Title: Pan Fried

Author: Black Wingedbird

Beta: Carikube

No spoilers, no warnings, standard dis

Author's Notes: Just when I thought I wouldn't write a Christmas fic...


"Dean. Dean! Wake up!"

Dean grumbled, smushing his face deeper into the strawberry-scented pillow. "G'way."

"Dean!"

There was a hand now, grabbing his shoulder and shaking. Over and over, causing the whole bed to bounce on squeaky springs. Dean lifted his head if only to stop the noise and avoid waking dad. "What?"

Sam stared at him, his eyes large and black in the near-darkness. "The Christmas tree is haunted," he announced in a whisper.

Dean blinked. "The Christmas tree? Sam, its Christmas Eve, what are you doing in the living room? Dad won't let you open your present if you don't go to sleep."

Sam glanced at the door, the whites of his eyes flashing. "I heard a noise. There's something in the tree, Dean. Come and look."

Dean rolled his eyes and tried to get comfortable again. "It was probably just Santa. Go to bed."

"I'm not a baby. There is no Santa, but there is a ghost. Come on!"

Dean yanked his arm free from Sam's grasp and sat up. "Fine. Okay? I'm coming. Why do you have to be so annoying?"

Sam stepped over the salt line, the bottom of his old flannel pants riding half-way up his calf. "I'm not annoying. You're stupid."

Dean grabbed the pillow and threw it, nailing Sam on the back of the head. When Sam turned to glare at him, he smiled. "Oops. It slipped."

o0O0o

They stood before the tree, gazing up at the plastic star. A single string of lights had been pulled tightly to wrap around the good-sized tree, and a pathetic assortment of a dozen store-bought ornaments sparkled in the glow. The thrift store had a sale yesterday and the boys had finally gotten their father to cave.

All of it had been on sale, actually. The tree was half-price from an already reduced rate, because it was growing at the edge of the tree lot so that you had to walk almost half a mile in the snow to chop it down. And the string of lights came from the grocery story, marked as 'clearance' because half the string didn't even light up.

The grand total of their little display: $50.00.

A branch near the top trembled and Sam slid behind Dean, grabbing his arm. "See! I told you! There's a ghost, I told you!"

Maybe it was the way his little brother's enthusiasm was so infectious, or maybe it was because there hadn't been a Christmas tree in the family for years, but Dean's heart began beating a little faster. "I'm sure it's nothing," he said softly, watching the frosted purple ball jiggle. "Just the tree settling or something."

Another branch trembled, this time to the left.

Sam's fists were wrapped in Dean's t-shirt. "It's a ghost."

"Maybe we should get Dad," Dean said. Dealing with ghosts in other people's houses was completely different than looking at a possessed Christmas tree in your own living room.

He grabbed Sam's wrist and took a step backwards when the whole tree rippled from top to bottom. Glass ornaments dropped to the ground, shattering with delicate pops, then the lights fizzed and went out.

Darkness swallowed the room and Dean held Sam behind him, blinking to help his eyes adjust to the sudden blackness. He backed them up, heading towards the hallway, towards Dad's bedroom. "Stay close," he said, his toes digging into the apartment's scratchy carpet. "We'll get Dad."

Something brushed over the top of his foot and Dean yelped, releasing Sam. He kicked out blindly, nearly falling on his face when he lost his balance. He hoped around and whirled when Sam screamed, then stumbled backwards over the broken glass and into the soft needles of the big white pine. "Sam!" he yelled, even as he fell, pulling the tree down with him.

Bright light filled the room and John stood in the doorway, eyes wide and searching, gun in his left hand. "Boys? What is it? What's going on?"

Dean tossed the tree to the side and found Sam huddled in the corner, folded into a ball. "Dad! There's a ghost in the Christmas tree!" he shouted, struggling to his feet. They stung but supported his weight as he crossed the room.

John frowned and stalked towards the downed tree, gun aimed. "You boys okay?"

Dean knelt on the carpet next to Sam. "You okay?"

"It bit me," Sam said, his voice and his lip trembling. "The ghost bit me."

Dean saw his father's finger tighten on the trigger as he held Sam's arm, inspecting the wound. It wasn't deep and it was barely bleeding, but the distinct shapes of teeth were torn into Sam's flesh and Dean bristled. "He's okay," he announced, releasing Sam's arm and letting him cradle it again. "But he's right, it did bite."

John stepped forward, slowly, his gun trained on the limp mass of pine boughs and tangled lights. "Stay down," he warned, and Dean and Sam watched on bated breath.

John reached out with his foot and nudged the fallen tree.

A brown ball exploded out from near the star and a gunshot boomed through the house. Dean cowered over Sam, protecting him from stray spirits and bullets alike. Silence filled the air and Dean carefully peeked over his arm.

A squirrel lay perfectly still on the smoke-stained carpet, bleeding from a bullet wound to the brain.

Dean met his father's gaze and they stared at each other over the body.

"Dad, what is that?" Sam asked, beginning to struggle against Dean's hold. "Is that- is that a squirrel?"

Dean started to his feet, trying to stay in Sam's line of vision. "Come on Sam, let's get your arm cleaned up-"

"You killed a squirrel?" Sam gaped, blinking round doe eyes at their father. "In our living room?"

"Sammy," John started, putting the gun away. "I didn't know, I thought-"

"You did know!" Sam argued even as Dean pulled him to his feet. "You always know what you're shooting! That's the rule!"

"Sam, it's a stupid rodent," Dean interjected, defending his father. "You're the one who cried 'ghost'. There's a rule about that, too."

Sam frowned, an argument tugging at his lips, but he ducked his head and pouted.

"Dean, go get your brother cleaned up and get back to bed. I'll clean this mess up."

"Yes sir," Dean replied with a nod. He hauled Sam out of the room quickly, putting a wide berth between his little brother and the squirrel.

When they were in the bathroom, Dean pushed Sam down on the toilet lid. "Gimme your arm."

Sam held his arm out, his eyes glued to the floor. "You're bleeding."

Dean was barely aware of the sting in his feet. It didn't hurt that bad; the glass was too thin to have caused any real damage. He'd take care of Sam first.

He opened the medicine cabinet and pulled down the basket of Band-aids and Neosporin. "You better hope that thing didn't give you a disease," he muttered, wetting a washcloth.

"Do you think it had a family?"

Dean added soap and gently scrubbed the bite. "No, Sam. Did you get a look at it? It was ugly. None of the girl squirrels would've given him a second glance."

"He looked like a squirrel to me," Sam replied, watching as Dean rinsed his arm. "A dead squirrel."

"Trust me, we saved him a lifetime of loneliness and heartache." Dean hung the wet cloth over the side of the tub and grabbed the tube of Neosporin.

"What is Dad going to do with him?"

"I don't know," Dean said, squeezing a line of opaque cream onto the small wound. "But I'd stay out of the kitchen tomorrow."

Dean suppressed a grin as Sam's jaw dropped. "Dad's going to cook it?"

"Hey," Dean shrugged, "Pan-friend, with some mashed potatoes and gravy? Tastes like chicken."

He barely got the Band-aid on before Sam screamed. "DAD!"

There was a bang, a curse, and then footsteps thundered down the hall. "What? Sam? What's going on?" John stood in the doorway, his face red.

Sam pointed at Dean, poking him in the chest. "Dean says you're going to fry the squirrel for dinner."

Dean could only grin and hope his father would share his amusement.

John looked between both boys, the look of panic melting from his face. "No, we are not frying the squirrel for dinner," he ground out.

Sam grinned.

"We are baking it. Less grease; won't clog the arteries."

Dean barely got out of the way as Sam threw up into the sink.

END