Title: The Lights are Turned Way Down Low
Author: kototyph
Fandom: Supernatural
Pairing: Dean/Sam, Sam/Castiel, Dean/Sam/Castiel
Rating: M
Warnings/Tags: Christmas, Dubious Consent, Gratuitous Smut, Gay Panic (sort of), Crack, Angst, Hugs Fix Everything, Freudian Use of Christmas Cookies, Nebulous Early Season Nine
Summary: For the Secret Lovers Exchange and baredwolf. Far below their usual levels of deductive reasoning, it takes until Christmas Eve for Team Free Will to solve the case of the mysteriously mutual sex dreams.

The Lights are Turned Way Down Low

Sam's smiling when he wakes up, blood humming pleasantly under his skin as his heartbeat slows and his body relaxes. He's twisted up in sweat-damp sheets and there's a slick sensation in his boxers that might get uncomfortable in a few minutes, but for now he just lies on his stomach and grins lazily into his pillow, feeling sleepy and blissed-out and good.

The dream lingers in fragments of skin-on-skin and gasping breaths, someone's wrecked moans and the snap of his hips between widespread thighs. Sam half-remembers strong fingers in his hair, clawing at his back and he stretches out with a small groan, phantom pain prickling deliciously along his spine.

Still mostly dozing, he savors the mellow pulse of satisfaction in his gut right up until the moment his conscious mind manages to piece together exactly who he'd been dreaming about, and he freezes, staring wide-eyed at the wall next to the bed.

"No," he says, as though outright denial will erase the sudden realization. "Oh, no. No no no no no—"

Something hits the wall from the other side and Sam can just barely make out Dean's muffled, "Damn it, Sam!"

"This is not my fault!" Sam yells, although he can't be sure of that any more than Dean can be sure, and his brother fucking knows that.

Dean's door slams, and he viciously kicks Sam's as he stomps past. "Asshole," Sam says, getting an arm under himself and laboriously swinging his body upright and off the bed.

His feet smudge the remnants of yet another containment ward drawn optimistically around the bed in a perfect circle, and he gives the useless chalky glyphs a glare as he peels out of his disgusting boxers and pulls on some sweatpants and a shirt from the bag on his empty dresser. He never has unpacked all the way.

Dean's at the sink, scrubbing viciously at his teeth when Sam gets to the bathroom. He spits on the porcelain and points the toothbrush menacingly at Sam's reflection.

"We are not talking about this."

On the list of things Sam never wants to talk about, the unsought knowledge that his brother can fuck like a five-diamond pro is right up there with Ruby and the Cage. "Fine."


"Great, sure," Sam says under his breath. So they won't talk about it. Just like yesterday. And the day before. Because that's been working so well, obviously. "This makes, what, six times?"

Not the sixth time Sam's dreamed of fucking and being fucked through the mattress. No. Just the sixth since they realized the dreams were mutual— and hadn't that been a wonderfully violent non-conversation.

"Shut the fuck up," Dean snarls, foaming toothpaste giving him the air of a rabid dog.

"I said fine," Sam snaps back, and does a little door-slamming of his own on his way to the showers.

"And you know what else? You have the dumbest fucking o-face I've ever seen," Dean hisses over eggs and crispy bacon, stabbing into them with his knife and fork like he's imagining Sam's face in their place.

"You really want to talk about this now? Here?" Sam whispers back, nodding towards the other end of the table where Castiel is nodding off in his toast and Kevin is engrossed in a crossword puzzle. Charlie is staring at them as she slowly chews, ruminous suspicion in her eyes.

"Screw you," Dean growls, then makes a face. "Figuratively." He takes an obnoxiously big bite of eggs.

Asleep, Dean is… sweet. Don't get Sam wrong, the situation's all fucked up and if he felt weird dreaming in screaming technicolor about fucking his brother before, that's nothing compared to the chills he gets knowing Dean's right there with him.

But in the dreams, when neither of them remember why they shouldn't, Dean's just... sweet. His kisses are slow and indulgent, and his hands stroke and caress, knuckles rubbing up behind Sam's ears like he's petting a dog. He always laughs when Sam turns his head into it with a happy sigh.

Awake, Dean is on edge and a little wild-eyed, glaring back as Sam levels a flat stare at him over their respective breakfasts.

"Oh, shut up," Sam says under his breath, tucking into his own food. "I wasn't even dreaming about you at first, it was— someone else." And no one at this table needs to know who, the situation is uncomfortable enough as it is. "Anyway—"

He glances up and Dean is looking at him like he's seen a hellhound, eyes wide and hand frozen in the motion of lifting another forkful to his mouth.

"You too?" Sam guesses with a sinking feeling.

"No," Dean blurts out, and the blush that's been lingering on his face all morning surges back, blooming hot and pink across his nose.

"Oh," Sam says, eyebrows rising. "Okay, then."

"Shut your fucking piehole," Dean grits out, stabbing at his bacon.

"Is there something you want to share with the class, boys?" Charlie asks loudly, apparently tired of waiting for an explanation.

"Hell no," Dean says, ducking his head down and determinedly shoveling food in his mouth.

"Well," Sam says as she turns her beady stare on him. "Have you… have you guys been having strange dreams about anyone? In the last couple of weeks especially?"

"No…?" she says slowly. "Not that I remember, at least?"

"Dreams are strange," Castiel mumbles. "Confusing."

"I had a dream about my old band teacher last night," Kevin says around the end of his pencil. "But I think that was because we were blasting the Nutcracker Suite while we put up the lights yesterday. He was playing a celesta with his feet."

"Tchaikovsky?" Charlie asks.

Kevin shakes his head. "Mr. Michaelson. He always was a crazy dude."

"So that's a no," Sam says, relaxing.

"Not unless we're counting sex dreams," Charlie says blithely, and Dean spit-takes his coffee.

"Whoa, no, no one said anything about sex dreams," he says quickly, and even Castiel looks unimpressed with this deflection.

"Uh huh," Charlie says dubiously.

"Okay, wow," Kevin says, standing up. "Count me out of this conversation."

"There is no conversation, shut the hell up," Dean tells him.

"Sex... dreams?" Castiel asks, a small furrow appearing between his eyebrows. "Do humans often dream about—?"

Dean face spells nothing short of a heart attack, and instead of answering Sam chugs the last of his coffee and stands, chair scraping back against the stone floor. "Are you three going to be ready to go into town at ten?" he asks.

"Ten?" Kevin says, squinting up at him. "I thought we'd agreed on noon!"

"You'd better get moving, then," Sam says. "You too, Charlie."

"Naw, I thought I'd go like this," she says, wiggling her feet in their fuzzy puppy slippers, but she heaves herself up and deposits her plate by the sink before shuffling out the door.

Sam waits until Castiel and Kevin have trudged out behind her and turns to look at Dean, who's grimly forking up the last of his eggs.

"Who?" he says.

Dean won't look him in the eye. "None of your damn business."

Sam takes a deep breath. "No, actually, I think it is my damn business. They're my dreams, too, Dean."

Dean shoves away from the table and Sam follows, pacing him back towards the stairs and their rooms. "Oh, for the love of—let it go, Sam," he says.

Sam grabs his arm and lowers his voice. "It's Cas, isn't it."

Dean's shoulders hunch, but he shrugs Sam off and keeps walking. Sam lets him go, slowing to a stop at the bottom of the stairs and watching his brother practically run up the treads to the second floor.

"Right," he sighs, and goes back to clean up the table.

This is what Sam remembers of last night, although the details are soft-edged and hazy, bleeding into memories of other nights and other dreams.

"Sam," Castiel gasps, yanking roughly at Sam's hair because he doesn't know any better, and Sam lets him draw his head up so Castiel can kiss him again, sloppy and eager, hungry. Castiel reacts to things Sam does like the sensations are all too huge for him, too big to take in all at once, and his hips jerk artlessly as his hands claw and grab and squeeze.

Sam laughs into his mouth, straddling his legs with his knees on either side of Castiel's surprisingly sturdy thighs, and Castiel pulls away with a hazy scowl.

"Is it— am I doing it correctly?" he asks, a proprietary hand splayed across the back of Sam's neck, the other bracing him up on the bed. "Is it pleasurable?"

"You're perfect," Sam says, and means it, especially when he wraps his hand around Castiel's cock and Castiel moans, hiding his face in Sam's chest.

There's a second set of hands sneaking up around Sam's waist, and Sam glances over his shoulder with a smile that Dean licks from his lips, pulling him back on his heels.

"Oh, don't stop," Castiel says urgently, and Dean grins down at him over Sam's shoulder.

"I'm just borrowing him for a second," he says, using his arms around Sam's middle to draw him further back. "Promise."

They get going late, surprising no one. Castiel still has to be goaded into certain standards of dress and hygiene, and Kevin gets sidetracked with his lists and his notes and the precise timing of his flossing. Sam and Charlie have been sitting in the floodway honking the horn for fifteen minutes before Dean drags the other two out, floss still dangling from Kevin's mouth, Castiel dressed like a colorblind hobo.

Their first stop in town is the dingy Safeway out by the interstate, and Sam winces each time Dean chucks something into the cart, throwing the items like they've personally offended him. A lot of the stuff getting tossed around is cookie- and pie-related, and that's never a good sign. Dean only bakes when he's on the verge of going thermonuclear.

Kevin and Charlie are arguing over icing colors while Dean stares hard enough to bore holes in the bags of cake flour, and Sam looks up just in time to see Castiel disappear around a corner.

Sam turns to Dean, jerking a thumb over his shoulder. "I'm gonna go..."

Dean doesn't look up from the all-purpose and unbleached. "Stay close. Keep an eye out."

"Yeah, I'll be careful of those cereal-aisle haunts," Sam says, only half-joking. The holidays have a way of turning nasty when you're a Winchester, and he wouldn't put it past the universe to throw them a ghost or two on Christmas Eve.

Castiel is in the pet section when Sam catches up, crouching to watch the betafish swim listlessly in their tiny tubs of water.

"I don't think they like it here," Castiel says when Sam stops next to him. "It seems very cramped."

"I'm sure it is," Sam says. "Listen, Cas, can I talk to you for a minute?"

Castiel stands immediately. "Yes, of course," he says, guileless, and Sam glances uneasily around the brightly-lit aisle.

"Why don't we go somewhere else?"

He finds a metal door down the hall from the bathrooms in the back of the store, dinged up and badly painted, and leaves a stray soda bottle propping it open while he motions Castiel outside.

The concrete sidewalk is littered with cigarette butts and chewing gum, edging on cracked asphalt and sear brown grass. The bruise-colored sky is a sullen promise, snow or sleet on its way in from the west, and Castiel shivers and pulls his godawful Day-Glo scarf higher as the wind picks up.

"So." Sam awkwardly folds his arms, glancing out at the winter-barren fields and the handful of cars trundling down Route 36.

"Yes, Sam?" Castiel asks, a bit muffled by the scarf. "What did you not want to talk about in front of Dean and the others?"

Surprised into a huff of laughter, Sam gives him a wry smile. "Caught that, did you?"

"Does it have to do with Dean's current mood?" Castiel asks, sounding subdued. "Have I said something again?"

"What? No," Sam says. "No, no, it's— well, it's related to his mood. But you didn't do anything, I'm pretty sure."

"Pretty sure?"

"That's what I have to ask you," Sam says. "Do you remember what we were talking about at breakfast?"

"Fixing the toaster," Castiel says immediately. "The trip to town. Charlie's cousins who are 'squares'."

"After that," Sam says.

Castiel's eyebrows are drawing together again. "... Tchaikovsky?"

"Dreams, Cas," Sam says, and then, before he can talk himself down from it, "Dreams about sex."

"Oh," Castiel says, looking suddenly hunted. "Those. What— what about them?"

Sam has the sudden feeling he's not going to like the answer, but he has to ask. "Have you been having dreams like that, Cas?"

Castiel blinks up at him. "Like...?"

"Like you and I having sex, for starters," Sam says evenly, holding his eyes.

There's a second where Sam thinks he somehow wasn't blunt enough, Castiel still gazing at him in mystification, until his eyes suddenly widen and his mouth drops open.

"You and— me?" Castiel's blush seems to take him by as much surprise as it does Sam, blazing across his face and turning it a fiery cherry-red before his eyes dart away. "No," he says. "Oh, I, no. No, I don't. Dream things like that, I..."

Well, shit, Sam thinks. "You and Dean?"

"N-no!" Castiel stutters out, looking anywhere but Sam's face, fingers in a white-knuckle grip on the ends of his scarf. "I— I wouldn't, I—"

"Because Dean and I have been having some weird experiences," Sam continues, watching him closely.

Castiel's expression makes the subtle shift from highly flustered to utterly terrified, and he announces, "I am going to locate the root vegetables," voice pitched much higher than usual. He turns and pulls the metal door open with a bang that knocks a chunk out of the building's brick wall.

"Cas, wait!" Sam calls after him, but the door bounces back so violently it almost clips his hand. When Sam gets it open again, Castiel is already gone.

There are other things Sam remembers, images that churn in his mind as he searches for Castiel and the cart through aisle after empty aisle.

He remembers Dean moaning, "Shit, yeah, fucking hell," pulling violently against the firm grip Sam has on his wrists. "C'mon, Sam, please—"

"You promised," Sam reminds him, and looks down his heaving body to where Castiel is seating himself in an achingly slow, sinuous grind. He probably doesn't mean to tease, head tipped back and mouth falling open as he works to bring his hips flush with Dean's, but Dean curses and sweats like it's torture.

"Oh," Castiel breathes. He's leaning back with his hands on Dean's thighs, his weight keeping Dean pinned as he rocks forward experimentally. "Oh, that's— Dean!"

"Fuck, please," Dean says desperately, body twitching and shaking, "please, Cas, Sam, I'm crying uncle here, please!"

Castiel shifts his hips a bare inch forward and makes a sudden noise like he's been goosed, shocked and pleased at the same time, and starts to move more quickly.

Dean's head rolls back against Sam's knees, his eyes gone frenzied and dark, and Sam's smile feels wicked as he leans down to kiss at slack lips.

"Feel good?" he asks.

"I hate you," Dean groans into his mouth. "I hate— oh fuck, oh Jesus—"

Castiel is practically bouncing on Dean's cock now, hands moving forward to grope along Dean's chest. Sam watches his fingers find the stiff points of Dean's nipples, and Dean yelps in Sam's ear. His hips pump up and Castiel cries out, losing what little rhythm he's managed to gain.

"D-dean," he stutters out, trailing off into a shaky, staccato sound, as if it's being forced out of him with each shallow thrust. "Sam—"

Sam sits up and lets Dean go, lets his hands skate down to join Castiel's, rolling the hard nubs between index and thumb and listening to Dean's startled, "Ah, ah, Sa—!" as he bucks up uncontrollably. Castiel's arms wind around Sam's neck and they kiss, shocky little breaths puffing out against Sam's chin.

Sam twists and Dean shouts something profane, arching, and Castiel's knees slip out from under him, Dean's hips slamming into him to the hilt. Castiel comes with a sharp, surprised noise that's almost a squeak, untouched, his fingers digging hard into Sam's shoulders.

When Sam finally finds the cart, it's overflowing with sugar and flour and some new springform pans, and Dean's got a set to his jaw that means premeditated murder.

"Go get the goddamn turkey already," is his curt greeting, and Charlie and Kevin scamper after Sam as he immediately turns and walks back the way he came. Castiel, holding a bag filled to the brim with turnips, trails after them with a deeply uncertain expression.

"Seriously, what is his problem?" Kevin asks on Sam's left.

"Andropause," Charlie half-whispers from Sam's right. "He's turning into a creaky old man and he's taking it out on us."

"Hey," Sam protests.

"Dean is not old," Castiel says firmly from behind them.

She turns and smiles, reaching out to pat his arm soothingly. "Don't worry, your vessel's age doesn't count. Or your angel-age. You're practically a baby."

"And me?" Sam asks her.

She smirks unrepentantly. "Hope you're making the most of your golden years, Sam!"

They escape the Safeway with little loss to life and property (Dean does manage to 'accidentally' gut a cheery blow-up Santa in the holiday goods section while no one's looking, but they shove the deflating saint under some fake snow and make tracks before the sales associates notice). Their messy cartful of Christmas dinner supplies, extra garlands, lights, board games, multiflavored cocoa and jumbo pack of Extra-Extra Soft toilet paper no one will own up to but no one puts back comes to over four hundred dollars, which 'Dennis McCunnough' pays for with a brand new credit card and a serial-killer smile.

"I think you scared the checkout girl," Kevin says as Dean pushes the cart forward so violently he almost clips the automatic doors.

"I think you scarred the checkout girl," Charlie says, looking back over her shoulder. She has to trot to keep up with Dean's pace across the parking lot. "Probably for life."

Dean's growled reply is too low for Sam to catch, but it makes Kevin blanche and maneuver himself behind Castiel.

Charlie has a stack of letters and small packages to 'drop off' at the post office, and that's a good hour of their lives wasted. The municipality of Lebanon's post office has extremely restricted hours, and it seems like the whole town has decided to get in line with them.

"What do you even write about?" Kevin asks as they wait. "'Vacationing in Houston, took care of a chupacabra while I was at it, how are the kids'?"

"It's like none of you know any normal people," Charlie says, then catalogues their faces and says, "Not that that's a bad thing!"

"Would you be interested in some stamps, young lady?" the octogenarian behind the counter asks when they finally make it there.

"Ooo, can I see the book?" she asks, and Dean throws his hands up and walks away as she and Castiel proceed to pour over every laminated page.

It's technically their last errand in town, but there's a nursery-turned-tree farm on the outskirts of town that they always pass when driving back, and now that it's dark, the whole complex is lit up like a firecracker factory burning down. Chaotic colors shine neon-bright against the low cloudcover, and Kevin says, "Holy cow," face pressed right up against the car window.

There are plenty of people who've pulled over to admire the show, and to walk through what looks like the remnants of a corn maze, now glittering and bright with plastic icicles and flashing snowmen. There's a life-sized Santa Claus in his sleigh taking off from a roof, eight prancing reindeer arcing away into the sky, and tt looks like there might be hot drinks and food as well. Something peppy and seasonal is audible even through the windows as the Impala slows for a car making the turnoff.

Charlie pokes her head over the front seat and says, "Can we please stop? Pleeeease?"

"We've got frozen food in the back," Dean starts, and she rides over him with, "And it'll only get colder if we stop. C'mon, please?"

"I would like to see the lights as well," Castiel says, almost shyly. He's been very quiet since their talk outside the Safeway, and Sam's relieved to hear him say anything at all.

Dean looks at Sam, who looks at Dean and shrugs. "Your call, man."

Dean mutters something dark under his breath, but he turns into the parking lot.

Stopping proves to be huge mistake, as Charlie dashes off towards the maze with a yell of glee and Dean makes a beeline for the cafe stand once he sees they're selling coffee and pecan pie, both of them disappearing into the crowd. Castiel wanders away while Sam and Kevin are poking around a gigantic nativity set probably visible from space, and then Kevin evaporates somewhere between the plastic, cow-sized baby Jesus and the even more gigantic Virgin Mary.

In the end, cold and rueful, Sam slumps down on a park bench overlooking a tiny crowded ice rink, next to an exhausted-looking woman with a double stroller. She gives him a tired smile and says, "Kids, huh?"

"Kids," Sam sighs, because sometimes he feels like he has three or four, and she laughs.

A little later, when the woman has collected her brood and left and Sam is starting to feel the cold in his bones, something bumps his shoulder. When he looks up Dean's standing next to him, holding out a paper coffee cup while he sips from a second, eyes scanning the skating rink.

"Thanks," Sam says gratefully, taking it in his chilled hands.

"See you managed to lose everybody," Dean says, and Sam makes a sound of deep annoyance as he burns his tongue.

"Ow. Sorry, didn't know I'd been appointed babysitter."

"Yeah, well. We still don't know who's all after Kevin, or Cas." Dean takes another sip. "Speaking of."

"Yeah?" Sam asks, when more isn't immediately forthcoming.

A muscle jumps in Dean's jaw. "You said something, didn't you? He won't even look at me."

Sam raises an eyebrow. "You thought I wouldn't?"

Dean gives a short, humorless laugh. "Yeah, well, maybe I was hoping just this once you could leave it the fuck alone."

Sam smiles, a little unwillingly. "Does that sound like me?"

Dean shrugs, and leans a little more of his weight on the back of the park bench. "No, guess not."

Sam contemplates the lid on his coffee cup. Caution, caution. Contents hot. "Dean, I think he might have something to do with it."

"You mean we dragged him into this," Dean says dully. "Whatever 'this' is."

"I think... it might actually be the other way around," Sam says, looking up at Dean. "He was acting a little strange when I asked him."

Dean looks at him like he's crazy. "So he, what, put a love spell on us or something? Cas?"

"I don't know," Sam says, exasperated. "But I think—"

"Uh, guys?"

It's Kevin, who's expression says that he might have caught a little of their conversation but also that he adamantly Does Not Want to Know.

"What's up, Kevin?" Sam asks.

"I know you said we couldn't get a Christmas tree," he starts, and Dean groans, dropping his head in his hand.

Castiel has fallen in love with a Douglas fir, and no amount of pleas and threats and bribes are enough to part them.

"We want the entire tree," he tells the farmer, a craggy man with a saw slung over his shoulder.

"No we don't," Dean interjects, but resignation is already settling across his shoulders and in his voice.

Castiel scowls at him. "Yes, we do. Trunk. Roots. Everything."

"Well," the man says doubtfully, rubbing the back of his neck, "that's gonna be tough. The ground's real stiff this time of year, and the roots are brittle because the sap's all frozen—"

Castiel pulls, and the tree comes up in his hands, intact roots and all. Sam thinks he actually sees the roots curl in towards Castiel and that, that is very weird.

"Oh," the tree farmer says, eyebrows raised. "Well, I'll be. Been working on it a long time, have you?"

"It wants to come with us," Castiel says, wrapping his arms around its bristly branches.

"Sure it does," the man says agreeably. "That'll be one-fifty."

"Cas," Dean says despairingly.

The fir makes the trip home with its roots in Castiel's lap, hastily wrapped in burlap and a large plastic pot retrieved from the nursery's storage. The mesh-bound branches stick into the front seat and block Sam's view of Dean and Dean's view of both his side and rear-view mirrors, making the trip back to the bunker an exciting one for all of them.

"On the count of three," Sam says, and barely manages to hold on as Castiel hefts the tree up over his shoulder and strides across the causeway.

They scatter dirt and needles across the library floor just getting the tree in and upright, and Dean complains, "I just cleaned in here!" as he walks past them carrying groceries, Kevin just behind him.

"I'll sweep up," Sam promises. "If you've got this, Cas, I think Charlie and I will help Dean."

"Mmhm," Castiel hums, petting the tree's bark. It might be a trick of the light, but Sam thinks the tree is making some frankly disturbing advances of its own, and he decides to leave them to it.

"It is just me," Charlie says quietly as they walk back towards the car, "or is Cas, y'know. Leveling up again?"

"... yeah," Sam says, as things slide into place in his mind with an almost audible click. "Yeah, I think that's exactly what's happening."

"My mom used to make these all the time," Charlie tells Castiel, setting a plain sugar cookie in front of him and then lining up the various sprinkles, icings, drops and sugar-spun decals they'd collected at the store. "I think Dean's recipe is better than hers, though. These are nice and crunchy."

"Let them cool, at least," Dean grumps, pulling a towel off his shoulder to protect his hands as he pulls yet another tray full of appropriately holiday-shaped cookies out of the oven. Sam and Kevin have been occupying themselves by eating the 'broken' cookies, and sneaking a not-insubstantial amount of the batter, and when Sam reaches for an obviously-defective u-shaped candy cane on the new sheet Dean rewards him with a hard rap to the knuckles.

"Ow!" Sam glares at him. "Dude!"

"Leave those alone," Dean says, narrow-eyed and wielding a wooden spoon, and Kevin reaches between them and steals the malformed cookie for his own.

"Child abuse," Kevin says as Dean brandishes the spoon in his direction.

"You're nineteen," Dean says.

Kevin shrugs and somehow crams the entire thing in his mouth at once. Sam takes advantage of Dean's distraction to steal another one, and Dean's head whips around a second too late. His spoon misses Sam's hand by inches, and Sam grins smugly as he tastes sweet, crunchy victory.

"Oh, yeah? Like 'em, do ya?" Dean asks maliciously. "The secret ingredient is lard."

Sam sprays crumbs across the table. "Ugh, Dean, gross!"

"Dean's gross?" Kevin says, recoiling.

"Look! It's reindeer roadkill!" Charlie says with relish, red icing smeared everywhere, and Castiel watches her work with great interest as he applies the same technique.

"We're all doomed," Sam realizes out loud, and Kevin side-eyes him as he tips a few edible pearls into his palm to sample.

"Speak for yourself, man," he says, and tosses them in his mouth.

Sam remembers being surrounded.

Dean's usually at his back, big and broad, a weighted presence that keeps Sam feeling grounded and safe. Castiel curls up against Sam's chest, in the circle of Sam's arms like he can't imagine any place he'd rather to be. Sometimes their fingers meet and tangle over Sam's ribs and that's when he grins like an idiot into Castiel's hair, helpless against the tide of warmth filling up all the dark, cold places inside him.

Sam remembers, and he wants. And maybe that's the worst thing of all.

The radio in the library has to be more than sixty years old, but it manages to fill the downstairs just fine with the brassy, slightly staticy broadcast of a Kansas station playing nothing but Bing Crosby and Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald and the Andrews Sisters.

They eat briefly— cold cut sandwiches all around; the real meal will be tomorrow night— and make cookies, cookie after cookie after cookie. Around ten o'clock or so, Kevin retires to the TV room and Charlie retires to the internet. The cold blue light of electronic media everywhere flickers over their faces as Sam passes them on his way back from the bathroom, sitting side by side in the den. The tree that might be sentient stands poised in the corner, tinsel draped haphazardly over its rustling limbs. Sam edges past it sideways and can't help looking over his shoulder once or twice as he moves on, just to make sure it isn't following him.

The kitchen is warm and smells amazing, buttery and rich from the cookies, spicy and sweet from some strange alcoholic concoction bubbling away on the stove, diced apples and pears floating in the burgundy liquid. Sam slips into a seat next to Castiel, who's just putting the finishing touches on his tenth identical, lovingly-detailed angel cookie. It's the most blatantly Freudian use of baked goods Sam's ever seen.

Castiel wordlessly holds up the finished product for Sam's approval, perfect blue robes limned in perfect white sugar-pearls, and Sam can truthfully say, "Looks amazing, Cas."

"Thank you," Castiel says, preening a little.

"Get a fucking room," Dean mutters from the counter, and just like that the quiet, comfortable mood is shattered.

Castiel's face pales, and he sets the cookie aside and quickly picks up the next, hunching over it with an almost-depleted tube of icing.

Sam stares at his brother's tense back, shoulders moving jerkily as he beats whatever is in the mixing bowl half to death. "Y'know, Dean, if you would just stop stress-baking for a second and—"

"I do not stress-bake!" Dean snarls, turning to face him with his whisk held high like a mace.

"Right," Sam says, hands up. "Just put the bowl down and step away from the eggs."

"Fuck you," Dean says.

"Yeah, that hasn't been working out so far," Sam says, and Dean's face shutters. His eyes dart from Sam to Castiel and away, and he turns and slams the bowl down in the sink with a clang that makes Castiel jump.

"I should go," Castiel says apprehensively.

"You really shouldn't," Sam says, and stands. "Dean, don't you want an explanation?"

"No," Dean says roughly, hands in fists on the lip of the sink. "I just want it to stop."

It surprises Sam, how it hurts with an immediate ache to hear Dean say it out loud. They're brothers, they've been through literal hell for each other, but there are still so many truths they let lie silent between them, unseen shards of glass waiting for an unwary step. This thing they're skirting now has always been one of them, and Sam has the immediate urge to lash back with something that will hurt Dean just as much.

Castiel beats him to it.

"No, Dean," he says softly. "You don't."

Dean reels around to face them, mouth opening and closing a few times before a raw, "And what the hell would you know about it?" is dragged out.

Castiel looks down at the table, at the neat, regimented rows of angels lying on their sheets. "I believe I am the cause of your... disturbances."

"How?" Sam asks, at the same time Dean says, "Why?"

Castiel can't seem to meet their eyes, playing with a paper towel in his lap. "When I cannot sleep— and that is often— I sometimes dwell on... on certain unspoken thoughts and desires," he says, quieter and quieter. "Imagining that we allowed ourselves to act on them, it is... I found it gratifying. It seemed harmless."

"Harmless?" Dean says. "We've been dream-fucking each other because you were bored?"

"Lonely," Castiel corrects him in a small voice. "As you are lonely, and Sam is lonely. We do not have anyone but each other, now, and I... I presumed too much, and I'm sorry, I'll— I'll try to stop."


"Please don't make me leave again," he whispers.

"You're not going anywhere," Sam says forcefully, reaching for him and sparing a glare for his brother and whatever shitty, unhelpful thing about to come out of his mouth. "It's okay, we'll... Dean?"

Dean is standing in the middle of the kitchen, his hands shaking with the force in his clenched fingers, and he looks two seconds short of losing it completely. "I can't," he starts, and then he's almost out of the room before Sam lunges to his feet and manages to grab him.

"Damn it, Sam, let me go!"

"This isn't, fuck, going to go away," Sam says, struggling to hold onto his arm as he fights to wrench it free. "You can't just run away, Dean!"

"Fucking watch me," he snarls, and Sam gets both arms around him and hangs on through the wild swings and the kicking and swearing. Dean knocks him right in the teeth with the back of his skull and Sam hides his face in Dean's neck, which seems to make Dean fight all the harder.

That's fine. For this, for the slim, small chance at this, Sam can wait it out.

Dean's breath is coming faster even as his body tires itself out, curses coming high and laced with something that's close to panic, a long string of, "Let go let go let go—"

"Dean," Sam says.

"Fucking let go, let me go," Dean says, "let me go! I can't, Sam, I can't—"

"Dean, it's okay," Sam says as emphatically as he can, tightening his grip until he can feel Dean's diaphragm working against the squeeze. "Calm the hell down. Please."

"Please," Castiel echoes from much closer than the table, and then a second set of arms are joining Sam's in a tentative creep around Dean's shoulders, their hold firming when Dean freezes in place.

Castiel stands in front of Dean, inches away, looking determined and fearful as his fingers clutch tightly at Dean's collar and Sam's shirtfront.

"I'm sorry," he says again. Then, "I love you. The— the both of you."

"You don't mean that," Dean says weakly, and Castiel gives him a shake that rocks Sam, too.

"Stupid, stubborn Winchesters. Why would I say it if I didn't mean it?" Castiel says, sounding honestly perplexed.

"He really wouldn't," Sam says, tucking his mouth down by Dean's ear. "Me either, Dean." His heart skips unevenly in his chest. No backing out now. "I lo—"

"Stop!" Dean's trying to get away again, but it's feeble and a little pathetic. "Stop it."

He says it like he's begging them, and Sam's heart gives that funny kick again. "Not going to," he promises. "It's okay if you don't say it back. But you should know."

"Yes," Castiel says, leaning into them. "You should." He's chest to chest with Dean, Sam's arms pressing into his stomach until Sam moves them to dig fingers into his ugly sweater. He settles his forehead on Dean's shoulder.

"Get off me," Dean says, but he's stopped struggling. His head tips forward and he sags between them, hands on Sam's arms, digging into the meat of his biceps.

"Okay," Sam murmurs. He doesn't move.

The kitchen's quiet, low burble of the pot on the stove and the clicks of the cooling oven the only noises. In the next room, Kevin or Charlie has put on the old 1964 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Burl Ives singing about silver and gold decorations on every Christmas tree.

They stand there as the tension drains out of Dean's body, and Castiel sighs, fingers venturing up to brush the back of Dean's skull, Sam's jaw.

Dean actually lets out a laugh, though it has the tiniest of quakes. "No, seriously, I can feel my manliness just draining away here. Let go."

"Okay," Sam says again. "But you have to come watch Rudolph with us."

Dean's quiet for a second. "Rudolph? That stupid kid's movie?"

"Yep," Sam says. "All of it."

"Charlie assures me it is essential holiday viewing," Castiel says, tilting his face up. They're too close to be sure, but Sam thinks he's smiling.

"Jesus, fine," Dean says, and he sounds like he might be smiling too. "Let's go watch Rudolph."

Charlie and Kevin make it to their beds, at least, but Dean and Castiel sack out on each other like a couple of toddlers after the third or so claymation Christmas special, slumped together on the couch next to Sam. Sam pokes and prods until he gets them up and moving towards the stairs, where Castiel makes a beeline for Dean's room and Dean trails after him with clear trepidation.

"Coming?" he asks Sam, a thread of that anxious disbelief still in his voice. Sam and Castiel are going to uproot, salt and burn it before they ring in the new year.

"Give me a minute," Sam says, pausing at the top of the landing. "I just remembered something."

In the dungeon, Crowley eyes the stack of reject sugar cookies with deep suspicion. "Are they iced in salt? Mixed with holy water? Doused in the blood of saints?"

"Would that hurt you now?" Sam asks incuriously. "Look, I don't really care if you eat them or not, but there they are. I even brought some milk."

Crowley considers the plate, two cautious fingers inching forward to pick up one of Charlie's roadkill cookies. "What the hell is this?"

"Merry Christmas, you evil bastard," Sam says, and closes the doors.

A/N: Real talk: I've never had a fic Jossed as quickly, as thoroughly, and as painfully as this one was by 9x09. THIS IS A SAFE SPACE, OKAY, WE DON'T TALK OR EVEN THINK ABOUT THAT EPISODE

From the prompts: 1 - Christmas/holiday themed canon-verse fic, incorporating the MOL bunker + 3 - Canon-verse case fic where the characters get whammied by something supernatural and keep having sex dreams about each other.