Santa's Little Helper

By Thru Terry's Eyes

 

“I swear to God,” Dean spit between his teeth. “If one more person says Merry Christmas to me I’m going to punch ‘em into the New Year.” He stomped along next to Sam as they kicked their way through the ankle deep snow covering the sidewalks, being jostled and shoved by the happy but frantic shoppers hurrying to finish their last minute shopping and get home to celebrate Christmas Eve with their families.

“Dean, c’mon, where’s your holiday spirit?” Sam kidded, giving Dean a tiny shove. Snow frosted his hair and drifted down the front of his jacket. Despite the people around them, there was a softness to the sounds, as though the gently falling snow sought to muffle the sharpness by wrapping everything in a fluffy blanket.

Sam was in a mellow mood, the drifting snow and ice-covered roads had caused Dean to declare it unsafe to take his baby out on them so they had agreed to spend their meager Christmas in Batusse, Michigan, which Dean insisted on calling Bug Tussle. Stopping for a few days had suited him just fine. Last Christmas they had nearly died in a tumble down cabin, injured, with no food or heat. The prospect of spending Christmas in a nice little town in a warm motel room, even a crappy one, sounded great.

For some reason Dean had been short tempered and more hard to get along with than usual the last two days and Sam had finally stopped trying to figure out what the hell his problem was. Christmas always made Dean tense and it was pointless to try to beat a dead horse into giving out information.

Sam stuffed his hands further into his pockets and lifted his face into the delicately blowing flakes, enjoying the soft brush against his skin. A little girl, her hand gripped tightly by an older woman with an armload of packages walked by and gave him a shy smile which he happily returned.

Not paying attention, Sam walked into Dean who had stopped at an intersection for the light.

“Watch it!” Dean snapped, shoving back. His eyes caught sight of the bell ringer with his Salvation Army kettle standing beside him. The thin, scroungy-looking young man wore a Santa hat with a big white puff ball bouncing on the top of a coiled spring, a week's growth of messy beard and a gap-toothed smile as people dropped coins into the red kettle.

Dean pointed a finger at him as he raised his bell. “You even think about ringing that thing while I’m standing here and I’ll make sure you ring for the next twelve months, you follow me?”

“Dean!” Sam yelped, pushing him away, writhing under the startled gazes of the people standing around them waiting to cross. “I’m sorry, he missed his medication this morning. Merry Christmas,” he told the startled young man, throwing the few coins he’d found in his pocket into the kettle.

Sam hustled Dean across the street as Dean protested the donation on the grounds they weren’t exactly rolling in money themselves. Sam noticed he didn’t hear the bell ringing again until they were across the street and half a block down and even then it was muffled.

“Dean, for God’s sake, can you hear yourself?” Sam exclaimed. “Just because you’re determined to be miserable doesn’t mean you have to ruin it for other people! It’s Christmas, Dean, not the end of the world. Why can’t you just relax and enjoy it?”

Dean stopped dead, causing the people crowding around them to part like water around an immovable boulder that had suddenly risen in their midst.

“Why?” he said sharply, punctuating his words by punching Sam in the chest with a finger that poked through the hole in his glove because they had had to buy ammo rather than new gloves. “Enjoy what? That this year we’re not freezing to death in a shack? That we have exactly enough money for a couple of days at the local roach motel and maybe if we’re lucky we can have Christmas dinner at the soup kitchen? That I couldn’t even scrape enough together to get you a stupid present 'cause I had to put gas in the car?”

Sam’s mouth tightened and he nodded. “Yeah, Dean, enjoy that if that’s all we have. It’s been a hard year, but we’re together. Enjoy the fact that we’re both alive to see Christmas, that we had enough money to put gas in the car.” He grabbed Dean’s hand in its torn glove even though he tried to pull it back. “Maybe we can’t get new gloves but at least have gloves. And we may be sleeping in a crap hole, but there’s heat and running water. ‘Cause no matter how crappy it may seem it’s a lot more than we’ve had some years and more than a lot of people have every day!”

Dean jerked his hand away. “It’s not enough,” he said softly, staring at the sidewalk. His eyes flicked over Sam’s. “I need a drink.” He turned away. “I’ll meet you back at the motel later.” It was not an invitation.

“Dean-"

Dean waved him away. “I’ve got my phone. Go get warm.” He trudged away in search of a suitable spot to drown in some self-pity.

“What are you gonna use for money?” Sam protested, afraid of the answer. Dean ignored him and Sam watched him go with a sigh, then turned and headed back toward the motel.

* * * *


Dean blinked blearily and sipped his beer. He knew Sam was mad at him but, dammit! Just this once Dean had wanted to try for a regular Christmas not bought at someone else's expense. He knew that while Sam went along with the credit card stuff 'cause he didn’t have a choice, it bothered him. Dean had been hoarding what little money he could and had saved up enough for a decent motel, and a nice dinner somewhere. It was to have been his present to Sam. A Christmas he had gotten for them paid for all on his own.

The last hunt had taken care of that. Funds depleted and now the snow to stop them from getting to one of their P.O. boxes to replenish their credit card supply so that Dean couldn’t even steal a Christmas for them. No pool action because everyone was money conscious for gift giving.

He was more than pissed, he was deeply disappointed.

Knocking back the rest of the beer, he set the empty bottle on the bar. To his surprise the bartender set a three quarter full beer mug in front of him and fiveshot glasses.

“What’s this?” Dean asked, puzzled.

“Christmas Evil,” the barkeep replied, smirking. “Guy in the booth sent it.”

Dean turned in the direction indicated, but he couldn't see into that particular booth. "What is it?” Dean repeated, eyeing the five glasses with curiosity.

Tapping each glass in turn the barman recited, “Beer, tequila, whiskey, vodka, Everclear." Dean’s eyes widened as each shot glass was lifted and poured it into the beer mug, raising the level of the liquid to the top.

“Why’d he send it?” Dean asked.

The barman shrugged. “He’s been buying them for people all evening. Guess it’s your turn. House rules, though, you gotta drink it in one go. Second one’s on the house if you're still conscious.”

“Are you kidding?”

“Never about liquor.” He pushed the glass at Dean, smiling. “You’ll never spend a better Christmas Eve.”

Dean eyed the mug, torn between lust and his better judgment. What the hell, he finally decided, he’d shot his wad on the one beer and wasn’t even close to where he wanted to be.

He cocked his eyebrows at the barman and lifted the glass to his lips.

It was like drinking a volcano. He wasn’t aware he was being watched by a large number of patrons at the bar until the empty glass hit the bar and he was trying to cough and gasp for air at the same time, eyes watering. Cheers and sporadic applause broke out. Several people clapped him on the back.

“Holy crap!” he wheezed as the drink hit something flammable in his stomach and exploded, sending fireballs back up to burn behind his eyes. The room suddenly became very warm.

Dean could hold his liquor with the best of them but somehow, on an empty stomach, the combination he had just imbibed left him with the fastest buzz he had ever gotten. Hands on the bar to steady himself he was amazed to see another Christmas Evil set up before him.

“On the house, dude,” the bartender said with a grin, pouring in the shots.

More amazing was the fact that Dean actually picked it up and took another sip. It really wasn’t half bad…

By the time that one was gone he was stumbling drunk but with any luck a couple more beers and he might make it all the way to falling down. It was always good to set goals. Sam had told him that. Or Dad. Some male person anyway. He hiccupped and decided a visit to the men’s room might be in order while he could still control his feet, more or less.

That taken care of, he got another beer and took a sip. He’d had so much to drink already he was a little surprised when it didn’t just run back out from the corners of his mouth, but no, success, it went down. He stifled the belch that followed behind his hand and decided to find a booth, balancing on the stool having become a trifle dicey.

He was disappointed to discover all the booths were taken until a gruff voice spoke up.

“Plant your ass here, kid, if you want.”

Dean stared. The speaker had a billowing white beard, long white hair and was dressed in a red and white suit. A pair of white gloves lay on the table along with a peaked red and white hat with a fluffy white ball on top.

“Huh?” Dean replied.

“You’ve really got a grip on the flashy repartee, there don’t you? I said park your butt on the seat before it lands on the floor.” The growling voice didn’t even try to go along with the jolly look.

“Hey, you sent that…uh…that drink to me,” Dean said, but did as requested and slid into the booth, resting his sweating beer on the table. “Thanks, but what for?”

"Santa" was doing shots from the look of it. He pushed one at Dean.

“Help yourself,” he said, downing the one in his hand.

Too far gone now to give a damn, Dean tossed the drink back, chasing it with a hit off the beer. He coughed. “Things a little slow at the Pole?” Dean drawled, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand.

“Ho friggin’ ho,” his host replied, unsmiling. “Like that’s the first time I’ve heard that tonight.”

“Tough night? Well, yeah, I guesh…” Dean shook his head, “guess…that goes without saying.” Dean grinned.

The whiskers around the mouth of his new friend twitched upward. He held out his hand to Dean.

“I’m Chris.”

Dean leaned forward and shook. “Dean. Shouldn’t you be at the mall…or somethin’…kid sittin' on your knee?”

Chris groaned and rolled his eyes. “Don’t remind me. It took me an hour to get the last sucker out of my beard. If I have to listen to one more of those little freaks ask me for a PS3 I’m gonna lose it totally. Do you know how much those things cost? And the waiting list…my God.” He reached up and rubbed his eyes, then had another shot.

Dean laughed, started to take another drink then changed his mind, swallowing. Maybe he’d had enough for a little while. The room was shifting slowly, and for once he decided to heed the warnings his stomach was starting to send him.

“I guess that’s their parents' problem,” he replied, sliding the bottle slightly away.

Chris snorted, “I wish.”

Dean laughed again, but a little hesitantly. “Whadaya mean?”

Chris ignored him. “What do you want for Christmas?” he said suddenly.

Dean’s mind skidded slightly in an attempt to catch up with the conversation. “Huh?”

Chris snorted. “You know, I’ve never spent Christmas Eve with my wife? Not once. I’m always out working, every freakin’ Christmas Eve. She never complains, never says a word.” Chris gestured Dean closer, leaning forward as much as his belly would allow.

“I know she’s thinking it though…” Chris confided, eyes darting back and forth.

Dean stared at him. “Think…thinking what?”

“I put my job ahead of my relationship with her.”

“That bitch,” Dean said in sympathy.

Chris shook his head, sitting back. “I understand where she’s coming from. Just once I’d like to spend some of Christmas Eve with her. It just never works out.” He threw back his last shot.

“Yeah,” Dean replied, massaging his eyes. "I wanted to spend Christmas in a nice motel this year, nice dinner, kind of a-" Dean hiccupped, “ –a surprise for my brother.” He dropped his head down on his arms and rolled his forehead along his forearm.

“What the hell are you doing here then?” Chris growled, watching him.

“Had to use up the money for—other stuff. Can’t afford it now. Staying in this rat hole, just like always.” Dean’s voice got bitter.

“Does your brother mind?”

“Hell,” Dean spat. “You heard that joke about a kid, happy as hell, digging through a huge pile of horse manure saying there’s gotta be a pony in here somewhere?" He looked up at Chris who nodded. “That’s my brother, sometimes. Makes you just wanta kick his ass.” Dean shook his head.

Chris laughed. A genuine laugh that turned most of the heads in the bar.

“That doesn’t explain why you’re here instead of with him.”

Dean rubbed the back of his neck and made a face. “Aw, I was bein’ an ass.” He admitted with a sigh. “I really wanted to try and do something kinda—normal, for a change. He didn’t care one way or the other, said I should be happy we’re alive. I just couldn’t take any more of his Little Mary Sunshine routine and…” Dean pinched the bridge of his nose. “Anyway…” he finished lamely. He shifted uncomfortably, one hand drifting across his stomach, mouth tightening.

“You okay?” Chris asked, eyeing him.

“Yeah,” Dean swallowed and took a few deep breaths. “Too much to drink, not enough to eat.” He blinked to try and clear his vision. “So why don’t you go home to your wife? I mean, it’s late, whose gonna care?”

Chris shook his head. “Can’t do it. Night’s just starting for me. Too much left to do, too many people depending on me. You know how it is. Sometimes when you have a big responsibility, other stuff has to go by the wayside. I’ve committed to this job, gotta make it work with everything else as well as I can. Make the best of it. If I’m lucky I’ll make it home by dawn. She’ll be waiting and it’ll have been worth it.” He picked up the hat that had been sitting to one side and put it on, carefully adjusting it slightly to one side. “Sometimes you just gotta blow off a little steam.” He pushed his bulk out of the booth and stood.“You never answered me,” he added, pulling on the gloves and watching Dean.

“Answered what?” Dean said, trying to remember the question.

“What do you want for Christmas?”

Dean stared at him for a long moment. “I can’t have want I want.” He replied softly, after a hesitation, looking down again, moving his finger through a puddle on the table forming an "S".

Chris smiled. “So what do you want that you can have?”

Dean looked up, his thoughts staggering through the numbing haze soaking into his brain. “Who are you?” he said. This had to be the craziest conversation he had ever had.

Chris grinned and shook his head. “Who the hell do you think I am, kid? I’m Santa Claus.”

Dean laughed. “Right, and I’m St. Peter.”

Chris’s guffaw rang out loudly this time. “Not even close, kid,” he replied, still laughing. “You got a way home?”

Dean shook his head. “I can walk, it’s only a mile or so. Lights all the way…” His voice drifted off a little as he held his head in his hands.

“C’mon, I’ll give you a ride. You’ll freeze your ass off walking home in your condition. Finding you buried in a snow drift’d kinda take the gloss off your brother’s Christmas.” Chris pulled Dean’s arm to get him back on his feet, which Dean allowed, albeit reluctantly. The sudden shift in altitude caused him to sway heavily and he reached out to catch himself by gripping the red velvet arm of Chris’s suit. Chris supported him easily and they made their way to the door.

“See ya, Chris!” the bartender called, echoed by several other people scattered about the dim bar.

Chris waved. “Next year, Daniel!”

Dean’s reaction to the sudden change of temperature was to throw up spectacularly in the snow at the side of the bar, supported by Santa Claus, who kept him from falling to the icy ground. The ridiculousness of the scene was lost on Dean as he stumbled beside Chris to the back of the building.

“Where’s your car?” Dean croaked, almost unable to stand at this point. Everything was sliding in and out of focus. He as grateful for the ride, realizing he wouldn’t have made it a hundred feet in the freezing air, as drunk as he was.

“Oh, I don’t have a car,” Chris replied breezily.

Dean heard bells ringing softly and snorts of air being huffed. Before he realized it, he was being assisted into the seat of some sort of vehicle that shifted as Chris climbed in. “If it’s okay, I’d like to make a couple of stops along the way. Running behind. Won’t take long.”

Dean lifted his head, opening his eyes fully as there was a slap of leather, Chris clicked his tongue and said, “Here we go!”

In one glaring moment of horrible clarity, mouth falling open, eyes bulging out of his head and his hands catching the sides of the contrivance in an unbreakable death grip, Dean felt himself rising into the air, heart climbing his throat as he was swept away in a rush of wind, bells and jolly laughter.

“OH, HELL NO!!!!”

* * * *

Sam fingered his cell phone as he sat on the motel bed. The dingy room was dark except for the uneven light from the TV, showing It’s A Wonderful Life for the ten millionth time in the last two months. It had been three hours since Dean had stalked off in search of liquid relief and Sam was starting to get worried. If Dean got too drunk he’d never make it back to the motel and Sam was sorry he hadn’t offered to keep him company.

Sam had meant what he said. Where they spent Christmas mattered not a whit to him. There had been many Christmases where there had been nothing as a remembrance of the season but each other’s presence. While that might have mattered once, it did no longer. They had a warm room and thanks to some money Sam had managed to keep hidden, a small but edible meal sitting in the dirty fridge, ready to heat up in the equally dirty microwave sitting on top of it.

Alive and together was all he cared about now.

He jerked as a heavy knocking sounded at the door. Startled and relieved, he stomped to the door, pausing long enough to grab a gun, just in case, checking to make sure the salt line was unbroken, then jerked the door open. The words he had on his lips died away at the sight of Santa Claus standing in the doorway holding up his extremely unsteady brother.

“Hi, I’m Chris!” Santa said brightly, with a big smile. “You must be Sam. I think this belongs to you.” He passed Dean’s swaying form over the threshold into Sam’s stunned arms.

“Hey, Sammy! Merry Chrishmush, man!” Dean giggled, blowing liquor laden breath into Sam’s face. “You ain’t gonna believe where I’ve been!” Dean’s hands grabbed at Sam for support.

“What…who?” Sam looked over Dean’s slumping shoulders at the fat man in the red suit.

“Sorry, he’s so late. We had a few drinks and I had some errands to run before I could drop him off. Time just got away. He may have had a smidge too much.” Teeth glittered in the full white beard as Sam gaped at Chris, struggling and failing to keep Dean upright as he slowly slid to the floor, laughing softly to himself.

“Merry Christmas!” Chris started to turn then snapped his fingers, “Oh, wait! You guys are a bitch to keep up with! These are for you!” He held out two small wrapped boxes which Sam took mechanically. “Merry Christmas!” Chris said again, turning and walking back the way he’d come.

Sam closed the door and leaned against it. He looked down as Dean grabbed his jeans leg and tugged, over balancing himself and falling on his side, grinning up at Sam. “Sam! Sam, guess what?” Dean hiccupped loudly, finishing with a belch he tried to stifle behind his hands.

Sam reached down and managed to pull Dean to his feet and drag him in the general direction of the bed. “Dean, who in the hell was that? Where’ve you been? How the hell did you get back here?” He tried to remove Dean’s jacket which would have been easier if Dean hadn’t been helping him.

“I flowed..flewed…FLEW, man! Through the air! For really!! Like in a plane...but not!” Dean mimed jerking reins. “Jingle bells, jingle bells…”

“Well, you’re sure as hell flying,” Sam agreed, slapping Dean’s hands down. “Stop that and let me get your jacket off!”

Blessedly, Dean’s motions slowed and his eyes rolled toward Sam. “I know what I want for chrissmush, Sam…Sammy...” he murmured, eyes fluttering. “You know what I…what I want?”

Looking at Dean, Sam didn’t know what Dean might want but he knew what he was gonna get tomorrow. Dean’s words became more slurred as his body shut down, giving in to the alcohol flooding his system. “What do you want, Dean?” Sam pulled Dean’s sleeve free.

Dean’s hand clamped on Sam’s arm, his eyes fixed unsteadily on Sam’s. “Alive and together, man. You were right…” his fingers tightened convulsively and then slipped away as his eyes closed. “You were right…” he murmured again, head falling to the side.

Sam watched him for a moment, sighing softly and shaking his head. “Merry Christmas, you idiot,” he responded, one hand drawing through Dean’s hair in a gesture that would never have been allowed if Dean were conscious.

Sam shook his head again and got up, feeling something crunch in the pocket of Deans jacket as he did so. He reached into the right hand pocket and felt inside, making a face.

“Dean? Why the hell are your pockets full of cookies?”


The End


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