Sam Makes His Bed
Tag to 7.04: When Dean woke up from his nightmare and glanced toward Sam's unmade bed, the sight disturbed me. Sam does not seem like the unmade-bed type.
This is an exploration of how I would portray Sam, and beds. (Stop that; I know what you're thinking. This ficlet is not rated M.)
It was the roar of the Impala that awoke him.
In the muddled confusion and half awareness brought on by being startled out of a deep sleep, Sam bolted upright in the bed, his heart hammering with fear. Has Dean left me? was his first frantic thought. Dean left me, he left! It was only a few seconds before his brain kicked into gear. Why would Dean leave me? We're not even arguing about anything at the moment. He turned his head then and saw the note Dean had scribbled and tossed on the nightstand between their beds. Breakfast run. Of course.
Sam yawned, stretched his arms over his head, then scratched under his left armpit. Shower. He probably had time to shower before Dean got back.
He tossed back the covers and crawled out of bed, yawning again. He picked up the remote from the bedside table and clicked on the television, finding a news channel and leaving the volume low. Then he leaned over, and started making the bed.
When Dean had come after him at Stanford, and they had gone back on the road together, Sam's habit of making motel room beds had confused and entertained the older brother. It's not like they ever made their beds when they were kids. Much of the Winchester life was spent bouncing from motel room to motel room, and there was no need to make a bed in a room you would never see again. The maids would have to change the sheets as soon as they left, anyway (well, maybe not; at least some of the roadside dumps they stayed in over the years successfully argued against the concept of clean sheets). Even when John settled in a place for a few months, so that his children could get some schooling, he was preoccupied with other things: the perils of being an ordinary working single parent would have been enough, but with John, there was also the extraordinary — the eternal hunt. The last thing he cared about was whether or not a bed was made.
Sam fluffed a pillow, turning it over in his hands, and smiled to himself, remembering when making beds had started to mean something to him.
A made bed was important to Jess. The first six months they lived together in the off-campus apartment, when they were sophomores, Sam made haphazard contributions toward the making of the bed. It just didn't matter to him what shape the bed was in every night (as long as Jess was in it). Then one morning she had gotten up early, for some last-minute cramming before a test she was worried about in her morning European history class. He was in the bathroom brushing his teeth when he heard the apartment door open and shut, signaling her return. Then he heard books drop onto the kitchen table; the barely-there pad of her feet as she walked past the bathroom and into the bedroom next door. A few seconds later, he heard something that made him turn off the running water, so he could listen more closely.
She was crying.
Sam hurriedly spit toothpaste into the sink, wiped the remnants off on one of the dark maroon towels — he would hear about that one later, but he was in a hurry — then left the relative safety of the bathroom and joined her next door. He came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, bending to nuzzle the fine hairs on her neck. "What's wrong, baby? Was the test really hard?"
She jerked away from him, angrily swiping a hand at her tears. "Why don't you ever make the bed?" she demanded, turning to face him.
Sam's mouth gaped open. "I do. Sometimes."
"Only when I ask you to," Jess pointed out. Her eyes welled with moisture again. "Don't you understand what it means?"
Sam stood helplessly. He looked toward the rumpled bed, then back at Jess, and lifted his hands in the supplication of defeat. "No, I guess I don't. It's just a bed, Jess."
"It's our bed," she hissed — actually hissed — and Sam took half a step back, waiting for her eyes to turn black. "You take care of what's yours, don't you? I've seen you with your books. They're used textbooks, Sam, but you take care of them like you've never had a book before!"
Sam flinched; she was closer to the truth than he cared to acknowledge.
"Besides," Jess continued, "you know what it means to me. I've told you. You know how much I like to pull back the covers every night and climb into a made bed. You know that I like to keep a neat house. Even if the bed doesn't matter to you — I should. I need to matter, Sam."
Sam's voice trembled. "Jess? Are you going to leave me over an unmade bed?" The few seconds of silence that followed his question nearly killed him.
"Not today," she finally answered, and the flood of relief he felt was dammed by her next words. "But someday, it might be the thing that pushes me over the edge." He actually gasped in dismay, and her face softened. She moved close to him then, and took one of his hands in both of hers. "Sam, you need to learn how to show a woman you care. Maybe it's because you were raised by a bunch of men, without a mother…" She made them both sad with her observation, and she raised his hand to kiss it tenderly before she continued. "Chocolate chip cookies are not my favorite kind, Sam. I actually prefer oatmeal raisin — but I make chocolate chip because I know that you love them. Believe it or not, I would rather read a good book than do your laundry — but I do the laundry, because I want to take care of what's mine; of what's important to me. Do you understand?"
Sam nodded, a lump in his throat — and he made the bed every day for the remainder of their relationship.
Back on the road with Dean, he still didn't make the bed in motels on the day they were checking out, but anytime they were anywhere for more than one day — a motel, Bobby's — Sam made his bed. At first, he made it in reverent memory of the woman he had loved, and lost. Eventually, he began to make the bed for himself, because a neat bed made him feel grounded, and in control, and so little else in his life did. After Dean came back, Sam began to make his brother's bed as well, because the months he spent without him helped Sam truly understand how much he loved Dean, and wanted to take care of him. Dean took meticulous care of his weapons, his car, and Sam — all the things that were important to him. It was difficult for Dean to relinquish his position as Big Brother Protector, even though he reluctantly allowed Sam to doctor him when the circumstances were dire.
So Sam made Dean's bed, even though Dean thought Sam was OCD. Sam knew why he did it. Sam knew that you took care of what was yours; of the things…of the people…you loved.
Dean was sitting at the room's small table when Sam came out of the bathroom, steam following him across the room to his duffle, where he snagged a clean shirt. "Gotcha some orange juice, and some of that girly yogurt you like," Dean said through a mouthful of egg-and-ham sandwich. Bits of masticated muffin actually flew out and bounced off the table, onto the dingy motel room carpet.
"Thanks," Sam said, pulling the t-shirt down around his waist. "In a minute. Gonna make your bed, first."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Whatever floats your boat, Samantha. But don't blame me if your breakfast gets cold. Or hot. Or whatever."
Sam grinned, leaning down to pull the blanket off the floor, where Dean had apparently kicked it at some point last night. "I won't," he promised, and his smile deepened, as it usually did these days when he remembered Jess, or when he remembered that Dean had been lost, but now was found.
Dean just chewed, and watched his brother smiling while he made a motel room bed, and wondered.