Sam's fingers are shaky, and he can't quite get the needle threaded

Sam's fingers are shaky, and he can't quite get the needle threaded. If anyone busts in and finds him doing this, squatting in a sweaty heap in a stall in the first floor boys' bathroom, well . . . he might have to ask Dad to pick up stakes and move them right away. Not that Dad can even do that, since that thing tore his shoulder wide open, and all Dean does these days between school and shoveling driveways for spare cash is play nursemaid to Dad. A better nursemaid than Dad deserves, honestly.

The tip of his tongue caught between his teeth, Sam finally manages to get the needle threaded. He sticks it safely in the cuff of his jeans and turns his attention to the cloth. It's stiff and still slightly sticky with blood, dark red and heavy. He starts to peel it free, carefully, grimacing at the sound it makes as it pulls away, soft little incriminating pops.

He needs to get as much of this done as he can before fourth period is over. Pulling the needle free of his cuff, he sets his teeth and starts to sew.


Dean's pink-cheeked, the picture of health, or he would be if he didn't have dark circles ringing his tired eyes and if he weren't shivering uncontrollably, minute shudders that give him away. His hands have bandages on them instead of gloves, and it's not all for warmth; Dad had struggled against Dean in his delirium, jamming his fingers and straining his wrists before flinging him back against the wall with borrowed strength. Sam had heard the whole thing from the kitchen, where Dean had banished him, as if Sam wouldn't realize something was wrong when Dean had Dad slung over his shoulder and Dad left a sticky red trail all the way to his bedroom.

Sam watches Dean divide the cash into careful piles, moving slowly as his body becomes accustomed to their little house's snug warmth. Dean unwinds the bandages clumsily and holds his hands over the pot of soup Sam's got simmering on the stove. "Thanks, dude," Dean rasps, and Sam wants to say I did it for you but he knows Dean will spoon out the lion's share to Dad and believe he's doing the right thing.

When Dean shuffles into Dad's room with a mug of steaming soup, Sam buckles down to study. He finishes his work quickly, knowing he's got something more important to get done by morning.


Dean's too exhausted to stay awake after Dad stops fighting sleep, and Sam sneaks out to the main room, flips on the light, and pulls his project back out. He sews steadily, trying to make the fabric fit neatly and lie smooth without any bumps or puckers. All that first aid training paid off; he's a careful, if not very fast, worker.

By the time the sun comes up, he's done. Dean stumbles sleepily toward the kitchen, his hair standing up in soft spikes. "Did you get any sleep at all, Sammy?" Dean asks, rubbing at his eye with stiff fingers.

"Who needs it?" Sam smiles, bursting with pride that he did this, that Dean will really like this.

"What're you grinning about?" Dean grumbles, as if he's not smiling right back.

"Happy birthday, Dean," Sam says, pulling his gift out from behind him, and Dean's eyes go wide.

"That's . . ." Dean starts, then stops, shooting a glance at Dad's closed door. "I thought . . ."

"Yeah," Sam says, because Dean's right, the leather jacket looked done for when Dean finally peeled it off Dad, the lining soaked in blood, and Dad had demoted it to packing material without a second thought, wrapping knives and fragile glass charms in it and stuffing it in the duffel under his bed.

"You little sneak," Dean says admiringly, holding it up so that it gleams dully. The new lining might be made of multi-colored scraps, but it's pristine, and the leather is as clean as Sam could get it with a leather-care kit from the Jamesway down the street.

Sam laughs, and Dean looks down. "Sammy, you shouldn't have wasted your time," Dean says haltingly.

"Shut up and try it on," Sam says. It's not like he can keep Dean from running himself ragged trying to take care of everything, but he can at least make sure Dean's warm. The jacket drapes heavily, perfectly over Dean's broad shoulders, over Dean's sleep shirt and sweatpants, and Sam yawns once, smiling again, before heading to the bathroom for a shower.