Gabriel Shurley has an enormous family tree. While he could definitely name the infinite aunts and uncles and cousins he has, probably even draw up a detailed genealogy map, he prefers not to waste his own time and energy. He became an expert at sussing out the assholes and dicks of the family at a fairly young age, partially due to the fact that his own father, Chuck Jr., spared no harsh words about which brothers and sisters he had kindly asked to fuck off over the years. So, he has big family; it doesn't really mean much to him other than the fact that family reunions are usually long as hell and require a fuck-ton of patience to live through.
To Gabriel, he only really has a few cousins that mean anything to him. Of those few, there's one who stands above all the rest. One he would willingly, without a doubt, kill or die for at the drop of a dime, no matter how much time passes between their interactions. Currently, it's been two years since they've seen each other, maybe just a little bit less since they've even spoken.
"Cassie, long time no chat. I knew you would start missing me eventually." It's a weak joke to cover up the deep-seated worry that's built up within him for the past years.
He can hear his favorite cousin inhale shakily through the line. "It's so good to hear your voice, Gabe."
Their families didn't part on the best of terms after the last reunion they attended together. Or rather, Chuck and his sister Amelia didn't part on the best of terms, after he had not only threatened, but actually attempted, to put her husband six feet into the ground. Gabriel and Castiel had just suffered from the outcome.
Maybe one of them more than the other.
He doesn't want to ask, doesn't actually want to hear the answer. He can guess perfectly well enough what it will be. "How've you been?"
"I...I-I'm at a bus station." Gabriel's heart drops. He swings his legs over the side of his bed. "I know it's late, a-and I probably have the worst timing but do you think...can you or Uncle Chuck come get me?"
The broken notes in his voice tug viciously on Gabriel's heartstrings, forcing his mind to relive the events that had cut the Shurley Reunion of '15 short.
Gabriel could remember Uncle Jimmy in vast detail, and Castiel had grown into the spitting image of his father. They weren't related by blood, but, there was a familial passion between the two that no blood ties could ever beat.
Jimmy Novak was perhaps one of Gabriel's first heroes, right alongside his own father. He can still remember the smile on the man's face whenever he gazed at his beautiful family, or when Gabriel showed interest in absorbing some of fantastic cooking skills. The Novak's New York City apartment was like a home away from home for Gabe growing up; waking up to the smell of Uncle Jimmy's chocolate chip or peanut butter pancakes browning perfectly on the stove, going to sleep to the sound of Aunt Amelia's sweet voice telling them exhilarating stories—well, before they got 'too old' for stuff like that, and little Claire running after he and Cas, pleading to join in on the big kid action. There was so much love, so much care, so much happiness oozing from their perfect little American dream that sometimes Gabriel forgot that they weren't a fantasy he'd conjured up in his brain.
Which is why seeing it all break down, crumbling into despair and chaos and pain has wounded him so dearly. He mourned the loss of happiness within the Novaks' loving atmosphere not for himself, but for Castiel, who had not only lost his father and sister in a horrific car crash, but his mother as well. Because even though she's still alive, Amelia Novak, née Shurley, has never been the same. Neither has Castiel.
Chuck Jr. had done the best he could, trying to help his sister in the wake of tragedy with more fervor than the entire Shurley family tree combined, but in the end, she'd pushed him away. Visits to New York were few and far between, and Gabriel had had to survive the family reunions without the safety net that was Castiel and his family.
They'd kept in touch, Gabe and Cas, through texting, social media, and the rare times when Amelia would let her brother whisk Castiel away for small vacations, just the three of them. It'd taken awhile, but they were finally getting back on track.
Until 2015, when Castiel had started to become distant. By that summer, during which the reunion was always scheduled, they'd only spoken a handful of times the entire year. And then, much to everyone's surprise, the Novaks had shown up two days into the celebration.
Aunt Amelia was wearing a dazzling engagement ring and a long-forgotten smile. She'd introduced her fiancé Bartholomew to everyone, but Gabriel and Chuck had not been impressed.
It turned out they had reason to be, because by 11 p.m., Chuck found out that Castiel was sporting a fresh look too:
A chest littered with purple and faded yellow, with a few matching spots on his back for solidarity.
Chuck had been livid. Amelia still married the bastard. Things really got quiet between Gabriel and Castiel.
"I'm not sure how far I am or how long it would take or if your dad will—"
"Cas! Just relax and send me your location. I don't care if you're fifteen fucking hours out, I'm coming to get you." He's pulling on a pair of thin pajama bottoms as he growls this out, hopping on one leg with the phone pressed between his ear and shoulder.
His phones pings with a Facebook Messenger notification a few moments later, as he's pulling his arms through a short-sleeved t-shirt. When he zooms in to see the surrounding area, his heart stutters for a second. The bus station is almost a three-hour drive out, in a not-so-great part of the city.
"Okay Cas, stay where you are and try to keep a low profile. Dad and I are gonna come to get you as fast as we can. Like, fifteen traffic tickets fast. Keep your phone on hand." Gabriel exits his room after slipping into some flip flops, making a beeline for his father's study, knowing fully well that he's fallen asleep in there writing for the third night in a row.
"I-I forgot to grab a charger when I was leaving—my phone is only on twelve percent."
Gabriel groans, banging on the dark wood. He hears a crash from the other side. "Okay hang up now, but remember what I said—low profile. I don't want anything happening to you in the time it takes us to get there."
"I'll try," He can hear fumbling inside the locked room. "Gabriel, I... thank you. I really appreciate this."
His heart aches at the genuine gratitude seeping through the phone line, as if Cas thought he might actually be denied help from Gabriel and Chuck, of all people. "You don't need to thank me, cuz. Stay safe." He disconnects the call.
The study door finally swings open after what feels like an eternity, revealing a rumpled author with keyboard impressions on the side of his face. "Gabriel, what's wrong? Did something happen? I swear if this is about those underwear dreams you've been having—"
"Cas is in Greenlake." He cuts his father off, who's entire demeanor changes within a few milliseconds. His soft, friendly features harden, blue eyes turn cold as ice yet burn with intense worry.
"I'll get the car."
"I still don't see him. Try calling again."
"Calling repeatedly won't make his phone any less dead, dad."
"If you have a better idea, I'm all ears, son."
When they'd pulled up to the old bus station, it was deserted. Of course, any bus station within a 10-mile radius would probably be deserted at this time of morning, but there was no sign of Cas, who Gabriel had distinctly told not to go anywhere. Greenlake is not where you want to be wandering alone in the wee hours of the morning, and while Gabriel usually tries to deny any inherited nervous energy from his father, that fact isn't doing either of them any favors.
There's a heavy sigh from the driver's seat.
Gabriel runs his hand through his hair. "I'm sorry."
"Yeah, me too. I'm gonna circle around the area, see if we can find him."
"Right there, look! Where it says twenty-four hours."
Chuck pulls a U-turn into the opposing lane, heading for the small parking lot of a convenient little cafe. The 24-hour sign flickers as he puts the car into park in one of the many empty spaces. The sound of car doors closing is rapidly followed by door chimes resonating within the quaint atmosphere. There are only a few people occupying the space tonight: a lone waitress, mopping the floor a little way away from the counter, a young couple speaking in hushed tones in a corner booth, and a hooded figure slumped over their table in the darkest part of the cafe.
"I'll be with you in a moment," the waitress offers. "Sit anywhere you'd like."
"Actually, we were wondering if you'd seen a teenager..."
Gabriel tunes out his father's voice, eyes drawn to a familiar symbol. He walks, warily, over to the dark booth. Once his eyes adjust enough to the closer proximity, he finds himself looking down at a black duffel emblazoned with a high school crest he’d become familiar with during their days of video chatting. He slides into the cushioned seats without hesitation, across from his softly dozing cousin.
"You know," Gabriel starts at a volume just loud enough to cause some stirring. "the reason why you always used to get caught during Hide 'n' Seek was because you never stayed where I told you to. I guess some things never change."
Castiel doesn't look up from where his face is hidden in his left arm, but he seems to relax as Gabriel's voice washes over him. "You had a habit of choosing some extremely nerve-wracking places for me, so, yeah, I guess not."
Relief floods him at the sound of that familiar, though considerably deeper, timbre, but is stomped down pathetically when Cas raises his head. It takes the effort of a God to keep himself from reacting, to keep his brain moving ahead of his body's impulse. It's not like he expected Cas to call him from a deserted bus station, after two whole years, clearly in distress, and not be sporting some sort of evidence of that distress.
He could go into detail about how the other boy looks exhausted, pale, and withdrawn, how that yellowish tinge to Cas' left cheek is most likely a bruise in its final stages, but his mind zeroes in on the red, swollen area on a mouth set in a grim line.
In all honestly, the split lip he's sporting is artificial, nothing to make too much of a fuss over in any other situation, but the pure and unadulterated knowledge that it was that rat bastard Bartholomew who hurt Cas? That's all Gabe needs to start seeing red. He's seething, on the inside, and Cas is just sitting there, looking for all the world like he's challenging him to a dead-eyed staring contest.
Chuck's voice catches Castiel's attention, who breaks their gaze. "Uncle Chuck," he breathes, not unlike the first response he'd given Gabe through the phone a few hours previous. "how's the series coming?"
"It's coming." Chuck replies. He reaches up, slowly, warily, to ruffle a hand through Castiel's hair. They—including Cas—ignore the distinct sight of tears pooling in vivid cerulean eyes. "Let's get you home. You look like you could use a good rest."
Castiel nods, taking his left hand off the table to reach for his duffel, and Gabriel only has a split second to remember his cousin distinctly being a right-y before they're sliding out of the booth and Cas' right arm is revealed.
In a cast.
In that moment, Chuck Jr. and Gabriel, a father and son who couldn't look more different if they tried, wear similarly contorted faces, identical masks of thunder and rage.
And as Chuck puts a hand on the broken boy's shoulder, guiding him in front of them, he and his son share a look and a thought:
He's not going back.