A/N: The title comes from Tony Christie's – Happy Birthday Baby, which my stepfather used to play for me each year when I was younger.

January 24th, 2004. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

What was her name? Candy? Cordy? It started with a C….or at least, Dean thought it did. But then, he'd sunk enough Jacks to believe his own name started with C. It was wrong…so very wrong to feel as hung over as he did at that moment. Nausea rippled through Dean, stirring him from the brassy blonde pole dancer he'd hooked up with the night before. She was nineteen if he had heard her right, with legs that went all the way up and a wildcat personality that had left scratches down his back.

Man, it had been one hell of a night.

But now Dean wanted nothing more than to crawl out to his baby and head back to his motel….or maybe crawl to the bathroom and turn his stomach inside out, the jury was still out on that one.

" Yugunmaykemesumcoffee?" Cordy/Candy – no, it was Cindi...with an I. Dean remembered now – seemed to speak into the pillow and for a moment, Dean wondered if she could even breathe like that? She turned her head to one side and cracked an eye open to look at him. " I have instant…"

Dean gave Cindi a shaky smile and forced himself to sit up and swing his legs to the floor. His boots were near the door, a trail of clothes still strewn across the room where they had been dropped while the pair of them all but screwed each other as they tried to make it to the bed. God, he'd been drunk. But judging by the torn and empty wrapper on the floor, not so drunk as to be careless about protection. Chalk one up for Dean.

" Tell you what? How about I go down Starbucks and bring you back a coffee? One of those crappuccino things with malt and cinnamon frosted over it?" Dean offered as he got up and dragged his jeans on. His shirt was next, the stale smell of alcohol, perfume and that nasty fake smoke they used at strip joints making his stomach roll.

"Sure… vanilla would be great."

" Vanilla…sure. Not a problem." Dean nodded, tugging his jacket on at the same time as he slid his feet into one boot, then the other. Closing the door behind him, Dean headed straight for his beloved Impala, patting her front fender lightly before he climbed in. " Hey baby, I sure know how to pick 'em, huh?"

With a rumble of pure muscle and spray of gravel, Dean roared out of the parking lot of the cheap apartments Cindi called home and headed back to his motel room.

The room was empty when he got there, something that didn't surprise Dean in the slightest. Dad had called two days ago to say he was delayed and that he'd meet Dean when he could.

When he could apparently didn't include Dean's 25th birthday. But hey, birthday's had never been a big thing with the Winchesters. Lack of money, a lack of a home and the simple fact Dad was away more than he was around most times, meant that birthdays had become just another day.

As kids, Dean had made sure Sam had gotten something on his birthday each year. Even if was a twinkie or a chocolate bar. It just didn't seem right that his little brother shouldn't have each year of his life celebrated. In return, Sam had always made Dean something, from a drawing to a piece of artwork in school. One year he had made Dean an awesome wood carving of a wolf in high school. It still sat safely in his duffel bag.

Deciding that breakfast was a better idea than moping about in an empty motel room, Dean headed for the local diner a few blocks away. He stopped by the post office first to check for a new card, since the one Dad had left was almost at it's limit.

A small envelope was tucked in the box along with the new card. Dean's name was scrawled across the front in Sam's handwriting. Tucking the envelope into his back pocket, Dean opened the credit card envelope and placed the new card in his wallet, then went back out to the Impala.

At the dinner, Dean ordered the strongest coffee he thought he would keep down, plus a greasy serving of eggs, bacon, sausage and fried mushrooms. While he waited for the food to arrive, Dean took the envelope out of his back pocket and opened it. Inside sat a photo of Sam, smiling broadly for the camera, his hands tucked into his shirt as he leaned against some huge statue that Dean couldn't make out. It was good photo of his brother, showing him happy and relaxed, the way Dean always wanted to see Sam.

He turned it over and found written across the back,


Thought this might put your mind at ease. I'm fine. Doing well in fact. But I wanted you to know I haven't forgotten you, you jerk. Not every day you turn a quarter of a century. I'll be getting you that walking frame soon.

Happy Birthday and look after yourself. Tell Dad I said hi. Sam.

Dean smiled and carefully folded the photo down so it would fit inside his wallet. It wasn't the same as having his brother there with him, but just seeing Sam happy was enough to make Dean smile. He missed him every day. The pain always sharp, leaving Dean hollow inside at times. But if Sam was smiling like that? Then maybe the pain was worth it after all.

Dean cell phone began trilling in his pocket and he pulled it out, hitting the answer button as soon as he saw Dad's number on the screen. " Dad?"

" Dean. Where are you?"

" Lacey's. Little diner on Thomas Street." Dean gave the waitress a smile as she put his order in front of him.

" Stay there, I'll meet you in ten."

" You're here? But I thought you weren't getting in for another day or so?" Dean felt a weight lift off his chest.

" I got the truck part sooner than I thought I could. I'm at the motel now. See you soon…"

Dean hung up the phone and slid it back into his pocket. He tore into his breakfast with a renewed appetite, beginning to think that turning 25 was alright after all.

May 2nd, 2004 Palo Alto, California

The class had been long, but interesting. Professor Clark had a habit of speaking in complete monotone that soon drove away those less than committed to the study of pre-law. But that was the very reason Sam loved this class so much. It was so damn normal, dry, boring. So very different to the life he had left behind 3 years ago when he walked out on Dad and Dean, choosing Stanford over them. Or so Dad seemed to think at the time.

Gathering his books, Sam got up from his desk and followed the crowd of students out of the auditorium, his mind already on what notes he had made and what reading would have to be done for the next class. It was short walk across the campus and down two blocks to the apartment he shared with Jess. She was in class herself until four and Sam glanced at his watch, noting that it was 2.30pm. Plenty of time for him to have a shower and get ready for a night out at Hinkle's tavern. The buffalo wings were to die for and Sam had a feeling Jess had organized him a little get together with their friends.

Jess was thoughtful that way and Sam was so glad he had taken the chance to ask her out last year at Mike's party. His life was that little more complete with Jess there to remind him of what he'd always been looking for. She was stable, normal, planning their future that may or may not involve marriage and children and Sam working for one of the top lawfirms in the state one day.

But there was one thing Jess couldn't take the place of, no matter how Sam thought he was done with that life, done with the past….and that was Dean. Three years on and Sam still missed his brother every day. It was usually just small things now…he would hear Metallica on the radio, see a trailer for a movie that he knew Dean would love…and a tiny ache would begin in his chest.

It had taken Sam two months to sleep properly when he first got to Stanford. He was so used to hearing his brother in room with him, snoring, mumbling in his sleep. It was a lullaby Sam had never realised he needed until it was gone.

Tonight would be a lot of fun, but deep inside, it wouldn't be the same, turning 21 without his big brother there to share it.

Sam headed up to his apartment and once he was inside, dropped his books on a side table and headed for the kitchen. He took the milk from the fridge and poured himself a large glass, already kicking his shoes off in preparation for his shower.

There was a knock at the door. Draining the remainder of his milk, Sam swiped the back of his hand across his top lip to remove his moustache and padded softly over to the door. His eyes widened in surprise as he saw a stunningly beautiful brunette at the doorway in a sleek blue velvet trenchcoat. A portable stereo sat as her feet as she pressed the play button on the cd player with one slender toe painted as red as her lips.

Sam knew the song instantly. Bad Company – Rock N Roll Fantasy.

" Look…uh…I think there's some sort of mistake here…" Sam started, his cheeks already flushing red as the woman untied the trenchcoat to reveal nothing but a g-string and a pair of tassles glued over her nipples. Her breasts were full and perky, her body taunt and perfectly sculpted. Sam felt his mouth dry up and instantly looked away. " I'm sorry..but…"

" Shhhhh, just enjoy babe." The brunette pressed one long finger to his lips as she gyrated in front of him, her hips moving in perfect synch with the song, her breasts rising and falling, the tassles swinging with an almost hypnotic effect.

Sam found his brain frozen as he tried to look away, reminding himself that he was spoken for, that he had Jess. This had to be Mike and his pals, setting him up with this.

Finally, he gained enough brain function to realize he couldn't do this….didn't want this.

" Look, I'm not sure who it was that put you up to this? But um….I'm sorry, you're gonna have to go. " Sam pulled twenty dollars from his wallet and handed it to the woman, stepping back to close the door. " I'm really sorry. I mean, you're beautiful, really…but I have a girlfriend…and …"

The woman laughed and handed Sam a card. " Wow…he does know you well."

The stereo was turned off, the trenchcoat tied in a matter of seconds it seemed before the woman blew Sam and kiss, dropping him a wink as well. She sashayed down the stairs, a smile on her face.

Sam frowned, looking at the card in his hand for a moment, puzzled by her comment. As he opened the card, his brother's hand writing jumped out at Sam, his heart squeezing ever so slightly.

Twenty one, huh? That's a rite of passage in some societies, dude. In our world? It calls for a stripper gram. You had a heart attack yet? I got you the prettiest one they had. Hope you tipped her well, bitch?

I've got your back as always, bro. Happy Birthday. D.

Sam smiled and tapped the card lightly against his hand. He went back into his apartment, set to have his shower, humming Rock N Roll Fantasy as he went.

Outside at the curb a black Impala waited until it saw the stripper leave, before it pulled away and disappeared into traffic, it's driver singing along with his stereo. If he hurried, Dean could get a discreet spot at Hinkle's before Sam got there. His brother would never know Dean was there, watching over him. Keeping him safe always.