“Sam! Sammy!” Dean’s voice echoes through the snow-blanketed forest. Everything is quiet — not even the wind whistles through the frozen branches. It’s eerie. The stillness in this particular part of the woods came on suddenly as if he stepped beyond a heavy, unseen curtain. Like someone’s cupped their hands over his ears to muffle the world around him. It makes Dean hyper-vigilant, checking his blindspots, trying to shake lthe feeling something is watching him.
Cursing, Dean tugs on the sleeves of his leather jacket–something certainly not fit for traipsing through shin-deep snow with only the light of the moon and a meager flashlight to guide him. It’s not like hunters get days off though, regardless if it’s two days till Christmas or not. Dean’s got a job to do and he’s going to do it… as soon as he finds his bro–
“Umph! What the…” Dean jerks up from where he’s landed face first, spluttering around a mouthful of snow. It’s oddly comfortable, in the way only snow could be, to a body that’s spent the last two hours trudging through it. Momentarily, he’s tempted to give up entirely, and stay there sprawled out in the white powder until he becomes a meat popsicle. He can’t though, not with rumors of a dryad on the loose.
Pushing to his feet, Dean manages half a step before he’s flat on his face again. “Sonova–”
Glancing down, he doesn’t see anything that could have tripped him up. Experimentally, he lifts one leg then the other. There’s a strange resistance on his right ankle like it has a heavy weight attached to it. “Damn it…” He grumbles, running his fingers down the soaked denim of his shin to circle his ankle. The beam of his flashlight bounces over his legs and the ground, but nothing stands out.
“Figures,” Dean huffs, his ass is getting wet and the chilly night air settles deep into his bones. Now that he’s stopped moving he’s much more aware of just how frigid it is out. His fingers tremble as he tries to figure out what kind of trap he’s blundered into.
“My, my, my,” A tiny voice tinkles like glass wind chimes, making Dean jump. “A Winchester!”
“Who… what?” Dean reacts without thought, his gun snatched from the holster at his side and pointed up at the tiny blue sparkle hovering just above his head. “A… fairy…? ”
“Quite!” The little shimmer giggles, floating up and down left and right, in close and out far, jerky little motions that leave a glimmer of sparks and a trail of light in her wake. All in all the movements are mesmerizing and hard to follow. It’s making Dean dizzy. “What are you doing in my Fairy Circle? Have you come to kill me, or bring me a bauble?”
“How do you know who I am?” Dean shivers, the barrel of his gun shakes in the air.
“Those who don’t know a Winchester by sight, are in for a short life!” The fairy spins through the air, her wings shimmering. The trail of red and green sparks behind her slowly fade to darkness, leaving flares and spots in Dean’s vision. “So what will it be…?”
“Look, lady, I don't have time for this. Just let me go, and I’ll be on my way.”
“On your way, you say? And I get to live another day?” The fairy twirls mid-flight, her soft blue glow grows bright and then fades again as if she’s thinking.
“Look, I’ve got bigger problems than you right now so…”
“Maybe, tis true, that there are problems bigger than me, and bigger than you. For what’s in your heart simply cannot be true! I will turn it around and make you see. There is more to this season than misery.”
“What are you even talking about?” Dean rolls his eyes; he doesn’t have time for this. Maybe…. he shoves his hand into his jacket pocket and pulls out a peppermint. “If I give you this you’ll let me go, right?”
The fairy ducks down toward his fingers and her color glows brightly for a moment. She spins in a tight circle, and her giggles fill the still night air, unnaturally loud. There’s a soft, warm pressure against Dean’s fingers and then the peppermint is gone.
“A gift freely given, deserves one in return. I'll awaken your heart and no longer shall you yearn. A life, such as yours, so darkened by loss, must have hope, love, trust. ” The fairy pauses, her color dimming before growing blinding bright. Dean winces, shielding his eyes. “I will give you this gift, a Fairy’s True Wish. For this holiday, be surrounded by family. Celebrate and decorate, drink and be merry. May the moonlight of the final night find you in the arms of your... huckleberry!”
“Whatever…” Dean says, and the last thing he remembers is a flash of blue and sneezing through a cloud of red and green fairy dust.
“Dashing through the snoooow. In a one horse open sleeeeiiigh . Ouch, damn it. Come on you sappy bastard…. Where was I? Jingle bells, Jingle Bells…. ”
The sound of Dean singing in the middle of a hunt sets Sam on edge. It’s not unusual to hear Dean sing; in the shower, in the car, or late-night karaoke in some seedy mid-western bar. Sometimes he even hums while field stripping his weapons, but never, ever has he belted out Christmas carols. Let alone in the woods, at night, while he’s supposed to be hunting a rogue dryad.
He’s not, however, hunting anything, Sam realizes as he steps around a large fir and finds his brother hunched up under a small pine tree singing at the top of his lungs. He doesn't even know all the words; he just keeps repeating the chorus over and over again.
“Dean?” Sam calls, his gun held firm in front of him as he steps into the small clearing. The singing cuts off, and Dean looks over his shoulder, his eyes flicker for a moment–red, then green–so quickly Sam is sure he imagined it. In this line of work, though, you don’t imagine your brother’s eyes going completely red, then green.
“Christo...” Sam calls, cautiously walking over to where his brother is kneeling, and Dean falls back onto his ass laughing.
“Happy Christmas to you too! I’m glad you’re here, come help me cut this beauty down.” Dean jingles his keys–his fingers are covered in sap and bark, some cut and chapped, bleeding where the skin cracked from the cold–and turns back to tuck under the bottom-most branches of the pine tree. “Do you have that demon blade on you? I’ve only got my car keys, and they aren’t doing anything to cut through the trunk.”
“Dean… Dean? ” Dean pokes his head out from under the tree, a smile splitting his face in a way Sam’s hasn't seen before. “What's going on? Did the dryad get you?”
“Man, what’s it look like I’m doing? I’m cutting down this tree. It’s going to look awesome in the war room. Maybe right by the stairs… oooh, we have that little annex…. I think there’s an outlet over there. OH! We need to get some string lights, garland… ornaments. I wonder if it’s too late to get eggnog?” Dean mumbles distractedly as he hunches down again, then just as quickly he pops back out, “The blade? You have it, right?” He holds his sticky sap covered hand out and, too stunned to do anything else; Sam hands the blade over. “Yes, perfect. Hey, you think Cas likes eggnog?”
“I… dunno,” Sam stammers, blinking.
“We should ask him... after we get this baby over to my baby.” Dean pats the pine tree and, with one last grin, sets about chopping–well, slicing–it down.
No matter how hard Sam tries, he doesn’t get anything out of Dean on the trek back to the Impala aside from holiday plans. And it is Dean; Sam’s sure of it now. He wasn’t at first, but after trying three different exorcisms, pressing a silver, then gold, and finally a holy oil covered blade to Dean’s skin, there’s no way the man standing before him isn’t his brother. Just a hopped up, smiling, verging on a jovial version of his brother. It’s sort of scary, Sam decides. He had no idea Dean could even smile this much anymore.
Insisting on going to the local supermarket, grin in place, Dean flips to a radio station playing Holiday music. While chatting about his plans for picking up a spiral ham along with a plethora of other items, he’s written out into a shopping list.
It all just gets stranger because the list is not even in Dean’s usual handwriting. After he strapped the huge pine tree to the roof of the car, Dean had pressed an old flyer he found in the glovebox to the hood, and, while loudly commenting on his lack of a proper calligraphy pen, wrote out–in flowing cursive, no less–a beautiful and detailed shopping list. At this point, Sam is convinced Dean’s been replaced by a pod person, or skinwalker, or something….
A calligraphy pen?! For fuck’s sake?
“He’s not a skinwalker…” Cas says, appearing in the dairy aisle with a flutter of invisible wings.
“Cas, perfect! Traditional or spiced eggnog?” Dean practically sings, holding out two cartons. Sam groans, running his fingers through his hair.
“I don’t understand. What could have happened? We weren’t even separated all that long.”
“Did you catch the Dryad?” Cas asks as he turns, ever indulgent of Dean, and takes both cartons from him to read the labels.
“Turns out a local woodsman chopped her down to get some firewood for his cabin. We didn’t even need to be in the woods tonight,” Sam clarifies. The entire night is starting to look suspicious.
“Interesting. What are the chances of this woodsman having an ax with an olive branch for a handle,” Cas says, then turns back to Dean. “Traditional, we can pick up some spiced rum on the way home.”
“See, this is why I love you. You're always thinkin’,” Dean says happily, taking the cartons from Cas and returning the spiced one to the shelf.
Cas stiffens at Sam’s side. Dean, however, seems none the wiser, and sets off with the overloaded cart, stopping in front of the butter this time.
“Is it salted or unsalted for sugar cookies…. I think it’s unsalted….”
“You’re right, something is wrong with Dean,” Cas says, his voice tight.
Sam feels for Cas, really, he does. They’ve been dancing around one another for years now, and though it physically pains Sam to be around them sometimes, he can imagine that this wasn’t the way Cas wanted to hear how his brother truly feels.
“Is he cursed?” Sam asks.
“I don’t think so…”
“If he is possessed it would be by a Winter Spirit of Sprite. They enjoy playing pranks and are exceedingly active during this season. We could check by simply…”
“Guys! Look!” Dean pops out of a side aisle holding a huge wreath. “It's the last one! They said I could have it half off cause it’s the floor model. I’d pay full price for it though, look at it!” Dean lifts the wreath, so his face framed by the hole in the center and smiles. Its thick pine boughs are woven with bright red holly and soft pink camilla. It’s all held together with a red velvet ribbon; small tinkling bells jingle merrily every time Dean moves.
“Well, he’s not possessed.”
“What do you mean?” Sam asks as they set off after Dean. They just manage to stop him from putting a four-foot-tall wooden soldier into his cart.
“It’s easy to tell if a person’s been possessed by a holiday spirit; they can't touch camilla. It's not as popular as holly is this season, and if it were the sprites would have a much harder time playing their tricks. Camilla wards against possession and coercion. Maybe he got bitten by something? Have you noticed anything strange… I mean aside from the obvious?”
“Yeah, now that I’m thinking about it. When I first came across him, his eyes flashed green and red.”
“His irises or his whole eye?”
“His whole eye, like a demon would, but green and red instead.”
“Oh?” Sam parrots in the same dry tone. Cas is frowning at Dean. Dean who's chucking cans of sweetened condensed milk into their cart. “What do you mean, oh ? That doesn't sound good.”
“Dean is not possessed or cursed. Unfortunately, he’s been bequeathed a Fairy’s Wish.”
“A Fairy’s Wish… well, that doesn’t sound too bad.” Sam surmises with a shrug, but Cas just frowns harder.
“Do you remember the last time you had a run in with a Fairy?” Cas asks, and before Sam can even organize his thoughts Dean’s yelling again.
“Hey, lady, I saw that first!”
They look up in time to see him trying to yank an obnoxiously overstuffed Rudolf figure out of an elderly woman's hands. Sam darts forward and takes the plushie from his brother, handing it to the woman with a small smile. “Sorry, Ma’am…”
“How rude!” She manages before heading on her way.
“Sam, what the hell!”
“We don’t need that thing, Dean.”
“Everything’s gotta be perfect, Sammy!” Dean counters. “Perfect!”
“Dean, is this tree stand alright?” Cas says, holding out a red and green molded metal stand.
“It’s perfect! Great eye, babe!” Dean smiles fondly at Cas, before sticking his tongue out at Sam as he takes the stand and adds it to the towering pile already in the cart.
Cas clears his throat, his cheeks blotchy before he turns his attention back on Sam.
“A Fairy’s Wish can be a good thing. Their magic works in strange ways though and sometimes leads the victim to take drastic steps to accomplish their specific goal. It appears that your brother has been driven to celebrate the holidays. More specifically, whatever his ideal for the perfect holiday is. Though, just how far he’s willing to go to assure it is a success, we can’t know yet.”
“Apparently enough to fight a grandma,” Sam sighs. “How do we break it?”
“We don’t break it. Let me rephrase. We could break it, but we would need to know the exact wording the Fairy used on Dean. Fairy magic is fickle like that. The best thing I can suggest is that we let it run its course. While Fairy spells are strong, they don’t usually last all that long.”
“How many power strips do you think we need?” Dean calls from down the aisle. Before either Sam or Cas can do more than look at him, he shrugs and dumps the entire box into the cart. “Better safe than sorry.”
Sam drops his face into his hands and groans.
“Don’t worry, Sam,” Cas says, dropping his hand on Sam’s shoulder. “I’m sure it won’t be that bad. We will face it together.”
“Babe! Look, mistletoe!” Dean grins, his brows bouncing. The hand Cas has on Sam’s shoulder tightens.
“Together,” Sam reminds him, and Cas deflates, shoulders sagging.
“I just don’t understand,” Cas huffs almost angrily as he shoulders his way out of the kitchen. He’s stripped down to his shirt sleeves, which are rolled up to his elbow and his hands, forearms, and the apron that’s wrapped around his torso are covered in flour and icing. The sweater he had on earlier is missing, and Sam wishes he could take his own off as well.
Sam rolls his forehead on the desk to look up at him. It’s just past three am, officially Christmas Eve, and Dean has shown no signs of slowing down. Sam’s been mainlining coffee for the last two hours and Cas, even with his diminished angel mojo, doesn't seem to be faring any better. Comparatively, though, he’s been dragged along into Dean’s plans much more than Sam has, but still…
“It’s like the more we do, the more he does. Nothing seems to tire him out. Even I grow weary.” Just as Cas drops down into a chair, there’s a huge crash in the kitchen. Dean’s half-hummed, half-sung lyrics to Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree don’t even stutter.
Cas rolls his eyes and drags his floured body back up out of the chair. He’s just reaching the door when it busts open, and Dean–Santa hat perched haphazardly on his head, an apron, patterned with Santa's suit wrapped securely over the bright green Christmas sweater he has on–pushes through it; almost knocking Cas over.
There’s a moment where Sam can only blink tiredly at the two of them as they try to navigate around one another. Together they step left, then right, then left again, before Dean, blush riding high on his cheeks, smiles at Cas.
“Hey partner, wanna dance?” He asks, to which Cas frowns and grumpily rolls his eyes.
Reaching out, Cas snags the tray of cookies from Dean, “We do not have time for dancing, you’ve just set the second pie crust out, and the filling needs to go in.”
“Alright, alright, rain check.” Dean winks, and before he turns back to the kitchen, he snags a cookie from the tray, biting into it and humming happily as he disappears again.
Cas sets the tray of cookies down on the table between a large poinsettia and a porcelain sculpture of snow dusted pine trees. There’s a soft fondness on his tired features as he adjusts the tray, so it sits in the center of the table.
It’s the same look he wore when he helped Dean string thick boughs of holly on the banister of the stairs leading down into the bunker. And when Dean shoved the matching sweater to his own at Cas, tiny little holiday lights that glow, blinking merrily through the knitting, and the angel had put it on; Sam had hidden his grin behind a cup of eggnog.
Now, sitting at what used to be his favorite table in the library, Sam looks around. Surrounded by softly twinkling string lights, the ethereal glow of countless cinnamon and pine scented candles brings the warmth of Dean’s decoratively draped red velvet to life. The tartan tablecloth spread over the old library table and all the little last minute chotchkies Dean bought bring a lightness to Sam’s chest that he hasn’t felt in many years.
The entire bunker has been transformed under Dean’s skillful hand, and somewhere deep inside Sam knows that if they’d grown up differently; if their life had even an ounce of normality to it, Dean would have that house on his street. The one with the lights already up only moments after Thanksgiving ended. The ones that flash in time to Dean’s favorite holiday carol.
Because he’s always made an effort, Dean, to try and bring a sense of order to their lives. No matter how hard it was for him. No matter how little success he had, Dean always tried to give Sam the best he could.
Sniffing hard, Sam clears his throat and runs his fingers through his hair. Shaking off the cobwebs of sleep, he pulls himself up out of the chair and bumbles into the kitchen for yet another cup of coffee.
He pauses in the doorway, heart hammering in his throat at the sight that greets him. The kitchen is a mess; baked goods of all sorts sit around cooling. The small room is filled with the scent and warmth of allspice and chocolate. Dean is leaning against the counter, and a steaming mug clutched in his palms, a scant two, maybe three inches between himself and Cas.
They are whispering, leaning towards one another, flower and icing sugar dust their fronts and powder their hair, but neither seems to mind. Cas has put his matching sweater back on and together they blink in greens and reds and yellows, casting their faces into contrast. The whole scene looks like it belongs on a Christmas card.
Deciding his need for caffeine isn’t strong enough to ruin this intimate–and if anyone asks him, long-awaited–moment, Sam tries to retreat from the room. Not that he’s successful, because for some reason Dean always knows precisely where Sam is at any moment.
“Sam! No! Go, go!” Dean shouts, setting his mug down so his hands can flail through the air. He comes charging across the kitchen, bodily pushing Sam back through the door. “You can’t see, not yet.”
“Coffee ,” Sam laughs, letting Dean press him back into the library.
“No more coffee, Cas made hot toddies!” Smiling like Sam’s never seen him do before, Dean glances over his shoulder and calls, “Cas, bring Sam some of that delicious drink thing, yeah?” Dean glances at Sam and then back to Cas again, nodding at whatever Cas is doing, before turning back and saying, “Head to the annex. We’ll bring it to you there.”
“Fine, fine.” Sam concedes. At this point, there’s no arguing with Dean. It’s been a day and a half; they are just hours from dawn on Christmas morning, and Sam honestly has no idea how or when the curse will break, but, looking around the decorated bunker, he’s happy they got to spend one holiday like everyone else in the world. Together, warm, content, exhausted, and, from the smells steadily filling the bunker, soon to be, well fed.
Stepping into the annex, Sam blinks back tears. He’s sure that the emotions now blocking up his throat are more pronounced because he’s yet to sleep in the last 24 hours. The tree Dean picked out is trussed up in silver and golds, mismatched ornaments from the discount bin and shotgun shell casings that Dean’s hung from what looks like bits of old tattered flannel shirts. Its glow’s beautiful in the low light of the annex and standing pretty in the corner. A halo of light makes it shimmer, baubles, and tinsel sparkling. The walls, usually lined floor to ceiling with ancient tombs, are now accompanied by ribbon and pine and shimmering garland.
Opting to let the tree be the main focal point, Sam drops his hand from where it’s hovering over the light switch and settles himself in one of the old cracked and worn leather armchairs. A fire sparks and pops in the grate to his right, and really, Sam can’t remember the last time he felt this safe, this comfortable. This tired.
Sucking a breath, Sam wakes up slowly, quietly. He doesn’t remember falling asleep, but he must have at some point since there’s a cold cup of what he thinks was a Hot Toddy some hours ago sitting on the small table on his left. Somewhere in the bunker, a grandfather clock he wasn’t aware they had is chiming a deep tone, counting slowly to the dawn of Christmas morning.
Blinking and stretching, Sam glances around the room. Dean’s balanced on top of a rolling chair, reaching to place a bright star atop the tree. Cas stands beside him, his voice a low rumble, lost under the toll of the grandfather clock. Dean laughs, his attention splitting to look down at Cas as he sets the star in place.
Dean’s shout is loud in the intimate atmosphere, his arms flailing. The chair rolls back, sliding across the tile floor, and he gasps, jerks, and falls. His Santa hat hits the ground, quiet under the softly playing holiday music, but Cas steps forward in time, easily catching him. Sam’s half out of his chair to assist, but neither of them seems to need it, or him, so as quietly as he can, Sam slides back into his seat and does his best to feign sleep.
“I told you to be careful,” Cas says, arms contracting around Dean’s shoulders.
Dean laughs, small and quiet, and Sam suddenly feels an intense need to be anywhere but here, a voyeur on yet another private, long overdue moment.
The grandfather clock tolls and Cas places Dean’s feet back onto the ground. Through veiled eyes, Sam watches his brother draw the angel close, and, in the flickering firelight, they embrace. It’s soft and sweet, and Sam smiles down at his lap. Finally, he thinks.
Cas’ panicked shout has Sam up and out of the chair, a blanket he hadn’t noticed before falling from his lap and tangling around his feet.
“Dean!” Sam shouts, lunging towards the pair. Dean’s limp in Cas’ arms, head lolling back and eyes wide and unseeing. “What’s happening? Is he breathing?”
“Dean, Dean?!” Cas whispers, his voice tight, pained. He adjusts his hold on Dean’s limp form, bringing one hand up to cup his cheek. “Please, please…”
Dean’s body shudders, his eyes white with how far they’ve rolled back. He rattles in a long wet breath before groaning lowly. His body tenses and he sneezes. A full body tremor passes through him, his muscles spasming, twitching, until he sneezes again, and this time every pore explodes with glitter.
Clouds of red and green, shimmering silver and gold, and sparkling shards of blue erupt from Dean’s body, covering them all and the surrounding room. Glitter floats through the air, making its way to the ground in great heaping drifts.
The fire hisses as it burns up sparkles that find their way into its grate. Cas coughs. Sam rubs at his eyes, scratchy little bits of shimmering plastic itching across his face.
“Craft herpes,” Dean groans, coughing up more little clouds of shimmer. “Fucking fairies.”
Tension wracks Dean’s frame when he finally looks around, finding himself wrapped up in Cas’ arms, and Sam can already see the denial bubbling to the surface. Can see his brother mentally backtracking, trying to come up with an excuse. Cas’ face sets, impassive, ready to go along with anything Dean comes up with.
“What do you remember?” Sam jumps in, cause he cannot, he can not go back to the way things used to be. Judging by how Dean clears his throat and looks around the room, it’s everything.
“All of––uh… yeah,” Dean glances at Cas before stepping back and grumbling, “Fucking fairies.”
“Dean...” Cas tries, voice pinched, and Dean reacts immediately, jerking his head no .
“Well great!” Sam claps his hands, sparkles exploding into the air. “Good,” he says awkwardly, then clears his throat and decides just to barrel on. “I’d just like to say this was nice and everything, everything , you did, Dean, was wanted, and uh, I think we should do this every year… and nobody regrets what they did while they were under the effects… right, Cas?”
“Right.” And for once Cas is quick to respond. Reaching out, he grips Dean by the wrist.
“And…” Sam adds loudly, as his brother’s face pinches in obstination. “No one was shocked… by… anything that happened.” Sam looks from Dean to Cas and back again, arching his brows. “And no one thinks any differently of you or, uh, anyone. And nothing’s changed , Dean, so that you know. No one thinks any differently of you because you um… have this uh, love , of holidays… and honestly, it would be a shame if we never got to experience this sort of ...uh, thing… again. Right… Cas?”
“Absolutely, Sam. Well said.” Cas nods, solemnly, and it takes everything in Sam not to laugh at his glitter encrusted face. “Some of us… might even, love the holidays just as deeply as you do… Dean.”
Sam’s face stretches almost painfully; he’s smiling so hard. It’s rare for Cas to pick up on double talk like this, but if there is any time for the angel to do it, it’s now.
“Okay, okay! I get it, shit.” Dean wipes a hand down his face, cursing as glitter smears everywhere. “Fuck.”
When he looks back up, there’s a small smirk tilting his mouth. “So, holidays are going to be a thing for us then?” He asks as he steps forward, his hand sliding down into Cas’.
“Yes, I think so, if you’d like it?” Cas says, his voice slow and cautious.
“I mean we already have all these new decorations…” Sam supplies helpfully.
“I guess we do…” Dean clears his throat and turns to face Sam, “Why, uh, why don’t you go put some feelers out. See if we can get Donna, Jody and the gang in sometime in the next few days… might as well celebrate with everyone if we’re going to do it at all.”
“Right, yes. Why don’t I go... do that…” Sam smiles, backing out of the room. As he’s pulling the door closed, Dean clears his throat and very quietly asks,
“So, Cas, tell me what you know about mistletoe...”
Somewhere off in the bowels of the bunker, the grandfather clock tolls one last time, ushering in a bright and new Christmas morning.