A/N: Welcome to one of my many random one-shots. I don't quite remember how this one came to be, but it's just a little one-shot about birthdays from Sam's point of view. It has a couple of flashbacks, and the end of it is set a month before Lazarus Rising. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: -Looking around the room hopefully- No, I'm pretty sure that it still doesn't belong to me. Maybe next year.
Hunters don't place a large importance on birthdays.
They count the birthdays until you are old enough to go on your first hunt.
The cheap store-bought cake had ten candles on it, ten flickering flames. "Blow out the candles, Sammy. Make a wish." He blew them out in one breath, wishing as hard as he could. The heavy hand fell upon his shoulder and he looked up into the smiling face, into the eyes that were trying to smile but failing miserably. The present was placed in front of him and he ripped the bright paper off, opening the box. He held the heavy metal gun in his small, ten-year old hands. "You're old enough for your first hunt now, Sammy." And the next birthday he didn't wish anymore, because the wishes never came true.
After that first hunt, they count down until you can go on your first solo hunt.
"Sam, I think you can handle this one on your own. It's a simple salt and burn, no loose ends. I need Dean with me on this other one. You take care of this and catch up with us afterwards."
"Dad, are you sure that I shouldn't go with him?" His brother's words cut into him deeply, but not as deeply as they had before. He was sick of all this now, ready to get away.
His father's eyes bore into him, like he was searching his soul.
"He's sixteen, Dean. He should okay for this one. Right, Sam?"
He nodded his head, but the truth was, he was never going to be ready.
And after that point, after you are old enough to hunt without someone watching over you, the hunters stop counting. After that point, birthdays are just another way of remembering that you are another year older, another year slower, another year closer to that eventual misstep that brings you tumbling down.
He watches his brother rub his knee, wincing.
"You all right, Dean?"
His brother jerks his head up and gives him a smile that is more of a grimace.
"I'm fine, Sammy. Just still smarting from that case back in Oklahoma."
But he reads the fear in his brother's eyes, the fear of getting older, the knowledge that he is slower, more of a liability. They can't afford to be older, can't afford to be slower. The stakes are too high.
Birthdays cease to be celebrations. There is no glory in having survived another year of your life. Instead, they serve as grim reminders of how long it has been since you lost the ones you loved.
Looking at the calendar he gave a bitter laugh. It was his birthday. Today he was twenty-five.
Today, it had been three months since his brother had been dragged into the pits of hell.