Tag Scene to “Plucky Pennywhistle”.
Cas asked me once – I mean somebody asked me once – why I tend to sleep only four hours at a time. I forget what I told him – them – but the short, easy, honest answer is that it’s because four hours is the general shelf life of painkillers in the human blood stream. After four hours, painkillers start wearing off and the pain starts amping up and if you don’t reload on time, you gotta go through another twenty minutes or so of pain, waiting for them to take effect again.
I mean – sure, unless it’s serious serious injury, the injured can wake himself up every four hours and re-dose. And usually we try to do that, wake up and dose ourselves in the middle of the night, the injured taking care of himself to let the non-injured get more sleep. But it also usually ends up that we both wake up every four hours anyway, the non-injured or less-injured checking for himself on really-injured.
So, given our tendency to get injured on a regular basis, four hours of sleep at a time is usually the norm for us. Both of us. Anything longer is always a luxury.
No such luxury after our post-Plucky encounter. By the time we got back to the motel room, Sparkles the Little Brother had already begun to stiffen up. He could barely get his shirts and his boots off by himself and once he did, all his many and massive welts were already taking on the dark blue/darker purple tinge of broken blood vessels and spectacular bruising.
One hot shower, one Tylenol with codeine, two blankets, and five ice packs later, I made sure that Sparkles was clean and dosed and tucked in nice and neat for sleep and then tucked myself in, too.
Then too soon it was four hours later and time to wake him up for his next dose of painkillers.
Only he beat me to it. I reached up to turn the between-the-beds light on and found Sparkles already reaching over to the between-the-beds table for the medicine bottle and water bottle.
Which meant he hadn’t been sleeping as well as he should have been.
“Hey – let me do that.”
I sat up and reached for the bottles but with a longer arm and a bigger head-start, Sparkles got to them first. He was moving stiff and slow, he wasn’t even really sitting all the way upright, just propped up on an elbow, but he got them first.
“Go back to sleep. I can do it.”
Like I said, whichever one of us it was, injured usually tried to take care of himself and let the other one sleep. But – as usual – I sat up anyway and swung my feet out of bed.
“Dude, can you even get that pill bottle open?”
“Mmm-hmmm…” He answered me without even looking at me.
“Go t’sleep, Dean. I can do it.”
He didn’t sound cranky or bitchy or anything. He just sounded like he could do it and I didn’t need to bother.
His hands and knuckles were as raw and battered as the rest of him so it didn’t take long for him to give up trying to wrangle the child-safety cap off and he offered the bottle over to me with a sigh.
“Yeah.” I got it open no problem. “You want two this time? One didn’t quite seem to cut it.”
“No – one – one’s – you know – in case…”
He was exhausted, but even exhausted he was thinking ahead to the chance that we might need the good stuff for something else, some other unknown, upcoming overwhelming injury, never mind how much he might need them right now.
Another reason that uninjured usually woke up when it was time for injured to take more painkillers – to make damn sure he took enough painkillers.
“Two it is.”
“Dean – “
“Sam – take two and get some rest. Some real rest.”
He sighed again, grumbled really, but reached out for the pills. And winced and bit back most of a gasp that I heard anyway when his shoulder didn’t agree with that movement.
“Dude – seriously – c’mon – here.” I moved to stand over him and put the pills in his hand and then opened the water bottle for him. “You’ll be lucky if you can even get your eyes open tomorrow.”
“I’ll be fine.” He said and winced again when he had to move to take the pills and swallow the water. “Go to sleep.”
Oh, I’ll get right on that.
“Yeah, you first, Sparkles. C’mon.”
Another grumble, but he took a few more swallows of water and almost got the bottle of water all the way back on the table. Almost. It started to crash and I was faster that time at least and caught it and pushed it up where it was safe.
“Get comfy, I’ll get some more ice for you.”
“Y’don’t have to. I’m fine.”
“You can barely see out of either eye, your face is turning the color of Concord grapes, your whole left side went through a windshield and I won’t even mention what they did with the monkey wrench. You need more ice.”
He looked at me out of those purpling, swollen eyes like he was gonna argue. Like he was gonna complain. Like he was gonna bitch until my ears bled. But he only just said,
“Yeah, ‘thanks’. Hand up the bags.”
He grumbled. Again. Then he fished around under the blankets and came up with the zippered plastic bags, damp and filled with warming water and melted ice bits, wrapped in thin towels. He’d had them behind his back and over his shoulder and other places.
“I’ll be right back.”
I shook off the towels onto my bed and brought the bags out to the ice machine in the little niche around the corner from the motel office, dumping the melted water as I walked along. It was not quite four in the morning, the parking lot was dark and quiet, and I’d only half refilled the first bag when I heard Sammy shuffling up behind me.
I sighed. Even injured – whichever one of us it was – injured would still do his best to help uninjured, no matter what help that turned out to be. Even something as uncomplicated as filling plastic bags with ice.
“You’re supposed to be in bed.” I reminded him.
“Want t’help you.”
The drugs were kicking in already, I could tell from his slurred words and sinking eyelids, bruises notwithstanding. He should’ve been in bed, asleep. Sound asleep. But he took the plastic bags away from me and held them each open in turn while I scooped the ice in. He wavered a little and blinked a lot and his boots that weren’t tied were pulled on over socks that were inside out. But he stayed upright and functioning long enough for us to fill the five bags of ice and carry them back to the room.
“Okay, Sparkles. Back to bed. C’mon.”
He ‘hmmm’d’ his total agreement, shook off his boots and unfolded himself into bed. I rewrapped the ice bags in the towels and handed them over one at a time. He situated the first bag of ice – there – then set the two smallest ones up near his pillow, one for his hands and one to go over his eyes as soon as he laid down. Then he motioned for me to hand him the two biggest bags of ice.
“I’ve got this, Sammy. Lay down.”
“Go ‘sleep, Dean. I c’n do it.”
“Dude, you’re three quarters asleep already as it is. Lay down.”
He grumped. He grumbled. He laid down, turned so I could ice his back and shoulder and pull his blankets up so it all stayed put. He pulled the last of the ice over his eyes and onto his hands and grumbled again.
“Go ‘sleep. M’fine.”
“Yeah, you’re fine. I know.”
He was so ‘fine’, I’m pretty sure he was asleep before I even finished saying that.
With Sammy dosed and set for the next next four hours, I went to use the bathroom before dropping myself back asleep again too. Even with the light turned off, the bathroom shimmered like Sparkles the Little Brother had exploded all over it. When Sam got undressed for his shower, he’d shed the sparkles everywhere, and though he’d packed his clothes up into plastic bags to contain the glitter storm, the bathroom was still covered in it.
I would never be able to see anything sparkly ever again and not think of Sammy.
When I went back out to the room, I sat on my bed and watched him for a minute or two before lying down again.
When he’d come out from his shower, he asked if I’d check that he got all the sparkles out of hair. He asked it with no hesitation, no quip, and I answered him the same way. Sure, I’ll check, take a seat.
So he sat on his bed and bent his head and I sifted my fingers through his wet hair until I could pronounce him completely sparkle-free.
There were a few years there that that most definitely not have happened. Not that I wouldn’t have checked, if Sam had asked. But Sam wouldn’t have asked.
And maybe I wouldn’t have checked either, even if he did ask.
Now, though, it was a natural request for him to make, and it was just as natural that I’d do it for him. Even though he was nearly thirty years old, big as a boxcar, and had managed to survive three kinds of literal hell with little more than PTSD, he didn’t want to find sparkles in his hair ever again.
That made me shake my head. Only in our world could the guy who defeated hell be afraid of clowns. Okay, the way Sam described them, they sounded like epically creepy, scary, dangerous, terrifying, smelly clowns. But only in our world could fear of clowns be the most normal thing about Sam.
The next sort of four hours passed and when I woke up again, it was daylight and Sam was already hobbling around the room. He was still in his sweats and t-shirt, and his socks were still wrong side out.
“D’you take another dose of pills?” I asked his back as I started the process of getting out of bed. Sleep – even nearly eight hours of sleep – isn’t as refreshing as it needs to be when it comes in increments of four hours or less at a time.
“Mmm hmmm.” Some part of Sam answered my question. He was at the counter, doing something at the sink. Doing it slowly.
“You take two?”
“Mmm hmmm.” He answered again. He sounded funny.
“You okay?” I asked.
He shrugged, one shoulder, his right shoulder. His left arm seemed pressed tight across the front of him.
He turned around finally. His face was purple and blue and black and raw. Both eyes were swollen, the right one pretty much closed. And I saw why he wasn’t answering me in words – he still had his toothbrush in his mouth, tucked in at the side.
“Did you forget something, or are you multitasking?” I had to ask of the toothbrush.
He shrugged. Again. He was exhausted. Partly the drugs, partly the physical trauma, partly the mental trauma – most of which, I knew, had nothing at all to do with clowns.
“Gotta get on the road.” He said, after he took the toothbrush out. I checked my watch.
“Checkout’s at eleven, we’ve still got a few hours.” And it wasn’t like we couldn’t get on the road in three minutes, seventeen seconds if we had to. “Why are you brushing your teeth out here?”
His answer was to stick the toothbrush back in his mouth and turn back to the sink.
Okay. Whatever. He was bombed out on drugs; I supposed I was lucky he wasn’t tweaking my nose and saying he loved me, because the morning was still too early and I was still too tired for that. I accomplished the monumental task of getting myself out of bed, and yawned my way to the bathroom.
Which was still overpowered by glitter.
Which was probably why Sam was brushing his teeth at the ‘kitchen’ sink. And why he wanted out of the motel room as fast as possible.
There was just one sparkly sticky point in that plan.
A lot of them, actually.
“I hate to break it to you, Sparkles, but before we go anywhere, I think you’re gonna want me to hit the closest car vac and clean out all that glitter you shed across the front seat last night.”
I thought he’d give me an ‘oh crap’ look, but he only turned from the sink and took the toothbrush out again.
Then the toothbrush got put back in his mouth and he turned back to the sink and I tried to use the bathroom and get dressed without getting myself ‘bedazzled’ in the process.
When I came back out, I half expected Sam would have put himself back to bed he looked so bad, but he was dressed except for boots and was sitting at the table, picking glitter from the bottom of his socks and dropping the pieces into the wastebasket.
“Can we get breakfast on the way to the car vac?” He asked me.
“’We’? You want to get into the car while it’s still covered in glitter?” I asked back.
He gave me a look like he was thinking about it.
“We c’n put a blanket over it.” He offered. He really was bombed out on painkillers, I could tell. His thoughts were slurring and his eyes were squinting and his socks were still inside out.
“I think you should stay here and go lights out for another hour while I grab breakfast and ‘de-dazzle’ the car.”
He thought about it again another few seconds.
“I wanna go with you.” He said, and I swear, he might as well have tweaked my nose and said he loved me for the pout and puppy-dog eyes he gave me. He was so bombed out on drugs.
“How ‘bout this?” I gave him a counter-offer. “You keep plugging away at your socks while I clear as many sparkles out of the car as I can. Then we’ll drive-thru breakfast and you can finish sleeping in the back seat.”
He thought and nodded and said, “Okay,” and picked some more glitter off of his sock.
So I got some supplies and headed for the car. There weren’t as many sparkles in it as there was in the bathroom; Sam hadn’t done anything more than just sit in the front seat. I used a damp towel to swipe glitter from anything vinyl, and wrapped duct tape around my hand sticky side out to tack it up from anything carpeted. It didn’t take long, but before I was done, Sparkles had made his way from the room to the car.
Still in his stocking feet.
“C’n I help?”
“Almost done.” I told him, but he stayed there. “Sammy? I’m almost done, go on back inside.”
“Well, for one thing – how about to put your boots on?” And to not scare any small children who might walk by, I thought but didn’t say.
“D’you get it all out?” He asked. He sounded a little wary and I knew I so had to get him a clown birthday card next year.
“Most of it, anyway. We can still hit a gas station and use a vacuum on it, just to be sure.”
And he stayed there.
“Sam – boots.”
He huffed and turned and went back into the room and I finished up and followed him in. He was sitting on his bed. His boots were on but not tied.
“Need a hand?” I asked, and he showed me his battered knuckles.
And he was nearly thirty and as big as a small mountain and could withstand a charging rhinoceros if he had to, and I lifted each of his feet in turn to set on my knee and ties his boots on for him.
Over his inside-out socks.
“Sure. C’mon, you see if you can stand upright while I pack up the car.”
I was not surprised when I had only put the key in the trunk and Sam appeared, backpack in hand.
“I was gonna get that, you know.” I told him.
“C’n do it.”
Sam wasn’t looking at me, so he didn’t see the look I gave him, the same look I’m pretty sure I gave him when he was two and three quarters and announced the same thing – ‘I c’n doot!’ – when he wanted to carry his own mess of laundry into the Laundromat and the darn thing was nearly as big as he was.
I told him the same thing now as I told him then.
“Yeah, but you don’t have to.”
Sam blew out a breath, all weariness and no pissiness.
“I’m gonna lay down in’a car, ‘kay?”
He looked at me when he said that, so he had to see me smile.
That is, if he could actually see out of either black eye.
“Yeah, Sammy. Lay down in the back, I’ll pack up the rest and get us out of here.”
I waited until he’d opened the back door and put himself inside, getting comfy against a duffel of clothes and pulling his feet in so I could shut the door for him. Then I made a last circuit of the room to be sure we left nothing but glitter behind and opened the trunk again to stow my jacket and the weapons bag.
As I was closing the trunk, I saw that Sparkle-Free the Little Brother was asleep. I pulled a blanket out of the trunk to toss over him before I got us back on the road.
He was folded up and relaxed and asleep, and that didn’t happen as often as it needed to. Sure not as often as I needed it to happen for Sam.
I tossed the blanket over him and he roused a little and blinked his black eyes.
“You okay?” I asked.
“Yeah?” He answered at first and I didn’t know why it came out a question. He blinked a couple of times again and kind of looked around before deciding, “Yeah.” He moved his hand like maybe he was going to put it around my arm, but then he didn’t, maybe because his hand was wrecked, and he just pushed his arm against mine for a second or two, like he was making sure I was there. “Yeah, m’okay.” Then he closed his eyes again and sighed himself back to sleep and I came this close to tweaking his nose because – just because – but I satisfied myself with just tapping his nose.
Turned out he wasn’t quite as asleep as I thought he was.
“Uh – I thought there was a piece of glitter on your nose?” I supplied for an answer. And boy, it really had to hurt how much Sam scrunched up his face at that. But he scrunched it up anyway.
“Dude? Don’t get weird on me.”
But he didn’t lose the scrunch face.
“Yeah, all right. I won’t.” I told him. Spoil-Sparkle-Sport.
I gave the blanket one more tuck and shut the door, then got us back on the road and kept an eye on Sparkles in the rearview mirror. He settled himself in to go back to sleep, then after a couple of minutes, without opening his eyes, he got the scrunched face again, like he was thinking about something.
Then the scrunch deepened and he tapped his nose and held his finger there like he was thinking about that.
Then the scrunch cleared and – still without opening his black eyes – Sam hmpf’d to himself and the corner of his mouth that I could see turned up in an amused smile. He pulled the blanket tighter around himself and turned his face into the duffel of clothes.
“You too.” He whispered, and went back to sleep.
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