Dean opened the grimy motel shades and glared out at the swirling blizzard, trying to make it stop through sheer force of will. "You sure, Sam?"
"Yeah, Dean. The whole town's on lockdown, it's supposed to be like this until tomorrow night. Forget driving, the only way I'm leaving this library is by sled dog."
It took all Dean had not to take the whole thing personally. "This is happening because I let you take my car."
He could actually seeSam's bitchface through the phone. "Sure. We're dealing with a blizzard because I have the car."
Dean sighed, snapping the blinds shut. Sam was right, they both knew it, and even more to the point Dean knew he would kill Sam if he even thought about going out in this. "This sucks."
"I know. Look, my battery's low as it is, I'm gonna go. And hey, at least I can keep researching the hunt, right?"
"Just be careful. The way our luck runs the shifter's probably in there with you."
At least he got Sam to laugh at that. "Trust me, I've got the silver ready. I'll call again when they reopen the roads, okay?"
He lost whatever Sam said next to static. "The storm's killing the signal, Sam, say that again."
"I said, Merry Christmas, Dean."
Dean heard a beep as the signal died completely. "Yeah, whatever." He sat back on the floor next to Sam's half-wrapped gift and thought about how much it figured that the first year he was able to get Sam a decent gift for Christmas would be the year couldn't be there. He cracked open another beer and wondered if it was worth it to bother finishing wrapping the thing.
Especially since he was badat wrapping. Really bad. Dean didn't know how someone could mess up wrapping a square box, but apparently he was talented that way.
He was so focused on untangling the mess he'd made of the scotch tape that he didn't hear the tell tale sound of wings and felt his heart almost stop when he looked up to see Castiel looming over him. "Jesus, Cas, stop doing that!"
Castiel's brow just furrowed at the outburst. "I'd wondered why you were ignoring me." He crouched down, watching as Dean went back to trying to make the wrapping paper fold over straight. "Why are you covering that in paper?"
"'Cause that's what you do with Christmas presents. It's for Sam."
"Oh," Castiel said, and Dean looked up to see his eyes wide with surprise. "That's right. The 25th. I'd forgotten."
Dean got the feeling Castiel was about to fly off again and grabbed his arm. "Hey, don't disappear. Your wings'll freeze if you go out in this anyway." Before Castiel could argue with him about whether that was possible Dean said, "Hold this closed so I can tape it up, okay?" Castiel frowned but did as instructed. "Sam's laptop charger is pretty much held together with duct tape so I got him a new one. And I got him one of those fancy hard laptop cases so he can stop bitching about the computer rattling around in the car."
Castiel nodded. "I didn't realize clowns were such an integral part of this festival," he said, examining Dean's carnival wrapping paper.
Dean grinned. "They're not. That's just me being a dick." Dean judged the wrapping job on that package to finally be good enough, set it aside and moved to the next one. "How the hell does an angel forget about Christmas, anyway?"
"I'd forgotten the date of the popular celebration," he explained as he helped Dean hold the paper straight. "In Heaven we remember the true day."
"I guess it's a pretty big deal upstairs, huh?"
Castiel's expression grew thoughtful. "It's a rather contentious holiday, truthfully. A large contingent of the Host consider that day proof our Father chose humanity as His true children over us. There's a great deal of bitterness."
"That must lead to some awkward Christmas parties."
Castiel smoothed out a crease in one of the corners. "Lucifer held a similar belief. Most of my siblings fear sharing his fate too much to even think about voicing that kind of blasphemy, but they still feel it. Uriel felt that way. I believe Raphael and Zachariah do as well."
"Man, if we could just tell which of your brothers are total dicks by whether they exchange presents life would be so much easier. And that reminds me," he said, reaching back into the shopping bag. "Here's yours." Dean wished he'd thought to have a camera ready for that moment because he knew he'd never see someone that surprised again. "Sorry it's not wrapped."
He wasn't sure if Castiel had even heard him. His mouth opened and closed once before he remembered how language worked. "I...but I already have a phone," he said in a small voice, as if he were afraid Dean would take it back if he said the wrong thing.
"You have a crap phone. Seriously, you could practically put a quarter in a junk machine and get your phone. Here," he said, taking the box from Castiel and turning it over so he could read the features. "This one's supposed to get a signal pretty much anywhere, so if you're off who knows where on the God hunt you can still call if you need to. And it's on a plan that's got unlimited minutes, so you don't have to worry about voices bitching at you about that any more." He sat back and handed Castiel back the box. "Here's my favorite part, I had them set up the world clock so you could tell what time zone I'm in. Now if you call me at 3am I'll know you're doing it on purpose and there had better be a good reason."
"Thank you," Castiel whispered. Dean saw him absently stroke the side of the box. "You put a great deal of care into this."
"Dude. It's just a phone."
"No one's ever given me a gift before." He looked up. "I didn't get you anything. "
"Hey, no problem."
Castiel moved to get back to his feet, clearly of the opinion that yes, this wasa problem. "I could still..."
Dean grabbed his arm again and yanked him back down to the ground. "Dude. No. I'm not inflicting Christmas Eve mall crowds on you." And definitely not if Dean couldn't be there to watch, because that would be hilarious. "I like giving presents. You're just lucky this is one of the years I didn't buy everyone gifts at a random truck stop."
"I wouldn't have cared what you gave me." He set the phone on the floor carefully, like it was made of glass.
"So you remember the first Christmas, right? What was that like?"
Castiel looked at Dean for a long moment, then suddenly leaned forward, practically sitting in Dean's lap with his fingers pressed to his temple. "'And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear,'" he whispered, the rough murmur vibrating through Dean. "'And the angel said to them: Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. And suddenly there was with the angel of multitude of the heavenly army, praising God and saying Glory to God in the highest,; and on earth peace to men of good will.'" For an instant Dean was in another place, another time; he smelled grass and felt wind on his face; around him were beings of light and beauty, so many the sky was full of them. Dean heard one note of perfect music, enough that Dean felt like his soul was going to burst out of his body before Castiel pulled him back.
"You were there?" he said breathless and wrung out. Words seemed like inadequate things now, in the shadow of that. "That was you?"
Castiel nodded. "I wasn't the speaker, but yes, I was there. There was rather more screaming on the part of the shepherds than wound up recorded."
"Can't really blame them."
"I think my brothers were right," he said softly, reminding Dean of sitting on a park bench and hearing him confess he had doubts. "I do believe the Birth was a sign that our Father favored humanity."
Dean gave him a long, steady look. "You don't sound upset about that."
"It was...confusing," he admitted. "I often sought to understand why."
"You didn't seem confused back there."
He could feel Castiel's smile, they were still so close. "It wouldn't have occurred to me to question then. It was an exalted day, so I exalted."
"And how about now? What did you come up with?"
Castiel's eyes were twin beacons as they stared into Dean. "I've come to understand how my Father could fall in love with humanity."
Dean didn't know which of them started the kiss. Not that it mattered either way; all that mattered was the breathy sound Cas made as he settled into Dean's lap and kissed him like he was dying of thirst and Dean was cool water. Dean felt Castiel's hands trail down from his temple down his cheek, down his neck, reaching around to cradle the back of his head and he ran his own fingers through Cas' hair, pulling him closer. "Merry Christmas, Cas," Dean whispered, tracing his thumb along the stubble lining Castiel's jaw, then Dean kissed him again, a soft press of lips that made Castiel shiver.
"I still wish I'd brought you something," he whispered back, his voice so low and rough Dean almost felt it rather than heard it.
"Kiss me like that again and we'll be even, I swear." Castiel murmured Dean's name like a prayer, folding himself against Dean as he followed the command.
Dean's head was spinning when Castiel finally pulled back. "There must be something you want. Tell me."
Dean kissed his neck, relishing the way Castiel closed his eyes and leaned into that. "Seriously, Cas, the only the that would make this better would be if the weather would break so I could watch Sam open his stupid gifts before New Year's."
Castiel tilted his head to the side, then he closed his eyes and let out a long, slow breath. Within seconds the howling winds stopped; Dean got up and saw that the sky was already clear, the afternoon sun shining. "Some weatherman's having a stroke right now." Dean heard his phone ring and and picked it up. "Hey, Sam. You seeing this?"
"Yeah. Seriously, this is nuts."
"We got someone looking out for us, I guess." Dean glanced at Castiel staring up at him from the floor, his face still flushed.
"Guess so. They should have the plows out soon, I'm guessing I can be there in maybe two hours?"
"You better be."
He heard Sam laugh. "Hey, now you've got time to run out and get me a bag of chips for Christmas."
"Man, a guy does that one year..."
"Just get over here before I sell your gifts for beer money."
He heard Sam laugh again before the call ended. Dean stared at the phone for a second, then looked back at Castiel. "Thanks, man. You couldn't have gotten me a better gift, seriously."
Castiel's eyes lit up with the praise, looking so pleased with himself it took all of Dean's self-control not to tackle him down and take him right there. "What comes after the gift exchange?"
Forget self-control. Dean straddled him and pushed him down to the floor, kissing him until Cas moaned, his hands tight on Dean's arms. "We got at least two hours," he said, wrapping Castiel's tie around his hand. "Let's make up some new traditions."