A/N: Alas, my friends, this is where we say goodbye for now. Thanks to EVERYONE who made this such a success, but most in particularly WhiteWolfPrincess95, who requested this fic, and Aini NuFire, who helped sculpt it from a blob of ideas to an actual fic. And thanks to all reviewers, favoriters, and followers! Until next time, lovely people :)
Gabriel didn't bother with the whole subtlety thing as he strode right past the demons guarding the front door. He could see their stares, could feel their goggling eyes following him all the way down the hall towards the inner room. No one stopped to challenge him, obviously, as they surely recognized his awesome power and were rightfully terrified.
The archangel smirked a bit as he reached his destination, feeling his brother's power radiating from the house's core. Zorro el Poderoso had wanted desperately to be there as backup so Gabriel wouldn't be in Luci's nest alone - which amused and touched the archangel to no end - but he didn't want the bold little dog anywhere near his brother or so many demons. Gabriel flicked a finger at the door that stood between him and Lucifer, knocking it inwards on its hinges, then swaggered straight on through.
The inner room was spacious and open, lined with demons, but the far end was occupied solely by a large wooden chair. There, at last, was the very one Gabriel had been hoping to have a chat with. The door opening in such an unexpectedly violent manner had the demons whipping around to find the source of the noise, but Gabriel only grinned.
"'Scuse me, gents," he said as though he were merely cutting in on a particularly fine dance partner. "Need a moment, thanks."
"Who are you?" one of the demons demanded. It shifted, as though actually about to attack, but Gabriel didn't even bother to spare it a glance. His eyes locked on Lucifer, seated in the chair with only a raised eyebrow to show any sort of surprise to see his "deceased" little brother strolling through his door.
"Gabriel," the archangel said, tilting his head slightly as one corner of his mouth curled up. "So I was right. I thought that was you I felt, two steps behind." He paused as Gabriel walked right up to the chair, then added, "It's good to see you, brother."
"Nice throne," Gabriel returned, looking the large chair over with an unimpressed eye. Throwing formalities to the wind, the archangel looked up at his older brother and demanded, "Was it you?"
Lucifer frowned. "Beg your pardon?"
"Was. It. You?" Gabriel demanded, crossing his arms. "Castiel. You remember him, right? I saw his blood on the floor of that pound. I wanna know who put it there, that's all."
The older archangel stared at him, a twitch of confusion in his bright eyes. Gabriel didn't break the stare-down, his jaw set. He could tell he'd thrown Lucifer for a loop, but he wasn't leaving until he had an answer.
"The Apocalypse is looming," the fallen archangel finally said. "Battle lines are being drawn, destiny itself is about to be fulfilled, and you're here because Castiel had a boo-boo?"
"I'm here because somebody hurt my brother," Gabriel snapped. "I'm trying to find out who."
"And if it was me?"
Gabriel didn't draw his weapon, but his glower deepened. He was pretty sure Lucifer couldn't have cared less about Castiel being hurt, just like Michael wouldn't have cared less, and the trickster archangel would have liked to smack both of them right upside the head. "Was it?"
Lucifer huffed in exasperation, rolling his eyes. "No, Gabriel. I didn't harm a hair on his head, I promise. I don't even know where he is… since my demons are incompetent morons. Odd, though, by the time I tracked down the pagan whore, she was already dead. But I'm sure you wouldn't know anything about that?"
"I took care of it." Damn, it was hard to keep his cool. Gabriel still felt the regret of having to kill Circe, but making him choose between her or his brother had been a fatal mistake. There was no contest.
The older archangel's jaw tightened. "So Castiel and Sam…?"
"Both back to normal, long gone," Gabriel assured him with a smirk, satisfied to see Lucifer sigh in frustration.
"So you're working for Michael?"
Gabriel stiffened, and this time there was true darkness in his glare. "For Michael?" he repeated with a scornful snort. "No, idiot. I'm not. And before you try out your sales pitch, don't bother… I'm not working with you, either. In fact, that's why I'm here."
"Is that supposed to make sense?"
"Listen, bro… this squabble between you and Michael? Keep it between you and Michael. Got that? Leave Castiel out of this."
Lucifer stared at the younger archangel, shaking his head in disbelief. "You realize that Castiel came after me."
"I'm sorry," Gabriel drawled with a sarcastic roll of his eyes. "I didn't realize little, graceless Cassie was such a threat to an archangel that you had to beat up on him."
"Watch it, little brother."
There was an insidious note of anger slipping in to the cool annoyance, and while Gabriel didn't fear his brother, he also wasn't there to deepen any of the rifts between them. He shrugged, not backing down, but easing his tone a bit as he finished,
"If you and Michael are so desperate to have this fight, then, you know what, I can't stop it. But our family is in the crossfire from this pissing contest, you get it? Your and Michael's little temper tantrum is hurting them. Not just Castiel. All the lesser angels. You were the one who thought they were being treated so unfairly with the whole humans thing, so prove that you care about them. Leave them out of this. I'm tired of seeing my kid brothers and sisters get hurt, Luci. Why do you think I left in the first place, you twat? Leave Castiel alone. We've lost enough."
Silence fell as Lucifer regarded him. Gabriel held his gaze, hoping his big brother would just listen for a change, though odds of that were slim to none. He could feel the other archangel's anger fading somewhat, which was encouraging. Finally, Lucifer shook his head and gazed upwards.
"You always did have a soft spot for the odd ones."
"Castiel is different. He doesn't do what he's told… I like him," Gabriel agreed with a grin.
"You would. But Gabriel, you should reconsider," Lucifer suddenly said, leaning forward now with an intense gaze as he caught the younger archangel's eye. "Stay with me. Fight with me. We could end this, you and me. We both want the same thing… peace for our kindred."
Gabriel snorted, giving his brother an insolent smirk. "Trust me, we don't want the same thing. I'm not on your side. But I will protect my brothers. You got that?" Gabriel paused, then grimly finished, "Against anything that tries to hurt them. That includes Michael… and you."
Lucifer studied him for a moment, then leaned back with a disappointed sigh. If nothing else, Gabriel knew his brother would respect his decision, wouldn't push the matter—for now, at least. The discussion over, Gabriel turned to go.
He looked over his shoulder. Lucifer reached behind the throne, grabbing something and dragging it forward to the floor next to him, a vicious burn in his cool gaze as he said only, "The demon you wanted."
Gabriel cocked his head, seeing an enormous Doberman cowering there. It looked like Circe's work, but… "Shouldn't he be back to normal, too?"
"He was for a moment," Lucifer replied with a shrug. "But he was useless either way, so I decided to keep him as a dog. You might as well take him."
So this was the one who had wounded Castiel? That made sense… Gabriel could visualize the scene, and his expression turned dark. He was at the Doberman's side with a flap of wings, picking the terrified demon up by the scruff like he was no bigger than Gabriel's new Chihuahua pal.
"Wait!" the demon cried, trying to struggle away. "No, wait, please! I-"
"Thanks," Gabriel said to Lucifer; that one word held the demon's death sentence. Lucifer nodded with a careless wave of his hand.
"I'll see you again, Gabriel."
"I hope not."
With the squirming demon held fast in his grip, heading for a long, painful demise for daring to hurt Gabriel's little brother, the archangel disappeared.
…But he would be watching.