Dean flipped on the light switch to the cabin living room, illuminating the dim, dusty air. The faint smells of burnt firewood and damp moss lingered in the cabin; just like Sam remembered. The place was vacant and silent, but still full of a certain presence. Maybe it was just the remains of Rufus's life – his tattered blankets on the bunk beds in the corner, or the stack of empty coffee cans near the fridge – that made it feel like this cabin was still being occupied. Whatever it was, Sam liked it. Even though Rufus was gone and this place had turned into a safe house, all those little things still made it feel like a home.
“We're lucky the power still works, I guess,” Dean mentioned, as he led the way inside.
Behind him, Sam and Gabriel were walking next to each other. Sam was still carrying the archangel's dog, who had finally stopped shivering. Gabriel was cradling both his swollen cheek and his stomach, sort of limping with each step. His injuries must have really been painful. Again, Sam couldn't help but feel at least a little sorry for him. The guy could barely walk without grimacing.
“Ow. My face hurts,” Gabriel mumbled, slowing to a stop in the middle of the room.
Sam glanced down at Gabriel, catching another glimpse of his blackened eyes and puffy cheeks. Although Sam felt the urge to comfort the trickster, he knelt down to carefully release Gabriel's dog instead. The little Jack Russel Terrier instantly started sniffing his way around the cabin to get familiar with it.
“If I had a face as ugly as yours, I'm sure it would hurt, too,” Dean said from across the room, a smirk flashing on his lips.
Sam could tell that Dean's tone was playful, now. It seemed like the small trip to Rufus's cabin had lightened him up a little. Sam was glad that Dean was at least being somewhat decent, now. Next to Sam, Gabriel rolled his eyes.
“Hey, freckles,” the trickster hissed toward Dean, “Second grade called. It wants its joke back.”
Sam smiled and shook his head, as he walked toward the fireplace. He should have known that Dean and Gabriel would start insulting each other sooner or later.
“Seriously, though,” Gabriel added, still clutching his own body, “How do you guys put up with this pain? Ugh. I've got this sharp ache in the pit of my gut that keeps getting worse.”
“Did Raphael kick you in the nuts?” Sam asked, flashing the trickster a grin, “'Cause that'll do it to you.”
“No, sweetheart. My balls are fine, in case you were wondering,” Gabriel replied, pausing to grunt a little, “Oh my dad. I'm gonna die. We need to do something, fast! Dean, call for Cassie. I need his healing hands.”
As Sam stacked some fresh wood into the fireplace, he looked back to meet eyes with his brother. Dean glanced between Sam and Gabriel, probably wondering why they both looked toward him when Cas's name was mentioned.
“What? Why me?” he asked, as if he didn't already know.
“Just do it, Dean,” Sam said, tossing another log inside the fireplace, “We need to tell him what's going on, anyway. And you know he only answers for you.”
After sighing loudly and tossing his jacket on the kitchen table, Dean tilted his head back to glare at the ceiling.
“You hear that, Cas?” he said out loud, “We need you to come to Rufus's cabin and touch your brother.”
Once the prayer was said, all three of them searched the room; watching, to see where Cas would land. But, after several seconds of waiting, there was still no sign of him. Sam and Dean met eyes again, and the younger brother could see a slight hint of worry in his older brother's stare.
“Cas, I know you can hear me,” Dean said out loud, still looking around, “Don't ignore us, dammit.”
There was still no rustle of feathers, even after Dean's statement. Cas didn't appear. Was he busy with something? Or was he – God forbid – in trouble? The anxiousness in Dean's eyes grew, as Gabriel groaned out loud again. The archangel was crossing his legs tightly and fidgeting awkwardly near the couch. His amber eyes were set on Sam, and they were full of urgency.
“Argh! Sammy-boy, please. Tell me what's going on with this stupid meat suit,” he pleaded, actually reaching out to tug on Sam's shirt sleeve, “I feel like something is about to explode!”
“Maybe you have to pee,” Sam suggested, recognizing the familiar signs of a 'I need piss so bad right now' dance.
Gabriel paused to look strangely at Sam, while he continued to prance up and down in place.
“Pee? You mean, urinate like some common animal?” he said, which warranted a small growl from Dickie across the room, “I don't even know how to do that!”
“It's easy. Just point and shot,” Sam said, reaching out to clutch Gabriel's tiny shoulders.
Though Gabriel's eyes held a hint of apprehension, he stumbled along willingly with Sam's hands, as the man pushed him toward the bathroom. Sam was sure that all Gabriel needed to do was drain his bladder, then his stomach pain would go away. And he might finally stop whining.
“And take a shower while you're in there,” Dean ordered, “you smell like the business end of a jackass.”
“Oh, that's rich, coming from somebody who is one,” Gabriel shot back, sticking his tongue out like a five-year-old for good measure.
Sam sighed aloud, as he forced Gabriel the rest of the way into the bathroom. Listening to Dean and Gabriel bicker like children was already starting to get on his nerves... The cabin bathroom smelled strongly of mildew and damp wood, where it hadn't been used in awhile. But other than that, the room was fairly clean and usable; stocked with hygienic supplies, extra clothes, and first aid kits. Sam walked Gabriel up to the toilet, feeling like he was potty training a child. The archangel was still wiggling around with discomfort, and staring at Sam with wide eyes.
“Make sure you raise the seat before doing anything,” Sam instructed, slowly backing out of the doorway to give Gabriel some privacy, “and, flush when you're done. And, if you take a shower, there are some towels and a robe in that little closet.”
“You're, um... you're gonna leave me alone?” Gabriel asked under his breath.
Sam had never seen such emotion in the trickster's eyes. They were large and worried; tinted with fearful anxiety. It was obvious that the guy really didn't want to be left alone. Maybe Raphael's visit had traumatized him. Maybe the thought of dying frightened Gabriel in a way Sam couldn't fathom. Gabriel – an archangel, who had every intention of living forever – had come close to meeting his end, today. And it was understandable that he didn't want to be left alone. But, he was in the bathroom. Everything done in this room would have to be done alone.
“I'll just be right out side,” Sam reminded, trying to ease his mind, “Just yell if you need anything.”
Gabriel nodded, pursing his bruised lips together, as he watched Sam back away. When the door gently snapped shut, Sam lingered near it; listening, to hear if Gabriel was able to figure out how to work his bladder. After a rustle of clothing, Sam heard the tiny sound of liquid drizzling against liquid – and a giant sigh of relief.
“Sweet baby Jesus,” Gabriel rejoiced loudly, “Ahh, that feels so much better!”
Sam smiled and shook his head again, as he started for the living room. It was so strange, watching someone struggle with things that were supposed to come naturally. As Sam walked back into the open living room, he noticed that Dean was standing near the window. His head was tilted downward and he was whispering. The closer Sam got to him, the clearer he could hear Dean's words.
“I didn't mean what I said the other day, Cas. I was just playing around, okay? Please come to Rufus's cabin, man. We need you,” Dean prayed sincerely.
Sam quickly went about putting more dry wood in the fireplace as Dean turned around, wanting to seem like he hadn't been listening to the private prayer. Dean, of course, acted as though he hadn't said anything; walking over to his duffel bag to peruse the contents.
“Blondie figure out how to use his hose?” he asked out loud, probably making small talk.
“I guess. I really didn't see it for myself,” Sam replied, reaching into his pocket to pull out a lighter.
As Sam tried to get fire to catch on the dry wood, he heard the faint sound of a flush, followed by the shower turning on. In his mind, Sam was trying to imagine what Gabriel was doing in the bathroom. Did the trickster know how to use the knobs in the shower? Did he know that the water would burn him if it was too hot? Would he remember to close the curtain while the water was running? Would he just end up making a huge mess?
“Hey, fellas,” Gabriel's muffled voice called, “Am I supposed to take my clothes off, first?”
Sam and Dean flashed a glance toward each other, both equally exasperated. Really? Was Gabriel that naive?
“Uh, Yeah. That's kinda the whole point, dumbass,” Dean shouted back.
“But my clothes are dirty, too, moron,” the trickster snapped.
“Clothes are washed separately,” Sam answered aloud, finally getting the wood to catch fire.
Thankfully, Gabriel's questions stopped for a moment. Sam prodded the dry logs to get the fire to spread, as Dean loitered near the table. Once heat began glowing from the fireplace, Dickie moseyed his way over to sniff the rug in front of it. Sam smiled thoughtfully, as he watched the little dog curl up into another ball on the floor to snuggle close to the warmth. Sam ruffled Dickie's soft fur a little, enjoying the silky texture. This was the main reason Sam had even started a fire, actually; so that Gabriel's dog would be more comfortable.
“Alright, Cas. You've had plenty of time,” Dean prayed again, as Sam stood up, “If you can hear me, you need to get here. Don't be a dick, man. Report to the cabin, pronto.”
Even though Dean's voice was stern and demanding, Cas still didn't arrive. The room remained vacant and silent, apart from the Winchesters and the sound of cackling firewood. Sam could see the worry mounting in Dean's green eyes, as they searched the room in desperation. And Sam felt just as concerned as his brother did. Cas never ignored Dean. The angel always showed up the instant Dean prayed to him. There was only a handful of conclusions that could be drawn from his absence... and Sam didn't want to think about any of them.
“Why do I have to repeat?” Gabriel shouted from the bathroom.
Sam's eyebrows drew together, as he glanced in the direction the trickster's voice came from. What in the world was he talking about?
“Repeat what?” Sam asked loudly.
“This bottle says, lather, rinse, repeat,” the archangel said, sounding annoyed, “How many times to I have to repeat? What the hell is this? A cleansing ritual? Am I sacrificing my hair to the gods?”
“Just do it once, Gabriel,” Sam sighed.
“And what am I supposed to do with this slippery rock thing? Mmm. It smells like blueberries. Can I eat it?” the trickster asked.
Sam assumed that the 'slippery rock thing' was a bar of soap. He actually debated on telling Gabriel that it was edible, just to hear the archangel cough and hack, but he didn't.
“That's soap. Just rub it on your body,” Sam grumbled.
“Why is it so slippery?” Gabriel continued to rant, “I can barely hold on to – AHHH!”
A loud clatter broke through the room, which caused Dean and Sam to instantly reach for the guns in their waistbands. It was a loud tumbling noise, like the sound of someone falling down a set of stairs – only it had come from the bathroom. With the sound of Gabriel's shriek, Sam thought that maybe the trickster had slipped on the soap and fell in the shower. But, Sam's hunting experience made him think of other possibilities as well. What if someone was in there with Gabriel? What if another angel had popped in to kidnap him? Gabriel's yammering voice had stopped, leaving the shower to be the only sound coming from the bathroom.
“Sammy,” Dean said, his hand on his own gun, “go check it out.”
“What? Why me?” Sam asked, bewildered.
Dean's eyes narrowed with authority, to which Sam had no choice but to comply. The younger brother rolled his eyes but retrieved his own gun from his waistband, pointing it downward with both hands, as he stepped carefully toward the bathroom door. He could still hear the water running inside.
“Gabriel?” Sam asked loudly, hoping the archangel would reply.
No such reply came, though. The only way Sam could figure out if Gabriel was okay, was to go inside and look around. After taking a breath to steady himself, Sam clicked his gun into place and grabbed the door handle. He dashed into the room quickly; pointing his weapon forward to give the tiny space a once-over. At eye level, nothing was out of the ordinary – but the floor was a different story.
The first thing that Sam's eyes fell upon, as his head tilted downward, was the sight of Gabriel's pale, bare ass cheeks. The archangel was on all fours, crawling around like a wet turtle, trying to get back to his feet. And his ass was right there; on display for the whole world to see. But, his round cheeks weren't the only part of him that Sam noticed. With the angle he was crawling in, Gabriel's scrotum was swaying between his thighs, too; teasing Sam with the sight of the dark-pink sack dangling out in the open.
For a few seconds, Sam was simply frozen in place; unable to look away from the archangel's genitals peeking out from between his legs. All of the blood drained from Sam's face. In that tiny space of time, Sam found that he was horrified, embarrassed, – and ever so slightly aroused. Sam's body reacted to the sight against his will; internally sending an electric pulse toward his dick without his consent. The moment he regained motor control, though, Sam tore his eyes away from Gabriel's naked body.
“G – Gabriel! What the hell?!” Sam breathed, blinking repeatedly toward sink.
“Ow,” the archangel squeaked, “That damn blueberry bar made me fall! Ugh, I think I broke a rib, moosie.”
“Get – get some clothes on!” Sam demanded, as he stumbled back out of the bathroom.
The man quickly slammed the door shut, retreating to the safety of another room. Sam's face was still pale and he was breathing heavily from his open mouth; blinking toward the darkened floor with shock. He'd just seen Gabriel's bare naked ass. But the worst part of all, was that he'd been aroused by it. Sam was honestly ashamed by his own body's reaction. The sight of a man's ass didn't turn him on, did it? Why would the sight of Gabriel crawling around – with his back arched and his ass sticking out – effect Sam in an erotic way? He wasn't gay. And he certainly didn't have a fondness for the trickster... did he?
The sound of Dean's voice pulled Sam from uncomfortable thoughts of sexuality. After he heard Dean say Cas's name, Sam dashed back into the living room, and a sigh of relief escaped his mouth when he caught sight of a familiar trench coat. Cas had finally made it to the cabin. The angel was standing on shaky legs next to Dean, who was holding him steady with one hand. Cas was acting like he'd just got through running a marathon or something; mouth open and panting, eyes wide, hands trembling. He and Dean were staring at each other, when Sam ran in.
“Hey, what happened to you?” Dean asked the angel, eyes full of concern.
“I was attacked,” Cas informed, glancing from Dean to Sam, “by my own kin.”
“Angels? Why? What did they want with you? Are you okay? Are you hurt?” Dean was speaking in a blur.
“I don't know why,” Cas answered, still out of breath, “I barely got away. I believe they intended to kill me.”
“Was it Raphael?” Sam asked, remembering what the archangel had done to Gabriel.
“R – Raphael?” Cas repeated, his eyes full of confusion.
“Yeah. Raphael jacked Gabriel's mojo. Didn't you know that?” Dean said.
“He took Gabriel's grace?” Cas breathed, “Why? How?”
“Gabriel told us that Raphael is trying to restart the apocalypse,” Sam answered.
“And he took Gabriel's grace because he didn't have his own,” Dean added.
Cas's eyes softened, as if he had just gained a bit of understanding. The angel took a deep breath, as he met Dean's eyes again.
“That makes sense,” he muttered.
“Sorry, Cas, but that doesn't make a damn lick of sense to us,” Dean said, shaking his head, “You mind shedding some light?”
“Dean, if Raphael intends to free Michael and Lucifer, he would need the entire potency of an archangel's grace to break open the cage,” Cas said quietly, “Perhaps he means to use his own grace to set the plan in motion, and keep Gabriel's grace for himself. The ambush against me proves this theory plausible. It would be a prudent step to eliminate me, before his work begins.”
“Eliminate you? Why you?” Dean asked.
“Because he knows that I will stand with you, always,” Cas answered, his voice holding total honesty, “and that I will use everything in my power to stop this from happening again.”
There was a brief moment of silence, in which Dean and Cas stared at each other meaningfully. Sam thought about coughing out loud, to break the weird vibe that was growing in the room, but he was interrupted – by Gabriel.
“Cassafras!” the trickster rejoiced.
Sam spun around, feeling an echo of sexual discomfort radiate through him at the sound of Gabriel's voice. The archangel was walking into the living room, wearing one of the faded orange robes from the bathroom closet. His blonde hair was still dripping wet and his face was still bruised and swollen. When Gabriel strolled passed Sam, the man couldn't stop his eyes from wandering toward the archangel's ass – and feeling that strange flicker of weirdness again.
“My favoritest little baby bro!” Gabriel grinned, wrapping Cas into a giant hug, “Oh, I've missed you! You look great!”
“Gabriel, did Raphael tell you of his plan?” Cas asked, pulling himself out of the trickster's arms in order to look at him properly.
“Uh! Really? That's the first thing you say to me? No, 'Hey, Gabe, you're lookin' pretty good yourself?' Nothing?” the trickster said, crossing his arms dramatically, “Hmph. Some brother you are.”
Cas took a large breath, harboring irritation, before exhaling.
“Hello, Gabriel,” the angel forced out, “How are you?”
“Not so good, Cassie. Raphael thought it would be funny to trap me in an ape suit and beat me up today,” Gabriel replied, gesturing toward his own face, “By the way, do you think you could, uh...?”
Though Cas seemed utterly done with Gabriel dancing around the subject of Raphael, the angel reached out to tap Gabriel's forehead. The bruises, cuts, scrapes, and swelling disappeared from the archangel's face at once, leaving his complexion smooth and soft. Sam's eyes searched Gabriel's repaired face, noticing how familiar – and strangely handsome – he looked. Once again, Sam was offended by his own thoughts. First, it turns out that Gabriel has a nice ass, and now the guy has a pretty face?! Was there a full moon out or something? Why was Sam noticing all of these things about Gabriel?
“Ahh, much better,” Gabriel commented, patting his own cheeks.
“Tell me what you know,” Cas nearly demanded.
“Okay, look, baby bird,” the archangel began, “all I know, is that Raphie took my grace and high-tailed it out of town, after he tried to kill me. The only thing he said, – while he was standing over my limp body, I might add, – was that he was going to cleanse all of Daddy's creation of rebellious scum like me. And I'm pretty sure that includes you, 'cause you're kinda like the poster boy for rebellion, am I right?”
“He's gathering followers, then,” Cas concluded, his eyes flickering toward Dean, “and killing the rest.”
“The ninja turtle is making his own army? Why?” Dean asked.
“To help him lay siege to hell,” Cas answered, “Even with an archangel's grace, it will take an army to get to the cage and break it open, Dean. The demons won't be happy about this, either. They are just as at risk of dying as everyone else.”
“Well, we've gotta stop him, then,” Dean stated.
As Dean and Cas were talking, Gabriel was yawning loudly, reaching his arms behind his head to stretch. Afterward, he plopped himself onto the couch in front of the fireplace and whistled for his dog. Dickie's head popped up from the rug, before he dashed over to join his owner on the couch.
“I don't think you healed me all the way, Castiel,” the trickster interrupted the conversation to say, “I feel weak. Like I'm dying.”
“You're not dying. You're probably just tired,” Sam informed, watching Gabriel's pink lips stretch wide open to yawn again.
“I can't afford to be tired, Sammy. Stella's gotta get her groove back,” the archangel argued, “I should go out there and dare Raphael to come and smite me -”
“You will do no such thing,” Cas barked, intensely serious, “You will stay hidden from him until we figure out his plan. Your grace won't continue to obey him forever, which makes killing you his first priority. For now, I'll search to see if he's made any impact on -”
“Whoa, whoa,” Dean interrupted, “You're gonna go back out there? They tried to kill you, Cas!”
“Dean, I must find out how close Raphael has come to completely his plan,” the angel replied, his feet already stepping away, “I need to figure out how many others he has already killed, and estimate how many are following him. If we're going to war, we need to be ready.”
Sam watched, as Dean's hand jutted out to grab a handful of the front of Cas's coat. There was a pleading look in his eyes that Sam rarely ever saw. Dean looked absolutely dead-set against Cas leaving; jaw clicked tight and head shaking back and forth.
“You can't go out there, Cas,” he said, his voice much lower than before.
Cas raised a hand to place it over Dean's clutching fist. In a swift motion, he plucked Dean's hand from his coat and gently tossed it away. His blue eyes were probing Dean's with assurance, as the two of them stared at each other.
“I must, Dean,” the angel replied simply, “... but, I will return.”
Without another word, Cas disappeared, leaving Dean to look around in defeat. Sam felt bad for his older brother. He knew that Cas was Dean's best friend; that the two of them had a bond that Sam couldn't understand. And he was sure that Cas's departure had left Dean feeling even worse than before.
“You better be careful, you dumb son of a bitch,” Dean growled, glancing toward the ceiling.
Sam took a breath and stepped forward. He felt the need to comfort his brother, or at least distract him from his own anxiety.
“Do we have a plan, Dean?” Sam asked, hoping to get Dean's attention.
“I... I don't know. I guess we're stuck babysitting Goldilocks until Cas gets back,” Dean eventually answered, turning around to start for his duffel bag, “If Cas is right, then the trickster is enemy number one, and he needs protection. It just sucks that it has to be us.”
Sam nodded, even though he didn't feel the same way. Watching Gabriel wasn't that bad. The dude was annoying, sure. But babysitting him wasn't the worst thing in the world...
Dean gathered up a few things from his bag and mumbled something along the lines of 'there better be some hot water left,' before stomping off toward the bathroom. Once Dean was gone, Sam noticed that there was a quiet gurgling noise in the room. It sounded like someone was trying to swallow their own tongue – and it was coming from the couch. Sam instantly dove toward it, thinking that Gabriel was choking on something. But he wasn't choking. He was snoring.
Sam took an easing breath, as he watched the trickster snore. Gabriel had fallen asleep sitting up on the couch, with Dickie in his lap. A weird feeling stirred up in Sam's stomach again, as he took the time to glancing along Gabriel's closed eyes, and tiny nose, and open mouth. The sight of him snoring was rather humorous... and, somehow, strangely pleasant. The archangel was all tuckered out, like a kid who'd been running around all day. And, though he would never admit it out loud, Sam thought Gabriel looked, well... kind of adorable.
Knowing that Gabriel would wake up with a kink in his neck, Sam reached down to gently knock him over; making him lay down on the couch. The archangel slumped over, causing his mouth to finally close and the snoring to stop. Once Gabriel was completely flat, Sam took the throw blanket from the back of the couch and draped it over him; wrapping him in an extra layer of warmth. Dickie crawled out from under the blanket afterward, to curl up at Gabriel's feet again. Sam pet the dog, as he flashed another glance up at the trickster's face. Gabriel looked really peaceful; with the glow of the fireplace shining on his restful expression, his damp golden hair tossed all over the arm of the couch, and comfy fabrics all snuggled around him. He looked really comfortable. He looked really... beautiful.
“Goodnight,” Sam said, toward the dog he was petting.
Dickie gave Sam's hand a tiny lick, before the man backed away from the couch. On his way across the room, Sam was thinking many things; worrying about Cas, wondering if Dean would feel better after a shower, hoping that Gabriel would stay safe while he was in the cabin...
But, more than anything, Sam was trying his best to figure out how the trickster had become so irritatingly attractive.