Disclaimer: Oh, for crying out loud. No, not mine.

It's too much. It really is just too much. As if it weren't bad enough that they had to lose Lucifer all those millenia ago – and even though it has been that long, using that name instead of Samael feels wrong – now their Father is gone. He's simply... vanished, and this family that has been holding itself together with only His will and love has nothing left.

Michael's been broken since he was forced to cast down Lucifer, but even melancholy, he was still the General, the eldest Archangel, still Michael. Just a hurting, lonelier Michael, and they all felt the same way so it wasn't as bad. Now it's as though he's lost himself, clinging to a prophecy of future battles because it's all he has left.

Raphael is, if anything, worse. He's shifting from the Healer to the Executioner, turning his pain to cruelty. Raphael is taking their Father's departure worse than the rest of them, and it's destroying him.

And Gabriel... Gabriel has been watching since the Fall, and he can't anymore. He has his own wounds from all this, and Raphael's the healer, not him. He can't fix this, and he will not stand by and watch it anymore. If their Father can leave, well then... Why can't he?

Gabriel is and always has been God's Messenger, the archangel who spent the most time on Earth, and so that's where he's going to go. He could go to Lucifer if he really wanted to; his brother would never turn down an advantage like having a second archangel to back him up, but Gabriel isn't interested in that. He wants to escape, not turn traitor. There's a difference, or so he tells himself.

He doesn't let himself think about the younger angels, about what will happen to them when Michael is retreating into himself and Raphael... Raphael is losing his mind. It's not his responsibility. So what if he's been known to enjoy talking to his younger brothers and sisters, instead of just ordering them like Michael or teaching them like Raphael? He's never been responsible for any of them, except to help out guardian angels on their first trip down to Earth. And that, well, that's nothing. It means nothing. It has to, because otherwise it just might be enough to make him stick it out.

Slipping away is almost too easy, with his closest brothers wrapped up in their private torments and everyone else trying to figure out how to fill the void left by a shattered chain of command. Gabriel almost makes it, and then he feels the Grace of another angel brushing against his own.

Castiel. Well, if anyone were going to catch him, it would be this one. Stubborn little Angel of Thursday, the one-time Guardian he first met properly in Galilee, centuries ago.

"Castiel, I thought you'd be with the rest of your garrison," he says smoothly, hiding his irritation. "It's not like you to be so irresponsible."

"I am not the one who is leaving Heaven." It's not quite a challenge, but to speak so bluntly to an archangel isn't wise. Gabriel wonders if Castiel's found a level of nerve he didn't possess before or he's lost some intelligence in the last thousand years.

"I'm the Messenger, little brother, I leave Heaven all the time," Gabriel says mockingly, already debating ways out of this conversation.

Castiel's wings twitch, a gesture that means the same to angels as an eyeroll to humans, essentially asking, "Do you truly think I'm that foolish?" Gabriel doesn't, exactly, but it was worth trying. "You're leaving us. Our Father is gone, none of us know what to do, and you are leaving us. How can you do that?"

There's an edge there, one Gabriel understands because he and Michael and Raphael lost Samael, but they weren't the only ones to lose a closely-bonded sibling in the Fall. He remembers the other Angel of Thursday, Dariel, and thinks that maybe that's why Castiel noticed him leaving. Some of the younger ones understand better than Michael or Raphael will ever believe, and it shouldn't surprise Gabriel as much as it has.

"Very easily, you'll find."

"You're an archangel, and with our Father gone you're supposed to – "

"To what? Nothing. Besides, Michael and Raphael will still be here." Not that it'll do anyone any good to have them if things keep going the way they're going, but maybe they'll realize what they're doing and fix it.

"Michael and Raphael do not... seem to be themselves," Castiel says, choosing his words carefully. "You are less outwardly affected by the Fall, our Father's departure, all of it."

"I'm leaving, that should tell you you're wrong about that," Gabriel snaps, giving up all pretense now. "Heaven's falling apart, Castiel, and I can't put it back together so why should I stay and watch?"

"Because we're your family. Is that not important to you?"

"Castiel, what do you think will change if I stay? There's nothing I can do, hence why I decided to go in the first place. And there's nothing you can do either, I don't even know why you're trying."

Castiel doesn't look at him. "I... do not wish to come under Zachariah's command," he says finally. "And it is Zachariah who is moving to fill the vacuum of power."

And that... makes a lot of sense, actually. Zachariah's one of those angels who Gabriel would think had taken notes from the humans if he'd ever been to Earth. He's devoted to a very strict interpretation of things, and Gabriel wouldn't want to have to do what Zachariah commanded either. But that doesn't mean he's going to stay because of it. He's not a commander either; most of his duties were carried out alone.

By sheer dint of being an archangel he could take command – Michael would probably let him, and Raphael would say nothing if Michael was all right with it – but he can't see himself doing anything but making a mess of it. A different mess than the one Zachariah and his ilk will make, that Michael's depression and Raphael's instability will speed along, but a mess all the same.

But he can see how, for an angel like Castiel, anything might be better than Zachariah. He still remembers a young angel, taking up Guardian duties for the first time, saddled with a young girl who was born with visions and innocently invited a demon into her soul. He knows that Castiel kept the demon at bay for years, but when others joined it...

Well. In the end it was their Father's mostly-human Son who had saved Mary Magdalene from her seven demons, and Castiel had trailed invisibly after the ragtag group of Galileans in order to try and keep anything else from happening to his charge. Gabriel had been there too, out of sheer curiosity to see how the details of their Father's grand plan for salvation would work out.

Castiel had loved Mary Magdalene, as all Guardians love their charges. But that hadn't been all, and Gabriel recognized it because he feels the same even now. Humans are annoying, frustrating, and at their worst they're better at doing evil than the demons sometimes, but even so... There's something about them. Gabriel loves them, in a fondly exasperated way, and in Galilee he watched Castiel fall in love with them too. Zachariah's command is not a place for an angel who actually likes humanity.

He has an idea, and it's most likely a very bad one, but... Honestly, he hadn't been thrilled by the idea of spending eternity alone, away from all his brothers and sisters forever. So this has its selfish side too. But mostly it's that he's leaving because he can't fix anything, but here is one thing that maybe he can fix.

"Well, there's an easy solution to that," he says cheerfully. Castiel's wings twitch again, this time with obvious confusion and Gabriel would be grinning if he had a vessel at this point. "You could always come with me."

"But... Heaven... Father..."

"He's gone, Castiel. And maybe he'll be back one day, but in the meantime, everything's falling apart and I don't want to be here for it. I'm leaving; you can come with me now or stay, it makes no difference to me either way."

Silence for a very long moment, and when Castiel looks back at Heaven behind them, Gabriel thinks it's a refusal. With a flash of something that he tells himself isn't disappointment, he starts to move forward again. He doesn't think Castiel will try and stop him now, at least.

"Wait."

Gabriel does, and in the end, Heaven loses two angels that day.

A/N: This is probably the only piece in this 'verse for a while (which still needs an overall title, meh) until I mainline some more canon. I didn't need too much for this, considering how extremely pre-canon it is, but for the rest of it... It's going to be a oneshot series, once I get caught up better. TNT reruns are lovely things, but you get drawn into a series right in the middle – or in my case, season 5, and then have to wait for it to cycle around.