By Maya Perez
It all started on a random Sunday winter morning…
Sam Age 8:
"Dean, go down to the 7-11 and pick me up a Sunday paper would you?"
Sam glanced away from the TV where DJ Kat in his black leather jacket was introducing the next Popeye cartoon. He spotted his father near the far bed, stuffing items into one of the smaller duffels. Since all their own stuff was still in the chest of drawers, it looked like their Dad was planning to go off on his own without them – again.
None of the other dad's Sam had seen on TV seemed to work as hard as his father. None of them lived most of the time in motels, travelled all the time, or left their kids for days or weeks with other people. He'd tried asking Dean about it before, but his brother hated it when he asked questions about their Dad's job. Almost as much as he hated questions about Mom and why she wasn't with them. Both things Sam was desperate to know.
"Sure, Dad. You need anything else?" Dean stuck his head out of the bathroom where he'd been cleaning the breakfast dishes in the sink.
"A drink for you and Sammy if you want."
Sam glanced over at Dean and wasn't disappointed by the flash of light that was his big brother's smile at the offer of a treat.
His father must have seen it too though because he said, "No caffeine, Dean. Let's be quite clear on that. You know what it does to your brother."
Dean's smile drooped a little and Sam felt a sting of sadness because he was the cause of it. "Sure. I know that, Dad."
"Just as long as we're clear." Their father reached into his back pocket and brought out his wallet. He held a couple of bucks out to Dean.
His brother dried his wet hands on his jeans and took the money. "Hey, Sammy, wanna come with?"
Sam was off the chair before the question was halfway out his brother's mouth. If their father was going on a trip, this would be his last chance to do anything outside. And Dean hated being locked in even more than he did. Actually, Sam didn't really mind it much, as long as he had something to do. But Dean, it was like some puppies he saw once in a movie on TV. They'd stare out the window, whining at anyone who walked by, as if they were dying to be out there with them, as if being indoors hurt them somehow. Sometimes his brother pulled back the curtains and looked like that too.
Dean reached out for him as Sam rushed past toward the pile of winter coats by the door. Though he tried to dodge, Dean still managed to ruffle his hair as he passed. Sam pressed his lips together still not totally decided on whether him doing that all the time was good or not. It wasn't like it felt bad or anything, and it meant Dean was paying attention to him, but the Beav never looked all that happy about it when Wally did it. So he wasn't sure he shouldn't be too.
Just in case, he grabbed Dean's coat and threw it backward at him as hard as he could.
Sam slipped on his own coat and struggled for a moment to get the zipper hooked up and zipped up. His gloves hung off a string out each arm. Dean had stapled them on to the inside with a piece of yarn saying he'd gotten tired of looking for the darn things all the time. Sam wished he'd asked him before he did it, the staple ends looking kind of weird on the outside, but it had made getting ready a lot faster. He hardly ever had to ask for help anymore.
"Hat, Sam. Where's the hat?"
Rolling his eyes, he reached into his coat's right hand pocket and pulled out his bunched up cap and put it on. "Ready."
Sam stiffened and turned around, realizing too late it was only Dean imitating their father's terse voice. He sent him a dirty look but stood still to be inspected anyway.
"Coat – check, zipper – check, gloves – check, shoes – check."
Sam rolled his eyes again. "Deeeeeaaannn."
"Okay, okay, I think we're set." His brother gave him a grin and turned around. "Dad, we're going."
Their father nodded without looking at them, his focus solely on what he was doing. Sam found his gaze locking onto their father's journal as he slipped that inside the duffel as well. He'd become more and more sure that it held all the answers he wanted and more. He'd watched his father from their bed as he studied its contents or wrote in it late into the night. But it was taboo for Sam to even get near it so he didn't have even a hint of what it held.
"Make it quick or I'll come looking for you two."
Sam jumped for the door and used both hands to open it, the gloves almost too slick on the knob. Cold bit at his cheeks as he stepped outside, a gray, cloud filled sky hiding the sun. Turning to the left, he ran down the sidewalk set before the rest of the motel's rooms. Having already been here a couple of days, he and Dean had long ago scoped out the territory and knew where all the important stuff was.
"Hold up, squirt!"
Sam stopped at the corner they'd need to turn at, having had it drilled into him over and over to make sure never to be out of either his father or brother's sight at any time. A lapse or two and the consequent scowling and spanking by their father had made sure he wouldn't ever forget again. "Come on, Dean!"
His brother caught up to him. "What's your hurry, short stuff?" Dean dug a knuckle into the top of his head.
Sam batted his hand away and turned around to stare up at him. "Is Dad going away again?"
His brother went around him turning to the left. The 7-11 was at the far corner. "Just overnight. He'll be back in the morning."
"Can't we go with him?"
He was only too well acquainted with this particular warning tone. His brother would tell him about anything he asked and if he didn't know find it out for him, unless it had to do with their father, or his job, or the places he went, then he'd pretty much refuse to tell him anything. Sooner or later Sam would find out though. He didn't like it that Dean knew all about it yet he couldn't. He was old enough. "Fine."
He ran on ahead to get there first but also to escape the unhappy feelings which had been bothering him of late. He just hoped their father wouldn't let his 'work', whatever it really was, mess up Christmas. Sam was really looking forward to it. Bobby was even helping him out so that this year he could give his Dad an actual gift.
Sam watched his breath cloud up before him as he waited outside the store's door, waiting for Dean to catch up again. His brother seemed in no hurry whatsoever despite the fact their father would be keeping track of how long they were gone. Sam opened the door for him when he got there.
Christmas was over three weeks away, but already the store owner had hung decorations and streamers from the ceiling. Someone had spray painted a jolly Santa Claus on the front window. There was even a small Christmas tree on the counter. Sam knew all about the meaning of Christmas from Pastor Jim and all the specials that came on TV about this time of year. Sometimes Sam thought that their father seemed to want to work even more once it hit November and December. Like he didn't want to be around for all the bright lights and songs and things. Dean sometimes looked a little sad too, but Sam couldn't tell if it was because of Dad or something else. He thought it might have something to do with Mom not being with them, but this was another subject he could never get anyone to talk to him about.
"Okay, what will it be? Hawaiian Punch? 7 UP? Or are we living it up with a cherry slurpee today?" Dean led him away from the isles of candies and chips toward the refrigerated section in the back.
"I'm not thirsty." Sam licked his lips, his gaze staring longingly at the drinks. "Get what you want."
Dean stared at him hard for a minute, and Sam knew he was really tempted to take him up on the offer, that he might just go for it, but then he shook his head. "Come on, I'm not falling for it. What do you want?"
Sam tried to hold out, he really wanted to, knowing how much Dean liked caffeine, but he really, really was thirsty. "Hawaiian Punch?"
"Works for me, squirt." Dean put him in a neck hold and dragged him to the right door then opened it and reached high to grab their drink.
Sam struggled, but not too hard, because though it was awkward to walk around bent like this with his brother's arm around his neck and all, he didn't really mind it. In his brother's mind this was a hug. Why he didn't give Sam straight hugs like Pastor Jim and Caleb, and occasionally his Dad, he'd never been able to figure out. Something about it not being manly? Well, Dean wasn't a man, so Sam just didn't get it. But he would play along – it was Dean after all.
The one time he did ask him to explain, his brother got this weird look on his face and told him he'd understand someday. Sam suspected his brother didn't have the faintest idea why he did it and just made the stuff up so he could drag him around by the neck. One of these days Sam knew he'd grow up enough to where he'd be the one doing it to Dean instead. He was looking forward to it.
Dean let him go and handed him the drink to hold till they paid for it. Going back up toward the front of the 7-11, they headed for the newspaper rack. Most of the Sunday papers were already gone, but there were still a few left for sale. The Sunday funnies covered the front in bright, shiny colors. Once their Dad got the paper, he would quickly glance over them and then let Dean and him have them. Dean would read them to Sam on the bed as they sat side by side. Though Sam was old enough he could read them for himself, it was a lot more fun doing it together. Dean would even do voices for some of his favorite ones. Maybe they would play act one or two once their father left.
"Oh, oh that is so freakin' cool!"
Sam glanced up at his brother, surprised by the sound of excitement coming from him. Dean seemed to be looking at one of the strips, but Sam couldn't tell which one. "What's cool?"
Dean didn't answer him, instead tucking the paper under one arm and half turning to look at him, his hazel eyes bright. "Sammy, will you do me a favor?"
He didn't understand what was going on, but he nodded. "Sure."
"Pray for snow, Sammy. Pray real real hard for some snow."
More confused than ever, Sammy nodded again. "Okay… Why?"
Dean's face lit up with a grin. "If you pray real hard and it comes true, you'll see." He took the drink from him and headed toward the counter.
Sam knew that grin. It was the type that meant there was the possibility of having a lot of fun but also getting into a lot of trouble. A tingle of excitement filled his belly. He closed his eyes tight right then and there and prayed for all he was worth.
When he opened his eyes again, Dean was coming back from paying for the paper and their drink. The grin was gone, but the gleam in his eyes told him it was still in there somewhere, bidding its time to shine again.
"Did you do it?"
"Let's get on back, then. Then we'll see what we will see."
By the time their father was ready to go, large flakes started to fall. Snow was nothing new, but Dean wanted it and Sam had prayed for it, and God had seen fit to grant their wish. He still had no idea why it made Dean's face shine with so much glee, but he was glad of it.
They sat in front of the windows, curtains drawn back, just watching it come down. The parking lot, sidewalks, cars, roofs, everything was being coated with a blanket of white.
"We're going to do something very special today, Sammy."
Sam watched his brother's face, seeing it fill with barely contained exhilaration, his voice ringing with it. "What are we going to do?"
"We're going to create Art."
Sam didn't get it. But in the end it didn't matter. All he knew was that whatever they were going to do he was going to get to do it with his brother and that was enough.
Sam Age 12:
"My name is SAM, Dean…" He sighed in exasperation, having had this conversation way way too many times before. When would his brother get it through his thick skull he wasn't a little kid anymore?
"Geez, come on! I've been calling you Sammy since like forever. What's up with that anyway? This name change thing."
Sam stumbled half a step as his brother gave him a shove at the shoulder for emphasis. He recovered easily, not even having to take his gloved hands out of his pockets. The weather had turned wintry and seemed to be growing only more and more chilly the last couple of days. His breath looked almost solid as it congealed in the air with every breath and the air smelled crisp. Thick clouds crowded the sky. Snow was already lightly coming down with the promise of a lot more. Everyone at school was hoping for a ton of it and if they were really lucky, a day off from school tomorrow.
"I didn't change my name, Dean, you did! And I really wish you'd stop it. I've been asking for quite a while now."
Sam heard his brother snort. He could tell Dean wouldn't take his request any more seriously today than any other day. His brother could be so stupidly stubborn about some stuff. Was it so wrong that he wanted to be called by his actual name? Well, okay, not his real real name – Samuel – because that would just get him laughed at. But Sammy was just too baby a name. Even his father had respected his wishes and called him Sam, only slipping occasionally. Dean though, for him 'Sam' was the occasional – the rare occasional.
"So with you all grown up and snooty now, I guess you wouldn't consider doing your old bro a favor, I bet."
They were following a two lane blacktop down snaking lanes, the wind fortunately at their backs. Their current 'home' of the moment was a worn out one story close to the edge of town. It afforded them privacy for the 'family business' end of things. Sam felt a shiver at that that had nothing to do with the cold.
"What kind of favor?" He sent a guarded glance in his brother's direction. One had to be careful about Dean's favors. Especially favors while their father was away. Those always had a way of getting out of hand.
"It's snowing, Sammy."
Dread and excitement clashed inside him. He clamped down on them and pretended not to have the faintest idea what Dean could be talking about. "Yeah, so?"
"Virginal snow, Sam!" Dean started walking sideways, hands also shoved deep in his pockets, his dark blue cap pulled down as far over his ears as it would go. A familiar glimmer was sparkling in his hazel eyes. "Someone has to deflower it. It's time for some Art."
He shook his head. "You know how Dad hates it when you do this." The first time they'd done it, Sam hadn't understood exactly what they'd done. Their father had gone ballistic when he found Dean's 'Art' upon his return that next morning. Even now, years later, Sam didn't comprehend the appeal to his brother or why their father thought so badly of it. Sam just felt there were less disgusting things that could be done with snow – true art for instance. What Dean did with it in no way lent itself to the spirit of the Christmas season. Not at all.
"He won't know! I've been planning this for weeks, Sammy. I gotta do it."
The plaintive whine at the end was new. "Gotta? Why?"
Dean looked away and ducked his head for a moment, chewing on his lip. That was new too.
"I, I kinda promised Becky."
"Becky Summersby." Dean's eyes took on a glazed faraway look. His brother was full of all sorts of surprises today.
"You want to get us in trouble for a girl?" Ugh. It wasn't that Sam had anything against girls. But he just didn't see what the big deal was. Dean had been babbling about them for months now. Sam was friends with some, but they were no different than the guys…much. A few were sort of changing. Giggling all the time, wearing makeup, perfume, weird stuff. Surely his brother wasn't into that crap.
"Oh, she's just not any girl, Sammy." A dreamy look crawled over his face.
This was getting creepy. "The name is Sam…"
"Dude, you gotta understand, she's got the biggest, loveliest set of…" Sam saw him throw him an odd look as he hesitated. "Uhm…assets, uhm, and you've never seen anyone fill out a cheerleader's outfit like she can. White and blue have never looked so good. She's, she's perfect. We gotta do this."
"Dad is going to know." He sure as heck didn't want his hide tanned or get forced into extra chores and exercises over some girl Dean was drooling after. No way.
As if to spite him, the snow grew heavier. It'd be perfect for what his brother wanted. That unsolicited tingle of excitement tried to spark in him again.
"Dude, you worry too much. You think we're the only people who've ever thought of doing this?"
Sam shook his head. "He'll know. He always knows." And his father in a bad mood was something to be avoided. No matter what.
"Come on, Samm-, err, Sam. Please?"
"Forget about it, Dean."
His brother shook his head and slumped forward in a sorrowful, fake way. He then reached a gloved hand into his jacket. After a moment, he brought out the amulet Sam had given him that awful Christmas four years ago, the one where he'd gone and dug out the truth about their father and what he did on his own. The year he'd found out about the family's secrets, the ones they'd not wanted to tell him. It'd been but a few weeks after the first time Dean had indulged his snow habit.
It was kind of embarrassing that he still had it. Dean wore it everywhere. You'd think Sam had given him gold or something instead of some weird head amulet with horns. And it hadn't originally even been for him anyway, though from the way he acted, you'd never know he knew. Sam felt heat rising up his neck just thinking about it.
"Ah, where, oh where is the brother who gave me this fabulous Christmas present?" Overdone sadness oozed from his brother's every pore. "Whatever happened to him? That brother who would unselfishly give me the one gift I really want for Christmas. Where is that brother who would have happily helped me in my time of need?"
Sam sent him a sideways dirty look. "Dean, you suck. And I'm so not falling for your crap." He sped up his steps to get away from him, but his brother wasn't having it. Though Sam was getting taller every day, he still hadn't quite caught up to Dean, so his strides were still a little shorter.
Dean reached out for his shoulder his expression turning serious. "I really do need your help." Sam tried to turn a blind eye to the glaring earnestness. It had to be a trick. "I can't do this without you, bro, and you know it. And tonight would be perfect for this." The twinkle was back in his eyes. "Besides, I know deep down you want to."
He might, though he'd never admit it. After a few more seconds of Dean's mixed stare of hope, excitement, oozing cockiness, Sam let out a long, slow sigh. "If we get caught, I am so totally blaming you for this."
"You got a deal, bitch." Dean beamed.
Sam felt the thrill building inside him despite everything. There really was little to nothing he wouldn't do for Dean. Though it was something his brother best not be told about. Still this was something that was theirs and theirs alone. "Jerk."
Sam Age 25:
Sam slowed down as his gaze ran across a book display in one of the local stores they were walking past. He glanced up at the sign above it – Melanie's New and Used Books. He stopped.
"Hey, Ruby, I want to pick up something to read. Can I meet you at the diner? I should only be a few minutes." He glanced down at the diminutive woman's body who currently housed an enigma -- a demon with a conscience. They'd been traveling together for three months, teacher and student, lovers, yet at times Sam was still surprised by all these things whenever he looked at her.
Her small dark brow rose. "Sure. But that means an extra order of fries on you, mister."
Sam couldn't help a grin. Who'd known demons would have such a high propensity for a simple food. "You got it."
He watched her saunter down the sidewalk in her tight black jeans, knowing she was well aware of his following stare.
Never in his wildest dreams, or maybe nightmares, would he have ever pictured himself here. Not that long ago the fact he would be amused by anything had seemed impossible. Ruby had saved him. Though Sam hadn't been dead, he also hadn't been living. He'd been tempting fate, his inability to save his brother from the pit and the fact Dean was there because he'd traded his soul for him, crippling him. It got so bad that without knowing it, he was looking for ways to die. And he'd almost succeeded. Almost.
Shaking away the unexpectedly maudlin thoughts, he opened the shop's door and went inside.
He strolled the isles not really looking, just absorbing the fact he was there surrounded by books.
There was just something fascinating about books. Not just the information inside them, but their very being, their presence. Put a lot of them in one place and there was always that unique paper smell, that thrumming feeling at the edge of your senses of secrets and knowledge, even comfort. He'd loved libraries all his life, the ones at Stanford best of all. The Cecil H Green library had been his haven and had kept him sane those first two hard years. It was also where he'd first met Jessica. Books were power, entertainment, escapism, so very many things. It'd been a while since he'd used them for the last two though. The previous year and then the frenzy right after Dean died had all been about seeking knowledge and information, anguish nipping constantly at his soul, and books had been the only way to feed a horrible, desperate desire for hope.
It was still so fresh, the wound at times still seeping. As if at any moment Dean would just walk up to him and make a smart ass comment or jab him in the side. But he wasn't. He would never be. And though he had reconciled himself with living, there was still a hole inside. He missed his brother desperately. As badly as if he'd lost a limb.
Sam shook his head again wondering where all these overemotional thoughts were coming from. He definitely needed a few books. Absolutely must escape reality, if only for a little while.
He glanced around to see what isle he was in and stopped cold as a cover snagged at his attention. His breath caught in his throat. The cover was of a snow littered scene, a young boy cowering in fear behind a tree with his tiger. Beyond the tree was a two headed snowman drawn as if in the act of shambling past looking for prey. The title leapt at him -- Attack of the Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons – A Calvin and Hobbes collection by Bill Watterson.
His hand shook as he reached out for the book, memories from his past flashing like photos in his mind's eye.
Dean's very first piece of Art – done at their very motel room door – a grisly sight to welcome their father back – a beheaded snowman, its body on the left, a stake through its chest. On the right, its head on its side, a sea of sharp fangs made of toothpicks at its mouth.
But that hadn't been all, oh no. Like Calvin his brother went all the way or none. Each motel room had gotten its own hideous snowman to show – dismemberments, gunshot wounds, some human, some not. The werewolf snowman howling at the end of the row a masterpiece of horror – at least to his eight year old eyes.
Sam had been in charge of snow retrieval. How he'd squealed running back and forth to bring it as fast as his small legs would allow him. There'd just been something wicked about their father not being around and them working frantically to do this thing, him without the faintest idea what it was about. The finished products had given him the creeps, as if they'd brought some of his all too frequent nightmares to life. Yet at the same time it had been liberating. When they'd finished the first one and he'd stared at it trembling in fear, Dean had him punch it out, destroy it, showing him how it couldn't hurt him. It had been a strangely empowering moment. Helping Dean make the rest of them only made him feel that much more in control.
They'd gone to bed around three in the morning, exhausted but strangely satisfied. Until their father came home and woke them screaming Dean's name at the top of his lungs. That their father had not been amused was a total understatement.
Yet despite their father's displeasure, and Dean's usual good soldier routine, this was something he didn't let go of. Every year after that, at least once, somewhere, some weird scene of snow would awaken under his touch. Each more disturbing and amusing than the one before.
Nothing, however, ever compared to the size and complexity of the project they pulled off when Dean was sixteen.
The town of Stars Hollow had a huge town square/park with a tall gazebo at its center. With the heavy snow that fell that afternoon and early evening that early December day, it had made the perfect canvas. Dean had been planning his Art for weeks. After Sam's hesitant agreement that he would help, they'd gotten busy. Dean had been accumulating and stashing away everything they would need for a while – spray bottles, food coloring, old towels, pieces of wood shaped during woodshop – he even had schematics. Sam had been impressed despite himself.
At ten that night, when most of the businesses had closed, they left the house and made their way to the square then got to work. Spray bottles tucked into coat pockets would keep them from freezing. Extra gloves, pants, socks came in a packed duffel in case they got too soaked from packing snow. They even brought a large thermos full of hot chocolate and snacks to keep them going. The town's already raised Christmas lights lit their wide work space and gave a weird merry look to their grisly results. If Dean's grin had had any more wattage the whole town would have woken up thinking dawn had come early. His brother had never been more enthusiastic and full of energy as that night and it was infectious. They worked like madmen the whole night through. And while Sam still wouldn't call what they did Art, it was definitely an impressive marvel.
Calvin only dreamed his Art in white. Dean took it to Technicolor, adding a whole new layer to the insanity.
Murder most foul in the gazebo with snowmen as shocked witnesses – the victim stabbed twenty plus times, red snow blood punctures all over the chest. A screaming snowman being pulled under the gazebo by massive green claw like hands. A guillotine with a basket full of heads next to the twenty foot town Christmas tree, its next victim struggling against the guards as he's pushed toward the inevitable end. A snowman with a slit belly, ice cubes sprayed together to form falling intestines, sprayed in purple, red, and blue. Tentacles coming from the street drain, dragging unwitting snowmen victims toward it, their silent screams slicing the night. Zombies shambling in a spectral line dance, arms raised as they sought prey. Small snowmen children running away from a feral, mutant, yellow goldfish. And last but not least, one lone snowman at the street corner staring up into the night's sky, arms upraised as if asking 'why?' his body half melted around him.
Every inch of the town square exhibiting its own ghastly piece of horrid paranormal snowman life. It was the most awesome, sick thing they'd ever done. And it'd been marvelous.
Of course, their father figured it out. Somehow he always did. The town's outcry, especially that of the town council and the businesses facing the square rang in the air for weeks afterwards. One trip to the hardware store was all that was needed for John Winchester to find out that something had gone down while he'd been out of town and who most likely was responsible. And though no one but a few had any idea it had been them, their father still had shown his heavy disapproval mightily enough they'd not been able to sit down comfortably for a week. In hindsight Sam supposed his father had been worried about attracting too much attention, of leaving signs that the Winchester boys knew more than children should. But as usual, he'd not explained this to them, only forbid them from doing it again. They were soldiers, not children, and soldiers only followed orders, never questioned them. Sam supposed it had made things easier for him. The guilt of what he'd done to their childhoods and not being able to save his wife more than his mind could take.
Dean didn't regret it. Even when they couldn't sit, he was grinning from ear to ear whenever their father wasn't looking, that strange dreamy look on his face. Looking back on it now, Sam was pretty sure his brother got laid. Becky was mightily impressed by their deeds indeed.
With a pang, he realized the two of them hadn't indulged in Dean's weird hobby since Sam left the family to go to Stanford going on eight years. They would never get the chance to do so now.
Sam pulled the book down, his eyes burning. He was having trouble getting a breath, his chest unusually tight. He paid for the book and half stumbled out of the store, feeling the clerk's worried gaze following him. Warmth rolled down his face.
The unwanted falling tears clouded everything in front of him.
Oh God! He missed Dean so much!
The dreaded pit of loss, pain, and guilt opened before him trying to draw him in. He held the book up to his chest as if it could fill the void, inadvertently pressing the amulet that belonged to his dead sibling hard against his skin where it hid beneath his shirt.
He ducked into the nearest alley and propped himself up against the wall trying to regain some kind of control. He couldn't keep doing this! He scrunched down to the ground, shivering though it was the height of summer. He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to cut off the tears and hugged the book that much harder.
Dean was gone, but he would still always be with him. Whether he could stand it or not.
"Where the heck have you been?" Ruby slipped out of the booth at the dinner, hands on hips, her brown eyed gaze raking him from top to bottom. Several plates sat on the table, the remnants of smeared ketchup the only evidence of what she'd been eating.
Sam couldn't look at her. He opened his mouth, tried to come up with some words for an apology, anything, but couldn't.
"You okay? Did something happen?" The anger left her voice as if it had never been. He was sure he didn't look his best at the moment.
"Sorry…" He struggled to get more words past his constricted throat and fell onto the booth's seat in a clump. "Something just…came up…"
He glanced at her and then away, just long enough to see what she was pointing at. It was the Calvin and Hobbes book, he was still holding it against his chest clasped by his hand in a death grip. He couldn't seem to let it go, despite the fact his hand and arm had long ago gone numb. "It's a piece of Dean."
He couldn't say anymore, his eyes stinging. He could feel his control trying to slip again.
"You sure you're okay?" Ruby slipped into her side of the table, worry coating her words.
She reached over as if to take his hand but he moved away not able to handle anything which might tip his tenuous hold at the moment. "No… but I'll live."
"If… you say so. Though to be honest you've looked better."
He shook his head. "It doesn't matter." He forced himself to look at her. Again he found himself surprised by her presence, by the very fact she seemed to care. "Ruby, promise me something."
He felt her stare boring into him as if she thought she might somehow be able to scry what he would be asking her before she had to commit herself. "What?"
"When winter comes, if we're still alive, promise me that we'll go north."
He saw her frown, still staring hard at him, but then her expression cleared. "Sure, that shouldn't be a problem."
He stared down at the book in his hand. "I want somewhere with snow. Lots and lots of it. For Christmas I want to make some Art."