The Nick of Time

By Ridley C. James
, December 2008

Beta: Tidia

Disclaimer: Nothing Supernatural belongs to me.

Words: 5.169

A/N: Some spoilers for Episode 3.8, A Very Supernatural Christmas.


"They err who thinks Santa Claus comes down through the chimney; he really enters through the heart." -Mrs. Paul M. Ell

Sam’s quiet crying finally drove Dean out of the room. Sam was trying his best to hide it, but the stifled sobs were like tiny icicles being staked into Dean’s heart, spreading guilt like spider web cracks on a frozen pond. He couldn’t believe he told Sammy the truth. He was an idiot.

Dean found the freezing Nebraska night preferable to the cold ache Sam’s current misery brought. He had no one to blame but himself. Once outside he jammed his hands in his pocket, and crossed the motel parking lot, making his way to the adjacent convenience store. The Stop-n-Go was deserted, as it had been when Dean shopped for their dinner. It was Christmas Eve. Most people were home with their families. Dad should have been home. He never missed Christmas. This was not the year to start since it was the year Dean broke his little brother’s heart. Dean needed his father to make it better.

The night clerk from earlier was outside leaning against the brick building, puffing on a cigarette. He nodded to Dean, but the twelve-year-old hunched his shoulders against the wind, kept on moving to the pay phone on the corner. Dean closed the folding door behind him before dropping the necessary change. Caleb answered on the second ring. Dean didn’t give him a chance to say anything.

“Where is he? Where’s Dad?”

“Merry Christmas to you too, Deuce.”

Dean could hear music and people laughing in the background. Caleb was spending the holiday with his friends at some ski lodge, an early birthday present from his grandfather. Dean's eyes began to sting. “I need you to call him and tell him to come home. Sam needs him to come home. Right now.”

“Are you and Sammy in trouble?”

Dean slumped against the cold glass. “God, Damien. I messed up. I wrecked everything.”

“Deuce, what are you talking about?”

Caleb suddenly sounded closer, and Dean realized the background noise had disappeared. He banged his head against the booth. “He kept asking for the truth…I didn’t know what to do. So I told him.”

“Dude, I know it sucks, but he was going to find out about Santa Claus eventually.”

“Not that truth!” Dean had let that cat out of the bag, too. Still, it was kitten proportion compared to the lion he’d tossed in his little brother’s lap. “The other big lie.”

“The other? You mean…”

“He kept asking me about Mom. He read Dad’s journal! Why the hell didn’t Dad take it with him?”

“Dean, just slow down…is Sammy okay?”

“Of course he’s not okay.” Dean ran a hand through his hair. Caleb was either drunk or deaf from all the loud music, maybe both. “I hurt him.”

“You’d never do that. Not on purpose.”

That showed just how much Damien knew. “I told him the truth about how Mom died.”

“Dude, we don’t call him little Einstein for nothing. He was going to put it all together eventually.”

“You don’t get it!” Dean squeezed his eyes shut. “This wasn’t some fairytale about dragons, or secret clubs like The Musketeers.” Dean choked back a sob. “Now it’s all ruined. He doesn’t feel safe anymore. He’s mad at Dad. I need to fix it.”

“Where are you?”

Dean slammed the palm of his hand against the booth. Why did that matter? Dean might as well have been on Mount Crumpit with the good old Mister Grinch. He’d ruined Christmas forever. “I just need you to get a hold of Dad and send him home.”

“Why don’t I just fly Santa’s sleigh to pick him up while I’m at it? You know your old man, kiddo. He’s not coming home until the job’s done, Christmas or not.”

“You know what, forget it. I can’t wait on Dad.” Dean remembered the neighborhood they’d passed on the drive in. There were lots of nice houses. Sam in typical geek-form had his face pressed against the Impala’s back glass the entire time, oohing and ahhing over the lights and decorations, guessing about what treasures waited inside. Dean had made fun of him. Now he couldn’t get the idea out of his mind.

“Dean…you still with me?”

“I gotta go, Damien.” It wasn’t Christmas yet. Dean still had a chance to change this around. He heard Caleb yelling for him as he hung up the phone. He’d give Sammy something better than Santa to believe in. He’d give him back his faith in their father.


The plan hadn’t worked in the way Dean had hoped. At least Sam hadn’t given him a hard time about the gifts, instead offering Dean the one present he’d painstakingly wrapped for Dad. Dean was torn between the unexplainable feeling of affection Sam’s gesture brought, and the looming darkness it seemed to cast over Sam’s feelings towards their father. Dean felt proud that his little brother wanted him to have a gift and a little guilty as if he were betraying Dad. He didn’t want Sam to see Dad in a bad light. Sam refused to discuss it, and asked Dean to play one of the board games from the heist. Dean didn’t have the heart to object, even if it was targeted to a seven-year-old girl.

Dean looked up from the lame game when someone knocked on the door. It was early yet, the sun still not out. Dean knew Dad would have used the key and for one terrifying second Dean wondered if the cops had made him. Reassuring himself that the family he’d robbed probably hadn’t even gotten out of bed yet, he motioned for Sam to stay where he was before moving to the entranceway.

“Deuce, Sammy, open up. It’s me.”

“Caleb?” Dean exhaled heavily, relief making his legs shaky as he reached for the doorknob. “Is that you?”

“No. It’s Papa Noel. Now let me in. I’m freezing my candy cane off out here.”

Dean rolled his eyes, his relief quickly turning to irritation. “What’s the password?”

“Ralphie Parker.”

Dean opened the door, waving him in. “We weren’t expecting you.” That wasn’t exactly true. Dean had an idea that after the call he’d made last night, Caleb might freak out and do something stupid. He really should have called him back.

“Tis true! Christmas is the season of miracles.” Caleb looked around the room, ruffling Dean’s hair on his way in. “And lucky for you Vail is only about a five hour drive from here.”

Dean felt a pang of guilt as he brushed off Caleb’s hand. He hadn’t meant to ruin Damien’s plans. “I didn’t ask you to come.” He glanced to the clock on the nightstand. It was five in the morning. Christmas Day. With the snow, Caleb had to have driven all night.

Caleb raised a brow, tapping his temple before sliding off his gloves. “It’s not always what you say, Deuce.”

“How did you find us?” Sam asked, standing up to greet their friend.

“One call to Jim and…”

Dean groaned. “You didn’t tell him Dad wasn’t here?”

“No.” Caleb tossed his duffle on the couch. “I told him I had an important delivery to make.”

“You brought presents?” Sam leaned over the couch to get a closer look at Caleb’s bag.

Damien gestured to the Charlie Brown Christmas tree Dean had taken and the shredded wrapping paper. “Looks like you two already hit the mother load?” Caleb picked up Sapphire Barbie from the table with a frown. He cocked a brow in Dean’s direction. “If you were the Winchester girls that is.”

“It was a mix-up,” Sam said. He snatched the doll away and tossed it across the room. “No big deal.”

“You didn’t have to ditch your rich buddies.” Dean crossed his arms over his chest. “I told you I had it covered.” So he’d scored all the wrong gifts. Pastor Jim always said it was the thought that counted.

Caleb pointed to the other toys. “And by having it covered you mean you played Santa?”

“None of your business, Damien.”

“Dean didn’t do anything,” Sam said.

Caleb ignored him. “I thought the big guy was into leaving things under the tree? You trying to give Kris Kringle a bad name, Deuce?” Caleb bent down so they were eye to eye. “And it would have been my business if I’d had to come bail your ass out of juvie or worse.”

“There is no Santa,” Sam spoke up.

Dean appreciated that his little brother was trying to draw Caleb’s attention but the declaration left him feeling worse.

Caleb turned to Sam. “What? Who says?”

“Dean told me.”

Caleb frowned. “Contrary to what Deuce thinks, he doesn’t know everything.”

Sam’s face took on a stubborn scowl. It reminded Dean of Dad. “Just another lie you all told me. How can Santa be at all those different malls at once? How does he make toys for all the boys and girls? And why didn’t he come this year? I’ve been extra good.”

Caleb opened his mouth, but Sam continued on.

“You and Dean ate those cookies Pastor Jim always makes, and probably fed the reindeer’s carrots to One in a Million and Fat Chance”

“You caught the big guy in the act a few years back?” Caleb challenged. “How do you explain that?”

Dean hated to break it to Caleb but the gig was up. Sam wasn’t going buy into anymore of their schemes to ensure his belief. His little brother crossed his arms over his chest. “It was Uncle Bobby in a suit.”

“So you think you’ve got it all figured out, do you?”

Sam nodded. “Yes.”

“One lie doesn’t always lead to conspiracy, Runt. Dean told me about the journal. I know you’re pissed at your dad but…”

Sam shot an accusing look in Damien’s direction. “You knew the truth, didn’t you?”

Caleb glanced to Dean before turning to put a hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Look, Sammy, you knew about the hunting to some degree. You’ve heard about it since you were a baby.” Dean looked at his feet. Sam had been ringside for a lot of the weirdness. “Now you understand why it’s so important to your old man.”

“Dad lied.” Sam pulled away. “He let me believe Mom died in a house fire. She was killed by a monster.”

“I get that you think your old man has kept you in the dark about a lot of things, but he didn’t do it to hurt you. He wanted to protect you for as long as he could.” Caleb flicked his gaze to Dean. “We all did.”

“If that thing killed Mom, it could kill any of us.” Sam looked at him. “Did it kill your parents, too?”


Dean started forward, but Caleb held up a hand to stop him. He took a seat on the couch and pulled Sam closer to him. “Pastor Jim thinks so.”

“What kind of monster is it?”

Dean watched Caleb twist his silver ring around his finger. It was something Damien did when he didn’t have a fast answer. “We’re not exactly sure.”

“Dad isn’t sure,” Sam said.

Dean knew where his brother was heading. “He has leads, Sammy. He works on it all the time.”

“How can you fight something if you don’t know what you’re fighting?”

There was a tremor and a hint of tears in Sam’s voice now. Dean preferred the anger. “I told you Dad’s got it covered. He’s not going to let anything happen to us. I’ll keep you safe, too. I promise.”

“Your big brother’s right. Johnny’s the best hunter I know.” Caleb reached out and tugged on Sam’s hand. “He’s saved my life over and over again. He’s saved lots of people.”

“He didn’t save Mom.”

“He tried,” Dean said. He didn’t like to talk about it, but Sam needed to know. “Dad didn’t want to leave Mom. He didn’t lie about the fire. It was everywhere. He made me take you and go. Dad barely got out in time before everything blew.”

“See, Sammy.” Caleb squeezed the little boy’s arm before letting him go. “Your old man’s a real hero.” He looked at Dean and winked. “Where do you think Dean got his Captain Onehelluva Big Brother genes?”

“Then why isn’t he here?” Sam said. “He could be dead for all we know.”

Dean took a step towards his brother as his heart leapt to his throat. “Shut up!” The same fear had been floating through the dark recesses of Dean’s mind all night, but he would have never given voice to it. “Dad’s fine!”

Caleb gripped the back of his shirt pulling him back from Sam. “Speaking of your Dad, Runt, I left Cullen’s gift for him in the car. Can you go get it for me?”

Sam and Caleb shared a momentary stare off. “There could be a buck in it for you.” Damien dangled the keys.

Finally Sam’s shoulders slumped in resignation he grudgingly took the keys Caleb was offering and said, “Make it five bucks. It’s cold outside and it’s Christmas.”

“Extortionist,” Caleb gave him a small shove. “I’m in a rental. Black SUV with Colorado tags.”

Dean waited for the resounding slam of the door before squaring off with Damien. “Did you find out where Dad is?”

Caleb gave him a hard look. “He would be here if I had.”

Dean bit his lip. “You think he’s okay?”

Caleb ran a hand through his long hair with a heavy sigh. “You know Johnny.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“He made his contact with Bobby yesterday.” Damien slid out of his coat, tossing it beside him. “He’s not due for another until tomorrow. I can call Mac, but you know John will be pissed if The Scholar tracks him down without a damn good reason.”

“It’s Christmas.” Dean didn’t know which he hated more. The fact his voice cracked causing him to sound too much like his frightened little brother or the look that crept onto Caleb’s face. Damien was worried about him. He dropped his gaze to the floor. “Sammy expected him to be here.”

Caleb reached out and grasped his chin, forcing Dean to look at him. “You thought some girly gifts were going to make up for that?”

“I told Sammy that Dad brought them while he was asleep.” Dean pulled his head away. “I’d already screwed Santa, I didn’t want him to know Dad blew us off, too. I didn’t know they were chick presents.”

“I get why you did it.” Caleb leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “But it was a stupid plan, Deuce. You could have been arrested, or hurt. What if someone had mistaken you for average Joe Burglar? They might have shot first and asked questions later. Johnny would freak if he knew you left Sam alone to pull a last minute black bag job.”

Dean felt his eyes begin to sting. He swallowed hard, blinking as he clenched his fists tight enough for his nails to find skin. “Sammy’s still a kid. He doesn’t understand that Dad can’t always be a normal Dad. He doesn’t get it that Dad doesn’t have time to go out and get stupid presents and stuff. I want Sammy to know he cares about us-that hunting isn’t the most important thing.”

“Dude, your Dad loves you and Sammy. You are the most important things to him.”

Dean stepped away from his friend, knowing the distance wouldn’t keep Caleb from pilfering through his thoughts. “I know that,” he snapped. “I’m not a baby, Caleb! I don’t need any stupid presents. I don’t even like Christmas!”

It didn’t matter to Dean that this was the first Christmas since the one after Mom’s death they hadn’t been at the farm. So what if Pastor Jim had gone to visit with some of Miss Emma’s relatives and Mac was in Europe on business. Bobby was with stupid Fiona curled under the mistletoe at her cabin in Tennessee and Caleb could cross-country it right back to the ski slopes he’d come from for all Dean cared.

“Deuce.” Caleb reached out and grabbed his shoulders this time, holding him in place. “I know you wanted things to be perfect for Sammy, and it sucks that he had to find out about your mom the way he did, but you can’t control what your Dad does. You start down the path of trying to make up for all your old man’s shortcomings, and as Jim would say, 'you’re choosing a hard row to hoe.'”

“Jim also likes to talk about the pot calling the kettle black.” Dean took some satisfaction in the way Caleb let him go and sat back. He might not be able to read minds like his best friend, but he knew Damien inside and out. “You can’t tell me not to do something you try to do all the time.”

Caleb opened his mouth, closed it, raking a hand through his long hair. “Shit. Sammy’s not the only one growing up too damn fast.”

“I only found this.” Sam re-entered the room, holding up a crumpled McDonald's wrapper and a bag of empty soda cans. “And I thought the lump of coal Dad got in his stocking last year was a bad present.”

“Sorry, Runt. I must have brought it in with the others.”

Sam closed the door, tossing the trash in the can before making his way over. “That’s okay. It’s not like Dad’s here to enjoy it anyway.”

Dean looked up at Caleb. “Then I guess you’ll have to open his presents too.”

“Really?” Sam perked up.

“It’s only fair.” Caleb reached for the duffle, pulling out several brightly wrapped boxes which he set in front of Sam. “Cullen disregarded Dad’s suggestions on the savings bonds, going with my ideas instead.”

Sam looked from the presents to Caleb. “You aren’t even going to try to tell us that Santa sent these? That you stopped by the North Pole on your way here?”

“Who needs Santa when you’ve got Cullen Ames and FAO Schwartz?”

Sam fingered one of the velvet bows. “I bet Dad didn’t even look at my list.”

“Cut it out, Sam,” Dean said. “Dad helped you write the stupid letter to Santa.”

Sam glared at him. “But that was a lie, too.”

“Make up your mind.” Dean threw his hands up. “You can’t have it both ways. Either you want there to be a Santa or not.”

“I want Dad to be here.”

“You’re not the only one.”

“Okay, that’s it.” Caleb stepped between them. “How about we get out of here for a while? Give you guys some time to cool off. I’ll treat you to breakfast and then we’ll come back and do the gift thing?”

Sam stood, grabbing his jacket. “If Santa were real he’d know what we all wanted without a list.”

“Right.” Dean rolled his eyes. “Santa would be a freaking psychic.”

“I thought we had all agreed to drop the Santa issue, so why are you arguing about it?” Caleb took the keys from Sam. “Let’s just face the fact that we’re not getting what we want today and make the best of it, alright?”

“Whatever.” Dean moved to the door. “I call shotgun.”

“Why do you get shotgun?”

“Because I’m the oldest,” Dean said, jerking the door open.

“Ace?” Dean froze at the sound of his father’s voice. He looked up. Dad was standing in the doorway, snow falling on him as he struggled to hold onto the packages in his hand and the boxes from Boston Market. “What the hell’s going on? Why are you awake?”

“Dad?” Sammy shoved in beside him. “You’re home.”

“Just in time by the looks of it.” John eyed Dean. “You boys planning on going somewhere? You should still be in bed.”

“They were going with me.” Caleb moved forward. “I woke them up so I thought I’d spring for Mickey D’s.”

“What the hell are you doing here, Junior?”

Caleb snorted. “Merry Christmas to you too, Johnny.”

John stepped inside, handing Dean his bags, giving Sam the gifts. “That your black SUV parked out there?”

Caleb nodded. “Yeah.”

“I thought you were supposed to be in Colorado.”

“I thought you were supposed to be here with the boys.”

Dean winced as Dad’s face twisted into a scowl. He took a step towards Caleb. “I tried to get here last night for dinner. The roads slowed me down. ” Dad took a deep breath, let it out slowly. “Things don’t always work out as planned, Junior.”

“Yeah.” Caleb nodded. “I stopped in because I promised Cullen I’d get the boys their gifts on the big day.” Dean was relieved Caleb didn’t push the issue, but had to look away as Damien flashed his most sincere grin. “Just call me Santa’s jolly little elf.”

“Right.” John shook snow from his hair, pulling off his jacket. “So you left that fancy ski lodge packed with sorority girls you were bragging to Bobby about to bring tidings of good joy?”

Dean glanced at Sam, who had busied himself putting presents under the makeshift tree. Caleb should have known better than to try and con Dad. “You know, Damien, Dad. He’s almost a girl when it comes to the sappy stuff.”

“Looks like he thinks the same thing about you and Sam.” John pointed to the chick gifts spread around their motel room. Dean should have gotten rid of them right away. “Cullen forget I have boys?”

“Those?” Caleb laughed. “I brought those for Samantha and Deana as a joke. Deuce’s face was priceless when he opened the Barbie doll. Made my Christmas. I told him he might want to hold onto it seeing as how it’s the closest thing to real breasts he’ll be seeing for a few years. And Sammy…he’s lucky I didn’t spring for the pink bunny suit.”

Dean waited for the explosion. Any second now Dad would blow up, call bullshit and demand to know the truth. Sammy would cave and spill the whole sordid tale, maybe even toss out that Dad was a liar and a crappy father for good measure. Caleb would try to defend them, blame Dad for being gone in the first place, and Dean would end up doing extra training until Valentine’s Day. Christmas sucked.

“You’ve got more money that you’ve got sense, Junior.” Dean blinked, releasing the breath he was holding. Dad threw an arm around his shoulders, shaking his head at Caleb’s idiotic explanation. “Ace here is a Winchester. In spite of your poor influence, I doubt he’ll have any problems with the ladies.”

“He already has a girlfriend,” Sam said.

“Sammy.” Dean cut his gaze to his brother, willing him to drop the readiness to be so helpful. Sam didn’t take the hint. “I saw him kissing Kara under a tree on the playground at school on Friday. She’s in the eighth grade.”

“Do tell.” Caleb rubbed his hands together. “So the mistletoe line worked for you? Maybe I should have Mackland give you the unabridged physician’s take on all the reasons for abstinence at Jim’s next week. He has pictures and a slide show, you know.”

“Shut up,” Dean growled.

“How about you drop the subject and I’ll forget that you’re giving my kid advice on girls.” John pointed a finger at Caleb. “Something I told you was specifically off limits, Junior.”

Dean met Caleb’s gaze. His friend winked at him. “Not my fault I have to pick up your slack, Johnny. You shouldn’t have made me the nanny if you didn't want me around so much.”

John snorted. “If I’d known grabbing a ten minute chat with your old man all those years ago was going to lead to you popping in like this, I think I might have told the wisecracking thirteen year old to keep his stories to himself.”

Caleb grabbed his duffel. “Fine. I can always take Cullen’s presents back. But I have it on good authority that your gift is about fifty years old and all of 90 proof.”

“No savings bonds?” John asked.

“I got to Cullen’s secretary before Dad this year.”

John took the duffel from Caleb. “Maybe it was good that I kept you around after all.” He gestured to the boxes Dean was holding. “It’s not Mickey D’s and it’s cold, but you’re welcome to join us for a late Christmas Eve dinner or early Christmas breakfast, however you spin it?”

Caleb looked at Dean. “As tempting as it is, I really should get back. I still have some sorority ski-bunnies waiting to be unwrapped.”

“Maybe I should have Mac give you another recap on that speech of his, kiddo.”

Caleb slapped Dad on the back. “Don’t worry, Johnny. This jolly little elf knows how to take care of his package. It is the gift I want to keep on giving.”

“Moron.” Dad wrapped a hand around the back of Caleb’s neck and gave him a playful shove. “Seriously? You sure you don’t want to stay?”

“And mess up the Parkers family Christmas? I don’t think so. I’ll catch you at Jim’s next week.” Caleb hovered at the door. “You’re coming to the farm for New Years?”

“You mean do I remember it’s your twenty-first birthday and that Bobby and I promised to help you celebrate it. Right?”

“You know it sucks for those of us with Christmas birthdays.”

“I think you’ve mentioned that.” John took the boxes from Dean’s hand. “We’ll be there, Junior. Be careful. The snow’s really starting to come down.”

Dean watched his Dad head towards the other side of the room, capturing Sam in a one-armed embrace. Sam was smiling, chattering away about something he’d done at school. It was as if the previous night hadn’t happened. His attention was pulled back to the door when Caleb knelt in front of him. “Deuce, close your mouth. You’re catching flies.”

Dean frowned at his friend, chancing another look at his father and brother who were setting the small card table before refocusing on Caleb. “You sure that’s him?”

Caleb grinned. “First thing I checked when he let my lame ass excuse slide.”

“Sam hasn't mentioned the journal.”

Caleb followed Dean’s line of sight. “Give the runt some credit. He’ll keep that card up his sleeve until the perfect hand comes around to play it.”

Dean sighed. Sam was getting good at recognizing when their father’s guard was down. “Why doesn’t that make me feel better?”

“All I’m saying is don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. It’s Christmas.”

Dean rolled his eyes. “You’re full of Pastor Jim speak today.”

“What can I say? I channel the old guy on sappy days.”

“Do you think that’s what’s up with Dad?” Dean licked his lips. “I mean he’s usually not glad to see any holiday come around.” Dean could understand why. He missed his mom most at Christmas.

“You know what I really think?”

Dean held his best friend’s gaze. “What?”

“Maybe we shouldn’t have written the big guy off.”

“Who? Dad?”

“No.” Caleb reached out and gripped his neck. “Santa Claus,” he whispered. “I shouldn’t have been so quick to tell you it was a bunch of crap that first year at Jim’s. Maybe he’s real after all.”

Dean swallowed hard, trying to get rid of the lump in his throat. “Now you’re just being an idiot.”

“Think about it,” Caleb said. “He brought you and Sammy what you really wanted, covered my wish, too.” He gestured to the table where Dad and Sam were. “How else do you explain your Dad going from Scrooge to Johnny Jingle Bells?”

Dean shrugged. If all those monsters are out there were real … "I guess maybe Santa could be real.”

“Exactly.” Caleb bumped his forehead up against Dean’s. “I guess this means there’s no need for me to bring that baseball glove and telescope to Jim’s.”

“It is your fault I’m such a skeptic.”Dean grinned. “I could still use some convincing.”

Caleb stood with a laugh. “After what you pulled last night, you should consider yourself lucky not to be permanently etched on the naughty list.”

Dean grinned. “Says the jolly little elf who plans to give himself a bunch of ho, ho, hos for Christmas. Santa would be ashamed, not to mention Jesus, who has the original Christmas birthday, Damien.”

Caleb stood with a disgruntled snort. “Have I mentioned that you’re growing up way too fast?”

“I’ll be thirteen soon.”

“I know. We’ll celebrate your crossover to the official teen years in style.” He held up his fist. “Deal?”

Dean bumped his against it. “Deal.”

Caleb opened the door. “Now go see if you got that B.B. Gun you were wishing for, Ralphie.”

“Shut up.”

“Bye, Runt. Catch you later, Johnny.”

“What about my money?” Sam dashed to the door. “You owe me five dollars.”

Caleb dug into his pocket and pulled out three crumpled ones and some change. “Add the rest to my tab.”

Sam took the money with a smirk. “Uncle Bobby says I should always get collateral, but since it’s Christmas I’ll let it slide.”

“Thanks for that, Runt.”

Dean was unable to keep the smile off his face as Sam surprised Caleb by latching onto his waist with a crushing hug. “Thank you.”

Caleb hugged him back. “Tis the season.”

Sam pulled back, looking up. “I still want the rest of my money.”

Caleb put a hand over his face and shoved him away. “Ingrate.”

“Be careful, Damien,” Dean said.

“That goes double for you, Deuce.”

Dean closed the door behind his friend, turning to find Sam looking at him. “What?”

“You said Dad would be here.”

“I’m your big brother. No matter what Damien says, I know everything.”

Sam lowered his voice even though Dean could hear the shower in the bathroom running. “It still doesn’t change the fact he lied to me.”

“He’s still our dad, Sammy.” Dean motioned to the table and the brown bag wrapped presents under the tree. They were probably from the same convenience store across the street, but Jim was right. It was the thought that counted. “He does the best he can.”

“And so do you,” Sam said. He stepped closer to Dean. “Maybe I should give Santa another chance.”

Dean could have sworn he heard the sound of sleigh bells. “I think that would be great, Sammy.”

Sam smiled the smile Dean hadn’t seen in a while. It reminded him of Mom. “I’ll give Dad another one, too. Just for you. Merry Christmas, Dean.”

Maybe Sam wasn't the only one who needed his faith restored. Dean tossed an arm over his brother's shoulder. “Merry Christmas, Sammy.”



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