Not In His Shape Celestial
"Among the faithless, faithful only he;
Among innumerable false, unmoved,
unshaken, unseduced, unterrified,
His loyalty he kept, his love, his zeal..."
- Paradise Lost, Book V
In retrospect, Gabriel wondered that he hadn’t figured it out sooner.
Because really, it had been 30 years and some months since Michael disappeared completely off the radar, and Winchester was cocky and abrasive and stubborn, and had just the same ‘let’s mess shit up’ attitude to problems.
But Dean was an annoying little human bastard, who stuck to his little brother like glue – and wasn’t that ironic? Talk about being wiser the second time around – full of bottled rage and frustration, and even though Gabriel saw the parallels, he never made the vital connection.
But after the whole TV Land thing, and Dean calling him out on his attitude, Gabriel took to watching the Winchester brothers, unheard and unseen.
Dean had been right, and his words – unexpectedly perceptive and incisive – had been galling, piercing Gabriel’s apathy and sitting under his skin, itching, even weeks later.
Clearly, he was going to have to do something, because he couldn’t just shrug things off or bury them like he usually did. And, really, the only side Gabriel could see himself joining was the Winchesters, and he had no idea what chance they really had – the fact that Dean, the one Gabriel had pegged as a shallow, blustering moron had been able to pin Gabriel down the way he had just proved that Gabriel didn’t really know what the boys were capable of.
Hence the watching.
It was pretty boring, at first; the two hunters mostly bickered, in between sleeping and eating and killing things, which was about what Gabriel has expected before the TV Land debacle. Those first three days of observation were about the most boring of Gabriel’s life. But then things started to get interesting.
The first interesting thing wasn’t much – just the two of them insulting each other back and forth in Latin. But they were fluent and practiced and their insults soon took an entertaining turn, as they grew increasingly creative.
Clearly the Winchesters had spent a lot of time learning the language, instead of merely memorising convenient exorcisms like half the hunters Gabriel had encountered.
So, it wasn’t a big interesting thing, but it was still a little interesting. And frankly, after the last three days, Gabriel would take anything interesting he could get.
The next interesting thing happened when Castiel showed up.
Gabriel had assumed that Castiel basically spent most of his time hanging around Dean and Sam, but apparently he spent more time on his search for Father than Gabriel has realised.
“Hey Cas,” Sam greeted the angel, glancing up from his laptop with a smile, and blinking a bit; he’d been hunched over the screen for a while. It was a wonder the kid had never needed glasses. “Dean’s down at the store. He should be back pretty soon.”
Castiel had nodded, and simply stood, waiting, which was predictably boring of him – there were times the little guy had the patience of a rock. Gabriel had been patient once, but he’d used it all up trying to talk some sense into his brothers.
Dean had entered the room about ten minutes later, bags in hand, and had paused at the sight of Castiel waiting for him.
To Gabriel’s intrigued surprise, Castiel has spread his wings in welcome, although his expression didn’t change that much (apart from in his eyes) and he merely said “Dean,” in a quiet voice.
Dean had smiled in response – and his soul had echoed the intent of Castiel’s gesture, twisting as though attempting to manipulate non-existent wings.
“Holy shit!” Gabriel exclaimed, staring at Dean wide-eyed.
“Hey Cas,” Dean said, dumping his bags on the table. “Sam, I got you a burger.”
“Dude, I said I wanted a salad.” The tall Winchester pouted and narrowed his eyes, which would have amused Gabriel, only he was still in shock.
“Well, you’re getting a burger. So suck it up, Sammy.”
“Jerk,” Sam muttered.
“Bitch,” Dean returned easily.
“Do you have any freaking idea what you just did?” Gabriel demanded, getting right up close into Dean’s face and peering at him. “Seriously, Dean, what the hell?”
He turned to look at Castiel.
“And you, you didn’t even notice! What are they teaching you Upstairs these days? Kids today, I mean really. He just did that, and you did not even bat an eye.”
Gabriel turned and circled around Dean, who was now sitting down and eating pie.
“How did you do that?” Gabriel asked, deeply intrigued. “That’s not possible. It’s really not. But you did it anyway.”
Dean just ate his pie, completely unaware of the mystified archangel in front of him.
“Well, boy. I’m definitely going to be watching you guys a bit more closely from now on. Who knows what surprises you might throw up?”
Gabriel gave Dean one last long look, and turned to snap up a bunch of pop-up ads on Sam’s laptop screen, making him groan in frustration.
Behind him Dean blinked and looked around, as though he’d sense something, before going back to his pie with a slight shrug.
Over the next couple of weeks Gabriel got to know the Winchesters pretty well, as far as he was concerned. Castiel, too.
It was weird seeing how the scholarly, obedient stick-in-the-mud angel had turned into such a total BAMF. Gabriel figured it was probably Dean’s influence, but who knew? Maybe this Castiel has been lurking underneath all along, waiting for someone else to trigger his BAMF qualities.
One of Gabriel’s favourite activities – well, out of the few available to him while Winchester-watching, anyway – was watching Castiel watch Dean sleep.
Castiel would wait until both hunters were asleep, and then bam, there he’d be by Dean’s bed, staring at him like some kind of stalker from a slasher film. He even had the blank creepy expression and ominous coat. He’d just stand or sit there in the darkness, watching the hunter like he was something precious.
Sometimes he’d talk quietly, telling Dean about his search for God, or about whatever he’d been up to – Gabriel almost had hysterics the time Castiel said,
“You are right, Zachariah is a dick. It is unangelic of me to say so, but there are times I just want to –” and made a small, violent gesture with his hands.
Other times Castiel sat in complete silence, which was boring, so Gabriel would poke Dean in the side or tickle his feet to make the man jerk and mumble, and watch as Castiel instantly hovered over Dean in concern.
Dean had nightmares pretty often, and when that happened Castiel would lay a hand on Dean’s forehead and mutter blessings; which, surprisingly, seemed to work. It was one of the nightmare nights, with Dean periodically thrashing around until Castiel soothed him, when the hunter suddenly went rigid in the bed and his eyes slammed open unseeingly as his mouth opened.
A stern anguished voice rang out in Enochian, commanding to hearers to listen, my brothers, listen to my words and abide by the plan!
An instant later Dean went limp and his eyes slid shut again.
“Dean?” asked a groggy, worried voice from the next bed.
“Go back to sleep, Sam,” Castiel said, frowning at Dean in thought.
There was some creaking and rustling from Sam’s bed, before everything went quiet again.
“Well, fuck me,” Gabriel breathed in awe.
He’d recognised the speech, and the tone had been familiar too, even if it lacked its resonant, authoritative edge.
“So that’s where you’ve been hiding, Michael. What the hell are you up to?”
Gabriel had a dilemma.
On the one hand, he really wanted to tell Dean who he was and find out what was going on.
On the other hand, Dean wasn’t exactly going to be answering many questions in his current state unless Gabriel did something about it, and anyway, he’d probably had a good reason for turning himself into a Graceless, ignorant human. Michael might be of the ‘blast them from the sky’ school of military thinking, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t a good tactician.
Explained why Dean had always been such a surprising pain in the ass, now he came to think of it.
So. What to do?
“Screw it,” Gabriel decided. “I’ll just wing it.”
Gabriel made himself known by invisibly stealing a piece of Dean’s pie and sprawling out on the man’s bed to eat it.
Dean noticed the loss, and frowned.
“Dude, did you see where my pie just went?”
His eyes darted around in suspicion, unsure whether Sam was messing with him, or something more sinister was going on.
Gabriel rearranged his face into an open, wide-eyed expression.
“I’ll say this for you,” he said, making himself visible, and watching the Winchesters spin around to face him, grabbing for weapons, “you’ve got good taste in pie.”
He punctuated his remark with a wave of his fork, and ate another mouthful.
“How long have you been here?” Dean demanded, his eyes narrowed.
Oh, and wasn’t that expression familiar to Gabriel.
Now that he knew, now that he’d bothered to look, Michael’s spirit and attitude was there to see.
It gave Gabriel a strange little ache in his Grace.
“Oh, maybe two… or three…” He allowed his eyebrows to drop down into a suddenly-devilish expression. “Weeks.”
“Weeks?” Dean exploded. “Goddamit, I knew something was up!”
“Did you really?” Gabriel asked, interested.
“Why are you here?” Sam asked, while Dean seethed with unexpressed fury.
“Well, you know,” Gabriel made a deprecating face, “I kinda got to thinking about what Dean here said the last time we ran into each other. So I came and watched you for a while. Turns out you’ve got a better chance at this than I thought.”
“Chance at what?” Dean demanded suspiciously.
Gabriel threw his arms wide.
“You know! This whole ‘stop the apocalypse’ thing!” he exclaimed expansively. “Seriously, you boys are just full of surprises, Castiel too. Did you know he babysits you in your sleep? That’s why you’ve been getting fewer nightmares, by the way.”
Gabriel happily finished off his slice of pie while Dean grabbed for his phone and dialled.
“Cas,” Dean said tersely. “Gabriel’s here.”
Practically instantaneously there was a rush of wings, and baby bro himself stood there, fixing Gabriel with wide, intense eyes burning with emotion.
Most of it hostility, sadly. You reap what you sow, and all. Ah well, hindsight was 20/20.
“What are you doing here, Gabriel?” Castiel growled.
“Hey Castiel.” Gabriel looked at him with a bright expression. “How’s it going?”
The seraphim just bristled with suspicion.
Gabriel reflected for a moment. Then he stopped hiding his wings from his brother and spread them in affection, before folding them into an ‘I’ve done something I shouldn’t and I’m sorry’ posture.
Castiel’s eyes went to round and wide from glaring and wide; but Dean relaxed a little, the angry stare lessening.
“I mean it,” Gabriel murmured, dividing his gaze between the other angel and the archangel-turned-human. “I’m sorry, okay? I didn’t know what else to do.”
“And what, you’re going to help us now?” Sam asked skeptically. “Just like that?”
“Yup,” Gabriel replied. He saw the Winchester look at Castiel, who was watching Gabriel with guarded, suppressed hope. “Interesting fact about wings. You can’t fake what they express. Even if you try and fold your wings into some kind of apologetic shape, if you don’t mean it then the feathers stand out like blades on a shuriken.”
The brothers stared uncomprehendingly.
Gabriel nodded at Castiel, raising an eyebrow.
Castiel spoke reluctantly.
“He is sincere. But he could still change his mind.”
“Could. But might not. In this case, won’t,” Gabriel chided.
“Oh yeah?” Dean challenged.
“You said that we had a better chance than you thought,” Sam began, eyes narrowing as his brain calculated. “What did you mean by that?”
“Well, I was kind of planning on joining you before I started playing Big Brother. But now I know Michael’s mixed up in this whole thing? I am so there.”
Three faces looked shocked and confused.
“What do you mean, Michael is ‘mixed up in this?’” Castiel asked.
Gabriel smirked at them.
“Dean, why did you relax when I folded my wings?”
“What?” Dean blurted, looking even more confused.
“I folded my wings, you relaxed. It was small, but it was definitely there. Did you know that when Castiel sees you, he spreads his wings because he’s glad you’re there?”
Castiel glared a little in Gabriel’s direction.
“And that you, Dean, try to do the exact same thing with your soul?”
Sam and Castiel looked sharply at Dean.
“It’s fascinating to watch. It’s like you’re trying to spread the wings you don’t have in return. Like you used to have some, but you’ve – forgotten.” Gabriel eyed Dean with a glint in his eyes. “Or maybe just tore them out,” he suggested, widening his eyes and raising his eyebrows as he shrugged.
“What the hell are you saying?” Dean looked shocked and incredulous.
“Are you trying to say that you think Dean is an angel? That he’s Michael?” Sam asked disbelievingly.
“That is absurd,” Castiel said evenly. But he looked shaken.
Gabriel raised his eyebrows.
“Is it?” He flipped a glowing vial out of his sleeve and held it up. “Let’s find out.”
He smashed the vial.
Grace burst forth from the shattered glass, shining and strong.
Gabriel shooed it away from him, cautiously, and it rose up into the air and was instantly drawn to Dean’s mouth and nose.
It poured into him, shining out of his eyes and mouth, lighting him up from the inside as it rushed in and settled.
Sam was forced to turn away and shield his eyes.
“Right, that’s my cue to go,” Gabriel said, swinging his legs off the bed and standing, “because Michael’s probably going to kill me for this stunt. Ciao.”
And he took off like an angry senior archangel was on his tail.
He’d leave Michael to calm down for a few days, then drop back in to talk about exactly what plans the other archangel had up his sleeve.
Who knew? With Michael in the game, Team Free Will might even come out on top.