When the last of the search party and 'official' vehicles pulled out of the darkened lot at the end of All Season's Road John resurrected himself from his shallow, restful grave of underbrush. He'd slept in fits and spurts praying he hadn't erupted any kind of riotous snore, the kind that Mary always teased him gently about. He noticed that when he was on the hunt the Marine in him neatly packaged the man away until the job was done. Once the evil was gone, the mission accomplished he could comfortably pull his 'mere mortal' suit on over the soldier he wore 24/7.
Slow moving floes of roiling images inched forward, eating up the landscape of his humanity. Today he'd been a monster. There was no evidence at all that Mother Ugly and Jr. had laid so much as a breath on his boy, but they'd tormented that poor girl, or at the very least stood by while it happened. He'd seen the transcription of the report his son made to the school principal, he'd seen reports from a few others who'd never followed up for one reason or another. Sheriff Ozeman had been so darned impressed with Dean and Sam "Stuart" that when he had the chance to meet their father, "…a widowed long haul jockey who'd instilled so much independence and community responsibility into his children…" he'd latched onto him like a burr. Still it served John's needs.
He saw the reports from the trauma room, every rat bite, bruise, scratch, blister, break, and hair out of place practically cataloged, itemized and tagged, marked and charted on multi-view drawings of human anatomy. Every procedure, from the quantity of Ketamine used to anesthetize him while they put the chest tube into his broken little body, to the sedatives they'd poured into him when the fever took hold and his fingers ripped through the bandages, digging into the bite holes, trying to find the vermin he was certain had taken up residency within him, and everything in between scrolled through his mind. He'd been on the operating table for three hours after they removed his appendix, while they cleaned the intestinal seepage out of his abdominal cavity. The surgeon's operative report was certain of one thing, that despite the generally routine nature of the operation itself, given his other injuries they weren't certain he'd survive such a simple procedure. They'd chanced the operation, hoping to get in under the wire, before possible infection from the bites set in, and in this instance it had been the right call.
Salty water ran out of his eyes and down his face, dripping through his t-shirt and his body trembled as he pounded the steering wheel of his faithful impala, his flooding eyes barely able to see the word 'Emergency' on the giant red sign in front of his parking space. My son…
With the heat of adrenaline gone from him, and hatred on a momentary sabbatical, pain came back to him demanding attention. All in good time… I need to see my boys…I need to see Dean… I need to know if he hates me… please God don't let him hate me… he pushed the door open with his good left arm the familiar 'squee' and buckle sounding so much like home. Memories came to him as they often did while he was in this car he couldn't get rid of and yet could barely stand to keep. Those moment were of Mary, when they'd first started dating, when they got "stranded" on the side of the road during a blizzard and decided they needed to make love to stay warm, the race to the hospital while she was in labor with Dean and Sam both, but they were also memories of driving away from the ruin of their lives that horrible night, it all just hurt so much.
Orderlies and housekeeping staff walked on the other side of the hall when they saw John approach, their eyes dropping to the floor, they hurried on their way. John started to wonder at it but the ground shifted, he lurched to the wall and let it guide him to the floor. In seconds he was surrounded by people in pajamas and not quite sure what happened.
Someone came quickly forward with a wheelchair while another someone, a very pretty someone crouched before him and stabbed him through the eyes with a light.
Warm… soft… he thought disjointedly when his hand connected with hers, batting that stinging light saber out of his eyes. Pretty girl… mouth moving… pretty mouth… could kiss that mouth but it's not my Mary… mouth moving… talking? Focus… questioning expression… ahhh she's asking me something… sorry sweetheart, can't hear out of that ear… an ogre made me deaf there… like son like father huh? he he he … he felt his lips smile just before he took flight and landed soft and upright thanks to a multitude of hands that picked him up off the floor and set him into the chair.
Ooh… looks like I'm goin' for a ride… take me to my boys! Don't worry boys… Daddy's home! Don't hate me Dean…I love you too much for you to hate me… please…he felt tears falling again and laid his face into his hands, barking for the coarse grinding wrenching at his right shoulder.
"Pastor Jim?" one of the duty nurses whispered over the heads of the sleeping boys. She motioned him into the hallway.
"What is it?" he asked softly after joining her outside Dean's room.
"It's Mr. Stuart… He's been injured…"
Jim rocked on his heels turning his head to look at the boys he loved as if they were his own, Please God…they need their father... "How bad is it?" he asked.
"He'll be okay, he's down in the ER right now… they're going to do some tests but he's combative…I thought since you're the family pastor you could talk to him… Dr. Reynolds isn't going to hold off on sedating him for long but he did say he'd give you a chance to talk to him… special circumstances and all…"
Jim nodded and looked back at the boys sleeping so peacefully, Sammy curled protectively around his brother, Dean's arm wrapped loosely around him in return, his head lolling to the side, cheek resting on Sam's long dark waves. He didn't have the heart to disturb them. Sammy'll stand watch…he's a little lion that one… I don't think I've ever seen him like this before… course… they've never been through anything like this before either.
"…me to my BOYS! NOW!" John roared trying unsuccessfully to push himself to his feet. Whatever was wrong with his right shoulder, and from what Jim could see through the doorway, exhaustion and other wounds was keeping him down, and it had him furious.
Jim entered the room and motioned the doctor and nurse out, Sometimes being a man of God is a true blessing! he thought closing the door so it was just him and John.
"Jim! How is he? How's Dean?" John settled immediately, his expression an open plea.
Jim nodded and sat in front of the frightening looking hunter, "He's going to be fine… he's got Sammy standing guard over him… nothing's gonna get to that boy," he assured and watched relief drive out some of the anxiety in his face.
"I have to see him…" he tried to push himself up again and barked in pain.
"John have you seen yourself? You look like hell… you'll scare the crap out of both of those boys if you don't get cleaned up first…" he smiled and rose to the sink where he wet some paper towels and handed them to his friend.
"That good huh?" John asked starting with his face.
Jim nodded, "The boys are sleeping… they're fine… did you get the job done?" he asked, his voice dropping a couple of notches.
John nodded solemnly and that hunter's blankness glanced through his eyes, "Done and done… that poor kid's going to wind up in social services or something…"
"I'll see what I can do," Jim smiled.
"Tell me…" John choked, his hand snaking out and grasping the pastor by the wrist, dark eyes searching those that still held hope deep within them, "Tell me my boy doesn't hate me Jim…"
"What?!" Jim ground appalled by the very thought, "John what would make you think such a thing?"
John shook his head, the tears wanting to come again. He didn't care if Jim saw him cry, it was a natural thing and if anyone could understand the need for tearful release it was this man who'd become not just his friend, but virtually his own conscience.
"I wasn't there…I was on a hunt… if I'd just been there maybe… maybe Dean wouldn't have had to go through all that… maybe I would have found him sooner or been able to stop that son of a bitch before he drop kicked him over Sammy's head… my boys Jim… that son of a bitch could have killed both of my boys! and what was Sammy thinking? Going there by himself? Why didn't he call someone? Why didn't he call you!... They're all I have!" John broke, planting his face into his palms he sobbed, all too certain of just how close he came to losing what kept him a man, what kept him alive. "I hate this life Jim… I hate this life for them… they deserve so much more…" he sniffed.
"I know John… they do… but no matter what else, you three have each other, you give those boys everything they need every day of their lives, you give them a direction, a moral compass, you give them survival skills and all the love they can take…no matter where you go, no matter what you do… you're still a family… you're just… non-traditional…"
"I can't let these things do what they do without a fight Jim… someone has to take a stand against them… and I'll be damned if I'm going to let my boys walk through this world blind to what's out there! I won't leave them vulnerable like that!" he insisted and pushed himself to his feet with his good arm, and with Jim's help hobbled to the sink where he saw why he was the one in the trauma room. "Holy crap! I really would scare them looking like this…" he smiled weakly.
"Told ya," Jim smiled helping him sit back down.
"John… the boys are sleeping, do the tests the doctors want you to, let them do what they have to so you don't put those kids through anything else when they see you okay?"
John nodded chewing on his lower lip and squeezed his friend's hand, "…alright."
"I'll go get the doctor then I'm going back up to sit with the boys… we'll see you when you get up there."
Dean rubbed his fists into his eyes just before dawn broke over the horizon, he almost felt refreshed and boy was his room crowded! Sammy was curled around him, dead to the world as he slid out from under his little brother's protective arm. He smiled reaching slowly for the hand held urinal the nurse had brought yesterday and glancing around furtively let his bladder empty, relieved that there was no pink to be seen and the burning had lessened considerably. He capped the plastic container and set it on the floor then looked over to his left grinning.
Pastor Jim was stretched out in a reclining chair, and stretched between a wheelchair and a regular chair was John, his head lolling forward, chin to chest. Wow! Dad got beat up big time! he thought eyeing the nearly black bruises from his eye to his cheek, Oooh he's got a broken nose too… ouch… what happened to his shoulder? Did he win? Yeah… he won… he wouldn't be back yet if he didn't… he'd still be chasing the bastard down. Dean thought and pushed himself upright.
As if on cue John's head bobbed and he opened his eyes, looking into his first born sons' smiling face.
"Hey dude…" he whispered feeling the stiffness under his own wounds.
"Hey dad…" Dean felt himself grin, "…so… you took a few lumps yourself huh?"
John smiled wincing and nodded feeling his eyes glass over again as he pushed himself to his feet and moved to Dean's right side. He wanted a moment alone with his eldest even if there were two other people in the room with them.
He sat gingerly on the bed careful of the machinery, tubes and wires, "How 'ya doin'?" he asked diving into his boy's green eyes and stroking his head tenderly.
"I'm gonna be fine dad…" Dean smiled pressing his face to his father's warm comfortingly calloused palm.
"Booger broke your nose huh?" the smile became a grin.
John nodded, "I swear it's starting to look like I got a potato stuck in the middle of my face…Y'know I used to be a pretty good lookin' guy…" he stroked back his son's hair.
"You look great to me… besides… it gives you character right?"
"Right…" John chuckled gently and felt the film over his eyes grow just a little thicker.
Dean's hand came up and thumbed the tear from his cheek, "It's okay dad… it's okay…" he comforted leaning forward and wrapping his arms around the solid warmth of his father.
"…so then what?" Sam asked watching the toe of his big brother's boot scratching at the dirt under the bench.
"So… Pastor Jim helped them find a good home for Sandy, somewhere she'd maybe one day forget about it all…"
"And dad? He didn't get in trouble?"
"Nope, whatever dad did to the bodies, however he got rid of them, they didn't find 'em, and since dad told the Sheriff that Harris jumped him, beat the snot out of him and ran away, I guess that was good enough, I'll tell you… for as much as we've always tried to avoid the cops, that sheriff just thought the world of dad… he probably could've watched him kill Harris and still would've let him go…" Dean mused, his eyes fixed on something beyond the half dozen children running crazy on the playground on the other side of the small blacktop lane.
"Y'know I completely forgot about the rats thing…" Sam sighed, his elbows on his knees as he turned his head and looked at his big brother, yet another facet of him shining through in this moment.
Dean shook his head, "Not me man…" he shuddered smiling softly, "… hate those damned things… I'd rather face down Big Bad again…almost."
"Y'know I don't mind telling you, you amaze me sometimes Dean…" Sam smiled shaking his head.
"Yep… I am pretty amazing… genius and looks in one almost too awesome to bear package… yeah man… I rock…" he sniffed cockily and burst out laughing at the snicker Sam held back.
"Come on… I'm serious here…y'know you may not think it's smart to connect with people, and you don't let anyone know you do it, but you… you've got a good heart man…"
He watched his older brother carefully and grinned when his hand came up behind his head messing up his hair with a good natured shove, "Thanks…"
"Yep…" Dean nodded and rose in time with his brother. Together they crossed the cemetery and stood before the simple quartz grave marker. Dean knelt and laid the little bundle of daisies at the base and read the words, "Sandra Whitaker, beloved Wife and Mother, in God's arms 10-2006… 'She lived in service to others May she rest in peace'"
Dean placed a stone atop the marker and stood straight, "Rest in Peace Sandy."
"Hey… for once it wasn't something supernatural…" Sam said softly.
"Doesn't make it any easier to lose a good person Sammy," Dean nodded blinking hard as they returned to the Impala.
"I know…" Sam dropped a reassuring hand onto his shoulder and squeezed, "I know."
Please don't hate me… but please do R&R