Sam drifted awake to birdsong, blinking against the dawn sunlight which filtered through the green ripstop of the tent's canopy.
He inhaled deeply of the moist closeness which results from two warm, respirating bodies sharing the same cramped, waterproof space, and shuffled out from under his sleeping bag.
They just didn't make sleeping bags for people of his dimensions. It had taken him all of one minute to realise he had exactly zero chance of fitting even two thirds of his body inside it, and had eventually unzipped it all the way round, laying it over himself like a quilt. Dean, being no willowy little thing himself, had also swiftly realised that long legs, broad shoulders and sleeping bags don't go well together. He had ended up untidily sprawled half in and half out of his.
Sam pulled on a pair of sweats as quietly as he could so as not to wake the comatose figure beside him. Dean lay on his back, his head canted towards Sam, snoring softly. Sam grinned; right now, Dean certainly didn't look anything like someone who hated camping with a vengeance.
Slowly beginning to unzip the tent, Sam cringed; why the hell did they make tents with the noisiest zippers in the world? He paused and held his breath as Dean stirred, the rhythm of his breaths hitching as the rasp of the zipper briefly disturbed him. When Dean squirmed a little further down into the rumpled bundle of nylon around him with a soft murmur and his breaths evened out again, Sam quickly drew the zipper the rest of the way up and clambered out of the tent.
He stood in front of the tent and bent deeply into a stretch, enjoying the early morning breeze, cool and refreshing across his bare back after the stifling atmosphere inside the tent.
Tugging on a T shirt, he slipped into his unlaced sneakers and walked over to the two horses, petting them enthusiastically. He pulled up fistfuls of grass to tempt them as they affectionately butted and nuzzled him before leading them to the stream to drink. When he was satisfied the horses were well refreshed, he led them back, tethering them to another tree to avail themselves of the lush greenery beneath it, and strolled back over to the little soot blackened fire tin, still sitting where they had left it the night before. Lighting another fire, he placed a small pan of water on top of it. He was ready for a coffee.
Sitting cross-legged on the soft, dew-cool grass, Sam watched in contented silence as his little fire fluttered and fizzed, boiling the water for his coffee. He watched the hazy sunlight filter through the trees, coating the world around him in pale dappled light. Closing his eyes, he listened to the birdsong, the soft susurration of the forest around him, the champing of the horses as they grazed in the long grass around them, and smiled broadly. He guessed this was as close to heaven as he was ever going to get.
His reverie was suddenly disturbed by indications of life in the tent behind him, and he heard the zipper being tugged clumsily upwards. Turning, he was suddenly transported from the idylls of this tranquil Eden to gruesome reality as a hollow-eyed, stiff-legged figure half stumbled, half crawled from under the tent flap and staggered to something resembling a standing position with a wet cough and a scratch of his ragged head.
He stared at Sam with a vacant blink; the trademarked look of someone still hovering between sleep and wakefulness, and busily scratched his groin through his threadbare boxers.
Sam sighed, and looked back to the little pan as the water bubbled to the boil. "You wanna think about putting some pants on?" He muttered, "we are out in the open here - any passing hiker could see you like that and be scarred for life."
"Sammy" croaked Dean in wide-eyed distress, ignoring Sam's concerns about his state of dress - or lack of it; "can't friggin' move." He shuffled forward, and Sam bit his lip to keep from laughing. "Ev'rything hurts … ev'rything," he groaned piteously, "I-I can' straighten up."
"You're just a bit of saddle-sore," Sam grinned airily, "it'll pass."
Dean limped stiffly toward Sam, kneading his stooped back, his poor legs operating in different time-zones. "I can't wait for it to pass …" he whimpered, "I hurt in places I didn't even know I had."
"You're just not used to it; horseback riding's a great all over workout" Sam smiled, offering Dean a coffee: "you'll feel like a new man afterwards."
"I feel like I've been run over by a friggin' German panzer division; that's what I feel like ..." Dean's voice rose in volume and pitch.
"An' my ass; Oh God, Sammy; don't even get me started on my ass …"
"I had not intention of doing so," Sam interrupted, passing Dean a cup of coffee and hoping it might steer the conversation in another direction.
"My ass…" Dean continued, clearly wanting nothing more than having someone 'get him started on his ass'. "It's friggin raw; feels like it's been skinned," he moaned.
Sam chuckled, "I remember when I first had a go; it does chafe a bit."
He closed his eyes and concentrated on sipping his coffee when he immediately knew it was the wrong thing to say.
"Chafe?" Dean winced as he lifted his arms to plant them on his hips. "Chafe? Dude, it feels like full-on nuclear fission going on down there."
He staggered, John-Wayne fashion towards the log where they had sat the previous evening, and leaned heavily on Sam as he timidly lowered his tenderised rump towards it. Groaning and grumbling, Dean puffed and panted as every strained and stretched muscle in his body protested with the movement, causing Sam to have a sudden, fleeting and highly disturbing image of his brother giving birth.
He shook his head to clear his mind and was confronted with the sight of Dean once again lavishly scratching his nether regions.
"Dude, Sam groaned, "what's with the scratching?" He wrinkled his nose in disgust, "give it a rest, already."
Dean scowled, "can' help it." He fidgeted uncomfortably, rearranging his boxers with, it seemed, limited success; "went out for a pee in the night, and …"
Sam shrugged, "what?"
"Friggin' nettles," snapped Dean irritably; "didn't see the damn things in the dark."
Sam barked out an involuntary laugh, almost choking on his coffee, spitting the drink so far it was in danger of extinguishing the fire. "At least you got the feeling back …" he spluttered.
Dean absently kneaded one of his aching shoulders and glared at his brother's undignified mirth. "Finished?" He asked sourly when the breathless giggles had finally died down.
Sam shook his head and sighed, "you're a real man of the Earth aren't you?"
Dean grunted as he took a sip of coffee; "when the human race takes the effort to invent a thing as useful as a city, it's rude not to take advantage of it," he replied earnestly.
Sam smiled, and tried hard to transport himself back to his brief moment of bliss before his world was rudely invaded by stiff muscles, skinned asses and … no, he scolded himself; don't go there with the nettles.
The brothers finished their coffee in a companionable silence which was punctuated by grunts and hisses of discomfort, along with the occasional colourful expletive every time Dean lifted the cup to his lips.
Eventually he spoke up … "so what's the plan Geek-boy?"
Sam shrugged; "I figured if we maybe picked up the pace today," he replied, "we might be able to get the chupacabra's hunting ground by afternoon." He shrugged, "you never know, if these things are as stupid as people say, we could have this job wrapped up by nightfall."
Dean wasn't keen on the phrase 'pick up the pace', not keen at all; but he did like the sound of 'wrapped up by nightfall'. 'Wrapped up by nightfall' meant heading back to civilisation, it meant a proper bed under a proper roof, four wheels instead of four legs, a cold beer, a hot shower, air conditioning, eating M&M's until you puke rainbows and a large hawaiian pizza with extra mozzarella.
Sam stood up and set to work tidying up their camp. Dean sighed; it looks like the decision was made.
In the time it took Dean to stagger into a standing position, rummage in the first aid kit for the antihistamine cream, apply said cream to his tender, nettle-ravaged parts, and wrestle himself into his clothes, Sam had already packed up the tent and was busy tacking up the bemused horses.
Struggling admirably to put his socks on, Dean slumped to frustrated and ingracious defeat when his poor battered back just flatly refused to bend that far. He sighed; his feet were just too far away; they were only the end of his legs, but they may as well have been in New Zealand for all the contact he could have with them.
Sam stood shaking his head; he couldn't watch the pathetic stretching, groaning, hopping and gyrating exhibition a moment longer.
He walked over, and without argument gently pushed his brother down onto the fallen log where they had sat to drink their coffee earlier and wordlessly slipped Dean's socks and boots on.
Standing back he checked out the camp. Tent was packed, camp was cleared, horses were fed, watered and tacked up. Sam was exhausted, he felt like he'd done a day's work already, but his biggest challenge was still to come.
Now he had to get Dean and all his aches, pains and itches back up in the saddle.