Disclaimer: Nope, they still don't belong to me. Darn it.


CONCUSSIONS, CAKE, AND COUPONS

By: Vanessa Sgroi

"Hey, Janie, he's still sleeping, isn't he?"

The auburn-haired nurse behind the long counter looked up from her paperwork and offered the handsome man before her a soft smile that rested gently on a face just starting to show wrinkles. "Indeed he is, Dean. I just checked moments ago."

"Oh, good." He offered the nurse a small smile of his own. It wasn't often Dean took an instant liking to someone, but Janie Alton was one of the exceptions. Maybe it was simply because of the extra kindness and care she'd shown to Sam—and subsequently to him as well.

"He was awake for a few minutes earlier and started to get a bit upset when you weren't there. Mumbled something about you being a stubborn ass and knowing you were seriously hurt and just not telling him. He calmed down though when I assured him you were fine. I told him you went to get a cup of real coffee instead of the swill we have 'round here."

"Thanks, Janie. I didn't mean to freak him out by not being here." Dean rolled his left shoulder feeling the long line of stitches located there pull slightly.

"Just think he was worried about you is all, hun." She eyed the white box Dean was holding in his hands. "So did you get what I told you to?"

"Yep. A Lemon Almond Cake with Champagne Mousse filling," Dean bit his lower lip worriedly. "You sure it's better than plain chocolate?"

"He'll love it, I promise."

"Did you get the other stuff?"

"Certainly. Went down to the gift shop on my break. Lemme get it out of the Nurses' Lounge for you." The nurse hurried away, returning moments later with two huge bunches of blue and white helium-filled balloons and a small bag of colorful crepe-paper streamers.

Dean's eyes lit up with gratitude.

Janie smiled. "C'mon, let's get to it before he wakes up." She and another nurse, Linda, walked slightly ahead of a limping Dean, entering Room 318 first.

As the two women quietly began to decorate the room, the older Winchester looked Sam over, his eyes assessing. Satisfied with what he saw, he set the white bakery box on the wheeled tray table and carefully extracted the gourmet cake from within, hindered only slightly by the bulky Ace bandage encasing his lower arm and wrist. He positioned it in the center before pulling the box of candles from a pocket inside his coat. He decorated the cake with every candle in the box. By the time he was done, Dean turned around to find the two nurses silently putting up the last of the streamers. When they were done, all three of them tiptoed out of the room.

Once the door closed, Dean looked at Janie. "Now you're sure it's okay if I light all those candles?"

"Yes, hun. Just be quick about getting them all blown out." She giggled a little. "Wouldn't wanna set off an alarm now, would we?"

Dean smiled and shook his head. "I've got one more thing to get from the car. I'll be right back." It took him ten long minutes to limp out to the Impala, grab the package off the back seat, and return to the third floor of the hospital. Dean paused in front of the Nurses' Station once more and waited for Janie to finish talking to someone else before he spoke.

"So it's okay if I wake him up, right? I mean, I don't wanna…"

"Yes. Just do it . . . gently. Don't go in there and jump up and down on the bed or anything," she teased.

Dean hesitated, still a bit uncertain.

Seeing the young man's continued distress, no matter how slight, Janie smiled and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Dean, your brother is doing fine. The concussion is causing the intermittent vertigo and his overt sleepiness. His cracked ribs are healing as is the fractured kneecap. Go wake him up—gently—celebrate his birthday with him and have fun! Oh, and don't forget to save Linda and I a piece of that cake!"

Dean made his way down the hall, his hitched gait a testimony to his own healing injuries. He pushed open the door to his brother's room, pleased to find him still asleep. Dean put the package down next to the cheerful-looking cake, pulled one of the uncomfortably hard plastic chairs next to the bed, and gratefully sank down into it, all the while contemplating exactly how he wanted to wake him.

In the end, he decided that poking him repeatedly in his uninjured side was gentle enough and would do the trick. He extended his index finger and gave a little poke.

"Sam, wake up."

Dean poked again just a tiny bit harder and watched his brother squirm a little. That's when he remembered Sammy was ticklish.

"C'mon, Sammy, open your eyes, I've got a surprise for you."

Biting his bottom lip to hold back a chuckle, Dean extended two fingers this time and ghosted them lightly over Sam's side. That got a reaction.

With eyes still closed, Sam grunted and grumbled, "Deeean, stop. Gonna tell."

"Who you gonna tell, that mean ol' bat who comes in every night and yells at you?"

At the mention of his nightly nemesis, Sam's eyes popped open. He reached up slowly to rub the sleep from his eyes. "Hey, you're back. Did you get your coffee?"

"Um, no, not exactly."

"Then why were you gone? Did that nurse lie to me about you being okay?"

Dean saw his brother tense and start to get agitated, not an unusual occurrence since receiving the concussion.

"No, Sammy, she didn't lie. I'm fine. Now look around the room and you'll see what I was up to."

Sam, relaxing a little, did as his brother commanded and looked around the room, taking in the balloons and decorations first and then focusing on the cake. Puzzled, he turned his gaze to older sibling. "What the…"

"Happy Birthday, Sammy."

"Birthd… Today's my birthday? I forgot…I mean I knew it was coming up but didn't realize…"

"Well, I did and that's all that matters. And since it really sucks to be stuck in the hospital on your birthday…" Dean knew exactly how much it sucked from experience. He'd found out when he was stuck in the hospital, alone, a few years ago—back when Sam was still at Stanford.

Sam was looking at the party paraphernalia with a little grin. "So you arranged a birthday party for me?

"You bet your ass I did. Never forgot your birthday before, not gonna start now and ruin a perfect track record. You feel up to blowing out all those candles, old man?"

Sam full on smiled, his dimples showing. "Old man? I'm 25."

"Dude, that's a quarter of a century. That's old!"

"Well, you're older than me—what does that make you?"

"Wiser." Dean found the button and raised the head of Sam's bed. He then retrieved matches from his coat pocket and lit all the candles on the cake.

"Make a wish and blow, Sammy. Janie said you gotta hurry and blow 'em out."

"Aren't you gonna sing 'Happy Birthday'?"

"What? No!"

"C'mon, bro, you always do! Even when I was at Stanford, you'd call and sing it on my voice mail."

Dean felt his cheeks turn pink with embarrassment.

"Ahhh, Sam, do I really have…" Dean stopped and stared at the floor for a second. Then suddenly, the sound of his deep voice filled the room as he began singing 'Happy Birthday'. When he finished, he growled, "Now blow out the damn candles, geekboy."

Sam tried, he really did. But his healing ribs just wouldn't let him draw in enough breath to extinguish so many tiny little flames. In the end, they made it a joint effort and got them all out. The resultant streams of smoke twisted and twirled, lazily snaking their way toward the ceiling.

"You know, the cake looks really good, Dean. What kind is it?"

"Lemon Almond Cake with Champagne Mousse filling."

"Seriously?"

"Yep. Nurse Janie told me to get it. Swore to me you'd like it." Dean fidgeted a little. "Is it all right? Or should I have just gotten chocolate?"

"No, no—it's fine. It looks good. Can't wait to eat a piece."

"Okay, well, we'll cut it in a minute. First, open your present."

Sam reached out and retrieved the wrapped package sitting next to the cake. He fumbled around with the wrapping for a minute, his vision still slightly off from the concussion.

"Need help?"

"Nah, I've got it." So saying, Sam's fingers found purchase and he pulled the wrapping paper off the box. Opening the top, he found several smaller wrapped packages inside. "What's this? Presents inside of presents?"

Pointing, Dean said, "Open that one first."

Sam picked up the little box and peeled off the paper. When he saw what was inside, he glanced at Dean, eyebrows raised. "Uhh, earrings, Dean?"

"Yeah, bro, I thought they'd go nice with your new hairdo, Samantha." Dean pointed to the little bare patch of skull on Sam's head where they'd had to shave his hair so they could put in stitches. Despite his comical words, his hand shook a little as he pointed.

"Nice. Pick on the injured dude." Sam chuckled and then groaned. "Don't make me laugh; it still hurts!"

"Okay, okay. Open that one next."

Holding up the box containing the earrings, he said, "I'll give these to Janie before I get discharged." He set them aside to give to the nurse who'd been so kind to them both. As Dean requested, Sam picked up the flat postcard size package. Tearing away the tissue paper, he found a three pieces of cardstock. Turning the first one over, he read:

Dean Winchester Coupon #1

Ten Ice Cream Stops On Demand

No questions asked.

His eyes flicked to his brother and back as he flipped over the second piece of cardstock. This one read:

Dean Winchester Coupon #2

Shotgun gets to pick music

For one whole day.

One 24-hour period.

Not to exceed time limit or

Driver's head might explode

Forcing shotgun to clean it up.

By the time Sam got to the third coupon, he was biting his bottom lip to keep from laughing. He flipped the third card over.

Dean Winchester Coupon #3

In the event of serious injury,

writer agrees to one trip to the

hospital at recipient's demand

with absolutely no complaints.

Seriously. Not one complaint.

Sam's breath hitched a little as he read this last coupon. Others would think it odd, but it meant a lot to the youngest Winchester.

Poking Sam in his ticklish side again, Dean urged, "Now the last one." He watched as Sam picked up the last little package, hefting its weight in his hand as if trying to guess what was underneath the wrapping.

Sam peeled away the tissue paper to reveal two rolls of quarters. Again he looked at Dean with a puzzled frown. "Two rolls of quarters?"

Dean grinned a wolfish grin. "Yep. They're all yours for the next time we run across one of those Magic Fingers beds. I'm tellin' you, Sammy, you GOTTA give it a try."

Gazing at all of his oddball—and uniquely Dean—gifts, the younger man succumbed to his giggles, even though he had to clutch his injured ribs and gasp for air.

Dean punched him lightly in the arm. "Stop it. You're gonna pass out or something. You ready for a piece of cake?"

Sam fought to bring his laughter under control and managed an affirmative nod. He laid his head back down on his pillow. He was tiring but determined not to ruin this lighthearted camaraderie that was such a welcome respite.

Both brothers grew quiet as they ate enormous slabs of the gourmet cake. Dean waved his fork around and spoke around a mouthful of dessert, "Good stuff. No wonder she insisted I get it. I promised Janie and Linda each a piece of cake for their help getting the balloons and stuff… So, Sammy, did you make a wish? You know—when you blew out the candles?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I did, Dean. I made a big wish."

Dean didn't have to ask what the wish was, he could practically see it blazing in Sam's eyes. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair, his gaze dropping to the floor. After a few seconds of brooding, he suddenly brightened and jumped up. He hurried across the room and snatched a balloon from one of the bundles. "Hey, Sam. You in the mood for some entertainment?"

"Um, yeah, I guess. For a few minutes anyway. Why?"

" 'Cause I think it's time for some 'Helium!Dad Theater'. Remember that? I used to be able to get you laughing so hard you'd end up with hiccups. Or maybe it was peeing your pants? I can't remember. Hey, if I do a good enough job right now, maybe we'll find out!" He undid the knot at the base of the balloon and held the end up to his mouth, inhaling a mouthful of helium. Then, in the resultant squeaky voice, Dean started his best imitation of their father barking his military training orders. For the first time since Dad's death, Dean's heart didn't hurt when thinking of him. Instead it was full of good memories.

Janie looked up and smiled when she heard the laughter coming from Room 318. She somehow knew deep in her heart this was something those two boys desperately needed.

FINI