“So you gave me wings? Wouldn’t it have been easier to, I dunno, just fly me out yourself?” Sam’s voice is low and controlled and that’s how Dean knows he’s freaking out. That and the dark green wings (weren’t they a lighter color before?) creating a mini-hurricane in the tiny hotel room.
Gabriel pretends to think, batting his eyelashes up at Sam, “No, actually, not at all.”
“Wait, no, run that by me again.” Dean says. “Why is it easier to give Sam new appendages than mojo him out?”
Sam mouths ‘appendages?’ at him and seriously, that’s what he got from that sentence?
Gabriel looks at them like they’re being difficult on purpose just to ruin his fun then slowly his frown straightens out and he says, “You do get that you’re not human?”
Sam flinches away, glances at Dean but doesn’t catch his eye. “I thought the demon blood burned out after I came back from the Cage.” Dean feels a flare of anger and frustration. Sammy’s made mistakes but he’s more than made up for them and fucking Gabriel sitting on judgment after everything he had done was just too fucking ironic.
Gabriel says, “Demon blood’s got nothing to do with it. You two…you’re archangels’ vessels- did you think you were all human? You would have died by now.”
“Yeah, well, we have.” Dean says pointedly but the urge to punch Gabriel in his smug face is dying down to its usual level.
Gabriel waves that off with an impatient, “Didn’t stick, did it?”
He’s still thinking about it when Castiel pops in, saying “Have you retrieved it?”
Sam’s wings flare out and suddenly there are shadows on the wall and the wings themselves turn to dark red (like clotted blood) and Dean feels a slot kick into place.
“Are those,” he gestures at the wings, “changing color with your feelings?”
“What, no!” Sam denies too quickly, then his lips drag down and he asks, “…Are they?”
Dean shrugs, and twirls the key at Cas to show him they got it. Cas had better know some way to fix Sam.
“Sure, it’s like a mood ring but with feathers,” Gabriel pipes up cheerfully. Whatever Sam says, Dean’s sure it’s not an accident that one of his wings thump Gabriel.
“Sam,” Castiel sounds like he’s not sure this isn’t one of those ‘human things’ you’re supposed to ignore, and really, living with them has given Cas a pretty screwed-up idea of humanity, “You have wings.”
Sam gives Gabriel a tight-lipped smile, and Cas has obviously gotten better at unspoken cues because he turns to Gabriel immediately and asks, “Gabriel, why would you give Sam wings?”
Gabriel rolls his eyes, but caves quickly at Castiel’s ‘You disappoint me,’ look.
So they (Sam and Dean, and Gabriel for some reason) had been at the crude, but well-hidden and well-protected shrine a couple of miles out of this town to get the key to Heaven’s weapon dump. There had been an uneasy truce between Raphael’s followers and Castiel’s ever since Gabriel had shown up but Castiel was sure they were still plotting.
They had already done the necessary rituals, finished the last of them a week back and a hundred miles away so that the wrong faction of angels couldn’t trace it to them. They dismantled the protections around the shrine or, rather, Gabriel did and Sam had the bright idea of burning the residue so they wouldn’t reform. The protections were heavy-weight enough to deplete Gabriel’s still-recovering Grace. Then the witches showed up and one of them grabbed the key and Dean went after her and told the other two to run.
Which they would have except the witches were bombarding them. Apparently, pagan witches weren’t very impressed with Christian archangels, who knew? Gabriel could, maybe, possibly (probably not) have killed them all but a pissed-off Hecate wasn’t in his plans.
“I couldn’t even fly myself out without risking burning someone’s eyes out. So I hid over there and just gave a nudge to the potential in Sam and this is what it ended up as,” Gabriel’s got his arms flung out like they’re all being obtuse when he adds, “Come on, I did the obvious thing.”
Sam makes this half-laughing noise low in his throat and slides down onto the nearest bed and then he’s full-out laughing, bent over with his face in his hands and Dean’s pretty sure this is what hysteria looks like. His wings are a sickly, washed out blue.
“Sam,” he puts one hand on Sam’s shoulder and shakes him gently. Then he puts both hands on Sam’s shoulders and crouches down in between his legs and says, more firmly, “Sam, snap out of it.”
“Dean, I’m living a life where giving me wings is the goddamned,” two disapproving ‘hmms’ come from behind him and Sam continues defiantly, “the goddamned obvious thing. Wings, Dean.”
It’s not like Dean doesn’t get it, the sheer whatthefuck of their lives, but having a breakdown? Not the Winchester Way. Sam, the giant ass, still looks like he’s going to break into tears any moment so Dean gently punches his right arm and shushes him when he tries to talk again. After a moment, Sam nods and gives him a smile that fades away half-way through. His wings, more reliable narrators, are now the same oddly peaceful green-brown color they were when Dean first saw them, a few hours back. The color’s familiar but Dean can’t puzzle out where he’s seen that exact shade before so he dismisses it to the back of his mind.
Gabriel raises an eyebrow at Sam, “See if I ever do you a favor again,” he says, but not serious at all.
Castiel looks Sam over carefully. “You have learned to hide them. You will have to learn to make them insubstantial too.”
Sam twists around and nearly thwacks himself in the face with one of his wings. Dean says what Sam’s obviously thinking, “Uh…Cas, green wings? Don’t count as hiding. Not unless we’re planning on joining Carrie’s Carnival and Circus.”
“Carrie’s…” Castiel starts then gives it up as a bad job and says, “The wings are invisible to most people now, Dean.”
“Look, Ma, no shadow,” Gabriel adds absently, still looking at Sam with that unnerving, unblinking gaze.
Huh, that’s… yeah. The shadow of Sam’s wings is gone.
Sam furrows his brow, and points out, “But Dean can see them.”
“And so can I, and my dear little brother.” Gabriel says, his voice rich and teasing and full of ‘I know something you don’t.’
Sam sighs, and says, “Out with it, trickster. How come you guys can see them but other people won’t?”
“I would like to know that as well,” Castiel says, and it really freaks Dean out that Cas doesn’t know.
“What’ll I get for it?” Gabriel says, a smile is teasing at his lips and he’s looking at Sam through half-lidded eyes and it is sheer instinct that makes Dean put himself between Sam and the archangel. Those words scare him. He’s got a knife in his hand too. It’s just… all the deals they’ve made, everything they’ve lost. He realizes he’s saying as much to Sam who tells him, “Yeah, I know, it’s okay.”
Hurt and resignation flash over Gabriel’s face before he shrugs it off, and saunters towards the door, “Was thinking of asking for candy rather than eternal slavery but whatever floats your boat, Deano.”
Sam calls, “Gabriel,” before he can leave and asks, “Why are you guys able to see my wings?”
Gabriel turns around to give him a long look and says, quietly, “It’s because you like us. Trust us.”
Dean’s not sure what’s going on but he’s sure he doesn’t want details. Sam’s eyes have widened and he’s flushing and shaking his head.
“Gabriel,” he says again, huskily.
Gabriel waits until it’s clear that Sam’s not going to say anything more. “Call me if you need me,” he glances down then says, in a casual tone that is as fake as the credit card Dean booked this room with. “Try not to need me.” Then he walks out.
“Hey, uh…I’m surprised you’re here,” Sam says, that night in his dreams.
“You called me.” Gabriel replies flatly.
“Yeah but I didn’t expect you to come,’ Sam admits. He’s looking only at Gabriel, who carefully isn’t looking at him. He’s seen this place enough times to have memorized it. Last year when Sam had come back from the Cage, after he’d recovered (well, mostly) Gabriel had taken him to the biggest ferris wheel on each continent and a few extras to celebrate. This was the Singapore Flyer, the one where they had finally duked it out.
Gabriel had threatened to send Sam back into the Cage and asked him whether he wanted the rounded up or rounded down count of how many people had been casualties of the almost-Apocalypse that Sam had caused. Sam had explained, verbally bullet-pointing with footnotes, exactly how much of a coward Gabriel was and how much of a failure as an angel. They were going round and round and flinging the things Gabriel conjured up (ice-cream, and Indian ink, and poison ivy) back and forth and Sam broke a couple of fingers punching Gabriel, who may have been working at less than full-capacity, but was still an archangel. When the ferris wheel stopped they stepped onto solid ground with the beginning of tentative acceptance but Sam had said, “I don’t trust you, I don’t even like you very much.”
Gabriel had replied, “That makes two of us.” That was okay then, and life went on. They came to this place often in Sam’s dreams because Gabriel didn’t like leaving him alone that year but got bored while Sam was sleeping.
Sam hasn’t gotten over what happened in Broward County. He’s pretty sure he never will but he does trust Gabriel. He doesn’t want to, because apart from Dean, there’s never been anyone he trusted that hasn’t let him down. For one and a half years now, Sam and Gabriel have been (brutally) honest with each other so out of force of habit Sam tells him this too.
Gabriel looks up into the starless night sky and says, “You know what I am. I can’t promise…”
“That you’ll stay,” Sam supplies, but that’s fine, he’s not expecting that anyway. Sam’s seen Gabriel in his true form. Gabriel is always sharp and funny and sometimes awe-inspiring and Sam is just Sam.
Gabriel turns to him and says with a crooked, unhappy smile, “After all this time, you still think I’m like that?”
Sam’s heart is beating so hard that it’s a physical ache. He shies away from hope because if he hopes then he’s still got something that can be taken away.
“Sam, Sam, Sambo,” Gabriel looks tired, the fire in his eyes is dim, “I’ve been pagan and wild for a long time. I can’t promise I’ll never be what you tried to kill me for being. Anything else, everything that is in my power to give is yours for the keeping. I will never leave you of my own free will.”
The words have the sense of an oath and Sam is sure that is how they’re meant. His throat is too clogged up to let any sound out and when he raises his hands to cradle Gabriel’s face, there’s a fine tremor running through them.
“You can’t kill Dean, not for a joke, a lesson, anything,” Sam says. He pleads because that is possibly the only unforgivable thing Gabriel could do.
“Memory of an elephant. It’s been years, shouldn’t you have forgotten already?” Gabriel grumbles but his eyes let Sam know that he’s been heard.
Sam bends down and keeps his eyes open as he brushes his lips against Gabriel’s. He stills until Gabriel makes an impatient sound and then licks into Gabriel’s mouth. He takes his time, even when Gabriel nips his lower lip sharply and he gets to see Gabriel’s eyes light up slowly.
One moment Sam’s kissing Gabriel, the next, Gabriel’s straddling his lap with both hands buried in his folded wings. Sam shivers, and makes a sound that is not a whimper because it feels like every nerve ending in his body is overloading on pleasure. His wings flare out, and their span is huge so it’s either the dream that allows them through the walls of their compartment or Sam’s learned how to turn them insubstantial. Gabriel tells him to pay attention, and proceeds to individually caress every single feather within his arm’s reach, so yeah, it’s probably option number one and Sam really does not care at all as long as Gabriel keeps doing that.
Then he jerks awake. Dean’s waving a cup of coffee under his nose and saying, “You look like you need it. Were you having a nightmare?”
Castiel’s standing in the middle of the room, being epically grave and utterly awkward at the same time. Normal Cas then. Sam looks beyond him to the window and the light spilling in makes the time nearer to noon than dawn. Hours had passed while he was dreaming but it had felt like minutes. Not nearly long enough. Sam rolls over onto his back and apparently he had figured out how to make his wings go through stuff in his dreams. All he needed was a little incentive.
“No, no nightmares, pretty good dream actually,” Sam says, smiling at them both.
Dean believes him, which is nice for a change. “The Heavenly War is now postponed due to weather. Pretty much permanently,” Dean’s practically bouncing on the bed in his excitement. Sam looks at Cas, properly this time, and yeah, the happiness is there though it sits oddly on the human face Cas still isn’t used to.
Their morning ritual is slower, every movement more carefree than they’ve been in years. It’s like being pardoned from a life-sentence. Sam could have gone looking for Gabriel but he’ll come. Sam’s content to wait. He phones up Adam at his college in the meantime to give him the good news and chat with him. College life hasn’t changed much in the last seven and a half years so he gives him a little brotherly advice too.
Gabriel shows up just as they’re finishing lunch and having dessert. Typical. Sam gives him his dessert anyway. He’s not obsessed with pie the way Dean is and can pretty much take it or leave it alone. Watching Gabriel eating it is almost obscene. So much so that Cas actually frowns at him and Dean threatens to shoot him- for all the good that would do. Sam finds himself smiling helplessly. This, right here, is more happiness than he knows what to do with.
“A guy could get jealous, you know,” Gabriel tells him, leaning back on the headboard of the bed.
Sam makes a ‘hmm,’ noise that really means, ‘go back to combing my feathers,’ but Gabriel takes it to mean, ‘do go on’.
“This color for example. You Winchesters and your erotic codependency,” Gabriel trails off with a mischievous smile as Sam, Dean and Cas all get whiplash from how fast they turn to look at Sam’s feathers. The peaceful green-brown color is there, has been all day.
“That appears to be the color of Dean’s eyes,” Cas says, very mildly.
Dean looks wide-eyed at Sam and says hoarsely, “Sam…” He clears his throat and looks away for a moment. When he looks back he's rubbing his face nervously which not incidentally has the effect of hiding the shy smile sneaking onto his face. “I, you know. I…”
Sam looks earnestly back at him, equally nervous when he says, “Yeah I know. Me too, okay?”
Castiel looks vaguely amused and very approving. Which is pretty disturbing, because if a multidimensional wavelength of celestial intent can pick up how emotionally screwed-up they are then they are too screwed-up for words.
Gabriel breaks the moment by announcing, “Yeah, yeah. That’s great and all, I’m sure. But these bits right here? That’s all me.” He points to the visible parts closest to where the wings join Sam’s shoulder blades. Sam can’t see so Gabriel snaps up a mirror (and really, he hasn’t recovered enough to fly but he can do this?) and those parts of his wings are the green-gold of Gabriel’s eyes.
Sam’s certain Gabriel pointed it out just to needle Dean. He’s certain Dean knows that too but falls for it anyway. Sam settles down, they’re both wisecrackers par excellence and these battles of wits are prime entertainment. He just wishes he had popcorn to go with it.
A moment later Castiel settles down beside him on the bed and offers him one of those massive tubs of popcorn that Sam had last seen when he was eleven. It’s cinnamon flavored, which isn’t as good as plain salted but much better than the caramel stuff. At some point (Dean and Gabriel are still going strong) Sam rolls his eyes at them and glances up at Cas who looks solemnly down at him and then smiles.