All is Bright
Dean, Castiel. Season 5, spoilers.

"Angels," Castiel said, "don't carol, Dean."

"What, do you yodel instead?"


To the delight of children -- and the horror of their parents -- it had been a white Christmas this year. A very white Christmas. Record snows had rolled in, bringing joy to the world in the form of blizzards. Emergency measures were being taken in some states. Airports were shut; the plows were working around the clock and skipping any road that didn't look major, just to try and keep reclearing the highways.

Snow was clumping up in mounds on the motel windows. They were a little over an hour out from Kansas City, taking up space at the Rodeway Inn at Sweet Springs and watching the weather come down. Every room was booked, filled with travelers cranky from I-70, banging on pipes to coax out hot water and turning up their tvs loud to drown out each other. Dean could hear them through the walls. He could hear them through his feet.

They'd eaten their holiday meal at the diner down the block, which had been equally packed with irate families. He and Castiel had had to jam up at the barstools between a trucker and a single mother of three. The ketchup had disappeared into a vortex of mystery -- probably one of the three kids -- and Dean had given up on trying to wrestle the salt back from the trucker. Castiel had picked at his fries; Dean had ordered them so that the angel might as well try to look normal, but he'd been planning to steal them anyway, so it worked out.

Merry Christmas to him.

Now, back in the motel room, Dean was contemplating a row of bottles. He'd bought three six-packs out of habit, bracing them under his arm as he juggled with the doors, before forgetting that Sam wasn't going to be able to help split them. After that, it had turned his stomach to see them just sitting around in the fridge.

So he'd started drinking them to get rid of them. After a while, he was drinking them just to finish them off, nurturing a limp sense of completion like fixing a sandwich half-eaten.

Somewhere around the middle of the second pack, he'd started trying to wheedle conversation out of Castiel. The beer was starting to kick in; he could feel the comfortable loss of control, just enough that he was okay with it. Time was getting sticky. He was trying to pace himself so he'd at least have some forewarning before he had to be sick, but so far the burger and beers were getting along like pals.


"We do not yodel."

"Yeah?" He was almost positive he'd already asked this -- that Castiel was just humoring him -- but it was worth repeating, if only to fill up the empty space. "Why not?"

"When an angel lifts their true voice in praise of God, Dean, it ruptures the vital membranes of all living beings within a thousand-mile radius."

"Oh." There didn't seem to be any other kind of good response to that. "Guess you guys are real downers at concerts then." Refusing to be cowed, Dean finished off the bottle in his hand and pinched another one out of the pack. "You know, it's funny," he admitted as he fumbled with the cap. "Kind of expected if I was celebrating one of these things again, I'd uh. I'd be doing it with Sam. I even, I -- uh, I started thinking last year, I'd get him something good this time. Then, you know. All this happened."

This, meaning Lilith. Satan. Dying.

"Well?" he challenged, when Castiel remained silent. "Shouldn't you be piping in about now on the commercialization of the holiday -- you know, jingle, jingle, jingle, little elf suits, presents down the chimney?" The cap came free; Dean flipped it halfheartedly towards the cardboard six-pack case. It bounced off the side, rolled off the table, and hit the floor. "You should be celebrating the birth of Jesus, right? Or do you do other holidays too? Multiculturally sensitive and all that. Can I rent you guys for parties?"

His fingers jostled the empties when he tried to put the bottle opener down beside them, so he resorted to laying it flat on the table, underneath his palm. His words were getting vague, like he had a mouthful of oatmeal; they all felt like bad ideas to say, but the alternate option was to ask Castiel to get merry for an umpteenth time. "Guess I'll have to start cutting back on what I buy next year," he tried to laugh.

"Dean," the angel said. "You need to rest now."

"No, I'm good," he protested, but Castiel was already standing up, reaching out towards him.

Despite all his protests about how he could take at least another half-pack, if not the whole thing -- and that was the voice of experience, really it was -- Castiel lugged him over to the bed. His boots got tugged off, one by one. The pillow jammed uncomfortably under his neck. Dean tried to yank it straight, but it was a toss-up between that and telling Castiel to leave the socks alone. He made a token attempt to push it away with a shoulder.

The motion must have been the trigger to set off some kind of war between the greasy-spoon diner food and his beer, because suddenly Dean was having to confront a wave of nausea. He started to try and shove himself off the bed with the vague urgency of needing to hit the bathroom when a voice trickled into his ears.

"All is calm." The croon was rough, husky. "All is bright."

It was Castiel's voice -- and just a human one, not the pealing of unearthly bells, or notes of pure light, or anything like that. Nothing special at all, Dean wanted to say, but the sudden drowsiness that had taken hold of him was unrelenting. The noises of the motel had faded; the families had stopped yowling, and the queasiness in his stomach was starting to thankfully ebb.

Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.

The motel slid away. Dean sank beneath the lassitude that was blanketing him, into another room, a warmer one. The television had some singer on it, turned down just low enough that it was a pleasant drone without being intrusive. Sam was kicking his feet against the chair legs, still too short to reach the ground -- he was going to be a little kid forever at this rate, stunted and small-fingered and clumsy. Dinner sprawled over the table. Food was everywhere; they'd eaten and eaten until even Dean couldn't stuff himself with any more, soaking up ham juice with slices of fluffy potato bread, dishing out cinnamon apples, licking cider off the rim of his glass.

"Are we going to do presents yet, Dean?"

Dean craned his neck to look over the table, counting up the wrapped paper packages lined up neatly in front of the television. It was hard not to get excited; he could already imagine Sam's expression when he opened his. "Soon, okay, Sam? We gotta wait."

Sam scrunched up his nose. "What about now?"

Dean grinned, and aimed a piece of bread his way.

And then their father stepped in the door, and came home.