Christmas Selection 2009

Christmas Run (Or The Elf Who Stole Christmas)

By irismay42

Bethlehem, PA

“So what now, genius?” Dean demanded, stomping out of the Twin Pines Motel office just as a flickering “NO” was illuminated in red neon next to the word “VACANCY” in the sign in the window. “This hunt was your idea, man.”

Sam followed him out of the office, Dean barely glancing back at him as the younger brother thrust his hands deep into his jacket pockets, a chill wind biting at their faces. “It was your idea to take care of the Casper before we found somewhere to stay, Dean,” Sam returned grumpily. “It’s not my fault the motel’s full—”

“This is the fourth motel we’ve tried, Sam,” Dean pointed out, glancing up at the yellowing sky and shivering. “Looks like it’s gonna snow, too.” He shoved his key into the Impala’s driver’s side door before adding, “And let’s not forget it’s Christmas Eve.”

Sam snickered despite their dire circumstances. “There’s irony for you,” he observed, wandering around to the passenger side of the car. “Christmas Eve in Bethlehem and no room at the inn.”

Dean grimaced at him over the roof of the car. “Unless there’s somethin’ you wanna tell me, Sammy, neither of us is a pregnant virgin,” he observed. “Not to mention there’s no wise men anywhere within three counties, no dude in a dress who wants to give me gold, Frankenstein and myrrh—”

“Frankincense.”

“And the only ass around here is you.” Dean once again raised his eyes to the snowy sky and virtually growled. “I hate this friggin’ town. Bad mojo every time we come here.”

“C’mon, Dean, show a little Christmas spirit!” Sam grinned sunnily at him, only further darkening Dean’s already dark mood.

If any snow had dared to fall right then, Dean’s scowl would have melted it. “I’m glad you’re finding the prospect of sleeping in the car on Christmas funny, Sam,” he groused, yanking open the car door with such ferocity the old Chevy squealed in protest.

His expression softening, Dean patted his girl’s roof as he swung himself down into the driver’s seat. “No offense, baby,” he muttered lovingly. “You know I’ll always love you more than eggnog.”

“I’d ask if you two need to get a room,” Sam commented, sliding into the seat next to his brother, his grin widening. “But under the circumstances…”

“Shut up Sam,” Dean growled dangerously. He sighed, fingers of one hand curling around the steering wheel as he started the engine and eased the Impala out of the parking lot and onto the highway.

“Hey man, it’s not my fault this hunt went sideways!” Sam protested, yanking on the Impala’s heat before Dean slapped away his fingers. “Sure as hell looked like a poltergeist been turning those stores into demilitarized zones.”

“Except for the ectoplasm that wasn’t really ectoplasm,” Dean grunted, scowling at the blacktop in front of them and daring the snow to come down while he was still out on the road.

“Well, whoever heard of a crime scene covered in chocolate syrup, anyway?” Sam demanded.

“Maybe it was a poltergeist with a sweet tooth,” Dean suggested dryly.

Sam rolled his eyes. “C’mon, man, you gotta admit, that was weird, even for us.”

Dean shrugged. “Yeah, well. Our weird is probably someone else’s Christmas party,” he pointed out.

Sam nodded, sighing heavily. “So where are we going?” he enquired finally, blowing on his hands as the Impala’s heater took its sweet time stuttering into life.

“Maybe there’s somewhere over in Allentown we can get a room,” Dean hazarded, shaking his head before thumping his fist against the steering wheel in frustration. “Or hell, why don’t we just drive to Philly, get a nice cheese steak for Christmas dinner?”

“Dean, we’ll figure out what’s going on here,” Sam assured him softly.

Yeah, so it was Christmas, they had no money, nowhere to stay and it looked like they were about to get caught in a blizzard, but as always Dean’s kid brother seemed to know exactly what it was that was really making Dean crazy.

He blew out a breath, reminding himself that this was neither Sam’s nor the Impala’s fault as he stroked his fingers soothingly over the big Chevy’s steering wheel. “Sorry, baby,” he murmured, before sheepishly turning his attention back to Sam. “I just don’t get it, man,” he admitted at length. “Who’d wanna trash the toy department of every department store in town a week before Christmas?”

“Er… That would be me.”

Both brothers spun toward the back seat at the sound of the oddly high-pitched voice, Dean’s foot slamming against the brake as the Impala fishtailed to a graceless stop in the middle of the blacktop.

The old lady driving the tiny Toyota behind them honked her horn as she swerved around them, flipping them the bird as she passed by, and Dean’s ears turned an interesting shade of pink as he lip-read the curses issuing from the old broad’s mouth.

Momentarily distracted from the stowaway in the back seat, he cast a brief half-glance over his shoulder before pulling the Impala over to the side of the road, slamming on the parking brake and spinning once again toward the rear of the car. “Who—what the hell are you?” he demanded, not entirely certain whether he was startled or angry or a mixture of both.

The thing in the back seat just gazed up at them with huge, liquid eyes, blinking innocently out from under a gaudy red and green horizontally striped hat piled high on top of his oddly pointed head. His face was strangely ageless, a crooked little nose and a wide mouth over a long chin, and if Dean had to guess, from the way the thing’s little legs stuck out straight in front of him, pointed red patent shoes at strict right angles to his green and white stripy-stockinged legs, he would put him at no taller than three feet.

Little fingers clutched at a plain manila envelope that glittered peculiarly in the late afternoon winter sun.

“Eric,” the little dude said with a broad grin, sticking out one of his tiny hands which, glancing once at Dean and shrugging, Sam cautiously shook.

“Eric,” Sam said slowly, smiling a little awkwardly. “Uh. Nice to meet you. I guess. I’m Sam, this is—”

“Your brother Dean, I know.”

Dean raised an eyebrow, which did nothing to soften his steely gaze. “Who the hell are you and what the hell are you doing breaking into my car?” he demanded, pointedly ignoring the hand the creature had shoved in his direction.

The thing blinked innocently. “I didn’t break in,” he insisted. “She let me in.”

Dean frowned. “Who let you in?”

The creature tipped his head to one side as if that should be obvious. “She did,” he clarified, not at all helpfully. “Your car.”

Dean exchanged a loaded glance with his brother. “Sure she did,” he said, shaking his head in exasperation. “Just what we need,” he growled in Sam’s direction. “A buckets o’ crazy dwarf in the back seat of the car on Christmas.”

“Elf,” the creature piped up brightly.

“Huh?”

“I’m an elf. Not a dwarf.”

“Sure, Gimli,” Dean commented wryly, turning his eyes briefly heavenward. “That makes all the difference.”

Elf,” Eric repeated emphatically. “Elf! Not dwarf! Gimli was the dwarf, Legolas was the elf!

Dean raised an almost amused eyebrow. “Sorry, Orlando. My mistake.”

“It’s Eric!” the little elf insisted, cheeks turning a ruddy scarlet. “Eric!”

Dean held up a placating hand. “Eric. Sure. Sorry, dude. I got it,” he said, fighting back a grin as he cast a sidelong glance in Sam’s direction. “Y’know, someone should tell Peter Jackson’s casting people they really screwed the pooch on this one…”

“Dean—” Sam warned his brother.

“What? I’m just sayin’…”

The elf narrowed his eyes and virtually growled. “I knew this was a bad idea,” he mumbled, clutching the glittery envelope even tighter to his chest. “Asking Winchesters for help…”

“Help?” Sam interrupted, swiveling a little more in his seat. “You need our help?”

“Why would an elf need our help?” Dean asked, before fidgeting a little uncomfortably and adding, “Not that we believe in elves. For all we know you could totally be a shapeshifter. Or—or a thoughtform.” He grinned slyly at his brother. “You always did have a thing for elves, Sammy. Maybe this thing’s a manifestation of your deepest desires or somethin’.”

Sam scowled at him. “Dean, I was six years old!” he protested. “And maybe you’re the shapeshifter! I mean, it’s not like you to use words longer than two syllables.”

Dean returned Sam’s scowl with added interest. “Go ahead, College Boy, play the ‘I’m so much smarter than my big brother’ card. It’s not like that’s getting old or anything...”

“Er, boys?”

The elf’s nasal whine interrupted politely from the back seat, and both brothers shifted their attention behind them, Sam a little sheepishly, causing Dean to roll his eyes.

“Sorry—uh—Eric,” Sam apologized, casting one quick “quit it” glance at his brother before offering the elf his complete attention. “You need our help?”

The little creature nodded. “Yes. And I was told if any humans could help me, it’d be you two.”

Dean frowned. “Who told you that?”

Eric shrugged. “Friend of a friend.”

“What friend?”

The little elf sighed impatiently. “Guy who runs the sled pool,” he replied. “Has to get parts from the human world occasionally.”

“Let me guess,” Dean hazarded. “Singer Salvage?”

“Mr. Singer apparently speaks very highly of you both.”

“I’m sure he does,” Sam agreed, shaking his head.

“Okay, so much for our references,” Dean interjected. “But what exactly do you think we can help you with?”

Eric blinked huge doleful eyes at the boys before taking a deep breath. “I need you to help me find Santa.”

Dean blinked right on back at the elf. “Come again?”

“Santa,” Eric insisted. “Santa Claus. He’s missing and I need you to help me find him.”

It was Sam’s turn to blink. “You need us to help you find Santa Claus?” he parroted a little dumbly. “Uh. Okay. So. He’s…disappeared someplace I guess? Where to?”

Eric shot the younger brother a withering glance. “If we knew that he wouldn’t be missing,” he snapped.

Sam tilted his head slightly, a chagrined half-smile toying with his lips. “No, I get that,” he said. “I just meant—”

“Wait.” Dean held up a hand suddenly, interrupting both his brother and their odd passenger. “Let me just recap. You’re telling us—” He paused and shook his head in disbelief. “You’re telling us Santa Claus is MIA? On Christmas Eve? And you need our help finding him?”

Eric nodded. “It’s a disaster,” he agreed. “He’s never done anything like this before and Senior Management—”

“Senior Management?”

“The senior elves. I just—I just didn’t agree with their contingency plan and couldn’t sit by and let them ruin Christmas!”

“The senior elves have a contingency plan for Santa being MIA on Christmas Eve?”

“Yes,” Eric confirmed. “And it’s not a good one, believe me.” He sighed heavily. “In Santa’s absence, they’ve decided to give children all around the world exactly what they asked for.”

“What they asked for?” Sam attempted to clarify.

“For Christmas,” Eric confirmed.

Dean raised an eyebrow. “And that’s a bad thing?”

“It’s a terrible thing!” Eric insisted. “They’re just pandering to the whims of children without any regard for the suitability of the toys they asked for.”

“Suitability?”

“Santa is always careful that children aren’t given toys that might be unsuitable for them,” Eric explained. “I mean, have you seen some of these video games children are asking for these days? Sure, they’re aimed at adults and have warnings all over them that children shouldn’t be playing them, but they are playing them, and they’re so violent! It’s worse than giving little boys toy guns to play with! I mean, what kind of life lessons do these games teach young children? That causing mayhem and destruction is the way to get ahead in life? That life is cheap, and you can shoot someone six times and they’ll get up and walk away? That you can get thrown off a building, or blown up, or crash a car into a road block at a hundred miles an hour, but it’s okay because you’ll still have three lives left after? That you get extra points for shooting soldiers and police officers, the very people kids should be looking up to as role models?”

Dean frowned as Eric paused to draw breath, his cheeks scarlet and his hands balled into tiny fists. “C’mon, man, kids aren’t stupid,” he said. “They know the difference between fantasy and reality. Just ’cause they get an extra life for blowing up a police car in a video game don’t mean they’re gonna go out and do the same thing in real life!”

“Older kids, maybe,” Eric conceded. “But Senior Management are planning on delivering games like this to six and seven-year-olds! Just because that’s what they’ve asked Santa to get them for Christmas! Santa would never do that! All the violence in the world—we should be protecting little kids from it, not glamorizing it! Not bringing it into their bedrooms! Not giving them guns to play with and targets to aim at! What effect is that going to have on them in later life?” The elf looked meaningfully from one brother to the other before adding, “I mean, look how you two turned out!”

“Hey!” Dean threw a glance in Sam’s direction, trying to figure out whether his little brother was as affronted by the elf’s comment as he was. “You saying we’re damaged goods or somethin’, Gimli?”

“Eric! It’s Eric!” the creature remonstrated. “And you two aren’t exactly poster boys for human mental health!”

“Dude, if our dad hadn’t trained us the way he did, we’d be dead right now—”

“But not every child needs to know how to use a gun aged six like you did, Dean.”

Dean had no real answer for that. And if he was honest with himself, he was more than a little freaked out that the elf knew so much about his and Sam’s childhood.

“All right,” Sam said, taking a breath. “So you’re not happy Senior Management are planning on doling out violent toys in Santa’s absence,” he clarified. “Okay. Still doesn’t explain why you need our help finding your missing boss.”

“Because I’m told you have experience in this kind of thing,” Eric replied easily. “Finding missing fathers.”

Dean cast another loaded glance in Sam’s direction. “Our father, man!” he pointed out. “Not friggin’ Father Christmas!” He frowned suddenly, a thought occurring. “Wait. Bobby knew Santa existed and never told us?”

“Dean. Concentrate,” Sam interrupted.

“I guess Mr. Singer didn’t want to deny you your faith,” Eric explained as if Sam hadn’t spoken.

“Faith?” Dean burst out. “Man, I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was friggin’ four years old!”

“So you say,” Eric chuckled, an annoyingly knowing glint in his eye. “Don’t stop believing, Dean.”

“Dude, I don’t think Journey were talking about Santa Claus when they wrote that song.”

“Can we get back on topic here?” Sam once again attempted to interrupt, turning his attention back to Eric. “Eric, I still don’t understand what it is you think we can do to help you.”

The little elf fidgeted slightly, fingers fussing with the envelope still clutched in his hands. “I-I kind of—I’m kind of on the lam,” he admitted at length, peering up at them from under the brim of his hat. “And I could use some—uh—muscle, I believe is the correct term.”

“Muscle?” Dean clarified.

“Protection,” Eric agreed. “While I’m looking for Santa.”

“Protection from what?” Sam asked, and Eric sighed heavily.

“I was hiding,” he said slowly, eyes downcast. “In the toy stores. Somewhere familiar I suppose. Somewhere I felt safe. But they found me. They always find me. And that’s how the toy departments were destroyed. When they tried to capture me. When I escaped.”

“Okay,” Dean said slowly. “I guess that kinda makes sense.” He frowned, mulling that pronouncement over for a second, before shaking his head and adding, “No, on second thoughts, it really doesn’t.”

“Who’s ‘they’?” Sam interjected before Dean’s brain could become really twisted. “Who’s after you?”

“The Wayward Elf Interception and Retrieval Department,” Eric explained, his voice hitching slightly.

Dean thought about that for a second. “WEIRD?” he burst out a little incredulously. “Seriously?”

Eric nodded. “They’re after me. Trying to bring me back to the North Pole.”

“Elf Goon Squad, huh?” Dean said. “Man, even the North Pole sucks.”

“You have no idea,” Eric agreed. “They’re really not to be trifled with.”

“But…” Sam began with a frown. “They’re elves, right? Like you?”

Eric squinted at the younger Winchester uncertainly. “Just because you’re a giant and elves—aren’t—doesn’t mean the WEIRD elves aren’t dangerous.”

“Weird elves,” Dean snickered. “That’s never gonna get old.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “So why are these—” he sighed in defeat, casting a sidelong and very long-suffering glance in his brother’s direction. “Why are these WEIRD elves after you, Eric? They want to stop you finding Santa?”

Eric squirmed awkwardly. “Not exactly,” he admitted slowly. “Although Senior Management don’t seem too upset that Santa Claus has left the building, so to speak.” There was a thread of angry disgust in his voice. “Still, I suppose maybe my superiors view his absence as their big moment to shine. The moment when they finally get to be the boss.”

“So what’d you do to piss ’em off so royally they’d destroy a bunch of department stores to get to you?” Dean asked. “You steal their candy or somethin’?”

“Not their candy,” Eric said carefully, fingers reflexively clutching and unclutching the envelope.

Dean raised an eyebrow. “But you did steal something?” he prodded. “Something valuable maybe?”

Eric peered up at them sheepishly. “Not valuable in the monetary sense,” he explained. “But—but priceless all the same.”

“Eric—?” Dean had to applaud the inherent threat in Sam’s attempt to cajole the elf into a confession.

“I—I figured if the Mail Room didn’t know where to send everyone’s Christmas presents,” the creature reluctantly admitted, “then—then maybe I might be able to stall Senior Management long enough to find Santa…”

“What did you do, Gimli?” Dean asked suspiciously.

Eric swallowed. “I—uh—I sort of—er—”

“Spit it out, Shortstuff!”

“I sort of stole the Lists.”

Dean frowned, glancing over at Sam, who shrugged.

“What Lists?” the younger brother asked. “Eric?”

Eric sighed heavily, eyes downcast and little feet kicking backwards and forwards nervously. “Santa’s Naughty and Nice Lists.” He looked up at them suddenly, blinking his huge eyes as if they should know what he was talking about. “Y’know?”

Dean looked at Eric. Looked at Sam. Looked back at Eric. “The—the—” he broke off, turning desperate eyes on Sam. “I got nothin’ man.”

“Wait.” Sam held up a hand. “Those lists are real?”

Eric nodded, eyes slipping to the envelope in his tiny hands. “Most definitely.”

Dean followed the direction of the elf’s gaze thoughtfully. “In there?”

Eric nodded, clearly assessing Dean’s threat level and pulling the envelope even closer to his chest.

Dean affected his best pose of complete disinterest before casually asking. “So—uh—you seen those things? The Lists?”

Eric nodded again, expression wary.

“And—” Dean continued slowly, “—there’s just kids on there?”

Sam cast his brother a questioning look as Eric shook his head minutely.

“So…” Dean was so laidback about his next question he figured he might as well be horizontal. “So…which list might I be on?”

Sam barked out a choked off laugh, causing Dean to scowl at him furiously.

“Someone missin’ you back at Seaworld, Flipper?”

Sam snickered. “Big bad Dean Winchester, wants to know if he’s on the Naughty or Nice List!” He shook so hard from peels of uproarious laughter that his stupid bangs fell forward into his eyes. “That’s priceless, man!”

“Shut up, Sam.”

“Seriously, that’s adorable, Dean!”

“You’re gonna be adorin’ my fist if you don’t shut the hell up!”

“I can’t tell you anyway,” Eric suddenly piped up. “The contents of the Lists are Santa’s most closely-guarded secret.”

Dean just looked at him. “I have a gun, dude.”

“My point exactly!” the little elf burst out triumphantly. “Not everything can be solved using violence, Dean!”

“But a lot of things can, Gimli.”

“Which is exactly why grown-ups shouldn’t be teaching little kids that shooting people is the way to get ahead in life!”

Even Dean realized there wasn’t really an answer to that—and that the way he and Sam had been raised wasn’t exactly normal.

“So you steal the Lists,” Sam interrupted after a pause, clearly attempting to steer the conversation back on track. “Then the Mail Room doesn’t know what to send where and Senior Management can’t just hand out grown-up games and toys to kids willy nilly, right?”

“Right,” Eric agreed with a hearty nod that set the bell jangling on top of his hat.

Dean sniggered, turning his attention from the elf to his brother. “Dude, did you really just say ‘willy nilly’?”

“Bite me, Pint Size,” Sam retorted.

“Oh yeah?” Dean sat up as straight as he could and did his best to get in Sam’s face, which wasn’t easy when Sam was doing exactly the same thing and even sitting down still seemed to have four extra inches on him.

“Ahem.”

A polite—but decidedly short-tempered—cough drew both brothers’ attention back to the little elf, who was frowning at them as he drummed tiny fingers against the Impala’s upholstery.

“You know, maybe Mr. Singer was wrong about you two being able to help me—”

Sam exhaled a long-suffering sigh. “Don’t mind him, Eric,” he said, inclining his head in his brother’s direction. “He never managed to get a handle on that whole ‘grown-up’ thing.”

“Hey!” Dean protested. “I’m right here y’know!”

Sam ignored him pointedly, his attention remaining on the elf. “Okay, Eric, what can we do to help you find Santa?” he asked.

“’Cause it’s not exactly like we know the guy or where he likes to hang out,” Dean noted, his forehead wrinkling slightly. “I mean, what does Santa Claus do with his days off?” Suddenly a bright grin lit up his features. “Maybe we should go check out the nearest strip joint or something!”

Sam sighed again. “Not everyone likes to spend their free time like you do, Dean,” he pointed out.

“And it’s not like Santa usually gets days off,” Eric explained. “Christmas doesn’t just happen overnight you know. It takes a whole year of planning and preparation.”

“So how do you expect us to know where to start looking?” Dean asked. “We can’t exactly go walking up to people in the street and ask them if they’ve seen Santa Claus.”

“Well I have a few ideas,” Eric said, stroking his chin thoughtfully. “Red-Circled kids, for one—”

“Red-Circled?” Sam queried.

“On the bubble,” Eric attempted to clarify. “You know? Borderline between Naughty and Nice? Usually Santa sends out one of his deputies to check them out—”

“Santa has deputies?” Dean quirked an amused eyebrow. “Like stunt doubles or somethin’? They get a badge and gun?”

“Not exactly.” Eric shrugged. “You’ve probably seen them—collecting money for charity, or taking requests from children at the mall—”

“Mall Santas?” Sam burst out incredulously. “They’re real?”

“Some of them,” Eric confirmed. “Sometimes Santa needs to check on a child’s Naughty or Nice Quotient in person, sometimes he sends a deputy.”

Dean’s focus drifted off into the middle distance. “Deputy Santa Claus,” he muttered. “How the hell do you end up with a gig like that?”

“I could put a good word in for you,” Eric offered. “If we ever find Santa.”

Dean’s attention rapidly skidded back to the elf. “What?” he asked, trying to regain his air of casual disinterest. “Me? No way! Who’d wanna spend all day with whining brats sitting on their knee dripping ice cream into their beard?”

Sam smirked. “You seem to have given this a whole lot of thought, Dean,” he said, barely disguising a snicker. “I thought your guidance counselor said you were gonna wind up doing thirty to life in supermax? Bet she never thought of suggesting ‘Mall Santa’ as an alternative career path.”

“Bite me, Gargantua,” Dean retorted, before turning back to the elf. “So you think that’s what Santa could be off doing?” he asked. “Checking out these Naughty but Nice kids?”

“Maybe,” Eric agreed noncommittally. “There’s one not far from here and Santa was last seen in Pennsylvania—”

“He was?”

“Mm-hmm. Why d’you think I’m here?”

Dean shuddered before glancing at his brother. “That’s a pretty freaky coincidence, dude,” he pointed out. “Us and—and Santa here at the same time.”

A tiny smirk toyed with Sam’s lips. “Maybe you’re the one who’s been Red-Circled, Dean. Maybe Santa was checking how naughty you’ve been this year!”

Dean positively bristled. “Me? Naughty?” he burst out, face a picture of innocence. “Dude, I’m the poster child for Niceness!”

“Oh sure,” Sam agreed sarcastically. “Stealing another kid’s Christmas presents must have gone down really well with Santa Claus!”

“I did that one time, dammit! You’re like an elephant! Or a chick! That’s it, man! You’re a total chick! You never forget and you never let anything go!”

“Uh—Dean?” Eric suddenly piped up from the back seat. “You—you might want to start the car.”

Dean blinked at the elf, a little confused at being unceremoniously thrown from his train of thought. “Huh? Why?”

Eric swallowed hard, eyes like saucers as he craned his neck to see out of the side window. “They’re here! They found me!” he burst out, trembling visibly. “Oh my. Oh my.” He was fumbling nervously with the envelope, the bell on the end of his hat tinkling as he shook with fear.

“Who found you…?”

Dean turned his attention back to the road, but the only other vehicle braving the impending snowstorm was one of those weird-looking Euro contraptions that got about six million miles to the gallon and looked like someone had sliced off the back end.

“It’s them! It’s them!” Eric cried out in abject terror, as the little car drew level with them.

Dean had to resist the urge to vomit at the tiny car’s gaudy candy-pink and silver paint job, forcing down a derisive snort as he caught sight of the splattering of pale little faces pressed up against the windows. “Dude!” he burst out. “It’s a clown car!”

“It’s WEIRD!” Eric explained, virtually bouncing in the back seat.

“You can say that again,” Dean muttered.

“No, no, WEIRD, WEIRD, the—the goon squad!” Eric clarified desperately. “They’re here! They’re coming for me!”

Dean made a face. “Dude, chill. You’re in a Chevy Impala built like a tank with a V8 engine under the hood. They’re in a pink hairdryer on wheels. I think we can outrun ’em.”

Gunning the engine and shoving the Impala into drive, Dean virtually stepped on the gas, the old Chevy shooting away from the curb before the pink monstrosity had even managed to overtake them.

Dean grinned smugly. “No problem. Only solutions—” he began, before there was a sudden, deafening roar behind them and a blur of pink as the pursuing elf car rocketed—quite literally—past them, flames shooting out of twin exhaust ports sticking out of the back end of the car.

“Holy crap!” Sam commented, Dean yanking on the wheel as the elf car skewed to a halt in front of them.

“What the—?”

As the elf car came to a stop, both doors were roughly shoved open and a whole mess of little people in brightly colored, mismatched outfits tumbled out like the Anthill Mob on steroids, odd-looking Tommy guns held up in front of them and pointed in the direction of the Impala.

“Dean…!” Sam warned as the Impala fishtailed dangerously.

“I got it,” Dean growled, instantly correcting their trajectory and pulling the Chevy onto the opposite side of the road before once again slamming his foot against the gas pedal. “Hold on to your lunch!”

Eric let out a terrified squeak as Dean yanked the Impala around the elves’ impromptu roadblock, the little creatures raising their guns as the car sped past them.

“I swear to God,” Dean hissed, “one o’ those little ass clowns puts a single bullet in my car I’ll—”

“Not bullets, Dean—” Eric began to explain, but was cut short by the thick gloopy substance suddenly shooting out of the goon squad’s Tommy guns as the Impala swerved around them, completely coating one side of the Chevy from hood to back fender.

“What the hell—?” Sam began, instantly drawing away from the stuff still spraying against his window while Dean cursed a blue streak at the attacking mini-goons.

“Sonofa—” he began to growl through gritted teeth, but had to bite off the rest of the curse as the Impala suddenly started to spin on the spot as the wheels on Sam’s side of the car completely seized up.

Dean virtually stood on the brake, trying desperately to turn into the skid and avoid the old Chevy rolling onto its roof, the engine choking and dying as smoke billowed up from the suddenly rubber-coated blacktop.

Dean let out an annoyed “Oof!” as Sam was catapulted down the seat and slammed into him, the younger Winchester’s bulk almost crushing him against the driver’s side door.

“Dean, seriously, what the hell…?” Sam repeated.

Dean drew in a sharp breath as the old Chevy finally stopped spinning and ground to an unnatural stop, and for a second he was unable to move due to a combination of a crushing fear seizing his chest and a humongous little brother crushing him against the side of the car.

“Dude!” Dean burst out, shoving Sam off him. “Personal space!”

“How long have I been asking you to get seatbelts installed in this thing?” Sam demanded irritably, attempting to crawl back into the passenger seat with little success.

“Ask me again when we’re not being ambushed by midgets in a toy car!” Dean retorted angrily, trying to gauge the nearness of the enemy through the sludgy gloop smeared across half the windows. “What the hell did they do to my car?”

Sam reached out one finger to touch a trail of the gooey stuff seeping in through the window seal.

“No! No, don’t touch it!” a little voice piped up from somewhere in the vicinity of the back seat, but it was too late, Sam had already scooped up a finger full of the stuff and was sniffing at it curiously.

“Eww,” Dean commented. “You’re like that Mountie guy off TV. He was always sniffing disgusting stuff and—whoa!” Dean nearly jumped out of his seat as Sam suddenly shoved his finger in his mouth and licked it clean. “Duuuuuude! You know how disgusting that is?”

“It’s chocolate.” Sam held up his now-clean finger, forehead scrunching into an amused frown. “It’s good. Want some?”

Dean drew back in horror. “No! And—what?”

“Super-strength chocolate syrup,” Eric explained, the tip of his gaudily-colored hat just visible from where he was huddled on the floor between the front and back seats. “And they’re elves! Not midgets!

“Chocolate…?” Dean was completely unable to finish the sentence, disbelief causing him to blink out through the front windshield like a startled goldfish.

Several of the miniature gunmen were approaching the Impala by this time, weapons held warily aloft, and Sam swallowed before observing, “Maybe we better get out of here?”

“It’s chocolate!” Dean remonstrated.

“Paralytic chocolate,” Eric amended. “We get that on us we won’t be able to move for hours!”

Sam looked down at his finger, bending it experimentally. “Feels okay…” he began, before Eric interrupted him.

“Look, we have to go!” he remonstrated. “Right now! If they catch us, I don’t know what they’ll do to you two!”

“We can handle ourselves against a bunch of munchkins, thanks Shortstuff.”

Elves!” Eric corrected him yet again, sighing in exasperation. “Look, those guns can fire more than just paralytic syrup you know! You don’t want to mess with the laxative frosting or the vomit-inducing raspberry sauce!”

Dean just looked at his brother who shrugged at him.

“I got nothing, man.”

Dean shook his head in disbelief. “Well okay then, let’s get the hell out of here before Santa’s army of ninja midgets gets us with the maple syrup.”

Sam nodded his agreement, putting his shoulder against the chocolate-covered passenger door and shoving hard. But the thing wouldn’t budge.

“It sets like concrete,” Eric informed them. “You won’t be opening that door any time soon.”

Dean actually growled dangerously. “Those little bastards are toast!” he grit out, pulling his .45 out of the glovebox.

“No!” Sam insisted, putting his hand on the Colt’s silver barrel. “You can’t shoot an elf, Dean!”

“Why not, Sam?” Dean demanded. “Look what they did to my car!”

“Dean.”

Dean growled again before stuffing the .45 in the back of his jeans, grabbing Sam’s sleeve and unceremoniously dragging him back down the seat toward the steering wheel while simultaneously shoving open the driver’s side door. Glancing in the rearview, he added, “C’mon, Frodo, we’re leaving!”

“Eric! Eric!” the little creature grumbled. “How many times do I have to tell you? Elf! Not hobbit! Not midget! Not dwarf! Not—”

“Not anything if you don’t get your freaky ass out of the goddamn car!” Dean barked, swinging himself out of the Impala before reaching around, wrenching open the back door and yanking the little elf out of the back seat by the scruff of his neck.

“Ow!” Eric yelled. “I’m not a puppy either!”

“No? Well you’re about to be puppy food if you don’t move your butt right now!”

“Stupid humans,” Eric grumbled, managing to find his feet on the icy blacktop.

Dean glanced over the roof of the Impala at the advancing hoard—if you could call six elves a hoard—of gun-toting little people, their gaudy mismatched clothing and little bells tinkling on their brightly-colored hats strangely incongruous with the murderous set of their faces.

Dean almost laughed.

Almost.

“So what now?” Sam asked, a similar half-amused, half-uncertain expression on his face. “They’re gonna gunk us with more chocolate syrup?”

“I told you, it’s a paralytic!” Eric reiterated. “One shot of that and they’ll be dragging me back to the North Pole to face charges, and then Christmas will be ruined and children around the world will wake up on Christmas morning to gifts encouraging them to be unkind and hateful. What kind of Christmas message is that?”

Dean just looked at him. “I sure as hell hope you’re not the ghost of Christmas Future, pal, ’cause I don’t think I can take another one like this.” He glanced over at his brother, who was rather unsubtly doing that whole puppy dog thing at him, which Dean knew he really should have built up an immunity to by now, but never seemed to have gotten around to.

Glancing about himself to get a lay of the land, he noted an alleyway behind them that seemed to back onto a couple of abandoned-looking industrial units or warehouses.

“Eric!”

Dean’s attention snapped back to the approaching elves, one of whom had stepped in front of the group and was waving his gun threatening. Or as threateningly as a three-foot elf dressed in red knickerbockers could possibly be.

“Give it up, Eric!” the head elf continued. “We just want the Lists! Give us the Lists and no one gets hurt!”

Dean didn’t believe that for a second, and he didn’t even know the little guy, the scowl on his face and the way his pudgy finger hovered over the trigger of his syrup gun suggesting quite the opposite.

“We have to go—” Eric began, just as a spray of thick gloopy brown stuff arced over the Impala in a direct line toward the elf.

Acting purely on instinct, both Dean and Sam made a lunge for the little guy, yanking him backwards away from the syrup, which splattered harmlessly onto the blacktop in front of them, instantly solidifying into a thick, dark brown shell.

Eric yelped, casting a panicked look down at his hand, where a couple of spots of the brown gunk had landed, the envelope slipping from suddenly frozen fingers as the elf sucked in a terrified breath.

“I got it,” Dean reassured him, scooping up the envelope before examining Eric’s hand, which had curled up into a claw as muscles spasmed and froze.

“It’ll be okay,” the elf insisted, sounding not entirely sure of himself anymore. “Like I said, it only lasts a few hours.”

“Hours?” Dean echoed incredulously, eyes straying to the finger Sam had used to eat some of the chocolaty goo. “Sammy, you feeling okay? I mean some of that stuff—” he indicated his brother’s stomach awkwardly, and Sam just shrugged.

“Feel fine,” he insisted. “And my finger’s okay where I touched it.”

“Maybe you’re immune?” Eric hazarded, before casting his eyes at the stranded Impala, held immobile by the thick coating of syrup hardening against her steel shell. “Your car sure isn’t. I hope she’ll be okay.”

Dean frowned. “That’s my line, dude,” he said. “Don’t go tryin’ to steal my woman, now.”

“Oh, she’s a one-man vehicle, believe me,” Eric assured him, before Sam suddenly caught his arm.

“We need to go,” the younger Winchester reminded them, just as another stream of sludgy syrup arced in their direction.

Scowling at the sight of the sticky gunk dripping from his beloved Impala and mortified at the thought of leaving her there, abandoned in the middle of the street, Dean nevertheless found he had to agree with his brother’s assessment of the situation.

“This way!” he instructed, tucking the glittery envelope inside his jacket before tugging on the elf’s other arm and urging him in the direction of the alleyway he’d seen earlier, Sam bringing up the rear.

The elf moved surprisingly quickly for a guy with such short legs, and Dean actually found himself struggling to keep him in sight, simultaneously having to constantly check that, first and foremost, Sam was okay and still behind him, and, secondly, that the pursuing elves weren’t quite as quick on their feet as Eric was.

As the elf ducked into the alleyway, Dean drew his Colt, but frowned uncertainly as he brought it to bear on their pursuers.

“Dammit!” he burst out, shoving the .45 back into his waistband as Sam skidded into the alleyway behind him. “Shooting at elves will get us on the Naughty List for sure, right?”

Sam snickered. “Dean, I think it’s a given you’re already on there, man.”

Dean scowled at the injustice of it. “Well if I’m on there, so are you!” he insisted, hating how whiny he sounded. “I didn’t see you helping any little old ladies across the street this year!”

“And you didn’t see me hitting on every waitress in every diner from here to Seattle either, did you?” Sam returned. “Not to mention those triplets in Wisconsin!”

For a second, Dean forgot they were being pursued by Santa-less elves toting paralytic chocolate syrup guns. “Mandy, Sandy and Randy…” He sighed distantly at the memory. “And boy was she ever—”

“Dean. Naughty List.”

Dean coughed. “Sure,” he nodded, coming back to himself. “Save the badly-dressed elf, save the world.” Glancing back down the alleyway, he added, “Speaking of…”

Sam followed the direction of his gaze. “Eric?” he called out to the empty alleyway.

“Where the hell did the little Smurf go?” Dean demanded, casting one last glance back over his shoulder at the pursuing elves before heading off in the direction he’d last seen Eric. “Hey! Eric!”

Finally he remembers my name!”

Dean felt tiny fingers grab onto his sleeve and tug him into an open doorway, Sam following close on his heels.

And then he was blinking up at a silent production line, a high-roofed building crammed full of machinery and conveyor belts, wheels and pulleys and all kinds of mechanical crap Dean vaguely recognized but couldn’t seem to put a name to. None of it moved, the people who worked here presumably having all gone home for the holidays.

“How’d you get in here, Frodo?” Dean asked, glancing down at Eric quizzically.

The elf scuffed his toe on the floor and shrugged innocently. “Door was open,” he said shortly.

“Like hell,” Dean returned. “Next you’re gonna tell me the factory let you in, just like the Impala.”

Eric looked up at him, squinting one eye. “Something like that,” he said slowly. “Mechanicals respond well to me. What can I say?”

A grinding noise behind him informed Dean that Sam had slid the big metal door closed, but no sooner had he shut out the cold wind and pursuing goon squad than there was a loud thud against the door followed by the unmistakable high-pitched voice of an elf calling for reinforcements.

“We can get out the back,” Eric suggested, inclining his head in the direction of the double doors on the far side of the cavernous room, and Dean nodded his agreement, just as another thud sounded from outside, and then suddenly the door began to creak ominously as a gelatinous green substance started to leak under the door.

“I think we better go,” Sam suggested, Eric nodding his agreement.

“Lime Jell-o,” he informed them. “They’ll have that door down in seconds!”

“With lime Jell-o?” Dean clarified.

Eric nodded, the bell on his hat tinkling at an alarming rate. “Eats through anything,” he explained. “Turns metal into English trifle sponge.”

Dean wasn’t sure he even wanted to know what that was but for some reason his brain flashed on peas and Jennifer Aniston. “God, it’s like a scene out of The Blob,” he commented, enthralled by the yellowy-green goo creeping under the factory door.

“Dean?” Sam interrupted. “Go? Now? Let’s?”

“Okay, Yoda, keep your green on!” Dean returned, ushering Eric toward his brother, who was beginning to thread his way carefully through the machinery encumbering their path toward the far door.

Looking back to the doorway for a second, Dean’s eyes lit on a control panel set into the wall, and he grinned a little maniacally to himself. “This should keep them busy…”

Slamming his hand against a big green button helpfully labeled “Start,” he was rewarded by the panel lighting up and a loud rumbling noise emanating from the machinery behind him as the conveyors juddered into life, wheels and spindles and cogs sputtering and spinning.

His glee was somewhat short lived, however, as a loud crunch sounded from the direction of the doorway, and the big metal door suddenly exploded in a shower of slightly soggy sponge pieces.

Ducking to avoid the deluge, Dean slid easily under the nearest conveyor as a splodge of yellow goo splattered against the wall where he’d just been standing.

“Dean, run!” he heard Eric yell from somewhere across the room. “Custard! It’s the custard! Don’t get any on you! It’ll kill you!”

“Homicidal custard?” Dean yelled back. “Who the hell ever heard of homicidal custard, Bilbo?”

Eric, Dean! Eric!” The elf’s annoyed retort was somewhat muffled by the mechanical grumbling of the machinery between them, but Dean didn’t fail to hear the rest of Eric’s dire pronouncement. “Do you want to die on Christmas, Dean?” he yelled. “Because that’s what’ll happen if you get any of that stuff on you! Did you ever see that movie Alien? Acid for blood?”

“Acid for custard?”

“Elves can be very ingenious!”

Dean sucked in a breath. “Remind me never to eat in an elf restaurant,” he commented, ducking behind something that looked like a cross between Johnny Five and R2-D2 just as yellow gloop splattered all over it, thick globules of the stuff dripping down onto the rubber conveyor belt beneath, which abruptly started to melt wherever the gunk landed.

“Holy crap,” Dean muttered, eyes huge as he watched the custard eat through not only the rubber but also the metal infrastructure underneath. “These guys aren’t kidding!”

Picking up the pace, he dodged another couple of blasts of custard and a particularly nasty splattering of lime Jell-o as he sprinted after his brother and the little elf, diving under another hunk of machinery just as custard splattered where his head had been, the metal hissing ominously.

Finding himself flat on his back under a set of metal rollers, Dean cast a horrified glance upwards, as an unholy mixture of green and yellow goo slowly started to dribble through the machinery and onto the inexorably rotating cylinders right above his face.

“Aw man,” he muttered. “Death by Jell-o and custard? I’m never gonna live this down.”

But before his face could be eaten away by an elf-enchanted dessert, he was suddenly being yanked backwards, custard and Jell-o dripping onto the floor where he’d just been lying, the concrete sizzling and steaming, as Sam’s fingers tightened around his wrists and pulled him clear of the production line and back up onto his feet.

For a second the two of them just looked at each other, before Sam managed to remark, “So are you gonna thank me for saving you from the flesh-eating Jell-o and custard or what?”

Dean thought about that for a second. “Thank you for saving me from the flesh-eating Jell-o and custard, Sam,” he finally managed a little breathlessly, frowning to himself before adding, “Now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d hear myself saying.”

He glanced back over his shoulder, only to be met by the sight of the pursuing elves swarming through the Jell-o and custard-covered production line, the gloopy stuff seeming not to have the slightest effect on any of them.

“Special protective clothing,” Eric explained, as if reading Dean’s mind. “It’s a hazardous profession being in the WEIRD squad.”

“I’m sure,” Dean agreed, for the hundredth time that day shaking his head in disbelief. “C’mon, let’s get out of here before they get out the Reddi-wip.”

Eric looked up at him, head tilted slightly to one side. “Reddi-wip?” he echoed. “Now Dean, that’s just ridiculous.”

Dean sighed. “Of course it is,” he muttered, following his brother and the elf through the double doors and into what looked like a break room, tinsel and garlands festooning every available surface and Christmas cards stuck all over the front of the fridge.

Dodging through another door on the far side of the room, a long corridor led thankfully to metal fire doors, and the trio raced toward the exit, Sam’s hand slamming against the release mechanism just as a splodge of custard splattered across the wall above Dean’s head.

“Watch the threads, dude!” Dean yelled at the elf in the red knickerbockers, who had just appeared in the doorway behind them, gunk gun held high and aimed seemingly right between Dean’s eyes.

“We just want the Lists, Eric!” the elf cried. “Just give us the Lists and we’ll let your human friends go!”

“Like hell!” Eric shouted back, Dean actually doing a double take at the elf’s ballsy retort. “We both know that’s not true! I won’t let you ruin Christmas, Elvin! You’ll never take me alive!”

Elvin?” Dean mouthed the name at Sam, who merely shrugged, shoving open the fire exit onto another alleyway, this one backing out onto what looked like the of a row of stores and restaurants, the smells from a multitude of kitchens wafting toward them through the frosty air.

Dean figured this was probably an inopportune moment to realize he was hungry, his stomach growling incongruously as he darted after his brother and the elf, little footsteps pattering ominously behind him.

“Get back here, Eric! We don’t want to hurt you! But we will! You and your pet humans!”

Dean actually skidded to a halt at that, one hand on the fire exit door as he twisted back in the direction of their pursuers. “Who you callin’ a pet, Gizmo?” he demanded haughtily, Sam abruptly grabbing him by the collar and yanking him into the alleyway just as a generous splattering of custard hit the fire door.

“Dean, do you have to antagonize everyone we run into?” Sam demanded, slamming the doors behind his brother.

Dean thought about that for a second. “Yes,” he finally pronounced emphatically. “I’m a big brother. That’s my job.”

“Dean—”

“And besides, he’s just a dwarf—”

Elf!” Eric virtually screamed at him, still visibly shaking from his encounter with his erstwhile colleagues. “How many times do I have to tell you?”

Dean held up his hands. “Sorry man,” he apologized. “Don’t get your—what are those, breeches?—in a twist.”

“When you two have finished bitching at each other—” Sam interjected, having made his way to the nearest dumpster, which he proceeded to begin dragging back toward the fire doors. “Remember those elves with guns we’ve got chasing us? Huh? Ring a bell with anyone?”

Dean glanced at Eric a little sheepishly before following his brother’s lead, helping maneuver the dumpster until it was firmly wedged in front of the fire doors.

A loud thudding could be heard from inside the building, several squeaky little voices raised in protest.

“Take that you little—” Dean glanced at Eric again, who was still scowling at him icily, “—elves!” he finished lamely, looking to the little guy for approval.

Eric’s expression didn’t change much, and he merely sighed before asking, “So where now? I don’t think you two are ever going be able to help me find Santa!”

“Sure we will, Gim—uh—Eric,” Dean assured him, smiling brightly. “C’mon, there can’t be that many places Santa Claus would wanna hang out on a Christmas Eve in Bethlehem.”

“That sounds—weird,” Sam commented uncomfortably.

“Yeah,” Dean agreed, casting his eyes around the alleyway for the most likely escape route. “Maybe we should—”

He never got to finish the sentence as he suddenly found himself being thrown across the alleyway, a huge explosion ripping through the fire exit doors and tossing the dumpster several feet into the air.

His back slamming into one of the buildings opposite, he slid inelegantly down the wall before landing with a thud on the ground, barely having time to do little but close his eyes and grit his teeth as two-hundred-twenty pounds of little brother came sailing toward him, Sam’s inertia barely slowed by his colliding with several trash cans on the way.

The breath was knocked right out of him as Sam landed on him with a startled yelp, and it took Dean a good couple of seconds to figure out which of the eight limbs flailing around in the trash cans’ scattered contents were his own.

No doubt utilizing the superhuman strength Dean had heard often came with an intense rush of adrenaline, he somehow managed to push Sam’s bulky form off of him, struggling to his feet uncertainly as the buzzing in his ears threatened to tip him right back over into Sam’s lap.

Sam was looking up at him, blinking and mouthing something Dean couldn’t quite hear over the buzzing, and Dean reached out a hand to help his brother to his feet, assessing Sam for any damage before turning his assessment onto the building opposite.

Blowing out a breath, he observed, “When the people who own that place get back from the holidays, they are going to be pissed!”

The area where the fire exit doors had once been was now a smoky, yawning hole, the doors themselves a twisted hulk of metal embedded into a fire escape twenty feet above their heads, which rained yellow goo incessantly onto the alleyway below.

The dumpster was nowhere to be seen, but from the sound of honking horns and raised voices just about penetrating the ringing in Dean’s ears, he was pretty sure it must have ended up out on the main road at the end of the alleyway.

“Eric?” he heard himself yell as he examined the wreckage in all directions. “Eric?!”

A tiny tinkling was the first indication that the little elf had survived the blast, the bell on the tip of his hat sticking out of a trashcan lying on its side to Sam’s right.

As Sam crouched down to free the elf from his current metallic incarceration, Dean turned his attention back to the hole in the wall opposite where, as the smoke began to clear, several of the WEIRD elves were beginning to emerge. Elvin, the leader, was at the front of the line, goop gun raised threateningly in front of him.

“Give it up, Eric!” he insisted, bringing the gun to bear on his adversaries as Sam finally managed to set the elf back on his own two feet. “You’ve got nowhere to go. You’re surrounded. And we’re armed. We don’t want to hurt you. Just give us the Lists!”

Dean glanced about himself as the lead elf spoke, confirming just a little bit too efficiently that Elvin was correct—there really was nowhere to go.

They were completely cornered, the alleyway to their left coming to an abrupt halt at an eight foot high chain link fence topped with razor wire which bordered an unevenly-asphalted parking lot, while the pursuing elves had already managed to position themselves between them and the alleyway’s entrance to their right.

“Never!” Eric insisted. “I’d rather die than let Senior Management ruin Christmas!”

Elvin took a step toward them, followed by seven of his miniature cohorts, guns all raised menacingly in the direction of the Winchesters and their elf companion.

“All right,” he said coolly. “But your human friends go first.”

“Wait, what?” Dean burst out, more than a little alarmed by the idea of having his flesh melted off his bones by acidic custard. “Let’s not be hasty here. I’m sure we can come to some kind of—”

“You first.”

Dean didn’t even have time to yell as he suddenly found himself being shoved backwards by the force of eight jets of custard splattering against him, covering him from head to toe in bright yellow gunk.

“No! Dean!” he heard Sam yell from somewhere off to his right, but his brother’s protests were abruptly choked off as he too was almost knocked off his feet by a powerful blast of sugary yellow goo.

Finding himself once again slammed into the wall behind him, Dean drew in a sharp breath, expecting it to be his last as he waited for the acidic confection to eat into his skin as it had the machinery in the factory.

But nothing happened.

He took another breath.

And waited some more.

And took another breath.

And then Sam’s voice was suddenly right in his ear demanding, “Why aren’t we melting?” in a voice that almost suggested he was disappointed.

Attempting to wipe custard out of his eyes as he spat more of the stuff out of his mouth, Dean managed to choke, “I dunno, ask the Wicked Witch of the West over there,” before shaking convulsively as the cold, slimy substance began to soak through his shirt.

Trying to blink bright yellow gloop off of his eyelashes, he squinted at Sam, who was busily licking the stuff off his fingers.

“Dude!” Dean burst out. “I already told you how gross that is, right?”

“It’s just custard, Dean,” Sam replied, fruitlessly attempting to wipe some of the stuff off his face.

“It’s supposed to be flesh-eating custard, Sam!” Dean barked back, turning his gaze down to Eric, who was completely custard-free and was staring at them in mild shock. “Right, man? I saw it eat through metal, dude! You said it’d kill us!”

Eric’s forehead creased into a frown. “That’s very odd,” he said, shaking his head. “I’ve never actually seen it used on a person—or an elf—before, but I just assumed—basing my conclusions on the effect it has on inanimate objects—that it would have the same effect on organic material as it does on everything else.”

Dean shook his head a little. “Lemme get this straight,” he began. “We’ve just been chased through a factory by elves armed with metal-melting custard that has no actual effect on humans? Except, y’know, to make us look like circus freaks? Just because you assumed it’d melt the flesh off our bones?”

“Um,” Eric replied. “That would seem to be a logical conclusion.” He laughed nervously. “Better safe than sorry.”

“Better—?” Dean honestly felt like his head was going to explode. “You have got to be freakin’ kidding me!”

“Dean—”

Sam’s remonstrations were cut short by a booming voice suddenly emanating from one of the buildings behind them.

“What’s all this hullabaloo?” the voice demanded. “Can’t a fellow get a nice backrub in peace anymore?”

Dean had to scoop another handful of custard out of his eyes before he was able to focus on the tall figure striding out of the rear exit to one of the storefronts behind them, a huge bear of a man with a shaggy mane of white hair and a bushy white beard, currently clad in nothing more than a downy white bathrobe and fluffy pink slippers. He appeared to be removing slices of cucumber from his eyes.

Eric actually looked like his own eyes might pop right out of his little skull as the elves across the alley all drew in a collective breath, gazes downcast as they immediately lowered both their weapons and their heads submissively.

“Oh my goodness!” Eric burst out, glancing quickly at the Winchesters before turning his head back to the man striding down the alleyway toward them. “You did it! You actually helped me find him!”

Dean blinked, causing more custard to splatter off his eyelashes. “Huh?” he managed, looking first at the big guy, and then at Sam, who was grinning inanely. “What?”

Dean!” Sam stage-whispered, his cheeks coloring visibly despite the thick covering of custard. “Don’t you get it? It’s him!”

Dean frowned. “Who him?” he demanded, his attention returning to the elderly gent with the fluffy slippers.

Santa him!” Sam clarified, the dimples in his cheeks accentuated by the yellow gunk plastered all over his face. “Dean, we found Santa!”

“Huh?”

So maybe it wasn’t Dean’s most eloquent five seconds, but he really couldn’t think of anything else to say as the guy with the fluffy slippers finally made his way over to them, discarding the cucumber in one of the overturned trashcans before hooking his thumbs into the belt of his bathrobe in a disturbingly familiar gesture and chortling loudly.

“Tell me he didn’t just say ‘ho-ho-ho,’” Dean mumbled, causing Sam to snort custard out of his nose in a distressingly unattractive manner.

“He just said ‘ho-ho-ho,’” Sam confirmed, stuffing his gooey hands in his gooey jeans pockets and jittering around on the balls of his feet like he had that time Dean took him to see his first mall Santa when he was five.

“Dude, get a grip,” Dean mumbled. “There’s no such thing as—”

“Well, well, well! Dean and Sam Winchester!” the bathrobed behemoth boomed loudly. “Have you been good boys this year?”

Dean’s mouth fell open dumbly and Sam grinned so hard he looked like his face might set like that, which, Dean figured, might actually happen considering how fast the custard was drying on his skin.

The big guy—no way he was going to refer to him as “Santa,” Dean decided right then and there—turned to examine the devastation around him before adding, “Hmm, you boys always did have a talent for destruction. Maybe you’ve been naughtier than I suspected—”

Dean was about to protest his and Sam’s innocence when Eric stepped in instead.

“Sir, no, this wasn’t the Winchesters’ fault,” the little elf explained, casting a venomous glance over his shoulder towards Elvin and his companions. “It was the WEIRD squad, sir! They were going to kill us—!”

“Kill you?” Santa—the big guy—okay, maybe Santa—echoed. “Well whoever heard of such a thing? I go away for a few days to detox and get a little spa time before the Big Night and this is what happens?”

“Spa time?” Dean parroted uncertainly. “You’re kidding, right?”

Santa turned an amused eye on the older brother. “Son, you think these rosy cheeks of mine just glow of their own accord?” He glanced at a big gold wristwatch, frowning. “And now I’ve missed my turn on the sunbed! You think children want to see a pale and interesting Santa on Christmas Eve? Hmm?”

Dean blinked stupidly, and even Sam couldn’t seem to manage a coherent reply to that question.

“Uh, sir?” Elvin suddenly piped up from across the alleyway. “Begging your pardon, sir, but Eric here is under arrest.”

Santa raised a thick bushy eyebrow. “Oh he is, is he? What did he do exactly?”

“He stole the Lists, sir.”

Santa looked down at Eric, who lowered his head, abashedly.

“Is this true, young man?”

Eric nodded. “Yes sir.”

“And why on earth would you want to do such a thing?”

The elf looked up sheepishly. “Because Senior Management were sending out the wrong toys, sir.”

“Wrong toys?”

“They were sending what the children were asking for, sir. Those nasty video games and toy guns and—”

“Ah,” Santa raised a hand. “I see. And that’s why you stole my Lists? So this wouldn’t happen?”

Eric nodded. “Yes, sir. I didn’t think you would approve, sir, and in your absence—”

“Oh ho!” Santa agreed. “Perhaps next year I should schedule my vacation time a little earlier in the year? January perhaps.” He looked the Winchesters up and down again. “What about these two?”

Eric glanced over at the brothers. “They were trying to help me find you, sir.”

“I see.”

“Got my car covered in chocolate flavored concrete sauce for our trouble,” Dean added, squinting at the old guy irritably. “Not to mention getting chased by midgets with metal-eating custard and—” he raised his arms to indicate his current state of ickiness, “—this.”

Santa pursed his lips thoughtfully but made no comment regarding Dean’s list of grievances. “So where are my Lists, Eric?” he asked instead, although his eyes never left the Winchesters.

Eric patted himself down, panic clearly thrumming through his little body. “I—I—they—”

“Don’t sweat it, Shortstuff,” Dean reassured him, reaching one custard-covered hand into his jacket and fishing out a soggy envelope. “I got ’em.”

Santa looked down at the proffered envelope before shaking his head. “Well that will never do.”

Carefully laying one hand on Dean’s shoulder and the other on Sam’s, Santa closed his eyes for a second, and Dean suddenly felt as if he was being buffeted in a wind tunnel, custard sucked off his clothes and his hair and his skin until he was as clean as—well as clean as he got.

Sam shook himself, his hair falling over his forehead as he glanced up at it, apparently to confirm it was no longer thick with custard. He smiled up at Santa Claus, cheeks dimpling once again, before mumbling, “Thanks, uh, sir.”

“Suck-up,” Dean muttered, causing the big guy to raise an eyebrow as he finally took the envelope—now clean and dry and completely back to its glittery self once again—out of the younger man’s hands.

“You might be pleasantly surprised when you get back to your car, too,” Santa assured him with a little chuckle, before carefully opening the envelope and pulling out two sheets of perfectly ordinary-looking paper.

Except they obviously weren’t ordinary, as when Dean craned his head around to get a look at what was written on them, they appeared completely blank.

Santa met his quizzical gaze before winking conspiratorially. “Invisible ink,” the big guy informed him. “Only myself and my most trusted elves can read it.”

“Uh-huh,” Dean said, the skepticism obvious in his voice.

Santa Claus “ho-ho-hoed” a couple of times under his breath, turning one of the sheets of paper into the weak winter light and squinting at it thoughtfully.

“Oh dear,” he said, glancing up at Dean before looking back down at the paper with a shake of his head. “Well that’s not good. Not good at all.”

Dean fidgeted uncomfortably, once again attempting to see what was written on the paper. “What’s not good?” he asked, shifting his weight nervously from foot to foot.

Santa didn’t answer, merely examined the other sheet of paper before smiling, and looking up at Sam. “Well that’s better,” he said with a grin. “I knew I could count on you, Sam.”

Sam smiled back a little uncertainly. “Uh. Sure,” he managed, exchanging an awkward glance with his brother. “Definitely. You can always count on me, sir.”

“Count on him for what?” Dean demanded, but Santa’s attention had drifted away from the papers in his hand and instead turned to the little band of WEIRD elves, still congregated a few feet away from them, the little bells on their hats oddly silent as they contemplated the curled toes of their shoes.

“This is a sorry state of affairs,” Santa intoned, his voice becoming a little sterner as he strode toward Elvin and his crew. “Brother against brother? Honestly, Elvin, what were you thinking?”

Elvin hesitantly risked looking up at his superior. “We had our orders, sir,” he said. “Senior Management. They said we should bring the Lists back at all costs—”

“Even at the risk of endangering human—and elfin—life?” Santa asked, shaking his head sadly. “You know better than that, Elvin. It’s a good thing humans are immune to most of your weapons or one of these boys could have been seriously hurt! Honestly, what were you thinking?”

Elvin looked up at him sheepishly. “We just wanted to make sure the children got what they wanted for Christmas, sir,” he stammered, once again lowering his eyes.

“Oh yes?” Santa returned, laying a huge but gentle hand on the elf’s narrow shoulder. “Son, you may discover that what children want isn’t always what they need or what’s in their best interests.” He glanced around at the other WEIRD elves, ensuring they all understood what he was saying before casting a quick look in Eric’s direction and winking. “Perhaps Senior Management should be reminded of that fact too.”

Eric positively beamed.

Returning his attention to the destruction that had been wrought on the alleyway and the factory behind them, Santa put his hands on his hips and blew out a long breath. “Well I think you boys should perhaps clear all this up before the humans get back to work and wonder what on earth happened,” he suggested.

The WEIRD elves just looked at him, mouths hanging open a little.

“Well?” Santa insisted. “What are you waiting for?”

With only the barest hint of a grumble, the elves turned and began to apply themselves to the task of tidying up the alleyway, although a couple of them just stood at the bottom of the fire escape, looking up at the factory’s blasted off fire doors uncertainly.

Santa smiled indulgently. “Don’t worry about the doors, boys,” he said. “I’ll take care of those.”

The elves blew out a collective sigh of relief, and headed off to start clearing up Jell-o and custard from the inside of the building.

Dean frowned at the old guy. “Couldn’t you just—y’know?” he said, clicking his fingers and indicating his miraculously clean clothes.

Santa grinned conspiratorially. “I could,” he agreed, nodding his head sagely. “But what lesson would they learn if I was always here to tidy up their messes? Sometimes a father has to let his children learn the hard way.”

Dean was pretty sure he’d heard that before somewhere; The John Winchester Guide to Parenting was crammed full of such pearls of wisdom. He smiled slightly at the thought, causing Santa to squint at him.

“You find that funny, son?” he asked.

Dean shook his head. “No. Yes. Maybe.” He shrugged. “You kinda reminded me of someone for a second there.”

Santa inclined his head slightly before gently squeezing Dean’s shoulder. “Your father was a wise man, Dean,” he said soberly, before a tiny grin slowly began to light up his features. “Although for a wise man, it’s quite astonishing how often he was on the Naughty List.”

Dean squinted at him. “Like father like son, huh?”

Santa chortled, once again turning his attention to the pieces of paper in his hand.

“You know what?” he said, squinting at whatever it was he could see written there. “I think there’s been a clerical error. Let’s see now.” Staring hard at the paperwork, he carefully touched a finger to one of the pieces of paper, before sliding it over to the other piece, as if he was dragging something across a touchscreen. “There,” he said finally, a broad grin splitting open his rosy-cheeked face. “I think someone may have gotten on the Naughty List by mistake,” he proclaimed, patting Dean on the shoulder. “Can’t think how that happened.” He winked, and Dean did his best to stop himself grinning like a loon while determinedly avoiding Sam’s gaze, his little brother just standing there looking at him with that big goofy smile on his face.

Dean rolled his eyes, before turning his attention back to the old guy. “Uh, thanks, dude,” he said a little sheepishly. “This mean I’m getting hooked up with Megan Fox for Christmas?”

Santa’s grin broadened considerably. “Oh my boy, if only I were a few years younger! I could show you a trick or two with the ladies!”

Dean’s eyebrows almost disappeared into his hairline. “Seriously? Man, who’d o’ thought Santa Claus was a babe magnet in his youth?”

Santa chuckled. “You should see Mrs. Claus!” he said, nudging Dean none-too-gently in the ribs and winking almost lasciviously.

Then, as if suddenly remembering where he was, and, perhaps more importantly, when he was, Santa straightened and peered at his watch. “Well I think the elves have this situation under control,” he declared, rubbing his hands together as he took in the scene in the alley.

Dean followed his gaze over to the factory’s fire exit—where the doors were miraculously back in place, not a scratch on them.

“How did you…?” Sam began.

“I guess Santa works in mysterious ways,” Dean declared, causing his brother to wince.

“You’re so going to Hell, Dean.” Sam predicted. “Again,”

Dean shrugged. “Hey man, we just found out Santa’s real. I’m pretty sure after that, I can deal with anything.”

Santa cast a disturbingly knowing glance back in Dean’s direction. “Oh Dean. You always believed in me,” he intoned. “You just forgot, that’s all.”

Dean looked as if he was about to launch into a protest, but Santa silenced him with a wave of his arm.

“If you never believed, then how do you explain Sam?” he pointed out with a chortle. “If you hadn’t believed, he would never have believed. And he’s never lost his faith in me, no matter how old he gets.”

Sam blinked at him.

Then he blinked at Dean.

Who blinked back.

“That’s—uh—” Sam began, but seemed unable to complete the sentence, his cheeks coloring until they were roughly the same shade as Santa’s.

“Yeah,” Dean agreed, shaking his head and shuffling his feet uncomfortably. “You took the words right outta my mouth, Sammy.”

“Well anyway,” Santa continued, “I really must be shaking a tail feather, as I believe you young people say.”

“Not since the seventies,” Dean informed him.

Santa shrugged dismissively. “It’s sure been nice to see you boys again,” he added, a wistful glint in his eye as he paused to look at the Winchesters appraisingly.

Dean’s attention shot back to the guy in the fuzzy slippers. “Again?

The wistful glint in Santa’s eye seemed to have suddenly spread to his whole face. “When you were young, Dean, you told your Auntie Kate you were worried I wouldn’t be able to find you after your house burned down, didn’t you?”

Dean’s discomfort became more heightened, his feet shuffling even more determinedly as a vague memory of a long-ago conversation with Dad’s friend Mike’s wife tickled at the back of his brain. “I don’t remember saying—”

“Sure you did!” Santa burst out, clapping him so hard on the back he nearly face-planted into the asphalt. “But I always did! Always found you both. Even when your dad…well. Let’s just say he always wanted to be there.”

Sam cleared his throat pointedly and Dean deliberately avoided looking at him.

“Just because you’re all grown up now doesn’t mean I can’t drop in to check you’re okay every once in a while.”

Dean’s face wrinkled. “Dude, that’s kinda creepy.”

“But sweet,” Sam added hurriedly, making a face at his brother. “And—and thoughtful of you.”

Santa snorted. “You’re a terrible liar, Sam Winchester,” he informed the younger brother. “Which is probably why you’re never on the Naughty List.” He chuckled softly to himself, before continuing. “Anyway, you boys did a good thing today. A very good thing. A nice thing. If you hadn’t helped Eric—” he looked down at the little elf, who was still beaming up at him proudly, “—I don’t know what would have happened.” He shook his head, grabbing both Winchesters and pulling them into a bear hug so fierce it pretty much knocked all the air out of Dean’s body. Putting the two of them back on their feet, Santa clapped each of them on the shoulder, chortling happily. “The Winchesters who saved Christmas,” he told them grandly. “Mr. Disney should make a movie.”

“And the elf,” Dean added, casting a quick look in Eric’s direction. “The Winchesters and the elf who saved Christmas. That’d be a better title.”

Eric blinked up at him, clearly stunned. “You—you didn’t call me a midget!” he burst out. “Or a dwarf. Or a munchkin. Or a Smurf. Or a hobbit. Or—”

“Yeah, yeah, we get it, Frodo,” Dean cut him off shortly, a tiny flicker of a smile tugging at his lips. “Point is,” he added, again shuffling his feet awkwardly, “you did pretty good today too, dude. You’re the one who saved Christmas. We just stopped you getting your ass creamed. Or syruped. Or custarded.” He squinted at Sam. “Is that even a word?”

“No,” Sam replied shortly. “You should stop talking now.”

“Well alrighty then.”

Santa chuckled again. “Eric, time to go,” he said, turning to the elf. “We have presents to deliver.”

Eric’s eyes widened to epic proportions. “We?” he burst out. “I—I’m—”

“I think you earned a ride on the sleigh tonight, my boy.” Santa turned his face up toward the snowy sky, shielding his eyes from the whiteness before looking down at himself. “I really should go and put some clothes on before Rudolph and his colleagues arrive,” he commented, considering his current outfit thoughtfully. “It could be quite embarrassing—not to mention chilly—climbing down a chimney in nothing but a bathrobe and furry slippers. People might not recognize me. I could be arrested for breaking and entering!”

Dean raised an eyebrow. “Or indecent exposure,” he suggested. “Which. Y’know. Awkward to explain to the missus.”

Santa snorted. “Wouldn’t be the first time, son,” he chuckled. “The stories I could tell you…”

“Uh, Santa?” Eric tapped a contraption on his wrist that might have been a watch in some alternate universe, and Santa nodded.

“You boys need a ride back to your car?” he asked, his outfit having transformed into his familiar red suit and hat in the time it took Dean to blink.

Dean glanced up into the sky, squinting as a dark shape slowly began to descend toward them, a red light glowing fiercely in front.

Swallowing hard, he shook his head firmly. “Uh, no, that’s okay, dude,” he assured Santa, completely failing to keep the tremor from his voice.

Sam snickered. “He’s afraid of flying,” he explained to Santa, who nodded his understanding.

“So was Rudolph to begin with,” he said. “You get used to it when you’ve got as many frequent flyer miles as I have!”

“Yeah, well, I prefer to keep my feet—or wheels—or—or hooves on the ground, thanks very much,” Dean assured Santa, taking a nervous step back as the sleigh—and its attendant reindeers—made a sudden rapid descent, hooves pounding on asphalt as Santa’s ride touched down in the alleyway, coming to a sudden but somehow unnaturally graceful stop right in front of them.

Rudolph considered them lazily, his nose glowing like one of the Impala’s tail lights, before turning his attention to his master.

Santa patted him on the nose affectionately. “Always on time, my boy! I don’t know what I’d do without you!”

Motioning Eric toward the sleigh, he helped the elf up onto the bench seat before following him into his transport, winking at Dean as he patted the upholstery. “Mr. Singer salvaged this from an old Chevy when the last seat wore out,” he told him. “Thought you might appreciate it!”

“Always good to buy American,” Dean replied, keeping a wary distance between himself and the reindeer, one of whom he was sure was trying to get into a staring contest with him.

“Don’t mind Blitzen,” Santa said. “Always looking for a fight that one.”

Dean blinked. “Dude, I’m not fighting a reindeer.”

The reindeer snorted, and Dean took a cautious step back, a little mortified when he realized he’d edged slightly behind Sam’s shoulder.

“So a seven foot Wendigo or a nest of vampires doesn’t bother you, but you’re afraid of a reindeer, Dean?” Sam snarked.

Dean scowled at him. “Not afraid,” he insisted. “Cautiously wary would be more like it.”

“Uh-huh,” Sam said. “Now I know why you never wanted to take me to the zoo when I was a kid.”

Dean shrugged. “You seen the size o’ those friggin’ antlers, man? Gimme a Wendigo any day!”

“Well thanks again, boys!” Santa interrupted their discussion politely. “I’ll make sure you get something nice for Christmas!”

“Megan Fox!” Dean returned. “Remember? And a book of poetry or somethin’ for Samantha here.”

Sam huffed. “Bye—uh—Santa,” he managed, waving as the sleigh wobbled slightly, the reindeer gearing up for take-off.

“Take care of each other!” Santa instructed.

“And remember,” Eric added, “If you’re naughty, Santa knows!”

Dean frowned. “Still creepy, but thanks for the advice, Fro—Eric,” he stammered. “We’ll be sure to remember.”

“And I’ll be sure to remind him,” Sam added with a grin.

“Like hell,” Dean muttered, taking another cautious step back before grabbing a handful of Sam’s jacket and yanking him back with him.

“Wuss,” Sam muttered.

“Santa’s little helper,” Dean returned.

“Santa’s littler helper.”

“Bite me.”

As the boys continued to bicker, the reindeer pushed off from the asphalt with a collective snort, the sleigh soaring up into the snow-laden sky with only Eric’s heartfelt cry of “And thank you!” floating back on the chill wind, leaving the Winchesters standing in the suddenly-deserted—and unnaturally pristine—alleyway without a clue what to do next.

“So,” Dean said at length, snowflakes coating his eyelashes as he continued to gaze up into the heavy white sky as the snow began to fall in earnest.

“So,” Sam returned, following his gaze.

“Santa’s real, huh?”

“We shouldn’t really be surprised,” Sam reasoned. “I mean, if demons and angels and monsters are real, why not Santa?”

“And you always believed in him?” Dean demanded incredulously.

Sam shrugged. “I always believed in you,” he said quietly. “And you always believed in him.”

Dean swallowed, his cheeks beginning to burn. “You’re such a girl,” he managed, his voice a tiny bit strangled as he shoulder-checked his brother gently.

Sam snorted. “Merry Christmas to you too, Dean.”

Dean sighed, taking a breath before shrugging as he turned to head in the direction of the Impala, Sam close on his heels. “Yeah. Merry Christmas, Sammy,” he said seriously, taking a few steps in awkward silence before adding, “But I better find my car clean enough to eat off of and Megan Fox in the back seat with pie and eggnog or Santa’s off my Christmas list.”

“You never know,” Sam added with a chuckle, “she might bring custard. For the pie.”

Dean shuddered. “If I never see custard and Jell-o again, it’ll be too soon, Sammy…”

The End

E-Mail the Author!

The Winchester Chronicles

Supernatural is ©2005 The WB Television Network. Other content is copyright the original owners. Original content is ©2005 Supernatural.tv/Virtual Season. This site is best viewed in IE (Internet Explorer) version 4.0 and up and Netscape 6.0 and up. Best resolutions 800x600 or 1024x 768.