Just a little Christmas story I wrote last night - and I couldn't just let it go, so I overcame my inner wuss and posted it.
A one-shot - and I don't own anything, certainly not the Winchefsters, unfortunately.
No beta here, so all mistakes remain mine, even though I've taken care to keep them to a minumum. Please keep in mind that english is not my first language, so don't be too strict with me.
It's season 4 - so spoilers, kinda, up till then.
I hope you'll read - and hope even more that you'll find you don't hate it!
Here we go:
Home for Christmas
They wouldn't be celebrating a white Christmas this year.
Not that it wasn't freezing cold in this neck of the woods but the weather forecast hadn't predicted any snow for at least another week or so. They'd be long gone by then.
It didn't really bother him – not the way it had when they had still been younger and snow at Christmas had been a pretty big deal, for whatever reason. Sammy had always been a sucker for it, at least – and whatever his brother had wanted, Dean had found important enough to wish for it too. Back then.
Back then, Sam had still liked Christmas.
Last year he hadn't wanted to celebrate at all…but in the end he'd fallen for it, as Dean had known he would.
It hadn't been a perfect celebration in the strict sense of a word, no big tree and fancily wrapped presents, no prosperous meal and singing carols and all that stuff.
But to Dean it had been as perfect as it could have been – as it ever had been, maybe.
His last Christmas.
It had been the one day in a year of worry and angst and running from something neither of them had been able to escape from that Dean had felt as if he'd been able to let go – for that one night – for them to sit down and be brothers again. It had been…magical – for a lack of better words, the crappy tree and newspaper-wrapped gas-station-originated presents, the microwaved food and ridiculously strong eggnog only amplifying the moment all the more.
They'd been brothers, then.
Now, Dean wasn't so sure…
But no, no. he wasn't going to drown in self-pity. Not today, not ever again. Had to be hell somehow loosening a screw inside his head or something, making him all paranoid and emotional.
He'd been looking forward to this, ever since realizing, really realizing that he actually was back, that it wasn't just a dream or hell-induced nightmare he was living. And he realized how stupid it was, how geeky, even, that he looked forward to Christmas as if that one day would somehow help him contemplate the miracle that was his resurrection in its entirety. As if that day would change anything, was any special day at all…
Yet somehow, it was.
Last year it had changed everything, if only for a couple of hours.
This year Dean was intent on repeating it, on getting that back.
Things had gone somehow…different, lately – were different than he'd imagined – or wished for.
For some reason his brother and him weren't getting closer but kept drifting farther and farther apart.
But – nothing a little Christmas-magic couldn't fix, right?
It had worked on them before, it would work again tonight.
It would be a night-before-Christmfas celebration, but that was somehow beside the point. As it was, Dean didn't have a lot of time to prepare everything.
Sam had gone out earlier, mumbling something about going to the library to do research, interview some witnesses about some supposed Berserk-sightings – he'd be back later. Given the fact that the library closed at 7 PM (Dean had checked) and not even Sam would go and knock on people's doors that late on Christmas eve, Dean figured he had till about 8-ish to get everything ready.
Sam hadn't taken the Impala – hadn't even asked, which was a tad strange but suited Dean just fine. It would help him get everything he needed much faster.
The tree he illegally cut out of the forest bordering the town was anything but big, but it was bushy and green and smelled like pine-needles and damp earth and could probably pass as the nicest tree they'd ever possessed. Dean decided on keeping it simple on the decoration, only taping two of their small LED-flashlights to the trunk so he would later be able to light the tree up without setting the whole thing on fire.
When he'd put it up on the little coffee-table and stuffed two of Sam's paperbacks underneath one part of the makeshift cross that kept the tree standing it really didn't look bad at all.
Satisfied with his work Dean then left for the supermarket, finding himself fighting an old lady in a pink knit-vest over two of the three last pre-cooked Christmas-dinners. Turkey. How many poor birds had lost their lives between Thanksgiving and Christmas, anyways?
Cradling his prices close to his chest while dodging the old woman's flying handbag Dean ducked into the aisle that offered bottled alcoholic beverages, deciding on a big bottle of hot punch and a six-pack of beer in favor of last year's eggnog.
This year wouldn't be a copy of last year's celebration, it would be a new one – a new beginning.
A new life.
For both of them.
To celebrate this – new life – new start and peace on earth and all that - Dean paid in cash, giving Dean Taylor's Visa card a well deserved holiday-vacation. That, at least, should find Sam's approval. The kid always had been bitching about Dean's credit card scams, even though they'd both lived off of them pretty damn well. Wasn't like they had many other options, always being on the move, never able to hold a steady job.
Sam still wasn't back when Dean returned to their room, but it couldn't be long now.
Dean went about preparing everything, debating on whether or not heating the dinners before Sam arrived would be a smart idea but in the end deciding to do it anyways. The mere smell of turkey and stuffing filling the small room a half hour later, at least, told him he'd made the right decision. Nothing better to come back to than the smell of a…well…not home-cooked, but at least 'shopped-with-care' meal.
He turned on the lights on the tree, found a channel on the ancient TV that showed a marathon of Christmas-themed movies.
Then he waited.
It wasn't unusual for Sam to forget time when either squatting in a library or even interrogating witnesses, talking to victims and their families. Sam had this…quality on him, that made people talk to him – even beyond giving him just the info he asked for, offering him tea and cookies and showing him family photos all over the house. If indeed the kid had decided to pay some of those eye-witnesses a visit on Christmas eve Dean was pretty sure his little brother would not hurry back if they'd offer him some actually home-cooked goodies.
They hadn't made plans for the nights, so… Dean thought could relate. A little.
So, Sam might stay out a little later than planned.
Nothing to get all worked up about.
By eleven PM the food had gone cold, the bottle of punch laying tipped empty on the floor next to the threadbare sofa.
The damn Christmas tree, still illuminated by the two small flashlights was the only source of light in the room.
But the room was empty.
The bar was a mere fifteen minute's walk down the road and even though he had to walk on the side of the road, almost getting thrown into the ditch every time a car passed him way too fast, Dean opted on not driving.
No use risking the wellbeing of his baby when driving back shit-faced drunk.
Not that he'd ever drive drunk…not when he could help it – not when he planned on getting really wasted, at least.
The bar was far enough outside of town to be occupied by only the cream of humanity – loners and drunks and even some girls that probably were out to celebrate the night before Christmas in their own, unique way.
Which happened to be just the way Dean wanted. A little later. Now he wanted some other kind of action first.
The bottle of punch he'd emptied hadn't been very strong, but it provided Dean with a decent enough layer of liquor coursing through his bloodstream to go straight for the hard stuff. Usually, he'd start with a beer or two, move on to whiskey or tequila a little later. Now he didn't need to waste the time.
The bar was pretty crowded. The usual lowlifes and good-for-nothings, people that either didn't have a family or didn't care to be with them on this night. Dean eyed the pool-table with undisguised interest as he drowned his second shot, pushing away the bowl of pretzels the waiter had shoved his way. He'd seen a documentary once – when he'd been bored out of his mind, probably – about the germs and traces of urine scientists had found in these innocent looking bowls of free offerings.
No, thank you very much.
He'd intended on getting drunk, not germ-infested. Even Dean's self-punishment only went so far.
Dean was mad at himself.
Mad, because he'd been stupid enough to believe that Christmas wasn't just a day like any other.
Mad, because he'd really thought that Sam would chose to spend the evening with his brother instead of…whoever the hell else he was with at the moment.
Mad, because he'd thought he could make a difference.
Mad, because he'd ever thought that he wouldn't, for once, mess everything up even more.
What the hell had he expected? That he could selfishly make a deal – his life in exchange for his brother's – and it wouldn't change everything, even if, somehow, he'd find a way back from the pit? Something like that – it had to leave scars, scars so much deeper than even Dean would be able to fix – or built a freaking wall around.
And wasn't that just the freaking story of his life…
His third shot went down smoothly, easier than water.
Dean swiveled on his chair as he tapped the bar for another one, leaning back onto his elbow as focused his whole attention on the game of pool that apparently just drew to an end.
The guy that had won wasn't even very good. No challenge at all for Dean, at least.
And if he was lucky one of the girls currently throwing themselves at the winner of the round would choose to go home with Dean tonight. That would at least substitute for some kind of Christmas celebration then…
There was clink of a glass hitting the counter behind his back, the telltale gurgle of bitter smelling liquid filling the glass a second later. Dan waited a beat, then got off his stool, noting with a satisfied smirk that his balance still was good enough to play but just bad enough to appear as less of a threat to the players.
Picking up his shot glass Dean emptied it with one long gulp, reveling at the smooth burn that slipped down his throat to settle in a welcoming, warm ball in his stomach, starting to warm a spot deep inside that had been cold for a while now. A couple shots more and the cold would be history. He was going to get there.
"You keep them coming," he motioned to the bartender, his gaze never leaving the table as he started ambling his way over, completely missing the squinted glare the man sent his way, then over to the area where the pool-tables were located.
He didn't have enough money to last more than one, maybe two rounds of playing the untalented beginner before he had to start going in for the win.
And then Dean decided that, this night, he was done pretending, of traipsing around, trying to be someone he was not.
For this night, at least, he was going to play it honest, show them what he was made of.
Maybe playing it honest hadn't been the best idea – certainly not the best plan of how to make his night any less miserable.
God, had it fucking backfired.
At least, he'd made it out of there on his own two feet, more or less unscathed. At least he thought he was alright. Or would be. It was kinda hard to tell, with his head spinning and throbbing and his whole body pulsing in agony.
He wasn't really clear on the details, but somehow Dean seemed to have made a couple of enemies in that bar. And, being maybe a little drunk – with no little brother there for backup - he seemed to have not been as clear a winner of the fight as he'd been of the preceded games of pool.
He'd had to leave the money behind. Money he'd rightfully earned.
The thought bothered him more than anything else right now, including the obvious damage that had been done to his body. They should have never gotten the jump on him in the first place. It had been a rooky mistake…
Never let anyone get the jump on you, no matter how much you want to lose yourself...
A clear enough rule, and Dean had managed to screw that, too.
His feet were dragging a little, rough asphalt scraping against the soles of his boots as he pushed onward. Had taken him about 15 minutes to get here – would maybe get him twice as long to make it back.
Every step sent shockwaves of pain up his hip and lower back, taking their time to course through his chest before settling like a ball of lead in the center of his head.
Fuckers had gone for his kidneys – taken a pool-queue to his back. Fuck them.
The alcohol coursing through his system had made him sluggish, had made his reaction slow and humiliatingly insufficient even though he hadn't really been that out of it. But at least it had also managed to numb his body's imminent reaction to the abuse it had been suffering. Now, outside in the freezing cold night air of the very, very early morning hours, the effect tapered off with frightening speed, leaving him with only the bad aftereffects of being a little drunk - and beaten to hell.
How far had he gone already?
Maybe half the way, maybe he'd only made it out of the bar's parking lot. There really was no way to tell.
The night was dark, no streetlights this far outside of town – and the motel's neon-lights still weren't visible on the horizon. So – probably still some way to go.
The toe of his boot caught on a crack in the road and Dean stumbled, catching himself at the last moment. But he couldn't prevent a groan of pain to escape from his lips, biting the sound off before realizing that he didn't really need to play pretend. The groan turned into a sputtered laugh that tapered off into a gurgling cough as a wave of nausea chose that moment to punch him in the guts.
He stumbled again, went down to one knee.
Bracing one hand against the cold ground Dean took a breath, then another, working through the nausea and pain. If he'd taken the Impala, he'd be back home by now.
Home in a room with a stupid tree and cold food and no brother to catch him if he fell.
Getting back to his feet took a few tries, but in the end he was walking again, stubbornly putting one determined step in front of the other. Blanking out everything else around him but the bright white median that would ultimately lead him back…home. White, black, white, black…the line went on and on in a never-ending rhythm.
His back, his ribs, his head…he felt the deafening thrum of his heartbeat reverberated through every aching fiber of abused muscle and battered bone.
One more step, then another. His field of vision was tunneling – Dean recognized the signs of a concussion when he saw – felt – one.
For a moment, Dean wondered if Sam would be back by now.
He was so lost in that thought, the quickly narrowing window of his vision so transfixed onto the road, that he didn't see the sickly green lights of the motel sign starting to light up the very edge of the horizon.
When his boot again caught on a dent in the asphalt, he didn't even have the time to try and soften his fall. The last thing he saw was the blinding headlights of a lone car approaching him, heading straight for him.
The ground he was lying on was hard and cold, rough asphalt and tiny, sharp stones digging through his jeans and jacket into all the places that already hurt so much to begin with.
There was a sound, the rumbling of an engine that for a moment he mistook for the purr of his baby.
He opened one eye but found bright headlights blinding him, forcing it close again.
The cold of the ground started seeping into him, numbing his body in ways that weren't entirely uncomfortable.
He'd just rest for a while, then get up and walk the rest of the way home, clean himself up – wait for Sam. Demand some answers.
The rumbling of the car's engine was still there, the car not driving on. A door opened, footsteps approaching rapidly. Dean didn't find it in him to even try and get up.
He mumbled something to the person suddenly standing over him – telling him to drive on, he'd be fine.
Had just had a little too much to drink. He'd be better soon.
Warm hands wrapped around his arm, cupping his neck and Dean wanted to flinch, but his body didn't even react to the very real fear of being touched by strangers when he was too vulnerable to fight back.
He thought it could be Sam – touching him and probably even saying something to him, but his head was throbbing too much, swallowing every other sound around him. And Sam wasn't here – was either still out, doing whatever it was he was doing nowadays when he thought Dean didn't notice - or long asleep in their shared room.
The hands skimmed all over him, running over his body with enough pressure to hurt in all the right places, amplifying his several aches and pains.
He might have groaned, most definitely had drifted off at some point. The next time he became aware of anything else but the raw, open wound that was his body, he was on his back and laying on something soft – a car moving, distorted sounds of a radio and softly mumbled words from somewhere in front of him slipping through the folds of unconsciousness.
Then the car had stopped – he seemed to have lost time again – faintly became aware of hands again reaching for him – hurting – lifting him up and…fucking carrying him?
For a brief moment he thought to protest, to demand to not be taken to a hospital – demand that whoever was carrying him should call his brother, leave Dean be until Sam arrived. But the next thing he knew he was once again lying down – again on his back.
He was undressed without doing one thing to either help or protest, was manhandled around like a ragdoll.
And it had to be Sam – had to be.
Dean knew his brother – knew how he smelled and acted and talked, knew because nobody else could be as efficient in patching Dean up and remain gentle at the same time, mumbling apologies whenever an unexpected touch inflamed one of his wounds anew but keeping the hand in place until Dean relaxed again.
Hands turned him onto his stomach, fingers probing his lower back, pressing against bruises that had to go to the bone, tracing over his ribcage, his arms and legs, over the curve of his skull. He might have hissed in pain, might have voiced his protest as the searching fingers found what felt like a gaping gash on the back of his skull, finally made out the voice that belonged to the fingers, the hands.
"Sam…?" he gasped, prying leaden lids open.
Blinking against the light of overhead lamp he wasn't able to make out much more than frayed schemes, but there was no mistaking the figure looming over him.
Sam told him to hold still, and Dean followed the gentle order unquestioningly.
Sam applied icepacks to aching muscles and bruises, made Dean swallow a couple of pills, drink some water. Dean tried to watch his brother through barely parted lids and tangled lashes, followed his every shadowy move as Sam swathed him in blankets and went about cleaning some cuts on Dean's knuckles, his arms and face. Started to stitch up the gash on his head.
"I'll turn down the lights in a minute," Sam mumbled as Dean's eyes repeatedly slipped closed against his will. "Go to sleep now. I'll wake you up in an hour – concussion checklist, the usual,"
And to hell with it, but Dean had never been able to deny his little brother anything. Not even an order to go to sleep when he wanted nothing more than to stay awake just a little longer, find out where Sam had been, give him a piece of his mind for leaving and not coming back on Christmas eve of all times.
This Christmas eve of all times.
But as it was, Dean had been conditioned to follow orders.
Barely a second after Sam's gentle order, he was out like a light.
He woke to the sound of the world's loudest marching band playing the world's loudest polka.
Inside his head.
As if he'd needed yet another reason to hate marching bands.
Dean groaned, shifted his weight and buried his face deeper into his pillow. But even that small – almost miniscule movement ignited a firework of pain all across his back, spikes of molten lava chasing from his lower back straight into his head.
This time the groan was most definitely more pronounced, even though Dean still couldn't really hear it through that damn marching band…
The touch on his shoulder came out of nowhere, and – pain and agony be damned – Dean shot up and twisted his body away, the hand that had somehow managed to take a hold of his Bowie knife thrust outward defiantly. He'd ripped his eyes open in immediate reaction to the unexpected threat but had to give up on his good intentions and squeeze them shut as the light of the only lamp in the room amplifying his headache to almost impossible heights.
Somewhere, though layers of agony and the constant thrum of his heartbeat reverberating inside his head, Dean thought he heard a voice, but he really couldn't be sure. He had to fight hard to hold his stance, to not loose ground as he kept his knife-hand thrust outward, trying to keep track of his attacker through his hazy vision and the steady beat of pain coursing through his body.
His hand probably was shaking – a little. And his back was on fire. He was barely able to keep sitting upright, barely conscious of the fact that he somehow seemed to have lost pretty much all his clothes, save his boxers, and was facing off against whoever half naked as he was.
"You stay away or I'll gut you, I swear,"
He thought he heard a chuckle, but whoever it was seemed to move away from him at least, the mattress shifting as the additional weight moved off it and retreated.
Yeah, just what he thought.
He might not be able to see very well at the moment, but he still was a hunter – could do this with his eyes closed, so to speak. He could ignore his physical pain and fight – no problem. Enough time to break down and wait this one out later.
But his opponent stayed away and Dean felt himself start to settle down a little. He'd been startled – a rookie mistake. Again. Never let anyone or anything sneak up on you. But he'd stood his ground – he could do this.
Prying his eyes open to tiny slits, Dean started to appraise the situation a little more clear-headed. Though still tangled up lashes he had a little less trouble making out the form of a huddled man, sitting right across from him on the bed opposite. On Sam's bed.
And something about the way the guy was sitting there…
With a tentative hand Dean reached up - needing to feel if his head was still attached to the rest of his body, rubbing stiff fingers against his eyes till he'd managed to disentangle his lashes enough to open heavy lids yet another tiny bit.
The figure in front of his remained still, slowly came into focus.
Sam sat on the bed, feet planted solidly on the ground, elbows propped onto his knees, hands clasped together loosely.
Another rub of his lids and his vision became somewhat close to clear, finally.
"Sam, that you?" Dean asked, just to make sure.
The quiet nod of affirmation he got in response was all Dean needed.
With another groan, this one heartfelt and not restrained in the slightest, he let his arm drop, managing to discard the knife before gutting himself as he slumped onto the mattress again, burying his face back into the pillow. His back muscles were spasmying – his whole body feeling like he'd received the beating of his life.
Which…god yes, he had.
He actually had received a pretty damn good beating.
This time he didn't startle quite so much, merely flinched a little as the hand – Sam's hand – once again made contact, a big, warm palm spreading over his upper neck, applying just the right amount of pressure. Just right to chase away the cramps rippling through his shoulders but soft enough to not add to the probably already bone-deep bruises adorning every inch of his back.
One hell of a beating.
Sam was talking again and Dean let the familiar cadence of his brother's voice soothe him, as it always had.
At one point Sam coaxed him to get back up, handed him a couple of pills that Dean swallowed unquestioningly, chasing them down with a couple sips of water before he was allowed to bury himself back into his sheets. Another set of ice-packs was placed onto his back and he shivered but held still, knew that they'd make him feel better soon. Soon.
Dean thought he heard the muted tunes of some Christmas movie – one he knew but couldn't place at the moment – heard what he assumed was Sam babbling away a little before he finally fell silent.
And with the silence came sleep.
Waking up the next time was a lot less…disconcerting.
The marching band had taken a long needed, much-anticipated break.
The ice-packs had been replaced by their warmer, much more comfortable brother – the heat packs
His back still was one deep, throbbing bruise, but the imminent, searing pain was pushed down and away for the moment, had become somewhat bearable. And while his head didn't feel all too great, Dean decided that he'd dealt with worse. Nothing a couple of Tylenol couldn't fix.
Said Tylenol miraculously appeared right in front of his nose when he experimentally cracked an eye open, finding the light in the room still a little too bright, but bearable.
'Did I say that out loud?' Dean wondered, groping for the pills with slightly uncoordinated movements.
"Yeah, you did say that out loud. Here,"
Next to the pills appeared another hand, long fingers wrapped around a bottle of water.
Dean blinked blearily, managed to focus on Sam's face, looming above him, giving him that mixture between a smile and a frown that Sam had managed to perfect over the years. Dean tried to arch an eyebrow, found the motion hurting, though and abandoning it again quickly.
"You gonna pull your knife on me again?" Sam asked, quietly, the hint of a teasing undertone taking some of the sharpness out of his words.
Dean rolled onto his side, cocking his head in consideration. Stalling for time.
"Na, I guess…I'm over it," he said – found his voice working, surprisingly albeit hoarsely.
Sam shook his head and rolled his eyes, doing his best to look annoyed, but the small smile playing around his lips was a sure enough giveaway. His posture relaxed visibly, and Dean took the opportunity to down the pills, then pull himself up a little. Resting his back against the headboard was pretty much out of the question and he accepted Sam's helping hand at his elbow as he levered himself sideways so his weight rested on his shoulder, shifting until some of that unrelenting pressure in his back at least let off. A little.
Still didn't feel all that great.
"How do you feel?"
Dean didn't even needed to consider his answer to that question.
The exasperation in Sam's face was barely concealed, but he didn't call Dean on it. Didn't make him reconsider his words, either.
"You gonna throw up, dude, you better warn me first. You barely have any clean clothes left as it is,"
Dean considered that for a second, but found that the alcohol-induced nausea that he knew pretty damn well wasn't present. Not really - not anymore, at least.
He hadn't been that drunk, come to think of it. His plan to get wasted had been…interrupted, kinda, by the little brawl he'd gotten himself into. Shouldn't have abandoned all thoughts of hustling pool and gone straight for winning, maybe. Should have given the punks a little time to feel safe before taking their money. Shouldn't have smiled at the girl which he'd assumed to be just one of the gals, but who'd turned out to be the girlfriend of the guy he'd taken about 100 dollars off of, at the time.
Should have, could have…
"'m not drunk, Sammy," he stated, calmly, surprised to find the statement to be true. He wasn't drunk anymore. Hadn't been that terribly drunk to begin with – even though he'd been on the best way to get there.
"So…who'd you piss of to deserve this – " Sam questioned, pointing roughly toward Dean's battered body. The calm, slightly mocking tone of voice had Dean's hands balling into fists, noting the tight skin across his knuckles, the burning sensation of split and scraped skin where he'd fought the two – three men jumping him when he'd brushed the girls buttocks. By mistake.
Wasn't like she had not walked by him – very close by him – at least half a dozen times before…
"Guys just didn't take to good to losing a game or two," Dean offered, swallowing everything else wanted to say.
Sam nodded, leant forward, arms on knees, looked away. Then looked back again.
His eyes were soft and sympathetic, a deep groove between his brows, sucking on his bottom lip a little.
"What made you think hustling pool off some shit-for-brains - on Christmas eve, in some fucked-up bar would not lead to…some kind of…this…" he gestured toward Dean again and for the first time since waking up Dean took a look at himself, down his bare torso, sheets pooling around his waist.
And god, but his chest looked pretty…messed up. Bruises all over – but that wasn't even the part of his body that hurt the most. His back – that was where most of the pain was centered and Dean knew enough about bruises to know that those – back there – had to be bone deep, all hues of the rainbow. And they sure as hell were bound to stay awhile. Dean could feel the pinch of sutures at the back of his head, faintly remembered seeing a beer bottle – not even empty – coming at him from behind. It hadn't taken him down entirely, but had stunned him enough to give the others time to work him over a little before he'd managed to regain his advantage, then take off.
The next thing he remembered was walking down the road – the headlights of the car advancing, him going down.
Then waking up – Sam suddenly there.
Running a hand down his chest, almost a little self-conscious, Dean looked back up at Sam.
"Just didn't want to spent the night alone," he spat out, and it came out with all the scorn, the hurt he felt, even though he hadn't really wanted to relay that to Sam. Maybe. The subconscious was a traitorous bitch.
Sam's brow furrowed, his jaw working roughly. Dean saw his brother's hands clench and fist, muscles in his forearms working.
And before he could say anything, dish Dean a lie or an empty promise or a dirty reassurance that everything was alright, Dean barged on ahead.
"Where were you, Sam? Last night. Where did you go? I was waiting for you, man," there was an unmistakable challenge in his words– daring Sam to lie to him, hoping for another answer than he feared to be the truth.
Sam's chin jut forward, his jaw set so tight, Dean was sure his brother would crack a tooth. Every part of him wanted that answer – and another part of him wanted for Sam to remain silent. To not break that spell – that tiny piece of play pretend that still stood between them, that might very well be the only thing that kept them both running, at the moment.
Their eyes met, and Dean thought he could see something that he'd thought they'd lost – somehow, along the way. Then Sam turned his head, looked toward the front of the motel room, his gaze getting stuck there.
Dean squinted in irritation, couldn't believe that his brother was trying to avoid the confrontation.
And then he followed his brother's gaze.
He was pretty sure his heart skipped a beat or two, most definitely felt a jolt of pain that had nothing to do with getting beaten up by a handful of punks in the world's seediest bar on the night before Christmas.
Sam had lit the Christmas tree. In addition to the flashlights there was a ridiculous looking chain of popcorn slung all around it, the white balls of popped corn looking almost like huge flakes of snow.
There was no sign of Dean's microvaved dinners, but a plate with something wrapped in tin-foil stood in the middle of the table, along with a bowl of something…something. Dean couldn't see from his perch on the bed, but he had a pretty good idea – if the smell was anything to go by.
He turned to his brother, a little wide eyed, suddenly feeling…stupid. Like a freaking drama-queen. Like the worst brother in the whole wide world.
Maybe hell had changed him in ways he'd never be able to change back…
"I tried to get us dinner – turkey – the whole nine yards, since we didn't have a proper thanksgiving dinner and all. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a restaurant that does take out on such short notice on Christmas eve?"
Sam got up from the bed but remained standing between the beds. Dean unconsciously pulled himself up as if he'd thus be able to make up for the difference in height between them, eyes averted in shame.
"There was this diner, a couple towns over. I took the bus – but on the way back I took the wrong one, ended up in the middle of nowhere. I tried to call but couldn't get a service out there… Took me almost three hours to walk back into town, then hitchhike my way back to the motel."
Dean closed his eyes, swallowed, startled when he felt his mattress dip as Sam lowered himself down on it. Dean was about to jerk away when he felt Sam's hand on his neck again, realized only now that his shoulder had starting cramping – again - muscles jumping and twitching as if an electrical current ran right through it. H couldn't help a tiny sigh to escape his lips as Sam's strong fingers massaged the knot of pain out of his shoulder before releasing him again with a soft pat. But he didn't move away again.
"No, Dean. Don't. Let's not…"
Dean nodded, swallowed past the lump in his throat. After a moment, Sam did the same.
"You found me…?" Dean asked, just to be sure.
Sam's lips quirked a little – as if the memory was as painful to him as it had been for Dean.
"Yeah. When I got back and you weren't there, but the Impala was… I figured you wouldn't walk anywhere if you weren't planning on not coming back…sober, so – "
"Thanks, man. I guess," Dean whispered, covering up the lump in his throat with a sharp cough.
"Sure. And, you know...thanks for this, too. If I'd known..."
Dean rolled his lip between his teeth, releasing it quickly when he caught on a cut he hadn't yet been aware of.
Yeah, if he'd known...if either of them had known, things might have gone differently.
A quick shared look had them both smiling – hesitantly.
"Looks like we had the same idea, at least," Dean offered lamely, accepting Sam's helping hand as he sat up, taking the t-shirt Sam handed him with a quick bounce of his brows.
Pulling it on felt terrible, but he'd be damned if he sat there with his chest and back shining in all colors of the rainbow.
"Yeah, looks like," Sam replied, moving out of the way as Dean got up and made his way over to the table.
Half a turkey – plus stuffing. And pie – Sam had brought pie!
"I'm afraid we're all out of punch," Dean said, taking in the empty bottle still laying on its side on the dingy floor.
"We've still got beer," Sam offered, cracking open the six-pack Dean had bought and bringing two bottles over to the table.
Gingerly, Dean lowered himself into one of the chairs, reaching out to poke at the tin-foil packed turkey and stuffing in the middle of the table.
"It still counts as a Christmas dinner, you know? We still have the 25th for another…" Sam checked his watch "…another three hours."
Dean grunted approvingly, found his mouth watering, despite the fact that he'd thought he wouldn't be hungry. But he kinda was.
The foil underneath his fingers was cold, which figured, seeing as Sam had picked it up some 24 hours ago – give or take. But it still smelled damn good.
"Bird's too big – won't fit into the microwave, so we gotta eat it cold," Sam explained, voice a little apologetic as he took one of their knifes – their hunting knifes – offering it to Dean.
"You're the older, you should do the honors."
Dean snorted, huffed a painful laugh. Took the offered knife and wiped it on his shirt, just to be sure. They always kept their weapons clean, but one couldn't be thorough enough. God forbid there still was a speck of blood on it. Or something.
He sliced off two generous pieces of meat, lifted them onto the paper plates Sam had found in one of the cupboards.
They ate in silence.
Finished off their beers and each got a second.
Sam complimented Dean on the tree.
There were no presents this year, but it didn't really matter.
Dean though that – this right here – had to be the biggest present ever. Them being together again. When he'd lost Sam – so long ago, he'd thought his life would end. Had taken him too long to realize that making the deal wouldn't change anything. He'd just traded one life for another. Sam's for his own.
At the time, it had seemed like an awesome deal. Only that, for Sam, it hadn't been. And, in the long run – it hadn't really been for Dean, either.
But that was the past.
Time to look forward.
And maybe, if they'd learn to talk to each other, they would not end up screwing things up even more between them.
When Dean looked up he caught Sam looking at him a bit funny, hastily looking away when he was caught in the act.
Had he spoken out loud again? Probably not. And even if…
"Merry Christmas," Dean said, a heartfelt smile tilting the corners of his mouth upwards.
He saw Sam start, then smile - real and unguarded.
"Yeah, merry Christmas."
They raised their beer-bottles, saluting each other.
And finished off the bird and the whole damn pie, just for the sake of it.
So - don't say it. It's pretty sappy, I know. But it's Christmas - and the boys deserve a sappy ending, even though we all know how it ended for them that season, right?
God, did I miss posting - as much as I was afraid of going there again. Still not doing too great in the self-confidence department, I'm afraid...
If you like this little tale at all - or at least didn't find it too terrible, I'd be very grateful if you'd let me know. Depending on how this one's doing I will decide about finally posting another story I've got almost finished by now.
Thank you all for reading.
I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful christmas - if you do celebrate, that is. If not, just have a wonderful, peaceful time nonetheless ;-)