It was a beautiful day in Barbados. The sun was shining, the sky was clear, the sand was white and the sea was calm. A lot of people would have called the picture 'stunning' but as an Archangel, Gabriel had a lot more of a back catalogue to compare the scene to. Rarely did he find one that came up trumps against things like supernovae or that very first fish that relinquished the ocean for land. Still, it was a great place for relaxation. Which he was in dire need of, what with his recent run in with the Winchesters and their cold, hard reminder of his long distant home and the not so distant events that were to come.
He exhaled through his nose and pulled himself into a sitting position, using the arms of the wooden deck chair to help. Even the thought of them had ruined his quiet beach relaxation time. With a twist of his wrist there was an open coconut in his hand, a pink straw and a paper umbrella poking out its top. He slurped at it distractedly, as he got to his feet as something began to niggle at the back of his mind. Maybe it wasn't the boys that were disturbing his thoughts. He narrowed his eyes in concentration and began probing with his senses. Something was coming. Taking a few steps towards the sea, he created a second drink in his free hand and waited.
The wait wasn't long. It was only a couple of seconds before the soft ruffle of wings sounded from behind him and Gabriel turned with a welcoming smile.
"What a pleasant surprise, I didn't think you were one for a relaxing beach getaway," he smirked as his looked over the newcomer, taking in the dirty trench coat, messy hair and stern blue gaze, "In fact you're not one for relaxing at all, are you Cas?" he held out the fresh coconut, taking a sip of his own.
Castiel glanced at the coconut, seeming unsure of what to do with it. After a beat, he took it and held it in both hands as though it was an alien object needing to be protected but feared at the same time.
"It's a drink, bro," Gabe chuckled, watching the angel stare at it warily.
It was a long time before Castiel found his voice. Gabriel counted two whole minutes of quiet in which Cas spent his time staring at the coconut, shuffling on the spot and hugging his wings tighter and tighter against his back, an obvious sign he was nervous in the Archangel's presence.
Finally, Castiel swallowed, "Where have you been?" he asked quietly, still looking at his coconut as though it was the subject of the angel's question.
Gabriel frowned in confusion, and took a sip of his drink before replying, "Well after you and your little friends left me in that warehouse, dripping wet – thanks for that by the way, my clothes weren't ruined or anything – I decided I wanted some rest. So, here I am," he replied, gesturing around at the beach.
The angel was quiet for a moment, "That isn't what I meant."
The Archangel cocked his head for a second, considering the question before a look of realisation crossed his features and he shrugged, "Well, everywhere. You'd be surprised how much free time a guy gets when he's not at every stinking beck and whim of our Heavenly brothers. I would say you should try it but by the looks of it you already are," he smirked teasingly as Cas flinched at the comment.
"How could you?" Cas murmured so quietly, Gabe had to lean forward slightly as an indication he hadn't heard. The repetition came out as an angry growl that had Gabriel taken aback.
"Woah, kid, no one's spoken to me like that in a long time," he chuckled, holding his hands up in a surrender fashion, not really taking Castiel's anger seriously.
Castiel's fingers whitened where his grip on the coconut tightened and he finally looked up to meet the Archangel's gaze. The anger Gabriel saw there was unexpected, "The apocalypse is coming Gabriel and you're sat on a beach!" he yelled furiously, the coconut shattered in his hands sending the liquid it once contained soaking into the sand.
The Archangel blinked in surprise and beat back the anger that flared as an almost automatic reaction. His initial light and cheerful expression was gone, leaving only a flat stare, "And what, exactly, oh great and wise Castiel, angel of Thursday, do you want me to do about it?"
"Choose a side," Cas replied, flatly, "Help us fight for the world. Help me to save them."
Gabriel blinked slowly, glanced into his emptying drink then away down the beach, "You're wanting me to choose between my brothers. I already did that once. I'm not doing it ag-"
"No you didn't!" Castiel shouted with ten times the fury, cutting Gabriel off with a wild arm gesture and step forward, "You ran. Like a coward."
The Archangel moved before Castiel had a chance to perceive him. Gabriel grabbed his coat in bunches in his fists and pulled his face inches from his own. A sense of satisfaction came unbidden at the flash of fear in Castiel's eyes, "You have no idea. None whatsoever of what I went through," he growled violently, shaking Castiel a little as he spoke, "Don't you dare try to compare anything you've felt to me."
Castiel held Gabriel's honey gaze silently. The fear had dissipated. In its place...were those tears? Gabe's eyebrows furrowed slightly. A beat passed before Castiel spoke, steadily, but almost silently, "You left us."
Gabriel blinked in surprise, before shoving himself away from Cas as though he burned his hands, turning away. Cas wasn't angry that Gabriel had fled from heaven, his duties, his brothers. Cas was angry that he had run from him.
"So that is what this is about," he muttered, "Don't hide behind the Apocalypse and the Winchesters' motives, Cas. Just spit it out if that's what you want to talk about."
Castiel hadn't moved, he'd returned to his initial submissive stance, gazing at the floor, arms limp by his sides as tried to find words, "I searched for you for centuries."
A lance of guilt spiked through Gabriel as he too looked to the floor, refusing to glance at his brother. Because looking at him would be accepting what he had done was selfish and unthinking.
"I needed you brother."
"You needed a shield," Gabriel snapped, scathingly, "I couldn't have been protecting you forever, you needed to grow up and look after yourself," he added almost as an afterthought, a half-hearted attempt at softening his original statement. It was a poor attempt as it came out just as biting as the last.
Cas rocked with the force of the statement and gave a minute nod, "And I did," he responded, sadly, "But without guidance. And it was hard. Our brothers are not as compassionate as these humans deem them to be."
Gabriel clenched his jaw, recognising Cas's try for humour and it just hurt. It brought back too many memories he thought he would never have to face again.
"Why did you..."
Gabriel sighed, "You know wh-"
"...leave without me?"
The end of the question made Gabriel's mouth snap shut and he lifted his head to look at his brother. Castiel was watching him. The stern expression he usually carried softened by sadness and long held rejection that practically rolled off him. He looked young again. The fledgling Castiel that Gabe had worked so hard to look after, to nurture and teach. To protect from the rest of the Host that were so hell bent on perfection that they held no qualms dispelling their loving nature to torment the little angel who was just that little bit different. He tried to snigger but it came out breathy and pathetic.
"Jeez don't look at me like that, you'll bring me to tears," he mumbled as a feeble way of trying lighten the situation, to turn it into a joke, like he always did. It normally worked. Just not with Cas.
He exhaled sharply through his nose, "Look, I'm sorry Cas," he said forcefully, the anger directed at himself this time, screwing his eyes shut, "Yeah, I was a coward ok? But, when it all blew up in my face..." he clenched his fists on the memories he held on to all too well raised their heads as they rocketed around his mind, "I ran. I fled like a child, because what else was I supposed to do? Who was going to be there for me when two of the most powerful beings in the universe were having the mother of all domestics?"
There was a long pause and Gabriel was so caught up in his own anger he didn't notice Castiel step forward until a hand was laid on his shoulder, "I would have been," Cas answered softly, voice neutral but his gaze was focused and earnest, making it hard for Gabriel to meet. He focused on the sand as he slipped out of Cas's grip, turning so he could face his brother.
"No you wouldn't," he smiled at Cas's momentarily hurt face, "Because like hell would I be letting you get involved in that whole Jerry Springer special."
Cas frowned, "Who is Jerry Springer?"
Gabriel laughed out right, "I'll show you some time," he sobered at Castiel's gaze which had gone back to its puppy dog form. He scratched the back of his head before dropping his arms to his sides, "Oh hells with the look again, what do you want me to say?"
Cas's gaze didn't waver, "I just want to know I haven't lost my brother forever."
Gabriel glanced away down the beach, his mind racing over everything that was happening, everything he'd done since leaving, the fight that had started it all and finally his fondest memory: caring for a young Castiel as he learnt to use his wings. Finally he sighed and a defeated smile tugged at his reluctant lips, "I didn't know anyone cared that I'd left you know," he gave a breathy laugh before exhaling and meeting his brother's blue, yearning eyes, "I'm here now, Cas. All you need to do is shout, and I'll be there, trying to make up for what I did – or didn't do – these last few millennia. I promise," he lifted a hand and pressed it over his heart.
Castiel's lips lifted, "Thank you, brother," he paused a moment and his arms fidgeted uncertainly, "I, er, I've seen Dean and Sam...after they are reunited..."
Gabriel couldn't help but smile at his little brother's awkwardness and decided his first act as new and improved sibling would be to save him from it. Without answering, his moved forward, pulling his brother into a tight embrace, wrapping his arms around Castiel and holding him there. Castiel stiffened in surprise at the movement, but quickly relaxed into the hug and reciprocated, bathing in the warmth and smells of his brother that he had pined for so long. In his head he considered only a few of the angels to be his family. And only one to be his brother.
Castiel runs this moment over and over in his mind as he blames himself for the events that transpired at Elysian Fields Hotel.