Short one-shot, so thanks in advance to everyone who reads and reviews. I'm finally catching up on things both Supernatural and otherwise so I can move some fics to 'done,' but this popped into my head after watching Metafiction and I figured I'd get it down.

Set at the end of Metafiction when Castiel is back in his motel room. No connection to either of my other Supernatural stories although it doesn't contradict them either.

"But what if I fail again?"

"You won't. You can't."

Gabriel's words echoed in Castiel's mind as he sat alone in the small motel room, and as many times as he told himself that it hadn't been real, a part of him just couldn't believe it. Or at least didn't want to believe it, praying to a God that didn't give a damn that Gabriel was alive. Somewhere. Even if he was Metatron's prisoner, that was something. Gabriel was the Trickster, after all; even Metatron couldn't hope to hold him forever.

Despite himself he glanced up at the television screen, but it remained blank and silent.

There had been siblings that Castiel had been close to in Heaven. Friends, as humans would view such things, although angels didn't use such terms. Anna before she'd fallen. Rachel before she'd sided with Raphael and turned on him. Balthazar. Others who had been lost in the war or in the fall. Here on Earth it was different, though. He'd spoken to very few of his surviving siblings since the fall—it was difficult to converse when most of them tried to kill him on sight—but even with those who hadn't immediately drawn their swords he had felt a chasm between them.

Before the encounter with Gabriel Castiel had blamed the feeling of separation on his guilt. And perhaps some of it had been and was, but now he could also see the neediness that accompanied so many of his siblings. Even the ones who hadn't taken up with Malachi or Bartholomew or Metatron, the ones who comprehended that their behavior was wrong even if they hadn't quite figured out what was right, still desired a leader. Orders. For things to go back to the way they'd always been.

Castiel didn't need that any more. He might choose to follow a leader if a worthy one emerged—he would have followed Gabriel, if it had come to that—but he knew what free will was now. His days of blind loyalty were over.

Gabriel understood that. Gabriel felt the same. He had never numbered among those that Castiel was close to in Heaven, and it had taken him some time to come around to the side of Team Free Will when Michael and Lucifer had battled—it was strange how long ago that now seemed, despite the fact that it wasn't much more than an eyeblink compared to how long Castiel had existed—but in the end he had been on their side when it had mattered. And while Gabriel's first words upon arrival in Castiel's motel room might have been 'I need your help,' it wasn't the same sort of help that the others were asking for. For the short time they'd spent together Castiel had actually found himself relaxing in the presence of a sibling, and he hadn't realized how much he'd missed it.

True, Gabriel could be, often was, deliberately abrasive. And he seemed to delight in referencing things that Castiel wasn't familiar with. He'd put a name on what they were, though, rebels, and while he had acknowledged the mistakes Castiel had made, he'd clearly borne no lasting grudge.

"Bitch, please. You've been God more often than Dad."

Castiel felt his lips twitch again. No other angel would have said that. No other angel would even have contemplated it. Which…was that a clue that Gabriel really was alive? Smart remarks and a level of Earthly knowledge that no other angel should have?

Except that Metatron had exiled himself to Earth as well. He knew what Downtown Abbey and raining men and all of the other references that Gabriel had made were. Castiel knew these things now too because of Metatron. And while Castiel hadn't been close to Gabriel in Heaven, Metatron had been God's scribe. It had been a long time ago, true, but he had interacted with all of the archangels far more than the rest of the garrison. Whether that could have given him enough knowledge to pass convincingly for Gabriel…Castiel just didn't know.

"But what if I fail again?"

"You won't. You can't."

The words echoed again, and Castiel remembered Gabriel's steady gaze, the first feeling of belief and support that he'd felt from any of his siblings in so long. Even knowing that it hadn't been real wasn't enough to take that from him. And as much as he resisted the idea, Gabriel—Metatron—had had a point. Someone had to take a stand against Metatron, and none of the siblings who'd attempted to lead thus far seemed to have the capability. Dean and Sam were trying, but the other angels would not follow humans. Especially not when one now bore the Mark of Cain. Castiel hadn't yet let himself think about that too deeply yet, but even he feared where that could lead and he trusted Dean more than anyone else on Earth.

Metatron might have said he was casting Castiel as the villain of the story, but as far as Castiel was concerned that position was already firmly occupied. And while he wasn't about to call himself a hero after what had happened, maybe this was a way to make up for some of the harm he'd done in some small amount. At least he understood a little better this time how wrong an attempt to do right could go.

"Thank you."

"Shut up."

Castiel looked at the television one last time and then stood. If he was going to lead other angels, he needed to find other angels, and now at least he knew how to call them. And if a part of him hoped that that last smirk and eyebrow wriggle meant that Gabriel was alive and could somehow engineer an escape from Metatron to join them…well, his prayers might not do any good, but maybe they wouldn't do any harm either.