The Boy Who Hates Christmas
Response to the SNTV UnGen Christmas Challenge 2008.
Beta: Big Thanks to my beta on this story – Mizpah. I started this, but had a major life event that got in the way. She came through and helped me refocus. There are no words to thank her enough for coming to my rescue and doing the beta work on such short notice. If not for her, this story would have been shelved.
Banner: Another big thanks to Chris. As always, the banner is awesome. Once again she has caught the essence of the story and depicted it beautifully.
Summary: "Hey Sam," Dean asked, "Why are you the boy who hates Christmas?"
The long line snaked around the brightly decorated mall, parents standing idly, low voices hissing and sputtering at snotty nosed kids. Little children fidgeted against restraints, large hands that clutched and tugged at them, pulling them reluctantly along.
The emerald eyed seven year old squinted and looked around in amazement. What a bunch of babies. As far as the eye could see, red sweaters adorned the view. He stared in bewilderment at the froufrou dresses that twirled and danced around him; he pointed and laughed uncontrollably at all the boys clad in neatly pressed 'church pants' and tightly buttoned shirts. Amazing .
The line moved sluggishly forward.
"Dad….don't make me do this." The blond haired kid gazed apprehensively up at his father.
The large man looked down, his eyebrows arching upwards as he gave his kid an authoritative glare.
Shrugging his shoulders, the boy rolled his eyes before falling completely silent. He stared down at the dirty, sticky floor and scuffed his worn out sneakers, shuffling from one foot to the other. This just sucks.
And the line moved hesitantly forward.
The rugged John Winchester looked slightly out of place amongst the other parents, standing awkwardly, a tiny tot squirming and fidgeting in his arms. The procession shuffled forward slowly, and the scruffy widower took two large steps to keep up. He tugged his eldest arm, dragging the kid along beside him. His mind flashed back to a happier time and he smiled wistfully. This is too hard, this celebrating Christmas without Mary. The tall hunter heaved a sigh. This is what she would have wanted- taking the kids to see Santa Clause... He blinked back the moisture that had suddenly accumulated in his eyes, shifted back to his game face, and advanced three more steps in the line.
Little Sammy Winchester peered wide-eyed over his father's broad shoulder looking apprehensively at the fat man in the bright red suit. His chocolate mop of curly hair bounced lightly against his father's stubbly chin as his tiny eyebrows furrowed in deep concern.
"It's okay Sammy, see? It's Santa Clause, he's a nice man." John Winchester pointed his finger at Santa, nodding his head toward the white-bearded man.
Santa looked pissed. He was laughing manically and bouncing a screaming child on his knee.
Sam's eyes widened, confusion twisting on the three-year-olds face. He pouted, his tiny lip quivering, as his chubby fingers clutched tighter to his Daddy's arm.
"Gees Dad, you're not seriously going to make me sit on Santa's lap?" The big brother said again, a look of shear desperation flashing to his face. He stared blankly at his Dad.
"Yes, Dean…you are sitting on Santa's lap," John said firmly.
"But why, he's just some old fart in a red suit." Dean huffed, glaring in disbelief at his Dad.
Heads turned, parents' mouths falling open in shock. The faces looked blankly at the ragtag boy with the smartass mouth before turning to look sadly at his father.
The seven year-old smirked, staring defiantly back at them all.
"Dean!" His father hissed then smiled weakly at the line of adults, uncomfortable under the parental scrutiny.
John bent down, grabbed his eldest by the elbow and frantically shoved him forward.
"You will do this for your little brother," he whispered sternly into the boy's honey blond hair. "You got it?"
"Yes sir," Dean sulked.
Twenty minutes later, the three Winchester males stood tiredly in front of Santa Clause, smack dab in the middle of Candy-land.
"Ho, ho, ho, kid," the large, overly jolly man said. He reached his dirty gloved hands across John's arm and grabbed at little Sammy.
Wide-eyed with fear, the tot clung desperately to his father, his little body squirming to get away from the strange red-suited man. The kid screamed, pushing his tiny shoes hard against his father's ribcage and physically kicking at Santa Clause as he clung firmly to his Dad's tall body.
"No….don' wanna…Nooooo Daddy…..No…" he wailed.
John's large hands pried Sammy away from his chest, arms wrapping tightly around his flailing baby boy.
The small tot's wide eyes looked pleadingly at his Daddy. Crystal clear orbs blinking owlishly as large tears overflowed his lids.
"Sammy….just tell Santa what you want for Christmas." The embarrassed father stammered out.
"Noooooo", the kid bellowed through heaving sobs, fear radiating from his tiny little face. "I sca…scared."
Dean giggled loudly. This was too funny. His Dad hunted ghosts and monsters all the time, but his little brother was scared of Santa Clause? He laughed harder, his hand curling in a loose fist just across his mouth, a wide grin settling smugly on his lips. Green eyes danced with merriment as he watched his distraught father attempt to force Sammy to sit on Santa's lap.
Suddenly, little arms reached out for him, waving frantically in the air. Short legs pushed awkwardly against John, attempting to get away from Daddy and Santa Clause.
"Deeeeee," the kid sobbed, large glistening tears rolling silently down his flushed little cheeks, gigantic puppy dog eyes begging his big brother for help.
Dean grinned broadly. "C'mere kiddo."
The seven-year-old reached out to pull his baby brother from their Dad's muscular arms, his grin turning positively smug.
Physically giving up on his fight, he dropped his precious burden into Dean's waiting arms. He looked dejectedly at Santa Clause, then turned and headed towards the exit.
"Let's go, boys." John muttered. He glanced quickly over his shoulder at Dean.
A happy Sammy was curled up against his big brother's chest, his hazel eyes at half- mast, little thumb stuck securely in his mouth.
"Merry Christmas, Sammy," Dean whispered into the little boy's ear.
And Santa motioned for the next kid in line.
Eight-year-old Sam Winchester tugged the tattered green curtain back from the frosty window and gazed out at the heavy blanket of snow. It was a cold moonless night in Nebraska, and he was all alone, stuck in some run down excuse for a motel, in the middle of freaking nowhere. His older brother had gone out, leaving him to wallow in self-pity, the realization that it was another Christmas Eve, and his father was nowhere to be found.
John Winchester had promised he would be back before Christmas, the same promise he had made for the last three years running; the promise that he never seemed able to keep.
Sam dropped the curtain and flung himself physically back against the ugly gold colored bedspread. His eyes stared blankly up at the water stained ceiling. Lucky for him, he had given up on Christmas a long time ago.
He felt warmth rise to his eyelids, and he blinked, tears rolling slowly down his face to splash onto the threadbare blanket. Alone, his emotions overcame him. He hitched in a ragged breath and he pulled his arms close to wrap across his stomach, curling into a tiny ball as sobs racked his small frame.
Why can't I be like other kids? Like the movies I see on television? Isn't Christmas supposed to be about family, being together, and opening presents?
He heard the key twist in the doorknob and he quickly swiped his shirtsleeve across his damp face. Dad? He rolled on his side and peered eagerly across the dimly lit room as the door swung open, banging against the wall with a loud thud.
Sam blinked back the remnants of tears and watched as Dean stomped into the room, cheeks rosy from the crisp night air.
Dean pushed the door closed and slipped off his ice-covered boots, draping his damp jacket across the back of a chair.
"It's freaking freezing out there."
Sam just gazed at him. Daddy isn't coming home for Christmas.
Dean moved around the softly lit room, fingers reaching over to adjust the heating unit before he turned around to face Sam. He squinted, straining his eyes to look at his little brother's blotchy red face. Was Sammy crying?
"Hey kiddo, what's the matter?" The twelve-year shuffled closer. He had a feeling he already knew the answer to that question, and wasn't even sure why he asked. Dean looked intently at Sam, concern washing over his face.
"Nuth'n." Sam muttered. His left arm falling to cover his damp eyelids, he shuffled deeper into the stiff pillow. He didn't want to talk about it.
"Uh huh," the older brother whispered almost inaudibly.
Dean patted the kid's arm lightly. He stood and scuffled back to his coat in his socked feet. His Dad was such an ass. Reaching into his jacket pocket, he pulled out a small brown paper bag. The older brother walked quickly back to the bed, plopped down on the lumpy mattress and thrust the paper bag out, pushing it against Sammy's chest.
Sam's arm moved sluggishly from his face, revealing damp hazel eyes staring in confusion at Dean.
"What's this?" he queried, fingers fumbling to pick up and open the bag.
"I used the change I had saved up, got it for you at the Seven Eleven – Merry Christmas, Sammy." Dean beamed.
Sam yanked the small packet from the bag, his eyes widening in awe as he stared at it.
"Its hot chocolate, enough for two cups, just mix it with water." Dean grinned. "I know it's not much, but…well, I know you like it."
"Thanks Dean," Sammy said forlornly. He placed the small packet back into the bag and swiped at the tears that had welled in his eyes again. "We can drink it later," he said softly.
Dean watched his little brother return the chocolate to the bag, a melancholy feeling slowly settling to his own chest. Damn John Winchester!
"Dad says Christmas is just another day, Sammy," the older brother forced out the words, hating how hollow and empty they sounded, "just another day."
"Yeah, I know." Sam whispered as he closed his eyes.
"Merry Christmas Sammy."
As Sam drifted off to sleep, Dean's words echoed in his head.
The brown haired preteen's mind was somewhere else. It's Christmas Eve and here I am, tromping around the woods in the freaking rain. He followed behind his Dad and brother, shoulders slumped, resignation written all over his face. His coat was heavy, weighed down by the rain that had soaked through the fabric and was now dampening his skin. Goose bumps ghosted to the surface of his flesh and he gripped at the worn collar of his jacket, tugging it tighter up around his neck. The water-slicked shotgun slid from his prune-like fingers and he whipped his hands forward to grab it before it could hit the ground.
His father paused, head turning slightly to dart a look over his shoulder, his eyes darkening in anger as he glared at his youngest son.
"Jesus, Sammy, would you keep up!" John's voice bellowed as he hastily quickened his pace.
His big brother lugged the shotgun back up towards Sam's shaky fingers, nudging him lightly to follow in their father's footsteps.
Two minutes later, Sam's mind wandered again. Maybe his life would have been different, if his mother hadn't died when he was little; maybe they would havecelebrated, had a real Christmas, he mused to himself. In his daydreaming state, he tripped on a tree root; long limbs tangling as he stumbled forward. He felt a steady hand grab his elbow, jerking him upright and holding him steady until he gangly limbs regained some semblance of control.
"Whoa, watch those big feet kiddo."
Dean's fingers released their vice grip on Sam's arm.
Sam blinked sheepishly and gazed into the whimsical green eyes that stared back at him.
"You okay?" Dean said softly into Sam's ear, patting him gently on the chest and making sure he was standing firmly on the sodden, uneven ground.
"M'okay." The kid's voice quivered from the cold.
"Dean? You guys comin' or what?" John's voice boomed from somewhere up ahead.
"Yes sir." Dean yelled. He frowned slightly, his hand reaching up and tugging at the zipper on Sammy's jacket, making sure the garment was wrapped securely around his brother's shivering form. "Wish I'd bought you some gloves."
Sam's head bobbled up and down. He was wishing that too. The icy air danced around his wet face and he stuffed his free hand in the pocket of his coat. The slick fingers of his other hand clutched the gun tightly against his side. He trudged forward, Dean behind him. They obediently followed their Dad, their shoes squelching and slapping against the muddy earth, as the cold rain continued to fall.
Sam and Dean sat silently in the wintry woods waiting for the Okuri-inu to make an appearance. All they had to do was be patient and it would show up, Dad said so. Once they shot it full of silver rounds, they would salt and burn it. End of problem.
Dean's gaze fell to his little brother, and he immediately noticed that Sammy's teeth were chattering, his body shaking from the cold. The poor kid's freezing to death. He scrunched even closer, hoping some of his body heat would warm up the twelve- year-old.
Sam's trembled in the chilly night air as he watched the sky lightening to a low amber tint, the sun hovering just below the eastern horizon. The shivering youth felt Dean's gaze resting on his face, and then his big brother shuffled even closer against him. No words were spoken, and none were needed. Sammy knew what Dean was doing, what Dean always did; he was taking care of his little brother.
The younger brother sat silently, mind wondering what other kids his age were doing on Christmas morning. Certainly not this, Sam thought bitterly. He would never understand his father, or his blatant disregard for Christmas. No tree, no presents. Nope…no fun gifts for the Winchester boys. His dark thoughts made him sad and he slumped slightly, leaning into Dean, taking comfort in the only thing he knew.
A low rustle in the bushes just to the left caught Dean's eyeand he moved quickly to stand at attention, his finger ghosting against the trigger of his gun. He felt his kid brother leap uncoordinatedly to his feet behind him, then his father, who moved with calm precision to stand next to him.
It was eerily quiet. They squinted and strained to see any movement around them in the eerie predawn mist.
The hairs on the back of Sam's neck stood up. He felt movement behind him and whirled instantly on his heels. He stared dumbfounded into the large red eyes that were glaring back at him.
The moment seemed to blur into slow motion as the creature lunged toward Sam with one giant paw upraised. The young teen stumbled, feeling a hand push him harshly sideways as his feet slipped from beneath him. The air whooshed from his lungs as his bottom hit the ground with a hard thud. He sat stunned, motionless, a dark velvety blackness encroaching on his vision as he struggled to get air into his straining lungs.
A gun blast echoed through the trees, and the creature fell heavily to the ground, pinning Dean beneath it.
"Dean?" John spoke anxiously, dropping to one knee beside the unmoving form of the Okuri-inu. He manhandled it off his eldest and heaved it to one side, his gaze moving quickly over Dean's prone form. His attention was drawn immediately noticing the blood pooling against his son's side. He slowly lifted up the sodden jacket and shirt, and examined the large scratches that decorated Dean's stomach. Not that bad. He's going to be okay.
"You're goanna be fine, son, just fine."
Dean whimpered, his deep green eyes fluttering open to focus on his Dad.
"Where's Sammy?" he murmured softly.
John's eyes narrowed as he searched the immediate area for his youngest.
Sam was sitting on the ground a few yards away; knees bent upward, wobbly hands pressing against the damp grass, his face reddening alarmingly as he gasped for air.
"Sammy?" John yelped, then, moved quickly to his baby's side. He rested his hand on Sam's shoulder blade, looking inquisitively at his youngest. No injuries were apparent, and John's tense shoulders sagged a little from relief.
"Just breathe Sammy; you got the wind knocked out of you. Take slow even breaths…"
"De…Dean?" Sam's voice hitched, his wide eyes looking up at his father.
"Yeah, Dean will be okay."
The tight knot in Sam's chest relaxed minutely and he did as he was told; his strained breathing slowly evening out as he regained control.
"You sit here with Dean; I'll burn the ugly mother." John stated. He tugged his wobbly son upward, and deposited him down next to his brother.
John shifted his eldest to rest against Sam, the younger boy's arms immediately reached out, tugging his brother against him.
Dean glanced at Sammy's pale face, noticing his brother was still attempting to catch his breath. He could hear the large wheezes of air that Sam was gulping in.
"Dad," Dean whined, "I'm fine, I can help."
"Nope, you stay right here - with your brother, and that's an order." John barked out.
Dean rolled his eyes and grimaced.
The brothers watched John drag the dead carcass twenty feet away, and douse it with gasoline. A match sizzled in the silence before flames engulfed the creature.
"You okay?" Sam whispered against Dean's ear.
"Yeah, you?" Dean asked, as he leaned his head slightly to the side to stare at Sam's icy face. The kid looks beat and frozen solid.
"I'm fine, Th…thanks for pushing me out of the way." Sam muttered, almost sadly. It's Christmas morning, and here I sit, out in the cold…holding my injured brother. God, I hate this.
Dean moved in closer, giving his sibling some warmth.
"We're so not cuddling Sammy - got it?" Dean said with conviction.
They sat in complete silence, snuggled against one another, watching as the bright flames crawled into the sky.
"Merry Christmas Sammy," Dean said unexpectedly. "I'm sure Dad forgot."
The twelve year old closed his eyes, hastily blinking back the wayward tears. So what? Christmas is just another day in our screwed up little family.
They tiredly watched the flames grow higher.
"Let's get that one, that one - right there." The excited voice squealed into Sam's ear.
The blond haired, blue-eyed girl looked happily at the tall boy she was with, pointing eagerly at the blue spruce tree.
"Why, that one?" Sam asked curiously.
"Cause' it's perfect, it reminds me of the Christmas tree my parents always get." The girl's hands clapped excitedly.
Sam shrugged his shoulders unevenly and gave Jess a bashful smile. Since he had never had an actual family Christmas tree, he didn't have a clue what she was talking about.
By the time they got back to Jessica's apartment, Sam was exhausted, having drug the seven foot tree some six blocks. No wonder they never had a real tree when he was a kid. He sighed tiredly, and dropped against the tattered couch.
"Are we sure that's where we want it?" Jess asked inquisitively, tilting her head at a slight angle and staring at the large tree.
Sam shrugged. How the hell would I know? He watched silently as Jess pulled plastic bags full of Christmas ornaments from the closet, dumping them to the floor and fingering the shiny objects.
"Come on Sam; help me put the lights on." Jess dangled a box of multicolored lights in front of Sam's reluctant face.
The younger Winchester chewed halfheartedly on his lower lip, and reached his hand over to grasp at the box. Okay, I can do this. He turned the package over, intently reading the directions.
Jessica's face contorted into a funny look and then she rolled her eyes.
"You are so funny," she giggled, "reading the directions, like you don't know how to put lights on a Christmas tree."
Sam abruptly looked up from the box, cheeks flushing a bright red. "Yeah, like I don't know how." He laughed uncomfortably beneath the scrutinizing gaze. He attempted to cover his uncertainty, and quickly tore open the package, yanking out the colored lights.
Jessica watched her boyfriend of two months fumbling clumsily with the lights and a small frown rose to her lips. How could this be? Her new boyfriend had never had a Christmas tree, and decorations?
Sam felt suddenly stupid. He dropped his head and stared at the matted carpet, the strand of lights dangling limply in his hands. He knew Jessica was on to him. How could he impress the girl, if he didn't even know how to decorate a damn Christmas tree.
An awkward silence fell between them.
Jess spoke up quietly "You know it works better when two people do the lights."
Sam's head rose, bright hazel eyes peeking through long bangs staring at her with doubt.
Jessica's heart melted.
Sam sighed uncomfortably, lights still dangling in his hands.
Jessica reached gently over and brushed his large hand, her slender fingers tugging at the lights.
Sam easily relinquished his hold on them and gazed at her in confusion.
"You hold that end and I'll help you put them on the tree," the young girl said wistfully.
Sam bobbed his head in a slight yes motion, looking eagerly at Jess.
She smiled warmly.
It took a mere thirty minutes to decorate the Christmas tree, Jessica encouraging Sam to hang ornaments against the fragile limbs. She watched quietly as an excited expression decorated her new boyfriends face. It was obvious to her that Sam Winchester had never had a Christmas tree.
"You know, its okay - if you ever want to talk, you know….about your family." Jessica said, blue eyes staring comfortingly at Sam.
Moisture welled against Sam's lids and he blinked it quickly back. A thoughtful look settled on his features as he stared at the Christmas tree. He really missed his brother.
"Merry Christmas Sam," Jess whispered. Her slender arms drew him closer as silent tears rolled down his face.
Santa's Village was rather evil looking, a run down group of buildings, probably built back in the 1950's, made to lure kids in with promises of lollipops and candy canes. The two hunters looked at each other, then paid the ten dollars a piece and moved slowly through the ratty looking gate. They were here to find an Anti-Clause, the creature that had killed several people by dragging them up the chimney of their own homes, so uncharacteristic of Santa.
Sam looked around disgusted. One real reindeer stood forlornly in what looked to be a petting zoo. Several employees walked around dressed in elf costumes, reindeer suits, and basically looking pretty unhappy. The Santa Clause looked like a bum just coming off of an all night bender. His voice was grouchy and sluggish as he manhandled the children in the line. The entire set up gave Sam the creeps. He vaguely remembered going to see Santa once, when he was a kid, and that hadn't turned out well. He shuddered slightly at the memory. This place was certainly not worth the ten dollars they were charging the parents. He glanced uncomfortably over at his grinning older brother.
"Speaking of Christmas, we should have one this year." Dean said enthusiastically.
Sam stopped walking, eyes growing wide in disbelieve. "Have what?"
"A Christmas," Dean said eagerly.
"No thanks," Sam whispered. You got to be kidding me.
"Oh come on, we'll get a tree and everything, do it up right."
The brother's sat silently in the Impala, Sam staring blankly out at the overly decorated trailer, Dean dozing lightly against the driver's window. It had been a long day of researching and checking Santa's Village for anything unusual. The only thing that had turned up was the nasty smelling Santa Clause that seemed a little too interested in touching the little kids. So, here they sat, watching, and waiting for this so called Santa to do something evil.
"What time is it?" Dean's voice rose above the silence.
Sam turned slightly, looking at his sleepy brother, "Same as the last time you asked," he advised grumpily.
Dean pushed to sit up straighter, eyes quizzically looking at his little brother.
"Hey Sam," he asked.
"Huh?" Sam said, eyes still watching the trailer.
"Why are you the boy who hates Christmas?"