Set between 4.10 and 4.11
When did Sammy get so grown up?
'Daaaaaadeeeee, Dah-dee? Ooga boo gooba. Ha ha ha. Deengooba mook noobie bluhh eem Deeenbugbrudder' Sam babbled to himself from his car seat in the back.
'Dad? Is Sammy saying Latin?' I asked from my booster seat in front.
'At thirteen months?' Dad grinned at me. 'Maybe.'
We pulled into a motel in some factory town and Sam got out to get our room. I stayed in the passenger seat, trying not to bleed to death all over my baby. To misquote somebody, "the hunt was a success but the hunter got his ribs laid open for his trouble."
Sam was back almost before he left and drove us down to our room.
Then he thought he needed to help me into the room.
Turns out he did.
The slash wasn't deep but it hurt like blazes trying to get myself out of the car and the pain made me lightheaded. Um – I mean, it threw me off balance. Yeah. Anyway, Sammy hooked an arm under mine and eased me up to my feet. He managed to hold me upright, shut the car door, walk us to the motel door, unlock that door and get us inside all in one clean motion. No hesitation, no wondering how to make it all happen. Just bing-bang-boom, it was done.
"Don't move." He lowered me onto the bed. "I'll get the first aid kit."
He was back in a minute, carrying two duffel bags, his back pack, and the full first aid kit all over one shoulder. I remember when he'd complain if he had to carry more than his teddy bear and a comic book.
'Deeeean – wait for me! Deeeean – waaaaaaaaaaait!'
I was nine, Sam was whiny. All he had to do was cross the sidewalk from the car to the motel room. He could've even grabbed hold of Dad's coat as he walked past if he was scared to walk by himself. Dad smiled and rolled his eyes.
'C'mon kiddo. Get inside.' He told Sam. Didn't work.
'But DaaAAAaaad! Dean's not waiting for me!'
That kid had a pout that could take paint off a car. He started to huff, he started to puff, he started to go tiny ballistic. He was hungry and tired and so was I.
I shouted at him:
'Sammy for crying out loud. I'm only ten feet away and I'm coming back out to the car.'
He gave me The Face. The pouty, teary-eyed, this-is-our-third-motel-in-three-days-and-I-can't-take-it-anymore face and I walked back to him and took his hand.
'All right. C'mon. Let's see what's on TV.'
"Tablet or liquid?" Sam asked.
He handed me the bottle of whiskey and laid out our supplies on the bed. Scissors, gauze, antibiotics, sutures, and the rest. Great. Can't wait.
"Is there whiskey left in the bottle?" I asked, even though I had the bottle in my hand.
"Uh – yes." He checked before answering.
"Then I'm not ready." And I took another swig. Sam came at me with the scissors, swishing them open and shut with gleeful menace. "You're enjoying this way too much."
"Yes, I am. C'mon, lay back. Let's get started."
"Ohh, I hate this."
I capped the whiskey and set it on the floor and laid back on the mattress. I hated getting stitches.
Sam bent over me to slice my already sliced t-shirt all the way off. I hardly ever get to see the top of his head any more, unless he falls asleep in the car with his head bent toward me, or I'm standing and he's sitting. I remember when I could see the top of his head just by looking at him.
'Dean – I can't reach it. It's too high up.'
'Here, let the Big Guy get it.'
'I hate being short.' He complained. He cultivated The Pissy Face young, that's for sure.
'Don't worry Sasquatch. Some day you'll be as big as your awesome big brother.'
When the t-shirt was out of the way, it was time to flush the wound.
"This is gonna hurt." Sam said, unhelpfully.
"Don't be a wuss."
"Don't be a sadist."
Well, wasn't there just a subtext of biblical proportions there?
"Sorry." We both said at the same time.
Sam pulled back. "Maybe there's some other way to do this." As though what he was about to do would hurt even one millionth as much as anything down under had.
"Sammy, I'm fine. This'll be fine. You're helping me. You're taking care of me. Okay?"
He nodded, his bangs hanging in his eyes from leaning over. "Yeah. Yeah, I know."
He took a deep breath and looked like he was going to cry and used a squeeze bottle of spring water to flush any hidden dirt or foreign crap out of my wound. I tried hard not to react to the pain because I didn't want Sam to feel any worse but I couldn't stop wincing.
'Deeeeeeeean. NO! Don't! Deeeeeean – pleeeeeeeeeeease.'
'Sammy, it's only a sliver.'
'It'll stop hurting as soon as it's out.'
'No Dean. Don't. PleeeEEEeease dooooooon't.'
Another few rounds of this and I was gonna cut his finger off just to be done with it. Dad wasn't gonna be back for at least two days. He coulda had the sliver out already. He always managed to distract Sam. I finally decided to give that a try.
'Oh no! Sammy!'
'What? Where? What?'
'Behind you – oh no! I think it's the Sliver Fairy!'
'What? What Dean where?' And when his attention was turned -. 'Ow!'
'See – doesn't that feel better?'
"Okay, peroxide now."
"Bring it on."
The sting of the peroxide didn't hurt me as much as the guilty look on Sam's face. I should've thought before I said what I said before. Neither of us needed to be reminded. And I couldn't tell him how much I wasn't hurting now without reminding us both of how much I had hurt before.
"Oh, yeah. Never better."
"I'll try to be quick with the stitches."
"Don't rush perfection on my account."
I folded my arm under my head to watch Sam work. He has big hands and huge knuckles; those hands that used to almost be glued into mine, wherever we walked. I didn't even have to remind him, he'd automatically reach for my hand whenever we walked anywhere, from the time he could walk until he was almost nine. And now I'm pretty sure that if properly motivated those hands that used to be so small could bend iron into a pretzel. But he was gentle with the stitches along my rib cage. As gentle as he could be sticking a needle into me with annoying repetitiveness.
'C'mere, I want you to stitch me up.'
'Time you learned how kiddo.'
'But – but – Dean always stitches you up.'
'You need to know how to do it too, Sammy.'
Sam turned to me and I was surprised how big his eyes were. He was eleven and I was enjoying this way too much.
'It's easy, Sammy. C'mon, I'll coach you.'
'What if I hurt Dad?'
'It hurts worse to not get stitched up.'
"One last stitch and I'm done. Then I'll bandage you up and get us some dinner, okay?"
"I'll just drink my dinner, thanks."
"You need to eat. If you get a hangover and hurl up your guts, you'll tear out your stitches."
"I'll take my chances."
"You will eat or I will feed you." Sam said as he taped gauze over his handiwork. "And I'll give you until I get back with the food to make up your mind."
"Hmm. Some choice."
"You know I can do it, and you know I will do it." He packed up the supplies but he still had a funny look on his face.
"Help me sit up will you? I want to put some clean clothes on."
"Don't pull those stitches out."
He helped me sit up, gentle, it surprised me how gentle he could be. He sat me up and pulled my ruined shirt all the way off then got me to my feet.
"Wait for me will you?" I asked him. "I want to go with."
"To get dinner? You want to eat out and not bring it back?"
"I don't know, whatever. I just want to go with."
"Okay." He sounded surprised but not unhappy.
"Sam – wait – don't – just – easy, okay? Easy."
"Dean – I know what I'm doing."
"Yeah, but I don't know what you're doing." I was – God help me – teaching Sam how to drive, in a mostly empty parking lot. He was fifteen, I was panicking.
"Dean – I live in this car, I know how to drive."
"Yeah, you live in motel rooms too, you still don't know how to make a bed. EASY on the gas."
We shot out like a bullet anyway and started our herky jerky drive around the lot.
"Sammy, you so much as put a scratch on this car and I will end you."
"There's nothing for half a mile around us, Dean. What am I gonna hit?"
"Knowing you, something will suddenly appear and jump in front of the car just so you can hit it."
"Don't look at me – keep your eyes on the road!"
"God, Dean – you weren't this jumpy the first time I fired a gun."
"That's because I wasn't sitting on the bullet at the time."
Driving to a restaurant was a dull drive compared to those first lessons. Sam was driving more careful than usual, trying to keep from jarring me and my wounds, but he didn't have to bother much. Traffic was slow and heavy; it must've been quitting time from that factory in town.
"Can you imagine having to drive in this every day?" Sam asked. I didn't point out that a few years ago he'd been setting himself up for just this kind of commute.
Eventually we hit Restaurant Row in town. "In or through?" Sam asked.
"Ohh – as much as I'd like to eat off a plate for a change, I think I'd rather bring something back to the room and eat in bed."
"You're such a hedonist."
"Says the guy who always puts extra fabric softener in his laundry."
Sam grinned at me; it could've been my witty response, it could've been surprise that I knew what 'hedonist' meant.
"Dean – what's this word?"
"Well, I can't see it from here, can I?"
"This word." To be helpful, halfway across the room, Sam held the picture book out to me and pointed to the nearly invisible print.
"Still can't see it."
He huffed and climbed off the chair and clumped over to the bed where I was reading a magazine. He was six and a half; I turned eleven a month before.
"THIS word." He pushed his book at me again, so close I almost went cross-eyed. I pushed the book back so I could actually see it.
"'Winter'. That word is winter."
"Yeah, you know – snow, cold, gets dark real early? Winter."
"Winter." Sam repeated and clumped back to the table. Where as soon as he sat down he asked , "Dean – what's this word?"
I got back into the motel room under my own power, barely. The bed just inside the door was nearly too far away but I made it far enough to collapse onto it. Sam appeared over me with one of the take-out bags in his hand.
"Can you just feed me? No – wait – you will. Never mind."
Sam gave me a hand sitting up against the headboard then took his own food to his own bed and fired up the TV with the remote.
"What's your pleasure? Scary fake monsters?" He asked, running through the on-screen guide. "Scary supposed-to-be-real monsters? Scary ought-to-be-monsters on reality TV?"
"Anything that's not scary?" I asked him.
"These days, everything is scary."
'I'd like all the children to come up to the front of the church, and sit around the foot of the altar to watch our Christmas pageant.'
It was Christmas Eve and we were at Pastor Jim's church. He'd mentioned the pageant while we were eating dinner with him and I asked Dad if we could go and he said, 'Sure, why not?'
So we were in the back pew when Pastor Jim issued his invitation.
'You wanna go?' I asked Sammy. He was three and a half, sitting on Dad's lap with his fingers in his mouth. He shook his head to answer me and I didn't like that answer. I wanted to go up but I didn't want to look like a baby by wanting to go up – I wanted Sam to be my excuse. Pastor Jim came to my rescue.
'And all the children will receive a candy cane at the end of the pageant.'
That was all Sammy needed to hear. He jumped off Dad's lap and pulled me down the aisleway to the front of the pews. I sat down and he sat between my legs and pulled my arms around himself and leaned back against me and with a dozen other kids we sat and watched more kids act out the Christmas story.
I don't remember much of what went on in the pageant, but I remember Sam's hair tickling my chin and I'd rub my chin across his head and he'd pull my arms tighter around him and lean his head against my shoulder and smile up at me like sitting there with me was the best thing ever.
I didn't last long past the burger and fries and coffee. I fell asleep during a minivan commercial and woke up being assured that jogging in place was the only answer to a long, happy life.
"Sam – what are we watching? Yo – Sam?"
I looked over to the other bed, Sam was as dead as I was feeling, practically sunk into his mattress he was so sound asleep. His head was touching the headboard and his heels were off the end of the bed, and even casually extended his arms reached the edges of the bed. He takes up a lot of mattress. I pulled the remote out of his hand and shut off the TV, then had to negotiate the folded bedspread out from under his feet to pull over him without ripping out my stitches.
"Sammy? A little help here?" I asked, even though I knew he couldn't hear me. The pulling and tugging woke him up though. Partially, anyway
"A dictionary." I told him, just for the fun of it. Sammy, being Sammy, took me seriously.
"S'one in m'backpack." He muttered before he fell asleep again. Why was I not surprised?
'Dean? You want me to move Sammy to the spare bed?' Dad asked me. I looked out the bathroom door; Sam was asleep on the edge of my bed, on top of the blankets. He was in his t-shirt and sweats but he didn't have any blankets over him. He was seventeen and due to start his senior year of high school in three weeks.
'No, he's good there. Something's going on with him, he can sleep with me.'
'Has he said anything to you?'
'No, he's hardly been talking all week.'
'I know. He hasn't yelled at me once since Iowa – it must be bad.' Dad smiled but he was worried too. He put the back of his hand against Sam's forehead. 'What's going on with you, kiddo?' He asked before he put the blanket from the spare bed over Sam.
Sometimes Sam got in my bed, when he was in his pissed-because-I-always-get-the-kiddie-bed mood. But when he did that, he'd bring his own blankets and pillows, shove mine out of his way, and create an invisible but no less real line down the middle of the bed.
Or when one of us was sick and freezing cold from a fever, or if we were staying in an unheated cabin in bad weather, it was standard operating procedure that Sam would sleep with me, just for survival. We'd combine blankets and ease up on the 'stop touching me' whining and keep each other alive.
So – what did this mean? No blankets, no pissed off attitude. Just Sammy curled up so close to the edge of the bed he was in danger of falling off.
I shut off the bathroom light, said goodnight to Dad and got in bed. Dad went to bed a little while later and the room went dark. Somewhere in the middle of the night, I felt the bed shaking. It didn't take me long to figure out what was going on. I sat up.
'Sammy?' I whispered and for an answer I got an armful of my sobbing little brother, clutching me like he was trying to suffocate me. 'Sammy? What's wrong?'
'What is it?' Dad asked. He sat up and turned on the overbed light.
'I don't know. Sammy? What? Hey – talk to me.'
He didn't though, he didn't talk to me or Dad. We asked him if he was sick, if he was hurt, if he hurt himself, if someone hurt him, if someone or something scared him, if he did something wrong, if he thought he did something wrong – we just couldn't get any answer out of him. He buried himself in my arms and cried himself back to sleep.
'You got him?' Dad asked, when Sam was asleep again. 'You want me to take him?'
'No, we're good.'
'Wake me if he needs anything.'
'Off is good.'
So Dad turned off the light and I fell asleep sitting up, holding Sam asleep across my chest. When I woke up again, the room was gray with dawn. Sam was at the table and Dad was setting a bowl of cereal in front of him.
'Here you go kiddo.'
'You bet.' Dad pulled Sam against him in a one-arm hug and Sam leaned against him and closed his eyes for a little while, and we never did find out what broke Sam's heart that night.
I was awake less than a minute when I remembered why sitting up with stitches across my chest was an art and not a science.
"You didn't wake me up." I said. Sam was at the table, working on his lap top, drinking take-out coffee.
"You were asleep."
"That's why they call it 'waking up'. You can't wake up someone who isn't asleep."
"Thanks, I'll mark that down."
"Ha ha ha." I got up and got dressed and drank the coffee Sam handed me.
"In or out?" He asked.
"Out. I'm definitely ready to not be in this room for awhile."
"Sounds good." He shut off his computer and got ready to go get breakfast. "Hey Dean? What'd you want a dictionary for?"
"I wanted to stand on it so I could look you in the eye when I talk to you."
I waited for the huff, the complaint, the eye roll, the laugh, something. I only got a puzzled look.
"What'd you want to talk to me about?"
"Dude, seriously – we've got to work on your sense of humor."
That got me the pissed look and the eye roll. Nice to know I haven't lost the touch.
'Okay Dean. Sit down in the chair. Okay? You all set?'
I remember how pretty Mom looked, her hair pulled back in a way she never usually wore it, her blue bathrobe over her shoulders, a teeny tiny bundle in her arms. A bundle she was about to set in my arms. Dad was crouched beside me, next to the chair, just in case I suppose. Probably one of the last times he worried whether I could take care of Sam.
Sammy was only a day old, less even, and I was at the hospital so we could meet each other and I could start my job as big brother.
'You ready, honey? See how I'm holding him? Just like that.'
Mom put Sammy into my arms and I crooked up my elbow to hold up his head. He was the tiniest bundle of priceless I'd ever held and I was surprised how small he was, and how big I felt.
'Hi, Sammy. I'm Dean. I'm your big brother.'
He looked straight into my eyes. I swear he gave me a once over, deciding 'is this the right guy or not?' Less than a day old and already he wanted proof. I guess I passed though, he squirmed a hand free out of the blanket and latched onto the finger I held out to him and right then and since then there was nothing I cared more about in the world.
"I'm gonna take care of you Sammy. I love you.'
"Earth to Dean?"
I came back from memories of my eight pound baby brother to the reality of him filling the doorway, head skimming the top of the frame, shoulders almost touching side to side.
"You all right?" He asked.
"Yeah. Sure. Why?"
"Because I think you just said you love me."
"Hmm?" Oh crap.
"Uh – you love me?"
Great, I said that out loud? Kill me now.
But hey – I spent forty years in hell. This couldn't be any more painful than that, could it?
Sure it could.
Oh well, you know what they say – if you can't dazzle 'em with your brilliance, baffle 'em with your bull crap.
"Yeah? And? So? What - do you think you're too grown up to have your big brother say he loves you? Is that what this is about? Because I gotta tell you Sammy, the day you're too old to admit you need your big brother is the day -."
Sam just stared at me until I ran out of what I was going to say.
"All right – what?" I asked him. I expected disbelief, sarcasm, blackmail. But the ages-old look on Sam's face, the look I'd been seeing ever since I came back topside, suddenly cleared and I found myself looking at a very young version of my forever- little-brother.
He looked embarrassed, he looked away, then Sam Winchester, worrier of angels, slayer of evil, terror of demons, the Mighty Sam Winchester drilled the floor with his eyes and whispered,
"…love you…" Then he turned and was out the door. I stared after him until he bellowed back at me, "You comin' or what?"
At that moment I knew – Sammy will never be completely grown up to me.