Disclaimer: If I owned it, I would take it all home and I wouldn't share. So there.
A/N: Just another odd, stray slightly insane thought, that followed me around after 5.08. So here it is.
AND MANY RETURNS OF THE DAY
Dean Winchester closed the door of the motel behind him and then tossed his duffel next to Sam's, lying on top of the dresser in the room. His brother, already seated on one of the slightly sagging beds, looked as exhausted as Dean felt.
The room had a seen-better-days shabbiness. Dean could sympathize. By now he was pretty sure his better days had been between day one and four years, ten months old.
He and Sam had just finished a fruitless three weeks following up a couple of leads to the possible location of the Colt. After days of driving and searching and some demonic encounters, they were no closer to the object of their obsession than they had been when they'd started three weeks ago and Dean, though he knew he'd never admit it to Sam, was feeling drained and lost and more than a bit defeated.
Even though he continued to adamantly insist he would never be Michael's vessel, he knew he was pinning his hopes on the Colt. If they failed to find it, he also knew he'd choose Michael over letting the world burn no matter the cost, even if the thought of being the archangel's vessel and the memory of Donnie's forever blank eyes sent a shudder through him.
The flicker on the face of the room's clock radio, caused by the struggle to keep the numbers lit up, drew his attention. 3:49 A.M. Then he blinked. 3:49 A.M., January the twenty-fourth. Well, damn. He was now officially thirty-one. Two years ago—well, okay, forty-two years ago—he hadn't thought he'd ever see thirty.
When he actually did hit the thirty year mark last year, things had been strained between Sam and him, and his birthday had been lost amid the lies and secrets. But damn it, Colt or no Colt, he wasn't going to let this one pass without some celebration, even if it consisted of nothing more than getting stinking drunk.
Then again, that wouldn't really be to Sammy's taste. Food then, something upscale that even Sam wouldn't turn his nose up at. A few laughs and some good food. Maybe it would keep the hopelessness at bay, if only for a few minutes. Right now, he'd take whatever he could get.
His brother raised tired eyes to meet his and looked at him questioningly.
"Tomorrow—I mean, later today—let's find us some really nice place for dinner. I can get a fancy steak and you can get something frou-frou. And I won't even make fun of you!"
Sam stared at him. "While a 'not making fun of you' day sounds really great, what's with the dinner stuff?"
Dean felt a momentary twinge of an old hurt. No one in his family had bothered to celebrate his birthday, or had even been troubled enough to remember it, since Sam was sixteen. Even after he came back from Hell.
He shook himself slightly. Okay, so his family sucked when it came to his birthday. He'd survive. Self-pity parties were in a luxury he couldn't afford.
Dean pointed to the clock. "3:53 A.M. on January 24th. I am officially thirty-one." No self-pity parties or not, part of him got a fleeting moment of satisfaction at the sudden guilty look on Sam's face.
"Dean, man, I'm sorry. I totally forgot." Then he managed to look even guiltier and Dean sighed.
"Yeah, I know, we're pretty much broke and the one card not maxed out is only a few fill-ups away from it." He gave his brother a quiet smile. "Hey, maybe next year."
Sam hesitated, as if to say something, then he seemed to change his mind. Finally, he just nodded. He gestured toward the bathroom. "You want first dibs on the shower?"
"Naw," Dean replied, shaking his head. "I'm just gonna crash. Lemme wash up first, then the shower's all yours."
Even though he was in bed a half hour before Sam, he was still awake when Sam's breathing evened out and his little brother began to snore with the fury of a thousand bee hives. Dean was more than a little bit ticked at himself. The damn Apocalypse was nipping at their heels, they didn't have so much as a clue about where the Colt was—and he was feeling bummed about his stupid birthday.
Hey, dumbass, how about sticking to worrying about the important shit? There's fucking enough of it!
His self-flagellation was interrupted by the sound of something small but solid hitting the window next to his bed and Dean tensed, senses suddenly alert. He pulled his hunting knife from under his pillow, and stared in the darkness toward where his duffel lay, the demon-killing knife tucked inside.
The sound came again, followed by several more identical ones, and Dean realized they were pebbles being thrown against the windowpane. What the hell? Someone was trying to get his attention? Whoever it was couldn't just come to the door?
Dean cautiously moved one end of the threadbare curtain and peered out. A figure stood illuminated by an overhead lamp in the motel parking lot. He hung his head and sore silently. Nothing like a visit from an annoying archangel, formerly an equally annoying Trickster, to ruin your night.
Reluctantly, he climbed out of bed—because he was damn well sure Gabriel had no intention of going away and if the pebbles didn't work, the archangel would probably use a tactical nuke next—threw on a pair of pants and padded quietly out the door and into the lot. Even in January, the Florida night was pleasantly warm and the asphalt comfortable for his bare feet.
He stopped in front of Gabriel, folded his arms across his chest and scowled at the archangel. "What now?"
"Dean-o, down boy! Can't an old friend come to visit on your birthday?"
"Sure. And if you see any on your way out, send 'em on."
Gabriel grinned. "That's why I like you, Dean. You never lose your sense of humor—feeble as it may be. Now Sam on the other hand," Gabriel shrugged. "He'd have to get one first."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Did you just come here to annoy me?"
"No, that's just a fringe benefit." Gabriel gave Dean a wicked grin. "Besides, I told you I came because it's your birthday. Happy thirty-first to one of my favorite patsies!" He beamed at Dean. "And I come bearing not one, not two, but three gifts."
He held out his hands. One contained a Russell Stover box and the other, a small rectangular object wrapped in glittery paper with the words "Happy Birthday" repeated in varying sizes and fonts. "Door #1 or Door #2 first, Dean?"
Dean gritted his teeth but knew, as before, that the trick to getting out in one piece was to play along. He took the Russell Stover box and held it near his ear. Nothing was ticking.
"They're chocolates, Dean. Not explosives." Gabriel plastered an expression of total sincerity on his face. It set Dean's teeth on edge. "Trust me."
"That's a joke, right?" Dean growled. "This is going to make me turn blue or chuck like a chicken, isn't it? I know you, remember?"
"Nothing like that. Archangel's honor."
Dean just stared at him. "Archangel's honor? Do you get freaking merit badges, too? Besides, you gave up being an archangel and I'll take a bet there ain't any Trickster honor." Then he grimaced and reached out and took the proffered box because the bastard wouldn't quit until he did. He had no intention of actually eating any of them.
Of course, leaving them around where Sammy might see them…
"Door #1! An excellent choice," Gabriel said, still holding out the other hand. "And now for Door #2."
Sighing, Dean took the smaller item. As soon as his hand closed over it, it began to change, becoming increasingly larger and heavier. He yelped and set it down before it fell out of his hands. The box finally stopped growing and Dean peered inside.
It was filled with brand new, very shiny parts for his baby, all of them clearly bought in 1967. One even still had a price sticker on it that made him desperately wish he could make all his car purchases at '67 prices. For a moment, he forgot about both the Apocalypse and the being to whom he was speaking.
"Thanks, man. Really." His grin stretched practically from ear to ear.
"For you, Dean, anything." Gabriel's expression then changed, something like sorrow flickering over his face. "So, ready for Door #3?"
Dean frowned. He'd forgotten momentarily that Gabriel had mentioned three gifts. Something shivered in his soul.
"No more boxes?" Dean's tone tried for cool but he could hear the merest quiver in it.
Gabriel shook his head. "Sorry, Dean. This is a gift of knowledge."
Dean gave him a sour smile. "Just like your brother Luci, huh? And that worked out so well for the poor stupid humans caught in the middle."
The archangel shrugged but he looked sympathetic. "You can put your fingers in your ears and go la la la, Dean, but it won't make it go away."
"Great," Dean muttered, "after school special time."
"So let's see, Dean. You're thirty-one today. That means you were conceived thirty-one years, nine months ago."
"Hey!" Dean said indignantly. "Ixnay on the Mom and Dad sex stuff!"
Briefly, the Trickster was back, a broad grin showing gleaming teeth in the lamplight. "Okay, Dean. How's this? Thirty-one years and nine months ago, you were planted in a cabbage patch. Better?"
Dean just glared at him and the archangel's grin widened. Then the smile turned more thoughtful. "You know, of all of us left behind, I always knew where Dad was. Not because Dad kept in touch—I think he was a bit ticked with my wine, women and tormenting humans lifestyle—but because my big brother did. I always knew where Michael was, and since he was with Dad…." His voice trailed off.
Dean blinked. "Then you know? Why haven't you given Cas at least a hint?" he asked angrily.
"Because I only always used to know. Then I lost touch with Michael. My big brother disappeared." Gabriel looked piercingly at Dean. "You know when?"
Dean said nothing, suddenly enveloped by the chill he'd only felt a hint of before. He knew the answer, heard it whispered in his brain and shouted in his soul, but he couldn't bring himself to give it voice.
"That's right, Dean-o. Thirty-one years and nine months ago." Gabriel shook his head. "Funny how I never put it together until I thought about giving you a hard time on your birthday—yeah, I wouldn't really eat any of the chocolates if I were you, though the parts are real and safe—and you could have knocked me over with a flaming sword when the heavenly choir began to sing."
An admiring tone entered his voice. "Damn, but Dad's a sneaky bastard. And Mike, too. Luce doesn't really stand a chance." The archangel pushed himself off the lamppost. "Well, just wanted to wish you a happy birthday, bro, and tell you it's time to wake up." He started to walk into the darkness then stopped and looked back at Dean, his expression unreadable. "You're the best of us, you know? And the only one I ever really missed, outside of Dad," he said softly. "Sorry I let you down."
Then he was gone and Dean was alone with the night and wind. "Happy birthday to me," he whispered, bitterness lacing his words.
And he knew, with an unshakeable certainty, it was his last one as Dean Winchester.
A/N: Sorry. It didn't start out this downbeat! Please let me know what you think.