Sam's Birthday, Seven Years Prior
"Hey, guess what?" a high-pitched voice sounded, diverting Dean's attention from the boxed macaroni noodles he was coaxing to a boil to the small freckled-faced boy suddenly beside him. Flashing his little brother an amused smile, he shrugged despite knowing precisely what Sam was getting at.
"I don't know, kid," he started, playful smile on his face. "What?"
"It's my birthday!" the exclamation came, causing the elder boy to smirk. It amazed him how long Sam had managed to stay in the realm of childhood, that magical time of carefree bliss that had eluded him since the age of five.
Both had grown up, essentially, without parents, their father occasionally dropping home only to leave a couple days later. There was a difference, though. Sam had someone looking out for him; Sam could afford to be carefree. Dean couldn't, not with the responsibility of the little life that was thoroughly dependent upon him. And, despite his mistakes, the older couldn't help but feel a sense of pride. Sam was a good kid.
"I know, bud," Dean smiled, stirring the noodles in the water. "This makes, what? Five-years-old? Six?"
"Nine!" Sam whined, a stubborn pout overtaking his features.
"I know, I know. I'm just kidding you, Sammy," the older of the two sighed, turning his attention back to the range. "I'm making mac n cheese, sorry. I know it's been like all we've been eating lately, but Dad hasn't sent us money for a couple of weeks, so…"
"I like mac n cheese," Sam smiled widely. "It's my favorite."
"I thought pizza was," Dean mumbled, transferring the cooked noodles to the colander from the pot, draining out the water.
"It is," the younger boy admitted before flashing his brother another thousand-megawatt grin.
"But right now it's mac n cheese." Dean laughed lightly, dishing his brother out a plate of steaming noodles.
"Well, good. Eat up." The boys each made their way to the table, Sam partially skipping. Shaking his head, Dean made a stop at the refrigerator, grabbing them each a can of generic grape soda. By the time he got to the table, Sam had already dug into the noodles, shoveling forkful after forkful into his mouth.
"Hey, slow down," Dean cautioned sternly, not looking forward to performing the Heimlich Maneuver to dislodge the nine consecutive bites of macaroni from the young boy's throat. "Don't they feed you at that school?"
"Yeah," Sam answered at face value, slowing his pace by a little bit while glancing at Dean, making sure he took notice. "But I'm hungry." After downing several more bites, the younger once again turned to his brother, who was having trouble downing the cheese-coated cardboard, and smiled sweetly.
Instantly, Dean drew in his bottom lip. "Yeah, sure." Handing Sam a clumsily wrapped present, not very large in size.
"Now, you have to remember, Sam, that I didn't have much money this year," he started, silently adding that not having "much money" actually translated to having none. Even buying the five dollar present was a little sacrifice for Dean, at the expense of the supplies he was supposed to buy for his art class. Making Sam happy was more important, though, despite the embarrassment of having to tell the teacher he wouldn't be able to afford it. Sam was his number one priority, keeping him fed and happy and getting him something for his birthday was his job.
"So try not to expect anything too amazing, you know." He hung his head as he qualified the gift, guilt tightening in his chest as he realized this was the same speech he gave every year.
He wanted to be able to buy Sam something amazing, something cool, like the expensive toys he inevitably put on his Christmas list each year. God knows the kid deserved it. But not being able to be the superhero brother and buy Sam the most amazing thing he could find put a dent in Dean's pride, each time he had to settle on cheap, dollar-store knockoffs of what the boy actually wanted. Sam never complained, though, accepting whatever he got like it was the real thing. Dean was thankful for that, yet wary of the day when Sam finally decided to take notice.
"Oh, cool!" Sam exclaimed, gawking at the small, intricate-looking toy he had uncovered from the crinkled wrapping paper. "Transformers!" Not having the heart to tell his brother it wasn't actually a Transformers, but a cheap version a third of the price, Dean nodded.
"Yeah, kid, you like it?"
"Yeah, it's the coolest!" the boy exclaimed, throwing his arms around Dean for a quick hug. "Thanks!"
"You're welcome," Dean smiled, breathing a sigh of relief that his brother had liked the toy. He watched as he tore open the packaging, silently praying that it would always be that easy to make him happy. Something told him, though, that it wouldn't.
Sam's Birthday, Present
Dean blasts the speakers as loud as he possibly can, tapping out the bass lines on track seven of the mix tape. Surrounded by soccer moms in their minivans and office dads in their high-end cars, most people in Dean's position would feel a bit out of place, uncomfortable, even. However, Dean isn't your average person, everything about him screaming against the confines of shy or reserved.
He finds the irony in the situation and subsequently does all he can to coax the stares and dirty looks from the uptight forty-somethings waiting oh-so-patiently for their equally annoying children. Capitalizing on the situation, Dean even lays on the horn, demonstrating his lack of patience as Sam casually strolls from the building, eyes immediately landing on his brother. And while most kids would be mortified at the situation, Sam can only shake his head, a small smile forming on his lips.
"Idiot," Sam laughs as he opens the door, slipping casually into the passenger seat.
"Hey, you were taking forever," Dean defends, leaning back in the driver's seat, hands laced behind his head. "Had to have some fun." Sam smiles, shaking his head once more.
"Sorry, I got held up after seventh," he admits, glancing out the windshield. "It was apparently necessary for Mrs. Hubbold to point out to me it was my birthday."
"Well, yeah," Dean murmurs, pulling out of his parking spot alongside the curb. "You're kind of a dumb kid, probably necessary she reminded you. Just in case you forgot, Mr. A-Plus In Everything."
"Right," the younger snorts, glancing out the passenger window. A short silence sets in, Sam nervously wringing his hands in his lap. "Hey, um, Dean-"
"Oh," Dean interrupts suddenly, as if just remembering something. "Did I say 'happy birthday' this morning, or…"
"No, I believe it was, 'Get your ass out here, I'm leaving without you,' this morning. Which is kind of funny if you think about it, you know, since the whole point was to take me to school."
"Whatever," Dean mutters. "Anyway, happy birthday, kid."
"Thanks," Sam glances to his brother. "But I'm not a kid."
"Oh, I forgot," Dean smirks. "Sixteen. You're over the hill, man. Might as well be married with kids by now, huh?"
"Even if I was, you'd still call me a kid."
"Damn straight." Another brief silence sets in, save for Dean's sporadic curses at other drivers' mistakes. Sam glances at him occasionally, the anxiousness settling in his chest, his heart threatening to jump out of his chest.
"Hey, Dean-" he begins, only to be cut off once more by a seemingly oblivious Dean.
"I stopped at Blockbuster before I came, picked up a bunch of movies. I figured we could have a marathon, you know, bad special effects paired with us drowning in nacho cheese and pizza grease. How's that sound?"
Sam's heart immediately drops from his throat to the pit of his stomach. Why does he feel so bad about this?
"Um," he begins, voice quiet as his eyes fall to his hands. "Actually… I was kind of planning on going out tonight." Silence. Chewing on his lip, he gains the courage to steal a glance at Dean, who keeps his eyes on the road under noticeably furrowed eyebrows.
"Going out," he articulates after what seems like forever, bluntly repeating what the younger said with little to no emotion.
"Yeah," Sam nods, the taste of blood seeping into his mouth as his lip finally gives way to his teeth. "I, um…"
"With who?" Dean asks, the sheer empty, perplexed nature of his voice making Sam wince.
"Some friends of mine," he answers vaguely, his voice still quiet and uneasy, like that of a reprimanded child.
"Right." Dean glances to his brother, making the younger squirm uncomfortably under his stare. "What exactly are you planning to do?"
"Go out," Sam repeats with more bite than is warranted, something about his brother's demeanor rubbing him the wrong way. "I want to go out with my friends on my birthday, okay?"
"To a party?" Dean asks, crossing the line from big brother to parent.
"Yes," the response comes, cool and patronizing.
"Alright, well, I wish you would have told me ahead of time or something. It's kind of tradition, man, you know… I guess I just kind of assumed…"
"Tradition," Sam snorts, receiving a hard stare from his brother. "I'd hardly call lying around the house every year tradition. Unless you want to talk about Dad bailing on us every year, now that is tradition." Silence. "Don't worry about it."
"Oh, I'm not worried," Dean's eyes narrow, staring at him in disbelief. "Just surprised, that's all."
"What, that I have friends?" Sam snaps. "Every year is the same thing, man. I'm sixteen now. Don't I deserve to have a good birthday for once in my life?" The moment after the words leave his mouth, Sam instantly feels guilty, a feeling which is amplified when he steals a look at his brother's face. Shit.
"Look, Dean, I didn't mean…" he trails off, voice soft, glancing to his brother with slightly pleading eyes.
"No, I get it," Dean clears his throat, firmly avoiding eye contact. "You go out and have fun. I'll just hang around the house." Sam opens his mouth to protest, to somehow convince Dean that the birthdays growing up, as bare-bones as they were, were some of the best memories of his childhood. He wants to tell him he's thankful, that the last thing he wants to do is make him mad at him. Somewhere along the initial idea and the glance to the door, however, Sam's loyalties waver.
Seemingly expecting a response, the elder of the two rolls his eyes when none comes, stationing them coolly back to the road.
"Do you want me to drop you off somewhere, or…" his voice sounds deeper than usual, offering his brother the same tone he uses with strangers on the street, guarded and chilled.
"Yeah," Sam nods, knowing that he will be way early getting to the party, but all too aware of the awkwardness that would inevitably ensue returning to an empty house with his obviously pissed brother. If nothing else, he would walk around the block until 6:00 came around. Anything trumps the idea of dealing with an irritated Dean and, more importantly, an irritated with him Dean.
"So are you going to tell me where, or…" Dean prompts slowly, condescendingly.
"Dean," Sam closes his eyes, anger rising. He hates it when his brother gets like this, talking down on him like he's a little kid. "Just drop me off around 27th and Oyster. I can walk from there."
"Fine," Dean grumbles, words resounding as the next couple of minutes plunge them into the most awkward silence Sam can recall ever experiencing.
At last, Dean pulls up along the curb at their destination, eyes instantly falling on the mop-haired boy next to him, hating the distance that has suddenly formed within the walls of the Impala. This is hardly how he planned to spend the day.
"So, how late should I expect you?"
At first Sam takes the question at face value. That is until the sarcasm sinks in, pushing the moody teen off the brink of stability.
"Okay, you know what? Stop it. Just stop trying to be my fucking dad for once," he snaps, fire in his eyes.
"Sam-" Dean starts, anger evident in his tone. The younger doesn't allow him to start on his rave, however, strategically interrupting him prior to the real eruption.
"Just don't worry about it, okay?"
"I wasn't worrying, Sam, I was going to offer you a ride home," Dean retorts, a feeling of guilt instantly forming in Sam's chest. "But you know what? If that's how you're going to be, you can find your own way home."
"Fine." Sam throws open the door, scrambling out with a seething look on his face. Leaning into the car, he offers his brother a mocking smile, murmuring, "Don't wait up," before he slams the door to the Impala and stalks off, without so much as glancing back.
"Bitch," Dean grumbles, slamming on the gas as he speeds away.
It's 7:30 when Dean finishes the first movie, his eyes focused listlessly as the credits start to roll, the stark contrast of the letters on the velvety black background somehow pushing his eyes out of focus and concentration. Not that his concentration was ever really there in the first place, the absence of Sam casting a distinct glare over the screen. Sitting around an empty house with a bowl of Tostidos and a jar of nacho cheese sauce along hardly holds the same appeal as it does with company. In fact, the circumstances make Dean feel pathetic, even, forcing his awareness of the situation into overdrive.
Fighting with Sam sucked. Being ditched by Sam sucked. Sitting around the house, thinking about how he misses Sam sucks. And, most pathetically of all, feeling hurt by the whole situation sucks. He had always tried, growing up, to give Sam he could and that included birthdays. He knew he would never be able to fly the kid out to Disney World or anything for his birthday, but he always tried his hardest. And, under the circumstances, he thought the had done fairly well. But to hear Sam say that he was wrong, that everything he had put forth during those years wasn't enough… yeah, it hurt. It hurts almost as much as knowing Sam is out there having fun while he sits on the couch, experiencing a major guilt trip. Damn, it sucks.
Dean is abruptly torn from feeling sorry for himself, however, when the front door creaks open, exposing a brooding Sam, shuffling his way into the small room connecting the entrance to the living room where Dean sits, gawking at him. Closing the door, Sam turns, shyly nodding at his brother.
"Hey," he offers awkwardly, looking suspiciously like a kicked puppy with his tail between his legs.
"Hey," Dean returns, staring at the younger boy before him. "I, um… you're home early."
"Yeah," Sam acknowledges, eyes firmly planted on the floor. "Party wasn't really what I thought it was going to be, My, um… my friends kind of ditched me to get wasted and I wasn't really too fond of the idea of spending my birthday with a bunch of drunken idiots."
"Oh," Dean nods, unsure of what else to say. "That sucks."
"Yeah." Glancing back towards the hallway where the bedrooms are, Sam looks back to his feet. He stands awkwardly, still in the arcing threshold between the entrance and the living room, obviously unsure about moving.
"Hey, come sit here," Dean smiles, patting the seat next to him on the worn green couch. "We still have a stack of movies here, if uh… if you want to watch them."
Smiling in relief, the younger makes his way over, plopping familiarly in his spot beside Dean.
"Yeah," he smiles. "Sounds like fun." Dean nods, trying not to let the happiness he feels inside translate to his face.
"Did you eat anything?" he asks, watching as Sam grabs some chips, plunging each eagerly into the cheese sauce before devouring them. Sam shakes his head.
"We can order a pizza, if you want," the elder begins, clearing his throat. "You know, if you're up for it." Sam smiles sadly, glancing to his hands.
"Look, Dean, I'm really sorry about earlier," he starts quietly. "I was an ass to you. You're right, I should have told you if I had other plans before, but I was just kind of excited because these kids invited me to this party and I thought… you know, I kind of thought I might finally have found some friends here.
"But, I mean, what I said about tradition, my usual birthdays… man, I was way off base. I know how hard you always try to make my birthdays special and you do, man, really. I mean, I only have the best memories of growing up which, you know, under our circumstances… it should be impossible. But, I mean, I'm really sorry, I shouldn't have bailed like-"
"It's okay, Sam, I get it," Dean smiles, desperately wanting to save what masculinity may be left in the conversation. Deep inside, though, it's what he needed to hear. Sam didn't hate him. He didn't completely fail at making Sam happy. And, most importantly, Sam didn't mean what he said earlier.
Dean fumbles for the phone, dialing up the number of the closest pizza place. Sam watches as his brother orders, smiling when Dean tells them he wants a large extra cheese pizza, then laughing when he follows up with a snide, "Yes, that's all I want on it." Dean has always said that ordering just cheese is a waste of a pizza, but, being as it's Sam's favorite, he usually ends up buying it anyway. It's a sacrifice he's really to make to make his brother happy, and, most importantly, avoid the whiny comments from Sam when the elder orders his favorite, double meat supreme. With the tantrum that kid usually pulls, it's well worth the surrender.
Hanging up, Dean murmurs a quiet, "Twenty minutes." Sam nods, glancing toward the television screen with the still-rolling credits.
"The Final Chapter?" he guesses, squinting as he recognizes certain aspects of the Friday the Thirteenth movies he had grown up watching.
"I don't remember how that one ends," Sam scrunches up his face, turning to Dean.
"Stuff happens, people die," Dean offers vaguely, leaning forward and pushing a small, wrapped object towards his brother across the coffee table. It hits Sam in the knee, prompting him to glance at Dean curiously, furrowed eyebrows showcasing his confusion.
"What is it?" he asks dumbly, gawking at the blob of red wrapping paper, Christmas, incidentally.
"What does it look like?" Dean scoffs, unsure if his brother is subtly insulting his wrapping job or is simply that slow. "It's your present, dumbass." Sam glances up at him, mouth slightly agape.
"Man, you didn't have to get me anything," he murmurs softly, eyes drifting shyly back to the present. Dean closes his eyes, well aware that his brother is referring to the financial aspect of the gift.
"Yeah, well," he swallows. "This isn't costing me anything." Sam gives him an odd look as he adds under his breath, "I hope."
Noticing his brother's continually locked stare, Dean sighs, "Well aren't you going to open it?"
Sam nods, glancing at his brother once more before carefully attempting to peel through the thin paper, finally succeeding at exposing a small, weathered white box beneath, presumably from some sort of jewelry gift in the past. Carefully prying open the finished cardboard, Sam's mouth drops, instantly looking in to the older boy for an explanation.
"It's a key," Sam states, his entire demeanor a mix of shock and confusion as he gapes at the shiny piece of metal.
"Yeah, it is," Dean smiles nervously. "To the Impala." Sam's jaw finishes the drop to the floor at this, his eyes growing to twice their normal size as he meets Dean's questioningly.
"I figured we could go out to Pier's Point this weekend, teach you how to drive," he continues as his younger brother's eyes stay plastered to the key in amazement. "I can't afford to get you your own car, but I figured you could use the Impala, when you needed to, you know." He watches Sam with an expectant stare, happiness welling up in his chest as a smile breaks out across his face.
"I… I don't know what to say, Dean."
"Yeah, well, there are conditions, of course," Dean clears his throat. "No driving until I say you're ready. No bringing anything in the car that could damage it in any shape or form, and that includes your dumb friends. No getting mouthy with me and taking the car when I need it. No stupid driving and, most important, know that if I find a single scratch on her, you are dead and buried, okay?"
Sam nods, elation still evident across his face as his picks up the key and studies it between his thumb and index finger.
"I'll protect her with my life, man, I swear," Sam pledges, knowing how much Dean cares about the car and how much it says about Dean's trust in him that he would even consider letting him drive it.
"Thanks Dean, this is incredible," he smiles at his brother, mobbing him with a quick hug that is over before Dean can even protest.
"Yeah, don't mention it," he mumbles, glancing towards the TV. "What do you want to watch?"
"What do we have?" Sam asks, body still shaking from the shock of the present. Dean hands the stack of VHS tapes to Sam, who subsequently begins thumbing through.
"Hey, um, Sam," Dean starts, receiving a glance from his brother. "What you said earlier… about me trying to be like your dad. You know, if you'd rather he teach you how to drive, that would be fine. I mean, I know that's like the traditional thing to do, like a father-son type of thing, and…"
"You kidding me?" Sam snorts. "I saw how rough he was with you, that man was out for blood when you were learning how to drive."
"Yeah, I know, man" Dean smiles at the memory. "He had good intentions, though I don't think I realized that at the time. He was just being protective. He didn't want me to go out there unprepared."
"Yeah, well, I'd much rather have you teach me," Sam declares with the corners of his lips slightly upturned. "Besides, I know you won't let me go until you're a thousand percent sure I'm ready. If Dad was protective of you, then God knows you're a hundred times more protective of me."
"Whatever, man," Dean smirks, trying to look like he's shrugging it off. Inside, though, he knows Sam is right and as much as he tries to resent his brother for knowing it, he can't.
Dean watches as Sam's attention drifts from the stack of video tapes back to the key, his index finger drifting over the cool metal. Dean smiles, considering saying something jerk-like about how obsessed his brother seems to be with the gift. But for once he closes his mouth, simply watching as Sam basks in the happiness of his present. Funny thing is, Dean realizes, Sam wouldn't have been disappointed if he would have gotten something on a much smaller scale, never has been. Whether it be dollar-store Transformers-knockoffs or cheap CD players, Sam was always thankful for whatever he got.
So, even though the car is a major step up from the usual, the look on Sam's face is familiar, the smile drawing on memories of past times. Maybe he was wrong when he thought eventually there will come a day when Sam grows away from being grateful. Maybe that's just part of Sam, just like the sweet undertones of a conscious that brought him back to the house. Just like the little sacrifices he makes to get that smile on Sam's face… in the end, it's well worth the struggle.
I've been writing fanfiction for a while now, but this is the first fanfic I've completed for Supernatural. I have a couple of others that I've started, but I really cracked down to finish this one. Probably the longest chapter I've ever written, but I tried really hard not to get lazy with it.
Thanks for reading. I'd really appreciate any reviews I get.