“You want to join us, don’t you?”
Gabriel pulls his eyes from the door Sam and Castiel had just left through to look at Dean sitting across from him. “What do you think I’ve been doing for the last year, Deano?”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“And what did you mean?”
“You know what I meant, Gabriel.”
Yeah, Gabriel does know what he meant, but he’s certainly not going to say anything.
“You want to join our,” Dean pauses and Gabriel can practically see the fight going on in Dean’s head between his over-the-top macho-ism and Sam and Castiel’s influence. As happens more and more often now, Sam and Castiel win. “Relationship.”
Gabriel shifts, looking out the nearby window. It’s true; he wants to be with them. He thought he’d been subtle about it, but now looking back on it, he remembers all the times he’d openly watched their small displays of affection and knows that he wasn’t. “I’m not going to like, encroach on your territory or anything,” Gabriel mutters, just a bit defensively.
“Who said it’d be encroaching?”
Surprised, the angel looks to Dean, who shrugs. “It was hard, admitting I wanted to be with Sam and Cas. Hell, Sam or Cas, let alone both. But since we got that all figured out,” Dean shrugs again. “I want you. I want you to be a part of what me and Sam and Cas have. Guess it’s not so hard to admit anymore.”
“What about Cas and Sam?”
“I don’t know. Haven’t talked to them about it. But I will.”
Gabriel doesn’t think both Sam and Castiel will want to add him to the thing they have going on, but that’s just fine. He’d never had any illusions about his desires. He’s happy enough to indulge in the genuine smile Dean is giving him.
He returns a few days later, when Sam, Dean, and Cas are in a different town on a new hunt. If he’s completely honest, he’s been avoiding them. He knows what the answer is, but that doesn’t mean he wants to hear it. Still, they might need his help and he’d rather the idiots not get hurt because he can’t handle a rejection.
When Gabriel pops into the room, Sam and Castiel are sitting side-by-side at the small table consulting between Sam’s laptop and several sheets of paper while Dean pulls a beer out of the refrigerator.
“Whatcha hunting?” Gabriel asks, popping a lollipop in his mouth.
“Just a ghost,” replies Sam, not looking up from the screen. “We’ve identified her as Margret Wilson, who died in 1893, but we don’t know which cemetery she was buried in, so we’re looking for that.”
“We may have to search all of the older cemeteries on foot,” adds Castiel.
And that was it. Sam and Cas go back to figuring out which cemeteries might hold the bones they’re looking for (“But that cemetery is on the other side of town from where her house stood. Surely it would be illogical for her to be buried there.” “There was an old church here, though. She might’ve attended there.”) They don’t say anything else to Gabriel, don’t ask him to help search out the bones, and while logically Gabriel could conclude that with such a simple hunt they’d decided to go back to the basics, he still can’t help thinking that they know now, that it’s awkward and they don’t want him around anymore.
He’s about tell them to pray if they need help and leave, because he’s not going to stay if they don’t want him there and Sam and Cas are too polite to tell him to leave anyway, when Dean says, “You keep fidgeting like that, you’re gonna make us think you care or something.”
Gabriel frowns at the older Winchester walking toward him, pulling the sucker out of his mouth to reply, “I’m an archangel, I don’t fidget.”
“Oh, you’re fidgeting,” Dean says, stopping in front of Gabriel and grinning down at him. Before the angel can reply, Dean bends down and kisses him. Gabriel is momentarily frozen in shock and before he can think to return the kiss, Dean pulls away, frowning and licking his lips.
Gabriel ignores the comment, instead looking to Sam and Castiel, who give no reaction save Sam’s raised eyebrow when Gabriel continues to stare.
“Of course they said yes, you idiot.”
Gabriel turns back to look at Dean.
“They said yes,” he parrots dumbly.
Dean rolls his eyes and leans in for another kiss. This time, Gabriel returns it enthusiastically, accidently lodging his lollipop in Dean’s hair in the process.
It doesn’t take long for Gabriel to realize that something’s wrong. To put it simply, Sam and Cas are avoiding him. They don’t engage him in any type of affection. They tend to cut any affection he starts short. They’re distant during sex, usually pulling away from him and Dean to take care of each other. They won’t even sit next to him, choosing instead to lounge on the opposite bed, or couch, or at the table. It hurts, and for a while Gabriel thinks it’s because they don’t actually want him, that they only agreed to all of this because Dean wants it, but then he begins to notices other things. Like how on occasion they will kiss him or touch him or hold him, or how if he initiates things, they’ll often go along for a while before seeming to come to themselves and moving away once again.
He wonders if maybe they’re mad at him, maybe he did something to upset them, something that they’re trying to hold on to but occasionally forget. He’s not sure, but now that he’s noticed these incidents of affection, he has hope that he can fix it. He knows he’ll have to figure it out fast, though, because Dean’s noticed it, too, and Gabriel’s only going to have so long before Dean decides he has to fix it. Gabriel knows Dean’s fix will be to break things off.
Gabriel’s deadline comes one day when they’re holed up in their motel room in between cases. They’re watching some old western movie, Sam and Cas snuggled up on the ratty couch, he and Dean sitting on the queen-sized bed with their legs kicked out. Dean had left a significant amount of space between them and Gabriel can practically see him winding up to give the we-can-still-be-friends speech.
Unwilling to lose this if he could help it, Gabriel thinks, “To Hell with subtlety!” and gets up, moving across the room to kneel in front of the couch. Both Sam and Castiel look down at him in surprise and confusion.
“How do we fix this?”
“Um, fix what?” asks Sam, genuinely confused.
“Whatever it is that has the both of you avoiding me like I have fleas. Which I don’t. I checked.”
Sam frowns and catches Castiel’s gaze for a moment before turning back to Gabriel.
“We just thought this is how you’d prefer it.”
Now it is Gabriel’s turn to frown.
“Why would I prefer this?”
“Come on, Gabriel, we both know who I am, what I did. I have demon blood in me for-” Sam cuts himself off. Using your lover’s Father’s name in vain is just a little odd.
Sam shakes his head. “I don’t really understand how Dean and Cas can-”
“Sam.” Castiel’s voice is firm, with just an edge of outrage. There is a quiet fury behind his eyes as he frowns at the hunter.
“It’s true, Cas.”
“It’s stupid,” interjects Gabriel. “You think I decided I really wanted to be in a relationship with people I don’t like?”
“I think you decided you wanted to be in a relationship with people who happened to already be in a relationship with someone else,” Sam says, face a picture of acceptance. “I didn’t want you to feel obligated to treat me as though you wanted me.”
“You’re an idiot, Sam Winchester.”
Gabriel shuffles closer to the tall man, taking his face in one hand. “You are an amazingly pure and loving human being. Who cares about the fact that you made mistakes? Haven’t I made mistakes? Haven’t we all? You have more than made up for your mistakes. Let them go. Now, if you don’t want me here, if you’d rather I leave and come around only to help, then that’s fine, I’ll go. But don’t you ever think that I don’t want you, Sam. Not for a second.”
Sam is staring at Gabriel, mouth slightly agape. There’s something like hope and joy in his eyes, and it takes only a moment before he has his fingers curled in Gabriel’s hair, their lips slotted together. It’s passionate, and just a little desperate, holding all the emotion that their relationship has been so lacking, and Gabriel sighs into the kiss happily.
When Sam has to pull away, Gabriel shoots a raised eyebrow at his younger brother.
“I told Sam that his logic was faulty, but he refused to listen,” says the lesser angel, as if that answers Gabriel’s unspoken question.
“So you decided to also avoid me, in solidarity or something?”
Castiel cocks his head to the side, “I’m only a foot soldier,” he says, once again as if it answered anything. Gabriel falls back on his heels.
“This is a rank thing? You don’t want a relationship with me because of our difference of rank?”
“Of course I wish to have a relationship with you.”
Gabriel groans and thumps his forehead against Sam’s knee.
“You gonna need reassurance, too?” he asks Dean, turning his head slightly to look at the man trying very hard to appear like he’s not paying attention.
“Nope, I’m good.”
The angel nods and turns back to look at his brother. He could tell Castiel that the younger is a much better angel, a much better being in general, than Gabriel. He could tell him that Castiel is the walking embodiment loyalty and compassion and that anyone would be lucky to make it onto his radar. He could tell the other angel this, it is all true, but that doesn’t get to the heart of the issue, because Gabriel is still an archangel and Castiel is still no more than a foot soldier. Instead, he crawls so that he’s in front of the other angel and stares into the other’s eyes, into his grace. Then, slowly, deliberately, he bows his head and stretches out his wings.
“Gabriel,” Castiel gasps, his grace jumping in an odd combination of desire and denial.
“I do give-”
“Gabriel, you shouldn’t. I-”
The archangel in question looks up, catching Castiel’s eyes with his own. The seriousness behind his gaze makes the younger swallow. Gabriel bows his head again.
“I do give my obedience and my love to you, Castiel.”
He is followed by silence, only the television making soft sounds in the background. Even the humans, who could not know the significance of what had just transpired, wait with bated breath. Then, a shaking hand is laid gently on his head and Castiel says, “I have no want for your obedience, but I would be happy to accept your love.”
“Well, that’s good,” Gabriel replies, looking up with what’s supposed to be a smirk, but ends up more like an amused smile. “I’m not very good with the obedience thing.”
“I know,” Castiel says fondly, dragging his fingers through the smaller man’s hair.
“You girls finished now?” ask Dean, getting up from the bed to squish himself next to Cas on the couch.
“I don’t know. Are you sure you don’t need your own speech or grand gesture?”
Dean looks like he’s thinking for a moment, before shrugging.
“I could go for some pie.”
Gabriel snaps and a steaming cinnamon apple pie appears on Dean’s lap.
“Sweet! Wait, no fork? You expect me to just eat this with my hands?”
“You are the neediest thing,” Gabriel declares, snapping so that a fork appears in Dean’s hand. He watches Dean take the first bite, and then folds up his wings so that he can turn around and face the television, back pressed against Castiel’s shins.
Just like that, they’re back to just watching some old movie, the previous heavy emotions in the air gone, everything just like it had been a few minutes before. Only Sam and Cas aren’t trying to hold themselves at a distance, and Dean isn’t trying to figure out how to cut Gabe loose, and Gabriel isn’t trying to figure out just what the heck was going on. Instead, Castiel’s fingers are gliding through Gabriel’s hair, and Sam’s foot is a steady heat at his hip, and Dean is devouring a whole pie by himself and moaning in a way that he really needs to stop if they want to finish this movie.
They don’t finish the movie.