when Sam was mauled by a bear
by Maygra for Cee
for cee who did not ask for a bear, but got one anyway.
around 2,400 words. many, many thanks to aukestrel, estrella and bone.
Sam's grown into his scars.
Dean knows all of them, where, why, and how. No pencil marks on the door frame for them, either of them. Growing up is notched in their flesh.
Most of Sam’s are old, half as old as Sam; eleven for the first, the first that mattered that wasn't tripping on the steps, or falling off a bike, but the unfortunate result of picking up a knife before his father could say "Don't touch that…" or even "Be careful." Because it was sharp, sharp, sharp, and Sam was so startled he dropped it. Nearly lost a toe with that one, and now he's got a thin-line-white check mark between the last two toes of his left foot.
He's got three tiny round ones on his thigh, hardly noticeable. Three only because the dog's owner pulled it back before it could get a really good grip and Sam had been only seven. He knew better than to touch strange things, but it had been a dog on a leash. "You startled him," the man said, fearing lawsuits and rabies isolation and thinking it would be okay because Sam didn't cry or wail, he'd only bled a little. John had picked him up and Sam's blood had smeared on his jeans and his shirt. Dean had stared at the dog long and hard but it was only a dog.
A nick here, a slice there; Sam had scars from childhood like every other kid.
Then there are those that aren't like the others, and the stupid jingle from Sesame Street plays through Dean's head when he traces the three white marks on Sam's upper arm. Claws.Talons. A stupid-as-shit chimera outside Holyoke that had some weird ambition to be a lion or something other than what it was and Sam had been caught in the midst of its changing state.
"Dude, you got nailed by a mutant rooster." That one Dean can tease him about now (not then) and Sam will roll his eyes and even smile, because the pain's long gone and the swelling that lasted almost a week is forgotten and he doesn't remember how scared he was when he whispered to Dean in the dark that he couldn't feel his hand.
The others, though… Dean's more careful when he teases Sam about the others and most of the time he doesn't. He fingers the long ones on the inside of Sam's left arm, the ones that run all the way from wrist to elbow. Time has turned them white and flattened them out. Cat scratches -- they could pass.
Sam said he never really fit in at school and the scars are partly why. He couldn't leave them behind, couldn't unexplain them, so he had to come up with new reasons. Some easier than others, probably, and sometimes not at all because he hid them. Had even before he left. Old habits, really. You'd think changing schools as often as they had no one would notice, but someone almost always did, harried teachers, usually, who watched them struggle to catch up, who, for whatever reason, didn't ignore the bruises or the scratches or the scars they could see.
Everything all right at home?
It took Sam some time, and their father a few meetings, for Sam to realize that claiming to be clumsy only made people look harder, because Sam so obviously wasn't clumsy. Not at eleven, not at thirteen or fifteen or ever after. By sixteen they'd mostly stopped asking because, you know, too old to really intervene.
Sam hid them anyway. Out of habit.
Dean's got his own; slices thin and thick, some rough, some smooth. More than Sam, scattered over his body like a different kind of journal. A travelogue of where he's been and what he's seen, what they've seen. A record of both success and failure. Success because he’s still here; failure because he'd gotten marked in the first place. There's a long, nasty one across his ribs on his left side, perfectly placed between the eighth and ninth ribs, raised and hardened, like an extra bone outside his skin. Sam traces it with thumb and forefinger, from his belly to his back, and then reverses the path with his fingers pressing harder against the bone -- testing the difference.
Scar tissue isn't supposed to have nerve endings, but when Sam replaces his fingers with his mouth, Dean's sure he can feel the ache and burn and, sometimes, the incredulous stupidity he felt when he got them. Eighteen and Sam had helped him back to the car, their father bringing up the rear, Dean's blood soaking into Sam's shirt and onto his skin, then on his hands when Sam cleaned and dressed the gouges while Dad drove them home. Sam's hands hadn't started shaking until after he was done and Dean had pulled him down to stretch out on the seat with him, catching his father's eye in the rearview.
Dean remembers that ride more clearly than most, even through a haze of adrenaline and pain. Miles and miles and hours of Sam's lanky bones and angles pressed against him, hair brushing Dean's throat and soaking up the moisture that Sam would never admit were tears and that were probably the last Sam would shed over this, over them, for a long, long time.
The seat was narrow and Dean's side burned like fire every time he breathed. Sam's hip was pressed to his, tucked against the rise of the back seat and Dean’s side. Reaching across, Sam had held the edge of the seat, like he could keep Dean from falling or being jostled too much over rough roads or to bridge a gap that was already forming. Dean's hand had rested there, at Sam's waist and hip, denim and cotton under his fingertips, the heat of Sam's skin bleeding through.
Dean's fingers had found the scars there, through the cotton, thin and damp with sweat, could feel the unnatural rise of flesh that erupted from the waistband of Sam's jeans and across his belly. A raised welt, only a year or so old, still red and angry looking the few times Sam ever let either Dean or his father see it.
Sam had started layering his clothes then, button-down over t-shirt, loose and obscuring. Body conscious as he hadn't been, as guys usually weren't, and the first time Sam had so quickly shoved his shirt down to hide that scar, a flush to his face, Dean had rolled his eyes and told him to stop being such a girl.
Sam had punched him. Hard. Left his nose bloody and dripping before slamming out of the house. Thirteen and a temper Dean hadn't seen before -- not in Sam anyway.
A year forward and Sam hadn't stopped him from touching those hidden remnants, those revenants of a job gone, horribly, horribly wrong. And God love their father and their training because Sam had turned in to claws as big as his head, rather than pulling away, rather than having his belly and chest ripped open.
It had opened him nearly to the bone anyway. Hip and ribs, and when the thing was dead, dead, dead, there was more of Sam's blood matting its fur than its own. And Sam tucked in against the furs and claws and bulk like some feral wild-child adopted by wolves or bears. No extra baby fat any longer to protect him at all, just bone and skin that had stretched and grown into a thin sheath when Sam started finding his height.
The scar grew with him. Stretched from thigh to shoulder, a long snaking line of red and welted flesh, sometimes one line but three even stripes across his hip and his shoulder, like a finger-painted abstract across his flesh.
To hide it all Sam needs a t-shirt, short-sleeved at least, with a round neck because a tank will show the curving end of it across his shoulder and under his arm.
What did you tell her? Dean's fingers track the whole length of it, white now but still raised. If he really tries he can still see the tiny fringed edges where the stitches had been: his father's at the hip, his own at Sam's shoulder. They've flattened now and you have to look hard, but Dean can count them like he'd just placed them.
We should go to the hospital.
It looks worse than it is. His father's voice so calm, so steady.
We could tell them it was a bear.
In Detroit? It looks worse. Get to work.
What did you tell her? Dean's lips press to the knotted intersection of the worst of it on Sam's hip, the bone rising up beneath it, making it thinner, whiter against pale skin. The touch of Dean’s mouth makes the skin around it flush, across Sam’s chest, and his stomach flutters with one, two, three quick breaths.
I told her it was a car accident.
Sam's fingers tease through his hair and his eyes are glitter-bright in the darkness, hiding nothing. I don't think she would have believed that I was mauled by a bear.
There's laughter there, and the brightness of Sam's eyes has nothing to do with sorrow at all.
It's a better story. Under his tongue, the scar is smooth as silk, none of the fine dark hairs that soften Sam's belly, no freckles like those that paint the rest of his skin. Like the rest of him is marred and marked and this is pure, untouched, remade without blemish.
Dean’s hand can't span the widest of three scars, thumb tip to spread palm and he's an inch or so short of being able to bridge the parallel lines. Lips and tongue and the light scrape of teeth, salt and the hum of heat and the faint tremor when Sam takes a breath and holds it. There's no taste quite like forgiveness, nothing quite like history to bind and Dean can taste that too. If he sucks lightly on the raised edges, they will turn pink, like he's drawing life to the dead flesh, or the life beneath it is struggling to break free.
Sam releases his breath but he still trembles, licks his lips, strokes Dean's hair and the back of his neck, toying with the knot of cord that holds Dean's talisman. It was never protection against Sam; it was never meant to be.
His tongue leaves the skin wet and glistening, the scar tissue too slick and too hard to absorb it. Dean breathes on it and the skin dries, never changing.
When Sam left this scar was still red and vivid against his skin. It’s paler now, from being hidden, from rarely seeing the light of day. Across his pectoral and just above one rose brown nipple it turns dark again, so the swirl and curve across his shoulder and under his arm still looks angry and immediate.
Did she believe you?
Sam shrugs and shifts and Dean licks another clean line across the smooth tissue, smiles when Sam’s fingers flex, then flatten across the back of his neck, urging him to more, again, there.
She didn’t have any other explanation. I guess so.
At his shoulder, the scar’s flatter and wider. It had gone deeper, the curved claws ripping through muscle, and Dean sees him flex it occasionally, even now, roll it back like the skin doesn’t quite fit or it aches still.
Sam’s fingers know where all Dean’s scars are, all the ones he can touch, and some that he can’t really. The ones he missed, he asks about, and adds them to the calligraphy patterns his fingers draw along Dean’s back and sides, along the inside of his thigh. Fingers, then tongue, tracing the shallow line along his collarbone, the one along Dean’s jaw that you can’t really see unless Dean forgets to shave one day too many.
There’s newer ones too, on both of them. Some not really scars and maybe never will be. There’s a spit pattern of smooth red dots on Dean’s chest, the last of the scabs from rock salt and confusion leaving new skin. Dean thinks they’ll fade entirely but until they do, Sam’s got an apology for every one of them.
Sam’s got a new scar on the inside of his left elbow, bisecting the older ones. That one will stay, remind them of the Hookman and morality and judgment and punishment. I earned that one, Sam says, and holds Dean down when he straddles and settles. If I’ve got the scar, I get to enjoy the sin, he says, and Dean is in no position or inclination to deny Sam his sins, although it would be nice if he’d move a little faster and shift…yeah. There…like that, Sam…God…just like that. Damn. Damn…God damn…
Probably, Sam says and leans over, braces his hands, and Dean’s fingers fit right there, over Sam's side and chest, curved around Sam’s hip to pull him closer, pull him down, the scars slick under the heel of his hand. Dean's other hand curves around Sam’s shoulder, pushing him back, bracing his fall, the muscles tight and hard. The sweat on his skin makes the long white scar glisten and shine, like silver when light slides across skin, like maybe Sam’s soul is trying to escape or bleed out.
Dean presses hard, holds it in, holds Sam in and himself in Sam, and it all blurs and fades and goes white with time and heat and promises they can’t keep and never speak but bind them just the same.
Tomorrow, Sam will pull on a shirt or three and hide his scars, hide that scar, the one that he’ll never lose, that will only stretch thinner as time goes by. He won’t show it, won’t let other people see it if he can help it.
You shouldn’t be embarrassed.
What then? What?
Not fair… Sam says. Not fair that anyone can see the worst of mine and no one can the worst of yours…
You hide yours… Sam’s breath is moist and warm against his lips, his voice less than a whisper. So, they’ll just be ours…we’ll be the only ones who can see them.
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