Christmas Present, Christmases Past

December 23, 2008

"You're sure there's not a case down south? 'Cause there's an awful lot of F'd up crap in Florida. There's got to be somethin' worth hunting." Dean shot a sideways glance at his brother, flashing lucky number seven in his repertoire of expressive smiles, the pleading, hopeful one where his left eyebrow joins in, arching and twisting at an odd angle. His voice took on that playful tone that only appeared when he was totally relaxed. "You really couldn't find a single hinky thing?"

"Sorry again, Hef."

Sighing, Dean turned back to the task at hand, steering the Impala down the snow-packed road as they drove through the black of night, white blanketing the surrounding countryside as flurries kept the windshield wipers on a steady rhythm.

Sam couldn't help the smile that spread across his face, highly amused by his brother's complaints and pleased that Dean was acting more and more like himself, a welcome respite. This was familiar territory. Dean never did take to the cold… it reminded him too much of camping and the elements. One too many cases involving frostbite had big brother partial to the heat.., not that it had anything to do with how the ladies dressed, short-shorts and midriff T's verses down overcoats and mukluks. Sam stared out the side window for a moment, contemplating the snowdrifts flying by and enjoying the peaceful winter scene before turning back and toying with his brother. "Oh, I'm sure there are one or two bikini models who might be possessed," he offered up with a sly grin before he shifted and his tone changed to mock-serious, "But Bobby needs us."

"I dunno… seems pretty simple. This isn't like Bobby."

Sam arched his brows quizzically. "What? Asking for help?"

"No, I'm not saying that… it's just, this job… seems pretty bush-league."

"Dean, we owe him."

Dean immediately bristled, honor and duty the focus of his life. "Hey, I'm not saying we don't go… It's just… it's cold in South Dakota." He paused and his face comically expressed his classic I-don't-wanna-but-all-right-if-you-insist grimace, complete with crinkled brows pressed low over soulful eyes and the standard off-center quirk of his full lips. "That's all I'm saying."

"Bundle up then. It is December, Dean… half the country is snowbound."

"Yeah, which leaves half that ain't," he whined. Dean leaned back in his seat, his foot pressing down harder on the accelerator as he continued to mutter under his breath, "Don't know why he didn't pick a warmer spot to put his house."

---

If it weren't for Dean's driving skills they never would have made it to Bobby's. A blizzard closed several of the smaller roads and they had to navigate around the closures, passing several cars off to the side of the road either by choice or the fact that their drivers were not as accomplished as Dean and they'd spun out under the treacherous conditions. Foul weather didn't bother the older Winchester as long as he was warm and snug inside his car, driving coming as second-nature even under less than ideal circumstances. Road conditions never concerned him aside from being pleased the road crews were still plowing the roads and not salting them. Nothing made him testier than worrying about salt being thrown up on the undercarriage of his girl.

When they got close to Bobby's drive, Sam gave him a call on his cell phone and he met them with a tractor to plow a path to the garage where Dean could safely park his baby.

The long-time friends were reunited standing in the open doors of the garage watching the snow white-out the countryside, visibility mere yards. Sam had his hands buried in the pockets of his jacket and Dean was rubbing his together trying to get warm, his leather coat not providing anywhere near the protection he'd need in these conditions. In spite of the cold, Bobby's voice was warm and upbeat. "Glad you boys made it. I was beginning to worry the storm would beat you."

Through clattering teeth Dean answered, "Yeah, well we almost didn't. Damn speedometer was so cold it went wonky on us."

Bobby grinned at that comment, having experienced more than a few wild fluctuations of the needle when the temperatures got down below freezing. "Yeah, that happens on the older cars, should be fine once the temp gets back up."

Dean stared past Bobby out at the wind whipping the snow around in circles, barely hearing his words. "It better," he distractedly muttered as he turned back to Bobby, concern for the car only ever surpassed by concern for his brother.

"Too much longer and even Dean couldn't have made it," Sam added, offering his brother a nod.

Dean didn't respond, his body too busy shaking from the extreme cold, crossing his arms in front of his chest as he shivered and tried to ward off pneumonia or that dreaded frostbite. "So, Bobby, how the hell we supposed to work a case in this storm?" he asked as his breath hung in a puff of frozen air.

Bobby shrugged his shoulders non-committally and motioned towards the house. "Let's get inside. We can talk there."

It didn't take long for the whiskey to come out and they generously added it to the hot coffee Bobby had brewed and waiting. Sitting in the kitchen at a well-worn wooden table they settled in for the night; the wind howling outside, good friends talking and relaxing, and it actually felt comfy, just like home. The fireplace was crackling in the library and Bobby had the good sense to have the furnace in the cellar cranked up to high. It was downright toasty, which pleased Dean to no end… even if there was a distinct lack of female companionship aside from a poster of Bo in the panic room.

Sam leaned back in his chair, joking with Bobby and totally at ease, unconcerned about the potential job and how they would accomplish it in this storm. He acted like he was on a freaking vacation, which to Dean's mind made no sense at all; a vacation was the beach and the views that accompanied warm weather, not South Dakota in the middle of the perfect ice storm… not that he'd ever really had such a vacation, but a man can dream. In their line of work there always seemed to be something somewhere asking to be killed so vacations never really fit in with their busy schedules.

As time wore on, Dean seemed to be the only one worried about the case, continuing to push while the others seemed content to simply relax. "So, Bobby… this case..."

"Oh, that… seems I jumped the gun."

Dean blinked, his eyes widening. "You… jumped the gun? What the hell does that mean?"

"Turns out it was just the flu."

"Just the flu?" Dean stammered, his face displaying all his dismay and quite a bit of shock. "We drove all this way 'cause of the flu?"

Bobby squinted under the brim of his dirty trucker cap as his lips offered a slight grimace, almost an apology. "Well, nasty business… white as a ghost and then all that projectile vomiting. An easy mistake to make."

Dean looked almost speechless, which of course, he never was. "An easy mistake? Are you kidding me? I'd say that's a rookie move, Bobby! What the hell's goin' on here?"

Dean again posed the question and again no one stepped forward to answer it. It simply hung in the air until if got tired of the wait and dropped into oblivion.

Sam jumped into the conversation again, deftly diverting focus because weather patterns were an important topic of discussion for hunters. "So, Bobby… when's this storm supposed to break?"

"Should ease up a bit by morning. Since you boys are already here, you can help me with some chores."

Dean quirked his brow and settled back in his chair, savoring the whiskey-laced coffee as he accepted their current circumstance. They were already here… and he supposed they could use a break. "Yeah, sure, Bobby."

---

Bobby had bacon sizzling and eggs ready to fry when the boys finally rose, the smells greeting them along with the rumbling of Dean's stomach. Sam playfully nudged his brother's foot as he lay stretched out on the floor, having lost the couch in a coin toss. "Rise and shine, sweetheart."

"You're the sweetheart," Dean countered as he wiped the sleep from his eyes and stretched, straightening out the kinks in his back from the hard floor.

Padding into the kitchen in stocking feet, Dean headed straight for the coffee, pouring himself a cup and plopping down in a chair at the table. Mismatched plates were already set out for them while an assortment of muffins and Danish were arranged on a chipped platter at the center of the table. Sam grabbed a glass out of the cupboard by the sink and opened the refrigerator, his face illuminated in the light as it spilled out, a huge grin on his face like a kid who'd just discovered the bestest toy shop in the whole, wide world. "You want milk or OJ?" he asked as he perused the offerings.

"Coffee, dude," Dean replied with disdain, the mug already halfway to his lips, the fumes waking him further as he inhaled his sustenance.

Sam filled his glass with cold milk and returned to the table to sit opposite his brother. "You need to eat healthier," he informed him with a smile as he raised up the glass in his hand as a salute. He almost seemed to be worshipping the cool liquid before he brought it to his lips and swallowed down half the glass on the first gulp. "Ah…" he sighed with overzealous contentment.

Dean eyes twisted as they narrowed; his look one of astonishment. "What's up with you? You act like you've never had a glass of milk before."

"Just enjoying it is all."

"Yeah?" he sneered in response. "Don't be so creepy about it or I'll think you're possessed." He then smiled, nice and pleasant like. "I'd hate to have to blast your ass full of rock salt before I've had my first cup."

Sam offered his goofiest grin, another reason for Dean to think he might be possessed. "What, Dean, you don't like milk?"

"Not in my coffee and certainly not without it," he replied with an annoying smirk.

Bobby had been silently observing his guests as they settled into their morning routine. Once Dean had a few gulps of coffee it appeared safe to approach. "So, boys… how d'you take your eggs? Over easy?"

---

Dean could not believe he was trudging through snow up past his knees… if it got any higher he was going to have some serious issues; there were certain parts of his anatomy he didn't even want to consider in the same breath as frostbite. His jeans were already soaked and he was losing feeling in his lower extremities. Bobby had loaned them heavy snow gloves and the most ridiculous fur-trimmed hats with stupid flaps over their ears. He'd even given Sam a red plaid coat that was warmer than anything he owned. Dean refused the green plaid on principle; three layers of his own jackets were warm enough, thank-you-very-much. The hats were practical; he knew you lost most of your body heat through your head. He may have hated the fur-lined monstrosities, but they were a necessary evil, one that on any other day, a day less frigid, he'd be happy to blast into oblivion.

Sam looked downright ridiculous… like a skinny, too-tall mountain man looking for work on one of those Grizzly Adams movies. Dean refused to consider what he looked like. All he could say was his ears were warm, and considering the alternative, he could manage a little fashion faux pas… not that he was ever that fashion-minded. He simply hated looking like a hick… thankfully no ladies were present, and he had yet to hear banjos. Thank god!

Bobby led their little processional out into the back-country behind his house where the trees were lush and covered with a generous heaping of snow bowing their branches. The weather had thankfully eased and if Dean were the type to appreciate nature in all her glory, this would be a beautiful morning. Sam seemed to have no issues acknowledging the spender of nature on this frigid morning, but then he always was more of a nature boy.

"Dean, do you smell that clean air?" Sam gushed, eyes wide with the biggest, brightest smile lighting up his face; all worry and stress from their jobs and his dark destiny miraculously wiped from his thoughts.

Dean scowled at him. "If it's so clean, then what the hell you smelling?"

"Dude, chill out."

Dean made a broad wave of his arms indicating they were surrounded by freezing snow. "Sammy, I'd say I'm pretty chilled." He glanced up ahead at Bobby's back and the trail he'd left and yelled out, "Bobby, how much further?"

Bobby didn't answer at first, seemingly distracted; used to their bantering and for the most part, used to ignoring it. He stopped abruptly and took in the sight of an eight foot Scotch Pine. As the brothers caught up to him he turned and asked, "So, what do you think, boys? Think she'll do?"

Dean did a classic double take with his mouth dropping open while Sam rushed up to circle the intended tree, looking all of ten years old. "Yeah, Bobby… she's a beaut!"

"Whoa, whoa, whoa… what's goin' on here?" Dean questioned as he stood in awe of the rapture both Bobby and Sam held for a tree… a goddamn tree! "Bobby, what are we doing out here?" he demanded as he looked down at the axe in his hand and somehow knew the answer. Being the smart man that he was, he didn't miss a beat. "You brought us out here to chop down a tree?" he incredulously asked.

Bobby's eyes glimmered with glee, his voice still rough and raw, but somehow the words came out sweet and tender. "Not a tree, you idgit, a Christmas tree."

---

It's harder work than it seems, cutting down a tree in the woods and then dragging it half a mile through the snow. Dean wondered what was wrong with the dozens of trees they'd passed that were closer to the house. He'd seen a four-footer that looked mighty fine.

The exertion only served to burn up that huge breakfast Bobby had cooked up and make Dean look forward to lunch. He should have realized the feast Bobby provided was in effect his last meal, sent off in the wild to risk life and limb to frostbite and whatever nefarious evil was out and about waiting for the hapless hunters preoccupied with a damn tree instead of out hunting down real evil.

Sam seemed to have all the energy in the world, excitedly taking his turn at hauling the Christmas tree and yammering away the entire time. Seeing how happy he was brought a certain relief to Dean's woes; it was, after all, his job to insure Sam's happiness and if chopping down a tree in the woods and dragging its ass back to Bobby's made Sammy happy, well, he could hang with that.

It might be considered odd to some, but Dean hadn't even realized it was Christmas Eve. He'd kinda had a lot on his mind lately, what with coming back from Hell and dealing with those annoying angels and the whole apocalypse thing, and well… it just hadn't come up. Last year they were on that Evil Santa case which made the season more obvious and well, last year, he'd been concerned about a lot of things… some firsts, like his trifecta with the doublemint twins and then some lasts… like his last Christmas.

Sam had been reluctant to celebrate and it was understandable, he was facing the prospect of losing his big brother and what the next Christmas would be like without him, but in the end he cast his own concerns aside like a good brother and they did it up right. It turned out to be the perfect Christmas, just Sammy and him, celebrating together. He couldn't ask for a better memory… and he sure as hell needed it, all things considered.

Dean opened his mouth and sucked in a deep breath, the air did feel fresh and clean, downright invigorating. The light was reflecting off the freshly fallen snow and it was pretty, no denying that. But the most beautiful sight was Sam's face, open and happy and carefree. Dean silently wished he could feel so blissed out, that he could forget his time in Hell and actually enjoy this Christmas with Sam. He almost had forgotten about… well, almost. The cold weather helped… a stark contrast to his time down under.

It was hard. He wanted to bury his thoughts and take a real break, suddenly wanting to make this holiday special for his brother just like Sammy had done for him last year. Each it seems hadn't felt like celebrating at the time, but for their brother they were willing to bury their own hurts and make it happen.

He could do this… for Sammy.

With his mind made up, he actually joined in the frivolity and jokes as they trudged back to Bobby's house, taking turns dragging the downed tree and leaving their mark on the landscape.

---

They finally got the tree into the house and Bobby took control, barking orders like a drill sergeant commanding a crucial mission. Neither brother minded, 'cause while Bobby could appear gruff at times, his eyes sparkled with love and they knew it, felt it, time and again. Being an accomplished mastermind used to plotting out intricate hunts, he'd planned out the entire operation; that fact becoming abundantly clear as all the pieces of Christmas fell into place. He had a tree stand waiting and he showed them how to trim out the lower branches and set it in the base, positioning it just so next to the fireplace to complete their Christmas scene. Not exactly Norman Rockwell, but perfect for their purposes.

The atmosphere changed then as Bobby seemed a little uneasy, hesitating briefly before pulling a huge box out from under the stairwell, pausing for a second as his eyes teared-up before he drew in a deep breath and removed the lid. With slightly trembling hands he lifted out a delicate tree topper wrapped in tissue paper. Hands rough and calloused and used to manly chores carefully unwrapped it, revealing an old-style porcelain angel, all in white with glittery gold wings; nothing at all like the angels they'd now come to know.

The brothers both sensed the momentous occasion and both were rendered speechless, silently watching as Bobby dug further into the box, pulling out tinsel and glass beads, lights and boxes of ornaments soon following. Once all the trimmings were laid out before them, awaiting their true purpose, Sam was the one to brave the growing tension and break the silence. "Bobby, how long since you've put up a tree?" he tenderly asked, wide eyes softened by love that conveyed all his support.

Bobby looked up, tears glistening in heart-worn eyes, his voice barely above a whisper, a slight crack to it, "Not since my wife died."

---

Dean had to admit, they were not very accomplished at decorating, but a man can't excel at everything. The tinsel seemed to glob more in places and somehow all the green lights clustered on the top right side while all the blue dominated the center with the red and yellow mostly filling in the empty spots aside from one rather large area at the bottom that was like a black hole. They ran out of ornaments before they finished and rather than spend the time to redistribute them they simply turned the tree so the sparse side was against the wall, which coincidentally also alleviated the problem of the black hole. All in all, for their first major effort in forever, it didn't look half bad. It was a Christmas tree, a real symbol that Christmas was gonna happen… And it was perfect aside from the dearth of presents beneath, but they all knew Christmas wasn't about presents.

Christmas was about family.

"Hey, Sammy… where's the eggnog?" Dean teased, his brows arching as he remembered the kick of the last batch.

Sam grinned, his own memories stirring and he looked to Bobby. "Bobby, you forget something?"

Without missing a beat, Bobby joined in, not realizing the significance, just knowing that no Christmas celebration would be complete without the eggnog. He'd remembered that much. "Did you look in the fridge?" he playfully chastised.

Sam sprung to his feet, almost doing a waltz with Bobby as he maneuvered past him into the kitchen. They heard the door of the refrigerator clank open and an excited whoop soon followed. "Bobby, you season it yet?" he yelled from beyond the doorway.

"Nope. Bottle's on the counter."

Dean shifted in the overstuffed easy chair he'd laid claim to after the strenuous activity of decorating the tree. He was gazing at the lit tree, the lights reflecting across his face in random patterns. He turned to Bobby with a contented grin, an ease finally reaching his tense shoulders, a peace laying claim at least for one night. "Sam has a knack for eggnog. It'll knock your socks off," he joked as a resplendent smile graced his full lips and his dimples came out in all their glory.

Bobby sighed with a wistful wink, lamenting his lack of female companionship. "Been awhile since my socks came off."

Dean offered a conciliatory grin and they paused to enjoy each other's company, taking a moment to simply be… no evil to kill, no innocents to save, and no apocalypse to avert. At least not today.

Sam soon returned with three mugs of eggnog balanced within his massive hands. Giving one to each they raised them in a toast. "To Christmas," Sam declared.

"To a day off," Dean added with a wink and a teasing smirk.

Bobby took a moment, his eyes shifting as a smile eased across his face. He raised up his mug in a salute to his guests. "To family."

---

With no presents to open Bobby and the brothers simply congregated in the library, seated around their Christmas tree and the stories began. The tales started with details of death-defying hunts where impossible odds were conquered by their daring and skills, and then gradually, as the eggnog flowed, mutated into memories of John… Dad.

Dean was the most animated with the most stories to tell as his eyes lit up with passion and love and pride in his dad and what he'd accomplished through his hunts; the sum of his life meaning something, not just to his sons, but to the world. All the faces of those they'd saved bolstered his spirits as he considered that each one would be celebrating Christmas because of them, because they were there to save them and give them countless more years of life. It felt good to remember the end results of their work, the good they accomplished.

Sam clamored after all the information provided, hunts he'd missed out on as a child and later, when he'd been off at school; each story bringing him closer to his family and helping him see the value of all their sacrifices… making it easier to accept the burdens still being imposed. Seeing that passion back in his brother's eyes as he recounted his many wondrous exploits gladdened his heart, giving him back the hope that Dean could move past the horrors of Hell, that the demands of his life wouldn't break him; he'd already overcome so much, fought so hard in too many battles to let anything stop him now.

To even out the epic battles there were a few comical mishaps and some seriously F'd up crap they'd gotten themselves into, but somehow the Winchesters always made it out and their traumas at the time turned into fodder for the best stories. Bobby added in some of his own tales, a few hunts with John that neither boy was previously privy to, and they listened intently, each hunt another piece in the puzzle that was John Winchester.

As the memories grew softer, the talk shifted from hunts to what the boys had done while Dad had been out on the road, all the motel room stays where it was just the two of them. Sam was the first to boldly ask, "So, Dean, what was the best Christmas you ever had?" He almost wanted to pull the words back after he said them, panic hitting that maybe there weren't any good Christmases, maybe his memories of how messed up their childhoods were precluded any "best of" moments. Maybe Dean's hopeful reflections last Christmas were simply a desperate need for a good memory where none existed, his "last wish" mentality forcing the issue.

Dean paused, seemed to seriously be thinking it through, almost like he had to weigh several to come up with the absolute best. He smiled, warm and tender, as he started to talk. "You mean as a kid? 'Cause overall, I'd have to say last year was the best."

Sam smiled, thankful he'd relented and allowed that celebration… majorly relieved he'd been wrong, that it wasn't his last Christmas with Dean. "Wow, give a guy some motor oil and jerky and watch him smile," he teased, his eyes connecting with Dean's and they both knew it was so much more. He flipped back his too-long bangs and settled back in his seat for another of his brother's stories. "Yeah, Dean… as a kid. How old were you and what made it the best?"

Leaning forward in his seat, Dean rubbed his hands together and placed them on his knees, his face open and joyous. "I was eight," nodding toward Sam, "You were four. Dad was off on a hunt and wasn't gonna make it back in time, but I was determined to give you Christmas. I got a reject tree off the lot after they closed down Christmas Eve, dragged it back to that crap motel we were staying in and decorated it with some stuff I'd picked up at the thrift store. Shiny stuff and bright lights." He laughed as the memories drifted over him, his eyes luminous and lost in total bliss. "You were so young, you hadn't really had a real Christmas before, didn't know what it was for sure, but you loved the lights and I wrapped up a few things I'd gathered together and you just tore through the paper." He paused for a moment, the memories sweeping him up in the good times. His smile got even brighter, more joyous, as he continued, "I swear, you liked this big empty box the best, practically climbed inside… said you were a dog and it was your dog house."

Sam smiled, no memories of the event except through Dean's eyes and heartfelt words, but the joy was infectious; Dean's pleasure washing over him and making him break out in this huge, freaking grin. He could picture his brother at that age, a huge contented smile on his face and he'd never before realized it was all because of what he could do for his kid brother, Dean's joy coming from being the big brother.

Bobby broke up the tender moment by adding an amusing comment. "I always did liken him to a big ol' puppy. And Dean, you were always complaining about those puppy-dog eyes of his."

"Yeah," Dean laughed, caught up in the moment. "He started using them that night and he's never quit."

The fireplace crackled and the warm feelings spread out, each of them lost in their own tender thoughts, sharing in the memories and simply relaxing, enjoying the camaraderie and the quiet time to regroup. Whatever evil existed out in the real world needing to be vanquished could just wait; they had better things to occupy their time.

"So, Sam, how about you? You have a best Christmas?" Bobby inquired, his eyes slightly hesitant, probably hoping the younger Winchester could come up with something from his screwed up youth; Sam always did find it harder to accept the way he was raised.

Sam shifted, slightly apprehensive, his dimples flashing as he started to speak. "Actually, it was one of my worst Christmases that turned out to be my best."

Arching his brows, Dean followed his brother with concerned eyes, finally voicing what he and Bobby were both thinking, "So how could your worst be your best?"

Sam offered up a nervous smile, his voice steady as he delved into the past and told his tale. "You and dad were on a hunt, which y'know… kinda pissed me off. I was twelve and you were all excited that Dad was taking you along and I was mad that you'd rather be with him on a hunt than celebrating Christmas with me."

Dean leaned forward, his voice dark and deep, but overflowing with concern, "I remember that hunt. It was a tough one, Sammy… it's not like I didn't want to be with you, but Dad needed me."

Sam chuckled at how even after all these years, Dean seemed ready to apologize, or at least explain. "Dean, it's okay. I mean, I understand now, it's just that back then I still hated the idea of hunting and I didn't want you out there. I…" he stumbled over the words, his eyes darting down to the floor before he gave a what-the-hell shirk of his shoulders and just said it, locking eyes with his brother, "I was worried you'd get hurt."

Before he could continue, Dean broke in. "Awww, that's sweet, Sammy." His sly grin insisted on making a joke of the confessional, but his eyes revealed how touched he was, not that he would ever admit to it… at least not in this lifetime!

If he'd been close enough Sam would have smacked him with a backhand across the chest; as it was, he was left with only a verbal response, "Shut up…"

Both brothers smiled, relaxed enough to tease each other even if they both knew the truth, the full depth of their love and commitment. It might be Christmas, but they were still guys and Dean didn't allow chick-flick moments unless one or the other were actually dying… it was just the way of the Winchester men. They both broke the rules on occasion, when they most needed it, but right now they were simply enjoying the happy moments, not delving into the harder emotional ones that would certainly rear up yet again as they always did.

Bobby smiled with them, enjoying the show before him, better than any Christmas special on the boob tube. "So, now that we got all the tender crap outta the way, go on, Sam. We got the bad, what turned it around?"

"Well, Dad and Dean got back early that Christmas Eve. I guess the job turned out easier than they'd thought."

In the interest of maintaining the facts, Dean interrupted, "It was a helluva tough job, it's just Dad had me and I was pretty awesome that night… took out that critter with one deadly shot." Dean then grinned suggestively, his tongue sweeping out to moisten his full lips, adding with a smirk, "I had better plans for the night than traipsing around the forest in the snow getting frostbite."

Sam picked up the story again. "Right… you got back and announced you had a hot date with Mindi Stephens, head cheerleader and…"

Dean grabbed the hand-off as he broke in with a wicked grin, "The hottest girl in school, not to mention a senior." His dimples were in full force as he offered a satisfied wink to Bobby.

With a puzzled look, Bobby continued to probe, "I'm still not seeing what made it the best, Sam. You wanted your family there and they weren't, and then they were, but Dean cut out… so what makes it so memorable?"

Dean quirked his brow and looked intently at his brother. "Yeah, why would me making out with the hottest girl in school make for a great Christmas for you?"

"You don't remember?"

Dean furrowed his brows and squinted, the gears in his mind turning before he finally shrugged his shoulders and raised his brows in defeat, offering a quirk of his head. "Guess not."

"You didn't go, Dean. You stayed and celebrated Christmas with me."

Dean shifted nervously, his face pausing for a second while the memories filtered back in. "Well, yeah… but I just spent some time with you until you went to bed… Remember, we played a game or something…" He snapped his fingers as the memory hit, another huge grin filling out his face. "Yahtzee, wasn't it? Yeah, 'course I remember… but it wasn't a big deal, Sammy."

With sincerity plastered across his face, his eyes filled with moisture, Sam spoke, "Yeah, Dean, it was. The thing is, you chose me over Mindi Stephens. That's when I knew you'd really do anything for me."

"You're my bro," Dean replied matter-of-factly, his eyes serious, no hint of humor or ridicule, no playfulness to hide his feelings. "No contest, Sammy." He let that message fully sink in before a new smile spread across his face as more memories came forth, that night obviously providing a good time. "Besides…" He gave his brother a wink. "I still met up with Mindi… I just waited until you hit the sack."

Sam grinned, actually relieved at this news; glad he didn't know at the time, but genuinely happy big brother didn't sacrifice it all for him. If it ever came to it, and lord knows it had, he knew Dean would give up anything for him, even his life and eternal soul. Somehow it was comforting after all these years to know he hadn't missed out on the charms of Mindi Stephens after all. It seems every once in a while Dean Winchester actually came out on top…

Now that their childhood Christmases were settled, there was only one more left to rate. "So, Sam, now that you're full grown, Dean said last Christmas was his best, what's yours?" Bobby inquired.

"Well, I'm twenty-five years old and this, right now… This is the best Christmas ever."

"Better than last year, bro? "Cause that was damn near perfect," Dean asked, a sincere smile spreading across his face while his eyes almost glittered, the lights of the tree reflecting off of them and making them sparkle more than ever before.

"Yeah, Dean. Last year was great, but this year…" Sam took a breath, a huge grin filling out his face, framed by deep dimples and expressive eyes, overflowing with emotion. "I never thought I'd have another Christmas with you, y'know? And it's just the first of many. Being here, with you… and Bobby… It's good… it's real good."

Dean contentedly smiled. "Yeah."

Sam eased up out of his seat, a wicked grin on his face as he excused himself and went to the stairwell where Bobby had pulled out the Christmas trimmings. He returned with his hands behind his back, the outline of wrapping paper in a circle extending beyond his broad shoulders revealing the present he held there. He walked directly in front of Dean and pulled the miss-shaped object around and presented it to his brother.

With a startled look and a hesitant gasp, Dean took the offered gift, his eyes questioning. "What's this? When you'd have time to…?"

"Dean..," Sam exclaimed with a tinge of exasperation, once more teasing his brother as only brothers can do, "Bobby and I planned this whole gig. You honestly bought that bogus hunt?" He glanced at Bobby and they exchanged conspiratorial looks. He turned and smiled at his brother, totally pleased with their deception. "I picked it up before we left."

Dean stammered for a second, "Yeah, well… I just thought Bobby'd finally lost it. I didn't realize you were so devious, little brother." He looked somewhat embarrassed, still mumbling, "I didn't exactly shop..."

"Dean, you're here… alive. That's present enough."

Bobby raised up his mug of eggnog. "I'll second that." Nodding toward the wrapped present he prodded, "Go ahead, let 'er rip."

Tearing the paper off like he was eight again, Dean quickly uncovered the gift, a beer can Christmas wreath, just like the one Dad had stolen off that liquor store so many years before. "This is awesome, Sammy. Thanks." He balanced the wreath on his knee as he admired it, his eyes shining from the pleasure it brought and all the memories, good memories of happy times. He looked up at his brother still towering over him and presented him his best smile. "So, where'd you get it?'

"Passed a liquor store and made the guy an offer he couldn't refuse."

"Aw, you actually bought it?" Dean quizzed, his brows arching to punctuate his question.

Sam shifted nervously, before admitting his transgression. "Not exactly…" He paused before he simply let it out, "I swiped it. The jerk tried to rip me off with his ridiculous demands so I went back after he closed up, took it and left a twenty under the door."

Dean couldn't control the awe and pride that swept across his face. "Sammy… Sammy.., had to leave him a twenty… still fighting that honesty gene, huh?" He nodded toward Bobby. "Sammy's definitely the blonde chick of the family."

Sam chuckled himself at how no matter how he tried to live up to Dad's expectations, somehow he always ended up as a choir boy. Then he laughed at the absurdity of that statement considering it was he the angels were most apt to threaten for travelling down that dark road. Not wanting to dwell on any negativity this Christmas he shelved his thoughts of the angels and their smityness and returned his focus to Dean and their family celebration. "Now that you got it, where you gonna hang it?" Sam questioned.

Bobby piped up, his raspy voice holding an undefined edge to it, "Well, normally you put it on the front door of your home."

Dean started to laugh, an image in his head amusing him while the others looked on in confusion. "Sorry, but y'know how some put ribbons or things on the front of their car? Just had a flash of that, but this is kinda big to hang off the hood." Looking toward Sam he added, "Don't guess we have a front door to hang it on."

Bobby arched his brow. "You don't?" he gruffly asked.

Sam and Dean both turned to Bobby, the thought filtering through their minds at the same instant as Bobby walked over to Dean and held out his hands. Dean smiled as he handed over the wreath and with Sam beside him rose to follow Bobby to the front door of his home… their home.

When the wreath had been hung and adjusted to just the right angle, Dean broke the silent admiration for their work. "Can we get the hell back inside, 'cause I'm freezing my ass off here."

They hustled back to the library, their eggnog waiting as the fire roared in the fireplace. The brothers stood shoulder to shoulder across from Bobby who raised up his mug and proclaimed, "Merry Christmas, boys."

With a quirk of his lips and a glimmer in his eyes, Dean nodded to his brother; Sam responded with his own huge grin, his dimples deep pits in his cheeks as they simultaneously responded, "Merry Christmas, Bobby."

The End

bjxmas

December 2008

All standard disclaimers apply.

Reviews or comments would make a nice Christmas present... What can I say, I'm cheap and easy... to buy for. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Take care, B.J.