Just a meandering little story to remind myself of a time when the boys still took care of each other.
Benders in our rearview; town, car, and motel in front of us.
Very far in front of us.
Sam kept up. I walked slower so he could keep up. After awhile I walked slower so I could keep up.
It was only about three miles but I don't know how long we walked, half an hour, forty five minutes? I gave up caring after awhile. We needed to get to the car, pack up the motel room, and get the hell some place else. Pronto.
We didn't talk after awhile. Breathing was almost too much. When we finally came in sight of the car, I heard a very audible, very happy, sigh.
I don't think it was from Sammy.
Twelve steps past the car had us in the motel room. Sam threw himself onto his bed so hard I thought it was going to collapse underneath him.
"Up and at 'em, Hansel. We gotta blow this place, like yesterday."
"Right now? I was gonna take a shower."
"Sam, c'mon. Before 5-O shows up on our doorstep."
He grumbled and groaned and sat up.
"They're all gonna be out there for hours. We got long enough for me to take a shower." He gave me the 'you know you're the best big brother the WHOLE world' look. "I'm only thinking of you, anyway. I haven't had a shower in days. You want to ride in the car with me like this?"
Like I haven't smelled worse things in my life than over-ripe Sammy. But he was right, we had a little time to spare and he needed to clean up and put on fresh clothes.
"All right. I'll pack up while you take a shower. Make it fast."
Right then, Sammy's fast was what used to be his 'dragging his feet', but I wasn't moving much faster. He grabbed clothes and shaving kit and disappeared into the bathroom. When he came out, I'd stowed all but the last bag in the trunk of the car and was trying to patch up the burn crater on my shoulder.
"Why didn't you tell me you were hurt?" Sam threw his gear on the bed and marched over to where I was sitting at the table with the first aid kit in front of me.
He grumped and grumbled and huffed and cleaned and medicated and bandaged and wrapped my shoulder.
"We should've taken care of this first thing. You did take painkillers, didn't you? When we get to the next motel, I'm gonna have another look at this. We might need to debride it."
Debridement. Ouch. But having Sam back safe and alive was worth the pain.
"All right, Hansel, you ready to blow this place?" I asked after Sam packed up the kit and I had my shirts back on.
"You do realize that makes you Gretel, don't you?" He asked me. He slung his backpack over his shoulder and gave me that look. That 'who's the smarter brother?' look.
He grinned and we closed up shop and got in the car. I handed him over some energy bars and a bottle of water. He finished three of the bars before we were a mile away from the motel, and the water bottle about a hundred feet after that.
"I'll see if I can find a drive-thru." I told him. Because I didn't want him eating the upholstery off the seats.
I found a drive-thru and Sam was hungry enough to actually go for a supersized cheeseburger and fries and chocolate milkshake. And when he finished the milkshake I gave him my supersized Coke and he finished that all down too.
And then, because food in a stomach that's been empty a couple days has a cathartic effect, we had to stop again not too long later.
I made it a coffee & donut place and while Sam was communing with nature, I got us hot chocolate and a dozen assorted.
And Sam finished off a frosted jelly before we even got back to the car.
I thought he'd fall sound asleep then, as we drove. He'd showered, he'd eaten - and then eaten some more, he'd used the bathroom, and the heat was on in the car - all historically known to speed Sammy off to dreamland.
Nothing. Nada. Zip. He stayed awake, upright, eating donuts and drinking hot chocolate, which really shouldn't have had a 'wakey wakey' effect on him.
"How you feeling?" I asked him.
"Fine. Why?" He said, with a glop of strawberry jelly in the corner of his mouth. I pulled out a napkin and handed it to him, gesturing where he should be concentrating his efforts.
Why? How long were you trapped in a cage?
"You're not traumatized?"
"Dean." Like I should already know what he was about to say. He pulled out another donut. "Emotional trauma happens when you experience something that negatively impacts your sense of self. My sense of self is still intact."
And then he bit off half the donut in one go and wiped his mouth again with the napkin.
"You sure they didn't hurt you, or do anything…weird…to you?"
He gave me a look and I rephrased the question.
"Weird other than locking you in a cage and planning to chase you down and kill you?"
"No, nothing, Dean. You already asked. Nothing."
Yeah, I'd asked, at the beginning of our on-foot-in-the-dark trek. Other than the initial blitz, they hadn't beaten him, they hadn't exactly fed him or given him water, and I hadn't asked and he hadn't said, but probably relieving himself from inside the cage was awkward to say the least.
"So - you're OK."
"Yes, Dean." He sounded aggravated, but he smiled and shook his head and snagged another donut.
We drove a few hours, until I knew I needed to take more painkillers and get Sammy a bed. I ate three donuts, he ate five total, and he drank three more bottles of water, and didn't fall asleep.
We got a motel and a room. As soon as we were salted and safe and I had a shower, Sam poured me out two more painkillers and some water, then got out the supplies and pointedly waited for me to pull off my t-shirt so he could get started on debriding my shoulder.
I'd scored some Betadine from an OR tech the year before, and some scrubbing things that they used to disinfect incision sites before surgery. Sam put a towel against my shoulder, then he stood in front of me, using his left hand to hold the towel - and brace me - and his right hand to flood me with the Betadine and get started with the scrubby thing.
It hurt. It was necessary, but it hurt. Before I knew it, I had my hand gripped around Sam's left wrist. Gripped tight and getting tighter with each scrub.
"Just a little more, just hold on, almost done." He coaxed me through it.
"Don't hurry on my account." I managed out through clenched teeth.
It probably didn't take as long as it felt like it did. Because it felt like forever. When it was over, Sam mummified my shoulder. Me, I would've slapped a square of gauze on and taped it in place. Sam, though - Sam put a square of gauze on it, then put a bigger square of guaze over that, then wrapped it all nice in place with a roll of gauze.
Finally, it was over and I got the okay to put my shirt back on. Sam packed away the first aid, then went to use the bathroom.
"Good news." He announced when he came back out. "I'm no longer dehydrated."
"Okay - thanks for the update." Though I was glad to hear it.
He grinned and dropped himself into his bed.
"Aren't you going to put on pajamas?" I asked.
"These are pajamas."
He was wearing loose clothes, but -
"Those are not pajamas."
He didn't even open his eyes.
"If I'm wearing them to sleep in, they are ipso facto pajamas."
I hadn't spent all my life learning Latin and all this time talking with my geek little brother not to have a comeback.
"No, just because you're wearing them to bed does not eo ipso make them pajamas."
Sam smiled again, still with his eyes closed, and stretched himself out like he was going to make a snow angel.
"I love beds." He said. "And hot water…and hot chocolate…and donuts…and…"
"And sleep." I added when he instantly succumbed.
I unfolded the bedspread over him and got myself ready for bed.
Sammy's 'sense of self' might not have been 'negatively impacted', but you can't tell me that being jumped, trapped in a cage, and threatened with death doesn't leave a mark. There were still nights I heard him whispering Jess's name in his sleep. I settled in for a night of light sleep and inevitable nightmares.
I left the TV on and the light between the beds, too. Better he didn't wake up in the dark.
Turns out he lasted longer than I thought he would, four hours or so. I was just deciding it was time for another painkiller and sat up on the edge of my bed. Sam had kicked the bedspread off and I bent down to pull it back up.
And while I was down, I heard it. The choked whimper and sharp intake of breath. Before I could move to Sam, he gasped awake, searching the room with his eyes, cautiously reaching his hands out to the edge of his bed, checking for the boundaries of cage that wasn't there anymore. I waited, until I knew he knew where he was.
"Dean? Uh -." He lifted his head and had a good look around, and then pushed himself up to sitting. "Are you still up? Your shoulder bothering you?" He scrubbed the heel of his hand into his eye.
"I was just going to get some more painkillers."
"I'll get 'em for you."
He shuffled over to the first aid kit and the into the bathroom and shuffled back with a glass of water and two tablets of the good stuff.
"Mmmm." He sat on his bed and pulled the bedspread off the floor and into his lap.
He shrugged and rolled his eyes a little and finally nodded on a long breath, but didn't say anything. He didn't want to talk about.
"You okay?" I asked.
"You gonna be able to get back to sleep?"
"Yeah." He laid down and pulled the bedspread over himself again. "Wake me up when you need more painkillers."
It took me a second to answer. He'd been knocked cold, abducted, imprisoned, menaced, threatened with death, deprived of food and water, and had just had the first of no doubt several nightmares at least - and I was supposed to wake him up so he could walk halfway across the room to get me painkillers when my shoulder started to hurt again.
Guess it was a second too long, because Sam turned over to glare me into giving him an answer. The correct answer.
"Yeah, Sammy. I will."
"Yes, you will."
Then he laid down again and went back to sleep.
It was good to have him back.