Pancakes

-----

Dean awoke to the sounds of clanking and crashing metal. Shooting up in his bed, he threw the cerulean colour comforter that he was wrapped in, off the bed, white sheets and all. His hazel sleep-filled eyes were barely opened by the time his feet hit the pine hardwood floor. Looking at the empty unmade bed beside him, Dean's anxiety increased to dangerous levels. There was no chestnut-haired five year old curled into a ball under the blue blankets. Ignoring the clock on the nightstand that was sure to read an hour he didn't care to see, Dean slowed his breathing to allow him to listen carefully for his little brother. Trying to guess where Sammy's was in the motel their dad had dumped them at before heading off on another hunting trip, Dean scanned the small en-suite bathroom with no success. The clanking was getting louder, it was coming from inside.

Grabbing the shot gun resting against the door frame, the ten year old rushed down the green plaid wallpapered hall, careful not to make a sound. Edging around the dark pine chair rail that hugged the bottom half of the hallway, Dean crept into the kitchen following the sound of that had awoken him. When he rounded the corner and spotted his brother's small form straddling a bar stool in an effort to mix the floury concoction he was covered in from chest to thigh, Dean let the shotgun lapse in his arms. It was only Sammy, thank God. Dean scanned the room for their father, hoping he was back early from his hunting trip. Dad said he wouldn't be back until Thursday, two days from now, but he had come back early before. Other than a fire engine pyjama clad five year old, the room was empty.

Letting out the breath he had been holding unconsciously, Dean set the shotgun against the entrance way and moved closer to his flour covered little brother. "What are you making Sammy? Besides a mess?"

Sammy laughed somewhat as he smiled brightly revealing two missing front teeth as he answered. "Pancakes."

Dean tried not to laugh. Whatever his brother was making it looked like he was wearing most of it. The clanking instrument that he now identified as a frying pan was sitting on one of the iron burners heating the pan that was full of the gooey glue-like concoction his brother had mixed so fervently there were traces of the goop dripping down the side of the pan and the entire oven. Shaking his head and mentally making a list of the things he would have to clean before their dad got back and saw the mess, Dean asked tonelessly, "Pancakes?"

"For your birthday." Puppy dog eyes looked up from the metal mixing bowl that was barely containing the pancake mix he was stirring with a wooden spoon. "It's the twenty-fourth, Tuesday, isn't it?"

Dean hid the smile that threatened his poker face. Sam had remembered. It shouldn't matter so much, but it did. With an effort Dean answered tonelessly, "Yeah it is."

"Good." Sam went back to mixing the whitish mixture that despite his best efforts was still a little too runny. "You like chocolate chips, right?"

Dean leaned up against the door frame of the small yellow kitchen that was starting to look like it was being hit by a blizzard. The small kitchen's counter tops were covered in flour in some areas and glop in the others. But he couldn't bring himself to get mad. Not given Sammy's motives. Reaching for the yellow oven mitts sitting on the counter Dean answered quietly. "Right."

Sammy either didn't notice him speak or just didn't answer as he poured the remaining chocolate bits into the batter. The two worked in silence to cook the battercakes. Dean manning the frying pan under the close direction of his brother and Sammy tirelessly refilling the pan with the remaining mixture. By the time the last of the mix was cooked up, and the two boys were sitting at the small oak kitchenette pouring syrup over the cakes, the first rays of sun had started to shine through the grubby window. Dean eyed the pancakes on his plate as if he was expecting the thing to get up and walk off his plate. Glancing at Sammy, who was already through his first one and half way into the second, Dean loaded his fork, shut his eyes and put it in his mouth. After chewing it for a moment he made an appreciative sound and started eating with gusto. The pancake, however misshaped and slightly burnt it may have been was actually delicious.

When the last pancake was eaten and the last dish was washed, Dean reached for the sponge and started to wash down the goopy counters and the cupboards covered in a veil of flour. Just cleaning the room, Dean's navy striped pyjamas had turned a shade lighter. Sammy was trying his best to sweep up the flour from the floor but given the height ratio of the broom, he was merely pushing the powder back into the air adding to the work that had to be done. Dean kept his mouth shut and scrubbed harder. After about thirty minutes, the kitchen showed no traces of Sammy's culinary adventure and Dean was lying back on his bed trying to fall back asleep given the hour his little brother had woken him at. Sam was lying in the next bed watching the television that was showing a cartoon featuring a quiet anthropomorphic little penguin in a hat and mittens with temperature issues. When the Chilly Willy theme song signalled the end of the cartoon Sammy whispered, unsure if his brother was already asleep. "Hey Dean?"

Rubbing his eyes, feigning sleep Dean yawned his answer, "Yeah Sammy?"

"Happy birthday."

Dean didn't need to turn to see his brother's gap-toothed smile. He could hear it in his voice. Careful not to let his emotions sound out as he spoke, Dean said, "Get some sleep Sammy. It's still early."

Within in moments he heard his little brother's breathing even out and shallow. Sammy had fallen asleep. Smiling, Dean sat up and headed to the wood panelled television box that was sitting beside the door of the bare beige motel room. Clicking it off the TV, Dean walked over to his little brother's bed and pulled the cerulean blankets up to his chin. Sammy stirred but didn't wake up. Quickly slipping back into his own bed, Dean rested his head on the feather downed pillow and watched the light beating down on the curtained windows. Though it hadn't yet, it would snow before the day was out. The air held the scent of the oncoming flakes as the January chill crept into the room through the weather stripping on the windowpane. Dean settled deeper into the bed, pulling the blanket tighter around his body. This was the second birthday his dad had missed. Dean had decided last year not to keep track anymore. When his dad had left on Sunday, Dean didn't say a single word. Not even when his dad told him he wouldn't be back until Thursday night. He had nodded, repeated back his father's list of orders and hid the pain that he had become so accustomed to hiding around his dad. There were a lot more important things in life than his birthday. No sense in making a big fuss because no one remembered. But Sammy had. Not only remembered, but he had tried to make his big brother his favourite breakfast food to mark the occasion. Turning on his side to face his little brother Dean whispered softly so as not to wake him, "Thanks Sammy."

-----

Looking up from the small mound of pancakes sitting on his plate, twenty-eight year old Dean eyed his little brother across the diner's white table top. When Sam looked up to see Dean giving him a funny look he furrowed his brows and asked quizzically, "What?"

"Thanks Sammy," Dean said, smirking to himself before stabbing a forkful of the syrup drenched flap cake.

Unsure of what Dean was talking about, Sam took a sip of his coffee and decided not to inquire. Knowing his brother, he wouldn't get a straight answer anyway. "It's Sam."

Dean was halfway through a mouthful of pancakes when he smiled and shrugged. "Whatever."