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The Twelve Saves of Christmas
, by birdie and Janger
Member No.: 26,521
Joined: 3-October 07
It's my first time posting on here, so I hope I've got it right!!The Twelve Saves of Christmas
by Birdie and Janger
Take one overbooked hotel, one very frustrated ghost, and a series of incredibly unfortunate events; set it amidst the seasonal splendour of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and throw in two exceedingly unlucky Winchester boys. The result, The Twelve Saves of Christmas. Festive DeanWhumpage and CaringSam abound.
It was meant to be a Christmas Treat – something to remember for all the right reasons. However, when you're a Winchester, things don’t always go according to plan. An easy hunt followed by a well-deserved holiday rest, is what it should have been but a little ghostly intervention leads to a run of very painful disasters for our long-suffering brothers. Only a series of miraculous, seasonal intervention stands between them and what could easily be the end of the road.
Will the boys manage to limp along the long and perilous road home, before their festive saves run out?
Thank you to CalUK for the festive banner.
Join us for a chapter a day in the run-up to Christmas and beyond as we follow our favourite boys as they attempt to survive another disastrous Winchester Christmas.
Thank you Mr Kripke for the best present ever, Sam and Dean Winchester! Also, a huge thank you to our own Christmas Elf, Kirsty for the superb beta.
Disclaimer: It all belongs to Mr Kripke – though if my letter to Santa comes true they should be in my stocking on Christmas morning!
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Spoilers – None
Characters: Sam and Dean Winchester
Genre: Humour/Action/AdventurePrologue by birdie (2298 words)
December 22nd 11am - Just outside Bethlehem, PA
"So, we can go see this big, freaky-ass star thing. You'll like it Sam, it's a local landmark. People come for miles just to see it. See the blue and white signs?"
Dean gestured out the window to the highway markers flashing past the windows.
Sam craned his neck and peered in the indicated direction, reading the quickly passing sign with difficulty in the low, winter light.
‘Follow... the Star... to ...Bethlehem!'
He murmured disinterestedly, and Dean frowned at his lack of enthusiasm. Sammy was really not getting his head into this whole winter adventure deal and Dean had put lots of energy into making this a real special Christmas.
Not that Sammy knew that, of course. That was the whole point. It was gonna be a terrific surprise. That was if it all went to plan, but then what was there to go wrong? Dean had it planned down to the last detail.
Well, almost the last detail. They still needed to hit a K-Mart and stock up on essentials but they'd do that once they got checked in at their surprise destination.
This was gonna be a great Christmas.
The elder Winchester pressed on, determined to innervate his sulking sibling.
"So we go see the Star, salt and burn this ghostly Christmas Hiker of theirs, and while we're here, we just maybe catch a glimpse of ‘the' Jonathan Frakes! How cool would that be, Sam? Commander Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation. He was born right here in Bethlehem. So was Jimmy DeGrasso and ‘The Rock'. They sure have more than their fair share of celebrities, huh?"
Dean smiled happily over at Sam where he slumped dejectedly against the door of the Impala, as they barrelled through the increasingly snowy weather towards Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Sam was struggling to see why Dean was so excited about a very routine salt and burn in a declining, backwater steel town but he recognised that Dean's eyes were alight with the fervour of the hunt, and the possibility of a Star Trek/Megadeth/WWF celebrity sighting, and he knew nothing was going to distract his brother from his objective. He was resigned to going along with the stupid road trip, but he just couldn't get buzzed about it. Not even to please his over excited, suddenly Christmas-loving brother.
All Sam could think of was that they could have been settling into the relative comfort of Christmas at Bobby Singer's right now. Okay, the salvage yard wasn't exactly the lap of luxury, but it beat Christmas in some crappy motel again. Sam would have done his famous or was that infamous? egg-nog and Bobby would have grumbled his way good naturedly through incinerating a turkey for them. That was as good as it ever got for him now, since losing Jess. He sighed, knowing he wasn't even gonna have that now because Dean had a bee in his Yuletide Santa hat over some half-assed Hiker ghost.
Happy freaking Winchester Christmas!
Sam wasn't even convinced that this was really their type of job. Okay, this guy, he opened the tattered buff file again, James Tannenbaum - Jeeze, what a name! - had disappeared without a trace on a simple hike with his two business partners and his wife had sworn blind there was something sinister about his disappearance.
However, all the so-called Ghost of the ‘Christmas Hiker' had ever done was chase the odd South Mountain Hiker. He'd never hurt anyone and the only reason to assume it was the spirit of Tannenbaum was that the ghost had only begun to appear the year after his disappearance, on the anniversary of that fateful hike in the spruce forest with his partners.
Sam picked out one of the print outs Dean had packed into the file and almost smiled, just catching himself before Dean could see it. Dean had really worked the research for this one.
It was a grainy shot of three smiling, middle-aged men standing shoulder-to-shoulder outside the steel works. The plant that loomed behind them was large and Sam confirmed in the accompanying text that it was the major employer in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania.
James Tannenbaum and the Harvey brothers were the founding partners of the firm and had taken 10 years to build it to the thriving enterprise it was at the time of the freak disappearance. The Harveys had fared little better than their ex-partner, the plant foundering just months after the incident, amidst rumours of financial wrongdoings.
Nothing was ever proven but the brothers blamed the crash of the company on their lost partner and left the area themselves shortly afterwards. That was 1995 and the prosperity of the town had gone downhill with the decline of its major employer and the name of Tannenbaum had become anathema in Bethlehem.
Sam pulled another photocopied page from the file and began to read about ‘The Star of Bethlehem'. Yup, for some reason, Dean had been very thorough in his research and Sam found himself warming slightly to the job despite himself.
The Star was situated on top of South Mountain, the same mountain where Tannenbaum had taken that fateful hike, and was the crowning glory for ‘Christmas City, USA'.
The original star had been a wooden one erected by the grateful people of the town to commemorate their founding father, Count Zinzendorf's, naming their town Bethlehem on Christmas Eve 1741. That had been replaced later by a steel construction and later again, in 1967, by the current Plexiglas star. It was a pretty looking thing, even in the tiny, newsprint picture on the photocopy, and Sam read that it was visible from miles away.
Sam looked up from the papers. "Where are we now, Dean?"
Dean swivelled his head on stiff shoulders and glanced over at Sam before looking back to the snowy road.
"Umm, we passed a town a couple of miles back...think it was called Wind Rush or something?"
"Wind Gap?" Sam questioned, unable to keep a slight touch of excitement from his voice.
"Yeah, that was it I think, Wind Gap. Knew it was Wind something. Why, Sam?"
Sam sat forward on the bench seat, wiping at the slightly fogged up windshield, but the condensation and the snowflakes gathering on the outside restricted his view.
"Stop the car a minute, Dean."
Dean raised his eyebrows but Sam's face was earnest and he cruised the Impala into the kerb. "What's up?"
Sam was popping the door as he replied. "Wanna see if it's true..."
Snowflakes blew into the car and Dean yelled "Sam! Shut the damn door."
His plea fell on deaf ears and Dean growled as he followed his brother into the persistent storm. It was cold as he made his way around the Impala and he slammed the passenger door shut before joining Sam where he stood on the road, in front of the car. Sam was holding both hands up to his forehead to keep the fat, white flakes from his eyes as he squinted into the low, winter sunlight.
Dean stood by his side and adopted the same posture.
Both brothers exclaimed in unison as the twinkling Star of Bethlehem cut through the buffeting storm before them.
"You really can see it from 20 miles away..." Sam's voice held a slight note of childlike wonder.
"Crap, that sucker must be freaking huge!" Dean's voice was equally as wondrous in its own way.
The rest of the journey to Bethlehem was uneventful; lit as it was by the guiding beam of the Star, and just short of an hour later saw the Winchesters pulling into the parking lot of the swanky Holy Night Inn.
Well more correctly the once swanky Holy Night Inn. Since the closure of the steel mill the hotel had fared no better than the rest of the businesses in town, but that said it was still clearly way better than the standard accommodation the brothers were used to.
Sam peered through the small, clear section of windshield before him and turned to the older man, perplexed.
"Dean. Have you lost your mind? This isn't our sorta place. Rooms must be at least $89 a night. We can't afford this."
"Sammy...Sammy..." Dean placed his hand on his brother's shoulder and squeezed affectionately.
"It's Christmas, bro. It's all arranged. I booked it on line weeks ago. All we need to do is go check in. I thought we'd finish off the spirit real quick and then we can have a few nights relaxing in splendour. And where better to do it than Holy Night Inn? I thought it might make up for some of our more spectacularly crappy ‘Christmas pasts'!"
"So this is what all the manic research and secrecy has been about?"
Dean's huge grin was as infectious as always and Sam found his face cracking into a smile.
"We deserve a bit of R&R, Sammy... and they have pay per view and a Jacuzzi."
Sam laughed out loud, realising how low his brother's expectations were.
"Thanks, Dean, this is real nice..."
"Don't get all chick-flick on me, Sam." Dean smiled as he stepped from the car closely followed by his now excited sibling.
"Leave the bags; we'll have a bus-boy come get them!"
"You really think that's wise, Dean? Considering the lethal arsenal you've got stashed away in there?"
Dean inclined his head, nodding sagely. "I guess you've got a good point there, Sammy. Let's get checked in, I'll come get ‘em once we're settled."
Dean stretched up and threw his arm around his giant baby brother's shoulders and the Winchester brothers headed for their much anticipated and well-deserved luxury.
"And I was supposed to know you have to confirm freaking on line bookings, how?"
Dean's blood pressure was at maximum mercury levels and he was about to lose what little cool he had left. The best laid plans he had worked so hard at were melting like snowflakes in Hades before his stunned emerald eyes, but he had no intention of going down without a fight.
The desk clerk, however, was a thirty year leisure industry veteran and it was gonna take more than an irate, if particularly handsome customer, to faze him.
"If Sir would just let me explain."
He spoke with exaggerated patience that had Sam biting his lip to keep from laughing. Somehow he had known, looking at the Holy Night Inn, that it was not destined to be their resting place.
"It does say quite clearly on the on line booking form that at peak times we require a confirmation e-mail within a week of the booking. And Christmas is one of our busiest times, Sir. The Star and all, you know."
The clerk tapped unthreateningly, but irritatingly, with his pen on the screen that he had turned so Dean could see. Sensing impending disaster, Dean took a deep breath and turned up the charm to full power.
"Charles..." He schmoozed, clocking the clerks name badge. "So,okay, we can't have the premiere suite with the Jacuzzi..."
Charles shook his head with sympathetic sincerity.
"So what can you offer us?"
Sam watched Charles' eyebrows rise suggestively and the slight blush creep to Dean's cheek and he bit his tongue to keep from laughing out loud.
"By way of rooms, I mean. For me and my brother, that is!"
Dean quickly added in his deepest voice and Charles pretended to hide his disappointment.
"I'm really sorry, Mr Cringle, but the hotel is absolutely full. There's not a single room to be had in the whole Inn. I'm afraid at this time there's nothing I can do to service your needs."
Sam's laughter burst forth at that point, seeing his brother's frank blush at the clerk's amused suggestiveness. He gently pushed his open mouthed sibling out of Charles immediate eye-line, mouthing ‘Mr Cringle' incredulously. Dean shrugged defiantly.
"So, Charles. Can you advise of where in town we might find a room for the next couple of nights?" Sam smiled his best ‘innocent abroad' smile and Charles returned it sympathetically.
"I'm sorry, sir, but Bethlehem is totally full. I know because we have an on line booking tracker which shows us the other hotels of repute in the area so we can help guests to somewhere else when we are full. As I said, though, this is our peak time and everywhere is totally max'd out. I'm very sorry."
The smiling clerk ran his eye appreciatively over the younger Winchester.
"If it was up to me, I'd certainly make room for the pair of you. Indeed it would be my great pleasure to have you both in the hotel."
Sam blushed, ignored Dean's snort of irritation and smiled warmly at the, some might say, over-friendly clerk.
"Are all the hotels on your system, Charles?"
The clerk nodded sadly. "Yes, Sir, they are."
"Motels?" Sam enquired hopefully.
"Well, there's only the one out by the paddocks at the edge of town, The Bethlehem Stables."
Charles was unaware but his nostril had flared in slight distaste at the thought of the infamously sub standard institute.
"The Bethlehem Stables..? You're kidding me, Charles, right?" Sam smiled in astonished delight.
"You're really telling me that there's no room at the inn for two weary travellers, and the only possible option could be a stable in Bethlehem?"
Charles lifted a delicate hand to hide his inappropriate grin. "I'm afraid I am, Sir."
Sam nodded slowly, taking in the incredulous impossibility of the situation. He nodded his thanks to Charles and forcefully took his brother's arm by the wrist. "Come on, Dean."
He pulled the reluctant hunter toward the door.
"Let's blow this joint before the Three Wise Men and an interfering Angel of the Lord appear!"
Dean laughed out loud. "Angel of the Lord? Now Sammy, that's just too fantastical for words!"
Chapter End Notes:
We hope you enjoy the story. Chapter 1 to follow, tomorrow. Merry Christmas!
Member No.: 26,521
Joined: 3-October 07
The Twelve Saves of Christmas – chapter 2
Dean fairs poorly in an altercation with a holly bush. Anyone want to help dress his cuts and scratches?
Save Number one - Decking Dean with Boughs of Holly by birdie
December 22nd 4.30pm
The forest was Christmas card perfect. Evergreen trees stretched frost-covered fingers towards a midnight blue sky. The stars chased ancient gods and mythical beings through winter white puffs of cloud and the rising moon cast its silvery beams onto the crisp banks of pure, unsullied snow.
There was that soft silence that the frigid carpet of pure white bestows to the world. As the beasts of the forest cuddled up in their hidey holes, munching on a prudently stored acorn or some other unfortunate, smaller beast as they saw fit.
All was peace and icy perfection.
Apart, that was, from the steady moaning emanating from the patch of holly bushes at the foot of the cliff and which flared from time to time into brief bouts of heartfelt cussing.
"Freakin' Holly! I hadda fall into the scratchiest, sonofabitching bush known to man. I couldn't have landed in some sweet smelling, soft leaved, springy-boughed, cotton-wool covered trampoline bush?"
Dean grumbled as he stared with unfocussed eyes up towards Sammy, who was looming even more than usual, perched as he was on the top of the cliff his older sibling had so recently, and spectacularly, vacated.
"Consider yourself lucky, Dean."
Sam hollered, a wry smile of relief playing at the corner of his mouth as he looked down onto his brother's clearly somewhat still intact form.
"Lucky? Oh, yeah, that's my freakin' middle name, Sam! Just another shining example of Dean ‘Lucky' Winchester and his amazing Yuletide Good Fortune!"
"At least the holly broke your fall which is pretty amazing when you think how hard the ghost threw you. I thought you'd have broken every bone in your body when you flew over the edge of the butte like that."
Dean grudgingly acknowledged Sam's point, though Sam was perched too far above his uncomfortable resting place to see his brother's reluctant nod, and the world spun more than a little as Dean craned his neck to look up into the night sky, in Sam's general direction.
"I think the Spirit of Christmas must be looking out for you."
Sam's voice echoed distantly in the frosty air as he carefully began the descent to his brother's aid.
"Sure... sure, Sammy. It's a different kinda Christmas Spirit that I could do with right now though."
Dean mumbled back peevishly, his eyebrows raised in an ironic curve, though his eyes were blinking slowly, closing in fatigue.
"Something spirit based that'd warm my sorry ass...now that'd be lucky."
How could Sam call this lucky? Dean was freezing his ass off. His teeth literally chattering in his head as he tried- again- to pry his trapped leg from beneath the fallen bough that held him pinned so securely to the floor.
He had lost his jacket, well maybe lost wasn't quite the right word, cause he could still see it lodged, fluttering in the steady breeze about eight feet above his head. Flapping away like some giant bird or a weird ass flag, staking his claim to the cliff face. Maybe the Sasquatch could reach it down for him.
The heavy tree limb that he was now so intimately intertwined with had been brought down in his spectacular fall from the cliff high above, and he was in no mood to humour Sam with his festive ‘joy to the world' platitudes.
"Freaking Spirit of Christmas..."
Dean muttered under his breath as he thrashed about, inadvertently becoming further entangled in the prickly holly branches that had saved him from certain death. But still he could find no reason to rejoice in his unanticipated seasonal ‘save'.
The absence of the warm, weathered leather was telling on his shivering form and the holly had exacted its price for his survival. As he had plummeted, the spiky yuletide vegetation had scratched and torn a myriad of softly stinging presents into his delicate hide and he was losing blood and precious heat as quickly as his patience.
"Stay put, bro, I'm on my way down."
Sam's forced cheeriness penetrated the increasingly fuzzy layers that were clouding Dean's awareness as he lay, helplessly succumbing to the hypothermic arms of long forgotten dreams and memories, utterly ungrateful for the miracle of the first ‘save' of Christmas.
‘Stay put, bro? Yeah, like I got a lot of damned choice in the matter? Don't worry, Sam, I'm not headed anywhere, anytime soon...'
"Be careful, Sammy. Watch yourself on those rocks; it's icy as hell up there. I got enough problems without Gigantor flying through the air and landing on top of me."
Dean's words tailed off as his eyelids fluttered, lost their battle with gravity and slid gently closed, shielding his glazed and glassy eyes within the first layers of unconsciousness.
The unnatural quiet was broken only by the faint creaking of branches and the gentle patter of clumps of snow as they fell, dislodged from the recently disturbed boughs above. The occasional grunts and groans of pain had subsided into a softly, rasping snore. In the distance muffled crashes, the snapping of twigs, bursts of non-festive cursing and the tramp of fast approaching footsteps could be heard.
"Dean? Dean, where are you? Ouch! Sonofabitch!"
A particularly loud thud was followed by a string of expletives and a rustling of undergrowth before a heavily jacketed arm forced its way through the low lying branches making way for a sweating, dishevelled head of hair.
"Aah, come on, you gotta be freakin' kidding me here. How many goddamn holly trees can there be? Dammit, Dean, answer me. I know you're round here somewhere."
Sam paused again, trying to get his bearings now he had reached the base of the cliff and flicking his long, snow damp bangs back from his forehead. Hot breath puffed from his partially open lips in quickly dissipating clouds as he peered frantically through the heavily mottled gloom of the sub canopy area.
Glancing upwards, his attention was caught by a large flapping object to his right, squinting into the wavering light his expression changed to one of concern as he recognised his brother's leather coat suspended high above him.
"Why the hell did you take your jacket off, Dean?"
Sam wondered out loud as he pushed a little further into the deep, prickly undergrowth, only to jump as freezing cold fingers took a firm hold of his ankle.
"I didn't take it off..."
Dean's look of disgust purveyed his sentiment of ‘what a dumb-ass comment' far better than actual words did and Sam felt a slow blush flood his cold, pale cheeks.
"It was torn from my superbly toned and much sought after body by Mother
The explanation was chattered out through lips blued with the cold as Sam carefully detached the worst of the prickly debris from his shivering brother's torn skin.
"See, it happens to me all the time..."
Sam looked into Dean's slightly unfocussed gaze and raised his eyebrows in question as he checked him over, cataloguing his injuries.
"What happens all the time, Dean?"
Dean huffed the air from his lungs out in disgust at his baby brother's lack of understanding of a simple, but irrefutable truth.
Dean accepted Sam's arm, finally free enough of the tangling holly to be able to at least sit up. He groaned as he slowly rose, the cold air stinging his lacerated back.
"What about women?"
Sam mumbled as he assessed the damage to Dean's back, his brother having effectively been lying on a bed of thorns. On the snow beneath, the ruby red ‘shadow' of the hunter tattooed the virginal white.
"Sammy! Have you forgotten that talk we had about women?"
Dean's finest crap-eater grin warmed his pale face, and the younger Winchester rolled his eyes but held his tongue.
"What, in particular, about women?"
Sam clarified in his clearest ‘I'm talking to a moron' voice.
Dean replied wincing softly as Sam pulled up his crimson frosted T-shirt to reveal his torn back.
"Women always want to remove my clothes, Sammy."
It was Sam's turn to huff in amusement.
"Oh, you can laugh..." Dean retorted. "But it's just a simple matter of fact, bro. They find me hard to resist and Mother Nature..."
Dean inclined his head, and blinked in a quod erat demonstrandum gesture.
"Well, she's a woman too, so naturally she'd want a piece of this fine ass too."
Sam nodded distractedly as he surveyed the worst of the tears in his brother's hide.
"You're back's all torn up, Dean..."
"Yup. They do that, too."
Dean interrupted and, seeing lack of understanding in Sam's hazel eyes, he clarified.
"Women, Sam. Tear your back up when they're..."
Sam shouted abruptly, jolting Dean from his random, fuzzy lecture. The sudden movement tore at the wounds, some of which were reasonably deep, and fresh rivulets of blood dripped to birth new crimson blooms in the brittle snow.
"Ouch!" Dean muttered softly.
"I'm sorry." Sam moved round on his knees.
"Let's get you out of here, Dean."
He made to rise, reaching out to take hold of Dean's arm and help him up.
Dean's words were a little slurry and Sam looked worriedly into green eyes that were gently succumbing to shock and the cold.
"Stay with me here, Dean."
Sam shook his brother's shoulder and the vibration from the movement called down, from the over-hanging trees, a further drifting of snow upon the yuletide hunters.
"That's what I'm trying to tell ya...I ain't going nowhere."
The sudden sprinkle of cold and wet upon Dean revived him a little and he growled.
"Can't just ‘get me out', ya festive fool. I'm stuck, really stuck!"
He gestured angrily at his trapped leg and Sam peered through the gloom to focus on his brother's bough ensnared limb. Recognition and realisation flooded Sam's face as his huge hands made contact with the fallen branch.
Dean rolled his eyes. "No shitSherlock!"
Sam ignored the sarcastic remark and rose slowly to his feet; straddling his brother's recumbent form and planting his huge boots in the deep snow as he strained to lift the large wooden barrier.
"Try... and pull...your leg free."
Sam gasped with the effort and Dean with the discomfort of the manoeuvre, but slowly Sam raised the heavy bough enough for Dean to wriggle and tug his nerve-dead leg from its entrapment.
Dean called triumphantly as he rolled away from the fallen bough, allowing Sam the relief of letting it crash back to the floor. Flurries of snow blizzarded around the brothers as Sam reached towards Dean's newly released leg. His jeans were stained with lichen from the tree and frozen to his limb and Dean winced as Sam's firm fingers probed the cramped muscles and bruised flesh.
"Can you feel anything?"
Sam asked and was rewarded with a glower as Dean knocked his searching hand away.
"Yeah, your great mitts all over me! Mind the merchandise, dude."
Sam smiled carefully, so as not to incur further wrath, and leaned in to help Dean rise from his frosty resting place. Frozen blood made icy, cherry-red popsicles of his jeans as he rose; and Sam could feel wholesale tremors of both cold and discomfort as he held Dean steady whilst he found his footing, testing the leg gingerly to see if it would support his weight.
Dean pushed him gently away and swayed carefully in the softly drifting snow.
"I don't think it's busted."
He took a faltering step and a groan emanated from his bluish lips as his bodyweight made the re-awakening limb buzz with pins and needles.
"Well, good..." Sam smiled. "'Cause I don't wanna have to carry your heavy old ass outta here!"
Dean raised an eyebrow as he looked up into his brother grinning face.
"A little less of the heavy and the old, if it's all the same to you. Anyway Sasquatch, I doubt you'll have to." He stuttered. "'Cause I think I'll d...d...die of hypothermia long before we g...get back to the car."
Sam's face changed instantly; humour being replaced by concern as he noticed Dean violently shaking.
"One minute, Dean."
He was moving as he spoke, his long legs giving him good purchase on the tree as he climbed towards the leather ‘big-bird' caught in the branches.
"Thought you'd never take the hint there, bro."
Dean smiled up as he watched his baby brother scale the sturdy limbs, sending tiny avalanches cascading down with his every movement.
The heavy jacket flapped with poor aerodynamic grace to the ground; landing unceremoniously on Dean's head, the weight of the descending garment knocking him back on his ass in the snow.
Sam scrambled from the tree and helped Dean to his unstable feet for the second time in 60 seconds, brushing the snow from his grumbling brother as he helped him don the slightly damp coat. Wet as it was it felt good as Dean shrugged the familiar leather around his frozen body and he smiled despite his aches and pains.
Sam craned his long neck to regard the top of the butte.
"You ready for a climb? The Impala's somewhere up there, along with one rather pissed off ghost."
Dean tipped his head back to follow Sam's line of sight, swaying precariously as he did.
"Did you find my shotgun up there? I musta dropped it when that crazy mother gotta hold of me."
Sam gestured towards his backpack "Don't worry. I got it right here. Getting a little sloppy there, bro!" He teased gently.
"Ah, bite me! You know, it's strange it didn't follow us, Sam?" Dean continued distractedly as they looked up into the clear, star filled sky.
Sam unobtrusively took his brother's elbow to steady him as he answered.
"Don't think it can, Dean. Seems locked into the patch of land at the cliff top for some reason."
"Ummm..." Dean nodded in acceptance.
"Well, better get going if we're gonna stand any chance of finding the body so we can salt and burn that sucker. It sure as hell wasn't anywhere we looked yet."
Sam nodded in agreement as they slowly started back. They clambered through the cluttered undergrowth for a while, the only sounds their footsteps in the crisp, crunching snow, the snapping of twigs and the odd muttered curse, then suddenly Dean's curious voice cut through the winter silence.
Sam looked back worriedly at his brother as he replied.
"You okay, Dean? Leg hurting?"
Dean shook his head. The lie springing readily to his lips
Sam let go the breath he had been holding in.
"What's up then?"
"It's just that, I was thinking...it was sorta ‘lucky' that I hit the holly. It prickled like a sonofabitch but it slowed me right down as I fell, I guess it did save me."
Sam nodded at his brother's thoughtful contemplations. "As I said, you were lucky, dude. Very lucky."
High on the butte the wind howled around the spirit of the Christmas Hiker as he stared down on the rescue scene below him with eerily opaque eyes.
His anger roiled within him but he had no capacity to escape the confines of his cliff-top prison and the seemingly endless frustration tore from him, his shrieks of torment joining the song of the gale.
He would bide his time.
They would come back; they had to come back to his hilltop domain, as the only way back to their car was the path he guarded, and he would be waiting for them.
Chapter End Notes:
A very Merry Christmas to all our Supernatural friends from Birdie and Janger. xx
Member No.: 26,521
Joined: 3-October 07
We're so pleased you're enjoying our little festive frolic with the boys in the woods! They're both in for a rough few days, particularly poor Dean!!
We hope you're along for the journey as they begin their disastrous trek homewards, well Impalawards...
Jane and Bev
The Twelve Saves of Christmas - Chapter Three
Sam and Dean remember an earlier Christmas as their struggle to survive in the snowy wilderness continues.
Save 2 - 12 Saves of Christmas
The Holly and the Poison Ivy by Janger
December 22nd - 6.15pm
"As I said, you were lucky, dude. Very lucky." Sam drawled quietly.
"It got me thinking, you know, it's not the first time you or dad have gone on about ‘Mother Nature' or your Christmas Spirit having a hand in saving one of us."
He flicked his eyes up to an increasingly incredulous looking Sam.
"I just wish if something was gonna get involved in giving us a hand, that it'd do it without us getting half killed beforehand."
Sam raised a quizzical eyebrow, halting his progress to look back over a snow-spattered shoulder as his brother limped painfully towards him.
"Dean? Did you hit your head and not mention it to me? Cause you're kinda startin' to ramble here."
"Dude, if I mentioned every place I hit on the way down, we'd still be sitting in that damned bush! No, I mean it, Sam. Don't you remember that "camping" weekend dad took us on? Damn, when was it? Lemme think for a minute."
Dean chewed absentmindedly at his bruised lower lip as he struggled to remember the details. Wanting, needing, something to take his mind off the dull, throbbing ache that was beginning to nag remorselessly at his left knee, shooting pains streaking down his shin with rhythmic discomfort.
Sam waited patiently whilst his brother caught up, he knew without it being voiced that Dean was in far more pain than he was letting on, also knew that the more fuss he made the longer the resistance to his help would continue. So he hung back, silently observing the approaching figure for injuries he might have missed, highlighted as they both were by the distant moon against the cold gleam of the snow.
Dean looked up as he drew near; his breath coming in short measured puffs, a light sheen of sweat on his high cheekbones reflecting the moonlight, casting the rest of his face into deep shadows. He smiled, tiredly.
"Okay, so it's coming back to me now. It was over in Rocky Gap State Park, up in the Central Appalachians." He nodded for Sam to continue walking, shaking off his proffered hand. "Dad'd hired a cabin for a couple of months over the winter, he'd just cleared out a shapeshifter from along one of the lakes and it had gone pretty quiet up there. So he decided the best way for the Winchester's to spend the run-up to Christmas was out on a training exercise."
"It was just before my nineteenth birthday so you'da been about fourteen." He glanced up at Sam's unresponsive face. "Oh, come on, Sam. Tell me you remember!"
Sam's noncommittal shrug of the shoulders spurred Dean to continue, trying to enthuse Sam with his reminiscences.
"So, we left our warm, safe, comfortable cabin, full of provisions for Christmas and headed out into the hills for a five day hike with minimal survival provisions." He chuckled softly, "I remember now, Dad was totally pissed at the pair of us. I was mad ‘cause he'd left me back at the cabin baby-sitting your sorry-ass whilst he'd gone hunting; so, before he came back, we took the car into town and went to the movies. We went to see, what was it? Scream 2”. He shook his head, laughing.
"You gotta remember it, Sammy! You wanted to go see Titanic, but I got the tickets and made you go see Scream 2. Dude, that was one hot film, I loved that Buffy chick, even if she didn't know jackshit about hunting - man I could'a taught her a thing or two. You remember, I bought one of those masks at the end and wound you up the whole way back to the hut!"
Sam rolled his hazel eyes, grinning widely, Dean's easy memories driving away some of his worries. He glanced back and was heartened to see that Dean was managing to match his pace.
"Yeah, it's all coming back to me now! You were such a dick, trying to drive with that mask on... That's why you skidded the car in the snow and ended up creasing it up against a tree!" His eyes widened as the memories returned.
"Dude, there was black ice, it wasn't my fault!" Dean denied hotly.
Sam hid his smile behind his shaggy hair, relieved that his brother was picking up the pace a little.
"Anyway, Dean, I still don't get how Mother Nature saved us then. If I recall correctly, Dad'd gotten home early and was waiting there at the cabin when we got back. He was madder'n hell, that we'd gone into town and then when he found out about the car, he went ballistic, man!"
"Well if you'd shut your cakehole and let me finish."
Dean's lips pouted in annoyance at Sam's interruptions.
"That was why he took us out ‘training' four days before Christmas, he was so angry, he said the only way we'd get a Christmas that year was if we hauled our worthless hides back there ourselves. He drove us out about 40 miles into the mountains, gave us a six hour head start and then we were supposed to practise Escape and Evasion techniques, so he didn't catch up to us."
Recovering his good humour, he gently punched Sam on the arm.
"You moaned from the time we got in the car, to the time we eventually got back to that damned cabin. I'm surprised I didn't tie you to a damned tree and leave you out there!"
"Well, it was you that crashed the car, not me!" Sam returned, voice rising in frustration.
"Oh, quit your bitchin', Sammy. There's no need to go into one of your hissy fits, Princess, it was a long time ago!"
Sam's mumbled curses brought a grin to Dean's pale, scratched-up face as they reached the shallow, slow-moving stream at the base of the cliff.
Sam searched along the gentle banks for his crossing point, easily locating the footstep disturbed snow casting harsh shadows against the moonlit white carpet.
"Oh, man, tell me I don't gotta get any wetter'n I already am?"
"Well, unless you can fly your ‘worthless hide' back up there with the aid of your dancing partner, this time you gotta try slightly more conventional means!"
Sam's wide browed furrowed in concentration.
"Hey, you know, that could be why it didn't follow us down, there's a lot of lore about it, and certain types of spirits can't cross open water."
"Way to go, Einstein. Mind you, the way I feel, I almost wish the freaky sonofabitch would get down here and haul my priceless tail back up there. Come on; let's get this over with. Get your boots and socks off, Sammy. You don't wanna be walking with wet feet in this snow."
"I'm not a kid anymore, Dean. Remember who just saved who from that bush, for God's sake! Come on, there's some rocks over there, I used them on the way over as stepping-stones, you can keep your boots on."
Sam lead the way to where the moss-slippery rocks stuck out of the frigid water. He turned in time to catch Dean's dubious glare.
"You gonna be okay on these, dude? Wait, I'll take my boots off and give you a hand."
"Like hell you will, Sam. Quit fussin' over me. I'm fine!"
Gritting his teeth and scowling in concentration, Dean edged out gingerly onto the first of the slippery rocks. Arms spread out loosely to the sides like a practised tightrope walker; he balanced his way towards the now seemingly distant shore, steadfastly ignoring the shards of pain that rocketed through him every time he placed his full weight upon his damaged left leg.
By the time he reached the last stone, sweat had beaded upon his upper lip and his breath hitched as he sought to control trembling muscles and the black spots dancing before his eyes.
Sam followed one step behind, glancing up just in time to see his brother sway dangerously over to the side. He leapt across to steady him as he stumbled from the rock, knee buckling beneath him as it twisted on the uneven footing.
"Aaarrgghh! Dammit!" He yelped, as Sam's strong arm caught him around his waist. Clutching tightly to Sam's shoulder they struggled the last few steps to shore. Curses filled the frosty air as the shingle shifted below his sturdy boots, twisting his already abused patella.
"Motherfu..." Dean gasped, eyes clenched tightly shut as Sam lowered him carefully on to the snow-topped trunk of a fallen tree. Leaning forwards, both hands clasped around his failing knee, he rocked silently against the pain.
"Okay, Dean. Little something you're not telling me here? Come on, lemme take a look." Sam knelt before his grimacing brother, flashlight in hand, carefully avoiding the dark slush at the rivers edge. He reached for the ice cold, wet denim covering his brothers left leg and carefully eased it above the knee, swatting at Dean's clutching hands as he did so.
Dean leant back, growling softly as Sam's long fingers probed his wounded knee, poking gently at the lividly bruised and swollen flesh. Huffing in pain as Sam lifted his ankle and gradually straightened the limb.
"Leave it, Sam. ‘M fine. Just get me on my feet and let's get up this damned hill!"
"Don't think so, Dean. Here, sit still. I got some bandages in my backpack, I'm gonna strap it up tight and get you a stick to lean on. Nothin's broken, I think it's just badly bruised and maybe twisted a little."
Sam swung the daypack from his broad back and rummaged inside for the first aid kit. "Here, swallow a couple of these. They'll help." He thrust the Ibuprofen bottle towards his shivering, pale-faced sibling.
"Sammy, please? Quit fussing and let's get a move on. I'm starting to freeze my ass off here." Dean complained, but swallowed the proffered tablets as Sam began to wind the elasticated bandage securely round his knee.
"Anyway, Dean. You were telling me about this survival trip with dad." Sam prompted, attempting to turn Dean's thoughts away from their present predicament.
Dean shook his head, as if coming out of a daze.
"Right, yeah, where was I? Okay, so dad had dumped us in the middle of nowhere. It was snowing; damn it was cold up there. We set off at a real good pace; we knew if we made good time we could still get back to the cabin in time for some sorta Christmas. Should'a known things weren't gonna go according to plan."
His brow furrowed as he watched his baby brother finish off the bandaging and stand, towering above him.
"Stay here. I'll be right back." Sam disappeared into the heavily wooded tree line, returning several minutes later with a selection of sturdy sticks. "Well, there's plenty to choose from, dude! Take your pick."
He helped Dean to rise unsteadily to his feet, gingerly testing his weight on the strapped joint.
"Dammit!" He hissed, "Okay, pass me one of those damned things. Come on, let's get outta here."
Together, they began the long and arduous trek up the steep, slippery track leading to the cliff top.
"So, we'd only been out for a couple of hours, trying to make for lower ground so we could cover our tracks, when you slipped and got your foot stuck down a rabbit hole. Man, you were so damn clumsy at that age, Sammy. You'd fall over everything, even stuff that wasn't there!" Dean chuckled softly at the memory.
Sam huffed a denial, making Dean laugh even harder.
"Seriously, dude. That was the year you grew about a foot in three weeks and your head hadn't caught up with the rest of you and thought you could still fit through gaps you could fit through before." Dean's eyes lit up with mirth "You used to hit your head on everything, trip over nothing, and bump into things in a different room. You were like a one man destruction unit."
Sam scowled through his frosting breath. "How times change, huh? Cause it was me pulling your raggedy-ass out from under that bush just now."
"That was so not the same thing, Sam."
Dean raised a dismissive eyebrow in Sam's general direction before continuing.
"Anyhow, I slid on down next to you, to try and pull you out. Ended up digging you out with my bare hands and got covered in poison ivy in the process. Course, we didn't know it then cause all the leaves were dead, but I got it all over my hands, arms and neck where I was digging around in the snow." Dean shivered at the memory, scratching absentmindedly at his forearm. "We got you out, eventually, and didn't think anymore of it. You were still bitchin' cause it was cold, wet and getting dark and you couldn't watch your 90210 or Melrose or whatever it was you were missing."
"Dude, I never watched any of that!" Sam denied hotly.
"Yeah, whatever you say, dude."
Dean stumbled, jarring his leg on the slippery slope, "Ah, Jeez!" He panted breathlessly, sinking awkwardly to the ground, half lying on his ,back clutching at his throbbing knee, face screwed up in pain.
Sam was instantly kneeling by his side, "Hey, easy there, Dean, you okay?"
"Awesome, just awesome." Dean managed to grit through the pain.
"Well, it's about time we stopped for a rest anyway. You wanna sit here for a while?"
Dean shook his head, ripples of pain ghosting across his wan features, "No."
Damn, not good. One word answers from Dean, always a bad sign. Sam hovered, knowing his brother needed time to compose himself.
"Hey, come on, there's no rush, we got all night. Take your time, bro'."
"Just give me a minute, Sam. I just need to catch my breath."
Dean looked up, disorientated, at the dark silhouette of his younger brother that refused to stop swaying against the moonlit sky. Blinking to clear his swimming vision, he held his hand out.
"Hey, Sammy, any chance of a hand up here?"
Sam squatted in front of the recumbent form and reached out with his own chilled hand to tilt Dean's chin up towards the moonlight. Fully expecting, and ready to counter, Dean's stubborn resistance, he again pulled the slim Maglite from his inner pocket.
"Dean, look at me. Just sit tight for a while and let me look at your eyes." He shone the bright beam into his brother's rolling eyes.
"Dammit, Sammy! There goes my friggin' night vision. What the hell's the matter with you?" Dean flinched back from the fierce rays.
"Hey! Just calm down there, Captain Concussion! Okay, Dean, so I think maybe we need to have a five-minute sit down. I don't know about you but I really could do with a break." Sam used the one argument he knew Dean would succumb to.
"It's alright for you; you're not sitting down here in this friggin' cold snow, freezing your tushe off." Dean complained as he gratefully leant back trying to haul himself into a more comfortable position. "But, whatever. If your pansy-assed, college-boy legs need a break, Samantha, then don't let me be the one to stop you."
Dean leant forwards, clutching his pounding head in his hands, gently massaging the temples
"Anyway," Sam sat himself stiffly down next to the quietly suffering form of his big brother, folding his coltishly long legs before him. "Maybe, you can get to finish this story, if we sit still for a little while!"
"Yeah, I guess... Where the hell was I?"
"Well, according to you, you'd just dug me out of a rabbit hole and got covered in poison ivy. So far, I'm not seeing much seasonal saving goin' on, Dean."
"Right, we'd got down from the mountainside and it was maybe the second or third night out, we were making really good time and dad was nowhere in sight. God, it was so cold up there, why do I seem to have spent so much time freezin' my bits off, Sam?"
Dean glanced groggily at the huge form beside him.
"Dean, the story?" Sam prompted.
"Sorry. So, yeah. You were still bitchin'!"
Dean's face took on a far-away expression...
"Dean, dad's just a total jerk, what's the matter with the man? Most families are at home hanging up stockings and eating candy now. We get a raging psychopath for a father who thinks it's his duty to prepare us for...for god knows what!
"Sam, please? Give it a rest. Look we're out here now, there's no point moaning like a little girl. Let's just get going and see if we can't get back in time to do a little candy-cane action of our own?" Dean scratched absently at the side of his neck.
"Let's find somewhere to hole up for a couple of hours, you'll feel better after some sleep. There's loads of empty holiday cabins up here this time of year, we can bust into one and sleep someplace warm for a change. We carry on at this pace and we'll be back in plenty of time for Christmas Dinner!" He encouraged, pausing to scratch at the exposed skin of his hands and lower arms.
"Come on, Sammy. Dammit, I think I've been bitten, or something, I'm startin' to itch all over."
"Don't call me Sammy, it's Sam! Come on then, quit itching, you'll only make it worse."
Together they headed off towards the distant ridgeline, keeping to the shadowed tree lined roadside.
"Hey, Dean." Sam whispered. "I've had a look round the back and there's definitely no-one around, no car tracks, nothing! Stop scratching, Dean, what's the matter with you?"
"Sshhh! Come on. Let's just get inside outta this cold. You got your lock-pick, Sammy? Time to put all that training to good use!"
Sam stealthily approached the cabin door, stepping carefully along the boarded veranda, and then knelt briefly by the lock. His brother followed at a distance, keeping a wary eye on the surroundings, listening for any threats.
"And we're in!" Sam exclaimed gleefully after several minutes.
Dean flashed a tired grin at the kneeling figure, "Well done, Kiddo. That's the product of a misspent youth! Come on, let's get inside."
Warily they entered the silent building, swiftly checking all three rooms before closing the main door and heading for the kitchen.
"Sam, make sure all the curtains and blinds are shut before you put on any lights." Dean instructed, remembering the basic rules of breaking and entering he'd learnt so many years before. "Then get that stove on and see if we can warm this place up a little."
"What's up with you doing something?" Sam questioned.
"Nothing... Just let me wash my face and hands first. They're killing me, I musta' got stung or bitten or something out there." Dean paused scrubbing his hands on the rough fabric of his jeans.
Sam turned from checking the last window and reached for a switch.
"Here, let me take a look at them in the light."
Sam struggled to hide his gasp as harsh light flooded the small kitchen area. "Damn, Dean. Why didn't you say something earlier?"
Dean stood swaying as he stared mutely at the raw and weeping blister covered mess at the end of his arms. "Didn't know it was this bad, Sam. They were so damned cold, all I could feel was the itching." Grimacing he reached up to scratch savagely at the side of his neck.
"Hell, Dean. Stop it! Oh god, it's all over your neck too. Dude, it's disgusting, you've turned into some kinda freakin’ leper.” Sam exclaimed, his face showing clearly the horror he felt at the sight.
Dean gingerly pulled up his sleeves and turned his hands over inspecting them more closely. “Crap! I’ve had something like this before. Not as bad as this. Last time I crawled through a patch of poison ivy, but its winter, I thought you had to touch the leaves or something. Man this is killing me.” Again he raked his nails over his inflamed skin.
"Hell, Dean. I remember it all now. Man you looked like an extra from the Thriller video. You were a total mess. I cleaned you up as best I could and made a huge pot of some sorta tinned stew."
"Yeah, which I couldn't eat cause when my hands warmed up they were so bad I couldn't hold a spoon. I tell you, Sammy, I've been shot, stabbed, burnt and beaten but nothing was so damned irritating as that freakin' poison ivy. If I never touch that stuff again it'll be too soon."
"So, I still don't' get how poison ivy ‘saved' you out there." Sam mused quietly.
"Well, as usual you gotta allow for just a little bit more of the Winchester Yuletide Luck coming into play!" Dean shivered, pulling further into his jacket.
"We eventually got outta the cabin, course there was still no sign of dad. I was pretty groggy by then, we'd found a load of painkillers and some other stuff, so I was fairly out of it. We forgot the Escape & Evasion tactics, in fact we were hoping dad'd come and find us by then."
"That man's got a lot to answer for." Sam grumbled under his breath.
Dean shook his head, "Leave it, Sam. Anyway, we decided to take a short cut through the lower slopes and somehow wandered into a hunting range where they were holding a Christmas Eve Venison Drive, if I remember correctly. It was dusk and we crossed into the line of sight of some crazy-assed hunter who mistook me for a deer. He was very apologetic later and said he'd just fired when he'd seen movement. Made me feel just so much better!"
Sam's face paled visibly even in the moonlight. "Oh, god! He shot you, I remember. You were lagging behind, I turned to wait and you just keeled over, I heard the shot and thought you were dead. How could I forget that, Dean?"
"It was a long time ago, Sammy. We've had so many crappy close calls; I guess the near misses get lost along the way. I was happily mooching along, so high on whatever painkillers I'd mixed with the half bottle of whisky I'd drunk - for medicinal purposes only, you understand - I just kinda blacked out as I walked along. I suppose the cold didn't help either. I collapsed at the same time he fired that shot, the bullet grazed me just along the hairline."
He reached up, tentatively rubbing cold fingers along the old scar.
"Knocked me for six, but if I hadn't gone down first it would have killed me for sure, straight through the heart they reckoned. At least we got a lift home out of it. Dad hit the roof when he came home and found us both there, I was laid up for about a week and a half with concussion, fever and the damned poison ivy."
"Yet another in a long line of Winchester Super Christmases. You wonder why it's not a time of year I relish, Dean!"
"Ah, come on, Sam. Don't go all Ebenezer on me, dude! We had some good ones, too. Anyway, it was dad, after he'd had a bottle of whiskey and got kinda maudlin', who pointed out that if it wasn't for the poison ivy, I wouldn't have still been there. I remember thinking at the time, if it wasn't for the poison ivy I probably wouldn't have got shot at all, but who knows, Sammy? Maybe there is some horribly warped Spirit of Christmas who wants to keep our asses in the game!"
"Well, Dean, that's the holly and the ivy. What's next the mistletoe? I think we should just avoid any more tacky representations of Christmas and just get back up to the top of the hill, smoke that crazy spirit and get outta here."
"I'm with you there, bro! Let's get back to the motel, I'll make eggnog, we can watch a few re-runs on TV and open the spectacular present that I've got waiting for you back in the car!"
"Come on then, time to haul ass. Let's go reacquaint ourselves with the ‘flying nun' up there."
Leaning heavily on the mould speckled stick, Dean pushed himself upright, concentrating on his breathing, bringing the pain back under control.
‘Okay, I'm good. Let's just keep goin' to the top. If I stop I might never start again and I really don't wanna' spend another night out in the freakin' woods. It's just too damn cold!"
Wearily, he peered up into the deeply shadowed path ahead, sighing deeply. ‘Dammit, why isn't anything ever simple? How much more of this goddamned hill can there be?'
"Sam, how much further is it?" He growled, "You need to get your shotgun out in case that sonofabitch is up there waiting for us. I am so not keen to fly over that ledge again, dude."
Chapter End Notes:
We hope you are enjoying the story so far and are getting into the Christmas spirit for the days ahead! We'd love to know what you think of our little tale.
Jane and Bev x
Member No.: 26,521
Joined: 3-October 07
Thank you so much for your lovely comments, particularly that you can picture it all happening, we're delighted that you're enjoying the story and hope that you stay with us for the rest of the long journey home. The Twelve Saves of Christmas
- Chapter 4
Sam falls victim to a savage attack from above but is it Mother Nature turning against our ghost-hunting duo, or is it another heavily disguised Christmas ‘save’?Save 3 - Rockin' Robin!
December 22nd 8.15pm
"Okay, so that was way more activity than I needed at this point in time!"
Dean's words emanated from somewhere beneath Sam where he lay, his brother's gigantic form trapping him into making an impromptu ‘snow-angel' in the softly drifting snow. He pushed against Sam's backpack where it, and the lumpy contents, pressed into his chest.
"Lemme up, Sammy."
His muffled voice grumbled into his brother's back.
Sam's voice was full of apologies as he rolled gently off of his brother, coming to his knees in the banked whiteness and leaning over to help pull Dean into a sitting position. Their eventual cresting of the hill and subsequent onward journey seemed to be continuing in its own brand of freaky festive frivolity.
Dean huffed as he rose, knowing his abused body had notched up a few more peacock hued bruises from the encounter.
"Are ya OK?"
Sam was checking Dean out as he allowed him a moment to get his breath back.
"Yeah, I'm peachy, Sam, but hey that little sucker made a real mess of your forehead."
Dean raised his hands and grabbed Sam's chin, tilting his brother's head forward so he could check out the little beak marks mottling the skin of his forehead.
"Owwh, you got some serious peck-age going on here, bro."
Dean giggled a little as he spoke; swaying slightly where he sat on his cold, wet ass in the snow, and Sam was unsure whether the light-headedness his voice betrayed was due to his developing concussion, or the silliness of the situation.
"Yeah, tell me about it!"
Sam parted his slightly too-long brown bangs and touched the multiple tiny wounds on his forehead, wincing at the specks of blood from the peck marks of the Erithacus rubecula.
"What the hell do you suppose possessed a Robin Red Breast to fly at me like that?"
Sam was genuinely bemused and, if he was honest, a little put out that an icon of Christmas peace like the Robin would, for no apparent reason, turn all ‘Jason Voorhees' on him and attack without warning. They had been scouting the area at the head of the cliff, looking for Dean's backpack where he had abandoned it after pulling out his shotgun whilst hunting the ghost, and contemplating the now seemingly long walk back to the Impala. Their pace slow as, even with his newly acquired crutch for support, Dean's leg was still giving him more pain than he would ever admit, when suddenly the demented little birdie had launched its kamikaze assault from a nearby pine tree.
Sam had been in the lead and had absorbed the brunt of the attack, batting at their ‘not much bigger than a hummingbird' attacker with his gigantic hands. The Robin, however, was doggedly intent on its mission, whatever that was, and had pecked repeatedly at Sam's forehead.
The bizarre attack had been enough to have Sam stumble backwards and straight into an already wobbly Dean. Amidst calls of ‘Watch out!' and ‘What the hell, Sammy?' both brothers had ended up prone in the snow once more and the little bird had flown away, singing its feathered head off.
"They are notoriously territorial you know, Sammy."
Dean was staring a little distractedly in the direction the tiny, Yuletide visitor from Europe had taken, as he pulled in irritation at the cold denim wrapping his legs.
"How could you possibly know that, Dean?"
Sam shook his head in disbelief, causing the tiny rivulets of blood from the bird induced punctures to run together and make crimson snowflake patterns on his bronzed skin. He reached forward as he spoke and pulled Dean slowly to his feet, settling him on his unsteady legs with his makeshift walking aid.
Dean poked a finger into Sam's chest.
"Hey, college boy, I know stuff too. For example, Erithacus rubecula is ferociously defensive of its territory."
Sam stood slightly open mouthed before spitting out.
"I had no idea you were into ornithology."
"Well, it was on the Nature channel. Freaking motel was so off the beaten track it didn't have pay per view so it was that or a re-run of The Bold and The Beautiful.
"Ah!" Sam smiled.
"So you weren't really broadening your mind, it was just that you couldn't get porn?"
Dean nodded, hopping a little on his bad knee as he shuffled his stick to get a firmer footing in the slippery snow.
"Figures. So, shall we get moving before the ghost returns?"
Dean glanced around them, his eyes searching.
"What ya looking for?"
Sam touched his arm.
"Did you find my backpack? I must have thrown it down somewhere near here when the Happy Christmas Hiker jumped us."
Sam scanned about and turned to step forward, intent on the search, only to have Dean grab his arm and pull him abruptly to a halt.
"Whoa, Sammy! Look."
Dean was gesturing with his crutch to a partially hidden object on the path directly ahead of them. The grim, rusted metal contraption was peeking from beneath the drifting snow and was directly on the path they had been following. Had they taken one further step Sam, who was leading, would have trodden squarely on the cold metal of the bear trap.
"Well I'll be! I hadn't even seen it. I would've been ankle deep in those jaws if the damn bird hadn't flown at us."
Dean inched forward favouring his unhurt leg and stared at the grim, brutal teeth of the steel trap as it peeped from its covering of snow.
"You're right, Sammy. If you dickie-bird friend hadn't pecked you into submission I would have been wrestling one severely mangled foot from that sonofabitch trap."
He leaned forward and picked up a short but sturdy branch for the snow and handed it to Sam.
"Spring it. I hate to think of some animal getting caught in it."
Sam nodded and slammed the wood into the jaws. The trap clanged shut, splintering the log like it was made of brittle candy and showering the white snow with fragments of pine.
The younger Winchester dragged his eyes back to his older sibling's quizzical gaze.
"I may be getting a bit ridiculous here but this is kinda the third ‘Christmas save', isn't it?"
Sam raised a curious eyebrow and Dean smiled as he gestured to the now harmless bear trap.
"Well, if the Robin hadn't have attacked ya, you would have carried straight on and stepped on the trap and..."
"Yeah! Enough Dean, I get it."
Sam felt increasingly queasy at the thought that he might have been seeing splinters of Winchester leg bone where he currently saw toothpicks of pine!
"Wow. Weird or what?"
Dean smiled in his best and most engaging ‘how cool is that?' manner and Sam couldn't help but return the grin.
"OK, so let's find your back pack and get outta here. You right this is getting too weird for words. Let's blow this joint before Santa comes along and offers us a lift on his sleigh!"
From its cover in the evergreen foliage the ghost's cadaverous face morphed slowly into a grin. The startled bird had done the job he intended, shaping the path of his victims to his will. All was well; he would have his way with these unfortunate travellers before the night was over. His eerie laughter echoed into the snowy night.
Join us tomorrow as our intrepid Winchester boys fall foul of yet another Christmas ‘save’.
We’d love to know if you’re enjoying the story so far...
Member No.: 26,521
Joined: 3-October 07
Sorry about that but we had to give Dean a bit of a breather before they set off on the next stage of their Advent adventure!! Hope you enjoy the next installment and thanks for the comments. The Twelve Saves of Christmas - Chapter 5
Wounded and weary, with the safety of the Impala seemingly further than ever, the boys start down a treacherous downhill path as the weather worsens around them. The avenging entity with it’s hidden agenda watches their progress with silent satisfaction. What else could possibly go wrong? Save 4 - The Yule Log Incident
December 22nd 9.15pm
Dean stood shivering, starkly pale in the harsh light of the moon, hunched over with his sawn-off shotgun tucked under his left arm and blowing vigorously onto his hands, trying vainly to bring some warmth back to them. Deep shadows danced eerily around the edges of the clearing and wildly dancing snowflakes whirled in silent unison, keeping time with the fitful gusting of the wind as it began to pick up speed.
"Well, that's just peachy, Sam. As if it's not cold enough already, looks like another snowstorm's on its way."
He peered into the gloom at the tree line, searching for a sight of his brother, waiting for a reply. With head cocked to one side he listened to the muffled crunch of heavy footsteps working their way through the densely packed fir trees.
"Sam? Listen man, the rucksack can't be that far into the trees, I swear I left it on the ground somewhere over here by a tree. I said by a tree, not buried deep under a tree within the most remote part of the damned wood." His eyebrows rose in unison as understanding suddenly dawned upon him.
"Sam?" He yelled. "Sam. You're not looking for my rucksack, are you! You're trying to find that sonofabitch's grave. Get back out here, Sammy. I don't want you on your own in there with that spooky-assed hiker patrolling the neighbourhood!"
Hefting his shotgun and adjusting his recently acquired, makeshift crutch, Dean pulled up his collar and, leaning heavily on the stout stick, tested the weight on his knee. Grimacing, he turned towards the rustling noises coming from within the trees and then slowly hobbled towards them.
"I'm coming in, Bro. Don't shoot me!"
"Don't worry, Dean. I'm on my way out. There's no sign of your rucksack in there." Sam's disembodied voice floated out from between the gently creaking branches.
"Well, that would be because I didn't drop it in there. I told you, I left it under a tree somewhere over here." He gestured towards the bushes and trees to his left. "So, unless that damned ghost picked it up and took it for a ride, it's still gonna be over by that patch of brambles."
Pausing, his keen eyes picked out the slight indentations of their previous footprints, now almost concealed by the freshly fallen snow. Peering into the darkening shadows, he struggled to retrace his earlier path, eyes swiftly coming to rest on an oval shaped mound, half hidden by the low lying branches of a massive pine.
Behind him the foliage swayed, parting to admit a tousle-haired, snow-splattered Sam crashing back into the snow swirled clearing.
"Well, Pocahontas, you find anything in there?" Dean drawled over his shoulder.
"Nothing we're looking for." Sam replied with forced pleasantness.
"It's a helluva lot warmer in there out of the wind though. Maybe we should just head on back to the car, get you fixed up and come back when we've had more time to find out what the hell happened up here. Nothing's adding up, at the moment it's like we're looking for a needle in a snow-covered haystack."
Dean nodded wearily, "I guess...well, at least I found my backpack." He jutted his chin in the direction of the snow-covered lump. "Come on, let's make a move. If we're quick we could get back before this snow gets much worse. Keep an eye open for that freaky mother on the way back though, it's still lurking out here somewhere."
Sam quickly crossed the clearing and retrieved the bag, shaking it to remove the thick coating of snow. Casually he slung it over his shoulder.
"Hey, Dean, you got any food in here? I'm starving."
"You're always starving, Bigfoot. There's plenty of food in there, along with some salt and kerosene. None of your rabbit food though." Dean's face suddenly clouded over, "Hell, I wish I'd put a flask in, I could kill for a coffee."
"Yeah, I'm with you there, bro. Let's get out of this wind first, though." Sam held his hand out for the shotgun. "Come on, the path's over here, we'll find somewhere sheltered, then sit and grab something to eat. Don't trip over that trap, dude, and watch out for that crazy robin." Sam looked warily up at the nearby branches.
"S'okay, Sam, you sprung the trap, remember? And I don't think the robin'll be back." Dean muttered under his breath, teeth starting to chatter as the arctic wind found its way in through the front of his jacket. "Let's get going, m'getting cold just standing here."
Sam went to take a hold of his brother's arm. "You gonna be okay in this snow?"
Dean waved away the offer of assistance.
"Well, as of this minute I'm not seeing any other options here, Sam. Not unless Saint Nick really is gonna come along in his sleigh looking for hitchhikers."
He looked incredulously at the looming form beside him. Seeing the brief look of hurt that flickered across Sam's features he softened his tone, adding.
"I'll be fine once we get going, Sam. My knee's just stiffened up while I've been standing around waiting for you to get your bird-pecked head in gear!"
Together, they headed slowly out from the snow covered clearing towards the slippery path on the other side that would eventually lead them back down the eight or so miles, to the safety of the waiting Impala.
Sam kept a wary eye out for both the violent spirit that had earlier attacked his brother, and for any incoming robins showing signs of extreme aggression. Dean, on the other hand, concentrated on simply placing one foot in front of the other and remaining upright.
Overhead, the stark, bright light reflecting from the moon was left behind as they exited the clearing and began their steep descent. Ancient pines lined the path on both sides and the increasing roar of the wind was muted as they were enfolded between the grasping, feathered boughs. The deep, velvety blackness of silent shadows surrounded them as they negotiated the perilous pathway.
The ghost of the Christmas Hiker silently watched the brothers' slow progression from the shade of the evergreen boughs, as his tiny, red-breasted familiar looked on with its beady, black eyes. Something akin to contentment etched his drawn skin with pallid shadows and the dense foliage absorbed his soft sigh of contentment. They would soon be his.
"Damn, but it's good to be outta that wind. " Dean rasped, steadfastly ignoring the varied selection of festive aches and pains that assailed him. "Now all I need is for my ass to thaw out and the world will be a much happier place.
"How's your knee, Dean? You wanna have a rest, find someplace to sit down, have something to eat?" Sam ventured, peering into the gloom ahead, his head cocked to one side, listening.
"Not here. Let's get down off this path first." Dean panted, glancing behind at his brother. "My knee's gone kinda numb now but if I stop, I'm not sure it'll be keen to get goin' again."
"Okay, just let me know if you need to stop, though. Look, let me get up there in front of you, just in case."
"Dude! Will you just stop with the fussin'. ‘M'fine."
Dean continued his slow progress down the treacherous slope, leaning heavily on the stout stick, testing the ground before committing his weight. Sweating with the effort, he struggled to bite back the gasps of pain. Underfoot, the newly fallen snow concealed the uneven footing and jutting stones.
"Hey, Dean. I think it's just round the next bend that the path runs right alongside that waterfall. Listen. Can you hear it?"
Dean dutifully turned to listen. "Wonderful! I was just starting to warm up, too. Mind you, at least that means we're nearly halfway down." He added almost cheerfully.
"Just be careful along there, dude, ‘cause it was really slippery on the way up here. There's a sheer drop of about 30ft, and no holly trees to save you if you go over again."
"'Kay, Sammy." Dean nodded affably. "I'll be careful and watch my step."
"Dean? Dean, wait. You okay?" Sam called, alarmed by the sudden, easygoing acceptance of his normally petulant sibling.
"'M fine, Sammy. Just a little cold ‘n' tired. Ma knee hurts, head hurts too. Did I say I'm tired? Getting real sleepy." He mumbled into the wind, yawning widely, shaking his head to clear the black spots that had taken to dancing before his eyes.
Sam watched the darker outline of his brother wavering increasingly slowly in and out of the deep shadows, and lines of worry marred his face. He knew from his brother's uncharacteristic gait, that regardless of Dean's assertions that he was fine, they would have to stop and give his knee a rest if they were going to get back to the safety of the Impala, in one piece. ‘Well, if I have to tell him that I can't make it any further to make him stop, then that's what I'll have to do.'
Ahead and to the left of the path the tree line thinned, allowing moonlit shafts to pierce through the wavering branches, spotlighting the gossamer fall of snow that continued to drift between the overhanging boughs. Cold, blue light illuminated the billowing clouds of foam spray emanating from the churning waters. The rush of wind beyond the shelter of the trees whipped the fine spray away to join in icy union with the thickly falling snow.
The path edge tapered away to a narrow strip of ice-slick rock and ragged scrub that barely managed to cling to the poorer soil of the exposed pathway, running above the steeply sided walls of the waterfall.
Dean paused in his quiet rendition of Aerosmith's Walk This Way, peering through bleary eyes as his labouring breath clouded around the snowflakes crowning his head. Lines of pain creased the pale forehead as fiery tendrils radiated from his swollen knee, the continued pressure of the hike down the uneven path aggravating the already tender joint. His head pulsed in time with the beating of his heart and the rough bark of the stick rubbed blisters into the raw flesh of his hand.
"Sam?" He called back breathlessly over his shoulder. "Next time I suggest we go hunting in the woods... any woods... anytime... ever... Just shoot me, okay?"
Sam's quiet chuckle was stolen away by the approaching roar of the waterfall.
"Yeah okay, Dean. Just make sure you remind me. You know, all it'll take is the scent of some hairy-assed werewolf and you'll be off like a shot."
"Exactly my point, Sam. Just shoot me before we go, and it'll save a lot of suffering in the long run!"
"Come on, let me help you down this next bit. It's gonna be freezing along there and slippery as hell. Then we'll stop and see just what dietary wonders you have stashed in your backpack once we get back into the trees."
Sam picked up his pace, moving as swiftly as the frozen ground would allow.
Dean stood with eyes closed, chewing at his lower lip, calling upon hidden dwindling reserves of strength to simply remain on his feet. Sam brushed past, taking point; he placed an encouraging hand briefly upon his weary brother's arm. Dean raised his eyes and gave a tired smirk, indicating his readiness to continue. ‘Dammit, how in Hell's name did this happen? We should'a been celebrating Christmas, warm and safe in the best friggin' room in the best friggin' hotel this town's got to offer.'
Dean dropped his eyes groundward, knowing his defences were temporarily lowered and desperate not to let Sam see the hurt in his glazed, green eyes. ‘ But no! Seems I can't even complete a simple sonofabitchin' on-line booking form right. So, yet again, Sam gets the Christmas from Hell, it's no wonder he's the ‘Boy who hates Christmas'. Just once, it'd be nice to get a break.'
With a heavy sigh, Dean adjusted the walking stick, making sure he had a firm grip and wincing as it contacted the open blisters on his palm. ‘Oh god!. I gotta stop soon, please let us stop soon.'
"You ready, Dean?"
Sam's voice came from up close, where he stood with arm outstretched, in position to help his brother down the potentially lethal, ice encrusted slope.
"Born ready, Sammy."
Dean flashed his trademark grin, teeth shimmering in the flickering moonlight. Shame was, standing so close, Sam could see that it never reached the older man's dark-rimmed eyes.
Sam took a hold of Dean's left elbow, steadying him as he shifted his weight forwards, supporting him as the gasp of pain hissed through his parted lips. He dug in the deep tread of his sturdy walking boots, determined to maintain a good grip as he felt Dean's weight lean heavily into him.
"Come on, Dean. This is the worst bit, get this over with and it'll be plain sailing all the way down. Come on, I gotcha."
Sam encouraged, as he felt Dean's hand digging hard into the muscles of his forearm beneath his jacket. He heard the stifled groan that escaped him, as once again he brought his protesting left leg back into motion.
Dean bit back any further comment as he lurched unsteadily down the steepest part of the slope, his breath hitching in huge gasps of the frigid air.
"There you go, that's it. Whoa, whoa, steady there. It's okay, we're getting there."
Sam kept up a steady litany as he sidestepped down the rougher part of the path, trying to leave Dean the clearer central section.
Dean grit through teeth clenched tight against his desire to scream.
"Sam. I'm not a goddamned dog.” He panted heavily, “Quit talking to me like I'm a freakin' idiot."
He snarled, anger rising to mask his pain.
Sam bit back the angry comment that sprang to his lips. Rolling his eyes, he risked a glance further down the track to where the path petered away to less than four feet wide. The only thing between them and the edge of the mist drenched chasm at that point was a picture-postcard-perfect pine log, obviously placed there as a natural bench, for anyone brave enough to attempt the arduous climb to admire the spectacular views across the landmark waterfall.
It sat peacefully, glistening in the moonlight, under a thick layer of driven snow. Sprigs of pinecones jutted picturesquely from several small branches and a gentle lacing of Ivy, visible even through its snowy overcoat, clung to the rough bark. The normally comforting image of a roaring fire with the Yuletide log as its centrepiece made Sam's blood run cold in his veins.
"Nah, now I'm getting paranoid." He breathed to himself.
Turning back to the task in hand, he shuffled further down the slope, the log all but forgotten.
"'M sorry, Sammy. I didn't mean to snap at you."
The quiet voice surprised him with its close proximity, Dean was hunched towards him, his head almost touching Sam's as he huddled over his younger brother's supportive arm. Sweat darkened hair was plastered to the pale, bruised forehead and Sam reached out automatically to gently push it back from the wound.
"No problem, du..."
The rest of the statement was lost as the poorly stabilised shale beneath Sam's boot tread chose that moment to work free and begin a tumbling descent down the slippery slope. Sam staggered, throwing his left arm wide and going down heavily on his right hip, feet scrabbling desperately for purchase on the snow covered ground.
The sudden change in pitch threw Dean totally off balance, his knee contacted the iron hard ground and he screamed, his body jack-knifing to curl protectively round the injured limb. His anchor gone, Dean pitched sideways, feet gone from under him he slid, gaining momentum as gravity took an interest, straight down the track heading for the edge.
Frantically he cried out, arms flailing as he wildly attempted to arrest his slide.
Sam lunged manically, missing Dean's jacket by mere inches.
He hollered, watching in horror as Dean slammed up against a small boulder. Whilst the impact had diverted Dean from the precipitous edge of the path, the resounding crack of his head, against the conveniently placed log was less than reassuring.
Sam lay, momentarily frozen to the spot, heart racing as he took in the scene before him.
"Dean, oh god, no. Dean?" The whispered words escaped his disbelieving lips.
"Dean?" Louder this time, he slithered quickly down the remainder of the slope, glancing nervously towards where the path ended and the drop began. Unable to stop himself, he crunched into the unconcerned Yule log, reaching out with shaking hands to the silent body of his big brother where he lay, unmoving, in the churned up snow.
Gently he turned Dean's unresisting body, rolled it away from the log to carefully pull it across his lap, keeping him out of the worst of the snow.
"Oh, no. Oh, Jesus, please no!" Sam's panicked words tumbled from his suddenly dry lips.
"Please, Dean, be okay. Please! You gotta be okay."
Gently he wiped the fresh smattering of snow, grit and blood from his brother's face, supporting his chin whilst he leant close, listening for signs of breathing.
"Oh, thank god." He felt the gentle puff of warm air against his cheek.
"Dean, come on, bro. Just talk to me. Please? Come on, you're okay. I gotcha."
Unconsciously, he rocked the still form, wincing as he registered the rising lump on the side of Dean's already bruised forehead. By the light of the moon he could see the blood splattered snow where the precious liquid dripped a steady trail from a deep gash above his left eye.
"Dean, please wake up?"
He searched his pockets, returning triumphant with an almost clean handkerchief, which he pressed tightly against the open wound.
"Uunnrrggghhh." A long, slow groan and slight flicker of the eyelids met his gesture.
"Ah, I'm sorry, Dean. I know it must hurt. Please just wake up for me, dude!"
Another painful moan cut through the night air, a stirring of the head accompanied by fluttering of the long dark lashes, indicating a reluctant return to consciousness.
"S…Sam? Sammy?" The words ghosted from bleeding lips, as confused emerald green rose, searching for his brother's face.
"Hey, Dean. Uh, man you gave me a scare there. Dean, look at me. You okay?"
"Wha... happened, Sammy? Why 'm I on your lap?"
"Uh, I slipped, you slid! Sam offered apologetically. "Um...You were headed straight for the edge when you hit a boulder and veered headfirst into this...aah, I don't know how to tell you this, Dean, but I guess you just got saved from taking a nosedive over the waterfall by this uh, big snow-covered log!"
Dean squinted in confusion, wincing as he moved his head.
"Holy crap that hurts, Sam.” He sucked in a deep breath, gulping against the rush of freezing night air, “Jeez! Everything hurts!"
"I know, I know. Just lay still for a little while and then we'll get you up, find somewhere to stop and get you patched up. There's trees up ahead, we'll stop there, clean you up a little and have something to eat. But just give it a minute, okay? Get your breath back!"
"'Kay, Sammy!” Dean whispered, eyes skittering as they struggled to focus beyond his brother’s swaying faces. “Hey, Sammy... kinda looks like a Yule log, huh?" Dean nodded sleepily, more than willing to stay exactly where he was, leaching warmth from the encircling arms, uncertain whether he'd be able to get up when the time did eventually come to move.
"Yeah, just like a freakin' big Yule log."
‘What in hell's name is going on here with all this festive symbolism, rescue crap?' Sam thought, getting more alarmed with every festive ‘save'.
"Hey, at least we're at the bottom of the slope now, dude." Sam tried cheerfully.
Dean simply nodded, rolled his eyes once and leant in towards the warmth of his baby brother.
Hope you're still enjoying this! We'd love to hear what you think!
Member No.: 26,521
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Thanks for the comments hun, we're so pleased you managed to fit the chapters into your pre-Christmas rush...There's a week to go and I'm thinking how on earth am I going to get it all done!!
We had a totaly insane time planning this story with all the seasonal saves - still a few more to go though!!
You're right poor Dean, just how much can we put him through, so I guess it's time to get them safely out of the wind and get them both warmed up and patched up. Well...it's a nice idea, but just how often do things go according to plan??
Hope you find time to read the next installment!Chapter Six - The Twelve Saves of Christmas
When Sam takes a dive into the freezing water, it’s left up to a sorely injured Dean to save the day. Problem is who's gonna save Dean? Join us as the seasonal romp continues with Merry Christmas whumpage for all! Save Five - On Dasher, On Dancer, On Comet, On Cupid!
December 22nd 9.45pm
Sam twisted his head, trying to see through the swirling snow into his brother's eyes and shifted Dean's arm where it sat on his shoulders, as he helped him along the icy path. The elder Winchester didn't respond, his head hanging down as he focussed on the slippery surface. His forward motion was slow, his limp getting more pronounced as he leaned heavily on his crutch.
Sam pulled on Dean's belt where he held onto it to help keep his brother from falling over, trying to attract his attention. Slowly, Dean raised his head and smiled a disarming, lop-sided grin.
Sam couldn't help but smile back, even though he was increasingly worried. That had been a hell of a bump to the head Dean had taken and, thick as his skull was Sam knew concussion was, probably inevitable.
"Were you singing, dude?"
Dean giggled in embarrassment.
"Jingle Bells, right?"
Sam was softly incredulous.
"No...no...no, Sammy. You got it all wrong."
The older Winchester squeezed Sam's shoulder where his hand draped against his snow bedecked jacket.
"Not Jingle Bells, that's for wussies. I was humming Jingle Bell Rock...possibly the coolest Christmas song ever. Wanna join in? You can do the bass harmonies."
Sam shook his head in slight bemusement.
"No that's ok, Dean, I'll just..."
Dean wobbled to a halt and with a determined effort, focussed his slightly blown, green eyes on Sam's hazel.
"We can sing something else if you'd rather?"
Dean interrupted his voice full of sincerity and Sam found himself smiling again.
"No, it's cool, Dean, you carry on. You have a good singing voice, you know? Does it help with your knee?"
Sam's gaze took Dean's wobbly focus to his own knee.
Dean huffed out a dismissing breath, a look of slight confusion flickering across his features.
"Knee's just fine, Sammy."
He patted Sam's shoulder again to reassure his baby brother. Sam nodded as he asked in knowing disbelief.
"So, it doesn't hurt at all, huh?"
Dean shook his head fervently and Sam watched pain ghost across his pale face at the movement.
"Your head hurt?"
Sam let go of Dean's waistband and raised his hand to the great duck egg of a bump on his brother's forehead.
Dean jerked his head away from the probing fingers.
He grumbled,his hand flying to his throbbing temple.
"Jeeze, that hurts...I've got a lump the size of a Christmas pudding. What did you do to me, Sam?"
He looked at his baby brother with the accusatory stare that Sam had seen so many times as a child. Sam's nervousness about Dean's head injury ramped up another notch.
"Don't you remember spectacularly breaking your fall just now by smashing your head into that nice, big Yule log?"
Sam held Dean's unfocussed green eyes, looking for some recollection of the fourth ‘save' of Christmas.
"Why the hell would I do that, Sam?"
Dean tutted with the stupidity of Sam's explanation as he shuffled on his unsteady legs. He planted his third ‘leg' solidly into the banked snow, seeking stability but the movement pulled at his bandaged knee creasing his face with pain.
"My knee hurts, too, Sam."
His voice was a bit childlike in its petulance and Sam watched as fatigue flooded suddenly across his brother's usually stoic face. He glanced around looking for somewhere to settle Dean down so he could get some rest. They were still too near to the summit of the butte and its howling winds, so Sam again took hold of his unusually compliant brother and together they continued their perilous downhill path, towards the more thickly pine-covered quiet, lower down the slope.
The Christmas Hiker's ethereal presence coalesced in the eddying snowflakes behind them. His angular face was animated with cadaverous shadows as he smiled. They were retracing their steps to exactly where he wanted them to be. They would soon be his, and his long anticipated plans would be brought to fruition. He drifted behind them as they trudged painfully through the mounting blizzard, his eerie moans of delight counterpointing the snow-bestowed silence.
Dean snuggled himself deeper into the warm carpet of needles and organic debris that cluttered the base of the massive spruce tree that Sam had stashed him under. The ground under the thick evergreen canopy was dry, out of the wind and felt almost warm and the dense spruce branches kept all but the rarest flake of snow from them. He felt his eyes beginning to close and he smiled, breathing in the sweet, clean fragrance of the ancient trees.
He murmured as his brother helped him shed his backpack and settled him down.
"You feeling warmer?"
Sam crouched beside Dean, rummaging through his own backpack, taking stock of what emergency items they had with them that might be of immediate use. It was clear to the younger Winchester that his big brother needed to rest for a while. He pulled out the small can of lighter fluid they always carried for salt and burns and smiled, thinking how much easier that would make building a fire. Further down in his pack he found the ‘space' blanket he had bought in an outdoor supply store months earlier. Sam grinned, remembering the crap Dean had given him about the thirty dollars it had cost.
"Here, Dean. This'll help warm you up till I can get the fire lit."
"Fire? We staying here, Sammy?"
Dean's weary gaze found Sam's and the younger Winchester prep'd his argument for spending the night under their makeshift shelter.
"Well, Dean, it's blowing a blizzard out there and ..."
Dean held up a silencing hand, catching Sam on the side of the head, his depth perception clearly affected by his altercation with the log.
"Oops, sorry, Sam. You're a bit fuzzy there." He mumbled.
"I think it's a good idea. I'm fine, of course, but no doubt you, being less used to this amount of physical exertion, might well be tired. So, I think we should hunker down here and get a few hours sleep and then we can press on at first light."
Sam rocked back on his heels, amazed that Dean would admit the sense in his virtually unvoiced plan.
"Ummm...Well, okay Dean. If that's what you think."
"That's settled then. Are you doing something with that thing or just wafting it about?"
Dean tipped his chin at the space blanket in Sam's hand, his eyes drooping closed as he yawned.
Sam flustered as he leaned forward and tucked the shiny, aluminium-like material around his brother's muscular form. Dean opened his eyes as the fabric enfolded his aching limbs. Moon shadows raced silvery paths across the shiny blanket and Dean chuckled.
"What's so funny?"
Sam sat back on his heels again as Dean propped himself up slightly on his elbows and gazed with concussion-confused eyes back at him.
"I look like a turkey dressed for the oven!"
Sam joined in the laughter, tucking the blanket tighter round Dean's legs as he lay there chortling. His hands brushed against Dean's boots. They were wet through, a sheen of ice covering the worn leather. He glanced up as he began to unlace them.
"Your boots are soaked, Dean. Are your feet cold?"
Dean smiled happily as his head wobbled slightly on his shoulders.
"Not cold at all."
He added emphatically.
Sam pulled the first sopping boot from his brother's foot and wrapped his hand around Dean's toes. They were icy cold.
"Dean! They're freezing."
The giggling hunter re-iterated adamantly.
"Not cold, Sammy. Totally and utterly numb."
Sam tutted and stripped his brother's dripping socks off. He rummaged in his pack, looking for the spare socks they were used to carrying as part of their emergency equipment. He found them after moments of searching and looked back up, only to find Dean had burrowed his bare feet into the spruce needle coverlet and was sealing his swaddled toes in the space blanket.
"Is that warm enough?"
Sam put his hand on top of Dean's improvised comforter and was delighted to feel heat radiating beneath his hand.
"Toasty, Sammy, just toasty."
Dean smiled happily back at his brother as Sam returned to searching his pack for provisions. He was rewarded with socks, a spare T-shirt and some granola bars for his efforts. Reaching over he pulled Dean's rucksack close. A quick search yielded a further two odd socks, an almost clean T-shirt and a dented metal drinking cup.
"You hungry, Dean?"
Sam held the granola bar up into Dean's telescoping eye line.
Dean exhaled dismissively at the ‘health-food' treat and gestured with his hand for Sam to pass him his backpack. He struggled to a sitting position and Sam placed the small pack in his lap. Seconds later Dean's face lit up and he pulled from the dark interior a familiar yellow sack.
Sam scoffed, as Dean discarded the backpack and wiggled the candy bag for Sam to wonder at.
"Survival food, Sammy!"
Dean protested, sniffing the chocolate covered confectionary appreciatively.
Sam conceded the point, happy that Dean still seemed to be reasonably coherent. The bruising from his head injury was radiating slowly from his temple and Sam could see that he was gonna have a handsome shiner by the morning. He was relieved they were gonna spend the night within the tree's majestic embrace.
"I need to get us a fire going..."
Sam mused, glancing around for suitable kindling.
"Too damn right you do." Dean grumbled.
"Thought you'd never get round to it! Look, there's plenty of smaller twigs amongst the spruce needles and if you cut a few of the dry old branches from the base of the tree they'll burn real well."
"I know how to set a god-damn fire, Dean."
Sam's earlier concerns were efficiently swept away by the appearance of Dean in full patronising big-brother mode.
"Okay, okay..." Dean held his hands up in surrender and snuggled further under the blanket.
"I was only trying to help."
"Yeah, I'm sorry."
Sam squeezed Dean's leg beneath the blanket in apology.
Dean whinged dramatically, and Sam laughed as he set about gathering enough wood to not only start the fire, but keep it going all night.
The ghost's pale eyes absorbed the burst of activity beneath the ancient spruce with mounting impatience. They were no doubt digging in for the night and that meant yet longer until he could bring his plans to fruition. His mournful voice carried in the snow-brightened darkness, betraying his endless pain and loneliness.
Dean had settled back down into his hollowed out, organic ‘sleeping-bag' and his voice was sleepy and childlike.
"I'm really thirsty...Can you get me a drink?"
Sam looked up from his task. The fire was almost set and ready to light but Dean's request was so plaintive. He picked up the dented mug and looked briefly over his shoulder towards the sound of the tumbling waterfall. He glanced back at his sibling and found his breath catch in his chest as Dean's deep green eyes reflected the pale of the full moon back at him. Vulnerability briefly poured from his accomplished, controlled brother and Sam felt his throat tighten as he responded.
"Sure thing, Dean. I'll go down to the river and get ya a drink before I light this. I want to be sure it burns safe under the tree so don't light it till I come back, will you?"
Dean nodded, his chin brushing his chest as he hunkered under his spruce needle comforter. "Will you be okay for 5 minutes?"
Dean nodded, yawning softly.
"You won't be any longer, will you?"
Sam rose to his feet, crouching beneath the canopy of spruce.
"Okay, two minutes, Dean. It's just down the slope a ways."
"'Kay, Sam." Dean mumbled, closing his eyes.
"Try and stay awake till I get back, Dean. You need some fluids and something to eat, and then you can sleep."
"Okay." Dean forced his eyes wide open. "I'll sing!"
Sam laughed, thinking he must remember all this to torment Dean with after the concussion was resolved.
"Sure, Dean. You do that."
"What?" Dean's perplexed face was pale in the moonlight.
"What, what?" Sam questioned, raising an eyebrow.
Dean spoke like Sam was an idiot, and it was all he could do not to collapse laughing at his brother's confusion.
"Oh...umm? A Christmas song? Deck the Halls?"
Dean smiled, a huge grin plastering his face.
"With Boughs of Holly?"
Sam nodded, unsure what had so amused his brother. Dean thumped himself resoundingly on the chest.
"It could be my theme song, Sammy. Deck the ‘Dean' with Boughs of Holly!"
Sam shook his head and turned down the slope towards the river, his brother's lilting tenor ringing raucously in his ears.
The slope to the river was sheet ice sprinkled as it was with spray from the thirty foot falls. Sam's feet went out from under him as he stepped onto the path and he tumbled, all long legs and arms, towards the deep pool that formed the base of the spectacular waterfall. He grabbed desperately at trees and bushes as he slithered towards the freezing water but everything was slick with ice and he could not gain any purchase.
Panic started to envelope Sam; knowing that the river water would likely be cold enough to kill him in minutes, and he did the only thing he could think of to do. He yelled.
Dean stopped in mid, drunken "fa-la-la-lala" at the sound of Sam's terrified cries. That one word instantly banished any haziness from Dean's concussed brain and he leapt to his feet, throwing aside the blanket, and sore knee bedamned, sprinted in the direction Sam had disappeared. His brother's massive tracks were easy to follow in the virgin snow and Dean was just in sight of the falls when the splash of Sam entering the deep pool cut the snowy silence.
Dean screamed into the swirling snow, "Sam!"
And he charged, shedding his heavy jacket and over-shirt, as he arched powerfully and dived into the liquid black pool.
The first contact with the water blasted the air from Sam's shocked lungs. The pool was so cold he could not breathe and the tumble down the slope had left him so disorientated he could not, in the darkness, tell surface from river bottom. He drifted in hypothermic shock, too cold to fight for his life as the crashing water tossed him like a leaf in the inky darkness.
Dean's surge of adrenaline coursed feverishly around his bruised body, protecting him from the morbid frigidity of the icy water. He piked elegantly and dove for the base of the obsidian pool, his instincts for Sam, as much as his sight, taking him to his stricken brother. The churning waters of the foaming pool tumbled Sam away from him as he fought to grab hold of his brother's helpless form but Dean's desperate hand finally grasped the sleeve of Sam's jacket and he was able to pull his brother's inert body to his own.
He kicked hard for the surface, knee protesting bitterly as his lungs burned with the effort. Dean broke the surface with an enormous gasp, pulling air urgently into his tortured lungs, and carefully turning Sam in his arms to ensure his brother could breathe in the frigid air.
Dean's breathless voice was brittle in the cold, clear night as the currents and eddies in the waterfall fed pool battered the exhausted pair.
"Sammy, can you hear me?"
He shook Sam in his arms, pressing his hand to his brother's chest, feeling for a heartbeat as he tried to keep Sam's head above water.
The water buffeted against Dean, tossing him like he was weightless against the jagged rocks that hid below the surface of the dark waters. He curled his body around his brother's trying to shield Sam from the knocks from the boulders as the freezing temperatures sapped his scant remaining energy.
"S...Sam...help me h...here. Can't hold ya...much longer."
The teeming cauldron sucked the struggling Winchesters below the surface, pulling them below the tumbling deluge of the falls. Dean hugged Sam to his chest as the rocks battered and bruised his body. A direct impact to his injured knee drew a scream from his blued lips as his strength was almost completely depleted. He was losing the fight and there was nothing more he could do.
Ten miles up the river course the father of the household looked into the tear stained faces of his large brood. Their collective pouts and quivering lips near broke his festive heart.
"Well, you see kids, Santa needed one of the guys to help him with the presents and it was Cupid's turn so he had to go back to the North Pole..."
They looked at the thirty foot display of inflatable reindeer and Santa's sleigh that adorned their roof. Dasher, Dancer and Prancer were all present and correct. Vixen stood to attention in her traces alongside her brothers Donner and Blitzen. Even the flaky Comet held her ground, her guy ropes quivering in the wind. Cupid, however, was conspicuous by his absence. The gale force winds that night having sent him sailing off into the clear, midnight-blue sky. It was a festive disaster that was to turn to spectacular triumph.
If you had asked Dean if there was anything that might come to ‘save' Sam and him from their mortal peril on this occasion, he would likely not have credited their continuation on this Earth to a giant, inflatable reindeer. Especially not one called Cupid. However, he was never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, or even a gift reindeer, and so when Cupid tumbled over the falls and floated near to him, he had no hesitation in grabbing the bobbing quadruped and draping Sam over its back to float him to the shore. With Sam's weight supported, Dean was able to catch his breath and, clinging tightly to Cupid, kick weakly for the rocky bank.
Still, it took him precious minutes to propel them the few feet in the rough currents and by the time he could grab at the vegetation on the pool's edge, he was so utterly exhausted he could barely pull air into his lungs. The size of their blow up saviour meant that it was a relatively easy job to push Sam onto the shore, however, and then all Dean had to do was crawl out beside him. That was harder than he had imagined it would be though and by the time Dean flopped his upper body beside his brother, he could hear Sam loudly hacking up half the contents of the murky pool.
It was one of the best sounds he had ever heard.
Well, we had to get Santa's reindeer in there somehow!!
We hope you’re going to join us for another seasonal ‘save’ tomorrow, when it’s time to give the boys a little TLC – well eventually anyway!