Well guys, this is it. The final chapter. I had planned on posting it days ago, but I had some computer problems and I couldn't access my Word documents until tonight. I had most of it done, but still had a bit more to do. I want to thank all of the readers and reviewers. Your support means the world to me and is what keeps me writing. I hope you enjoy this final chapter. So, I'll quit yapping so you can get to it!
Two Months Later
John, Jim and Caleb were perched upon a large boulder, the three men relatively relaxed as they watched Dean and Sam run the obstacle course that they had constructed in the vacant patch of land behind Jim's rectory. They couldn't completely relax though as this was the first true test of how far Sam's recovery had progressed. They had all been working tirelessly, along with Bobby and Joshua before they'd had to leave, to help Sam regain his strength, balance and agility. None of them had spent as much time as Dean had though, the young man making it his personal responsibility to get his brother firmly back on his feet. Every waking moment was spent helping Sam with his physical therapy, strength training and stretching as well as spending a great deal of time just hanging out and reconnecting to the point where the brothers were closer now than they had ever been before.
The three men's hearts filled with pride when they thought about how far the youngest hunter had come from those earlier days. It hadn't been easy and there had been days when Sam was in so much pain and so exhausted that he found it hard to get out of bed, but Dean had always been there to offer encouragement and pain killers when needed. Sam had worked through the pain and exhaustion and after a month had been able to throw the crutches away for good, much to the delight of his family and friends. There was also great pride for the elder brother for his devotion to Sam and his tireless efforts that were undoubtedly the key to bringing his little brother back to health. The two youngest hunters were inseparable these days, just as they had been when they were younger and John had to smile as the young men's banter met his ears.
"Come on, Sammy…you run like a little girl!" Dean shouted good naturedly as he ran ahead of his little brother.
"Yeah…well at least I don't look like one! You're prettier than most of the girls you go out with!" Sam shouted in return, a broad, dimpled smile on his flushed face.
"I'm not pretty you little twerp! It's called devastatingly handsome!" Dean called as he turned to look over his shoulder.
"Devastating is right…just not sure about the handsome part!" Sam quipped as he picked up his speed.
Dean turned his head back around with a chuckle and continued to run until he crossed over the finish line of the obstacle course. He turned to watch Sam finish his run, his happiness turning to fear as Sam's legs suddenly tangled and the boy went down hard, face first, into the dirt. Dean immediately took off toward his brother, the young man catching the movement of his father and friends as they too rushed to the fallen teen. Dean reached Sam just as the boy was pushing himself up from the ground. Sam made it to his feet without help and turned to John and the others, the teen shrugging his shoulders and smiling sheepishly, his cheeks flushed with more than exertion.
"Hey…you okay?" John asked as he neared his son, his eyes immediately zoning in on the blood dripping from the kid's chin.
"I'm okay. Just skinned up a bit," Sam answered, his hazel eyes turning to reassure his worried brother.
"What happened, Sammy? Did your legs give out on you?" Dean asked with concern.
"No…its okay, Dean…really. My feet just got tangled," Sam replied with a small smile. "I tripped myself…I'm fine," he continued when he saw that his brother wasn't completely satisfied with his explanation.
"Sammy…if something happened you have to tell us. Dr. Finch said that…" Dean started, but his words were cut off by his brother's soft voice.
"Dean…I'm okay. You said yourself that I trip on air. It's just me being clumsy. I feel fine. My legs feel fine…my back feels fine," Sam said, his hands held out by his sides.
Dean gave his brother a good once over before reaching out to lift Sam's chin. He eyed the raw flesh and shook his head. "Okay, but we need to get you in to clean this chin up," Dean said as he took Sam's arm and guided him toward the rectory.
As the two siblings passed the other men, Caleb reached out and patted Sam on the back. "You did real good today, half pint. Well, right up until you bit the dust, but still," the older hunter said with a grin.
Sam smiled as he glanced at his friend through chocolate fringe. "Thanks, Caleb," he said softly as he allowed himself to be led across the lot.
The group was silent as they walked the rest of the way to the rectory, Jim leading the way up the back steps and through the back door. Dean led Sam to a chair at the kitchen table and sat him down as John went to the bathroom to retrieve the first aid kit. He re-entered the kitchen and set the kit down on the table before opening the lid and extracting the items needed to clean Sam's skinned chin. Dean took the items from his father and began to wipe the blood away so he could better assess his brother's injury. Sam gazed up at first his father then his brother and rolled his eyes.
"Guys…I'm not dying. It's just a scraped chin. I can take care of it myself," the teen said with a hint of exasperation.
"You hit the ground pretty hard, kiddo. Just let us take a look at you. Humor us why don't you, okay?" John said as he grasped Sam's shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze.
Sam shook his head slightly as he leaned back in the chair, the teen knowing there was no way he'd get out of this without a complete examination. "You guys are hopeless. You know that, right?" he said with a chuckle.
"Yeah, well if you weren't such a klutz we wouldn't have to go through this every other day," Dean said with a grin. "Now sit still so I can fix your boo boo."
Sam gazed up at his brother, stuck out his tongue and blew a big raspberry prompting little drops of spittle to hit the shocked young man. John and Caleb burst out laughing at the surprised look on Dean's face, Jim joining in as he brought a steaming pot of coffee to the table. "Real mature, Sammy…real mature," Dean grumbled as he reached up to wipe his face with the back of his hand.
Sam chuckled as he continued to look up at his brother. "You should have seen your face," he gasped as his chuckles turned into full on belly laughs.
"Yeah, yeah…laugh it up," Dean growled, even as he gently began to clean Sam's chin.
Sam got his laughter under control and sighed as he continued to watch his brother's face. "I'm sorry, Dean," he said softly.
Dean stopped what he was doing and stood back a bit. He gazed down at his brother's upturned face and the wide, puppy dog eyes and shook his head. "It's okay, twerp. Don't worry about it…I wasn't really mad," he said before going back to work on Sam's chin.
Sam gave a small smile as he tilted his head back again. "'kay, Dean," he said.
Dean grinned and finished cleaning Sam's chin then he spread a thin layer of antibiotic ointment over the scrape and covered it with a sterilized bandage. He stood back and eyed his brother critically then gazed over at his father. "You think we should take him to see Dr. Finch? Just in case?" he asked, giving Sam a dirty look when the boy huffed with frustration.
John glanced at his youngest son then moved closer to the boy. He reached down and grasped Sam's shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. "You feeling any pain anywhere, Sam? Your neck feel okay?"
Sam pushed to his feet and immediately felt his brother's hand wrap around his upper arm. "I'm fine, Dad. The only thing that hurts is my chin…really," he answered.
"Sammy…we just want to be sure you didn't hurt your back. We can't…" Dean started.
"I know, Dean," Sam said as he turned to his brother and smiled. "I'm fine. I wouldn't lie about this. Do you think I want to go back to how I was before? I'm fine."
Dean and John watched Sam for a moment then John wrapped his arm around his youngest son's shoulders. "Okay, kiddo. Why don't you go take a shower and get cleaned up before dinner," he said, his dark eyes moving to Dean, the slight nod of his head telling the elder sibling everything he needed to know without a single word being said.
Sam nodded and moved away from his father then headed for the stairs that led up to the guest rooms and bathroom. Dean followed behind, the young man smirking as Sam looked over his shoulder and rolled his eyes. Sam turned his head back around and headed up the steps, the boy knowing there was nothing he could do about the constant scrutiny he was under. To be honest, the boy was thankful for his family and friends hovering. The only time he felt safe was when one of the men were near him and ever since the night of the attack, he hadn't been alone except to go to the bathroom or take a shower. His brother was his constant companion and on the rare occasion that Dean was busy elsewhere, it was either John or Caleb who took his place, helping Sam with his physical therapy and generally keeping the boy in immediate presence and view. The only time Sam was out of sight of one or all of the three hunters was for the hour a day he spent with Pastor Jim in his office, talking about the nightmares he still suffered from.
Sam moved into the bedroom he shared with his brother and went to his dresser. He pulled out sleep pants and a tee shirt, watching Dean collapse onto his bed from the corner of his eye. Sam turned to his brother, sleep wear in hand and glanced down at the stretched out young man. "You don't have to babysit me, Dean. I'm sure you'd rather be downstairs with the others instead of up here on Sam watch," he said, though he truly wanted his brother near.
"Nah…those guys are old. They talk about old guy stuff too much. Besides, if I were down there, they'd make me peel potatoes or something. I'd much rather lie around up here while you get all pretty," Dean said as he slipped his hands under his head and crossed his ankles.
Sam shook his head and smirked down at his brother. He turned to the door and began to make his way out of the room. "Don't get that bandage wet! I don't want to have to redo it later," Dean called, the young man grinning when Sam waved at him over his shoulder.
As soon as Dean heard the bathroom door close, he rolled off of his bed and moved into the hall. He stood outside of the bathroom and listened as the shower turned on. His thoughts went to earlier when he and Sam were on the obstacle course and the fear he felt when Sam hit the ground. For an instant, until Sam pushed to his feet, he had the horrible feeling that his brother would never get up again. But, Sam had gotten up and he was okay, just a skinned chin and a bruised ego. Dean would never stop worrying about his little brother, but he had at least one less thing to keep him up at night, though he knew it would take a long time before he was able to go to bed and fall right off to sleep, the need to watch his brother's chest rise and fall and his feet move under the blankets keeping him up late into the night. It was a small price to pay to be able to finally sleep without the horrible nightmares that had plagued him since the night the vampire attacked.
Dean was brought out of his musings when the sound of Sam moving around behind the bathroom door reached his ears. He'd missed the shower turning off and cursed himself as he rushed back to he and Sam's bedroom and dropped back down onto his bed. He only had a few minutes to settle in and get his breathing under control before Sam reentered the room. Sam moved to his bed and dropped his clothes into the basket at the end of it. He smiled to himself as he listened to Dean's breathing then turned to look over his shoulder at the young man. He rolled his eyes then turned toward the door.
"You ready to go eat, bathroom stalker man?" Sam asked devilishly before darting out of the room, his brother right on his tail.
"I was right on that bed the whole time, you little sh*thead!" Dean shouted as he ran after his brother.
"So, what were you doing that had you breathing all hard then?" Sam called with a laugh as he reached the stairs and quickly made his way down toward the first floor of the small house.
"Sammy! Stop!" Dean called, the picture of Sam falling down the stairs flashing before his eyes as he rushed forward in a panic.
Dean came to the top of the steps and visibly sagged with relief when he saw his brother bounce off the bottom step and land safely on the ground floor. He rushed down the steps and followed Sam into the kitchen, the young man taking the seat next to his brother. John looked up from the seat on the other side of Sam and glanced at his two sons.
"So…what was all the ruckus about up there?" he asked with a quirk of his eyebrow.
"Dean was stalking me in the bathroom…" Sam started.
"I wasn't stalking you in the bathroom! I was in the bedroom taking a little snooze," Dean defended, his face flushing red.
"And taking a snooze leaves you out of breath and all sweaty?" Sam asked smugly.
"I…you…" Dean stammered.
"Look, Dean…either you were stalking me in the bathroom or you were doing embarrassing things in our bedroom, so…"
"Sam, that is not appropriate talk for the dinner table or…any place for that matter," Pastor Jim quipped with a gleam in his eye.
Sam glanced up through his too long bangs and smiled sheepishly. "'m sorry Jim," he said softly.
"So, Deano…which is it? Stalker or…" Caleb teased from across the table.
Dean glanced around the table then looked up at Pastor Jim. "Mmmmm…something smells good. What's for dinner, padre?" he asked, the rest of the group chuckling at his obvious attempt to change the subject.
Jim turned from the stove and glanced down at the young man. "We're having beef stew and cornbread," Jim replied, spoon in hand.
"Do you need help?" Sam asked as he began to push to his feet.
"Sit, boy. It's done," Jim said.
Jim lifted the large pot from the stove and carried it to the table. He set it in the center of the table then retrieved the cornbread and set it on the table along with a container of butter. He sat down in his seat next to Caleb then glanced around at his guests.
John rolled his eyes, but reached out and took Sam's hand on his right and Caleb's on his left. The rest of the hunters followed suit and waited for the holy man to say grace. Jim looked at Sam and smiled warmly. "Would you like to say grace tonight, Sam?" he asked pointedly.
Sam sucked in a breath and glanced around the table. "Uh…I'm not sure…" he started softly.
"Please, Sam. I would be honored to have you say grace," Jim said.
Sam smiled and bowed his head. "Lord Father in Heaven…we thank you for the food we are about to eat and for the blessings you have bestowed upon us. I thank you for my friends and family, for without their love and support I would not be sitting here today. I especially thank you for my brother who never gave up on me and never let me give up on myself. I ask that you keep us safe and continue to bless us with your loving care. I ask all this through Christ our Lord…Amen."
"Amen," the others said softly before releasing each others hands.
Dean glanced over at his brother, his eyes glistening with what looked suspiciously like tears. "Uh…Sam…that was…" he stammered.
Sam smiled and nudged his shoulder. "Dean, you don't need to say anything. Just eat," he said as he reached for a bowl.
Dean nodded and reached for his own bowl. The hunters ate their meal and talked about past hunts and future ones. They told jokes and laughed, the days victory lifting spirits to an all time high. Once dinner was finished, Sam and Dean cleared the dishes while Jim surprised the men with homemade apple pie for dessert. The pastor was just sitting back down when his eyes lit up. He pushed back from the table again and started toward the living room.
"I nearly forgot! Sam…you received a package while you were outside training," he said as he came around the table.
"What? I did? From who?" Sam asked with surprise.
"Well, I don't know. Let me just go get it and then you can see," Jim said with grin and hurried from the room.
Sam looked from his father to his brother, but neither man gave any kind of hint that they knew anything about the mysterious package. Sam swiveled his head when Jim returned a few moments later and placed a large sized, padded envelope before him on the table. Sam picked up the envelope and eyed it curiously.
"It's from Salem," he said softly as he looked over at his father. "Why would I be getting something from Salem? How would anyone there know where I am?"
"Why don't you open it and we'll find out," John said with a smile.
Sam bit at his bottom lip then quickly tore the envelope open. He reached in and pulled out the contents, they teen's eyes widening as he realized what he held. He ran his fingers over the words printed on the front of a magazine sized book, his lips moving as he silently read the words to himself. 'Sprague High School-Home of the Olympians' he repeated in his head, his eyes moving to the smaller letters beneath. 'My Friends'. He opened the book and fanned through it, finally stopping when he came to the pages intended for friend's notes and signatures. The page was filled with good wishes and doodles from all of the friends he had made while attending the high school.
Sam jerked his head toward his father and took in the wide, dimpled grin and twinkling brown eyes. "Don't look at me, this was Dean's idea," the Winchester patriarch said.
Sam turned to his brother, his eyes wide and questioning. "How did you…I don't…Dean, how did you do this?" he asked, his eyes suddenly filled with wonder.
Dean smiled and nudged his brother with his knee. "I know how much that book meant to you, Sammy. It was the first time you'd spent more than a month or so at a school and the first time you'd actually had time to make friends. Dad got ahold of Principal Tanner and explained that your friends book had been destroyed in freak fire. Principal Tanner got the book to Pete and he took it around to all of your friends. I gave Pete the address here so he could send it to you," Dean explained.
Sam turned to look at his father then turned back to Dean. "I don't know what to say. I…thank you. Thank you so much," he said, his voice shaky with emotion.
"You don't need to thank us, kiddo," John said, the man smiling as Sam returned his gaze to him. "You never should have been in the position to have felt you needed to burn your books. I'm just glad we were able to replace them all."
"This is so cool," Sam said, more to himself than to anyone else, as he ran his fingers over the comments his friends had left for him. "They're all here. All of them signed it for me."
Dean smiled as he pushed away from the table. "Why don't we go watch that movie we rented, twerp," he said, the young man turning away before anyone could see the wetness in his eyes.
Sam sat for a moment longer, his eyes perusing the words his friends had written. He finally stood and stepped back from the table. "Thanks, Dad," he said softly before picking up Dean's pie and leaving to join his brother.
"You're welcome, son," John replied, his dark eyes following his youngest out of the room.
John turned back toward his friends and heaved a heavy sigh. "We're going to be okay," he whispered happily before digging into his own piece of pie, the sudden sound of laughter coming from the living room filling his heart with joy.
Another one down! So, what did you think? So many people commented on how nice it would be if they could replace Sam's friends book, so that is why I wrote that in. I know it's a bit of a copy of the previous chapter where John searches for the novels Sam lost, but I agreed with the comments about him getting his autograph book back, so there it is. I'll be starting to work on the next story sometime this week so I hope to maybe have a chapter ready to post in a few weeks or so. As I mentioned in the last chapter, it will be a Three Brothers story (yep...Danny!) and is a prequel to The Lost Son. Our boys are younger...Sam will be around 12, Dean 16 and Danny 17. I have it generally mapped out, but don't have a title yet. I'll work on it as much as I can so that I can get it posted as soon as possible. Thank you all so much! I love you all!