A/N: This is based on the prompt: Scarf, broken occipital bone, and ice cream with a maraschino cherry on top. Enjoy! Deep affection, as always, to all of you.
"… and Rocky Raccoon – checked into his room – only to find Gideon's bible… and Rocky had come – equipped with a gun – to shoot off the legs of—"
"Sam," Dean growls, "Rocky's not the only one equipped with a fuckin' gun, you hear me? I can shoot people's legs off, too."
"See?" Sam says innocently. "It's not just the eyes."
There's a brief silence, nothing but the rusty-pipe hum of crappy motel plumbing and the faint grind of Dean's teeth as he gnashes them together.
"Sorry," Sam relents finally. "But seriously, dude, you look—"
"I know what I look like, Sam." Dean raises a hand halfway to his face, to the dark blood pooled beneath the skin surrounding his eyes, then drops his arm with a scowl, starts to shift his weight around in a way that makes Sam nervous.
"Hey, hey," Sam says, coming forward towards his brother's bed, "what're you doing? Doctor says you gotta –"
"I'm just tryin'a get comfortable, christ," Dean says, weakly smacks Sam's hand away from where it's hovering anxiously by his shoulder. "That doctor doesn't know what he's talking about, anyway. Seriously, what the fuck kind of medical term is raccoon eyes?"
"Periorbital hematoma," Sam corrects, can't help himself. "That's the official term."
Dean gives him a disgusted glare and settles back against the headboard, chin pillowed on the stiff beige neck-brace that's gonna be a regular accessory to his wardrobe for the next six to eight weeks, and he looks so unhappy that Sam can't help but take pity on him.
"Sorry," he says, lowers himself down next to Dean's leg. "You hungry, man? You need to eat something."
Dean starts to shake his head, rethinks it and says, "Unless you're lookin' to get up-close-and-personal with my stomach lining, I don't think that's the greatest idea."
Sam chews his lower lip. "The doctor said I had to make you eat something, even though you're gonna be nauseous. You haven't eaten in over seventy-two hours."
Neither has Sam, really, just chips and crackers from the vending machine as he waited for Dean to come out of surgery and then to wake up, hospital trip courtesy of a poltergeist that had sent a frying pan straight to the back of Dean's skull with an unearthly clang that's still echoing in Sam's ears. Dean hadn't gone down easy, either, had stumbled forward just far enough to connect solidly with the wall and then staggered backwards to trip over a chair before he lost consciousness. Occipital break, the doctor had said, all enthusiastic interest as he showed Sam the x-rays. You don't see this every day, no siree.
"What about soup?" Sam suggests. "Chicken noodle?"
"I have a concussion, dude, not the flu," Dean says, and Sam sits up straighter.
"You're not concussed," he bristles, because he's unconvinced that his brother grasps the true nature of his injury. "You broke a bone inside your head, Dean."
Dean flaps a hand at him. "Concussed."
"If you don't take this seriously, you're—"
"Listen, Sam," Dean says, an edge of exhaustion creeping into his voice. "I broke a bone I've never even heard of, okay? My head feels like someone's sawing it apart from the inside-out. I'm like this close to puking, and there's a plastic thing that's gonna be choking me on a regular basis for the next month and a half. You think you could cut me one teeny tiny break for five fucking seconds, and quit bitching at me?"
"Yeah," Sam says, guilt welling up in his chest instantaneously. "I'm sorry, dude, I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry, just shut the fuck up," Dean says, and Sam watches the paleness of his face behind the strange, black-eyed bruising, watches the neck-brace squish his chin as he slumps his head forward, and Sam sighs, hangs his hands between his legs and tries to think of a way to make Dean eat that won't qualify as bitching.
"Dean," Sam says, and Dean groans.
"It's just – I'm not trying to give you a hard time, swear to god, but you really gotta eat something, all right? Something sugary, maybe. Can you think of anything that sounds good?"
"No," Dean grumps, shuts his eyes pointedly, and Sam gives up, pushes himself off the bed and goes for the car keys sitting on the table by the door.
"Well, I'm hungry," he says, jingles them from hand to hand. "I gotta get a sandwich, or something, or I'm gonna pass out. I'm gonna pick you up some soup, for when you feel like you can keep something down."
He waits, but Dean just wiggles a few dismissive fingers, doesn't open his eyes.
"You'll be okay here for ten minutes?"
"Okay." Sam hesitates by the door, then zips up his coat and nods to the room at large. "I'm going. Here I go."
"Don't lie to me, Sammy, my heart can't take it."
He heads to a sandwich shop he'd seen just a few blocks from the motel, parks the Impala in the lot and heads through the stiff November wind and into the warmth of the store, spends a moment or two examining the chalked menu before ordering a tuna melt and a bowl of chicken noodle soup to go.
He sits down at one of the small, metal-latticed tables to wait for his food, watches as a young mother and her child step up to order, the kid practically bouncing on the balls of his feet with excitement, and Sam sees why when the girl behind the counter slides an enormous hot-fudge sundae towards the boy, dish piled high with bananas and whipped cream and four perfect red maraschino cherries, and out of nowhere Sam can feel himself salivating.
He remembers, abruptly, one summer when he was nine and they were living in Pennsylvania, in some tiny town whose name he's lost between then and now – remembers how Dean got sick, laid up with the worst flu Sam had ever seen. He'd lost maybe ten pounds in just one week, couldn't keep anything down, not even water, until finally John took him to the hospital where they hooked him up to a bunch of machines and pumped him full of fluid so he didn't die of dehydration. He'd come out of the hospital yellow-pale and weak, thin, no appetite.
No appetite, that is, until John had gone out and come home with the biggest, most intimidating ice cream sundae Sam had ever seen in his life and set it in front of Dean.
"Get cracking," John had said, and Dean had grinned up at him, like it was a game, a challenge.
He'd eaten almost the whole thing. With Sam's help.
Dean's always been a sucker for ice cream.
"Hey," Sam says, pushing himself up from the table to go lean over the glass deli counter. "Uh, can I get one of those? What he's having? To go?"
"Sure thing," the girl says.
"Is there any way you could add like, a lot of cherries?" Dean's stupid about cherries sometimes.
"Cost you fifty cents extra."
The sundae comes in a huge Styrofoam container and Sam lifts the lid to make sure the girl didn't cheat him with the cherries, but sure enough there are at least ten, and he drives a little faster than normal so the ice cream doesn't melt.
Dean isn't on the bed when Sam gets back to the motel, and his heart ratchets up a notch in fear until he hears the flush of the toilet and the bathroom door opens on Dean, pale and black-eyed, one hand going to the doorframe for balance as he eyes Sam nervously, looks for all the world like a guilty puppy that just took a crap on the carpet and is waiting to be reprimanded.
"You're not supposed to be on your feet," Sam says, setting down the bag of food and shrugging off his coat.
"I had to pee."
Sam just sighs, and Dean pushes off the door and starts to make his way back to the bed, painfully slow and unsteady. Sam lets him get a few steps before concern wins out and he crosses the space to take his brother's arm and guide him back to the bed. It's a testament to how fucked-up Dean's balance is that he lets Sam grip his elbow, even leans on him a little, puts one hand on his shoulder as he lowers himself back to the mattress.
"You really dizzy?" Sam asks as Dean settles himself stiffly against the pillows, holding his head carefully atop the brace to minimize movement of his neck.
"Kind of," Dean says, and Sam can tell by the way he's taking careful sips of air that the journey from bathroom to bed has made him nauseous all over again.
"I got you some soup," Sam starts, and Dean winces.
"Sam, it's just not the time, dude."
"Well, I got you something else, too," he says, snags the bag from the counter and gets out the sundae and the plastic spoons, sets them hopefully on the bed beside his brother.
"What is this?" Dean asks, twists from the hip so he can turn to pick the container up, edge up the lid and peer into it. He's quiet for a moment and then he says, tone baffled, "Dude… ice cream?"
"Yeah," Sam says, suddenly feeling like an idiot. It's thirty-five degrees outside, Dean is on the verge of some serious vomit action, and Sam thought ice cream would be a good idea?
"That's…" Dean seems at a loss for words. "That's really nice, Sam. But… I don't think I'm really up for hot fudge at the moment."
"Right," Sam says, picks the sundae up from where Dean sets it back on the bedspread, disappointment curdling in his belly. "I don't – I'm not sure what I was thinking. I just saw someone else order one, and it looked so good…"
"It was a nice thought," Dean says doubtfully, and Sam retreats back to his own bed, ears burning a little. Fuckin' idiot. But he's not gonna let this just go to waste, so he picks up a spoon and digs in before it starts melting.
It's fucking awesome, is what it is, and Sam can't remember the last time he had a sundae like this, all the fixings: hot fudge, walnuts, strawberry topping, chocolate and vanilla ice cream, homemade whipped cream, and then all those freakin' cherries. He feels his eyelids flutter closed at the taste of the velvety fudge on his tongue, and holds back a groan of pleasure just in time, because if his brother's already nauseous he probably doesn't need to hear Sam have an orgasm over a hot fudge sundae.
"Hey," Dean says suddenly. "Can I have a bite of that?"
Startled, Sam glances over. "Really?"
Sam hands it over, watches Dean load up a spoonful and steer it to his mouth. His eyes go big and he says through a thick mouthful, "It's cold."
"It's ice cream, Dean."
Dean swallows, takes another bite, and Sam notices he's careful to include a cherry on this one. He chews, swallows, reloads.
"This is… this is fuckin' spectacular."
"I know," Sam says, inordinately pleased with himself, and he watches the way Dean gets a double chin as he chews, jaw squashed by the neck brace. It's pretty hilarious.
"Here," Dean says, tries to pass it back to Sam. "Have some."
"You go at it," Sam says. "I got a tuna melt."
Dean pauses with the spoon halfway to his mouth. "I better not smell that tuna, swear to god, Sam, you're cleanin' up my puke if I do."
"I'll eat it over here," Sam promises, starts to unwrap the sandwich. Pauses when he sees Dean raise a tentative hand to the back of his head, a grimace chasing itself across his face. "What's wrong?"
"Nothin'," Dean says, "it's just…"
"This fuckin' bald spot," Dean says, skims his fingers over the back of his head where they'd shaved his hair for surgery. "With the ice cream and shit… I think it's kind of making me cold. Sounds stupid, but –"
Sam puts his sandwich down. "We can fix that."
Dean groans when Sam comes over to him with a scarf, but he leans forward obligingly and lets Sam wrap it carefully around his head, tie it at his forehead and tuck the spare ends in. It scares Sam a little, to see the fresh stitches where the doctors had sliced Dean's head open not twenty-four hours ago, and the pink skin of his bare scalp is disturbing in a way that Sam wouldn't have expected. He's happy to cover it up with the soft green wool of the scarf.
"You just need a pair of sunglasses and you'd be Jackie O," Sam says, admiring his handiwork.
"Nothing. Eat your ice cream."
Dean obeys, delicately lifts a cherry with his fingers to deposit in his mouth, licks a fleck of fudge off his lip. He looks ridiculous with the turban-like scarf and the purple ringing his eyes, his neck immobile.
Looks ridiculous, but it's still a hell of a lot better than he'd looked post-op, lying in that hospital bed covered in tubes and needles, skin chalky, lips dry and cracked where they'd stretched around the breathing tube. It's not the first time Sam's seen that, and he doubts it'll be the last, but in some ways it's new each time it happens. The fear is always fresh and immediate.
"Dad used to get us ice cream when we were sick," Dean says, almost a question.
"Yeah," Sam agrees. "Once or twice."
"Is that why you…?"
"Yeah," Sam admits. "I thought maybe you'd eat it."
"Huh," Dean says, twirls his spoon a little. "You can't say you never learned anything from the old man, now, can you?"
"I wouldn't ever say that," Sam says honestly, and Dean half-smiles before going back to his ice cream.
Sam may have a bone or two to pick with John Winchester, but he's not gonna deny what his father's taught him. How to take a pulse. When to call an ambulance. How to make Dean eat when he's nauseous. How to push down the horrible, crippling fear that comes from seeing your brother laid out in a hospital bed, how to channel that fear into determination and forged health insurance. How to help Dean walk from the car and how to catch him when he stumbles at the door of the motel.
Of course, none of that shit would be necessary if John hadn't also taught him to recognize the five signs of poltergeist activity and then to walk right in, shotgun ready at his shoulder, brother ready at his side.
But, Sam guesses in a moment of rare generosity, those are the realities of life. A parent teaches their kids the truth, as they know it, and then teaches them how to handle that truth. And John, fucked-up as his truth may be, definitely taught his kids how to handle it.
Kinda sucks the "truth" always ends up with Dean in the hospital, though.
"Hey," Sam says, watches his brother inhale another cherry. "Slow down with that, you're gonna make yourself sick."
Dean makes a face, but he puts his spoon down and breathes for a moment.
"I didn't know how fuckin' hungry I was til I started eating."
Dean smirks a little. "You're just so proud of yourself right now, huh?"
Dean snorts, and Sam grins back at him.
"Don't let it go to your head," Dean mutters.
"Least my head isn't broken."
"Least my dick isn't broken," Dean retorts, and they both wince.
"That was bad, huh?"
"Yeah, Dean, that was bad."
Dean sighs. "I can't help it. My head's broken."
Sam laughs at that, picks up his tuna melt again and starts eating.
Something's always broken, he thinks.
But something's always fixed.