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Gift type: Fanfic
Title: The Ghosts In The Machine
Recipient: ember_firedrake
Author: prettify
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: phantasms of dead characters, some porn
Spoilers: All of s4 and s5 so far.
Word Count: ~10,000
Summary: Dean gets visited by ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. Sort of.
Author notes: I went with the 'like A Christmas Carol' prompt. I took, er, copious liberties with the plot, but the jist is pretty much the same, I think. This was originally more pg-13-ish, until I accidentally porned all over it. Oops! I also fit in a couple of your other prompts, however vaguely, too. So I hope you like it, ember_firedrake! Merry Christmas!

The Ghosts In The Machine

Thanks to science, the suspect idea of a soul inhabiting a body -- "the ghost in the machine" -- will itself soon give up the ghost. But not all versions of the idea that you are something distinct from your purely physical body are so vulnerable to ridicule.
- The Mind's Eye



00 christmas day.


Bobby wakes him with a shirt to the face. He's hollering something from the doorway; something about how it's noon, and how the rest of the world is up by now, and you can't fuckin' sleep through Christmas. Which, hey, you can; Dean knows this for a fact. But there's a shirt armpit in his face, and it is not clean, so, grumbling to himself, he hauls ass out of bed.

Christmas Day is pretty inane, really, when an Archangel told you, to your face, that God's dead. But whatever.

Sam's drinking coffee, and Bobby's tinkering with an old radio. It's fuzzy, keeps spitting out crap from random stations -- ...you now or have you ever been a Zionist? -- ...halls with balls of holly, tra la -- ...ppy birthday, Jesus! That message was from Kr -- until he finally finally gets it properly tuned in. Bob Dylan strums quietly in the background as Dean helps himself to the coffee pot.

"So, you cooking us a turkey this year?" Dean says, grinning at Bobby.

"You should be so lucky."

Dean leans against the counter. The pointy edge digs into his ass.

"We're leaving, anyway," Sam says. "Got us a case."

"It's Christmas!"

"So?" Sam says, frowning. "S'just another day on the job."

Dean wants to kick him. Says, "We have an Angel of the Lord who texts us every day... If this year ain't the year to celebrate Jesus' birthday, when the fuck is?"

"Actually," Sam says, voice all teachery, "evidence would suggest Jesus was born in spring. December 25th was actually a Pagan holiday, picked up by--"

Dean's cell has the decency to ring then. David Lee Roth drowns Sam out.

"Cas," Dean says.

"Dean, where are you?"

"Bobby's," Dean says. "Actually, maybe you can help us out here. See, Sam thinks--"

Castiel is right there, inches from Dean's face. He takes a step back; Castiel stays rigid as a board.

"Uh, hey," Sam says quietly. "Um. Merry Christmas."

"I thought you didn't believe in--"

"He an Angel," Sam hisses. He slams his mug on the table just a little too hard.

"Uh huh," Dean says, amused.

Bobby coughs. Dean watches as he sends Castiel a look, before he says, "Coffee or eggnog, then?"

Castiel looks to Dean. Help me.

Dean says, "Go with the coffee."

"Very well."

"Very well," Bobby mutters, dryly. It takes him a while to do stuff, now; but, if anything, it's made him more stubborn.

Castiel turns back to Dean, fixing him with that excruciatingly slow head tilt he does. He can see Sam watching, half-interested; his gaze flickers between them and the newspaper before him. Dean finally looks down.

"Dean. May I talk to you, alone?"

"Um, sure," Dean says. Castiel isn't looking at him any more. His gaze is fixed on the door.

Dean sets down his mug and follows him out. He shuts the door snug behind him.

Bobby's living room is worse than usual. They'd been working a case in Bobby's neighbourhood -- the newspaper cuttings are still scattered over the floor, and the faces of dead people stare up at them -- and never got round to the clear up. There's a lone garland of tinsel taped to the wall, but Dean thinks it's been there since last year. Or the year before; it looks old enough. They don't fuck around with mistletoe in a house full of men.

Castiel looks around thoughtfully.

Dean stands near the doorway feeling awkward as all fuck.

Finally, Castiel says, "This is a good thing you are doing, Dean."

"What's that, now?"

Castiel rounds on him. "Your decision to stay here. To keep Bobby company over the festive period, while he's... pained."

"Dude," Dean says, bristling. "That's not what this is. Bobby's a big boy."

"You cannot lie to yourself, Dean. Nor me."

"Oh, you think you know me so well?"

"I can read your mind."

"Oh, right," Dean says, flushing. "That."

Castiel nods. He looks tired. His coat's all rumpled. Dean's pretty sure that, if he were human, Castiel'd be pretty cold right now. He wants to ask him if he is. Maybe offer him a hoodie or something. Figures it's just last night's eggnog rearing its wacky head again.

Dean shakes his head. Says, "You staying or what? We're watching It's A Wonderful Life later. Y'know, for the irony."

Castiel looks flummoxed. His hands flap out to the sides just slightly.

"That's an invitation," Dean sighs. "Figure you got nowhere else to go. And, y'know, 's Christmas."

"You realise that December 25th is a Pagan holiday, adopted by--"

"Dude," Dean snaps. "Just drink eggnog and fall asleep like the rest of us, okay."

"Okay," Castiel says tentatively. He takes a few steps forward; Dean slings an arm around his shoulders. He is cold, from what little parts of skin Dean touches. He puts it to the back of his mind. Dean leads him back into the kitchen, waxing lyrical about how the eggnog actually ran out, so they're just going straight for the Rum, and how it's gonna be awesome.

If he didn't know better, he'd think Castiel was actually smiling.


*


So, yeah, things go pretty much according to plan. They have reconstituted turkey on only-very-vaguely stale bread, and a huge bag of popcorn. Bobby goes to bed before they even get to the movie; Rum doesn't agree with him. It doesn't agree with Sam so much either. About the same time George crashes his car in the movie, Sam falls asleep, head lolling onto Dean's shoulder. His hair's scratchy against Dean's neck.

"Can you, uh." Dean gives Castiel a nudge. "Poof Sam upstairs?"

"Which bedroom is his?"

"Who cares? S'long as you don't try to bunk he and Bobby."

Sam disappears.

"I tucked him in."

Dean turns to Castiel, grinning. "That's awful nice of you."

Dean's a whole mess of limbs. His leg's pushed flush against Castiel's, which is just a little loose, like he's not quite relaxed, but it's the closest Dean's seen him be. His eyes are heavy-looking. He still doesn't know where to put his hands. Dean kinda wants to poke him, or something. Loosen him up a bit.

"It's dark," Castiel says quietly.

"S'not that much," Dean mutters. "That's just the Rum talkin', that is."

"Oh." Castiel raises his hand before his face. "My vision is compromised."

Dean just sniggers. He can't really hear the tv any more; it's just background noise.

"I dislike it," Castiel says, before he shakes his head. He goes all stiff again.

"Did you jus'... sober yourself? ...Dull."

He nudges himself closer to Castiel; enough so his left leg is practically on top of Castiel's right. Touches a couple fingers to the side of his neck. It's still real cold. Castiel sucks in a surprised breath.

"Shh," Dean slurs. He brushes his finger along the line of Castiel's jaw. Says, "Try'n relax again, 'kay."

Castiel's eyes go wide.

The next thing he knows, Castiel's Rum's all over his lap, seeping through to his thighs, and the space next to him is empty. "You... feathery... idiot," Dean grumbles. Drunkenly, he climbs out of his jeans. They're all gross and stick to his skin, and he just dumps them in a big old ball on Bobby's floor. He'll deal with that in the morning.

Somehow, disrobing and discarding clothes along the way, he makes it to the bathroom without falling over anything, and steps into the shower. The pipes creak as he turns them, and the stream of water wouldn't wet a bug. He drops the shampoo first try.

It's gonna be a long night.


01 past.


It comes, first, looking like Dad. Past: Dad. Yeah. It's really something to be rinsing off your hair in the shower and having your Dad -- your long since dead Dad -- suddenly standing there, all cold stare and lightly greying hair. Dean stumbles, knocks the shampoo over again. Belatedly, covers his dick as best he can with his hands.

Dad doesn't have the decency to look abashed, but Dad never really did embarrassed. Dean's been in several situations in his life; he knows.

Dean doesn't take a gun into the shower, which is kinda thoughtless, considering. He stares at his Dad like he's gonna magically disappear or something, which hey, happens when you're Dean. Dad doesn't budge, though; just watches him, still and quiet. He looks kinda giddy. So yeah, definitely not Dad, then.

"Dean," he says.

It sounds like Dad. Gruff and commanding. Pretty tired. Pissed off.

"What are you?" Dean barks. He's well aware the only thing keeping his nuts hidden is his own soapy palm. He can't even rearrange without fear of spillage. It's hard to sound threatening like that.

Dad -- notDad -- just grins, slow and lazy. He's too loose with his limbs. Arches an eyebrow.

"You're not Dad," Dean says. He's just an alcohol-induced hallucination, or something.

"No, don't suppose I am," notDad says. "I gave it a shot, though, with the broody stare and what have you. Give a guy his dues."

"Oh, I'll give you something."

"Careful, Dean," he says, grinning. "Don't want to drop the bits and pieces now, do we?"

A red tint creeps up Dean's face. More 'cause that's coming from Dad's mouth, and that creepy-ass leer is coming from Dad's eyes, and that's, Goddamn, that's Dad's old cologne he can smell. Jesus. Dean shakes his head and shuts off the shower. Half-hopes Dad'll be gone when he turns round, but no. "What do you want?" He says, meekly.

"Oh, you know." NotDad shrugs. "Stuff."

"Stuff?"

"Stuff," notDad repeats. He grabs the towel from beside the sink and frowns at it. It's almost the same face he'd make at computers, or business men with suits and briefcases. Like why do you exist. Y'know, if he was Dad, which he isn't. Whatever he is, he throws the towel to Dean, who lets it drop into the bath, before he kneels, very carefully, and snatches it up. Ties it around his waist.

"Better," notDad says.

Dean clambers out of the shower. It's not graceful.

"My hallucinations," he says, "generally look like Megan Fox. And they're generally naked."

"You want me to strip?"

"Fuck no," Dean says loudly.

Dad just laughs. It's kind of a familiar laugh. It's not Dad's laugh; Dad didn't have a proper laugh. He snaps his fingers and Dean's dressed in fresh clothes. Jeans and a half-buttoned plaid shirt. He's wearing bright, shiny pink converse.

"Gabriel."

"I prefer The Trickster these days."

"Imma go with Gabriel," Dean says, glowering at him. It's painful, looking at Dad. Worse, or maybe just a little better, knowing it isn't Dad. He's dressed same as ever. His hair's just a little too long.

Dean feels a lot more sober.

"You're looking at me like I'm evil," Gabriel says conversationally.

"You killed me a bunch of times."

"Reality is a funny thing, Dean," says Gabriel. He waves Dad's hand in the air, all swooshy-like.

"Right," Dean says.

"So." Gabriel raises Dad's eyebrows at him, looking all giddy again. "You've seen Scrooged, right?"

"With Bill Murray?"

"Great," Gabriel says airily. "So I don't have to explain the plot. We're going on a trip. Past, present, future. Gonna see some stuff you never seen before. Make you less... you know." He waves a hand in the air. "And have some fun. It'll be a riot."

"Why you doing this?"

"It's Christmas," Gabriel says, smiling. "And everywhere's closed."

"Hmm," Dean says.

"I'll have you back before anybody notices you're gone."

And they're gone.


*


They go back to the start.


*


"I am not your father."

"Who does he think he is, Darth?"

"I know, right?" Says Gabriel. It's so fucking weird seeing Dad grin all big and open like that.

They follow Castiel down the neat drive. Dean's seen millennia worth of vessels so far. Fat, old, dying, one fucking stunning maid in something-something bc. All Castiel. All with bad punches, and the social skills of a broom. All his charges; how he's been close to none of them. Still, his Castiel, with the coat and the frown; he's still Dean's favourite.

"He's not that bad... now."

"Now," Gabriel says. "But even for an Angel, he's always been kinda prudish."

"I broke him," Dean says morosely. Castiel disappears at the end of the street; they follow seamlessly. He thinks the booze is coming back to haunt him. They watch as Dean panics in a gas station. Castiel's voice doesn't hurt him this time, even if it doesn't mean anything to him. He had glass shards in his thumbs for weeks after that.

"What's he saying, anyway?"

Gabriel shrugs.

"Ass," Dean says.

They're in the motel, near the door. The glass above Dean's head smashes as he scrambles on the floor. The floor's stained red.

"Persistent, isn't he?" Gabriel says, arching an eyebrow.

"Nearly scrambled my fucking brains."

"Details." Gabriel shifts them away before Bobby bursts through the door. They're just inside the door of the barn. There're symbols painted over the walls, and on the floor, and Dean kinda wonders if his hair always looks like that.

"It does," Gabriel says.

Dean glowers at him. Says, for the hundredth time, "Stop looking like my fucking Dad."

Gabriel ignores him.

Castiel bursts through the door. He's all noble and powerful and... kinda...

"His vessel's kinda attractive," Gabriel says.

"Huh," Dean says. Repeats, "I broke him."

"Dean," Gabriel sighs, shaking his head. He looks disappointed. It suits Dad's face.


*


"Excellent work with the witnesses."

"Dude, I don't need a freaking play-by-play. Once was enough."

"But I liked this one." Gabriel pouts. He scratches Dad's thumb absently.

"Next."


*


"I hated this the first time round."

"But there was some excellent character growth here, I mean--"

"I'm not doing the back to the future shit all over again. Don't need two freaking John Winchesters at once. The world'll, like, implode, or something."

"But there's this bit in your car where Castiel--"

"Next."

"Fine," Gabriel snaps.


*


Sam's about to gun down Castiel.

"What was the deal there, anyway? He hate Sam or just... not get it?"

"I look like your fairy Godmother?" Gabriel mutters.

He watches as Castiel shakes Sam's hand. Says, "I never liked Uriel."

Gabriel's brow twitches.

"You neither, huh?"

Gabriel turns. Dad's eyes twinkle at him. "See that, there?" He grabs hold of Dean's hand. Dad's hands are all calloused and clammy. Pulls him over to Castiel. He's yabbering away to Dean; something about witches. Dean doesn't fucking know.

"Dad didn't hold my hand," he says, looking at their linked hands.

"You sad, sad individual," Gabriel says, shaking his head.

He places Dean's hands on the other Dean's chest. He doesn't seem to notice. Still keeps talking away.

"Um," Dean says. He can't bring himself to move his hand. "S'my heartbeat supposed to be that fast?"

"Nope," Gabriel says, grinning.

"Imma stop eating all those trans fats," Dean says. He drops his hand.

"You... I don't." Gabriel's eyes go real big, then back again. Says, "Next."


*


"D'you think he knows he looks like a paed--"

"I don't think he gets it," Gabriel says.

They've been sitting on the grass a while, watching Dean sit on a bench. He was waiting for Castiel. Knew he'd show up sooner or later. Once second there was nothing, then Castiel materialised instantly.

They're chatting now. Do you think you did the right thing? You're actually Michael's vessel, but I can't tell you that now, so I'm going to feed you some of my ass-backward crap about how you're actually the special one. Are you now or have you ever been a Zionist?

"You didn't like him." Gabriel's lying on his front picking sheaths of grass absently. Dad's fingers are too big, too rough, and they keep snapping under his fingers.

"He was odd," Dean says.

"Was?"

"He's always been odd," Dean clarifies. "I guess I just, I don't know. Get him now, or something?"

"Uh huh," Gabriel says. He inclines his head towards the benches.

Dean and Castiel are gazing at each other intently. It's kinda...

"Gay? Yeah."

"Stop that," Dean grumbles. He pushes himself to his feet. Sits himself down next to himself. He thinks he looks slightly younger. Less tired. They both turn just after Castiel disappears. Both stare at the place where he was for too long.


*


"I'm not watching myself have sex with Anna, Jesus!"

"Really? I thought you'd be up for that."


*


Anna forgave Dean. Dean's never really forgotten that. He remembers the soft push of her lips against his. He didn't see Castiel before, though. That look on his face. It's unplaceable. One of those Cas-faces that he's still trying to figure out.

Gabriel looks all giddy next to him. Finally he says, "Tell me how you feel in this moment."

"Uh," says Dean.

There's fighting all around them. Dean's seen a fucking lot on this "excursion" -- Castiel's first time on Earth, the first time Castiel smote a demon, he even saw a hole in the ground where Castiel dove into Hell for him -- so nothing fazes him now. He doesn't know what the freaking point is, except he doesn't actually know that much about Castiel, really.

"I feel giddy," Gabriel says. He sounds like he's trying to be helpful. Get the ball rolling. He's failing.

"No shit." Dean scratches his head. The other Dean hits Alistair with a tire iron. It's a good hit.

"You helped him out there."

"Yeah," says Dean. "I guess."

"You guess," Gabriel murmurs. "You guess."


*


"What just happened? You just saved a seal."

"He looks kinda... offended. I never noticed that before."

"There's a lot you never noticed before," Gabriel says bitchily. Dean thinks he's just as tired of this crap as he is.

"No, Dean, I'm just tired of you."


*


"---!"

"Yep," Gabriel says.

"Cas could never throw a punch, huh?"

"That's what you're getting from this?"

Castiel's grappling with Alistair; Alistair's winning. He throws Castiel across the room. Dean takes a step forward. Gabriel grins widely. Then Alastair forces Castiel back onto a hook; it slips right into his back like butter. Dean recoils with a gasp. Gabriel grins obscenely.

"You have to--"

"What, stop it? It's the past, you know he gets out alive."

"But." Alastair shifts him further back. Dean can see the hook dig further into Castiel's back. He winces.

"Next," he says.

"No."

"Next, next, next, next..." White light starts beaming out of Castiel's eyes as Alastair starts to chant. Dean's just glad he knows the outcome of this, 'cause. Just, holy crap. He reaches forward. Can't bring himself to touch Alastair; he doesn't care if this is just some weird, mind-fucky false reality. Touches it to Castiel's face. It's soft and warm.


*


"You son of a bitch."

"You wanna see Sam go all demony again?"

"Fuck you," Dean says.

"You and your tourrettes are ruining a perfectly tender scene."

Castiel's sitting next to Dean's bed, head dipped. Dean's still asleep. He remembers that headache; it was one of those ones that doesn't leave you for a long damn time. Sometimes Castiel casts glances at Dean's sleeping form. He looks contrite.

"Uh, how long's he been sitting there?"

"Embarrassingly long. I couldn't be bothered sitting through all of it." Gabriel pauses. "Sam just left."

Dean nods. Huh.

Everything seems different in hindsight. He's looking through a mirror and seeing something different from the first time.

Castiel shifts ever so slightly in his seat as the other Dean wakes. He remembers that conversation. Lucifer, seals, Heaven, Hell. He doesn't need that again. He looks at Gabriel -- looks at his father -- and says, "Can we just move on please? I get it, okay."

Gabriel looks at him long and hard, and nods once.


*


"Funny," Dean says, watching himself attempt to strangle Chuck. "I though Gabriel was gonna be the Archangel who dealt in Prophets."

Gabriel raises his eyebrow.

"You're one of the only ones I could name," Dean clarifies.

"Ah," Gabriel says, nodding. Like, I get that a lot. He inclines his head towards Castiel, who just appeared out of nowhere. "Watch, though."

"--e's a Prophet of the Lord."

Dean shakes his head with a smile. "He likes his dramatic lines."

"It's precisely the most efficient way he could have explained the situation," Gabriel says. Dean's not sure if he's serious; Dad's face doesn't give anything away. Gabriel shrugs. "He's just making sure you didn't get your ass handed to you."

"Fat chance of that," Dean mutters.

"Or your ass handed to Michael."

"Yeah."

Castiel's palming through a copy of Provenance. Dean remembers Sarah; she would've been good for Sam. Castiel's brows are furrowed. He seems different, somehow, than to what Dean would call Castielness. He wonders if it's the mojo or what.

"Which do you prefer? This one, or your one?"

"You need to stop reading my mind."

"Dean."

"I dunno," Dean mutters. He looks at Castiel. He's explaining Prophets to the other Dean. He says it cold and flat. "Mine, I guess. I mean, you know, the one from my time. The real time. I don't think he's mine, he's his own person. Um, Angel. I--"

They're standing next to a vending machine. Dean stops rambling.

The other Dean is. Well, he's pleading for Castiel's help. He sounds lost, needy. Says, "Help, please. I need help." He prays.

"Goddamn."

"You look about a shade away from prostrating yourself on the ground and begging for it."

Dean punches an Archangel. Lightly. On the arm. He doesn't want to break his fucking fist. It still stings a little, like Dad's bicep's been hewn from granite.

Dean and Castiel are having their first real argument. First of many.

Castiel always has to get up in his face like that. So close he can feel his breath, warm and moist, against his face. A certain heat seemed to radiate from him then, like he was always just on the edge, always ready to break out of his vessel. Not so much now. Dean thinks he prefers him now. He's more...

"Stable."

"Dude, we don't do stable."

"Two point four dogs and a white picket fence. The whole shebang. You win the war, Dean," Gabriel says, looking almost serious, "I'll give you anything you want. I can do that, you know. I'll. I'll give you the world, Dean."

"Just so you know... why I can't help you," Castiel says with a sly smile.

"Thanks, Cas," the other Dean says.

Dean smiles at the scene. At Cas. He feels lighter, somehow. He doesn't say anything.

Gabriel doesn't either.


*


"I'm glad he doesn't do the dream dropping any more."

"The scenery's nice," Gabriel says, looking around at the ocean. "You could design dreams for people, or something. That's a real career, am I right?"

"Uh, I dunno," Dean says.

Castiel gives the other Dean a slip of paper. The handwriting on that note was so neat that Dean kept it. He think it's tucked into a duffel, somewhere in the car. He's gonna have to look that out later.

He remembers how soft Castiel's hands were; you'd think they'd never seen real work in their lives.

"I guess Jimmy wasn't into manual labour."

"Not so much," Gabriel says solemnly.

"He's, uh--"

"Moved on," Gabriel says. "A while back. It's just my stupid brother in there now."

"He's okay," Dean says as Castiel disappears.

The other Dean harrumphs.


*


"At the time I was, like..." Dean frowns. "But now I'm, like. Dude, that's a little girl."

"Angels have used worse vessels," Gabriel says mildly.

"Cas' used worse vessels," Dean says, remembering some of the vessels he's seen so far. A poor bastard with Polio-ravaged legs, sometime around the birth of Jesus, springs to mind.

"Christmas," Gabriel supplies.

"I thought Christmas wasn't actually in December, or so ever--"

"Shusht," Gabriel says, nudging him.

Castiel passes from the little girl back into Jimmy. He's just a beam of light, and that will never stop being weird for Dean. He's just Cas.

"I learned my lesson while I was away--"

"What happened then, anyway?" Dean says to Gabriel. The other Dean's face drops as Castiel shoots him down. It still stings a little.

Gabriel looks conflicted, before he says, "I left Heaven for a reason, Dean."

"Right," Dean says. He looks at the ground. It turns to dirt under his feet.


*


"Pleading again," Gabriel says cheerfully. He has the attention span of an asshole.

"About burned out my throat," Dean says, watching himself scream at the Heavens. The Heavens were a ruthless bitch that night.

Castiel looks dark when he appears. Still.

"He was such a dick," Dean says.

"Was."

"Yeah," Dean says, scratching his chin. "Things change, I guess."

"They sure do," Gabriel says. Dad's face lights up.

"Man," Dean says earnestly. "Stop looking like my Dad."

"Soon," Gabriel says. "You told my you'd seen this movie."

"Like, once," Dean says. "That was enough."

"Huh."

"Do you give yourself over wholly to the service of God and His Angels?"

The other Dean does, eventually, Dean knows. But not really. He just gave himself over to Cas.

"That's my boy," Gabriel says, clapping him on the back.


*


Gabriel's leaning against the harp. Dean's sitting on the table. The other Dean punches Castiel.

"That hurt."

"You'd think you'd learn," Gabriel says, mock-rubbing his arm.

"Blow me."

He wonders, vaguely, somewhere in the back of his mind, in that dark place where he's sort of fond of a couple Phil Collins songs and he thinks celery isn't actually that bad, if he and Castiel always look like it's either fight or fuck. It all looks pretty intense from where he's sitting. If he didn't know where it all lead, he'd be kinda riveted.

If it were a sketchy B-movie, he'd be wondering how long till Dean throws Cas on the table and just fucking gives it to him.

"Kinky," Gabriel says.

"Oh my God, stop that."

"Oh no, I approve."

"Of course you do," Dean says. He thinks he was in the shower before all this began; he can barely even remember now. He still smells mildly like cheap shampoo. And he feels like his feet aren't completely dry in his bright, shiny sneakers. He doesn't even know where they came from.

Dean looks disappointed when Castiel disappears. It was like his anchor just thought, you know what, actually I don't want to stop you from drowning. It was like a punch in the gut. He wants to console himself.

"He'll be back," Gabriel says.

"Yeah," Dean says. Adds, "Can you, like, speed him up, or something? Get him to the church on time."

"Reality is a funny thing," says Gabriel.

When Dean quirks his eyebrows, he says, "No."

"Figured," Dean says.

They sit in silence, mostly. Except for the other Dean's pacing around the room. His jeans make a scratchy sound.

"Showtime," Gabriel says, pointing Dad's big, rough hand, before the other Dean's being thrown up against the wall.

Castiel was so close, just a breath away. Soft skin and plush lips and thick hair just inches from Dean's hands. His blood poured from the gash on his arm, as the knife slipped through his skin easy. Dean remembers being up close, the coppery tang as Castiel painted the walls red.

His last though is, fuck you Zach, kicked your ass, before everything starts to go real fast, and Castiel just fucking explodes, right there in Chuck's shoddy kitchen.

"That wasn't necessary," Dean says.

"I never liked Raphael that much," Gabriel says, "but you can't say he doesn't get the job done."

Dean swings back his fist, just as Gabriel says, "Fine, fine." He clicks his fingers.


02 present.


Castiel died. He never really processed it before; not properly. There was so little time between him dying and coming back, there was no need to mourn. Castiel died for him. Watching somebody be blown up for you puts crap into perspective.

He saves their asses again in Dad's lock-up. Kills him own siblings, his own brothers, something Dean'll never have the stones to do even if it's gonna mean the end of everything. He watches more intently this time. Stomach cancer didn't do much for awareness. Watches as Castiel gracefully plunges a sword deep into the gut of another Angel; as their light floods out.

"Kick ass, huh?"

Dean snaps round, and scowls. "Where've you been?"

"Putting on my make-up," Gabriel coos, wearing Jess' face.

Dean closes his eyes for a long moment.

He opens them when he smells a faint burning smell.

"That's your ribs," Gabriel says, flashing Jess' prettiest grin.

"...carved them into your ribs."

Dean rubs his chest absently. That's two crazy, unexplainable, and entirely too intimate marks Castiel's left on his body already. It's not even been two years since they met. Seems like longer, somehow.

"He needs to not fucking poof away when he doesn't like stuff."

"You'd do it if you could," Gabriel says mildly.

Dean just shrugs.


*


"Even Bobby gets freaking vibes off you guys," Gabriel says. Jess' face looks all giddy with excitement.

"He still has my necklace," Dean says. "I want that shit back."


*


Watching yourself wash vampire blood off your shirt isn't as cool as it sounds. Gabriel's picking at Jess' nails. Dean doesn't know how the hell Jess became present, but apparently Dean's only been close to so many people, and it'd just be insensitive to be his Mom. Dean snorted, and they haven't talked since. Dean thinks Gabriel poofed them way too early into this mirage-thingy.

"Hello, Dean."

"See," Dean says. He walks over to them, hands out. He can't even stretch his arms in the space between Castiel and the other Dean. "That's not outside my bubble. That's way inside my bubble. I explained all about the freaking bubbles. I have my bubble, you have your bubble, he has his bubble. We stay out of each other's bubbles."

"Right," Gabriel says. "Bubbles."

"Uh huh," Dean says.

"Funny, but you're not pushing him out of your bubble so much."

"He's... unflappable," Dean complains.

It's his face. It's so earnest, it's hard to stand your ground against Castiel. He's the proverbial immovable object.

"That makes you the unstoppable force."

"Uh," Dean says. "How does that work again?"

"Ying and Yang, black and white, Heaven and Hell, Judy Garland and--"

"I get it," Dean cuts in. "They, like, repel each other, or whatever."

"No," Gabriel sighs. He doesn't elaborate. He's still wearing Jess' face; it's distracting. He wonders if he should start calling him a she, but figures that probably wouldn't be wise. The looks Gabriel sends him says it wouldn't.

"Why'd you agree to help him, anyway?" Gabriel says, after a while. Castiel and the other Dean are long gone. They're just hanging around like two spare parts.

"Who else would?"

Gabriel nods. Jess' hair is all swishy. He clicks her fingers, and they're in the "kitchen".

This was awkward the first time.

"Most Angels have done it, y'know," Gabriel says. "I told you he's a prude."

"Nah," Dean says.

Castiel is squirming in his chair. The other Dean is promising not to let him die a virgin. He already did, in Chuck's kitchen. Dean doesn't know if that counts, if you're resurrected after. It's a thinker.

Castiel follows the other Dean out the door eagerly. Dean can't help but grin.


*


"In hindsight," Dean says, watching Castiel chug his pint with morbid curiosity. "There are better ways, cleaner ways, to pop your cherry."

"I lost mine in a forest clearing," Gabriel says wistfully.

"A Chevvy," Dean says.

Chastity doesn't give off the same vibe where you're sober. The whole place loses its vibe. It seems like an epically bad idea, in retrospect. Castiel's staring at the girl like he's gonna barf, and while it's kinda funny, Dean's not in the mood to laugh. He's pissed at the other Dean, at himself, for forcing Castiel into this situation.

"It's not like he does it," Gabriel says.

"He's still untouched," Dean says. He feels awkward. "That's so sad."

"Right?"

They watch as Chastity drags Castiel away into her boudoir of virginity stealing. Dean wants to stop him. Chastity shouldn't be the first person he kisses.

"He doesn't," Gabriel says quietly, softly. He adds, a little louder, more brash, "He flakes."

"Good." Dean pauses. "I didn't say that."

Gabriel looks pleased. It suits Jess' face.

They follow the other Dean into the back after the sounds of a commotion. Castiel standing there all rumpled, clueless-looking, while Chastity runs off screaming. Dean wants to go to up to him, wrap his coat around him proper, make it neater. He's got just-fucked hair; it suits him. Dean casts a glance at Gabriel.

"I'm just happy with the décor."

"Right," Dean says, ignoring Gabriel's smile. "Let's keep it that way. I still got more of that Holy Oil, y'know."

Gabriel shuts the fuck up.

They follow Castiel and the other Dean outside.

Dean thinks he's getting way to blasé about seeing himself in real life.

Dean wraps his arm around Castiel shoulders, and Castiel looks so fucking pleased. It makes Dean feel all warm inside. In a manly way.


*


"I wish Castiel hadn't found that Holy Oil."

"I'll bet you do."

"He should've just barbecued Raphael."

"You two got some real beef, huh? What's that about?"

"You have your secrets..."

"No, I don't. Not when you read my freaking mind."

"Oh, fair enough," Gabriel says.

Castiel calls Raphael a little bitch, and Gabriel smiles to himself. Dean feels proud.


*


"That was good, with the whoopee cushion," Gabriel says, laughing.

"I thought you'd like that one, somehow."


*


"What's up with the freaking Greatest Hits of Dean 'n' Cas, anyway?" Dean says, examining the little Cas doll on the mantle.

"Like I said. Everywhere's closed Christmas Day. Figured I'd fuck with the Potential Saviour of the World instead."

"Christmas," Dean says, shaking his head. Real life seems like a long fucking time ago.


*


"This is my favourite," Gabriel says, beaming Jess' beautiful smile.

"Oh great," Dean says. "The TV crap."

"You loved Dr Sexy."

"Whatever," Dean says.

Castiel bursts through the door during the game show. Gabriel smiles, looking rather impressed. Didn't think Castiel'd actually be able to get into his masterful game, did he?

"Determined," Gabriel says fondly.

"Where'd you send him, anyway?"

"Passions," Gabriel says, grinning wolfishly.

Dean doesn't dare ask if he's kidding.


*


"I still hate you for this bullshit, you know."

"Mhmm."

Sam's worried they're gonna die in a generic, light entertainment, family-orientated kitchen setting. The other Dean's inclined to agree. They're fretting in front of a live studio audience, when Castiel bursts in, bleeding.

"How d'you get hurt in Passions?"

"Some of those doctors are pretty feisty," Gabriel says.

He's really determined to save me, Dean thinks.

"Oh, you picked up on that," Gabriel says, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Took you long enough."

He notices little things he's never taken the time to before. Like how pale and narrow Castiel's wrists are, and how much he's changed. How much he is not the thing that walked into the barn and said, I'm and Angel of the Lord. He's just Cas. Dean's friend Cas.

"I don't think about wrapping my friends' hair through my fingers."

"You don't have any fucking friends," Dean snaps.

"Sticks and stones."

Castiel is zapped off.

"Lost," Gabriel cackles. "You should see it when he tries to smite the smoke monster."

Dean scrubs a hand over his face.


*


"You saw what happened to him in the future, and you still let him drink?"

"What happened to that, anyway?" Dean says, frowning. "We on a budget, or something?"

"I need a future," Gabriel says, shrugging. "That one was already made. I'm recycling."

"So there's more."

"Uh huh," Gabriel says, flicking Jess' hair away from her pretty face. "I'm thinking I'll fashion me a Gordon suit."

"Oh, the joy," Dean says.

"Kidding," Gabriel says. "I got a kicker for the future."

"I bet you do," Dean says absently.

He's watching Castiel. His wrists are so fragile. Sure, skilled fingers linking themselves round his glass. Dean watches his throat rise and fall. Castiel wipes his lips on the back of his hand after; Dean does the same.

He can't look at Jo, at Ellen. He watches Castiel instead. Watches as he drinks, round after round, and it'd be impressive if it weren't so freaking sad.


*


Castiel zaps he and Sam from the clearing, as Dean and Gabriel watch. The Devil is digging his hole fucking yards away.

"He leave you constipated?"

"Yup," Dean says.

"I've heard about that," Gabriel says, thoughtfully. "It's, like... a thing."

"Awesome," Dean says.

Castiel brings them back to Bobby's, but doesn't stick round long. He gets grieving, but doesn't really get it.

That was the last time they saw him, before Christmas. Dean doesn't know why, but it doesn't seem right, for some reason.


03 future.


"No, man. No. We changed this, remember? This doesn't happen any more."

"Relax," Gabriel says. Dean can not fucking look at him. The voice is bad enough.

The future still looks like Dean remembers. They're standing on the main street; cars are burned out, buildings are worse, and it's completely deserted. He can smell decay. The bulletin board on the wall of the once-chemists behind him says this is Michigan. It's not any Michigan Dean knows.

And to make his day, Gabriel is now Ruby.

"This is ten kinds of fucking awful," Dean says.

"Sure," says Gabriel.

"'Sides," Dean says, casting an look up and down the street. "I thought this was the Dean 'n' Cas Show. Where the Hell are we? Oh God, are we dead? We're already dead, aren't we, you psycho bas-"

"You're not dead," Gabriel says, scowling. He looks like he wants to add, I wish you were. It's a face Ruby used numerous times.

"So?"

Gabriel points Ruby's manicured finger towards a multiplex across the street. Says, "In there."

"Whatever," Dean says. He starts to walk; Gabriel a couple paces behind him.

The multiplex smells old. The movie posters on the walls look a couple years out of date, at least; though Dean's heard of none of them. The popcorn machine looks like it took a pretty good hit a while back. There's rubble everywhere. Dean looks up.

"Yeah, there was a bomb dropped here, I think."

"You think? You pretty much made this up."

"Whatever," Gabriel says. He straightens Ruby's blouse. "I understand concepts of reality, unlike you, Dean. I didn't just make this up. It's a perfectly valid future scenario. So, if I say there was a bomb, there was a bomb, okay."

"I can see the sky," says Dean.

Gabriel smirks. "At least it's not raining?"

Dean shakes his head. He can hear voices coming from somewhere to the left, and goes in that direction. Finds himself outside Screen 4 -- apparently something called The Magic Fruitmen was playing here last, probably a couple years ago now; Dean just doesn't want to know -- and he looks to Gabriel.

He inclines his head. Go on, then.

Dean pushes open the door. The voices become a little louder.

"That's my voice," he says uselessly.

Gabriel raises an eyebrow.

"That's your voice," he says next.

Gabriel looks exasperated. "If you do not move," he says. "I will push you."

Dean hasn't been to see a movie in a long time, so walking down the dark ramp to the screening area is rather novel. He knows there's not been electricity in this dive for years, and from what he can see of the screen, it's torn, but it's still something. He thinks he'll probably drag Sam to see something when he gets back to his time. He looks back at Gabriel suspiciously.

"I'm not leaving you here," Gabriel says, shaking his head. It makes Ruby's hair looks all nice and swishy, which Dean will not admit ever.

Gabriel just smirks.

They're all grouped together in the space in front of the huge screen. There's gotta be seven or eight of them, at least. They're laughing.

"My laugh doesn't sound like that," Dean says, inching closer to them. He, himself, looks only a little older, not as rough round the edges as he did last time Dean went future-jumping. He's got a flask in one hand, and a torch in the other, which he shines into someone's eyes.

"Sam," Dean says.

"Mhmm."

Dean turns to Gabriel. His face feels all slack.

"But..."

"You changed it," Gabriel says, grinning wide.

"But..."

"Sam doesn't say yes; not where things are heading at the moment."

"But..."

"Well, Lucifer's not dead. Not yet. But his vessel's weak. He's not what he once was. We're gonna be working on it, and we'll crack it." He looks wistful, like he knows what's gonna happen. Like he knows it's gonna go good.

"But..." Dean doesn't know what follows but.

"I'm not saying it'll be fun, or anything. People are dead, and the world's gone to Hell in a handbasket, but." He scratches at Ruby's hand. "Y'know. The Righteous Man stuff. You're gonna end it."

Reesa's there. Bobby's there, sharing a flask with a tall black guy Dean doesn't know. Gabriel is there, with his own fucking face, thank God, and he's setting random stuff on fire, then watching as nothing actually burns. The girl next to him giggles. Chuck looks unconscious. Cas is sitting next to Sam, muttering something Dean can't hear. Sam laughs. Says, "Dude, not again." Cas grins back.

Dean sits down.

"So," Gabriel says, looking around thoughtfully.

"You're on side, then," Dean says. "That's what this is all about."

"A little of this, a little of that."

"You couldn't've just said I'm on side."

"Nah," Gabriel says.

"'Preciate it," Dean mutters. He has issues swallowing his pride; he figures Gabriel probably wants to drown himself about now.

He watches them.

It's Christmas here, too, he picks up quickly. He missed the start of the conversation, but apparently Bobby gave Sam a gift that really wasn't appreciated, and everybody's laughing at their bickering. Sam's threatening to drag Bobby off his chair, and Bobby's threatening to tell everybody what Sam did with some chick in Utah. Sam flushes, and Cas bursts out laughing. Mock-punches his arm. Says, "I knew it."

Cas looks sober, and moderately healthy; there's a gash on his face, but it looks shallow. The other Dean keeps glancing at him. Keeps smiling. His eyes are pretty dark, and tired looking. He keeps looking between Cas and the flask in his hand, like that'll give him his answers.

"Oh my God," says Dean.

Gabriel cackles. Slaps his hands down on Ruby's denim-clad knees.

"Me and Cas?" He knows his own faces. That's one of his more affectionate ones he's sending Cas. That's his smouldering face.

"Oh my God." He vaguely wonders why this Castiel is Cas. Figures it's cause you just don't call a human Castiel. And he is human. It's obvious in the way he's so free with his motions, the way he reacts so normally to things, like the little quirk of his lips when somebody flashes a torch in his face, or his obvious delight when the other Dean whispers something in his ear. Dean's not sure he wants to know what he's saying.

"So this is our future now?"

Gabriel shrugs. "Likely."

"S'not as bad, I guess. Seems..."

"I meant what I said, Dean. You kill Lucifer, you fix it, and I'll give you the world. Anything you want. This is just... a blip."

Dean doesn't think millions of innocent people dying is a blip. He doesn't comment.

"We'll figure it out."

"And Michael?"

"I'm over Michael," says Gabriel smoothly. There are probably a million other things he wants to say instead. "I like this world. All you little people, with your meagre issues. Be a shame to just let you all burn up. What would I do with all my downtime?"

Dean nods, more to himself.

The other Dean's arm slips around Castiel's back.

Reesa says, "Get a room, you two."

"Yeah," Bobby mutters. "Preferably a couple states over."

The other Dean gives him the finger.

"Idjit," Bobby says, voice fond. His face is beet red. Dean wonders how long he's been at the booze.

"We're gonna call it a night," Cas says, pushing himself to his feet. Dean follows, his hand still wrapped around Cas' back.

"We live here?"

"For now," Gabriel says. He punches Ruby's little hand into the air, saying, "We go where the fight is!"

"Right," Dean says. He watches as Dean as Cas disappear up the aisle.

"You can follow them."

"Nooooo." Dean rounds on Gabriel, wide eyed. Like, can I?

"Sure," Gabriel says, shrugging. "I'm staying here, though. Seen enough of your sorry ass for one day."

Dean makes to stand up, thinks better of it, then thinks better of that, and is out his seat and half-way up the aisle before he can stop himself.

"Pervert!"

"Fuck you," says Dean, without heat.


*


"--nly till the New Year. We'll move on, then," the other Dean's saying, when Dean finally catches up to them. Their "bedroom" is the projection room overlooking Screen Five. Their rucksacks are lying next to an upturned desk. All their possessions are thrown about randomly, and there's film reel wound around a pair of muddy boots. They've been here a while, then.

"I hate it."

"Shusht," the other Dean says, giving Cas a little nudge. He grins.

"My "bed,"" Cas says, using actual airquotes, "hurts my back."

"You have, like, twenty fucking sheets down. Stole half of mine, too."

"If you'd just listened to me in Marquette, I wouldn't have had to hurt my back saving your stupid life. All I get is your pissy mood swings." They've had this argument a lot; Dean can tell.

The other Dean scrubs a hand over his face. His eyes look heavy. "Look, sorry. I've been a jerk lately," he says. "Let's not do this, okay."

"Okay," Cas says, like he doesn't really mean it.

The other Dean catches that, too. He sighs. Wraps a hand around Cas' wrist. Cas watches quietly as he turns his hand over. The other Dean brings his hand to his mouth and kisses his palm.

Dean watches. He feels half-way between feeling a little ill, and being half-hard.

"Sorry," Dean says, kissing his palm again.

He places a kiss to Cas' knuckles. "Don't be mad."

The inside of his wrist. "I shouldn't have called you my bitch last night."

His forearm. "I like that you're a stupid, fragile human now."

The inside of his elbow. "Doesn't mean I can push you around."

The pale skin of his bicep. He flashes Cas a grin. "Doesn't mean I'll let you top, though."

Cas shoves him away lightly, expression soft. It's so human, it makes Dean smile.

"You can have my sleeping bag, too," the other Dean offers.

Castiel shakes his head.

"Oh, good," the other Dean says, sounding relieved.

They both laugh. Dean is endlessly fascinated.

They both strip down, easy and carefree. This isn't new at all. Sometimes Cas'll glance at the other Dean, then look away when he's caught. It makes a red flush creep its way along his cheeks and neck. It's hopelessly endearing.

Dean figures it must get cold, here. He can't feel cold, being a freaking voyeuristic ghost in their world, or whatever he is. But they have loads of different blankets and assorted sheets. Cas climbs in first, settling himself, before the other Dean follows. He wraps himself around Cas' back, nose brushing the little soft hairs at the back of his neck. It seems almost too intimate for Dean to be standing there watching. The other Dean starts to whisper stuff in Cas' ear; stuff Dean can't hear.

"Son of a bitch," Dean says. He's gonna have a hard time adjusting to real life, now, he figures. He's getting awfully used to being some supernaturally-veiled asshole.

He needs to sit down.

He does. Drops his head into his hands and breathes.

So he and Cas are apparently gonna be some sort of item. And he knows already that Sam and Bobby are gonna be okay with that, which'll probably be useful information to have when he has an inevitable gay crisis. They're together, and they're okay. Hell, they're good. They look right together, Dean thinks, even though it's he and Castiel, which doesn't make any sense.

He wonders if he was Castiel's first. Hopes he made it good, if so.

Hell, of course he did.

There's faint laughing coming from the pile of blankets.

So he likes Castiel. Huh. Who'd've thought it?

The voices become a little less muffled. Dean looks up, then. They're both lying on their backs, heads inches apart, looking at the water-damaged ceiling.

"I can't remember my life before you were fucking with it."

"Liar," Cas says, chuckling. His hand's toying with the other Dean's hair. Usually he hates that. He seems perfectly content, though.

For the first time, Dean really wishes he were there. Really there; not just the ghost in the corner.

The other Dean turns to kiss Cas. Dean's view is obscured, and he really thinks he should leave, but can't.

He watches. And, they're. They're good for each other, really. It makes him feel mildly nauseous.


*


When the other Dean finally pushes inside Cas, what feels like hours later, Cas isn't the only one who sucks in a breath. He's on his side, looking almost exactly where Dean is, the other Dean behind him moving slow and steady. They're almost completely covered by blankets.

His mouth's slack, his eyes wide and dark. There's sweat shining around his crown.

Dean gets off his seat, and moves forward tentatively. He doesn't know where he's going, only that the other Dean -- him -- he's fucking into Cas, hand around his chest, holding him tight. He's pressing gasped kisses to Cas' shoulder. He's awfully quiet.

Cas is, too.

Dean doesn't know if that's a thing, or what, but it makes it all the more close.

He stops in front of Cas, and kneels down.

Cas' breaths are shallow. More gasps than anything. His nails dig into the blankets as his hand scrambles for purchase he can't find. Dean wants to grip his hand.

Instead, he watches.

It's terrifying.

The other Dean, God, Dean's fucking into Cas harder now. His nails leave little white half-crescents on Cas' skin before they fade into nothing.

Cas bucks forward, and Dean really wishes he could see. Wants to see himself moving inside Cas, how Cas takes so much of him inside. Wants to know exactly what's making Cas whimper against his pillow. Wants to know what makes him almost-shout, "Fuck." He carries on, "Fuck, fuck, fuck."

"That's it," the other Dean says. He licks a stripe up Cas' shoulder; it leaves a shiny line behind. "Let go, just let go."

Castiel mewls.

"So fucking perfect. You're so fucking perfect, Cas. Taking me like this. Love it. Love you like this. Love you so much."

Castiel bucks forward. Dean sees his hand slip down, wants to see where it goes, even when he knows; knows the second Cas slips his hand over his own dick, and throws his head back onto the other Dean's shoulder.

Dean shivers.

Holy fuck.

"Gonna be good to you in so many ways," the other Dean says wickedly into Cas' ear. "So fucking good."

Cas' face is almost inches from Dean's. He could reach out and touch his lips; feel how soft and wet they are. Wants to push Cas' hair back from his eyes, where it's fallen. It's longer than he's used to, and a little sweaty. He wants to push it all back, see his face properly. He looks wrecked.

"Dean," he pants. Dean can hear the slapping of flesh-on-flesh; see the way Cas' body rocks forward on every thrust. He wants to be there. "Dean, Dean."

Cas bucks forward once, twice, hard, and then his eyes flutter as he comes. He looks amazing.

So I really like Cas, Dean thinks.

He doesn't bother to see if the other Dean comes; Dean always comes.

Cas makes a frustrated face as the other Dean pulls out. The condom is tied and thrown to the side. Dean supposes that's the least of their hygiene concerns in this dive.

The other Dean looks at Cas thoughtfully. Says, "I don't know about you, but I could go again."

"Hah," Cas says drolly. "Dean, if you can get it up in the next five minutes, I'm good to go."

Dean scowls. Flicks his finger at Cas' nipple.

"Hey," Cas says, rolling over to face him. His back's to Dean now; that bothers him. He slings his arm over the other Dean's chest, head nuzzling into his shoulder.

"Comfy?"

"Yeah," Cas says, sounding tired.

"Thank fuck."

Cas chuckles. He presses a kiss just above Dean's heart. Says, "Merry Christmas, Dean."

"G'night, Cas," Dean says.

They go to sleep.


*


"You're watching yourself sleep. Isn't that like watching paint dry, only weirder?"

"I'm thinking," Dean says.

"You're sitting on the floor. Somebody peed there once, you know."

Dean jumps up.

"Ha," says Gabriel.

"Douche."

"So, you ready to go? Can't stay here forever, I'm afraid. Almost thirty seconds've passed in the real world. People are gonna start getting suspicious."

"This is the future," Dean says.

"Yeah. Don't." Gabriel picks at Ruby's nails. "I just. Just don't give up on it, okay. Have faith."

"Right. S'that what all this is about?"

"I'm still The Trickster," Gabriel says. "Was kinda looking for some sort of Gay Crisis, or something. You disappointed me."

"'Kay," Dean says. He takes one last look at Cas' back, the lean muscles shifting underneath. How he's curled around the other Dean. How his hand rests over his heart. Says, "I guess I'll see this soon enough, then."

This'll be mine, he thinks.


00 christmas day (again).


Gabriel's gone.

Dean's still wearing shiny pink Converse. He frowns at them.

There's mistletoe on the counter.


*


First thing he does is find Sam. Sam's still pretty drunk. Wakes up flapping his hands. "Wha's wrong?"

"Nothing," Dean says. "I just wanted to say hi, Sammy. Hi."

"Uh, hi," Sam says suspiciously.

Dean's grin is huge.

"Oh God, you found Bobby's whiskey, didn't you? Oh, fuck, Dean."

"Sober as a... sober thing." Dean frowns. That was lame. "I just... wanted to see you, I guess."

"Why?"

"Let's just say, I think things are looking up for us."

"Are you stoned?"

"Go back to sleep, princess," Dean says, ruffling Sam's hair. "I'll explain in the morning."

"Asshole," he hears Sam says, as he leave the room.

Dean smiles to himself. He takes out his cell.


*


Castiel is wearing his stupid trench coat, with his stupid ruffled hair, and stupid empty expression, and Dean's ridiculously glad to see him.

"Hey," he says.

"Hello?"

"One day, you'll just say hi. And smile."

Castiel frowns. Tilts his head to the side.

Dean shakes his head fondly.

He looks up at the sprig of mistletoe he taped above their heads. Says, "See, thing is, I like you. I really like you. And, you. Well, you like me, too. Or, you will, at least. Trust me."

Castiel stares.

"You do," says Dean defensively. His resolve feels a little cheap. "Just. Don't poof away, okay. Stick around."

Castiel frowns at the mistletoe, then looks up at Dean, expression soft and only a little confused.

Dean continues with, "I got this from a, um... friend, I guess. Y'know, for Christmas. Figured we could, uh, try it out."

"You and I. Kiss."

"Yeah," Dean breathes. "That's what you do with mistletoe."

Castiel leans forward a little, so his face is just there. Breath warm and wet against Dean's face. He says, "I would like that."

"Good," Dean says.

"Merry Christmas, Dean."

"Merry Christmas," Dean says, before he touches his lips to Castiel's, just the tiniest amount. It's as good as he hoped; better, maybe. He knows why he'll fall for Cas, and hard. He nips at Castiel's bottom lip. It's all Castiel needs to step forward, right up in Dean's personal space, in his bubble, and Dean likes it. Digs his fingers into the warmth of Castiel's sides. Presses light kisses over his lips, peppers his face with them; is delighted when Castiel does the same.

"That your first real kiss?"

Castiel nods, a little breathless.

Dean is his first; is gonna be his first. "I'm gonna introduce you to so much stuff, man."

Castiel brings Dean's head down with a hand tickling the soft hairs at the back of his neck. Presses their foreheads together, and lets Dean just breathe against his face. He's shaking.

"I'm sorry I left," Castiel murmurs against Dean's neck. "I... panicked."

"S'okay. We're gonna win this war, you know. We're gonna do good," Dean says, voice low and soft. Firm and sure. "And sometime, Imma maybe make a declaration of some magnitude. And I'm maybe gonna do bad stuff to your body. And maybe I'm gonna be good to you in so many ways. Imma be good for you, I fucking swear."

It feels a little like Castiel smiles against his cheek. "Mostly, I don't understand what you say, Dean," he says.

Dean snorts.

"I like you anyway," Castiel says.

Dean sighs, content. Tomorrow will be a new day, and they'll be there. The future will be a little brighter.

And, if Gabriel does ever give him the world, he thinks, maybe he's gonna give it to Castiel.


-- fin.

Comments

( 41 comments — Leave a comment )
ember_firedrake
Dec. 22nd, 2009 04:51 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, Secret Santa! I really enjoyed this. I love that you worked the Trickster into the story, and the banter you wrote between him and Dean was just fantastic. Also, yay for including John!...sort of ;)

Some of my favorite parts:

-"I broke him."
This broke my heart a little, especially when Dean repeated it the second time.

-"If it were a sketchy B-movie, he'd be wondering how long till Dean throws Cas on the table and just fucking gives it to him."
XD Or...you know...if it were fanfiction ;)

-"Like I said. Everywhere's closed Christmas Day. Figured I'd fuck with the Potential Saviour of the World instead."
Oh, Gabriel...never change. :)

-That entire future scene with Dean and Cas and the wrist kissing and past Dean watching! It was so intimate and sweet while also being really hot.

-"And, if Gabriel does ever give him the world, he thinks, maybe he's gonna give it to Castiel."
*sigh* Awww...this was just too good for words.

Thank you!
mulder200
Dec. 22nd, 2009 06:50 am (UTC)
What an interesting twist on this classic tale and I love Gabe with all his snarkiness.
thevinegarworks
Dec. 22nd, 2009 10:15 am (UTC)
I really can't even say how much I loved this. ♥
xmarie08
Dec. 22nd, 2009 01:05 pm (UTC)
Love this! Gabriel is awesome as always. And that sex scene... wow. It's so hot but also very real and intimate.
aescu
Dec. 22nd, 2009 01:50 pm (UTC)
Oh Gabriel! :)
I could so picture him doing these things.
I love all the scenes from S4 and S5 you described and how Dean reacted to rewatching them :)
inksheddings
Dec. 22nd, 2009 03:39 pm (UTC)
Okay, I'm officially a puddle of goo for this fic. A PUDDLE OF GOO. Hee. Really, I enjoyed this so very much.
juwel_fic
Dec. 22nd, 2009 07:26 pm (UTC)
This was a great concept and twist on the tale! Love especially the future with the sex scene and Dean's reactions to watching Cas in pleasure there.

Also loved the Trickster of course--particularly in his Dad mode, lol

Perfect fic for Christmas!
wolfrider89
Dec. 22nd, 2009 09:12 pm (UTC)
Um yeah, words seem a bit inadequate right now, but I'll give it a try. This was amazing, and just so awesome! Loved the whole Dean realizing how he felt and watching all the moments throughout the seasons thing. The ending was great! Lots of love for this one! :D
spacefragments
Dec. 22nd, 2009 11:47 pm (UTC)
*flails quietly*

i really, really loved this.
a_carnal_mink
Dec. 23rd, 2009 01:24 am (UTC)

Probably the best fic I've read in this fest yet! :)

Great take on it. Gabe completely rocked.

Good things do happen, Dean...
bauble
Dec. 23rd, 2009 02:51 am (UTC)
This is so darling. I thought you executed the conceit well with Trickster, I love that you snuck in relationship!sex, and Dean and Castiel are just so sweet on each other. I loved it.

Also, this line made me lol: "That's not outside my bubble. That's way inside my bubble. I explained all about the freaking bubbles. I have my bubble, you have your bubble, he has his bubble. We stay out of each other's bubbles."
juanitatequila
Dec. 23rd, 2009 03:17 am (UTC)
YOU GO GABRIEL!!!

&& him using Ruby's image for the ~future~ segment...LOL FOREVER!!

This fic is just so warm and fuzzy and IT JUST LEFT ME SPEECHLESS. :')! <3
bold_seer
Dec. 23rd, 2009 09:42 am (UTC)
THIS IS BRILLIANT AND CAPSLOCK-WORTHY! <3
kitchensexslave
Dec. 24th, 2009 12:36 am (UTC)
This is exactly what A Christmas Carol has been lacking all these years - hot sex and Heaven's funniest archangel.
yellowhorde
Dec. 24th, 2009 01:51 pm (UTC)
This was very entertaining!
lattimore
Dec. 24th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
This was so funny and sweet and adorable - I loved it :)
blue_flame88
Dec. 27th, 2009 02:45 am (UTC)
Oh, Oh, Oh this is just all kinds of wonderful! :)


darksylvia
Dec. 29th, 2009 06:11 am (UTC)
THIS IS SO HOT AND AWESOME :D
timey_wimey_kid
Jan. 1st, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC)
OMG this is amazing.

GABRIEL. GABRIEL IS BEYOND AWESOME AND I LOVE HIM SFM.
ibroketuesday
Jan. 2nd, 2010 03:12 am (UTC)
This is so sweet, and so funny. I love the little lines and details: Castiel having the social skills of a broom, Dean's protective reaction watching the scene with Alastair, and him noting that Castiel is just a beam of light, lolol.
mf_luder_xf
Jan. 4th, 2010 06:51 am (UTC)
Oh, oh, that last line. ♥

I loved this. Beautiful and sweet and Gabriel and Dean's banter was spot on.
littlehollyleaf
Jan. 9th, 2010 06:20 pm (UTC)
God, this was brilliant in so many ways. Gabriel was SPOT ON, I can completely see him doing and saying everything here in the actual show. The Dean/Cas jumps effortlessly from sweet to hot, also in character. And that vision of the future made me so happy. Seriously, I've been squeeing over it all day. It just feels so right. Not a victory, but vision of hope and family, with Gabriel included in that family.

...and really, the future sex was very, very hot. REALLY :p The lack of specific detail totally made it more arousing engaging. So... yes...

Wonderful stuff, thanks for sharing :D
rageprufrock
Jan. 10th, 2010 07:26 am (UTC)
Oh my gosh, that last line is so delightful I made little fists and shook them in delight.
chookybakker
Jan. 26th, 2010 09:29 am (UTC)
OMFG! ahhhhhh! AWESOME.
AHHHHHHH!!!


Love you!! *hugs fic to chest, shows fic to random passer-by's, squees at them, scares them, dances*



So much about this was awesome. I can't even begin.

Your Trickster was freakin' BRILLIANT. mwahahah. Dean just wouldnt take a hint... mwahahah. eeeeeeheeheehee.

Sorry. Giddy. Slightly very stupidly joyful at the moment. It's you!induced, so its not my fault.

:D!!!

Keep up the awesome! *thumbs up, runs away*
twoskeletons
Jan. 27th, 2010 02:33 am (UTC)
Aww, cute! I love this tour through Dean and Cas's Greatest Hits.
greenlily
Jan. 31st, 2010 05:10 am (UTC)
Dean knows you can sleep through Christmas, because he's done it for lack of anything else to do on Christmas. That is unspeakably sad, and I would like the Universe to arrange it so that it never has to happen again. Which, of course, if your story's true, is exactly what happens. :)

Trickster!!!! I love the Trickster working so hard to get Dean to watch his slashy, slashy past and get a clue already. :) Gabriel and Sam both wanting the best for their completely hopelessly clueless brothers will never not be awesome.

Dean has a Phil-Collins-and-celery place in his brain! brb, dying of giggle.
pinkpapyrus
Mar. 14th, 2010 09:43 pm (UTC)
May I live in your head? I realize it must be cramped what with all the awesome already in residence there, but I had to ask. Because for the love of all that is good and sexy that was so incredibly amazing. I think you made me love Gabriel more. When I'm reading good!fic, I'll usually see a line or exchange that jumps out at me and I'll use that for my del.icio.us records. This time I was torn between:

He's really determined to save me, Dean thinks.

"Oh, you picked up on that," Gabriel says, voice dripping with sarcasm. "Took you long enough."

He notices little things he's never taken the time to before. Like how pale and narrow Castiel's wrists are, and how much he's changed. How much he is not the thing that walked into the barn and said, I'm and Angel of the Lord. He's just Cas. Dean's friend Cas.

"I don't think about wrapping my friends' hair through my fingers."

"You don't have any fucking friends," Dean snaps.


and:

"That was good, with the whoopee cushion," Gabriel says, laughing.

"I thought you'd like that one, somehow."


and:

"Even Bobby gets freaking vibes off you guys," Gabriel says. Jess' face looks all giddy with excitement.

"He still has my necklace," Dean says. "I want that shit back."


AND:

"Comfy?"

"Yeah," Cas says, sounding tired.

"Thank fuck."


You have a killer knack for their voices, lady. Please tell me there's more of this fabulous stuff lying around somewhere. We needs it, precious. We needs it.

I love when Gabriel's written well, but this is just stupidly well done. The Carol plot device has been done to death, but you pulled it off spectacularly, and that's really telling of how truly good this is.

Basically, awesome job, and I love you a little bit right now.
sheron
Apr. 13th, 2010 12:17 am (UTC)
This was awesome. Had me grinning from about half way through, and till the end. I'm still wearing a big stupid grin because of how your story made me feel :)
tarmenel
Apr. 27th, 2010 02:39 am (UTC)
Oh. My. God. This is so fucking brilliant. Oh my god. OH MY GOD. I can't even. What. Oh goodness. READ GOOD FIC = MY BRAIN MUSH. I don't even know. ♥ Holy shit.

THIS IS SO BEAUTIFUL. D:
stfu_pwentzz
Jul. 28th, 2010 03:37 pm (UTC)
I just wanted you to know this has to be one of my favorite stories in fandom. Seriously, I love it :)
slashluvrrina
Feb. 8th, 2011 02:43 pm (UTC)
Loved Gabriel. Loved Dean. Loved Castiel. Loved that whole damn story, you did a great job, thank you! :D
disterra
Mar. 17th, 2011 05:36 pm (UTC)
I love this! I can't even explain it... the writing style is quite different (in a good way) to me, like I haven't read anything presented this way. It's a bit vague but I enjoy how it is very much. It was so entertaining all throughout and I think the dialog & characterizations are made of so much win. I adore your Dean a lot. And Gabe was funny and so cute as usual~. Imagining John Winchester in the parts where Gabe took his form were both a bit creepy and incredibly hilarious! xD
I love the whole plot and my favorite part has got to be the part where Dean watches their future selves loving each other, all the way to the last line. I LOVE that last line!

Great fic! Goes straight to my Memories and favorites!
anutty1
Jun. 10th, 2011 05:38 am (UTC)
This was absolutely fantastic! Thank you for the great read!
elitesiren
Sep. 21st, 2011 06:21 pm (UTC)
I loved it! The last line almost made me tear up. The Gabriel banter also made the fic stand out for me.
tess4
Dec. 1st, 2011 03:43 pm (UTC)
Nice fic.
Past!Dean watching Dean and Cas was kinky and hot :)
thoughtsickles
Dec. 27th, 2011 05:07 am (UTC)
This just made my Christmas! so much to love in this. Your human!Cas is exactly how I imagine human!Cas to be, all snarky and adorable. Dean's slow realization of his feelings is beautiful.

And that last scene--
"S'okay. We're gonna win this war, you know. We're gonna do good," Dean says, voice low and soft. Firm and sure. "And sometime, Imma maybe make a declaration of some magnitude. And I'm maybe gonna do bad stuff to your body. And maybe I'm gonna be good to you in so many ways. Imma be good for you, I fucking swear."

I may have let out a squeal of joy.

Fantastic fic.
devilishaurora
Jan. 3rd, 2012 06:38 pm (UTC)
Amazing! The future scene was great! The intimacy was so touching.
Gabriel was as hilarious as always and the ending was emotional.
orange_8_hands
Feb. 12th, 2012 06:09 am (UTC)
That was so awesome!

Favorite part:

He wonders, vaguely, somewhere in the back of his mind, in that dark place where he's sort of fond of a couple Phil Collins songs and he thinks celery isn't actually that bad, if he and Castiel always look like it's either fight or fuck. It all looks pretty intense from where he's sitting. If he didn't know where it all lead, he'd be kinda riveted.

If it were a sketchy B-movie, he'd be wondering how long till Dean throws Cas on the table and just fucking gives it to him.


gabs186
Jun. 27th, 2012 04:59 pm (UTC)
Oh man, this is so, so spectacular. I LOVE Gabriel in this, and the many facades of Dean and Castiel's relationship through past, present and future. That scene in the future made my heart cartwheel :) And Dean! Taping mistletoe to the ceiling, hee! An absolutely wonderful story.
orange_8_hands
Sep. 17th, 2013 07:30 am (UTC)
That was a good feeling. Are you feeling good? Because I am. That was wonderful.
thette
Dec. 30th, 2013 04:06 pm (UTC)
Absolutely adorable!

I liked the Dalek joke.
( 41 comments — Leave a comment )