Sam gets a phone call Christmas morning, while he’s in the middle of opening presents with Jess; it’s Andy Gallagher. “Dude,” Andy says, “I’m sorry to bother you, but seriously, you’ve got to get her to stop.”
Sam steps out of the room, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Ava?” he asks, though he already knows.
“Do you know how many fruit baskets arrived today? Twelve, Sam. Twelve. I live in a van. I have a mini fridge. What am I supposed to do with twelve fruit baskets?”
“Make fruit salad?” Sam suggests, glancing back over his shoulder and shooting Jessica an apologetic look.
“One of them’s a miniature pear tree, Sam. With a tiny fake partridge in it. Tracey says I should be grateful it wasn’t a real, dead partridge cocooned in saran wrap. That’s a seriously weird thing to have to be grateful for, don’t you think?”
Sam thinks: you should be grateful to be alive. But he says, “I’ll call Henriksen again and get him to tell her to quit it. Okay? But Andy…I know it’s annoying, but she’s really just trying to show you that she’s sorry. Because she is.”
Sam can hear Andy let out a sigh, and when he speaks again, his voice is lower, calmer. “I know. And I get that, y’know, Hallmark doesn’t exactly make a card for this kind of situation.”
Too bad, Sam thinks: sales of “I’m Sorry I Killed You” cards would have seen a big upswing this past year.
Andy sighs again: Sam can picture him running a nervous hand through his hair, at twenty-four looking weirdly young to Sam now, never mind that they were both born the same year. “I miss having mind control powers, man.”
“I hear you,” Sam lies. “Try to have a nice Christmas, okay?”
“Yeah, you, too,” Andy says. After a moment, he finishes the call with, “And seriously. Thanks again.”
I didn’t do anything, Sam thinks, closing the phone with a click. Slipping it back into his pocket, he turns around. Jessica’s still sitting on the floor, in front of their tiny tree; she’s wearing the look of slight apprehension that in seven months hasn’t quite left her eyes. “You okay?” she asks.
Sam wants to bury his hands in her hair and kiss the tops of her eyelids and hold her and never let her go.
Instead, he kneels gently at her side and resumes feigning interest in the galley of their new novel that Chuck and Becky sent. (It’s about horny gay space pirates or something. Sam doesn’t really want to know.)
“Everything’s fine,” he says.
The truth of it is, Sam cannot think of a single better thing that Dean could have asked for; nevertheless, he feels his brother may have seriously underestimated the weirdness factor.
When they came face to face with God—and Sam can still not fully process the memory; it seems like something that happened in a dream he had while severely intoxicated, and also possibly suffering from a head injury—but when It happened, Sam froze. Or rather, his utter awe and complete reverence made him go slack; he stared, pliant and limp, when God said—in an entirely unassuming, unimpressive voice—“You have been of great service. You deserve a reward.”
This is not an exact quote: due to the dreamlike quality of his remembrance, Sam can’t actually recall the precise words. (Yup: God spoke to him, and when Sam retells the story, he needs to paraphrase. This, he figures, explains a lot about the Bible.) Dean’s response, however, he remembers perfectly. “Oh yeah?” his brother demanded, seriously violating God’s personal space. “How about bringing back to life every single person who died thanks to this stupid, pointless little squabble your kids started because Daddy didn’t love them enough?”
Sam does remember thinking that: only his brother, such an obedient little soldier all his life, could come face to face with the biggest general of them all and choose that moment to throw the chain of command completely out the window.
Sam had pretty much never loved Dean more. He was man enough to admit it (at least in the privacy of his own head): he had watched his big brother stare down God, listened to him demand back every single life that had been stolen in the war between Heaven and Hell, and all Sam had been able to think was that he loved Dean a crazy amount, and that he hoped Dean got to be happy, that he got everything he wanted and more.
And for once in his life, Dean got exactly what he wanted. Word for word.
Somehow, despite Sam taking his best stab at fashionable lateness, he and Jess are still the first to arrive at his grandparents’ house. The concept, like the face of God, is still difficult for Sam to process: he has grandparents. Whose house he can go to. Bearing a dish of Jessica’s German beans, no less.
Grandma—nope, still too weird; to keep from feeling like he’s having a total out-of-body experience, he has to think of her as Deanna, and her husband as Samuel (though that’s honestly not much better). Anyway, Deanna opens the door; she’s wearing a red sweater and tan slacks and looks much sleeker and chicer than most TV grandmas, which is Sam’s only basis for comparison. She’s also holding a large kitchen knife with an ease that speaks of many years’ training and comfort. “Haha, oops,” she says, when she sees Sam, and casually tucks the blade away in a sheath hidden beneath the holly-red wool.
This, Sam thinks, is his family.
He is conscious of Jessica standing beside him, full of thoughts of what she must be thinking—a desperate desire for her own family, which she has not yet been able to successfully reunite with; bitterness that she came back from the dead only to wind up stuck with this—when Deanna pulls him into a hug. It is awkward, because Sam is an awkward hugger in general, and also because of the casserole dish. But, “We’re so glad you came!” Deanna enthuses, undeterred. “Jessica, it’s so nice to see you again. You look lovely. Come inside, both of you. Let me take your coat.”
Sam bobs awkwardly through these basic social interactions; he’d gotten good at this at Stanford, he remembers—trained himself, practiced. But whether it’s time or experience brought to bear, it comes less easily for him now, even when the people involved are his own flesh and blood.
He shrugs off his coat and hands it to Deanna, who shoves it in a closet that also appears to contain several sharpened wood stakes and a cracked plastic snowman. Raising his eyebrow at that, he turns back around only to be confronted with his namesake lurking in the foyer. “Sam,” Samuel acknowledges with a nod.
“Sir,” Sam manages.
Unfortunately that’s all he’s got. The silence stretches, awkward and thick. Sam is forced to acknowledge the fact that he barely knows these people; that before this year they have never been part of his life, despite the tenuous ties of blood.
“The house looks fantastic,” Jessica speaks up. Thank god—no, literally, thank God—for Jess. “It’s amazing what you’ve done with it in such a short time.”
“Thank you,” Deanna says with a smile. “It’s been interesting getting to decorate with an eye toward ‘modern’ design.”
Deanna and Jessica start to talk about ’70s fashion vs. the post-millennium look. Sam shifts his feet and looks at Samuel; he feels like there ought to be something for them to discuss, but Sam has never been much for the type of trying-too-hard ‘manly’ boasting that most hunters seem to like to engage in. Jess is saying something about cultural mores influencing aesthetics, and that’s history, that’s psychology, and that’s all a whole lot more interesting to Sam. Sam figures that just like his father, Samuel must sense this; his stony-faced silence is obviously one of disapproval.
Sam is about to give in and ask his grandfather if he’s killed anything particularly nasty lately when there’s the blessed sound of a knock on the door. Sam, perhaps rudely, rushes forward to do the honors, praying that it’ll be his brother. But God’s clearly returned to retirement: instead his parents are standing there, his mom radiating joy, his dad standing back a ways, hands tucked into his pockets in a manner that suggests either hostility or shyness. Despite his disappointment that he won’t have Dean’s familiar presence to fall back upon, Sam feels his chest constrict. The hug he lets his mom sweep him into is much less awkward than what he’s used to.
He and his dad manage a firm handshake and a fond shoulder pat, which is pretty good for them, too.
Relieved of his part in the welcoming ceremony, Sam is free to turn around and watch the rest of it unfold. His mom and Deanna hug warmly; Mary then turns and gives her father a slightly more awkward embrace, followed by a tentative kiss on the cheek. Samuel and Deanna seem slightly in awe of her, their grown daughter. She was only Jess’ age when they died, Sam thinks, and wonders if it’s equally weird for them to see the two young women lightly embrace, their blonde hair mingling like shafts of sunlight.
Weirder still must be John, who’s now closer to Mary’s parents’ ages than he is to their daughter’s, and who is nothing like the man they knew. Of all his resurrected relatives, it’s his dad with whom it’s been easiest for Sam to fall back into familiar patterns, which is both good and bad; when he’s seen John over the last few months, post-apocalypse, he’s seemed calmer, less driven, but still the man Sam remembers, who Sam wouldn’t live with again if you paid him a billion dollars and got the little discrepancies with his law school applications straightened out. (Ash is trying, but as he likes to point out, “Just because I came back from the dead doesn’t mean I can work miracles.”) Sam watches John and Samuel exchange gruff hellos, and the way they make no show of hiding the fact that, even after all these months, they’re still sizing each other up is almost funny. Almost. If Dean were here it would be, Sam thinks.
And seriously, where the hell is his brother?
At some point in the chaos, Sam lost track of Dean. They’d been side by side when God had vanished in a sizzling lightning-crack snap, blinking into the light together as they slowly realized that the field where they were standing was now empty of discarded angelic and demonic vessels and instead full of people, people yawning and stretching and standing up. Far more people than had formed the casualties of the battle: hundreds, thousands, gasping awake and staring up at the pearly morning sky.
Sam and Dean had been right next to each other, their jaws hanging loose with awe, when a familiar voice had shouted, “Sam! Dean!” Sam turned in time to see his brother get socked in the shoulder. It didn’t look like it was a very hard punch, as Dean’s face broke out into an expression of pure delight. “What did you guys do this time?” Jo asked, grinning at them. She was wearing the outfit she had died in, Sam realized, but her face looked clean and clear of pain as she turned it up toward the sky. “Wow,” she breathed.
Dean grabbed her and hugged her fiercely, which was what Sam had been about to do. He rocked back on his heels and glanced over his shoulder only to see Jake Talley staring back at him. Sam was reaching for his knife before he had time to blink, but the other man—boy, really, Jesus—had already bowed his head and turned away. Sam let him fade into the crowd, feeling something in his chest tighten or loosen or—he didn’t even know. It was yet another thing he couldn’t quite process.
“Dean Winchester, just what do you think you’re doing?”
Sam glanced back and saw Dean guiltily stop trying to crush the newly-given life out of Jo and step back. He was immediately swept up into a much sharper, more business-like embrace that ended with Ellen thwapping the back of his head. Sam felt a startled laugh escape his lips. “I’m afraid to ask how you boys managed this, and I know a few things about gift horses and mouths, so.” Ellen paused, her voice cracking a bit. “Joanna Beth,” she said.
Sam would have felt embarrassed that his eyes were a little moist, but Dean was full-on mopping at his cheeks; and he got called a girl? Really?
Ellen and Jo broke away from each other, grinning, but much more composed. “Don’t I get a hug?” Sam found himself asking, petulantly.
Okay, maybe getting called a girl was occasionally somewhat justified.
“Why, Sam, all you had to do was ask,” Ellen said.
They double-teamed him. It was, as Sam usually found such things, kind of uncomfortable. But good.
Sometime after that, though, he lost Dean. Sam had last seen him talking to Henriksen, who after getting up off the ground and cracking his shoulders, had immediately and confidently stepped into the role of Coordinator of the Newly No Longer Deceased. But then Andy had pulled him around to share a “Yay, not dead!” fist bump, and after that he’d had to try to calm down a gaggle of alternately distressed and near rapturous nuns. He was having a very awkward conversation with a very confused but friendly guy who also unfortunately bore the face Sam associated the most strongly with the Yellow-Eyed Demon when a voice from behind him said, “Sam?”
For several long moments, Sam didn’t turn. He didn’t want to look, to turn around and once again be confronted with such a beautiful, seductive lie. But his willpower was ultimately no better than Orpheus’: he turned and he looked.
There was Jessica and there she stayed, standing before him with her lip between her teeth. Her hair was loose around her shoulders and her feet were bare beneath the short white nightgown she was wearing, a familiar tan trench coat draped over her shoulders.
And thus Sam’s first words to his newly resurrected girlfriend were, “Where did you get that coat?”
In fairness, Jess’ greeting wasn’t much better. “Wow, you really filled out,” she said at almost the same time. In the silence that followed their overlapping words they stared at each other. Then stumbling, awkward, they began to laugh.
“A nice man gave it to me,” Jessica said after a minute, wiping the tears from her eyes. “He said I looked like I could catch my death. Sam,” she said, suddenly, sobering. “I died.”
“Jess,” Sam could only say, “Jess...”
There were still several feet between them. The distance felt impossible to cross. Sam’s arms hung impotently at his sides. He couldn’t think of a single thing to do or to say, nothing that could explain, that could make it all right.
Jessica turned her head and looked up at the brightening sky, much as Jo had. The coat hung off her small frame like a cape. “I can tell time has passed but not how much,” she said. Her gaze drifted down to the people moving all around, many finding each other, exchanging embraces or harsh words; some lost in their own private worlds. “I feel like Miranda after the tempest.”
“I missed you,” Sam managed finally. “Jess, I missed you so much.”
“And what have I missed?” she asked.
Before he could even begin to contemplate an answer, a pair of hands were clapped down over his eyes. “Guess who?”
Sam, distracted, didn’t get to put quite the pleasure he would have liked into his answer. “Pamela?”
“You got it, grumpy!” Pamela slid around to face him, unfortunately choosing to pinch his ass on the way. But her eyes were bright and playful and, you know, present in her skull, so he couldn’t really begrudge her that one. Even though it had caused Jess to cock her eyebrow at him.
“Well look at you!” Pamela was saying. “I guess those big muscles and that surly attitude were enough to save the world after all. And then some,” she added, glancing around. “How exactly did you swing the class reunion?”
“It was Dean,” Sam was more than willing to admit. “Pamela, I’m so happy to see you, but I kind of need to...”
Pamela was nodding—and winking—her understanding, but Jess stepped forward and put her hand on his arm. Sam started at the touch—her slim, cool hand. “It’s okay, Sam,” she said. “I’m glad you’re being reunited with your friends. I’d like to meet them, actually, if...”
Sam nodded, dumbly.
Pamela, much more relaxed, grinned and stuck out her hand. “Pamela Barnes,” she said. “Demon knifed me in the stomach.”
“Jessica Moore,” said Jess, with little more than a raised eyebrow. “I’m still not entirely sure.”
“How do you know Sam?” Pamela asked.
“Oh, Sam and I go way back.” And Jessica smiled at him, fond and sad.
“Jess is my girlfriend,” Sam said loudly, impulsively. Presumptuously, he knew. “I mean...”
Before he could pull his foot the rest of the way out of his mouth, he finally caught sight of Dean. His brother was standing about a hundred yards away, talking to Castiel, unsurprisingly. The angel looked weirdly small and delicate without his trench coat on, and whatever he was saying was clearly not making Dean very happy. He wasn’t frowning, but Sam could tell that there was something off about Dean’s body language, and he was standing a lot farther away from Castiel than he usually did. Stranger still, as Sam watched, Dean stretched out his hand and gave Castiel’s a firm shake before turning and striding toward Sam with a frown now visible on his face.
He was intercepted briefly by Pamela, and the wide, open smile that was much less familiar to Sam than his brother’s scowl once again made an appearance. Having also reacquainted her palm with Dean’s ass, Pamela waved goodbye and Sam raised a hand absently in return. He watched as Dean trudged the rest of the way over.
“Everything all right with Cas?” he asked, because Dean’s problems seemed more palatable than his own.
“Cas?” Dean asked, confused. He followed Sam’s gaze and comprehension dawned with a sigh. “That’s Jimmy,” Dean said. “You seriously can’t tell?”
“Oh,” Sam said. He should have guessed: besides his encounter with not-Yellow Eyes earlier, he’d also let Uriel’s spitting image borrow his cell phone so he could call his mother. (This despite Henriksen’s request that the contacting of loved ones be curtailed until a system less likely to freak out large portions of the populace could be arranged. On balance, Sam apparently found a guy who just looked like Uriel scary enough to warrant an exception.)
“I gave him Amelia and Claire’s new address,” Dean said, shoving his hands deep in his pockets, the angle of his shoulders sharp. “So that’s good, I guess.”
Dean seemed angry. Sam stared at him, puzzled, and was about to open his mouth and ask several deeply probing questions when Dean did a double take. “Jess!” he said, some warmth returning to his face. “You found Jess.” When he turned to Sam he was beaming, though the grin didn’t quite reach his eyes.
Sam had the pleasure of reintroducing his brother and his (maybe? kind of? this was awkward) girlfriend. Jess seemed as friendly and enthusiastic to make Dean’s acquaintance as he remembered—the memory made Sam’s chest hurt—though on Dean’s part there was rather a lot less leering this time around. Instead of staring at Jess’ chest, Dean’s eyes seemed drawn continually to her shoulders, his smile growing more absent by the second.
By the time Sam spotted his parents coming toward them through the crowd, it was almost anticlimactic. So much had happened that it was almost like he couldn’t feel more than he already had: he was numb from joy rather than from trauma. His mom hugged him and touched his face and she was solid, she was real, and in some ways it felt more hallucinatory than certain hallucinations he’d had.
His parents actually alleviated this problem a bit by almost immediately getting into an angry, hissing fight that was seriously unbefitting the newly not-dead. It kind of brought things back into perspective, however: his parents clearly loved each other, but damn, did they have issues.
Sam was a little embarrassed that Jessica was having to listen to this, so he encouraged her to shuffle a few feet away to where Dean was already standing, frowning down at his phone. Even beneath the coat, Jess was starting to shiver—her feet were bare, duh. He really was a shitty boyfriend, Sam thought, as he crouched down and started to unlace his boots.
“Sam, that’s okay, you really don’t...”
“God fucking dammit,” Dean hissed, shutting his phone with a snap. He stalked away again, but there were people everywhere, so it was kind of pointless. He stalked back.
Sam had tensed: considering recent events, blasphemy seemed particularly ill-advised. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
For a second Dean looked like he was about to tell him, but then his face changed; he composed himself. “Nothing. Nothing. Everything’s amazingly good to the point of being a little creepy, actually. And now Mom and Dad are making out.”
Sam looked in the direction that Dean’s suddenly widened eyes had directed him, then quickly turned his back. Dean did the same. “I didn’t actually need to see that,” Sam said.
“Nope,” said Dean. They stood side by side awkwardly, while Jessica silently laughed at them. “Oh, shit,” Dean said suddenly. “I forgot to call Bobby.”
Even from several feet away, Sam could hear Bobby’s tinny voice through the phone informing Dean that 1) Ellen and Pamela had both already called him, and 2) he and Sam were both idjits. Dean nodded along to the tirade for a few seconds before handing the phone to Sam. “Apologize for me, okay?”
Sam tried. When Bobby had finished venting his frustration—and there was something Sam could have asked for, he thought, something that Dean’s request didn’t cover: Bobby’s legs—and he had extracted a promise that Sam and Dean and the newly-extended Winchester clan would get over to South Dakota as soon as they could, Sam clicked shut the phone and turned back around. He did a double take: Jessica was now wearing Dean’s leather jacket and what looked like a pair of his socks. Sam searched the crowd and caught sight of his brother talking to Ash and Henriksen, a bundle of tan fabric balled up under his arm.
“Did he say anything to you?” Sam asked Jess.
“You obviously have quite the story to tell me, Sam,” Jess said, giving him a knowing look.
Sam ducked his head. “Yeah, I do.”
“Your brother,” Jess said, and Sam looked up again. “He said that they all left.”
Sam turned quickly, staring after Dean.
Jess’ voice was quiet, curious. “Who’s ‘they’?”
Deanna clears her throat. “Mary, Jessica, if you two wouldn’t mind, I would love some help in the kitchen.”
Sam’s mother and his girlfriend of course acquiesce, leaving Sam to watch their retreating backs longingly. Don’t leave me, he thinks, feeling pathetic. “Samuel,” Deanna continues, not helping, “why don’t you take the boys into the living room and get started on those hors d’oeuvres?”
Sam thinks his dad looks thrilled to be lumped in with “the boys”—as thrilled as Sam feels to be taking a seat on a couch that’s way too low for someone with legs as long as his. John and Samuel commandeer chairs at either end of the coffee table, leaving Sam in the middle. “Drink?” Samuel asks, after a moment’s silence. Without waiting for an answer, he gets up again. Standing with his back to them at the small wooden bar, he pours three glasses of whiskey. Sam’s, he notices upon being handed it, has by far the least amount of liquid in it—and the most ice.
His father and his grandfather sip their drinks. Sam nibbles at a piece of cheese on a cracker.
“So,” his dad asks after a minute, lifting his chin in Samuel’s direction. “Any good kills lately?”
Sam sinks down in his seat so his knees are up somewhere around his ears. This is going great.
“How’d it go?” Dean asked, then seeing Sam’s expression, amended the question. “That good, huh?”
Sam let out a sigh. “Jess is asleep in the car. I just want to check in with Ash and then get out of here. Get her home.” Sam scrubbed a hand through his hair. “Such as it is.”
“They wouldn’t see her?” Dean asked in a low voice.
“Her mom wouldn’t. Her dad made sure to see us so he could call us—Jess especially—a lot of names. Con artists and worse.” Sam took the beer Dean handed him without protest, even though he knew he had to get back on the road soon. “Some people can’t believe the truth even when it’s right in front of them.”
“Yeah, well, some people don’t have our practice,” Dean said, sipping at his own bottle. “Doesn’t excuse it, though. I’m sorry you got douchebags for in-laws, Sammy.”
Sam opened his mouth to correct him, but took another sip of beer instead. He followed Dean through the cool, dark bar and into the back room where Ash and Henriksen had set up shop. Henriksen was perched on a folding table, his shirtsleeves rolled up to his elbows. “Hey,” he said, nodding at Sam. Sam nodded back, a little tentatively. He knew Dean and Victor were like BFFs now—Dean had been showing Henriksen the ropes when they went out hunting, and with Victor’s help, Dean had graduated from copy shop maker of fake IDs to something of a master forger—but he still made Sam a little nervous. The dreams about Lilith and Lucifer were fewer and farther between, but Sam still had nightmares about being caught on the wrong side of the law. And Dean had always been quicker to forgive and forget than Sam.
“Hey, Sam,” Ash said. He seemed in a better mood than the last time Sam had seen him, which was just after Henriksen (with Dean’s help, probably) had cut off Ash’s mullet in his sleep. Sam had unfortunately rolled into town just in time for the fallout, which had involved an epic argument about Ash and Henriksen’s unofficial Resurrected People’s processing and help center. (Ash’s hair was unprofessional! Victor still thought too much like a Fed, and also, he was a jerk! No, Ash was the jerk who left his dirty socks everywhere.) The whole thing made the two of them sound disturbingly like a married couple.
“I got some more transcripts and a couple of mocked up letters of recommendation for you, too,” Ash continued. “Lemme just go find the letterhead Victor made and I’ll print ’em up for you.”
Sam felt Dean give him a light tap on the arm. “I’ve got something for you, too,” he said. “Be right back.” He followed Ash out the door, leaving Sam alone with Henriksen.
“So.” Sam cleared his throat. “You and Ash seemed pretty intent. What are you working on?”
“Oh,” said Henriksen, a little too casually, rolling his body off the table. “It’s nothing.”
But Sam had already come around and was shamelessly studying Ash’s monitor. He frowned. “Isn’t that Ash’s demonic omen-tracking program?” He shot Henriksen a worried look. “You’d think that’d be obsolete.” Since demons were supposed to be gone and all.
Henriksen sighed and folded his arms. “He modified it. We’re keeping an eye out for angelic omens.”
“Why—” Sam started, but Dean chose that moment to reappear. Henriksen’s concerned look—that fell on Dean, then skittered away—finished the conversation for them.
“Here,” Dean said, handing him a stack of postcards and photographs. “Ellen and Jo sent these. All the latest stops on their world tour—I thought you might like to see.”
Sam smiled faintly as he looked through all the shots of mother and daughter mugging for the camera in various exotic locales. He was a little jealous, actually: there were so many places he would like to go, that he had never been. But he had other responsibilities, and he didn’t regret them.
Ash came back with the stack of printouts for Sam, which Sam glanced at briefly, feeling somewhat pessimistic that they’d do the trick. “Thanks, guys. I really appreciate it.”
Dean clearly looked like he wanted to ask Sam to stay for a bit, but he didn’t, and Sam had Jess waiting in the car. She didn’t need to wake up alone, on top of everything else today.
As he started for the door, however, Dean did call out, “Hey.”
Dean was leaning against the table, attempting to look casual and not having a lot of success. “Mom was talking about maybe doing a family Christmas this year, at, uh. Grandma and Grandpa’s?” The familial terms came out a question. Dean ploughed on. “Any interest?”
Sam hesitated. “You’ll be there, right?”
“Dude,” Dean said, grinning easier. “Mom said Grandma Deanna is making four kinds of pie. I’ll be the first one there.”
Sam laughed. “I’ll hold you to that,” he said.
The second Sam hears the familiar purr of the Impala’s engine, he’s out of his seat like a shot. On some level, he knows he’s way too excited to see someone he saw every damn day (with some notable exceptions) for five years. But now all he can think is, Dean is here! Instead of staring awkwardly into space, he can talk to Dean! Not only that, with just his presence, Dean can take some of the heat off of him. Dean, loud and brash and inappropriate, can always be counted on to steal the attention of a room.
This turns out to be a remarkably prescient thought. Because the second Sam opens the door, it becomes apparent that Dean is not alone.
Sam blinks in confusion at the figure standing behind his brother on the stoop, wearing an only slightly more contained version of Dean’s shit-eating grin. The face is familiar even if the expression is not, but... “Sammy!” Dean croons before Sam can process any further than that. “Santa’s here!” He slaps a bottle of champagne into Sam’s hand. “From Victor,” he explains, using his now free hand to pat Sam on the shoulder as he pushes, rosy-cheeked and grinning, into the entry hall. “Don’t drink it all at once.”
Sam stares at him, glances back toward the man following on his heels, then ducks his head and returns his gaze to Dean. “You brought Jimmy?” he asks in a low voice, not bothering to hide his confusion.
Dean barks a laugh. “Dude. You seriously can’t tell?”
And so Sam’s head swivels back the other way again. The man in question is level with him now. “Hello, Sam,” he says, simply.
“Merry Christmas,” Castiel says.
Sam is still turning this information in his head as the foyer begins to fill with people. Dean fumbles through the many and various necessary greetings without much grace but with no real sign of discomfort. The conversation buzzes along pleasantly until almost all it once it dies down to a hush as everyone’s eyes swivel to Castiel. “Dean,” Mom asks, while Cas continues to take the onslaught of stares calmly. “You brought a friend?”
Dean, if anything, grins even wider. He stretches out a hand and without turning snags Cas by the sleeve and hauls him closer. “This is Cas. He’s the reason I was so damn late, so you can all blame him,” he explains, beaming.
“My apologies,” Castiel says, with a small bow of his head. “My arrival was unexpected.”
“Well, I’m glad you could join us,” Deanna says after only a moment’s silence. “I’ll just go grab an extra plate.”
She slips out one door, and a moment later, Samuel stalks out the other, back toward the living room, shaking his head. The rest of them stay frozen in an odd—and to Sam, awkward—tableau. His parents exchange a look.
It’s Jessica who speaks first, though. She steps closer and smiles up at Cas. “Didn’t you lend me your coat?”
Castiel looks down at himself, fingering his lapel like the fact that he’s wearing the garment is surprising to him. “No,” he says after a moment. “I’m afraid that was someone else.”
“Speaking of,” Mom says, unfreezing. She strides forward, arm outstretched. “Here, let me take that for you.”
Cas and Dean exchange a look; then Cas slowly peels the coat off his shoulders. It may be the first time, Sam realizes, that he’s seen Cas—as himself—without it. Like the coat, the rest of his clothes don’t fit him very well, and Sam is reminded again of Jimmy and his tidy house and his ill-fitting suits.
He draws Dean swiftly aside. “Look,” he whispers, finding this hard to say in the face of Dean’s grin. “I’m glad Cas is back, but Dean. You let him possess Jimmy? On Christmas?”
Dean, as part of a habit that Sam is finding increasingly infuriating, laughs again. “Cas,” he calls over his shoulder. “Reassure Sammy that it’s all you in there.”
Castiel turns to face them. There is something about his expression that Sam would almost describe as wry.
“It is all me in here,” he says. “I can assure you, Jimmy Novak is safe with his family.”
Sam can feel his father’s eyes on him. “You want to catch me up, boys?”
He looks up, slightly flushed, in time to see his mom roll her eyes. “What John means to say is, how did you two meet?”
Dean meets Mom’s smile with one of his own, wide and almost innocent. He reaches out and slaps Cas’ arm casually, but instead of letting his hand fall back to his side, it lingers.
“Mom,” he says, “remember how you used to tell me that there were angels watching over me?”