by firechild

Rating: K+


Disclaimer: They're not mine, and I am not paying the cleaning bill.

A/N: Yes, this is going to be somewhat ooc, and yes, this is silly, and yes, I'm writing a Thanksgiving story this late.


He didn't know where he was, but wherever it was, it was warm. And mostly quiet.

And kind of smelled like cheese.

Well, okay, maybe 'warm' was a subjective term. It was warm, but that was compared to Montana, where they'd been until sometime early yesterday morning. At least, he thought it was yesterday morning. At this point, he could have totally Rip van Winkled and wouldn't know it. Or care. He just needed something for his head. A nice witch doctor with some good voodoo-a-la-head-shrink should do the trick.

Of course, since he didn't have a clue where he was, finding said witch doctor could be work. He'd buried himself in work the past few days, the better to ignore Sam's whining and snapping and general pain-in-the-necking, but as much as he probably needed to get up and back at it, he just couldn't bring himself to move. Laying here in the relative warmth, even accompanied by the eau-de-cheese, felt too... not horrible. There hadn't been a lot of not horrible lately, and with this allergy/sinus/do-they-do-skull-replacements-with-original-receipt, there were now new and interesting kinds of horrible.

So he would just lay here and try to appreciate the not-horribleness of it for a minute longer.


He didn't know how much longer it had really been, as he seemed to have gone back to sleep; he thought he should feel bad about that, but he didn't really have the energy to care right now. He did know that he wasn't ready to go for another encore, so, slowly and painfully, he turned himself over so that he was facing up. It took him a few more minutes to dredge up the will to move his head to the side and check out his accommodations.

Another roach motel--not like he wasn't used to them. It wasn't all that bad, though, as he didn't see anything crawling at the moment. He didn't remember coming here, had to struggle to recall that Sam had wheedled his way off of his permanent restriction and into the driver's seat last night after Dean had had an embarrassing but otherwise meaningless little incident involving himself, a general blackness, and the taste of pavement. His brother was being a girl about it (so what else was new) but Dean had to admit that he had sort of appreciated the extra sleep, so much, in fact, that he seemed to have slept through... well... pretty much everything after Colorado. Not that he'd tell Sam that.

That reminded him--where was Sam? Not that Dean had anything to say to him or anything after Sam's attitude problem the last week or so, but he did think it was kind of strange that his brother hadn't made an appearance yet. Between coughs, Dean saw that the bathroom door was open, and there just wasn't much space in here to hide the jolly geek giant. He wanted so badly not to have to care, but instinct and long training had Dean working his way to his feet and then across to the window to check the lot. He filed away in his mind that he should yell at Sam for his choice of beds--Dean always slept nearest the door in any room, so that if something came in, it would have to go through him to get to Sam. Coughing again and wincing at the shredded feeling growing in his throat, Dean fingered the paisley drapes to one side and peaked out.

There were three vehicles in the lot. None of them was an Impala.

Dean swore. "Not again! I swear, this time he'd better be dead, or he'll really be dead."

As he stewed about the promise he'd made to his brother the last time Sam had stolen the Impala (really, it had only been a little over a month--he'd think the twit wouldn't have forgotten the consequences so fast,) he noticed that at least this time he hadn't been drugged--noticed mostly because he kind of wished that he had been. Dean was in the midst of planning some very creative punishments for the younger man when he turned and saw the note on the small motel room table. Sighing and rubbing his throbbing forehead, Dean crossed the room and picked up the note, which declared that Sam had gone out for soda because the vending machines were broken. Underneath the note was a handwritten list of parades and the local channels broadcasting them. That was when it hit Dean.

This was Thanksgiving Day.

Calming somewhat, he shrugged to himself, grabbed the remote from the cheap TV cabinet, and flopped back on Sam's bed, vowing to switch beds with Sam if they were here for another night. He flipped on the set and turned to channel 5, catching the last commercial before the second segment of the Macy's parade, grumbling as he realized that though the picture was pretty sharp, the TV had no sound. He felt really strange, laying here watching the parade like he always had as a kid, this time with the Dad-size hole that seemed to shadow him wherever he went lately, but once it was on, he couldn't turn it off, and he didn't really want to.

About ten minutes later, Sam re-entered, carrying two bags from a nearby Walgreen's. He nodded to his brother and walked to the table without a word, setting down the bags and unloading several cold sodas, two kinds of clear juice, and several smaller boxes. Dean watched impassively until his curiosity got the better of him and he asked about the stuff. Sam just put the boxes back into one of the plastic bags and tossed the bag gently to his brother.

Dean unloaded the sack to find cough-suppressant gelcaps, cold and sinus medicine, ibuprofen, and a box of menthol shower tabs. It was probably his cue to snark about not needing all this pansy stuff and not needing to be taken care of by a giant two-year-old, but his head and throat begged to differ, so instead he mumbled a "thanks," got a cup of water from the bathroom sink, and downed doses of all three medications, making a face at the lukewarm tap water. He grabbed a soda on the way back into the room, flopped back onto his bed, and went back to the parade.

They watched the floats and balloons and bands in silence for almost an hour before Dean finally caved to temptation, grabbing his bag and the box of shower tabs and shutting himself in the bathroom. He discovered that at least the hot water didn't seem to run out here, and he was in the steaming shower for most of an hour, feeling the medications and vapors kick in along with the steam while the hot water relaxed protesting muscles. When he stepped out, he was feeling somewhat human again, but he took his time pulling on clean clothes even though he was missing the end of the parade, chuckling to himself as he thought that it was kind of funny to watch the thing with no sound.

Dean emerged from the bathroom, asking Sam what their options were for lunch around here when everything was closed, only to find himself talking to... an empty room.

Another note lay on the table, this one stating simply that his brother had gone to find food and would be back soon. Underneath this note, he found another handwritten schedule, this one of football games and their local times and channels. Nothing good had started yet, so Dean decided to try to read the lips on the news, but when he flipped to channel 8, he found himself watching the last part of a parade in Detroit.

Sam returned almost forty minutes later, and this time, he was loaded--loaded with two large bags and one small bag from Boston Market. He set his burdens on the table, moving the sack of soda and juice to the foot of his bed, and returned to unload a veritable Thanksgiving feast--sliced rotisserie turkey, mashed potatoes with a side of brown gravy, containers of green beans and sweet potatoes with marshmallows, stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, and a slice of pecan pie. It was all accompanied by two sets of brown plastic flatware, matching plastic plates, several larger black plastic serving spoons, a small container of honey, some salt and pepper packets, a stack of printed paper napkins, and a holiday potholder thrown in as a free gift.

Dean managed to rehinge his jaw and quiet his stomach long enough to snatch the receipt and eyeball it--he didn't know how far N. Collins St was from here (here being Division St in Arlington, TX, as he'd gleaned from the obligatory food delivery phone list next to the phone) but wherever it was, Sam had sure gone out of his way, and out of about two weeks' worth of his personal food budget, to find Thanksgiving dinner. By the time he was done gawking at the long slip of receipt tape in his hand, Sam had their feast set up at the table, deftly switching his brother's second soda for juice. Too surprised--and just maybe too grateful--to argue about the drink, Dean took his place on one side and dug in, refusing to let what was bothering him interfere with this most excellent alternative to stale Funyons.

A few minutes and most of a plateful later, though, it just wouldn't leave him alone. Dean glanced up at his brother, noticing the small portions of turkey and mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, and sat back, unable to ignore the problem any longer.

"Okay, Sammy, what's the deal?"

Sam glanced up at his brother for about half a second, then dropped his eyes to his plate and shrugged, trying to look as though he was busy eating and didn't know what Dean meant.

Dean wasn't so easily deterred, though. "Seriously, man, why are you doing this?" Sam was as silent as the TV. Dean sighed. "You hate Thanksgiving, all of it--this kind of food, the parades, the football, everything--you always have. Given the choice, you'd have rather stayed in bed every year--which, given the condition of Dad's hand and your butt by the end of the day after all your tantrums, might've been a safer idea." Still nothing. "Come on, Sammy, you know it and I know it--this was Dad's holiday, not yours; so why're you doing all of this?"

In contrast to the week or so before, in which he'd been obnoxious and generally annoying, Sam hadn't uttered a word to his brother since getting him into the room the night before; now, Dean wondered if the younger man had spent all of that time planning just what to say when he finally had to have this conversation.

Sam took a deep breath and met his brother's eyes, blushing. "Well, first of all, I sort of wanted to... to make up for the last few days. I decided yesterday that I've just been really stupid. I know I've been a brat, and I'm not going to try to explain why because it doesn't matter; I shouldn't have been acting that way. You didn't deserve it, and I knew better. I'm sorry that you got stuck with that, and if it's Thanksgiving, well, I guess I'm a little bit thankful that you didn't actually strangle me." He paused and looked off to the side of Dean, as if he couldn't look him in the eye while saying this. "And, well... you're right. This is Dad's holiday; it's the one day every year when he insisted that we stop working and just be thankful for our lives." He briefly met Dean's eyes again. "You've been working harder in the past few months than you have at any time I can remember, Dean, and you deserve a break--a break from work, a break from fighting, a break from all the stuff that's going on out there and all the stuff that's going on inside your head. I guess I've been pushing you a lot to deal differently with all that stuff, but I don't want anyone pushing you to do anything today." He went back to staring into space. "Mostly, you deserve a break from me, but since that hasn't worked out so well the last couple of times I tried to leave, I'm gonna have to put a little more thought into that one." He dragged his gaze back to Dean's. "Basically, though, this is sort of a combination apology and actual holiday, a chance for you to feel normal again. And Dad was right--this was his holiday for a reason, and maybe he's gone, but maybe it's time that we stop and give thanks for him, for all the good things he instilled in us, like justice and honor and... and thanksgiving." Sam's voice had drifted away on the last word, and he turned his head to the side, embarrassed. Dean just sat for a minute in awed silence, not quite sure how he felt about what his brother had said. At a loss for words but never for appetite, he went back to eating, though more slowly, refilling his plate as he mulled over his father's secret and his brother's openness.

Dean was most of the way through his second helping, having eaten about two thirds of the food by himself, when he couldn't stand the awkward silence anymore. "Okay, Francis, enough with the Hallmark movie." When that didn't seem to have any effect on Sam, nor did kicking him under the table and telling him to eat, Dean resorted to a tried-and-true de-brooding method.

The first green bean didn't seem to phase Sam all that much; he wasn't even aware of what had happened, just absently brushed at his temple. The second green bean, though, hit him on the cheekbone, and that got his attention. Startled, Sam turned to Dean, who was laughing in victory and found the temptation too great to resist--he hit his brother in the mouth with another green bean. He was laughing so hard at his own joke that he only partially heard Sam's low, "Oh, I see--so that's how you're gonna be, huh? Yeah, big brother, soooo very mature, uh huh." Dean definitely wasn't expecting to get a piece of dry turkey in the forehead, which stopped his laughing long enough for him to give Sam a stunned look--and a pinch of stuffing in the chest. Sam quirked what might, in another life, have become a grin, just before launching more turkey in his brother's direction, disappointed but faintly amused when Dean got out of the way. They kept playing, finishing off the last of the beans in the container and part of the leftover turkey and stuffing, and then Dean seemed to grow tired of the game. They settled back, more relaxed than they'd been in two weeks, and just took a few minutes to digest. There was still food on the table because Sam really hadn't eaten, but Dean seemed to have eaten his fill of better food than he'd had in ages. Sam thought that it was good to see his brother so stuffed and content.

The TV emitted a soft popping sound, then another. Sam turned his head to look, worried that he'd be seeing smoke rising from the back of the set... and felt something smack into him. He raised his hand to his ear, and came back with a scoop of cold mashed potatoes--with gravy. He turned back to his brother, who was grinning, entirely too pleased with himself, and said, "Oh, you know this is war."

The statement hung in the air between them for a few seconds... and then the real barrage began. The two of them reached for anything near them, redecorating the room and each other with stuffing and gravy and mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and half-melted marshmallows. The air was a haze of edible missiles, but the battle was mostly stationary until the one fateful moment that changed it all.

Dean turned back around in his seat, after secreting his pecan pie under his jacket on the end of his bed to keep it safe, just in time to catch a face full of real, homemade, juicy, berry-laden cranberry sauce.

Dean blinked a couple of times and then, very slowly, reached up and scooped about half of the sauce from his face with the fingers of his right hand. He couldn't let this go. He sat silently for about ten seconds, just staring at his brother, before suddenly lunging to his feet and arrowing around the table. Sam shot up and started backpedalling, and Dean spent the next few minutes chasing his little brother around the room before he got an idea. While he distracted a tiring Sam with a couple of quick feints, Dean grabbed something from the table. When he came at Sam, his hands were empty, and it only took him another twenty seconds or so to get the drop on his brother. The two tussled for a moment, grappling, and then Dean got the upper hand, dragging Sam a few feet and plopping down on one of the beds, yanking the younger man down over his knees and pinning him with an arm across the back. Just as Sam was beginning to realize what position he was in, Dean started swatting his brother's backside enthusiastically.

With the potholder.

It took Sam a minute to realize what was happening, that there was a distinct lack of pain, and when that sank in, he decided that if Dean was enjoying this little game, then Sam would indulge him. The younger man started to wiggle and whimper, begging and pleading and kicking and crying out in mock distress, playing up the melodramatic farce for all it was worth--and it was worth a lot more than he'd have thought possible, as he realized when he felt the quake beneath him that told him that Dean was having to fight not to laugh through his stern act. This went on for a few minutes, Sam squirming and making completely outlandish promises--that he would repaint the Impala by hand, that he would hand-wash the ancient stuffed mutt that he wasn't supposed to know his brother still had, that he would call Dean 'Sir Ultimate Power and Handsomeness' until the end of time, that he would never again juggle with Big Bird--before finally giving a pitiful yell and falling limp across his brother's lap, pretending to cry as he tried to catch his breath. He snickered softly when Dean laid a hand on Sam's back and tried his best Dad impression as he did the obligatory "I trust you've learned your lesson, hope we won't be having this discussion again" routine. The younger knew the elder wouldn't last much longer before breaking down.

And he was right.

After a few seconds of silence at the end of his "lecture," Dean crumbled into laughter, lightly tinged with embarrassment, and gently shoved his brother. "Get off me, you big wuss." Sam snorted as he crawled forward onto the bed, then turned so that he was half-laying, half-sitting, supporting himself on his elbows. He and Dean made eye contact, blushing a little again at the play they had chosen, and then Dean snorted into laughter again, Sam knowing that Dean needed this, had needed this for a long time, and if it took a little embarrassment and a submission to his third-most-hated position to do it, well, that was okay by him.

Dean, for his part, got up and hunted down some tissue, bringing back a handful to finish cleaning the cranberry sauce off of his face as he sat on the bed. His first thought, as he looked at the sauce on the tissue, was how closely it resembled blood; but this automatic grim thought was shoved to the side by the drunken buzz of laughter that he'd never found in any bottle. It occured to him then that he didn't particularly feel like going out and finding a bottle tonight, either. He'd been doing a lot of that, maybe too much, lately, and in this moment of endorphic haze that was eerily turning out to be a moment of clarity, he realized that he didn't want to be covered in that kind of sauce. Dean genuinely was not an alcoholic--yet--but he sure hadn't been doing his liver any favors since... since his world had come apart at the seems for a third time. He understood the predisposition, vaguely remembered a time over twenty years ago when his father, once again half-sauced on Sam Adams and disgusted with himself for letting it become a habit, warned his firstborn about the easy trap of alcohol and admonished him to avoid that particular siren song when the going got tough, more clearly recalled that over the next few weeks his father had slowly sobered up and had never again seemed to forsake better judgment about his limits with the drink. Dean recognized these things within himself, thought that the lack of fear and need were positive signs, and decided that he would pull back from the siren's lure, now, before he could find himself slurring the same warning to Sam or, worse, wishing he'd been clearheaded enough to warn Sam about some more immediate danger.

Since he was once again depressing himself, Dean decided to distract himself the best way he knew how--by messing with Sam. He reached over and grabbed Sam's nearer wrist, yanking it and pulling his brother's elbow out from under him. Sam's startled, slightly affronted look was enough to summon Dean's humor again, so almost as soon as Sam had repositioned the arm to support him, Dean did it again.

"Hey! What's the deal?" Sam hadn't been expecting it the first time, and didn't know why he'd let Dean get to him a second time.

Dean's grin was all the answer his brother needed, for both questions. It took a moment, but Sam figured out how to retaliate, and soon the two were tussling again, and though they vowed never to admit it to each other, both of them, in some parts of their minds, half-expected John to walk into the room and start sorting them out. Both felt a little disappointed and... something else when that didn't happen, but they were determined, both for Dean's sake, to keep up the act.

When they had once again worn themselves out, they flopped back on the beds, Dean rising long enough to sling Sam onto the bed farther from the door, demanding breathlessly that they switch the bed pillows so that Sam wouldn't end up sleeping facedown in Dean's cold germs. Sam gave his brother a sour look but complied, secretly just a little bit thankful to have back this little piece of the old Dean. He, too, felt a little bit sauced on silliness; he knew that they'd have to clean up the room before they left, but for the moment, he didn't want to think about cleaning up, didn't want to think about leaving. He didn't want to think. He just wanted to enjoy being here, with more of his brother than he'd seen in months, not doing much of anything, not remembering every minute to try to be both himself and his brother at the same time, not having to deal with those moments when he felt that Dean would be happier and better off if Sam wasn't himself, not having to think about how none of this would have happened if there had been no Sam. Not having to wonder about Dean's reaction if he ever learned what Sam was thinking.

For Dean's part, he was thinking that this not-horribleness was turning out pretty okay after all; he was also thinking that the food really blended surprisingly well with the walls, and he was wondering how much leverage it would take to get Sam to clean up the whole mess. Setting that thought aside with a twinge of old sibling guilt, he started flipping channels with the remote, finally landing on a pregame show. Sam sighed from the other bed, and Dean grinned, anticipating the argument.

He was just a little bit disappointed when Sam said nothing, apparently resigning himself to watching football--without the sound, no less--rather than striking up the old tug-of-war over the remote. Dean was starting to worry just a bit about Sam's sudden, drastic shifts in attitude, and though the current disposition was much easier to deal with all around, a part of the older brother would have preferred the usual geek or even last week's brat; at least he knew how to deal with those. He wondered briefly if Sam realized just how close he had come to going over Dean's knee more than once in the last week, or why it hadn't happened. Dean wasn't sure even he himself could answer the latter. His cold hadn't been friendly to him, true, but he'd lost all of his energy before that set in, feeling like his spirit had been sucked out through the soles of his boots, and then feeling not much of anything, or at least not much of anything he could identify.

So today had been good. Really good. Better than he'd thought any day could be anymore.

Dean reluctantly turned his head to try to find a non-embarrassing way to thank his brother, but stopped short of speaking when he saw that Sam was booting up his laptop. Dean threw a pillow at the younger man.

"Hey! Cut it out already. Just watch your game." Sam threw back the pillow and turned back to his screen.

Deen sneered a little. "Hey, yourself. You cut it out." Sam ignored him. "Come on, Sammy, you heard me. It's a holiday; you said so yourself. That means no working." Again, nothing. "Sam, I'm serious. If I can't work, neither can you." He sat up and swung down his legs. "Don't make me come over there."

Dean thought that he would have to carry through with his warning, all traces of humor gone, but Sam sighed, plucked out a macro, and closed the computer. "Fine. No working. But this isn't about me; this holiday is supposed to be for you."

"Aaaynhh. Wrong answer, but thanks for playin'. This holiday isn't for me, Sammy; it's for us. You and me. The Winchesters. Family--the only family we've got. And I say if I have to lay around, so do you." Dean could tell that his brother was uncomfortable about this, although he didn't understand why, since Sam had been the one to go to the trouble to make this Thanksgiving Day a holiday again for them. For Dean. After a moment of watching his brother stare disinterestedly at the TV, Dean shrugged to himself and focused on the game that had just started.

The game was mediocre, but at least it was something. Dean had chosen his team and was being fairly vocal in his armchair coaching, which was typical for him. He was half-yelling at the refs about a flag on a play when his head snapped around. Sam had started a running commentary--on the game. As the minutes wore on, Dean watched his brother construct a bad parody of sportscasters, pretending enthusiasm while his assertions became more and more fantastical and his comments became more and more sarcastic. Dean would have resented the interference, but because he wasn't actually a fan of the team for which he was cheering, he wasn't all that invested in the game, and frankly he was finding his brother's commentary amusing. Dean tried jumping in. doubling as another 'caster, and when that won a small grin from Sam and pushed back the shadow that had been in the younger man's eyes even during the food fight, Dean abandoned his 'coach' role and dove into the commentating, playing his own outlandishness off of his brother's. When Sam called one of the more colorful bungled plays a 'Dean,' the real Dean chunked another pillow at him. It wasn't long before the halftime break found them in an all-out pillow war, which ended before the intermission of the game ended because Sam, who hadn't had more than a few small bites to eat for more than a day, was losing his stamina. The brothers flopped back on their beds, once more heaving for breath, and Dean gave himself a moment to cool down before flipping to check on the scores of the other games and then flipping back to theirs. One of his favorite teams was playing on channel 27, but Dean didn't care; he was having too much fun calling the original game with Sam.

Digging out the piece of pecan pie and finding one of the plastic forks, Dean reclaimed his position on his bed and wondered if he should offer to share the pie with Sam, since his younger brother had only brought in one slice; Dean reminded himself that Sam didn't like the stuff, but he still felt just a little guilty as he started in on it. When the game resumed, he started the commentary, then turned to see why Sam hadn't responded.

Flopped on his bed, face-up, his legs and neck in what promised to be a position to regret later, Sam was asleep. He wasn't exactly grinning, but for once, the last of the Winchester line looked fairly peaceful, as if he'd finally realized that in sleep he was not expected to take the weight of the world from Dean's shoulders to carry it himself.

Dean was sorry that their play was over; he knew very well that something like the phenomenal surprise that had been this day would most likely never happen again--the fact that it had happened at all was something just short of a miracle--so he let his eyes travel over the battle-damaged room again, taking mental snapshots so that he could hold on to the memory. He wished that John could have seen this. He knew that his father would have rolled his eyes and groused about the mess and the playing around, but he also knew that John's pride in Sam would be deeper than anything--anything except Dean's gratitude. Christmas was cute and sparkly and supposed to change hearts and all, but Thanksgiving had always held the most power in this family, and nothing wrapped in Santa paper had ever matched the gifts Sam had given Dean today, on this day of all days--gifts that just might have changed his life.