Chapter 29: The Tears Dry

A/N: So, this is it guys, the final chapter. I'm really glad with how this chapter turned out and I just wanted to say that it's been a great pleasure writing for you guys. There's one more chapter left... well, more like an epilogue.

Huge thanks and squishy hugs to mida malek for writing the party scene and a big shoutout to KlainebowsHallowsRumbleroar for editing... nay, saving, this whole chapter.

Sam woke up to the smell of the most delicious pancakes ever. He opened his eyes and rolled over to see a plate of them on his nightstand. He smiled, knowing that they could only be from Dean. The younger Winchester quickly devoured them in bed, eating them as if they were his last meal on earth. He couldn't help it- they were amazing.

He quietly strolled through the bunker with his plate, headed to the kitchen. Sam was about to enter when he heard a voice coming from inside the room, and he stopped to listen.

"I want to bake a cake...I have a cake to bake..." Dean sang softly, stirring a bowl of what Sam assumed was batter.

The younger brother smirked to himself and slowly moved away from the door frame, going back to his room to shower. He couldn't interrupt such a sweet moment and make the elder Winchester embarrassed. No, there would be time for that later. But for now? Sam was just content to know that it had happened.

Dean put the last batch of cake in the oven before turning to face a dressed up Sam.

"Hey, man. You look good." The older Winchester smiled as he took in the sight of his brother wearing a dark blue ensemble. He grinned, moving to ruffle the young man's hair and receiving a glare from Sam.

Sam took in the table full of food and several huge bowls of different salads.

"Dean, tell me again why we need all this stuff?" he asked in wonder. Was his brother stress baking for some reason or had he truly lost his mind?

"We have guests," Dean announced, swatting Sam's hand away, "they should be here in about half an hour or so."

"Umm, what? Who?"

"There's Garth, Kevin, Charlie, and C..."

Before Dean could finish, Castiel appeared about half a foot away from Dean with the usual flutter of wings.

"Speak of the d-angel," Sam greeted, laughing at his brother's obviously annoyed face.

"Cas!" Dean scolded. "Personal space, dude!"

"My apologies, Dean," he finally said, after assessing his surroundings and took a step back. "You look nice."

Dean didn't look exactly like the normal definition of 'nice'. His hair and clothes were peppered with flour, causing a small white cloud to appear whenever he moved.

"Man, I should go take a shower," he said, sniffing distastefully at his shirt. "I stink like baking powder."

"You smell like a girl, Dean!" Sam teased lightly, barely ducking in time to avoid the flying spoon Dean had thrown his way.

"Screw you, Sam!" the older brother said, pretending to be angry. He stomped out of the room to take a shower, threatening to cut off Sam's hair in his sleep if he let anything happen to the food before he left.

Castiel finally looked at Sam.

"Happy birthday, my friend," he said holding up a wrapped box. "I understand we have to bring gifts for this occasion."

Sam chuckled, imagining how Dean had threatened everyone not to forget their gifts. He took the wrapped box from the angel.

"Thanks man. But, really, you didn't have to bring me anything. Dean is taking this way too seriously."

Castiel shook his head. "Its okay... It makes him happy. How has he been?"

"Better, I think. He's been so cheerful lately. Maybe it's the party or, hopefully, the pills are actually helping," Sam shrugged, looking like a lost puppy.

"He must be happy, knowing you care so much," he observed, which pulled a sad chuckle out of Sam.

"Yeah, if he only knew…"

"Sam! Get your ass here. The rest of the gang are here," came Dean's deep voice, shouting loudly. Sam's heart did a flip as he recognized a faint hint of laughter in his brother's tone, something that he felt he hadn't heard in forever. Maybe things were going well after all.

Sam entered the main hall, where Dean had decorated the walls and filled the place with balloons, facing a very differently dressed Dean. He just looked so... young. Like the Dean that Sam sometimes remembered from years ago, before he went to Stanford.

He didn't have time to dwell much as he was wrapped in a tight hug that could only belong to Garth.

The Winchester chuckled lightly, feeling the scrawny man attempt to squeeze the life out of him. He clapped him on the shoulder, that being the signal for Garth to let go.

"Happy birthday, Sam. Man, this is the perfect party."

"Sup bitches?" The men all turned towards the voice, seeing a familiar redhead leaning against the doorframe. "I heard there was going to be cake?"

Sam smiled. "Hey, Charlie. Glad you could make it."

"Wouldn't miss it for the world, Sam," she winked, walking into the room, "Besides, I figured after nearly getting me killed twice, the least you could do is throw a party and invite me."

She and the younger Winchester exchanged a hug, her normal sized arms barely making it all the way around his giant torso.

"By the way," Charlie added, "I let some kid named Kevin in? He's saying hi to Dean, I think."

"Not anymore," the prophet grinned, entering from behind, "Happy birthday, man."

The younger brother gave a thanks to Kevin, watching him make small talk with Charlie. The kid looked happier than he had been in a while, almost like that innocent kid back in high school. It made Sam's heart ache to think about what they had ripped him away from.

Their guests were busy making themselves comfortable and stacking the presents on a table. Sam watched Dean scratch the back of his neck self consciously and clear his throat.

"Uh... is this too much?" He shifted on his feet.

"You should have become a party designer, Dean," Sam joked, grinning widely-with a hint of sadness-at how much effort his older sibling had put into the party.

"Shut up. This is just for my brother." Dean barked, but he was smiling all the same.

"Thanks, Dean. This is... amazing."

"Amazing? It's awesome, Sammy," the older Winchester said, looking pleased with himself.

Dean left Sam to hand out birthday hats, practically forcing them to wear it. Sam's hat was considerably bigger and longer than others. He wasn't sure if it was because it was his birthday, or if Dean was making fun of his large stature.

The younger Winchester went off to the bathroom for a moment and returned to complete darkness.

"So when do we light the candles?" Sam heard Cas ask loudly from somewhere in the room. He also heard Dean mutter a "Dammit, Cas," before the room was suddenly lit up with the gentle glow of birthday candles.

The beauty of the gentle glow, however, was ruined when the guests started singing the traditional "Happy Birthday". It was so loud and obnoxious, but hilarious. Sam's jaw was starting to hurt from smiling so much. He was quickly ushered into a seat as Dean placed the cake in front of him.

"As you can see, you have exactly thirty candles, Sammy. Blow them!" Dean's grin turned to a sinister smirk at the last words, causing the room to erupt with laughter. The only person who didn't get it was Castiel, ever the innocent and confused one.

Sam was about to blow the candles when Charlie bumped his arm and said, "Don't forget about your free wish."

Sam chuckled, closing his eyes. What was he supposed to wish for? It felt stupid to even bother with the birthday act. Things like wishes never came true for him-unless it was a twisted wishing well-or anyone he cared for. It was a well known fact.

Come on Sam, humor the universe.

In the end, he wished for his brother to continue laughing and them being happy. He didn't ever want Dean to go back into the dark place he had been in before… or a worse place. It was cheesy, but if it came true, Sam was willing to believe in anything.

After taking generous slices and several helpings of the cake, the gang followed the tradition by smearing cream all over Sam's face, causing him to say not so appropriate words. Dean took what was left of the cake to the kitchen afterwards, announcing it was time for them to open presents.

The group gathered in the middle of the too small living room, cheeks hurting from laughing so much. Most of the laughter was between Kevin and Castiel. The two bonded quickly-the prophet willingly took the role of "Birthday Tradition Extraordinaire", guiding Cas on how to survive his first human birthday party.

"We're going to sit down, and Sam's going to open his gifts," the prophet whispered to the angel.

"Do Sam and the gift giver exchange heavy makeout session in heaven? Should I alert my brothers to give us some privacy?" Castiel asked.

"No, that's seven minutes in heaven… and a little bit of spin the bottle. Never mind that. Just sit down," Kevin replied as he took several deep breaths.

"So, would the party planner big brother like to do the honors of the first gift?" Charlie asked, pointing to the pile of presents in front of them.

Dean gestured at the room and the food, shrugging.

"Happy birthday," he sing-songed lamely.

"Are you saying that you didn't get your brother a present?" Garth asked disapprovingly.

"Nope, kinda forgot. Now...who's this from?" Dean said, and succeeded in diverting the group's attention. The first gift was picked up and inspected, with everyone making guesses at what it could be.

The redhead identified the present as her own from the snitches on the wrapping paper. She handed it to Sam, smirking.

"Thanks, Charlie for the… magazines… and..."

"That's lube," she provided helpfully.

Sam thanked her again distractedly, mentally planning to hide the… stuff before his brother cracked any dirty joke.

"Castiel, what did you get Sam?" Kevin said, looking at the box the angel brought.

"I got him a shoe."

"Dude, you're not supposed to say what gift you brought until he opens it," Kevin scolded.

"You got him 'a' shoe?" Garth asked at the same time.

"Yes," he answered, thoroughly confused.

"This is used..." Garth observed.

"I fetched it from an abandoned sewer, where a family of rats had been residing there for about five years."

Neither had any comment to add to that, although Sam unfortunately remembered the occasion. After opening all the presents and using every opportunity to make fun of Sam, the group slowly left, despite the Winchesters insisting that they had more than enough rooms for them to stay.

Whoever thought a party was a good idea probably hadn't had to stay afterwards. The brothers had spent more than two hours washing dishes, cleaning up the garbage and various spills, and storing the few leftovers in the fridge before Dean was satisfied. As they walked to their own rooms, each reliving the day, Dean turned to his brother.

"Hey, Sam?" Dean said, staring down at his feet and shuffling awkwardly. Sam had to suppress a grin. Some things never changed.


"You didn't actually believe that I forgot your gift?"

"Nah. That trick is actually getting old, big brother."

"Well, yeah. Anyway, here it is."

Dean presented a small box, wrapped in a cheesy balloon-themed wrapping.

"The clerk insisted on it," Dean defended, seeing his brother smirk. But Sam wasn't fooled. His brother was practically a professional gift-wrapper and secretly loved it, both getting and receiving proper gifts.

"Thanks, dude."

His brother shifted his weight on his feet, swaying slightly.

"Just...could you open them in the morning?"

"What is this, Christmas?" Sam snickered, rattling the wrapped box.

"Yeah… sorta. Or Santa won't bring you any gifts next year."

Sam ignored and enthusiastically ripped the paper apart, ignoring Dean's disapproving look and a muttered, 'as if he's been raised in a zoo'.

"Three boxes?" Sam asked, completely drawn into the small boxes. He picked up the largest one and, after receiving a loud sigh followed by a small nod from his brother, carefully slid it open.

"An iPod deck! Are you serious? You hate Apple, dude!"

"I don't. I love me some crispy apple pie," Dean argued.

"Not that apple, man. Never mind. This is awesome."

"Open the rest in the morning, kid. Go get your beauty sleep."

Sam rolled his eyes as his brother dragged him inside his bedroom. He was getting ready to change into pajamas when he noticed Dean was still standing by the door.

"Are you going to kiss me goodnight or tuck me in or something?"

"Bitch!" his brother said, rolling his eyes.

"Jerk!" Sam replied automatically and watch his brother's expression turn into something odd, almost wistful.

"'Night, Sammy," Dean announced, making his way to his own bedroom.

"Goodnight, Dean," Sam whispered, putting his gift on the drawer next to his bed.

Dean had planned everything out, down to the gift itself. He had decided to give Sammy the keys to his baby -he wouldn't need it, where he was going- and a "Metallica" tape. He didn't forget how Sam never stopped complaining about how his music sucked and Dean was sure he wouldn't play that cassette for a while...maybe forever. The cassette actually held one last note from Dean to his little brother. He couldn't do it without saying a goodbye, the coward that he was. The ipod deck had been his blessing to use Dean's car, his baby, however he wanted. And maybe, it'd show his little brother that he was free to do anything he wanted. Because this time, he wasn't planning on coming back.

He felt… weird. Like everything was going too fast. Something was off, but he couldn't really muster it in himself to care all that much. An overall sense of hopelessness had enveloped him, and he couldn't find a way out. Wasn't the medicine supposed to make him feel better? Maybe it was a sign that he wasn't going to get better...

C'mon Dean, just do it. You ruin everything that you touch. Why stick around to make more of a mess?

He shrugged to himself- he couldn't convince himself otherwise. Everything was his fault. The older Winchester had tried and tried and tried to deny it, but he couldn't. Not with the constant nightmares reminding him of his failures, anyway. Who got Sammy killed? Dean. Who tortured innocent souls in Hell? Dean. Who started the goddamn apocalypse? Dean. He would be doing a service to the world by taking himself off of it. Still, he didn't really want to die.

No one needs you. Do it.

Dean knew that this was true as well. Sam would be fine. He would probably be better without having to worry about his stupid, depressed big brother. He wouldn't have to worry about being hurt or even killed by his stupid brother. The kid would probably even do a better job hunting without Dean.

Don't forget about your "precious" Cas.

Castiel didn't need him, either. The older Winchester must be a pet to him, to keep the angel amused. It had always been the same. He was the one that got overlooked, ignored. The angel wouldn't miss him. And even if he did, hopefully, Castiel would find his own tape in his room, where he'd labeled the tape. He trusted Sam to help the ever so clueless angel play it, if he was even interested. Shit, why could he have ever thought anything different? After the two men, though, who did he really have? He didn't know Charlie and Kevin for all that long, or Garth. But everyone he really, truly cared for other than Sam and Cas? Dead. Hell, it was even HIS fault that their dad had died!

Stop stalling the inevitable. You know what you have to do.

Dean gave into the nagging voice in the back of his head. It wasn't like it was wrong in anyway. Besides, he was too tired to keep fighting. The man picked up the hunting knife from the side of his bed and started cocooning himself in the blanket. It would be easier for Sammy to deal with that -less blood everywhere. Plus, he would be all ready for the salt and burn. Dean didn't want the kid to deal with the mess of a gun, or questions brought forward by pills. No, a knife would be the quickest, easiest, and most quiet way to do it.

Hurry up. You haven't got all night.

Sam had the feeling something was wrong all day, something much more dark and threatening than getting one year older, but he had pushed it to the side. Being surrounded by friends had been amazing and he had to give it to Dean, the guy knew how to throw a party. He felt happier than he'd been starting the day. But, Sam felt a weird kind of relief at having the day end, like a huge weight has been lifted off his shoulders.

He heard the floor squeaking and resisted the urge to roll his eyes. The bunker was old, and random squeaking noises were a regular occurrence. If Sam hadn't known better, he'd think the place was haunted.

But then the sound persisted, becoming louder. He rolled around and saw a shallow line of light from the half open door. Funny, he distinctly remembered closing it.

"Sammy?" he heard a faint voice call him. At first Sam thought he was dreaming, but when he heard soft sniffles, he knew he was wide awake.

"Dean?" Sam replied, squinting his eyes to see the shadow blocking the light.

"What's wrong, Dean?"

"I-I don't feel so good," his brother replied brokenly.

That immediately raised all the warning bells inside Sam's mind.

"What do you mean?"

"I feel like doing something s-stupid, Sam."

That's when Sam saw a ghost of the sheet wrapped around his brother, the whiteness tainted with red. He jumped up from the bed, throwing the door open, the sleepy haze gone instantly.

Dean was standing in the doorway, looking vulnerable and young wrapped up in the bed sheet. It reminded Sam of a memory when he was about six or seven, when his older brother was sick. Their dad was on a hunt, and the boys had to watch each other as usual. It was the first time that Sam really had to take care of his big brother, feverish and weak. He had felt this sense of protectiveness that he hadn't felt before. That same feeling was quickly rising up again.

"I've got you, Dean. There's no need to be afraid."

"This wasn't supposed to happen, Sammy," the older brother said, eyes wide and sounding incredibly scared, "I-I was going to..."

Sam dropped, kneeling in front of his brother, taking in the haphazardly put bandage Dean had used. He could see that Dean had taken good care of the wound, after all he was a Winchester, but he made a mental note to take care of that as soon as the situation was stable.

"What's wrong with me, Sam?" he asked, self-loathing apparent in his voice.

"We'll figure something out, Dean. I promise. I'll do everything I can. That's my job, right? Watch out for my pain-in-the-ass big brother," he said quietly, remembering what Dean had said to him once, exactly six years ago on that very day.

Dean still looked miserable… and so terrified, so alone. How was Sam going to show him that he was anything but alone?

"Do you want to go to the kitchen and get some hot chocolate?"

Dean shook his head slightly, looking at Sam with wide eyes.

"Would you...Do you like to sleep here with me? Like I used to do to you when we were little?"

A barely there nod from Dean was all Sam needed before guiding his brother to his bed and watching as he drifted off.

"I'm proud of you, Dean. I'm proud of us. Thank you for telling me," Sam whispered quietly, before sliding in the now too small, but strangely comfortable bed. It felt right. It felt like home.

A/N: The final authors note *sniffles*. I hope you liked this chapter as much as I enjoyed writing it. You're all beautiful and don't let anyone make you believe otherwise. Also, if any one of you needed to talk, know that my inbox is always open.

Stay strong and awesome,

Anne :)