Disclaimer: Not mine.

Gabriel finishes off his candy bar, watching the illusion of his own corpse fade. That was a pretty good performance, if he does say so himself.

"You're very lucky that they didn't linger," says a disapproving voice from behind him, and Gabriel turns around, giving Castiel his best smirk.

"Oh, you're just grumpy that I messed with your boys." Even though Castiel's real charge is Dean, he's become rather protective of Sam as well, so Gabriel's taken to thinking of both of them as his brother's charges. "And it's not my fault that they poked into my business," he adds, mock-petulantly.

Castiel just gives him one of those thousand-yard stares he's so fond of. "Perhaps if you were less showy, you would not draw attention to yourself?"

"What, like you?" Gabriel rolls his eyes. "What would be the fun in that?"


"Cassie, Cassie, Cassie, have I taught you nothing? Relax."

Castiel drops into one of the auditorium seats, looking up at Gabriel balefully. Gabriel sprawls in the seat next to him, conjuring up two candy bars. The one loaded with nougat and nuts is his, the simple plain dark chocolate is Castiel's. He prefers that, for some crazy reason.

"Bribing me with chocolate will not work," Castiel says firmly, nevertheless taking a bite.

"That's not a bribe, that's me being a caring and sharing big brother."

That line gets him a headtilt. "Are you feeling well?" the younger angel deadpans. Gabriel smacks him upside the head.

"Cute. But anyway, those boys. Looks like it's all true. I see a good bit of Mike and Luc in 'em." Gabriel's smile is bitter. "Duel's coming, which means our little vacation down here's almost over."

"They're not," Castiel argues.

"Not what?" Gabriel sucks melted chocolate from his fingers, raising an eyebrow.

"Not like Michael and Lucifer. Superficially, yes, but in the ways that count I... I don't think there are many similarities at all. And I've seen more of them than you have."

"Yeah, because you have a crush on Dean and keep going back to him."

"I am Dean's Guardian, and I wouldn't have to keep going back if you would stop interfering with my responsibilities to him. That's all I am. And they are not like the General and the Devil, because they would never kill each other."

"I think our brothers have that part covered, Castiel. All your boys have to do is say yes and they're out of the driver's seat."

"I don't believe that they ever will."

Gabriel shakes his head. "You don't think Mikey'll let Zach or whoever else he has to loose on them to make sure that they do? Not to mention the things Luci has up his sleeve. Two humans against Heaven and Hell? No way they'll manage alone."

Alone, it's impossible and Gabriel knows that. Even with help it's probably impossible. Which is why when Castiel says nothing and turns just a little too much focus on eating his candy, Gabriel suddenly feels ill. He stares at Castiel for a moment, at a loss for words. "...You can't. Whatever you're thinking, don't."

"I'm a Guardian, and the Winchesters are my responsibility," Castiel replies, his voice even.

"You're not going to be able to defy the Plan, you know. There's no way they'll let you."

"I'll do what I must, Gabriel."

And that tone is one Gabriel remembers bitterly from the days of the Battle, and the Fall. It's one he heard on both sides, a quiet determination to do whatever was necessary. He's never heard it from Castiel before, and he doesn't like it one bit.

Even for Gabriel at his worst, this... This is cruel. Castiel doesn't even know what to say at first, when he finds Gabriel shattering Sam Winchester by killing Dean, over and over again.

Castiel is astonished and more than a little disgusted. And rather furious, as well. "You're tormenting the boy, and for what?" he wants to know. Gabriel has blocked Castiel from intervening, but he can and does protest regardless. "You're killing Dean repeatedly even though you know every death could send him to hell if you don't catch his soul in time, and in doing so you're driving Sam insane. Why, Gabriel?"

"Dean's going to die, and Sam needs to learn how to deal with that," Gabriel says flatly.

"And while you might be able to tell Sam that and have him believe you, I know you better."

"Then what do you think I'm doing?"

Castiel refrains from rolling his eyes but it's a near thing. "If I knew, I would not ask."

Gabriel's expression is cold. "They're going to have to kill each other eventually; might as well get them used to seeing each other dead."

"Gabriel..." His brother still isn't quite telling the truth. Castiel may not always be good at picking up on humans' emotions and body language, but he is an expert at reading Gabriel. There's more to this than he's saying. Something about brothers killing each other, about watching brothers die, about the nightmare they ran away from all those years ago.

But Gabriel won't say. Instead he leaves Castiel in charge of holding Dean's soul – "You're his Guardian, after all" – while he puts Sam through six months alone. Castiel wraps his Grace around Dean's soul and wonders if there's some way to stop what he and Gabriel knows is coming. For all their sakes.

Gabriel's gone back to his old habit of trying to keep Castiel away from the Winchesters, finally dumping him in a pocket dimension. Castiel gets out, but by the time he does, Dean's already dead and in Hell.

Uriel's garrison is going after him, of course. Gabriel had hoped that knowing this would be enough to keep Castiel out of the mess, but in hindsight he should have known better.

"You are not going to Hell solo," he says, more defeated than disbelieving.

"You're not willing to go with me, so I have to," Castiel points out. "I can take advantage of the distraction Uriel's garrison will provide to slip in and find Dean."

It's as solid a plan as any that involves breaking someone out of Hell can be – well, that's no surprise, actually. Castiel was in Uriel's garrison himself once, and they'd been part of Michael's force during the first Battle. Tactics come easily to angels who are veterans of that group. But Gabriel still doesn't like it.

"I could put you in another pocket dimension. This is crazy, I'd be doing you a favor."

"I would break out again, and go through with my plan anyway," Castiel says simply.

"Oh, for...! Cassie. You can't change what's fated. Dean will be Michael's vessel, Sam will be Lucifer's, and our brothers are going to have their fucking prizefight and wreck Earth in the process. And there's nothing you can do about it!"

"I can try."

And that's it, isn't it? Stubborn little Castiel, going above and beyond what anyone would expect of a typical Guardian just because he can. Gabriel's an archangel, but he's long since learned that this seraph, one of the youngest of them, simply can't be moved. He's been trying, but this just isn't working.

Fine. Fine. Fuck this, then.

He glares at Castiel, voice cold and clipped. "You know what? Do what you want. But don't come crawling back to me when it all goes wrong." He's hoping the ultimatum will get Castiel to stay, but although his brother flinches at the words, his only response is a curt nod. And with that, Castiel leaves, and Gabriel's truly alone now.

Castiel lets Sam and Dean's voices wash over him, barely even listening to what they're saying. It's something about Gabriel, about what his declarations to them mean. But Castiel doesn't care what message his brother had for the Winchesters. It quite simply does not matter to him.

Because it was Gabriel. Gabriel, in the vessel Castiel remembers him taking all those centuries ago. Gabriel, who had for so long been to him as Dean is to Sam. The real reason he had resented Sam at first was because he still had his older brother, and Castiel... In doing what he knew he had to, Castiel had lost his. And it had galled him to see these humans who had what he no longer did.

Raphael might be the brother who actually killed Castiel once, but this is almost worse. To have Gabriel mocking him, not in the usual lighthearted way, but entirely in earnest, about his search for their Father... It hurts more than he can say. Castiel has accepted that Gabriel won't help him, will not help Dean and Sam. His brand of help might not do them much good anyway, if the events at the Mystery Spot are any indication. Castiel knows that Gabriel's intentions there were... largely well-meant, in his way. But to say that his methods in that case left something to be desired was very much an understatement.

For Gabriel to dismiss what Castiel is doing so callously, that is more than simply not helping. And he knows Gabriel; after over a thousand years he ought to. It wasn't an act for the Winchesters' sake, though he wishes it had been. No, the mocking, cold look in Gabriel's eyes was real. The brother Castiel ran away with, who has been his only family ever since that conversation on the edge of Heaven, thinks his quest is useless, even pathetic.

"Cas! Cas!" Dean has been trying to get his attention for some time, judging by the irritation in his voice, and Cas forces himself to focus on the humans in front of him.

"Yes, Dean?"

"I've been trying to get your attention for five minutes already. What's wrong with you?"

The same thing that has been wrong with you before. I feel betrayed by my brother. Castiel thinks it but he refuses to say it. The Winchesters don't know about his ties to Gabriel, and he would prefer to keep it that way. Their reactions will likely be... unpleasant if they ever do find out.

"I'm... preoccupied. Because of the search for my Father, and because of Gabriel's appearance." Well, that's true enough. "Most believe Gabriel to be dead; this could... complicate things even more."

"He skipped on Heaven the same way you did, right?" Sam asks. "Why didn't you know about him?"

"To 'skip out' on Heaven and have it be successful, you have to avoid being noticed. Even by others who have left." Again, true, though, admittedly, misleading. But even if he didn't have his reasons for not telling Dean and Sam about Gabriel before...

Now that his brother has turned his back, now that one of the last things he believed in, his bond with his brother, is well and truly broken... Castiel doesn't think he could discuss the past even if he wanted to.