Disclaimer: Don't own them. Not profiting. Don't sue me please.
Author's Note: Takes place immediately following Devil's Trap. SPOILERS mentioned. This is my chance to redeem John Winchester, at least a little.
Dean was in agony. Every fiber of his being ached. Something big had just happened and yet he couldn't remember what it was. He willed his eyes to open but for some reason they wouldn't obey him. He lay there trying desperately to recall why he was in so much pain. The sound of someone moaning drifted to his ears and a new panic began to set in. With every ounce of energy in his battered and broken body he forced his eyes open.
"Ooohhh god." John Winchester had just opened his eyes and before him was the sight of his youngest son, mangled and bloody. "Sammy?" he gasped. He reached out and nudged Sam's arm but got no response.
Dean watched as John turned to look in the back seat and then gasp again when he saw Dean.
"Dean, son, talk to me."
"I know son. You have to hold on for me. I'm going to get help for you and Sammy."
John was also battered and bruised from the accident but he seemed to have gotten off easier than his boys had…even with a bullet wound to the leg. He dug in his coat pocket for his cell phone and dialed 911.
"Hello, my sons and I have been in an accident. We're hurt bad. We were hit by a semi. My youngest hasn't woken up yet. About ten minutes from the hospital on Route 11. We were on our way there when we got hit. I was cleaning my gun and accidentally shot myself in the leg. Yes…hurry."
Dean waited for John to turn off the phone and then asked. "How is Sammy?"
"I'm not sure. He looks bad. I think he hit his head on the steering wheel. How are you?"
"I've been better," Dean replied. Even though he tried to pass his injuries off John knew Dean was messed up bad…probably even worse than Sammy.
"You boys just hang on," John repeated. "Help's coming."
"Dad, are you okay?"
John finally looked at himself and took stock of his own injuries. His arm hurt but wasn't broke. He was bleeding from several locations but there wasn't any chance of bleeding to death at the moment unless he was bleeding inside. His legs were trapped from the car being crushed in but he could feel his legs and wiggle his toes even if it did hurt. That was surely a good sign.
"I'm alright," John finally told Dean but when he turned his head to look at Dean he saw that Dean had passed out. God almighty, both of his sons were literally dying right in front of him and he was pinned in and helpless.
He reached over and felt Sam's neck for a pulse and felt a little relief when the familiar throb was detected under his fingers.
"Sammy?" John begged. "Sammy, come on…wake up."
The single word that fell from Sam's lips was barely a whisper, a desperate plea from a boy who was suffering and in pain. The fact that Sammy called for Dean instead of for his father didn't go unnoticed by the senior Winchester, but he would never admit to the hurt it caused. No, he was simply glad to hear Sammy making any sound at all.
"Sammy…it's Dad. Open your eyes son." John waited but Sam's eyes never opened and there were no more whispered pleas for Dean either. John felt a moment of panic and once more checked for a pulse. It was still there but it was getting weaker.
He had often wondered why God had forsaken him, but surely this would be too cruel. God couldn't hate him so much as to let John sit trapped in a car as both of his boys died in front of him. 'Dear God,' John prayed, 'don't let my sons die. Don't take my children. You can have me but let them live.'
Several minutes went by and John listened to the labored breathing of his sons. Sam's breaths were growing shallower and shallower. His life was simply fading away. Dean's breathing had taken on a raspy wet noise. John knew Dean's lungs were slowly filling with blood. Tears of frustration slipped silently down his face and he realized the awful truth. His boys were going to die and he, John Winchester, was going to live. Just as he gave in to heartache and despair he heard the high-pitched sirens coming from off in the distance. He closed his eyes and prayed they would arrive in time to make a difference. By the time help arrived John himself had slipped into the darkness.
Dean. He needed Dean. Where was his brother? He needed his brother. He opened his mouth to call out but no sound came forth. His throat was so dry. He turned his head from side to side but had yet to open his eyes. Why did he feel so weak?
"Come on sleeping beauty. Everyone is waiting for you to wake up already."
Even half unconscious Sam's lips turned up into a small grin. Dean always had that affect on him. Finally he slowly but surely lifted his eyelids and the first thing he saw was Dean's concerned face staring into his.
"Sammy, it is damn good to see you open your eyes," Dean grinned. His voice was light but Sam saw the tears threatening to fall from Dean's blue eyes.
Dean realized Sam couldn't talk and he grabbed a nearby cup of water and leaned in to put the straw in Sam's mouth.
Sam sucked in a small amount of the cool liquid and laid his head back. He cleared his throat and finally was able to speak.
"Where are we?" he asked softly.
"The hospital," Dean replied. His brows knitted together and he seemed to consider something for a moment. "What do you remember?" he finally asked.
Sam closed his eyes and tried to think. He started to talk out loud. "I remember the cabin. Dad…Dad was…I shot him in the leg…then we got in the car. You were hurt so bad and Dad too. I was driving. Dad was so mad at me." Sam continued to think about what happened. What could have caused him to be in a hospital bed? Suddenly his eyes popped open and he looked at Dean fearfully.
"The truck! God we were hit by a truck!" Sam quickly looked Dean over without moving his head too much. He realized Dean was in a hospital gown. Next he saw the handlebars sticking out from behind Dean's back. Dean was in a wheel chair.
"Are you okay?" Sam asked.
"I'm going to be fine," Dean told him. He clutched Sammy's hand to calm his baby brother down.
"Why are you in a wheel chair?"
Dean let go of his hand and backed the chair up a bit so Sam could see the cast on his left leg.
"With all the stitches on my chest it was too painful to hobble around on crutches but my chest is healing up pretty fast."
"Healing up? How long have we been here?" Sam asked, clearly confused.
"Tomorrow will make three weeks."
"What! But how?"
"You've been in a coma, little brother. Had Dad and me worried half to death actually."
'Coma.' Sam let the word roll around in his head for a minute. He had been in a coma.
"Am I going to be okay?" Sam asked. "Is there anything else wrong with me?"
"Well, uh, do me a favor and wiggle your toes will ya?" Dean stammered. He turned his head to look at Sam's feet.
Sam didn't bother to look at his feet. He kept his eyes on Dean's face as he wiggled his toes back and forth several times. Sam saw the look of relief pass over Dean's features.
"Dean, I can feel my toes, and my legs, and even my arms. Everything feels really stiff, but it's all working." Sam finally looked down the length of his body and was shocked to see a cast on his arm all the way past his elbow.
Dean flashed him a smile that lit up his entire face. "That's good to hear. The night we came in you had a massive concussion and an injury to your spine. The docs were afraid of paralysis but said if the swelling went down you should be fine. At first they weren't sure if you were going to wake up, and if you did they weren't sure just what you would be like."
"You mean brain damage?"
"Yeah. How's your eyes? You hearing everything okay?"
"I'm good Dean. Well, except for a broken arm obviously. Really, I'm going to be fine."
Once more Dean grabbed Sam's hand and held it tightly.
"What's this thing on my face?"
"Feeding tube," Dean replied. "It's going up your nose and into your stomach."
"Okay, that sounds gross."
"At least you were unconscious when they stuck it in."
"What about you?" Sam asked. "The demon messed you up pretty bad that night, then the accident too."
"You know me," Dean shrugged. "Nine lives. They gave me a few pints of blood, sewed me up, set the leg, and that was pretty much it."
"I doubt it was that simple. If it had been you wouldn't still be in the hospital three weeks later."
Again Dean just shrugged. Sam had just woken up from a coma. He didn't need to know that Dean almost died that night on the operating table or that he had been unconscious for five days. His collapsed lung was recovering just fine, as were the incisions on his chest.
"The doctor says I can be discharged in two days."
"What about me?" Sam asked. "Can I get out of here?"
"Dude, you just woke up from a coma. I'd be willing to bet that you can't even walk right now."
"Don't be stupid," Sam said. "I told you, my legs feel fine." Sam attempted to sit up in his bed.
"Don't you even think about it," Dean ordered in no uncertain terms.
Sam froze and quickly lay back down. He watched as Dean grabbed the call button and pushed it down.
"Time to let the doctors know you're awake," Dean told him. "Oh, I need to call Dad."
"Dad, oh my god how is he?"
"He's fine. He was barely even injured from the crash. I swear the man's head is as hard as a rock. They removed the slug from his leg and slapped a Band-Aid on him. He was able to check out after just three days.
Dean watched as Sam looked around the room. He knew what Sam was thinking before he even opened his mouth.
"Sam, Dad didn't leave us. Trust me, he would have liked to have been here when you woke up but he's at work right now."
"He's hunting?" Sam gasped. "By himself? The demon is still out there."
"No, he's at his job. He's working at a garage in town. The owner is paying him under the table and Dad's actually making some good money. Plus, during his down time he's allowed to work on the Impala and his truck. He's got access to free parts from the junkyard. At night he's been doing a little hustling, but he comes here to check on us every chance he gets. He's going to be really fucking glad to hear you're awake. He's been worried sick over you."
Sam was about to reply but a nurse entered the room. She was petite and looked to be in her mid thirties. He brown hair was pulled back in a tidy little bun. She looked at Dean and then saw Sam.
"Oh my, you're awake. I'll be right back with the doctor." She hurried out to the hall and they could hear her announcing to the nurses station that Mr. Chester was awake and to page the doctor.
"Chester?" Sam asked.
"Dad's doing," Dean replied. "I was unconscious when we arrived here. Dad called Bobby literally from the emergency room and he drove all night to get here. Apparently Dad had left with him an envelope with new id's, money, credit cards, and insurance cards for all of us in the event of an emergency."
"Dean, the cops…the trunk!"
"Don't worry. Bobby took charge of everything. Luckily the trunk didn't open during the crash. They just towed it to city impound. Bobby claimed to be Dad's brother. He cleaned out the trunk of the car except for an old colt that Dad supposedly shot himself with by accident. The weapons are now safe and sound in Dad's hotel room with the cops none the wiser."
"What about the driver of the truck? Is he all right?"
"The diver disappeared," Dean told him.
"The truck had been reported stolen an hour earlier and the thief was gone by the time the cops arrived."
"Do you think that's what really happened?" Sam asked.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, do you think it was the demon, or a demon, or you know?"
"I don't know. If the goal was to kill us it failed. We were all a mess. It could have picked us all off one by one. We were helpless. Plus it could have taken you and we couldn't have stopped it."
"Taken me?" Sam muttered. It sounded like a question but he knew what Dean meant.
"Sam, this thing…demon…it wants you. I don't know why but it does."
"I know," Sam replied. "Dean, promise me, swear that if it takes me, turns me, don't let me walk around on this planet being evil. I don't want to be like Max, or Meg. I would rather be dead than hurt innocent people. I would rather be dead than be trapped in my own body living some never ending nightmare."
"Sam, I swear that thing is never going to get you."
"Don't make promises you might not be able to keep," Sam warned.
Dean sighed deeply. "I swear to protect you with my life," Dean said. "But if something gets you and you are no longer you I won't let you hurt anyone."
"Thank you," Sam replied with a yawn. He was starting to grow tired already and sleep was beckoning. Just then the doctor walked in.
"Well, it is good to see you awake, Samuel."
"Sam," Sam replied automatically.
"I'm Dr. Roberts. I've been treating you since you arrived several weeks ago."
Sam watched the nurse grab the back of Dean's wheel chair and start to roll him out so the doctor could examine Sam.
"No!" Sam called. "I want Dean here…please."
The nurse looked to Dr. Roberts and the elderly man shook his head for Dean to stay. Dean was rolled back to Sam's side and he took his brother's hand once more. He held it tight through the whole examination and even after the doctor left. He held it even as Sam drifted back into a healthy sleep and not a coma induced one.
He picked up the telephone on Sam's bedside table and dial Dad's cell phone number. Dad answered by the third ring.
"Dad, good news. Sammy woke up."
"Thank god. Let me talk to him."
"I can't. He's sleeping right now. I'll be sure to have him call you when he wakes up again."
"Don't bother. As soon as my shift is over I'll be right there. How is he? Is he…he's okay right?"
"He's fine Dad. There's no brain damage. He's a little stiff and sore, but he's going to be back to his old self in no time."
Dean could hear his father breathing a sigh of relief. He knew how worried Dad had been as days turned into weeks and still Sam hadn't woken up. Even when the doctors reported a change in Sam's brain waves two days ago saying he could wake up any time John had still been worried.
Dad coughed to hide the fact that his voice was cracking as he spoke the next words. "I'll talk to you both soon. Stay alert and keep safe."
"I will. Don't worry, I'll look after Sammy."
"I know you will, son." With that the two hung up.
Dean dropped the phone back into the cradle and ran his free hand through Sam's shaggy hair. "Nothing is ever going to get you, Sammy. I'm not going to let anything take you away from me," he whispered to his sleeping brother.
John was happy. It was actually rather shocking to him to feel such an odd emotion. He couldn't remember the last time he could actually say that he was 'happy.' Well, yes he could. It was back when Mary was still alive. But it was true. At this very moment John Winchester was happy. Sammy was no longer in a coma. Dean was mending quickly. John was fully recovered from his injuries. He still had a few aches and pains but that came from the fact that he wasn't as young as he used to be.
He finished his shift and climbed into his truck. He decided to run home to shave and shower before seeing Sammy. For some reason it was important to him that Sammy see him looking fit and healthy and like he had it together. The boys had been through too much in the last few months and a lot of that was John's fault. He had tried to protect his children but had hurt them in the process. What was that old saying, "The road to hell was paved with good intentions." But he was going to start fixing that right now.
The night of the crash, the night he had been possessed and sat helplessly in a smashed car watching his sons slowly succumb to their injuries he had one of those life changing experiences. Hell, what he had had was the biggest fucking kick in the ass that any man had ever experienced. That night he came within a hair's breadth of losing everything he loved but God had given him a second chance, a chance to make up for his past failures.
He had always told himself that everything he did he did for his sons, but that night he had been forced to see that had been a lie. Everything he had done he did for revenge and he almost allowed his boys to be murdered because of his need for vengeance.
The icing on the cake had been when Sam had called for Dean that night in the car. His baby was dying and he didn't want John, he had wanted his brother. Even though he had been possessed he could still remember the look on Sam's face when Dean said that John had been possessed. For a moment Sam looked torn over whom to believe, but it only lasted a moment. Sam put his faith in Dean. He chose Dean over John.
John was also very much aware of Dean's newfound rebelliousness towards him. Dean had always been the good soldier but lately he had been questioning orders and even challenging them. John suspected that was Sam's doing. Well, distance combined with Sam. For the first time in Dean's life he wasn't under John's thumb and the kid had actually grown a backbone when it came to dealing with his old man. As much as that irritated John it also made him proud.
John was also aware of a new danger to his boys. John knew Dean had always been protective of Sam, but he was startled to realize just how protective he was. On the one hand he liked that his sons depended on each other, but on the other it also would serve to prove as their greatest weakness. To control one all you had to do was threaten the other.
But at the moment none of that mattered. All that mattered was taking care of his boys. Dean would be released in two days and Sam would probably follow a couple of days later. He wanted things to be perfect when they arrived.
He parked his truck in the driveway of the small house he was renting. Bobby had made the arrangements while John was still in the hospital. He had secured a six-month lease and even cleaned the place up before John arrived. Together the two slapped some beige paint on the walls of the kitchen and living room and then painted the two bedrooms blue.
John opened the door and stepped into the living room. The house on the outside might not have been much but on the inside it was actually one of the better places they had ever lived in.
John had done something he hadn't done in years. He found out what day the trash was picked up in the upper class neighborhoods and he and Bobby went shopping for furniture at the "Curb Side Boutique." It never failed to amaze him at what rich people would throw away simply because they were bored.
In two days John had managed to get a kitchen table and four chairs, a sofa and coffee table, a dresser, and two lamps. The following week he got another sofa, a tv stand, a microwave cart and even two large area rugs. The furniture was actually in great condition even if none of it matched. He ended up having to buy three bed frames and twin mattresses, using up a large chunk of his emergency cash he kept in an account even Dean hadn't known about. Luckily the house had come with a fridge and stove so all John had to buy for that room was a microwave and some dishes and silverware.
John headed for the bathroom to wash the grease from his body and strip himself of his overalls. Four days after being released from the hospital he got the job at the garage. He was going to need a steady income for a while, at least until the boys were up and on their feet again.
A big part of him wanted to spend every moment at the hospital, especially with Sammy in a coma but Bobby had been the one to point out that Sam and Dean were going to be helpless for a while and were going to need somewhere to live once they got out of the hospital.
John stepped into the shower. Hot water pulsated on his sore muscles. He thought about Bobby. He was truly in that man's debt. Yeah, Bobby had threatened to fill him full of buckshot a few years ago, but he had been a rock for John the first week he was out of the hospital. When he finally had to leave John was truly sorry to see him go. At least Bobby had taken it upon himself to protect the house. Windows were salted, doors had protection symbols drawn on them and circles had been drawn under all three beds. The last touch was a dream catcher over Sammy's bed. Weapons were also placed strategically throughout the house. John was still very much aware that the demon was still out there and that it wanted Sammy, but as God was his witness the bastard was never going to get his son.
John finished his shower and then quickly shaved off his stubble. He was actually pleased with his reflection in the mirror. All his cuts and bruises had faded. He had been training vigorously again. He was back up to three hundred push-ups a day as well as two hundred sit-ups. Even better, he had given up the booze. He hadn't had so much as a drop since the night of the crash.
He put on a clean outfit and brushed his hair. He almost laughed as he realized he was behaving like someone about to go on an audition. He looked at his reflection in the mirror once more.
"Hi, I'm John and I would like to be your dad if you'll let me. I'll try hard not to mess up this time." John just shook his head at how pathetic he was. It was time to get to the hospital.
He made a point of hitting a Burger King along the way to sneak Dean some good food. He wanted to get Sammy something but wasn't sure if he should. Sam hadn't had solid food in weeks. He had been on a feeding tube with a liquid diet. His stomach would probably reject solid food. John settled for getting him a chocolate shake since it had the same consistency as the slurry they had been pumping into his stomach all this time.
As he neared the hospital he felt butterflies in his stomach. He had felt the same nervous tension upon seeing Dean for the first time after Dean woke five days after his surgery. He remembered the horrible things the demon had said to Dean and he had needed to clear it up.
It had taken some effort but eventually John had managed to tell Dean how much he loved him and that the demon had lied. He had explained that Sam had been treated differently than Dean not because he was the favorite but just because Sam had such a different personality. He explained that if he had shown more concern for Sam it was because he had always known that there was something about Sam that made him stand out. Things were drawn to Sam and he simply wanted to keep him alive.
Luckily Dean had accepted his apology, even telling him there was no reason to apologize, but John saw something in Dean's face, an emotion he had never seen before, and he knew that even though Dean would play the whole thing off like nothing, the boy had needed to hear the words his father was saying to him. Of course Dean had instantly asked it John was possessed again to put an end to the awkward moment.
Now it was time to have another long talk, only this time with Sammy. He was aware of the fact that the last words he had said to Sam were angry ones. At the time he had been so disappointed in Sam for not shooting him to kill the demon. At the time it had seemed perfectly acceptable but now looking back he couldn't believe what he had ordered Sam to do. Sam was so sensitive and emotional. The boy would never have been able to live with the guilt of having killed his own father. The guilt would have killed Sam eventually.
John pulled into the parking lot and entered the hospital. He walked straight to Sam's room and stood stock still once he saw the bed. It was empty. A nurse was in the process of stripping it down.
"What happened?" John demanded. "Where's my son?"
"Oh, hello. Sam has been moved."
"They can tell you at the nurses' desk."
John rushed to the desk and demanded to know where his son was.
"Sir, he was moved into the same room as your other son. He's just down the hall."
"Thank you," John said. He hurried down the hall to Dean's room and sure enough, there were his two boys, each in their own bed watching television and talking back and forth.
"Well, this is a sight for sore eyes," John announced.
"Dad," Sam greeted with a touch of nervousness in his voice.
John set the food on the table and embraced his son.
"Sammy, I am so glad you are awake," John said. "How are you feeling?"
"Okay I guess."
"What do you mean you guess?"
"You'd think after sleeping for three weeks I'd be wide awake but I still get tired pretty easily, and apparently I have to learn how to walk again starting tomorrow."
"What? Dean you said nothing about this."
"Dad, it's not what you think," Dean intervened. "After three weeks in bed Sam's legs are like jelly. We're both going to physical therapy tomorrow. I'm getting a walking cast in place of this one and Sam will be working on getting his strength back."
"Oh," was all John could say. "Uh, here Dean. I know how much you love hospital food." John handed him a burger with everything, a large fry, and a large shake.
"Oh God, Dad, you rock."
"Sammy, I just got you a shake. I didn't know if you'd be able to handle solid food yet."
"The doctor is going to start him off tomorrow on soft solids," Dean said before Sam could answer for himself.
Sam happily took the shake and sipped at it. "Thanks, Dad."
"No problem." John had a seat and looked a little uncomfortable. He had planned to have this conversation with Sam alone. With Dean in the room it felt a little uncomfortable but he was resolved not to wait.
"Sammy, I want to tell you that I'm sorry," John started.
John noticed that Sam wouldn't look him in the eyes and the boy was clearly uncomfortable.
"It was wrong of me to ask you to kill me. I want you to know that I'm not disappointed in you for not doing it. I also know that if you had the guilt would have killed you." John watched as Sam slowly lifted his eyes to meet John's gaze. Sam blinked several times.
"Dad, I want to kill the demon, but not to the point where I want us to die in the process. Dean helped me to see what was really important and family is more important than revenge."
"I know that now," John agreed. "You two will never know how it felt to sit in that car, trapped, unable to move, and look at your broken bodies, or to listen as you two struggled to breath. Sammy, you were slowly slipping away, and Dean was gurgling, drowning in his own blood. I don't EVER want to experience that ever again. I know I don't always show it, but…I…I love you boys."
Sam's eyes got even more watery and he smiled John. "I love you too, Dad."
"Oh God, you two are killing me," Dean jested, although hearing Sam and Dad make peace like this was truly music to his ears. John and Sam both laughed.
"Yeah, go ahead and laugh but I've had to sit through this speech twice now," Dean protested in mock disgust.
Once more Sam started yawning. He hated feeling weak as a kitten but considering how close he came to dying or becoming a vegetable he guessed he should be grateful.
John saw Sam growing sleepy. He stood up and repositioned Sam's pillows and encouraged him to lay back.
"You look good Dad," Sam said.
"Thanks. I've been working out and I've laid off the booze. Plus, I have to admit it is even a little nice to not be constantly on the road."
Sam nodded knowingly.
"Listen boys, uh, just so you know, I've gotten us a house here. Well, Bobby got it for us while I was still in the hospital, but, anyway, it's small but nice…clean. We actually painted it and everything."
"Wow," Dean gasped. "Where did you get the money for that?"
"I have my ways," John smirked. "Plus I'm making good money at the garage. I just wanted you boys to know that you'll have somewhere to live that's safe and comfortable while you're getting better."
"Thanks, Dad," both Sam and Dean said in unison.
It was Sam who brought up the big question that was on both his and Dean's mind. "What about the demon?"
"It can wait. Right now my focus is on getting you two better and having a little family time. When the time is right we'll go back to hunting. We will need to be careful though," John warned. "It's out there and it is bound to be pissed. I've put up safe guards all over the house to protect us, but I'll be honest, this thing…I don't know if anything I've done so far will truly stop it."
"As long as we stick together, we'll be all right," Sam replied. His eyes were growing heavy and sleep was beckoning.
John placed his hand on Sam's forehead and brushed his hair from his eyes. "Get some sleep. You are going to have a hard day tomorrow." Sam gave a brief smile before closing his eyes and rolling on to his side so he was facing Dean.
"Dad, you don't have to do all of this," Dean said once Sam was asleep. "Sam and I should be ready for the road in about a week."
"No, Dean." John looked at him thoughtfully. "I do need to do this. I need to be a father to you and Sammy, a real father who puts the needs of his children before his own."
"Dad, Sammy and I aren't children."
"You're my children," John insisted. "We aren't giving up, but let's face it, we weren't ready. We never should have split up. I'll not make that mistake again. Then there is the fact that there is only one bullet left. I'll not let you two face that thing again with nothing more than one solitary bullet. No, we need research. We need a plan. We need time. I'm going to find and kill this bastard, but I'm going to be more cautious this time around. That's a promise.