It Takes a Lickin' and Keeps on Tickin'
Disclaimer: Supernatural belongs to Kripke and crew.
AN: Well, this is it. It's all posted!
Sunlight filtered through the crack in the heavy motel drapes. Dancing dust motes captured Sam's attention as he acquainted himself with his surroundings. The room was small, 80s décor if beige everything was something to go by. He was aware of his injuries, but the discomfort was manageable. For the first time since he'd regained consciousness in the hospital, Sam felt more like himself.
He heard the shower running, and the idea of washing his hair and some of the hospital scent off him was suddenly very appealing. Sam doubted he could coax his brother into allowing it today, but tomorrow he'd insist upon it.
The water turned off, and Sam shifted on the bed, adjusting his pillow as best as he could with one hand, until he was partially sitting. He spied the juice on the nightstand and reached for it.
Sam took several large gulps, delighting in the cold liquid as it slid down his cotton-dry throat. Obviously, Dean had put it back in the refrigerator last night, setting it out again before he took his shower. His brother's electric razor buzzed behind the door, stopping after several minutes.
Dean emerged from the bathroom, immediately noticing Sam was awake. He smiled wide. "Good afternoon, Sleeping Beauty."
Sleeping Beauty? His expression must have been one of utter confusion because Dean took pity on him.
"Guess you don't remember that conversation, either. You corrected me the day you got hurt."
Okay, that made sense. Sam returned Dean's smile with one of his own. "Sorry, no, but at least it explains your sudden infatuation with fairy-tale princesses."
"Whatever, Sam," Dean muttered, ducking back into the bathroom. He came out with a steaming washcloth and a hand towel, and handed both to Sam. "You need to eat something this morning to go with the pills or you'll just yak them up."
Sam grimaced at his brother's words. "Nice." He scrubbed his face with the washcloth and his chest around the scratches. He attempted to wash under his arms, but the sling was difficult to work around and the singing pain of tender flesh discouraged him from trying harder. There were worse smells than pit stink; Dean would just have to live with it. Sam couldn't help but sigh as he neared something that felt like human. Handing the wet cloth wrapped in the hand towel to his brother, he yawned. "Thanks."
Dean nodded a you're welcome and walked forward, tossing the towels into the bathroom and continuing into the kitchen. "What'll it be, cold cereal or oatmeal?"
"Not one of the choices, Sam," Dean said, opening the cupboard. He pulled out a packet of oatmeal and dumped the contents into a Styrofoam cup.
Sam sipped more of the apple juice, taking the cup of oatmeal when it was held out to him. Dean dropped pills into his hand next, and Sam swallowed them down with another swig. He was only three bites into his oatmeal when his stomach started rumbling. By the time the cup was half empty, he knew it wasn't going to stay down.
"Sammy, you okay?" Dean asked, getting up from the opposite bed and leaning in close.
"I'm gonna be sick." Sam struggled to disentangle himself from the blankets. He pushed Dean's hands away in his urgency.
"Let me help," Dean snapped.
The blankets were ripped away and Sam found himself standing and headed for the bathroom with one arm wrapped over Dean's shoulders. He barely made it to the toilet before the oatmeal, painkillers, and antibiotics hurtled up his throat.
"Oh, God," Sam moaned as the retching strained his bruised ribs and pulled the scratches on his chest. His head felt swollen to twice its normal size, and bright flares of white light appeared in his vision.
"You done?" Dean asked, rubbing small circles on Sam's back.
"Think so." Sam flushed the toilet, nearly falling when his sweaty hand slipped off the seat as he pushed to stand. "That sucked."
"I bet," Dean said, his voice soft with sympathy.
Sam washed his hand, cupping it to splash refreshing water on his face. He rinsed his mouth, then spit into the sink.
"Yeah," Sam croaked.
The journey back was slower. Dean tried to help, but the pointed look Sam shot in his direction clearly said he could walk under his own power. Sam staggered to the bed, and once he was settled under the covers, he looked up at his brother sheepishly. "Sorry about that."
"You're apologizing for puking?" Dean asked, his eyebrows shooting up toward his hairline. "Dude, that was nothing. When you were five, you got a bad case of the flu and threw up all over me."
"Thanks for that." Sam's face burned hot from embarrassment. "Besides, it can't be any worse than the time you were coughing up phlegm and spitting it into a bowl you kept under the bed."
"There was nothing wrong with that," Dean said. "If you'd just been looking where you were walking it would have been fine."
"It was like stepping on a pile of slugs," Sam said, "barefoot." His stomach rumbled again at the thought. Maybe he shouldn't be talking about things that were going to unsettle his stomach. He closed his eyes, willing back the nausea. He heard Dean rummaging around in the kitchenette, and then the bed dipped as he sat down.
"Here," Dean said with a nudge to his good shoulder.
Sam opened his eyes as a glass of ice chips was thrust into his hand. "Ugh, no."
"Take it," Dean commanded, his tone leaving no room for argument. "The hospital spent a day topping off your tank. We can't afford for you to get dehydrated or you'll be right back there by tomorrow."
Sam glowered at his brother, resenting the lecture. But Dean did have a valid point and his fears had a tendency to manifest as bluster. Sam nodded, taking the ice chips. He let the first spoonful melt slowly on his tongue while Dean watched from the other bed, concern etched on his face.
The stitches in Sam's arm throbbed from his near wipe-out in the bathroom. Balancing the cup of ice chips on his lap, he reached up with a shaking hand to gently rub out the pain. As he went to pick up the glass, he noticed for the first time that his watch was missing. Frowning, he glanced around, scanning the room for the hospital bag.
"Whatcha looking for?" Dean asked, rescuing the ice chips before they dumped into Sam's lap.
"My stuff from the hospital," Sam said, brow furrowing.
"There wasn't anything. Your clothes were a total loss," Dean said, handing Sam the glass again. "Eat these."
"I, uh, was looking for my watch," Sam mumbled dejectedly. He took another mouthful, the cold chips soothing his abused throat. The puckered look of sympathy on Dean's face was enough to let Sam know what had become of the treasured timepiece. "It's okay."
"I'm sorry," Dean said, "I should've told you. It was broken and you wouldn't let them take it off." He moved to sit on Sam's bed. "I told you I'd hang onto it for you."
Unexpected hope flooded Sam. "You still have it?"
"Not exactly," Dean said. "I dropped it off at 'Ye Olde Clock Shoppe' for repair."
Sam swallowed down the ball of emotion that threatened to overwhelm him. "You didn't toss it?"
"Of course not!" Dean said, squeezing Sam's uninjured arm. "You were pretty insistent that I take care of it on the helicopter, and when I saw the inscription, I remembered when you got it."
Pain and exhaustion threatened the tenuous hold Sam had on his emotions. His eyes welled, but he held the tears back. "Thank you," he whispered. "The fire…"
"It's okay, Sammy," Dean said, his voice rough. "I get it."
Sam dipped his head and used his long bangs to hide his eyes from his brother. "Everything else," his voice cracked, "gone. That stupid, ugly green gorilla I won for Jess at the fair, the old AC/DC shirt you gave me when, when…"
"Geez, Sam," Dean interrupted, rescuing Sam from reliving that night. "You still had that thing?"
"Yeah," Sam said with a small wistful smile. "You gave it to me the day after I found out about what Dad really did. I, uh…" he felt the blush climb his face, "I wore it for a week straight last year when I was down with bronchitis."
Dean chuckled, the wrinkles around his eyes deepening. "It must've been like a second skin. We were just kids."
Sam laughed in return. "It looked ridiculous." He paused, the smile dropping from his face. "Jess never said a word. It's like she knew."
"She probably had an idea, anyway," Dean said, gesturing to the cup. Sam ate another spoonful of ice. "You have a crappy poker face."
Sam's face wrinkled in protest. "I do not."
"'Fraid so." Dean stood, and walked into the kitchen. A light sweet-spicy scent wafted into the room accompanied by the distinctive fizzing of a carbonated drink. He returned with ginger ale, which Sam eyed cautiously. "Drink this and if you keep it down, we'll take another shot at painkillers. You have to be feeling it."
"A little," Sam admitted. He took the glass from Dean, his hand shaking hard enough that the golden, sparkling liquid nearly spilled over the rim. "Thanks."
"I'm here for you, Sam," Dean said, his eyes narrowed in seriousness.
"I know," Sam said with a nod. He did know. He'd lost a few sentimental possessions, and worst of all, Jess, in the fire, but he hadn't lost his family. He still had Dean right here, right now, and his dad was still…somewhere. Sam smiled at his brother. "Me, too."
Apparently satisfied with his answer, Dean nodded and took a seat on the other bed, flicking on the television. Sam raised an eyebrow, but otherwise didn't a word when his brother tuned it to Oprah. After all, daytime television really did suck.
They'd been holed up in the same motel room for a week while Sam healed. Even though his brother wasn't up to par quite yet, Dean had felt it was time to move on before they pushed their luck too far. He just had one stop to make on the way out of town.
Over a hundred dollars lighter, Dean emerged from the repair shop with Sam's watch. His brother was slumped against the passenger side door when Dean slid into the Impala. "Here you go, Sammy," he said, handing the watch to Sam.
Dean started the car and pulled out onto the road. The day was warm and sunny, the Impala gassed up and ready to go, and Sam was alive and mostly well on the seat next to him. Life was good.
He noticed Sam hadn't put the watch on, but instead had it turned over, lightly rubbing a finger over the inscription on the back. "I guess not every memory of Dad is a bad one," Dean remarked to the air in general, his tone light.
"No, they're not," Sam said absently. His eyes never left the watch until he lifted his gaze to smile at Dean with double dimples sinking into his cheeks. "Some of them are pretty good, actually."
A wide grin spread across his face as he remembered the day Sam had originally received the watch. The look of sheer happiness and contentment that had been plastered on his younger brother's face had Dean and their dad exchanging grins all evening. "Yeah, they are."
Life was very good indeed.
Sam sat on the front steps of the house they were renting until the end of the school year, which was only a few short weeks away. It was his birthday and Dean was working late at Ollie's. He wouldn't be able to join them until later that evening. Dad was in the house researching for a hunt, and Sam was alone on the stoop.
Finally turning eighteen wasn't quite the rush of independence and automatic respect for being a man now that Sam had expected. In fact, nothing about turning eighteen was quite what he'd expected. Dad still called all the shots and Dean still treated him like a pain in the ass little brother. Okay, the last part wasn't so bad if he was being honest.
It wasn't as if Dad had another car to give him, but Sam had been hoping for some recognition of the day. He'd have been happy with a sappy card and birthday wishes. He sighed, driving his hands into the front pockets of his jeans.
Behind him, the screen door squeaked open, then closed with a thunk. The scrape of work boots on wood, and his dad sat down next to him, close enough that their shoulders brushed.
"You're eighteen today, Sam," his dad said, tone serious. "A man, with all the responsibilities and obligations that come with it."
Sam nodded. A lecture wasn't what he'd wanted for his birthday, but it wasn't entirely unexpected, he guessed. Dad rarely wasted an opportunity to stress discipline. He was surprised when his dad nudged his shoulder with his own. Sam looked up, making eye contact with his father.
"It doesn't mean you're on your own. You're my son and I'll always look out for you." A smile appeared on his dad's otherwise stern face. Then his father handed him a small, wrapped box. "Happy Birthday, Sammy."
Sam took his time, carefully removing the shiny wrapping paper. He opened the box and pulled out a silver watch. It was heavy, obviously of a high quality. "Thanks, Dad," he said, smiling.
His father rolled his hand in a turn it over gesture.
Sam flipped the watch and felt his smile grow as he read the simple inscription. He twisted, and threw his arms around his dad. Strong arms wrapped around Sam. "I love you, too, Dad," he whispered.
A large hand cupped the back of Sam's head, and pulled him in tighter. He buried his face in his father's warm embrace. Turning eighteen was pretty great after all.
AN: Thanks to all who read!