I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas
Dean had always been the kind of person who started his holiday shopping on December 23rd. There were years when he'd bought presents year round, whenever he saw something he thought Sam or his dad or Bobby might like. There were years when he didn't even notice the date until the morning of Christmas, and he had to scramble to think of something -- one year his presents were from the motel's snack machine and the gift shop he'd broken into.
But regardless of when he actually did his shopping, he'd usually never put much thought into it ahead of time. This year, he started looking on October 2nd and spent time every single day looking, shopping, thinking things over to find the perfect present for Sam.
It wasn't very surprising, all things considered. This was his first year after what they'd thought should have been his last, and ever since the day he'd been freed -- and there was a day etched in his memory, full of fear and fire and resignation, then nothing -- then Sam. Ever since his brother had saved him, Dean had spent his days trying his damnedest to make every day count.
Except for the one week he'd spent drunk in Mexico, which didn't count for anything except the hangover Dean could still feel the edges of.
But Dean didn't need a psychiatric degree to tell him why this Christmas had to be the best, and why his present for Sam had to be perfect. What he needed was some way to figure out just what the hell to get him.
One time he'd tried, very sneakily, to ask Sam. He'd been vague as possible, using charm and misdirection as he asked, and Sam had looked over in confusion, then grinned and asked if he was planning for Christmas already. Dean had flipped him off and stammered something about just trying to make conversation and let the whole thing drop.
He'd even thought about calling Missouri, only he decided in the end he was more afraid of what else she might say. Bobby was equally out -- he might be willing to help, but he didn't know Sam better than Dean did.
No one knew Sam like Dean did, so he figured, if anyone was capable of figuring out the perfect present, it had to be him.
It had been easy when Sam was a kid. Sammy had always let him know what he wanted -- toys and games and books and that one year he'd wanted a real F-105 jet fighter. But the last few years his brother had been more of a mystery than Dean liked to admit -- but surely he knew Sam well enough to get him one stupid lousy perfect Christmas present.
That was Dean's theory, and he clung to it until December 24th, when he was sitting in the backseat of the Impala, wrapping presents. He tried hard not to think about what he was doing, tried to ignore every voice in his head that second-guessed his efforts. Instead, he tried to think about how eagerly Sam had kicked him out of the motel room and just what his brother might have got him for Christmas.
Finally, Dean went back inside, stashed everything under the tiny fake tree they'd set up, and he crawled into bed and listened to his heart pound, squeezing his eyes shut until somehow, long after midnight, he fell asleep.
Christmas morning, Dean sat on the edge of the bed, staring glumly at the pile of presents. Sam was in the bathroom -- showing a patience that he'd never once exhibited any year under the age of seventeen. Had he guessed wrong, had he guessed right, what the Hell was he doing, anyway? He'd even got halfway to his feet, hand stretched out to change his mind, when the bathroom door opened and Sam stepped out.
"Merry Christmas," Dean said, the words slipping out easily. Sam looked at him, then the tree and the presents, with an expression of amusement.
"A little excited?"
Dean grinned, embarrassed. "Maybe? No? I just wanted... open your damn presents, Sammy."
"Yes, sir," Sam teased, walking over to the table, showing the eagerness now that he'd apparently only been hiding. He glanced at the gifts, then looked up at Dean with some surprise.
Dean shrugged. "Just open them."
"You didn't have to--" Sam rested his hand on the first brightly wrapped present -- the first of five. But Dean scowled and gestured that he'd better get started, and Sam no doubt remembered that Dean was the sort of brother who would take back any present that Sam didn't get opened fast enough.
He ripped the paper off, then turned the book in his hands. It was an encyclopedia of mythology, one that Sam had often referenced as being one of the most thorough and accurate books he'd seen. He stammered his thanks as he opened the cover; Dean interrupted him before he could start reading and delay everything else for the entire morning.
Sam flipped him off.
"Ah ah, Sammy, bad boys don't get Christmas presents." Dean reached forward and Sam slammed his hands down between Dean and his presents, glaring at him until Dean backed off with a cocky grin.
It didn't take long at all for Sam to open his next present, stopping to open this cover, as well, and trace the empty pages with a fingertip.
"Thought it was time you started your own journal," Dean said, feeling self-conscious. "Or, you know, just make a copy of Dad's if you don't... I thought you could find a use for it," he ended, looking down and mumbling into his shirt. When he'd seen it in the store, a thick journal with a real leather cover, heavy and sturdy enough to last as long as their Dad's journal, Dean had thought it was perfect.
Now, of course, he wished he'd thought better of it. Maybe Sam wouldn't need it, because he'd give up hunting. Or he'd use his laptop and keep his files on a disk. Maybe -- but Sam was looking at him again, with a warm, sincere smile.
"Thank you." Sam set the journal aside, hand flickering towards the next present.
Dean fidgeted as he opened each one, rethinking and doubting as Sam opened them all. The knife to replace the one he'd lost, honed and sharp and engraving on the handle, symbols of protection and strength, and whet with a drop of Dean's own blood. But Sam's eyes had watered as he said thank you, and he'd sheathed it with the utmost care.
The box of granola bars had made him laugh out loud for nearly five minutes. Dean had tried to explain that Sam was always bitching about eating junk food all the time, and this way he'd always have a supply of rabbit food. Sam had flipped him off, then torn open one bar and eaten it before moving on to the last gift.
This one was small, and the last one Dean had thought of. He'd only got it last week, and had wrapped it thinking that he should have thought of it first. Or not at all -- again he was seized with the urge to yank it away, tell Sam it was all a mistake.
Except, of all of the presents, this was the one he felt like maybe it wasn't a mistake. Dean waited as Sam ripped the paper and lifted the lid to the box. He stared for a long moment before pulling the key ring out, staring at the single key that hung from it.
"Um. Merry Christmas," Dean said, feeling his face burning red. He opened his mouth to say something, explain what he'd been intending or make a joke about the Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer bottle opener key ring he'd hung the key on. But the gift was pretty self-explanatory. Sam's own key to the Impala, it wasn't like Sam would mistake it for a key to a safe deposit box somewhere in Michigan.
"This... this is... Dean?"
Dean glanced up to find Sam looking at him earnestly. He was still holding the key up, it spun back and forth lazily on the ring. Finally he looked away again. "Figured I might as well," he said, feeling foolish.
"Dean.. this is.. these are all amazing presents." Sam's voice hardened slightly as he asked, "What's going on?"
Dean blinked, shoving an innocent look on his face by reflex. "What do you mean? Nothing's going on, Sammy."
"These," Sam gestured at the table. "Are amazing gifts. You don't usually give amazing gifts. Actually, I don't recall the last time you ever gave me exactly what I wanted for Christmas. And now all of a sudden, you give me five presents that are.. just about perfect?" Sam's eyes narrowed. "What did you do, Dean?"
"Why do you always accuse me of doing something?"
"Because I know you. What did you do?" Sam sounded resigned -- tired. "Just tell me what you did." His eyes narrowed again. "If it's another deal with a demon I will kill you myself, this time."
Dean scowled. "I didn't do anything! I just wanted you to be happy, is all!" Dean stood up, glaring down at his brother. "Is that too much to believe?"
It didn't look as though his brother was buying it. Sam looked at him, waiting, giving him that hint of a demanding glare that pissed Dean off so much.. because he always, without fail, ended up falling for it.
"I didn't do anything, Sammy. I just wanted you to be happy with me," he snapped, then he heard what he'd said and he slammed his mouth shut.
Sam's eyes were wide. Dean bit his tongue and turned half-around, wanting to storm off. But, Hell, where would he go that Sam wouldn't just run after him? He certainly didn't want to have this conversation in public. He didn't want to have it at all, but Sam was on his feet and walking towards him.
"Drop it, OK? I just thought you might like--"
He stopped, because Sam had put his hand on Dean's face. One hand, then the other, then Sammy was kissing him, slow and gentle.
Dean was frozen. They never... they didn't do this sort of thing. Frantic, messy hand-jobs under the covers when the lights were out, and they never once talked about it after. Never anything more -- one time, just drunk enough to pretend he hadn't meant it, Dean had gone to his knees and given Sam a blow job. He still remembered the feel of him, remembered the way Sam had clutched his shoulders, said his name as he'd come.
They'd never done anything like that since, and Sam had never said a word about it. They weren't lovers, they weren't fucking, they didn't kiss--
Only Sam was kissing him, now, and Dean was holding onto his arms like he didn't want Sammy to stop.
Sam broke the kiss and looked at him, his gaze burrowing deep into Dean's head, and his heart. He didn't let go, fingers still splayed on either side of Dean's face, framing and cradling him. Dean opened his mouth, throat too dry to speak.
"Merry Christmas, Dean," Sammy whispered. "Merry Christmas."