"What do we do?"
Dean looked around frantically. "I don't know, Sammy. I just don't know." He crouched down next to his brother. Sam was the only thing holding Castiel upright. This was bad. They had no place to go, no valid money, no vehicle, and even if they had all of that, what could they do for angels vomiting blood from time-travel?
They were going to attract attention if they stayed here.
"Let's get him up," Dean decided, readjusting his grip.
"Don't you dare move him!"
The snapped order toppled Dean, and Sam flinched. Fortunately, other hands have taken his place in keeping Castiel upright. Gabriel, the archangel who despises them all, is crouched in the middle of the sidewalk among the small band of hunters.
"Stupid stubborn Winchesters . . ." and Dean would normally feel honored that their name is obviously a curse to certain obnoxious beings, but he was understandably distracted, and Gabriel wasn't finished. One palm was pressed to Castiel's forehead as Gabriel continued his litany with a growl. "Stupid stubborn little brothers with sacrificial lamb complexes . . . And you," Gabriel turned to glare at Sam over his shoulder, "Sorta? Sorta breathing? How would you like it if I made your brother sorta breathing?"
"Do not hurt the Winchesters," Castiel gasped, flailing out weakly with one arm. It landed on Gabriel's shoulder with the second try. And as touching as the show of loyalty is, Castiel vs. Gabriel would be like a domestic kitten vs. a man-eating tiger. Gabriel knocked Castiel's hand aside without a word, pressing harder against the younger angel's forehead like that will make Castiel heal faster or better or something other than leaving a bruised-imprint of Gabriel's hand on Castiel's forehead.
"How did you find us?" Sam risked nervously.
"You think there's an angel in any time that didn't hear that scream?" Gabriel shot back. "I'm surprised Anna isn't here already to finish you off." There was further muttering under Gabriel's breath that the Winchesters couldn't make out.
Castiel apparently could. "Do not hurt the Winchesters, Gabriel."
"No promises," Gabriel returned. "They tick me off."
"Mutual," Castiel gasped, suddenly coughing up a new lung's worth of blood. Gabriel swore and yanked Castiel forward against him. The younger angel's head struck the older angel's chest as Gabriel pounded on his back. It was brutal, and Dean wanted to intervene.
Except Gabriel was the only one with any sort of power in this situation.
Castiel's blood stained Gabriel's jacket from the coughing, but now there seemed to be a limit to the blood. His head lolled against Gabriel's chest as the archangel held him. He was panting, but the crimson stayed on the inside now that his lungs had been cleared. Gabriel's healing must have done the trick, because Castiel opened his mouth in their defense once more.
"It was not their fault."
"Shut up, Castiel," Gabriel sighed, and sat back. He didn't seem to care that Castiel was still propped against his chest with no apparent intentions of moving. Gabriel rubbed his back once as if lost in thought, and then realizing what he was doing, grimaced. "It is their fault. It is all their fault. Stupid stubborn Winchesters. They're horrible examples, Castiel."
"I made my choice," Castiel muttered from somewhere in the depths of Gabriel's jacket.
"Yeah, you made the choice to leave your vessel's internal organs scattered across three decades. Fine choice!"
"Internal organs scattered. . ." Sam began in horror.
". . . Across three decades," Dean finished in disgust. "You decided to leave that part out now, Cas?"
"It became necessary to shield you from . . . time itself," Castiel sighed. "I knew the risk."
"Knew the risk!" Gabriel shouted, shaking Castiel's shoulders. "You used yourself as an angelic bumper car so they could go back to see mommy and daddy, and you knew what it'd do to you. For crying out loud, bro, you've died for them once already."
Castiel moaned, and Gabriel stilled instantly, but almost reluctantly. "You could have asked, bro," Gabriel whined.
"You would not have done it."
"Of course not, but I wouldn't have let you do it either!"
Castiel actually smiled. "That is why I did not ask."
Gabriel stood up suddenly, Castiel following from the grip the archangel maintained on the front of his trench coat. The lesser angel's feet hung inches above the ground.
"Dude, you're drawing attention, and Cas is . . ."
Dean's warning came too late. Castiel's eyes rolled back as he passed out in his brother's arms. Gabriel froze mid-act, and the Winchesters were silent. Then Gabriel let his head fall forward slowly, his forehead against Castiel's. The archangel was obviously praying—Sam suspected for whatever angelic healing Castiel still needed, but Dean recognized it as an older brother's prayer for patience.
After a long moment (and still completely uncaring about their surroundings), Gabriel gathered Castiel fully into his arms. Turning back to the Winchesters, their long-time enemy and apparently-new ally gave them the mother of all evil eyes. "Castiel is exhausted. I'm going to return him to the proper year and Bobby Singer's care. I will return for the two of you" here was another curse, "here in three days. Try to wrap it up by then, would you?"
"You're coming back for us," Sam asked in disbelief. "Why?"
"Because if I don't, he'll try again," Gabriel grimaced. "And that will kill him."
With that somber little rejoinder, the archangel disappeared with their guardian angel, and the Winchester brothers were left on their own with the impending crisis.
"No more time-travel," Dean remarked aloud, crossing it off his mental checklist of Castiel's superpowers.