Characters/Pairings: Dean Winchester, Sam Winchester, 10th Doctor, Donna Noble, Castiel. Dean/Cas if you squint
Fandoms: Doctor Who/Supernatural
Word Count: 4000
Disclaimer: Supernatural and Doctor who are the property of people who are certainly not me, and I make no profit off this work. Just a bit of harmless fun and I promise to return the toys in the same condition I found them.
Summary: Once again, the Doctor fails to get the TARDIS to land where he wants, and Donna refuses to leave until she's made sure a certain pair of urchins have had a proper Christmas
The silence was perfect, broken only by the rain beating down, soaking through the Doctor's brown suit and plastering his normally gravity defying hair to his skull. “Hey, Doc,” Dean murmured slowly, “you wouldn't happen to have some weird alien definition of snow, would ya? Like, anything that falls outta the sky? Something like that?”
The Doctor glared up at the iron gray clouds that failed to deliver the snow he'd promised and shook his head. Donna crowded in next to Dean, smirking expectantly until he dug out his wallet and produced twenty dollars., which swiftly disappeared into Donna's pockets. Sam joined them at the door, leaving the Doctor no way back into the TARDIS.
“Where are we?” Sam asked, an undercurrent of and what's about to go horribly wrong this time coloring his tone.
“Georgia, December 23rd, 1987,” Castiel told Sam helpfully before the Doctor could do more than open his mouth. If Castiel looked smug, no one paid it any mind. It was all part of an ongoing game of oneupmanship between the Angel and the Time Lord, and none of the humans could be bothered to acknowledge it.
Sam squeezed past Dean and Donna, joining the Doctor in the rain swept parking lot. “Dean, does this place look familiar to you?” He gestured past the Denny's and the rows of cars to the motel behind. Dean didn't leave the dry safety of the TARDIS, but he did glance around.
“We've seen a lotta motels, Sammy.” Dean's tone wasn't exactly a whine, but it threatened to creep into that territory; they'd been promised a Christmas somewhere Christmasy and nice (at Donna's insistence, and for once Dean had been in complete agreement with her), and it didn't get much less Christmasy and nice than a cheap motel behind a Denny's in the rain.
“Yeah, but-” Sam stopped, pointing at something before sweeping his damp hair out of his eyes. “There.”
The object of Sam's attention was a 1967 Chevy Impala, black as the asphalt and as familiar to Sam as his brother's face. The exact same car was tucked away inside the TARDIS, waiting for when it was needed once again.
“Son of a bitch,” Dean uttered softly.
“Inside!” The Doctor barked suddenly as one of the motel room doors opened, herding Sam back inside and extending his arms to keep anyone from getting back out.
John Winchester stepped out into the pouring rain, young Dean trailing behind like a faithful puppy.
“That's not-!” Donna hissed.
“It is,” Dean confirmed as his father delivered the lecture to his younger self that Dean could have recited in his sleep, ending with 'And take care of Sammy'. It was surreal, seeing it from the outside. “A kelpie,” he explained, “out on the coast. Dad had promised to stay for Christmas, but then he heard about them, and since we were already in the state... don't look at me like that, the thing was drowning kids! That's not the kinda thing you can just let wait until after the holidays.”
“He's just leaving you alone?” Donna demanded to know.
“He got back just before New Years.” Dean watched his father drive off into the rain; his younger self stood in the parking lot until the Impala's tail lights faded from view, then darted back into the dubious comfort of the motel room.
There was a moment of silence, almost like they were mourning for Dean's childhood. Then Donna shoved her way past the Doctor, marching resolutely towards the seedy motel. A split second later, both Dean and the Doctor grabbed her with identical cries of “Donna, no!” Together, they managed to wrestle Donna back inside the TARDIS, and the Doctor locked the doors.
“We can't just leave them there!” Donna protested, struggling until Dean let her go. “What kind of a Christmas is that?” She kept herself from bringing up exactly what she thought of John Winchester's parenting skills; one battle at a time.
“A crappy one,” Sam pointed out wryly. “It rained most of the week, and the playground was kinda gross the few hours where it wasn't pouring down rain. And the presents...”
“Oh God, stop,” Donna held up her hands. “I can guess. Stolen from wherever Dean could snatch them.”
Dean grinned at Sam. “Admit it, you loved the Barbie.”
The look on Donna's face was one of hardened resolve. “And no Christmas dinner, I expect.” Neither Sam nor Dean could meet Donna's eyes, and they gave no answer to her accusation. “As I thought.” She eyed Castiel, who watched Donna with quiet contemplation. “Wanna play Christmas Angel with me?”
Castiel took his time considering the request before giving a reply. “It could be diverting.”
The Doctor strode across the antechamber, flicking a few switches. “Or we could go skiing! I remember promising skiing. You know who's a fantastic skier? Edward VIII!” Skiing with Edward VIII sounds like a grand Christmas to me!”
“You have fun with that,” Donna said with a breezy little wave, throwing open the TARDIS doors. “Come on, Feathers.” She linked her arm through Castiel's, sashaying out into the December rain.
The Doctor raked his hands through his hair, squeezing his eyes shut for a moment. “I think we lost this round, Doc,” Dean noted glumly.
The Doctor nodded, taking both Winchesters by the arms. “You two do not talk to your past selves, don't try to communicate with them in any way, don't even touch them. I mean it!” He whirled past the Winchesters, holding up his hands. “We're talking collapse of reality and getting eaten by giant time bugs if you do.”
“We got it, Doc,” Dean assured him. :Lets just let Donna scratch her weird little itch and get the hell outta here.” He made a face as he headed out into the night. “Never liked Georgia. Only place worse is Indiana.”
Sam watched his brother go before giving the Doctor a wry smile. “Do you ever land where you plan to?”
“Only when it's the most inconvenient.”
The motel room Donna rented was next to young Sam and Dean's, and it smelled like mildew and cheap air freshener. The wallpaper was new, but peeling it back would have revealed years of water damage, and the carpet near the windows squished ominously, and Donna regarded the bed with outright suspicion. They could hear the sounds of the TV in the next room; a sitcom with a painfully fake laugh track.
“Okay.” The Doctor paced the room, hands clasped behind in back. “So what are you thinking then, eh? It's not like we can take them with us.”
“Oh, stop.” Donna inspected one of the room's chairs before sitting down. “We're giving a couple of boys a nice Christmas for once. A proper Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, presents- maybe we could manage a tree?” She looked thoughtful. “Don't tell me you don't enjoy playing Father Christmas.”
“That was one time, for a bet!” The Doctor protested.
“Which Gabriel still won,” Castiel reminded him.
“You can't just walk up to them-- to us--” Sam corrected himself, “and give us this stuff. We'd never believed it wasn't a trick.”
“You two always need to make things extra complicated, don't you? Donna sighed. “Fine, we do things the weird and twisty way.” She started ticking points off on her fingers. “Sam, you're on shopping-- that's presents and Christmas dinner. Dean, work out how we can do this without scaring the boys off. Doctor... you go make friends. Children like you. And Cas, keep Skinny out of trouble.”
“And what'll you be doing, Red?” Dean wanted to know.
For all of Donna's good intentions, Sam Winchester knew that there were just some things he wasn't going to be able to get. As much as he longed to toss a pile of action figures into the shopping cart, he limited himself to a few He-Man figures, some coloring books, and a new box of crayons. Stuff that they could quickly shove into their bags as they hurried out the door while fleeing a motel room they could no longer pay for, things that would fill long, boring hours in the back seat of the Impala, things that both Sam and Dean could enjoy. Somehow, socks and underwear managed to find their way into the cart, summoned by Sam's practical adulthood insisting that his younger self needed these things, even if they weren't fun gifts from Santa. Donna would probably roll her eyes and make fun of him for it, but Sam didn't care.
Something pink and sparkly caught Sam's eye even as he headed for the checkout, pulling Donna's list of food to get for her grand Christmas Dinner out of his pocket to go over it again. Barbie smiled her plastic smile at Sam from the display shelf, and a little voice in the back of Sam's head whispered It'll make Dean laugh.
“Last minute Christmas shopping?” the girl at the counter asked through a mouth full of gum, clearly not the least bit interested in Sam's answer as she fiddled with her badly dyed hair. Sam just smiled, even as the Barbie was rung up and tossed into a bag, paid in cash, and went in search of a Christmas Pudding.
Donna looked at the little pile of cheap, poorly wrapped toys, then at Dean, lips quirking slightly. "There's something very, very wrong with you."
Dean was busy with the lock on the motel room window, his back to the woman. "Can't just give 'em the gifts. It'd be too suspicious." The lock made a slight cracking noise, and Dean gave a satisfied grunt. "I'd never accept them."
"Like I said..."
Dean raised a finger in a gesture of warning. "Don't you even start on that 'you poor abused boys' crap," he said, just a little sharply. "We got by just fine."
Donna rolled her eyes, an expression that she knew was entirely lost on Dean, since he refused to turn around and look at her, but she did it anyway. "Whatever you say, Pretty Boy." She gave Dean another sad look that he didn't see, then turned her attention to the Christmas dinner. "Planning on letting yourself steal this, too?"
"No, that you can just drop off," Dean said. "It won't raise that many questions." He finally turned away from the slightly jimmied window and sniffed. "Brussels sprouts?"
"They're traditional," Donna pointed out.
"Like you'd know."
The Doctor slung into the motel room, one eye starting to swell shut and a sulky little pout on his lips. “You-” he said, pointing an accusatory finger at Dean, “were an awful, paranoid little hellion.”
“But I had a hell of an arm,” Dean agreed proudly.
“Are you cooking sprouts?” The Doctor asked, seeing that he was going to get no sympathy from Dean, and that Donna was focused more on the work she was doing in the motel room's tiny kitchen.
“They're traditional,” Donna insisted again, sniffing pointedly and glaring down her nose at the Doctor.
“They're rubbish!” The Doctor could get away with whining just a bit; his eye had been blackened, after all, and the sprouts were starting to smell almost enough to overwhelm the general odor of mildew. He liberated some ice to press against his eye, glaring darkly at Dean as the man piled the presents just so, presenting a picture too tempting for young Dean, eager to give his brother some kind of Christmas, to resist.
“That's why they're traditional.”
Castiel watched the boys, entirely unremarked despite being a single man lingering about the edge of a playground; when they wanted to, any Angel could easily pass entirely unnoticed. If he had allowed himself to be seen, he likely would have been chased off by a pack of mothers certain he was out to steal and molest their children. The Doctor had earned more than a few curious glances his attempt to befriend the boys, before Dean had clipped him with a rock; Sam had welcomed the Time Lord with the easy trust of a child who had yet to really be hurt by a stranger, but Dean was suspicious as a guard dog.
The Winchesters looked so young. Of course, they were young; Dean was eight, and Sam only four and so very small; it was almost hard to believe that boy was the same man Castiel knew. And John was nowhere to be found; he was hunting a kelpie on the coast, leaving Dean to look after Sam. Donna had commented more than once that she found the entire situation entirely unfair, and while Castiel said nothing, he was inclined to agree.
Of course, Dean was right to be suspicious. Castiel knew a predator when he saw one, no matter what guise it might wear, and there had been a man circling the park since just after the rain had come to it's temporary halt, under the guise of taking his dog for a walk. The man had been watching Sam during his last few circuits around with the hungry eyes of an all too human predator. Castiel didn't need to read the man's thoughts to know what he had in mind; it was written clearly on his face, and the stench of his sins lingered about him like the foul odor of rotting garbage left in the sun.
Young Dean knew predators too, of course; he'd sensed something in the Doctor that had caused him to drive the Time Lord away, seeing right past the bright and facile charm and straight to the creature that had won the last great Time War by means both fair and foul. And young Dean knew that the man with the dog was a monster wearing a human skin, so he never took his eyes off his brother, and kept the younger boy distracted enough that he never noticed the dog that would have no doubt attracted him like a fly to honey.
In his own way, Castiel was a predator too.
His prey never saw Castiel coming as he stopped in the playground's little restroom, and no one but the dog saw the man go. A few minutes and there wasn't enough left t show that the man had ever even existed. He would go largely unmissed and unmourned, just another missing person with no one really looking for answers. The dog, Castiel knew, would be found later that day and be adopted in a fit of Christmas charity coupled with a toddler's refusal to let his new puppy just walk away, no matter how much his parents didn't really want a dog. The dog was good with children, at it would be happy in it's new life.
Castiel left the greasy ash stain on the restroom floor and let the dog run free, resuming his silent, invisible watch over the young Winchesters until the rain started again.
Donna's eyes swept over the room one last time, taking in the toys piled temptingly in sight of the easily pried open window, the hideous carpet, the wallpaper in one corner that was starting to peel away from the wall, and she felt a wave of sorrow. “This is no place for children.”
“Nope,” Dean agreed, handing her the bags of carefully packed up Christmas dinner; they weighed heavily on her arms, and a few of the plastic containers sloshed threateningly.
Donna opened her mouth to continue, but closed it again when she caught Dean's bleak look. It had started raining again a few hours ago, and he'd watched covertly through the curtains while his younger self had herded young Sam back inside after a few hours in the weak December sunlight. Then the TV had been turned back on, and Dean had left Donna alone with her cooking for a while, coming back with a bottle of Jim Bean that he'd shared with her and Castiel when the angel had briefly come back to the room. Donna hefted her load and stepped out of the motel room, doing her best to stay dry beneath the awning. Unfortunately, the awning was in as bad a shape as the rest of the motel, and the few feet between the room Donna had rented and the one the boys were in left her damp, edging towards soaked.
“I will never complain about weather back home again,” Donna muttered under her breath, shifting the bags awkwardly as she knocked on the door.
Dean Winchester, all of eight years old, answered the door, peering at Donna first through the spy hole and then through the crack that the chain on the door allowed. For a moment, Donna was struck by how pretty Dean was as a boy; little Sam was cute to be sure, but Dean was in an entirely different class, and Donna suspected that outside of a few awkward phases during puberty, Dean had stayed pretty. God knew the man was unfairly so even now. She made a note to tease Dean about it later.
Donna put on her best smile, the one she reserved for job interviews. “Hullo, sweetheart. I'm Donna, from next door.”
“Anyway,” Donna carried on, “I was just heading out, and I thought-” She held up the plastic bags full of cheap containers and Christmas Dinner. “Well, I made too much, and I thought it would be silly for me to carry all this all the way...” Dean eyed the bags, suspicion warring with want; the smell of it was even starting to make Donna's mouth water. She'd been so focused on cooking, she hadn't done much eating yet. Donna set the bags down and took a step back. “Anyway, Happy Christmas,” she finished cheerfully, steeling herself to walk away despite the urge to sweep into that room and do everything for those boys that their father wasn't. “I need to be off, so enjoy!”
“Thanks. Merry Christmas.” For a moment, Dean Winchester was an eight year old boy with a bright and beautiful smile, in spite of the missing teeth, and Donna smiled back before walking away.
When Donna looked back, the door was shut and the bags were gone.
The TARDIS doors swung opened, and Sam peered out, the rain immediately plastering his hair to his forehead and neck. “C'mon, they'll be alright,” he insisted, extending a hand to Donna and tugging her inside.
Donna sighed. “Fine, I'm coming. I guess it'll be skiing with Edward VIII now...”
A table had been dragged into the antechamber, and Dean was laying out silverware around five place settings while the Doctor explained to Castiel why he should be the one to carve the roast rather than the Angel. A little fake Christmas tree, decked with silver, fairy lights, and a rather sad looking angel at the top was set up beside the doors, presents piled beneath it. Someone had talked Castiel into a Santa had, and the white bobble kept falling into his face. Dean reached across the table and the bobble over Castiel's shoulder with a grin, dipping his finger into one of the dishes to get a taste of pudding.
“You were so busy trying to make Christmas for our past,” Sam explained softly in Donna's ear, “Dean thought we should make sure you get one too. There are even Christmas... uh, crackers? The Doctor said they were as traditional as sprouts. Dean insisted on the plastic Christmas tree; the Doctor was ready to go get a real one.”
Donna blinked rapidly, ignoring the brief sting in her eyes as she wiped her nose. It was just the rain, still dripping from her hair. “Anyone hung up the mistletoe yet?” she asked. Sam passed her a bow wrapped sprig with a tiny grin.
“Figured you'd know the best place to hang it.” He glanced briefly at his brother, who had joined the Doctor and Castiel in the argument over who was going to get to carve the roast. They'd be at it for a while, Donna knew. Plenty of time to hide the mistletoe in Dean's room. The question was, who would notice it first? Dean, or Castiel?
Still, Donna decided, it was worth doing. They were still arguing about the roast when Donna returned, taking up the carving knife and settling decisively at the head of the table. “I'll be doing the carving, thank you very much,” she announced imperiously, gesturing for everyone else to take a seat. The roast smelled delicious, and even the sprouts somehow managed to taste good.