Chapter 6- A Christmas to Remember

Sam and Dean stared at each other, red-rimmed hazels meeting afflicted, scared greens, as their mother had disappeared from their sight. The fog dissapated around them, and both of the brothers found themselves on their knees on the floor in the middle of their motel room. Dean let go of Sam's neck, placing a hand on his brother's broad shoulder as he pushed himself to stand up on shaky legs. Sam just stayed on his knees, his face still tracked from left over tears, a look of utter despair and desperation tracing his gentle features. It nearly broke Dean's heart with how young and vulnerable Sammy looked just sitting there. This man was buff, tall, at least 6'4 and 220lbs, if not more, and it still amazed Dean over how somebody as big as him could make himself look so small and innocent, like a frightened young child afraid of the monsters in his closet. It was also amazing to Dean too at how such a big man could be such a sensitive ball of fluff, and he almost made himself smile at that thought. Almost.

"C'mon, Sammy," the elder Winchester coaxed softly as he extended a hand to his little brother. Sam raised a hand, clasping it around Dean's and allowed his older brother to pull him to his feet. Dean clapped Sam a few times on the back gingerly. "We're back in the motel room. It was just a possible future, little brother. Nothing else. It doesn't mean it'll really happen."

"Dean, yes it does," Sam began, his voice still rough from tears but eyes dry. "That was your future we just saw. Your future, and it was all my fault, man. All my fault," Sam reiterated sounding frantic. He raised his hands, running them through his hair on both sides of his head. " was me who let it happen. I mean I let Lucifer just take me, willingly! Why would I do that? How could I do that? If I hadn't been so weak-," but Sam was cut off mid-sentence by Dean shaking his head at his younger brother and scoffing. Sam instantly pursed his lips closed.

"Look, Sammy, you have got to calm down, alright? We'll figure this out. We always do. I'm not goin' anywhere. I'm sticking right here by you, little bro. Alright? In the meantime though," Dean pointed toward the digital clock still shining brightly on the nightstand. It's red numbers read 12:00. "It's Christmas Day, kid. I say we pack up, get the hell out of here and head over to Bobby's. We should be spending with Christmas with family. We're only an hour out. I think Bobby would be happy to see us, don't you?"

Sam could do nothing but just nod his head in agreement, eyes not even meeting his older brother's. The events of earlier were still very fresh in his mind, and Dean could see that just by the vacant expression that had suddenly replaced the despairing one on Sam's face while the two packed their clothes into their duffels. They'd also pretty much rendered the kid speechless now. Sure Sam was seeing, but he wasn't really seeing anything around him. Dean took note of that while a typically OCD Sam would be folding his clothes and carefully placing them into his bag, he just shoved them in haphazardly without a care in the world, not even really paying any attention to what he was doing. He walked like a robot into the bathroom, gathered the bag that carried his shaving kit, bathroom supplies and walked back out to his bed, shoving it down into his bag along with everything else. He hadn't even bothered taking out his laptop that Christmas Eve which had been another surefire sign that something was definitely wrong with Sam, and Dean had just about been ready to throw the towel in, but not anymore. Not after what Jessica, John and Mary had shown them tonight.

Dean eyed his younger brother, wondering if tonight had taught Sam anything at all too, because this was bad. Every since Sam had gotten his soul back, Dean had to admit his brother was a gigantic ball of different emotions, trying to process them all and remember when it was appropriate to show what he was feeling and when it wasn't. Dean couldn't blame him though. The man hadn't felt a thing for over a year and a half. He'd start laughing and feel happy just out of the blue and talk about whatever it was that was making him laugh. Whether it be something absolutely silly and absurd he saw out the car window, or a particular old memory from when they were kids up to now. Sometimes he'd just sit there silently, staring out the window or staring at absolutely nothing and tears would sometimes show in his eyes, but Dean never pushed. Sometimes Sam talked. Sometimes he didn't. Sometimes he'd just get so angry that they had to hurry out of motel rooms as quickly as possible so as not to pay for the damage done to motel property, and sometimes he was just quiet and content with himself, face stuffed into his laptop doing his research or too quiet and folded in on himself.

It almost reminded Dean of how erratic and all over the place Sam's emotions had been that year after he'd sold his soul for Sam's life. Sometimes he'd be joking and laughing, sometimes on the verge of tears, and it scared him. Don't get him wrong though. Dean was more than happy that his brother's soul was back and rightfully where it belonged. He just didn't want his brother to become the vegetable that Cas, Death, even Crowley had warned them about. Some memories of Hell had slowly seeped out into nightmares of soft whimpering, of 'please, don't, and help me' and of gasping awake, but Sam still remained Sammy. He hadn't gone out of his mind, but now with Sam moving so stiff and staring ahead, not seeming to have a care in the world, it scared Dean. He couldn't help it though, and he had every right to be nervous about it. Had Sam reverted back to old Robo Sam? Swallowing his fear, Dean approached his younger brother, his duffel fully packed and slung over his shoulder now. Sam, however, was gazing downward and refolding clothes he'd noticed he'd shoved in there all wadded up. Well, at least OCD Sammy was coming out now. Dean huffed a gentle sigh, rubbing his hand down over his mouth.

"Hey, Sam. You, uh...," Dean cleared his throat. "You ready to go?" He was almost afraid to hear the sound of Sam's voice or look into his eyes, but at the same time he was determined for Sam to raise his face and look at him. He didn't though, just kept staring into his bag as he rearranged clothes and items in a more orderly fashion.

"In a minute, Dean," Sam responded in a very soft, low voice and the crazy beating of Dean's heart slowed in his chest. He didn't sound anything like his brother without a soul. He sounded like Sammy. A beaten, broken down and defeated Sammy, but nevertheless, Sammy.

Dean sighed as quietly as possible. "Alright dude, I'm gonna go pack up the car. I'll meet you outside."

Sam's shoulders shuddered momentarily as if shaking off a chill. He rolled them forward and then moved his head as if he were popping his neck, trying to rid his body of the tension he was currently feeling. Did Dean not want to be around him anymore? "Dean, wait. I'm almost done. I'll come with you." Sam zipped up his bag swiftly, threw on his jacket, grabbed his laptop bag and hung both of the straps over his right shoulder. He turned toward his older brother who was standing and waiting patiently at the motel door for his brother, eyes at half-mast, eyebrows slightly turned upward, and Dean breathed a breath of relief. He was still in there. He had that puppy dog 'I did something wrong, and I'm sorry' look plastered to his face, as if he were a dog waiting for a beating.

Dean grinned at his brother before tossing the weapons duffel over his free shoulder, and his own bag's strap slung around his other. "Let's go, Sammy," Dean beckoned gently with a slight jerk of his head pointing them toward the Impala sitting in the parking lot, awaiting her passengers.

Sam gave a tiny nod and followed his brother obediently across the room. He stopped to switch off the lights and then shut the door gently behind them. Ever the Sammy.Dean thought to himself with gentle amusement. They approached the trunk where both brothers shoved in their bags and Dean slammed it shut. He smiled up at Sam. "Alright, Sam! Let's get on the road! I think Bobby is going to be happy to see us. I mean, it's a little after midnight. I don't think he'd be sleeping just yet. The old man doesn't go to bed until almost, what, 5am sometimes? That is if he even goes to bed."

Sam hitched a shoulder as he walked around to his side of the car, opened up the passenger side door and ducked his head to get inside. He plopped onto the black, leather bench seat of Dean's baby, jammed his long legs against the dash and pulled the heavy door shut. Dean slid in and started her up, giving a small smile before looking over at his younger brother who was already leaning his head up against the cool, frosted-over window, looking out at absolutely nothing. Dean sighed as the music filled the car, the instant he turned her over, and the purr of the engine resounded around them along with the music, vibrating against their feet planted on the floor. Sam gave a soft sigh, closing his eyes momentarily and then reopening them.

Dean chose not to pester his little brother. Sam would talk when he was ready. They had just been through a whole lot. Sam seeing Jess, he and Sam seeing their pasts, seeing their father and all the lives that they'd saved, seeing their mother and their futures was enough to send anybody into some kind of meltdown, but after Sam's small breakdown in the graveyard, he'd quickly composed himself the moment they arrived back at the motel. Dean just huffed a sigh and shook his sandy head, knowing that this was Sam's way of keeping it all to himself, holding it all in. He reached a hand out to crank up the music a bit more, and the younger Winchester didn't seem to perturbed by it, and so he just let it carry on as Dean pulled onto the darkened street, only lit by the motel streetlamps and moonlight peeking out from behind unseen clouds.

He hoped though that upon seeing everything that he did, Sam had learned how important he was to Dean, how much he loved his younger brother, because he sure learned how much Sam loved him. Any little brother who'd spend the night crying in his new girlfriend's arms over missing his older brother's birthday, or just missing him, was enough to tell Dean just how much he really did mean to Sam. John's visit had been a blessing, taking them around and showing them these lives that they had saved by going after the yellow-eyed demon and taking him out. If it weren't for he and his brother, those people could've lead lives just like his and Sam's, or worse. It could've even ended up as bad as Max's life. Poor, abused children with a father who'd drink and repeatedly hit them, scream at them. Dean shuddered at the thought, but remembered that all of that was all over now because of him and Sam. John had been trying to show them just how important they both were to the world. His mother's visit however, was definitely no cakewalk.

But Dean also knew himself as well. He had watched in horror while his future self was beaten to a bloody pulp by three demons. His future self had let them, because just like Sam, Dean hadn't cared anymore. Nothing mattered. His little brother was gone. He didn't have Lisa or Ben anymore. Bobby was probably dead. So Dean knew how his future self would react, but what had really knocked him for a loop was Lucifer back on earth and wearing his baby brother's skin yet again. He could understand how this had had the same affect on Sam. Sam had been an absolute wreck the night he remembered what his body had done while topside, especially when he discovered that he let Dean get turned into a vampire. The kid had been beside himself. When Dean had approached him to try and calm him, Sam had backed away, hands in the air, not allowing Dean to touch him. He had told Dean it was because he didn't want to hurt him ever again. Sam had put his fist through the bathroom mirror that night after Dean had fallen asleep.

He'd dashed out of the bathroom, just as Dean had flown up in bed from the impact of the noise along with the falling glass, and flew out of the motel room before his older brother had even had the chance to get out of bed. He'd taken off, not in the car, but on foot to God only knew where. Dean had gotten out of bed, retreated into the bathroom to examine the mess. The mirror had been broken pretty damn good. Sam's blood had been spattered on the sink, on the floor and scattered glass laid across the bathroom floor. He'd dressed himself and jumped in the Impala. It had taken two hours before he'd finally found Sam, in stupor, standing in an alley, possibly drunk. He'd had a nearly full bottle of Jack clutched in his good hand and was looking worse for the wear...

Glass shattering was the one thing that jerked him from sleep that night. Dean flew up in bed just in time to see the bathroom door fling open with decent force, slamming back against the wall, and Sam dashed out. He didn't speak a word, didn't look at his older brother, just grabbed his jacket and was out the door before Dean even had the time to toss his covers off. Confused, he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and got out of bed. He approached the bathroom, leaning against the door frame, to survey the damage that his younger brother had left beind. Clad only in his t-shirt and boxers, Dean stood in the bathroom doorway, his green eyes widening. He certainly hadn't expected for Sam to bust out the mirror. He thought maybe Sam had just dropped some glasses or something, but no. Not even close.

Shards of glass that refused to fall had still clung to the mirror frame and was scattered about all over the sink, littering the bathroom floor but that wasn't what really got Dean. He flinched at the sight of his brother's blood splattered on the bathroom counter top and clinging to bits of glass. Dean sighed, shaking his head and running a hand through his hair. "Awww, dammit Sam." He was fairly certain that Sam's hand was all cut up, and most likely not in good shape. So, Dean quickly dressed and hopped in the Impala wasting as little time as possible. He drove all over town searching for Sam, but there was absolutely no sign of his sasquatch brother. Dean was about to give up, let Sam come back (hopefully) on his own then perhaps he could look into treating his younger brother's hand, when he drove past the alley and his eyes caught a shadow.

A very tall shadow. A very broad-shouldered, slumped over against the wall shadow. A mop-haired shadow. Dean pulled the car up near the alleyway and stopped, turned her off and slowly got out. He walked down the alley to where his wayward little brother stood, back now leaning against the wall, his bad hand wrapped in what looked like a dirty handkerchief, but blood dripping steadily from it, seeping through the cloth. "Sam?" Dean spoke up gently, quietly as he approached his little brother. Sam's head hung listlessly, long bangs falling into his eyes and obscuring his face from Dean's view.

"I let you get hurt," was all that mumbled out of Sam's mouth. Dean carefully brought his hand out to take Sam's injured one and look and see just how bad the kid had screwed the appendage. Sam flinched and jerked back away from Dean's touch. "Don't touch me," he hissed at his older brother. Sam peered up at Dean through long bits of hair that had fallen into his eyes. If he hadn't had his soul at this point, Sam's expression might've scared Dean, but then it quickly softened as his eyes met Dean's.

Dean stepped back a step, but not too far away from his younger brother. He knew Sam needed him, Sam himself just didn't know it yet. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I won't touch you," Dean apologized holding both hands up to show he meant it. Sam's bottom lip quivered as Dean backed off, and he dropped his head again. "Why don't you get in the car ,and I'll take you back to the motel. We can clean up your hand and talk about this, huh? Then I'll go and get you one of those salad shakes you love. I'll get you some of your favorite coffee, and I'll even take you out for pancakes for breakfast in the morning. Whaddya say, Sammy?"

Sam shook his head, sending long locks flying and turned away from his older brother, still leaning against the alley wall. "I hurt you, Dean. If you touch me, I could hurt you again. I almost let you get killed, Dean. You almost died...again...because of me. I-I can't let that happen again. I just can't."

"Sammy...," Dean began, slowly approaching his brother again. He knew what Sam was referring to now. Sam had remembered letting him get turned into a vampire. "C'mon, just let me take you back to the car and-"

"NO!" Sam exploded sounding surprisingly sober and throwing his bottle of Jack across the alley. The echo of Sam's yell and the bottle breaking, the liquid inside splattering the ground, somewhere at the back of it, resounded. "I can't! I can't go with you again, Dean! I'll just get you hurt again, and I can't do that to you! Not now and not ever again!" Sam began earnestly. "I remember it all! I stood there, and I watched while that vamp turned you, and I didn't even care! All I could think about was just getting the job done, even at the cost of you being turned into a creature that we HUNT! When you came back to the motel room with me and Samuel and we thought you'd fed? I was ready to kill you, a-and I...I...I was going to do it, Dean. I was going to kill you," Sam paused as covered his face with his hands. "I just...I can't, Dean. I can't do it again. No," his voice began trembling inside of his hands and his breath hitched.

Dean knew the warning signs. Sam was either about to get really angry and start breaking things, granted there wasn't anything out in the alley to break, though he could target the Impala, or he was going to be dissolving into tears at any moment now. So Dean waited for the assault or the torrential flood. It seemed it was the latter, because a sniff was heard from behind his hands, and Dean grabbed a hold of Sam's hands, pulling them away from his face. He raised a hand and grabbed a hold of the back of his brother's soft, shaggy head and brought it to rest on the crest of his neck and shoulder. Sam didn't fight him. He just sort of went limp against his brother, not making a sound, but Dean didn't mistake the warm wetness he felt go down his neck and down his back.

"That's ENOUGH Sam. That's just enough. You know that I've told you over and over again that it WASN'T you, Sammy. It was never the real you. This, Sam. This right here is the real you. And I know you, Sam. This person that you are? You would have never let anything like that happen, and you certainly aren't going to hurt me now. See?" Dean consoled his his little brother, threading his thick fingers through Sam's soft locks. "You're not hurting me now, are you?"

Sam just shook his head, burying his face further into the crook of Dean's neck, folding into Dean, muffled sobs beginning and 'I'm sorrys' in between each uneven breath, and Dean would be lying if he didn't say that he got a little choked up too as he raised his other arm to wrap around Sam and pull his brother in just a bit tighter. Somehow, the 6'4 sasquatch-sized package of little brother could fit perfectly against him, and Dean comforted him with a thumb rubbing up and down Sam's spine, whispering in his little brother's ear that it was okay, and it wasn't his fault.

Shortly afterward, Dean, with his arm around Sam's shoulders, lead his trembling brother back to the car and made sure he was seated comfortably before going taking him back to the motel room, digging out the first aid kit, pulling bits of glass out of Sam's hand with a pair of sterilized tweezers, stitching only a few of the cuts and wrapping it carefully in gauze. "I'm sorry I punched the mirror. I didn't mean to I just got so angry," he apologized and tried to explain a few times while Dean set to work, but he just shook his sandy head at the younger Winchester.

"It's alright, Sam," Dean had insisted. "We've just gotta work on you getting a better handle on your emotions." After he was done, Sam had thanked him softly, refusing to raise his red, swollen eyes up to his older brother. Instead, he just plainly said he was tired and ready to turn in. Sam laid on his side, curling up on the bed in as small of a ball as he could manage. Dean chose to play the big brother role, tucking him in that night and sat on the edge of the bed until Sam was sound asleep.

Dean spared a glance over at Sam. The kid's head was still rested up against the window and his eyes closed, but Dean couldn't tell if his little brother was sleeping or not. His arms were folded against loosely against his stomach, and his breathing a bit deep. For all he knew though, Sam could be faking it so Dean wouldn't worry about him. He knew how his little brother's mind worked. Dean just let out a soft sigh, shaking his head back and forth before focusing back on the road.

Awhile later, they were pulling up into Bobby's salvage yard, and Dean reached over to gently prod his brother. "Hey, Sasquatch, wake up, we're here." Surprisingly enough Sam had fallen asleep on the drive there. Sam quickly sat up, brushing back loose strands of hair that had fallen into his face and tucked them behind his ears. He yawned and stretched his arms out in front of him as Dean slowed the car and stopped near the front of Bobby's porch.

"What time is it?" Sam murmured, knuckling sleep from his eyes.

"Oh about 1:30 in the morning," Dean responded cheerfully, and he got out of the car. "C'mon. Let's go bug Bobby," he added with a wink at his little brother. Sam just shook his head and got out of the car, shoving his hands down into his pockets and keeping his head lowered. He followed Dean up the porch steps and to Bobby's front door. Dean knocked nonchalantly on the older hunter's door a few times before it was finally answered. Bobby stood there with a strange expression on his face that read 'who the hell is coming here this time of night' but Dean could tell that Bobby hadn't been sleeping.

"Boys?" Bobby began, looking at them a tad confused. "What makes you come callin' at this time of night?"

Sam just bowed his shoulders, trying to make himself smaller than what he was, and attempting to hide behind Dean. It was obvious he still felt incredible guilty for going after Bobby and trying to kill him in his own home no less. The youngest hunter averted his eyes to stare down at the porch. It was almost like tiny toddler Sammy trying to hide behind big brother Dean the first time they'd met Bobby. He just wasn't that small anymore.

"MERRY CHRISTMAS!" Dean exclaimed, heartily slapping a hand on their surrogate father's shoulder. "Thought you might not wanna spend Christmas alone. So, we figured we'd make a surprise visit."

"Oh, uh, yeah. Merry Christmas," Bobby responded, still a bit surprised by the boys' arrival but a pleased expression crossing his bearded face. "C'mon in, I was just brewin' some coffee. It's in the kitchen now. It's damned cold out here." Bobby ushered in the boys which Dean eagerly accepted the invitation while Sam was more reluctant.

"You know, I think maybe I'll just hang out out here for a bit, get some air," Sam told them, not looking at either one as he began turning his back, but felt a hand grasp his shoulder, and Sam recognized it as Bobby's touch.

"I said come in out of the cold, son, and I mean you too. Now c'mon. You don't need to be sittin' out here gettin' sick," the older hunter scolded gently and Sam complied, following the man inside of the house.

Dean had already seated himself on the couch and so Sam followed his brother, seating himself on the other end. Bobby had his old, three foot Christmas tree up and sitting on a table that sat across from the couch a ways. It was decorated with lights and a few ornaments here and there. It even had a star on top. Sam rested his elbow on the couch arm and his chin in his hand, trying not to look anywhere but the walls or the floor. Dean could feel Sam's uncomfortableness rolling off of him in waves. Every since the soul incident, Dean knew Sam didn't feel right being in Bobby's house. In fact, he was downright terrified that Bobby hated him, no matter how many times they'd reassured the boy they didn't hate him, Sam just didn't seem to accept it. Knowing Sam, he probably felt he deserved to be hated by the older hunter.

"So, you boys didn't just come out all this way just to spend Christmas with me, did you?" Bobby inquired skeptically as he brought in hot cups of coffee for the brothers.

"Sure we did, Bobby!" Dean insisted as he lifted the mug to his lips and took a sip allowing the dark, hot liquid to fill him up and warm him to the bones. Sam just held his in between his hands, staring down into it.

"You contemplating on drowning yourself in that cup of coffee there, Sam, or are you gonna drink it?" Bobby questioned, one furry eyebrow raised at the younger hunter.

"Huh? What? No, of course not," Sam insisted. "Sorry," he apologized. He allowed his eyes to flick momentarily to Bobby, giving him a false smile before lifting the mug to his mouth and taking a tiny sip.

Bobby just rolled his eyes and turned back to Dean. "C'mon boy, now don't lie to me. I know the look. Somethin's going on. Why don't you tell me instead of puttin' on this...cheery Christmas facade?"

"Really, Bobby? I'm hurt," Dean replied facetiously, before his demeanor became more serious. "Well, we did want to spend Christmas with you of course, but Sam and I do want to talk to you about something."

"Uh huh, I thought so. So what you'd two yay-hoos get yourself into this time?" Bobby asked with a roll of his eyes.

"Well, we didn't really get ourselves into anything per-se," Dean sighed before sitting his mug on the table in front of him. Bobby sat himself down in the chair near the couch and the older Winchester leaned forward, resting his elbows on his thighs, his hands hanging loosely between his knees. "So, Cas came by and visited us tonight, and well...let's just say I thought we were trippin' at first, but uhhh. It was like being in a damn Christmas Carol, Bobby."

"Whaddya mean, boy?" Bobby asked, looking curious now, his thick brows drawn in as he examined the brothers. "A Christmas Carol?"

"Yeah, man, I wouldn't have believed it if we didn't really go through it, but just... Jessica showed first, you know Sam's girlfriend back when he was in Stanford? She took us to the past, and we saw, well...," Dean paused, not wanting to elaborate some of the more embarrassing moments that Jess had shown each of the boys. He rubbed the back of his head and chuckled uncomfortably. "Well, she took us and showed us each other's pasts which was certainly something we needed to see. A good reminder. Then we got back, and we went to sleep and then there was Dad!"

"Your daddy? You mean like John Winchester? Right there in the flesh?" Bobby continued, leaning back in his chair, arms folded over his chest now.

"Well, he was solid if that's what you mean," Dean responded, his hand rubbing his chin. "But that's besides the point. I mean he took us on this journey and showed us these families we'd saved and were living normal, happy lives because of us. It was like he was reminding us of our importance, Bobby. For the longest time I questioned it, but now I understand it. I mean, I really think I do," Dean told him, sounding earnest and honest. His green eyes bore down into the older hunter's and for the first time since Sam had gotten his soul back, Bobby could see Dean's eyes shining with some sort of newfound light.

"Well, that's good, son. You boys should both know because of your sacrifices and the things that you do as hunters has given all these people a chance to live normal, happy lives. I mean you stopped the damned apocalypse and saved the world from Lucifer. That's sayin' somethin'," Bobby insisted. He chose to ignore the flinch that came from Sam as he spoke the name 'Lucifer.' "So, did you see the future?" Bobby asked casually, sipping his coffee as if it were just an everyday, run of the mill question.

"Uhhh, y-yeah, we did," Dean stammered, quickly bringing his mug to his lips and taking a large mouthful of scalding, dark liquid as if wanting to avoid this particular topic, but there was no avoiding it when it came to Bobby. Both Sam and Dean knew that. Sam's hands were shaking now, and he carefully sat the coffee mug on the table, not wanting to risk spilling it all over himself. "It wasn't pleasant either," Dean gruffed after he swallowed his mouthful.

"It's alright, son, just tell me what you saw," Bobby urged gently. "It can't be all bad, now can it?"

Before Dean even had time to say a word, Sam stood up swiftly from the couch and took off out of the room, past the library, the kitchen and out the front door. Dean and Bobby exchanged glances as the sounds of Sam's footsteps died down from across the wooden planks, the porch and then they were gone. "Seeing the future was really hard on Sam," Dean told him with a nervous laugh, rubbing the back of his head again.

Sam didn't bother letting the cold get to him as he made his way out into the chilly, dark, starless night, hands shoved in his jacket pockets, his breaths seen in tiny puffs. He had hardly even noticed it or even cared about it. He just had to get out of there, out of the house away from Bobby, away from Dean, two people whom he'd loved more than anything and had hurt more than anything. His big brother that he'd always looked up to no matter what. Bobby, the man who'd always been like a father to him and Dean both, but Sam was beginning to feel like he was suffocating while Dean was telling the story of the three ghosts, or whatever they were, visiting them tonight.

Try as he might, Sam still couldn't get the future scene that his mother had shown him out of his head, no matter what. Sam had tried to ignore it, brush it off, stuff it down and away, even tried to fall asleep on the drive up here, but it was the first thing that rose to his mind the minute he woke up as Dean roused him. It was bad enough Sam could see flashes of his time in Hell, his time in the cage and trapped with the most ultimate evil that ever walked the earth to know that it might happen again. Just the mere thought of Lucifer being inside of his body and mind again, controlling him like that made Sam's skin crawl. It just couldn't happen. No way, no how.

Sam traveled his familiar path through the salvage yard until he came to stand near a massive pile of scrap metal and tires. It was still tall enough to hide him. This had been the same spot that Sam had always retreated to when he needed time away from everybody and everything. He'd lost count of the times he'd ran out here as a child, hiding from Bobby when Dean and Dad had been out on a hunt and Sam couldn't go. Or the times he and Dean had gotten into fights, and little Sammy had ran out here to hide from his big brother. He'd came out here too after John had died. Dean had found him out here in a mess of grief and remorse, and he'd even come out here when he didn't want to talk to Bobby anymore about Dean's death, which was just a few years ago, but to Sam it felt like it had been much longer than that. Still, this place was comforting. Sam seated himself behind the large pile, drawing his knees up and folding his arms on top, his thoughts swirling in his head like an out-of-control tornado slinging debris in every direction possible, his thoughts being the debris. Sam felt lost. So very lost. What was he supposed to do? How could he avoid something like this happening again? The younger Winchester buried his face into his arms folded around his knees and tried to make his mind go blank but failed miserably.

"I knew I'd find you out here," came Dean's gruff voice somewhere around the front of Sam, but the younger Winchester didn't raise his head to look at his older brother. He knew Dean would come calling sooner or later. "You know, I walked all around Bobby's yard wondering how in the hell a gigantic, sasquatch-sized brother can hide himself when he's clearly taller than everything in the damn yard, but then I remembered this area. You used to come here all the time and hide yourself from us when you were a kid," Dean stated with a grunt as he sat himself on the cold ground next to his little brother.

"I remember when Dad died you came out here. We had a big fight out here, remember that? You actually decked me a pretty good one. I was kinda proud, and a little annoyed but more proud my brother finally grew some balls," Dean laughed, slapping Sam on the back. "I finally was able to coax you to come back in though after the fight. So, is this going to be a repeat of last time, Sam? Are we gonna have to beat each other's asses just to get you to drag your giant ass back in?" Dean inquired, trying to catch a glimpse of his brother's face, but it was hidden beneath his long, chestnut hair and thick jacket sleeves. Sam just shook his head, not wanting to look at his brother. "Uh huh. So, you mind telling me why you ran out of the house then?"

"Don't wanna talk about it," Sam mumbled into his arms.

"Oh c'mon Sam. Haven't we been down this route before? You don't think I can't see what's eatin' you here?" Dean inquired somewhat harshly. "Don't be stupid. I know that Mom's little journey to the future has you as tense as hooker's first night on the job." Dean had hoped to maybe get a chuckle out of his brother on that one, but not a sound escaped Sam. Dean's tone softened. "Look, man. I know this is hard, but we're gonna get through it Sammy. We'll get past this."

Finally, Sam raised his head, but it was averted away from Dean. He laughed a bitter-sounding laugh before standing up. "Get past this, Dean? Get past this like how? How can we avoid the future? How can we change it?" Sam threw his hands in the air as if he didn't have anymore ideas.

"Well there are a lot choices and decisions we can change that'll alter the future, Sammy. We just have to make the right ones," Dean told his little brother, standing up to follow him.

Sam began pacing the area behind the giant scrap metal pile, his hands raised up and running through his hair before he whirled around to face Dean, his expression tight with anger, his shoulders stiff with tension, and his eyes shining at his brother. "Don't you get it Dean? Don't you understand? I CAN'T go there again! I can't be Lucifer again! I can't have that evil bastard crawling around in my skin again. You just don't've never had something that's pure evil riding in your skin, using your hands to kill people without a care or second glance. No, Dean. No. No amount of pain or suffering will make go there again, Dean. NONE," Sam insisted, voice thick with emotion as he grabbed ahold of his brother's shoulders. "Absolutely none, Dean. I'm NOT going to be the cause of you dying. I'm just not going to be. I can't."

Dean just sighed resignedly, shaking his head and pulling away from his brother's grasp. "Sam, you saw it. You saw everything. You heard Mom. If you give up, you go your own way and we don't stick together, stick with hunting, then it's going to happen, Sam. It's just-," but Dean didn't have a chance to finish his sentence before was exploding at him.

"YOU DIDN'T JUST STAND THERE AND WATCH YOURSELF KILLING YOUR OWN BROTHER, DEAN! I HAD TO STAND THERE AND WATCH MYSELF, WITH LUCIFER IN ME AGAIN, SEND DEMONS TO ATTACK YOU, TO KILL YOU! AND I JUST LAUGHED AT YOU!" Sam's breaths were heaving, and he gasped for air. "Dammit Dean. If you actually think that I'm stupid enough to give up hunting now, then there is something seriously wrong here. Do you think that I didn't learn a damned thing tonight? At all?" Sam's hazel yes were widened and almost desperate looking now.

Dean couldn't hold back. "AND YOU DIDN'T JUST STAND THERE WATCHING YOUR YOUNGER BROTHER KILL YOU, AGAIN," Dean yelled back and instantly felt sorry as he watched Sam blanch violently at his words. He had forgotten about Dean telling him about the time Zachariah had had his older brother sent five years into the future where Sam was Sam no more, and Lucifer was wearing Sam's skin. "I'm sorry, Sammy, look. I didn't say that you didn't learn anything tonight. I'm just trying to explain to you that if you choose to leave, because I know you've been thinking it, then that's what's going to happen. Mom showed us that for a reason. You're not the only one who's been white-knuckling it here, Sam." He huffed a sigh as his brother turned away from him again, resting his hands on a chunk of metal in the scrap pile and leaning his weight into his arms and hands.

All was quiet as Sam just stared shell-shocked at his brother momentarily before turning away again. A steady snow had began falling from the sky, white and silent and neither brother seemed to acknowledge it. Sam just shook his dark head. "I'm sorry, Dean. I-I forgot about that. I'm really really sorry," he responded softly, voice deep and sounding so lost. Dean could tell that he was apologizing for something that wasn't even going to happen now, but that was just Sam's way.

"It's okay, Sammy," Dean told him just as quietly, but the earnestness could be heard in his tone. "It's really okay." His eyebrows knitted together as he tilted his head slightly watching his brother. Sam just breathed out a sarcastic sounding laugh sounding like he was trying hide a sob before Dean saw the tears roll down his chiseled cheek, one sliding into the corner of Sam's mouth and the other trailing down the side of his nose. "Awww, Sammy c'mon now. We're gonna get through this, we truly are. As long as we stick together we can get through anything, right? And we've been through some serious shit in our lives, this is cakewalk."

Sam just sniffed, nodding his head in response. "Ugh god, I hate this," he stated, lifting a hand from the metal to scrub at his face which didn't do much good because more tears welled and followed the others in their wake. "It was so much easier sometimes not being able to feel anything," he laughed at himself, but then turned his gaze up to Dean, and his older brother just stared back in intense understanding.

Dean knew exactly what Sam meant. His memories of that day he'd told Sam about his own Hell experiences never left, memories of breaking down and losing complete composure in front of his kid brother, wishing that he couldn't feel a damned thing. He knew exactly what Sam was going through, but he wouldn't be Sam if he didn't feel. Dean knew that and so did Sam. A crying Sam was better than a soulless, cold, cruel Sam any day.

"Heh, maybe you and Bobby should just lock me in the panic room forever?" he laughed again, swiping at his eyes, but still completely useless because the tears didn't seem to want to stop coming. "Dean, I'm not going to let Lucifer in like that ever again. You know that, right? What it's like having that...thing inside of's just...I can't even explain it." Sam ran his free hand through his hair and rested it back against the metal pile.

"Sam, that's crazy. You know Bobby and I would never do that. You can't live in the damned panic room, but I do think that you learned something tonight. That we both did. I also think you aren't dumb enough to make a decision as insane as letting Lucifer wear you to the prom again," Dean pointed out.

Sam laughed for real this time. "Thanks, Dean. That actually is reassuring."

Dean walked over to his younger brother and put a hand on Sam's arm. "Sam, look at me," the older Winchester ordered, and Sam's moisture-filled hazels turned to look at his older brother as he was told. "You say you don't want to be Lucifer again. That nothing would ever make you say yes to him again, right?" Sam nodded his head. "So answer me this; do you really want to leave? Do you really want to give up being a hunter, Sam? Because I'm telling you, this shit that we're dealing with now? This is small fry stuff compared to what Lucifer would have cooking for us. We can work past this, Sam. We can get you through this, you understand? So, do you really want to leave?"

Sam shook his head stubbornly before he stood up, tugging his arm gently away from Dean's grasp and scrubbing both of his hands over his face. "No," he replied. "I don't want to leave. I want to keep on hunting. I want to keep fighting next to you. You know, having each other's backs and all that. We're a team, we're brothers. Family," Sam turned back toward his brother to find him smiling.

"So then are you with me, Sam?" Dean questioned his younger brother, still grinning, an eyebrow slightly raised.

"I'm with you 'til the end," Sam responded with a confirming nod of his head. He moved toward his brother, swiftly, and threw his arms tight around Dean's shoulders. Dean would be lying if he said that he hadn't actually had the same plan, but his arms wrapped tight around Sam, holding him close, feeling Sam's chest rising and falling heavily from his very recent emotional attack.

"You know, any other time this would be considered sacrilegious to a Winchester. You know we don't do chick flick moments," Dean stated into his brother's shoulder, but he wasn't about to relinquish hold any time soon, and closed his stinging, green eyes. That damned winter wind. Sam laughed into Dean's shoulder. It actually felt good to hug his brother like this, to know that Sam was still in there, still by his side and going to fight next to him. "You big, gigantic girl," Dean added slapping his brother hard on the back.

Sam pulled back from his older brother, hand still clutching his shoulder, and he laughed loudly and open-mouthed. "You know, I could say the same about you," Sam stated. "You weren't exactly Mister Keep-It-Together this last year yourself," he added, teasing his brother.

"Hey, I had perfectly good excuses!" Dean insisted as he clapped Sam on the shoulder. "Okay, I don't know about you, but I'm freezing my ass off out here!"

"Yeah, I suppose me taking off wasn't exactly the smartest thing to do, huh? Let's go back in for Bobby starts bitching at us," Sam responded, rubbing the back of his neck in his typical embarrassed fashion. "'s snowing!" the younger Winchester pointed out holding a hand out to catch the flakes.

"You just now realized that, genius?" Dean scoffed, giving his brother a shove toward the house. Sam just gave a half grin and hitched his shoulder.

The two Winchester brothers began making their way up to Bobby's house before they saw the older hunter standing on the porch with his arms folded over his chest. "Are you two idjits comin' in the house or not? It's freezing out here. I don't wanna hear any of you whining or bitching if you catch a damn cold." Sam and Dean just exchanged glances and chose to ignore the grumbles coming from Bobby, barely making out the words 'lady parts' and 'tear-jerking conversations with you damn Winchesters.' "Let's go make breakfast for Christmas at least. You morons look like you could use the nourishment." The brothers made their way up the porch stairs and followed Bobby into the house with a slam of the door behind them.

Neither Sam nor Dean or even Bobby noticed Castiel as he peeked through the kitchen window, watching the family skittering around the kitchen, getting out eggs, bacon, toast and all the breakfast works. He smiled slightly to himself as he watched Sam smiling and talking to Dean; Dean responding with a laugh before he moved to another part of the kitchen. The brothers had finally come to understand their importance in the world, what they're meant to do, and how much they actually do mean to the people that they've saved. As well as the lives of the people that will be eventually be saved, but for now they could enjoy Christmas Day as a family like they deserved.

~The End~

Okay, so I just wanted to give a gigantic thank you to those of you who have stuck by me this whole time! I have to say I am so happy that I was able to finish this story just in time for Christmas. It makes me feel fairly accomplished! LOL Forgive me for the more powerful emotions in this chapter. I just really wanted to get the way Sam and Dean were feeling across as best as I possibly could. I actually cried while writing this and cried as soon as I finished it. Haha. xD I'm a horrible sap. Anyway, again thank you to everybody who has reviewed and left such kind comments, words and has stayed with me this whole time I wrote this. I appreciate it more than you know. Thank you for the support and I hope that everybody has a very Merry Christmas a safe and Happy New Year! 3