The Yule Log Burns
The pristine white sign proudly declared the gated community
to be “Meadow Valley.” Dean had found it
hard to keep a straight face as he persuaded the hugely
inept security guard at the entrance that the Winchesters
were simply visiting family. Hadn’t the guy heard
of Bill and Margaret? They moved here a couple of weeks
ago. After that, it had been a piece of cake to find
a vacant house, and even easier to jimmy the lock open
and move in.
last couple of weeks had been hard on both Sam and Dean
and after much soul searching and casting sideways looks
at his brother, Dean had decided maybe a vacation wouldn’t
be so bad. But it was Christmas time, the first one
since Sam had lost Jessica, and Dean didn’t want
them to be cooped up in some crappy hotel with no pay
per view and nothing to do but reminisce.
late hour of their arrival meant the brothers were able
to get into the empty house unnoticed and unhindered.
Opening the door and efficiently disabling the alarm
system, Dean flicked the lights on in the hallway to
reveal an expensively furnished abode. The uplighters
fixed to the walls cast a soft glow over oak flooring
and designer cabinets. A sweeping staircase led up to
a galleried top floor and a huge mirror at the foot
of the stairs magnified the perceived size of the entrance
look at the size of this place,” Dean marveled
as he threw his duffel on the floor by the mirror. Spinning
around, trying to take it all in, he failed to notice
the look that passed briefly over his brother’s
face. “It’s like a palace,” he enthused.
Sam agreed, somberly. Catching his tone of voice, Dean
turned and studied his brother closely.
he asked. “You okay?”
shook himself down mentally and plastered a broad grin
on his face. “Yeah, I’m good,” he
assured Dean. “It’s just this place is so
not what we’re used to, y’know? We’re
gonna need one hell of a cover story for the neighbors.”
Dean made his way into the huge kitchen. “I think
I just solved that problem,” he called to Sam,
flicking through a diary that had been left conveniently
on a dresser. Waving the little book at Sam, he smiled.
“Joseph Crosswell, date of birth June 14th, 1976.
Perfect cousin material.” He paused and skimmed
through the diary until he came to the present date.
“Even better, he’s on vacation for three
weeks.” Dean threw the book down on the worktop
and grinned at Sam. “We’re house-sitting
for our dear cousin Joe.”
had to admit it was the best night’s sleep he’d
had in over a month. Maybe Dean was right about this
house-sitting business, although he still couldn’t
help thinking of it as squatting. Turning onto his back
and trying not to get tangled up in the soft quilt,
he gazed up at the ceiling. One day he’d wanted
this sort of house, with Jessica and a brood of kids
running around the place. He wondered what Cousin Joe
did for a living and whether there was a Jessica in
his life. He knew it was stupid to be thinking along
those lines but he couldn’t stop himself.
he pushed himself out of bed, letting the deep pile
of the carpet work between his toes. It was nice not
to have to worry about what was embedded in the flooring
for a change. They’d stayed in so many places
where it was advisable to keep your socks on that it
was almost second nature not to take them off. Jess
had always laughed at him but he’d passed it off
as just one of his little quirks that made him all the
a lump rise to his throat at the memory, he forced himself
to rise and prepare for the day ahead.
his surprise, Dean was already in the kitchen, a pot
of coffee on the go and the smell of burnt toast wafting
through the living area. Stifling a laugh, Sam remembered
why they generally ate out.
sunshine,” Dean greeted him, butter-covered knife
raised his eyebrows and looked pointedly at the breakfast
Dean was trying to prepare. “Since when did you
Dean looked down at the offering in front of him. He’d
made more spectacular meals in his time, he had to admit,
but he was out of practice and it was an unfamiliar
he huffed, “I was going to surprise you but, hey,
make your own if you’d rather.”
no. It’s great. Thank you.” Sam smiled.
It was so simple to wind Dean up over the little things
and sometimes it was just what Sam needed. Like this
morning. “So, how long have you been up?”
enough to meet the neighbors,” Dean replied. “The
Humphreys are delighted that Joe thought to protect
his property over the festive season.” He smirked
at Sam. “They even invited us for Christmas dinner.”
shouldn’t really have been surprised by that.
His brother could charm the socks off anybody when the
urge took him but an invite for Christmas Day? That
really wasn’t Dean’s style.
did you say?”
shrugged nonchalantly. “I declined with thanks,”
he told Sam. “I told them we were visiting family.”
He turned away from Sam, grabbing a china mug from a
cupboard and filling it with steaming brew. “So,”
he started, cradling the mug in his hands and gazing
out of the window into the back garden, “what
do you want to do today?”
away the remains of his toast, Sam followed Dean’s
gaze. It was a bright, crisp day and in the spirit of
taking things easy for a while Sam actually had no plans.
He shook his head slowly.
don’t know,” he admitted. “Maybe take
a walk round, see what’s here. How about you?”
TV, man. Need I say more? This guy has every channel
under the sun and then some. I have my whole day mapped
out.” And so saying, Dean pushed off the worktop
he’d been leaning against and made his way through
to the living room, leaving Sam to his own devices.
the end, Sam had a surprisingly productive day. True
to his word, he donned a thick winter jacket from Joseph’s
wardrobe, thanking his lucky stars their host appeared
to be a tall man, and strolled around the neighborhood.
as he was returning home, he spied a neighbor struggling
to unload a truck full of logs. With nothing better
to do he offered to help, an offer which was gratefully
accepted with a smile.
Martin Humphreys,” he introduced himself. “You
must be Sam? We met your brother this morning. Joseph
never mentioned having cousins but we’re glad
smiled. Dean was obviously relaxed enough to forgo the
normal outrageous aliases and that made Sam more relaxed
than he realized too. “Joe’s not really
one to talk about family much,” he explained,
hoping there was some truth in his statement.
laughed as he passed down another armful of logs. “No,
he doesn’t. Quiet man. Nice neighbor to have,
though.” He straightened up, working out the kinks
in his back. “I think that’s the last lot.”
He jumped down to stand beside Sam. “Now all I
need to do is get them round the back, into the wood
help.” It had been a long time since Sam had indulged
in an everyday, mundane activity and he was enjoying
himself and the company of the older man who exuded
happiness and contentment. Nodding his thanks, Martin
indicated the way round to the back of his house and
led the way.
whole task took less than half an hour with the two
of them working at it. Mrs. Humphreys appeared as they
were stacking the last heap, armed with steaming mugs
of coffee. She smiled at Sam, giving him a surreptitious
inspection which didn’t go unnoticed by the young
you,” she said, passing over a mug. “Martin
takes so long doing this by himself. It’s a wonder
we’re ever warm in the winter.”
not that slow, honey,” Martin laughed, putting
an arm around his wife. “Ali’s prone to
exaggeration,” he confided in a stage whisper.
Turning back to the woman, he introduced Sam as the
brother of the young man they met this morning. Sam
almost laughed as a slight flush rose in the woman’s
face and he wondered what exactly Dean had said to garner
an invitation for Christmas Day.
should come over. On Christmas Eve,” she began.
“I know your brother said you were busy on Christmas
Day but we always have a neighborhood gathering on Christmas
Eve. It would be so lovely if you could make it?”
floundered. He knew Dean wouldn’t want to go but,
well he’d only had a couple of Christmases with
Jessica but he’d really enjoyed them. And this
was a vacation. Looking at Ali’s imploring eyes,
he really didn’t feel he could turn down the invitation.
And it wasn’t like it was just them being invited.
The whole street would be there.
you,” he finally acquiesced. “That would
be really nice.”
straight back home, he was unsurprised to find he was
right. Dean wasn’t happy at the prospect of spending
Christmas Eve in the company of complete strangers,
happy families making merry. He huffed and sulked for
as long as he could until Sam mentioned which family
was hosting the festivities.
Humphreys? They’re the ones at number four, right?”
Martin and Ali,” Sam confirmed. “I really
think we should go Dean. After all, what else are we
going to do? Joe’s only go so much beer in his
nodded thoughtfully. “Okay,” he conceded,
astonishing Sam. He’d expected a much bigger protest
from his brother.
he asked, suspiciously.
okay. It’s been a while since we’ve had
a good, home cooked meal. So, yeah. Let’s go.”
narrowed his eyes and glared at Dean.
the older Winchester asked, defensively. Sam just tilted
his head to one side, waiting for Dean to crack. “Okay,
so there might be a daughter there,” Dean finally
confessed. “It might not be too horrible,”
and he turned away with a smirk on his face, leaving
Sam to shake his head in exasperation at his brother’s
Eve came round quicker than Sam had expected, and early
evening found the Winchester brothers standing on the
doorstep of Number Four, Meadow Valley bearing gifts
of fine wine lifted from Joseph Crosswell’s cellar.
There had been a heated discussion over the wine, during
which Sam had told Dean that no self respecting guest
turns up empty handed to these parties.
his feet against the cold, Dean rang the doorbell, blowing
into his hands to warm them up while they waited for
a response. Within a minute the door was thrown open
by Martin Humphreys, wine in hand and a jolly expression
on his face.
he exclaimed, as though they were long lost friends.
“We’re so glad you made it. Ali was beginning
to think we’d scared you off.” He stood
to one side and ushered Sam and Dean through, taking
their jackets and hanging them almost reverentially
on the coat stand by the door.
house was filled with the sound of laughter and animated
conversation. Dean had to try really hard not to turn
his nose up as his senses were attacked by the aroma
of spiced apple, cinnamon and pine needles. He was already
starting to feel uncomfortable but one look at Sam’s
face and he vowed to make a real effort for his brother’s
looked truly at home, he reflected. Dean could see the
stress and worries seeping off his brother and he was
sure Sam was more relaxed than he’d seen him in
months. He wondered if he should have enforced a vacation
before now, even though he didn’t know when they
could have fitted one in.
Sam and Martin through to the living area, Dean was
confronted by a trio of children, charging out of the
same door he was trying to come in through. Sidestepping
neatly, he followed their route up the stairs, listening
wistfully to them shouting and laughing at each other.
by the fireplace, Dean watched benevolently as Sam was
swept into conversation and plied with rumcake and eggnog.
Finding himself a glass and a good vantage point, Dean
settled back to keep guard, although he had no idea
what for. He wished he could relax as much as Sammy
seemed to have done but in the back of his mind he couldn’t
let himself stand down. He’d had it ingrained
in him from such a young age that he just couldn’t
a hush fell over the room and the guests cleared a path
from the door to the fire. Looking around hesitantly,
Dean’s eyes met with Sam’s. Sam was clearly
as clueless as Dean as to the cause of the sudden change
in the room. Every face in the room was looking expectantly
toward the door as, with great ceremony, Martin appeared,
arms wrapped round a huge log, hugging it protectively
to his body.
and carefully he progressed into the room and along
the pathway formed by his guests. With infinite care
he bent down and gently laid the log in the fireplace
as the neighbors broke out into spontaneous applause.
the hell was that?” Dean wondered aloud. Martin
straightened up and smiled at Dean.
Yule Log,” he stated simply, clearly expecting
Dean to understand everything. Casting another look
across the room, Dean noticed Sam was watching the interplay
with the hint of a smile playing at his lips.
Yule Log?” he repeated, raising his eyebrows in
a Christmas tradition,” Martin explained, taking
pity on the confused hunter standing next to him. “You
take a log from a neighbor’s garden and light
it on Christmas Eve. It has to stay alight for twelve
hours and it’ll protect us from fire and lightning
for the next year.” Martin brushed his hands down
the front of his pants and looked around the room. “Have
you never seen a Yule Log before?” he asked.
shook his head, aware that Sam had made his excuses
to his companions and had moved over to join the conversation.
“No,” Dean said. He waved a hand in Sam’s
general direction. “We had a fairly unsettled
childhood. Wasn’t much time for stuff like this,”
Martin’s voice rose a decibel or two as he came
to a decision. “You must do the honors this year
then. You never know when you’ll get the opportunity
again.” He dropped to a crouch and poked around
in the hearth, arranging tinder below the Yule Log and
fussing with ashes left from the previous fire. “Let
me see your hands,” he demanded, attention still
on the wood in the fireplace.
hands?” If Dean’s voice had risen any higher,
Sam contemplated, he could justifiably be mistaken for
a girl. The look on his brother’s face was worth
a picture and he wished he could get his phone out before
it disappeared. Dean looked at Sam, completely bewildered,
mouthing “my hands?” to Sam in the hope
to take pity on his confused brother, Sam leant forward.
“It’s disrespectful to light the Yule Log
with dirty hands,” he explained, “and we
don’t want to offend our hosts.”
a quick glare at Sam, Dean put down his now empty glass
and raised his hands in front of him. Painfully aware
that both Sam and Martin were watching him, he scrutinized
the palms of his hands, twisting them this way and that
before turning them over to examine the backs. He looked
like a first grader getting ready for lunch and Sam
had to raise a hand to his mouth to hide the smirk lying
fine,” Dean declared, dropping his hands back
to his side. “Gimme the matches.”
shook his head and took hold of both Dean’s wrists,
raising his arms so he could take a look for himself.
Feeling like a bug under a microscope, Dean tried not
to offend their host by squirming too much, but the
series of little tuts Martin was muttering, along with
the miniscule shaking of his head was making the hunter
he said. “Bathroom’s second on the left,”
and he let go of Dean, waving an arm in the direction
of the staircase. Standing back, Martin watched Dean
Martin wasn’t going to be moved on the issue,
Dean shuffled forward, pushing past Sam. “No one’s
told me to wash my hands since I was four,” he
grumbled under his breath to his brother. Sam simply
sniggered in reply, enjoying every minute of the show.
first thing Dean noticed upon his return to the living
room was the total silence. The guests had all gathered
round the fireplace and, as one, they turned to look
at him as he paused at the doorway. He fought an uncontrollable
urge to turn and run. He took a deep breath and made
his way to the hearth, where Martin was waiting with
a charred lump of wood in his hand.
that?” Dean queried, wondering why the hell he’d
just had to clean up if Martin was going to hand him
a piece of charcoal.
last year’s Yule Log,” Martin explained
patiently. “Or at least, what’s left of
it. You have to use it to light this year’s Log.”
He passed the wood to Dean, along with a box of matches.
shrugged and accepted the items, casting a quick glance
at Sam. Sam was hovering to one side, clearly content
and enjoying the spectacle. Putting his own feelings
about traditions and Christmas merriment to one side
in favor of his brother’s relaxation, Dean efficiently
struck the first match and put it to the corner of last
year’s log. Waiting for it to catch, he looked
up and around the room.
the guests were fixated on the struggling flame in his
hand, and it was with some amusement Dean recognized
they were gazing at him in awe. The lump finally flared
into life and he leant forward, intent on dropping it
in the hearth and getting back to his drink.
as he was about to let go, he felt a presence at his
shoulder and a hand on his elbow.
sure you do it first time,” Mrs. Humphreys implored
him. “Please. You need to have enough airflow
for the flames to live, otherwise the log won’t
catch. Do it right. If you do it wrong you’ll
bring bad luck down on all of us.” She gave his
arm a squeeze. “Please.”
the woman what he hoped was a reassuring smile, Dean
gently extracted his arm from her grip. Musing on the
fact he had probably lit more fires than anyone in the
room, including his brother, he dropped down to a crouch
and competently placed the burning lump under the Yule
Log, letting the flames lick at the kindling wood and
the log, holding it in place just long enough for the
flames to catch and take hold. Letting go, he straightened
up and surveyed his handiwork.
beside him, Ali gave a satisfied little nod. “Thank
you,” she murmured and made her way back to the
kitchen through the crowd of guests who were now moving
away, back into little groups to continue their festivities.
was bizarre,” Dean observed in a low voice to
Sam agreed with a smirk. “You being told how to
light a fire. Now there’s something I never thought
I’d see.” He paused for a moment. “So,”
he continued, “how did it feel?”
did what feel?”
an integral part of a family Christmas?” and,
despite the glower on his brother’s face, Sam
couldn’t hold back the grin.
up,” Dean shot back and downed his drink in one.
Slamming the glass on the mantelpiece, he looked around
the room. Pointing at one of the neighbors, he told
Sam, “I’m going to find out where he got
that beer from!”
Humphreys, it transpired, was an excellent cook. Seated
at the long oak dining table, Sam’s well trained
eye took in the expensive crockery, the highly polished
silverware and the vintage wine. Wine which was poured
in abundance and seemed to serve no other purpose than
to relax the guests.
across the table, Sam was amused to see his brother
flanked on either side by the desperate housewives of
Meadow Valley. Dean was in full flow, charm switched
on, boyish grin firmly in place. Sam wondered idly if
their husbands were as enamored with Dean as the women
hanging off his every word appeared to be.
that his brother was, if not happy, at least not twitching
to get out of the place yet, Sam relaxed, content to
be drawn into conversation by the redheaded girl seated
next to him, who introduced herself as Nicky.
so often, though, he noticed Mrs. Humphreys rise from
her position at the table and wander over to the door
linking the dining room with the living room. Eventually,
his natural curiosity got the better of him and he leaned
over to his neighbor.
she looking for?” he asked the redhead.
the girl turned to follow Sam’s gaze and laughed
when she saw what had captured his attention. “She’s
checking the fire,” she explained.
it for what?” Sam raised his eyebrows, inviting
her to continue with her explanation.
tradition.” She nodded sagely. “Mom’s
a stickler for tradition. You could almost say she’s
a bit neurotic about the Yule Log. If it goes out during
the meal it means bad luck for the next year.”
She sighed and cast a long suffering glance at her mother.
doesn’t she just give it a poke, then?”
It seemed the obvious solution to Sam but Nicky clearly
had more to say on the matter.
she started, “it’s forbidden. More bad luck
apparently.” She sat back. “Still, it keeps
her happy. Personally I don’t go in for all these
superstitions and stuff. How about you?”
laughed, wondering if Nicky would dismiss her mother’s
beliefs quite so readily if she ever found out what
the brothers did for a living. Deciding, as ever, she
was best off in the dark, he simply directed the conversation
to pastures new and innocent while her mother cleared
dishes around them.
he knew it, dinner was over and the gathered neighbors
were moving into the living room once again. Senses
pleasantly muted by a full stomach and a couple of glasses
of wine more than usual, Sam readily let Nicky take
his arm and lead him toward the fireplace. Debating
whether to fight her off or not was unnecessary when
he realized everyone had taken the same course and the
area around the fire was crowded with people. Allowing
Nicky to settle him on the sofa, perching next to him
on the arm, he watched in amusement as Ali made a beeline
to the once roaring fire, now a smoldering mound with
a few red embers floating up the chimney.
should have done it yourself,” she hissed at her
husband as she grabbed the poker and gave the fire a
violent jab, sighing in relief as the flames reignited
and leapt skyward. “What were you thinking of?
Leaving it to an amateur?”
Sam cast a glance at his brother, propped up by the
back wall looking unimpressed by the whole proceedings.
He filed the comment away at the back of his mind for
an appropriate moment and settled back for what looked
like the culmination of the evening’s festivities.
He felt Nicky lean against him and found, to his surprise,
he didn’t totally object to her disregard for
is the best part,” she whispered in his ear. “Dad
always wraps up the evening with a ghost story. I’m
telling you, he can scare the pants off anybody in this
Sam tried to sound suitably enthralled and caught Dean’s
eye over her head.
was keeping a careful watch over events. He didn’t
have the benefit of a pretty girl whispering in his
ear but he could hear enough other mutterings to know
what was going on. He tried to hide a snort of derision
when the woman in front of him clung theatrically to
her husband’s hand. In his mind, there was nothing
as scary as some of the things he and Sam had lived
through, so a couple of fairy tales weren’t going
to upset his beauty sleep.
his head, he watched as Ali moved around the room, flicking
switches and plunging the room into darkness, save for
the glow of firelight. Noting Martin move to face his
audience, glass in hand, Dean let the voices fade into
a general hubbub. Studying the tableau, he couldn’t
help wonder if this was the future Sam had been so set
on, wondered if this is how Christmas would have been
for his little brother and Jessica if things had turned
out differently. He could imagine Sam and Jessica with
a troop of rugrats running round and wished, for the
thousandth time, his brother could have had the life
he’d longed for.
back to the present by a collective gasp from the audience,
Dean looked away from Sam, aware he’d been unintentionally
staring. Nobody seemed to have noticed, though, and
he let his gaze wander, admiring the soft shadows made
by the firelight.
Sam,” he whispered suddenly, “why’s
your shadow got no head?”
was an innocent question and it was directed at the
younger Winchester, but unfortunately Dean’s timing
sucked. He managed to break the frightened silence with
his question and, as one, everybody turned to stare
at Sam’s shadow.
my God. No, no, no,” Ali burst out, dropping her
glass, letting it shatter on the wooden flooring. Surprised
by her exclamation, Dean turned toward her. She had
both hands over her mouth and even in the dim light,
Dean could see her eyes were wide and terrified. She
was staring at the shadow which had flickered and now
looked no different to the others.
Dean demanded, stepping away from the wall. “What’s
turned to the brothers, shaking her head continuously.
“I’m sorry,” she told Sam. “I’m
what?” It was Sam’s turn to be confused.
Ali’s look of horror remained but it was vying
for position with the sympathy creeping into the corners
of her eyes.
shadow,” she began, hesitantly. “Your shadow
had no head. It’s an omen. Oh, I’m so sorry.
You’re so young. This shouldn’t be happening
patience was wearing thin and although he knew it was
bad etiquette to snap at your host, he couldn’t
help himself. “What are you talking about? What
death,” Martin interjected, solemnly. “Whoever
the headless shadow belongs to will be dead by year
end,” he intoned. “It’s never happened
before. I thought it was just a story but…”
he waved his hand at the wall where Sam’s intact
shadow wavered in the firelight.
is,” Dean barked. He grabbed Sam’s arm and
yanked him up off the sofa. No way was he going to stay
and let his brother become the main attraction in some
macabre fairytale the Humphreys had invented. “C’mon
Sam. Time to go.”
his arm free, Sam glared at his brother. He thought
the reaction of the guests was a little over the top
but, knowing what he knew, he wasn’t so ready
to dismiss it as Dean. And he wasn’t going to
be pulled away like a misbehaving child. He knew Dean
meant well but sometimes his brother had trouble adapting
to “polite” society. Dean, however, didn’t
seem to notice Sam had pulled free and was half way
to the door. Shrugging apologetically at Nicky, he rose
from his seat.
sorry,” he apologized. “My brother’s
tired. He has a stressful job and he hasn’t had
a break for a while.”
in Dean’s footsteps, Sam wasn’t surprised
when Ali stopped him by the front door as he was pulling
his jacket on. “Be careful,” she implored
him. “Seven days. That’s all you have. I’m
sorry,” and she gently placed her hand on Sam’s
cheek before bidding him farewell with a sad smile.
morning brought watery sunshine through the blinds of
the bedroom Sam was currently occupying. The events
of the previous night were almost forgotten, although
it had taken him a while to get to sleep. He had spent
some time listening to his older brother stomping around
downstairs and he was pretty sure that several more
of Joseph’s beers had been consumed. He didn’t
know what Dean had been up to but there had been rustling
of paper and a deal of loud huffing going on before
Sam had succumbed to the sandman.
and dressing quickly, Sam made his way quietly past
the closed door to Dean’s room. It was his Christmas
present to his older brother – the chance to sleep
in. Padding down the stairs, he aimed directly for the
kitchen, stopping to do a double take through the living
had obviously never made it up the wooden hill. He lay
sprawled across the plush leather sofa, fast asleep.
Sam stopped to study him for a few moments, wondering
how much rest Dean had gotten last night. His brother’s
eyes were fluttering beneath his lids and for a moment
Sam considered waking him. But some of his words last
night had been true. Dean did have a stressful job and
as for a break? He didn’t think Dean had ever
had one of those before.
on his way to the kitchen, Sam decided if Dean was ready
to be roused, the scent of fresh coffee would be a far
more effective, and pleasant, way to do it.
Crosswell’s kitchen, Sam mused, could have come
from the cover of any interior design magazine. The
appliances gleamed in matching chrome and every work
surface shone with cleanliness. He spared a quick glance
out of the window, taking in the neatly manicured lawn,
sparkling with winter frost. His hand curled around
the smooth, sleek handle of the kettle and he filled
it quickly. Setting it back on its stand to boil, he
turned his attention to grinding the coffee beans the
brothers had discovered on their first morning in the
house. Joseph Crosswell, it seemed, didn’t like
to do things by halves.
by the aroma of freshly ground coffee and the glistening
grass outside the window to dreams of a life that might
have been, Sam didn’t notice the kettle boiling.
And boiling. And boiling until water erupted out of
the chrome spout, falling onto the worktop and spilling
over on to the slate floor. It wasn’t until the
socket began to spark and crackle that Sam snapped out
of his trance and realized the appliance was faulty
and could cause a major problem.
how he was going to disconnect the kettle from the power
supply, Sam ran through all the facts he knew about
water and electricity and conductivity. Grabbing a towel
from the handle of the oven, he wrapped it round his
hand, not really sure if he was protecting himself or
not, and advanced on the offending appliance, not noticing
his brother’s arrival in the doorway.
The tired enquiry halted Sam just long enough to take
in his brother’s tousled hair and sleep-laden
Totally focused on the task at hand, Sam grunted a morning
greeting at his brother. Too tired to be put out by
the detachment in his brother’s voice, Dean shuffled
forward into the kitchen. The first he knew of the over
eager kettle was a wetness on his socks, soaking through
to his toes, the heat taking him by surprise. The combination
of slate tiles and hot water, however, was enough for
the older Winchester to lose his footing and, in a spectacular
display of flailing limbs, he slipped, going down hard
and hitting the side of his head on the corner of one
of the cabinets on his way down.
Jolted out of the zone he’d found himself in by
his brother’s cry of pain, Sam instantly abandoned
his crusade to make the kettle safe and rushed to his
brother’s side. He dropped to a crouch and reached
out a hand. “Oh, God. Are you okay?”
furiously and cursing a blue streak, Dean slapped his
brother’s hand away, struggling to regain some
semblance of dignity. “I’m good, Sammy,”
he managed. “Get off me.”
in relief, Sam relaxed and shook his head. He lifted
his hand away from Dean and, intending to haul himself
upright, he pressed his hand down on the worktop. The
same worktop covered in water from the malfunctioning
kettle. The water currently sizzling and hissing from
the power escaping from the socket at the wall.
was a lesson Sam learnt in school many, many years ago.
A lesson drummed into him by his father and his brother.
As a river of blue light shot from the socket to Sam’s
hand, he just had time to think “water conducts
electricity” and then there was pain, and shock,
watched in horror as Sam’s hand slapped down on
the marble surface. Too late with his warning cry, Dean
could only look on helplessly as Sam’s eyes widened
briefly in shock. In Dean’s slightly befuddled
mind it was as though someone had attached a string
to Sam’s waist and yanked him backward. His little
brother flew across the kitchen in a sick parody of
one of their many encounters with spirits, and landed
in an ungainly heap against the back door, a good few
feet away from Dean.
the throbbing pain in his own head, Dean scrambled to
his knees, not quite trusting his equilibrium enough
to attempt standing upright. Crawling across the floor
to his brother’s side he placed a trembling hand
to Sam’s neck, not releasing the breath he was
holding until he felt a steady pulse throbbing beneath
his fingers. Reluctant to break contact wit h the unconscious
hunter, Dean gently ghosted his other hand through his
brother’s hair, checking for any injuries.
to find nothing other than the expected bump on the
back of Sam’s head, Dean gave his brother a little
Sam,” he urged. “Wake up.”
couple more shakes and Sam began to stir. Eyes fluttering
under closed lids, he tried to work out what was going
on. He could hear Dean’s voice coaxing him back
to awareness and he was vaguely aware of the tinge of
panic lacing his older brother’s words. He felt
tingly all over and as his limbs began to reacquaint
themselves with his nerve endings, the tingle grew in
intensity until it left him shaking and breathless.
Grasping his brother’s shirt, tangling it in his
fingers, he turned scared, wide eyes up to Dean’s
face, begging him, imploring him to make it better.
heavy reassurance of a firm grip on his wrist pulling
his hand onto a steadily rising chest gave him more
succor than a 911 call could have done, and he gradually
found his own breathing falling in line with the rhythm
of his brother’s. Trying to ignore the sharp stabbing
pinpricks of residual electricity, he let Dean take
control, allowing himself to be gently pulled to his
feet and steered into the living room.
Sam on the plush sofa and checking his pupils and breathing
for what felt like the thousandth time, Dean finally
let himself relax a little. Dropping to a crouch in
front of his brother he rested his hands on Sam’s
knees, closing his eyes briefly. He was used to seeing
Sam in a variety of precarious situations, beaten, bloody,
unconscious. But it had always been on a hunt. In a
life of making constant risk assessments, brewing coffee
had never reached the top ten in Dean’s list of
life threatening activities.
okay, dude?” he enquired, giving Sam a gentle
slap on the leg as he pushed himself to his feet. Sam
gave a weak smile in reply and nodded his head carefully.
“Okay. Stay there. I’m gonna go clean up
in there,” Dean instructed, waving a hand in the
direction of the scene of the accident. Waiting till
Sam acknowledged his intentions, Dean reluctantly left
his brother’s side.
took him a good ten minutes to mop up the offending
water and make the electric socket safe with a kitchen
towel. He glared at the kettle and chewed his lower
lip in thought. Making up his mind, he snatched the
appliance from its position and filled it with water.
Being careful not to use the same socket, he flicked
the switch and watched it. Sure enough, as the water
boiled, the kettle cut out, water settling back down
without a drop being spewed from the spout. Dean tried
it again, just to be sure, with the same result. Casting
an uneasy glance to the room where Sam was resting,
he couldn’t help but think back to the previous
evening and Ali Humphreys’ dire prophesy.
was still sitting upright when Dean returned to the
living room. He eyed his older brother with concern
and not a little confusion. “Dean?” he asked.
“What happened in there?”
you remember?” Dean worried.
remember you slipping and banging your head,”
Sam pondered, looking up suddenly at Dean. “Are
fine, Sam. What else do you remember?”
frowned. He remembered rushing to Dean’s side,
he remembered putting his hand down to haul himself
upright and then after that. “Was I electrocuted?”
he asked, a puzzled look on his face.
dude, you were electrocuted. By a damned kettle!”
That’s all you’ve got to say? Sam, the kettle
tried to kill you.”
did not try to kill me, Dean. It’s a kettle. It
was an accident.”
Dean refused to be treated like a five-year-old, “it
wasn’t. I boiled that kettle twice. Nothing. No
water spilling over, no faulty electrics, nothing.”
Sam shook his head, trying to clear the clouds of confusion
away. He couldn’t understand why Dean, his normally
sensible, if somewhat hotheaded, brother was suddenly
convinced they were in a house full of killer appliances.
“It could have happened to anyone.”
it didn’t,” Dean insisted. “And after
last night…” he trailed off into an uncertain
sighed and dropped his head back on the soft cushions
of the sofa. “It’s an old wives tale, dude.
There’s no such thing as headless shadows and
Yule Logs predicting deaths. Ali’s a lovely woman
but I think she’s letting her imagination run
away with her. It was just a trick of the light. Nothing
to worry about.”
huffed and turned away from the younger hunter, digging
into his pocket. “We’ll see,” he muttered
ominously as he pulled out his phone. Wandering into
the hallway, he quickly located Bobby’s number
and hit the send button.
took a couple of rings for Bobby to answer his phone
and when he did, he didn’t sound very awake. On
any other occasion Dean would have made a lewd and suggestive
comment, but his worry for Sam overrode his natural
inclination to base humor.
else would it be? You called me.”
got a problem,” Dean told him, ignoring the distinctly
unsurprised snort from the other end of the phone.
don’t you?” Bobby asked, good-humoredly.
the implications, Dean quickly filled the older hunter
in on the events of the last twenty-four hours. He paced
up and down the hallway as he told his story, pausing
every so often for Bobby to grunt or mumble under his
the end of his version of events, Dean paused, taking
the opportunity to glance through the open doorway to
where Sam was dozing on the sofa. “What d’you
think, Bobby?” he asked, wincing at the hint of
desperation in his voice. “There must be something
I can do. Sam thinks it’s all rubbish but I don’t
know, man. Something caused that accident.”
you actually listening to yourself, boy?” Bobby
griped down the phone. “There’s nothing
goin’ on there but an overactive imagination and
a lot of sittin’ around doin’ nothing. Your
brain’s gone soft. Sam’s right. You’re
Dean began, only to be interrupted.
okay,” Bobby sighed. “I’ll look into
it, but I can tell you now I won’t find anything.”
Bobby.” Dean was surprised by the wave of relief
that swept through him, leaving him needing the support
of the wall to stay upright.
and Dean?” Bobby’s voice caught him by surprise.
“Merry Christmas,” and Dean could almost
hear the smile in the old man’s voice.
too, Bobby,” he whispered to the now dead phone
in his hand.
the time midday rolled around Sam was about ready to
punch his brother. He could understand the fraternal
concern heading in his direction, but the constant scrutiny
and never ending enquiries regarding his health were
beginning to wear a little thin. He didn’t think
he could take another bathroom break without incurring
a full medical examination from Dean and whilst he appreciated
his brother was a little freaked out by the Kettle Incident,
as he’d come to think of it, he really didn’t
need to be mother-henned quite this much.
from his position on the sofa, he stretched his arms
up, rolling his head around on his neck to work out
the kinks from inactivity. Dean’s head instantly
spun round to watch him and Sam only just suppressed
a sigh of irritation. Making his way over to the kitchen
he wasn’t surprised to feel Dean dogging his heels.
Sam wondered if his older brother had been this intense
when they were younger or whether he’d just left
a sick Sam to his own devices in those days.
fine, Dean,” he sighed, throwing a backward glance
at his brother. “I’m only making a sandwich.”
simply grunted and propped himself up against the backdoor
to watch over Sam. He knew in the back of his mind that
he was being irrational and that one accident didn’t
make a curse but he’d spent his whole life looking
out for Sam and it wasn’t something he could turn
on and off like a switch. He could tell he was irritating
Sam by the stiffness in the younger man’s back.
Dean” Sam snapped. “I can handle a bread
knife. Go and watch some more TV or something. I’ll
shout if I need you.”
Dean huffed. “But don’t come crying to me
when you cut your finger.”
smiled and turned to face his brother. “I’ll
make you one too, if it makes you happier.”
have you ever known me to turn down food?” Dean
replied, finally acquiescing to Sam’s instructions
and leaving the younger hunter to his endeavors with
took Sam just over ten minutes to source the ingredients
for a perfect lunchtime snack but, relishing the solitude,
he spent another ten gazing out of the window at the
birds hopping around the backyard in search of water
and worms. Taking pity on them he opened the door and
threw out the crumbs on the breadboard for them. Deciding
he’d probably used up his time limit, he piled
the sandwiches on two plates and returned to where Dean
was sitting on the edge of the sofa, looking as though
he was about to bolt to the kitchen at the slightest
sound. Handing a plate to Dean, Sam smirked.
he said. “I’m more than capable of looking
Dean accepted the plate and sat back, playing with the
remote for the TV. Refusing to eat until Sam was settled
next to him, Dean was pleasantly surprised by how filling
the food was. He hadn’t thought he had much of
an appetite but, on reflection, it appeared it would
take more than a household incident to put him off his
was a quiet affair, followed by a quiet afternoon of
Christmas viewing. There was the obligatory children’s
animated film, the evergreen feel-good movie, the collection
of apparently hilarious outtakes from the year’s
best, and worst, shows, all topped off with the ultimate
chat show. Sam watched Dean follow each program from
start to finish, wondering where the beer had come from
that seemed to be constantly in his hand.
each show, Dean would get up off the sofa and disappear
from the room. Sam wondered briefly if he ought to be
shadowing his brother to see what he was up to, but
in the end the warmth of the room and the comfort of
the sofa decided the issue for him.
day was turning to dusk, and Dean had wandered out for
the hundredth time, Sam felt his phone vibrate in his
pocket, accompanied by a guitar riff Dean had thought
he would like. Pulling it out, he inwardly cursed his
brother for messing with his stuff, again, and glanced
at the caller ID.
Bobby,” he answered cheerfully, genuinely glad
to hear from the older hunter. “Merry Christmas.”
Merry Christmas me,” Bobby grumbled on the other
end of the line, taking Sam aback with his gruffness.
“D’you have any idea how many times that
idjit brother of yours has called me today?”
no?” It was becoming clear what Dean had been
up to every time he left the room. “Lots?”
he hazarded, rewarded by a snort of laughter from Bobby.
yeah. And then some. That boy is gonna drive me to an
early grave. If I’ve told him once, I’ve
told him a thousand times, you’re not cursed.”
couldn’t hold back the sigh of resignation. “He’s
bugging you too, huh?” he asked sympathetically.
this close to coming out there just to kill him,”
Bobby admitted. “Can’t you do something
Christmas Day, Bobby. Where am I going to take him?”
a bar,” Bobby retorted sharply. “Take him
to one of those. There must be one open somewhere. And
leave him there if you have to. I’ll call when
and if I find something.”
smiled, retaining a black satisfaction that he wasn’t
the only one suffering as a result of Dean’s paranoia.
Disconnecting his phone, he looked up to where Dean
was hovering by the TV. “Bobby says I have to
take you out,” Sam explained, ignoring the unspoken
query on his brother’s face. “He reckons
you need to chill and a bar might be just the place
stared at Sam and for a brief moment the younger Winchester
thought he was going to have a hissy fit. But then his
face cleared and he broke into a grin. “A bar,
you say? Cool. Where are we going then?” And he
spun on his heels, grabbing his jacket from the coat
rack at the bottom of the stairs. Shoving his arms through
the sleeves, he proceeded to gather his daily accoutrements
to him – gun, wallet, keys – and turned
back to Sam.
was standing at the bottom of the stairs, one hand pressed
to his stomach with a grimace worthy of a gargoyle on
Dean was at his brother’s side in a heartbeat.
Sam’s face had drained of all color and he was
swallowing convulsively. Laying a hand on his little
brother’s shoulder, Dean could feel the younger
man shivering, minor tremors building in strength until
Sam was barely just holding on from heaving over the
floor were they stood.
his mouth with a hand, Sam pushed Dean to one side and
dashed to the bathroom, slamming the door closed with
his foot. Through the closed door, Dean could hear the
unmistakable sound of Sam throwing his guts up inside
the small room. Giving him a little privacy, Dean hovered
outside until he could no longer hear the sounds of
Sam’s misery. Tapping softly, Dean pushed the
door open gently to reveal Sam on his knees, retching
pathetically into the toilet bowl.
soothing circles on his back, Dean frowned in concern.
Not two minutes ago Sam had been absolutely fine, suggesting
the trip to a bar and smiling. Now he looked as though
he’d lost not only the contents of his stomach
but most of his innards too.
okay, dude?” Dean enquired.
managed a half-hearted nod, which was quickly followed
by another round of dry heaves. Waiting a few minutes
for his stomach to settle, Sam allowed Dean to help
him to his feet. Closing his eyes against a sudden wave
of nausea, Sam gripped his hand in Dean’s jacket
and, try as he might, he couldn’t help the small
groan escape his lips as the acid churned around his
was an easy task after that for Dean to persuade Sam
the best place for him was bed. He got Sam up the stairs
with minimum of fuss and fetched him a glass of water.
Putting the drink on the bedside table, Dean perched
on the edge of the bed, ghosting a hand over Sam’s
forehead. Slightly perturbed by the heat seeping through
Sam’s skin, Dean frowned.
flung his arm out in an ungainly attempt to knock Dean’s
hand away. Missing his mark completely, Dean couldn’t
help but smile as he caught hold of the offending limb
and tucked it under the covers. But the frown returned
quickly as Sam’s eyes flickered left and right
until finally focusing on Dean.
you doing?” Dean enquired, not really expecting
much of an answer.
Sam answered honestly. “But I’ll be fine.”
of a coincidence don’t you think?” Dean
mused. “You being so sick just after being electrocuted.
Especially with the headless shadow thing.”
Sam didn’t mean to whine but he was drained, physically
and mentally, and the last thing he needed was Dean
going all over protective on him.
Sammy,” Dean exploded. “You were poisoned.
It’s the only possible explanation.”
considered rolling over on to his side, effectively
ending any conversation, but his unsettled stomach had
other ideas and he decided, on balance, he was best
where he was. “I wasn’t poisoned,”
he muttered. “You’re overreacting again.”
course you were,” Dean retorted. “What else
would have caused this?” He placed his hand back
on Sam’s brow, nodding significantly. “You’re
way too hot, dude.”
would you be if you just lost your dinner,” Sam
grumbled. “Anyway, how can I have been poisoned?
We haven’t been anywhere. It was just something
cried Dean triumphantly. “We ate the same things!
And I’m just fine. Explain that one to me.”
eat crap all the time,” Sam explained tiredly.
“Your stomach’s probably developed its own
face fell as he acknowledged the truth in Sam’s
statement. “Whatever,” he huffed. “Stay
put, princess. No going out for you tonight.”
He stood up and studied Sam. His brother’s eyes
were growing heavy and it was obvious to Dean that Sam
would be asleep before he got to the bottom of the stairs.
Softening his voice, he asked “You sure you’re
tired little nod was the only response Dean got and,
happy with that, he headed back downstairs, resolving
to check on Sam in a little while.
Sam woke the only light was from the clock glowing softly
on the bedside table and the fluorescent glow of the
street lamps outside the window. He stretched languidly
on the bed, gently rubbing his stomach, relieved to
find the only after effects of his sickness was a tightness
in his belly that was only to be expected after a sudden
spasm of muscles like the one he’d experienced.
over to the clock, he saw it was nearly three in the
morning. Christmas Day was officially over and, although
it hadn’t been the worst ever, it didn’t
rank up there in the top five either. Rolling his head
back to gaze at the ceiling he became aware of a flickering
light coming from the lower story of the house. His
brother, he guessed, was still downstairs.
to investigate what could have possibly captured Dean’s
attention enough to keep him downstairs till this time
in the morning, Sam swung his legs over the side of
the bed, relishing the sensation of plush carpet between
his toes. Stealing quietly into the hallway, he stopped
at the top of the staircase. He had been right, the
living room was bathed in the glow of the TV screen
and a single table lamp was burning brightly by the
front door. There was no sound of movement and Sam felt
it was safe to assume Dean had crashed on the sofa in
front of some cheesy late night flick.
inwardly, he realized this was the perfect opportunity
to get his own back on Dean for all the unnecessary
mollycoddling he’d had to suffer over the last
day or two. He put his foot forward to rest on the first
step when the light in the hallway died, leaving Sam
to flounder in sudden darkness. Taken aback by the change
in light, Sam’s eyes didn’t adjust quickly
enough to compensate and his foot missed the step completely.
Sam’s height didn’t seem to be such an advantage
as he flung his arms out to regain his balance. His
efforts proved to be in vain, however, and he found
himself tumbling head over heels, back smashing into
every riser on the staircase, head connecting with the
railings at every opportunity. The bone jarring fall
sent him crashing to the first floor in half the time
it would have taken him to run, and he knew by the second
step he had cracked at least one rib, possibly more.
And then it became academic as his head found the hardwood
floor of the entrance lobby with a vengeance and he
knew no more.
from the doze he’d nodded off into some time ago
by the sound of thumping and crashing from the hallway,
Dean jerked up from the sofa, heart racing, on immediate
alert. As far as he was concerned, Sam was safely tucked
into bed for the night. His mind whirling through possibilities
from an intruder to Cousin Joe returning home early,
he was up off the sofa, gun in hand, before he really
had time to process his actions.
from the room with a stealth his father would have been
proud of, he threw all caution to the wind when he saw
the cause of the noise. Sam was lying in a crumpled
heap at the foot of the stairs, one arm lying across
his chest, the other flung out to the side. Skidding
to his side, Dean fell to his knees, frantically checking
for a pulse which he knew, just knew, had to be there.
Panic turned to relief when he felt a steady throb beneath
his hand. Gently turning Sam’s head, he knew his
brother was bleeding before he saw the blood. The warm
sticky sensation at the back of his brother’s
head could only be one thing.
Sam’s head back to the side to ensure his airway
remained unobstructed, Dean rocked back on his haunches.
Sam was unconscious, and although he was breathing comfortably,
Dean was unable to wake him by conventional methods.
Not wanting to move his brother more than was necessary,
he dragged a throw off one of the armchairs, laying
it gently over his injured brother.
what seemed hours, Dean reluctantly acknowledged that
Sam wasn’t waking up any time soon. He had slapped
his brother with decreasing gentleness, called his name
countless times hoping for a reaction and rammed his
knuckles against Sam’s sternum. All to no effect.
Sighing in despair, Dean scrubbed a hand over his face
and came to a decision. Sam’s continued state
of unconsciousness was a concern and Dean reluctantly
had to accept he wasn’t going to be able to cope
with it by himself. Every so often, no matter how much
he hated doing it, he had to rely on professional help.
Dean left his brother’s side in order to retrieve
the keys to the Impala, glancing out of the window at
the darkened street. Snow was falling in flurries and
the wind had picked up, causing drifts to collect by
the curbside and mailboxes. Dean bit his lip and studied
his fallen brother once more. In any other circumstance,
Dean wouldn’t contemplate taking his baby out
in this weather but Sam needed a hospital and he couldn’t
see any alternative. He could dial 911 and wait for
an ambulance but every minute wasted waiting was time
he wasn’t sure Sam could afford.
the bullet he heaved his little brother over his shoulder,
gently steadying his legs and muttering an apology as
he manhandled him out of the house and into the back
seat of the car. Carefully replacing the blanket over
Sam’s body, Dean made his way to the driver’s
seat and threw the car into gear.
onto the street was easy and the time of night meant
the roads beyond the gated community were deserted.
He drove as quickly as he dared, flinching every time
the Impala hit a patch of ice, occasionally slipping
to the side. Gripping the steering wheel so tightly
his knuckles showed white through the darkness, Dean
couldn’t stop himself glancing back in the rear
view mirror every couple of minutes. Sam seemed comfortable
enough every time and Dean returned his full attention
to the road for another five minutes.
ice under the snow-covered roads was becoming hazardous
and it took all Dean’s skill to keep the car in
a straight line. By the time they had reached the signs
into town, Dean was almost as exhausted as he had been
when he fell asleep. Realizing he had no idea where
the hospital was, he took his eye off the road momentarily
to really look at the street signs, hoping for some
indication which direction he should be taking.
was only a moment, but it was long enough. Just as he
narrowed his eyes to read the nearest sign through a
mini snowstorm, the Impala hit a patch of black ice.
Throwing the car into a 360 degree skid, Dean grappled
with the steering wheel. The car, though, was heavy
to control and had already made up its mind that it
was going to do its own thing. Frantically trying to
turn its wheels into the skid, Dean felt the car fight
him every inch of the way. Just as he thought he was
winning, the Impala left the road, spinning yet again.
Dean just had time to watch in horror as a nearby lamppost
came to meet them and the car hit with a force strong
enough to jolt Sam off the back seat and on to the floor,
throwing Dean into the side window, shattering both
the glass and his hold on awareness.
woke to the sound of hustle and bustle and the distinctive
smell of antiseptic. Cracking his eyelids open, he confirmed
what he had suspected. He’d wanted to get Sammy
to a hospital, he mused, but this wasn’t quite
the method he’d had in mind.
his hand to absently rub at his head, he was disgusted
to find an IV taped to him. Squinting against the harsh
light, he followed the line from his hand to what he
assumed was a drip attached to it. He dropped his arm
back down and stifled a groan when a bolt of pain shot
across his brow. Closing his eyes against the discomfort
he was mildly soothed by a soft hand on his wrist and
another on his forehead.
there,” a voice broke through the haze in his
head. “We were wondering how long you were going
prized his eyes open again to see a middle aged woman
efficiently taking his pulse and watching him closely.
Not wanting to engage in conversation yet, he grunted
smiled at him benevolently. “Not feeling too bright,
huh? I’m not surprised. That was some accident
you boys had. Any chance of telling me your name?”
looked at her stupidly, his sluggish brain taking in
what she’d said. “Dean,” he told her,
losing all interest in his own health. “Where’s
brother? Is that the young man you were with?”
she enquired, dropping his wrist and making a minor
adjustment to the IV in his hand. “He’s
being taken care of. I’ll let them know you’re
awake and I’m sure someone will be along to talk
to you soon. How’s the headache?”
d’you mean, being taken care of?” Dean demanded,
ignoring her question and trying to sit upright.
nurse glared at him and pushed him back down. “Like
I said,” she reiterated, “someone will be
along soon. You need to stay calm and rest,” and
she turned back to Dean’s notes. “Or do
I need to sedate you?” she threatened as she caught
Dean struggling back up.
Dean huffed, hoping to fool the woman into leaving as
he dropped back onto the unforgiving pillows. He watched
with satisfaction as she completed her paperwork and
left in search of other patients. The minute he was
alone, Dean ripped the IV from his hand, oblivious to
the stinging sensation as the needle was yanked out.
Swinging his legs over the bed he stood, swaying briefly
while he adjusted to the change in altitude. Checking
the coast was clear, he sauntered as casually as he
could into the corridor in search of Sam.
been around enough ERs to be able to find his way around
without looking out of place. It took him only minutes
to find the room where the medics had seen fit to put
Sam. He pulled the curtains aside fully, shocked to
see the younger man completely surrounded by doctors
and nurses. They were bustling about and there seemed
to be some sort of argument going on between two doctors.
going on?” Dean demanded, causing an immediate
silence to fall over the room. The staff turned as one
to eye Dean suspiciously. Evidently deciding the young
man posed no threat, a young nurse moved toward him,
holding out a placating hand.
sorry, sir,” she began. “You can’t
be in here.”
my brother,” Dean explained. “What’s
wrong with him?”
sir,” she tried again. “You have to leave.
Your brother’s in good hands but you need to give
us room to work.”
Dean shook his head vehemently. “I’m not
leaving until someone tells me what’s wrong with
my brother.” He strode forward to get a better
look at Sam.
nurse gave an exasperated sigh that made Dean wonder
how many times she’d had this conversation. But
he didn’t care. Sam was in the middle of a gaggle
of medics and nobody was telling him anything. He pushed
past her protests until he was close enough to touch
Her tone of voice had changed considerably, a hard edge
now coloring her words. “If you don’t step
outside I’m going to call security. Your brother
needs help and you’re getting in the way. Someone
will be with you shortly.”
spun round to face the woman. He towered over her and
later he would feel guilty about intimidating her. “Listen
to me,” he hissed. “I am staying right here
don’t be such an ass.” It was weak and Sam’s
voice trembled halfway through but the statement was
enough to stop Dean in his tracks.
he whispered, suddenly losing the ability to stand unaided
as relief swept through him. Clutching the side of his
brother’s bed, he leant forward. “Geez,
dude. You had me scared. How you doing?”
be a lot better if you’d stop arguing and keep
the noise down,” Sam grumbled.
smiled and then frowned as his vision began to waver.
The adrenaline that had been keeping him going was running
out and he could feel his legs begin to shake with the
effort of staying upright. He vaguely saw Sam’s
face turn from mild humor to concern. He tried to tell
him that it was okay, that he was good, but somehow,
although he opened his mouth, nothing came out. The
room began to sway and with a flash of clarity, Dean
realized he was about to pass out.
sat by Dean’s bedside, reflecting on how their
roles had been reversed in a matter of minutes. When
he came round, he’d been relieved to see Dean
even though he couldn’t quite remember what had
happened, but when his older brother had collapsed on
the floor, he had been seized by an irrational panic.
He vaguely remembered falling down the stairs and then
nothing till he’d woken in the ER. He had no idea
of how they got there, just that Dean was there when
he came round so it couldn’t have been anything
too serious. Right?
when Dean passed out, Sam had to reconsider his initial
observations. His brother had been rushed out of the
room and back to his own room and Sam had been reassured
he was being taken good care of. Sam didn’t have
the same propensity for annoying medics trying to help
them so he lay back and submitted to being poked and
now, he mused, he was the one watching over his brother,
ribs taped, head stitched, instructions not to stay
too long and to call for help if he needed it. He’d
nodded compliantly at the time, but he knew in his heart
as soon as Dean woke, they’d be out of there like
stirred once or twice before opening his eyes to find
Sam’s face almost in his. He tried to jerk back
in surprise but the pillows prevented him from getting
there, Dean,” Sam muttered. “You’ve
already fallen over once, don’t push your luck,”
and he gave Dean a wan smile.
however, just pushed Sam’s hand away and glared
at him. “Get off me, dude. I’m fine.”
right. Which is why you passed out in my room.”
He paused and studied Dean as he levered himself into
a sitting position. “What happened?” he
d’you remember?” Dean asked cautiously.
up, seeing the light downstairs, tripping over and then,
Well, you ‘fell' down the stairs and wouldn’t
wake up so I had to bring you here.” Dean wondered
if that would be enough information for Sam. He could
why are you in here too?”
I kinda crashed the car,” Dean admitted after
a pause. “But it was trying to take you out, Sam.
The poisoning, the fall, the crash. Are you getting
the message yet?”
sighed. Dean was like a dog with a bone when he got
hold of an idea and it seemed he wasn’t going
to rest until the Yule Log mystery, if there was one,
was put to bed.
Dean. Just accidents. Okay, so it’s a run of accidents
but, trust me, that’s all there is to it. You
have to let it go.”
know what? I don’t have accidents. I’m the
best damned driver you are ever gonna meet. I do not
crash my car. Ever.”
did you even see the conditions out there?” Sam
tried to appease his brother. “ No one in their
right mind would go out in that. You’re lucky
you got as far as you did.”
Sam. You can say what you want, but there’s no
way I would have crashed my baby if it hadn’t
been for this curse.”
threw his head back and rolled his eyes. “This,
again? Dean, there is no curse. I wasn’t driving.
Hell, I wasn’t even conscious.”
Dean retorted triumphantly, throwing Sam into confusion.
Yule Log curse doesn’t care about taking out bystanders.
If you’d been driving, we’d both be dead
not going to let this drop, are you?” Sam wondered.
Get used to it, Sammy.”
out of the hospital was a piece of cake. The tricky
part had been getting back to the house. As the two
Winchesters stood outside the entrance to the ER, Dean
had remembered why they were both there in the first
place. There was no way the Impala was going anywhere
other than the local bodyshop for the foreseeable future
and getting a taxi was out of the question.
suggested calling somebody, but Dean had shot that idea
do we know to call?” he demanded. “Bobby’s
hundreds of miles away.” He stomped his feet against
the cold, glaring at the slowly rising sun on the horizon
as if it held the answer to their problems. “We
could borrow one from the parking lot?” he suggested.
how practical is that in a town like this?” Sam
enquired. “The cops would find it in half an hour.
Like it or not, Dean, I think we’re gonna have
to call someone.” He hesitated, eyeing Dean from
lowered lashes. “Like Nicky,” he offered.
Dean was incredulous. “You got Nicky’s number?
Sam, there’s hope for you yet, you sly dog.”
gave it to me,” Sam confessed sheepishly. “I
didn’t ask for it.”
appeared to consider the options for a moment before
shrugging his shoulders. “Well, if she’s
sweet on you, I say we use it to our advantage. Make
the call, Romeo.”
is how they ended up in Nicky Humphreys’ basic
but comfortable Toyota. Crammed in the compact backseat,
Dean couldn’t help but smirk at the girl’s
blatant attempts to seduce Sam and Sam’s obliviousness
to the whole effort. As he tried to unfold his legs
to a more comfortable position, the conversation died
completely and the rest of the journey was made in silence.
Sam’s responses were vague at best, muddled at
worst and Dean began to wonder about the strength of
the pain medication they’d managed to lift from
knew Nicky was trying to strike up a conversation but
every time he thought of a witty reply, or even just
a simple answer, to her questions, his mouth filled
with saliva and he had to swallow down the urge to be
sick yet again. He was conscious of the fact Dean was
watching his every move but the motion of the car, coupled
with the painkillers he’d been given, was starting
to affect him in an adverse manner.
was relieved to see the white gates of Meadow Valley
rise up out of the dawn and he turned what he hoped
was an appreciative smile to the girl who had given
up her post-Christmas sleep in to rescue two comparative
strangers. As Nicky pulled into the driveway to Cousin
Joe’s house, Sam recognized the now familiar roil
of his stomach and, bolting from the car like a startled
colt, he dashed into the house, barely waiting for Dean
to chase him down the path to unlock the door.
knew something was up with Sam as soon as the car rolled
to a halt. Leaning forward to rest a hand on the younger
man’s shoulder, he was shocked by the heat leaching
through the fabric of Sam’s jacket. He opened
his mouth to comment but before a word could slip out,
Sam had thrown the car door open and was halfway to
the house, one hand on his belly, the other swinging
wildly as though he was having trouble keeping his balance.
Realizing Sam was in need of the bathroom if he wasn’t
going to embarrass himself in front of Nicky, Dean gave
the girl a brief nod of thanks and followed Sam.
the two hunters scurry up the path to their cousin’s
house, Nicky wondered what she should do. It was clear
to her that whatever had befallen the Winchesters, Sam
wasn’t fully recovered and she wasn’t convinced
Dean was in a state to be of much help to his brother.
Locking her car, she cast a look around the street.
The neighborhood was asleep, recovering from the festivities
and overindulgences of Christmas. Nobody would miss
her for several hours yet and even if they did, she
had her phone. Mind made up, she followed in Dean’s
footsteps, softly closing the front door behind her.
brothers were in the kitchen by the time Nicky made
her way into the entrance hall. Feeling like an interloper,
but unable to tear herself away, Nicky found herself,
if not quite eavesdropping, overhearing the conversation
going on in the kitchen.
and Sam were seated at the kitchen table, Sam with his
head in his hands and a glass of water on the table
in front of him. Dean’s hand rested on the table
by the glass and every so often he reached out to give
Sam a reassuring pat on the arm.
it feel now?” he asked.
reply, Sam simply shook his head, muttering a pained,
“Brutal,” taking it for granted that his
brother, of all people, would understand just how excruciating
his headache was. The painkillers had either worn off
or had never worked in the first place. Sam didn’t
know, and didn’t care. He was in more pain than
he could remember ever being in before and right now
he was close to blowing his own brains out just to stop
the drums beating a rhythm inside his skull.
shifted uncomfortably in his seat and toyed with the
glass of water he’d fetched for Sam, playing for
time before bringing up the subject of the Yule Log
again. “You know this is all connected, right?”
he began tentatively, not wanting to upset Sam overly
but determined to get an admission from his brother.
“This is all down to that damned log.”
Sam dropped his head onto his arms which he had folded
on the table in front of him.
sorry, Sam, but surely you must see it now? The headless
shadow, the sickness, the fall, the accident. It’s
all connected. And it’s not like we haven’t
seen stranger things. Why can’t you just accept
this is down to that log and let me try and fix it?”
nothing to fix, Dean.” Sam’s voice was muffled
but Dean could hear the underlying frustration in it.
It was time to pull out the big guns.
in Dad’s diary,” he stated, watching closely
as Sam groaned and raised bloodshot eyes to stare at
him. “I checked last night and, well, Dad mentioned
it once or twice. Happened in Ohio about forty years
ago and again in Nebraska ten years later. And it never
ends well, Sam.”
listening at the door, couldn’t keep her silence
any longer. She stepped into the kitchen, taking the
boys by surprise. They had both forgotten the girl who’d
brought them home and they’d abandoned at the
are you guys, like, into this sort of thing?”
she asked. “Because my mom, she has loads of stuff
about traditions and spooky goings on and stuff.”
around to study her, Dean cocked his head to one side.
“What sort of stuff?” he asked, instantly
suspicious of the girl’s mother.
you know. Books, crystals, herbs. That sort of stuff,”
she continued, undaunted by the expression on Dean’s
face. “She keeps it all in the cellar. She used
to be really into the occult when she was younger but
apparently Dad won’t have it in the house. She
won’t throw it out though. Says it would bring
bad luck down on us.” She shrugged. “Mom
tends to be a little over dramatic,” she finished.
the cellar, you said?” Dean queried, working out
how he could get to the potentially rich source of information.
“Where’s your mom right now?”
be clearing up from last night, probably,” Nicky
you get those books for me?” Dean pressed, totally
focused on the girl standing before him to the exclusion
of everything else. There was a possibility she had
the answer he was looking for and didn’t even
shook her head and laughed. “Mom would know the
second they went missing. It’s like she’s
got some sort of alarm system in her head. It’s
weird. She never says anything but if you ask me, she
had a bad experience once. If you ask her about it,
she clams up and gets really pissed.”
up in their conversation, Dean and Nicky failed to notice
Sam slowly losing what little color he had in his face.
The pain in his skull had escalated to dizzying heights
and when he managed to raise his head from his arms,
the room swayed nauseatingly. Trying to capture Dean’s
attention, he was disconcerted to see not two, but three
versions of his brother dancing around each other, merging
into one, then splitting into three separate entities
again. Disorientated by the confusing images his eyes
were sending to his brain, and sickened to the pit of
his stomach by the perceived motion of the room, all
Sam could manage was a groan before clutching both hands
to his heads and sliding, gracefully, off his chair
in a dead faint.
uttered a short cry of shock as Sam collapsed at her
feet. Dean was by his side instantly, checking for a
pulse in what was now a well-rehearsed and unwelcome
routine. He cursed softly under his breath as he found
an unsteady, weak beat pulsing through Sam’s veins.
As he reached out to pull Sam round into a more comfortable
position, trying to wake him at the same time, his phone
began to ring, its vibrant rock riff somehow at odds
with the atmosphere in the room.
in his pocket with one hand while trying to tend to
Sam with the other, he glanced down at the caller display.
It was Bobby and Dean almost cried with relief. Flipping
his phone open, he barked a greeting down the line.
well, huh?” the older hunter responded, not in
the slightest offended by the tone of voice he’d
been welcomed with.
Tell me you got something,” Dean pleaded.
happened?” Bobby asked, knowing instantly things
had gone from bad to worse. He listened quietly while
Dean filled him in on events since they’d last
spoken, grunting occasionally, and Dean could picture
him scratching his head.
Bobby announced. “Listen to me, Dean. The first
thing you need to do is stay calm. There ain’t
no point in taking your brother back to the hospital.
There’s nothing wrong with him that the docs can
fix. Whatever’s ailing that boy ain’t got
no cure in modern medicine.”
frowned, confused and worried by Bobby’s news.
“What d’you mean, Bobby? Are you telling
me my brother’s gonna die?”
hold your horses. Nobody said anything about dying.
That’s not going to happen. Okay? Dean?”
looked at Sam, lying on the floor, Nicky kneeling at
his head, wiping his forehead down with a damp face
cloth she’d procured from somewhere. He swallowed
hard at the sight, trying not to imagine his little
brother dying while he looked helplessly on.
You still there, boy?”
Bobby. I’m listening.” Dean shook himself
out of his stupor, blinking away the moisture in his
eyes that he refused to acknowledge.
listen good. I did some research and turns out there’s
some truth to this Yule Log business. Looks like you
were right all along.”
know,” Dean replied. “It’s in Dad’s
journal. Nebraska, Ohio and probably a couple of other
recorded incident was in 1903 in Billings, Montana.
John Lewis noticed he had a headless shadow, three days
later he was dead in a freak domestic accident.”
great, Bobby,” Dean snapped, “but I don’t
need a history lesson. I need to know how to stop it
sighed and Dean felt his nerve ends tingle and his gut
clench. “I don’t know for sure,” the
older hunter admitted. “It’s never been
done before. But that doesn’t mean it can’t
be stopped. Far as I can tell, you need to salt and
burn the log and that should lift the curse.”
Dean had had any energy left, he would have laughed.
“Burn the log?” he asked incredulously.
“Are you serious? How the hell am I supposed to
burn a log that’s already been burnt, Bobby?”
got any better ideas, go ahead and try them,”
Bobby bit back. He knew Dean was stressed and frantic
with worry but he wasn’t the only one worried
I’m sorry,” Dean apologized, scrubbing a
hand over his face.
know,” Bobby relented. “You need to make
sure the log’s salted first. You going to be able
to manage that?”
straight I will,” Dean replied. “Somehow.
welcome. And Dean? Call me, okay?”
his phone closed, Dean turned back to Nicky, just as
Sam coughed and spluttered. Dropping to his knees next
to him, Dean gently helped Sam to sit up, easing the
pressure on his lungs from what sounded frighteningly
like an accumulation of fluid.
he asked, trying to get his bearings again. This was
getting old, he thought ruefully as he steadied himself
against Dean’s arm.
there, Sleeping Beauty. You back with us again or you
going to be nodding off again in a minute?”
glared at him as best he could, which wasn’t very
effective but he felt slightly better for trying. “I’m
fine,” he muttered.
you are,” Dean snorted, sounding less than convinced.
“Bobby called. Turns out I have to go salt and
burn the Yule Log. Which could be tricky seeing as it’s
already been burned once this weekend. But don’t
worry. You just hang in there and I’ll work something
out.” He gave Sam what he hoped was a reassuring
frowned and for a minute Dean thought he was in pain,
but then his face cleared and he returned the smile.
“It’s not all burnt,” he told his
brother. Taking pity on Dean’s confusion, he continued.
“A bit’s always saved to light the next
Yule Log. There must be some left somewhere.”
froze as the significance of Sam’s words hit home.
He turned to look at Nicky who was hovering uncertainly,
not sure whether she should stay or leave the brothers
to it. “Where’s the Yule Log kept?”
he demanded of her.
the cellar,” she told him, not understanding the
look of triumph that crossed the older brother’s
face. “But there’s no way Mom’ll let
you just take it. It’ll bring down bad luck on
bad,” Dean retorted. “We have to burn it
or Sam,” and he gestured at his brother, “is
gonna die. Do you want that on your conscience?”
started, looking from Dean to Sam and back to Dean again.
She shook her head. “This is ridiculous,”
she told herself.
me, sugar, this is nothing. Now, are you going to help
me or not?” Dean didn’t wait for an answer
as he heaved Sam up off the floor, maneuvering him to
the sofa, covering him with a throw. “You’ll
be fine here, Sammy,” he told his brother. “I’ll
get this sorted out, I promise,” and for a moment,
he could almost believe it.
the street with Nicky trailing behind him, muttering
about crazy men and their crazy ideas, Dean made a beeline
for the Humphreys’ house. Reaching the front path,
he turned and waited for the girl to catch up to him.
the log going to be?” he asked, trying his hardest
to tread gently with the girl, gradually realizing her
mother wasn’t the only one who held on to superstitions.
Nicky had become increasingly agitated every time he
mentioned burning the log, adamant there must be another
way, that the Winchesters were going to bring a run
of bad luck down on her family if Dean insisted on pursuing
this course of action.
the cellar,” she finally conceded after a pause
far too long for Dean’s liking. “Mom will
have moved it down there as soon as it was cool enough
I need you to keep your mom busy while I get down there.
D’you think you can do that?” He wasn’t
sure, not at all, but he had no choice. Sam was depending
on him and while he didn’t want to barge his way
into the Humphreys’ house he would, if he had
I think so,” Nicky convinced herself. “But
she is so going to freak when she finds it’s gone.”
looked down at the girl, shaking his head in exasperation.
She clearly hadn’t grasped the fact this Yule
Log had caused no end of problems and right now it was
the reason for his little brother’s rapidly declining
is she going to notice it’s gone?” he asked.
thought about it briefly before tilting her head and
raising one eyebrow. “Probably not till next year,”
Dean declared, working out how much distance he could
put between them and the Humphreys in one year. “That
gives you a year to either persuade her to drop this
tradition, which may not be as hard as you think, or
to find a replacement. Now, are you going to get going?”
and he waved an arm at the house.
watched her disappear through the front door, calling
her mother as she went in a cheery, if blatantly false,
sing song voice. Waiting till he heard Ali’s reply,
he made his way quickly round to the back of the house,
opening the storm doors to the cellar, thankful the
Humphreys placed so much faith in the security of a
gated community and consequently hadn’t bothered
to lock the entrance to the basement.
Humphreys’ cellar was bigger, and cleaner, than
many of the motels he and Sam spent the majority of
their time in. Letting his eyes adjust to the light,
Dean flicked on a pocket flashlight he carried in his
jacket pocket. There were walls racked from ceiling
to floor, shelves stacked full of suburban life. Pots
of half used paint vied for position with boxes of aged
school report cards. Toolboxes nestled next to packets
of laundry detergent and there, in the corner, was a
could have cried. There were no other logs in the cellar
and the logs in the pile were indistinguishable from
one another. The Yule Log he’d so carefully set
alight could be any one of the logs in front of him.
He’d been hoping the charred remains would be
easy to spot but in the poor light it was going to be
impossible to pick out one specific log.
around, Dean spotted an old potato sack. With no other
idea springing to mind, he grabbed the sack and began
to fill it with logs off the pile. He hoped the Yule
Log would be a later addition to the pile and therefore
to the front of the stack. If not, he theorized, he
could come back for another load.
the sack over his shoulder, and feeling like a poor
imitation of Santa Claus, Dean crept out of the cellar.
Grateful that the residents of Meadow Valley clearly
overindulged the previous day, he made his way unobserved
back to Cousin Joe’s house.
the sack in the back yard, Dean took the time to check
on Sam. The younger man was where Dean had left him
on the sofa, but he now had his eyes closed. Dean stood
for a minute, trying to convince himself Sam was merely
sleeping but knowing it was so much worse than that.
Turning on his heel he returned to his sack of logs
and upended it on the neatly manicured lawn, not caring
he was about to ruin a decade’s worth of loving
the salt he’d scavenged from the kitchen cupboard,
he poured a liberal amount over the impromptu bonfire,
keeping some back in case the Yule Log wasn’t
in the pile. Dousing it in lighter fuel, he stepped
back as he struck a match, waiting for the small flame
to take hold before throwing it on to the heap.
bonfire leapt into life, burning hot and fierce. Dean
could feel the heat on his face, had to brush sparks
off his jacket as the wood hissed and crackled. Biting
down the urge to return to his brother’s side,
he stood watching the flames until the heap of logs
had been reduced to a pile of ash.
shivered in the now cold air and stepped forward, poking
at the remains with the toe of his boot, checking for
any sizeable chunks of wood.
are you doing?” Sam’s gently posed question
startled Dean and he turned on his heel, staring at
Sam in relief.
His brother looked the picture of health. All evidence
of his recent accidents and illnesses had vanished from
his face. He was a healthy pink and, although he looked
tired, Dean could have been fooled into thinking he’d
just got out of bed after a good night’s sleep.
smiled and shrugged. “I feel great,” he
told Dean in answer to his unspoken question. “Whatever
you did, it worked.”
course it did,” Dean told him, a cocky smile on
his lips. “I’m an awesome brother, dude.”
He pushed past Sam, heading back into the warmth. “I’ll
tell you something, though,” he threw over his
shoulder. “That’s the last time we go somewhere
the episode here