AN: Popped into my head, thought I'd write it to satiate my muse. A little Christmas-y fic, set S7, but ignoring all recent events. So it's nothing to do with Bobby or Cas or anything of that nature. Just the boys on Christmas, in a rundown motel, being brothers. Hope you enjoy!

"Happy holidays, jerk," Sam says, tossing a small package to Dean, who catches it with a huff.

They had just settled in for a deserved break. Snow is falling outside, but they're nestled comfortably into the confines of a forty-dollar room, content with some snacks and a made-for-TV Christmas movie playing on the room's ancient TV screen. (Because in the end, that would always be enough for both of them).

Dean's face falls a bit. "Sam, I—I didn't get anything for you…with all the shit going on, I wasn-"

"Shut up," Sam says with an amused grin. "And just open the gift, Dean."

"You don't have to be such a bitch about it," Dean mocks, taking the present carefully in his hands.

It's small and rectangular, not giving away the contents in the least. Dean eyes it curiously, thinking hard about what it could be.

"If I'd known it was gonna take you this long, I would've given it to you last Christmas," Sam mutters impatiently. Dean shoots him a quick glare, and as he examines the gift, something inside him awakens. A thought, a hope (one he almost doesn't dare to consider).

The package is so small and his neck feels so bare (it has for a long time now). Whether it's the Christmas lights outside or the impatiently attentive look on Sam's face, Dean falls further into the idea of what he could be holding, and it crashes upon him with the force of an agonized memory.

Fingers peeling back the paper carefully, Dean's heart races and he dares to think (hope, believe) that what's inside is what he's been looking for for so long, what he misses and wants and needs. What he's lost and thought he'd never get back.

Hope makes his fingers tremble; regret sobers them into a smoother motion.

The room is silent, but the clink of metal on the bottom of a trashcan resounds in his ears.

Just a little bit more paper left to peel, just a breath closer to what's inside. He tears away the last of the paper, only to find a box. Only Sammy would take the time to put it in a box. He takes a breath to calm himself (it doesn't work) because he doesn't even know if it's what he thinks it is (that thing he aches to feel in his hand, on his chest, between his fingers). Dean's head and heart reach a crescendo within him, and with trembling fingers, he lifts the lid off the box, eyes straining to see what lies beneath.

Dean's mind is blank for a moment.

Two bits of paper, No, not paper—tickets. Concert tickets. He narrows his eyes to read the label, and sees it's for a classic rock festival a few states east. The names printed on the tickets are recognizable from the scrawled writing on the cassette tapes buried away somewhere.

It's a great gift. It's an amazing gift, thoughtful and unexpected (and so goddamn Sammy that Dean doesn't know why he is so caught off guard). It's a great gift. Just…not the gift he thought (hoped, believed) it would be. And Dean can't hide the sting of disappointment. Just for a moment, it all comes rushing back, what he did, what he can't take back, and it makes him want to cry, but he doesn't and he won't.

The moment passes and Dean pastes on a grateful smile. He's about to say something (anything really, just something to distract from the burning regret), and looks up at Sam.

Sam, who knows him way too well for his own damn good.

The younger brother's head is down, his shoulders slumped as if he knew (because he knew this would happen, but he just wanted to make Dean smile, and thought this might work, but it didn't). When Sam looks up, his eyes mirror the same regret and disappointment in Dean's. His voice is rough and resigned. "I didn't pick it up, Dean. I should've, I wish I had, but…I didn't."

Sam's words are heavy to match Dean's heart. It was years ago, but it feels like yesterday. The pain in each of their hearts flares because it wasn't yesterday, but it feels like it was (and it's funny how bad decisions follow you around for so long).

Dean begins to speak (but knows it's pointless to try). "I didn't say-"

Sam looks down briefly, his eyes going somewhere Dean can't see (another time, another place, another lost memory that they'd never really lose).

"You didn't have to."

And they both know it's true.

There is so much between them, in the air around them, in the glances they shoot each other, in the disappointment and regret and mistakes (upon mistakes upon mistakes). There's hate and blood and punches and poisonous words (You walk out that door, you don't ever come back, we're weaker together, not stronger, I should go, maybe you should). And woven within all that, more lies and betrayal (it never ends, never ends, never ends).

But somewhere buried beneath all that shit and pain, there's a little boy with bright eyes looking up at his big brother and wanting nothing more (not the world, not his life, not anything) than to make him smile. To make him happy.

And there's another little boy who never really got to be little, looking down at his brother with darkened eyes and wanting nothing more (not his dreams, not his happiness, not anything) than to keep him safe and happy. To give him everything he deserves (and more, so much more).

"I'm sorry," Sam says in a breath.

Dean says nothing (and doesn't have to) because even if it's not his fault, Sam's forgiven because he's Sam, his Sammy, and nothing can ever matter more than that (even if he lost that virtue somewhere along the way, it's back now and more important than ever).

Sam accepts the silence and understands. "It's been a long year," he says.

"It's been a long couple of years," Dean responds. And he's not as bitter about it now. His lips even twitch into a brief smirk.

Sam sighs. He's almost smiling. "But who's keeping track, right?"

Dean smiles, too, and his eyes are light, lighter than they've been in a long time (light like they were in heaven, with nothing but a night sky, some fireworks, and his Sammy at his side).

For the bright-eyed little brother and the darkened never-little big brother, it has all been disappointment and regret and mistakes, too many to count.

But buried under all the shit and pain, those boys are together, in a motel room. The one with the bright eyes is handing a package to the one with the darkened eyes. And he's opening it and smiling, and in that moment, both their worlds are happy and complete.

Buried under all the shit and pain, that moment will never die, and those boys will always be happy and free and together. Forever.

No matter what happens later. No matter what happens now.

"So how much these cost you?" Dean says, clearing his throat (wanting Sammy to know that he appreciates the gift, he really does, even if it isn't what he thought, hoped, believed it would be).

Sam just shrugs because that's not really important as long as Dean was happy.

"Thanks, Sammy." Sam looks up and Dean is smiling, really smiling (mostly because he was looking at Sam, and he was here, and they were together). "I love it."

Sam smiles and his chest feels tight.

"Dad lied to me. I want you to have it."

"You sure?"

"I'm sure."

Dean sets the tickets on the bedside table and grabs their beers, handing his brother's to him.

Sam is still remembering (and wonders if Dean is, too.)

"Thank you, Sam, I…I love it."

And he did. He loved it enough to never let it go, but then he did, and now it's gone.

But that doesn't make it any less valuable, any less loved. It's lost, just like the people they've lost, just like the places and dreams they've lost, all sacrifices to this bigger picture that they've never been able to see (the bigger picture that has never made sense).

That moment, with the two boys in the hotel room, together and happy and complete, will never be lost. And maybe that's the important thing. That they'll always be able to go back to that moment because it's a part of them (and always will be).

"Merry Christmas, Dean." His voice is quiet, but meaningful.

"Merry Christmas, Sammy." His voice is the rough, kind tone that Sam loves.

Then and now, those boys are together, in a motel room. The one with the bright eyes is handing a package to the one with the darkened eyes. And he's opening it and smiling, and in that moment, both their worlds are happy and complete.

And that moment will never die, and those boys will always be happy and free and together.


And even if just for this moment, they can live in that moment, and nothing else matters.