Borrowing the Impala, instead of taking the Impala, sneaking out at night, instead of leaving in the middle of the night, laughing instead of crying, being frustrated with someone instead of at himself, being driven to save people, not driven to seek revenge, worried rather than desperate, looking over his shoulder to make sure someone was following rather than looking over his shoulder hoping that someone wasn't. These were the changes that had occurred since Dean's return, and tonight, on Christmas, he needed to thank the big guy upstairs for giving him the one gift he most desired.

The day had been filled with celebration. Bobby insisted that they be at his place for the festivities, giving some hogwash about it being safe in case any of the demons decided to pay them an unexpected visit. When the brother said they could take care of themselves and it wasn't typical of demons to attack on Christmas, Bobby had countered by saying that this year might just be different. So, today, Christmas day, they spent at Bobby's, opening presents, having a meal, a home cooked meal, filled with foods from their childhood that only Dean remembered how to prepare, and real food that Bobby made. The night ended with the three of them sitting in Bobby's kitchen, telling stories from their childhood, from Bobby's childhood, and even stories about their Dad. Sam hadn't felt this warm in a long time. The house was warmed by the fire, the alcohol warmed his insides, and Dean sitting next to him laughing and having a good time warmed his heart.

Dean's return had been fraught with all sorts of unforeseen problems. Sam used to lie in a bed, whatever kind of a bed he could get a hold of for the night, and pray, just simply pray, that he could wake up and have his brother sleeping in the same room, or even waking him up with some form of mullet rock, anything, he just wanted Dean back. But when Dean came back, there were secrets and lies and pain both overt and hidden, that he hadn't expected. Expectations had been that Dean would be back, the hole in his heart and soul would be filled, and they would pick right back up where they left off. The demon blood, angels, demons, powers, none of that had ever entered Sam's "Dean's return" fantasy but it was there all the same. But today, for the first time, it felt like they were on the same page again, like they understood each other, like there were no secrets, like there were no lies. They were simply brothers again.

So, sneaking out of the house, and borrowing the Impala, Sam drove to the nearest church. There was a score he needed to settle. It had been a long time since Sam had entered a church for a purpose other than work. The church was beautiful, it was older, the actual church portion of the structure had been around since the Civil War, and it had been an old pioneer church. Sam sat down in the back pew facing the crucifix hanging in the front. He clasped his hands together and looked down at them through a fringe of bangs.

"Well, uh, God. I'm not real sure I'm welcome in your house. I mean. I have demon blood in me." he said and tears of anger burned at his eyes. "If I had known that all of those years, I wouldn't have bothered you so much as a kid. I'm sorry about that." He liked his dry lips and looked up at the crucifix. "But, uh, your angels say that the moment I get in the way I'm dust. I guess, with me using these powers, and following a demon, I deserve that right? Well. I am sorry. I'm sorry about all of it. But that wasn't why I came here today. I came to thank you. Thank you for making Cass pull my brother from the pit, thank you for returning him to my side." His voice hitched. "I missed him so much. I didn't understand before….didn't understand anything. I do now though. And I really wanted to thank you for that. Cass says that you have work for Dean to do, but in bringing him back you saved me. I doubt that was part of his work, but I just wanted you to know I appreciate it. Thank you." Sam stood and started for the door, stopped, turned and looked back at the savior. "And, I'll do better. I'll work harder and Dean and I will stop this mess. I won't give the angels a reason to make me dust. I promise. And, and…." He paused. "Thank you again. For letting me be Dean Winchester's little brother, and thank you for bringing him back." Sam bobbed his head, forced himself not to say thank you a dozen more times, and pushed one foot in front of the other until he was back out in the cold, and in the Impala and at Bobby's and then inside the house, and finally in the room he was sharing with Dean.

"Where were you?" Dean asked without moving.

"I had to thank someone for my Christmas present."

"In the middle of the night? Man whatever Ruby got you must have been awesome." He said a little disgruntled and rolled over.

"No. My days of sneaking off to meet up with her are over."

"Then who?"



"I had to thank God for my gift." Dean sat up a little and eyed his little brother.

"What did he give you? Besides two annoying angels who seem hell bent on killing you? Because if you ask me that is a pretty suck ass gift."

Sam sat down on his bed and pulled off his boots. "I had to thank him for you." The room went silent, both sets of eyes locked on the other. "I had to thank him for bringing you back."


"But nothing." Sam said stopping the beginning of Dean's come back. "But nothing. I'm simply grateful to have you back. Damaged, angry with me, whatever. I'm just glad you are here Dean." Dean remained silent and stunned. Sam finished getting ready for bed, pulled back the covers, crawled inside, and got comfortable. "This has been the best Christmas Dean. Thank you."

Dean licked his lips. He knew Sam wasn't thanking him for the dime store gift. He cleared his throat. "No problem Sammy." It was on the tip of his tongue to say that he loved his brother, but something in him just wouldn't allow that to happen. Both brother's turned and ended up so they were facing each other and fell sound asleep, and neither had nightmares that night, neither worried, neither felt anything but safe and loved. It was an order that Castiel was pleased to carry out.