note: This story takes place in the show's 'verse)
"I don't buy that, Bobby," Sam
muttered into the cell phone, his head bowed, his chin
tucked into the hollow of his shoulder. "There
has to be a way."
Bobby's world-weary sigh brushed against Sam's ear through
the connection. "I'm telling you that it's just
not gonna happen. I've looked in every book, called
telling me we just gotta let this go?"
was unable to make out Bobby's reply over the sudden
exclamation of cold as Dean ducked into the motel room,
snow clinging to his short hair and laying in a soft
layer across his shoulders.
call you back," Sam said hurriedly, shutting off
his phone. "Where the hell have you been?"
shook the snow from his head and shoulders like a dog
stepping from water. Sam saw it still clung to his lashes
and was starting to melt in tear-like tracks down his
are you talking about?" Dean pulled his brows together
across the bridge of his nose. "I was out looking
for that Bose… or Box…"
demon," Dean finished, shrugging out of his coat
and dropping it in a damp pile on the chair across from
Sam. He shivered again, stepping over to the heating
unit and burying the dial in the thick red line indicating
it's not a demon, and second," Sam snapped, picking
up one of the small motel towels from the back of his
chair and tossing it across the room to smack Dean in
the head. "You shouldn't have gone out there alone."
ducked his head to the side, plucking the towel from
his shoulder and using it to dry his face.
do you mean it's not a demon?" he asked, sliding
neatly over Sam's comment about his repeated reckless
was no reason to risk Sam's life, Dean knew, when his
was already bought and paid for, his own signature etched
in fire on a demon's contract.
says it's a witch," Sam sighed, curling back against
the creaking wood of the poorly constructed chair.
tossed the towel over his shoulder into the bathroom,
then hopped onto the bed, kicking his wet boots off,
and swinging his legs up on the bed, crossing them at
he said, folding his lips down in a frown. "Haven't
come across one of those in awhile…"
nodded, "Right, so, I've been looking into it—"
my boy," Dean grinned, grabbing a paper bag with
edges worn from gripping fingers off of the nightstand
between their beds and dug into it to retrieve a stick
of beef jerky.
it looks like we're dealing with… well, a good
Dean's jaw worked on the dried beef, his eyes doubtful.
"No such thing, Sam."
lifted a brow. "According to the sites I've come
across—and Bobby's books and contacts—there
the sites and books and contacts are wrong," Dean
'cause you say so?"
Dean grabbed the remote and flicked on the TV.
snowstorm must've knocked down the antennae… all
we're getting is—"
shot an annoyed glance over at Sam. "What already?!"
you pay attention?"
am paying attention," Dean shifted his eyes back
to the fuzzy screen of the TV. "And I'm telling
you Glenda ain't the one out there causing people to
go into comas."
last one just woke up," Sam informed him.
looked back, surprised. "He did? After, what…
Sam said. "And he's fine."
turned off the TV, tossing the remote down on the bed
beside him. "Sure, fine, except for an unexplained
didn't say it wasn't weird," Sam rolled his neck.
"I just said the witch isn't evil."
a witch," Dean shook his head. "This
is our job, Sam. What's wrong with you?"
sighed, leaning forward, elbows on his knees, fingers
threading through his hair. Dean pulled one leg toward
him, sitting forward and tucking his foot under his
it," Sam mumbled.
Dean shook his head. "Talk to me."
pulled his head up just enough to meet Dean's worried
eyes. "Believe me, Dean. You don't want to hear
what I'm thinking right now."
blinked, pulling his head back at the edges that framed
Sam's words. "Listen, if you're upset that I went
out without you—"
If I'm upset?"
so… you're pissed, I get it—"
shot to his feet. "That's just it, Dean. You don't
get it. You're not dead yet, you know."
melted back against the headboard, watching Sam with
careful eyes. "I know that, Sam," he said,
his voice wary.
then quit acting like you are! Quit shutting me out!"
Sam stepped forward, his eyes hot. "Quit protecting
possible, Sam," Dean shook his head. "It's
lips twitched, curling down at the edges, his eyes suddenly
dark and dangerous. "For how long?"
swallowed, unable to do more than stare back at his
straightened, light from the motel room window hitting
his face and throwing half of it in shadow. Dean suppressed
the shudder that ran through him at the sight of his
little brother's angry eyes.
are you so eager to give them what they want, Dean?"
blinked. "What the hell are you talking about?"
gave you a year—why aren't you using it to figure
out how to get out of this deal?"
shook his head, swinging his legs over the side of the
bed and pushing himself up. "We've talked about
this, Sam," he said, stepping over to the heating
unit once more, suddenly bone-cold.
enough," Sam snapped, turning away to stare blankly
at the screen saver on his computer. The pictures that
Jenny had given Dean when they rid their old house—her
house—of the poltergeist had been surreptitiously
scanned into his computer soon after John died and Sam
incorporated them into his screen saver, reminding him
that life held pockets of peace.
sigh carried the weight of thoughts too deep for tears
and too dark for language. "I get out of the deal,
you die. You know that, so quit."
it up," Dean shifted his shoulders so he could
see Sam, but not quite face him. "Just let it go."
up on you, you mean," Sam said, his chin trembling.
swallowed, looking away, saying nothing. Silence hung
in the room, thick and merciless. Wind whistled through
the crack of the door and seemed to create an almost
visible barrier of icy air between them.
want to go talk to coma guy?" Dean said, holding
his hands flat against the blowing heat from the heating
Sam said, his wavering voice cutting through the chill.
put his back to the heater, letting the warmth blow
up his loose shirt and caress the skin of his back.
"Sure, why not? We got nothing else to do."
do you know what day it is?"
frowned. "Uh… Tuesday?"
stared at him blankly.
know what December 24th is, Sam."
can't go talk to him now," Sam said, incredulously.
"He's gonna want to be with family."
looked away. "So, we'll talk to his family, too."
He grabbed his boots. "Wish we had a dryer or something.
These boots are gonna be damn cold."
watched him pull on his shoes, then grab his jacket.
As Dean turned to the door, Sam dropped his shoulders,
knowing his brother was going out into the cold and
the snow to talk to the witch's latest victim whether
Sam came with him or not.
* * * *
says there's no way to kill a good witch."
not the final word, Sam," Dean muttered, gripping
the steering wheel tightly as he navigated the snow-slicked
streets from the motel to the hospital. "He's been
have you," Sam pointed out helpfully.
dared to peel his eyes from the road for the millisecond
it took to shoot his brother a glare. "I'm telling
you," he said, his voice clipped. "There's
no such thing as a good witch. The end."
sighed, looking out of the passenger window at the swirling
white world. "Guess it's gonna be a white Christmas."
Dean muttered, jerking the tires back to the empty road
as a snow drift tried to grab them from the road.
aren't you just a freakin' ray of sunshine," Sam
with you?" Sam shot back. "Tomorrow's
the hell what?" Dean snarled, pulling into the
near-empty parking lot. "It's just another day."
used to be," Sam's soft voice was sad with nostalgia.
well," Dean shut off the engine, removing their
only source of heat. "That was a long time ago."
hunched deep into their coats, trudging through the
biting wind and ankle-deep snow to the automatic sliding
doors of the hospital. Shaking off the snow and sniffing
through wind-reddened noses, they approached the information
desk, asking for the room number of the man they were
here to see. The ride in the elevator to the seventh
floor was silent except for Bing Crosby's mellow crooning
of Silent Night piped in over the speakers.
the elevator dinged and the doors opened, the brother's
were hit with a flood of warmth and people gathered
just outside of the doors, laughing, talking, clinking
glasses. Sharing a confused glance, they exited and
wove their way through the crowd toward room 7335.
in the lead, looked back at Dean and mouthed Christmas
eyebrows bounced up and he returned a silent Awesome.
his lips back in a barely-suppressed grin of pleasure,
Dean's eyes landed on a tray of pigs-in-a-blanket. He
grabbed two, stuffing one into his mouth and grinned
at Sam, who rolled his eyes, shaking his head at his
incorrigible brother. Turning smoothly around a couple
of chatting women, Dean snagged a glass of eggnog from
a nurse in a red Santa hat as she passed them out, sighing
as he downed half of the glass in one gulp.
narrowed his eyes.
Dean blinked innocently.
just waved a dismissive hand at him, not bothering to
tell Dean what he already knew. They reached 7335 and
Dean looked around for a place to set his glass, choosing
the discarded tray of hospital food sitting just outside
of the next door. After knocking softly, Sam led them
in, glancing back at Dean.
Sam whispered, pointing a quick finger to his own upper
lip. Dean flinched, using the sleeve of his shirt to
wipe away his eggnog mustache.
room was crowded with people all focused on the tired,
yet happy-looking man lying in the bed in the center
of the room. They welcomed the brothers in, offering
them chairs, ushering them close to the bed with smiles
heard Dean pull in a breath, a sure sign of enroaching
panic. From experience, Sam knew it was due to the sudden
and unexpected attention and introduced them as students
from the local college paper writing a piece on the
effects of comas and the memory.
by Sam's smooth lie, Dean was able to block out the
pressing confinement of the additional people, and turn
his concentration to the man in the bed, picking up
where Sam left off by saying they had already interviewed
two other people who seemed to have suffered the same
injury as he had.
I wasn't injured," the man corrected.
chimed in a young girl who looked enough like the man
to be his twin. "One second Austin was standing
like five feet away from me, then next… pow. He
frowned. "You just collapsed?"
nodded. "It was the weirdest thing."
you remember anything from when you were unconscious?"
blushed. "Yeah, but… you wouldn't believe
me if I told you."
us," Dean tipped his chin back, his eyes shifting
from Austin to the young girl beside him who was staring
back with unabashed admiration. He squirmed a bit under
her gaze, trying to block her out with the rest of her
Austin looked at the older man standing next to his
bed, who nodded encouragingly. "I could swear I
was… Oliver Twist."
frowned. "Oliver wha—"
Charles Dicken's character?" Sam interrupted.
nodded. "I was living on the streets, talking to
the Artful Dodger, working for Fagin, the whole nine."
shared a glance with Dean. "How did you, um, get…
shrugged. "I saved Nancy from Sikes."
did what now?" Dean's face curved into a question
mark, his hands loose at his sides as he stared disbelievingly
the story… Sikes murders Nancy," Sam said.
nodded. "I know."
always been a hero," the girl at his side said
softly, pushing a lock of brown hair behind Austin's
ears. "He just never believed it before."
Ashley," Austin admonished, but he was smiling.
was obviously his brain's way of dealing with his…
affliction," the man standing next to Austin's
bed announced. "And his defeat of Sikes in his
imagination helped him overcome his… ailment."
Dean echoed, barely able to keep the sarcasm from his
gripped Dean's elbow, smiling gratefully at the family
and nodding to Austin. "Thanks for your time,"
he said. "We'll be in touch when the story comes
out in the school paper."
Austin called as they turned.
pivoted to look back at him.
know I made it up, but… there was this woman,"
he continued, frowning at his hands in his lap. "She
didn't… didn't fit. She didn't look like everyone
was there? In the… wherever Oliver Twist is?"
nodded. "She told me I had a choice to make."
did she look like?" Sam asked, tilting his head.
slightly dreamy smile crept across Austin's mouth. "Beautiful.
Like an angel."
that's helpful," Dean muttered. Sam bumped him
with his elbow.
was your choice?" Sam asked.
shrugged. "She said it was simple, but… turned
out to be harder than I thought."
tipped his head forward, encouraging Austin to continue.
said I had to… I had to decide if I was going
to live or die."
man next to Austin rested a hand on his shoulder, gripping
tightly with the tips of his fingers. "I think
that's enough for now," he said softly.
course," Sam nodded, turning away with an understanding
they left the room, Dean started to walk faster, putting
distance between Austin's family and himself. Sam stretched
his legs to keep up.
need some air is all," Dean mumbled. He started
to push his way through the throng of partying hospital
clumsy escape bounced him off of the shoulder of one
reveler and sent him crashing head long into the same
nurse wearing the Santa hat, causing her to stumble
backwards. Instinctively, Dean reached out to catch
her upper arms, clutching her against him in the chaos
and setting her back on her feet.
my!" she exclaimed breathlessly.
'bout that," Dean said smoothly, a charming smile
settling in place before he'd even registered the trim
body and dark blue eyes.
after you absconded with a 'nog," she clucked her
tongue at him, shaking her head in mock disapproval.
A lock of blonde hair fell loose from the Santa hat.
Dean's grin spread. "I should be ashamed."
He had yet to remove his hands from her arms.
but you're not, I see," she laughed, her eyes dancing
in the glow from the white lights that trimmed the nurse's
ma'am," Sam interrupted, touching Dean's wrist
lightly, causing him to drop his hands. "We're
in a bit of a hurry."
I see," she commented, rotating to follow Dean
with her eyes. "Be careful out there…"
Sam propelled Dean backwards from the nurse, he could
have sworn he heard her say his name. He glanced back
over his shoulder, but she had already blended back
into the crowd of partiers. Sam shook his head, dismissing
the thought as paranoia, and shoved Dean into the open
three," Sam huffed, leaning his pockets against
the rail running along the edge of the elevator's interior.
what?" Dean asked, an almost sleepy smile softening
Sam reminded him. "Or… whatever you call
someone affected by a good witch."
she was hot," Dean sighed. "Wasn’t'
she? That little Santa hat… Oh, I wouldn't mind
keeping that on when—"
Sam snapped, his voice sharp. Dean whipped his head
Sam, you're like a freakin' drill sergeant," Dean
slumped against the opposite wall. "You're worse
flinched, unsure if he should be offended or flattered.
"Well, at least he got you to do what he wanted,"
suddenly sobered. "I can't do what you
elevator reached the landing and the door opened with
a ding to a quiet lobby.
not having this conversation with you every day for
months," Sam muttered. "Eight months and eleven
Dean took a breath, tightening his jaw and watching
Sam watch the ground. With a disgruntled shake of his
head, he stepped from the elevator, trusting Sam to
follow. The guard at the information desk barely looked
up at them. Christmas Eve day was a slow time at the
we just let this go?" Sam asked, several steps
was on the tip of Dean's tongue to snap an irritated
yes, dammit until he realized that Sam was
talking about the hunt.
would we let it go?"
the witch isn't hurting them," Sam explained. "And…
if you think about it… it's kinda… helping
stopped so suddenly that Sam slammed into his back,
bouncing Dean forward a step. He turned in the entry
of the hospital regarding Sam with incredulous eyes.
do you figure that?"
wanted to be a hero—he saves Nancy from Sikes
and rewrites Oliver Twist. Sally the florist
wanted to find love and manages to hook up Mrs. Havisham
with her lost love, changing Great Expectations.
I never got that one," Dean shook his head, face
Copperfield," Sam explained patiently.
classic by Charles Dickens," Sam sighed. "George
wanted to teach his boss a lesson and—"
right, he's the dude that shut down that… blacking
factory… whatever that is." Dean's eyebrows
danced out his disbelief.
matter," Sam shook his head, pushing past Dean
and exiting through the automatic doors. "What
matters is that she—"
I'm assuming it's a she…"
to Dad's journal," Dean said, sliding behind the
wheel of the Impala and closing the door. He rubbed
his cold hands vigorously. "Witches can be male."
whatever," Sam sighed. "If Bobby's right—if
I'm right—Boz is kinda… granting
reached for the keys, pausing at Sam's last words. "What…
like… a djinn?"
shrugged. "I guess, kinda."
that right there should tell you it isn't a good anything…
the djinn killed people," he paused, shuddering.
"Almost killed me."
this… this Boz isn't killing people. That's just
the point," Sam turned in his seat to regard Dean
earnestly. "I mean… Jesus, Dean, when did
you stop believing in magic?"
had reached for the keys once more, pausing again at
this next thing from Sam. "What the hell are you
talking about? Of course I believe in magic! We use
that kind of magic," Sam shook his head. "The…
the possibility of good… the idea that…
Santa comes down the chimney and good wins over evil
and… Tinkerbell's pixie dust makes Peter Pan fly."
pulled his head back, his eyebrows up.
forget I said that last part," Sam amended, shifting
his eyes to the side.
just think… I think this one we should let go…"
think the woman Austin saw in his… dream thingy…
was the witch," Dean countered, finally turning
the car on and revving the engine so the heater began
to warm the interior of the Impala.
dropped his chin. "Yeah?"
Dean nodded. "Looking all beautiful… giving
him a choice between life and death… just the
sort of thing some being on a power trip would do."
froze. He literally stopped breathing. Realization slammed
into him like a freight train leaving him dizzy and
feeling slightly stupid. Looking all beautiful…
she looked like an angel… Man she was hot…Be
careful out there… Sam…
my God… Sam thought. She was there…
the witch had been there…
mean, seriously, this is our job, Sam," Dean continued,
Sam's pallor and shocked, stuttered breathing for once
going unnoticed by his uber-observant brother. "Just
because the people survive doesn't mean we don't stop
her from putting them in danger in the first place."
licked his lips, an idea grasping him so hard, so fast
he was afraid to turn his mind's eye directly toward
it in case it escaped him. Could I… what if…
say we find this beauty and smoke her," Dean rolled
his neck, reaching up in an unconscious gesture of weariness
to rub at the back of his neck. "Any idea how we—"
be right back," Sam interrupted in a shaky voice.
turned to look at him as Sam put his hand on the door.
okay, I—" Sam swallowed, unable to look directly
at Dean. "I, uh… I forgot to ask Austin a
question?" Dean frowned.
be right back," Sam repeated, hurriedly, then practically
dove from the car, slamming the door behind him. He
jogged through the cold wind to the hospital door, then
went inside without a backward glance to his brother.
He knew he was right. He knew this was dangerous, but
he was right… and if this worked… if he
could pull this off… he might get his one wish
for Christmas this year: his brother.
bounced his fingers on the steering wheel in nervous
time to the beat of his heart. It hadn't even occurred
to him to turn on the radio. Sam had been acting weird
since they started this hunt and Dean couldn't figure
out if it was the apparent wish-fulfillment that was
getting to his brother, or the proximity of a hunt around
sighed, looking at his watch, then back at the entrance.
He'd give Sam five more minutes and if he didn't see
that mop of brown hair in the swirling white, he was
going back in.
tap on the glass from the passenger side of the Impala
startled him. Jumping back, he swore, then peered at
the figure standing outside of the car. It was a woman,
and by the looks of it, she needed help.
leaned over and pulled the handle, opening the door.
she breathed, sliding in and shivering. She turned to
face him and he saw that it was the pretty nurse from
the holiday party. "Oh, hi!" she greeted him
cheerily. "Haven't quite left yet, eh?"
not yet," he grinned at her. "You have car
she nodded, folding her arms across her chest and burying
herself deeper into her black overcoat. "I think
the battery is dead."
could take a look at it for you," Dean offered.
know about cars?" she asked, blinking large blue
eyes up at him innocently.
noticed her milky white skin was practically flawless.
Not a freckle to mar the smooth plane or a wrinkle to
indicate the passing of time. Her lashes were thick
and dark, offering the illusion of makeup, though he
saw none. Blonde hair peeked out from under a black
cap and curled around her face. Watching her mouth as
she spoke, all Dean could think about was how he wanted
to taste her lips.
he nodded. "I know a bit about cars."
that would be fantastic," she sighed, her mouth
relaxing into a smile. "I was going to ask you
for a ride, but this would be even better. I'm just
there," she said, point to a dark figure of a car
across the lot.
get it done," Dean nodded, shutting off the Impala
and stuffing the keys into his pocket. He stepped out
into the wind, zipping up his dark blue canvas coat,
and pulling black gloves from his pocket, shrugging
his hands into the cloth.
followed the nurse over to her car.
in and pop the hood," he instructed over the wind.
"I'll see if I can figure out what's going on."
I don't think that will be necessary, Dean," she
said, her voice pitched low, the sound sneaking close
to him under the wind.
jerked at her use of his name, and turned to face her,
his boot sliding a bit in the snow. Her hat was gone,
her blonde hair lifted by the wind. Her blue eyes looked
lit from within. He stumbled back once as she stepped
have a few things to figure out, my boy," she whispered,
but it may as well have been a scream, the impact of
her voice in his ears was so great. "And I'm here
to show you how."
Dean started, but couldn't finish.
witch reached up and cupped his cheek, her hand impossibly
warm in the swirling cold, her eyes growing larger.
Dean tried to pull away, pull back, but he found himself
falling forward, his body tipping, spinning, plummeting
in a vortex that tugged at his heart, captured his breath,
and sent him into the dark.
* * * *
careful what you ask of me, Sam, she'd said when
he found her. I can't say no.
say no, Sam thought as he hurried down the seven
flights of stairs, the wait for the elevator too much
for him in that moment. Please, let this not have
been a mistake.
known who the witch was in the Impala… he only
hoped his request for Dean to see the he had to fight
to live… he had to fight to survive… that
Sam couldn't do this alone… that Sam was lost
without his brother would be as successful as the witch's
last three… clients.
actually calls them clients… Sam shook his
head in wonder as he grabbed the rail and twisted his
body around the third floor landing, running down the
stairs as fast as his long legs would carry him. Sweat
ran down the back of his neck and gathered at his waistband
and in the hollow of his collarbones. A mantra of
pleasepleasepleaseplease kept time with the pounding
of his feet.
hit the ground floor and slammed through the stairwell
door, looking frantically around for the exit. Finding
it to his left, he sprinted forward, dodging three wheelchairs
and a man on a walker. Exiting into the wind was a shock.
The air was frigid and stole his breath as he looked
toward the dark, silent Impala. He was sure Dean had
started the engine before Sam had run back inside to
make his request of the witch.
a bit on the snow, Sam made his way to the car, tugging
hard on the door handle and finding it locked.
he breathed. Where are you?
would he have gone? In this weather, with Sam not there,
where would he have gone? Sam looked frantically around
he called. "Hey! Where are you?"
howl of the wind was his only answer.
until midnight, Sam… this is a one-time deal…
your brother has been claimed by another and I can only
give you until midnight to convince him…
Sam bellowed, the wind pulling tears from his eyes.
He had to find him soon; he instinctively knew she'd
gotten to him first. "Where are you…"
he muttered under his breath, ineffectually slamming
a frustrated hand against the roof of the Impala. He
glanced once back at the trunk, knowing Bobby had said
none of their weapons would combat a good witch…
Bobby is right…
to the trunk, Sam slid his hand under the left rear
wheel well for the spare trunk key, opening their arsenal,
and retrieving a small flask of holy water and a sawed-off
coming, Dean," he whispered, hefting the gun and
slamming the trunk shut.
* * * *
first thing he realized was the wind was gone. There
was literally no sound around him. He licked his lips,
cautiously opening his eyes. He expected pain. He hadn't
Dean looked around. He saw nothing. Literally nothing.
The harder he looked in one place, the more nothing
gathered and shocked his eyes with its hollowness. Pressing
his hand flat against… nothing… he pushed
himself up on his elbow, rolling to his back, then sitting
up. He looked around him. He looked above him. He looked
I give!" he called out. "Where am I?"
came a female voice laden with humor and rich, like
liquor. It was a sound Dean could imagine tasting.
that's specific," he commented dryly. "Thanks."
welcome," the voice replied.
heard the unmistakable sound of a match being struck.
He smelled the sulfur from the match head and saw the
orange flame reflect off of the smooth planes of the
blonde nurse's face. She brought the match up to a thin
cigarette, inhaled, then blew the smoke from the cigarette
onto the match, extinguishing the flame. The dim, glowing
embers of the cigarette's end glowed as she pulled more
smoke into her lungs, sighing it out of her body like
a lover's plea.
things'll kill you, y'know," Dean pointed out,
wrapping his arms around his bent knees, waiting.
kill me faster," she replied.
we're nowhere together," he said, trying desperately
not to think about what she might have done to Sam.
is okay, Dean," her voice was soft, motherly. He
started at the fact that she'd honed in on his exact
what… you read minds?"
narrowed his eyes as the scent of the burning tobacco
wafted around him. "What exactly do you
do?" He released his arms, pushing himself to his
feet, ignoring the fact that he was essentially standing
needs to learn something—I show them how."
need to learn how to see through the deceit of a pretty
what you want to learn," she said, and
then suddenly, she was inches from him, her breath on
his face, strangely devoid of the stench of cigarettes.
"What you need to learn."
so there's a difference?"
laughed, a deep, throaty laugh that sent pleasant shivers
down his spine. He cursed his body for reacting to this
there's a big difference," she sighed and he felt
her move away from him in the dark.
told you," she said, her voice edging with irritation.
want to see him."
can't," she replied. "Not until this is over."
beginnings of apprehension dug talons into his gut.
"Until… what… is over?"
need to learn something, Dean," she said.
I've gathered," he muttered.
going to be visited by three spirits… well…
three beings. They will appear in forms that you will
recognize. One you will know well. Heed these beings,
Dean. If you do, you'll see Sam again. If you don't…"
I'll die?" He chuckled. "Sweetheart, I'm dead
not your death you should worry about," she sighed.
"Heed the beings, Dean."
couldn't see her, but he did feel her sudden absence.
"Hey! Wait!" His voice echoed back through
the nothing that surrounded him. "Okay, Dean…
just… calm down. You've been in worse situations…
swallowed, looking around. It was like watching black
eat black. Nothing was full of fear, he suddenly realized.
Fear of the unknown. Fear of being defenseless. Fear
of being alone.
jumped, turning and realized he was standing in a house.
A living room, to be exact. His living room. In the
house they'd had in Lawrence. And, he realized as his
gaze slowly traversed the room, it wasn't Jenny's décor…
it was Mary's. This was literally his old house.
the voice called again, and Dean looked to his right.
Jim?" he asked, incredulous.
suppose…" Pastor Jim looked down at himself.
"If that's how you see me."
if I'm a pastor, should you be talking to me like that?"
raised a brow. "If you are really Pastor Jim, you
couldn't give a shit."
enough," Pastor Jim nodded. "Recognize this?"
he asked, spreading his hands wide.
our old house," Dean said in wonder, stepping over
to a bookshelf that held a collection of school books,
novels, and pictures of John and Mary and baby Dean.
"God, they look so young," he said.
were young," Jim commented.
don't remember these pictures," Dean said softly.
"They must've burned up in the fire."
Jim shook his head. "The fire only destroyed Sam's
room. Most of this stuff is still in storage somewhere
shot a glance over his shoulder. "Seriously?"
what, you're like… the first… spirit thingy?"
Dean asked, facing Jim.
Jim nodded. "I'm the ghost of Christmas Past."
blinked at him a moment, then tipped his head back and
funny?" Jim asked, his face mild.
wheezed, tilting forward. "Are you… are you
serious?" He asked, bracing his hands
on his knees, his laughter squeezing tears from the
corner of his eyes. "The ghost of Christmas Past?
Like that movie?"
book, pick your poison. I am what I am."
wiped his eyes, gasping. "Oh… okay…
sure… Christmas Past… got it."
here to show you what you used to have," Jim said.
sobered suddenly. "I know what I used to have,"
he said, his voice hard. "I had a family. And a
demon took it from me." He stepped forward, all
mirth forgotten. "I had a father, and a demon turned
him into a drill sergeant. I had a brother and a demon
simply lifted an eyebrow. "You had a soul and you
gave it up."
soul is a gift, Dean. It's yours to save."
don't want to save it at the sacrifice of Sam,"
Dean turned away from Jim, shaking his head. "It’s
not worth that."
Jim sighed. "Let's see if you can figure out why
Sam might disagree."
felt a vague, nauseating pull at his belly and suddenly
he was standing next to Jim in the living room of the
Lawrence house, Mary, her belly rounded, her smile beatific,
sat on the couch, and John sat on the floor in front
of a three-year-old Dean as he unwrapped a baseball
shit," Dean breathed. "I forgot they gave
me a baseball glove."
were you going to play with?" Jim asked.
of course," Dean scoffed, unable to tear his eyes
from the scene in front of him. "I couldn’t
wait to meet him."
a microfiche file, the scene before him changed and
he saw a gray, dingy motel room, heard a baby crying,
and a small voice crooning nonsensical words in a tuneless
drone. Dean blinked, dizzy, and saw John sitting on
a faded rose colored couch, an opened bottle of Jack
Daniels resting on his knee, his left hand loosely gripping
the neck, listening to the same thing Dean was listening
this is our first Christmas without Mom," Dean
whispered as if his presence in this memory might startle
John from his grief. "I forgot it was even Christmas.
Sam had trouble sleeping…"
needed you," Jim said softly.
just needed to know he wasn't alone is all," Dean
shrugged, staring at his father with sad eyes. "Dad
would have worked just fine."
he didn't," Jim reminded him.
did… sometimes…" Dean said, closing
his eyes briefly and looking away from John's tears
to the closed bedroom door. "When he could. It
was hard for him."
it wasn't for you?"
shrugged. "So what, you're going to show me all
the Christmas's from when I was young? Hate to tell
you… it's a lot of the same."
Jim shook his head. "Doesn't have to be Christmas
to show you the miracle that is your life, Dean."
Dean shot his eyes to the side and stumbled once more
as the environment spun around him and showed him scene
after scene of his youth.
of he and Sam alone in a motel room blended with Sam
and Dad arguing and Dean standing between them. Those
scenes faded into Dean patching up John and Sam, Dean
running into darkened buildings, through wet trees,
into firefights, pulling John free, tucking his body
around Sam, holding Sam's hand while John stitched him
up, pinning Sam's eyes with his, reassuring his brother
that they would get out of this, they would be okay…
Christ," Dean whispered, reaching out to brace
himself on something and finding emptiness. "Stop
then the images did stop.
remember this, Dean?" Jim asked softly. "You
remember your first Christmas without Sam?"
wasn't Christmas," Dean replied dully, watching
a repeat of the second memory played out in front of
him: John sitting alone, dejected on the couch, a bottle
of whiskey opened and propped on his leg.
was December 25th," Jim reminded him.
don't care what the friggin' calendar said," Dean
snapped, hazarding a look over at Jim. "It wasn't
Christmas without Sam."
is that?" Jim asked, walking up to John and peering
down at the drawn face of Dean's father. "You had
your father. You two could have—"
didn't matter without Sam," Dean said softly. "I
didn't care about presents. About magic. About all those
friggin' lights and trees and carols and all that shit.
Sam did. And I wanted him to have it."
cared," Jim replied.
Dean shook his head. "I didn't."
lifted an eyebrow, then stepped through the closed door
across from John. Dean blinked and before he knew it,
was on the other side of the door as well, standing
next to Jim. He saw himself, several years younger,
several less scars, several less battles, but no less
weary. Younger Dean lay on his bed, one leg on the floor,
the other tented with knee bent, ready to get up at
a moment's notice. He could feel his own tension.
arm was flung across his eyes, and his jaw was tight.
The other hand held his Bowie, twisting the large knife
around in a circle by the hilt.
in pain, Dean," Jim said.
you think I know that?" Dean snapped. "Sam
was gone and Dad said he couldn't come back. I was…
I mean what point was there without Sam?"
nodded. "You wanted Sam to have a chance to live."
damn right I did," Dean nodded, staring at himself,
knowing what happened next, hoping Jim did one of his
magic time-is-motion moments before it did.
wanted him to fight the future laid out for him."
nodded. "Yeah," he said. "I wanted him
to be safe. Can we go?"
you think Sam wants the same for you?"
pulled his brows together, shooting a puzzled look to
Jim could answer, what Dean knew was coming began. John
stumbled through the door, not bothering to knock. Younger
Dean startled, jerking upright, and stared at his father
in confusion and worry.
you layin' in here for?" John slurred. "Donthca
got somewhere t'be?"
Dad," younger Dean stepped forward, grabbing his
father as he stumbled, going to his knees with John
on the bedroom floor. "I'm here with you, remember?"
here," John repeated, clumsy hands smacking against
Dean's face. "You're here."
Dad," younger Dean replied, his voice choked with
emotion. "I won't leave you."
leaves, Dean," John sighed, his forehead dropping
to his son's shoulder. "Everybody leaves."
won't leave you," younger Dean promised, his arms
wrapping around his father's strong back.
but," John's sigh was wet and heavy. "I'll
we go now?" Dean asked Jim quietly.
did leave, didn't he?" Jim asked.
already know the answer to that," Dean grumbled.
"Mom left, Sam left, Dad left…"
Sam came back," Jim reminded him.
brought him back," Dean shot a look at Jim. "I
brought him back," he repeated, feeling cold. "Twice."
now you're the one that's leaving."
we just go?" Dean said. "I don't know what
you're supposed to teach me, but—"
turned to face Jim, seeing nothing. He shot his eyes
back over his shoulder to where young Dean and John
had been and saw nothing.
swell," he sighed. He looked up into the gray nothing
around him. "A little warning might be nice next
* * * *
Sam yelled into the wind. "Where the hell are you?!"
knew he couldn't have gone far… he hadn't been
away long enough and the Impala was still here. Unless
she took him somewhere…
turned quickly to face the remaining cars in that lot,
knowing there was no way to tell if one was or was not
here from when he'd run back inside. He'd not been paying
that close of attention. He started toward that lot,
a strange pull that screamed Dean in his belly.
he yelled again over the bite of the snow smacking his
wind-chapped face. Hurrying across the snow-covered
black top, his right foot slid out from under him and
he was forced to look down to catch his balance.
he not done so, he would have completely missed the
dark lump that was his brother's body.
Sam gasped into the wind, dropping to his knees beside
Dean's still form collapsed on the pavement next to
an empty parking space.
rolled Dean to his side. Dean's face was pale except
for a shock of red that covered his cheeks from contact
with the snow.
shit," Sam whispered. "Dean…"
forward on his knees, Sam set the shotgun on the ground
then lowered his ear to Dean's mouth, feeling the shallow,
stuttering puff of air against his skin as Dean breathed.
He pulled his brother's lax form up onto his lap. Dean's
head rolled toward Sam's body, his skin, as Sam pressed
his own icy fingers against Dean's throat, was too cold.
gotcha," Sam whispered. "I gotcha, Dean."
Dean up against him, Sam struggled to his feet, tipping
Dean's upper half over his shoulder and, with a low
growl, gripped the barrel of the shotgun and lifted
his brother up in a fireman's carry. He paused as he
turned, debating between the Impala and the hospital.
If he was right—and he was sure that he was—Dean
wouldn't need a hospital, and they would risk exposure
to the authorities by going to one. But… Dean
was so cold… and they had such limited supplies…
you don't wake up by midnight, I'll bring you back,"
Sam promised his unconscious brother.
stumbled through the snow to the Impala. He had to balance
Dean between his shoulder and the car to dig into his
brother's pocket for the keys, then unlocked the door,
laying his brother in the front passenger seat. He tossed
the gun on the floor next to Dean's feet, then reached
behind the seat to the floor and grabbed a discarded
hoodie and two towels left there from who knows what.
He wrapped the hoodie around the front of Dean's chest,
covering his brother's legs with the towels.
around to the other side, Sam slid behind the wheel,
turning on the Chevy's powerful engine and cranked up
the heater. He shot a glance over to Dean, watching
as his face twisted in a grimace, his lips moving rapidly,
gotcha, Dean," Sam repeated, yanking the gear shift
down to reverse. "I'm not going anywhere."
flung his arm across the back of the seat, burying the
accelerator in the floorboard of the car. The tires
spun in the snow a bit, fishtailing the Chevy as it
backed up. Dean's body slid sideways, his head bumping
against Sam's hand. Sam suppressed the urge to jerk
away from Dean's cold skin, pulling his lower lip in
as he shot a doubtful glance back to the hospital.
gripped his brother's shoulder, the jacket wet from
lying in the snow, and eased him down onto the seat
between them, the top of Dean's head resting against
Sam's leg. He wrapped the hoodie tighter around Dean's
damp clothes, keeping one hand on his arm, anchoring
him against the seat.
with me, man," Sam pleaded, pulling onto the deserted
highway and heading back to the motel.
* * * *
spun, surprised to see the witch make another appearance.
"I thought you were supposed to let the ghosts
work me over."
she lifted a delicate shoulder. "Can't let them
have all the fun."
Sam?" Dean circled her, watching as she stepped
carefully in a reverse circle from him, keeping her
blue eyes on him. The nothing around them held a little
light this time around, he realized. He hadn't been
able to see her before.
awfully pretty, Dean," she said, a smile quirking
the corners of her mouth.
a bit of a broken record," she muttered to herself.
"I told you, he's fine."
want to see him," Dean stepped forward.
have seen him," she pointed out.
past Sam, now Sam," Dean nearly yelled.
His fist curled tight enough the sound of his knuckles
cracking from the effort echoed between them.
gonna see that soon enough."
being a bitch just part of your charm?" Dean growled.
witch's lips pouted down in a frown. "Now, Dean,"
she said. "Is that any way to talk to a lady?"
I see one, I'll let you know."
sighed, shaking her head and turning away. "You're
much more difficult than the others."
Dean stepped around her until she met his eyes just
by glancing up.
don't understand," she said, the deep blue of her
gaze cooling as she regarded him.
tilted his head. "Why don't you educate me, then?"
answering smile was secret and sad. "I think he
can do a better job," she said, glancing over his
turned and was surprised to find himself standing in
Bobby's book-littered house. His eyes darted quickly
from side to side, then up to see the unmarked ceiling
above him. No Devil's Trap.
painted it up there yet." Bobby's voice to his
left was both welcome and disconcerting.
Bobby, you're not—"
Bobby chuckled, removing his ever-present trucker's
hat and scratching his head. "Hell, no. But…
you don't listen to anyone, Dean. And you need to listen."
took a step back. I listen… I listened to
adjusted his hat, pressing his lips together. "Sorry
your Daddy couldn't be here, Dean."
pulled back in surprise. "Damn, Bobby," he
muttered. "Or… whatever you are. Mind reading
is friggin' creepy."
to agree with you there."
what happens now?"
took a breath, tucking his thumbs and index fingers
into the waistband of his jeans. "Well, son, I'm
the ghost of Christmas Present."
and you're gonna show me all the ways I'm screwing up
Sam's life right now, right?" Dean shook his head,
wandering over to an over-flowing bookcase, frowning
when he realized that none of the spines of the books
held any words. He reached out and plucked one from
the shelf, flipping through it quickly. The pages were
deceit only goes so far…
all part of the show," Bobby nodded, stepping up
beside Dean. "And I gotta say, it's a good thing
they sent me."
Dean lifted a brow, looking at Bobby out of the corner
of his eyes.
yeah—especially if you think you've screwed up
Sam's life," Bobby shook his head. "Pretty
sure your brother would disagree with that."
put the book back on the shelf. "That's only because—"
He was unable to finish as the dizzying pull in his
gut sent him stumbling backwards, his shoulder bumping
blinked, watching himself sit in a motel chair, John's
journal open in his lap, his eyes on Sam's sprawled
form as his brother obviously struggled through a nightmare,
waking with a gasp and a jerk.
still have nightmares?" Bobby asked.
Dean replied, watching Sam work to orient himself. "Not
as much as right after Jess died."
really needed you then," Bobby nodded.
shook his head. "He would have been okay without
me. Sam's strong—he's a lot stronger than he realizes.
He would have been okay…"
sighed and on his exhale the scene before them scattered
like flames on a birthday candle, shifting and solidifying
until they were once again standing in the Lawrence
house—only this time Dean realized it was Jenny's
house, not his own. Sam lay on the floor of a bedroom,
clutching and clawing at his neck, a lamp cord wrapped
tight and cutting off his air.
stepped forward instinctively, his heart hammering at
the sound of Sam struggling to breathe. Bobby rested
a light, restraining hand on Dean's shoulder as the
door burst open and Dean saw himself in the doorway
bellowing his brother's name. Dean watched as he fell
to his knees next to Sam, cursing as he pried the cord
away from Sam's neck as his brother fought for air.
stepped back beside Bobby, weak with relief as he watched
himself pull Sam close, clutching Sam against him and
patting his brother's dark head to soothe them both.
gotcha," he heard himself say. "I gotcha,
Sammy. You're okay."
Sam rasped, swinging a clumsy hand up to grasp Dean's
arm. "'S over?"
watched himself release his brother slowly, remembering
the clutching need to hold on longer, to assure himself
of Sam's well-being through the comfort of touch. He
swallowed, feeling Bobby's eyes on him and watched the
brothers before him.
man," Dean nodded. "It's over. You did good."
patted him. "So did you," he whispered. "Thanks."
tipped his head back, a hand at his neck, blue-green
eyes filling with residual tears. "For being there,"
Bobby pointed out. "He wouldn't have made it had
it not been for you."
chewed on his bottom lip.
got more of those," Bobby offered.
more of Sam nearly dying? No thanks. Been there, done
that," Dean watched himself climb to his feet,
reaching down and helping Sam up next to him. He smiled
a bit as Sam stepped through the door in front of Dean.
He never really realized how obvious their difference
in height was.
just the point, Dean. You've been there," Bobby
said. "And you need to stay—"
for God's sake!" Dean whirled to face Bobby. "Did
Sam put you up to this? I mean you sound just like him!"
shifted his eyes away, then over Dean's shoulder. Dean
frowned, turning and saw himself in a hospital bed,
a tube down his throat, another threaded into his sinuses,
monitors tracking the beat of his heart, a soft hiss
as his lungs were pumped by a machine.
shit," Dean breathed, stepping forward, only then
realizing that Sam was also in the room, standing next
to the bed, staring down at him, tears filling his eyes.
"Oh, man. Bobby, don't do this to me."
need to listen to someone, Dean. Your brother needs
you. He's been trying to tell you, but you're so stubbornly
sure you made the right decision you aren't listening
glared at Bobby. "I did make the right
decision. I had to save him, Bobby. You know
that. He's my brother."
well, you aren't leaving him with a helluva lot of hope,
boy!" Bobby stepped up to stand close to Dean,
thrusting his chin forward, reaching out to grab the
back of Dean's neck and grip it tightly.
flinched, but didn't pull away. He'd given Bobby an
authority over him long ago—an authority he hadn't
granted anyone other than John. He was compelled to
listen to this man.
are just rolling over, letting them win!"
have to, Bobby!" Dean pleaded, feeling
emotion building at the base of this throat, threatening
to choke him. "I try to get out of it, Sam dies."
you just can't live with that," Bobby growled.
dammit!" Dean shot back. "He has to live.
He has to. He's more important than me. He's
stronger than me. He matters more!"
voice cut into their verbal battle of wills and Dean
froze under Bobby's fingers, shifting his eyes away
from his mentor to rest on his brother.
know how to help you. But I won't give up… I won't
give up on you, Dean. Not as long as you keep fighting…
Come on, man, you can't… you can't leave me here
alone with Dad. We'll kill each other, you know that.
Dean… you gotta hold on. You can't go, man, not
now. We were just starting to be brothers again."
hear that, Dean?" Bobby whispered.
nodded. "But I didn't leave him." He looked
at Bobby, his eyes burning. "He left me."
want him to have to feel this?" Bobby asked and
Dean frowned in confusion.
dropped his hand and Dean stepped back, hearing mud
suck at his boots, feeling the cold humidity of the
Wyoming autumn press around him. He shook his head in
denial, knowing where they were.
don't fight this… you don't want to live…
you're sentencing Sam to feeling this,"
Bobby looked to his right, drawing Dean's eyes to the
pair huddled in the mud to his left.
sharp, stabbing pain shot through Dean, compelling him
to press his hand against his chest as if to hold his
heart in place. He heard his own voice, once again feeling
the limp, impossible weight of Sam in his arms as if
he'd just traded places with the Dean kneeling in the
mud before him.
hey. Hey, come here. Let me look at you… Hey,
look. Look at me. It’s not even that bad. It’s
not even that bad, alright? Sammy? Sam! Hey, listen
to me. We’re gonna patch you up, okay? You’ll
be good as new. Huh? I’m gonna take care of you.
I’ll take care of you. I got you. That’s
my job, right? Watch out for my pain-in-the-ass little
brother. Sam? Sam. Sam! Sammy! SAM!"
wanna go now," Dean said softly, trying to swallow
around the lump in his throat. "Can we go?"
just… I can't, okay? I can't…"
he shifted his eyes to his old friend, unable to keep
the weight from them. "I wasn't there for him.
And the demon took him. He wasn't supposed to die. So
I fixed it. Okay? I fixed it. So, let's just go."
make that choice, Dean," Bobby pleaded.
What choice?" Dean pulled his head back, realizing
suddenly that Cold Oak was gone. The wet, stifling air
was gone. Everything was gone except Bobby. They were
once again surrounded by nothing.
choose to die," Bobby leaned forward, imbuing his
words with earnestness. "She gave you a choice
and you only get one shot at this."
the hell are you talking about? She who? You mean the
make that choice," Bobby repeated and was suddenly
gone. Dean blinked, rubbing his eyes, turning in a circle,
looking first one way, then another.
was alone. And he was starting to get angry.
he grumbled. "That's the way you want to play?"
He lifted his face to the silent blank above him. "Bring
it on, bitch!"
* * * *
had been able to wrestle his brother's inert form from
the front of the car into the motel room, remove his
wet boots and jacket, and wrap him in the comforters
from both beds, but Dean's skin remained pale and cold,
his breathing shallow.
cranked up the heat pouring from the heating unit until
he was sweating. He stripped down to his jeans and white
T-shirt, removing even his socks in the suffocating
heat of the room, but Dean's unnatural chill remained.
without warning, Dean started shaking. His teeth chattered,
his body trembled, his hands jerking in scary repetition.
sank to his knees beside his brother's bed, grabbing
Dean's icy hand and rubbing it vigorously between his
own warm ones.
Sam called hesitantly. "God, what is she doing
rubbed harder, hoping the friction alone would return
some heat to Dean's extremities. He carried his motion
up Dean's arm, under the blankets, trying to return
life to the lifeless.
ring of his cell phone caused Sam to jump. He used the
edge of the bed to push himself to his feet, looking
over at his coat where he'd pocketed the phone, then
back at Dean, shaking roughly on the bed. In a desperate
dive, Sam launched across the room, grabbed his phone,
then returned to Dean's side.
Bobby's urgent voice cut him off. "Listen to me.
I was wrong. You hear me? I was wrong."
stopped breathing. "What?" he squeezed out
through strangled vocal chords.
witch—Boz—she ain't evil, but she's completely
looney toons. You need to bind her powers before she
hurts anyone else."
my God… Dean was right…
Sam swallowed. "She hasn't… the others didn't…"
other victims did what she wanted them to," Bobby
supplied. "See, she has this… obsession with
Sam almost slammed the phone against his forehead in
where she got her name: Boz. That's his pen name."
you serious?!" Sam's incredulity rose with his
a heart attack," Bobby said, rushing forward. "Her
real name is Annabeth Walker and she has escaped from
more than one asylum. Thing is, she's the real deal."
really a witch. She has real magic," Bobby explained.
"You have to bind her powers now before she—"
Sam interrupted, sinking onto the bed, his hip next
to Dean's. He felt the bed trembling beneath him with
the force of his brother's tremors. "Don't kill
was a significant pause, then Bobby's voice shifted
over the line with the weary weight of dread. "What
did you do, Sam?"
thought she was… good… helping people,"
Sam tried to defend himself. "I would never have
done it, except—"
me talk to him."
wanted him to fight this, Bobby! I want my brother back!"
trusted a witch?! You know better than that, boy!"
Bobby," Sam exhaled into the phone. "I know…
I know I just… I can't lose him. I can't.
He's my brother!"
heard Bobby's sigh across the miles and gripped the
phone tighter. "Is he okay?"
cold—I mean really, really cold,"
Sam said, touching Dean's pale cheek. "And he just
started shaking—like super-powered shivers—right
before you called."
he having a seizure?"
like that—it's like he's violently shivering."
him warm, whatever you have to do. Keep his heart rate
said… Bobby… she said he only had until
midnight," Sam revealed.
cleared his throat. "Until what?"
didn't say," Sam whispered. And I didn't ask…
"What did you… what did you mean by the others
did what she said? What happens if you… if you
don’t think you want to find out, Sam."
Bobby, what have I done?"
in there, kid," Bobby said softly. "Keep him
warm. I'm on my way."
dropped his eyes, his challenge to the witch still tingling
his tongue, and found himself staring at a figure cloaked
in black. All in black, a large hood up over its head,
shielding its face.
tilted his head, lifting an eyebrow. "What are
you, some sort of Jedi?"
figure was silent.
I get it," Dean dropped his hands into the pockets
of his jacket, swinging the garment forward and wrapping
it around his middle. "We've had Christmas Past
and Present. You must be Christmas Future, that it?"
a name? A face? You Ellen? Jo? Caleb? Ash?"
figure shook its head slowly.
much of a talker, huh? Well, that's fine with me. I've
had about enough talking. Why don't you show me what
you're gonna show me so we can get this over with and
I can get back to Sam."
figure pointed behind Dean and for the briefest moment,
Dean thought he saw the tip of a rotten, bony finger
jutting out from the edge of the black cloak. Sighing,
knowing that he was going to be thrust into another
environment foreign from the nothing he could currently
see, Dean turned.
met his eyes wasn't what he expected. He was on a busy
city street, cars and sirens echoing behind him, neon
lights buzzing and flashing above him, people pressed
around him, eyes down, steps quick and scared. Frowning,
Dean looked around for the cloaked figure, finding it
just to his left.
figure pointed at a person striding toward them, also
dressed in black, but this black felt more dangerous
and more protective than Dean's silent companion. Dean's
frown intensified as he sized up the thin, lanky figure
approaching. Long, powerfully muscled legs were wrapped
in tight-fitting black denim, boots with buckles and
chains—more serviceable then decorative, Dean
saw—stretched above his ankles. His hands were
wrapped in black gloves and a long coat brushed the
tops of his thighs, yet fit closely to his slight build.
He looked wiry and menacing at the same time. His walk
spoke of intent, of purpose, as if he placed each footfall
knowing it could be his last step.
eyes skimmed the figure's face once, but as he watched,
the figure side-stepped an elderly woman, glancing up
and over and Dean caught his breath.
years had not been kind to his little brother. His hair
was still too long, but now it hung to his shoulders
and was cut away severely around his face. Scars Dean
knew didn't exist traversed Sam's face, crossing his
cheeks and nose, puckering the corner of one eye, bowing
the side of his mouth into a perpetual frown.
happened to him?" Dean asked the black cloaked
figure next to him.
was his answer. Snarling at his companion, Dean took
off after his brother, following him down the busy street
and around the corner into a darkened alley. The danger
in the alley was palpable. Dean squared his shoulders
in reaction; instinctively reaching to his waistband
for his weapon and finding nothing.
never stopped moving. His walk telegraphed that he knew
his target, knew his reason, knew his purpose. He approached
a figure hidden in the shadows Dean hadn't even seen.
The figure jumped away and Dean saw blood on its mouth.
effortlessly, Sam grabbed the vamp by the neck, slamming
him against the wall and snarling in its face. The monster's
teeth glistened with the blood of its victim and it
bucked, pushing Sam away with the flat of its feet.
Sam rolled with the kick, coming around behind the vamp
in a smooth rotation, relieving the creature's shoulders
of its head in one smooth slice from a knife Dean hadn't
even seen him pull.
damn!" Dean exclaimed. "Did you see
that?" he asked his hooded companion. "I told
him he was stronger than me. See? He's badass.
He couldn't do that now if he tried. Me leaving him
is the best—"
stopped speaking as Sam approached the vamps victim.
It was a young girl—not more than fourteen. She
was huddled against a green dumpster, crying, bleeding,
looking up at Sam with grateful eyes. Without blinking,
Sam used the same blade he'd killed the vamp with and
cut off her head. Dean stumbled backward at the violent
act, swallowing hard as Sam calmly used the edge of
the girl's shirt to clean his blade, then returned it
to a wrist holster hidden inside his long coat.
take any chances, right, Dean?" Sam whispered,
looking down at the girl's body.
Dean whispered, then realized Sam was simply talking
a backward glance, Sam continued down the alley. Dean
watched him go, his heart like a lead weight in his
chest. Sam's innocence was gone. He was no longer Dean's
little brother. He was no one's littler brother, no
one's son, no one's lover. He was a hunter. He'd adapted,
survived, and Dean was witness to what his absence had
turned his brother into.
is only a possible future, right?" Dean turned
to the cloaked figure. "This isn't like…
what's really going to happen. Right?"
figure was silent.
me, you son of a bitch!"
figure simply pointed and Dean turned in the direction
of its arm. He was in an apartment of sorts, walls covered
with blades, table covered with guns, bags of rock salt
lining the walls. Sam was standing in front of the table,
pulling off his blood-smeared gloves and dropping them
on top of a collection of silver bullets.
stepped forward. "Sam?"
rolled his neck, his long hair hanging a bit further
down his back with the motion. He turned to head to
his kitchen, grabbing a beer from the fridge and popped
off the top with a silver ring he wore on his right
hand. Dean looked down at his own hand, a chill shimmying
down his spine as he realized Sam was wearing his ring.
tipped his beer to a window situated in the uppermost
corner of the room.
Christmas, big brother," Sam whispered. "Didn't
think I'd make a decade, but looks like I was wrong."
years?" Dean whispered. "I've been gone ten
silent figure beside him nodded.
not… married? No kids?"
figure shook his head.
he always wanted normal," Dean said, looking back
at Sam with heavy eyes. "Why didn't he try for
normal? I wasn't hauling him around from hunt to hunt…
the yellow-eyed demon was dead… he could have
just dropped off the grid. Found someone like Jess…
do miss you, Dean," Sam sighed, rubbing the sweaty
bottle of beer across his forehead. "But you were
right. There's too much evil in the world. Someone's
got to fight it."
flicked off the kitchen lights, crossed to the table
and picked up Dean's .45. Dean watched as Sam sat on
the worn green sofa, swung his legs up on the opposite
end and settled back with a tired sigh, the gun resting
on his chest, his finger poised over the trigger.
is my brother's life?" Dean asked, turning
toward the cloaked figure. "Pain and scars and
is what I saved him for??"
figure remained silent.
me your face, you bastard," Dean challenged. "I
want to see your eyes. I want you to look me in the
eyes and tell me this is real. That this is
figure turned away and Dean saw they were once again
wrapped in nothing.
Dean bellowed. "Show me your face!"
figure remained unmoving.
Dean growled. "If you won't show me, I guess I'll
have to see for myself."
strode forward, unconsciously mirroring future Sam's
purposeful stride, and grabbed the hood, wrenching it
back and away from the ghost of Christmas Future. The
countenance that faced him was horrific. It was empty
and full of grief. It was nothing and everything. It
was bloody and angelic. It was terror and grace.
stumbled backwards, unable to comprehend what he was
seeing. He tried to look away, but the face held him
fast. He raised his hands to ward off the figure's approach,
but it came relentlessly. Dean grabbed at the cloak,
struggling to keep the figure at bay, fighting to deny
the figure's ardent wish.
Dean now knew what the figure was. And he knew he had
to fight it with everything inside of him.
* * * *
onto him, Sam!"
trying!" Sam had climbed on the bed next to Dean,
wrapping his long arms around his brother's shaking
body, wrapping one long leg around Dean's trembling
ones. "He'll… k-kill me if he w-wakes up
and we're… like this," Sam informed Bobby.
should be so lucky," Bobby muttered, continuing
to wrap the tiny doll symbolizing Annabeth's Boz witch
with a wide black ribbon and chanting the binding spell
as Sam held tightly to Dean's quivering body.
me you're a-almost d-done!" Sam pleaded, Dean's
head snapping back and hitting Sam's chin with a jerk,
causing him to bite down on his tongue.
recited the last of the binding spell, then set the
doll down on the table. He looked over at Sam and Dean
lying next to each other on the bed. Dean's shivering
was still evident, but the violent shaking had dissipated.
it work?" Sam panted, reluctant to release Dean,
even though the shivering that coursed through his brother
could now be explained by cold and not magic.
don't know," Bobby shook his head helplessly.
Sam whispered, loosening his grip on his brother. "What
time is it?"
propped himself up on an elbow and looked down at his
brother's pale face. "Come on, Dean. Don't give
in now, okay?"
* * * *
death thing," Dean waved a shaking hand in the
direction of the witch, belatedly realizing that light
filled the nothing around them.
fact the light was so bright he found himself squinting
just to look at the witch.
gone," she said. She stepped toward him. "And
I'm going, too."
I'm not sure," she said, a slim line of worry dividing
her brows. "I've never had my powers bound before."
binding your powers?" Dean asked, impressed.
boy," Dean whispered.
lifted an eyebrow. "What, you can trap me in the
space between reality and dreams, but you can't tell
if I learned your lesson?"
lips quirked into a smile that said touché.
"Usually I can… you've been… difficult."
part of my charm."
Dean… did you choose?"
was silent for a moment. "Why is Sam binding your
amend a mistake."
he thinks," she looked off to the right as if she
heard something. "It was his wish that got you
Dean exclaimed, his shock staggering him. "Sam…"
for you to see that you had to fight for your life."
have to leave, Dean," she said.
about me?" Dean asked, suddenly concerned.
that's up to you…" she turned, her smile
tipping to sadness as her eyes left him.
Dean called after her. She paused, inviting his question
with her eyes. "You said one of the beings I'd
know well… What did you mean by that? I knew Pastor
Jim and I know Bobby…"
wasn't either of them I was referring to," she
said, her voice sad. "You've seen the face of death,
Dean. You've seen it, fought it, denied it… you
just never embraced it before."
are you talking about?!" Dean exclaimed. "I'm
not embracing anyone!"
yet, but," Boz looked down, then lifted her eyes
to meet his with heat. "You will."
then she was gone.
* * * *
isn't he waking up?" Sam knew his voice sounded
young, almost petulant, but he didn't care. He was scared
and he needed his brother. "It's midnight, Bobby."
isn't he waking up," Sam repeated, his voice barely
had stopped shaking, but was still cold to the touch.
If it weren't for the faint but steady thrum of a heartbeat
beneath his fingers, Sam would swear he was holding
a corpse against him. He had shifted up in the bed,
resting his back against the headboard, pulling Dean
up next to him, the comforters wrapped around his brother,
followed by Sam's arms.
sat at the foot of the bed, his hand loose in his lap,
his worried eyes never leaving Dean's face. Sam felt
the guilt of putting Bobby through this almost as heavy
as his own worry for Dean's well being.
Dean," Sam pleaded. "Open your eyes."
Sam snapped. "Don't say it. He'll wake up. He's
got 30 more seconds. He's gonna do it… he's gonna
don't do this to your—"
you see that?" Sam asked excitedly. "Dean?"
moaned low in the back of his throat, then swallowed.
His lashes quivered as he worked to pry his eyes open.
it," Sam encouraged. "That's it, Dean."
his eyebrows to help his lids lift from the heavy pull
of sleep, Dean succeeded in opening his eyes.
Sam greeted him, blinking back tears. "'Bout time
you woke up!"
Dean voice ground out of him with the beauty of gravel
crushed beneath heavy wheels. He blinked up at his brother.
a long story," Sam said, sniffing. "Bobby's
slid his eyes down, meeting Bobby's. "Saw you."
Dean?" Sam asked, unconsciously tightening his
grip on Dean's shoulders.
eyebrows shot up, and he looked over Dean's head at
Sam. "I gave you a Christmas present?"
shook his head, his hair rustling against Sam's chest.
Sam said in wonder. "No, Bobby… you…
you were Christmas Present."
took him through the Christmas Carol,"
Sam whispered, wondering what Dean had seen.
Dean," Sam leaned closer. "I'm here."
looked right at him, licked his lips, then spoke in
a strong, clear voice. "You try anything like that
again, I'm gonna beat you."
and Sam blinked at him blankly for a moment, then Bobby
started to chuckle.
I—" Sam started.
serious," Dean tried to push himself away from
Sam, realizing quickly that the witch's spell had taken
more out of him than he thought. He ceased struggling
and leaned back against his brother's warm chest. "Next
time you need a heart to heart, just tell me."
witch, my ass," Dean muttered, grabbing the comforter
and pulling it tighter around him, his body shuddering
with lingering cold.
pressed his hand against Dean's forehead, relieved when
he felt the beginnings of a normal warmth there, and
eased his brother's head back against his shoulder.
sorry, man," Sam whispered, looking down, away
from Dean, away from Bobby. "I just… sometimes
you don't… and then I feel like…"
get it, Sam."
somebody does," Bobby muttered.
Dean nodded, feeling the back of his head slide against
Sam's chest. "I don't know how we can beat this
deal… I can't fight it if I lose you, but…
I won't just… I won't give in."
promise?" Sam whispered.
man," Dean said, closing his eyes as a latent shiver
slid through him and blocked out the residual memory
of Sam's empty eyes as he killed the girl in the alley.
two done kissing and making up?" Bobby groused
good naturedly. "Because some of us need some sleep."
pushed himself weakly away from Sam, slumping in the
pile of quilts and reaching a hand out to Bobby. The
older man grasped it, holding on a moment longer than
you, Bobby," Dean said softly. "Thanks for
always being there for us, man."
lifted a shoulder, looking away. "It's what friends
Sam corrected from behind Dean. "It's what family
smiled, looking over his shoulder at his brother. "Merry
Christmas, Dean." Sam replied with a watery smile.
guys are breaking my heart," Bobby grumbled, a
smile teasing the edges of his whiskers. "Can we
just get some sleep… before Santa gets here?"