Dean's eyes felt like they were filled with sand. He tried to blink the grit away but he felt as if it was going to take all the strength he had just to open and close his eyes. He tried to swallow, but his mouth was desert dry. He wondered what was going on. Slowly his senses came back to him. He managed to blink once, he pried his tongue off the roof of his mouth and tried again to swallow. His ears were ringing and he felt a cold ache spreading from his shoulder down his arm.
He blinked again and thought he heard a whimper of some sort. Good God, that wasn't him, was it? Dean Winchester did not whimper like a little puppy. To prove his point he tried to lift his head. Pain shot through his skull like lightning. This time he definitely did whimper, and he didn't care. At the moment crying also sounded like a pretty good idea.
"Settle down, son." He heard his father's voice and felt the warmth of his hand.
"Da…d?" The pain was still pulsing in his head, so much so that he didn't care how weak his voice sounded.
"Yeah, buddy. I'm here."
"Shhh, quit trying to talk kiddo. Just rest. I'm here. Sam is here."
Dean struggled against the pain in his head and tried again. "Sam….okay?"
"Yes, Dean. Sam's fine. I'm fine. Just relax." John held a straw to Dean's parched lips. The cool water slid down Dean's throat, he was sure he had never drank anything as wonderful before. He felt devastated when John pulled the glass away, all he wanted in the world was to drink more water.
"Take it slow, son."
Dean struggled to focus and look at his father. Finally John's haggard and weary expression became clear. There was an IV stand next to his bed, but he didn't think he was in a hospital, he didn't smell the antiseptic, flowery stench he associated with most hospitals. Suddenly Sam's face came into focus, his expression was anxious and worried.
"Hey Dean! How are you feeling? Does your head hurt? Arvid said your scalp took 36 stitches. He let me watch when he stitched you up. He made the tiniest little stitches, you probably won't even have a scar. Not that anyone would see it anyway, it's on the side of your head."
Dean couldn't process that much information. Why did he have stitches in his head? Who the hell was Arvid?
"Whoa, Sam. Slow, okay?" Dean recognized Sam's rapid talking as his way of venting his nerves and frustration, but there was only so much he could handle. "I don't really remember what happened. Why do I have stitches in my head?"
"Because, Julian Carver tried to put a bullet in it." John let him take another wonderful sip of the cool water. "He didn't count on you having the hardest head ever known to man. However, he succeeded in shooting a bullet through your shoulder."
Dean's eyelids were drooping. "I'm sorry, sir. I don't know what happened. I let that guy get the drop on me."
"No, Dean. You didn't let him get the drop on you. There wasn't anything that you could have done differently. It's my fault. I never should have let my guard down."
"Did they hurt you or Sammy? Did they hurt Fran?"
"They didn't hurt us. There were a few awful minutes where we thought Julian had killed you. I don't ever want to go through that again." He brushed away some soft blonde hair and looked into his son's sleepy eyes. "Fran got roughed up a little, but if she hadn't used your gun, well I'm pretty sure none of us would be here right now."
"Fran? She used my gun?" Dean couldn't believe what he was hearing, Fran hadn't even wanted to touch the gun when he showed it to her. "I just don't remember anything."
John cupped his son's face and smiled, the events of the day had certainly left him in a melancholy mood. He was fairly certain he had touched both his sons more today than he had in the last two years. "There will be time for all that tomorrow. Right now you need to close your eyes and get some sleep."
"Dean, you really scared me today." Sam said quietly. Was Sam actually holding his hand? If Sam didn't look so sad and scared Dean would have given him grief about being such a girl, but the warmth of his little brother's hand in his own, feeling the brush of his thumb, made him feel better than he imagined any drug could. Dean didn't realize he was smiling goofily, just like he didn't realize that there actually were some pretty heavy duty drugs in his system.
"Don't worry…Slammy…..mmmmmm, I'll be 'k…nice." Dean lost track of what was happening around him, he thought maybe if he just rested his eyes for a minute, he was so profoundly tired, he would feel better. Within seconds of closing his eyes he was he deeply asleep and snoring softly.
"Is he okay, Dad?" Sam wished Dean would stay awake a little longer.
John just nodded and sat back in the rocking chair he had pulled up to his son's bedside. He allowed himself the luxury of watching Dean sleep. John could see so much of his beloved Mary in Dean's face. Sam's features and coloring were a reflection of John, with just a hint of Mary around his ears and nose. But Dean, well there was no denying that Dean was Mary's son. John often teased his oldest by calling him 'pretty boy'. Dean hated it when he called him that. But it was the truth, he was a pretty boy. How could he not be, when he looked so much like his beautiful mother? Sometimes John was startled when Dean looked him in the eye, it was as if Mary was looking back at him. Mary would be so proud of what a fine man Dean was becoming. He closed his eyes and could practically hear her voice, the voice he heard on the rare occasions he allowed himself to visit the world of 'what if'. What if Mary hadn't perished on the nursery ceiling? What would they be doing right now if they were together as a family? She would be so proud of her son, of both her sons. He heard her whispering about what wonderful boys they had.
After a few more minutes enjoying his son's peaceful slumber, thanking the powers that be for not taking his boys away from him, and silently promising Mary for the millionth time that he wouldn't let anything happen to their boys, John turned his attention to Sam.
"Oscar said he gave Dean some of the 'good stuff', whatever that means. I'm guessing he is going to be out for a while. Time for you to get some shut-eye yourself."
"But what if Dean needs something?"
"Sam, you will be sleeping less than four feet away. I'm pretty sure if Dean needs something you will know."
Sam didn't move, he just kept holding his brother's hand. "What about Fran?" He asked, "Someone should check on her." Sam wasn't ready to leave his brother's side. His bed, just on the other side of the room, seemed like miles away. If he thought he could get away with it he would curl up on his brother's bed, like he did when he was younger. He always went to Dean when he was scared or had a bad dream. Dean always made him feel safe.
"Bobby is taking care of Fran. I'll go and check on them." John felt like an old man as he hoisted his tired body out of the rocking chair. He crossed over to Sammy's bed and pulled back the blankets.
"Don't tell Dean I'm letting you go to bed without brushing your teeth or washing up. Just this one time I think we can forget about that. Hop in Sammy."
Sam brought Dean's hand, still firmly clenched in his own, to his face and held it to his cheek. He knew if Dean could see him now he would give him crap about being a girl, but he didn't care. "Goodnight, Dean." He whispered. John felt oddly out of place watching the tender scene between his two sons. Had he ever known two brothers who were so close?
Sam slowly got up and staggered to his own bed, unceremoniously flopping down on the mattress. John brought up the blankets and tucked him in. "Get some rest, Sammy. Come and get me if Dean needs anything."
Sam turned and snuggled onto his side so he could watch his sleeping brother. Since arriving at Bobby's house Sam had alternated between needing his father close, telling him everything would be okay; or wanting the man as far away from him as possible. He knew his dad loved them, but how could he have permitted their lives to be so screwed up? Dean had been shot, he could have died, and their dad wouldn't take him to a hospital. Sam vowed to never live a life that would put him in that position. He would forever look at his father differently.
John could sense Sam's conflicted emotional state and decided it would be best to just let things pass for the moment. He was sure Sam would come around after a good night's sleep. They had been getting along so well these last few weeks, surely the moodiness and arguments were history. Sam was a hunter's son, he knew the risks, didn't he? John was confident that Sam would realize he made the right decision. After all, Dean was going to be okay. Sure, he would be out of commission for a while, maybe need some rehab or physical therapy. But all things considered, the outcome would be the same as if they had gone immediately to a hospital. Dean would never question his decision. By the time John was approaching the door to Fran's room he had himself convinced that everything would be fine, in a few weeks Sam would snap out of his adolescent funk and see that hunting as a family was the only life for the Winchesters.
Fran had only briefly regained consciousness after the cleansing ritual, but was so traumatized she behaved like a wild animal, refusing to let anyone near her. It was Bobby who finally calmed her hysterics enough so that Oscar and Arvid could tend to her injuries. Oscar gave her a heavy duty sedative so he could repair her back wounds, restitching and redressing. Her wrist was x-rayed and set in a plaster cast.
While John and Sam got Dean settled and waited for him to regain consciousness, Bobby gently carried Fran upstairs to an unoccupied guest room. Arvid helped him carefully prop her up on pillows to keep pressure off her back. Oscar didn't want her laying flat after hearing some suspicious rumbles in her lungs and fearing early onset pneumonia. In her weakened condition, and after the events of the day, it wasn't hard to believe she would at least have caught one heck of a cold. As Bobby looked at the sleeping girl he could see the bright red spots of fever on her cheeks. A gentle touch to her forehead confirmed that she was warm. Damn, Bobby thought, can't this kid catch a break?
Fran became restless and began mumbling in her sleep. Finally Bobby heard her whisper, "Daddy?" and he felt his heart clench.
"Daddy? I don't feel so good." She woke a little more and looked frantically around the room with glassy eyes.
"I'm sorry, sweetheart. I'm not your dad. It's Bobby, remember?"
"Bobby? Oh." Fran's breath hitched and she tried not to cry. She was so, so tired of crying. She was almost more tired of crying than she was of being in a different place every time she woke up. "Where am I?" She finally asked.
"You're at my house in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. You got here earlier today with the Winchesters." Bobby felt ridiculously uncomfortable sitting on the edge of the bed. Never before had he felt so out of place in his own home.
Fran's eyes felt hot in their sockets and her head was fuzzy. She remembered flashes of the last few days but was having a difficult time distinguishing what was real, and what wasn't. She remembered being locked in the closet in at the Anderson's party. She remembered her Uncle Gerard being possessed by a demon. After that things became increasingly blurred, she remembered pain, she remembered embarrassment, she remembered spending time with Dean and Sam. Suddenly another memory hit her.
"Dean! He was shot! Where is he? Is he okay?" Fran tried to sit up but had about as much strength as a sick kitten.
Bobby shushed her and settled her back on the pillows. He hadn't realized that John had quietly stepped into the room until he heard his voice.
"Dean is okay, he is resting in the next room with Sammy."
"Am I staying here? Did the ritual work?"
This time it was Bobby who answered. "Near as I can tell it worked just fine. You're safe here. What you need now is to get some rest and get your strength back. We have plenty of time to work out the details later, don't worry."
Fran still felt tears threatening. "I'm scared." She said quietly.
Bobby pulled the blankets up around her shoulders. "You don't have anything to be scared of here."
John added, "This house is a fortress. You're safe here."
"See there?" Bobby said. "You just get some rest now."
It didn't take long for Fran to settle. The two burly hunters waited in silence until her breathing evened out, and they were certain she was asleep, before they quietly left the room.
They made their way back to Bobby's kitchen and to John's relief the room thankfully looked like a kitchen again. Oscar and Arvid had loaded up their equipment and cleaned up all traces of the makeshift operating room that had been there earlier.
Bobby went to the cupboard and pulled out a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue, it had been a gift from someone he had helped a few years earlier. He had been saving it for a special occasion. Bobby thought celebrating the end of this awful day qualified.
He pulled out four mismatched glasses and poured generous shots for everyone.
"Looks like the young lady has a fever setting in." He said.
"Hmmm," Oscar nodded, savoring the smooth liquid as it slid down his throat. "I suspected as much. Not to worry. I gave her an antibiotic shot and I'll leave you a prescription. She will most likely be quite ill for a day or two but should then improve. If not, call."
John knocked back his own shot. "What happened to Dr. Crabby? You were all grumpy and cryptic with us. But take care of one messed up teenage girl and you turn into an old softie. What gives?"
"What can I say? I have a weakness for pretty girls." Oscar wiggled his glass for a refill.
Arvid shot his father a look but Oscar just glared at him. "What?" He said, "You have your license, you can drive home. If I have been drinking it will make our cover story look more credible, not? You had drag me out of a white man's bar and bring me home. Your mama will buy that."
"Mama isn't the fool you think she is, old man. I already called and told her we were helping Bobby Singer. She said she won't wait up for us."
"Good," Bobby answered while pouring another round, "I'm anxious to hear the whole story, John."
"Yes," Oscar said, obviously getting a little drunk as he poured shot after shot down his throat. "I would like to know how a man gets his young son shot while saving a virgin from witches, or demons, or whatever they were. Only a white man would find such trouble. What do you do with this girl now? Where is her family? Who shot the boy?"
Bobby pulled the rapidly emptying bottle away from the doctor. "Enough! He won't ever be able to tell us what happened if you keep jabbering! Good heavens, all day you grunt and point and now we can't shut you up."
Arvid laughed and went to the frig in search of a soda. "I'm anxious to hear this story, maybe we should listen to, huh?"
John helped himself to another shot, knowing he was in for a long night. Dean was going to have a long recovery and John was glad they would be able to spend it at Bobby's, the kids had been in school here before, maybe they could finish out the year in Sioux Falls. It was only a few days since they left Finewood but the town was already a distant memory.
As for Fran, John would give Pastor Jim a call as soon as he returned from his religious quest, or whatever the heck he was doing. John didn't have much experience with survivors of the supernatural. Normally, if he was lucky enough to save someone, they had family to care for them. It didn't happen too often that they came across someone who had no one. Fran was going to need lots of support and help to get through her ordeal. Support and comfort were Jim's strong suit, certainly not John's. Although Bobby had surprised him in his gentle care for the young girl. Surely Pastor Jim would know what to do.
Then there were the questions that had been raised by the demon possessing Uncle Gerard. He needed to talk to Bobby about Beelzebub's Snare. As for the information the demon had shared about Mary, how could any of that be true? He had implied that Mary knew about the supernatural and demon deals. How could a young woman like Mary make a deal with a demon? Was that even possible?
The men all sat around the kitchen table, each lost in their own thoughts. Finally Oscar grunted, "If you are telling the story psychically, I gotta tell you, I left my crystal ball at home, I'm not getting your signal."
John hadn't realized he was lost in reflection. Finally, he took a deep breath, and another drink of whisky. "Well, it all started because Dean went to a party Friday night….."
A/N Hope this didn't disappoint. A huge THANKS to each and every one of you who reviewed or alerted this story! I would love to hear your final thoughts!