Dinner is an enormous, if belated, affair. When they return to the house, there are three unfamiliar trucks in the driveway and a handful of men and women who, after application of holy water and silver knives, look very relieved to see them alive. Two of the more enterprising have piled scrap wood in a cleared circle in the backyard, and are squirting lighter fluid over the smoky bodies of the dead hellhounds. When Bobby whistles, Rumsfeld crawls out from under the nearest junker and makes his slow way through the snow to his side, tail wagging steady as a metronome.

"You goddamn morons," one woman greets them, grin wide and her grip hearty as she hugs Ellen and Jo. "Scaring us like that. And what'n the hell are these? Did that voudoun priestess come this year?"

"Bite your tongue, Tara," Rufus says with a grimace, and there's a collective shudder from the assembled.

It's after midnight when they all finally take their seats. Outside the windows the world has a taken on a pearl-like finish, moonlight gleaming on the windswept snow. Inside, everything is a trifle too warm, but after Gabriel snaps the blood away, Castiel keeps wearing Sam's sweater. The sleeves make excellent substitute oven mitts.

"You looking to feed an army, or what?" Rufus says as they bring out yet another heaping side dish. The dining room table isn't quite big enough for all of them, so they've dragged in the narrow kitchen table and a sideboard from the living room. Jo's nose is hardly an inch above the top of the tablecloth, and a hunter of South Asian descent balances precariously on a barstool two feet above his plate. Notably, he looks both flabbergasted and deliriously happy to see Gabriel's octopus, arranged in thin pieces on a platter with lime and stewed greens of some kind.

"Or what," Bobby agrees, carefully maneuvering their enormous turkey onto the very end of the table. "Got us a lot of hungry mouths here."

It's very noisy, and despite the lateness and the deep snow there must be twenty people trying to fit their knees and elbows around the table. Castiel finds himself squeezed in between Sam and Dean, their shoulders knocking into his companionably as Gabriel appropriates most of Dean's seat in addition to his own.

"Angels, huh," Jo says, under the general clatter.

Gabriel salutes her over a comically large plate of mashed potatoes, creamed corn and fried locusts. "In the flesh, muchacha."

"But why?" Ellen asks.

"I liked the climate," Gabriel says, popping a locust in his mouth. "Mmm. These are just the right kind of crunchy. Anybody else want some?"

"Keep your damn bugs to yourself," Rufus grumbles.

"The natives are so friendly, too," Gabriel says with a sardonic grin. "What's not to love?"

"And you, Cas?" Bobby says. "You just decided all that harp-playing was for the birds?"

"Although I perpetrated many small rebellions and disobediences, I believe the final straw was when I called Michael an assbutt," Castiel says, nibbling at the end of one of his peeled carrots.

"Assbutt," Jo says flatly.

"Assbutt?" Dean chokes out. "Are you serious?"

"It sounds much worse in Enochian," Castiel says defensively.

On Dean's other side Gabriel has his face in his hands, silent laughter caught in his ribcage as he shakes. "Oh, Cassie. Cassie," he says, tears glinting in his eyes when he looks up. "I knew it had to be boring, because you're, well, you. But I thought you'd at least had some fun."

"It was quite gratifying," Castiel disagrees. "I have honestly never seen him look so fruitlessly enraged."

They eat, and they talk, well into the small hours of the night. Outside, the snow falls. Somewhere beyond this place, this house, there is evil, and there are demons who will not stop at kidnapping or murder or the breaking of the world in two to get what they want. He knows this.

Sam passes him the bread rolls, and their eyes meet. He gives Castiel a little smile, something small and warm, and their legs brush under the table.

Castiel knows. But he also knows that this, the night when humanity chooses to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, is a time of comfort and miracles, and though he has long stopped expecting his Father to answer, Castiel closes his eyes and bows his head.

He prays for the brave man beside him, and for happiness, and for peace.


"Hey, Cas."

Castiel hears Sam only vaguely, as though sleep is a pool he's sunk to the bottom of. "Mmph."

"Cas?"

"Aw, let him sleep," Dean says, even more distantly. "Poor guy could probably use a few zees."

"Easy for you to say," Sam retorts, and under Castiel's head something shifts restlessly. "My whole leg is numb."

"Mmgh?" Castiel asks without opening his eyes, rolling a bare inch to the side. Draped over Castiel's stomach, Rumsfeld gives an irritated wuff and resettles.

"Now you've done it," Gabriel says. "Haven't you ever heard the phrase, 'let sleeping dogs lie'?"

"Sleeping dogs are cutting off my circulation," Sam grumbles, but his hand is on his thigh next to Castiel's head, fingers brushing idly through his hair as if by accident. Castiel nudges into the touch with a sigh. He likes Sam's hands.

"Good Lord," Gabriel groans. "What did I say about being sad and vanilla?"

"Sh'up," Castiel says drowsily. "Sleeping."

"About that," Sam says with amusement. "We need to get off the couches soon. More than a few of hunters are staying, and I think all four of us are going to be demoted to the attic tonight."

Castiel's eyes slit open. "Hm?"

"But it's so cold up there," Dean whines, crossing his legs at the ankles on the ottoman.

"It's fine, you big baby," Sam says with an eye roll. He's definitely petting Castiel now, knuckles rubbing firmly over his temple.

"I've got a plan," Gabriel says grandly. He's made a point to stretch out the full length of the couch opposite, compressing Dean into a corner and still managing to take up half his lap.

"Oh crap," Sam says, deadpan. "Everybody run."

Gabriel straightens up with a lingering groan. "Mmmm. You have fun bunking in the attic with kitty-Cas, Samsquatch."

"And what are you going to do, smartass?" Dean asks with a half-grin, head braced on his hand.

Gabriel smirks, and snaps.

After a moment, Sam says, "Should... we be worried about that?"

Castiel frowns at the suddenly empty couch across from them. "I'm not entirely sure."

At that moment, Bobby sticks his head around the corner and says, "Bedtime, boys. By which I mean get the hell out of my bed, boys."

Rumsfeld gives a few protesting whines as Castiel wriggles out from underneath him, but eventually accepts the inevitable and allows himself to be removed. Sam gets Castiel on his feet, laughs for a good minute at the state of his hair, and ends up tugging him along like a tugboat in his wake as he makes for the stairs.

"God, it's four in the morning," he says, squinting at the clock on the wall as they troop past it. There's a penny poker game still going strong in the kitchen as they walk by, and Jo calls, "Goodnight!" when she sees them. The stairs are markedly more difficult to navigate when half-asleep, and Sam gets to laugh a little more.

The attic is cold, the dim light from the single naked bulb hardly enough to illuminate the two bare mattresses and an assortment of ancient sleeping bags and ugly woolen throws. "It's not the Ritz," Sam says dryly, and Castiel ignores him in favor of crawling into the disorderly knot of bedding and flopping down face-first.

"You're going to suffocate," Sam predicts. Castiel grunts. "At least unbutton your pants?"

"Sleeping," Castiel explains.

Sam snorts. "Yeah, I got that."

There are some rustling noises, and footsteps that come and go. A click, and the feeble light is gone. Then creaking springs.

When it becomes clear Sam has taken the other mattress and its obviously inadequate number of musty-smelling blankets, Castiel makes a sound of deep annoyance and feels his way blindly across the small distance that separates them, dragging the sleeping bags with him.

"Cas?" Sam says on a yawn.

"Hmph," Castiel grumbles, dropping himself on Sam's chest and surprising an "Oomf!" from him. Sam's skin bleeds warmth through his thin cotton t-shirt, and Castiel settles in with a pleased murmur.

"Um… okay then." Sam's arms come slowly around him, a hand sliding low on his waist. "Cas?"

Castiel is not awake enough to do more than make an inquiring noise.

"Cas, listen, I… I just wanted to say…"

Fingers slide under his chin, gently tipping his head up. This feels important, somehow. Castiel should probably open his eyes.

"Thank you," Sam breathes across his mouth, and kisses him.

It's dry and hot, close-lipped, and somehow being kissed is not at all like kissing. Nothing at all. Something is boiling over in his chest, molten and soft and spreading, and when Sam starts to pull away Castiel makes a desperate noise and knocks his lips back into Sam's so hard it stings.

"Ow," Sam says, but he doesn't sound hurt. "I think that's a yes."

"You idiot," Castiel hisses, because his lip is throbbing and his heart is pounding but he's still exhausted. "Now? Now?"

"It seemed like a good idea at the time," Sam says, not sounding at all repentant. Castiel wants to shake him, he does, but what he really wants is another kiss like the first. In the next moment, Sam lowers his head and gives him exactly that, and Castiel is glad to forget the small indignity for things much sweeter.

Sweetest is lying in the dark when Sam finally falls asleep beside him, tracing the angles of his face and imaging the morning when they'll wake together. Sweetest is following him into sleep soon after, and knowing Sam will be there when he opens his eyes again.