AN: I attempted to squeeze hurt boys, banter, and angst all into 1000 words. Goes a tiny bit AU right at the end. Thanks for reading.
Pain scales are a good idea in theory. Put a number on the pain. Get an idea of what the injury is and how to treat it. Sam and Dean know better than to call something a 4 when it's really an 8, or an 8 when it's really a 4.
But somewhere along the line, the scale stops working. They rarely sustain injuries simple enough to warrant scores of 1 through 3. When they do, those injuries don't register enough to get a rating. They never use 10. Too much pain tolerance, or maybe too much fear that there will someday be more pain. Worse pain. But 4 through 9? At some point, those all start to blur together.
"1 to 10?" Dean asks, fingers palpating Sam's bruised abdomen.
Sam winces. "5."
Dean nods approvingly and tugs Sam shirt back down. A 5 warrants ice and a day or two off from heavy lifting, but not much else. He claps Sam on the shoulder. "Good. Let's get out of here."
A few hours later, they're stopped for gas when Sam falls to the ground in a heap. A few more hours and emergency surgery later, Dean puts an ice chip to his brother's lips and says, "Your spleen was bleeding. Surgeon fixed you up. Thought you said it was a 5?"
Sam lets the ice chip melt. "It was." His voice is raw. "Compared to that compound fracture last year, it was a 5."
Dean grunts and fishes out another ice chip. "I think we need a new scale."
"Chocolate covered strawberry to moldy orange?" Dean asks. He's cradling Sam's injured arm in his lap. Sam doesn't say anything, but when he looks up, he can read the what the fuck expression in his brother's eyes. "Just go with it. Good to bad. Where's the pain fall?"
Sam rolls his eyes. "Dean…"
"Fresh mango? Brown apple with a worm hole?"
Groaning, Sam curls his fingers into a fist then releases them again. He sighs. "Bruised peach."
Dean grins and wraps an ace bandage around his brother's sprained wrist and feels creative.
"Hawaii to North Dakota?"
An angry spirit had tossed an armoire onto Sam's legs, pinning him to the ground until Dean could salt and burn the bones. Sam's thighs and shins are already starting to bruise.
This time, Sam doesn't argue. He just considers the question and answers, "Mississippi."
Dean takes a second to analyze, then holds out a hand to help his brother up. "Come on. I'll get you some ice when we get back to the motel room."
The new scales may be unconventional, but they work. They can assess injuries with fresh eyes. Avoid comparisons that skew pain in one direction or the other.
It's not long before Sam starts using varied scales, too.
"Double D to Double A?" Sam asks, trying to determine if this is appendicitis or a bad burger.
Dean groans and clutches his stomach. "Are you using bra sizes to determine my pain?"
"Just trying to find something you can relate to."
"You got it wrong." He closes his eyes and swallows back a wave of nausea. "I prefer a nice C cup. So the scale would be C to double A, which is also equivalent to an F."
Sam does the math. "E. Not F. I think you forgot Triple D."
Dean smirks. "Attaboy."
"So, what is it? C to Double A or Triple D?"
"B. Which is equivalent to D."
"Good. No hospital."
Dean takes a swig of Pepto straight from the bottle. "No hospital."
"Sammy? How's your head? Cinco de Mayo to Halloween?" The fucking shapeshifter tossed Sam into a cement wall head first. It's pitch black in the warehouse. Dean's flashlight is gone, but so is the shifter, so he'll take it.
"Huh?" Sam asks, far too slowly.
"Headache. How bad? Holidays. Thanksgiving? Christmas? Flag day?" Dean runs a hand over Sam's skull, and it comes away wet with blood.
"Laundry soap," Sam slurs.
Dean tosses his brother over his shoulder, carries him to the car, and doubles the speed limit the whole way to the emergency room.
Dean examines the contents of the med kit. "AC/DC to Brittany Spears?"
Dean looks to Sam, who is on the motel bed, left arm in a sling to protect his formerly dislocated and newly reduced shoulder. "That bad?"
Sam smirks. "Oh. I thought Brittany Spears was good."
When the bottle of Tylenol 3s hits Sam square in the forehead, Dean does not feel bad.
"Red M&Ms to brown M&Ms?" Sam asks.
"Yellow," Dean says, and Sam frowns.
Later that afternoon, Dean is in a cast from toes to hip.
"Bobsled to curling?" Dean yells into the steam-filled bathroom. They're a week into the winter Olympics, and Sam is using hot water in an attempt to ease the pain from a fight with a demon.
The only response is the sound of running water.
Dean rolls his eyes. "There aren't that many to choose from."
"Alpine or cross country?"
Dean winces. "I'll have a muscle relaxer and pain pill ready for when you get out, okay?"
"Close the damn door."
They're driving down the road in silence. It's been less than a day since Sam got back from hell. Dean clears his throat.
"So…June to February?" Out of the corner of his eye, Dean watches Sam's confused expression change to a hard swallow and a nod.
"Jack Daniels to Boones Farm?"
Sam hesitates. "Rubbing alcohol."
He should stop there. He knows he should. But instead, Dean asks, "1 to 10?"
Sam doesn't hesitate. "12."
Pain scales are good.
Except when they aren't.