This is a Christmas present for the awesomeness that is Karma. It sort of exploded. Originally it was supposed to just be a one shot, but then the characters ran away with it and decided it would be a twelve chapter story, one for each day leading up to Christmas.
I don't have wifi at my place right now, so even though I was going to post one chap a day, I might have to do two in a day or skip a day. Hopefully it won't be too sporadic. X_X
Karma edited this because she's awesome. And you should thank her, this looked like total crap when I first sent it to her. ^_^.
FYI: I got the electric lights info off the internet, it may or may not be accurate.
Since moving into the bunker, one of Dean's favorite pastimes has become exploration. Every time he thinks he's found the last room, the last door, the last odd little hidden corner, he turns around only to discover eight more. He's beginning to believe the damn thing is enchanted, because there's just no way he missed this many rooms - but if he keeps up that line of thought, he's going to start comparing the bunker to that castle with the talking clock and candlestick, and he blames Sammy so, so hard for the fact that he even thought that at all.
Exploring the bunker often leads to trouble (though he will maintain until his dying breath that it was Kevin's fault when they found the harmless, but extremely irritating, pixie and it somehow got loose) but Dean keeps right on doing it anyway, and that just so happens to be how he stumbles upon a kind of basement/storage room, where he just so happens to find –
"Christmas lights!" he explains gleefully to a befuddled Castiel, as he hauls box upon box up to the main area. "And a bunch of decorations, I think."
Sam hauls a box up onto the table and opens it curiously. "Wow, this is some really nice stuff." He holds up an old gold-and-blue globe ornament and tries to dust it off with his sleeve. "I didn't think the Men of Letters would do anything like this."
Dean casts Sam a cocked eyebrow that quite clearly states Really? "We've found pixies, the Wicked Witch from Oz, and info on monsters we didn't even know existed - and the thing that actually surprises you is Christmas ornaments?"
Sam shrugs. "You'd expect to find the monster crap here," he replies easily. "Decorations? Not so much."
"Dean?" Castiel holds up a string of multicolored Christmas lights, his head cocked in that way he never did lose in his mortality. "I don't think the use of electric lights became common until the 60s. It seems unlikely that the Men of Letters put these here."
"No one else has been in the bunker," Sam points out, only his last word comes out a startled yelp when the pixie explodes from the box – Dean has been wondering where the damn thing got to – and starts chattering in its tiny, high pitched voice right in front of Sam's surprised face.
Castiel sets the lights down carefully, and holds out his hand, palm up. "Periwinkle."
"Peri...oh, come on, you did not name that thing!" Dean stifles a groan when the annoying, five-inch blue menace willingly flies into Castiel's hand, its inane chattering slowing as it calms. It settles against Castiel's slightly curled fingers and continues to talk in a language none of them can understand, but Castiel just gives it one of his barely-there, warm little smiles, and it seems to be perfectly content with that.
"Wink for short," Castiel replies stubbornly. The pixie cocks its head, falling silent while Castiel speaks. "I'm not sure why the Men of Letters would lock her up for so long. Pixies are mischievous, but rarely dangerous."
Until last week, Dean didn't even know pixies existed. Well, there was that whole incident with the fairies a couple of years ago, but Dean didn't remember pixies, specifically. He really hoped this thing didn't know the Tinkerbell he'd microwaved. "Did it bring this stuff?" Dean asks, eying the assortment of Christmas decorations with a newfound wariness.
"She," Castiel corrects calmly. "And it's possible. Pixies usually respond to the wishes of children, but in this case I think she latched onto our thoughts, instead."
Dean pretends to glare at the pixie, while actually watching Cas. In some ways, Castiel is still just like the angel that Dean befriended so many years ago, but in others he's rapidly developing his own brand of humanity. The way he speaks, for one thing; Dean smiles a little to himself as he realizes how much more relaxed Castiel's speech is now. He still doesn't understand more than a handful of the references used so frequently by the brothers, but he's learned to refrain from mentioning his confusion in the company of regular people.
"I wasn't thinking about Christmas," Sam denies, but the flush around his ears gives him away, at least to anyone who can find his ears behind all that hair. "Much."
"I was!" Kevin, who's been sitting at the far end of the table just watching, admits freely. "I was thinking how much it was going to suck here."
"Hey, it won't suck!" Dean grabs a handful of tangled Christmas lights, and begins painstakingly separating them. Castiel gives him a knowing look with those stupid, perceptive blue eyes of his, and Dean mouths silently, Shut your cakehole!
Of course Dean's been thinking about Christmas. For the first time since his preempted childhood, they finally have a home, and everyone he cares about is in it. Sam, Cas, even Kevin, they're all there, and they're all alive, and Dean wants to celebrate this. Besides, he finally has a place to decorate that isn't a shitty motel room, and decorations that aren't crap or stolen, and he's going to make the most of it!
"Dean, we don't even have a tree," Sam points out, even as he reaches over to start helping with the lights.
"We'll get one," Dean answers. "There's all kinds of trees right outside."
"I believe there is an ax in the garage," Castiel mentions. He carefully sets aside a string of untangled lights and begins on another. "I found it while I was exploring."
"Great!" Dean tries not to glare as Cas as his nimble fingers untangle two more strings before Dean's even finished his first. "Sam! You and Kevin work on this." Throwing down his string, Dean grabs the back of Castiel's shirt and hauls him upright. The ex-angel comes easily, though he now knows to smack Dean's hand away, and it makes the hunter laugh because he doesn't so much smack as gently coax, and he always smiles at Dean like he knows the secret behind the hunter's pseudo-rough treatment.
"Hey!" Sam picks up a handful of thoroughly tangled lights with an expression akin to horror. "How about I chop down the tree and you work on these? You found them!"
Too late, Dean's already out the door and heading for the garage, and he doesn't need to look back to know that Cas is close behind.
"I didn't expect you to celebrate Christmas," Castiel mentions as they find the ax hidden in a corner. He takes a hold of it before Dean can grab it and sets it almost gingerly against his shoulder, testing the weight of it before nodding in satisfaction.
Dean shrugs. "I always tried to have 'em for Sammy when we were kids, even if they were lame. And now we've got a place, so why not?" The hunter leads Cas towards the river, deciding somewhere between the door and the first few steps that he'll let the ex-angel pick the tree. He glances over to tell him this, but Castiel is already assessing the trees on his own, and Dean can't help his own odd, little smile. "It'll be fun, maybe even loosen Sam up a bit."
Castiel fingers the ax's handle, pauses to inspect a tree close to the river before shaking his head and moving on. "I'm not sure I understand. You're not a religious man."
Oh, that's why he's confused? Dean almost rolls his eyes at himself. He should have known that was the problem. "For a lot of people, Christmas isn't even about religion," he explains with a shrug. "It's about family, and fun, and lights and presents and spiked eggnog."
"I see," Castiel says slowly, in that tone that says he doesn't see at all. "I have observed a strange story about a large man in a red suit that delivers presents, is it more along those lines?"
Dean laughs. "Yeah, and the big guy is Santa Claus. It's fake magicky stuff, kinda for kids – sposta be good magic, not the stuff we deal with."
"Good magic," Castiel repeats, and a tiny smile touches his features, lights his eyes in a way that has Dean strangely distracted. "I like that idea."
They're silent for a moment. Castiel stops to inspect another tree, and Dean wonders why exactly he's letting the ex-angel pick. It felt almost natural to just let Cas have at it, to let him do something normal for once. He doesn't say anything when Castiel nods, apparently deciding this tree is the one, even though said tree is pretty damn tall and will be a pain in the ass to drag back to the bunker.
"Will you teach me?" Castiel asks suddenly. He has the ax up and ready, but he pauses to give Dean that quizzical look of his, complete with the signature cocking of his head, blue eyes wide and puppy-like in his eagerness.
"Sure," Dean says quietly, smiling in a way he only ever does around Sam and Cas. It's too soft for the outside world, too much like Dean's inner self, and he doesn't trust anyone else to see it. He demonstrates a few good swings, letting the ax blade bite into the wood, and looks back to Cas with that smile still set firmly on his face.
Castiel smiles back, and then he sets to work on the tree.
One thing becomes very clear very quickly: the ex-angel can't wield an ax for shit.
"Give me that!" Dean finally barks, half amusement and half irritation, and Castiel willingly hands him the ax and watches as Dean sets to work. The ex-angel's swings were everywhere, each bite into the wood a good three or four inches apart, but Dean manages to land his blows in nearly the same place every time, and soon there's a crack worthy of a gunshot as the tree finally snaps and crashes to the ground.
Between the two of them they get a good grip on it before beginning the trek back to the bunker. Castiel balances the ax over one shoulder again, and Dean teaches him how to sing Jingle Bells. The ex-angel's voice is rough and low, but not as terrible as Dean thought it would be, and by the time they make it inside they're belting out songs from that old cartoon Santa Claus is Comin' to Town. Dean's just a little mortified that he can remember these songs, but Castiel is enjoying it all so much that he can't bring himself to stop. The ex-angel's face is flushed from the cold, his eyes bright with happiness as he sings, and there's just no way Dean can make that stop.
"I remember that song!" Sam's eyes are warm as he chuckles. He looks up from the lights that they nearly have untangled. "We used to watch those specials when we were kids!"
"I liked the one with Heat Miser and Snow Miser," Kevin mentions. The way he glances at Sam is odd, sort of nervous, but Dean doesn't have time to analyze it because Sam is laughing. Head thrown back, clutching his stomach as he roars, and Dean can't stop the grin that blooms on his face. Ever since the trials his little brother has been getting slowly better, but hearing him laugh like that eases a knot in Dean's chest he hadn't even realized was there.
"It is good to hear Sam laugh," Castiel murmurs warmly, and Dean glances towards him, stupid grin still planted on his face, wondering if the ex-angel can still read his thoughts.
Kevin has his head hung, muttering to himself as he untangles the last of the lights. He looks like he's pouting. Sam seems to notice, and he claps a hand Dean swears is the size of Kevin's head to the little nerd's back and assures him he's not laughing at him, and then Dean tunes them out in favor of finding a tree stand.
Somewhere between getting the tree into the stand and bringing water for it, Sam and Kevin disappear. Dean snorts, wondering what nerdy thing they're getting up to now and how it could possibly be more fun than helping him decorate. He casts his eyes around for Castiel and finds him sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of one of the boxes, carefully removing ornaments and inspecting them as though each one of them deserves his complete attention.
"What do you think?" Dean asks, pouring water into the stand. "Got any favorites?"
Castiel nods. "I like these." He holds up a case full of globes, each one with made with swirls of green and gold, blue and gold, red and gold... Dean eyes them, and thinks yeah, okay, those are actually pretty cool.
"Great." Dean sets the enormous mug he'd used for water on the table, and grabs a string of lights. "Come on, help me put these on first."
Dean has just finished wrapping the first string through the branches when he hears Cas let out a small grunt. He turns carefully on the step ladder he'd found – the top of the tree is too high to reach without it – and then has to quickly scramble down as a laugh bubbles up in his chest. Somehow, Castiel has managed to get himself completely tangled in Christmas lights. Dean thinks maybe he started trying to hang them over his shoulders, and then the more he pulled from the table the more tangled he became, but his thought process doesn't get much further than that because the look on Cas's face...
"Dean!" Castiel flails, eyes huge and decidedly unhappy, but Dean can't do anything because he's currently plastered to the floor, trying to remember where he left his ability to breathe.
"Dean!" Cas tries again, attempting to take a wobbly step forward, but he's so completely tangled that he can't move. He focuses the full force of his stare on the hunter's shaking form, only now it looks suspiciously like a pout, and there's something about those blue eyes and stuck-out bottom lip that Dean just can't deny.
"Okay, okay!" Dean gasps, hauling himself upright and reaching for the first loose string of lights he can see. "Hold still, I'll get you out."
Dean manages to work maybe three feet of wire and light free before he has a ridiculous idea, and plugs them in. Cas lights up like the tree they were supposed to be decorating, and the look he levels at Dean could kill an archangel stone-dead.
Dean's on the floor again.
Two hours, too many feet of lights, and six billion little globe ornaments later, they had a, in Dean's opinion, pretty damn good looking tree. Neither one of them want to put up an angel at the top, since it could be generally agreed upon that angels were douches, but Castiel found an unbelievably fancy star at the bottom of one of the boxes, and he is currently standing on the step ladder, straining to reach the top of the tree, while Dean tries not to think too closely on the fact that his hand is probably a little too low on the ex-angel's lower back.
"Almost there." Cas leans forward a bit further, and Dean brings his other hand up to splay it across Cas's stomach because damn it, he's going to topple over and take the tree with him! "Careful, Cas."
"I'm fine," Castiel mutters, miffed. He takes his new humanity very seriously, and has decided that any time Dean or Sam - or anyone, really – expresses concern, it is somehow an affront to his capability. It should be annoying, but for some stupid reason it always makes Dean grin.
"Fine, you're perfect, just get it up there already."
Cas twists his head around to glare at Dean, but there is an amusement in his eyes that softens the look to something almost playful. When he turns, though, the ornament slips from his hand. He makes a grab for it, forcing Dean to throw his arms around Cas's waist to keep him from toppling off the ladder, and when the ornament shatters Dean can feel the ex-angel's dejection in the way he slumps over Dean's arm.
"Hey, it's okay." Before Dean can think it through he uses his grip to hug the ex-angel, telling himself he can always deny that's what he was doing later by claiming he was just trying to keep Cas from falling over. "It's not like it needs a topper."
But Cas is still slumped, in fact he's beginning to sort of ooze off the stepladder, so Dean makes him step down and carefully slings an arm around his shoulder. "You okay?"
Castiel turns his face away, but Dean can still see the dejection all too clearly. It's not like a regular accident, Dean thinks. Everything for Cas is ten times worse because he doesn't have any experience with it at all; regular comfort just isn't going to cut it.
So Dean does the only thing he can think of. He takes the extra Christmas lights, gets himself good and tangled, and plugs himself in.
Cas stares at him, wide eyed with disbelief, for all of three seconds before he's falling to his knees, sitting back on his ankles and clutching his stomach as he throws his head back and laughs harder than Dean's ever seen before.