"Hey, you think they're talking about us?"
The two angels stood side by side on Bobby's porch, looking out over the salvage yard. In the distance, Sam and Dean meandered slowly through the broken, glittering mess of cars, deep in conversation.
Castiel appeared to consider the question seriously for about five seconds, then decided, "No. I believe they're emotionally reconnecting after such a traumatic incident and prolonged separation."
Gabriel sighed and cast his younger sibling a pitying glance. "No one ever taught you the concept of 'gossip', did they? I despair, Castiel; I truly do. Your education is sadly lacking..."
Castiel frowned at him. "I know what 'gossip' is. That said, you asked me a question and I answered with my opinion. Does that not comply with the customary rules of gossiping?"
"Alright, fine. Wanna tell me what you think they are talking about?"
"The weather, Gabriel. I'm quite certain they're discussing the weather."
"...Was that sarcasm?" Delighted, the archangel practically bounced on the spot. "So we are related! I was starting to have my doubts for a minute there."
Castiel hummed a vague note of agreement.
For a few more minutes they resumed their silent observation of the humans, hearing snatches of Dean's bright laughter in the crisp winter air, Sam a quieter undercurrent of barely subdued excitement. There'd been shouts, earlier. Arguing. There'd even been a scuffle.
Gabriel suddenly let out an impatient sigh, moving to leave the porch. "I'm going to go ask–"
Castiel swiftly reached out and caught his arm before he got further than the second step. "Leave them."
Gabriel shook him off, looking affronted. "Why?"
"You've become accustomed to having the majority of Sam's attention focused solely on you, Gabriel, but you must take a step back, now, and allow him time with his brother."
Affront visibly turned defensive. "Oh yeah? That the excuse you're using for why you haven't gone and jumped Winchester yet? We've been here a whole three hours, after all..."
Castiel ignored the jibe. "I will talk with Dean later. But for now–"
"Have you always treated them like they're this precious? Because I gotta say, Castiel, it's a miracle they get out of bed in the morning without you there to take their hands and–"
"Listen to me. At least in terms of emotional development, Dean is more than Sam's brother. He is his parent. I simply think it would be wise to bear that in mind and allow them the appropriate time together without our interference."
Gabriel squinted at him with something like morbid fascination. "...Wow, you have given this way too much thought."
Blue eyes cut sternly towards him. "So should you, if you propose to care about Sam at all."
He blinked, surprised into wordlessness for a good second or two. Then, recovering, he scoffed dismissively. "Who, Gigantor over there? Hey, I like the kid, but–"
Castiel just turned and looked at him, dismissing all arguments with a knowing expression. "Gabriel. I'm not blind. You care for Sam Winchester. In what sense is none of my business, but I see no reason for you to deny it out of hand."
He scowled and kicked at the porch steps. "Yeah, well. You wouldn't, would you..." They watched as Sam said something that made Dean throw back his head and laugh. "So – what? We're just supposed to wait until the family bonding time is over?" Great. And he'd thought this would be the faster route to getting his Grace back...
"Humans are... complex." It sounded almost apologetic.
"Amen to that." He looked at Castiel expectantly, but when his brother only blinked curiously back at him, he sighed and added, "Now you're supposed to say 'Preach it'."
Castiel frowned at him in confusion, looking vaguely constipated if you asked Gabriel. He ignored it and tried again.
"Amen to that!"
Dean's little brother was a moron. A high-strung, ovary-infested, martyrdom-aspiring moron.
It was a shame, really. Dean had done his best, raised him right, exposed him to all sorts of manly influences like Die Hard and Metallica and classic cars. It just hadn't seemed to take.
But because Dean was the awesome brother, he loved Sam even despite the melodramatic flights of fancy that so often entered his head and got them into trouble. Which was why, upon hearing Sam's explanation for why he hadn't seen fit to drop Dean a line and, yanno, update him to the fact that he was back from the dead, Dean had heroically restrained himself to punching Sam in the face just the once.
A month. A fucking month. Dean couldn't believe they were related sometimes...
They'd moved on from that argument for the moment, however (to be returned to at a later, inconvenient date, no doubt) and were occupied by updating each other to exactly what had transpired in the other's absence. For Dean, there wasn't much of a story to tell (not out loud, anyway). He'd spent the first couple of months shellshocked by the almost-apocalypse and the even greater personal losses, and after that came a violent blur of hunting and alcohol and not much else. Not really something he ever planned to discuss with Sam.
His brother's stories, though, were proving much more entertaining.
"Gabriel got you guys arrested? Oh, man, wish I'd been there..."
Sam snorted, half-amused by the memory now that he could view it in retrospect. After all, it wasn't everybody who could say they'd protected an age-old archangel from the shady looking drunk in the corner.
"Still," Dean added after a second or two, "least you got angels. I don't care what crap Gabriel pulls: angels have gotta beat having to hang around here with a demon."
Sam immediately stopped dead in his tracks at the implication in his brother's words. "Demon? There was a demon? God, Dean, please tell me you didn't try to make another deal..."
"Actually I did," Dean answered blithely, much to Sam's paralyzing horror. "I made a deal that if Crowley never came within ten feet of the Impala again, I'd stop trying to exorcise him on sight."
"...Crowley?" That, at least, helped jolt him back into motion, and he jogged to catch up, aiming an incredulous look at the side of Dean's head. "What the hell is Crowley still doing here?"
Dean's expression darkened. Actually, he'd being expending a considerable amount of energy trying to ignore the demon's comings and goings. It had even worked for a while, too. Bobby wasn't exactly advertising the fact that he'd suddenly made friends with one of Hell's finest, and Dean had understandably had more pressing issues on his mind. It did, however, become increasingly difficult to ignore the two emptied scotch glasses that tended to reappear on Bobby's desk every morning when Dean came downstairs. Or the chessboard that had been set up in the study, its pieces having moved slightly every time Dean happened to check on it. (Since when the hell did Bobby play chess, anyway?) He was even pretty sure that Crowley brought his goddamn hellhound with him sometimes, since Bobby's dogs had developed an unfortunate habit of hightailing it into the house and refusing to leave for days, and Dean would get chills down his spine whenever he got too close to the kennels during those times. He tended to avoid them altogether, these days. Just in case.
Anyway, it had finally become impossible to ignore Crowley's unwelcome presence the day the demon had blinked into existence right next to him, heedlessly invading the sanctity of Dean's alone time in the Impala, and bluntly informed him that his "insipid brooding" was not only getting old, but also beginning to worry "Robert", since apparently everyone was familiar with his "sad tendency to venture into psychopathic territory" whenever he was "left to dwell too long upon the injustices done against Winchesters." This, mind, had become a personal problem for Crowley only because it meant Bobby was too distracted to be good company anymore – hence the demon heroically making the time and effort to offer some good worldly advice that essentially boiled down to: "Buck up, kid, because you're annoying the bloody hell out of everyone."
Dean had shot him in the leg and told him to stay the hell out of his car in future.
He snapped back to attention, wrinkling his nose distastefully in answer to Sam's question. "Ah, I don't even know, man. Far as I can figure, he and Bobby have this whole asexual married-couple thing going on. Freakin' weird..."
Sam raised his eyebrows sharply. "Asexual? I thought Crowley was–"
"Asexual, Sam, I said asexual! Problem with that?"
Sam held up his hands quickly, more than happy to concede the point.
They walked on.
"You might wanna talk to Cas at some point."
Sam came to a stop, shoulders hunched guiltily. "I don't think he's dealing too well with the whole 'being human' thing."
Dean raised one eyebrow. "Well. He is an angel, Sam," he pointed out, speaking slowly as though to an idiot. "Course he's not dealing well with it."
And it was just that simple, when Dean said it. Sam abruptly felt a surge of relief, because Dean got these kind of things and could fix them. He grinned stupidly, helpless to stop the reaction. "I'm really glad you were here, yanno."
His brother glowered, nonplussed. "So you're just springing the chick-flick moments on me now?"
Sam chuckled, ducking his head. "Sorry."
"Yeah, whatever." Dean turned his head, peering into the sun. "Hey, uh. About Cas. So you... You think he's not doing okay?"
Sam thought about it for a moment. "I think it'll be better, here. You're the closest thing he's got to a best friend, yanno? Somehow I don't think me and Gabriel were really cutting it."
They turned to look back at the house where both angels stood occupying the porch, apparently making no effort whatsoever to disguise their remarkable resemblance to abandoned puppies.
"Oh man," Dean muttered. "I told you if you kept feeding them they'd never leave..."
Sam smirked, little-brother smug. "Yeah right. You know you owe me forever for bringing Cas back in one piece."
Dean scoffed but refrained from comment, instead asking, "So what's the deal with Gabriel?"
"How do you mean?"
He nodded towards the porch. "Cas isn't the only one rocking the puppydog-eyes over there. Something you wanna tell me?"
"Like what?" Sam asked too quickly, and Dean recognised that cagey expression.
He groaned. "Ah, come on! Seriously?"
"Dean, it's not what you think–"
"You actually made friends with that son of a bitch?"
Sam blinked. "...What?" Then, weirdly, something almost like relief flashed across his expression. "Friends! Yes! I mean... Uh, maybe? I guess?"
"I thought you hated him? You do remember he killed me, right? Like, a hundred fucking times!"
Sam shrugged sheepishly, unable to offer much in the way of explanation. What was he supposed to say? Yeah, I realise he's very probably a sociopath with a sex problem, and as a matter of fact I do have a vague recollection of the number of times he's epically screwed us. He's self-centred and childish and kind of an asshole, I know – but since he mastered using the microwave, he makes awesome popcorn. Seriously. You'd love it.
Yeah. That'd go over just peachy...
Dean pointed at him. "Well, don't say I didn't warn you, Sammy." With that, he turned and started walking back towards the house, calling over his shoulder, "Anyway, come on. I wanna go traumatise Crowley by introducing him to an archangel. Gabriel might as well make himself useful for something..."