We were back at Bobby's so I could work on the Impala after our little 'the surgery was a success but the patient died' experience with the creepy mannequin-killer and poor dead girl. Bobby was out rebuilding a transmission. Sam was down in the basement doing laundry. I was in the kitchen, making dinner. We take turns with the household chores when we stay here, dinner, dishes, laundry. Dinner isn't complicated - put the chicken in the pan, put the pan in the oven, save the world, open a can of cream corn - so I try to get that job as often as possible.
Sam's the better cook actually, though I try never to tell him that. Unless he's in one of the those moods, where something's chewing on him and he needs Big Brother to slay some dragons for him.
Figurative dragons, I mean. Emotional dragons. Sammy dragons. Not actual 'dragon' dragons. We've had enough of those kinds of dragons.
I'd just put the chicken in the pan, and was scanning out the window for any sign that the world needed saving right then, when Sam came into the kitchen behind me. I thought he'd head to the fridge to grab us a couple of beers, but he sat down at the table. He was looking at a jacket he had across his lap.
"What's up?" I asked. Because something was up. If Sam didn't come through the door spouting at least one idea at me about something, something was up.
"I found this when I was doing the laundry."
He lifted the jacket. It was his brown hooded jacket. I couldn't remember the last time he wore it, it hardly fit him anymore, but the last time he did wear it was probably some time that he was worn out, worn down, or worn ragged. Those seemed to be the only times he wore that Linus-blanket of outerwear.
"I haven't seen that in a long time." I said. He huffed a laugh that I didn't like.
"Neither have I."
I didn't like the tone of his voice either. Something was seriously up because my brother was seriously down.
"So - hey - what spice do you always put on the chicken when you make it?" I asked him. "It always tastes better the way you make it."
"Garlic salt and chili powder."
When I turned to look for where Bobby kept his spices, Sam asked,
"Do you know the significance of my brown hooded jacket?"
Duh, of course I know. I just complimented your cooking, didn't I?
"I know it's the jacket you wear whenever you're feeling a little emo, and I need to hold your hand."
I grinned when I said it, I didn't want him to know this was starting to worry me. He sighed - okay, maybe it was a huff - but I caught a small smile there. He was smiling because, yeah, I got it exactly.
"When I found this at the bottom of the duffel, I realized - whenever I wear my brown hooded jacket, it's when I feel vulnerable and I know you'll go easy on me, and you'll stick close and try whatever it takes to make me feel better."
I knew it - something was going on with him. Just as I was gearing up into 'Big Brother will take care of this' mode, Sam lifted the jacket again.
"This isn't my brown hooded jacket."
What the hell was he talking about? It was brown, it was hooded, and it was a jacket. Case closed.
"What d'you mean it's not your jacket? Of course it's your jacket."
"No. It's Buff-Sam's brown hooded jacket."
"Right, T-1000 wearing a hoodie? I'll tell you, Sam, I've seen heaven, hell, dragons, fairies, leprechauns, vampires, archangels, Cupid, and a six foot tall suicidal teddy bear, and even I don't believe RoboSam would ever wear a hoodie."
"It's his." Sam said.
I pulled it out of his hands for a closer look. Of course it was Sam's jacket: it looked exactly like Sam's jacket, same color, same fabric, same hood, same brand name, same size.
No. It wasn't the same size. It was a size larger, big enough to actually fit Sam, or RoboSam.
Okay, tell me Sam was not upset because RoboSam had the exact same taste in jackets.
"When I found this…" He gestured to the jacket. "Even though I already knew Buff-Sam was me, this just kinda really proved it."
He sounded hurt and apologetic and disappointed, and I wasn't having it.
"All it proves is that RoboSam recognized a warm jacket when he saw one." I told him. "He had your memories, he remembered this brand was a good jacket. He saw it, he bought it, he stayed warm. End of story."
Sam let out a breath - or maybe it was a sigh - and gave me one of those 'nice try but I don't think so' half smiles.
"There's a lot more to it than that, and we both know it."
What I knew was that Sam found the jacket and was bothered by it enough to bring it - and his pained confusion - to me. Like I said before, let Big Brother take care of this.
I put the pan of chicken in the oven, didn't check to see if the world needed saving, and sat down at the table with Sam.
"All right, tell me - what do you think it means? Other than thinking it proves RoboSam was you, what do you think it means?"And then - for all his big talk of a moment before - Sam was suddenly tongue-tied.
"I - uh - nothing. Just that. That Buff-Sam was me and I was him. That's all. Isn't that enough?"
"No, that's not all, and no, that's not enough." I told him. "If that's all this meant to you," I tugged on the jacket. "We wouldn't be having this conversation."
His hands white knuckled around the jacket, maybe from stress, maybe because he thought I wanted to pull it away from him again. But he didn't answer the question. Could be he hadn't figured out how to answer it yet. So I stood up to grab us some beer and maybe the bowl of potato chips while I was at it, and Sam looked up at me like he thought I might be thinking of walking away.
Never going to happen again, Sammy.
I tapped his arm and got the beer and chips and sat down again to figure this out.
"So -" I started again. "What's bothering you so much about this jacket?"
"Just - it's just - " He held the jacket up. "When I found this, when I realized what it meant, I realized why you push so much that Buff-Sam wasn't me."
"Because he wasn't you."
Sam cleared his throat and twisted the jacket in his hands. He had a hard time looking at me which meant he was about to tell me something neither of us wanted to hear.
"Look, okay? I get it. I do. If Buff-Sam wasn't me, then you don't - you don't - have to believe - that I betrayed you. Again."
"That's not it."
"I'm sorry, Dean. I am. I know you don't like me saying it -."
"No, that's not it."
"But I am, sorry that I didn't save you from the vampire - "
"Sam - "
"- and I know if it wasn't for me - "
" - listen to me - "
" - you'd still be with Lisa and Ben and -"
"Shut up, will you? All right? That's not what I'm talking about."
Well, he shut up. He didn't look annoyed though, he just looked puzzled.
"Sam - if you were RoboSam, or if any part of you was RoboSam -" I knew that he knew, I knew that Cas had told him, but we hadn't talked about it. "Sammy - I beat the hell out of you."
He thought about it a second, pulling the memory out.
"Yeah." He said it like I'd been confirming what size boot he wore. "Cas told me about that. After Veritas. I deserved it."
"Deserved it? Sam - I beat you unconscious. You didn't deserve that. Hell, I'm not even sure RoboSam deserved it."
"I'd lied to you, Dean. I'd been lying to you for months. Since I came back from hell, really. Lying by omission."
My brother, the lawyer.
"Lying doesn't deserve a beat-down."
"So, you'd rather all of me was in hell, rather than some of me got a beat-down."
"I'd rather -" I'd rather all of you had come back from hell the first time. I'd rather that none of you had ever gone to hell at all.
When I couldn't answer him, Sam said,
"I'd rather all of me had stayed in hell, rather than let you get hurt."
"I know you would, Sammy." I told him, but my voice wasn't strong. It sure didn't seem like Big Brother was taking care of this.
"Sam - look - I'm gonna say it again. Robo-Sam had this jacket because it's warm and it's durable. That's all. You can say that he was you and you were him and you can take the fall for anything he did, and anything he didn't do, but he wasn't you." I took a sip of beer to camouflage my next question. "I mean - c'mon. If he was you, where's the girly graphic t-shirts?"
Jackpot. I got the Bitchface. I only get the Bitchface when I'm right. Big Brother was back in town.
"You remember when I still had to help you put your jacket on?" I asked him.
"I remember you'd bunch the sleeve closed so I couldn't get my hand through." He answered. I gave him a 'I'm sure I have no idea what you mean' look which got at least a little smile out of him which is always a good thing.
He took a swig of his own beer and reached into the bowl for some chips.
"Do you remember the last time you helped me put my jacket on?" He asked. I knew a challenge when I heard one. He didn't think I remembered. Think again.
"Yeah, when you broke your hand." I reached for my own chips. "The docs at the ER gave you the gooooooood stuff. You were so out of it, you couldn't even see your jacket. As a matter of fact, the good stuff was so good, for the next two days I had to tie your sneakers for you, too."
When I looked up from my chips, I was still getting the Bitchface.
"What? You asked."
"I didn't think you actually remembered."
How could I not remember that? How could I not roll my eyes?
"Well, I remember."
Then it was a few minutes of beer and chips. And then,
Just when I thought I might be getting away clean.
"What should I do with this?" He was talking about the jacket.
"What do you want to do with it?"
"It fits. Like you said, it's warm, it's a good jacket. I shouldn't get rid of it just because Buff-Sam wore it."
He wasn't trying to convince me to let him keep it; he was trying to convince himself to want to keep it.
Which meant he didn't want to keep it.
Which meant he wasn't going to keep it, not while I was here.
"No, you already have this jacket, and that one fits you better. It's broken in. This one would just be an extra jacket we don't need to lug around."
"Hate to waste it." Sam tried one last time.
"It's not wasting it. We'll find it a good home. Like at a Rottweiler puppy mill."
Sam only shook his head at that, but he let me pull the jacket out of his hands. I folded it up and set it on the chair next to me.
"I'll take care of it, Sam."
I stood up.
"C'mon, grab your beer. The chicken's got another hour to cook. Let's see what Bobby's got on pay-per-view."
He stood up and grabbed his beer and the bowl of chips, and headed to the doorway. There he stopped and stared back at the jacket.
"There's something else I think I should tell you." He said.
I could see it in his face, he was going to apologize again, he was going to ask me to take care of something again, Little Brother needed his Big Brother.
But then he gestured over toward the stove and smiled .
"I always pour a bottle of beer over the chicken, too."
Then he went into the library and I heard him switch on the TV.
"You're welcome." I said.