A/N: Still playing catch up…maybe I'll be on top of these things by Christmas *rolls eyes* On another note, while other Christmas hymns rank as my favorites, I still have a special fondness for the one this chapter's named after : )
Dedicated to: Micaiah
Christmas was, according to Dean, a 'suck-tacular time of year to find out you're being haunted, especially if you're a church.'
The bishop agreed in sentiment, if not vernacular, and left the boys to their work with a blessing. EMF meters beeping quietly, the Winchesters scanned the doors, stained glass windows, up and down aisles of wooden pews. The tinny electric whine was enough to announce a lingering aura, but did not scream loudly as if the was an active presence. Passing rows of candles and holiday boughs, Sam and Dean made their way up the center aisle to the front of the church. One side of the pulpit was taken up by a large, finely painted porcelain nativity, perhaps one half life size. No sign of activity there either.
Sam turned his attention to the altar, while Dean's stayed focused on the stable, particularly one of the animals. Under his breath he began to hum a tune more mellow than anything he ever (willingly) played in the Impala.
I said the donkey shaggy and brown…
The line from so long ago he was surprised he remembered it. He reached a hand out and lightly stroked the donkey's ears.I carried his mother up hill and down…
"Dude, you have a sudden statuary fetish I need to know about?"
"Huh?" Yeah, that sounded intelligent. He shook his head, bringing himself back to the present. Sam gave him an annoyed glance.
"Seriously, you've been petting that thing for almost three minutes. Where'd you're head go?"
"It's nothing, just a… nice memory."I carried his mother to Bethlehem town…
"About farm animals? Cause I might not want to hear this…"
"About mom." Sam's expression did an about face, his tone eager.
"We're doing a job-this isn't story time."
"Please?" Perhaps it wasn't intentional, but this time Dean noticed the bottom lip that stuck farther out, how Sam's head tilted down slightly more, the ways his eyes got wide and bright. Shaking his head, he held up a hand in surrender, mumbling something under his breath about the misuse of puppy dog eyes.
"Alright, alright, put it away before someone calls the ASPCA on me for animal abuse."
Dean Winchester would never be described as maudlin- he did not start his story on a pitying note about his mother's 'last Christmas' or something just as drippy and tragic. Instead Dean simply began where he always did- including his brother.
"It was the year mom was pregnant with you, Sammy, and man was she happy the first trimester was over. I swear you must have been playing twister or something in there for the first three months, as bad as her morning sickness got. But by December she was feeling well enough to direct the children's pageant and I was 'volunteered' to be the donkey."
Sam knew what it cost his brother to go back to that place and time, but there was a spark in his brother's eyes that no other subject in Dean's storytelling repertoire-cars, women, hunts- could bring about. So he listened with rapt attention as Dean continued.
"Man, that costume was itchy, and the ears dug into the side of my head. But mom just loved seeing me dressed up, thought it was even cuter then my Halloween costume. Who was I to argue?"
"Even as a toddler, you're so modest." Sam teased and Dean flicked his brother's head.
"You want to hear this or not? So come Christmas Eve all the animals had this dumb little song we had to sing, and we got to my part of the song…and I froze."
"Let me guess- you forgot your lines and ran off stage?"
"Better than that- I managed to set the stable backdrop on fire." Dean said. "Little kids and candles don't mix, and I knocked down a couple of the shepherds holding them while running to Dad. All the kids were screaming, it was pretty much chaos until the preacher came in with the fire extinguisher."
Sam could only grin. "Wow. And here I thought the pyromania and causing mass panic didn't hit you 'til middle school."
"Shut up, wasn't all my fault- stupid kids shouldn't have gotten in my way. Needless to say they cut the program short. We went home early and Mom made dad and me hot cocoa and cookies. And then you know, next morning was Christmas, presents, yada yada yada..."
Dean's lip quirked as he trailed off, watching images only his mind's eye could see. He scratched a phantom itch from where a pair of gray and pink felt ears had lingered too long, years ago.
Precious and few were the glimpses Sam had of his family before the fire, and almost always they were through Dean's eyes. There were no words to thank his brother enough for every memory he shared…unless they were smart-alecky ones.
"So what you're saying is, Mom always knew you were an ass."