"But Dad, it's Christmas." Dean whispered over the phone. He surreptitiously looked around the corner, checking to make sure 12 year old Sam was still in the other room reading the massive amounts of books the kid had borrowed from the library to keep him occupied during winter break.
"Dean." John's voice had a warning in it.
"I know. But, Sam expects you to be here." He said. Truth be known, he wished that his dad could be here too.
"Sam needs to grow up. You can't coddle him forever Dean. He knows what our lives are really like, and he knows that people are in danger, and that we are obligated to help them. I can't let something like Christmas get in the way of killing this son of a bitch. You can't…"
"…leave a hunt undone. Yes sir. I know." Dean schooled his voice to sound neutral and obedient, and not like a child.
"Then, don't argue with me Dean. You will take care of your brother, business as usual. I should be back in a day or two."
"Yes sir." The phone clicked. Dean bit his bottom lip, hung up the phone, and rested his head against the wall. How was he going to tell Sammy? How was he going to feed Sammy? How was he not going to ruin Sammy's Christmas like he did last year? How was he supposed to celebrate the holiday with nothing other than five dollars, a face that was too young to get into a bar and hustle, no car to get him somewhere to get legitimate work?
"He's not coming is he?" Sam said coldly. Dean sighed inwardly and affixed his game face, gave a smile and tried to diffuse his little brother's anger. This year had been hard, Sam and Dad had fought for the majority of it, and things like this added fuel to Sam's fire, and truth be known Dean didn't know what to do. He was stuck in the middle and he didn't know how to fix it on either side, so instead, he watched the two people who meant most to him tear each other down, scream, and degrade each other, and all he could do was stand there helplessly and wish and pray that they would stop. But it never stopped. The news of Dad's failure to make it for Christmas would act as another brick in the wall that Sam was building that would shut their father out.
"No. The Empusae isn't dead. And…"
"Yeah. God knows you can't leave a hunt unfinished, not even when your kids are alone for Christmas." Sam said with a roll of his eyes.
"Sammy. Come on." Dean said with a sigh.
"No, you come on Dean. You can't possibly be okay with this Dean."
"But there are lives…"
"Don't say it! Don't you defend him! He's missing Christmas. He knows he's missing Christmas, and he doesn't care. Just expects us to be okay with it. I'm not okay with it Dean."
"I know you aren't."
"And you shouldn't be okay with it either!" Sam glared at him. "Don't you have any feelings at all Dean? What is wrong with you?"
"Sammy.." He said and reached out to his brother. Sam smacked his hand off of his shoulder and backed away.
"Just leave me alone." Sam said in a sighing breath and walked away from his brother, into the room they shared and the door slammed behind him.
Dean's shoulders fell. What was he going to do? No money. No car. No Food. No Dad. No gifts. No holiday decorations. No hope. No family. Sam angry.
Dean pushed his body to move and sat down on the couch and turned on the television and tried desperately to find something on that didn't have a Christmas theme.
Dean spent the last five dollars he had on doughnuts for breakfast for the two of them on Christmas morning. They were a little stale, but they were red and green frosted, and they were in the shape of Christmas trees. All of those qualities were greeted with a scowl from Sam, and all attempts at conversation were greeted with icy silence.
This Christmas was turning out to be worse than the last one, and it was pretty hard to beat the Christmas where your brother finds out that your dad hunts monsters for a living. That one scored pretty high on the "Sucky Christmas" meter.
Dean needed out of the small dingy apartment, he needed to be out in the cold crisp open air, and after a couple of hours, Dean finally managed to maneuver Sam into his coat, gloves and hat, and the two of them headed out and went to the center of town and looked at decorations, watched the animatronic window display in the front of the mom and pop toy store. The afternoon ended with the two of them sitting on a park bench in front of the giant town Christmas tree. Dean was starting to feel a little better. Starting to feel like Christmas wasn't about the bad crap in life, but beautiful lights and family near, even if they weren't speaking to you.
Then he heard his brother's belly rumble and all warm and fuzzy thoughts disappeared. No money. No food. No way to feed Sam. Then a thought came to mind, a desperate, sad thought, but one nonetheless. "Come on Sammy." He encouraged and got up from his spot on the bench, and walked towards the outskirts of town.
"Where are we going?" Sam asked. The first words of the day.
"We don't have money for supper." Sam said and it took effort for Dean not to look at the ground in shame. Dean couldn't force himself to say anything, he simply stuffed his hands in his coat pockets and pushed forward.
They ended up in a line, a line filled with homeless people, all waiting patiently for the rich people to spoon food onto their plates. For the rich people to smile and say "Merry Christmas" to some poor helpless soul so they could feel better and less guilty about all of the really nice gifts sitting in their living rooms.
Sam and Dean sat down at one of the long tables, outfitted in a bright happy Christmas table cloth, and paper centerpiece, and both began digging into the food that wasn't as bad as it looked.
About a quarter of the way through the meal Sam began to speak softly. "Kids at school were talking about what they were going to do today. None of them had "eat dinner at a soup kitchen' on the list."
The shame that burned in Dean turned the turkey into a thick sticky paste that didn't want to go down Dean's throat but lodge deep in his throat, forcing Dean to take a drink of water.
"They talk about grandparents and aunts and uncles coming over. They talk about presents, video games, Cds, movies, and that kind of stuff." Dean felt tears burn the back of his eyes. "I want that Dean. I want to have a real family." Dean flinched at his little brother's choice of words. "I want to have a real holiday. I don't want to be sitting here eating dinner at a soup kitchen because I'm so poor I can't afford food. I deserve better. I want to be normal." Dean nodded, there was nothing else he could say, nothing he could do. Sam was right. He did deserve better than a soup kitchen on Christmas day, alone with just him, their father God knew where doing God knew what. Sammy was right, he did deserve better.
Sam didn't talk the rest of the night. They got back to the low income apartment they were staying in, grabbed a book, went into their room, and shut the door leaving Dean out in the cold living room, with his thoughts and his soup kitchen Christmas dinner, feeling like a failure. Dean laid down on the couch facing away from the room and wrapped his arms around himself, hugging tightly willing the thoughts to go away, willing his mind to empty of his humiliation, shame and sadness. But those things never left, good things were fleeting, but the bad always lingered.
Christmas was supposed to be about family, and Dean learned that Sam didn't think that they were a real family and his father wasn't able to give up his crusade for one day to celebrate the holiday with them, Christmas was about being surrounded by love, and Dean had never felt more alone, Christmas was about the magic of giving, and Dean hadn't been able to give his little brother anything other than a soup kitchen Christmas dinner.