There was a beat of silence; Rumsfeld staring at the Winchesters...and the Winchesters staring right back.

"What the hell is that?" John finally asked, cutting his eyes at Bobby.

"A puppy," Bobby answered dryly, reaching down to straighten the bow around Rumsfeld's neck.

John glared at the smartass answer and tone. "I can see that," he snapped, lowering his voice when Sam stirred in his arms. "What the hell is it doing here?" he demanded more quietly.

"It lives here," Bobby replied and then glanced at Dean. "Santa came early."

Dean snorted at the explanation; his expression implying that he had more important things to worry about right now than Santa's comings and goings – like a sick little brother who needed tending to – and was offended that Bobby expected him to believe such nonsense anyway.

Bobby sighed, receiving Dean's message and saddened that the magic of Christmas was already gone for the eight-year old scowling up at him.

John shifted where he stood, readjusting his hold on Sam and lifting the kid marginally higher as Rumsfeld approached.

Bobby chuckled at John's reaction to the seven-week old puppy. "He's not dangerous."

"How do you know?" Dean countered, eyeing the dog like he was ready to splash holy water in its face.

Bobby arched an eyebrow at the challenge. "Because I do." He paused, watching John's oldest watch Rumsfeld. "He's not dangerous," he repeated at Dean's maintained suspicion.

Dean shook his head at Bobby's naiveté. "Everything's dangerous."

John nodded his agreement.

Bobby sighed, feeling something in his chest twist at Dean's matter-of-fact statement; the eight-year old clearly believing that more than anything else.

Everything's dangerous.

"Not everything," Karen would have corrected with the gentle patience of the mother she had never gotten to be and would have made Dean believe that instead.

Bobby knew because there was a time when she had made him believe that; a time when everything wasn't dangerous.

But that time wasn't now.

Now was the time of hunters expecting the worse and raising their children to do the same.

Not that Bobby could blame John for doing so, but still...

It was heart-achingly sad that something as exciting as a surprise puppy on Christmas Eve would be met with anything besides happiness.

But neither John nor Dean were happy to meet Rumsfeld, and the one person in the room who could sway them was currently sick and asleep.

Bobby sighed his disappointment.

John sighed as well but for a different reason, not in the mood to deal with Bobby's whim. "Well, whatever..." he dismissed, barely glancing at the puppy as he walked past it. "We'll be upstairs," he called over his shoulder to Dean, carrying his youngest toward the hallway; obviously too tired from driving all day and worrying about his sick kid to offer any other reaction to the new addition to Bobby's household.

There was another beat of silence as Bobby and Dean listened to John climb the steps and head toward the room the brothers shared upstairs; the floorboards creaking above as John walked.

Bobby sighed, redirecting his attention to Dean.

The eight-year old glared at the dog and then at Bobby. "I can't believe you did this."

Bobby arched an eyebrow at the accusatory tone. "Believe it," he responded flatly. "Besides, the dog ain't for you or your daddy. It's for me and Sam."

Dean shook his head. "Sam can't have a dog."

"True," Bobby agreed, well aware of the reasons why pet ownership was not an option for the Winchesters. "But the kid can sure as hell share mine."

Dean didn't respond, seeming to soften at Bobby's declaration.

There was silence; the ceiling once again creaking as John moved around in the bedroom upstairs.

Dean glanced at the puppy still standing in the middle of the kitchen and still staring at him. "Is it a skinwalker?"

Bobby blinked at the question and then laughed.

Dean's glare returned. "Is it?" he demanded.

Bobby shook his head. "No," he assured, once again saddened that an eight-year old didn't believe in Santa but did believe in skinwalkers.

"How do you know?" Dean pressed. "Did you test it?"

Bobby nodded, biting back a comment about how he didn't become a hunter just yesterday. "Of course I tested it," he replied, reminding himself that Dean was only asking such questions because the big brother was worried about his little brother's safety.

That's all the kid ever worried about.

And Bobby couldn't fault Dean for that.

Dean's gaze flickered to the dog and then back to Bobby. "Rottweilers are dangerous."

Bobby scowled at the generalization. "All dogs are dangerous if they're not raised and trained properly," he corrected. "But Rumsfeld's gonna be just fine. The only folks who gotta worry about him being a danger is folks who don't belong around here anyway."

Dean nodded thoughtfully at the explanation. "So, he's a guard dog?"

"Exactly," Bobby confirmed, sensing the change in Dean's opinion of the puppy staring at them. "And once Rumsfeld meets Sam, I bet those two will be inseparable."

Which meant even more protection for Sam...

Dean nodded again at the implication. "Well...okay..." he hesitantly agreed. "But if he scares Sam...or if he hurts Sam..."

"He won't," Bobby assured. "And if he does, then I'll take care of him," he added, glancing meaningfully at the puppy.

Rumsfeld seemed to receive the message as he whined and ducked his head.

Dean nodded once more and then sighed. "Okay. I guess he can stay."

Bobby quirked a smile at being granted such permission in his own house.

Dean lifted the three duffels from the floor with a grunt and then motioned toward the fridge. "How 'bout those antibiotics?"

Bobby nodded. "Right this way..." he replied and crossed to the fridge; knowing Dean followed him and noticing the kid patting the dog's head as he passed by.

Bobby smiled to himself as he opened the fridge, confident Rumsfeld and Dean would become partners in looking out for Sam, and made sure his expression was neutral when he turned back to face John's oldest.

Dean accepted the chilled plastic bottle of pink medicine. "Amoxicillin," he identified without reading the label and nodded his approval. "Sam likes this," he announced, clearly relieved that he wouldn't have to fight the battle of getting his kid brother to actually take the medicine. "And he's not allergic to it, so that's good."

"Good," Bobby agreed, even though he already knew those facts.

That was why he always made sure to keep this particular antibiotic stocked.

There was silence as Dean skimmed the label, refreshing himself on dosing instructions.

Bobby quirked a smile at the big brother's careful attention to detail when it came to Sam and reached into the fridge for a bottle of water. "Here..."

Dean glanced up. "Thanks," he responded, taking the offered water and then narrowing his eyes as a particularly harsh cough echoed overhead.

Bobby cringed, hating that such a horrible sound came from such a small child. "I don't like the sound of that."

"Me, neither," Dean agreed and stomped toward the hall – a man on a mission – just as John called his name.

Bobby chuckled at the desperation in John's tone; the father clearly in unfamiliar territory as he tried to take care of Sam by himself upstairs.

"Dean..." John called again and was echoed by Sam's hoarse voice also calling for his brother.

"Coming..." Dean responded and disappeared in the hall, managing to take the steps two at a time despite having his hands full with three duffels, the antibiotics, and the bottle of water.

Bobby listened to the eight-year old climb the stairs and then glanced at Rumsfeld. "He's a good kid," he assured the puppy about Dean, having no doubt that as soon as Dean saw how much Sam loved the dog, the big brother would come around. "It just takes a little longer with him," he confided, remembering all too well how long it took Dean to trust him after they had first met.

Upstairs, Sam coughed once more – the sound loud, deep, and wet – and then whimpered Dean's name; the four-year old always seeking comfort and reassurance from his brother, especially when he was sick.

"It's okay, Sammy," Dean replied, and Bobby heard the solid thump of Dean dropping the duffels on the bedroom floor upstairs.

Bobby smiled as he pictured Dean then crossing to the bed and wasting no time in pushing John out of his way as he prepared to tend to Sam; helping the kid change into his nightclothes and dosing him with the antibiotics while John hovered, not quite sure what to do.

Bobby shook his head. "Poor bastard," he commented about John and chuckled to himself; always amused at how Dean could put John in his place when it came to Sam...and how more times than not, John let him.

Rumsfeld stared up at the ceiling; his head tilting and his ears twitching as he listened to the muffled conversation upstairs between father and oldest son with Sam's coughs interspersed.

"It's not polite to eavesdrop," Bobby advised the puppy good-naturedly – even though he was doing the same – and patted the dog's head as he crossed back to the stove. "Guess we'll eat this for lunch tomorrow," he commented to the dog, removing the pot of soup from the heated front eye and pushing it further back on the stovetop to cool.

Rumsfeld wagged his tail in agreement and then perked up his ears as heavy footsteps came down the stairs.

Bobby turned and leaned against the counter, knowing he would see John even before the oldest Winchester appeared in the doorway of the kitchen.

John stood there, having removed his coat and outer flannel shirt; undoubtedly hot from having held a fevered kid so closely for so long earlier.

Bobby waited, watching as the young father held the bottle of pink medicine in one hand while rubbing his neck with the other. "Did Sam take it?" he asked, motioning toward the antibiotic.

John nodded. "Yeah." He paused, quirking a smile at the memory of Dean practically pouring the liquid into the four-year old's mouth just seconds ago. "Not that Sam had much choice."

Bobby smiled as well, though he sensed John had come downstairs for a reason other than just returning the antibiotic to the fridge.

There was a beat of silence.

Rumsfeld's gaze flickered between both bearded men as he continued to stand in the center of the kitchen.

John sighed. "Humidifier?" he finally requested, like he was embarrassed by having to ask for something he clearly didn't think was necessary – and didn't expect Bobby to have – but asked anyway because Dean had insisted.

Bobby frowned. "Is Sam that bad?"

John shook his head. "I don't think so. But Dean..."

His voice trailed off in a shrug.

Bobby nodded his understanding, having been on the receiving end of Dean's demands when the eight-year old was in mother hen mode. The humidifier probably not truly needed but seeming like a good idea to a big brother who just wanted his little brother well.

John sighed once more. "I told Dean you probably didn't have one, but – "

" – of course I do," Bobby interrupted, slightly offended at the implication that he wouldn't have everything his boys would potentially need.

John arched an eyebrow.

Bobby shrugged. "Got it on sale at Walmart," he commented and then nodded toward the bathroom down the hall. "It's under the sink."

John glanced over his shoulder and then back at Bobby, shaking his head.

Bobby shrugged again and then turned his attention back to the soup, twisting the pot to sit more securely on the back portion of the stove. "You sure you don't want any of this?"

"I'm sure," John replied and crossed to the fridge, exchanging the medicine he held for medicine of his own – a cold beer.

Bobby watched as John twisted off the bottle's cap and swigged the amber-color liquid; briefly closing in eyes and sighing.

There was more silence as John opened his eyes and stared at the dog staring at him.

"Seriously, Singer..." John began, motioning toward the puppy with the beer bottle he held. "What the hell is this?"

Bobby glanced at his dog and then back at John. "I don't think I understand the question," he replied.

John glared.

Bobby rolled his eyes at what he perceived as complete overreaction. "It's just a dog, John."

"No shit," John snapped irritably. "But why get one now? And why not mention it to me first?"

"Because I don't need your permission," Bobby heatedly returned. "It's my house. And if I want a dog around the place, then I'll damn well have one."

John said nothing, sighing harshly before drinking from his beer.

Rumsfeld continued to glance between the bearded men.

"Fine," John finally allowed. "It is your house. But if this dog hurts one of my kids – "

" – please," Bobby scoffed, wondering if John was even listening to himself. "Rumsfeld is gonna be one of the best things that ever happened to those kids."

"Rumsfeld?" John echoed and then pulled a face. "What the hell kind of name is that for a dog?"

"Never mind," Bobby dismissed, not interested in explaining himself to John Winchester. "The point is, this dog is gonna grow up loving and protecting those kids as much as we do."

The statement was honest and heart-felt and caught John off guard; having known that Bobby loved Sam and Dean as his own but not expecting the older hunter to be so candid about it just now.

There was a beat of silence.

John sighed evenly and drank again from his beer, glancing once more at the puppy still staring at him.

A weak cough drifted down the stairs.

John glanced up, frowning as the sound came again.

"Dad..." Dean called, his impatient tone implying he was still waiting for that humidifier.

John shook his head.

Bobby chuckled. "You better move your ass."

John snorted. "Guess so," he agreed, not interested in dealing with Dean's attitude if he continued to delay delivering what the eight-year old had requested in the name of getting Sam well.

Bobby chuckled once more. "If you need backup, just holler."

"Thanks," John replied dryly and swigged from his beer; tossing the bottle cap into the trash and rubbing Rumsfeld's head as he passed the dog on his way to the hall.

Bobby pretended not to notice even as he inwardly smiled.

"I'll be back down later," John informed over his shoulder. "I think I've got a lead on a hunt and – "

" – no," Bobby interrupted and shook his head.

John frowned. "What?"

"No," Bobby repeated. "We're not discussing hunts tonight."

John's frown deepened. "Why not?"

"Because it's Christmas Eve," Bobby replied as if the answer was obvious.

"So...?" John pressed, confused as to why that mattered.

"So, I don't work on Christmas Eve," Bobby announced. "Or on Christmas Day."

John scowled at the new development. "Since when?"

"Since now."

John sighed. "Bobby. People are – "

" – dying," Bobby finished, having heard John's favorite argument before, and then nodded. "I know," he agreed, pausing as he glanced up at the ceiling where two kids waited upstairs. "But people are also living, John," he reminded the young father.

Because while Bobby agreed that it was important to save people by hunting things, it was also important to appreciate what was right here, right now.

Losing Karen had taught him that.

And tonight – as well as tomorrow – Bobby intended to enjoy the two kids he loved and to appreciate the precious time he got to spend with them...especially at Christmas.

The hunt could wait.

There was silence.

"Dad..." Dean called, his tone suggesting he was seconds away from coming downstairs to retrieve the damn humidifier himself.

John glanced up the stairs, quirking a smile at his persistent, stubborn eight-year old. "I'm coming, Dean," he called back, seeming to understand what Bobby was implying earlier about taking a break from saving the dying to enjoy the living.

It was a narrow line to walk.

But John refused to feel guilty about it tonight.

After all, he had a sick kid to help tend to.

John nodded in agreement with himself and took another swing from the beer bottle he continued to hold. "See you in the morning," he told Bobby over his shoulder and disappeared down the hall.

Bobby nodded, listening to John rummage around under the sink in the spare bathroom and then watching as the younger hunter passed back by the kitchen's doorway, headed upstairs with the humidifier.

Bobby sighed. "Well..." he drawled, glancing at Rumsfeld as the puppy blinked up at him. "Guess it's just you and me again tonight," he commented to the dog, disappointed by how the evening had turned out.

Rumsfeld licked Bobby's hand in response as the old hunter reached down to scratch the puppy's ears.

"Good boy," Bobby praised, briefly considering removing the red bow from the dog's neck...but deciding against it because he liked the festive accessory. "Don't judge me," he admonished the puppy and then chuckled to himself as Rumsfeld wagged his tail.

Bobby sighed, grabbing a beer from the fridge before switching off the kitchen light and crossing to the living room to once again settle in his worn leather chair to finish reading his book from earlier.

Rumsfeld happily followed, his fat feet plodding down the hall.

Bobby smiled at the sound and paused by the stairs, listening to Dean murmur soothingly to Sam and to John commenting that he was going to take a shower.

"Okay," Dean replied distractedly just as Sam coughed.

Bobby cringed, wishing he could take the sickness from the kid, and continued to the living room; easing down into the familiar warmth of his chair before bending to take off his boots; hearing the shower turn on overhead as Rumsfeld plopped down at his sock-clad feet.

Seconds later, the puppy was asleep.

Bobby chuckled at the soft snores and gently nudged the dog's furry side with his foot.

Rumsfeld snorted adorably and then shifted on the floor, falling silent.

Bobby quirked a smile.

Several minutes passed before the shower turned off and then several minutes after that, the bathroom door creaked open as John crossed back to his boys' bedroom.

"Everything okay?" Bobby heard John ask quietly and assumed that meant Sam had finally fallen back asleep, especially since he hadn't heard the four-year old cough recently.

"Yeah," Dean responded, and Bobby could picture the eight-year old ignoring his own bed across the room and instead tucking himself in beside Sam, determined to stand guard over his sick little brother throughout the night.

"Good," John replied, knowing Sam was in good hands. "Call me if you need me."

"Yes, sir," Dean returned and nothing else was said as the Winchesters settled in for the night in their respective bedrooms upstairs.

Bobby sighed, wishing they were settled in downstairs with him; the boys watching a Christmas movie while Sam played with Rumsfeld...and John did whatever as long as he stayed quiet and didn't spoil the moment.

"Ah, if wishes were horses..." Karen would often muse whenever Bobby would wax poetic about his many wishes and would wink at him whenever he playfully glared back in response.

If wishes were horses...

"...then beggars would ride," Bobby finished quietly and glanced at the old ornament still faithfully hanging on the tree in the corner; the stringed lights bathing the room in a warm, soothing glow.

Rumsfeld whimpered in his sleep and then settled once again.

No sound came from upstairs.

Bobby sighed, shaking off the vague melancholy feeling that washed over him and reminding himself that there was always tomorrow; that maybe tomorrow Sam would feel better and would finally meet Rumsfeld and give Bobby the reaction he had anticipated and felt strangely robbed of tonight.

Bobby nodded, feeling slightly encouraged, and refocused on the book in his lap.

A couple of hours passed before Bobby heard movement upstairs; light footsteps attempting to be quiet as they exited the boys' bedroom and crossed to the bathroom down the hall.

"Dean," Bobby identified and then frowned when he heard another pair of footsteps – lighter and softer because the body was smaller – also exiting the bedroom seconds later...which could only belong to Sam.

Bobby listened as the footsteps crept down the stairs and cut his eyes as Rumsfeld as the puppy unexpectedly growled, suddenly awake and on alert at the sound of movement in the house.

"Hush," Bobby reprimanded and nudged the puppy with his foot.

Rumsfeld obeyed but twitched his ears as he continued to stare expectantly at the doorway.

Seconds later, Sam appeared.

Bobby smiled at the small floppy-haired kid standing there in blue sweatpants and a grey long-sleeved shirt – both of which were too big for him.

Sam blinked drowsily, having obviously just woken up.

"Hey, squirt..." Bobby greeted warmly. "How did you escape?"

Sam smiled tiredly at the joke, knowing Bobby was referring to the hawk-like watch Dean often kept on him, especially when he was sick. "I'm sneaky," he replied, his voice quiet and hoarse.

Bobby chuckled. "That you are," he agreed and then motioned for the four-year old to join him. "C'mere..." he called, setting aside the book he had been reading for most of the evening to make room in his lap for more important things. "I've got something to show you. Someone I want you to meet."

Bobby glanced down at Rumsfeld still lying under his feet; the puppy's pudgy black and tan body hidden behind the ottoman that sat in front of the leather chair.

"C'mere..." Bobby called again, frowning at Sam's slow response time and taking that as further evidence of how tired and crappy the kid felt.

Sam smiled at the repeated invitation; his sock-clad feet barely making a sound as he crossed the living room.

Bobby watched him approach and then held his breath as the four-year old paused beside the ottoman.

Sam wrinkled his forehead in confusion at what he saw; his gaze flickering from the puppy staring at him to Bobby, who was also staring at him.

"Is that your puppy?" Sam finally asked.

"It's our puppy," Bobby corrected and winked at Sam as the kid blinked in surprise. "Santa came early."

Sam frowned at the explanation and shook his head. "Dean says Santa's not real."

Bobby shrugged, slightly annoyed that Dean would tell that to his four-year old brother. "Well, whether he is or he ain't..." the old hunter allowed. "It looks like you and me got ourselves a dog."

Sam smiled, glancing again at the puppy. "Really?" he whispered, unable to believe it.

"Really," Bobby confirmed and felt like his face would crack from how widely he was smiling.

Sam sniffled and blinked once more. "Wow," he breathed; his eyes wide as he stared at Rumsfeld in speechless awe.

As if sensing his cue, Rumsfeld stood and crossed the few steps to Sam.

Sam grinned, dimples and all, as he held out his hand to the puppy.

Rumsfeld sniffed the small open palm before licking between Sam's fingers, wagging his tail as he did so.

Sam giggled, the sound hoarse and congested but 100% pure delight. "That tickles."

Rumsfeld continued to lick.

Sam continued to beam.

And Bobby continued to watch their interaction, feeling like his heart would burst from how happy he felt in this moment.

Several seconds passed.

"So, what d'ya think?" Bobby ventured when he couldn't wait any longer.

"He's perfect," Sam responded genuinely, smiling at Bobby. "And I like his bow."

Bobby chuckled. "Me, too."

"What's his name?"


"Rumsfeld," Sam repeated and then stared at the dog thoughtfully. "I think I'll call him Rummy."

Bobby chuckled once more. "Like we call you Sammy?"

Sam smiled. "Yes," he agreed and laughed softly, coughing as he did so.

Bobby frowned. "Easy there, kiddo," he soothed.

Sam nodded and cleared his throat; one hand resting on Rumsfeld head while the back of his other hand rubbed at his tired eyes.

Bobby quirked a smile at the adorable floppy-haired kid. "C'mere, squirt..." he called and patted his lap.

It was the only invitation Sam needed as the four-year old scrambled up into the leather chair and settled against Bobby; wiggling until his small body was securely tucked against the old hunter.

Not to be left behind, Rumsfeld nudged Bobby's leg; blinking up expectantly when the bearded man glanced down at him.

Bobby rolled his eyes but scooped the puppy up in a football hold and placed him on the opposite side of his lap.

Sam smiled, resting his head against Bobby's chest and reaching to rub Rumsfeld's soft fur.

The puppy sighed contentedly.

Bobby did the same.

There was silence.

"The tree's pretty," Sam whispered sleepily, staring across the room.

Bobby smiled, glad that at least one Winchester appreciated his efforts to make his house feel like Christmas. "Thanks."

There was more silence.

Upstairs, the bathroom door opened.

Bobby glanced at the ceiling as Dean padded down the hall and then abruptly stopped in the doorway of the boys' room.

Bobby could picture Dean's brief panicked expression as he processed the empty bed seconds before turning and crossing to John's room across the hall on the unlikely chance that Sam had gone to their dad while Dean had taken care of business.

But Sam.

Seconds later, footsteps were coming down the stairs.

"Guess who..." Bobby warned good-naturedly, glancing down at the fever-warm bundle sitting snugly in his lap.

"D'n..." Sam hummed drowsily in response; his hand no longer rubbing Rumsfeld but simply resting on the puppy's head.

"Mmhmm," Bobby agreed. "I think the jig is up."

"Sam..." Dean called as he reached the bottom of the stairs, his tone both annoyed and worried. "Sammy..."

"He's in here," Bobby replied and smiled when Dean instantly appeared in the doorway.

Dean's scowl softened slightly at the sight of his little brother safely sitting in Bobby's lap with that dumb puppy.

Sam blinked, unfazed by Dean's obvious irritation.

"You know better than to come downstairs without telling me," Dean bitched as he crossed to the leather chair in the corner of the living room.

Sam shrugged. "I wanted to see Bobby."

Bobby's heart swelled with that admission from the sweet child in his lap.

"And look..." Sam continued hoarsely, pointing at Rumsfeld. "We've got a puppy!"

"Yeah, I know," Dean replied, clearly not as enthused since he was focused on more important things. "But you're sick, Sam, and you need to be in bed."

Sam shrugged again. "I was thirsty."

Bobby arched an eyebrow, this being the first time he had heard that compliant from Sam since the kid had come downstairs.

"Then you tell me, and I get you something to drink," Dean reminded.

"I'm hungry, too," Sam admitted. "There's no food upstairs."

Bobby chuckled at the four-year old's logic. "Kid's got a point."

Dean glared.

Bobby chuckled again, glancing at Sam. "I made some soup."

Sam glanced up at him. "Chicken and rice?"

"Is there any other kind?" Bobby asked incredulously.

Sam sniffled and smiled. "That's my favorite."

"I know," Bobby agreed and winked at the four-year old.

Sam winked back – actually blinking both eyes in his attempt – and then redirected his attention to Dean. "Can I have some?"

Dean sighed. "It's late, Sam."

"So?" Sam countered. "I'm hungry."

"It won't hurt him, Dean," Bobby assured.

"I know that," Dean replied irritably and then sighed again. "Alright," he relented. "But not too much."

Sam smiled. "Thanks, Dean."

"Yeah, yeah," Dean responded and reached for his brother, easing the four-year old off Bobby's lap.

"Where's Daddy?" Sam asked, blinking up at Dean.

"Asleep upstairs," Dean answered. "So be quiet and don't wake him."

Sam nodded obediently at the familiar order.

Dean returned the nod and briefly palmed Sam's forehead to check his fever. "'Bout the same," he reported and then glanced at Bobby as the old hunter stood with Rumsfeld.

"More Tylenol?" Bobby questioned.

Dean shook his head. "It's not time yet," he informed, having Sam's dosing schedule memorized.

Bobby nodded, not surprised. "Okay, then. Soup for one...or two?" he asked, meaningfully staring at Dean.

Because while he knew Dean had already eaten dinner, Bobby also knew the eight-year old was always hungry and whatever fast food crap John had fed him was probably long gone by now.

Dean shrugged. "I'll take some," he allowed, his tone overly casual. "Sam doesn't like to eat alone."

"Uh-huh," Bobby replied and rolled his eyes, not fooled for a second.

Dean's mouth twitched in a smile.

Bobby set Rumsfeld on the floor.

"Good boy," Sam praised hoarsely as the dog immediately crossed to him.

Rumsfeld wagged his tail.

Sam glanced at his brother. "Do you like him, Dean?"

"Depends..." Dean answered vaguely, watching his brother interact with the puppy. "Do you like him?"

Because that was all that ever mattered to Dean.

Sam nodded enthusiastically, his bangs fanning out across his forehead with the motion. "I love him!" the four-year old proclaimed. "He's the best ever!"

Dean scowled. "Hey. I thought I was the best ever..." he countered, mock offense in his tone.

"Oh, Dean..." Sam giggled and coughed lightly. "You are," he assured. "You're the best brother ever...and Rummy's the best dog ever."

"And who's the best uncle ever?" Bobby chimed in, watching his boys banter.

Both Dean and Sam glanced up at the older hunter.

"You," they told him in unison.

Bobby nodded. "Damn right I am," he agreed heartily, surprised he could speak around the knot of emotion lodged in his throat.

Dean smiled; Sam beamed; and Rumsfeld wagged his tail.

"Alright..." Bobby sighed, collecting himself before he cried like a girl over how happy these kids – and this dog – made him. "Who wants soup?"

"Me!" Sam answered and then coughed once more.

Dean frowned. "Easy, Sammy," he soothed, rubbing the kid's back as Sam coughed again.

"M'okay," Sam assured his brother and then grabbed Dean's hand. "C'mon..."

Dean rolled his eyes but allowed Sam to pull him down the hall.

Bobby led the way, headed to the kitchen; the sound of kids and a puppy following behind.

"There's nothing more precious..." Karen would say if she were there. "...nothing more precious than right now."

And Bobby had to agree.

There was nothing more precious than living in the moment; than soaking up the here and now and treasuring it for what it was.

Because who knew what tomorrow would bring?

Especially in a hunter's life.

But for now, they had each other.

And that was more precious than anything else.

Bobby nodded at the sappy, sentimental thoughts; listening to the soft chatter of a four-year old behind him as Sam confided something to Dean; listening to Dean's answering hum of acknowledgement; listening to Rumsfeld trip over his own fat feet as the puppy trotted to keep up with the boys.

Bobby smiled, feeling a rush of pure happiness flood his heart. "Merry Christmas, boys," he told the brothers as they entered the kitchen behind him.

Sam and Dean smiled at the exact same time; both standing there in the doorway hand-in-hand as Rumsfeld pushed between their legs.

"Merry Christmas, Bobby," they returned, once again speaking in unison like they often did.

Bobby's smile lingered as he motioned for them to sit at the table; moving the pot of soup back to the front of the stove to warm it up as Dean fussed over Sam and Rumsfeld collapsed in a sloppy heap on the floor.

Unseen in the living room, an old ornament swayed.