me know if it needs some more kick,” Sam offered,
smiling nervously as he handed Dean the small plastic
cup filled with eggnog.
took a hearty sip and gasped as the whiskey overpowered
the milk and cinnamon, stealing away his breath as it
burned down his throat.
we’re good,” he rasped, returning the smile.
Well, uh… have a seat. Let’s do Christmas
stuff or whatever,” Sam nervously suggested.
at the small tree adorned in colorful lights and fragrant
auto air fresheners, Dean smiled broadly, inwardly happy
that his “Bah Humbug” brother had apparently
relented and gotten into the Christmas spirit after
first things first,” he beamed, pulling up a chair
and grabbing a large plastic bag.
exchanged gifts; Sam laughing over his porn and shaving
cream, Dean equally pleased with the “candy”
for both him and the Impala. Yet the humor was short-lived,
the dark cloud of Dean’s mortality and the stark
realization that this was likely to be the last Christmas
that the brothers would ever again share suddenly settling
over the room and threatening the mood.
they wordlessly agreed to not talk about deals or days
left on the calendar, instead sipping their eggnog and
turning on the football game. Christmas Eve eased past
with a forced comfort inspired by the spiked beverage
and a younger brother’s determination to make
his sibling’s last holiday memorable.
the snow fell outside, the eggnog freely flowed inside
the small motel room. Encouraged by the alcohol, their
spirits lifted; laughing easily as the memories returned.
is Dad s’posed to be back from Wichita?”
Ten year-old Sam asked as he pushed the chicken nuggets
across his plate.
sighed and rolled his eyes, tossing his burger down
on the table. “Does it really make a difference
what I tell you? If I say tomorrow and he doesn’t
show up, you’ll just be pissed. So I might as
well say two days from now and then if he shows up early,
then just maybe you’ll shut the hell up.”
was only asking,”
for like the millionth time.”
Sam, I get it. I can look at the calendar too. I know
what you’re gettin’ at; tomorrow’s
Christmas. But you know where Dad is and you know what
he’s doing, so you know there’s no guarantee
that he’ll be home in time. And you’re just
gonna be disappointed or angry when he doesn’t
show,” Dean pointed out.
was only asking,” the shaggy-haired boy complained
again, stabbing at a piece of food half-heartedly.
you weren’t. It’s the same thing we go through
every year,” Dean shot back.
looked down at the now cold sandwich and then back at
the sullen boy sitting across the table. He should have
seen it coming; the warning signs had been there for
days. Sam watching the door, jumping up whenever there
was a loud, rumbling engine outside the motel room or
looking quizzically whenever the phone rang. Despite
the revelations at Broken Bow, Sam still clung to the
idea that Dad would be home for Christmas.
it was his fault, Dean considered. Maybe he was to blame
for all the years he’d covered for their absent
father, making excuses and flat out stealing when necessary
to make Sam believe that Santa, or later Dad, had been
things were different now. Sam was ten. He knew the
big family secret. He knew there was no such thing as
Santa Claus and he knew that there were things out there
that didn’t take time off from slaughtering innocent
people just because it was December 25th.
that didn’t mean they couldn’t celebrate
and Dad had left him a few extra dollars – “Just
Sammy. I’m tired of looking at your sour puss.
What do you say we get some things together and have
the place ready for a nice Christmas dinner for when
Dad gets home? Would that get you in the spirit?”
younger boy looked up, his blue-green eyes brightening.
“Like what, Dean? Besides, we don’t have
waved him off. “Not to worry. Dad left a few extra
dollars just for the occasion and I put a couple bucks
mean you were hustling pool over at the bar,”
Sam smirked knowingly.
was not! And if you say anything to Dad, I’ll
tell Penny Harrison you like her,” Dean threatened.
do not!” Sam shouted, his face turning red as
he jumped to his feet.
whole school will know, Sammy. Remember that, not a
word to Dad.”
chuckled smugly as his brother silently fumed. “Come
on, Sammy. Grab you coat and we’ll walk down to
Gray’s IGA and get a few things.”
younger boy eagerly complied and within minutes the
brothers were out the door and kicking through the fresh
snow on their way to the small market.
little Wisconsin town didn’t boast much in the
way of retail shops, Wal-Mart having yet to find its
way into the Northwoods. Besides the grocery, there
was a Five and Dime, a hunting and tackle shop, and
of course, several bars. In fact, the bars easily outnumbered
the “respectable” establishments, three
figured he knew why. Way up here in the middle of nowhere,
outside of hunting or fishing or working at the paper
mill, sitting at a bar commiserating over the Packers
was about the only other form of diversion.
wish I had some other form of diversion…
he quietly mused as they passed by the beckoning neon
lights in the window of the Rustic Inn. It wasn’t
that he was looking to drink or get drunk; if he wanted
to he could easily get his hands on the beer or whiskey
left behind by their dad.
Dean was mostly tired of being stuck here. Dad had been
gone off and on for over three months on one hunt or
another. And while it was great for Sam to be able to
go to school in one place for a while, the older boy
wasn’t as enthused with the academic continuity.
Unlike Sammy, he wasn’t about “the grades”
and even “the girls” around here didn’t
really have any appeal.
wanted to hunt, plain and simple. He’d been taking
more and more of an interest in it and had even gotten
to be a fairly decent shot with the Mossberg. Yet, no
matter how much he cleaned the weapons for his dad or
how hard he studied or paid attention to the legends
and lore his father rattled off, the fourteen-year-old
never made it past babysitting patrol.
Dean! Are you listening to me?”
asked if we were gonna just stand outside?” Sam
asked, rubbing his arms against the cold.
stared at him blankly, suddenly realizing he’d
been lost in thought. He slapped his brother good-naturedly
on the back and nodded toward the door.
on, Samantha. Let’s get you inside before you
freeze to death,” Dean teased.
entered the nearly empty grocery store, the aisles virtually
deserted except for the few last minute shoppers grabbing
the forgotten loaf of bread or gallon of milk. Dean
tossed a basket at Sam as he led the way.
are we gonna get?” the younger boy asked curiously,
his eyes scanning the shelves as he hurried after his
we need a real Christmas dinner,” Dean replied.
“So I guess we’ll have to find potatoes
whirled around as he looked at the signs hanging above
don’t know do you?” Sam asked.
I do. We’ve had Christmas dinner at Pastor Jim’s
before. They had stuffing and turkey and pie and ham…
that’s it, we’ll get a ham,” he declared.
made their way to the meat case and began looking at
the various offerings. There were at least three or
four different types of hams and all ranging in sizes.
Dean looked at the tags, even the smallest ones were
six or seven dollars and he doubted they’d be
large enough to make a decent sandwich let alone a good
he’d promised Sam a real Christmas and he was
gonna make good on it.
boys need some help?”
looked up to see an older man in a bloodstained butcher’s
apron standing in front of him.
“Uh, no sir. Dad just sent us to pick up some
stuff. He sprained his ankle and it’s hard for
him to get around on the crutches,” Dean lied.
man smiled knowingly. “You boys getting Christmas
dinner then? Ham by the looks, huh?”
nodded, nervously wanting to be away from the man’s
questions but knowing he had to maintain the calm façade.
“Yes sir. Dad’s a great cook.”
might have to be with that particular piece,”
the man chuckled. “Look, son, can I make a suggestion?
Why don’t you take home one of these nice spiral-cut
hams? They’re much tastier, and most folks love
them for Christmas dinner.”
looked at the chunk of meat the man held up. His eyes
caught the white sticker and the glaring price standing
out in red numbers. “No thanks, sir, this one
will be okay. Come on. Sammy.”
grabbed his brother’s arm and pulled him away.
Hang on a second,” the butcher called out. “We’re
gonna be closed for the holidays, so these hams will
go to waste. I was going to mark them down to get rid
of them anyway. I can sell you this one for just a little
more per pound than that one and I bet your dad will
like it a lot better.”
eyed the man suspiciously, but Sam tugged on his arm.
“Come on, Dean. I bet Dad would like it.”
okay, sir. We’ll take that one,” he answered,
mentally calculating how much money would be left over.
man smiled. “Now what else is on your dad’s
shrugged. “He didn’t really write one down
for us. It’s kinda all up here,” he replied,
tapping on the side of his head.
let’s get you set up then. You’ll be wanting
some sweet potatoes, some pecan pie, oh and we can’t
forget the eggnog,” he called out, leading the
way through the small store.
a short time they were finished and back at the checkout
with the basket loaded to the brim. Dean swallowed hard;
there was no way he had enough money to afford all the
stuff the man had piled together.
out his wallet, he thumbed through the bills, his heart
pounding as he counted them out.
we don’t have enough for all this,” he whispered.
He hated the look on his brother’s face as Sam’s
bright-eyed glee suddenly diminished.
that’ll be twenty-two dollars,” the grocer
even,” the man repeated. “I hate counting
change and it’s almost closing time so I don’t
want to have to rebalance the drawer. You have twenty-two
dollars don’t ya?”
yeah… yes… yes sir,” the older boy
stuttered as he quickly counted out the money. He knew
it was charity, he knew the man was just being nice,
but it was Christmas and it sure as hell beat having
to try to steal this stuff to make his brother happy.
helped bag it all up, then he and Sam, their arms loaded
with supplies headed for the door calling Christmas
wishes to their benefactor.
snow had resumed and the temperature had dropped slightly,
but the walk back to the efficiency apartment was lighthearted.
There would be more than mac and cheese for dinner this
year and Dean could only hope that the rest of his holiday
wish would come true.
back to their place, they started putting away the groceries
when Sam came across the carton of eggnog.
do we do with this?” the ten-year-old asked.
eggnog, you drink it,” Dean replied.
watched as Sam pulled open the top of the container
and sniffed cautiously at the contents.
smells kinda funny,” the younger boy commented.
He snagged an empty glass left from dinner and poured
some, cautiously taking a sip of the thick beverage.
Gross!” Sam whined, his nose wrinkling in distaste
as he spit some back into the glass.
, well, I think you’re s’posed to add stuff
shrugged. “I dunno. I think Pastor Jim always
put rum in it.”
don’t have that. Will Dad drink it without rum?”
shrugged again. “I think you can put other stuff
in it too. Besides, Dad doesn’t like rum anyway.”
what then? Beer? Do we put beer in it for Dad? It already
smells pretty bad, I doubt the beer will make it smell
any worse,” Sam suggested.
you dumbass. Not beer. Hand it here!”
grabbed the container off his brother and scanned the
label. “Look, it says right here, you can add
cinnamon or nutmeg. Oh and you can ‘kick it up’
by adding rum or whiskey.”
does drink whiskey,” Sam affirmed.
and Jack, two of his best friends. Right up there with
Bobby and Caleb,” Dean added with a chuckle.
do we have any?”
keeps it under the sink,”
scurried toward the cabinet while Dean returned to putting
away the last of the groceries. The younger sibling
came back a moment later with a nearly full bottle of
amber colored liquid.
What are you going to do with that?” Dean asked.
it up,” Sam answered.
wanna taste it,” Sam insisted.
don’t think so,” Dean replied coolly.
come on. Just a sip. Besides, we don’t have any
of that other stuff it says to add,” Sam complained.
huffed and petulantly stuck out his tongue as Dean turned
his back and headed toward the bedrooms. When he was
sure his brother was out of range, the shaggy-haired
boy stealthily unscrewed the cap on the whiskey bottle
and added a healthy splash to the eggnog he’d
already poured in the glass. The alcohol didn’t
seem to change the color of the milky liquid and other
than the slight hint of the whisky still in the air;
Sam didn’t think Dean would be able to tell he’d
to see if his brother was coming back, once the younger
Winchester was sure he was still alone, he quickly lifted
the spiked glass and took a healthy gulp of the contents.
The taste wasn’t much different and other than
a slight sour burn down the back of his throat, Sam
didn’t think the flavor had improved with the
addition of the liquor. He grimaced and forced the rest
of the bitter concoction down.
it just needs more,” he quietly mused.
forward, Sam made sure Dean was still out of range before
he quickly poured another glassful of eggnog. More carefully
this time, he added twice as much from the bottle of
Jack Daniels until the mixture was skimming the brim
of the glass.
the boy lifted the glass and eagerly chugged the drink,
unmindful of the contents. The heavier alcohol content
struck him this time and Sam gasped, his eyes immediately
watering as the whiskey burned his throat and raged
down into his stomach.
room tilted slightly and for a second Sam thought he
was going to be violently ill. He grabbed for the edge
of a chair to steady himself, the glass in his hand
dropping to the table with a loud clatter.
Dean called out from the back part of the apartment.
the younger sibling barely squeaked out.
just dropped a glass.”
ignored the comment as he fought to regain his balance.
A strange sort of “warmth” had washed over
his body and while it didn’t necessarily feel
bad, combined with the churning in his stomach and the
suddenly spinning room, he wasn’t sure he could
move without falling over.
Sammy, I was just thinking,” Dean announced, coming
back into the main room. “We should go get a tree
too. Maybe decorate the place a little for Dad. I bet
he’d like that. What do you think?”
shrugged but didn’t speak and Dean looked at him
quizzically, curious when his normally verbose sibling
don’t get too excited. If you want to go, you
better go put some warmer clothes on. I figure we should
be able to use one of the machetes if we don’t
pick a really big one,” Dean suggested.
nodded slowly and reluctantly let go of the chair, his
fingers slipping off like a drowning man falling away
from a life preserver. Dean watched him creep along
toward the back bedrooms, curiosity nagging at the back
of his mind. His eyes scanned the room; big brother
radar and early warning system on alert. Years of training
and the repetitive “watch out for Sam” made
the little voice in the back of his head begin to nag
like a bad toothache. His brother was hiding something;
Dean just needed to figure out what.
it’s just Dad not being here… Dean
considered, absently rubbing the back of his neck. But
no, Sam seemed pretty happy with the whole idea of planning
the Christmas meal, decorating and preparing for their
dad’s return. Sure, the kid had been kinda down
in the dumps for the past few days, but Dean knew it
was all because Sam had been counting the days and watching
the door. Giving the boy something to focus on and filling
him with a little hope had obviously worked given the
broad smile on Sam’s face on the way to the store.
what the hell is up with him now?” Dean pondered.
glanced around the room once again, his gaze finally
landing on the tilted-over glass lying on the table.
Dean picked it up, examining it like some detective
looking over a crucial piece of evidence. Recognizing
it as the glass Sam had been sampling the eggnog from,
the elder sibling was about to walk it over to the kitchen
sink when the niggling voice returned.
really likes eggnog enough to drink two glassfuls…
do they?” he asked quietly.
the container, Dean sniffed the rim, his eyebrows lifting
as his keen nose picked up on a familiar odor.
Sammy decided to get into the holiday spirit a little
early, huh? No wonder little brother snuck off like
a whipped puppy. Just how much J.D. did baby bro’
put in the punch?”
down the glass, Dean lifted the bottle of whiskey and
tried to estimate how much was missing. Surely his ten-year-old
brother hadn’t been stupid enough to add that
much liquor to the eggnog? The bottle appeared to be
about three-quarters full, and considering their dad
had purchased it when they’d first arrived here,
then that most likely meant Sam couldn’t have
used much of it. Could he?
Dean was less than pleased by his brother’s little
show of rebellion. It was one thing to have a taste
of a beer, they’d both had their fair share of
that at Bobby Singer’s place, and neither was
a stranger to Jim Murphy’s version of “communion
wine,” but neither of them had ever been granted
permission to sample the strong stuff.
not as far as Dean was willing to readily admit…
that didn’t apply to here and now. Here and now,
he was responsible for his brother in the absence of
their dad. Here and now, his brother had just disobeyed
him and snuck some alcohol.
If Sammy wants to prove he’s so big for his britches…
well, let’s see how big he really is!” Dean
over to the cupboard, the older boy retrieved a large
thermos and returned to the table. Opening the carton
of eggnog, he carefully filled the container until it
was a little over half full, then with a quick glance
to be sure Sam was still nowhere to be see, Dean quickly
unscrewed the cap to the bourbon and added it to the
bottle until the mixture nearly reached the top. Replacing
the cap to the Thermos, he gently shook it back and
forth to mix the contents.
up the bottles, he nervously glanced around, wondering
if his younger brother would notice the lower level
in the bottle of whiskey.
Sammy! You get lost in there? Let’s get going
already. We’re just going to cut down a tree,
not like you have to get beautiful for Penny Harrison,”
knew it was more than likely that Sam was sitting on
his bed praying for the bedroom to stop spinning or
worse, hoping that his stomach wouldn’t suddenly
turn inside-out and come spewing out of his nose. The
white-knuckle grip on the kitchen chair suddenly made
chuckled and called out again even louder.
Shake a leg, dude. I thought you were the one that wanted
to do the whole Christmas thing for Dad?”
I’m comin’,” a weak, less than enthusiastic
reply came from beyond the hallway.
was pulling on his jacket when Sam reappeared, slowing
tugging on a pair of thick gloves. The taller boy stifled
a laugh as he watched the shaggy-haired youth struggle
to jam his fingers into each hole of the glove. It was
like watching a cat try to flick something distasteful
off its paw and after a moment Dean couldn’t contain
Sam. Do I need to get you a pair of mittens or something?
Maybe something less… complicated?” he teased.
brother turned to face him, his expression a mixture
of harsh glare and slight illness that almost made Dean
feel sorry for him. Almost…
go, slow-poke. Time’s wastin’ and it ain’t
gettin’ any warmer out there.”
nodded, finishing by yanking a red stocking cap over
his head. He began towards the front door, stopping
suddenly when Dean’s voice called out.
hold up there a sec. I filled a thermos to take with
us. You grab that and I’ll get the machete out
of the closet,” the elder Winchester instructed.
watched surreptitiously as Sam tentatively picked up
the container. The boy looked at the dented silver cylinder
as though it contained radioactive waste and he was
just given the lethal task of carrying it.
won’t bite, Sammy,” Dean smirked. “It’s
just some of that eggnog. You seemed to like it, so
I warmed it up a bit, gave it a little ‘kick’,”
he added with a sly grin.
caught his brother’s suspicious glance, but Dean
quickly snagged the machete from the top of the closet
and hurried over to usher Sam away from the now half
empty bottle of Jack Daniels sitting on the table.
a brisk northern wind gathered soft snow and whipped
it at their faces. Dean heard Sam barely stifle a groan,
his earlier enthusiasm somewhat dampened.
walked for several blocks, the temperature, although
just below freezing, was bearable. Snowflakes fell lazily
and along with a nearly crystal clear sky, Dean had
no problem leading the way to the nearby woods that
began just at the end of their street. He could hear
Sam sloshing through the snow just behind him, but he
didn’t slow his pace.
the thicker shelter of the pines, the moonlight was
further obscured by the cover of the trees, but Dean’s
eyes had already adjusted. Within the rows of white
spruce and firs, they were sheltered from the wind and
snow, a peaceful sort of quiet settling over the woods
that to most would have been welcome.
Dean was first and foremost the son of a hunter; he
knew there were dangers that lurked just beyond the
edges of one’s vision. Add to that, he had Sam
under his charge – like always – and watching
out for his brother constantly resided at the forefront
of his conscious thought.
there was another lesson to be learned tonight. One
that Dean had learned for himself not that long ago
at the hands of his father and Bobby Singer, courtesy
of the latter and a bottle of tequila Dean had been
determined he could share along with the older men.
Tequila hangovers are a bitch! he thought,
ruefully recalling how ill he’d been later that
night and well into the next day after slamming a couple
of shots with his father and the other hunter following
the successful conclusion of a black dog hunt in Nebraska.
had been a cruel lesson. Hard liquor wasn’t beer,
not by a long shot. And while his dad knew he’d
had a brew or two, drinking anything stronger would
have earned him a far greater punishment than a pounding
headache and a stomach that turned inside out.
really, he was doing Sam a favor. Surely his method
of handling his brother’s experimentation with
the “hard stuff” had to be better than letting
the old man take a pound of flesh out of his hide?
how ’bout this one?” Dean called out, point
toward a smaller Douglas fir.
drew up closer and Dean didn’t miss the boy’s
exaggerated grunts and groans.
okay… that one looks fine,” Sam mumbled
through chattering teeth.
don’t sound so excited,” the fourteen-year-old
threw back as he dropped down into the snow and began
to tear away at the bottom branches. “I’m
only out here busting my ass trying to make you
could feel Sam shuffle next to him.
right. And it’s for Dad after all. Besides, I
just don’t feel so good and I’m kinda cold,”
have a drink from the thermos, dorkbutt. That’s
what we brought it for,” Dean ordered, carefully
hiding the evil grin.
went back to hacking at the trunk, but watched from
the corner of his eye as Sam halfheartedly unscrewed
the cap from the thermos and filled the cup. Dean could
hear Sam’s hesitant slurp and in his mind, he
could picture his sibling’s nose wrinkling in
made Dean smile all the more.
Dean?” Sam began.
nothing. You want some help?” the younger Winchester
asked, quickly draining the remnants in the cup with
a bitter scowl.
rose up and eyed his brother. Even in the dim light,
he could see the glassy-eyed gaze beginning to take
effect. He looked back down at the machete in his hand
and back to Sam.
he replied, hesitantly handing the weapon over. “I’ll
hold the tree steady. You try not to hit anything valuable.
to the side while his brother chopped at the thin tree,
Dean almost thought he was watching one of the Stooges
go at it. Granted, the machete wasn’t exactly
the tool for the job, but then the fir wasn’t
exactly some massive Ponderosa Pine either. After another
ten minutes, he couldn’t stand it anymore and
he dropped down next to his brother, grabbing the weapon
from Sam in mid-swing.
it here,” he groused.
relinquished it and fell back on his rump in the snow
with a loud sigh. Following a couple of solid whacks
Dean cut through the tree. He shot a triumphant look
down at his brother, unsurprised when Sam returned a
somewhat blank stare.
Sammy, on your feet. I’m not hauling this back
on my own.”
groaned and struggled to rise, swaying like a juniper
in a stiff breeze.
there’s no wind… Dean chuckled silently.
“You gonna make it there, doofus?”
glared. “M’ fiiinee, duuufuuuss” he
slurred in reply.
You can carry the heavy end of the tree then,”
so b-b-boss-sqick-sy,” the last punctuated by
a loud hiccup.
snickered as Sam bent down to lift his end of the evergreen.
The younger boy stumbled forward and nearly face-planted
in the snow. He floundered for a moment, before managing
to get back to his feet.
trudged through the woods, hampered by the return of
heavier snowfall and even more so by Sam’s slowing
pace. By the time they cleared the woods and the first
streetlight was glowing softly in the haze of the blowing
flakes, Dean could hear his brother’s heavy breathing
from behind him.
gonna live?” he called out, a tinge of sympathy
in his voice.
Can we… just… stop a sec?” Sam replied,
his breathing raspy.
obliged him, and the tree fell to the ground in a billowing
cloud of fluffy white snow.
wrong with you?” Dean asked, closing the short
distance between them. “You getting sick or something?”
head snapped up, the panic in his eyes barely masking
the gray cast to his face.
“No!” he insisted. “Jus’ tired
need something to drink?” Dean offered slyly.
paled even further. “Uh… errr… sure.”
opened the thermos. “Here. Don’t gulp!”
watched Sam drink it more carefully this time, his internal
laughter all but bursting through.
wan’ sum’?” Sam asked after a moment,
refilling the cup and offering it to his brother.
blinked owlishly. “Uh,” Aw crap!
“Sure!” How do I get out of this?
downed it quickly, feeling the slight burn of the whiskey,
even masked by the eggnog, as it coursed down his throat.
not good! Whiskey-and on a basically empty stomach thanks
to a cheese burger that had gone half-eaten when he’d
put the evening’s plan into action. Dean could
already feel it churning through his belly, the warmth
running through his abdomen and up into his chest.
way too much Jack in that mix, you dumbass! His conscience
chastised him. Okay, jokes over now! Just get back to
the apartment and chalk this up to one really stupid
Deeeeaaan…” Sam slurred.
older boy looked back at his brother. The ten-year-old
was swaying on his feet again, but now he was grinning;
the earlier look of illness replaced by humor.
far aaarrrre weeee?”
far from what?”
do’n tink… I don’ think I kin’
make it…” Sam stated in giggling voice.
eyes widened. “Make it where, dude?”
I reeeeeellllly… gotta goooooo…”
looked around. They were still blocks from the apartment
and while there were several houses nearby, he could
just imagine how fast Children’s Services would
be knocking on the door if he showed up with a drunk
brother asking to use a bathroom. No ma’am,
my ten-year-old brother is not drunk, I swear. Our dad?
Oh, he’s out of town hunting. Hunting what you
ask? Any chance you believe in revenants? How about
that’s not gonna work,” Dean muttered aloud.
“Okay, Sammy, time for you to go au-natural.”
boy looked at him in confusion.
a tree and whip it out, Sammy. And be quick about it,
you don’t want frostbite there!”
Sam looked at him with wide eyes. “No way!”
the boy exclaimed.
quick out in these temperatures, dude. You hear about
it all the time. Hate to see you have to have that amputated
just ’cause you couldn’t hold it,”
looked about himself uncertainly. “Really?”
there or in your pants. That or you better bust ass
back to the place.”
wavered. “Hate you…” he hissed.
as much as you will in the morning,” Dean retorted.
stooped to pick up the tree, figuring the lesson was
over and the least he could do was get them both back
to the apartment as soon as possible. He started walking,
his boots sloughing through the deepening snow and making
slow progress, knowing it would give Sam a chance to
block, then another and the snow was really driving
now. Dean sensed more than saw, Sam several feet behind
stupid idea was this anyway?” he grumbled, shifting
the tree from one hand to the other while precariously
balancing the machete under his left arm.
more blocks passed and they were nearly in view of the
middle school where Sam had been attending. The proximity
to the apartment was one of the reasons their dad had
picked the place. Being able to walk to school meant
he didn’t need to be around to drive them.
Sam’s sing-song voice shot up above the wind.
Dean shouted back, still moving forward.
daaaaarrrre ya’,” the boy called out.
Dean snapped again, stopping now. He spun around to
face his brother and caught Sam staring off up into
the sky. He followed the younger boy’s gaze but
still couldn’t tell what his brother was looking
dubba’ dog daaaarre ya’,” Sam repeated.
then he saw it.
holy crap! No way… not even to humor my drunk
go, Sammy,” Dean ordered.
not doing it, Sam. And stop cussing.”
giggled again and pointed up at the tall flag pole.
“I triple daaare dug … dug daarree…
ummm… daaawwg daaarre ya’,” he finally
Dean replied firmly.
stared, speechless, as he watched Sam stagger forward
toward the metal pole. He’d seen A Christmas
Story too. Hell, after so many years of being stuck
in one random motel room after another on Christmas
Eve, he couldn’t remember how many A Christmas
Story marathons he’d sat through. While he
wasn’t totally sure about the whole tongue on
the frozen pole thing as it happened in the movie, he
certainly wasn’t about to take a chance.
Will you please come back here!” he shouted.
daaare, Deeean. Yooooou know the rullzzzzz.”
Dean did. Triple dares meant that if he didn’t
follow through and Sam completed the dare, his brother
“owned” him for chores until the next dare
challenge was issued between them. It was a petty, childish
thing, but when you grew up with little else to occupy
your time and with a father that drilled competition
into your head, somehow it just came naturally.
he yelled, throwing the fir tree and the machete to
the ground in a huff.
stomped up to stand next to Sam, shaking his head when
he saw his brother standing there with his tongue sticking
out mere inches from the metal.
that thing back in your mouth. You look stupid!”
n’ snowflakes…” Sam chuckled.
the hell are you talking about?” Dean asked.
laughed again. “I meant catchin’ the snowflakes…
You gonna doit?”
looked at the flagpole, the metal glistening with ice,
fresh snow clinging to the opposite side.
yeah… just shut the hell up,” he growled.
believe I’m gonna do this… just be quick…
don’t let your tongue be too wet and it won’t
stick… it’s just a movie, it won’t
stick… Dad’s gonna be so pissed… stupid
Dean… so stupid… gonna get you back for
this, Sammy… triple dog dare, my ass…
the tip of his tongue touched the ice-cold metal.
first it was like taking a lick of ice cream that had
been in the freezer too long; a painful burn searing
into the fragile tissue on his tongue and lower lip.
Then in the next second, Dean couldn’t feel anything,
his tongue instantly numb from exposure to the sub-zero
closed his eyes as memories of A Christmas Story
replayed in his head.
’thuck!!! Flick had cried in the movie, his
tongue firmly affixed to the pole while all the other
children ran away laughing.
was a similar laughter that Dean reopened his eyes to
now; Sam’s laughter. The boy was hysterical, literally
sitting in the snow rolling about in a fit of hilarity.
panicked. He didn’t know if his tongue was stuck
or not, but there was no way he was going to remain
here, left behind to be rescued by the fire department
while people looked on in sympathy and Sam laughed.
Closing his eyes again, he did another mental three-count
and jerked his head backwards.
was painful, but not as bad as he’d envisioned.
When he looked back at the metal, Dean was relieved
to see there wasn’t some huge portion of his flesh
still stuck to the pole. Peeling off a glove, he swiped
the back of his hand across his mouth, letting loose
a breath when it came away free of blood.
b’leve you did it…” Sam managed between
fits of laughter.
was furious. Forget that his baby brother was well beyond
any semblance of sobriety. Forget that he was supposed
to be “in charge” and “watching out”
for Sam. At this point, he didn’t even care that
the snow was now wildly whipping around both of them
or that his slightly inebriated sibling was teetering
precariously close to the edge of a long bank of snow-covered
Dean only had one thing in mind.
charged into Sam, lowering his shoulder and catching
the younger boy solidly in the gut. Under normal circumstances,
Dean’s heavier weight and body size would have
driven the smaller youth into the ground with a bone-jarring
impact. But the snow, underlying ice and slight grade
of the staircase served to create a makeshift toboggan
run and in an instant, they were off in a tangle of
flailing limbs and squeals.
ride didn’t last long and they crashed into several
snow-laden bushes, frozen slush bombarding them and
burrowing in beneath clothing to bite at exposed skin.
Dean rolled over and scrambled to his feet, frantically
digging to clear the icy mix out away from his flesh.
took him a moment to realize that Sam wasn’t at
his side mimicking his behavior, and then he saw why.
His brother was face down in one of the white mounds.
the elder sibling called out in a panic, immediately
grabbing for his brother’s shoulders.
blinked up at him, his eyes even more unfocused than
before, all humor gone.
he asked dazedly.
okay?” Dean asked as he quickly checked the younger
boy over for any obvious injury.
shook his head slowly.
shook his head again.
on, dude. You gotta help me out. Is it your head? Back?
Leg? WHAT?” Dean shouted.
Sam remained ominously quiet and the older boy’s
worry increased ten-fold.
injury… concussion… must be! Dad’s
gonna kill me!
hang in there, Sammy! I’ll take care of you,”
Dean reassured him as he gently placed an arm behind
his brother’s back.
D’n… g’na…” Sam garbled
as Dean helped lift him to something resembling a more-or-less
wasn’t warning enough before the youngest Winchester
spewed half-digested chicken nuggets and far too much
eggnog down much of the front of his older brother.
Dean tried to step out of the way of the human Mount
St. Helens, but it was no use. By positioning himself
to help what he thought was a concussed Sam, Dean had
put himself directly in the line of fire.
of a bitch!” he exclaimed, relinquishing his hold
and stepping backward as he fought to hold down his
own stomach contents amid the steaming mess that covered
the front of his jacket and jeans.
Sam offered weakly, looking up with large, dark eyes
that reminded Dean of some forlorn puppy that had just
messed on the floor.
he repeated. “Oops? You blow chunks all over me
and you say oops?”
feel better though. I’m kinda thirsty. Is there
more of that eggnog left?” Sam asked, swaying
Dean exclaimed. “We’re going home, Sammy.
Now! You stay right here, I’ll get the tree.”
took him a moment to find the discarded fir, half buried
under the fresh-fallen snow, and return to his brother.
By the time he did, Sam was giggling again, although
at what, Dean had no clue. He merely grabbed the boy’s
sleeve with his free hand and tugged him in the general
direction of their place.
blocks… just four blocks… he mentally
make a snow fort, Dean,” Sam suggested.
the older boy growled, head down as he trudged onward.
blocks… three more blocks…
‘bout a snowman? Just a snowman, Dean.”
blocks… my arms are killing me… but just
two more blocks of dragging this stupid-ass tree and
my drunk-ass brother…
hang on… ‘kay… I need a sec’…”
Sam called out breathlessly.
sighed and stopped. He looked Sam over noticing that
his brother still appeared a little pale and without
his hand holding onto him, was still listing like a
slowly sinking ship. Between the alcohol and the vomiting,
no doubt Sam was wearing out fast.
elder Winchester sighed again and glanced down the sidewalk.
Despite the snow, he could nearly make out the porch
light outside their place. It wasn’t that far
now. Maybe if he went ahead with the tree, he could
then come back and help Sam.
that seemed like a plan…
hold tight and rest here. I’ll take the tree and
come back to help you.”
barely nodded but seemed alright enough. Dean figured
he could easily keep an eye on him between here and
the now scruffy-looking Christmas tree, Dean started
toward his destination. He hadn’t gone far when
a soft chuckle from behind him sent a chill down his
he knew he’d been “had” even before
the snowball slammed into the back of his neck, the
cold, wetness slowly dribbling beneath his collar and
down his spine.
barely turned around when the second well-aimed missile
connected with his face, filling his mouth and nose
with icy slush and leaving him blinking against the
sudden flashes of blackness that were filling his vision.
‘bout a snowball, Dean? We got time for that?”
Sam taunted with wild laughter as he launched another
would have been impressed with his brother’s aim,
considering the amount of alcohol Sam had imbibed, were
it not for the torrent of blood rushing from his nose.
Now in addition to the vomit, his clothing was splattered
in red. Beneath him, even the pristine snow gave way
to the crimson stain as he fought to staunch the flow.
fight!” Sam decreed, as he lobbed yet another
sphere, whirling around completely as the force of his
throw put him off balance. He ended up slipping on the
icy sidewalk and fell down, floundering on his back
like some overturned turtle.
managed to avoid the shot, but slid in the snow and
landed hard on his rear.
was it! The game was over… the lesson was over…
and sure as hell… the snowball fight was definitely
he shouted in the best commanding tone of voice he could
brother froze in place, Sam’s previous wallowing
ceasing. He looked up at his brother, some semblance
of sobriety returning to his eyes.
up! Home! Now!” Dean ordered.
kid struggled to his feet and made his way slowly toward
the older boy. He glanced up only once, his eyes widening
when he spotted the steady stream of blood trailing
down Dean’s face.
’kay?” he asked.
up!” Dean grumbled.
took a couple more steps, his head down as he sloughed
forward. Dean pulled up behind him, dragging the tree
through the snow, uncaring now how much it was being
reached the front door of the apartment, Sam propped
up against the railing as Dean dug in his pocket for
the key. Just as he was putting the key in the lock,
Sam loosed another chuckle and Dean groaned.
what?” he groused.
cones…” the ten-year-old mused obliquely.
the hell, Sam?”
could make snow cones…” Sam repeated, pointing
down to two small piles of colored snow; one red, the
blood collecting from Dean’s still bleeding nose,
the other, the leftovers of Mr. Buford’s big husky.
had to laugh too. “I don’t think you want
to eat those, Sammy,” he warned.”
go eatin’ yellow husky snow…” Sam
sang back and giggled again. “You watch out for
me… doncha, Dean?”
smiled. He felt like an ass and he knew that Sam might
not think the same thing in the morning, but deep down,
it really was true. Putting an arm around his brother’s
shoulder, he gently guided him inside.
tall figured entered the quiet apartment in the darkness
of the middle of the night. With the stealth he had
learned in Vietnam and perfected during a decade of
hunting, he closed the front door and gently lowered
his gear bag to the floor. He hoped he didn’t
wake his two sons, desperate to surprise them in the
morning – Christmas morning – with the meager
presents he’d brought and more importantly, just
by having made it back “in time.”
the small living room, John Winchester spotted first
the small evergreen tree lying on the floor behind the
couch. He could smell the pine-like scent and knew the
tree was fresh cut. Stooping down to peer at the trunk,
he found the machete sitting next to the scruffy-looking
smiled. Obviously the boys had gone out to cut down
a Christmas tree.
why did they leave it like this? And why was the machete
left like this? Dean knows better than to leave a weapon
in this condition!
soft groan came from nearby and the elder hunter spun
around, his well-honed senses alerting him to the crisis
even in the near-blackness of the darkened room. He
hurried around to the couch, finding Sam wrapped snugly
in a blanket and snoring softly. He knelt down, gently
feathering a hand through his youngest son’s tousled
hair, resting momentarily on the boy’s forehead
to assure himself that Sam wasn’t ill.
stirred slightly and let out a soft sigh, his breath
flittering up to reach the older man’s nostrils.
John’s face wrinkled at the smell of vomit.
Sam was sick then? But where was Dean?
groan repeated and John found his answer as his eyes
landed on the elder boy lying tucked up in the small
side chair, his legs dangling over the arms at a preposterously
uncomfortable angle. John drew closer and whispered
his eldest’s name.
roused slightly, his eyes flicking open but awareness
You okay, son?” John asked again.
the boy didn’t reply, the hunter flipped on the
lamp beside the chair, gasping slightly when he took
in the stark bruising on his son’s face. The right
side of Dean’s jaw was already turning a festive
shade of purple, his nose a red to rival Rudolph’s,
and a dried rivulet of blood still marked the presence
of a previous nosebleed.
Wake up, dude. I need to know what happened to you boys,”
obedient, even exhausted and dazed, Dean responded.
Cracking open his left eye, he spotted his father, his
heart immediately going into overdrive as his brain
scrambled to formulate an explanation for the night’s
you okay? Can you tell me what happened to you and Sammy?
stared blankly, his mind still racing. “Uh…
must’ve gone out to get a Christmas tree. I found
it over there on the floor. What happened? Did Sam get
sick? Did you get hurt? I can tell Sammy was sick…
can smell it on him… you too for that matter,”
sick? Sure… something like that…
sir,” Dean answered obediently.
about you? What happened? Is that nose broken?”
sir. I’m okay… jus’ accident. ‘Was
watching over Sammy… must’ve fallen asleep
b’fore I got the chance to clean up,” he
smiled and patted him gently on the shoulder.
alright then. I’ve got Sam now. Just get some
nodded and slumped back down against the ratty chair.
John watched as he shifted uneasily, grimacing as his
body betrayed other unseen hurts.
There was more to the story than a Christmas tree hunt
gone wrong, of that John was sure. But whatever it was,
it looked as though his boys were okay and perhaps had
even learned a lesson.
Dad,” Dean called out, his eyes still closed,
his arms wrapped tightly around his chest.
nodded. “Yeah, Dean. It’s Christmas. I made
sighed, his breath easing out long and relaxed. “Sammy
will be happy.”
didn’t reply. He merely dropped down to the floor
between the couch and the chair, between Sam and Dean.
to tell you…”
Christmas, Dean! Now get some rest.”
smiled. Yeah… he’d eventually get the
full story. But it didn’t matter… at
least not tonight. As he watched his sons’ peaceful
slumber, he realized the “full story” didn’t
really matter at all.