I'm sorry...I'm so sorry.
No...No...Stop it...Leave them...Take me.
The vessel...It will be destroyed...Go...I said leave them!
Blackness...No, not complete...Souls...I'm sorry...I didn't know
Please...It hurts...It hurts so much...Father, I'm sorry...Forgive me.
I'm begging you...Help me...It hurts, Father...More than anything, it hurts.
Someone watch them...Father? Someone? Anyone? Please, protect them against my mistakes.
Darkness take me...I can't handle it anymore...I was stupid...I should have listened...Make it stop?
Brothers. I'm sorry.
Light? No it couldn't be.
Castiel's brow furrowed but he didn't open his eyes, taking time to work out where he was. He was in one piece. Better than expected. Horizontal. Understandable. On what felt like a bed, his head cupped by soft pillows. Not understandable. His frown deepened and he carefully cracked one of his eyes open. Above him was clear sky, with only a few fluffy clouds drifting along, cast a beautiful orange colour by an evening sunlight. The whole situation was becoming more and more confusing by the second. Taking a deep breath he prepared himself for propping himself up on his elbows. But it was easy. There was no pain in moving. In fact, there was no pain at all.
Moving from his elbows to a sitting position, Castiel gazed intently at his hands. Nothing. No scars. No blemishes. Skin clear and healthy. He patted his face and stared once more at his hands. They were clean. No blood, no cuts, no pockmarks.
His head lifted and he gazed around wide-eyed to try and get his bearings. He was sat on a king-sized bed, made up with deep purple bed linen and a thick duvet on top of which Cas was sat. The bed was sat near the shore of a lake in a grassy clearing surrounded by dense forests. The angel recognised it, but it was a vague distance memory that slipped between his fingers every time he reached for it. He frowned again and swung his legs over the end of the bed.
"You're dead if that's what you're wondering."
A voice behind him made Castiel jump from the bed and turn, ready to defend himself if necessary. He hesitated as he recognised the speaker emerging from the trees, hands stuffed in the pockets of his jacket, walking towards the bed with a casual swagger.
Castiel's mouth opened and closed a few times before he was able to finally say anything, "Gabriel..." he breathed, not believing.
The Archangel flashed a toothy grin that seemed to literally glow. He still carried the image of his vessel but his true form was showing through. Even his pale gold wings were visible, tucked close against his back, "Ding ding! Give the boy a prize. No wait," he chuckled and gave an apologetic shrug, "No one's going to be giving you prizes for a long time are they bro?"
Castiel swallowed, his eyes were still wide, darting around his new surroundings, trying to process everything that was happening. Gabriel was alive? No. No he'd said that Castiel was dead. So this was heaven? No he was never going to be going there.
"Purgatory," Gabriel interjected lightly, interrupting Castiel's train of thought.
Castiel blinked and met the Archangel's gaze, "What?"
"You're in Purgatory, Cas," he responded patiently, taking a step around the side of the bed so that he was facing out over the water, standing beside his brother, "We angels each get our own little VIP section after we pass on," he turned his head to look at his little brother, who was staring at the lake, his face the picture of a broken man, "Well, you don't. Obviously."
Castiel's head hung and he stared at the floor, "Then...this is yours?"
Gabriel nodded proudly, surveying the picturesque scene, "Yep. You recognise it? I brought you here that time you tried to stand up against Raphael's orders," he sighed at the memories, "You were a mess let me tell you. It was a good thing I arrived when I did."
"Is it?" Gabe turned his head to find Cas gazing at him earnestly, "Perhaps if I had died then, none of this would have come to pass..." he trailed off, eyes moving away from his brother back out over the water.
Gabriel held the look for a moment, struggling for something to say, before deciding that nothing he had would get through to his brother now. Instead he turned his gaze out over the calm waters of the lake, "It's normally less Canadian camping trip, more drunken binge through Las Vegas," he commented with a shrug, "But I figured you wouldn't really want that. Seeing as your last little trip on your own was pretty wild anyway, huh?" there was none of the malice in Gabriel's voice that Castiel would have expected from him. Was that amusement?
Castiel's throat bobbed as he gulped guiltily, "So you know."
Gabe's eyebrows raised and fell quickly as he shuffled on the spot, "Yeah. I know," he said simply, then he gave a breathy laugh, "But boy was I shocked," he whistled, making Cas frown, that was a noise reserved for awe, "Raphael I can picture, but you!" he lifted his hands in the air and drew out a title, "Heavenly Civil War comes to a climax with Castiel starring as God," he chuckled to himself again before stuffing his hands back in his pocket and turning his head to Castiel, who didn't meet his eyes, "It's a good thing I was watching out for you coming, you know. There's literally a hell of a lot pissed souls out for your blood out there," Gabriel continued, making a gentle attempt at humour but knowing that right now Castiel was not going to be laughing along with him.
Castiel frowned, "You...you saved me?"
Gabriel continued to stare out over the water, "I've already got two brothers in Hell," he said quietly, "I wasn't going to see another go the same way."
There was a long silence before a pained noise escaped Castiel's lips, drawing the Archangel's golden gaze back to his younger brother.
"I'm so sorry, Gabriel," Cas muttered, dropping to his knees, head down, hands limp in his lap. His voice was as steady as it had ever been, but it wasn't difficult to see the tear that was running down his cheek, "I was arrogant. I believed that my way was the best and I refused to listen to anyone who tried to help me."
Gabriel waited patiently for Castiel to trail off tilting his head sadly as he watched the display with pity. It wasn't often that an angel cried. They burned the ground where they landed.
Castiel paused and closed his eyes, "Were you..." he didn't seem to be able to finish his question, but Gabriel didn't need him to.
He shook his head with a smirk, "You really think some measly ritual can drag an Archangel from his greatest fantasies?" his smile faded as he regarded his little brother, "What were you thinking Cassy?" he asked softly.
Castiel didn't have an answer. He just continued to stare at the floor. Gabriel hadn't spoken to him like that in a long time. It was before the civil war with Raphael, before the Winchesters, even before Lucifer fell. Right back when Gabriel had been Castiel's mentor. When Castiel had tried to do as his big brother did. To question his orders.
Raphael had nearly killed him.
Gabriel turned to face his brother fully, gazing down softly at him. Here in purgatory the angel's true form was visible but it was broken despite the appearance Cas thought he was seeing. His deep blue wings were hanging limply on the floor, feathers dishevelled and broken, Cas had lost the will to carry them. There was no glow to him, his Grace was there but it seemed his brother had rejected it. He felt he no longer deserved it.
"I'm proud of you, you know?"
The words made Cas's breath catch in his throat. He blinked as though he had been physically hit before looking up to Gabriel, a confused frown between his brows.
Gabriel's eyebrows wiggled, silently showing his brother he meant it.
Castiel shook his head and looked at his hands again, "No. After all I've done...you can't possibly," another tear, "I killed my brothers, Gabriel. I killed innocent people. I released the Leviathans!" he yelled at the Archangel who didn't react, simply looked back until Cas looked away, "How could you be proud of a monster like me?" he muttered.
Gabriel shrugged with pursed lips, "Well, it is true, you did do all of that..." he mused, smiling before he continued, "But all along, you've done what you've believed was right," he crouched to Cas's level and the younger angel glanced at him unconvinced, "You wanna know a secret?" he leaned in and cupped a hand to his mouth even though there was no one else around that would possibly hear them, "For a while there, you were one hell of a God," he smiled earnestly as he drew back.
Castiel swallowed again before lifting his eyes to Gabriel's golden gaze, "I made so many mistakes. So many were hurt because of my arrogance and stupidity. I've released a terrible evil on the world."
Gabriel wrinkled his nose and gave a wobbly nod of reluctant agreement before holding up a finger, "However, I know two people, very special to both you and I, that have done similar things," he twisted his hand and opened his palm to reveal two coloured boiled sweets, "And we both know there are no purer souls than they."
Castiel looked at his brother for a long moment. He felt like he was young again. Sat with Gabriel on the edge of this very lake as the Archangel wrapped him in his wings and calmed his fears with heart-warming words and sugared sweets. Those were the first sweets the young angel had ever tasted. The same ones were in Gabriel's palm now being offered to him as he felt the Archangel's wing reach out and lift his own from the floor.
Gingerly, Cas reached out to take one of the sweets, his head still bowed as a new wave of guilt washed over him. Dean. Dean still hadn't forgiven him. Another tear fell from his chin and he couldn't bring himself to lift the sweet to his lips.
Gabriel settled himself down on the grass beside Cas, one wing still outstretched, holding Castiel's up, "You know, he uses that coat as a blanket when he's alone," Gabriel commented, grinning, clearly finding the whole thing incredibly amusing.
Castiel blinked, words finding themselves stuck in his throat. After a long pause he felt the corner of his mouth lift slightly and he placed the candy in his mouth. Beside him, Gabriel smiled and looped an arm around his brother's shoulders pulling him closer, feeling his weariness.
"Rest now, brother," he said softly, "Here you are forgiven."