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 something...so 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."
Sam frowned. "I'll have to think on that. 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 presence..it 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 reapers...an 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.
"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 scene....one 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."