A/N: This oneshot is in response to a request on the SFTCOL(AR)S board for missing scenes or tags related to last night's Christmas episode. It was thrown together kind of quickly, and on very little sleep, so I hope it's okay. I guess you could call it fluff with a bit of angst thrown in.
I'm sorry for the delay in posting the next chapter of Hozho.
Brenna, this is most definitely for you. Your generosity of spirit consistently amazes me.
Warnings: Includes a definite spoiler for the SN Christmas episode aired last night.
Disclaimer: Everything about this lovely show belongs to the CW and Kripke and co. I just wanted to spend part of the holiday with them.
The Herald Angels Sing
"Pass interference?! WHAT GAME ARE YOU WATCHING REF?! Sammy, can you believe—" Dean turned to his brother and his eyes widened. "Dude! No way! Where the hell did you get that?"
"Mrs. Milligan likes me," Sam said with a smirk. Dean's eyes were riveted on the candy cane that Sam was using to stir more Comfort into his eggnog. It was leaving red swirls across the top of the creamy mixture. Sam slowly withdrew the candy from his cup and held it to the side while he sipped the potent drink. Warmth spread through his belly, adding to the nice little buzz he already had going. Dean's eyes never left the candy cane.
Sam swore he was going to start licking his lips any second.
"You're gonna share it, right?" Dean's smile was very hopeful, and just slightly tipsy.
"Share what?" Sam asked, eyeing the candy cane speculatively before slowly licking the eggnog off of it. "Oh, you mean this?" He held it towards Dean and began to laugh at his brother's disgusted expression.
"Dude, that was just…wrong. You know how much I love those things."
Sam reached under the couch. "Yeah, that's why I asked her for one for you too," he said, producing a second candy cane and tossing it to Dean.
"Sweeeet." Dean sat back with a contented sigh, unwinding the long strip of cellophane wrapped around the candy. "So, why precisely is the lady in the motel office giving us candy?"
"Because she's a nice lady? I don't know." Sam mirrored his brother's move, sitting back against the green couch and thoughtfully sucking on his candy cane. "I helped her carry some packages in from her car and complimented her tree…and we just started talking. She thought maybe we were in town visiting family for the holiday, but I told her we were just passing through." He stared at the TV for a moment, his expression turning wistful. He'd been surprised at just how sad that information had seemed to make the elderly woman. He felt Dean's eyes on him and sat up straighter, forcing a little grin.
"And all you got were two candy canes? Dude! She probably has a stash of homemade cookies!" Dean shook his head. "Amateur."
Sam shrugged. "Actually, she offered to put together a little tin of cookies for us but Bobby called and I had to leave. She said something about making sure we stopped over later to pick them up. I figured we'd grab them sometime tomorrow."
Dean returned his attention to the football game, alternating sips of his eggnog with nibbles on the candy cane. The quiet lasted for less than five minutes.
"I'll bet there's chocolate chip. And those butter cookies with the red and green sugar on top. And maybe those round ones with powdered sugar all over them…man, I love those," Dean sighed.
Sam squeezed his eyes shut and took a gulp of his eggnog. He'd known it was a mistake to mention the cookies.
"So…you think maybe she put that tin together already?"
"Cause she said to stop over 'later', right? Well, she might have meant tonight. It's later, right?"
Waving cookies in front of a slightly inebriated Dean Winchester had definitely been a bad idea. "Dean, we can't go barging in on her Christmas Eve. She said something about her granddaughters coming over—"
"I love kids!"
"No, you love cookies."
"It's Christmas Eve, Sammy," Dean whined. "I don't think we've ever had homemade Christmas cookies on Christmas Eve before."
Okay, Dean trying to pull off a look of wide eyed, pleading, innocence was just…disturbing. And strangely effective. Sam sighed, acknowledging defeat. "But we can't go empty handed," he warned.
The motel office was festooned in holiday greenery, swags and wreaths decked out in ribbons and twinkling lights. A small tree was perched on one end of the desk, carefully decorated with miniature ornaments. The scent of cinnamon and freshly baked cookies wafted through the open doorway leading to Mrs. Milligan's living quarters.
Bells above the door had announced their arrival, but Sam sincerely doubted anyone heard them. A glorious mix of noises filled the rooms beyond the doorway. Recorded Christmas carols, voices raised in accompaniment, laughter…a lot of laughter.
Sam placed the poinsettia he was carrying on the counter and began backing towards the outside door, suddenly feeling out of place. "C'mon man, we shouldn't be bothering them now," he said uncomfortably.
Dean looked ready to argue the point until he locked eyes with Sam. His expression softened and he gave Sam a little grin. "Yeah, let's get back to the game. The cookies will taste just as good tomorrow."
The doorknob was turning under Sam's hand when a soft voice stopped him. "Merry Christmas! I'm sorry we didn't hear you out here. Can I help you with anything?"
The expression on Dean's face was worth any embarrassment Sam felt about arriving without a proper invitation. His brother's mouth was hanging open, and he looked dazed. "I'm…uh…we…ummm…"
Sam brushed past him on his way to the counter, muttering a quick "Smooooth!" in his ear. He actually agreed with Dean. The young woman behind the counter was stunning. Petite, with long dark hair and huge brown eyes, she was exactly the type that most appealed to Dean. "We just wanted to drop these flowers off for Mrs. Milligan and wish her a Merry Christmas."
Her smile was warm and genuine. "For my grandmother? Oh, she'll be so thrilled! C'mon back and you can give them to her yourself." She turned to go back through the doorway and Sam grabbed Dean's arm, hauling him forward when his feet seemed to be stuck to the floor. "Merry Christmas, bro," he whispered, handing the plant to Dean to carry.
The young woman led them down a short hallway and through a door on the right. The room beyond looked like a Hallmark Christmas commercial. It had been beautiful but peaceful when Sam saw it earlier, now it was filled with people. They were on kitchen chairs that had been dragged into the room, on the couch, even perched on the arms of the couch. A couple sat on the floor in front of the large Christmas tree. Sam estimated there had to be over fifteen people jammed into the small room.
A few looked up and grinned when the brothers entered the room, but the others continued talking to each other and laughing. Some had their heads together and were singing quietly while reading from the sheets of paper in their hands.
Sam elbowed Dean and nodded at the large platters of cookies on the cocktail table in front of the couch. He started to grin when he saw little round cookies covered in powdered sugar in a place of honor on the platters.
"Grandmom, look who I found wandering around out front! They thought they were going to just drop these flowers off and then escape," the young woman laughed.
Mrs. Milligan was sitting on one of the kitchen chairs, a punch cup of eggnog in hand. She rose at their approach, her plump face crinkling in a smile. Her silver hair was tucked into a Santa hat that had a couple of Christmas balls hanging from one side of it, and someone had hung ribbons around her neck like a Hawaiian lei. "You came!" she said with delight. "I was so sure you'd chicken out! Oh! They're lovely!"
The way she said it almost convinced Sam that she thought the five dollar pot of poinsettias from the gas mart down the street was the most beautiful flower arrangement she had ever seen. Something inside of him began to ache a little bit at her kindness.
"Everyone," she called out, and the room got quieter, "I'd like you to meet Sam and Dean."
There was a chorus of 'hellos' from around the room and Sam took a step back, suddenly self conscious. In contrast Dean grinned widely and gave a little wave.
Mrs. Milligan touched the shoulder of the young woman who had led them back to the party. "This is my granddaughter Patricia, and…Felicia, where did you get to darling? Oh, there you are! That's my other granddaughter Felicia." She pointed out a pretty teenager sitting on the floor in front of the Christmas tree. The girl gave them a wide smile and flashed her grandmother a thumbs up.
"Okay, are you ready to meet everyone else?" Mrs. Milligan asked. She began to point to people around the room, reeling off a list of names. Sam lost track after "Tom, Robin, Peggy…" By the time she got to the end of the list Patricia was in front of them holding out cups of eggnog.
Dean accepted with a smile and took a sip, immediately starting to cough. "Jesus Sammy! It's stronger than yours!" he rasped out, his eyes watering.
No wonder all these people looked so happy.
Sam found himself in the center of the couch hemmed in by two matronly women in matching Rudolph sweaters, a napkin covered with cookies on his lap and Felicia practically sitting at his feet. He watched Dean with a bemused smile as his brother worked the room, shaking hands, chatting, and receiving Christmas kisses on the cheek. He had the women blushing and fretting over his bruised face, and the men laughing. And it looked like he was managing to cadge little treats off of the plates of everyone he talked to.
Sam hadn't seen his brother looking so relaxed since… Well, not for a long, long time. Sam looked down at his lap, blinking away the moisture that filled his eyes and sipping his eggnog. This was the life his brother should have had. This is what his holidays should have been like, instead of the constant struggle to make sure Sam had a bit of Christmas.
He realized Dean was looking at him from across the room, his eyes narrowed and a small frown tightening his mouth. He caught Sam's eye and gave a little shrug before nodding his head at the door and raising his eyebrows in question. Sam shook his head and plastered a smile on his face, leaning forward to talk to Felicia. He glanced back up in time to see Dean's shoulders relax and the large happy smile return to his face.
Sam would give his brother this holiday, no matter how much the anticipated contrast with next year hurt.
Patricia walked up to stand at Dean's elbow and Sam's smile became genuine when he realized that he wasn't the only one who had been watching Dean.
A man standing by the stereo clapped his hands to get everyone's attention. "Okay, guys, time to get back to work."
Sam watched in confusion as everyone put down their food and drinks and picked up the sheets of paper that they all seemed to have close by. Felicia grabbed an extra set from the cocktail table and handed it to Sam. She started to laugh when she saw his expression. "Grammie didn't tell you it's a caroling party, did she?"
He knew his mouth was opening and closing like a beached fish but he couldn't seem to make it stop. Felicia's grin widened. "I didn't think so." She glanced down at her watch. "You better get ready, we're hitting the street in about twenty minutes."
Shock morphed to panic and he looked for Dean, his eyes wide. Dean's arm was around Patricia and they had their heads together as they looked over the sheets of paper. Dean looked up as though he felt Sam's eyes on him. He had a small grin on his face and he shrugged his shoulders again, his expression saying 'what the hell, it could be fun'.
Who precisely was this person, and what had they done with his brother?
"Okay, everybody ready?" The man by the stereo…Tom maybe?...reached over and hit a switch on the CD player. Felicia skootched herself next to Sam's knees and took the papers from his hand, shuffling them around until she was satisfied with the one on top before handing them back.
Rich orchestral music began to fill the room and there was a sense of anticipation as everyone drew in deep breaths before they began to sing.
Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"…
They were not a professional choir, some of them, in fact, could barely carry the tune. And yet it was achingly beautiful. Especially as the song went on, and Sam realized that, through it all, he could hear his brother's voice, clear and strong.
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Sam's eyes were fixed on Dean. The twinkling lights of the Christmas tree bathed his face in a myriad of colors. Dean missed a note as Sam was watching and began laughing when Patricia poked him in the ribs. His laughter was a low undercurrent to the song and the other singers around him began to smile. He got himself under control and looked over at Sam before he resumed singing. His face was shining, peaceful and happy, and Sam felt something inside of himself shatter.
He wasn't sure if it was regrets over what never was, or regrets over what might never be, but it hurt so badly that he couldn't breathe. Dean's smile faltered and the knowledge exploded within Sam…just how much of Dean's happiness was, and had always been, in Sam's hands.
The amulet on Dean's chest caught the light and Sam's eyes fixed on it. When he'd given Dean that amulet so many years ago, on the Christmas day that his life had changed forever, the moment had been filled with unspoken meaning. The gift had acknowledged that his brother was the one person he trusted the most in the world, the one he would stand next to as he faced whatever that world threw at him, the one to whom he would always be bonded. And now the realization hit him, that when Dean had accepted the gift and put it around his neck, it had meant the same thing to his big brother.
He looked down at the papers in his hands, his vision swimming with tears, but when he looked back up a second later it was with a brilliant smile, and he opened his mouth to join in the song.
The decision had been an easy one. He would continue to fight like hell for their future, but from this point forward he would live each moment with his brother with everything inside of him.
Dean gave him a small nod and the smile returned to his face, more luminous than before.
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"
Christmas lights on the houses around them reflected off of the white landscape as they walked back to the motel. Flakes drifted down around them, blanketing the world in the peaceful hush that falling snow brings. Their footsteps crunched softly through the inches that had already accumulated.
Dean looked over at Sam and began laughing. "Dude, how much of that eggnog did you have?" His gargantuan brother had his head tilted back and was catching snowflakes on his tongue.
"Same amount you did," Sam answered, his face still turned up to the sky.
"That would explain the hat."
Sam straightened his head and looked at Dean, beginning to snicker. "Dude, have you seen yours?" Somewhere along the long route of houses where they had sung, eaten cookies, and drunk more eggnog, someone had appeared with a couple of extra hats and scarves and forced them on the two brothers. Sam looked at Dean through narrowed eyes and suddenly his face brightened. "I just figured out who you remind me of! That guy that everybody's always looking for in the books! Waldo!"
"Yeah, well at least mine's not pink," Dean muttered.
They walked in companionable silence for a couple of minutes, their shoulders brushing and their steps in sync. Dean barely held in a snort when he realized they were doing it. Even pleasantly buzzed they managed to stay in step. The noise seemed to wake Sam out of a pleasant haze and he looked at Dean with a slight grin.
"Hey, Dean, you know we could have gone into midnight mass with everybody if you wanted to." His words were running together just slightly, evidence that just enough eggnog had been consumed to blur the edges a little bit. "You know, I think Patricia has her own apartment here in town. You and she coulda maybe, you know…"
Dean began to grin and looked down at the snow, shaking his head. "Nah, man, not tonight. Somebody's got to make sure you get tucked in so Santa can come."
They looked at each other and both shuddered. "Or maybe not," Dean said with a grimace.
"We can sleep late tomorrow. Mrs. Milligan said dinner's not 'til three, so we don't have to be there 'til two o'clock or so." Sam's smile softened. "She's a nice lady."
Dean nodded in agreement. The look on his little brother's face…well, there were times when he still saw the little boy inside of the grown man. And that made him feel like he had done something right, somewhere along the line.
Sam's smile went full wattage, dimples and all. "It's Christmas Eve, I'll bet there's some cool old movies on we could watch!"
"Actually," Dean looked down at this watch "it's officially Christmas. Merry Christmas, Sammy." He nudged Sam with his shoulder. "And…thanks," he said quietly.
The image of the child faded from Sam's face, and Dean was left with the man that his brother had become. "Merry Christmas, Dean." Sam's smile held the knowledge of everything they faced, but it also held strength, and pride, and love, and the determination to make things right.
And Dean was suddenly positive that, somewhere along the line, he had indeed done something very right.