So This Is Christmas

By SnSam

 


Stanford
Christmas Eve, 2004


Twenty-one year old Sam Winchester frowned as he and his long-time girlfriend, Jessica Moore, stepped out into the chilly Christmas Eve night. The sprawling Stanford campus was bathed in the soft amber glow of streetlights lining the sidewalks every few yards. The warmth of the lights did nothing to cut through the cold temperature and Sam looked over at Jess as she shivered slightly against him.

He squeezed her shoulders gently as he looked down at her. “You okay?”

Jess nodded and smiled up at him and for a brief instant Sam was caught off-guard as the amber light bathed her in an almost angelic glow. “Just a little cold.”

“We can go back to the apartment if you want.”

“No, Sam, I’m not letting you off the hook that easily. You’re just looking for an excuse not to come with me.”

Sam pretended offence. “Now, why would you ever think I was doing that?”

Jessica smiled as she nudged him gently with her elbow. “Oh, I don’t know…maybe because you’ve been complaining about Christmas for the past few weeks, day in and day out.”

Sam shrugged. “I told you I didn’t like Christmas.”

“Yeah, and you also told me you don’t like Halloween, either. Is there any holiday you like?”

Sam considered the question, then gave her a small smile. “Secretary’s Day.”

Jess stopped walking, bringing Sam to a sudden halt. “You have got to be kidding me.”

“Hey, I think we should take the time to celebrate all the secretaries of the world. It’s not their fault they have to work with a bunch of asses on a daily basis.”

Jess hit him lightly on the arm. “Sam…”

“I’m sorry, Jess. Our family never went out of the way to celebrate Christmas. It was nothing more than another day to us.” They began walking once again.

“You never had a Christmas growing up?”

Sam shrugged. “I mean, Dean would do something for me every year when we were kids, but it was just to tide me over, you know? He didn’t want me to feel left out when all my friends were getting to celebrate.”

“Sounds like Dean’s one pretty cool brother.”

“Yeah…he is,” Sam said softly.

The young couple continued to walk in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. Sam wasn’t lying to Jess when he told her he didn’t like Christmas. Sure, Dean did his best when they were kids and made the day memorable for him, but as they grew older and became more involved in hunts with their father, there was just no need or no time for celebration.

A few minutes later, they came to a stop in front of a church. The structure was massive, with granite stone for the exterior and stained glass in every single window, depicting various heavenly images including angels, Jesus, shepherds, and the Virgin Mary, among many others. The front entrance was brightly lit by pewter ensconced lamps and warmth seeped out of the massive oak doors as a line of people slowly made their way inside.

Jess gave Sam’s hand a gentle squeeze. “Are you sure you want to do this? Because we don’t have you if it makes you feel uncomfortable.”

Sam smiled softly as he planted a kiss on her forehead. “You want to be here—that’s good enough for me.” Returning the squeeze, Sam led the way into the church, stopping at the interior doorway to receive a program from the attendant. “Thank you.”

The elderly attendant smiled at him. “Merry Christmas.”

Walking into the house of worship, Sam was as impressed with the inside as he was the outside. Oak pews upholstered in soft green velvet filled the room almost as far as the eye could see. At the front of the church was a large podium and behind it housed the choir loft. Soft, clear Christmas lights ran up each of the five large, white columns and deep red poinsettias lined the stage area. The choir loft rose in levels and tonight, it was decorated to mimic a Christmas tree, with red and green lights running along each balcony.

“It’s beautiful in here,” Jess said softly as she slowly sat down on the pew.

Sam nodded in agreement, his attention still riveted by the merriment around him. More people continued to trickle in and finally, after about another fifteen minutes, the cacophony of voices stilled as a man with slightly balding brown hair in priest’s attire stood up at the podium. “Friends, I would like to welcome you to St. Luke’s on this eve of our Savior’s birth. The holidays are a time for you to spend with the ones you love and we are happy you have come to share this day with us as well.

“Tonight, we are happy to bring to your our annual Christmas program, ‘Christmas is a Feeling.’ We plan on treating you to some classic carols we hope bring you feelings of warmth, love, and joy. I ask that you please rise and welcome our choir in their first hymn.”

A round of applause broke out and everyone stood up as the double doors in the back of the room opened up and the choir, donned in bright green and red robes entered in two lines, singing Winter Wonderland.

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight
We’re happy tonight
Walking in a winter wonderland…

Slowly, the choir made its way up the tiers of the choir loft, continuing to sing in exuberant voices. Sam glanced around at the people and saw the smiles and all around joy everyone seemed to be feeling. Glancing to his left, he noticed Jess was doing the same while softly singing along.

Sam leaned down to whisper in her ear. “You know, I think the choir is the only ones who are supposed to be singing.”

“I’m getting in the mood,” Jessica replied, nudging Sam in the ribs. She nodded behind Sam. “Besides, I’m not the only one singing along.”

Sam turned his head and saw the concert-goers were indeed singing along. Finally Winter Wonderland came to an end and the congregation took their seats. As a heavy silence fell across the church, the piano player began the opening notes to O Holy Night.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.

Sam felt a cold fist clench his heart and refuse to let go. He felt himself growing hot and it was hard to catch his breath. This was perhaps one of the most beautiful Christmas carols in existence and Sam couldn’t find solace in it like he used to. It brought back to him what he’d left behind when he walked away from his family, something he wasn’t sure if he could ever go back to.

“Sam, are you okay?”

Sam jerked at the sound of Jess’s voice in his ear. “W-what?”

“You don’t look good—are you feeling okay?”

The thrill of hope,
The weary world rejoices
For yonder brings a new and glorious morn

Sam loosened the collar to his button-down shirt and shook his head. “I think I just need some fresh air.”

Jess reached over for her purse. “I’ll come with you.”

“No, you stay in here and enjoy this. I won’t be gone long.”

“If you’re sure…”

Fall on your knees
Oh hear the angels’ voices…

Sam didn’t say anything else as he rose from his seat and made his way out of the pew. After muttering a few apologies for his interruption, he quickly dashed to the door, stepping out into the chilly December night.

He had to grab onto the iron rail of the stairs to keep his knees from buckling as his breath came out in a strangled rush. Sinking to the ground, he leaned his forehead against the railing, letting the cold metal soothe his feverish skin. After a few moments, he felt his heart return to a normal, steady rhythm and his breathing evened out.

The young man couldn’t understand how one song could have such an effect on him. Then again, the last time he’d heard it had been many years ago, when he and Dean were just kids.


Sterling, Colorado
Christmas Eve, 1992


“Come on, Sammy…your dinner’s getting cold.” Thirteen year old Dean Winchester pushed the plate of spaghetti towards his younger sibling.

Nine year old Sam stubbornly pushed his plate away, crossing his arms over his small chest. “I don’t want it.”

“You’ve got to eat something.”

“Why can’t we have Christmas dinner like everyone else?” Sam asked, his voice a whine.

Dean sighed, knowing this question was going to come up sometime. “Because we’re not like other people, Sammy, and you know that.”

“It’s not fair.”

“Maybe not, but this is the only thing we have right now until Dad gets back.”

“Dad was supposed to be back yesterday,” the young child pointed out.

“He got held up. He’ll get back here when he can and until he does, I’m in charge so eat up, kiddo.”

“But it’s Christmas, Dean. Families are supposed to be together on Christmas.”

Dean really couldn’t argue with Sam’s logic. Christmas was supposed to be a time for family and togetherness, but then again the Winchesters hadn’t had that for the last nine years—since the night their mother died. How could you expect a family who was broken to come together for some over-commercialized holiday?

“Look, Sam, I know you want the whole Christmas fantasy thing but we just can’t and you know that.” Dean smiled, canting his head to the side. “Besides, how many families get to have home-cooked spaghetti for Christmas dinner?”

“It’s not homemade if you get it out of a can, Dean.” Sam pushed back from the table and stood up. “I’m going to my room.”

“Come on, Sam—go into the living room with me. We’ll find something on the television to watch. I’m sure Frosty or Rudolph is on. What about It’s a Wonderful Life? You like that movie.”

“I don’t think so, Dean.”

Dean watched his little brother shuffle off to the room they shared, his head hung down. Dean really felt for the kid; Sam only wanted what all his friends had and Dean didn’t like to disappoint Sam. After all, Dean got to have the family Christmas and it just wasn’t fair that Sam would never get to have that. It made the elder Winchester’s heart ache for his younger sibling.

Sighing, Dean stood up and cleared the table, making sure to wash the dishes and stack them in the strainer. Wiping off the counters, he wished there was something he could do for Sam. He didn’t want the young boy to lose all hope and faith in Christmas or life in general. Dean already knew what evil lurked in the world, he’d already lost all hope there could be any good, at least until he looked at Sam. Sam represented the good in the world and Dean wanted his brother to hold onto that innocence for as long as he could.

It wasn’t fair Sam kept getting the short end of the stick; the kid deserved so much more in the world and if Dean could give it to him, then he would. Looking out the kitchen window, the teenager could just make out the bright lights of the church down the road. He smiled as an idea struck him, and threw the kitchen towel in the sink. Turning, he strode to their bedroom and knocked on the door.

“Hey, Sammy?”

“Just leave me alone, Dean,” Sam’s muffled voice called out.

Ignoring Sam, Dean pushed open the door and spied his little brother lying on the bed, his face towards the door. Upon seeing Dean, Sam quickly turned his head, but Dean didn’t miss the tears glistening on Sam’s cheeks in the pale light of the bedside lamp. It made Dean’s heart ache even more at seeing the devastation Sam was trying his best to hide.

“Hey, you okay, kiddo?”

Sam sniffed. “I’m fine, Dean.”

Dean knew his brother was lying but he wasn’t going to push him on it. The last thing he wanted to do was to get into an argument with Sam when he was like this. Instead, Dean patted him on the leg. “Get up…I want you to come with me.”

“I don’t want to go anywhere, Dean.”

“What did I say about me being in charge?” Dean pulled on one of Sam’s arms. “Get up and get your shoes on.”

“Dean…”

“Just do what I say, Sam.” Dean stepped back from the bed as Sam slowly got up and made his way to the closet. Pulling out his sneakers, he tugged them onto his feet. Standing up, he started for the door. “Jacket.”

Huffing out a sigh, Sam grabbed his parka from a clothes hangar and threw it on. “Happy now?”

Dean didn’t say anything as he followed the nine year old out of the bedroom. Grabbing his own jacket from the sofa, Dean put it on and grabbed the keys to their rental house. “Okay, let’s get going.”

Sam obediently followed his older brother without a word. Stepping out into the cold Colorado night, Dean made sure Sam’s jacket was zipped up tightly before they started their trek down the street. The night was peaceful and Dean could even make out clouds in the moonless sky—they held the promise of snow.

“Where are we going, Dean?”

Dean smiled down at Sam. “You’ll see.” He couldn’t make out what Sam muttered under his breath, but he thought he heard something about stupid older brothers. Putting his hand on Sam’s shoulder, he guided his sibling across the street and towards the small white church.

“Are we going there?”

“Yep.”

Sam abruptly stopped almost causing Dean to run him over. “But you don’t like church, Dean—what are we doing here?”

Dean shrugged. “I figured you could use some Christmas cheer, Sammy.” He once again guided his brother and they made their way up the small stone steps and into the sanctuary. Immediately a blast of warm air greeted them, enveloping the brothers like a wool blanket.

Dean felt a different kind of warmth rush through him as noticed his young brother’s awestruck expression as Sam took in the scenery around them. The little church was decorated to the hilt with Christmas—two Christmas trees, each with clear lights and numerous red and green ornaments were on either side at the front. Miniature wreaths with red bows adorned the end of every pew and garland wrapped around the white columns. The sweet smell of cinnamon filled the air, almost as if someone were preparing Christmas cookies in the back.

Nudging Sam forward, Dean edged him toward one of the pews in the middle and they took their seats as a small choir dressed in gold robes filed into the room, smiles on their faces. There was no introduction as the group began their first song, Away in a Manger.

As the choir sang and Sam swayed gently beside him, Dean took in the crowd around him. There weren’t that many people there, but spaced evenly amongst the pews were families, couples, and even a few people that were alone. Dean returned a couple of smiles and turned his head towards the front as the choir ended their song.

The preacher, a kindly gentleman with thinning silver hair and a round face with ruddy cheeks, smiled at the congregation. “Friends, we’re here tonight not just to celebrate the birth of our King, but also to celebrate our families and the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is the day for us to take a look around and be truly thankful for the gifts we have received. Family is not something to be taken for granted, rather cherished as the priceless gifts they are.”

Dean watched as the preacher’s eyes traveled around the room, finally landing on him and Sam. “Family is better than any Christmas gift you can ask for, for they will honor you, protect you, and most of all love you. Let that be a comfort and lesson to all of you tonight.”

Stepping back from the podium, the preacher nodded at the choir and walked down to sit on the front row, but not before flashing Dean a small smile.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.

Dean felt a smile grace his lips as Sam nestled closer to him. The preacher was right—family was the only thing they needed and as far as Dean was concerned his family was sitting right next to him. He’d always looked at Sam as a gift—a gift straight from his mother. Dean did everything the preacher said—he honored Sam, he protected Sam, and most of all he loved Sam. Sam was the only thing who really mattered to Dean, the only thing Dean would ever need. As long as he had Sam, he had everything in the world.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;

“Hey, Dean?”

Sam’s small voice startled Dean from his thoughts. Glancing down, he saw Sam looking up at him, a smile on his young face. “Yeah, Sammy?”

“Thanks for this—this is the best Christmas ever.”

“Yeah, me too, Sammy.”

O' night divine,
O' night,
O' night divine.


Stanford
Christmas Eve, 2004


“Sam, are you okay?”

Sam jumped when a hand touched his shoulder. Looking up, he saw Jess standing behind him, concern evident all over her face.

Nodding, he gave her a small smile. “Yeah, I just needed some time to think. I’m sorry I left you in there—is it over?”

“Not yet.”

Sam pushed himself up off the ground. “We can go back in if you want.”

Jess shook her head. “I think I’d rather head back to the apartment.”

“Okay.” Taking her hand, they slowly made their way down the sidewalk towards their apartment. Sam couldn’t help his thoughts straying to his brother. He wondered what Dean was doing now, how he was spending his Christmas. He knew Dean wasn’t celebrating—he hadn’t done that in years. But Sam couldn’t help but remember the preacher’s words from long ago about family. He wondered if Dean and John were together, off on another hunt or if they were taking a break. Most importantly, Sam wondered if Dean was thinking about him.

Walking up the stairs to their apartment, Sam unlocked the door and pushed it open for Jess to allow her passage as he stayed back.

“Aren’t you coming in?” she asked, her brows creased together in a frown.

“In a minute—there’s something I need to do first.”

“Okay.” She leaned forward and kissed him softly on the lips. “I’ll make us some hot chocolate. Don’t be too long, okay?”

Sam nodded. “Yeah.” Stepping back, he closed the door and made his way downstairs. Pushing open the door, he strode out into the cool night once more. Pulling his cell phone from his pocket, he didn’t hesitate as he dialed the number he knew by heart. Taking a deep breath, he brought the phone to his ear as it began its first ring.

As it progressed to its fourth ring, Sam thought he wasn’t going to answer when a deep voice greeted him. “Hello?”

“Hey, Dean…it’s me.”

“Sammy?”

“Yeah.”

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

Sam chuckled at the concern in his brother’s voice. The few times Sam called Dean within the past couple of years, they were always Dean’s first two questions. “I’m fine, Dean—really.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, Dean. Listen…” Sam’s voice trailed off as he wondered if calling Dean was a mistake.

“Sammy?”

“I just wanted to call and wish you a Merry Christmas, Dean. I wanted to know you were okay.”

“I’m good, Sammy.”

“Good.” Sam let out a deep breath. “Well, I better get back inside before Jess begins to worry.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I’ll talk to you later, Dean, and take care of yourself, okay?”

“Yeah, you too, Sam.” There was silence on the other end and Sam was about to hang up before Dean’s voice stopped him. “Hey, Sammy?”

“Yeah?”

“Merry Christmas, little brother.”

Sam smiled as he flipped his phone closed and slid it back into his pocket. It was good to hear Dean’s voice again, even if it was for just a few minutes. Knowing his family was still close enough where he could call them made all the difference in the world to Sam. Yes, his family was dysfunctional, but they were his family.

Dean’s voice sounded like home to Sam—honor, protection, and love. It was all Sam Winchester needed.

The End



 

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