The smoke made his eyes sting and caused tears to run down his cheeks. Thick fog surrounded him and turned the dark forest into a chilling nightmare. Sam had huddled himself under the huge root of an oak tree and clutched his knife. Usually it would have provided enough protection against everything that he could encounter in the woods, but right now deep blood curling panic had seeped into his mind. His tiny hands tried to hold the knife in front of him, but the weight made is arms tremble. In intervals Sam had to but the knife down, because he wasn't big or strong enough to wield it.
Helpless against the constraints of his changed body, Sam struggled with his mind.
Lost deep in the forest, they had entered earlier this evening to hunt in, he was now trapped by magic and his own fears. Rationally Sam knew this forest was not as evil as he thought it to be, that most of his panic came from himself, but fact was that he could not act upon his fears. He was too small, too young and too helpless to defend himself.
The knowledge cut into him, his memories providing him the images of bodies upon bodies he had seen, had found or killed himself.
When a crow screeched far away, Sam sobbed and shut is eyes. Just when he was about to let the knife drop to cover his ears, John Winchesters voice sounded through his head. Deep, harsh and terrible he told Sam never to drop his weapon. A brush against the memories of various hunts forced the knife back into his small cold fingers.
There was the hope, he would survive this somehow. Or die fast, because hell still lingered at the edge of his awareness and nothing … nothing was as bad as the knowledge that he would lose every single fight with every single creature that came across him.
He was a child, helpless and alone.
Sam swallowed against his rising hysteria.
Please, he prayed. Please.
Gabriel was running, his bare feet skidding on the slippery mud of the forest ground. Rain had settled two hours ago, cramming the air with the humid tang of green moos. Magic filled his senses and his wounded vessel bleed into stomach and lung. Yet even the threat of vomiting and therefore unbalancing him even further, couldn't keep Gabriel from halting his pace.
There was only the daunting absence of Sam. His grace reached out, through the forest, the trees, the life inside and around them and found nothing. He felt no reverberation of the intense soul, he normally could touch with a thought.
“Sam.” Gabriel breathed, inhaling the power of millennia he had access to and every wound, every mortal barrier became secondary.
His feet dug deeper into the earth, feeling every connection he had built with it every since he helped with it's creation. Strength flooded his mind, held together by his will. It wouldn't be force he perhaps would have to need, but his sense of balance. A balance of power, grace knowledge and his age that was compressed in mortal flesh, centuries old.
But this balance, everything that defined him to be Gabriel , was guided by someone else. Another spirit. Perhaps not as resourceful as him, but certainly not less powerful.
“This soul will not be hurt.” Gabriel growled his command to the earth and it's creatures.
Sam would not be harmed. Often enough the world worked against the Winchester, because he bore the mark of the angel, who was disfavoured by God. Overruling this general view, this default setting didn't work as frequently as he wanted, but now his father's dispute with his brother did not matter.
Nothing mattered, but Sam's safety.
Gabriel would rather become The Herald of God again than allow any harm touching Sam. Even if it meant the death of the Trickster.
“Where is he?”, Gabriel asked a faerie that came across him.
The wood spirit had heart his call and pointed south. Gabriel nodded, granting his favour to this faerie and hurried off. For a moment he had seen Sam's soul, it would be enough.
Thunder howled in the distance, when Gabriel tore the curtains of reality apart. He remembered doing this as Loki, with less power, but always with intent and the knowledge what he was doing.
In this moment it was the Archangel, who rattled at the cage of fragility the mortal world represented and Gabriel usually respected. Usually. But not now. Now, when he felt Sam so close.
“All ancient powers, return to me,” Gabriel chanted in an inhuman voice that clanged through the forest, “this souls blood, let me see.”
All life in the forest, even the rooted to ground shifted aside for him.
Sam had buried himself so deep under the roots of the oak as it was possible from him. Almost it seemed that the tree created a natural cave, just for him, but it did not ease his fears. His frail fingers, who had grown numb from holding the knife.
Sniffing Sam tried to be brave, yet despair followed every thought and fear every emotion. Natural elements he had beautiful mastered before, now imprisoned him worse than Lucifer ever had, because Lucifer he had been able to fight. Oddly enough Sam felt a presence rush over him, when he thought about Lucifer. With open arms he would welcome the devil, he he just released him from this form.
The fires of hell he would welcome with open arms if it meant to escape this helplessness.
Yet … the voice he heard didn't sound like Lucifer. That voice better than anything else in the three worlds, even his child form could not erase this knowledge. Knowledge that was more instinct than actual lore inside his mind.
And this instinct was a well honed one. Even in child form it responded to the sound of the destruction an archangel brought, when he walked freely.
Lifting his head, Sam prepared himself. He had his knife and his mind, only his mind since his child form nullified all effort to battle physically.
The light came, enfolded him and drew him the source. Sam felt himself raised through the air, through the thick wood of the oak without harming him and was met by warm burning fire that stroked his tear marked cheeks. Feathers clothed him, swallowed his knife, when he let it fall and two strong arms finally embraced him.
Pressed against a naked glowing chest, Sam threw his tiny arms around a familiar neck. He wished he could say something, but only a cry of relief escaped from his lips. His mouth quivered and Sam's small body still trembled from the fear he had bottled inside.
“You came,” he whispered. “You came.”
“Sam.” Gabriel's answer sounded like the prayer Sam had offered earlier. “Sam.”
“You came.” Sam whispered again and pressed himself closer to Gabriel, who he could count on to change him back.
“Of course,” the archangel responded, still holding Sam. “Of course I did.”
Noticing the condition of Sam's body and his tremendous fears, he let his grace flow more freely around them, offering careful protection because he couldn't reserve the magic instantly.
Sam shivered, but finally reacted with compliance. Closing his eyes, he let Gabriel rock him to sleep like the toddler he was right now. It soothed infantile fears and the terrified hunter knew from experience that he would be defended.