John stopped his rapid march and silently counted to 10 as he pinched the bridge of his nose in irritation; he found himself counting to 27 instead. 27 times and counting Dean had tripped over a branch, rock, his own feet, mostly anything and everything in his path. Though John had been the one to call his eldest son about the hunt, he certainly was regretting it now. 28 John huffed as he waited for Dean to catch up.
By the tension in his father's stance, Dean knew what his father was thinking right now. Hell, he wasn't too pleased with himself either. Finally reaching his father, Dean leaned heavily against a tree, his left hand trying to massage out the deep ache that coursed through his leg. His breath hitched as he straightened up.
"I think we're getting close. Why don't you stay here and watch my back." Before Dean could reply, John had already resumed his determined march through the dense forest. Dean watched his father disappear before sliding down the trunk of the tree and coming to a sitting position on the cold ground.
As the clouds cleared, the moon sent slivers of light through the tree tops. Dean's laborious breathing more or less echoed through the still night. Damn. He really should have listened to Bobby. The cold breeze was both relaxing and soothing but with it came more humidity. Two years ago, Dean would have been the first to laugh at the thought of being crippled by humidity. But now, it was a reality.
When John had called two days ago asking Dean to back him up on this hunt, Dean was nearly jumping for joy; well jumping as much as his leg would allow. Bobby however didn't think this was such a good idea. Though he himself had gone on several hunts with Dean over the past few months, he was always mindful of Dean's limitations. Despite how much Dean would like to pretend he was as good as new, the truth was he wasn't. He never would be.
On most days he could get by with barely a limp. Most people wouldn't even notice. But on some days the pain was hard to ignore. They had quickly learned to keep an eye on the weather. Cold, humid days seem to hit him the hardest; the kind of weather you generally found in the Colorado wilderness. Add to that the 60 kilometre hike through rough terrain in the pursuit of some supernatural creature. Dean mentally shuttered at the thought of hiking back down this awful mountain.
He pulled his jacket in closer as a shiver coursed through him. He hadn't really noticed exactly how cold it was until he had stopped moving. He could feel the metal pins in his legs cooling; something which caused him more pain. Slowly, he searched his coat pockets, only to come up empty. Shit. He remembered leaving his painkillers in the pocket of his other jacket. He closed his eyes, fighting a losing battle against an army of small black dots, and leaned his head against the tree behind him, his hands trying in vain to warm his leg and ease the constantly growing ache.
The next thing he was aware of was the slow hum of the Impala; shit, he must have past out at the base of the tree. The crippling ache hadn't subsided and any thought of sitting up was quickly thrown out of his mind. Before doing anything else though, he worked to suppress the nausea.
"You with me kid?" It took a moment for Dean to place the voice. It had been years since Dean had heard his father voice laced with this much concern. John Winchester was not a man to show his emotions, even when it came to his children. But even with his eyes still closed, Dean could tell his father was worried.
He swallowed back the lump from his throat. "Either that or I'm dead." Though he meant it sarcastically, his voice did little to convey the message. He could sense his father's gaze surveying him. Finally feeling like he had control over himself, Dean dragged himself into a sitting position; sitting up against the door while his legs stretched out on the back seat.
As the two drove on in silence, something occurred to Dean. "Where's your truck?" Though John and Dean had often hunted together before, one thing that never changed was the fact that they always took their own vehicles. Dean needed anything to distract him from the night's events. It only took seconds for Dean to realize that looking at the blur of the country side zooming by outside did nothing to settle his stomach.
"Back at the trail." John spared his son a glance through the review mirror. Though he seemed fine and back to health before, a second look now told him otherwise. Dean was pale and slightly short of breath; but more troubling was the fact that it was apparent his leg was still hurting. Though John was still angry at the fact that Dean had kept this from him, he couldn't bring himself to show it; that's what had gotten them in this mess in the first place.
He glanced down at the passenger seat, his fingers digging through the pockets till he found the small white bottle of prescription painkillers, holding it out towards the back seat. "Here, Bobby told me you'd probably need these." Great, Dean thought as he took the offered bottle from his father. Now Bobby knew as well. Rolling the cylinder in his hand, he debated the idea of taking one. It was already a full time job keeping what was in his stomach down; he really didn't like the thought of adding the painkillers to the mix.
"Thanks" He instead decided to wait till they were no longer moving to take the small pills. He still didn't know where his father was driving them, but for the time being, it didn't really matter to him.
John watched his son slip back into unconsciousness. In one year's time, he had learned more about his eldest son than he ever knew before. To put it bluntly, he hardly knew Dean at all.
The sun was beginning to rise by the time John pulled into the salvage yard parking lot. Bobby was out the door in seconds, concern etched deeply into his face. He only relaxed and calmed once Dean was inside and resting comfortably on the couch. By then, however, the elder man could nothing to retain his annoyance and anger towards John Winchester.
"You stupid son of a bitch, are you trying to kill him?" The words escaped him with more bitterness than he had expected. Taking in a deeper breath, he reorganised his thoughts. "It's not like it used to be, John."
John whipped his tired face with his hand, slumping into the kitchen chair. Bobby Singer was one of the few people he considered a friend, one of the only people he trusted with his sons. "When did I lose him Bobby."
Bobby didn't answer right away, choosing instead to let the weight of the words hang in the air. Though he was an unofficial member to the Winchester family, Bobby often knew more about Sam and Dean than their own father did. On most occasions, this unvoiced fact would cause a rifted between the two men, but in emergencies or when either one was hurt, Bobby could always find a solution.
Bobby could tell John was silently blaming himself for all of Dean's troubles. It was cleat now wasn't the time for verbal battle of choice words Bobby had been saving. Glancing back at Dean's sleeping form, the garage owner made his way to the other empty chair.
"John, he'll be fine in a few hours." Bobby did his best to sound confidant.
"He's practically dead on his feet and he still won't tell me." Bobby got the distinct impression that wasn't meant for him. From where he sat, John could see Dean stretched out on the living room couch. The two men sat in silence; neither one needing to share what thoughts crossed their minds.
Not one hour later John was on the road again in one of Bobby's working cars, heading back towards the Colorado woods were he had left his truck. This time however, without Dean. Most people would only see a father abandoning his son once again. But Bobby knew this was more than that. It was a father leaving his son being in the hopes that he will be better off, safer.
When Dean finally woke up again, he didn't have to open his eyes to know where he was; there was only on place he knew that smelled like a mix between an old library, an incense shop and a garage. Forcing his eyes opened, he wasn't surprised to see Bobby sitting in the armchair next to him. "Home sweet home I guess." Dean smirked.
Dean let his eyes scan around the room, subconsciously looking for his father. He did his best not to look disappointed when he didn't see him. Bobby however knew that look all too well. "He's gone isn't he?" It was more a statement than a questions and Bobby simply nodded an answer. "Figers."
"So I guess it's back to just you and me, huh?" Bobby managed to get a smile out of the younger man. Remembering Dean hadn't eaten anything since the night before, Bobby headed towards the kitchen to find them something to eat. While Bobby worked in the kitchen, Dean managed to sit up. His leg was feeling considerably better; he concluded painkillers and warmth could do that. "Yup, back to normal
Author's note : Now it's finally over; epilogue and all. Thank you to everyone for reading, reviewing and for the alerts. I wouldn't have continued and finished the story if it weren't for all your support and kind words. Hope this satisfies your thirst.