On Christmas Eve, Castiel gets a package from his brother Gabriel, which contains his Christmas present. He knows it's his present, because Gabriel only sends him two things a year, a present the day after his birthday, and a present the day before Christmas. It's the only way in which his brother is consistent.

He opens the package at his desk, having grabbed it just as he was heading out of the door for work. Castiel is very busy at this time of year, as he is in constant demand around Christmas and New Year. He works at a call centre that deals with complaints for a major fairy light manufacturer, and he takes his work very seriously.

His cubicle is bordered on two sides by fellow employees, Chuck, who is moonlighting to support his main ambition of becoming a writer, and Garth, who likes working at the call centre because he read Marmaduke comics on his computer between calls.

Castiel's cubicle is the same size as everyone else's, and has grey, felty walls onto which he can pin things like memos and photographs. Theoretically. The only things he has on his wall are the scripts he has to follow when someone calls regarding faulty bulbs and wiring, and a calendar from 2010 with kittens on it, which appeared one day and which he hasn't bothered to take down.

He has his headset on at 8.45 sharp, a cup of medium strength take-out coffee on his left, a package of whole almonds on his right, and the package dead centre on his desk. He picks up a pair of scissors and slits the celotape holding the whole thing together.

Inside is a cellphone. It's a white, 'flip' phone, with a blue display on the front, and stuck on silver rhinestone wing decals. Castiel looks at it for a moment, then transfers it to his desk drawer. It's the drawer where he keeps his paperclips (sorted by size and colour) but the phone will have to stay in there while he's working.

Castiel takes 175 calls that day. Almost his personal best.

When he goes home he throws his almond bag and coffee cup into the bin, puts the phone in his messenger bag and walks the 2 ΒΌ miles back to his apartment.

On the way there the phone starts to ring, and Castiel answers it only because the pop music ringtone is so annoying.


"Hey, are you naked?"

The voice is not Gabriel's, it's some stranger.

"No," Castiel says.

Not the least bit daunted, the voice continues. "Are you in bed?"

"No." Castiel is actually standing outside of a Chinese take-out place, he'd been debating whether to buy steamed rice, or go home and steam his own.

"So...what are you doing right now?"

"Trying to decide if I should buy steamed rice, or steam my own."

"Dude, is this some kind of con?"

"No. This is a phone call...perhaps you have the wrong number?"

The caller hangs up, and Castiel decides that he really should cook his own rice.

He gets three more calls that evening, all of which start with some stranger asking if he's naked. He's actually only naked for one of them, and, as he explains, that's only because he was getting ready to take a shower when the phone rang.

Getting into bed that night, Castiel reflects that Gabriel is also consistent in getting him pre-owned Christmas gifts. Second hand DVDs, a used Calvin Klein suit, a leather couch that had once belonged to a strip club...the list was endless.

Wherever Gabriel had gotten the phone, Castiel hoped that they redistributed a new number soon. He wasn't used to getting so many calls on his own time, and it was making him nervy.