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All Is Fair In Life and War

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.-~*~-.

“Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely.”

Edna St. Vincent Millay

~-.-~

“Wait. Are you dead?”

Gabriel smirked and wagged his eyebrows before snapping his fingers and transporting himself to his holding cell in Heaven. Not that he had much of a choice. Damned overgrown worm. Really, he was disappointed in Castiel for not catching on sooner. That “lesson” had gone on far too long. It was a painful mockery of his own brutal lessons. If it had been his script, he’d have toyed a hell of a lot more with the seraph before the end of the show. Possibly killed someone again. Unlucky Metatron, he’d managed to sneak a couple tricks in to warn Castiel that it was false. Of course it was the damned continuity error that did it.

“I’m waiting!” The archangel yelled impatiently, shaking the cell door and scowling. “Metadick! Come on! We had a deal! Time to hold up your end!”

It felt like hours before Metatron finally showed his face. But he did show, and he seemed far too pleased with himself.

“You kick a box of puppies?” He asked kicking at the ward on the floor while glaring at the angel.

“Something like that. I got Gadreel back.”

“So your plan went North? Good for you. Can I go now?”

“You seem to be in a rush, Gabriel.” The worm acknowledged and he scowled.

“What can I say? I prefer my Pagans over slimy overgrown toads. I gotta head home since my last hidey hole has been compromised.”

“How did you fake your death?” The reigning ruler of Heaven asked boldly and he scowled.

“Can’t take the trick outta the Trickster. That’s my game, book nerd. You’ve seen it.” A fact that he was well versed in since the Scribe had monologued about it for hours not long after imprisoning him.

“I read your death, Gabriel. Lucifer stabbed you in the heart, your wings burnt out, and you were gone.”

“While that’s all true, it’s not the whole story. But I’m not telling you my trick. It was my queen and now she’s dead. No redos. It’s not part of the deal. I’m free to go to Helheim and you can carry on your merry little God phase.”

“Not much for talk. I have to say that I didn’t expect that.”

“I’m just done listening to your petty attempts at drawing information outta me. I’m out. Break the bindings. Now.” Gabriel ordered, True Voice leaking with archangelic authority that he rarely used. The arrogant angel looked startled, though and he felt a smug sense of satisfaction burning through him at it. Served the dick right. If it wasn’t for his desire to keep true to the agreement, as well as the angel's current possession of the Angel Tablet, he’d be making his point. Unfortunately, a deal was a deal and if he reneged on his side, Metatron would return the favor.

“Fine fine.” Metatron tapped the bar of the cell and the warding fell away, door flinging open as he stepped back. “Done. Happy?”

“What I wouldn’t give to smite you into the next millennium.”

“Didn’t think of you as the kind to break a deal.”

“I’m not.”

“Have fun with your Pagan brats. If I see you where you shouldn’t be, I’ll drag you right back here.”

“You would make a hideous woman.” Gabriel responded, glowering as he snapped his fingers to put a temporary illusion spell on the douchebag, disappearing in the same instant and diving right into Helheim.

*~-~*

“Not that I’m not thrilled that you’re home, because it is wonderful, what I can’t begin to comprehend is why you didn’t come to me first!” His daughter exploded on him, anger pulsating off of her in waves of righteous fury.

Gabriel bowed his head slightly, acknowledging the gathered crowd of souls lining the Norse Goddess of Death’s skeletal throne. “It was dangerous, at the time. Then I was simply hiding. I know you are angry-”

“Angry doesn’t begin to touch it, Father.” Hela hissed, “You abandoned me, us. Do you know how much it broke Fen's heart when I told him our Father was dead? Not just that you were dead, but Odin and all those other Pagans your brother from the one God killed were gone. Most the ones that were meant to bring forth the true Ragnarök were wiped from the planet in a single moment and you didn’t consider for a moment that your children deserved to know!”

“It was dangerous, Hela Bell. I’d have told you but if the wrong person overheard? Nope. I’m sorry. I am. I just couldn’t risk it. I know you’re pissed, and you have every right in the world to send me away.”

Hela watched him, pressing her lips together before rising to her feet. “I will make a deal with you, Gabriel.” Hela started in coolly. “You will be welcomed back in among the Æsir, if you forsake your archangelic heritage.”

It was a show, and even if he was lying to the others, it wasn’t to his daughter. Hela would never ask him to do that just as much as he would never ask her to forsake her throne. It was why he was so willing to do it. This was a case where his word was his bond because it wasn’t a formal word. It was a show. One he stepped back from and let a construct perform, cloaking himself from the prying eyes of everyone but his daughter.

“Whatever you wish of me, Daughter.” The construct spoke formally, kneeling before Hell and placing his head on his knee.

“Do you forsake Heaven, and all bonds and ties that come with those entities?”

“I do.”

“Do you swear loyalty to your family here, to the remaining members of the Æsir?”

“I swear.”

“Now rise, Father. Loki of the Æsir.” The construct rose to its feet and Hela nodded once. “I would like some time alone with him. Clear the room.” Once the crowd was gone his construct dissipated and he had an armful of his daughter, holding her tight against his chest as she buried her face in his shoulder. “I hate you.”

“It’d probably make your life a whole lot easier if you did.” Gabriel mused, holding her close to him as he sighed softly. “I’m sorry, Hela. I truly am.”

“Fen is dead.”

“I know.” Gabriel swallowed, tugging her closer and pressing his forehead against the top of her head. “I was at the funeral. You know that his death was not our fault, though.”

“No. It was his. I’m not stupid. I just wondered…”

“I may have hidden, but I’ve always watched over you. All of you. If I could have done anything for your brother, I would have, but he was lost.” The reality was more brutal than he would ever let his daughter in on. Fen had completely lost his mind and the hunters that took him out? They were right to do so. Some people just can’t be helped, and Fen was one of those victims. Even if he had shown his face, he knew his son well enough to know that he wouldn’t have been saved.

If only that was a lesson he could have crammed into a certain Winchester’s thick skull. Well, that was history, better to forget it since he had absolutely zero intentions of being directly involved with them.

“Mother?”

“Yeah, I’m listening.” Gabriel glanced at his daughter to see her glaring at him with a look so sharp it could’ve killed. Not that he minded. It was a look he hadn’t received in years.

“No, you aren’t.”

“I-” Trying to defend himself was a trick, especially when he knew he’d been caught but…

“I called you mother.”

There. Gabriel threw on a casual grin, “Well, I am Sleipner’s mother. Who’s to say I wasn’t considering going back to woman?”

“How about your unholy obsession with that Vessel?”

“Haven’t you been topside? They’ve got trannies and drags and all sorts of crossdressers. Besides. Physical body doesn’t make the gender.” Gabriel retorted, waggling his finger at his scowling daughter and swapping his outfit for much more feminine attire. His daughter groaned loudly and shielded her eyes.

“We aren’t Scottish! Get rid of the damned kilt!”

“It’s a skirt. Besides, our Viking pals wore dresses.” Gabriel retorted, pouting petulantly as he considered for a moment just how far he could actually go with this before she got honestly annoyed with him.

“They weren’t dresses, and they weren’t plaid. Plaid skirt on a man equals kilt.” Hela retorted, waving her hand and effectively changing his outfit to a long black dress which he rolled his eyes at. “Better.” His daughter’s gaze went across him once. “If you insist that you were listening, that is.” Then she turned and began walking from the main hall, heading towards the entrance and the garden he knew was past those doors.

“Of course I was listening.” He responded, refusing to be bested as he trailed after his daughter, ignoring the awkward way the dress clung to his male body. There was no way he was going to give up on this little argument.

“Well, fine. If you were listening, what was it that I offered you while you stay?”

Now honestly, he could’ve picked her mind but that would be playing dirty. If he was playing the part of being Loki rather than Gabriel, he couldn’t read her mind. Besides, it was more fun this way. “I’m refuting your offer, daughter. I’m not going to leave so there’s no reason to have terms for while I’m here.”

“I’ve heard a lot of evasions from you. That might be the worst one.” Hela acknowledged blandly, shaking her head and sighing heavily.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. So, what do you think about sharing some of your lipgloss. Oooh, maybe a bra. I mean, I know I can summon it up but there’s something about-”

“Odin help me.” Hela bit out with a dirty look over her shoulder as the large doors flung open. “I’m not going to feed into your ridiculous behaviors, Father.”

“Aw, you love them though.”

“That’s up for debate. I know that sooner or later you’re going to get stir crazy. That’s who you are. You’re the messenger of the one god. You aren’t supposed to stay in one place for extended periods of time. Not to mention you’re Loki. If you aren’t causing trouble, then you aren’t living. I’m not going to chain you here. I love you too much to do that to you.”

Gabriel’s expression softened as he caught her by her wrist before she could step onto the path. “Hela.”

“Let me go.”

“You’re being too nice to me. The last two times I’ve been with family, one stabbed me in the heart, and one imprisoned me.”

“That’s because angels are vermin. It shouldn’t surprise you. Every single time someone gets involved with angels they end up hurt. Dead, or worse.”

“I’m an angel at my roots.”

“I never said you didn’t fall into that category. I don’t like Gabriel, and even if you like to wear your Loki mask, even if you pretend that mother actually had us with you, when you fall back to your roots you will always choose Heaven over me, over us, and that’s fine. I know where I stand with you. I want you back, though. I want you here, until you leave again. Can you promise me to stay for two years?”

Gabriel shut his eyes, dropping his daughter’s arms and swallowing heavily. “I swear I will stay with you for two years. I promise, Hela.”

“Thank you.” Hela responded quietly as she returned to her walk. “Thank you, Father.”

“You’re welcome, Daughter.” Gabriel responded as he followed her into her garden, decaying plants lining the pathways and potted plants surrounding them, reminding him exactly what his daughter’s position as the Norse goddess of death meant.

~-.-~

Chapter Text

.-~*~-.

Gabriel dodged back as Thor flung his hammer, barely succeeding at his avoiding the large object as he threw himself to the other side of the field. “Loki!” The god bellowed as he manifested four constructs, each one of them backing away in the same moment that he did, all moving in very different directions. The angry god whipped his head from side to side, long red hair whipping around as lightning thrummed beneath his skin.

“Come on, Thor.” They all said in unison. “I know you’re smart enough to figure it out.”

“You whimpering coward! You had sex with my wife! Fight like the god you claim to be!”

“Ah, but I am.” Gabriel responded, speaking in unison with himself and causing thunder the crack across all of Asgard as Thor’s anger grew stronger. “I’m being the Loki you know, and the Loki you know would never dare go into hand to hand combat with you.” The words echoed with his clones, his voice reverberating across the area around them.

“Thor, please.” Sif tried pleading again from where she was at the other end of the field, still clad in her thin silken robe that was almost enough to distract Gabriel from his illusions. “Let it go.” Except it didn’t seem like she really meant it, in fact, if he didn’t know any better… oh she wanted this. The little nuisance.

“Go inside, Sif! We will discuss this later.” Thor ordered his wife and Gabriel rolled his eyes, instantly regretting the action when Thor’s gaze locked on the correct version of him, hammer slamming right into his back as Thor summoned his hammer back. With the impact he was sent falling flat on his face with a pained shout -because archangel or not- that hurt. “I should rip your flesh off piece by piece.” Thor started in on him as he Gabriel fumbled to his feet, body healing a hell of a lot slower than it should have. “I put up with a lot of things from you- but my wife?”

“It takes two to tango, Thor.” Gabriel jibed, backing off and glowering at him. “She seduced me.”

Lightning crackled through the air and Gabriel took a step back, eyes narrowed as Thor charged his hammer. “I would never believe a lie like that, Loki. Surely you didn’t expect me to.”

Thor.” Hela’s voice broke the air, lightning draining from the atmosphere in a moment.

“He slept with my wife. I am not in the wrong.”

“There are greater issues than your wife sleeping around. I need to speak with my father.”

“He deserves punishment!”

“Should I punish your wife as well, then? After all. As my father so elegantly put it, it takes two to tango. Let it go, Thor. You saw past his illusions and struck him down.”

“This is not over.” Thor spat before disappearing along with his wife. Gabriel turned around slowly as Hela approached him.

“What’s wrong, Hela?” Gabriel asked suddenly, concerned at the distress on her face.

“I received a message.” She responded solemnly, turning and cutting a door into the air that she stepped through. Hesitating for only a moment before following her inside, coming out in his daughter’s bedroom where a valkyrie was scurrying out frantically.

“Really?”

“You have no place to judge me for my choice of bedfellows, Father. Did you really have to sleep with Sif?”

“I was being serious. She approached me! Why-”

“You know better. I can’t say I expected more from you, but I wish I could. Creating drama with Thor again? That isn’t what we need right now.”

“What would you have me do? Refuse her and be blamed anyways? The moment I was in her sights it was going to blow up in my face. Might as well-” Gabriel stopped dead when he caught sight of the figure in the corner of the room. Angel.

“Gadreel?” Gabriel blurted, stiffening slightly at the sight of the angel that had singlehandedly allowed Lucifer to corrupt the human race. What in the ever-living hell was he doing there?

“Gabriel.” The angel responded, eying him with a look that he couldn’t quite comprehend. It was too old, too ancient. A look that Gabriel had never thought he would see again. And Gadreel? Of all of the angels in Heaven, Gadreel was here?

What in the hell was an angel doing in Helheim? More importantly, Gadreel. Gabriel remembered God ordering his death, actually it was him that delivered that message to Michael. Why was he still alive? Even if he’d been alive, in Heaven’s prison no doubt- wouldn’t Gabriel have seen him? Unless Metatron banishing all of Heaven’s angels had knocked him out of the prison.

“What the fuck are you doing here?”

“Metatron has sent me.” Gadreel responded stoically and Gabriel shuddered slightly.

“We had a deal, I’ve held up my end so you can fuck right off.”

“Father.” Hela interjected sharply. “Listen to what he has to say.”

Gabriel ground his teeth together but shut his mouth, not for his sake but for hers. “Fine. What are you doing here?”

“Metatron has requested your presence, Gabriel. If you fail to comply, then he will destroy all of the Norse realms.”

“He’s breaking our deal?” Gabriel asked, tone leaking with anger while he remained completely relaxed, sharp gaze on the angel that was smart enough to flinch, looking down at the marble floor.

“I’m just the messenger-”

“The messenger of the new god delivering to the messenger of the real God? I hope you understand the immense level of stupidity of that statement. No, not just stupidity, mind-numbing idiocy. I mean, I knew you were probably dropped as a fledgling since Luci manipulated you into Falling. I still can’t believe you’ve Fallen this far.”

“We have all Fallen, Gabriel.”

“Not like you. How did you get someone to consent to your possession? Any level-headed Christian knows your name. No one would say ‘yes’ to you just like no one would say ‘yes’ to Luci without deception. Don’t come here pretending to be on the side of good when I have no doubt you lied to get that Vessel.”

“I did not-”

“I’m sure there’s some sort of rational explanation to the reason why he’s sleeping then? No. I know you’re a lot of things, Gadreel but stupid is not one of them. You claimed that body by lying. You did the angelic equivalent of a rape, and now you’re standing here as though you’re better than me.”

“That is not what we’re discussing.” Gadreel retorted stiffly. “Metatron wishes to speak with you.”

“I’ll come talk to him. If he touches our realm, though. I will destroy him.”

“You seriously underestimate him, Gabriel.”

“And you really underestimate Winchesters, Gadreel. Trust me. I’ve been down that road and it’s going to end badly for you. Once they figure out how to take down Metatron, you’re going to get caught in the crossfire. I can feel the lingering of his soul on you, at some point you stupidly possessed Sammy, and that? That’s going to blow up in your face. They’ll kill you.”

“You have no idea what you’re talking about.” The angel responded rigidly before backing up, disappearing through the realm wall. It took all of his willpower not to chase after the arrogant little angel. No, he’d let Winchesters deal with that problem. They always found a way, and they’d gone plenty of time without his help.

“Hela-”

“You should not go.” There was an air to Hela’s words, a quiver of something he couldn’t quite place but he knew the cause of. “Ignore the summons.”

“Then what?” Father help him he hated the way his voice broke with that question. “Metatron’s a dickbag that I should’ve smote into the deepest pits of the Empty but I didn’t. He doesn’t make idle threats and if I ignore him-”

“You said the angels Fell from Heaven, right?”

“Yeah, their wings are all shredded to bits. As of this moment, Metatron and me are the only angels on Earth with wings.”

“Can he alone attack us, Father? We could-”

“We’re not having this discussion.” Gabriel cut in suddenly, turning a stern look on his daughter. “Do you understand, Hela? We are not discussing this. I’m not pitting a war against the strongest angel in Heaven and the rest of the Norse pantheon. I-”

“You are the strongest angel, Gabriel.”

“No. I’m not, not anymore.” Gabriel responded, suddenly unable to look at his daughter as guilt and shame clouded him. “Do you remember what I told you about Metadick?”

“He is the ruler of Heaven.”

“Yeah, well it’s more complicated than that. He’s juiced up on the Angel Tablet. That crap channels God’s power. I know you like disregarding His legitimacy, but it’s true. He’s using my Father’s power now. I can’t fight against him and win without destroying the Tablet. You know the story of what Lucifer did to Odin, to the others. Metatron is at least twice that right now. I’m going to stand before him because if I don’t, if we try to stand against him, he will destroy us. All of us. You’re my family, and Metatron is a dick. But he’s powerful. I haven’t been afraid of someone since I fought The Darkness, but he’s a threat.”

“But, Father-”

“Hela, I’m not doing this with you. The answer is no. You’re not declaring a damned war on Heaven. Is that clear?”

Huffing a breath of irritation his daughter crossed her arms over her chest, defiance in her expression.

“Is that clear?”

“Fine.” Was the petulant response from the Goddess of the dead.

“What are you? Two again?”

“Coming from the god of childish behavior. I’ll leave it for now, but this conversation isn’t over.” His daughter’s gaze was wary, searching, and he knew she had every intention of bringing it back up again. Hela was just as stubborn as he was.

“It really is.” Gabriel responded, giving his daughter a hard look before snapping his fingers, transporting himself through one of Heaven’s many back doors.

~-.-~

Chapter Text

.-~*~-.

Gadreel was waiting for him, and while it should have annoyed him that The Squib of God had known exactly where he was going to come through, he hadn’t been lying when he told Hela that Metatron was feeding off God power. Unlike his brothers -and once sister due to Luci- who could do base level omnipotence on Earth, Metatron was feeding off of God energy and with the right spellwork could more than likely do so much more. Gabriel was already well aware of the angel’s ability-

“-to read your mind.” The scene around him shifted to reveal a small impractical office with Metatron sitting at a desk, wearing an ugly as all hell robe.

“Among other things.” Gabriel responded with a glower. “So, what’s with the call to arms?”

“I have an issue that needs to be dealt with.”

“What’s that got to do with me? We had a deal, Metatron.”

“Ah, yes. Your freedom for playing out my trick on Castiel. Except you screwed it up.”

I screwed it up?” Gabriel scowled, eyes narrowing.

“Continuity errors are your flair, Gabriel. Your means to an end. I’ve read your greatest hits, remember? I let it go because you got my message across.”

“Oh really? So, what am I doing here, then? If I did what I was told- albeit with perfectly reasonable reluctance and more than predictable defiance- then our deal was held up. There’s no reason for me to be here, Metatron. Unless you’re the kind of god that lies.”

“I’d watch your tongue, Gabriel.”

“Or what? You’ll kill me? Lock me back up? You know you can’t keep me in either of those places. I don’t go down easy. Luci's proof enough of that.”

“I don’t need to do either of those things when I have these.” Metatron waved his hand and four rings appeared on his desk. None of the dramatic flair they deserved. The four rings that Gabriel had singlehandedly lead the hunters to all those years ago and horror clawed at his gut as the implications dawned with him.

Metatron was a dick, but he wasn’t that sadistic- right?

There was no point in running, no point in trying to steal the rings when apparently Metatron himself had Death’s, Death who so rarely intervened it was a miracle he’d shown for the Apocalypse at all.

“What do you want?”

“I need your horn.”

“You’ve got it already.” Gabriel scowled, stepping back.

“Not that one. You know exactly what I’m talking about, Gabriel. I’ve got your 'party trick'. I want the horn.”

“Why in the ever-living hell would I give you that? You’re bold, but you’re not suicidal.”

“I’m not stupid enough to open The Cage with that thing, but I think you are if you decide your brothers are the safer alternative to me. Which I can promise you, isn’t the case.”

“Lucifer tried to kill me.” Gabriel responded bitterly. “Well, he did kill me. You expect me to pop him from the box just because I don’t like you ruling Heaven?”

“Michael didn’t.”

“Yeah well Michael didn’t take The Cage well. Last update from Luci said he was a whimpering ball of tears.”

“You believe him?”

“Say what you will about him. Luci doesn’t lie. Granted his truth isn’t always our truth but if he says Mikey’s lost his mind, he’s lost it. So I’m not- wait, why the fuck am I explaining this to you? I’m not giving you my damned horn. It’s in a safe spot and I’m not stupid enough to use it. Now if that’s all you-”

All at once his blood ran cold, ice shooting down his spine and rage igniting in him as a prayer pierced his Grace, a cry for help. “You bastard.”

The scribe’s eyes lit and Gabriel launched himself from Heaven in a desperate flurry, diving through dimensional walls and coming out in the Norse realm.

“Time flows in realms based on its ruler. Five minutes here can be ten years on Earth.” Raphael had once told him what felt like a millennium ago. Maybe it was. God, he didn’t know anymore, all he knew was that when he arrived in the Norse realm it looked like they had been at war for years. The problem was the reality. This wasn’t a war, this was a slaughter. The first angel that saw him panicked and disappeared through the realm walls, and each and every other angel that saw him froze for a fraction of a second before doing the same.

He didn’t care.

Angels were drones at their roots, and Metatron was their leader. No. That didn’t matter. What mattered was the prayer he’d received a week too late. A prayer that had sounded from the deepest corners of Helheim.

The only thing that mattered. The doors flung open as he stormed in, energy crackling around him as his wings threatened against the edge of the veil where he kept them. More angels were here, Valkyrie bodies lay strewn about and he noticed Thor at the foot of Hela's throne, three dead angels laying and blood-soaked hammer still gripped firmly, even in death. It was a wonder anyone had managed to steal the thing from him before.

For a fraction of a moment he let himself grieve the asshole, then he was storming through the Halls of his daughter's castle, snapping a noose around the only angel stupid enough to attack him's neck and finding his way into his daughter’s heavily warded room.

The scene inside was bloody, horrible. There were three Valkyrie dead on the floor, two standing just inside the door armed with angel blades in tortured expressions.

“Loki-” One started and he gave her a hard look that shut her mouth. Váli was curled on her feet, shaking violently with his paw covering his face.

“Hela.” Loki breathed, joining his children’s side and staring at the wound in her side poisoned. If this was Metatron… Gabriel pressed his hand against her side, eyes burning when his grace didn’t touch her.

‘The angel said we would all die. Not just her but me, Narfi, and Jormun too. We’re his final targets.’ Váli's quiet telepathic voice came from the wolf and his teeth clenched.

“Your sister isn’t dead yet.” Gabriel snapped at his son who flinched away, hiding his face under his paw again. “He already killed Narfi to throw the angels from Heaven. Jormun's dead. You’re still here, though. And your sister is too. I’m not losing all of you. I won’t.

“Dad.” Hela's voice broke the air and Gabriel’s gaze snapped to her. “You can’t… I was wrong.”

“You’ll get through this. I’ll get-”

“It’s over for me.” She interrupted him and his eyes burned with tears as he shook his head, gripping her hand tightly. “Get Váli and go.”

“No. I’m not leaving you.”

“Yes, you are. It’s your best skill. Get him and get the fuck out of here before they find him. Run.”

“Hela-”

“Listen to me. I know you don’t want to, but you need to. He’s after all of us. The only reason Váli's alive is the angels don’t know he’s a wolf. Once they figure it out… Stay out of it. Whatever you do. Stay out of it. No revenge. Just-” Hela gasped sharply, back arching off the bed and he stared in horror as her form shimmered and dissipated into nothingness, leaving his hand grasping at air.

Hela.

'Dad.’

“I shouldn’t have left.”

'Dad.’

“Gather the other Valkyrie, Einar. All of them. We’re getting Váli the fuck out of here.”

“Loki…” Einar responded uneasily, meeting his gaze.

What?

“We’re the last. It’s only us.” A sob threatened to escape him, the rawest purest emotion he’d felt in decades, and he couldn’t dare show it. Not here, not now. He had to be strong, even when he was fucking scared to his rawest form. Scared and angry. But he had to focus. Get Váli out. Get him out.

“I can’t fly us out. I’m grounded in Helheim and my only way out is a one person ticket.”

“I can’t fight angels.” A snap of his fingers and the spears the two Valkyrie were wielding were coated in angel steel.

“Now you stand a chance.” Gabriel looked at his son who was watching him from the bed, the eternal wolf pup watching him with tired, sad eyes.

“I know you hate being treated like a puppy but I need you with me.”

'I can’t leave.’

“What the hell are you talking about?”

'It was never a problem. My curse, dad. Your punishment. I can’t leave the Norse realm, if I do I lose all of my sentience. I become a common beast.’

In other words, he was gone. Just as good as Hela. In one, single, stupid move he was alone. His secondary family, the ones that took him in when he fled from Heaven, they were gone.

It was over.

So, he did what any father would do for a son they loved. He sat down on the edge of the bed and lifted his protesting child into his arms, hugging him close. His flesh and grace, distributed among two children…

“Here, or Earth. I can’t break your curse, so it’s your choice.”

'I love you, Dad but… I want to die with my mind. I want to be me.’

“I wish we’d done more together.”

'We did enough. You faked Narfi's death. You found me a place with Hela. I could never ask you for more. You did the best you could. You hid us from Heaven- your mistake divided into two, and you took them in. You gave me siblings.’

Gabriel held his son close, kissing a furry cheek. “I never did. I was a coward. I should have fought harder for you.”

'You did your best in our crazy world. Run, Dad. I don’t want you to see this.’

“Váli…”

You watched Hela. You don’t deserve this. Run.’

“No.”

'Now.’ His son ordered and with one final pained look his son squirmed out of his arms and onto his sister’s bed, shaking his coat out and meeting his gaze with pain and fear etched into his expression.

“I’m sorry.” Then he did what no father ever should do. He turned his attention to the two remaining Valkyrie. “Protect him.” He ordered quietly before stepping back, feet touching down on the Earth as the first tears fell.

*~-~*

Gabriel walked through the empty halls of Helheim. So far he had found Jörmungandr and -to his silent anguish- Sleipnir's corpses. Which left the final two. The ones he’d been avoiding.

Hela's room was near the front, nowhere near far enough away for him to prolong the waiting sight.

I left him. It was hard to decide whether that had been a bad choice or not. It was the most difficult decision he had made in his entire life. Except in reality he hadn’t made a choice. He’d just acted, and there hadn’t been time to think it out. It had just been a matter of move.

So when he stepped outside her room, he froze, staring at the blood-spattered door.

There was no way… He wasn’t that close… There were more hallways. There was more time.

Except the door was soaked in blood and he knew his son’s corpse was on the other side. A fact. Something he knew as well as he knew breathing. Just like he’d known the moment the others were killed. Something as basic as breathing for humans. The knowledge of the lifelines of his children -adopted or not- was embedded in his very Grace.

Finish it. Easier thought than done, but he did what he had to. Slowly, so damned slowly, he pulled open the door and stepped inside. It wasn’t a bloodbath- well not exactly. There were six dead angels in various positions, one still had the Valkyrie’s spear protruding from its chest and another had the distinct imprint of wolf teeth on its throat.

At first, Gabriel didn’t see him. Honestly, he probably was avoiding the sight. It wasn’t just a matter of another dead body. It wasn’t going to be just any dead body. Not Sleipnir or Jörmun. Hela didn’t have a corpse for him to get, but Váli was another story. Váli was one of his two children, one of his nephillim, and he was part of Gabriel’s grace. Unlike the other three, Váli had been half of his nephillim child, divided into two to protect him. One of two.

His child.

His stomach lurched at the sight of Váli on the bed, the only blessing being that the angel that killed him? He’d made it quick. There was no doubt in his mind that they’d just gotten it over quickly. No one wanted to kill a kid, not angels and not even if they were Pagans. Eternally cursed to look as a young wolf, his curse became a blessing in the last moment.

Father, thank you. Yeah, he knew it didn’t have a damned thing to do with God, but he couldn’t help but pray. It was still ingrained in him, just as natural as everything else. Angels prayed. It was their roots, hell even Lucifer prayed.

Of course, it irritated the hell out of him. Especially here. God had no standing here. Not in Helheim. Not in the Norse realm. Not in any of them. Not- His thoughts skidded to a stop when he spotted a VHS tape sitting on the end table. Normally in this place, here and now, he wouldn’t have given it two thoughts. This was a graveyard. Yet, he knew for a fact that the tape hadn’t been there before, and it was cloaked to the brim in angel warding- not Archangel. Where the hell had it come from?

“Váli? Was this you?” He asked quietly, swallowing heavily as he snapped a TV with a VCR into existence on the dresser, forcing his gaze from the blood-soaked bed. Later. He could do this later. For now… This had to be important. It had to be. That was the only reason it would be there.

A click of his fingers and the tape was flying across the room, pressing into the VCR with a metallic sound. Please be good.

Hey, Dad.” Hela's voice chimed from the TV as a fuzzy image came into view. It was Hela on her bed with Váli curled up in her lap. “I want to start with an apology. See I didn’t think about it sooner. I’ve prayed now, but I know it’s too late.” A scream sounded in the background and she flinched, Váli pressing his face against her chest. “I guess I get my best cues from you, better late than never. I’m telling Váli to bring this out when the inevitable happens, but not before. If it’s before, you won’t listen. I love you, and I’m sorry. But I have to beg you. Here and now, I have to give you my last dying wish. Not just mine, but Váli’s too. You can’t… Don’t do something stupid. Let us fall. Don’t get yourself killed by going back. You’re Loki. You’re our father. Prove that. Abandon Heaven. Hold onto your legacy as Loki, pagan god. Please, Father. Do this for us. Do this for me. I don’t want you to die and you’ve made it clear that this Metatron is capable of killing you.”

“Hela.”

I love you. We love you. I just-”

“Hela, Norse Goddess of the dead.” A voice broke the air on the video, angelic without any doubt, and the image went dead. All he could do was stare at the screen, heart breaking at the impossible, final request of his daughter. God.

How could she ask him that? Let Metatron slaughter them all? No revenge?

Damn it.

How could he refuse her? With a shaky breath he turned his attention to where Váli was laid out on the bed, throat slit.

The final body of his final child. Then… what? Did he do what she asked or did he go on a rampage in Heaven until Metadick killed him?

Damn.

~-.-~

Chapter Text

.-~*~-.

The day The Darkness was released Gabriel had been restoring Thor’s home. While it hadn’t been much to begin with, he had been running low on things to do to occupy his free time. If he went to Earth? If he saw the fallout from the Fallen? There was no way he could prepare himself for that.

It was better if he just… stayed in the ruins of his secondary home. Because that was better.

Okay. It really wasn’t. It was grief, pain, and misery. All of it was pure, raw, torture. Every waking moment was another reminder of what he’d failed to do. If it wasn’t for the Winchesters and Castiel turning the worm into a damned human he knew for a fact he would’ve broken his promise to himself, that he would’ve left Metatron to die on a damned spike for all of the world to see because he deserved no less. Except humanity was a pretty justified punishment for an asshole like him. Probably a punishment he would’ve given as Loki if he hadn’t been emotionally invested in the situation.

But that was irrelevant. Theoretically. Everything changed for him the moment the first bell rang, then the second, then the other hundred.

All of the warning bells rang out at once.

For the first time in a very long time -because even during The Apocalypse neither had ever done it- he sensed Lucifer and Michael actively keying into angel radio. It was just a fraction of a moment, but it happened. All three of them did, and each reaction was completely different. Michael’s reaction something resembling a deranged whimper of fear, Lucifer making a delighted sound that absolutely meant nothing good for anyone, and his own shout of panic.

The Darkness. Who had been bold- no stupid enough to release her?

Winchesters.

Gabriel was halfway to Earth for the first time since his children were slaughtered when he was intercepted by something old- and for a fraction of a second he feared the worst. Considering the years of silence, the most rational reaction was the worst case, and since she was now free?

What he didn’t expect was the sight of Chuck Shurley sitting at a bar. Not just any bar, though, and not just any prophet.

If he was honest, he’d never considered it for a moment. Prophets had once been his deal, but that was a lifetime ago. Now?

Well, he had more than enough experience with warding and cloaking magic to see right through the damned charade, mask or not.

“Father.” He greeted bitterly, glowering at God who turned his head with a small smile.

“Gabriel. Or is it Loki now?” The condescending dickbag asked him.

“It’s fuck you, that’s what it is. You-” His voice vanished and he huffed an angry breath, dropping into the seat furthest from God and snapping himself a martini.

“You should mind your tongue, Gabriel.” His abandoner Father lectured him, as though he had any damned right to act as an authoritarian figure over him. Helheiml no.

After a violent glare at God his voice was returned and he was speaking, “I’m not going to do anything resembling that. You- you abandoned us. Did you see what Luci did? Metadick? And you what? Sat on your ass in a crappy bar that’s not even worthy of daytime soap operas? No, I’m not going to treat you with any more respect than I was treated for running!”

“Yes, I saw. Each time it was solved.” Completely missing the point, that wasn’t the point. How did the creator of the universe not get the damned point?

“Barely! And with bigger repercussions each time! Christ, you’re God.

“Yes, I am.” His Father responded with a dark look. “Which is something you would do well to remember.

“Or what? You’ll smite me? Throw me in the Cage with Mikey and Luci? Come on. Same story over and over again. You have no new tricks up your sleeves. Haven’t in a long time. So get to it, pops! What’s the deal, why’d you bail on Heaven? What’s your sob story?”

“I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I want to know exactly why you left. I want to know the whole story.”

“You’re God.” He reminded him bitterly.

“No, my name is Chuck, and call me a curious writer rather than God.”

“Ugh. Even your personas are crap. Shitty names, crap stories. Fine, though. I bailed after you left because-”

“No, Gabriel. I want the full story.”

Grinding his teeth together he glared at his Father. “You left. Michael and Raphael were dull, arrogant, assholes, and Luci was gone. I could’ve played with the fledglings but they just weren’t able to keep up with my exuberant personality. Happy?”

“Not really.”

“Well too bad.”

“Why the Pagans, Gabriel? Of all of the things on Earth you could have done, you chose Pagans. You possessed Loki.”

“It was my silent way of telling you to fuck off.” Gabriel responded with more honesty than he’d planned. “Of all the places you chose on Earth, you became… Chuck Shurley, Raphael’s prophet. Not even a very good one. You know you’re a crap writer, right?”

“I wrote the world’s biggest bestseller.” He disregarded the insult entirely. “So that’s it? You went to the Pagans because you wanted to become a god to spite me. That’s… pretty simple.”

“What did you expect?”

“That you were escaping the confines of Heaven in favor of debauchery and killing. I thought you were following Lucifer in the only way you could without Falling.”

“Yeah, well you were wrong. Considering the fact that you created everything, you really don’t get it, do you?”

“Get what?”

“People, God.” He responded with a roll of his eyes. “You created all of us, everything here, and you just don’t get it. Every action has a chain reaction. Every person, and thing. They feel, they hurt, and they suffer. When you went off to the store for cigarettes and never came back? There are repercussions! I don’t care if you’re God, you need to live up to it!”

“That’s not what we’re discussing.” Man, did that response piss him off too. Why had he missed the bastard? Oh, right. His father. Damn.

“So, what am I here for? I’m not in the mood for being strung along. Say it and I’ll be on my merry little way.”

“You’re going to help them.” The moment the words left God’s lips anger flared in his grace. Was he serious right now?

“Says you?” In truth, that had been the plans but now that he was being told to by his absent Father? The idea was less appealing. Winchesters broke the world and cleaned their messes up all the time. They could deal with Amara. In theory.

“Yes, Gabriel.” Chuck responded firmly and his lip curled.

“No. Not just no, hell no. I’m not playing your little game. Games are my thing. Shit endings are yours.” He bit out angrily, shoving out of his seat.

“It depends on the interpretation of the ending, Gabriel. You can’t please everyone.”

“Yeah I know. Your occult following has made that blatantly clear. The fact of the matter is that I’m not doing it. I’m not playing your game. I’m not- no. Throw me in the Cage if you don’t like it. I’m not doing it.”

With a single, firm, look his Father brought a glass to his lips. “Then I guess we’re done here.” Chuck responded coolly.

“That’s it?”

“Free will exists for a reason, Gabriel. I can’t force you, though I am asking.”

“You aren’t helping them.” Gabriel reminded his Father before he was sent away in a rush of energy.

When he landed, he was in Helheiml and pissed. Especially when he sensed the cracks in the Cage.

Winchesters.

Lucifer’s probing grace was reaching through the cracks now and it sent a violent shiver down his spine. Fear.

“Gabriel.” Lucifer hummed from behind the bars and he fluttered off before either of his siblings could speak another word.

*~-~*

The moment Gabriel heard Michael escape the Cage, he abandoned his hideout in Helheim to fly straight into Heaven, slipping past angels and souls with almost no effort. Completely hidden. All he could hope was that the Winchesters weren’t stupid enough to let Lucifer out too. Lucifer could be convincing, but not that convincing… hopefully.

Michael was curled in a ball in the back of his room and a very wary Brendiel was hovering at the front wall when he arrived.

“Does anyone else know?” He demanded of the seraph who stared at him with wide eyes. Shock, fear, and admiration resonated from her and Gabriel could almost feel how much restraint she was using against hugging him.

“You were dead…”

“It goes around. Answer the question.”

“I- no. I just happened to be nearby. We’re mobilizing to smite Amara. Gabriel-”

“It’s a stupid idea. Now go. You saw nothing, heard nothing. Is that clear?”

“Gabriel-”

“Is that clear?” He demanded and Brendiel curtseyed almost ironically in her male vessel before taking off down the hallway. Gabriel slipped inside without another word before he threw up warding on the walls and floors.

“Michael.” He spoke softly and his brother’s head whipped up, bug-eyed and fearful.

“Lucifer- I, no I wasn’t trying to escape! Please don’t-”

“I’m not-”

“I’m sorry!”

Gabriel’s stomach twisted uncomfortably as he realized a horrible, terrible truth. Michael wasn’t talking to him. The closer he looked without daring a step towards the other -much more powerful- archangel, the more he saw and the more his heart broke. Adam Milligan was in pieces, demonized and tortured beyond demonization. Adam Milligan was… well he wasn’t. Adam Milligan no longer existed, his soul was an empty shell of whatever had once been there. No one deserved something like that, but there it was.

Michael, though? Michael was in… horrible shape. It was more than obvious that the Michael he knew, the arrogant, self-absorbed, self-righteous dick? That had been beat out of him. Wiped from him and replaced with a shaky, horrified mess of a person. Someone that Gabriel didn’t know, someone he feared more than anything else. Michael in that state? That Michael was dangerous, to anyone and everyone. Yet, there was something else.

This Michael, this dangerous, broken archangel. He was someone he… pitied.

“Lucifer, please…” Michael sobbed out, curling back into a ball and burying his face in his knees. “Please don’t.”

God, he hated Michael. He hated his brother so much. Michael was an arrogant, self-righteous asshole. But… He was also his big brother, and no one deserved what he went through. No one deserved to suffer from Lucifer’s hatred, his anger. Not for as long as they’d been in the Cage.

Not even Michael. Quietly, he stepped forward and knelt down, pressing a hand against his brother’s shoulder as Michael jerked away from the contact with a panicked cry. “Michael.” Gabriel said quietly. “Can you hear me? It’s Gabriel. It’s your baby brother.”

“Please…”

“I’m going to end this.” Gabriel continued softly, summoning his archangel blade. “I’m going to save you. Do you understand me?”

“Lucifer- just… I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

His eyes burned a bit as he fought back the wave of pain and nausea that he was feeling. Back in the day, he could’ve done this easy. Back then, Michael had deserved it. Now, though? It was a mercy killing. It was justified, but it still made him want to run in the other direction. This wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair, and still he had to do it. He was the only one that was anywhere near capable of it. “I’m sorry, Michael.” Gabriel said quietly as he gripped his brother’s shoulder, shoving him down onto his back before he drove his blade into his brother’s chest.

Michael didn’t scream, he didn’t make a sound. A gasp, a bright flash of grace exploded throughout the room, and then it was over.

Michael was dead.

Gabriel didn’t dare cry, he didn’t make a sound. All he could do was stare at the sight of Michael’s corpse on the ground and force himself to mobilize, to lift the body of Michael and take him away from there. Out of Heaven.

A little while later, he was burning the body of Adam Milligan at a hunter’s pyre. It wasn’t sentimentality, it was just… the concept that made him do it. Adam Milligan had died a horrible death, and he deserved a hunter’s funeral.

*~-~*

Two little archangels, cold and alone. One in a cage, and one with no home.

~-.-~

 

Chapter Text

.-~*~-.

Gabriel closed his eyes and looked up at the sky. “I have to do it. The dumbasses are failing. Luci’s gloating about the victory and… I’m not doing this for you. This is for the Earth. This is to try and clean up your damned mess.”

The prayer was half-assed and for his benefit more than anything, because he knew God wasn’t listening. God- or Chuck? He didn’t care. It was them now. Even Luci would eventually play a part in it all. All of it was a matter of when.

“So.” Sam was saying when Gabriel arrived -invisible- on a dock somewhere outside of that dead zone in Missouri. Not just any deadzone. The area he knew very well housed the Men of Letters American bunker.

“So. Cas.” Dean responded and Gabriel sat down on the edge of the wood, dangling his feet in the water quietly to give the boys a bit of time to wrap their minds around the fact that Castiel had said yes. If what Lucifer said was true, Sam would be in more shock than Dean.

“Yeah. What do we do?” Sam asked. So, he was playing the fine card. Because that always worked out. Gabriel cast a glance over his shoulder before looking back down at the murky water.

“What else? We hunt Lucifer, trap the bastard, and save Cas.”

“Like I said. Lucifer may be in control now, but Cas may not come back willingly. I mean he chose it.” That made Gabriel pause. Did… Gabriel turned carefully, eyeing the brothers for the first time in years with a new fascination. Dean didn’t know. Dean didn’t have a clue his baby brother was screwing his best friend. It was a secret, which meant… Sam had to deal with the fact that Lucifer had screwed him while wearing Cas on his own. It was almost depressing. Almost. If Sam wanted to deal with his issues on his own, that was his business.

“No. No, not possible.” There was a long moment of silence following that before Sam cleared his throat.

“So, how'd you get through today? I mean what did you do?”

“Nothing. Sam, they…” Gabriel looked away with a guilty flinch. Dean had just suffered the successful change of a historical event. Humans weren’t meant to succeed in those kinds of things, but he had, and he was dealing with the psychological backlash. If Gabriel had bothered to show his face he could have warned them it was a fruitless activity. Pointless. Lucifer should’ve known better too. Changing history was playing with fire.

“I was just a witness.” Dean responded with a shaky breath. Gabriel couldn’t look at him. If he did he’d never get the image out his head, a vulnerable Dean Winchester accompanied by a falsely less disturbed Sam.

“Do you wanna talk about it?”

“No. No, story for another day.”

The wood creaked as one of the hunters rose to their feet and he closed his eyes. It was almost time and he wasn’t really sure he was close to being ready for this.

“Hey, the uh - the German ship that sank the Bluefin, what happened to it?”

“It went down. Unlike the sub, its wreckage was found. It was a giant hole. It ripped through the entire thing. Something must've hit the fuel tanks and exploded, but it burned. Sank.” Sam responded, sounding just a bit perplexed.

“Good. That’s good.” Gabriel rose to his feet slowly, turning and raising his fingers in a snap- before he stopped. Was this practical? No. Not by a longshot. It didn’t matter how he made himself known. They weren’t going to buy it either way.

“Hey, guys.” Gabriel spoke up, invisibility dissipating as two wiry hunters drew guns on him in an instant, one shooting him square in the chest. “Really? I thought we were allies now.”

“G- Gabriel?” Dean blurted in shock while Sam kept a gun trained on him, eyes narrowed and demeanor screaming suspicious and mistrustful.

“Yep. It’s me. I know, I died blah blah blah. Thanks for the flowers, by the way.”

“Sam-”

“No. You were dead. We saw-”

“Yeah, I know. I did a great job fooling everyone.”

“No- Lucifer showed me that. One of the hundreds of deaths on my hands. I saw him kill you.”

“What can I say? I’m a Trickster. I’ve had years to prepare for my deaths and the outcomes. Tricking Luci was a challenge but-”

“How?” Dean demanded, finally kicking into proper action. “How the hell did you trick the devil?”

“The same way he tricked you boys. Lens flare here, body there, half my grace used in an  explosion, feathers for effect, and bam! Fake dead archangel. Nasty business, nearly did kill me.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Of course you don’t.” Gabriel scowled at Dean before snapping his fingers and returning the memories of two hundred and fifty-six deaths. The older hunter dropped to the ground with a shout, grabbing at his skull and Gabriel crossed his arms over his chest as Sam abandoned his initial misgivings, dropping his own gun on the ground as he knelt beside his brother.

“Stop it! Please!”

“Why should I? You don’t have the decency to respect me, why should I-”

“I believe you.” Sam interrupted him with a hard look. Satisfied, just as quickly as he’d returned memories of all the deaths, he revoked all but three. Dean was gasping sharp, desperate breaths as he struggled to life his gaze, glaring angrily.

“Why weren’t you here sooner? Where the fuck have you been?” Dean demanded angrily.

“Here, there, everywhere.” Gabriel responded evasively. “How about you, boys? How’ve you been spending your downtime while bringing the planet to the brink time and time again? I mean sure, it’s fun once or twice but after a while it gets old.”

“Screw you, asshat.” Dean bit out articulately.

“Not the time or place for that, Dean-Bean.” Gabriel responded with a wink. Dean’s face reddened but Gabriel couldn’t quite tell if it was from anger or embarrassment. Maybe both. Probably both. That was the fun thing about prayers, he knew when someone thought about him a lot, and boy had Dean thought about him a lot. At least the first time they met. Then it had sort of spiraled out of control. Never stood a chance. Not even a single roll in the hay. “The two of you were stupid. So damned stupid. No- not stupid. Selfish.”

“Coming from the runaway.”

“Hey, I made my selfish choices for my own benefit.” Gabriel waved it off. “And the world didn’t get caught in the crossfire.”

Neither brother seemed pleased with that response but he didn’t particularly care what they thought. His leaving Heaven was his choice and the repercussions were ones he’d paid the price for in blood. “So you’re alive.”

“Yes. We’ve established that.”

“How?”

“My dirty little secret. I’d rather Luci didn’t find out so it’ll be between me, myself, and I thank you very much.”

Sam gave him a speculative look, full of distrust and probably some hatred. There was a distinct hint of unease too, like Sam thought he knew. Which he did, but he wasn’t the kind of dick that would drop that ball. It absolutely wasn’t his place to share things he only knew because Lucifer was arrogantly bragging about bedding himself a Winchester. “How about I keep my potentially dangerous secrets, and you share yours. Tell me what you two dumbasses have figured out- besides the hands of God.”

“You know about those?” Dean asked, sounding uncomfortable.

“Of course I do. Luci ain’t exactly quiet. He likes gloating to me, fuels his ego. Up until today I had no intention of getting involved.”

“What changed?”

“You lost a Hand of God and changed the past.” Gabriel responded, eyeing Dean with what he would never admit was a bit of admiration. “Dad’s jumped ship, He’s done playing ball with the kids, and He’s going to let Auntie Amara wipe us from the map. So, we’ve got to do this on our own.”

“We.”

“Of course.” Gabriel responded with a smirk he didn’t really feel. “I’ve died for your asses, I’m rightfully a member of Team Free Will.”

“You said-”

“Yes, I know what I said. I did die, but I didn’t. End of story.” The glare he cast the younger Winchester was clearly enough as neither brother said another word on the matter. “Last time, it took four of us, and Daddy dearest to take her down. Thing is, God power can only be wielded by someone in God’s favor. None of us qualify, Mikey could but he’s off his rocker. Theoretically little Cassie could because ironically enough he’s got a decent amount of faith for a Fallen, but his stunt with Lucifer… yeah, I wouldn’t put my money on that anymore- actually wait.” His gaze wandered back to Sam, peeling the human layer back to eye the fractured and broken soul. “Maybe you could, Sam. I’m impressed. Still pray?”

“I- yeah.” Sam admitted reluctantly. “How can you-”

“Your soul still has the radiance of a follower of God. Something I didn’t expect to be possible after all this time. You are an interesting human being, Sam Winchester. Not that it matters too much. If you touch it, you die and we both know that’s not going to happen.”

The looks he got in return were priceless and he didn’t really care much for them. This was their fault, not his.

“So look, boys. It’s like this. We’re short two archangels-”

“Michael?”

“Mikey’s crazy as a bat. He’s not in any condition to fight and I doubt even Daddy dearest could save him if he wanted to. Two archangels down. There’s some theoretical ways we can do it, but we’ll need another Hand.” That was his skeleton. His secret. Sooner or later, the ball would drop. Someone would spill about Michael’s death. Lucifer would probably do it, but it was something he didn’t want to talk about. Never again.

“Where the hell will we get one of those?”

“As far as I’m concerned they’re all juiced out. That said, I’m sure there’s a couple out there. They’ll just be hell to find. If they were common, Luce would’ve gotten his hands on them already and wouldn’t have been firing into the dark with time travel. No, boys. These won’t be easy to find. But with me on your side you’ve got a better chance.”

“Until Lucifer shanks you again.”

“Low blow, Deanarino. But fair. There’s a difference now. Big one. He’s just as afraid of Amara as I am, he’s not going to kill me. Though he might come after my Vessel when he starts wearing through Cassie…”

“He what-”

Gabriel gave Sam a hard look at the same moment Dean blurted. “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Castiel isn’t wearing a viable Vessel. Not for an Archangel. If it was that easy do you really think they’d have pushed so hard for you knuckleheads? Nope. Not in a million years. Even True Vessels wear over time.” To prove his point he peeled back the collar of his shirt to expose the layers of heat patches that had started manifesting a hundred or so years ago. “We aren’t supposed to be on Earth. We belong in Heaven. Vessels are supposed to be temporary. My guess is Lucifer threw some reinforcement in Cassie for the time being, but sooner or later he’s going to pop like a balloon.” The brutal truth clearly wasn’t the best one but it was the one he had. He wasn’t going to sugarcoat it for the idiots that kept ending the world. Even knowing what he knew. “Theoretically you could throw down the yes card. Despite what they told you, you wouldn’t need the demon blood. Of course it could also-”

“No.” Dean responded before he could finish his rambling. “Not just no, fuck no. That’s not- It’s not happening.”

“Not even to save your boyfriend?” He mocked the wrong Winchester, earning a nearly feral look from Sam matched with an angry, pissed off one Dean gave him.

“He’s not my boyfriend.”

“Oh, right. He’s too tall for you, isn’t he?” To be fair, he earned it. More than earned it. He deserved it, so it wasn’t exactly surprising when he was punched square in the jaw, hit hard enough it actually sent him stumbling back a couple steps and almost into the water.

It was the thrower of the punch that threw him off. He’d expected it from Dean, not from Sam. Not in a million years, though he should have suspected. In the end of it all, when it came down to the emotional level, Sam was the reactive one. It wasn’t Dean. In fact, it made perfect sense.

“Happy?” He asked rubbing his cheek and watching the hunter flex his fingers uncomfortably.

“Not really. What the fuck is your problem?”

“It’s a long story. A really long one and I’m not going to bother sharing it. It’s none of your business.”

“So you can know everything about us and you can’t bother telling us where the hell you’ve been?”

“It doesn’t matter-”

“Yes. It does.” Dean cut in from behind his brother. “It’s too good to be true, what’s the catch? Nothing like you ever comes without a price.”

“Hm. Fine. Short story. I was in Heaven up until The Fall. When Metadouche took over he locked me up and made a deal with me.”

“The thing with Cas?”

“Yep. I tricked Cas, he left me alone. Not that I played my part well. I didn’t want to help the worm. But it’s done. Then I went off to Helheim and kicked it with my babygirl for a few years- sorry Earth months. Then the rat stabbed me in the back and slaughtered the last of the Norse pantheon. My kids asked that I didn’t go for revenge, so I stayed there. Dying wishes are sorta my thing you know. All was fine until you two popped Auntie from her box.” There was a moment of silence following that. He waited for the inevitable question. A question he couldn’t answer until asked directly.

“What changed with Amara? Why didn’t you come then?”

“God.” He responded, earning a shocked look from both brothers. “He summoned me and told me I was going to help you. I told him to fuck off. I’m not one of his soldiers. Not anymore.”

“You didn’t think about getting involved when we fucked up and let Lucifer out?”

“I did. But to be honest I figured you’d be smart enough to realize Castiel was possessed. Even if you didn’t, Lucifer hadn’t been planning to kill you. I thought he was smart enough to keep using you. Go figure Sammy’s the one that pisses him off.”

“You came because Lucifer stopped pretending.”

“No.” He corrected with a sigh. “I came because he tried to kill the both of you. I didn’t think he was stupid enough to try. Like it or not, you two dumbasses seem to figure out how to save the world time and time again. Whether he shows it or not, he’s just as scared as everyone else.”

“Self-preservation.” Sam muttered.

“Bingo! It’s like this, boys. No matter how arrogant he is, no matter the stupid choices that he makes are, Lucifer is selfish. Everything he does, he does for him. Every move he makes is towards his own victory. Though I’m reluctant to admit it, we’re all like this. It’s one of the consequences of being some of the strongest creatures in existence. Nothing matters more than our own survival and since it’s so rare that we’re challenged… When something does threaten it, we’ll generally protect ourselves and our best option for survival.” Except maybe their children. Michael had sired a nephillim at one point and been fiercely protective over it. Ironically, that was where Odin had come from. Just another secret runaway. Not that it mattered. Lucifer had ultimately killed Odin. Stupid, stupid kid.

“Yeah, that worked out smoothly so thanks for that.”

“Hey, you got away unscathed. I’m not heartless. I’ve told the reapers to back off. They want my help keeping Auntie down, you two don’t get thrown into The Empty. With Death gone they’re a bit scattered but they got the message.”

“You’re serious?” Sam looked extremely doubtful.

“Deadly.” He responded with a smirk. “Even that Billie reaper that threatened you agreed to back off. Well, until Amara’s gone anyways. Then you’re fair game. Even sweetened the deal. Heaven for both of you, no resurrection clause though. If you get brought back, I get to kill you.” Admittedly the bargaining with Billie had been a pain in his ass, and it was because she was the reaper that had taken the ring. Billie was Death, and she wanted them dead. But the deal had been made, and it wasn’t one he was actually happy with. Killing the hunters dead was different than what he’d done in Mystery Spot. Hell, he hadn’t been present for much of it. He’d skipped over it in favor of doing other things that he’d sworn to never mention.

So yeah. As far as Sam and Dean knew, he was fine with the prospect. It was what it was.

“You know, you’re both much less attractive when you look like fish. A simple thank you would suffice.” He huffed, turning his back on them.

“You saved our souls?”

“Yep. You two are officially on the can not die list until auntie is gone and you’re not going to rot in The Empty, you’re going to Heaven. You’re welcome.”

Gabriel didn’t expect a thank you, and when the words came from not Sam but Dean’s mouth he was yet again thrown off guard. Somehow they still managed to surprise him.

“Thanks.” Gabriel turned his head and raised an eyebrow at the uncomfortable looking hunter. “I guess.”

“We got player one. You gonna join the Gabe train, Sammy?”

“No.”

“Welp. Figured as much. Clearly dying for your mistakes doesn’t earn a pass, why should saving your afterlives?”

“Gabriel-”

“Save it, Dean-o. I get the memo. Call me when Luci’s got her nose up your ass again.” Then he was gone in a snap of fingers.

~-.-~

Chapter Text

.-~*~-.

It wasn’t that he was exactly bothered by Sam’s reaction to his offer for help, he had known it wouldn’t be a simple task to earn their trust. Especially Sam’s. He’d put Sam through Hell, admittedly played favorites, and he knew getting Sam to agree would be significantly more difficult than Dean. Sam had been through a lot more with him than the older of the brothers.

A fact he didn’t mind too much. Sam could hate him all he wanted. He didn’t owe him anything. All he’d done was try to right the younger brother’s path. The fact that Sam hadn’t listened wasn’t his fault. It was Sam’s. Him and his blind stupidity that kept screwing the world over again and again.

So, when they needed his help, they would ask.

*~-~*

He wasn’t annoyed. No, not at all. Why would he be annoyed that the dumbasses had screwed around for a solid month before praying to him for help?

That was insane.

“Gabriel, we need your help.” Why was it they insisted on praying verbally? A prayer was a prayer either way. Maybe they thought praying out loud made it easier to hear? Whatever.

“You two are hopeless.” A snap of his fingers and he was standing in a parking lot with his arms crossed over his chest. “A month.” It was dark out but they had parked under a lightpost that illuminated them more than enough. Both brothers were leaning against their car, looking anywhere but at him.

“I know.” Dean responded, shifting uncomfortably. “Look-”

“I want to hear it from him.” Gabriel’s gaze darted to the younger Winchester whose gaze darted up to glare defiantly. “C’mon, Sam.”

“Crowley called-”

“Yes, Luci’s puppy. I’m aware. Again I say, I want to hear it from you. Ask, Sam.”

“Why does it matter?”

“Because I enjoy tormenting you. I love the helpless look on your face and I bask in your misery.” The shared looks of disdain were enough to tell him they didn’t buy the bullshit response. “Fine. I need to be certain that I’m not going to be stabbed in the back.” Gabriel admitted, forcing himself to relax as he leaned back against the light post. “Look, boys. I didn’t come to you last month because I wanted to. I came because I needed to. It’s the right thing to do, but I don’t trust you any more than you trust me and I don’t want to risk my life helping you if you’re going to try to kill me. I know exactly what you’re hiding in that bunker and I don’t trust that it won’t be turned on me. I’m the reason those damned Men of Letters had some of that junk. So I want to be sure that coming into this, I’m coming back out. I don’t get any more redos unlike you two dimwits.”

“We need your help.” Sam admitted after a long, searching stare. “Whatever Crowley says, he’s not exactly number one on my to trust list.”

“Which is smart.” Gabriel responded, “Crowley’s a snake, but he did escape. Whatever he’s up to, he’s not under Lucifer’s command.”

“You’re sure?” Dean asked.

“Positive. That said. I wouldn’t trust him. Not with my life, and you shouldn’t either.”

“We don’t trust him.” Sam defended.

“That’s why you were going to go without talking to me? Honestly, Sam. I’m not in the mood for bullshit. I’ve been around. I listen. And if you aren’t going to be straight with me, then I’m leaving. Deal with my brother and the once King of Hell on your own. I volunteered, doesn’t mean I have to stick around.”

“The world’s ending.” It was a very unneeded reminder. He was more than aware of the situation. Dean didn’t have to try to guilt trip him with it. Guilt was one of the many things he didn’t do.

“Yeah. It is. Thanks for the reminder, dumbass.” Gabriel scowled, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at Sam. “So, Sam. Ask. I want it out of your mouth.”

The younger Winchester ground his teeth in clear anger before nodding once. “Fine. Gabriel, will you help us?”

Smiling, “Say ‘please’.”

“Are you serious?”

“Nah, it’s fine.” Gabriel smirked, pushing off the post and looking between the brothers. “Of course I’ll help.”

“But?” Dean asked, eyes narrowing.

“But I want to make a deal. Don’t worry. Not selling your souls. I already saved them. I want you both to swear on something that matters. I need a guarantee that when it comes down to it, because I know exactly where this goes, that you two muttonheads will do whatever needs to be done. No matter the cost. Because this isn’t going to be some fairytale. I’ve told you both before. I’d kill for this to end wrapped in a bow, really. That’s the dream. But you both know by now that it can’t end simple. Dealing with my aunt, you both have to be ready to throw all your cards in. If you’ll do that, then I’ll return the favor. But if we’re not all in, then this is going to blow up in all of our faces.”

The brothers shared a single, unreadable look before looking back at him. “We have to fix this.”

“Then I’m in. Let’s see what Crowley’s got for you. Who knows? He might surprise us by not being a dick.”

The look on both Sam and Dean’s faces said enough. They knew better. So did he.

*~-~*

“Nice digs. The Crypt Keeper out of town?” Dean remarked as they spotted Crowley standing in the middle of the warehouse. Gabriel had chosen a basic disguise, nothing major, but he had to admit he was hot as hell. If the look Dean had given him was anything to go by he shared the thoughts. For now, he was a ‘human’. Hunter if asked. The choice of a female appearance was just a fun perk. Crowley eyed his female, blonde form for a moment before disregarding him completely to glower at Dean.

“I'm lucky to be alive. Lucifer had me trussed up like a dog in my own palace.” Father help him. Crowley wasn’t this pathetic, was he?

’Palace’? Oh, you mean the abandoned nuthouse.” Gabriel couldn’t’ stop from grinning at that, his smile broadening even further at Crowley’s response. Oh, did he know. But God was it good to hear it from the mouth of the victim.

“He kept me in a kennel!” Sam and Dean were smiling too, and damn was that a good sign. It meant they weren’t completely lost to the dreadful atmosphere that always seemed to loom around them of late. “And he turned all his demons... my demons... against me. They scour the earth, day and night, looking to kill me. He has to be dealt with.”

“No shit.” Gabriel remarked, immediately deciding he didn’t like the pitched female voice of his current form. Why had he chosen a female? Oh, right. Because Dean had dared him to. If he could do it, why not? So now he was a 5’4 blonde woman with his Vessel’s eyes because he couldn’t quite let go of sharing some of the traits. The plaid was a tragedy but hunters seemed to love looking like lumberjacks, without the beards, so it was a given that to play the part, he needed to dress it.

“So is this why you brought us here? Some lousy grudge match with Lucifer?” No. There was more. Definitely more. Gabriel eyed the demon with a mixture of disdain and curiosity. He’d been near a Hand of God, recently. Though Gabriel couldn’t tell where it was or which one. Best let the brothers deal with the talking.

“Yeah, where's this, uh, Hand of God you were talking about?” Gabriel shot a look at Sam, eyes narrowing. They hadn’t thought to tell him about the damned Hand of God?

“I'm getting to that. Your only hope of subduing Amara is to match the level of power that she possesses.” It was possible that they could power Sam up with a Hand of God, get Luci to join them… but they needed more. This wasn’t enough.

“No kidding. And?”

“And I have the Horn of Joshua.” So that was a Hand? Interesting. Now that he had the name, he could, theoretically, track it. But it was also worth listening to what Crowley had to say before he did.

“Joshua? As in the Joshua that won the battle of Jericho?”

“And I'm willing to entrust it to your capable hands.” But? The brothers looked between eachother then back at Crowley, skepticism clear as day in their posture. “What? I just said I'd give you the thing.”

“If?” Both brothers asked at the same time, narrowing their eyes as Gabriel eyed the demon with annoyance.

“Is this how you say ‘thank you’? You think these things grow on bloody trees?!”

“Is he always like this?” Gabriel snorted, crossing his arms over his chest to glare at the annoyed demon.

“Cut the crap, Crowley. With you, there's always an ‘if’.”

“Fine. I will give you the Horn if you help me exorcise Lucifer from Castiel's vessel and then return him immediately to the Cage.”

“Are you kidding me?” Gabriel bit out with a glare.

“Anne.” Dean warned him using the crappy alias he’d thrown out and he snorted. “Okay. And where is this horn?”

“Safely hidden, naturally.” Crowley’s gaze was on him, suspicious as all hell.

“Yeah.” Dean responded.

“Crowley, even if we could exorcise Lucifer out of Cas, the Cage is damn near impenetrable. It took a spell from the Book of the Damned to spring Lucifer, and Rowena hid the book.” Not to mention that she was dead. Yeah, that was probably something he should’ve told the brothers. Where the hell was Crowley’s logic?

“And we would need both the book and her to even have a shot.” Not that it was a smart plan. It was stupid. Maybe he should kill Crowley and get it over with. They didn’t need stupidity.

“Did I say this would be easy? No. I did not.”

“Do you even know where Rowena is?”

“Rotting somewhere, I assume. Lucifer snapped her neck.” Gabriel stiffened slightly when he felt a change in Heaven, a shift of environment... Damn. Lucifer was in Heaven.

‘You feel that?’ Lucifer asked him silently, and he did. Not just Lucifer. Amara too. Damn it. This was not going well.

“Hold on, okay? Let's just put it in reverse. We will put Lucifer back in the Cage after we put Amara back on ice. It has to happen in that order, otherwise there is no Lucifer, there's no Cage, there's no nothing.”

“He's spent years marinating in hate against us! He has to go.”

“Problem is, we may need him.” Sensible Sam, correct Sam. This was stupid, this entire situation was stupid.

“Look, Crowley. It’s this simple. Four archangels and God took on Amara last time she was out. There’s no way we’re doing this fight without him. There’s maybe a fraction of a chance it works with him.”

“Anne-”

“Shut up, Dean.” Gabriel ground out, stepping past Thing One and Thing Two and meeting the gaze of the world’s most unfortunate King. “Four archangels, plus God. You hearing me here? There’s a whole hell of a lot more going on than your damned ego!”

“He had me cleaning the floors with my tongue! He called me ‘puppy’! He made me beg!” Crowley responded, glaring at him. “Who in the bloody hell is this?” He demanded.

“A friend.” Crowley clearly didn’t buy it, his glare set firmly on Gabriel rather than acknowledging the complete logic of their defense. God, he wanted to smite him. “All right. Come on. Is this what this is about? Huh? Your stupid ego? The fact that he dissed you in front of a bunch of stupid demons? You're smarter than this. Come on!” Dean was clearly trying to draw Crowley’s focus back to him but Gabriel was not going to sit in the back of this crap conversation.

“Dean's right. Priority is to put the Horn in Lucifer's hands and set him loose on Amara.” Not the plan either.

“Not Luci’s hands.” Okay, he was done with this bullshit. “Fergus Roderick MacLeod. You’re going to get your head outta your ass and your going to hand over that Hand.”

“Do you-”

“If you don’t, I’m going to smite you into oblivion. You have ten seconds.”

“Gabriel!” Sam was clearly panicked, but his name was more than enough to strike shock and just a bit of fear into Crowley’s expression.

“You brought-”

“Oh, stop your whining, Crowley.” Gabriel scowled, snapping his fingers and transporting the hunters to the Bunker so he could chat with the demon in private. As his disguise melted away, Crowley took a disturbed step back.

“I- What in the bloody hell were they thinking!”

“They were thinking that they should rely on help from someone that knows what the hell they’re talking about. So, where’s the Hand at, Crowley?”

“It’s in a safe place.” Crowley tried again, shifting uneasily.

“As much as I hate my brother, and boy do I hate him. He literally stabbed me in the heart. I’m willing to look past my damned ego for the sake of this planet. I know you aren’t a petty man, Crowley. So let’s make this simple. Give us the Hand, or I’ll smite you into next Tuesday. This ain’t personal.”

“It’s absolutely personal.” The demon responded with a glare. “It’s all personal! You should know just as well as I do the repercussions of Lucifer remaining on-”

“Oh trust me. I know. What you don’t seem to grasp is he killed me and I’m willing to get past my pride to get the job done. He’s my damned brother and he stabbed me in the heart. When you sit there and whine about him treating you like a dog? There’s a lot more to it than your crap. So get over it.”

“He actually killed you?” Crowley finally asked, clearly perplexed and finally listening.

“Yes. I actually died. I’m not explaining the logistics because it’s my business, my secret, and one no one else needs know. But I’m alive now, and you need to get off your damned high horse before I smite you. You’re a King. Act like one. I know you can.”

“Fine.”

“Fine? Nope. Not good enough, Crowley. I want your word.”

“You’re serious?”

“Deadly. I’ve gone through this crap with the halfwits. I want your word that you’re going to work with us on this, not against us.”

Red pooled into the demon’s eyes as anger radiated off of him in bitter waves. “If I don’t?”

“I’ll smite you where you stand like my brother should’ve done months ago.”

“So, not much of a choice is there?”

“Plenty of a choice.” Gabriel grinned at the demon who scowled in response. “Die, or swear loyalty to me for the time being.”

“Fine. Bloody hell, fine. But when your psycho brother kills one of us don’t expect me to stick around and mourn your loss.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“I’m not kissing you.” Crowley warned him unnecessarily.

“Touché.” Taking the offered hand he gripped it painfully tight, tugging the man in just a bit as he exposed his wings, grace pouring into his eyes and manifesting black shadows on the warehouse walls behind him. “Do you understand our deal?”

“Yes.” The demon responded, flinching back visibly. “I swear.”

“Alright.” A snap of his fingers and they were back in the bunker where both hunters were sitting at a war table talking quietly. Both of them shut up and snapped their heads up when Gabriel and Crowley appeared in the room.

“What-”

“Relax, boys. Crowley’s pulled his head outta his ass and agreed to help.”

“Really?” Dean asked, eyeing the demon.

“Unfortunately, he has some good points. For the time being… it’s in our favor to work together.”

“So where’s the Hand?” Dean demanded and Gabriel rolled his eyes.

“I’ll get it when we need it. For the time being it’s safe.”

“So that’s-” Sam’s words were lost as a loud voice ripped through Gabriel’s head along with a surge of power.

“HEAR ME!” Oh did he hear her. So did all of Heaven. Cries of panic ripped across angel radio as he was for a single moment forced into that connection. The angels were screaming, running in horror, praying for help, and Lucifer was chuckling -laughing at them all, at Amara. He wasn’t suicidal, so what was his deal? Why could he possibly be amused by this? In what felt like the same moment he was ripped out of the scene in Heaven to the sight of a white ceiling. Where the hell was he now?

Anytime now, Father. Gabriel thought bitterly as he turned his head on… the bed. He was on a bed. Alone. The room was empty, but he could sense the hunters and demon somewhere in the bunker though the spellwork made it impossible to tell where from. Honestly, if he hadn’t been brought there he’d have never been able to access the place to begin with due to the immense amount of warding.

“Nice to know you’re still slacking.” Gabriel said to the air as he shoved out of the bed and made his way out of the room, looking back and forth down the hallway, listening for the sound of anything resembling voices. Left.

Without too much thought on the matter he turned and headed in that direction, trying to piece together how the hell he’d ended up in there to begin with. There was no logical way that it could’ve been that long. Well, it could’ve, but he really didn’t want to think it was. If that was the case then Amara had knocked him out from halfway across the damned country.

“-crux of your dispute is your contention that Lucifer, and only Lucifer, can use the Horn to beat Amara, right?” Crowley’s voice sounded from the end of the hallway. Were they really arguing over this again?

“You got it.” Came Dean’s exasperated voice.

“Well, that scenario only works if you actually possess said Horn, which you do not.” Was Crowley seriously trying to renege on their deal already? Maybe he should’ve kissed him. Never trust a damned demon.

“No, we don't. But you do, so...”

“Exactly! I do! This isn't a negotiation. I have the high cards, and you have... Hold on. Give me a second. Let me have a look... no cards! My offer stands.”

“Actually, Crowley. They have all the cards.” Gabriel said venomously from the doorway, drawing the focus of the two hunters and the demon who spun around. “Are you reneging on our deal, Crowley? Already? Are you stupid, or just suicidal?”

“That wasn’t-”

“Doesn’t matter.” Gabriel waved it off.

“Ah, Gabriel? My name is Rowena. Could you kindly tell my son I’m alive?” Gabriel blinked, shifting slightly and tilting his head to the side. Well that was interesting. How’d he miss that detail? Rowena was alive. Lucifer was going to be pissed… but they could use her help.

“I think I have an idea.” Gabriel told them. They could try something else, with Rowena’s help. Rowena was a very useful tool. The problem wasn’t really her. It was difficult alliances… and where they were going.

Bright side of things, his plan would likely end with Castiel freed. Whether they wanted it to or not.

~-.-~

Chapter Text

.-~*~-.

“I hate this.” Sam remarked while Gabriel eyed the unhappy looking Rowena at the back of the room.

“Yeah.”

“And, by the way, where the hell is Crowley? I mean, we're essentially all set up.”

“He’ll show at the last second. He’s pissed but he’s not stupid enough to try to double cross me again.”

“You sure about that?” Dean asked dryly. “I mean he’s holding the damned thing hostage, you’d think he’d have the decency to-”

On cue Crowley appeared on the edge of the warding in the center of the room, cutting Dean off with an elegant, “-show up? He does. Because without the bait, well... a trap really isn't a trap, is it?” Gabriel bristled slightly as Crowley shot him an annoyed look, turning a cloth covered Hand of God in his hand thoughtfully.

Sam scoffed as he eyed the thing in Crowley’s hand. “That's it? Doesn't look like much, does it?”

“First impressions can be deceiving, Moose. For instance, I once thought of you as dull and plodding.” Gabriel couldn’t stop the smile as Sam shot a bitter glare at the demon. “Oh, never mind. Bad analogy.”

“For the record, I still think this is a bad idea. Calling Lucifer down for a face to face chat? Asking him to hand Cas over? Freaking Rowena trying to create another damned body for him?” Dean acknowledged unnecessarily.

“We’re aware. Which is why you aren’t getting near it. The hand that giveth can so quickly taketh away.” Which was part of the bitter agreement between him and Crowley. They weren’t stupid. There was a lot more going on than simple vendettas. Boyfriend of moose, and best friend of squirrel. If he was honest he had a sinking suspicion that Sam might say ‘yes’ just to free Castiel. An outcome he’d rather avoid given the circumstances. Yet, he’d known since the moment that he’d come up with the plan.

“Yes, we… getteth it.”

“So, Mummy,” Crowley turned his attention to Rowena. “You were telling us your fascinating tale of resurrection. But you never did say exactly where you'd been this whole time.”

Which was the part he’d been trying to figure out too. Someone like Rowena didn’t just vanish off the map when the world was ending. Not without some backup plan. She wasn’t stupid enough to go after Amara. So where had she been?

“Same as you, Fergus. Hiding. Once the Dark Prince knew I was alive, I wouldn't be.”

“Bullshit.”

“What would you know?” The witch eyed him, lifting her head just a bit as she stared defiantly at him.

“I know you better than most, Rowena. I remember a time when you came to my knees begging for assistance. Pagan, remember?”

“I am well aware who you are, Loki.” She responded, raising her head snootily and glowering, “I was hiding. Your brother killed me, did you expect me to just stand around and wait for him to find out?”

“No, Rowena. I know you didn’t just stand around, but I also know you didn’t hole up in the middle of nowhere. You’re a coward, but you aren’t stupid. Since you didn’t go to Dumb and Dumber or your son it begs a big question of who you went to.”

“You’d like to know, wouldn’t you?”

“I really would.”

“Well, if you must. I went to The Grand Coven. They weren’t particularly happy to see me but this situation is much bigger than our petty feuds.” She was lying through her teeth and the fact that she kept lying about it set off all kinds of warning bells in his mind as to where she might have been. Was she that stupid? No. She couldn’t possibly be that stupid. Or could she?

“Gabriel?” Dean spoke up.

“Yeah, I know.” Gabriel turned his attention to the heavy warding in the center of the room. While it could’ve held him for months, he knew it wasn’t going to hold Lucifer for long. Maybe ten minutes… at the most.

“No mucking about like last time. The warding and the holy fire won't keep him but for a moment. If he shows up at all.” Crowley reminded his mother unnecessarily.

“Oh, he'll show. He's too hungry to take Amara out, and we've got the blaster to do it.”

Gabriel stepped back from the warding, and where Lucifer would ultimately make his appearance. Best that he wasn’t the first thing Lucifer saw on his arrival. “In nomine magni dei nostri Satanas, introibo ad altare Domini Inferi. I summon you to make an offer. The weapon by which its bearer can crush the Darkness forever.” A grin broke across his face, unable to help it. They could’ve prayed and it would’ve had the same effect but the formal summoning was so much funnier. His grin fell almost instantly as thunder crashed loudly, power ripping through the air and sending a violent shudder down his spine. Lucifer.

Then Lucifer was there, standing in the midst of some of the most powerful warding on Earth and looking perplexed, unsurprised.

“Sam, now!” Dean shouted and Sam threw an already lit match into the holy oil, forcing a flinch out of Gabriel as he was reminded of the moment the brothers figured him out.

Lucifer on the other hand, seemed completely unbothered by the prospect. His gaze flicking across the parties of the room and resting for a single moment on Gabriel before moving to Sam.

“I'm sorry. Your prayer implied that I'd be... joining the team, but I'm just not feeling the warm and fuzzy here.” Then his gaze was on the Horn. “Wow. There it is. Powered up by Dad himself. Well, that bad boy plus me and baby bro... That ought to take her out all right.” Gabriel swallowed as Lucifer flicked his gaze across the room, clapping his hands together. “Let's get to it. Douse the flames.” No one moved, or spoke. Though he didn’t look surprised, he did look distinctly annoyed. Impatiently snapping his fingers Lucifer moved a glare to Sam. “Or don't? C’mon, Sammy. You aren’t stupid.”

“We want to talk.” Gabriel spoke up, stepping forward and drawing the attention of the brother that killed him.

“Talk about what exactly, Gabriel? Surely you aren’t- oh but you are. You poor little sap.”

“We want you to get out of Castiel.”

“Now why would I do something like that?” Lucifer scowled, rolling his eyes. “We’re at a comfortable arrangement. He holds me- for the most part, and I don’t have to down gallons of demon blood every hour to keep him from rotting away.”

“Because we have something you need, and you want something we have. Your self-preservation is that good, Lucifer.”

“This isn’t about self-preservation.” Lucifer responded, scoffing. “You aren’t that stupid, Gabriel. I need a decent Vessel to sustain myself and Castiel is the best option. Well, unless the muttonheads change their minds. You know I’m not going back into the Cage until she’s dealt with, so stop playing this game. Let me out of the fire, before I burn it out and slit their throats.”

“And stab me in the heart again?” Gabriel bit out earning an annoyed look from his brother.

“I knew you wouldn’t die, Gabriel. As you said, ‘your self-preservation is that good’.” His older brother threw his words back at him. “I’m not leaving Castiel. We can play this game all you want, but the truth is that this will end exactly how it started. But with two less Winchesters.”

“We can’t kill her yet, Lucifer.”

“Maybe not alone, but if me and you do it together? We did it before-”

“With Raphael, and Michael.”

“Since when are you so petty? It’s not my fault you decided to kill Michael.”

“I killed him because you broke him! Don’t you dare put Michael’s-”

“Then Raphael. Oh, Gabe. You let Raphael get himself killed.”

“I didn’t have anything to do with that!” Gabriel responded angrily, “I was at half strength hiding in fucking Heaven because you decided to stab me in the heart. That’s not on me you arrogant bag of dicks.”

His hand twitched beside him and his blade manifested in his hand, a broad grin crossing Lucifer’s face.

“You going to drive it through me? Kill the last of your brothers. I know you aren’t that stupid, Gabriel.”

“You don’t know what I am, Lucifer.”

“I know what you think you are, but you couldn’t kill me again if you wanted to, and you wouldn’t if you could. You care far too much about them to risk the universe.”

“Lads! The fire!” Rowena’s voice barely registered with him though. He was preoccupied with the anger burning through his grace, the grief that Lucifer’s words ignited in him. He had been forced to kill Michael and Raphael… that wasn’t his fault. Fucking Castiel had killed him, but Raphael had brought his death on himself. He’d insisted on the damned Apocalypse that he’d died for.

“Gabriel!” Dean shouted at him, two sets of hands gripping him by each of his arms and dragging him back. “You can’t let him-”

“None of this was my fault!”

“Oh, Gabriel. It was. All of it was on you. You were the little angel that failed. I love you, brother, but you’re a coward.”

With a cry he launched himself forward, screaming in agony as he crossed the holy fire that had all but died in the presence of Lucifer.

It was probably the only reason he survived.

Black spots danced across his vision as heat ripped at his wings, a brush of wind sending him flying backwards into a wall and forcing him to watch as Lucifer stepped away from the now dead ring of holy fire, Gabriel’s archangel blade in hand.

“Ah. Trick me? You lied to me. You know, I could have been your warrior.” A toothy grin at Gabriel. “Ah. Who needs ya?” Crowley’s essence dissipated from the area in a single moment. Coward. “Well. It's just like Crowley to leave right when the party's getting started. Have a seat.” A wave of his hands and Sam and Dean were forced to sit, fighting against Lucifer’s power fruitlessly. “As much as I get a giggle out of you two, and I do, there comes a time when every relationship has... run its course. I know. You love him. Blah blah blah-”

“Yes!” Sam yelped suddenly and Lucifer paused, tilting his head.

“Yes?” Lucifer responded condescendingly. This wasn’t going to end well.

“Sammy don-” Another wave of his hand and Dean’s voice was gone.

“Let him go, Lucifer. Let him go and-” Sam’s voice was shaking, fear creeping into all of the words. “I’ll do it.” Damn it. His entire form was aching with the contact from the holy fire… There was no way he could get up. Damn.

“I can force him back into the Cage, Gabriel. My son told me to prepare for the alternatives.” No. Despite everything he needed Lucifer, they did. Damn it this entire thing had gone wrong… and it was his fault.

“Isn’t that sweet? You do care about your boyfriend.”

“Fuck off.” Sam bit out.

“As tempting as your offer is, I’m going to refuse you.”

“Why?” Sam demanded.

“I did think about it, when I got here. But I realized something. I really do enjoy watching you suffer. Every moment you’re awake, every moment that you breathe, you’re reminded of your mistake. It’s my revenge for what you did to me. If you’d just let me and Michael kill each other I would’ve been saved a lot of trouble. So now you have to deal with the knowledge that you let me fuck you. All because you screwed up.”

“I-”

“We’re done talking, Sam.” Lucifer dropped into the gruff Castiel voice, “I’m going to kill Dean in front of you, and then-”

It was so sudden he almost missed it. A single, bright, flare of energy- primordial energy, and everything around him froze for a second as panic soared through his grace. Father help us. The prayer fell silent in his head as a deafening explosion resounded from the entrance to the abandoned church. Gabriel barely had time to look towards it before she came through the fresh hole in the wall, smoke spreading around her ominously as she took in the sight around her. Panicking slightly Gabriel forced himself to move, struggling to sit upright as he pressed his back against the wall, panting breathlessly as every fraction of movement caused pain to resonate across his Vessel and grace where the holy fire had burnt into him. Stupid, stupid, stupid. He needed to get them out of there before she killed them but- gods it burned.

“Oh, Lucifer. Dear nephew, my, how you've changed.” Amara didn’t even acknowledge him and he wasn’t sure whether that was for the better or for the worse. “I was tracking her when she left my side.”

Rowena. Apparently she had been that stupid.

“You were safely sealed away. You're gonna wish you'd stayed there.”

“Lucifer don’t!” He cried, a second too late. Damn it.

Gabriel watched as the Horn flew into Lucifer’s hand, power rippling across the area around them as Lucifer absorbed God’s power from it.

Except there was no way in Heaven or Hell that would work. Lucifer didn’t follow God, and the Hand had to be wielded by a servant of God to use its full potential. Of course that didn’t matter anyway. It had taken four archangels and God to deal with her last time. It was arrogance that had Lucifer pouring grace and God power alike from his hand, flooding the Darkness with the light of a thousand stars.

It was that same arrogance that left her standing there looking like she’d been clawed by a kitten.

Because Lucifer wasn’t enough. Not alone. We’re doomed.

Amara crooked her finger and Lucifer was sliding across the floor unwittingly, frozen on the spot with horror slipping off his grace. The Horn tumbled to the floor as Amara cupped Lucifer’s face in her hand.

“I think you and I need to have a nice, long chat.”

“Cas?” Sam managed and Amara’s gaze lifted, flicking across the room to rest on Gabriel where her eyes narrowed.

“I’m giving you one chance, Gabriel. Run.” A flex of her fingers and both hunters were on their feet, Amara and Lucifer disappearing a moment later.

*~-~*

“So, Rowena and Crowley... like mother, like son, huh? They both took exactly one split second to take off when things started going south.” Gabriel was trembling slightly as he took the beer Dean offered him.

“Yep.” Dean responded as Gabriel stared at the glass, ignoring the accusing glare Sam was giving him.

“Here,” There were about twenty elephants in the room that no one was touching any of them. “By the way, what's Rowena doing with Amara?”

“Being a dumbass.” Gabriel responded with a tired sigh.

“Or she's playing the odds. When sucking up to Lucifer didn't work out, maybe she thought Amara was the best bet. Then she heard we had Gabe and switched sides again. Thought two archangels could do the trick.”

“I thought he’d listen.”

“He was listening.” Gabriel responded, looking down at the burns lining his Vessel. “But he also didn’t care. Lucifer came because he was arrogant enough to think he could do it himself.”

“Apparently, uh, archangel plus God power doesn't trump God’s sister.” Sam said unnecessarily.

“No. It could’ve worked to weaken her, but he doesn’t believe in our dick Father. He wasted that Hand.”

“Gabriel-”

“Save it, Sam. You boys need to have your talk and I need to sleep.”

“There’s nothing to talk about and you still have something to explain. You killed Michael. Why the- I mean you said he was still alive…”

“When you opened the Cage… Mikey crawled out. I found him. He thought I was Lucifer. He was deranged, out of his mind, so I did what I had to. He had- it was a mercy killing.” Gabriel licked his lips and struggled to his feet, wrapping his arms around himself and grimacing at the burning sensation that lined his Vessel and true form from that damned holy fire. Every inch of him hurt. “I killed my brother because it was the right thing to do. He wasn’t coming back from the torture Lucifer inflicted on him. There was no saving him, so I killed him.” Gabriel closed his eyes for a second. “I need to sleep and try to recover from the holy fire.”

“I can help you walk.”

“I’ll be fine.” Gabriel tried to brush off Dean’s offered help but the moment he took his first step his knees buckled beneath him, a whole new wave of pain ripping through him and sending him falling to his knees with a barely concealed shout.

“Oh yeah, you’re great.” Dean huffed from behind him as he felt someone grip under his arm, tugging him to his feet.

“I don’t-”

“Yes. You do.” Sam came around with clear reluctance and caught him under his other arm. “What were you thinking?”

“I wasn’t.” Gabriel responded bitterly as he reluctantly let them half carry him from the main room. “I’d forgotten how good he was at that.”

“Making you forget that he’s wrong?” Sam asked him tiredly. “Trust me, Gabriel. You aren’t the only one.” It was probably the closest thing he was going to ever get to sympathy from Sam so he took it for what it was.

“Can you at least try to walk?”

“Oh yeah. Let me drop you in some acid and see how you fare in walking.” Gabriel bit back, forcing himself to take some of his weight off of the brothers anyways. It hurt like hell but they were trying to help, a concept he didn’t really get. They barely wanted him there, but for some crazy unknown reason they were trying to help him.

“We’re putting him back in your room.” Sam grunted as they came up on the rooms.

“What? No!”

“It’s the closest one.”

Theoretically he could get himself the rest of the way but in a practical sense… he felt like he was about to pass out. For the time being at least he needed to let them deal with their drama.

“So? We can carry him an extra thirty feet!”

“I’m not that heavy.” Gabriel scowled and Sam scoffed.

“You carry you.”

“I have. Once upon a time I was an adorable little archangel with dreams of being my big brothers. Then I realized it was bullshit and ran away from home. Snagged me a little man named Jack out of the ocean and became best friends with him.”

“Your Vessel’s name is Jack?” Of course that was all Dean got out of his story. The name of his damned Vessel. Well, the not-name.

“No, it was Peter… or Jacob. That doesn’t matter. Point is I possessed some chick and dragged him out of the ocean. I know exactly how much he weighs and he’s not that heavy!”

“Yeah, we’re putting him in your room or I’m dropping him.” Sam retorted with a glare. So he was still sensitive about the whole Vessel thing. Made sense, but still. His reaction seemed just a bit dramatic.

“Whatever.” Dean conceded, much to his astonishment. Though he couldn’t really make himself care too much. He needed to sleep and the longer they talked about this the longer it would be until he could recover. “If he ruins the memory foam that’s on you.”

“It’s not the first damned time we’ve put him in your bed.” Oh interesting. It had been Dean’s bed they’d shoved him into after Amara knocked him out? Whose idea had that been?

“That was different.” Dean countered without explanation as he was heaved sideways through a doorway and walked a few more feet before being pushed unceremoniously onto a bed.

Sam left pretty quickly after that but Dean didn’t do him the same favor, standing against the wall with his arms crossed over his chest. “Did you know?” Gabriel ended up breaking the silence as he shut his eyes. Sleep was threatening every inch of his mind but he couldn’t with Dean standing there staring at him. Why in the hell did girls find it sexy in those creepy romance novels? It was just plain disturbing.

“About him and Cas?” Dean asked. “Yeah. I knew. Bunker’s a small place and Cas… he’s not known for tact. I caught them making out in the kitchen like a year ago, confronted Cas about it. I don’t care. They’re grown ups, and I figure Sammy ain’t got a shot with a human. Maybe Cas can stick together for him long enough to give him a chance at happy.”

“Seems to be working well.”

“Never called either of them smart. Did you expect Sam to say ‘yes’?”

“Did you?”

Dean was quiet for a moment before sighing heavily. “Yeah. I did.”

“I thought he might. Your brother’s self-sacrifice streak’s almost as bad as yours. I think Lucifer was banking on it too.”

“You would’ve.” Dean responded and he flinched.

“I wouldn’t have done it like that. I never did what I did to hurt either of you. I did it to make a point. A point that’s clearly never stuck in either of your heads. You’re both idiots, but you fix your messes. You manage to impress me. Hell, you impress Lucifer. He’s scared of you.”

“He’s what?”

“Come on. You think the bad guys come after you muttonheads for your good looks? Nope. It’s because you two are the ones that always find some damned way to unravel the ungodly messes they make. You’re literally the guys that all the baddies fear. You’re also our best shot in this. I didn’t come here because I was bored. I came because I needed your help.”

“This is too much, Gabriel. Way too much. She’s God’s sister.”

“Yeah, she is. Trust me, Dean. I know what she is. I also know what the two of you are.”

“We’re just hunters.”

“You’re the pivotal center of the fate of the planet. My dick brothers’ Vessels. You’ll be fine.”

“Michael wasn’t.”

“You aren’t Michael, and Sam isn’t Lucifer.”

Rather than responding anywhere near coherently there was the stomping of feet and a door slamming.

The moment he was alone he felt himself sinking into the blissful black void of sleep. Ah, sleep. Exactly what he needed to heal from the holy fire. All he could hope was that it was enough.

~-.-~