Dean paced the waiting room he had been banned to while trying to decide if he should call Michelle and tell her what had happened or not. He didn't really think it was a good idea, though. But the need to involve her was strong. When he wasn't thinking about that, he was wondering if he should call Bobby and Grace and let them know, but Grace worried too much and they would probably be on the next plane out and Dean just didn't want that involvement right now. It wasn't like Sam was dying or anything.

"Mr. McGillicuddy?"

He stopped dead, his back to the door of the waiting room. He hadn't been consciously aware of which card he'd handed over and something struck him hard at that name. Swallowing the trepidation, he turned back to face the doctor. "How is Sam?"

"He'll be alright. In a few weeks," the doctor said. The man was burly, but Dean guessed that most of the girth was muscle. "Care to tell me what happened?"

Dean sighed lightly. "He gambles. He told me he'd gambled away a small fortune to this ... guy who threatened him. My guess is that's what happened here."

The doctor pursed his lips and briefly glanced down at the clipboard he was carrying. "You might want to involve the police," he suggested.

"I'll handle it. No need to involve the cops," Dean said tightly. "How long are you keeping him here?"

Now it was the doctor's turn to sigh. "Well, he has broken ribs and a badly sprained wrist. The ... wound on his shoulder ... he tore the stitches and it's infected. He needs antibiotics and bed rest. I sincerely hope you're not planning on taking him back to that apartment, are you?"

The idea that the apartment wasn't conductive to healing – Sam's words, not his – had struck him several times. But what the hell were they supposed to do? Sam didn't want to stay at Michelle's because he didn't like the windowless guestroom. In part, Dean could relate to that. And with the way their apartment looked ... well, there really was no way they could stay there. "No, not really. We'll have to find somewhere else to stay," he said.

The doctor nodded. "Good," he muttered and ticked something off on his clipboard. "He has a severe bruise on his back and a concussion to boot, so for now ... I think he should stay here at least for two days."

Dean nodded. "Good. That gives me time to find a new place. Can I see him?"

"Yes, he's being moved to a room. Just ask the nurse at the desk which one," the doctor said, nodded once and left the waiting room again.

***

Sam had the distinct impression that he now knew how road kill felt. Squashed, pulled and quartered. The drugs now cruising through his veins made life tolerable, but it didn't obliterate the pain and he was constantly aware of the two cracked ribs. They hadn't closed the wound on his shoulder again, but instead put in a drain that would let the infection seep out – a fact that made him grimace with discomfort. His right wrist was bandaged, the wrapping around his chest was chafing and he just generally wanted it all to go away. It reminded him too much of his brush with life-long disability and how frustrating it would be to never be able to use his hands again. Of course, his shoulder would heal and so would the rest, but it didn't put a damper on how he felt.

"Hey, slugger."

Slightly disoriented by both the drugs and the concussion, he turned his head and blinked a little sluggishly at Dean, who gave him the once over and shook his head almost sadly.

"Holy crap, Sam," he muttered, pulled up a chair and sat down on it. "They're going to keep you for a few days. I think that might be a good thing ... if the card holds out."

Sam really didn't care about that right now. It was hard for him to muster anything other than frustration at not being able to fend for himself and bone-crushing indifference to everything else. "Right," he muttered.

"I'm gonna head back to the apartment and see what I can salvage from the remains. Where we're gonna stay ... well, we'll have to figure something out. I'm going to find a motel room until I work it out."

"Fine." Most of all Sam wanted to be alone, to sleep until this crap was over and done with.

Dean just sat there for a moment, then slowly rose. "Well ... I'll ... leave you to it then. I'll bring you a new phone tomorrow. Noticed the remains of it on the floor up there," he said.

"'kay." There was that part of him that was sorry for making Dean feel bad about this, but then there was the little kid part that blamed Dean for leaving him alone in the first place. And for not making sure the spook was gone. He knew it wasn't fair, knew that Dean couldn't have known there was a poltergeist too, but the selfish part of him sneered at that knowledge and blamed him anyway.

"I'll ... be back tomorrow morning," Dean promised and stepped out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Sam just lay there for a while and stared up at the ceiling without seeing it. Then he glanced at the door again and felt miserable for more reasons than one.

***

The following morning

Sam's mood from the night before had Dean worried. Big time. In part, he could understand it, of course. In part, he figured Sam was still reeling from his temporary disability and this situation probably brought all that to the forefront again. But it still worried him. "Shit," he muttered. He had arrived at the hospital early, but had yet to go in to see Sam. He had salvaged what he could from the apartment and had found a motel room close by. Sure, they'd spent the majority of their lives in motel rooms, but they had never stayed in one place long enough to raise suspicion. This troll-business was dragging out and it was starting to bother him. At the same time he didn't really want to leave. Michelle was getting to be more than just an attraction and he had to consciously squash those rebellious thoughts he'd only ever had once before.

He stopped pacing and stared at the door to 206 for a moment, then grimaced and dug out his cellphone. What he hell was he supposed to do? Things were beginning to cave and they needed a place to stay. He really had no other option at this point, so he dialed her number.

"Good morning."

He briefly closed his eyes, tried to decide if he was putting too much pressure on this relationship by constantly asking her for favors. "Morning," he countered a little shortly. "Where are you?"

"I just got into work. Why?"

He glanced at the door, steeling his determination. "Could you come up to the second floor? 206 more specifically. I need your help."

This was answered by a brief pause. "Are you hurt?" Instant worry.

"No, not me," he said and wondered how she would take the news. "Sam is. Things are a bit dicey right now. Do you have time?"

"Of course. I'll be up in a minute."

She hung up before he could say anything else and he couldn't stop wondering if he was doing the wrong thing here.

A moment later, she got off the elevator and walked over to him, her expression clearly worried. "What's going on?"

Dean contemplated all the lies he could tell her and didn't know which one to go with. The one he'd given the doctor and the paramedics sounded so lame all of a sudden. "To be honest, I don't know," he said instead. "I came back last night and the whole place was trashed and Sam had been beaten into a pulp. He has broken ribs, ripped the stitches, a concussion. And ... well ... the apartment is a mess. We can't stay there."

Michelle blinked, obviously surprised. "Did he say what happened?"

How far should he go? Should he tell her the truth now? That would probably be a bad idea. She would hightail it out of here and he would lose the only real chance at a relationship. That idea made him frown and he glanced down at his boots, noting almost absentmindedly that the linoleum on the floor was worn. "Not really. He's grumpy and I don't blame him. But ... I was just wondering if you know of a place where we can stay. Something that's not too expensive. I had to check into a motel last night. And the guy who owns the apartment ... not happy about the destruction."

"Needless to say," she agreed while eying him closely. Was it his hesitation she was responding to? Or was she catching on that not everything was as kosher as it seemed? "Why don't we move him back to my place once they release him from here?"

The whole thing was so twisted right now, he had no idea which way was up any more. But he did know one thing. Sam was not going to be happy about that guestroom of hers and he couldn't very well ask her to move out of her own bedroom. Maybe they should just stay at the motel? "He's not happy about your guestroom. He doesn't do too well with no windows," he said and wished he could shut his subconscious mind up.

For a moment Michelle just stood there and stared ahead of herself, obviously lost in thought. Then she dug out her cellphone and dialed a number. "Yeah, hi, it's me. Listen, the guys have a bit of a problem," she started and held up a hand when Dean tried to ask her who she was calling. Judging by what she had said so far, though, he assumed she had called Isabel. "Sam's in the hospital," Michelle said and instantly pulled the phone away from her ear with a grimace. "Calm down," she tried. "It's not life-threatening. But ..." She briefly closed her eyes and sighed. "Izzie, calm down!" This seemed to do the trick. "Something happened and he needs a place to stay that has windows." She glanced at Dean and gave him a lopsided smile. "Exactly, Izzie. He needs your guestroom because he wants the windows." Michelle arched an eyebrow. "Don't get ahead of yourself. But yes ... he's gonna need some help." Whatever Izzie had to say to that made Michelle roll her eyes. "I think you'll have to talk that over with him, not me." She glanced at Dean and briefly cupped a hand over the microphone. "How long will he have to stay here?"

"Two days tops," Dean said.

Michelle removed her hand again. "Two days. By tomorrow evening, maybe the morning after. Which is Saturday. Which means you're off work and you can pamper him all day long." Michelle nodded. "Exactly. Talk to you later." With that, she cut the connection, drew in a deep breath and sighed. "I hope Sam has the stamina to resist her. She's like a damned steam roller when she gets something into her head."

Without too much lying, the situation had seemingly resolved itself and it took him a little by surprise. "Thanks," he finally managed. "It's good to know Sam has a more permanent place to stay." He was hoping, but he wasn't going to ask.

Michelle gave him a slightly bewildered look. "Well, I'm fully expecting you to stay with me," she said. "Unless you want to stay at Izzie's too."

He eyed her and realized what this was right there and then. She was, quite obviously, asking him to move in with her. Seeing as he didn't really have anything other than a shabby motel room to say goodbye to, the choice wasn't a hard one. But what happened when the trolls were gone? What then? Would they stay? Leaving would be tough if this lasted a while. "Uhm ... if you're sure," he said, trying for hesitant, barely able to retain the growing eagerness at the mere prospect.

"I'm sure," she confirmed with a smile.

"Okay. Sounds good," he agreed. "I'd better go tell Sam the good news."

She glanced at her watch. "And I'd better get to work," she said. "Before you leave, just drop by the ER. I'll give you the spare key."

***

A night of relative rest, floating on the waves of painkillers, had done him good and he didn't feel as bad the following morning. When Dean finally turned up, he actually managed a smile too.

Dean eyed him for a second, then closed the door behind him. "Morning, sunshine," he greeted and smirked.

Sam wanted to roll his eyes, but the concussion might make that painful, so he didn't. "Hi," he countered.

"We're officially homeless again," Dean said, pulled over a chair and dropped down on it. "Or rather we were. Not so much any more."

"Okay. What does that mean, exactly? We're back in a motel?" Sam watched him, not sure he read him right. There was something under the surface, something bubbling, and he couldn't yet tell if it was good or bad.

"Nope. I did get a motel room last night, but we're running out of credibility here. I've only got one card left and getting a new credit card ... well, it's not as easy as it used to be."

Big brother being vague and dodgy? Sam could only assume that Dean had done something he wouldn't be happy about. "Half the human population of Earth is gone. There are likely going to be some changes," he agreed. "So, you found another haunted apartment building?"

Dean snorted, put one foot up on the edge of the bed and started picked at a tear in his jeans. "No, nothing like that," he said and pursed his lips, then glanced at Sam. "You're gonna be staying with Isabel until you're up and about again."

For a moment, all he could think of doing was stare. "What?" He had probably misunderstood, but knowing Dean the way he did, it was more likely that he hadn't. "No, Dean, I can't ..."

"Would you stop?" Dean cut him off. "The girl's practically giddy about having you all to herself. And I know you like her too."

Sam stared at him some more. "That's not the point, Dean," he tried, not sure what the point really was. "It's ... I ..." He sighed lightly, keeping in mind his broken ribs, then shook his head and instantly regretted doing that. The headache from the night before bloomed to life instantly. "Yes, I like her," he agreed, now decidedly grumpy, "but what's the point? I mean ... are you gonna shack up with Michelle and live the normal, picket-fence life? Sorry, man, but I just can't see you at the breakfast table with the newspaper and a bunch of little rug-rats running around."

"Aren't you getting a little ahead of yourself here? Who said anything about living normal? It's not like we could ever give up hunting. And there's that prophecy crap hanging over our heads too," Dean countered a little testily.

"Exactly," Sam agreed heatedly. "You really want a kid of yours having to live through all of this bullshit?"

"No, I don't. But if it should happen – and let's face it, bro, it is bound to happen at some point unless I start believing in celibacy – I wanna be around to help the kid. You know?" He snorted. "Dude, this isn't forever. We need a place to stay that's low key and how much more low key can it get than this?" He spread his arms. "Besides, you're the lucky one. Izzie knows what you do for a living and she's okay with it. Not so sure Michelle will see it that way. If I decide to tell her, you'd better be ready to leave at a moment's notice."

That was so typical Dean, that. "So, you want me to get involved, pretend like this is gonna last, but be ready to ditch her at a moment's notice?"

Apparently, this was something Dean hadn't really considered if his frown was anything to go by. But then he shrugged. "Basically, yeah."

"Screw you, Dean. There's no way I'm getting involved with Isabel that way. Besides, look at my track record," Sam growled.

"Oh, cry me river. I'm getting tired of hearing about your less than stellar track record, Sam. It's not like any of that was your fault," Dean tried, annoyed now.

"Doesn't matter who's fault it is, Dean. What matters is that I got Jess killed. And I am not going to let the same thing happen with Isabel. And that's final." The agitation that followed in the footsteps of this discussion made his chest constrict. He felt bad already and getting worked up about this didn't help. The trauma of last night's attack was still at the forefront and he suddenly couldn't breathe. There was this intensely stabbing pain that started out in his left shoulder and then built up until both arms tingled. Despite the pain from now both shoulder and wrist, he grabbed his chest while gasping like a fish out of water.

"Sam?" Dean's voice came from far away, but he could still hear the concern. "Sam, what the hell ..."

Something started beeping wildly and within seconds it seemed, the room was swarming with nurses and Dean was being ushered out of the room to give them space to work.

***

There was, in Dean's humble opinion, nothing more frightening than watching family in pain. Well, maybe with the exception of watching family die, of course. But the way Sam had clutched his chest and had seemed unable to draw a decent breath ... that one would stay with him for a while.

Rattled and more than a little upset, he stood opposite the door, his back against the wall, and stared at the plain white surface while his heart seemed intent on hammering its way through his ribcage. It was like total recall focused on that bizarre alternate reality deal the Djinn had pulled him through where dad had been dead of a heart attack. And the fear that something was wrong with Sam's heart made rational thought impossible right now.

He didn't move a muscle until the alarm light was switched off and people started filing out of Sam's room again. The head nurse of this ward stopped in front of him, the only one of the about ten people who seemed to notice him. "He's okay for now," she said with what was obviously supposed to be a comforting smile.

He stared at her for a moment, then shifted his attention to the open door and what he could see of the bed beyond. "What the hell was that? A heart attack?"

"No, the pain was localized to his upper left shoulder and the agitation seems to have caused a seizure in the muscles around his left clavicle. The doctor assumes there might be a missed fracture there that made itself known. It can be very painful," she said. "I would suggest that you leave him alone for the rest of the morning. He's pretty exhausted right now and we're going to take him down to x-ray in half an hour to make sure we didn't miss anything."

He wanted to argue, wanted to say no way, the hell I'm gonna leave him all alone, but at the same time he realized that he had, in part, been responsible for the agitation and therefore this frightening seizure that seemed so much like his worst and darkest fears come to life. So rather than argue the point, he nodded instead. "You got my cell phone number?" he asked, to which the nurse nodded. "Just ... call me if anything happens. I'll ... uhm ... be back later."

"He probably won't be back from x-ray until after noon. You can come back after one," she said and walked away without waiting for an answer.

For a moment, he remained where he was. Then he glanced after her, noted that she had disappeared from sight, and pushed away from the wall and walked straight over to the open door. Sam looked like death incarnate, pale, sweaty and half asleep. But he did notice Dean.

"You gonna be okay?" he asked and stepped inside.

For a moment it seemed like Sam wasn't going to answer. Then he managed a halfhearted smile. "Don't know. I feel squashed," he muttered.

"Yeah, I can imagine." Dean stepped up beside the bed. "Looks like you're gonna have to take it slow for a few days there, huh?"

That drew a slightly pained chuckle from Sam. "Yeah, looks like," he agreed.

"Listen, Sam, I'm gonna take off. I've got a few things to clear with Michelle. And ... if you'd rather stay somewhere else, we'll figure something out," he said.

Sam considered it for a moment, then finally met Dean's gaze dead on. "Nah, it's okay. If it saves the credit card, we can stay with the girls. It'll be more comfortable than a motel room anyway."

Dean couldn't help a smirk. "In oh so many ways," he agreed. "I need to pick up a new phone for you anyway. I'll be back later, okay?"

A quiet nod from Sam was all the answer he needed, so he left the room again, closing the door behind him. He paused briefly, one hand on the doorknob, then glanced back at the door. "You better be okay, dude," he muttered, then strode briskly over to the elevators.

***

Two days later
Isabel's apartment

Sam's decision to give in to Dean's unspoken plea to agree to their new accommodations turned out to be a much better deal than Sam had imagined. His initial opinion of Isabel was that she was pushy, that nothing scared her and that if there was something she wanted, she went for it. Once he was settled in her guestroom, though, she seemed almost timid, behaved a bit like a schoolgirl with a big crush and gave him the space he needed to settle in. That didn't mean she was absent. She seemed to be able to home in on his every need, which was both a bit disconcerting and a relief. And she didn't make stupid jokes about it either, something he sometimes resented his brother for.

Dean was absent. Michelle had the weekend off, which probably meant that Sam wasn't going to see him at all. But if Isabel continued down this road, he wouldn't really mind. The x-ray had revealed a spiderweb fracture of his left clavicle and the doctor had assumed that a combination of agitation along with that fracture had caused the near anxiety attack, which had constricted his airways and initiated a full-blown cramp in the muscles surrounding the break, hence the intense pain and the shortness of breath. Bed rest was all he needed and, from the looks of it, that was what he would get.

Even though he felt like the biggest damned burden this side of Hades right now, he still couldn't help enjoying the attention Isabel lavished on him. What rattled him a little was the unequal distribution of force versus mass when it came to her. She was tiny. She looked like she might break if he touched her. But she had a will to match any god he'd ever heard of. Hell, even Gaia was no match for this one.

"Can I get you anything?" She smiled and she looked so damned open and honest.

"No, I'm good," he assured her.

"Okay, great. Just ... holler if you need anything, okay?" She lingered for a second, gave him what he considered a slightly uncertain smile, then left him alone again by closing the door behind her.

For a while he just lay there. This room was loads better than Michelle's guestroom. Isabel's apartment was different in layout. The living room and two bedrooms faced the front and from where he was lying, he had a nice view of the river front. She knew how to make a place appealing and in that sense she reminded him of Jess. He shifted a little and considered the drive from the hospital to this place. Dean had been uncommonly preoccupied and had almost failed to make any wisecracks, which made Sam wonder if something was up with him or if this was Dean when he was in love.

The idea made Sam snort. At any other point in his life, Sam would have considered his brother incapable of committing to anyone or anything that wasn't related to him by blood, with Bobby being the obvious exception. But then, the older hunter had been in their lives for a s long as Sam could remember, and he could remember more than one incident where Bobby had told dad off for being a dick when it came to the two of them. If for nothing else, this made him a legit family member.

He flexed his right wrist a little and grimaced at the tight feeling in it. It was still a bit swollen and the doctor had been adamant about him not moving it at all for at least a week. But Sam had had his share of sprains and knew that this one would only get better if he worked out the kinks. Otherwise he'd be forced to use his left hand to do everything for a while. Nothing worse than muscular atrophy and he had a tendency to get that if he went by doctors orders and didn't move at all.

His mind drifted for a moment and then snapped back to the very real possibility that his brother was smitten beyond the norm when it came to Michelle, and Sam couldn't help wondering if Dean was even aware of how deep he had already sunk in this morass. He didn't think so, but that was really beyond the point anyway, wasn't it? According to Dean, the moment they ran out of trolls to hunt, they would move on. He was pretty sure that Dean would pull it off too, no matter how smitten he was. The guy was so pigheaded when it came to being right that it was a real pain in the butt at times.

Already fed up with being bedridden, cracked ribs and all, Sam decided to throw caution to the wind and get up. He would sleep better if he hadn't been on his back all day and he would definitely enjoy lying down a whole lot more if he hadn't done that all day too. He moved slowly, took care to listen to the signs his body gave him, and eventually was on his feet. And even though he was as sore as could be, it still felt good to be up and about.

He shifted his right arm into the sling and carefully straightened his back until his broken ribs complained. He wasn't exactly used to being this feeble and under normal circumstances it was dangerous for him to be this out of it.

"You're up."

He jerked, almost lost his balance, and made a face at the stab of pain his ribs repaid him with. Then he turned around slowly to face Isabel. "Yeah, I'm not good with being bedridden for too long."

She eyed him, obviously a tad uncertain about this, but then shrugged. "Well, if you think you're up to it. The living room might be more comfortable. I have this super-comfy chair."

Obviously she was not going to hound him to do what the doctor had said he should and that made this day better already. He doubted she would be the kind to tell him to walk it off, either, which made this whole situation that comfortable happy medium that was so hard to find.

***