Sam tried to grab out for Dean when he keeled over, but his own injuries made it almost impossible for him to move. "Dean," he rasped, and then, clenching his teeth against the debilitating pain from his shoulder, he pushed himself toward the edge of the bed to assess the situation. His brother was on the floor, out cold and bleeding all over the place.

"Shit," Sam whispered. Dean's phone was on the night stand, where Sam had left it after talking to Jodie it seemed a million years ago. "Jodie," he whispered, then focused on the ghost of Kate pacing along the salt line. She looked pissed off about the fact that she couldn't get to them. He grimaced, sucked in a deep breath and managed to shift himself enough to grab the phone.

With one hand, he flicked it open and managed to stab the redial, which dialed Jodie's number.

"Talk to me. If you're selling something, scoot," Jodie replied.

"Jodie," Sam rasped, barely able to speak right now. "I need help."

For a moment, there was nothing and he feared that the connection had broken. "Sammy? Is that you?"

"Yeah," he pressed out. "We need help. Fast."

"Jesus, man, you sound awful. What's wrong? What happened?" Jodie countered, sounding deeply concerned already.

"No time. We need medical help. We're at the Western Motel in ..." He breathed hard for a moment, trying to maintain enough strength to let Jodie know what needed to be done. "... in ... Grand View ... Idaho."

"Okay. I'll call 911 right away," Jodie said. "Sam, what the hell is going on?"

"You gotta ... do something for me, Jodie. It's ... a big favor," he pressed out.

"Anything," she promised right away and he knew she would do it.

"I need ... you to salt and burn Kate's remains. Her spirit ... came after us. She's still here," he managed. "You gotta do it fast."

"Holy crap, Sam. You're kidding, right?" Jodie countered, then snorted. "Yeah, like you'd be kidding when you sound that bad. Consider it done. I'm gonna grab my bros and do it right now. What about 911? You want it now or should I wait?"

"Now," Sam insisted weakly. "Dean's hurt badly. Tell them to hurry."

"You got it. You just hang in there, Sam. I'll get you the help you need," she countered and hung up.

Sam let his arm drop and stared up at the ceiling, trying desperately to convince himself to move. Dean was bleeding badly. He needed to get up, needed to stop the bleeding somehow. That even the idea of moving made him nauseous couldn't be helped right now.

It took ages to get a move on, but eventually he managed. Somehow, he got off the bed, jarring his leg badly which in turn nearly knocked him out, but he managed to hold on. He could only use his right hand, but he did manage to pad Dean's wound on both sides to at least slow down the bleeding. Then he leaned back against the other bed, pale and sweating, and watched Kate Mayor's ghost. She had stopped and was watching him intently.

Sam stared back at her for a moment, then glanced down himself. She had shredded his t-shirt and his jeans and he had deep gashes just about everywhere and for some reason it made him chuckle. "Oh man," he rasped and rested his right hand on the back of Dean's head. "I'm so through being scared of you, you bitch," he nearly whispered and gave her a vague grin.

She sneered and her lips moved, but no sound came out.

Sam let his head drop back against the bed and kept watching her until she suddenly went up in flames and disappeared in a shower of sparks. Almost instantly, the temperatures began to rise again and Sam closed his eyes while the distant sound of sirens came closer.

***

Mountain Home Medical Center
Two days later

"You boys are going to be the death of me," Bobby said and sighed deeply while he eyed Sam closely.

Sam grimaced and shifted a little. "Yeah, well, what's got me worried is how long it's going to take before they realize the health insurance card is bogus," he countered.

"It's not," Bobby said. "I gave them mine, told them you two were my nephews."

Sam felt bad about putting a strain on Bobby's budget that way, but he figured Bobby wouldn't have done it if he hadn't been able to afford it. "Thanks," he said quietly. "How's Dean?"

"Still out cold. The doc said it's a bloody miracle he's even still alive, he lost that much blood," Bobby said. "Care to tell me what the hell happened?"

Sam chewed on his lower lip for a moment. "It's a long story," he muttered and looked away. "Let's just say that this ... ghost ... well, in life she was a bitch and I guess she took it with her when she died," he said. "I had a run-in with her five years ago and ... well ... she had a haunting that she needed us to deal with. It kinda went south and the poltergeist ended up killing her. Her spirit took it out on us." He focused on Bobby again. "What's the official verdict?"

Bobby sighed. "From what I've heard, it spans from an escaped lunatic to a cougar attack to subterranean magnetic pulses. These guys have no frigging clue how to explain what happened to you two and I don't really think telling them the truth will help any," he said.

Sam grimaced. "Probably not," he agreed and glanced up at the IV-bag dangling above his bed. He was on antibiotics, painkillers and saline to keep any infection at bay, his pain at a minimum and his stamina up. "I pretty much thought I was toast," he added.

"I don't blame you," Bobby said. "I took a look around the place. Just to make sure that bitch was gone," he added and eyed Sam darkly. "To me it looked like that spook nailed you two to the wall."

Sam nodded. "That's pretty much what she did," he agreed.

Before he could say anything else, the head nurse of the ward stuck her head in the door. "Hey, your brother's awake," she said and gave Sam a bright smile.

"I'll go check on him," Bobby said. "Be back in a bit."

"Thanks, Bobby," Sam said.

***

Dean just lay there and stared up at the ceiling for a good long moment. It generally felt like his head was stuffed with cotton and concentrating on anything beyond the fact that he was actually still breathing was downright impossible.

"Dean?"

He turned his head a little at the familiar voice and managed a halfhearted smile. "Bobby," he countered.

"How're you feeling?" Bobby asked and stepped up beside the bed.

"Don't know yet," he muttered and returned his attention to the ceiling. "Where's Sam?"

"Next room," Bobby countered, "and I must say I'm a bit surprised that he's doing better than you are. Of course, he didn't lose that much blood. You damned near bled to death, Dean."

"Is he gonna be alright?" Dean asked.

"Yeah, he'll heal. Nothing damaged beyond repair. He might be limping a bit for a while and he's lost a chunk of his left shoulder blade, but he's getting there."

Dean sighed. "What about the ghost?"

"Your little friend from Palo Alto took care of that. She's on her way here, said she wanted to make sure you two made it through in one piece," Bobby countered.

"Yeah, she's spunky," Dean agreed and let his eyelids slide shut again.

***

The next time Dean woke up, he wasn't alone in the room. He blinked heavily a few times, then focused on a face that looked familiar. He just couldn't quite place her at first. Then he frowned. "Jodie?" he asked.

Without all the makeup on she was just another pretty girl, pretty being the keyword. She smirked lightly. "Yeah. I generally don't enter a hospital in full Goth-outfit. It spooks the spinsters," she said.

"Where'd you come from?" he asked, fully aware of the fact that he sounded drunk.

"You actually thought I'd let you boys deal with this crap on your own?" she asked. "Not a chance."

 

"Where's Sam?" he muttered, barely able to stay awake.

"Right here," came the reply from the left.

Dean rolled his head to the left and blinked a few times. "Hey, Sammy," he muttered and managed a faint smile. "Man, I feel like I'm drugged out of my head here."

"You are," Sam agreed with a smirk.

Dean eyed him for a moment. He looked pale, tired, worn, but he was alive and he was able to smile again, which made a difference. "Cool," he managed before sleep dragged him under again.

He heard them talking although he couldn't make out about what, not that it mattered. The fact that he wasn't alone, that Sam was nearby, gave him all the peace he needed to catch up on his rest, although he honestly could admit that this hadn't been the kind of break he'd had in mind.

His mind drifted and mentally he returned to that Easter five years ago, when Sam had been at college and he silently berated himself for not having called him back then...

... he stared at his phone for a moment and sighed. Damn, but wasn't life a bitch sometimes?

"Dean?"

He closed his eyes briefly, then rose from the worn couch in the living room of the smallish apartment they were renting right now and walked down to the open door to the first bedroom. "Yeah, dad?" He came to a stop and eyed his father for a moment. He still hadn't entirely forgiven the old man for what he had said to Sam the night the kid had taken off, nor had he forgiven Sam for taking off either.

"What are you doing? Are you getting ready?" John asked and gave him one of his trademark stares.

Dean nodded. "Yeah, dad. The guns are all ready, I've got the map, the phone, the whole shebang. I'm just waiting for it to get dark."

John nodded and made a face when he shifted his right leg. It had been torn open from hip to knee by a damned cougar of all things. They hunted critters that would scare most people to death in a heartbeat and hardly ever got hurt and then his dad had to get in a fight with a damned cat.

"You okay?" Dean asked. "Can I get you anything before I go?"

"No, I'm fine," John countered. "You just make damned sure you're safe out there, you hear? I still think you should call Caleb or Bobby."

"Yeah, like Bobby's gonna help us out after that stupid fight you guys had," Dean countered somewhat grumpily.

"Excuse me?" John growled. "Don't you start telling me what to do, son," he warned.

"I'm not," Dean countered and made a face. "Sir," he added.

"I know how reckless you get sometimes, Dean. Don't you dare step even one toe out of line on this one. No heroics, no brashness. Don't ever think the prey is dumber than you. You got that?"

"Yes sir," Dean countered. He was actually looking forward to hunting this critter down and putting a few bullets in it for good measure. It would release some of the tension he felt at the moment. He started to turn, then stopped. "Dad?"

John sighed. He knew what came next. "Yeah?"

"When this job's done ..." Dean started, stalled for a second, then sighed too. "You think we could swing by Cali? I mean ... it's Easter, for pity's sake."

John snorted lightly. "We don't celebrate Easter, Dean. For obvious reasons," he said.

"Yeah, but ... it's the first time without Sammy and ..." He reconsidered the request, knowing what the outcome would be, and shrugged. "Whatever," he added, turned and walked back into the living room.

***

The hunt went well. Everything went according to plan even though Dean did have to climb a frigging gazebo to actually put the creature out of its misery. And a misery it was the second it realized it had nowhere to go but straight back to Hell where it came from.

In part it worried him how little he felt at killing the critter. It went from frothing at the mouth with rage to whimpering in a corner when he aimed the shotgun at it, but he didn't even hesitate.

He returned to the apartment ahead of schedule even though he had considered going out for a beer, but since his father was injured and probably needed help in some manner or fashion, he had decided to go straight back.

John was in the living room at that point, his leg propped up on the coffee table, while he was flipping through a magazine. He looked up when Dean stepped in, glanced at his watch and frowned. "How'd it go?" he asked.

"Fine. No problem at all," Dean countered, dropped the duffle inside the door and pushed it closed. "Everything okay here?"

"Yeah," John said. "I spoke to Caleb. He's got something for us. Not a big job. Should be over fairly quickly."

"You don't have to go for the easy jobs just because it's just me right now," Dean countered, well aware that this was why the last two jobs had been easy.

"You think I'm gonna send you up against a hellhound alone?" John countered evenly. "Fat chance. You're a great hunter, Dean, but even a great hunter needs backup." He made a face. "It's in Maine," he added and gave Dean a quick glance.

Dean kept his expression carefully bland and nodded. "Fine. I'll just hit the shower and then I'm going to bed. I'm wasted," he said and left the living room to do what he had said. It smarted like hell that his father had taken a job in the opposite direction of where Dean wanted to go. But a job was a job and they really had no other options than to go where the work was.

***

Two days later, Dean was up and moving. He was hurting, but he could not stand being in bed a minute longer. Sam had a little more trouble. His leg was bandaged from knee to foot and in a brace as well, his shoulder was bandaged and his left arm in a sling, which pretty much negated any chance of him moving much on his own. His legs and his chest were striped with gashes and his stomach peppered with puncture wounds from the salt round.

When one of the nurses changed the bandages, Dean stuck around. Mainly because he felt too wasted to move much right then, but also because Sam wouldn't let go of his hand once he'd briefly grabbed it to let him know he was leaving. Sam gave him an almost apologetic smile that bordered on the nervous and at first Dean thought it was because of the impending unveiling of his wounds. But then he focused on the nurse and realized why Sam didn't want him to leave. The woman, although older, bore a striking resemblance to the late Kate Mayor.

Once she was done changing the bandages and had left again, Sam slowly released his hold on Dean and grimaced. "I thought I was over that," he muttered a little self-consciously.

"You don't get over something like that in a few days, Sam. Give it time," Dean countered and carefully eased himself back into the chair next to Sam's bed. "I think we'll both be out of commission for a bit here. Bobby suggested we stay with him until we're able to fend for ourselves again."

Sam gave him a look he could only identify as pleading. "I sure as hell hope you took him up on it," he said.

"Don't worry. I did," Dean countered with a vague smile. "Jodie's dropping by before she goes back home. I think she's another hunter in the making, that one."

Sam smirked vaguely. "The world could do worse where hunters are concerned," he said.

"That's a given," Dean agreed. "I would not want to get on her bad side. Especially not with Todd and Terry around."

"Yeah, they're something else, those two," Sam said, shifted a little and made a face.

For a moment, they were both silent. Dean shifted into idle, thinking about nothing, while Sam sat there and picked at the bed sheets for a moment.

"What did you tell Bobby?" Sam suddenly asked without looking up.

"About what?" Dean knew what he meant, but felt the need to drag it out of him right now.

"About ... why we went to Palo Alto," Sam clarified.

"We had a haunting to deal with," Dean countered.

"You didn't tell him about ..." Sam pursed his lips in that prim way he had and Dean rolled his eyes.

"Look, dude, I promised you I would never mention it again and I generally keep my promises, okay? What you told me stays between us. End of story," Dean said.

Sam glanced at him and Dean swore he was going to smack him if he started the avoidance-deal up again. "Thanks," he muttered.

"It won't go away if you ignore it, Sammy. So ... whenever you need to talk about it ... you just let me know," Dean said.

"I'll keep that in mind," Sam agreed and sighed lightly. "So, this'll be like a vacation, huh?"

Dean eyed him. "On a vacation, Sam, you get to relax, kick back and have fun. I don't really see us having any fun in the foreseeable future here. Not with your physical rehabilitation and me feeling like I've got the side stitch from Hell here." He paused and drew in a deep breath. "But it will be nice to just ... relax for a bit," he added.

Sam gave him a sideways glance. "Yeah," he agreed.

"Relax? Who said anything about relaxing?" Bobby stepped into the room. "You think you two are gonna sit on your butts and do nothing? Keep dreaming," he added.

Dean glanced up at him. "But ..."

"No buts. Your injuries are not life threatening any more. You can both help me with the research until you're able to go back out there," Bobby cut him off and stepped aside to let Jodie in.

"Ooh, sounds like you guys have your work cut out for you," she teased with a grin. "I just wanted to say bye. I'm heading back to Palo Alto now," she added and stepped up to the bed. "You be good, Sam, you hear me?"

"You know I will," he countered.

"Yeah, you prude. Lighten up a little, huh? Life's not that depressing," she said, leaned in and pecked him on the cheek.

Dean struggled to get up, grunting with the effort and the pain. Bobby grabbed his arm and helped him, which made him feel even more decrepit, but he was not going to get into an argument with the guy right now, so he smirked and nodded his thanks.

"And you," Jodie said, stepped around the bed and eyed him for a moment. "You two are disaster prone. Take care of yourself, okay?" she said and hugged him lightly, then planted a kiss on his cheek too. She glanced at Sam, then looked back at Dean and smirked. "You two are making me question my sexuality," she added and chuckled.

"Yeah, right," Sam said with a grin.

"Whatever works for you, babe," Dean said with a grin of his own. "Thanks, Jodie. We owe you. Big time."

"Buy me a beer the next time you're in town and we'll call it even," she countered, patted his cheek affectionately and left.

"We gotta stay in touch with her, Sam," Dean said and eased himself back into the chair.

"Yeah, we should," Sam agreed. "And I do think you're right about her. She is a hunter in the making."

"In the making?" Bobby asked with slight surprise. "She asked if she could call me for advice when she needs it. She's already knee-deep in this."

Dean met Sam's eyes and grinned. The world could always use another hunter and Jodie most certainly would be a welcome addition.

The End