He’s emblazoned with a heralded crown, placed unto him without a forthright prerequisite as to where duty lies and where family will fall. Because it will. It’s been decided, whether you name it in a poem or map it in the stars, trace it in bloodied runes or count it with each burning piece of gold, fate had followed them, as a ghost of history, simply because he’s Sam Winchester. And if it’s all to collapse, like the getaway of millions of crystalline structures in the return of summer after a million Novembers, then Sam has to prepare himself well. When Dean clutches him- truly holds Sam against him as if he was that same hell that had pulled him in, unrelenting, only so long ago- Sam sinks, his body dense and gravitating towards any being with real warmth- even though he knows it will be gone soon.
He thinks he will die of loneliness.
He buys cigarettes and habitually throws them away from state to state, hiding and losing his eyesight to the endless roads he’s found himself accustomed to. He’s empty, he thinks, but he feels the raw nerves and tethered and frayed bits of himself inside- he gives a gentle smile. Castiel was like this, Dean was like this, they were all brutalized, and yet they take turns in hurting each other, and repairing each other.
His home is in murky basements or abandoned cabins now. He’s cast away to cleaning blood from unknown homes. His better memories are built on Dean’s hand, grip tight on his neck when they were young as they walked to nowhere and back again in time for lunch. Now they’re only good if he’s a step closer to saving a life without forfeiting a bit of his own.
He thinks he will live in loneliness.
Sam has faith in Dean. He believes Dean has boarded this ship and if the water lapses at their sides, and promises millions of miles without sleep, he will let his fingers make ripples in the tides as they break through. Sam believes Dean will stay here.
He doesn’t- not always.
Gabriel thinks he’s conquered the edge by now.
He doesn’t get many things right, but he can perfectly balance all the forces that press around him, so much so that he can stand on the edge now. He’s imperfect at many things, this is something he’s conceded and buried deep within himself since he was a small would-be prince among angels, but in his stead came and went multitudes of more richer, worthy beings. He didn’t know it was emotion that had plagued him. Father had called him an atypical case and gave the most translucent almost-smile he had ever seen. He’s learned more about almost-smiles than anything else in the past years.
The hurricanes that he couldn’t outrun, the earthquakes he couldn’t stand against- each fight between Michael and Lucifer had him tearing at his own heart, and yet he didn’t once know what it was. He didn’t know that curling and twisting in his stomach and chest, until he found himself following his brother around earth. He trailed endlessly, learning like Castiel had to a certain extent, what it was that humans were like. What natures they had that were so eclectic and yet universally one.
Gabriel feared nothing more than the entire philosophy that was humanity- in it’s singularity and verisimilitude that beckoned even the most unnatural of creatures, was a wholesome creature that could rival their father.
Gabriel felt he could see into them, however slightly, even if he could hardly understand them. He felt their airs were the same dirty, exhalations when he’d watch their fights. He felt their airs weren’t worth sharing when he saw them give up, lose hope, fall.
Gabriel soldiered on.
At least, he tells himself this. He’s watched them for a long time now; he’s learned what it means to march on from Sam Winchester. This he knows. This he hopes.
Gabriel holds himself from spitting this through blood, and he knows he shouldn’t even want this. He wants to turn this all around. The sweat trails bitter streaks down the sides of his face, and he almost wishes Lucifer would think they were tears. He needs Lucifer to see him- see in him, see past him. He almost smirks- he isn’t the golden boy Castiel is, he wouldn’t bleed himself dry repeatedly, unequivocally unmatched in that thing they call love. Disparaging, he told himself it was. All of it. Still, he wanted to know what it was like.
This was his chance to figure it out.
The night’s crashing down, and he catches himself unshaken as the blade glints in between their eyes. Behind him, Kali’s fingers dig into his shoulder as she catches her breath, pools of black watered eyes giving him centuries of ‘thank you’s’, and one little ‘goodbye’. He doesn’t react to it, the blade almost unreal in the magnitude of its strength as it gives Dean, Sam, and Kali there way out.
Their way home.
He’s allowed to believe what he wants- he’s seen how it all goes down, anyways, so he might as well let his mind sway to it’s own volition. He gives himself a little grin, a little pep talk in which he delivers suave one-liners, and then gets ready to be gutted.
He doesn’t see everything- I’m not a damn prophet, he thinks- but he sees enough. He’s seen enough, that he’s almost incurious to what comes next.
Gabriel watches himself speak to Lucifer, his own might quivering, and he recoils to think that this is how he will look like in his final minutes.
“I’m not on your side, or Michael’s. I’m on theirs.” Gabriel quirks a brow, as if beckoning Lucifer to break him. As if Lucifer wouldn’t do anything but, at this point. Still, he sees all the same capability in Lucifer he had seen centuries ago, when they were young and their fights were as tender as the spineless angels habitually constructed and deconstructed at each fleeting decision of Father.
Gabriel doesn’t take pleasure in Lucifer’s voice, flickering like weak lighting, as he dips his eyes to Gabriel, as if trying to find where his heart lies. Gabriel doesn’t want to tell Lucifer that he holds it, that they’ve all held it, this entire time.
“Brother, don’t make me do this.”
He lets the glossy wings on his spineless back flutter, invisible as he draws to close his incessant sorrows- the only thing uppermost on his mind is divinization. With his death he’ll anoint this messy fate on humanity. He wants to think- expired, unneeded, but he believes in tomorrow, and his beauteous home disallows dread. For once, the countenance he always devises finally matches the innermost canals of his heart that deluge with confidence- this is the right thing to do.
“No one makes us do anything.”
Gabriel watches himself, the mirage he placed in front of Lucifer as his real self stands behind, close enough to place a hand to Lucifer’s neck, to choke him, or to pull him against him. His brother. One of many, one of millions and of few, and he desires none of what is to come.
He’s been miraging for quite a long time, but he doesn’t know if it’s bloomed because of his need to hide or because this is the reality he’s been raised in, centuries upon centuries of tricks and lies.
Lucifer spins on his heel, after quick words are exchanged that feel so dreadfully certain that Gabriel feels his world stutter. He clasps at his stomach, the blade shimmering in his vision, his blood profuse and Lucifer’s words exacting.
Death is all that it was never made to be, but he feels that at least he could have expected that.
Lucifer lets him die only as to let himself waver momentarily, after the light of Gabriel’s grace dissipates.
Lucifer had never wanted brothers- he’s only been able to offer them half of his heart, the unhappiness in it’s wholesomeness.
Lucifer lets Gabriel fall to the floor, lets him breathe shallowly as the night curtains itself, a heart ache swelling in him that is so familiar, the only world he knows.
He dismisses it as he has everything else that reminds him that he’s a kiss away from humanity, breadth unremitting that he’s no less devil as he is angel.
Lucifer breaks away, the night sky has become a low ceiling and he feels he can’t catch his breath.
He looks one more time. Gabriel’s grace had unfurled, but he still sees it, as if it’s swirling around a drain or clinging to his skin or weighed down by the unspoken commiseration all of heaven must have in that one moment.
Lucifer walks away.
Dean doesn’t hesitate to throw Sam into the car with Kali. He doesn’t even hesitate at the thought of punching him until his face is bruised, as long as he’s safely unconscious in the backseat and out of the area as fast as they could make it out. Kali doesn’t give them a second glance as their voices escalate outside the car.
“What’s it to you, Sam? So what? Let him bite the dust, these are the angels’ issues, we can’t get into it, and you know that damn well.” Dean’s close to biting his tongue at how strong he speaks, how desperate he needs Sam away from Lucifer, and this hotel.
“Just like you know you would run back there in a heartbeat if it were Cas.”
Dean wants to finish this conversation as fast as he can. Castiel isn’t a person and a friend as much as he is the one thing Dean can easily lose against. He’s fallen to him. Just as he did towards Bobby and Sam. He’d split his sides open for them, they all know this. Dean stares hard at Sam.
“No.” Dean spits the word, certain and uncertain and unquestionably angry.
Sam feels like someone new, Dean thinks miserably. He knows Sam has his convictions but all their lives he’s done as Dean has commanded- not because he needs to be in control, but because ultimately Dean knew he was right, and Sam often didn’t have the heart to fight him on it.
Dean takes a look at Sam and draws a breath.
“I’ll be right here, at the door. One sign of Lucifer and you get your ass back here. You’re not going to risk your life for the trickster. You got a few minutes.”
Dean fights the urge to push at Sam, but all the foulness that had dredged itself back up at the slight idea of Sam in danger had sunk back into Dean when Sam offered a tentative smile.
“Thanks.” Sam tries again, as if he could be any more sincere. Dean wants to hold him tight and shut his eyes for a quick second. He know’s he shouldn’t.
Sam scurries down the hall and an almost-calming chill runs down his back as he steps into the room they had just left only moments ago.
Sam’s become his nine-year old self, mewling at the rain as it thundered against his back, the rain that told him his father wouldn’t come by again for weeks. He swallows and shudders and bends down. Gabriel’s eyes are a desert, one that’s sinking into the cool night after it’s burned up in the sun for so long.
“I’m sorry, Gabriel.”
His fingertips hover over Gabriel’s eyes, unsure as to whether he should pull down his eyelids. He pulls back as his eyelashes flutter against his cheek, dull eyes glossily looking upwards, past him.
“S’okay. Get out, Sam.” His eyes strain to look at him and Sam sits closer, giving him a better look. He’s thrown himself away that night, Sam thinks. But Gabriel had chosen it. He had finally chosen something in his entire span of life- and it was death.
“No, I came back for a reason.”
“Kick me when I’m down, Winchester? Doesn’t seem like you.”
His breathing grows erratic and it’s daunting to watch someone’s life dangle in front of you.
“I’d never, Gabriel.”
“I know. It’s surprising. I know you’d do this for my brother, but come back for me? C’mon now.”
“Don’t define yourself by Castiel.”
“Don’t define yourself by Dean. Come closer, I need to show you something. Dying man’s wish, or something…”
“Don’t- don’t strain yourself.” Sam sighs and closes his eyes when a cold hand touches his neck and brings him close, filling him with unmatched warmth.
“Those- memories, not all of them…” Sam is hunched over awkwardly but rests his forehead against Gabriel’s cheek, and Gabriel’s breath laces in between his hair and traces around each pore on his face. Sam isn’t sure what’s happening but allows it to happen.
Gabriel’s grace is a rolling rip tide and it finds Sam’s shores.
“Gotta get rid of these memories…”
“I’ll remember them for you.”
“Yeah. A lot of them are you, Sam. You and your brother and sometimes my brother and a little bit of me in there. I’ve always… watched you all. We didn’t have to meet like we did, you know. But we did. I’m alone now, but maybe my brothers won’t have to be, in the future. Stop this.”
Gabriel tries a smile and it falls as it tries to find its equilibrium, waking pain and dormant serenity mangled and contorted.
Sam leans back, all the tears in him welling at the words, but shaking at the thought of leaving him.
Sam crumbles in on himself as Gabriel’s life leaves his eyes, as the garrison and all his memories settle in Sam, and Gabriel’s hand asks Sam’s if it can rest in his. Sam’s hand says yes and soulless fingers squeeze tightly before slowly loosening with the last exhale of jagged breath.
Sam waits a moment for Gabriel to wake up. He doesn’t.