Dean's wedged into the corner of the couch in the main room, television on, when Sam comes out, unable to stand the solitude. It's still raining, and what light leaks through the mostly closed curtains is storm-gray. Might be day or night; in weather like this, it doesn't matter.
Dean's eyebrows draw together as Sam walks over and slumps down next to him. "So. How's…." He tilts his chin toward the bedroom.
"I…don't know." And hey, that's not even a lie, really. Sam stares at the screen without really seeing it. He can almost feel the heat of his brother's familiar green-eyed gaze against his cheekbone. "I think…this whole thing…messed him up a bit."
Dean snorts, quietly. They won't ever be best buds, and the day Dean admits to actual, real live concern for Gabriel will probably be the day Sam buries him – again – but Sam's pretty sure Dean's come around to not detesting the archangel, if only for Castiel's sake. "Yeah, well, dying messes you up, that I can say for sure." He looks narrowly at Sam. "Dude, you sure you should be up? You look a little rough."
Sam's about got his mouth open to express shock and mock horror at Dean's concern – because that's what they do, after all – when he's brought up short by a soft, deep, gravelly voice. "You should both of you rest. You've been through much."
Dean is up and moving toward Castiel, who stands, or rather leans, in the bedroom doorway, still clad only in undershirt and the eternal black trousers. "Dude, you should definitely not be up."
"I'm fine, Dean." But the fact that he hasn't mojoed his clothes back to the usual has got to be saying something. "You and Sam should rest, though."
Dean, typically, ignores that. "C'mon, sit down." He gets Castiel settled on the couch next to Sam and then perches himself on the coffee table, right in front of them. This close, Sam sees the strain beneath the angel's borrowed flesh, seeping through in paler than usual skin and the bruised patches under his eyes.
"Thanks, Cas," Sam says, serious.
Castiel looks at him, sober and intent, and Sam sees the moment Castiel must see it, blue eyes widening, sees that something inside Sam is different. /Don't say anything yet, Cas,/ Sam thinks at him, urgently, as hard as he can. /Not yet./
Castiel blinks. "Thank you, Sam, for being willing to try, and for trusting me," is what he says, instead, and Sam tries not to sigh in relief. "Both of you. I desperately wished not to lose another brother, but there was no guarantee it would work."
"But that'd been done before, right?" Dean's eyebrows draw together. "I mean, that's how you knew for sure that Sam could touch the thing."
"The last time I saw a binding rod such as that, was during the purge of the Nephilim," Castiel says softly, wearily, letting go of the words as if they might return to bite him. "It's a weapon they created. At that time, humans and the Host were not exactly – allies, even the humans who wanted no part of the Children of Angels. None of the humans who – assisted – members of the Host thus injured survived the process, nor did most of the victims."
Castiel's eyes hold a shit-ton of things he carefully isn't saying, and Sam's stomach twists. "Oh."
Dean isn't so careful. "Wait. Wasn't Gabriel involved in all that?" he asks, his face darkening.
"Gabriel was the one ordered by our Father to seed their destruction. It –" Castiel takes a breath and looks down at his hands. "Despite their actions, it troubled him, greatly, to do so."
The look on Dean's face says that he's thinking, hard. Sam's thinking too, but probably not about quite the same thing. "Cas," he says softly, and the angel looks back at him. "Enoch talks about what happened to the Grigori, and the Nephilim. But what about the humans? The mothers?"
"The bonded?" And there's not a shred of doubt in Sam's mind that Castiel is using that term very, very deliberately. "To bond with a human was – unusual, but not in and of itself forbidden. The problem came with the bearing of children."
Dean's eyes narrow and Sam wants to wince, because – "What, we were good enough to screw but not to have little angel babies?"
The look Castiel turns on Dean now could peel paint. "It corrupted them. Human flesh was not designed to be able to endure having grace as part of its very fiber, not like that. It distorted them, and drove them to great and terrible things. And then it drove them mad. When it drove them finally to challenge Heaven, God said 'No more.'"
Castiel leans his head against the back of the couch and closes his eyes, and he looks, for the first time in a long time, like the ancient, unknowable being that he is. "That was the second war."
Dean swallows. "Shit. Cas, I –"
"Dean." Castiel doesn't move. "Please don't speak anymore."
Sam grimaces. Just Dean being Dean, but sometimes his timing really sucks.
Dean winces and looks away. Then his shoulders go back and he looks at his watch, and shoots to his feet.
"Dean?" Sam questions as his brother grabs his leather coat. He's afraid he knows the answer.
He does. "Bar open somewhere, Sammy," Dean says with false cheer. "Could use some cash." And he's gone, the door clicking closed behind him.
"Great," Sam mutters.
"Sam." Sam blinks, and finds Castiel looking straight at him. "What happened?"
Sam doesn't bother prevaricating, there's no point. "I don't know. Gabriel thought it was an accident, that somehow because I was bleeding and he was – angelling out and the magic from the rod – it all came together and –"
"Bonded you, yes. But it takes more than that. Where is Gabriel now?" Castiel asks.
"I don't know," Sam says again, and rubs at his chest. "He said something stupid about my 'virtue' and needing space and…." He aches and he sounds like a giant girl and he's approaching miserable and he doesn't like it, not one damn bit.
Castiel's eyes widen, and he sits up and leans in. "Sam. Listen. What you described – an accident, yes, and there Gabriel would know better than I. But this I do know – it takes more than circumstance to complete a bonding, even with a human. Particularly with a human. It takes love. It takes intent – from both parties. Do you understand?"
Sam stares, and his jaw drops as it clicks. "You're saying that even with the magic and everything, this still couldn't have happened – unless we both wanted it."
Castiel nods, a smile twitching at his mouth. "Yes. Gabriel is extremely powerful, but I don't think even he could change something so fundamental to our very nature."
Sam reels a little bit. He's only just discovered that he likes Gabriel enough to sleep with him, hasn't he? Where the heck did the "death do us part" part come in? And Gabriel feels it too? "Then why would he say that? Make it seem like this is some fuck-up he doesn't want?"
"He's injured, Sam. No matter how he looks to you, a strike like that is a serious injury to Gabriel himself, to his grace; that won't heal quickly, like the body will." Castiel tilts his head. "Aren't humans known for doing, saying stupid things when they're in pain?"
Sam snorts. "We do stupid things all the time, but pain can make it worse, that's for sure."
"You have to find him, Sam. He will heal better if he's closer to you."
"Can't you – I don't know, sense him or something, tell me where he is?"
Castiel raises one eyebrow, and Sam'd bet a twenty that he learned that from Dean. "Gabriel has hidden from the entire Host for millennia. That situation has not changed. But you should be able to find him."
Castiel's smile looks sad. "Bonding is – discouraged among the Host, now. I've never been bonded, to anyone, so I can't tell you that. But aren't you feeling him, even now?" And it's only now, as Castiel reaches over and touches the back of Sam's hand, that Sam realizes that he's still massaging at the spot where he aches. And that it's roughly the same spot where the rod had torn into Gabriel's chest.
Sam blinks. Now that he's thinking about it, he feels the chime echo as well, already very much a part of him. He tries to concentrate on it, and damn, that feels good, but it's not doing what he wants, needs it too. He takes a deep breath and tries to relax, instead, and – oh. Maybe he feels – a pull? No, not a pull exactly, but maybe a direction? Like seeing faint stars more clearly in the corners of his eyes, rather than looking directly at them.
"Yeah," Sam says. "I feel him."