Merry Christmas, all. Have a little Destiel from Balthazar’s perspective.
Against his better judgement, Balthazar agrees to spend Christmas with Cas, Dean, Sam, and Gabriel. It is, to his surprise, not entirely unpleasant.
Christmas with humanity is, to be frank, a drag.
But I’ve had centuries, nay, millennia, to hone my avoidance techniques.
It’s gotten to the point, in fact, where I manage to very nearly forget about Christmas until the very last minute, leaving me to suffer for only a day or two when certain of the more flexible humans I know are “celebrating” with their families, which I know they enjoy not a jot. But still, they go every year and leave me bored enough to try skiing or draft beer or sex in the missionary position and really, life is too bloody short for any of that.
So it was with great trepidation that I accepted Cas’ invitation to “celebrate” the “holidays” with he and his favorite pets: the short one Cas was in love with, for some reason, and the gangly one who’d been banging a demon, which frankly put him head and shoulders above the other one, in my book, but, alas. There’s no accounting for taste.
But Cas was clever, the little bastard, because he waited until after I’d accepted—weighed down by some heretofore unknown sense of obligation—to mention that, oh yes, Gabriel was coming, too, so could I please come armed with Kahlua or, horrors, Southern Comfort as a sign of my good faith.
But I did it none the same, popped into their tumbledown farmhouse in the middle of nowhere Vermont, disgusting Southern Comfort in tow.
At first, I went through the motions of gentility, of caring, pronouncing the house “darling” and the short one “Dean” and the food that Limbs made “delicious” until Cas leaned over, tugged on my wrist and said: “It’s ok, Balthazar. There’s no need for you to perform. You are among friends.” He looked over at short round and smiled in a way that made him seem very, very young again. “And family.”
And somehow, against my better judgment, I found myself nodding. Relaxing. Poured another glass of the appalling white the tall one had served with dinner and acted like myself, really. The closest to myself that I could remember, anyway.
I set about insulting Dean and quizzing Limbs as to the relative sexual depravity of demons and giving Cas no end of shit about the hickeys under his ear, and once everyone at the table was blushing, except me, I felt a hell of a lot better.
Gabriel made his grand appearance in the middle of the dessert course, bien sur, and set about demolishing the last of some monstrosity called “candied yams”—which the less said about, the better. But he brought me some semi-decent bourbon, which was a pleasant surprise, and that made his company—especially after he started on what he called the “SoCo”—infinitely more tolerable.
After dinner, we drifted into the parlor, one by one. First Cas and his monkey, then Gabriel, then the Moose and I. Moose insisted on “doing the dishes,” for some ungodly reason, while I lingered over the last of the white, which, upon further consideration, was, at the very least, quite serviceable.
I found him of surprisingly nimble mind and, truth be told, a very fine ass.
When I relayed this—a rare moment of altruistic candor—he returned it in kind. Turned from the rancid water, a glass clutched in his hand, and said:
“Well. You’re not as much of a dick as I thought, Balthazar.”
“Ah, then I fear I’ve sullied my reputation,” I said breezily. “I am nothing, dear boy, if not, as you say, a dick.”
“How’s that work for you?”
Interesting question, no?
“Given that I’m still standing after three or four millennia? I’d say it’s served me well enough, wouldn’t you?”
He snorted and went back to his dishes. “If that’s your yardstick, then I guess it has.”
My stinging and witty retort was shattered by Gabriel—of course—bellowing like a drunken elephant.
“Sasquatch! Tell your brother to stop making out with my brother in front of me! I think I’m developing post-traumatic stress disorder over here!”
I sailed into the living room, Sam at my heels, and, to be fair, Castiel was rather comfortably settled in Dean’s lap, the two of them heaped into a dubiously-constructed armchair, and his lips were, in fact, rather red—along with Dean’s face—but everyone was still wearing pants, so I thought Gabriel’s declaration quite over the top. A needy cry for attention, again. As always.
Still. The opportunity was too rich to ignore.
“Children,” I said, flinging myself elegantly at the couch, “you do know that it’s rude to invite people over just to fondle each other at them.”
“Oh my god,” Sam groaned, fleeing for the kitchen.
“We were not—!” Dean barked—for he is so delightfully easy a mark.
“Gabriel,” Cas rumbled, not bothering to raise his head from Dean’s chest. “Balthazar. Jealousy does not become you.”
This, predictably, made Dean laugh and Gabriel groan with something not unlike delight.
Me? I ignored all of them and I summoned the bourbon bottle instead. Put myself, my vessel, to good use.
A bit of a silence fell over us then, each lulled by his liquor or partner of choice:
Dean shifted and pulled Cas in even tighter, somehow.
Gabriel perched in a wingchair by the fire with a sigh.
And long tall Sam returned with something that smelled suspiciously like coffee and folded himself onto the couch beside me.
It was, I thought, not entirely unpleasant.
Then Dean started asking questions.
“So were you there?” he said, his eyes locked on Cas.
“Hmmm?” Cas murmured. “Where is that, Dean?”
“You know,” Dean said, eloquent as always. “There. Oh little town of Bethlehem on some silent night and all that.”
Cas blinked. “Ah. Was I present at Christ’s birth, you mean? Mmm. No, I was not. But Balthazar was. Although he was a few days late. Some navigational error, I’m told.”
I snorted. “It was not an error, Cas. It was a simple misunderstanding between Melchior and I. It’s hard to get good directions from somebody that high on myrrh. You should have seen him. Practically fell off his camel every time we went over a hump.”
Dean rolled his eyes at me, the little shit. “Yeah, I’m sure you were the paragon of virtue back then, buddy.”
Sam nudged me. “Ignore him, Balthazar. Ok, so, you were there. So tell us: what was He like?” he asked. Handed me a bubble to burst.
I laughed. “Dear boy, for all the hoohah humanity’s made about Him, you do tend to forget that, on the nights in question, He was, in fact, an infant. One of you, unfortunately, if only for a time. As I recall, he spent most of our visit shitting himself and drooling all over Gabriel’s robes. Nothing terribly holy about Him, then.”
“Wait,” Dean said over Cas’ head. “Gabriel was there?”
I leaned back and waggled my glass. “Believe or not, the girl quite liked him. Said he was a comfort in dark times or something.”
“He was very fond of her, too,” Cas added. “Says she was the most sensible woman he ever met, right?”
Gabriel grinned. “What can I say? She was practically made of faith, that girl. Pretty rare stuff. And a sweet little looker to boot.”
Sam choked on his coffee. “Did you just perve on the Mother of God?”
Gabriel tipped his chair back and winked. “Maybe. She wouldn’t have minded, Sasquatch. Always gave as good as she got. And trust me: it’s not easy to cut a one-liner in Aramaic.”
“So the whole manger scene was really a clown college, is what you’re saying,” Dean said, and his incredulousness was, I must admit, rather endearing.
“Yup,” Gabriel said. “Complete with animal acts.”
And perhaps it comes of knowing someone for so long—however reluctantly—but I saw something in Gabriel’s face, then, that spoke of—what? Disillusion? Nostalgia? Perhaps even grief.
He met my eye and I saw it was time for my cue.
“I’d prefer to think that my eventual presence added some much needed caché to the place, but yes,” I said with a wave. “As you say. It was a bit of a floorshow.”
The demon-banger leaned forward. “So how come you weren’t at this shindig then, Cas?”
“It was decided that I was—too young to attend.”
Gabriel snickered. “What your boy means is, he was still in diapers. In the feathers department, at least.”
Dean looked confused. Though perhaps that’s like saying “the water looked wet.”
Cas smiled up at him. “I couldn’t fly yet, Dean. And, despite Gabriel’s willingness to be responsible for my transportation, our Father felt I was too young to appreciate the gravity of the moment.”
“Dear old Dad was afraid Cas’d upchuck all over the party guests,” Gabriel said, his jocularity still a little too false for my taste. So I jumped in again.
“But I did let you wear my crown, Cas, after,” I reminded him. “You looked quite fetching, as I recall.”
“It was—heavy,” Cas said.
“Well, young Dean,” I said, pointing, waiting for one last pop. “Know this: your ‘silent night’ was, in truth, a logistics nightmare on our end. And I smelled like frankincense and dung for days afterwards.”
Dean just stared at me, and I could feel Sam and Gabriel doing the same. I didn’t care for it. So I rushed forward, pell mell, as I’m wont to do when I feel ill-at-ease.
“Not sure much good came of it all, in the end. But Father’s always been one for extravagant gestures, don’t you think, Cas? Cas?”
I raised my eyes, then, and got a look at Cas’ face. His fists curled into his body, his mouth open just a little against Dean’s throat. And for a second—just a flash—I saw Cas as he had been then, on this night more than two millennia before. Not corporeal, not like this, but a little fragile thing then, too, shifting uneasily under the crown but smiling, his Grace shining up into my eyes.
“You look funny,” Cas’d said then, poking at my vessel’s face.
“Not funny, little one,” I’d chided him. “Human.”
I remembered lifting the crown away, watching Cas wobble under its not-weight. Remembered reaching down and catching, letting him steady himself against the solidity of my vessel.
On his face, now, I saw the smile Cas had given me then in return. Different in shape, perhaps, than the one he now wore, heavy with sleep in the lap of his favorite human, but the feel of his Grace was the same.
There was love there. And utter trust. Devotion.
And when I shifted my gaze, just a little, I saw the same in Dean’s face, in the tug of his arms around Cas’ waist.
Love. Trust. Devotion.
“Shut up,” Dean whispered, fierce. “He’s asleep.”
We left soon after that, Gabriel and I. Lingered beside the stars for awhile and polished off the last of our relative liquors.
“He is happy, isn’t he,” Gabriel said. Not a question. “Despite us. Despite everything.”
I sighed. “The little sod is filled to the brim with it, yes. And every time he looks at green eyes, I think he’s about to overflow.”
This is, to be clear, the closest that I can come to sentimentality without wanting to smite myself. Thinking it was one thing, but saying it—to Gabriel, of all angels—was, for me, rather extraordinary.
To his credit, Gabriel didn’t blink. No. He simply smiled at me in the dark and tapped his glass against mine.
“So maybe all that shitting and drooling was worth it, eh? All those years ago. If this is where things end up. With at least one of us happy. And not the least of us, either. Maybe the best.”
He got a little teary, saying that, and that was all the emotion I could stand for one evening.
“You’re a maudlin drunk, you know that?”
“Yeah,” he sighed, a hand through his vessel’s hair. “So. Are we hitting up Vegas or what?”
I waved my well-tailored sleeve in the general direction and said: “After you, dear boy. After you.”
And if I popped back in before sunrise and left a paper crown on Cas’ head, no one, I think, was the wiser.