Just a short one-shot-Christmas-story that popped into my head…explanations later, if you want to read.

The usual disclaimers apply.

Merry Christmas Everyone

December 25th.

Christmas Day.

Welcoming it with the mother of all headaches.

Dean groaned, rolled over, from his stomach to his back, regretting the movement instantly. The world did a spectacular flip to the left…amazing, really, how it would do that while he still had his eyes closed and it was only because he was too damn out of it to get up and make his way to the bathroom, that he stubbornly refused to throw up.

He groaned again, grabbed the pillow and pulled it over his eyes, blocking out the blinding sunlight threatening to split his head in two.

He stayed like that for a while, maybe even went back to sleep, or rather passed out for a bit – no way to tell. But at a certain point he just knew that he would have to get up, had to make his way to the bathroom…if not to throw up then at least to take a serious leak. Too many beers…no wait, eggnog – no, actually both. That would at least explain the killer headache, anyway.

Dean rolled onto his side, waited until the room stopped spinning before opening his eyes carefully. The TV was still on, a sickening flurry of movement and colours and sounds washing over him and he blindly grabbed for the remote, found it out of his reach, gave up trying. Automatically, he checked on the bed…the two beds, actually, because he had apparently fallen asleep on the sofa.

They were empty.

Both of them.

Yeah well, what had he expected, really?

His gaze swept over the stupid, sorry Christmas tree in the corner, got stuck there. The ugliest thing, really, and he couldn't believe that he had actually gotten it. Had actually spent some hard-earned twenty bucks on the disgusting thing, another ten for those damn Christmas tree ornaments that blind guy in front of Wal-Mart had sold. It had looked ridiculous when he'd finished fixing it up, but it had started to look kind of pretty once he'd had enough of the eggnog and a couple of beers… before he had realized that it was all for nothing, really.

Dad was not gonna come.

Had he really thought he would? Well, he'd hoped it, probably. He had been gone for almost a month now, longer than ever before, and for some stupid reason Dean had thought that at least he'd be back for Christmas.

Not that it mattered.

Or maybe it did…

Holidays had never been a special occasion with the Winchesters, neither with John nor Sam. Dean had always thought that he didn't care either. Had made himself believe that, anyway. But in reality he did care – always had. While their dad had made a point of not being there most Christmases, right after Dean had gotten old enough to watch out for Sammy by himself, Dean had always made sure that they did celebrate, though. Not like "normal" families did, sure, but he'd get a tree, at least, or fix up a cactus that one time they were down in Arizona a couple of years ago. Or, when he was too young to get one himself, he'd pester his dad until he'd buy one for them.

He'd get presents, too. Not that they had a lot of money to spare, not for something as useless as presents, but he'd make sure he had a little something at least, for his father and brother. His mom had loved Christmas, Dean remembered that much, or at least he thought he did. And she had told him that it was the thought that counted, not the actual value of the present. So he had tried to keep up a little tradition.

His one-shot, once a year, at being normal.

When he had been still a kid, Sam had cared. He'd been all excited and flushed when waking up and seeing the lights, the sorry heap of packages under the tree or bush or cactus. On those many occasions when dad had forgotten, or simply not cared to get anything for his sons, Dean would make sure that there was always some package under the tree that would say: For Sammy from Dad.

When Sam had gotten older though, he had stopped caring, too, or maybe he'd just seen through the charade. Which was ironic really, because he was the one always going on and on about how he wanted "normal" wanted what everybody else had. How come Christmas didn't seem to fit into that pattern?

Still Dean had insisted, and if it was just for his own damn sake. He'd made them sit with him, made them unwrap the unbelievably silly presents he'd gotten them, and maybe he had just imagined it, but he had thought that he could make them see, then. Thought he could hold them together, and if it was just for one day, some hours of peace and laughter and family.

This year was different. Only that he hadn't realized it. Or maybe he had and he had just refused to see it, refused to accept it.

Sam was gone. Off to school and probably had gotten a damn huge tree with real candles and actual glass balls to hang on it, the whole nine yards. Sitting under it and singing freaking Christmas carols with that beautiful blonde girlfriend of his. She'd probably baked cookies, too.

Not that Dean wasn't happy for him…

And now dad was gone, too. Nothing new, really, not lately, anyway.

But somehow…

For some reason Dean had believed that he'd be back, so he had gone and actually made eggnog. Actually made it himself, too. Had gone to the supermarket and bought the ingredients and mixed them all together instead of buying the prefabricated stuff.. And then, right outside the store, that damn, pitiably tree, with its broken tip, leaning precariously to one side, so hideous ugly that he couldn't pass by it, had to actually buy it.

A broken tree for a broken family.

Not even a family anymore, though, just three strangers, each fighting his own war, his own demons, both literally and figuratively.

Still he had played pretend, like a freaking 5-year-old, had fixed up the tree and gotten the eggnog warmed up, the beer cooled.

So he had sat there and waited. Waited for the door to open, for his dad to come in. For them to sit on the sofa and watch some holiday-movie, a game, talk about John's latest hunt, about their next job, anything.

Anything but Sam, naturally, but he thought he could have dealt with that, too.

But of course, dad hadn't come.

So Dean had finished the eggnog himself, had finished the beers, too. Had eaten the sandwiches he'd fixed and then, sometime in the early morning, when the lights in most of the houses around the motel had been turned on again, kids storming into living rooms with eyes bright with joy and wonder, he had finally passed out on the couch.

He sat on the edge of the couch now, face buried in his hands, fighting down the nausea, battling against the skull-splitting headache, trying to will his heart to stop aching like it would shatter into a thousand pieces, never to be whole again.

He sat there until he couldn't deny it anymore, until his body wouldn't keep up the composure any longer and he was lucky to make it to the grimy bathroom just in time, welcoming back his Christmas dinner.

He went straight to bed after, wanting to sleep, to forget, to not think anymore. But of course, when you most wanted it, sleep didn't come. Sometime around noon, he gave up, rolling himself out of bed and into the shower, washing away the grime and sweat and traces of alcohol that clung to his body like a devoted lover. Found some clean clothes and got dressed, then slumped down onto the sofa again.

He had absolutely no idea what to do.

He considered going out, getting a newspaper and looking for a hunt. He felt like killing something, at least that would give him some purpose. But at the same time he didn't feel like getting up and doing anything at all, really. All that needed killing was himself, the damn demons inside his head that kept screeming at him, that just wouldn't shut the hell up.

Getting something to eat was not really high up on his lists of priorities either, even though he'd probably regret it later, when his stomach wouldn't do that flip-flopping thing anymore whenever he simply thought about food.

A beer sounded good, and he briefly thought about going to a bar, get wasted again. Let someone drag him out to his car when he couldn't walk by himself anymore. He'd done that a couple of times in the last couple of years, when he'd fallen real hard, nothing to hold on to, had found no way to get up again.

Then, one time, someone in one of those nameless bars had called his dad, and wonder oh wonder, John had actually picked up and he'd been close by to top it off, and he'd actually come and get his oldest son, so thoroughly wasted that he didn't even recognize John at first, had tried to fight him off.

John had never said anything about that, never mentioned it, but Dean had known, had felt the disappointment. But then, really, who was John to give him that attitude? It was his own damn example Dean was following, after all.

Still he hadn't done it again since, not to that extend, not in public.

Christmas was as good a time as any to pick up on old habits, though, wasn't it? For about an hour Dean planned on going out, then, preparing himself for it, mentally and physically, before again giving up on the plan. He just couldn't get his damn body to obey one single command his brain sent its way, and, if he was honest with himself, he probably wouldn't want to listen to those incoherent thoughts, either.

He simply sat and watched the damn tree for hours on end, some Christmas songs blaring from the radio by the bedside.

His mobile phone lay in front of him, right in the middle of the table, mocking him, not ringing, not once.

He played the conversation out in his head…all the possibilities he could think of. Calling his dad would be useless, to say the least. He wouldn't pick up, so why waste energy he didn't have?

Calling Sammy…

He still knew his brother's number by heart, even though he had not been calling him for a year now. A clean break, that's what his dad had told him from the beginning, right after Sammy had left. Had only taken Dean almost two years to accept that.

He'd stopped calling the Christmas before, finally. Had told Sammy merry Christmas, or his mailbox, anyway. Had told him that he'd be there, if Sammy ever needed anything, that he only needed to call. That he himself would stop calling, though. That he'd give Sam the time and space he apparently needed.

And that had been that.

A clean break.

The best for everybody.

At least for two of the three parties involved.

Dean didn't think he'd ever get used to not talking to his brother. Hell, he did it even now, everything that needed talking, which was an awful lot, come to think of it, he'd discuss with Sam. Talked to him more now than he ever did when they were still together, actually. Twenty five years old an already talking to himself…what a blast. Sam would have a good laugh at that.

He picked up his phone, turned it over and over in his hands, finally put it back down again.

No, he wouldn't do it. Wouldn't break the promise he'd made Sammy, himself. His brother didn't need him, apparently, so he'd accept it. He'd always, foremost, wanted what was best for his baby-brother. Even if it hurt like hell. Hurt more than the slash across his upper thigh he'd received two weeks ago, when hunting that ghost and being thrown down the stairs in the process. Hurt more than the stitches he'd put into his own flesh afterwards, because there was no one there to do it for him.

Hurt more than anything, ever before.

He picked up the phone again, hurled it across the room with an angry snarl, sounding so much like one of the creatures they hunted, it made him shiver involuntarily. The phone hit the radio on his nightstand, happily blaring Christmas-songs for the last hour or two, when the alarm had gone off, for some reason. Dean hadn't remembered setting it. At least that shut it up for good.

One look at his watch told him that it was close to four PM already. A whole day spent doing nothing…again. Nothing but thinking while trying desperately not to. And now he was hungry. And thirsty.

So what the hell. It wasn't as if his dad was there to chastise him, was he? Had no right to anymore.

He got up and trudged around the room, got dressed, collecting his things. Picking up the phone and fitting it back together. Other than a couple more scratches it seemed to be working alright still. He left the keys to the Impala on the desk. There was no use bringing them, he'd not be able to drive back to the Motel himself, anyway. Not if everything went according to plan. Not if there was enough alcohol left in that bar down the road.

When he passed the tree, he was momentarily tempted to grab it and throw it into the next dumpster.

Only Christmas, right? A day like any other.

Why should things be different today?

But he couldn't bring himself to do it, in the end.

Maybe, just maybe…

He stepped out into the cold winter air, drawing his jacket closer around himself, breath clouding in front of his mouth. Reluctantly he closed the door behind him and took off down the road.

Leaving the light above the door on…just in case.

The end


Ok, so maybe, just maybe I was in a bit of a dark mood yesterday. And maybe that did reflect a little on this story…so it might be a bit dark…not a happy Christmas story, this one ;-) But hey, can't always be the happy camper, right?

I really wanted Dean to have his family Christmas, he's worked so damn hard for it…but I couldn't get myself to give it to him. We don't always get what we look away if I made some mistakes in the timeline or something the like ;-)

Ok, hope you forgive me for this little slip on my part – I'm actually a pretty happy person…most of the time!

As always – please review…it's Christmas, after all…you'd make my day;-)