Fanfic: Short for a Stormtrooper
Summary: Sam was curious about the whole 'birthdays' thing.
Spoilers: None. Set preseries , Sam is turning 8
Wordcount: 5850 – One shot
Genre: Gen, preseries
Characters: Sam, Dean, John
A/N: Thanks to my beta sandymg for kicking this up a notch. This started out as part of a two-paragraph meta about Sam's various birthdays, but this the boys just wouldn't stop talking.
Short for a Stormtrooper
His mother was there for his actual birth day -- kind of had to be, you know -- but Sam had no connection between 'mom' and 'birthday' until he was in school. He was curious about the whole 'birthdays are a big deal' thing because, well, for Winchesters they weren't. It was harder to ignore Christmas, with whatever town they happened to be in decorated to the teeth. But birthdays happened singly, without widespread cultural fanfare, and they were a hit-or-miss kind of thing for him and Dean and Dad.
Sam was seven – turning eight in less than three weeks. He'd been in Marengo Township School #2 for eleven weeks, and this afternoon Teddy Jobes had given him an invitation while they were out on the playground. It was the first one Sam'd ever gotten, and he was studying the little card with cartoon balloons and "Birthday Party" in bright yellow letters when Dean collected him from the second grade classroom at three o'clock. Sam was always the last student to leave since he had to wait for Dean to come from the middle-school building.
"Hey, Dean, did you ever have a birthday party when you were, you know, little?" As soon as the question was out of his mouth Sam knew he shouldn't have asked it. His big brother's usually animated face turned still.
"Birthday parties are dumb." But the sturdily printed "Come to Teddy's 8th Birthday Party, Saturday April 14, 3:00 to 5:00, 1845 Garden Lane" was hypnotic.
"Teddy Jobes gave me an invitation to his, Dean. It's Saturday afternoon -- do ya think I could go?"
Dean was biting his lip and not looking at him. "Pleeease, Dean?"
"Sammy, I don't know … Dad …"
"But if you were there then it would be okay. Dad might let me go if you came with me."
"Uh, yeah, Sammy, but ya hafta bring, ya know, bring a present or something …"
"Oh." They walked silently, Sam trying to figure out how to handle this obstacle. Presents were usually things like socks and underwear, because Dad bought them new at the store. The rest of their clothes came from places like Goodwill, and Sam was pretty sure he shouldn't give Teddy a present from there. Pastor Jim sent him and Dean presents at Christmas. Last Christmas he'd sent both of them a new flannel shirt — it had practically been the only shirt Sam had worn all winter because it was so soft and thick — and a book about real kings and knights of the Middle Ages for Sam and a leather-bound journal for Dean. Dean was so pleased with it he had taken to sleeping with it under his pillow.
"Dean, I have some money left from helping Ms. Ann repot her plants." Ms. Ann was the nice older lady who lived next door. She'd taken a shine to Sam. He liked to visit with her after school, and she would give him pretzels and tell him stories about being a young girl in Michigan. Lately she'd started asking if she could hire Sam to do some jobs for her, her twisted up arthritic fingers making it hard for her to do small things. One afternoon she had given him two dollars to line up a bunch of sewing needles and thread each with a different color, and three each of black and white, so she could just pick the one she needed for mending. Last weekend she'd paid him six dollars to repot her collection of houseplants, Ms. Ann giving instructions while Sam carefully shook out the tangled root balls and settled them in larger pots with nice fresh soil. Six dollars was more than Sam could remember ever having at once, and he was rationing it very carefully. He was pretty sure he had at least four dollars left.
"I dunno, Sammy …"
Sam didn't say anything, just kept walking beside Dean with his eyes glued to his brother's face, which made it a little awkward when he stepped on the patch of cracked sidewalk and almost tripped. Dean grabbed his arm, stopped him from falling, and Sam just kept "Please, please, please" running through his head.
"I'll … Let me think about it," Dean finally offered, the weight of Sam's wordless plea wearing down Dean's instinctive resistance.
"Okay," Sam agreed promptly. 'Think about it' just about always turned into yes, Dean would talk himself into it without any more assistance from Sam.
When the rumble of the Impala carried through the front window after supper, Sam picked up the invitation and prepared to ask Dad's permission when he came in the door. As he walked past Dean, who was sprawled on the couch watching some dumb T.V. show, Dean snagged the card from Sam's hand.
"Let me talk to him, all right? I'll wait till he's in a mood likely to say yes, okay? If you ask now, he's gonna say no just because. So leave it to me."
Sam lay on his bed listening to the hushed voices in the other room. His father had that this is a huge waste of time tone. Sam tried to convince himself that it didn't matter if his dad said no … maybe Dean was right and birthday parties were dumb. The conversation outside his bedroom continued but try as he might Sam couldn't make out any words. Dad was leaving tomorrow for work anyway. A tiny part of him thought maybe he'd never need to have known. But Dean would never do something behind Dad's back.
The door opening startled him. He was holding his breath without realizing it as Dean walked over. Quietly Dean told him to bring his money tomorrow and after school they'd look for a present, then shook his head at the brilliant smile Sam gave him and ruffled the top of his head before climbing into his own bed.
Four dollars and twenty-two cents. Sam had counted it out in the morning before school, and again while waiting for Dean to come get him after. He wasn't exactly sure what he could get for that much money, or where Dean was going to take him. But he knew his brother would help him get a good present.
Spring was making itself known in Marengo and it was a perfect day for a walk after school.
"Where're we goin', Dean?"
"To a toy store. So you can get a present for the kid having the party."
A whole store full of toys? Sam let his mind marvel at the idea. He had a vague familiarity with the toy aisles in drug stores and the chain stores Dad took them in occasionally, but this sounded like something from another world. He was so caught up in trying to picture what such a place might contain that the half hour's walk didn't faze him.
They had gone from a neighborhood of small shabby homes to a section of modest but clean storefronts. Sam looked with interest into a beauty salon, two women perched under enormous metal hoods reading magazines while another lady sat in a high chair getting her hair cut. He knew his father went to a barber once in a while but Dean usually cut his hair. Sam blinked through his bangs – when Sam would let him.
The next store they passed said "Edgebrook Hardware" on its white and red sign, and cans of paint, lawn tools, and big green trash cans filled its windows. The house they were living in now had a yard but their family wasn't allowed to use it, it was for the couple on the main floor. He and Dean and Dad lived upstairs. But there was a nearby park that Dean took him to on nice days.
The window of the next store was a hodge-podge of Barbie dolls, plastic bats and balls, LEGO sets, and baby toys. Dean snickered at the neon sign proclaiming its name.
"Cut Rat Toys," he grinned.
"Whaddaya mean?" Sam was puzzled.
"It's supposed to be Cut Rate Toys but look at the 'e' in the sign. It's not working. So it's toys for rats, dude."
"De-an, that's stupid." Sam huffed. But his annoyance disappeared the moment they went through the door.
Rows and rows of more kinds of toys than Sam had ever imagined. He started down the first aisle, which had bins of stuffed animals on the left and sets of blocks on the right. He stopped and stared at the enormous LEGO pirate ship box right at eye level. His finger traced the amazing photo on the box lid. Then he noted the price tag, 'Was $79.99, now $59.99' and he dropped his hand.
One aisle was full of board games — Operation, Monopoly, Twister, Chinese Checkers — on one side, the other side puzzles and coloring books. He and Dean scurried past the dolls' row, Barbies and baby dolls and soft squishy dolls in rainbow-striped costumes and little cases shaped like hearts that had tiny plastic figures smaller than his finger sitting in them labeled "Polly Pockets." Sam stopped involuntarily in front of the display of My Little Ponies – he had no idea they had so many different ones! Dean noticed Sam had stopped, walked back, and pulled him along. "Don't be a girl, Sam," he muttered.
They turned a corner.
"Here ya go!"
Sam stopped dead, overwhelmed at the wall of action figures before him. Dean was skipping with excitement. "Look at this, Batman! And He-Man! Hey, Sam, think your buddy would like Lion-O or Mumm-Ra? Dude!" Dean's voice actually went up in pitch. "Lookit! Han Solo and Luke Skywalker! And a Stormtrooper" Dean turned to Sammy. "Aren't you a little short to be a Stormtrooper?" he quoted. Sam shot him a shut up, Dean look.
Sam's eyes were caught by a set of boxes under the hanging packages. "Dean, look!" he breathed, annoyance at his brother's teasing completely forgotten. He caught Dean's arm and pointed at a full-size Jedi Light Saber. "Actually Lights Up!" the huge cardboard box proclaimed. As if handling a holy relic Dean picked it up, studied it, then handed it to Sam. $19.99, it said. "That's so cool!" Dean nodded in agreement, but the smile slid off his face.
"Yeah, it is Sammy, but we gotta get back so pick out what you want to get your friend and let's go."
"Okay." Sam stood a few more moments, trying to decide which one Teddy would like. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – the other day Teddy had been wearing a t-shirt with their picture. "That one, Dean. He's my favorite." Sam had to point to the turtle with the orange mask, he couldn't reach it. Dean pulled it down and handed it to him. "Michelangelo, huh? Yeah, he's cool."
$4.99. Oh. They were almost in front of the bored teenager manning the checkout counter.
"Dean, I only have four dollars and twenty-two cents," Sam whispered urgently.
Dean made a face but reached in his pocket. "You owe me." He handed Sam a rumpled dollar bill.
Sam handed the ninja turtle and the money to the gum-snapping clerk. Dean walked away to look in a locked glass display case.
Taking the bag and his change, Sam went to stand beside Dean. He was pretty sure Dean hadn't called him to look at "Enchanted Evening Collector Barbie." Then Sam saw the model cars on the shelf below the doll, and in the middle of them a palm-sized, detailed replica in shiny black metal. It was the Impala.
"It's just like it, Sam! I bet it's even the same year!" With all his heart Sam wished he had $19.99 to get that for his big brother. Dean stared at it a few minutes more, then finally pulled himself away.
At three o'clock sharp on Saturday, Sam was standing on the Jobes' porch with his brother, about to ring the doorbell but the door opened first. "Hi, Sam! That your brother?"
"Can Dean wait on your porch, Teddy, so's he don't have to walk home and back?" They'd agreed Sam would ask if Dean could stay outside, since the only way Dad had said Sam could go was if Dean stayed. And Dean had made it clear he was not going to hang out at an eight-year old's dumb party.
"Oh, sure. C'mon." Sam offered out his painstakingly wrapped present. Dean had suggested using notebook paper as gift wrap, and Sam had drawn scenes from the cartoon show on the sheets before taping it up. Teddy took it from Sam's hand and dropped it on top of the mound of presents sitting on a footstool. Sam noted immediately it was the smallest by far and reddened with a twinge of embarrassment, but balloons caught his eye and he followed Teddy into a room bursting with streamers and seven- and eight-year-old children.
"Oh Teddy, who's this?" asked a woman with shoulder-length blonde hair and friendly eyes.
"This is Sam Winchester."
"Hi, Sam, I'm Teddy's mom. It's nice to meet you. You're new in school, aren't you?"
Sam absorbed the odd sensation of 'motherness' as the woman smiled. She was really rather short, not much taller than Dean, and she was just wearing jeans and a flowered shirt. But it felt like she meant her smile at him. The doorbell rang. "I'll get it, Teddy, you stay with your guests."
Since nearly all the other kids were from his class, Sam was quickly absorbed in the milling group, and he was taken by surprise at the poke in his ribs. "Hey."
"Dean? What … Why …"
"Mrs. Jobes." Dean inclined his head in her direction. "When she opened the door for the next kid she invited me in."
"Oh. Okay." Sam had a thought as Dean moved away. "If you tell them you're my brother they'll know who you are."
"Okay, Sammy," Dean grinned.
Mrs. Jobes now tried to get everyone's attention. "Boys and girls …" She tried again, but only Sam and a couple other kids heard her.
A piercing whistle shot through the room and brought instant silence. Dean pulled his fingers from his mouth and looked expectantly for Mrs. Jobes to continue. "Th-thank you, Dean." She looked to the room. "If you would all come to the dining room, the pizza is here."
Sam was swept along in the scramble. Sam counted ten pizza boxes on the table. Mrs. Jobes was passing out plastic plates and repeating, "This one is sausage, over there is pepperoni, and these are cheese," every couple minutes in answer to the unasked question. Then she'd add, "Take your pizza in the family room, I'll bring in drinks in a minute."Snagging two slices of pepperoni, Sam settled on the floor with Quinn, Daniel, and Ellie, debating which was better, Thundercats or He-Man. Ellie argued that She-ra was a good cartoon, too, and then they were arguing which show had the worst bad guy.
"Mumm-Ra, for sure. Who wants root beer?" Dean was standing there holding out a cup in each hand.
At the chorus of 'me's' Dean handed out cups to Daniel and Ellie and said, "I'll be right back with drinks for the rest of you."
As Dean headed back to the dining room Sam explained to the group around him, "That's my brother, Dean. He's twelve."
Dean managed to juggle three cups in two hands for them and then returned with more drinks for another cluster of kids. Sam realized Dean must be helping Mrs. Jobes. Daniel and Sam started to re-enact one of the fights from He-Man, forgetting that their cups of soda were on the floor by their feet. Sticky brown liquid pooled on the pale tan carpet. Mrs. Jobes was quickly there, wiping at the mess with paper towels. Dean followed at her heels and shot Sam a what is wrong with you look.
"I'm so sorry!" Sam offered.
"We'll clean it up, ma'am," Dean said almost on top of his brother's apology.
"It's okay, accidents happen. Don't worry about it. It's not the first pop that's been spilled on the carpet." She rose and let Dean finish sopping the liquid with the napkins he'd grabbed. After a minute she touched his shoulder and said, "That's good enough. Why don't you get yourself some pizza now. I appreciate all your help."
Dean hesitated a moment. "I insist. We have plenty and I'd hate to see it go to waste." His brother mumbled thanks and was up and bounding toward the pizza boxes faster than a bullet.
Mrs. Jobes smiled at Sam warmly then, and for just a second Sam wished he could give her a hug, then realized that was weird and went back to talking with his friends.
Pizza consumed, the birthday boy proceeded to the spectacle of opening presents. Sam found himself paying attention to how Mrs. Jobes hovered around Teddy, commenting on the gifts as they were opened and smiling at the giver. Each gift got its share of ooos and ahhhs and way cools. Sam noticed his brother leaning over a high-backed armchair in the corner. He wondered why Dean looked kind of sad, but when Dean realized Sam was watching, his usual smirk sprung back on his face.
When Teddy picked up the small present wrapped in notebook paper his mom asked, "Who's that from, Teddy?"
Teddy looked at the roomful of his peers and shrugged, and after a moment Sam volunteered that it was from him.
Mrs. Jobes looked at the paper before Teddy ripped it off. "That's really neat, wrapping it like that," she smiled at Sam. "Try not to tear it, Teddy. The picture is part of the gift."
At his mother's prompt, Teddy took the time to pull the paper off where it was taped. "Cool, thanks!" he held the ninja turtle up briefly and proceeded to the next colorful package. Finally there was nothing left to open and Teddy was surrounded by shredded and crumpled wrapping paper, ribbons, and tissue. His mom had collected all the cards and presents and Sam's artwork and piled them all in one of the chairs.
She left the room and returned with one more tremendous package. It was wrapped in colorful paper with balloons and the words Happy Birthday repeated all over it in swirly script and was topped by the biggest bow Sam'd ever seen. "This is from Daddy and me."
Teddy ripped it open ferociously, tossing the huge ribbon on the floor and Sam looked over to see Dean also staring at the bow. But then all thoughts left his mind as Teddy uncovered out the LEGO pirate set Sammy'd seen in the toy store.
A collective whoa filled the air. Teddy turned to his mother and gave her a big hug. Mrs. Jobes shut her eyes a moment and buried her nose in the top of her son's hair. Sam looked again at Dean but his brother just turned and walked out of the room.
"Time for cake!" Mrs. Jobes sang.
The children all paraded back into the dining room where Dean was lighting the last of eight candles on the cake. An enthusiastic if not very musical rendition of "Happy Birthday" was followed by Teddy leaning over and huffing all the candles out. Again Dean helped serve the guests. Sam was glad when he saw Mrs. Jobes hand Dean his own large slice of cake. It was chocolate and had very thick creamy frosting. Sam thought chocolate was okay, but he knew it was Dean's favorite.
It was only a little after four o'clock, and fueled by sugar the party disintegrated into a chaotic mix of wrestling matches, paper throwing, running, and yelling. Teddy's mom came in with a garbage bag and attempted to collect the trash and simultaneously make suggestions for less rowdy things to do which were completely ignored. Sam went over to help put some of the strewn-about leavings in the trash. Dean joined them.
"Oh, thank you boys, I appreciate the help." Again Sam felt that funny feeling in his chest as she smiled approvingly. She made another ineffectual effort to restore order in the room. Sam happened to glance at Dean and saw the exact moment his brother had an idea.
"Ma'am, could everybody go out in the yard? I know something they could do outside."
"Oh, that's a very good idea, Dean."
"Sammy, grab a bunch of the ribbons from the presents."
"Okay, Dean. What're you gonna do?"
"Oh, you'll see, Sammy." Dean looked extra-pleased with himself, and Sam wondered what his brother had thought up. It would either be really awesome or something totally lame that would embarrass Sam forever. He hoped for awesome.
It only took a few minutes for Dean to have what he said was enough ribbon. Then he silenced the room with another ear-splitting whistle and ordered everyone outside.
"Okay, we need two teams. I'm gonna tie a ribbon on everyone's arm." Dean looked at Sam. "You know the quick-release knot Dad taught us? Can you help me tie these on everybody?"
"Sure, Dean. What are we doing?"
"You'll see." Dean grinned. "Oh, here, let me tie one around your arm."
Once every kid had a tie, Dean had the two groups stand on opposite sides of the yard.
"Okay, you," he pointed left to the group Sam was in, "Are zombie hunters. And you," he gestured right, "Are the zombies. You all know how zombies walk, right?"
Several of the boys promptly demonstrated the stiff-legged, arms-out walk.
"Right. So you zombies are trying to catch them. And you zombie hunters are after the zombies. And when you catch each other you have to pull off their arm ribbon, and when your ribbon comes off you have to fall down and not move." There was an immediate surge through both groups.
"Wait!" Dean ordered. "One more thing. Everybody has to move in slow-motion! 'Cause a witch put a spell over the whole area! So when I say 'go,' okay? One, two, three, go!"
The yard promptly filled with shrieks and fake moans and laughing as everyone started moving around trying to pull off each other ribbons.
"Hey, slow down, buddy! Not so fast there! Nice move!" Dean stood in the center of the bedlam like a traffic cop. Sam ducked his shoulder away from the girl who was reaching for it and reached back to grab hers instead.
"Gotcha!" Sam yelled and she stuck out her tongue as she sat down in the grass. He collected several more zombie ribbons before Teddy pulled his off and Sam enacted a dramatic collapse. When there were only three zombies left Dean declared them the winners and asked if they wanted to do it again, switching sides. The answer was a resounding yes, but before the second game was finished parents began arriving to collect the boys and girls. Teddy and his mother passed out 'goodie bags' to the departing guests, and Dean told Sam to help him clean up the ribbons dropped around the yard.
Finally everyone was gone except Dean and Sam. Once again the pleased way Mrs. Jobes looked at him made Sam feel funny in a good way.
"Thank you both for helping clean up." She handed Sam his treat bag. "I'm sorry I don't have a bag for you," she addressed Dean.
" 'S all right," Dean shrugged.
"I'll share mine," Sam added quickly.
"You really were such a great help this afternoon, especially with the zombie game in the yard. That was a clever idea. So," she reached in her pocket, "I want to pay you for your help. Now you can say you're a professional party planner." She grinned and handed a folded bill to him.
"Naw, 's okay, really," Dean mumbled.
"Really, you earned it. I can't imagine what my poor house would look like if you hadn't come up with your idea. So, thank you."
Dean hesitated but Mrs. Jobes pushed the money at him and he finally took it.
"Thank you. But are you sure, you don't hafta …"
"I know, but you did help me out, and I appreciate it. Is someone coming to pick you up?"
"No, me 'n' Sam are walkin' back."
"Okay, then. And Sam, it was nice to meet you. Maybe sometime you can come over after school." Mrs. Jobes pulled him into a quick half-hug and then headed back into the house.
Sam didn't move for the moment it took to absorb what a mother's hug felt like. It was nice, he decided, and she'd smelled soft. He wanted to ask Dean if it was okay that he liked Mrs. Jobes' hug but he was pretty sure that would make Dean get that quiet look on his face again, and he didn't want to do that. So he asked instead, "How much money did she give you?"
Dean had pocketed the bill, now he pulled it out and unfolded it. He gave a pleased snort. "Dude! She gave me twenty dollars!"
"Hey, Dean, you can go buy that model Impala at the toy store!"
"I totally could!" Dean was grinning broadly. He reached over and ruffled Sam's hair. "You get any more birthday party invitations, I'm gonna hire myself out as a … what did she call it? A professional party planner!"
Sam rolled his eyes but Dean just continued to look incredibly pleased with himself.
Dad had come back and gone again on business, but Dean assured him that Dad would be back before Sam's birthday on Wednesday. Not that Sam had any expectations; only since Teddy's party he had been wishing just a little that his birthday could somehow be special this year. Dad wasn't home by suppertime on Tuesday. Dean plopped two hard-boiled eggs and a slice of bread with a smear of jelly on the table where Sam was finishing his math homework.
"I want SpaghettiOs, Dean."
"Nah, gotta save those for your birthday dinner tomorrow."
Sam frowned but Dean ignored it. "Will Dad get home tomorrow?"
Dean had his back to him as he was at the counter layering his own bread with ketchup. "Sure Sammy." But his voice didn't have that 'absolutely positive' sound when Dean knew something for sure. Sam pushed his plate away.
Dean sat down at the table. He had only one egg on his plate. "C'mon, eat, Sammy."
"Don' wanna. Don' like eggs."
"Eat 'em anyway. Besides, you liked 'em the other day."
"I don't like them tonight."
Dean didn't answer, instead he made a big display of cracking the shell on his egg and peeling it off in one piece. "Want me to show you how to do that, Sammy?"
"No." Sam ignored his brother's frown. "I have to finish my homework." He didn't care that Dean looked unhappy. He didn't.
"Well, then, you'll eat it after you're done, right?"
Sam mumbled, "Yeah," and went back to the subtraction problems. He didn't touch the food until Dean had put his own plate in the sink and flung himself on the couch to watch T.V. Sam repeated to himself that it didn't matter, tomorrow was just another day. But it was hard to fall asleep that night.
Getting ready for school the next morning was exactly like every other morning. Sam tried very hard not to be hurt that Dean didn't even say 'Happy Birthday.' What was worse, Dean didn't even seem to notice Sam was upset. It's no big deal and but it's my birthday battled in Sam's head all the way to school and he had a bad day in class because he wasn't paying attention so he didn't know the place when Mrs. Daley called on him to read, he misspelled 'wouldn't' in the spelling bee, and he couldn't find the sheet of math problems he'd done last night – he must have left it in the apartment – so he got a reprimand for a missing homework assignment. When Dean met him at the classroom door, Sam was in a very bad mood.
Dean was oblivious to Sam's distress, however, strolling up with a pleased-with-himself smirk.
"Why are you so happy?" Sam fixed Dean with a killing glare.
"Because, Sammy," Dean punched him lightly on the shoulder, "It's your birthday and I'm taking you to Cut Rat Toys to pick out your birthday present."
"Really?" It came out in a squeak and Dean laughed.
"Yeah, really. What'd ya think, I forgot your birthday?"
Well, he had thought that, but Sam decided not to admit it. The walk to the toy store flew by as Sam vigorously debated choices with his brother. But he was no closer to a decision when they entered the intoxicating premises.
Once more Sam went down every aisle, noting every intriguing item in the ten-dollar price range that Dean had told him he could spend. He wondered if, instead of one item, he should get two cheaper items. How could he possibly decide?
Finally, both boys ended up in front of the action figures wall. All the other possibilities – LEGOS, puzzles, even books, paled before the splendor of the wall of heroes and villains. Dean dismissed as lame all the T.V. cartoon characters while conceding that it was Sam's present, after all, and if Sam wanted a couple of lame-ass animated figures, then that was what Dean would get him. Sam moved down the row, until he was back before the Star Wars display. Instead of looking at the hanging cardboards with plastic bubbles, however, his eyes fell on the ultimate treasure again – Luke Skywalker's light saber. But it was twice as much as he was allowed to spend and he couldn't imagine ever spending that much on one toy anyway. He quickly stepped away to the cheaper items.
A moment later Dean appeared by his side and nudged him with something. The light saber box filled his vision.
"Dean?" Sam looked up at his older brother whose smile was lighting up the store.
"Go on squirt, you want it don't you?"
"But … it's too expensive."
" 'S okay." Dean high-fived him. "Star Wars rules, dude!" Dean's entire face radiated pleasure.
Sammy knew that his brother would call him all kinds of names if he cried so he squeezed the cardboard box tightly all the way to the front of the store.
The checkout was run today by a gray-bearded older man in a short-sleeve shirt and tie. As Dean went to pay for the purchase Sam's attention was caught by the cars in the glass case. The black Impala was still there.
"Dean!" He remembered his brother serving sodas and cakes and cleaning up and playing with eight-year-olds even though they were dumb. He had to stop Dean from buying the light saber.
"Wait a minute, come here!"
There was no one else in the store so the clerk shrugged and stopped ringing up the purchase.
"Dean, what about this, the car? It costs the same. We should get this instead."
Very rarely had Sam ever seen Dean look surprised, but he did now as he stared at the model silently, and then shut his eyes a moment. Sam couldn't tell what Dean was thinking. Then Dean shook his head.
"Nah, it's your birthday, Sammy, and you need to have your very own light saber so you can be a real Jedi knight. C'mon." With a punch of Sam's arm, the grin was back on Dean's face. "Let's go, dude."
Once they were outside, Dean proposed Sam open it immediately. "Make sure it works right, ya know, while we can still get our money back if it doesn't."
Sam agreed, but then Dean was forced to fidget impatiently while Sam opened the box slowly and carefully. Then the light saber was out and he pressed the on switch and flicked his wrist.
"Sweet!" Dean exclaimed, as not only did the blade glow fluorescent green but it made the authentic zapping noise as well. Sam laughed in delight.
He battled Darth Vader and hordes of Stormtroopers for the entire walk back to the apartment. Partway there, Dean found a comparably sized stick and enthusiastically lost every fight. When they had just a few blocks to go, Sam offered to let Dean be Luke Skywalker for rest of the way, and just as he had lost every clash to that point, Dean promptly became unbeatable until they reached the front door.
Laughing and out of breath, Sam followed Dean into the tiny living room, then stopped, eyes wide with shock.
"Daddy!" He'd been so busy playing with Dean he hadn't even noticed the car parked up the block.
His dad looked up from the papers he was holding and smiled. "Happy Birthday, Sammy!" Without even thinking, Sam dropped the stick he was still carrying and flung himself at his dad who instinctively held the papers out to one side and embraced Sam with his free arm.
"You're home!" His dad's hug wasn't soft and gentle, but it was strong and warm and very safe.
"Couldn't miss your birthday, Sammy. Whatcha got there, Dean?"
"Dean bought me a real Jedi light saber for my birthday! Look at how cool it is!" Sam enthusiastically showed off its features.
Dad sat patiently through the demonstration. "That's one very impressive sword. Did you thank your brother?"
Sam immediately turned to Dean. "Thanks, Dean!" When Sam looked back, his dad was looking at Dean with a funny smile.
Dad handed Sam a small bag. "Got you something, too, but I gotta warn you it's not as impressive as that light saber Dean got you."
Sam grabbed the paper bag from his father's hand.
"Whatcha get, Sammy?"
A man-shaped masked turtle peered through the plastic on the flat cardboard.
"Michelangelo! He's my favorite! Thanks, Dad!" Sam took it over so Dean could admire it as well. Together they opened it. "Look at his grappling hooks, Dean!"
After a few minutes of examining it and being properly impressed, Dean headed toward the kitchen. "I was gonna make SpaghettiOs for Sammy's birthday dinner, Dad. Is that okay?"
"You know, birthdays only happen once a year. What do you say we go out for pizza?"
"Yea!" Sam tackled his dad again. One arm around Sam, Dad held out his other arm.
"Dean, you too big to give your old man a hug?"
The lighting-up of Dean's face was answer enough, and for a moment Sam was enveloped by his family.
It wasn't like Teddy's party, but it was his and it was enough.