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The Importance of Truth

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Cover by v-son-sayian

 

The first and most important thing: it was not his fault.

Sure, he'd set Dean up to die – after all, death was a key point of this little exercise – but Gabriel hadn't meant for Dean to really die.

See, Doris had made cake for lunch, a chocolate cake. Gabriel had invested a lot of time and experimentation in this little project. Turned out she was a stress baker, and from there, it had been easy. A little accident and a ding on her car later, she was making chocolate cake, red-eyed, but somehow resolute.
 
Gabriel could appreciate that resolve, as it led to what was probably the best lunch dessert since he'd started this chain of Tuesdays, and he was engrossed in it. The frosting was some cream cheese and whipped cream concoction that he seriously needed to replicate. The cake itself was thick, luscious and so sinful...

Well, there a number of jokes he could make about that, if he wasn’t so painfully aware that Lucifer was coming.

So, anyway, the point is, Gabriel was taking comfort in chocolate, like many sane and rational beings did, and it turned out to be very good chocolate. Distracting chocolate in fact.

Distracting enough that when Dean Winchester died that iteration of Tuesday, Gabriel didn’t catch his soul and the Righteous Man went to Hell.
 
***

There was a sickening thud, the blaring of a car horn, and Sam knew what had happened.

Despite it, he turned around, and then was somehow on his knees by Dean, petting at his head. It wasn’t like he could stop himself. This was Dean, and even after a million deaths (and oh, god please, don’t let it come to that, a hundred was a hundred too many times), he doubted he’d ever not feel the terror and pain coursing through him.

The man was saying something, and Sam only looked up long enough to bear his teeth. Same fucking car, same fucking geezer. Damn it, he’d made this mistake before!

Dean one last time, trying to say something and Sam only shook his head. He’d heard it all before. Always fundamentally the same. Always about him, always a Sammy. Always about someone he was pretty sure had died the first impossible day. It was like Dean didn’t even get he was the one dying here, it was always about Sammy.

Sam closed his eyes, and brought his hand away from Dean’s face to clutch at his hand, too tight, and not caring. He bit back a cry as he felt the faint pressure back spasm, Dean’s breath shuddering to a stop.

The opening strain to the Heat of the Moment never came.

Rather there was something like the snap of a sheet and then a warm presence behind him.

“Oh, shit.”

Sam turned.

A man was standing there, looking thoroughly disoriented as he stared down at Dean’s body. In one hand he held a plate of what looked to be chocolate cake, oddly enough. Well, not so oddly. It was the Trickster.

Really, Sam should have known. Slow dancing aliens were this guy's idea of a joke. Killing his brother for infinite Tuesdays had to be a party game to him. One point per death, with additional points for creativity! his mind helpfully supplied as a tag line.
 
Would the game end when he finally went mad? It wouldn't be that long then.

The Trickster seemed to finally notice him, looking at first puzzled, and then his expression changed a little, like he'd just realized he'd missed something. He was looking at Sam, really looking at him, like Dean's body –and he hated that it was a body, there had never been a body, only Dean dying– wasn't there.

Sam bared his teeth, and the Trickster looked even more uncomfortable.

“That wasn't supposed to happen,” the Trickster finally said.

“Oh, really? You mean it hasn't been you killing him?” Sam said, and knew the words were coming out oddly, all breathy and arched until he growled out the end.

The Trickster only winced.

***

Look, it had been a really good piece of chocolate cake, alright?

But now Gabriel was pretty sure he'd just fucked up, big time. Over cake. Damn it, he hated when Sigurn was right. She'd been talking about Ragnarök and honey cake, but really setting off Armageddon was about the same.

Dean Winchester had a date with Hell, but Gabriel had just sent him there four months early.

He had a system, a way to keep his little pocket universe separate, but still connected to what was beyond the little Florida town. It had been enough so that when Dean died, he could grab Dean’s soul in the moment between his last heartbeat and the true death, then restart. The only problem with this was that he had to pay attention. Normally, it wasn’t an issue as he carefully shepherded each accident to his liking and watched. This time, he hadn’t, and the built in hazards had done the job.

Already, he could hear the heavenly chorus changing, twisting and readying themselves. Enochian words he hadn't heard in millennia began to ring out. They called for war, called for the end and sand of the Paradise that was to come.

They sang that one of Gabriel's brothers was going to die.

Rather than the Sam that was there, for a moment Gabriel imagined that Sam that would be there, after the Seals broke and after Sam said yes. He could see him in a white suit, and with the constant refrain of Heaven echoing in his head, he could see how his brother would die, fully and completely in that body, his grace flickering out.

The image was so real, so utterly there

Foresight wasn't a gift of Gabriel's; he was one who helped craft the future, not one who was swept into it, so he rarely saw anything. However, some things were ineffable fate, so willed by God. And those events, should Father permit, he could see.

So he looked into the future, pushing harder at the veil of spinning and changing time than he had in years. No, lifetimes. Harder than he had since he left Heaven, when he had seen and prophesied the last battle between his brothers.

He knew that Lucifer would be wearing Sam Winchester's body, and he would be clad in white. He could already imagine as he pushed how easily the blood would stain it–

But that wasn't what he saw.

He saw Sam saying no. Always saying no. He saw that Lucifer would never be in his true vessel.

He saw that it would never be over.

Sam was Lucifer's vessel, the true one, just like his brother was Michael's. If Lucifer did not die in Sam's body or kill Michael in Dean, then it wouldn't end. Rather, his brothers would fight forever and on, in proxy through their underlings. More angels would fall, until their dying grace rained from the heavens. It would flow into the earth like salt, burning the ground it touched, making it barren. Madness would descend on the humans like a plague, and by the time the last of brothers died, there would be no one to remember them, not even him.

Shaken, he turned away from the future, into the present, where none of his siblings had yet died.

Sam was still talking at him, swearing vengeance. He looked like he would be trying to kill him already, if he could only let go of Dean's body.

“I'm sorry,” Gabriel interrupted, desperately trying to figure out how he could turn the tide back.

 Sam had to say yes, had to, had to, had to. He had been going to, once. But now something had changed, and it had all been something Gabriel had done. Which meant he should be able to fix it.

“Sorry?” laughed Sam. “You think sorry will cut it? That it'll-”

Gabriel snapped his fingers.

They reappeared in an empty field, somewhere in Texas. Gabriel had the feeling the less people who witnessed this, the better. They had been starting to draw a crowd in that little Florida town.

“Dean wasn't supposed to die permanently,” Gabriel explained.

Sam's laugh was bitter and he didn't look away from Dean. “So, a joke on me, huh?”

“No. A lesson. Dean bought a one-way ticket. While he's on Hell Airlines a little early, it doesn't change anything.” That was probably the greatest lie of his life.

“He had time left,” Sam spat. “I would have found something, done something.”

He would have done anything, Gabriel knew with a deep ringing certainty. It resonated through him clearly enough to blot out Heaven's hum.

An idea stuck him. If Sam would have done anything have kept Dean from Hell, what would he do to rescue him? For moment, it bloomed. Promising Dean's life, in return for one favor, one tiny yes. It would set everything back on track, and once the sixty-six seals broke, the vessels would be there and willing–

He cut the thought off. It wouldn't work like that. He couldn't enforce the bargain, not if Sam got stubborn and Sam would.

“Most people wouldn't go to these lengths,” he said instead. He fished around in his pockets for a piece of candy and popped a jolly rancher into his mouth. The burst of sweetness was comforting.

“We aren't most people,” Sam said, but he looked a little more abstracted now, like he was pulling himself together. His eyes were tracking the candy wrapper, and for a moment Gabriel thought about offering a piece to him, but then he noticed how Sam's eyes flickered around.

Best to stop that. He had a suspicion Sam was looking for any convenient piece of wood. While it wouldn't kill him, it was still a pain to have a stake in his chest.

“You aren't,” he agreed and with his first instinct, and tossed the first bit of chocolate he found in his pockets over. If chocolate got him into this mess, it should damn well get him out.

Sam didn't catch it.

Instead, he let it bounce of his chest, and it landed on Dean's body, before slowly rolling onto the ground. Gabriel looked at the little silver Hershey's Kiss, its foil glinting in the weak winter sun among the dead grass. He thought about going for it, since he wasn't sure how many he had left, and chocolate sounded really good, but one look at Sam dissuaded him.

Sam was still as a snake and he vividly reminded Gabriel of the serpent Skadi had set on him, how it had simply held still and dripped poison on him in that unending dark of the cave. His eyes were slits and there was only a glint to them, shiny and hard.

“He'll be back,” Gabriel found himself saying. “At most it will take a year.”

Sam's eyes snapped wide open, and were startling bright. The spell broken, the remembered drip-drip-drip receding, Gabriel reviewed his words, and winced again. Okay, he had to spin this, and he to spin this fast.

He had the feeling that Sam would hunt until the end of time, given reason to.

Sure, that had been the plan originally, to get him to see who he could become given a chance, to bring him a little closer to Lucifer's mindset, closer to saying yes. However, suddenly it didn't seem like a good plan to have all that drive focused on him.

He had the uncomfortable notion that Sam wouldn't stop until one of them was dead. At this point, he would give even odds on who would be the corpse. If any human could figure out who he was and how to kill him, it would be Sam.

Slowly, Sam lowered Dean down and stood, and now all his attention was focused. Gabriel could feel the difference already, his grace flaring up, sensing the regard –almost as sharp as an angel's– leveled at him.

“Says who?” he asked, his shoulders in a relaxed, easy posture that didn't fool Gabriel a bit.

“People,” he prevaricated, calves tensing as he decided if he should run or not. He rubbed his fingers together, and decided to wait. He could change this, somehow, he was sure. He was Loki, trickster of gods. He could lead Sam down the dark, left hand path as easily as any demon. By the end of it, he could have the human eating out of his hand even as he betrayed him onto his brother.

“People?” repeated Sam.

The sheep bleated. Oh, how nice. It would be easy to lead to the slaughter.

“And such,” he added off-handedly, reeling Sam in. “Everyone's heard of the Winchester brothers after all. And some of the older, wiser heard your names before you were born, hot stuff.”

“What do you mean? Prophecies?” Sam asked, carefully stepping around Dean, leaving him behind as he stalked forward.

“Among other things,” he said, as bland as he could, though he felt like cackling.

“What do these things say?”

“Quite a bit,” he said, and fought down another triumphant smile. “By the end of it, the whole of the world will know of you though. Demons will scatter before you.” To do Lucifer's bidding, but he could hold off on that bit for a while.

“And Dean?”

“Will walk again.”

***

Sam ignored the eighth call from Ruby, and kept the speedometer at a steady seventy miles per hour, angling northwest, already in Missouri. He'd driven a thousand miles, through the night, and he had another ten hours to go. Metallica was blaring on the speakers, and if he didn't look to closely, he could pretend Dean was sleeping.

Still, he wasn't, and it would be best to keep to the speed limits. There wouldn’t be any way to explain it to a cop.  He eased off the pedal.

In a haze of gas stops, coffee and old tapes, the last couple hundred miles rolled by until he was outside Sioux Falls, rolling into the junkyard at twilight.

He stopped at the old, rusty red '65 Mustang, the one he knew Dean wanted when he was sixteen until Dad had made a pointed remark about how useless it'd be for hunting, too small for any real arsenal.

It wasn't a glass coffin, but Dean wasn't Snow White. He'd use the Impala if he could, but he needed her for now. The Mustang would keep Dean out of the ground, and by some miracle, its windows were all still intact.

If they were lucky, it would still be cold out when Dean... would come back. Sam's mind shied away from the whys, and desperately tried not to think what would happen come summer to a body in a car.

Still, better than a box in the cold ground, with no way out.

That in mind, he hauled Dean out, trying to ignore how he wasn't warm, how the rigor mortis had come and now was mostly gone. Sam careful set him into the driver's seat, making sure he didn't have a foot under the breaks, and then moved the seat back as far as it would go, so Dean wouldn't bang his knees too much. After a moment of consideration, he buckled Dean in too. He'd call it a joke, if Dean asked.

Then, he transferred over Dean's hunting bag, along with an emergency pack, putting the weapons in the passenger seat, and everything else in the trunk, which mostly closed.

He hunched over a piece of paper, fingers freezing as he debated word choice, before scrawling out: Look in the trunk, then come find me. -S. He put the note on top of the weapons, and used Dean's favorite gun as a paperweight, just to be on the safe side.

The Impala was cold by the time he started her again.

He drove up towards Bobby's house, the world now pressing into him too tightly. The coffee was starting to show in the way his hands shook, or maybe that was the lack of sleep. His vision wavered a few times, but he still brought the Impala to rest on the driveway without crashing into anything, so he was going to count it as win.

Bobby was waiting for him on the porch, a down jacket thrown over his flannel shirt, and Sam belated realized that he should be wearing something heavier than his pullover, but he didn't think he could get his hands to relax enough to get into the trunk again. They were frozen claws around the steering wheel, and he looked at them, wondering when he'd put on the driving gloves Dean kept under the seat along with the jumper cables.

Bobby was at the car window, Sam noticed, and he found himself flinching before he could stop himself. He hadn't even noticed movement.

Bobby backed away, and Sam slowly uncurled, and fumbled open the door, barely remembering to grab the keys.

“Sam?”

“Dean's not coming.” It was all he could say, but it was enough.

Warmth around him, and Sam let himself fall into it. He should be explaining more, but it could wait until he had the words right, could explain that he had a feeling about the Trickster, and what he wasn't saying.

It could all wait.

***

Gabriel watched, silent and unseen as Sam was ushered into Bobby's. He followed them in, barely paying any mind to the numerous banishments, traps, and protections that turned the house into a supernatural fortress. None of them could hold him. 

Bobby walked Sam through tests, holy water, silver, and sacred words. However, his heart didn't seem in it.

Sam didn't notice, numbly following his leave.

Eventually, Bobby pulled down an unmarked bottle and poured out two small measures of it, or maybe two very generous shots, and set one down in front of Sam.

He took it, sipped it, and then seemed to get with the program. He tossed the rest of the drink back, and held out the glass mutely.

Bobby poured him another, this one double the size of the other.

“I left Dean in the Mustang,” Sam at last blurted, maybe the whisky loosing his tongue. “The one he wanted to paint cherry red.”

Bobby had a great poker face, Gabriel decided. The man hadn't even blinked.

“Thought that he'd–” Sam sniffed, one of those great gulping noise affairs that really meant he was trying not do something else. “Thought he'd like that. And well... he didn't bury me.”

Then Bobby's poker face cracked. His eyes widened and his hand spasmed, his knuckles going white as he tried to crush the glass in his hand.

“Boy, you'd better not– Dean didn't bring you back just so you could trade yourself back in,” Bobby said, not yelling, but coming close. His voice was horse, and he took a swig of whiskey that didn't seem to help. “Just...”

“I'm not,” Sam said. “It's...something else.”

Gabriel felt for another piece of candy, wondering if this would be what broke through Sam's resolve, but Sam didn't elaborate. It was rather annoying. Half the point of spying on someone to find out what they thought about you.

“Yeah?” Bobby asked.

“Yeah,” Sam said simply. He didn't say anything else.

Damn it, the guy was supposed to be breaking down, not clamming up. Why else go to the one place he was supposed to be safe at? Well, as safe as he could be now, with the world about to reborn.

“How did it happen?” Bobby asked, his voice uneven.

Sam eyed him, and then did the oddest little thing.

He smiled. It was slight and quick, but there for a brief second before he ducked his head.

It wasn't back when he looked back up.

“Car accident,” he said, and finished off the rest of his glass.

“Shit,” Bobby breathed. “Always thought, well before last May, he'd go out in a blaze.”

Sam shrugged. “I thought I was going to get to die in my bed until a couple years ago.”

Bobby only shook his head. “You're welcome to stay here, long as you need.”

“We'll see.”

The drinking on Bobby's part got a heavier as the night progressed, but Sam never got past the tipsy stage while Bobby progressed slowly into sloshed and then shit-faced. After a time, Sam left him to and stumbled, only a little unsteadily up the stairs into the guest room.

There were two twin beds, ghostly white in the moonlight, and Sam looked at the bed by the window longer for a long moment before slumping down on to the other one, moving the piles of books on it to the floor. He didn't lay down, however. He rolled his shoulders, took a deep breath, and then spoke.

“Well?”

He said it to the space by the door, a good six feet from where Gabriel actually was. Still, it was a unnerving.

“I know you're there,” he said, matter of fact, if a little slurred.

“How?” Gabriel asked, coming to a snap decision and appeared with no fanfare.

“You'd be wanting to watch,” Sam said simply.

“It was a great show,” Gabriel agreed, and brought a little popcorn into existence. “I'd give you an eight in drama up until the point you started to talk with Bobby-boy. Then you got a little wooden.”

“I'm not a very good method actor,” said Sam after a moment, though Gabriel could tell that his first instinct was try to find a stake and have another go at killing him. “Plus, I get stage fright.”

“And the smile? That was totally breaking character!”

“Oh, that smile was just for you.”

“I don't feel very loved,” Gabriel remarked.

“You killed my brother,” Sam said frostily.

“A car did, you said it yourself.”

Sam's arm went under the bed, faster than what Gabriel thought was possible for a human. He drew a knife, and there was murder in his eyes.

Shit, okay. Time to tone it down. Kid sure as hell wasn't Lucifer. Despite all the prophecies drawing parallels between the two, they obviously had different coping methods. And now that Gabriel thought about it, they had vastly different paths of rebellion. Sam left. Lucifer planned a coup.

That said, their rage levels seemed about the same. Redirecting should also be on the agenda somewhere. Rage was good, probably helped him a little closer to saying yes, but that much rage was bad focused on him.

Gabriel cleared his throat, smiled, and looked significantly at the knife.

Sam didn't put it down.

“Who are you?”

Gabriel froze. Oh, fuck. Oh fuck, fuck, fuck. If Sam suspected, it might be too late. On the other hand, his press as an angel had always been rather good, placing him at Michael's side. It could send him over to Lucifer right then and there, which would be a wonderfully simple solution. If it worked.

“Which one? Coyote? Anansi?”

“Loki.”

Sam nodded once, and Gabriel was sure that he was cataloguing the idea, planning to research it to death. Well, good luck to him. Other than a few carvings and some poetry and prose written by some drunken skalds, there was very little out there that wasn't speculation. He'd made sure of it.

Gabriel fidgeted, and then brought out another piece of candy. Best keep in character.

Or something.

***

Sam woke sometime in the early morning, though he didn't bother to look for his phone or to pad out to the hall and check the clock in the next room. It didn't really matter. Bobby would still be sleeping it off, and that would give Sam more than enough to leave.

He didn't feel like staying around and talking about it. Bobby was sure to try to convince him to burn Dean, but they couldn't do that. If he avoided Bobby, Dean would lay where he was, until he needed to not be. Bobby would respect it, barring a ghost.

Sam didn't bother leaving a note.

The Impala was waiting for him, a fresh coat of snow on her, and Sam suddenly remembered how Dean would always bitch in the winter, trying to stay south of any where less than forty degrees, swearing about the salt on the roads. Well, Dean wouldn't have to live with it, for now.

The engine started without a problem, and Sam carefully drove out to the main roads, fishtailing until he slowed the Impala to a crawl. Slowly, he drove through the monochrome world, thinking.

Loki had no reason to help him. Therefore, he had an agenda, which didn't in anyway match up with Sam's own, in all likelihood. A lesson, he'd said.

Sam spent most of the drive out to I-90 pondering that, trying not to think about the sickening thump-screech and Dean looking up at him or the way his eyes ached.

He thought of going east on a whim, at first thinking that Chicago sounded like a good idea, and then reconsidered, remembering Meg. He decided southwest would be better, if nothing else to get him out of the snow.

Florida wasn't even considered.

***

It became clear after the second day that Sam had no plan. His route meandered through the southwest, and several times he crisscrossed the same roads, not even seeming to notice.

He never once took out a map.

It was starting to frustrate Gabriel. He'd swear that Sam was doing it just to annoy him, expect for that would be insane. The more time passed, however, the more likely the idea seemed.

Sam didn't call on him again, but sometimes he would look darkly amused, and then do something else that made no sense, like simply pulling up to a not very good scenic overlook of the Grand Canyon, and then just sitting there.

For hours.

Something was wrong with him.

Occasionally - well, maybe once or twice a day, to be honest, Gabriel would find himself looking to the future. Each time, it got easier to slip into the stream of time, twist himself into the what would be, and to look.

Sam's answer didn't change.

Gabriel gave in, the inelastic future scaring him, and was in the Impala passenger seat on the tenth day after Dean's death, waiting for Sam in the early morning light. He'd even brought a peace offering of a latte, but ended up drinking it himself, after adding a few more packets of sugar. He also ate the M&Ms he found in glove compartment, and was starting to eye a nearby vending machine (real chocolate always tasted better than anything he conjured up) when Sam finally came out.

He didn't seem to surprised, and only chucked his bag into the back and slide into the driver's seat without a word. His impassiveness was only broken by the sequel of tires as he pulled out of the parking lot too fast.

“Who're Azazel's friends?” he finally asked.

“Well,” Gabriel said slowly, blinking. “As long as your definition is loose... Lilith supposedly made him her right hand for a while. And there's all his children of course or any demon who wanted to curry favor.”

“And his plan for me?”

Gabriel tilted his head, wondering what to say, what Sam would believe. He settled for saying all that he would have known, if he had been only Loki, a trickster god.

“Other big players. We didn't think much of it.” He was tempted to add something about how it was all Judeo-Christian and didn't matter to him, but that would be more Baldur's or Odin's line.

Sam shook his head.

The drove through another few miles, the sky encompassing the flat, wide-open land so completely that it seemed like they would drive over the edge of the earth, given enough time.

“Thing is, if Dean was supposed to die, supposed to have his one way ticket and this supposed rescue... then I was always the one. Azazel... paid attention to us, hurt us more, killed more people around u- me than he did to the others. They were window dressing. I was something else.”

They topped past the range of the Impala's speedometer, and Sam's foot stayed on the gas pedal, pushing the car just a little harder, a little faster until the engine made an odd little noise. He looked at the dash, and then eased of the gas, letting them coast.

“I was supposed to die. Dean was always supposed to make that deal.”

...Okay. So those days Sam had spent going around in circles? Now seemed more logical.

“Heady stuff.”

Sam looked at him, and the car drifted a little, as he didn't look back to the road. He held Gabriel's eyes as he spoke.

“Azazel’s plan is still happening, even though he died, isn’t it?”

“I dunno.” A lie, he knew. But he hadn't realized Sam had seen it like that. “You sure about that?”

“It's the only thing that explains my life.”

“The world doesn't revolve around you, kiddo.”

“Dean's did,” Sam spat, bitter and harsh, though Gabriel thought he'd been trying to sound flippant. The Impala's roared under him, and they shot forward.

Gabriel shifted; wondering if now would be a good time to–
 
“Don’t leave.”
 
***
 
Sam knew what the words sounded like, but it’s not a plea to have someone be there for him, to fill the aching hole left by Dean. It couldn’t ever be filled, only smoothed to a dull numbness by time and maybe blood. What this was about was watching Loki, keeping him close enough to kill or trap if he needed to. If Dean didn’t come back… well, he’d need to do something then.


Still, Sam hated being alone.
 
So much of his time was spent living in the same space as someone else, tangling lives together until there wasn’t any more room. First (and always) there had Dean, then Brady when they were roommates, then Jess, and Dean again.
 
It was wrong to be in the Impala by himself, driving for days and nights without end, the seat beside him empty every time he glanced over. He didn’t like the hum of the engine being the only thing filling the silence. He thought about getting something to hook his iPod into, but he knew how Dean would react to that.
 
It was just him and the silence, until that morning, when Loki was waiting for him; two drunk cups coffee and the M&M bag empty in his hands. He still didn’t know what to think about that.
 
But he’d filled the silence, and that had been enough.
 
Now, Loki was looking at him, the fixed smile now gone and the tension in his face plain. He looked like he wanted to ask something more, but he wasn’t sure how to phrase it.
 
Sam was actually fine with that silence, as it was all too familiar from when he and Dean fought. He also was pretty sure that whatever Loki was thinking would be enough for him to want to take another crack at him with the knife.
 
A black and white sign flashed by, and Sam realized just how far over the speed limit he was. After a glance to mirrors, checking for any flashing lights, he slowed and concentrated on keeping at the speed limit.
 
“Sure, it’s not like I have anything better to do,” Loki finally said, the flippancy at odds with the timing.
 
Sam pretended not to notice, and also didn’t mention the odd feeling that he had that it was true.
 
Another twenty miles passed, and Sam kept flicking sideways glances to the passenger’s seat, checking that Loki was still there. For a while, he halfway expected the Impala to suddenly turn pink, or something else garish enough to fit a trickster’s taste, but nothing happened.
 
He had the feeling that he had something that had surprised him. Too bad he couldn’t figure out what it was. He thought about asking what it had been, but he had far more pressing questions. He remembered what Loki had said in that empty field, when Dean had been in his arms.
 
“Will the demons let Dean go?”
 
“No, they’ll all need to go through the motions, I think,” Loki said. He licked his lips, a quick dart of tongue.
 
“Yeah?”
 
“Who do you think is going to bring him back anyway?”
 
Sam turned his attention fully back to the road, not looking away from the asphalt.
 
“Surely you have an idea,” Loki cajoled.
 
“I do.”
 
That was the problem, he had too many. He wasn’t sure which to pick, which seemed true. They ranged from everything from reapers to valkyries. He even thought that it might be him, because he would storm Hell for Dean, as soon as he could figure out how.
 
“Well?” pressed Loki.
 
“You know who it’s going to be,” Sam countered. He was pretty sure that Loki was telling the truth about that anyway. Dean couldn’t have just died, his life ended with everything left like this. It wouldn’t be like that.
 
(It wasn’t one of those darker nights, when he thought that the Trickster was just preying on his denial, and jerking him around with an impossible promise of Dean’s resurrection.)
 
“Tell me,” he pressed.
 
Loki let out one long, slow sigh, and spoke.
 
“One thing first, what does Dean mean to you?”
 
“He’s my brother.” It was as simple as that.
 
“That means nothing,” Loki said, after a laugh that hollow and hinted of old pain.
 
“How can you–” Sam tried to remember Norse mythology. He’d looked it up almost a week ago, after he’d gotten the name out of him, and he’d spent one long night in the half dazed place of not sleeping, but not fully awake, and most important, trying not to think. He’d spent the night (trying not to replay each death he’d seen Dean die) surfing the web, going from scholarly sites to neo-pagan groups, and looking for information. That said, there wasn’t much he could remember.
 
There was one thing though. Loki’s brothers weren’t in the main pantheon. They hadn’t been Odin or Thor, or any of the other Norse gods. They had been jötunn, something like giants or maybe minor gods.
 
“Dean…” Sam sighed, and then chose his words carefully. “He’s constant, like gravity.” He glanced again at Loki out of the corner of his eye.
 
Loki wasn’t even looking at him, rather turned away, looking at something in the far off distance of his window, his back ramrod straight.
 
Sam thought a little more about what Dean was, thought about everything that had happened now, but didn’t think he could elaborate further. Everything else he said would be a distraction from that basic principal. He could tangle up the idea that with how Dean was crude, overbearing, had issues, and with every other facet he hated, but it would detract from the meaning (and he wasn’t sure he could voice the other things, that Dean was his, a touchstone, the one reason he thought he had a conscience).
 
“Pull over then,” Loki said. “I don’t want you wrapping the car around a pole over this.”
 
Sam did and killed the engine.
 
The silence grew.
 
They were in the middle of nowhere, two lanes with a dotted line the only thing breaking up the wild fields around them. He wasn’t even sure what state they were in now. There were no cars in the distance, no sound but the crunch of gravel under his shoes as he got out. It was like he’d traveled too far, beyond all limits and had come to rest in a no-man’s land.
 
Loki got out of the car too, and stretched, before hoping up onto the hood. He looked manic, like he’d had eight cups of coffee, on top of a pound of chocolate covered espresso beans, washed down with three Red Bulls. He was twitching slightly, like he couldn’t decide where to look, and was settling on something about halfway between reality and daydreaming. Then, he looked at Sam, and it seemed like he was frantically reconsidering saying anything.
 
Sam did his best to look sane and calm, very deliberately not thinking about the wooden stakes wedged under the driver’s seat. He could have one in his hands in about seven seconds.
 
Finally when Sam was beginning to think about grabbing a coat out of the car, his overshirt not quite enough to stand against the wind, Loki slumped.
 
“It will be an angel that will bring him back.”
 
“What?” Yeah, sure, he kind of believed that there was a God. Most days anyway, which was enough for him to fight about it with Dean, and angels were folded in with that belief, but…
 
“Yeah.” Loki said.
 
“Fucking hell.” Angels. There hadn’t ever been even a hint in all the hunter lore he’d heard, in all the books and websites about demon he thought had basis in reality, that angels were real.
 
“More like Heaven, but close enough,” Loki tossed out, sounding darkly amused.
 
“Why Dean? Why not Dad or anyone else who’s made a deal?” Dean couldn’t have been the first person to make a deal for a good reason (well, something like one; Sam knew he was supposed to be dead still).
 
Loki shrugged, and then looked at the car.
 
Sam heard it too, his phone vibrating. A moment later, it started to ring, and he fished it out, hoping to see Dean’s number on it. He’d left the cell phone, fully charged, though turned off beside Dean’s wallet in Mustang.
 
It was Ruby, again.
 
“Shouldn’t you answer that?”
 
Yeah, probably. He’d been ignoring her constant calls for the past week or so. Since that Tuesday.
 
He hadn’t spoken to her in… months it felt like, or maybe a year. He should ask how long they’d been in that loop, how much time had passed for just him and Loki someday.
 
He’d tried to call her in the loop, but had never caught her. It wasn’t exactly odd, as he’d never returned any of her calls, never called back the number that would occasionally text him.
 
Then, on Tuesday, when he’d found his way back to the Impala, shaken and not really sure if this wasn’t just another Tuesday, with a new twist, he’d found he’d missed two calls. He hadn’t bothered to answer when he’d been driving to South Dakota, since he’d never answer her call with Dean in the car. After that, it had just seemed like too much work.
 
“Sam?” The voice was tinny over cell phone speakers.
 
“Yeah,” he said, not really sure what else he could say. ‘Sorry, I don’t need you’re help anymore’ seemed the most true and direct. He just didn’t want to explain.
 
“Oh, fuck. I’m glad to hear from you. Are you okay?”
 
“Fine,” he said curtly.
 
“I heard about Dean,” she said.
 
Loki jerked suddenly, all his attention now on the phone.
 
Something tickled at the back of Sam’s mind, like it always did on a case, when all the facts were there, and he just hadn’t lined them up in the right–
 
“Who told you?”
 
“What do you mean who told me?” Ruby asked, with a snort. “It’s all over the place. Dean Winchester is dead.”
 
“Who told you first?”
 
Ruby didn’t say anything.
 
“Ruby?” he pressed.
 
“I cheated a little,” she admitted. “I just wanted to keep tabs on you two. I’m sorry I wasn’t there.”
 
A spell or something, Sam decided. It would explain how she had known so quickly. Except…
 
“Would you have been, if it hadn’t been quick?”
 
“Of course,” she said softly. “I know how much he meant to you. If there had been a way, I would have helped save him.”
 
“Thank you,” Sam said, and hung up. He ignored the phone when it started to ring a moment later.
 
She’d never come the handful of times it’d taken Dean hours to die.
 
Loki looked at him, and in that moment, all hint of the Trickster was gone, leaving behind a not quite man who was frowning at him.
 
“What was that about?” he asked.
 
“A demon lying to me. I shouldn’t be so surprised.”
 
“Angels lie too,” he said, with a small, little smile.
 
***

Ten days. Ten days. It had been ten days and Gabriel still hadn’t been able to change things. He’d thought things might right themselves if he left Sam mostly alone, and instead the man had gone off and gotten even more determined to say no, and would likely equate any offer from Lucifer to being part of Azazel’s great plan.
 
In fact, as far as he could tell, Sam had decided that the whole world was out to get him.
 
Too bad, he didn’t seem far from wrong, as that call with demon seemed to prove. As far as Gabriel could tell, she had been Hell’s agent with the best shot at manipulating Sam, which she had just blown. Or he had, indirectly.
 
The bit about angels lying had just slipped out, and he wasn’t sure if it would help or not, but Sam didn’t seemed to have noticed it.
 
They’d ended up back onto the road after that, and Sam hadn’t spoken, instead putting on a mix tape of what had to be all the worst hits of classic rock. He didn’t really seemed to be paying attention to it, other than when it stopped and he had to flip the tape.
 
That was fine with Gabriel. He spent most of the morning trying to peer into the future, trying not to look any further than Sam and Lucifer. He careful tried to see what he could change, but all he could see was Sam always saying no, and then more of Gabriel’s family dying, more than he could bear.
 
Was it really so much to ask that Lucifer and Michael just kill each other already? There hadn’t been a reason to inflict their personal trauma on the rest of the family, but they’d had. Tearing them up along lines of ideals and beliefs until there wasn’t anything left that didn't hurt.
 
It had been then that Gabriel had left, tearing himself out of Heaven, away from Lucifer and Michael, just in time to see Lucifer’s Fall.
 
When Lucifer Fell, he’d had been like a comet across the sky, and then like a second sun, for he had burned so brightly. Then his grace abruptly shifted into something new, ripping out all that had made him like Michael, like Gabriel. It turned into something else, and hit the earth, then going deeper and going into an elsewhere that would later become Hell.
 
That had been when Gabriel had decided that he’d had enough, and had turned away from it all.
 
For all the good it had done him.
 
He could still see the way Lucifer had twisted, the way he had ripped his very grace up, just so that he wouldn’t be like them. He had seen then the Winchesters, had seen Sam and known that would someday end, one way or the other.
 
Expect it wasn’t the end.
 
Sam loved Dean too much to ever say yes.
 
Dean had sold his soul for Sam.
 
For all that they were humans, with free will flowing so easily in them, capable of remaking each choice, Gabriel was starting to understand them.
 
For each other, they would…
 
Well, they would do more than Lucifer and Michael had.
 
***
 
Loki stayed.
 
Sam was sure there was a reason, something that he should be asking, but he was fine with things being the way they were. He told himself again that it was good to always know where his enemy was. At the diner he picked for lunch, Loki had three milkshakes, and Sam found himself paying for them without complaint. The same was repeated at dinner with four different desserts. Sam ended up getting the usual two queen room.
 
Neither of them said anything when Loki took the other bed.
 
In retrospect, maybe one of them should, but it had seemed a natural progression at the time, had seen like something logical. It didn't have the same easiness of him and Dean, but nothing ever would, ever could, since that was something ingrained by years of childhood.
 
But it was easier than it ever had been with anyone else, and Sam hated himself for that thought.
 
He knew he always made friends fast. It had been something that was a defensive mechanism after switching schools so many times. He and Jess had gone just having met to serious relationship in three glorious days he'd never forget. He and Brady had clicked in the first few minutes of talking.
 
Loki didn't fit any of his past patterns though; Sam didn't like him, didn't even understand why he wanted him around, and not someone else. Here he was though, despite all of that. Despite having killed Dean.
 
Sam buried his head under his pillow, and tried to remind himself that it hadn't taken ten days for him to forget, only that it took him ten days to move forward.
 
Dean would be back.
 
He fell asleep to the thought.
 
The next morning he woke up to the smell of coffee and donuts and found them waiting along with Loki at the table. It looked like it had been a carry out box of a dozen, though only two were left.
 
He looked at the cup of coffee, suddenly remembering the two empty cups that were still in the Impala. He wondered how long Loki had waited for him the day before.
 
Loki didn't say much too him, and while he didn't have bags under his eyes and he didn't yawn, Sam had a feeling the night before hadn't been a restful one for him. That said, he was still at a lost to if a trickster rested or slept. Maybe it was just Loki missed fucking up someone’s life.
 
When Sam was almost half way through his coffee, Loki finally spoke.
 
“What do you want to know about angels?”
 
“What do you know?” Sam asked cautiously after he managed not to spit out his coffee. Was Loki volunteering the information?
 
“If I was going to tell you everything I knew, you'd be dead of old age before I finished.”
 
“Right. What do you think is important?”
 
Loki stole the last donut, and ate it absently.
 
Sam prudently finished the last few bites of his.
 
“You have a bloodline.”
 
“A... bloodline,” Sam repeated, remembering what Ruby had said.
 
“Yes. On both sides of your family. They combine to make one very specific thing possible.”
 
Loki looked almost sick as he spoke, and his eyes were... odd. Too steady and too bright.
 
“What do you mean?”
 
“It makes you vessels.”
 
“Vessels?”
 
“Vessels for angels.”
 
“Okay,” he finally said, not sure what else he could say to that.
 
“Very specific angels,” Loki continued, like he couldn't quite believe what he was saying either. No, like he couldn't believe he was saying it to Sam.
 
“Who?”
 
“Dean is Michael’s vessel–”
 
“As in the archangel?”
 
“You're Lucifer's,” Loki continued, like Sam hadn't said anything.
 
“No,” Sam said, slowly shaking his head, even as he remembered a demon calling him boy-king.
 
“Yes,” Loki said. “The answer I'm looking for is yes.”
 
Sam could only shake his head even more furiously, and then bolted to the bathroom, standing over the sink, feeling like he should be hurling. He wasn't. His stomach was steady even as his blood raced, and his mind went in circles, still trying to understand.
 
Lucifer? The devil, Satan himself. He couldn't– he wasn't...
 
Sam finally turned the water on and splashed washed his face, like that would somehow help.
 
Loki was still sitting at the table when Sam came back out, and he looked like he was just as wrecked as Sam was, just better at hiding it.
 
“Gotten over your panic attack yet, princess?” he asked.
 
Sam rolled his eyes automatically, and then slid back into the chair.
 
“What does this mean for Dean?” Sam asked. “Am I... going to have do something to get him back? Is that what you've been dancing around?”
 
“No,” Loki said after yet another drawn out moment, where he seemed to be weighing something. “It's after Dean comes back you need to worry.”
 
“Meaning?”
 
“He'll start it. The Apocalypse.”
 
Loki then broke it down further, and it was only through Sam's ability –hard won at Stanford– to panic and take notes at the same time, that let him understand. There were so many forces at work here, and not even Heaven was in the right here. Both sides wanted it, and he and Dean were stuck in the middle. The Righteous Man and the Boy-King. The true vessels of Michael and Lucifer.
 
Finally, Loki wound down, trailing off as he looked at Sam, but didn't seem to see him.
 
“Why are you telling me?” he finally asked.
 
“Because I want to change the future,” he said with a twist of a smile. “And because I thought that you knowing the same as all the other big players would change it.”
 
***
 
It hadn't changed anything.
 
By that point, Gabriel knew it wouldn't. It had been worth a try, he'd figured, and gambled away the information.
 
The odd thing, the worrying thing was that he was in some small way happy about it. That Sam would stay by Dean, despite knowing it all.
 
He didn't tell Sam everything of course, not all the sordid little details, but enough that he would know what would happen, when Dean would be back, and what he would have had to do.
 
It didn't feel like enough though, and while he should leave now, he didn't.
 
He wanted to know what would happen next.
 
No.
 
That wasn't true.
 
He wanted to help create what would happen next.
 
Fuck him sidewise, he was starting to care. Nothing good could come of this.
 
They were back in the car an hour later, after Sam stopped looking like he should be feeling sick and after he stopped pacing. Gabriel was beginning to understand their fondness of the car. Besides the awesome look of the car, there was something infinitely comforting about the hum of the engine, the rattle of the tape player.
 
Most of the day was spent with Sam quizzing him on what angels did and why. There were one or two places where he made a crack about Michael that did (he would later admit) come awful close to sounding like he meant something about Dean, and Sam didn’t quite to seem ready to kill him over it again, but it was a near thing. The other rocky spot came a little bit after lunch.
 
“It seems a little funny that you, a Norse god would know so much.”
 
“Eh, I’ve always had a… professional interest in other pantheons, especially the powerful ones. You should ask me about Kali someday.”
 
Sam had seemed to accept it, and they moved one, but Gabriel hadn't been able to stop worrying until over an hour later.
 
 
 
Days rolled by like miles in the Impala, and it was one day, when Gabriel spotted geese heading north in a V did he realize that it had been over three months, since he’d sat in the Impala that day with two empty cups of coffee, waiting.
 
They’d spent the last few months going from one coast to the other, only spending the night in the same place if they stumbled across a hunt.
 
The only exception had been the one and a half nights they had been in a motel on the outskirts of Toledo. The first night had been routine, with Gabriel watching a horribly dated movies and making loud comments about it until Sam either joined in or told him turn it off. That night, Sam had joined in, and they had just been ready to leave when he’d come back from the Impala, his cell phone in hand, and said that they were staying another night.
 
They’d spent the day mostly doing nothing, and around nine at night, Sam had said he had something to do, and left.
 
Sam did that sometimes, finding a pool hall, a bar, or an abandoned stretch road. Then, with a terribly empty look in his eyes, he’d lose himself in a game or drink or simply staring at the sky. The only time Sam’s eyes would lose the fathomless quality was when he looked at Gabriel, and dark, thoughtfulness would come on him, and his gaze would turn heartless and bloodthirsty.  Gabriel always avoided him during those times, if possible.
 
Gabriel had no thought of following Sam then either. There had been a mostly full bag of old Easter candy that had been calling his name and Bond marathon on.
 
Halfway through Diamonds Are Forever, Sam stumbled in, bloody, with a wicked little knife in his hands.
 
He stank of demon.
 
Gabriel had cleaned up the blood with a snap of his fingers, but insisted Sam take a warm shower before they left. If nothing else, it would wash away the stench. Also, he didn’t really feel like getting in a car crash, and thought the shower would study Sam’s nerves. It did, though Gabriel had to call for him a few times, before he came out. He’d come out, dry eyed, but with skin too red.
 
The next morning, when they stopped for an early lunch, Sam intently watched a news reporter talking about the body of a blonde twenty something grad student who had been missing for months. There were no current suspects in who stabbed her.
 
 It was another thing that slipped into the cracks, and Sam only spoke of it once.
 
“Dean would be saying he told me so.”
 
 
 
It was three days later in St. Louis when everything went pear shaped.
 
Sam spent most of a day going over micro-film at a university library until Gabriel gave up, and went off to find something else to do. He got the star quarterback of the local high school suspended after being caught doing something illegal with a goat (it wasn't x-rated, but Gabriel felt the overall mental trauma of him trying wine and dine it was more effective, let alone the damage to his bank account of buying it designer shoes).
 
He came back to the motel with a dinner, something healthy and doubtless utterly tasteless for Sam, and two pieces of cake for himself.
 
Sam was already back, and Gabriel wondered if the library had closed early until he felt it.
 
Pure grace, the likes of which he hadn't felt outside of Heaven in eons.
 
A pure note, an echo of the song of creation, calling for rightness, for what should be, rather than the falsity.
 
His own Horn. The Horn of Truth, and Sam had just used it.
 
On him.
 
A rage like he rarely felt swept through him. How dare this mortal try to entrap him? He, who had flown on the winds, had seen the world born and knew the secrets of gods and angels. He was Gabriel, one of the archangels, and he was Loki, who had his own duties come Ragnarök. Did this... creature think he had the power to command anything from him?
 
Then, like water down a drain, the rage left him. Of course Sam had used it.
 
“How did you get that?” Gabriel asked instead.
 
“The micro-films were from Archivio Segreto Vaticano, a part the Vatican Library.  It took a while, but eventually– “
 
“You found that book,” Gabriel said, rolling his eyes. He’d found all but one copy of the ravings of that particular prophet, something he’d made sure of after he realized that it mentioned that he wasn’t dead (though in a rather obscure and ecclesiastical bent). The exception had ended up in the Vatican Secret Archives, which actually weren’t nearly as secretive as he would have liked.
 
And evidently had been turned into a micro-copy, and probably presented as some fine example of early French book-binding or some other nonsense.
 
Sam nodded, and slowly traced a finger over the Horn, and the very grace of it swirled at his touch. Gabriel wanted to shiver, to snatch up the Horn himself, and to…
 
“Why are you helping me?”
 
“Because I want to,” he began, before he felt the tug of the Horn pulling out the rest. It was probably his best work and almost purely grace given shape. “Because I think that you shouldn’t be trapped in the old battle.”
 
“And whose battle is it?”
 
“Michael’s, Lucifer’s, and mine, when I make it so.”
 
“Who are you?”
 
Ah, that would be question Sam would ask. Third, most deadly, most necessary, and most needed.
 
“Gabriel.”
 
Sam’s hand faltered, and he looked from him to the Horn and then back.
 
“Yes, that’s mine.”
 
“Oh.” Sam flushed, though he didn’t seem to be falling over himself to apologize, which was something. The last time he’d told a human his true name had been awkward, and next thing he had known there was yet another religion popping up. He’d sworn it off then.
 
“I made a long time ago. Before I…”
 
“Yeah?”
 
“Before I left Heaven. Before the Fall, before everything else. Then Lucifer used it on Michael when they fought, and I put it with the rest of Heaven’s weapons. That was when I learned how deadly truth was.”
 
“They’re your brothers,” Sam breathed.
 
“Yes.”
 
Sam swore and tore himself away from the Horn, away from where Gabriel stood in the doorway, still holding dinner.
 
“My god, your brothers. You’ve been…”
 
Gabriel didn’t want to hear the conclusion to that thought, and finally slammed the door shut and shoved dinner on the table. The salad dressing tumbled over and it’s plastic lid flew off, along with half the dressing. It was a lurid orange and spattered the carpet. Gabriel stared, and then decided to ignore it, and went for his cake.
 
“I didn’t know,” Sam finally said. “I mean, I knew that you weren’t a trickster, but– “
 
“How?” asked Gabriel, offended. He’d been Loki for over a thousand years now. He had it down to an art now.
 
“The sweets. You go for them when you think about them, or maybe when you’re stressed. It’s not a metabolism thing at all.”
 
“Hunters,” he finally said and rolled his eyes. “A god doesn’t need food. Worship, possibly necessary, but not food. Also, there’s no way a stake would be enough to kill us. Someone got their wires crossed or Coyote was having a really good joke on one of you.”
 
Sam grimaced. “Well, there was also how you knew everything, and the Apocalypse got under your skin more than it should.”
 
“End of the world? Of course it does!”
 
“No, end of the world for you should be Ragnarök.”
 
“And I should also be chained under a snake with a drooling issue, but Skadi and I worked out our issues after a few decades.”
 
“You just didn’t fit the role!” Sam protested. 
 
Gabriel snorted. “You just had a feeling and went with it. There was no deduction involved.”
 
Sam nodded, but it looked more like he was humoring him and Gabriel scowled.
 
Sam snagged the other piece of cake. Gabriel made a feint to take it back, and Sam grabbed half of it with his hand and shoved it into his mouth, choking on it a little as he laughed. Gabriel managed to snag the rest of it for himself.
 
“You said an angel would bring Dean back,” Sam said, as he watched Gabriel finish the last bite. “Is that you?”
 
“No. Hell is too much for me.” The very idea of going into that place that Lucifer had created at his darkest hour, after he had burned the brightest, terrifed him. “Even now, with Micheal at the head in all his grace, Heaven’s army can barely creep forward. It’s not their time to win yet.”
 
Sam hummed in acknowledgement, but the hunch to his shoulders spoke far more clearly.
 
 
 
It was later when Sam had tucked the Horn away in the trunk, with all the other weapons, that he asked Gabriel another question.
 
“How mad are you about that?”
 
“The Horn?” Gabriel shrugged once, and then flopped down on his bed. “It was a good call.”
 
“But not necessary,” Sam agreed.
 
“No, it was,” Gabriel said, knowing it for truth.
 
He’d forgotten who he was.
 
“I’m sorry,” Sam sighed.
 
“Don’t be.”
 
“It was more than needing to know though, I… liked Ruby. A lot. It could have been something more. I thought she wasn’t telling me everything, but I thought she’d told me enough. She hadn’t.”
 
Gabriel worked through what was unsaid.
 
“Do you mean we’ve been wasting all these motel room beds these past few months?”
 
Sam snorted. “God, no. It might be something to think about, someday, and I can’t– Not until Dean…”
 
“Kinky,” Gabriel remarked.
 
Sam threw a pillow at him.
 
Gabriel knew what he meant though. He would not lay with his brother’s killer.
 
There was no question to Gabriel’s own answer. He hadn’t spent so much time with a mortal in over a thousand years.
 
***
 
After that, things flowed a little more freely between them, Sam felt. Truth, trust and a name was all it took.
 
It was in that vein, he presented his newest plan to Gabriel.
 
“I think it would work.”
 
“Uh, yeah, problem? It’s been done.”
 
“The Horn has a one person, one time use clause?”
 
“No, but last time Lucifer ended up flinging up a few asteroids around during his temper tantrum, and Michael started talking about exiling him. Using the Horn again is not going to help.”
 
“The right questions weren’t asked,” Sam said earnestly. “He was trying to get a reaction, something to throw back at him, right?” It’s what he would do, if he was fighting with Dean.
 
“Well, yes, but–”
 
“It’ll be a moderated session, with you in control. It should work.”
 
Gabriel snorted. “I think looking for Dad is more likely to than that. You can’t seriously be thinking they’ll just talk it out.”
 
“If Lucifer breaks free, I think it’s our best option. I’ll do my best to keep from killing Lilith, but if she throws herself on my knife, there’s not much I can do.”
 
Well, Gabriel had to admit it was just about as good (read: desperate) an idea as throwing them both in timeout, which depended on finding all the Horsemen and Death was a tricky bastard.
 
It had the additional benefit of closure, that he’d really know what his brothers thought of him. If it came down to it, they had their last option: his sword.
 
***
 
The holy oil was pretty easy to get and fix into place around the Mustang, with the help of deep trench, lined with plastic and an armed small remote explosive. The hard part was convincing Bobby to not kill Gabriel, and that he really was Gabriel.
 
In the end, Sam had found himself pulling out the Horn again. He knew he was being smug that it had worked, but couldn’t stop bring it up when either of them expressed doubt about his plan on how to stop Michael and Lucifer.
 
The plan was refined a little, however. Bobby had sensibly pointed out that part of the problem was that heaven was going along with the Apocalypse.
 
Gabriel had agreed, getting that internal, abstracted look again. He’d then brought up the idea of subverting all the other angels he could. As far as Sam could understand, he would be pulling rank, giving the angels another path to follow.
 
Hence the new plan. Their very first convert would be the angel that brought Dean back.
 
Mostly the new plan involved a lot of waiting, watching the Mustang from about a quarter mile off, as Gabriel had been pretty graphic in the amount of physical destruction that could be caused. Supposedly, the oil would be fine, and the explosive immersed in it, due to the oils meta-physical properties.
 
Sam was just glad to know that he shouldn’t leave Dean’s stuff there. He’d had Gabriel get it in the end, not really want to see… anything close up. Still, he would have never heard the end of it, if he’d let Dean’s favorite gun, not to mention everything else, get blasted to bits.
 
It was a good thing he hadn’t left him in the Impala, really.
 
It was May 20th when it happened.
 
“He’s saved,” Gabriel said.
 
Then light, far too bright. For an instant less than a heartbeat, everything was beyond white and Sam could see something, all wings, awe, and fury before Gabriel slapped his hand over Sam’s face, but Sam could almost see it still, something like a sun’s afterimage, and his eyes ached like he hadn’t slept in weeks.
 
Then, there was a small explosion, and the whoosh of flames.
 
By the time he was halfway there, climbing around over turned cars, Dean was leaping out of the circle of flames, tearing off a blindfold, which eased one of Sam’s worries, even as the rest of his heart lifted.
 
What had to be one of the most ridiculous grins in the history of mankind was on his face, but he didn’t care.
 
Dean was alive, and that was all that mattered.
 
He ran to him, stumbling and tripping until Dean was there, finally in his arms again, alive. Of course, it was a Tuesday, but it was another Tuesday. A new Tuesday.
 
“Him,” Dean snarled, and then he was going at Gabriel.
 
Sam couldn’t stop himself, he laughed, tugging at Dean’s arms, holding him back.
 
“It’s all right,” he tried to explain, but he found himself grinning again at the wild, worried look in Dean’s eyes.
 
“Sammy?”
 
“He’s an angel,” Sam tried to explain.
 
***
 
As punch drunk as Sam was, it took a while for him to explain, but by the end of it, he had stopped trying to get at Gabriel, which Gabriel considered to be close enough. Sam had managed to get out a mostly coherent truth, despite a mad grin.
 
“And what about him?” Dean jerked his hand at Castiel, still standing in the circle of flame.
 
“I’ll handle him,” Gabriel said.
 
“It’ll be a good first test,” Sam agreed.
 
“It will work, have faith.” His own faith sang at his touch, wanting to proclaim itself to all, but for now it would be best to be quiet.
 
“Right,” Dean said, and dragged Sam a little further away, hissing something in his ears that he probably wasn’t supposed to hear.
 
Sam objected, and Gabriel had a warm feeling to hear himself so defended, but that wasn’t the matter at hand.
 
He looked to his brother and slowly approached.
 
“Release me at once!” Castiel thundered, and his voice shattered car windows. His grace sparked and shuddered against the barrier of the oil in show which would have been impressive if Gabriel wasn’t who he was.
 
For the first time since he had fled, he let his grace unfurl fully and brought his wings into existence. They caught the sun and flamed brilliantly, shattering the spectrum of light and turning all wavelengths of it to another type of energy, and converting it to something visible.
 
“Be not afraid, little brother.”
 
“Who are you?” Castiel breathed.
 
“I am Gabriel, and I am the messenger of truth.”
 
***
 
Fin