'I'm twenty-six, dude,' I still remember saying that to Sammy the night I went to Stanford to get him. Twenty-six seems like a lifetime ago after all the crap and stuff I've gone through these past six years. Now when I think of that man, I wonder where in the hell he went cause I barely remember what it was like to be that free.
Today I'm turning thirty-two and sometimes I still feel like the sixteen year old without the answers my little brother needs. Normally since the year I was old enough to fake my way into a bar, I spend my birthday in a bar or with a woman. This year…this year I have Sammy to think of and after what happened the last time I left him alone, I have no intention of going out.
It's been two weeks since we've been on the road and Sammy is still having issues with some things. I won't let him handle actual fieldwork until we can get some serious training in but that'll wait until he can stay up through just a simple PT routine or he doesn't puke his lunch up. It's those moments that I wish I'd hurt those bastards more than I did because I hate to see the fear and pain in my little brother's eyes or knowing he thinks he's letting me down.
I wanted us in a real motel tonight because I know he'd been trying to stay awake so he doesn't have nightmares and I want him to sleep. I also want to be able to take a drink after I get him to sleep so I don't want to be driving.
Sammy's pacing the bedroom which means he nervous and I figure I know why. He knows I normally go out on my birthday and he's been trying to get me to go out but I won't. I can't take the chance of ever leaving him alone until I handle the threats to him.
Turning thirty-two briefly makes me wonder how long I'll be doing this. Lisa still wants me to come back but I can't. I meant what I said to her at Christmas. I'm not a 9-to-5 person and if I would've kept driving that pickup much longer it would've ended up in the same shape as that damn possessed garden gnome. I tried the whole normal life but my normal is 6'4" with more heart than brain at times and is pacing the bedroom while I'm in the shower.
Lise means well but it's been me and Sammy since he was six months old and it'll be me and Sammy until I'm put in the damn ground for real this time. Now if I could just get him to lay off the guilt trip he's been on since Christmas I'd be happy.
Turning off the shower, I throw on some sleep stuff and notice that Sam appears to be sleeping…yeah, right and I'm a Smurf. Sammy hasn't gone to sleep that easily in months. He's pretending to be asleep but why's a mystery until I spot the card and the box on my bed.
'Sammy,' I whisper to myself. I'd told the kid not to get me anything but I suppose I should've known he would. That's just the way Sam is. Touching the card, I decide to open the box first to see what kind of geeky gift my geek-boy of a little brother found at the motel gift shop when I feel my breath catch and my stomach flip.
Taking the highly polished but still worn looking silver lighter from the box, I don't have to turn it over to know what I'll find or what it means. Dad had a lighter engraved with the Marine logo that he gave to me when I hit eighteen. It never failed to catch on the first try and had burned more bones than even I like to think about, then during my final year I'd lost it somewhere and I think that bothered me slightly less than leaving Sammy behind because I'd wanted Sam to have something from Dad.
Running my finger over the worn Marine logo, I feel something on the other side to notice a new engraving and I feel my eyes burn as I read: 'Dean, the most awesome big brother ever. Sam' and I feel the urge coming to toss my no chick flick rule again but push it back until I open the card.
It was one Sam made on that little printer he attached to his laptop when we needed to print stuff out and it was a picture of us that Bobby had snapped sometime when he could catch us both in one place when we weren't fighting. It wasn't the 'Happy Birthday Dean' that made me choke but the handwriting inside that threatened to bring me to tears again.
'I know you'll make fun of me and the card but hey, my big brother only turns thirty-two once so suck it up, Dean. I know the lighter isn't as much as you deserve but it's all I could give you this year since you wouldn't just tell me what you wanted.
'Dean, I hope you know how much I wish I could take back all the pain and loss I've caused you to suffer. You're my brother and I love you. I wish you hadn't lost so much the year I was gone and I hope you don't regret not going back to Lisa but…I really don't think I could do this on my own yet so I hope you're staying because you want to and not out of guilt. I promise to try to take the stress away and not depend on you so much and I'll get back to being the partner you deserve and not the annoying little brother you have to wrap in bubble paper like you have been. Happy Birthday, Dean and…I'm glad you're still my brother even after everything you've learned. Love, Sammy.'
Swallowing the emotions that I feel building, I narrow a look over at my supposedly sleeping little brother before moving to sit beside him. He's awake and the not knowing what I'm doing or thinking is driving him nuts so just as I see him begin to move I place a hand on his shoulder. "Thanks, Sammy," I tell him and try to ignore how my voice shakes when I move my hand to his neck. "I also know you're not sleeping but I'll let half of what you put in the card slide…so long as you never think it again. Got it…bitch?" I put in for effect, waiting to see what he'd do.
Sam nods after a minute before turning to look up at me and I still can read so much by looking at those big eyes that I know I'm not going to get out of a chick-flick moment. "Yeah…jerk," he replies then offers something that I can't toss back at him. "Happy Birthday, Dean."
Dad raised his sons weird so I know what those simple words mean in Sammy-speak and as I leaned up against the headboard since I know he's worked himself up over my birthday and the nightmares would hit tonight with a damn vengeance. "Yeah, I love you too, little brother," I mutter, watching him roll over to fall asleep as I add. "Now, shut up and never make me say that until your birthday."
I hear Sam laugh before he falls asleep while I fall back into the habit of flicking the lighter open and closed while he settled against me as he had been doing since I got him back. I hear him say 'Happy Birthday' again in a sleepy voice and wait until he's asleep to let my hand move from his neck to card through his hair with a sigh.
"Sammy, you'd already given me what I wanted for my birthday, kiddo," I murmured softly, knowing he's keeping his dreams from me again and deciding that starting in the morning it was time to get him training slowly again and to find out what the hell's scaring him that he won't tell me. "Not having to cope through another birthday without my baby brother is the best gift I could've gotten."
Pocketing the lighter, I lean my head back against the wall to plan. I have five months to come up with something extra special for Sammy's birthday…and since I promised Bobby no more fireworks I'll have to think of something else. "Thanks, little brother," I tell him and relax for the first time on my birthday and not regretting my choices to go back on the road with Sam. Now if I can keep the Campbells the hell away from him and make sure Bobby doesn't destroy his kitchen again I'm good. I hope.