It's the middle of the end of the world and the kid wants a Christmas tree.
Not just any Christmas tree.
Jesse wants a real Christmas tree.
"A real one," Jesse insists, eying Gabriel. "That we go out and chop down ourselves."
Gabriel pouts. "But my trees are the best," he protests. "And the biggest."
Sam elbows him.
Jesse shakes his head. "A real tree, Gabriel, not a made up one."
Dean laughs at Gabriel's expression. Then Bobby slaps him on the back. "Well, son, better get your ax out. You've got some tree hunting to do."
"Are you sure you want to chop down our own tree?" he asks Jesse.
Jesse nods. "Yeah, that's how you get the perfect tree."
Dean wants to explain to him that there isn't really a perfect tree, because he doesn't want Jesse disappointed, but then Cas gives him that look. The one that says 'do what he has asked'. The one Dean doesn't argue with because Cas seems to glean on to the important stuff for Jesse faster than Dean does at time.
If Cas thinks a hike in the wood and cutting down some pine tree is one the important things, then it is.
"Okay, we'll cut down our own tree," Dean agrees. "Cas, you coming?"
Jesse turns his hopeful eyes to his other adoptive parent.
Cas doesn't even hesitate. "Of course."
So it’s decided. They're cutting down a real live Christmas tree. Something Dean's never done before in his life.
He doesn't have a clue how to go about it, but Jesse seems to think Dean knows what he's doing.
"You just chop it down at the trunk," Bobby tells him, like he's the mind reader. He does lend Dean an ax.
"I can't do worse than Charlie Brown," Dean jokes.
Bobby rolls his eyes. "The point is you going out and doing this with him, not what the tree looks like," he tells Dean. He almost looks sad for a moment.
Dean shakes the moment off.
"I can come, too, if you want," Sam offers.
"Nah, stay here and make sure Gabe doesn't snap up more ornaments than will fit on one tree," Dean tells his brother, eying the innocent way Gabriel stands in the back ground.
Sam laughs. "We're using old ones Bobby has in the attic."
Somehow it never occurred to Dean that Bobby had ornaments or normal things like that. Bobby was normal once. It's a thought that doesn't sit completely right, so he heads into the hall where Jesse is putting on his winter coat.
Cas makes sure Jesse is bundled up properly.
Jesse pulls at his scarf and makes imploring eyes at Dean.
Dean sighs. "Cas, this isn't the arctic."
"Children become ill easily, Dean," he says earnestly.
"Alright," Dean says, giving in. Cas is right, powers or not, Jesse is still a kid. And to Cas, Jesse is even more fragile than Dean.
Jesse pouts. "But it's too warm and itchy," he complains.
"It won't be when we get out there," Dean tells him. "Not quit your lip and listen to Cas."
He sits the ax down and pulls on his own coat and gloves.
They head out into the yard and towards an old truck. No way, not even for Jesse, is Dean strapping a tree to the roof of the Impala.
Jesse sits pressed in between Dean and Cas. His eyes are bright and excited. "Gabriel says we'll put a star on the top of the tree instead of an angel."
Dean chuckles. "Well, having an angel up there might make Cas and Gabe a bit uncomfortable."
"Why?" Jesse asks.
"It's irreverent," Cas says almost primly.
Dean's just grateful for the save and that Jesse simply nods and says, "Oh."
The get to the strip of wood Bobby says isn't owned by anyone that would care and he parks the truck. "Okay, troops, out we go."
Jesse holds his hand as they look. Tugging him to one tree after another, deeming each one flawed in someway.
Cas trails behind them, looking way too pleased to be out in the snow and the dark.
"This one!" Jesse finally declares, pointing his flash light at the tree. "This is the perfect tree."
It’s a good looking tree. Not too big, but not tiny either. Dean would almost agree that it is the perfect tree. Now to cut it down and get it back to the truck.
“Okay, stand back and let me cut her down,” Dean tells Jesse. He expects the boy to suddenly protest about cutting it down.
Jesse doesn’t protest, though, much to Dean relief. He just stands back with Cas, looking eager. “Can I take a swing?” Jesse asks, after Dean takes a few whacks at the trunk.
Dean’s first thought is to say no, that Jesse’s too young, but --
“Okay, c’mere,” Dean says. He stands behind Jesse, positioning his hands. “Just take a good solid swing, let the weight of the ax do the work for you.”
He remembers Bobby showing him how to cut wood. Giving him some of the same advice.
Dean steps back and lets Jesse take his swing. It’s a bit off center and he fights the momentum of the ax a bit too much, but Dean didn’t learn in one swing either. “Good job, Jesse,” Dean says, patting his shoulder. “You should offer to help Bobby cut the wood for the fire.”
Jesse’s face lights up. “You think he’ll let me?”
Dean chuckles. “I think he’ll be more than happy to have your help,” he assures him.
“Bobby enjoys your presence,” Cas chimes in.
He takes the last swing at the trunk of the tree and down she falls.
“Ready to help carry the tree back, Cas?” Dean asks.
Cas nods. “I could carry the tree back myself, if you wish.”
Jesse shakes his head. “No, let’s all do it. We shouldn’t waste our powers, right?” he looks up at Cas.
Cas gives Jesse one of his rare full smiles. Jesse earns them the most. “That’s right. Just because we have the power to do certain things doesn’t mean we should.”
Dean sort of wishes Cas hadn’t needed to learn that lesson, but if he’s honest he likes this Cas better than the one that threatened to throw him back to Hell.
As they carry the tree back, Jesse hums “Jingle Bells” under his breath for a while. “Dean?”
“Can I call Bobby granddad?” Jesse asks. “You think he’d be okay with it?”
For a moment Dean’s lost as to what to say.
Cas saves him. “I think Bobby would be honored to have you call him that.”
Dean nods in agreement. It might even make Bobby get something in his eyes. “I think he’d be proud to have you for a grandson,” Dean says softly. He wants to tell Jesse he’s proud to have him as a son, but the words get stuck in his throat. He’s never been good at speaking his feeling, even when he wants to.
They get the tree back to the truck and Dean jumps in back to tie it down.
“Yeah, we’ve got a tree,” Jesse’s saying into Cas’ cell phone. “It’s huge!”
“Not that huge,” Dean yells.
Jesse gives him a look. “I think it’s big. Yeah, candy canes will be perfect. Can we make popcorn strings?”
“Gabriel?” Dean asks Cas.
Cas nods. “He wanted to make sure to have hot chocolate waiting for Jesse if we were done.”
Dean grins. Gabriel is fond of Jesse. Which Dean likes because it’s more protection the kid has.
“Dean, Gabriel wants to know if you want grownup hot chocolate?”
“Is Sam having any?” Dean asks.
“Is Sam having any?” Jesse echos into the phone.
Jesse looks back at Dean. “He says yes. Granddad too.”
“Yeah, I guess I’ll have some,” Dean tells him.
Jesse’s attention goes back to the phone. Dean slings an arm around Cas’ waist. “This is going to be your first Christmas, huh?”
“Dean, I’ve been alive --”
“I mean here on Earth, celebrating it human style,” Dean adds.
Cas leans into Dean, a warm weight against his side despite the cold. “It will be. I look forward to it.”
“I’m going to have to put up mistletoe,” Dean chuckles.
Cas tilts his head to the side. “Why?”
“So I can do this, anytime I want,” he says and leans in to steal a kiss.
Cas lips are dry and warm. He runs his tongue over Cas‘ bottom lip before drawing back.
“You can do that anytime you want, without mistletoe,” Cas points out.
“True, but --”
“Are you two done being gross?” Jesse asks, arms folded.
Dean laughs. “For now.”
Jesse makes a face.
“It’s a sign that we love each other,” Cas tells Jesse.
“It’s still gross,” Jesse protests and climbs into the truck.
Dean thumps his forehead against Cas’. “It’s the age, I think. C’mon let’s get home.”
Jesse talks about how they’re going to decorate the tree on the way home. “Lots of tinsel,” he says. “Unless you think Rumfield will eat it?”
“I think that is a question for Bobby,” Cas tells him.
Dean listens to the talk and, not for the first time, is so damn grateful for them both. The world’s going to hell, but he has Cas and Jesse. He’ll always have Sam and Bobby -- Bobby’s like a dad to him.
He never thought he’d get to be a dad or have a lover - a partner - for more than a few days. He’s got both in the truck with him right now and it’s worth everything. Even if they don’t save the world, he’s had this.
When the pull back into Bobby’s, Dean puts a hand on Jesse’s shoulder. “Hey, Jesse, you know I love you, right?”
Jesse gives him a strange look. “I know.”
“I just -- “ Dean sighs and pulls him into a quick hug. “Just thought it needed saying.”
“I love you too, Dean,” Jesse whispers.
“You two going to stand out there in the cold all night?” Bobby yells out at them. He stands in the doorway with Cas. He’s smiling.
Dean laughs. “Tell Sam to get his ass out here and help with this tree.”
By the time Dean and Sam get the tree inside and set up, Jesse is settled in with a cup of hot chocolate and cookies. There’s a bowl of popcorn between him and Gabriel on the couch. The archangel is methodically threading popcorn to make garland.
Dean swears those angels spoil Jesse more than him and Sam.
There are boxes or ornaments and Dean doesn’t know where they’re going to start.
“Granddad?” Jesse asks. “Should we put the star on first?”
The room goes quiet for a moment. Bobby looks shocked, then --
He blinks rapidly and manages a smile. “That sounds like a plan to me.”
Gabriel reaches over and ruffles Jesse’s hair. “Get Sam to put it on, he won’t even need a ladder.”
Jesse laughs. Dean chuckles. “He’s got a point there, Sammy.”
Sam rolls his eyes, but hunts through the boxes for the star.
The star is the easiest thing to go on.
The lights are a production. Gabriel keeps wrapping Sam up.
“He’s so tall, I keep getting mixed up!” the archangel protests laughingly.
Cas and Bobby have a small civil argument over colored versus white lights. Which Jesse ends by declaring ALL the lights will go on the tree.
In the end it’s the most well lit tree in the state. Or so Gabriel claims.
Tinsel is out; Bobby says it’s not good for dogs and dogs tend to eat it. “They’re idjits like that,” Bobby sighs.
On goes the popcorn garland that Gabriel made most of, though Jesse helped.
Then the ornaments. There are old ones that Bobby’s had in the attic for years. “Some of these were my grandmother’s,” Bobby tells Jesse.
Most of them are glass and very fragile.
Jesse handles them very carefully. Almost reverently.
Then come the new ones. Some Dean and Sam bought at the drug store, others Gabriel snapped up.
There are trains, balls, Star Wars ornaments, a little plastic Enterprise, and a single snow baby Frosty the Snowman ornament Cas had bought for Jesse when they went to the mall Christmas shopping.
Then they settle in around the tiny TV and watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Jesse is asleep half way through it. Dean waits until the end of the program, then picks him up and carries him up to his bedroom.
“Is it over?” Jesse mumbles into Dean’s shirt.
“Yeah, we can watch it again, don’t worry. Bobby recorded it,” Dean tells him.
Jesse nods sleepily. He lets Dean help him into his PJs and then tuck him in.
Cas comes up to say good night as well. He kisses Jesse’s forehead. “You did a fine job with the tree.”
“Thanks, Cas,” Jesse smiles.
Dean ruffles his hair. “Sleep tight, buddy.”
As they leave the room Dean twines his fingers with Cas’. “Tonight was good.”
“It was,” Cas agrees.
The living room is empty when they get back downstairs. “The tree is kinda pretty,” Dean admits as they stand admiring it.
Cas squeezes Dean’s hand. “I believe we decorated this tree very well.”
“Even with Gabe’s help,” Dean chuckles.
Cas’ laugh is soft. He leans closer to Dean, resting his head on Dean’s shoulder.
Dean rests his head against Cas’ and watches the way the lights on the tree twinkle. It -- warms something in him. Something he didn’t know was cold.
“Cas, you know I -- “ the words stick and he holds onto Cas tighter.
Cas holds on right back. “I know.”
They stand in the darkness lit up by the tree for a long while, simply being.