A/N: Last year I was part of 'Lucifer's Christmas Countdown Challenge', together with three other writers. That was so much fun I decided to do it all over again with another show and other characters and, this time, on my own.

I drew lots for the prompts, and, believe it or not, there was only one where I immediately said: That's a probable one! The others are... well, not what you might expect. To give you my favourite challenge: mistletoe, Sam's room, Death & Crowley.

But I'll deal with all of them... somehow.

I can't promise it'll always be light. I can't promise to keep it dark either, or funny. It'll probably be a mess in the end – but I'll write it anyway, and I'd be very pleased if you took the time to leave me a review.

Enjoy!

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Disclaimer: I don't own the characters or the show. I don't get money off of this.

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Season: Season 9

Spoilers: Season 9 (obviously)

Additional tags: AU for obvious reasons

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Day 01: Cocoa; motel room; Ellen & Castiel

Ellen sits down on the bed, which squeaks in defiance against her weight. Castiel watches her out of the corner of his eye while he fumbles around with the first aid kit Dean has thrust into his hand before leaving. His hands shake badly.

Ellen notices: "It's just a scratch, Castiel. You'll do fine."

"It doesn't look like it's just a scratch", he rasps against the roughness in his throat. It's probably showing some serious bruising by now. "Just a little while ago, I easily could've..."

He shakes his head.

Supporting one arm with the other, she shoots him a worried look before saying: "That shifter got us real good, didn't he?"

Cas picks the items he needs out of the kit and nods. "Thank you for getting him off of me", he said and moves over to clean Ellen's wound.

"You're ouch", she winces, "welcome. Couldn't very well leave him choking you to death."

She snorts, then clenches her teeth against the next wave of pain. While Castiel's inexperienced fingers tend to Ellen's wound, they both keep quiet. Halfway through the procedure, Castiel's hands stop shaking.

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Castiel returns from the bathroom in a new, crisp white shirt. The only visible signs of their encounter with the shifter are the bruising around his throat and the weary lines on his face. Ellen sits at the motel room's single table nursing a cup filled with something hot. Curls of steam rise from it.

"Sit", she tells him, gesturing toward a second cup set out for him, "drink."

Castiel sinks down on the chair and pulls the cup closer. He stares at it with a faraway expression in his eyes.

"Cas."

He looks up.

"None of the things happening today was your fault. No one's blaming you."

"I blame myself. I should be stronger. I should be able to help you, to defend you, not drag you into tight spots like this."

Ellen shrugs: "That's just part of being a hunter. Part of being human."

Cas sighs and runs a hand through his hair.

"Sam and Dean'll deal with this, Cas, and next time things will go better. Hunter's promise. What you can do now is drink up your cocoa and go to bed – that's what I'll do, too, and in the morning things will look better."

"Tomorrow I will still be human", he whispers.

Ellen reaches over the table to firmly squeeze his hand.

"What counts is that tomorrow, you're still Castiel. That's the only thing that matters to us."

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The End

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A/N: I know cocoa isn't really Christmas themed... But I loved writing this chapter!