"What're you doing, Sam?" Dean asked, glancing up from his Hot Rod magazine with a frown.
He watched his little brother as he laid on the floor, tongue between his teeth as he held a pencil clumsily in his hand, making thick, uneven letters in a plain, school-grade notebook.
"Writing a letter to Santa," Sam informed him, tapping the eraser against his chin thoughtfully, and Dean hid his eye roll behind his magazine.
"Yeah?" he said instead, "What're you doing that for?"
"To let him know what I want, of course," Sam said, "What else would you write to Santa about?"
"Huh. Good point," Dean acknowledged.
There was a few moments of quiet, where the only sound in the room was the scratch of Sam's pencil on the paper.
"Why don't you write to Santa, Dean?" Sam asked suddenly, and Dean froze, panicking for a moment before he thought up a lie.
"I, uh, already did. Wanted to make sure he got mine first, my gifts are more important," Dean smirked and Sam made an indignant squawk, pushing up to sit back on his heels.
"You're a jerk!"
"Comes with being the oldest, sorry Sammy," Dean teased, and Sam pouted, laying back down with an insulted huff.
"Will he even read mine, now?" Sam said, and Dean sighed at the hint of tears in his brother's voice.
"Of course he will, you dork, he reads them all, quit cryin'."
"I'm not crying!"
Dean sighed as his brother pouted, tapping his pencil on his paper irritatedly.
"What're you asking for, anyway?" Dean asked, and Sam threw him a glare, pulling his paper closer.
"Not telling," Sam grumbled, and Dean sighed, flicking up his magazine again.
Sam finished his note a few minutes later, folding it up into a small, neat square and pulling an envelope out of his backpack. Dean watched him seal it neatly before sliding it back into the bag.
Dean waited until Sam was asleep that night, little six year old body taking up such a small fraction of the bed, curled under a nest of blankets and pillows, before plucking the note out of Sam's backpack, slipping out the motel door and carefully breaking the seal on the cheap envelope.
I want to thank you for my bug book last year. I know it was from you because my dad would never get it for me. But this year, I don't want books or toys, if that is ok. What I really want is for Dad to be with us more. I miss him, and I know Dean misses him a lot too. I want Dean to be happy, even if he is mean to me sometimes. If you can please do that for me Santa, it would make Christmas really great.
The note was in Sam's young, inexperienced handwriting, with only small mistakes here and there, which gave Dean a weird swell of pride, at the same time it twisted a feeling of sadness in his chest.
He re-sealed the envelope, slipping back inside quietly to return it to Sam's backpack.
He picked Sam up the next day to help him reach the mailbox, his brother insisting on mailing it himself.
By the time Christmas rolled around, they had moved to two more states since Sam had mailed his letter. Nevertheless, there was a letter from Santa waiting on the table for him when they woke up Christmas morning.
Sam looked at it with wide eyes, opening it carefully and sitting at the foot of his bed to read it.
I got your letter, I'm glad you liked the bug book, I picked it out special for you. I know you asked me for something this Christmas, but I'm afraid it's something I can't give you. Your dad is very busy doing important work, but I know he tries to be with you as much as he can. And don't worry about Dean, he's ok. He's got you.
Sam looked up after reading the letter, chewing his lips, and Dean looked at him from where he was still sleepily burrowed under the covers.
"What's it say, Sammy?" he asked, heart fluttering a little nervously.
"Nothing," Sam said softly, refolding it and climbing back on the bed to tuck it under his pillow.