"Morning," Sam said as he walked into the kitchen.
Dad glanced up from his coffee. "Morning."
"Dean," Sam added, taking a seat at the table and pretending he didn't see the manic gleam in his brother's eye. "Whatever you've got in mind, don't bother. I know what I want for my birthday."
"One birthday spanking coming tonight at midnight!" Dean said, visibly vibrating with glee, setting a plate of pancakes in front of Sam. "It's spanking season, and I got a hankering for some spankering!"
It was like talking to a child - a small, demented child. And Dean had never spanked him anyway, not once; he'd just happened to see some dumb movie with the tradition and decided to make it his own. Sam sighed and poured the last of the Mrs. Butterworth's over the sizable stack of pancakes.
"Seriously. Birthday boy gets to ask, and the non-birthday boy doesn't get to refuse, right, Dad?"
Dad sort of nodded, pretending it was a more of a shrug as he quaffed his coffee; given the size of the gulps he was taking, Sam thought it would be more efficient to just have an IV hooked up directly to a vein. "Nothing expensive or dangerous, but yes, the birthday boy gets to pick. But Dean gets to set the limits; it's older-brother privilege. I'm sure he won't abuse it."
Dean smiled angelically at him as Sam considered this ridiculous setback.
"Why don't you just tell me what it is, Sammy?" Dean's face was going red, but his balance wasn't wavering an inch; he didn't even need a wall for support when he did handstands.
"You already know you have to do it," Sam pointed out. "Why can't I just tell you tomorrow?"
"What if I need to prepare?" Dean asked guilelessly, not bothering to dispute the issue of his rights. He flipped over to his feet.
"Nice one, Mary Lou," Sam said, trying not to sound impressed.
"What if I need to prepare?" Dean persisted.
"Don't you always say you're born ready?"
"Yeah, but you're a sneak," Dean said. "Who knows what you've got cooking in that tiny little brain of yours?"
Sam socked Dean in the shoulder. "Shut up. You'll love it."
"Really." Dean didn't sound convinced, so Sam just nodded like there was not a doubt in his mind, and Dean shrugged and went back to his ridiculous acrobatic workout.
Man, it was hot. Sam kicked off the thin blanket and the sheet and turned his pillow over to get the cool side against his cheek, willing himself to stay still and let the cool air find him.
In the other bed, Dean snuffled in his sleep, and Sam rolled onto his back, turning his head to watch his brother.
Dean wouldn't really say no, Sam was 99% positive. He'd be the biggest hypocrite alive if he did, considering that he learned how when he was like twelve. Maybe eleven.
No point worrying about it now. He could always break out what Dean called his sad puppy eyes; Dean might have named them, but he still hadn't figured out any defense against them. Sam rolled over again, dragging the sheet back up and trying to get his mind to go blank so he could stop plotting and fall asleep.
"Happy birthday, Sam," Dad said without dropping his newspaper. "You sure you don't want a birthday haircut?"
"Dad, I'm fifteen, not five," Sam said, dropping into his chair. "Is there breakfast?"
Dean waltzed into the kitchen with a towel wrapped around his hips, briskly toweling his hair dry. "I didn't make anything because I wasn't sure if you wanted to go out to eat."
"Yeah, that sounds good," Sam said, perking up a little.
"Sam -" Dean hesitated. "I can buy you breakfast, but there's not a lot of money for anything else, then."
"No problem," Sam said cheerfully, almost unable to believe that Dean hadn't yet figured out what he was going to request. "My gift is going to be free."
Dad and Dean exchanged a look, and then Dad folded his newspaper shut and said, "I'll treat you both. Be in the truck in ten minutes."
Sam raced for the bathroom and smirked when Dean's fist pounded on the locked door.
"Spill, Sam," Dean said, as he chomped on the last of his hash browns. His plate was shining from all the grease, and he looked completely content, indolently reclining in the booth.
Sam dragged his fork through the remains of his strawberry crepes and whipped cream, not quite up to meeting his brother's eyes. "Okay," he said, squaring his shoulders and glancing sideways at Dad, who was watching him like a hawk. "I want you to teach me how to drive. In the Impala."
Dean didn't say anything, but he slowly leaned forward, his gaze never wavering from Sam's face. "You want . . . my girl to be the first time you get behind a wheel?" Dad stayed silent while Dean raised an eyebrow, and Sam swallowed. Then Dean's face broke out into a grin. "Yeah, okay," he said, and Sam slumped in relief, brushing up against Dad.
Dad's arm came up around his shoulders, and Dean snapped his fingers in front of Sam's face. "Hey, there are still rules. You got me?"
"Yeah, Dean," Sam grinned. "Whatever you say."
"Then skedaddle on off to the restroom."
"What? Why? I don't have to go." Dad's hand was on the back of his neck now, heavy and warm.
"Fine, you want to wear an adult diaper, that's your call," Dean said, smiling to get the waitress to come by with the coffeepot.
"What are you talking about?"
"You've got a bladder the size of a walnut, Sam, and I'm not going to stop your lesson every five minutes so you can hop out and water some bush. Or squirt on the front seat."
"I don't . . . squirt," Sam whispered, outraged, because the waitress was rapidly approaching earshot.
"Sure you do," Dean said easily. "First time you said you were big enough to pee on your own, you were so fascinated by your own tiny pecker that you started twirling it and got a squirt right in the eye." Dean had the good grace to stop while the waitress was actually pouring out coffee, but because of Dad's big hand on the back of his neck, Sam couldn't bolt anywhere. "You started squalling, and I had to pull your clothes off and dump you in the shower."
"Dad!" Sam hissed, hoping for a last-minute save. But Dean, stirring Sugar in the Raw into his coffee, was apparently on a roll.
"Yeah, from then on, you insisted on taking off all your clothes whenever you went to the bathroom, and - oh, Dad, you remember that parent-teacher meeting?"
From the way Dad's shoulders were shaking with silent laughter, Sam would bet that the answer was yes. "You were in the kitchen, stuffing your face with Chef Boyardee, and your second-grade teacher, Mrs. Kalashnikov -"
"Kalavsky, Dean, she wasn't a gun!"
"- yeah, Mrs. Kalavsky, came by, looking all upset. She said you always took about twenty minutes when she let you leave the classroom for a bathroom break, and once you came back with your shirt on inside out."
"So?" Maybe he could brazen it out, pretend like he couldn't feel heat creeping up his face. So he'd been a weird, finicky kid, so what?
"Dude, she thought you were beating your meat in there!"
"What? I was only seven!"
"What can I say, Sammy? Some people have dirty minds."
Dad finally boomed out a laugh, tousling Sam's hair, and between that and the happy grin Dean was wearing, Sam couldn't quite keep himself from cracking a tiny smile.
It disappeared when Dad said, "I don't think that's the best Sammy bathroom story, Dean." Dean looked confused. "The map?" Dad prompted, and Dean nearly choked on his coffee.
It was like picking at a scab, the same morbid fascination, curiosity overcoming self-preservation. Before he could stop himself, Sam asked, "The map?"
Dad gestured at Dean. "You tell it better."
"Yeah, so, you were probably too little to remember this, but Pastor Jim had this map of the world tacked to his wall, and you were obsessed with it. You used to stand there and just stare at it for hours at a time, and make me tell you all the names of the countries and the oceans and everything."
Sam considered that; he'd always liked the look of maps, and he could vaguely remember this one, all the bright colors and the big blueness of the water.
"Anyway, one day you'd gone off to the bathroom, dragging your little booster seat thing, and you came back looking so proud of yourself. You wouldn't quit bugging Dad until he and Pastor Jim stopped talking and came to the bathroom, and then you lifted the toilet lid and -"
Dad interrupted, because no matter what he said he loved being the one with the punchlines. "'Look, Daddy! I made Japan!'"
This time it was Dean who laughed so loud that all the diner customers turned toward him, and Dad just squeezed Sam tight and beckoned for the check.
Sam was still amazed at how much embarrassing Sam-history Dean had memorized, but none of that mattered now, because he was finally behind the wheel of a car. Dean's car.
"Check your mirrors," Dean said, sitting beside him. Sam glanced in all the mirrors, which was pointless, since he and Dean were the same height anyway. "Now put your hands on the wheel, get a feel for where it's comfortable for you," Dean continued, his voice unhurried and steady. "You feel good?"
Sam nodded, unable to speak, as his nervousness started to trickle back.
"Then here you go, squirt," Dean said, holding out the keys.
Sam snatched them from his hand and jammed the key into the ignition. When the car rumbled to life, he rolled carefully out of the driveway, hands shaking but not too much. He put the car into drive once they were clear of the driveway, and got to the end of the street.
Sam turned to Dean, triumphant because he'd done it as smoothly as possible, and found his brother conspiratorially stroking along the dashboard and murmuring, "That's how we do it."
Sam's jaw dropped. No wonder Dean had insisted on telling all of those mortifying stories; he'd known that indignation would win out over Sam's nervousness. But Dean being Dean, he couldn't just say, "Don't be nervous, I'll be there to make sure nothing happens." No, he had to do it this way.
"Way to be ass-backwards, Dean," he said under his breath, but of course Dean heard it and grinned, knowing he'd been caught.
"Sammy, birthday happy," Dean said, and laughed.