Characters: Dean and Sam, OC
Notes/Disclaimers/Summary: This story is set in Season 1 between “Provenance” and “Dead Man’s Blood." When a hunt goes sideways, the brothers are hurt and lost in the northern Minnesota woods. They have only each other and their skills to get them out...and they aren't alone. They are being tracked by the 'perfect hunter.'
Chicago, IL 2006
“All right, come on. We don’t have much time. As soon as the flare’s out, they’ll be back,” Sam panted.
Dean’s voice was tight with pain and breathless from half-carrying their father out of the apartment building. “Wait, wait. Sam, wait,” he pushed John up, away from him, making him balance on his own. “Dad, you can’t come with us.”
“What?” Sam was incredulous. They had just found him again! “What are you talkin’ about?”
John blinked the blood out of his eyes, looking from Dean’s hunched form, his left arm pressed against his side, to Sam’s slashed face. “You boys—you’re beat to hell,” he said, shaking his head.
Dean swallowed thickly, “We’ll be all right.” He said it with such certainly. Sam saw sadness flicker in John’s eyes.
Sam wasn’t ready to give up so easily. He'd just gotten John back, dammit! He wanted him there – he wanted to know he was there! “Dean, we should stick together. We’ll go after those demons—“
Dean’s voice shook and he tried to straighten, “Sam! Listen to me!” His voice carried the one authority Sam had always been compelled to listen to – over John, over his own voice… “We almost got Dad killed in there. Don’t you understand?”
The blood from the cut on Dean’s forehead ran down his face and crossed his lips. He blinked heavy eyes at Sam, begging him to understand. “They’re not gonna stop, they’re gonna try again. They’re gonna use us to get to him. I mean, Meg was right. Dad’s vulnerable when he’s with us. He’s—he’s stronger without us around.” He finished his plea, dropping his eyes and holding his side.
No. “Dad, no.” Sam lifted his hand to his father’s shoulder, gripping it tightly. He saw Dean’s face out of the corner of his eyes. Dean’s eyes were sad, his face pulled in a pinch of empathy. “After everything, after all the time we spent lookin’ for you—please. I gotta be a part of this fight.”
John frowned, the blood on his face throwing the shadows on his features into an odd light. Sam couldn’t tell if he saw regret or pride in his father’s eyes. “Sammy, this fight is just starting. And we are all gonna have a part to play. For now, you’ve got to trust me, son. Okay, you’ve gotta let me go.”
Sam swallowed hard. He looked at Dean. Dean was watching John’s face, waiting for John to look at him. Waiting… Sam pressed his lips together, fighting back the tears that had been threatening since Dean had stopped them. He looked back at John and gripped his shoulder once more, patting it softly. He dropped his hand, and John stepped between them, walking toward his truck.
Sam looked at his brother. Dean looked back, and the expression in his eyes was a tangle of pain, regret, sorrow, and resolution. Sam pulled his eyebrows together, letting his misery reflect through his eyes, wanting Dean to see how badly this was hurting him.
“Be careful, boys,” John ordered, then stepped into his truck without a backward glance.
“Come on,” Dean said, bouncing slightly against Sam to get him moving around to his side of the car.
Sam backed away, keeping his eyes on his Dad’s shadow inside of the truck. He opened the door of the Impala, stepped in and looked at Dean. The wince of pain as Dean adjusted himself behind the wheel wasn’t hidden quickly enough. They raised their eyes as one and watched John’s truck pull out of the alley, pull away from them.
Dean started the car without another word. He backed up through the alley, going the opposite way as their father. He rotated the wheel slowly, holding his arm against his left side. Sam reached up as Dean drove down the lonely, darkened back streets of Chicago to carefully rub at the blood drying on the cuts across his cheek. He heard Dean breathing shallowly beside him.
“I can’t believe you just let him go,” he said. It sounded sullen and petulant, but he was tired, he was hurting, and he wanted John back.
“I didn’t have a choice, Sam,” Dean said in a tight voice.
“But now he’s out there, and it’s after him,” Sam said after a few minutes of silence. He couldn’t let it go. It had felt so good to be in a room with his father again… to be there and not fight… to be there and feel his father’s arms around him… to be there.
Dean let out a shaky sigh and Sam looked over at him. His brother looked terrible. The cut on his forehead and next to his eye had stopped bleeding, but he hadn’t let go of his side since releasing John. Sam blinked and thought back to the fight in the warehouse… back to how quickly he was able to get to the flares in the bag… back to how someone had run interference for him…
“You okay, Dean?”
“Sam, I had to, okay?” Dean said in a tight voice. “I had to. I wanted him back, man, you know I did. Seeing him again, man, it was like… like a weight had been lifted. But…”
“I’m serious, man. If I thought that there was any other way to keep us together, to keep you guys safe…”
“Dean!” Sam barked. Dean blinked in surprise and looked over at Sam, as though just realizing that his brother was sitting next to him, staring at him.
“Jesus, Sammy,” he muttered. “We gotta get you stitched up.”
Sam reached up to his face again, wincing slightly as his fingers touched raw flesh. Dean blinked at him, turning his attention slowly back to the highway – almost too slowly. He had to pull the wheel sharply to keep it off the edge of the road.
“Dean, are you okay,” Sam whispered again. He was asking about more than just his side, his wounds… and he hoped his brother heard that.
Dean paused, pulled in his bottom lip, and for a moment Sam thought he’d get his answer. “I’m fine, Sam,” Dean whispered.
He drove on into the night, resolutely ignoring Sam’s stare. Sam was glad he watched so closely, else he might have missed the heavy-lidded blink that nearly sent them into the ditch. When Dean recovered the car, he looked over at Sam with wide eyes. Sam blinked back. Dean slowed the car, pulling it over to the side of the road.
“You wanna drive?” Dean asked quietly.
Sam didn’t answer. He stepped out of the car, moved around to the driver’s side, opened the door, and with a gentle shove, moved Dean across the bench seat and into the passenger seat. Sam slid behind the wheel, slightly surprised to feel the sticky wetness on the seat. If Dean had known he was bleeding enough to get it on the Impala, he’d have stopped a long time ago.
“Guess this answers your question, dude,” Dean said in a weary voice from the passenger seat as Sam pulled back onto the road looking for the nearest motel.
“Dad was glad to see you,” Dean mumbled. “I don’t think I ever saw the man so happy…”
Sam pressed his emotion back. Dean was right. Their Dad had looked happy. Which was why it had been so hard to let him go.
“I know, Sam,” Dean said, his head resting on the window, his eyes closed.
“I know you miss him, man. I wish there was another way…”
Sam was smiling. It was the first thing he saw in the fuzzy light of the room. Sam’s smile.
“Dude,” he groaned. “It’s too early for you to be so happy.”
That only made the smile wider. “It’s six o’clock.”
“In the morning?”
Dean groaned again, taking stock. He shifted on the bed, feeling the pull in his back. He was sore – felt like he’d gone a few rounds with that Native American body builder Sam had talked about. His head pounded. But the intense ache, the to-the-bone pain he’d felt before was gone.
“Sam?” he blinked his eyes open, looking around the room. No one else was there. He was strangely relieved. Sam sat next to his bed in the wheelchair, only this time his leg was encased in a brilliant white cast.
“What day is it?”
Sam lifted an eyebrow, giving him a bemused look. “It’s Friday. We’ve been in the clinic a week, man.”
“You’ve slept through most of it.”
“Oh, man. The Impala…” Dean groaned, reaching up with his right hand to rub at his forehead.
Dean saw a strange mark on his right forearm. “Yeah, man. We left it parked on the side of the… Dude. How the hell did I get this?” he rotated his arm, looking at the hand-shaped bruise turning from purple to yellow on his arm just above the wrist.
“I gave it to you,” Sam said. Dean’s eyes flew to his brother’s. Sam looked… proud.
Sam tightened his lips. Dean had seen that look before. Sam was debating on exactly how to tell him something.
“So you wouldn’t fall,” Sam said softly, hoping Dean would remember on his own. He watched as Dean’s eyes bounced from one side to the other, remembering, reliving.
“The… the wendigo… it…”
“Poisoned you,” Sam supplied.
Dean nodded, looking slightly shell-shocked. He lifted his eyes to Sam, his unguarded expression sucking the breath from Sam’s lungs. Damn, Dean, he thought. The walls were so much a part of his brother – the careful looks, the sarcastic answers, the way he talked around a subject when it got anywhere in the vicinity of his feelings. Sam was used to that. He was used to being on the other side. Dean letting him in – even if just for a moment, just through a look – rocked him.
“You’re okay, Dean.”
“What about you?” Dean blinked, shaking away the memory of the wendigo, the pain, the agony as the shaman pulled the poison from his body.
Sam smiled again. “I got a cast.”
“I see. I’m itching to sign it,” Dean’s face pulled up into a half-grin.
“Dude, do not say itch,” Sam groaned good-naturedly.
“Boys,” said a voice from the doorway. The voice, the tone -- it so matched John’s that Sam saw Dean freeze. He tried to close off the instant flash of hope, but Sam saw it anyway. He shook his head once and leaned back so that Dean could see the doorway and Abe leaning against the frame.
“Hey,” greeted Sam.
“I see you’re awake,” Abe said to Dean. “How are you feeling?”
“Better,” Dean answered honestly.
Abe stepped into the room and closer to them. Dean shifted, trying to sit up straighter in the bed. Sam watched with amazement. Dean was so closed off to strangers – he manipulated them, worked the situation so that they gave him what he needed. But with Abe… he acted like he was being… judged, inspected, measured. He… acted like he did when Dad was around.
“So, I, uh,” Dean began, clearing his throat. “I owe you, man. We owe you,” he said, tilting his head to Sam.
Abe waved a hand in the air. “Not necessary.”
“Sure as hell is,” Dean protested. “If you hadn’t come along… we wouldn’t have made it.”
Sam felt himself grow cold at Dean’s words. That had been his nightmare through the last week. They had come so close this time… and to hear Dean say it aloud made it real, made their debt to Abe real. He nodded his agreement at Abe.
“Listen,” Abe said, clearing his throat. He looked down at the floor, and shoved his hands into his back jeans pockets. “You boys, uh, you don’t owe me anything.” He paused, and they waited, recognizing the struggle for words. “You gave me something.”
He paused again, then lifted his eyes back to the brothers. “You helped me believe in something again. You two…” he shook his head, his eyes bright. “You have something special. More than just… siblings. You’re partners. You’re friends. I could see it walking through the forest even when you,” he nodded his head to Sam, “were unconscious and you,” he nodded at Dean, “were half dead.”
Sam blinked and looked down, then over at Dean. His brother’s jaw was tight, but his eyes dry. He listened to Abe’s words, but it was almost as though he didn’t know where to put them.
“Don’t lose that, boys,” Abe said, his voice thick with emotion. “I get the feeling your lives aren’t gonna get any easier… and from what I’ve witnessed… the only thing that’s gonna get you through it is each other.”
They sat in silence. The only sound being the steady cadence of the monitor, the whoosh of air from the heating ducts. Sam broke the silence.
Abe nodded and started to turn away.
“Abe,” Dean’s voice caught him. Sam and Abe looked at him, expectantly.
“Think you could do one more thing for us?”
Abe lifted a shoulder, waiting.
“Don’t know where the keys are, exactly, but uh,” Dean licked his lips, pausing, then continued. “I’d really appreciate if you went over to Kingsley Trail and picked up my car.”
Sam’s eyebrows shot up. He looked at Abe, catching his eye, trying to say without words that this was Big. Feel the weight of this request; it is Dean’s way of saying I believe you, I trust you, I thank you.
“Sure, I think I could handle that,” Abe grinned. He went to the cabinet where Doc had stored their personal possessions. He lifted out a pair of keys, holding them up to Dean. “These them?”
“St. Christopher’s medal, huh?” Abe said, looking at the keys.
Dean nodded again. “Friend gave it to us,” he offered.
Abe nodded back, “Must know you pretty well – protection for travelers and all.” He gave the boys a grin and left the room.
Sam turned to Dean, waiting. Waiting for his brother to comment on Abe’s words, on the fact that they survived, on what had happened to him when Running Horse touched him. Waiting for something… Dean didn’t look at him.
“Sam,” Dean interrupted whatever his brother was about to say with a raised hand. “I think we may have reached maximum overload on chick-flick moments.”
Sam shook his head, unwilling to be deterred. “I’m not gonna forget, Dean.”
“Won’t forget what?” Dean asked, shifting stiffly on the bed, relieved that he could move his left arm without the excruciating pain of before.
“What you did for me. What you’ve done for me.”
Dean lifted his eyes to Sam’s, confused. “What are you talking about, man?”
Sam sighed, looked down, then lifted his eyes again. “I trust you, man. You’re my brother. I know you’d…. you’d die for me. But don’t lose yourself to save me, okay?” He thought of Josh saying those words to him. He thought of Running Horse predicting Dean’s ultimate sacrifice. His stomach twisted and the agony of his thoughts shone through his eyes.
Dean’s eyebrows when up. “You okay, man? What are you saying this stuff for?”
Sam just shook his head. “I just wanted you to know…” he couldn’t continue. He had tried to tell Dean when they were in the forest, when he thought they were going to die, and he couldn’t get the words out then. What made him think he was going to be able to now… now that they were safe, now that Dean was back with him.
Dean watched as Sam struggled to climb over that wall that was always between Dean and the rest of the world. He looked down. “I know, Sammy.” He knew. He’d always known how his brother felt about him. He didn’t need to hear the words.
“I mean it, man,” Sam said softly.
“Me, too,” Dean said, then looked up, taking a breath. “But if we have many more conversations like this we’re going to have to paint the Impala pink.”
Sam grinned, nodding. He lifted a brow, “You’re so not signing my cast, dude.”
Dean feigned disappointment. “Aww, Sammy. Such a kill-joy. And I have the perfect poem all worked out.”
“Poem? Are you friggin’ kidding me?”
“There once was a geek-boy named Sam…”
“Shut up, man.”
It took another week before Dean could get out of the bed and walk unaccompanied across the room. Abe had brought in their duffels and clothes. Dean's first attempt to pull a T-shirt over his head ended with him unconscious. The second with him sweating and shaking. When he was able to dress himself without keeling over, Doc allowed Abe to take them to Running Horse. Their visit was brief, but as Sam leaned heavily on the crutches, he watched with interest as Running Horse’s milky eyes never wavered from Dean’s. As they left, he reached out for Dean with his withered hand. He reached out for Sam with his other hand, pulling the brother’s close.
He stood between them, looking at Dean, holding on to both. “Nij,” he said. “Seyenz.”
The boys looked blankly at Abe. He shrugged. “Two brothers,” he said.
Dean looked at Running Horse. “What does that mean?”
“Seyenz,” Running Horse repeated. Dean looked at Sam, shrugged, then gently patted Running Horses’ hand before they left. Abe walked out with them. They walked back to the clinic in silence. Abe stopped at the bottom of the clinic’s ramp.
“You know, he lost his brother long before the wendigo took over,” Abe said. “He lost his brother the minute his life was saved.”
Dean looked over at Sam, then back at Abe, nodding. He walked slowly behind Sam up the ramp. When they reached the top, he said to Sam in a low voice. “It’s time to go, man.”
Sam didn’t think Dean was healed enough. He still tired easily, favored his left arm, and couldn’t rest on his back without breaking out into a sweat. But the look in Dean’s eyes left no room for argument.
“Can you make it?” Dean asked.
“Yeah,” Sam answered. “I just have to get this off in a couple weeks.” He gestured to his cast with a crutch.
Dean nodded, opening the door to the room they’d inhabited during their recovery. “I, uh, I just need to…”
“Get back on the road,” Sam said with a nod.
Dean lifted grateful eyes to his brother. “Yeah.”
The next day, they had their weapons and duffels in the car. Sam grumbled good-naturedly about being relegated to the back seat.
“Dude, there’s no way you can sit in front,” Dean said, impatiently. “You can’t bend ‘cause of your cast and if we move the seat back far enough for that, I can’t reach the peddles.”
“Not my fault you’re little.”
“Oh, you did not just go there,” Dean glared at him.
Abe stood next to Doc and Josh, watching as the brothers situated themselves, listening to their banter.
“Hey,” Abe called as Dean tossed Sam’s second crutch toward his brother. Dean looked back at him over his shoulder; Sam ducked his head so that he could look out of the opened car door.
“Two brothers,” Abe said, repeating Running Horse’s words.
“Yeah?” Dean said.
“Two destinies,” he finished. “It doesn’t have to end the same.”
Dean looked back in at Sam, who met his eyes solemnly. He saw his questions mirrored in his brother’s eyes. Doesn’t have to end the same as what? As Running Horse and the wendigo? As each other? They had always known they were different; their ‘normal’ was not societies ‘normal’. But destiny?
Sam lifted a shoulder, his eyes softening, not pretending to have the answers. “Guess we’ll figure that out as we go, huh?” he whispered so that only Dean could hear. Dean dropped his eyes, pulled in his bottom lip, then nodded.
“You okay in there, Sam?” Dean asked one last time before shutting the back door.
“Let’s go,” Sam nodded.
Dean turned to the trio and lifted a hand. The gesture, accompanied by the half grin, spoke more words than Abe knew Dean would ever be able to express. The door creaked noisily as he opened it and got in. He turned on the radio, Zeppelin blaring from the speakers.
“Got no time for spreadin' roots, the time has come to be gone. And tho' our health we drank a thousand times, it's time to Ramble On…”
Pulling away from the reservation, Dean sighed as he listened to the words, looking in the rear-view mirror at his brother. Sam nodded back at him.
“No better place to heal up than the road, man.”
“You never know, Sam,” Dean dropped his eyes to the road ahead of him. “We could run into Dad again soon. For real this time.”
“Yeah,” Sam sighed. “Knowing him he’ll just jump into the back seat one day when we least expect it.”
Dean grinned. He’d like that. “I’d like that.”
“I know you would, man,” Sam nodded. He looked at Dean’s eyes in the rear-view mirror. “I know.”
Abe stood outside the clinic in the twilight. Running Horse called this the witching hour – when the day was not yet dead, and the night was clawing for dominance. He looked to the west, the black car having long since gone, the boys now part of his past.
He shoved his hands into the back pockets of his jeans, pulling the night air into his lungs. He knew he would reflect on the last week for many years. The young hunters had marked him, changed him, affected him in a way that over forty years of living had not.
“’Scuse me,” a deep voice from his right startled him.
The man appeared as though a product of the coming darkness itself. He stood at the bottom of the ramp, looking up at Abe. Abe tilted his head, regarding the man for a moment before speaking. There was something about his stance… something about the set of his jaw, the dark eyes…
“Help you?” Abe responded.
"Lookin’ for a man named Abe,” the stranger answered.
“You found him,” Abe replied, pulling his hands from his back pockets, dropping them loose at his sides.
The wind picked up, carrying a scent from the stranger to Abe. A scent of gunpowder and leather. As Abe watched the man shift his stance slightly, dropping his chin minutely, but not taking his eyes from Abe’s face, and suddenly, he knew…
“Well I’ll be a dirty name,” Abe whispered. “It’s you.”
“Sorry?” the man answered.
“You missed them,” Abe said softly.
Abe watched the man set his jaw, look over his shoulder to the west in an almost instinctive check. He looked back at Abe and lifted his chin.
“’Bout five hours now.”
The man looked down.
Abe opened his mouth to say yes, but something stopped him. He looked at this man who had raised his boys to be hunters of evil, who had – whether purposefully or not – turned them into partners, two halves of the same coin. He thought of the devotion they had for each other, and Abe knew that stemmed from this man. He thought of the anger Sam carried and the faith Dean displayed. He thought of what those boys had survived…
“Honestly, I don’t know.”
“Mind if I come up?” the man’s voice was a deep rumble of natural authority. He wasn’t asking Abe for permission to join him, he was warning him of his impending arrival.
Abe rotated to the side, his movement opening a path of invitation. As the man approached, Abe watched his movement. He kept his arms loose at his side, prepared, but outwardly relaxed. He kept his chin down in a deceptive position of surrender; deceptive because the dark eyes, sharp in their intensity, were never lowered. They saw everything.
Abe reached his hand out, appreciating the strong grip that answered his gesture.
Winchester. Abe thought. It was a fitting name for the hunters. Strong, historic, bringing both death and peace. Abe gestured to the railing with his head, and they moved together to lean against it. The night completed its takeover and the surrendering day gave way to the chorus of stars. Abe stood next to John, unable to not feel the tangle of emotions rolling off of the man.
“Their hurts are healing,” Abe said, hoping to somehow reassure the father. “Sam will have a cast on his leg for a few more weeks, though.”
John brought his head up. “He, uh, he didn’t mention that.”
Abe nodded. “I suspect he was pretty worried about his brother.”
Abe noticed that John didn’t question how he knew Sam had called. He wasn’t sure what Sam’s message held, but it had been enough to bring their father here… just a few hours too late.
Abe felt a jab in his heart. Dean had needed to see this man so badly. He had needed him to survive. But… he had pulled through without his father’s physical presence. He had made it on will. On his and his brother’s will.
“Dean...” Abe began, then cleared his throat. How much did he tell him? How much did he already know? “He’ll be okay. He was pretty… it was close.”
Abe sensed John shift in the darkness, felt a coldness fall over the man.
“Well… if Sam was hurt, I suspect Dean would have had to be… boy knows to protect his brother.”
Abe was certain John meant that as a compliment direct toward his oldest, but something about the tone, the almost removed, impersonal way it was spoken lifted the hairs on the back of Abe’s neck.
"John,” he said, his voice purposefully low, measured. “Do you have any idea how much that boy needs you?”
John’s head whipped over to face him. “Who, Sam?”
John looked away. “Dean’s fine. He knows his job, and he’s damn good at it.”
“Dean almost died, John,” Abe meant the words to sting, to be harsh. And so when John flinched next to him, he sighed in satisfaction. He stepped away from the railing so that he could turn and face John. “He fought off two wendigos. He tried to pull his brother out of the forest on his own. And he damn near made it, too.”
John clenched his jaw, and in that bounce of muscle in his cheek, Abe saw his son. When John lifted his dark eyes to meet his, Abe’s breath caught in his throat. Sam’s eyes peered out at him, but Dean’s heart was held there. This man’s sons were a dual reflection of him. Their passion, their anger, their fire, their devotion… they were their father.
“What happened,” John’s voice was water over gravel. He swallowed, his eyes steady on Abe’s, waiting.
“I’d been tracking the creature, found the cave, saw the signs of the battle, followed the tracks of the travois…”
“The… the what?”
“Dean built a travois to haul Sam out,” Abe watched John’s eyes in the faint starlight. They reflected surprise and pride. He saw the corner of his mouth pull up under the dark beard.
“Good boy,” he whispered.
“There were two,” Abe said, looking beyond John’s shoulder.
“Since when do wendigos hunt in pairs?” John asked, almost to himself.
“Since now,” Abe shifted his eyes back to John. “Dean fought the second, but he told me Sam killed them. He killed them both.”
“Always did work best as a team, those two,” John muttered, then reached up and ran his hand over his mouth, pulling at the rough beard covering the lower half of his face.
Abe almost caught a twinkle of humor in his dark eyes. When he dropped his hand Abe saw the smile. Sam’s smile.
“Sam gave me hell to go on hunts from the time he was seven. Then when I finally let him, Dean gave me hell because he thought Sam was too young. But they are magic when they’re together.”
“Dean, uh…” Abe cleared his throat. “He was hurt pretty bad when I found them, John.”
John looked at him, waiting. Abe had noticed that in his sons, too. They seemed to instinctively know when to talk, when to listen.
“All he wanted was to get Sam out of there,” Abe continued, and saw John nod. “He, uh… he thought I was you.”
John’s head quirked to the side. “What do you mean?”
“He thought you had tracked them, found them. He thought you were helping them, getting them out of there.”
As Abe watched, John curled his right hand into a fist and pulled it to his stomach. “Dammit,” he whispered. “I didn’t even know where they were. I pushed them away, tried to protect them from… but they found evil… it’s what they do… it’s all they know.”
Abe’s heart clenched as he watched John struggle, his entire body taunt with regret, with sorrow.
“Sammy… he just said Dean was hurt… he just said he wanted me to know… I’d gotten that call before… I’d heard that tone before… I knew he wasn’t… Dean doesn’t know how to quit. He just doesn’t.”
“That’s what Sam said, too,” Abe whispered, afraid if he spoke too loudly he’d break the spell of confession that seemed to be wrapping around John in the starlight.
John lifted his eyes to Abe’s, and the look there nearly took Abe’s breath away. He was asking for something… for absolution, for reassurance…
“He thought you were me?”
Abe licked his lips and looked down. He rubbed at a worn spot on the deck with the toe of his boot. Taking a breath, he lifted his eyes and met John’s.
“When Dean was at his lowest point… when he was weak and exhausted… the only thing that kept him going was saving his brother. When Sam was barely recovered and still fighting a fever, the only thing that kept him going was saving his brother.”
John remained silent.
Abe continued. “Your sons are warriors, John. But they are also partners. And though Dean thought he needed you, his survival depended on Sam.”
John pressed his lips together and looked down, his fist still against his stomach. “I don’t tell you this to cause you pain. I tell you this to reassure you.”
John brought his head up. “Damn strange way of doing that.”
“Dean told me some things when I was pulling Sam out of the forest… he was trying walk, weak, barely conscious and I don’t think he really knew what he was saying. But… he knows why you left. He accepts it. He just… I think he just wants you to know that it’s a sacrifice for them – for both of them. He said that it hurt Sam when you left, but, man, if you’d seen Dean’s face…”
“I know,” John interrupted. “I know. I've seen that face. It’s the same look he’d get since he was five. Since he realized, really realized that his mom…” John cleared his throat. “He doesn’t even know that he shows it. Now…” John sighed. “Now he has to be practically stripped to nothing to show it.”
Abe nodded. “Yeah.”
John worked his jaw, then straightened. “Thanks for taking care of my boys,” he said, his eyes steady on Abe.
Light from the clinic doorway suddenly flooded over them. Abe saw John clearly for the first time. He was clad in jeans and a dark shirt covered by a leather jacket. His beaded face was slightly dirt-smeared and tired. His dark brown hair was mussed and Abe thought he saw remnant of cobwebs stuck there. What really surprised him, though, was the glint of silver reflecting off of the light from the doorway. Abe hadn’t even seen him draw the gun.
“He had some help,” Doc’s low rumble echoed from the doorway.
He completely ignored the gun, his eyes level on John. Abe watched John casually flick the safety back on to the gun, then tuck it back in his jacket pocket. He dropped his hand to his side and nodded at Doc.
“I expect so,” John said.
“You got yourself some stubborn boys, mister,” Doc said, leaning against the doorway, his arms crossed over his chest, his generous mouth pressing into a thin line.
Abe watched John grin. Abe found himself smiling in return, though the grin was directed not at him, but at Doc.
“Gave you a run for your money, did they?” John asked.
Doc shook his head once, more of a gesture of wonder than of decline. “I don’t know what you taught them… what you said to them… but they do not know how to give up.”
John pressed his lips together, his eyes still reflecting the smile. “No. No they don’t.”
He reached up and scratched distractedly at the back of his head, pulling away some of the cobwebs from his hair as he dropped his hand.
“Thanks for what you did,” John nodded at Doc.
Doc nodded back, but stayed where he was. Abe felt his eyes, but didn’t return his look – he watched to see what John would do. John turned to Abe.
“Can I… do we owe you anything?”
Both men ignored Doc’s not so subtle cough.
Abe shook his head. “Your boys took care of it.”
John’s eyebrows went up. “They did?”
Abe grinned. “Yeah,” he nodded. “Yeah they did.”
John nodded, then reached his hand out to Abe once more. “Good to know you, Abe Nokomis.”
Abe gripped his hand back, “I was honored to stand in your shoes, John Winchester.” He dropped John’s hand and shrugged. “Even if it wasn’t real, having someone like Dean look at me like that… with that amount of respect and love… it’s not something I’m gonna forget.”
Abe watched as John’s throat worked and he turned his face away. He nodded without looking at Abe, then ducked his chin and started down the ramp.
“John,” Doc called.
John paused and turned to look at Doc over his shoulder.
“When you find those boys,” Doc said, “you hang onto them.”
John shifted his eyes from Doc back over to Abe. Abe lifted a shoulder. He stopped making excuses for Doc long ago. John just nodded and continued down the ramp. After a moment, Abe heard John whistling. As he listened harder, he recognized the tune. He began to laugh, a deep, throaty laugh that caused Doc to furrow his brows and frown.
“Is that… is he whistling Dream On?” Doc grumbled.
Abe laughed harder. “Yeah,” he wheezed. “Yeah he is.”
Doc shook his head. “I do not get that family and their obsession for Aerosmith…” his voice faded as he retreated back in to the clinic, shutting out the light as he closed the door.
Abe wiped his eyes and turned to the direction John had walked. Soon, a large black truck rumbled slowly passed the clinic. Abe saw a hand reach from the window and a slow salute was tossed his way.
Abe lifted his hand in return and watched John’s truck follow the same route his boys had traveled hours before. He hoped they would find each other soon… he hoped when they did it would be for good… he hoped Sam could forgive and Dean could heal… he hoped…