Gabriel likes to think that he's pretty observant. His reputation's come under fire ever since the whole debacle with Dean and Castiel with the trying-to-get-them-together-and-then-actually-getting-them-together-without-realizing-he'd-gotten-them-together thing, even though that all happened nigh on five years ago. But he figured it out in the end anyway, so as far as he's concerned, it's just another dollar in the Support Gabe's Awesome Observational Skills jar.
And to be fair, when it counts, when it's important, when he knows something's under the surface, Gabriel actually picks up on a lot.
Like the way that there's a nine in ten chance that Castiel will be wearing one of Dean's shirts if it's a lazy day when they're not planning on doing much. The bastard gets away with it so easily, too; he doesn't have Dean's broad shoulders or carefully-maintained musculature, but casual onlookers would never notice how it shows just a little too much of his collarbone, or hangs just a tiny bit looser than it should. It pisses Gabriel off. He's tried to do the same thing with Sam's clothes, but that is a battle lost long before it ever begins. A shirt that's skintight on Sam makes Gabriel look like a child playing dress-up with Daddy's clothes, and that is not a look that fifty-year old Nordic History professors are capable of rocking.
That's not to say he hasn't done it. He just doesn't think it's appropriate for a distinguished gentleman of his age and occupation to be seen dressed like that in public. Frying bacon in the early afternoon on a rainy Saturday when he's not planning on setting foot outside? He does that in sweatpants and one of Sam's old flannels; he has to roll the sleeves up almost a dozen times to get them back to mid-forearm, but he manages. Then Sam will wander in and not notice anything amiss until he's downed almost half a gallon of coffee, at which point he'll laugh and corner Gabe between wall and counter, teasing him about it with words and soft lips until they smell burning.
Sam's observant in his own way, too. But where Gabriel's happy with the memory bank, Sam prefers to keep records – there's a massive corkboard hanging on the wall over his desk, filled with notes, quotes, newspaper clippings, and various other bits and pieces of sentimental value. He takes pictures, too, all the time. Fuzzy snapshots and grainy recordings with his phone, or, when circumstances allow, vibrant stills with the 'legitimate photographer' camera Gabriel got him for his thirty-fifth birthday – the heavy-duty Canon that came with a case full of lenses and is solid enough to break somebody's foot if dropped.
Sam has a small collection of photo albums that he's filled himself, and every once in a blue moon Gabriel likes to go poking through them to see if there's anything especially incriminating lurking about. Sam doesn't appear to organize the things in any recognizable fashion – contrary to everything else in his life – and pictures are always getting moved around, so it's a bit of a tantric affair.
But today is a creaky, sparkling, frigid Wednesday at the ass end of January after the biggest ice storm New York City's seen in a decade. Gabriel has declared himself 'on vacation' and handed all instructional duties over to Adam, his teaching assistant. He's not leaving the apartment if he can help it.
Sam hasn't had the same flexibility; he's neck-deep in a nightmare of a custody suit involving four kids, a mother with three part-time jobs, and a father with too much money and too many foreign substances circulating through his veins at all times. For the better part of two months, he's been trying to corner the family physician – the guy had finally agreed to meet today. Ice storm notwithstanding, Sam's case will hinge on this testimony. So he'd buttoned a heavy jacket over his suit, gathered his papers, traded a couple jovial insults with Gabriel, and ventured out into the slick cold.
Sam's taking the doctor out to lunch, so Gabe figures that he's gonna have at least two hours of solitude. He sets himself up on the bed with three of the newer albums and an oversized mug of hot coca, flipping between books indiscriminately.
His boyfriend's a pretty decent paparazzi lens, if he does say so himself.
It's not that Dean and Castiel are shy when they're in public together, it's just that both like to keep their private lives private. That hasn't stopped Sam. Right on the first page of one of the albums, smack dab in the center, all alone in the place of honor, is a photo of what Gabriel recognizes as Central Park's Dalehead Arch. Or, more correctly, the shot is of the path underneath the arch. And what is on the path? Why, a pair of silhouettes. Two distinct bodies pressed close together, one whose head is ever-so-slightly tilted up and to the side, posture loose and easy, red-gold trees in the background.
It doesn't matter that they're not attached at the face. What matters is Dean's hand curled around the back of Cas' neck, and the way Cas' mouth is opened just slightly, and Gabe knows he was looking at Dean in that way he has, like God built the Earth and the solar system and the whole damn universe around him – ladies and gentlemen, boy and girls, every human who's ever lived… Dean Winchester: the man worth more than all of you combined.
Throw down some rose petals and have a halle-fucking-lujah.
No, Gabriel is not jealous. Dean and Castiel are totally allowed to be in love and have thoughtful romantic stalker pictures taken of them – Gabriel set them up together, for Christ's sake. But where's his picture?
He opens one of the other books and finds it immediately – perhaps a bit more literally than he would have expected.
Gabriel's knowledge of cameras can pretty much be summed up by saying "look through the viewfinder and push the button until something flashes". But sometimes the photography gods are kind and he actually ends up with a halfway-decent product.
Years ago, in honor of their second anniversary, he and Sam took a trip down to Argentina during the summer break to waste money and de-stress and have sex in as many interesting places as they (read: Gabriel) could think of. They'd come across an abandoned playground one day when they were out walking, and decided to investigate. The picture in front of Gabriel is of Sam, wearing that stupid black beanie that makes him look like an overgrown teenager, hands locked on the top bar of a rusted swingset, legs kicked up high in the air, mouth drawn into a determined line as he swings on the strength of his arms alone.
He'd lost his grip less than thirty seconds later to land on his ass with a heavy thud and barking laugh. Gabriel had been left with no choice except to tuck away the camera, walk over, drop into Sam's lap, and kiss the wild smile off his face.
The corners of Gabriel's mouth turn up without his permission as he flips the page. The next one has himself and Castiel sandwiching a Seattle-pale blond man who stands taller than either of them and has lines from long-term exhaustion carved into his face. But they're all smiling; Lucifer's grin actually reaches up into his eyes – an event worthy of a photograph all by itself. The shot was taken at the end of Thanksgiving weekend the year after the Argentina trip, when Gabriel and Lucifer were… invited to leave the big Shurley family dinner in the Hamptons.
Lucifer spent the time sleeping in the guestroom and being dragged around the city to all of Gabriel's favorite spots (the Roadhouse in particular), and he'd laughed more in three days than he had in the last five years – or so he said, but Gabriel didn't doubt him. Life as a public defender in Seattle doesn't exactly match up with visions of sunshine and fluffy bunnies.
He still has a clear memory of Lucifer sitting at the counter reading the newspaper on that Saturday, glancing up when Sam walked into the apartment after almost a week in Texas, the two of them sizing each other up immediately. The first words out of Lucifer's mouth had been "if I was gay, I'd fuck you in a heartbeat."
Sam's eyebrows had shot up as his mouth quirked into a half-smile. "You must be related to Gabriel," he'd said, and they'd all laughed.
When Gabriel turns the page to find a cheerily-glowing Harvelle's Roadhouse, he actually snorts. You would, Sammy, he thinks.
The television mounted in the corner claims that the temperature's sitting pretty at four degrees with the windchill factored in, but Gabriel thinks it's probably closer to negative fifty. There's black ice slicked over every surface not directly perpendicular to the ground, and even with the heaters going full blast he nearly froze to death driving from his apartment to the Roadhouse.
Normally, if he'd wanted to drink in company, he'd have called up Castiel or Balthazar or both and invited them over to play poker and get trashed. But Balthazar's in Chicago delivering some sort of thesis on why the story of the magi is bullshit – irony of his name notwithstanding – and Castiel's done nothing recently except murmur soft words about the mechanic who replaced his spark plugs a month ago and has since started turning up at the library on a near-daily basis. Dean Some-type-of-gun, Gabriel remembers. Glock or Colt or something along those lines. He doesn't know. Castiel's been a sort of vaguely-closeted biromantic demisexual for years, without a single homosexual relationship to show for it, so this Dean fellow should probably be taken down as a person of interest.
Some other time, Gabriel will pry. Now, however, he has an ex-wife who's been giving him shit for no apparent reason at all (strange to think that he'd ever found Kali to be anything except single-minded and infuriating), a Titanic's worth of stress from his first semester as an assistant professor who can only dream of tenure, a month before he has to teach a class again, and far too little alcohol in his system to achieve the sort of numbness that he so desperately longs for.
The clock's ticking on towards one AM when a man in a flannel shirt and jeans who's built like a friggin' bull moose walks through the doors. The swell of his shoulders is visible from across the room, and Gabriel orders himself another shot.
The guy's wearing cowboy boots with only a small heel, but they must put him somewhere close to six and a half feet in height. He takes a seat at the far end of the bar from Gabriel, long legs hooking around the chair as he tosses Ellen a familiar grin and, okay, Gabriel's going to jack off to this dude tonight. He's spent too much time with his family to appreciate cynicism; he likes big and friendly and warm, and this guy slams home runs on all three counts.
When Jo deposits his third shot of the night in front of him, Gabriel leans in to catch at her arm. "Hey – guy in the flannel with linebacker shoulders, down the line. Who is he?"
Jo grins, because she's a clever whip and knows him too well by now. "That's Sam Winchester. Lived in the same town as us, back in Texas, 'fore we moved north. Just wrapped up law school, and he's already working at a pretty big firm. Smart guy. Total sweetheart." Her grin widens. "Great cook… and totally single."
Swatting at her shoulder, Gabriel rocks back on his seatbones to roll the alcohol down his throat, concentrating on the burn. "You know I don't do relationships."
"Sure. Right. Whatever." Jo snatches his glass back from him and turns away. "I dated his big brother, Dean, back in Texas. They're a good family."
Dean Winchester, Gabriel thinks. That's him – Mr. Literate Mechanic. Cassie's little crush. But the guy dated Jo – straight, or bi? Who knows. But this one's too young anyway. Late twenties, hooking up with a forty-year old? Yeah, right. In your dreams, Shurley. His gaze slides over to Sam, who is laughing at something Ellen just said, head thrown back and eyes squeezing shut.
The fucker has dimples.
"Can I get another shot?"
There appears to be a lapse in the space-time continuum, because one second he's downing his fourth shot, sitting at the bar, and the next he's got an arm hooked around Sam Winchester's neck and is pinned to the wall in the alley behind the Roadhouse, both of them panting raggedly on the comedown. There is also a lot more than four shots worth of alcohol in his system – something closer to seven or eight, probably, but he doesn't know because Sam Winchester has hands on both sides of his face and his tilting his chin up and – I'm not standing on my toes for you, you bastard – leaning down to kiss him, soft and tasting of margaritas.
"My place or yours?" he asks against Gabriel's mouth, and he almost drops dead with shock right there.
"Mine," he says, because in the morning he can just hide under the blankets until Sam comes to his senses and flees, rather than getting kicked out. Sam doesn't exactly seem like the type to toss a person out on their ass, but you never know.
It doesn't matter. There's a grin curling in Sam's mouth when he kisses Gabriel again and it's Sam Winchester, remember that you fool; Cas is crushing on his brother, but he's breathing "lead the way" into Gabriel's ear and yeah, okay, he's just going to take this and run with it until he can't anymore.
He's been running with it for just a hair over ten years at this point. And contrary to what he'd expected, he doesn't regret it.
Gabriel flips another page to find himself huddled under a mess of blankets, eyes narrowed against the morning sun, scowling fiercely and flipping the bird at the camera lens. He has absolutely no recollection of that particular incident.
What he does remember is waking up ten years ago surrounded by a mess of blankets and the sound of sizzling. Sam had been leaning against the doorframe, nibbling on a piece of bacon, wearing his same loose jeans from the previous night, but asking "where do you keep your bread?" instead of "who the fuck are you, you perv?"
Sometime around their seventh anniversary, when Gabriel actually asked Sam why he'd stuck around that first morning, he'd gotten a shrug and a kiss on the forehead and the words "you cuddle on instinct when you're asleep."
And what the hell is that supposed to mean, exactly? Taking a sip of hot chocolate, Gabriel rolls his eyes and turns to the third album he brought with him, opening it at random.
Dean and Castiel side by side on the couch in their apartment, Dean's head on Cas' shoulder, watching him unwrap a book with the corners of his eyes crinkled into crow's feet and his hand resting on Cas' knee. That was Castiel's forty-first birthday – the first after he and Dean finally quit dicking around and actually got down to the actual dicks.
Gabriel bought his cousin a jumbo-sized tube of cotton-candy-flavored lube. Sam supplemented it with A Librarian's Odyssey because "somebody in this relationship has to have tact."
But then Dean produced two tickets to War Horse and Gabriel got to smugly whisper "at least my gift's useful" when Castiel's face lit up like a child's at the sight.
He snorts aloud at the memory.
The next series of photos he randomly flips through he either wasn't present for or doesn't recall. They prompt wave after wave of nostalgia anyway.
Dean bending over the Impala's engine in some unknown setting, grease streaked all the way up to his elbows.
Balthazar, shirtless, dancing what may be the salsa with a chubby redhead atop an unfamiliar bar.
The Winchester brothers and their parents, all far younger, with Texas shining in the sunny highlights of their hair, arms slung around each other, standing on a porch that Gabriel recognizes from semi-annual visits – it's the house that John and Mary live in today. The boys are both still teenagers in the photo; Dean might be pushing twenty, but Sam can't be out of high school yet. Something tugs at the blackened excuse for a heart that sits in in Gabriel's chest. He turns to another album, but leaves this one open, four grins staring up at the ceiling.
Anna pressing a sloppy kiss to Castiel's cheek while he looks vaguely amused and very intoxicated.
Gabriel at the stove, halfway through flipping a pancake; a glass of water and three aspirin sit on the counter beside him.
Lucifer and Ellen – and this one he has a very fuzzy recollection of – waltzing across the floor of the Roadhouse. Ellen's eyebrows reach almost to her hairline. She's laughing.
A poker game whose participants include Dean, Meg, Balthazar, Gabriel, Jo, and several other faces he can't immediately place. From the looks of things, Dean walked away with a much fatter wallet than anyone else.
Dean brewing coffee, Castiel behind him, fingers brushing lightly against the small of Dean's back as he watches over his shoulder, mug clasped in his free hand.
Ruby – Gabriel's favorite troublemaking grad student – posing with three beers in each hand, sticking her tongue out at the camera.
Gabriel brandishing a sheaf of papers like a weapon at Adam from behind the desk in his office at the university.
A very young Dean – fourteen, maybe – behind the wheel of the Impala for what was probably the first time.
Ruby and Meg glaring blearily at each other across a table, a line of shot glasses dividing them. (This one he heard about after the fact; it ended in an indecisive tie, when Meg tossed an empty bottle of Jägermeister through a window and the neighbors called the cops.)
Lucifer standing in the living room, arms folded across his chest, watching the morning star fade as the sun rises.
Balthazar and a girl who Gabriel eventually realizes is Jo, tucked in against each other in some dark corner. She's got one hand clutching his shoulder and one gripping a fistful of hair, while both his arms appear to be locked around her waist, and how did I never know about this? Gabriel narrows his eyes at the page, but there's no way to date it. Just a fragment of a time that has been torn from its proper place in memory.
He resolves to ask Sam about it when he gets back, and if Ellen knows. Probably not. She already threatens to beat Balthazar damn near every time she sees him – he wouldn't have a skin if she so much as thought he was involved with Jo. And that's a whole new train of thought all by itself – was it just one kiss? Was it a one-night stand? Was it… more, possibly? Now that he's really contemplating it, Balthazar hasn't been bragging about his usual string of sexual conquests lately. Gabriel's also been hip-deep in papers with the start of the new semester, but… he definitely needs to bring it up with Sam.
Jo's smart, and Balthazar's a perpetual snarky asshole. If she can put up with him, she might actually be good for him.
And the age difference… okay, it's a bit much. A sixteen-year gap doesn't look too good to most outside observers. But considering how Gabriel's involved with a man thirteen years his junior; he really shouldn't be talking. Instead he forces the matter out of his skull and turns another page.
Sam is officially a paparazzi-level stalker.
Long-distance shots with the arch or sneaking up on Jo and Balthazar in the dark were pushing it, but they're the sort of thing where it's simply right-place-right-time-spur-of-the-moment-with-a-camera nonsense.
But the photo in front of him has to have been planned in advance. It's of Dean and Castiel's bedroom, taken from the doorway sometime in the fairly early hours of morning, with sunlight just starting to break through the windows. Dean's obviously dead asleep, slightly curled in on himself slightly, probably snoring, blankets twisted around his legs. Castiel has tucked himself into the hollow of Dean's chest, and Dean's got one arm slung over his ribcage, fingers loosely clutching at the worn fabric of Cas' gray AC/DC shirt, an inch from Castiel's left hand. They were probably holding hands when they fell asleep.
Gabriel takes another swig of coca and pretends that it's the drink making warmth roll through his belly.
As the youngest of four, Gabriel grew up being the one that everyone was supposed to take care of – not that they did; nine times out of ten, it was him and Lucifer against Michael and Raphael in a secret war to deflect their father's anger onto the opposing side. Castiel's an eldest child, being Anna's older brother, and they're only something like second cousins, but he's always been Gabriel's to look after, because they grew up two blocks from each other and nobody else was going to give a shit when he skinned his knee or got dumped by the pretty girl.
Lucifer might have. But Lucifer has six years on Gabriel, eleven on Castiel, and he was gone to the University of Washington State by the time Cas hit second grade. So Gabriel was the one screening Castiel's dates and wrapping him in hugs when the girls got bored with his naïve dorkiness. Gabriel was the one who babysat Castiel and Anna for years until Cas was old enough to hold down the fort by himself. Gabriel was the one who taught Cas to drive, while he was home on summer break during his junior year of college. Gabriel was the one who tore up the medical school application and said "go be something you enjoy – a librarian or a teacher or whatever you want. Don't be a fuckin' doctor. Do you want to turn out like Michael?"
Gabriel was the one who barged into Castiel's apartment on his twenty-first birthday with Balthazar in tow, in possession of a bottle of Jim Beam and a shit-eating grin, declaring "it is now legal for you to have fun, Cassie-boy!"
Gabriel was the one who got fed up with all the longing stares and set him up on a blind date with Dean so they could actually find something productive to do with all that sexual tension. It worked far better than he'd expected, but the bastards still kept up the charade for the better part of a year – apparently for the sole purpose of driving Gabriel insane, until he figured out that he'd succeeded, months after the fact. He'd almost killed them in the meantime.
As far as Gabriel's concerned, Castiel is his little brother. But he's thrilled to have Dean around to make Cas happy and look after him, even if it's in ways as simple as falling asleep next to him.
Sipping once more at his coca, he's only just flipping to another page – Dean and Cas drinking beer on the hood of the Impala in some wide-open Texas field – when the door to the apartment creaks open. "You-hoo, Gabby! Anybody home?"
Balthazar. This can't be good.
He twists off the bed with a sigh. "What do you want?" he demands, padding towards the front hall. "And how did you get in?"
In the foyer, Balthazar is stripping out of his black overcoat, dripping slush everywhere in the process. He jerks a thumb behind him at Sam, who appears drained and half-frozen as he steps into the apartment. As Gabriel crosses the room, Jo, Castiel, Dean and – surprisingly enough – Lucifer pile through the door, all of them shedding overclothes weighed down by rapidly-melting ice.
"Should I even ask what all these hooligans are doing here?"
"Hooligans?" Lucifer exclaims. "See if I ever come visit you again." He slings his jacket over a coat hanger, then reaches forward to drag Gabriel into a one-armed hug. "Good to see you, little brother."
Gabe pats him on the back. "You too. Can't say you picked the best time to come sightseeing, though. And, again," he turns to face Sam, " what are all these nuts doing here? What happened with the doctor?"
"Asshole skipped out on me." Sam scowls. "But then these two – " he jerks his chin at Jo and Balthazar "- were having lunch in the same restaurant, and we ended up going to Cas and Dean's place, where we found Lucifer and I figured…" he shrugs, smiling softly. "You're not much for being alone."
"I was entertaining myself," Gabriel defends, but he stretches up on his toes to kiss the bastard anyway.
Sam huffs out a laugh against his mouth. "Entertaining yourself? With what?"
Smirking, Gabriel withdraws just enough to watch Sam's expression. "Your photo albums, Sammy."
He gets all of three seconds to enjoy the surprise on Sam's face before Balthazar forcibly interjects himself into the conversation. "Photo albums? What's this? Are you hiding something naughty, dear Samuel? Do tell."
Gabriel rolls his eyes. "Master bedroom. Three are on the bed, the rest on the bookshelf. Go on… grab a few." He grins up at Sam.
Now that he thinks about it, Gabriel realizes that letting Balthazar get his hands on the photo albums might not have been an idea that's going to win him a Nobel Prize anytime soon. The one piece of good fortune is that everyone in the room has just as much blackmail for him as he does for them. And what that means, in plain English, is that they find the shot of Balthazar and Jo.
Its appearance causes a roar of commotion, and Jo almost breaks Dean's arm when he says "So, when were you planning on telling Ellen?" before Castiel gets in the way with a stone-cold stare. She has to settle for flinging all her beer caps at Dean throughout the afternoon, and sticking out her tongue whenever he looks in her direction instead.
"I wouldn't worry about it too much," Lucifer tells her at one point. "Your mother's a smart woman." He pauses. "He might lose a limb or two, depending on what you've been getting up to behind her back, though."
Jo flushes red and elbows Balthazar in the ribs when he cackles, but that only makes him grin wickedly and kiss her cheek. "For you, darling, I'll risk death, dismemberment, and a dystopian future."
She elbows him again. "I don't want you risking anything. Just sit there and look pretty and run if you see my mother coming, even if she's unarmed."
Balthazar lets loose another guffaw at that, but offers up nothing more by way of protest, only a cheerful "whatever you say, dear," preferring to recline back against the sofa and drape an arm across Jo's shoulders, tugging her back into the crook of his body. He meets Gabriel's gaze and winks.
Sometime in the last few hours, Dean has ended up with most of the books piled across the coffee table in front of him, following Gabriel's preferred method of flipping around randomly, pausing every few seconds to study a photo more intently or point something out before moving on. Castiel sits beside him, watching over his shoulder. An unopened album sits in his lap; his fingers curl around the blue binding like it's something he needs to protect.
Gabriel lets his eyes skim over the length of the table. Sammy, he realizes, has been quite a prolific photographer over the course of the last twenty-odd years. There's a fuzzy Polaroid of John Winchester teaching Dean to tune up the Impala side-by-side with a crystal-clear shot of the beer can pyramid strung with tinsel and colored lights that the clientele erected in the Roadhouse last Christmas in lieu of an actual tree (the construction took the better part of three weeks, with people bringing in a multitude of different cans that they'd drunk at home, and in the end, the thing stood almost eight feet high). He spots, in quick succession, Ruby and Adam both in drag for a Halloween party, Castiel sitting on a horse for the first time while Dean leads the animal around a dusty ring, The Big Four playing a sold-out Yankee Stadium (the right side of the picture includes a hand with a very familiar ring throwing the horns), the picture taken under Dalehead Arch (which was met with an only-half-joking "going a little paparazzi, Sammy?" from Dean but a chorus of "aww"s both sarcastic and genuine from everyone else) and a shot of himself giving a lecture on Loki, taken from the back of the classroom. He chews on his lower lip and tries not to gaze too fondly at Sam.
Castiel's attention has finally fallen from the table to the album in his lap. He brushes his thumb across the cover just once before opening it, and Gabriel recognizes the book at the same instant that he realizes Cas must already know what's waiting, because he'd had his pinky slid between pages, marking the spot. It's the last one Gabriel looked at before his apartment was invaded.
The flicker of movement catches Dean's eye, and he twists towards Cas, looking down. "Whatcha got there?" His breath seems to catch in his throat. "Oh."
Beside Gabriel, Sam shift nervously. Reaching over without a thought to catch Sam's hand, Gabriel threads their fingers together and murmurs "relax; it's gorgeous" under his breath.
Sam snorts, and Gabriel hears the implicit 'since when has Dean called anything without wheels "gorgeous"?' but refuses to let go anyway. He tilts his head to the side, trying to catch something of Dean's expression from across the table. It's difficult; Dean's chin is tucked into his chest, and Castiel is watching him with a sort of severe gravity, like Dean's reaction to this photo will determine the entire future of their relationship (Gabe really fucking hopes it won't).
When someone finally moves, it is Castiel, swallowing and looking up to meet Sam's eyes. "You took this?" he asks, and his voice is a croak when it crawls from his throat.
Sam nods once.
In the background, Lucifer edges around the coffee table to try to catch a glimpse of the album. "What's it even of? You didn't have a pinhole camera tape them having sex or something, did you?"
Sam shakes his head mutely as Balthazar perks up. "What's this about sex tapes?"
Jo slaps his leg and leans forward. "Show us, Dean."
There's a strained handful of seconds wherein Dean does absolutely nothing. Eventually, he rocks back on his seatbones, hefting the album up to lay it across several others on the tabletop.
Sam's knee starts jumping, so Gabriel drops his free hand onto it and doesn't let go. He doesn't want to speak, but he squeezes a silent "it's alright" and smiles when Sam's eyes flicker to his for a half-second. Sam's mouth twitches like he'd smile back if he wasn't so downright terrified.
"I like it," Jo declares to dead air. "It's cute, and you two look… happy."
Almost imperceptibly, the tight line of Sam's shoulders begins to relax.
He stiffens up again as soon as Dean scowls. "You fucking paparazzi stalker," he growls, stabbing a finger at Sam's face. But then the expression cracks and Dean's ducking his head to hide a grin, shaking it from side to side as he studies the photo once more. "You fucking asshole," he mutters. "When I said 'try to get some candids of Cas' I didn't mean 'stalk us while we sleep.'"
Lucifer lets out a derisive snort worthy of Michael. "Little late to be picky now," he says. One of his eyebrows quirks up expectantly. "You gonna do your thing, or no?"
Gabriel shoots a glance at Sam, who looks far less bewildered than he feels, and tries to add up the missing pieces.
Dean asked Sam to get candid shots of Castiel.
Sam apparently delivered.
Lucifer's in town, but went to go see his cousin before his brother.
While Balthazar appears just as confused as Gabriel, Jo is leaning forward expectantly, eyes bright.
And then he watches Dean clasp Castiel's hand in both of his, and it all clicks. Dean takes a deep breath, glances back at Sam one last time to receive an encouraging nod, and begins: "So, I know this is sort of weird and unnecessary and a lot of other shit, and, um, I didn't really… I'm not doing this the right way, I know." He seems to freeze for a moment, eyes flicking to the photo albums scattered across the table. They seem to reassure him. "I was just… since it's legal now, I was wondering if… if you, Castiel Shurley, would – "
"Of course," Cas says, and kisses him.
It takes a minute for Dean's brain to get with the program, cut short as he was, but when it does, his mouth is falling open and he's grabbing Castiel's face with both hands, tilting it up to look at him and pressing their foreheads together. "You mean that?" he demands. "Do you really, really mean that?"
Cas regards him severely. "This is hardly the sort of matter for someone to lie about."
There's another second of hesitation from Dean, before Balthazar crows "just kiss the bastard!" and Dean does exactly that.
Throwing himself down in an armchair, Lucifer is grinning like a hyena, and it only gets bigger when he sees Gabriel looking at him. Reaching inside his black suit jacket, he produces a sheet of paper stamped with some sort of official government seal and dangles it between two fingers. "Lawyers from Washington State are legally capable of marrying couples," he says by way of explanation.
Gabriel raises his eyebrows and sits back, feels Sam's arm curl protectively around him. "Goddamn," he mutters.
Sam laughs underneath him, presses a kiss to his hairline. "Is that Gabe-speak for 'please don't ever pop the question on me in such a random fashion'?"
"That's Gabe-speak for 'don't pop the question on me, ever.'" Gabriel scowls and twists around, tugging Sam's chin down to look him in the eye. "I love you, alright? And I'm never gonna leave you. But I've been married once already, and it ended badly, and I don't want my brain to end up associating you with Kali or any of her shit. What we have right now – what we've had for ten damn years already… it's all perfect just as it is, okay? Is that okay?"
Sam studies him for a long moment with those soft green eyes of his, before glancing over at where Dean and Cas are locked together, not kissing anymore, just holding on and whispering fervently to each other, oblivious the rest of the world. Then his attention resettles on Gabriel, and Sammy smiles. "I think I can live with that," he says.
Gabriel beams and throws both arms around his neck, hugging him tight, and doesn't even look up to flip Jo the bird when she lets loose a drawn-out wolf whistle.
And in the background, Lucifer is cackling once more.