“Hey, baby bro!” Gabriel swanned past Dean, snatching a slice of toast off his plate, and then ruffled Cas’s hair as he tossed himself down into a seat by the table.
“You don’t even eat,” Dean complained, but he shut up when he saw the fond smile Cas was really having trouble hiding.
Gabriel made a big show of munching on the toast, spraying crumbs all over the table and quickly diminishing that moment of camaraderie Dean had felt towards him over making Cas smile.
“You don’t even have table manners,” he snapped, and tugged the books from the archive to safety.
Then, after shooting a glance at Cas, he snagged the angel and tugged him closer too.
“And you got butter in his hair,” he complained.
Cas rolled his eyes upwards, as if to check.
Gabriel used the distraction to steal the rest of Dean’s toast.
“This is just like when you were a fledgling,” Gabriel said.
Cas stared over his shoulder, frowning. “This is nothing like when I was a fledgling.”
Jack was sitting watching them, eager to hear anything about his adopted father’s childhood. “What was Cas like as a fledgling?”
“No different from any of the others,” Cas said.
“Total nightmare,” Gabriel said, at the same time, and Castiel tugged his wing free of Gabriel’s grip, the feathers bristling.
“C’mon, fledgling,” Gabriel teased. “Don’t be like that. You wanna ever use these things again, you’ll need a little help.”
Cas relented with a long suffering sigh, and Gabriel took on a more serious note as he carefully worked his Grace into his little brother’s wings, healing the broken bones and torn muscles.
“Anyway, Jack” he said, after a moment. “The reason this is just like when Cassie here was a fledgling is because he decided to go flying before he really knew what he was doing and fell straight into the orchard in Joshua’s garden. Let me tell you, people think that guy’s placid, but when his favourite tree gets dive bombed by an out of control baby angel-“
Cas covered his face with his hands.
“Relax, little bird. I’m not going anywhere.”
Cas didn’t look convinced, and that was okay, because Gabriel really wasn’t either.
Not with a hole the size of a fist punched through him and his Grace leaking out of him like it had an urgent appointment elsewhere.
“I’m not going to let you go anywhere,” Cas said.
He had that look of stony defiance about him that Gabriel remembered well. After he’d left Heaven, hating that he had to leave his fledgling behind, he’d feared that stubbornness would be driven out of him.
He should have known better.
But it wasn’t always a good thing, like now, when he felt Castiel’s hands come to hover over his wound, and he lacked the strength to push them away.
“Castiel, what are you doing?”
“Saving my brother,” Cas said, and Gabriel screamed as he felt Cas’s ragged, worn down Grace seize the edges of his wound and tug it closed.
Way before there even was a Winchester line, and his asshole brothers and sisters were generally okay with life and not itching to ruin the world with fire and darkness, Gabriel had been ordered to send Cas on a mission.
It was a dumbass idea, and he’d said as much, and even Raphael had agreed with him, which just went to show how much of a dumbass idea it was. Because Raphael couldn’t agree with Gabriel which side of the planet the sun came up on.
But when Zachariah spoke, it was to convey Michael’s words, and that meant Cas was going no matter whether Gabriel liked it or not.
Anyway, the mission was a success, Cas did his job, and he made it back.
Not in one piece, but he made it back.
And that, apparently, was all that mattered.
Or so they told Gabriel when he threatened to take Zachariah and toss him into the sun.
Why so upset over a mere rank and file and file angel, Gabriel? He’s not your fledgling anymore.
They’d moved Cas to his room. Gabriel had settled himself on the bed, back against the headboard, and held Cas to him, wrapping his wings around his brother.
Cas would recover from this. Gabriel knew it; he still wasn’t strong enough to feedback any of the Grace Cas had pushed through him, but his brother was tougher than this.
He’d hold on until Gabriel was strong enough to fix him.
Jack, Dean and Sam were regular visitors, staying until they couldn’t keep their eyes open. They were taking it in shifts, making sure the two angels weren’t left by themselves at any point.
Gabriel knew it was a sign they cared about Cas, but part of him resented their presence.
They were the reason Cas was too weak to heal himself. The Winchesters, mostly, but Cas had done his share of bleeding and sacrificing for the kid as well.
It was all Cas knew how to do, sacrifice himself. If he loved you, and Gabriel knew Cas loved those three more than his own damn self, then there was nothing he wasn’t willing to do, or give, for you.
Gabriel being nearly whole, right then, was just proof of that.
“You even think of leaving me,” Gabriel whispered to his brother, “I’ll bust into The Empty and haul your ass back myself, Cas. I mean it, little brother. I just…. I feel like I just got you back, and I can’t….”
He pressed his cheek against Cas’s head, squeezing him tighter, wishing that all those years ago, when he’d finally had enough, he’d taken Cas with him.
But then Cas wouldn’t be who he was now.
Because he wouldn’t have known the Winchesters. Gabriel might have problems with them, and the shit they’d brought down on his sibling, but he couldn’t deny they had a role to play in the angel Cas had turned out to be.
Like Gabriel, they were his family.
And, like Gabriel, they’d all taken a turn at deserting him, denying him, when he needed them most.
“You got shitty luck when it comes to finding people who deserve you, Cassie,” Gabriel said, quietly. “I swear, I’ll try to do better.”
He tensed when he heard a groan, and stared in amazement as Cas opened his eyes.
Gabriel hugged Cas so tight he drew a grumbled complaint from the younger angel.
“Sorry,” he said, and laughed, even if he knew there was no way Cas wouldn’t notice the tears rolling down his cheeks.
“Gabriel,” Cas said, again, and he sounded horrified to see his brother so upset.
“Oh, whose damn fault is it,” Gabriel said, and pressed a kiss to Cas’s temple. “Scared the shit out of me, baby bird. Don’t ever do it again.”
Cas let himself be tucked against Gabriel’s chest, slowly relaxing into his brother’s hold.
And then, just when Gabriel thought he might actually get his wayward fledging to take a telling for once, he was disappointed.
“Lead by example, then,” Castiel said.
Gabriel sighed. Yeah, his baby bro had definitely kept his stubborn nature.
He wasn’t complaining.