For Kunju, on the occasion of her birthday.
"I can't stitch that up."
Dean blinked blood out of his eyes and glared. "Sure you can. Needle, thread, whiskey – what's the problem here?"
Sam's face got a little greener. "Dude," he said in a breathy voice. "That thing, like, tried to rip your FACE off."
"You saying you can't do it because you can't do it? Or because you're gonna spew?"
Greener, and Sam clapped his hand over his mouth and Dean drew back and said, "Sam! Bathroom!"
While Sam hurled, Dean reconsidered his options. Frankly, he was not inclined to look in any mirrors. So, could be bad. Bad enough to make Sam hork, and Sammy didn't have a weak stomach normally, which meant this wasn't your normal everyday sort of clawage. Maybe kinda extra-special could-need-plastic-surgery clawage.
By the time Sam emerged from the bathroom – no longer yarking but no less green-faced – Dean had a fresh wad of gauze pressed against his hairline and the least fake insurance card he could dig out stashed in his hip pocket. "So, I'm thinking ER," he said calmly.
Sam nodded and swallowed. "Yeah."
"And some toothpaste, and maybe a mint."
"Dude, your breath is gonna make ME spew."
Thirty minutes and a really bloody bandage later, Dean found himself in a bare little cubicle, hissing while a round-faced nurse griped about triage people not doing their jobs and sighing and acting like getting a temp and a blood pressure reading was some kind of tremendous burden or something.
"Just need some stitches," Dean said, and the nurse hmphed.
"Kinda need your face reattached," Sam said hoarsely, and belched.
"Sam, your social skills are starting to slip."
While Sam went outside, probably to throw up again, Dean watched the nurse one-eyed. Not hot. Figured.
"You're not catching me at my best," he tried anyway. "Without all this blood I'm seriously good-looking."
The nurse gave him the distracted sort of half-smile that meant she wasn't paying diddly attention. "You have a history of high blood pressure?" she asked.
"Your pressure. Is it normally this high?"
Dean squinted his one eye at the red numbers and shrugged. "Dunno. What's high?"
"Yours," the nurse said flatly.
"I honestly have no idea. Look, I just need my face sewed back on. I didn't come for a freaking physical."
That got him another hmph, and the nurse hustled out and came back a couple of minutes later with a doctor. The guy didn't even do more than glance at the rip in Dean's scalp. "Okay. Any history of asthma?"
Dean blinked his one open eye. "No. Why?"
"20 of labetalol." The doctor scowled at Dean and walked out again.
"What'd I say?" Dean asked plaintively.
"Mr. Holly, your blood pressure is 180/122. Normal is 120/80 or lower. I'll be right back. Why don't you lie down and think happy thoughts?"
Dean scowled. "I'm thinking my face is falling off and you're talking about blood pressure crap."
The nurse put her hands on her hips. "So would you rather wait half an hour for your sutures, or have a stroke and spend six months in rehab?"
"Uh," Dean said.
"Right. Happy thoughts."
Sam came back right as the nurse stormed out. His breath smelled suspiciously minty-fresh. "What's going on?"
Dean reclined on the uncomfortable bed and stared at the ceiling. "Either my face is going to peel the rest of the way off, or my head's gonna explode. Take your pick."
Dean sighed. "Something about my blood pressure. Whatever."
A moment of silence, and then Sam said, "Jesus, Dean. It's REALLY high."
"Yours would be high too if you just had a face-lift by claw, dude. No freaking anesthesia, either."
"Not really a face-LIFT. Sort of a face…split, actually."
Dean glared at him, and Sam swallowed. He didn't look green anymore. Sort of flushed. "Seriously," he said, seriously. "Your blood pressure is sky-high. How come you didn't tell me about this?"
"Tell you about WHAT? Nobody ever said anything to me about this before!"
"Dean, it's –"
The nurse bustled back in, and said, "Arm, please."
Dean nearly chewed his lip off while she stuck in an IV – great, missing lip to go with the missing FACE – and then felt a chilly zing when she squirted something into the line. "There." She gave a brisk nod. "Happy thoughts. Birds and flowers. Tripping through the tulips. Got it?"
Dean gritted his teeth and said, "That supposed to make me feel better?"
"One could hope."
"One could HOPE to get one's FACE reattached sometime this millennium."
She startled him by grinning and patting his hand. "All in good time, honey. All in good time."
When she reached the door she turned. "HAPPY THOUGHTS."
"I'm FREAKING HAPPY, OKAY?"
"Music to my ears."
Whatever she gave him, it did whatever it was supposed to do. He got his stitches – twenty-four, and in his hairline so the scar wouldn't be too bad – and a prescription for Vicodin – score – and a lecture from the doctor.
"Mr. Holly, hypertension is nothing to sniff at. I want you back here tomorrow to get that checked. You might need to take some medication."
Dean barely kept from rolling his eyes. "Sure, doc. Whatever you say. Can I go now? Or are you going to keep me around so you can find some other nifty disease to discover?"
The doctor didn't smile or frown either one. Just kept right on looking at him like a bug on a windshield. "Hypertension is a condition, not a disease. Is there anything else I'm likely to find?"
"Mornings are slower around here. Come before noon. Just tell the front desk you need a BP check. No charge."
"But the stitches are a hundred bucks a pop, right?"
"Close. If you get a headache, begin vomiting, having any numbness in your face or fingertips, come right back here. No points for waiting. You're not too young for an cerebrovascular accident. Understand?"
"What's a cereb –"
"I've seen teenagers with strokes, son. Youth itself is not a universal panacea, got it?"
Dean made a face, and felt his new stitches twinge.
"I feel fine. Would you stop it?"
"You sure you ought to be drinking coffee?"
Dean calmly placed the cup on the table. "I'm sure," he said distinctly, "that this coffee might well be the only thing keeping me from grabbing the Glock out of the trunk and raining bullets. Starting with you. So yeah. I'm pretty sure I should have this coffee."
"Okay, okay." Sam made a dumb little gesture with both hands: whoa, Nellie. "Don't pop your top. Remember what she said. Happy thoughts."
"Coffee," Dean replied stonily, "makes me happy."
"As a clam."
"Well, good." Sam gave an artificial-looking, very bright smile. "Drink up."
Dean sipped, and said, "So does this mean you want to keep me happy ALL the time? Because I would kinda be down with that."
"No more laundry. No more 5:45 a.m. wakeup calls. No –"
"No, you'll just be taking pills all the time," Sam said. "Unless you learn to calm the hell down."
"I'm calm! I'm cool as a freaking cucumber! It's everybody ELSE who's acting like I got cancer or something!"
"You know that happy thing? That tone right there? Does not make me happy."
"All – patronizing and college-geeky. It's really annoying, you know that? And I'm not supposed to get annoyed, right?"
Sam fidgeted. "Just –"
"Yes or no. Am I supposed to be annoyed?"
"No! So cut it the hell out!"
"SAM. I had my face torn off and sewed back on. It's made me just a little bit EDGY, OKAY?"
A guilty, hooded look. "I know," Sam mumbled.
"My head hurts, I'm tired, I smell like freaking formaldehyde or something, and all I want is a cup of coffee and something to eat and then sleep for like, a month. Okay? So just – back the hell off me."
And Sam did. Looking all quenched and worried and big-eyed, but he backed off, and Dean slugged the rest of his coffee and smiled when the pretty waitress brought his food. "Thanks, Betty," Dean said, and saw her eyes flicker over the bandage on his face. "This is just the ticket."
"My pleasure," Betty told him, although her tone was a little doubtful. "Anything else I can get you?"
"Dude, you want some food?"
Sam shook his head, staring at Dean's plate. "No, coffee's fine. Dean, you're going to EAT that?"
Dean frowned and saw Betty walking away. "It's breakfast," he said distractedly. "Of course I'm gonna eat it."
"Dean, it's a heart attack on a plate."
"Or a stroke, more like. Do you know how much sodium is in bacon?"
"I'm not –"
"Three eggs? That's like, enough cholesterol for a small TOWN. Butter? JESUS, and SAUSAGE?"
"Sam," Dean said clearly. "It's breakfast. What did you expect, tofu and grass clippings?"
Sam flailed his hands a little bit and nearly upset the pitcher of syrup on the table. "God, you're just ASKING to have a blowout! Did you hear ANYTHING that doctor said to you?"
Dean nibbled on a corner of toast and shrugged. "Didn't say anything about bacon."
"No, he SAID, you have extremely high blood pressure. Do you even know what that means?"
Dean poked his fork into egg #1's yolk and mumbled, "Course I do."
"Liar. You have no idea."
"It's – just a thing. That everybody has. And mine's high." He wiped up yolk with his toast and ate a bite. "Whaddaya know, I'm an overachiever just like you."
Sam didn't smile. He didn't drink his coffee, either. Just kept staring at Dean with an expression very similar to the one the doctor had worn. Like he'd like to open Dean's skull and peer around inside. "I'm serious," he said grimly. "High blood pressure is dangerous. They call it the silent killer, Dean."
"Yeah, well at least SOMETHING around here's silent."
Sam gave a huffy sigh. "I'm not gonna sit around here and watch you kill yourself."
"No," Dean said thinly. "You're evidently going to sit here and yap and make my last moments on earth really sucky."
"Oh, for CHRIST'S SAKE." Dean dropped the half-eaten toast on top of his uneaten eggs and leaned back against the bench. "What? What should I eat, Sam? Enlighten me, since obviously I'm a numb fuck who doesn't have –"
"Oatmeal," Sam blurted. "Or cereal. Low-fat yogurt. Some fruit."
"What am I, a MONKEY? That's not food!"
"Yes, it is! It's good food, it's better than that crap!"
"This CRAP has been fine for twenty-sev –"
Dean glared at him. "WHAT? Jesus FUCK!"
"Your face is really red. Calm down."
"I AM calm! Except you're pissing me off!"
Sam gave him a look of such pure misery Dean's anger faltered, wobbled. "I'm sorry," he said dejectedly. "I'll shut up. Just don't have a stroke right here, okay? Please?"
"I'm NOT GONNA HAVE A STROKE!"
Sam bit his lip.
"Don't look at me like that."
Sam stared at the tabletop.
"Don't look at the TABLE like that."
Sam sighed and stared out the window. "You're scaring me," he whispered. Tiny, tiny voice. Just a little chuff of air. Barely even carried across the table.
Dean took a deep, deep breath and let it out between his teeth. He could feel his pulse in his right eye. Was that bad? Who the fuck knew? "Sammy," he said evenly, "if I eat some fucking oatmeal and a goddamn apple, will you stop making the world cry with your emo eyes?"
Sam's lips twitched, but he was silent.
"Okay, then. Hey, Betty?"
Which was how Dean wound up sucking down watery oatmeal and gnawing on the world's oldest, hardest, toughest apple for breakfast instead of having eggs and bacon and sausage with a side of short stack. Sam's emo-eyes watched him carefully, still tinged with woe, and Dean thought tiredly about how this really wasn't fair, all for some stupid numbers he didn't even understand, but anything to keep the Puppy Look of Doom from coming his way again anytime soon.
He watched his numbers when Sam made him go back to the hospital and have his blood pressure checked. They still didn't mean anything to him, but they did to the nurse, who gave him an acute look.
"Looks fine. In fact it's a little low."
Dean stared at her. "Is that good or bad?"
She smiled prettily. "Very good," she said, and winked.
"Oh, darlin'," Dean breathed. "You have no idea."
Two hours later, he went back to the motel. Sam was pacing in front of the room, muttering to himself, and stared at Dean like he'd grown an extra head while he was gone.
"Where the hell did you go?" Sam trumpeted. "The fucking Mayo Clinic?"
"Relax." Dean waved a languorous hand. "Everything's fine."
"You were gone so long I thought they'd put you in the hospital or something! Jesus, Dean, call me next time!"
"Dude, I had business to take care of." Dean smirked, and Sam visibly sagged a little.
"Oh, I did. Red hair. Like Scully, if she'd decided to be a pole dancer instead of join the FBI. She had a tattoo of a stethoscope right under her –"
"Just – tell me your blood pressure was better," Sam interrupted hastily.
"Good as gold." Dean lifted an eyebrow. "Before AND after."
Sam turned slightly pink and nodded. "Okay," he stuttered. "G-good."
"Say it, Sammy." Dean gave him a pointed look.
"Good for you."
"No. SAY IT."
Sam glared at the sidewalk and mumbled, "You're okay. No high blood pressure."
"I," Dean announced, poking himself in the chest, "am the healthiest motherfucker on the planet. Blood pressure, heart rate. Top of my game, Sammy boy. Even right in the middle of it my pulse never went over –"
"Told you so."
Sam rolled his eyes. "OKAY, already."
"This body –" Dean gestured grandly "—is a temple."
"To a really licentious god," Sam muttered.
"Is that good?"
"Only you could turn a stupid blood-pressure check into –" Sam broke off, even redder. "Can we go now?"
"Aw, Sammy, of course we can. After," Dean held up a finger, "we have lunch. I'm thinkin'…burger. Extra cheese. Mayo."
Sam glared, and stalked back into the room.
"Sammyyyy," Dean caroled. "Better be careful with that temper. Might make your BLOOD PRESSURE go up."
"I hate you!" Sam yelled from inside the room.
"Your cholesterol is probably 600!"
Dean leaned against the car, shoved his hands in his pockets and tilted his head back. Sun on his face, great sex, no pain from his dozens of stitches, and a clean bill of health. Life was good.