Summary: Pre-Series – Upset Sam/Big Brother Dean – While Dean couldn't bring their mom back, he could make sure his little brother felt safe and loved. He could make sure Sam's childhood included the things it should...like having cupcakes for the kid's kindergarten party.
Disclaimer: Not mine of course.
Warnings: None, except maybe a sugar coma from the massive amounts of brotherly sweetness.
A/N: A belated Valentine's Day story inspired by a weekend of baking cupcakes for a postponed holiday party.
I love you more than cupcakes. ~ Primitives by Kathy
The day had kicked ass.
...which was no surprise.
Dean had expected this day to kick ass.
After all, the day before Valentine's Day was always a kick-ass day as the competition for his attention reached its peak.
In fact, it was one of the highlights of his year to watch girls in his class – and hell, even girls not in his class – engage in the kind of passive-aggressive battles that only females understood.
But Dean definitely understood that he was the ultimate prize in these wars of offhanded comments and sharp glares...and that made it a good day to be a Winchester.
As an added bonus, this year's competition had seemed to be especially fierce.
Maybe because he was the proverbial fresh meat, having only been at the school for around two weeks...or maybe it was because he had just recently turned ten.
Dean nodded at the thought as he walked down the hall with half a dozen girls trailing after him.
The ladies definitely seemed to like older men.
But there was no need to fight over him.
There was plenty of Dean Winchester to go around.
Dean quirked a cocky smile and shifted the books he was carrying, the ones that belonged to Emma and Abby and the twins.
"It's so cool that you don't carry any of your own books," Emma flirted.
"Why would he need to take home books?" Abby countered. "He's smart enough already."
Damn right he was smart enough already.
He already knew more about hunting than some adult hunters.
And that knowledge didn't come from schoolbooks...so why bother carrying them around or lugging them home to the motel?
"Why can't you carry my books?" Sophie pouted, attempting to shoulder past Emma to get closer to Dean.
"Because he's carrying mine," Emma snapped and cut her eyes at her competition.
"And mine!" Abby reminded.
"And mine!" the twins answered in unison.
"Ladies..." Dean drawled, still strolling down the hall like he owned the school...and apparently traveled with a harem. "This is the day before we celebrate love and all that it means to us."
He paused, waiting for the girls to gather 'round.
And Dean was once again grateful that he was tall for his age as they all stared up at him – a sea of brunettes and blondes and even a couple redheads, all batting their eyes and smiling.
"And on this day..." Dean continued, still holding the mountain of books and feeling the muscles in his arms begin to burn. "...let us refrain from accusations and unkind words thrown at one another like barbs," he advised, quoting lines from some black-and-white movie the motel TV had been stuck on last night. "For as a wise man once said: 'All you need is love.'"
The speech made no sense.
Just a bunch of fancy-sounding words shoved together.
But the girls sighed collectively.
A few clutched at their chests as though Dean was reciting poetry.
Dean smiled, vaguely wondering if impressing girls was always going to be this easy.
"So, I will say to you today what I will say to you tomorrow," Dean told them and once again paused for effect. "Happy Valentine's Day to one and all...and god bless us everyone."
There was silence among the group, awed expressions and misty eyes as if Dean had just finished a sermon.
Abby reached out, touching Dean's arm. "I think I love you."
"No!" Emma countered and swept Abby's hand away. "I love him!"
"No, I do!" Sophie yelled, still trying to worm her way to the front of the pack.
The girls – all half dozen of them – suddenly erupted into a battle of words over who loved him more.
This had been a good day – and tomorrow would be even better.
Dean nodded at his prediction and continued walking down the hall, knowing he was still being followed as the girls' voices buzzed right behind him.
Dean's smile lingered.
But as he neared the school's exit, his thoughts began to shift to the only thing that really mattered to him.
Not girls or attention or Valentines or any of that hoopla.
All of that was a fun game to play and made the school day bearable.
But the only thing that mattered...that really mattered...was Sammy.
Dean's smile widened, affection flooding his chest at the thought of his little brother waiting for him on the opposite side of the doors he was approaching.
Sam's kindergarten class – and all the other kindergarten classes – always lined up on the sidewalk with their teachers, waiting to be picked up after the final bell had rung.
Dean quickened his pace, suddenly eager to see his kid.
Eager to receive his hug and hear about Sam's day over snack time back at the motel; to help Sam with his worksheets before dinner; to supervise bath time and teeth brushing; to do all the voices as he read whatever story Sam had picked out; to sit beside his brother as Sam fell asleep against him and kiss Sam's forehead because that's what he did every night since Sam had been a baby…because that's what their mom used to do.
Dean felt a twinge of sadness as he thought about Mary – their mom so beautiful and kind, always giving hugs and kisses and telling them she loved them even when it wasn't Valentine's Day.
Dean missed that.
He missed it.
And he sometimes wondered if other ten-year olds' hearts ached like his.
Dean sighed, pushing the darkness away from his thoughts as he pushed open the school's door.
Because Sam didn't need to see his darkness.
Sam deserved light, and Dean made damn sure he got it.
The big brother smiled again at the thought of his kid and paused at the top of the steps, blinking in the daylight and scanning the sidewalk for Sam.
"Dean..." one of the girls called behind him.
But Dean's attention was focused on his floppy-haired little brother who was crying while some stranger crouched beside him.
"What the hell..." Dean growled, feeling himself transform into Sam's protector; fully prepared to kick the ass of whoever had made his kid cry.
"Dean..." the voice behind him called again.
But Dean was done.
"Shut up," he told the girl standing closest to him – he couldn't even remember her name right now – and shoved the stack of books at her. "Here..."
She gasped at the blunt dismissal and then grunted under the weight of the books.
"But wait..." one of them called, clearly talking to herself since Dean was already down the steps and approaching Sam.
"Sammy. What happened?" Dean demanded, reaching for Sam as he glared at the woman still crouched beside his brother. "And who are you?"
Sam glanced up as he felt Dean's touch and instantly lunged forward, wrapping his skinny little arms around Dean's waist and burying his face into Dean's stomach.
"Whoa..." Dean commented, feeling his mind race and his heart beat faster as he held his brother against him; one hand cupping Sam's head while the other rubbed the kid's shuddering back. "S'okay, Sammy," he murmured and refocused on the woman now staring at him.
She blinked, her expression confused and concerned.
"Christo," Dean whispered, because he had never seen this woman before.
She wasn't Sam's teacher...or the assistant.
But she was the primary suspect as the cause for whatever was going on here, for whatever had upset Sam.
And first things first, she needed to pass a cursory inspection.
The woman titled her head at the unfamiliar word but didn't flinch, didn't change eye color. "Excuse me?"
Dean shook his head. "Nothing," he answered, though he wished he had a flask of holy water to splash on her.
He glanced down at Sam as his little brother sniffled.
The woman looked on the verge of tears herself.
Dean held Sam closer and watched her. "Who are you?"
The woman looked startled, unaccustomed to a ten-year old's tone being so harsh. "I'm the substitute teacher."
Dean narrowed his eyes, suspicious of that answer since he had walked Sam to his classroom – just like he did every morning – and this woman hadn't been there.
"I came after lunch," the woman explained, sensing Dean's reluctance to believe her. "Ms. Perry wasn't feeling well, so..."
Dean nodded. "Okay," he allowed. "Fine." He paused, still rubbing Sam's back as the five-year old continued to cry against him. "What did you do to him?"
The woman frowned at the accusation. "Nothing. He's been fine. Maybe a little quiet this afternoon...but overall fine. He just started crying a few minutes ago. Some of the other kids were talking about tomorrow's Valentine's party and...I don't know. He just..."
Her voice trailed off as she gestured at Sam, indicating the result of whatever had set Sam off.
Dean narrowed his eyes, shifting his attention to the nearby kids while still hugging his crying brother. "What else were they talking about?"
The woman followed Dean's gaze, feeling uneasy.
Surely a ten-year old wouldn't attack kindergarteners?
"What else were they talking about?" Dean repeated, his tone more insistent as he was once again staring at the substitute teacher.
She stood, feeling vaguely threatened...which was ridiculous.
But it was also true.
This was the most intense fourth grader she had ever encountered.
"What else were they talking about?" Dean said for the third time, glaring.
The substitute teacher cleared her throat, smoothing her hand down her skirt to resituate the fabric. "I don't know," she replied, shrugging and trying desperately to think, knowing that response wouldn't be sufficient. "Um...cupcakes?" she ventured and laughed nervously. "About how their moms were going to make cupcakes tonight for tomorrow's party since all the kids were asked to bring snacks to share."
Dean continued to stare at her, realization beginning to dawn even before Sam spoke.
"We..." Sam choked on a sob, his voice muffled against Dean's stomach. "We...don't...ha-have a mom," he cried, completely breaking his brother's heart. "An-and she...she c-can't m-m-make cup-cupcakes."
It was another stab right through Dean's chest.
No wonder Sam was so upset.
Dean clenched his jaw against the emotions that surged through him. "Ah, Sammy..." he sighed and slowly eased down, crouching in front of his little brother.
Sam kept his head bowed, crying even harder than before.
Dean sighed again and nudged Sam's chin up. "Hey. Look at me, short stack."
Sam hesitated but did as he was told, lifting his head and staring at Dean.
Dean stared back, taking in Sam's flushed face and huge, wet eyes. "It's okay, kiddo," he assured, thumbing tears from his brother's cheeks before brushing Sam's bangs from his forehead and tucking his hair behind his ear.
Sam shook his head, his nose wrinkling as he battled fresh tears.
Dean smiled softly. "Hey. Don't shake your head at me, mister..." he teased. "Who's the big brother here?"
Sam pointed at Dean, his bony little finger pressing against Dean's chest and then fidgeting with one of the buttons on Dean's shirt.
"Yeah," Dean agreed, his face within inches of Sam's. "I'm the big brother. And if I say it's okay...then it's okay. Right?"
Sam nodded, his tears waning but still too upset to speak.
"Alright, then..." Dean continued. "Maybe we don't have a mom, but what do you have?"
Sam offered a smile, all wet lashes and barely-there dimples. "A Dean," he replied, his smile widening as he said his brother's name. "I h-have you, Dean."
"Damn right you do," Dean confirmed and leaned his forehead against his brother's. "And as long as you have me, what do you have to worry about?"
Sam's answer was instant. "Nothing."
"Right," Dean replied, leaning back slightly. "So what are we crying about?" he asked as if this was all no big deal.
As if being five-years old and ten-years old and not having a mom was no big deal.
As if a child raising a child was no big deal.
"There's things worth crying over," Dean allowed, still keeping his tone light. "But not this, kiddo. If you need cupcakes, then I'll make sure you have cupcakes. And guess what?"
Sam blinked at him expectantly.
"They'll be the best damn cupcakes at that party."
Sam giggled, the sound soft and watery...but Dean would take it.
Because at least his kid wasn't crying anymore.
"C'mere..." Dean called and pulled his little brother into a hug; holding him tight and rubbing his back as he winked at the substitute teacher over Sam's shoulder.
The woman smiled. "You're amazing," she told Dean, her expression both reverent and awed over Dean's effect on Sam, over how he gently and expertly handled his little brother. "And I'm sorry," she added. "I didn't know. Ms. Perry didn't leave any special instructions or notes."
"It's okay," Dean assured her, because it wasn't this woman's fault.
But he would be scheduling another teacher-parent conference with Ms. Perry soon, just like the one he had scheduled that first week he and Sam had arrived at the school.
The kindergarten teacher had seemed surprised by Dean's request to meet but had listened intently as Dean had explained their situation while Sam's class had been at recess...and his own teacher had granted him special permission to handle big brother business.
"I'm sorry," Ms. Perry had told him, her expression and tone both kind and sympathetic. "No child should have to grow up without a mother." She had paused. "But thank you for sharing that. I'll make sure all holidays and other events are handled appropriately and sensitively. Sam is so sweet, such a joy in this class already. I certainly don't want to upset him."
"No, you don't," Dean had echoed with a pointed look, promising trouble if Sam was unnecessarily upset.
Ms. Perry had nodded.
And everything had been fine...until now.
But it seemed Ms. Perry needed a reminder that even if she was absent, Sam still needed to be taken care of...and that meant leaving a note...or something...so a substitute teacher would know the triggers and help avoid making Dean's little brother cry.
...though Sam seemed better now, resting against Dean's shoulder as Dean continued to hold him in a tight, reassuring hug.
"Alright, kiddo..." Dean announced, giving Sam's back a final pat and easing his brother away, holding him at arm's length. "You ready to hit the road?"
Sam sniffled and nodded, his gaze following Dean as Dean stood.
"You got all your stuff?" Dean asked, spying Sam's backpack abandoned on the sidewalk.
"Oh. Here you go..." the substitute teacher offered, handing the backpack to Dean.
Dean accepted it with a nod of thanks and held out the straps, waiting for Sam.
Sam obediently turned around, slipping his thin little arms through the loops and shouldering his Superman backpack.
Dean smiled down as Sam once again faced him. "Ready?"
"Ready," Sam replied and reached for Dean's hand, lacing their fingers and briefly leaning against Dean's arm.
"Alright," Dean drawled. "What d'ya say we go get some cupcakes?"
Sam smiled. "Really?"
"Mmhmm," Dean replied, glancing at the substitute teacher in a silent goodbye and leading his brother down the sidewalk. "What kind do you want?"
"I don't know," Sam answered, seeming overwhelmed by the question. "There's so many kinds." He paused. "Maybe sprinkles?"
As if sprinkles was a kind of cupcake and not just a decoration on the cupcake.
But Dean nodded.
"Good choice," he praised. "Girls like sprinkles. You'll be the man bringing cupcakes with sprinkles to the party."
Dean smiled at the sound and squeezed his brother's hand still held firmly in his grasp.
Sam squeezed back.
They continued down the sidewalk, heading toward the corner store on their way back to the motel.
A passing car blew its horn.
Someone waved and yelled back a greeting.
Sam sighed. "Dean..."
"Hmm..." Dean hummed, pulling Sam to a stop as they waited for the light to change.
"Do we..." Sam hesitated, once again leaning against Dean's arm. "Do we have enough money for cupcakes?"
Dean felt something twist in his chest at the question.
Because five-year old kids shouldn't have to worry about money.
Maybe ten-year old kids shouldn't have to worry about money, either.
But this was their life.
And Dean's life included Sam, so he wasn't complaining.
"Dude..." Dean admonished, glancing down at his brother. "There's always money for cupcakes."
Though truthfully, Dean would have to budget a little differently for the next week or so until John came back from his latest hunt and replenished their stash of cash.
But that was fine.
Dean had reworked their budget before.
Sam sighed and yawned, exhausted from crying earlier.
Dean affectionately ruffled his brother's hair with the hand not holding Sam's hand. "Hey..." he called as something occurred to him. "Do you already have Valentine cards for this party?"
Because Dean hadn't bought anything like that and didn't want Sam to be without.
"We made 'em in class before Ms. Perry left," Sam reported, wallowing against Dean's arm as traffic continued to pass through the light.
Dean nodded – relieved that he didn't have to figure out how to make an additional unexpected purchase – and then tugged Sam forward when the light finally changed.
"C'mon. And watch your step..." he warned as they stepped down from the curb and crossed the street.
Some teenager on a bike breezed by on the sidewalk...then another...and another.
Dean scowled, not liking how close they came to Sam.
Sam was unfazed. "Is your class havin' a party?"
Dean shrugged. "I think so," he replied, vaguely remembering Emma going on and on and on about her mom owning a local bakery and treating their entire class to a smorgasbord of goodies. "But fourth grade parties are different from kindergarten parties, Sammy."
Sam nodded seriously.
Because yes...of course they were.
"Did you make Valentines in art class?"
Dean shrugged again, because arts and crafts really weren't his thing. "A couple," he answered – planning to give them to the twins...because...come on...twins.
Dean smiled at the thought of Anna and Hannah and their bouncing ponytails as he reached for the door handle, entering the store first; his gaze sweeping the entire interior of the building before pulling Sam in behind him.
The clerk glanced in their direction and smiled like he did every time he saw them. "Afternoon, fellas..." he greeted. "Been a couple days. How was school?"
"Fine," the brothers answered in unison.
The man nodded, pushing away the newspaper he had been reading and resituating his glasses on top of his head. "What brings you in?"
The man arched a bushy gray eyebrow at Sam's enthusiastic reply.
"My class is havin' a party tomorrow," Sam further explained, twisting his free hand in the straps of his backpack.
"Ah, yes..." The man nodded again and crossed his arms over his chest as he leaned back in his chair. "Tomorrow's Valentine's Day."
"Mmhmm," Sam hummed, distracted and frowning as his finger got twisted in the strap.
Dean reached over, untangling the nylon and nudging his brother; reminding Sam that he should pay attention when an adult was speaking to him.
Sam smiled shyly at the silent reprimand and rubbed his finger against his shirt, refocusing on the clerk on the other side of the counter.
"Sounds like my kind of party if you're serving cupcakes," the man teased good-naturedly.
Sam beamed. "You can come."
The man chuckled at the sweet child. "Nah. I gotta run the store, buddy. But how 'bout you tell me about it later?"
The man smiled and glanced at Dean. "Polite kid," he commented, looking at Dean as though he knew the big brother was the reason Sam had manners.
Dean returned the clerk's smile and steered Sam toward the baked goods section, sidestepping two guys debating over which flavor of chips to buy.
"Can we taste 'em?"
Dean glanced down at his brother. "Taste what? The cupcakes?"
"Hell yes," Dean replied. "I mean...it's kinda like our duty, Sammy. We gotta make sure they're good, right?"
"Right," Sam agreed.
Dean smiled. "So, yeah...we're sharing a cupcake tonight before you brush your teeth. Deal?"
"Deal," Sam echoed and turned his attention to the shelves stocked with cookies and donuts and... "Cupcakes."
"Whoa..." Dean commented, surprised by the selection.
"Do you see any with sprinkles?" Sam asked, standing on his tiptoes and stretching his neck.
Dean snorted at his short little brother. "Let's see..." His gaze roamed over the clear plastic tops of the containers stacked on the shelf. "How 'bout these?"
Sam wrinkled his nose at Dean's offering. "Those aren't sprinkles."
Dean arched an eyebrow. "Okay..." he allowed, because the little multicolored specks decorating the frosting sure looked like sprinkles to him. "Then what are they?"
"Not sprinkles," Sam repeated, his forehead creasing with his disappointment as he briefly pouted.
Dean rolled his eyes. "Okay, fine." He shoved the container back in place and reached for another. "These?"
Sam was quiet as he inspected the tops of the cupcakes.
Dean pulled a face at Sam's tone. "Well, look a little faster, Betty Crocker. We can't stay here all night."
"It's not dark yet," Sam pointed out reasonably and then nodded. "Yes. I like these. Can we get 'em?"
Dean checked the price for the dozen and inwardly cringed.
The cost was a little more than he had expected, but...
"Yeah," Dean answered and squeezed the little hand he was still holding.
Because there was no price on making Sam happy...and these cupcakes would make Sam happy.
More importantly, Sam was counting on Dean to fix what had upset him earlier.
And while Dean couldn't bring their mom back, he could make sure his little brother felt safe and loved. He could make sure Sam's childhood included the things it should...like having cupcakes for the kid's kindergarten party.
Dean sighed, feeling a familiar mix of sad and happy.
Sam blinked up at him with those wide eyes and smiled.
Dean smiled back. "Let's go, kiddo."
Sam obediently followed behind his brother as they crossed to the front of the store and approached the counter to pay.
The clerk smiled as they reappeared around the corner of the aisle. "I see you found the cupcakes."
"With sprinkles!" Sam added.
"Very festive," the man praised and shook his head as Dean pulled money from the pocket of his jeans. "On the house."
Dean frowned. "Mr. Brenner..."
"Nope," Mr. Brenner replied. "No arguments. These are my treat."
Because the clerk had seen the kind of bare necessities Dean usually bought – lots of bread and peanut butter and applesauce – and he knew these kids couldn't afford anything extra.
He didn't know their whole story, but he knew money was tight.
Dean swallowed, not sure how to respond – appreciating the offer...but not wanting to accept charity.
Their dad wouldn't like that.
An awkward silence settled.
"Wow, Mr. Brenner..." Sam finally commented, seeming to suddenly realize what was going on. "You're super nice! Are these our Valentine's present?"
Mr. Brenner smiled and nodded. "Absolutely," he confirmed, thankful to this sweet child for the perfect excuse; knowing Sam's big brother would be less likely to refuse the free cupcakes if they were presented as a gift instead of a handout.
Sam grinned – dimples and all – and turned to look at Dean. "He's nice!"
Dean nodded and shifted uncomfortably. "Yeah," he agreed, deciding what the hell...he'd take the cupcakes and be grateful for the assistance in helping to make his kid brother happy. "Thank you, Mr. Brenner."
Mr. Brenner held his gaze. "You're welcome." He glanced at Sam. "You enjoy them, buddy. And eat one for me, okay?"
"Yes, sir," Sam assured and tugged on Dean's hand. "Can we go?" he whispered loudly. "I kinda have to..."
His voice trailed off.
But from the way Sam was suddenly squirming around, Dean knew exactly what his little brother had to do.
"Can you hold it?" Dean asked, just double-checking the situation.
Sam blushed - aware that Mr. Brenner was still listening to their conversation - but nodded. "It's just #1."
Dean cringed dramatically. "Wow. Thanks for that overshare, Sammy."
...though that was exactly the information Dean was looking for.
Mr. Brenner chuckled, wondering if Dean realized that he sounded – and acted – like a parent.
"Alright," Dean sighed and smiled at the clerk. "Guess we better go." He paused, nodding at the container of cupcakes balanced in the hand not holding Sam's. "Thanks again. We really appreciate it."
"Thank you!" Sam chimed in.
"You're both welcome," Mr. Brenner told them. "And Happy Valentine's Day..."
"You, too," Sam chirped and waved through the window as they left the store.
Back on the sidewalk, Sam hummed happily, holding Dean's hand and swinging their arms.
Dean snorted but let Sam continue the motion, just glad his kid was smiling.
"You know what, Dean?"
Dean arched an eyebrow...because experience had taught that this question could lead anywhere.
Sam turned to look up at his brother as they once again stopped to wait for another light to change. "I love you. And I'm glad you're my Dean."
Dean blinked, always amazed by how open and honest Sam was with his feelings...and how often he expressed them.
Dean swallowed and nodded. "Love you too, short stack. Don't know where I'd be without my Sammy."
Dean didn't even want to think about it.
Sam grinned. "You know what else I love?"
Dean glanced at the light, then back at his brother. "What's that?"
Dean laughed as he led Sam across the street. "Same here," he agreed.
But he loved his little brother more.