"Happy 46th, Sammy," Dean said, holding up his shot glass to clink with Sam's. They were in a bar (surprise, surprise) in the backend of nowhere (wow, full of surprises today, aren't we?), smelling of smoke from their latest salt-and-burn. So, yeah, the only real surprise was that the both of them were around to celebrate Sam's forty-sixth birthday. Of course, that wasn't like the hell of a surprise of celebrating Dean's fiftieth back in January. The minions of Hell were definitely not happy campers.
"Forty-six, Dean. You just said it. Don't you think it's time to drop the 'Sammy'?"
"Didn't you ask me that when you turned twelve and eighteen and--although I wasn't there to hear it--when twenty-one hit you in the ass, and thirty and--"
Sam held up a hand to stop him. "I get it, man. No way in hell, right?"
"In Hell, outta Hell, you're gonna be Sammy to me--even with your gray hair."
Sam self-consciously ran his fingers through his still long, but much more silvery, locks. "I don't get it, Dean. With all the greasy, meat-filled, additive-stuffed crap you eat, why the hell is your skin still so clear and your hair still its original color? Where are your wrinkles, damnit!"
"I got wrinkles," he said, pointing to the corners of his eyes and the sides of his mouth.
"Those are laugh lines, dude, and crinkles. They just add--character and shit." Sam tossed back another shot. "And come to think of it, I can't remember you having a single pimple back in the day. Just how many times have you sold your soul, Dean?"
Dean took a matching shot. "I'm hurt, dude, that you think my good looks are because I made a deal with the devil."
Sam gave him a long, calculating look. "Ok, so not a deal with the devil. But...."
Dean sighed. "It was a long time ago, Sammy."
Dean twisted around until he had one foot up on the wooden bench of their booth. "Remember that summer after you found out about what Dad did? We went to that Louisiana parish? I don't remember it's name. But I know Dad was looking for something that was killing new brides."
Sam gave a smile that was part melancholy and part fond remembrance. "Yeah, it was hot down there. The only time we weren't covered in sweat was when we were in water--either the town pool or a shower."
"And don't forget the mosquitoes. I swear they were big enough to keep as pets." Dean poured them each another shot.
"In the middle of the night, they were almost as loud as the Impala's engine."
Dean blinked and scratched at his chin. "I'd left you at the library. They were having some kind of summer reading program and you were the happiest I'd seen you in a while. I was just taking a walk, trying not to be too bored. Then I heard a whimper and some giggles. The two of those never go together, unless, you know?" He waggled his eyebrows until Sam rolled his eyes.
"Anyway, I went to investigate and I found a couple of kids about my age torturing a cat. Had the thing in a makeshift cage and were tossing lit matches at it. Didn't take much to make them scramble and I freed the cat. Was really surprised when she didn't make a quick escape. I noticed she had a collar and there was an address on it. So I took her home. The old lady who came to the door was scary. Eyes were covered with a milky film, fingernails so long they formed curlicues. I told her what happened and handed her the cat."
"Dean Winchester, Defender of Cats," Sam remarked impishly, before pushing his glass over for a refill.
"Bitch." Bartending duties over, Dean continued his tale. "She insisted I come in and when I stepped inside, I knew I had no business there."
"Full on voodoo. Ended up telling me she was a direct descendent of Marie Laveau. Anyway, she said I deserved a boon, a favor, for saving Lucretia--seems the cat was a familiar or whatever they call them. She asked me what I wanted and if it were within her power she'd give it to me."
Sam shook his head. "You should've hauled ass right then and there."
"Yeah, I know. But I was a kid, man--in other words, stupid. Anyway, I told her I wanted my family to stay safe. She picked up a black bag and shook out some bones. After she muttered something, she said she couldn't grant that wish--that my family's path was intertwined with the darkhand path and the only way through was forward. She would ask the spirits to intervene when they could, but that was the only power she could offer. Then she told me to ask for something else. Wasn't much I cared about in those days, so I said the first thing that came to my thirteen-year-old mind. I said I didn't want zits."
"I did. At first she was mad. How dare I waste her power on something as trivial as vanity! Then she grabbed my wrist and there was this shock that ran the entire length of my body. She let me go and stepped back. I ran for the door but it wouldn't open. I reached for the knife I had stuffed down the back of my pants, but instead of a knife I pulled out a small black snake that bit my thumb before I could toss it aside. Man, you talk about being scared shitless."
"Dean, let me say for the record--thank you for leaving me at the library." Sam saluted him with his newly filled glass.
"Asshole. So I was about to crap my pants--"
"I thought you said you were scared shitless. Doesn't that negate--"
A vertical finger stopped the comment. "When I looked back at her, there were tears running down her cheeks. Told me that she understood. That my desire to be pretty wasn't vanity but strategy, that I would use my looks to aid in the fight against the darkhand."
"I'm so pretty, oh so pretty," Sam started to sing, ducking the peanuts Dean aimed in his direction.
"My thumb throbbed and I looked down to see my blood dripping on the floor. I knew it was bad then; blood's never a good thing when there's voodoo around. I tried to get outta there again, but she lit some kind of cigar and waved the smoke into my face. I got woozy and the room went dark."
"Totally screwed," Sam interrupted to say.
"Totally screwed," Dean agreed. "The next thing I remember, I'm standing back where I found the cat. I may not be the genius you are, but getting the hell out of there didn't take much brain power. Ever since then I've noticed my body, especially my face, is quick to repair itself. You know, as well as I do, I should have triple the number of scars that I have. I guess the old gal was damn high on the voodoo totem pole."
"You know you're mixing cultures, religions, etc.?"
Sam bopped his head against the slightly sticky table, hoping for instant clarity. It didn't come. "So, you're supernaturally pretty. That explains a lot."
"Handsome. I'm handsome, bitch. And charming. Looks only get you so far, you know."
"Dad taught us weaponry and strategy and how to think on our feet. But what's saved your ass all these years is your prettiness?" He leaned to one side and then the other. "Oops, I think he just turned over in his grave."
"Go to hell."
"Been there, done that, got the family discount rate."
"Oh, right. We Winchesters never really did figure out how to have a real vacation, did we?"
Sam giggled. "But you have to admit, it was fun exorcising that possessed Mickey Mouse balloon in the Thanksgiving Day parade."
"Like the Stay-Puft man in Ghostbusters! Good times, man!" Dean slapped his hand against his knee. "We got national coverage on that one, didn't we?"
Sam nodded. "Good thing we used those old Mardi Gras masks you had in the trunk. Sorry that your voodoo enhanced visage didn't make primetime."
Dean filled Sam's glass and handed it to him. "Anyone who can say 'voodoo enhanced visage' hasn't had enough to drink."
Sam slammed back the offered alcohol and grinned. "It's my birthday," he sang softly. "And I'm celebratin'. With muh brother. Who's so pret-ty."
"Handsome. And you gotta admit, it's come in handy. How many times has this handsome mug convinced people to talk, huh? How many times have I sacrificed myself to the coyote uglies just to get information for a case? How many times has my good looks attracted just the creature we were hunting for? That mamaloi was right; I have used her gift for the side of good."
Sam rolled his eyes, then figured out he'd drunk too much for that to be a good idea. "Maybe we should get you a cape. Purple with a glittered PB on it. 'It's Pretty Boy here to save the day!'"
"I hate you. See if I tell you anything else."
Sam bit the inside of his jaw and tried to look contrite. "I'm sorry, Dean. I'm grateful that you confided in me. At least now I know I'm not crazy. I guess I'll just have to live with looking like the older brother. Still, it's a bit unfair, don't ya think, that I got stuck with death visions while you got to be pretty." He sniffed dramatically.
"Aw, Sammy. It's not easy being the pret--I mean, handsome one. Ev'body think I'm stupid, and I get stared at by some really creepy people. And sometimes they pinch and grope--without even askin'. It's...degrading." Dean gave a pout that Sam swore attracted the attention of at least seven of the patrons in the bar. Not all of them were women.
"Unless they're really hot," Sam said dryly, not buying into Dean's pity party. If someone groped Dean who he didn't want to, that someone probably didn't have the ability to grope anymore.
"Well, there's always that," Dean answered with a grin--that attracted everyone else in the bar.
Sam sighed, stood, and stretched. He wobbled just a little, then grinned at his brother. "Maybe we should call it a night while we can still walk the two blocks to the motel."
"Good idea, bro. I guess age is giving you wisdom along with the gray hair, huh?" He stood, laid some bills on the table and grabbed the bottle.
Sam slung his arm around Dean's shoulder as they made their way back to their temporary living quarters. It had been a good birthday. The job had been simple, the company relaxed. Just a normal day in the life of the Winchesters. And, oh yeah...
"I'm glad you trusted me with that story, Dean. You know why?"
Sam dropped a kiss on top of Dean's much lower head and used his long legs to step ahead of his brother. "Because now I know--you'll always be my 'little bitty pretty one'."
No one who saw the two men chasing each other down the street could've guessed their ages. As they'd been since the beginning, since they both peeked out from behind John's longs legs--one holding a teddy bear, the other a sawed-off--as they would always be, they were the Winchester boys.
No voodoo required.