” Bobby asks when he arrives to stand where Dean just stood.

“Yeah,” Sam replies and is grateful that Bobby doesn't question him, instead just tells him to haul his ass inside, grab something to eat and watch the game that's about to start on TV.

Sam's even more grateful that Bobby doesn't wait for him to notice how he almost topples over when he rises and the world tilts on him.

Bobby is a keen observer. He wouldn't have survived this long if he wasn't. He can clearly see how unsteady on his legs Sam is and the pallor is alarming. But he also knows how damned thick-headed the youngest Winchester is. All of them are but Sam just takes the cake. No wonder he and John keep clashing. Sam takes offense at being ordered around without having the full picture presented to him, John is a Marine with the moral code of conduct imprinted in his very bones: You obey an order or you're dead. He's the goddamned master at concealing things and evading even appearing emotional, which in John Winchester's book equals weak, which puts the two of them at odds more often than not. Being the youngest in a household of macho men had made Sam hide any sign of weakness. He's becoming more and more like his father in some ways with every day that passes, yet so very different in others. There seems to be a huge rift between the two of them right now, and Sam is retreating more and more into himself. Like John, when something is bothering him. Given that, Bobby knows not to push. But if the kid doesn't look better in the morning, he's taking him to a clinic. From what John had told him, the concussion is serious and any head-injury is tricky business. Especially if the kid really was out for almost half an hour after the fall.

Sam slumps down on the couch, the pup at his heels. Bobby contemplates ushering the mutt out; the dog is supposed to become a watchdog after all, but when Sam's hand drops to lay on the pup's head, Bobby lets them be. The tiny thing has only been here for a day so there's time to show him the ropes when the mongrel gets bigger and stronger.

Bobby flicks the TV on, muttering at the lousy reception as white stripes dance over the screen. Of course there's a storm brewing when the Cowboys are about to play Dallas and he's put money on the game. Traversing the floor, he watches Sam from the corner of his eye. The kid can barely keep his eyes open; his jawline is tense and his brow furrowed. Sam clearly is in pain. Bobby wonders if it's wise to offer him something to alleviate it since he doesn't know how bad Sam's brains are scrambled in there? Aspirin is out of the question since the kid's been puking his guts out.

What he has is Vicodin. He lets one pill slide into his palm and goes to the sink to get the kid a glass of water. Sam needs something to relieve the pain and he'll make sure nothing happens to the kid. It's not like he's sleepy so he'll just stay awake and keep an eye on Sam. The kid desperately needs some rest.

He fills a glass with water and walks over to the couch, snatching a can of beer out of the fridge on the way. Sam looks at him, eyes bleary and jaw clenched.

“Pop this one, kiddo,” Bobby orders. “It'll take the pain away.

Stupidly enough Sam opens his mouth to protest and Bobby glares until Sam relents and takes the pill. His hand shivers a little when he takes a gulp of water and swallows it cautiously. Then he leans over and puts the glass on the coffee table. “Thanks, Bobby.”

“Lie down,” Bobby says and pulls the comforter from the armrest of the couch. He doesn't go as far as tucking the kid in but he waits until Sam kicks his shoes off and finally does as told. The tension in the jaw is already lessening when he pulls the quilt over himself.

Bobby lowers the volume and sits down in his comfy chair.

Sam's breaths even out in deep sleep in less than a minute. Bobby opens the can of beer and tries to make sense of the game behind the frizzled stripes rolling over the screen.

Sam wakes to a loud sound and Bobby cussing. For a moment he has no idea where he is, there's just this feeling that something is very off. There is a flickering, bluish light illuminating the room in brief intervals. Sam can't exactly pinpoint its origin. He hears Bobby's footsteps cross the squeaky floorboards and turns to the sound. The nausea hits full force; the world around him feeling dreamlike and unreal and he swallows the bile down. Then the other sounds start to make sense. A woman is screaming for help outside while the rain is pelting on the window panes. It's cold, incredibly cold and he shudders.

Bobby's already at the door, jerking it open while snatching the shotgun from the rack.

“Bobby, wait!” Sam tries to focus but the world is still dizzily swaying before his eyes. He doesn't exactly know how he gets to his feet and to the door.

Outside the darkness is compact and the screams for help sound inhuman. He can barely see Bobby on the porch in the thick rain. Only hears him load the shotgun and sees the beam of the flashlight search the yard.

“Stay put Sam!” Bobby steps off the porch and Sam feels the icy cold embrace him. It's then when he realizes what they are up against. There's a dull thump and a muffled, surprised groan that follows while a car revs up and blinds him with its headlights. The adrenaline that shoots through him clears the cob-webs and he's instantly alert when he steps off the porch in search for Bobby.

Sam finds him pressed up against a stack of junk, what looks like a seat-belt snaking around him like a boa constrictor. Pressing him to the metal while headlights turn to him and bathe him in stark yellow.

Sam stops thinking and runs for the dropped shotgun. Bobby is yelling at him to get the hell out of there and Sam loads and walks toward the oncoming truck. He fires trough the open window on the driver's side, peppers it full of rock-salt and the car swerves out of course and comes to a halt.

He rushes to it, yanks the door open and is met by a bloodied front-seat.

Bobby makes suffocated noises behind him and Sam turns and stumbles toward the sound. The seat-belt is tight around Bobby's neck, squeezing the air out of him. Sam's fingers feel uncooperative and the woven plastic material is tightening further. There's an empty canister right by Sam's feet and he picks it up and jams it in between the belt and the junk as a barrier, giving Bobby some respite just as the car revs up again.

“Gasoline?”Sam asks.

“Back of truck,” Bobby pants and Sam is already on his way in the rain. He doesn't know how much time he has, doesn't know if what he has planned will work. He prays silently while he feels around in the trunk; hand brazing a gun that he picks up on impulse before he feels the metal canister. The world is still unstable around him, but his focus is steadily on the car now. He has one chance and he can't mess up. If he does, Bobby will surely die.

The ground under his bare feet is slippery due to the rain that keeps coming down harder and harder. He won't stand a chance with a match or the lighter, he needs the gun and some pretty heavy-duty luck. Sam lets the shotgun fall to the ground, cocks the Glock and starts running toward the lights of the approaching car. He stops at a safe distance from where Bobby's tied up, opens the canister and waits.

The rain drums against his skin, running in rivulets down his face while the coldness makes his breath come out in short puffs of white fog. The truck's headlights turn to fixate on him, the engine roars and Sam feels his muscles tighten.

This is it, his only chance.

Bobby is trying to struggle against the belt around his neck, grateful for Sam's quick wits which made the kid put metal to rest on his shoulder and the junk he had a too close proximity with at the moment; providing the perfect obstacle for the sneaky thing that was trying its best to gank him. First he can't see Sam in the rain, but he can see the headlights turning away to illuminate the lanky figure. Bobby goes perfectly still, petrified at the sight. All sounds are muted by the rain; nature's on the ghost's side. The rest unfolds painfully slow and detailed. The truck takes aim on Sam, who just stands there, like an idjit. The driver's door is slightly open, hanging on its hinges and in the last moment, Sam finally moves to the side and throws the canister inside. Then Bobby hears rapid gunshots and a flame flares up inside the car. He sees Sam standing right there, by the driver's door, too close to the flames. The seat-belt loses its grip on him when a shriek pierces the eerie stillness and he falls down to his knees when the car explodes.

All he can do is pant for air and watch in horrific slo-mo clarity as the driver's door comes loose and hits Sam hard enough to send him flying backwards while shards of glass shoot out and glimmer in the light of the flames. The cacophony of the ghost wailing and the echo of the explosion deafens him for a moment.

Bobby prides himself on being an unemotional, rational man. That's what's needed to survive in this line of work. But now, when he half-crawls, half-runs toward John's youngest son, he feels sheer panic. Sam was too close to the explosion, still is too close to the fire kept in check only by the rain. Why didn't the stupid idjit stay put as told?

He falls to his knees by the kid's side; he's pinned under the door, long legs with bare feet sticking out from under it. It's not until his fingers feel the radial pulse that Bobby exhales. It's still there, thready and uneven but present. The heat is close to unbearable and Bobby knows he needs to get Sam away from the fire and the billowing smoke.

“Sam?” There's no response when he grabs the chin, not even a twitch. “C'mon kiddo, where are you hurt? Say som'thin'!”

Bobby's afraid of moving Sam too much. What if his spine is hurt? There's a possibility he's actually hurting the kid more by moving him. But there's no time to debate the pros and cons right now. Another pair of glaring headlights are coming up the driveway and goddamned it if the ghost didn't buy the farm after all and just found another car? Sam needs to get in behind the salt lines, out of reach for the licking flames and into some kind of safety. That's Bobby's first priority, getting Sam to safety, away from ghouls and ghosts and spirits and every goddamned evil SOB out there.

He gets the wrecked door off Sam, fumbles for a good grip on the lanky body. Goddamned kid is so tall that Bobby can't get him scooped up in his hold, has to grip him around the chest to drag him backwards. His clothes are soaked, and Bobby finally gets a white knuckled grip on the shirt. Sam's not that heavy; all skin and bones and hard compact muscle. And absolutely horrifyingly limp, like a ragdoll, in his hold.

The headlights are rapidly approaching and Bobby isn't sure they'll make it to the house. All he knows is that he's not letting go off Sam, whatever comes their way.

The light wash over them with blinding force and Bobby freezes. Then brakes squeal and the driver's door opens and a figure comes running toward them.

“Sam? What the hell?”

Bobby exhales when the figure turns out to be a frantic Dean who slides on the mud in his haste to get to his brother. His eyes dart briefly to the burning car before he reaches out, lifting Sam's face into the light and Bobby's heart skips a beat. The injuries hadn't been as visible in the flickering light from the fire. Now he can see the pink foam at the corners of Sam's mouth. Sees it trickle down his slack jaw with every pained breath the kid takes.

“Lemme get 'im inside, Dean, I don't know if that thing is still out there.”

Dean's eyes are wide with fear when they momentarily meet with Bobby's but he scoops Sam's legs into his hold. Bobby can't hear what Dean is saying; he's mumbling, eyes on the little brother they're carrying and all Bobby can make out is 'Sammy' as Dean repeats it over and over between a litany of jumbled up words.

They lay him on the floor right inside of the door.

“Call an ambulance, Dean,” Bobby orders while he rips the bloodied t-shirt off the fallen brother. That's when he sees the white of bone sticking through the skin. He lays a hand over the wound and feels the heart beating wildly. Cold sweat is running down Bobby's spine and he so doesn't want Dean to see this. He curses out loud.

By the phone, Dean is repeating his words and adding a few more.

“No fucking line! C'mon you piece of crap, what the fuck is wrong with you? Sonofabitch, don't bail out on me now!”

“Try your cell, Dean!” Bobby turns to the frantic young man, tries not to let the panic seep into his voice. He knows that Dean is falling apart; he'd never been good at handling his emotions when Sam's in question. When he turns back, the puppy is standing by Sam's head, baring his teeth at Bobby. “What the hell, bonehead? You secretary of defense all of a sudden? Outta my way! Sam?” He calls out, hoping for some kind of response. It's more wishful thinking than anything else. Moving to tilt Sam's head to the side and ease his breathing, the mongrel bites down on his thumb.

“The hell, Rumsfeld? Get outta my way. Not goin' to hurt the kid, you moron!” Shoving the puppy to the side, he leans in over Sam, placing him as comfortably as possible while he still presses hard against the gaping wound. He's not exactly sure he didn't already hurt Sam more by moving him but nobody needs to know that. The tension is high enough as is. What he knows is that he can't fix a punctured lung, won't even try. Sam's wrist looks broken too and he doesn't even want to know if Sam got another whack to the head. If he had, it was very possibly a certain, but slow death. Adding another head-injury to a recently sustained one was one sure way to make things go south, and fast.

“No reception. Been trying to call you for hours. Ever since I hot-wired the car. I fucking knew something was wrong! I told Dad we needed to head back but he wouldn't listen. What happened, Bobby? I can't leave this bitch behind for more than a minute and something happens to him! Sammy! C'mon!”

“You got gas in that truck?” Bobby asks.

“Yeah,” Dean nods convulsively, his hands back on Sam's face, moving the bangs to the side. “He's not breathing, right Bobby!”

“Drive up to the porch, Dean. Get as close as possible. We're gonna have to drive Sam ourselves.” He casts an appraising glance at Dean, kneeling by his brother but his eyes immediately dart to the door as it's flung open and Bobby has a minor heart attack.

They butt heads when they instinctively move in closer to protect the fallen soldier. Bobby gets pissed at the lack of manners and for the fricken near death experience John Winchester caused by barging in.

“You born in a barn or som'thin'? He barks at John and then glares at the pup. “Fell asleep on your post, Rumsfeld?”

“What the hell?” John Winchester echoes Dean's earlier words. His eyes take in the situation, surprise and incomprehension on his face at the first sight but then the expression hardens when his eyes fall on Dean. “Son, if you ever take off -.”

Dean looks at John over his shoulder. “Sammy's bad.”

John takes a step inside, watching his youngest on the floor. He pauses with harsh intake of air before he moves to touch Sam but Dean puts himself in between the two men, instinctively shielding the younger sibling.

“Wha -?” John's harsh voice is cut off by a plaintive sound from Sam who stirs, moving as if he wants to curl in on himself, eyes opening slightly before coughs wrack his body. The pupils are blown, unseeing and foam runs from his nose when he tries to fight Bobby's hold.

Dean lets out a whimper, inserting his hand between the hard floor and Sam's cheek. “Just breathe, Sammy. It's okay, just fuckin' breathe!”

Bobby so doesn't have time for a family drama right now. “John, drive the car to the door, right now. Sam needs to get to a hospital!” He drapes his arms around Sam's upper body, hand still steadying the ribs while he pulls the kid up against his chest.

Sam makes a gurgling sound, drawing in air and starts to coughs until he goes lax in Bobby's hold.

“Take his feet, Dean. When we get to the car, you're gonna have to hold his chest to keep the air inside. I think he has a punctured lung. Gonna have to put pressure on his chest. You understand?”

“Yessir,” Dean answers and Bobby feels a pang of guilt. The kid is falling apart and he treats him just like John does when in a crisis. Like a goddamned foot soldier. They rise slowly, keeping Sam as still as possible between them as they walk out the door and to the parked car outside.

“Doin' good, Dean. Sam's gonna be fine,” Bobby encourages the wild eyed young man in front of him. They manage to get Sam in the backseat to lean up against Dean. Sam head lolls to rest on his brother's shoulder when John tucks the blanket around him.

The fear in Dean's eyes is something that will follow Bobby for a long time. He'd always known they were close, but now he knows Dean is as dependent on Sam as Sam is on his big brother. The notion makes him ache for both boys.

“John! Take the car Dean hot-wired and ditch it at the hospital. Don't need no more trouble with you crazy bunch o' Winchesters around. Now git!”

Bobby slams the door on John and guns it.

In the backseat, Dean holds on to his little brother, lips moving with mumbled words that Bobby can't hear. It dawns on him that Dean's aversion against chick-flick moments may have a deeper meaning. He's, without a doubt, had too many dramatic events in his life already. They have both seen and experienced too much for their young lives. They're just handling it so differently: Sam wants some control over his own life and Dean wants to be everything their father wishes him to be. It's so painfully evident that they are brothers in arms, fighting a never ending war with different strategies.

Bobby pins his eyes on the road and drives as fast as he dares. Sam saved his life; they're not going to lose the youngest Winchester on his watch.

There are bright lights that sear through his eyelids and alarmed voices drifting through the fog Sam's lost in. It sounds like Dean's scared and Sam has no idea what is going on. His head is in a thick wad of cotton and he can't get out of it. The freakish thing is almost choking him and he needs to get to Dean. The vague recollection of a car coming toward him makes him wonder if he was actually hit? Was Dean? Or was it a nightmare? Why does it hurt like hell to breathe?

He still can't open his eyes but he clearly hears Dean telling somebody about an accident.

Sam tries to moves to the sound of Dean's voice, wants him to lay it all out and clear the fog in his head. Questions like who, where and how bad are rather impertinent in situations like this, right? Dean sounds so distressed and Sam is almost sure that he or Dad are injured. Why he can't seem to get his own ass in gear is beyond him. It feels like he's tied down.

The light searing through his eyelids shifts and the image of Bobby and headlights flicker through his mind. Bobby? Something's wrong with Bobby! He has to tell Dean!

“D'n!” He tries to get Dean's attention but it's somebody else that lifts his eyelid and shines a light, that feels like a drill, while asking for his name. The pain has him gagging and his mouth fills with salty liquid.

“You fuckers trying to kill him?” Dean barks.

“No, we're trying to assess him, son. We need to know his neurological status.”

Sam has no idea of the relevance of his name if someone is in danger. “B'by!” He barely gets that one word out.

“What? Bobby?” That same voice that asked his name tells someone that he apparently thinks he is Bobby. Sam wants to scream.

Then Dean finally comes closer. “No, no, no, doc, you don't get it. Bobby was there with him. Sammy, it's ok, Bobby is fine. You landed your ass at the ER, not Bobby.

Sam's fingers finally find what he knows is Dean's leather jacket and he curls them around the fabric. It's wet and slippery and it's hard to hold on. He tries to gather his strength by taking a deep breath but something in his chest protests with a sharp pain and he coughs. The taste of blood fills his mouth and he would gag if he wasn't too tired and there's something on his face suddenly.

“You gotta do something, doc! Just fucking help him already!” Dean's hand closes around his wrist, the voice almost breaking, like he's about to cry and Sam wants to call him on the chick-flick moment but it feels like he's falling into suffocating darkness.

“Gonna rip you a new one if you don't stop chatting and help him!”

Sam stops fighting the darkness.

Bobby sits in the waiting room, watching John slumped in a plastic chair that's almost too small for him while Dean paces endlessly. One of the fluorescent lamps keeps flickering and it is driving Bobby insane. He wonders what kind of place this is that can't even maintain the equipment? No wonder they have no word yet. It's been hours and if Dean doesn't stop pacing soon, Bobby will probably faint from exertion himself.

It's hard to sit by a deafeningly silent John Winchester; he can feel the tension seep out from him and every time Bobby tries to say something, John just grunts angrily. He is rapidly losing his calm with these two and Bobby prides himself with his calm and patience. Right now he wants to shake them both. Dean for his nervous energy that is about to drain him to the point that when Sam comes through, and he will, Dean will be a worn-out wreck. That won't help Sam. And John, sitting there like someone nailed his ass to the chair, with the simmering fear that will undoubtedly be lashed out as misplaced anger at the worst possible moment. John's never handled fear well, doesn't want to admit he's petrified at the thought of losing Sam. John is a doer, a fix it kind of man and right now there's nothing he can fix. It's killing him. Bobby knows it but John's never been one to talk or accept help. The goddamned bonehead!

“He saved my life y'know,” Bobby starts. “Didn't see straight but he never lost it anyway. Took the canister and stopped the damned seat-belt from strangling me. Realized that he wouldn't be able to ignite the gasoline with a lighter in the rain, used the gun instead. The boy is sharp, John. A stupid idjit for risking his life for an old geezer like me, but still sharp.”

John's hands twitch.

“This wasn't his fault, bud, in no way whatsoever. That car was dumped at my place and nothing happened for months. There were no indications and I checked the records. Apparently it had been involved in an accident and left at the roadside, driver died on a rainy night. I had no idea the freak was still around.” Bobby watches Dean pace while he talks. It's hard to tell a father, whose son was nearly killed, about his mistake. Hard to tell a man with John Winchester's high standards. He should have dug deeper and prevented this from happening at all. It was his damned job after all.

“The moment Sam's outta danger, I'll go back and check if there's still bones to burn of if he fixed it with that neat little explosion of his.”

“He should have been more careful,” John growls. “He must have been pretty close to the explosion if he managed to get messed up like this! What was he doing that close?”

Bobby crosses his arm over his chest and leans back in the chair. “He was stopping the car from making me ground meat, John. I'm not letting you say anything to Sam about this, John. I swear I'll kick your sorry ass if you as much as breathe wrong in the kid's direction.” He takes a breath to calm himself down and not cause a scene in a public but John's affronted expression sets him off again. Louder this time. “He could have died on the spot and he must have known it! He didn't back down. John, he did what you've always asked of him, he saved a life! Mine! He deserves some friggen credit!” He's in John's face, glaring at the man and John's eyes go wide.

Bobby feels deflated after his uncharacteristic spout of verbal diarrhea and both John and Dean look at him as if he's grown a second head. Even the physician that has appeared at Dean's side looks at him like if pondering on giving him some kind of shot to keep him together.

The stunned silence stretches out until Bobby finally breaks it by rising from the uncomfortable seat and asking that one question that really matters: “How's Sam?”

It snaps the two Winchesters out of their daze and they crowd the elderly physician's personal space. He eyes them suspiciously before he turns to the chart in his hand.

“Sam Winchester will be fine. We repaired the hemothorax laparoscopically because of the head-injury. We had to be careful with the anesthetic due to his neurological status. The ribs and the wrist were successfully set and the left lung is now working properly and his SATs are up. We will keep him under observation in the ICU because of the risk for blood-clots and the concussion. Needless to say he will be convalescing for a while. He is young and strong and that helps him, but he needs to take it easy. Right now he is off the vent but heavily medicated and thus very confused. It's nothing to worry about, it is normal under the circumstances. Any questions?”

“Can I see him?” Dean is anxious. No words can convince him, what he needs is solid proof.

The doc looks at him, like he's appreciating how crazy this particular Winchester is. Then he nods and puts five fingers up in the air. “Five minutes. The boy needs his rest. Don't expect too much.”

They follow through corridors that smell of sterilizing liquids until they reach Sam's room.

Bobby lets the two Winchesters step in first and marvels at how small Sam looks hooked up to oxygen, an I.V and a heart-monitor. His right wrist is in a cast and his eyes are closed. Dean hesitates mid-stride before he calls out his brother's name. Sam turns his head and Dean is by his bedside in one long stride. John stops by the foot end of the bed and sighs relieved and Bobby finds himself echoing him, finally able to relax and watch the brothers. Sam's hand comes up to grasp onto Dean's sleeve. Dean's face softens as he smiles at his brother before he sinks down to sit on the strategically placed chair. The tension in Dean's body is gone, as is the anger and frustration in the man at the end of the bed.

Bobby walks up to the other side of the bed and clears his throat. “Hey ya, kiddo.”

Sam moves to look at him and pain flickers over his face.

“Don't move Sam,” Bobby lays a hand lightly on the covered chest, just to assure himself Sam really is fixed. “Just wanted to check on you.” Sam tries to form a small smile under the oxygen mask but his eyes are already closing and he visibly fights to keep them open.

“Told you I'd drag your ass to the ER.” Dean says quietly. “Quit scaring the crap outta me, bitch!” He loosens Sam's grip on his sleeve and pulls the covers up before he rests his hand over Sam's under the cover.

Sam makes a halfhearted pout.

“Had to go Terminator on us, did ya? Don't ever do that again, you hear me Sammy? At least leave a bit of the action to your awesome big brother.”

Sam scrunches his nose.

“Not scratchin' your nose for ya, no way, buddy.” Dean protests, all while the pad of his thumb goes to the bridge of Sam nose and rubs lightly around the edges of the mask on Sam's face.

Sam sighs.

“You're such a girl, Sammy.” Dean grins and Bobby nods at John to step out.

They walk to stand by the window to the room. John's eyes are on Sam's heart-monitor, like he can't face actually looking at his son but still has to keep an eye on his well-being.

“He's a good kid, John.” Bobby states calmly.

“I know,” John replies and when Bobby turns to look, there's something very tender in the man Bobby considers just as closed off as the son he always butts heads with. And it's not until then that Bobby understands that what has steered John most of his life is a fear that he is unwilling to face.
Bobby can't help but wonder what it's doing to his sons? He hopes it's not too late for either of them to face their own demons and handle them better than John Winchester has. Sam seems very aware of his own demons, has been as long as Bobby can remember. And the saddest part is that Sam just wants safety and John's fears and need for vengeance is preventing him from having what most take for granted.

One of these days that rift will become insurmountable and they will all suffer.

There's so much wrong between John and his youngest and Bobby knows he has to try and help fix it somehow. Before it's too late and Sam will be forever lost to them.

Dean is ushered out by a nurse, despite his flirting, then begging, to stay just another while. Bobby watches how the tension returns. It breaks his heart.

Dean's reprieve was short and now he's back at the breaking point. But Dean is not as hard to distract as Sam and Bobby knows one sure way.

“There's a diner right outside, I'm starved and I'm not gonna commit harakiri by eating in the Hospital cafeteria. You guys with me? Sam's taken care of so quit acting like motherhens, the both of you!”

The two Winchesters glare at him but follow when he leads them out. If you know how to handle a Winchester, they're relatively easy to sustain.

Sam was exhausted when he finally got to a phone. It had taken him an hour to walk the small distance from the ward to the diner just around the corner of the parking lot. He had no money but the waitress, in her mid twenties, blonde and busty and totally Dean's type, had been so sweet and given him a nickel. When Dean finally showed up, he'd ogle her and she'd be all over herself over his brother so Sam figured it'd be a nice payoff.

If Dean hadn't been so pissed. Sam hopes he'll calm down on the way to get him.

Sam couldn't quite figure out what made Dean fly off the handle this time? They always made a run for it when one of them was hospitalized under a false name. Okay, so maybe not alone in the middle of the night but Dean did bring him clothes yesterday. Wasn't that some kind of sign that he needed to get out?

Lately it's like everything he does is wrong, he can never win. And he is so very tired of trying to do what is expected of him and be what Dean and Dad want him to be.

He jumps when the waitress touches his shoulder with her fingertips and places a glass of water in front of him.

“You sure you're all right? You look about to faint. Sure you don't want something to eat while you wait for your brother?”

Sam smiles up at her and shakes his head. “No, I'm fine. Thank you very much but I'm just a bit tired.” He feels the blush creep up his face and make his earlobes burning hot and it makes him want to kick himself.

The waitress looks at him skeptically and wipes the already clean table. Sam figures that since it's 4 AM and the place is almost deserted, she has nothing better to do. If Dean were here, he'd have made his move already and would have scored her name and number.

There's a sudden cool breeze when the door is jerked open with force, making the bell go hay-wire and Dean storms in, never giving the waitress even a glance as he comes right at Sam.

“The hell, Sammy? If the doc says you gotta stay another couple of days, that's what you do! Three days Sam, it's been three days and you almost got ganked! And now this? Phone-call in the middle of the night with 'come get me'? You're trying to give me a freakin' heart attack, that it?”

Dean is leaning over the table, staring him down and Sam watches the poor waitress take a couple of steps back in the face of Dean's fury.

“Technically it's four days since it's after midni-.”

“Just shut up Sammy, please just shut the fuck up!” Dean's voice drops and he straightens his back and turns to the waitress. “What do I owe you for my crazy ass brother?” he asks.

The waitress takes another step back and shakes her head. “He didn't want anything, I offered but he said no.”

“A nickel Dean, she gave me a nickel to make the call,” Sam remarks, hating to have to ask Dean for something all over.

Dean plants a fiver on the table and turns back to Sam. “C'mon, Sam, I got the car right outside.” He bends to help Sam up to his feet and Sam swats the helping hand away.

“Dean! I'm fine!” He gets up as fast as he can and has to grab the table to keep his balance.

Dean looks at him and curls his lips in a sardonic leer, “Yeah, Sammy, obviously.”

With a sigh Sam lets Dean pull his arm over his steadying shoulders and curl his own around Sam's middle. He looks to the floor all the way out, mortified that he's not even able to get up without aid. It's just not fair.

The Impala really is parked right outside the door, in the middle of a non-parking zone and Sam wants to tell Dean that he's just itching to get his baby towed one of these days. But he keeps his trap shut, he's just not up to another verbal shoot-out with Dean right now. He'll never win anyhow. And right now, with the mood Dean's in, it's better to let him call all the shots.

Dean huffs theatrically when he helps Sam into the passenger's seat and Sam swats him again. He relaxes into the seat, stretching his legs out as far as they go and leans back. Dean pulls out, makes a sharp U-turn and guns it. Sam watches the streetlights go by until his head starts to pound even louder and he closes his eyes.

Then it hits him. “You got the Black Dog?” he inquires with a look at Dean.

Dean looks back at him and shakes his head. “Never even got there. I called Bobby's while on the way there and there was no answer. I tried calling at least three times, and nothing. I knew something was wrong, I just knew and I told Dad we needed to head back. Dad wouldn't listen so when he stopped to get gas, I hot-wired a car and drove back.”

“And you never went back?” Sam asks surprised. “It's still out there?”

“Dude, you ended up in hospital! All banged up. You really think I gave a fuck about the Black Dog? I think Bobby told somebody else about it, I don't care. I'm telling you; you pull a stunt like that again, I'll kill you! You don't go chasing SOBs on your own, you wait for me, you hear?”

Sam sighs. “Look, I wasn't exactly alone, Bobby was there.”

“Sam! You just don't do that again. Not without me or Dad being around. Period. You think I wanna see you like that again? With bones sticking out your chest? Out cold? Barely breathing? That thing could have killed you, Sammy. You knew it and still didn't back down. Bobby told me exactly what you did. You were barely seeing straight when we left and still you go after the freak, setting the whole shebang on fire? With gasoline? Which is rather explosive as you noticed. What's wrong with you?”

“Apparently everything,” Sam snaps and tries to find a more comfortable angle for his tired legs. The movement causes his ribs to send a jolt of pain through him and he has to suffocate a moan.

“Be at Bobby's soon,” Dean speaks softer, sounding more composed. “Just hang in there.”

Sam shoots a glare at Dean. “Geez, dude! I'm fine!”

“The hot chick tells me she offered and you declined? Yeah, Sammy, I believe you, you're fine.”

Sam rolls his eyes and rests his head against the side-window.

Sam sleeps till noon and Bobby has the prescriptions forged and the meds picked up long before he wakes. Sam just looks so worn out that he doesn't have the heart to wake him up. Not that he'll ever admit being so soft. Just like he'll never admit that he never went to sleep because he just had to keep an eye on the kid while he did his dirty deed and got what Sam needed for his pain and suffering.

Good thing kid read his own chart and remembered exactly what meds and dosages he was given. Bobby's gotta give the kid props for keeping his head squarely on his shoulders even when he's acting like an idjit. Sneaking out from the hospital was just plain stupid.

John had been furious, but he hadn't said a word to Sam about it. It was still clear that Sam read his father loud and clear. The kid had curled up on the couch as best he could, clearly signaling that he wanted to be left alone. Rumsfeld had crawled up to lie by his feet and Sam had seemed fine with that so Bobby had left them there after he had told the other two Winchesters to get back to bed.

That hadn't worked so well and Dean had ended up sleeping in Bobby's chair, right by the couch with his feet propped up on the coffee table.

John had stayed in the kitchen, nursing a beer.

Bobby had tried to talk some sense into the man. Pointing out that Sam was right. This was what they did, they made a run for it. Why was it bad when Sam made the exact same decision John would have made eventually? So the kid was still weak, but he had made it after all; no skin off anybody's hide but his own. What was the problem exactly?

John's answer that it was different with Sam still puzzled Bobby. But John had totally clammed up, not even dynamite would have made him open up and explain where the hell all that came from.

After finally getting Dean and John to go check the burial status of the freak that had shown up to put him and Sam permanently out of business, he has his chance to talk to Sam.

With the pills in one hand and a glass of orange juice in the other, he makes his way to the couch with the youngest Winchester still curled up under the cover.


The kid's eyes shoot open and he tries instinctively to crawl up into a sitting position while blinking against the sunshine seeping in through the curtains. John's training is imprinted in his core, that much is clear.

“Hold on, kiddo. You just need your meds, no need to go Superman on me.” Bobby gruffs at him because yes, he's not very good at this bedside manner thing.

“Where's Dean?” Sam wonders, still confused and voice raspy from sleep.

Bobby holds out the glass of juice and Sam straightens up enough to take it.

“I sent them checking if there's still bones to burn.” Bobby watches while Sam takes a sip before he hands over the pills.

“Thanks,” Sam says quietly, seeming very subdued and tired.

Bobby can't hold his tongue any longer. “Sam, what going on? What's eating you? I mean, other than -,” he makes a sign with his finger to Sam's chest. “I know that it's gotta hurt like the dickens but there's something more, and don't lie to me, kid. I know you. You barely look at your dad and John's about to implode. He has no idea how to handle you any longer. And Sam, he's afraid to lose you and I have this eerie feeling that he really is about to. So spill!”

Sam looks completely taken aback and Bobby leans in and just looks at him, long and hard, until Sam relents.

“It's just,” Sam pauses and looks into the half full glass of juice. “I'll never be as good a hunter as they are, Bobby. I'm holding them back. I'm just not what Dad wants me to be and I never will be. They'd be better off, freer, without me around. Dean thinks he has to baby me, Dad thinks I'm a moron and I'm so tired of it all. Never matching up, y'know. Never being enough.”

“Sam, no,” Bobby shakes his head in disbelief. “It's not babying, you were hurt bad. Dean doesn't mind, in fact, I think that's what makes him feel important. More than the hunting, it's being the big brother that keeps him happy. Showing you the ropes, nagging on you, keeping you safe. And John, he's proud but he's a stubborn-ass man, you know that. In fact, you two are rather alike in that department.”

“I'm driving both them and myself insane! I need to go, Bobby.” Sam's voice is low and full of conviction. “Don't tell them, I'll tell them later that I have a full ride to Stanford and I'm gonna take it. Maybe, just maybe, if they can see that I can take care of myself, they'll start treating me like I'm not some snotty nosed brat but actually grown up.”

“Full ride?” Bobby knows the kid is smart but this? Things start to make sense now. Sam is good at something that holds no value in the Winchester family. “Stanford?”
Sam shyly glances up at him and smiles. “Yeah.”

“Geez, Sam, you've impressed this old geezer speechless!”

This time Sam really looks at him and his broad grin is one of pride. “I worked hard,” he admits. “I've been thinking about it for a long time, finding my own way. Because maybe, if Dean doesn't have to watch my ass he can find his too? Y'know, if he isn't tied down by obligations. I don't want hunting to be all his life, it's too dangerous. And I don't know what else to do to set him free. I want Dean to have a life.”

Damned kid to almost make an old man cry with his words. Bobby meets with the sincere hazel and nods that he understands, because he does. He really does. There's a maturity in those words that he didn't expect. Yes, Dean is his father's little soldier but sooner or later that's going to end. Dean is going to grow up and start wanting things, or at least he should. And Sam is giving him the way out. The kid, no, young man, is impressive. Bobby has just never realized how smart he is and how he works in silence toward his goals, keeping the family dynamics intact, before now. How what is on the surface is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Sam Winchester. He is as proud as if he were his own son and he'll be damned if it isn't moist that he feels in the corner of his eyes. So he rises from the table and lays a hand on Sam's bony shoulder.

“You're a good kid, Sam, but you better work up an appetite because I'm serving scrambled eggs in ten.“

He gets out of the living room before he makes a fool of himself.

The rift is understandable now, and just maybe, if Sam is let go, he will return. If he's allowed to become a man on his own and not just John's son or Dean's little brother, he'll be able to return to the family on an equal status. And that is so clearly what Sam needs; to be seen as Sam, not just like a son or a brother. That he's figured that out still so young is a sign that the kid really is smart and Bobby will do anything he can for those kids. They're family and whatever he can do, he'll do it. Without questions. Just like Sam did for him. He owes the friggen Winchester idjits that much.

Oh crap, he's having a chick-flick moment!