A.N. Merry Christmas, you all! I might've rushed this a bit…but I wanted it up by friggin' Christmas! And, FYI…my real Christmas is more on the 27th…so…read the next installment anyway!
December 23rd: A little later…
Dean moved the plastic comb through the puppy's fur with care, making sure he didn't hurt the creature by pulling too hard on a tangle.
The puppy, now dry, nuzzled the boy's hand, licking tentatively at his fingertips. Now that the little dog was clean, dried, and brushed, Dean could see what a beautiful animal he was. His brown fur was so neat and wavy that it bore a remarkable likeness to chocolate pouring out from a fondue fountain. His once dirtied, blackened paws were clean and almost aristocratic from the way the creature arched his toes like a ballet dancer.
"Just like Sammy," Dean thought to himself. "Always trying to be bigger than he's supposed to be."
Dean quickly tried to shove those thoughts out of his mind. It didn't matter how much the animal was like his little brother because Sam would never get to see the puppy anyway. Yes, Dean had accepted the fact that the dog was going back where he used to be…on the streets. However, the mere image of the little animal going back where he came from made Dean cringe. The thought of Sammy never getting a puppy on Christmas morning was even worse.
"I got what was comin', though." Dean murmured to himself, brushing his hand against his cheek. Luckily, the soreness was gone. "S'not Dad's fault. I shouldn't've talked to him like that." Dean sighed, looking at the puppy. "And now everyone's got to suffer 'cause of me." The puppy licked him again. "It's my fault that Christmas is gonna be ruined. It's you that's gonna die on the streets. It's Sammy that won't get a good present on Christmas. All this just 'cause I'm stupid." Dean tried his best not to cry. But, what could he do? "Dad needs to hit me again. Harder. "
"No, Dean…I don't."
Dean whipped around to see his dad at the doorway of the bathroom, dark hair sprinkled with snow, his nose and ears bright pink, and his eyes bloodshot. In that moment John Winchester looked like nothing Dean had ever seen before. Vulnerable. His shoulders were slumped, his gaze was cast downwards, and his hands trembled uncontrollably. The sight frightened the Winchester boy. It frightened him even more than the sight of his father angry. This was different. His father was scared. His father was weak… when Dean thought he never could be.
"Dad?" Dean picked the puppy up. "A-Are you ready?"
"Dean…" John walked up tentatively to his son. "I…um…"
"Hey, Dad…it's fine." Dean hesitantly patted his father on his upper arm, still juggling the puppy in the crook of his elbow.
"It's…not, Dean." John clapped his son's shoulder, looking at Dean with hurt, pleading eyes. "I should never…ever…do that to you…"
"It's okay, Dad." Dean steadily gazed up at his father. "Everyone makes mistakes."
John's eyes widened at Dean's words, however Dean didn't understand why. "I…" To Dean's dismay, the man who he believed to be the bravest in the world began to tear up. "Can…you forgive…my mistake, Dean?"
"O-Of course, Dad." Dean swallowed. His father was behaving very uncharacteristically and it was making him more nervous by the second.
"Dean…" John clasped both of Dean's shoulders, sighing with relief. "You are really exceptional. Do you—?"'
"Dad." Dean raised an eyebrow. "You need a drink."
"No, Dean…it's just…" John pulled his son a little closer, ignoring the fact that he puppy was sniffing the back of his hand. "You need to know how much I—"
"No chick-flick moments." Dean cracked a smile. "Alright?"
"Really Dad." Dean chuckled a little bit. Soon enough, they both began to laugh together. It doesn't take a fool to tell that all had been forgiven.
"So…are there any forms I need to fill out?" John held the puppy in his arms as Dean stood at his side, trying to remain indifferent…
But he couldn't.
Dean knew the puppy would be better off in the pound, awaiting a new owner, and his father had made a really good compromise. But, he still couldn't stand the thought of what would happen if the puppy wasn't adopted. And then there was the fact that he'd be empty-handed on Christmas morning…
"No sir…not at all." The lady at the desk had to speak up over the incessant barks and mews echoing from the back of the shelter. It really was full during the holidays. "Just hand him over and we'll take care of him." She held her arms out, her silver bangles jingling as she did so. She really was attractive. A cute, perky smile and brown, curly hair cut short so that it framed her pixyish face. And her twinkling brown eyes set John and Dean's mind at ease.
However, as soon as the puppy got a good look at her, he began to growl, baring his tiny, sharp teeth.
"Is he still feral?" the lady asked quizzically.
"I don't know…" John began to struggle a bit as the puppy squirmed violently in his arms. "He seemed very good-natured—" The puppy began to bark and snarl viciously…well…as viciously as the little thing could manage.
"What's wrong, buddy?" Dean started to pet the animal behind his ears. However, the puppy paid him no mind. Instead, he started clawing at John's jacket, seeming like he wanted to tear the woman apart.
"Maybe I should go get some gloves." The woman suggested.
"That seems like a good id—ahh!" The puppy tore himself away from John and jumped onto the desk, sending an array of papers flying.
"Oh my—!" The woman was cut off by the puppy pouncing on her, clinging on to her baggy shirt with his claws.
"Holy shit!" John frantically reached over, trying to pull the animal off her, but to his shock, he bit him on the hand.
"Get him off!" The woman screamed. "Get him…" She froze when the puppy clawed up her chest and sunk his teeth into her ear, ripping it off with ease. The severed ear fell to the tiled floor, however the woman did not bleed.
"A shifter!" Dean and John shouted at the same time. And before you could say "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious", John had his gun out, loaded with silver bullets, and shot the monster about five times in the face.
There was a stunned silence as the creature fell to the floor. Both Winchesters were panting, eyes wide, hearts pounding violently in their chests. A shapeshifter had been here all along and they hadn't even known about it. They could've been goners if it hadn't been for…
"Dad…d-do you th-think…?"
"Dean…I don't know what the hell to think." The puppy, seemingly satisfied by his own accomplishment, trotted up to John and licked his boots.
"A new…pound, then?" Dean sighed. However, his father wasn't responding to him. "Dad? Are we gonna'—?"
"Hell no, Dean." John picked up the animal, feeling slightly defeated, but at the same time, slightly triumphant. "We're keepin' this guy."
"Really?!" Dean was aghast, but after the shock faded, a joyful feeling bubbled up within him.
"Well, unless you can sniff out a shifter without any evidence or clues, I think it'd be stupid not to keep 'im." John replied gruffly, making a face when the puppy licked underneath his chin.
"So…I can give him to Sammy?" Dean's green eyes were alight with hope.
"I 'spose so." John grinned. "As long as I get to take it hunting."
"Chess-nuts roasting on an open fiiiire! Jack frost nipping at your toes…"
"It's…" Dean interrupted Sam's singing, preparing to say something along the lines of "It's nose, dipshit". Yet, Sammy's wide curious eyes made Dean feel guilty for barging in on Sam's happy little world as he ate Spaghetti-Os for his Christmas dinner. "N-Never mind, Sammy."
"Oh…okay…" Sam grinned at his brother and finished off his meal, tossing the little plastic container in the trashcan and placing his fork in the sink. He then turned around slowly, cocking his head as if he were listening carefully for something. "Dean? Did you hear that?"
"Hear what?" Dean stiffened. He knew John was keeping the puppy in his room to keep him hidden from Sam until Christmas and he thought the plan was foolproof. He never anticipated Sammy getting suspicious.
"It sounded like…" Sam crinkled his brow in an inquisitive manner. "A…dog."
"Umm…" Dean gulped. "I-I…think the people next door have a Pomeranian or somethin'."
"Oh." Sam shrugged. "Okay." He then brightened. "Oh no! I almost forgot!"
"Forgot wh—?" But before Dean could finish, Sam had rushed out in a frenzy of excitement. "Dork."
Within moments, Sam had returned with a pillowcase. "C'mon, Dean!" The youngest Winchester grabbed his older brother by the arm and dragged him in the living room.
John, who was seated on the sofa, leafing through newspapers, lifted his head up to laugh. "Dean? Don't tell me your baby brother's gettin' to be too much to handle!"
"He's…not!" Dean yanked his arm away from Sam, scowling. "I could knock 'im out any day!"
"Deeean!" Sam tugged at his brother's t-shirt. "Loook!" The boy started digging around in his bag, pulling out a sock with the name "Dean" printed neatly in green magic marker. It was actually a very old sock of John's that Sam had decorated with plastic stars, red sequins, and gold glitter-glue.
"Umm…Sam?" Dean raised his eyebrows. "What in the hell is that?"
"It's your stocking, Dean!" Sam rolled his eyes playfully and pulled out a roll of scotch tape, sticking the sock over the fireplace with a piece of it.
"Sam…" John opened his mouth to protest. Who was going to fill these stockings anyway? Certainly Sam couldn't expect him to go out now and buy cheap toys and candy!
"Don't worry, Dad!" Sam pulled out a similar sock with "John" printed at the top in favor of Dean's name. "I made you one too!" Sam put this stocking up as well. "And here's mine!" The youngest Winchester produced his own stocking, adorned with cotton ball snowmen and foam snowflakes. He gazed at it proudly before sticking it up on the mantle, right beside his brother's.
"Sammy?" John cleared his throat. "Why…er…why are you putting my athletic socks over the fireplace?"
"Santa's gonna' fill 'em, Dad!" Sam answered his father's inquiry as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"Sam…" John groaned. "Please…"
"He's comin'!" Sam assured him, as if that was John's actual concern. "I'm leavin' him cookies!" Sam trotted into the kitchen, coming back minutes later with a pile of Oreos on a paper plate and a glass of milk. He placed his offerings on the coffee table with gusto, beaming at his family members triumphantly.
"Is that the low fat milk?" Dean quipped, earning himself a glare from John.
"It's two-percent." Sam replied simply, not getting the joke. "But we better get to bed! He won't come if we're awake!"
"Actually…I might need to step out for a little while…" John coughed in his hand awkwardly.
"But Dad!" Sam gasped in horror. "If you're not here, Santa Claus won't come and then I'll never get that art kit and world peace!"
"He expects to get a fancy art kit and friggin' world peace?!" John's head was spinning. Did this kid really expect to get all that? How could John Winchester, with the little money he earned from credit card scams, be a suitable Santa Claus for his deprived little boy?
"Alright, Sam." John stood, stretching. "Let's all go to bed so we don't let Santa pass us by." Of course he was lying through his teeth and of course he was going to stop by the 7/11 the minute his boys went to sleep so he could buy some M&Ms and candy canes to fill up the stupid socks.
"Yay!" Sam grinned broadly, grabbing poor Dean again and pulling him along. "Let's go to bed, Dean!" The two disappeared, leaving John by himself to worry and brood.
"I am so screwed." John moaned, clutching his forehead. "So screwed."
A.N. Dun-Dun-DUN! Sorry that it's not over yet…but I promise…27th…my Christmas…the day before I turn 16…I will finish this.