At first it was really shitty.
It was all drugs and pain and just general incoherency.
Even whilst instructed to keep weight off the leg he had knowingly – and repeatedly - pressed it to the floor. In a still-healing state of swelling and bruising, the knee really didn't exactly appreciate him attempting to stand and force so much pressure through it. More often than not it buckled, the brace the only structure keeping him upright, but still, he persisted.
He usually obliged by taking most of the weight across his shoulders as he balanced on crutches, but even then – especially then - he was always testing it. He would feel a slight twitch at the corner of his mouth as the pain flickered through his leg and settled comfortably where the damage had been done and for some indeterminable reason he continued on that path.
He wanted it to heal, of course he did, but he didn't have time. There were things to be done, monsters to gank and annoying little brothers to keep up with.
As soon as he was free from the mechanical brace, all Velcro and metal, he bailed. He didn't turn up to the rehabilitation centre and tossed the reams of exercises into the trunk, never to be seen again. He didn't even give Sam the option of suggesting that he could help.
Dean wasn't entirely stupid, he knew which of the exercises were piss-easy and he repeated them daily, lifting his knee and bending the joint as far as it would flex. He kept it up for a while, but it was fairly quick to become apparent that it was never healing up. He would never be walking with equal distribution of weight again, that much was certain, and he'd be damned if he was going to let them cut him open again.
Once back on his feet enough to try walking, his limp heavy and awkward, it took a while to master the art of every day tasks. He struggled the most with stumbling up flights of stairs, but given his practically inclined nature, he quickly developed technique. The trick was to take it slowly, carefully, just to admit that everything was going to take a damn sight longer than when he was fit and healthy and spry.
It frustrated him how he used to be spry and now he was just slow, one word exchanged for another with the flick of a wrist and one lousy misjudged step.
But all things considered - the limp and the twinges of pain, the concerned glances from Sam and the insistence that his driving time was limited, it wasn't too horrendous. He could walk, he could function; he just needed a little more time and a couple of pills every few hours.
The cold tended to affect him more though. Even with his jeans and the neoprene brace that he kept tucked around his joint, the cold still managed to seep in and make that limp more pronounced.
"We should head back." Sam spoke softly, his teeth chattering as his breath was visible against the cold night air. He pulled his hoodie down over his hands and shivered a little, turning to face his brother.
Dean just stiffened, stood a little straighter and readjusted his grip on the shovel he held, making a pointed effort to hold the tool horizontally as opposed to vertically. He didn't need the support and he definitely didn't need the temptation.
If Sam saw him leaning on that thing there would be hell to pay.
"C'mon," Sam tried again, "We've been here for hours, I think we've got the wrong graveyard, it's freezing cold, and –"
Dean nodded before Sam had a chance to mention anything to do with him, his leg or the fact that yes, he was stumbling and dragging himself along with more difficulty than normal. He couldn't even blame it on the uneven ground.
So he followed Sam back to the Impala, still searching the gravestones with the flashlight, rolling his eyes every time the name didn't crop up.
They would look again tomorrow, and Dean couldn't hide his smile of thanks when as soon as he hauled himself into shotgun, Sam clicked a heat pad and tossed towards him.