"He's cute that way, don't you think?"
"Gabriel, turn him back. This isn't funny." Balthazar glares at the archangel.
"That wasn't me." Gabriel says, and when Balthazar's gaze stays fixed on him: "It wasn't, okay?"
Balthazar turns back to the kid in front of him, to the familiar blue eyes watching him and Gabriel with a mixture of curiosity and caution.
"It's a damn good prank, though." Gabriel murmers. "I wish I had come up wit it first."
Balthazar rolls his eyes. "Can we please concentrate on fixing this. Is he even still an angel?"
"You're no fun today, you know that?" Gabriel sighs. "Yes, yes, I know, protective brother Balthazar. It's all fun and games unless Castiel get's hu- what the hell?"
At the mention of Balthazar's name the kid's - Castiel's - eyes had suddenly widened, and a moment later he was gone. A little clumsy for an angel, yet still way too quick for the human eye to see - had there been one present - the angel-turned-child had taken off, wings beating rapidly in something close to terror.
"I guess that answer your 'is he still an angel'", Gabriel remarks but Balthazar doesn't seem to hear him at all.
"Cassie?" Balthazar calls into the empty house. "Gabriel, where did he go? Can you feel his grace?"
"Why are you asking me? You're the one whose grace is, like, eternally bound to his or something like that." Suddenly there is a candy bar in Gabriel's hand. "You know, I might be willing to offer him one of these. You think that'll convince him to come out?" he suggest, mouth full of chocolate.
"I can hardly feel his grace," Balthazar feels embarrassed that he's this close to panic, in front of Gabriel of all people, but being cut off from Castiel like this is the return of his worst nightmare, and he just doesn't know how to deal with it. Not now, when Castiel obviously needs him, and he just can't let him down. Not again.
"Calm down, mother hen." Gabriel carelessly lets the candy wrapper fall to the floor. "He's in the house. I can't tell you where, though. I guess that whole transformation thing messed with his grace."
When Balthazar looks at Gabriel, it's not the Trickster but his big brother looking back at him. He instantly feels calmer.
"We better start looking then," Balthazar says. "It's a pretty big house."
"Oh, I don't know. Remember when you and Anna first learned how to mask your location and decided to hide in the Carina Nebula? That was big." He winks at Balthazar and walks up the stairs. "Listen, Castiel. I have candy, and if you don't come out soon I'll eat it all myself."
Balthazar starts searching the ground floor.
It takes them the better part of two hours to find Castiel, and it's really more of a coincidence when they do. Baltahzar decides that they need a drink, and when he opens the cupboard with his emergency stash he finds Castiel in there, in a corner, arms wrapped around his legs, face buried. Five feet off the ground. It's probably a good thing that the kitchen is solid, and Castiel is even more of a lightweight in his current form.
"Cas?" Balthazar touches Castiel's leg lightly to get his attention, and instantly the angel-child's head jerks up, his eyes are filled with fear as he tries to back away, back pressed against wood.
"What's wrong, Cassie?" Balthazar tries not to let show how much Castiel's reaction hurts him. "It's me. It's okay."
Castiel shakes his head as violently as the confined space allows. "Hurt you," he all but sobs before his wings start beating again, and Balthazar has just time to call after him: "Wait, Cas! Please!"
When Balthazar turns around, Castiel stands in the door to the lobby, tense, but he is still there. In the lobby stands Gabriel, quiet for once, watching the scene with an unreadable expression in his dark golden eyes.
"Please, Cassie, talk to me." Balthazar begs and takes one step forward. Castiel shies away. "I know I betrayed you. I'm sorry. Please."
Castiel's eyes go wide, he shakes his head again, and when he stops Balthazar can see the tears streaming down his face. "I hurt you, Balthazar." he hickups, "I killed you. I'mhorribleIcannevermakeituphowcouldIdothisdon'thatemeplease." The words tumbl out so quickly that Balthazar can hardly make them out, but he he still understands their meaning.
With two long strides he is at Castiel's side. He crouches down next to him, embracing the small trembling form. Castiel half tries to fight him, half clings to him. He continues mumbling words but they are completely unintelligible now.
"I don't hate you, stupid." He places a kiss on the top of Castiel's head. "I could never hate you."
Castiel looks up at him. "Really?" he asks, looking way younger than any billions of years old angel, even one in a child's body and with a child's mind has any right to look.
"I'm offended you even have to ask."
Castiel hangs his head, and when he speaks again it's barely more than a whisper. "I did such horrible things, Balthazar."
Balthazar sighs. "We all make mistakes, Cassie." And when Castiel tries to protest: "And I made the most horrible mistake of them all. I abandoned you when you needed me most. I am sorry, Cas, and I promise you I will never betray you like that again."
There is a moment of silence, and Gabriel takes the chance to clear his throat. "This is all very heartwarming," he comments, and Balthazar knows that he means it, no matter how much he tries to make it sound teasing. "So why don't I give the two of you some time to catch up, and look for a way to fix this?"
His wings are already unfolded, when he turns around once more. "Oh, and Balthazar, why don't you tell him about the heavenly reset. I'm sure that'll cheer him up." And with that, Gabriel is gone.
"What did Gabriel mean by reset?" Castiel asks later, snuggling close.
Balthazar had decided that Castiel needed some rest, so he had carried him into the bedroom upstairs. The small angel had almost disappeared in down and silk sheets, looking more relaxed than Balthazar had seen him in a long time.
Balthazar wraps an arm around his brother and starts telling Castiel about the state of Heaven. About how everyone they lost in the war is back home, about how their father gave all of them a second chance. About how Gabriel put Raphael in his place, and put an end to the Apocalypse once and for all. "Raphael is is even more grumpy now than usual." he says, the tone in voice talking about forgiveness. He talks about how Anna tells them about her time as a human. About how they are slowly beginning to understand what Castiel was trying to teach them all along. About how Joshua's garden feels like safety and home once more. About how Inias won't stop asking about Castiel. About how, for the first time in millenia, he truly knows what it's like to have a family again.
He leaves out the part where big parts of Heaven are still in chaos, the pain and confusion that won't just magically go away. About Michael and Lucifer still in the cage. There is time for that later.
When Gabriel returns, Castiel is fast asleep in Balthazar's arms.
"Now isn't this cute." he comments, when he flops down on the foot of the bed.
Balthazar decides to ignore the comment. "Did you find anything?"
"Yes. Well, actually, no." Gabriel beams, and this time Baltahzar does roll his eyes and waits for Gabriel to explain himself.
"I didn't find anything but since I'm an archangel, and therefore awesome enough to find the answer to pretty much anything, there is only one explanation: It was our dear father who decided to teach Cas here a lesson."
"He shows an aweful lot of interest all of a sudden. Where was He when everything was falling apart and we really needed Him." Balthazar murmers.
"Don't be ungrateful. You owe him your life. In every possible sense of the word. Now do you want to know how to turn Castiel back or not." Balthazar wishes he could wipe that smug smile off Gabriel's face, but instead he just nods.
"Awesome. It's simple, really. Do what you always do. Stand up for Cas, make your case, politely ask Daddy for your dearest brother back because you can't live without him, and having him like that is just awkward."
"So you know where He is?" Balthazar asked, incredulous.
"Not exactly." Gabriel admits. "But I know how to reach him, if you can bear to separate from your grace mate for just five more minutes. And so would you, in your better days."
Balthazar looks confused for a moment. "Joshua," he suddenly realises.
"Of course Joshua. God, Bal, you have spend way too much time away from home or dead." Gabriel all but bounces off the bed. "Now are you coming so we can get this over with?"
Balthazar tries to free himself from Castiel without waking him. He is not very successful. "Balth'zar?" Castiel mumbles sleepily.
"It's alright. I'll be back soon. Go back to sleep." Balthazar says softly.
Castiel doesn't. Instead his eyes fly open and he clings to Balthazar. "No!" he screams, and then starts begging. "Please, Balthazar. Don't leave me. I'll do as you say from now on. I'll never do anything bad again. I promise. Please."
"So much for being able to bear being separated," comes Gabriel's voice from the door. "Look, kiddo, he's not leaving you. He's just trying to help you."
Castiel looks at Gabriel, the back at Balthazar. There are tears in his eyes, but at least he seems willing to listen now. "Gabriel found a way to turn you back, but I need to go with him to help. You want to be a big, strong angel again, don't you?"
Castiel nods like a brave little boy, lets go of Balthazar and wipes the tears away.
"I will be back as soon as I can. I promise." Balthazar places a kiss on Castiel's forhead before he stands up and nods to Gabriel that he is ready.
"Good. And when we have the old Cas back, can I have the old post-faked-death Balthazar back as well? Because he's way more fun than the current version."
Balthazar elbows Gabriel in the ribbs.
"Ou! Whatever happened to having some respect for an archangel?" Gabriel complains, and then grins at both of his little brothers. Balthazar starts laughing, and even Castiel replies with a hesitant but genuine smile.