Disclaimer: Supernatural and all its characters belong to Kripke and the CW.
Dean Winchester looked down at his list and sighed. Knowing there wasn't enough money for everything he began crossing items off the list keeping only the essentials. Coming to the ingredients for the casserole he was planning to cook for supper he hesitated. It took a lot of stuff and it wasn't really a necessity. He could just get a few cans of Spaghetti-O's. But Sammy was still recovering from the nasty upper respiratory infection that had hospitalized him for a week. He needed to eat to get better and Dean knew Sammy would definitely eat Bobby's casserole. After all, it was his little brother's favorite comfort food; which made it an essential in his book. Bypassing the needed ingredients the elder Winchester continued crossing out items on the shopping list until only the most needed items were left. Once he finished that daunting task Dean stuffed the list and money in his pocket and walked over to his little brother who was lying on the bed quietly coloring. "Get your coat and mittens on Sammy." He ordered. "We've gotta go get a few things."
"But daddy said not to go outside." Sammy reminded his brother.
"Dad said we couldn't go outside to play 'cause you've been sick. He didn't say anything about getting food." Dean clarified throwing Sammy's jacket on the bed. "Now come on. I wanna get there and back before dad calls to check in at six."
Sammy closed his coloring book and carefully put his crayons back in the box before sliding off the bed to get his boots. He quickly pulled the boots on and tied them. Standing up he reached over the bed and grabbed his new coat. It was the best jacket he'd ever had! Dean had liberated it from the Lost and Found box for him at their last school. It had the golden eagle from The Rescuers on it and it was almost brand new. Sammy carefully put his arms through the sleeves and slipped the jacket on before pulling on his mittens. Grabbing both ends of the zipper he attempted to slide the narrow end into the groove in the zipper. But no matter how slowly or carefully he worked the two pieces wouldn't fit together. After six unsuccessful attempts, Sammy decided it was time to call for reinforcements. "Dean, the zipper won't work." Sammy whined.
Sighing Dean walked over and knelt in front of his little brother. He deftly secured the two parts and zipped the jacket up. "There you go, Sammy. Just one more thing and you'll be ready to go." Dean said leading his little brother to the apartment door. Getting Sammy's hat off the nearby desk he swiftly settled it on the little boy's head. Stepping back he eyed his little brother cautiously before nodding his head. "Okay, you're all set. Now remember Sammy, no wandering off. You stay right beside me the whole time." Dean told the youngest Winchester. "And don't talk to any strangers. Okay, squirt?"
"Okay, Dean" Sammy replied. Smiling he followed his brother out the door and down the sidewalk towards the local strip mall. He gazed longingly at the park where children were busy making snowmen and having snowball fights. "Stupid cold" he thought kicking at a small pile of snow. Dropping his head he continued to trudge after Dean. A block later Sammy looked up to find that they were at the edge of the mall. Cold forgotten he happily glanced into the windows of all the shops they passed grinning at the wide assortment of toys and other goodies on display. One particular display stopped him in his tracks. "Dean! Dean!" Sammy shouted excitedly. "Santa's here! Can we go see him?"
"Crap!" Dean groaned to himself as he made his way to Sammy's side. He briefly glanced at the sign and then turned to his little brother. "I don't know Sammy. There's probably a long line and we don't have a lot of time until dad calls." He informed his brother.
"Can we go in and see? Please?" Sammy begged putting his puppy eyes to work. "We'll leave if the line's too long. Promise."
"Alright Sammy. We'll go." Dean agreed hoping he wasn't making a giant mistake. "But if I say the line's too long, you better not make a fuss."
"I'll be good, Dean." Sammy replied as he bounded over to the shop door and yanked it open. "C'mon Dean! Hurry up!"
Smiling at his little brother's enthusiasm Dean sprinted in the door after Sammy. Once he caught up to his wayward brother Dean took the little boy's hand and led him to the back of the shop where a colorful visiting area had been set up. Seeing only a few people in line Dean got into line to wait.
Sammy's eyes bounced from one thing to another as he took in the brightly colored decorations of Santa's workshop. His eyes widened when he caught sight of the man himself. "Dean! Look! It's really Santa!" he whispered in awe.
Dean nodded as he looked ahead to the shop Santa. He was the best looking fake Santa Dean had ever seen. The man's own long white hair and beard replaced the obvious fake ones most department store Santa's wore. And this Santa had definitely been into the cookie jar a few too many times. His belly was so big Dean was surprised he could fit any kids on his lap. He looked exactly like the Santa's in Sammy's story books and movies. Dean watched his little brother grow more and more excited with each step closer they got to the big guy. When they finally made it to the front of the line, Sammy was so awestruck that Dean had to walk him up to Santa's chair and nudge him toward Santa.
Sammy hesitantly climbed into Santa's lap and stared up at the big man.
"Afternoon young fella. What's your name?" Santa asked as he placed an arm around Sammy's shoulder to steady him.
"S-Sammy" Sammy whispered. "Sammy Winchester"
"Well Sammy, have you been good this year?" the store Santa asked.
"Yes sir" Sammy proudly replied. "Dean and daddy said I've been really, really good."
"Wonderful job Sammy! That's what Santa likes to hear. So what does this good boy want Santa to bring him for Christmas this year?" the old man inquired with a twinkle in his eye.
"Here it comes" Dean thought with a mischievous grin. "Let's see how Santa fields this one."
"I want some candy and a toy." Sammy announced smiling sweetly at Santa.
Santa scratched his beard. "Candy and a toy. I think I can handle that." He assured the little boy. "What kind of toy would you like?"
"Just a toy" Sammy replied.
"I know but which one?" Santa questioned. "Would you like a football or basketball or maybe a bike or a toy train?"
"Just a toy" Sammy repeated. "And some candy, too."
Dean snickered at the confused look on Santa's face before deciding to step in and save Santa. "Sammy will be happy with any toy you bring him Santa." Dean clarified.
"Thanks, kid" Santa gratefully said before turning back to Sammy.
"That's my big brother Dean." Sammy told Santa. "He wants a big a…I mean a knife like daddy's for Christmas."
"He does, huh? Well I think that can be arranged." Santa said with a wink. "Anything else, Sammy?"
Sammy thought for a few minutes and then nodded his head. "Can you bring daddy a different job so we don't have to move and he can stay home?" Sammy inquired.
Santa glanced sympathetically at the youngest Winchester. "I don't know about that one, Sammy. I'm afraid Santa can't do a lot about daddy's jobs."
"That's okay" Sammy told him as he slid off the man's lap.
"Whoa, wait a minute, Sammy!" Santa called. "Don't forget your bag of goodies!"
Sammy spun around at the mention of goodies. He grinned as Santa leaned down and reached into the basket beside his chair.
"Here you go, Sammy. One for you and one for your brother." Santa said as he handed the two bags to the little boy. "Merry Christmas, Sammy!"
"Thanks! Merry Christmas, Santa!" Sammy replied. Turning back around he rushed over to Dean and held out one of the bags. "Here Dean! This one's yours!"
"Thanks, Sammy" Dean said as he took the bag and led the way to the front of the store. "Come on. We need to go next door and get our groceries."
At the library
John sat back and rubbed his weary eyes. He was no closer to finding the burial site than he had been when he'd started. Glancing at the clock he silently swore. It was later than he thought. He stood and gathered his supplies before heading for the door. It was almost time to call his boys.
At the apartment
Sammy sat quietly coloring while he waited for his dad to call. Bored he looked into the small kitchenette and watched Dean mixing the ingredients for Uncle Bobby's casserole. "Can I help, Dean?" he called.
"Yeah" Dean replied. "I need you to listen for dad's call. Can you do that?"
"Sure Dean" Sammy said walking over to sit by the phone. He had only been sitting a few minutes before the phone rang once and stopped. Smiling he waited for it to ring again before answering. "Hey daddy! Are you coming home now?" he asked.
"Not yet kiddo. Daddy's work isn't quite finished yet." John told his baby boy. "Is your brother where he can talk?"
"Yes sir" Sammy sadly replied. He walked over to Dean and handed him the phone. "Daddy wants to talk to you."
Dean held the phone up to his ear. "Hi dad…Everything's fine…Sammy's alright dad. I'm making sure he takes his medicine…Yes sir…Yes sir…Dad; Christmas is only five days from today. You will be home by then, right?...Yes sir…Okay, I'll tell him…Bye dad."
"Is daddy coming home soon Dean?" Sammy asked as he took the phone from his brother.
"Of course he is Sammy. Dad wouldn't miss Christmas." Dean assured his little brother.
"Are you sure?" Sammy questioned.
"Yeah, Sammy. He said to tell you to be good and that he'd be home before Santa came." Dean replied as he carefully placed the hash brown casserole in the oven. "Now go watch t.v. or something. It'll be a while before the hash brown's ready."
"Okay" Sammy said racing back into the other room.
An hour and a half later found the boys sitting at their small table gobbling up the homemade casserole. After both boys had had their fill, Dean placed plastic wrap over the leftover hash brown and set it in the refrigerator while Sammy cleared the table. The brothers then worked together to wash and dry the dishes and clean up the kitchen. Work done, Dean and Sammy watched t.v. for a few hours before taking showers and crawling into bed. They were asleep in minutes.
It was the smell that woke him. Dean sat straight up in bed and quickly scanned the room. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary he quietly crept out of the room and into the living room his fear growing as the smell grew stronger. When the living room and kitchenette checked out he turned to the door. Noticing a few small wisps of smoke coming in under the door he carefully laid his hand on it frowning at the heat. Needing to know how bad their situation was he slowly opened the door and peered out. He gasped at the sight that met his eyes. The apartment next to theirs had smoke rolling out of its open door and flames were crawling along the wall between the two apartments! "Oh shit!" Dean thought. "What are we gonna do now?"