Title: And Singing Through the Seasons Young and Old
Characters: Dean, Jimmy, Castiel, Bobby, John, Sammy
Category: Gen, AU, Pre-Series, Schmoop of the schmoopiest kind (for real, I mean it, I hope you're not diabetic because this is WAY more sugar than the recommended quantity)
Warning: Mentions of child abuse. Language.
Spoilers: Through S4. Previous stories in 'verse.
Summary: It's gonna be a good Christmas. Dean can tell. He's smart like that. Now all he has to do is convince Jimmy.
Word Count: 3500
Disclaimer: This is my Father's world, but it's Kripke's playground.
Author's Note: Part of the Rain Falling Down AU, Yuletide edition. Dedicated to dinalori, who suggested I check out Angels in the Snow by Amy Sky for inspiration. (Also for everyone else on my flist who likes this 'verse. Love you all, and I wish you the very merriest of holidays, whatever you celebrate or even if you celebrate nothing at all. I wish you that even if you don't like this 'verse, of course.)
And Singing Through the Seasons Young and Old
Uncle Bobby really wanted Christmas to be good. Dean could tell. Uncle Bobby was a good guy. Dean sorta wanted to tell him that it was gonna be okay and he didn't have to try so hard.
But then he would look at Jimmy, who had gotten real, real quiet when the grown-ups started talking about Christmas, and he realized that maybe Uncle Bobby did have to try kind of hard, after all. Not so much for him or Sammy, because they liked all of that stuff. But for Jimmy, definitely.
They were making garlands with popcorn and cranberries, sticking the needles through the fluffy white kernels and the hard red berries, pulling them through to the end of the line and the big knots Bobby had made for them. Jimmy's string was lots longer than Dean's already, because he was bigger and his fingers worked better, but Dean was determined to catch up and have a string that was even longer. He had gotten distracted, eating some of the popcorn even though Uncle Bobby had said not to, but it didn't taste very good without any salt or butter, so he gave it up quick. The hard cranberries had tasted really bad too, but Dean still ate three of them to make sure. It didn't seem possible that anything that looked that pretty could taste that bad, so he'd had to test it several times.
He poked his finger with the needle again and called it some bad words, just like Daddy did. "Fuckin' needle! Damn it!"
Jimmy frowned at him. But he didn't say anything, like Dean had hoped. Jimmy usually scolded him for using bad words, but sometimes he didn't care. It depended on which part of him was out at the moment. Right now he obviously cared, but he still didn't say anything.
Dean strung on another two kernels, then added a cranberry. He stared at Jimmy the whole time, but Jimmy kept his eyes on his work. He was a lot more careful than Dean, always five popcorns, then a berry, five popcorns, then a berry. His string was very neat and tidy looking, not all over the place like Dean's.
Finally, he just had to ask. "Doncha like Christmas, Jimmy?"
Jimmy shrugged. He didn't even look up.
"I like Christmas," Dean went on, resolute. So Jimmy didn't feel like talking. Dean got that. Sometimes he didn't feel like talking, either. But right now he did, so he was gonna talk.
"Last Christmas was weird," Dean said. "We were in this hotel place, and Daddy didn't even get a tree. But he got lights and hung them on the potted plant, and we had presents and stuff and we watched Charlie Brown and Rudolph and everything. That was the bad time, though, and Daddy was still crying a lot and Sammy was too little to be good and I wasn't talking then and everything was messed up. But it was still Christmas, and I still liked Christmas. It was just bad not having...you know. Missing her. That was the bad part. But there were still good things. Because it was Christmas."
Dean stopped, wrinkling up his nose. He didn't feel like he was getting this across very well. He didn't know lots of big words like Jimmy and Uncle Bobby and he wasn't good at saying stuff. But he was trying. He stuck his tongue out of the corner of his mouth and viciously stabbed his needle through another cranberry, liking the way it felt, pushing through that resistance and feeling it give way, the needle free on the other side. It was easy and fun and cool.
Why couldn't everything be as easy as sticking cranberries? That would be nice.
"Do you miss your mommy and daddy?" he asked. "Is that why you don't like Christmas right now?"
Jimmy's hands went still around the popcorn garland. He stared down at it, fingers twitching on the table. His face was blank but his eyes were really, really sad.
Dean bent down a little to look in his face. "Christmas is still good, though. We're gonna have cookies tonight, even though it's not the weekend! And no school, and presents, and it's snowing right now so we can go sledding and have a snow fight and all sorts of stuff. And presents, Jimmy! I'm sure you'll get lots of presents. Daddy and Uncle Bobby have been actingreally, really sneaky for a long time, so there will probably be lots of really good ones. And this year is better than last year because we got you and Uncle Bobby now. Really, Jimmy, it's still gonna be good."
Jimmy looked at him carefully. He stirred the cranberry bowl with his fingers but didn't pick up another one. "Do you still miss your mommy, though?"
Dean had to look away for a moment. He didn't like to talk about her. He wanted to shut his mouth and not say anything else, but he had started this, so he felt sort of obligated to carry it through. "Yeah, of course. I'll always miss her, forever and ever."
"I'm sorry," the other boy said gravely, and this was that other part of Jimmy, the one who used big words and didn't smile very much and took such very, very good care of Dean and Sammy and Uncle Bobby, though no one but Dean really noticed that. "I tried to stop it, but things went wrong. I only made it worse."
Dean stared at him, meeting his big, serious eyes. Jimmy had never told him that before. Dean's voice shook a little, tiny and high and so weak he kinda wanted to rip it out of his own throat. "You tried to save my mommy?"
"I wanted to. I knew it would make things better for you and for Sam. It would make a difference in the way the years ran, the way events unfolded, and I hoped that those differences might eventually be enough to... But it didn't work. Instead, bad things happened to...to me, to m-my parents. I made everything so much worse. I failed you before we even met in this time."
Jimmy looked so old and sad and sorry that Dean couldn't stand it anymore. He put down his needle and climbed down from his chair. Then he went over to Jimmy's chair, where the boy was still kneeling, hands frozen on the table, and climbed up next to him and put his arms around Jimmy's neck. "You're making things better now, Jimmy. You make lots of things way better."
After a minute he felt Jimmy's stiff shoulders relax, falling down, and the older boy's skinny arms wrapped around Dean's middle, hugging tight. "You make things better, too. You make lots of things better."
This other Jimmy was so sad and guilty and twisted up inside about the loss of their parents. It didn't make much sense--how could he have saved Dean's mommy, so far away in Kansas? But he felt bad, so Dean felt bad too.
It wasn't right. You weren't supposed to feel so bad at Christmas. Christmas was about good things. Over Jimmy's shoulder, Dean watched the snow come down outside, soft and thick and everywhere.
Dean finally released his friend and climbed down from the chair. He marched away from the table with its half-finished garlands and starting putting on his boots. "C'mon, let's see if Uncle Bobby will let us go outside and play. I'm tired of popcorn and nasty berries."
Jimmy usually objected to leaving any project half-finished, (it was because he was more "sponsible" than Dean, Daddy said), but this time he nodded and got down from his chair and went to find Uncle Bobby.
Uncle Bobby didn't just give them permission—he came with them. Sammy was finally napping and he said he needed a break anyway.
Everything was white outside, like a blank page before Sammy took to it with his crayons, or maybe more like a coloring book before anyone colored in it. Except Dean's kindergarten teacher, Miss Farley, said that white was actually all of the colors mixed up, so maybe that meant that the world was totally full of color, not empty. But that made Dean's head hurt, so he quit thinking about it.
Their boots crunched through the snow, little feet, middle feet, big feet. Dean paused to look behind them, saw their tracks in the snow. Uncle Bobby's were a pretty straight line walking down an aisle between the junked cars, all made so beautiful and white in the snow. Jimmy was close beside him, holding his hand. Dean's tracks wandered here and there, but he stuck pretty close to his buddies.
Behind the junkyard, before the trees behind Uncle Bobby's property started, there was a wide open place kinda like a meadow. Daddy had his target for gun practice set up there, and Dean eyed it longingly. Maybe for Christmas Daddy would finally let him shoot a real gun. He wasn't too little, he wasn't. Or maybe in a month, when Dean turned six. That was big. Maybe Daddy would let him shoot then. Dean was getting big and he was being as sponsible as he could—surely Daddy had noticed.
Uncle Bobby and Jimmy had paused, looking back at him. Jimmy's voice was muffled in the big scarf Bobby had wrapped around the bottom of his face right after he did Dean's, just his red-tipped nose peeking out above it, but his eyes were worried.
"I'm comin'." Dean ran to catch up, puffing out billows of steam like a little dragon. An awesome little dragon. Because he totally was.
Once he reached them, he looked around at the expanse of clear, pristine white and decided that it was definitely too empty. "Let's make snow angels!"
Without waiting for a response, he fell backward into the snow.
Dean lay there, staring up into the blue-gray sky. He swept his arms and legs back and forth, feeling them shift the snow, listening to the swishy noises his snowsuit made. The air was sharp and cold, but the suit protected him, kept him warm. His mom had showed him how to do this two winters ago.
He would never stop missing her.
Jimmy stood over him, watching him with a curious tilt to his head. "What are you doing?"
"I'm makin' a snow angel." With anyone else, Dean would have tacked a "duh" to the end of that. But this was Jimmy.
He popped to his feet to stand beside his friend, brushing the snow off his head and looking back at the impression he had made in the snow. "See? Wings and everything."
Jimmy tilted his head more, until he was almost looking at it completely sideways. "Oh. I see."
"Okay, you try now."
Dean spun around and pushed him in the middle, catching Jimmy off-guard. The older boy fell back with a startled woofof air and flopped down into the snow, then stared up at Dean from the fluffy white, his eyes big and blue and almost scared.
Uncle Bobby made a jerky move as if to come to his rescue, standing silent a few feet away, then chuckled suddenly and shook his head, backing off. "Boys..."
"I'm all right," Jimmy said breathlessly. "He just...surprised me."
"Now sweep your arms and legs up and down," Dean ordered, nudging Jimmy's boot with his foot. "C'mon. It's fun!"
Jimmy hesitated for a moment, then did it. He didn't stay on the ground for very long, though, before he got up and stood beside Dean to look down at their angels, side-by-side in the snow. He was panting a little, but his eyes sparkled.
"See?" Dean asked, nodding his head sharply, once, like Daddy did to emphasize a point. "Toldja it was fun."
Jimmy nodded, gulping the cold air, then turned to Bobby with an imploring look. "Will you do it too? Please, Uncle Bobby?"
Uncle Bobby melted right away. He always did when Jimmy looked at him like that. "Sure, puddin'."
Before they went back inside, that whole blank white spot was covered with angels, a multitude of the heavenly host, big and middle and little, all over every hill and even right up next to Daddy's gun target.
And once they got inside, of course, they found out that Sammy had woken up and climbed out of his crib all by himself and ate all the popcorn on the table even though it wasn't tasty at all. Dean made faces and scolded him and tried to get him to eat the cranberries, but he wouldn't do it, closing up his little mouth tight tight tight when Dean tried to poke them in and going, "Mm mm, Dee, no! No! Mm mm!"
Uncle Bobby laughed and made them hot chocolate to warm them up. Jimmy watched them with that bright little smile of his, the one he tried to hide sometimes, shy and quiet behind his hand, but it was so bright that it couldn't help peeking out. So that was okay, then, Dean figured. The sadness was all forgotten and gone, and it was gonna be a great Christmas, it really was, just as soon as Daddy got home from work.
Christmas was great. Dean had known it would be, but it was still nice to find himself proven right. Daddy was home five whole days in a row and Dean got a scooter and Sammy got a Tonka trunk and Jimmy got like a million books. Something like that. Dean couldn't count that high, whatever number it was.
Jimmy still got sad now and then, at weird times and for reasons Dean couldn't figure out at all, but Dean kept pestering him out of his gloomy clouds whenever he could. And one day he ease-dropped accidentally, though he knew he wasn't supposed to, when Uncle Bobby and Jimmy were talking in the study all curled up in the big chair where they went sometimes when Jimmy needed a snuggle. And he heard about how Jimmy's last dad, Mr. Baker, had started being mean to him at Christmas last year, how he got drunk and hit Jimmy for the first time, and after that it never stopped. And that was why Jimmy had been scared of Christmas this year, because it made him think of that, even though he didn't want to and he was sorry he felt so bad, he didn't want Uncle Bobby to feel bad too, but he couldn't help it.
After that Dean had to go away for awhile and pound some of Sammy's building blocks together until he didn't feel so bad inside anymore. That was just about the worst thing he'd ever heard. He hoped that Mr. Baker was a monster, so his dad could go hunt him down and shoot him dead.
In school Dean's class had been making reindeer ornaments out of pipe cleaners and popsicle sticks and pompoms and stuff, and he'd been planning to give his to his daddy, but after that he decided to give it to Jimmy instead. Daddy would understand. He did, too, when Dean went and sat in his lap and wrapped his arms around his neck and whispered in his ear to tell him all about it. He made sure to tell him before they opened presents, so Daddy wouldn't be upset that Dean had given his only present to Jimmy. Daddy totally understood, of course, 'cause he was the awesomest dad in the whole world, and he hugged Dean tight and told him that he'd made the right choice.
Christmas morning came bright and beautiful. Dean knew Santa wasn't real anymore—he'd figured it out on his own—but the tree was still packed full of presents and it looked amazing and there were things for everyone. Dean was right: sneaky adults meant good presents.
After they opened all the presents the living room kinda looked like a wrapping-paper tornado had gone through it, and they lazed around in their pajamas and played with their toys, and Daddy and Uncle Bobby were looking through the books they had given each other with big, goofy grins on their faces. (They had gotten each other the same exact one, only different "additions," whatever that meant, and Dean didn't get why that made them laugh so hard and smile so big, but they were both happy, so it was okay.)
But Jimmy was sitting there surrounded by little piles of books like a tiny city full of skyscrapers, and he was sniffing with bright little tears in his eyes. Dean noticed and left off playing with his new cap gun to go poke his shoulder. "Jimmy, Jimmy. Don't cry, Jimmy. Isn't Christmas awesome? I toldja it would be."
The boy nodded, still sniffing. "I'm not sad. I just... Thank you for the reindeer, Dean." He'd already thanked him like ten times. "But I didn't get anyone any presents."
"You're a kid," Dean informed him solemnly. "You're not s'posed to."
Jimmy looked at Uncle Bobby with a kind of helpless shrug. "I don't have anything else... Can I sing for you? Is that okay? It's all I have." He looked at Dean's daddy, too, asking permission with his eyes.
Of course they both nodded right away and put their books aside to listen. Dean sat up straighter, watching his friend. He reached over to grab the back of Sammy's pajamas and drag him over so he would listen, too, folding the baby into his lap and wrapping his arms around him. "'Course, Jimmy. I like your songs a whole lot."
Jimmy nodded, sniffed back the tears, and started singing, looking down at his lap at first as if he was embarrassed. Which was silly, because Jimmy's voice was beautiful and his songs were super-cool and Dean had told him so like a hundred times.
I heard the bells on Christmas day I thought how, as the day had come,
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
I thought how, as the day had come,
Gradually as he sang Jimmy's voice strengthened, and he lifted his head, singing strong and sweet. His eyes were closed as if he didn't even know they were there anymore, lost in his music. That was Dean's favorite part, when Jimmy just sang and there was nothing but that, and it really was awesome, even though the songs weren't like anything his daddy liked, anything he remembered from his mommy, anything he'd ever liked before. They were new and different and Jimmy,and that made them great.
And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."
And Dean thought about Mr. Baker, and he knew it was true. He heard the sadness in Jimmy's voice and tightened his arms around Sammy, holding him close even though he squirmed. There were bad things in the world and it wasn't fair.
But then Jimmy's voice rang out stronger than ever, and there was a deeper note in it, something that resonated around the room like the chiming of a big, deep bell, beautiful and powerful. It was almost as if Jimmy wasn't singing alone anymore, as if there was someone else there too, someone who knew how the story ended and wanted to tell them that everything would be all right someday.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."
Jimmy seemed somehow larger, too, bigger, stronger, taller. The light from the Christmas tree caught in his hair, crowning him in white, and his face was flushed bright and joyful. The shadows behind him seemed to shift, suddenly, subtly, stretching out like wings on the wall. Dean blinked, dazzled.
Till ringing, singing, on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men!
Then the song ended. Jimmy shrank back into himself and was just a little boy again, blinking at them. Daddy and Uncle Bobby clapped and clapped, and Dean gave him the biggest grin he could.
"That was wicked good, Jimmy."
Jimmy blinked at him, eyes wide and dazed. "Isn't that a contradiction?"
"It's slang, buddy," Daddy said, reaching over to shake his shoulder gently. "Don't think about it too hard."
Uncle Bobby kind of shook his head and got up to start making breakfast, and the spell that had fallen over them all broke a little, letting Dean and Sammy go back to playing, while Daddy went back to his book and Jimmy smiled at them all.
And Dean was perfectly satisfied, because he'd been totally right and no one could deny it. Christmas was utterly and completely awesome.