The sound of his phone ringing made Balthazar sigh. He had half a mind to just ignore it, but a quick glance at the caller ID revealed that it was Sam calling. While the man was perfectly friendly, he hardly ever called Balthazar directly, so there was nothing for it.
“Sit tight, darling, I will be right back,” he purred at the very lovely lady he had been in the process of chatting up, and went outside the bar to answer the call.
“Samuel, you sweet young thing. Whatever it is, could you make it snappy? I'm sort of in the middle of something.”
“It's that time again,” Sam sighed, sounding weary, and Balthazar wasn't surprised.
“Oh, Lord. The bi-annual freak-out already?”
“Yeah. So... if he shows up at your place, could you just... please kick him until he goes home?”
“Yes, of course. I'll check some of the regular places and let you know when I find him.”
“You don't have to,” Sam said tiredly. “Just... if you happen to see him, get him to come home. Please?”
“I'm on it. Sit tight.”
Balthazar hung up and took the time to slump his shoulders and groan, before going back inside to ask for a rain check from the lady. Gabriel was going to owe him big time. Again.
* * *
Sam tossed his phone on the coffee table and let himself fall back onto the couch. The very same couch Gabriel would most definitely be sleeping on when he dragged his sorry ass back home. Because while Sam was used to these episodes of Gabriel's after five years together, it never made them easier. He would always wonder if maybe this time Gabriel might not come home.
Gabriel was really trying not to let his deep-seated issues hurt their relationship, but every so often it was as if it became too much and he just ran away. He always came back, but it was really putting a strain on things. At least this time Sam knew exactly what had triggered it.
They'd been in bed the night before, Sam complaining about his boss treating him like a bus boy, as if his law degree was worth nothing. Gabriel had been nodding and 'hm'-ing in all the right places, but not really commenting. Eventually, Sam had realized that Gabriel had been quiet all night and asked about it.
“Do you ever want kids?” Gabriel had then asked, his voice light. But Sam knew him and was well aware that it wasn't just a casual question.
“I never really thought about it.”
“But if you had to guess?”
“Well,” Sam had shrugged and pulled Gabriel closer, both arms tightly around him. “It's like... I never planned for it, you know? If I happened to meet some girl and she just happened to get pregnant I'm sure it'd be okay, and I'd love the kid. But it's not something I'm... dreaming about or anything, if that's what you mean. Why? Are you thinking about having kids?”
“No!” Gabriel had protested with a tiny shudder. “No, I love kids but... I don't think any kid should have me as a parent.”
“I'm not sure I agree with you there, but that's your choice. But... if you ever decide that it's worth a shot... I'd be up for it,” Sam had said. And he would be, for Gabriel. And while Sam didn't think he would be a perfect parent either, if there would be kids happening, he was willing to put in the effort to learn everything he needed.
“Nah, that ship has sailed,” Gabriel had huffed. He hadn't sounded upset or anything, so Sam had put it down to Gabriel just being in a contemplative mood and had gone to sleep.
In retrospect he should have realized that Gabriel had still been quiet the following morning, but Sam had been running late, and when he came home from work there had been yet another stupid goodbye letter waiting for him. He had a collection of them now, all full of ridiculous reasons why Sam would be better off ditching Gabriel and moving on to someone better. This time specifically someone who came equipped with a uterus, even though Sam thought he had made it very clear that children wasn't something he was considering. Sam would have laughed if he hadn't felt the all too familiar lurch of panic that Gabriel would leave him, even though the choice was always left up to Sam. At least their early struggles had given them that.
So Sam did what he always did. He called Balthazar and Castiel, left Gabriel several angry messages, and then he waited for him to come home. Sam was really tired of going through this, because he had realized very early on that for him at least, this was it. Gabriel's constant insistence that there would be some other life for Sam out there, if only he came to his senses, never changed Sam's feelings. Gabriel was the one. If Sam had believed in such a thing as soulmates, he would have said Gabriel was his. It was simple bad luck that put their birth dates almost twenty years apart.
Lying there on the couch, listening to Chewie snoring through what was no doubt another case of polyps that would require a visit to the vet, Sam decided that enough was enough. He had been planning something different for this, but drastic measures were clearly necessary. So he hauled himself upright and reached into his briefcase, pulling out the small, velvet box he'd been carrying around, waiting for their fifth anniversary. But of course Gabriel had to pitch a fit just before he could get around to it, and now Sam was just plain angry.
* * *
The fifth bar Balthazar checked out paid off. The bartender pointed him to the corner where Gabriel sat miserably, nursing a beer. Plopping himself down on the chair opposite, Balthazar immediately made his displeasure known.
“You are a complete and utter twit! And a predictable one, at that. Good God, go home so the rest of us can get laid in peace!”
“No one's stopping you,” Gabriel said morosely, twisting his glass slowly between his fingers.
“Uh, yes they are. Your little wife will most likely twist me into a pretzel if he finds out that I tracked you down and didn't make you go home! And I would very much like to keep all my bits in their current positions, thank you!”
“Sam is a pacifist,” Gabriel murmured. “You're perfectly safe.”
“If it's all the same to you, I really don't fancy testing that claim.”
“Go away. Let me suffer in peace.”
“Suffer?!” Balthazar snapped. “Suffer from what, exactly? A severe case of stupid?!”
“Fuck you, B,” Gabriel groaned, and that's when Balthazar had officially had enough.
“No, you know what? Fuck you, Gabe. Fuck you and your massive insecurities. You probably can't even see this through your thick fog of wallowing, but you're not the only one suffering here! Now, you know very well that I don't understand this whole idea of sticking to one person, but since it seems to make you almost insufferably happy most of the time, I try to wrap my brain around the concept. And while I still don't see the appeal, I can certainly see what an insensitive prick you're being right now.”
“Insensitive?!” Gabriel cried. “I'm trying to give Sam options!”
“Options for what?!” Balthazar was practically yelling by then. “Options for having his fucking heart shattered?!”
Gabriel opened his mouth, but Balthazar made a shushing motion with his hand. “No, don't even start! You have no bloody idea what you're doing to that poor man, waiting for you at home. Every time you do this he calls me, and every single time, all he's ever asked for is for you to come home. Not for me to punch you in the face, or tell you to fuck off, or even for a shoulder to fucking cry on! So go home! Don't you dare argue with me. Go home, grow a pair and decide once and for all if you want to keep playing happy families with moose-boy and your mutts. Because if you don't, cut the goddamn cord and move on.”
“I can't. It has to be his choice,” Gabriel said weakly.
“Utter bullshit. What you want is never anyone's choice but yours. If you still want him, for whatever idiotic reason, then go home!”
“GO HOME!” Balthazar screamed, making the entire bar look at them. “I swear, I hardly even know why I keep doing this, you absolute bastard!”
Gabriel blinked in shock before, weirdly, letting out a brief huff of laughter. “Because you love me?”
“Of course I do, nitwit. But you still owe me the sex I missed out on from having to track down your sorry hide.”
“I'll see if I can rustle up someone nice and willing,” Gabriel said, his face tired, but a small smile on his lips.
“You'd better. Or I won't care that you're all in love or whatever, I will demand that you put out.”
There were several uncomfortable coughs from the tables around them, and a few people stared openly at what was evidently the best entertainment the sleepy bar had seen in ages.
“Right. Going home,” Gabriel mumbled awkwardly.
* * *
Sam heard the front door slide open very carefully at around two AM. He was going to be a zombie come morning, but there was no way he would be able to sleep until Gabriel was home, so he'd waited up. He did get some savage satisfaction out of waiting in the dark and flicking on a lamp dramatically as Gabriel sidled into the living room.
“Don't tell me you actually thought you could avoid talking about this?”
“A guy can dream,” Gabriel sighed.
“Sucks to be you,” Sam said flatly. “I'm gonna need a beer for this.” He didn't offer Gabriel one and he didn't wait for him to follow into the kitchen. He downed about half the bottle in a few heavy swallows, drowning the lurches of relief in his stomach before turning to face Gabriel who had followed silently from the living room.
“Right, here's the thing,” Sam said heavily, rubbing his forehead with frustration. “This is the last time you do this. I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. Because my heart can't do this anymore. This goddamn catch and release thing is gonna give me a freakin' heart attack before I'm thirty.”
Gabriel just nodded miserably and Sam felt almost sick with the desire to just scoop him up in his arms and never let go. But things had to be said and done before there would be any hugging. Sam bolstered himself and reached into his pocket for the small box. Gabriel's eyes widened comically and his jaw dropped open. Had things been less serious, Sam would have laughed.
“I had plans for this, you son of a bitch, but desperate times, you know.”
“I'm talking right now,” Sam cut in, and it was weirdly gratifying how Gabriel's mouth snapped shut obediently. “Since you're forcing my hand, I'm not gonna do the whole romance thing. No going down on one knee or declarations of intent or whatever.” He set the box down carefully on the counter, and Gabriel's eyes were glued to it until Sam spoke again.
“I've told you this before, but apparently you conveniently forget every time you freak out. But just so we're perfectly clear now: I love you. And I want to be with you. For as long as possible.”
Gabriel swallowed hard and looked like he was about to argue, but decided against it. Good choice, Sam thought grimly.
“But I am done with you running away. And if that means having to physically chain you to a chair, then I will. But since I'm such a reasonable guy, I'm gonna settle for marrying you.”
“Jesus, Sam-” Gabriel breathed, but Sam cut him off yet again.
“Unless there's a firm 'no thank you' in there, I don't wanna hear it. If you love me and want us to be together, this is my ultimatum. We're going to set a date, right here and now, and then you are done running away. Understand?”
There was a lengthy silence, which might as well have been nails on chalk board for how deeply uncomfortable it was.
“I can say no?” Gabriel asked eventually.
“If that's what you really want. But since I have a stack of dumbass goodbye letters from you telling me that all you want is for me to be happy, then there's really only one way this can go. Because this is what will make me happy.”
Gabriel was shifting uncomfortably, his emotions making him physically restless as always. “But... Sam, how can you be sure?”
Sam threw his hands up with disbelief. “Ugh, seriously?! I've been telling you straight up how I feel for five years! How many more years will it take before you actually believe me when I tell you these things?!”
“At least fifty,” Gabriel said, his voice clearly aiming for lightness but not quite getting there.
“Then you'd better live to be two hundred, because I would like to enjoy my newfound credibility with you for a while before we kick the bucket, thank you.”
That was clearly the wrong thing to say, because Gabriel's face fell and his shoulders drooped. “You're gonna end up a widower, Sam. I'll be in a fucking nursing home before you're even retired.”
“You don't know that. And if that happens, then those nurses had better prepare themselves for all the kinky geriatric sex we're gonna have.”
Gabriel choked on his next breath, and Sam smirked while he coughed and snickered brokenly. “Oh my God, those are some truly terrifying mental images there kiddo,” Gabriel wheezed.
“Get used to it, because I'm gonna spend the rest of our lives together breaking your brain on a daily basis. That's what marriage is all about,” Sam said smugly. “I was thinking a classic spring wedding. You know, since we met in the spring. Maybe we can even have the ceremony in the park. We're gonna have to look into that.”
“You're really not taking no for an answer, huh?” Gabriel asked quietly.
“Nope,” Sam said, and finally gave into the overwhelming urge to pull Gabriel to his chest and squeeze until he grew concerned about Gabriel's breathing. But he was simply squeezed back, just as tightly, so they remained there, folded together seamlessly, clinging to each other.
“I can't promise I won't still freak out sometimes,” Gabriel murmured into Sam's chest, several heartbeats later.
“I can deal with that,” Sam stated firmly. “Just... don't run away again.”
The kitchen fell silent again, and eventually Gabriel started slowly kissing Sam's collarbone, the top buttons of his shirt having been undone hours ago when he came home from work.
“I love you,” he mouthed against Sam's skin.
“You're still sleeping on the couch,” Sam protested weakly.
“Sure. Right after the engagement celebration sex.”
The couch was untouched that night.