"Life is short. It can come and go like a feather in the wind." ~ Shania Twain

He was busy, Gabriel told himself; he had bigger, more important things to do now that the world was ending, and baby-sitting stupid little brothers simply did not fit into that category.

He found himself in the hospital anyway.

In a nutshell, Castiel looked horrible, and the sight of all these machines and tubes and wires around him made Gabriel a little queasy. Angels should not need breathing devices to keep them alive, angels should not be wired to a heart monitor to know if they were still in their meat-suit or not, angels should have their welfare dependent on their Grace and not on an IV drip.

Gabriel did not know much about healing other angels – that was Raphael's job, and from what he had heard, his brother had gone a teeny bit psycho lately – but he was aware that just snapping his fingers and granting Castiel the equivalent of a full recovery right now was too soon. At the weak state he was in, suddenly giving him that much power and strength was comparable to putting a car on a baby's shoulders.

Since there was no other family member available to help Castiel (and since Gabriel sort of wanted to make it up to him after TV land), he surrendered to the older brother instincts he thought he had squashed down after all these centuries living on his own and did what he could. Thankfully, he had gotten here before any of the doctors could, and one of the few good things about the Apocalypse was that more and more people were being admitted into hospitals, which meant the doctors were gonna be extra busy, which meant that he could be alone with Castiel for five minutes without anyone yelling, "Oh my God, what the hell are you doing to him? Get out before I call security!"

With a snap of his fingers, Gabriel transported himself and Castiel to a pocket dimension in the room, since that was as much distance as his little brother could handle at the moment. The pocket dimension was basically an extension of the hospital room they were in now, except that none of the humans would ever know it was there, let alone have the pure luck to stumble into it even if they happened to slip all over the room.

The doctors around here probably knew more about helping people get better than Gabriel did (by just a fraction, of course), but Gabriel knew a whopping hell of a lot more about angels, and the idea of the nurses giving Castiel a whole cocktail of drugs did not sit well with him. Plus, there was always the chance that Castiel would wake up – confused, no less – at the most inopportune of times and start wreaking holy damage at the poor soul sticking a thermometer in his mouth. Hence the whole point of giving his little brother his own private room.

Gabriel figured that the king size reclining bed with a silk comforter and chamomile scented pillows would be comfy enough for Castiel to rest on; he considered changing the plain design of the comforter with a more 'stimulating' print but decided against it at the last minute, since the last thing he needed was his little brother waking up and freaking out. He conjured a plasma TV on the wall at the end of the bed just because he can, and also because hospital rooms always lacked pizzazz; no wonder people kept dying here.

Lastly, he poofed up a fake-Castiel to take the real one's place on the ratty hospital bed so no one would wonder where one of their comatose patients had went to, and he made sure that the details were exactly the way the paramedics had left him.

As much as he hated looking at the stuff, he had no choice but to keep IV drip and breathing devices on Castiel, but he could definitely leave behind the heart monitor in the 'real world'. The sound it gave off was one of the most annoying things he had ever heard – but it certainly was not frightening; just because the constant beeping noises reminded him way too much of a bomb counting down did not mean he was getting paranoid and scared, and neither did the fact that Castiel could not even breathe on his own, and the fact that what remained his Grace stood as much chance at survival as an ice cube in the freaking Sahara desert and how the very life force was being drained out of him…

Gabriel sighed and ran a hand down his face, and he really should stop picking up every human mannerism he came across to. Looking back at Castiel, all he could think of was, "This is not good."

Castiel was as pale as the sheets that were wrapped around him, and Gabriel was pretty sure that only half the reason that was the case had to do with the blood loss. That banishment spell had ripped his little brother up and his Grace was the sole thing keeping his angelic self intact, and his Grace was not exactly operating at full power either. The breathing tube and IV drip was replenishing his vessel alright, but Castiel was gradually fading away each time his chest minutely rose and fell.

But that was not the worse part, oh no. The worst part was that Castiel's Grace did not even react to his when they had been less than a mile's radius of each other. Gabriel could forgive Castiel for not becoming aware of his true identity sooner during that time in TV land, back when his little brother did not know who he had been tangling with. After that incident, Castiel should be able to distinguish Gabriel's Grace easily by now, and hey, archangels had way more kick-ass Grace than regular angels so his should not be hard to miss.

Right now, even though they were just separated by a meagre space of three feet, Castiel's Grace was as responsive as road kill. Okay, that was one of the last things Gabriel wanted to associate his little brother with.

Castiel was in the mother of all comas, there was no denying that, but the world was still ending and Gabriel had recently found a promising lead that might get everything swinging back to normal – it was either a lead or a very entertaining bust in the making, but it was a chance and he was going to take it.

Castiel was safe here in the pocket dimension; Gabriel made certain that it was hidden from both humans and other angels. However, even with that knowledge, Gabriel found himself hesitant to just leave his little brother alone, and he wondered when was the last time he had actually bothered to care this much about any of his family members.

He could not stay here; he had already wasted enough time as it was. But his recently reawakened older brother instincts were nagging at him the way Michael used to, and he had never been able to ignore that tone, no matter how hard he tuned it out.

Finally, Gabriel summoned his dog and ordered it not to leave Castiel under any circumstances. After conjuring some kibble and a litter box by the corner, Gabriel took flight before he could berate himself at how ridiculous those past ten seconds had been.

TBC

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