"I worry about you."

Sam glanced at his brother but didn't turn his head. Moving anything in connection with his shoulder hurt too damned much. And he was beginning to regret agreeing with Dean on leaving Michelle's place. She was a competent nurse, after all, and having a knife plunged through his shoulder like that was pretty traumatic. "Why?" It was probably a stupid question, but he asked anyway.

"Why?" Dean echoed the question with an arched eyebrow. "Why do you think?"

Grumpy because of the pain, tired and annoyed, Sam shifted into the corner between seat and door and leaned his head back, eyes closed. "You're the one who decided we didn't need to stay there anymore. And now you worry about me?" He shifted a little more, then squinted at Dean. "If you're so worried, why are we heading away from help?"

The silence this caused told Sam more than words could, but he still waited for the reply and knew Dean could feel his impatience. "Because ..."

"You don't want your girlfriend to know what you do for a living?" Sam queried, cutting him off. "You know, I took a chance on Isabel and it panned out okay. Are you telling me you're too much of a chicken to tell Michelle?" Calling his brother chicken was the equivalent of poking a sleeping and wounded tiger with a stick. But he couldn't help himself. Whether it were the pain meds or the pain itself or some kind of suicidal streak he'd picked up somewhere was beyond him. He just couldn't make himself shut up right now.

"First off, she's not my girlfriend, okay? And what's the point of telling her? It's not like we'll stick around here for any longer than it takes to get rid of this troll infestation," Dean countered evenly, which made Sam wonder if he'd heard the chicken-part.

"And how long will that take?" Sam asked and gingerly rubbed his right arm. "Watch the potholes. I can feel every damned bump."

"You wanna drive?" Dean snapped and gave him a warning glare. "I think you need another shot for the pain and an early night."

"It's morning," Sam claimed without really knowing if it was. He'd lost all sense of time in that closet-turned-room.

"Yeah, in Never-Never-Land maybe," Dean growled under his breath. "Michelle got back from work, dude. It's getting dark."

Sam squinted through the windshield and had to admit defeat. It just went to show how poorly he felt when he couldn't even tell the difference between dawn and dusk. "Right," he muttered, leaned his head back again and closed his eyes.

"And I still worry about you," Dean muttered, but loud enough for him to hear it.


It was less than. There really was no other way to describe the apartment. It had everything it needed, obviously, but it was threadbare and it was old and there was a musty smell in the air. And despite the season, it was chilly. Sam assumed the musty smell stemmed from the chilliness. This place hadn't been heated in so long, moisture was accumulating everywhere.

"It's moldy." It was the only thing he could think of saying. After having spent time in Michelle's apartment, this was more than just a step down. It was a whole flight of stairs down. Hell, it was an express-elevator-to-the-basement down.

"Grump," Dean growled and dropped his jacket on the couch. The damned thing looked like it might get up and walk out on them any second.

"I am not a grump, Dean. Look at this place," he countered. Under normal circumstances, he would have made a sweeping gesture to encompass the entire place, but with his right arm out of commission, and the weight it put on the sling Michelle had fitted him with being almost as much of a strain on his injury as his arm hanging free would have been, he had no other option than to support the injured limb with his left arm and was therefore incapable of using any grand gestures.

"It's no worse than any of the other places we've stayed," Dean claimed and gave him a somewhat sour look. "Bedrooms are in back. We gotta share, though. The one furthest back has a ... uhm ... ventilation problem."

Sam eyed him, not sure he understood that phrase correctly. "Ventilation problem?" He sent a brief look down the short corridor. Two doors to the right, one to the left. He assumed the left was the bathroom. The room they'd stepped into was both livingroom and kitchen in one and it wasn't much of a kitchen. The fridge had seen better days and was clattering along like a mixture between a tractor and a damaged metal fan. The coffee maker looked like it hadn't cost much over ten dollars and had seen better days on top of it and from what he could see of the sink ... well, some things were best left undiscovered. The kitchen counter, what little there was of it, was covered with old, cracked linoleum. He didn't even want to know what the bathroom looked like.

"Yeah. Too much moisture and not enough open windows," Dean said and sighed. "The plaster is falling off the walls in there."

"And the guy can't get anyone to stay here because of a ghost?" Sam inquired and grimaced. In spite of his dislike for the place, he still made his way over to the couch and settled carefully down on it. It was lumpy. Big surprise there, he thought with a sneer and a cup full of sarcasm to wash it down with. The musty smell, it seemed, stemmed more from the couch than the rest of the apartment and he knew he would have gotten back up in a hurry if he'd had the stamina. "This place is not conductive to healing."

"Well, excuse me, Professor," Dean shot back, his tone bordering on the annoyed. "Next time I'll let you pick out the crib. Not that we'd be able to ever afford any of your snooty tastes."

He should have been able to come up with a decent comeback to that one, but he was just too tired and his shoulder hurt and in a sudden rush of melancholy, he missed Jess more than ever.

Dean stood there and eyed him, obviously disconcerted by his lack of reply. "What? All I get is a suffering look?"

He eased back on the lumpy couch and wished he could just fall into a fresh-made bed with clean sheets and sleep for a year. And still he refrained from replying. He just wasn't up to it.

Obviously, his silence changed his brother's mood. Dean settled down next to him and watched him closely for a moment. "You've really got me worried here, Sammy," he admitted. "Is it really that bad?"

While trying to ignore what might be crawling around inside this couch, Sam rolled his head and met Dean's scrutinizing gaze. "No, it's worse," he admitted. "I feel like crap. My shoulder hurts like hell. And I just don't know any more, man."

"Know what?" Dean sounded honestly interested.

"Why are we doing this, Dean? Trolls? Is this what it's going to be like for the rest of our lives?" The mere idea wore him out. Having to do this, day in and day out, until either of them was killed on the job? Was that ideal? Not in his opinion and he had lately started wondering what Dean's view on this was. Outwardly, he kept saying he wanted to go down swinging. But did he really? Or was there a part of his brother who remembered normal and wanted it back?

Dean's attention drifted and his gaze shifted over the room for a moment. "This is all we know, dude," he tried, but he sounded less than convinced.


Some time later

He sat and stared. There really wasn't much else he could do right now. The apartment was eerily quiet and the musty smell was starting to make him nauseous. At times he wondered why he was such a pushover when it came to Dean.

"Can I get you anything?" That seemed to have turned into the only thing Dean could say to him. That or "Are you okay?". He made a face and rubbed his right arm, then glanced down at the heavy-duty bandage still covering his shoulder. "No, I'm not okay," he growled. Dean got antsy when he felt cooped up. And there was nothing worse than an antsy Dean. He turned into an annoying kid who couldn't sit still and couldn't for the life of him think of anything other to do than ask Sam repeatedly if he was okay or if he needed anything. "Why don't you go?" he had asked after a few hours of that.

"No, no, it's fine. I don't mind."

The hell you do, he had thought and insisted. It was obvious that Dean would rather be with Michelle than babysit his brother. And, truth be told, Sam wanted him to go.

"Are you sure? I mean, I can see her any day. And you're ..."

"No, I'm sure. Go. I'll be fine."

It wasn't a lie. There was really nothing much Dean could do to improve his night. The injection against the pain had taken the top of it, he had eaten a little and anything else he could handle on his own. So, no, it wasn't a lie. And Dean had eventually relented and left. But only after insisting that Sam call him if he needed anything.

"Like I'll do that," Sam muttered and snorted.

Something rattled in response. A single line furrowed his forehead when his brows drew together. He glanced toward the heater sitting under one window in the living room, but it didn't look like it would be capable of making that sound. Slightly disconcerted, he sent a sweeping look around the room, then settled his gaze on the earlier so noisy fridge. Dean had done something to make it stop and now it just sat there, all quite and ominous.

He watched it for a moment, then glanced back around the room, only to be interrupted by the rattle again. He swung his gaze back to the fridge. It clonked. Something whirred behind it, then it almost coughed. Something caught, which resulted in the smell of burnt insulation, and then the clattering of before picked up again while the whole fridge started swaying back and forth.

Sam sneered. "Oh, come on," he groaned and carefully pushed himself off the lumpy couch. Getting up was tougher than sitting down, but it didn't mean he would not do it. Especially not when he risked dying of smoke inhalation in this god-forsaken dump of an apartment. With his luck right now, the plug for this good-for-nothing piece-of-shit-fridge was behind it, which would mean he would have to wiggle it out and there was just no way he could do that with just one good arm.

The second he stepped up to the fridge, though, all noise and swaying stopped as if he'd stepped on an off switch. For a few seconds he just stood there and stared at it. Then he sent a brief look down to the wooden floor and subconsciously dismissed that idea before looking up at the fridge again. It was one of those smallish-type fridges and it looked like it had been new around the first world war. He eyed the now suspiciously quite unit for a moment, then shifted his attention to the wall behind it. No plug there. He grimaced and shifted his attention to the wall next to it. To his immediate relief, he found the plug and the source of the burnt-insulation-smell. The piece of the wire coming out of the plug itself had a dark-brownish hue to it.

Carefully, he released his right arm, letting it sink into the sling, before he took a hold of the plug and carefully wiggled it out of the socket. When that resulted in no response from the fridge other than the hum it gave off dying, he sighed with relief, let the wire and plug thump down onto the floor and turned to head back to the couch. He had barely taken one step before the fridge started clattering again, this time more insistently and almost angrily.

Okay, so maybe that plug hadn't been for the fridge, he mused while turning slowly back to face the offending machine again. Then again, he had heard the hum die. He eyed the fridge for a moment, then shifted his attention briefly to the plug lying on the floor in front of it. There hadn't been any strobing light and it couldn't be a demon. And Dean had said that there had been a ghost in this place. Obviously, there was more than one. Unless the plug for the fridge actually was behind it somewhere.

Later he would berate himself for his slow reaction, but at the time he just couldn't convince himself that the odd behavior of the fridge was anything other than an electrical issue. In part, he assumed, it was because Dean had said that the spook was gone. So it really couldn't be that, now could it?

And still the rattling fridge and the swaying motion it gave off made him uneasy. Disconcerted, he took a step back, cradling his right arm tightly with his left. And that was when the cold spot hit him. He noticed the plume of foggy breath before he felt the icy cold on his skin, but even that was not enough warning to protect him from the monstrous blow he took to the chest that sent him flying backward. He collided with the wall halfway up, bounced off it and hit the floor behind the dingy high-backed armchair on his stomach. Instinct took over and he braced the fall with both hands, which did not do his injured shoulder any favors. It sent an almost electric shock of pain through him that took his breath away even more than the impact with the wall. For a few precious seconds, he couldn't breathe, couldn't even see properly, and that was all it took for the spook -- or whatever the hell it was -- to grab him and hurl him back toward the kitchenette, where he hit the edge of the counter with his back before slapping down on the chapped linoleum. This encounter sent paralyzing pain through his back, stealing the last of his air away while his shoulder thudded away with a pulse of its own.

The entity grabbed him again, ice-cold fingers digging into his clothes, and he landed on the coffee table with enough force to break it. Fortunately it wasn't a glass table and he was grateful for small favors. Not a ghost, he surmised, a little dazed, before the entity grabbed him yet again and hurled him back into the kitchen cabinets. This time, he hit his head and nearly blacked out for a moment. But still he had enough presence of mind to push the doors to one of the cabinets open and blindly grope for what he knew was there. A bag of rock salt. His fingers connected with the rough material and he barely managed to hook his index finger into it before the entity grabbed him and threw him across the room again. The impact with the heater broke two ribs. The crack followed by the blinding pain was more than an indication of this.

Out of breath by both the impacts and the pain, he dug a hand into the bag of rock salt and threw it as best he could in the general direction of where the entity would most likely come from. Whatever lamps were still standing started flickering on and off while the noise of the fridge grew exponentially. But it didn't stop the entity from grabbing him and hurling him across the room yet again. Somehow having managed to hold onto the bag, he hit the corner between kitchen counter and wall and despite his new injuries and renewed pain from his damaged shoulder, he managed to lay down a clumsy salt line before the entity attacked again. Gasping like a fish out of water, he curled into the corner, trying to keep his feet away from the salt all while he tried to regain the breath the attack had stolen.

Whatever this thing was, it behaved like a poltergeist. That alone made him wonder if he would survive the night. But before he could make any conscious connections to anything, the entity tried to attack again and was stopped dead by the salt line. "Screw you too," he rasped, barely able to press the words over his lips. He was starting to shiver now, a delayed reaction to both the pain and the adrenaline rush, but he also knew that he was going into shock. His broken ribs hurt like a bitch and the thought that Dean wouldn't turn up until well into the morning made it hard for him to think clearly. There was no way he could take on a poltergeist in his present condition. That left him with no other option than to stay in this corner until Dean turned up. His phone had been on the coffee table and it was most likely that it had been smashed into a thousand pieces.

For a moment the apartment was eerily quiet. Even the fridge had stopped rattling along. But then the entity made its anger known with a resounding shriek before it attacked everything within reach. Every bit of furniture left standing was turned into kindle and all Sam could do was cower in that corner and try not to pass out.


It had bugged him since he'd closed the door behind him. Leaving Sam alone in his present condition was not something he had done lightly, but some part of him had insisted that nothing bad would happen to his sibling. Then again, he had found them an apartment that had been haunted for a good long while. Who was to say that there wasn't more crap in that place than what he'd managed to lay to rest?

A hand on the back of his neck tore him out of his contemplations and he met Michelle's eyes with a vague smile. "Where are you?" she asked quietly.

A part of him thought about brushing it off, thought about the fact that his brother was a very capable hunter and didn't need his big brother around to protect him. But that part wasn't very strong right now. And it was getting weaker by the minute. He had so wanted to spend time with Michelle, but now that he was here, he couldn't seem to focus on her. And what the hell was wrong with that picture? He scrubbed a hand over his lips and leaned back on her couch. "I don't know," he muttered.

"Is it Sam?" she asked with an understanding smile.

"Yeah, I guess it is," he agreed somewhat reluctantly. "It's not like he can't look after himself, but ..." Again he would have to lie, would have to make up some unseemly fib about why his brother shouldn't be on his own. "... he's a bit of a clutz when he's hurt." He'd never had an issue about the lying before, but with her it was somehow different. He didn't like belittling his brother in front of her. He didn't want her to think less of Sam because of these stupid fibs.

"I'm sure he'll be fine," she tried.

That was just the thing, wasn't it? Normally, Dean wouldn't have spared a second thought for his brother while in the company of a beautiful woman. It was his escape, his way of getting rid of the stress of their life. But this? This was different. And he wasn't sure Sam was fine, which kept nagging at him. "I'm not so sure," he muttered, unsure of what he was supposed to do. How understanding would she be of this?

Michelle watched him for a moment, her expression unreadable. Then she leaned in and kissed his cheek. "You're adorable when you're worried about him," she said with a smile. "Look, I have to get up early anyway. Why don't you go check up on him and we'll just hang out tomorrow?"

He glanced at her and couldn't help a smile. How cool was she? How many women had he known that would put up with this kind of thing? "You sure?" He had to ask, had to make sure it wasn't something she just said to be nice.

"It's obvious that I won't get your attention tonight," she said with a wry smile. "Besides, family comes first, right?"

She had caught the gist of it, hadn't she? And that even without knowing how sickly co-dependent the two of them were. "Yeah, family comes first," he agreed, rose and grabbed his jacket. "I'm sorry. I just can't ..."

She had risen with him and stopped him by pressing a finger against his lips. "Don't apologize. I understand," she said. "Besides, it's not like I won't see you again, right?"

"Hell no," he agreed. "You're not getting rid of me that easily."

That made her smile more broadly. "That's what I like to hear. Now go. Hang out with Sam tonight. He needs your company too."

He took his leave of her and once he was out on the street, he couldn't get back to the apartment fast enough. That nagging feeling was intensifying the closer he got and it made him wonder if he'd missed some subtle sign earlier which had nested in his subconscious. It was late, almost midnight, by the time he reached the apartment complex and he stopped in front of the entrance door and sent a look up the looming building. It was seven stories high and, as far as he knew, they were the only tenants at the moment. With the ghost gone, the owner had assumed that he could rent out some of the apartments, but the building itself gave off an ominous air. He grimaced, pushed the front door open and stepped into the quiet hallway with its dinged-up mailboxes on one side and peeling paint on the other. "If you wanna rent something out here, you better fix it up a bit," he grumbled and hurried over to the stairs. There was an elevator, but he had never been too keen on elevators. Especially not in old houses like this.

The sense of urgency griped him in a steel embrace and it was all he could do to stop himself from racing up the stairs and yelling his brother's name in the process. How stupid wouldn't it look if Sam was asleep in bed and Dean came barging in like that? He smirked nervously, well aware that his sense of Sam being in trouble had nearly always been right on the money.

When he reached the door on the second floor, he paused to listen. Everything was quiet inside, which could be both good and bad. Mostly, though, he had the distinct impression that it was bad. Really, really bad. He unlocked the door and pushed it open, finding the apartment dark beyond. The windows of the livingroom faced an alley with no artificial light, which left the place pitch black when the sun had set. He hadn't thought about that before, but that was actually a bad thing. The sparse hallway lighting didn't illuminate enough of the apartment beyond to give him any kind of impression. He reached inside and flicked the light switch, but the overhead lamp didn't come on. "Crap," he muttered and stepped inside, cursing the fact that he hadn't brought even a penlight.


Sam's voice came out of the darkness and the complete absence of light in the apartment disoriented him for a moment. "Sam?" He tried to locate where Sam was. Immediately, it had sounded like Sam was in the kitchen, but why the hell would he be there in complete darkness? "Where are you? What happened to the light?" He took a step forward and something crunched under his boot.

"Be ... careful. There's a ... something." Sam sounded short of breath, like he'd just outrun a frigging windego.

"That's helpful. A something what?" Dean countered. He shifted his feet forward without raising them off the floor and his boot tip clonked against something. With hissing sparks, the halfway shattered lamp came to life, shedding an eerie light over what looked like a disaster area. Dean blinked at the demolished apartment for a second, then turned his attention toward the kitchenette. Sam was on the floor, wedged into a corner between counter and wall, and he looked like he'd take a few rounds with a block of cement ... and lost. "What the hell?"

"Ghost, I think," Sam pressed out. There was blood on his shirt. He had a gash on his forehead that had only recently stopped bleeding and the way Sam squinted at him told him more than words.

"Ghost? No way. I got rid of the spook," Dean tried and glanced around again before walking over to Sam and hunkering down. "Holy crap, Sammy. You look like a prize fighter gone to hell."

Sam sneered. "Feel like road kill," he admitted, his voice raspy.

"Anything broken?" Dean asked, already assessing the damage and what it would demand in ways of medical treatment.

"Ribs," Sam pressed out, tried to shift and fought back a whimper. "Maybe my wrist."

Sam's right wrist was swollen to the point of being bloated, which could be a fracture or a bad sprain. What worried Dean the most was the wet-looking spot over his right shoulder. "You tore the stitches," he guessed. "And from the way you keep squinting, I'd say you got a concussion, too." He sighed. "I can't deal with this. You need a hospital."

The prospect of proper care and medication seemed to perk Sam up a little, but Dean held up both hands when he made a move to try and get up. "Stay down. I'm calling an ambulance. With the way you look ... there could be something worse going on here. Where's the spook?" he asked and sent a glance around the room while digging his phone out of one pocket.

"Don't know. Disappeared ... when it was done ... with the furniture."

Dean nodded, dialed 911 and hoped that the service worked in this town. It wasn't everywhere that it had been reestablished yet. "Definitely a poltergeist," he muttered and rose.

"911. How my I help you?"

"Hi, my brother has had an ..." He paused, glanced around the apartment and grimaced. "My brother's been attacked. They beat him up pretty bad. He needs an ambulance."

"What is your address?"

Dean gave the woman the address and other necessary, though not entirely true, information. She assured him the ambulance would be there soon and he finally hung up again, then turned back to face his brother. "Sorry, Sammy. I shouldn't have left you here."

Sam squinted up at him and sneered again. But he had no reply for that one. Instead he remained silent, on the verge of unconsciousness, until the ambulance arrived. The paramedics didn't say much, merely checked him over, then got him up on the gurney.

One of them, a big strapping guy, sent a brief glance around the apartment. "Looks like a break-in. You call the police yet?" he asked.

Dean met Sam's eyes for a second. "Not a break-in. And the cops aren't going to be able to do anything about this," he said and gave the guy a tight look. "I told him not to gamble, but what do you know? He won't listen." He caught the roll of Sam's eyes before his brother let his head sink back and closed his lids.

The paramedic arched an eyebrow, then shrugged. The stage was set for yet another lie to cover the facts.