John ran his worn hands
across his face, jaw clenched in search of that parental
self-control that usually all but dissipated in situations
such as these. What Dean lacked in the talkative aspect
of life, the seven year old made up for greatly in defiance.
The former Marine had beaten down men three times his
son’s age after days of basic training, but those
soldiers’ stubborn streaks didn’t even begin
to shadow the edge of Dean’s.
“Dean, out of the car,”
the father ordered, opening the passenger door and waiting
impatiently for his son to obey. It was freezing in
Minnesota and any minute wasted in the bitter cold was
one too many.
“Out!” Sam echoed, the
barely recognizable three year old was bundled in a
puffy red coat and securely buckled into the back seat,
legs kicking furiously at the front bench. A smirk ghosted
across John’s face at his youngest son’s
vibrating energy and excitement. And who could blame
the child? Their host had certainly gone all out this
year. He could see the Christmas extravaganza from down
Dean turned to his father, hands gripping
the bucket seat in rebellion. “No.”
John wrapped a hand around the open
door, leaning into the car, face inches from his son’s.
“No.” Sam shrieked with
a laugh. “No, no, no, no, no.”
“Sammy.” The tightly spoken
word served its purpose as the mop-headed boy clamped
his mouth shut, little hands covering a giggling mouth.
John wearily turned his attention back to Dean, his
tone firm. “Son, I’m not asking here. I’m
telling. Get out of the car.”
Dean huffed a breath and refused to
meet his father’s gaze as he unbuckled the seat
belt and squirmed under his father’s bowed body,
racing around to the trunk begrudgingly obedient; a
sight John was more than used to seeing around this
time of year. Straightening up, John tossed his oldest
son the keys before finally cracking the back door open
and allowing Sammy to escape the confines of the back
“Want go inside, Daddy!”
Sam exclaimed, squirming in his father’s hold,
nearly crawling over John’s back.
“Alright, kiddo, hang on,”
John bargained uselessly, but the pleased smile faded
fast when his eyes fell on Dean’s sullen expression,
the boy looking as if he was about to face a firing
squad instead of Christmas break at Pastor Jim’s
House of Christmas; or Lighting Nightmare as John liked
to call it. “Dean, you got your stuff?”
Dean nodded in response, shouldering
his bag and handing his father Sam’s back pack.
“Mine!” the brown haired boy declared when
the tattered Salvation Army material came into view,
reaching out from his father’s hold, hand grasping
air as he begged for the ratted strap.
“Yep,” John muttered, snatching
the pack and giving it to his son as he maneuvered Sam
onto his other hip. The kid could walk, just preferred
not to. Something he was going to have to work on seeing
as Sam got heavier by the day. “Alright, you boys
remember what I told you right?”
“Eat ebyting!” Sam answered
cheerfully, quite pleased with the fact that he had
“That’s right.” John
commended. “No matter how bad it looks.”
He turned, watching Dean expectantly. “What else?”
The sandy-haired boy was taking an
extreme interest in how, with the right amount of pressure,
the toe of his shoe could kick up a nice sized clod
of dirt snow mush. John cleared his throat loudly, a
crystal clear warning that he expected an answer. “Watch
out for Sammy,” Dean murmured, eyes turned downward.
“Good,” John breathed,
placing Sammy down and grabbing the boy’s hand,
only to find it sticky from the M&Ms two hours back.
Wonderful. “Move ‘em out.”
The family made their way up the long
gravel drive, John stopping every so often to remind
Sam that the rocks didn’t like to be kicked especially
into Daddy’s already soaked pant legs and Dean
pausing just for the sake of it.
“P’sr Jim!” Sam yelled
when the family friend waiting patiently on the porch
came within eye shot. John released his hold on Sam’s
hand and the little boy raced across the yard, nearly
taking out the nativity Baby Jesus as he ran to envelop
the awaiting graying man in a fierce hug, eyes bright
with excitement. “You have lights!”
“Always,” Jim chuckled,
ruffling Sam’s hair, rising from his crouch and
greeting his friend. “Hello, John.”
“Hey there, Jim. How’s
that God of yours treating you?” John inquired,
shaking his friend’s hand.
“He gives and takes away, John,”
Jim replied in that pastoral tone John loved to hate.
A smile crept onto the host’s face as he looked
past his friend to the boy staring off into the white-laced
forested area surrounding his home. “I think you
lost one there, John boy.”
“Dean’s not lost,”
Sam argued firmly, as if his own three year old intelligence
surpassed that of the older men. “He’s thinkin’,
“Sorry, Jim,” the hunter
apologized, scratching the back of his head as he turned
to take in the sight of his son. “He just…he
gets like this around the holidays. You know?”
“He’s not the only one,”
the minister muttered, clearing his throat when John’s
brow rose in threat, “He’s lost a lot, you
all have,” he stated, understanding and sympathy
clouding his voice. “You want a minute?”
“Yeah,” John nodded, face
revealing his gratitude at his friend’s quiet
patience, yet another reason why he couldn’t find
a way to separate his family from the minister. Kindness
seemed to flow in the man’s blood.
The worry lines faded from the God-fearing
hunter’s face and he placed a supportive hand
on John’s shoulder, before turning back and kneeling
down to Sam’s eye level, grabbing the youngster’s
pack, “Now, who wants to go see the tree?”
Sam’s eyes got bigger than the
banged up skillet compliments of the last deteriorating
kitchen from the past Motel 6 stay. “ME!”
“Alright, then,” Jim laughed,
the young boy’s enthusiasm catching. “Let’s
Sam bounced happily as the older man
jerked the door open, missing how Jim tossed a concerned
look over his shoulder at his father, who mouthed a
silent “thank you” in return before Pastor
Jim shut the door behind them.
* * * *
John couldn’t quite get his feet to move. He knew
where he needed to go, but dealing with Dean could be
worse than dealing with land mines sometimes. Finally,
his Semper Fi mentality kicked in, and heaving a sigh,
the father trudged his way over to his son.
Dean’s hunter instincts were
top notch even for a child, and he sensed his Dad approaching
before John reached arm’s length. “Why do
we have to stay here?”
anguish in his son’s raw question forced John’s
feet to cover the remaining distance as quickly as humanly
possible. Placing a hand on Dean’s shoulder, John
used his light grip to turn the boy to face him. He
certainly hadn’t expected liquid emotion glassing
his son’s eyes and was internally grateful the
dreaded tears dared not fall. “Because I have
to see about that job in Derring.” While I
figure out how the hell I can deal without your mother
another year in the really nice bar there.
“We could go with you,”
Dean proposed, eyes wide with hope and a sense of impending
John murmured, dropping his head as he considered the
right way to continue. “It’s just better
if you stay here.” Because then you won’t
have to watch…
And if Dad didn’t know better
he’d swear that panic had etched its way onto
his eldest son’s face. “Who’s going
to back you up? What if something happens?”
going to happen, kiddo,” That you could even
begin to help with anyway. John consoled, brow
creased in fatherly concern as he clenched Dean’s
“You don’t know that!”
Dean snapped, yanking back from his father’s touch,
face livid with anger and a fear of the unknown-made-known
far too heavy for a child’s shoulders. “This
the father spoke sharply although desperately, rising
to full height and looking down authoritatively. “You’re
staying here with your brother, is that understood?”
Please, just listen.
“But Dad,” Dean broke in,
his voice near trembling as he looked up at his father.
“I’m—I can help. I won’t be
bad. I’ll do whatever you say, promise. Me and
Sammy—we can sit in the car if we have to. The
fatherly heart broke beneath his son’s begging,
but the fall back of Marine training he’d clung
to for survival the past three years clawed its way
to the surface as he stared into Dean’s soulful
jade. “It’s just a few days, son. I’ll
be back before Jim dips into his homemade eggnog. Which
you are not to drink by the way.” One alcoholic
in this family is enough.
“Yes sir,” Dean grumbled,
eyes studying the gravel covered ground. “You
“Promise what, Dean?” John
questioned incredulously. These kinds of things usually
got him stern looks from Jim and disappointed ones from
“You’ll be back in a few
days--for eggnog?” Dean repeated, the hope encircling
the words hard to miss.
nodded, knowing full well “eggnog” had now
become code word for “Christmas” and all
the holiday entailed. “Yeah, son, I promise. Now,
let’s get inside before Jim thinks we ran away.”
Not a bad idea really…
“From his cooking maybe,”
Dean quipped, and John laughed openly at the witty remark
from his child.
that the truth.” That’s my boy.
* * * *
Dean cracked the front door to Pastor Jim’s cabin
open, removing his snow crusted boots to the sounds
of Sam’s gushing over the fake pine tree pounding
in his ears alongside his father’s heavy footfalls
behind him. Sam’s short attention span quickly
turned to the new additions to the room and he rushed
over, pawing at John’s pant leg.
“That was more than a munut,
Daddy,” the little boy chided, yanking on the
damp denim until John acquiesced to his plea to be hoisted
up and held.
“Minute,” Dean corrected,
dropping his bag and opening his own arms to Sam, an
offer the little brother did not refuse—neither
did John. Dean grunted under Sam’s weight but
managed a good carry as he shuffled over to the couch
leaving the experienced hunters to chat. “Cool
“Yea!” Sam cried happily,
curling out of Dean’s arms and running over to
the green homage to faux forestry everywhere. “And
“What?” Dean asked playfully,
sinking down onto the worn tan sofa and watching the
flames flicker in the fireplace.
“It lights up like the house!”
Dean smirked at his younger brother’s Christmas
cheer as Sam crawled his way up onto the sofa and plopped
down right next to Dean’s sprawled legs, eyes
studying his older brother. “Are you sad?”
“What?” Dean shifted, his
focus falling on his brother. “No.”
“You look sad,” Sam stated,
leaning in and knocking foreheads with his brother.
“Are you sad?”
“Ow,” Dean grumbled, lightly
pushing Sam back. “No, leave me alone.”
“Dean?” Sam whimpered,
frowning as his older brother, hero even, pushed off
the sofa, stomping to the back room they always shared
without sparing him a second glance. The little brother
jerked back along with everyone else in the small living
room when the harsh sound of the door slamming finalized
John shot Sam a confused look, but
when his youngest’s eyes filled quickly with tears
and his bottom lip started quivering, the father somehow
found himself curled up on the couch, Sam in his arms.
“What happened, buddy?”
“D-Dean,” Sam sobbed, digging
his head into his father’s shoulder. John pursed
his lips, jaw clenching as he worked to control his
temper. He was pretty sure he told that boy to watch
his younger brother, not usher him to tears for Dad
to wipe away.
brother’s just upset at me, Sammy. It has nothing
to do with you,” John assured, stroking Sam’s
baby fine hair. I can’t do this…
“Really?” Sam’s head
popped up, his deep brown eyes searching his father’s
face for truth.
“Yeah, really,” the father
repeated, hand encircling his son’s chin. “I
got to head out now, okay? So mind Pastor Jim and your
“Are you gonna kill monsers?”
Sam’s eyes bugged wide, and all evidence that
he had been crying moments before had vanished as he
contemplated another of his father’s superhero
do my best,” John replied, picking Sam up and
setting the little boy on the sofa as he rose to a stand.
“I’ll be back soon, son.” Relatively
Sam scooted off the couch, grabbing
his dad in a hug. “Promise?”
John’s eyes flicked to his watching
friend, Jim’s face bearing a pinched expression.
“Yeah, son, I promise.”
“Did you tell Dean bye?”
Sam questioned, releasing his hold on his father’s
leg and starting to pad his way down the hall. “I
“Leave your brother, Sammy,”
John ordered gruffly, ignoring Jim’s look of disdain
at his actions. “I already spoke with him.”
Pastor Jim shifted his weight, clearly
unable to remain silent. “John, I really think
that if Dean--”
“I’ll see you in a couple
days, Jim,” John dismissed the man, stalking over
to the door, before throwing a backwards glance at his
youngest, who was watching the exchange with wide eyes.
“You too, Sammy.”
As the father turned to leave, Jim
stalked forward, grabbing his stubborn friend’s
arms and leaning toward the man, his voice low and covered
by Sam’s hesitant stopping on the wooden floor.
“You really should stay. Don’t do something
stupid, because those boys expect you back and I’m
not explaining to them how their father went out because
he downed three bottles of Jack instead of fighting
John grit his teeth, his jaw flexing
tightly, “Don’t. You don’t know. Don’t
you dare pretend you do.”
The pastor jerked bad at the malice
choking the words, watching in sympathizing fear as
the fellow hunter barreled onto the porch.
“Bye!” Sammy yelled out
with a wave, but his goodbye was muffled by the slamming
of the front door and the youngest of the Winchesters
ran to the wide bay window, face pressed against the
cool glass as he watched what Daddy referred to as ‘the
coolest car on the planet’ disappear down the
* * * *
Pastor Jim rested his elbows on the worn carved wooden
table, his hands wrapping around the hot mug filled
with cider, finding the slow wafting steam rising from
the cup easier to stare at than of the two children
he’d been privileged to serve this particular
holiday. He was supposed to be at the church introducing
the Pageant, but duty called in other ways and what
were Associate Ministers for if you couldn’t call
in a favor every now and again?
And since every nerve in his body was
frazzled after he’d only been cabin-bound with
John’s spawn for a little over two days, the elder
minister thought he deserved the break. A rambunctious
Sammy had been fairly easy to entertain at first; a
couple picture books and a tour of the outside lawn
decorations seemed to do the trick for a while. Until
the last bout of fallen snow and weather warnings put
an end to any further outside excursions.
The afterglow had faded too quickly,
however, and now the younger child was running around
the living room, tiny hand curled into a fist, his thumb
jutting straight up and index finger pointing outward
in mock gun formation and a ‘coon skin hat on
his head as he circled around the couch claiming the
sulking persona sitting there as his captive.
That captive had refused to move from
that position or a sullen one at the window since Jim
had decided to drag his ass out of the bedroom every
day for no other reason than the boy could help him
with his little brother. Attaching Sam to Dean, however,
hadn’t worked and Jim was met with a knee-weakening
glare and clenched jaw anytime he spoke to or looked
at the older brother in a pleading manner.
At this point in the game, the minister
was convinced that if it had been a real gun Sammy had
and the cap that of a police chief it wouldn’t
make a difference. He really couldn’t blame the
kid. It was Christmas Eve, and still no word or sight
from the boys’ father. If anyone deserved a swift
kick to the ass it was John Winchester, in Jim’s
mind. Even if it were only for the immense amount of
worry the man had caused to befall upon the minister.
Jim had been to Derring before, and
had seen what happened to men who chose to drown their
problems. He guessed a part of him should be thankful
John had the decency to do it without the boys suffering,
but looking at Dean, Jim had to reconsider that idea.
“Bang!” Sam screeched,
jerking his little body back as he acted out the recoil
from the gun. The exuberant sound effect was returned
with a roll of the eyes as Dean sunk lower into the
couch pillows, feet kicking idly. Sam was not pleased.
If he was giving an Oscar performance, big brother should
be giving one too. “Dean! I said Bang! P’sr
Jim, I said Bang.”
“I heard you, Sammy,” the
hunter replied, sighing heavily and pushing the warm
mug aside as he rose from his chair, shaking his head
as he checked his watch. Bed Time. Hallelujah. “But
I think Dean’s tired. Like you should be.”
“Ain’t tired,” the
little boy protested, shaking his head, “Daddy
doesn’t make me go to bed!”
“Lying isn’t a very good
habit to develop, Sammy,” Jim chided, scooping
up the little boy in his arms. “But sleep is always
a good thing.”
“Hunters lie almost every day.”
The snide remark got the minister’s
attention, not just because it was the only thing Dean
had said since his forced exile from the back room,
but also because the boy was right. He couldn’t
argue, especially when Sammy and Dean were watching
him expectantly for an answer. “You have a point
there. But it’s kind of like when a policemen
or agent assumes an identity to catch the bad guy.”
“Whatever,” Dean muttered,
sliding off the sofa and shuffling over to Jim and his
brother. “C’mon, Sammy, you can wear Spiderman
“You wear yours,” Sam stated
with finality as he squirmed from Jim’s hold,
reaching out a hand for his older brother to take.
“Sure,” Dean agreed, his
voice considerably lighter as he addressed his younger
brother. Although his Spiderman gear consisted only
of a red and blue colored T-shirt, but whatever worked.
“Did you already brush your teeth?”
Jim smiled at Sam’s reply of
“maybe” and moved to follow the two down
the hallway, but Dean’s glare stopped him. “I
“Alright,” Jim surrendered,
used to being excluded from the familiar bedtime ritual.
It didn’t stop the man from trying to break through
the Great Wall that Dean had built anyway. “But
after you get changed and all ready, let me know. I
got a bedtime story for you.”
“I’ll tell him one,”
Dean protested, giving Sam’s arm a little tug
when the younger boy stopped.
“I wanna hear P’sr Jim’s,”
Sam whined, unleashing a set of puppy dog eyes on his
brother that would bring the nastiest demons to repentance.
“Fine,” Dean mumbled, practically
dragging Sam to the bedroom with him.
“You not being very nice, Dean,”
Sam admitted, wriggling out of his T-shirt and grabbing
the long john PJs decorated with webs and the Marvel
superhero Dean had tossed his way. “And you didn’t
eat all your dinner. Daddy’s not gonna be happy.”
“Dad can’t say anything
about it if he ain’t here, can he?” Dean
spat, pulling his sleep shirt on and then moving to
help Sam with his bottoms as the little boy shook his
head in agreement. “Good. I won’t tell if
you won’t. All set?”
“Yep,” Sam answered hastily,
jumping on the bed and settling in under the covers,
waiting until Dean had crawled under his own before
calling their story teller. “P’SR JIM!”
“I’m coming, I’m
coming,” the preacher laughed, hastening his footsteps
as he sauntered down the hall, clutching the worn leather
book to his chest as he entered the room to find both
boys propped against their pillows, waiting. “Had
to put out the cookies for the big guy. Okay, are we
Sam nodded eagerly, patting his covers—a
command for Jim to rest on his bed--and the older gentlemen
looked over at Dean: the young man’s eyebrows
were raised skeptically and his arms were crossed over
Pastor Jim nudged Sam playfully. “Tough
crowd, huh?” Sam giggled at the small attempt
at humor, but Dean was not amused. Jim cleared his throat
nervously. “Okay, so um…Let’s get
this started, huh?”
Cracking open the faded leather book,
the pastor slowly turned the worn pages until he arrived
at the bookmarked story and began to read.
it came to pass in those days, that there went out a
decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should
* * * *
“And they came with haste, and found Mary, and
Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger,” The
minister whispered, closing his Bible and setting the
book aside before tugging the sheets tighter around
Sam’s sleeping form. Casting a glance at his other
listener, Jim smiled. “What’d you think?”
“That’s the first Christmas
Eve?” Dean asked disbelievingly, seemingly unimpressed.
“To those who believe, yes,”
the minister answered, not bothered in the least as
his job constantly revealed new areas of skepticism
and questioning of faith.
“It was okay,” Dean shrugged,
adjusting himself in the bed and doing his best to stifle
a yawn. “Must’ve been a big deal if those
people went looking for him.”
“Oh, it was,” Jim stated
reverently. “A very big deal. They needed him
more than they knew at the time. He was special to them,
to Israel, and you search out people that are special
to you. And sometimes you take risks, brave deserts
and evil kings to get there.”
Dean nodded in understanding, lower
lip curled under his teeth as he mulled over the minister’s
statement. “I’d hear it again…maybe.”
“I can live with that,”
Jim responded quietly, rising off the bed and studying
the way Dean’s head dropped, his fingers picking
at the wool comforter. “Good night, Dean.”
“Night, Pastor Jim,” Dean
mumbled, shutting his eyes only to crack them back open
once the door closed quietly.
* * * *
The more-than-tired minister shifted
under the expectant whisper and mumbled under his breath,
ordering what had to be Sammy back to bed at least for
another ten minutes.
Jim smacked a hand against his forehead,
keeping his eyes clenched shut as he moved to rub them.
Sammy?” the pastor muttered, cracking open his
eyes and turning to see the alarm clock. 3:30 AM.
Yep, single never felt so good.
Sam scrambled up onto the bed, tapping
the man’s shoulder. “Are you up?”
Jim rolled his eyes, pushing himself
up on his elbows and meeting Sam’s eyes. “No.”
“It’s Chismas!” Sam
exclaimed, clapping his hands together before launching
himself at the tired older man. “Chismas!”
“No, Sammy,” Jim murmured,
glancing pathetically at the clock, “‘Chismas’
doesn’t start ‘til at least eight.”
“New days start at midnight,”
Sam declared with a knowing nod. “Dean says so.”
“Well, Dean could be wrong,”
the minister offered weakly, but the little boy merely
shook his head.
“Fine,” Jim breathed, raking
a hand through his tousled hair. “It’s Chismas.”
“Told ya,” the youngest
Winchester laughed, scooting off the bed and running
down the hall.
The pastor slowly made his way to the
edge of his warm and oh-so-comfortable sleeping wonderland
and shivered when his bare feet hit the cool wood. Groaning
slightly, he eased himself up to a stand and began the
shuffle to the living room, where Sam was already hopping
anxiously at the sight of all the colored packages courtesy
of Santa laid out beneath the tree.
“Open!” Sam yelled, not
even minding how the family friend sunk down onto the
sofa, a wry smile on his face.
“We have to wait for Dean, Sammy,”
Jim explained through a yawn.
“I get him!” Sam determined
and set off down the hall faster than Jim could stop
him. Dean was already cranky. And with John not even
trying to make an effort to communicate…Lord Jesus
help them all.
When a few minutes ticked by and nothing
but Sam’s cries had met his ears, Jim’s
brow creased in concern and he slowly made his way to
the back room. Sammy met him half way, nearly plowing
him over as the little boy was running as fast as his
legs would take him.
“Whoa, there, Sammy. What’s
wrong?” Jim asked rapidly, sinking down to Sam’s
level and grabbing the boy’s arms.
Sam’s eyes were overflowing and
his voice small as he mustered a reply. “Dean
“What?” Jim questioned,
way louder than initially intended. Sam didn’t
reply, his bottom lip only quivering more, and the pastor
had to keep his panic and raising temper in check as
he pressed the boy for a better answer. “What
do you mean a pillow?”
“Dean a pillow,” Sam stated
angrily, frustrated he wasn’t getting his point
across and jerked free of the minister’s hold,
turning back to the room. “See! He gone! Sumtin
“Gone” was the only word
Jim recognized in Sam’s whole account, and the
hunter crossed the threshold of the boys’ room
and was at the side of Dean’s assigned bed faster
than Barry Allen himself.
Jim would later swear the entire room
was deprived of oxygen and his lungs ceased to breathe
in the instant he glanced down and saw nothing but a
pile of uncovered pillows strategically placed to mimic
a sleeping child. An extremely capable, albeit stupid,
seven year old to be exact.
search out people that are special to you. And sometimes
you take risks, brave deserts and evil kings to get
“Oh god…Okay, okay…”
Jim muttered, beginning a steady pace. He cast a glance
toward the foggy bedroom window, nervously studying
the piles of snow outside the cabin.
He could figure this out. Hell, he’d
hunted demons sneakier than this. Although, this was
so not going to be on his ‘John should know’
list unless the worse came to worst, but surely Dean
didn’t get that far. Okay, so this was Dean…maybe
he did; after all the boy was searching.
“Where Dean?” Sam cried,
sliding down the bedroom wall and huddling up against
it, tears spilling freely down his face.
he went toward the main road…“I don’t--”
the minister halted, taking in the young boy’s
condition and sighing. “We’ll find him,
Sammy. I promise. Can you get your coat on and your
The little boy nodded and Jim helped
him get fitted into the clothing, not failing to notice
how Dean’s hat and boots were missing from the
pile. All the while he struggled to get his shaking
hands to function enough to pull his own coat and boots
on. It was closing in to four, which meant Dean could
have been gone close to five hours now. He had finished
the story around ten, right?
This was so not turning out to be the
Christmas Eve and Day celebration he had planned weeks
“You ready, Sammy?” Jim
demanded, stomping into the room and finding Sam barely
able to move in his puffy jacket and Paddington bear-style
boots. “Okay…okay, let’s go.”
Jim herded the young boy out into the
living room, grabbing his hat off the kitchen table
and ordering Sam to get the door. However, it wasn’t
Sam who made it to the door first and Jim gulped audibly
as John stomped the day old snow from his boots and
entered the cabin.
“Jesus!” the minister exclaimed,
grabbing the dinner table for support as he worked to
get his thoughts in order. John smirked, giving the
pastor a mock chastising glance and the man recovered
slowly. “Mary, Joseph and the Saints. You’re
“Daddy!” Sam screamed,
running to hug his father’s leg. “You made
it for Chismas!”
John grunted, reaching down and unclenching
Sam’s hold on him. “Daddy’s tired,
Jim’s mouth turned downward in
a frown as he studied his fellow hunter. Stubble and
creased lines surrounding John’s face weren’t
the only things that suggested this Winchester was less
than sober: the light sway in his steps and sharp bitter
smell clinging to his body gave the game away too.
“John, I need to talk to you,”
Jim stated firmly, taking Sam to his side.
“You can preach to me later,”
John slurred, nodding to the minister before crashing
out on the couch. “I’m tired.”
Jim snapped, doing his best to ignore the way John snapped
up to a dizzying sit, his glazed eyes lit with anger.
“And there are more important things….Look,
“What about Dean?” John
demanded, eyes landing on Sam’s tear-stained face.
Sam broke underneath his father’s
glare, sobbing once again. “He gone, Daddy!”
“What?” the question was
blunt, hard and demanded an immediate answer.
“Sam and I went to wake him up,
and he was gone,” Jim clarified rapidly, and intentionally
adding a bit of guilt. “No doubt to look for you.”
“You aren’t blaming me
for this!” John boomed, coming to a stand and
approaching the minister with furious haste. “It’s
your fault he’s gone.”
“Yelling at me isn’t going
to solve the problem,” Jim soothed or rather tried
to, hands up in surrender, his gaze flickering to Sam’s
small body rigid with fear and overwhelming emotion.
He smiled encouragingly to the boy glad that the three
year old was letting the grownups converse or yell,
scream and fight.
“He’s a freakin’
seven year old dammit! You mean to tell me you can’t
handle that?” the father raged, and Jim found
himself pressed against the wall, fingers laced around
his neck before he could even blink.
“And you can?” Jim whispered
hoarsely, immediately feeling the release of John’s
John stepped back, his eyes clear with
determination. “I have to find my son.”
“I’ll help,” The
pastor offered, but was waved away.
“No, someone has to stay with
Sammy. And you’ve done enough already,”
John reasoned and with that he pulled on his boots and
headed out into the snowy drift.
The soft whimper tore Jim’s attention
away from the door and he turned to find nothing more
than a confused little boy desperately seeking answers
to a problem way above his reach. “He’ll
be back, Sammy.”
Sammy padded over to Jim, tugging at
the man’s flannels and the pastor picked him up
instantly, doing his best to avoid the puppy-dog eyes
staring right at him. “With Dean?”
“I hope so, son. I hope so.”
* * * *
The harsh morning wind and damp snow had no effect on
John’s whiskey-warm body, sweaty from exertion.
Adrenaline alone could keep him going far past the thirty
minutes he’d already put into the search for his
It had been a good sign initially when
John found a set of boot prints, and he had thanked
god--or whoever else was manipulating his existence
for the day--that the snowfall had been next to nothing
late the previous night. However, the father was now
cursing the very Deity he had shown gratitude towards
as the tracks disappeared as the forest grew denser.
All facets of his brain screamed this
was some buzz gone horribly wrong and he’d wake
up with a cool sweat and a new nightmare to store away.
But the biting air and vast wasteland of trees bore
stark witness to the fact that reality was playing out
an elaborate scene for his torture alone.
“Dammit!” John yelled,
smacking his fist into a tall evergreen when he realized
he’d made a complete circle in the sea of white.
The dull ache was nothing compared to the symphony of
pain he knew his hand would be singing once the alcohol
was out his system, but even searing agony couldn’t
outweigh the despair clenching the father’s heart.
With a shuddering breath, John leaned
against the tree, his body rising and falling with each
shaky gasp he took in. He couldn’t go through
this again…not again, first his Mary, and as tragic
as that was he had found himself coping. But this…?
No, he wasn’t going to lose his son.
Determination allowed him to get a
handle on the situation, and John pushed off from the
tree, scanning the line of forestry, his echoing cry
for his son to simply respond to him resounding through
* * * *
Jim chewed nervously on his bottom lip. It was one thing
for a man of God to go and lose another man’s
child, but to insult the father on top of it all—he
could see his Lord frowning from where he was sitting
on the sofa, Sam curled up against him after literally
sobbing himself back to sleep.
It was all wrong. All of it. He should
be out there helping the hunt. He knew the woods better
than anyone and the new game of IF his brain insisted
on playing was not helping the situation in the least.
Dean remembered to find a decent shelter
Dean made it to the main road
Dean had fallen in one of the many ground holes
Dean had let the cold numb his body to the point of
letting the feeling lull him to sleep
John didn’t find him
Jim shifted in his seat. No, this was too much for any
man to endure, and all the prayers he shot up during
the past hour should attest to that. Forget what a man
can bear, there has to come a time when there is a breaking
point, regardless of whether one could last another
mile or two.
He needed something to do, something
to occupy himself—even the children’s choir
sounded good at the moment. But he’d spent the
better part of the early morning starting a roaring
fire, placing leftover bricks from his latest building
project near the hearth, warming them, and fixing Dean’s
bed with extra blankets just in case John should return
soon. And now there was nothing to do but wait.
A dull thud startled the pastor and
he jumped off the sofa, taking a sleepy and confused
Sam with him. “Stay here.”
Sammy nodded tiredly, rubbing his eyes.
The sound was repeated and Jim hastened to the door,
the air leaving his lungs when he saw what lay behind
John swallowed thickly, shivering against
the cold, his leather jacket wrapped tightly around
the small body held tightly in his arms. A body that
looked like Dean.
“H-he can’t have him.”
Jim’s countenance drew in a puzzled expression
at John’s painful admission, the father’s
own face turned down to stare at the gray skin and blue
tinged lips of his oldest son.
gives and takes away.
“Get him inside, John,”
Jim stated softly, fighting back his welling emotions
and doing his best to regain control, because someone
had to. John didn’t move. “I said inside,
An order, something any Winchester
knew how to respond to, and Jim was rewarded for it.
“Take him to the back room. Get him out of his
Jim stumbled over Sam, who had decided
to be filled in on the situation. The pastor shook his
head when John halted his steps, and motioned for the
torn father to heed his command before he knelt down
and placed his hands on Sam’s shoulders. “Sammy,
I need you to listen to me, this is important, okay?”
“Your Daddy and I have to help
Dean right now, so I need you to be a big boy and get
all the towels from the bathroom and bring them into
the living room. Let me know when you’re finished.”
Sam’s eyes widened. “Is
Jim bit his lip and dropped his head
in resignation. “No,” he stopped the moment
Sam’s lip took to quivering and squeezed the boy’s
shoulders reassuringly. “But we’re gonna
try to get him there. That’s why I need you to
help, got it?”
“Y-yeah,” Sam sniffled,
wiping his nose and scurrying off to the bathroom.
“Good,” the hunter breathed,
wiping his hands on his pajamas and hustling back down
the hall, only to be met with the sight of a bundled
up Dean, and a worried John grasping the boy’s
Jim swallowed convulsively when he
approached the bed to find his friend all but comatose,
John’s eyes locked on Dean’s too-still form.
“H-he’s so cold. Jim, he’s cold.”
“I know,” Jim muttered
weakly, clearing his throat. “SAM! You have those
towels? John, try and get Dean warm as you can, come
on man, friction…you’ve done this before.”
John nodded and dropped down on the
bed next to Dean, molding the boy into a half sit and
peeling back a few of the blankets to rub his own warm
flesh against the frigid skin of his son.
“Uh huh,” Sam yelled, and
the tiny patter of feet approaching sprung Jim into
Quickly, he blocked the littlest Winchester’s
path and shook his head. “You need to stay in
the living room, Sam. Now come on.”
Sam reluctantly followed, but acquiesced
when cookies and milk were placed in front of him. Jim
rapidly gathered the towels, wrapping them around the
warm bricks and carrying a full armload back into the
boys’ room, offering silent prayers that this
would not be a day of mourning.
* * * *
It had been nearly two days until Dean’s
pallor held no sign of ashen gray and his lips no longer
a tinge of blue. Two days of constant rotating shifts
between John and Jim without a word spoken between them.
Four days of insistent bed rest and being bundled up
so tight the boy could hardly move and five days until
Sam had nearly busted down the door to simply see his
And with a week of harrowing stress
and new grays Jim was sure he acquired, all three Winchesters
and the minister were settled around the tree, wrapping
paper and torn packaging scattered amongst the wood
Sam had been delighted with his car
track and had assembled it nearly perfectly with a little
help. Dean’s gift was still wrapped for the most
part, and Jim patted his knee sympathetically before
retreating into the kitchen for some more hot cider.
Dean tired fast since the run away, and the cold he
was fighting didn’t help in the least, but the
kid was alive and Jim would take the sniffles over a
gravesite any day of the week.
“Daddy, look!” Sam exclaimed,
pointing his finished product. “It goes Vroom
“That’s really cool, Sammy,”
Dean commented with a smirk, and toyed with the edge
of his own wrapped present. A book of all things, but
one Pastor Jim had said he would use in the future to
destroy some pretty bad dudes. “Huh, Dad?”
“Yeah,” John murmured gruffly,
scratching his head and motioning toward the kitchen.
“Sammy, why don’t you go help, Pastor Jim.
I need---uh, I need to talk to Dean.”
“Kay.” Sam laughed, running
off to tell Jim that Daddy said the older man needed
John watched with a small smile as
his youngest disappeared into the kitchen, taking a
deep breath before turning to face Dean. “You
want to tell me why you ran off in the middle of the
Dean adjusted his blankets further
up against his torso, and looked apologetically at his
father. “Sorry I scared you.”
“Scared me?” John repeated
tersely, “Dean, you could’ve died! I can’t—you
are never to pull a stunt like that again, is that clear?”
“Yes sir,” the sandy haired
boy murmured, ducking his head down. “I just wanted
to make sure you weren’t lost.”
John pinched the bridge of his nose
and shot his son a confused glance. “What?”
“You didn’t let us know
you were okay,” Dean admitted softly. “And…and
I wanted to make sure you could come back.”
The father sighed and moved nearer
his son. “This…this was different. Not a
normal—hunt exactly. I want you to promise me
you aren’t going to do something like this again,
alright? It’s dangerous and I won’t—I
can’t—just tell me this isn’t going
to happen again. You can’t make a sacrifice like
that—not for me.”
Dean shook his head in argument. “What
if next time you really are lost or hurt?”
“Then you take care of Sammy
until Jim or someone can help you figure out what went
wrong or where I am,” John reasoned with fatherly
“No, I can’t promise that,”
Dean admitted firmly, locking his determined eyes with
his father’s confused and angry ones. “Sometimes
you take risks when you need somebody. That’s
what Pastor Jim says.”
John scoffed gruffly, ruffling his
boy’s hair. “Well, the old God nut might
have a point on that one.”
“I think so,” Dean replied
with a smile than John readily returned.
“Oh you do, do ya?” the
father asked lightly, grunting his way to a stand and
assisting Dean to one. “Well, two bags of M&Ms
says the man still can’t make a good Christmas
“Do I have to eat it?”
the boy asked gingerly, his face scrunched in dislike.
John laughed openly, a sound that nearly
stopped him it was so foreign. “Only if I have
“Dad,” Dean halted his
shuffle toward the kitchen, causing John to turn back.
“I’m glad you’re okay.”
“Right back at ya, dude.”
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