A/N: Please consider this a warning for the following story. The story includes a scene of involuntary drug use. It's a touchy subject, so read with caution. Any drug use not prescribed by a physician for the intended individual is dangerous. Don't do it.
Castiel closed his hand around the knife under his pillow. Across the room, the door shook as someone rattled the handle. Castiel left it broken on purpose, just as he refused to fix the three steps outside. It gave him a little warning, and Castiel needed all the advantages he could muster now that he was human.
He had just slipped the knife free of its sheath when an irritated muttered expletive gave away the midnight visitor's identity. Castiel sat up, knife forgotten. "Gabriel?"
There was a second expletive, and Gabriel slammed the heel of his hand just over the mechanism. The door fell open easily, and the former-archangel didn't bother closing it behind him as he crossed the room.
"Move over, bro," Gabriel ordered.
Castiel barely had time to do so before his brother crashed into the freshly-vacated space, and promptly buried his face in the only pillow. Castiel sighed, and rescued the knife from the covers to place it on the nightstand.
"Gonna take someone's eye out with that thing one day," Gabriel grumbled from the pillow, without moving.
"If I'm lucky," Castiel agreed, stretching until his neck cracked. Then he lay back down and pillowed his head on his own arm. "Whatever happened to the double-jointed blonde?"
"She's a cuddler. Also, she whines."
"Ah." Castiel watched his brother carefully for the near-imperceptible shaking, but did not reach out. Gabriel disliked having his movement hampered in any way, disliked humans and their penchant for unnecessary touching, disliked the necessity of sleep and the ensuing disorientation. To the former-archangel, a cuddler was one of the worst things a female companion could be. "I take it she did not appreciate being shoved to the floor."
"Told her I wasn't a teddy bear," Gabriel muttered, turning just enough to scowl at Castiel. "And the way rumors fly around this place, she should have expected it."
"I believe that Kate is new," Castiel informed him solemnly. "Dean is rather annoyed."
"If he's gonna be all picky, then he's gonna fall behind," Gabriel shrugged. "Roll over or you'll never fall asleep." A sharp prod at Castiel's ribcage led to the younger man doing exactly that. He huffed in irritation as his human body relaxed automatically once flat on his back.
"Can I have my pillow back?"
The brothers lay in silence—one sprawled on his back and the other face-first in the only pillow. Close quarters doesn't get any closer than a twin bed.
Dean had promised a second bed as soon as a raid produced one. But by the time that condition filled itself there were more people in camp without a place to sleep. Gabriel was physically recovered for the most part and dug his fingers into the cocky masculine ego that had been his mask for centuries.
"Give the poor girl a bed, Deano. I can find a place to sleep any day of the week."
Most nights, Gabriel did exactly that—uncannily charming the traumatized civilians, the hardened hunters, the over-worked medical professionals that Dean prized more than gold into affairs that lasted as long as his interest. Other nights, nightmares or unsuitable women sent him stumbling back into Castiel's cabin in the middle of the night.
Originally, Castiel immediately took to sleeping on the floor, leaving the bed vacant for Gabriel. His older brother had not liked that one bit, and being dumped in bed like a human toddler while his common sense is questioned had a bruising effect on the younger angel's good intentions. Castiel's next plan involved feigning sleep to protect Gabriel's dignity. His older brother took to sleeping on the floor, which Castiel found completely unacceptable and couldn't do a bloody thing about it.
Gabriel had fought like a wildcat when the tables were turned.
Which led to the current uneasy compromise—Gabriel tried not to wake up Castiel, Castiel (who wasn't stupid) would point out his awareness to his brother, and they would grudgingly share the mattress with awkward banter to make the situation less awkward.
That was one sleepy rationalization that Gabriel had provided on a night where everyone was up until four AM stitching together the survivors of a raid. Dean had nearly died, and as soon as the Winchester's continued existence was confirmed, Gabriel dragged Castiel back and put him to bed. The process involved a gag and a brief fistfight, but Castiel ended up sprawled on his back, snoring and startling awake every ten-fifteen minutes, while Gabriel bitched quietly beside him until actual sleep kicked in.
Castiel figured at that point, accumulating possessions for Gabriel and storing them in his cabin was the rational thing to do. Chuck and the other outsiders took to calling it the angels' cabin, but Castiel and Dean never tried it around Gabriel. Bobby, on the other hand . . . well, Bobby was one of the few to go head-to-head with the former-archangel and win.
Castiel wondered what that felt like.
Gabriel groaned, and rolled onto his side, facing Castiel. "Sometimes, I swear I can still hear you think, Bro."
"That would be impossible—"
"Not at the volume, you're putting out," Gabriel cut him off and poked him hard. "Cut it out and go to sleep."
Castiel closed his eyes obediently, and listened for the shift of movement that would indicate Gabriel getting comfortable once more. It never came, and Castiel cautiously opened his eyes.
Gabriel's golden gaze stared right back at him. "You are the universe's crappiest actor, Castiel."
"You're not gonna let it go, are you?"
Personally, Castiel had no secret agenda, but he allowed Gabriel to suspect that the younger man did. If spilling his thoughts to appease Castiel's perceived-underhanded-motivations comforted the former archangel, then Castiel would listen.
"It was just a stupid dream. Humans have them all the time. It wasn't even new."
Castiel refrained from asking which reoccurring dream it was. None of them were particularly pleasant.
"I woke up, and she had her hands all over my face, and instinct took over."
Which meant that he had been dreaming of Lucifer.
"She can be pissed all she wants to be. Complain to whoever she wants to. I don't care. Friends in high places and all that."
Except quite obviously, Gabriel did care or he wouldn't still be awake regardless of Castiel's state.
"In these end times, personal boundaries have become closely guarded. It is a small consideration to pay not to infringe on those one has been warned against," Castiel intoned; which sort of—in a weird way—conveyed the reassurance that Dean wasn't going to kick anyone out over the complaint of a clingy and spurned woman. "I would have probably done worse than push her away," Castiel referred to the knife kept under his pillow, the second blade in the back waistband of his sweats, and the gun in his coat over the back of the chair.
There was a long moment of silence before the admission:
"I snapped first."
After that, there was nothing to do, but for both of them to roll over and go to sleep.
Castiel woke first. Finding shoes and coat, he left his brother sleeping. Castiel liked to help Bobby and Chuck with breakfast. He found the process and the ingredients familiar thanks to his vessel, and serving as Bobby's feet was a task reserved for Castiel alone.
He didn't quite make it to the mess hall.
There's a small knot of people directly across from his cabin, and it's not the usual religious crowd that tries to discreetly stalk the former-angels.
Castiel recognized a hunter as the orator. Dean liked Thompson—admired his work with a string of hauntings pre-apocalypse, and had pointed him out for the man's expertise with a crossbow. Castiel didn't know him personally, but he recognized the blonde at his side. Gabriel's 'date' from last evening had not gone well, and Castiel had a reasonable fear of angry women that he was in no hurry to face.
The group was in his path, and to go around them would be cowardly. Reluctantly, Castiel drew closer until he could actually make out the words that accompanied the emphatic gestures and frustrated tones.
The things they were saying shocked him.
Castiel took a hasty step backward and ran into Gabriel. The former archangel reached out deliberately and rested a hand on Castiel's shoulder. Reassured, Castiel stood straighter, but did not move away from his brother.
"Humans," Gabriel sneered. "Always thinking everything is about sex."
"Yeah, our wishful raison d'etre," Dean spoke up from behind them. "You can blame Freud. Now, what's the problem, Gabe?"
"Freud Junior over there has developed the bad habit of running his mouth," Gabriel indicated the offender with a jerk of his head. "And he upset Castiel."
"I'll take care of it," Dean promised, eyes narrowing. "Just stay with Gabriel, Cas."
Castiel nodded tiredly, and didn't protest when Gabriel tugged him closer. Under his brother's arm, Castiel let Gabriel guide him around the growing crowd that had been drawn by Dean's wrath and into the Mess Hall kitchen.
Gabriel stayed. Castiel wasn't surprised.
Surrounded by humans, they argued, lived, and slept back-to-back. How else could they survive?
The walls in here are very thin. Dean and Chuck have been making noise about insulating them this year, but the Mess Hall simply wasn't a priority like the cabins or the tents and shelters. For once that worked in the former archangel's favor. Gabriel deliberately chose a seat against the back wall where he could keep an eye on his little brother and still hear what was going on outside.
He was still a little surprised at how willing Dean had been to go to bat for them. Then again, Thompson had targeted Castiel. That tended to raise the ire and protective instincts of local authority figures.
Case in Point: Bobby Singer was force-feeding Castiel while insulting his intelligence, and yes, that was real coffee that the wheelchair-bound hunter was brandishing. If Gabriel tried to nick a scrap of food prior to the actual meal, he'd be digging buckshot out of his own ass.
. . . spoiled little brothers . . .
Dean's reading Thompson the riot act from the sounds of it. It's a lot of rhetorical bull that's loosely based on the Constitution and the Bible, and Chuck had made most of it up last year to rationalize a raid expressly for toilet paper. With some minor edits from Bobby, it more or less served as the mission statement of Camp Chitaqua. Dean liked to quote it when it suited him, but the hunter also amended it freely or threw it out entirely when the circumstances called for either.
"And just what do they do?" It's a challenge. "You say that everyone has to do something. What do they do? Besides eat our food, sleep with our women, and live off of our hard work . . . what exactly do they contribute?"
"Castiel fights at my back. You know that. He's fought at yours. He lost everything for us . . . for humanity!" The for me is left unspoken, but Dean obviously thought it, so Gabriel will let that slide.
"And the other one?"
"Gabriel," Dean emphasized, "is older than anyone else on earth—including Lucifer." He gestured widely to include the detractor, the bystanders, and the camp at large. "Are we really doing so freaking well that we can thumb our noses at that?"
"So he just gets a free pass from fighting?" a new voice cried out. Another shouted: "My brother died this week!"
"I don't make anyone fight who doesn't want to," Dean shouted over them. "Your brother earned the place he wanted, and his family will keep the cabin that he fought for. That's the way Camp Chitaqua works."
"What's he done to get that privilege?"
"Because he's part of my family," Dean roared. "And if you don't like that, Thompson, you can find somewhere else to stay."
Gabriel feels a smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth.
You didn't hear it from him, but Dean's kind of okay for a human.
There was something wrong. For a day that started out normally (more-or-less), the ending was rather sour. Not that this former-angel was aware of this change.
Castiel has lost all concept of time. There had been time once, but now it was gone.
Castiel was okay with that.
Castiel shook as music played in geometric shapes that tasted of fruit. He felt his brother crouch before him, felt the palm of Gabriel's hand cover his forehead, and then felt it move to cradle the side of Castiel's face. He could not make out what Gabriel was saying because the music was too loud. The odd hazel of his brother's eyes colors the music with worry. Loud oppressive worry in unrelenting waves and a trumpet blast of anger that blinds Castiel.
His vision cleared momentarily with the intensity of love, protectiveness, and almost-forgotten power behind the kiss to his brow. Benediction. Blessing.
Castiel lunged forward, falling into his brother's open arms. Gabriel was always open, grasping, possessive, fearing everything and nothing, and hanging on . . .
Castiel tasted salt. He suspected that he might be crying. Gabriel too. The music softened. Castiel believed that he actually recognized this song.
But it didn't really matter.
Gabriel's head snapped up, and he leaned protectively over the brother sprawled in his lap. It was only Dean, but it had been a long day.
"Is he dead?" Gabriel demanded.
"As a doornail," Dean confirmed, shoving his hands deep into the pockets of his army coat. "Put the fear of . . . fear of something into the doc, but Thompson's history. How's Cas?"
"Still out of it . . . I wouldn't have killed him," Gabriel told Dean fiercely, his fingers still carding through Castiel's hair almost absently. "I'd have made him wish he was dead."
Dean nodded. "And you know why I couldn't do that."
"Yes, being a leader and semi-dictator must be so difficult, Dean-o," Gabriel scoffed.
Cas makes a wounded noise from where he's buried his face in Gabriel's shirt. It might have been Dean's name, and the man crouched accordingly to clap one hand on his best friend's shoulder.
"Hey, Cas, how are you doin'?"
"I could fly," Castiel blinked wide blue eyes up at them both. His pupils are still dilated, but that doesn't stop Castiel from pulling free of Gabriel's grip in order to grab desperately at Dean's jacket. "I could fly so as nothing in creation could keep up."
Dean grimaced. "And that's why drugs are bad, Cas." He untangled Castiel's hands, and stood up, glancing back at Gabriel. "I'll send Bobby to spell you in a bit. Probably best to keep an eye on Superman here, until he comes down."
"He isn't talking about the drugs," Gabriel called out, almost surprising himself. Dean stopped short in the doorway, and after a second, Gabriel continued. "We each have our own specialty, Dean, and I never saw another angel keep pace with Castiel no matter how worn from battle he might be."
"The angel Flash," Dean started to banter, but Gabriel cut him off.
"You're mortal. You can't even begin to imagine the loss."
Dean was quiet for a long minute, and then he shoved Gabriel back into the former archangel's messy little helpless human place. "Some days, all I do is imagine . . . and then I get up off my ass and do something about it."
A few days after his run-in with Thompson and the ensuing drug-induced hallucinations, Bobby pronounces Castiel fit enough for work. Having more or less recovered on his own, Castiel wasn't certain why this had to be decided externally, but he allowed the humans their own delusions and obediently followed Dean out to the range.
The lessons were Dean's idea, stemming from the months of tutoring Castiel in hunting and not dying, and Bobby approved. Considering Castiel's own prowess with firearms mere weeks into Dean's tutelage, Castiel cast his vote with the hunters in order to outnumber Chuck and Gabriel.
Humans may be messy, illogical, and overflow with emotions that Castiel still struggled with, but their guns are interlocking puzzles that Castiel understands innately. Possibly because he, himself, was a weapon himself for so long.
At some point over the last year, Castiel had joined Dean as instructor rather than student. There are a few civilians who seem to appreciate Castiel's methods over Dean's, and their slow but steady progress is a small source of pride to Castiel.
They wave to him even now, and most of the other civilians out here are too new to know Thompson or recognize Castiel. Kate stands as an exception at the farthest target, trying not to watch Dean and Castiel's approach.
Someone was jogging behind them, and Dean slowed enough to let the man catch up. A moment later, and an arm is slung around Castiel's shoulders as Gabriel wheezes a bit.
"Hey, bro," Gabriel manages after catching his breath. "Good to see you without your other nursemaid."
Castiel has been human long enough to glower at that insinuation.
"Go shoot something," Dean groused, handing over the spare weapon that he'd been carrying. "Preferably yourself."
"In your dreams, Winchester," Gabriel returns with a flippant salute. To Castiel's bewilderment, his pacifist brother marched over to the target beside Kate and took aim.
"He just showed up yesterday, and wouldn't take no for an answer," Dean snorted, reaching for his own practice weapon. "He's got the worst stance I've ever seen, but I reckon if he's mad enough, he just might hit his target nine times out of ten," Dean offered with a sideways kind of glance.
And Castiel is proud of both of them.