All I Want For Christmas

By irismay42

(Please note: This story is set in the VS 'verse)

 

December 24th, 1982

“Mommy?”

Dean Winchester turned earnest eyes up to his mother, a hand placed on each of her knees as he contemplated her tummy thoughtfully.

Mary glanced down at her three-year-old, attention momentarily drawn away from Jimmy Stewart attempting to lasso the moon for Donna Reed as the old black and white movie played out to their garishly-festooned living room. “Yes honey?” she said distractedly, leaning against her husband’s shoulder and smiling contentedly as John gently massaged the small bump that was the object of her son’s rapt attention.

“How’s Santa gonna know what Sammy wants for Christmas?”

Both parents’ eyes cut to the little boy in front of them, who was chewing his lip pensively as he continued to gaze at Mary’s stomach.

Mary barely suppressed an amused grin. “Honey, Sammy has everything he needs right here,” she said, taking one of Dean’s hands from her knee and adding it to her husband’s, already pressed against her stomach.

Dean frowned. “But doesn’t he get a present?”

“Not this year, bud,” John chuckled, ruffling his son’s hair, much to the boy’s annoyance when he was trying to ask such a serious and important question.

“But that sucks!” Dean burst out, frown deepening.

Mary matched his expression with a frown of her own. “Dean John Winchester, who taught you that word?” she demanded in her best “Mommy” voice.

Dean’s eyes slid briefly to his father, who was shaking his head at him in silent warning.

Mary didn’t even look at her husband, settling for poking him hard in the ribs with one elbow.

“Ow!”

“Daddy should learn to watch his mouth around little ears,” Mary admonished her husband.

“My ears aren’t little,” Dean protested.

Mary caught his chin with one hand. “Which is why they hear things they’re not supposed to,” she told him.

Dean considered that. “But it does suck!” he continued. “Why doesn’t Sammy get presents?”

Mary sighed, running one thumb gently over her son’s cheekbone. “Because he can’t play with them yet,” she said.

“But he’ll be able to soon,” Dean persisted. “Right? When he comes out? And he’ll have missed Christmas by – like – ever, and then he won’t get any presents until next year!”

“So what do you think your baby brother would want for Christmas, kiddo?” John asked, trying to keep the amused tone out of his voice. He knew it made Dean crazy when he thought Daddy was making fun of him.

Dean thought about that, before shrugging. “I don’t know,” he admitted finally, eyes turning slyly up towards his mother. “Maybe a squirt gun. Like those ones we saw in the mall...”

Mary’s features hardened.

“Sammy’s not going to be big enough to play with a squirt gun for a while there, kiddo,” John pointed out, laughing nervously as he glanced furtively at his wife, waiting for the inevitable explosion as he attempted to head her off at the pass.

Mary narrowed her eyes. “Sammy’s [i]never[/i] going to be big enough to play with a squirt gun, Dean,” she said, voice oddly flat and emotionless as she looked pointedly at her husband rather than at her son. “And neither is his big brother.”

“But Mommy!” Dean burst out, fairly bouncing on his toes in annoyance. “Daddy said I could ask Santa for a squirt gun! Daddy said –”

“I don’t care what Daddy said,” Mary intoned, attention back on her son. “My son is not getting any kind of gun. Ever. And that’s final.” She folded her arms across her chest, teeth clenched.

“Honey –” John began.

“John, we talked about this,” Mary snapped. “No guns. Not ever. Not even toy ones.”

John sighed. “I know –”

“But Mom–!” Dean protested

“Dean.” Mary put one hand on her son’s shoulder, attempting to still the self-righteous indignation thrumming through his little body. “No guns,” she repeated. “Not ever. Okay?”

Dean screwed up his face, the makings of a marathon sulk beginning to darken his features, before Mary once again caught hold of his chin, turning his big eyes up to her own.

“Okay?”

“But what’s the point asking Santa for presents if I can’t have the presents I want?”

Mary sighed. “We don’t always get what we want, Dean,” she told him. “Sometimes other people can see better than we can what we need and what we don’t need.” She glanced once more at her husband, who had thus far wisely stayed out of the argument. “And there are much better things for little boys to be playing with than guns. Okay?”

Dean nodded reluctantly. “So maybe I should ask Santa for a different present for Sammy?”

“Maybe you should,” Mary agreed.

Dean considered. “Maybe Sammy would like a bike?” His eyes flitted hopefully to his dad, who grinned big, like he’d just won the Lotto.

“Maybe he would,” John said, dark eyes twinkling mischievously.

“And I could teach him to ride it when he’s big enough,” Dean continued.

“Yeah, you could do that.”

“But someone would have to teach me how to ride a bike first,” Dean continued, looking carefully up at his dad through lowered lashes. “So I guess I ought to ask Santa for a bike for me, too.”

Dad nodded sagely. “That sounds like a plan, little man,” he said, again ruffling his son’s hair.

This time Dean didn’t grimace or try to push John’s hand away. “And Santa will know that’s what I want?” he clarified, big eyes twice their usual unnaturally huge size.

“Yeah he will,” Dad confirmed.

“Even if I didn’t get to see him at the mall to ask him?”

“Even if you didn’t get to see him to ask him. You just have to think it and he’ll know.”

Dean’s face screwed up in concentration. “So Santa’s like God?” he asked at length.

Once again both parents’ eyes skidded to an abrupt halt on their son’s innocent-looking face.

“Like –?” Mary wasn’t sure how to respond to what her son had just asked.

Dean blinked owlishly at her. “Well God knows what we’re thinking without us having to say it,” he pointed out. “Because God knows what’s in our hearts as well as what’s in our heads. Right? So asking Santa for a bike is like praying to God to keep Mommy and Daddy and Sammy safe. Right?” His question was met by twin blank stares. “Right?”

“N-ot exactly, honey,” Mary stammered, glancing at John for a much-needed assist.

“But if Santa knows what we want without us having to ask him for it, he must be like God,” Dean pressed on regardless.

“Santa just works for God,” John put in, causing Mary to grimace at him like he’d just grown two heads, eyebrows disappearing into her hair. “What?” he mouthed innocently, spreading his arms wide.

“Santa works for God?” Dean repeated, demanding clarification.

Mary turned back to him. “Only on Christmas, honey,” she said, smiling indulgently at him before turning another grimace on her husband. “He just helps out. Once a year. Making children happy.”

Dean nodded. “Okay,” he said. “So I don’t have to pray to Santa to get what I want for Christmas?”

“No, honey.”

“I have to pray to God so that he’ll tell Santa what I want for Christmas.”

“Uh –”

“And I have to ask for Sammy too.”

“Er –”

“Because he’s too little to ask for himself right now.”

“Well –”

“But we might not get what we want because we don’t always get what we want because sometimes God doesn’t think it’ll be good for us so tells Santa not to give it to us.”

“I – guess...”

“Okay,” Dean said with some finality, laying his hand once more on Mommy’s tummy. “Then it’s okay that I can’t get a squirt gun,” he decided at length.

“It is?” John squinted at him.

Dean nodded, attention fixed squarely on Mommy’s tummy. “God’s right. I don’t need a squirt gun,” he said carefully. “’Cause I already got what I wanted for Christmas.”

“You did?” Mary said, gently stroking his hair.

Dean nodded. “Uh-huh,” he said, suddenly bending over and planting a kiss on Mommy’s tummy. “Merry Christmas, Sammy.”

Mary swallowed the sudden lump in her throat, fingers again gently caressing her son’s cheek. “Time for bed, sweetie,” she said, voice unaccountably thick as she blinked rapidly. “Or Santa won’t be visiting us at all.”

Dean nodded. “Okay, Mommy.”

Mary stood, shooing the little boy towards the stairs. “C’mon, kiddo. Those teeth aren’t going to brush themselves.”

John stretched, reluctantly rising to his feet. “Just like that bike’s not going to build itself either...”


December 24th, 1983

“Daddy?”

Dean Winchester stood at his father’s shoulder, baby Sammy balanced precariously against his chest like a football, tiny fingers tangled in the back of his big brother’s hair as he snored contentedly to himself like an eighty-year-old with a serious sinus problem.

“Daddy?” Dean repeated when Daddy didn’t turn around, dark liquid eyes fixed sightlessly on the picture lying on the desk in front of him.

Dean frowned as Sammy shifted against his shoulder. The baby was heavy, but he didn’t want to put him to bed just yet.

“Daddy?”

Still no response, and Dean shrugged, figuring Daddy didn’t want to talk just like Dean hadn’t wanted to talk for the first few weeks after the fire.

Dean understood. He missed Mommy too.

Hefting Sammy further up onto his shoulder he turned and headed noiselessly for the kitchen, where a haze of displaced flour almost blotted out the twinkling Christmas lights strung around the window. “Auntie Kate?”

Auntie Kate turned and beamed down at him as he entered the room, oblivious to the smudge of flour smeared across her cheek and sprinkled liberally through her dark hair. “Hey there, Cookie Monster!” she greeted him, her smile turning to a frown as she noted the little boy struggling manfully to try and keep his baby brother held aloft in arms too tired and too small for the task. Instantly, she dropped the big wooden spoon she was brandishing and held out her arms for Sammy. “Here, let me take him for a while –”

Dean took a step backwards, shaking his head and tightening his hold on the sleeping baby. “You’ll wake him.”

Auntie Kate’s big smile never faltered. “Okay, hon, but he needs to go to bed soon. Just like his big brother.”

Dean nodded earnestly, expression deadly serious. “I need to ask you a question first,” he said, glancing nervously over his shoulder at Daddy, still visible as he raked a hand through disheveled hair and down over scratchy stubble.

“Okay, baby, shoot.” Auntie Kate wiped her hands on the apron tied lopsidedly about her waist before taking a tray full of cookies off the counter and slamming them into the oven.

Auntie Kate’s cookies may have smelt like Mommy’s cookies but Auntie Kate didn’t smell like Mommy, not at all.

“Auntie Kate, how will Santa know where to find us?” Dean asked eventually, glancing down at his sleeping brother. “Now we don’t live in our house anymore.”

Auntie Kate’s smile finally faltered a little, big brown eyes suddenly sad. Dean knew she wasn’t his real auntie, just like Uncle Mike wasn’t his real uncle, but she was nice to him and she showed him how to make formula and change Sammy’s stinky diapers. “Of course Santa will find you, baby!” she burst out, leaning down and running her thumb along his freckled cheekbone. “He’s magic, remember? And you and Sammy have been such good boys. No way is he gonna lose track of you, believe me!”

Dean’s brow furrowed. “But I told Mommy what me and Sammy wanted for Christmas. You know. Before.”

Auntie Kate nodded, pulling out one of the big wooden kitchen chairs and falling into it tiredly. She caught Dean around the middle, hauling him and Sammy both up onto her lap. “I’m sure your mommy told Santa what you wanted for Christmas,” she whispered into his hair, pulling him closer to her.

Dean didn’t resist, leaning back against her as his eyes drifted to his dad, still hunched over the old desk in the living room, which had served as the surviving Winchesters’ home for the last couple of months. “But what if I changed my mind?” he asked quietly.

“Then Santa will know that too,” Auntie Kate assured him, gently stroking his hair.

“Because I don’t have to tell him?” Dean twisted a little to look up at her hopefully. “Because he’ll just know, right?”

Auntie Kate nodded. “That’s right, baby.”

Dean again looked at his father. “But we don’t always get what we want, do we?” he continued. “Sometimes we can’t.”

Auntie Kate followed the direction of his gaze. “No, sweetie,” she said softly, continuing to stroke his hair. “Sometimes we can’t.”

“Because Mommy’s an angel in Heaven now?” Dean sounded uncertain, but his tone remained cautiously hopeful. “That’s why she can’t come home for Christmas?”

Auntie Kate blinked, turning her head slightly as she wiped at something on her cheek. “That’s right, sweetheart,” she said. “Your mommy’s an angel now. That’s why she won’t be with you for Christmas, even though I know she would be if she could be.”

“And she’s watching over us? From Heaven? With all the other angels?”

“Uh-huh.”

“And she’ll tell Santa where we are?”

“You bet she will.”

Dean nodded, satisfied. “Okay then.” He pulled his baby brother tighter to his chest, inclining his head down toward him. “Hear that, Sammy? Mommy’s gonna tell Santa how to find us. And Daddy. So don’t you worry.”

“You should put your brother to bed now, Dean,” Auntie Kate muttered, hoisting the little boy back onto his feet. “Otherwise he’s gonna be real grouchy in the morning.”

Dean nodded, padding silently away from her and into the living room, glancing once at the photograph of Mommy Daddy was still gazing at, before carefully leaning over into the crib at the side of the couch and placing his brother gently in amongst the blankets.

“Snug as a bug in a rug,” he said quietly, repeating a phrase Mommy had used when tucking him in at night when he was little. “Don’t worry, Sammy,” he continued, gently pushing some of Sammy’s curls off of his forehead. “Mommy and all the other angels are watching over us. And she’ll tell Santa where to find us, you’ll see. So don’t be scared, okay? ’Cause I’m right here, so you don’t need to worry about anything.”

He bent down and planted a clumsy kiss on the baby’s forehead, Sammy opening one sleepy eye, looking up at him enquiringly before immediately falling back to sleep.

“Merry Christmas, Sammy.”


December 24th, 1987

“Dean!”

“Sammy, you were supposed to be asleep an hour ago!”

Dean leaned against the doorjamb of the tiny box room he and Sammy had laughingly called their bedroom for the last couple of months. His little brother was literally bouncing on the bed as he gazed out of the window and up into the frosty night sky.

“But I’m waiting!” Sammy informed him, not turning away from the window as the bedsprings groaned beneath him.

Dean took a single step into the room, bringing him directly to the foot of the bed he had been forced to share with the little rugrat while they were stuck in this tiny godforsaken hellhole Dad liked to call an apartment. “Dad’ll go postal if he wakes up and you’re not asleep,” he informed the younger boy, sitting himself on the edge of the bed and following the direction of Sammy’s gaze – no mean feat considering the kid’s bouncing almost ejected him onto the floor the second he sat down. He frowned, regaining his balance while he replayed what Sam had just said in his head. “Hold on,” he muttered. “Waiting for what?”

Sammy stopped bouncing long enough to fix his brother with an incredulous stare. “For Santa, dummy!” he burst out, rolling his eyes in that spectacularly exaggerated fashion he had so recently perfected. “And Daddy won’t be mad at me.”

Dean raised an eyebrow. “And why’s that, squirt?” he asked, wondering fleetingly where Dad kept the Dramamine as Sammy renewed his bouncing.

“Because I’m adorable,” Sammy told him knowingly. “Mrs. Duvitski said so.”

Dean smothered a snigger. “Crazy old bat can’t even see you properly through those bottle-bottom glasses of hers. Probably thinks you’re a stray cat. Or a really shaggy puppy.” He ruffled Sammy’s thick thatch of dark hair exactly the way he knew his baby brother hated, Sammy shrugging away his hand indignantly.

“Does not!” he protested. “She said Santa was gonna bring me lots of presents!”

“Oh yeah?” Dean again arched an eyebrow. “Because you’re so adorable?”

“Um-hmm,” Sammy confirmed with an emphatic nod of his head which sent a tsunami of curls falling into his eyes. “He’s gonna bring me an Optimus Prime for Christmas.”

“Who, Santa?”

“Uh-huh.” Sam faltered slightly, excited bouncing stilling suddenly. “Dean?”

Dean glanced up at him at the abrupt cessation of movement. “Yeah, Sammy?”

“That boy down the hall,” Sam said slowly. “He was lyin’, right?”

Dean didn’t answer right away, eyes drifting back out to the distant Oklahoma City skyline.

“Dean?” Sam blinked big liquid eyes in a plaintive plea for reassurance.

Dean hesitated for a second, startling the younger boy by suddenly pointing out of the window. “Aw, Sammy, you missed it!” he burst out excitedly.

Sam spun in the direction of Dean’s finger. “What?” he demanded, squinting, as if that would bring the crisp night sky into sharper focus.

“The sleigh!” Dean exclaimed enthusiastically. “Santa’s sleigh! I swear I just saw it! Right over there! Rudolph’s shiny red honker up front and everything!”

Sammy’s eyes widened to flying saucer proportions. “Where?” he asked excitedly, scanning the night sky as he craned his neck in a fruitless attempt to see over the five story apartment building opposite.

“Over that way!” Dean pointed again. “He’s almost here, Sammy! Better get in bed and go to sleep or he’ll think you’ve been naughty and you’ll never get an Optimus Prime!”

If it was possible, Sammy’s eyes widened still further, and he immediately launched himself backwards, landing on his butt with an ominous twang of ancient bedsprings, blankets up to his neck and eyes clamped tightly shut before Dean could even say, “G’night, Sammy.”

Dean made a show of pushing up Sam’s blankets before standing and making for the doorway, where his dad was now leaning against the doorjamb, a wistfully unreadable smile on his face.

He beckoned his eldest out of the room, closing the door behind him quietly.

“What?” Dean asked, unnerved by the expression of mirth still plastered across his father’s face. Dad didn’t smile a whole lot these days, so Dean was never entirely sure what it meant.

“What did the kid down the hall say to him?” Dad asked, inclining his head slightly to one side as he pulled out one of the battered old metal kitchen chairs and collapsed into it gratefully.

Dean shrugged, eyes sliding down to examine the new hole in the toe of his sneakers.

“Dean?”

Dean sighed. “He told Sammy Santa was just made up by grown-ups to keep their kids in line all year.”

Dad sucked in a theatrical breath. “That lying little bastard!”

Dean’s eyes shot to his father’s face. “Dad!”

“What?” Dad snorted. “Like you don’t hear that word all the time at school.”

Dean shrugged again, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans.

“And what did Sammy make of that?” Dad continued his questioning lightly.

“He was real upset, Dad,” Dean admitted. “Kept asking me if it was true.”

John nodded. “That why you just told him you saw Santa’s sleigh?”

Dean’s shocked expression lingered somewhere between fearful and affronted. “You were listening?”

“Kinda hard not to in an apartment this size, son. Especially with Sammy doing his whole Tigger routine on the bed.”

Dean looked down at his toes again. “Sorry.”

“Dean.” Dad held out a hand to his son, and Dean took a step toward him obediently, Dad wrapping a muscular arm around his middle and pulling him against his side so that the boy was leaning a bony shoulder against his dad’s chest. “So you lied to Sammy, huh? That’s what’s eating you?”

Dean didn’t look at him, just nodded slightly. “Mom said it was okay to tell white lies sometimes,” he said hopefully. “And Sammy’s just a baby. He’s too little not to believe in Santa Claus.”

Dad nodded. “Unlike you, huh? Big man o’ the house?”

Dean shrugged again. “Just ’cause I’m too old to believe in Santa doesn’t mean Sammy is too.”

Dad ran a large hand over his boy’s head affectionately. “You’re right about that, kiddo.”

Dean blinked up at him. “I am?”

“Um-hm. And you’re a good brother, you know. Looking out for him like that.”

Dean sighed, eyes suddenly too old for his face. “I want him to be a kid for as long as he can be,” he admitted quietly.

Dad didn’t react to that at first, eyes focused on something in the middle distance until he finally pressed rough lips against the top of his boy’s head, much to Dean’s surprise.

“Daaad!” Dean tried to push him away, just as his father decided to blow a loud raspberry into his hair. “Ew! Gross!” Dean wriggled free of his dad’s clutching arms, a mock-scowl on his face. “Just ’cause it’s Christmas doesn’t mean I’m gonna let you get all girlie with me, Dad.”

Dad brushed his son’s cheek with the back of his index finger, before his face split into a grin. “Excuse me, Deanna,” he said, cuffing the boy playfully on the chin before reaching behind him to retrieve a plastic bag that had been stashed behind the trash can under the sink.

Dean’s face lit up instantly. “You got it?”

Dad nodded, pulling a large, brightly-colored box out of the bag. “Optimus Prime, right?” he said, presenting the Transformer toy to his son, along with a roll of cheap wrapping paper – the stuff your fingers tore right through if you weren’t really careful – and a roll of duct tape.

Dean grinned, racing over to one of the kitchen drawers and fumbling for a Sharpie and a sheet of notepaper before settling at the table, pen poised thoughtfully. “Who says there’s no Santa Claus?” he muttered, glancing briefly up at his dad before beginning to write carefully on the notepaper in large black letters:

“Merry Christmas, Sammy. Love from Dad and Dean.”


December 24th, 1988

“Dean!”

“Go to sleep, Sammy.”

“Dean!”

“Sammy, go to sleep!”

“Dean!”

“What?”

Dean sat up abruptly, snapping on the bedside light and squinting at his little brother who was laid flat on his back in the bed beside him, eyes wide as they stared unblinkingly up at the ceiling.

Dean followed his brother’s intense gaze, but all he could see was a particularly disgusting patch of mold creeping across the ancient motel room’s uneven ceiling tiles.

“What are we looking at?”

“I’m waiting for Santa,” Sam informed him seriously.

“And you think he’s gonna come through the ceiling?”

“Pastor Jim said Santa comes down the chim – chimbley,” Sam told his brother knowledgeably, eyes never straying from the tile directly above his head.

“Chimney,” Dean corrected him automatically. “And we don’t have a chimney, Einstein.” He paused for a second before finally asking, “You even know what a chimney is, Professor?”

Sam’s surveillance of the ceiling was broken just long enough for him to give Dean one of his patented Sammy Eye Rolls. “Yes. It’s up on the roof. And that’s where I’m looking.”

“No, you’re looking at the ceiling,” Dean informed him. “The roof’s the outside part.” When Sam didn’t respond to that little bit of information, Dean shrugged. “Sammy, Santa’s not gonna Bat-Climb up the side of some crappy motel just so’s he can crash down through the ceiling and give you presents.”

Sam screwed up his face indignantly. “Is too. Pastor Jim says he loves all his children equally, so he’ll make a special effort to bring us presents ’cause even though we don’t live anywhere with a chimbley we’re just as important as that kid who tried to steal your lunch at school last week.”

Dean frowned as Sam finally took the time to draw breath. “How’d you know about that?”

“Allison told me.”

“Allison’s your girlfriend, huh?”

Sam blushed scarlet. “Is not! She’s old, Dean!”

“She’s like – ten, Sammy.”

“Yeah. Old.”

“Whatever.” Dean shrugged dismissively.

“Allison said you punched his lights out,” Sam continued. “That kid.”

A tiny smile flickered at the corner of Dean’s mouth. “Maybe.”

“Why don’t I have any lights?”

Dean did a double take, rising up on one elbow. “Huh?”

“If you punched that bully’s lights out. Why don’t I have any lights?”

Dean smothered a grin, shaking his head in exasperation. “Maybe you should ask Santa for some when he comes crashing through the ceiling on his Bat-Rope.”

Sammy beamed at him. “I will!” he burst out. “Thanks, Dean!”

“And that’s God, by the way,” Dean added by way of acknowledgement.

It was Sam’s turn to look confused, finally diverting his attention away from the ceiling to squint at his brother. “Huh?”

“Who Pastor Jim was talking about,” Dean clarified. “It’s God who loves all his children equally, not Santa, stupid.”

“Am not stupid,” Sammy pouted, before suddenly screwing up his face in panic. “Then maybe Santa doesn’t know where we are like God knows!” he burst out. “How will Santa know where to find us?” He sat bolt upright, clambering onto his knees and grabbing at the shoulder of Dean’s t-shirt urgently. “Dean, how will Santa find us? We’ve lived in three different places since my birthday!”

Dean sighed, somewhere in the back of his brain remembering a similar conversation he’d once had with Auntie Kate. “Well I don’t know about you, Sammy,” he said slowly, wringing every last ounce of panicked anguish out of his kid brother just because he could. “Because I don’t know how naughty or how nice you’ve been this year –”

Sam practically bounced on the bed. “I’ve been nice! I’ve been nice! Dean, you know I’ve been nice! You’ll tell him, right? You’ll tell Santa?”

“Well hold your horses there, squirt,” Dean continued.

“But –”

“I was just gonna say that it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been naughty or nice this year because I’ve been awesome so he’s sure to find me!”

Sammy squinted at him. “You are so not nicer than me!” he protested.

Dean grinned lopsidedly. “Yeah, but Santa loves the naughty in me way more than he loves the nice in you! And he’s known me a lot longer. We’re tight.”

Sam looked like he might burst into tears right there. “But – but – that’s not fair –!”

“But what I’m saying is,” Dean continued, “that seeing as Santa knows where to find me because I’m just so impossibly awesome –”

Sammy scowled at him. “Are not,” he muttered under his breath.

“– Then he’ll also know where to find my geeky kid brother, won’t he?”

Sam blinked at him. “He will?”

“Sure he will,” Dean assured him. “You think Santa would dare not bring my little brother a Christmas present?”

Sam shook his head fervently, eyes widening. “Nuh-uh,” he agreed, a distinct look of awe creeping over his face.

“Damn straight,” Dean confirmed. “And you know why?”

Sam considered. “’Cause you’d punch his lights out?”

Dean nodded. “You betcha! His lights and Rudolph’s stupid glowing nose! And then they’d never find their way to all the other children’s houses because they wouldn’t be able to see where they were flyin’!”

Sam giggled. “Awesome!” he breathed, just gazing at Dean like he was every Christmas present he’d ever dreamed of having.

Dean affected his best cool, casual Steve McQueen voice. “That I am, little brother. That I am.”

His cool slipped a notch, however, when Sam suddenly decided to wrap his arms around the older boy’s neck, declaring, “You’re an awesome big brother, Dean.”

Dean allowed Sam to hug him for a second before making an exaggerated retching noise while he attempted to extricate himself from the younger boy’s clinging arms. “Jeez, you are such a girl sometimes, Samantha!” he declared. “Now go to sleep, or I’ll tell Santa to take a hike. We don’t need his charity anyway.”

Sammy giggled again, burrowing down beneath the threadbare blankets. “I want lights,” he insisted, voice sounding suddenly sleepy.

“I’ll be sure to tell him that.”

“Night, Dean.”

“Merry Christmas, Sammy.”


December 24th, 1989

“Dean?”

Dean glanced up from the grainy black and white image flickering across the ancient TV in the corner of Pastor Jim’s living room, just as George found Zuzu’s petals in his watch pocket. He vaguely remembered watching this movie with his mom what seemed like forever ago, but he didn’t think he’d ever gotten to see the end of it.

“What is it, Sammy?” He responded to the needy whine in his little brother’s voice, rising reluctantly from the lumpy old couch and joining the younger boy over by the frosty window, where his nose was virtually pressed up against the glass.

“Daddy’s coming home, right?” Sam turned anxious eyes up to his big brother, worrying his bottom lip with a wobbly tooth. “He didn’t ditch us on Christmas?”

Dean sighed heavily. “Of course he didn’t ditch us,” he assured his brother, the certainty in his voice unable to make the journey up to his eyes. “It’s just sometimes he has places he needs to be where we can’t go with him.”

Sam blinked up at him. “To stop the bad things?”

Dean nodded. “Yeah. To stop the bad things.”

“And keep everyone safe in their beds.”

Dean nodded again. “You betcha. You know Dad’s a little like Santa Claus,” he added with a little smile.

Sam frowned. “He’s not fat,” he protested. “And his beard’s not white.”

“No,” Dean agreed. “And he doesn’t have a big sack of toys, either,” he added. “But he’s out there tonight,” he continued, nodding towards the window, “just like Santa. We might not see him, but he’s there. And because he’s there, everyone can sleep safe in their beds. And that’s a better Christmas present than some sucky toy wrapped in crappy paper will ever be, right?”

Sam considered that. “I guess,” he said slowly, sticking out his lower lip a little. “But I still want some presents. Even if they are sucky.”

Dean wrapped an arm round his kid brother’s shoulder affectionately. “You don’t need Christmas presents, Sammy,” he said confidently.

Sam’s frown deepened. “Why not?” he asked.

Dean grinned broadly. “’Cause you got me instead.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “I’d rather have a Game Boy.”

“And I’d rather win the Lotto. But we don’t always get what we want, Sammy.”

Sam’s eyes drifted back to the window and Pastor Jim’s empty driveway. “I guess not,” he said quietly.

Dean squeezed his shoulder, pulling him in closer. “Maybe next year, geekboy.”

Sam nodded. “Maybe next year.”

“Merry Christmas, Sammy.”


December 24th, 1990

“Dean?”

The TV flickered It’s A Wonderful Life across Pastor Jim’s living room and Dean felt like he was trapped in a real life re-run.

Sam was standing at the window, staring out at the empty driveway.

Dean knew what Sam was going to ask before he asked it, dragging himself up from the couch to stand next to his brother, one arm draped around the smaller boy’s shoulders. “C’mon, Sammy. Pastor Jim made popcorn –”

“That’s why he left us here, right?” Sam mumbled as if Dean hadn’t spoken, eyes moist and lip trembling ever-so-slightly. “That’s why he left us at Pastor Jim’s? Because he isn’t coming back for Christmas?”

Dean sighed. “Sammy, whatever Dad’s hunting doesn’t give a rat’s ass it’s Christmas –”

A polite cough from the direction of the doorway caused both boys to whip their heads around to where Pastor Jim Murphy was precariously balancing a tray of cranberry cookies and a big bowl of popcorn.

Dean immediately turned his attention to his sneakers, mumbling something that sounded vaguely like, “Sorry, Pastor Jim.”

The pastor arched a silvery eyebrow, depositing the food on the low coffee table in front of the couch before turning his attention back to the boys. “I think what your brother meant to say, Sam –” he glanced at Dean, whose cheeks reddened noticeably, “– is that Evil doesn’t respect the sanctity of our holidays, no matter how much we wish it would. I’m sure your dad wants to be here with you just as badly as you want him to be here, but even at Christmas, we don’t always get what we want.”

Dean frowned minutely at the familiarity of that statement.

“But Pastor Jim,” Sam began, clearly thinking it through as he talked. “Doesn’t Dad deserve to get what he wants? He’s been risking his life killing bad things and protecting people all year, so it wouldn’t be fair if he didn’t get what he wished for. Right?” He blinked up at Dean before turning his gaze down to the scuffed wooden floorboards. “Maybe he doesn’t really want to be with us at Christmas –”

“Sam –” Dean began, but Pastor Jim cut him off with a wave of his hand.

“Sam, of course he wants to be here!” he corrected him. “And you’re right, he does so much and risks so much to keep the evil in this world at bay that it wouldn’t be fair if he didn’t get a little of what he wants. Which is why he left you boys here with me tonight. Because he wants you to be safe, Sam. More than anything else in the world. And he knows that you will be, here with me.”

Sam nodded minutely, and Pastor Jim shrugged.

“Besides,” he continued. “There are a lot worse places he could have left you, believe me.”

Sam looked up at him. “Where?” he asked quietly, no challenge in the question, just the merest hint of petulance lingering in his pushed out lower lip.

Pastor Jim considered him for a moment. “Alone,” he said eventually. “He could have left you alone, Sam.”

Sam glanced at Dean out of the corner of his eye. “I wouldn’t have been alone,” he said. “Even if Dad hadn’t brought us here.”

Pastor Jim smiled enigmatically. “And that makes you both very lucky boys, don’t you think?”

Dean shrugged when Sam didn’t respond immediately. “I guess getting stuck with him for another year ain’t so bad,” he said, smiling slightly as he nudged his brother with one shoulder. “I think I can manage to put up with that. Just this once.”

Sam’s face broke into a tiny grin. “So long as there are presents,” he said quietly.

Dean snorted. “You’re getting greedy in your old age, Sammy.”

Sam nodded. “I’ve been good this year.”

“That you have, kiddo.”

Sam looked up at him. “Merry Christmas, Dean.”

“Merry Christmas, Sammy.”

Anything else Sam might have said was drowned out by the approaching rumble of a V8 engine, tires on gravel and the creak of an old Chevy door.


December 24th, 1993

“Dean?”

Sam’s quiet voice drifted over the big pile of library books stacked up on the wobbly kitchenette table and across the living room, to where Dean sat on the edge of a lumpy motel room bed, chin cupped in hands resting on skinned knees.

Watching.

He’d been staring out the window for at least an hour now, and Sam knew exactly what was going through his big brother’s head, despite his desperately trying to deny it.

“He ditched us again, didn’t he?”

Dean’s attention never strayed from the empty motel parking lot, so sure that at any minute he’d see the obsidian flash of the Impala’s sleek lines, hear the throaty grumble of her powerful V8, that he couldn’t bring himself to look away.

“Dean, he ditched us on Christmas! Again!”

“He didn’t ditch us, Sammy…” Same song, different verse.

“Then why’s he not here? Huh?” Sam’s eyes flashed angrily, his accusing voice steadily growing in volume. “Why’s he not here, Dean?”

Dean sighed. “I don’t know, Sammy,” he admitted, gaze drifting back to the parking lot. “Maybe he got held up. Maybe people’s lives depend on his being someplace else tonight.”

“That’s crap, Dean.” Sam’s attention was back on his books, but he wasn’t really seeing any of them. “It’s an excuse. For all the times he’s not here when he should be. He cares more about hunting than about us.”

Dean’s attention snapped to his brother. “Don’t you ever say that!” he burst out, the anger in his voice causing Sam to look back up at him. “Sam, why d’you think Dad started hunting in the first place?”

Sam blinked at him for a second, as if unsure whether that was a trick question. “Revenge,” he replied at length. “For Mom.”

“No, dammit!” Dean got to his feet and took a step toward his brother. “He does it to protect us, Sam –”

“By leaving us alone in a crummy motel surrounded by drug dealers and hookers? On Christmas?”

“Sam –”

“Dean, I’m tired of it. Everyone else gets their tree and their cranberry sauce and their turkey. What do we ever get, huh? Cold pizza and some black n’ white movie on a TV set so old its original owner was Fred Flintstone!”

Dean cracked a grin at that, despite Sam’s righteous indignation. “Fred Flintstone?” he repeated. “You know that makes you Bam-Bam, right?”

Sam wilted slightly. “You are such an ass,” he muttered, shaking his head in an attempt to disguise the reluctant smile creeping across his face.

“A hungry ass,” Dean amended, nudging Sam with one shoulder as he passed him on his way into the murky kitchenette. “You want pizza?”

Sam snorted. “Is it cold?”

“This ain’t the Stone Age, Barney,” Dean replied. “We got a microwave.”

Sam swiveled around to look at his brother, who had reached up into one of the nearly-bare cupboards and produced a slightly suspect-looking jar that had probably passed its sell-by date when Dean was still in diapers.

“Cranberry jelly,” Dean informed him with a quirky grin. “You reckon that’ll go with pepperoni?”

Sam reluctantly slid from his chair and joined his brother in the kitchen, pulling open the fridge and peering in cautiously. “Garlic. Cheez Whiz. Ooh, Reddi-wip!”

Dean raised an eyebrow. “Bingo! We got dessert!”

Sam looked over at him appraisingly, the smile melting a little from his face as the microwave pinged just as Dean began to feel his little brother’s eyes on him.

“What?” he asked uncertainly, pausing as he extricated the pizza from the oven.

Sam shrugged. “Pastor Jim was right you know.”

Dean frowned. “That I’m going to Hell for looking at Playboy?”

“No, dumbass!” Sam’s expression became suddenly wistful. “There are worse places we could be.”

Dean just looked at him in slightly stunned silence for a second. “Church?” he offered at length. “School? Some god-awful Christmas movie with Macaulay Culkin in it?”

“Alone,” Sam replied seriously.

Dean averted his eyes a little, no answer to that. After a second he cleared his throat. “You wanna watch some crappy black n’ white movie on our crappy Stone Age TV?”

Sam nodded. “No place I’d rather be.”

“Merry Christmas, Sammy.”


December 24th, 1997

“Dad! It’s Christmas!”

“I’m aware of that, Sam!”

John continued stuffing munitions into the canvas bag laid out on the kitchen table, stubbornly refusing to even look at his youngest son.

His eldest was standing in the doorway between the kitchen/diner and bedroom, biting down on his lip as he glanced from brother to father and back again.

“Dean?” John barked, finally looking up as he shouldered the bag and made to stride for the apartment door. “You know the drill. Be sure and watch out for your brother.”

“I’m not a kid anymore, Dad! I don’t need babysitting!” Sam snapped, before Dean’s obligatory “Yes sir,” had even left his mouth, and suddenly the younger boy was right in his father’s path, immovable object versus irresistible force. He jerked his head angrily in Dean’s direction as his face colored scarlet. “Take him with you if you want. It’s not like we’re gonna be getting that Hallmark family Christmas anyway!”

John stared his son down, the storm clouds gathering in Sam’s eyes more than reflected in his own. “Oh, you’d like that, huh? If I took off with Dean and left you here all by yourself so you could wallow in a little bit more self pity? Justify all that angst you got brewing in that head of yours? Sam, in case you hadn’t noticed, the world doesn’t owe you a favor. We don’t always get what we want. Deal with it.”

“You think I can’t take care of myself?” Sam demanded, pulling himself up to his full height and doing his damnedest to get in John’s face despite still being a head shorter than his father. “I don’t need you to watch out for me! On Christmas or any other day! I don’t need either of you!”

John might not have caught Dean flinch at that but Sam sure as hell did.

And yet he continued to scowl at his brother despite the sudden realization that he wasn’t actually sure who he was mad at: Dean for looking like a kicked puppy or himself for putting that look on his face to begin with. “What?” he snapped, still glaring at his older sibling, unwilling to back down in case it made him look weak in his father’s eyes.

Dean shrugged, looking as though he might say something, before abruptly changing his mind and averting his eyes to the threadbare brown carpet.

John continued to regard his younger son, mouth set into a thin line. “Dean,” he said evenly, not once looking away from Sam. “Pack your gear. You’re coming with me. Sam wants to spend Christmas alone, he can spend it alone.”

Dean just blinked at him, blanching visibly. “Dad –”

Now, Dean!”

Sam was breathing hard, fists clenched furiously at his sides.

John continued to stare him down.

Dean took a step toward them. “Dad, we can’t just –” he began, but was cut off by his father’s terse bark.

“Some alone time might do your brother good, Dean. Give him time to rethink that attitude of his.”

“But –”

“By his age you were taking care of the both of you.”

“He was taking care of the both of us a long time before he was my age, Dad,” Sam interjected, voice now deceptively calm.

John just stared at him, nostrils flaring.

“Sam –” Dean began.

“Dean, I said get your gear!” John growled.“Now!

“Dad –”

John whirled on him, and he took an instant step back. “I have to make that an order?”

“We’re not in the army, Dad,” Sam weighed back in. “You can’t order him around.”

John spun back to his youngest. “Unlike you,” he said, “he respects the chain of command –”

“He’s an adult now, Dad! He can make his own decisions!

“Not on my watch –”

“You’re not his drill sergeant!”

“But I am his father, and at least he respects that –”

“Oh, and I don’t? Is that what you’re saying? Because he’s the perfect little soldier boy, right?”

He does what’s best for this family –”

“By asking ‘how high’ every time you yell ‘jump’?”

“You disobey an order, people die, and he gets that –”

“Only because he’s terrified of disappointing you, Dad!”

“Would you two stop talking about me like I’m not even here?!”

John and Sam abruptly halted mid-tirade, toe to toe, eyeball to eyeball, both turning to look at Dean as if only just remembering he was in the room.

Dean took a deep breath, mentally counting to ten before he said something he might later regret. “Sammy,” he said finally, making a move toward his brother. “Don’t you have a book to read or something?”

Sam just looked at him.

Now, Sam.”

Sam jumped to it immediately, as if startled by the sudden authority in his brother’s voice, backing away from his father and slinking back toward the couch, which was buried in textbooks and Sam’s copious notes.

John continued to stare at the spot where his youngest son had been standing, breathing heard through rigidly clenched teeth as he flexed his fists at his sides.

“And weren’t you headed out?” Dean continued.

John’s dark eyes flicked grudgingly to his older son. “You were coming with me,” he reminded him, voice softening slightly.

Dean shook his head, unconsciously moving to stand between his father and his brother. “No,” he said softly. “I wasn’t. If you’re going, you’re going by yourself, Dad.”

John nodded slightly, one shoulder turning toward the door and away from his sons.

“Or you could stay,” Dean added, the hopefulness in his voice not reflected in the unutterably sad expression in his eyes, as if he already knew what he father’s answer would be.

John, as expected, shook his head. “Can’t,” he said shortly, although the word seemed to linger on his tongue. “It’s a bad sonofabitch, Dean. People could die.”

Dean nodded. “Evil doesn’t respect the holidays,” he said with a weak grin. “I get it.”

John nodded just once, eyes lingering on his younger son, who had already hidden himself stubbornly behind the biggest textbook he could find. He hitched the canvas bag up onto his shoulder and made to grasp the door handle.

“Merry Christmas, Dad.” Dean took a step toward him, and he half-turned hesitantly.

“Merry Christmas, Dean,” John returned, tugging open the door before pausing briefly on the threshold. “Merry Christmas, Sammy.”

Then he was gone.


December 24th, 2000

“Dean, don’t you get it?” Sam snapped, exasperated. “It’s the same stupid deal, year in, year out!”

“Yeah, I get it, Sam,” Dean replied. “Last year you were mad because he wasn’t here. This year you’re mad because he is.”

Dean could just make out Sam rolling his eyes in the misty moonlight. “It’s not like we’re all sitting around a roaring fire sipping eggnog and singing Christmas carols, Dean,” Sam returned, grunting as his shovel bit into the hard frosty earth beneath his feet.

Dean raised an eyebrow, stamping on the solid ground with one booted foot. “Oh, I dunno,” he said, mouth quirking into a grin. “I figure a foot and a half and we’ll have the roaring fire at least.”

Sam snorted. “Not exactly what I had in mind, Dean,” he said, throwing his shovelful of earth up onto the side of the grave. “Yule logs and salted corpses aren’t really interchangeable.”

Dean shrugged. “You do the best with what you got, Sammy,” he said. “And at least we get to be a family this year.”

Sam glanced beyond Dean’s shoulder to where Dad was digging up another grave on the far side of the cemetery: Two brothers on opposing sides of the Civil War who had been staging their own ghostly re-enactment in the middle of downtown Wichita. He knew Dad got jumpy whenever they got this close to Lawrence, but he had been surprised as all hell when the old man had actually suggested his sons accompany him on such a relatively simple job. It certainly wasn’t a three-man operation, anyway.

“Hate to break it to you, bro,” Sam said, “but hanging out in cemeteries and digging up moldy skeletons isn’t exactly what most families do to celebrate the holidays.”

Dean inclined his head to the side before he resumed digging. “I hate eggnog.”

“At least you get to drink it legally this year,” Sam reminded him.

Dean snorted. “Yeah, ’cause I never touched a drop of any alcoholic beverage before I hit twenty-one, officer.”

Sam nodded. “Yeah right, so that was some other Dean Winchester who spiked the punch at his junior prom, huh?”

“I was framed, Sammy! I swear I never touched the stuff!”

Sam grinned, hit by a sudden wave of nostalgia as his eyes drifted once more to his father. “Remember when he got me that Optimus Prime that year?” he said. “God, I loved that thing!”

“Until you decided you wanted to know what would happen if you put it in the microwave.”

“Hey, I was a curious kid, what can I tellya?”

“Curious. Nuts. There’s a fine line between the two.” Dean paused in his digging, following the direction of Sam’s gaze.

“Why d’you think he really brought us with him?” Sam asked wistfully.

“Maybe he’s tired of being alone on Christmas,” Dean replied quietly. “Wants us to be together as a family for a change.”

Sam cut his eyes to his brother before resuming his digging, an almost guilty expression flashing briefly across his face. “Or maybe he knows,” he muttered under his breath.

Dean frowned at him. “Knows what?” he asked uncertainly.

Sam shrugged. “That we can’t go on like this forever.”

Dean straightened, frown deepening in increased puzzlement. “Whaddya mean, Sammy?” he asked hesitantly. “Of course we can! You, me and Dad. That’s the way it’s supposed to be – the way it’s always gonna be!”

A sad little smile flickered across Sam’s face and suddenly he couldn’t look at his brother anymore. “Let’s hurry up and get this sucker toasted, huh?” he said by way of unsubtle subject change. “Before we freeze our asses off.”

Dean slapped his forehead. “Dammit, Sammy, you gotta be psychic! How’d you know I got you a new ass for Christmas?”

Sam grinned, clapping his big brother on the shoulder. “Thanks bro,” he said sarcastically. “But one ass in the family is more than enough.”

Dean grimaced at him. “Well merry Christmas to you too, Sammy!”


December 24th, 2001

“Dad? You know, you could call him if you want.”

John Winchester sat huddled over on the edge of his lumpy bed, his one good arm holding a cell phone between trembling fingers.

It was the drugs, Dean told himself, standing awkwardly in the doorway, for the hundredth time that day checking to make sure his old man hadn’t checked out on him. That Thoughtform had done a real number on him before Dean had gotten there and dissipated it back to oblivion where it belonged.

A broken arm, two broken ribs, sprained ankle, concussion: Dean hadn’t seen Dad get this beat up on a hunt since…well, since before. He was taking more risks, being more reckless; “Shoulda been a three-man job, Dean. Can’t do the work o’ two without getting a little knocked around.”

That was crap and they both knew it.

But the hunt had always been Dad’s cure for everything. Figured if he put himself through enough physical pain he wouldn’t even notice the emotional pain trying to split his heart in two.

That was crap too, but neither one of them was admitting it.

John sighed heavily, tossing the cell phone onto the bedside table and picking up the TV remote instead, clicking on the old black n’ white portable Dean had rescued from some dumpster somewhere.

“Buffalo gals won’t you come out tonight? Come out tonight, come out tonight…”

Dean grimaced. Mom’s favorite Christmas movie. Sam’s favorite Christmas movie.

John switched the TV back off and maneuvered himself onto the pillows piled against the headboard, wincing slightly at the pain around his midsection.

“Dad –”

“He made his choice, Dean,” John said quietly, leaning his head back and closing his eyes. “He has to live with that.”

Dean kicked his toe against the bottom of the doorjamb. “So do we.”

John didn’t respond, eyes closed, just like the subject.

“He’s still our family, Dad,” Dean persisted, taking a hesitant step into the room. “It’s – it’s Christmas and – and –”

“And what?” John’s eyes snapped open. “How many times has he called us since he left? Huh? Did he call to see how we got through Halloween? Did he call to see how we got through your mother’s –” He broke off, gritting his teeth and banging his head back against the pillows.

“It’s a two-way street, Dad,” Dean reminded him softly. “Have you even tried to call him?”

John’s eyes snapped open again abruptly. “No, have you?”

Dean shifted from foot to foot but made no answer.

“How many times?”

Dean dug his hands in his pockets and bowed his head, still not answering.

“He pick up? Even one time?”

Dean met his father’s accusative gaze reluctantly, not bothering to shake his head because he knew John already knew the answer.

John closed his eyes again, turning his head away from his son, and Dean thought about walking away. But he didn’t.

“Christmas is about family,” he said instead. “Dad, Sammy’s still family –”

John opened his eyes again, but didn’t turn to face his son. “Not anymore,” he said, voice incongruously soft. “He lost that privilege when he walked away.”

“But we’re all the family we have left –”

“You and me,” John said suddenly, head whipping back in his son’s direction as he pinned him with an intense gaze. “You and me, Dean. That’s all we have left. We’re all we have left.”

“You don’t mean that.”

John closed his eyes again and fell back against his pillows, mouth set into a thin line, clearly signaling the end of the conversation.

Dean nodded reluctantly, backing out of the room and drifting into the living room, sitting heavily on the couch before reaching behind it and pulling out a square box clumsily wrapped up in newspaper and duct tape.

He shook the package absently, smiling at the familiar sound. Sammy had always wanted a Magic 8-Ball when then were kids – something about wishing he could see into the future – so when Dean spotted one in a thrift store when they passed through Baltimore last summer, he figured it’d be a nice surprise for his kid brother at Christmas.

Well – surprise! Sammy wasn’t here for him to give it to. Sammy had left them – gone off to be Mr. Normal, Joe College, Mr. Stanford. Didn’t see that one coming, did you Dean?

Come with me, Dean…

Yeah, right. Like that was ever an option.

He tossed the box onto the rickety table in front of him and leaned back against the couch, cell phone suddenly in his hand, just as John’s had been earlier.

Unlike John, however, Dean had no excuse for his fingers shaking.

Scrolling through the names in his address book, his eyes lingered for entirely too long on the entry that read, “Sammy’s cell,” much as they had so many times in the last couple of months.

Taking a breath, he pushed the “call” button, forgetting to exhale as he listened intently.

One ring. Two. Three.

“Hey, this is Sam –”

Dean breathed out, for a second pressing the cool plastic of the phone against his forehead.

“– I can’t come to the phone right now, but if you leave a message I’ll get back to you…”

Unless your surname happens to be Winchester Dean thought bitterly.

Dean took another breath, a ragged sigh preceding the beep of Sam’s voicemail.

“Merry Christmas, Sammy. Call me. Please?”

December 24th, 2004

“Hey, Dad. Just checking in.”

Dean worried at a piece of duct tape sticking out from the messily-wrapped package on the Formica table in front of him as he pressed his cell phone to the other ear with a sigh.

“’Cause, y’know, it’s been a few days since I heard from you.”

Dad’s voicemail didn’t reply to Dean’s unasked question.

“So you – if you get time – y’know, it’d be great to hear from you. Not that I’m worrying about you or anything girlie like that.”

Dean forced a laugh he didn’t feel.

“So, y’know Dad, if you wanna call me – well you know where I’ll be, right?”

He paused for a second, fiddling with the duct tape some more. “And – and it’d be nice to see you for the holidays. We could maybe make ourselves sick on popcorn and old Christmas movies, huh? I guess It’s A Wonderful Life oughta be showing on at least six channels…”

Needy, Dean. Too needy…

“So yeah. Well, in case I don’t see you, merry Christmas, Dad. And stay safe.”

He clicked the “end call” button, closing his phone and tapping it thoughtfully against his lips.

Dad was okay. Dean would know if he wasn’t.

He just wished…

We don’t always get what we want. Even at Christmas.

His father had been distant of late, disappearing on more solo hunts, immersed in solitary research. At first Dean had thought Dad had just been trying to give him a little space after…after Sam; give him a little more independence; make him stand on his own two feet.

Just like Sammy.

But it was more than that.

A couple of times John had swung by Palo Alto, not telling Dean about it until it was already done, never giving his eldest son the chance to protest that he might like to visit Palo Alto too.

“I wasn’t visiting, Dean,” Dad had told him shortly. “And it’s not like we have time for you to be off drinking lattes with you brother in the local Starbucks.”

Dean had laughed at that. Like he would be seen dead drinking a latte! Like he would be seen dead or undead drinking a latte in Starbucks!

Dad hadn’t laughed. “Reconnaissance,” he’d explained. “I needed to check your brother was okay. Especially now, since –”

Dean had never gotten him to finish that sentence.

“Since what, Dad?” he’d asked. “What aren’t you telling me?”

And then there was another solo hunt, and it seemed as if Dean had blinked and suddenly he was in Seattle while Dad was in Denver, and something was going down, something involving Sammy, maybe even something involving what happened to their mom that awful November night, but Dean just couldn’t get his dad to trust him enough to tell him what that something was.

Whatever it was, Dad obviously didn’t want Dean to be any part of it.

Dean sighed, fingers gripping the cell phone a little too tightly as he stared so hard at the screen it was a miracle he didn’t crack the plastic.

Ring. Please ring. Dad. Sammy. Someone…

He leaned forward on the chair, tossing the phone onto the table and scraping his fingers through his hair.

Geographically, he may have had more of a clue where Sam was than Dad right now, but he had no real idea where Sam actually was.

He’d called on Sam’s birthday expecting to have his usual chat with his brother’s voicemail, only for a cheery female voice to answer, “Sam Winchester’s personal secretary. How may I direct your call?”

She’d collapsed into a fit of giggles, and Dean swore he heard his little brother’s laughter ringing out in the background.

He’d hung up.

Maybe he was with her tonight – the giggly girl who sounded blonde and fizzy, like she belonged in a shampoo commercial.

He wondered what they’d be doing and who they’d be doing it with. What did college kids do for the holidays? Maybe they were in some dorm room eating popcorn and watching cheesy Christmas movies; maybe they had their own place with a tree and decorations and all the stuff Dean vaguely remember from that life before, the one he kept locked away inside in case remembering hurt Dad and not remembering hurt Sam.

Or maybe they were with her family – Mom, Dad, brothers, sisters.

And Sam.

Family Christmas.

Sam celebrating with someone else’s family.

An irrational wave of anger overcame him then, and he snatched the package up off the table, holding it over his head as if he was planning on pitching it into the motel room wall.

He took a breath.

Not the whiskey’s fault Dad wasn’t here to drink it with him.

Not the whiskey’s fault Sam was hundreds of miles away celebrating Christmas with someone else’s family.

He put the bottle down, figuring if Dad didn’t show up tonight he could always give it to the old man as a New Year’s present.

The bottle wobbled slightly in its wrapping as Dean slumped back in the chair, leaning an elbow on the table as his eyes drifted back to the cell phone…

…Just as the screen flickered into life and the opening bars of Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water screeched into the empty room.

He took another breath, willing himself not to snatch the cell phone up too eagerly as he glanced at the caller ID displayed on the screen.

A tiny smile flickered at the edges of his mouth as he slowly opened the phone, flaring into near-incandescence as he spoke into the receiver.

“Merry Christmas, Sammy.”


December 24th, 2007

“Sam?”

Sam looked up from the menu, eyes slightly crossed after having spent several long minutes squinting at tiny bright red lettering on garish bright green background.

“When they say ‘Reindeer Ravioli’ they’re kidding, right?”

Sam quirked a smile at his brother, whose frown was gradually deepening the further he worked his way down the little diner’s Christmas bill of fare.

“Probably from the same food group as the ‘Elf Escalope,’” he suggested, his attention drifting casually to the door as the little bell rang to signal a new customer, and a trucker the size of Mount Rushmore stomped his way to a booth in back.

“Made up Christmas bullshit food?” Dean suggested with a raised eyebrow.

“Pretty much,” Sam agreed, grinning. “C’mon, where’s your Christmas spirit, man? Kids love this kinda stuff –”

“‘Santa’s Sack o’ Sausage’?” Dean’s eyebrows seemed in imminent danger of shooting right off his forehead. “C’mon! That doesn’t even sound legal to me!”

Sam shrugged. “Maybe we should just go for the turkey burger,” he conceded.

“With North Pole Fries?”

“And a Frosty the Snowman Shake.”

Dean shook his head. “I don’t think I’ll ever get Christmas, even if I live to be ninety.”

“What’s to get?” Sam asked. “Santa. Reindeer. Presents.”

“People spending a whole lot of money they don’t have buying stuff no one wants for people they don’t really like,” Dean added.

Sam nodded. “That about sums it up.”

Dean grunted and returned to scanning the menu.

“Scared Santa’s not gonna leave anything in your stocking this year?”

Dean didn’t even look up. “All I want in stockings is a frisky blonde with a low tolerance for alcohol and a sister.”

“Well bah humbug to you too, Dean.”

Dean did look up at that. “What’s the point of it all?” he asked, gesturing around himself at the garishly-decorated diner, the tiny waitress with the sparkly antlers and the miserable-looking cook wearing a limp Santa hat on his greasy head. “Christmas is supposed to be about – about goodwill to man and – and – peace on earth and – and –” he looked away, back down at the menu.

“Who died and made you Yoko Ono?”

Dean didn’t respond immediately, running a hand through his hair before slumping slightly in his seat. “It’s supposed to be about family, Sam,” he managed at length. “Not about tinsel and turkey.”

Sam nodded slowly. “Hey, I’m right here, man,” he said carefully. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Dean’s eyes flicked up at his brother and he sighed. “I guess,” he murmured softly. “At least we got each other this year,”

Sam grinned crookedly. “Way to make a guy feel wanted.”

“Like a hole in the head,” Dean responded without thinking. Then, “I just wish –” He shook his head, shrugging a little hopelessly. “You know Pastor Jim was right,” he continued. “I guess even at Christmas we don’t always get what we want.”

The little bell over the front door tinkled insistently to signal another customer, and the reindeer-antlered waitress made a move toward the newcomer.

Sam’s smile broadened. “Never say never, big brother,” he said, nodding to someone over Dean’s head.

Dean looked up, puzzled for a second, before glancing back over his shoulder, face suddenly lighting up in a way that made him look all of four years old.

“Dad.”

“Hey boys,” John Winchester smiled broadly as he approached their table, hands in the pockets of his leather coat, a sprinkling of snow glittering in his hair and on his beard. “Hope you didn’t start without me. I hear they serve Reindeer Ravioli here.”

Dean just grinned up at him wordlessly, and a small smile of satisfaction crept across Sam’s face.

“Sometimes you do get what you want for Christmas,” he said softly. “Merry Christmas, Dean.”

The End



 

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