Gabriel stood by the door. Sam was pretty sure he'd seen, if not heard, the whole thing.
"Dean went for a drive." Gabriel said, before Sam could ask. "Or, that's what he shouted as he stormed out." He slumped, leaning against the side of the house. Sam stood in front of the door.
"She's not mad at you." He said, after a while. "She's just scared. I don't think she knew what she was letting herself in for."
Gabriel laughed, bitterly.
"Well, she did have a somewhat sheltered upbringing." He scuffed his foot on the ground, staring out in front of him. "So… back to being the runaway angel. I'd almost forgotten what it felt like."
Sam stared at Gabriel for a moment, before shaking his head and going inside. Gabriel followed him.
Sam didn't turn back to look at Gabriel. He walked straight through the kitchen, and went for the stairs.
"What, Hella gets a motivational talk and I don't?"
"You don't need one, Gabriel." Sam snapped, without looking back. "It's Hella's choice. You're the one who stands the highest chance of not being around to deal with the consequences."
"Whoa, there, Sasquatch." Gabriel grabbed Sam's arm, holding him back. "Want to run that by me one more time?"
"How long have you known? About your supposed 'only course of action'?"
"Because." Sam glared down at him, struggling to free his arm. Gabriel wasn't letting go, and the archangel's strength meant Sam's arm stayed where it was at. "It seems you've been leading us along with some bogus story about you needing to heal, when actually it's just been another case of you being too afraid to do what's right."
"And you want me out there risking my ass and doing my duty." Gabriel scowled, his eyes flashing dangerously.
"That's what this is, right? Because that's what all the good little Winchester boys do."
"I… I just…"
"You just what?"
"I thought you'd changed!" Sam looked surprised and slightly embarrassed by the words, but he glared at his feet and committed to finishing the sentence. "I thought you were on our side, and you let me think that. You let everyone think that. But now it's the same as it ever was; you've gotten your kicks being on our side for a change, now things are getting serious and you can't deal with that. I'm sick of everyone playing games, so you know what? Go play your games elsewhere."
"Sam…" Gabriel looked at him with confusion and concern, trying to duck into his field of vision. "That's not what… I mean… I don't…"
"You do." Sam looked up at him, wondering exactly when and why he started caring about what Gabriel did, because it seemed now that he cared a great deal. "You always have, right? Toying with me and Dean, playing dress up as a pagan god, even dealing with your brothers; it's all a game to you. What was it that made you leave Heaven in the first place, huh? Being the messenger boy get too dull? How easily did you get bored?"
Gabriel's hand tightened on Sam's arm, so much that it started to hurt. Almost as soon as he did it, though, Gabriel seemed to realise, and relaxed his grip. That was the only part of him that did, though.
"I left heaven for my own damn reasons. And you're not one to talk, Sam."
"I know. Yeah, I get it. I ran away too, I tried to pretend to be what I'm not. And look where that got me." Sam pulled his arm away from Gabriel, and started up the stairs. "I'm fucked up, even for a hunter. You'd think someone who'd been around as long as you would give up on deluding themselves, but no. You still think you can just hop from one life to the next and it'll be fine."
"Well why do you care?" Gabriel didn't follow Sam upstairs. He looked like he was forcing himself to remain calm, and he wasn't succeeding. "What's it to you?"
"Gabriel, you can do whatever the hell you want." Sam stopped, shooting one last glance at the archangel. "But I thought you'd changed, and if a god-damned Archangel doesn't know any better, then what kind of hope do I have?"
He slammed the door to his room, anger rushing around his head, along with confusion, and the sudden pressing fear that Gabriel might appear in his room, or… or that he might leave.
Whatever, Sam thought, grabbing his knife (it wasn't Ruby's any more, dammit). He dug the knife into his finger and drew the anti-angel symbol on the back of the door. He didn't care. Gabriel could go do whatever and whoever he wanted, Sam thought, swallowing down the crazy mixed up emotions like hot coal. He sat down, leaning against the door, elbows on his drawn up knees.
After a while, he managed to calm down. Was that all true? Had everything he'd said been true? It must have been, although he hadn't known he felt that way. He looked over at the clock beside his bed, and sighed. It wasn't even ten a.m., and already he felt like throwing the covers over his head and trying again tomorrow. He took another deep breath, exhaling with a sigh. It helped. It helped clear his head.
So, he gave a shit about whether Gabriel was going to live or die.
So, he saw Gabriel as some emblem of hope that he might be able to fix whatever his years of denial had done to him.
So, when Gabriel announced to them all that his plan was little better than a kamikaze mission, he felt personally betrayed.
So, what did that mean? He had a pretty good idea.
Beside him, something slipped under the door frame. He looked down to see a bright red greetings card, with a watercolour-style picture of two old fashioned race cars to the side of a cheery message.
It read "Sorry for being a self-centred douchewad".
Inside, cursive hand writing spelled out the words "My bad. I'd apologise in person, but I get the feeling you don't want to talk to me, since when I tried popping into your room, I got the celestial wavelength equivalent of a boot to the gonads. I get why you're mad, Sam, and you're right. If you want to talk about it, I'm not going anywhere. Gabriel. P.S, wouldn't it be awesome if they actually made cards like this?"
Sam shook his head, allowing a small smile, before putting the card on his dresser. He'd talk to Gabriel, eventually. He just needed some space right now.
Bobby had sold it to them when, later that day, Sam and Dean had been moping in the library. Gabriel had said something about going to visit Jörmungandr, since it might be the last chance he had. No one had tried to stop him. Sam was still trying to wrap his brain around the concept of caring so much about what Gabriel did (getting Gabriel out of the way so he could be thought of as a concept rather than an actual person helped a lot), and Dean was just generally moping. Hella hadn't come back yet.
Bobby was sat behind his desk, reading, and pointedly ignoring both of them. Dean broke the silence.
"You think I pushed him to it?"
Sam looked up, dragged out of his own thoughts.
"Cas. I shouldn't have treated him so bad. D'you think it's my fault?"
"Oh, dear lord." Bobby shut his book, staring incredulously at Dean. "Are you freakin' kidding me, boy? This is the first time since you two took over from your Dad that the world's in trouble and one of you didn't cause it, and now you're asking if it's your fault? What in the… You know, I pray we never go dream walking again, because I'd hate to see the inside of your head."
"What?" Dean sat up, defensive. "You don't know Cas like I do… when he…"
"No, I don't." Bobby agreed. "But since I actually pay attention to what he's doing, rather than just staring into his baby blues, I'd say in some respects I've probably got a better handle on him than you do. He's hardly the poster boy for sane and rational decisions, Dean."
Dean looked like he'd been slapped in the face. Sam would have found it funny if it wasn't so crushingly awkward.
"Think about it. He's been brainwashed and deprogrammed so many times we may as well slap some sort of meter on him. He has gone from blindly believing in the orders of other angels, to blindly believing in God's will, to blindly believing in you, and each time his brain's written cheques reality can't cash."
"Yeah…" Dean blustered. "But… that doesn't mean he's crazy or anything…"
"Dean, when Michael and the God Squad started to convince you to say yes, he took you to some back alley and beat the shit out of you. Hell, we still don't even know for sure that the Castiel who went into the Apocalypse was the same Castiel who came back."
Dean stood up at this, glaring at Bobby like he was actually considering hitting the older man.
"You don't talk about him that way!"
"Then don't talk about yourself that way!" Bobby glared back, standing up. He was shorter than Dean, sure, but he had a whole level of authority behind him that Dean could never pull. "You know what, get out of my house, both of you. I'm sick of your sorry asses bringing the mood down. There's a hunt going on ten miles east that could use some help. Nest of vampires; guy in charge is called Raymond, he drives a yellow Mustang."
Sam and Dean stared at Bobby. He stared back.
"Well go on, get!"
That was how they had ended up, five hours later, wiping blood and god-knows-what else off themselves before they got back in the Impala. They waved to Raymond as he drove past in his yellow Mustang, before standing in silence.
"You know it."
Dean grabbed two bottles from the trunk, giving one to Sam. He sighed, and leant against the car. His sigh turned into a weary chuckle, and he looked up at Sam.
"So… you thought Bobby's freak out earlier was really funny too, right?"
"Dude, it was hilarious!" Sam was so glad he'd finally said it. "I haven't seen him freak like that since we were kids."
"Yeah…" Dean laughed again, his brow furrowed. "We can't have been easy for him to deal with, huh?"
"You really think we're any better now?"
Dean grinned, shooting Sam a wink. Sam rolled his eyes. Dean looked happier than he had done in a long time, probably due to the adrenaline of the hunt still pumping through his system. It killed Sam to drag everything down again but…
"Hey, Dean… You think maybe there's another reason you feel bad about Cas going, uh… About Cas?"
Dean looked at him. It was not an impressed look. It was a "You're treading on thin ice so be very careful what your next words are" look. Sam shrugged.
"I just… I mean, you trusted Cas. Maybe… maybe a lot more than you'd trusted anyone in a while, right?"
Grudgingly, Dean nodded. Sam continued.
"Maybe even me?"
Dean paused, cleared his throat and turned away, not meeting Sam's eyes. So, 'yes', then.
"I'm not accusing, Dean, I'm just saying. I mean, you said yourself Cas was practically family. So I get that you care about him. Bobby does too, and we're both ok with that. I'm just thinking that… maybe you feel so bad because you're only just realising now how much he meant. Which we're also both ok with."
Dean nodded, staring at the ground. He carried on drinking his beer, and said nothing. It was worse than if he'd yelled or denied or ridiculed, because it was a silence that was almost ashamed of itself. When Dean eventually finished his beer, he dropped the empty bottle in the trunk.
"If we do get Cas back…" Dean moved around to the driver's side, just catching Sam's eye, "I'm going to have a lot I want to say to him."
"Ok." Sam nodded. Dean looked away again.
"Don't sweat it."
He slipped into the passenger side as Dean sat behind the wheel, and they started on their way back to Bobby's. Sam laughed.
"Hey, guess who got Gabriel to use the words 'sorry for being a douchewad'?"
"No way!" Dean laughed, and Sam explained the tale of the card. Well, the edited highlights; there was no sense in telling Dean everything. Although, judging by the looks he gave Sam as they pulled up outside Bobby's he might have figured out what Sam was avidly denying right now. When they got inside, Sam was so busy fervently wallowing in denial that he almost missed the sight of the three course meal in the kitchen. Gabriel stood back, looking a little awkward.
"So, it has been brought to my attention that my behaviour has been… uh…" He fidgeted. Bobby, who was stood by the back door, raised an eyebrow at Gabriel.
"Dickish?" He supplied. Gabriel nodded.
"I was going for self-involved, but that works too. I can't help it; it's kind of an innate thing with angels. But, hey, look who I'm telling."
"Gabriel." Sam bitch-faced, as Dean shrugged off his jacket. "You can't keep trying to buy us off with food every time you mess up."
"Speak for yourself." Dean sauntered into the kitchen, pulling up a chair. "A few more meals that taste nice and don't have any unexpected surprises, I might even trust him."
"Gee thanks." Gabriel sighed, before looking imploringly at Sam. "Look, this whole… considerate… 'teamwork' thing is still new to me. I messed up, ok? I should have told you sooner, but I was worried Hella would… do exactly what she's done."
"What's she done?" Sam walked over to the table, sitting next to Dean, who was already happily eating.
"She's taken herself off the map. I can sense her just enough to know she's still inside the perimeter of the salvage yard, but I can't get a proper trace on her."
"Is she alright?" Sam's brow laced in concern. "I mean, I know I said I'd stop you from looking for her too much, but… she can't have eaten all day."
"She doesn't need to. Not really." Gabriel shrugged. "She tends to eat and sleep just to break up the monotony of the day. Like me." He looked at Sam, curious confusion on his face. "Wait, you said you'd stop me?"
"When I was talking to her this morning." Sam nodded, looking a little awkward. "She wanted some alone time, so I said I'd make sure you didn't go chasing after her."
"Huh." Gabriel watched Sam carefully, before sighing. "It's no good, Sammy. We have to be consistent with her."
Sam narrowed his eyes.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Gabriel just grinned.
"Tsk. That's the problem with single guys; you all think you can just breeze in and be the awesome step-dad."
Boy had Sam chosen a bad time to take a drink. He choked on his water while Gabriel disappeared and Dean laughed into his food.
Bobby realised he was starting to miss having no one around.