Sam looked up. "What did you just say?"
"Going to hell," Gabriel repeated. "Be right back."
His eyes narrowed. "If that's your idea of a joke, it's not funny."
"Actually it is," Gabriel said, holding up one finger as if ticking off the point, "and no, it's really not." He tapped the second finger meaningfully.
"Are you agreeing with me or correcting me?" Sam wanted to know. He also wanted to smack Gabriel upside the head, but that wasn't anything new and he hadn't succumbed to the urge yet.
"I have so little reason to do either," Gabriel mused, throwing an arm over the back of his chair as he tipped the front legs up off the floor. "But hey, that's the message he left, and who am I to question an archangel?" A smirk appeared on his face, and he added, "Wait--don't tell me... I've almost got it."
"Dean," Sam repeated, "went to intercept Lucifer, in heaven, and then told Castiel to tell me he was going to hell."
"And he'll be right back," Gabriel said with a shrug. "So?"
Sam stood up. "Send me to Santa Fe."
Gabriel squinted up at him, looking thoroughly unimpressed. "What do you want in Ghostville?"
"Sachiel," Sam said, turning away. "I need to be in Santa Fe five minutes ago. Can you do that?"
She didn't bat an eye. "Of course."
Gabriel probably would have sent him remotely, just to be a jerk, but Sachiel went with him. Which was good, because "in Santa Fe" wasn't much in the way of direction, and he really wanted to be closer to the library than a highway on the outskirts of town which he guessed was the last place he'd been within the city limits. Angels were kind of creepy with the whole rifling through your mind in the name of following orders thing.
"There's a library," Sam began, and Sachiel nodded.
When they appeared inside it, he didn't bother to sigh. He probably should have specified outside, so they could walk in like normal people, but what could he say. He didn't have Dean's experience with angels.
As it turned out, no one had Dean's experience with angels, but he wasn't thinking about that.
The pink-haired girl with the fairy wings was sitting at one of the computers. He had no idea what she could possibly need from the internet, but hey. Maybe if they could get more supernatural beings addicted to TV Tropes, they could go back to hunting as a job instead of a lifestyle.
He spared a second to try to remember if hunting had ever been just a job, and by then Fairy Wings was looking at him. "Did you want something, Sam?"
"Hell," he blurted out. "I want in."
"Gate's open on Saturday," she said, frowning at her computer screen.
"Right now." She knew Sarah: Sam wasn't sure that was enough to get him any favors but he had to try. "My brother's on the other side."
"Your brother's from the other side," she corrected.
Of course she knew Dean. Everyone knew Dean.
"From heaven," Sam said. Hard as it was to admit, he couldn't exactly let it go. "Not hell."
Fairy Wings shrugged. "Same difference."
"Look," Sam said. "I'm not trying to get a free pass. He deserves a good sock on the jaw, and I want to be the one to give it to him. So do I have to kill myself to get past the three-headed dog, or what?"
She tilted her head up at him again, and this time she almost looked interested. "You're going to sucker punch an angel?"
"I'm gonna try." Sam knew better than most – largely thanks to his brother – just how much damage this would do to him and how small a problem it would pose for the angel in question. This had never stopped Dean, and Sam could honestly say he understood why more every minute.
Fairy Wings had a creepy smile on her face when he blinked. He knew he blinked, because he wasn't in the same place any more and he hadn't seen anything change. Instead of standing inside a Santa Fe library, he found himself standing on a bridge that could have been the Golden Gate if it didn't lack a familiar Bay shoreline to either side. And it was nighttime, which really should have tipped him off.
Of course Lucifer would conjure a hell that was the opposite of Michael's and still exactly the same. And of course the two of them would be standing on the damn bridge, staring down at the water. Intently. Like if they ignored each other long enough they wouldn't have an apocalypse on their hands, they wouldn't even be here, they'd just...
Well. Like Sam knew what angels wished for. They could be playing Pooh-sticks for all he knew.
"Sam's going to hit you." If recognizing Lucifer's presence had made his blood run cold, that voice made everything in him burn. For revenge. For retribution. For the justice he knew he'd never have.
"Yeah," Dean's voice answered. "I know."
Sam managed to avoid clearing his throat, unclenching his fists through sheer force of will. "I'm not taking any more crap about my demon blood," he heard himself say. "Your brother's the devil."
"Don't worry, Sammy." Dean sounded like he was smirking in the darkness. "You're still my little bitch."
Sam braced himself against the stupid railing, staring down at the reflections of light on the water. "You're a fucking jerk, you know that?"
"Yeah," Dean's voice said. And without the wings, and the glowing, and the occasionally creepy-as-fuck blue eyes, it really just sounded like Dean. "Yeah, I figured."
It wasn't like he always knew where he was when he woke up. Not right away. The feeling of disorientation was usually accompanied by, at the very least, a pounding headache. Often as not it was followed by the awareness of aching, burning, or stabbing pain elsewhere in his body.
Dean peered blearily up at the ceiling, muscles tensing in anticipation of consciousness. But consciousness was here. And despite the fact that he was lying on his back, he couldn't actually feel anything wrong with his body. Maybe that would come with movement.
He put it off as long as possible, but motion in his peripheral vision made it necessary to turn his head. No throbbing pain accompanied the gesture. All it revealed was Sam, yanking a hoodie out of his bag and giving Dean a look that said he was a lazy slacker.
"Seriously," Sam said, "ten o'clock? I know you like to sleep, but dude. Other people are working."
His voice didn't make Dean's head ache. The light wasn't hurting his eyes. He twitched his hands experimentally, and when nothing horrible happened, he tried to push himself up on his elbows. Not only did he not hurt, he wasn't even stiff. He didn't feel like he'd been asleep for hours, let alone unconscious and possibly injured.
"What's going on?" he asked, frowning down at a shirt he didn't remember owning. He recognized the bedspreads, at least. "We at Ellen's?"
"Yeah, genius." He could hear Sam rolling his eyes even as he pulled the hoodie over his head. "You're at Ellen's. And if you're going to keep 'sleeping' here, or whatever--please don't tell me, I don't need the details--you could at least get another room."
He swung his legs over the side of the bed. Definitely not injured. But if he'd brought someone back here last night, that would explain Sam's pissiness. Maybe he really hadn't been asleep that long. The not remembering thing, though... maybe he'd gone one for one on the water to alcohol ratio?
Yeah. He didn't exactly have a history of that kind of responsibility.
"Dean?" It wasn't really annoyance. He knew all of Sam's tones. This one was more wary than irritated. "You okay?"
"Yeah," he said. Because that was what Dean did when Sam asked: he reassured him. "Good. Fine. Ready to go kill some stuff."
Sam snorted, but it worked because he turned away. "Don't screw up the sentry rotation and we won't have a problem."
The sentry rotation. Okay. They were at Ellen's, and there was a sentry rotation. "What's a guy gotta do to get some breakfast around here?" Dean wanted to know.
"Go downstairs and make something, like everyone else." Sam's hand was on the door, but he glanced back as he added, "Or not. Like I know how that angel stuff works."
He couldn't help that his mind immediately flashed to Cas. He tried to be surprised he would even consider it was Cas he'd taken to bed, but come on: "angel stuff" could only mean one person, and who else would be bringing him breakfast? He was a little annoyed that it made Cas the man in the relationship. He was way more screwed if he'd done something that crazy, avoided a smiting, and he couldn't even remember.
"Dean?" Sam sounded impatient. "Coming?"
He was dressed. How had he not realized that? Did that cripple the drunken one-night stand theory, or had he had a moment of clarity while he was chugging water and remembered he was in the middle of a war? "Yeah," he said, because if Sam thought he should be then that was probably the best indication he was gonna get. "Lemme--"
Sam didn't look like he was waiting for Dean to do anything except follow him, and when Dean ran a hand over his jaw he paused. His skin was smooth. What the hell had he been doing the night before that he'd needed to shave?
Trying to impress someone? he wondered.
He told his brain to shut up. "Yeah," he repeated instead. "Lead the way."
He should probably just be happy about the lack of bitching. Sam was obviously in a mood – when wasn't he? – but he didn't complain that Dean hadn't changed, hadn't washed, had just rolled out of bed after who knows what and couldn't remember a damn thing.
Not that he was sharing. It would come back. In the meantime, he'd just as soon avoid the mocking.
Ellen's place was a lot more crowded than he expected. He told himself it was just his imagination that everyone was staring. When Jo came out of nowhere to shove a plate of pie and a cup of coffee into his hands he grinned at her and she rolled her eyes. So. That part was normal, at least.
What wasn't normal at all was the little girl who tried to climb into his lap when he sat down. "Whoa," Dean said, clinging to his fork and trying to keep her from falling with the other hand. "Where did you come from?"
"Hi Daddy," she said, very seriously. "Can I have some pie?"
Right. This had officially gotten weird.
"Are you supposed to have pie for breakfast?" he asked.
A sideways glance at Sam told him that had been the wrong reaction. "Daddy?" Sam repeated, in a tone that suggested someone in the room was certifiable and it definitely wasn't him.
Dean shot him his best don't upset the kid look. "You're just mad she likes me better."
"You have pie," Sam pointed out. "And also: Daddy?"
Which was when Cas appeared, looking a little the worse for wear. Dean barely noticed at first, partly because Cas always looked a little the worse for wear – his dishevelment was weirdly precise – but also because Cas had left his trench coat somewhere and he was wearing something that definitely wasn't a suit. Dean only knew one other angel who refused to wear a suit.
Unless you counted Anna, which he didn't.
"Dude," he blurted out. "You cheating off Gabriel, or what?"
"She's real," Cas said, which didn't make a lot of sense to Dean, but whatever. Like that was unusual. "There haven't been any new angels in millennia, and as I seem to have been granted the power –"
"Wait," Sam interrupted, at least two seconds too early and obviously way ahead of Dean. "You created another angel?"
"Uh," Dean said. He was way more than two seconds too late. "She's got wings."
The electric things brushed cool air against his arms as she scrambled into his lap, reaching for the plate in front of him. Dean almost didn't feel it, distracted as he was by the revelation that everyone had wings. Like, okay, sometimes he could see a light around Cas that was sort of... well, angelic. But now that same light was wing-shaped – and it hovered around everyone.
Except for Sam. And Jo, who had come back from wherever she'd been going when the kid showed up. "You made a baby angel?" Jo asked incredulously.
A baby angel that called him "Daddy," Dean thought, but he wasn't stupid. He knew better than to call attention to that again. He tried to keep her from taking his fork instead, but it was a mostly wasted effort. It didn't even keep him from hearing Cas say, "Three."
"Three?" Sam repeated.
"Jophiel has repeatedly expressed a desire to see our ranks grow," Castiel said, like there was some kind of obvious connection between wanting more soldiers and being given a baby. "I simply –"
"No coffee," Dean said, pushing the kid's hand away.
"But I'm thirsty." She said it like it was the most logical thing in the world, and when she squirmed around to pout at him his mouth went dry. She had Cas' eyes.
"I thought perhaps there was some benefit to the human influence," Castiel said. "It seems clear that the inheritance of angels is not sufficient to keep creation in balance. So I –"
He was still talking, but the kid in Dean's lap wasn't interested. "Daddy," she insisted. "When you're thirsty you're supposed to drink something. I'm thirsty."
"Juice," he told her. "Kids drink juice. Not coffee."
"You don't have any juice," she pointed out.
Faced with logic that would be unsettling if it wasn't so familiar, he looked around for Jo. "Hey, get us some juice, would you?"
Apparently having a lap full of wings was enough to get him a free pass. "Yeah," she said, eyes flicking from him to Cas and back again. "Sure."
"I did intend to tell you," Castiel was saying. "But I wasn't sure it would work, and you seemed to be asleep, and I'm afraid Jophiel had some things to say that were... not very complimentary."
It took Dean a second to get that this was directed at him. He wondered if Cas was babbling first, and then if he was babbling at Dean, which, seriously, what the hell was he supposed to do with that? Then he wondered if the fact that no one else was asking any questions meant he was supposed to.
"You drop a kid in her lap too?" Dean asked, because why was this his responsibility?
"Yes," Castiel said. Like he was waiting.
Dean glanced around while his armful of pint-sized angel carefully separated the fruit filling from the rest of the pie. Everyone else seemed to be waiting too. Even the people he didn't know were staring at him – really staring this time, like, openly – waiting to see what he would do.
"Is this our kid?" he blurted out. Because he had no idea what was going on, but he could read a room like nobody's business. Right now this room was expecting him to knock Cas through the nearest wall.
"Yes," Castiel repeated. His expression was stoic, but his wings shifted enough to draw the eye.
"Huh," Dean said, watching them flutter under his stare. Was Cas flinching?
"Castiel says you'll be a good parent," the little girl told him. She sucked a blueberry into her mouth and licked the sauce off her fingers before adding, "He says you raised Sam very well."
"Oh yeah?" Dean couldn't help glancing at Sam, who was starting to look at least as amused as he was incredulous. Not as amused as he should look, though. Dean narrowed his eyes, because Sam should really be singing "sittin' in a tree" by now, and he wasn't.
Sam was startled by the kid, but not by the kid belonging to Dean and Cas.
Had he taken Cas to bed last night?
Catching Cas' eye again, he couldn't find any indication one way or the other. But he wouldn't, right? Castiel had always been inscrutable – and he had known Dean was sleeping in. Not that anyone couldn't have guessed that, but really. They were at Ellen's. Who else would Dean have invited up?
Hell, maybe angel sex came with a side of amnesia. That would just figure.
"Dean," Castiel said. "I presented this... badly. I apologize. Maribel was not supposed to wander off, and I did mean to consult with you, but I'm afraid when the opportunity presented itself I – it just –"
Dean raised his eyebrows, because when was the last time he'd seen Cas so uncertain that he couldn't talk? "It just what?"
"It felt like the right thing to do." Those blue eyes settled on the kid in Dean's lap again, watching her scoop up another blueberry with her fingers. Then they lifted to Dean's face, and geez, why did he even know what color Cas' eyes were? How did he recognize them in a little wisp of a girl?
Because you spend that much time staring at them, some traitorous part of his mind whispered.
Shut up, he told himself.
But in the moment when he was distracted he heard his own voice say, "Whatever. Saves one of us the trouble of getting knocked up, anyway."
And Cas was staring at him. Sam was staring at him. The whole entire room was staring at him, except Jo, who'd just come back with a glass of milk and a stack of napkins. "Hey," she said, depositing them on the counter next to his left hand. "What'd I miss?"
If Gabriel hadn't picked that exact second to show up, Dean might have reacted better. If Gabriel hadn't popped into existence so close to Cas, Dean definitely would have reacted better. And if his words had been anything other than, "So, about Michael –"
As it was, Dean knocked Gabriel through the nearest wall. Literally.
He might have growled, "Get the fuck away from him," and if he happened to have his arm around the kid when he did it, well. She'd have fallen off his lap when he stood anyway.
Gabriel was back before Dean had processed the smashed up wall. "Chill, bro," he said. And with the snap of his fingers, Dean remembered: Anna, Samael – Gabriel – Jophiel, Sach... Raphael and Zachariah. Who was currently a bunny rabbit, unless his memories were more messed up than he knew. Or someone had dared to turn him back.
He was Michael.
And he had a nephilim daughter.
He considered throwing Gabriel through the wall again just on principle.
"Okay, look," Gabriel said. "The whole forgetting thing, I thought it was funny, right? How was I supposed to know Mr. Incredible here would pick today, of all days, to throw the Old Word out the window! I wasn't! So there you go. Memories back, call it a draw, you're welcome."
"You stay away from them," Dean told him. "All of them. Leave the kids alone, Gabriel."
Gabriel just shrugged. "Whatever you say, boss."
He disappeared before Dean could prove how serious he was. Cas was giving him an adoring look that was almost insulting in its surprise – had he seriously expected less? But it was Sam who was gonna be the real problem.
His brother was watching him with what could only be described as suspicion. "Explain 'the whole forgetting thing,' Dean."
Great. This should go well.
"Sam," he began, in a way that was not at all similar to whining. "It's an angel prank war. These things happen."
"You had amnesia?" Sam demanded. "Since when?"
"Since I woke up," Dean said. "It's fine, it's all back. I'm good."
"If an angel takes away your memories," the little girl mused, "is that functional amnesia, or organic?" She was standing on the bottom rung of his chair, cleaning off his pie plate with her finger. She stuck the finger in her mouth as soon as she finished talking.
They both stared at her for a long moment. It got Sam off his case, but clearly there were bigger issues.
"Dude," Dean said, looking up at Cas, who'd suddenly gotten a whole lot closer. "How human?"
"Compared to angels?" Castiel said. "Very."
"Compared to humans," Dean said.
Cas hesitated. "Compared to humans," he said at last, "not so much."
Yeah. That's what Dean was afraid of.
"Why aren't you answering my question?" the girl on his lap wanted to know. "Didn't I ask loud enough?"
"Yeah, kiddo," Dean said, patting her shoulder without thinking. A little wing wisped against his elbow. "You did. We're just kind of confused right now."
"I'm pretty sure it's organic," Sam remarked. "I mean, when Gabriel does it, he probably alters your basic brain patterns. Chemistry and stuff."
"Okay, so." It was Cas he was looking at when Dean jerked a thumb at Sam. "This part's gonna work out," he said. "But next time, at least tell me you're pregnant in time for me to drive you to the hospital."
"Gabriel! What... I mean, what can I, uh--"
"So, Chuck," Gabriel said, flipping one of his books over and staring at the worn back cover with little interest. "You haven't written anything about Lucifer yet."
"Well, no--I mean, who would believe it, right?" The only modern prophet backed away when Gabriel prowled around the corner of his bed, tripping over a bag and almost falling. "Almost" was an improvement when it came to Chuck. Probably Becky's influence.
"Chuck," Gabriel said. "The people who read your books think Sam and Dean are real."
"They are real!" Chuck protested.
"Exactly my point," Gabriel said, picking up a scribbled-on napkin and circling the word "fireflies" with his finger. "They believe whatever you tell them. It's your job to spread the truth."
"Uh," Chuck said. "Isn't that... your job?"
Gabriel rolled his eyes. "Hello, what do you think I'm doing?"
"Harassing me?" Chuck said.
"I harass prophets, Chuck. That's my job." Gabriel wagged a finger at him. "Your job is to write things down."
"I... think my job is to know my audience," Chuck said, and hey, when had he grown a backbone? "They don't want to read about Lucifer. They're tired of Lucifer. Becky says they'd much rather read about cute half-breed children."
Gabriel let whatever charm he'd bothered with for the human's sake fall away. "You keep the fucking nephilim out of your books, Carver Edlund, or I'll smite your ass to hell and back. And trust me, neither leg of that trip is gonna be pretty."
"Well," Chuck said, and why was he still talking? "I'm pretty sure you're not actually allowed to do that to a prophet, right?"
"I don't know if you've noticed this," Gabriel snapped, "but I'm allowed to do whatever I want. Got it? Because I can make it clearer for you, if you're confused."
Chuck's hands were clenched in the bedspread but he was staring like he could see into Gabriel's head. Which he couldn't. That kind of thing would burn him to cinders from the inside out. And yeah, Gabriel would definitely get in trouble for it, but he didn't see any reason to share that with a mortal.
"Why are you threatening me?" Chuck wanted to know. "I mean, I know, it's your job and humans are inferior and all that, which I think is kind of hypocritical if you need us to--well, anyway," he said quickly. "Why not just teach me a lesson? Um, not that I want you to, but that's kind of your thing, right? Why warn me first?"
Gabriel gave him a disgusted look. "Shut up and write."
Sam was out working on the wards, so that was where Gabriel went. "You could get someone to do that for you, you know," he said just as Sam turned around.
Not only did the younger Winchester not jump, he walked right past Gabriel liked he'd known he was there all along and he wasn't even worth making eye contact with. "Funny," Sam said, his shoulder brushing against Gabriel's as he went. "I thought I told you to do it."
Gabriel frowned momentarily. Sam had just walked through his wing. Which, okay: humans were rude, crude, arrogant little creatures who lately seemed to revere all the wrong things. But Sam could see him. "Did you just bust up my personal space on purpose, Sammy boy?"
"Did you show up to apologize for not fixing the wards when I told you to?" Sam countered.
Gabriel snorted. "No."
"Then yes," Sam said. "Your personal space is really not my main concern right now, Gabriel."
"Fine." Gabriel snapped his fingers. "Happy?"
Sam squinted at the wall like he could see what Gabriel had done. "You missed the extra dragon sigil. And the one Jesse added for hellhounds."
Gabriel stared at him, then up at the outside of the building. "How do you know that?"
Sam smirked. "Wouldn't you like to know. Fix them, please."
Taken aback, Gabriel did.
"Thanks," Sam said. "So I'm gonna go do damage control downtown, and it would help me if you'd either work, or if you have to follow me around for no apparent reason, act remotely human while you're doing it."
Gabriel sneered at him. "Oh, please. Like I have nothing better to do."
Sam shrugged. "Suit yourself."
"I will," Gabriel said, but he was talking to Sam's retreating back.
Brat, Gabriel thought. Brother turned out to be the head archangel, gatekeepers opened doors for him, and damned angel kids started treating him like a big brother. Whoop de doo. No angel garrison had been run by someone with human blood since the last time giants walked the earth, and they all knew how that had turned out.
"Castiel says I should stay away from you," a too-young voice said from behind him.
Gabriel felt his wings lift, tight and too contained. "He's right," he told the wall. "But you don't do what you're told, do you."
He could see her frown without turning around. "I don't think he made me that way."
Of course he hadn't. Because Castiel hadn't been around for the first nephilim war. The struggle that had ripped heaven and earth asunder and ensured that no human would ever see the true form of an angel again. Castiel thought a little rebellion was healthy, that everyone's best instincts would win out in the end, and somehow this would all turn out well.
You think we--
Gabriel didn't know how he'd failed to realize the cursed children were connected to the choir, but he froze the words out before she could get more than half a thought into his head. "Touch my soul again," he told the wall, "and next time it'll be your grace I tear to pieces."
He could hear her fragile human form gagging for breath in the dirt behind him.
He supposed Castiel would be angry if she died. His foolish brother still bore the mark of God: no one knew why, or how, or when it would fade. If it ever did. But it was the reason these creatures were in existence now, and Gabriel wasn't ready to fall. Not for this. Not for real.
Michael, he thought irritably. Come patch up your abomination.
Gabriel stuck around long enough to make it clear he wasn't afraid. There was a window--a moment, a couple of frantic human heartbeats--when Dean was more concerned with keeping her alive than he was with killing Gabriel. It was plenty of time to set some ground rules.
"You want me to stay away from them," Gabriel said, "you make sure they return the favor. Or I'm not making any promises."
He might not be scared, but he wasn't stupid either. He didn't show his face at the Roadhouse again until Sam came back from wherever he'd gone. He figured if the guy hadn't killed him after the Mystery Spot then he was probably Gabriel's best defense. In the meantime he managed to 1) track down Jophiel without her noticing, and 2) totally fail to locate the third "parent." He wouldn't put it past Castiel to have hidden more than three, but the fact that he couldn't even find the three he knew existed was... irritating.
Gabriel did briefly entertain the thought that Castiel had only said "three" to keep him looking, thus affording the other two some protection, but no. He was pretty sure Castiel believed, subconsciously or otherwise, that families came in multiples of three. More than three, possibly, but less than three? Unlikely.
"Congratulations," Sam said, seconds after Gabriel appeared beside him. He'd just walked in the door, and he didn't pause when Gabriel's appearance ruffled his hair and tugged at the sleeves of the jacket he was shucking. "You've made an enemy of every ranking angel at the Roadhouse in less than a day. It's like this gift you have."
Was it getting cold out, Gabriel wondered? Where had Sam gotten that jacket?
"You're not welcome here," Castiel's voice growled.
Gabriel smiled, holding his hands out to the side as he turned. "What are you gonna do?" he taunted. "Turn me into a little bunny? Come on, bro. No harm done, right?"
"I do not have the authority to remove you from your post." Castiel didn't look like this was going to stop him for long. "However, in light of your prior loyalties, I would ask you to step aside."
"My prior loyalties?" Gabriel repeated, rolling his eyes. "What, you mean my entire existence? Yeah, that's got a funny way of coming back."
"Times change, Gabriel." The irony of this coming from Castiel, who had until recently been the youngest of the host, was ridiculously aggravating. "Our power is in check. Some amount of balance has been restored. The old wars are over, and these children will be supervised."
"Wars don't end just because two guys have a beer and avoid their responsibilities for a few days," Gabriel snapped. "I don't know what kind of bull Michael's been feeding you, but Lucifer is still fallen. He's still the ruler of hell. This little lull isn't some kind of extended interlude for you to play house--it's time for us to regroup and resupply."
Castiel's wings bristled, which was unreasonably cute and Gabriel tried to resist the urge to pat him on the cheek. "You will show Michael the respect he's due," Castiel ground out. Gabriel totally lost his internal struggle.
Sam caught his arm just as he would have connected with Castiel's face. The shock of it was enough to still his hand, and he had half a second to wonder wildly if Sam knew what he was doing. "Cas," he was saying. "Maybe you should go outside and check on the dragon."
"The dragon is fine," Castiel informed him.
Sam slapped his jacket against Castiel's shoulder and gave him a push. "Just go," he said. "Check."
Okay, no. Sam definitely didn't know what he was doing. The only problem was that once Gabriel realized this, he could only imagine where the behavior was coming from. Sam wasn't overly tactile or sharing, at least not with people he didn't know, so it wasn't exactly plausible that he'd stumbled into it by accident.
"You need to stop pissing him off," Sam hissed, once Castiel had disappeared. He hadn't gone to check on the dragon, Gabriel noted absently. He was alerting Michael. "Seriously, Dean will smite you."
"Ooh, I'm scared," Gabriel said. "Hello, archangel!"
"Yeah, well, older and more powerful archangel," Sam reminded him. "And maybe you don't remember this, but he has reason to hold a grudge against you."
Gabriel scoffed. "So, what, he turns me into a bunny rabbit?"
"You think he won't?" Sam said, eyeing him.
"I think I've been a rabbit," Gabriel said. "There are certain benefits."
He knew Michael was about to be there before the displacement of air rushed around them. He stayed because he was still pretty sure Sam wouldn't let Dean kill him. Sam was predictable. Gabriel hadn't permanently killed anyone--yet--therefore Sam didn't want him dead.
The fact that he could be manipulated with heavy doses of Sam was the only thing that made Michael bearable.
"Do you know how long it took Lucifer to break out of hell?" Dean's voice asked. "Because however long it looked from this side, I bet it felt a lot longer from where he was standing. And I am absolutely on board with getting him some company, like, yesterday. Or a thousand years ago. Or, hey, why not two. Maybe ten. Hell's been around a long time, buddy."
"Nice try," Gabriel drawled. "But I saw you after you came back. You can't bluff with that."
"Cas can bluff with that," Dean told him. "I'll actually do it. Do you have any idea how proud he is of those kids? You kill them, you fucking crush him. And that's not cool with me, man. That's not cool at all."
"Look, I'm glad you can forget what happened last time," Gabriel snapped. "But you weren't the one who had to watch the world burn around him. You weren't the one who had to choose. Maybe I can't get over that just because your lover gave the kid his eyes."
"The host died with them, Gabriel." It was Dean's voice, but that was Michael talking to him and he couldn't pretend otherwise. "We lost earth when they fell. This is our chance to get it back."
It was like he was channeling Castiel. The two of them needed to grow up and get it over with. What else was there in the face of that kind of naivete?
"Look," Gabriel said with a sigh. "Keep them away from me and I'll try to pretend they don't exist. That's the best I can do."
"Sach." Sam didn't try to touch her as she passed, just held out his hand and let his fingers slip right through her wing. "How's Jo?"
Gabriel stared as Sachiel turned around, eyes flicking past him to give Sam a smile. She was apparently ignoring the fact that Sam had just put a hand through her true form. "She's as good as anyone who's had a baby dropped on their doorstep," she told him. "Last I saw, anyway. She knows Gabriel's stalking her, so convincing her to come back from the arctic is going to take a while."
"Especially since she's in Egypt," Gabriel muttered. "Michael. We gotta talk."
He didn't wait, just snapped them away to the Wellington warehouse. Something to be said for the classics, even if this one really wasn't. "Why is Sam courting," he said flatly, folding his arms.
"What?" Dean frowned at him, but he didn't act as surprised as he could have. "Who?"
"Everyone," Gabriel said. "All the angel flirting, you think that's funny?"
Dean raised his eyebrows. "He's flirting with an angel? Who?" His eyes narrowed, considering, and he shrugged minutely. "Sach? He could do a lot worse."
"He's doing it to everyone," Gabriel said. "I know you tricked him into it somehow. Cut it out."
"Okay, first off, I have no idea what you're talking about," Dean told him. "And second, what do you care? He making you uncomfortable? Or are you jealous 'cause the garrison likes him better?"
"The wing touching," Gabriel said, rolling his eyes. "Getting in everyone's face. He gave Castiel his jacket, and you think he's after Mommy Number Two?"
"He likes Cas, so what?" Dean said. "He gets in people's faces. He's eight feet tall, he does that."
"He's touching people's wings," Gabriel repeated irritably. Sam could see them. It wasn't an accident.
"There's not two feet to turn around back there without tripping over someone's wings," Dean said. "And he can't touch them. They're not corporeal."
"He puts his hand through them," Gabriel insisted. "It's creepy."
Dean eyed him. "What are you, twelve? He's human. Get over it."
Which might have been the end of it, if Gabriel ever let anything go. But if Michael wasn't to blame then someone else was, because no way had Sam stumbled on something like that without learning everything a human could know about it. The only reason he'd know something halfway was if someone had deliberately fed him half the information.
He suspected Sachiel first. Castiel might have done it by accident, but neither he nor Jophiel would have anything to do with Gabriel right now, so he'd never know. Sachiel wasn't particularly pleased with him either--like he cared--but she stopped sulking over her little friend's new brat long enough to let him know Sam had forbidden her to tell him anything about angel courtship rituals.
"He says he doesn't want to know," she informed him. "Not about anything that involves angels and touching."
Okay. Maybe not surprising, given his brother's latest indiscretions. He asked two more angels Sam had gotten all buddy-buddy with, but their responses were just variations on a theme: Sam didn't want to hear it. Gabriel even asked Anna, because, well. Right? All she did was give him a weird look and point out that he could read Sam's mind if he really wanted to know.
"I can't," he grumbled. He almost didn't tell her, but Michael had to know and if he was smart he was going to blab it to the whole host anyway. "Weird psychic interference. It's a thing. Oh, hey, stay away from Raphael for a couple days. He's on a tear."
"When isn't he?" Anna said, rolling her eyes.
Gabriel figured she'd mind her own business for a while anyway. Which left him with no answers, except for the vague thought that maybe Sam had been doing research he wasn't telling anyone about. That wasn't anything new. He still had to have a source.
He didn't know why it didn't occur to him that Michael was lying. He didn't know why it never crossed his mind to suspect Sam. He'd thought he was done underestimating them after the whole releasing Lucifer thing, but when Sam walked up behind him at the bar that night--stopping close enough to be standing in his wing--he just frowned. It was an unfortunately public place to be making that mistake.
Until he felt Sam's hand ruffle his hair.
"Hey, baby," Sam drawled. "I hear you've been out defending my honor."
Gabriel considered this for a fraction of a second before reaching the all too obvious conclusion. "Really?" he said, glancing around at Sam's buddies. Sach looked entirely too pleased with herself. Dean's smirk became a snicker when Gabriel's gaze swept over him. Anael was probably laughing at him from whatever she thought of as a safe distance. "You really want in on this, Sammy?"
"Oh, he's in," Dean said. Because when did he do anything without his brother. "He's all in. And you're going down."
Gabriel raised an eyebrow at Sam, for once ignoring the easily inappropriate reply. "You think you can trick the trickster?"
"Aw, sweetheart," Sam said, patting his shoulder with fake sympathy. "We already did. Don't feel too bad, though. I know how hard it is to think straight around me."
Sam would be a lot easier to prank than Michael, Gabriel thought. It would be so easy it almost wasn't worth it.
Might give him some cover while he was hunting the third nephilim brat, though. He opened his mouth to say you're on when he realized the perfect prank had already been set up for him. Michael would never fall for it, because Michael didn't care. But it turned out Sam's weakness wasn't just caring for Dean--Sam's weakness was that he cared about everyone.
So Gabriel accepted the challenge in silence, smiling like he hadn't just been spurned by Sam Winchester.
That was what Sam would expect, after all.
Sam was talking to a civilian when Gabriel appeared beside him with all the subtlety of a plane coming in to land. A comparison Gabriel would probably take exception to, but since he'd just interrupted Sam's meeting with law enforcement, Sam wasn't inclined to be generous.
"Gabriel," he said. "I know we've talked about this."
"What?" Gabriel said. "I'll give her the flashy thing treatment; it'll be fine. Come on, Sam, when have I ever inconvenienced you for no reason?"
"Aside from now?" Sam rolled his eyes. "Try always."
"Just because you don't understand my reasons," Gabriel told him, "that doesn't mean they don't exist. Here," he added, thrusting something at Sam. "Hold this."
The reflex to grab anything being shoved at him was long gone, and Sam knew better than to ask Gabriel what it was. "Why?" he said instead, bypassing the logical question for the one more likely to keep him from getting killed. Either accidentally or on purpose.
"Because," Gabriel said. "I trust you."
Sam blinked. His hands came up to hold whatever it was that Gabriel pushed into his chest just before he disappeared, and damn it, he'd thought that reflex was safely buried. The only good thing was that Gabriel had kept his promise - for once - and the animal control officer was blinking at the paper Sam suddenly found himself in possession of.
"Where did you get that?" she asked, and Sam's fingers tightened around it carefully. It wasn't paper. It was papyrus.
"Had it in my pocket," he said. "So. What else do I need for my exotic reptile permit?"
Which of course was when Sachiel appeared, looking awesome and angelic and furious in a way he'd never seen before. She actually hesitated when she saw Sam, and he figured that was... a good thing?
"Sam," she said, with a voice like lightning. "Have you seen Gabriel?"
"Yeah," he said, holding up the scroll. "He left this."
"The list." Sachiel looked like she wanted to be relieved but wasn't at all. "I'm sure he's memorized it by now. We'll have to scrap it and start over."
"What is it?" Sam asked curiously. He knew better than to open random scrolls, especially ones that Gabriel had handed to him, but he couldn't help wanting to know.
"The children's schedule," she said.
Of course. What else would Gabriel bother stealing.
They'd made a list - Sam thought of it as the babysitters' duty roster - so that everyone who wanted a chance to see and teach the newest angels could register their time in advance. It had been Dean's idea: apparently he was still human enough to be ticked off when angels showed up to abduct his kid at all hours of the day and night. As far as Sam could tell, it wasn't that his brother disliked the idea of other people doing the parenting, he just wished they wouldn't bother him about it.
As with so many other things, Dean had tried to pin responsibility for executing the list on Sam, which Sam had pointed out was stupid since only the angels who had vessels would be able to talk to him. Dean said this was totally untrue, but Sam still refused and finally Cas had stepped in. He'd offered to be in charge of The List, and he did have a vested interest, so even when Dean claimed Cas had too many other things to do he didn't put up much of a fuss.
Sam thought having to rely on just one person for sex was teaching Dean how to compromise. He'd never been great at long-term relationships, partly for the obvious reasons of the road, but also because Dean had never really learned how not to piss people off. They always forgave him, after all, so what did he care? If one in a hundred didn't let him off the hook, he had ninety-nine more in line behind them.
"You want it back, then," Sam said. He probably didn't want to know how Gabriel had ended up with the list in the first place.
No, that wasn't true. He did want to know. He was willing to bet it involved some subterfuge and a fair bit of bribing and cajoling people who weren't supposed to be talking to him. If he'd dumped it off with Sam without asking, though, he'd better not be expecting to get it back.
"No," Sachiel said, to his suprise. "If Gabriel's seen it, we can't use it."
She looked like she was about to vanish, but before she went she cast a mostly uncaring look at the woman he'd been talking to. "Do you need any help here, Sam?"
Now they asked. "We have a dragon living at the Roadhouse," he said, not because he thought it meant anything to her but because he was tired of everyone ignoring it. "There are laws about that, if anyone cares."
Sachiel looked vaguely interested. "You have laws about the care and feeding of dragons?"
The woman he was talking to must have had enough, because she informed them, "Keeping komodo dragons as pets is illegal. No license is going to change that."
Sam sighed. "Okay, look. Are the kids in trouble?"
"Not yet," Sachiel said, eyes narrowed like she was already planning ways to smite Gabriel in his sleep.
"Good." Sam turned to the woman behind the desk. "Thanks for your time," he told her. "And I'm sorry about all this."
She frowned, and he knew he was lucky she hadn't already flipped out on them. Sach had flown into her office, after all. Plus she probably thought they were exotic pet traffickers or something. She was actually pretty calm, considering.
"Sach," he said, before she could prove him wrong. "Can you make sure she doesn't remember us being here? I'll meet you outside."
"Now wait a minute," the woman began, but Sam was already on his way out.
Sach was in the parking lot when he emerged, and he'd managed to teach her something about humans because she was standing just outside the range of the security cameras. "Want a ride somewhere?" she offered.
"I've got one," he said. "Tell me what's going on."
Nothing, as it turned out. At least, nothing according to Sam, who was pretty sure Gabriel was just being his usual obnoxious self. So he stole the babysitting list. It was guaranteed to send the greatest number of people into a frenzy with the least amount of effort on his part. It wasn't like he had to do anything with it. As Sachiel had just proven, he didn't even have to hold onto it.
It was actually, though Sam knew better than to admit it to anyone, kind of clever.
It also wasn't the first thing Gabriel had done to piss everyone off, and no way would it be the last. He seemed to be biding his time, trying to lull Sam into complacency by pranking everyone except him. Sam had known what he was getting into when he offered to help Dean get back at Gabriel for the amnesia thing, but he hadn't expected Gabriel to be quite so... nice about it. He'd expected lulling, yeah, but he'd figured it would be full of Gabriel smirking and making vague threats and generally pretending he was about to do something terrible at any second – until Sam decided he was all talk, and then the trap would be sprung.
Instead, Gabriel seemed to be making nice: playing little tricks that were more of a calling card than actual pranks. Sticking Sam with the list he'd stolen, sending him a dozen roses with a note that said "from Dean" attached, snapping a puppy into existence and asking Sam to walk it for him. Things that reminded Sam who he was dealing with.
Not that he needed the reminder; they worked together day and night and he saw way too much of Gabriel as it was. But now it seemed like he couldn't even watch TV or go for a drink (or apparently, interact with anyone in the world, civilian or not) without Gabriel popping in to... be himself. It was starting to weird Sam out a little.
He'd forced Dean to get his own room by the simple expedient of moving out of their shared room himself, because he was tired of waking up and seeing wings tangled everywhere on a too-small bed. He figured once he left they'd just magic it bigger or something. Plus he got a bigger bed in a single room, and he didn't have to deal with Dean's crap everywhere... so when he walked in and saw a huge Mickey Mouse bear in the chair by the window it was just the last straw.
"Castiel," he said aloud. "Come here, please."
Cas appeared beside him before he could finish turning his head. It was a power Sam abused mercilessly with Dean, but he tried to at least look apologetic when he summoned someone else.
"Sorry," Sam added, for good measure. "Question: is that giant stuffed bear explosive, radioactive, or otherwise hazardous to my health?"
Castiel glanced at it. "The one that says 'Mickey Mouse' on it?" he asked, like there were multiple giant stuffed bears in the room and he wanted to be sure they were talking about the same one.
"Yes," Sam said, trying not to roll his eyes. "That one."
"It doesn't look harmful," Castiel said.
Sam knew it didn't look harmful, because if it had looked harmful he would have shot it first and yelled for Cas second. He also knew that Castiel could see it a lot more clearly than he could. "Why is it here?"
Castiel tilted his head. "The note attached to its uppermost appendages appears to have been signed by Gabriel."
Sam strode over to the bear and yanked the card free from its clasped paws. So you just found out your brother's the archangel Michael, it read. What are you going to do next?
He stared at it for a long moment, because Gabriel's jokes might possibly be escalating. Just not in the expected direction.
Don't feel bad, Sam had told him, when Gabriel had accepted his participation in their angelic prank war. I know how hard it is to think straight around me. He'd expected Gabriel to snicker, to scoff at such a suggestion at least. More likely, he'd figured, Gabriel would put him in his place then and there and Dean would either retaliate in his name or laugh at him. Depending on what method Gabriel chose.
Sam hadn't expected there to be no method. Gabriel had just smiled and looked down at the counter, like...
"Cas," Sam said. It sounded stupid in his head, and he was pretty sure it was going to sound worse out loud. But seriously. Gabriel had said I trust you. What did that even mean? "Does Gabriel – like me?" he asked carefully.
Castiel gave the question enough consideration that Sam felt slightly less ridiculous for asking. "I don't believe Gabriel is capable of caring about humans on an individual basis," he said at last. "It seems more likely that this is some sort of elaborate deception on his part, perhaps relating to his prank war with Dean."
"Yeah," Sam said, frowning. Castiel had gotten a handle on that whole situation pretty quickly. "That's what I thought."
Really? Not capable?
"Your flashy thing trick is flashy thing-less," Sam told Gabriel later, while Gabriel was pretending to write an inventory report in something that was definitely not English. Sam knew he was pretending because Gabriel never wrote reports, just generated any lists they needed out of thin air and possibly direct thought transference from his mind to a piece of paper. "Also, you're leaving me presents."
"Oh, do you like them?" Gabriel gave him a bright, too-innocent smile from across the counter. "What's your favorite color?"
That wasn't what he'd expected. "Uh..." He probably shouldn't even try. "White, I guess?"
Gabriel raised an eyebrow. "Well, that won't look good in a lipstick," he said. He bent his head over his "report" again, and Sam frowned at it.
"Is that Sanskrit?" Sam demanded. "I hope you're not planning to give that to me when you're done and have me do anything meaningful with it."
"You recognized the language," Gabriel said without looking up. "Smarter than you look, Sammy boy."
"Gabriel." Sam glared at him. "Seriously, what are you doing?"
"Playing a trick." Gabriel rolled his eyes, waving his pen around dramatically. "Thought you'd know one when you saw one. Gonna have to take away ten smart points for that, Sambino."
"What kind of trick?" Sam insisted.
Gabriel gave him a look like he had no smart points at all. "The kind where I know what it is, and you don't. Hello! What kind of prank war do you think this is?"
"You can't lull me," Sam informed him. "I don't lull."
"Oh, Sam, you wound me!" Gabriel beamed at him, the disappointed expression melting easily into false cheer. "Have a chocolate!"
There were suddenly chocolates on the counter. The Roadhouse was full of supernatural beings, though; the party tricks couldn't surprise him anymore. What did surprise him was the fact that Gabriel didn't stick around to eat all of it himself. Gabriel didn't even wait to see if Sam would fall for it – whatever it was. He just tipped his head like he was hearing something on angel radio, said "gotta go," and disappeared with a gentle gust that barely stirred the candy wrappers.
Leaving Sam with chocolate he wouldn't touch, a list he couldn't read, and more questions than he'd started with.