Characters: Dean, Sam, mentions of Bobby
Word Count: 5800
Genre: gen, h/c, curtain!fic
Rating: R (language)
Warnings: Spoilers through Spoilers through 7X02 and veering merrily into curtain!fic AU from that point on.
Author's Notes: This story follows Getting A Life in my Starbucks!verse. It would be helpful but not necessary to read that story first.
Summary: After taking one too many hits to the head from the Leviathan, Sam is diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and he and Dean give up hunting. They’ve made a life for themselves, with Dean taking a job at Starbucks to pay the bills and Sam finding ways to cope with a broken brain and Lucifer still on board.
Yet, living a civilian life can be harder than hunting ever was. Especially when Dean has to work late, and Sam isn’t picking up the phone….
When he can, Dean avoids the late shift. Sam doesn’t like being home alone at night. As it turns out, he gets scared of the dark, which would have been hilarious in another life, but not so funny in this one.
Tonight, Dean is working until closing, and he’s kicking himself for it. The truth is, sometimes he has to leave Sam alone. It’s not like Dean can watch the kid every minute.
But he knows Sam was freaked about Dean being gone late, so he checks his phone again for a new text. Nothing. Not a damn thing. It’s been more than an hour since Sam last texted him, which is no big deal, except for the fact they’re supposed to check in with each other when Dean is out at night.
Sometimes, Sam forgets things. It’s how chronic traumatic encephalopathy works. It will seem like everything is fine until they both figure out that enormous parts of his memory are missing. Their favorite neurologist says that Sam’s poor brain has been insulted enough to piss off every now and then.
Dean sighs and tries texting Sam again.
you lying in a ditch somewhere??? call me asshole!!!!
He sticks his phone back in his pocket. He is not going to worry.
Starbucks on a Monday night is pretty dead though, even in a college town. The last customer cleared out a while ago, and Dean seriously doubts anyone else is coming in this late. It’s a hell of a lot easier than his usual shift, breakfast all the way through lunch hour and into the late afternoon.
But damn, he’s not volunteering for closing again, even if it does help his awesome manager out. Rachel is the best, seriously the best, and Dean is fairly sure the grad student she’s dating doesn’t come close to deserving her. Dean has already told her he’ll kick the guy’s ass if he doesn’t treat her right, and she’d laughed affectionately like he was kidding.
For all the times she’s been a rock star for him, Dean figures he owes her so she can go watch some Shakespeare production in the park. But damn. Who takes an awesome girl to Shakespeare in the Park in January on a freakin’ Monday night? The guy is definitely a loser.
And Dean is definitely not worrying about Sam who has most decidedly not texted him back…
“Damnit, Sam,” he mutters out loud. “Screw this…”
He stalks over to the door. Dean has taken on Lucifer—he’s willing to risk corporate wrath by locking up a few minutes early. Dean locks the door, turns the sign to ‘closed’, and rests his head against the frosted glass. Just barely, he can see the sidewalk lit up by the flickering street lamp. For once, he wouldn’t mind if Sam broke house rules and was coming down the sidewalk to meet him.
In general, Sam isn’t allowed to go out by himself at night—they’ve had enough horrific incidents that Sam’s social worker finally made Sam sign a behavioral contract saying he wouldn’t wander in the dark. But Sam is still Sam. He never did know what was good for him.
He heads back behind the counter and pulls out the cleaning protocol, even though he knows it by heart. He calls Sam again, and this time it goes straight to voice mail like the phone is turned off. Dean isn’t going to panic. There are all sorts of reasons for why Sam could not be answering. Sam could be asleep, could be taking a long, long shower, could be so engrossed in his latest dork project that he lost track of time.
…or he could be lost in whatever new and improved mind fucking the devil dreamed up for him tonight….
Dean only wishes he’d made Sam come to work with him.
Sam would have complained. He hates being babysat, but he’d get over it. Ever since Bobby got him that stupid iPad, it’s been ridiculously easy to keep Sam occupied. Sam loves the thing. Has a whole bunch of free crap on it—subscriptions to literary magazines that nobody would agree to pay for. Dean had protested that the thing cost too much money, no matter how good the insurance payout was on the salvage yard, Bobby couldn’t afford that kind of present…that there was a good chance Sam would forget it somewhere on a bad day.
Bobby scowled and said, “The kid deserves a new toy. So shut up.”
Dean had just ducked his head and grinned.
It’s true that between the two of them, they spoil Sam whenever they can, but they owe him. The world owes Sam. Too bad all the world’s got to offer its favorite son are SSI benefits and a state appointed social worker who insists Sam tell her what he ate for breakfast and glares like it’s Dean’s fault when Sam forgets to eat.
Shows what she knows…Sam was a bitchy eater long before he ever went to Hell.
Time to get cleaning.
Dean drains the carafes by pouring himself a vente from the dregs. It’s fucking embarrassing, the way his body craps out on him when it’s not even that late, but Dean is tired. Dean drinks his coffee black and swears it tastes nothing like Leviathan blood no matter what Sam has to say about it.
After finishing scrubbing the drip machines, he eyes the espresso machine and grinder. The truth is he could probably take a few shortcuts and nobody would notice. It’s an automated machine, and it’s not like the espresso is going to suck any more if he skips cleaning it for a night. But Dean takes care of what’s his, and right now, the shop is what’s his. It’s no different than keeping an engine in working order. Sam never did understand how he felt about that.
So he keeps cleaning. Coffee is a messy business. Grounds and rancid oils build up quickly, clogging equipment and fucking up flavor. It takes no time at all for milk to build up on the steam wand, creating clogs and making drinks taste like shit.
Of course, Sam insists that Starbucks coffee always tastes like shit, but Sam is only satisfied when he gets to commune with the organic coffee beans raised by the eighty-year-old Costa Rican farmer whose picture happens to be framed on the wall of the competing shop down the street. Sam likes to show off the latte art in his cup just to make Dean mad. Last time, the stupid barista poured the milk into a freakin’ flower. Dean hates that guy, always showing off.
Time to try Sam again.
There’s still no answer, and Dean takes a deep breath and starts violently scrubbing the group heads around the gaskets. The harsh cleanser powder stings his chapped hands but he ignores it, like he is ignoring the warning voice in his head that tells him Sam should have called him back by now.
Dean slams his fist down on the counter. He is sick and tired of the goddamn job dictating his hours. That was the one thing he could always count on with hunting. On the road, he was his own boss, he and Sam accountable to nothing but the gas tank and the open road. He knows better than to be nostalgic for hunting. They are lucky to be out of the life and still relatively alive. But there was something to it that Dean doesn’t think he’ll ever have again.
He needs this job. Even with Bobby helping them out every month and Starbucks’ awesome health coverage and Sam’s SSI, there are still rent and groceries and co-pays and all sorts of things he never even dreamed existed.
Honestly, Dean had never really realized being a civilian was so damn expensive. For the first time in his life, he’s had to pay for car insurance. That’s the main reason he had to garage the Impala. Turns out his baby is in some special category that is considered “high risk”. The year Dean had lived with Lisa and Ben, he’d been too shell-shocked to put together any kind of a budget. He had just handed over his paycheck to Lisa and let her take care of things.
But now, there’s nobody to handle this sort of crap but him. Dean never gives Sam more than ten dollars at a time. Really, he’s kind of like a little kid like that. He forgets that money is important.
Nobody is taking care of things but Dean, and honest to God, he is pretty sure he’s going to screw things up.
Dean wishes he’d taken the Honda to work—he doesn’t care if gas is over four bucks a gallon. He had to wait almost an hour for the bus because public transit in Palo Alto is a fucking joke.
To top it off, he’s limping now, thanks to the Leviathan who tossed him across the salvage yard. He took the cast off too early, and it never healed up right. But Dean can’t afford to be slow right now. Sam still isn’t answering his phone.
And now Dean is sure something is definitely wrong.
After he left the shop, he’d been tempted to call the police and have them check out the apartment, but he’s afraid of scaring the shit out of Sam. It’s still possible Sam decided to take a sleeping pill and knock himself out early. It’s not very likely though since Sam usually waits up for Dean. The truth is Sam has separation anxiety that a lifetime supply of Xanax couldn’t touch.
At long last, Dean is home. He opens the front door, and quietly calls out, “Sammy?” to give him fair warning. When a guy lives with Lucifer, surprises don’t go over well.
The place is totally dark, which is bad. Dark means Sam’s gone to ground or even that he’s not in the apartment at all. There aren’t many places where Sam could hide. It’s a small place with a compact living room in front and just a single bedroom and bathroom, but it’s big enough that they can slam a door on each other, and that’s more than they’ve ever had before.
Dean walks cautiously across the room, wishing his gun wasn’t locked up in the Impala’s trunk. No weapons around Sam, not after that one time at the movie theater.
“Sam. Sam? Sammy!”
Dean is heading for the bedroom. But before he gets there, he trips over something in the tiny hall. Denim and flannel break his fall, skin and bones, oh god, Sammy.
Dean cannot think. This is bad, bad, bad, and his hands run all over his little brother’s body, checking for anything broken, anything that could possibly be wrong.
“Hey, hey…wake up…what’s wrong…c’mon wake up.” Dean feels for Sam’s carotid. Takes a breath that feels more like a sob when he finally finds Sam’s pulse, nice and strong and steady. Dean can feel his own heart, pounding in sympathy, in his chest.
Sam is lying with his head in the bathroom and his legs stretched out in the hall. It’s too dark to see a damn thing. Dean finds the light, even though his hands are shaking badly. It occurs to him he might be a little shocky right now.
Everything is murky and dim under the cheap florescent lights, but he see his brother. His other senses kick in more slowly. The smell of vomit registers first. Sam’s puked at some point…is lying in it…lucky he didn’t drown in it. There’s blood trickling out of the corner of his mouth, but Dean doesn’t see anything else. No slit wrists…or throat for that matter. Lucifer is always trying to trick Sam into killing himself in some new and creative way.
Dean is running his finger inside Sam’s mouth to make sure his airway is clear when Sam groans and tries to pull his head away. Dean takes a quick breath because it’s a good sign if Sam is aware enough to be irritated.
“Sam? C’mon, Sammy, that’s it. Wake up, Sam. Wake up.” He tries to sound like he’s pissed because that’s what always works best with Sam, but his voice is shaking too much to pull off bad cop tonight.
Sam’s eyes flicker open though. They’re glazed and glassy, not really tracking.
“Sammy?” Dean cups his hand against Sam’s face. There’s puke all over him, in his hair. Sam’s gonna hate that, such a princess when it comes to his goddamn hair…
Dean takes a deep breath and pulls out his phone. He still hates getting civilians involved—old habits die hard.
“911. What’s your emergency?”
Dean should be a veteran at this by now. But his voice cracks when he says, “My brother…I found him unconscious…I think he…I don’t know.” Dean takes a shaky breath. “He’s hurt. He vomited.”
“Is his airway clear?”
Dean sticks his finger back in Sam’s mouth just to be sure. Sam bats at him this time.
“Yeah, it’s clear. I think he’s coming to.”
“An ambulance is on the way, sir.”
Dean puts the phone down. They’ll know where to find them.
Sam is groaning and is slowly opening his eyes.
“Sammy? Hey—Sam.” Dean pats Sam’s cheeks to help him ground him. Even in the dim light, he can see that Sam’s eyes are red-rimmed and glassy.
Obviously confused, Sam blinks a couple times and says, “Dean?”
Dean takes a deep, relieved breath. “Dude, you scared the hell out of me.”
“Sorry,” Sam mumbles, trying to turn his face away from the light, but Dean won’t let him.
“No you don’t—stay with me. If you didn’t want me working late, you coulda called?”
Sam closes his eyes. “Tired.”
“Nope, little brother, can’t got to sleep. You gotta stay awake. We gotta find out how bad you hit your head. Think you can get up? We’re pretty much sitting in a puddle of puke right now.”
Sam tries lifting his head. “Did it get on the carpet?”
Dean rolls his eyes. “That’s why we keep the Nature’s Miracle around, dumbass.”
Dean has had cause to be grateful for the cleaner that Sam found at a pet store last year. It’s meant for puppies or incontinent cats, but it would have kicked ass for clean up after a hunt. Blood, puke, piss…the stuff is gold. Sam has always had a sensitive stomach—when he was a little kid, he used to get carsick. But with Sam’s vertigo, Sam pukes all the time.
But somehow, this feels different. This feels like uncharted territory. And for the number of times Dean has been guided through Sam’s freakin’ brain mapping by some enthusiastic neurologist, Dean feels like he should know where he’s going by now.
“Dean…I’m sorry.” Dean scowls at his brother…the idiot is still trying to sit up.
“Stay put. The ambulance will be here any minute, let’s just wait it out.”
Sam’s eyes are focusing now, and he wipes a thin line of drool from the corner of his mouth. “No ambulance. We can’t afford it.”
Dean glares. “I’m the one who pays the bills—I know what we can afford.” Sam flinches like Dean just took a swing at him, and Dean couldn’t feel more like an asshole if he tried. He pats Sam on the shoulder. “Sorry, Sammy. You just scared the crap out of me, that’s all.”
There’s knocking at the door, and Dean points a finger at Sam before getting up. “No bitching. I don’t want to hear it.”
Dean heads for the door before the EMTs decide to break it down. All they need is to lose another chunk of their security deposit…
“I’m fine.” Even in his hospital gown, Sam looks so much better than he did just an hour ago, Dean is almost tempted to give in.
“You’re not checking out of the hospital and that’s final. They’ve got more tests to run.”
“Neurology cleared me already.”
Dean makes an unimpressed sound. “They did not clear you. They just said they didn’t know what caused the seizure.”
“There are no blood clots, no changes in my MRI.”
“You seized on the bathroom floor. Goddamn it, Sam…you could have aspirated—”
Sam smirks. “Ooh—big word.”
“Bite me,” Dean retorts and crosses his arms against his chest. “You’re not leaving until they say you’re leaving.”
Sam is actually pouting. “At least go to work. I’ll be fine here.”
“Already called in sick. You trying to get rid of me or something?” Dean isn’t sure what this is all about, but he doesn’t like it. The one huge advantage of brain-damaged Sammy is he’s typically fairly compliant.
But the defiance rapidly fades away. Eyes suspiciously full, Sam mumbles under his breath. “You can’t afford to take a day off. All the bills are due next week.”
Dean frowns. Until recently, Sam didn’t pay attention to boring details like bills, late fees, and collection agencies. He’s been too busy just recovering and surviving to notice Dean’s constant juggling act, trying to make a living, trying to keep everything from crashing down around them.
“Don’t worry about money,” he says tightly, but Sam just looks away.
Dean leans back and props his legs on the milk crate that Sam insisted on after they got the place. Dean hates the thing—he needs a real coffee table to rest his beer on, not some wobbly-ass piece of plastic that Sam treasures because he will always be a dorky, starving student at heart.
Bobby keeps swearing up and down that he’ll bring over some tools the next time he visits. There’s a breezeway behind the apartment complex, and their landlord says he doesn’t care if Dean uses it to do some woodworking.
Dean isn’t saying anything to Sam until he actually has the tools in hand, but he’s kind of excited about the prospect. He figures woodworking would be a good outlet for the two of them. Help Sam with dexterity motor planning and crap like that…it would make Sam’s OT happy anyway. There’s no way Dean is leaving Sam unsupervised around power tools with Lucifer on board, but it can’t be too hard to build a coffee table.
After taking a long swig of beer, Dean checks his watch again. Sam is still in the shower. Dean’s waiting five more minutes, and then he’s going in to check on him. He doesn’t care if it drives Sam crazy—he’s got good reason to worry.
He probably should get something started for lunch. Sam’s the cook these days…thanks to community college extension classes, but Dean can handle mac and cheese just fine. Besides, at the end of the month, mac and cheese is about all they can afford. Sam picked up a dozen boxes of the no-name stuff for next to nothing at one of those outlet stores in Union City.
On his way to the kitchen, he can’t help himself. The memory of Sam lying on that bathroom floor is now seared in his mind, so he cracks the door just to check. It’s steamy and smells reassuringly like Sam’s shampoo and a little like toothpaste.
“You doing okay in there?” Dean calls out.
Sam sticks his head out from behind the blue striped shower curtain and glares. “Um…yes.”
Dean laughs…he can’t help it. Sam’s hair is still sudsy and is standing straight on end. “Good look for you, Sammy.”
“Look, Dean…if I slip and hit my head and die in the shower, I swear, you’ll be the first one to know.”
It’s way too close to a possibility to be funny. Dean resists the urge to slap his brother upside the head. At least, they don’t have to pay for their hot water. Dean leaves his exasperated brother to the rest of his shower.
Over the sink, he fills a pot with water. He hums to himself because really…there’s no dignity in making mac and cheese without a little Zeppelin for accompaniment.
And that is when he happens to glance at Sam’s little army of prescription bottles. He notices it right away…two of the bottles are missing.
Frowning, Dean sets the pot down in the sink. He knows he hasn’t miscounted, but maybe Sam has the others stashed somewhere. Sam gets weird sometimes when he thinks Lucifer is stealing his stuff and he has a bad habit of hiding things and forgetting where he put them.
Dean starts going through the bottles to see which ones are missing. He knows them by heart—it’s only been recently that Sam has been responsible for taking them on his own. That used to be Dean’s job.
Dean mentally checks them off as he puts them aside. There are so many of them—meds for anxiety and depression, an anti-inflammatory, some new treatment that’s supposed to slow the onset trauma-related dementia. Two different kinds of painkillers for when the headaches get too bad. There’s another pill that is supposed to counteract the bad side effects of the others.
But the two missing bottles are the ones recently prescribed by Sam’s awesome new neurologist. Dean can’t remember exactly what they’re called—one is a preventative for Parkinson’s and would cost a full paycheck without insurance. The other one is an anti-seizure medication—something new. The neurologist swears it’s the gold standard for anticonvulsants, which is a good thing because the older generic one that Sam had been taking made him break out in hives.
But Sam needs to take an anticonvulsant every day of his life. And Dean knows his brother too well. He’s pretty damn sure Sam didn’t just hide his medicine.
Gathering up his evidence, Dean storms into the bathroom and dumps all the bottles on the cracked tile counter. He reaches into the shower and turns the water off.
Sam sticks out his head. “Hey!”
Dean grabs hold of Sam’s wet arm and starts to tug him out of the shower, too mad to worry about being gentle.
“What the fuck, Sam? I mean, seriously, what the fuck?”
Sam tries reaching for a towel, but Dean is standing in his way. “Let me get a freakin’ towel, at least. Hey…what are you doing with all my meds?”
“Not all your meds.” Dean forces himself to let go of his brother. “I think there might be a couple missing. You know anything about that, Sammy?”
Sam stares at him for only a moment but Dean sees what he’s looking for. He clenches his fists at his sides.
Sam sighs and looks down at his feet. “Could you at least hand me a towel?”
Dean hands him a towel because the idiot is shivering and doesn’t have an ounce of body fat on him any more.
Sam starts drying off, and Dean is pissed, totally pissed, but he is not going to start yelling. The attending shrink at Stanford was adamant…no stress in Sam’s life.
So Dean waits until Sam’s got his jeans on and is pulling on his sweatshirt over his head before he says quietly, “You can’t pull this kind of crap, Sam. You just can’t. The stakes are too damn high.”
Sam is hanging his wet towel back up and doesn’t make eye contact. “Can we talk about this later?”
“No way,” Dean says, as he practically marches Sam out of the bathroom. He points at the couch. “Sit.”
They sit at opposite ends, as far apart as they could get without falling off. They are both quiet; Dean is going to wait Sam out.
Finally, Sam says, “We can’t afford those prescriptions.”
It is all Dean can do not to kick his brother’s ass all the way to the nearest pharmacy. “Bullshit, we can’t afford them! What the hell are you talking about?”
“Insurance stopped covering them.”
Well, that’s news. “Since when?”
“Last month.” Sam looks down. “I was going to go to ask for generics last time I went in for my appointment… and then I just forgot.”
They both know they don’t make generics of those two medicines. Cutting edge medicine and all.
“You forgot,” Dean repeats, dragging a hand over his eyes.
Sam shrugs. “Not exactly firing on all cylinders.”
“Not funny, Sam.”
Dean just groans and scrubs both hands against his eyes. “Fuck, Sam. You know better than this.”
“Those two pills cost us over two hundred a month. We don’t have that kind of money.”
Fuck that. Dean is done with providing a stress-free environment for his dumbass brother. “It’s just money!” he yells, throwing Sam’s lame decorative pillow across the room in frustration. “We can get more money! Bobby will cover us when we have a tight month—you know he said he would! What the fuck is wrong with you?”
To Dean’s amazement, Sam looks anything but remorseful.
“Fuck you,” Sam shoots back. If looks could kill, Dean would be salted and burned by now. “My brain is fucked, that’s what’s wrong with me.” He runs his hand through his wet hair so savagely it brings to mind the time Lucifer tried to talk Sam into pulling half his hair out.
“Calm down, Sam,” he orders, making himself lower his voice. The doctors are right. Sam shouldn’t be getting himself all worked up. Especially since he’s not even on an anticonvulsant right now, the last thing they need is another goddamn seizure.
Dean waits. He can see Sam trembling now right under the surface. Since that Leviathan tried to bash in his head, Sam really can’t stay angry for long. He doesn’t have it in him.
“Dean,” he says, after a long moment. “It’s my life.”
“Yes, it is your life,” Dean says as patiently as he can. “And your life depends on it. Damnit Sam, that’s why you can’t make this kind of decision on your own.”
“On my own?”
“Yes, on your own. You need to check with me first.”
Sam’s eyes are starting to fill up with tears. His emotions are always so close to the surface. Dean hates that—he prefers pissed-off Sam to kicked-puppy Sam any day. “I’m not stupid…I was going to get another prescription.”
“But you didn’t get another prescription,” Dean says and reaches a hand across the couch, rubbing Sam’s shoulder, trying to make amends for how mad he was before. “You forgot, and you had a seizure. Your brain can’t exactly afford that, Sam. That’s why you gotta keep me in the loop, dude.”
“I know, I’m sorry.” He smiles a little. “At least the seizure knocked Lucifer out for the count. That’s gotta be worth something.”
“What do you mean?” Dean asks, but he’s already thinking Sam hasn’t mentioned the Prince of Darkness for several hours now.
Sam says ruefully, “Maybe my brain has to be jump-started every now and then. He’s not even in the room. Hasn’t been since last night…while you were at work.”
It’s actually something to think about. Dean files that little fact away to discuss later with Bobby. Maybe, the brain neurons Sam would sacrifice with electro-shock therapy might be worth it, if it keeps Lucifer at bay.
“A lobotomy may be the way to go after all,” Sam says.
“Not funny,” Dean growls.
“It’s a little funny.” Sam smiles.
Dean doesn’t smile back, but he does scoot a little closer to Sam. He rests his hand on Sam’s knee. He’s not about to let Sam change the subject, crafty bastard that he’s always been. “Look man…you can’t just go cold-turkey on your meds to save money.”
Sam bites his lip, looks out the window at the grey, cloud-streaked sky. “You have to work all the time at a job that sucks…”
“My job doesn’t suck,” Dean retorts, offended.
Sam rolls his eyes and keeps right on going. “You had to stop hunting, give up being on the road. For God’s sake Dean, you had to stop driving your car. I know how much you hate that. You have to take care of me all the freakin’ time. Don’t tell me you don’t because I know it’s true. I know what you do to keep us going. And all I do is spend your money. I thought this was one way I could actually help out.”
Dean sighs deeply. All the anger is long gone, replaced by a bone-deep weariness. Sam is staring at him, clearly worried, and Dean can’t resist putting an arm around Sam’s shoulders.
Sam says quietly, “You’re still mad.”
“I’m not mad.”
“Okay, I was mad. But I’m not mad now.” Dean waits until he feels Sam’s shoulders relax underneath his arm and then he continues. “But Sam, you gotta take your meds. Sometimes, something might seem like a great idea, but you gotta run it by me first. That whole impaired-judgment thing isn’t something I just made up because I want to boss you around.”
“I know that,” Sam retorts. He tries shrugging off Dean’s arm, but Dean isn’t budging.
“I know you know that now, but you might not know it tomorrow. It’s not your fault. It’s just the hand you’ve been dealt, and we both have to live with it. You just gotta trust me on this. I don’t care if we have to eat ramen for a week, you take your meds. All this, I’m doing it for you.”
“I know,” Sam says, letting his head fall on Dean’s shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
Dean smiles and ruffles his hair a little, just because it’s there. “That’s it? I know? I’m sorry? Losing your touch, Sammy.”
“Such a jerk,” Sam grumbles, but he keeps his head where it is.
But Dean is still waiting for Sam to agree. It’s why the social worker made him sign a contact about going out at night. Sam still relies heavily on his inner lawyer, looking for any available loophole.
So Dean tells him, “I swear Sam…you pull crap like this again, and I’m shipping both of our asses back to Bobby. I’d leave all this—everything we’ve got going here—I don’t care. You can’t do this.”
“Bobby doesn’t have a house. You can’t ship us back to Bobby’s.” He’s got a point.
Dean cuffs Sam’s head with his free hand. “Details. You get the idea.”
“I’ll take my meds,” Sam says and pulls back, obviously trying not to smile.
Dean warns, “No brave little soldier, dude.”
“No brave little soldier,” Sam repeats dutifully and then full-on grins.
“Yeah well, I’m gonna be counting every fucking pill in every fucking bottle every fucking day,” Dean grumbles, somewhat mollified. “And we’re going to the pharmacy right after lunch and getting those prescriptions refilled.”
“I said fine.”
“Good.” Dean makes himself get up from the comfortable couch and his warm little brother, adding, “You stay put. I’ll make lunch.”
Sam looks up at him. “Don’t you have to work?”
“I’m off today,” Dean says, and it’s kind of true. Rachel is covering for him again, but Dean doesn’t want Sam worrying, and besides, Sam’s discharge instructions said that Sam could be at risk for seizures for another 48 hours. There’s no way Dean is leaving him alone.
Sam looks over his shoulder, watching Dean as he fills the pot with water. “You wanna do something? I mean, after we go to the pharmacy?”
Dean sets the pot on the stove. “What kind of something?”
Sam shrugs. “I don’t know. Something cheap. We could go to the beach.”
It’s only a half hour to the beach, but they hardly ever go. Dean hates getting sand in the car, but Sam has always loved it, ever since he was a little kid. Sam loves the sound of the waves and the feel of warm, wet sand squishing beneath his feet.
And you know, Dean has the day off and a living, breathing kid brother sitting on the couch. A brother who wants to go to the beach.
“We could take the Impala,” Dean says, mulling it over. “It’s still got a half tank of gas.”
“We don’t have insurance on the Impala.”
Dean turns the burner on high and watches the flames dance along the edges of the pot. “Live dangerously, dude.”
“Irresponsible,” Sam mutters, but Dean can tell he likes the idea too.
“Go get your suit…and a towel—we can leave after we eat.” Sam gets up so quickly Dean is afraid he’s going to fall over again. “And I swear, if you’re feeling like shit, you better tell me…or… or else.”
Sam just rolls his eyes at the lame-ass threat, but he obediently heads for the bedroom.
Dean might hate the beach, but the boardwalk is cool. Maybe they can spring for a ride on the old wooden roller coaster, the biggest one on the West Coast, the one with the awesome first dip that feels more like falling than flying.
His day is sounding better all the time, but they’d better get going. Dean looks down at the stovetop and taps his foot, waiting for the water to start boiling.
“A watched pot never boils, Dean,” Sam calls from the doorway, swim trunks in hand.
“I’ll watch your pot,” Dean retorts irritably.
Sam’s forehead crinkles. “What does that even mean?”
Hell if Dean knows. “Put on some sunscreen. The meds make you burn.”
He can hear Sam grumbling about bossy older brothers, but he doesn’t care. The last thing he needs is Sam coming home with skin cancer. He grabs a couple plates off the shelf, and just for a moment, he lets his head drop. After a long night, Dean is so tired. So very, very tired. There are days when he’s not sure he can do this any more.
But on the stovetop, the water is already starting to boil. Dean shoots a smug look at the open bedroom door. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt to watch a pot, no matter what his smartass brother says.
Humming some Zeppelin under his breath, Dean removes the packet of cheese powder from the box and dumps the macaroni into the pot. He even remembers to set the timer this time so the pot doesn’t burn dry. The first time he made mac and cheese, he left it burning and would have burned the apartment down if he and Sam weren’t damn good at putting out kitchen fires.
They’ve come a long way since then, him and Sam. Who knows? Maybe, they can do this life after all.
From their bedroom, he hears the familiar sound of Sam griping about not being able to find a bottle of sunscreen in the mess Dean made of the dresser. Sam doesn’t have to know, but it kind of makes Dean smile.