Sam woke up with a start in a bed he didn’t fall asleep in as two children came flying onto the bed yelling.
“Mike! Mike Mike Mike! We wanna go see Santa!” Matt and Lucy were climbing all over the bed and yelling. Sam sat up and found himself holding a child suddenly as Matt flung himself into his arms.
“Fucking Shit!” Hannah yelled as she flung herself out of bed and squinted at them all.
“Mike! Hannah said a bad word!” Lucy said, pointing at Amanda and jumping onto Mike’s lap.
“I mean, freaking crap?” Hannah fumbled for her glasses. Lucy and Matt dissolved into giggles while Amanda, Sam, and Mike all sat in bed looking dumbfounded. A second later Cas walked into the room carrying Sophie.
“So apparently we’re going to see Santa today?” She looked at Sam hopefully. Sam stared at her for a second before glancing down at Matt who was giving him puppy eyes.
“At the mall?” Amanda asked, wiggling out from between Mike and Sam and climbing off the end of the bed.
“Yeah! I need to tell him what I want!” Lucy cried out, flinging herself back in Mike’s arms and laying on her back on the bed. Sam held Matt closer and then stood up out of the bed and helped Matt climb onto his back.
“Alright, how about this. The mall doesn’t open for a few more hours, so how about we all go get dressed and then we go to the diner for breakfast?” Sam suggested, flipping Matt around before setting him on the ground.
“Sure!” Lucy scrambled off of the bed and grabbed Matt’s arm, dragging him out of the room. Cas grinned at Sam before carrying Sophie out of the room, cooing at her.
“Ok,” Sam turned to the others. “The last thing I remember I was in the kitchen what the fuck happened?”
“Amanda put you to sleep and then Mike carried you up to bed. And then we all kinda piled it.” Hannah shrugged her shoulders and rubbed her neck.
“Yeah, ok,” Sam studied her for a second before shaking his head. “How many bathrooms are up here?”
“Two,” Amanda said, stretching her back and yawning. “Hannah and I will use mine, you two can use the master.” Amanda led Hannah out of the room. Sam glanced around, finding his backpack and pulling out a new shirt before he and Mike had an awkward standoff at the door to the bathroom.
“Let’s be mature about this,” Sam said, before suddenly elbowing Mike and running into the bathroom. Mike was barely fazed and just followed him into the bathroom.
“Sure, let’s be mature. Do you want to shower first or should I?” Mike asked ignoring the scandalized shriek that Sam let out. Sam had already pulled off his shirt and was trying to hide something. Mike hesitated for a second before moving closer.
“Privacy?” Sam demanded, his voice cracking halfway through the word.
“You don’t need to hide anything from me Sam, I have my own scars.” Mike pulled off his shirt revealing a series of scars across his torso. Sam studied them for a second before letting his own shirt drop. Where Mike had long slash like scars along his torso, Sam had burn scars littering his torso as well as a few deeper gouge like scars. Mike reached out and gently touched a scar running across his chest, Sam flinched a little before leaning into the touch.
“Man if only that healing goo worked on scars,” Mike said, before pulling him into a hug. Sam melted into the hug for a moment before pulling back.
“Ok, do you want to shower first or should I?”
“You can shower first, I bet you need to dry and style your hair.” Mike teasingly tugged a strand of Sam’s hair before stepping over to the counter and pulling out his morning products.
“So why do your siblings believe in Santa?” Sam asked.
“I made sure they would. It’s important to them to believe in something that is just good. Every year they only got gifts from Santa. If I got really lucky I would be able to give them a gift from Santa and a gift from me. What about Cas?”
“Same thing, my dad told her when she was four that Santa wasn’t real. I spent the last 7 years convincing her that he was real.”
The two of them went through their morning routines in comfortable silence until there was a lot of banging on the door.
“Sam! Mike! If you’re having sex wrap it up! We’re hungry!” Cas yelled through the door. Sam flushed dark red and ripped open the door just in time to see her run out the bedroom door.
“Fucking, god damn little sister.” Sam rolled his eyes and turned back to Mike who was laughing hysterically behind him.
“We better go take them to breakfast,” He wheezed out between laughs. “Or they might come back.”
“Oh shut up.” Sam threw a towel at Mike before laughing himself and walking out of the bedroom. He could hear excited chatter coming from the dining room, so that’s where he went.
“So you mean there’s somewhere we can put these letters where they’ll get to Santa directly?”
“Yeah!” Sam walked into the room and saw Cas, Lucy, and Matt all writing letters to Santa while Amanda held Sophie.
“Then what Santa are we going to see?” Lucy asked, looking at Amanda curiously.
“We’re going to see, uh,” Amanda looked slightly panicked and Sam cut in.
“It’s one of his helpers! Not everybody writes a letter so his helpers go out disguised as him to try and make sure Santa knows what every kid wants.”
“But what about the kids who don’t write letters or go see him?” Matt asked.
“He guesses,” Sam said shrugging his shoulders. “He has a list of every kid in the world and he makes a guess.”
“Ok!” Matt accepted the explanation easily while continuing his letter. Cas and Lucy seemed to consider it a little harder before accepting it.
“Alright!” Mike finally walked in. “As soon as you’re done with your letters we can go to breakfast.”
The room exploded in cheers as the kids all hurriedly finished their letters and signed them before handing them to Hannah to seal. Hannah carefully folded them all and put them into different envelopes all addressed to “Santa: North Pole”.
“Alright, coats and shoes!” Sam shooed them out of the room and took Sophie out of Amanda’s arms to go get her coat. Amanda, Hannah, and Mike all walked to the front door where their coats were hung up and their shoes were waiting. They could hear the kids running around upstairs and their voices. After a few minutes, the kids came running down the stairs and skidded to a stop in front of the teenagers.
“Are we ready? Can we go get breakfast?” Matt asked, jumping up and down in front of them.
“As soon as Sam and Sophie get down here we can go,” Amanda said, picking up her keys and purse. Immediately Sam came down the stairs holding Sophie, who was bundled up in a new jacket and hat.
“So we can go,” Sam said, rubbing the top of Cas’ head as he walked past her.
“To the car!” The kids all ran out to the car and piled into what was quickly becoming their regular seats. Lucy and Matt in the back, Cas on the far left of the car, with the seat next to her open for Sam, who usually held Sophie.
The teenagers followed them out, mentally planning how to get them what they ask Santa for Christmas. Everyone piled into the car and they went to the diner for breakfast. The kids spent half the meal talking about what they were gonna ask Santa for.
“I’m going to ask for some painting supplies,” Lucy said, eating the last bite of her pancakes.
“I’m going to ask for a new bike,” Cas put down her hot cocoa and grinned at the ceiling dreamily.
“I might ask for a guitar?”
“All of that sounds wonderful,” Amanda said, pulling the attention off the quietly panicking Sam and Mike. “I think the mall is open now! We should head over there so we can see Santa before Sophie has to take a nap.”
Everyone stood up and started pulling together the things that they brought while Amanda went to find their waiter so she could pay the tab. When she got back to the table everyone was bundled up again and ready to go see Santa.
“Alright, to the mall!” Mike said leading the charge of kids out the door. Within a few minutes, they were parking at the mall and running through the building to the center where Santa’s workshop was set up. Santa was sitting in his chair and no one else was waiting in line so Lucy lead the charge right up to him.
“Hohoho! Merry Christmas! Who wants to sit on Santa’s lap first?” Santa smiled down at all of them as the teenagers came up behind them. After a second Lucy and Cas pushed Matt forward a little and stepped back. He shot them a betrayed look before taking a deep breath and climbing onto his lap.
“Hi Santa,” he whispered, looking shy. “I’m Matt.”
“Well hello little one, what do you want for Christmas?”
“I-uh,” Matt looked at them all and got close before poorly whispering in Santa’s ear. “I want my brother, Mike, to get presents this year instead of me. I always get presents from Santa and he hasn’t gotten a present once in my life. I just really want you to bring him something nice. He wants to start a moving company so maybe you could bring him something related to that.”
Mike had tears in his eyes and was working really hard on not letting them fall, while Cas and Lucy were staring at him in shock.
“Well young man,” Santa said after a second, clearing his throat. “I guarantee I will bring gifts for your brother this year but is there anything you want?”
“Just for him to be happy. He always works to make sure we’re happy, and I want him to be happy.” Matt smiled at Santa before climbing off his lap and running over to Mike, who knelt down and pulled him into a big hug.
There was a moment before Lucy just looked up at Santa and pointed back at them and said “What he said.” before running over and joining in the hug.
“Well,” Santa looked at Cas next. “What about you young lady?”
“Well,” Cas climbed into his lap and hesitated. “I want you to bring my older brother Sam some gifts this year. And I want you to kill my dad.”
“Cas!” Sam cried, jerking forward in surprise before stilling and just holding Sophie closer to his chest. Santa had gone completely still and was looking between Sam and Cas, seeing for the first time the bruises that hadn’t quite healed on Sam’s face, and old scars peeking out from the collar of his shirt.
“Well, Santa can’t endorse murder. But give this to you brother.” He handed her two small business cards. Lucy smiled at him before jumping off his back and running to Sam, handing him the cards. One was for Child Protective Services, but the other was for a Family and Custody Lawyer.
“Alrighty!” Santa clapped his hands and smiled at them. “Would you all like a picture with Santa?”
“Yeah!” They all cried, Matt and Lucy running back to sit in Santa’s lap while Cas took Sophie and stood next to Santa. They all looked at the elf with a camera who counted down from three and took a picture.
“Thank you Santa,” They all said in a chorus as they started to walk away.
“Now hold on one second! Everyone who visits Santa gets a candy cane, even you teenagers.” Santa reached into the bag next to him and pulled out 7 candy canes, handing them to Lucy and Matt.
“Wow! Thanks!” Matt exclaimed, staring at the candy in awe.
“You’re very welcome! Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas Santa!” They all waved as they walked off.
“Are we going home now?”
“Sure, we could watch-“
“Samuel?!” An angry voice called out from behind them. Sam whirled around, blood draining from his face.
“Dad,” he replied, his voice full of horror. He carefully moved to stand between his father and his family.
“Where the fuck have you been? You disappeared after school yesterday, your mother has been worried sick.”
“Has she even been home? Last I checked she left your sorry ass to stay with her sister.” Sam has moved closer to his father and was now moving slowly around him, keeping his attention off of the others.
“Oh, you’re going to regret that boy. Come here, now.” His voice had gone cold and Sam felt the familiar grip of terror around his heart.
“No, fuck you.”
“I won’t repeat myself.”
“But I will. Fuck. You.” Sam turned and ran but his father was faster and tackled him after only a few feet. Sam tried to squirm away but his father was bigger and stronger. He risked a glance back at his family, noticing that Amanda and Mike were standing in front of the kids and Hannah was keeping them calm.
He took a deep breath and forced his body to relax as he covered what he could and waited for whatever would come next. After only a few blows though Sam suddenly felt his father’s weight get lifted off of his back. He flipped over and saw Santa sitting on top of his father and snapping handcuffs on his wrist.
“You’re under arrest you fucking goddamn bastard.”
“No! You can’t do this to me!”
“You’re under arrest for domestic violence, child abuse, and assault.” Santa continued to ignore his yelling but after a moment Sam’s dad managed to get an arm free and tried to swing at the cop Santa, managing to connect once.
He recovered quickly, grabbing the arm tighter and snarling “Now we can add assaulting an officer and resisting arrest.”
Cop Santa lifted him to his feet and dragged him out of the mall, leaving a group of shocked kids behind.
“Sam!” Cas shoved Sophie into Hannah’s arms and ran to Sam, skidding to a stop on her knees next to him.
“I’m ok, I’m fine Cas.” Sam pushed himself to a sitting up position and pulled Cas into a hug.
“I forgot he would be here,” Cas whispered into his shoulder.
“He usually isn’t. I swear, he usually doesn’t come in this early.” Sam glanced up at the rest of the group. Lucy was hugging a teary-eyed Matt and Mike was staring in shock at them. Amanda was looking at where Cop Santa had dragged their dad and was glaring daggers in that direction. Hannah was holding Sophie and looking at him and Cas with new understanding and sorrow in her eyes.
Sam hesitated for a second before holding out an arm for Lucy and Matt who immediately ran to him and joined Cas in his arms. He pulled them close and just breathed for a second, closing his eyes and trying to figure out what was going to happen next. After a moment Mike, Amanda, and Hannah all joined the group cuddle in the middle of the floor of the mall, keeping Sam and Cas in the center and making sure they felt safe.
“What’s going to happen now, Sam?”
“Now, we’re going to go back to Amanda’s house and watch a few movies, and then we’re going to have dinner.”
“Ok,” Cas seemed to be calming down but when they stood up she wouldn’t let go of Sam’s hand. He kept her close, making sure she felt safe. They made it to the car without issues, getting all the kids into to the car, but before the teens climbed in Sam caught them to talk to them.
“Amanda, Hannah, could you two do me a favor?”
“Sure, anything.” Amanda leaned against the driver's door and studied him.
“When we start the movie can you two go to our house and get our shit. I’ll give you my key. My room is top of the stairs to the right, hers is to the left.”
“Of course asshole.” Hannah shoved his shoulder lightly, giving him a smile.
“Thanks, bitch.” Sam smiled back at her and leaned on her.
“Alright, let’s get these traumatized kids home.” Mike opened the back seat door and let Sam climb in before climbing in after, passing Sophie to Sam to give him something to hold on to. Amanda and Hannah worked hard to engage everyone in easy conversation on the way back to the house. Cas didn’t engage much but leaned against Sam the whole time, occasionally playing with Sophie quietly. Sam watched her for a moment before leaning back in the seat and wondering about their future.
“We’re home,” Amanda broke him out of his thoughts. “Everyone out, first one into the house gets to pick the movie!!”
There was a mad scramble to get out of the car, while Amanda and Hannah waited in the car. Mike and Sam waiting next to the car while the kids ran inside, Cas only glanced back once before running after the younger kids.
“Alright, anything specific you don’t want us to leave behind?”
“There’s a box hidden at the top of my closet with everything important to me. Get that, and anything that looks important to Cas. Pictures, anything we can’t replace.”
“Ok, you take care of yourself ok? We’ll be back soon. And we’ll bring back pizza for lunch ok?”
“Sounds good,” Mike wrapped his arm around Sam and grinned down into the car window. “We’ll see you in a little while.”
“Thanks, guys,” Sam gave them a tired smile and then looked at the ground. Mike pulled him closer and then they walked into the house. The younger kids were sitting on the couch, the Jaundice siblings on either side of Cas and all of them bundled under blankets. They had the lights off and all the curtains pulled closed.
“So, did you guys pick some movies?” Mike asked, walking over to the VHS Player.
“Christmas Story,” Cas said.
“Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” Lucy said.
“And I wanna watch a Disney Christmas Gift!”
“Well! We’re going to have a great time!” Sam sat down on the love seat, picking up another couple of blankets and stretching out his sore muscles. Mike set up Mickey's Christmas Carol first and then sat down next to Sam, throwing his arm behind him and giving him an option to lean on him or to stay in his own space. Sam sat on his own for a second before slowly leaning into Mike’s side and relaxing.
They watched two of the movies before Amanda and Hannah snuck into the room, sitting down on the floor next to the kids. Everyone could smell the pizza and as soon as the movie ended the kids were jumping up and running for the kitchen. Sam had fallen asleep halfway through the second movie and was still sleeping against Mike’s shoulder.
“Sammy?” Mike whispered, poking at his shoulder. Sam stirred before opening his eyes and glaring at Mike.
“What?” he groaned trying to bury himself in Mike’s shoulder.
“Lunch is here.”
“Does that mean I need to get up?”
“Yeah, c’mon.” Amanda stood up and grabbed his arm, hauling him to his feet. Sam stumbled into her side and glared up at her before smelling the pizza and running for the food. Hannah ran after him while Mike and Amanda hung back a little.
“You sure you want four kids in the house?” Mike asked, looking at the ground. “I know it’s a lot.”
“Of course I do, I want you all here. Those kids are the best.” Amanda touched his arm. “I love having a house full of people for the first time in a while.”
“If you’re sure.” Mike still seemed hesitant but he smiled at her and the two of them joined the rest of their family in the dining room.