"No!" Sam Winchester raised his voice and backed away from the other hunters who had congregated around Jim Murphy's kitchen table. "There's no way I'm doing that!"
He couldn’t believe what they were asking him to do. It was just wrong. Terribly wrong and he found himself wondering how the hell he had ended up their target. Looking at the two youngest members of the brotherhood that were seated at the table Sam had the distinct feeling that they were doing this on purpose. He could tell just by looking at his older brother that the older boy was trying to hold back a smile. His long haired, psychic, partner in crime wasn’t doing half as good a job as what Dean was. He was smiling so much that he was almost snickering.
"Sammy, we wouldn’t be asking you if we didn’t really need your help, Dude." Dean tried to convince the fifteen year old who was currently looking at them like they had lost their minds.
"Yeah, Runt." Caleb Reaves joined in, an amused smile still plastered on his face. "Besides ... it can’t be that bad."
Sam rolled his eyes and put his hands on his hips in annoyance. "Oh right. Then why don’t you do it?"
"Because they are hiring a certain age range and I'm ... too old."
"So am I." Dean was quick to add.
"Yeah, because you two would both be so eager to jump in and take my place if you were able."
"All for one ..." Caleb started.
"... and one for all." Dean finished the quote from The Three Musketeers, one of Caleb's favourite books.
"You two are so full of it." Sam grumbled and then turned to look at his father who had yet to say a word. "Dad, please. You can’t make me do this."
John looked up from his notes and studied his youngest son. The boy was disgruntled. That wasn’t something new since Sam seemed to dislike everything they did lately but the difference was that this time he could understand where his son was coming from. He was glad that he was way over the age requirement and the Knight. He was the lead man on this hunt and if he said that the boy was playing this part then he was damn well going to play his part.
"Sammy, you're doing this. End of story." John's words were final. The man had made up his mind and once that happened nothing was going to change it.
Sam glared at his father. "This could be constituted as child abuse. I can’t believe you're going to make me do this."
"It won’t be for long." John tried.'
"It doesn’t matter how long it is." Sam sighed in resignation. He would rather be dealing with Ghosts, poltergeists, Demons, Werewolves ... you name it and he would gladly go deal with it. This was just embarrassing and stupid and Dean and Caleb were never going to let him live this down.
"Dean and Caleb will be there." John explained, resting his arms on the table top. "Jim got them jobs in security."
Caleb kicked Dean's leg from under the table. "Which means we get to play dress up too."
"Oh Joy ... and keep your feet to yourself, Damien." Dean shifted in his seat, rubbing where Caleb had kicked him with his other foot.
"I'll gladly swap you for my costume." Sam tried, knowing it was useless.
Dean smirked at his little brother. "And miss seeing you in green tights?"
"Bite me, asshole."
"I'm not going near your asshole." Dean responded with a small chuckle.
"Shut up, Idiot."
"Boy's." John sighed. "Let’s not make this any harder than it is. You're there to get the job done, not to pick on Sam."
"Don’t worry, Johnny. We can do both." Caleb assured him. He stood up and walked over to the sink, depositing his empty mug. "And what are you doing while us kids are working?"
John smirked at the younger man. "It's called supervising."
"So being the Knight does come with some perks."
"You better believe it, Kid." John turned away from Caleb to meet Sam's miserable gaze. "Son, you better go change. They are expecting you at the store by eleven."
Sam gulped. "I have to change here?"
"You'll be running late if you don’t, Sammy."
"Yeah and you don’t want to be late on your first day of the job." Caleb snickered from behind John.
"Dickheads," Sam huffed and stormed off towards the stairs.
It itched. Like the fleas of a thousand camels kind of itching. Sam wriggled irritably in his costume again, trying to pull it out of his crotch, pull the sleeve down a little more. It was like the whole thing had gone through a hot wash cycle and had shrunk. What had Dean and Caleb been thinking? No...scratch that. One look at the evil dynamic duo was all Sam needed for his answer. If they tried any harder to smother their laughter, the pair of them would pop an artery.
With a quick furtive glance from his position outside the doorway to Santa's Workshop, Sam checked that the prying eyes of any parents were safely diverted before he flipped Dean the bird.
Dean found it hard not to double over laughing. He was getting a stitch from trying to hold it in, damn it, but the sight of Sam in red and green striped tights, with a green elf's tunic that was obviously not meant for someone the size of his beanpole brother, was just too funny. Especially when you added the pointed hat and shoes with bells on the toes.
" Head's up, Deuce, time to go to work." Caleb gently elbowed Dean in the ribs as Santa emerged from the near by restrooms and strode over towards them, smiling and waving to the anxious crowd of children that had gathered to see him and make their Christmas wishes.
"Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!" Santa bellowed as he walked up the plush red carpet to the doorway of the Workshop.
Sam gave the man a pained smile and a nod. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but Sam couldn't figure out why anyone would want a job that dealt with crying, screaming, bratty kids? But then, Sam couldn't figure out why anyone would want to hurt those kids either and that was what this hunt was about. Children had been found beaten all over town and the only link to it all? Was this mall and the fact the kids had seen Santa beforehand.
"Psst, Sam! Hey, kid!"
Sam was snapped out of his thoughts, turning to see Santa looking at him impatiently. " We opened two minutes ago, you want start bringing the kids in?"
" Oh sure...sorry." He gave Santa an embarrassed grin and walked down the carpet, unhooking the rope chain that was keeping the kids out, smiling pleasantly at the parents. "Okay, who's first?"
"Me! Me!" A tiny little blonde doll of a girl stepped forward and grabbed Sam's hand, beaming at him with a smile that showed her two front teeth just starting to come through. Walking her up the carpet Sam could see Dean making signals about them being a cute couple and he just wanted to smack his brother in the mouth. Age limit...yeah right. Just what had Dean bribed Dad with for this one? Sam was so going to find a way to make those two regret this. Maybe Pastor Jim or Bobby could help him think up something suitable?
" So...are you looking forward to Christmas?" Sam gave the little girl a smile, trying to be friendly...like a freaking elf and not a fifteen year old that was plotting revenge on his family for this torment.
The little girl looked up at Sam and frowned. " Aren't you a little tall to be an elf? And you don't have pointy ears...I thought all elves had pointy ears?"
" Well..." Sam said, his voice a little strained as he fought to hold his smile. " I'm a special elf. I'm one of the ones Santa needs to get all the presents off the tall shelves that the others can't reach."
There was silence for a moment before the little girl nodded, seemingly satisfied with that answer. She let go of Sam's hand at the doorway and happily skipped up to Santa's lap, scrambling up and smiling widely as she began to roll off a list of Christmas wishes that would have sent a small country into debt if they had to pay the bill.
Sam went back to his position by the door, glancing over at Dean and Caleb and sniggering as he saw Dean trying to corral a kid that had been kicking one of the stuffed reindeer at the side of the enclosure. It was nice to see that he wasn't the only one already wishing the day was over...
The hat, the tights, the shoes, the whole outfit in general was making it hard for Dean to keep a straight face. Caleb's offhand remarks and quips were not helping him. The older man was having the time of his life at his little brother’s expense.
Dean almost felt sorry for the kid. The suit obviously wasn’t meant for a giant like his brother and he was looking so uncomfortable. But then Dean remembered how close he or Caleb had come to having to play Santa's little helper and he didn’t feel so sorry for him anymore. The youngest hunter always got the crappy assignments. It was the way things went, especially if he or Caleb had anything to say about it and thankfully this time they had, although the thought of Caleb in the elf suit was almost as funny.
Dean brought his attention back to the long line of little kids lining up, each for their turn to tell Santa their long lists of wants for Christmas. He was mildly surprised at how loud such little people could be. Standing a silent sentry not far from Caleb Dean was reminded of why he hated spending too much time in a Mall. They were always full with screaming, crying kids and as usual it was always worse at Christmas time. Sam might have gotten the short straw but this gig wasn’t going to painless for any of them. Dean was sure that by the end of the day he was going to want to strangle any child he came across.
Dean raised an amused eyebrow at his brother when the kid flipped them the bird. He turned to look over at the psychic. "You think someone's not a happy little camper?" Dean asked, chuckling.
Caleb snorted. "What makes you think that?" he asked sarcastically. "You did remember the camera, right?"
Dean looked at him as if he were stupid. "Dude, I'm not an idiot. Of course I brought the freaking camera."
Caleb's smile reappeared. "Good. This is an opportunity that we can’t afford to miss." Out of the corner of his eye Caleb caught a boy moving in on the reindeer set up that Dean was standing beside. The kid looked to be about ten years old and a whole lotta trouble. After all, Caleb thought, he should know. He knew trouble makers when he saw them, having been once himself, not to mention watching the Winchesters grow up.
"Deuce, heads up." he called across to his friend and nodded in the direction of the kid. "I think you're on, Dude."
Dean's head whipped to his right at Caleb's observation just in time to see a little brat kick out at the Reindeer behind the read rope fence. "What do you want me to do?" he hissed at his friend.
"You're supposed to be security ... figure it out."
"Why don’t you deal with it?"
Caleb gave him a smartass smirk. "Because he's on your side of the display."
"Fine!" Dean rolled his eyes at Reaves and walked over to the kid trying to kick Rudolf. "Hey!" Dean called to the kid, garnering his attention for a brief second before he turned back and proceeded to kick the reindeer. "Look, Dude, as much as I really couldn’t care about Rudolf you cant go around kicking him." Dean tried.
"What are you gonna do about it?" The kid answered without even looking at Dean.
He heard Caleb snicker in the background as his temper shot up. He turned around and shot his friend a look that clearly said 'shut the fuck up' before turning back to Rudolf’s attacker. "I'm not gonna tell you again, kid." He warned, trying to put some typical John Winchester into his voice. That seemed to work on everyone he knew aside from maybe Caleb who was just too cocky for his own good sometimes. "Leave the reindeer alone and go back to your parents."
The kid stopped what he was doing this time and looked up at the hunter with an arrogant smartass smile that made Dean wanna wipe it off his little freckled face. "Make me." The kid challenged.
"That's it!" Dean had had it. He reached out and grabbed the kid by the arm and pulled him away from the stuffed replica of Santa's reindeer leader.
A sudden pain in his shin had him releasing the kid and reaching for his sore leg. "Fuck!" he swore. The kid had kicked him. The little shit had kicked him in the shin and it had hurt. Who knew little kids were so strong. The laughter behind him was not helping. He was so going to make the psychic pay later. Maybe Sammy would forgive him for the whole elf thing and help him prank the older boy. He was his brother after all. The kid should side with him.
"Mom!!!" The kid called running off to obviously find his parents as Dean straightened up.
"You said a bad word." The voice was small and quiet and when Dean looked down he saw a little girl with brown pig tails who looked all of five years old staring up at him with big blue eyes.
"He kicked me." Dean replied childishly.
"Oh that’s a good one, Deuce." Caleb came to stand next to his friend. The whole situation had proved good entertainment. Bending down so he was more at the little girl’s level Caleb smiled at her. "Why don’t you go back to your Mom, kiddo? We don’t want you getting lost."
She shrugged. "It's too late. I'm already lost. That's why I came over." she told him in a serious tone that made her even cuter. "My mom told me to find a policeman if I got lost. Are you a policeman?"
"Close enough," Caleb replied, glancing up at Dean before he brought his attention back to the little girl. "What's your name?"
"Hey Kayla, I'm Caleb and my foul mouth friend here is Dean." Caleb introduced. "How about I help you find your mom?"
Kayla gave a slight nod, her pigtails bouncing. Caleb stood up and met Dean's gaze. "I'm gonna go take Kayla to find her parents. Try not to get beat up by anymore kids, huh?"
Dean glared. "Shut up, di..." he glanced down at Kayla who was watching the exchange. “...Damien."
Caleb smirked and held out his hand for Kayla who immediately put her hand into his much larger one. "I shouldn’t be long."
Dean watched as his friend started to walk away hand in hand with the cute five year old. He couldn’t let Caleb have the last word. "You know ... for someone who reckons he doesn’t like kids ..." Dean raised the camera he had taken out of his pocket and held it up, snapping a picture of the two as the psychic turned around to look at him.
Caleb looked furious for a moment and Dean couldn’t contain the laughter that bubbled out of him. He quickly put the camera back in his pocket before Caleb could do anything drastic. Despite the evil look he was receiving Caleb only glared for a moment longer before turning around to continue on his way. "You'll keep, Deuce." was thrown over his shoulder.
The older Winchester brother couldn’t keep the smile from his face as he could hear Kayla asking Caleb why he didn’t like kids as they walked away. At least he had managed to get retaliation in some way for Caleb finding his situation humorous. The smile faded on his face as he saw the evil little freckled kid stomping his way back with his mother in tow. "Oh great." he muttered.
" Oh..hey! Ouch! Hey, quit that!" Sam fought to keep the toddler's sticky fingers from smacking him in the face over and over. The bubbly, curly haired kid was giggling the entire time as he attacked Sam, his sticky candy cane fingers catching the teen's hair, his eyebrows. Pulling and yanking out hair each time. It was like holding a giggling, wriggling, pink mass of flypaper with arms and legs.
With a strained smile, he handed the toddler back over to his beaming mother.
"Oh, who's Mommy's little man, huh? Did you have fun?"
Sam fought the urge to roll his eyes. This was torture, plain and simple. He's obviously pissed someone off in a past life or something to be suffering like this. How else could he explain it? Although Dean being kicked in the shins earlier had certainly brightened Sam's day momentarily. Of course... there would be payback for this. Maybe would put itching powder in Dean and Caleb's uniforms? See how they liked feeling so itchy?
" Okay, who's next?" The smile Sam had plastered on his face was just shy of being serial killer happy. One glance at the nearby clock, told him he was almost ready to clock off. Just a few more kids, a little while longer of standing around looking like an idiot before he could go home and retreat to his room, or spend some time with Scout. At least she didn't laugh at him and tease him like a certain couple of dickheads who were going to regret one day very soon. Sam could be patient...wait for the right time to strike.
" Me! I'm next! I've been waiting here forever. It's my turn." The little boy declared. He was all of eight years old. His hair spiked and gelled, a long winter jacket and gloves on. The whole look screamed money to Sam and judging by the sneer on his face? Sam got the feeling this kid wasn't used to waiting for much of anything. His mother was standing to one side, smiling politely at Sam before she spoke to her son. " Behave yourself, Nathan. Go give Santa your list and we'll go home, okay? I'll make you some hot chocolate."
" It'd better have marshmallows in it." Nathan sniffed before he pushed Sam aside and walked up the carpet like he owned the joint. Sam wanted to kick the little shit in the seat of his pants.
Nathan was a prime candidate to be a victim of what they were hunting, but then, so where half the kids Sam had seen today. How were they supposed to know who would be next? They didn't even know what it was that was behind the attacks yet. No clues, no obvious signs, just a bunch of kids beaten to death so far and the police chasing a serial killer. But what sort of serial killer attacked kids after they saw Santa? And managed to hit so hard and fast that there were never any witnesses?
Looking at Nathan again as the kid sat on Santa's lap; Sam felt a flash of guilt about wanting to kick the kid. Despite his attitude, Nathan was still a little kid and no-one deserved to die the way the kids in this town had been recently.
" Alright. I know you’re not the real Santa. You're one of those guys they pay to help him each year."
Santa laughed warmly. " And how can you be so sure I'm not the real Santa?"
" The real Santa doesn't smell like moth balls and cough syrup." Nathan stated firmly, the tone of his voice indicating he thought he was talking to a complete idiot. " And the real Santa would have real elves working for him...not some high school reject."
Alright, so maybe Sam was ready to kick Nathan in the ass again now. Hard.
Santa had been reduced to a startled coughing laugh as he tried to compose himself against such an answer.
"Look, I want you to give this list to the real Santa. And make sure you're listening, because last year I missed out on several important presents." Nathan folded his arms before he began rattling of his list. Sam couldn't believe half of what this kid was asking for, but he was pretty sure a bank loan or possibly a lottery win would be required to afford it all. Whatever happened to Christmas being about spending time with the family? Okay...maybe it wasn't about that for kids, but did it have to be all about how much you could get?
"Ho, ho, ho...I'll be sure Santa gets your list, Nathan. Now you run along and have a merry Christmas!"
Sam stepped forward to usher Nathan out and was brushed aside again. The urge to smack the kid in the back of the head came surging back instantly and by the time Sam had walked Nathan back to his mother, it was a struggle to plant even a remotely pleasant smile on his face. " Nice boy you have there, Ma'am. Merry Christmas."
Grabbing hold of the rope chain, Sam clicked it across, smiling apologetically at the small line of people who was still standing there. " Sorry folks, that's it for today. Santa has to go and feed his reindeer. Rudolph doesn't like waiting; he gets cranky if his blood sugar level drops." The line brought a smattering of laughs from the parents before they began to lead their children away at last.
Sam pulled his hat off for a moment, grimacing as he caught his hand on a sticky patch of hair. A nice long, hot shower back at Pastor Jim's was going to be needed to get all the candy cane off him.
There was a pat on the back and Sam turned to see Santa standing behind him. " Nice job, Sam. Same time tomorrow? "
" Uh, sure. I'll be here."
"Great. I'll see you then...have a good night." Santa grinned before he walked away towards the men's restroom to get changed.
Sam glanced around, trying to see if he could find Dean and Caleb waiting for him, but there was no sign. They must have been off dealing with something else. Not that it mattered. Sam had time to change out of his costume, grab a drink and still make it to the arranged meeting place by the eastern exit before they got there. As he set off to get changed, Sam knew one thing. The first one to laugh out of Dean and Caleb? Was copping a snowball to the face.
There he was...the spoilt little shit. Always sneering down his nose, feeling he was better than everyone else. Well he would learn... Oh yeah, he would learn. That was how it started. They looked down their noses, felt superior because Mommy and Daddy pandered to everything they wanted. They grew up self centered, self absorbed, hating themselves, their parents...everyone. And then when the boredom of their lives became overwhelming, it came out as rage...and that was when people suffered. People like him. He hadn't asked for much. Just to do his job, get a little bit of money to get him through Christmas, send some presents back to his parents, to his sister. But no. It wasn't to be, because they had targeted him, laughed at him, punished him for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Well now it was their turn.
Sam knew he was supposed to wait for Dean and Caleb, as arranged. It's what he'd been doing for the past fifteen minutes by the eastern exit of the mall, stamping his feet and rubbing his gloved hands together to keep warm. What the hell was taking them so long? Sam was the one with the crappy costume to get changed out of and boy was he glad he had taken a change of clothes. Tights and stupid elf boots weren't exactly winter weather clothing. Pulling his parka tighter around him, Sam spotted the little boy that he'd seen earlier in the day, Nathan, the one who had smugly informed Santa that he wasn't real, and then demanded he pass on a message to the real one.
Sam couldn't help but wish that Nathan found nothing but coal in his stocking this year. Although judging by the stack of presents his parents were currently tucking away into the back of their SUV, the kid wasn't going to wanting for anything this year. Spoilt little brat. What was he even doing, visiting Santa? It was obvious that the parents weren't hiding from him where the presents came from anyway. Or were they still the type to write "from Santa" on them, hoping to preserve some sense of childlike innocence? The way Nathan had been acting with Santa? Sam got the feeling that his innocence was long gone anyway.
But just as he was about to turn away and look for Dean again, Sam caught a flash of red, just a blur out of the corner of one eye. It caught him by surprise and with a slight frown creasing his brow, Sam turned back towards the SUV, seeing Nathan's parents busy packing presents as before, but no sign of the little boy. One moment he had been standing beside the SUV, the next? He was gone.
Taking a step forward, Sam reminded himself that Nathan could have climbed into the SUV where it was warmer, but he could see into the back of the vehicle and there was no sign of movement. A sickening feeling that something was wrong started to gnaw at Sam's gut and he looked around once more for Dean and Caleb. Where the hell were they? Maybe he should wait and have some back up? But then...what if they came too late? Nathan would become another statistic. Another victim of the supposed serial killer the cops were hunting. Sam didn't want that on his conscience. Besides, he wasn't a kid anymore. He could handle himself.
Slipping around the car parked beside the SUV, where Nathan's parents were still oblivious to his disappearance, Sam picked up his speed a little. There! Four rows over...another flash of red. He started to run, just as he heard the first surprised calls from the parents, hearing them then change to worry a moment later as he reached the second row of cars. Now Sam could hear it, the frightened, pain-filled mewls of a little boy being struck. Rage surged up within Sam as he got closer, his eyes widening as he spotted the limp and bloody figure of little Nathan lying in the snow. Blood was smeared all over the kid's face. His nose was broken, maybe his cheekbone too. Whatever had done this had been moving fast and had struck hard. Sam knelt down, pressing his fingers to little Nathan's neck and finding a thready pulse there. The little boy murmured softly, his eyes flickering.
"Hey...hey, it's okay. I'm gonna get your Mom and Dad. You're gonna be okay." Sam tried to reassure the kid before he began to stand up.
There was a red flash to his left and Sam was already turning towards it when he was tackled hard around the waist. He was driven back into a parked station wagon and the air punched out of his lungs with a grunt. For a moment, Sam lay on the cold snow, gasping as his diaphragm spasmned, trying to tell his body to take a breath. Then Santa loomed into his view, a pair of thick gloved hands pressing down on his throat. Sam clawed at the hands, trying to wrench them away, but his body was already starved of oxygen and as it found nothing to replace it, spots began to fill Sam's vision, blending together as darkness started to close over him. From within his jacket pocket, Sam's cell phone began ringing, the sound filtering through the boy's mind as he began to lose the fight against his attacker, his mind screaming for Dean to come. Because right now, Sam could really use some help.
His hands dropped back to the snow limply as Sam slipped into complete darkness and Santa got to his feet, then picked up the unconscious teenager and slung him over one shoulder.
The pointed hat Sam had been wearing dropped from his head and fell beside the station wagon. The only sign that Sam had even been there at all.
Caleb waited impatiently outside the security office for Dean. He couldn’t believe that bratty kid's mother had kicked up a stink. They had been in the job one day and already Dean was in trouble with the bosses and Caleb had to admit although he had thought it was amusing Dean hadn’t actually done anything wrong. So he had touched the kid. The kid had kicked Dean and had been doing the wrong thing in the first place.
Caleb had wanted to talk to the head security guy but Dean had told him to wait outside and that he would handle it. Caleb was fine with that because he knew that Dean could handle himself. They still had a job to do. Dean wouldn’t do anything to jeopardise that when little kids were being hurt. They needed to catch whatever it was fast before more of the screaming little brats got hurt.
Caleb's only problem right now was that they were late for meeting Sam. The sulking teen was already pissed off at them. Caleb wasn’t scared of Sam, not by a long shot but they had really played dirty with him on this hunt with making him dress up as a Christmas elf, so he wasn’t willing to push his luck. Sam wasn’t a little kid anymore and after growing up learning off his and Dean's pranks Sam was bound to be a crafty bastard if he was plotting revenge and there was no doubt in Caleb's mind that he would be planning something.
Finally the door to the office opened and Dean walked out. The boy’s countenance was not what Caleb was expecting. There was a knowing smirk on Dean's face as he shrugged on his blue winter jacket over the change of clothes they had decided to bring with them.
"So ... what happened?" the psychic asked impatiently after having to stand around waiting.
"Nothing much really. Apparently they have had issues with this kid and his mother the last few Christmas’s so he let me off with a warning."
Caleb made a face. "For what? The kid attacked you."
"He warned me to be careful with how I react with kids like that but if no-one was looking to kick the little shit back." Dean laughed.
"No love loss there?" Caleb chuckled in surprise.
Dean shook his head in amusement as they walked side by side, passing last minute shoppers trying to desperately get what they needed before the store shut. "Apparently not.” He laughed.
Dean usually didn’t take well to authority figures if they didn’t involve his father or his immediate circle of influence in the Brotherhood but this guy had been cool. His attitude about the whole situation had Dean at ease with him right from the start. It showed him that not all authority figures were complete jerks. It was nice to see every once and a while. The same couldn’t be said for the English teacher he'd had in his last year of high school.
"We're late, ya know." Caleb commented as they rounded a corner, the glass sliding doors to the entrance coming into view.
"Not like it’s my fault." Dean shrugged. "Sammy will get over it."
Walking out into the cold winter air had both boys zipping up their coats to ward off the chill. Dean hated winter. Walking further out Dean looked over to where they had told Sam to meet them and was more than a little shocked to see that Sam wasn’t there.
"Correct me if I'm wrong but isn’t that where we told Sam to meet us?" Caleb asked as if he had read the younger boys mind, which of course he quite possibly had for all Dean knew.
"He's not there."
Dean rolled his eyes as Caleb pointed out the obvious. "Thank you Einstein. I can see that!" Dean snapped.
He walked over to the bench seat and looked around for any sign that his brother had been there. Not far from the bench was an SUV loaded with Christmas presents. A couple were walking around looking confused. The worry and concern was clear on their faces but Dean didn’t have time to worry what was wrong with them, not while his brother was not where he was supposed to have been.
"Call his cell."
Dean looked at the psychic like he had forgotten the man was there. "What?"
"I said ... call his cell and tell him to get his lanky ass back here before we make him walk home." The older hunter looked at him expectantly and Dean reached into his pocket and took out his phone flipping it open. He punched in the speed dial for Sam's number and placed the device to his ear. It rang ... and rang. Dean was getting frustrated and a little bit nervous now that Sam wasn’t answering his phone. They had phones for a reason, so that they could contact each other in an emergency. The youngest Winchester knew to always keep his on and charged and to always answer it.
Dean hung up and growled in frustration. "I swear if he's playing a stupid prank because of the whole elf thing I'm going to kill him." He groused, turning to look at Caleb and noticed the frown on the psychic's face. "What is it?"
"I'm not sure." The older hunter replied. "Call him again. Just let it ring out."
Dean did what he was told and waited anxiously as Caleb seemed to be concentrating extra hard. "What?" he asked again when the other boy remained silent.
Caleb opened his eyes and shook his head. "I dunno. I thought I heard his phone ringing from nearby but it’s gone now."
"Can you reach out and sense him?"
"My next course of action." Caleb winked at his friend to give assurance but something was telling him that their day was just about to get worse. He closed his eyes and reached out like he always did for the strand in his mind that always represented Sam. He felt the connection straight away and panicked. Having felt that feeling way too often in his life he began to worry. His eyes snapped open and rested on Dean's wide green orbs. "Damien, what?"
"I can feel him but ... He's unconscious."
"You heard what I said, Dean. He's unconscious."
Dean couldn’t believe it. "How can you be sure?"
Caleb raised an eyebrow at his friend silently telling him how stupid that question had been.
"Right," Dean acquiesced. "Where the hell is he? What happened?"
"I dunno ..."
"If something happened to him then why didn’t you get a vision?"
"I dunno, Deuce, maybe because I have death visions. I'd say this was a good thing." Caleb was in two minds. He wanted a vision because it would most likely give him answers as to where Sam was but he also didn’t want one because death was a certainty if they didn’t find him on time.
"Dads gonna kill me." Dean paced.
"Hold up. We don’t need to tell you're Dad just yet." Caleb grabbed hold of both Dean's shoulders to stop him from pacing like a madman.
The green of Dean's eyes seemed to get bigger and brighter as he looked up at his friend. "Are you kidding me?"
"Look, let’s just take a look around first okay. If we don’t find anything we'll call in backup. There’s not much more Johnny can do that we can’t in this situation."
"We have to find him Caleb." Dean's voice wasn’t more than a whisper but the emotion in that one sentence was enough. "This is all my fault."
"How is it your fault?"
"I made him take on the stupid elf gig because I thought it was funny and now he's missing and unconscious."
"Hey." Caleb grabbed the younger hunters chin so that he was looking at him. "Hey, this is not your fault. It could have happened to any of us." He tried to reason, dropping his hand from Dean’s chin. "And if you're gonna blame yourself then you may as well blame me too because I was right there with you with the joke, Dude." the psychic rationalised.
Dean shrugged out of his friends grasp. "Let’s just look around."
Dean moved off past the SUV, hearing Caleb stop to talk to the frantic parents who, by now Dean realised, were looking for a missing child. He didn’t have time to search for someone else’s missing kid when he had his own to search for. Sam wasn’t exactly a kid anymore. He was taller than him now but he would always be his baby brother in need of protection in Dean's eyes.
Dean past row after row of cars in search for anything that might indicate his brother had been there. There was a station wagon the next row up and Dean almost passed it completely until he heard a soft pained whimper. He turned and was shocked at the sight that greeted him. "Caleb!" He called as he rushed over to the kid who was curled in a foetal position in the snow, covered in blood. "I found something!" he called out, already hearing his friend’s heavy footfalls as he ran to Dean's position.
Caleb skidded to a stop behind Dean. "Oh shit." He didn’t have time to say anything else as the parents to the kid came running up behind him. Caleb stared down at the kid as the mother let lose with a scream that could probably rival a banshee at the sight of her son on the snow covered ground covered in blood.
Whipping out his phone Caleb quickly called 911 as Dean stood up and stepped back so the parents could get to their child. Something red caught his attention near his feet and he looked down to see a pointy hat, a familiar pointy hat.
"Caleb. Sammy's hat." Dean held the hat up for the other hunter to see as he ended the phone call to the emergency services.
It was the smell of mothballs that Sam first noticed as he came to, groaning as he lifted his head and blinked blearily. His head was pounding with a headache thanks to the lack of oxygen he'd suffered and his throat was dry and scratchy. It hurt to swallow and for a moment, the teen wondered where he was if he was feeling so sick? Why wasn't he in bed with Pastor Jim bringing him hot soup? Where was Dean? Dad? Hell...just where was he to begin with?
A face slowly came into focus and Sam let out a startled gasp, jerking back and smacking his head against the pillar he was tied to. Wait...tied? It all came flooding back to Sam then as he found himself face to face with Santa. But this wasn't the same Santa from the Mall. His eyes were wild, vicious, swirling with red flecks that danced like fire. "What are you? What do you want with me?"
"You're all going to pay, every one of you brats. You're going to know what pain was like. How you made me feel..." Santa growled, the voice that came from that mouth definitely not the same guy Sam had been working with, even though he looked the same.
"Christo," Sam muttered, waiting, watching for the reaction. But there was nothing except a deep laugh that sent a chill rushing down Sam's spine. He swallowed slowly, wishing Dean was there, that he would kick in the door or something with Caleb right behind him. Looking around, Sam could see he was in some sort of basement, tied to one of the support pillars.
"No one is coming for you. You're going to die alone."
"You're wrong. My brother's looking for me...and when he finds you?" Sam left the threat hanging as he lifted his chin defiantly. He had faith in Dean. His brother would never stop looking for him, wouldn’t desert him. The call to his cell before he blacked out, it had to have been Dean. He wasn't where they were supposed to meet. Dean had to be going out of his mind right now and that gave Sam hope. He just had to hold on, had to wait for Dean to find him some how.
Thick, strong fingers grabbed Sam by the chin, turning him towards Santa as the red suited freak leaned right into the teen's face and growled, "When he finds me? I'll bash his skull in too."
Sam was released before a savage backhand struck him, splitting his lip as his head was snapped violently to one side. Blood began to run down his chin and drip onto his parka. Sam turned back to the Santa and spat, red stringy saliva and blood hitting the white polyester beard. He was rewarded instantly with another backhand, his head whipping to the side again, his right cheek opening up, and blood spilling from the cut as well as his nose. It was like being hit with a cinder block and Sam had to shake himself to clear the muzzy feeling that was creeping over his senses.
Santa stood up then, towering over the boy. " You didn't care what it felt like, did you? How much I begged you to stop. All you thought about was how much fun it was...how much pain you could inflict." His foot shot out and slammed into Sam's thigh, causing the teen to scream in pain. " Scream...scream all you want. No one will hear you. Not down here. "
Another kick was sunk into his thigh, and then into Sam's knee, the pop audible as his knee joint was dislocated. Sam threw his head back and screamed his throat raw and ragged by the end of it. Tears filled Sam's eyes as he bit back a whimper, trying to shrink away from Santa as the monster crouched down beside him again, grabbing his knee and squeezing. The pain was white hot and immediate as Sam screamed again, trying to twist away. "Stop it! Just stop, please..." His cries became pleas. " Please...let me go. I didn't do anything to you."
"I can't let you go. You have to pay. They all do. All of them." Santa said angrily. He grabbed Sam's chin again, forcing the teen to look at him. "You showed me no mercy...why should you receive any?"
Sam felt the wind punch out of his lungs as Santa stood up again and kicked him hard in the ribs. He lifted his head slowly, blood dripping from his lip and nose, his world nothing but pain now. Where was Dean? Caleb? They were coming right? They were going to save him. It was a mantra Sam had to lock onto as the kicks continued, slamming into his legs, his stomach. His last thought before he blacked out, was of his brother and father. What would happen to them if they didn't find him?
The hat was Sam's alright and the psychic took it from Dean and turned it around in his hands. Right now the psychic was praying for a vision. He didn’t particularly like them but if it would help them find Sam then he would gladly endure it.
"It's gonna be okay, Deuce." Caleb tried.
Before Dean could answer the sound of a ringing phone could be heard coming from the hunter’s pocket. Dean locked his eyes on Caleb's, taking his phone out he looked down at the caller id and groaned. "Oh yeah." Dean agreed sarcastically. "It's gonna be just fine." he held up the phone for Caleb to see Jim's home number blinking on the screen. "It's gonna be Dad."
Caleb held his hand out. "Let me handle John."
"No." Dean shook his head and stepped away. "I'll talk to Dad. You try to get a read on Sammy."
Dean hit the send button and put the phone to his ear. "Hey."
"Dean." John's familiar voice confirmed Dean's assumption that it was his father that was calling and the pit in the boy’s stomach got deeper.
"Oh hey, Dad." Dean walked a few more feet away as Caleb spoke to the father of the little boy they had found by Sam's hat. He paced nervously, his eyes stuck on his friend’s actions.
"I hope you two aren’t torturing your brother too much." John's voice held a hint of amusement and Dean let out a choked laugh that sounded shakier than he wanted it to. "Dean...are you okay?"
Dean shook his head and started pacing back and forth. "I'm fine, Dad." Shit! He hadn’t wanted his father to pick up on his fear. But some part of Dean desperately wanted to tell his father everything. He wanted to tell his father that he had screwed up and let his little brother be taken so that the older hunter could come and fix everything. He looked up when he heard footsteps through the snow to see Caleb walking towards him at a brisk pace.
"Okay ..." He could hear the hesitation in his father’s voice and could almost picture the confused frown on the man's bearded face. "I have some information on our bad guy."
The middle Winchester met his friend’s gaze as Caleb came to stand next to him. The psychic shook his head; he hadn’t found anything and Dean felt about ready to scream. "Dean, did you hear what I just said?" John's voice now held impatience when his son obviously hadn’t been paying attention to what he was saying.
Caleb rubbed at his head as a headache suddenly formed. It was subtle at first and the hunter hadn’t thought much of it but it was steadily getting worse. Fear hit him like a freight train because if he was getting a vision that meant that Sam was going to die. It was ironic that ever since finding Sam missing he had been wishing for any sort of vision to help find the boy and now that it was here he was afraid to see what his mind was going to show him. His natural instinct was to fight it even though Mac had taught him not to.
He gripped Sam's hat in a crushing grip as he ground his fist to his forehead when the onslaught of pain hit him. "Aghh!" He cried out, slipping to his knees in the cold snow. He vaguely felt Dean's hand on his arm and the panicked voice calling his name as the vision finally took him under.
"Caleb!" Dean reached out a hand to try and catch his friend as he almost did a header into the snow, almost losing his grip on the phone. "Caleb...fuck! Damien!"
"Dean?" John's voice was alarmed and demanding in that one word to know what the hell was going on.
"Hold on, Dad." Dean called into the phone and then dropped it to the ground as he took Caleb by the shoulders as the vision took hold. A vision. Caleb was having a vision. All different possibilities went through Dean's mind at what Caleb could be seeing. Whatever it was Dean knew that it involved death ... Sammy's death. Even thinking those two words hit him like a sucker punch. How had a simple hunt turned into a death sentence for his little brother? He should have been more vigilant. They should have been at the meeting place to meet Sam on time. Sam was his responsibility. How the hell had he let this happen?
The tinny, angry, frightened voice of his father brought Dean out of his haze of self recrimination and he picked up the phone as he tried to keep hold of a twitching Caleb. People were gathering around them asking him if Caleb was alright. He wanted to shout at them to go away and that no, nothing was alright. He looked up into the concerned face of some onlooker as he could hear sirens in the background. "He'll be fine. This ... this happens sometimes."
Holding the phone to his ear Dean almost pulled back a little bit at his fathers shouts. "Dean! God dammit, boy. Answer me now! Dean!"
"What the hell is going on, Dean?" John was angry and worried and sounded like he was on the verge of driving out to them. "What's wrong with Caleb and where is Sam?"
"It's just a vision. Hold on a minute. He's coming out of it." Dean didn’t wait for his father to reply before taking the phone away from his ear and gripping both of Caleb's shoulders. The psychic eyes were blinking open and he had a pinched look like he had one hell of a headache which from Dean knew about the older boy’s visions he most probably did. "Dude, are you okay?"
Caleb nodded as he tried to regulate his breathing. Bringing his hand up to his head Caleb groaned. "I saw him, Deuce."
"I ... uh ..." He didn’t want Dean to know the specifics. He didn’t want Dean to know that he had seen his little brother get the shit beat out of him. He didn’t want the kid to know that after the beating Sam had been choked to death. He had felt Sam's fear and enjoyment his tormenter had taken in slowly seeing the light go out in Sam's eyes. It made him sick to his stomach and Dean didn’t need to know. But his vision didn’t just supply him with the vision of Sam's death at the hands of some assailant, by the looks of the read material of his sleeves, that was dressed up as Santa.
"Is he alright?" Caleb and Dean both looked up at the onlooker with an annoyed look.
"I'm fine." Caleb snapped and then struggled to his feet with Dean's help. "Seriously, Dude. I'm fine." Latching his hands in Dean's jacket and dragging him away from the scene. Once they were far enough away from the commotion near the station wagon Caleb spoke again. "I saw the house where Sam is being kept ... a house number too."
Impatient shouting and now threats could be heard bursting from the phone. Dean winced and held the phone to his ear again. "Dad ... Dad, Caleb is fine."
"What the hell is going on Dean and I want to know now!"
"It's ... umm ..." he shared a look with Caleb before he finally gave in. "I lost Sammy, Dad."
"You what? What the hell happened?" John demanded. "Put Caleb on the phone."
"It's my fault, Da..."
"I said put Caleb on the phone, Dean."
Dean knew not to argue with that voice. John was pissed and Dean knew that he had every right to be. "Okay ..." He held the phone out to Reaves who took the phone without hesitation.
"What the fuck happened, Caleb and where is Sam?"
"We don’t have time to explain right now." Caleb told his mentor matter of factly. "Condensed version is that Sammy got taken while he was waiting for us. I had a vision and I got a house number and I know what the house looks like." Caleb rubbed at his head as the remnants of his headache still lingered.
"God Dammit, Junior!" John cursed. "You're supposed to fuckin' look out for them! What the hell were you doing?"
"I'm sorry, John. We'll get him back. I promise." He kept his eyes glued to Dean's as he said it, making the promise to both Winchesters at the same time. He winced and pulled the phone away from his ear when John's voice rose.
"Damn straight you’re going to get him back, Caleb!" John yelled before lowering the volume to an angry grumble "What the fuck happened?"
"I think it was Santa, the dude from the mall maybe. I saw a red Santa suit but I never saw his face."
John's sigh was audible through the phone. "I know what it is. Four years ago Gary Thomas was killed, beaten to death by a bunch of kids ... Caleb, the guy played Santa at the same mall you boys are at."
"You think maybe old Gary's spirit possessed our Santa?" Caleb nodded as he thought about it. He looked at Dean. "That makes sense. It gives him perfect access to kids." he told both Winchesters.
"That's great Damien but that doesn’t tell us where he has Sammy." Dean snapped.
"I saw a house." Caleb explained again to both John and Dean.
"Thomas's house was abandoned after he died."
"What's the address?"
He heard paper rustling on the other time along with a few grumbles from John before the older man's voice came back again. "104 Melrose Street."
"Bingo." Caleb clicked his finger together. "Same number I saw in my vision. That has to be where he is."
"Hold up." John paused and more rustling could be heard as Caleb stood there impatiently waiting. Looking at Dean the psychic could see that Dean was barely containing himself. Caleb took hold of Dean's arm, hoping to keep him calm.
Dean looked down at Caleb's hand and then back up at his face as he spoke to his father. If they knew where Sam was being held then why the hell weren’t they going there? They should be saving Sam not chatting on the phone. Dean shrugged away looked out at the mall car park. He could hear Caleb still talking to his father in the background and the silent mantra of 'Hurry up!' kept playing through his head.
Suddenly there was a hand on his shoulder and Dean flinched, turning around to face his friend. Caleb was holding himself in that way that always told Dean that he still had a headache and that what he had saw in the vision wasn’t pleasant but he also looked determined and that gave the younger man hope.
"So?" Dean asked running a hand through his hair. "What are we doing?"
Caleb started pulling his friend towards where they had parked the Impala. "We're going to save Sam."
John slammed the phone back into the cradle in frustration. The boys had taken this way too easy. It had been a game to them, a chance to give Sam shit and now look what had come of it. Sam was missing and hurt in the hands of a possessed Santa Claus. John shook his head as he realised how stupid the whole thing sounded. Stupid or not, they still had a problem.
"Fucking Christmas," John muttered angrily as he stormed past Jim's Christmas tree. The pastor always tried to make things as cosy and Christmassy as possible. Even now when the boys were older the decorations were still put up around the farmhouse along with the brightly lit Christmas tree with presents on the floor beneath it. He knew that the boys enjoyed it and deep down he enjoyed it to some extent as well. It was a time when there small dysfunctional family got together to just spend time in each others company. Christmas was painful for John because of the obvious reason but the people in their lives made it a little less painful.
Picking up his jacket, cell phone and the keys to his truck John strided towards the door but came to a halt as his hand encircled the doorknob. Jim was out visiting parishioners and had said he would be back around seven. Sighing in frustration he back peddled to the kitchen and snatched the notepad that was next to the phone along with the pen and left a hastily written note before racing out the door to his truck.
It didn’t take him long to reach the cemetery but John knew that the search for the gravestone was going to take some time. He hadn’t been able to get any information on where the plot was and the cemetery had closed for the evening so he was on his own. Climbing down from the truck John closed the door and walked around to the back and opened up the secret weapons compartment. He armed himself with a sawed off shot gun loaded with rock salt and then closed the compartment. He reached into the truck bed for the duffle bag filled with lighter fluid salt, a shovel and torch. It was time to fry the sadistic spirit of the wannabe Santa that was hurting his son.
John walked up to the large gates that closed off the cemetery. The bottom half of the fence they were connected to was made from red bricks. Wrought iron fencing sat on top. Holding his shot gun in one hand and his duffle hanging off his shoulder John gripped the iron fencing and pulled himself up onto the brick with an almost silent groan of protest. He was realising more and more that he wasn’t as young as he used to be. John was far from being unfit and was confident in anything physical that the job called for but his body was showing the signs of the tough hunting life he had led over the last fourteen or so years.
Dropping to the ground on the other side John scanned the cemetery in the darkening light. It was almost Christmas and in the middle of winter so he knew he didn’t have much daylight left but that was of no consequence It was probably better that he wasn’t digging up some guys grave in the light of day anyway. He knew that Gary Thomas was buried in the area next to the mausoleum which was at the back of the cemetery grounds.
John set off at a fast pace towards the back of the cemetery. He had sent Caleb and Dean to the house to get Sam out since they had been closer but he hated not being in total control. He didn’t know whether it was a marine thing but he always liked to be in charge. He trusted Dean and Caleb to get Sam away from the possessed homicidal Santa but he still had this urge to go and do it himself.
Arriving at the Mausoleum John looked at all the head stones and wasted no time in trying to find Thomas's grave. The faster he salted and burned the remains the faster Sam would be out of danger. Digging up a grave by yourself was never an easy thing to do but there was no other way to get around it.
Ten rows later John almost missed it but there it was…the grave he had been looking for. Gary Thomas - Loving son. John dropped his bag to the ground along with his shot gun. With his shovel in hand John dug into the earth, driving the shovel into the ground with a determination unlike nothing else, knowing that his son’s life could depend on it.
It was quiet in the basement. Nothing but the faint sound of dripping water somewhere and Sam's shuddering, pain filled breathing. He lifted his head, finding his vision blurred, everything swimming and making him want to vomit. Testing his hands, Sam found they were still bound behind him. Great. He still wasn't going anywhere and if he didn't find a way out of this place soon, Sam was pretty sure he wasn't going to be going anywhere at all. The guy would probably bury him in some corner of the basement...if he even bothered to bury him at all.
The place was so cold, so empty and Sam had already been told no-one would hear him. After the beating he'd taken, the teenager was inclined to agree with what Santa had said. Otherwise his cries would have already brought the Calvary and Sam would be sitting in a warm police station, waiting for Dad and Dean to come get him.
Tilting his head back towards the one source of light he could see, Sam saw snow drifting past the small basement window and shook his head, trying to clear his vision. When he opened his eyes again, Sam saw Santa looming over him again, his hand lifting to strike the teenager. " No! Plea--..." Sam's cry was cut short as he was backhanded and the world disappeared in an explosion of red.
Breathing hard, John lifted the shovel and then brought it down, smashing it into the top of the coffin. He cleared away some more of the wood scrunching up his nose in disgust as the remains came into view. The sickly smell of death wafted up from the coffin. It was enough to make John want to gag.
Throwing the shovel up unto the grass surrounding the grave John then lifted himself up after it, groaning with the effort. John pushed himself to his feet and opened his duffle to collect the lighter fluid and salt.
Once the remains were liberally coated in the two main ingredients for a salt and burn John pulled out the box of matches from his pocket. Lighting the whole packet ablaze, John then threw it into the grave and stood back a touch as it immediately ignited. Hot flames shot up licking at the top of the grave.
The heat from the flames was nice on John’s face against the cold biting wind of winter. John’s thoughts were brought back to his boys … to Sam. He had a sudden desperate need to see the boys, to know what had happened while he had been up to his neck in grave dirt. Had they been quick enough to stop Caleb’s vision from coming true?
It was time to make a move before he got caught standing by the grave he had just desecrated. He needed to find out how his boys were. John placed his shovel, the salt and lighter fluid back into the duffle and slung it over his shoulder. He gave the grave one final glance.
“Merry Christmas, Thomas,” John spoke. “…rest in piece now, huh.” With those final words John turned and headed back the way he came.
Just as his feet hit the ground on the other side of the fence John felt a small vibration in his pocket. He had set his phone on silent on the way to the cemetery just in case. It was amazing how loud the sound of a phone was in a silent, dark cemetery. Fishing it out of his pocket as he walked to the car John answered the call, not looking at the caller ID in haste, hoping that it was the boys.
“John.” Jim Murphy’s voice to anyone else would have sounded calm but John could hear the underlying worry. “Where are you? Where are the boys?”
“I left you a note.”
Jim’s sigh was heard over the phone. “Which was as cryptic as usual. What happened?”
“Santa is what happened.” John grouched as he unlocked his truck and chucked his duffle up into the bed before climbing into the driver’s seat.
“Sammy … the boys couldn’t find him at their meeting place and then … Caleb had a vision …” John let the statement hang.
“Oh my,” Jim replied. Caleb having a vision only meant one thing. Something bad was going to happen. But as they all knew, it also gave them a chance to do something about it. “Is he okay?”
“I don’t know. I sent the boys after him while I salted and burned the bones.” John ran a dirty hand over his face. He needed to get off the phone and call the boys. “Look, Jim, I’ll explain when we get back. My research is still on the kitchen table.”
“Okay, John.” John knew that Jim wished he could do more but right now there was nothing for the pastor to do aside from wait. “I’ll be waiting and … bring them home in one piece.”
John shook is head even though the pastor couldn’t see him. “Is that before or after I kill them for letting Sam get kidnapped by Santa Claus?”
Sam could taste blood. He tried to open his eyes and found only one of them would comply. Reaching around, he felt that it was swollen shut and realized a second later...that his hands were free and he was face first in the dirt of the basement floor. How the hell had that happened? No wait, it didn't matter how it had happened. All that mattered was that he got the hell out of there and found Dean. His brother and Caleb had to still be looking for him. They wouldn't have any idea of where to find him. Santa hadn't been on Dad's list of possible suspects in the killings, but after this? Sam was going to make sure he was never left off it again. The teenager would never be able to look at the jolly red guy again without feeling sick.
Everything hurt. His head, his ribs; his knee was nothing but a ball of throbbing, white hot heat that refused to let up. But Sam's survival instincts were kicking in, telling him to suck up the pain and move. He could hear his brother in his head, urging him on, telling to move his ass, get out of there while he had the chance. Dean wouldn't sit there, he would move, get out, get to help. Sam needed to do the same.
He raised his head, fighting the nausea as his stomach rolled. Wait! His cell phone...he could call Dean! Call Dad. Fumbling for his pocket, Sam pulled it out and hit speed dial, his heart hammering in his chest as he waited to hear Dean's voice.
"Dean?" Sam's voice broke as he spoke, fighting back tears. Dean would fix this. It was going to be alright. " Dean...it's Santa. He's...you've got... help...help me, Dean." The words poured out as Sam heard his brother frantically barking questions. " My knee...I think..I think it's dislocated..it hurts. Please...Dean-..." The call was violently cut short as a foot slammed into Sam's hand and the phone was torn away from his ear, flying across the basement and shattering against the wall.
Another kick sank into Sam's side and he rolled away from it with a howl of pain, the air whooshing out of his lungs. Getting onto his elbows, Sam started to drag himself towards the stairs and the freedom he knew would be behind that door. It was a long, agonizing struggle, his swollen knee unable to help push him forward, dragging behind him.
" That's it...crawl. Try and crawl away. Like I did." A foot slammed into Sam's hip, eliciting another cry of pain. The teenager kept dragging himself, determined not to die in some stinking basement, another victim to this sicko. A kick to the ribs had pain blossoming through his chest again, Sam trying to curl into himself. A boot to his shoulder rolled Sam over completely before Santa was on him again, stomping on his legs, bringing down his foot on Sam's back. The blows raining down one after the after, offering no respite from the pain at all.
But Sam wasn't down, he wasn't out. As long as he could still draw breathe, he had to fight.
“Dude, could you drive faster!” Dean snapped as Caleb navigated the streets in search of the right house.
Caleb refrained from snapping at his friend because he knew he was worried about his brother. Unlike the likes of Pastor Jim, Caleb took the speed signs as more of a suggestion than an outright rule so speeding was no problem to the psychic, Staying alive long enough to save Sam was a problem.
“I am going as fast as I can, Deuce.”
The calmness in Caleb’s voice only irritated Dean further. He was worried and lashing out at the only person within distance. The same person happened to be the one in control of getting him to Sam so Dean was attacking his friend, knowing that the older man wouldn’t take it to heart.
“Is that what you’re going to tell Dad when all we have to show for your driving is Sammy’s body?” It was nasty and Dean knew it the moment the comment had left his mouth.
“Shut up, Dean. Sam will be fine but it’s nice to know you have faith in me.” Caleb kept his eyes on the road. He wasn’t a stranger to New Haven. He’d driven around it quiet a lot since he spent so much of his time at Jim’s farm growing up. He knew Melrose Street was around here somewhere …
“I’m … sorry.” Dean mumbled, tapping his fingers on his knee impatiently.
The sound of a phone ringing ended any chance of an awkward moment and it took Dean a few moments to realise that it was his phone that was buzzing. He hastily yanked it from his pocket. The caller ID said ‘Sammy’. His eyes widened as he looked at Caleb. “It’s Sammy.”
He didn’t wait for the other hunter to respond, answering the phone, putting it to his ear. “Sammy?”
Dean’s worry increased at the sound of his brother’s voice, the waver in it. “God, Sammy. Are you okay? Where are you?” Dean hoped that Sam’s phone call meant that he had gotten away and escaped the fate that Caleb had sparsely told him about
" Dean...it's Santa. He's...you've got... help...help me, Dean."
“Hey!” Dean barked to try and get his brothers attention. "Hey … Sammy, we’re on our way okay. Are you hurt? Sammy?”
" My knee...I think…I think it's dislocated…it hurts. Please...Dean-..."
The sound of something hitting the phone made Dean jump. “Sammy?” he called. There was nothing, just silence. “No, no, no … dammit, shit … fuck!” He cursed, clutching the phone like a lifeline.
“Deuce?” Caleb asked in alarm although already knowing the answer.
“Just hurry, Caleb. Just hurry.”
Calen nodded. Up ahead he saw the sign for Geldoff Street and knew that Melrose was just around the corner. They were almost there and if Caleb could have put his foot through the floor of his jeep in order to get there just that little bit faster he would have. His vision was happening just the way he had seen it. He had seen the phone call in his vision. What happened next was something that he hadn’t elaborated for Dean and would probably stay with him a while. Sam wasn’t going to last much longer which was why Caleb almost shouted in joy when Melrose Street came into view.
Dean sat up straight in his seat already on the look out for number 104. The abandoned house wasn’t hard to find and Dean found himself pointing at it even as Caleb was speeding up to it. “There it is!”
Caleb said nothing as he slammed on the brakes, stopping the jeep right outside of the house. Dean was out of the jeep almost before it even stopped and Caleb wasn’t far behind.
Santa brought his foot down again, aiming to stomp on Sam's back. The teenager flipped over, biting back a scream as his body sang with pain. His hands caught the booted foot and halted its attack, twisting it and sending Santa toppling backwards as he lost his balance.
It was now or never. Sam drew on every bit of strength, every last reserve, every lesson and piece of training his father and Dean had taught him. He pushed himself, got to his feet and almost fell again as his dislocated knee shifted from the move, pain exploding through the limb and making Sam scream. He limped towards the stairs, dragging his injured leg...only a few more feet and he was free.
A heavy kick to the small of Sam's back sent him crashing into the stairs, opening up the skin above his already injured right eye. The room had flared out white for a moment as his head connected with the steps, before Sam felt a heavy weight on his back, his parka and t-shirt collar being pulled tight, cutting off his air. His hands went to his throat, trying to pull the material away and he gasped, his lungs burning for air.
"You feel that? The desperation? The need for air? You feel how that is?! You did that to me! You laughed as I choked on that crappy Santa beard. You laughed as I fought for my life! Well it's not so funny now, is it?" Santa snarled in Sam's ear.
With no time to pick locks, Dean pulled out his gun from the waistband of his jeans and kicked the door open with one solid powerful kick. Guns at ready both boys entered the house cautiously.
The house was bare save for a few belongings that had been left behind when the movers had cleaned the place out. The walls were plainly wallpapered in a sand colour which set apart from the white trimmings. The floorboards were scratched and dusty.
They worked as a team, covering each other as they took in their surroundings. Sam was nowhere to be seen and neither was the jolly red suited man.
Neither hunter took any time to contemplate as they moved onto the kitchen. A raised voice could be heard from down below. Caleb and Dean shared a look. “Basement,” They stated simultaneously.
Sam's fingers crawled at his collar, spots dancing white and red before his eyes, quickly turning to black as the corners of his vision began to grey. He was losing the fight, the ability to think almost gone save for thoughts of his brother. Dean had to save him. Sam didn't want his brother to find his body. Dean would blame himself if he died and Sam knew that Christmas was already a hard time of the year for Dean and Dad.
Everything was fading out for the last time, Sam feeling everything growing warm and lightheaded as his oxygen starved body began to shut down. His face was wet with tears, his fingers falling away from his throat just as the door above the stairs was kicked open.
There were no doors giving entrance to the basement from inside which meant that the entrance must have been outside. Caleb was moving towards the kitchen’s back door before Dean could get there and stepped out into the cold dark air. Taking the back steps two at a time Caleb spotted the double doors off to his left immediately. There was no way that he was letting Dean head in their first so Caleb rushed over to the doors and once again arrived before Dean did. Hearing a commotion on the other side of the doors Caleb didn’t waste anymore time, kicking in the door in the same manner Dean had with the front door and stormed in, gun raised.
The sight that greeted the psychic was straight out of his vision. Sam was lying on the steps, bloody, bruised with tears streaming down his face, fighting for precious oxygen as Santa loomed above him, starving him of it.
Caleb’s first instinct was to shoot the bastard that was hurting Sam but in the corner of his mind he remembered that this guy wasn’t the enemy. He was just as much a victim as any of them. He was possessed by a homicidal Santa.
Rushing forward, hearing Dean hot on his heels Caleb raised his gun and swung it down to hit the man in the side of the head. The force of the blow knocked Santa off of a now limp Sam.
“Sammy!” Dean called frantically as he made his way down the remaining steps to his brother’s side, easing him onto his back.
Sam was a mess. His right eye was quite obviously swollen shut with a nasty bleeding gash above it. His face was a myriad of bruises and blood. Sam’s knee was at an odd angle the dislocated joint popping out even obvious through the kid’s jeans.
Dean brought his attention back to his brother’s face and panicked a little at the blue tinge to the teen’s lips. “Oh God.” Dean shook his brother trying to wake him up. He needed to wake up now. “Sammy, come on, dude.”
He leant closer, putting his ear to Sam’s lips, praying like crazy that Sam would be breathing. He felt a slight stutter but not enough to constitute breathing. “Dammit, Sam,” Dean exclaimed, shaking his brother again. He lightly tapped Sam’s uninjured cheek.
Just as he was about to give in and try breathing for his brother Sam coughed and dragged in a lungful of air. Dean laughed in relief, sounding more like a sob and pulled his brother to him as the boy struggled to get more air through his injured throat. “You’re gonna be fine, Sammy.”
Caleb hovered in the background until he saw Sam breathing on his own and then reluctantly left the kid to his older brother. Santa was still lying on the basement floor.
His thoughts went to John and silently wondered whether the man was close to finishing the salt and burn job on crazy Santa’s remains.
The psychic turned around and looked down at the unconscious Santa. The guy was gonna have one hell of a headache when he woke up. He crouched down in front of the prone man and reached out a hand to check Santa’s pulse.
He was caught off guard when a red sleeved arm suddenly reached out, a hand encircling his wrist. He couldn’t hold back the cry of pain as he felt and heard the bones snap in his wrist. “Arghh!”
Through a haze of pain he managed to bring his gun up only to have it smashed out of his hand and fly across the room, clattering to the ground. Santa’s other hand wrapped around Caleb’s throat and squeezed. The hunter instantly brought his good hand up, trying to break the man's grip on him, maybe even stab him in the eye if he had to, anything to release the pressure on his throat. His hand raked down Santa's face, snagging the beard and pulling it lose as the elastic snapped with a barely audible ping. It fell to the floor as Caleb reached up shakily again towards Santa's face.
"I guess we know what list your name's on..." Santa snarled, grinning wickedly at the way Caleb was gasping for air. He was still savouring the moment, when Dean charged him, leaving Sam lying on the stairs, dazed.
Hurling Caleb towards the nearest wall, Santa lashed out with his other arm, connecting with Dean as he rushed in. It was a savage backhand that all but spun the teenager on the spot and sent him to his knees before Santa kicked him hard in the face. There was no time for Dean to recover. Santa moved in fast, grabbing him by the front of his shirt and dragging him off the ground. He threw Dean into the pillar that Sam had been tied to earlier, laughing a deep, twisted Santa laugh as he heard the crack of bone and watched the boy slump to the ground.
"Dean!" Sam was trying to move, dragging himself towards the gun that his brother had dropped when he was attacked. To his right, Sam could see Caleb shaking himself, stumbling to his feet unsteadily, one side of his face awash with blood from a gash just below the hairline.
Sam felt like he was going to vomit. His knee was completely useless, slowing him down as he crawled towards Dean's gun, gritting his teeth against the pain, his fingers brushing against the .45's pearl handgrip as he heard the sickening sound of Santa's fists hitting his brother again and again. "Get away from him!"
Forcing himself into an awkward sitting position, Sam brought the gun up and tried to aim it at the Santa. His vision was still dancing and reeling wildly like a collideascope, his hands shaking even as an angry sneer appeared on the boy's face. There was no way he was going to let this demented freak hurt his brother. This was his fault, he should have waited for Dean and Caleb in the first place, then they wouldn't be here, fighting this lunatic, getting hurt.
But no matter how much he tried, Sam couldn't focus his vision enough to pull the trigger, the risk of hitting Dean too high.
"Sam, no! He's possessed by a spirit!" Caleb yelled.
That made Sam pause, the gun falling as his arm dropped, his strength giving out. He saw Dean lash out with a wild punch despite being pinned to the floor and the instant it connected with Santa's jaw, the man growled and grabbed Dean by the shirt lapels, pulling him up sharply, then slamming his head into the floor, stunning him.
"You laughed as I choked on that crappy Santa beard. You laughed as I fought for my life! Well it's not so funny now, is it?" The words came back to Sam like a slap in the face. He'd noticed a smell from that beard when Santa was leaning into his face before...there wasn't just the smell of mothballs...but an underlying smell of decay. Was that the link? " Caleb! The beard..it's attached to the Santa beard!"
The beard? Caleb’s head was swimming the blow to his head making him see double of everything. His wrist was throbbing painfully; he couldn’t move his fingers and the broken bones moving against each other if jostled too much had him gritting his teeth against the pain. He held the broken appendage against his stomach as he looked at Sam.
“The beard …” He mumbled to himself. If it was the beard that the spirit was attached to then even if John salted and burned the bastards corpse it wouldn’t get rid of the spirit, the spirit that was currently still latched onto Dean. He needed to get that beard. He needed to stop Santa from beating his best friend to death.
Stumbling over to where Santa had Dean pinned to the ground Caleb stood straightening up to his full height. He heard the sickening crack of Dean’s skull hitting the basement floor and it sent him into motion. He quickly swung his leg in the air in a round house kick, his booted foot connecting with Santa’s head. The big man fell off Dean, landing on the ground next to the teen with a thud.
Caleb stood there for moment as the room continued to spin, holding his wrist to him as he took everything in.
“Dean!” Sam cried from his position on the floor behind him. “Caleb, is he okay?” Sam’s voice was rough and scratchy and Caleb was sure that it was costing the kid to talk or even being conscious at all.
Sam’s voice had him moving again and he dropped to his knees next to Dean. The younger hunter was unconscious and now that he was close Dean’s broken collarbone was obvious. Caleb cringed with the pain of his own broken bones and for the pain he knew his friend would be in. Placing his hand fingers against Dean’s neck he felt for a pulse and let the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding out in relief. “He’ll be okay, Sammy.” Caleb assured the rapidly fading teenager.
With a speed that was supernaturally aided Santa was up again. “Son of a …” Caleb cursed just before he felt the massive fist connect with the side of face making him see stars. He tasted blood in his mouth and heard Sam calling his name, pain and fear inflected in his voice. He felt more than saw Santa moving over Dean’s inert body.
It was Sam’s voice again that broke through to him and he kicked out as hard as he could. His foot was caught in Santa’s hands and he was roughly jerked towards the possessed psychopath in the red suit. The man was stronger than Caleb had thought he would be. When his ankle was twisted cruelly in a direction it was not meant to go a hoarse scream was ripped from his throat as he tried to clutch at the painful appendage.
Sam watched on in horror as Santa managed to get the advantage on Caleb once again. Dean’s unmoving form was scaring him also. He wanted nothing more than to surrender that was creeping up on him and wake up to find that this had all been a bad dream. That he hadn’t been made to be a Christmas Elf, Santa hadn’t attacked him or his family. But he couldn’t let go now. Dean was hurt and unconscious and Caleb was in a losing a battle against a super charged psychotic Santa.
The gun was still lying where he had dropped it. Sam reached out; breathing labored and took the gun back in his hand. Caleb had said that the guy was possessed but he wasn’t about to let the psychic be killed regardless.
Caleb didn’t have time to think about his next course of action as was pulled up against someone and something was placed over his face, covering his eyes, nose and mouth. He struggled as he felt a heavy arm wrap around his throat and what felt like a hand covering his face, pressing the fabric against his mouth and nose so that he couldn’t breathe. Bringing his good hand up to try and pry Santa off him as he frantically fought against the lack of oxygen. Caleb was sure he felt what felt like fur. He was being smothered by the guys fucking Santa hat. He renewed his struggle. He didn’t want to go out … killed by a Santa hat. It wasn’t the most dignified death and not to mention that the boys still needed him. Both of them were hurt. He needed to get to the beard and burn it.
“Let … l-let him … go you freak!” he shouted while pointing at Santa in his shaky grip. His arm was trembling with the effort of trying to hold it straight.
Santa looked up and smirked at the teen his eyes glinting with anger but also a hint of satisfaction as he could feel the fight start to leave his victims body. “It’s all he deserves. It’s what all you little punks deserve.” He told Sam with conviction.
Caleb’s face was completely covered with the red Santa hat, Santa’s hands holding it against the older hunters face, restricting his airways. Caleb’s struggles had started out frenzied, legs kicking, his hand trying to pull the hat away from his face but his movements were getting slower and Sam knew that he didn’t have much time left.
Sam saw something white out of the corner of his eye and remembered the beard. It had to be the beard. He needed to get the beard and he needed to burn it. The object of his attention was lying not five feet from him, having fallen there when Santa had tussled with Caleb and Dean.
One more look at Caleb’s now limp body Sam made his decision. He dropped the gun. Moving anywhere with his leg the way it was, was going to be agony but Caleb needed him.
Dean wasn't moving...Caleb was limp now, his hands falling away from his face. Sam knew that time was up for the hunter and he didn't want Caleb to die, he didn't want Santa to turn on Dean again either. But how was he supposed to destroy the beard?
He hadn't thought to carry a lighter on him...not to a shopping mall. It's not like he was going to be salting and burning the plastic reindeer in Santa's Workshop...although if destroying the beard wasn't enough? Sam would willingly burn down the whole freaking shopping mall to stop this psycho Santa. Of course, that didn't solve the immediate problem of how to destroy the beard. Sam still had nothing to burn it with. But the one thing he could do...was get Santa away from Caleb and give the older hunter a chance to recover.
" Hey! " Sam lunged for the beard, barely catching it with his fingers as his world became a bright, hot world of pain radiating from his leg. Dragging the beard towards him, Sam struggled to sit upright again before he waved the beard at Santa. " Hey!! You drop something, fatass?"
Sweat was running down Sam's face, stinging his eyes and forcing him to shake his head to clear his vision. He could see that Santa's grip on Caleb beginning to falter as the red suited killer turned his attention fully to Sam. " Yeah, that's right. Over here you piece of crap! I'm the one who ruined your fun with Nathan...I'm the one you want. Not them!"
"You... you're the ring leader..." Santa snarled, taking a step forward.
"That's right! I told them to kick your fat ass...so bring it on, tubby!" Sam spat, desperately hoping Caleb or Dean would wake up. He needed to destroy the beard...maybe he could try and get past Santa to Dean? His brother would have a lighter. Dean always had stuff like that on him. But Dean wasn't moving yet...why wasn't he moving? Caleb had said he was okay, hadn't he?
Anger started to build in Sam again as he thought of how Dean had come to save his ass...because he hadn't been where he was supposed to wait for his brother. If Dean was badly hurt...or...
Santa began to lumber towards Sam and with a frantic bellow of pain, the teen tried to scramble backwards, still holding the beard. Behind Santa, Sam was able to see Caleb starting to stir, clawing at the hat over his face again. " Caleb! Throw me a lighter!" The cry came out more high pitched than Sam liked, fear grabbing hold of him as he was suddenly lifted off the ground by Santa and held face to face.
"Let's see what Santa brought you this year..."
Sam let out a grunt of pain as he was hauled off the floor completely and slammed against the wall behind him. His head bounced off the wall hard enough to set off stars behind his eyelids and for a moment he sagged in Santa's hands, before the move was repeated, the second blow against the wall making him bite his tongue, tasting blood again.
Sam's head turned almost drunkenly towards the voice, his spirit soaring at the sight of his father standing on the basement stairs looking like a storm cloud moulded into human form. "Dad..." Blood spilled over Sam's bottom lip as he spoke.
John eyed the man standing before him with a steady eye, his hands closing into tight fists. Gary Thomas had probably been a real nice guy before he died and John didn't doubt that the same would be true for the guy that Gary was currently possessing. But the fact was that man was also currently hurting his youngest son and John could see Dean lying unconscious and bloody on the floor behind them. It ignited an anger inside the man that wasn't easily extinguished. Innocent or not...he had to stop Gary from hurting his boys any more. Launching off the stairs, John caught Santa around the waist and dragged the man to the floor.
Sam was thrown to the floor himself, sliding towards Dean and Caleb, hot tears filling his eyes as the pain overwhelmed him. For a moment, he wanted to just let it drag him under into the beckoning darkness. Just let go and not feel anything for a little while. But that wasn't an option. Sam could still feel the beard in his hand. He could feel Dean just behind him and twisted around, biting down on his lip to try and hold in a cry of pain as he searched for a lighter in Dean's pockets.
John connected a punch to Gary's jaw that should have stunned the man. But as soon as his head snapped to the side, Gary turned back to John and sneered at him. He got his knees up under John and pushed, sending the hunter backwards and into a pillar, the collision knocking the wind out of John. Rolling to his knees, Gary advanced and smashed John with a heavy backward that split his lip, blood spilling instantly.
Sam could hear the fight behind him as he came up empty again with his search. Frustration was beginning to get the better of him, especially since his head was pounding, his vision dialling in and out of focus, like some madman was constantly adjusting the lens on a camera. " Come on, Dean...wake up and give me a clue here, dude, please!"
Suddenly there was a hand on his shoulder and Sam jumped before he spun, his blurry vision clearing long enough to realise it was Caleb beside him. The hunter was in obvious pain...but he had a zippo lighter in his hand. " Not exactly what you wanted for Xmas, Runt...but..." Caleb gave a tired shrug and a half hearted grin as Sam all but snatched the lighter from his hand.
John caught the next punch as it was thrown, twisting Gary's arm until the man was forced to shift his balance or have his wrist broken. It allowed John to kick out sharply and catch Gary in the groin, doubling him over. An uppercut to the jaw had Gary rocking backwards and falling in a heap before John scrambled to his feet and launched himself again as Gary tried to sit up.
Sam placed the beard on the floor and quickly flicked the flame into life on the Zippo, touching it to the corner of the Santa beard before sliding backwards away from it until he brushed up against his brother, wanting to stay between Dean and the danger, protecting him for once. Dean still hadn't woken up and Sam bit down on his bottom lip again to hold back the tears brimming in his eyes as he watched the beard catch alight and begin to burn. Sam hoped it put the spirit to rest, whoever he was. But if the guy went to Hell? Sam wouldn't be that upset either...not after the beating the guy had given them all.
"You did good, Sam...it's over." Caleb assured the kid, placing his good hand on Sam's shoulder, while still cradling the other hand against him. His ankle was killing him and Caleb suspected he'd be off it for the next few days at least, but there were no broken bones he could feel. It was a small mercy, but something he was grateful for, nonetheless.
John slammed another fist into Gary and then cocked his arm back to deliver another, when he saw something change in the man. The anger and rage suddenly melted away to reveal a very frightened, confused man who drew his hands up to his face to shield himself from another blow. " Wait! Wait, please! Where the hell am I? What's going on?"
Lowering his fist, John got his feet, the man he'd been beating the holy hell out of, nothing more than an after thought now that Gary Thomas was gone. He immediately went to Sam and Caleb, placing his hands on either side of Sam's face as he assessed the beating his son had taken, noting ever bruise, the way Sam's eye has swollen shut. " You hurt bad?"
"No, I'll be fine, Dad." Sam pulled away slightly, turning towards Dean and seeing Caleb gently tapping his brother's cheek, trying to stir him.
John followed his youngest sons gaze to rest on Caleb and Dean. The psychic looked like crap. There was blood trailing down the side of his face and he was almost folding in on himself with a look of pain as he hunched over Dean. The younger man had his arm held to his chest.
John scooted over so that he could get a closer look at his son. Dean was still on the dirty basement floor, eyes closed. While Caleb worked on trying to wake the teen John reached out a hand and placed it to the boy’s neck. It was obvious now that he was up close that Dean’s collarbone was broken.
“How long has he been out?” he looked up at Caleb’s pained features.
“Long enough,” Caleb replied. He gripped Dean’s chin with his good hand. “Deuce, wake up, man.”
Dean groaned. The boys breathing quickened as he became closer to consciousness, the pain starting to register. “It’s okay, son.” John soothed.
Sam watched with anxious eyes as his brother turned his head towards their father.
His eyes fluttered open for a second but then slid closed again. Sam could see Santa hovering in the background with a confused look on his face. The man was stunned and actually looked worried at them. Despite how Sam had felt towards the man moments before he realised by looking at his face that this guy was just as much a victim as what they had been but he couldn’t afford to worry about that right now. His brother was in trouble and Dean was his number one priority.
His brothers voice brought his gaze back down to look at Dean. The older teen was wide eyed and frantic as he came back to consciousness. “I’m right here, Dean.” Sam confirmed trying to move closer, trying to hide the pain that flared up at the movement.
Dean’s eyes rested on his brother’s bloody and bruised form. Where the hell was Santa? Was Caleb alright? Questions flew through his mind as he attempted to sit up. He didn’t get very far before he felt a blinding pain. A growl erupted in his throat and his visioned whited out for a few seconds. He felt a strong hand on his good shoulder that was pressing him back to the floor. There were hands on his head and then he was eased onto someone’s lap. He wanted to know what the hell was going on but it was all he could do to keep breathing properly. He grit his teeth and stayed quiet and as still as possible as he rode out the wave of pain.
“Take it easy, Ace.”
That was his father’s voice. He’d recognize it anywhere and he was never so happy to hear it as he was right now. If Dad was here, telling him to take it easy then things must be alright. His father must have come and saved the day because Dean didn’t remember much after seeing Caleb thrown into the wall and Santa’s chokehold.
“Dad?” he rasped. Risking opening his eyes Dean was greeted by his father and Sam and a hat and beardless Santa standing in the background looking on worriedly. A spike of panic rushed through him at the sight of the Santa behind his family. “Santa’s … behind you.” A hand snaked around from behind him to land on his chest kept him in place.
“It’s done, Dude.” Caleb looked down at his friend’s confused and slightly glassy green eyes. “St. Sociopath is history thanks to our little elf.” Caleb looked up and smirked at Sam who rolled his eyes.
“Oh God…” the voice from behind them had them all looking towards the large man in the red suit who was looking a little worse for wear himself. “…did I do this?” he asked, looking from one hunter to the other before settling on John who was the obvious leader of the small group on the floor in front of him.
“It’s a long story …” John sighed. This was the part he hated about hunting. He hated trying to explain, to often unbelieving victims, what had happened to them. Bringing his attention back to Dean, Sam and Caleb John could see that they were all tired and all in considerable amounts of pain. He needed to get them all out of here. Decision made John turned back to Santa.
“Phill,” the big man supplied.
John nodded. “Right, Phill. Could you do me a favour?” He asked, shifting so that he was facing the man without having to look over his shoulder. “Help me get the boys out of here. I need to get them to the hospital.”
Three choruses of “I’m fine,” echoed around the room. John turned back to the three younger hunters in all different types of pain with a raised eyebrow and a bemused smile. “I think we’ll let a doctor be the judge of that, thank you.”
“Of course I’ll help you.” Phill offered, moving closer. He tried not to take it to heart when Sam flinched away from him. “It’s the least I can do.”
Sam shook his head and looked up at the man, his eyes big and full of forgiveness. “It wasn’t your fault.” It was the truth and Sam felt the need to let the guy know that what had happened he’d had no control over.
“I’ll explain later but right now I need help with the three stooges,” John told the man his voice held a trace of humour.
He had been scared when the boys hadn’t called after he’d salted and burned the bones. He had been even more scared when he had come upon the house and heard yelling coming from the basement. And again fear had been his companion as he had burst through the door to find Sam a bleeding and broken mess and Caleb and Dean out for the count on the floor. Humour was always a good way to deflect after a scare or during one.
“I think you mean the Three Musketeers.”
The psychic’s voice had him smiling and shaking his head. “No I’m pretty sure I got it right the first time, Junior.” He looked down at Dean, his expression returning to serious. “Do you think you can walk, Dean?”
There was a pause before Dean answered as he took stock of his body and its injuries. The pain when he moved his shoulder spiking from his collarbone was incredible but they needed to concentrate on Sammy. “Yeah, I’m good.”
John nodded and reached out for Dean’s good arm, wrapping his fingers around the boy’s wrist. On the count of free John pulled his son to his feet with the help of Phill who was there in an instant when Dean’s knees threatened to buckle under the agony the movement had caused.
“It’s okay, it’s okay, I’ve got ya.” John mumbled. He held onto Dean as the boy clung to him, neither moving until the pain had passed and Dean opened his eyes again, his breathing returning to something somewhat normal.
“Oh …” Dean breathed, leaning into his father a bit. “…that’s … not fun.”
“I know but we’ll get you fixed up in no time.” John assured him, rubbing his arm until Dean pulled away some. He hated the look of pain on Dean’s face. The sooner they got out of the damn basement the better.
Caleb was already attempting to stand up. Having only one arm and one leg made it more difficult than he thought to get up and he couldn’t contain the yelp as his foot hit the ground and pressure was put on his injured ankle. John reached out a hand to steady the younger hunter as he kept a hold on of his son.
“Damn it, Caleb, would you hold up for a minute,” John groused.
Caleb shrugged out of John’s grip, trying to force his usual cocky grin. “I’m okay, Johnny. Worry about the boys.”
He’d definitely had worse. He could make it out of the basement by himself damn it.
With Dean being helped by Phill and Caleb stubbornly refusing John reached down and helped his youngest to his feet.
The going was slow and painful but once Dean and Sam were secured in the backseat of the Jeep, much to Dean’s annoyance, John felt a lot better about everything. They were one step closer to the end of this latest disaster. Jim and Mac would probably want to kill him for this slight misadventure anyhow so he didn’t want to make any mistakes.
Looking into the window John would see Sam trying his hardest to stay with it. Dean was holding himself very still. John knew that a broken collarbone was a bitch to deal with. He heard a shuffling and grunts and groans coming from behind him and turned around. Phill had gone back for Caleb who had lingered behind, not willing to admit defeat and wait for help.
A smile graced John’s face as he saw that Phill had managed to get the kid to comply and at least allow someone to help him.
“It’s about time you got up here, Junior.” John smirked as he directed them to his truck and opened the passenger door so that they could help Caleb up into the seat.
“Bite me,” Caleb growled, glaring at his mentor who just grinned at him in response. “Are the boys okay?”
Nodding, John patted the psychic on the leg. “They’ll be alright as soon as we get you three to a hospital.”
Caleb frowned and looked at John like he had lost his mind. “Since when do you volunteer to take anyone to the hospital?”
“Are you kidding me? Its a few days til Christmas and your father will be here tomorrow.”
Caleb raised one brow. “You’re afraid of Mac?”
“No.” John shook his head quickly. “I just don’t want another lecture on the proper care and feeding of one Caleb Reaves.”
“Right.” Caleb leaned back in the seat and looked down at his swollen wrist. It looked horrible, the bruises already forming.
Caleb now squared away in his truck, John handed his keys to Phill who had been waiting patiently as the two hunters went through their usual banter. “Take care of him,” he ordered. He didn’t like leaving Caleb’s care to a stranger, a stranger that had just all attacked them nonetheless but someone had to drive his truck and it would have been a tight fit for all of them in the one car. It was better for all of them this way. He could tell by the look on Phill’s face that he had heard the underlying threat in his tone. John was entrusting Caleb’s welfare to this man for the journey to the hospital. There would be hell to pay if anything happened to the young psychic.
John closed Caleb’s door as Phill rounded the truck. Patting the top of the door, he looked through the open window at his protégé. “I’ll meet you at the hospital.”
John chuckled at the kid’s response and then gave one more warning look at Phill before walking off, hurrying his step to get to his boys.
Dean was still in the same position as he was when he had left them. He had hardly moved but had broken out into a sweat. Sam looked miserable and in pain. He arms were wrapped around his middle and he had his eyes closed.
John slid in behind the wheel and turned with his arm resting on the back of the seat. “How you boy’s doing back there?”
“Great,” was Dean’s curt response.
John frowned when Sam remained quiet. “Sam … Sammy!” he raised his voice a little and Sam’s eyes popped open. “Hey, buddy. Stay awake, just a little longer okay, just until we get to the hospital.”
“Okay.” Sam didn’t argue. Sam not arguing with something was rare now days and John couldn’t even enjoy it. John smiled at his boys encouragingly and then turned around and started the jeep. “Hang in there boys. We’ll get you fixed up in no time.”
The hunters sitting around his living room were one big mess. Broken bones and colourful bruises were a common occurrence in their lives and they were no stranger to Christmas either. Jim supposed he should be thankful that they were all home, safe and sound instead of the alternative but he couldn’t help but wish for one Christmas to go buy with no-one being hurt.
With only a few days to spare all three boys had managed to make it home in time for Christmas Eve. At times like these it did pay to have a doctor in the family. Jim could still remember the phone call he’d made to Mackland Ames only a few days prior. After receiving a call from John from the Hospital Jim had called Mackland to let him know what had happened. It had only been two years since Caleb had been thought dead, so getting a phone call from the Guadian a few days before Christmas telling him that his son had been injured had set the physician into a slight panic before he had been re-assured that the boy was indeed alright with exception to his broken wrist and badly sprained ankle.
Sam’s injuries had been more serious, needing an overnight stay in the hospital that John would not allow him to get out of. A dislocated knee, a few busted ribs and a sore throat not to mention a myriad of cuts and bruises to his face and body had Sam off his feet and on strict bed rest by order of Mackland as soon as he had been allowed back home to the farm.
Dean’s collarbone had been set but thankfully hadn’t been serious enough to place in a cast. Even so, it was still painful and even if Mac had allowed him to be active Dean couldn’t have. The teen opted for sitting still, watching TV, reading magazines or comics or simply talking nonsense with Caleb.
Standing in the doorway to the living room with a tray full of eggnog and glasses Jim studied the hunters before him. Sam was relaxed, the recently dislocated leg stretched out on the couch. Dean was seated in Jim’s favourite armchair, arm in a sling. Caleb was seated on the other chair with his injured ankle resting on a cushion on the coffee table while his father sat on the arm rest next to him. John Winchester was sitting on the floor, his back leaning up against the couch near his youngest son’s feet. All five hunters were talking and joking around. The sound of laughter and the smiles on their faces warmed Jim’s heart. He knew that Christmas could be a hard time of year for many of them. They all had their own demons. But he smiled in the knowledge that they all had each other to make the holiday a little less painful.
“Come on, Dad.” Caleb’s voice was almost a whine.
Mac looked down with a put on annoyed expression but no-one could miss the amusement dancing in his eyes. “I said no, Caleb.”
“I think I deserve it.”
“I think you are worse than a child and can wait for tomorrow like everyone else.”
“You’re just annoyed because you haven’t had the chance to check the presents out for yourself like you usually do.” Dean smirked when Mackland raised an eyebrow and looked down at his son who was scowling at him in return.
“You never complained when …” Caleb stopped his reply mid sentence when he realised he was probably giving more away than he already had. “Just shut your trap, Deuce.”
Sam chuckled, Caleb’s glare doing nothing to kill his amusement.
“For once you will remain oblivious until Christmas morning.” Mac shifted on his seat.
Jim shook his head and sighed, deciding that he should make his entrance back into the living room, getting Caleb off the hook for now. “Eggnog and Peanut Butter cookies are served.”
“Thank god!” John sat up straighter reaching for the pitcher off the tray as soon as Jim placed it on coffee table and began to pour it into the glasses for everyone.
“No, thank Jim.” Caleb corrected him reaching out with his good hand for a glass.
“Isn’t Bobby supposed to be here tonight?” Sam asked, accepting the glass his father passed to him. “Thanks, Dad.”
Jim nodded. “Yes.” He looked up at the wall clock. “He should be here any moment now actually.”
“You think he’ll dress up as Santa for the kids?” Caleb joked at Sam’s expense.
“Shut up, Dickhead.”
A small throw pillow went sailing through the air towards Reaves only to be caught by Mackland who gave the youngest Winchester a withering look. “How many times have we told you boys not to throw things in the house? I think there are enough injuries this Christmas.”
Caleb poked his tongue out at the younger hunter from behind his fathers arm. Sam rolled his eyes at the childish acts of the psychic. Caleb smiled cockily at Sam until the pillow smacked him on the top of the head.
“Hey!” Caleb looked up accusingly at the older psychic. “What the hell was that for?”
Mackland ignored his son, keeping his attention on Sam. “That’s not to say he doesn’t deserve it sometimes.”
“Turn coat.” Caleb muttered, glaring at all three Winchesters when they all chuckled at his expense. He leaned back against the chair and then took a sip of his drink, his eyes widening as his senses were assaulted by the alcohol that John had added without him realising.
John smirked and waved the small bottle of Brandy in the air. “Thought you’d appreciate the extra kick, Junior.”
“Yeah, thanks.” Caleb choked.
“Keep that up, Dad. It won’t take long for him to be pliable enough to let me at his cast.” Dean had been itching to get the chance to write something on his friends wrist cast but with his own limited movement he hadn’t been able to. Caleb was a spoil sport.
The sound of tyres crunching on the snowy gravel outside the house had everyone turning to look towards the front door.
“That, I assume, is Bobby.” Jim proclaimed as he moved towards the door to greet the mechanic.
“Ten bucks says he’s wearing a Santa hat.” Dean challenged from his seat. He took a sip from his eggnog.
Sam rolled his eyes but Caleb’s lips twitched in an amused smile. “I’ll be disturbed but you’re on.”
Jim opened the front door and even with the enclosed front porch he could still feel the chill of the air on his skin. He heard footsteps moments before Bobby walked up onto the porch. The sight before him hadn’t been what he was expecting and he didn’t know whether to find it amusing or scary.
“Jim,” Bobby greeted with a big smile, shifting the bag on his back. “Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas …” Jim replied cautiously. He moved back into the house holding the door open for Bobby and his cargo to pass. “What have you got there?”
“I come bearing presents.”
“God, help us.” Mackland groaned as he turned around on the arm of the chair to look behind him as Bobby came further into the living room. “Oh…”
“Mackland,” Bobby greeted with an enthusiastic smile.
“Dude …” Dean’s laughter burst out as he looked at his friend. “You owe me ten bucks.”
Caleb turned in his chair and took in the sight of Bobby Singer in a bright red Santa hat, green tinsel around his neck and red sack on his shoulder.
“Oh my god … he does think he’s Santa.” Caleb couldn’t get the smile off his face. Bobby had gotten them some pretty cool and unique gifts over the years and he couldn’t say he wasn’t interested to see what the man had come up with this time.
“Hey Bobby.” Sam waved from his spot on the couch, a smile also plastered on his face.
“Boys … you’re all lookin’ … good,” Bobby replied, taking in the future triad looking all bruised and broken. There was a Winchester missing from the equation. “Where’s Papa Winchester?”
“Here.” John announced walking back into the room with and extra glass. The oldest Winchester eyed the sack hanging over Bobby’s shoulder wearily. “Should I ask?”
“Probably not.” Mackland shook his head. He took a generous sip of his eggnog.
“Why don’t you put the bag over there by the tree,” Jim suggested, interrupting the banter that no doubt would ensue if allowed. John, Mac and Bobby could be a lot like the boys when they got going and Jim often found himself wondering whether they had actually grown up.
Bobby turned, sack and all, towards the tall tree on the other side of the room. The mechanic knew he had made the mistake the moment he had heard Jim’s warning and the dull thump of something hitting the ground. John’s howl of pain and the curses that followed were his second clue. He dropped the sack and turned to see John drop the glass he had been holding to grab at his foot.
On the floor not far from where John had been standing was Jim’s vase that usually sat on the end table. Bobby knew that the damn thing was heavy and from John’s hopping around on one foot cursing John now knew the thing was heavy.
“John …” Bobby tried but stood back at the deadly glare he received.
“Dad, are you okay?” Dean asked but couldn’t hide the laughter that was trying to break out. Caleb wasn’t even trying to hide the amusement, his head in his hands as his body shook with laughter.
“Caleb.” Mac admonished with a smile on his face.
“Johnathan …” Jim moved in to help his friend only to have his hands shrugged off.
“Fucking Singer!” John growled when he was able to string together a coherent thought.
“Look at it this way … now you have a bruise to match the theme this Christmas.” Bobby didn’t think his cajoling was having the effect he hoped when John stood up to his full height.
“I’ll give you a fucking bruise in a minute Singer if you don’t watch yourself,” John snapped back. “And shut up, Caleb.”
Jim picked up the Santa sack and placed it by the tree, not willing to let Bobby handle it any longer. They might have been broken and bruised but he didn’t want any bloodshed between their little family this year.
“Sit down, Johnathan.” Jim ordered, pouring Bobby a glass of the eggnog.
John took his place on the floor by Sam’s legs, still massaging his sore foot. Caleb managed to compose himself and the room was filled with a comfortable silence while everyone enjoyed their eggnog. The tree lights made the feeling of the room even more homey and cosy than usual. As everyone relaxed Sam’s voice interrupted the momentary peace.
“It’s okay if you need to use my crutches, Dad.”
Laughter filled the room.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.