“Sammy!” Dean thumped on the door. “Open up!”
“Nuh-uh!” Sam wiped his brow with the back of his wrist, leaving a smear of flour across it. “Not until I’m done in here. I promised you birthday cake!”
There was another thump against the door, bigger this time, presumably Dean’s whole body slumping against it. His voice was muffled through the thick kitchen door. “But, Sam, you’re not a cook.”
From the state of the kitchen, Sam had a sneaking suspicion that most of the Men of Letters hadn’t been good cooks either. But cake had seemed simple enough. Get the ingredients. Follow the recipe. It wasn’t much different from some of the demon-banishing rituals he’d done. Substitute sugar for salt and write Dean’s name on the cake instead of a sigil and baking a cake wasn’t all that different at all. There was even the same smoke.
Smoke! Sam ran to the stove and pulled the door open. A plume of gray smoke spilled from the opening. Coughing into the crook of his arm, Sam bent over to get a look at the cake inside… or what had once been a cake and was now a black square in a pan. Damn it! Just as Sam tried to think of what to do with the mess and how mad Dean would be if Sam were to start all over again and keep him out of the kitchen for even longer, the smoke reached the middle of the room and set off the smoke alarm.
The sound was so loud and blaring, Sam’s first reaction was to cup his hands over his ears. But that meant dropping the oven door and letting out even more smoke. Damn it! Kicking the door back closed, Sam grabbed the cookbook and used it to fan the smoke detector. The thing was far too sensitive, which made Sam sure that the Men of Letters had not been cooks.
The only thing Dean was sure of was that alarms are a bad sign. The thumping on the kitchen door increased, and a panicked “Sam!” came through from the hallway.
“It’s all right!” Sam called out, but not loudly enough.
Sam moved closer to the door and raised his voice. “It’s all right! Just the smoke detector! Everything’s fine!” With a sigh, Sam turned to figure out what next to do and found himself face to face with Castiel. Gasping in surprise, Sam took a step back. “Cas? What are you doing here?”
He stood there, almost completely still apart from raising his hands slightly. In them was a large plate with a giant chocolate cake. On it, in a shade of green that seemed to be identical to Dean’s eyes, were the words “Happy Birthday, Dean!” amidst a sea of at least a dozen candles, all aflame. “It’s Dean’s birthday. I brought cake.”
Sam glanced over at the oven where the burnt wreck still sat. “I was baking him a cake—“
“Sam, you’re not a cook,” Castiel said, sounding, for a moment, just like Dean. He moved the cake an inch or two closer to Sam, gesturing to him to take it.
“Why don’t you keep it and give it to him yourself, Cas?”
Castiel’s eyes spoke volumes, though his expression did not change much. There was hurt, regret, confusion.
“I know he’d really like to see you, especially on his birthday.”
“SAM!” came another call through the door.
Sam turned his head, calling over his shoulder. “Just a second!” When he turned back to Cas, the angel was just vanishing, and calling after him wouldn’t help. But he had left the cake where it was. Sam grabbed for it, catching it before it crashed to the floor.
Another crash sounded as Dean broke down the kitchen door. Panting, he looked around the kitchen. “Smoke alarm?” he asked, concerned.
With another glance at the oven, Sam didn’t want to admit he had botched the cake so badly. So he thrust the cake in Dean’s direction. “Yeah. The candles set it off.”
Dean smiled at the cake, and, more than that, he looked impressed. “Great job on the cake, Sammy. I had no idea… I guess I should blow those out before the set the alarm off again?”
Sam nodded. Just as Dean took a deep breath, Sam jerked the cake away. “Wait! You have to make a wish. That’s the tradition.”
With a chuckle, Dean relaxed. He gestured toward the cake. “Okay. Bring it back.”
As Sam presented Dean with the cake, he saw Dean’s head lift and eyes turn upwards—not rolling his eyes at all, but thinking of his wish. And Sam thought he knew exactly what—or, rather, who—Dean was wishing for. Then Dean took another breath and let it out at the candles, extinguishing each one of them. “I think that means your wish will come true,” Sam told him.
Dean glanced around the kitchen, seeming to look for something—or someone—he couldn’t find. “Yeah… grab a couple plates?”
Sam set the cake down on the counter and retrieved the dishes, turning off the oven surreptitiously as he passed by it.