Gabriel has always sort of hated Thanksgiving. He can normally get away with spending the rest of the holidays with friends or the cousins that he can stand, but with Thanksgiving comes summonings from home, and he has to resign himself to a minimum of two days with the whole clan. And when he says that everybody turns up for Thanksgiving, he means that quite literally; everybody who has ever had the last name Shurley turns up.
There are his brothers, obviously: Lucifer and Michael are busy glaring menacingly at each other from opposite sides of the tablecloth (nothing new there) while Raphael alternates between watching them and simply exuding an aura of profound distaste at the hubbub around him (business as usual). And then there are all the cousins – Balthazar, Uriel, Anna, Castiel, Zachariah, Rachel, Joshua… the list goes on, and increases exponentially in size once you start counting husbands and wives and bratty little offspring.
Gabriel's sort of given up on keeping track of the number of people here.
Dad's house, massive as it is, isn't large enough to house this many relatives (not to mention the ever-present tension), but the ballroom has been transformed into a sort of modified restaurant, so they can all glare at each other over their food in the same room. It's grand, tasteful, nauseatingly expensive, and one day some small part of it will be his… but somehow his brain always skips three-fourths of that observation. All that's left is 'nauseating'.
As he stares down a plate full of food that he knows will taste better than anything he's had all year, Gabriel longs for cold falafels and cheap candy in the cramped apartment that's still all he can afford after teaching Nordic Mythology for a decade in New York City. He wants to hear the buzzer and open the door to find almost six and a half feet of broad shoulders and long limbs topped by a smile that lights up like a Christmas tree.
Gabriel scowls at the turkey.
Unfortunately for him, Sam isn't here in the Hamptons to comfort him. He isn't even in New York State. He's back down in Texas with his brother and their smaller, significantly saner family. There was talk of doing the holidays together, but one does not say no when Chuck Shurley tells you to come to Thanksgiving, and Gabriel didn't quite trust his family not to make his… deviant sexuality an issue.
At least he's not the only one pining. Glancing around the room, it's all too easy to spot Castiel, several seats down the table, between Balthazar and a sallow, dark-haired teenage girl who's examining her food like she's calculating the calories in her brain. Castiel looks almost as unhappy, despite the comforting arm that his brother has slung over the back of his chair.
Now, Gabriel might not know exactly what's going on between his cousin and the eldest Winchester son, but he's no dummy. Castiel has the look of a man who's missing more than just his friends.
Maybe this will get you two fucking in reality, instead of just your imaginations.
The thought tastes bitter in the back of his mouth, laced as it is with irony and empathy. Gabriel would much rather be with Sam than anyone else right now. He's got Lucifer on his left and Raphael across the table, while Michael sits at Dad's right hand, smug as ever – the only person besides Dad who is actually glad to be here. He's flaunting his position, and Lucifer is approximately one smart remark from throwing the gravy boat at him. On Gabriel's right is Zachariah – a face that should never be seen except for when in a state of extreme intoxication. Sadly, Chuck knows better than to serve his family strong alcohol when they are gathered in such numbers, and Zachariah is talking loudly about his most recent corporate victory to anyone within earshot.
Gabriel eyes his knife and wonders if this gene pool is lopsided enough for him to get away with cramming the blade down Zachariah's throat. Probably not – but then again, Anna might do the job for him. She's across the table, midway between Gabriel and Castiel, and she's leaning over her plate, alternating a daggerlike gaze between Uriel and Zachariah every few seconds. Something they're doing is pissing her off – or maybe it's just their continued existence. Perfectly reasonable, if you give it enough thought.
"Squash," declares Raphael, and Gabriel glances at him in confusion before Virgil – sitting just beside him – dutifully hands over the lumpy orange dish. Raphael's smile is all teeth and no lips. Lucifer mutters something under his breath and heaves a world-weary sigh.
"You must speak up, dear brother; we'll never hear what you have to say otherwise. Could you repeat that?"
Michael, Gabriel decides, is officially suicidal. In fact, if their father hadn't been sitting between them at the head of the table, Lucifer would probably have strangled his brother at the beginning of the meal. As it is, he straightens his shoulders and says "I was just wondering when Raphael was going to pull the stick out of his ass so he could sit down properly. It must be getting extremely uncomfortable by now."
A garbled oath hits air as Raphael scrambles to his feet, eyes bulging furiously from his skull. Lucifer rises in one smooth motion, Michael mirroring the action a bare second later. A hush descends over the entire room.
"Sit down, boys," Chuck sighs. He glances up from his meal when nothing happens, repeating himself with a whiplash tone. "I said sit." His eyes come to rest on Lucifer. "And apologize to your brother.
A muscle works in Lucifer's jaw as his hands curl around the back of his chair, and for a terrifying handful of seconds Gabriel thinks he's going to ignore the order. Or – worse yet – throw the chair at someone. "I overstepped by bounds," he finally mutters. "I am sorry."
Raphael says nothing. His eyes are locked on Michael.
It takes another sharp "sit down" from Chuck before the brothers all slide back into their seats; Lucifer's head bowed and focused on his meal, Michael and Raphael with their chins in the air, both smirking at him.
Gabriel is seldom inclined to pity anyone in his immediate (or extended) family; Michael's a neurosurgeon in L.A., Raphael's a high-powered attorney down in Atlanta, their mother has been dead for something approaching forty years, and their father is the CEO of one of the country's wealthiest insurance corporations. Each of them earns more in one month than Gabriel does in a full year. But Lucifer's been a public defender in Seattle for almost twenty years, and Gabriel can count on the fingers of one hand the number of occasions that he's seen Lucifer looking anything besides exhausted in that time. Granted, until recently, he could count on fingers and toes how often he's seen Lucifer in those twenty years, but that's beside the point. Even now, there are tight lines drawn on his brother's face, and Gabriel feels something suspiciously like sympathy curl around his intestines.
"If you tilt your head back any further, I'll be able to count your boogers," he tells Michael. The intensity of the previous confrontation had cut all conversation at the table, and the silence still reigns supreme when Gabriel opens his mouth. The words cut through the air with perfect clarity.
Far down the line, Balthazar throws back his head and cackles. He is not alone in his amusement. Castiel ducks his head to smile, while a wolfish grin peels back the corners of Anna's mouth. Quiet huffs and restrained chuckles roll up and down the table. Chuck rubs a hand over his eyes but remains silent. Michael's chin has jerked down into his chest; he is glaring putrefied death at Gabriel, as is Raphael, and Zachariah is choking on a mouthful of beets. Lucifer says nothing…but the corners of his eyes crinkle into crow's feet. Under the table, his hand clasps Gabriel's forearm and gives it a brief squeeze before withdrawing.
When Chuck uncovers his eyes, his mouth is drawn into a thin line. "Remove yourself," he orders. There is a pause while the ballroom quiets again, then: "both of you."
Neither son needs to be told twice; they shove back their chairs and stride past the long lines of upturned faces watching them, footsteps ringing off the marble floors, moving as quickly as they can without running. Gabriel keeps his eyes locked on where Lucifer's shoulders are straining at the black fabric of his jacket. If he looks anywhere – even at Balthazar's delighted grin or Joshua's disapproving scowl – he'll break down laughing, and then his father might actually kill him.
The heavy double doors swing shut behind them with a boom, and Lucifer pivots midstride to yank Gabriel into a hug.
It is disconcertingly similar to hugging Sam, except for that Lucifer is a few inches shorter and slightly stockier, but it doesn't help that they haven't hugged for…twenty years, twenty-three… for a very long time. But he's still miles taller than Gabriel, still older, still on his side against the combined might of Michael and Raphael, and still his brother.
"You are an idiot," Lucifer informs him in a tone so perfectly dry that it must be the one he uses in court. "They're going to kill you in your sleep." His arms drop to shove his hands into his pockets, and he steps back, shaking his head in something like amusement.
Grinning like a fool, Gabriel rocks back on his heels, reaching up to pat Lucifer's cheek. "They'll get over it – I promise. And I'm heading home tonight anyway."
"Yeah. I think I'm liable to choke on murderous tension if I hang around much longer, and the roads'll be damn near empty, since everybody's with family." He gives Lucifer a long look, and makes an offer that he wouldn't even have thought of a couple hours earlier. "You want to come with me?"
Lucifer's eyebrows rise. "Back to New York?"
"No – Miami. You should come. I've got a spare bedroom. New York is exactly like Seattle, but we actually know what the sun is and the suicide rate is way lower. And Sam comes home in two days, so you'll get to meet him, and you can watch his brother have sweet, passionate eyesex with Castiel all the time, and I'll take you to the Roadhouse so you can meet Jo, who is, like, awesome and you'd probably think she's smokin' – only don't hit on her within range of her mother unless you want to spend your life as a eunuch – and…" He sucks in a breath. "You're the only member of my immediate family who I can actually stand to be in the same room with for more than eight nanoseconds."
"High praise." But Lucifer is doing something that is dangerously close to smiling. "Will I have to put up with Balthazar being a smartass as well?"
"He sort of drops in whenever he wants companionship that doesn't come packaged with sex, which is, you know, pretty rarely. And Sam cooks really well."
There is a long, drawn-out sigh from Lucifer as he tilts his head back to examine the moldings on the ceiling. "I reserve the right to all big-brother actions, including – but not limited to – making sex tapes of you and your boyfriend for future blackmail, beating the shit out of your boyfriend if he hurts you either physically or emotionally, harassing every single one of your friends, and complaining about everything."
Gabriel smirks. "Sam's taller than you. And younger. And he goes to the gym."
"Then I'll drag his ass to court and sue him," Lucifer fires back, quick as a snitch. "Don't think I haven't learned anything after two decades of defending criminals."
"You're an ass." Gabriel pats his pockets, searching for his keys. "But was that a yes?"
Rolling his shoulders, Lucifer fires off an honest-to-God grin – the first in eons. "Lead the way, little brother."