So here is the final part of The Twelve Saves of Christmas. We really hope you have enjoyed it and will maybe come back to join us on the follow on story. It doesn't have a title yet and will be a few weeks but we expect Evie and Charles will be making a return appearance.
Thanks to everyone who has read, and particularly those who reviewed. And to our wonderful beta, Kirsty. Many thanks. (By the way this chapter is un-beta'd as I was too tardy in writing it to get it to Kirsty in time so the mistakes are all our fault!)
Thanks again also to Cal for the lovely banner and to Kripke for giving us his boys.
The Twelve Saves of Christmas
4.15pm Christmas Day
Evie's home was much as Dean had expected it to be, orderly and modern but softened by little personal touches that identified it as hers. He took in the photos of family and friends that broke the starkness of the cream walls and noted that a number of them were of a younger Evie and a laughing man he knew now as James.
There was a tranquillity about that house, a sense of calm, that seeped into his bones soothing him and he found himself feeling comfortable in the atmosphere. A glance at Sam, reassured him that his brother felt so too. Moreover, the house was warm after the chill of being outside in the crisp, snowy air, and he was shaking with the cold, so, all in all Dean had to admit he was pleased to be inside.
However, as he sat in the wheelchair he felt way more shaky than he would like and he wondered if accepting the invitation had been a good idea. His fever was sending chills coursing through him at a rate of knot's and he was finding it difficult to do anything other than stay upright and keep his eyes from closing.
Still, he knew he owed Sam a better Christmas than this one had been so far and so the fragile hunter plastered on his best attempt at a convincing smile, and worked on trying to look suitably engaged in the festivities.
Evie hugged Charles and Sam as she fussed about them, taking their coats and handing Charles his apron. She was genuinely pleased to see the three men, her old, faithful Charles and her two new friends, Sam and Dean, for whom her affection was increasing each time she saw them.
She glanced at the elder Winchester as he sat in the bedecked wheelchair and noted his pallor. She was not surprised he looked so poorly, after what he and Sam had been through, but she was surprised at the concern that his condition fired within her.
For long enough it had been her and Charles against the world and even though she had known these boys so little time, she knew they were destined to be special to her.
She needed to move things along so she could have Sam move Dean somewhere more comfortable so, she briskly took charge of events.
"I've fired her up, Charles."
Evie gestured towards the yard at the back of the house, from where the pleasant aroma of wood smoke and charcoal drifted.
"And everything's laid out on the table ready to go!"
Charles nodded happily as he tied on his protective apron. It was bedecked with a picture of a turkey with long eyelashes, red lipstick and the dubious epithet, 'Go figure, I've finally pulled a bird!' Clearly it was inappropriate, yet at the same time, utterly apt for the theatrical gastronome.
"Okay, Evelyn. I'll go get cooking."
The dapper cook turned and headed towards the back porch.
"Bring me a glass of eggnog?"
"Sure thing, Charles. We'll be out shortly."
Evie smiled as she turned back to the hunter's and she moved to stand before Dean's chair, hanging onto the arm rests and bending so she crouched before its occupant. She stared into eyes that were the deepest green she had ever seen, and marvelled as lashes way too long to be a man's swept sleepily over them. She realised, when this man was not beat to hell he was a total heart breaker!
"So, Dean...Can I get a hug?"
The elder Winchester's head swam as he leaned forward, but he joined warmly in the embrace even though his stiff, sore body trembled in protest. If truth be known Dean took as much comfort from the hug as Evie did though it'd take wild horses to drag that out of him!
" Let's get your big coat off you. I've got the big space heaters lit so it's warm enough on the deck to manage without this."
She was unbuttoning Dean's sheepskin as she spoke, and, with a little help from Sam, they soon had the coat removed with minimal discomfort for its wearer.
"Come this way, boys."
Evie took the handles of the chair and wheeled Dean through the spacious house and out of the French doors at the rear of the property. The doors opened onto a large wooden deck, which was lit by strings of fairy lights and the soft glow of two wood burning chiminea.
At one end, a very professional looking barbeque set up was chugging out heat and delicious aromas, captained by Charles. He had his Santa hat back on and was humming Christmas tunes as he cooked. He waved his spatula at them as they emerged.
The other end of the wooden patio was covered by an awning and heated to toasty warm by three strategically placed space heaters. It held big, comfortable looking lounge chairs and side tables, on one of which sat James' journal, and one steamer chair draped in a soft faux fur throw.
Evie parked the wheelchair beside the steamer chair and bent to put the brakes on.
"I thought you'd be more comfortable here, Dean?"
She glanced at Sam as she spoke, motioning him over, even as Dean began to protest that he would be fine on a chair, and with a minimum of fuss they transferred the softly protesting hunter to the comfort of his impromptu 'bed'.
Evie smiled as she settled a cushion behind Dean's bandaged knee and wrapped the furs around him.
"Comfy, isn't it?"
Dean had to admit that it felt good to lay his leg out straight and the fur covering was warm and soft. He smiled accepting that she was gonna mother-hen him and he might as well just take it. He rolled his eyes good naturedly at Sam, who smiled in return.
"Have a seat, Sam."
The younger hunter gratefully folded his long body into one of the generous lounge chairs.
"So what can I get you both to drink? Will you try my egg-nog?"
Dean shuddered a little. He had been traumatised on a number of Christmases by Sam's attempts at festive faire and the thought of egg-nog now, when he felt significantly fragile, filled him with trepidation. However, he didn't want to hurt Evie's feelings.
"Sure. I'll give it a go, Evie."
Dean's voice was a little hoarse and Evelyn cocked her head studying him as she ladled the viscous, yellow liquid into small punch glasses. His trembling had lessened now he was settled by the heater and he looked a little more alert. She would keep an eye on him though.
She took the filled glasses and handed one carefully to Dean, holding it steady until she was sure he had a firm grip on it with his bandaged hands. She passed the second glass to Sam.
"I'll just give this to Charles."
Evie stepped away from them along the decking, out of earshot, and Dean looked at Sam as he gingerly raised the suspicious brew to his nose and sniffed. His expression was one of unhappy resignation.
"I wonder if she uses Bobby's recipe too, Sam?"
Dean inhaled the egg-nog as he grinned at Sam's feigned look of hurt and was delighted to find his nose assaulted by a quite delicious aroma. Spirit mixed with the spice of nutmeg and cinnamon and the creaminess of eggs and milk had Dean's mouth watering. He raised his glass to his lips and sipped. The spicy-cream concoction warmed all the way down to his toes and Dean purred contentedly as he took another mouthful.
Sam smiled as he heard Dean's sigh of contentment. The drink was indeed good. Better by legions than Bobby's. He made a note to get the recipe from Evie before they left. It'd be worth Dean ridiculing him about being all 'Martha Stewart' if he could reproduce this elixir and make Dean smile so contentedly.
"So, how is it? Terrible? I never know how much rum to put in..."
Evie found two empty glasses thrust toward her and took that, and the brothers smiles, as endorsement enough as she re-filled their glasses and then moved to join them.
"Dinner won't be long."
She glanced lovingly at Charles, catching his eye and the contented chef raised his egg-nog toward them as he tossed the burgers. Sam watched the interchange and couldn't help but see the particular closeness between the two friends.
"How did you meet Charles, Evelyn?"
Evie turned back to the Winchesters.
"He just turned up in the diner one day, not long after I lost James..."
She glanced at the journal on the table next to Sam as she spoke; her voice was wistful, nostalgic.
"The diner was struggling then. It had thrived before the mill crashed but afterwards...well, I wasn't so popular afterwards."
She paused, the memories of hard times assaulting her and Sam watched as Dean untangled his hand from the furs and gently touched her hand, where it lay on the arm of her chair. Evie smiled at him and patted his hand.
"It's okay. It was all a long time ago and having this..."
She reached the journal into her lap.
"Will help me piece it all together."
Sam prompted, sipping his egg-nog.
"As I said, Charles just turned up one day. He ate and paid his bill, didn't say much and I thought he was just passing through and I'd never see him again."
She laughed, glancing at the singing man.
"But he appeared again the day after and then every day that week."
The memory was a good one and Dean and Sam smiled at her pleasure.
"He tried every dish on the menu, just about. And we just got to talking as he ate... He'd been in the forces."
She glanced briefly again towards her friend.
"He never said much about where he'd been, but what he'd seen had..."
She searched for the words as Sam and Dean waited patiently.
"Had...changed him... Hurt him."
She looked up from her reverie and into Dean's eyes.
"Charles is a good man. He did things, saw things in his service that were hard to reconcile. I think it stole something from him. It was hard for him to have peace of mind when I first knew him and it took a long time for him to find his way back to himself."
Dean nodded. Much of what she said resonating for him.
"So, we looked out for each other. Charles went to work at the Holy Night Inn, as a bus-boy, at first, but he's real good with people and before long he was on reception, and then hotel manager. And he stuck with me, being my friend, helping me to carry on living here in the aftermath of the mill crash. I don't know what I'd have done without Charles."
They sat in quiet contemplation for a moment or two, sipping their drinks, contentedly. The sun was almost set and the myriad little pin lights sparkled in the twilight as the delicious smells of the barbeque wafted towards them. Without realising he was doing it, Dean sighed gently.
"You okay, Dean?"
Sam sat upright; preparing to move to his brother's side but Dean raised his hand and stopped the motion.
"I'm fine, Sammy...just..."
A pleasantly surprised look crossed his pale features.
It was a word unfamiliar to the Winchesters vocabulary and Sam laughed a little as Dean said it. Evie smiled, understanding that she had just been given a huge compliment. To provide comfort and contentment, if only for a small while, for these boys was a rare thing. She patted Dean's hand and his sleepy green eyes found her face. He looked utterly exhausted and Evelyn's heart went out him.
"You look so tired, Dean..."
She glanced at Sam too. Similar grey shadows circles the younger man's hazel eyes as decorated his older brother's green.
"You both do. Did you boys sleep at all?"
Her concern dripped from the words and Dean did his best to look animated.
"Oh Hell, yeah, we did!"
He sat a little bit straighter.
"You should see the room Charles got us, Evie...it's..."
He raised his hands before him, sloshing the remaining egg-nog in his enthusiasm. Sam reached for the glass and taking it from Dean's bandaged hand, placed it back on the table.
"Well, it's just...huge!"
Evie laughed at the child-like wonder in this fierce hunter's voice.
"Ahh! He got you the presidential suite huh?"
"It is impressive...Did you sleep in the big canopied bed?"
"Yeah, we both did. I sat on the bed just for a moment and I was away. Woke up snuggled up on the red silk sheets with my own brother!"
Evie joined in the laughter as Dean looked hurt.
"Sammy. Many people would kill for that privilege."
"In your dreams, bro."
Evie raised her hands, and pretended to push them apart.
She scolded, and both brothers softened.
"What about you? Did you sleep, Evie?"
Sam nodded his head towards the journal in her lap as he asked the question and she took it into her hands as she answered.
"No, not really. I know I said I'd take my time about reading it but after all these years of waiting I needed to know so I read quite a lot of James' entries last night."
She stroked the tattered leather of the book as she spoke.
"It was much as I thought, but have never been able to prove. It's not that I wanted to have it be them, you know? The Harvey's, Lyman and Elwood, were James' best friends as well as his business partners."
The brothers' expressions of sorrow affirmed their shared understanding.
"When I read back some months from the last entry, James' had suspicions for a long time that Lyman was up to something. And if I think back to that time, James'd tell me little things that, when they are now all joined together, confirm that Lyman was, undoubtedly, the instigator of the crimes."
Evie lifted the book and opened it to a marked page.
"James is talking here, about a month before that final hike, about how Lyman's attitude toward the business has changed. The mill was teetering by this stage, because we now know Lyman was bleeding it dry, but there was a big order pending that, had they filled, it would have really bailed them out."
She tapped her finger against the page as she looked at Sam. He was engrossed in the story and bobbed his head encouragingly as Evie spoke. Dean looked on tiredly from his warm, furry nest, Sam's 'geek-boy' research excitement never failing to amuse him. Evie continued.
"James was working flat out to get the order moved through and they were on schedule but then we had to go out of state for a few days to an old friend's funeral. James left Lyman in charge but when we came back it was to the cancellation of the order. The customer had rung Lyman to check everything was okay and had been treated with such rudeness that he had pulled the whole thing.
James was furious. I remember when he came home from work that day he was agitated and upset. He wouldn't tell me at the time what was wrong, wanted to save me from worrying..."
Evie stopped, snorting in annoyance.
"Can you believe that? I was his wife and he kept things of such importance from me?"
Dean looked at Sam and raised his eyebrows ironically. They were so used to secrets and being told only what they 'needed to know' that James' with holding of the truth seemed quite usual to them. Sam's eyes told Dean that he understood and the younger Winchester answered the furious woman.
"He thought he was protecting you."
Evie shook her head angrily.
"He 'protected' me all the way to getting himself murdered on the damn mountain, though, didn't he? If he'd let me in maybe I could have helped."
Dean's hand slipped softly into Evie's and her words faltered the anger dissipating. She turned toward him and his wide green eyes drew her to him.
"He thought he was doing the right thing, Evie. Protecting you...he just wanted it to...to be alright for you."
Evie wrapped her hands about Dean's, carefully of his injuries. She could see his distress at her anger and regretted doing anything to upset this man who had done so much for her. He had brought her James back to her after all.
"I know, Dean. I'm just angry 'cause..."
She couldn't find the right words.
She spoke deliberately gently and smiled into his tired gaze as she did. The tension left him and she was relieved as he lay back into the covers.
Sam had sat forward in his chair and pointed to the journal on her lap as he spoke.
"We did read a little bit of the journal when we were on the mountain..."
He paused to see if that would be a problem to Evie. She nodded.
"You can read it, Sam. I don't mind and I know James doesn't."
"James mentioned that when Lyman shot..."
He stopped, realising this might not be a conversation to have on Christmas day. Evie saw his hesitation.
"It's alright, Sam. You can say it...when Lyman shot James..?"
"Well, yeah, he wrote that Lyman's eyes were inhuman...black...Do you know what he meant?"
Evelyn shuddered visibly as she absorbed Sam's question.
"I remember seeing Lyman a few weeks before all this happened, Sam. I'd gone to the mill to have collect James 'cause his truck had broken down. So I was waiting outside in the parking lot for him to come down. Lyman drove up in this real fancy sports car. I was surprised because Lyman had always had a regular car and this was...well flashy, you know?"
"He was doing things out of character?"
Sam asked as he sipped at his drink. Evie thought for a moment or two.
"Yeah...yeah he was. Not just the car either, Sam. There were rumours he was having an affair with a girl in town. She was only young, way too young to be interested in a middle aged man like Lyman, but she was unhappy at home..."
She looked from Sam to Dean.
"I'd forgotten some of this stuff. I had told myself that Lyman only changed after James died but that wasn't the case. It started weeks before. I thought, at first, it was grief from James' death maybe, or then later, the pain of his own wife's sudden death..."
"Lyman's wife died?"
Sam's face was animated with interest.
"Yeah, about a month after James. They said it was a suicide."
"Well, I'll be."
Dean mumbled softly looking at Sam. The injured hunter noted Sam's raised eyebrow as he moved round in the chair. Evie saw the caution he used in adjusting position. It radiated hurt.
"Are you ok, Dean? Can I get you anything?"
"No I'm good. Just a bit stiff is all."
It was a plausible answer but no one believed it.
"Are you warm enough?"
She reached for Dean, feeling his forearm where it was uncovered. His skin was cool there. Evie tutted and leaned over to feel his forehead. Dean edged back, dodging her hand but the sharp movement made the horizon tilt and buck a little. He stilled quickly, his hands going to the arms of the chair to steady himself.
He managed, clamping down on anything else as his vision swam making him slightly nauseous.
"No, you're not."
Evie reasoned, rising her hand slowly towards his forehead. Her eyes were fiery and her manner, determined.
"You are banged up to hell, dizzy by the look of it and you have a fever. By rights you should be in hospital recuperating and if you don't let me feel your head to see how hot you are, I'll call Charles over and ask him to take you there. Right now!"
Dean frowned, about to argue. He disliked being told what to do, especially when he knew the teller was right.
Evie watched the older hunter's mouth pout and knew an argument was coming her way. She stifled it, effectively, if a little unfairly, by leaning in towards Dean and placing her hand on his fur draped thigh. It required only the slightest pressure to make Dean lean forward gasping in pain and as he did so, Evie pressed her hand to his burning forehead, releasing his leg as she did so.
"Oh, Dean! You're burning up."
He looked at her but couldn't respond as his breath was still coming in little pants.
Evelyn had stood and called for her medic friend before Sam could get to Dean's side. He crouched and put his hand on Dean's forehead, only for it to be swatted away angrily.
Dean shook his hand where it throbbed from hitting Sam.
He muttered looking daggers at the assembled gathering.
"Evie's right. You are hot, Dean."
Sam reasoned as Charles approached. The medic nodded, hearing Sam's words and dipped into a bag resting on one of the tables. He pulled out a thermometer and moved in towards his very reluctant patient.
Dean ground the words out. Pain and annoyance making his eyes sparkle.
"Well, that is I was till she grabbed my leg!"
He stared at Evie, who smiled irritatingly down at him.
"I can't believe you'd do that..."
He rubbed carefully at his throbbing leg as Charles moved closer.
"Well, Dean, if you'd just cooperate..."
Evie's smile told him she was not to be meddled with.
"Open up, Dean."
The medic sat on the chair beside the still slightly breathless Dean and held the thermometer up to his mouth.
"No, Charles...I'm okay, really."
Dean was distressed to find that it sounded like a whine, and he looked to Sam for support, only to see his brother's smile match Evie's.
"I think your beaten, bro."
Sam laughed and Dean scowled, pressing his lips together in a petulant line.
Evie's voice was determined.
"Fetch the car. We're going to hospital."
Dean looked at the medic, his eyes blazing.
"She means it, Dean."
Charles smiled softly.
"She hadda be real tough to survive in this town after the mill crashed. She has balls of steel. You won't win."
He offered the thermometer again and after a few seconds of furious refusal, Dean opened his mouth and Charles popped the device in. After a few moments he withdrew the little measure and read off Dean's temperature.
"It's around 101f, Sam."
Charles looked up at the tall hunter.
"How's that usually sit with Dean?"
Charles knew better than to pretend that these men had not experienced fevers many times before. Sam's face was serious but not overwhelmingly alarmed.
"He's been much higher, Charles."
The medic nodded.
"Pass me my case."
Sam reached the heavy bag over.
"But he does get real bad if it's very high. Hadda dunk him in a bath of cold water before now because he was rambling."
Dean barked out the admonishment and his baby brother looked at him, his face all innocence.
"What? It's true isn't it?"
Dean refused to answer but reluctantly held out his hand and took the pills Charles had removed from his case.
"You need a drink to swallow them..."
Charles looked at Evie as Dean muttered.
"I'll have egg-nog!"
"You'll have water..."
The medic corrected.
She nodded and reached for a jug of water from the drinks table. She brought the tall, cool glass and offered it to Dean.
"I want egg-nog."
"And you're getting water."
Evie was all reason as she handed the glass to him.
"Take the pills, Dean."
Charles said as he rose heading back to the barbeque.
"They'll help with the fever. Oh and by the way dinner's almost ready!"
Sam sat back down, an amused smile playing at his lips as he watched Evie and Dean play off against each other.
"Take them or I'll hurt you."
Evie screwed her eyes up as she stared at Dean. She was a good 6 inches smaller than his brother and weighed 50lbs less at least, but Sam knew she meant it. And what was more, Dean did too.
Dean spat as he swallowed the pills and tried to hand the glass back to the triumphant woman. She pushed it back towards him.
"All of it, you're dehydrated."
He sighed and sulkily sipped at the cool water.
"So, Evie can we go back to that day when you went to pick James up?"
Sam twirled his empty egg-nog glass in his hands as he spoke.
"Sure, Sam. You want a top up?"
She took his glass, and laughing at Dean's look of outrage, refilled it with egg-nog before resuming her seat. Sam grinned sipping the sweet delight whilst Dean shot fire from his eyes at his infuriating brother from behind his water glass.
"So you were in the lot..?"
Sam supplied and Evie took up the narrative.
"Yes, yes I was and Lyman came over to me. He was..."
She paused looking for the words, her face creased in concentration.
"It was like he was there but not really. He talked and it was Lyman talking but nothing was really registering."
She glanced at Sam. He nodded, encouraging her on.
"And his eyes, Evie?"
Sam looked at Dean as he asked the question and Dean nodded.
"They were black, Sam. Glassy and black. I remember it frightened me."
She glanced down at her hands for a second or two, before looking back up to Sam.
"And I don't frighten easily."
The brothers nodded, taking in the information.
"So what does it mean?"
Evie's gaze engaged Sam's but he turned from her to Dean and Evie's eyes followed his to the elder Winchester.
"Tell me, Dean. I have a right to know."
She said softly and Dean sighed, nodding reluctantly.
"Yeah, you do. But you might regret it, Evie."
He paused giving her the chance to change her mind, knowing all the time that she wouldn't. He continued.
"We think, that Lyman Harvey was possessed by a demon. It was the demon that made him do what he did."
She put her hand to her face, paling slightly.
"You mean as in actual, spawn of the devil, demon?"
Dean nodded, amazed, and yet not so, knowing Evelyn, at the calmness with which she was taking this in.
"And you know about all this, how?"
Dean said nothing but just looked at her. Evie spoke her next words quietly, horror underlying them.
"You know because these are the 'things'... the 'creatures' that you and Sam hunt. Aren't they, Dean?"
Her fierce gaze commanded the hunter's attention and he smiled at her steely determination. He knew there was no point lying to her and he was surprised to find that he wanted to tell her. Wanted to confide in her.
"Yes, Evie. This is what we do. Our family business. We hunt evil and we destroy it."
She lowered her hand and took Dean's in hers.
"This must be so dangerous?"
Tears welled in her eyes, imagining what these men must face on a daily basis. She reached for Sam's hand too.
"I'm so glad you have each other."
Dean nodded, glancing toward Sam, his throat tight on the lump there.
"So am I."
Charles had to swallow hard as he approached his friends but he kept the tears that were brimming in his eyes from falling and he had to take a moment to gather himself before he could call cheerfully to the assembled trio.
"Okay, so burgers are nicely seared, who's hungry?"
Sam was the first to look up and at the mention of food he was surprised to find that his stomach was growling significantly.
"Yes, please, Charles."
Evie was quick to follow.
"You gonna help me serve, Evie?"
She rose, reluctantly letting go of Dean's hand but smiling at Charles.
"Sure, I'm coming."
She looked down at Dean.
"You gonna manage something to eat?"
"Of course I am."
"Thought you'd never ask!"
Dean grinned tiredly as he responded and even managed to hold the smile till Evie had her back all the way turned. It was then that Sam watched the smile give way to exhaustion.
As the others returned to the barbeque he moved from his chair to the one Evie had been sitting in, nearer to Dean. His brother's tired green eyes watched as he sat.
"How you doing?"
Sam watched as Dean attempted to find his 'm okay' game face...and failed.
"Felt better, Sammy."
Dean's head rolled back against the covers pillowing him and Sam could hear the tiredness in his words.
"You wanna head back to the hotel?"
Dean blinked, thinking about the question.
"Nah, I am hungry, I'm just a bit tired too. Let's eat and then maybe go, okay?"
"Sure, Dean. You comfortable?"
Dean made to try and sit up but didn't make it very far.
"I've slipped down a bit..."
"Lemme give you a boost."
He leaned in towards his brother and put his arms around Dean's waist.
"Hold onto me."
He felt Dean's arms go round his neck.
Mumbled against his shoulder and he gently hutched Dean's slumped form up the couch.
Dean gasped and Sam felt the arms leave his neck as his brother grabbed his injured leg. Moving him had dislodged Dean's knee from its cushioned support, painfully extending the swollen joint. Sam hurried and carefully repacked the cushions, easing his brother's leg back down.
Sam put his hand on Dean's shoulder knowing that his brother was biting down on pain and, no doubt, dizziness, and his touch might help him find some stability.
Dean's eyes opened and the world spun. He found Sam and concentrated on his brother's face and slowly the revolutions steadied.
"Sure you don't wanna leave?"
Sam asked again as Evie and Charles approached, their hands laden with brimming plates.
"No, I really am hungry and it's...well this is nice, Sam, isn't it?"
Dean managed a weak smile and Sam felt relieved.
"Yeah, it real nice, Dean."
The food was good and Charles and Evie were fine company as they ate. The burgers were homemade from prime steak and tastier than Sam and Dean could normally dream of. They talked about all sorts of things and Dean managed to stay engaged in the conversation if not the leader of it.
Sam finished his own burger in no time at all and accepted a second without too much persuasion, Charles happily accepting the young hunter's compliments on his cooking. And he was pleased to see that Dean made a decent attempt at his meal though he declined seconds in favour of a piece of cherry pie.
However as the evening wore on Sam could see Dean's energy dissipating and he spent longer periods with his eyes closed as the others spoke.
He heard the voice distantly and had to work hard to get his eyes to open at the third or forth attempt. Evie was holding his sheepskin coat as she sat beside him and Charles and Sam were standing putting on theirs.
"Don't tell me...we gonna go build a snowman..."
Dean grinned as Evie laughed out loud, her eyes sparkling with merriment.
"If you're up for it, Winchester!"
There was a sympathetic challenge in her voice but Dean had no energy left to rise to it.
His voice was a whisper.
She smiled. It was a soft, sad smile and he felt his heart ache for her and her loss.
"I'm sorry about James..."
She swallowed hard and he saw the tears brim in her eyes.
"Don't be sorry, Dean. You brought him back to me. Saved me from a life time more of never knowing. And most of all you let James be at peace."
She reached out and touched his face as tears slipped down her cheeks.
"How much more could I possibly ask?"
"We can bring him down from the mountain if you want."
Dean wanted so much to do something to ease her pain. She smiled at him, sensing his need.
"Maybe, although he loved the mountain, Dean. There are worse places for him to lie. Especially now he can finally rest."
Dean smiled tiredly.
"Okay, if you're sure."
Sam moved to the other side of the steamer chair.
"You ready to go, dude?"
Evie's voice dripped tension and all three men in the room looked toward her. She stood, clasping the sheepskin in her arms.
"You know what you told me about Lyman...being possessed by the demon and all?"
Sam and Dean nodded in unison.
"Could Lyman...no not really Lyman it was the demon, wasn't it? He could have murdered his poor wife?"
Horror at the sudden thought was written all over Evie's face and Dean was saddened to think he had brought this horror into her life.
Sam answered the shocked woman calmly but honestly.
"It could have, yes."
"Was the death suspicious?"
Evie nodded, putting her hand to her mouth.
"We all assumed she killed herself because after she died Lyman told us she'd been unstable for years..."
Tears prickled Evie's eyes and she reached for Dean's hand, looking into his bright green eyes.
"But I'd known Jenn and she was as stable as me. Oh my god, poor woman! I should have helped her."
Dean squeezed his friend's hand.
"You didn't know, Evie. You couldn't have done anything anyway."
"I could have found you...and Sam."
Dean opened his mouth to speak and stopped as she held her hand up.
"What will have happened to it? The demon?"
Dean looked at Sam, his gaze saying 'how much do I tell her?' Sam shrugged, trusting to Dean's intuition.
"They tend to move from host to host, Evie. They ride a body hard and often leave the host damaged, if not dead..."
Evie's gasp stopped Dean in his tracks, unsure what he had said.
Charles moved closer so he could place his hand on Evelyn's shoulder. She raised her own trembling hand to cover his.
"Lyman is still alive, Dean, but in a psychiatric hospital over in Philadelphia. Crazy as anything. Hears voices its said, sees things that other people don't!"
He squeezed Evie's shoulder knowing this was painful for her.
"We tracked him and Elwood for a while after they left Bethlehem. Elwood died a few months after they fled. He supposedly committed suicide too."
Dean raised his eyebrows at Charles. The man's face was angry and Dean understood his emotion.
"Lyman re-married, into a successful business family over Harrisburg way."
Sam's voice was regretful.
"Business went belly up?"
"And Mrs Harvey...Lyman's wife died suddenly."
Evie got to her feet, wringing her hands.
"That's it, isn't it? It's the...the demon...burning its way through people?"
Dean looked up at her, trying to get to his feet to offer her comfort. He got as far as throwing the wrap off himself and starting to try and move his legs but the pain stopped him swiftly and efficiently.
He saw stars. Little fire flashes of colour that danced on the inside of his tightly closed eyelids and he panted against the burning pain in his knee. He knew there was more than one person holding him steady as he rocked against the pain and gradually is lessened to the point where he dared think about opening his eyes again.
That was a mistake as with the light came the dizziness and nausea.
"You gonna puke?"
Sam's voice, to his right hand side.
He grunted in response, squeezing them shut again.
"Is that a yes or a no?"
Evie, to his left. Dean couldn't answer, not daring to open his mouth.
"That's Dean for no."
Sam's voice again.
'Good old, Sammy. Even understands my grunts and groans!'
"He'll be fine."
Sam's big hand rubbed circles on Dean's back and the dizziness slowly subsided, though his knee throbbed unmercifully. Finally, he dared to open his eyes again. Three worried faces were watching him.
His voice sounded anything but okay, but the others nodded and scaled down from DefCon 5.
"I'm so sorry, Dean. I didn't mean to hurt you."
Evie stroked his taut bicep, her worried face intent on his.
"It's okay, Evie, this is all a shock for you, I know."
"We have to stop it. If it's still out there. Will you and Sam help me? We need to find this demon and... "
Evie paused, her forehead creased in a frown.
"What do you do to these sonsabitches anyway? Can you...you know...kill the bastards?"
Dean was taken aback.
"I can pay you. Please help me! We have to make sure this thing doesn't do to another family what it did to James and me."
There was no resisting the need in her eyes but Dean glanced up at Sam, checking for his brother's approval before he spoke. Sam rolled his eyes and nodded.
"Okay, Evie. We'll hunt it for ya. We'll stop it killing anyone else."
Evelyn sighed in relief.
"Once you're better though!"
Dean went to speak to find Evie's hand poised over his leg and a playfully evil look on her face. He closed his mouth.
"You stay here and recuperate for a few days before you make a single move after it. Alright?"
Sam laughed at his brother's silence and the nervous look on his face as her hand remained poised over his sore leg.
"Sure, Evie. We'll have research to do anyway and Dean loves to sit and do research. Don't ya, Bro?"
Dean groaned, letting his head slump forward in genuine, but theatrical, distress.
"God, help me!"
The three of them laughed at the defeated hunter as Charles broke in.
"Hey Dean, I can take you for that ride in the Aston..."
Dean's eyes slowly levelled up to the smiling medics and Sam saw the dawning realisation cross his brother's face that he had indeed agreed to a ride from Charles.
Dean's smile was a little nervous and Charles laughed.
"Dean, Dean! What do you take me for? I wouldn't take advantage of an injured man. I have morals you know?"
Dean stuttered an answer, not wanting to offend their new friend.
"Oh sure, Charles. I didn't mean to imply..."
Charles cut him off.
"I'm gonna wait till your all better for that. It'll be more fun that way!"
They all laughed as Dean actually blushed and Evie put her hand on Charles arm.
"Enough! Stop tormenting him, Charles. Look we'll talk again tomorrow. Work out a plan, Okay?"
She looked at both Dean and Sam, and they nodded in unison.
"But now you need to go sleep and get well."
She received no argument from anyone.
She looked at Charles and Sam.
"Let's get Dean up and his coat on."
Both men moved in as Evie reached for the long fleece.
"I can help..."
Dean made to move and Evie barked.
They all stopped immediately.
"Dean, you sit still and let us sort you out, you hear me?"
The elder Winchester nodded obediently and between them, with Evie directing the manoeuvre soon had him, coat fastened, seated in the wheelchair.
Her voice was soft when she saw his pallor. They had been as gentle as they could be but she knew the transition had hurt.
"Yeah, I'm okay."
She nodded, understanding the tidal wave of emotion that sat behind those words for this good and brave man.
She stood and taking the handles of the chair, wheeled her guest toward the front door.
The wind was cold, as they approached the Impala, the space heaters having belied the frosty night when they were on the decking and Sam watched Dean shiver, pulling the coat around him.
"Put's your hands in the pockets, Dean."
"I'll be back in a moment. Don't go till I get back!"
Suddenly Evie gave the handles of the chair to Charles and dashed back into the house as the bemused hunters progressed to the car.
Getting Dean into the Impala was easy, if you ignored his muffled gasps of pain at each movement. However, they did the best they could and by the time Evelyn returned the flagging hunter was ensconced on the passenger seat, and his breathing was relatively under control.
She crouched by the open passenger door and handed him a faded Christmas- wrapped package.
"I want you to have these."
Dean smiled in confusion.
He tried to tear the paper but his wrapped hands were cold and clumsy.
She took the package and tore open the end pulling the contents lose so Dean could grab then.
The brown gloves were soft and pliant, the sweet smell of good leather drifted into the Impala.
Dean smiled sleepily up at her, turning the gloves over in his hands.
"How did you know I needed gloves?"
"I didn't. They were for James. That last Christmas. I'd already wrapped them but he never came home to me. I kept them all this time, hoping one day..."
Tears tricked down her cheeks just as they pricked in Dean's eyes.
"So now you've brought him home at last and I want you to have these."
Dean swallowed, unable to speak as Evie smiled her understanding.
"Here, let's see if they fit!"
She carefully pulled the soft leather over his bandages.
"They'll keep you warm."
"Are you sure?"
Dean was hesitant to take the gift, understanding its significance for her.
"They should be of use, not wrapped up somewhere gathering dust. We have a job to do, don't we? Got us a demon to catch!"
"Sure we do, Evie."
Dean smiled as she kissed his cheek.
"So go sleep, Winchester!"
Charles and Sam climbed into the car and as they drove away Dean craned his neck around so he could watch Evelyn Tannenbaum through the rear window as she waved goodbye.
His eyes met Charles' and the medic smiled at the sleepy hunter.
"She's quite a woman isn't she?"
"Hell, yeah, Charles. She's amazing!"
The ride back to the Holy Night Inn was uneventful, Dean falling asleep as soon as the familiar cadence of the car kicked in and both Charles and Sam were relieved as he was clearly in pain.
When they arrived the transition from car to wheelchair was an ordeal and by the time Sam said good night to Charles at their bedroom door, Dean was almost out of it. His head was pounding and there wasn't a muscle or joint that didn't seem to just plain hurt!
Sam crouched in front of the wheelchair and looked into his brother's drooping eyes.
"Straight to bed for you, I think?"
Dean nodded unable to even bother to think of an argument and Sam started to set about gently getting his clothes off. He eased the new gloves off his brother's swollen hands, smiling at the softness of the expensive leather.
"Beautiful, aren't they?"
Dean's voice was sleepy and Sam nodded emphatically to be sure he saw the gesture.
"I won't dare wear them in case I mess 'em up..."
Dean drawled softly and Sam laughed.
"Well, if you don't I will!"
He pouted jealously.
"She didn't give me gloves did she?"
Dean chuckled as Sam unbuttoned his sheepskin and rocked him gently to the front of the chair.
"Come on, man..."
Dean paused biting down on the pain.
"I did get thrown off a cliff by her dead husband's vengeful spirit!"
Sam nodded, concentrating on holding Dean to give him least pain.
"Ready? On three?"
Dean gasped as Sam got him to his feet. He could just about stand to bear weight on his broken toes but his knee just would not bear his weight and had it not been for Sam's bear hug he would have fallen, bonelessly to the floor.
He barely remembered the steps to the bed but the feel of the silk sheets against his back were nice as Sam laid him on the bed and carefully relieved him of his boots and jeans and pulled the covers over him.
"You okay, Dean?"
Hard to even open his eyes now. 'Wait though! The Christmas presents."
The younger hunter started as Dean called out and started to rise.
"Steady, stay still, you'll get dizzy again."
Dean did as he was told as the room flew around sickeningly and Sam sat on the side of the bed, his hand on Dean's chest centring him.
"What is it? What's wrong?"
Sam's worried face swam before Dean's eyes.
"The presents...we didn't open our presents..."
Sam laughed, relieved.
"Is that all? I thought at least your leg had fallen off, or maybe Charles had come to have his wicked way with ya after all!"
"You're just jealous 'cause he wants me not you."
Sam stood and looked down at his brother as Dean yawned.
"Where are they?"
Sam rolled his eyes and Dean chuckled.
"Oh yeah! In my grip I think."
Sam crossed the vast room and rummaged in the bag producing two thin, blue and white stripy carrier bags.
"Here you go, Dean."
He placed his bag on Dean's lap and sat on the side of the bed and watched as his brother withdrew a heady mixture of candy and porn.
Dean smiled a warm genuine smile.
"Thank you, Sam. Two of my favourite things. Very cool."
Sam nodded accepting a smaller bag from Dean's shaky hand.
The gloves were knitted and a rather violent shade of purple, but Sam smiled and pulled then onto his huge hands.
He laughed and Dean grinned.
"They were the only ones in the gigantor section. I know they're not classy leather but they will keep your fingers from dropping off as we hunt this demon for Evie."
Sam turned his hands this way and that admiring the gloves.
"I like 'em, Dean."
He shifted the chocolate bars and skin magazines to the bedside table.
"Get some sleep, okay?"
Dean pulled the covers up and rested back into the soft pillows. He sighed comfortably his eyes fluttering shut.
"Yeah Sammy...Happy Christmas, bro."
"And you too, Dean. Merry Christmas!"
"Well, who'd have thought it?"
The well dressed being looked across at his companion and reached for the champagne before him, tipping the delicate flute in salute as he smiled.
"We managed to lead them to the exact point we needed them to be!"
His companion gasped at the glibly smiling man.
"Hardly 'lead them' was it, my brother. More like kick, shove, punch them to where we wanted them. Look at him? Can you not see that he's half dead!"
The second being was clearly much less comfortable with the approach to their combined task.
"What does it matter? Half dead is still alive and they are going to hunt the demon which is what He commanded us to have them do?"
"Your indifference to them will damage them beyond redemption if you are not careful. And then where will we be?"
The first being took a sip of the dry, acidic wine, his fierce eyes holding his companion's, as he swallowed appreciatively. The gaze he received in return spoke of growing contempt.
"They have feelings, you know. They are not just pawns for us to manipulate."
Rich deep laughter filled the room and he slammed the glass down on the table, shattering its fragile beauty. His face was a mask of restrained anger.
"Yes they are!"
"They are there only by His Grace and they are but one of our few weapons in this unholy war. You are too much of a bleeding heart, brother. You must learn to emulate my detachment from these insignificant creatures and remember that the final outcome is the only goal in our work. Your concern for these creatures clouds your judgement and I will not become the victim of your pathetic weakness!"
The second being lowered his head unwilling to have this argument yet again and relieved that their charges had survived their ordeal.
"Alright, as you wish, brother. But we are also tasked with watching over the Winchesters and you cannot object if I do that."
"As you will, brother, as you will."
His laughter echoed coldly into the night.
Please come back for the sequel which should be coming in the next few weeks and thanks again for all your encouragement. Bev and Jane x