Dean watches Sam nodding off, head jerking in the passenger seat of the Impala, and turns the radio up a little louder. It helps for a bit, but then Sam's sinking again, slouching in the seat and folded up on himself like a puppet with his strings cut.
Sam doesn't sleep much these days. He tries to hide it, but the circles under his eyes are a dead giveaway, and the fine tremor in his hand as he downs cup after cup of coffee. Dean's torn between helping Sam stay awake, to help keep that son of a bitch Lucifer out of Sam's head, and wanting to knock the poor bastard unconscious for a few precious hours. Dean's own sleep is less troubled these days, a fact which he knows has to do with Castiel's frequent appearances in his head. There's a park bench, where they watch children play. There's the dock, where Dean fishes as Castiel dangles his feet near the water, oblivious of his dress shoes.
"Can't you help him?" Dean asks one day, when Sam has stumbled out of the room to get a soda.
Castiel gives him a somber expression in return. "I have little recourse against an archangel. Especially one as... devious as Lucifer." Castiel's got that slight arch to his eyebrow, the one that says Dean is missing something obvious and better get a clue by four soon.
"So what you're saying is that we need a devious archangel who doesn't mind poking around in Sam's head." Dean throws up his hands in disgust. "That's just great."
Castiel shrugs his shoulders in a particularly un-angelic manner. "Gabriel has honored your request to 'stay the fuck away from your brother,'" he says mildly. "Perhaps it is time to reconsider your stance on the matter."
So the key to helping Sam lies in Dean's hands. Damned if he has to like it, though.
"I want to talk to him first." Dean sees Sam coming back to the room. "Not here."
Castiel nods. "I can arrange it."
"You buzzed?" Gabriel drawls. They're in the parking lot, and Gabriel of course has decided to slouch on the Impala just because he knows it pisses off Dean. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"Look, I didn't call you here for--" Dean starts, but Gabriel pulls a bitchface worthy of Sam.
"My brother called me. That's why I'm here. So get to the good part or I'll zap myself right back to something way more interesting than you."
Dean swallows his anger and tries to relax the hands that have instinctively curled into fists. "Listen, I'm not trying to pick a fight. I just need to know if you can help Sam."
"What's wrong with Sam?" The look on Gabriel's face -- Christ, the panic that flashes across Gabriel's face before being subsumed under his usual smirking façade -- is more than enough to convince Dean that he's doing the right thing. It doesn't make it taste any less bitter, though, trusting his brother to Gabriel.
"Lucifer's in his head. I don't know, man." Dean rubs a hand at the back of his neck, the thought of going begging to Gabriel sticking in his craw. "He hasn't slept for days, hell maybe weeks. He's getting two, three hours a night tops."
Gabriel relaxes slightly, concern still evident in his stance but also wariness. "And what do you want from me?"
"Help him," Dean says simply.
Gabriel's lip curls in challenge. "You realize I can't do it long-distance, right? I need to actually see Sam? Be in his presence?"
"Help him," Dean repeats. "Whatever it takes."
Gabriel can't help needling him. It's like asking a dog not to lick his balls. "Wow, a blessing from the big brother. Never thought I'd see the day."
"Oh, shut the fuck up." Dean twists his fist into Gabriel's shirt. "You hurt him, and I'll end you."
Gabriel simply quirks an eyebrow and waits for Dean to release him. Brushing the wrinkles out of his shirt, he grins. "Give us some time. You don't want to be around for this." The leer he uses to punctuate the statement leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination.
"Fuck," Dean says.
"Maybe," Gabriel replies cheerfully, and then he's gone.
Dean's dreaming. He knows because the sun is the perfect cast of yellow, and the leaves in the park, every shade of green, are rustling lightly in the breeze. He knows because he's not in Hell. Cas is next to him on the park bench, feeding popcorn to a gaggle of ducks. Or whatever a swarm of ducks is called. A duck waddles up to Dean and tries to nibble on his shoelace.
"How am I supposed to trust him?" he bitches. Granted, after a few hours with Gabriel Sam had looked... well, not good, because he still looked like a narcoleptic junky in need of a sleeping fix, but his gaze had been steadier and he looked more at peace.
Castiel carefully folds the empty popcorn bag and tucks it in a pocket. "You don't have to," he suggests carefully. "Perhaps you just need to trust me. And Sam. We've forgiven Gabriel. We love Gabriel. That can be enough."
"Peer pressure?" Dean puts his arm across the back of the bench, fingers touching Castiel's shoulder.
"If you like," Castiel says, and settles back against Dean's arm.
"Hey," Dean says suddenly. "Have I thanked you for this?" He jerks his chin towards the park, towards the sun and the shadow of the trees, and the ducks waddling away.
Castiel takes Dean's free hand and threads his fingers through it. "Every day," he says, squeezing lightly.
Dean squeezes back.