AUTHOR'S NOTES: So I wanted to give some backstory on Sam and Dean after the accident, especially when they woke up and found out about their injuries.
Also, the restaurant mentioned at the end of this chapter is a real place and 10 minutes from where I live. Louise—who I also mention in regards to Brioni Café and Deli—is also real and, yes, she does have my usual order totally memorized.
Zingerman's is real, too, and they make some of the best sourdough bread I've ever tasted in my life along with vanilla marshmallows that taste like lightly perfumed clouds of Heaven. If you live anywhere near Ann Arbor, visit the Zingerman's locations at least once—it's well worth the trip.
The following Saturday, Sam was already awake when he felt the vibrating alarm on his wrist watch go off. Normally he was a sound sleeper but every once in a while, he was woken up earlier when the painkillers he took before bed wore off. Lying in his dorm bed, Sam gritted his teeth at the pain in his leg. The pain was always worst in the morning and until he could get his medications, there was nothing to do but try and ride it out.
Thinking on anything to distract him from the pain, Sam found himself remembering the days after the accident.
5 Years Ago
Waking in the hospital right after the accident, Sam felt so much pain he'd actually wished he'd died. The worst pain had been his leg. The whole thing throbbed, ached, and was a source of never-ending stabbing agony. The first time he'd seen his injured limb, Sam was aghast at the lines of stitches and the amount of metal attached.
Then his dad and the doctor came in to the room. Thankfully, Sam's hearing aids had been undamaged so once he'd put them in—apparently one of the nurses had placed them on the stand next to his bed—Sam was able to hear the doctor as he discussed the damage along with the horrific prognosis.
Dr. Bryson had looked extremely grim as he talked about the severity of the fractures and the preliminary surgery to stabilize the injuries. "Right now we have the fractures to Sam's leg stabilized but we need to talk about how to proceed with treatment."
John looked surprised by that statement as he looked from his son to the doctor. "Well, you're taking him back into surgery, right?"
Bryson's expression was sympathetic as he slowly shook his head. "Mr. Winchester, while surgery is obviously one path of treatment, given the severity of Sam's injuries it would be better if you opted for amputation."
Sam hoped he had just misheard, even though he knew that with the hearing aids he was hearing almost normally. "What?"
John looked equally shocked by the news and he also wanted to make sure he'd heard correctly. "Amputation?" he repeated.
"If you decide to go with reparative surgery," Bryson explained to John, "Sam's going to be looking at months in the hospital in a cast, most likely additional surgeries, years of pain and physical therapy and even then the odds of your son regaining meaningful function of his leg are very, very slim. If we remove the limb above the main damage, there will be enough tissue left that Sam can learn to use a prosthetic and his chances of having a normal life are exponentially increased."
John rubbed his face with one hand as he tried to think. Looking at Sam and the kid's leg, he asked Bryson, "How much surgery are we talking about?"
The doctor shrugged, vaguely. "Full length rod attached to Sam's tibia and lower femur, knee replacement, plates and screws in his ankle… and as he gets older, the hardware will need to be adjusted and replaced. Mr. Winchester… I know you don't want to do this. Removal of a limb is hard for anyone and no parent should be in your position. But the longer we wait, the higher the chances of infection which can be extremely dangerous."
"Dad, I don't want to lose my leg," Sam said, urgently. He could see that his father was considering the amputation option and he didn't want the doctors to cut his leg off. "Please, Dad."
Bryson glanced at Sam as he said, "Son, I'm sorry, but your father's the one who makes the decision."
But John felt himself siding with his youngest son. He hated doing it, especially considering what Sam would be going through. But the kid had never had a say about anything in his entire life and if Sam wanted to deal with the consequences of his choice, then John felt he had to go along with it. "How soon can you get Sammy into surgery to repair the damage?"
When Sam went back into surgery an hour later, John went into Dean's room and for a long time he just looked at the kid. Dean wore a Halo brace which was literally bolted to his head. There were two IVs dripping blood and medications into his arm. Feeling tears fall down his face, John wiped them away quickly as he saw Dean's eyes open. "Hey, there, Ace," John said, trying to sound as cheerful as possible. "How're you feeling?"
"Is Sam okay?" Dean asked, not sure why his father looked like he'd been crying. "I'm sorry, Dad. I-I didn't even have time to react. I should have pushed Sammy out of the way, or…" Seeing John's stony yet pained expression, Dean felt his heart sink. "Dad, where's Sam? What happened?" He tried to sit up even though all that did was make him hurt even more than before.
"Sam's in surgery," John explained, not wanting Dean to exert himself. For a while, he didn't say anything else as he tried to think of the best way to describe Sam's condition. "Sam's leg…" Seeing Dean's look of comprehension and fear, John knew his oldest was going to the worst case scenario. "The docs are going to try and fix him up, but it's pretty bad."
Dean felt tears welling up in his eyes and he wiped them away, furiously. He should have pushed Sam out of the way or… or done something instead of just standing there! He tried again to sit up but this time he was stopped by one of the doctors coming into the room.
"Sorry, son. You can't do that." Dr. Nella Ellis was tall and slender, her short brown hair tied back in a haphazard ponytail. She hurried over to Dean and gently put a hand on his shoulder.
"Look, I just want to sit up," Dean protested.
Nella looked hesitant at that. She wanted Dean to stay as flat as possible to help ease the swelling around his spine, but she'd seen kids like Dean before and she knew that getting the kid to stay still would be a world-class challenge—especially if he knew how badly his brother had been hurt. Looking at John, she motioned for him to stand on Dean's other side. "Dean, your father and I are going to help you sit up some. Don't try to move… just let us do the work, okay?"
"Okay," Dean replied, letting himself just relax. His dad and the doctor each put an arm behind him and very, very gingerly, they moved him into a more upright position. But the moment he'd started moving, the pain in his back exploded and he couldn't stop himself from crying out in agony.
Nella quickly adjusted the bed and she and John slowly eased Dean back down against the back of the bed. "Dean? Are you okay?"
It took Dean several minutes to respond and when he looked at the doctor, he said, "How bad?"
The doctor looked at John and then at Dean before she said, "The accident caused severe damage to your spinal cord. We stabilized the fractured vertebrae and they should heal up within a month or two. But the nerve damage was serious and resulted in a complete loss of sensation and motor function from your navel down."
Even with the phrasing, Dean understood what Dr. Ellis was saying and a glance at his dad showed that John understood as well. His mouth went dry and after a while, he finally said, "I'm paralyzed?" The word seemed to echo loudly in his mind and he felt like the whole world had been yanked out from under him. He couldn't move his legs, couldn't feel anything below his waist… He'd be in a wheelchair probably the rest of his life…
But worst of all, Dean thought, he wouldn't be able to protect Sam. The one job he'd had his entire life and a fucking car accident screwed it all up.
Dean's 6th sense woke him up almost exactly a minute after Sam's alarm went off. Sitting up, he saw his little brother's pained expression and quickly twisted around to grab the emergency supply of ibuprofen sitting on the night table next to him. It wasn't as good at the prescription meds but those were locked up in the school's infirmary. Moving from his bed to his wheelchair, Dean went to Sam and handed him a pill along with a partial bottle of water left over from the previous night.
Sensing that he needed to get to the bathroom or risk having a serious accident, Dean looked worriedly at his brother before deciding. "I'll be back in just a bit," he promised after Sam had swallowed the painkiller. When Sam nodded in understanding, Dean grabbed his bathroom kit and headed out of the room and down the hall to the bathroom.
After taking care of business, Dean cleaned up and hurried back to his room, feeling slightly relieved when he saw Sam sitting up, legs over the edge of the bed and his right leg stretched out in front of him.
Every time Dean saw Sam's injured leg, he couldn't help staring for a moment. There were numerous scars in various degrees of healing and Sam's ankle never fully extended anymore. And the last time Sam's knee was fully extended, the joint had frozen in that position for nearly a week.
Sam waited until Dean caught his eye and made the sign for 'staring' which, as usual, caused Dean to looked embarrassed.
'Sorry, Sammy,'Dean replied, noticing that his brother had yet to put his hearing aids in. 'Let's get you braced up and dressed. It's Saturday so Dad will be meeting us at Brioni at 10am.'
Since Underwood Academy was a boarding school, Sam and Dean didn't get to see their dad as often as they had before, but neither of them minded too much. Besides, John spent almost every weekend with them and came by the school to visit in the evenings whenever he could.
After they were ready, the brothers headed to the main office to sign out for the weekend before leaving the campus.
Brioni Café and Deli was a local sandwich shop that used top quality lunchmeats and cheeses and imported their breads from a bakery all the way in Michigan—some place in Ann Arbor called Zingerman's. It was warm, friendly, and very rarely empty. The woman who ran the place, Louise, was always happy to see the Winchesters and even knew their usual orders by heart.
But to Sam and Dean's immense surprise, they found that their dad wasn't alone at their usual table in the corner. Not only was Bobby sitting there as well, but so were Jess and Max.
"What are you guys doing here?" Dean asked the girls, signing for Jess's benefit.
'Your dad invited us,' Jess replied, smiling. 'He said you guys always eat here on the weekends.'
"I kinda wanted to get to know the girls you boys wouldn't stop talking about," John explained, signing as he spoke.
Dean looked at Jessica and could help blushing when she smiled at him. He was 17 for cryin' out loud. He was too old to be embarrassed by his dad bringing up his girlfriend. But thinking the word 'girlfriend' Dean found himself looking at Jess with a fresh perspective. He'd never actually had a girlfriend before…
"Hello, boys," Louise said, cheerfully as she came up to the table, looking at Sam, Dean, John, and Bobby. "The usuals?"
The guys nodded and after Jess and Max ordered, Louise headed off to put the orders in and ring everyone up.
Bobby stood and said, "I'll go pay. You guys talk." At the register, he caught the eye of one of the other employees, a tall woman with black hair. Nodding a bit at the table, he said, "Sam and Dean apparently thought they'd be alone on their first dates."
Louise laughed at that as she took the credit card Bobby offered. Running it through, she said, "You and John are doing a great job with those boys. You should be proud of them."
Bobby nodded and after collecting the bottles of soda and bags of chips—Sam always got sour cream and onion while Dean only liked the barbeque—he returned to the table and took his seat again.
"So did you finally ask her out?" John asked, jokingly.
Bobby frowned a bit and only said, "She's married, ya idjit."