1983 - 0 Years
The day he was born Sam Winchester spent lovingly cradled in his mother’s arms. His father wept the first time little Sammy opened his still-blind eyes. His soft newborn hands spent much time curled tightly around newly-made big brother Dean’s index finger. Sam wouldn’t understand a thing that was happening, and yet all was good around him and the air was full of love.
1984 - 1 Year
Sammy’s first birthday was eclipsed with grief. It had been exactly sixth months since his mother had died in Sam’s nursery, and his father was distraught. Little Dean was still shell-shocked, and baby Sam cried alongside his father, not understanding why.
1985 - 2 Years
On Sammy’s second birthday, he received the cheapest stuffed animal his father could find at Walmart and two scraped up knees from when he fell chasing after Dean. His little legs were wobbly and his only supervision was too drunk to care when he tripped. Only the six-year-old was there to wipe the fat tears that slipped from Sammy’s eyes.
1986 - 3 Years
It had been Dean who’d gotten sick first, but it was Sammy who was supposed to be healthy and happy on his birthday and he wasn’t. Birthday boys were supposed to have smiles and presents, not stuffy noses and fevers. His father thought it must be allergies, but all Sammy knew was that it felt awful. He was too sick to even taste the cake.
1987 - 4 Years
A four year old was supposed to be a big kid, Sammy thought, but he didn’t feel any bigger. He still couldn’t see out the window of the Impala as they drove all day, only stopping for gas and a pit stop three times. He felt like a baby as he cried out—feeling nauseous from the motion—but his father did not stop. He sure didn’t feel like a big kid at all.
1988 - 5 Years
He’d wanted a dog. Sammy didn’t understand why Daddy said they couldn’t have one, because that was unfair. Other kids got dogs for their birthdays, so why couldn’t he? But Daddy didn’t see it like that, and he didn’t like when Sammy didn’t understand things so he yelled until Sammy had cried himself to sleep.
1989 - 6 Years
Today was weird. Daddy was mad at Dean for some reason. He didn’t seem to care that today was the day that Sammy turned six years old. Usually Daddy at least remembered to buy Sammy a cake for his birthday but today when Sammy got home from kindergarten, there was nothing on the table but an almost-expired box of Twinkies. They made his tummy ache when he ate them anyway. At least Daddy was there to tuck him in to bed at night, making sure to lock the window as he left.
1990 - 7 Years
Sammy came back to the motel on his seventh birthday with a grin on his face and blue-stained lips from the lollipop his teacher had given him for his birthday at school. That grin didn’t last long: Dad was folding laundry again, and Sammy knew there was only one thing that could ever motivate Dad to fold his laundry, and that was leaving. Leaving his school and his friends and his teacher who he loved. There were tears on his face before his father even turned to him. “Pack your bags, Sammy. We need to be in Ohio by tonight.”
1991 - 8 Years
This motel room was scary. Stains decorated the wallpaper, spiders occupied the corners, the paintings seemed to stare at you, and there was something creaking somewhere. All this, and Sam was alone on his eighth birthday. And he was hungry: all he’d had to eat all day had been some stale crackers and his friend Simon’s extra PB & J. Sam Winchester sang himself a happy birthday and fell into a fitful sleep of hunger and loneliness.
1992 - 9 Years
He knew why Dad left them now. He knew why his only gift was a pocket knife and a flask of holy water. And he knew why Dad was late for dinner with nothing but a dislocated shoulder on his ninth birthday. So Sam made the only wish he could think of: to be normal, even if just for one day, next year.
1993 - 10 Years
Sully and Sam made marshmallow nachos today. Today there was color and joy and life as Sully paraded Sam through the motel room. There was a voice of love in his head as his imaginary friend raved on, even if that voice wasn’t Dad’s. Even if that voice wasn’t Dean’s, at least it was there to sing him to sleep on his tenth birthday.
1994 - 11 Years
Uncle Bobby brought him a cake for his eleventh birthday. It was store bought and badly frosted, but it was a great big thing, frosted with bright blues and greens. It was the most beautiful thing Sam had ever seen. Sam wished he could convey everything he felt in the hug that ensued, and he think he did a pretty good job because he could’ve sworn he felt that gruff man’s voice soften after that.
1995 - 12 Years
Sam was Right D for the majority of the final game, but he’d been given the assist to the winning goal anyway. He spun around with excitement and turned to the stands, sinking as he saw that only Dean was left, standing and cheering for his little brother’s victory. But there was pride in his big brothers face that Sam could not deny, so Sam rode the high of that look the rest of the day.
1996 - 13 Years
Dean was appalled as he pulled up to the corner to let Sam into the car at the sight before him. Rain-soaked and bleeding from a split lip, Sam crawled into the passenger seat of the Impala and slammed the door, and as the sky ceased to rain down on the young boy’s head, Dean could see the tears as they mixed in with the general wetness that had poured down upon Sam’s face. “I’m gonna kick their asses, okay, Sammy? I promise.”
1997 - 14 Years
The biggest gift Sam received for his 14th birthday was a cast on his left arm. They’d been hunting a vamp down in Nashville when it’d happened and Sam had been ashamed of how the pain had disabled him and brought tears from his eyes. He wished again that he had never had to leave the motel room at all.
1998 - 15 Years
He figured it had to be from something he ate, probably from the motel’s vending machine. Regardless of why, Sam spent the entirety of his fifteenth birthday secluded in the bathroom, puking his guts out. This sucked. Spending his birthday vomiting into a nasty hotel toilet sucked. But none of it sucked more than the memory of having done the exact same thing over his desk in biology, right in front of Amy, the prettiest girl in his class. He heaved again and wished he could disappear.
1999 - 16 Years
It didn’t matter to Sam that sixteen was the birthday of cars and licenses, because he had something better for once. Today, he had Funyuns for every meal and Bones’ wet nose pressed against his leg. He had a warm, welcoming room all to himself here in Flagstaff. For once, May 2nd was a happy day for Sam Winchester. He had all a guy could want.
2000 - 17 Years
Samuel Winchester—winner of the Outstanding Junior English Scholar award. He’d gone home from the ceremony at school with a smile on his face and the certificate in his hands. Sam only wished that his father could see it the way he did. He only wished that his father wouldn’t shout like he did because Sam had ditched a hunt for the awards ceremony. He only wished he hadn’t torn his best pants when his father had shoved him against the wall. He only wished he could be normal, just this once.
2001 - 18 Years
Today held a secret for Sam Winchester. It was one he never spoke of, except to Pastor Jim, who had received the letter for him. Today was the day the last of the pieces fell into place, and the future of going to Stanford finally seemed real. He was a legal adult now, and he was going to do what he wanted. If only it hadn’t been overshadowed with exams. Or yet another fight with dad. Just a few more weeks until graduation, he thought. Then I’ll be gone.
2002 - 19 Years
Fuck finals. Sam was practically at the point of tearing his hair out. Today was his US Government exam and it had nearly brought him to a panic attack. In front of the entire lecture hall. He missed Dean today, and how he could coax Sam out of those episodes better than anyone.
2003 - 20 Years
Sam slept most of his twentieth birthday. Finals had begun last week and he had stayed up past 3 am every single night. When he finally woke, Brady dragged him to another party. He hadn’t wanted to go, but he’d blushed bright red when his friends had erupted in a chorus of happy birthday and he’d seen the pretty blonde girl in the corner join in.
2004 - 21 Years
Sam slammed phone down hard enough that Jess was startled. “That bad, huh?” She asked, care and affection in her voice. She knew why Sam had taken a call during their date, because this was the only time Dean had called in ages. And clearly, he hadn’t meant to call tonight—he sounded drunk out of his mind. Sam stood up from the table and excused himself to use the restroom, where he promptly was overcome with paroxysms.
2005 - 22 Years
Five days. Five days. Five more fucking days until the LSAT. Jess did her best to make it better, but try as she might, Sam was not the celebratory type at the best of times, much less today. His anxiety was through the roof about the whole thing, and her calming, secure presence was just about the only thing grounding him. The only time he slept in days was with his head against her shoulder, a textbook in his lap.
2006 - 23 Years
At twenty three, Sam had decided to continue the birthday tradition of screwed up sleeping habits. Dean was in the hospital, and damn it, Sam was going to fix him. He was going to save his brother, and that was final. Even if it took poring over every book he could find.
2007 - 24 Years
The first breath was disorienting. When you’re dead and then you’re not—even if you didn’t know you were dead—it’s uncomfortable. But what really threw Sam’s life off course came later: it came with knowing why. It came with learning about the deal, with staring at himself in the mirror later and thinking, Dean is going to die for me. It came with knowing that, as bad as today was, he was about to be a whole lot worse next year.
2008 - 25 Years
Dean is dead. Sam doesn’t care as the family that Lilith terrorized has finally migrated back upstairs. He doesn’t care that they’re staring at the enormous man weeping over the dead bodies on their floor. He doesn’t care who sees his red, swollen eyes when he leaves Suburbia with Dean—oh, God, Dean’s corpse is in the back seat of the Impala. He’s crying again, and he’s too distraught and tired to care.
2009 - 26 Years
If there’s one thing that Sam knows for certain, it’s the sweat. He can smell it in the air, feel it dripping down his skin, see the splotches it has made on his clothing. Beyond the sweat, what else is real is a mystery. Caught in the demon blood detox, he’s bombarded by false, but every nerve inside him is screaming, real real real! He doesn’t even know if he’s unbounded, or if he’s been tied to the bed. Either way, he thrashes with no control of his motion, so he can’t tell in the slightest. He never even registers day and night, much less the coming and going of his 26th birthday. He doesn’t even know if he’s alive anymore. Only the sweat.
2010 - 27 Years
It’s strange to know when your last birthday is, Sam thinks to himself. He’s going to die at 27. He knows it. He has to die. Dean isn’t going to be okay, but he’s one person. The world needs him to die this year. So Sam spends his last birthday with the one person who is going to miss him the most, and they don’t speak much, because they don’t trust themselves to speak, but they know they both feel it. This one’s going to count.
2011 - 28 Years
Sam Winchester only wishes that 28 could just be another unacknowledged birthday. His wall is broken. He is broken. He can’t even keep Lucifer out of his head. And Lucifer likes a celebration. Celebrations bring chaos, just as he does. Maybe that’s why Lucifer is so adamantly forcing maggot-filled cakes in Sam’s face. Maybe that’s why he couldn’t bring himself to celebrate any longer.
2012 - 29 Years
She looks so unbroken in this light. Amelia is waiting for him with a cake on a blanket painted by sunlight. Riot lopes happily towards Sam, who smiles at the dog, then at the girl. Amelia looks so happy here—like a picture of a happy life—that Sam has to wonder what he himself must look like. Maybe the sunlight will make him look whole again, too.
2013 - 30 Years
The face in the mirror is foreign. It’s shadowed and tired and worn, but it’ll all be worth it in the end. He doesn’t care about what happens to him today, his 30th birthday, because that’s what’s ahead of him. Redemption: a better gift than he has ever had. It’s all he wants. It’s the thing he needs most in the world. All he has to do is finish these trials. Maybe he can be saved.
2014 - 31 Years
Looking at an angel who had possessed you was strange. It was looking into the eyes of an innocent man; knowing that your very being had been violated by the same entity before you, yet the man whose body sat before you was being violated in the exact same way. Today Sam stared into the eyes of yet another one of his possessors in Gadreel. He might have been caught, but it wasn’t justice. There was a man like him in there. Even after a lifetime, this never got easier.
2015 - 32 Years
Dean had tried. He really had. But that damned mark on his arm couldn’t even let that happen. Dean had done his best, but all Sam could see was the blood that caked the underside of Dean’s fingernails as he handed his little brother a beer. Sam could only smile a little sadly—Dean had really done all he could, after all.
2016 - 33 Years
He had been imprisoned before, but Sam didn’t think he’d ever been so trapped. The skin on his feet had been seared away with flames, but it wasn’t just the physical hurt that plagued him. Dean was dead—again, killed by the Darkness herself—and Sam didn’t see himself getting his brother back from that. He’d tried once to escape by faking his own death, but after the futility of that attempt, Sam was sure that that will had been used up. He was trapped, and alone, and a happy birthday to him.
2017 - 34 Years
A little while ago Sam’d had this stupid little hope. He’d cursed himself for ever even having had it. It was such a ridiculous desire that he’d felt, and yet he couldn’t help but look forward to it. It was stupid. Never mind, Dean, I’m doing great! Thanks for the beer! But this was going to be the first birthday he was ever going to spend with his mother, and she hadn’t even called. Still, it could be worse, right?
2018 - 35 Years
Sam awakes to the smell of pancakes in the air and the sound of his brother’s voice singing along to Aerosmith. He stretches and stands up, listening, and he can hear another voice beneath Dean’s: Cas is here. While there’s an ache inside him from missing his mother and Jack, this is a pretty damn near perfect way to start his day. Despite everything, Sam can’t help but smile.