Please note, this story was inspired by the forthcoming episode 'Faith' (and is therefore spoilery) and is set the Christmas after. Part was also inspired by the WB Christmas promo!
Sam Winchester peered through the grimy motel room window at the outside world. It was December 24th, and here they were, once again spending quality time on the road. There was no home for these boys, no Christmas tree or carol singing.
Sam sighed as random flakes of white snow drizzled past his field of vision and settled onto the already white ground. There was at least a good two inches of the white stuff already settled. Some had drifted up the sides of their motel room, making it appear like some ancient cottage of white instead of a grubby second rate place.
He turned, looking at his brother who was sitting on his bed typing. Dean hadn't mentioned Christmas at all yet. Instead, he still searched for another hunt as if it were any other day of the year.
As Sam watched, Dean pinched his nose and shook his head, unaware that he was being scrutinized. He looked pale, and the tiredness in his eyes showed clearly, even in the dull light of the room. Thinking nothing of it, he let a hand slip into his jeans pocket and pulled out a bottle of aspirin. He'd been chewing on them like they were gummi bears just lately.
Sam licked his lips, wondering if he should say something. It's starting again. The headaches, the pains behind his eyes. Why can't he just tell me! Dean had been like this before, and the last time he'd left it too late to get treatment. Only a one hundred percent miracle had saved him that time, and it wasn't likely to happen again.
"You alright?" Sam asked non-committaly.
Dean's head jerked around and he couldn't quite hide a sheepish look as if he'd been caught off guard. "Fine, just tired from the road trip. I think I'll hit the sack for a couple of hours before we dine." He clipped the laptop closed and set it to one side, bouncing back onto his pillow in one swift move.
Sam nodded. Their idea of dine was a couple of burgers- hardly Christmas dinner. He pulled out a chair, watching silently as his brother dozed and his chest rose and fell rhythmically. Would this be his last yuletide with a sibling? If Dean's illness was back, he wouldn't last another year, of that Sam was sure. Why? Why can't he have a life? He's helped enough people! Why can't you take me instead…I as good as killed mom…
Sam wanted to slam a fist into the nearby table, but that would arouse his brother, and he had a plan. Dean had started acting strangely about four weeks ago. Since then, he'd been popping aspirin with alarming regularity. There was something else too- several times, Dean had hidden something quickly in his pocket when he'd noticed Sam watching him. Is it more medication? Now, Sam was going to go through Dean's pockets until he found the truth.
Standing from the chair, Sam stealthily moved across the room to where Dean's jacket lay next to his bed. Slipping a hand inside the left pocket, he felt something cold and metallic. Before he could withdraw his hand, Dean's boot swept from the bed and caught his arm, holding it in place.
"Looking for something, little brother?" Dean sounded hurt- almost angry that Sam had waited until he was dozing.
Sam recoiled. It was truth time. "Dean, I've seen you taking those pills. I've noticed the headaches, the mood swings…" He winced. How could he confront his own brother with the fact he was dying again? "It's back, isn't it? Look, maybe if you go to a doctor now they can do something. Maybe it's not too late this time…" The words were pleading, heartfelt, almost tearful.
Dean pulled himself up onto his elbows and pinched his nose, closing his eyes as if it would clear his pounding head. "I've already seen someone. You could say he was the best in his field. There's nothing he can do."
Sam slumped onto the bottom of Dean's bed. He looked at the floor, unable for a moment to face his brother. Eventually, he dared to ask the question. "How long?"
Dean smirked. "The rest of my damn life!" he sounded more annoyed than anything.
Sam looked up, frowning. How could Dean be so blaze about it? "The rest of your life what?"
Dean slapped the throwover on his bed with one hand and scowled. "I guess my secrets out." He slid a hand inside the pocket where Sam had been rummaging and tugged out a pair of glasses. He scowled again, and then slid them on. "This," he indicated his face and the glasses, "This is FOREVER!" he emphasized the last word so much, Sam couldn't help but burst out laughing.
"You got headaches because you were too vain to wear those things, and here I've been thinking…" Sam couldn't help it; he just had to punch his brother. It was only an affectionate cuff, but he deserved it.
"Ouch, don't you know you're not supposed to hit a guy who wears these things?" Dean quickly removed the offending objects and stuffed them back in his pocket- never to be seen again.
"What about hunting? Can you see without them?" Sam was teasing now. Dean had earned it.
"I'm not THAT old! I just need them for the laptop. Small print. That kinda thing." Dean swung his legs over the bed. Suddenly he didn't feel like sleeping now his dark secret had been revealed. "Want me to go get pizza?"
Sam shook his head. He'd been worrying like a madman, but now he needed to vent. "No, in fact, there's something I have to do first." Without saying more, he grabbed the Impala's keys and vanished outside into the cold night.
Two minutes later, he returned with a burlap sack.
"Don't tell me you're going to play Santa with that thing?" Dean tugged out a six pack and tossed his brother a beer. Sam caught it with one hand, ready to celebrate Christmas, and life with his brother.
"In a way, I guess I am playing Santa." Sam carefully passed the sack over to Dean. "Merry Christmas, Four eyes…"
Normally, Dean would have retorted, but somehow the whole moment had caught him by surprise. His whole tough guy persona had melted to leave the real Dean Winchester behind. He accepted the sack quietly, and let his hands tug away the cloth to reveal a long, large wooden box inside. He'd seen cases like this before, and caught his breath before he dared to open it.
"Hurry, will you, my beer's getting warm while you're messing around." Sam wanted to see the look on his brother's face. He knew he'd like the gift. It was a dead cert.
"You didn't…" Dean slowly lifted the wooden lid to reveal a Winchester rifle like no other. The wooden stock had been carved into ornately with Anasazi protection symbols and then highly polished, and the metal work had been redone in high grade silver and engraved with his name. "You shouldn't have…"
Sam took a sip of his beer. "Oh, I didn't, Bert Afrombian did!"
Dean grinned. It hadn't taken long for Sam to grow into his credit card scams. He'd trained his brother well. "I wish I could say I had something like this to give back…"
In truth, Sam hadn't expected anything in return. Showing his feelings and buying gifts was not a Dean thing. To his surprise, Dean slipped a hand under the bed and brought out a package of his own. It had been expertly wrapped, and Sam suspected Dean had not done the wrapping.
"Dean, I…." Before he could say more, Sam had the package tossed onto his lap. He slid his now empty Coors bottle onto the night table and took the parcel. It was lightweight, and he couldn't resist quickly tearing into it. It was like a childhood moment both brothers had missed out on, and were now enjoying.
As the paper came away, Sam realized what he'd been given. It was a hand crafted, leather bound journal engraved with his name.
"I figured one of us should keep some kind of record of our exploits. Kinda like the Winchester chronicles or something. And seeing as I'm not really the literate one…" Dean cracked open another beer. "I thought it might be nice to keep up dad's tradition of diary making. Maybe someday we can show it to him so he knows what we've been up too."
Sam nodded. He liked the idea, and he liked Dean's thinking. The diary wasn't just about their exploits, it was somewhere for him to vent about his nightmares. Someplace he could jot down the unthinkable and no one would question it. "It's perfect…"
Dean shook his head. "Dude, it doesn't even compare to this." He held the silver rifle in his hand, too proud of it to let go for even a second.
Sam had other ideas. Small tears filled his eyes as he leaned over and hugged his brother unexpectedly. "You gave me the greatest gift a brother could tonight. I could never ask for more…"
Dean scowled. A journal wasn't worthy all this fuss.
Sam smiled, holding back his emotions. "You gave me my brother back. I thought I was going to lose you. No gift compares to the gift of life…" This time, he couldn't stop a stray tear slipping down his cheek. He quickly wiped it away, thinking of his brothers 'no chick flick' order.
This time, Dean understood. His own eyes filled with moisture as he shot a mock punch at his brother's shoulder. "Hey, don't turn girlie on me, dude! We can't have a wuss and a guy in glasses out there spook hunting!"
Sam rubbed his eyes and shot a glance out the window again, this time with a renewed hope that they would soon find their dad, and everything would be okay. He had Dean now, and his brother wasn't going anywhere.
"It's still snowing," he pointed out.
Dean shrugged, taking a glance himself. "So?"
"What say we go build a snowman?" Sam was utterly serious.
Dean frowned. What the hell, it IS Christmas! "Last one to finish gets to kill our next spook!" Without waiting, he dived for the door and was soon rolling in the snow outside, tossing snowballs at his defenceless sibling.
Sam followed, still finishing his artistic snowman first.
For the Winchesters, there may be no home, no family, but they had the greatest gift of all- each other.