Notes: Last part. Don't worry, still no slash. However, there is a significant increase in the use of text messaging.

They were driving again, in between stops and going over what little they knew. Gabriel was secretly very pissed off at his own lack of knowledge, his lack of awareness of the world around him, but confined himself to smart little verbal jabs and switching radio stations when the brothers got too annoying for him. Deep down he knew the prodding was just another of his so-called coping mechanisms; The back seat was beginning to feel way too comfortable for his liking, and the Winchesters themselves far too familiar. He was starting to like them way too much - more than he already had - to the point where the idea that either of them would sacrifice themselves to save the world was becoming more and more unacceptable.

Which in itself was unacceptable, considering just how powerful (and capable of stopping them) Gabriel wasn't.

The archangel was slumped in the passenger's side of the back seat, disgusted with the fact that the scar tissue on his back was bothering him. He was starting to think about singing show tunes just to see how long it would take to get Dean to crack. He mused on that thought for a minute or two, mentally compiling a list of Broadway's Most Annoying.

Half an hour later he was being threatened with having his vocal chords cut.

For the sake of sanity – not just his – Gabriel soon found himself being temporarily foisted off onto another hunter.

The only good thing about Bobby's house was the space. More than one room plus a great deal of 'back yard' meant that Gabriel didn't constantly need to be in the company of others. It meant he was free to putter around on his own, soaking in boredom and tentatively pushing the limits of his recovery one telekinetic step at a time.

If he missed being able to tease Sam and Dean twenty-four seven he didn't let on. And not even he was going to do much to piss off a temperamental, gun-toting, no-nonsense hunter like Bobby... even if said hunter was confined to a wheelchair and less fun than Sam on one of his bad hair days.

That said, he considered it a triumph of magnificent proportions when he was successfully able to send a text message using nothing but his mind.

Sam's phone buzzed in his pocket. He frowned at the screen, which told him he had a new text message from Dean. 'Wat r u wearing?'

"Dude." Sam looked at his brother in disgust, "I'm sitting right here. If this is your idea of a prank you seriously need to rethink your strategy."

"What?" Dean looked back at him, a puzzled frown on his face, which only grew more concerned when Sam showed him the text. "Uh, that's great and all, Sammy. But maybe you should keep your personal texts to yourself from now on."

"You're the one who sent it."

"I think I'd know if I sent you a text telling you to take off your pants."

"What?" Now it was Sam's turn to look confused. He glanced down at the phone only to see that the words on the screen had indeed changed to 'take off ur pants'. Half a second later the phone buzzed again. Warily Sam opened the new text.

'Cn't wait to get in u, [heart] the Devil'

For a split second Sam had the irrational fear that somehow Lucifer had actually got a hold of his phone number. A ;) appeared after the word 'Devil'. Sam sighed in disgust. "Gabriel," he said aloud.

"Gabriel wants you to take off your pants?" Dean asked, giving Sam a very weird look. (Sam suspected he was being purposefully obtuse.)

Sam ignored his brother and instead concentrated on typing a reply with his thumbs. 'Stop texting me, you pervert'. He was about to hit send when he thought better of it and added 'we're about to talk to some important people, no distractions!'

He thought better of that only after he'd already sent the text.

Exactly thirty seconds later Dean's phone shrilled obnoxiously in his jacket pocket. Sam watched him fish for it and flip it open to read the words that had popped up on the screen. His brother smirked and Sam had a sinking feeling that he'd just been zinged. "So," Dean said, "according to Gabriel you just told him you want to ride me like a show pony in the back seat of my baby."

"Gabriel," Sam replied, as calmly as possible while having quiet fantasies of drowning the archangel in Bobby's water tank, "is a douche."

Half an hour later Gabriel received a message from Dean. 'Dude,' it said. 'Ur awesome.'

The archangel chuckled to himself and left himself breathless, scar throbbing, just so he could make sure that Dean would find a snickers bar in his jacket pocket next time he checked his phone.

By the end of the week Gabriel had mastered the ability of short-distance flight. That naturally meant he could transport himself from one place to another a relatively short distance away without any negative repercussions, but that long-distances still seemed beyond him. He was largely using his newfound powers of flight solely to test his limits. He popped from room to room without any singular purpose, and annoyed Bobby the day he decided to test what volume of mass he could take with him... Which was how the couch wound up sitting outside in the rain for half an hour, and how Gabriel found himself forced to sit on the back porch with an ancient hairdryer when it turned out he lacked the ability to simply snap things dry.

He had also sent at least a hundred inappropriate text messages to the Winchester boys, and received several in response – some of them funnier (and angrier) than others. And one hastily snapped picture of someone's underwear-clad behind that he suspected had been taken in a public restroom.

The archangel had taken it upon himself to be the tension-breaker in the world of doom and gloom and one terrible sign after another. He knew full well the seriousness of every situation the boys got themselves into (and, miraculously, out of). So when he received a text one night that said simply 'Crowley here, has plan Goin with him' he threw away the witty one-liners and inappropriate jokes in favour of some sage advice; 'Take it with a grain of salt'.

He doubted Dean would even notice the pun.

Hours later he was proved wrong. 'Ha ha,' the message read. 'Salt lube.'

Gabriel grinned. That had not been what he'd meant at all. 'Kinky :D'

The seconds stretched on into minutes, long enough that the archangel thought that he wouldn't be getting a reply. 'Worried about Sam.' The next message read, in a very different tone from the last one. 'Demons fuck with us too much. Angels fuck with everyone No offense.'

'You do what you can. That's all you can do.'

'Wish Cas was here.'

For a moment Gabriel didn't know what to say. He realised, in one static shock of clarity, that the Winchester's own rebellious angel (mark one) had indeed been missing for an inordinately long time. He was impaired, not dead, and had no right – no reason other than self-absorbed whining – not to have noticed. The brothers had the end of the world and an insane game of hide and go seek to keep themselves occupied, Gabriel had self pity. Well, crap.

The archangel decided against going with a trite 'do you miss him' and instead sent back; 'Little brothers... always getting themselves into trouble and needing us to save them.'

'Youre helping?'

'You wound me, Winchester.'

'excuse me for breathing, dickwings. What exactly have you been doing while we chase after snotflies?'

'Need some time. Still learning how to fly.'

Gabriel left it at that, bringing his attention back to the real world immediately after hitting the mental 'send' button . He wasn't sure he wanted to know what the hunter's opinion on his grudging admission was.

He sent Sam a bag of gummy bears, stolen from an experimental trip to the local grocery store. It was more than fun to watch the look of shock from the night-fill staff when he blinked into existence in the middle of the confectionery aisle, imagining them to be much the same when he calmly selected the bears before disappearing into thin air.

Everyone liked gummy bears, and Sam deserved a bit of good luck now and then.

The searing pain of it lanced straight through his being, burning from the tips of his fingers right down to his toes and everything in between. It was so thorough, encompassing the entirety of him, that it was only dimly that he recognised that his scar had burst. Again.

He could feel his body falling, a sense of vertigo making it seem like it was happening from a great distance. The archangel caught a glimpse of movement just before his eyes shut on him, a shocked face and a body frozen in time as someone tried to catch him before he hit the floor. He was unconscious before he could tell whether they succeeded or not.

The motel was just like a thousand others across the country. Neutral colours, furniture that was neither particularly old nor particularly new, water pressure that was tricky at best, and a TV with an option for pay per view porn.

It was a pit stop. A rest along the way because there were only so many nights you could spend sleeping in a car and not wind up with cramps.

Sam was at the table, a stack of newspapers pushed to the side and his laptop open in front of him. He frowned at the screen as if it was the source of all of his problems, and took careful pains to avoid thinking to deeply or too darkly about what the source of his problems actually was. A heavy silence had settled between him and Dean, neither brother willing to be the first to break it, so the buzz of his phone was unnaturally loud.

Sam opened the message, frowned even deeper, and held the phone up to show Dean. "Is this a reference to some kind of slang I don't know about?"

Dean looked at the phone, seemingly just as puzzled as Sam to see a photograph of a pigeon taking up the screen. "If it's slang for something then I'm drawing a blank. Maybe he's just messing with you?"

"What? So I'll sit here and try and figure out what the pigeon means?" On second thoughts, that sounded an awful lot like something Gabriel would actually do.

Dean chuckled. "You're totally thinking of googling that pigeon, aren't you?"

"I'm not going to google the pigeon."

A sudden burst of displaced air sent the newspapers to fluttering. Two figures, both looking the worse for wear, appeared out of thin air in the middle of the room. Both brothers were up and moving before it even registered who exactly their impromptu visitors were. Then Gabriel was falling, leaving Castiel to sway a little on the spot with reactions clearly not quick enough to be of any help.

It was like déjà vu. The archangel fell to a crumpled heap on the floor, unconscious, blood slowly blooming in patterns through the cotton of his t-shirt.

"Homing pigeon," Dean muttered to himself, and under different circumstances the pun might have been just a little bit funny. He crouched down beside the fallen archangel and pressed his fingers against the pulse-point at Gabriel's neck. Stupid, because he wasn't even sure that angels required a pulse in order to live. Nonetheless a pulse still beat against his fingertips, drumming to a steady beat.

He looked up to see that Sam had already steered Cas to a seat on the edge of a bed. The blue-eyed angel looked disorientated, but largely unharmed. If he was hurt, it wasn't physical, and for the moment that meant Gabriel took precedence.

"Sam, I'm going to need the first aid kit."

"Way ahead of you," Sam replied, already fishing the kit out of their bags. He passed it to Dean, who had already sliced through the archangel's shirt to see just how badly he'd busted himself up this time.

"Y'know," Dean said, swiping the freshly reopened scar with a cotton ball soaked in antiseptic, "this showing up and bleeding on the floor thing is starting to get old."

"Gabriel was assumed to be dead," Castiel spoke, deadpan and dry. "That is not longer the case. He was already bleeding when he showed himself in front of the angels guarding me."

Sam sighed. "So we can assume that now the angels know he's out there they'll be trying to kill him too?"

"He looks as if someone has already tried to kill him. Lucifer, if I'm not mistaken."

"You're not."

Castiel looked at the archangel on the floor, then back at Sam. "You will need to fill me in on what has happened since I have been gone."

When Gabriel finally dragged himself up from the fog of unconsciousness he found himself experiencing the dubious pleasure of being nauseas for the first time he could accurately remember. It was not a fun sensation. He groaned, realised belatedly that the feeling was being aggravated by the fact that he was lying on something that was moving, and finally recognised the feel of the impala's back seat against his back.

"Sleeping beauty's awake." Gabriel turned his head just enough to see Dean's eyes watching him in the rear-view mirror. "How'd you sleep, princess?"

"Peachy. I think I'm going to throw up on your car." He paused a beat. "It's an interesting sensation, one I hope to never, ever feel again."

"Cas is fine. What?" If Gabriel had to guess he'd say that Sam had just given Dean a weird look. "The guy did save him, maybe he'd like to know how Cas was doing."

"Whatever, dude. I didn't say anything."

"You were thinking it."

"How would you know what I was thinking, Dean?"

"You looked like you were thinking it, ok?"

"You two ladies," Gabriel interrupted, smirking despite how crappy he felt, "are just like a couple of gossipy hens. It's adorable. And kind of disgusting."

"Screw you."

The archangel had to chuckle of the predictable response from the elder Winchester. "Maybe when I'm not so sore, angelfish."

Strangely enough though Sam snickered to himself at what must have been a very interesting expression on Dean's face, Dean himself couldn't seem to think of anything to say.

Gabriel woke up after a night of lying on a stiff motel mattress feeling sore, tired, and yet strangely refreshed. He rolled onto his side and got a face full of sunshine. Somehow it didn't bug him at all.

It occurred to him that there may be something to this hero stuff after all.

But as long as he still had the physical reminder of the gap that ran through his grace it would be impossible to get him to admit it.