A Boy and his Cast(s)
Summary: Week in and week out, Sam's cast looked surprisingly clean and new. Here's one take on why.
A/N: This fic exists thanks to sendintheclowns, who was integral in the brainstorming process and kept me writing for nearly an hour straight for this to get done. Beta's done by her and by my better half, geminigrl11. Thanks and love also to Brenna for her encouragement and friendship.
Disclaimer: I'm not delusion. Most of the time. So I know they're not mine, though I do dream of them more than I'd admit to my husband.
Sam knew he had a broken hand. He knew it because it was swollen and bruised and it hurt like hell. But he iced it and wrapped it in an Ace bandage and popped himself full of painkillers and moved on. Because there were things to hunt and evil to eradicate, and the Winchesters had spent enough time at hospitals as it was.
Dean said they'd get it checked out, but Dean was distracted lately, and Sam didn't try to remind him. The last thing he wanted was to add another layer of stress to Dean's already overtaxed psyche.
So if Dean noticed Sam's grimaces as he did daily tasks with the busted hand, he didn't say anything. Sam kept himself discreet, gently prodding the limb to assure himself it was decently aligned and that all was well.
And it seemed to be a fine plan--it kept Dean from worrying and his hand seemed to be getting better--until they met a spirit in Oklahoma who liked to throw things.
Namely, people. Mostly down stairs.
It'd been two weeks and Sam had already dug a grave, taken showers, eaten food, done research, and driven with his broken hand, so it really didn't seem like too much of a stress to take on an angry spirit.
Sam was wrong. He supposed it was bound to happen from time to time.
They were just investigating, checking things out, when it showed itself. It tossed Dean against a wall (go figure) and then decided to give Sam a trip down the stairs.
The pain was so bad this time that he actually blacked out; not for long, but just long enough for Dean to notice.
Dean didn't say anything until he'd half-dragged Sam into the safety of the yard. Then he wasted no time in pulling Sam's arm away from him and inspecting it. Fresh bruises were already spreading across it as it ballooned slowly. "Is this the one you hurt a few weeks ago?"
Sam sighed. "Yes."
"Well if it wasn't broken then, it's broken now," he said.
Sam just rolled his eyes and suppressed the urge to say, you think?
Injuries were inevitable, and neither of them liked to dwell on them. They had gone through a faze as teens to see who could boast the more impressive injury, and as they had matured, they'd taken to bearing as much as they could before seeking any kind of treatment—as if to prove their manliness by suffering in silence.
But that was before, when injury had never led to death, when they had always come out on top. But now, death had touched them yet again and stolen something else from them, and they were running out of things to sacrifice.
Dean had always taken special care of Sammy, watched out for him, made sure he was safe. He'd been more or less successful, because he'd never let his guard down.
At least he thought he hadn't.
But if that were true, they wouldn't be sitting here. Sam had been compliant in coming, and had readily accepted the painkillers from the nurse, but Dean noticed how quiet Sam was throughout it all. His brother barely looked up as the doctor examined it, and refused to look at Dean as they'd analyzed the x-rays and diagnosed the serious series of breaks in his right hand and wrist.
It made Dean feel worse.
He'd failed his brother already, screwed up his father's departing words.
He'd known Sammy had hurt his hand, he really did, but…there was so much else. And after his own tear-filled confession, he'd been too ashamed to look Sam in the face. And for his attempt to save face, Sam had aggravated an injury.
Of course it was Sam's fault. They both knew better than to lie when things were really serious. But Sam had gone all stoic on him, almost afraid to say much of anything.
The last of the plaster was applied and the doctor was stepping away. "That should do it. We'll let this settle and check you once more before you leave," he said. "But you need to be careful with it. You'll need to take extra care of that hand in order to let it heal."
Sam smiled tightly.
The doctor looked skeptical then turned to Dean. "You watch out for him, now," he ordered, clearly not trusting his young patient to do it on his own.
Dean glanced at Sam, then back at the doctor. "That's kind of what I do."
The cast was new and white and Sam tried to follow all the doctor's instructions. After all, he wanted to get this thing off as soon as possible.
But it was hard. Eating, showering, driving, writing--it was all affected by those white strips of plaster.
And it itched. A lot. All the time. When it didn't itch, it ached, and Sam was pretty sure he was desensitized to all the pain meds by then.
Not to mention the fact that it was heavy. Sure, he was a big guy, but a hand that was suddenly two pounds heavier seemed to throw off his center of gravity. It went down faster than he was used to, so he was always smacking it on countertops and tables. It clipped doors and walls and seemed to make him more likely to fall. For some reason, it seemed to make him sit faster too, and he now had a habit of hitting his head on the Impala's door as he tried to curl himself into it. He did it so often, that even Dean stopped laughing at it.
Nonetheless, Sam got used to it. He learned how to manipulate a pencil and how to type, though hitting the return key was like torture and all Sam's emails had apostrophes instead of new paragraphs. He did have to give up grave digging, though, which Dean so did not think was cool, especially while Dean was digging and Sam was sitting on the ledge making running commentary.
Sam kind of thought that was funny. At least a little funny.
Sam did participate in the hunts in all other ways though, even when they involved hours of traipsing through the woods. That hadn't been so bad, just typical stuff.
But then it had started raining, and not just a little, but a lot, but a freakin' downpour, cats and dogs, the whole nine yards. And when Sam slipped the fifth time, he knew keeping the plaster clean was a lost cause.
The hunt was successful though. Sam even fired a gun with his cast on, and when they got back to the motel, their hot showers were well earned.
No matter how he tried though, the cast seemed to be doomed. The rest of him came clean, but even after wiping the cast down and scrubbing it, it still looked dirty, and even after he stuck pencils down the cast, he could still feel the grime that had managed to collect inside of it.
"Man, are you going to play with that thing all night?"
Sam shot him an annoyed glance. "It feels dirty."
"It is dirty," Dean retorted. "But it's late and I can hear you messing with that thing all the way over here. Finish it in the morning."
The morning came, and Sam tried to pick the crusted mud off, but it didn't really work. The cast was dark and splotchy now, uneven with sediment. Sam tried to hide it under his coat, but the smell had Dean so grossed out that two days later Sam found himself in a clinic getting a new cast.
Sam was too proud for his own good.
Dean knew this, had always known it, and he could very clearly remember the day he'd looked crossly up at Dean and told him that he could tie his own shoes.
Dean had held up his hands an relented, but had been there to help Sam up after the kid had tripped on his own undone laces.
Sam did need help from time to time, and Dean was usually willing to give it without mocking him—too much. But he had to admit, watching Sam walk around trying to do his typical routine was kind of amusing. His button up shirts gave him hell—it took him nearly twenty minutes sometimes, and other day he just left it open because it required more agility than Sam could muster.
And Sam spent more time in the bathroom. Sometimes 15 minutes.
"Did you fall in?" Dean asked once.
Sam just glared. "It's a little hard one handed."
Dean raised his eyebrows in question. "And just what were you doing?"
Turning red, Sam glowered. "It's hard to wipe, okay?"
Dean managed to wait a beat until he broke out laughing. Sam's cheeks burned and he tried to disappear into the bed.
"I can help you with that, you know," Dean offered between laughs. "No wonder your cast is getting dirty."
"I hate you."
And Dean just laughed some more.
This poltergeist liked knives. Lots of them. And it liked to throw them.
They borrowed the herb trick from Missouri, and were cleansing the house, when the thing caught wind of the plan and didn't take kindly to it. Dean tackled the basement and Sam had the second floor and they both raced to the main floor, splitting it to get the four corners.
Sam finished first and tumbled into the southern corner in the living room just in time to see a letter opener menacing behind Dean's back.
He yelled and Dean ducked, and the opener whizzed above his head.
Then a decorative knife was pulled from the mantel and was sent flying toward Sam.
Dean was angling to get his herbs in the corner. Sam was so intent on his brother's safety that he barely saw the knife until it was coming at him.
He wouldn't be fast enough.
His instincts screamed duck, but his knees were stiff. His arms went up in a last ditch effort to protect his face from the flying sharp object hurtling his way.
A burst of light flooded the house and then it was gone.
Sam stood, hands still in front of his face, as he peaked out hesitantly.
Dean stared at Sam, gaping.
Sam's arm felt heavier than usual, and when he followed Dean's gaze, he saw why.
The knife was embedded in the bottom side of Sam's cast, deep enough to stick.
"Huh," Dean said.
"Does it hurt?"
It seemed like a stupid question—a knife was buried in his cast, after all--but then he realized that it didn't. "Not really," Sam said, easing his arm away from him and turning it to examine the protruding object.
Approaching his brother, Dean studied it in fascination. "Did it get your skin?"
Sam flexed his hand. "I don't think so."
"That's amazing," Dean said, astonishment coloring his voice. "It saved your life."
Sam just grimaced. "Can we just take it out, please?"
"You sure it doesn't hurt?" Dean asked, somewhat concerned.
"Dude, there's a knife sticking out of me."
"It's your cast."
"It's the same thing," Sam said, his voice tinged with annoyance and impatience.
"Okay, okay," Dean said. "It just looks pretty cool."
Dean studied it a minute more, then proceeded to get out his phone.
"What are you doing?" Sam asked incredulously.
Dean held up the phone and grinned. "It's such a Kodak moment, Sammy."
Sam's look was a mixture of disbelief and anger as Dean snapped a picture. With a satisfied grin, he put the phone away, and met Sam's deadly gaze with an indifferent shrug of his shoulders. "What?"
Sam took a deep breath and blew it out evenly. "Well, I'm happy to amuse you, Dean, but I'd like to get going."
Dean just rolled his eyes. "Whatever."
Carefully, Dean gripped the knife and tested it. It was wedged tightly in the plaster. Dean looked impressed and Sam's brow creased.
"Be careful," Sam hissed. "You're going to ruin the cast."
"Would you rather me leave it in there?"
Sam glared, but said nothing.
Dean pulled, jimmying it slightly, waiting for it to give.
Finally, with a determined yank, he pried it free and as he did, a huge chunk of the cast broke off with it. Dean held up the knife. "Least we got the knife out."
Sam just stared at the shattered portion of his cast. "Unbelievable."
They walked out of another clinic in another town, another cast on Sam's hand.
"You could have at least gotten a colored one," Dean griped.
Sam sighed in exasperation. "The white is fine."
Sam crinkled his forehead in annoyance. "You're boring."
"I would have gotten a green one," Dean said decidedly. "The green ones are the best."
"That's because you have the mentality of a 10-year-old."
"At least I'm not the one who keeps breaking my hand."
Sam ignored him.
"I'm not signing this one," Dean said, as a matter of fact.
"Why?" Sam asked, offended for some reason, though he'd never wanted Dean to sign the others in the first place.
Dean shrugged in nonchalance. "You'll just get a new one in three weeks anyway."
It had been nearly four weeks, and by now, Sam was really pretty good with the cast.
He knew how to use it to his advantage. It worked well as a battering ram (though, yes, that still hurt) and he could now shower one-handed and perform other daily hygienic tasks without his dominant hand. He almost forgot about it sometimes.
So when they were checking out a demonic possession in Alabama, his cast was the last thing on his mind. But when the possessed girl caught them off guard and overpowered them, he stopped thinking and acted.
She'd downed him and scattered his gun away from him, and then she'd downed Dean, and as Sam shook himself clear, he saw her turning back on Dean to finish the job.
He had no weapons, no options, but he had to stop her. He just needed to stop her. Dean had the ritual, he had the words--Sam just had to draw her away.
Staggering to his feet, he lurched toward her, as fast as he could. Without thinking, he lifted the heaviest thing he had--his own arm--and brought it hard down upon her head.
The cast shattered, pieces flying everywhere. If it hadn't hurt so much, Sam would have been amazed to see it practically disintegrate with contact.
He staggered, holding his injured and now exposed limb in front of him.
He'd achieved half his goal, at least.
She did turn away from Dean. However, she seemed completely unfazed by the impact of Sam's cast to her skull. She just shook her head, plaster raining from her mussed locks, and advanced on Sam.
Sam didn't even have time to blink when she grabbed his hand.
The contact sent Sam to his knees without hesitation.
Then she began to twist.
Everything tunneled and dimmed and he could see the grimace of a smile wash over her face triumphantly as she manipulated his already wounded hand into a grossly unnatural position.
His breath caught in his throat and his chest tightened. Tears leaked from his eyes and he held his mouth open in a wordless scream.
He was going to pass out or throw up or both. Everything was hazy, everything was wrong, everything was pain, pain, pain...
Then he was released and his senses flooded back in a sweet rush of release.
He sagged, exhausted, cradling the throbbing hand close to him.
"Dude, you okay?" Dean asked, looking down tentatively at his brother.
Sam blinked and looked up, his vision still blurry from tears, his jaw still slack.
"Thanks," Dean added. "For keeping her distracted and all."
Sam couldn't even nod. He blinked again at Dean in disbelief. "Anytime."
Dean looked more concerned now, dropping to his knees next to Sam and reaching for his hand.
Reflexively, Sam pulled it closer to him, trying to guard it.
"Easy," Dean said. "I just want to see."
Sam didn't want to, but there was no choice. Reluctantly, he held it out.
Dean gasped in sympathy. "What'd she do to you, Sammy?"
"Twisted it," Sam grunted, eyeing Dean warily as he gently touched it.
"No kidding," Dean commented. "It's probably a spiral fracture."
Sam clenched his teeth forcefully, trying to rein in the tears of pain that threatened to escape.
"Well," Dean said, taking in the misshapen limb. "At least this time you don't have to get it cut off."
This cast lasted.
Sam kept it mostly clean and didn't even use it for a battering ram anymore, though once he was tempted (well, twice, if he counted that time Dean called him cast!boy and purposefully asked for Sam to reload the guns, which Sam could do, technically, but only when he propped it up between his legs and he usually spilled more bullets than he got in).
In fact, nearly five weeks later, it was still intact and in good condition. His hand didn't hurt so much, and Sam was just a week away from another check up.
The latest hunt was a haunted hotel, which certainly didn't seem too messy, especially with all the freaky dolls looking all pristine. Not a speck of dirt or mud to be found.
Just a swimming pool.
Not that Sam thought about that when he jumped in.
He just knew there was a little girl and that he was the only one there.
His mind didn't even think of his cast until after she was coughing and her mother was hugging her. Dean grinned at him, a large, relieved, true grin, and then clapped Sam on his wet shoulder. "Way to go, Sammy."
Sam was still watching the girl, watching her breathe, and feeling so good about it all, that he barely heard him.
"Come on," Dean said. "Let's get everyone back to the house."
The mother walked ahead, drawing her daughter close to her as they walked back to the house. Sam and Dean followed a few feet behind.
"Dude, you were so close," Dean said, amused.
"Your cast," Dean pointed out. "You almost made it this time."
Sam looked at his appendage, as if for the first time. His brow creased in frustration. "Aw, man," he whined.
Dean couldn't help but chuckle. "We'll run by a clinic on our way out of town."
"No?" Dean sounded genuinely surprised.
"Sam, you need to make sure it's okay."
"It's fine," Sam assured him. "We'll do it ourselves."
"You need the x-rays."
"I'll be able to tell. You will too. And it's been four weeks. It's within the range."
Dean was skeptical "Do you really want to take a chance with it?"
"I've had the thing on for almost three months, Dean," Sam explained. "I think I'm ready."
They'd cut off casts before, and with the plaster being soft and warped from Sam's run in with the water, it wasn't hard to do. Once Dean had snipped it up Sam's wrist, he pulled it gently from around Sam's hand, revealing pale and soft skin underneath. Sam flexed tentatively, testing it, before he submitted it to Dean for inspection.
Dean's fingers were gentle but thorough as they probed, feeling along the bones of Sam's wrist and arm. He could feel nothing out of place. "How does it feel?" Dean asked.
"It feels good," Sam said, his eyes watching Dean's finger move on his hand.
Dean held Sam's hand a little longer, fondling it in a guise of medical exploration. But he didn't want to let go, he didn't want to relinquish it.
His grip loosened though, and his arms dropped to his lap. "Good as new," Dean said.
Sam's hand hovered in the air. He grinned. "It's so light. Almost like it could float."
Dean tried to smile, but found his chest tight. His greatest fear was Sam slipping away, floating away. He needed to keep his brother tethered--to the ground, to him--and he didn't always know how to do it.
Oblivious, Sam probed his wrist and hand. "I can't believe how long I've had that thing."
He watched, finally offering a small smile.
"I think I'm going to take a shower," Sam said, still opening and closing his fist. "It will feel so good to finally be clean."
Dean just nodded and watched as his brother collected his things and went to toward the bathroom. Sam paused at the door, and looked back. "Thanks, Dean. For everything."
Unable to speak, Dean felt his eyes burn as Sam disappeared inside. He sat where he was, remaining still even as Sam turned on the water and Dean could hear the water pouring down.
Then he looked down at the discarded cast which had so been a part of Sam for the last seven months. It had defined him, been something to identify his brother to. As long as Sam had sported it, Dean had always taken extra care of it. It marked the beginning of his recommitment to his brother, when he realized that taking care of Sam was more important than anything else, more important than a promise to his father, more important than the sense of duty he felt somewhere inside of him.
But it was gone now, and somehow with it, so was part of the innocence Dean had felt responsible for protecting. And Dean could hear Sam's voice, begging him, asking him to kill him if he had to.
He picked up the cast, and saw how it was still molded in the shape of Sam's hand.
With the cast off, Sam seemed so much more vulnerable, more unprotected, more likely to break again.
Now Dean didn't know how to protect his little brother.
He sighed, tossing the ruined plaster in the garbage. He flopped back on the bed, and tried to sleep away the doubts and questions.