This was from yet another prompt at the spn_hurtcomfort LJ h/c Christmas comment-fic meme.

Title: Ice and Eggnog (yeah, okay, it's not great. I'm open to suggestions)
Prompt: From doylescordy: Sam, Dean, Gen. On Christmas Eve, Sam and Dean save a family from something supernatural. Dean is hurt and could use some rest. The family invite Sam and Dean to stay at their home and to spend Christmas with them. They do, and get to experience a family Christmas they never had before.
Spoilers: This can be pretty much set in any season, although Season 3 already has a canon Christmas episode, so, y'know, whatever. Set it whenever you'd like. No spoilers at all, unless you've never watched the show, in which case I have to wonder why you're reading this at all. ;)
Disclaimer: I own nothing! Please don't send nasty lawyers! Please don't send nice lawyers, for that matter.
Usual waffly authorial disclaimer: Yeah, unbeta'd, written on the spur of the moment, egads. I'm amazed I'm posting it at all.

"Sam, any day now!"

Sam fumbled to reload the shotgun, suddenly all thumbs, fingers numb with the cold . Goddamned freaking water spirits. Everywhere they went it seemed as though there was another variant occupying the local rivers or ponds or lakes, and this one was a rusalka, a nasty piece of work that masqueraded as a beautiful woman on land and turned into a vicious predator the minute she got her claws into a victim. The rusalka had a death-grip on Dean, was dragging him inexorably toward the icy water, and although his brother was fighting like a cornered bobcat, the spirit was a lot stronger than he was, and he was already dazed and more than a little winded from being bounced off of more trees than Sam had cared to count. He could see drops of blood on the snow leading toward the water, couldn't see where Dean was hurt, not in all the confusion, and the knowledge made his heart hammer in his ribcage.

"Sam!"

He raised the shotgun, tried to get line of sight, only now Dean was directly in his way, the snow at his feet turning to reddish sludge as he struggled. He was weakening fast, between the shock, the blood loss and the cold, and a moment later the rusalka had a foot in the water, where she had the definite advantage. She snarled, bony fingers digging cruelly into Dean's flesh, raking across his skull, and Sam saw his brother's face go slack, unfocussed.

"Dean! Dean hold on! Don't let her pull you in!"

Sam sprinted forward, grabbing the shotgun by the muzzle and swinging it for all he was worth. It connected with the back of her skull with a sickening crunch, and with a howl of rage she turned on him, and he emptied the shotgun directly into her face. When she reeled back he pulled the steel knife from his belt, and buried it hilt-deep in her chest, right where her heart would be if she were human. With a last shriek she fell back, sank beneath the water. Sam floundered, realized he was knee-deep in the frigid water, started casting about for Dean, cursing the cold and the darkness and the existence of water-spirits in general.

"Dean!"

His brother was only a few feet away, face-down in the water. Sam tossed the shotgun on the bank, grabbed Dean under his arms and hauled him to dry land, knelt next to him and pressed his ear to his chest, listening for a heartbeat, for a breath, anything. A second later Dean coughed, and spewed a stomachful of lake water when Sam turned him on his side. He flapped a hand weakly at Sam.

"'M fine. Check on the kid."

"Okay. Stay put," Sam pulled off his jacket and wrapped it around his shoulders. "I'll be right back."

He hurried over to where he'd left Eric Howe propped up against a tree. The kid was the last on the list of the rusalka's visit, but it looked like he was getting out of this with a sprained wrist and a few bumps and bruises. "Hey, kid, how you holding up?"

Eric's teeth were chattering, but Sam thought that was probably more due to shock than the cold. "I-I'm okay." He let Sam pull him to his feet. "Your brother okay?"

"I have to get him back, get him warmed up and stitched, but I think he'll be okay. How did you get here? Do you have a car?"

Eric shook his head. "I don't remember. I don't think I took it."

"Okay, we'll drive you home. Come on."

He jogged back to Dean, who hadn't moved from where he'd left him, sitting in the snow with his head on his knees, and knelt in the snow beside him. "Hey, you with me?" He reached out, gently took Dean's chin in his hand and turned his head to get a better look at the lacerations in his scalp. "You're definitely going to need stitches, and we're going to have to get you warmed up before you go hypothermic on me. Where else you hurt? Ribs?"

"Just bruised, I think. Hit my head."

"Can you get up?" Sam took him by the elbow, and Dean let him pull him to his feet, hissed as he tried to put weight on his right foot.

"Okay, sprained my ankle, too. Didn't notice that." Sam winced in sympathy.

"You never do things halfway, do you?"

"Worst. Christmas. Ever. And that's saying something." He leaned harder on Sam, trying to catch his breath and keep hold of his arm at the same time.

Eric stepped forward. "Need a hand?"

"Please," Sam said before Dean could refuse, and slung his brother's arm over his shoulders while Eric took the other. "Car's a few hundred yards that way."

*****

It didn't take long to get Eric home. Sam wrapped him up in one of the spare blankets from the car, giving the other one to Dean, whose lips had turned an alarming shade of blue in spite of the heater in the car being cranked up as far as it would go. Sam left the car running, pulled Eric from the back seat, reassured Dean that he'd be right back, and chivvied the kid toward his front door. An attractive middle-aged woman in a red and green sweater pulled open the front door, and Sam couldn't help but smile as her face lit up.

"Eric! Oh, thank God, you're safe!" she turned and called over her shoulder. "Don! Allie! Eric's home! He's safe!"

Suddenly the doorway was crowded with the rest of Eric's family, his father pulling him into a bone-crushing hug, and a young girl (Sam guessed around twelve), who hovered excitedly in the background. Sam backed away slowly.

"Okay, um. I gotta... anyway, take care, Eric."

Eric's mother turned back to him, grasping his wrist far more firmly than he would have guessed her able to. "And just where do you think you're going? You saved my son, you can at least join us for some eggnog."

Sam flushed. "Oh, uh, thank you, ma'am, but I can't. I have to get back to my brother, get him back to the motel. But thank you."

"He got hurt helping me, Mom," Eric supplied. "He fell in the lake."

"Oh my God. Is it bad? There's a hospital not too far."

"Uh, no, no it's fine," Sam assured her. "I just need to get him patched up and warm. I really have to go." He pulled away, but she kept her hand firmly on his wrist.

"Nonsense. You can't go back to a motel, not tonight. It's Christmas! Bring your brother in, we'll get him warm in no time. Don, would you help?"

"Of course." Don was almost as tall as Sam, considerably broader in the shoulders. He clapped a hand on Sam's shoulder. "Appreciate everything you did, son," he said as they went to the car. "Eric's a good kid. He just got in over his head with that girl."

Sam bit back a snort. You don't know the half of it, he thought. He opened the passenger door, shook Dean by the shoulder. "Hey, Dean, end of the road. You with me?"

Dean started, forced his eyes open. "We there already?"

"Yeah." Sam reached over, switched off the ignition, and shoved the keys in his pocket before pulling the first aid kit out from under the front seat. "Come on, up you come." He pulled him up, hands under his armpits, and Dean sagged against him. "This is Don. He's going to help get you inside, okay?"

"'kay, Sammy."

It was a lot easier to handle Dean with someone else to help him, and for a moment Sam was reminded of all the times he and his father had had to drag his half-unconscious brother back to some motel room or other. Somehow it always seemed to be Dean who got banged up on their hunts, throwing himself in front of John or Sam in a quasi-suicidal attempt to keep them safe. Don helped him get Dean into the house, led the way to a spare bedroom.

"I think my clothes'll be too big for him, but I'm pretty sure Eric can spare some. He's a pretty big kid," he said.

"S'm?" Dean's eyes were unfocussed. "'S'not the motel..."

"No, it's not. We're at Eric's house. Don't worry, it's fine." Sam settled Dean on the bed, feeling a twinge of guilt at getting the pretty bedspread filthy. "Uh, sorry about the mess," he glanced at Don.

Don chuckled and ruffled his hair, and Sam felt another pang of homesickness. "Your folks raised you polite, that's for sure. You saved my son, I figure that's worth some extra laundry. You boys need anything other than warm clothes? My first aid kit doesn't come close to being that well-equipped," he added, nodding to the box Sam had placed near the foot of the bed.

"Uh, no, I got it, thanks."

"Okay. Sue's got the kettle on for tea, get you boys warmed up. You let me know if you need anything, all right? Come down when you're ready."

*****

Eric came up the stairs as Sam was cleaning out the lacerations in Dean's head, ignoring his brother's hisses of pain interspersed with mumbled curses. He'd pulled off all his wet clothes and helped him into the warm, dry clothes that Eric's father had supplied, and Dean was already looking better, his lips back to a normal shade of pink, though he was shivering, teeth chattering. Better that than no shivering at all, though, Sam told himself.

Eric whistled through his teeth. "Wow. Those look nasty."

"Head wounds," Sam said, not looking up from his work. "They bleed a lot." He tossed another blood-stained disinfectant wipe into the small trash can by the bed, began putting in the last few stitches.

"You sure we shouldn't take him to a hospital?"

Dean opened his eyes. "Dude, I'm sitting right here."

"Uh, sorry. I thought... you were pretty out of it before."

He got a dismissive hand-wave as an answer. "Had worse. I'm good now. Sam's great with his hands," he leered, obviously amused as Eric blushed, which was exactly the reaction Sam knew he'd been hoping for. Sam swatted his shoulder.

"Dude. Quit messing with the kid's head. Not polite when they've invited us in."

"Ow! Dammit, Sam, don't pull on that."

"Then quit being a jackass." Sam put in the last stitch, dabbed at the wounds with another disinfectant wipe, then carefully wound gauze around Dean's head.

"Great. Now I look like a mummy."

"You want it to get infected? Be my guest."

Eric hovered in the doorway, torn between amusement and uncertainty. "You guys up for dinner? Mom's all excited about having company, and she broke out the good brandy for the eggnog."

Dean's face lit up. "Eggnog? Awesome."

"Dean, you barely escaped hypothermia. Alcohol is the last thing you should be drinking."

"Give me a break, Sam. It's Christmas. Can't have Christmas without eggnog."

"You never drink eggnog."

"Never too late to start," Dean grinned and put out a hand, winced a bit as Sam pulled him to his feet and put his arm over his shoulder.

"You okay? Dizzy?"

"I'm fine, Sam."

"Uh-huh. Sure." Sam took it slow, waited until Dean had a hold of the stair railing with one hand before starting downstairs, one step at a time.

*****

"There you are!" Eric's mother was in the living room, holding a glass of what could only be eggnog, which she put down hastily, hurrying over to them. "I wanted to..." she bit her lip, face crumpling, and she gathered Dean into a hug. "Thank you for saving my boy."

Dean stumbled a bit. "Woah, hey. Uh... no problem," he looked at Sam over her shoulder, patted her back awkwardly . "Uh... please don't cry? Sam? A little help, here?"

She pulled back, wiped at her eyes with her fingers. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make a scene," she laughed shakily, and Eric pulled her into a hug.

Dean grinned back at her, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand. "No, no it's fine. I'm just... uh... yeah. Glad to help, is all."

"Mom, are you crying?" The girl, Allie had come from the kitchen, and was now rolling her eyes toward the ceiling. She threw her brother an exasperated look. "Eric, Dad needs your help with the turkey. Maybe if you could stop making Mom cry, that would be a start."

"I didn't—" Eric sputtered, but she held up a hand.

"Just go, would you?"

"Bossy," It was Eric's turn to roll his eyes.

Sam took the opportunity while the Howes were distracted and bickering to help Dean over to the sofa. Someone had lit the fireplace while they were upstairs, and the log was crackling cheerfully, filling the room with extra warmth. Eric's mother (Sue, he reminded himself) composed herself enough to pour more eggnog, and handed them each a glass. Dean was looking around at the room, a little wide-eyed at the eight-foot Christmas tree in the corner, cheerfully lit up with coloured LED lights and covered in tinsel and an array of decorations all obviously made by the kids over the years, a papier-maché angel perched precariously at the top, blowing on a trumpet. Someone had spread a white sheet beneath it, as much to catch falling pine needles as to mimic snow, and there was a handful of colourfully-wrapped boxes already gracing the foot of the tree.

"Hey, Sammy, would you look at that?" Dean said softly.

"Yeah," Sam answered, just as quietly. "I know."

*****

It turned out that Christmas Eve was when the Howes celebrated informally, just the four of them. Sam had been half-worried that there would be a formal dinner of some kind, with other people and a whole sit-down-at-the-table thing during which he'd suddenly have to dredge up table manners that neither he nor Dean ever had taught to them as kids and which he'd had to learn painstakingly at college so as not to embarrass himself in front of Jess' parents. Instead Sue tucked a blanket over Dean's legs, handed him a mug of steaming tea, declaring that his fingers were still like ice and that it just wouldn't do, and insisted on getting an ice pack for his ankle, which Sam had to admit was swelling more than he would have liked. Dean basked in the attention, grinning but still looking a bit bemused, and Sam was pretty sure he didn't realize that he'd kept a tight grip on a fistful of the hem of Sam's shirt, betraying his uncertainty about the whole situation.

"Sammy," he said when Sue had gone back to the kitchen to deal with some mysterious dinner-related crisis, "you'd tell me if I was hallucinating this, right?"

"Same hallucination here, so we're either safe or utterly screwed," Sam whispered back. "As psychoses go, I kind of like this one. I vote we don't fight it."

Dean nodded. "Seconded."

Allie flicked on the CD player with a universal remote. "I know, it's lame and corny, but we've always had Christmas music on to celebrate," she said, looking defensive.

"We don't mind," Dean said softly, as the sound of men's voices singing 'God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen' filled the room. "It's nice," he added a bit lamely.

Sue reappeared, chivvying her husband and son in with plates laden with food. "I hope you boys like turkey." She placed bowls on the coffee table. "There's stuffing here if you want it —it's my grandmother's recipe, people fight over it, so you'd better move fast," she smiled mischievously at them.

"She's not lying," Eric was already helping himself, and his mother swatted at his hand.

"Manners! These boys are going to think you were raised in a barn."

"That's okay," Dean interceded. "We were raised by wolves ourselves. Please don't judge us too harshly." He winked at Sue, all the old charm back in full force, and Sue laughed, obviously delighted. Sam cringed, the remark hitting a little too close to home. John Winchester hadn't exactly been a wolf, but it wasn't too far from the mark, either.

It was all a little overwhelming, if Sam was honest with himself. He felt a little as though they were intruding on something private and mysterious, and he could tell Dean was just as uneasy, although the Howes were acting as though it was no big deal to have two virtual strangers eating turkey in their living room in front of the hearth on Christmas Eve. They were relaxed, making jokes about eggnog, telling anecdotes about previous holidays, and after a while he felt himself relax, ever so slightly. After another glass of eggnog he found himself joining in, timidly at first, then with a bit more assurance. Sue waved aside his offers to help clear the dishes, and Don became more liberal with the brandy as the night wore on.

"So what were you boys doing out there on Christmas Eve, anyway?" Don asked after his fourth (possibly fifth, Sam hadn't been paying much attention) tumbler of brandy. Guy could certainly hold his drink. "Not that we aren't grateful," he reached over and gave Eric a fond punch in the arm, "but it's not exactly a night to be out in the woods. I'd have thought you'd want to be with your family."

"Uh..." Sam twisted his hands in his lap. "Well, we don't really... I mean, there's a guy who's kind of like an uncle to us, but he lives too far away for us to get there in time for Christmas, anyway. Sometimes we visit. We've, uh..." We've never really celebrated Christmas since Mom died. Not that that was something he could say. Sue stepped in and saved him.

"Well, it was lucky for us, then. We're very glad that you could share tonight with all of us."

Sam glanced down, saw that Dean's eyes had slipped shut sometime in the last few minutes without his noticing, and that he was fast asleep, head resting on Sam's shoulder, a smile still hovering on his lips. His eyes pricked, and he swallowed a lump that had suddenly formed in his throat. He put his arm around his brother, looked up and smiled, feeling a blush creep up his neck, and scrubbed at his eyes with the cuff of his sleeve, embarrassed at being caught out.

"Thank you."