Aftermath: A Series of Consulted Shorts 8
Chapter 8: Doctor's Orders (2 of 2)
Arriving back at home, Dean was not surprised to find Sam left on his own.
The younger Winchester was sitting in a corner, his lap once more covered in the scattered papers that made up his journal. He wasn't writing in them at the moment, but instead carefully reading through. As Dean watched, Sam brushed his hand reverently down one to smooth the wrinkles on it, then set it to the side.
After a moment's consideration, Dean left the box of raisins against the wall, giving it an 'accidental' kick for the way it tripped him up multiple times in the cupboard. At this rate, neither of the humans in the flat would think he could slip around undetected.
Damn box. At least raisins lasted forever.
Dean strode over to his little brother, and Sam looked up at him through messy bangs. "Hey," Sam greeted, his voice hollow.
"How's it going?" Dean asked, squatting next to Sam and squinting down at the pages with a keen eye.
Dean caught sight of a familiar name on the plain paper right as Sam started talking, his heart freezing a little at Bobby Singer scribbled out in Sam's bold lettering.
"Just... going through the stuff I did before... y'know," Sam said lamely, pushing the scrap with Bobby's name to the side to join the pile. "John let me use the laptop the other night, and I looked up a few old friends."
"That was nice of him," Dean commented, his mind racing with possibilities. With Bobby's number, they could call him up. Try and reach out to find their dad, track down other hunters who might know more about the witch, get tips on hunting demons--
All of his thoughts came to a crashing halt. Didn't matter if they had Bobby's number. They were still 'not human' anymore. There wasn't much hope that hunters would help them. Maybe Sherlock and John, if they asked right and didn't question or dig at the pride of the hunters, but not Sam and Dean, two distinctly non-human guys with psychic tendencies. The psychic skills alone would make them 'dangerous.'
Sam followed Dean's line of thought as it crossed his face. "Yeah," he said. "My thoughts exactly." He covered up the paper with Bobby's name on it. "Maybe one day we can contact him."
Dean shook his head to clear it. "I almost forgot." He stood, untucking the crutch from under his arm. "John made this for you so you can get around while you're healing. Doctor's orders. Any weight on that leg could ruin the set."
Sam's eyes widened and his eyebrows went up. "He made a crutch? " Sam blurted in surprise, holding his hands out.
Dean had to laugh as he handed it over for Sam to inspect. "Made it, and sized it for you, I think," he said, watching Sam rub his hands up the side of the pencil. "I couldn't get my arm over the top without stretching."
"Here, lemme try," Sam said, jabbering on in his excitement. Dean helped haul him to his feet, Sam balancing on one leg while he fit the crutch under his arm.
For the next ten minutes, Dean watched his little brother try out his crutch, going as far as doing circles around their main room and checking out the passageway to the kitchen, all on his own. Dean had to hide the smile that came to his face at the thought of his little brother, home and safe and sound no matter what those people had tried to do with them. All because of Sherlock and John.
Later on as the day approached evening, Sam tentatively crossed the bookshelf that lay outside their front door. Just a few nights ago, he'd sat there watching John work. For a person his size, it was a rare opportunity to see a computer used from such a close vantage point, even so far as getting to work on it himself.
The going was slow as Sam used his new crutch, but a thousand times better than having to ask Dean or Mikael for help (there was no way Christian would be able to give him a hand considering the guy barely reached Sam's chest. Mark hadn't come anywhere close to Sam since the kidnapping; Sam kept his thoughts on that to himself). With the crutch, he didn't feel the need to explain himself to everyone when he wanted to stretch his legs, and there was no way Dean would help him to the shelf without knowing exactly why and how long Sam would be there.
The cushion under his arm kept the crutch from straining or making his side sore, and the pin was solid as he gripped it. Sam's practice earlier on in the day left him tired from the new strain, but exhilarated by the freedom, and now he was ready to test it out.
Sam reached the end of the books at last, skirting the edge of the shelf by a good margin and looking out into the open air, eager to thank John for his help.
The good doctor had spent most of the day in his armchair, getting up every now and then to stretch his legs and find something to eat or drink. Even with everyone seemingly settling in, he wanted to be sure that someone was around in case they needed anything. Despite this, John was far from bored. He put on the telly for a few hours to see if any of last night's events had caught any attention from the news; nothing out of the ordinary showed up there.
When he got tired of that, John turned to his computer for something to pass the time. The conversation with the brothers that morning provided plenty of research fuel for the curious doctor. His only issue was figuring out what was legitimate lore and what was fluff and superstition.
Sherlock emerged from his room exactly once to grab a bite, storming immediately back when he happened to look over John's shoulder and found a page regarding demon possessions. John ignored him and carried on.
Things were quiet until a soft clatter broke through the silence and John caught the slightest motion in the corner of his eye. Slowly, so as not to startle anyone, John looked over to find Sam shuffling into view on his crutch.
"Hey," he greeted softly, a small smile tugging at his lip to see the crutch being put to good use. "Getting on alright?" he asked as he settled back in his chair.
“It’s great,” Sam enthused, not deterred at the sudden flare-up of his knack when John caught sight of him. He was out here to thank John, on his own, without any help, and that was just what he was going to do, residual nerves or not.
Sam had spent most of the day-- aside from his brief trip to check up on Dean when Kara went missing-- in the walls of Baker Street. It was a relief after the day before to be away from prying eyes and burning tingles on the back of his neck, but he knew none of that was John or Sherlock’s fault. In fact, they were the only reason he and the others were free now, and Sam was determined to do his best to not let it hold him back.
“I don’t have to wait on Dean if I need anything,” Sam continued on, not letting any of his thoughts show on his face while he demonstrated getting around on the crutch. “Or ask his permission.” Sam screwed up his face in annoyance.
John's grin widened at Sam's enthusiasm as he watched the kid navigate the makeshift aid. "Thought you might prefer a bit more independence," he said with a nod. "Can't be easy, being the tallest with a leg injury."
It was hard to avoid remembering his own cane, one that John was once convinced he relied on. It had been a burden to John, and he had to remind himself that Sam's was the opposite.
"Glad to see it fits you alright!" John commented, shifting to lean on the arm closer to Sam for a better look. The lad had really taken to the crutch, to John's relief. All his pent-up worries from earlier in the day seemed to melt with each step Sam took on his own.
“I might not be able to get too far,” Sam continued blithely on as he practiced on the length of the shelf, “since most of the rest of the flat requires climbing, but at least I can get anywhere from here to the kitchen on my own.”
He finally came to a halt, taking a few deep breaths. All the renewed activity cost him his strength, and he was getting a handle on the strain the crutch put on his arm. It would take work to strengthen his arm the way he was using it now, and Sam was determined to try.
“Do you mind if I hang out here for a bit?” Sam asked hesitantly. “It gets pretty boring inside, plus everyone’s really busy emptying the storeroom out for the others…”
"Not at all," John assured with a nod. "Yeah, rest up, stay as long as you like." It was good to see Sam willing to try spending time out and about with a human like John, after what he'd just experienced. Even so, he knew better than to expect Sam to simply bounce back like nothing happened. He'd need time, and John was more than prepared to give him the patience he deserved.
Looking back at his computer, John added, "I was just looking up one or two things, seeing what I can find about, y'know, the kind of stuff we talked about earlier, but if you want to do something else I don't mind. Probably wasn't getting very far anyway."
Sam made his way over to one of the thicker books. After Sherlock’s removal of all the tomes the night before, the layer of dust was gone from the shelf, giving Sam a good place to sit without ending up with motes of dust coating his hair and clothes.
Setting the crutch to the side, Sam slid down until he was sitting, the book giving him a decent backrest. His injured leg remained stretched out in front. Sam made sure the crutch was within reach, then peered at John’s computer, wondering just how much the human had found in his search online. It was one of the lines of inquiry Sam was interested in pursuing, much like he’d tracked down their father’s old friends the night before.
“Let me know if you have any questions,” Sam offered. “I might have snitched our dad’s journal a few more times than Dean knows about… Memorized a good portion before we lost him.”
John smirked, carefully shifting in his seat and turning his laptop so Sam could plainly see the screen. "No specific questions just yet, I'm just having a big of a hard time sifting through the information. It's difficult with the internet, can't believe everything you read. But looking up 'demons'… It seems all I can find is a bunch of religious stuff, or riveting articles titled 'Do You Have Demons In Your Colon?,’ which I highly doubt is a common medical issue."
With a scoff and a shake of his head, John scrolled through the page of search results and hovered over a few he'd considered earlier. "I read over a few interesting sources regarding demon possession and what to do about them, but it's all Greek to me. I can't tell what's real and what's not for the life of me."
Sam laughed. “Yeah, I’ve heard that’s a problem. Dean complains about how a lot of legends got mixed up in the retellings when they were passed down, so even legitimate looking sources can be pretty sketchy. Like werewolves never sprout fur during the full moon the way you see them in movies.”
It felt good to talk about something where Sam was the expert. He’d lived on stories about the supernatural while growing up under the curse. Werewolves, vengeful spirits, shapeshifters… John Winchester had fought them all, often with Dean at his side when he was old enough to know one end of a gun from the other.
“You won’t see any witches flying around on brooms,” Sam said thoughtfully. “They blend in better than most because they are human.”
With a thoughtful hum, John considered his search a little more carefully. He had a feeling that if monsters turned out to exist, films would be a rather poor source of worthwhile information. It was lucky he had Sam, who was clearly more knowledgeable about such things, to run his findings by.
"Suppose 'demons' might have been a bit of a jump for my first run at it, eh?" Running a hand through his hair, John returned to the search bar for a fresh start. Then he glanced back at Sam with curiosity and the slightest hint of apprehension. Of all the things to get tangled up in, monsters was the last thing he'd ever expected.
Even so, if it might help on a case one day and Sherlock was unwilling to pursue it further, John practically felt obligated to dive deeper.
"Any suggestions for a beginner?" John asked. This was all a huge part of Sam and Dean's old lives, and any chance at a better understanding of them would not be lost on John.
“A lot of it’s experience,” Sam admitted. “Some we have, some we don’t. Our dad learned things through trial and error, or from what others knew.”
That reminded him. Sam pulled out a sheet that was more than familiar to him after only days of having it. The number of Bobby Singer’s house, one person John Winchester had always relied on.
“If something comes up and we need information, we can call Bobby,” Sam said as he stared at the numbers. “Or, I guess, you can. We don’t know if he’ll talk to us anymore, since, y’know, we’re not really human now.” He folded the paper back up, pinching the crease and working out some of his nervous energy on the paper. “Not many hunters will pay attention to us since our change. They’re more likely to want to hunt us.”
"But Bobby, he's… you told me he was your friend," John recalled, not a single word of their conversation the other day forgotten. "He knows your dad, he knew you and Dean as kids."
John had only just learned about hunters and was far from an expert, and while he was fascinated by what they did, hearing about their demeanor was another thing. Anyone who could look at someone like Sam and treat them as less than human or, God forbid, hunt them down and kill them… The thought put a sour taste in John's mouth, and a glance at Sam's injured leg reminded him that there were such people out there.
"If… if that meant anything to him," John continued, "then at least in his case, what happened to you shouldn't change a thing."
Sam shrugged, wishing he could say different. “Bobby was our family friend,” he said. “Now… we just don’t know. Werewolves don’t get better; they’re tainted the moment they get bit. There’s no way to stop them from killing again. As far as most hunters are concerned, anything supernatural has to go.
“And then there’s us. We’re too small to exist, and we both have psychic abilities we shouldn’t. Sure, Bobby might not do anything to us, and Dad might be the same. But we don’t know, and unless it’s an emergency, we don’t want to risk it. What if they figure out about the others like us? What if other hunters find out through them? We owe them better than that.”
When Sam finished, John brought himself to nod in understanding of what he'd been told. He might as well have been frozen as he listened, a few blinks and a pinched brow the only signs of movement. Letting the computer slide to the side of his lap, he leaned forward and ran both hands down his face with a long, deep breath.
He tried not to let it anger him, how cruel the world could be. Working alongside Sherlock, he knew better than most how twisted-up some people could be in the way it manifested in the crimes people committed for one reason or another. Somehow, when it regarded Sam and Dean and others their size, it seemed personal. It was one thing with the brothers; he'd gotten to know them and felt real sorrow and guilt when Sam went missing. The outrage he felt at even the idea of anyone wronging the smaller folk was just as strong, and John had yet to find a way to control that.
He did his best to keep it to himself, for Sam's sake.
"Guess you're right," he murmured as he lifted his head to look back at Sam, his face a neutral mask with as much kindness in his eyes as ever. "I mean, obviously this is your department, so… I trust your judgment on this. As much as it sounds like I could learn, something tells me this type of stuff might not be a very pressing issue yet. Until then, I'd rather not do anything that would make you or Dean uncomfortable.”
With another deep breath and a glance down at his fidgeting left hand, John added, "For the record, anyone who thinks you or Dean or any of the others is a monster is an idiot. And that's not my opinion, that right there is fact."
“That means a lot,” Sam said, blinking back a surprising amount of emotion. He’d never expected to find such a good friend in a human after the curse. “We’ve known how hunters might react since it happened, so it’s nothing we’re not prepared for. Maybe one day we’ll give Bobby a call, but until then, if you need any help with research, I’m always around.”
Sam tucked the paper back into his jacket, in one of the pockets he’d sewn in right above where the sheath of his knife remained at all times. “I’ll keep his number around, just in case. There’s no one better to call about the supernatural, except maybe our dad, and he’s a lot harder to track down with no home address.”
"Sounds like a plan," John agreed, sitting back in his chair. With a heavy sigh, he let go of any residual tension in his chest after that more serious talk, and regarded his laptop again. He thought about putting it away, but Sam had just settled in and hadn't had the chance to use it since returning to the flat. The kid might not be able to type on his own just yet, but John could help with that until he was well enough.
Clearing his throat, John waved at his computer and said, "Well, I've had my fill of this old thing." He offered a small smile to Sam. "Anything you want to look up?"
“N-no, I’m fine!” Sam blurted, caught off-guard by John’s offer. Somehow, he never saw the offers coming, leaving him scrambling a little to answer. He had other things to do and organize, anyway, which was what he had been planning on working on before John had sidetracked him with questions on hunting.
Sam patted his satchel. “I was just planning on working on my notes,” he informed the doctor. “It was too… quiet in our place. I needed some air.”
John nodded, knowing that asking Sam something like that was a long shot. He didn't intend to put any pressure on the kid either way, so he folded up the laptop and set it down by his feet.
"Alright," he muttered as he pushed himself to his feet, doing his best to ignore how small Sam looked from the shelf. By all accounts he should be used to sights like that. For whatever reason, John hesitated to get comfortable with being so large in comparison.
"I'm gonna get the fire started, but don't hesitate to give a shout if you need anything," John informed Sam. He didn't want the kid thinking that he was about to walk out on him, especially if it was simply friendly company Sam was looking for. Even if he was done with the internet for the day, John could find some quiet way to entertain himself.
Sam nodded in reply, doing his best to relax. John standing had made his heart jump into his throat, and it took a long moment for him to push through the dismaying thoughts that rose up in his mind. John hadn’t been the one to pin him to a table and brand his back. He hadn’t snapped Sam’s leg with a thoughtless motion. Yet if Sam didn’t get his nervous impulses under control, John would be the one suffering from guilt, and he didn’t deserve any of it.
With the room quiet and peaceful between the two flatmates, Sam dug into his notes while John prepared a fire to warm up the air, a good place for healing to begin.
PL1 has deigned to be our beta reader for this lovely little series
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