Disclaimer: This story is for entertainment purposes only and no profit is being made from it. The characters belong to Eric Kripke and the CW; I'm only borrowing them and no (real) harm is intended.

Rating: T, for language & some violence.

Spoilers: potentially through episode 5.16; this is set vaguely after My Bloody Valentine & Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid.

Notes: Happy birthday to me! I needed cheering up after a bad week; I wanted chocolate Kahlua cheesecake, so I baked one, and I wanted angel!whump, so I wrote some. Birthdays should be self-indulgent.

So I have a thing about wings—shoot me :) This one's gen, too.


They catch up to him in Mexico.

On the peninsula of Baja California, to be precise.

Castiel has been in South America for a week, working his way slowly along the western coast. Prayers rise to the sky in a steady reverse rainfall, and if his Father is anywhere on His earth, surely it will be here, now…

Dean's amulet bumps Castiel's breastbone as he wheels, the metal obstinately cold and inert. He slides between the streams of pleas, touching down near a young girl digging through dusty bricks. Her mind is droning Bastián-Bastián-Bastián as her nails shred and her thin shoulderblades shift rhythmically with her labors.

She feels like Dean, all dogged determination even though Bastián lies silent and cool beneath the rubble, and so when she claws ineffectually at a slab of bricks still mortared together, Castiel adds his waning strength to hers and pushes. The heavy slab, as well as the mound of what used to be the walls of her parents' house, tumble aside, the cascade of debris parting to fall on either side of the girl.

When the dust settles, she hitches forward on torn knees to peer into the cleared space. A moan breaks from her throat and she sinks back, eyes closed, breath coming in harsh gasps.

At the thin edge of Castiel's perception, a presence snaps out a crackling blue leader, seeking his expenditure of Grace across the distance. He spins on the ball of one foot and pushes off before it can pinpoint him.

He flies north, touching down briefly on the tallest roof in a town bordering a desert before turning almost violently to head inland. He drops low to zigzag through the ordered rows of an orchard, wingtips flicking the branches. At the last row of trees, a man loading baskets into the bed of a truck looks up in puzzlement at the slap of wind against his wrinkled cheek.

That man should not have been able to perceive him. Castiel gathers strength, gathers speed, and is back over the coast before the next heartbeat. He banks to the north again, skimming whitecaps.

A second crackling presence joins the first that tails him. Both are stretching out staticky tracers as they crisscross in undulating lines over his wake. Castiel doubles back into a bustling city, briefly losing himself amongst the crowds. He heads up the river that cuts through it, staying low to hurtle beneath the arch of bridges.

Another heartbeat, another coast, Caribbean this time instead of Pacific. He wheels west, then bounces back and forth to follow a long ribbon of land northward rather than chance the open water.

Castiel touches down in the shadow of a crumbling pyramid, chest tight in a wholly unfamiliar way. Moist air wraps around him and he lays a steadying hand on the mossy stones. A cloud of brightly-colored birds explodes out of the jungle into the sky; he traces their panicked flight with his eyes.

Cold blue current tickles the back of his skull again and he leaps, leaving flurried shadows across the face of the pyramid.

They catch him on the arid slope of a mountainside on Baja California.

Crossing the narrow gulf is his second mistake after helping the girl—over the empty water they can hone right in on him without the obscuring clamor of humanity. Castiel darts between mountain peaks as his pursuers draw nearer, streaking through gorges in a random path meant to throw them off. He can go to ground in Tijuana…

He never makes it.

An angel hurtles down out of the blue, one foot outstretched, her vessel's arm already reaching over her back to draw a sword. Castiel slams to a stop with a frantic backbeat of wings and his heels skid on the steep slope. A fervent smile lights the other's face as she steps across the dry, rocky ground. A second drops to flank Castiel, dashing a burst of blue sparks to the dirt in his zeal.

Neither bothers to ask for his surrender. The one behind him, in a male vessel, barrels headlong at Castiel the instant he lands; Castiel barely gets his own sword up in time to deflect the rush. He puts his back to the rocks and whips the blade around and his attacker is forced to hop back to avoid being bisected. The female is lunging from his other side; Castiel has to swing backhand, hard, to counter her blade. The clash echoes off the surrounding hills.

The fight is brutal, silent save for silver ringing on silver and the rough rustle of wings. The pair of angels presses forward relentlessly, no finesse in their form, and Castiel resorts to simply hacking back at them, first one, then the second, without pause.

The female ducks low to aim a wicked swipe at his knees; Castiel has to contort his arm awkwardly in the effort to block her, and his sword meets hers with a tremendous impact. Bones snap under the twisting force; he has no time to switch sword hands because the male angel is kicking off the cliff face and falling on him from above.

Castiel slams the hilt up under the other's guard into his jaw. The blade intended to bury itself in the back of Castiel's neck instead slices at a sharp angle, biting into his wing until it hits bone.

Castiel's opponent grins, releasing a spill of blood down his chin. "Raphael says we each can take a wing as a trophy," he spits thickly, and rises on tiptoe to bear down.

Castiel drops. The blade sunk in his wing jerks loose as he slides down the rockface; it doesn't even register as pain yet, only a shocked numbness, and Castiel punches his own sword up into the other's stomach.

Breath huffs out against his face with a startled grunt. The other's eyes stretch wide and his arm goes flaccid, dragging his sword point down the rock with a long, rasping scrape.

Castiel wrenches his blade free and whips it behind without looking. It catches the female's descending sword with an almighty clash, sparking and sending an explosion of pain up his arm.

The remaining angel isn't smiling now. Her mouth is set to grimness and her eyes are cold and her blade grinds relentlessly down on Castiel's, forcing him over backwards as it creeps towards his throat. Behind him, the angel he stabbed is making bewildered sounds and rocking side-to-side on his back. Castiels's arm shakes, nearly buckling from the strain. He scrabbles his free hand across the parched ground.

The dust he flings into the other angel's eyes doesn't faze her beyond an irritated twitch, but he seizes the miniscule opportunity. Twisting his blade free of hers, he swipes it across her throat.

Her blade clatters to the ground as she grabs for the gaping wound, ignoring the sudden gout of blood in favor of trying frantically to contain the sheets of light spilling past it.

Castiel rolls to his feet, leaving her to her futile efforts and not even slowing his quickening steps when he jabs his sword through the throat of the first angel on his way past. Another flare of brilliance backlights his flight.

He flies blindly, instinctively returning to North America even though he has no hope of locating Dean, and wouldn't try until he is certain the angels' leader isn't tracking him.

Castiel touches down – crashes, if he's honest – in the heart of a teeming city, and lurches hard into the glossy black glass decorating the ground level of an impressive office building. People on the sidewalk scream; hands flicker in his peripheral vision as they yank fellow pedestrians away from him. Castiel catches a brief glimpse of himself as he pushes upright on the darkly reflective glass—blood splattered, wild-haired, eyes nearly popping from his drained face.

He twists ungracefully aloft without even taking a steadying breath, leaving behind more screams, smudged glass, and a scatter of torn black feathers.

Castiel tacks east against the drag of his rent wing that pulls him in the opposite direction. Flying becomes more difficult; the sword wound is no longer numb, but burning with an intensity that stabs deep in his center with every wingbeat.

He's also leaking.

He needs time to recoup, to stop the bleeding before it becomes a trail. Time to put himself back together.

Weeks back, Sam Winchester had handed Castiel a magazine, full of lurid photographs and poorly-spelled articles about weird places and happenings in New Jersey. The cover was folded back to a small story nearly lost on a page of advertisements for tattoo and piercing parlors, and Sam had tapped the article with his finger.

"I dunno – most of the legends in this are made-up bullshit – but there may be something to this one. It's said there're ancient tombs north of Trenton in Washington Crossing, that lead down to a network of tunnels. They were supposedly built by pagan worshippers or a wandering druid or something. Mangled old folktales, mostly… but there're mentions in a couple of historical pamphlets that the British army stumbled across one of the tombs back in Revolutionary War times, that they used it as a crypt for Hessian soldiers' bodies. The Historical Society's been trying to track it down for years. Technical maps do show that the city of Trenton broke through to some unusual passages when they were constructing the waterworks."

Sam had shrugged. "I dunno," he repeated. "Something that ancient, though, you might wanna take a look."

Castiel had accepted the magazine with grave care. "Thank you, Sam."

There had been some winding tunnels deep in the bedrock, but they had been empty—of archaic power, of bones, of God.

Still, they were quiet and deep, a satisfactory place to hide away and heal.

With a destination in mind, Castiel struggles north, and east.

Of course he overshoots his goal.

One second he's over the grit and decay of Trenton; the next, upriver by too many miles when he overcompensates for the increasing drag in his limbs.

There are steep hills below him, red shale cliffs interspersed with forested sections, rising high above the river. Snow is still heaped at the shaded roots, and thick columns of icicles pour from the cliff face. It looks chilly and damp, and even less ideal than an airless black tunnel as a place to set down, but as Castiel lets his cleaved wing pull him into a U-turn, one patch of trees blurs in his vision.

Castiel circles lower, squinting. Stark grey trees, a tumble of ice-choked rocks where runoff has streamed for centuries, a patch his eyes skitter over without registering, and then a stand of hemlocks swaying softly in his downdraft. Lower, where his shoes rattle through brittle branches, the blurred section resolves into a bowl-shaped hollow overgrown with witch hazel. The slender black branches are laced together into a canopy of natural protection that throws off prying eyes.

He's weary. His shattered arm throbs no matter how stubbornly he ignores it and the sword slash widens and deepens with every beat of his wing. This is as good a hiding place as any.

Castiel folds his arms tight, tucks his chin to his chest, and slides down through the trees to settle on his heels in the densest part of the thicket.

The sky has lightened to dull pewter when the branches thrash suddenly in the still air. Castiel snaps out of a half-trance, head flying up, wings rising at his back. Someone looms over him, materializing without warning in the way only the non-human can accomplish. Castiel flings himself back and the resulting sunburst of hurt finishes waking him.

The figure ducks slightly, pushing aside branches to keep pace with Castiel's retreat. When he straightens, a smirk curls his lip. He waggles his eyebrows. "Hey, bro. You really need to work on the whole out-of-sight thing. Though I gotta give you points for the witch hazel. The Bible Brigade isn't gonna see through it as easy as I can."

Castiel shoves backwards one-handed until he's brought up short by a wall of underbrush. It pokes sharp fingers into his shoulderblades until spots swirl in his vision. "Gabriel."

"That's me," the archangel says cheerfully. He drops one hand with a flourish and it fills with an enormous spiral pastry that steams slightly in the frigid morning air. "Cinnamon bun?"

"Leave!" Castiel growls. Frost shivers off the surrounding twigs in a tiny localized snowfall. He drags his arm up from where it had spent the night pressed to his waist—the sword is still clenched in his swelling fingers, the blade reversed and lying flat along the underside of his arm to brace the shattered bones. A twist of his aching wrist brings it to bear on Gabriel; sheer will keeps it pointed at the archangel's sternum without a tremor.

"If you wanted one with raisins, you only had to ask." Gabriel tosses out his other hand, overflowing with a second huge pastry, this one thick with glistening black fruit. "C'mon, they're not that Cinnabon crap—these're from Mallon's in Ocean City, hot outta the oven."

"I'm not playing your games." Tiny beads of sweat break out along Castiel's hairline, but his sword never wavers. "Leave, or die."

"Aren't you a barrel of laughs. Not a morning person, huh?" Gabriel sighs and the pastries vanish. Then he reaches over, seizing the sword hilt and twisting it easily from his brother's hand. Castiel makes a futile grab to recapture it and Gabriel holds it out of his reach and tsks. "Children shouldn't play with sharp things."

"I said I wouldn't play your games." Castiel half-rises, eyes flickering between the sword, the archangel's face, the tangle of branches between him and open sky.

"Who's playing?" Gabriel flips the sword over his shoulder so that it sinks point-first deep into a lichened stone at the edge of the thicket. He smirks. "Well, okay, maybe a little. That game always was fun to watch. But this ain't a game." At the word this, he catches Castiel's wrist. "Dang, you're in a bad way if you can't even heal a broken arm."

"Get off." Throat suddenly dry, Castiel jerks back. The hand tightens and Castiel wrenches harder against it, heels digging into the frozen ground. Gabriel crouches, and Castiel shoves at his shoulder; it's like pushing a mountain. "Get your hand off me, you're not sending me anywhere!"

"Cool your jets, twerp." Gabriel squeezes sharply, compressing muscle and bone in a reminder of his power. He raises his other hand, palm flat, fingers spread. "I'm not sending you anywhere." He waves his hand back and forth until Castiel goes still, his wary gaze fixed on it. Slowly Gabriel moves the hand to his brother's elbow. "Damn, you're distrustful."

"I have reason to be."

"Hey, how was I supposed to know your vessel looked exactly like a fictional Serbian terrorist? Sit your ass all the way down unless you wanna fall on it, this might hurt." Gabriel's hands clamp tight at elbow and wrist, pause, and yank hard.

Castiel's eyelids flutter; he sucks in a sharp breath, sets his teeth, and glares up the archangel. "Okay, yeah, the head-butting thing was a little over-the-top," Gabriel says, bracing the wrist he's holding against his knee. "My man Bauer is relentless when he gets a bee in his bonnet, I shoulda remembered that. At least you've still got both thumbs and kneecaps." He smoothes Castiel's arm with his palm and blistering heat races down it.

Castiel tips backwards, groping for the nearest tree to anchor him in the spinning forest. "He kept asking who I was working for," he slurs, and narrows his eyes at his erstwhile brother. "He punched me in the throat when I told him 'God'."

Gabriel has the grace to wince. "Yeah, I mighta gone a tad overboard with that script, but like I said—thumbs. Kneecaps."

"Are you going to let me go?"

His brother raises his hands in defeat, slaps them to his thighs, and pushes upright. He sweeps his arm out in a broad gesture. "Don't let me stop ya! Go. Tilt at a windmill or ten."

Gabriel rotates his wrist and suddenly he's holding a sugar-dusted cruller. He takes a huge bite and chews, smacking his lips appreciatively while he edges back to watch.

Castiel makes an abortive attempt to stand, wings rustling, blinking when his limbs refuse to cooperate. He sets his mouth and rocks onto one hip, gripping the smooth bole of the witch hazel tree with his healed hand. He gets halfway to his feet this time, back bowed, shoulders braced on the trunk. His hand shakes. After a moment he slides right back down to the frozen earth.

"Yeah, that's what I thought." Gabriel pops the last morsel of donut into his mouth and claps sugar from his fingers. "Bend forward."

Castiel shakes his head. He's still shaking it when his upper body tilts away from the tree in spite of his efforts to remain stationary. Gabriel ignores the dark glare skewering him and peers over Castiel's shoulder. He looses a low whistle.

"They caught you, kiddo—you, not just your vessel." He reaches down, scoops his fingers through the space at Castiel's back, and the angel jerks as if brushed by a live powerline. Gabriel's fingertips glisten with iridescence. "I'm not able to fix this," he says softly. "You gotta do it yourself, Castiel."

"I know that." Castiel finds the pressure holding him has eased, and he sinks back, shoulders hunching. "Leave me be so I can."

"Mmm, how 'bout no." Gabriel folds his arms. "I found you 'cuz… well, let's just say I've learned a few tricks over the centuries. Raphael and his fanatics, they're a little more… traditional, shall we say, but they'll run you to ground eventually, bucko."

The liquid drip down Castiel's wing is cold proof of that. He wants to close his eyes, huddle Jimmy's coat up around his ears and just drift, but not with Gabriel's quicksilver presence nipping at his. "Your concern is touching."

The archangel brays out a laugh. "My, my, my, listen to you! Learning sarcasm from a knuckle-dragging mortal!"

"This is what I've learned from Dean!" Castiel hisses, heat flaring in his chest. "Loyalty. Compassion." He brushes chilled fingers over the bridge of his nose, his throat. "That a real joke is not something that causes harm."

"How many times do I have to apologize for sticking you in the idiot box?"

"Once would be nice." Castiel does close his eyes then, turning his face aside with sudden exhaustion. "Go away, Gabriel."

"First things first."

Castiel's eyes fly back open as the trenchcoat dips on one side. He snatches, but is too late—Gabriel is leaning back, that insufferable smirk twisting his mouth, Castiel's phone displayed in his hand. The archangel points a pinky at his brother; Castiel flails, his grasping fingers somehow completely missing Gabriel with every swipe as his grinning brother pins him in place.

"Nyah-nyah-nyah. Now sit tight." Gabriel flicks his pinky in the center of Castiel's forehead. "And zip it while the big boys talk." He frowns down at the phone, thumbing buttons, and finally clears his throat theatrically.

"Cas? Hey." Dean's voice when he picks up is blurred beneath crackling static.

Gabriel's eyebrows dance, and the connection clears. "Dean. Where are you?"

His inflection is gravelly and pitch-perfectly Castiel's, a touch of exasperation coloring the clipped tone. Gabriel preens silently, quirking one eyebrow at his fuming brother.

There's a long silence. Then, "Who are you and what have you done with Cas?" Dean snarls.

Surprise wipes Gabriel's face clean for a split second. He recovers in a blink, breaking into a delighted grin. "Oh, codewords! Very smart, Dean-o! I bet that was Sammy's idea!"

"Gabriel." Animosity pours through the airwaves. "Let him go, you sonuvabitch."

"Yeah, see, here's the thing—Cas is not exactly flight-worthy at the moment. So it would be peachy-keeno if you would give me your current address so's I can Fed-Ex him to you instead."

"Nice try. I'm not telling you squat, dickhead. What did you do to get his phone away from him?"

Gabriel clucks his tongue, eyes still sparkling. "Listen to the mouth on you! Y'know what would be funny? If every time you cussed, you spewed soap bubbles. Pink, rose-scented ones, I think."

"Stop tormenting him," Castiel says. He can't get his voice above a low murmur, but there's enough bite in his tone to give Gabriel pause.

The archangel shifts the phone to his other ear. "This is so sweet—Castiel is freezing his asscheeks off in the snow – literally, by this point, I betcha – with half his wing chopped off, and he's worried about you. It's enough to put even me in a diabetic coma."

"Gabriel, I swear by all that's unholy, I will end you. I've got a can of holy oil with your name on it, and I will track you down and watch you sizzle. You hear me, asshole? I will end you."

"I hear you, Dean, and so does everyone else in a tri-state area." Gabriel holds out the phone. "Here. It's for you."

"Dean." The constriction on Castiel's throat loosens and he draws a deep breath. "'There's no mystical energy field that controls my destiny'," he recites carefully.

"Cas. Jesus fuck, are you okay? What's that assclown playing at?"

"I'm… not sure." Castiel flicks a glance up and Gabriel pulls a face at him in return. "He… may be offering assistance."

"May be? Kid, your radius was corkscrewed around your ulna before I stepped in," Gabriel stage-whispers.

"Fuck him. Where are you? We'll come get you."

"Pennsylvania." Castiel shifts away from the archangel crowding his energy. Gabriel feels shadowy and sly, bitter in contrast to Dean's steadfast burn or Sam's brightness, and Castiel supposes Dean feels a similar uneasiness when he complains about personal space. He'll keep distance in mind the next time he's tempted to slip into too-close proximity. "Overlooking the Delaware," he adds, casting a glance down the hillside.

"Way to be specific, Cas." A frustrated huff explodes through the phone. "We're at least a 15-hour drive away. Can you hold out against Douchey until then?"

"Of course. I'm merely fatigued. Gabriel is just being… annoying."

The phone is snatched away from Castiel. "Gabriel is being annoying?" the archangel in question squawks. "You yo-yos have a strange definition of 'annoying'. I'm trying to perform a service here. I'm recycling. I've got an extra angel cluttering up the place, you're minus one, I can drop it off on my way to my next appointment—it's win-win for everybody."

Pointed silence resonates down the connection. Sam's voice is a muted rumble in the background, up-inflected in query, and Dean replies, muffled, "…something about frostbite, and his wing… Why should we trust you?" Dean asks, abruptly louder as he turns back to his phone.

"Weird—Castiel said the same thing, more or less." Gabriel rounds his eyes and mouth in mock outrage. "I'm wounded, really." Castiel doesn't react beyond letting his head fall back against the tree again. His face is drawn in the dull morning light; dried blood is still splashed down his coat, and he breathes out, long and careful and unutterably weary.

Gabriel drops all pretense. "Look, guys, it's simple. You didn't leave me to rot in that warehouse in Ohio. I don't like being beholden to anyone. I do this, it balances the books. Whadda ya say?"

Rough breathing fills Gabriel's ear. "Fairmont, Minnesota, number four at Lakeshore Cabins on Albion," Dean spits. "And you better not be…"

Gabriel cuts him off by snapping the phone shut over his head like a castanet, giving a little shimmy of his hips as he does so. Triumphant smile lighting his face, he reaches down to the angel sagging at his feet. "Trickster Air now boarding for the Land of 10,000 Lakes!"

Castiel's eyes widen and he struggles to shrug off the weighty hand. "This is just another of your tricks…"

A swirl of raven-dark feathers wraps Castiel, stifling his accusation. "Shut up, bro," resonates in his mind, and fingers snap, lifting them into the whirlwind.

Dean's got his back to the wall, eyes scanning the pine-panelled room in constant sweeps. He doesn't even twitch when Gabriel bulls-eyes the braided rug spread just inside the door. The archangel straightens, hoisting at the drooping passenger under his arm, and his eyes cross as a double-barreled muzzle settles lightly on the bridge of his nose.

"That won't actually do anything to me," Gabriel informs him helpfully.

"Shut up." Without shifting his flinty gaze from Gabriel's, Dean aims his voice over his shoulder. "Sam?"

"I got him."

Gabriel's eyes uncross; Sam's positioned half behind the cabin's single bureau, elbows braced on its top to aim the Colt dead-center at Gabriel's forehead.

With Sam covering him, Dean ducks forward, gathers Castiel in his free arm, and drags him clear of Gabriel. "Cas?"

"Yes." The angel lurches, feet catching on the flat coils of the rug, and Dean's arm tightens. "Hello, Dean."

"What the hell happened?"

Gabriel answers for him, one eye fixed warily on the Colt. "Tangled with a couple of Raphael's goons. One of the hit squads he's got roaming the earth."

Dean curses, giving Castiel a swift once-over and taking in his glassy stare and stained coat. "Where're you hit?"

"It's just a nick…"

"He's got a chunk the size of a Volkswagen carved out of his wing," Gabriel interrupts, and Dean freezes, slowly turning over the hand knotted in the back of Castiel's trenchcoat to see shimmering wetness smeared on it. "You might wanna sit him down before he face-plants."

"Should he sit in the car?" Sam flicks a brief worried glance at his own brother and the gently swaying angel he's holding upright. "If we're about to have angels smashing through the roof, we should bug out."

"Nah, you're good." With all the flourish of a stage magician, Gabriel produces a sword from somewhere inside his thin silky shirt. "The little badass took 'em out before he went hide and seek." He holds the sword before him, hunger and longing flashing in turn across his face. "Man, it's been a while since I've had one of these…"

"Shit!" Dean scrambles back, slinging Castiel behind the dinette. "Weapon! Sammy! Watch…!"

"Got him!" Sam barks, already advancing, the Colt looming like a cannon in Gabriel's vision. "Drop your sword."

Gabriel rolls his eyes. "Whatever you say, Westley." He chucks it carelessly aside; the point embeds neatly in a crack in the floor and the sword quivers there, centered upright between the four of them. "But it's Castiel's sword, and he probably wants it back, so don't, like, beat it into a plowshare just yet."

"Y'okay?" Dean's asking quietly in the background. Wooden chair legs screech against the floor. "Cas? You okay?"

"I'm fine, Dean."

"Not gonna lie, I've seen corpses that looked more 'fine'. Sit down."

Gabriel keeps his attention focused on Sam. "Didn't you learn your lesson about that cap pistol with Lucifer?" he asks lightly.

"You want to test it out, see how far up the food chain it works?" Sam snaps. The gun twitches, just once, for emphasis, and Gabriel raises his hands.

"Hey, hey, take it easy!"

"Don't tell us to take it easy!" Dean bellows from where he's crouched in front of Castiel. "Why are you still here, anyway?"

"Maybe I'd like my benevolence acknowledged."

"Your…? Fine, we're square, you prick. You're welcome. Now beat it." Dean's voice drops. "Cas? Can I do anything?"

"You heard him." Sam motions with the Colt towards the door.

"I want to make sure Baby Brother is in good hands."

"You brought him to us. I'd say that qualifies."

"All three of you need to start keeping a lower profile." Gabriel tilts his head toward the window overlooking the sandy parking lot. "That bucket of bolts you ride around in is not exactly inconspicuous – the fundies are on the lookout for it, demons, too – and I can give you a few pointers on layin' low."

"Would towels help?" Dean murmurs to Castiel, and gets a low negative in return. "What do you care about helping all of a sudden?" he barks at the archangel. "You want us caught. You're trying to commit suicide by Armageddon, remember?"

Gabriel suddenly has a deer-in-the-headlights expression. "Just leveling the playing field a little," he says with forced indifference. "I mean, hell, everyone knows the Superbowl usually sucks because it ends up being a blowout. Why not have the ultimate face-off be a little more exciting?"

"Uh-huh." Sam tilts his head, studying Gabriel closely. A speculative look creeps across his face. "You're bored," he suggests innocently. Gabriel's gaze is riveted on Sam's, and behind them, Dean has gone completely still, watching quietly. "Bored with handing out just deserts to simple humans and you're looking for a challenge. The kind of things coming after us would give you that."

Gabriel narrows his eyes. "Maaaybe."

"It's not like you've changed your mind about our roles or anything. It's just that hanging around near us would give you first crack at taking on some pretty major players." Sam lowers the Colt a notch. "Right?" he prompts.

Gabriel's silent for an endless moment as he considers the out Sam's offering him. "I'm not joining your little Rebellion against the Empire," he says at last, and the tension drains out of the room.

Sam lets his arm fall to his side and rolls his neck, cracking the stress out of it. "'Course not," he replies.

"But if I were, I'd get to be Han Solo."

Dean snorts, already turning back to Castiel, knee to knee, hands worrying along the angel's shoulders and personal space be damned. "Fuck that. I'm the one with the cool vehicle, dude. You can be Luke."

"Luke's boring. And a hick."

"Then you can be Lando."

"Lando betrayed them!" Gabriel yelps, and when Dean raises an eyebrow at him, twists his face into a massive pout.

"He redeemed himself in the end," Sam offers. "He helped blow up the second Death Star."

"Helped being the operative word," Gabriel grouses. "I wanna do it myself." He brightens. "I'll be Wedge."

"Nope." After a last reassuring check of Castiel's eyes, Dean rises reluctantly, leaving him to settle at the dining table with his head pillowed on his arms. "Cas is Wedge. Survived two Death Stars, all three movies, and Luke's boneheaded leadership. Plus he's my wingman." He points at Gabriel. "Lando. Take it or leave it."

The archangel sighs gustily. "Fine. Whatever. He does have a bitchin' cloak." Moving toward the door, he snaps his fingers, and a chunk of chalky rock appears. With quick strokes, he sketches a pictograph onto the back of the door. "This'll help divert prying eyes, at least the heavenly ones. As for the human ones in Zachariah's fundy posse…" Gabriel snaps his fingers again, and the rock is replaced by a large frosted cookie in the shape of a dinosaur. He waves it and smiles slyly. "I think I'll go kick up a fuss in a conservative corner."

"You do that." Dean moves around the room, setting his shotgun in easy reach on the counter and unhooking the pot from the coffee machine. "Make it interesting enough to hit the evening news."

"Will do." Gabriel salutes. "Lando out." He pauses, and points at Sam, who has a notebook flipped open and is copying the pictograph. "At least it beats being the Wookiee."

A second later, a fading braying laugh is the only trace of Gabriel.

And Team Free Will has expanded its ranks by one.

Sammy's been researching lore in Weird New Jersey, the silly boy:

h t t p : / / w w w . weirdnj. c o m

(but I Made Shit Up about tombs & tunnels in Washington Crossing.)

For all his faults, Gabriel does know the best cinnamon rolls and sticky buns in the Mid-Atlantic:

h t t p : / / mallonsstickybuns. c o m

Cas sat himself down near here, just because the ice is amazing and Dead Deer Gully is an awesome name:

h t t p :/ / w w w . mountainproject. c o m/ v / Pennsylvania / the_narrows / 106681986

Wedge Antilles has been my flyboy since the Original Trilogy came out:

h t t p : / / starwarswikia. c o m / wiki / Wedge_Antilles