“Valuables” by Ridley C. James
In the end, what affects your life most deeply are things too simple to talk about.
“Which do you like best?” Jessica held up the white shirt and then the green one with a questioning look on her pretty face.
Kim's brows drew together as she twisted a strand of her dark curls around her finger and she frowned in deep consideration. “Go with the green, it will match his eyes."
Sam Winchester lifted the eyes in question from his art history text he was reading and shot an inquisitive look of his own to his roommate Pete. “Why are they going through my closet?”
The girls had invaded their dorm room about thirty minutes earlier and had immediately descended on Sam's wardrobe. As sparse as it was, it still managed to make quite the mess as it had been tossed over chairs and on his and Pete's beds.
“I'm guessing they want you to look well-groomed at graduation tomorrow.” Peter glanced over his shoulder at the girls and then smirked at Sam. “No torn jeans and Ozzy shirts allowed.”
Kim held up a black Metallica shirt. “Although this could rock with the right sports jacket and designer slacks.”
Pete laughed. “Ever the fashion major, my girlfriend.”
Sam stood and snatched the shirt from the girl. “Remind me why we are going to graduation? We're freshmen.”
Kim shot her best friend a look as Sam reverently folded the shirt and placed it back in the top drawer of his dresser. The blonde shrugged. Sam wouldn't let her touch the shirt either. “I told you, Sam. The guest speaker is amazing.”
Pete spun his computer chair around. “So, it's like a famous rapper or a movie star?”
“Better,” Jessica replied, with a dreamy look on her face. “It's a doctor.”
“That doesn't sound very 'amazing'.”
Kim tossed a wadded up pair of socks at her boyfriend. “It is if you want to be a doctor some day.”
“Well, I'm leaning towards business so unless he's bringing his close friends Donald Trump and Bill Gates with him, I'm not that interested.” He glanced at the pile of clothes. “Especially if you two are going to dress me up like your own personal Ken doll too.”
Kim rolled her eyes. “Oh you're going, Mister. Remember that boring brunch of your mother's I went to last month?”
“Are they going to be serving shrimp puffs and champagne at the ceremony tomorrow, because I remember you didn't seem to mind the spread so much.”
“Don't worry, Peter,” Jessica spoke up, sitting cross-legged on her boyfriend’s bed. “You weren't far off when you mentioned Donald Trump. This doctor probably knows him personally. His family is from old money.”
Sam leaned back against the dresser and crossed his arms over his chest. “So who is this mystery man?”
Jessica smiled at him. “You probably haven't heard of him, but trust me, he's brilliant.”
“And hot.” Kim bobbed her eyebrows. “For an older guy, he's got it going on.”
“Now the truth is revealed.” Peter shook his head sadly. “Rich doctor with good looks to boot.” He glanced at Sam. “Face it, man. They're just taking us along to accessorize their outfits.”
Sam grinned as Jessica sighed. She had the cutest pout when she felt she wasn't getting her way. “I have no problem with being a trophy boyfriend, Jess. As long as you and Doctor Wonderful have a strictly professional relationship that is.”
The young woman frowned. “Sam, he's nearly old enough to be my father.”
“I like older more mature men.” Kim shot her boyfriend a disgusted look. “Especially ones that aren't still attached to their mommy's umbilical cord.”
“Ouch!” Peter grabbed his chest and pretended to gasp his last breath.
Sam laughed. “Put us both out of our misery here. Who is this super physician?”
Jessica leaned over to grab the backpack she had tossed by the door and dug through it, pulling out a leaflet. She held it up. “Dr. Mackland Ames.”
Sam felt the blood rush from his head, and was thankful for the support of the chest of drawers behind him. Mac.
He hadn't talked to the doctor in almost a year now. The last time he had spoken to anyone from his other life was November past when Caleb had shown up unexpectedly to ask Sam for help in finding Dean. That hadn't gone well and now…Mackland was here.
“I was hoping to meet him, but one of my professors described him as not being the social type,” Jessica was saying as Sam zoned back into there conversation.
“Meaning he's arrogant, smug, and probably has more hype than Prince's comeback album.”
“He's not arrogant,” Sam defended, before he could catch himself.
Pete shot him a look. “Like you know the man,
Sam shrugged. “I'm just saying if he's supposed to be the top in his field…it's not called arrogance. It's called confidence.”
Jessica nodded in agreement. “I think he's just protective of his work.”
Kim snorted. “Yeah, like you said before, there's a fine line between genius and crazy.”
Sam frowned, his green eyes going to Jessica. “What do you mean?”
The blonde shrugged. “I just meant that some of his newer research on neurosurgery has more to do with the atypical than what you would expect from someone of his stature.”
The dark haired girl harrumphed. “What she means is he's been spending too much time locked up in his lab trying to bend spoons with his mind.”
“Excuse me.” Sam took a shaky step forward.
Jessica propped a hand on her hip and glowered at Kim. “His research has merely expanded to include paranormal abnormalities caused by traumatic brain injury as well as the more accepted neurological explanations for unusual incidences.”
“So he's like a freak doctor?” Peter leaned forward, actually seeming interested now.
“No.” Sam and Jessica answered at the same time.
“He's not a freak, Peter,” the girl added. “He's a well-respected surgeon who isn't afraid to think outside the box.”
Kim grinned, mischievously. “He's a psychic, too.”
Sam shot a panicked look towards Kim but the girl was staring at Jessica. “I told you that was a rumor.” Jessica sighed. “One of Kelly's criminal justice professors said he consults for the FBI on occasion.”
“As in psychological profiling?” Peter asked.
Jessica shook her head. “No. As in locating missing persons by using psychometry.”
“Psychometry?” Peter continued to dig, and with each question Sam felt himself sink a little further into the muck of it all.
“Yes.” Jessica replied. “The ability to touch an object and read an impression from it…garnering vital information that could be used in an investigation.”
“And you believe that?” Kim tossed her hair. “Next thing I know you'll be telling me you believe in ghosts and Bigfoot, too.”
“Oh, man.” Pete rubbed his hands together. “So maybe this will be an interesting graduation speech after all. Wonder if he could help me find that watch I lost last month? Or maybe he'll see if anyone in the audience wants to speak to loved ones that have crossed over.”
“He doesn't perform parlor tricks!” Sam snapped, feeling his face start to burn. This wasn't good. This was exactly why he didn't want any of his friends to ever encounter the life he had tried to escape. Even Mackland, who was by far the most respectable member of The Brotherhood, was a target for recrimination.
“Of course he doesn't.” Jessica agreed, giving Pete a heated look. “He's saved hundreds of lives with his surgical prowess and continues to make a mark on the medical and psychological fields with his research. The man is a master. Like Picasso.”
“Who was also crazy by the way.” Pete pointed out, but raised his
mock surrender when both
Sam sighed, letting some of the tension drain from his shoulders. He was overreacting. No one knew his connection to Mackland and if he was careful, he could keep it that way.
“I'd say we've all got issues if we're going to sit through hours of speeches on a perfectly good Saturday that we could be spending at the beach.”
“Amen to that, my man.” Peter agreed.
“But you'll do it. Right?” Jessica looked at him and tilted her head. “It's important to me.”
And the pouting thing was back and Sam felt his stomach knot up. “Sure. I wouldn't miss it.”
And Sam was glad he hadn't missed it.
Dr. Mackland Ames had wowed the crowd with his knowledge of things not only medical but with his profound story of the day that changed his life…giving him a glimpse into the things that really mattered.
He shocked the audience of young and old by telling of not only his starry-eyed climb to the summit of the medical profession but also of his staggering fall from grace. No one spoke as he described the drunk-driving accident that robbed him of his ability to walk and speak, and the monumental effort it took to reclaim his life as his own. Only Sam knew the true extent to which the injuries changed his focus on the world, but not many held a dry eye in the room.
The doctor was charming, sincere, knowledgeable and funny in all the right places. He spoke to the graduating class of his years in college, medical school, the fear and the excitement he felt upon leaving the structured world of academia for the great unknown beyond.
Mackland then addressed the parents and families with a voice choked
as he told of the immense pride he felt when his only son graduated
He ended on a positive note by addressing the future graduates of Stanford, which he proudly revealed included his godson.
Mackland asked them to hold tight not only to the knowledge they would gain, but to all the valuable experiences and relationships they would accumulate along the way. The doctor revealed that it was those valuable assets that would lead them to the people they were meant to be and give them the only true success. In the end it didn't really matter the amount of degrees one held or the letters after one's name…but what was important was the good one brought into the world by being a part of it.
Sam was not surprised when Mac exited to a standing ovation.
“Oh, wow, he is incredible,” Kim confessed as she watched the physician mingle with some professors and students off to their right. “And even more yummy in person.”
“Told you.” Jessica beamed. She elbowed Pete who rolled his eyes.
“I guess he was okay.”
“Are you kidding me?” Kim scoffed. “You were stealing tissues from my purse half way through.”
“I got something in my eye, woman.”
“Yeah.” Sam snorted. “They're called tears, Dude. And they're for girls like you.”
“What did you think, Sam?” Jessica asked, looking at her boyfriend. Kim and Pete pinned him with matching gazes also.
“Do tell, Samuel. What did you think?” All four students turned when the newcomer's voice surrounded them. Dr. Mackland Ames was not more than two feet away, a handsome grin plastered on his face. “I threw that quote by Emerson in there just for you.”
For a moment Sam felt paralyzed, but then he remembered the feeling of warmth that had rushed through him as the doctor had spoken of his second family. As he talked about the people who had helped him rise above his cursed existence to become more than he ever imagined he could be. About his brothers, his son and his godson.
“It was amazing, Mac.” Sam stepped forward and was engulfed in the other man's strong embrace. “As usual.”
“I've missed you,” Mac said softly, and then pulled a way. “Let me get a good look at you.” He held the boy at arm's length and shook his head. He glanced to the young ladies. “I know one of you helped him put this wardrobe together, because Sam has never been talented in that area I'm afraid.”
“We did.” Kim offered with an enamored smile in the doctor's direction. “Although we couldn't do anything with the hair.”
“Kim!” Jessica scolded.
Mackland laughed. “I'm afraid more stubborn souls than you have tried that feat.”
“Why am I feeling like I'm going to be tasting the rubber soles of my shoes for a very long time?” Pete sighed, raking a hand through his short hair.
Sam grinned, not wanting to leave his friends in suspense any longer. “Guys this is Mackland Ames…” Sam smiled wondering when Mackland had decided to describe him as a godson. “My godfather.” He supposed it was better than trying to explain the truth and he had already used the ‘uncle’ bit with Caleb.
“Oh my God.” Jessica elbowed her boyfriend. “Why did you let me ramble on like that?”
“I suppose he didn't tell you about me?” Mac raised an amused eyebrow at Sam. “And here I thought his father was the skeleton in the closet.”
Sam sighed, understanding that the older hunter was trying to make the uncomfortable moment as painless as possible. “Sorry. Jessica this is Mac. Mac this is my girlfriend Jessica.”
The doctor shook the girl's hand. “It's a pleasure. I always imagined Sam would find someone as beautiful as his mother if he waited long enough.”
The girl blushed and Sam was taken aback for a moment by the sincerity he saw reflected in Mackland's warm gaze. The man couldn't have paid Jessica a better compliment if he had tried, and he felt a momentary rush of guilt for not wanting anyone to connect him to the doctor.
Sam swallowed thickly. “And this is my roommate Pete and his girlfriend, Kim.”
The doctor shook both their hands. “It's a pleasure to get a glance
Sam's secret life here at Stanford. We were beginning to think he was
“You're telling me.” Pete shook his head. “As tightlipped as he is, I was seriously thinking he was part of the federal witness relocation program.”
Mac laughed. “I hate to break it to you, son, but Sam's family is as boring and normal as the next kid's.” The doctor winked at Sam. “Just don't ever ask to meet his Uncle Bobby.”
“If he's anything like his Uncle Caleb we wouldn't mind,” Kim replied and her boyfriend groaned.
“I think that is our cue to be hitting the buffet line, girl.”
“Wait, I'll come with,” Jessica spoke up. She glanced to Sam and then to Mackland. “I'll give you two some time to catch up.”
“That would be nice.” Mac jumped at the chance. “Samuel can walk me back to my car. I'm afraid I have a flight leaving within in the hour.”
“That's too bad.” Jessica frowned. “I was looking forward to finding out some more of Sam's deep dark secrets.”
“I promise that next time I'm in town I will fill you in on the scoop.”
She laughed. “I'll hold you to that.” The blonde squeezed her boyfriend's arm, then followed after her friends, leaving the two men alone.
“So,” Sam looked down at the ground, scuffing his foot around. “How is everyone?”
Mac motioned for them to walk. “Dean is fine,” the physician replied with a smile.
“Really?” Sam glanced up as the strolled across campus.
The physician nodded. “He and Caleb are supposed to be hunting some
Sam laughed. “That sounds about right.” He looked at Mac. “But isn't Dad with them?”
Mackland shrugged. “Your father is in
“Jim thought it would be a good idea for your brother to do some work without your Dad. Get some self-exploration of his own underway.” Mackland gestured to their surroundings as his mind traveled back to the recent disturbing incident that had prompted that decision. “Higher education comes in many forms, you know.”
Sam's gut clenched. “Is everything okay?” He couldn't imagine his brother ever willfully choosing to step beyond their father's shadow. “Did something happen?”
Mackland stopped, meeting the younger man's gaze. “Nothing you could have changed or prevented. Dean is fine and so is John.”
“Jim is good.” Mac grinned. “Although Brother Benjamin is threatening to make another plea to the congregation.”
“Still?” Sam snorted. “Is he never going to give up on Pastor Jim's job?”
“No. And our Jim is never going to forgive him for it either.”
“How's Scout and Harper Lee?”
“The last time I was at the farm they had declared war on the new geese Jim acquired and were in grave danger of being banished to the barn.”
They started walking again and Sam chuckled. “Last time it was the new Llamas.”
Mac nodded as they came to the parking lot. “Some things never change, Son.”
“That's me.” Mac pointed to a limo parked in a space to their right. “Curb-side service has its perks.”
Sam looked up at him. “I'm sorry you can't stay longer.”
Mac reached out and squeezed his shoulder. “You were always terrible at lying, Sam.”
The younger man dropped his gaze, feeling his chest tighten. “It's just….it makes it harder.” He glanced up. “You know?”
The doctor nodded. “I do know. You have a life of your own now. But you should also know that people miss you. That we're still here if you need us.”
Sam took a breath and exhaled heavily. “I am glad I got to see you.”
Mackland squeezed his shoulder once more and then released him. “I couldn't resist when an old colleague passed the invitation my way.” He held Sam's gaze. “It's been too long, and I have yet in all the years I have known you, missed a birthday.”
Sam's smile grew. “Mac, it's no big deal.”
“What?” The doctor looked astounded. “Twenty-one is a monumental deal. I will never forget the little gift your father gave Caleb on that day or the party my dear son threw your brother.”
Sam nodded, knowingly. “I don't think Dean could move for a week.”
Mac laughed. “I'm afraid I don't have quite the imagination as my son, but I hope this will suffice.” The physician pulled a wrapped box from the inside of his suit jacket. “At least you can be sure it won't cause any unwanted diseases.”
The younger man laughed and took the gift. “What? No books?”
Sam tore the light blue wrapping away and took the top off of the Tiffany's box. Inside, lying within a thin sheet of tissue paper was a platinum money clip. Sam's initials were engraved on the top side.
“There's an inscription on the back also,” Mackland told him and the younger man lifted the gift from the box and flipped it over.
“Hold tightly to all things valuable,” Sam read the words quietly. He glanced up at Mackland. “Valuable things like you talked about in your speech?”
The doctor nodded. “Those things are far more precious than anything
ever grasp in that.”
Sam took the package but shook his head when he looked inside. “Mac…I can't accept this.”
“Of course you can.” Mac told him. “It's your birthday.”
Sam gave him a doubtful look and Mackland frowned. “I'll have you know that Cullen Ames once cut me off for a whole summer when he found out I was majoring in Premed instead of Business.” The doctor shook his head. “It was horrible. I had to live on those tasteless packages of Romain noodles and canned sardines.”
Sam laughed. “It's Ramen noodles.”
“Whatever it is…they're despicable…turning a profit at the expense of struggling college students.”
“God no.” Sam grinned. “I've been hoping to get a place for me and Jess.”
“Just don't let Jim find that out. You'll have to listen to that whole living in sin speech he gave Bobby when he moved that lady truck driver in with him a few years back.”
“We're in agreement then?” Mac raised a brow.
Sam sighed. “Yeah.” He looked at the man. “Thank you. This turned out to be a lot better birthday than I thought.”
“You could make it even better you know?”
Sam gripped the money clip in his hand, thinking of all the valuable things he had lost. “I should really let you go, Mac.” Just like he had let everyone else go.
“I will.” Sam held his gaze. “And Mac?”
“I've missed you, too.” He licked his lips, looking down at the money clip. “I've missed all of you.”
Sam watched him get in the car, peered after the sleek black vehicle as it made its way across the lot until it disappeared beyond his sight. Only then did he allow the first tear to fall, the loud sob to be wrenched from his chest. He knew exactly what valuables he had left and they didn't include the wad of cash Mac had just given him.
In fact, he was certain the exquisite new money clip wouldn't quite hold an old, faded Metallica shirt.
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