Author's Note: This fic was written for Eloise as a (belated now!) birthday present. Hope you like it, sweetie; I'm so glad we met! J

Birthday

It's three-thirty in the morning when John Winchester slips quietly in the back door of the Winchester's shoddy rental house, tiredly dropping his duffel from his flannel-covered shoulder. He pads silently into the kitchen, not all that surprised to find Dean sleeping at the table, his head dropped to the ugly laminate. John feels a twinge of guilt at the late hour. It's three o'clock in the morning; do you know where your child is? Kid must be awake on some level, feel his stare, because suddenly the boy startles, comes up with knife in hand. The darting green eyes are narrowed and alert.

"Stand down, soldier," John drawls, slinging his duffel up onto the kitchen counter and watching as Dean exhales, sets down the knife. Looks like shit. John should have known the kid wouldn't rest until he knew John was home safe and uninjured. "You should be in bed," he says gruffly.

"You okay?" Dean is fisting his eyes; makes the boy look all of sixteen again, reminds John of his youngest.

"Yeah, champ; I'm fine," he says, walking over to lay a hand on the kid's head. He's not sure about the kids' hairstyles these days; can't tell if Dean's hair is rumpled because he just woke up, or because he spent an hour locked in the bathroom. "Your brother asleep?"

Dean looks as pleased as a cat picking canary from its teeth. "Yeah."

"He think I forgot?"

"Oh, yeah." The twenty year-old shakes his head. "Hasn't mentioned it, but he's been sulking like a little girl all week; probably writing all about it in his secret diary."

"Dean." But a smile curves John's lips. Can't pretend that Sammy hasn't hit his rebellious teenage stride. The boy was sweet, good-natured – obedient, even – until about fourteen, and now everything's about why. Why do they have to hunt? Why can't Sam play soccer or run for student government? Why does John get to call the shots? That last one really chafes; grown men won't question him, and yet his fifteen – no, sixteen, he reminds himself – year-old son is hatching mutiny at every turn. John might admire the kid's perseverance, if it wasn't so damn annoying. And dangerous. But John won't think about that tonight. "You wanna come on in with me while I do the honors?"

"Sure, but you're gonna be the one to wake him up; he gets pissy," Dean supplies, almost fondly.

"Yeah, I've noticed." They make their way down the hallway together, John filing into the room first. He switches on the desk light, knowing the overhead will blind the kid; waits for Dean to edge in behind him before making his move.
John pauses as he stands at the foot of the kid's bed, drinking in the sight of his youngest. Sammy's a brooder by day, too damn moody by half, but you wouldn't know it by the way the boy sleeps. He's sprawled out on his back, limp and loose-limbed, his forearm draped over his closed eyes. The awkward lankiness of the previous year has given way to a gangling grace, puts John in mind of a young thoroughbred. Kid will make a hell of a hunter, ever sets his mind to it. John takes a seat on the edge of the twin bed, gently shakes the boy's shoulder.

"Sam."

The hazel eyes flutter open. "Huh… whaa?" The kid squints in the dim light, sits up. "Dad?"

John doesn't bother replying, just grasps the boy by his upper arm and starts pulling, hefts him over his lap.

"D-dad? What are you doing?"

"What do you think I'm doing?" John asks, biting back a smile as Sam gawks at him over his shoulder, tousled and flustered. He rests a hand on the kid's pajama clad behind, hears Dean choke on a laugh as Sam jumps at the contact.

"No! Dad, wait! Please! What'd I do?" The kid glances at his brother, who's just inside the door, but Dean's put on his poker face. Sam must have been a real pain this week.

John raises a brow. "You can't think of any reason I'd be spanking you?"

Sam's eyes widen. "Dean told you? It was two days of training – I can make it up!"

Dean groans then, poker face be damned, and John flashes him a knowing look. Kid's too easy on his brother, but they can talk about that later. "Do you usually skip training?"

"What? No! Well, not usually…"

John sighs. "That isn't what I'm talking about, Sammy. Now, think." John pats his backside encouragingly, although he's betting Sam puts a darker spin on the act.

"Swearing?" Sam guesses, casting another frantic look at his brother. Dean folds his arms and smirks, drawing a frustrated growl and kick from the younger boy.

"Didn't we talk about that before I left?" John wonders how he's going to undo this damage. Leaves Sam with Bobby and his friends for one weekend, and the kid comes back with some words even John hasn't heard, and John's heard everything.

"Yeah, but I was mad! There wasn't supposed to be anyone around to hear it…"

John mentally rolls his eyes. He's sure Singer will say about the same thing. "This isn't about the swearing." The pronouncement is met with panicked silence. Oh, this oughta be good...

"The party." Sam gulps. "But I really did go by the library, so it wasn't exactly a lie, and I came home on time, and – "

"Sam." John stops the kid midramble. "Enough." While he's enjoying the advantage, he's not in the mood to let the kid hang himself today. "You've got a spanking coming; end of story. And I want you counting, little boy." He lifts his hand, brings it down on the kid's backside in a firm swat. Sam stiffens, but doesn't struggle, and when he counts, his voice is tinged with puzzlement.

"One."

John continues to land the spanks, putting only enough force into the swats to deliver some smarting warmth. His youngest continues to call out the numbers, sounding increasingly perplexed at the proceedings.

"Fourteen?" Sam asks, squirming a bit, more out of habit than anything else, John guesses. Christ, he's getting big; too big to want to sit on his knee for a while now. But not too big to go over it, and John takes some small comfort in that as he smacks the kid's behind again.

"Fifteen."

John exchanges grins with Dean, then lays a final swat on the kid, making sure the slap echoes in the small room.

"Sixteen."

"Uh, huh," John says, letting his hand rest on the warmed seat of Sam's pajama pants. "So, anything come to mind yet, kiddo?"

Sam frowns. "Anything - " Sixteen. "My birthday?" he asks, suddenly sounding more awake as he cranes his neck to look at his father. "You - ah, well - "

"Remembered?" John asks dryly. "Happy sixteenth, kiddo."

The kid's face lights up for a moment, and there's the Sammy John remembers, all shining eyes and shy smile. "Thanks, Dad." Then, "A birthday spanking? You – this – a birthday spanking?" Sam demands, sounding more indignant as the wheels start turning.

"Well, it was, anyway," John concedes.

"That's just – what?" Sam asks, apprehensive as the words sink in.

John's amused to see the boy's wide-eyed look. "Sam. You just confessed to all kinds of insubordination; can't just let that go, can I?"

"Yes!" Sam practically shouts, starting to squirm in earnest as John shucks down his sleep pants. "This is entrapment, and I've got birthday immunity, or something, and – ow!" Sam squawks, as John smacks his now bare behind, this time with a little more enthusiasm. "C'mon, Dad – I'm sorry!" the kid wails, obviously not thrilled about a spanking being the first order of the day.

John chuckles, curls his arm more tightly around the boy's waist. He gives Sam about a dozen more swats, making them just hard enough to be uncomfortable, before ending the spanking. He then draws the boy's pants back up, turns Sam in his arms so that the kid is sitting in his lap for the first time in – months? And for once Sam doesn't resist, just leans into John's shoulder and sniffles a bit. It's all show and ruffled feathers, but John isn't going to call him on it. Just wraps his son in his arms and presses a kiss against the dark head. If this is what it takes to get the kid in his lap, maybe John should spank him more often. Both of them, actually, he thinks wryly, his eyes finding Dean. John's eldest is leaning in the doorway now, a soft smile on his face. They don't usually have time for this kind of light-hearted fun, the kind his Mary would have seen they had in daily doses. The thought causes something in John's chest to pinch painfully.

"You suck," Sam mumbles into his neck. "Sir." John can see the blush stealing up and over the boy's ears. There's a quiet moment, then, "You got home".

"Wouldn't miss it, kiddo." The moment John says the words, he wishes he could take them back. He waits for Sam to deny it, to deny him, because damn it, he's had to break too many promises to the boy these last few years. But to John's surprise, the kid just hugs him tighter.

Dean clears his throat. "Happy birthday, Sammy."

Sam nods, ducks his head. "Thanks, dude." He slants another glance in John's direction, eases from his father's arms and lap to give the man a hesitant smile.

"Uhh, so. We good on all that other stuff?" Sam asks, trying to keep from rubbing the smart out of his behind.

"We're good." John stands and draws back the covers for the kid. "But this was your free pass, understand?" he warns. He tries for stern, but the sight of his 'practically grown up – geez…' teenager fidgeting like a well-spanked six year-old makes it a challenge.

"Yes, sir," Sam replies sheepishly, unable to resist just one rub before climbing back beneath the covers.

As the hunter pulls the blankets up around Sam's shoulders, Dean's teasing voice singsongs from the doorway. "Sammy got a spanking."

John frowns in that direction. "You can be next," he reminds the kid.

Dean retreats, holding his hands up. "Not my birthday."

"Doesn't have to be." John turns back, winks at Sam as he leans down to kiss the kid's forehead. "Sweet dreams, Sammy." He waits until his birthday boy closes his eyes, heads over and switches off the lamp before quietly leaving the room. He catches Dean in the hallway, slings an arm around the boy's shoulders and herds him toward the living room. "So, wanna tell me why Bobby says there's some redneck maniac looking for a guy with a black Impala, claims he stole his beer and his girl?"

Dean slumps a bit in his father's grip, but doesn't try to fight the inevitable discussion to follow. "Sammy's right; you suck, dude."

"That's sir to you," John tells him. "And thanks." He'll get the call soon, in hours or in days, and he'll be off again chasing whatever horror is preying on humanity. But tonight, it's just good to be home. He knows exactly where his children are; both his boys, warm and safe. And John thinks that might be as much as he can hope for.


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