So I work at the giant Yankee Candle in Williamsburg, and back in "Santa's Workshop," there's this book, just a basic guestbook, but it's done up like the naughty and nice list, and people sign it.
We check every so often to make sure no one's written anything awful or drawn cocks in it or anything, but a couple of days ago, I found something unusual. In the Naughty column were the names "Plant" and "Page", and halfway between Naughty and Nice was an odd little symbol that, when I looked it up, turned out to be the sigil for the angel Castiel.
I haven't been able to get it out of my head since. No, I don't think they're real. I don't think they ever came to my store. I think that J. and I are not the only Supernatural fans in the Williamsburg area. But when I've been stuck at the doors for hours on end handing out flyers and mindlessly chirping "Happy Holidays, welcome to Yankee Candle!" My mind has wandered…I don't even know if this counts as really fic, and if it does, it's sure as hell crackfic, but some people liked it on my Tumblr, so why the hell not.
"Huh. They call this one Midsummer Night." Sam held out the dark purple candle, but Dean shoved it away before it could get anywhere near his nose, making a face.
"Dude, it's like Axe body spray! No way." He shook his head violently, taking a step back from the tall shelves with their rows of brightly colored jars. "The Sage and Citrus is okay, but —"
Sam stopped, turning back curiously from where he'd taken the lid off a lighter blue candle labeled Over The River. "Since when are you into home fragrance products?"
"For your information, I spent an entire year leaving it to Beaver." Dean's hands remained crammed deep into his pockets as he glanced around at the crowded store, looking more uncomfortable amid the array of mostly middle-aged housewives than he ever had when faced with a demon horde, his tone tightly defensive. "PTA meetings, housewarmings, baby showers…these things and scrapbooking supplies; they're like cigarettes in prison to the Rachel Ray set."
The opening was irresistible and Sam's teasing smile widened. "You know, they've got them for the car if you miss —"
"Mr. Page?" The elderly woman seemed to appear out of nowhere from behind the corner shelf of lavender candles and carved soapstone holders, looking up at Sam with a smile that was just a little too friendly. "Ms. Post has finished her signing if you'll just come with me?"
It could be explained well enough as an accident by the extreme height difference, but her hand was just a little bit too low to be on his waist and a little too far back to be on his hip, even through the suit jacket, and Dean grinned as he caught the tiny flash of panic in his brother's eyes. They were here on a serious enough matter, interviewing an author who was apparently something of an expert on Colonial-era local ghosts, but it was nothing Sam couldn't handle alone. Especially if he was going to suggest putting 'home fragrance products' in Baby.
He took a step back, tossing off a wave that was half salute to the condemned as Sam was led away. "I'll go find Cas. He's probably on top of a tree somewhere."
The glare was priceless.
It was a massive, sprawling store, almost the size of a Wal-Mart…if Wal-Mart had been possessed by Martha Stewart, (Though now that he thought about it, that wouldn't be too surprising; he'd gotten gank-me vibes about that one as long as he could remember) but he found Cas quickly enough. There was a fountain in the central courtyard of the faux New England village thing they had going, and the angel was sitting on the edge of the concrete stones, staring fixedly at the long, meandering, fidgeting, snotting, occasionally squalling line of children waiting to take their turn at what had to be the world's most patient Santa.
"Cas?" Dean cleared his throat, but Cas still did not respond, and he sighed, sitting down next to him. There was still no reaction, and he leaned forward, waving a hand in front of Cas' face. There. The blue eyes blinked, startled, and Dean chucked a thumb over his shoulder at the bright yellow sign behind them. "Did you know they've got barbecue popcorn over there?"
Cas nodded, his attention already returned fixedly to the elaborately decorated little stage where Santa and his helpers - including one unfairly young photographer with a downright amazing ass - wrangled the steady stream of sticky, overdressed kids. "Yes."
So much for the attempt at a segue. He should have known better. Dean frowned, uncomfortably aware of the growing number of parental eyes on them. "What are you doing?"
"Watching the children."
"I see that." He dropped his voice, though with the noise of the crowd and the blaring Christmas carols on top of the fountain itself, there was little need. "Do we need to talk about coming off as a complete creeper, because with the trenchcoat and the otherworldly staring thing…."
Cas wasn't listening, or if he was, he didn't care. "It's a fascinating secular ritual," he murmured, smiling in that mild curiosity that was charming at the times, unlike this one, it wasn't incredibly annoying. "The children are taught to confess their sins to an omniscient father figure who will compensate them for good behavior while —"
"No." Dean cut him off firmly, hooking a hand through his elbow to pull him to his feet and away from the fountain and accompanying line of kids. "You did it with Looney Tunes, you're not allowed to make Santa Claus profound. He's a fat man from the North Pole who comes down your chimney and eats your cookies, okay? Cas!"
The angel had pulled away so smoothly it was as if Dean had never had hold at all, and he was headed directly for a woman at the head of the line whose kid - a fat, redheaded boy about six crammed into a green plaid vest-bowtie-newsie-hat assembly that would humiliate the shit out of him in ten years - was even now getting ready for his turn on the big man's lap. Dean reached out to stop him, but it was too late, and he had already tapped the woman on the shoulder. "Mrs. Ludwell?"
She turned, instantly on her guard in a way that confirmed Dean's suspicions that Cas had been freaking out the parents for a while now. "Who are you?"
"My name is Castiel."
She frowned at the unfamiliar name and stilted delivery, hesitating uncertainly. "You…sound American."
"I'm from Pontiac, Illinois." Only Cas could make that so blatantly a lie that "the heavenly garrison" would actually sound more realistic. Dean let out a long, deep sigh, rubbing his eyes against the headache he could already feel coming.
The kid was up on Santa's knee now, and the woman began taking pictures with her phone, still keeping a wary eye on Cas. "Ok…."
"You told your son to ask for an XBox." He did not make it a question. "You shouldn't have —"
"He needs to face reality instead of asking for miracles. I can actually put an XBox under the tree." Her answer was a sharply wounded bark, but then she stopped, clearly startled and discomforted by her own confession as the defensiveness wheeled into fearful offense. "Why am I telling you that? My son's none of your business!"
Cas didn't appear to care - if he noticed - but Dean figured they were about three seconds from the screaming for security place, and Sam still needed more time with their ghost lady. He hurried forward, giving the woman his most disarming smile as he put a very firm hand on Cas' shoulder. "Hi there, I'm really sorry…Cas, c'mon, let's —"
He tried to just pull him away, but the angel twisted free, reaching out to put his fingers against the woman's forehead. She shuddered, her eyes rolling back, and for a horrifying split second, Dean was afraid that Cas had smote her, but then her eyes opened again, terrified circles of awe. "What did you —"
"Miracles happen." There was a depth and warmth and ancient wisdom in Cas' voice that he had rarely heard before, and Dean shivered despite himself. "The cancer is gone. Let him keep his faith."
The woman seemed afraid to breathe, fingering the spot on her head where Cas had touched her. The boy had finished with Santa now, the handlers were trying to get her attention, but she didn't seem to notice or care. "You're not from Pontiac."
She swayed, her face losing all trace of color beneath the thick layer of suburban-tasteful cosmetics, and Dean barely grabbed her arm in time to keep her on her feet. "Oh my God…are you —"
"Well, wasn't that nice?" He laughed awkwardly, cutting off the word "angel" before she could say it or worse, Cas could agree to it. The photographer girl with the great ass was there now, and he passed the woman off to her with another tight smile. "Looks like someone rang a bell, so I'll just get Clarence out of here before this gets any harder to explain. Merry Christmas."
Thankfully, Cas didn't fight him this time, and he was able to get them back out through the line and into the nearest separate part of the store - a dim room with some kind of fiberoptic starscape on the ceiling, a ridiculous number of Christmas trees, and a bridge to nowhere - before Cas pulled loose again and faced him with a look of offended bafflement. "Clarence?"
"It's a Christmas thing, Cas. Just play along." Dean glanced back towards the main room, ensuring that they hadn't been followed before he let himself relax. "Roll with me."
"What are we doing back here?" Cas was examining a life-sized penguin made of white wire and LEDs with a big red bow around his neck, and Dean just hoped that he didn't want an explanation. Some things just defied words, and most of them were to be found in stores like this. Or Japan.
"Waiting for Sam, then getting back to the Randolph house without causing another scene, hopefully. Hey look! It's snowing!" He hadn't intended to say the last part, but the pool of light from the fake streetlight they were standing under had suddenly filled with tiny white flecks, and three small children materialized from seemingly nowhere, laughing and frolicking in the fluffy drifts with a giddy delight that made it impossible to stay grim.
Cas held out a hand, catching some of the 'snow' on his fingers and bringing it close to sniff. "They're just soap bubbles, Dean."
One of the children, a little boy about four, was shrieking in delight and jumping to catch each falling flake, and it was that winter in Wisconsin all over again, snowed in and watching Sammy romping around like a drunken baby penguin with all the motel towels shoved under his jacket because he didn't have a snowsuit. "How about you play along a little?" Dean smiled. "Grinch."
He was never sure what references Cas would get and which he wouldn't, and he honestly wasn't sure whether he had or not this time. His friend's expression was unreadably enigmatic as he stepped into the alcove next to them, pressing a fingertip against the large, open book that lay on the heavily decorated table there with a subtle flare of white light that made Dean stop, suddenly worried. "Wait…what'd you do?"
Cas' smile was tentatively proud as he gestured to the book. "I'm playing along."
Leaving the children to the foam snow and the streetlight, Dean entered the alcove to take a closer look at the book. It was a binder, actually, large and leather-bound, an ostentatiously extravagant version of a hotel guestbook done up to be a Naughty and Nice list. People had signed both sides, many of them in the big, scrawling hands of kids just learning to write, and he chuckled when he saw that Cas had somehow, in their own handwriting, added his and Sam's current aliases in the right hand column. But then the laugh froze in his throat as he saw that in the center, towards the bottom of the page, was a thumbprint-sized symbol unmistakably in Enochian; a sort of upside-down cross with a spiral and an angled bit at the top. "What's that?"
"It's my name."
Dean blinked, his hand yanking back from where he'd almost been touching it. "Oh."
"Is something wrong?"
"No, it's cool. I like what you did for me and Sammy. That's cool." Dean shook his head hard, trying to dispel the strange, nameless thing he felt at the sight of the angelic sigil. "I…I just forget sometimes."
It was stupid. Of course he didn't forget. Except he kind of did. Because it was easier sometimes to think of Cas as a weird human with extra powers than to remember just how different he was, because that was too much a reminder of the vastness between them. The things that could never be bridged, how really, even if he looked like a mild-mannered reporter, he would always be an alien from the planet Krypton, and Superman Returns had completely sucked.
The hand on his shoulder startled him way more than it should have, and he slammed the book shut, trying to shake off the thing he still hadn't quite named and now definitely didn't want to. "Yeah?"
"Can we get some barbecue popcorn?" It was a simple, neutral request, but there was something in Cas' eyes, the same thing that had been there after he touched the woman. I know, it said. I know and it's ok. And somehow, it was. It really, really was, and Dean let out a deep, shaky breath, taking Cas' hand and squeezing it back in hope of saying all the things he couldn't.