Dean found Sam curled up asleep in the middle of the bed surrounded by all the research papers. He moved some of the papers and situated himself behind Sam nuzzling into the back of his neck, breathing his brother in. He was out like a light almost immediately, something about Sam’s even breathing, the quiet of the cabin, the comfort of the bed. But they got to have a good long nap together. He came back to himself when Sam was trying to struggle up out of bed and reach his crutches by hopping on one foot holding onto the foot of the bed.
“You would not make a good rabbit,” Dean said, stretching his whole body out and relaxing.
“Well, I’m pretty sure that’s not part of this curse or whatever it is.”
“I met a guy, in the museum. He knew a lot about the things that bit you and about the Tzizimite too.” Dean said. He dug out his phone and pulled up the photo from the O’Neill journal. “And the dude who this cabin is named for, they had his nature journals on display, look what he drew in one of them.”
Sam let go of one of the crutches and reached out for Dean’s phone, he examined the picture and whistled in approval. “That’s a really good find, Dean. Tell me more about this guy you met.”
Dean repeated the whole story of the encounter and by the end of their discussion, they agreed that it was pretty likely that the guy in the museum was the Tzizimite himself or someone who was associated with him somehow.
“So we need to cut my hair, huh?”
“But not all of it. He said it had to be ‘the best portion.’”
“I think that means the majority of it though,” Sam said.
“I guess. I’m sorry about all this, wish it was my hair we had to cut.”
“Will you do it for me?” Sam asked, sounding about ten years old and full of sadness.
Dean nodded and ducked out of the room before he started crying or something, just seeing Sam’s stricken face almost made him lose it. It was just hair, but it was such a big part of what made Sam, Sam. He reminded himself that it wasn’t Sam though, just a part, that was replaceable. And Sam sure as hell wasn’t.
When he got back to the cabin with the med kit from the car, Sam had somehow dragged one of the chairs into the bathroom and was sitting in it with a towel around his shoulders. His eyes were closed but red and puffy.
Dean leaned down and kissed his brother softly, running his hands through Sam’s glorious hair one last time. “I’m really sorry, Sammy,” Dean said as he took the first snip of hair and laid it on the counter. “But it’ll grow back, it’s replaceable. You’re not.”
Sam smiled up at him then, bright as the sun reflected in from the windows. He held Dean around the neck and kissed him back for a long time, as Dean continued to play with his hair. Finally they parted and Sam released him with a small nod.
The scissors from the med kit worked perfectly for the hair cut as they always had. They were nice and sharp for cutting bandage gauze. Dean had been cutting his brother’s hair for his whole life with these scissors. Pretty soon the shining locks were laid out in a neat bundle on the bathroom counter.
Sam stood up from the chair and shook the towel off his shoulders. He stared at himself in the mirror and grimaced. Dean left his side for a moment and returned with a rustling plastic bag.
“Got you something,” Dean said, handing Sam a bag printed with ‘Grand Canyon Gifts.’
Sam pulled out the embroidered beanie and read what it said. He laughed and scrunched the thing down onto his head. Dean stepped up behind him and kissed the back of his bare neck.
“See, now I can do this,” Dean said, “whenever I want to.”
Sam shivered and then sighed, but still didn’t say anything.
“Sammy, c’mon we gotta figure out what to do with all this hair, right?” Dean asked, trying to get Sam out of his funk.
Sam nodded and crutched back over to his laptop on the bed, he settled in and looked up ‘braided in the traditional manner’ of such a gift. Dean rambled around the cabin for a while, admiring the rough-hewn log walls and the cleverly inset windows, finally he gave up and laid down on the leather couch, and looked out the window at the cloudless sky.
“So get this, we have to make something that looks like this thing,” Sam said, turning the laptop screen around so Dean could see it from across the room.
Dean looked at the fancy, intricate braid and shook his head, knowing they’d never be able to figure out that kind of thing in time for tonight. “I have no idea how to do something like that. But I saw one kind of similar in the gift shop, think it was horse-hair.”
“Can we go get some lunch? I’m starved,” Sam said, hoisting himself up off the bed and slipping back into his shoes.
Dean looked his brother over, standing tall even hunched over for the crutches, beanie pulled down over his ears. He stepped into Sam’s space and readjusted the beanie so that the bottom of Sam’s hair could curl out from the bottom of the hat. “You look good, Sammy.” Dean leaned up and kissed him so Sam couldn’t refuse the praise.
After a short lunch in the diner, Dean showed Sam the horse-hair ropes for sale in the gift shop and they chose one that looked the closest to the one in the picture on the internet. Dean held it up to the side of Sam’s head and verified the color was fairly close to Sam’s hair.
They spent the rest of the afternoon and evening working all of Sam’s hair into the existing braid, taking turns handling the hair and the braid. It was frustrating work and Dean took several breaks to get the whisky bottle from the car and some take-out dinner from the diner.
After they curled the braid up and left it next to Sam’s pillow on the bed they saluted each other with a last tumbler of whisky.
“Here’s hoping for the best,” Dean said. Sam raised his glass in response and clinked it to Dean’s.
When they went to bed that night, Sam still had the beanie on, and Dean ran his hand over it, pulling it off slowly. Sam closed his eyes tightly, his lips in a straight line like he was trying to deny all of it.
Dean searched his mind for something to say and came up blank, he didn’t want to make it worse. He settled for running his hand through Sam’s short hair, scratching his nails in all the places that normally relaxed Sam enough to sleep. A small smile finally appeared on Sam’s face, and his eyes opened, searching Dean’s. He closed them again and drifted off to sleep. Dean set the beanie on the bedside table and curled himself into Sam’s side, holding him close.
Sam was awakened as the Tzizimite was removing the hair rope from next to his pillow.
“So this is goodbye then?” Sam asked, surprised that the thing had allowed him to be awake this time.
“Unless you’d like me to braid your hair one last time,” the small man said with an eerily wide sharp-toothed grin.
“Don’t have enough to braid anymore, it’s all in your gift there,” Sam said pointing at the rope that the man held in his delicate hands.
“I thank you for your gift, Sam Winchester. One of the finest I’ve ever received, hair coated in an angel’s grace is a prize I never knew I sought. Consider yourself unmarked and blessed,” the man bowed deeply to Sam and left without opening a door.
Sam woke Dean up then, even though the sun was barely on the rise. “Dean, he’s gone. I’m okay now.”
“So, you still wanna go see it?” Dean asked when Sam joined him in the bathroom after situating his crutches just outside the doorway. “Sunrise is gonna happen soon. It’s supposed to be the best way to see it for the first time.”
“What, the Grand Canyon? Hell yeah, we deserve it after all of this, I feel like a total idiot that I haven’t even gone out there to look,” Sam answered, re-adjusting his I-Caught-A-Jackalope embroidered beanie that Dean had bought him at the gift shop yesterday. He had lost a lot of hair to the Tzizimite, and it was enough of a change that he felt self-conscious and a little cold. The beanie helped with both things.
“Good, I never got a chance to push you around in the wheelchair,” Dean said.
“You haven’t recently taken a big life insurance policy out on me, right?” Sam teased.
“Now why didn’t I think of that? You’ve been watching too much, ‘Murder She Wrote,'” Dean snarked back. He dashed out to the car and wrestled the wheelchair out of the trunk. He brought it around to where Sam was waiting just outside their cabin. Sam hopped into the wheelchair, handing the crutches to Dean. He found a place to clip them onto the back of the chair. He pushed Sam along the paved trail to the nearest lookout spot.
“Now I see why they call it the Grand Canyon,” Sam said. The sun rose a little higher as they watched together. Sam felt Dean’s hand on his shoulder and reached up to hold it.
“Like I said, spectacular,” Dean said, kneeling next to Sam’s chair and looking at him seriously.
“Dean, you’re missing the sunrise,” Sam said, peeking at Dean sideways.
“I’m watching it reflected in your eyes,” Dean said.
“Cut it out and quite staring at me,” Sam responded, eyes darting between his brother’s still serious face and the spectacular view.
“Hey…uh, Sammy, can I ask you something?” Dean said, rummaging in his jacket pocket.
“Of course.” Sam glanced over to see an utterly terrified look on his brother’s face. “God, Dean, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing…nothing’s wrong. I just want to ask you to wear this,” Dean said, holding out a small velvet box.
Sam accepted the box from him and opened it. A silver ring, carved with runes and one inset diamond winked back at him with the reflected sunlight. Sam closed the box with a loud snap and handed it back to Dean.
Dean’s face fell and he started to put the box away in his jacket.
“Dean, stop, please. That’s not what I…I just wanted to be able to see you and I didn’t want to drop it,” Sam said, turning in the chair to be able to see Dean, desperate to stop his brother from jumping to the opposite conclusion. “Can you…can you put it on me? Please?” Sam asked, holding out his left hand.
The only way to describe Dean’s reaction was to use the word blooming. The joy burst forth on his face and moved through his whole body. He got the ring out of the box and onto Sam’s finger in just a few quick moments as if he was worried Sam would change his mind if he took too long. Sam held his hand out so both of them could see it, with the backdrop of the sunlight drenched canyon. “Thanks, Dean, I love it.”
“I’m sorry it took so long for us to get here, Sammy.”
“You mean to the Grand Canyon?” Sam asked, even though he knew what Dean meant. He just wanted to see if his brother would say it out loud.
Dean shook his head and laughed. “No, to here, right here. You and me, like this.”
“It’s been a journey, hasn’t it? I’m not sorry though, it took as long as it needed to. The point is we got here eventually.”