Author's Note: So it's not Sam's birthday, but in honor of my birthday today, I wanted to get this out. This was written for kate_mct's prompt at the OhSam Comment Fic Meme:
"It's Sam's birthday and Dean wants to celebrate. I mean, between the job, going to Hell and Castiel taking down The Wall, Sam should've been dead so many times and Dean wants to celebrate his brother still being alive for 29 years. But Sam's depressed because of all those things and the fact that he always thought that he and Jess would have married and had a couple of kids by now, don't forget that their mom was twenty-nine when she died and so was Dean.
Cue awesome!BigBrother!Dean cheering Sam up with a day away from the hunt and the Leviathans. Maybe they hole up at Rufus' and they spend a day together as brothers and Dean tells Sam stories about their mom and life before YED killed her."
Disclaimer: I own nothing you recognize.
Dean started thinking about it mid-April, almost as soon as they were back on the road after seeing Charlie off at the bus station. Bobby was in and out of the backseat, still working on staying consistently visible, and Sam was crammed in the front with his knees practically up to his chest. He was turning the chunk of clay they'd stolen from Dick Roman over in his hands like a different angle might reveal all the thing's mysteries or whatever.
And it struck Dean out of the blue that his brother was here. He wasn't just physically present, but was all Sammy sitting shotgun, from the thoughtful tip of his tongue peeking out of the corner of his mouth to the hunch of his shoulders that served to shrink his bulk in on himself.
After everything that had happened in their lives, it was pretty much a miracle that his brother was alive and conscious and sane sitting there with him. Between the job, their dad, Cold Oak and Dean's deal, a trip a piece to Hell and back, angels and demons, demon blood, a soulless doppelganger, a Hell Wall and its destruction, leviathans, Bobby and Castiel, and the Devil himself—a mouthful of a list that frankly left Dean a little dizzy—neither of them had any business being alive, much less together and on the road.
It wasn't in the Winchester DNA to say something cheesy like I'm glad you're alive and with me after all these years, bro, but actions speak louder than words. Dean pondered a while what he could do that wouldn't raise his brother's suspicions or earn him some holy water in the face. It was after midnight and Sam had drifted off to sleep, curled against the passenger door but not quite fitting like he did in the front seat of the Impala, when Dean got the idea. He smiled to himself and began plotting.
It was the last week of April when Dean decided to casually slide the idea into conversation. They were sitting in a corner booth of a roadside diner, and after the waiter brought the usual rabbit food for Sam and a bacon cheeseburger for Dean, Dean cleared his throat. Sam looked up from his bite of Cobb salad.
"We should take a break," Dean said.
Sam raised an eyebrow at him, looking more bemused than anything. "What are you talking about?"
Dean shrugged. "You know, from hunting. We've been going pretty much nonstop since Cas fixed your noggin." He shoved aside the image of Cas cowering against the far wall of Sam's room as quickly as it arose.
Sam frowned and put his fork down. "Dean, I'm fine."
Dean shook his head. They were still only weeks removed from Sam nearly dying in a psych ward, an image that was going to haunt Dean for the rest of his life, so he figured he was allowed to be concerned about his kid brother.
"We can't just stop. We're in the middle of a fight," Sam said. "We have leviathans on our tails, a weird stone tablet that we don't know what to do with, Cas stuck with Meg in a mental hospital, Bobby—"
"Okay," Dean broke in. "I get it. Our plate is overflowing."
Sam leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. "So then what's this about?"
"Can't we just take a few days to appreciate that we're both, I dunno, not in Hell?"
Sam was silent a moment, then he snorted. "It's the little things, isn't it?"
"Now we're talking," Dean replied with a grin.
"I never said I was in."
"You never said you weren't either." Sam opened his mouth but shut it again after a moment. Dean took that as a sign to plow forward. "And what better time than to take a few than on your birthday?"
Sam's face closed off so quickly that Dean was surprised his brother didn't have whiplash. "No."
"Dean, no." With that, Sam turned back to his salad and wouldn't meet Dean's eyes for the rest of the meal.
Dean blinked in surprise at how decisively Sam had shut the idea down. There was more to this than just having work to do to take down the Big Mouths. This was some deeper hurt that Dean was almost offended he didn't know about. And that, of course, had his imagination running wild with scenarios about why Sam might not want to celebrate his birthday, each darker than the last. By the time they finished eating, Dean felt as low as Sam looked. When they got back into the car, Bobby appeared in the back.
"What's wrong?" he demanded.
"Nothing," Dean said, putting the car into reverse and backing out the parking lot.
"Nothing my ass," Bobby growled. "The temperature in here dropped enough to make me cold with the two of you. That's supposed to be my gig."
"It's no big deal," Sam replied as they merged back onto the freeway.
Bobby glanced between them a couple of times before grumbling "Idjits" and vanishing. This time, Dean was pretty sure he meant to do it, too.
Sam sighed and deliberately looked out the passenger window at the glorious Oklahoma scenery. Dean rolled his eyes but was still determined to go through with his plan. And now he was curious, too. He was supposed to be the world's foremost expert on Sam Winchester and here he was, rusty. That was going to change.
They stumbled onto a hunt in Colorado at the end of the month. They had stopped for lunch with every intention of getting back on the road, but the locals at the diner were talking about some recent deaths of teenagers at a local haunted house. After exchanging a glance, they paid their bill and booked a room for a couple of days.
It was a pretty straightforward case. Dean did some recon on the house while Sam hit up the library, and they deduced quickly that they had a poltergeist on their hands. Dean left Bobby's flask in the car while they headed into the house, much to their old friend's irritation, but neither Sam nor Dean wanted to worry about ghost wars with Bobby in such a volatile state. They packed up their charms for purifying the house—a recipe Dean silently thanked Missouri for and had the strangest sensation of you're welcome hit him—rock salt-filled shotguns, and flashlights.
They'd split up and had gotten their cleansing bags into two of the four corners of the house before the poltergeist realized what they were up to. Dean was on the lower level in the living room when the air in the room seemed to thin out. He whirled around just in time to see a translucent figure in the doorway and the broken coffee table flying toward his head. He flattened himself and rolled behind the closest sofa for cover. He grabbed his shotgun, cocked it, and peered over the sofa back and ducked when a lamp flew at his head. He looked back up and immediately let off a shot. When he dared peer over the furniture again, the room was empty of ghosts and flying objects, so he set back to work.
He'd kicked in a hole in the wall when he heard a loud crash upstairs and a yell of pain that Dean would recognize anywhere. He cursed and ran into the entryway just in time to see Sam roll out of the master bedroom and slam hard into the banister. The air seemed to go from his brother's lungs and he slumped for a moment.
"Sam!" Dean yelled, cocking the shotgun to take another shot at the angry spirit.
But that seemed to shake Sam out of his haze and he pulled himself together. "I got the two up here," he called over his shoulder.
Which meant they just needed the one Dean had been distracted from. Crap. "On it!"
He raced back into the living room. He fumbled for the final cleansing bag in his pocket and was just shoving it into the hole in the wall when there was a loud crash. Sam cried out just as the cleansing wave went through the house.
The poltergeist dealt with, Dean ran back into the entrance way and found Sam sprawled out unconscious on the foyer floor. His legs were folded awkwardly under him, his arms limp at his side, and there was blood matted on his forehead. Dean glanced back to the second level and saw Sam's shotgun. The poltergeist must have knocked him down the stairs just before the cleansing.
"Shit, Sammy," Dean hissed as he dropped to his knees next to his brother.
He felt for a pulse and sighed in relief when he found one. After a quick triage, nothing seemed to be broken, but Sam was going to be bruised to hell for a little while. He put one hand on his brother's shoulder and shook him gently. Sam groaned and his eyes flickered open.
Dean gave Sam a relieved grin. "Hey. You with me?"
It took a long moment for Sam's glassy gaze to focus on Dean but he nodded. Dean helped Sam sit up slowly. He hissed as he moved.
"Sorry, bro," Dean apologized. "You got pretty banged up by the poltergeist."
"What happened?" Sam asked, leaning on Dean as they inched their way off the floor. It was slow going but despite the pain, Sam managed to be more help than Dean expected. Damn. Memory loss likely meant another concussion.
"Poltergeist threw you down the steps," Dean said. "Pretty impressive that a ghost could move a Sasquatch like you."
Sam grimaced as he got to his feet, leaning more heavily on Dean. "Think I sprained m' ankle," he muttered. "Can't put any weight on it."
"Noted," Dean replied. "Let's get you out to the car and get the hell out of here."
Together, they hobbled out of the house and Dean helped situate Sam in the passenger seat of their junker of the week. Sam's lack of bitching at being manhandled told Dean just how out of it he was, which spurred him to move quickly. He hurried back into the house and up the stairs to grab Sam's gun and back into the living room to round up his own stuff. He then stowed it all in the trunk of the car and got behind the wheel. Sam was leaning forward with his head in his hands. Kid was going to have a nasty headache for a few days.
They'd checked out of their room before coming to the house, figuring they might need to beat a hasty retreat as they often did after a hunt. A hospital was out of the question, so they could find somewhere to hole up for a few days while Sam recovered.
They drove all night and Sam was still pretty out of it when they got to Rufus' cabin the next day. But that didn't stop him from at least trying to help Dean get him up the steps and into the cabin despite not being able to put any weight on his left leg. They opted for the couch, and Dean settled Sam in with a blanket, some pillows so he could sit upright for his ribs—which were starting to turn an impressive rainbow of colors—and elevate his ankle, as well as Tylenol and water. Sam downed the pills and water as soon as Dean handed them to him and was out cold not long after.
Bobby flickered into sight as Dean splashed some water in his face. He filled up his own glass and turned to look at the ghost of his friend. He'd told Bobby about the hunt on the drive up while Sam slept in the front seat.
"How's he doing?" Bobby asked, nodding toward Sam.
"Kid's still pretty out of it," Dean replied. "He's been getting knocked on the head a lot lately. He'll probably sleep the rest of the day." He glanced back at Sam before looking at Bobby again. "Will you be okay if I leave you here with him for a couple of hours?"
"Where are you goin'?" Bobby asked, eyes narrowing suspiciously.
"Pick up a few things. Figure we're gonna be here a bit and I'd rather go now while he's sleeping. But I'd feel better if there was someone here to keep an eye on him."
Bobby frowned. "I'm not going to be much use if something happens. Ghost and all."
Dean shrugged. "Like I said, I think he'll sleep most of the day. And I shouldn't be gone long. But if he wakes up, it would be good if he wasn't alone."
"Fine," Bobby sighed. "Leave the ghost with the invalid."
"That's the idea."
Bobby rolled his eyes and moved into the living room to be near the youngest hunter while Dean dropped the flask on the kitchen table and headed out.
First stop was the grocery store where he stocked up on food, mostly light stuff since Sam tended to get nauseous when he had a concussion, bottled water, Gatorade, and a six pack. He also grabbed a small cake from the bakery, since Sam was a heathen who preferred cake to pie, and some candles. Next he headed to the drug store and stocked up on more painkillers, bandages, and ice packs. Finally, he hit the dollar store and grabbed some streamers and balloons. He considered grabbing a couple of books for Sam to read but decided against it since Sam would probably make himself sicker trying to read when the words were blurring in front of his concussed eyes.
It was just past the two hour mark when he got back to the cabin. Sam was still asleep and Dean set to putting the groceries away. Sam woke up briefly when Dean put an ice pack on his ribs but was out again before Dean wrapped up his ankle. It was evening by the time everything had been settled, so Dean grabbed a TV dinner and a beer and sat down in the chair next to his brother. He turned the TV on low and found another telenovela that he and Bobby got absorbed into.
He ended up falling asleep in the chair and woke up just before dawn with a crick in his neck. Bobby was nowhere to be seen, but the television had been turned off. After checking on Sam—still asleep—he headed into the bathroom and took a quick shower. The sun was coming up as he walked back into the kitchen and brewed some coffee.
And then he set to his task. Dean figured he probably didn't have the makings of an interior decorator, but he still managed to blow up a few balloons and hang some streamers. He also didn't want to spook Sam with a lot of decorations while the kid was feeling shitty—though the clown banner at the dollar store had been tempting for a second there—but he was going to be damned if he didn't at least acknowledge his brother's birthday.
It was a little after ten when Sam woke up. He focused pretty quickly on Dean this time, meaning he was out of the worst of it.
"Hey," Sam croaked.
"Hey," Dean replied, handing him a glass of water and helping him to sit up and take a sip. "Nice to see you among the living."
"You were in and out all day yesterday."
Sam nodded and slumped back into the cushions once Dean had given him a couple more Tylenols to swallow. He glanced around the cabin and his eyes widened when he noticed the decorations. "Dean…"
Sam's face lost a shade of color and Dean barely managed to get the wastebasket under him before he dry heaved over the edge of the sofa. Finally he rolled back, his face sweaty from the exertion. He shut his eyes and grimaced.
"Dean, I thought I said no to the birthday thing."
"It's not every day that my kid brother turns 29." Of course, Sam was so much older than that, but he was topside and alive and sane and dammit, he, of all people, deserved to celebrate that.
Sam looked a little green again, but he waved off the wastebasket. They fell into an uncomfortable silence that Dean couldn't take for very long.
"So what's this about?" he asked.
Sam opened one eye and peered at him. "What?"
"This anti-birthday thing. I know we don't usually do much, but…"
"Dean, I can't."
"Why not?" Sam shook his head but Dean scooted his chair closer to the sofa and Sam finally opened both eyes to look at him. He looked uncertain. "What's going on in that big brain of yours, huh?"
Sam looked at Dean in silence, assessing, and finally sighed. He looked back up at the ceiling. "I just… I used to think that by now Jess and I would be married and would have a family."
Dean was so taken aback by that answer that he didn't know what to say. Sam rarely spoke about Jess or Stanford—partially, Dean knew, because he was uncomfortable talking about the years they'd spent estranged, but mostly because thinking about that part of his life just brought Sam a lot of pain. That was the life he'd wanted and had instead been forced down a path chosen for him and going off the beaten path had led to long stint in Hell. It was better not to dwell.
"But what is it about this year that's got you spooked?"
Sam's sad and haunted smile made Dean's skin crawl. If he ever saw it on Sam's face again it would be too soon. "Dean, 29 hasn't historically been a very good year for our family."
The dots started connecting like one of those kid's games Sam used to play in the backseat of the Impala. Sam's anti-birthday sentiment was reminiscent of the year he'd refused to celebrate Christmas, knowing Dean's deal was coming due. Dean's deal had come due when he was 29 and neither of them had been the same after that. Their mother had also been a month short of 29 when she'd died—the culmination of a demon deal that had sold Sam to Azazel.
And with Dick Roman and the leviathan looming over them, this could be Sam's last year, too.
"Ah hell, Sam."
Sam let out a harsh, humorless bark of laughter but immediately grimaced when it jarred his ribs. Rubbing his face through a hand, Dean got up and grabbed another ice pack from the freezer. Sam took it gratefully and molded it to his side, sighing in relief at the cold.
"Look," he said once Dean had settled back into the chair next to him, "I appreciate what you're doing here. I just don't want to celebrate a year that's put a lot of Winchesters in the grave."
"Even if we don't tend to stay there?"
Sam snorted tiredly and nodded. "Even then." Maybe even especially then.
"I guess this would be a bad time to tell you that I got cake," Dean said after a silence.
Sam blinked. "Cake?"
"Believe it or not."
"Did it hurt to bring to the checkout?"
"More than you'll ever know, bro."
Sam's lips quirked at that and Dean decided to count that as a win. He headed into the kitchen and pulled the cake out of its box. He put it on a plate and then placed a couple of candles on top. He brought it back out into the living room and put it on the table in front of Sam. Sam raised an eyebrow.
"Really?" he asked as Dean lit the candles
"Don't think of it as a birthday cake."
Dean shrugged as he lit the candles. "Consider it a promise."
"Sure." Dean realized he was perilously close to a chick flick moment, but Sam on the verge of a nervous breakdown because it was his birthday, so he was going to do what he had to. Because he was the best big brother ever.
"To the people that have gone before us that we'll keep on living and fighting. And a promise between us that we'll be here next year to do it again."
"One candle for each of us," Sam said, eyeing the two dancing flames. And then he nodded and blew them out. "Okay."
"A promise cake is better than a birthday cake." Then he laughed again, wincing at his aching ribs. "Our lives never get less weird, do they?"
"Nope," Dean replied simply before getting up and grabbing a couple of plates. He sliced a small piece for Sam and a bigger one for himself. "Breakfast of champions," he said. "Though pie would be better."
"We'll do promise pie for your birthday," Sam consoled.
Dean pointed his fork at Sam and jabbed at the air. "I'm holding you to that."
Sam nodded solemnly and Dean bit back a grin. He eventually turned on the television, and they found a sci-fi movie marathon to settle into. So maybe it wasn't perfect with Sam laid up and on pain meds, but his brother was smiling and eating cake and not giving the streamers and balloons the stink-eye anymore. Dean would take what he could get, as long as Sam was around to do it all again next year.