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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Supernatural Christmas Carol Chapter 8

Authors: Lady Laran and Tisha WymanWarnings: Bad language and violenceSpoilers: Season Five - so if you’ve not seen it, be warned a few things are a bit weird.Disclaimer - We do not own Supernatural nor A Christmas Carol. The show is owned by Eric Kripke and the book is by Charles Dickens. Neither of us has rights to this nor have we earned anything by doing this. We’re just doing this for fun. Oh..we also don’t own Christmas at Ground Zero or any other carols that might be mentioned. This is a story of healing, family, humor, and horror. Sounds like a typical Thursday night on the CW. (Of course, the CW has gone bonkers and moved them to Fridays, now. We shall see.)

And So It Begins

The drive back didn't take too long, and he stayed alert for any drunk drivers that may have been foolish enough to get behind the wheel. Finally, he pulled into the driveway and gently nudged his brother.

Dean woke immediately. "We here already? You're good. Thanks, Sam." He opened the door and stumbled when he tried to stand. "Damn it!" The older brother grabbed the car door and tried to pull himself up. "Sammy, I think I need help."

He was at his brother's side immediately. "What's wrong?"

"I think it's my knee. It hurt it a little when I landed on it with Bobby. I was able to get up and walk and it only twinged a little. I thought I bruised it. Still may be what it is, but it won't let me stand real good on my own right now. If I bruised it, it may be swollen some, and that would cause this. I think I need to just get in; maybe put some ice on it. Most likely, once I'm on it and walking it will get me in and I can make the cider. I just need help getting up."

Sam turned his back to his brother. "Hop on. If it's bruised, we need to keep weight off of it until we can get some ice on it. When we get in, strip to your boxers."

"Okay, Sam, then I'll have to tell you how to make the cider." Dean put his arm around his brother's neck and used one leg to hop up and pull himself up onto Sam's back. He braced his brother's weight easily. Thanks to his height and build, Dean's weight wasn't too bad to carry. He locked the car behind him and headed into the B&B. Once they got into the suite, he called out for Cas to get a bag of ice for his brother's knee. Dean stumbled on one leg to his chair and sat down. He winced as he bent down and started untying his boots. He managed to get the one on the good leg off but found himself having problems pulling off the other.

"Sam, can you help?"

Sam got the boot off, looking at his brother. "Unfasten and push down as best you can. I'll get the rest of it off."

Dean leaned back, undid his belt and the button, and he unzipped. Using the good leg, he lifted himself up and began to push his jeans down toward his knees. He sat back down and his brother tugged the jeans off the rest of the way carefully and examined the knee, calling Bobby over for his opinion.

"I think it's just a bruise. I didn't do anything to sprain or strain it. Just fell on it."

"Well, let Bobby take a look. He knows this stuff better anyway. I'd feel better knowing he did."

Dean nodded and waited for Bobby to do his examination of the injured knee. Bobby did just that.

"Just bruised it a bit. We'll keep ice on it for a while and see how it is."

"Thanks, Bobby." Dean looked at the kitchen. "Okay, who wants to make the cider and I'll holler instructions. If you want, bring the spices and I'll put them in the pan. Just fill the pan with cider, and heat 'til it boils. Lower to simmer, and let it simmer about 5-10 minutes. Keep it on very low after you serve. Keeps the rest hot."

Sam went to make the cider, following his brother's instructions. "Someone choose a movie."

"Hey, Bobby, you're right by the cabinet. You choose one you think we'd like. Broaden my horizons."

Bobby rolled to the cabinet, looking at the movies shelved there. Dean laid his head back, his foot on a foot stool, wishing he could pull both feet up like he had started doing. He rested his eyes, smelling the cider as it simmered. It smelled like Sam got it right. He smiled. May have been a bad couple of days but he was glad they had happened. A week ago, he would have run. He always looked for blessings where he could find them. He listened to Bobby going through the movies, hoping for another surprise from that quarter. Bobby was certainly broadening his horizons. He was definitely going to demand to see the Doyle book with his handmade bookmark in it. Smart? Dean softly shook his head in wonder.

The movie was in and ready to go by the time Sam came out with the cider and sliced gingerbread for everyone.

"Thanks, Sammy." Dean sniffed the cider. It smelled wonderful. He took a sip, and closed his eyes in pleasure. "Hey, Sammy, you did a fantastic job on the cider. Thanks."

A beaming smile was given to Dean.

Dean grinned back. "What are we watching, Bobby? Anything we need to know before we watch?"

"It's one called ‘Twelve Angry Men.’ I think you boys will enjoy it." He got himself settled and sipped at the cider, letting it warm him from the inside.

Dean started watching and thought a jury movie? It didn't take long to get his interest and soon he was hanging on to every word. The acting was incredible. He was surprised that an older movie would be this good and not be a B horror or sci-fi. Sam and Castiel were getting into it too, drawn in by the acting and intriguing storyline. Bobby smiled to himself, watching them and the movie as well.

Dean kept trying to sit up straight and finally gave up. He had to work at seeing the movie, but didn't even realize he was. The intensity of the drama had him captive. The movie was one of the best he'd ever seen. He wondered why he'd never heard of it. Castiel moved, putting pillows behind him to help support him so he could watch the movie without straining himself.

Dean looked up and smiled. "Thanks, Cas," he whispered.

"Welcome," he whispered back, moving to his own seat again.

When the movie credits were running, Dean looked at Bobby. "That's one of the best movies I've ever seen. When we go home to stay, I'm raiding your collection."

Bobby chuckled. "No problem. It'll be fun to have movie nights together. Sure as hell beats watching them alone."

"Yeah, you are right about that. Done some of it myself. Actually got to where I hated movies. It's fun to share."

"That it is," Bobby yawned. "Ok, I'm heading in to bed. Good night boys."

Sam tapped his laptop meaningfully at Dean, reminding him of what they'd spoken of earlier.

Dean nodded. The trio wished him a good night and once the door was closed behind Bobby, the laptop was turned on and soon Sam was surfing the sites.

"Don't they have some new space age metal or something that can hold a lot of weight, take a lot of abuse, and not damage?"

"That's what I'm hoping to find."

"He's still a hunter, Sam. Never know when he might be alone and come under attack. He needs a chair that can handle it."

Sam nodded, then grinned. "I found the perfect one and better yet, it's on sale." He handed the laptop to Dean so he could see it.

Dean looked at the chair. It had a lightweight, indestructible framework, according to the brochure. It also was motorized but the motor was a new kind that was lightweight and would allow Bobby to work the chair himself if he wanted. "What's Bobby's delivery address, Sammy?"

He rattled it off, grinning at the surprise Bobby would get when it arrived.

Dean looked at his jeans. "Can someone hand me my wallet out of my jeans?"

Castiel found it, handing it to him. "Here you go."

Dean got out one of the cards and then looked at Sam. "They have different size chairs. What size?"

Sam pointed out the one that might suit Bobby best. Dean dialed the number on the site. The customer service agent talked him through what was needed and gave encouraging details on the chair they had chosen. It was obviously the best on the market for the money. He gave her the card and number, the name and address for it to be delivered after Christmas. A short while later, a confirmation number was given to him and affirmation that the chair would be delivered and set up on the day after Christmas. Dean asked the customer service agent to wait until the 28th to have it delivered as the recipient would not be home before then. She agreed, changing the delivery date, and then wished him a merry Christmas.

Dean wished her the same. "Man, day after Christmas would have been a major problem."

"No kidding," Sam answered. "But at least he'll have more maneuverability."

"Yeah. He can do his regular thing with his arms. When he tires, he can turn on the motor. It's light. Won't tire him as easy. It's strong. He put that drive mechanism in that truck, Sammy. He's still mechanicking."

"Yup, which is good. I'm glad to see it." He turned the computer off and sprawled on the floor, staring at the fire. "Damn, this is nice."

"Yeah, it is. Bobby has all those fireplaces in the house. We can fix the place some for him. Make it easier for him to move around in there. He's got rooms that he's locked off. I want to open them up, demon proof them and use them, Make a big library of that one off the kitchen that's so big. Think Bobby would mind?"

Castiel answered. "He'd probably be grateful to get the books organized."

Sam nodded. "We'll have to catalog them so we can keep track of it."

“Yeah, I was wondering what it would take to learn how to do that. Cas, it would be a big job but one you could do. I can help build the cases we'd need. I also want to put a small one upstairs for our personal books when we buy some."

The angel nodded. "It would take some time but could be done. I would enjoy spending time inside of that library."

"We can still give out information and knowledge to hunters. Let it be known that it exists and have one phone for it. Bobby keeps a half dozen numbers anyway, to help Sammy and me."

"I can translate the older texts as well as preserve the original." Honestly, the angel knew that would be a chore he would enjoy a great deal.

"That would be awesome, Cas. I think we have your job."

He smiled at that, glad to be useful.

"Counting today, we have three days to Christmas," he said with a grin.

"Dang, it goes slow." Dean felt like a kid. "I've never gotten the chance to really have a Christmas and to give things to the people I love. I can hardly wait."

Sam laughed at that. "I hear you there. I'm starting to look forward to it."

"Sammy, this Christmas idea of Bobby's is the best thing that has ever happened to us. Even if there were no presents, it would be beyond anything we've ever had."

"I agree with you, Dean. I'm really glad he insisted on it."

"Me, too. I'm tired, guys. The knee is still a little sore. I think a good night's rest would be a good idea for it. Make sure you put the screen up on the fireplace and bank the fire, Sammy. Love you guys. Night."

"Good night, Dean." Both chimed it, then headed to take to their beds as well.

The rooms were dark, warm and comfortable. The pendulum clock on the mantelpiece chimed midnight and as the last chime happened, the room began to grow cold. At the chiming, Castiel stirred. Something was off to the angel.

Cas remembered going to bed around two a.m. The clock just chimed midnight. It was taking a few minutes to realize that the clock was now off by two hours. It had chimed two when they retired. He climbed out of bed, walked into the living room and stopped. Something was definitely wrong to his angelic senses and he backtracked, calling for Sam. The other stirred and asked what was wrong when he saw the tense stance of the angel.

"There is something in the living room. I cannot see it but can sense it. It has messed with the clock, and the temperature is considerably colder."

Sam started swearing, reaching for his duffel to see what he might have in the bag to help deal with trouble. He looked at Cas. "I would rather keep Bobby out of this if we can, but we need Dean.”

Castiel nodded, going to the other bedroom to try to wake Dean without waking Bobby.

Cas gently nudged Dean who woke immediately. "What's wrong"

"There is a situation in the living room," he murmured softly.

"Okay," Dean's duffel was opened. He found his gun and swore, knowing he didn't have the time to put on pants, He was in his boxers and a t-shirt. Quietly, he slipped into the living room. The room was unnaturally cold. He saw Sam standing by the other bedroom door. He told Cas to stay behind him as he had no weapon.

Sam was looking at an EMF detector, which was going haywire. "Something is here."

Dean nodded, he motioned to the fireplace and the iron utensils. Castiel grabbed one, handing Dean and Sam the others.

"Where the hell is it? I sure wish we'd salted this place."

A ball of light began to form, taking the shape of a man dressed in clothing that matched the era of Dickens.

"Aww...come on. We got a Dickens wannabe? Hey guy, we're in Texas, not England."

Sam's eyes widened as the ghost took on a more solid look. "I beg your pardon, gentlemen."

Dean stood there, gun in one hand and an iron fire iron in the other. "I beg your what?"

The spirit took on a look of annoyance. "Your lives have been reviewed and found to have a lack of you will be visited by three spirits."

"What the hell? Don't tell me, your Marley, right?"

"Absolutely not. I'm Charles Dickens."

Dean started laughing.

"And what, pray tell, do you find so amusing?"

I'm standing here three days before Christmas, in Galveston, Texas, in the United States of America. By the way, it's 2009. And you are trying to tell me you are Charles Dickens? You don't know my life, Dude, and You are in the wrong country."

"No actually..I'm in the correct home. This home belongs to one Ebenezer Scrooge."

Dean started laughing harder. "A Christmas Carol was written by you a long time ago, dude. You just woke up hunters. We kill things like you."

Sam was frowning. This was just too strange.

“I am aware of your profession but cannot be harmed."

"If I can find the piece of you still hanging around, you can. I will."

"Dude, England," his brother muttered.

"Dude, he is drawn by something. Attached to something. He can't be here unless something has him. He's attached to something."

"The Scrooge family holds a curse on it. I was unable to break it and am cursed to follow until the family curse has been destroyed."

"I'm not Scrooge. Have your three spirits find him and haunt him."

The ghost ignored Dean and went on with his spiel.

"At least one of you has had problems with the holiday, so we were drawn to you. You must complete the visitation."

"Look, man, that's private and it has nothing to do with the holiday. Things were getting better. This will screw it big time."

The ghost gave them a sad look. "Three spirits," he repeated before fading.

Castiel stared at the spot where the ghost had stood and shook his head. "I must say this is most unusual."

Dean went to his room and grabbed some clothes. He came out putting them on. " Sam, Cas, you need to get dressed. We are fixing to be kidnapped by mentally disturbed Christmas ghosts cause, man, it's not Christmas Eve. We need to be ready. If we can't find what has hold on this curse, we are in big trouble. Damn, I don't want to go back into my past."

"Neither do the rest of us," Sam retorted as he went to dress. "Probably should wake Bobby."

"If he's asleep and doesn't appear, they may not mess with him. They sure won't haul his chair. Don't want to do that to him."

Castiel nodded, heading to change as well.

"Sammy, I don't know how close to the story this is gonna be. We may not be protected at all. We need to get some weapons. We can't kill the ghosts at the moment, but I have no idea where in our past they are gonna take us. Present isn't very good. Damn, I don't want to see our future."

Sam came in, tugging on his shoes. "No shit...I don't want to see it either."

"I’ve seen one version of it. I have no wish to repeat it. I'm gonna get some shotguns, shells, the colt, and the knife. I'll back inside in a minute."

He nodded, Castiel coming in to take a seat.

Dean returned with a box of shells, the colt and it's ammo, three shotguns, the knife, and silver in case it's needed. "We need to make sure we hold on to these. I have no idea how violent this will get because I'm not going willingly."

Sam took the ammo handed to him and began to load shotguns.

“Okay, they manipulated the clock once, They can do it again because we are so out of time right now. Keep watch. Sam, the EMF still running?"

"Yup, watching it close."

"I brought salt. The demons and angels can't trace us, but they can ghost activity. I thought we ought to salt the place to protect Bobby."

Castiel grabbed the salt and did just that, going into every room to line the windows and doorways. When he came back out, he looked at the others. "If what Dickens said is true, the only way to handle these spirits would be to determine what the curse is and break it."

"Yeah, any ideas on who Scrooge is?"

The angel shook his head. "We shall have to ask around."

"It could be anyone. But it's not Christmas. This is supposed to a one night haunting on Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning."

Sam frowned. "I'll have to think on that. It doesn't make sense."

"No, it doesn't. Why us? Lots of people have problems...Okay, I know that not many have them like we have had in the past, but we've been working it out. It doesn't make sense."

"It could be that it detected that we're working on it and reacted to the fact that it's not resolved?"

"That's just great! It doesn't know what day it is. If we don't have it resolved by morning, will we go through it again?"

He gave one of those scrunched up I dunno looks. "Maybe?"

"We try to do the right thing and this....what the hell is this? It can't be Lucifer because he doesn't know where we are. He can't know."

"The sigils I put on you would prevent him from tracking you. There could be more into this so please calm down. I have a feeling a discussion with our host would be wise. Perhaps he might know of the ghosts here?"

"Well, shall we wake him up? I, for one, do not want to take these trips."

"We can try," Sam answered.

Dean headed for the door when the room got cold and the EMF went crazy. He turned and looked at the clock and watched the hands move on their own towards 1 a.m. "Hell, no!” Dean went to the door and tried to open it and it was sealed in some way. He turned and looked at his brothers. A sense of panic filled his heart.

The room went well beyond cold this time, and Castiel shuddered. This was too well known and he swallowed hard, hands clenching the poker he'd been holding.

Dean walked into the center of the room, cocking his shotgun. Rock salt would hurt the ghost.
Sam's eyes widened, and he nudged Dean to take a look at Cas. Dean turned and looked at the angel. Cas was shaking and clutching the poker like a lifeline. The look on Cas' face scared Dean. Cas was an angel; yes, a fallen one, and angels feared very little. What the hell was this thing?

A female figure appeared in the center of the room. The face would be familiar to Dean but the aura surrounding her would not. There was sheer power in the room, a power that spoke of ancient things. Dean found confusion marring his mind. The power radiating from the creature was devastating. He could not concentrate clearly, and he could not afford to lose control in this type of situation. He turned to his brother, wanting help, but he had no power to move.

"You may call me the ghost of Christmas past," came the soft voice.

Dean stared at her. "Do I know you?"

"My form is one taken from your memory. Yes, Dean Winchester."

"Damn. No, I am not going anywhere with a reaper."

"This is no reaper...not as you know it. This is the head of the angel in her own right. She's known to us as the Angel of Death," Castiel commented.

"I thought this was supposed to be the ghost of Christmas past? Angel of Death? Why are they sending us this. Are you fixing to drag us through death and think you're helping?"

"I am someone from Castiel's past. The curse is extremely powerful, Dean Winchester."

"So, we're gonna go through Cas' past? Sam and I aren't the ones your after right now?"

"All of you. As a spirit, I am called to open your eyes and hearts." She made an idle gesture and they were transported to an old hotel.

"Holy crap! My head's spinning. Where are we?"

"This is a Christmas from the past. Follow."

A door opened, revealing two children and an adult. One child was asleep, probably about the age of two or three years. The other was a bit older, talking to his father with an upset look on his face.

Dean froze.

"What is this," Sam murmured, not recognizing this at all.

His brother started shaking. "I don't want to see this."

"I understand, but you must." The spirit was determined and wouldn't allow Dean to leave.

"Look, I've been dealing. I don't need this crap brought up. Sammy doesn't need to see it. Cas don't either."

"This cannot be changed. This must be seen."

Dean backed up against a wall, shaking. Sam went to his brother and bumped shoulders with him, trying to comfort him. The conversation between the child and adult was starting to grow heated.

Dean's fists were clenched. He didn't notice Sam near him.

All eyes turned to the conversation when the adult snapped. "Damn it, Dean. I can't just stay here. I have work to do!"

"Sammy's three years old. I'm seven. He just wants to leave us here."

The child looked upset. "But Dad, it's almost Christmas. You promised you'd stay this time."

"Damn you, why does Sam have to know he deserted us? I kept Sam protected! Why are you doing this?"

The spirit didn't answer as John Winchester frowned at the boy. "This is more important than Christmas, Dean. People's lives are at stake." He left a short time later and the little version of Dean watched the door in hope their father would return. After what seemed like hours, he turned to go to his little brother.

Dean was crying. He didn't realize it. He'd protected Sam. Sam did not know what Dean did at seven years old to keep him protected. The dangers out there for a young child trying to feed a three year old brother. Dad never left enough money.

Sam hugged his brother, realizing what Dean had done even at that age. "I'm sorry...thank you," he breathed into his ear, watching as the childlike form of his brother told the sleeping Sam that he would protect him.

"How is this supposed to help. Damn it. This happened all the time. I failed three times in school for lack of attendance. No one ever checked up on us. Dad had a whole series of notes to give them. I couldn't leave you, Sammy. "

His arms tightened around his brother, shaking himself with emotion. He knew Dean had given up a lot for him but this...this was a slap in the face. "And I was so bratty to you."

"You were a kid, Sammy. I saw to it that you got to be a kid. Damn you, bitch! How is this supposed help me or Sammy? "

She gave a mysterious smile, and the scene changed yet again. This one was an empty field this time, the weather was frigid. Dean was still shaking. He looked up trying to recognize the place.

"Where are we now?"

"Another place from your past, Dean."

"I don't remember this one. How can it be my past?"

Castiel frowned. "I know this place. Your father brought you up here one winter."

"Is this where he left me out here to find my way home...with nothing to help me?"

The spirit pointed at two figures. Again, the adult although the child was a bit older.

"Dad, I'm tired. I promised Sam I'd be back to spend time with him."

"No. Please. Stop it now!"

She did nothing as the conversation continued.

"There's more important things, Dean. It's time you grew up to be a man.

Little Dean shifted his weight, trying to warm up. "He's alone though, and he hates being alone."

“Men have responsibilities. You failed one of yours. I told you to learn the guide. You used being tired as an excuse. This is your test. I expect you to fail it because you did not do what I asked of you. If you make it back, I will be surprised. If you don't make it back, Sam be will surprised. Your choice, Dean. I imagine you will follow my orders from now on. What happens to Sam depends on you.”

"Sammy was five. I was nine."

Sam breathed an answer. "I remember that. You and Dad were gone for days."

"Yeah. He was mad at me, Sammy. I was supposed to read this survival guide. Between school, helping you with your homework from kindergarten, trying to take care of you and make sure you had what you needed, plus my own school work, I was tired. I didn't read it. He gave me a knife and an empty canteen and left me out there. It started snowing. I couldn't find his tracks, and I was scared to death about you. I ate snow for water but couldn't find any food. My clothes weren't warm enough and I was freezing. I was worried sick about you. Don't know where I ended up, but I finally found a highway. I caught the first damn ride I could find back to the hotel. He never even checked on you. I'm so sorry Sam. If' I'd read that guide, you wouldn't have been alone."

"It wasn't your fault. It was his. God, you don't leave kids in that situation. It's a miracle you came back to me at all." John hadn't shown up for days after, leaving Sam to deal with a sick Dean.

"Sammy, please make her stop. I had all these forgotten, just to stay sane. Please, make her stop."

Castiel looked at the spirit. "This is enough. You've done enough."

Dean fell on his knees in the snow, sobbing, his body shaking uncontrollably.

Sam held him tightly as Castiel glared at the spirit. "Enough is enough," he growled

"He never forgave me for living and her dying because I looked like her."

Sam rocked his brother. "It wasn't your fault; it wasn't your fault."

The scene shifted to a more modern Sam and Dean would be more than familiar with. Dean refused to get up or look.

"Oh god..not this one." He almost laughed, remembering the chaos of this Christmas. Probably his one really good memory.


"Take a look. Remember the Christmas before you went to hell?"

"The minor gods? Now what are we supposed to learn from this?"

A light flickered in Castiel's eyes. "You two bonded that night. Remember?"

"We kind of bonded. We both knew I was gonna die. That he was gonna be alone. It was our last Christmas together. The only real one we ever celebrated. "

"But it was still bonding. You two were happy, even for a brief period of time."

"Cas, it was just asking for something good out of life for a short while. Sam didn't really want to. I know. What made you change your mind, Sammy?"

“You did. Life is too short and too precious. Even though I was determined to try to keep you from going, I wanted to treasure every moment. We came too close to losing each other to become Christmas goodies."

"Yeah, drinking the eggnog, watching a football game, and those crazy presents wrapped in newspaper. You even had a tree."

Sam laughed at that. "The bad eggnog mind you. It was over spiked."

"It was, but I didn't care."

"Neither did I."

"Thanks for that night, Sam."

"Thanks for being there for me, Dean." The words were heartfelt.

The spirit changed the scene, dropping them back in the suite before disappearing.

Dean stood in the center of the room. "I can't do any more. What the hell will they find for present?"

Sam dropped into a chair. "I don't know...don't think I want to know."

"Cas, if they sent death, what else will they send?"

"I don't know. It's strange that they were able to loop death into a curse."

"That worries me. This is powerful. Very powerful. How can death read minds, Cas? It's death. Not a mind reader."

"The presence seemed very real," he answered, leaning against the wall.

"Can we get out? There's no spirit right now?"

Sam started towards the door, hoping they could get out of the next one.

"Ah hell...." Dean's voice had a sound of despair in it. "The clock’s moving."

The EMF went off and the room turned frozen. Dean's shoulders slumped and he bowed his head, not even looking up.

“I'm sick of this already," Sam muttered.

"We got this one and one more, Sammy."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Supernatural Christmas Carol Chapter 7

Authors: Lady Laran and Tisha WymanWarnings: Bad language and violenceSpoilers: Season Five - so if you’ve not seen it, be warned a few things are a bit weird.Disclaimer - We do not own Supernatural nor A Christmas Carol. The show is owned by Eric Kripke and the book is by Charles Dickens. Neither of us has rights to this nor have we earned anything by doing this. We’re just doing this for fun. Oh..we also don’t own Christmas at Ground Zero or any other carols that might be mentioned. This is a story of healing, family, humor, and horror. Sounds like a typical Thursday night on the CW. (Of course, the CW has gone bonkers and moved them to Fridays, now. We shall see.)

Bonding and Healing

Several hours past and it started to get dark. Dean woke up and could hear Bobby snoring in the next bed. He lay on his back, his hands behind his head, and he thought back over everything that gone on over the last two days. It had been an emotional roller coaster ride for him. Yet, and he'd never thought he would say this, it had helped. He and Sammy had gotten things sorted. Castiel had appointed himself the guardian of his emotions, and he realized that they were right. It would be hard, but change was good.

Dean decided to get up and quietly picked up his clothes and slipped out the door. He saw Cas reading in one of the chairs. He slipped into the bathroom, brushed his teeth and got dressed. Walking into the sitting room, the hunter could hear the flute music playing softly. He quietly asked, "What are you reading, Cas?"

"A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I must admit, this is a bit morbid for a holiday that seems so festive." He was over half way through the book.

"Well, it has a good ending, I think?"

"I have not gotten that far but will let you know. Did you rest well?"

"Yeah, I did. Don't even think I dreamed. I really needed it. Didn't think I did. Thanks. We got some cider in there. Would you like for me to heat some, put a little spices in it?"

"I have never had hot cider. I would like to try it," Castiel answered with a half smile.

Dean went into the kitchenette, got out some cloves, cinnamon and a couple of other things. He put some cider in a pot and added the spices and other ingredients. He brought the cider to a boil and put it on simmer. He looked to see what kind of cookies Bobby and Sam had bought. There were a number of them. One bag had gingersnaps covered with frosting and sprinkles. Dean raised his eyebrows at that but thought what the hell. He put some on a plate.

He tasted the cider, then removed the spices and kept the cider barely on heat to keep it hot. Ladling two cups, he brought the cider and the cookies into the sitting room. He set the plate on the coffee table and handed Cas a cup.

The angel took a sip, eyes widening. "This is very good."

Dean smiled. "Thanks. Missouri made it for us when we were there once. I paid attention to what she did. I remember my mom making it and letting me have a little on Christmas Eve."

"Another good memory. You should share this with Samuel later. I think he would appreciate it." He tilted his head. "I have an idea that might make for a gift for him. It would also be for you too."


"You should get a notebook and write the memories you have of your mother and even good ones of your father in it. Even something as simple as smells or pictures that you remember. This way you both can share in them."

Dean thought about it. "I'm not very good about writing, Cas, but Sammy is. Maybe, if I share them, he could write them down."

He nodded. "I think it's something both of you would enjoy."

"I'll talk to him about it. Thanks, Cas."

"Most welcome, Dean." He continued sipping at the cider.

Dean held the cider, breathing in the smell of the spices, his mind thinking back to his mom. It was a good memory. Most of them were. Sam did need to know. When he gave him the cider, he'd talk to him about her and writing down the memories.

Sam stumbled into the area a short while later, yawning and rubbing his face to try to wake up. "Mmm….that nap hit the spot."

"Yeah, it did. Want some spiced cider? I made it fresh."

He perked up at that. "I'd love some."

"There's cookies there if you want some." Dean went and fixed Sam a mug of cider. He gave it to his brother and sat back into his chair getting comfortable. He watched Sam for a few minutes.

Sam sipped at the hot beverage and sighed. "Mmm...oh yeah, you haven’t lost the knack. I almost expected Missouri to come waltzing through."

Dean laughed softly. "Mom used to make it."

"Really? I bet she did a great job with it."

"She really did, Sammy. She'd let me have a little. Said it was too spicy for my age. I usually got just little on Christmas Eve. She let me put some out for Santa with cookies she'd made.. She said it was too cold for milk."

Sam listened to the memory, eyes glistening as he tried to picture it.

"Sammy, I wanted to ask you something. If you say no, it won't upset me. Okay?"

"Sure, Dean, go ahead." He drank more of the cider, enjoying the warmth that made its way down to his belly.

"Well, Cas suggest something. It would be good for both of us. He thought I ought to write down all the good memories of Mom and Dad and put it in a journal or something. It would help me remember things and help you get to them back before everything went bad."

His face lit up. For a long time, he'd wanted stories of their mother but Dean hadn't really shared them due to the fact their father didn't want talk of her much. "I would love that."

"Well, here's the problem. I know the stories, Sammy, but I'm not good at writing stuff like that and making it interesting. Would you be willing to write them? I mean, if I told you the stories, would you put them in a journal for me...for us?"

"You bet I would!"

"Thanks, Sammy. That would be great."

"I'll have to find a notebook. You're welcome, Dean. This will be great to have."

"Yeah, I think it would. And Dad was a good dad back then, Sammy. He really was. He started teaching me how to play baseball. We'd go to the park on Saturday afternoons after he was through at the garage."

Sam listened, trying to picture this John Winchester.

"We would drive over and play ball. Mom would bring a picnic supper. We'd eat after I got tired. Mom made a great fried chicken. She'd make lemonade, Sammy. I guess that's why I quit drinking it. Even Missouri couldn't get that right."

Castiel listened as well, watching the two brothers connect on a different level. Dean was providing them both with something they needed...roots.

"Dad worked a lot of hours in the garage, but Mom was always there, Sammy. She smelled so good.”

"What did she smell like?"

She didn't wear perfume, but she always smelled like the outdoors. We didn't have a dryer, so she hung everything outside. She smelled like the sun and the wind, even fresh mowed grass. It reminds me of her."

Sam bit his lower lip. "You know, when I was little, I'd catch that smell when we were in whatever motel we were in at the time. Some reason, it never freaked me out even when I caught it in the dead of winter."

"Maybe she was watching over us, Sammy."

"I like that idea," he said with a gentle smile.

“Dad was different back then. He didn't drink more then a beer once in a while. He came home every night. He always helped mom tuck us in. She told me that the angels watched over us.”

It felt great to hear these stories...bittersweet but it made Sam feel a part of the past.

Dean shook his head. "That should get us started, Sammy. I'll tell you more every night. I don't want to forget. Not really. I did for a long time, but it's still there."

"I'll see if I can get a notebook to put these in, Dean. This is...I can't tell you what hearing these mean to me."

Dean realized that he'd robbed his brother. "I'm sorry, Sammy. She's your mom too and you have a right to know. I had no right to keep these from you. Cas, thanks so much."

Before Castiel knew what had happened, he had two Winchester brothers hugging him. He smiled to himself, glad to help them heal even more. By the time he was through, he was going to have these two where they needed to be and ready to face down anything. He owed his two adopted brothers this.

“Well, I thought maybe we could find something to eat at the Strand. We didn't let Ben know about supper, so is that alright? When you and I were on the Strand yesterday. I thought I saw a few places. Did you notice there was a train station and museum there? Old one."

"That sounds good to me. There's a train museum here?" Sam perked up.

"Yeah, I picked up a pamphlet on the Strand laying on the counter at Colonel Bubby's. I meant to show it to you. We might spend some time on the Strand tomorrow. They have concerts every evening for Christmas at an opera house there. The museum is huge and at the end of the Strand. They even have carriages pulled by Percherons. Let me get the pamphlet. It tells all about the Strand. We could eat one block over, but it's all seafood."

Dean slipped into the bedroom and came back with the pamphlet.

Castiel shook his head. "Well, we are on an island. It's inevitable to continue to run into seafood restaurants."

"Yeah, but do you really want seafood? I thought it's supposed to be Dickens. There ought to be somewhere on the Strand that's serving that kind of food."

"I'm sure there's other places to choose from." Sam got the hint and went for his laptop.

Dean grinned. "Good researcher, my Sammy." He grinned.

He chuckled, typing some information into the search engine.

"Sammy, don't they eat pot roast and some kind of pudding?

"Yorkshire pudding."

"Yeah, what flavor is it?"

Sam quietly told him what he'd read up on it, and his brother's face looked green.

Castiel's face was rather impassive, and his voice was flat when he responded. "I believe I shall pass on that."

"That doesn't sound good at all. I'll go along with Cas on that."

"I'll agree with you on that one," Sam answered.

“Come to think of it. I don't remember seeing many English restaurants, have you? Maybe they don't have good food."

"They'll probably have food booths there to sell to people."

"Yeah, might be the way to do it. If we really want to get a feel for the thing."

Bobby's voice broke in. "You have a good idea there."

"Evening, Bobby. You sleep good?"

"I did and am ready to get out and enjoy the sights of the festival."

"Well, let's go. You know the area better, Sammy, from following it all on the computer. You want to drive?"

Sam grinned. "Sounds good to me."

Dean tossed him the keys and went to turn off the stove. "Remember, guys, we have a walking date after the festival." He grinned at Cas and headed out the door, holding it for Bobby.

Sam caught the keys and headed out after Bobby rolled out of the suite. He was getting excited about this.

Dean got into the shotgun seat and kicked back. "It's all yours, Sammy."

He started the powerful engine and headed out, knowing Bobby would be behind him in his truck.

The carols chimed from the Impala's radio. Dean was watching the sites as they drove. He felt calmer than he had in years and was thoroughly enjoying himself. Healing might hurt, but afterwards, it felt good. He was grateful for Cas.

Sam pulled into a parking area and turned the car off, exiting the vehicle. It was a gorgeous evening, perfect for this outing. His brother was listening to singing in the distance. It sounded like carolers. Dean was bouncing on toes and heels, waiting on Bobby and Cas. He looked at Sam and grinned. This just might be fun, Sam thought.

Bobby and Cas showed up a few moments later. "Ready to have some fun?"

"Yeah, let's get moving and get some blood circulating. I'm getting cold." Dean grinned and blew on his hands and shoved them into jean pockets to warm them.

The trio followed him, taking in the sites.

They purchased their tickets and entered the Strand, stepping back in time a couple of hundred years. Dean looked at costumes, the way the street was decorated. The music, the smell of food, it was all calling to him, and he really didn't have any idea where to go first. Sam's stomach growled at the smell of all the good food. There was music and so much to see.

"Let's go see what they got to eat and find some place to sit and eat it. "

The group agreed. Everything smelled wonderful and it called to them Dean spotted a food booth and pointed towards it. "Want to see what they have?"

They trailed along with him, listening to the idle chatter. It was a happy area.

"Hey, college boy, I need to pick your brain. I thought corn and turkeys were from here? Did we import to England in the 1800's?"

"Think so. Trade was important back then to keep things going and alive."

"Okay. They got battered deep fried corn on the cob. It looks good, turkey drumsticks, and a weird sounding soup called mulligatawny? And hot tea. You want me to get all of it and we can meet at those tables over there? I'll bring the food."

"Sounds good, do you need help carrying it?"

"They got trays. Think I'll need more then one? Yeah, maybe I better have some help. Four soups, four hot teas, four corns, and four drumsticks. One tray probably won't hold it all."

Castiel stayed with Dean while Sam and Bobby went to find a place to sit down to eat. Dean ordered the food and paid for it. In a few minutes they had two full trays, and he took the woman's suggestion and brought sugar, honey, lemon, and cream for the teas.

Sam looked up. "Wow, that's a lot of food."

"It didn't look like that much when I ordered."

Castiel set his tray down, taking a seat. "It didn't. I would swear it multiplied on the tray if I didn't know better."

"Yeah, I know what you mean, Cas. I swear it was growing bigger"

Bobby chuckled, handing out the food.

Dean looked at the hot tea. He sniffed it, took a sip, and made a face. "Okay, what will help this?"

Castiel was pouring honey and cream into his. "Do you want it sweeter or what do you think it needs?"

"Hell, if I knew that, I wouldn't be asking. It's bitter. Not like coffee which doesn't need anything. This needs help."

Bobby handed him honey. "This will help."

The older Winchester put the honey in the tea and stirred it. He took a sip. Smiled. "That's not bad. I thought cream was for coffee. Cas is drinking it in his tea. I can't imagine. I don't like it in my coffee."

"It gives it a softer flavor."

"It gets rid of the bitter taste? Can someone hand me one of those cream things?" Cas handed Dean a creamer. He added to his tea and stirred it really well. Taking a sip, Dean's face lit up.

"Okay, finally, a use for cream. Tea has a different kind of bitterness from coffee. I like this with cream. Thanks."

Sam bit back a laugh at Castiel, who was gnawing on the turkey drumstick. It was hard to look dignified when eating one of those.

Dean bit into the battered fried corn. Juice was running everywhere. There was a roll of paper towels on the table and he grabbed a bunch to get the juice off his face. "This is good."

The soup was the first thing Sam tried. The hot liquid tasted really good to him, and it helped warm him up from the inside.

Dean put down the corn and sniffed the soup. "What's mulligatawny? That does look a little like chicken in it.” He took a sip, nodded , and drank some more of it.

The meal passed with idle chit chat, enjoying the food and company.

When they had cleaned up and tossed the trash in a bin, they looked around deciding where to go first. "They got something going on at the opera house. You want me to run over and see what it is and if we can still get tickets?"

Bobby smiled at that. "Sounds good to me. I'd like that."

Dean ran across the street and asked about the show. They could see him buying tickets. He came back in a few minutes. "Well, it's some group of singers from different bands of the 60s and 70s doing a Christmas show. We wouldn't know them, probably, but Bobby would, so I bought tickets. Hey, it's a Christmas show."

"Who knows, we might enjoy it. I'd have never pinned you for enjoying the flute music," Sam commented. Tastes changed and it would for Dean, who hadn't been exposed to other things before.

Dean nodded.

“Some guy from a group called Herman's Hermits was one of them. And a monkey? And one of the Beachboys. I've heard of them.”

Bobby started laughing. "You'll enjoy it then."

"Okay, but will you?"

"Yup, I definitely will."

Dean grinned. " Let's go. They got seating for wheel chairs close to the stage. I told them we needed those."

The others rose, walking along side Bobby. "Are we going to see a monkey sing?" Castiel stared at them.

Dean looked at him, "Your guess is as good as mine, Cas."

Bobby snickered, knowing the boys would be surprised.

Dean got some programs. "Okay, Micky Dolenz of the Monkees, Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits, Mark Lindsey of Paul Revere and the Raiders, Bobby Sherman, and Brian Wilson from the Beachboys. This says it's gonna be a rock and roll and Christmas show. They are all gonna perform together backing each other up. Doing their stuff and the Christmas songs. Bobby, these guys are really famous? Cause other then the Beachboys, I never heard of them."

The older man nodded, explaining the background of the groups.

"Bobby Sherman was an actor? And a singer? Huh..." The music started and the older rock 'n rollers put on a tremendous show for 2 1/2 hours. When the last encore had occurred, the men waited until the opera house had cleared, giving Bobby an easier exit.

"So, what'd you boys think of it?" He'd enjoyed himself and had noticed them tapping their feet as well.

Dean was quiet as he listened to the others discuss the show. He smiled at comments and looked around at the activities going on around them on the strand. "You guys want to try mulled wine?"

"I think Sam and Cass can get that for us. What did you think of the show, Dean?" Bobby hadn't missed Dean's silence on that.

Dean waited ‘til the others left to get the wine. He sat down on a bench next to Bobby and looked straight at him. "Bobby, it was great." Dean clammed up again, looking at things around him.

He poked his adoptive son. "Just great?"

Anger flashed in Dean's eyes for a second, and he looked away. He had stiffened. Finally, he relaxed and he turned and looked at Bobby.

"I'm sorry, Bobby. I don't want to mess up this evening. It's just that I'm so mad at Dad right now, I could knock him out cold if he weren't dead. We had to be little soldiers okay. He had set music, set lifestyles, set activities, even set recreation. I couldn't read a book without being made fun of. I wasn't Sammy, okay. That music tonight was awesome! I never heard it before. Now, don't get me wrong. I love the music I listen to. But, damn it, Bobby. I listened to it because I was trying to be him. It's not even as important to me as it used to be. I keep wondering what else I've missed. Damn it."

Bobby didn't react to the anger, just simply patted Dean on the shoulder. "We'll find out and expand your horizons. I warned John before on that, but the damned fool didn't listen. You have time to make up for it now and we'll help you."

Dean looked at Bobby. "Thanks, Bobby. Man, it's half a lifetime I've missed. Sammy knows more about things then I do. I can hunt. That's it."

"Like I said, we'll help you."

"Okay, Bobby. I'm gonna hold you to that."

Dean looked up and saw the others coming. "Never had mulled wine, have you?”

Castiel shook his head at Sam‘s question, handing the cup he was holding to Dean.

Dean took a cup and sniffed it. "Whoa! That's got more spices then my cider! It's hot. Who heats wine?" He took a sip and whistled softly. "This isn't half bad."

Bobby sipped his slowly. "It's a good way to warm up."

"Yeah, the temperature's dropping pretty fast today. It was in the 80s yesterday," Sam replied.

"It's got some kind of fruit juice in it. I can taste it. Wouldn't mind making this a Christmas tradition. It gets a lot colder in the Dakotas."

"You guys wanna take this and walk and see the sites a bit before we go on our date? I mean, we hadn't planned on a rock 'n roll show. Want to see more of the Dickens stuff?"

The three of them nodded, still enjoying their wine. This was a nice change of pace and they were enjoying it immensely. The men took a slow pace for awhile, until all three could see Bobby was getting tired. Dean snuck up behind him and pulled the chair off it's front wheels, tilting Bobby backwards. "My turn to be the motor, Bobby." He set the chair back on all four wheels and slowly pushed.

"Works for me," he joked.

"Good, cause I didn't offer a choice," Dean teased.

"Onward, Jeeves," was the teasing response back. Sam snickered from behind his cup.

"All right, he's laughing. What's Jeeves?"

"It's usually the name for a butler or a chauffeur, Dean." Sam laughed as he explained.

Okay. I'm the chauffeur. I need one of those neat hats they wear. " Dean laughed as he pushed Bobby along. He leaned down and whispered in Bobby's ear. "We'll have to get an Impala name to put on the back of the chair. Only limo I'm driving."

The older man roared in laughter. "Dean, you idjit!"

Dean's head went back and a roar of laughter erupted. He pushed Bobby through the crowds and caught up with Sam and Cas.

Castiel's eyes were twinkling, obviously pleased with the light hearted play between Bobby and Dean. This was a very good improvement in the angel's mind.

"I don't know about the rest of you guys, but we've just about seen what can be seen. I wouldn't mind coming back during the day to see things that were closed. Cas, shall we take them to our spot?"

"I think that's a good idea, Dean."

"All right, let's get out of here. Sammy, you can drive if you want to. I can tell you where we're going. Bobby, you can follow."

They agreed, heading back to their cars so they could get out of the crowds. It had been a great time with a lot to see and do.

Dean got into the passenger side of the Impala. "We're gonna take a right on the Seawall, Sammy."

"All right, Navigator Dean."

After they had turned and knew Bobby was behind them, Dean turned, "We're going to drive almost to the end of the seawall and turn around and head east. We go about a mile and find a place to park on the wall."

"All right," he followed his brother's instructions. Traffic was a bit heavy but not too terrible.

"Traffic is moving which is not too bad. Won't be too hard to find parking. Not too many interested in the seawall at night in the winter."

"True, it's a bit cold. You know, I think there's a sleeping bag in the back. We might could open it and use it for star gazing. This way Bobby won't feel bad about being carried the whole time."

"Well, I was wondering if we stayed out of the wet sand, we might be able to put the chair down there but the salt air might not be good for it. A sleeping bag would be good."

"Metal and salt air is one big rust issue. I'd love to find him a more comfortable upgrade…lighter model. Hmmm..." He'd research that one later.

"Yeah, I'd like to find him one that was light, and had a motor and could be used either normal or under power. That way he can still get his upper body exercise but keep going when he gets tired."

Sam nodded, bouncing the idea around.

"If he goes to bed before we do, let's surf the net and see what we can find."

"That's a great idea. I think he might just go to bed before us tonight. We tired him out on the Strand."

"I know. But it was nice to spend time with him."

Dean looked at his brother as he addressed what was on his mind in regards to Bobby.

"I miss not getting to. His injury makes it so hard now. He can't hunt. He can only help from home and it's killing him. That's why we need to end this thing as soon as we can. Go home."

"Is that why you've been calling him more often for research help?" Sam glanced at his brother before looking back at the road.

"Sammy, he contemplated suicide. I told him we needed him. Not just the research but he's the closest thing to a real dad we've ever had. I told him that. I'm gonna call and ask for help every chance I get. Bobby's got a lot of info in his head, but he also needs to know we need him and miss him. So I do it. I've been calling in the evenings when you go to get coffee, just talk, tell him about the day and get his ideas."

He was quiet for a moment. "I wish you'd told me. Better yet, I wish I had been alert enough to see it. Damn...I'm an idiot."

"Naw, Sammy. We were having our own issues. This happened after you saved my life in that card game. We talked to Bobby and he was teasing you about the win. You left. I was supposed to grab my burger and leave. I tossed that burger, Sammy, and I talked to him. He opened up and told me. I told him we couldn't lose him. I couldn't lose him. He knows he's needed, but, Sammy, I think he'd like it if he knew you did too. I think it's time you accepted what he is in our lives. Dad was never there for us except for a few times. Sometimes I think his being there hurt more then it helped. Okay? Bobby, now, he loves us for who we are. He might yell at us, call us a fool, but never hurt us. He might be mean to get through to us, but never, never has he ever hurt us. He's crippled now so he couldn't hurt me."

Sam was blinking back tears. "Why the hell didn't you tell me, Dean? I love Bobby as much as you do. Damn it...I could have been helping too."

"Sammy, I promised I wouldn't. Damn it, don't get mad at me. We had issues, man. I was trying so hard to let go of things and trust you. I promised Bobby. I think we've got over our issues. Least I hope we have. On my part, we have. Bobby don't know I'm telling you. I'm doing this cause, I'm trying to open up and not keep things a secret any more. You've been asking me to do that for years. So, here, I'm talking. I'm sorry it hurt you, but damn it, Sammy. You've no idea how hard it's been not telling you things."

He looked at his brother. "I'm glad you finally did. Now we can both work together to keep him in the loop and remind him that he's very important to us."

"Okay. There's a couple of spots. We can park close together. The stairs a ways down still, We'll have to walk it."

Sam pulled in, shutting the Impala's engine off. "You go get Bobby, and I'll grab the bag."

Dean nodded and walked back to the truck. "Sorry, Bobby, but no chair for this one. I'm carrying you." Dean smiled, leaned in, got his arms situated, and lifted Bobby into his arms, holding him close.

"Cas, can you lock it up? His keys are still in the ignition."

Castiel nodded, doing just that and following them. Sam had something in his arms and Bobby didn't protest being carried.

"When we reach the stairs, I'll need some support. They're slick. Just stay in front of me and be ready to stop me if I stumble. Otherwise, we're good."

The angel went down the stairs backwards, ready to catch if Dean slipped. Sam was on alert behind him as well. Neither of them would allow anything to happen to either Dean or Bobby.

When they finally reached the bottom, Dean headed west. They walked a couple hundred yards, when he stopped and said, "This okay?"

Cas nodded. "It's perfect. Away from the lights." Sam spread out the sleeping bag after unzipping it.Dean set Bobby down, and helped him get comfortable. They all found a spot and lay on their backs.

"You can really see the stars. If you look out over the water, you can see the oilrigs and ships that have anchored. You can close your eyes and hear the waves crashing and the seabirds."

Sam and Castiel stared up at the sky. The view was incredible. The stars gleamed against the dark night sky like dew drops on black silk. It was radiant and breathtaking.

Bobby was listening to the birds and waves, enjoying the view of the sky. Dean lay next to his father figure, his eyes closed. The wind was strong and blew even his hair. He could feel drops of salt water hit his face when a wave crashed the beach and the wind the caught the spray. The sound of the water was almost deafening. He felt that it blocked everything out, sealing him in a cocoon. A smile crossed his face and he imagined what kind of music could be written as a chorus to the wind, waves, and birds. He imagined the waves being cymbals and drums.

Sam looked up at the vista provided by mother nature, listening to the beautiful symphony going on around them. This...this was what made hunting worth it. Family and a simple reminder that the innocents needed them too…the creatures that provided so much pleasure simply by being there.

Dean sat up and faced the water. He pulled his legs up and laid his arms around his knees holding them close. He watched the moonlight on the water. It sparkled like jewels. He let out a sigh that no one could hear over the roar of the waves. The rigs and ships looked so close, but he knew they were a ways out. He wished the water were warm. He'd kick off his shoes and wade in it. They'd have to come back another time when it was warmer.

"We have to come back during the summer. Maybe do some deep sea fishing. I've never fished'd be fun." Sam was on the same wavelength as his brother.

Dean grinned. "Yeah, I'd like that. Never done that either. I used to like to fish that stream on Bobby's property. Catch little perch. You remember, Bobby?"

The older man chuckled. "I remember. You both near fainted on me when I tried to teach you how to clean them. Second time you went fishing, you did better."

"Well, dang it, Bobby. I'd never even been hunting yet. I'd never seen the insides of anything. You're right though." Dean conceded.

"The fun part was teaching you boys how to deer hunt. I thought you were gonna go all wailing on me when you figured out that deer was the same as Bambi."

"Was I really that bad?"

"Sam surprised me. He was the one who hugged you and explained about the whole circle of life thing. went vegetarian on me for almost a month," he chuckled. Sam blinked. He didn't remember that one.

"I did? Vegetables? Seriously?"

"Even spinach."

"Oh, come on, Bobby. You're pulling my leg."

"I have a picture of you at home, ear to ear with spinach on your face. It's got a shot of the have veggies and Sammy's eating hot dogs. You wouldn't even touch those." He laughed softly. "You finally broke down when I made my special burgers and realized that if you didn't eat meat, you wouldn't get to have any."

Dean sat beside Bobby, a look of shock on his face. "How old was I, Bobby. I mean if Sammy was talking circle of life stuff, I had to be at least 9."

"Right around your eighth birthday. Sam had gotten into some books and was all into reading about nature." He smiled up at the sky. "Damn you two were fun to have around. Hell to keep up with though."

"Sammy did start reading pretty early. I forgot that. I spent so much time reading to him. He started picking up words at four. Wow. He was so smart. I never could keep up with him after he started reading."

"You devoured them too when I finally got you to understand that books were a good thing. It was a challenge finding the materials you liked and didn't bore you."

"I don't remember that. What did I like to read?"

"Hardy Boys to start with, then you branched out into some of the classics. I had some of the classics for children that my mother had gotten for me. You went through Conan Doyle faster than Sam did."

Dean looked at his mentor, curious now that he was hearing all of this.

“You sure, Bobby? I know I read after Sammy left for college, but only when I was hurt and Dad was out on hunts. But, Dad always said I wasn't book smart like Sammy. He said I had street smarts. Sammy had the brains. How could I possibly go through books faster then Sammy? He was always a voracious reader. Started that at four. There's no way I could keep up with him. Everyone said so."

"That's because John was an ass. He never saw it and didn't think to supply you with what you needed. I did when you were with me. Hell, I'll show you the books next time you stop at the house. I still have one of the homemade bookmarks you made to keep track of your place. You're not dumb, Dean. You just weren't encouraged to grow. Lord knows I tried." Bobby hated John for that. How the boys were raised had been a huge bone of contention between the two friends.

Dean sat there, dumbfounded. His voice sounded almost childlike in its softness. "I'm not dumb?"

Sam piped in. "Nope, you're not. Dean, you helped me with my homework. Granted you played at making a fuss over it but you picked up on things really fast. That's another reason I was going to ask you to come with me. I knew you'd make it at school."

Dean looked confused in the moonlight. "I don't understand. Why? Why would?" Dean got up and walked down the beach.

Castiel got up, hurrying after the other. He soon caught up and fell into step with tense young man. The angel said nothing, simply lending his silent support and waited for Dean to share what he was thinking.

Dean was quiet for a while. "I...I spent my whole life thinking I was a fool, Cas. I acted like it too. Why not? Missouri treated me like I was dumb. Sammy was always the special one. My job was to protect and provide for him. I was a kid, Cas. I did things no kid should have to do. Dad said it was what I was good for. That's why I tried so hard to be like him. To have his brains, his was never good enough. He and Sammy hit heads all the time. That's cause they were just alike. I wanted to be Sammy sometimes.. Everything seemed to come easy for him. Damn it, Cas. Everyone told me I was stupid. I just had to try harder. It's not fair. I've never complained about it. Kept it in. And he told me Sammy was the smart one. Always told people that."

Castiel’s voice was soft, barely audible over the crashing of the waves against the shore.

"Your father had serious problems, Dean. Sometimes, it is difficult to see or acknowledge the truth even when it is in front of you." Castiel organized his thoughts. "I think, perhaps, that he may have had a grudge against your brother for a while. It was Sam the demon was was his nursery that was set on fire. He probably realized it soon and overcompensated for it. It's also possible he treated you that way to keep you from reminding him of what he'd lost. According to Bobby, you are a great deal like your mother. If he pushed you to be more like him, it wouldn't continue to needle at a wound he refused to allow to heal."

"You're telling me he made my whole life a lie because he didn't like who I was? I finally realized I wasn't him, Cas. I understand that I've got a lot of my mom in me. He dumped us at Bobby's because I wouldn't talk. Did you know that? I didn't talk for a long time. Bobby finally got me to say something. That's what Dad said. So he wanted me to be stupid? He was proud of Sammy and his brains."

"I think he was afraid of Samuel and his intelligence. Sam was too much like him and it scared him. There was too much stubbornness, and he didn't have the will power to fight back. He knew you were a pleaser, you have been since childhood."

“I'm trying real hard right now not to hate my father, Cas. Are you trying to tell me that because I was a pleaser, he let me think I was stupid so he could keep a pleaser? Did he even realize I was smart? Come on, Cas. You knew who we were and what was coming? Were you watching us? Is that how you know these things? If you did, then tell me. Did my dad keep me stupid on purpose?"

The angel’s words were gentle, trying to help his friend.

"I think he wanted his soldier and would do anything he could to keep it that way. That's one reason he and Bobby continued to butt heads. He was trying to keep Sam on a lower level too but because he was as stubborn as John Winchester was, he didn't succeed as well."

"As well? How'd he hurt Sammy? So he taught me the streets, and how to hunt, but he wanted me stupid as far as everything else. Told people I was stupid. That's why Missouri treated me like she did. Why Ellen didn't like me at first. But Ellen changed her mind. Why? Since you're actually talking to me about this, I'm asking. Cas, I got to know things."

Castiel stared out at the ocean, pulling the words together to try to answer the questions given to him.

"Missouri treated you as she did to push you out of the shell John was molding you into. She had hoped that discipline and her tough love might help you fight, keep the spark that Mary had given you. Sam...she was tough with at times but also softer because of his stubborn streak. She read your temperaments and played off of them well." He drew in a breath. "Ellen thought you were your father. You looked like him from the jacket on up. It wasn't until she got to know you that she realized that you were Dean Winchester, not John Winchester the Second. You are your own person, and she helped you to realize that. You have had a lot of support growing up, Dean. You may not realize it but you have. It's why I am looking at Dean Winchester right now."

"This is one crazy mixed up mess, Cas. Cause, I don't know who Dean Winchester is."

"Then let me hold up a mirror for you and see if I can get you to see him as Sam, Bobby, and I do. Answer the questions freely and without shame. Agreed?"

"Okay. Agreed."

"Dean, what would you do to protect family? The ones you have claimed as heart family."

"I'd give my life, Cas. They're my family. I went to hell for Sammy."

Castiel nodded. "Friends?"

"Same thing, Cas. You don't let down a friend."

That brought a small smile. "Look around you, Dean. Tell me what it makes you feel. Don't think about it...just share."

"I see my family. I see a beautiful world that's in a lot of trouble. I've been watching people all day who have no idea how bad it really is and I fight to protect them. I love my family, Cas. I worry about this world. I'm tired. I want the apocalypse over. I want normal. I care but I want to quit when it's over. Am I wrong in that?”

The twinkle in Castiel's eyes didn't fade as he met his adopted brother's gaze.

"Then I shall now share with you what your brothers and adoptive father see…what those who care about you see. They see Dean...the human who is flawed like all humans. And yet, despite those flaws, you fight to overcome what you see as weaknesses. You uphold your family, fight and die for them with a heart that is stronger than any human's I've ever seen. You have the courage of a lion, the wisdom of a sage at times, wit, intelligence, and even better...the one thing that drew me more than anything else - compassion."

"Cas? How in the hell do I live up to that?"

"You do it everyday by just being you. You are Dean..son and friend to Bobby Singer. and friend to Sam and Castiel. You have no need to change..simply continue to grow." He rested a hand on Dean's shoulder. "Is it wrong to want to quit once this is over?'ve given a great deal. Afterwards, have earned your retirement and a true life is the reward that I hope to share in."

Dean looked at his new brother. "I want to share that life with all of you, Cas. Retirement sounds good. Just be me? Grow. Okay. You better stick close, brother, I'm gonna fall flat on my face." As he continued to speak, he reached out and hugged the angel. "I don't know what I'd do without all three of you."

Castiel hugged him back. "That's the thing about friends and family, Dean. They pick you up and dust you off when you fall flat. You do the same for them...we will do the same for you."

Dean nodded. "Okay. I'm smart? Wow."

He chuckled. "Yes you are. You saw the seal once to drive the angels away and reproduced it perfectly. That should've been a tip off right there."

"I thought that was just being a hunter."

He gave him the flat Castiel look.

Dean grinned. "Anna did it once too. Didn't see how she did it. Just saw the design."

"Good, for a moment there I thought I would have to hit you again."

Dean laughed. "I hope I didn't upset them again. I'm getting really good at that. Cas, there's just so blasted much wrong in my life, and it's all coming to a head at one time. It's not easy."

"That's why you have us, Dean. You have to remember that."

"I know that, Cas. Honestly, I do. I just don't want to hurt anyone. My messed up emotions and life hurt people. Sammy told me we weren't natural and needed to change it. He's right. I'm trying so hard. It's not easy. "

"You can't go through life keeping things internalized for fear of hurting someone. That caused the epic arguments you and Sam have had in the past.”

"Really? Okay. You know I started trying when Sam hounded me about hell. Sam did not respond right then, Cas. He thought I couldn't do the job any more. My death, hell, his inability to deal, and Ruby all but destroyed him. I just want to know if he can take whatever I say. I love him, Cas. He's my brother."

"And he loves you, Dean. I can't tell you how many demons went down because he was trying to get you back. What happened...was the addiction that caused the personality to shift. You have Sam back now...the real Sam."

It was almost too much to hope for. Dean drew in a soft breath, questioning his angelic brother on that fact he’d shared with him.

"You swear to that, Cas? Cause that's what I want, but not like it used to be. I want a real brother. I want him to be who he was meant to be. We work together. Pull together. That's how it's got to be." Dean did not hear his brother come into hearing distance or know that he had been listening.

"Take a look in his eyes, Dean. It's Sam...the Sam you raised."

"I will, Cas. I need to be able to be weak sometimes. Can he handle being the strong one sometimes?"

"He can because you're allowing him to. He's growing up too. also have Bobby and me to lean on."

"Yeah, that is true. I guess I need to figure out how to say this to him."

He shook his head. "Sometimes you just have to come right out and say it. No fancy words. Just simple truth."

"Okay. I've been trying that lately. You are right. It does work better. I think I've made him angry a few times but I did explain my reasons. That helps."

Castiel’s voice was flat, knowing how bad the fights could get between the two. Both brothers had terrible tempers at times.

"And the explanations have calmed him down. That is how healthy communication works. Or so I am told."

"You and Bobby are the only two people in the world who know how to do that, Cas"

"You get to be my age, you tend to learn a few things" was the dry response.

Dean threw his head back in laughter. Something made him turn seconds later and he saw Sam. He stared at his brother, wondering how much he'd heard.

Castiel smiled, heading back to Bobby while Sam approached his brother. "You know...he's right. We both have been growing up and I have to say, my big brother is still the best in the world."

Dean stared a minute, his eyes getting misty. He wiped them and grabbed Sam and held him. "I still have the bestest and smartest little brother in the whole world, Sammy. I trust you. It's been a while since I could say that. I'm so glad I can now."

Tears filled Sam's eyes as he hugged him back. "I'm damned happy to hear it, Dean. I never want to lose your trust again. Family is what's important and I will never ever forget that."

"Me neither, Sammy. Me neither. It's getting late and a lot colder. We need to get Bobby back to the B&B and warm him up. I love you, man."

"I love you too, Dean. I may not say it a lot, but it's true."

"I guess I'm the worst at that. I built a nasty shell around myself, Sammy. It was self-preservation for me. It really was. But that shell grew so thick, and it was so much easier to pretend the hurt didn't exist. I just blew it."

"It may be easier to hide it than to talk about it but the side effects are nasty. Don't do it anymore, Dean, and I'll be more open too." He leaned against his brother, offering warmth and comfort.

Dean held on. I guess you heard much of what I said. I am not a super hero, Sammy. I make mistakes, I fail, I fall. and I'm gonna need you during those times to be the strong one. I never thought I’d say this." Dean tried to smile and laugh it off but it didn't quite make it. "We can do that for each other, and the others."

Sam looked at Dean for a moment and then did something that he'd used to do to his little brother to cheer him up. A finger beeped Dean's nose. "You are worrying too much, Dean. You raised me pretty well, I think, and now that I'm growing up, I want to be here for you as you were for me. I'll be there, I promise."

Dean nodded. A real smile reached his eyes. He clapped his brother on his back. "Let's get Bobby off that cold ground and back to some place warm."

"Only if you'll make some cider when we get back?"

"That's a deal. You got any of that gingerbread left?"

"Yup. He bought a few loaves of it," Sam grinned. "Race ya back!" He took off running back to the blanket

Dean took off after him, knowing he'd never catch his brother with those long legs of his. It was all in the fun of the chase, not the winning.

Bobby heard them coming before he saw them. The two of them were laughing like loons, chasing each other across the sand. He smiled to himself, watching them enjoy themselves. He was glad he'd forced them to do this. It was giving them a chance to heal and really bond as they needed to.

Dean hit the sand next to Bobby, gasping for breath. He was still laughing. "You ready to go, Bobby? It's getting a lot colder."

"Yeah, as much as it's gorgeous to watch, I'm getting cold. Thinking a movie and something hot to drink. What do you boys think?"

"Sammy wants hot cider. Movie sounds good. Doesn't have to be a Christmas one. There were a bunch of good ones in the cabinet. "

"All right, let's get rolling. I'm shivering now." He groused at them playfully.

Dean took a couple of deep breaths. He leaned, stood up, stretched, then squatted down next to Bobby. He reached his arms in and grabbed the man and held him close to him. Everyone could hear the grunt as Dean started to stand up. He lost his balance for second and went down on one knee. "It's okay, Bobby. I got it." Taking a deep breath, Dean got onto both feet. Stood still for a second to make sure of his balance and started a steady stride towards the stairs, which were a couple hundred yards away.

Castiel had moved fast to brace him, making sure Dean and Bobby were stable. Sam shook the sleeping bag, zipped it and rolled it up before heading to follow them.

"Thanks, Cas," Dean said as they strode towards the stairs. Dean's stride was not quite as long as it had been earlier, but he was still making good time. His only thought was to get Bobby some place warm.

The angel moved ahead, unlocking the car and tucking the keys into Bobby's hand once Dean got him into the seat. Sam had the Impala unlocked and sleeping bag stowed away.

"You okay, Bobby?"

"Will be once I get the heater on."

"Okay, I gonna let Sam drive us home. Unless you want to stop for something, or order in, we can eat the Chinese leftovers. To be honest, I'm not really hungry. Ya'll can decide. If you want to stop, call me on the cell."

Castiel shook his head, and Bobby agreed. "I think we have enough snacks to last us. Let's just head on back."

Dean looked relieved. "That sounds good to me, Bobby. See you at the B&B."

He nodded, cranking the engine.

Dean saw Sam standing by the car. "Would you drive, Sammy? I'm really tired."

The younger brother gave a small smile. "Not a problem, Dean."

Dean climbed into the shotgun seat and leaned back and closed his eyes with a sigh.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Supernatural Christmas Carol Chapter 6

Authors: Lady Laran and Tisha Wyman
Warnings: Bad language and violenceSpoilers: Season Five - so if you’ve not seen it, be warned a few things are a bit weird.Disclaimer - We do not own Supernatural nor A Christmas Carol. The show is owned by Eric Kripke and the book is by Charles Dickens. Neither of us has rights to this nor have we earned anything by doing this. We’re just doing this for fun. Oh..we also don’t own Christmas at Ground Zero or any other carols that might be mentioned. This is a story of healing, family, humor, and horror. Sounds like a typical Thursday night on the CW. (Of course, the CW has gone bonkers and moved them to Fridays, now. We shall see.)

In Which Dean Learns Beginner's Luck is All Encompassing

Dean woke slowly, feeling peace of mind and comfort. Both of the sensations were unnatural to him. It took him a few minutes to remember where he was. He sat up and stretched, then turned towards the other bed and noticed that Bobby was not there The hunter smelled coffee and something else. Was that ham? He got out of bed and quickly got dressed. Heading into the sitting room, Dean found no one in the suite. He entered the small dining room of the B&B and found the other three eating.

A full breakfast was ready for Dean to choose from, set up in a buffet style. There were several tables with people eating as well.

The hungry man got scrambled eggs, ham, and biscuits with sausage gravy. He'd never seen that before, but it looked good. He got country fries and a large cup of coffee before he joined the others. "What time is it?"

"Nine," Castiel answered, sipping on a cup of tea. "You slept later than we expected you to."

"I guess I was more tired then I realized. I figured I might sleep to eight but not this late. I'm sorry."

"Don't be," Bobby said once he'd finished chewing his bite. "You needed the rest. It's not like we have to be somewhere, you know?"

Nodding, Dean took a bite of the biscuits with sausage gravy. He chewed it slowly, savoring the flavor. "Damn! We need to learn how to make this. Did you guys get any of it?"

"We all did," said a chewing Sam. "It's damned good. We'll have to find a recipe for it and have you make it in the future."

Dean nodded, his mouth full. He was eating like a normal human being, not the Dean Winchester they all knew. They kept commenting in their minds on this because it was so abnormal for the older Winchester brother to behave this way.

They ate and sipped their drinks with appreciation, enjoying the good food like this and each others' company.

Swallowing, Dean asked, "You guys want to go out and do anything today or just maybe hang around the rooms and just talk, watch movies, or play games? If not, we can see what is happening today around the area."

"I'm not sure," Bobby commented. "What sounds good to you?"

"I don't know the area. No idea what's out there. We got the Dickens thing tonight. I saw that they have an indoor Schlitterbahn. Rafting in the winter? They got this Moody Gardens thing that has a big Imax and a ton of other stuff. But to be honest, last night was so nice. Why don't we do it again today?"

Castiel broke his silence, offering his own opinion to what today‘s activities should be.

That sounds good to me."

Dean smiled. He looked at Sam and Bobby with a questioning expression on his face. The two of them agreed, smiling back around mouths full of food.

The older hunter smiled again. "I found three decks of cards. Ya'll want to play some poker? Or would Monopoly be more your taste for today?"

"No reason why we can't do both," Sam replied, sipping at his coffee. "We've got some snacks and can order in for lunch."

"Sounds good to me." Dean was really enjoying himself and taking the time to enjoy the company. It was a nice change for him. He was pretty sure the others felt the same way.

Castiel frowned. "I do not know how to play poker though."

"We'll teach you, Cas. You should be a natural."

Bobby grinned at that. Cas did have an amazing poker face.

When the meal was over, the men headed back to the rooms. Dean went to forage in his duffel and found three decks of cards and poker chips. He smiled as he entered the room and cornered Cas. Taking the angel aside, Dean opened a deck of cards and explained poker, showing him the different types of hands, explaining odds, and what hands could win. He talked about bluffing. Dean knew his poker. Cas had a perfect memory.

Sam watched the two as he poured coffee for the group, tea for Castiel. "You get the feeling we're about to lose badly?"

Bobby watched the two also, "Yeah, boy, I do. Dean just gave his whole way of playing to an angel. What do you think? The ultimate Dean Winchester?"

"We're screwed."

"Man would be an idjit to play for money. Chips only and Dean will have to deal with it."

Sam looked at Bobby, asking the next question that popped into his head.

"Do you trust Dean as dealer?"

"Hell no, do you?"

Sam grinned. "Definitely not!"

“Well I suggest we cut for first deal. Prefer they are already mixed before he gets his grimy little paws on them."

"Agreed," he settled into his chair, waiting for the others to sit down.

"I got a feeling it's going to be a major battle at this table, boy. Dean knows his stuff as he's supported you two with poker and pool for years. I know you can play pool as well as he can, and you aren’t a bad poker player. Dean is just a card shark and a damn good one. Cas knows it now. I get a feeling Dean may have met his match. Big time. Don't care whether I win or lose. This is one epic battle and I'm proud to say I am here to see it." Bobby took a long drink of his coffee. He grinned at Sam.

He grinned back. "Oh yeah. And don't forget, I managed to get the years back for Dean."

"I know you did, boy. I know. Good job, too."The grin softened to a smile, enjoying the compliment. "Thanks Bobby. That really means a lot."

Bobby was about to speak when Dean and Cas joined them. The older Winchester brother sat down and reached for a box of cards. "What are we playing for?"

Sam handed out the piles. "Just chips."Dean frowned. "Why?"

"For one, you're a card shark. Two, you just taught the one individual with the best poker face I've ever seen how to play the game Dean Winchester style." He stared at the two.

It was interesting to watch the knowledge of what he'd done dawn on Dean's face. His mouth opened in an oh, and his eyes glazed over for a minute. He got a tic over one eyebrow for a second. Regaining control of himself, he said, "Yeah...chips would be a good idea." Dean removed a deck from its box and prepared to shuffle. Bobby and Sam snickered at that, watching him carefully.

Bobby touched Dean's wrist. He stopped and looked at him. The older man smiled and mentioned that they wanted to cut for dealer on every hand. Dean looked shocked. "I always deal first, then it goes around. It's just a friendly game, Bobby."

“It's just better to keep it honest, and handing the deal around would make it a bit more fair.”

"That's fine, Sam, but we're still cutting for first deal. Sorry, Dean." Bobby reached for the cards and set them on the table. “Sam, show Cas how to cut.

"Sam did just that, aware of Castiel's eyes on him. Everyone cut the cards. Cas won the cut. "He doesn't know how to shuffle," Dean groaned.

He sighed, showing Castiel how to shuffle. It took a few moments before the angel picked it up and began shuffling it. Dean looked at his cards , thinking it was going to be a long game. Sam looked at his cards as well, arranging them. His brother told everyone to ante up one chip.

Dean looked at Bobby. "He's dealer. He doesn't know about asking how many cards. You're up."

Bobby looked at his hand and asked for two cards. Cas dealt him two as Bobby had discarded two. He looked at his hand. Dean asked for two cards as well. Two cards were handed to him by Castiel. Sam took one card. Castiel took three.

Bobby bet three chips. Dean bet three and saw him with two. Bobby threw in two, and Sam and Cas added theirs.

Dean looked at everyone and laid out 4 kings. Bobby tossed his hand down in surrender. Sam threw his cards down too and then choked when Castiel laid down a royal flush.

Dean froze, staring at the royal flush. He looked at Cas. He looked at the deck of cards. His gaze returned to the royal flush. He turned red, then white. His freckles showing clearly on the pale skin. It took him about ten minutes to comprehend what had just happened. The older brother stood up, walked out of the room. Sam and Bobby stared after him, surprised. A few minutes later, he returned with a Monopoly game, muttering, "You're on you own with this one."

Sam covered his face, body shaking with laughter. Damn, that had been priceless!!!! Bobby had to hide his face. He didn't want Dean to see him, but his body was shaking so hard that it didn't take Dean more then a second to realize that both men were laughing. He gave them a sharp stare and began to open the new game.

Castiel wasn't quite sure why they were laughing so hard. He stared at them for a moment, trying to determine if they needed help.

Dean wouldn't look at Cas for the moment. He could not believe he'd lost. Striving to figure out how that happened, he was truly at a lost. Cas could barely shuffle. A royal flush should never have come from that deck. He shook his head and asked Sam to explain the "basics" of the game. Once he calmed down, Sam did just that as he dealt the money to each player.

They rolled to see who would go first and Cas won. Dean buried his head in a hand

What's the matter, Dean," Bobby asked with a grin as Castiel rolled to move. Dean just stared at Bobby and watched Cas land on a railroad. He bought it, handing the money to Sam. The older Winchester watched Bobby roll and move to one of the light blue properties. He gave his money to Sam and got the deed. Dean rolled and landed on chance. He drew a card which sent him straight to jail. His eyes opened wide, and he moved his piece to the jail and handed the dice to Sam.

"You're not having any luck," he commented to his brother as he rolled his dice.

Dean just grunted, watching Cas. Castiel simply looked back at him, an eyebrow arching in a silent question. Sam rolled and went around the corner to land on a property which he bought. The angel rolled and landed on a card. He drew it and asked where Boardwalk was.

Bobby groaned, pointing to the dark blue property. This was getting off to a lovely start.
A thought dawned in the older Winchester's head. "Cas, they play games very often?"

"Not really. Most of the time, they're incredibly busy."

"Well, do they ever play games with humans?"

He frowned. "What do you mean?"

"How good is an angel's luck? Does he lose...ever?"

The angel shook his head.

"I am unsure of that."

“Well, Boardwalk on the second roll. A royal flush in your first hand. Man, someone ought to know about angel luck."

Sam handed Castiel the property. "Next."

Bobby landed on visitation. Dean just stared at him before paying his fifty dollars and got out of jail. He rolled and landed on Free parking.

"Well, that's a start," Sam commented with a grin.

"I am halfway around the board, Sam, with nothing."

"You'll land on something."

"That's what I'm afraid of."

He bit back a laugh and waiting for the next turn.

"It's your turn, Sammy."

Sam rolled and moved his token. Cas took the dice and rolled. He went around go and got his 200. He landed on a card. Dean watched him ask what a get out of jail card did. He lowered his head and waited for Bobby to roll. Which Bobby did, chuckling as he did so.

Dean rolled and got another large number. He swore under his breath as he landed on go to jail. Sam excused himself, heading to the kitchenette to refill the coffee, and started laughing once his brother wouldn't hear him. Bobby excused himself and followed Sam.

"Damn it, Sam, I think the boy's right.”

Bobby was laughing so hard, he was holding himself and tears were rolling down his face. Sam was near doubled over, struggling to breathe through the mild hysterics he was in. The older man was trying hard to gain composure but was finding it hard to do so.

"You know this can be more interesting then poker? My question is how much of this will Dean take?"Bobby snorted as he started laughing harder.

Sam splashed his face with water to regain control...grabbing the coffee pot. "No idea but let's find out."

The two men returned to find Dean in a stare down with Cas. The angel had no idea what was bothering Dean. The hunter knew it was just a stupid game, but no one's luck was that good and no one's was that bad. He looked up as the two men entered. Both had suspiciously red eyes. His brows drew into a frown. He almost said something but tried to remind himself it was just a stupid game.

Sam refilled the coffee. "So, whose turn is it?"Staring and holding up his cup, his brother mumbled, "Yours."

Once he'd finished pouring coffee, he took the dice and rolled. Dean watched Sam buy a piece of property. He looked at Cas, who rolled the dice and landed on another railroad. Dean's eyebrows went up. Castiel purchased the property and handed the dice to the next person. Bobby rolled and landed on Free Parking. Dean paid another $50 to get out of jail. He landed on another card. He just sat there and stared at the deck.

"Aren't you going to take a card, Dean?" Sam tilted his head.

"Hell, no."


“I'm either gonna have to pay somebody or go somewhere where I will have to pay, or I'm back in jail. You pick which one I do. Save the damn card that way.”

"Just pick up a damned card, Dean," Bobby grumped at him.

Dean picked up a card. He had to advance three steps which put him on free parking.


Dean looked at his brother and Bobby. "How many rolls now? I've been around the board one and a half times. I haven't even landed on one piece of property, and I've been in jail twice. What are the odds? I think I'm jinxed."

Sam rolled, laughing softly.

"Damn it, Sammy I'm serious," the older Winchester said as he watched his brother buy another piece of property.

"Why would you be jinxed over a game?"

"Come on, Sammy, first hand in poker, a royal flush beats my 4 kings. And look at the Monopoly."

"So you're having a bit of bad luck, doesn't mean you’re jinxed." The dice was handed to the next player.

Cas rolled a double and landed on free parking. He rolled again and landed on a third railroad. Dean turned white but said nothing. He knew he was jinxed and couldn't figure out how it was happening, unless Cas now had their combined luck. Hell, was that even possible? He started to ask Sam and thought better of it. Sam and Bobby would laugh and think he was just stupid. That and Dean did not want to hurt Cas.

Bobby was watching this and having a good idea as to what was running through Dean's head. It was hard not laughing, especially considering that Dean's luck could be, all things considering, pretty incredible. It just didn't seem to compare to Cas's beginner's luck. Bobby rolled and landed on a utility and bought it. Dean was worrying his bottom lip and it was blood red. He reached for the dice, and just sat there holding them. Finally, he shook his head and rolled them. He got a high number and ended upon Boardwalk. Shaking his head, he paid Cas his rent. At least he got by go to jail.

Sam reached over, bopping his brother over the head. "Stop that or it'll start to bleed."

Dean looked at him, shook his head, and handed him the dice. He rolled, giving his brother a look. This was supposed to be fun, and it didn't look as if he was enjoying himself. Dean watched Sam land on Pennsylvania and buy it. Cas picked up the dice and rolled another double and landed on the fourth railroad. Dean stared and said nothing. He just kept staring. Cas bought the fourth railroad to make the first monopoly of the game. He rolled again and landed on Park Place.

Dean muttered, softly. Sam could hear "Damn it!" come out of his mouth, but his brother kept still and said nothing out loud. This was a big win for Cas, and he was not going to destroy it.

Castiel stared at Dean. "Should we find another game?"

"No, it's fine. You've got a good run of luck going, Cas. Have fun with it."

"But you are not enjoying it."

"I am trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Don't worry about me, Cas. I just have this feeling that my luck turned today and nothing's gonna go right."

"Perhaps I am just experiencing beginner's luck?"

"I think so. Enjoy it, Cas. Seriously. It's not your luck I'm worried about. It's my lack of it right now. Yours shouldn't be affecting what's happening to me. Enjoy it, okay?"

He nodded, handing the dice to his left. Bobby rolled and landed on chance. He got 10 for a beauty contest. Dean laughed at that. Bobby handed the dice to the older boy and his eyes grew big. Everyone could see his adam's apple go up and down as he swallowed hard and rolled the dice. He landed on go.

"Well, I finally get my money from it."

"Nice job," Sam grinned.

"You making fun of me again? " Dean grinned at his brother.

"Never," he teased.

"Always were a lousy liar, Sammy." Dean handed him the dice.

"Oh really?!"

"Yeah, really. You'd know it too if you thought about how I always knew when you were."

He grinned at him, enjoying the banter.

Dean grinned back. "Better roll, wouldn't want me lose this fabulous luck I'm having."

The dice were rolled while Sam snickered. Now that Dean was getting into a better mood, it would be more fun. "Dean, we need some tunes."

"Christmas or rock?" Dean was laughing as he headed to the dvd player. He grabbed a cd and in went the flute music, again. With a grin, he put it on replay.

"I think I like that cd a lot" was Sam’s comment when he heard the music that was chosen.

Dean grinned. "Never thought I'd like flute music, but it makes me feel peaceful inside. Wonder what other cds he's got. I don't guess they do rock flute do they?"

"I don't know about that artist but there's a group called Jethro Tull that has a flute player. Also one called the Moody Blues." Bobby sipped at his coffee after answering.

Dean stared. "Really? Gonna have to find them."

Bobby nodded, still nursing his coffee.

"Yup, they experimented a lot with instruments back then."

“Well, when we leave the Strand tonight, I'd like stop by the music store I saw last night...or better, stop there first. I want to hear the groups. "

"All right," Bobby answered.

"Since you know them, will you come in with me and help me find the right ones?"

He grinned at him. "Not a problem."

"Thanks, Bobby. Whose turn is it? Sam, you roll?"

"Yeah, I did."

He handed the dice to the next player. Cas rolled and landed on the first dark purple property past go. He collected his money and bought the property. The angel handed the dice to Bobby, who rolled too. He shook his head when he landed on a railroad.

Dean winced when he saw that. "Man, that's $200. Tough roll, Bobby."

He handed the dice to the next player and paid Castiel. Dean took the dice and landed on a railroad, too. Shaking his head, he gave Cas the $200.

Sam rolled and landed on a railroad as well. "I'm starting to see a trend here."

"Yeah, I'm waiting for him to build hotels."

Castiel started adding houses to the monopoly he had on Boardwalk and Park place when it was his turn. Dean started counting his money and knew his game would soon be over. No income, no money to pay those two properties. He laughed.

Once again, the angel rolled, moving his token. He landed on a railroad, and Dean started laughing. Bobby stared at Dean, smiled , and rolled. He rolled a large number and landed on another railroad. Dean now had tears flowing down his cheeks. It would seem his bad luck was spreading.

Sam rolled as well, snickering as he hit yet another railroad.

Cas rolled and landed on a utility. "Who has the other?" Dean asked.

"I don't think it's been bought yet."

"No, I'm pretty sure one was bought already. Hey, Bobby, it's under one of your other properties."

"So it is," he found it. "I'd forgotten I'd gotten it."

Dean smiled, "Your turn to roll, Bobby."

Bobby grabbed the dice and did just that. He missed the railroad by one number and bought a property. Dean smirked, shaking the dice hard, he rolled, saying, "I'm going for a new record. Losing...without any properties."

Sam snickered at that. "This will be a new one."

"Yup." Dean looked at the rolled dice and moved, landing on jail. "Just visiting? Okay.”

"Better than being behind bars," his brother joked.

"That's for sure," muttered Dean "Your turn, Sammy."

Sam reached for the dice, rolling them and coming up with doubles.

"Uh, Sammy, I think that's go to jail."

"Only after the third roll of doubles.""Move your piece, man. That's go to jail."

He did and cursed. "That sucks!"

"You got that right."

Cas put a hotel on Boardwalk and four houses on Park Place. He rolled and landed on a railroad. Dean looked at Sam and said, "I'd stay in there the three rolls."

His eyes widened. "No kidding!"

"Yeah, you have to get out after three rolls, but hell with what he's got on the board, any reprieve is good."

"Shit, damn, Cas, nice job."

He handed the dice to the next player.Cas rolled the dice and went around past jail buying Tennessee, giving him a third monopoly. Dean looked and started laughing again. “

“If he can build the most expensive properties up this fast, won't take him long with those at all."

Bobby nearly choked on his coffee as he stared at the board. This was getting dangerous fast. He rolled and landed on a railroad. Shaking his head, he paid the $200. Dean rolled and landed on Tennessee. Shaking his head, he paid Cas twice the rent, grateful the monopoly wasn't built up at this moment. Sam rolled and sighed, landing on a property that wasn't owned yet.

"I'd have stayed in jail, bro,” Dean said as Cas put hotels on the three properties Dean was sitting on.

"I should have," he squeaked.

Bobby rolled and landed on the new monopoly.

"Well, hell," he commented, handing Castiel the money.

Dean snorted and rolled the dice. He landed on another railroad. Handing Cas the $200. "I got about 350 left and then I think I’m finished. Not gonna be able to pay." Dean laughed. This was turning into a very crazy game.

Castiel looked at his money. "Do you need a loan?"

"In this game, with no property? Hell, no. Thanks though, Cas."

The angel nodded. "You are welcome."

Cas moved and landed on a card. He won $100.

Sam closed his eyes and laughed. "This is the best case of beginner's luck I've ever seen."

"I shoulda known when he got that royal flush," Dean said as Bobby rolled.


"Come on, Sammy, you got to build into a royal flush. That meant he had nothing the same, just two numbers in the same suit. What are the odds of a new player taking that risk?"

"Not too high, honestly."

"That's right.”

Bobby moved and landed on go to jail. Dean started laughing harder.

"Maybe if I'm lucky, I'll hit that." Dean rolled and landed on one of the free properties in the green ones. Somebody owned one. He looked at the price and started laughing. "Well, you guys get to bid on the auction. I don't have enough money."

Sam laid a sum out, which Cas countered. Bobby snorted and said “hell no.” The two continued to bicker over the price, obviously getting into the fun. Dean smirked, went and made a new pot of coffee and some tea. The bickering continued until finally Sam backed away and Castiel bought the property.

"That's a chunk of money, Cas," Dean said. "It's your roll, Sammy."

Sam rolled, still eyeing the pile of money Castiel had left. Dean watched Sammy land on Bobby's utility. He paid him, shaking his head and handing the dice over. Cas put a hotel on Park Place.. A hiss came from lighter haired brother...mainly air exhaled between clenched teeth. He was looking over the board.

"Well, Bobby, it's your turn."

The older male rolled the dice, shaking his head. Bobby rolled a double and landed on free parking. Dean rolled, tossed his hands up in the air. He landed on Park Place.

"Well, I’m out." He hand his $350 to Cas and pulled his piece off the board. "You want delivery or should I go get something?"

Sam tilted his head. "We could call in, keep you from going out. Pull the phone book and see who delivers."

Dean went to the phone and grabbed the phone book from below it. "Well, we got Chinese, pizza, and there's a bbq place."

Bobby leaned back. "I'm thinking Chinese or bbq. Pizza gets old fast."

"Yeah, I've eaten a lot of pizza. Don't mind the Chinese. What do you guys think?"

"My vote is Chinese. I don't think Cas would care as long as his stuff isn't spicy."

Castiel nodded his agreement with Sam's comment."Okay. You guys want separate meals or a big family thing?"

"Family thing, it gives a variety of things for people to try."

"Okay, we get three main course choices, a platter with all the appetizers for four and soup."

"Sounds good," Bobby commented, then cursed when he'd landed on Boardwalk.

"I’d like General Tso's. Cas won't want it, but there are three choices. Do you guys like the General Tso's or do we go all mild? You out too, Bobby?"

"Yup, I can't pay even with this mortgaged. One spicy, one medium, and one mild. Chinese spices are different from Mexican so Cas might find them more to his tastes."

"Okay, one Szechuan, one General Tso's and a what mild?"

"What Szechuan?"

"Broccoli beef for the mild, and the spicy will have like a symbol by it."

Bobby thought on it for a moment, trying to figure out a way to accommodate for everyone’s tastes.

"Well, there's a pork and mushroom that is real hot. Maybe we ought to do two mild in case Cas doesn't like it."

"General Tso's isn't that spicy, honestly." Sam sighed, landing on Boardwalk as well. "That's it. Cas is the winner. Great job!"

"Yeah, it's not. I would like the Szechuan Chicken with all the veggies. Forget the General Tso's and get that steak and mushroom that has the mild peppers"

Castiel helped Sam put the game away as the taller one answered his brother. "Sounds good. Fried rice for sure."

"Okay. Egg rolls are on the appetizer plate. I will order it for 4. It has dumplings, dimsun and if it's cooked, sushi."

"Yum," was Sam's answer.

"Well, if it's raw, I'll give you mine. They got a crab one. I thought about maybe ordering a plate of it for all of us. I like cooked sushi."

"Whatever sounds good to you, Dean."

Dean placed the order and gave the card number. "It will be here in about 35 minutes. You want to watch a movie or whatever? We can talk or Bobby could give some more legends. I meant it when I said I wanted to know about them."

"We can talk legends before the food gets here," he answered with a smile, rolling towards the couches.

Dean commandeered his chair, boots kicked off and feet curled up in the chair again, his head leaning back. Bobby thought it was an unusual position for Dean to take. He'd never seen the boy do so until last night.

The older brother was comfortable, which made Sam happy, as he took a seat on the couch.

"What are we are gonna learn about, Bobby?"

"Christmas trees," he answered, picking up the book.

"Always thought they had something to do with Luthor? Is there more to it?”

Bobby opened the book and began reading about the legends behind the Christmas tree.

Dean sat up one point when something caught his attention. "Druids?"

He nodded, continuing reading. Dean leaned back but was more alert. The reading went on with the group learning more about how the Christmas tree was brought into tradition. The smaller hunter kept looking at their tree and then back at Bobby.

"Pretty incredible, isn't it?" Sam was looking back at the tree too.

Dean nodded. He looked at Bobby. "Bobby, is the tree safe? I mean that 's pretty strong whodo magic."

He chuckled. "It's safe."

The younger man nodded, relieved. The tree was beautiful. Dean leaned his head back, listening to the music and the soft voices of his family. Everything sounded muted. Eventually, he dozed off.

Sam was the one who got the food when it came, not wanting to wake his drowsing brother.

Dean slept through the knock at the door, dreaming, for a change, of trees and flutes.

He heard the muffled voices and the sound of glasses and silverware. Slowly, he woke up. Blinking, he sat up and noted that he was alone in the room. Getting off the chair, Dean scratched his head as he walked, barefooted into the dining area. He saw the guys setting the table. He blinked sleep from his eyes, yawned, and asked, "Was I asleep very long? I'm sorry."

"Not long,” Sam smiled at his brother.

“Can't imagine why I did that. I'm not used to sleeping this much. I really am sorry."

"We're always on the go, sleep broken up. Enjoy it, Dean."

"That may be, Sammy, but no one else is doing it. Me sleeping lets the rest of you down. I've gone days on a few hours. Shouldn't need it now."

Castiel smacked the back of Dean's head. "You are doing it again."

"Ouch! Doing what, Cas?"

"You are not willing to accept your own needs over your desire to please others. This is a bad habit that will stop now."

"What the hell? Sammy, Bobby? Would you guys have a talk with him?"

The older man locked the brakes as he settled at the table. "Like hell. He has a point, Dean. You've considered your needs as a burden to everyone, and I'll be damned if it continues."

The older hunter tried to stare the older man down. "This ain't the same thing. This is about being polite, Bobby. About having manners when you are visiting with people you care about. Sammy, it's the same thing we talked about last night. Tell them."

"You're also exhausted, Dean. No one is going to be upset because you dozed off. We were trying to be considerate of you to let you get the rest you need. We've been running hard for too long. I'm worried about you."

"The word there, Sammy, is we. I'm not any more exhausted then you are. You stayed awake just fine. I should've too. I appreciate the consideration but I should have had some too. Okay?"

"All right but expect Cas to whup you good to keep you in line. Now, I'm hungry!"

Dean helped set the food on the table, determined to stay as far away as he could from Cas' hands. Then he realized that Cas could move anywhere just by thought. Damn!

Sam snickered at the look on his brother's face, pouring soda for the group.

Dean was having a hard time trying to figure out what was now okay to do or say and what wasn't.

After a few moments of this, Castiel pulled the hunter aside. "I do not mean to cause you discomfort. I just wish to help you."

The young man looked into the angel's eyes. "Cas, I do understand. I just don't know how to do that. You got to understand. I told Sam it wasn't healthy and it's not, but I've had to do this since I was four years old. That's 26 years, Cas. How do I quit putting everyone before me after this long a time? Other then wanting pie and girls, I never think about me. It's Sammy, was my dad, and it's you and Bobby. It was Jo and Ellen. Cas, every time, I am not watching out for them, they either get hurt or die. You tell me how."

The angel had an answer ready for him, eager to help his friend.

"You trust them. You trust the people around them. Sam has been trained well, Dean. You've done a good job. Now work as a partner and not the full leader. The group holds responsibility for each are not the one to carry the full burden alone. It's time to let go and share the burden."

Dean’s answer was a little bitter.

"Yeah, well that cost Ellen and Jo, Cas. Damn. I want to do that. I just feel like it's all on me. Bobby gets hurt. You're grounded, and you told me it was my fault. Sammy has Lucifer after him. I want to let go. I want to be able to just trust and know you got my back. I'm not sure I know how any more. I'm trying, Cas."

"I made the decision to help you, Dean. I disobeyed my superiors when I realized what they were doing. Ellen made the decision to sacrifice herself when Jo was injured. The hellhounds and Lucifer did that, not you. Azazel is responsible for your brother's suitability as Lucifer's host...again, not your fault. It's a conscious decision you have to make and carry through, Dean." He was quiet for a second. "John Winchester was a good hunter but not as good as you. He did wrong with you two; I acknowledge that. He put too much on you and allowed you to carry the weight for mistakes you should never have had to acknowledge. It's time to bury that side of Dean."

"Cas, I buried my mama last night. I buried Jo and Ellen a couple of weeks ago. I have buried the fact that Sammy is the one like dad, not me. I keep having to tell people that I got too much of my mama in me. In the past few months, everything that I understood and accepted in my world crumbled. I'm trying to learn to trust Sammy. Since yesterday, he's been like home again. I'm better on that. I've had it drilled into me by Zachariah, the demons, and you that it's my job to stop this. Now, I don't want to do it the way everyone wants it done. I've got to find the way without Michael. I need all of you. But I still feel, that because I won't let myself be a meatsuit for Michael, that the burden is mine to find another way. It's why you hauled me out of hell and told me you could put me back. I'm gonna need help to let go of that, Cas.”

Castiel took one of Dean's hands. "And I should never have put that burden on your shoulders. Forgive me for that. As it is, Zachariah and the others - they are wrong. They want the world to end simply because it means less competition. Humans are less than desirable. It would not surprise me that they are aiming for the Throne itself. Right now, you have a team...a good one. The burden to find another way is OURS, not your’s, Dean Winchester."

Dean looked at Cas. He looked at the others who were eating. "How do they feel about that, Cas? They willing to work together? Cause I'm tired. I really am."

"They're here aren't they? Talk to them. That's what they want, Dean."

"You sure?"

Castiel gave him that famous blank stare. Staring back at the angel, the young man nodded. He went back into the dining room and sat down beside his brother. He helped himself to the some of the food but wasn't eating. He drank some of the coke and stared at Booby and than Sam.

Sam paused before forking some food into his mouth, watching Castiel take a seat before looking back at his brother. "Spill."

Dean looked at both Sam and Bobby. "Um, I've had this feeling since Cas pulled me out of hell and I was told that I was supposed to kill Lucifer, that it's been my burden. I think since yesterday, you and I are good. But I blame myself, guys, for everything that has happened lately. It's been my job to lead. I get this feeling that everyone looks to me. I've had things that have been said by different people that puts it all on me. Everyone always looks at me and says what do we do? Damn it, I'm scared. I don't know if I know what to do. I'm flying by the seat of my pants and I keep losing people. I need you guys, and not as followers."

Bobby set his fork down, eyes staring into Dean's. "I ain't a follower, Dean. I've been trying to walk this path with you side by side. They do look to you but not as you think. You shoulder burdens you should be sharing. You've got able people here to bail your ass out of the fire."

Dean returned the older man's look. "How do they look to me then? Who will shoulder burdens? Honestly, Bobby. I want that, but no one tells me that. The last time Sammy said that, he left. Okay? I need all of you. Mostly Sammy."

Sam poked him. "I'm not going anywhere, Dean. I told you, we're stronger together than apart. They look to you because you are an inspiration. You fight when most of us are so damned tired. There's a fire in you that draws everyone in. The burdens you see that need to be shouldered....well, you've got three other shoulders here to dump 'em on."

"You guys mean that? No matter how stupid they may seem? A burden is a burden, man."

Bobby looked at him. "Don't make me go over there and smack you, boy."

His son's eyes glistened. "No, sir. Cas has been enough."

"Good. This is a family, Dean, which means no one person takes all the burdens. You got problems, you lay them out and let us help you sort it."

"Yes, sir."

"All right, that's settled, let's eat before this gets cold."

Dean picked up his fork and took a bite of the Szechuan, and realized he was hungry. The lunch was a nice companionable meal, and he enjoyed it.

Castiel surprised Sam by eating the spicier dish. Bobby had been right in the fact that the spices were different.

Dean grinned at Cas. “Szechuan is good stuff, huh, Cas?"

"Indeed it is." Dean took some of the crab sushi. "It's cooked, and it's good."

Sam nodded around his mouthful.

Dean dipped an egg roll in sweet and sour sauce. "We going to the Dickens thing tonight or tomorrow night?"

"Tonight," Bobby answered, pouring soy sauce on his rice. "We'll want to bundle up though. Sea breeze can be mighty cold."

Dean smiled at Cas. "Yeah, I know."

Castiel gave him a small smile in return, pleased to see that Dean had taken him seriously.

The older brother remembered the walk he and Cas had taken the night before. After today, he was more grateful for the angel, more than he had thought would be possible. He was so thankful for all three members of his family that were sitting here.

Sam patted him on on the back, then stole an eggroll. Dean tried to grab it back but wasn't fast enough. He took Sam's last sushi instead. Bobby chuckled, watching their antics.

"Sam, after the thing tonight, would you like to go somewhere with me?"

Sam nodded. "Sure, Dean."

Dean winked at Cas. "Thought I'd show him what we found last night. I wish we could take you, Bobby, but it has stairs and no ramps. If I can find another spot this week, I'll take you."

"I'd like that, Dean."

"Well, it will be our duty this week to find a way to get you there."

He chuckled at that.

It's worth it, Bobby, and it's got to be at night.” Dean explained a little about where they had been."

He nodded. "It sounds exceptional. That's a view I wouldn't pass up if I could help it."

"Yeah, it was special. Not a word spoken, just a long walk."

Sam spoke up with an idea as to how to resolve the situation so Bobby could go with them.

"If there's no ramps, we could carry him if Bobby didn't mind."

"Would you have a problem with that, Bobby? It's a little slippery but we could do it.”

The older man shrugged as he responded.

"I trust you guys. Hate being carried but if the view is as you say it is, it's worth it."

"I thought it was, Bobby. I hated to leave last night."

He smiled at that, pushing his empty plate away.Dean got up and started to clear the food away. He put the leftovers in the refrigerator. Trash was tossed. He started washing up the dishes.

Cas and Sam rose to help him clean up.

After the boys finished cleaning, Dean took the firewood bin outside. "Someone want to get the doors for me? Thought I’d refill it and bring an ash bin in when I come back. I can clean out the fireplace and be ready for later this evening."

Sam went to tend to the fireplace while Castiel went to help Dean with the firewood. He started sweeping the fireplace, waiting for the bucket. Dean and Castiel went to the back of the garages and loaded the bin with logs, sticks and kindling. The smaller Winchester asked Cas to grab one of the buckets. They headed back to the B&B, and the angel got the doors for Dean. The hazel eyed man set the bin on the hearth and grabbed a shovel and started to shovel the ashes while Sam kept the remainder swept close to make it easier to shovel. When they were through, Dean grabbed the bucket and took the ashes to the dumpster and put the bucket back behind the garages. He said hello to their host as he was entering the building and asked if he was going to Dickens on the Strand.

Ben shook his head with a smile. "No, I've seen it a lot of times. Tonight, I'm planning on curling up with a good book and a glass of wine. I do hope you and your family enjoys it though."

"Thanks, Ben. We plan on it. This is the first Christmas we have had a chance to celebrate together in years. I'm looking forward to it. What book are you planning on reading?"

"I'm in a bit of a mood for Mary Shelley tonight, honestly. A bit macabre for the holiday but suits my mood." He laughed softly.

Dean thought a minute with a slight frown. "Frankenstein?"

Ben nodded. "That's her."

"Yeah, that's macabre. Not my first choice for Christmas, but then there's been others that have written stranger things."

The smile faded a bit. "Well, I'm not the biggest fan of Christmas. I enjoy it, yes, but it's not my favorite holiday."

Dean thought a minute. "To be honest, this is the first Christmas I've ever had that really feels right. I've always hated it before this one."

"In some ways, I don't blame you. Christmas has a way of haunting you." He shook himself. "Anyway, if you or your family needs anything, don't hesitate to ask."

The hunter stood there a minute. Haunting? He shook his head, trying to clear away the hunter in him. "Thanks, Ben. I appreciate that. To be honest, I've had a few haunted Christmases." Dean laughed slightly and headed into the building behind his host.

The host didn't ask because he wasn't sure what the man meant by that. He went off on his own, allowing his guest to return to his family.

Dean entered their suite and put his leather jacket in the closet. "I just had a weird conversation with Ben."

Sam looked up from his straightening up. "How so?"

"Well, he's rather strange. He's reading Shelley tonight. Doesn't care much for Christmas. Finds it has a way of haunting you. Man, I got the feeling there was a hunt in the making. I just jokingly told him I'd had a few haunted Christmases. He didn't seem too happy about Christmas and it seemed eerie. Who reads Frankenstein at Christmas?"

Bobby and Sam stared at each other for a moment. "Someone who really doesn't seem to like Christmas, I guess."

"Look, Sammy, you and I never had good Christmases. I know you've hated them worse then me. We don't read Shelley at Christmas or any other time. Not much chance to read, except when you're injured, but we at least watch a ball game or get drunk, man. Shelley?"

He shook his head, frowning. "We may want to keep an eye on that one, you know?"

"Yeah, something's bothering that guy. Big time. I know the signs, Sammy. Not sure about this, but it's got the feeling."

Castiel spoke from behind the pages of the book he was examining. "Then we shall watch over him and ensure that there is no danger."

"Good idea. I was wondering. You guys think we need to salt the suite?"

"Let's wait and see. It could be a figure of speech and this guy is an emo type or something," Sammy said with a shrug.

"Okay. What do you guys want to do for a while. The Dickens thing doesn't start til dark. I'm played out."

"Why don't you take a nap? We've got time to kill and you look tired. I'll probably do the same honestly." The younger Winchester stretched.

Dean was going to say no, then thought why not. He yawned. "I think I will. Anything comes up, let me know." Dean headed to the room he shared with Bobby. He shut the door, took off his boots, and jeans. He removed his outer shirt, leaving on the t-shirt, Crawling under the heavy quilt, he turned off the lamp and was asleep in minutes. It didn't take long before Castiel was the only one awake; the angel entertained himself by reading from some of the holiday books that had been bought.