In retrospect it should have been obvious. But then, hindsight, especially that of the Winchesters, was 20/20. If only their mother hadn't made her deal, if Sam hadn't died, if Dean hadn't sold his soul, if Sam had never drunk demon blood...
If wishes were horses, Dean would have been trampled to death long ago.
So he's stupidly surprised when, a week after they've got Sam's soul back exactly where it should be, Gabriel shows up, five feet nothing of poker faced smouldering rage and an abrupt segue into...
"Dean, I've returned."
To which his "I can see that, you ass clown" is probably not the best reply. Gabriel just stares at him balefully, with a side of glowering that just screams 'Serious Business is happening here, simmer the hell down and pay attention. Dick'.
"I need your help to locate my vessel."
And it's weird because as far as Dean can see it's Gabriel's vessel alright, short, blond, twinkly and every bit as annoying as he was when he was just a trickster Dean couldn't wait to stab.
"You seem fine to me. Go find someone else to annoy."
"I am decidedly not fine, I'm using this vessel because mine has been misappropriated."
Dean mentally face palms, adds all the information up and tries out his best guess.
"Correct." Gabriel's vessel looks pensive and stuffy, which now Dean comes to think of it is pretty much textbook Castiel circa 'Just got out of Hell – no wishes to return thank you' otherwise known as three years ago.
"Why are you Gabriel all of a sudden? I saw you like three days ago, you had your hand in my brother." And to not have to say a sentence like that again Dean would give a hell of a lot.
"Dean...I haven't spoken with you since Sam entered the pit." Castiel frowns via Gabriel's vessel.
Dean does some quick mental checking which leads him to – 'you've got to be fucking kidding me' in three seconds flat.
"Son of a bitch." He breathes, then shouts, "Gabriel, get your stolen ass down here. NOW!" he pauses "Amen".
Jimmy Novak's body appears before him looking pretty goddamn pleased with itself.
"You've been pretending to be Cas this entire time?" Dean's teeth are gritted, Castiel just looks relieved to see his own (almost) body again.
"How has it taken you this long to figure it out?" Gabriel counters, plucking a sucker out of thin air and sticking it into his mouth without much thought. "I mean, I kissed a freaking demon for Dad's sake, how did you not get a clue?"
"You kissed a demon?" Castiel seems both disgusted and mortified by this news. "Who did you..."
"Meg" Dean and Gabriel say together, Dean slightly shame faced.
"Meg?" Castiel's borrowed eyebrows shoot skywards. "and you honestly noticed nothing untoward about that behaviour?"
"I just thought..." Dean looks helplessly between Castiel's shocked face and Gabriel's smirk. "Sam didn't notice either."
"But you guys have the 'profound bond'" Gabriel actually uses the air quotes and Dean feels like an idiot for not working this out sooner. Castiel using air quotes, watching porn, kissing demons...not really his MO. "God you guys suck, can't believe I died for you." Gabriel looks huffy for about thirty seconds. "Oh well, 's not like you're the worst thing I've died for, there was that time in 100AD when..."
"Gabriel, may I have my vessel back?" Castiel cuts him off impatiently.
"Sure bro, been missing mine for a while now." Gabriel snaps Jimmy's fingers and nothing appears to change, then Gabriel's body smirks and stretches. "That's more like it."
"I'm going to find some mouthwash" he announces, glaring at Dean "and then we are going to talk about this." He vanishes.
"You're in trouble." Gabriel sing-songs. Then pouts suddenly. "He's still got my candy."