Cas can barely finish reading the last sentence before Maya turns the page, eager to find out how the story will end. She doesn’t let him continue, though. She leans forward to point to the winged and haloed figure hovering in the corner on the page.
“Do all angels have white dresses, papa?” she asks, turning her head to him.
“Uh—” Cas bites his lower lip, struggling to come up with a proper answer under her expectant stare. “No,” he decides, finally. “No, not all of them. Only those that like white dresses.”
Maya raises her hands. “But they aaaaaalways do!” she says, frustrated.
Cas narrows eyes at her, trying to figure out what the “always” refers to. As she shifts on top of his knees, he shuts the book around his index finger to– Oh, of course.
“Do you mean angels in your books?”
“Yes! And in television!” she explains. “And—and on a Christmas tree!”
“Christmas tree?” Cas repeats. “On television?”
“In Veronica’s house,” she corrects. “It’s so big—” she throws her hands up above her head, nearly punching Cas’s nose in the process—”up to the ceiling! And there’s a star on the top—a gold star and angels in white dresses and little lights. It’s sooo pretty!”
“I’m sure it is,” Cas says, using the occasion to change the topic. Explaining angels, and other creatures that to children and most people are fairy tales, without outright lying, is a balancing act that Cas is not very skilled at. “What color are the lights?”
“All colors,” Maya says, jumping off her papa’s knees. “Blue and red and yellow and they twinkle like this—” she opens and closes her palms and eyelids for the most accurate portrayal of twinkling Christmas lights—”and then faster!”
She involves her skipping feet and her head bobbing up and down in her presentation. Losing her balance, she sways to the side. Cas’s arms shoot forward and lock around her to ensure she doesn’t fall. As if encouraged, Maya starts jumping around, swinging to the sides, until Cas scoops her off her feet. He pulls her in, buries her face in her neck and leaves tickling kisses, drawing a salve of squeaky laughter from her mouth.
It takes her a moment to calm down and sit straight in Cas’s lap, but when she does, she doesn’t call for the book Cas abandoned beside him on the couch. Instead, she turns to him, head cocked to the side.
“Can we have a Christmas tree too?” she pleads with a sweet grin.
Cas sucks in a breath, but before he can say anything, the front door swings open and rattles shut.
“Dean!” Cas raises his voice, only slightly. He doesn’t have a heart to scold Dean for slamming the door when it’s the door that saved him from making up another awkward answer.
“Sorry!” comes a rasp from the entrance and Dean storms into the living room, snow falling off his shoulders and to the carpet.
His movements are sharp, steps rushed but firm on the floor. He’s anxious or angry, either way, it’s more than enough to alert Cas; his body tenses, hold tightens around Maya’s small form.
“What’s going on?”
Dean stops in his tracks, turns to them, hands thrown to the sides.
“Oh, I’m gonna tell you what’s going on,” he starts, tipping his chin.
All of the tension escapes Cas at once. Dean’s angry, yes, pissed, even. But Cas knows this tone too well and he knows what’s coming next.
“Fudging Deborah,” Dean blurts out, resuming his pace. “We respect all traditions and religions,” he raises his voice in the mockery of their neighbor, his index finger shoots up, “or lack thereof, but—” Dean trails off as he reaches the commode. “Where are the car keys?”
“In the kitchen, I think,” Cas supplies. “Dean, where do y—”
“But don’t you think,” he continues in the high-pitched tone, “that your beautiful house looks a little sad without—” his fingers bend into airquotes—”holiday lights.”
“Holiday lights?” Cas echoes, smirking. He can never help but find Dean’s overreacting greatly endearing. Even if it tends to provide Cas with his monthly dose of adrenaline within seconds. “Please, tell me you’re not going to sabotage her Santa.”
“Not Santa!” Maya supports him with a pout.
“She can have her Santa,” Dean assures, as he returns to the living room, car keys jingling in his palm. “And her sled and her reindeer. I’m just gonna put up a few—holiday lights and shame her Santa back to the North Pole.”
“I’m not sure that’s where they’re from,” Cas mutters, but Dean ignores him and leaves the room. “Wait a second, baby,” Cas says to Maya, sitting her on the couch.
He follows Dean to the door, finds him crouching and doing up his boots.
“Do you think you can still buy a Christmas tree somewhere?”
“Uh– yeah, sure. Didn’t know you wanted—”
“Maya asked about it.”
“So we’re doing it, huh?” Dean stands up. “Mistletoe and wine, the whole gig?”
Cas’s eyebrows snap together. “I never mentioned either of these things.”
Dean chuckles, reaching for the knob. “Okay, I’ll go on a grocery run first, then buy the decorations. Might take me a few hours, you’ll be alright?”
“Of course,” Cas replies. He stops Dean before he steps outside. “Just, please, don’t spend all of our savings on useless decorations.”
“Dean,” Cas says firmer.
“Kidding, kidding, I won’t,” he promises, lips pressed to Cas’s. “Hey, by the way, have you seen all this snow? If it keeps up you could finally go make those snow angels tomorrow.”
Cas looks outside at the snow dusting the driveway. He can’t hold back a twist of his lips at the thought of the cold pulp creeping under the hem of his jacket, behind the collar, the frost biting his skin ‘til his nose and cheeks turn red and numb.
“Yeah, it’s gonna be fun.”
“The lights now?” Maya asks when the last of the big, red ornaments hangs on the tree.
Cas, sitting cross-legged on the floor, reaches for the last bag. “I think so.”
The girl jumps with excitement, awaiting her papa to pull the strings of colorful lights out.
“There should be one more–” Dean begins and cuts when Cas pulls out the right box, made of see-through plastic, presenting a garrison of crocheted angels laid out in neat rows. “This one.”
Cas narrows his eyes accusingly at the little figurines with their butterfly-like wings and their pristine, white dresses. Oh, Dean.
“Come on, open it,” Maya hurries him, impatient, trying to take a peek over his shoulder. As soon as Cas pulls the first angel out, hung by a silver thread attached to its head, she moans. “Ahhhh, I told you, papa!”
“Told you what?” Dean’s eyebrows lift as he glances from Maya to Cas and back. “Something wrong with them?”
“Angels aaaalways have white dresses!” Maya explains, turning to Dean. “Papa says that angels not all wear only white dresses, but they do!” She pulls the angel from between Cas’s fingers to present the exhibit A.
Both Cas and Maya watch Dean carefully, as he takes the angel from the girl’s hand and brings it close to his face to examine it in detail. He turns the ornament around, brushes the hems of the dress, flicks the wings with the tip of his finger.
“Hmm, this can’t be right,” he decides, finally. “Angels don’t always wear white dresses,” he says, with an emphasis on always, then his playful eyes flick up to Cas’s. “Some only ever wear oversized coats and skewed ties,” he jokes. All it gains him is a scowl from Cas and a questioning squint from Maya. “Let’s see,” he continues, unperturbed. “They have white dresses when they go on a Christmas tree?”
“Yes,” the girl replies. “And in the books.”
“And in the books,” Dean repeats, tapping a finger on his chin. “Well, I think the angels wear white dresses when they want to look nice and festive.”
“They do?” Maya questions and ponders on it for a moment, but then her face brightens. “Like auntie Jenny on the wedding?”
“Yes! Exactly like auntie Jenny on the wedding,” Dean confirms.
“And you,” Cas supplies, relieved that Dean’s explanation worked so well. “You had a pretty dress too, didn’t you?”
The girl grins. “I did.”
Dean hands the angel back to Maya. “Okay, go hang this one on the tree.”
When the girl moves toward the tree to place the ornament on an empty branch, Cas pushes himself closer to Dean on the fluffy carpet.
“Thank you,” he mutters, leaning against his shoulder. “You have to teach me this—talking your way out of trouble.”
“Cas, I’ve been trying to do that for the last decade,” he says.
Cas pokes him with an elbow to his side for that, but Dean just chuckles. They sit there for a while, Cas’s head resting on Dean’s shoulder, Dean’s arm around him. They watch Maya push the silver loops on the lower branches and bounce at each success. Quickly she runs out of free branches low enough for her to reach and Cas springs up to help her.
“You guys keep at it and I’ll go finish putting the lights up,” Dean says, also getting up.
“We’re almost done, Dean,” Cas says, trying to stop him, for Maya’s sake rather than his own. “I could use your help with the lights and tinsel.”
Cas is fine indulging Dean’s new obsession with beating Deborah at the non-existent Christmas home decoration contest. It’s quite hilarious to watch as he rolls out bounds of Christmas lights, wraps their wires around their trees and bushes, along the driveway and all over the porch, changing the concept every now and then and administrating a complete rearrangement just to get back to the previous idea. All with total seriousness and determination painted on his face.
But he’s been working on it since the very morning—it’s a miracle Cas even managed to drag him inside for this long. He can spare a few more minutes to lift Maya up as she puts the shining, golden star on top of the tree.
“Okay—” Dean glances at the clock—”but we’ve gotta hurry, I’ve only a few hours ‘til it’s dark.”
Cas throws a bunch of angels at Dean. “Get working, then.”
The thick, woolen hat slips down on Cas’s eyes when he tries to look up at Dean. The man is sitting on the rooftop—slippery, for sure—attaching the lights in some intricate pattern Cas can only hope is not anything vulgar.
“Can I go so high like daddy?” Maya chirps, her voice a little muffled through the scarf.
“You most definitely cannot, honey,” Cas answers, patting the pompom on the top of her head. He turns to Dean, pulling the hat up. “This isn’t worth breaking your neck, Dean,” he pleads.
“Chill, Cas, I won’t fall down,” Dean calls back. “I’m almost finished.”
Cas gives out a resigned sigh. “You better not!” he replies and quieter he adds, “I can’t catch you if you do.”
He’s not sure Dean heard the last part. He gets a thumb up from the man whom he’d rather see use that hand to secure himself.
“Do you need my help?” he asks.
“Yeah, sure, climb up here.”
“Uh—” Cas pauses, regretting his offer. He darts his eyes to the ladder and down to Maya who—is no longer by his side.
He sweeps over the garden, looking for the pink of Maya's snowsuit. He finds her treading through the snow reaching almost to her knees, searching for a perfect place to make a snow angel.
“Maya, come back here, I have to help daddy,” Cas calls after her.
Dean’s chuckle carries all the way down. “I was joking. Hold the ladder. I'll just put a few more of these in—”
He trails off and returns to his work. When he’s done, Cas grabs the ladder firmly with both hands, watches Dean's every step, the pink blob bounces impatiently in the periphery of his vision.
It's only at the very end, when Dean’s foot lands on the ground, that it slides on the slippery snow. But Cas’s hand is there to grab him by the jacket, the strong yank pulls him right into Cas's arms.
“You caught me, after all.” Dean grins and the frigid air is the only thing that stops Cas from kissing that grin off his face. “We can light it up soon,” he decides, glancing at the ashen sky.
“Come ooon!” Maya says, tugging Dean’s sleeve.
“Go on, baby,” Dean encourages, leading her toward the fresh, untouched snow.
“Wait!” Cas crouches and pulls the hood on Maya head. “Okay, now. Fall back, hop!”
“Bam!” She giggles as she drops down on the white down.
Her fathers watch her wave her legs and hands, angels wings spread on both her sides. Cas helps her get up without ruining the imprint in the snow.
“It’s real pretty, isn’t it,” Dean says as Cas puts the girl down, he wraps his arm around Cas’s middle. “Your turn, babe.”
“Oh no, I’m not doing that,” Cas protests, setting his feet firmly on the ground, feeling Dean’s push. “Dean, stop.”
“Come on, you’ll make an awesome angel,” Dean cajoles, though his ongoing attempt to take Cas down undermines his sweet tone.
Cas puts up a good fight. “Been there, done that,” he replies, a self-complacent smirk playing on his lips. “Why don’t you try now?”
He uses Dean’s moment of hesitation when he’s recovering from the quick risposte. It’s not a clean move, cutting Dean down with his foot.
A gaps rips out of Dean’s throw as his tumbles into the snow. Cas’s attempt at slowing his fall fails, as his boots slip and he lands on top of Dean instead.
Dean moans, but the brief grimace of pain quickly gives way to a wide, wide grin. “Hi.”
“Sorry,” Cas mutters, returning a grin and rolls his eyes. “I’ve no choice, do I?”
Cas gathers himself off Dean, but instead of standing up, he throws himself into the patch of snow beside Dean. It’s not so bad. The jacket and jeans protect him from the cold just fine, for now at least. The scarf doesn’t let the snow climb down his spine.
They’re too close, their palms collide when they spread out their wings. And when Maya jumps in between them, their joined silhouettes turn into a shapeless patch instead of three angels.
But that doesn’t matter. They try again and again, make snow angels until they’re out of space and by then, the early, winter evening has washed away the gray from the sky and replaced it with ink and a spatter of stars. Every house on the street shines with colorful lights. Every house but theirs.
“Give me a second,” Dean announces before rushing back to the house and shutting the door behind him.
Cas shakes the rest of the snow from Maya’s snowsuit. Its back is all wet, but it didn’t soak through. She should be fine for a few more minutes, though her button nose and cheeks are all red.
“Aren’t you cold, sweetheart?” he makes sure, but the girl shakes her head.
Dean reappears on the porch. “Ready, guys?”
He’s holding two wires in his hands, prepared for lighting up.
“Yes!” Maya shouts back to him. “Lights on!”
“I’m nervous,” Dean admits, but without further ado, he plugs the wire.
“Ahhh!” Cas and Maya gasp at once.
All around them the lights flash and twinkle in all colors of the rainbow, laid out in twirling patterns, climbing up the trees, turning the bushes into balls of light. Strings of blue and green trail the path from the wicket up to the front door. And the house— The house is a-glowing, every nook and corner is contoured with cold, white light.
It’s the roof, though, that took Cas’s breath away. It paints an image invisible in the light of day, but now probably noticeable from miles away. The background’s red, like their roof tiles, and on it, there are white angel’s wings spreading across the entire width of the house. They’re simplified for the sake of the difficult canvas, their edges a little rough, but they’re unmistakably wings.
“What do you think?” Dean asks, as he joins them on the pathway. He darts his eyes to armide his own work. A tiny, shy smile appears on his face.
“Wow, uh, Dean, this is—” Cas closes his mouth for the lack of proper words.
“Overkill?” Dean supplies. “Inappropriate?” He curls his palm around Cas’s and watches his face carefully. “Not okay?”
“Incredible,” Cas says, finally. “It’s incredible, Dean.”
Dean’s smile turns into the most beautiful grin.
“It’s awesome, daddy!” Maya squeals and springs into his arms, hands wrapped around his neck.
“Thank you,” Dean says. As they start walking their green and blue path leading home, he turns to Cas. “You good with this?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Cas gives Dean’s palm a reassuring squeeze. “You’ve got talent, love.”
“I’ve gotta admit I do.” Dean winks, letting Maya down in the warmth of their home. “Wish I could see Deborah’s face when she sees it. Should we go to her now? I so wanna see it—”
Cas kisses the rest of the words off his lips. “You’re ruining it.”
They take off their wet jackets, quickly. Cas gathers them to put them on the heater. A lump in his jacket’s pocket reminds him there was something he wanted to ask Dean.
“Speaking of your artistic talent,” he starts and by the playful look in Dean’s eyes he knows Dean knows where he’s going. He pulls out the thing from his pocket. “What on earth is this?”
He shows Dean the crocheted angel, one of those they put on their Christmas tree. Its little gown isn’t white, though, like the gowns of its buddies. It’s colored beige with a flamaster, with brownish buttons and a blue tie hanging below its chin. Its round head is painted too, the top of it is covered with black hair, blue eyes stand out on its face.
Dean shrugs. “It’s an angel.”
“It’s my favorite!” Maya shouts, lips pursed, hand reaching out to the ornament, demanding its return to the tree Cas took it off. “Give it back.”
Shaking his head, Cas hands the trenchcoated angel to the girl who runs away to hang it back.
“What?” Dean asks, tugging Cas in by the front of his sweater. “It’s my favorite, too.”