Disclaimer: Not mine.
Many thanks to Klutzygirl33, jensengirl4eva, Arilaen, cold kagome, cookjar, godsdaughter77, scootersmom, Malleus Beneficarum, CeCe Away and Twinchester Angel for the reviews.
Also, thank you to everyone who's reviewed or added this story to Alerts or Favourites – it's more encouraging than I can say! And special gratitude to Cheryl for comments and suggestions and advice throughout the writing of this story.
Epilogue: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
I wake up on Christmas morning to the sound of a group of off-key carollers singing Good King Wencelas outside the motel room window. They sound like they're still suffering the after-effects of too much eggnog on Christmas Eve. I groan and pull my pillow over my head, thinking that maybe I had a bit too much eggnog, too. Sam's getting better at making it.
"They've been at it for a couple of hours," I hear, and I open one eye to peer at Sam.
"How long have you been up?"
I shake my head. "Are you getting any sleep at all, Sam?"
"Some!" Sam protests defensively. "I can't help it if I don't go into hibernation every night like you do! I do sleep."
"No, Sam, I sleep. You toss restlessly for a few hours and then get up and start drinking coffee." I glare at him, although it's not very effective when I'm lying in bed with my pillow over my head and he's sitting up with his laptop and a steaming mug. "You have nightmares again?" Sam's doesn't say anything, but his sudden flush is answer enough. "I told you to wake me, Sam."
"You needed to sleep. I'm not the one who got tossed around by a poltergeist."
"No, you're just the one who nearly got choked to death by gift-wrapping ribbon. Ribbon, Sam. I mean, how girly is that?"
He scowls. "I did not get nearly choked to death –"
"Sam, you can't pull that with me. I was there. The freaking stuff refused to break when I pulled at it. If I'd been even a minute later..."
"Well, you weren't."
I sigh. There's no point getting into an argument. Sam's alive. I'm alive. Nobody's suffered any permanent injury. With the lives we lead, I'm willing to settle for that.
"You should still have woken me. Being grown up doesn't mean you have to deal with everything on your own. I'm still your big brother." Sam looks exasperated, but he nods, so I let it go. "Anything you want to do today, Sammy?"
Sam shakes his head. "I'm going to get breakfast."
He's back by the time I've finished brushing my teeth, carrying a bag of doughnuts (that's a good sign – doughnuts for breakfast instead of some health food junk means he's not brooding about anything) and two cups of espresso double-shots.
Maybe Sam had a bit too much eggnog, too.
He sits on his bed, hands me my coffee, and tosses me the bag of doughnuts after abstracting one for himself. I nearly shake my head... I mean, one doughnut? Who eats one doughnut? But, whatever, he's eating voluntarily and without giving me a fictional account of how he's not hungry, so I'll go with it.
I settle back on the bed and flick on the TV. I steal a sideways glance at Sam as I do so.
He was fine last night – he was almost perfectly normal last night, giving me grief about my upstairs brain (honestly, it was just one waitress and I only looked), wanting me to talk about my feelings (don't ask), even making a bitchface when I pointed out that the cute redhead behind us in the supermarket checkout was totally checking out his ass.
Today he's a little – scared. Nervous. I can't imagine why, unless it's something to do with that nightmare he isn't telling me about.
"Want to go for a drive?" I ask him.
"Nowhere. Anywhere. How long has it been since we had a break, Sam? Let's just get out and drive."
"We paid for the week."
"We'll be back for dinner. Come on, Sam!"
Sam shrugs, nods and chews. I watch him for a moment. I've downed four doughnuts and finished my coffee, but Sam's still only about two-thirds of the way through the single doughnut he took. Did I mention that it was smaller than all the others?
"Finish your breakfast," I order. "I'll bring the Impala around to the door." Sam gives me an I'm-not-an-invalid look, but it quickly melts away into nervousness again when I grab my jacket. I can't help staring at him. "What, Sam?"
"Nothing," he mumbles, flushing and ducking his head.
As I pull on my jacket, I'm debating whether or not to press the issue. On the one hand, Sam's not shying away from me, not shutting himself off, and other than the slight nervousness he seems just fine. On the other hand... my baby brother's scared of something.
Maybe he'll settle down on the drive.
I button my jacket, frowning as I notice an unusual stiffness in the leather.
"You do something to my jacket, Sam?"
"I had it drycleaned."
"Oh." I sniff at the sleeve, smelling the faint whiff of kerosene. Is this Sam's idea of a Christmas present? I know we've come up with some weird stuff, but... "Why?"
"It was filthy."
I can't deny the truth of that. I never wore the jacket at Lisa's – it reminded me too much of Sam – and I've not had it cleaned since Sam came back, so there was years' worth of dirt on it.
"Oh... Well, thanks."
Sam nods, and now he looks terrified, like a kid on report card day. (Well, like other kids on report card day. The lowest grade Sam ever got was a B+, so he never had anything to be scared about.)
I leave the room, shutting the door behind me, and walk to where I left the Impala parked yesterday afternoon. It's as far away from us as possible, standing in front of an unoccupied room, because if there is something looking for us there's no need to make things easier for it.
The cold wind hits me the second I step outdoors. I shove my hands in my jacket pockets, keeping my fingers warm...
There's paper in my right pocket.
I roll my eyes. Is this Sam's idea of a prank? Paper in my pocket? Pathetic. The kid could at least have tried itching powder.
I pull it out, and it's surprisingly heavy.
My heart's suddenly thumping so loudly I can almost hear it. It isn't – it can't be – I don't even deserve it –
I unroll the paper in the palm of my hand, and in the middle is my amulet – yeah, now it's my amulet again, and I can't stop myself from grinning like an idiot – still strung through its leather cord, which is carefully wrapped around it.
Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.
My fingers are trembling as I pick it up, trembling as I hold it up to my eyes to make sure it's real. Then I'm seized by a sudden, irrational fear that Sam's going to change his mind and ask for it back – or, worse, that it got in there by accident or something – so I slip it over my neck. Maybe Sam won't change his mind if I'm actually wearing it.
My hands are shaking too much for me to drive, so I sit down on the curb next to the Impala, huddling into my jacket for warmth, my breath fogging in the December air.
I don't realize I'm not alone until a pair of boots appears in my field of vision. A moment later, Sam's lowering himself down next to me. He looks big even hunched up like this.
I don't know the answer to that. Am I OK? I mean, yeah, I'm feeling warmer than I have in days, and I'm pretty sure that has nothing to do with the fact that Sam's chosen his spot so that he's shielding me from the worst of the wind.
Or maybe it has everything to do with that. We're Winchesters, after all.
I want to tug Sam's head down onto my shoulder like I did when he was three and there was no other way to get him to sleep. I want to cry with relief because it's finally over, years of mistrust and confrontation and fear are finally over and we have a second chance and this time we're going to do it right. I want to sidle closer to Sam and see if he reels me in for a hug, because right now for some reason I want to be comforted and Sam's as warm and big and gentle as a St Bernard.
Of course, because we're in a motel parking lot and the landlord already thinks we're gay, I don't do any of that. I just toss Sam the car keys.
What did you think? Good? Bad? Please review!