Please Note: This is my first time doing this. This is my first time sharing a story with someone other than my sister or one of my close friends. I am 13. And I don't mind constructive criticism as long as it's helpful and not just mean unnecessary crap. Thanks! :)

"Hey, I got to do some grocery shopping, k Sammy?"

Sam nodded. "Take your time, Dean. I'll be fine."

Dean smiled and tousled Sam's hair. "I know, kid. Don't get into trouble. I'll be back in a bit. Be sure to keep the door locked and put the shades down."

Sam watched Dean leave through the window of their apartment. As soon as he was out of sight, Sam closed the blinds and scurried into the bedroom and pulled his backpack out from under the bed. He opened it and took out a box of cake mix. He had already worked it all out. The walk to the store usually took about 15 minutes, and shopping took at least 20, since Dean could never remember where stuff was. Sam should have plenty of time to make it before Dean got home.

He read the directions on the back of the box and opened the fridge. He wasn't surprised to find that there were no eggs. In fact, he wasn't surprised that the fridge was completely empty. Just in case, since he knew Dean, he looked in the cupboard. All that was in it was lots of salt. Even if Dean had gone shopping yesterday, he probably wouldn't have bought any eggs. The money Dad had left was being spread pretty thin, since he was late. As usual.

Sam grabbed the apartment key off of the kitchen counter and hurried to their neighbor's apartment on the next floor, locking the door behind him. He had spent the last couple weeks getting acquainted with Ms. Reed, and he was sure she wouldn't mind helping him out. He knocked and waited patiently. She always took a little while to answer the door.

Ms. Reed opened the door and grinned at him. "Sam Winchester! To what do I owe the pleasure?"

Sam gave her his best puppy-dog eyes and showed her the cake box.

"Well, Dean's birthday is today, and I wanted to surprise him with a birthday cake. But we're out of eggs and vegetable oil, and we don't have a cake pan, so I was wondering if I could borrow some of yours."

Ms. Reed smiled. "Of course, sweetheart! Come in and sit down while I get it for you."

Sam obliged, shutting the door behind him and taking a seat on her couch.

XXX

"And that comes to… 28 dollars and 17 cents. "

Dean reached into his pocket and cursed under his breath. He checked his other pockets, growing increasingly panicked.

"Is there a problem, kid?" asked the man behind the counter.

Dean looked up and smiled sheepishly. "Um… Well… I left my money back at the apartment. I'm really sorry, sir. If you could just keep those groceries, I'll be back in a minute with your money. I'm really very sorry sir!"

He turned and hurried out of the store before the man could open his mouth.

"Damn teenagers," the man muttered.

Dean ran to the apartment, getting there in less than half the time it usually took, and knocked on the door. He always had Sam lock the door when he went out, just in case, and they had a password every week. He waited for a few minutes, tapping his foot impatiently, and knocked again, louder this time.

"Sam! Sam! It's me, open the door!" he shouted."Jefferson starships!" he added. He was greeted with silence. Dean's heart began to race. "Aw, damn it Sammy."

He ran down the steps to the landlord's office, and burst in.

Mr. Ferguson looked up from his desk and looked at Dean's heaving chest and red face.

"Hello, Mr. Winchester. You look like you're in a hurry. How can I help you?"

"I need a key to my apartment. Please. I really need one."

"What for? I gave you one not two weeks ago."

"I know, Mr. Ferguson. I… I locked it in my apartment by accident. I know it's there. Please, can I have a key?"

Mr. Ferguson rolled his eyes. "Boys," he muttered as he opened a rawer in his desk. He took out a key and handed it to Dean.

"Bring it back, or you'll have to pay for it, young man."

"Understood, sir. Thank you!"

Dean rushed back to the apartment, banging on the door one more time without an answer before unlocking the door and bursting in.

"Sam! Sammy!" he yelled as he searched the tiny apartment. When it was clear that his little brother was missing, he ran back into the living room. That's when he noticed the key was gone from the counter. He groaned in frustration.

Sam had strict rules not to leave the apartment, so either someone broke in and kidnapped Dean's brother and the key to their apartment, or Sam had disobeyed a direct order. He recalled what Sam had said before he left, about taking his time, and cursed loudly. The tricky little monster wanted him to take his time so that he could sneak out!

There was a loud knock on the door. Dean sighed in relief and ran over.

"Sam, I'm gonna kill you!" he cried, flinging the door open. He gasped. It wasn't Sam. Dean's voice grew angry. "Dad! Here the hell have you been?"

"Don't talk to me that way, Dean! Where's Sam? What's going on?"

Dean quickly filled his father in on what had had happened, John's face growing more and more concerned as he spoke.

"Do you have any idea where he could have gone? Did he drop any hints? Has he been talking about anyone a lot lately?"

Realization hit Dean like a freight train. "Oh, crap."

"What? What is it?" John cried. "Don't tell me it's a girl!"

Dean groaned. "No, Dad. It's not that. It's my birthday," he said miserably. "Sammy probably wanted to do something for me. Dad, we've gotta find him before he gets into trouble."

"Did he take the money that you left?"

Dean ran into the kitchen and opened a drawer. "No, he probably didn't know I left it."

"Great. That's great. I don't want my youngest stealing this early in life! Dean, we have to go."

"K, Dad," Dean said, following him out the door. "Dad?"

"What, Dean?" he said, clearly irritated.

"I'm sorry, Dad."

XXX

Sam looked eagerly at the timer and scowled. There was still 4 minutes on the timer.

He looked at Ms. Reed, who had finished the frosting. "Thanks again for helping me out! You're the best!"

She smiled. "You're welcome. I know how much you care about Dean. Even though I haven't known you very long, it's very clear to me. And I know how important it is to make your older brother happy on his birthday," she replied wistfully. "Here, taste this frosting."

Sam eagerly stuck his finger in the bowl, then his mouth. A grin split his face.

"That's delicious!" he cried.

Ms. Reed laughed. "Anyone would think that this was your first time having home-made frosting!"

"It is," Sam said.

Ms. Reed looked at him. "So you're dad's not much into baking?"

Sam laughed. "Are you kidding? The most I've seen him cook is grilled cheese, and he set off the fire alarm!"

Ms. Reed smiled. "It must be hard, huh, with your mom gone and your dad never around."

For a moment the happiness on Sam's face disappeared, but he smiled again, somewhat hastily. "I'm used to it, and Dean's a good brother. He takes care of me. And Dad's promised to stay for a long time before he goes on another business trip."

"Where does your dad work again?" Ms. Reed asked.

Sam's mind went blank, and his stomach dropped. "Um…"

Just then, the timer rang for the cake. Sam sighed in relief and opened the oven, glad to let the subject drop.

"It looks good!" he cried. "Let's get it out!"

Ms. Reed nudged him aside and got the cake out of the oven, then dumped it out of the pan onto the counter.

"It'll need to cool for a few minutes before we can frost it. What do you want to do until then?"

"Um… I dunno. Do you have cable?"

Ms. Reed chuckled. "Yes, I do. Feel free to watch it."

Sam cheered and dashed into the living room. He seized the remote and turned on the T.V, then began looking through the channels. By the time he had chosen something to watch, however, the cake was ready to frost.

XXX

"Yes, officer. We've searched everywhere, and we can't find him," John said, his forehead wrinkled in distress.

"What does your son look like?"

"Here, I've got a picture of him in my wallet," John replied, pulling his wallet out of his back pocket and handing the small picture to the officer. "His name is Sam."

The officer took the picture and looked at it.

"We'll start by questioning the people at your apartment complex."

"Thank you very much, Officer."

John went back into the apartment where Dean was waiting, concern written all over his face.

"Are they gonna find him?"

"They're gonna do their best, Dean."

"Dad, I'm so sorry! This is all my fault."

John looked at Dean, and said sternly, "No. This is not your fault. If it's anyone fault, it's mine. For not being here."

"But, Dad-"

"Dean! It's not your fault! And…and I'm sorry."

Dean looked at his father in surprise. He had never heard his dad apologize to anyone ever.

"For what?"

"For being gone. For being a dead-beat dad. For making you grow up faster than you should have to."

Dean was at a loss for words, and spent a moment staring at his dad. Finally, he said, "It's okay, Dad. You're helping people. You're saving lives."

John smiled. "Happy birthday, Dean."

"Thanks, Dad. Let's hope it's happy."

XXX

Sam thoroughly enjoyed frosting the birthday cake, although it turned out a bit lumpy and uneven. Ms. Reed even let him put on sprinkles, and had a plate that said 'Happy Birthday' to put the cake on.

Sam was thrilled with the result, and Ms. Reed walked him to the door.

"Tell Dean to have a very happy birthday for me, okay?" she said with a smile.

"I will, Ms. Reed. Thanks again for everything!"

Sam opened the door and gasped. There were two police cars with their lights flashing near his apartment, and there were lots of police officers going around, knocking on the doors of all the apartments.

He walked carefully with the cake, not wanting to drop it, and tugged on the sleeve of an officer. The officer turned around, saw him, and shouted with delight, "I found him! I found him! He's here! He's safe!"

Sam frowned in confusion.

"What are you talking about?"

"Son, where have you been?"

"I was just at Ms. Reed's, making a birthday cake for my brother," Sam said, tears filling his eyes.

"Sam!" shouted a familiar voice.

Sam turned. "Daddy! Dad!" he cried.

Dean came out of their apartment. "Did we find him?"

Sam rushed as fast as he dared down the stairs, crying as he did. The police officers all started calling to each other. "We found him!"

Sam reached Dean and their dad, and both of them embraced him.

"Sammy, I was worried as hell. Where have you been?" Dean said with a mixture of relief and anger.

"I'm sorry! I didn't know! When you left to go shopping, I went to Ms. Reed's apartment to borrow some eggs and oil, and she said I could make the cake at her house, so I did and she made frosting and we made you a birthday cake, and I thought you were going to be gone a long time and I'm sorry, I just wanted it to be a happy birthday since Daddy wasn't here!" Sam wailed between sobs.

To his great surprise, Dean started laughing, and John even had a small smile.

"I'm glad you're okay, Sam," John said, wrapping his arms around him.

"Me too, Daddy. What happened? Why did you call the police? Why did Dean come back?"

Dean told the story as John talked with an officer. A few minutes later, a policeman asked Sam a few questions, then left, and the rest of the policemen left too.

When all the commotion was over, John took the cake from Sam. "This looks good, buddy. What do you say we go eat some before I chew you out?"

Sam scowled at that last part, but he realized he probably deserved some lecturing, and agreed readily.

The Winchester family went into their tiny apartment, where they stuck a match in the cake, lit it, and had Dean blow it out immediately so that they didn't get any ash on the cake, which was delicious despite the fact that it came out of a cardboard box.

John was resolved to yell at Sam a bit, but he ended up just giving him a good talking-to, since more than anything he was glad to be home and he was glad that his boys were safe. After the cake was finished off (three boys can eat quite a bit), they sat full and content on the overly squishy couch, talking about the events of that day and the plans they had for the next while before John got another job or they had to move again.

The boys went to bed happy, and John tucked them in. Neither of them could even begin to suspect how their father was feeling, and John was glad of that. He didn't want them to see how worried and pained he was. He had to be strong. He had to be the dad while he still could.