Thank you to every reader and every reviewer. This has been a wonderful experience and I hate to see it end. Forgive me if I get a little sentimental with our Winchesters, but remember it is Christmas and they deserve a little happiness after giving us so much pleasure, not to mention saving all those innocents!
You are hereby forewarned that in addition to a few laughs, there are some tender moments in this final chapter. My Winchester Christmas is filled with a few songs, a touch of magic and there is even a hug or two! What can I say? I'm a sentimentalist, just like John… but gosh darn it all, they need some emotional bonding time! Kripke has his Christmas tale to tell, and I have mine! LOL Merry Christmas to all! Thanks again, B.J.!
Chapter Eleven – Deck the Halls
"Chris, you want to come inside and see the kids? Give you a chance to see what Christmas means, up close and personal."
"Why don't you go ahead, Dean? Your family's waiting. I'm just going to change into my street clothes first, don't want to confuse the kids with two Santas."
"I'm sure Dad would step aside, you know, for you. Hard to compete with the real deal!"
"Oh, but Dean, your dad and all the others Santas are real. If the kids believe, then you're real."
Dean grinned, fond memories weaving into his thoughts. "Yeah? Like the Velveteen Rabbit?"
"You remember that story? You never cease to amaze me, Dean."
"Only read it a few hundred times, back in the day."
"It always was one of Sammy's favorites… yours too, if memory serves."
"You know all my secrets?" Dean questioned, a slightly hesitant smirk gracing his face while he awaited confirmation. He had finally accepted he couldn't hide, not from Santa Claus. He knows if you've been good or bad, so be good for goodness sake!
"Don't worry about it, Dean. All things considered, you're plainly on the side of good."
"Whew! Good thing your standards are R rated."
"You stretch the boundaries sometimes, but I do believe you've never broken through. You're a red-blooded American male. You know…, when I was younger… "
Dean moved quickly to cut him off. "Good to know, Chris." As much as he was loathe to discuss his own sexual escapades with Santa Claus, he sure as hell didn't need to hear Santa discussing his own exploits. Not in this life!
"Dean, you were a huge help tonight."
"I wouldn't have missed it, Chris." Dean laughed as he reconsidered, "Well, maybe the swan dive, but the rest was good, real good!"
"Do be careful out there, Dean. Safety first."
"You got it!" Dean grinned as he considered all the memories, the excitement and the joy. A concerned look registered on his face as he faced the prospect of it all ending. "You are going to come in and say goodbye to everyone, aren't you?" Dean asked again, not yet ready to let his new friend go. He hesitated, unsure what to say, just knowing he wanted to say something. He decided that while snarkiness may have been his trademark, this time straight-forward sincerity might work best. "Chris, thanks for tonight. I'll never forget it."
"Sorry, Dean, but I'm afraid you will."
"What?" Dean quizzed as his eyebrows arched and he leaned in, like he hadn't quite heard.
Chris waved his hand in front of Dean's face and a peaceful calm enveloped him. The stress and tension in his life seemed to disappear as his features softened and a youthful, carefree glow filled out his face.
"Dean, you were saying?"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, thanks for letting me help you deliver the Christmas presents. It was fun. Anytime you need help, just give me a call." Dean hesitated briefly, before he continued on with a minor criticism, trying not to hurt the old man's feelings. "Next time though, I'm driving. That station wagon of yours, well, no offense, but it's an embarrassment. You might want to consider getting a new car, something not so ancient."
"Well, it's certainly not as fine as your Impala, but that old station wagon's been with me a long time, kinda has sentimental value, but I'll consider the suggestion. Dean, thanks for coming along. You were a tremendous help. You can feel proud. You made Christmas special for a lot of kids. I'll see you in a bit."
"Chris, it was my pleasure." As the Santa look-a-like walked away, Dean yelled after him, "Hey, Chris.., Merry Christmas." And then he grinned, wide-open and sincere.
"Merry Christmas, Dean."
Dean turned and bounded up the steps of the orphanage, his little elf shoes clicking against the hard cement as he took the steps two at a time. Being up all night delivering packages did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm for this Christmas Day as he barreled through the double doors leading to the common area and was greeted with the raucous, exuberant sounds of unrestrained glee.
The huge Christmas tree in the middle of the room was encircled by joyful kids trying out their new toys and happily chattering amongst themselves amid the remnants of colorful wrapping paper, ribbons and bows. John was decked out in his Santa suit sitting in a large arm chair by the window, a child on each leg smiling and giggling as he whispered in their ears, his rumbling laughter rising up and filling the room with more cheer. The joy of Christmas was vast and overpowering and Dean stood there for a moment just drinking it in, all of his senses seizing hold of the feelings that wisped and floated about the room.
Sam's voice echoed behind him and he turned to face a vision more shocking than that cross-dressing zombie who was desperately trying to continue his dream of being the number one female Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas before the Winchesters put him back in his grave. Dean furiously blinked his eyes, trying to ward of the exhaustion that had obviously carjacked his mind, as he was confronted with the next Guinness World Record holder for the tallest freaking elf that ever lived. Damn, I thought I made a tall elf… I ain't nothing next to this Sasquatch freak!
Elf Sammy wore bright red knickers with green and red, vertical striped knee socks which only served to make his calves appear even longer and leaner, like that was even possible? His shorts were held up on his lean hips by suspenders embellished with tiny reindeer and his shirt was a deep forest green with more tiny reindeer prancing across its collar. His shaggy mop of brown hair stuck out in all directions under a matching red elf hat with the all too familiar tinkling bell at the very end of the long tassel. He too wore the freaky elf shoes, only his were two sizes larger than his brother's, almost big enough for Shaquille O'Neal, which was just this side of an ocean liner. Of course, the numerous bells on his outfit tinkled merrily whenever he moved, which was often as his manic energy propelled him from child to child insuring they were enjoying their Christmas.
"What the hell, Sammy?"
Sam reacted to his brother's voice with a jerk and a quick turnaround, followed by a proud pose as he showed off his outfit to his brother. He offered up his dazzling white, goofy smile as he actually did a Gene Kelly soft shoe impression, before twirling completely around and snapping into the 'ta-da' pose with his arms outstretched.
"Guess you have a little competition in the elf department, huh, bro?" Sam proudly smirked, obviously delighting in his new persona.
Dean's facial expressions traveled the gamut from disbelief to baffled to wonder and ended up at amazed. "What the hell? Sammy, where'd you get the outfit?"
"A friend of yours came through with an extra outfit, modeled after your original."
"Jeannie?" Dean chuckled, "She turn up an NBA pro that used to work at the mall?"
"Not hardly, the best she could come up with was a spare hat. No, I took the liberty of calling a friend of yours when I borrowed your phone last night."
"I thought you were calling Stevie to see if she wanted to come help out at the orphanage today. She have a spare elf outfit lying around the house?" Dean snickered.
"No, but I made a second call."
"Really? 'Cause, dude, you better not be running up my long distance." Dean appeared slightly threatening, but it was all an act which quickly faded as his curiosity took front and center, "So… come on… spill… Who'd you call?"
A new voice joined in the conversation. "He called me."
Dean whipped around to face another elf wannabe. Dean's smile was electric, beaming like a freaking spotlight lighting up Hollywood boulevard, while his body puffed up like a rooster proclaiming his obvious superiority as he basked in the tangible proof of his celebrity friendship. Standing before him was his new, best bud Joe all decked out in green knickers and purple and white horizontally striped socks, topped off with a purple pullover hoodie and a matching green hat with a large purple pom pom hanging from the tassel.
As thrilled as he was to see his rock idol, he suddenly lost his voice, floored by the vision before him.
"Dean, buddy, cat got your tongue?"
"No… it's just… man, I sure didn't expect to see you… here." Wonder filled his face; this was most certainly the strangest Christmas he had ever experienced. "I can't believe you came, and wow… your tailor sure did a great job on the outfits."
"Yeah, I had to put a rush on them, especially after Sam asked if I had an extra one for him. Couldn't leave little bro out of the fun, right?"
Dean then turned to his brother, wanting nothing more than to see his brother eat his words. "Guess you believe me now, huh, Sammy?"
"Uh… no… not really. Dude, get real." Sam chuckled and walked away, heading over to help out Santa. He momentarily stopped and turned back to speak to Dean's buddy, "Uh, 'Joe' whenever you want to start, just go ahead."
Dean's rooster deflated again, ready to be plucked and thrown in the pot for supper. What's up with Sammy's 'tude? I mean, Joe's here! Isn't that proof enough? What is wrong with him? He turned to Joe, hoping for some rational explanation, some clarity in this fog that had descended upon him.
"So… Joe? What's the deal? What are you going to 'start'?"
Shock was threatening to knock Dean out for the count. His face contorted, as his voice rose, "WHAT?"
"Yeah, me and a few of the guys are going to play a set for the orphans. Just a few Christmas tunes. Might sneak in some Eagles' songs."
"Wow! That's really unbelievable you would do that, give up your Christmas to give a charity concert!"
"Oh, it's not charity," Joe clarified, "Sam's paying us."
Dean swallowed and considered the ramifications of this, the dire consequences beyond this strange turn of events. Sam never wanted to use the fake credit cards, always felt guilty about them. You know… not honest or something or other…, blah, blah, blah…, I believe he uses the term deplorable. Still…, he'd agreed to use them to fill up Santa's sack, but paying Joe Walsh to play a gig with bad credit cards? I'm going to kill him for this! Joe was his friend now, one of his few friends, and that friendship would have a short lifespan and end pretty abruptly when he found out he'd been cheated. Damn it, Sammy!
"Look, Joe. I don't know what Sam told you, but if he used a credit card to pay you… "
"Nah, he paid cash."
"Uh-huh." Joe was smiling, very pleased with himself and their little transaction; quite content to be working this gig on Christmas morning.
"CASH? We don't have that kind of money. How could he come up with that much cash? I mean, I don't know what you charge for a private gig, but I'm pretty sure it's more than a value meal at McDonald's and that's about how much money we have."
"Really? 'Cause he already paid me… You're not going to starve now, are you?"
"No, of course not… but he... paid you?" Dean was at a loss, where in the hell did Sam get that kind of cash? And why in the hell would he spend it on a band? Even a band fronted by Joe? How amazing is that!?!? This is so freaking cool! Then the real world intruded and bitch slapped him back to reality…,Dad's gonna kill them when he finds out. Doesn't Sammy know how much ammo that would buy? Oh, damn, we are screwed to hell and back!
"To be honest, Dean, cheapest I've worked since my first band in the eighth grade."
"Really?" Dean weakly asked, hoping against hope Sam hadn't ruined what had been the promise of a great Christmas, up until this little fiasco. Almost afraid to ask, but steeling his hunter's calm he mustered the courage, "So how much is this little gig costing us?"
"WHAT?" he blurted out as he stared dumbfounded at his smirking friend.
"You heard me. And split between four guys, after our management and Uncle Sam get their cuts… we're not even gonna clear five bucks each. I hate to boast, but I think you got a bargain."
"Tell me about it! But who in the hell came up with fifty bucks? I mean that's ridiculous."
"Hey, it's what your brother offered."
"And he thinks I'm insane? Is he freaking nuts?"
"Not in the technical sense, but maybe in a good way. Look, this is going to be fun. Christmas is all about the kids and I love to play, so it's a natural fit."
"But why would he offer to pay you fifty bucks? I mean if he asked you to do the gig for free that would make more sense."
"Dean, it's like this, I guess he figures that's the going rate for impersonators."
"No, no, no… don't tell me he still thinks you're an impersonator?"
"Afraid so. So what do you say, we just let him believe? You know, Christmas is all about believing. How long do you think he'll hold out before he tumbles to the truth?"
"Knowing my brother, he's just pigheaded enough to hold on to the illusion for decades."
"Well, Dean, I guess I better get the rest of the guys and get ready to play. Want you to get your money's worth."
"Joe, thanks. This really is super of you."
"My pleasure. Hey, just reinforces all those people who figure I'm crazy anyway, huh?"
As Joe walked toward the stage, Dean looked up to see Chris returning to the festivities now dressed like a farmer wannabe. He had on jean overalls and a worn, red-checked flannel shirt, but he still had the unmistakable stamp of Santa on him. Maybe it was because Dean knew what was in his heart or maybe it was just the white, curly locks that flowed over his shoulders and cascaded down from his mustache and beard. You can take the man out of the Santa suit, but you can't take the Santa out of the man!
With a smile and a twinkle in his eyes, Chris motioned him over when their eyes met.
"So, Dean, I forgot to ask what you wanted for Christmas. What your family wanted."
Dean was startled and momentarily confused; he couldn't recall ever being asked that question before and he certainly had no clue how to respond.
"Huh? Christmas is for the kids, Chris. Nothing I need…, or want." At least nothing a present under a tree could fulfill.
Chris seemed content to take his response at face value and moved on to a new topic.
"Fine job your family's done here. Fine job."
"Yeah, I think it turned out pretty good. So, Chris, can you stay awhile or is the Mrs. expecting you home?"
"Oh, I can't stay long… " the noise of Joe's makeshift band doing a sound check drowned out the last of Chris' words and Dean never heard, but my job's not quite done.
They were standing directly in front of the speakers so Dean leaned in and shouted, "What? Sorry, couldn't hear you."
Chris smiled, patted his shoulder and motioned for him to go on back to his duties. Chris indicated he was going to try out the refreshments of milk and cookies. Dean could read his lips as he mouthed he was hungry from their long night of work.
Joe and his band were all set up and ready to start. They broke into a rendition of Rocky Mountain Way and Dean marveled at the sound quality and the tight musicianship of the band. Not the Eagles, but damn good! I wonder how long 'til Sammy realizes that no imposter would sound that great? I am never going to let him forget he doubted me.
Dean whistled and whooped it up, delighting in his front row seat for this momentous occasion. John and Sam joined him off to the side of the stage as they gathered to enjoy this Christmas morning concert. The Winchesters presented quite a sight, Santa and his two tall elves rocking away to Joe and his band.
Joe finished out the song to rousing applause, which heartened Dean's soul. These kids may be orphans, but their appreciation of classic rock is outstanding! I knew adding all those classic rock CD's to the Christmas gifts was a good move.
"Thank you. You're a great crowd and it's an honor to play for you today. I'd like to introduce the band. Just a few friends I got together for this special gig. Randy is on bass, Charlie is on keyboards and Stoney is on drums… and me, I'm Joe. We have several Christmas songs we'd like to share with you, the first one being a favorite of mine. This is the Eagles' cover of a great Christmas tune, I think you may have heard it a time or two on the radio around this time of year. Henley couldn't make it today and I would never sing one of his songs, not that the man holds a grudge or anything, but… Dean… would you come up here?"
Dean froze in his little elf shoes, as his brother and dad pushed him towards the stage. His freaking elf shoes held no traction and just glided along the floor as they pushed.
"Guys, stop it."
"Then get your butt up there, son," John scolded.
"What's going on?"
Sammy was laughing and having a jolly old time with this new turn of events. "Joe said he needed another singer and I told him how you're always singing in the car… "
"You did WHAT?"
"Come on, Dean, since when have you been shy?"
"This isn't singing in the car or even singing at a high school dance…, this is Joe Walsh!"
John and Sam were on either side of him and their expressions were identical as their skepticism showed. "Yeah, right!" they proclaimed in unison.
Dean staggered onto the stage and Joe wrapped his arm around his shoulders, pulling him back toward the mike.
"Hey, buddy, relax. Once you get the first one under your belt, you'll be fine. Trust me. People may say we're crazy, but I guarantee you, we are going to have a good time!"
Dean looked out at the cheering kids, obviously enjoying this concert immensely and then his eyes focused on Chris who silently gave him a thumbs up. Next his gaze settled on his dad and damn, if he didn't look proud. His last glance was toward his brother who just mouthed the words, "Go on, you can do it." Sammy grinned that huge, open, nothing-can-hurt-you-while-I'm-around smile and Dean relaxed.
"Joe, feel free to kick me off the stage if I embarrass you."
"Not a chance, Dean. Your brother said you had a voice that would put Henley to shame."
"Not hardly, but if you want to give it a try, I'm game."
"All right, folks, let me present our new lead singer, Dean Winchester." He then turned to Dean and checked, "You know the words to the songs?"
Dean confidently smiled, years of studying the lyric sheets and singing along over miles of highway had prepared him well for this gig, almost as well as he was prepared as a hunter. "Yeah, Joe. I know the words."
"This is a little tune called Please Come Home for Christmas."
The band started into the familiar Christmas song and Dean stepped up to the mike, closed his eyes and started singing; his voice deep and rich as the melody and the poetry of the words flowed from his soul. The crowd clapped wildly at the first bars of the song and then quieted down, mesmerized by the sounds emanating from the stage. Dean relaxed and forgot the world was listening as he was once more in his element, surrounded by the familiar comfort of his Impala, blazing down the highway, his family safe beside him, doing what he knew best as his strong voice rose to the rafters.
When the song ended he was momentarily startled back to reality as loud applause and stomping greeted him instead of the familiar click to a new song on the tape deck. Joe gave him a look of approval and his heart soared. Man, it doesn't get any better than this!
"Hey, we'll have to keep you in mind if Henley decides to retire to Walden Pond."
Dean again stepped up to the microphone, "Nobody does it better than Henley. Nobody."
Joe smiled. "Maybe, but that was damn good, Dean. All right, let's rock this house!"
The band tore into Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree and Dean swung into action. He lifted the microphone from the stand and started to work the stage. Moving from end to end he rocked out the old song, drawing the crowd into a frenzy. As they finished out that song, they immediately went into the slower tempo of Blue Christmas.
It was quite a sight to behold, Dean in his little elf suit, channeling Elvis. He put a low, southern drawl into his voice and all the females in the audience swooned. The little girls and every grown woman present, from the barely twenty teacher's aide to the eighty-three year old matriarch of the orphanage, melted in his sensuous gaze as he sang strictly for them, each and every one of them hoping they were the one who could lift his blue feelings and make his Christmas memorable.
John stood staring at his older son with a silly grin on his face, words couldn't express the joy he felt at seeing Dean excel at something other than hunting for once and to top it off, actually be getting positive feedback for it. Sam always knew Dean liked to sing and yeah, he could carry a tune, but this? Not in his wildest imagination would he envision his brother performing with a live band like this!
"So, Dad, where'd he get it?"
John was lost in his own world of pride and amazement. "What? What did you say?"
"This." Sam made a sweeping motion with his arms, pointing to his brother on stage commanding the crowd. "Where did this, come from? Did you know he was this good?"
"Don't look at me. I couldn't carry a tune in an ammo can."
"So, where? Did you have any idea he could do this?"
John paused, remembering… "Your mom had a beautiful voice, like an angel." Tears welled in his eyes as he tried to hold on to the good memories, and ignore the pain of how it ended.
"Dad, I'm sorry." Sam fell all over his words, never before witnessing the raw pain in his dad's eyes like this. Not wanting to add to his grief. "I didn't mean… I never knew… you just… never said. I know…, bad memories."
John smiled then, the good memories winning out, the sound of Mary's voice filling the silence that had descended on the crowd as the song ended and the band adjusted their instruments. John could hear her voice as plain as he had just heard Dean's, a voice so soft and sweet, so pitch perfect.
"No, Sammy. Good memories."
"Yeah…, really. Don't be sorry, Sammy. I'm the one who's sorry. There's a lot about your mom you don't know, I never told you and I should have. It's just hard sometimes."
"I know… So she sang?"
"Yeah! Beautiful voice, like fine crystal, perfect and pure. You know how when you tap a piece of fine crystal you can tell the quality from the tone? Your mom was the expensive crystal and your brother has her gift. She used to sing to him every night when she put him to bed." Sam smiled as his dad continued on, lost in the memories. "She sang to you too. As soon as Dean could talk, he started singing along with her, just little ditties, limericks really. To hear them sing together was magical."
"Wow. You just never talked about it before."
"Sammy…, it's just remembering the good times… well.., it makes me miss having her around. She would have been so proud of Dean tonight. So proud of both her sons. I don't tell you enough, but you turned out good, Sammy." John placed his hand on Sam's shoulder and gave a squeeze, his eyes tearing up with love.
"Sorry, am I interrupting?"
"What? No, no, Chris. Glad you could join us. You and Dean get everything delivered?"
"Oh, yes, John. Your son was a huge help, and you and Sam certainly have accomplished wonderful things here." Chris turned to Sam, admiring his elf getup. "Sam, outstanding outfit! Glad you could partake of the festivities."
"Couldn't let Dean have all the fun."
Dean and the band then resumed their concert, playing a lilting rendition of It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas with Joe and Dean harmonizing.
"You must be very proud of your boys, John."
Sam beamed and John nodded.
"They're good boys," John proclaimed.
"Yes, they are. You all do good work. I know it's hard, but your job is very important."
Sam paused and looked at Chris with a quizzical look. What does he know about our jobs? Aside from us searching out the missing Santas?
A little girl ran up to Sam motioning for him to lean down, and then she whispered in his ear. He excused himself and took her hand and walked away. Chris then continued on, "So John, tell me, what's on your Christmas wish list?"
John laughed. "What? You looking to deliver more presents?"
"It is Christmas. How many presents you open today?"
"Christmas is for the kids. I sure don't need anything."
"I'm not so sure about that, John."
John paused; his mind considering what his heart's desire was, then quickly dismissing it as impossible. "There's nothing in your sack for me, Chris. But, maybe my boys, you know, might want something… never gave them much of a Christmas before… just never… "
Chris shook John's shoulder in a firm embrace. "Don't dwell on the past, John. You and your boys had a tough road to travel and you did the best you could. You kept your family together and you taught them well. No regrets."
John again smiled, rejoicing in this moment in time, this respite before the next battle. Dean finished out the song to more wild applause and the band immediately played the intro for The Christmas Song.
Chris smiled broadly. "Oh, one of my favorites. John, you have a favorite Christmas tune?"
"No, not really." John hadn't really thought about it, it had been so long. Still his mind went back to their last Christmas as a family. Dean was three, almost four, and John was dressed in a Santa suit then too. The look in Mary's eyes after they put Dean to bed… how she had leaned in and kissed him, laughing as his Santa beard tickled her face… memories, warm and tender, so dear to his heart. "No, Chris, no favorite tune."
"John, take care of your boys… and yourself."
John stepped back into the present, his memories still right there on the surface but starting to retreat back into the sacred, safe place where he held on to his wife and his life before evil came to stalk him. He embraced the kind man beside him, offering a bear hug and a firm pat on the back. "Chris, you take care. Maybe we'll see you around again, sometime."
"Count on it. I'm going to keep my eye on you Winchesters."
Sam returned then and Chris put his arms around his shoulders and gave him a hug. "Take care, Sam. Remember, family comes first."
Sam grinned at hearing the familiar words Dean was always spouting, that John had drummed into them their entire lives. "Family's important, Chris, but I've got to live my own life."
"I know, but life sometimes works its way out the way it's supposed to be and you may not have a choice in the matter."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing, Sam. Just enjoy this time with your family, that's all I'm saying. You take care, Merry Christmas."
"Have to get back to the Mrs. Tell Dean goodbye, would you?"
Dean looked out from the stage and saw Chris leaving. His eyes followed his new friend to the door and then Chris turned and locked eyes with him. Chris gave a short salute and a wink and left the building.
"Folks, we're going to take a short break. We'll be back in fifteen. Have some more of those delicious home-baked cookies and milk that Santa and his reindeer couldn't finish off," Joe announced as the band left the stage.
Dean grabbed a bottle of water and was startled by his family as they came to congratulate him on his performance. He was experiencing a high like he did when they were on a hunt and he had just vanquished an evil son-of-a-bitch, only this high was based solely on pleasure, not on pure adrenaline followed by a release from conquering evil. This high was like he'd felt many times in the past when he'd witnessed Sam accomplish something spectacular, but it wasn't the vicarious thrill from his brother's success. This was his first experience feeling the thrill of succeeding on his own merits, because he was good at something, something besides hunting.
His family need not say anything to him, the looks of pride and joy on their faces spoke volumes as they slapped his back and rattled on, their words lost in the jumble of sounds competing for his mind's attention, the actual words not as important as the meanings behind them. Damn, this is freaking awesome!
"Guys, there's a few presents under the tree there with your names on them," Joe informed them as he wandered past on his way to those cookies.
"What?" All three Winchesters gasped in unison.
They slowly walked over to the tree to investigate and sure enough, presents with their names on them were stacked there undisturbed.
"Sam, did you see these before?"
"No. I could swear all the presents were already opened."
"So where'd they come from?" Dean asked, his eyes wide with wonder as they looked around the room searching out an interested party, guiltily watching their discovery. Everyone in the room seemed distracted by their own concerns, no one paying any mind to the Winchesters and their find. Dean smirked then, "Well Sammy, here's your chance to play elf. Go ahead, distribute the gifts."
Sam bent down and pulled the small stack of presents from under the tree. The first one was a small package addressed to Dean. He handed the box to his elf brother.
Dean smirked and shook the box. Hearing no sounds, he turned the box over again, feeling the weight, or lack of weight in his hand. "Light as a feather, can't be anything good."
"Why's that, son?"
"First rule of presents, Dad. The bigger and heavier they are, the better."
Sam snickered, "Looks like you got screwed then, big brother. Kinda small and lightweight. Maybe you ought to just give it back?" Sam reached to take back the present.
Dean smacked his hand away. "Keep your monster paws off my present. There's always exceptions to every rule." Dean then started to unwrap the present, carefully sliding his nail under the tape and releasing the edge of the paper.
"Just open it, Dude!" Sam exclaimed, tired of his brother's slow tease. He reached to help and Dean again swatted his hand.
"I got it! Get away. My present, my time, wait your turn."
John smiled at the antics of his sons. They had received so few presents in their lives and he knew Dean was just trying to make it last, trying to file it away as a good memory. Damn, I hope the present's a good one, after all this suspense.
Dean finally managed to get the small package opened and then he had tissue paper inside he had to dispose of. He was beginning to wonder if the box was empty when he spotted the contents lying on the bottom. His eyes grew wide with disbelief as he extracted the items.
"So… what is it?" Sam asked, not able to distinguish what his brother had clasped in his hand.
"Man, I freaking don't believe this."
"Don't make us wait all day, what is it?" John added.
"Three tickets to an Eagles concert."
"I didn't know they were touring."
"Me either." Dean then looked at the dates and his eyes darted from his family to Joe who was passing by with a handful of cookies. "Joe, when are the Eagles going to tour again?"
"We haven't decided, but soon… we hope. Why?"
"Nothing." Joe continued back to the stage to check his guitar and Dean quietly smiled. "Wow!"
"Dean, what is it?"
"These tickets are dated two years from now."
"A sick joke?" Sam asked, but his brother was already shaking his head no.
"I don't think so. I'm betting these tickets are going to be worth a mint when this date rolls around. Fifth row, center. I'm thinking we're going to be at the concert of our lives in two years. Mark my words."
"Huh! Better mark your calendars, boys, would hate to get busy and miss it. All right then. What's next? What else is under that tree, Sammy?"
Sam grinned that huge, happy contented smile. "My turn, and my package is bigger and heavier. According to Dean's rules, that means better."
"Yeah, Elfie? Sorry, but that theory was just blown to hell 'cause there ain't nothin' better than Eagles tickets. Dude, whatever you get just can't compete. Might as well get used to disappointment," Dean mocked while he waved his tickets in his brother's face.
Sam quickly disposed of the wrapping on his package and literally jumped with glee when he saw the title on his book, Springfield High School 1997. As his brother reached to see what the book was he turned away from him and quickly thumbed his way to the index in the back. He quickly found the listing he was searching for and turned to the page indicated.
"Oh, man, this is so much better than Eagles tickets, great as those were. Well, bro, you made it! You are captured for all perpetuity."
"You're famous, immortal." Sam turned the book slowly around for his brother and dad to see. "You had the best calves of Springfield High School class of 1997 and just look at the spread you got."
Dean Winchester warranted a full page spread. There was a quarter-page, full color shot of his calves with that freaky girl's face fawning over them, her eyes wide in wonder and lust! Around the shot of his calves was a montage of pictures of him in various, unsuspecting poses, mostly looking like a sullen rebel without a cause, brooding and mysterious. The dangerous allure of this bad boy drifter obviously driving the girls in this high school mad with desire for the short time he attended.
The most comical aspect was this appeared to be Dean's own personal yearbook, which was strange considering he never purchased a yearbook. His name was printed on the inside front cover and there was a litany of hand-written messages from countless girls, detailing how adored and treasured he was.
I will always love you, Dolly
Near, far, wherever you are, I believe that the heart does go on. Once more you opened the door, and you're here in my heart and my heart will go on, and on…, Love always, Rose
Time heals all wounds, but your love is a festering sore that will never heal. Xoxo Steph
You're no good, you're no good, you're no good…, but I still love you, Linda.
You are so gorgeous it's blinding, like looking into the sun. All my love, Starla
Those calves of yours make me weak in the knees. The power, the definition, the sheer manliness. Just awesome, Randi
"Okay, that's it! Who are these girls?" Dean shook his head in wonder.
Sam placed his hand on his brother's shoulder in stoic support. "You don't remember them?"
"We were there two months! Come on! What is wrong with these girls?"
"Guess you just have a way with people, son."
"Yeah, but they don't know me! This is how stalkers are born. Good thing you got us out of that town, Dad."
"Right, son. Who knows what those girls would have done to you otherwise."
"Yeah, they might have assaulted your calves; you know… felt you up."
"Laugh it up, elf boy."
John was thoroughly enjoying his sons' antics; their light-hearted exchange a breath of fresh air in contrast to the cruel realities of their dreary lives. After their banter died down he redirected their attention to the task at hand, "So, Sammy, one more present there. Who's that one for?"
Sam reached down and retrieved the last present and grinned.
"This one's for you, Dad."
John looked ill at ease. "I told Chris there was nothing he could give me, nothing I wanted."
"You think Chris left these?" Dean asked, puzzled by that thought. Yet, something was niggling in the back of his mind, just out of reach, some notion that he should know who left these, but he couldn't quite pull the information to the front.
"What? You were thinking Santa Claus?" John scoffed.
"Hey, I don't know…, maybe." Dean couldn't believe the words came from his mouth. Where the hell did that come from? Like I believe in Santa Claus???
"Why don't you open it, Dad?" Sam was still holding the present, pushing it toward his dad who finally, reluctantly took it.
John turned the package over and inspected the other side. Huh, same as the first side.
Dean smirked, obviously delighting in the unease his dad was feeling. "I don't think it's gonna bite. Might as well just get it over with, Dad."
"Might be something good. Dean and I certainly got what we wanted."
Dean offered his brother a startled look. "Yeah? Why you'd want my high school yearbook is beyond me, but… hey, whatever floats your boat."
"Just more ammunition, Dean. Blackmail is sweet."
"Yeah, like I care what some weird fangirls think?"
"Might try being nicer there, Dean. You don't know what some of those fangirls are capable of in their twisted minds. What they would do to you if they got the chance… violence, torture, sexual deviations… "
"Hey, the sex stuff might be interesting, whatcha think they have in mind?" Dean's eyes danced as his tongue rolled over his parched lips as they turned up in his wickedest smirk, his mind playing out his own wild fantasies.
"Hard to tell, might be too kinky even for you. Maybe you best beware what you wish for… you never know with these fanatics."
"Enough about Dean and his sexploits that a father really doesn't want to hear about. I thought I was the one opening my present?" John joked.
"Hey, by all means, Dad. Open away."
John tore off the paper and opened the plain white box. After pulling out tissue paper he extracted a small, rubber Mickey Mouse figurine only an inch and a half tall.
Dean smirked at his dad and cast his brother a sideways glance as if to say, you seeing what I'm seeing? "Alrighty then. You have a secret you want to reveal here Dad or has this Secret Santa just got you pegged all wrong?"
"Got me," John replied as he continued to dig through the tissue paper. His fingers finally found the true gift. Three park-hopper passes to Disneyland.
Dean's smile deepened. His dreams of taking baby brother, Sammy, to Disneyland looking like they were finally going to be realized and that joy surpassed the glee he had previously held for his favorite sex fantasies. Only Dean Winchester could go from an oversexed teenager to an excited Mouseketeer in two heartbeats.
"Disneyland?" Sam gasped as he stared at his beaming brother. Is he a man or just a great big kid at heart? How can he be this excited about Disneyland? Oh, God! Please don't let him get those mouse ears!
"What's wrong with Disneyland?" Dean questioned, offended by the superior tone of his brother.
"Nothing, but… little late, don't you think?"
John smiled slow and warm, his mind replaying all the times he wanted this for his boys, never believing they would be grown men before it happened. "I guess it's never too late to realize a dream."
"So when are we going?" Sam cautiously asked.
"Soon. You boys have waited long enough," John proclaimed as Dean happily nodded in agreement, while Sam looked on in stunned silence. John then took a firm tone, the familiar sergeant barking out orders, demanding his grunts toe the line, "And let's set some ground rules. No shoving in line, no bickering over who gets to sit up front, and one healthy meal per day."
Dean and Sam looked at each other, their eyes in silent agreement.
"Damn, he's beginning to sound like a father."
"Yeah, or a tyrant. Hard to tell," Sam added.
Dean quickly dismissed John's new fatherly attitude and got to the most important point. "And we have to ride Peter Pan's Ride!"
John and Sam stopped joking and looked at Dean with very serious expressions, like maybe he was… Crazy? In unison they both exclaimed, "What?"
Dean sheepishly looked at them with those open, earnest eyes, his mouth turned down into a slight frown, his dimples nervously flashing above his lips. "What? Why are you looking at me like that?"
"No reason. You have something you need to tell me, son?"
"No… but don't look at me like that… all right?" Dean continued to stammer, the eyes upon him burning holes through his heat sensitive skin. Truth is, I don't know where that came from, it just came out, but…
Joe rejoined them and slapped Dean on the back. "Sorry to interrupt, but Dean we need you back on stage. We have some requests and dedications to do."
"Sure, Joe. I'm ready."
Disneyland and all future plans of what rides were mandated were cast aside as Dean returned to the stage with Joe and they set up with the other musicians ready to start the second half of their show. John excused himself and wandered over to an alcove on the side wall, pensively looking out the bank of windows, wishing once more that things could be different, that Mary…
Joe returned to the microphone to thunderous applause. "Thank you, you guys have been super. I have a special request for Dean to sing a certain Christmas song. This one is dedicated to John and Mary."
Dean looked up with distress as Joe turned and whispered in his ear, imparting more painful images. He vehemently shook his head no, his eyes betraying his hurt and confusion. Joe was surprised by his reaction and the two exchanged a heated discourse.
"Dean, it was a specific request and you were to sing it."
"Joe, you don't understand. This is a sick joke." Dean knew Joe didn't understand what he was asking, didn't know the pain associated with this request, couldn't possibly understand all the horrible memories it conjured. "I don't know why someone's doing this, but I know my dad doesn't want to hear me sing that song. Who even requested it?"
"I wasn't supposed to say."
"Well, I'm not singing it."
"Dean, I don't think it's a joke. I really think you need to sing this song. I don't know why, but please… just trust me."
Trust you? Hell, that sure sounds familiar. What's going on here? Something's not right, that's for damn sure!
"Who requested it?"
Joe stood debating with himself before finally relenting and spilling the secret, "Chris requested it."
"Yeah…, you still think he's trying to hurt your family?"
"I don't know… Chris?" Dean stammered.
"Yeah, so are you going to sing it?"
Dean looked out into the crowd searching out his dad, trying to see what his reaction had already been from hearing the dedication, for John and Mary. I don't know why, but I trust Chris… I know he would never intentionally hurt my dad or any of us… There must be a purpose here… but what? Why?
John's eyes met his son's and the tears welling in them brought tears to Dean's own eyes. Unsure how to proceed, he was comforted when John simply nodded his head yes. With permission granted, Dean walked to the microphone and started to sing as the band finished the intro.
Sam's eyes flashed in shock at his brother as Dean voiced the lyrics. It was as if no one else existed in that huge room as the three Winchesters spiritually connected over this one heartfelt song.
I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus, underneath the mistletoe last night…
John looked up above his head in the alcove and spotted the mistletoe dangling there, a small sigh left his lips as his memory traveled back to his last Christmas with Mary. He closed his eyes and imagined her soft skin against his, her small hand safe and secure, grasped within the fingers of his huge hand, her lips melting into his, sweet and tender, his hand firmly in the crook of her back drawing her ever closer to him, her heart beating in rhythm with his as their bodies stood pressed together as one. He stood transfixed by the memories and envisioned everything he had longed for over the last eighteen years and then…
Soft lights enveloped him and tiny stars twinkled all around. It was like he was caught up in the Fairy Godmother's spell as she transformed the pumpkin into Cinderella's coach. He felt lightheaded and the room was softly spinning and then she was there, her lips pressed against his, the taste sweet and rich, like fine wine. Her hands gently caressing his face, her soft voice laughing as his fake beard again tickled her, and for the first time in eighteen years, his world was complete. He leaned in and devoured her essence, savoring this moment, treasuring this perfect kiss, knowing it was all a dream, or illusion, or just temporary insanity, but not caring because she was finally where she belonged, safe beside him and he relished this second chance.
The glow from the alcove was brilliant and Dean lost his voice as he gazed on the breathtaking sight before him. His mom so luminous and angelic, shining like a beacon taking him home again to a safe and secure world; all the pains of his life cast aside as wonder filled him with a peaceful serenity, a joy so long lost and finally reclaimed.
Sam felt his breath leave his lips and he shuddered. Pictures could never do his mom justice; she was strikingly beautiful, serene and perfect. The hole he had never fully realized existed in his life was suddenly filled to overflowing with contentment and love… a mother's love. As much as Dean had given him over the years, fulfilling the role of brother, father, protector… his everything, Dean was simply beyond the capability to be mother, try as he may. Sam suddenly knew what it felt like to have a mom…, for one brief shining moment he was no longer motherless and adrift.
Mary embraced her family and took them deep within her heart. The space of the room diminished and they were joined together as a family filled with love and devotion. All the years of separation and pain healed as they felt united in their love. All too soon the moment vanished, the lights and fairy dust faded and they were left only with their memories. John opened his eyes and she was gone, but her imprint on his heart was stronger than ever.
Dean blinked back tears and descended the stairs of the stage. Sam and he reached their dad at the same moment and John embraced both his sons in a bear hug, silently acknowledging their bond and their loss.
"Dean, the boys and I are leaving now. It's been a pleasure. I'll see you around, alright?"
"Yeah, Joe, see you around. Thanks for everything, man."
"No problem. So, Dean, that was your mom?"
Dean looked up startled, not realizing anyone outside of his family had witnessed Mary's return. "You saw her?" he softly whispered, tears once more brimming his eyes.
"Yeah, beautiful lady, man."
"You don't seem surprised by any of this."
"I told you, Dean, people may say I'm crazy, but life is what's crazy. You just need to go with the flow. Remember when the Eagles broke up? Henley's famous quote?"
Dean smiled at the thought. He hadn't hear it first hand of course, but he'd read it somewhere. "Yeah, that the band would get together again when Hell freezes over."
"Well, we're back together again. Just goes to show miracles do happen. If Hell can freeze over, than I guess anything is possible. Remember that, Dean. Believe in the impossible and it might just happen."
"Like meeting you on a city bus?"
"It wasn't just a coincidence, now was it?"
A blast of cool air whipped by them on the steps of the orphanage and Dean turned away as a particle of dirt landed in his eye temporarily blinding him. With his back to the breeze he blinked several times to dislodge it and turned back to find Joe gone. He glanced through the parking lot and saw no sign of his new friend.
He then heard distant laughter, more like a jolly Ho! Ho! Ho! and he again swung around looking for the source. He was alone on the steps, not a soul in sight. Then as plain as day he heard Chris' voice, "Believe, Dean, just believe."
Memories or feelings or something he couldn't quite put his finger on surfaced again on the tip of his tongue, perched precariously at the edge of his mind. As he tried to retrieve the lost information his dad and brother appeared through the doors.
"Son, you ready to go?"
Startled back to reality or what seemed to pass for reality, Dean once more tried to explain the recent happenings. "Dad, what just happened here today?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, was Mom really here?"
"What do you want me to tell you? What do you believe?"
"I guess… " Dean hesitated then, not sure if he could reveal what he really hoped for, what he really wished to be true, "I wish… "
"Dean, just say it," John coaxed.
Dean took a deep breath and exposed his heart and soul. "I want to believe that it happened, that Mom's watching over us, that good exists somewhere in this world and we're not alone in this fight against evil."
"Those are good things to believe in, son. No better time than Christmas to wish for them."
"But do you think it's true?"
"I think you're allowed to believe. It's what your mom and I always wanted for you."
All standard disclaimers apply.
bjxmas February 2007, updated December 2007