Right now...

Really, all things considered, Sam realized he should have been expecting it.

Because, really. In the great, suck-filled suckfest that was his life, this was—though not as sucky as some things—still fairly suckful. Worse, he knew, when all things were said and done, that he would get assigned the job of cleaning up the shit.

It always fell to him.

Not because his brother was lazy, or even particularly spiteful. It just…well. Sam was the youngest, and the suckiest jobs—as long as they weren't considered life-and-or-soul threatening—always fell on his shoulders.

There was a soft gasp behind him; his mother was awake. He turned to look at her, but she was staring at what was the Winchester brothers' first real Christmas tree, with its actual—glass—ornaments. Sam had found them on a job at a haunted antique shop along with shiny red beaded garland. They'd even hung up stockings and bought gifts. Thoughtful gifts, bought at real stores they'd visited on recent road trips. Dean had even instituted rules—nothing from Gas'n'Sip, and no stolen, unwrapped presents. He was determined to do it right, this time. Because Mary was back from the dead, no doom was currently pressing, and they had a real home—even if it was mostly just a bunker in the ground.

Mary hadn't been back—alive, that is—for long. And she'd only just returned to the bunker earlier the day before, because it had been Christmas Eve. She wasn't about to spend her first Christmas back without her boys, even if they weren't the boys she recognized. That's what she'd told them after they'd greeted her with hugs and even a few tears.

Sam felt like crying now, looking at her. She was so beautiful, and it gave him a bit of a stomach flip-flop. It was weird; if she'd not died, she would be twenty-nine years his senior. But, since she'd died when he was only six months old, she was technically the same age now as she was then. A person didn't experience either physical or mental maturity in a hole in the ground. And because she wasn't a woman he knew well or even remembered; he couldn't help but react in what was a really creepy way, to the good-looking babe who just happened to bear the name of Mom.

Again. Chalk it up to the strange suck-fest of his life. Where a guy could conceivably be physically attracted to his mom because she was younger than he was, and a virtual stranger, besides.

I'd tell myself I was going to Hell, Sam thought, except I know I'm not. At least, I don't think…But then, he supposed, God might have warned them they were heading down under when they finally left this plane, and honestly, Chuck hadn't seemed that concerned about it.

He shrugged and decided that Mary had gotten over her shock at seeing the unexpected, large gift currently munching on a branch of the tree. "Merry Christmas, Mom," he said and held out his arms for a hug. Because yeah—she was hot, but she was also Mom, and it was nice to have one of those, especially in time for Christmas.

She stepped into his embrace, and the sweet scent of her shampoo swirled around him as he buried his nose in her hair. But she didn't remain there long—instead, she was on her toes, peering over his shoulder.

"Sam," she whispered. "Is that a…hippopotamus?"

"Yes," he sighed.

The hippo grunted and farted; a handblown glass ornament fell with a smash and tinkle onto the bunker's concrete floor. Sam turned to look. Crap. Of course, it would have to be one of his favorite of the ornaments that broke. "I'll get the dustpan and brush."

The hippo grunted and farted again. Sam sighed. Again. "And a shovel."

Mary stepped away. "But…what is it doing here? Why is it here? I mean…" she waved her hands. "Hippos don't just…appear."

Yes, they did. In his life, anyway. He shrugged, "I'm not sure. I was just about to start checking the lore when you came in." Not exactly the truth, but he didn't want his mom to know that he'd actually been standing there freaking out. He wanted her to think he was better at coping with things than that. Like a strong calm son with a good head on his shoulders. "And…I was going to figure out what to feed it."

"I'd be trying to figure out how to get it out of here," Mary said, and tightened the belt on her dead guy robe. "It can't climb those stairs. Hippos can't climb staircases. Can they?"

"Not the last time I checked." Sam turned and left the room, the harsh tinkle of another broken ornament following after him.

Four weeks earlier…

"Come on, Sam! Get the lead out!" Dean's harsh pre-coffee voice made Sam sigh. Mostly because he was already climbing into the Impala, a task made difficult by the stack of stuffed-full plastic food storage containers he was trying to balance.

Jodi stuck another bag full of containers in at his feet once he was settled. "Now you boys remember I'm expecting you the day after Christmas." She made a face. "Are you sure you can't spend Christmas Eve with me and the girls?"

"Nope," Dean leaned over Sam to peer up at their maternally-minded friend. "This Christmas, we're doing it right, in our own home. I want to give my Sammy the best Christmas he ever had."

"Don't call me 'Sammy'," Sam said, and flipped him off.

Dean grinned in that way that meant he was happy to torture his brother. "Besides, I'm going to sleep in my very own bed and wake up on Christmas morning like a normal person."

"You're not a normal person." Sam wasn't surprised when Jodi joined him in the sentiment. They bumped fists and grinned at each other.

"Ah-ha-ha." Dean leaned back against his seat. "You guys are funny. Thanks for the eats, Jod. That was one great bird."

She smiled. "It was great to have you boys join us. It made Thanksgiving more—I don't know—family-like to have you with us." She bent into the car, and gave Sam a quick kiss on the cheek. "Don't forget I'm expecting you to come back. Stay safe!"

"Will do," Sam promised, and she closed the door with a squeak and a thunk. Dean waved and beeped once, then they were off. Predictably, he reached for the radio as soon as the tires hit the road while Sam tried to figure out how to stack the containers at his feet instead of keeping them on his lap for the entire trip back to Lawrence.

"You really should just hook up my iPod," he commented as his brother scanned stations and made faces at the selections.

"Nah," Dean said with his usual stubbornness. "Here. We'll just listen to Christmas music. Get in the mood."

"Thanksgiving just ended! You'd think they'd at least wait until December to play it." Sam gave up trying to pile containers onto the floor and resigned himself to riding for hours with shredded turkey and mashed potatoes on his lap. It could be worse, he supposed.

Dean could start to sing, for example.

Instead, he offered commentary on the musical selections. "Listen to this crap. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus. It's a Freudian nightmare."

"I think the point is that Santa is Daddy and the kid doesn't know it," Sam answered.

"I think the point is that kid thinks Mommy is a cheating whore."

"Dean!" Sam heard himself scolding. When Dean grinned, he knew he'd been baited. Shit. He fell for it, every time.

"Worse, she's cheating on Daddy with some old fat guy. It would be one thing if she was hot for someone—I dunno—that looked like me, but Santa's definitely a three out of ten."

Sam rolled his eyes and shifted the turkey on his lap. "Shut up."

The song ended and he almost sighed with relief. Until Dean twisted the knob to crank it up. "Now this one I can get into." He grinned in a way that reminded Sam of when his brother was a demon, and he winced.

"Please don't sing," he whispered, then mentally kicked himself as he realized that appeal only guaranteed miles of Dean's off-key croaking. Shit! He'd never learn.

"I wan' a hippopotamous for Chriiiiiiiiistmaaaas! Only a hippopotamous will dooooo!" Dean gargled.

Sam closed his eyes and grit his teeth.

It was a very long ride home.

Several days later…

"I wan' a quick lobotomy for Chriiiiiiiistmas! Only a quick lobotomy willl doooo…!" Dean warbled as he wandered through the common room, on the way to the dungeon. He dragged a wild-eyed demon behind him.

"Can you make him stop singing?" the demon appealed to Sam with desperation in his voice. "Please?"

Sam shrugged. "Sorry. I wish I could."

Dean kept going. "Whatsamatter? You don't like my singing, you black-eyed bastard?" He chortled and sang even louder. "Tell me where Lucifer is, and I'll stop."

"I don't know. Really. I don't!" The demon cried. "Please! Don't! Not anymore!"

"I WAN' A QUICK LOBOTOMY FOR CHRIIIIIISTMAS-" Dean's voice and the demon's shrieks became practically inaudible as the dungeon doors closed behind them.

Sam exhaled in relief when his brother was firmly ensconced behind the closed dungeon door and silence fell over the bunker once more.

Another few days later…

"Holy Mother of God. What is that caterwauling?" Crowley nearly dropped his glass of scotch as Dean's voice suddenly rose in a wail of holiday cheer.

Sam pressed his fingers to his temples. "What do you think it is, Crowley?"

"Dear God." The King of Hell tilted his head for a moment, listening. "Did he just say he wants a Piss to Pot In for Christmas?"

"He might have." Sam wondered if his shoulders really were up around his ears, or if it only felt that way.

"That doesn't even make sense," Crowley complained.

"Does anything?" Sam dropped his head onto the desk and covered his ears with his arms before it exploded from the agony.

Fourteen days later. Exactly…

"I'm going away for a few days," Sam told Dean. He couldn't take it anymore.

"Where are you going?" Dean stopped licking the beaters covered with cookie dough; Sam wondered if he should insist his brother remove them from their sockets, or at least unplug the mixer before he accidentally cut off his tongue. Then he realized—if Dean was tongue-less, he couldn't sing anymore—so he said nothing.

"I have a thing to do," he said, instead.

"A thing? You mean…like that cute blonde who was hitting on you last week? In Baltimore?" Dean's eyes gleamed.

It was as good an excuse as any. Sam nodded.

"That's my boy. Go get 'er." Dean waggled his eyebrows and turned back to his cookie trays. "But don't be gone too long. I want to put the tree up this weekend."

"Okay. Fine." Sam nodded, and turned to escape the bunker as quickly as possible. Not fast enough, he thought sadly, as Dean's voice echoed up the stairs behind him.

"I wan' a hip replacement for Christmaaaas! Only a hip replacement will dooooooo..."

Christmas Eve. Thank God…it was almost over.

"Sam! Mom, Rowena and I are hitting the liquor store before it closes. You think of anything else we need?" Dean slapped Sam on the shoulder.

"I think we have everything. Except, we need more dip for the veggie platter."

"I'm going to pretend you didn't just say that," Dean chortled. "I'll get some nachos and queso cheese." He looked across the table at Crowley and Cas, their other guests. "You boys all set?"

"I always b.m.o.b., especially when the only other option is the cheap swill you serve," Crowley answered cheerfully. Dean flipped him off and turned to Cas. "Anything you need?"

"More of this nog?" Cas answered.

Dean shuddered. "Yeah. Right. You know the best way to drink eggnog? Pick up the container—and throw it away."

Cas's forehead wrinkled. "But if you throw it away, how can you drink it?"

"Now you're catching on, Cas." Dean winked. "Okay. We'll be back. Keep it real, boys. Don't watch the porn until we get back."

Sam sighed and Dean grinned maliciously. Damn it, he'd done it again. When would he stop falling for his brother's bait? Never, apparently.

Dean swung away and started up the stairs. "I wan' a pair of happy tits for Chriiiiiistmas! Only a pair of happy tits will doooooooo!"

Crowley spluttered in his scotch, and Cas's eyes widened over his glass of eggnog; he looked at Sam like a deer about to be hit by a runaway sleigh. The door closed behind Dean and the noise ceased. Thankfully.

"Did Dean just say he wishes to have a pair of joyful mammary glands for a Christmas gift?" he asked, with the innocence that only the angel of the Lord could get away with.

Crowley cocked his eyebrows as his gaze met Sam's, and he knew he and the King of Hell were on the same page with this one.

"Oh, I think you should give them to him, Cassie. If that's what he wants." Crowley nudged the angel with his elbow.

Sam almost agreed; then he thought how unbearable Dean would be if a pair of his favorite toys were permanently attached to his body. "Nah. If you did that, we'd never get him out of his room."

Crowley considered this, then conceded. "You're probably right. And we need him, right now. But I think you should definitely consider giving him a pair next year." He nudged Cas again.

"I still haven't decided what would be an appropriate gift for him, actually." Cas lowered his glass and sighed. "What do you give a man who has everything?"

"Everything?" Crowley gestured around the bunker. "You call this everything?"

"Well…" Cas shrugged. "Think about it. He has everything that makes him happy. His mother has returned from the dead. He's got his beloved Sam-"

"Eugh," Sam said, and shuddered. "That justs sounds creepy."

Cas ignored him and continued, "So if not happy tits, then what?"

Crowley shook his head. "It's a song, you feathered twit. And he made the words up. He doesn't really want happy tits. Well, not personally."

"No," Sam agreed. "The actual words are 'I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas'…"

"Oh," said Cas, and looked thoughtful.

Right now…(again)

Sam finished picking up after the hippo and tossed it some glass clippings from the compost pile he'd started in the yard. The animal moaned happily and began munching.

Mary, sitting in an armchair on the other side of the room, shook her head. "I still can't believe it."

"Believe it, Mom! Because I'm here and I'm Santa!" Dean swung around the corner, in his robe and slippers, a bag of gifts in a pillowcase slung over his shoulder. "Meeeeerrrry Chriiii—Christ! What the hell is that!?"

"Do you like it?" Cas' appeared behind Dean—the angel had a hopeful look in his blue eyes. "I picked it out especially for you. Because you sang about it."

As Sam watched his brother standing there in shock, staring at his "gift", the hopeful, gullible and completely clueless angel stepped forward to wrap his arms around Dean. "I wanted to give you everything you've always wanted, because…you and I share a very special bond."

"Um…I…yeah, but…I…" Dean peered over his shoulder at the angel, a panicked look on his face.

"Awww…he loves you, Dean." Sam cooed, and then he grinned as something occurred to him. "Give him a kiss."

Dean turned to him with panicked yet narrowed eyes. "Shut up," he growled through gritted teeth. "I am not kissing him."

"Sorry, Dean," Sam pointed up at the ceiling, to the ball of mistletoe which his brother had hung during his Christmas decorating frenzy; it was directly over Cas' head. "I'm afraid you don't have a choice."

"Eep," Dean answered, and turned as red as Santa's suit.

In the end, it really was the best Christmas Sam had ever had.