This is a one-shot in answer to a deathfic challenge and a birthday challenge on livejournal. This is also homage to kroki-refur's piece Memento-Mori. Please read her piece if you have a chance.
When Dean turns thirteen Sam makes him a cake.
The cake looks and smells like something Dad should be hunting, but Dean acts like it's the best thing ever.
Sam plunks a candle on top and bounces from foot to foot. He is four feet six of pure excitement and too much hair. You would think it's his birthday the way he carries on.
"Make a wish," Sammy whispers. He grins and pulls at Dean's sleeve. "Make a wish!"
He wishes his Dad would get home before his birthday is over.
Later, tucked under the covers and listening to the lullaby of Sam's snoring, Dean hears the key in the door.
When Dean turns nineteen Sam gives him a book.
The cover reads, How to Pick up Chicks in Ten Minutes or Less. Dean gives Sam a withering look. "Dude," he says. "You have got to be kidding me. First of all, a book? And second of all, ten minutes? That's, like, an insult to my good name."
"You don't have a good name." Sam reminds him.
Dean scowls and picks at the Hostess Cupcake in front of him.
Sam tells him, "Make a wish."
Dean rolls his eyes. Then he sighs and shuts his eyes briefly. Opens them. He frowns at Sam. "Didn't work. You're still here."
"Very funny," Sam says. "Now make a real wish. I mean it."
"What's the point? The only thing I wanted was to go that concert," Dean grumbles. "Dad's on a hunt, you're old enough to stay by yourself without crying too hard, and Metallica's in town. It would have been so perfect." Dean sniffs the cupcake experimentally, then wrinkles his nose. The offending treat sails into the garbage can. "It's sort of a suckass birthday having to spend it with you." He flicks a look at Sam. "No offence."
"Why don't you open the book," Sam suggests.
"Why don't you stick it where the sun don't shine."
"Dean. I mean it. Look at the first page."
Dean makes a big production of sighing and rolling his eyes, as if looking at the book were the most tedious thing he has ever had to do in his life.
He flips open the book.
Nestled inside the front cover is a ticket to the Metallica concert.
Dean stares at the ticket. Then at Sam. The look on Dean's face says holy shit how did you do this?
Sam bursts into laughter. "I can't believe you thought I'd get you such a dumbass present!"
"I don't know how your brain works!" Dean splutters defensively. He holds up the ticket. "How can you even afford this?"
Sam just grins. "Why do you think I've been mowing lawns for the past month?"
"I thought you were just trying to piss off Dad."
"That was just an added bonus."
Dean wants to tell Sam how much this means to him. That Sam had realized how badly he wanted to go to the concert. Dean swallows. He doesn't know what to say without sounding like a total girl.
"I know just how to thank you," Dean says after another minute of thought.
Sam looks a little suspicious. "How?"
"I'll bring you back a t-shirt."
When Dean turns twenty-five Sam sends him a postcard.
When he gets back from the hunt he's cold, hungry, tired -- and lonely. Being with Dad is almost worse than being alone: when Dad's around it just seems to magnify Sammy's absence. They never talk about him, and it's almost as if Sam has simply ceased to exist.
Dean is still pissed at Sam for leaving, but there's a part of him (a very small part) that might be proud of him.
And then there's a postcard on the kitchen table.
The front is a picture of Casper the Friendly Ghost. The back says, Happy birthday. How's it feel to be old?
Dean looks at the card a long time, at the way Sam's handwriting leans to the right. Then he slides it in his back pocket and goes upstairs.
When Dean turns twenty-seven Sam gives him his company.
Sam is curled up in the bed next to him.
They're in the same cheapass motel they've been in for past few months. The names change and the cities change, but it's all the same. Every room smells like Lysol, the sheets are always threadbare. At least one light bulb is burnt out.
Dean watches Sam sleep.
His brother moves restlessly. He's dreaming again.
Dean's grateful to have Sam back. It's the best present he could have. But he's sorry for the circumstances. He's sorry about Jess and what her loss has done to Sammy.
He knows he might have to let Sam go again someday. After they find the thing that killed Mom and Jess.
But not yet.
Dean makes a wish.
For a little more time.
When Dean turns thirty Sam throws a party at the Roadhouse. There are pathetically few guests, but Dean doesn't care.
As far as he's concerned, it's perfect.
There's free beer all night.
Sam is there and he looks twelve years old again. There's a weight that's been lifted from his shoulders and it makes Dean want to kick up his heels (literally, it really does) to see Sam smile like that.
Bobby and Ellen chat at the bar.
Jo feigns interest in whatever shit Ash is talking about.
Missouri even calls to wish him well.
Sam claps him on the back. "How's it feel to be a hero?" he wants to know.
Dean can't help grinning back. "You tell me, Sparky."
Ellen watches them with a fond smile. "I can't believe you boys did it," she says.
Dean is thirty. And still alive. And The Demon is dead.
And Sam's not going anywhere.
Dean plugs fifty cents into the jukebox. Pretty soon Brian May's voice carries over the bar. "Another one bites the dust, and another one gone and another one gone--"
Dean nods at Sam, lifts his glass.
It's the best birthday Dean will ever have.
When Dean turns thirty-two Sam doesn't give him anything.
Unless you count the big fucking bruise where his heart used to be.
He can still see the imprint of Sam's hand on his chest. Like a burn. Or a brand.
They were standing on the side of the road.
Shooting the shit about zombies and ghouls. Which of them were a bigger pain in the ass to kill.
And then there's a van.
He can still hear the pop of the tire blowing.
It sounded like a pop gun. A toy.
And the van is barrelling down.
And Sam's hand is on his chest pushing him out of the way.
And Sam doesn't even say anything. He just grunts with the effort of making sure Dean is clear.
Dean goes rolling into the ditch and he hears a thump and breaking glass and another thump.
All bad sounds.
All sounds he doesn't want to hear.
He's still crawling out of the icy brown muck when he hears a car door. Then, a woman's voice, high and needle thin. Her cries pierce Dean's skull and he hates her before he can even see what she's done.
Sam is on the ground and it's obvious (ohfuckohfuck) he's hurt bad. There's blood everywhere and Dean can't begin to fathom where it's all coming from.
Dean can hear another shrill voice and he hates that person too, because it's the voice of the person who should have protected Sam. And didn't.
Sam is still alive when Dean bodily heaves the weeping woman aside.
Sam is still alive when Dean drops to his knees and takes Sam's hand.
Sam can't turn his head but Dean leans forward so Sam can see him. Dean is crying, no blubbering, really, and he doesn't care, doesn't fucking care because Sam is dying. His Sam. His Sammy. And that is not allowed in his watch.
That is not supposed to happen.
With everything they've seen and done, it's going to be a fucking van that does it?
A fucking soccer-mom van?
Sam's puppy eyes roll toward Dean and he tries to smile but his face is all broken and doesn't work right anymore. "I'm here, Sammy," Dean whispers, because he can't think of anything else to say. There's nothing he can say to fix this.
And while he's watching, Sam's eyes flicker and then Sam's not there anymore.
Dean sits on the side of the road, clutching the body of his too fucking tall brother and sobs like his entire world is ending.
Because it is.
When Dean turns thirty-two he's in another cheapass motel room.
But he's not alone.
It's taken a year.
A whole goddamn year to get everything just right. To make sure everything is exactly perfect.
But it's worth it.
It's going to be the best birthday present ever.
Charms and amulets hang from Dean's neck. There's a sigil painted on his forehead in blood.
Sam's forehead bears the same mark.
His body isn't in the best of shape, but it could be worse.
Dean says the final words of the incantation.
He blows out a candle.
And makes a wish.