Right Time, Right Place…Or Not

Summary: Set in Season 6, between the Third Man and Caged Heat. Stopping in a town on their way to Bobby's for Christmas, Dean discovers again how different his little has become when Sam's determined to take out what he assumes is a demon in disguise. Only later does Sam discover that maybe he can still believe in things he thought long ago destroyed as both he & Dean are given gifts from an unexpected source. Soulless!Sam / Frustrated!Dean

Tags: None specifically.

Warnings/Spoilers: May contain spoilers for Season 6. Warnings for some minor language.

Disclaimer: I don't own the boys. Kripke and the CW do. This is just for fun.

Author Note: It's early I know but this one popped into my head and since I don't normally write Robo-Sam, I hope he turned out well.

"No!"

"Why the hell not? It was the perfect opening and I had the shot."

"Not in a freakin' crowded mall, you didn't. There is still such a thing as right time and a right place and this was neither!"

"That rule does not apply to demons, Dean!"

His head had already been throbbing with a massive headache even before the need to go shopping in that crowd infested mall had come up. Now Dean Winchester felt like slamming his head into the first solid object he could find and not stopping until his brain mass was a pile of goo.

"That rule applies to anything and you were not going to shoot Santa Claus in front of hundreds of little kids, Sam!" he snapped, tired of trying to keep the reasonable tone in his voice as he slammed through the motel room door only seconds ahead of his current object of stress.

"It was a demon!" Sam Winchester returned in the same single tone he used for most things these days though it did go up a notch since he didn't agree with his older brother's interference.

Dropping the bags he was carrying on his bed, Dean made himself count to as close to a thousand as he could get before turning on his brother with a look that he knew borderlined on shock and outright anger. "How do you know that Santa in the mall was a demon?" he demanded, not sure why he was even having this discussion or even believing that he was having it with Sam. "Did his eyes go black while getting that little redheaded girl's wish list or…Sam…tell me you didn't hit Santa with Holy Water…"

Slightly relieved at the snort that got, Dean ran both hands through his short hair while struggling to focus and talk his younger brother off the proverbial 'let's go gank Santa' ledge.

Dean knew since learning that Sam had returned from the Cage minus a soul that his little brother, who two years ago wouldn't have dreamed of even suggesting what he had earlier, had more than a little trouble discerning right from wrong.

Hell, Dean had seen Sam just react on pure gut instinct without thinking about it because at this moment that was how Sam was. No soul meant that his normally over-emotional kid brother, the guy who would still tear up at a dead bunny on the road, was nothing but cold, hard as nails and just pure driven hunter. He'd do anything to complete a hunt…up to and including wipe a mall Santa off the map.

"No, I didn't get close enough for Holy Water," Sam admitted, settling his jacket on the back of a chair while reaching for a bag only to have his hand slapped away until Dean checked the bag as if he didn't want his brother in that particular bag. "It's just…I heard him talking to those kids, Dean. It was like he really had gotten their letters last year so only a demon would be able to pick up on the thoughts or…"

"Or he was just reading the kids and guessing what they wanted last year by what they want this year?" Dean cut in realistically then smirked after he shoved something under his bed, knowing that Robo-Sam wouldn't have the least bit of interest in what he seemed to be keeping from him. "Or…maybe he really is Santa Claus."

"Sure and I got a Barbie from Santa the year I was eight," Sam didn't seem to be aware of when he rolled his eyes at that memory or the way Dean tensed at it. "We both know there is no Santa Claus, Dean. That thing at the mall is a demon or a ghoul or…well, it could be anything with the way monsters are popping up these days and you just let it go as if…"

Determined to remember that his little brother just didn't have the abilities to gauge things right then, Dean blew out a breath and debated on slamming Sam's head into the wall to see if that might jar an emotion loose but then decided against it. "We were not ganking a mall Santa in front of practically every kid in this town, Sam," he replied between clenched teeth, a sure sign that he was going to lose his temper and very soon. "We can go back tonight if you want or find out where the guy lives but for now I'm grabbing dinner, you're staying put and I better not hear on the Impala's radio that some Sasquatch went native in the mall while I'm gone."

Not giving Sam a chance to argue, Dean grabbed his jacket and keys and left the motel room with the hopes that at least a part of Sam would understand and stay put until they could get a better gauge on things. Hell, they weren't even on a case right then. Just passing through the town on the way to Bobby's even though Dean knew that Christmas wouldn't mean a damn thing to his little brother this year…he just wanted to spend it with what family he left…unless he emptied a clip in Robo-Sam on principal's sake.

Scowling as the door slammed and the sound of the Impala's tired squealed on blacktop, a sure sign Dean was pissed at him, Sam waited ten minutes before reaching for his jacket and a small duffel bag that he loaded with things that he knew would pass mall security then left to hail a Taxi while knowing he'd be able to do this act and get back long before Dean worked off his anger and returned.

Back at the mall, Sam was surprised to see that things hadn't slowed down any in the holiday shopping. People still came and went from stores, arms loaded with stuff and a small piece of him thought briefly that he should get something for his brother and Bobby but then his eyes settled on the reason for this return visit and he forgot everything else.

Ever since returning from the Cage, Sam had known something was off with him. He had the memories of his childhood, his youth, he had them all so he knew how he should be reacting to things but it wasn't until Castiel stuck his hand in his gut, something he still hated to think about, that he and Dean learned why he wasn't feeling anything. His soul was missing.

Slowly approaching the center of the main Mall court, he could see a line of happy, laughing children lined up to see a chubby and jolly old man in a red suit. Pausing by a pillar to watch, a flash of memory took Sam back to when he'd been the age of some of these kids and Dean had taken him to a mall to see Santa.

Back then, before the Christmas when he'd been eight and Dean was twelve, Sam still believed in Santa. He still believed that wishes and dreams could come true. He hadn't known how hard his brother had worked to make it appear as if they had a real Christmas since more times than not John Winchester had only come in from hunting long enough to spend a few hours with his sons. Then came the year that he hadn't come back and Dean had been forced to steal presents for his brother.

It had been that year that Sam had lost his innocence because not only did he stop believing in Santa but he also learned what his Dad really did. He recalled the bitter heartbreak he'd felt. Today he hadn't missed the way his brother had tensed at his mention of that Christmas but he knew why. It had been that year that Sam had given Dean the golden amulet that his brother had worn up until the mess with Lucifer and the Apocalypse had happened. He'd lost faith in Sam and in their bond as brothers, tossing the amulet away without a backward glance.

At some times, even know, even with barely any feelings to speak of, Sam wondered if Dean regretted that action. If he ever wished for that amulet again.

Shrugging that thought off as wishful thinking, Sam's hard gaze went back to his current target. Keeping a close watch on his surroundings, he hung back while the jolly old fellow in the red suit and long flowing white beard finished up before nodding to an assistant dressed like an elf that he was taking a break.

"Dean said I couldn't gank his ass in front of the kids…he didn't say anything about in a back room," Sam muttered, knowing that deep down he should be feeling something about even considering this act but only seeing the possible threat and so with a stealth that he knew would've probably either impressed or terrified his hunting driven Father, he followed the older man down a side corridor and into what he'd assumed would be an employee lunchroom or something.

Stepping into a darkened storeroom, Sam's caution hiked up several notches as he pulled the demon killing blade that Dean had returned to him shortly after they began hunting together again.

"Hello, Sam."

Even without any solid feelings to speak of, Sam felt his heart jerk when the unexpected voice greeted him by name then blinked as a light came on. "You know my name?" he hated it when demons knew his name…not that it should come as a surprise to him anymore.

"Of course I know your name, Sam," the white bearded man chuckled, laying a hand on his stomach as it seemed to bounce as he laughed. "I know the names of all the children who used to write me…or come see me," he smiled with twinkling blue eyes as he watched this tall young man but didn't seem concerned with the blade in his hand. "Let's see, you would've been about five or six that year when your…brother brought you to that mall in St. Paul, Minnesota to see me."

Fingers gripped the hilt of the blade tighter as something else seemed to clench in his stomach as hazel eyes narrowed to watch this short Santa carefully. "So, even way back then demons have been possessing Santas?" he sneered. "I know why then, but why now?"

"Sam, I'm not a demon," the older man in red chuckled again then turned his back on the hunter to begin to dig through his sack of brightly colored gifts. "Is that why you came back tonight? Because you though I was?" he looked over his shoulder with a huge grin and a laugh that once again shook his belly. "I've been accused of being a great many things but never that…though I did take offense to that Pagan Santa you and Dean took care of."

"You know my name, you know my brother's name and you know about something that we killed even before…a while back," Sam found that he still had difficulty recalling the time before his brother went to Hell. "Only a demon could know that."

"Or Santa Claus," the older man returned, turning more slowly this time to gaze at Sam for a long while. "You've been through a lot, Sam and I know you seem to be missing that part of yourself that gave you the emotions and feelings that have always driven you but…if I was a demon do you think I would've allowed myself to come to the one mall in a town where you and Dean were?"

Considering that, Sam knew that while he and Dean were still the hit list with most demons he also understood that normal demons tended to steer clear of them. This little guy wasn't acting like a demon but still Sam knew better than to trust anything so reaching under his jacket he pulled a small flask out.

"Okay, so no hissing or black eyes with Holy Water," he didn't like that since he'd been so certain of what he was hunting while the older guy seemed amused with having water tossed on him. "So, ghoul, spirit, witch…pick something cause I heard you talking earlier and there is no way in Hell that you could've known…"

"When you sat on my lap you asked me for two things and neither were really for you," Santa remarked, wizened featured taking on a look of remembrance as he thought back. "You asked me if I could make sure your Dad made it home on time for Christmas and you asked for a new jacket for your brother because he'd torn his beating up a bully who was picking on you. I asked you what you wanted me to bring you for Christmas and you just smiled and said…"

"Nothing, I just want my brother and my Dad to both be with me," Sam whispered tightly, surprised at the burning he felt in his eyes since he hadn't had that sensation since his return. "How'd you know…?"

The older man seemed move in a blink because in the time it took Sam to swipe at his burning eyes, he was beside him and placing a gentle hand on the young, soulless hunter's arm. "I know because you told me, Sam. Just like you'd write to me every year before you turned ten and a huge blunder in my shipping section messed things up because that Barbie certainly was not meant for you," he felt the tension rippling through the muscles under his hand but ignored it to offer a grandfatherly pat. "I know you stopped believing that year, Sam but I never stopped watching you and Dean because of all the kids I visited, I've never known an older brother who tried so hard to protect a sibling as yours did…even now Dean would give anything for you because you're his brother and that's his Christmas wish."

"Dean…still makes those?" Sam blinked, surprised that after all the horrors his brother had been through that he still made those silly wishes but then recalled the other night when he'd woken up to find his brother standing outside the motel by himself.

Dean had made a lame excuse that he was trying to clear his ears of Sam's snoring but now Sam wondered if his brother might have been making the usual Christmas routine wish…something for him and something for his baby.

"Dean's wish this year, aside from spending it with what family he has, is to have you back," the older man replied, reaching back for two packages that he nudged into the hunter's hands. "I know it looks bad right now, son and tell Dean that while I don't have control over his one wish that he will get it very soon but I think you'd want him to have this. The other is long overdue for you. Now, you still want to kill me?"

Looking down at the boxes, Sam was stunned to see them addressed to him and his brother. Slowly lifting his eyes to meet the jolly looking ones watching him, he did slip the knife back under his jacket. "I…still don't know if you're real but…I guess if Dean can still believe in something then…so can I," he stepped back then coughed as if uneasy. "If you're real…if you really did know what I wished for back in St. Paul then you know…"

"That Dean gave you that jacket because it was warmer than the one you had?" Santa nodded, then winked. "He's your big brother, Sam. I wouldn't have expected anything less…that's why Jim Murphy also decided your brother needed a new jacket. Now, I have more wishes to hear before heading home for the start of a busy night and you better be home before Dean gets back."

"Yeah, he'll be…" Sam began to sigh when he looked back around only to find himself alone and for the first time since he was dragged out of the Cage he smiled fully and headed back to the motel after making a couple stops along the way.

Seeing the Impala parked in the lot made him groan outwardly while inwardly there was only a slight tinge of dread at the thought of the impending fight. He'd just been reaching for the handle when the door was yanked open and he found himself pulled himself.

"Tell me you didn't," Dean ordered in a tired voice after he took a quick look at Sam as if checking for bloody clothes while wondering who or what he'd have to clean up before they split this town. "Damn it, Sammy. I thought I said to wait…"

"I didn't do anything, Dean," Sam broke in, not surprised that his brother would be pissed but he was surprised to feel Dean's hands shaking as they gripped his shoulders. "I was going to…but I didn't."

Looking right at Sam, Dean could see the kid was telling the truth…which was something he couldn't always do since Robo-Sam could lie straight to his face without blinking. This night, however, he noticed something in Sam's eyes that he hadn't in awhile and that instantly made him worried.

"You hurt?" he demanded, now running his hands over Sam in search of open wounds and only stopping when a small box was shoved at him. "What's this? I didn't think Robo-you wanted to do Christmas and only Bobby threatening to hog tie you was getting you to his place?" he eyed the package warily while still keeping an eye on Sam who suddenly looked more than tired…he looked dazed. "Sam?"

"He said that while he couldn't give you your one wish right away you would get it," Sam murmured, staring at the other box with his name on it while he then handed his brother another package, this one wrapped in the more familiar newspaper. "He knew you took me to that mall in St. Paul when I was six and…"

Sitting on the other bed to face his brother, Dean stared at this change in him while noticing that Sam was twirling the other box like he would as a kid. "Who said, Sam?" he asked warily, swearing he was sticking to his brother like glue from then on no matter how mad he made him. "Who gave you these?"

"Santa," came the reply with as close to a Sam eye roll as Dean had seen in months as if he couldn't believe his brother had even asked that. "He said I'd want you to have that and that this one was long overdue and…" his voice broke off as he looked in the box he'd just opened to simply stare at the camouflaged watch. "No…way."

The mere shock in Sam's voice made Dean move to sit beside him and he felt his stomach clench at the watch. "Huh," he grunted, refusing to show the emotion that wanted to come because he still recognized this item as the one thing his brother had wanted the year he'd been ten because he wanted a watch like Bobby had and the child's version had been the thing Dean had been trying to talk their Dad into buying for his brother but then John failed in so many ways that year. "Well, guess Santa read that letter after all."

Taking the watch with trembling fingers, even soulless as he was now, Sam still felt a lingering childlike connection to the memory this brought. "What…what's in your box?" he asked, not hearing the trembling in his voice as his attention was drawn to every inch of this gift.

"Probably something to get back at me for that…" Dean opened his with barely a glance until the light from the table reflected off of the tiny little gold amulet that was nestled inside the box. "Sonuvabitch," he breathed, chest suddenly tight as he stared at the very thing his brother had given him the Christmas Sam was nine, the amulet that Dean had tossed into a trashcan in some roadside motel more than two years ago. "You didn't…"

Blinking at the amulet that he had more than once wished he'd picked up, Sam shook his head then finally gave up and met his stunned brother's eyes. "How?"

"Santa, Sammy," Dean gave a shaky smile before slipping the black cord back over his head and feeling the familiar weight against his chest. "Didn't I always tell you that Santa could bring miracles?"

Still not sure he believed that, Sam couldn't deny what he could touch and see. He also couldn't deny that Dean had lost some of the tenseness in him as he lightly ran a finger over the amulet he'd only once been without and that was during his time in Hell. "Did you ever regret…"

"Tossing this?" Dean nodded after a moment then flipped open the tape on the newspaper wrapped gift. "Everyday after I did it, Sam…but like all the mistakes I'd made with you throwing this out was something I couldn't take back," he looked down then a smile spread across features that were usually only showing weariness. "Hey, something for Baby!"

Seeming pleased with the gift of motor oil and air fresheners, Dean leaned over to grab what he'd hid under his bed. "I got you this…just in case."

"What…" Sam blinked at the box before ripping into the newspaper and stared at the new laptop. "Dean…why…"

"Since your other one got…crunched when Cas…totaled that piece of…I mean your car," Dean coughed, attention going back to the amulet until he felt a hand lightly grip his wrist. "You've only been moaning about it for…weeks so…Merry Christmas, Sam."

Knowing that his brother couldn't have afforded this on his own made a piece of Sam wonder whose name the credit card scheme was under but chose to wave it off since Dean seemed happy that he could still make Sam happy, if only as much as was possible right then.

"Dean, I don't know if we can get my soul back but…" Sam frowned before reaching over to give his startled brother a hug that he knew would have been second nature for him once and accepted how much of that person Dean missed. "I want to be the brother you had once. I want to be the guy who would've thrown a fit at killing Santa or shooting a bunny or…I want…to be that brother again."

"I know, Sam and you will be," Dean assured him, giving him a final one-armed hug before heading for the kitchen in the room to heat up the dinner he'd brought back. "Dinner?"

Nodding, Sam carefully placed both the new laptop and the watch on his bed for later examination before catching a roll that was tossed his way with a smile. "Merry Christmas, Dean," he murmured, knowing his brother heard him when he nodded.

Later that night, Sam sat at the small table while Dean had fallen asleep watching an old holiday movie. Looking over the laptop, he was pleased with the software…though he'd have to delete a couple things he knew Dean put on it just to annoy him but he'd leave it alone for the moment just to make his brother happy.

Looking at the clock, Sam reached for the watch he'd just been given before stepping outside to look up at the clear but cold night air. "Thank you," he whispered, still not sure if he believed or understood what had happened that night but for Dean's sake he was willing to try. "Merry Christmas…everyone."

Sam had just laid down to sleep with the watch still grasped in his hand, he thought he heard the sound of bells over heard and a deep laughter of a jolly old man who had finally delivered a long overdue present and gave two brothers the hope of a better New Year.

The End