A Very Supernatural Christmas tag, because we can always use a few more Wee!chester moments!

Kripke and Company, thank you for the awesome Christmas present, it was the best present I could ask for. Yes, I am so easy to buy for, a little Christmas spirit, some Wee!chester flashbacks, the perfect reveal of how Dean acquired the amulet, and J & J giving us the most poignant brotherly moments this season, and I am in heaven!

The Winchesters' Christmas was sheer perfection, so understated yet touching and real; a major contrast with the overblown, commercialized trappings of the pagan gods' decorations and fake spirit. Even the brothers' gifts to each other were perfect in their simplicity and the heartfelt joy they brought. The final touch was to see Metallicar watching through the window as it started to snow. Ahhhh… Suffice it to say, my little story will in no way do justice to the real creative team's brilliance, but I couldn't resist.

I hope everyone had a Merry Little Christmas and I hope you enjoy my story as my small gift to each of you. Thanks for reading my stories.

Season's Greetings, B.J.

So That Was Christmas

"So this is Christmas… Let's hope it's a good one without any fear…" - John Lennon

-

"So, Sammy, how was Christmas?"

"It was cold."

Bobby was relaxing on a rusted-out, old lawn chair, several of its woven straps busted or ready to give way, while Sammy sat on an overturned ten gallon bucket. Sam had a stick in his hand and was scratching symbols in the half-frozen dirt as they talked, just nonsense, stuff he'd seen in Dad's journal. The ground normally would have been frozen solid, being early January in South Dakota, but Bobby had a big old shelter in the middle of the junk yard with several massive drums filled with oil burning to keep the place somewhat thawed out. In their younger days Dean and Sammy had tried to convince him to roast hot dogs and marshmallows, but he'd thwarted that idea for the most part, the flames too hard to control and the oil ruining the taste the one time they got him to relent and give it a try.

As long as the wind wasn't howling through the old junkers it was almost toasty in the middle of the crackling fires. At least it got him out of the house so he didn't go stir crazy during the winter months. Bobby never did take to being confined, much like John Winchester, except he had a business to run that kept him based in the Dakotas. Still, he never seemed too intent on 'making it', often neglecting the junkyard while off traveling somewhere or other for days or even weeks at a time. Even when he was home it almost seemed an inconvenience to point a potential buyer in the direction of a junk car that might hold the desired part; his gruff attitude scaring off more than a few hesitant inquirers who expected kid-glove customer service, like having the needed part freaking gift-wrapped or something. It made one wonder if he was surrounding himself with ghost cars just for the heck of it instead of trying to make a living; but then again, maybe he had greater concerns.

With the brim of his dirty trucker hat pulled down low, Bobby narrowed his eyes and pondered the child before him. Sammy was still all boy at eight, rambunctious and fun-loving, full of curious energy; while Dean had almost been old at that age, serious and determined, always mindful of his surroundings and what might be out and about in the shadows; but then Dean was grown before his time, aged by the knowledge thrust upon him at the tender age of four. Today the youngest Winchester looked different somehow… thoughtful and weighed-down, acting like he needed to talk. Bobby could relate. Sometimes he got a hankering to talk to someone other than his old rottweiler, McNamara. Mac never was much of a conversationalist, Bobby neither normally; but sometimes everybody needs someone to talk to.

Bobby had spent enough time with both the older Winchesters to know their ways and witness firsthand their stoic silence. Dean was more talkative than John if you got him started on the right subject, cars or guns mainly, or movies if he'd happened to recently catch an action flick on TV that captured his fancy; but both could retreat into themselves and shut out the world when the world got to be too crazy, and their world tended to get scary crazy more often than not. He figured Sammy just needed to vent about some kid stuff, the usual problems that come from three men traveling the country without proper guidance. He thought he might be able to help… at least he was willing to give it a shot.

"So, Sammy, what's up?"

Sam never lost his focus on the ground, his eyes never rising to meet Bobby's. "Dean told me the truth," he stated without malice, without any emotion whatsoever, just a plain statement of fact. It made it hard to gauge how he felt about that and just how concerned Bobby should be.

Bobby intently watched as Sam marked the ground, symbols the boy ought not to know, but he kept up with the conversation, letting his concerns stew for a bit. "The truth about what?" he probed, hoping for more insight before he committed to a course of action.

Sam sat pondering the question, remembering his promise to Dean about the monsters and stuff. He knew Dad trusted Bobby, he did too, but this was different. He'd promised to keep Dean's secret and that was sacred. John and Bobby might antagonize each other on occasion, but they were also friends, and Sam figured Bobby wouldn't keep a secret like this from Dad. He considered the situation and decided he couldn't risk it, he couldn't trust Bobby not to tell. He'd promised Dean, and he and Dean, they never lied to each other or broke promises; at least he never thought so before. Dean had tried to trick him into believing Dad came back for Christmas and he still wasn't sure how he felt about that. He figured Dean did it 'cause he was the 'big brother and all', and he really didn't blame him. He knew he could always depend on Dean, even when he did go all big brother protector and annoyed the heck out of him. It was Dad he had a problem with… Dad flat-out lied… lied about everything.

Backed into a corner and already revealing too much, Sam did the only thing a Winchester could do under the circumstances, he skirted the issue, diverting focus to a safer topic. "There's no such thing as Santa Claus," he stated, his eyes briefly connecting with Bobby's before he lowered his head and again concentrated on his symbols.

Bobby looked surprised and a might disappointed, scrunching up his face and letting a disgusted grunt escape. "Really? Huh, maybe that's why I haven't been getting hooked up lately."

Sam grinned, the child peeking out through the gloom. "Maybe it's 'cause you're a bad person."

"WHAT? You channeling Dean or something? I thought you were my friend? I expect to be raked over by Dean and your dad, but you?" Bobby's eyes were wide open and his jaw went slack as he expressed his outrage. "Young man, I'm shocked."

Sam's grin grew wider and he relaxed a bit and actually chuckled under his breath. Uncle Bobby always made things seem better. He liked it at Bobby's. Bobby's and Pastor Jim's were the only two places that almost felt like a home, almost let him forget the vagabond life they lived.

Bobby took in the wide grin of the child before him and smiled. A Winchester smile with those damn dimples of theirs always made things seem better, brighter.., more bearable; and the smiles were so rare lately. Bobby always delighted in bringing one out, a respite from the dire alternative. "So… where's your brother?"

"Working on the car with Dad," Sam mumbled.

"So, why aren't you helping out?"

"Me? I'm just a kid." Sam looked up with a disgusted look on his face, his mouth twisted into a sneer and his eyes squinting. "They don't let me near that car."

"Yeah, well, you have to learn sometime. Dean started in when he was younger than you, handing your dad his tools, doing the grunt work." Bobby shifted in his seat as he studied the youngest Winchester. Sam was always reading books and studying his schoolwork, while Dean was always hands-on, tinkering with something or other. Dean displayed a real aptitude for mechanics, tearing apart the junk cars in the yard and seeing what made them tick, he and his dad even resurrecting a few of the dead; but that didn't mean Sam couldn't learn.

John used to be a mechanic, back before, and it made for a natural bond with his older son, sharing their finesse with an engine and their love of that black beauty. Dean at twelve had already shown promise of being a better mechanic than Bobby could ever hope to be, just natural talent fueled by curiosity and desire. Bobby may have owned a junkyard, but that just meant he could pull a part off, not that he could make an engine purr. Bobby saw the pride John held for Dean for his interest and willingness to get his hands dirty and Dean, well… Dean wanted to do everything just like his dad did, that was fact!

Little Sammy was looking lost and abandoned, a hapless puppy who'd been exiled from his litter. Feeling in the Christmas spirit, Bobby figured a little nudge was needed. "Why don't you run along and see if they could use an extra pair of hands?"

Hesitation twisted the features of Sam's face, before a glimmer of hope lit up his eyes. "Yeah?"

"Yeah."

Sam took off with an easy lope towards the garage where the Impala had been sheltered since the Winchesters' arrival. John had brought her by for some routine maintenance and some much needed down time. Whenever the hunts got too intense, it helped to focus on mechanics for awhile, revert back to an old way of life where a wrench and an afternoon of sweat could produce the much needed results. John was good at keeping her humming and it gave him a sense of accomplishment, a job well done. As crazy as things got, it helped him find order in the chaos.

Bobby hefted up his beer bottle and took a swig, a smug look of satisfaction on his face. He felt good. He may not have a fancy, smancy degree, but he knew a thing or two about psychology. He leaned back in his chair and enjoyed the view. It was peaceful out here, one might even forget about the evil that roamed this earth when surrounded by the beauty of a still winter day. A soft flutter of snow was falling beyond his covering, blanketing the junkyard in a light dusting of white.

------------------

"What are you doing here, squirt? Run out of boring books to read?" Dean teased as he messed with the long hair of his brother, pushing it down into his eyes.

Sam squirmed away from the touch, pushing his brother back with a shove. "No. Just thought maybe I'd watch for a while."

"Watch?" Dean arched his brow and smirked.

"Yeah, or whatever." Sam rose up on his tiptoes and leaned in over the engine trying to see what his dad was doing under the car, the lower half of his body sticking out from below the radiator, his feet digging into the dirt as he moved about. The light hanging from the hood cast a brilliant glow into the engine, and Sam caught flashes of movement as his dad worked.

John's gruff voice yelled out from beneath the car, "Dean, give me a three-quarter wrench."

Dean rifled through the tool box and pulled out the wrench, thumping it into his dad's outstretched hand like an experienced surgeon's assistant. Loud clanking followed accompanied by muttered curses.

"Dean, WD-40. This sucker is welded on here."

Dean again knew exactly what his dad wanted and quickly provided it, Sam watching in awe. Dean was like an extension of Dad, ready and willing to help, anticipating whatever tool he might need and reaching for it almost before Dad asked; the perfect example of a well-oiled team at work.

John rolled out from under the car on the dolly, twisting his back slightly and grimacing at the odd angle as he awkwardly climbed to his feet. He braced his hand on the front of the car to maintain his balance as he stretched up to his full height, moving from side to side to work out the muscles in his stiff back; his face registering a slight glimmer of pain before he turned and was startled by the sight of his younger son watching him. "Sammy, whatcha doin'?"

Sam stuttered, his eyes flitting from Dean to his dad before quietly uttering, "Nothin', just watching."

John laughed as he rubbed his sore back. "Yeah? Since when you interested in working on the car?"

"I dunno." Sam shuffled his feet and stared at the ground, wondering why he even bothered coming over.

John turned his attention to the massive tool box situated on the ground by the front wheel behind Sammy and placing his hands on his son's shoulders he moved him out of the way so he could reach it. He squatted down and sorted through the assortment of tools, muttering and slamming things as he searched through the box unable to find the one tool he needed. "There it is," he finally sighed as he grabbed out the desired tool and turned back to his older son, "Come on, Dean. This is a two man job." He scooted back under the car and Dean joined him, sliding on his back until he was side by side with his dad, two pairs of legs now sprawled out beneath the Impala. "Okay, Dean, here, you hold this tight while I try to get this unstuck." Loud clanking came from below and finally John grunted as the part came loose. "There we go! Remember, Dean, you can't force it if it ain't gonna budge. Gotta use leverage and finesse it, or else you'll end up with a broken piece and more trouble than you bargained for."

"Wow, Dad. That part been on there since the car was made?" Dean asked in wonder.

John chuckled, his breathing heavy from his exertion. "Probably so. I tell ya, they don't make 'em like this any more. New cars would never put on the miles this baby's seen."

"Man, she sure is solid."

"Damn straight, son."

Dean shimmied out from under the car and looked around for his brother.

"SAMMY?"

------------------

Sam was already half-way across the junkyard, headed back to Bobby and McNamara when he heard his brother yell his name off in the distance. Bobby was still in the same position, except a new bottle of beer had replaced the almost empty one. His old dog was still lazing by the foot of his master, content to have shelter from the harsh winter.

Bobby raised an eyebrow and squinted at the sullen boy. "Back so soon?"

"They don't need me."

Bobby pulled the brim of his hat lower. Maybe I'm not such an awesome shrink! He studied the boy as he sat down with a huff on the plastic bucket.

"So, Sammy, you wanna tell me what's really bothering you?"

Sam looked up in shock, his eyes skittish and evasive. "Huh?"

"You heard me. You're a might young to be sufferin' from hearing loss. I may be a tad old, but I ain't lost my sight yet either. I can see something's bugging you. Might as well just let 'er rip."

"It's just… " Sam stopped and sat silently watching the old family friend, his attention shifting to Mac when Bobby's intent gaze unsettled him.

"Go on. No one here but us old farts. Mac sure ain't gonna squeal on ya."

Sam earnestly looked deep into Bobby's eyes and boldly asked, "And how about you?"

"Son, you got something you need to get off your chest… I can keep a secret." Bobby grinned, his whole face calm and comforting, like a grizzled old dog, ready and willing to listen. "You know, those symbols you've been playing around with there ain't no dime-store notions. They're mighty powerful. You best not be messin' with 'em unless you know what they mean."

Sam again stared at the symbols, his stick resting on one of the lines intersecting the circle that he'd drawn. His eyes slowly rose and fixed on the older man, his voice low and steady, "Do you know?"

Bobby shifted in his seat. This really wasn't his place. This wasn't his son or his concern, but damn it all, John Winchester was an ornery sonofabitch and if he wasn't gonna tell his son straight up what they were facing than he guessed it might just be his place to do it. After all, Sam obviously knew something and he sure as hell wasn't gonna be talking to his dad about it any time soon, that was a given. Bobby had an inkling he'd already talked to Dean, but he wouldn't know for sure until he got Sam to open up.

"Yeah, I know what they mean. The question is, do you?"

"No."

"So, where'd you see 'em?"

Sam chewed on his lower lip, his choices dwindling. He hated lying and the truth was he sucked at it. Dad and Dean had a way of weaving a tale that folks just bought, but Sam always seemed to have a freaking neon sign flashing over his head whenever he tried to tell a lie. Dean was always kidding him about his sad, puppy dog eyes, but heck, they worked 'cause he only used them to punctuate the truth. It's not my fault I have an honest face. It's not like I asked for this face!

"I ain't got all day, kiddo. Mac's gonna want his supper sometime today." The old dog's head rose up and he eyed his people, his tail starting to wag at the promise of food.

Sam remained silent. I can't betray Dean's trust… I swore.

Bobby let out a sigh and continued on, "Let's see if I can speed up the process."

Sam looked up and watched Bobby, wondering what exactly he had in mind.

"From the looks of these symbols you've been drawing, I'd say you've been reading some stuff you weren't supposed to, like maybe your daddy's journal." Bobby waited for some confirmation, a sign he was on the right track and not shooting from the hip and hitting his fucking foot. "Well, come on, throw me a bone. I'm right.., right?"

Sam sat watching Bobby, mulling over his words before his face slipped into a resigned grimace and he simply nodded yes.

"Whew, this is gonna be harder than I thought."

Sam grinned at that before he again let the dire circumstances temper his good cheer. His eyes were sensitive and dewy, the hurt of his dad's lies weighing him down and making him doubt everything he thought he knew about his life, about his family…

"Okay, I think we're making some headway. Seeing as how you and Dean share everything, I figure you went to Dean with this, right?"

Bobby waited this time, intently watching for the acknowledgement, finally receiving another slight nod in agreement.

"And that's what Dean told you the truth about? Right? He told you about the stuff you read in your daddy's journal. That about sum it up?"

Sam paused with his stick and tapped the ground, thinking, considering, finally deciding he had no other option. "Yeah." He waited before he added another thought. "But he did tell me about Santa too."

Bobby cocked his head to the side and shrugged. "Well, I reckon it was probably time for the real deal on Santa. That's a hard truth everyone has to face sooner or later; but the other.., you know, your daddy never meant for you to go digging through his stuff. That journal ain't exactly kid rated."

Sam exploded with anger. "Then how come Dean knew all about it? Huh?" Sam's eyes were misting but they also held a determination, a fierce look that reminded Bobby of another Winchester child, proof that both John's sons were tempered in steel, hardened by their fate. "I'm not a baby, Bobby."

"No, you're not, but you are a kid." He reached out his hand and gently placed it on the side of Sam's face, patting it before sliding down and firmly gripping his shoulder. Bobby's voice took on a tender tone beneath the gruff register, his eyes almost misting over. "They just wanted you to stay a kid for just a mite longer."

"But why does Dean know all this stuff? He's still a kid," Sam lashed out, all the hurt manifesting itself in anger, his voice rising. "They always keep me in the dark. How many more secrets do they have? Why does Dean get to know all this stuff and I don't?"

"It's not exactly a prize your brother won." Bobby shook his head in resignation. Watching Dean cope with everything at such a young age had been hard, even for a seasoned hunter like Bobby Singer who'd seen enough pain and suffering in his lifetime to harden him beyond touch, enough that he should have been immune to the anguish of one lost child. Should have been… "Your daddy didn't exactly have a choice with Dean and your brother didn't have a choice either. Dean just kinda had to grow up and face it all when your mom died."

The tears were now winning out over the determination, filling the young boy's eyes and threatening to spill from the confines. His voice was soft and small, hesitant as he asked, "So what monster got Mom? Dean wouldn't tell me. He just got mad and ran out." Sam shifted on his bucket and looked straight into Bobby's eyes. "Uncle Bobby, will you tell me?"

"Sam, there's no easy answer. We don't know what got to your mama. Your daddy never did find out."

"But if it could get to Mom, then what's gonna keep it from getting us?"

Bobby reacted to another kick in the teeth. Dealing with monsters and demons and angry spirits was a hard enough road when you were full grown. He'd encountered more than a few grown men who'd refused to face that terror-laden truth, turning away from the knowledge and preferring to live in their sheltered make-believe world, praying evil went about its business and just let them be amid the carnage. Watching Dean deal with all the terrors of his life over the years had only made Bobby more aware than ever how strong that child truly was, and now another Winchester child was facing the ugly truth of how fucked up his real world was. "What you need to remember is your daddy and Dean, they're not gonna let anything happen to you. They're gonna protect you."

Sam bit on his lower lip, his eyes searching for guidance while doubt and hope all mixed in together creating one confused mess. "Dean says Dad's a superhero." The boy's tear-filled eyes finally meeting Bobby's straight on, hope expectantly waiting, "Is that true?"

The grizzled hunter rubbed the stubble on his chin, a large part of him wishing he'd never started this conversation, just minded his own damn business and let John handle all the questions, but an even bigger chunk of him knew John wasn't any better equipped to answer his son's questions; and the truth was, he might even be less prepared… too emotional and involved, and too damaged by the pain to give due consideration to his responses. Damn it, Singer… just get to it! Ain't no way out now, but if John ever finds out about this little conversation you might just have to break out the buckshot.

"Sammy, all you need know is your daddy's a mighty fine hunter, the best there is. He knows what he's doing and he's gonna take care of things. No need for you to fret."

"But he let Mom die. And he didn't kill the thing that got her, did he?" Sam blinked back tears, his voice breaking, "And it's still out there, isn't it?"

"Yeah, Sam, it's still out there."

Moisture filled Bobby's eyes as he again faced the pain of the Winchesters' loss. Hell, he never even knew Mary and he felt her loss. How could a man not feel for this shattered family? John still mourning a wife that had been gone for almost a decade while trying to care for one young son who never even knew her and the other so traumatized by her violent death that according to his dad he didn't even speak for months after the fire, and to this day still erupted in a fury of hurt whenever her name was mentioned.

Even years after the fact, when Bobby first met up with the Winchesters their pain and devastation was still apparent, like a hole had been blasted through their guts, the wounds festering over the years, their innards slowly seeping out to mix with all their pain and grief, and the damn fools didn't even have the common sense to fall down and die. Somehow John had managed to focus his all-consuming grief and rage onto the hunt; and right or wrong, it kept him moving forward and amidst all this turmoil his boys had managed to keep going too, even if they were left on their own far too often.

"Sam, what you gotta understand is, your daddy was like most people once, back before your mama was taken. Most everybody out there in the world has no idea that real evil exists, that all those tales of monsters and ghouls ain't just make-believe. Once your mama was killed, well, your daddy could have just closed his eyes to what really happened, lived in a fantasy world and picked up the pieces and moved on. That's what most folk would have done, but not your daddy. I guess maybe it's that old marine mentality, but your daddy, he ain't a quitter; and he ain't gonna just sit back and let evil have its way, not when he can do something about it. So, yeah, I guess you could say your daddy's a superhero."

"And nothin' is ever gonna get him? Or Dean?" Sam swallowed, his eyes pools of fresh tears as his mind tried to process all the danger in the world now. His voice was soft and Bobby barely heard him, "Or me?"

Bobby shuddered and took in a deep breath. Hell, kid… there ain't no guarantees in life, especially the hunting life. One wrong move, one bad break… He squared off his shoulders and shook his head, just a quick shake before his eyes fixed on the young boy before him. "Nah, your daddy's one of the best. Ain't nothin' gonna get your daddy."

Sam sat silently watching, his chest heaving from his strained breathing, his bottom lip quivering.., still his jaw jutted out firm and strong. He was trying mightily to put forth a brave front and he took a moment to process everything and get his emotions under control.

Bobby marveled at another example of the Winchesters' sheer grit and determination; Sam already looking older, steadying himself and preparing to join his family in doing what fate seemed to demand of them. Another child forced to grow up too soon, but at least Sam was a little older when he learned the truth, and he had his brother. Bobby knew the real reason Dean had survived it all was because he had to, he had to take care of his little brother; Sammy giving Dean his purpose, a reason to keep going, a job to do. His family his only refuge from the storm, and the boy had latched on tight, refusing to surrender to the darkness that threatened to claim them. Maybe together John's boys could give each other strength.

Sam was again marking the ground, stared down at his symbols, the stick still ready in his hand as he calmed his breathing and took his time. Finally he looked up and spoke, "So, Bobby, what does this symbol mean?"

"That one?"

"Yeah."

"That one says don't eat me 'cause I'll give ya indigestion."

Sam grimaced with serious eyes and a scowl before he noticed the twinkle in Bobby's eyes. A slow, sly smile emerged on his lips, the tension finally released. "You're lying, Uncle Bobby."

"Maybe, but ol' Mac here might just have to take a chance on you if we don't feed him soon."

---------------------

With four men in the house and no cook, it fell upon each of them to offer up their own specialty to provide dinner. Bobby quickly cooked up two boxes of hamburger helper when they showed up late that first night, John grilled the venison he brought the second, and now it was Dean's turn. Dean actually might have been the best cook out of the bunch. It turned out he could be very creative in the kitchen especially when Sammy helped him. Together the brothers whipped up some sort of casserole with beans, potatoes and something that resembled meat, but no one was too sure and it was silently agreed upon not to ask. All in all, it was hot and filling, didn't taste half-bad, and there was plenty of it. With two grown men and two growing boys the large concoction disappeared quite readily. Bobby always did hate leftovers, although Mac loved them. Anything not devoured at the first sitting ended up in Mac's bowl by the end of the evening.

Dinner conversation always tended to drag after the first couple of nights of getting caught up on what had been happening in their lives, especially now since Sam wasn't his usual talkative self. Bobby silently wondered if he had finally grown into the Winchester way. John and Bobby always had plenty to discuss, but never at the dinner table; their discussions leaning too far from polite pleasantries, more suited to late nights over a few beers while the boys slept. Dean was painfully aware of the unease at the table and tried to distract everyone before too many questions might surface and expose their secret. He had no way of knowing Bobby was already privy to the truth.

"So, Sammy, you gonna help me put a coat of wax on the car tomorrow?"

"I dunno. Never done it before."

Dean laughed, his cocky attitude trying to hide the gloom Sam had brought to the table. "Well, it'll be part of your training. Mr. Miyagi will just have to teach you a thing or two."

Sam looked up with a scowl. "And I suppose you're gonna be Mr. Miyagi?"

"I am the wise one… besides, I'm older. You could learn a thing or two, bro. Just watch and learn." Dean laughed with obvious joy, his face playful, his lips set in a smirk. "Watch and learn, bro, watch and learn."

John grinned as his sons bantered. "Get a couple of good coats down; don't want this weather messing up the paint job."

"Yes, sir." Dean hopped up and started clearing the table. Since he and Sammy cooked, it was up to John and Bobby to do the dishes.

After the table was cleared the brothers retreated into the main room. It didn't take long for the roughhousing to start with Dean tackling his brother and pinning him to the floor.

"Get off me, you jerk!"

"I told you ya better start working out more, you wuss."

"It's not fair. You're twice as big as me!" Sam moaned under the weight of his brother.

"Like the bad guy cares?"

"Yeah? So monsters are gonna wrestle with me?"

Dean released his brother and sat down on the floor beside him, his face drawn and somber, concentrating. "Sam, monsters will do anything… anything. That's why you've got to get serious about the training Dad gives us. You gotta be ready… " his eyes flickered with a fleeting pain before they turned soft and tender, the look he gave his brother conveying love, pure love mixed with a twinge of fear, "just in case."

Sam sat up and studied his brother. "In case what?"

Dean looked sideways towards the kitchen, relieved the older men were still occupied. His gaze returned to his brother and he grimaced. He rolled his tongue over his bottom lip as he quietly repeated, "Just in case."

Dean looked older than his years, weighed down by responsibility and for the first time Sam realized that. All the monsters and stuff out there scared him, but more than anything he didn't want Dean to look like this… and he didn't want to feel like this, scared and worried, wondering what might happen and how they'd handle it. He wished he'd never pulled out Dad's journal and read it, he wished Dean had never told him the truth. I wish Mom never died and we were just a normal family.

Sam took a deep breath as his mind raced over the last few days: what he read in the journal, the serious look on Dean's face when he fessed up the truth, what Bobby had said today out in the yard, the weary look on Dad's face all those times when he came home late from one of his selling trips… everything tumbling into place, his life finally making sense. The sad part was it still didn't make sense. Face facts, Sam… wishes don't come true, not any more. Your family's not normal… never has been… never will be… you just never knew it before, but now you do. Now you know why. Welcome to your life.

"Sammy? Earth to Sammy." Dean was snapping his fingers before his brother's face. "You in there, bro?"

It only took a second for the concerned look on Sam's face to morph into a sly smile and then before Dean could react he was tackling his big brother, knocking him onto his back and pinning him from the surprise. Dean fought back, kicking his feet up and snagging them around his brother's middle and flipping them over. His smug look of victory disappeared as his smaller, but determined brother bit his arm and he broke his hold when he yelled out from the shock. "Hey, biting's not fair, you pervert."

"Ain't no rules, Dean."

"You little bitch!"

The brothers rolled and thrashed until they slammed into Bobby's side table knocking the lamp to the floor in a loud crash. Dean immediately froze and muttered, "Oh, crap, Sammy." That only allowed his brother to once more gain the upper hand, punching him and twisting his arm in a firm grip. Sam grunted from the effort, but he finally managed to pin his brother again, if only temporarily. Dean smiled up at him like he was resigned to defeat before he headbutted Sam and they both moaned from the hard contact.

"What a jerk, Dean." Sam grabbed at his head and scampered backwards from his brother landing on his butt and cradling his head in his hands. Dean lay there on the floor, his nose crinkled up and his eyes squeezed tight, trying to still the pain radiating through his skull.

"Well, you're the bitch that bit me," he finally managed to snarl as he lay there with his hands clasped tight against his forehead.

"BOYS!"

Both Winchesters scrambled to their feet, side by side, their faces scrunched up in pain. They tried to focus their attention on their approaching dad as they simultaneously replied, "Yes, sir!"

John walked into the room to inspect the damage and his boys. The lamp was lying on its side but didn't appear to be broken, not that it would have mattered much; it was an ugly-ass thing. "What the hell were you thinking?" he asked as he marched up to them.

"Just showing Sam some maneuvers, sir." Dean replied, his eyes straight forward, never wavering under his dad's intent gaze.

"So, is he picking them up or do you boys need to do double duty tomorrow?"

"No, sir. We're good," Dean replied in a snap.

"Alright, then. Sammy, you listen to your brother. Dean, get two good coats of wax down and then show your brother that new move I taught you. He needs to know how to protect himself." He turned his attention to his younger son. "Sammy, you never know when a bully might want to pick on you. Dean won't always be there. It's time you learned to defend yourself."

Sam studied his dad, now understanding the references, the euphemisms for all the evil in the world. His eyes flickered up to meet his dad's and he felt the anger rising up again, the hopelessness, the walls closing in to bury them. He hated that Dean looked totally different now, his brother lost behind this façade of the perfect soldier. His Dean, the fun, carefree kid vanishing in a heartbeat. I don't want to be a soldier… I don't want to fight evil. I just want to go back to before.

"Sam, you listening?" John barked, his tone firm and resolute.

"Yeah."

Dean gave him a nervous glance, concern etched on his stark features, his eyes silently asking his brother to quit resisting and relent, just a little. Dad shifted and tensed.

Sam released a defeated sigh. "Yes, sir."

John scratched at his chin, the beard he'd grown out for the winter making him look rugged and stern, his eyes weary and his voice harsh. "Sam, you better be listening. It's about time you grew up and accepted some responsibility."

Dean's eyebrows arched and the muscles in his jaw clenched. "Dad, he's only eight." His eyes were pleading, his voice soft, "I'm with him all the time. I got it covered, sir."

John looked back towards his older son and smiled, his dimples finally breaking free of the gloom in a silent bid to recapture the old days when true joy once lit up his face. He nodded as he took in the vision of his son, standing tall, his face so earnest, his eyes so determined and focused. "Alright, Dean… for now. I want to see that car shining tomorrow night."

"Yes, sir." Dean reached over to pick up the lamp from the floor and his pendant came slipping out from under his t-shirt, worked loose from their wrestling, bouncing against his chest as the light of the lamp reflected against the gold.

John immediately noticed it, his curiosity piqued. "Dean, where'd that come from?"

Dean placed the lamp on the side table, moving it to just the right spot as he considered his response. Sam stood beside him, defiant and steadfast. Dean grabbed hold of the charm, the metal cool and comforting and his heart seized with guilt. He should have insisted Sam give it to Dad. That's what Bobby wanted, why he gave it to Sam in the first place. That was the right thing to do. But I wanted it. As soon as I saw it, as soon as I pulled it over my head and felt the slight weight thump against my chest… I wanted it.

"That old thing?" Bobby sauntered into the room, his eyes still shaded by his cap, even though the sun had set more than an hour back and he was inside a building. He offered a wave of his hand toward the object and placed his hand firmly on Dean's shoulder. "It's just a trinket… something that was lying around here, thought the boys might like it."

"So you gave it to 'em?" John asked as he turned towards his friend.

Bobby shifted his eyes from brother to brother. "I gave it to Sammy…"

"And I gave it to Dean… for Christmas," Sam blurted out before Bobby could say any more. "It was Dean's Christmas present." Sam looked at Bobby with hopeful eyes and was answered with a wink.

John nervously laughed, his hands rubbing against his temples. "Christmas presents, huh?" He stared up at the ceiling and then down to the floor before slowly gazing in the direction of his older son. "So, Dean, what'd you give your brother?" John's eyes couldn't hold contact with his son, the image of his boys, alone in a motel room because he was off hunting a freakin' vengeful spirit caused his heart to fracture. The damn thing had already killed two people before he tracked it down, torching its corpse three days into the hunt… on the twenty-fifth, eighteen hours north of where his young sons spent Christmas Day. His heroic efforts saving the four remaining members of the targeted family, but his family… his sons were the ones to pay the price.

Another lost year with no Christmas cheer… no father around to tuck them in on Christmas eve or wake them Christmas morning, no ham dinner with scalloped potatoes and fresh baked dinner rolls, and no brightly decorated Douglas Fir buried within a mountain of colorful presents, just his boys alone in a crappy motel room waiting to see if their dad might stumble back in before New Years. Merry Freaking Christmas!

Dean stammered, his eyes downcast, not knowing what to say, how to explain that he gave his brother squat… or better yet, fess up that he broke into the nice house up the block and stole Sapphire Barbie for his big present. Geez, how stupid can you be, Winchester? Chick presents!?!

Sam swooped in to the rescue, again shifting focus back to him and how great Christmas was… even if it wasn't. "Dean made it Christmas. He got a real tree and made sure there were presents under it on Christmas morning. Just toys and stuff, you know, the usual."

John grinned and almost laughed at that, the thought tickling his funny bone, probably from the anxiety of knowing it wasn't funny… not funny in the least. "The usual?"

"Yeah, Dad," Sam sincerely replied.

John stood pondering the scene before him, his boys being brothers, being there for each other… even when they shouldn't be left alone to their own devices, even when their father should have been the one giving them Christmas. Dean again coming through for his brother… for the family.

The apology came much too late, but in the rush to conquer evil, John hadn't even realized Christmas had passed, not that it would have mattered anyway, he had greater concerns on his mind. "Boys, I'm sorry I didn't make it home for Christmas… I just got tied up with… work."

Dean immediately defended his dad's actions, forgiving his faults and trying to ease the tension, just... like... always... "Come on, Dad. It's not your fault. Your work is important, we know that. We know you would have been there if you could."

John sighed with relief, Dean always having his back, even when he was wrong. And he knew he was wrong, he just couldn't see how to fix this… how to change this hunting life that demanded all focus. His boys just had to understand, that was all there was to it. What other option did they have? I sure as hell am not gonna let evil win. "Sammy, you understand, don't you?"

Sam looked sad and serious and if John were being entirely honest, pissed off. But then again, a man can only take so much honesty. He waited and with Dean silently urging his brother on, Sam finally spoke. "Sure, Dad."

Bobby stood watching this heartfelt Winchester moment and couldn't resist adding his two cents. "So if Christmas is over and we're all good, can we get the damn dishes done 'cause there's an action movie on at eight that I think you boys might like."

John looked up and smiled at his cantankerous old friend. "Sure, Bobby, just give me a minute to call Caleb and check on a few things. You get started, I'll be along."

John pulled out his cell phone and was walking toward one of the back rooms as Bobby muttered after him. "Yeah, I've heard that one before."

Dean immediately piped up. "Hey, Bobby, I got it." He gave his brother a short push with a grin on his face and turned toward the kitchen, leading the way back to the dirty dishes.

-----------------

Dean scrubbed the last of the dishes, his arms elbow deep in soapy water, his brow furrowed, his mind working overtime on how best to approach this topic. He retrieved the final plate from the soapy water and pulled the plug in the bottom of the sink, swooshing the plate in the rinse water before shaking off the droplets and handing it to Bobby, who was standing nearby with a drying cloth in his calloused hands.

"Bobby.., about the pendant."

Bobby looked up, acting surprised, like the last fifteen minutes of silence hadn't been a direct lead up to this solemn conversation. "Yeah, Dean?" he innocently responded.

Dean hesitated, unsure and quiet for a change, and not from the overwhelming craziness of their lives, no this quiet was different. This was a man uncertain of where he wanted to go, what he wanted to say… hell, I know what I want and what I should do. I just don't want to do it.

"Dean, you seem a bit twisted. Want me to help you out, there?"

Dean shrugged off the offer of help and bit the bullet, so to speak. "Bobby, I know the pendant was supposed to go to Dad. You gave it to Sammy for Dad, not me."

"That was the idea."

Dean was licking his lips and then chewing on them, his eyes downcast and tentative, finally a firm resolve came over him. "I'm gonna give it to Dad, just like you wanted." His eyes fixed on Bobby and there was no hesitation, only a determined stare. "Sammy was just mad at Dad and I let him give it to me. I never should have accepted it. I knew better."

"Looks to me like Sammy wanted you to have it."

"It doesn't matter… it's not right. It's supposed to go to Dad."

"Dean…"

"No, Bobby." Dean reached up to take the pendant from around his neck, his fingers wrapped around the cord barely lifting the charm off his chest when a strong hand grabbed his wrist. He stopped and locked eyes with Bobby.

"Dean, don't. It looks good right where it is. No denying that."

Dean arched his eyebrows and his eyes squinted as his entire face registered his confusion. "What?"

"I intended for Sammy to give it to the one who'd protect him. I was thinkin' that was your daddy…" Bobby paused and smiled, the lines around his eyes framing his tender gaze. He patted Dean's arm as he released his hold. "… now I'm thinkin' maybe I was wrong."

"No, Bobby. Dad does protect us, he always has."

"Yeah, he does, but he ain't the only one."

Dean's eyes displayed all his sincerity, his belief in his dad strong, his conviction sure. "But he's the one that counts."

"I'm not so sure about that." Bobby nodded in recognition of John's devotion to his sons, but the wheels in his mind were turning and Dean couldn't see the mechanics of it, he just heard the end result. "I think you should keep it."

Dean almost smiled, his dimples flashing before again retreating, a thousand expressions flickering across his face as his heart tussled with his mind, his wants running smack dab into the midst of his duty and making him hesitate for the first time in his life. "But why, Bobby?"

"Dean, would you do anything for your brother? Anything at all, to keep him safe?"

Dean was totally serious. "Yeah, I would. You know that."

"Then I reckon Sammy gave the pendant to the right person."

"Really?"

"Really."

Dean still hesitated, still fought within himself, his duty and what he felt was right battling against his heart's desire. Bobby was giving him permission to be selfish and he almost didn't know how, he still wanted to protest but he remembered the feeling when he first gazed upon the pendant and how his brother looked when he insisted he wanted him to have it. He always wanted to give Sammy what he wanted… maybe that was a justification, maybe Bobby's blessing was coerced, maybe he was being a selfish bastard, but there was no denying he wanted it and it could be his. All I have to do is keep it.

He released the cord from his hands and the pendant thumped back against his chest and he smiled, his dimples deep and his eyes shining and he looked like he'd won the freaking lottery. "Bobby, I love it." His eyes looked down in wonder, again picking up the pendant and examining it, caressing the smooth finish, his thumb pressing down on the horns of the figure, gently rubbing across the face in meditation, like it was the Genie's bottle or something, able to grant his fondest wish. "I really love it, Bobby. I've never, you know, had anything like it. I've never even seen anything like it."

"Yeah, I know." Bobby smiled at the wonder and excitement in Dean's voice, the beauty of his perfect face illuminated by the total pleasure that glowed from within, his joy over this gift clear and undeniable. "It's special, Dean, you take good care of it."

Dean's voice was filled with sincerity, his eyes gleaming with pride. "I'm never gonna take it off, Bobby. Ever."

"Good."

-----------------------

Two coats of wax and the Impala was looking like a brand new car on the dealer's lot, black and sleek and as Dean liked to say… badass! The brothers smiled in satisfaction at a job well done. Their dad's words of praise when he saw her buff appearance warmed their hearts and let them bask in his approval, his brief but powerful comment bolstering their exhausted spirits. "Looking good, boys. Just like new." And then he was off to confer with Caleb again. It appeared like they'd be heading out soon… another job, another motel room, and more lies to cover what Sam now knew to be true.

"Dean, are you sore?"

Dean shook out his shoulders, his arms hanging loose by his sides. "Nah."

"Dean?" Sam implored as he sat down with a huff on the stool nearby.

The grin was slow to appear, just a slight upturn of his lips before the smirk was ever-present. "Yeah, maybe a little."

"I've never been so sore in my life!"

"Drama Queen! I told you, you better get with the program. Gotta get your conditioning up."

Sam sat looking at his hands, wiping the last of the wax residue on his jeans. "Dean, do you really think I can do it?"

"Do what, Sammy?"

Sam's voice was small and hesitant, quiet and still, "Fight the monsters… like Dad."

Dean stood observing his brother, his eyes looking straight through him, tunneling into the depths like he could see into his very soul. It kinda worried Sam, how serious Dean got every time the monsters were mentioned, Dean going into big-brother-protector mode and erecting this protective barrier around them… around himself… it was like he disappeared and this warrior emerged, fierce and determined. It made Sam feel safe and yet it scared him. It scared him to picture their lives and what all this would mean for their future. A future that was looking more and more like the surreal war zone of the movie they'd watched last night. He'd liked The Terminator just fine back when it was simply a movie… now it seemed so much more. A vision of their future… a storm is coming… and that was enough to scare anyone, even a Winchester.

Dean took a moment to sort out his thoughts, trying to ease the way for his brother, remembering how scared he was when he first learned the truth… all the questions, all the doubts, the terror of knowing evil lurked around every bend, just waiting to take them out.

"Sammy, you don't have to do anything now. You still got time. Dad and I, we're gonna train you, prepare you, and when you're older, when you're ready, then you won't have to worry about it. You're gonna be just as good as Dad." Dean still saw the concern on Sammy's face and that just wasn't allowed; there was plenty of time for that later. His confident grin resurfaced as he tousled his brother's hair. "And you're always gonna have me right there beside you. You and me, bro… you bet we're gonna be superheroes. Just like Dad! I'll be Batman and you can be my trusty sidekick, Robin."

Sam relaxed at seeing his brother's playful joy return, a welcome relief from the angst they'd been immersed in. "Why am I always the sidekick? Huh?"

"'Cause I'm the oldest." Dean jumped back as his brother tried to swat at him, laughing and skipping around, kicking out at his brother as he approached again. "First one to the house gets the hot water!" He took off running, never looking back.

"NO FAIR, DEAN!" Sam yelled as he tried to keep up.

-------------------------

Dean was in the shower, using up all the hot water and Sam was downstairs rummaging through the expanse of books in Bobby's library. He'd never before perused them, Bobby previously telling him they were nothing he'd be interested in. Now that he understood what they really contained, they intrigued him. Stacks and stacks of books lay on the floor, piled up against the walls and covering every available surface. And the things these books detailed were shocking, totally unbelievable unless you knew the truth. Sam Winchester now looked upon the books with a small measure of comfort, maybe the information inside could keep them safe, another kind of ammunition in this war with evil.

"I reckon you're gonna want to start reading some of my books, right?" Bobby startled Sam as he came up behind him.

"Can I?"

"Just don't go letting your daddy see you… just yet. Somehow we got to get him on board with you knowing the truth. I don't guess it'll be much longer before he'll be telling you himself, what with him stepping up your training and all." He gazed down at the young boy, pulling the dirty brim of his hat lower. "Just make all our lives easier by acting surprised, will ya?"

"Sure thing, Bobby."

Bobby walked up to the books lining the middle shelf and ran his thumb along the spines, muttering as titles jumbled all together in his quest for the perfect read. "Ah, here it is. Sam, this one's for you, your first book on the supernatural. Not exactly the Disney version, but it might help explain some fundamentals for ya."

He placed the heavy volume in Sam's outstretched hand and Sam felt a slight shiver run up his arm. This is it. No turning back now, Winchester. His eyes were still wide-open, but he grasped firm to the book, pulling it back towards his chest and opening it to the first page. He silently read for a few moments before closing the book again and gazing back into Bobby's eyes and nervously smiling. "Yeah, definitely not Disney. Thanks, Uncle Bobby."

"Sure thing, kiddo."

Sam placed the heavy book on the table and stood staring at it. His hand gently running over the worn leather as his mind again processed the bombardment of information recently acquired. "Bobby, that pendant… what did you mean it was special?"

Bobby ran his hand down the side of his face, his mouth opening and closing before he offered up an explanation. "That amulet is a powerful protection charm. It was meant for a hunter. How's come you decided against giving it to your daddy?"

"I wanted Dean to have it. Dean's the one who's always there. He's the one who's gonna protect me."

"He sure will."

"Bobby?"

"Yeah, Sam."

"Dean says we're gonna be hunters too… someday. Is that true?"

"I reckon there ain't no way around it."

"He says we're gonna be superheroes too, and nothin' will ever get us."

Bobby grinned at that, both pleased and disturbed by the future. I sure as hell hope nothin' ever gets to you boys. Don't know what we'd do if… Bobby stopped his mind from traveling any further down that path, no need borrowing trouble. We got enough as it is.

Sam continued on, "So that amulet will protect Dean? 'Cause I'd never want anything to happen to Dean."

"Me either."

Sam paused as he considered his future… Dean's future… and he smiled as he remembered the look on his brother's face when he first saw the pendant. "Bobby, you shoulda seen his face when he opened it."

Bobby grinned, imagining a Christmas morning replay like he'd witnessed in the kitchen, Dean's face shining with joy, a joy so seldom seen on that child.

"Sammy, I think you made a good choice. Just remember though, you and Dean, you are still kids. Don't go letting all this monster talk ruin that, 'kay?"

Sam straightened up, trying to appear bigger, his shoulders back and his stance firm. "Bobby, I'm not a baby. I can handle it."

"I know you're not, but there's no shame in being a kid. You're eight years old; you don't have to save the world, at least not yet."

The intense conversation was beginning to wear on both of them and it was time to put the monsters and ghouls back in their place. Sam became distracted and started a staring match with Mac who was lying by the side of the desk and the old dog didn't appear to be liking it. Mac yawned and rolled into an alert position intently watching the youngster before him. Bobby crooked an eye and cautioned the younger Winchester, "Didn't anyone ever tell you not to stare down a dog? They take it as an act of aggression. He might just have to come over here and bite you."

"Ol' Mac?" Sam chuckled. "He wouldn't bite me."

"You think, huh?"

"Well, yeah."

"Remind me to introduce you to no-face McGraw."

Sam gulped. "No face?"

"Yeah, the last guy to have a staring match with Mac."

Sam averted his eyes from Mac and again cast his gaze on Bobby. Bobby continued to stare, his intent gaze indicating he wasn't joking around, before a slight smile finally broke through and Sam again relaxed.

"Very funny," Sam replied with a grin. He gave a quick glance back at Mac, the old dog settling back into a sleeping position, before addressing the old family friend with yet another question. "So, Bobby, do you have Mac to warn you of the evil that's out there? You know, like the Terminators?"

"Yeah, well, there's that. Animals do have a sense about the supernatural, but he's also good company." Bobby squinted and grinned as he pulled down the brim of his hat, his smile a familiar comfort. "And he don't ask so many goldurn questions, you idjit!"

The End

All standard disclaimers apply.

bjxmas January 2008