Sam wakes to the sound of the sink running in his bathroom, which might not be too unusual, except for the fact that he has no idea how he ended up anywhere near his bathroom. He remembers shooting an arrow, remembers the resulting explosion, remembers the screams of the witnesses as he was thrown back several yards, his head smacking against the broad side of a van and his vision exploding into whiteness. He saw Dean for a split second, running toward him while Gabriel covered him, a gun in each hand, before he started to fade from consciousness, mercifully if the agonizing pounding in his skull and the pain in his back are any indication.
His pained moan makes a figure manifest in the doorway to the bedroom, the sound of the water still running behind it and the preceding footsteps just a little too quick to be calm. Sam thinks ‘Gabriel?’ before he even realizes that’s who the figure is, his mind filling with a need to see him, a need to make sure he’s unharmed. The man is dressed in tight black clothing, standard for most of their team, but the darkening blonde hair and small stature gives him away, as do his posture and his quiet sigh and all the other things about him that Sam has completely committed to memory and heart.
“You’re awake,” Gabriel says. He sounds relieved, his normal façade of sarcasm and humor down.
“Awake is sort of… stretching it,” Sam says, wincing when he tries a little harder to focus his gaze. His headache pulses right behind his eyes and over the bridge of his nose and he screws his eyes shut in an attempt to alleviate the pressure. But even the dim light of the room manages to filter through his eyelids and he stares up at Gabriel wearily, considering asking for some harder drugs.
“Am I sight for sore eyes?” Gabriel quips, but his eyes are warm and his hand is cool against Sam’s forehead. Sam groans in relief when Gabriel’s palm presses against his brow bone, barely noticing when Gabriel’s negligible weight joins his on the bed. Gabriel is a tiny thing, unassuming and unthreatening at first glance, but Sam knows about the blades in his boots, the gun strapped to his thigh, his particularly mean right hook, and downright aerobatic things he can do with his legs. Sam found out about all of these hidden facets in battle with Gabriel himself, when he found out that killing the assassin was going to be harder than he originally anticipated.
When Sam first entered the hideout of the Archangels, Gabriel had walked right up to him with a smile, asked how he could help, as if he had no idea who Sam was. Sam had pulled a throwing knife that Gabriel knocked out of his hand so quickly that he was almost dazed, jumping back a foot in shock.
“Should have stuck to the bow and arrow, kiddo,” Gabriel told him with a smirk before Sam was dodging a boot to the head (impressive, considering Sam’s height) and a blade to the gut. Sam took his advice and came back with his weapon of choice, only to miss for the first time in his very long career. His pride wounded, Sam buried himself in his laptop, brushing all offers of help aside as he furiously dug through federal databases and classified documents to find everything there was to know about his opponent. But in Sam’s attempts to discover Gabriel’s weakness, his most vulnerable moment, he discovered a few other things about the assassin, things that stayed Sam’s hand on his bow when the opportunity to end him presented itself.
“You want out,” Sam growled, an arrow pressed against the bobbing apple of Gabriel’s throat. The fight had taken a lot of out of him, but Gabriel was weaponless now and panting, shoved down on the floor with Sam’s boot threatening to crack half the ribs in his ribcage.
“So take me out,” Gabriel snarled, despite the obvious fear in his eyes, the shock at being bested for the first time.
“You want out of the Archangels,” Sam clarified, shifting his foot in warning when Gabriel’s hand twitches at his side, searching for a pistol or maybe going for Sam’s leg. “Maybe you didn’t want in to begin with.”
“So you can read a case file. I am shocked and amazed,” Gabriel snapped, cornered and lashing out with the sharp tongue he had always been known for. “You have orders. Are you going to follow them or are we going to shoot the shit for the next few hours?”
“H.U.N.T.E.R.S. could use you,” Sam insisted. Dean’s voice rang out in his head, shouting about how Sam played the same game with Ruby and lost, how Sam always does this, always thinks with his heart and trusts the wrong people. But Sam scoured Gabriel’s files for hours and he felt like he knew him, like he was looking at a desperate orphan and not a ruthless assassin. Although, to be honest, Gabriel was probably both.
“We can offer you protection,” he continued earnestly.
“Not interested,” Gabriel spat, pride suddenly glowing in his strangely amber eyes.
“I’m offering you an opportunity to use your abilities for good,” Sam told him. “To work for a group of people who actually care if you live or die.”
“And I’m offering you an opportunity to bite me.”
Sam sighed, beginning to feel frustration creeping into his nerves. He took his boot off Gabriel’s chest and backed up a step, bow still at the ready. “I don’t really need your surrender.”
“Believe me; that’s the one rule I do know,” Gabriel admitted almost regretfully, pulling himself up on his elbows as he prepared to be executed, a strange sort of acceptance in his eyes. Sam would later learn that he had been hoping for this, that he thought death was the only way to escape his chosen profession, but in the moment, Sam didn’t have time to consider such things, nor would he have ever guessed the man could be so desperate.
Sam smiled to himself wryly. “Not exactly what I meant,” he said, before quickly changing his aim with a jerk of his elbows. Gabriel only had the chance to flinch before Sam drove his arrow directly through the hollow of Gabriel’s shoulder, knocking the assassin backwards on the floor of the warehouse. Gabriel bit back his howl of pain in favor of a tortured groan, his fingers clenching reflexively as he attempted to stop himself from touching his new wound, his back bowed off the ground as he dealt with the pain of the nonfatal shot. Sam strolled over and knelt beside him, raising his eyebrows when Gabriel struggled back to his elbows, gritting his teeth and staring up at him in shock, fury, and confusion. The Archangel’s movements quickly became labored, his eyelids drooping down and his head falling back, and Sam quickly moved to catch him before he fell backward again and hit his head.
“You missed,” Gabriel mused almost deliriously.
“The shoulder’s actually a pretty good place to hit someone with a tranquilizer dart,” Sam corrected, sliding his bow onto his back.
Gabriel opened his mouth to say more, but his eyes rolled back before he could, his weight falling heavily into Sam’s shoulder. Sam quickly snapped the arrow in half and removed it, pulling out his cellphone and shoving it between his shoulder and his chin as he set to sloppily bandaging the wound.
“Hey, Dean? Yeah, I’m fine, but I need a lift. You’re, uh, probably not going to like it.”
If he were any more conscious, Sam would find it sort of funny that, this time, Gabriel is the one at his bedside, staring at him with barely concealed concern as he struggles back into consciousness. The first visual things he manages to register in crystal clear clarity are Gabriel’s gorgeous eyes, glowing gold in the dim light. Or maybe Sam’s just delirious; it wouldn’t be the first time he imagined waking up next to an angel. There’s a steady throbbing in his head and remaining fuzziness at the edges of his vision tell him that perceptual distortions are more than likely, and he wonders how long he’s been out.
“Relax, kiddo,” Gabriel advises, smoothing Sam’s hair away from his eyes. “You just lost a fight with a car door, so I’d take it easy for a while.”
“Did you drag me back here?” Sam grunts, shifting to test the level of pain in his back. He becomes aware of a bandage pulled tight around his middle, hoping his ribs weren’t cracked. That will put him out of commission for a while, and Dean, Castiel, and Gabriel certainly won’t wait for him to recover, which will put them at a disadvantage as a team.
“Dean did,” Gabriel tells him, brushing Sam’s hair away from his face idly. “He’s been doing most of the bedside vigil-ing, too. I sent him away to get some sleep.”
“And how much sleep have you gotten?” Sam asks, rolling his eyes. He already knows the answer. The dark circles under Gabriel’s eyes and his finger-mused hair are telltale signs of a man who hasn’t seen the inside of his eyelids for longer than a minute in the past few days.
“Enough,” Gabriel says with a tired smirk.
“You were worried,” Sam accuses with a dopey grin, his vision still swimming in and out. He doesn’t see Gabriel lean in, but suddenly there are warm lips against his and a hand at the back of his head, fingers cautious as they move through his hair. Sam sighs against the kiss, his fingers twitching with the urge to grab Gabriel by the back of the neck and pull him down into something deeper, something less cautious and more fervent. But his arms feel heavy and stiff at his side and Gabriel kisses him like he’s broken, none of the normal teeth against his bottom lip or tongue battling his for dominance. But Sam has to smile when Gabriel’s thumb caresses his cheekbone, willing to admit that he is a little broken, and the softness is a welcome change, an declaration of all the things they refuse to say. When Gabriel pulls away, he smirks against Sam’s lips, their noses nestled together.
“Get over yourself,” the former Archangel says, making a soft laugh escape Sam’s dry throat. Gabriel stands and nonchalantly heads into the bathroom to turn the water off, as if he hadn’t rushed out to check on Sam and left it running himself. Sam closes his eyes, his breathing begin to become shallower as sleep tugs at his mind once more. He hears Gabriel return, his footsteps much softer, and opens his eyes just enough to make out the shorter man grabbing his bag from the corner and heading towards the exit.
“And Sammy,” Gabriel adds, turning and hovering in the door. “If you take one more shot for me or anyone else on this team, I will personally shiv your ass.” His smirk fades a little when he says, “I owe you enough already.”
Sam knows better than to argue with Gabriel’s perception of their relationship and knows even better than to argue with Gabriel’s perception of himself, so he doesn’t say any more. Gabriel leaves without a sound and Sam feels consciousness finally the leave him, and his dreams fill with blonde hair, golden eyes, and all the things they never say aloud.