When Dean saw the angel standing in the middle of the road, he nearly didn't stop.

However, the memory of what punching Cas had done to his hand crossed his mind, causing him to realize how much damage hitting this angel would likely do to his poor car. Even then, it wasn't the idea of crumpled sheet metal, a punctured radiator, and possibly even a cracked engine block that caused him to stop. He would have gladly spent weeks rebuilding his Baby yet again just to wipe the smug grin off that dick's face, even if he wasn't grinning at the moment.

He stopped because if he wrecked the car, he wouldn't be able to get Sammy back to the bunker, where Kevin was, where Kevin had to figure out the rest of the fucking tablet because he had to save Sam.

The moment the car screeched to a stop in a cloud of road grime and brake dust, Dean roughly shoved the gearshift into park and yanked the door open.

By the time he had both feet out and was standing, the angel dick was grabbing him by the front of the shirt.

"What the fuck did you do?" He demanded.

"How the fuck are you alive?" Dean countered.

The angel snorted and leaned down to look into the open car door. "How ya doin' there, Sammy? No, you're not hallucinating, I'm really here. Well, you probably are hallucinating, but I'm here anyway."

Sam looked up at the angel with one eye, the other squinted shut, but rather than answering, he hunched over, clutching his middle and whimpering.

The angel suddenly disappeared with only a faint flush of wings, reappearing behind Dean, who had an angel blade raised, ready to plunge it into the back of a target who suddenly wasn't there.

"Where's Castiel?" the angel glowered.

"What are you doing here?" Dean growled back.

"Dad sent me back." Gabriel answered with a sneer. "Someone has to keep an eye on the prophet, and I'm the last archangel. Seeing as how you clowns locked two in a cage, and your buddy Castiel murdered the other one. By the way, it's about damn time you put him in the safest place on earth."

"Wait a minute," Dean snapped. "You mean you were supposed to be guarding Kevin? Then how did he get taken by Crowley and get his finger cut off?"

"I took a personal day!" Gabriel shouted back. "Went to Bombay for lunch. And Dad had my ass about it, ok?"

"God's back?" Dean asked, glancing up at the sky, where a few angels still fell.

"No," Gabriel answered. "He's still on vacation. Summoned me to some hole in the wall planet in the Alpha Centauri system where he moved what was left of Eden. Now, where is Castiel?"

Dean pointed at the sky. "He went to try to stop this."

"You didn't do this?" Gabriel frowned.

"No!" Dean defended. "We were trying to shut the gates of Hell. Cas was supposedly trying to shut Heaven but Metatron lied to him."

"Of course Metatron lied." Gabriel rolled his eyes. "He's still pissed that he didn't get promoted to archangel for taking dictation."

"So you knew he was trouble all along and didn't think it might be a good idea to warn us?" Dean snarled.

"Not my division." Gabriel huffed. "I was supposed to be watching the prophet, not whatever you idiots were doing. And you two still have your angel sigil cloaking devices activated, remember?"

"Then how did you find us?" Dean frowned.

"I locked onto Castiel's feathers in the trunk." Gabriel shrugged.

"Wait a minute," Dean suddenly realized something very important. "You still have your grace?"

"Yeah," Gabriel nodded. "Someone sent out a distress signal to all the angels to come back to Heaven right before this, apparently so we would all fall. I didn't go. Not that some pissant like Metatron could have taken an archangel's grace anyway."

"Fix Sam." Dean growled, pointing to the car.

"No," Gabriel replied defiantly. "I'm not your little Angel In My Pocket. I've got to go to the prophet, get him to transcribe the Angel Tablet and tell me how to fix this."

"You fix Sam, and the two of us will help you fix Heaven." Dean offered.

Angel and hunter stared at each other for a long moment, unblinking.

Gabriel stepped neatly around Dean and leaned in to the open car door. He reached out and placed two fingers against Sam's forehead. Instantly Sam's color returned, and he stopped clutching his belly.

"He's not good as new," Gabriel warned. "Only Dad could do that. But he won't die tonight, which was a strong possibility before."

"Thank you." Dean said sincerely.

"Now you two get back to the bunker and my prophet." Gabriel instructed. "I'm going to do one more sweep to see if I can find Castiel. We can use all the help we can get."

"You couldn't find him before?" Dean asked.

"No," Gabriel frowned.

"Don't look for Cas," Sam advised. "Look for Jimmy."

An odd look crossed Dean's face, but he didn't say anything. He simply got back into the car and drove away.

"Do you trust him?" Sam asked softly.

"No," Dean answered. "But what choice do we have?"

A/N - and so begins Season 9 ...