Dad tried. Though just five years old, Dean knew that he tried. It wasn’t the same, couldn’t be without mom. Couldn’t be, even if they stayed in this motel for more days in a row than he could remember ever staying somewhere since the day everything broke apart, since their journey started. Even if Dad got a small, sad excuse for a tree, bought it in the lobby. Their room was prettier than the others they had lived in and though younger than to know about these things, Dean knew that Dad spent more money on it than usual.
Sometimes he envied Sam for not remembering. Sammy, who stared at the flames of candles in wonder, who clapped his hands, when Dean tried to remember Christmas carols, when he sung them to him, made up the words, all too aware in every second of how Mom had sung them to him, how she had created candies and sweet hot chocolate. How the house had smelled of Christmas and home and life.
Now it was his job, he needed to build a home for them, just for a few nights, had to try. Had to try better, harder than Dad who cried when he thought they were asleep. Who sneaked out as soon as Dean was awake, mumbling something about his important task, his mission. Just like always, just like he got used to.
So Dean had learned to take care of Sammy, to feed him, change his diapers, play with his fingers, his toes and make him giggle in every way possible. Because he could. And because it lit a candle in his heart, made him warm inside every single time Sam smiled.
“It’s Christmas, Sammy”, he said and tried to remember, tried to tell him about Mom, about how she had decorated the house, how she had invited guests who had ruffled his hair, told him nice things and left presents, he could play with, while adults chatted or did the boring things they did. In these distant times, when Dad still had been able to laugh.
He showed Sammy the tree, let him touch the branches, let him know about the pretty, shining things, they didn’t own anymore, the Christmas balls which had burnt in the fire like everything else. The shiny, glittering things which would change the tree in a magical wonder.
Now there were two lights, Dad had clipped on it, telling Dean strictly not to play with them, not to touch his lighter. He wouldn’t. He still was scared of the fire. He still saw it behind his closed eyes, smelled it, heard the screams, not knowing which of them were his. He crumbled the sites of some magazines he found when sneaking around the lobby while Sammy slept, searching for some candy, some pie, something sweet and sugary Sammy already was allowed to eat.
He grew up fast and Dean thought that soon, very soon, he would be able to do everything, nearly everything he did. Then Dean wouldn’t be that alone anymore. He would be able to take him with on the small excursions Dad didn’t knew about. Learning about motels, searching for playgrounds, for sticks and stones, for milk or coke, for food. Already Sam looked at Dean with those big brown baby eyes, glimmering with shades of green or blue, which Dean never got tired to look at, and sometimes Dean could swear that he understood everything happening with them and around them. That he maybe understood more and better than him.
He crumbled the sites and threw them on the branches. He cut stripes and hang them into the tree. But it never looked like he remembered, like he saw in TV. But Sammy was in awe, watching him working, decorating. He tried to take part. He squeaked and laughed, always calling ‘Dee, Dee’, when he managed to rip a piece of paper apart. And so Dean kept doing it, kept putting the papers everywhere, on walls, curtains, sideboards and Sammy clapped his hands and laughed. Until Dean laughed as well. Until he looked at the chaos they created and smiled, turning around to see Sammy fighting to stand up, to walk. And he spread his arms and called for him. Until Sammy reached chubby arms out for him and stumbled forward. Until Dean caught and hugged him tightly. “Merry Christmas, Sammy”, he whispered and pressed his lips into a soft cheek, like Mom had done. And Sammy giggled, fought to get free, but only to reach up, to catch Deans face with small, uncoordinated hands and kiss him too. “Meh Chismas, Sammy”, he said and beamed. And Dean thought that maybe, maybe they could be happy again one day. That being with Sam was enough, could be enough for him. That watching and feeling Sammy was better than presents and candies and carols. And he buried his nose in Sams hair, smelled baby powder and milk and something he didn’t know yet that it was unique Sammy, that he would smell it for his whole life. And that this smell, this closeness always would be enough to make him happy, to make him feel at home.