Nothing Says I Love You Like a Stupid Hat
A/N: Written for a very old prompt from roque_clasique: Sam gets a serious brain injury that permanently messes-up his hand-eye coordination, and insult to injury, the surgeon has to shave his head. So there he is, fuzzy-headed and trying to re-learn how to pick up a glass of damn water, and he feels like a huge bumbling fool - so Dean gets him lots of hats to make him look even more foolish. Except Sam kind of likes them. And Dean is like, PLEASE just don't wear them in public because I'm right here and you're making me look bad, and Sam is like, Tough, oops sorry I just totally spilled coffee all over your lap oops.
I didn't follow it completely but I think it turned out okay. Also, Dean swears, like, a lot. Totally not my fault.
Dean's not sure whether it's the miserable look that Sam wears everyday or the thick scar dotted with smaller marks from a dozen staples that can't be hidden by the stubble of the kid's shaved hair that gives him the idea. All he knows is that he can't stand looking at either of them and something needs to be done about it.
It's been a rough month – understatement of the year, Dean – of living off of credit cards with fake names and what little he can hustle at pool or cards during the tense few hours that he leaves Sam alone - and seriously, how the hell is he supposed to concentrate on reading his opponents or playing the drunk cocky guy while he's freaking out about not being there to help his kid brother take his pills if he gets one of those stupid, god damned, fucking awful debilitating migraines?
… Breathe, Dean.
They still move around a lot, crappy motel room to crappy motel room to crappy abandoned house, because the FBI is still after them.
(Fucking dickwads, there should be some kind of grace period for criminals who aren't actually criminals who have just had their heads bashed in.)
They don't hunt though, and sometimes Dean feels as though the inactivity and sheer boredom are going to drive him out of his fucking mind, and he feels himself getting restless and irritable and ready to murder a bottle of Jack, but then he looks at Sam, sitting in a heap of misery and determination and practising something stupid like tying his freaking shoelaces, and he tells himself that if Sam hasn't gone crazy yet, then he certainly doesn't have any right to.
He could still do with that bottle of Jack though.
Anyway. Dean sees it in the gas station across from their current crappy motel. He's there for supplies, by which he means candy ("Seriously, Dean? You know we just ate, like, an hour ago?"), and the credit card he's using is climbing ever closer to it's limit, but as soon as he lays eyes on the thing he just knows that he has to get it.
First of all, anything that covers up that horrible scar and allows him to forget about those lonely and terrifying weeks in the hospital – at least until Sam next tries picking up a glass of water and manages to drench himself in the process – gets an A plus and two freaking thumbs up from him.
Second of all, Dean thinks as he moves in closer, it's the kind of thing he would have bought before as a prank, to make Sam pull a bitchface and forget about whatever his current brood-of-the-day was, so really he'd be killing two birds with one stone, hiding the memories at the same time as letting Sam know that this doesn't change anything between them. Nope, not one fucking thing. They're still Sam'n'Dean, even if they can't hunt and Sam can't tie his shoelaces and Dean maybe has, like, a mini panic attack every time Sam's out of his sight, and no, he's not being a freaking girl. It's Sam that's the girl, okay? And this will totally, like, mean something to him and Dean will get points for being a freaking amazing big brother.
So, it's on one of those racks by the counter, staring at him. Literally. It's meant to be a frog; bright green with these flaps that cover the ears designed as legs and a big red tongue flopping out from under it's bulging eyes. It's the kind of thing you might see on a five year old and Dean thinks that it's utterly ridiculous that this one is made to fit an adult.
What adult would buy a hat like that? He wonders to himself as he snags it and adds it to his pile of candy. It's only after he's paid for it and is leisurely strolling back across the road – and if he's not so much strolling as he is power walking, well, there's no one around to call him on it – that he catches the irony.
Sam's sitting cross-legged on his bed when Dean returns, barefoot and clad in jeans and a simple white t-shirt. No button-up shirt because Sam has trouble with buttons and the kid probably doesn't want to added embarrassment of having his big brother do it for him, even though Dean would totally be awesome about it and yabber on about times that Sam's had to help him so that Sam would kind of forget about the fact that Dean's helping him get dressed like he's frikking two years old again.
Sam glances up at Dean as he comes in – and that stupid scar is so freaking big that Dean can't not see it no matter where he stands and God, Sam's fucking hair. Shouldn't there have been advances in medical research that made it unnecessary to cut someone's head in half? Dean never would have come to Stanford for the kid if he'd known what rejoining the hunt would cost his little brother.
Sam looks kind of flushed. "Look," he says.
Dean looks. It takes him a second to see the pen on the bed-covers and Sam's focusing on it intently, biting his lip in concentration. Dean can see the determination in his brother's eyes as he reaches slowly for the pen but Dean can already tell that his aim is off, too far to the right, and he stands there kind of helplessly waiting for this all to go wrong and dreading the crestfallen look he knows is about to decorate Sam's face.
He's right, of course, God freaking damn it, and Sam misses the stupid pen by a couple of inches. His face drops. He lets his hand flop onto the mattress dejectedly.
"I did it before," he mutters, not looking at Dean.
Dean swallows. It makes his insides hurt all the way from his throat to the bottom of his stomach seeing Sam like this, but he remembers sitting by Sam's hospital bed while the kid was still unconscious and smothered in bandages, staples holding his freaking head together, and doctors and nurses and frikking neurosurgeons or whatever were talking about his little brother like he was a case or a statistic or a series of numbers that had nothing to do with the person he was, and throwing words like 'brain damage' around like confetti.
And he remembers bargaining in his head, feeling like a useless idiot, pleading to whoever would listen, 'Just give him back, just don't let Sammy die and I'll deal with the consequences.'
Well, these are the consequences and Dean is dealing.
"Got you something," he says casually. He thinks it's probably best not to mention that his Stanford-educated brother just failed at picking up a God damn pen. He drops the plastic bag in front of Sam, on top of the Biro so Sam will stop staring at it like it's the most confusing, infuriating and depressing thing in the universe.
Sam looks at the bag with only vague interest – it's been pretty damn impossible to get the kid excited about anything recently – and instead of reaching out for it he lets his hand skim along the surface of the bed until it reaches the crinkly plastic.
"What is it?" he asks, kind of wearily.
Dean rolls his eyes in response.
Sam's slow at untangling the hat from the bag, ever so careful, completely focussed on his task. It reminds Dean of Sammy when he was little and immersed in whatever he was doing at the time. It makes Dean smile, just for a second before he remembers that Sam isn't five and riveted to a drawing that he'll finish and show Dean and Dean will fall over himself telling Sam how awesome it is (even if it's just wonky stick figures). Sam is 23 and having trouble taking something out of a freaking bag, for Christ's sake. There's nothing to smile about here.
Sam finally gets the hat out and for a moment his face is blank as he stares at the froggy monstrosity. Then Dean sees the gears start turning as Sam, being Sam, over-thinks the simple gesture (and if Dean over-thought it too, well, there's no need to tell Sam). He sees the moment that it clicks and knows that Sam's figured it out. It's not about the stupid hat. It's about them being brothers, no matter what (and dear God, maybe he is turning into a freaking girl).
Sam works to hide his grin, Dean can tell, and throws out an obligatory, "Man, you're such a jerk. You couldn't have gotten me a normal hat?" (Because God forbid they ever actually admit to loving each other.)
But he puts the thing on and his scar and shaved head are hidden and he tries really hard not to look pleased about it.
"Thought it would suit you, bitch," Dean tosses out casually with a smirk.
Maybe there is something to smile about round here after all.
"You're not going out in that." Dean can't quite keep the horror out of his voice.
Sam raises his eyebrows. "But you got it for me, Dean," he says, managing to sound innocently bewildered, as if Dean would fall for that, and oh no, uh uh. The frog hat is supposed to be a private message of brotherly support. It is not supposed to go marching down to the diner and sit in a booth with Dean where there are people.
Sam's biting the inside of his cheek to stop himself from laughing, the cheeky little bastard, frog legs dangling over his shoulders, red fabric tongue licking at his forehead and looking, as Dean originally intended, utterly ridiculous.
"I'm not a complete dick, Sam," Dean tries, although he already knows that it's futile. "I got you a normal hat too." He digs around in his duffel until he finds a simple, non-embarrassing, black beanie.
Sam looks at it dismissively, hand searching for a moment before it finds a frog leg to tangle itself in. "But I like this hat," he says, kicked puppy eyes going full throttle.
"You like..." Dean echoes, kind of faintly, because seriously, Sam is actually planning on leaving the motel room wearing a deranged amphibian on his head. Dean makes some kind of stupid hopeful gesture at the un-cringe-worthy beanie.
Sam ignores it. "Yeah, I do," he says stubbornly. "So are we gonna go or what? It's gonna take me forever to just pick up the damn fork so we should really get an early start."
Dean blinks, double checking Sam's words in his head but yes, he did hear right. The kid's never talked about his... thing so casually before. So far it's just been embarrassed mutterings and apologies when he spills things on Dean, frustrated rants at the end of long days of dropping things and knocking things over, and not wanting to leave the motel room unless he absolutely has to.
Now he'd standing by the door, ready to face the world and the only sign that he's nervous at all is his hand twisting in the frog's leg. If Dean didn't know the kid so well he'd be tempted to praise the hat and it's apparent miraculous powers that managed to give Sam the strength to venture out amongst the non-brain damaged population, but Dean knows that kid better than anyone and he knows exactly what this is about.
Normal brotherly revenge, the kind of thing Sam would have done before in response to Dean buying him a stupid hat. He should have known the minute he laid eyes on the dumb thing that Sam would do something like this, because years of prank wars have taught him that Sammy has no shame as long as Dean goes down with him.
"You're gonna make me look bad," Dean says, adding the perfect amount of whine to his voice, but he's not really arguing now because if walking around looking like an idiot and making Dean look like an idiot by association is what gets Sam out of the motel room and back to living, well, he's not exactly going to complain about that.
"Tough," Sam says, cheeky little bitch he is, and Dean really has to work at not letting himself do something crazy like hug the kid or break out in a huge goofy grin because that would totally ruin the exasperated big brother role that he's supposed to be playing.
It takes Sam a couple of attempts before he finds the door handle but for once he doesn't look like he really cares, just accepts it and tries again, and Dean gets this sudden flashback of Doctor Whoeverthefuck saying, "You need to be prepared," as he looks over Sam's chart, ignoring the Sam who's actually in the hospital bed and doing a really shit job of pretending that he cares. "It's a very real possibility that he won't be able to function normally when he wakes up."
Dean shakes his head, dislodging the memory that tastes of bleach and fear and impotent fury, and follows Sam and his humiliating hat out to the Impala, thinking about, cliché as it sounds, how everything has changed and yet, nothing has.
He watches Sam slide into the passenger seat, looking so damn pleased with himself. Even the fucking frog hat looks smug, stupid thing, and just for a moment, when he knows Sam can't see, he lets himself smile.
Suck it, Doctor Douchebag, he thinks to himself.We don't get much more normal than this.
A/N: Menthol Pixies love reviews. Pretty please?