The Angel on the Tree

The snow was pretty deep outside and Bobby was late coming home from a grocery run. The house was warm and cozy, but the inhabitants were cranky and suffering from cabin fever. It had been snowing for the last 3 weeks with no chance of a break any time soon.

Dean was starting to think Hell was a nicer place than being stuck inside 24/7 with three small angels. I mean, really, what had he done in a past life to deserve this?

With a sigh, Dean walked over casually and plucked Balthazar off a book shelf he'd climbed up onto and set him back down on the ground. "Sammy, you almost done with lunch? This is getting out of control in here!" As soon as Balthazar was released from Dean's grip, he began to climb up the same bookshelf again.

"Almost done!" Sam replied from the kitchen. He was stirring in a packet of an orange powdered substance into some noodles and wondered if there was any nutritional value at all involved in this meal. "This isn't as easy as I make it look, you know!"

Gabriel's wings fluttered a bit as he shifted on Sam's shoulders. The Trickster Angel had a sucker in his left hand and a fistful of Sam's hair in the other, holding on. Sam made a face as Gabriel went to get a better handhold but his sticky fingers had stuck to Sam's hair. Yeah, that was going to be a bitch to wash out later.

Dean entered the kitchen, holding Balthazar like a football under his arm and plopped him down a bit roughly into a kitchen chair. "Where's Cas?" He asked.

"Dean, do I look like I've been able to keep an eye on him?" Gabriel was now trying to remove the sticky sucker from Sam's hair by applying more slobber. It seemed to be working, but Sam's hair was sticking up oddly in the back. "Go find him, lunch is ready."

"He never eats anyway." Dean said.

"Don't you think you should at least see what he's into? Quiet angels mean trouble."

Dean grumbled to himself. "Ain't that the truth."

Sam set to the messy task of removing Gabriel from his mane and gave Dean that telltale look commonly known as ' bitch-face'.

With a huff, Dean turned to the general direction of the rest of the house and bellowed. "CAS! Get your feathery ass in here!"

Sam shook his head. "I could have done that."

"Then why didn't you?" Dean shot back.

Any response that Sam had to offer was cut off by the patter of little feet barreling down the stairs. Dean eyed him suspiciously as the smallest of the angel trio climbed into a chair next to Balthazar, pulling his trench coat up into his lap with him.

Dean started softly. "Cas, what were you doing upstairs?" He tried to make his face look as sweet as he could and tried to remember to keep his temper. The angels knew they weren't allowed upstairs unless an adult was with them, they had gone over this many times.

In response, Castiel just slid down a little further in his chair and pulled his wings up and forward to hide his face.

"Oh! Cassie's in trouble!" Gabriel declared brightly.

Sam hushed him, but Gabriel dug into his lunch and watched Cas and Dean like he was watching an action packed movie.

"… and he's got toofpaste on his hands" Balthazar said helpfully with a grin and then took another bite of his own lunch.

Dean simply shut his eyes, repeating mentally to himself, count to ten, count to ten, count to ten. "Cas, were you playing with the toothpaste?"

Big blue eyes, gleaming with wetness, peeked out of the wings and Cas nodded just once at Dean. Dean pressed his lips together hard and jaw clenched. It was the straw that broke the camel's back. Dean had been cooped up in this house playing babysitter for far too long. He was a warrior, damn it, not some wet nurse!

Sam got to his feet and was across the room to Dean in record time, putting himself in between his brother and the angels. "Dean, take a breath… it's ok, I'll handle the toothpaste. He's just a kid… "

All Dean heard was his brother saying "Blah blah blah blah." He felt his blood pressure go through the roof. He wondered how much time he'd spend on the rack in Hell for taking his belt and beating the ass of a tiny angel. He was about to push past Sam and find out when the door opened with a slam!

Pushed open with a burst of cold winter air from outside, the snow blasted its way into the room and a dark looming figure filled the doorway. Dean's mind shifted gears fast as he and Sam jumped between the approaching spiny figure and the small angels. They armed themselves with the closest things they could grab which meant that Sam was holding a saucepan and Dean was wielding a fork.

Dean was doing his damndest to look imposing with just a fork, when he heard a small voice between his legs say "TREE!"

Sam grabbed Dean's arm as he realized what he was looking at was an evergreen tree. A head with a beat up baseball cap peeked out behind it and said, "You idjits gonna just stand there or are you gonna help me with this damn thing?"

Sam and Dean dropped their 'weapons' back on the table and helped Bobby shut the door and bring in an eight foot noble fir and set it against the wall in the living room. Bobby shuffled some of the snow off himself by the fire and then looked back to see the other five people in the room staring at the tree.

"Ya just gonna stand around staring? Sam, go get the groceries out of the car before the eggs freeze. Dean, get up in the attic and find the old Christmas decorations. They're gonna be buried deep, better bring gloves and a flashlight. I haven't used them in... well... a long time." Sam and Dean snapped to orders and took off in different directions.

Bobby turned to the last three and looked at the table. "Lunch ain't gonna eat itself. Get on up there and finish up."

Gabriel was the last to follow through as he stood there, staring at the tree with big golden hazel eyes. Eventually they were all sitting at the table, Gabriel and Balthazar with empty bowls and Castiel just sitting patiently, picking at the edges of his trench coat that was draped over his lap.

Sam had brought the groceries in and was putting them away when Dean, dirty and covered in cobwebs, came wobbling down stairs with a large box. He nearly lost his grip on it as he reached the bottom of the stairs, but he quickly set it down without dropping it.

Bobby, for his part, had moved some book shelves around and made a clear spot in the corner for the tree. Dean opened the box and pulled out an old metal tree stand and brought it over to Bobby.

"Seriously, Bobby, what the hell… " Dean said.

Bobby shrugged. "What? You don't like this kind of Christmas Tree?"

"No, it's the fact that you got a tree at all. I've never seen this place decorated for Christmas." Dean tried to keep his voice low.

"Well I ain't never had anyone here at Christmas. It's kinda pathetic to decorate the damn place when you're just sitting in your boxers reading grimoires and answer the phone like you're the damn FBI. " Bobby shot back.

When they got the tree into the stand, Sam had pulled a string of lights out of the box. "Bobby, I don't think these are up to code. Most of what's in here is damaged or broken."

Bobby made a grunting noise that clearly indicated he was expecting as much. Sam and Dean gave each other a look that wordlessly questioned Bobby's sanity at this endeavor. They had never really celebrated Christmas, except for the one right before Dean had gone to Hell, so this was way out of their league.

Sam pulled out a few more things from the box. There were a few ornaments that survived, the garland had a funky smell and they decided that it should go outside… WAY outside. They put what they could on the tree, but it still looked very naked.

Sam and Dean took a break to clean up three angels and what was left of their lunch. Dean took a few extra moments to try to get Cas to eat even one bite, but he just wasn't hungry. Dean washed his face off anyway.

Bobby stood over the box of ornaments with a frown, then set off upstairs.

Dean leaned over to Sam. "Maybe we should throw some Holy Water on him when he comes back down, just to be sure."

"Dean, don't be stupid. He wouldn't have made it past the threshold if he wasn't Bobby."

Dean shrugged. "Well explain this then!" He gestured at the tree.

Gabriel was sitting on the floor in front of the tree. The hunters had never seen him so still, or so quiet.

"And what's gotten into him?" Dean continued.

Sam got up as soon as Balthazar tried to tug-o-war Castiel's trench coat from him. Cas wailed out loud and Sam set them both on the couch.

"How about we put in a movie?" Sam offered.

That woke Gabriel up from his trance. "POPCORN!" He squealed in delight and jumped up onto the couch with his brothers, each of them flicking and adjusting their little wings to make room for each other.

Sam stood up and looked at Dean, they both looked at the tree and said in unison. "Popcorn."

When Bobby finally came back down the stairs, with a smaller wooden box in his hands about the size of a breadbox, all five boys were working hard at stringing popcorn onto dental floss. Most of the tree was covered in it and they had found a box of fishing lures to add to the ornaments.

Bobby stood at the doorway to the living room and watch Gabriel giggle with delight as Sam hoisted him up onto his shoulders to reach the higher branches as they draped the popcorn garland over the tree. Dean was sitting on the floor, helping Cas thread his needle again and telling him to be careful not to stick himself. Balthazar was reaching up for Sam to pick him up as well, doing a little dance that made his wings flutter. Sam knelt a bit and hauled Balthazar into his arms to help string some around the middle. Cas concentrated really hard, his little tongue sticking out the side of his mouth as he added more popcorn to his strand.

Dean noticed Bobby at the doorway and smiled proudly. "We improvised."

Castiel echoed him, victoriously, "Improvised!"

Bobby did not wipe a tear out of his eye. Clearly it was just smoke from the fireplace that had irritated his eye, just a little scratch and he'd be fine.

The man who never trusted himself to have kids because of what a dick his own father had been and here he had a houseful of them. Two boys who needed a dad, not just a father, and three multidimensional wavelengths of celestial intent stuck in tiny human bodies.

Balthazar wiggled out of Sam's arms and scrambled over to Bobby to pull on his pant leg. "What's in the box?"

Bobby knelt down onto the floor with a grunt and set the box between him and Balthazar. "Open it and find out."

Balthazar cut his bright blue eyes at the old hunter, as if he was expecting it to be a trick. Curiosity finally got the better of him and his stubby little hands worked the latch on the old box and opened it up.

Inside the velvet lined box, was a tree topper in the shape of an angel about a foot tall. Carefully, Bobby pulled it out of the box. It was a china doll with white and gold silk robes and draping pearls. The figurine had six wings and swept back blondish hair, with golden eyes and it held a long golden horn in its ceramic hands.

Sam felt Gabriel go limp on his shoulders as Castiel and Balthazar let out a gasp. Sam pulled Gabriel off his shoulders and set him down as Cas ran past him and all three little angels crouched around Bobby as he held up the tree topper.

After a moment, a huge smile covered Gabriel's face. "Dat's ME!" he exclaimed and tossed his hands up into the air with a flare of his wings.

Bobby laughed out loud. So hard and so loud that it startled Cas and Balthazar. "Yes, it's supposed to be Gabriel." The smiles that went around the room were heartfelt ones. It had been so long since Bobby had truly laughed. "Guess that means you should be the one to put it on top of the tree then."

Gabriel gasped and slapped his hands over his mouth, his eyes wide. He stood there for a beat and then ran around the room squealing in delight. Castiel clapped his pudgy little hands and Balthazar rolled on the floor with the giggles.

Bobby held the ceramic angel up to Sam and then said, "Well, don't just stand there, help me off the damn floor." Dean was at his side in a flash and they pulled him to his feet.

Sam then picked up the still squealing Gabriel and put the tree topper into his hands, explaining how it fits on top of the tree. "Ok, you got it?"

"Got it!" Gabriel said.

"Here we go." Sam lifted Gabriel high and he very carefully placed it on top of the tree. Once he was sure it wasn't going to fall, he clapped his hands. Cas clapped along with him and then tugged on Dean's leg to get picked up.

Sam seated Gabriel on his shoulders again and Bobby had picked up Balthazar. They all stood back and looked at their improvised Christmas tree with a bit of pride. Gabriel was beaming with extra pride as he leaned his chin on Sam's head and snapped his little fingers.

There was a gasp from everyone as the tree lit up with lights that looked like fireflies lazily swirling through the branches and around the strands of popcorn garland. Dean held his breath for an extra moment to make sure the damn thing wasn't going to catch on fire before blurting out, "Bout time he used his powers for something good."

Bobby elbowed him in the gut and Cas gave him the big blue eyes and Dean muttered a quiet, "Sorry."

"Just for that," Bobby growled, "you can go upstairs and clean the toothpaste off the bathroom mirror all by yourself."

"WHAT? Bobby, Cas did tha… "

"You heard me, Dean, get up there and work up some damn Christmas spirit while you're at it, or I'm taking your present back." Bobby said.

Dean's eyes went wide. "You… you got me a present?"

"10 seconds left before I decide to take it back."

Dean set Cas down gently and bolted up the stairs two at a time, careful not to cuss until he thought he was out of earshot. Cas picked up the sleeve of his trench coat, tucked his thumb in his mouth and made his way to the stairs too. He caught Bobby's eye and pulled his thumb out of his mouth. "My mess, I should clean it up." He gave a nod and drug the coat up the rest of the stairs to help Dean.