Title: Knight of the Sun
Rating: PG
Word Count: ~2500
Summary: There's not much that makes Christmas special in Camp Chitaqua: the angel Castiel stills keeps his steady high, Commander Winchester still runs his missions like a slave drive, and Prophet Shurely still shouts at God. Yet, somehow, it's the people of the camp who make sure it's still a holiday, bringing in light and warmth out of the darkness.
Notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] osmalic for [livejournal.com profile] spn_j2_xmas. I hope you like it. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] estarmuerta and [livejournal.com profile] yakbite for looking it over.

“Can’t you do anything?” Chuck shouted at the miserable pewter sky. “What good are you? You didn’t do anything!”

“Prophet Shurely?” Inez called, leaning over the old, rusting car that marked the edge of the field. “Prophet?”

“How many times do I have to tell you? Just call me Chuck,” Chuck told her, his shoulders slumped inside the slightly-too-big jacket Dean gave him back when Sam was still Sam.

“I don’t think the commander’d like that, Prophet,” Inez told him, tucking a loose curl behind her ear.

Chuck sighed. He liked Inez and her sister, Nieve, but they never seemed to get over their shock that he was a prophet, no matter how many times he told them that it mostly turned him into a raving alcoholic. Of course, they’d never seen him drink, so that might have been part of it. He also got the impression that Inez just felt more comfortable calling people by their titles. She was a Navy Seal, or had been before the virus hit her base. She’d come to their little encampment with her sister and a handful of other highly trained, well armed survivors, ready to take on the world. It always warmed his heart a bit to see her optimism in the face of certain death.

“Were you talking to the angels?” she asked.

He shrugged again. “It’s not like they’ve done anything about it in years.” He paused and stared at Inez, who had come out of the cabins without even a sweater. This wasn’t for one of their casual conversations about the existence of God. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s Castiel again,” she told him, wrapping her arms around herself to ward off the cold winds. “He’s, well, he’s… You know how he gets sometimes.”

“What’d he take this time?” Chuck asked her, taking off his jacket and draping it loosely around Inez’s shoulders.

“I don’t know.” Inez slipped her arms through the sleeves of Chuck’s jacket and nimbly made her way back up the hill toward Castiel’s cabin. “Sophia came to get me and Nieve as soon as they realized that something was wrong, but no one saw if he mixed something new or what.”

Chuck picked up his pace to keep up with Inez and began a mental checklist of the drugs that he knew Castiel kept stashed around his cabin. “Did Nieve have anything to say? Do we need to get Doc Dell?”

“No, Nieve said he should be able to ride this one out. He’s responsive and all, just…”

“Stoned out of his mind?” Chuck finished for her as they approached Castiel’s cabin.

“Basically. Besides, Dell is setting that new kid’s leg and he’d be pissed if we interrupted that just because Castiel took an extra hit of whatever he’s on today.”

Inez swung open the cabin door and held it for Chuck. Inside, Castiel was splayed on his bed on top of his blankets. Nieve sat on the edge of it and was clearly unhappy to have been called to Castiel’s cabin again. Nieve, who had been a paramedic in Sioux City and was close with a number of Castiel’s girls, was usually the one who looked after the former angel.

Sophia was hovering over the bed like a worried mother, twisting her long hair distractedly with her fingers. She was uncharacteristically silent, but a deep frown creased her face. The other women who shared Castiel’s cabin had arranged themselves on the floor cushions and looked deeply involved in a game of Scrabble. Nora periodically glanced up from her lettered tiles to watch Sophia pace, but she didn’t look like she was ready to interfere with the other woman’s worries.

Castiel stirred on his cot bed, drawing the attention of Sophia and Nieve as he moved his hands rapidly, as though arguing with someone. His eyes were a glassy blue and when he spoke, his speech was a little slow, almost slurred. It wasn’t unusual, in the long days after the world burned, for Castiel to drug or drink away the pain, but Chuck could still remember the proud, tall angel who used him to banish Lilith, even if no one else did.

“Is Chuck here?” Castiel asked, his head lolling gently against Nieve’s thigh. “I want to see him. Where did you put him?”

Chuck crossed himself - a habit he grew into before Dean found him and took him to Camp Chitaqua - and went to Castiel’s bed side, resting a comforting palm on Nieve’s shoulder. “I’m here. Inez found me.”

“It feels really good.” Castiel reaching out and grabbed Chuck’s free wrist with surprising strength. “I want you to have it with me. Chuck, you should be happy, too.”

“I’m right here,” Chuck repeated, a little flustered. Depending on what he took, Castiel could get very touchy feely and Chuck never knew what to do about that. It was easier before Castiel loosened up, before he found the drugs, before Dean spent more time killing virus-victims than taking care of the camp.

Castiel pulled himself into a sitting position, using Chuck’s wrist as leverage, and looked Chuck in the eye. His pupils were blown wide and his cheeks were slightly flushed, but he looked like he could recognize Chuck, so Chuck discounted the possibility that Castiel had finally overdosed on hallucinogens. Castiel cradled Chuck’s cheek in one hand and said, “But you don’t look happy. You look worried. What do you need to be happy?”

Chuck didn’t say anything. Castiel stared at him, his glassy eyes searching for something inside the prophet, but eventually relaxed and started to play with the loose threads of the blanket. When Castiel rested his head gently on Chuck’s shoulder, Chuck hesitantly brushed his hand through Castiel’s hair, knowing that if the he were sober, Castiel wouldn’t suffer the indignity.

Kit and Leon pushed into the cabin, their arms heavy with firewood. Chuck still hadn’t quite figured out how Kit and Leon fit into the miniature society of Castiel’s cabin. He was 99% sure that Kit was a lesbian and he was pretty sure that Castiel wasn’t sleeping with Leon. Most of the camp didn’t believe it; you shared a cabin with your lover, so the crowd that lived here separated them all, made them different. Most of the survivor-soldiers did their best to avoid Castiel’s cabin.

“Storm on its way,” Kit announced, dropping her pile of wood on the pile by the ancient iron stove in the middle of the cabin. “Our fearless leader radioed in that they’re holing up in the city.“

“More snow?” Chuck asked, a little worried. He hated when the snow buried them at the camp, any escape route blocked by increasingly high snow drifts as the winter marched onward. Even though he rarely left camp unless Dean specifically need him on a mission, he was afraid of the virus hitting when they were vulnerable and trapped. He didn’t want to be forced to watch his friends and lovers dying in agony, whether asleep or awake.

When he heard the underlying distress in Chuck’s voice, Castiel wrapped an arm around Chuck’s waist, offering what comfort he could. He clearly enjoyed the touch more than he would have before the world burned and lolled his head against the crook of Chuck’s neck.

Leon nodded, curling up on a cushion next to Gillian after putting his wood by the stove. “It’s already starting to flurry. I’d bet two water rations that we’ll have at least another foot by morning.”

“Dean doesn’t want you doing that,” Castiel said, his voice muffled against Chuck’s flannel shirt. “Humans need water to survive. Humans need to survive.”

Kit rolled her eyes, clearly not interested in Castiel’s opinions on the morality of life or gambling, but she drew a cup of water from the barrel in the corner and offered it to Castiel. When Castiel didn’t respond, Chuck took the chipped ceramic mug from her and she sat down to watch the game, seemingly unperturbed.

“It’ll be a lonely Christmas, with half the camp off in the city,” Tiana said, putting her tiles on the board to spell “yoga”. “I was hoping Freddie and Lee would find some more filters.” She cast her eyes sideways at Chuck and Castiel. “And, of course, toilet paper.”

“Not too lonely,” Leon rejoined. “Winchester and his lot are shit company, even when they’re here.

Castiel stirred, pressing his head against the palm of Chuck’s hand. “I liked Dean,” he protested. “He was righteous.”

Nora snorted and shifted on the floor cushions, allowing Gillian and Leon access to the game board.

“He was righteous, then,” Chuck said, feeling the need to defend Castiel’s fallen honor. He knew that few people at Camp Chitaqua believe that Castiel was an angel, but they knew he was prophet and respected him for it, even if he didn’t deserve it. “You should have seen him and Sam. I thought they were invincible.”

“Together,” Castiel murmured agreeably.

Sophia stopped pacing and took a seat at the foot of Castiel’s bed, clearly relieved that Castiel was taking part in the conversation. Leon stretched out, resting his head on Kit’s lap. Gillian frowned at her tiles and rearranged them until she came to a satisfying conclusion. The other players groaned when she put them down to spell “cilantro.”

“It’s Christmas,” Nieve said. “We should celebrate, not talk about Commander Winchester’s obsession with his little brother.”

“He wouldn’t like to hear you say that,” Kit warned, although she seemed more focused on the worn tiles on the board than worried about Dean’s judgment.

Leon rolled his eyes, but didn’t move from his languid spot on the floor. “Good thing he’s out in the city, then.” He stretched his neck, rolling his head against Gillian’s shoulder.

Nora tossed down her final tiles, triumphantly crossing Gillian’s ‘cilantro’ and Tiana’s ‘exhale’ spell ‘pique.’ She stood, pushing her cushion back toward the stove. “What do you say to a bit of dinner before the storm hits? Soph and I can see if maybe we can round up a bit of tea for some holiday cheer.”

“It is a beautiful night,” Castiel proclaimed as Nora pulled Sophia from his bedside and into the cold of the camp outside “But the Lord was not born on this night.”

The wind howled around the edges of the cabin, causing Chuck to shiver a bit, but Castiel remained oblivious. Tiana tossed a couple of logs into the stove and Leon and Gillian cleaned up the Scrabble board. While Nieve checked Castiel’s pupils and pulse, as she always did when he drugged himself into a state, Inez lit a few of the oil lamps that had been scrounged from the cities, casting a gentle glow over the small cabin.

When Nora and Sophia returned from the mess cabin with the water rations and food, they looked fairly unhappy. “I think it’s time to dig into our own supplies,” Sophia said, putting the water on the table by Castiel’s bed. “Mess just gave us the ramen and two tins of beans for everyone.”

“Nothing for the holiday?” Inez asked at the same time her sister said, “You did tell them we’re here tonight with the prophet, didn’t you?”

“All it got us was the extra ramen and some cocktail olives,” Nora explained, waving the bottle of pickled fruit and curling her lip.

“Maybe they’re saving the food until dead winter,” Gillian suggested.

“And maybe I’ll grow wings tomorrow,” Leon told her harshly. “Commander Winchester’s focused on something other than us getting through until spring.”

Nieve glared at him, but didn’t disagree. She opened the trunk in back of the cabin, where the heat of the stove barely reached, and rummaged through it. Chuck sometimes felt a twinge of guilt that he never told Dean about the trunk, about their distrust of their commander, but even if only one in ten of his nightmares was a vision, he knew they were right to keep it secret.

“We’ve got some of the dried rabbit from September,” she said, softly. “But if we’ve got the beans… We’ve got some of that boxed jambalaya from the last time Inez went into the city. It’ll be off soon if we don’t eat it and we can cook it up with the beans.”

There was general assent from the cabin and they set about preparing the meal, after Leon locked the cabin door. When the battered pot, the one that Gillian had carried with her after escaping the city and used over campfires before Dean found her a year earlier, was simmering gently and everyone had eaten their olive, Castiel stood up from his bed. It saddened Chuck a bit. Every time he saw Castiel sway and weave across the camp or his cabin, addled from the drugs and the pain of being cut off from heaven, every time he heard Castiel slur and stumble, broken from everything that had happened, he couldn’t help but remember seeing the angels for the first time. He remembered the fear and the terror and couldn’t reconcile the Castiel of Camp Chitaqua with the fearsome angel of the Lord.

“It’s Christmas,” Castiel declared, his voice firm, and he waved an imperious hand at the pitiable little fir tree Nora had insisted upon decorating with a few garlands and homemade decorations. “And we exchange gifts on Christmas to remember to be happy.”

Kit rolled her eyes and chided him affectionately. “You just want to know who pulled your name from the hat.”

Castiel didn’t say anything, just tried to look superior, and picked up the first gift from near the tree. It was a small bundle, wrapped in Nieve’s old flannel shirt and tied with the twine they’d used to mark the garden rows that summer. Castiel looked at the little tag attached to the sleeve. “This one is for Leon.”

Leon accept the gift and pulled gently at the twine, being careful not to damage the shirt. He grinned widely when the folds of the shirt fell away, revealing a simple canvas carry-all. “Oh, thank god. I thought I was going to break my back this winter, carrying the wood all the way across camp.”

Nieve shrugged modestly and accepted her shirt back from him. The gift giving was a mostly quiet affair, nothing like the events Chuck remembered watching on television before the world burned. The gifts were each wrapped in old clothes or newspapers destined, eventually, for the fire. They were simple things - a necklace for Kit that Inez had taken from the city, preserved pine cones for Gillian that Nora had decorated, a warm robe for Castiel that Leon had bartered off one of Dean’s soldiers.

When Castiel handed him a round bundle wrapped in an old pillowcase that Chuck knew had been missing from his bed for a few months, Chuck was surprised to see a glint of mischief behind the drugged haze in his eyes. He nearly hugged the angel when he realized he was holding two rolls of Cottonelle with Aloe in his hands. He did laugh when he pulled them apart to reveal a bottle of pills labeled ‘diazepam.’ Only Castiel, he thought, would give toilet paper and sedatives as a Christmas gift to a prophet.

Chuck smiled as Castiel began to brew the chicory tea and talked to Kit about heaven. The weather might be bad enough to keep Dean and his team from returning to camp and the mess cabin might be low on decent food, but Castiel’s cabin was warmed by the stove and lit by the oil lamps. And there was something more to Christmas in 2014, even if he was spending it with a stoned angel in a cabin from the 1930’s and sharing a single box of Zatarain’s with nine other people. He was actually spending the holidays with family and friends, sharing the darkest days of the year and maybe the world with friends and lovers alike.
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