Sam woke slowly, his awareness returning in tiny increments until he realized sluggishly that his eyes were open and he was staring out the bright, sunny window.
It was night, wasn’t it?
They drugged him. Those sons of bitches …
He must have been asleep for hours. What if Bobby had tried to call?
Turning his head, Sam looked towards the phone as it could speak to him and tell him whether Bobby had found his brother and father – if they were safe or not, but the moment his sight hit the receiver sitting off of the hook, he swore out loud.
Someone took the phone off the hook, probably in some kind of well-meaning attempt to keep him from having his sleep disturbed, but dammit – what if Bobby had been trying to call all this time while Sam had been sleeping the night away?
Sam reached for the phone, his limbs heavy as the drugs in his system lingered and he groaned as his shift in position sent a new round of pain from his hips and up his spine. He managed to flip the receiver back onto its cradle before he flopped back into his pillow and bit his lip to keep the pain from making cry.
He wanted to reach again for the phone and call Bobby like he should have the other night before he brokedown like a baby and the nurses ended up drugging him, but the pain held him back and he knew it would be several moments before he made another go at moving.
God – he was useless. Couldn’t even use the fucking phone …
Frustration overwhelmed him as he slapped his hand against the mattress with an irate grunt that did little to make him feel any less helpless.
“Hey … you trying to break your hand on top of everything else, or what?”
Sam’s head shot towards the door where the voice he had wanted to hear the most had come. His mouth dropped open watching as Dean leaned against the doorjamb before he started to saunter across the room. His brother looked pale, tired, and somewhat unsteady on his feet, but Sam was just so freaking grateful to see him, that a goofy, wide smile erupted over his face.
“Dean! Shit … dude …”
Dean stopped by the side of the bed and dropped immediately into the closest chair, wearing his own shit-eating grin, “Eloquent as always, Sammy.”
“God … you okay?” Question one on Sam’s mind flew out. Questions two through a million would have to wait until he was satisfied with the first.
“I’m fine. Just had a rough couple of days.” Dean responded nonchalantly even though the entirety of his body language screamed exhaustion.
“Dad … is he?”
“He’s fine – he’s with Bobby giving the staff a piece of his mind about not being able to reach you.”
“Uh … yeah. Someone put my phone of the hook when I fell asleep.” Sam didn’t mention how he was pretty much drugged into oblivion and he was embarrassed with himself all over again for the panic attack that made the doctors and nurses fill him so full of drugs that he missed out on finding that Dean and Dad were okay. And he was mad at himself as well for jumping to conclusions and believing the worst had happened when he should have known that his brother and his father were too tough and stubborn to let anything kill them.
“So … what happened?”
“Oh you know, the usual.” Dean started out flippantly, “Some pissed-off loopy galoo dude that crossed paths with Dad years ago kidnapped us and tied us up in his basement, ya know … typical Monday.”
“That’s it? Did he hurt you guys?”
“Well … Dad got a little roughed up, but nothing too serious.”
“What about you?”
“Actually the dude never touched me …”
That was a blatant half-truth that Sam could see even through all of the haze in his brain from the drugs and Sam let his face do the necessary work in showing his disbelief, “Dean …”
“Alright … so he forgot that food and water are a couple of the basics that people need to survive. But hell, I’m okay and Dad’s okay and the Big-Bad wolf if dead, so … nothing to worry about, right?”
“Of course I worried … I didn’t hear from you guys for days.”
“Yeah but, I hear from Bobby that you did some pretty impressive work trying to track us down and you know he wouldn’t have been able to find us if you hadn’t pointed him in the right direction.”
Sam looked down and snorted a little at that, “It wasn’t much and not nearly as much as I wanted to do.” Sam sighed, letting himself open up, “You know … I’m not the most fun to take on hunts and half of the time I really hate it.”
“Who … you? Pushaw, Sammy.” Dean came back with some light and teasing sarcasm which Sam pretty much ignored.
“But you know, I think what I hate more is not being there to back you guys up. I just … I hate feeling so … helpless.”
Dean reached out and ruffled Sam’s hair while Sam batted him away good-naturedly, “Jeez, Sam … It’s not like you’re permanently injured or anything. You’ll be back on your feet and helping us take down fuglies in no time.”
“Maybe not right away.” Again, Sam’s head whipped to the door as his father walked in, followed close on his heels by Bobby, “Bobby and I have been talking and I’ve got an idea that I’d like to run past you guys.”
Two months later …
“Gin!” Sam grinned, laying his cards down on the rickety picnic table.
Dean’s jaw dropped as he protested the win, “What? No! We just started.”
“I can’t help it you suck.”
“If this was poker you’d be the one sucking, bitch.”
“Your fault for letting me pick the game, dumbass.” Sam laughed while Dean tossed his cards up and let them fall in a heap.
John watched his boys exchange barbs while they sat together at the picnic table under the shade of an ancient oak tree about 20 yards away from him. He leaned against the railing of the cabin’s back porch feeling a tingle of contentment that he hadn’t felt in a very long time as he took a long, satisfying gulp of beer.
After Sam left the hospital, he feared what taking time off like this would do to his kids. Would they get soft, complacent, or forget how important hunting really was? And what about the people they could be saving? Who would save them? And what of the thing that killed his Mary – what if he was missing out on a lead that could help him finally kill it? On top of that, he wasn’t used to staying in one place for so long – not since Mary died, but he constantly had to remind himself that this break – this summer – wasn’t about what he wanted; it was about what his boys needed
All of those thoughts plagued him before they found this place – a little cabin out in the woods of Minnesota next to a small lake that very few people every visited. At first John found it hard, even in this idyllic setting, to stop thinking about what hunt was next or about what they should be doing instead of sitting around an abandoned cabin all summer, but as time passed, he realized that it wasn’t just his sons who needed this break – he needed it too. And somehow, during these last few weeks the world kept turning and going on without the Winchesters.
And both of his kids were doing great, he remarked to himself as he watched Dean toss his cards at his little brother. Sam was back on his feet again, maybe he wasn’t up for sprinting just yet, but each day he was walking a little bit steadier. Dean had relaxed as well. His smiles came easier and it was like a great weight had been lifted off of his young shoulders. Dean also seemed to bask in his role as Sam’s PT instructor as he helped him to get his strength back, taking him for daily walks and going through all of the strengthening and stretching exercises the doctors had recommended.
John knew that this, like all things, would end. Sam would be back in school in a couple of weeks and John could see that Dean was more ready than ever to find whatever hunt came their way now that he had his batteries recharged. But until then, while the summer sun still took its sweet time setting each night, his only concern was looking after his kids. The crushing weight of the world that inevitably would come crashing back down on his shoulders could wait a little bit longer.
The hot August air, damp with humidity, hung over the forest like a misty cloud and he wiped a few beads of sweat that clung to his brow before pushing away from the railing. John watched Sam and Dean rise from the table, finished with their card game for the time being. Dean held out a hand to help Sam up, but he waved him away, determined to make to hike back to the cabin without any assistance and side by side the two marched up the slight incline, each one calling the other names and playfully punching each other on the shoulder.
John took another pull of his beer as a grin played at the corner of his lips.
Yeah … the next hunt could wait a week.
Maybe two …