“This sucks,” Sam declared, throwing his duffle bag on the bed. “I am so sick of this.”
“Oh cheer up, sunbeam,” Gabe said from the doorway. Sam gave him the most unimpressed look he had and Gabe found himself laughing. The look might have been more impressive if Sam wasn’t splattered head to foot with something that could be best described as gunk. When they’d finally landed the kill shot earlier that night the thing had just kind of exploded, coating everything in gunk.
Gabriel had blinked it of himself, of course, then skipped ahead to the hotel leaving the brothers Winchester and his own currently mortal brother to wipe themselves of as best they could and follow him in their own time.
“Couldn’t you have helped us out a bit, there?” Sam growled, running his hand back through his hair and causing the stuff to literally drip out, running down on to the floor. It was the kind of texture that was just sticky enough to not run off you entirely on its own but liquid enough to run down and coat the few places it hadn’t hit.
“Maybe,” Gabe said, stepping further into the motel room and letting the door slam shut behind him. “But this is far more fun.”
“You’re a dick,” Sam snapped, yanking his jacket of violently.
“It’s been said,” Gabe acknowledged with a grin.
“No, seriously. All I wanted out of life when I was a kid was normal. I don’t want to hunt stupid slime monsters in Ohio. Who would ever want this life? God, I wish I could just go back and erase it all. I was going to be normal, you know. I was OUT! I had a girlfriend and an education…”
“Yeah yeah,” Gabe cut in, waving his hand dismissively to get rid of the gunk, hoping it might derail Sam’s rant. They’d had this song and dance before. Gabe knew Jess had been Sam’s first love and, by virtue of being dead, had never hurt him, but Gabe was kind of sick of hearing about here. Particularly as those conversations normally involved how inadequate he was in relation to her. He could almost feel it building now.
“Now look when I’m stuck with,” Sam continued, as if Gabe had never said anything. “I get covered in slime far too often; I’m never going to have an honest job, never going to own a home. I’m probably going to die before I get out of this. How depressing is that?”
“Hey, but you get me. That has to count for something,” Gabriel said. Because, really, this thing between them had been going on for months now. Sam should have at least one good thing to say about him.
“Yeah, because that’s a great thing,” Sam snapped, and apparently not on the one good thing to say about him front. “I don’t even know why you’re here; you only seem to torment us.”
“Well, someone isn’t getting laid tonight,” Gabe replied. And, ok, maybe that had been true but he was trying now. He hadn’t cleaned up the slime but he hadn’t let the thing chew Dean’s leg of either even though Dean wasn’t the one he wanted to sleep with and that should count for SOMETHING.
“See, everything’s a joke to you. I was going to marry Jess; I’d have a family by now. Everything would be normal and perfect, we’d be happy!”
“Well, sorry I’m such a disappointment to you,” Gabriel snapped. And yeah, this had stopped being so much fun now. “Guess I should work harder to be just like your dead girlfriend.”
“You could never be anything like her,” Sam sneered, and Gabriel felt his blood boil. He knew how the inside of Sam’s head worked, knew the pedestal he’d put Jess on. It was the same pedestal he put his mother on, his own little Parthenon of dead goddesses, smiling benevolently down on him from heaven and never able to fail him. Never able to feel or change or be real, fixed forever as ideals.
Well, Gabriel knew better. He was an archangel and that meant he knew all that was and could be. Every could have been, every maybe. All the universes where Jess had survived, where Sam had what he thought he wanted.
“Fuck you,” Gabe spat. “You think your life would be so perfect. I’ll show you what your life would be.”
Sam didn’t pull away when Gabriel grabbed his wrist, not that it would have mattered. The Archangel gave a tug and Sam’s soul came free, spinning off in to the maybe that Gabe had grabbed at random.
Sam woke with a start, bolting upright in bed and gasping for air. Beside him, Jess stirred but didn’t wake and he sent up a silent prayer for that. He’d had the weirdest dream, something about his mother being dead and Jess being dead and monsters being real. He didn’t normally dream like that. Normally it was just snatches, moments of falling, not an entire other life for himself and certainly not something so outlandish and dark. He wasn’t exactly known for his imagination so goodness knew where the monsters came from, though he guessed they were probably something subconscious about his life.
For a second he had to fight the urge to phone his mother and check she was alive, check it was only a dream, but nobody would thank him for waking them at this hour in the morning. Instead he got out of bed, glancing down at Jess. She looked tired, drawn. Work must be getting at her again, or other things. Goodness knew there were enough stresses.
He took the chance to shower before anyone else got up. It was unusual for him to get this much peace in this house. Still, the baby slept right through his shower and he even managed to get a pot of coffee on before the sound of little footsteps started.
Sam loved his kids, he did. Some days he wanted to strangle them and some days he still looked at them and wondered just who he thought he was kidding when he tried to convince them he was a responsible adult who should be left in charge of kids, but he loved them. Most of the time.
Trevor came down the stairs first, spider-man pyjamas on backwards and an armful of stuffed animals. Sam coughed, drawing his attention and Trevor froze, caught in the act.
“Go put Rosie’s toys back,” Sam said roughly, knowing the ride they’d be in for if she woke up without her little stuffed army all around her.
“Won’t,” Trevor said, eyes gleaming defiance as he pulled himself up to his full 3’4”, and before Sam could do anything a scream of horror and frustration that could only be Rosie tore through the house and they were off.
The scream woke the baby, of course, and Jess. Baby woke with a roar that demanded attention and Sam couldn’t leave Jess to two screaming babies at this time in the morning so, coffee abandoned, he trekked up the stairs. Jess was in the nursery already, baby in her arms, doing that strange weaving ducking walk that all parents had. He bypassed her into the other bedroom to find Rosie had already worked herself up into a rage, kicking and screaming and tangled in a mess of bed sheets.
“Rosie, you need to stop,” he said in his most reasonable tone, but Rosie wasn’t listening so, with a sigh, he dived in before she could hurt herself, catching her under the arms and scooping her up. He knew the baby books said not to reward her tantrums with attention but Rosie would happily keep the screaming and punching up for hours, much better to cut her off now.
“WANT TOYS,” she screamed, pounding on his chest, and he adjusted his hold on her.
“You need to stop screaming and we’ll go get them.”
“WANT,” she screamed again, banging her head hard against his shoulder. He winced, she had more strength in her then you might realise, and set her down. The brief conversation had apparently focused her, though, as she tore out of her room and down the hall, screaming all the way.
The kids have been up for less than ten minutes and he was already exhausted. He has no idea how Jess deals with this all day.
By the time he gets downstairs Rosie and Trevor are both screaming, fighting over a doll, and Sam resolves the situation by plucking it out of both of their hands, at which point Trevor seems to lose interest and wander off to the kitchen and he can return the thing to Rosie who’s been pounding at his leg since he took it.
Once the screaming (from downstairs, though the baby is still giving it a go upstairs) has stopped he herds them both to the kitchen and finally managed to snag a pot of coffee as he sits them down with bowls of cereal. Trevor looks at his suspiciously but Rosie dives right in and, honestly, if 1/3 of his kids are behaving that’s good enough for him right now.
He grabbed another cup of coffee and headed upstairs. Jess was sat in the rocker now, the baby crying on her shoulder. She looked a wreck; her hair was a greasy mess, pulled up in to a messy bun. The bags under her eyes had bags under their eyes they were so big, she was wearing a stained oversized t-shirt and she hadn’t smelt of anything other than baby-puke and baby-shit in years. She didn’t even look up when he dropped of the coffee mug, focusing instead of the baby. Sam swore the other two hadn’t been this bad, but this one…he just never seemed to stop.
“Jess,” he said, softly, and she looked over at him for a second, then there was a scream from the kitchen and it started all over again.
Sam hates his job. He’d imagined, in his naivety, that being a lawyer would be exciting. He’d imagined that he’d be running around like some kind of TV show, instead he spent most of his days buried in paperwork. Most of the paperwork was overdue. That was because his boss wouldn’t know a realistic deadline if it slapped him around the face. He spent the morning trying to clear some of it, and he was doing ok until Sandra stopped by.
Sandra was one of the secretaries from archives. She was pretty, a few years younger than him and with the body of a supermodel. She shot him a flirtatious smile that he tried his best not to respond to before disappearing with a wink, and it took far too long to shake that wink.
He spent his lunch break brown-nosing. He’d never wanted to be that guy, the ass-kisser, but he had three babies and a wife at home and this was where the promotions were decided. Here at lunch, later at the golf club. He took a little good natured ribbing about his virility. Three kids, how-did-he-manage-them-Jess-must-be-a-saint. He laughed, told his stock joke about baby puke and tried not to think about Sandra.
He spent thirty minutes after lunch locked in the bathroom, sat on the toilet with his head between his knees, hyperventilating. He hadn’t slept through all night in years, he would never be the bosses favourite, he hated this job and he was trapped, so trapped. No way out. Three kids who screamed all the time, Jessica hadn’t touched him in months, not since the baby was born.
He managed to make it back to his desk eventually but the paper couldn’t hold his attention. He’d get through a few but it was so intimidating, so damn hard. He spent some time sorting them out, prioritizing, and then he had to go and look some things up. He knew he needed to just put his head down and plough through them but his head was so scattered these days, he couldn’t do it.
He came across something he should have sent down to archives months ago and flushed. He hated that, hated that things entirely escaped his mind now. They never used to do that.
Reluctantly he phoned archives and Sandra came to get the file. She smiled at him, fresh and young. She smelt of expensive perfume, not even a little like baby vomit.
When she was gone he finally turned to the urgent pile and began leafing through them. There was a lot here, so much. Reluctantly, he sent a text to Jess telling her he’d be home late.
He didn’t get home until 8PM, and even then he only cleared half of the backlog, though he had almost won a game of minesweeper. The kids were still awake, of course. Both of them hated bed time, Trevor because he considers himself an adult now as he goes to school and Rosie because she’s two and contrary and wants everything her brother has.
They’re sat in front of the TV right now, and he’d always sworn that no kid of his would spend that much time in front of the TV but it kept them quiet and, really, he shouldn’t complain when Jess had to put up with them all day.
Jess was in the kitchen, the baby on her shoulder. As he entered it looked at him, right at him, and then scrunched up its face as if the mere sight of Sam were an affront to it before it began to cry.
“Sam,” Jess said, and she sounded as tired as she looked. “Can you get the other two to bed?”
“I’ll try,” he said, and Jess shot him a glare but, really, what could he do other then try?
They were both nearly asleep in their chairs in the living room, but as soon as he made any move to get them up and towards bed it was like a switch had been flicked and they started fighting, punching and screaming and running around. Rosie bit him so he put her in time out but she refused to stay so they had a horrible back and forth where he tried to get her to stay in the naughty corner and Trevor to stay in his room at the same time. In the end, it was 10PM before he sat down to his dinner of tinned spaghetti.
He was starting to understand his parent’s divorce more and more every day and that scared him more than anything.
Jess was asleep on the couch, the baby next to her in its travel seat, and he didn’t have the heart to wake either one of them. He knew the baby was difficult, knew the other kids resented the time that got spent on it. He kind of wished they hadn’t had it, it had been so much easier with only two kids.
He thought about phoning Dean, complaining, but his brother had never been close. He thought about phoning his mother but she thought he was doing so well, and his alcoholic father was right out. For a second he considered getting drunk himself but Jess would only be mad at him too then and life would be even less worth living than normal.
Instead he just changed into his pyjamas and went to bed, knowing full well he’d do it all again tomorrow.
Sam opened his eyes and blinked. Gabriel was still staring up at him, hand digging in to his arm, and it took him a second to process what was real and what was a dream. He was Sam, he hunted. He didn’t have a failing marriage and a terrible job and three kids. He had a job that might kill him and a weird angel boyfriend and Dean.
“What the hell was that,” he snapped, or he tried to, but somehow the vision had made him weary, even more so than he normally was, and he was sure it just came out as weary. “Why did you make that up?”
“I didn’t make it up,” Gabriel said through clenched teeth. “I’m so sick of trying to live up to Jess in your eyes. That was a universe like you wanted, where your mom lived and you married Jess. Wasn’t it what you wanted?”
“Stop messing with me,” Sam growled, because it wasn’t right. That wasn’t Jess, wasn’t his mom. Wasn’t how things would have been. “You just wanted to show me something horrible so I’ll not mind this.”
“I wish, Sam,” Gabriel said, and suddenly his voice was oddly soft. He dropped Sam’s wrist and Sam stalked across the room, sitting down on the bed and pulling his shoes of. “That was the thing though, wasn’t it,” Gabriel said, and he sounded sad now. “It wasn’t worse, or better. It was just different. I don’t want…I just wanted you to stop putting Jess on this pedestal. She wasn’t perfect and shit knows I’m not perfect but…”
“You made it up,” Sam said, he had to believe it. “You made that world up to make your point.”
“No,” Gabriel said, and he dropped down on the bed next to Sam, and Sam was suddenly so tired because he knew Gabriel, knew that the man would have constructed something much more obvious. Jess would have been evil, not tired, if the thing had been his design. Sam would have been fucking the secretary, not just tempted, and he’d have been working IT support or something.
“Why can’t I be happy?” Sam asked, and he thought it was a valid question. He’d always told himself that everything had gone wrong when Dean came for him, ripped him out of normal and put him in this world which had ruined him. Now…he didn’t even know. Maybe he was just cursed.
“Because you don’t know how,” Gabriel said. He leant against Sam and Sam let him, rearranging them to he had an arm looped around Gabriel’s waist. “You live like happiness is something you’re walking towards, like its ok to dwell in suffering because one day this perfect life with a white picket fence is going to land in your lap, like one day everything will just be ok, but it never will, Sammy. There was always be problem, always be monsters and fights and other people. Trust me; I’ve lived long enough to know. Happiness isn’t something that’s going to come and find you if you wait long enough, it’s something you need to earn, something you need to look for every day and find in the little things.”
“Like in this?” Sam asked, squeezing gently, and Gabriel sighed against in neck.
“Yeah,” he said, turning and burrowing in to Sam’s chest, as though dispensing his wisdom had exhausted him. But, really, it did made sense. Sam had always focused on the end goal, the long play. He had thought about what was going to happen one day, when they were done hunting and everything magically became normal as if somehow happiness would be automatic, and he didn’t think about things like this. Moment when he and Dean laughed at something in the impala, moments where he and Cas would share a look over Dean’s head and he’d know he wasn’t alone, moments alone with Gabriel when the rest of the world seemed so far away.
Maybe Gabe was right. Maybe he needed to stop running towards a happiness them never got any closer and start appreciating the happiness he had.
“I love you,” he mumbled into Gabriel’s hair, and Gabriel pulled back to smile at him.
“Glad you appreciate me,” he said, leaning up to steal a kiss, and Sam let himself smile. He could find happiness here.