summary: Sam's new bracelet ushers in bad luck.
Written for oddishly who wrote me Take Your Brother Outside and The Picture of Health recently and also she is made of sparkles.
Thanks go to britomart_is for reading this over and generally telling me everything I needed to know— she survived endless poptarts, only to die of this fic. lavishsqualor was talking about Sam's bracelets so therein lay that inspiration. And there are also mentions of it being cold in SoCal sometimes, because I accidentally lied to riyku about this. Title from "Jolene" by The Weepies.
The first day, there was glitter.
It was drizzly and depressing outside and they had time to kill, so they used the one washer and one dryer that worked in the laundromat, instead of finding some place better.
Sam's clowned jacket and jeans and flannel shirt went in first. He and Dean patted themselves on the backs for this forward thinking. They'd managed to contain the clothes in a trash bag for the last couple days so as not to get the stuff everywhere, even though the car they were driving wasn't theirs and it didn't ultimately matter if they left trails of glitter in motel rooms. They dumped the outfit into the washer alone, the rest of their stuff safe and bloody and gooey in a bag, waiting its turn.
"Logic," Dean said. He sat back into a seat with his heels kicked out onto the dirty black and white tiled floor as rain slicked slow against the windows. Sam rubbed at a shell on his bracelet and spaced the fuck out.
Eventually, one of their stomachs growled, at which point Sam left to grab a couple of sandwiches down the street: rye with pastrami and two Snapple peach teas. They sat and ate them and licked mustard off their fingers and drank tea and didn't talk, but did watch the water spin by in the machine while rain blackened the road outside.
The now-washed clothes went into the dryer and Dean got the real load safely locked into the washer with a mound of laundry powder thrown in, wrinkling his nose at the smell of whatever they'd come into contact with over the past couple weeks. He hit 'high heat, heavy wash' and then took his place next to Sam again.
"Hm?" Dean looked distractedly over, before flicking his eyes out to the road on instinct. Nothing there, he looked at Sam again, then followed the distressed look to the washer, at which point he said, "Wow."
"We probably should have thought of that."
"Damn," Sam said, as their enormous darks drowned pleasantly in soap and leftover sparkles.
Unlucky things happened to them, a lot— That was the bottom line. There was sometimes logic involved, sometimes chance, sometimes the twain did meet, and sometimes Sam was just wearing a dainty bracelet that was actually a cursed talisman.
Dean got it from a toy dispenser at the latest carnival type place they passed, a muddy shithole off the side of the highway that would be cute and family fun if you went for two hours and had a life to get back to. Sam was eating a hotdog out of a paper doily thing as they walked, and stopped when Dean did by a row of twenty-five cent machines.
"Cursed items, huh?" Dean read, before wedging a quarter into the slot and cranking the wheel. He pulled out the plastic ball that rolled down the metal slide, and opened it. "Aw, man. I wanted the tattoo of the skull."
He didn't throw it away, but left it in the bathroom that night, a bracelet made of brown string and shells in the motel in Twin Pines.
The last bracelet Dean had slipped over Sam's wrist had been with no explanation while eating banana cream pie at a diner last year, and it had since been ripped off by some fanged monster. This one was ugly and looked too old to be something mass produced and cheap. It was sitting in a puddle of water on the counter. Sam put it on.
The second day, Dean was stepping out of the bathroom in jeans and a shirt, because he never took his clothes off, even to sleep, and Sam turned the laptop to him. "Hey, did you notice that the webcam is messed up on this?"
"Yeah, I was using it yesterday and it just wouldn't turn off."
"What were you even...you know, I don't want to know." Sam left his laptop. "You ready to head out?"
"I was talking to Frank, dude."
"I was!" Dean stopped on his way to grabbing his jacket. "Hey, you're wearing that bracelet."
"Yeah." Sam slipped his hand in his pocket and idled, effectively hiding the bracelet in question. So what if he liked a reminder of Dean everywhere with him? "I mean, whatever, right?"
Dean got his jacket on with a shrug and pushed past. "Yeah, whatever."
When they dragged their asses back to the motel a few hours later, Sam unfolded himself from the back seat where Dean had put him and slung and arm around Dean's shoulders after much urging.
"Embarrassing," Dean said, grunting under Sam's weight. "Headbutted by a sewer alligator."
"Nghh," Sam said, and leaned on Dean fully in retaliation.
There was a letter wedged in their room door but Dean folded it up in his jacket pocket without opening it so he could help Sam through. He grumbled a little to appear begrudging but was slow to let go when Sam collapsed woozily on his back on the springy motel bed and noted, lazily and pleased and watching Dean's face move in and out of his vision, "You always take care of me."
"You always get knocked out."
Sam winced when Dean pulled his shoes off.
Then, Dean was over him again, saying, "Man, bad luck. How are you feeling?"
He smiled into Dean's face and then let his eyes fall shut. "M'your baby brother, and I love you."
Dean said, "Oh my god." and moved on to look Sam over for injury. He checked Sam's skull for fractures and face for bruises by combing fingers through Sam's hair and then pushing his thumb over Sam's jaw respectively, scratching at stubble and kneeling over him on the puke green quilt, the last comforting thing Sam knew before passing out.
Friday, Lucifer was taking a shower and said, through the water, "Take it off."
"Take. It. Off."
Sam, used to Lucifer telling him to strip, said easily, "No, I don't think so."
"When are you going to learn to listen to me? Would I lie to you, Sammy?"
A call through from the room: "Did you say something, Sammy?"
Sam leaned his head against the door to say, "Nothing!" and then stayed there, his shoulder pressed to the frame while he brushed his teeth. Lucifer whistled 'you are my sunshine' and Sam's toothbrush broke.
"That happens?" he wondered aloud, holding the handle up for inspection, more impressed than anything.
"I told you to take it off," Lucifer gargled. "Bad luck."
"You don't even make sense." Sam washed out his mouth, then rinsed the bristles of his two-inch toothbrush and set it on the counter.
He stepped out to find Dean examining his face for glitter in the mirror.
"You're pretty," Sam said, instead of the "I broke my toothbrush" he'd planned.
Dean wiped at his cheek, then grimaced. "Shut up."
Sam was careful of his words this time. "I broke my toothbrush."
Dean paused scratching the bridge of his nose to look Sam over. "What did you do, bend it in half?"
"I just used it, I don't know." He stood there and stared at Dean, who had a sparkle on his bottom lip and on his neck. He said, "Hey, Dean? About the other day—" And at this point clamped a hand over his mouth, because what the hell?
"Huh? When you got knocked out?"
Sam shook his head. "Nothing. What I said to you though, I meant it— Oh my god, I need another toothbrush. I'm going to leave now. Bye."
He started for the door, minorly alarmed.
"The front desk probably carries them," Dean told his back.
He swung the door wide. The air was crisp and the sky slate-gray, and Sam felt uneasy. He squared his shoulders and went outside, telling himself it had just been a temporary lapse in judgment. Also, regardless of whether they were going down in the sewer again any time soon or if he was going to awkwardly declare his feelings about his brother to his brother and then they'd be done forever, he'd need a sturdy toothbrush to console himself with afterward.
Unfortunately, Dean followed him down the walk.
He nodded to the clouds. "What is this? It's the middle of February in Southern California, it's supposed to be summer."
"It was sunny a couple days ago." Sam frowned, and rubbed at his wrist. "Talk about bad luck."
The office door creaked when they stepped in. The desk clerk smiled, and kept up twirling a pen around two fingers.
"Hey, guys. What can I help you with today?"
"Hey," Sam said, and the guy smiled back even bigger. He was late twenties and gorgeous and usually Sam only ever noticed these things peripherally and then moved on. Not today, though, when Sam accidentally gave him a look back. Dammit.
"Hey," the guy said again, taking notice and leaning perceptibly against the counter. There was a beat, and then he said, "That's a nice bracelet."
Dean stepped up next to Sam. "I bought it for him."
Sam half-turned to stare at Dean, because apparently everyone was acting weird today. "Uh, right. Do you guys carry toothbrushes?"
"Yeah, what color?"
"I don't care," he answered truthfully.
"He'll have purple or pink," Dean said.
The guy took this in stride. "Okay. Right back."
He stepped through to the office, and Sam peeled a little at the flier taped to the counter with his nail, before saying, not turning, "You went a little caveman there."
"Hmph." Dean said.
He then experienced a moment of slow vertigo and knew he was about to say it. Here. Now, of all times. He was going to say that thing he barely even thought save moments of near-death or after-death or in the Cage or every time they were having breakfast or taking a long drive cross the country.
To stop himself, he leaned on the counter with his hand pressed over his mouth, but the words exploded out of him loudly, anyway, from between the cracks of his fingers: "I hope you feel the same way as I feel about you!"
He slapped his hand firmer over his mouth.
There was complete quiet behind him, save the plinking sound of rain against the glass. His stomach plummeted and kept plummeting until he finally got up the courage to turn and face the impending horror.
But Dean was outside, standing around out the door, under the awning with his hands in his pockets, ready to go. Sam sighed with a relief so intense he ended up laughing at himself.
"Hell yeah," the clerk—Ryan—said, coming back out to the front. "I'm pretty sure we're on the same page." He handed him the toothbrush and said, "No charge."
"I mean...." He bit his lip in a way that was very blatant.
"Um, thanks." Sam took the toothbrush and made his retreat.
He joined Dean by the car, where he drummed his fingers against the wet, unfinished roof to gather the words. "Are you feeling...I don't know, weird?"
Dean went fake-casual, rubbing the back of his neck and not meeting Sam's eyes. "Maybe. Are you feeling...weird?"
"I think so. Is it like...do you want to say things, you wouldn't normally say, or do things, you wouldn't normally—?"
Dean was looking at him now, from the corner of his eye but watchful. A desperate sort of dread began to claw Sam's insides, and ratcheted up a notch when Dean said, "Look, Sam...."
"Brandon!" came from far off.
Dean still had his midthought face on, watching Sam. The moment filled like a balloon between them with a sort of panic around the edges, barely hidden but still visible in how they were frozen in time and staring and too engaged.
"You going to finish that sentence?" Sam snapped, because really.
Close behind him came, "Brandon, hey."
Dean nodded. "That's you, dude."
Sam may have frowned, telling, before he dragged himself away.
Ryan was jogging up. "Brandon."
"So, a few of my buddies are coming down tomorrow night to have some drinks by the pool. You two feel free to drop by, you hear?"
"If you're still around. Schedule said you might be."
There wasn't even a small part of Sam that cared at that moment, but he remembered his cover, a nice guy just passing through. He said, "Oh. You know...."
But then Dean said, under his breath and barely audible, "Pasty and dark-haired, just the way you like 'em," and then slammed into the car.
In the wake of the moment, Ryan was still looking at him, good natured and not apprised of anything he was asking for. "So?"
"Definitely," Sam amended, and made a face at Dean through the dirty windshield.
"Great! That's...that's really great."
Sam nodded tightly.
"Yeah." Ryan's smile was clear and untroubled, like sunlight dappling the surface of a lake. Sam felt like the yeti in the trees. Ryan walked backward to the office, saying, "See you."
That night, after research and a battery of small tasks concerning rituals and weaponry, Sam had all but confirmed that some part of him or his immediate surroundings was cursed. That afternoon, he had stepped off the curb wrong and tweaked his ankle. He'd dropped his cellphone in his cup of water at lunch and had gone stuttery twice when Dean looked his way, heart knocking his ribs like he was fifteen again. He felt on edge and too big for his own skin.
Back at the motel, Dean sipped from Bobby's dinged up old flask to the car crashes and hilarious dialogue of Fast Five. The laptop had been open for who knew how long, still plugged in and cutting down battery life. There were pieces of popcorn and empty beer cans near the trash where they'd missed. It felt like things were subtly falling to ruin.
Meanwhile, Sam locked himself in the bathroom to consider the crappy bracelet that rested along the bones of his wrist, brown string with mini seashells knotted in, understated and seemingly innocuous.
Once he thought about it, it seemed obvious. Bad luck, Lucifer had said. He thought maybe he should cut it off. But what if it was supernaturally locked on? And if he did manage to get it off, would it mean worse luck?
"This is like that rabbit's foot thing," he said aloud, tasting for veracity with his tongue.
What if it killed the wearer? He thought maybe he shouldn't take it off. But then, was it worth the risk? Keeping it on forever with him spouting poetry about Dean's mouth and eyelashes just to avoid a death that was long-overdue?
He hooked a finger under the rope and tested its elasticity. It had come from a fair machine that peddled plastic jacks and obscene stickers to five-year-olds, and yet it could very possibly mean the termination of Sam's very precarious existence.
He stepped out into the room, and Dean jerked out of dozing and frowned over at him and said, "Hngh?" with his hair stuck up everywhere.
"I think my bracelet's cursed," Sam thought about saying. Instead, he got caught checking out Dean's ass.
He had learned to be good at that by now, had known on a visceral level by the time he was fifteen to keep those glances furtive and unseen like everything else he did in his life. This slip up just proved the point.
"Sam?" Dean prompted.
Fighting a hot awareness, Sam glared at him and stolidly refused to stand down. Dean was his brother, he could stare at him if he wanted, nothing wrong with that.
Dean finally muttered something incoherent and turned over again, fumbling for a bag of sunflower seeds.
"Bad luck," Sam said under his breath, and it tasted true.
They killed the sewer monster the next day, but only after Sam got knocked out again. He dropped from consciousness with a feeling of resignation, was out for a minute probably, and then reopened his eyes to the specter of Dean's silhouette showering salt onto a mountainous lump that reeked of dead thing.
"This is getting really—" Dean huffed, when Sam struggled up on elbows in the muck. "Ridiculous."
He lit the body on fire and then dragged Sam up the tunnel by the collar of his jacket.
Once outside in the world, they went through their ritual of shucking all grossness into the back seat, all the trappings of a sodden underworld, so that afterward, job done, they got food at a diner in rolled flannel sleeves like normal folk, elbows on the table, the quiet croon of music from the fifties filling the corners where they'd gone quiet.
Sam didn't trust his mouth to say anything. His gaze lingered on the bracelet, which encircled his wrist like a teasing clamp. He told himself that if he survived this, he would never put anything on himself that he hadn't first checked, ever again.
Dean took his reticence for moodiness and clenched his jaw a lot and chatted up the waitress. Sam fell into a real sulk at that, the sun dipping beyond the buildings and Dean angling a smile up at Charlene who had red lipstick and probably a whole lot else Sam couldn't offer. He slumped back in the booth, imagining how the table they were at had probably played stage for many similar moments, endless evenings of diet coke and a preponderance of ranch dressing while unfortunate feelings cluttered up the condiments.
They met up with the guys by the pool. Sam wasn't too thrilled at the idea of small talk with the locals, hadn't been a college guy since, well, college, and even then.... But he and Dean were in a sort of understood silence by now, and they'd only have been drinking in front of a western instead.
The sky was dripping a little, and green pool lights lit the water. Sam, getting down to swim trunks, wondered whether the bracelet would drown him by way of an embarrassing slip, and if that would be that.
They passed around a bottle of Jack and drank out of mugs from the office, and then tumbled into the pool buzzed. Ryan's two friends thought Dean was hilarious, and Dean told his five good jokes and they went from there.
It was all good until Ryan said, "So...."
Dean didn't look at either of them, just waded to the side and pulled himself up out of the pool.
Guys like Ryan usually fell into the gray area of Dean's human interaction, too median-aged and male to warrant any manipulation, so this was something else. Sam looked back to Ryan, feeling he needed to apologize to someone at least. "He does that."
"I'm glad," Ryan said, and touched Sam's waist underwater.
Sam was a big guy, so getting cornered against the wall of the pool wasn't completely possible without his say-so. But it was only a quarter interest; mainly he was surprised at this kid's gall. It was laughable. Sam had killed a lot of people, he always thought about that when someone got their hands on him. The worst of lies by omission.
Past Ryan's shoulder, he saw Dean drink a lot of the bottle in one swig, throat working, and then sling the handle over to this other dude who looked appropriately impressed. That's my brother, Sam had thought on many occasions, and thought it then, too. Best at everything.
And then Ryan's face was in his line of sight, obscuring the view, and he was letting the water bob him forward to press his mouth to Sam's once, three seconds, five, and then say, "Your move."
Sam felt the way he always did when he kissed someone in front of Dean. The whole enterprise seemed useless and laughable while this person who he adored stood by and let it happen.
He didn't follow up. He waited it out in a way where he politely declined to make his move long enough, swimming laps and doing handstands and carefully ignoring Dean but also Ryan, that it became clear he was never going to.
It felt like a near miss, point made. Ryan conceded with dignity, save for the time somewhere a lot later in the night, after things progressed and they finished off all the booze, when Dean "closed his eyes for a second," laid out on his back on the concrete, arms and legs akimbo and mouth hanging open, and Ryan got borderline overzealous in his Sharpie art.
Sam watched him draw the fifth dick on Dean's face and smiled a blissful smile of one who got to be there for certain when Dean woke up.
It was with some distress that Sam jerked awake the next morning. It was the seventh day since he'd put on the bracelet, and he sat up at the abrupt and jarring banging at the motel room door. He glanced at Dean, who had his gun out already and nodded to him. He got up and turned the handle.
It was Ryan. Sam hid the knife behind his back and leaned against the door, the picture of casual. "Hey."
"Look," the guy said, features anemic and wan in the daylight. "Can I talk to you?"
"Is Jason awake?"
Sam craned his neck back and gave Dean a wide-eyed look and then turned back to the guy, who was shifting from one foot to the other. "Yes," he said again.
"Could I talk to you outside?"
Third time was the charm. Sam tucked the knife in the waist of his pants as he stepped out and left the door ajar.
Ryan launched in. "There were clues. I mean, I should have realized when I saw him walking with his arm around you."
"What?" Sam thought back. "Oh, he wasn't— I mean. Okay, yeah, he had his arm around me."
"And the way he got wasted when he saw me kiss you."
"That wasn't, I just—"
"Or when he threatened my life, that was a big one."
"He threatened your life?" Sam asked.
There came a loud exclamation from the room. "Do I have dick face? Is that what's happening here!"
Sam shoved the door closed with his heel.
"Tell me more," he said. Mainly because he had a detective's nose for clues, he couldn't leave this misunderstanding unoverturned.
"I don't want to get in the middle of something, is all. I don't know your story. I thought you were sharing a room because you were poor or something, but I shouldn't have assumed."
"And the FBI called. That's another, unrelated reason I shouldn't pursue things with you. They say they're on their way, and that they've been watching you guys on livestream, or something?"
"The webcam," Sam said. "They must of hacked it."
Ryan frowned. "Yeah, I'm doing my PhD, you know? I don't want to get kicked out of school over a few hot nights with a wanted criminal."
He had the face of one trying to convince himself.
"Well, it was nice to meet you," Sam said.
Dean wrenched the door open. "Sam!"
"Bye," the guy said, all teary eyed.
"Later." Sam shoved Dean back inside with a hand to the chest.
"A little early to be breaking hearts," said Dean.
Sam replied with something noncommittal.
Sam shook his head, hair flopping over his eyes. "I just fell into it for a day or two."
Dean was watching him with his eyebrows drawn together but a cool competency, otherwise, like maybe he was planning how to make things okay for the time being. Sam thought, Dean was the only one who Sam could be trusted with. He couldn't be broken. Sam knew it because Dean had been calling his bluff since day one, and that sent that old shudder through him, his own skin betraying him.
The situation was so dire, Sam couldn't even manage more than a milktoast smile at the way one of the drawn cocks nudged the corner of Dean's lips when he said, "Sammy," and even that felt more like wistful longing than amusement.
But then Dean said, "So...." His mouth forming an O, and okay yeah, so it was funny. Sam screwed up his mouth and Dean snapped, "Sam. Eyes up here."
Sam rolled his lip between his teeth and then got it together, to focus on the more immediate misfortune. "Look, I think this bracelet's giving me a weird string of bad luck."
He waved his arm around, showing off the bracelet. "I think it's like the rabbit's foot. All these things—"
He looked to the letter and the laptop and the lingering glitter and remains of his toothbrush, and rubbed the bump on his forehead from the baby alligator.
"And I keep saying stuff I don't want to say."
"Stuff you don't want to say—" Dean hedged, "But stuff you think."
Sam sidestepped answering with silence, which held and went taught like a live wire. Dean pinned him with a look.
Of course Dean understood now, the power of the bracelet compelling everything unfortunate to occur. Dean understood, for once in his life. Here, now. But maybe they'd never have to talk about it. Shovelfuls of loose hope seemed to be filling Sam's chest, like they'd already tried to burn this thing and were trying to again, but with enough salt this time. Maybe they both could forget.
Dean seemed to have come to some agreement, leaving Sam in the dust. He nodded and said, "Okay."
Whenever Dean lunged at him it was usually for good reason. So Sam stood his ground when Dean stepped in and grabbed for the collar of his shirt. He wobbled back a half step and secured a hand in Dean's jacket pocket for balance.
"Hey!" he said, and pulled out an envelope as Dean's mouth collided with his ear. "Why does this read jury duty? And it's addressed to Brandon Harris. That's me!"
Dean groaned and knocked his head against Sam's shoulder like it was a hard wall, hands slipping to flatten against Sam's chest and rest there. Sam felt a full body frisson, but he was meanwhile overcome with the additional indignity of receiving a jury duty summons under a fake identity.
"It's seriously the bracelet," he said. Dean gave Sam a look, apparently feeling the same annoyance Sam did.
"Forget it," Dean said, and grabbed the envelope and tossed it over his shoulder to flutter onto the floor.
Then, no warning given, he snaked his arm around Sam's waist, like he was about to tug Sam against him and end this movie. Sam held rigid, waiting for the catch, which did come a second later. Dean grabbed the knife from Sam's waistband and then took Sam's wrist in a delicate grip. He sliced the bracelet off between them and then pulled out his Zippo and burnt the thing, right there on the lacquered desk.
"Thanks," Sam said.
Dean said, "Next time I'll buy you real jewelry."
"Do you want to get out of here or what?" He gave Sam a hard look, like Sam was arguing.
"Sam," Dean said, gripping Sam by his shirt front again but making it clear this time. He said, voice roughed over, "Yes or no, man?"
"Yes," Sam said, all disbelief. And where that word had wrought havoc on his life before, today it was his favorite.
Bracelet gone, they managed to skirt the FBI, who swooped into the parking lot just as Sam and Dean had pulled out onto the road. Leaving town felt like leaving bad luck behind, with a trail of burnt rubber to mark their jumping off point.
In the motel two towns over, the door clicked shut behind them. Dean stopped to brush a hand over his hair so raindrops flung off everywhere, and then he stumbled over his feet when Sam pushed him insistently to a bed while thunder rolled outside and made the electricity short.
When Dean took off his shirt, his back was sparkling, a billion tiny fragments of color twinkling in the flickering light, dusting off onto the carpet and bedspread and Sam's hands as he rubbed them up Dean's skin and mouthed where his shoulders came together.
And it was good.