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Epilogue

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Gabriel was unresponsive for a very long time, seemingly asleep. They laid him down on the old couch in Bobby's study. Sam was throwing weird glances at Dean for the way he acted concerning Gabriel, but he ignored it for now. When he went to get a cloth wet to at least get the blood off of the angel's face he pointedly didn't look neither at Sam nor Bobby. He was not ready for that conversation.

Castiel was outside, not putting a foot in the house, but not leaving either. Dean knew he had nowhere to go, but he assumed the angel – probably angel again, he could zap back to Bobby's junkyard after all – wanted to wait for Gabriel to wake up again. Dean let him stand there, they hadn't spoken a word since Gabriel passed out again and the hunter was not willing to change that just yet. He figured that Sam and Bobby left him with the decision of how to treat him or deal with him, well, at least that's what he thought after neither of them spoke up about Cas waiting outside among the broken old cars. He didn't even clean up his vessel. All his clothes remained stained and dust-covered and Dean wondered whether it was deliberate or if the angel just forgot about it.

Dean got cleaned up a few hours after getting back to Bobby's, but mainly he just lazed around the study, torn between keeping up a front and wanting to sit down beside the angel to make sure he was still breathing evenly. It was late afternoon when Bobby reminded him to eat something, which of course explained some of the weird glances, because he usually didn't forget stuff like that. Man, if they knew half of it. Gabriel woke up not long after.

He looked hazy and tired, but Dean was just thankful he woke up at all.

'Hey man, feeling better?' the hunter asked almost immediately.

'I feel like a god kicked the shit out of me... oh wait.' Dean chuckled despite himself, sitting down to Gabriel's feet as the angel sat up somewhat awkwardly, blinking a lot to focus on things.

'You did it,' Dean said after a pause. 'You saved Cas.'

'Hmm... where is he?'

'Outside,' Dean nodded his head towards the window.

'Castiel,' Gabriel said out loud and with a flutter of wings the younger angel was inside the room. Shoulders hunched and he looked smaller than ever in his too big dirty clothes.

'Gabriel... I'm...' he avoided eye-contact and talked quietly.

'A fucking idiot,' Gabriel finished.

'I'd ask... beg for your forgiveness, but... I know I don't deserve it.'

'No one forbids you to ask for it,' Gabriel remarked dryly.

'However you may wish to take revenge for my... misdeeds. I will accept it, whatever it may be, my grace, my life...' he trailed off, just standing there awkwardly and he finally looked like the angel Dean remembered. Right now a lot more quiet, a lot more remorseful, but it was him alright.

Gabriel looked up at the ceiling for a few moments before sitting up and moving to stand. Dean stood up right away too, but he didn't reach out to him. The archangel seemed wobbly on his feet, but he could stand on his own, the hunter stayed close to him, just in case. He took a step closer to the other angel.

'Castiel,' he said and waited until the younger angel looked up at him before he punched him square in the jaw, making him lose his balance and stumble to the floor. Gabriel also seemed to lose his footing, but Dean grabbed hold of his arm to support him.

'I say it again, you're a fucking idiot,' Gabriel said, looking down at Cas, the other angel stayed down, not even looking up.

'Souls, Castiel... of all the worst possible things an angel could do, you go for the souls... of Purgatory. Vicious, blood-thirsty monsters, just waiting to be flesh again to destroy,' he took a few large breaths, visibly calming himself down.

Sam and Bobby showed up, probably hearing the thud and the sound of the argument. Castiel stayed silent.

'Don't go back to Heaven, they'd tear you to pieces,' he added.

'I would deserve it,' Cas said.

'Don't go back to Heaven,' Gabriel repeated more firmly. 'I wouldn't have gone through all of this hassle to save your sorry ass if I wanted to throw you to the dogs.' Castiel's head snapped up at those words.

'You cannot possibly... why not punish me? If anyone, you'd have the right... after all I have done.'

Gabriel only stayed silent for a second before speaking up again. 'There's more blood on your hands than on Lucifer's,' he said, ignoring the flinch from the younger angel. 'And you don't have the luxury of forgetting... ever. Not your betrayals, not your destruction, nor the death of every single angel that has fallen from your hands. You will live with everything you have done for the rest of your existence. You also made sure that you can never return to Heaven, not after this. You exiled yourself forever. Looking at you, I think that's punishment enough.'

Castiel's head sagged further, tearing his pained eyes away from the archangel. Gabriel swayed a little as he moved, so Dean gripped his arm tighter, but the angel brushed him off after a moment.

'We will talk later, Castiel,' he said then after a breath. 'I'm gonna take one of the beds, because my vessel is in crap condition. If anyone else dares to disturb me, who doesn't go by the name Dean Winchester,' he even raised his arm and pointed at him, like it was not obvious to everyone in the room who he was. 'There will be hilariously painful consequences.'

He vanished from the room after that.

'Why can you disturb him?' Sam asked.

'Because I'm a joy to have around,' Dean answered simply. 'Cas, get up from there,' he turned to the angel. He did so, but just stood there without a word.

'Why would he be willing to forgive me?' Cas asked in a dim tone.

'Cause big brothers tend to do that even if you mess shit up, well... the good ones anyway,' Dean answered.

'Dean, I...'

'Listen Cas, I'm not saying that we're ok, because we're not... and it's gonna take a helluva lot to get us to be even remotely ok again, but... some of this is on me. I'm not gonna say it ain't. So you just don't get killed and... I'll see you around...'

Castiel nodded, only briefly glancing up at Sam and Bobby, but his mouth opened and closed without him saying a word, because apparently he didn't have the right words to speak.

'Later, Castiel,' Sam said in a clipped tone. Cas nodded again, his face defeated, lost, shameful and this time he disappeared in a flutter of wings right after. Dean knew in that moment, that he would forgive his friend. He just didn't know how much time it would take them to get there, for him to be able to trust him like he did before. He didn't even know if they could go back to how things were before. Maybe that was lost forever, maybe things would be different. He only knew that his friend was alive and back to his old self, so everything else they would have to deal with was secondary.

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Gabriel was lying on the top of the covers on Dean's bed, naturally. After closing and locking the door Dean lay down too, facing him. Gabriel opened up his tired amber eyes to look at him.

'Your "awesome back-up"... was it... God?' Dean asked carefully. Gabriel smiled a little.

'Yeah... well, at least a sliver of something that felt like Him to me.'

Dean nodded and didn't comment on it, he felt comfortable, lying on his side, face-to-face with the archangel, the quiet around them was pleasant and soothing.

'So it seems like I'm not gonna die in the very immediate future,' Gabriel spoke up then and Dean opened his eyes again to look at him, he didn't even notice that he closed them.

'Seems like it,' he agreed.

'Still think you could love me?' he asked quietly. Dean kept looking at him, his smile was small, but it was there.

'Well, I guess you do have a pretty good sense of humor,' he said.

'I could always get you your favorite food,' Gabriel offered, his smile growing bigger.

'Yeah, and someone would finally get my awesome Dr. Sexy references,' Dean nodded, he too had a lot bigger smile on his face now.

'You bet your cute butt that I'm familiar with that,' Gabriel answered – with a quote from the show nonetheless – and Dean laughed at that a little.

'See, I'm perfect for you,' the angel added, his hand reaching out and his fingers moving down Dean's chest where the silver pendant was resting under his t-shirt.

'Yeah, I guess you are.'

-=THE END=-