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After the End is the Beginning (May all Apocalypse be Forgot)

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Dean liked poltergeists. Not in the "take 'em out for a drink" sense, of course, but poltergeists were a pretty perfect hunt — a bit of a mystery, a bit of a workout, but you knew what you were getting into. Simple and straightforward.

What hunting poltergeists definitely did not include was stupid-looking freaking archangels popping into the middle of everything carrying champagne and chocolate.

"Hey, boys, miss me?"

Sam squawked as the distraction let the poltergeist throw him backwards over a couch.

"Not if I get a good enough gun," Dean growled, swiping his fireplace poker through the ghost. He took the second's respite and darted forward to help Sam back up, glancing over him quickly. "You good?"

"Yeah." Sam nodded. "Dean!"

Dean threw himself to the side as Sam raised his shotgun and blasted the thing.

Gabriel looked on, lounging against the wall with a look one step up from complete boredom. "Shouldn't you be trying to burn the bones or something?"

Dean just bared his teeth, dodging a flying chair.

Sam shot Gabriel a glare. "Yeah, well, if we could get past the damn thing to its bones…"

Gabriel sighed and rolled his eyes. "Oh, fine." The sound of his snap was lost in the furious scream of the poltergeist as it flamed away into nothing. "Happy now?"

"Delirious." Dean turned to look at him, not lowering the poker. "What are you doing here?"

Gabriel put a hand to his heart, feigning hurt. "Can't a guy just drop by to look in on some friends?"

"Sure." Dean glowered at him. "So go find some."

Sam kicked Dean's foot, the wide-eyed look on his face and the raised eyebrows in Gabriel's direction clearly saying, "Don't piss off anything that could smite you from existence," but Gabriel just snorted.

"Oh, like your friends list is so huge, Mister Popular. Fortunately, you've got me to make up for the otherwise lackluster state of your social lives."

"Gabriel." Sam pinched the bridge of his nose, then looked at the angel with a lot more patience than Dean had managed. "Did you come here for a reason?"

"Duh!" He looked from one of them to the other, then sighed. "Even you two yahoos must have a calendar, right?"

Sam frowned, then raised both eyebrows, sharing a disbelieving look with Dean. "New Year's Eve?"

Gabriel beamed at him as if he'd managed a really superb trick. "Got it in one, Sammy! And what's a New Year's Eve without a proper celebration?"

"It's not even noon yet," Dean pointed out flatly. Please, God, don't let him be staying here all day!

"Sure, here. Who says we can't celebrate in some other time zone? Hell, we can celebrate in another time if you want. 2000? 1900? Forget 1711. Or 1642. And even I'm not irresponsible enough to take you into the future, because hello, really stupid idea. But any other time is fair game."

"We're not going into any other times with you!" Dean glowered at him.

"Great!" Gabriel looked smug. "Another time zone it is, then."

Dean opened his mouth to protest, then stumbled. It was sunset, it was cold, and they were a few floors up on a balcony looking out onto the middle of possibly the hugest street party he had ever seen in his life.

"Gabriel!" Sam's protest was more exasperated and less angry than Dean cared for, and when Dean tried to step past him, Sam blocked his way and stepped on his foot. "You can't just … whoosh us away like that!"

Gabriel snorted. "Newsflash — I just did."

"And you're putting us back right now!" Dean yelled. "I don't care where we are or what you think you're doing —"

"Berlin," Gabriel interrupted.

"What?"

"We're in Berlin." He grinned. "Best party ever. Come on, Deano, enjoy yourself for once." He snapped his fingers, and a silly hat appeared on Dean's head; Dean grabbed it off with a scowl. "Apocalypse This Year thwarted, evil things hunted, time to have some fun." He snapped again, and Dean was holding a huge mug of beer in one hand and a sausage in the other.

Dean faltered.

Gabriel shook his head, looking almost fond. "Right back where I got you from tomorrow, promise. Only slightly the worse for wear. No hangovers, even."

Sam crossed his arms and stared at Gabriel, thoughtful though still a touch wary. "Why?"

Gabriel shrugged. "Why not?"

Sam looked at him.

Gabriel sighed. "Okay, look. You saved the world, all right? Not without some pretty amazing help, if I do say so myself. The world owes you one; the least it can do is show you its good side once in a while, okay?" He shifted, looking annoyed. "Now, are we done? 'Cause I say it's party time."

Dean looked from the sausage to the beer, still not entirely certain.

"Man, are you hard to please!" Another snap, and a busty blonde was hanging off one arm, giving Dean eyes.

Dean jumped, startled. Damn, those were some really nice… He shook his head. "She's not even real, is she?" he asked suspiciously, trying to untangle himself from her without spilling the beer.

"Oh, for —" One snap and the girl was gone. "Fine. Don't say I never gave you anything." Another snap.

A rather startled-looking Castiel now stood up against Dean, arm linked with his just as the blonde's had been. "Dean." Cas wrinkled his brow at him. "Sam," he nodded at Sam. "Gabriel? Why have you summoned me here? Is there a problem?"

"No problem, bro, just fun!" Gabriel beamed at him. "So, if we're completely done?" A snap, and Sam had his own mug of beer and a big thing of what looked like french fries, and Cas was wearing a silly hat. With another, they were on the street below the balcony. "Don't forget where we parked, folks!" With a huge grin, he dove into the crowd and was gone.

"Dean?" Cas asked hesitantly.

"Yeah, Cas?" Dean sighed and took a bite of the sausage.

"Is this headgear mandatory?"

"No. You can take off the silly hat now."

Looking relieved, Cas did.

Dean sort of missed the arm linked with his, though.

 

 

It was actually a bit fun once they relaxed a little, not that Dean would ever admit it to the hyperactive trickster angel. It was a little hard with him and Sam not speaking German, but mostly it was too loud for talking anyway, especially as it got later and more folks kept pouring onto the streets, so sign language made do.

By about seven, Cas was looking on everything with curiosity instead of suspicion. He stayed close to Dean's side, and Dean even got him to try a few different foods and drinks.

By about eight, Sam was smiling so hard it looked like his face would split in two. He'd geeked out over a few of the places they'd passed, and Dean couldn't make out most of it, but he hadn't seen Sam that innocently excited in years.

Dean was willing to forgive Gabriel a hell of a lot just for that.

 

 

Sam went off for more beer around nine, and came back with a cute little brunette on his arm. Dean gave him a thumbs-up, the gesture faltering when he realized she looked more than a little familiar. He sighed and dug the heel of one hand into his eye. "Sam, tell me that's not Gabriel."

"Sure, Dean, it's not Gabriel," Sam replied obediently, sounding more than a little embarrassed.

The girl — who definitely was Gabriel — snorted and tossed her hair. "Well, what was I supposed to do? You really didn't want that guy getting his mitts on you, Sammy. Though I might get mine on him later." A distinctly wicked glint lit her eyes for a moment. Then her features melted back into Gabriel's, though he didn't let go of Sam. "Everyone ready for the big party? Because we are special guests." He pulled something out of thin air that looked like backstage passes, all big and square and shiny.

"What are those?" Cas asked. He leaned to peer more closely, and Gabriel snatched them back.

"You'll find out, bro. Come on!" He turned and tugged Sam behind him through the crowd. With a shrug at Dean, Sam let him, and with a shrug at Cas, Dean followed too, pulling Cas along.

Wherever they were going, Gabriel didn't seem to be in any hurry to get there, meandering around people and stopping to grin or flirt with them, or to buy things from vendors.

Some very nice cleavage bounced by, and Dean's eyes tracked it automatically; he snapped his eyes back guiltily to Cas, then boggled at himself. Seriously, what the fuck? After a moment, he registered that the girl was holding a plate of smallish doughnuts, grinning and offering him one. Grinning back, he took one and toasted her with it; she winked and bounced off.

The thing looked delicious, a dusting of sugar over a lightly browned pastry and squishy with the cream inside.  He admired it for a moment before raising it for a bite.

"Dean!" Sam caught his hand just shy of his mouth, almost making him drop it.

"Dude! Respect the pastry!" He glared at Sam.

Sam snorted. "Yeah, well, she offered one to Gabe, too. He didn't take it."

"So?" Dean shrugged. "Maybe the guy doesn't like doughnuts. More for me."

"Dean." Sam looked at him like he was an idiot. "You see how much sugar is on that thing?"

Dean eyed it. "Huh. Point." He narrowed his eyes at the sinister pastry. "You think it's poisoned or something?"

"It is not poison, Dean," Cas assured him gravely. "Nor did I sense any truly malicious intent in the lady." He frowned in thought. "Although perhaps some mischief."

Turning the doughnut over carefully in his hands, Dean picked at the edge of it and squeezed, trying to feel for anything inside that shouldn't be there. The cream oozed out a bit, and he eyed it — it was a weird yellowy brown. "What the heck?"

"Ruin all the fun." Gabriel poked his head into their little circle, and Dean would swear he was pouting. "You're supposed to eat it."

"What the hell is it?" Dean looked between the archangel and the doughnut incredulously. He poked at it and lifted his finger to sniff it. Then blinked and licked it, ignoring Sam's protest and confirming his thought. "Mustard? What the hell kind of sick bastard puts mustard in a doughnut?"

"The Germans, on New Year's." Gabriel grinned. "Didn't you know? Practical jokes are really big tonight." He waggled his eyebrows, then laughed maniacally as Dean groaned and Sam hung his head. "Come on!" With a distinct bounce in his step, he resumed dragging them toward wherever they were going.

 

 

Where they were going turned out to be some kind of concert hall, and Dean grimaced when he saw the setup — it looked like some kind of a circus.

Sam caught his look and leaned over to mutter to him. "Just go with it, Dean. He is trying."

"Very," Dean muttered back, and didn't think he was imagining the tiny smirk Gabriel threw their way. It was almost like a challenge, though, and hell if Dean was stepping down from that just for a couple of clowns. At least they were serving beer.

And, as it turned out, classic rock. And heavy metal. And really, really bendy girls. He and Sam shared some grins, explained some of the meanings of the imagery to Cas, and forcibly restrained Gabriel from messing with the "Stairway to Heaven" act, the archangel actually giggling like a loon. Dean wondered if you could get an archangel drunk, and if so, how much of an astronomically bad idea it would be.

They made it to the end of the show with no actual mishaps, though, and Dean hummed "Nothing Else Matters" under his breath as they stood watching the crowd leave. The happy crowd, and Dean took some time to just soak that in — all these people, oblivious and happy and alive, and wasn't that worth all the crap they'd been through?

"Dean?" Cas's voice was close, and when Dean turned to him, he realized he was leaning on Cas's shoulder.

"Whoops. Sorry, Cas." He patted Cas on the back and straightened a bit.

"I do not mind." Cas put a hand on his back as well, looking at him. "Are you well?"

"I'm fine." He shook his head. "Better than fine. Well, I will be." He smiled. "Guess it's gonna take a while for it all to sink in, huh? It's good, though."

"It is." Cas nodded seriously. "And it is because of you and Sam."

"And you, Cas," Dean protested. "And heck, even Gabe, okay? Don't tell him I admitted it, though; if there's a definition of 'big ego', it's him."

"Not the only thing that's big, Deano." Gabriel clapped him on the shoulder, and Dean winced at both the interruption and the mental image. "Glad to see you acknowledge my greatness, though. Ready for the fireworks? Literal, that is. Metaphorical are later and entirely up to you." He waggled his eyebrows.

"Ew, Gabe."

Gabriel smirked; Cas looked confused. Dean shook his head. "You don't wanna know." He gave Gabriel a look. "Can we just go?"

Gabriel bowed them past him like a master of ceremonies. "This way, gentlemen."

They ended up on top of an ornate and tall building that Dean was pretty sure wasn't intended for the lounge chairs Gabe snapped into existence, but he supposed that was a perq of having an archangel for a tour guide. The crowd below them was alive with laughter and music and sounds that Dean had to keep reminding himself were fireworks, not gunshots.

He huddled into his coat a little further. Gabriel had warmed up the air like their personal space heater, but it wasn't exactly warm even so. Then there was a touch on his shoulder, and he turned to see Cas sitting next to him. He could feel himself relaxing immediately; Cas had his back, and Sam was safe next to him.

Cas eyed him seriously. "If it is bothering you, we can leave."

"Nah, really. I'm good, Cas." He gripped Cas's arm reassuringly and met his eyes. "Promise."

Cas nodded at him. "If you are certain."

Gabriel popped back in from wherever he'd gone off to and plopped down between Dean and Sam, wrapping an arm around each of them. "Whaddaya say we set off our own fireworks, boys?"

"I'm going to repeat myself: ew." Dean shrugged off his arm.

Gabriel rolled his eyes. "Oh, please." He tossed a satchel into Dean's lap, and Dean caught it automatically. It was filled with just about every kind of small firework he'd ever seen, and a few he hadn't. "Aw, damn!" He sorted through them, grinning.

Sam laughed. "Dude, you're like a kid in a candy store."

"Be that way; maybe I won't share." He made a face at Sam, who made one back.

"Don't worry, I've got my own for him." Gabriel leered. Sam shook his head and Dean threw a wadded-up wrapper from his last food at him; it disappeared before it hit.

"Hey!" Sam smacked Dean on the shoulder. "They're starting!"

They looked up to the swell of the music and the spray of pyrotechnics, and the fireworks began. It was almost like being a little kid again, looking up at the bright lights, hearing the music as if it were directing them. Sam was next to him — well, one archangel's length away — and it was warm in their little oasis, and everything was right with the world, for once. He spared a wistful moment to wish his dad was there, looking higher above the smoke and sparks to send him a quick hello.

Still, for all the people they'd lost, they'd gained a few, too. Gabriel seemed content as a giant cat between the two of them, and Cas was warm against his side, pressing closer as the show wore on. Or maybe he was the one leaning into Cas; did it matter?

The fireworks ended, the music lowering as the announcer started the countdown to the new year, and the spell was diminished.

"'They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks'," Cas quoted.

"Hm?" Dean leaned his head to one side and braced one arm around Cas to look at him.

Cas shrugged. "We are very far from that peaceful day, I know. But still, to see such a destructive thing as gunpowder used purely for entertainment — it is heartening."

"Gives you a little bit of hope for them, doesn't it?" Gabriel asked, reaching across Dean to clasp Cas's shoulder.

"It would," Cas nodded, "if I did not already have it." He looked at Dean as he said it, and it was hard not to understand what had given him that hope in the first place.

Dean tried to say with his own eyes I'm not that great, Cas, really, I'm a pretty lame example, but he was pretty sure it was a lost cause. "Cas..."

"Dean." Cas's lips twitched in a tiny smile. "You are better than you give yourself credit for."

Dean sighed and gave up. "You're nuts."

"No, Dean," Sam piped in, in a "you're an idiot" tone, "he's biased."

"And I think you're both crazy," Gabriel added.

"Nobody asked you," Dean shot back.

"Can we just watch the countdown?" Sam gestured back at the display, and Dean decided maybe he still loved him after all.

And crap, as long as he was admitting sappy shit like that... "Hey, Cas?" He shifted his arm just a little, and it settled around Cas's shoulders as Cas's dropped to Dean's waist. He kept his eyes on the countdown display, listening to the crowd chant the numbers in unison. Funf, fier...

"Yes, Dean?" Cas looked at him, curious and patient and deceptively innocent.

"Happy new year." Dean pulled him in for a kiss as the crowd cheered.