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The Brand New Beginning

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Chapter 1

The sky was gloomy with red smudges on the edges of the horizon as the sunrays broke through the clouds of evil and darkness, but the most of them were stopped right before their light could get on Earth and warm the dead soil. This planet had transformed into a wasteland and there were very few beings who knew when this decay of civilization and life had started to unfold. Had this been his Father’s goal all along? Letting his favourite son destroy everything he had ever created? Was this their punishment for not caring for humanity, which had been their purpose since the beginning of their existence? Gabriel couldn’t imagine that his Father wanted this after everything He had done here. But of course, God had always had a weakness for Lucifer, who had caused so much pain to everyone and, frankly, deserved to be punished more severely than just being put in a cage. And despite everything Gabriel’s long lost brother had done, God hadn’t moved a finger to stop him.

While contemplating about the things he could have done to prevent this destruction, Gabriel suddenly sensed a strange shift and crackling of energy from one specific spot in the world. Curious as he was, the archangel just couldn't resist taking a peek to that place and see for himself what was going on there. Gabriel was sure that he wasn't the only one who had felt the waves flowing and power surging through the crack into their world, but if he was right about the cause of the change in the air, he would definitely try to find a way how to get close enough to see for himself.

The world was ending. Or more like, it had ended long time ago, and since then Gabriel had been on the run from his power seeking brother. Lucifer and Michael had stood against each other at last as written and prophesied, fought each other to death, and the winner hadn't been the one mentioned in the books. God hadn't showed himself since their petty arguments had grown into bloody fights and Lucifer had gone too far with his vengeance.

Gabriel had wanted to stop it. He saw that nothing could have changed his brothers' minds about the final battle, but he had still tried his best to talk to them, persuade them to stop this madness and get through their differences another way. As Gabriel looked around himself, he winced at the plains of destruction and darkness. His attempts to ease off the anger within the family had been in vain. Ruins and devastation everywhere around one of his hideouts was the only needed proof that he had failed not just himself, but also humanity and all God’s creation.

Gabriel sighed loudly in exhaustion, rubbing his eyes in slow, tired motions. Running for so long had been draining him, but it was just thanks to his wits and many of his hideouts that he had been still alive. But now, the archangel was hovering around the spot, blinding and full of power he had never seen in his long life. Gabriel could feel signs of his brother, Lucifer, but it wasn't as clear and pure as in his presence. Whoever had made this, they were as powerful as an archangel, and maybe even more. They knew how to shift through dimensions and Gabriel caught himself admiring the work of the being responsible for the phenomenon.

The archangel looked around again, but didn't see anyone nearby. Everyone was too busy destroying the world, apparently, and he found himself not being able to hold his curiosity any longer. This crack through the dimensions, alternate universes, was drawing him closer, luring him inside, and forcing him to cross the borders between his world and the other. Gabriel just couldn't stand here and watch it forever, thinking about what-ifs. This was the only way how to escape the world that he let his brothers turn into ruins; every damn creature his Father had put away ages ago was walking this place like it was their home. The archangel still felt guilty over his blindness and cowardice, not taking any actions right at the beginning, even though he had known what would happen. It had been his fault that there was no paradise on this planet, no beauty, no sun, no pure water, no life. It was like in Purgatory but worse. Gabriel had never imagined that this world could be even worse than that hellish place, but it was. So much worse.

Watching his surroundings once again, Gabriel decided that this was certainly the only chance he would get to escape this insanity, and maybe, just maybe, he would end up in a world where the Devil hadn't won. Of course, the archangel had thought about the consequences his presence could cause if there were too many archangels in one world, or even two Gabriels. It hurt him to know that he would have to die in there anyway and this was a huge risk, walking in there just like that without any means to come back. Yes, here, it wasn't actually life. It was just constant running from those who sought revenge or someone to play with. Gabriel didn't want to think about it. He knew that he couldn't run for much longer, his hideouts were being discovered far too quickly these past couple of weeks, and there was a chance that the following day, they would catch up on him and kill him like any other creature crawling around here, searching for another way of torture and a victim to try it on.

The crack between the worlds had gotten bigger during the time Gabriel had been thinking through his options, and even though he had chosen his path before even seeing it with his own eyes, it was hard for him to actually go with his plan and leave his own world. This was it for him. The risk Gabriel was willing to take just to keep living and maybe see the world complete again before everything had gone to shit in here...it was both overwhelming and frightening. And cowardly.

Gabriel inhaled deeply to prepare himself. Though he didn't need it, he was used to it. This little habit of his reminded him of life before when he had spent a lot of his time among humans. The archangel desperately wanted that back again, he longed for that connection with humans and other gods. Anything really. His strength had always grown with nature, but now, when he was cut out of the Host, though not completely, Gabriel felt that the thread of his life was nearing the end. His power had been reaching its limits for weeks and sometimes he was so tired that his determination and will would waver for a bit, and he felt that it would be better to give up. But this. This was his chance, the only chance really, to keep going and maybe he would find a place to live in. He just hoped that there was actually a place for him on the other side.

***

When Gabriel touched the bright light leading to another world, his whole being trembled with energy flowing through the veins of his vessel's body. It had been such an unexpected experience that when the archangel finally landed on the ground on the other side, he gasped for air, suddenly in need of it as if he were an ordinary human. Though when Gabriel reached out into the depths of his grace in fear, he could feel his own power intact and slowly growing. The archangel sighed in relief.

It had taken several minutes to get himself together as he straightened up and finally looked around himself to see where he was. It was night, and it surprised Gabriel since he hadn't seen the real night for a very long time. In his world, everything was surrounded by darkness. It was neither night nor day. Everything was covered in shadows. The air felt so clear here, in this world, that it made him lightheaded a bit. Despite him being an archangel, his vessel had gone through a shock and Gabriel was still fighting the urge to cough. Then he heard birds singing and crickets chirping, the trees whispering and the wind blowing through the colourful leaves. Gabriel was standing in front of a house and he could feel the power that had created the scar between his world and this one inside it, the light of its grace blinding like a star, but not quite, there was also a soul within the light, shining as much. The archangel had to close his eyes for a few seconds as it was too bright even for him, not harmful, but still too intense. Before he could think about the source of this light, Gabriel saw movements, another grace coming to the door. His eyes widened in shock and he cloaked himself quickly not to reveal his presence in here. The archangel would be lying if he said that he hadn't recognized the grace. It was one of his brothers, a seraph, and his survival instincts just kicked in and he flew away.

Gabriel couldn't be discovered, not now when he really found a world that hadn't been torn into shreds. Every powerful creature - at least powerful enough to sense an archangel - would know there was a shift in power of this universe, and if his predictions had been right, and there were archangels in this world - all of them alive even - Gabriel would be chased down and killed. He didn't belong into this world, he was an anomaly, taking something which wasn't his and he knew the risks, he knew that he could be killed or destroyed by God Himself. But what other choices Gabriel had? The archangel still hoped that he would be allowed to live here. At least there was a chance to try and keep going. Maybe he could find a new purpose here, something he could do in this world. His own world had been beyond saving.

The first thing Gabriel wanted to do was catch up on the events from here. Everything which could indicate how far in time this world had gotten. Who had won the final battle and how so that it was still intact, full of energy. There were scars in this universe. The archangel could feel it within the walls surrounding it, he could sense the breaking points in its history, beings which had changed and shaped this world into something Gabriel hadn't seen for too long. His grace rejoiced in it, basked in it and he tried to enjoy the feeling as much as he could. There was no way of telling that it would last.

It had taken hours to search for the differences between his world and this one. Still a bit tired, Gabriel had stayed in a secluded place without anything and anyone interfering his recovery. The archangel wanted to know what was different here, who had done this, who had saved this world from destroying itself. And when the archangel had finally found it, he couldn't believe his own eyes. Two humans against all odds managed to keep the world together, getting through everything that could have easily changed this world into his, or similar one. Gabriel was captivated by it all; the prophet Chuck had recorded everything in the books, the Winchester Gospels. Who the hell were they? The archangel had never heard of them in his world, and maybe that was it. Those two humans - hunters - had saved their world from every damn dark power possible, and Gabriel couldn't believe that just two men could have changed so much. Whatever had happened to them in his world, he now couldn't go back and search for them, if they had ever existed there, and he didn't even want to go back, because now he had found his purpose here.

Gabriel's eyes shone in power, he could feel his grace strengthening and he knew that if he hadn't been discovered yet, there was a good chance that he could stay here. And the first stop for him was that infamous bunker of the Winchesters. Gabriel knew that the Gabriel of this world had died by Lucifer's hand, killed when trying to save humanity. The archangel had admired the other Gabriel's strength to go against his own brother and he wished that he had been as strong as him when the time had come in his world. It seemed that the Winchesters had influence their Gabriel to fight for them, to help them trap Lucifer in the Cage again. But the real shock and surprise, and admiration came when reading about the way how the humans had sent the Devil back in there. This Sam Winchester... Gabriel couldn't believe that a human soul could have taken control over Lucifer's grace, fall into the Cage with him and survive it all. That human's soul must have been so strong and powerful. Gabriel shook his head in awe. He had to seek it, see it with his own eyes and protect it at all costs. And he knew that he could walk into their lives easily enough if he pretended that he was their Gabriel, that he survived, too weakened to show up to them sooner. He was clever enough to think of something believable.

Then there was a cry of a powerful being, flowing through the angelic radio - a Nephilim had been born. Gabriel realized that the path between the dimension hadn't been just a coincidence and that the blinding, and too strong, light within the cabin had been the unborn Nephilim, its power too strong for an ordinary one, it was Lucifer's child.

The urge to kill the Nephilim was strong within his grace, but the archangel knew that he couldn't beat him alone even if he had been in full strength. A determined look set on Gabriel's face. This was the best time to meet the Winchesters, the ones who were surely in between this mess, and if they had done so much good in this world already, Gabriel would need their help. They still had time. Maybe there was a way…

This was his new home and Gabriel wanted to do something this time around.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

Leaving Lucifer in the other dimension had been a good plan - at that time - considering that it had been their only chance to get rid of him for good. Saying that Crowley helping them - or more like sacrificing himself - had been a surprise was quite an understatement after everything he had done. Sam could see the resignation in his eyes, in his words. The demon had lost everything he had fought for - his throne, his title, his place among demons and in the end his whole family. Even though they had hated each other's guts, Rowena and Crowley had been family. Despite the fact that they had double-crossed one another many times, in the end, their lives had been so connected that Sam couldn't imagine those two separated. And after the witch had died, it had seemed that Crowley had lost everything to Lucifer and if nothing else, he had wanted revenge. Not that it had worked.

After Castiel, Mary had been another huge loss for the brothers, and even though Sam had known her just a few months after she had come back from the dead, he had created an attachment to her. After all, she was his mother, no matter what had happened between them. Too many sacrifices had been made just to pacify Lucifer. And now Sam could see that all the events of the night had been slowly coming to Dean. Everything he had lost. The younger hunter didn't know what to feel and he definitely didn't know how to comfort his brother as he was crumbled next to Castiel's dead body like shattered glass. Sam knew how it felt to lose someone close - not just his mother that night - and he was sure that for Dean, Castiel wasn't just a friend anymore. There was something stronger between them. Suddenly, Sam remembered that one time when the angel had said those words himself, "Dean and I share a more profound bond".

And if it wasn't enough, they had to deal with Lucifer's child, having been born into this world without anyone to guide him. All that power within the child, unimaginable since it was the first time an archangel's Nephilim would come in here without anyone to stop them if necessary. What would Sam and Dean do against someone like that? They were just hunters.

After a few moments of watching his brother mourning his angel and the entrance into the other dimension close itself, Sam came back from his stupor and willed his legs to move into the house. He followed the footprints like a hunter he was, but wasn't prepared for what he would see at the end of the trail. That smile on the child's - or more like a teenage boy - face would give him nightmares. Sam had immediately remembered Lucifer and his creepy smiles as if he had been on something but no one else knew and it gave him pleasure to see others so clueless about his plans. There was no doubt that was Lucifer's child. Sam just stood there, stunned like a statue, as he was unable to move or say something. What could he say anyway? And then, in just a blink of an eye, the boy was gone. Before Sam could react to the situation, Dean ran into the room, shaking him out of his shock.

"Sam, for fuck's sake, Sam! He took Castiel. That Nephilim just appeared out of nowhere and took his body. Fuck!" Dean cursed, rubbing over his face several times to clear his mind, but Sam could see the trails from the tears on his cheeks, his eyes red not just from the exhaustion, "what do we do, Sammy, what do we do," his brother repeated over and over again, and it was clear that he was out of it. Dean tried to concentrate on something, somehow suppress all the feelings which were resurfacing like a broken dam, but it was too much even for such a strong-willed person like his big brother. Sam just knew that nothing could stop Dean's walls collapsing under the pressure of sadness and loss of the two most important people in his life.

The younger hunter grabbed Dean firmly by his shoulders and pulled him into a brotherly embrace, and then he could feel his brother finally letting go of everything that had gathered within him through the night. Sam could hear the silent subs coming from Dean, and he himself was too desperate for some familiar connection at that moment to even care what was going to happen to the world. This damned place could wait for a few moments while they mourned the lost.

***

The bunker didn't feel safe or like a home to Sam, and he could see the grief Dean was feeling in his eyes. His brother hadn't said a word since the... since they had left that place, and it was quite disconcerting to say the least, as Sam was used to Dean desiring revenge in similar situations from the past. But this was different. This seemed too permanent.

Right after they had arrived in the bunker, Dean had gone into his room, locking himself in. Sam felt numb, lost as he realized that there was no one else coming into the bunker with them. It was just the two of them against the world again. And this time, Sam's instincts to hope for better days, that they had been through the same thing before and got through it alive and together, were nowhere to be seen. His mind was calm for the moment and he knew the shock was to blame. Sam wanted to distract himself before he would realize what had happened, before he would feel the sorrow of losing the two closest people - other than Dean - in the world.

Sam was standing in the middle of the common room, staring blankly at the war table, his notes still lying there scattered from the other day. They had lived here, just the two of them, for a long time and it had never felt so empty. The truth was that the bunker wasn't any different from the other days. It was his heart, slowly awakening from his stupor, from the shock he was under. But before Sam could finally succumb to the pain and grief like his brother, he heard noises coming from the kitchen, as if all the pans had fallen down at once, and his instincts kicked in in seconds. Fuck this damned life, they just couldn't catch a break. Sam thought angrily, feeling his blood boil in fury as it all came to him at once. Oh, whoever it was, they were going to regret coming here. Sam slowly approached the doorway to the kitchen, pulling his gun from behind the belt, preparing himself for the attack. But when the hunter rounded the corner and swiftly took the aim at the intruder, he didn't believe whom he was seeing.

"Wha-?! Gabriel?!" Sam blurted out, immediately cursing himself as he had given away his presence. The hunter didn't lower his gun, still aiming it at the archangel. It couldn't be him. He was dead! Gabriel had died by Lucifer's hand almost seven years ago.

"Oh, heya. I was just..." Gabriel - or whoever he was - started and as he moved forward. But he crashed into the fallen pans in front of him, almost tripping over them like a toddler, "Shit, sorry. I'll set them right in a sec," he muttered and with a snap of his fingers, the pans were back in their rightful place, "there, that should do it," Gabriel said as he looked at Sam and smiled. It was a genuine smile the hunter had seen just a couple of times before. What the hell? Sam thought curiously, still not relaxing his defensive stance but there was just something about the behaviour of the other man that had already convinced him of his true identity. Maybe his quirkiness wasn't completely same from before the events in the Elysium Fields hotel, but it was the archangel, nevertheless. After a few minutes of staring at each other, Sam finally lowered his gun, tucking it back behind the belt. He crossed his arms over his chest, waiting for some kind of explanation. The hunter wanted to know why Gabriel had appeared right now, and why he hadn't moved one finger to help them.

"So?" Sam said, clenching his jaw in frustration and anger. Somewhere deep down he knew not all his anger had been directed towards the archangel, but there was no one else to actually blame for everything, and the pain of loss had been creeping out from the shadows into the front of his thoughts. Gabriel's frown ignited his anger even more, as if he didn't know that Sam had demanded some answers from him, some explanation or an excuse why the archangel hadn't stepped in when they had needed it the most. Why he had decided to show up just after everything had gone to shit, again. It was his damned brother's fault. Again! Even though Sam would do anything to get Castiel and his mom back, there was a speck of hesitation in his mind whether it was a good thing to think about sacrificing Gabriel so that they would live.

"So what?" Gabriel asked curiously after a few moments, his face full of emotions. Sam frowned again, but this time, at the display on the archangel's face that had surprised him so much. His body ached, and his mind was in chaos, but his senses were still sharp enough to recognize the difference between the Gabriel he had known all those years ago, and this Gabriel, who was standing in front of him. What the hell had happened to the archangel that he would openly show his emotions to Sam?

"Sam?!" Dean's echoing voice drew him back from his thoughts, and he turned around to face his brother coming from the hallway. Just from the corner of his eye, Sam could see Gabriel tense a little bit, and that was somewhat familiar since those two had never seen eye to eye. Both two similar to get along. Although there hadn't been many opportunities to be friendly after everything Gabriel had put them through. Sam might have already forgiven him after he had taken one for them against Lucifer - his own brother - but Dean held grudges for longer.

After a few moments of silence, Dean came into view with a drawn out gun as well, his eyes focused but red from crying. Sam nodded, giving him a look that everything was okay. Dean's stance relaxed a bit, but not completely. It was obvious how tired his brother was, both emotionally and physically. It had been just a moment since he had locked himself into his room. It couldn't have been even an hour and he had already been pulled into their world, being forced to act like a big, protective brother, and a hunter at the same time. Dean deserved time to mourn, he needed time to come to terms with the recent events in his own pace. Their lives were so messed up that they couldn't even take a break from everything around them.

"Dean, it's alright, you can relax," Sam said, knowing that his brother couldn't see Gabriel standing in the kitchen, there was no reason to tell Dean about the archangel. And Sam was glad that Gabriel stayed silent. This wasn't the best time for revelations.

"Okay," Dean said, exhaling loudly as he rubbed his face a few times over, still holding the gun in his right hand dangerously. Then he ran his fingers through his short hair with his left hand. Sighing loudly, Dean turned around to leave the room, too exhausted to demand a better explanation as to why Sam would start destroying kitchen appliances. The fact was, that people dealt with anger and loss differently. And maybe Dean thought that this was Sam's way to cope. It didn't matter. It was better that his brother didn't know about Gabriel. Not yet anyway. Sam would deal with him by himself, and it wasn't going to be nice for the archangel. Not in the slightest.

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

Coming to the infamous bunker hadn’t been one of his best entrances as right upon his arrival, Gabriel had almost destroyed several pans that fell on the ground and made such a mess in the kitchen – oh, for fuck’s sake, why did he land in the kitchen? – that someone surely had to hear the noise. He couldn’t be so lucky, right?

And of course, because he was an idiot, Gabriel hadn’t thought through his actions, his behaviour towards the hunters - what a rookie mistake! - and while he was trying to get out of the mess he had made, the archangel could feel someone coming as the radiating energy from their soul almost blinded all his angelic senses. The fear of discovery, that he had miscalculated his decision to appear here out of nowhere just after the wall between worlds had cracked, didn’t help calm down his nerves. Gabriel still felt the urge to run and hide before someone would recognize that he didn’t belong here. But that didn’t matter anymore. The hunters knew about him. At least one of them, since the man had denied his presence to the other, and Gabriel still couldn’t believe what he could see with his own eyes, standing there stunned and motionless.

“So? Tell me, why now? Why showing up now? You couldn’t just pop up when we needed you the most, right? Just tell me one good reason why shouldn’t I shoot you in the chest right fucking now,” the hunter said dangerously, his soul surrounded by a red aura of anger with glimpses of blue disappointment. The man stood still on the spot in the doorway, waiting for Gabriel to answer him. But the frown between his eyebrows deepened every second of waiting as he clenched his jaw even more to restrain his raging emotions. Those weren’t a good sign. Gabriel thought that they had been at least somehow on good terms with each other, but he was wrong, obviously. He was a stranger to the man after all. Gabriel didn’t know how to react, what to say. Making up an excuse could make things worse than they already were. Maybe he should just tell the truth but what that would achieve. How would it help him to belong somewhere?

Being alone for such a long time had made him skittish and weak in character. The archangel - he had been once - had been gone for years. His brother had trampled on his self-confidence, blaming him for everything that had happened, laughing at his attempts to stop the madness. The failure of diverting the Apocalypse had left him useless and unwanted. Gabriel had run from Heaven for a reason, and when Lucifer had won the war, it had been easy for his brother to destroy the rest of him. Family was just a means to leave him hurt and vulnerable and this running and hiding hadn’t exactly given him any hope for better days. Gabriel had been prepared to give up just right before the entrance into this world had appeared and presented him another chance. A new purpose for his existence.

“Well,” Gabriel said, trying to hold Sam’s hard look but it was so difficult, seeing the strength of the man’s soul. It was captivating. He wondered if the human had even a clue how beautiful his soul was even despite the fact that it was radiating anger right now, it still left Gabriel speechless. The archangel realized at that moment how this man could have broken out of Lucifer’s strings over him. The Sam Winchester from the Gospels. It was so easy to lose himself in the power of his soul that only the hunter clearing his throat had brought him back from his trance.

“Still waiting here,” Sam said, pointing at himself as he averted his eyes from Gabriel’s just for a few seconds, probably trying to sort his next words in his head, “Gabriel,” the hunter sighed loudly, closing his eyes as he rubbed the exhaustion off of them, “Seriously, I’ve got no time for games right now. I’m so done with the world, and I deserve some answers.”

The archangel could now see how tired Sam was, all that energy from before draining out of him slowly but surely. It had been the adrenaline flowing in his veins making him so determined to find the truth and fight for it. But now, when it was gone, the hunter stood there defenceless, too worn out to care anymore. When Gabriel saw this resignation in Sam’s posture, he just acted on instinct of a guardian angel, reaching out with his grace to soothe the soul, and the realization of it struck him so hard that he almost stumbled again over the kitchen counter. The human couldn’t know what had happened, but he must have felt it as his eyes widen slightly in surprise but he masked it quickly. Well, good job there, Gabriel.

“I’m sorry,” Gabriel said truthfully, even though he didn’t know for what exactly. Unfortunately, words couldn’t straighten things up as he had done with the pans. Sam sighed again, his shoulders slumped downwards.

“You know. I expected better from you. After everything…,” Sam’s voice wavered a little bit and there was sadness all over him. It was so strong that it shocked Gabriel too much to think of some really believable excuse. He should tell the truth, or at least some truth, but his resolve quickly disappeared like a morning mist as he could feel the pain and sorrow within Sam’s soul, radiating in waves from his body.

“Sam,” Gabriel said with urgency as he moved a few inches forward, wanting nothing else than to envelope this tortured soul into his angelic embrace. Oh, it had been too long since he had felt so…himself, “I just,” he paused, looking down at the floor in front of him, squeezing his hands into fists in fear of losing the only purpose he had within arm’s reach. He thought about everything he could say, but nothing would ever truly explain his presence here without revealing the complete, and dangerous, truth, “I couldn’t help you, even if I wanted to. I… I wasn’t here when it happened. And I’m truly sorry.” They looked at each other. There was confusion in Sam’s eyes and surely many questions swirling in his head as well. But after a few moments, understanding spread over the hunter’s face as if he now knew the answer to his original question. Gabriel had chosen those words so they would sound deliberately vague. Though he hadn’t outright lied to Sam, he hadn’t told the whole truth, either. At that moment, it would be easy to lie through his teeth, but as much as he loved telling made-up stories, Gabriel couldn’t begin his new life by lying to such a precious and strong soul as Sam’s.

“I think it would be better if you stayed away for a while. I can’t do this right now and Dean…” Sam trailed off as he suddenly realized he needed to care for his brother as well. After a short pause the hunter continued, “Dean doesn’t have to know, for now. Just… give us some time to process things, okay? I’ll call when we’re ready,” Sam said tiredly with pleading eyes. Then he turned around and sluggishly walked away.

“Alright,” Gabriel whispered as if in trance. It was better than nothing, and he could help them if they accepted it from him.

The archangel realized that he should have found out more about the Gabriel from this world. What had happened between Sam and him before he had died? There was something within Sam’s soul, the slight accusation hinting on the past events. The problem was that he didn’t know the reason why and he couldn’t just ask, making up some shitty story about forgetting his past. This not knowing the details – which he hated immensely - could give him away in future endeavours with the hunters. And Sam was very perceptive. If the hunter hadn’t been so out of it, he would have realized something hadn't been right from the beginning. He would have recognized the differences in Gabriel’s behaviour and attacked him. Not that he would have hurt him, since the only thing that could kill him was an archangel’s blade. But he didn’t have enough juice to also heal his vessel’s wounds when he needed to mend completely different, and more life-threatening, scars.

Gabriel spread his wings and flew out of the bunker, hoping that Gabriel in this world had been clever enough to leave some of his hideouts in case he would need them in the future. And there it was; secluded from the civilization, hidden in a little pocket dimension. At least this wasn’t different from his world.

After a few minutes of staring at nothing in particular and standing in the middle of a spacious living room, Gabriel started to feel his limbs getting weak, and his mind out of focus. The exhaustion caught him off guard and the archangel headed right to the direction of the bedroom, landing himself on it with his face first. He didn’t even have enough energy to care that he was still in his clothes. Just lying on something soft in a safe place was such a blissful feeling which he hadn’t felt for ages. There was still a lingering urge to stand up and hide somewhere else, somewhere even more secluded, more hidden, and put up more protective sigils on the walls of the hideout and everywhere around it in close proximity. But the wounds in his grace reminded him how battered and hurt he had been this whole time and after so many years of neglecting his essence of life, the archangel decided to just close his eyes and sink into the deep meditative state. In other words, Gabriel needed to sleep off all those days of running and torture.

Shuddering uncontrollably, the archangel crawled under the soft covers and curled up into a ball, taking as tiniest a space on the monstrosity of a bed as possible. His mind and grace hadn’t taken the change around him as well as he had expected. After all, Gabriel had wanted this. He wanted to see the world as it had been before. But now, when he was surrounded by all this life, his grace had gone wild with the intake of information from every living thing. The archangel wasn’t used to sensing so many souls in one place, and even though the hideout was covered with a thin blanket of protection so that nothing would ever find its position, his senses were overwhelmed by the fact how alive this world was.

Regrets flooded his mind as he remembered his world and that it had looked like this one once upon a time. At that moment all the suppressed pain - both physical and mental - surged onto the surface and he could feel something falling from the corners of his eyes, wet and salty. They were tears. Despite the fact how simple crying was, Gabriel had never indulged himself in letting go because there just hadn't been time and place to do that, to mourn everything and everyone at home. His family almost killed off like dirt, crushed like they meant nothing to their own brother.

Nobody had known at that time what had exactly happened to him downstairs, in the Cage, or what had happened to him before that. Lucifer had never been so cruel and full of rage and revenge. He was an angel deep down after all. But something - someone - had corrupted the essence of his existence and destroyed everything angelic inside of him.

The archangel shivered again at the image of his brother's face when they had seen each other for the last time. That hadn't been his brother anymore, it had been just a shell of a sibling Gabriel had loved the most and looked up to when young. But when they had met each other after the Apocalypse, Lucifer's twisted smile and words had convinced Gabriel that he had lost his big brother a long time ago. There had been nothing, not even a hint of good, to save. Nothing.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

Sam had been really pissed off and hurt at first, but then he saw something in Gabriel's eyes and posture, his heart quivered over the look he had seen many times in a mirror. So the hunter backed out of his initial idea to let some steam out by using the archangel as a punching bag. There was just something off about Gabriel and the hunter couldn't put a finger on the reason why. It was just a gut feeling, as always. Maybe it was just the exhaustion limiting his sixth sense to really identify the cause of the archangel's different behaviour. In the end, Sam had realized that Gabriel might have actually died and it had changed him somehow. Or something else had happened afterwards, taking the energy and will to live out of him. Obviously, Gabriel didn't realize that his eyes and demeanour showed his hurt so openly, and didn't try to hide it from Sam. It was strange and so different that the hunter decided then and there that he would look into it more.

But not now.

Now Sam needed some time to be alone and somehow get through this ache he was feeling within his chest. This pain seizing his heart, clenching its imaginative fists around it and squeezing the last piece of hope out of him. At least for now. His mind was empty, his thoughts scattered away like flies in the wind. Going through all of this - and more was about to come very soon, he could feel it - Sam really couldn't blame Dean for not talking to him and then shutting himself in his room. This was resignation on the world making its way on the surface. And he resisted. He did!

The younger hunter would always brim over with new ideas but at this moment there was nothing. Just a blank space in his head. Even his room felt empty and uninviting after everything that had happened within these couple of days. Why was their life so fucked up? Why would someone have put such a burden on their shoulders? They were just two ordinary people, having been forced to endure enough pain, loneliness and disappointment in the world for a lifetime. Sam knew that he couldn't change these things, but there were still questions of why them? He had already come to terms with their lives and that it wasn't going to be pretty until they died, not even a little bit - and their afterlife would be also quite messed up, he could imagine. But these questions had always lingered in the back of his mind no matter what and resurfaced after such bad days as was today.

Suddenly, the feeling of no purpose to keep going spread over his thoughts. It was difficult to resist. People usually didn’t know that hunters existed and that the Winchesters had helped so many of them. Yeah, of course they had screwed up a couple of times, but they had saved the world from the Apocalypse. Against all odds they had saved it. It had to count for something. Otherwise everything they had done would be fruitless.

Sam had always wanted to find his own path, his own way of helping people in need. That had been one of the reasons why he had walked away from the family business and gone to study law at Stanford. There were no prizes to win or celebrations held in their name in this kind of work. People didn’t know, or didn’t want to know. But that was okay. Most of the time. Later on, Sam had finally realized that hunting would always follow him around, no matter what he would do, how far he would go. It would always worm its way back into his life, so he had used it for his own dreams. In some way, the hunter helped people as he would have as a lawyer. It was something else but he was doing what he had always desired to do.

But sometimes, the pain and exhaustion from endless fighting against monsters, angels and demons, sometimes even his family members and friends, would catch up on him and drag him down to the complete bottom. Sam often wondered how his brother and he were still sane after everything what had happened to them. Sometimes they were like robots, doing something but why they were still doing it? Was that really for their legacy or that they enjoyed it? Yeah, they might have been telling themselves that just to keep going. The truth was that they could quit anytime and leave the world to its own devices. It wasn’t their duty to fight the evil. And they weren’t the only ones, so why keep fighting?

Yeah, why.

Sam scoffed as he shook the dark thoughts off his mind and opened the bottle of whiskey he had stashed in the drawer. Surely, his brother was doing the same, drinking himself into oblivion. But after a moment of holding the bottle in his hand and staring at the opposite wall blankly, Sam changed his mind and put it back. No reason for making it worse than it already was. They had the right to forget, but at least one of them should stay clear headed in the morning and start again from the beginning. Never lose hope.

***

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Dean groaned at the slime from the creature he had just killed hitting his face. He wiped it off with the sleeve of his jacket and grimaced in disgust at the stain it had made on the fabric, “Why is it always me, yuck.” Sam chuckled at his brother’s complaints, shaking his head in exasperation over his antics as he headed outside to put the weapons back into the trunk of the car and then waited for Dean to shuffle out of the house as well.

“So, what now? Heading home?” Sam asked after a few minutes of staring out of the front window as Dean started up the engine with a familiar rumble and pulled out of the driveway overgrown with wild roses. What a contrast between the dangerous creature having lived inside and beautiful flowers surrounding it. And such was the world around them. They just had to enjoy every damn moment of calm between cases.

“Yeah,” Dean replied simply without anything to add as was usual for him these days. Since the day they had lost so many familiar faces and stayed alone again against something they had never encountered before - no one had - his brother had been quiet in between the cases, too quiet. Sam got it, he really did. Dean suppressed his worries and doubts inside. He didn’t do feelings. But this was too much even for him. Maybe they just needed something, anything really, to hold on to. Some clue where Lucifer’s child had gone to and taken Castiel. Or what had happened to mom and Lucifer in the other dimension. And there was also this issue with Gabriel appearing out of nowhere in the bunker two months ago.

Sam wanted to know what had happened to the archangel. The hunter had replayed their chat over and over, and there had been something really off about him. Sure, Gabriel might have gone through his own shit, fighting his own brother and presumably dying by his hand. There was quite a big chance that it had left dark marks on his character. But Sam had this hunch that there was something more to the archangel appearing just after the events that night. Of course, it was just a gut feeling but hunters had to rely on those in their kind of business. This sixth sense was usually the only thing they could count on when fighting supernatural.

It had been two months and they had somehow gotten themselves back together, sinking into the familiar routine once again. Sam had thought about calling Gabriel and talk more every passing day. Maybe he could help them get their mom back from the other side. Maybe he could somehow sense Castiel's location. He was an archangel after all. Didn't they know everything about Nephilims? Killing them was engrained in their brains, so there had to be a way to find them in the world. Honestly, Sam was quite surprised that that little shit hadn't showed up in the middle of a fight just for a big, loud laugh, scaring the shit out of them and cause Dean a heart attack. However, there had been no pranks played on them, no accidents. Nothing. So far! It was weird and so unlike the archangel that the more Sam had wondered about it, the more suspicious he had got. But there was nothing else to try or search for. There was no one else who could give them some information about the real powers and strengths the archangelic Nephilim might possess.

Sam didn't really know how to pray to Gabriel. The hunter remembered that time when he had tried to pray to Castiel but in vain. How was he supposed to attract an archangel's attention to himself? Every living - and also dead - angel hated him, and-.

"You're thinking too hard," a voice stated calmly from the doorway, startling Sam so much that in reflex he hurried to take a weapon from under the bed and fell off it, banging his head against the bedside table. The hunter groaned as he touched the wound, wincing at the pain it had caused.

"Shit. I should've known you would do that. A little warning next time, please?" Sam muttered in annoyance, rubbing at the dash on his forehead.

"Huh, it wasn't my intention to startle you, Sam. You prayed, I came. Simple. Although you're really loud when you pray, you know that?" Gabriel asked with little creases appearing in the corners of his eyes but Sam could see that there was also wariness in them as if he expected an attack from the back any time soon. Such a powerful creature afraid of one hunter? What was going on with him?

"What? Oh, sorry. I didn't know what I was doing," Sam said apologetically as he was standing awkwardly next to his bed, his muscles nervously twitching under his skin. It was so strange to stand with Gabriel in the same room. In his cramped room, by the way.

"So," Gabriel started nonchalantly, crossing his arms over his chest, as he looked around the room curiously. It seemed that he was trying to learn more about Sam's life through the details he could find in the room. Not that the hunter had much of his own stuff, but who knew what angels could see in the little items laying around, "what's up?" He said, finally his eyes meeting Sam's.

"Umm, I just... I don't know where to start to be honest," Sam uttered hesitantly, only now realizing who was standing in front of him in the little space of his room.

"Well, you could start from the beginning, right?" Gabriel replied, smirking at him but no remarks followed, which was a bit unusual for the archangel in itself, but that wasn't important right now. There were more pressing issues to discuss so Sam cleared his throat, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his jeans and biting his lower lip in concentration. He should have prepared for this conversation beforehand. His brain was shooting blanks and the fact that he was feeling overly nervous didn't help matters one bit.

"I guess you probably know what happened that day you appeared here. And just to be clear, I'm still pissed at you for not helping us-"

"Sam, I couldn't help you. I'm serious. I would if I could, but I wasn't here at that time," Gabriel interrupted and his words sounded so honest, Sam was surprised that he actually believed him.

"Then you could help us now. You know where the Nephilim is? Or Castiel? I mean, the boy hasn't done anything yet, but who knows what he's planning. He is Lucifer's child, after all," Sam pressed, not beating around the bush. And while trying to explain himself, the hunter started pacing around the room, even though it was quite difficult for him considering the size of it.

"Oh boy, what have you done this time? You guys," Gabriel huffed out a humourless laugh, shaking his head with disbelief, "I wonder how you're still alive."

"Yeah, you and me both. Anyway, do you know how to find them?" Sam asked insistently. He knew that he sounded ungrateful but some things couldn't wait any longer. Dean hadn't been himself since Castiel's death and their mom disappearing in the other dimension, and Sam needed to give him something to believe in. There had to be a way!

"There are some ways how to locate an angel. If he's alive, of course. The Nephilim?" Gabriel paused for a few seconds in contemplation, frowning at the thought, "that's a completely different matter. You see, he's not an ordinary Nephilim."

"But Castiel? He took him so maybe when we find Castiel-,"

"That's a big if, kiddo," Gabriel interrupted him again, "But, I'll try. It's the least I can do right now."

"Thank you, Gabriel. You know," Sam hurried to add, "what you did for us before," he paused for a few moments, not quite capable of looking at the archangel. It was hard to admit it, but the hell with it. It had been too many years for holding years old grudges, "I can imagine how hard it was to stand up to your own brother, to see him at his worst with your own eyes and still fight for the right thing. I don't really know what happened to you afterwards, but you helped us in the end and I forgive you," Sam said with difficulties, running his fingers through his hair and combing them back from his forehead in a nervous habit. So much had changed. He had changed. Life was too short to stay angry at things he couldn't have done anything about. Not anymore. And in some twisted way, Gabriel had been right and tried to make them see the truth.

"Sam," Gabriel started with this weird, mournful look in his eyes, but Sam couldn't hear more apologies from him. It was hard enough to admit his own mistakes, reminding him what his actions had caused. Sometimes he understood why Dean didn't do feelings.

"No, Gabriel, it doesn't matter now. There are other things I should worry about. Just tell me what we need to do," Sam said firmly, leaving no room for arguments. The archangel watched him for a while, which was quite uncomfortable for Sam, but then he sighed loudly, shaking his head in resignation.

"Alright then," Gabriel said cheerfully as he clapped his hands, pressing them together in an exaggerated glee. This sudden joy unnerved Sam a bit for a few seconds, more in surprise than fear. Although what else was new about the archangel. He acted a bit strange now. Different. But whatever. Seeing Gabriel being so energetic, hopeful! Sam couldn't help himself and his lips quirked upwards a little as he smiled subtly for the first time in a long time. Maybe it was a good thing that Gabriel was here and maybe he would help in many more ways than Sam expected.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

Playing a role and faking who he really was had been a routine since Gabriel had run away from Heaven. As the time went he had polished the moves and refined his skills in tricking both supernatural creatures and humans. Of course, with humans it had never been as hard as with, for example, Norse Gods, but eventually, the archangel had improved in acting and hiding his true identity.

Until now.

Gabriel had learned during the time spent in this world that the Winchesters were special. He understood what God had planned for them and why. He just couldn’t get over the fact that his world had gotten a short end of the stick and had been the example of failure at everyone’s side but Lucifer’s. His brother was cunning, smart and beautiful (once), God’s favourite, and Gabriel understood why so many had kneeled before him and promised their services to him. No that it mattered what the others said or wanted. Lucifer would have taken it by himself sooner or later.

But this world had gotten lucky. The archangel couldn’t stop wondering about his home and what it would have looked like with the Winchesters in it. As he had learned, the hunters seemed to attract danger regularly, which meant so many possible deviations in the path that there was a very small chance to get through once again as they had here. It saddened him immensely and he felt his mask slipping away, his emotions raging within him and springing to the surface. Gabriel knew in that instance that Sam suspected something was wrong with him. He could lie and say that he had died for them and it had changed him. But how long would it work until Sam or the other hunter saw through him.

Dean hadn’t met him yet, which was still strange considering that this whole research Sam and he had been doing for a few days now was about someone with whom the older hunter had lived through so much. And from what Gabriel had read and learned, their friendship had been very strong. If it still was just a friendship.

Gabriel had met the angel briefly before as a young fledgling in Heaven. The idea of an angel putting his loyalty to a human at his original home was ludicrous. But again, this world was so much different from his that, apparently, anything was possible in here.

“Gabriel?” Sam said, looking at him questioningly with those knowing fox-shaped eyes. If only the hunter had known how much Gabriel could see in them. Of course, the colours were beautiful from human’s point of view, but the light radiating from them mesmerized him into silence. A deep frown appeared between Sam’s eyebrows and that was a cue for the archangel to answer before Sam’s suspicions would grow even more.

“Yeah?” Gabriel uttered quietly as he glanced at Sam sideways, not looking at him directly as he was still reading through some very old books he had found in the hideout.

“Are you alright?” The hunter asked and it sounded like concern. But maybe he had imagined it.

“Yes, of course. Why wouldn’t I be?” Gabriel said with a playful tone in his voice, pointlessly trying to deflect Sam’s attention from him. His grace was still determined to reach out and touch the soul nearby. And even though there were the apparent pain and dark spots from the past experiences, the archangel within him was drawn to Sam like a moth to light. Sometimes he would lose himself in the feeling, taking him too long to get out of this haze, and Sam would notice. Of course he would. And then the questions would follow, more a sign of suspicions than worry.

“Well, I don’t know. You’re too quiet, I guess. I’m not used to it,” Sam said with a very subtle smile as if remembering the past endeavours with their Gabriel. And the archangel couldn’t bring his head around that, since their history hadn’t been all that rainbows and unicorns. Maybe he had missed something which would explain Sam’s behaviour towards him. Of course, Gabriel didn’t know everything. There were moments when he would look at Sam and see some kind of pity, sadness over something that hadn’t happened to him. But other times, the hunter’s eyes and soul would betray the conflict raging inside of him. Gabriel didn’t understand it for the lack of knowledge of the relationship between them in the past. The Gospels didn’t tell everything in detail and he knew that this not knowing would give his lie away. Sam wasn’t stupid and it wasn’t just the training and experience he had obtained through his life as a hunter.

The hunter was naturally intelligent and determined to seek the truth even if it were the last thing he would do in his life. In these exact moments, Gabriel would realize why Sam had been Lucifer’s vessel and also the one who had defeated him. The archangel was so lost in this life around him, too many souls alive surrounding him and overwhelming his senses, that he hadn’t realized how far he had fallen for the hunter already. These feelings and emotions, his grace almost bursting out of the seams of his vessel, were hidden in the whirlwind that was this world. So he had never wondered what exactly had been blossoming within his own light. Almost ignoring except these little moments spent with Sam.

“I’m trying to concentrate on the task ahead. You’d rather watch me bouncing around like an idiot?” Gabriel said with a smirk, internally shaking off all the previous thoughts which had occupied his mind. Sam’s eyes widened at his words in surprise but he quickly sobered and the frown appeared on his face once again.

“No, no... Of course not. I’m just...,” Sam paused, obviously searching for the right words to explain his thoughts, flexing his fingers and pressing them against the wooden surface of the table, “don’t get me wrong, Gabriel, but there’s something different about you and it makes me question my decision to call you. And you know how I am with decisions, so... Sorry about that. I guess I’m just too tired, that’s all,” he finally said with a sigh as if trying to reason with his own mind. He ran his right hand through his hair and as if nothing had happened, continued flipping through pages of another old book.

Gabriel contemplated Sam’s words for a while, looking at him and wondering if it was a good thing that the hunter wanted to trust him and tried to push the suspicions out of his mind. His instincts surely screamed at him what a stupid move that was, but Sam was still sitting at the table in the presence of someone whom he had met just a couple of times. Well, he knew a bit about Gabriel of this world. At least more than him, an intruder and usurper of someone else’s life. But Sam was right to doubt him.

The archangel knew that he behaved differently. There had been a time when he had abandoned his role of Loki, the Trickster. When the hunt on him had begun, he just couldn’t have cared less if someone had known his true identity. And after a couple of years, he hadn’t had enough strength to even try to fool anyone. And getting back into playing a role of someone else... It was difficult and it was taking a toll on him. Not that much as before, but there were still scars on his grace that needed healing, though Gabriel just couldn’t let himself relax enough to do that when he had been helping Sam with the research.

“I mean I get it,” Sam suddenly said, tearing Gabriel from his reverie as he looked up at him, his fingers curling into fists as if struggling with his own thoughts, and he might have considering what had followed, “I’ve died a few times too and it wasn’t pleasant. Even in Heaven I felt somehow lost and everything seemed fake. I don’t even know where angels go to after they die. Castiel had never mentioned it.... it’s just... a bit unnerving you know. You’ve changed, in the little things,” Sam stopped abruptly, possibly because he realized what he had said. It sounded a bit like accusation, as if he was still trying to find the old Gabriel, as if the familiarity with his Gabriel’s behaviour would somehow lessen the apprehension he was radiating. It was interesting to watch for the archangel. There might have been more interactions between Sam and Gabriel of this world than he had thought, and his resolve of not telling anything was slowly dissolving right under his fingers. It was so wrong to keep lying to Sam when he could see – aside from the rightful suspicions towards him – Sam’s hopeful looks and searching for something more familiar, someone who knew who he was.

“I should... you know...,” Sam muttered under his nose as he pointed at the book in front of him, burying himself into it like a diligent student. Gabriel couldn’t take it anymore. All those colours of Sam’s soul changing by each second as if he couldn’t decide what to think or say. The archangel inhaled deeply to prepare himself mentally for what was probably coming after he would be done. Some things just couldn’t be avoided. As much as he tried to ignore it, this purity in Sam’s soul showed him that his lies would crush the hope growing within the hunter, and Gabriel wasn’t such an asshole anymore.

“Hey, Sam. I think I should tell you something,” Gabriel started but never finished the thought.

“Oh, I insist and take it from the beginning,” the voice from behind him said mockingly but with a dangerous undertone. And Gabriel knew in that instance that this was going to be more complicated than he had anticipated. Sam’s eyes – wide open in shock - were the confirmation he needed. The archangel turned around slowly to see the other hunter – Dean – coming closer to the table with a gun drawn out and aiming at him. He knew that the only thing that could kill him was an archangel’s blade – deliberately not thinking about those few weapons stashed in Heaven. But he sensed quickly that the bullets in Dean’s gun were made from an angel’s blade and he visibly tensed, curling his lips into an unhappy expression and narrowing his eyes as he tried to think of a way out of this bad situation, quite quickly getting worse.

“Dean, calm down. It’s Gabriel. Remember what he did for us. Put the gun down, please,” Sam tried to reason with his brother, placating him with his hands in the air. But it was pointless since it was him who hadn’t told Dean about the archangel right at the beginning, hiding Gabriel as he was his dirty secret.

“No, Sam, you’ve got some explaining to do, too. I can’t believe you did it again. Trusting someone, something, that might or might not be that douche who – may I remind you – killed me a hundred times over just to teach you a lesson. And don’t forget the TV-land,” Dean scoffed, still pointing his gun at Gabriel, not even blinking, “I don’t care he took one for the good guys. Where had he been the whole time the world was turning into a shithole? Huh?” Dean growled at Sam and then his dangerous stare shifted at Gabriel and he visibly clenched his jaw in anger, “Where were you the whole fucking time? Hiding somewhere like a coward you are.”

And that had been the last straw. Gabriel somehow understood the anger Dean felt and that the pain and remorse the older hunter suppressed deep down within himself snapped free like a dam upon seeing him there with Sam, and he needed to channel all of those emotions onto someone, and him being there was just a happy coincidence. But he wasn’t going to take the blame that wasn’t his to take. And even though Gabriel had been a coward in his world, failing to defeat Lucifer and in the end just running away and hiding until he had ended up here, Dean’s accusations hit too close to home for his tastes.

In a second he was holding Dean by the lapels of his flannel as he pressed him into the wall behind him, the gun full of painful bullets lying on the floor. Gabriel heard a chair screeching behind him as Sam stood up quickly, ready to fight if necessary, but there was no need for that since the archangel wasn’t going to hurt either of them. Not physically at least.

“Get out of your ass, Winchester,” Gabriel hissed dangerously, “You think you know everything. But look at you, you dumbass. Shutting out your own brother. You act like you’re the only one mourning here, but you’re not, asshole. Stop putting the blame on anyone around you because that ain’t gonna work.” Stressing the words with shoving Dean little too hard into the wall and then letting go of his shirt. The hunter’s knees gave out a little bit but there was a determination in his eyes not to show any weakness. Gabriel stepped back a few steps, feeling Sam’s soul calming down.

“And for your information,” Gabriel said with a smirk on his face, which unnerved many enemies he had faced back at home, “I was just helping Sam here find your precious angel,” he glanced at Sam and winked at him once before turning back to Dean, who gaped like a fish for a few seconds before he realized it and pressed his lips together. He was still a bit flustered by the way how the events had played out for him. Surely, a bit differently than he had anticipated.

“So, show some damn respect before you accuse someone from something they had never done. Which, by the way, reminds me of the thing I wanted to say to Sam,” he cleared his throat, preparing himself for the inevitable. Gabriel knew that this could mean the end of any interactions he might have had with the younger hunter altogether. He enjoyed talking or just reading in the same room with Sam and discussing possibilities. He turned completely towards Sam. This was it.

“Actually, Dean was right,” he sighed, “In a way. I’m not Gabriel you met and knew.”

“Oh, fuck, I told you,” Dean exclaimed but was muted immediately with a snap of Gabriel’s fingers. The hunter’s eyes widened in horror but after a while he realized there was nothing he could do, crossing his arms over his chest in protest. The anger was seeping off of him in waves, but Gabriel ignored it and focused his attention completely on Sam, who considerably stiffened at the revelation and the archangel could see fear and disappointment in the hunter’s eyes.

“Don’t worry, Sam. I ain’t gonna hurt you. Either of you, though I’m pretty tempted,” Gabriel smirked, trying for humour, as he pointed his thumb at Dean over his shoulder, who narrowed his eyes dangerously, but didn’t move an inch.

“So what...I mean, who are you then?” Sam asked cautiously.

“You remember that day the rift between two worlds appeared out of nowhere? I’m from the other side. I am Gabriel, the archangel and all, but from the other world. Nothing fancy, I promise.” There was silence for a few moments, though it seemed hours to Gabriel as he was waiting for Sam’s reaction to the truth. It was maddening and he couldn’t wait any longer.

“You’ve gotta believe me, Sam,” Gabriel said pleadingly, even though he tried not to do that, not to look weak and vulnerable in front of the hunters, he just couldn’t help himself, “I wanna help you, I really do. I can’t change the fact that I ain’t him. And I know you wanted me to be him, but I can’t be. I don’t know everything and that’s maybe the point and-“

“Stop,” Sam interrupted his mumbling firmly, “Let Dean go,” and he did right away, this time without a snap.

“Seriously?” Dean shouted, which was quite predictable.

“Dean, shut up,” Sam said calmly.

“What d’you just say?”

“Just, shut up and let me think about it,” Sam said resolutely, giving his brother a look that could kill, and Dean visibly deflated. Interesting.

Again, there was a moment of deafening silence and Gabriel started fidgeting like a child before scolding. He tried to find something, anything in Sam’s eyes but they betrayed nothing of the thoughts swirling in his mind. His soul was also a mess of colours. Then, the hunter crossed his arms over his chest, copying his brother’s posture.

“I believe you. At least the thing about who you are,” Sam finally said.

“What the fuck, Sam? You can’t be serious,” Dean sputtered incredulously.

“Dean, please. Just... I’ll explain later,” Sam said, leaving Gabriel’s eyes and meeting Dean’s.

“Whatever. I can’t take this anymore,” Dean said in resignation and walked away. Gabriel was surprised by it since he had read how protective the older hunter had been of his brother. Strange to see him go just like that. And it wasn’t so because he trusted Sam. No. It was like he just didn’t care anymore and that was bad. Really bad. But Gabriel couldn’t think about that right now. He needed to sort out things with Sam first. And that was going to be difficult on its own.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

Sam didn’t want to admit it to himself, but his brother walking out of the room with such resignation in his steps had been too familiar a sight for his liking. His last words had left a bitter taste in his mouth right after he had said them. Yes, Dean sometimes was too quick a judge, looking at things straight as he saw them, not thinking about the possibilities as much as he should. They couldn’t view the world just in black or white anymore. But on the other hand, how would Sam have reacted if he had seen his brother with someone who hadn’t always been their ally, and killed him a hundred times over just to make a point. Both of them had acknowledged the meaning of the Mystery Spot and that Gabriel hadn’t put them through shit just for kicks and giggles, but unlike Sam, Dean had never forgiven him for it despite the fact that he hadn’t remembered the Tuesdays. His brother might have gone easy on him if he had known right then Gabriel had come back. So, Sam was asking himself, why had it been such a good idea at that time to tell him nothing about the archangel?

The hunter felt another string of their friendship getting loose and Dean drifting away from him farther than he already had. Oh, what a familiar feeling that was. And it pained him to go through that again. But at this moment, there were more pressing issues ahead of him. Sam knew that he would have to talk some sense into his brother, get him out of that stupor he had been in since Castiel had died and their mother had gotten trapped in the other dimension. The idea of her being there with Lucifer terrified him, and now when he knew that even someone like Gabriel had run from there... It was too much to think about. Too much to process.

Of course, and to top it all off, this Gabriel wasn’t their Gabriel. But he had suspected since the first meeting him here, right? He had known that something had been different about the archangel. He had been too…broken, too self-conscious. Too afraid. At first, Sam had thought that it had been just him coping with the world after his death, but after a while, it hadn’t been just his manner of speech, or his style of clothes or the fact that he hadn’t made so many remarks about Sam's height as he would have before. It had also been the way how he had looked at the hunter, as if he had been something special. Something precious.

And now Sam knew for sure. If only he had known what to do with the knowledge. It wasn’t fear he felt when he looked at the archangel in front of him. There had been many opportunities to kill him or hurt him just with a thought. It was more like confusion and a bit of betrayal. It had been just a few days they had spent together searching for a way to find Castiel but Sam felt the easy companionship between them forming slowly but surely. They hadn’t talked much aside sharing information that they had found. But it was something in Gabriel’s eyes that he had never seen in the Trickster’s. Maybe it was so because they hadn’t really spent any alone time together before. The Apocalypse had taken many people from them. And not just friends and family, but especially those who had had no idea about what had been going on, and those who had been crazy enough to help them. Sam feared that this was their legacy - dragging others into the mess they had made. Gabriel was one of them.

These thoughts often occupied his mind at night when Sam couldn’t sleep, just lying there on the bed and staring at the ceiling. And despite feeling exhausted as hell, he would drag himself out of the bed and head into the library, and with tired eyes he would try reading something not about hunting to fill his head with fiction and forget, but usually ended up with another book of lore anyway.

Dean had other methods. They weren’t healthy but Sam had never said anything. Honestly, he didn’t even have to because his brother knew how destructive he could be to himself. But these couple of months, Sam just wished that he had tried to stop Dean or just gone out with him sometimes to talk him out of it, to make him talk about it. And now, Sam had made it even worse by keeping the truth from him. All in all, their family was messed up and somehow it hadn’t changed even after what they had gone through together. Lies and half-truths were typical for them even though Sam didn’t want it that way anymore. Being together make them stronger when there weren’t any lies between them, no matter what others claimed.

Sam sighed loudly, running his fingers through his hair and tugging at them slightly in a nervous tick. Sometimes he wished things had been different in their lives but no such luck. Looking back up at the archangel still standing there as if rooted into the floor, Sam realized that he had been there the whole time and hadn’t moved even an inch, waiting for him to decide what to do next. It was, of course, a hard decision since Dean was obviously against Gabriel staying here, but he was also the only chance they had to find Castiel and in a long run, that was their priority. Sam just hoped that his brother would change his mind, or at least get over it. The hunter just couldn’t stop looking. He would go mad otherwise, just sitting here and staring at nothing, and leaving everything behind. This wasn’t him. Even though there had been moments of despair and so much sadness and pain that the idea of giving up had been lingering in the back of his mind, but those were gone right now and Sam believed in better days again, he believed that he would find the angel and they would deal with everything coming their way together.

“So?” Gabriel asked tentatively, nervously shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

“Well… you should probably start with the explanations,” Sam said calmly, sitting into the chair and pushing all the open books aside as he put his hands on the table, folding them together. He didn’t look back up at the archangel, being too preoccupied with his own thoughts and feeling apprehension spreading through his body. Had he trusted someone he shouldn’t have? Again? Was it just the loneliness that had forced him somehow to believe this supernatural being? The truth was that Sam had sensed that something had been different about the archangel, but he had been so out of it that day, trying to find hope he had almost lost again, that anyone would have fooled him into anything.

“I-,” the archangel started but paused immediately as if he didn’t know where to begin. Sam would have waited patiently in other circumstances but at that moment, a voice – very similar to his brother’s - was screaming at him that it had been reckless to let Gabriel into the bunker, directly inviting him here without telling Dean about it, not even thinking about protecting himself in case of his plan had gone wrong. And he knew his inner voice was somehow right. It had been stupid of him to trust someone supernatural again. Some things just never changed. Even though he had overcome this guilt of letting bad guys close to him long time ago, there were still some bits and pieces of it, clawing out from the depths of his soul and making him doubt himself again as before. It was distracting and exhausting to put their ugly heads back down where they belonged.

Footsteps echoed in the room, stopping right in front of the table which Sam was sitting at. He pressed his palms firmly together while exhaling quietly as he mentally prepared himself for the excuses the archangel would probably want to soften his heart with. The hunter felt strange, light vibrations spreading out from the other side of the table, but didn’t give them any special meaning. It was probably something the archangel did, but he told himself that if Gabriel had wanted him dead, he would have done it already.

Sam just looked up at Gabriel, who – after a few awkward moments – sank heavily into the other chair and huffed out a sigh as if it had been a struggle to even breathe. Then he started with his story.

Sam knew the drill and the ways of these creatures. They would try to get into his head either by playing dumb and innocent or pressing on the old wounds - which had never healed properly – and convince him of their good intentions. It was an old game among them and he knew them damn well. But he actually hadn’t expected this archangel spill the beans so freely and honestly. It was hard to believe in his instincts again. But this time, he trusted his gut feeling that Gabriel of the other world had told him the truth. His eyes had affirmed everything he had said. In that instance, Sam understood that this version of the archangel was unable to mask his feelings and hurt as well as the one he had known. That had also been the first clue that something had been wrong with him. It was the defeat and poorly concealed hurt in Gabriel’s eyes when they had first met in the kitchen. And now he knew the reason behind it as well.

“So, if I understand it right, you ran from your world and didn’t even know if you’d survive here?” Sam asked curiously, watching the archangel closely for any signs of lies or half-truths on his face. He felt confident enough to see the difference by now. Gabriel fidgeted a bit in his chair, as if uncomfortable voicing the words out loud and to him on top of that. He played with a piece of paper with notes from the books they had been leafing through earlier. Something Sam would have never observed about their Gabriel. It seemed like this Gabriel had adapted more human behaviour throughout his life on the run, or maybe he just stopped caring anymore.

“Yeah, well, at that moment, there weren’t any other options. And I was gonna die sooner or later, so why not taking a risk and see what the other end held for me? I’m just too damn curious for my own good, and there was nothing keeping me back in my world. I can’t-,” the archangel paused, inhaling shakily, frustration seeping from him in waves as he ran his fingers through his hair, “It’s so much to take at once, you know. When I look at this place and imagine how it would’ve looked like back home if you," he stopped abruptly and inhaled quickly, "you, or someone else strong enough, had been there from the beginning. It’s been months, for fuck’s sake!” he hissed angrily but Sam knew it wasn’t directed at him. Somehow, he understood. He couldn’t even fathom how it felt losing the world you knew and then see how it would have been if... Dean had lived it for a while but never explained to him in details.

“You know, the guilt inside of me? It ain’t going away,” Gabriel said with desperation in his voice, his eyes a bit glazed with suppressed pain. Clenching his hands into fists, he looked at Sam with intensity the hunter hadn’t expected from the archangel. It reminded him a little bit of his Gabriel – wait a minute, his?! – when they had trapped him in the holy fire back in the day. He had had the same look for a fleeting moment; the guilt, loss and hurt over his own family. And the fact of him dying for humans and for the world keep turning - it had been a huge sacrifice in Sam’s books. Even though he had joined the fight at the last minute and had done quite a lot of damage on the hunter’s psyche before, in the end, Sam had recognized the strength and bravery that had took Gabriel to fight for humanity. But the archangel in front of him had fought against his own brother without prompting from anyone. Okay, he had failed. But, in a way, it was understandable in his position. Loving his own family too much was his weakness. And, after all, Sam could easily relate.

Of course, Sam wasn’t naive enough to think that Gabriel had told him every detail from his life, and he couldn’t deny being curious to ask later, but right now there were more pressing issues. There was this nagging at the front of his mind about the reason why the archangel had decided to come here and help them. He didn’t have to do anything. Gabriel could have just stayed in hiding and never cross their path. This was something Sam didn’t really understand. Wouldn’t it be safer for him to just enjoy his new found life instead of marching right towards the hunters who could have just hurt him on the spot? It had been another risk Gabriel had taken and for what?

“Alright then,” Sam started calmly, “I believe your story enough not to kick your ass right this instant, but-,” seeing Gabriel opening his mouth to interrupt him, he raised his right hand to stop him, “let me finish. But,” the hunter paused, frowning in thought as he searched for the right words in order not to scare the archangel off, “I just don’t get the why. Tell me why would you risk your chance for a better life and come to us? You don’t know us. And from what you’ve told me, you can’t expect to understand our lives just from the books someone had written a long time ago, and the internet,” Sam explained, emitting the detail about God himself being the author of the books purposefully.

“I don’t know,” Gabriel whined in frustration and petulance, “I just wanted to know who saved this world from the Apocalypse and got curious how two humans could’ve done that. There’s nothing else, okay?” he said the last words in such desperate tone that Sam stopped digging into it. He was sure he would learn the truth in time. And being curious was somehow typical for the archangel. At least what the hunter remembered from the dealings with their Gabriel. In some ways they were similar.

“Okay,” Sam said finally, too many thoughts raging in his head exhausted him and he needed the solitude of his own room to go through everything he had learned today. And he had to come up with the best way to explain his brother why he had let someone they didn’t know into their base. Yeah, the bunker was the only place they could call home and Sam shouldn’t have been so thoughtless. Now he just hoped that it wouldn’t come back to bite him in the ass some day.

“What?” Gabriel barked out in surprise, “that’s it?” he asked incredulously. Sam stood up as he looked at him.

“Yeah?” Sam said with an undertone of a question. The hunter didn’t know what else they should discuss. He knew that he wouldn’t get more out of Gabriel and there was so much on his mind that he needed some time for himself to sort it all out. Abrupt decisions were never a good idea.

“I mean, not that I’m complaining. I’m just surprised you’d leave me here on my own. What if I did something to your research, or whatever,” Gabriel said, shuffling nervously. Sam smiled at that subtly. It’s so strange to see someone so powerful being so unsure of himself.

“I guess it doesn’t matter what I do. Even if I tried to trap you somehow, it wouldn’t work for too long. Plus, you could’ve hurt us any time before, but you didn’t. What’s the point then? And you actually offered to help me. Besides, if I told you not to do something, I’m sure you’d do it anyway. Some things just never change, no matter where you’re from,” Sam said knowingly and after looking at the archangel’s disbelieving face for a few seconds he just turned around and headed to his room, mentally patting himself on the back for making Gabriel speechless.

Another smile crept on Sam’s face and he felt good for the first time in a long time, warmth spreading in his chest. Even though the archangel didn't belong here, it had been actually nice to spend some time with him, just talking and researching. That he hadn't experienced before because there had just never been an opportunity for it. And now, Sam wanted to know who Gabriel really was. Well, they were different in some things, no-brainer there, but the hunter had a feeling that all that playfulness and mischief was there somewhere. Just hidden. Maybe, just maybe, Gabriel opening up to him was a sign for better days to come. And with that thought Sam stepped into his room, determined to find some way for this to work out, no matter how long it would take him.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

 

Things had changed to some extent, shifting into a new direction more like, but not as significantly as Gabriel had expected after the revelation of his origins to the Winchesters. Sam had still spent all of his free time with research, sitting in the library on his own for hours on end with just a couple of breaks for food, and if Gabriel had joined him there or on his errands in town, the hunter had never said a word against it. Dean hadn’t come out of his room, or if he had, Gabriel hadn’t been around to witness it.

On their walks to town, Sam would eye him from the corner of his eye subtly; sometimes he would watch him curiously as if Gabriel had been a particularly interesting artefact for him to poke into. In some way, the archangel was one of the relics of old times that had helped his Father create the world and then ended it without even a thought of what all of it had actually meant. This disrespect towards God’s creation might have been the last nail into their coffin, and even though his brothers had talked about prophecy and some kind of plan since the beginning of time, Gabriel knew that if their Father had planned such a thing so soon, he would have been the first one to know. They called him the Messenger of God for a reason. Well, not anymore.

Spending these moments with Sam was the highlight of Gabriel’s days. Not that he had much to do otherwise, but still. Sam was a bright man, always trying to find a way out of problems without hurting anyone, trying to reason with people, and right now, his focus was drawn towards his older brother.

Dean Winchester was difficult to deal with. There were so many issues inside of that brain of his, his soul troubled so much that Gabriel had to tune him out in order not to go mad himself. So much despair and pain resided within this man’s heart that the archangel often wondered how he even managed to live through that mess deep inside of him. Gabriel knew that Sam had tried to talk to Dean and explain the situation, thus giving him some answers why he hadn’t mentioned that they had gotten a visitor. But the older hunter was as stubborn as a mule, strongly disagreeing with the decision. Once, those disagreements had been so strong that Sam had walked out of his brother’s room with a bruise on his cheek, a torn upper lip and a quickly forming black-eye. On those days, Gabriel would make himself scarce until the air was clear and appeared after a few hours to offer Sam to heal his face, which the hunter would always politely decline. Not that the archangel didn’t understand Sam’s refusal to accept his help, but Gabriel had a hard time to resist this newly restored impulse inside of his grace to help someone in need. Especially so when it came to the younger Winchester. This pull deeply settled inside of him, urging him to reach out and touch the hunter’s soul, no matter what was acceptable and appropriate between them.

The days went on, the mornings turned into nights and the nights turned into mornings again, and so it continued until one Thursday.

The Winchesters finally left the bunker together, somehow reconciled but still disagreeing with each other about Gabriel staying and helping with the research. Sam had found a hunt for them, something they had done for so many years that they could forget their differences at least for a while and work together once more, going through the routine and doing something familiar for once.

The hunt should have been easy. Sam had aimed for that in particular, saying that it had been the best way how to help Dean forget about other things. Gabriel could understand that. It had been a way to distract them from the loss of people close to them and doing something good at the same time. But the archangel hadn’t expected it to go wrong so fast.

He had heard the desperate prayer from Sam, loud and just for him. Gabriel acted on instinct, appearing right next to the younger hunter, immediately trying to evaluate the situation in front of him. And when Gabriel had finally sent the lost soul where it rightly belonged, he had felt an electrifying jolt throughout his whole being. And not just the vessel. The powerful pulse had gone through his whole grace, making him cry out in shock and then pain. It had felt like something or someone had sucked a huge chunk of his energy out of him without his consent. And it had affected him much more than it should have.

Gabriel swayed on his legs, suddenly feeling so weak that he had to lean onto the wall behind him. His vision blurred at the edges and there was a very loud humming in his ears as painful pulses ran through his veins. This state of his body and grace had lasted for just seconds but Gabriel would never forget the feeling of such vulnerability. It had disappeared as quickly as it had come so he could finally focus on the scene around him. The brothers were lying on the floor, groaning in pain as they slowly stood up on their wobbly legs and checked out each other for any lethal injuries. They hadn’t noticed Gabriel’s moment of weakness and before they could even assess the situation they were in, the archangel immediately hid his struggles under the old mask of superiority and smugness.

“And here I thought this was a routine job for you,” Gabriel teased with a smirk on his face. Sam threw the famous bitchface in his direction – and boy, if that face wasn’t quite a powerful weapon to have, even by Gabriel’s standards. Dean groused out some colourful curses at his expense as he brushed off the dust on his clothes and limped out of the ruin of a building. Sam did the same but before he walked out of the room and back to the car outside, he turned around to face Gabriel, looking at him intently as if trying to decipher the code of his existence. Gabriel just hoped Sam hadn’t noticed his moment of weakness.

“Thanks, Gabriel,” Sam said earnestly, interrupting the silence surrounding them. After a few moments of staring at each other, the hunter cleared his throat as if suddenly realizing what they were doing – or not doing – he nodded subtly and walked out of the room, heading outside where his brother was already waiting for him in the car.

That night, Gabriel hadn’t come back to the bunker. He had hid himself in the hideout and tried to calm himself down. His brain worked miles a minute, looking for the cause of his state earlier with just his knowledge. The archangel ran himself ragged by intensively searching for answers in all the books stashed in the library. Of course, in the end, he had found nothing helpful. And that scared him immensely.

Gabriel sank into the luxurious couch, running his fingers through his hair forcefully as he was thinking of the explanation of the events earlier. It felt like the worst version of losing his power. As if he had lost the most of it in a second. But he hadn’t done anything draining enough to put him through such pain. Gabriel conjured himself a glass of strong whiskey and drank it in one go. He didn’t want to admit it to himself but he was scared. He felt tired. His reflexes were too sluggish for an archangel. It had been months since he had ran away from his world and ended up here, in a better version of it. And he had never felt better. There were so many souls around him, and life in general, keeping him strong and full of power. Now he wasn’t so sure about all of it.

The archangel was still sitting in the couch, his eyes had closed on their own accord, but he wasn’t sleeping, not yet. Surrounded by silence and darkness, Gabriel let himself relax and focus on his recovery. To humans, it could look like sleeping but he could still hear and sense everything around him. And that was why he had been awaken quite unexpectedly from his trance by a silent thud in the other room. Jumping up from the couch in one swift and controlled movement, Gabriel conjured his blade, holding it firmly in his right hand as he expected an attack. He strengthened his senses to the maximum. Nothing could go pass him easily. After a few minutes of listening to anything strange going on around him, looking through the walls and peeking into the pockets of space he could have missed before, Gabriel let himself relax. There really was nothing out of the ordinary. Gabriel sighed in relief, his muscles relaxing once more. His blade had disappeared back where it had come from, and there was a snickers bar in his hand instead. The archangel couldn’t hold off his craving anymore, the chocolate had always helped him to calm down his grace, pushing it back within the seams of his vessel. Maybe he had just imagined the noise. Maybe it had been just a natural movement of the universe.

“Fuck,” Gabriel muttered to himself, biting at the chocolate bar angrily. He was annoyed by his lack of knowledge about the power of archangels and what would have caused such a fast drain of his own. And no, him leading a soul where it belonged wasn’t it. And Gabriel really hated not knowing. There were still some books he hadn’t managed to read through. He really tried to stay hopeful and positive but it looked more and more as if there were no answers to his questions. The archangel growled impatiently, heading back to the library.

When Gabriel stepped into the room, his eyes immediately landed on an opened book on the mahogany table in the middle of the room. He was sure he hadn’t left any books open in here. The archangel froze, quickly sweeping through the hideout once again as he looked for any threats possibly lurking in the shadows. But there was none. If there was something, he couldn’t sense it and that thought was quite frightening on its own.

Gabriel slowly approached the table and took the book into his hands carefully. The book was old and he immediately recognized the language – Enochian. The archangel started reading the two pages but couldn’t recall that he had ever had such a book in his hands. His natural curiosity didn’t allow him to think about the why’s and how’s for too long as he continued reading, a jumble of thoughts raging in his mind. Nothing made any sense in the book until the very end.

There it was - the explanation he had been looking for for so many hours – or a day? – he didn’t know anymore. And suddenly, everything clicked together. 

Gabriel was, indeed, losing power, and somehow, he should have expected it from the moment he had come into this world and taken something that hadn’t been his in the first place. Oh, how blind he had been to think that he could just waltz in here and live a new life without any consequences. He cursed loudly at the realization that the world was taking everything back from him. Gabriel couldn’t stop thinking that if he hadn’t used his power and allowing the soul cross the bridge into another realm, this would have never happened. No chain reaction giving him some kind of ultimatum. The Host of this world would have never noticed that he didn’t belong here. Or maybe it would have eventually. Some day Gabriel would have woken up as a human and die of old age, or illness, or something else entirely.

He was fading away. Slowly but surely. And Gabriel couldn’t even express with words how frightened he felt.

“Shit, shit, shit, shit,” Gabriel cursed as he sank heavily into the armchair conveniently placed by the table, and hid his face into his palms, trying to hold himself together. The book mentioned a way how to stop this and strengthen his place in this world, making him a part of it forever. But the archangel laughed miserably at the possibility. There was no way to manage such a thing in a world where he knew no one except the Winchesters and they were humans and hunters, and he was everything they despised, or tolerated at best in Sam’s case. His desire for doing some good, helping the brothers to search for their angel and finding a new purpose for himself had led him towards his demise – a slow and painful end.

Had his running been even worth it? Gabriel had known the risks. Not all of them obviously, but he had expected some difficulties on the way. These things hadn’t been particularly discussed when their Father had taught them how the universe worked. And he had listened to just half of it, the other half flying over his head. And the idea of him not knowing this before it would start to show fully, his strength and power not coming back and getting weaker, withering slowly into nothingness. That terrified him the most. Not knowing what was happening.

This was too much even for him and Gabriel had gone through some huge shit in his life, in the last few years in particular. And the worst thing was that he didn’t know what to do with the information. He didn’t know what to do with himself. There was still Sam, whose bright soul had been pulling him closer by each day spent together, giving him some hope of finding a new goal in his life. But now, Gabriel wasn’t sure if it was even a good thing.

Gabriel’s mind was fighting his grace over the situation the archangel had found himself in, and at some point this battle had exhausted him so much that he let himself be drawn into the world of unconsciousness.

Maybe tomorrow his life wouldn’t seem so hopeless.

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

 

„I told you it was a bust,” Dean said in annoyance once again as they arrived into the bunker and were descending the stairs, „I knew since the moment you showed me and I told you so, but no~o,” he prolonged the vowel on purpose, probably to irritate Sam more than he already had during the ride home, and continued his irking and exaggerated mattering, „Sammy had to go and check it out for himself. Apparently, my little brother doesn’t trust my gut feeling anymore, because suddenly, the Trickster’s skills are more valuable than his brother’s opinion,” Dean scoffed without even a glance in Sam’s direction as he went into the kitchen for a beer. Sam rolled his eyes at his grumbling.

You should go to sleep instead, Dean, Sam thought to himself, remembering seeing his brother’s dark circles around his eyes and much thinner frame. The younger hunter ran his fingers through his hair, combing the loose strands back from his forehead and stretched himself, feeling his joints and muscles twist and burn. Everything hurt with every little movement. They hadn’t learned anything useful. Actually, nothing to get them closer to the information they desperately needed in order to find Castiel and the Nephilim, but it still had taken enough strength out of them that Sam somehow understood Dean’s complaints. Although, his jibes over Gabriel were getting old rather quickly.

„Yeah, yeah, Dean, I heard you the first dozens of times before!” Sam called after his brother, “for how long are you gonna rub it in my face?” he groaned loudly in frustration as he heard Dean’s shuffling in the hall as it slowly fell silent. His shoulders sagged down under the pressure of the last couple of days even more than before this supposedly helpful 150-miles trip, and he sat into the closest chair with a loud sigh of relief.

Yes, it had been a bust but he had needed a distraction, not just for his brother but also for himself. It had been two weeks since their last hunt which had gone so wrong, so quickly that in desperation he had called Gabriel for help. Oh, the archangel had helped well enough, killing the violent and angry ghost easily and still having enough time to remark on their skills. But then he had disappeared without a word for days, and after almost two weeks of no archangel in the bunker, Sam had just thought that Gabriel might have lost interest in sticking around and helping them. But deep down, Sam knew that it wasn’t it. There was something wrong with the archangel.

At that time when he had been lying on the floor bruised, the younger hunter hadn’t really had time to watch Gabriel too closely as he tried to crawl over to his brother’s side to check on his state. But hell, that couldn’t have been his imagination when he had heard a loud scream tearing on his eardrums. It hadn’t lasted for too long to actually hurt him too much but Sam knew that something had happened to the archangel that day. As irritating his nonchalant behaviour had been after killing the ghost, he just couldn’t stop thinking that maybe that little moment had been a reason for Gabriel not coming back. What if he had been badly hurt and was dying somewhere, alone?

After a few moments of wondering, Sam realized that he was worried about the archangel. As weird as it sounded in his head, Sam couldn’t deny it anymore. This celestial being from the other dimension - from the other world - had wormed his way into his thoughts, into his heart, and Sam feared that he wouldn’t see him again. It surprised him so much that he hadn’t even noticed a little too loud flap of wings.

“You know, you should probably cut down the volume of your thoughts if you don’t want me to hear them. They’re really, really loud,” Gabriel complained and sank into the other chair opposite to Sam’s.

“Are they?” Sam said raising his eyebrow slowly in mock question as he tried to hide that Gabriel’s sudden appearance had scared him almost to death. His quickly beating heart was a proof of his shock, and he really hoped that the archangel hadn’t heard everything in his head. Sam didn’t even know that his thoughts could have been interpreted as prayers, or that Gabriel could actually hear them.

“Oh, yeah. You totally woke me up in the middle of the best dream I’ve had in years,” Gabriel whined petulantly and that right there was a small trace of the old Gabriel Sam had known from before; the playful being powerful enough to smite everyone in this world. And Sam still believed that the Nephilim wasn’t stronger than an archangel. He couldn’t be. Right?

“Wait a minute, since when d'you sleep?” Sam asked curiously as he watched the archangel eating some kind of candy he hadn’t seen before.

“What? You think I’ve never slept in my long life living here? I’ll let you know that’s my favourite activity, after eating and sex, of course,” Gabriel said smirking mischievously, but Sam knew that he’d rather not let himself be lured into that conversation.

“Besides, after so many years of me running away from Luci, I can finally indulge myself in something freely without looking behind my back all the time,” the archangel said after a while of munching at his candy hurriedly as if he was afraid that someone would take it from him.

“You in a hurry?” Sam asked casually but eyed the archangel with suspicion. Castiel sometimes ate with them and after he had experienced life as a human, it had been almost a daily occurrence to see him eat and drink, but that was at the time when the angel had been nearly out of his mojo. Gabriel should be full of power and still, he ate like a starving man. Now it was a huge pile of pancakes dripping with syrup and cream on top. Maybe it was normal for the archangel and his massive addiction to everything sweet. Still, there were alarm bells ringing in Sam’s head as his instincts were giving him a warning: never trust what you see on the surface. The hunter curled his lips in disgust as he watched Gabriel devouring the food in front of him.

“Oh, no,” Gabriel said with a gulp and conjured himself a chocolate milkshake, “just hungry, want some?” he asked but never looked at Sam as he said it, wolfing the pancakes without a hint of embarrassment over his eating manners what so ever.

“Err, no, thanks,” Sam hesitated for a few moments but then added, “everything alright?”

“Peachy. Right now, I’m the happiest creature on Earth,” Gabriel said as he glanced at Sam with a full-on grin on his face. The hunter couldn’t help himself and smiled subtly at his antics. The chocolate, syrup and cream smeared over his mouth. That sight alone was quite distracting.

“So,” Gabriel started after a few more minutes of eating, just finishing the last pancake soaked with maple syrup, “anything new? You chuckleheads didn’t get yourselves into more trouble, I assume.”

“Oh no, just a useless trip taken on a hunch. Nothing else. I mean. I somehow hoped,” Sam paused and swallowed slowly, hesitating for a few beats while he gathered some more courage, “that you’ll help us. With research,” he trailed off and hoped that his meaning was clear.

“Absolutely, Sammich,” Gabriel said without a second thought, “but after a nap, okay? I’ve gotta digest all of this,” he sighed contentedly, clearing everything off with a snap of his fingers. Then he folded his arms over his middle and closed his eyes.

“Sure, sure, no problem,” Sam said hurriedly, though his suspicions about the archangel not being okay rose to an even higher level than before the whole conversation. This was weird. Since when Gabriel needed to sleep, eat and nap? Okay, he had explained the first two somehow, though weakly, but the last thing? That was very strange. Sam wanted to ask Gabriel about it but he feared that prying would get him nowhere so he left the questions for later. The hunter watched the archangel in front of him with unhidden curiosity.

“You know, it’s improper to stare at people,” Gabriel said, opening one eye lazily.

“Sorry,” Sam blurted out chastised, looking away as he was trying hard to find something else to look at.

“’s okay. I’m used to it,” Gabriel muttered as if nothing unusual had happened, “my face is irresistible,” he added with a smirk. There was silence again and Sam knew that his brother wouldn’t come out until the next morning. It was late in the evening and Dean hadn’t spent much time out of his room anyway these days. So, there was a very small chance to be caught in the middle of another stupid fight between Dean and Gabriel.

“I can feel the cogs turning in your head, Sam. What is it?” the archangel asked after a few minutes of silence. There was a hint of annoyance in his voice but he left his eyes closed, just shifting a bit in his chair.

“Nothing,” Sam replied hastily.

“Oh, p-lease,” Gabriel said, stressing the “p”, “you can’t lie to an archangel, remember?” he said, finally opening his eyes which find Sam’s and stared into them with so much intensity that the hunter felt very exposed, almost to the core of his being. Well, it was probably true, because archangels and angels could see human souls. So in some way, Gabriel could see deep into him.

“Well, I was just thinking about your huge appetite, that’s all. But that’s nothing unusual in your case, I guess,” Sam deflected so that the archangel didn’t recognize the suspicions towards him. And then the hunter saw Gabriel stiffen a bit and clench his jaw strongly. Just for a second. Someone else wouldn’t see these subtle movements of his face, but Sam wasn’t an ordinary man. Something was wrong with Gabriel and he just couldn’t convince himself to ask him openly. Who knew what would happen.

“Yeah, that’s exactly it,” Gabriel mumbled absentmindedly and stayed silent, looking into space.

“Okay, well, I’m headed to my room and sleep. See you around, I guess,” Sam said with a slight tilt in his last words as if it had been a question rather than a fact. In Gabriel’s case, he could never be sure what the archangel was going to do.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be here,” Gabriel said, rolling his eyes in exasperation but with a small smile on his lips.

Sam couldn’t sleep at least for two more hours, lying in bed as he went through the stuff that had happened that day. His mind was especially occupied by Gabriel’s strange behaviour. He just hoped that it wasn’t anything life-threatening. They had enough shit on their plate to deal with right now and it was enough for the time being. Sam was stressed enough as it was.

Is it weird to pray for better days now when I know I’m projecting them to Gabriel as well? And he could actually hear them. Can he hear everything? Sam mused and it was the last thought that crossed his mind that night as he closed his eyes and let himself be taken into the world of unconsciousness.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

 

“Shit,” Gabriel cursed silently so that Sam wouldn’t hear him from around the corner and start asking questions and got even more suspicious than he already was. He could feel the curious and searching looks the hunter had cast in his direction during their little chat earlier. And whose fault was that? Gabriel sighed in unfamiliar exhaustion as he rubbed at his tired eyes. After a while of staring blankly at nothing, he folded his arms in front of him on the table and laid his head on them.

This was getting out of control. As much as the archangel tried to save his remaining power by eating and sleeping like a normal human being, this still wasn’t enough, and letting his body digest in the same way as it would normally do made him feel even more like shit. Gabriel thought that it would help him to survive for much longer but this? This was torture and maybe even contra productive. The problem was that he would have to get used to it fast as this was actually his end game here. Becoming a human, an archangel without powers? Gabriel shivered over the thought of being even more vulnerable than he already was.

“For fuck’s sake, ugh,” a rumbling voice and banging noises echoed from the kitchen through the hall to the main room, which pulled Gabriel out of his haze, and he looked around himself blurrily, still feeling a bit groggy and unfocused. It took him some time to realize that it was Dean, since Sam had gone to sleep already and Gabriel would have recognized his voice right away. The archangel wasn’t sure whether to stay or disappear before the older Winchester would stomp in there making a scene, and who knew what Dean would do if he saw him sitting there alone. Sometimes, humans were quite unpredictable and paranoid.

“You know,” Dean said from the doorway. Too late, Gabriel thought and turned around slowly to face the hunter, “I should’ve known,” he sighed as he took a sip from the bottle of beer he was holding in his right hand.

“Dean-o, what’s up?” Gabriel exclaimed nonchalantly with a smirk, faking self-confidence he wasn’t feeling, as he jumped up from the chair and turned around with his whole body. Dean drank once again from the bottle, watching him like a hawk and assessing him with a blank expression on his face. Nothing could be read from his features. It felt strange to Gabriel as he had done the same thing many times in his life. With his angelic sight he could see the little things and it was actually natural for him. Dean’s soul burnt with colours mixed together in many shades of reds and blues, but was slowly turning into a natural white. Surprisingly, his current mood meant calm and collected. The archangel could see old scars from the events that had been affecting the hunter’s soul over the long period of time, but it seemed that he wasn’t too angry to see Gabriel in the bunker. It had been a couple of weeks since they had seen each other last and maybe something had changed Dean’s opinion on him. Not that Gabriel had been afraid of the hunter or anything. Dean couldn’t kill him. Hurt him? Well, that was another story.

“Sammy, he…” Dean paused with a deep sigh. He averted his gaze, shaking his head subtly as he stood arms crossed against the door frame. Then he looked back up and stared at Gabriel intently, “he’s really determined to give you a chance and when he gets something into his head, it’s almost impossible to convince him otherwise,” the hunter continued calmly and drank from his bottle once again, “and these past couple of days, when you were gone, it’s been torture and you know why?” Dean asked but Gabriel knew that he didn’t expect an answer. The older Winchester shoved off against the door frame and stepped into the main room casually, walking towards the table in the middle of the room, although to Gabriel it looked more like a predator circling around its prey.

“Why?” Gabriel asked, humouring Dean while his curiosity was burning holes into his brain. It was amusing in a way that this man was giving an archangel the protective older brother talk.

“’cause, he actually blamed me for you not coming back after our last hunt. Can you believe that? Such nonsense,” Dean shook his head with a scoff as he sat into the chair, throwing his legs on the table with a mild discomfort showing on his face. Maybe some pains from the last hunt, still? Gabriel thought with a subtle frown appearing on his forehead, distracted for a moment from the main issue before him.

“As if I’ve done something to you. As if it was my fault you got hurt or something, which is ridiculous! Actually, that very thought of you being hurt led into more discussions how I am the one who’s unreasonable and blind and selfish, and whatnot. It’s been unbearable, man, and I kinda understand you’re not the Trickster, that he’s dead, but I can’t just shut it off you know, what he’d done to us, to Sam. And I get it. You’re not him and that’s why I’m talking to you right now and telling you I’m not gonna stand in your way. I know that you’ve been helping Sam with research, looking for Cas and Lucifer’s kid. I don’t really mind, but,” Dean stopped, stressing the word ‘but’ as he almost bore holes into Gabriel’s face with his intense stare. Fortunately, he couldn’t actually do it, “If you so much as harm a hair on his head, I will end you, got it?”

“Got it, Dean-o,” Gabriel saluted with a serious expression on his face, even though the nickname hinted on his amusement, barely hidden behind the mask.

“And, Gabriel, whatever you do, don’t mess with my stuff,” the hunter said as he sighed in annoyance, rubbing his forehead in fast precise movements, “Unlike Sam, I know you’re not that different from the Trickster we knew,” and with that he stood up and left without a glance back.

At that moment the archangel really understood how much trust the older hunter had put into him. It could mean a nice change in the dynamics between Sam and him. Gabriel had noticed that Sam had been apprehensive around him in the bunker because he feared another confrontation with Dean. But now, with the older hunter agreeing to Gabriel helping them, that could ease off the tension radiating from Sam every time they spent hours together in the library. Strangely enough, he also felt some of the tension leaving him as well after the awkward chat with Dean. It sounded more like a mild threat than anything else but who cared about the formalities. This change of things would definitely improve the situation and make the search for Castiel much easier and maybe even quicker. With his powers fading away, they needed to finish this really fast. From now on, Gabriel wouldn’t have to look behind his back all the time, waiting for the other shoe to drop. Souls couldn’t lie, so he was quite sure that Dean hadn’t been lying to him. Not about this anyway.

Letting out a deep breath, Gabriel sat into the chair again and after a snap of his fingers, a couple of books appeared on the table in front of him, their binds old and torn in places indicating that they had been frequently opened and read. There were many of the spells they could use to find Castiel, but Gabriel was sure that with some changes, they could try to summon Lucifer’s child as well. Of course, there were no guarantees that they would work but whatever he had learned during the short time on this Earth was never losing hope without trying first. Sometimes he wished that he had never lost hope when fighting his brothers at home, that he had never run away from problems that had taken so much out of them. All these regrets had been engrained into his brain, haunting him at every possible moment when he was alone and couldn’t concentrate on anything else. Right then, the archangel realized what it was like for humans having nightmares.

Gabriel rubbed circles over both of his temples and then reached for the first book from the pile that he had brought there from his hideout, thinking he should find a solution before Sam woke up, and it would be soon since the hunter was always up too early for any human to be. As if his brain couldn’t bear the lack of thinking and gaining more knowledge any longer.

Gabriel had leant against the back of the chair, leafing through a book like a bookworm he had never been in his life. The archangel didn’t even mind that he had spent hours in the same position because he couldn’t feel it like humans did. And when Gabriel finally had found a way how to track the Nephilim, which was a great accomplishment for their current situation, it was already early in the morning and he could hear noises from the bathroom, probably Sam taking a shower.

Right on time, the archangel thought and conjured himself a lollipop as a reward for good work done. Maybe Gabriel just needed some more convincing, some more time to realize that, even though he wasn’t allowed to stay here forever, or was given very limited options to fight for his place to be here, he could do some good in the meantime. And someone would appreciate his help after all his efforts.

***

“Are you sure this is gonna work?” Sam asked tentatively, looking around vast wilderness surrounding them completely. Gabriel knew this place was the best one for trying summoning Lucifer’s Nephilim. You couldn’t destroy anything in a wasteland. Though he couldn’t really help it and rolled his eyes in exasperation over the question. Sam had asked him that five times already and it was getting on his nerves.

Gabriel understood that Sam had doubts about the summoning. He had never done this before after all. Even he was a bit anxious about it, but surely Sam could see that there weren’t many other options. Gabriel had tried everything he had known from Heaven, but a Nephilim of an archangel? That had never happened before, and there was also this one little detail about Gabriel – he hadn’t been in Heaven for a long time. Who knew what else those idiots had done in there? Experiments were, of course, forbidden, but that had never deterred anyone from doing it anyway, right? His knowledge was limited after all. This, here, was actually also an experiment; a combination of spells from books some of which Gabriel hadn’t even known existed. That fact surprised him when he had found them because he really had thought at the beginning that there had been fewer differences between him and his doppelganger from this world.

“Yes, Sam. I’ve already explained it to you. It’s safer this way. And if he tries something, I can stop him. He’s strong but not stronger than me,” Gabriel said a little bit more forcefully, but it was necessary. He didn’t really need more tense energy around himself. He needed to believe in his powers, not doubts.

“Alright, but-,” Sam started but Gabriel had none of it and interrupted the hunter with his hand over his mouth, shutting him up. Sam’s eyes widened a little with surprise, but it didn’t take long to show his strongest bitchface Gabriel had ever seen and he had seen a lot in his long life on Earth.

“Oh no, stop fretting! Seriously, this negative energy around you could kill if it was possible. Just... let me do my thing and we’ll see,” Gabriel said firmly, trying to be reassuring and it must have worked a little bit at least because the colours of Sam’s soul changed into calmer shades, and seeing his words had had such an influence on the hunter, it also soothed his grace slightly, the tension in his shoulders melting away. They looked at each other for a few long moments, Sam narrowed his eyes as if trying to project his annoyance through an intense staring contest, and Gabriel smirked triumphantly upon seeing the hunter get frustrated over his words. Sam had grabbed his hand to shove it away from his mouth.

“Whatever,” Sam grumbled and stepped back from the archangel.

“Hey, your brother staying in the car or what?” Gabriel asked after a few seconds of gathering more energy while eating a snickers bar, his favourite.

“Yeah, why?”

“No reason. I just thought he’d wanna be close, you know, in case I’d do something ‘incredibly stupid’,” Gabriel chuckled over another one of Sam’s bitchfaces and turned around to start the summoning.

It didn’t take long when the winds picked up on the strength and speed, turning into small torrents and the sand around them rose into small whirls, making him squirm a bit but not because of grains of sand had gotten into his eyes, but more in annoyance over the change in weather. Gabriel hadn’t believed that his spell would ever work but after a few minutes of waiting surrounded in whirlwinds of dirt, a figure appeared just a few feet in front of them. The human body was boyish and just as short as Gabriel’s was. At the first sight, nothing would have indicated that this teenager with dark hair and pretty face was a Nephilim. Well, he was, after all, half human. Lucifer’s child. It was a sight to behold and Gabriel stood there, mesmerized by the connection of soul and an archangel’s grace. Too bad these creatures were dangerous and Gabriel’s duty as an archangel was to annihilate them. However, this was not the time for killing. They needed some information and the kid probably held it in his grasp.

“Hey there, how’s it going?” Gabriel asked casually, and with a simple snap of his fingers he put the holy fire ablaze around the Nephilim, completely trapping him within the flames. The boy stared at him, his eyes never leaving his face as if the situation he was in hadn’t affected him one bit. It was quite unnerving as if he was analyzing Gabriel. The archangel was drawn back out of the staring match by the noises of gravel under Sam’s boots.

“Sam, I suggest to ask him what you need. This won’t hold him forever. Trust me,” Gabriel said with the most serious tone he could master. The grace within the boy was very, very strong and the soul was somehow strengthening it, as if it was actually a bond between those two essences of light.

“You are an archangel,” the Nephilim said matter-of-factly, still looking at him – through him – intensely. He narrowed his eyes a bit as if thinking or concentrating on something he couldn’t quite understand. But Gabriel didn’t move, didn’t even blink in order not to give away the familiar feeling of fear slowly creeping into his mind. This boy reminded him of Lucifer too much and his scrutinizing gaze was getting under his skin. The archangel just hoped this would be over really soon. This situation was getting out of control.

“But you don’t belong here,” the boy added, tilting his head to the side. That was creepy. Gabriel thought to himself and tried to mask his discomfort. The Nephilim was unlike any other he had encountered. Much stronger, much more powerful and studying him. Apparently, he knew how to use his powers, at least in some extent, and he used them well enough. If he wanted, this Nephilim could do so much damage in the world...

“Huh, don’t worry. I don’t want to hurt anyone. But I can help you if you want. You’re not gonna be here for much longer,” the Nephilim said calmly and his piercing gaze turned onto Sam, who was standing next to Gabriel, fidgeting slightly under those knowing eyes.

“What do you want from me, Sam Winchester? I’ve done nothing wrong to you,” the boy questioned them as if he could, as if he had the upper hand in this. And how the hell he knew their names?!

“Uhm...,” Sam started, looking at Gabriel as if expecting some kind of help from him but the archangel was trying to hold himself together in front of the Nephilim, struggling with his engrained duty of wanting to kill him.

“Don’t look at me, Samsquatch, just hurry up already,” Gabriel hissed at Sam, his blade sliding into his hand as he grasped it firmly, prepared for anything.

“I just... where’s Castiel? The angel? You took his body,” Sam finally grew some guts and uttered his questions, though Gabriel had already focused on the Nephilim and the changes within the circle of the holy fire. It wasn’t affecting him the way it would purely angelic beings. No, because he was half human, he could theoretically go through it. Maybe with some damage but not permanent. He would heal as another human would. Oh Dad, we’re fucked. Warning bells screamed within Gabriel’s head, his eyebrows twitched subtly in shock.

“Castiel is alive, but I can’t tell you where he is now,” the Nephilim answered them, still calm and collected.

“Or won’t?” Gabriel growled angrily, fighting every fibre of his existence not to screw it and kill him.

“I can’t, because he’s not even here anymore, in this world,” the boy said without a pause and looked down at the fire around him. Clearing his throat he continued, “I can’t help you with the angel right now but you,” he pointed at Sam, “can help him,” and then pointed at Gabriel, a subtle quirk of his lips meant he was up to something and Gabriel didn’t like it.

“What?” Gabriel and Sam voiced their befuddlement in unison, but before they could get an answer, the fire went down and the Nephilim was gone. They both stood there, rooted into the ground, motionless. Gabriel’s mind went blank and into complete chaos within two seconds.

“What the fuck was that?” Dean’s voice rumbled behind them, getting Gabriel out of his whirlwind of thoughts. He then turned around, searching for some simple and evasive words to explain but before he could find them, Sam turned and fixed him with such a completely new look in his eyes, Gabriel just didn’t know how to interpret it. The hunter’s soul was a jumble of bewilderment, curiosity and sadness.

“What did he meant that I can help you. What’s going on, Gabriel?” Sam asked and it was genuine concern in his voice and it reflected on his soul as well – colours of warmth and caring.

“I...I don’t know,” Gabriel tried but knew he had failed. He just couldn’t lie to Sam even if he really should right now. His grace was doing weird things to him upon feeling Sam’s soul and its light directed at him.

“Bullshit and you know it. Just tell me, what did he mean?” Sam urged almost pleadingly, those puppy-dog eyes were a killer and Gabriel couldn’t resist them.

“I don’t know what he meant. You can’t help me. Nobody can, got it?!” Gabriel shouted frustrated, crossing his arms over his chest, his blade no longer in his hand.

The archangel knew that he couldn’t run from it anymore. It was happening and even the Nephilim could see it. It was just a matter of time when Sam and Dean would notice as well, if they hadn’t already. Sam just stood still and waited for an explanation with his arms across his chest. Gabriel was determined not to give in, but after a few excruciatingly awkward minutes of silence, he caved.

“I just...It’s complicated,” Gabriel sighed, combing his hair back from his forehead nervously.

“Then explain,” Sam growled in frustration, obviously losing his patience.

“Okay, okay. Jeez. Give a guy a minute,” the archangel whined but he knew he was stalling the inevitable. He could disappear and never come back but deep inside, Gabriel knew that he would need a place to stay when the time came.

“You know I don’t belong here, right? Well, this universe knows too, the Host knows. It’s unnatural and the world is taking back what I stole from it. Sooner or later the power and light of my grace would seize to exist and I’d become a human. At best,” Gabriel trailed off at that, not wanting to go further but how could he think that Sam wouldn’t ask more?

“And at worst?” Sam asked, his eyes clouding with an unfamiliar emotion for him.

“Well, I’ll fade away, my existence – poof – just gone. Are you happy now?! You can’t help me!” Gabriel shouted in frustration, and all that accumulated tension and uncertainty, fear and pain of losing this battle had such a huge toll on him that he suddenly went weak at the knees and wobbled a little. Sam caught him under his arms but it wasn’t enough, his vision blurred around the edges, black spots appearing everywhere he looked and then it was black nothingness sucking him further into its clutches.

Gabriel didn’t remember much after that. No, he hadn’t fainted, nope. Surely, he was just too tired, right?

The archangel could sense his surroundings, hear the voices around him and the rumble of a car engine but he kept his eyes closed. His grace just needed rest, save some energy. It wasn’t so because he depleted too much of it, right? He wasn’t out of every bit of it, right? Right?! It felt like those nightmares he had been having lately; except he was living them now. Gabriel gripped the fabric in his fists tightly in attempt not to panic over his state. It would get better. He needed to believe that it would get better. Gabriel got Sam. Sam wouldn’t hurt him. The hunter would help him. All these thoughts completely occupied his mind, turning him into an emotional mess.

There were soothing touches on Gabriel’s head, long fingers were running through his locks and calming his nerves and shaking body so much so that after a short while he fell asleep without any other thought of concern over his future.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

Silence spread around the bunker completely. There were neither noises coming from the kitchen, nor quiet voices echoing from TV in the living room. Though, it wasn’t a deafening silence. It seemed as if all life had disappeared from the place, but in reality, there was something new, something the residents of the bunker would have never anticipated. All that new information and following realizations in the mind of each of them had shifted their relationships just a little bit further, too deep to reconsider, however – that something would change their lives in the future. Not just the hunters’, but also the archangel’s, who had been trying to find his purpose and somehow found it, completely unaware. Maybe they all had needed a new path. And together, they might find it just in time.

***

A few days ago

“Gabriel!” Sam shouted as he couldn’t get any response from the archangel. After Gabriel had collapsed, Sam had taken him into the back of the car and stayed with him the whole ride back into the bunker, letting the archangel’s head rest in his lap. He didn’t know what to do, how to help him and Dean wasn’t helping with his remarks and jabs at “their idiotic plan”. That same plan they had agreed on beforehand. No secrets this time. None. At least from him, now, that he could think about it. Gabriel hadn’t told him the whole truth after all. But it didn’t matter at this point. Sam understood that his brother hadn’t been happy about summoning Jack to them without actual knowing what he could do, but he had agreed in the end. And him ranting about it, as if he hadn’t been a part of it, just got on his nerves and after a few minutes listening to it while trying to determine the extent of damage this plan had caused the archangel, his patience had reached its limits and he exploded.

“Shut up, Dean. Could you please just stop it and focus on driving. I can’t deal with your complaints right now,” Sam snarled at his brother in frustration while checking Gabriel’s pulse, or of his vessel. Dean hadn’t said a word since then and even though Sam would feel guilty about yelling at his brother later, right now it was the very last thing he thought about. He would deal with it later.

The hunter really didn’t know what to do. He felt the panic bumbling up within his chest but he suppressed it for the time being, realizing quickly enough that some things were more important than his own fear. Then, after a couple of more minutes of his frantic touches all over the archangel’s body to ensure himself that he was alive, Gabriel started moving a little. That was a good sign. Sam just couldn’t lose anyone else so soon. Not even someone who technically wasn’t from this world and had died already, but somehow Gabriel belonged here and he just couldn’t die on him twice. This being had been helping Sam even though he didn’t have to. It wasn’t his fight, though Gabriel would claim otherwise from the start.

“Hey, hey. Gabriel, d’you hear me? Are you alright?” Sam whispered, cupping Gabriel’s face into his hands with such tenderness that if he ever thought on this situation later, he would feel mortified, especially with Dean in there with them. “Do you need anything?”

The only answer to his questions was keening noises coming from Gabriel’s slightly parted lips and light spasms in his taut muscles. A deep frown appeared between the archangel’s eyebrows as if in pain but he didn’t say a word. After a while of nervously watching him, Sam couldn’t wait anymore and asked again and again, stroking lightly Gabriel’s forehead and running his fingers through his hair in comfort so that the archangel would know that he wasn’t alone and with someone who cared.

It had been at least an hour, maybe even two (time flied and Sam didn’t really care), when Gabriel started whispering words, unintelligible to Sam, but it sounded like Enochian language, which was understandable that the archangel – when unconscious - would speak in his own language rather than English. But still, the hunter couldn’t help to think that he was quite useless right now. Without knowing what had happened exactly, or the means to help Gabriel, he could just wait for him get better, or at least switch the language and be more coherent. Helping a delirious archangel wasn’t on his résumé, and Cas wasn’t here to explain everything that Gabriel was murmuring quietly as a litany. It sounded like gibberish to Sam most of the time. At least he wasn’t screaming. Although this wasn’t much better, it was better than complete silence or no reactions at all. The only distraction for Sam was rock music coming from the radio (and he hadn’t even registered Dean having turned it on) and the engine of the Impala humming wildly and occasionally revving in sharp turns how fast Dean drove home. They were quite far from the bunker, in the middle of nowhere and now Sam was cursing the distance between here and their final destination, even though he couldn’t have done anything even if they’d been buried in lore books. There was literally nothing on archangels and their physiology. This body in front of him wasn’t exactly Gabriel’s. All these thoughts were running through his mind, distracting him from all the information he had learned at the meeting with Jack.

***

Now

“Sam,” Dean said quietly from behind the slightly opened door so not to disturb the silence in the room. Sam didn’t turn completely to his brother, just a little to the side as he acknowledged Dean’s presence with a nod, not letting the archangel out of his sight even for a second, “I’ve brought you dinner. D’you want it here or-“

“Yeah, thanks Dean,” Sam answered with a croak from disuse of his voice, clearing his throat afterwards, and finally, after a few long seconds of no motion from either him or his brother, the young hunter breathed out a sigh and stood up from the chair he’d been sitting in for too long for the liking of the muscles in his legs and back. He stretched and turned around, his eyes meeting Dean’s in silent communication. No words were needed. It was obvious that Dean checked out his well-being immediately, and because Sam hadn’t got out of the room since their arrival a few days ago, it was quite understandable, though annoying. The hunter would go out just for a quick shower and sometimes breakfast, but nothing else mattered somehow. He just wanted Gabriel to wake up and explain everything and didn’t want to miss a second. Fortunately, Dean hadn’t nagged him about his behaviour, surely having a lot to think through himself.

Sam had gone through days of thinking over and over the words Jack had said that day. It seemed like the Nephilim had known the secret Gabriel had tried to hide from everyone. And then the boy had pointed at Sam, saying that he could help the archangel. But with what? Gabriel had said then that he was dying, slowly, but Sam didn’t want to lose hope that there was some way to stop it or at least slow it down until they found a way. He just couldn’t let it happen again. And of course, Gabriel had to act like a complete idiot, fighting that on his own and not telling anyone what had been happening to him. At least Jack hadn’t smitten them on the spot, even though it was evident that he had the upper hand all along. Sam had had a theory before their meeting, that this Nephilim would be much more powerful than an archangel, since his grace was powered with a human soul. And Gabriel should have known, surely he had known how this worked and still hadn’t told him everything. Idiot. Sam thought frustrated and confused at the same time. It looked like the archangel had tried to protect him. Them. He added quickly in his mind, frowning a bit over his selfish thinking.

Their Gabriel would have known from the beginning that the Winchesters just couldn’t take the easy way out of anything. And they needed allies, and they needed a win, desperately. And Sam needed someone who would be willing to understand him, and he felt that the archangel could, was already listening to him. And Jack’s words made Sam think that was exactly the point – listening to each other, getting to know one another better, somehow make Gabriel theirs. But without talking about it with the archangel, Sam couldn’t do a thing. And the waiting was getting on his nerves, and his patience was running thin. On the other hand, at least, Dean was being patient for both of them, as unusual as it was for his brother. Bordering suspicious.

Sam ate quietly, though his mind raced miles a minute. He felt tired but didn’t want to leave, or fall asleep and lose the precious seconds when Gabriel woke up. The hunter knew that the archangel wasn’t fragile or helpless, but staying in this state for days without any change made Sam worried. That maybe he hadn’t improved since then, that he wouldn’t open his bright eyes always full of mirth and hidden mischief, that Sam wouldn’t hear his voice always playful and teasing, and wouldn’t see his movements, always joyful. The thing was that all these things had dimmed a bit before the incident already, but the hunter hadn’t realized until now when he got more time to think. Suddenly, everything just swarmed together in his head. And how could he not notice? The slight, but there, change in Gabriel’s demeanour? He’d started eating quite a lot and napping. It was weird, sure, but Sam had thought it had been just something this Gabriel did. Maybe if Sam had taken time and looked around himself for a while - or asked - he would have spotted the little changes about Gabriel sooner. And now he felt like shit over his guilty conscience. Sam didn’t even notice that Dean had left the room, being so deep in his own thoughts and realizations that he didn’t even think about his brother and what they’d learned about Cas. Guilt – an old friend of his was back in full force. Sam decided then and there that he would talk with Dean, but not today. They just needed some time for themselves, or at least that was what he was telling himself to feel better.

The hunter sighed loudly again, shaking his head to wake himself up, and drank coffee from his mug. Then he put everything on the table nearby and shifted with his chair closer to the bed where Gabriel had been laying without motion. He was breathing. That was good. At least Sam hoped so since angels didn't have to. He then watched him for a while, putting his hand onto Gabriel’s and squeezing it. The contact made Sam shiver a little but he let it go and didn’t think of it too much. His eyelids were getting heavier by every passing second and he blinked more often, just trying to moisture his eyes, let them rest for a while. But before Sam could stop himself and his exhausted body and mind, his head dropped slowly and landed on their united palms and he was fast asleep, snoring softly, completely oblivious to the world.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

 

"Hey," Sam mumbled groggily to Dean as he staggered into the common room while rubbing the sleepiness out of his eyes.

"Hey," Dean answered with a brief glance at Sam, leaning over the keyboard of the laptop. Sam furrowed his eyebrows at his brother's quick reply, no questions asked after a few days of feeding him and letting him stay in the archangel's room without any remark or nag at him motherhening Gabriel. And Sam knew that Dean had never been Gabriel's fan and he'd tolerated it him at best, but this was unusual. As was his patience with him lately. Sam expected at least something, some reaction to his behaviour towards the archangel. He himself realized that him staying in the room for so long must have been strange and maybe even disconcerting for his brother. But there was nothing. Or he was hiding it well behind a mask. As if Dean knew something Sam didn't know. Before the younger hunter could start talking about what he had wanted to discuss since they had come back into the bunker, Dean had grabbed the laptop from underneath and turned its screen towards him so that Sam could see the article on some news website.

"I've found us a case. Read it. I'm gonna make a quick breakfast and we are gonna head out in an hour," Dean said, stressing the "we" word but faking casual at the same time as if nothing had happened, but Sam saw through his brother's masks this time. The younger hunter could see now how tense Dean was carrying himself. It had been too long of doing nothing and this state of nothingness had always irritated him. Dean was a man of action and he needed to do something with his body, and in doing so, helping his mind to sort through all the thoughts that were probably swarming his mind. And Sam assumed that his brother had probably been at the range, shooting, or driven around in the Impala just to clear his head, but it had never been enough for him. And after what they had learned about Cas and then Gabriel collapsing into some kind of coma and still not waking up? Well, Sam had expected Dean demanding to go to work and dragging his ass out of the archangel's room a little earlier. Not that he was prepared to leave Gabriel just like that, here all alone, now when they still didn't know what had happened to him, or if he would need help after he woke up. But he also understood Dean's urge to move. Sam wanted to talk to him first about their situation, and maybe after some time alone, thinking it through, his brother would be willing to share his thoughts. On the one hand, even Sam needed some fresh air and redirect his mind onto something easier, mundane (for them), but on the other, he couldn't just leave, right?

Sam sighed loudly in exhaustion, suddenly feeling drained to the bone even after sleeping until - looking at the old wall clock - ten in the morning, he read with surprise and wide eyes. The hunter rubbed over his face once more, shaking his head to stir up some energy from his body, and went into the kitchen. How was it even possible to feel as if a bus had run over him - twice - after so many hours of sleeping?

"You look like shit," Dean remarked at seeing Sam walking sluggishly into the kitchen, still trying to wake up.

"I kinda feel like it," Sam answered truthfully, not trusting his instincts on the state of his body. This was strange even for his standards. He knew what it felt like to be exhausted after a hunt or lack of sleep. But this? This was different.

Sitting at the table, a mug was pushed into Sam's hands and he gratefully took it into his palms, humming happily at the smell of freshly brewed coffee.

"Thanks," the younger hunter mumbled into the mug as he drank from it and sighed contentedly.

"Don't mention it," Dean said, standing at the stove and making them breakfast, "What about shortstack, he still out?"

"Yep. I don't know what's happened to him. It shouldn't have happened in the first place. It's like all of his power just disappeared from him and after what Jack said-"

"You mean Lucifer's spawn? We can't trust him. You know that, Sam," Dean growled angrily, aggressively pushing the eggs around the pan, as if calling Jack by his name somehow offended him.

"Dean, he didn't have a reason to lie to us. If he wanted, he could've just killed us on the spot," Sam argued, trying to appease his brother before he popped a vein.

"And, what about Gabriel? He's been out of it for three days. Nothing's changed and you're telling me that he didn't do it? So, who did? Tell me! Plus, he knew about Cas. How could he know that!" Dean shouted as he turned to face Sam, flailing with a spatula around himself in agitation. As if a dam of emotions had broken and he just flipped.

"Dean, calm down, we'll find a way," Sam stood up and placated his brother with his palms up.

"I'm calm, dammit," Dean said finally, breathing in and out and shaking slightly with adrenaline. There, that was something Sam was familiar with. That was his brother, trying to deal with his feelings and being scooped up for too long in the bunker was starting to get to his nerves. Sam decided then and there that if Gabriel didn't wake up that day, he would go with Dean back to work. The bunker was well protected and he would leave a message and their spare phone for Gabriel to call them if necessary. At that moment, it seemed like the best option. Sam couldn't just let Dean work alone. That wasn't even an option after everything they'd been through together. His brother would always be in the front of Sam's mind. But he still felt as if he was about to betray Gabriel, being in such a vulnerable state and alone in a foreign place. Hopefully, the archangel would wake up before they left.

Sam watched his brother's shoulders slowly relax and get back into focus while staring at their breakfast as if it had failed him somehow. The younger hunter pinched between his eyebrows, screwing his eyes shut. It hurt him to look into light too much. It felt like a hangover but Sam hadn't taken anything the previous day. He'd just fallen asleep, sitting in the chair and bend over Gabriel's left side, and his back ached like a bitch because of that, but that shouldn't have caused him such headache and complete tiredness after so many hours of sleep. That raised a couple of alarm bells within his head that something was simply wrong and there wasn't a clear reason for it.

"Hey, Dean, I really feel like shit. I wouldn't be much help to you on this case. Maybe we should wait till tomorrow. If Gabriel doesn't wake up, we'll leave a note and go. But something's really wrong with me today," Sam sighed loudly again and yawned. He hoped that his brother wasn’t going to bitch about it. The truth was that Sam really didn't have enough energy to argue.

"Okay, but just for today. Eat and go to sleep," Dean said worriedly, already getting himself under control after the outburst of his emotions and switching into the 'the older brother caring for his younger brother' mode.

"Yeah. I'll check on Gabriel and then get some more sleep," Sam said groggily and dug into the food in front of him while Dean sat next to him and did the same. There was silence for a few minutes, the only sounds being noises coming from the hunters enjoying their food and coffee. Sam still couldn't quite concentrate on the things ahead of them but he also knew that he needed to mention something important, even though it was probably going to backfire or be ignored, but Dean would never talk otherwise. Not even under torture.

"Hey, Dean? If you wanna talk-" Sam started but was interrupted by his brother as he'd already expected.

"Don't, Sam. I don't wanna talk about it. Let's get to business as soon as possible and then we can think about our situation here. Right now," Dean paused, clearing his throat, "let's just focus on the new case, okay?" he said firmly, looking at Sam sternly. The younger Winchester knew that it meant the end of the conversation on that particular topic.

"Okay," Sam murmured around a mouthful of food and left the chick flick moments, as Dean would say, for another time. They ate in companionable silence again, scraping their forks over the plates and slowly finishing their breakfast, when, suddenly, they heard scuffing footsteps coming from the hall. Both hunters raised their heads and looked at the entrance into the kitchen, their fighters' instincts on alert and prepared for possible confrontation. Sam felt once again that his reflexes were too slow and sluggish which he had experienced at times when he had been really sick and needed a few days of bed rest. And it worried him even more than before. Then, after a few minutes of waiting for someone to appear in the doorway, a small figure of an archangel stepped into view and immediately leaned into the frame of the door as he was barely holding himself upright, immediately folding his arms over his chest.

"Anything I've missed, boys?" Gabriel said, trying for nonchalance but he must have known it wasn't working. Sam stood up as did Dean, his chair's legs scraping over the floor with the movement.

"Gabriel, you're awake," Sam said in disbelief, still holding the kitchen knife in his right hand as he was completely frozen on the spot. He felt elated over Gabriel's presence, the warm sensation spread within his chest, which was odd and he tried to suppress it by focusing on the man before him.

"Thanks for stating the obvious. I can't imagine angels could become ghosts. So yeah, that's the only option right now. And-," Gabriel raised his finger, stopping the hunters to interrupt him, "for your information, I'm still an archangel. Well," he let his arm fall back at his side and tilted his head forward with a sigh, looking blankly at the floor and after a short pause, he let out a shaky laugh, "not for long, but whatever," Gabriel said, looking back up at Sam, suddenly all cheerful and as if without a care to his current situation, "we've got job to do, right?"

"Gabe, I don't-" Sam started.

"Aww, Sammy, using nicknames now?" Gabriel teased with a waggle of his eyebrows.

"What? Hey, stop that," Sam said scowling at Gabriel's blatant flirting, even though he didn't actually know if it still annoyed him anymore, "I'm just trying to say, take it easy, alright? There's no rush," he added caringly while watching the archangel for any kind of side effects of his previous state or for other clues to give him some hint on Gabriel's condition. After a few minutes of awkward but intense silence and both Sam and Gabriel staring at each other, Dean cleared his throat loudly, interrupting whatever was happening between the two of them. The younger hunter turned a little to the side, glancing briefly at his brother to see what was his reaction to the archangel standing there in front of them and hitting on him, but Dean was looking at Gabriel with a completely unreadable face, which surprised Sam as he furrowed his eyebrows a little in confusion. There hadn't been many times before when he couldn't read Dean or at least guessed what he was going to do. So it was another surprise in the last couple of days the younger Winchester had experienced.

"Breakfast?" Dean said, motioning at the table where there was the rest of the scrambled eggs and bacon on the third plate he had made for them.

"Starving," Gabriel said with a small smile, rubbing his hands together in glee. Sam just looked between them like a deer caught in the headlights.

The older hunter then nodded slightly and took the other plates. After putting them into the sink, he turned around and left, probably to his room to watch TV. Sam pursed his lips a little in thought, a crease appeared again between his eyebrows as he looked blankly after his brother, not even registering that in the meantime Gabriel had walked to the table and sat on the only other earlier unoccupied chair and started stuffing his face. Sam felt as if he was in a constant state of surprise and wonder this morning, as if he was the only one missing something important. And apparently this wasn't the only thing that would arouse bewilderment over everything that had transpired today.

A loud moan drew Sam out of his haze and stirred something within his body. He cast his gaze at the archangel, who finished eating the rest of the food and moaned again at the last mouthful, sounding almost like a porn star. Suddenly, Sam felt rather hot and tried to look at anything but the other man. His eyes darting around the kitchen and noticing the dishes in the sink, he quickly decided to wash it. These feelings Sam was experiencing were never a good sign. He didn't even know the reason for them. It was just that Gabriel was alive and awake, walking and talking as usual. But somehow, right now, when they were in the same room - both silent on top of that - Sam started noticing much more about the archangel. And he realized that somewhere in this shitstorm that had happened to them lately, he had started to care for Gabriel more than just for any other person. The younger Winchester acknowledged Gabriel's wish to help and he was grateful. He knew that he viewed the archangel as his friend even. But this was something stronger, primal. Something within just pulled him closer to the being sitting behind him and he didn't know what had triggered it or how to deal with it even.

"Sam? Are you okay?" Gabriel asked concernedly, suddenly standing just a few inches next to him at the sink with his empty plate, placing it on the counter there, and Sam felt a strong shiver running through him and this unexpected closeness had given him goose bumps all over his body. The archangel had been watching him curiously, trying to read him but apparently he quite couldn't with his powers weakened.

"Nothing," Sam glanced at Gabriel for a millisecond, trying to ignore the intense stare the archangel was giving him, and continued washing. After a while, Gabriel walked away, Sam just didn't trust himself to look casual for a few moments so he kept putting the dishes in the right places, trying to think about something else than his weird feelings and emotions. At these times, he really understood why Dean didn't want to talk about his issues. It was maddening.

"Are you sure? You seem... not yourself. Has something happened while I was sleeping?" Gabriel asked curiously, still sitting at the table and watching Sam as he turned around, drying his hands with a rag.

"No?" Sam said but it sounded like a question even to him. He scolded himself for his hesitant answer as he ran his fingers through his hair, pulling a little at the ends.

"Are you asking me? Sam, seriously, tell me if you think or feel something's wrong. It's important. And with the state I'm in, I can't just snap my fingers and sort everything out," Gabriel said with a worried tone in his voice. Sam just sighed in surrender and decided to mention feeling a little bit more exhausted than he should this morning.

"Well, I just...I feel really bad, like tired. A lot. And it doesn't feel like it would normally. After a hunt," Sam explained as he sat at the other chair, putting his head on his folded hands on the table in front of him. There was silence for a few beats and the hunter started to think that Gabriel wouldn't comment on it, or just walked away and didn't care about him enough to help, which elicited a pulsing pain within his chest. But it had been a brief notion as Sam felt soft touches on his head, fingers sliding into his hair and running through his locks. It was soothing and the pain disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared. He hummed quietly, enjoying the attention. The exhaustion wasn't that bad anymore and he didn't felt like dead man walking. Sam leaned into the touch, not even realizing what he was doing.

"Better?" Gabriel asked softly, still massaging his head.

"Yeah. What'd you do?" Sam mumbled into his hands, savouring the feeling of tranquillity and safety.

"Well, my grace, I just used my grace to help you," Gabriel said just as calmly as before. Right after Sam caught up with his words, he jumped upright in shock, already missing the archangel's soothing hands.

"What?! Gabriel, you're losing your power. Why would you do that?!" Sam exclaimed in disbelief over Gabriel's actions.

"It helped you. It was the right thing to do and even if it had been the last thing I did with my grace, I'd have done it anyway. It's what I am, what I should be," Gabriel stressed his last words and then abruptly stood up, his fingers tapping on the table nervously, "and I enjoy helping you," he added solemnly but sobered quickly into the being Sam had come to know when they had first met and worked together. Gabriel smirked and winked at Sam and left. The hunter sat there stunned with a slightly opened mouth. After a few minutes of staring blankly - again - at the doorway, Sam noticed his parted lips and pressed them back together, shaking himself out of his stupor.

What the hell just happened? Sam thought to himself while still sitting there alone in the kitchen, wondering if he might be dreaming. Too many questions swarmed his head and he couldn't quite stop his mind to pop up more and create a complete mess of it all. He didn't feel like shit anymore, that was good, of course, but now he couldn't stop thinking about what Gabriel had said to him, the words echoing in his head over and over again like a broken record. And after Sam had let his mind indulge in all that thinking, he came to one conclusion. All those feelings and emotions combined with all of that he had heard Gabriel say to him incited something deeper inside him. Something he hadn't felt for a very long time. It was pleasant, warming his body to the bone, though terrifying at the same time. And then Sam remembered Jack's and Gabriel's words the other day and panicked.

What if... what if this was exactly what Gabriel needs? To belong? Just in a more profound way? Sam mused in his head, smiling to himself over the words. Maybe it wasn't such a lost case.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

He was running again. Maybe not out of the bunker - yet - but right now, he needed to be as far away from Sam as possible. So, the room he had woken up in it was.

Gabriel suspected what was going on with Sam. When he had touched the hunter to sooth the ache in his body, Gabriel has sensed how his soul - bright and intense - had reached out for his grace and it was a beautiful feeling - the warmth of kindness spreading out through thin links between Sam's soul and his grace. The archangel hadn't experienced such a sensation for a very long time. Since leaving Heaven actually. It reminded him of his home and love of his brothers. That was why he was so afraid to fully acknowledge it, even though his grace desired it. He himself wanted it deep down. However, the fear he felt was stronger than his will of trying to gain something just for himself. Even if Gabriel tried, what if he got rejected? What if this connection wouldn't be reciprocated? But the more time the archangel spent in Sam's presence, the deeper he fell. And every time, when Sam would look at him with those patient and empathetic eyes full of curiosity and wonder, his soul shining like Sun, the light expanding through his body from his heart like a warm beacon, Gabriel would succumb even more into the feeling of belonging. As if Sam was happy to see him, or liked him. But the archangel was scarred and unworthy of the hunter. He had failed to save his world and then help Sam. All these thoughts were raging in his mind like a hurricane.

Gabriel was tired of running and hiding, though. He felt exhausted even just by thinking about feelings and emotions that were fighting his mind and reason. His grace wanted a connection, yearned for a special bond with someone who was a part of this world so that Gabriel wouldn't be expelled - erased - from it as if he had never existed, but he was frightened of this. It was getting difficult to defy this self-preservation instinct, though. The archangel didn't want to be a burden, since he actually didn't belong here. But this strong thing he had started feeling towards the younger Winchester complicated the situation.

There were boundaries in the universe which no one should have ever crossed. But Gabriel had and these were the consequences. And even though he wanted to help Sam get their angel back from wherever he was right now, and his mother from his world, they had limited options. And truthfully, he was scared of stepping back into that ruin of a home he had run from. All those conflicting thoughts and feelings were tearing him apart from within. It was maddening.

As he walked briskly - ran - down the hall to rest - hide - into his room, Gabriel remembered the books he had read about bonds and other worlds, and he knew that those old - unknown - books had never been in his library. Couldn't have been. Those old tomes had held so much information on rare, or almost impossible, phenomena, which were quite unimaginable even for him. And of course, there were things that even an archangel shouldn't know. Well, Gabriel had always been good at listening in and sneaking around so he could learn more and cause even more mischief back home in Heaven (not that he had learned the things he should have), and thanks to his curious nature he had heard many forbidden spells - such as creating his own dimensions and pocket universes, even cloaking himself so that other creatures couldn't sense his true identity. But books about bonds between an archangel and a human, especially when that archangel was from another world? That was just so strange and suspicious.

And then the Nephilim had told Sam that he was the only one that could save the archangel from completely disappearing from existence. How did he know that? He had to have help from someone even powerful than him, but whom? There was probably just one being stronger than him that Gabriel could think of, though he didn't want to even think about Him after everything He had put them all through. But it was the only explanation he had come up with so far.

Laying on his bed, legs crossed over his ankles, his arms bent behind his head, leaning against the headboard, Gabriel reflected on the recent events, on his critical state after facing the Nephilim when he had collapsed right in front of the hunters and his grace had shut everything down just to save enough energy to survive till another day. And then he had woken up feeling quite refreshed, considering the state he had been in, realizing just a half hour after that Sam - probably unaware - had given him some of his life's energy. His soul was so giving and craving for something, someone, that his grace had just took it and hadn't looked back. Gabriel knew that it could have been worse, since at that moment, he hadn't had control over himself at all. But apparently, his grace now desired the connection again and urged him to finish it, to close up the holes between the delicate ties Sam's soul had already created, and bond with him. But the question was - why? Why had it even happened? Gabriel had an idea which confused him, weakening his resolution not to get too close to the hunter. His decision to hold himself back hurt him a little and cost him a lot of power.

Gabriel knew a way to save himself but couldn't convince himself to do it because of the consequences. Not for him, but for the other. It was a bond for eternity and he had stopped being a selfish asshole a few years ago. Especially now, when his grace had chosen. And when it had happened, Gabriel hadn't even been surprised. He had felt admiration towards Sam since the beginning, since the first sight of his soul full of hope and natural curiosity. Of course, there were dark shadows over the edges gained during his hard life, but its core was the warmest and brightest thing Gabriel had ever seen, rivalling the angel's light.

Startled by several knocks on the door, the archangel collected himself as he straightened a bit, feeling weakly who it was behind it. Gabriel sighed in exhaustion. It was Sam. Just what I need right now, he mused to himself as he breathed in deeply and pushed all his concerns and fears into the back of his mind, trying to clear the jumble of thoughts in his head. And it was challenging, especially after he realized what had happened between them.

"Come on in," Gabriel called out before he crossed his arms quickly over his chest and pressed his fingers into fists to centre himself and get control over his crazy grace. The door opened a crack and from behind them Sam was peaking into the room, a small - almost unperceivable - smile appeared on his face accompanied by little creases at the corners of his eyes, making them even brighter, blinding Gabriel's senses and making him inhale quickly in a sudden current of emotions. All that energy devoted into calming himself down had been in vain. Just one look at Sam - and his presence - had shot his resolution to be stronger into the wind. Gabriel gulped and averted his gaze onto the blanket he was laying on.

"D'you mind if we talk?" Sam said, still standing in the doorway, waiting for Gabriel to let him into his space. The archangel wanted to resist, tried to, but he just couldn't anymore.

"No, no, it's okay. What's up?" Gabriel asked tentatively, all his attempts not to sound terrified - even though he really was - of what was going to happen now when they were in the same room, both awake and drawn to each other, were utterly futile. Even if Sam didn't realize it.

Sam walked into the room, closing behind himself, and then went towards the bed, sitting at the further edge of it but close to Gabriel's feet. The archangel's grace rejoiced in the hunter's close proximity. Maybe it had been a bad idea to let Sam in, but there was no way to back out of it now. Gabriel couldn't hold the look Sam was giving him, just glancing at him here and there for a few seconds to see what the hunter was doing. He felt uneasiness from Sam, the tension between them was growing quickly. The longer they kept silent, the more nervous Gabriel got.

"You know," Sam started, smoothing the creases on the blanket, "I was thinking about what you've said earlier and I don't get it. Why would you do that despite having no power to spare for yourself. It's just...why me?" the hunter asked completely seriously. Gabriel's eyes widened in surprise and disbelief. Was Sam telling him that he didn't know how beautiful he was?

"Are you serious?" Gabriel asked incredulously, still gaping at Sam in shock, now pressing his palms into the blanket, leaning forward a little as he sat up, crossing his legs. The younger Winchester didn't disappoint and a powerful bitchface appeared on his face.

"Of course, I'm serious," Sam said exasperated but continued right away, "you read the books, you know what I did, what I became. I was Lucifer's vessel and was with him in the Cage. I'm not a good person, Gabe. I try helping people but in reality I'm hurting them just by talking to them. And then I go and force you to help me finding Jack and Cas, though it's not even your problem and I'm just using you. Don't you see that? Why would you even wanna be in the same room as me? You are an archangel and honestly, I always wondered who you were under all those masks and fake bravado, and now when I've seen you, the real you. No matter what happened in your world, here, you're selfless and supportive, risking your own life for us. And I feel guilty just thinking about asking you for help once again, though you're the only one who can right now."

"Sam, what the hell are you talking about?" Gabriel asked, still in shock from what he was hearing from the hunter, not understanding the words that were coming from his lips. It was too much, but apparently, Sam wasn't stopping just yet.

"Jack said that I could help you and what I'm trying to say is that if you want...me, I mean. If it's the only way how to save you...No, let me finish, Gabriel," Sam said quickly as he raised his right hand, stopping Gabriel with from interrupting him. It was too much. The archangel didn't even know what he would say to all of that. What the hell's happening?

"I know what Jack meant - sort of - and I felt it, something between us. And I want you to stay. I just..." Sam paused for a moment, running his fingers through his hair in a nervous tick, then looking back at Gabriel intensely, as if challenging him to argue. The hunter shuffled closer to him, putting his hands onto Gabriel's, they were sweaty but warm. An electric pulse surged into his whole body and grace. The archangel saw Sam shiver as well upon the contact and he closed his eyes, waiting for whatever was about to happen, feeling the other's fingers clenching over his own.

"Gabriel, I don't fully understand it. You'd have to explain it to me, but whatever it is, it feels good, calming, right. And whatever's the reason you chose to stick around, I hope you stay for a bit longer. Please, Gabe, if I can help, let me."

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

This. Just within his arms reach... He couldn't mess it up.

Sam squeezed Gabriel's hands, almost completely engulfing them within his own how small they were, and pressed his body even closer to the other's, sensing the pull between them - just a sliver - as he watched the archangel for any signs of what was going on in his head right now. Sam had just told him what he felt and what he hoped for. Maybe it was too big a revelation for them both after so much happening around them. Maybe he'd really messed it up just talking about it and revealing his attraction towards Gabriel, and not just that. It was more. This, between them - whatever it was - had been getting stronger by each moment they had spent together.

Sam had experienced this feeling a very long time ago and almost forgotten how incredible and fearsome it was. When Sam thought about what he'd been feeling in more depth, thoroughly analyzed his actions from all those years ago, meeting Gabriel - the Trickster - for the first time, if he hadn't been blinded by rage and emotionally hurt after Mystery Spot, he would have seen that, given enough time and better circumstances, there could have been something between them. Actually, there had been something the first time they had met and talked - playful and magnetic. It was just now when the hunter realized what it might have evolved into.

Maybe it hadn't been that strong with their Gabriel because of what the archangel had done to Dean and him. Gabriel playing with them had ruined the chance to get to know each other more. Even if Sam had forgiven him in the end, he had never forgotten all those days losing his brother. Chuck knew if they'd have worked.

This Gabriel in front of him, though, making himself even smaller than his vessel already was - for reasons Sam didn't know - had never harmed them. The archangel had aided the Winchesters with both research and Jack, even though there had been nothing he could have gained from it. Actually, the opposite. This man - still not reacting to the words Sam had said - had been shaped by the life in the other world into someone Sam admired and really wanted him to stay at his side no matter what would happen next. And there would always be danger following them everywhere. Sam just hoped that their paths wouldn't part so soon if he could help it. The Winchesters were famous for defying death and in this case, there was an actual possibility to save Gabriel from death's clutches.

The archangel had kept silent the whole time Sam had been thinking about the rightness of his admission to him. Gabriel hadn't even twitched a finger. It was so unlike him that it unnerved Sam quite a bit. Somehow, everything stopped around them. It was so quiet that even Sam, who always sought peace and calm, started to feel a bit anxious. Gabriel could still reject his offer. Maybe all these emotions and sensations the hunter had been feeling around him were just in his head. Maybe they were one-sided. What if he wasn't the one who could help Gabriel. What if he was just someone who would find the person whom the archangel needed to survive, to belong? Sam was still that boy with the demon blood, having so many sins on his plate. But he wouldn't know without asking and giving Gabriel a choice. There still was a chance he was that person.

Sam could almost see the cogs turning in Gabriel's head, still frozen like a statue. It must have been hours since he had admitted his feelings - or maybe it just seemed like it anyway - and Sam was getting really nervous, and the more time they spent so close to each other in silence, the more his mind raged with doubts. Fear started creeping out from the dark depths of his soul onto the surface, showing its ugly head and making him feel regret. The rejection would probably kill him from inside. Because that would mean that Gabriel would rather die than be with him and live. And even though, at that time, Sam didn't want to hide anything, especially the facts about himself, when looking at it from the archangel's perspective? Who the hell would want someone like him?

"Stop, Sam," Gabriel whispered, almost inaudibly but with such force, it startled the hunter and drew him back out of his head. Although he didn't understand what he should stop with. Sam's brows furrowed in confusion at the words.

"What?" Sam croaked and immediately cleared his throat, "What are you talking about. I wasn't doing anything." He couldn't think of anything he could have done. He was holding Gabriel's hands. Maybe that was it?

Sam was about to back off and leave Gabriel alone, feeling the rejection he had feared so much as he suppressed the hurt growing within his chest. Trying not to look into Gabriel's eyes so that the other man wouldn't see how much this had affected him. Though, when he tried to unclench his fingers from Gabriel's, the archangel caught them in midair and drew Sam back, even closer this time. Their faces were just a few inches apart, their breaths mingled together and the warmth they both radiated created this cocoon just for them, almost out of reality. Their eyes met and the space between them was slowly getting smaller by each heartbeat. Sam vaguely felt Gabriel's right hand slipping away from his as he tentatively slid his palm up over his arm to the back of his neck, and then ran his fingers through his locks. The hunter was so mesmerized by Gabriel's eyes and by the noise in his ears and rapid rush of his blood within his veins that he didn't realize that he was pulled even closer and his eyes shut involuntarily as they kissed for the first time.

And in that moment, Sam felt the jolt of power and emotions flowing between them in just this small but significant brush of their lips. It felt like they had just sealed something he couldn't even start to understand. He also couldn't believe what was happening but tried to remember it, burning it into his mind.

It felt like forever when they finally went for much needed air, and then Sam realized that his hands had migrated onto Gabriel's neck and shoulder during the kiss, keeping him close still as if he was unconsciously afraid of losing him. The connection between them had been severed and the hunter immediately missed it.

Sam looked into Gabriel's eyes and couldn't believe what he saw. Hurriedly, the hunter wiped the tears running over the archangel's cheeks and crushed him into the hug, breathing him in as if he was his air, running his fingers through Gabriel's soft hair. Gabriel wrapped his arms around Sam and held him in a firm embrace, burying his face into his chest. It was reassuring in a way. They were holding each other for a few minutes, just to show to one another that this was real.

"Just stop with the self-deprecating bullshit," Gabriel mumbled annoyed, sniffing quietly. Sam huffed out a laugh and kept smiling over the way how the archangel deflated the serious moment between them. After a few more minutes, he continued with a serious tone in his voice.

"I can hear it, you know. I can feel and see your soul. And it's really hard not to reach out and try to heal it, even though I realize, in reality I can't do that, but it's really annoying to fight my own nature. So, stop it and let me enjoy this moment in peace at least for a little while longer," he pleaded and squeezed Sam even more.

The position they were in was awkward and uncomfortable, but Sam didn't really care. This was nice and he had waited for it for a very long time. This feeling of belonging and closeness to someone else who knew who he was and what he did. They had stayed in each other's arms for a while longer, just enjoying the warmth enveloping them both like a protection. Sam felt tingles within his chest, his heart was beating like crazy as if happy to be finally near to Gabriel, soaking in it.

"Sam?" Gabriel said, calm and collected again as he unwrapped his arms from around Sam eventually but immediately slid them down over his chest to hold onto his hands where they laid in his lap. Sam shifted a bit so that he could face the archangel more comfortably, bending his left knee on the bed, and patiently waited for Gabriel to continue what was on his mind.

"I don't know what to say," Gabriel paused as he started stroking Sam's hands in small soothing circles, "you're so much more than you think, Sam. And honestly, it would be my honour to be yours, but I don't know how it really works. Never done that, obviously," Gabriel chuckled nervously, trying for humour but failing, as he tilted his head down, a few strands of his silky hair fell over his forehead, shielding his expressive face. Sam had to stop himself to reach out and tugging them back. Gabriel shook his head a little and sighed loudly before he looked back at Sam. The hunter didn't react, letting the other man to continue his train of thought, his fingers twitching slightly with the urge to run his fingers through Gabriel's hair which still covered some of his face, but he knew that that would distract them both from a talk they needed to finish.

"And I don't wanna force you into it because you don't owe me anything. No, Sam, let me get this through," Gabriel said pleadingly as he stopped Sam from arguing, putting his palm over his mouth. The hunter narrowed his eyes in disagreement, but after a few moments of having Gabriel's hand holding him silent, he rolled his eyes in exasperation and nodded to let him know he wouldn't interrupt him.

"You've said your piece already, let me finish mine," the archangel smiled subtly, laugh lines forming at the corners of his captivating whiskey coloured orbs. Sam's eyes trailed over his face, noticing every little detail he could, burning the image into his brain so he would never forget. Although he couldn't even imagine that he would ever forget. He felt fleeting brush of Gabriel's fingers over his right cheek and sensed the other man's intense gaze, piercing through his defences right to his heart. Who knows what he really looks like in his true form? Sam mused silently.

“I don't really know what you see in me, Sam. And your words, you willing to sacrifice your entire life to save me threw me off the rail. I just don't know how to react.”

“That's the first,” Sam chuckled, trying to lighten up the situation. The archangel rolled his eyes at his remark, a small smile formed on his face, which made the hunter happy even more than he thought it would.

“I'm being serious here,” Gabriel pouted but the subtle curve of his lips was already making its way onto his face again.

“So am I,” Sam countered playfully. It felt so natural talking to Gabriel like this and touching him softly every now and then, being so close to him, and not just physically. He felt the pulsing within his chest; warm and inviting.

“Yeah, yeah, keep telling that yourself,” Gabriel huffed out a laugh as he shook his head, faking annoyance. After a few seconds his face sobered, though, and he looked back up into Sam's eyes, staring into them intently.

“But really, Sam, you have to be sure because this is for forever. Once you agree to bond with me, you can't just back out of it when you realize we don't work together. Or at the first fight, you leave and live with someone else. You can't just spring this on me and think that the bond will save me and then, after a few months – years – you change your mind. Don't do this just because you want me to help you. I'll do it anyway. You must understand that, Sam. There's no turning back after this and you have to be sure,” Gabriel said with a serious tone in his voice, desperately trying to explain the important part of the bonding so that Sam would understand. But Sam could also hear the longing in his words. That, even though the archangel tried to point out the magnitude of the decision to do this, deep down, he wanted the connection. There was no other way how to interpret that spark in Gabriel's eyes or how he was holding his hands firmly in his, as if afraid of letting go. Sam couldn't be mistaken about that; his hunter's skills and instincts would never disappoint him in others' feelings.

“But, Gabriel, you can't wait any longer. Don't even deny it. How much longer you can stay here without risking your life? And don't lie to me because you collapsed just a few days ago, just like that without any warning or anything. And don't even start saying it was nothing. I was there, and I watched over you when you slept or whatever that was. You looked…” Sam paused, furrowing his eyebrows as he remembered how he had felt back then when he hadn't known what had happened to the archangel, or if he was going to die on him, before his eyes. It pained him just to think about it.

“I'm sorry,” Gabriel said, squeezing Sam's hands a little.

“No, don't be sorry for that. It just happened and you couldn't have known. But don't pretend everything's okay and that we find another way because if there were any, you would've already told me,” Sam said with certainty he now felt. He knew this Gabriel much more than theirs.

“You're so sure about yourself,” Gabriel said with a smile that grew bigger by each second, then he shook his head looking down at their joined hands. After a short pause, he added, “but you're right. Actually, you're right about everything.”

“Of course, I'm right,” Sam said and smiled at the archangel, who was still staring at their clasped hands.

“Don't let it go into your head, Samster. My ego is huge enough for both of us,” Gabriel said with a shaky laugh as he glanced into Sam's eyes briefly but averted his gaze again down onto his lap as if he was embarrassed. Maybe it was too much a chick-flick moment for him – as Dean would have called it – and they both needed to think about this separately anyway. Although Sam knew that he wasn't going to change his mind. The thought of eternity though? That was scary regardless of his feelings.

“If it makes you feel better, I'll think about it some more. I know it seems sudden to you, but I've felt something for you for a while. And it's not a sacrifice from my part. Anyway, I'm gonna go to the library,” Sam said as he unfolded himself from Gabriel's grasp and stood up from the bed, stretching his muscles. When his eyes dropped down to look at the archangel, he caught him staring at the thin patch of bare skin between his shirt and the belt of his jeans. That elicited a fierce pulse of heat through him

“You can join me if you want?” the hunter said with a question at the end as he saw Gabriel's eyes darken. They stared at each other for a few more beats before Sam blinked to moisten his eyes and in that second, the archangel had averted his own gaze, shifting his body to lean onto the headboard, making himself more comfortable as he sighed heavily and closed his eyes.

"Thanks for the offer but we both know we'd distract each other and you need to think about what I've said. Go do your thing," Gabriel said while making shooing gestures with his hands at Sam which made the hunter laugh, "I'm not gonna disappear for a while."

"Okay, then," Sam said, his mind already running on overdrive. He wanted it - the bond. But Gabriel wouldn't let him decide without thinking about it first. Well, the library was the best place for that, actually.

"See you later, I guess," Sam said and he slowly turned around.  As he opened the door, about to walk out of the room, he could hear Gabriel say, "You bet, Samshine."  The hunter smiled at that and headed to the library. He had much to think about.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 14

After hearing the door being closed and then footsteps echoing farther down the hall, Gabriel screwed his eyes and rubbed over them with his fingers as pulsing pain ran through his head, marking out the beginnings of a headache. That was something he would have to get used to if he was losing his powers and becoming more human. Of course, it was still better than completely disappearing from existence. But honestly? Gabriel was afraid. Scared to death for the first time in a long time. Back then, when he had been hunted for fun like an animal, the archangel had accepted that life on the run, always looking behind his back and feeling trapped within a game he had been forced to play.

This - here and now - was different in a way that Gabriel didn't want to give up, because he finally had something - someone - to live for and tried to do better, redeem himself for the things he had done to others. Sam was too kind and maybe a bit blinded by his actions here. Gabriel wasn't that someone whom the hunter admired and was attracted to. He was scarred, tortured and a bearer of so many wrongdoings, Gabriel couldn't even call himself an archangel anymore and hadn't been one for a very long time. He hoped that helping Sam with the research to find their angel, or what happened to their mother, would silence the guilt that was eating at him constantly. But now Gabriel knew that it was just a wishful thinking.

Gabriel liked Sam and his grace - even dying one - pulled him towards the hunter, even though he felt unworthy of such a brave soul. And at first, he thought that it had been just his grace, messing with his head and emotions. But now, when it was weakened and not strong enough to actually control him in any way, the archangel realized that this was real. All these human emotions and body reactions he started to feel were driving him crazy. Gabriel didn't know what to think, what all of that meant because he couldn't even remember if he had ever felt that way in his long life.

Then, Sam had told him that he would bond with him. Just like that. The younger Winchester didn't know much about that and still offered. Gabriel couldn't get rid of the feeling that Sam did it just to save his only source of information but without his grace or power, the archangel wouldn't be useful to him anymore. Gabriel couldn't even rely on his instincts, he lost the ability to recognize the colours of souls. Somehow, suddenly, the direct contact with Sam was the only way how to at least feel a little what the hunter felt. But the colours? Those were dimmed down for him. There would come the time when Gabriel couldn't see anything radiating from the soul anymore. One of the scariest things he was going to be dealing with very soon.

There was still that thought that Sam was just trying to save him somehow and not thinking about the consequences properly, which occupied the majority of his mind, nagging him every second of time doing nothing in his room. Gabriel just couldn't get rid of the idea of trapping the hunter into something he actually didn't want. The archangel was just glad that Sam was rational about it and wouldn't do any rushed decisions without at least thinking it over first.

But deep down, Gabriel was afraid of this - the bond - and committing himself to only one human for the rest of his life. He feared that it was a mistake, that he didn't deserve it, or Sam for that matter, and that he would screw it up once again as he had before with his family. Gabriel was terrified of disappointing the only person who considered him worthy of connection to him for eternity and he still didn't know why or how. All these questions and fears made him weak and tired emotionally. For the first time ever, Gabriel had experienced such chaos in his mind that the only thing he could do was to curl into himself on the bed and try to calm his nerves and all the bodily reactions causing him huge distress over his future.

The archangel clenched his hands into fists firmly, his knuckles whitening in the strength he was pressing his fingers into his palms. The pain surging through the nerve connections in the skin there distracted him a little from the beginnings of a panic attack. Gabriel couldn't let himself crumble under the pressure of all those human reactions and emotions and fears he was feeling. He had a job which he couldn't just leave unfinished and if he still possessed some grace and knowledge, he should help the hunters in any way possible to complete his mission. Even though Gabriel had realized some time ago that this wasn't just an ordinary job anymore, that it was getting personal, he couldn't abandon and run away to die in a corner somewhere when the Winchesters needed his help to get their family back together. When Sam needs my help, Gabriel thought earnestly. All these contradictory thoughts were driving him crazy. He pressed his face into the pillow, squeezing it with his fists and rubbing his forehead over it to overcome the sensations running through every part of his body and making him ache everywhere as if he had just been run over by a freight train. Maybe it was Gabriel's weakening grace, letting him feel fully his vessel all at once for the first time, or he just realized what he'd been going through and until now, the adrenaline had been just masking the effects.

The archangel felt exhausted, completely drained. After a few short moments, he decided that sleeping was the best thing he could do, at least before he got himself back together again. Gabriel had a plan and he needed someone to help him with it. Even though it was a stupid idea and Sam would probably tear him a new one (not a good time to have weird sexual fantasies, thank you very much) if he survived it, but it was the only way he could think of to get this family complete again.

With that thought, suddenly Gabriel's mind quietened and there was just one image before his closed eyes, clear as a day, helping him centre himself and concentrate on his mission once again and calming down that little spark of his grace still residing within his chest. Its warmth spread into his veins and after a couple of sluggish blinks of his eyes, Gabriel fell asleep, already trying to amass more power for tomorrow. There was so much to do and he needed every ounce of his strength to pull through.

***

Gabriel opened his eyes and squinted a couple of times. He thought that he was having a dream as his vision was blurred around the edges and his movements were too sluggish even for the loss of his power. Although, Gabriel had already experienced such a state after he had... No! Can't think about it! The archangel's inner voice cried out in horror and he stopped that train of thought quickly.

Sitting on a bed, Gabriel noticed blankets scattered around the room, torn apart into pieces. The scene vaguely reminded him of having been here once before. The memories weren't clear on where or when it had happened, but Gabriel had this gut feeling that this place should have been familiar to him. The archangel shook his head to clear his jumbled thoughts out of his mind and looked around carefully, and then his eyes stopped on the door opposite to the bed, iron bars obstructing his view from the world outside. A shiver ran through him like a torrent. Subconsciously, Gabriel knew where he was, but it was difficult to separate the memory from the others. He screwed his eyes in concentration and ran his fingers over his face and hair several times until he was yanked out of the haze by dull sounds of the footsteps, echoing in the corridor behind the barred doors. A quiet whistling accompanied the shuffling of the heavy boots and Gabriel stared intently at the flickering artificial light in the hallway, just above the door. His heart was beating like crazy as he was waiting to see the one who was coming for him.

It was that anticipation that was making him dizzy and nervous as hell, and Gabriel felt so helpless, it was killing him from inside. The archangel wanted to run away, it was an instinct of self-preservation. The fear of what was about to happen elicited a pulsing ache behind his chest, right at his core, and he still couldn't remember why he was experiencing such strong emotions and the sinking feeling of approaching darkness was making him wary. He couldn't keep his eyes open as he listened the noises behind the door, drawing inevitably closer and closer. After a few excruciating moments, it stopped without warning and blinding silence surrounded the whole place.

And then, Gabriel remembered.

His eyes widened in recognition and terror as he looked at his shaky hands laid on his knees. A deep furrow appeared between his eyebrows. Why was he here again? What had happened? Had it been just a dream or a game to destroy his willpower and desire to be free again? A very familiar chuckle caused a freezing chill race through every inch of his body and paralysed him completely. It was like a reflex the archangel had gone through countless times before.

"Brother dear, how have you been?" A voice behind the bars said sweetly, but Gabriel could hear how fake it sounded and it sent violent shivers through his limbs.

"No, you can't be here, this isn't real. I'm dreaming," Gabriel kept murmuring as he clenched his fists, never looking up at Lucifer. The archangel tried to assure himself that this was just a figment of his cruel and masochistic imagination. This couldn't be true. He had been in a bunker just a moment ago, sleeping and gathering much needed power to seek out the Nephilim again and getting Castiel and the hunters' mother back from that hell hole of his original home. But... Hadn't that been just a fantasy made by his weakened mind? NO!

"Humph," Lucifer clicked his tongue in disapproval, "this is how you greet your favourite brother, Gabriel?" he sighed in disappointment but Gabriel couldn't look at him and see his face because otherwise, it would destroy him. He felt tired and without his grace, he was powerless and terrified of what was going to happen. The archangel couldn't go through the torture again. After all those months living in safety, he wasn't going to make it. Not that there was anything outside this cell for him to live for anymore. There was no Sam and his beautiful soul, no Dean and his grumpiness, no life in general. Nothing. Just a wasteland.

"Gabriel, little bro, talk to me. You love me, don't you? I'm your big brother, right? Why are you doing this to yourself," Lucifer was now standing just in front of him, his voice sweet and pleading, but behind all those words was hate and darkness which had ruined the world. Gabriel wanted to wake up. This had to be a dream. This isn't real, wake up! Wake up, dammit! He tried to get out of this hell on Earth. Nightmare or not.

"Stop, Gabriel! You can't keep running from me forever. I will find you sooner or later-" Lucifer was still talking, now with urgency and anger, but the words made no sense. It started to sound like gibberish to Gabriel and he felt his body moving violently, his muscles twitching uncontrollably, though he was still sitting on the ramshackle of a bed, noticing only now that his clothes were in tatters. What the hell is happening? he repeated over and over again in his head, finally looking up at Lucifer, but his face was blurred as if shrouded by a thick fog but two hands were holding him strongly at his arms. The archangel rubbed at his eyes, thinking intensively about disappearing from this godforsaken place, and then...

***

Gabriel felt a stinging pain on his cheek and his body bolted upright in reflex, his eyes popped out in fear. His heart was beating fast while he was trying to regain his ability to breathe but couldn't. There was an unfamiliar pain within his chest and he could hear someone whispering to him soothingly, holding him and talking him through breathing.

"Breathe, Gabriel, breathe. It's okay, you're okay. It was just a dream. Just like that. In and out. Good," the voice repeated the words over and over again, calming him down and getting him back out of that horrible place. The archangel was grateful for the help, though he hated how weak it made him right now, that he needed someone else to be normal again. And he wanted to do what again? Go and demand the Nephilim's help? In this state? Alone?! It was bordering the highest levels of stupidity. He was stupid.

"Gabriel, look at me, it's okay. You're not stupid. It was a bad dream. Everyone's had them at least once in their life. You're here. In the bunker, with me and Dean. You're safe," the voice - Sam's voice, he recognized him - was saying patiently. The hunter held him at his shoulders and walking him through all of this. It was reassuring in a way, though he still felt like an idiot, having been caught in his weakest moment.

"Sam..." Gabriel breathed out, finally calming himself down, the pains and aches were slowly disappearing. As he was near the hunter, his grace rejoiced in the close proximity and strengthened their connection once more, even though neither of them initiate it. The archangel sighed deeply in resignation and didn't even try to fight it. Why was Sam so giving? So empathetic? He didn't know him. And still, Gabriel leaned forward and rested his head on the hunter's firm chest and immediately, there were fingers running through his hair, soothing him even more into compliance. This wasn't exactly what he had been planning to do but it felt good and like home, and he wanted to be selfish again, just take what he was offered and never look back.

Oh, Gabriel was a mess right now but still determined to help the hunters. No matter what. That was his priority. The thing was that the dream hadn't been just a nightmare. It had been a glimpse into his past and that past was only around the corner, lurking in the dark, waiting for him to come back. There was no way Gabriel could avoid it. He needed to go back there and face his fears - his lost brother. And maybe he would die in the process, but what he wouldn't do for the Winchesters? For Sam? The archangel huffed a laugh at that. How he understood now why the other him from this world had died for them. And here he was, willing to do the same without hesitation.

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

Some would say it had been a coincidence. But in their line work? Hardly.

Sam had walked just around Gabriel's room that one morning while wandering aimlessly through the bunker, looking for something to do other than research, when he heard whimpers and moans from there. But, maybe, there was an explanation to all these gut feelings he had been having lately. These strange but somehow familiar vibes flowing around the bunker these days that always led him to Gabriel or his room.

It was fun to spend time with the other man. They talked about their lives and research, ancient spells (some of them forbidden) and in rare moments, they discussed possibilities how to get Mary and Cas back if they were still alive. That, they didn't really know. And then, there was the connection between them, growing stronger slowly but surely. At least, Sam felt the pull towards the archangel more in terms of mind than body. It was the intellectual stimulation their conversations gave him. It was the depth of Gabriel's personality, hidden from others under thick layers of sarcasm and humour, but sometimes Sam could see glimpses of his true self. Each day, Gabriel had given away more about himself, and the more the hunter learned, the more he felt connected to him.

And after Sam had found out about the bond. It had been a whirlwind for him since. But still, he couldn't just forget about it and move on. He was scared of it. He really was. The hunter had waited, thinking it all through as Gabriel had told him. He couldn't take this lightly. But something just felt right about it, as if Sam had been waiting for it his whole life - this sense of belonging and completeness, safety and loyalty. In his line of work, these things didn't appear out of thin air and usually were lost in time one way or the other. But Gabriel was different in so many aspects.

So Sam shouldn't have been surprised to be drawn to the archangel on many occasions.

Like that early morning.

***

The hunter felt restless. The fact that he hadn't slept well didn't help things. It was still too early in the morning, so Sam threw his blanket aside and went to dress himself. After a while of thinking what to do as he sat on the bed, leaning with his forearms forward onto his knees, the hunter realized that he couldn't possibly go into the library and read more lore or his head would explode. Even the younger Winchester had his limits being holed up in the bunker for too long. So he had decided to go for a run with at least some certainty that he wouldn't come back to a dead body.

Dean and Gabriel had their moments of bickering and looking at each other suspiciously as if both were waiting for the other to try something nefarious. It would have been funny if Sam hadn't had a bad feeling from the silent interactions they had been having with each other. Or more like glaring daggers at each other. Although, Sam had to give it to them that it had been getting better each day. Gabriel had been jittery lately, probably because of losing his powers and capability to read souls, and it was obvious from his bad moods. Dean didn't like Gabriel much, still remembering all those times they had interacted with their not so kind version in the past. What else could Sam expect from those two, right?

Moreover, it had been almost a whole day Sam hadn't heard from the archangel. As if he had been hiding from the world in his room. Honestly, it might have been even longer, Gabriel had been acting weird. And when Sam had met him in rare occasions, he had seen the dark circles under his eyes getting even darker and more prominent, and his body had lost its firmness as if he had lost some weight. Sam had his suspicions as he had remembered witnessing Gabriel's nightmares. They hadn't talked about it afterwards and the hunter didn't want to press the issue. Everyone in the bunker had their own fears and dark memories that haunted them at night. Sam just wished Gabriel would trusted him enough to confide in him.

The hunter wanted to give the archangel some privacy or time for himself, but it was quite strange that Gabriel hadn't been out for so long. He hadn't eaten much or gone for his long showers, or to library to chase away boredom. The doors from his room were still closed. The archangel could have kept himself hidden for a reason, or Sam just hadn't seen or met him the times he had been out of his room. Although his obnoxious self would have showed itself sometime in the day and he would have come out eventually and do his thing - piss Dean off, or talk with Sam. The fact that he hadn't appeared even for some food was unusual.

Sam's eyebrows furrowed, creating creases on his forehead as he mulled over the absence of a certain archangel around the bunker. Was Gabriel alright? Should Sam wait for him to come out of his room or check on him anyway?

There was still this feeling of uneasiness creeping into his mind and over his body, as if something was wrong but he couldn't pinpoint what exactly. Dean was still sleeping and there was nothing amiss in the bunker. Sam walked down the hallway, still thinking about this strange feeling inside of him, when he heard it - soft whines from Gabriel's room. The hunter didn't hesitate and opened the door quietly, so not to scare the archangel, but when he peeked in, he could see Gabriel's limbs trashing around in the blanket he was stuck in. Sam knew instantly that he was having a nightmare. As he stepped into the room and approached the bed slowly, bracing himself to be calm and get the archangel out of the obviously dreadful dream from what Sam could hear. Pleas for help and... was that Lucifer's name? Oh God, he's having a nightmare about Lucifer again. Sam recoiled a bit at the name, but he collected himself fast as he remembered the reason why he had actually come into the room.

The hunter sat at the edge of the bed and caressed Gabriel's cheek while whispering to him gently. It wasn't his first rodeo with his nightmares and they were getting better at communicating by touch and patience. At first, Sam couldn't get the archangel out of his dream space, but gradually they had found the best way how to pull Gabriel out into the conscious world. It wasn't easy and took time, but after a few minutes of stroking Gabriel's arms and combing his fingers through his hair, Sam finally managed to wake up the other man without too much trouble.

Gabriel's whiskey-coloured eyes opened and a lazy smile appeared on his lips as his hazy mind supplied who was there with him. It was that moment just after waking up Sam loved the most because Gabriel wouldn't realize right away that he had another nightmare and Sam had been there again, witnessing his weakness. But after a few blissful moments, the archangel would understand what had happened, he would withdraw himself from their closeness. His smile would disappear like a morning mist, averting his eyes away from Sam's.

And Sam had tried. He had tried to understand why Gabriel hid himself from him when they had this unique connection between them. But if they didn't talk about it, about their fears and doubts, it would always hurt more every such moment. Either they accepted the bond, or gave up trying and hurting each other in the process. There was no in-between. And Sam knew that. It was getting more difficult each day when Gabriel would hole up in his room, hiding his feelings and emotions from the hunter. And the archangel had to know that if they didn't communicate to one another and do something about it, eventually, this world would reject him. And that was another thing that was killing Sam little by little, this slow and excruciating death of someone whom he cherished. The decline and fall of this beautiful being whom he loved.

***

"Sam?" Gabriel said tentatively from the doorway to the library. Sam had been sitting there and stubbornly trying to find a way how to save the archangel without the bond. It seemed as if Gabriel had forgotten - or more like denied it had ever happened - their conversation about it, telling him then that it was his choice but he didn't understand that if they were to live together for eternity, they had to talk eventually and believe that this bond between them was real.

"Yeah?" Sam acknowledged the archangel without looking up from the thick, old book in front of him. Its pages had turned yellowish at the edges but it was still full of very useful information for someone in his situation. It was one of the books Gabriel had brought one day saying that it had laid on the table in his hideout. The hunter could sense the close proximity of the familiar body, breathing in the smell of petrichor and the fruity shampoo he had bought Gabriel one day. He had missed it.

"What you doing?" the archangel asked curiously as he sat in the other chair on the other side of the table, leaving enough space between them. Sam furrowed his eyebrows in thought as he tried to make sense of Gabriel's behaviour towards him. As if he had been shutting him out of his life.

"Reading," Sam said bluntly without any trace of emotion on both his face and voice, but in reality, deep down within his chest, his soul was crying for attention and closeness and rejoicing in the other man's presence at the same time. Fortunately, for Sam's own sake, Gabriel couldn't read his soul anymore. The connection between them was still there, but the archangel had lost much of his grace to feel anything without touching Sam.

After a few deafening moments, Sam sighed loudly and closed the book, pressing his palms onto its hard cover. He still didn't look up at Gabriel because he knew that if he did, he would cave in as always. This limbo they were in was driving him insane and Gabriel refusing to discuss it made it even worse.

"D'you need something?" Sam finally asked as he ran his fingers through his hair, trying to find enough strength to face Gabriel. His heart was beating like crazy and he could feel exhaustion already creeping at his mind. This situation had drained him to the bone. He couldn't even go on hunts with Dean anymore. He didn't trust himself to be much help. Sam suspected that this state of almost permanent tiredness had something to do with the bond and Gabriel running from it, always finding some excuse not to make a final decision.

"I just... I've got a plan how to get your mother and Castiel back," Gabriel said and that definitely caught Sam's attention. His eyes widened in surprise as he leant on the table with his folded arms in anticipation.

"How?" Sam enquired impatiently, rolling his eyes at Gabriel's mischievous smirk. "Come on, stop being difficult."

"I'm not. Can't help it. It's funny how eager you are suddenly," Gabriel chuckled at Sam's bitchface but sobered quickly and continued, averting his eyes at the table, tapping lightly at it with his fingers in a nervous tick. "It's risky and dangerous and I'll be honest with you, you're not gonna like it," he said seriously and looked back up, his eyes piercing into Sam's.

"Well, I can't say I didn't expect it," Sam countered playfully with a smile of his own, "but I'm glad you came to me before doing something stupid like going into whatever it is alone."

"Yeah, yeah. Mock me all you want, but this is serious, Sam," Gabriel said, all mirth and humour gone from his face.

"I know," the hunter reassured him and listened intently Gabriel's mysterious and out-of-the-blue plan.

To be frank, Sam expected something crazy with some risks, and as a hunter there wasn't much he wouldn't try. But this took the cake.

"Are you nuts?" Sam exclaimed as he stood up sharply from his chair, which scraped against the floor with the movement. He pressed his palms on the table forcefully, looming over Gabriel and trying to calm himself down, clenching his jaw so not to say something he would regret.

"Sam, you know there's no other option. He knows stuff and has enough power to send us there to find your mother, and maybe even give us Cas back wherever he is. You know it's the only way and you also know that I've not much time left to help you two," Gabriel said loudly as he stood up as well, the intensity in his words increasing with each word. The last words hit Sam hard, though. What's he saying? Not much time left? Sam thought, silently panicking, that part was ringing in his head over and over.

"Are you fucking kidding me? What about the bond between us?" Sam said frantically, gesturing between them wildly, "You're just gonna ignore it? It could save you. I could save you. And you know I want to." After a few moments of staring at each other, the hunter let out a humourless laugh, shaking his head and feeling helpless. "What happened? I thought we were on the same page with this. But you're running again from everything. From me and I don't really understand why. I can imagine what you've been through in there. You're not the only one Lucifer tortured-"

"Sam," Gabriel whispered pleadingly.

"No, you listen to me, you idiot," Sam said harshly, shutting the archangel up as he glared at him, "you don't talk, you hide in your room and avoid any of my attempts to broach the subject despite the fact it's the only way we know that can save you. And I want to do it, willingly, have been for some time but you, as if you didn't. Just tell me, Gabriel, honestly, do you wanna be with me or not? Because, I can't keep doing this, tiptoeing around each other and waiting. It's killing me," Sam croaked out as a lump appeared involuntarily in his throat from all the emotions he had been harbouring deep inside of himself, and now everything was out in the open for Gabriel to hear. Sam couldn't be like Dean and suppress his feelings for so long. And it helped. A little. At least he finally spoke up and now it was up to Gabriel what he would do with it. The hunter crossed his arms over his chest in defence.

"Sam, I'm sorry. I-I didn't realize and... I'm so sorry," Gabriel whispered, stumbling over the words, as his eyes filled with hurt and remorse. Sam was good at reading people and he knew it was genuine. Gabriel couldn't hide his emotions well anymore without his grace to back him up. And his human mannerisms were springing to the surface as his powers were getting weaker. But honestly, this didn't change anything. Gabriel was the one who should stop running from everything and decide.

"Gabe, I don't want your sorry, I need resolution. And before you go and risk your life, I want answers. Whatever it is, whatever you decide, you must know I love you, but you gotta talk to me and choose," Sam said sincerely but firmly as he gazed into Gabriel's eyes, trying to convey the truthfulness of his words straight from his soul, and after a weak nod from the archangel, he left for his room. This was too much and he wanted to do nothing else than sleep off this emotional rollercoaster. He really hated this constant pain and uncertainty.

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

Gabriel looked at Sam's back as the hunter was walking out of the room, and even when he turned around the corner, the archangel stared at the spot in the doorway blankly as he tried to regain some control over his mind full of jumbled thoughts, creating complete chaos of everything.

It had been a week. Or was it more? Gabriel thought but couldn't remember when it had happened for the first time when Sam had seen him in his weakest moment. After that, he had realized that he couldn't do it to Sam. If his plan worked, he would probably never return from his world, maybe even die there fighting his brother. Gabriel knew that it was a terrible idea to go to the Nephilim and ask him for help, even though he still had this feeling that Jack wasn't a bad person. Deep down he wanted to find out from whom he had got the information about him. Jack shouldn't have known all of that despite being a very powerful being. And he really learnt a lot very quickly for someone who didn't have anyone to guide him. Maybe he has. Gabriel mused quietly but excitedly. However, it was short-lived as he remembered what Sam had told him just a few moments ago. His gleeful smile disappeared just as fast.

The archangel knew that avoiding Sam was for the best and worst at the same time. On the one hand, Gabriel couldn't just bond with the hunter and then go on with his plan. If he understood all the information about it from the book correctly, if either of them died, it would slowly kill the other. They would miss the connection at the other end so badly that it would drive them mad and eventually to death. Gabriel couldn't go through with the bond with Sam knowing that. Just the idea of Sam suffering was killing him from inside. And rejecting the bond, too. But of the other hand, being so close to the one person you had been destined to be with was killing him as well. He felt tired and needed sleep too much for his liking. No taste for food wasn't helping the matter. Gabriel was getting weaker and weaker and his grace was too fragile to even try amending his outer wounds. And he missed Sam's bright mind and their engaging talks in the library. It seemed like there was no solution with a good ending.

Sam telling him what he felt, what he was going through, struck the chord somewhere inside of his chest and even if he wanted the hunter on board with his plan, maybe he should have approached the older Winchester first. Dean was more rational and had no qualms to prevent him from helping them. But who knew anymore? The older hunter was protective of his younger brother and if Sam was hurting, Dean would do anything to make it stop. Whatever it would be.

***

Gabriel was standing in front of Sam’s room, shuffling on the spot and nervously rubbing his hands over each other as he was trying to will himself to move one of them and knock at the door. He knew that it wasn’t a difficult task in theory but somehow, it felt harder than lifting a ton of bricks over his head. The archangel needed to decide and deep inside, he already had. Now, it was just the question of how to bring it to the hunter and explain his actions.

It seemed as if he had been standing there for an hour already but it had been just around ten minutes. Clenching his jaw in defiance, Gabriel finally raised his hand up, slowly shifting his fingers into a fist and pressing it gently on the metal as he inhaled and exhaled deeply to clear out his mind. But before he could properly prepare himself for the following conversation with Sam, the hunter opened the door suddenly and looked at Gabriel with surprise and a little bit of uncertainty in his hazel orbs. For a while there was silence between them as they stared into each other’s eyes, Sam waiting patiently for Gabriel to talk but the archangel’s mind was completely blank. No words, no thoughts, nothing.

This was so unexpected that the archangel didn’t know what to say and the emotions whirling inside of his chest didn’t really help matters. It hurt, sending strong pulses into his heart as he tried to find the right words to say, to ask for forgiveness, though it looked like there was none in his head and just as he heard Sam sigh in resignation and disappointment – he could just feel it from him in waves – Gabriel decided to throw the caution into the wind and surged forward, tugging at the lapels of Sam’s flannel and pulling him down into the searing kiss. The archangel tried to convey everything he felt towards the younger man, even the things he didn’t comprehend himself just yet, but his grace did and he counted on their connection to help Sam understand too.

It took Sam some precious seconds before he did respond, holding Gabriel tightly with his fists settled firmly at his hips and close to his chest. After a few passionate moments, when the archangel let himself just feel and enjoy their kisses, tongues dancing around and tasting each other, he sensed Sam shifting them around and walking them towards the bed, closing the door with a loud thud, and then pressing his fingers strongly into Gabriel’s back as if he couldn’t get enough of the contact between them.

Gabriel couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment when he felt so blissed out that he didn’t realize Sam was laying on top of him on the bed, his fingers travelling all over his body and touching every inch of his burning skin, his shirt already unbuttoned, kissing him as if this was both their first and last moment together. Sam’s mouth was making its way from his lips, over his jaw and to his neck, leaving trails of kisses onto his skin, making him whimper and moan in pleasure as he found his sensitive spots, immediately using this knowledge to completely wreck him. Gabriel knew in the back of his mind that this hadn’t been exactly what he had wanted to do with Sam, but how could he pass up the closeness with Sam making him feel so good after such a long time of loneliness?

Sam pulled at his hair, eliciting a silent cry out of him, as his right hands travelled down to his crotch, opening the buckle on his belt and tugging on the button and zipper of his jeans while sucking hickeys onto the skin all over his neck. Everything was so sudden and fast, so good until the hunter touched his cock through the thin material of his boxers, and at that moment millions of thoughts went through Gabriel’s mind, memories from his world, what had happened. What Lucifer had done, what he had let others do. The archangel froze, his eyes widened in horror as he remembered.

“Gabriel?” The archangel heard through the haze but didn’t react, shame ran through him as he looked at Sam lying beside him and talking to him, his eyebrows pinched together in concern. Gabriel could see his lips moving but couldn’t comprehend the words, feeling the panic attack just around the corner of his consciousness. Sam was stroking his cheeks, running his fingers through his hair and soothing him into calmness. It was working but the shame was still there. Gabriel averted his eyes from Sam and he wanted to turn his head to the other side but the hunter’s palm was holding him there, still trying to calm him down with gentle touches.

“Gabriel, look at me, please,” Sam pleaded softly and Gabriel couldn’t resist such request, “it’s okay, you’re gonna be alright,” he said, smiling subtly, and it was enough to pull Gabriel out of his memories and he sighed in relief. He didn’t want Sam to see him like this, a broken and ruined man that couldn’t even have sex anymore without panicking. He was mad at himself, sick and tired of his mind, hating himself for being weak and afraid of his own brother and so unworthy of Sam’s soul, but honestly? Sam was right and he already decided.

“I...” Gabriel croaked, feeling embarrassment taking over his whole body and mind, giving him blanks yet again, but then he buried himself into Sam’s chest and as he was enveloped in a strong embrace of his hunter, he finally found the words he wished to say all along. It was so simple, yet he couldn’t find courage in himself to say them aloud until now.

“Sam, I am sorry. For everything,“ Gabriel said quietly.

“It's okay,” Sam said softly, pressing his palms onto Gabriel’s back and stroking him gently.

“No, I really am sorry for pushing you away, for- for not talking to you and hiding in my room. It’s just... I don’t wanna lose you.”

“I know, Gabe. But you gotta understand, we’re in this together,” Sam said as he pressed a soft kiss into Gabriel’s hair, still not stopping rubbing soothing circles into his back.

“I know,” the archangel said and cleared his throat as he continued, “and that’s why you gotta understand I can’t put your through the bond knowing I might die. And I would never forgive myself if you suffered because of me. This bond, Sam, it’s so strong that in case one of us dies, the other will sooner or later wither and die too, and I can’t do it to you. I get it, you want something from me, a promise maybe, and...um... I...” Gabriel paused as his mouth suddenly felt so dry that he had to swallow the lump stuck in his throat and wet his lips, shifting a bit so he could look up into Sam’s eyes to say, “I love you, Sam, and I wanna be with you. I need you in my life and I’d do anything in my power to make you happy. Saving Mary and getting Castiel back? That’s what will make you and your brother happy and I need to do it, I need to stop Lucifer and save my world. It’s my duty as the only other living archangel in there. I’d been a screw-up most of my life but this? This is important to both of us and I’m just terrified of losing you.”

“Oh, Gabe. Why didn’t you tell me?” Sam asked rhetorically as he added, “I wanna help you. You can’t just waltz in there without any powers. And I know I can help you with that. You can’t expect me to just let you go without any back-up. I’m sure Dean will join us after he understands it’s actually the only option right now. To be honest, I’m not happy with your plan myself but yeah. I trust your instincts on this.”

“Thank you, Sam,” Gabriel exhaled in relief, still in embrace with the hunter as they held each other strongly, both dealing with their own fears of what was to come.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

 

"You wanna do what now?" Dean asked in disbelief, leaning into the back of the chair he had been lounging in peacefully just a moment ago with his laptop sitting before him on the table in the war room, a bottle of beer in his hand. Dean loosened his grip on the bottle and crossed his arms over his chest as he was intently watching Gabriel and Sam carefully standing next to each other, too close for his liking, but dismissing it for the moment, as there were more pressing matters. For instance, this stupid idea Gabriel had come up with and his brother supported it. What the hell was happening around here? Was he the only one in the bunker now who actually used his brain?

Deafening silence surrounded the three of them, a weak ticking of the wall clock was the only sound piercing through the layers of tension gathered in the room. Dean held Sam's gaze, trying to understand how such a smart person could stand there and asking him - pleading with those puppy-dog eyes of his, as always when he wanted something - to agree with this insanity. Especially, when that plan originated in an even crazier mind of an archangel, the former Trickster. Sam must have completely lost his mind if he thought that he would go along with it just like that and rely on a hunch.

The Trickster had screwed them over several times in the past, and even though this Gabriel wasn't him, he couldn't trust him just because his brother had the hots for him. Okay, maybe there was a chance - a microscopic chance - to convince the Nephilim to help them open the rift again so that they could get into that world, but they couldn't trust him to pull them back out of there. This being was more powerful than an archangel. What if he had closed the rift behind them and destroyed this world as his father had almost done before. That was batshit crazy and he couldn't fathom the idea of his little brother even considering this. And he was supposed to be the smart one.

"Are you serious?" Dean asked, still hoping that this was just a bad joke and they would all laugh afterwards, but Sam's face was still in the pleading mode, the power of the puppy-dog eyes on, and Gabriel was looking like he was waiting for execution. Honestly, the older Winchester could see how close those two had become, lingering touches and staring when the other wasn't looking. It was maddening. Dean knew there was something going on between them - and he wasn't even around them much, by the way. It was just something he didn't want to think about, and didn't approve of completely. But he also knew that he couldn't do anything about it. Sam was an adult and even though he had made bad choices in the past with his partners, there was just something about the archangel that was different.

Dean didn't like it and still felt suspicious of Gabriel from time to time, but he also wasn't completely blind. He could see how the archangel's eyes always sought out Sam's form anywhere he was, lightening up when they talked about whatever. Ughh, stop with the chick flick bullshit, Winchester. This isn't a rom-com. Dean chided himself and shook his head slightly to get rid of those horrifying thoughts. He sighed and rubbed his hands over his face, pressing his fingers onto his temples and massaging them to chase away the pressure that was slowly forming between his eyes.

"You're serious," Dean mumbled resignedly into his palms still stroking his face over and over again in agitation. "You're fucking serious. I can't believe this."

"Dean, think about this. It's our only chance to get back mom and maybe even Cas," Sam pleaded. Dean could hear it in his voice even though he still couldn't look back at his face or he would lose it. "And Gabriel says-"

"What, Sam? What's he saying to you?!" Too late. "Why d'you trust him so much that you think this is a good idea? Have you lost your mind already?!" Dean asked seriously, his voice raised in irritation. There was no room for jokes anymore. Sometimes, he had doubts that Sam had the brains. Suspicions crawled their way into Dean's mind and the older hunter started to question Sam's decisions again. This couldn't be normal. He just couldn't in his clear mind believe that Gabriel could just waltz in and convince the Nephilim to help them. That thing was Lucifer's spawn. Dean was surprised that the world was still turning.

"Sam... Look. I understand that you had a thing for him," Dean said calmly, pointing matter-of-factly at Gabriel whose eyes widened a little and he knew he had hit the jackpot. I knew it. his inner voice exclaimed in victory.

"What?! Dean, that's not-" Sam started to say some excuse but was interrupted by a scoff from his older brother.

"Oh yeah and what is it? Just friends spending a quality time together, closed in one room day and night, just watching TV, Netflix and chill? Yeah, huh... No. Don't be standing there and telling me there's nothing between you two when Gabriel is right there, looking like a kicked puppy. Seriously, maybe I'm not that smart, but I still have eyes. There's something you're hiding from me and that never ended well. No-" Dean said firmly as he looked at Sam, holding up his right palm to stop his brother from interrupting him. The older hunter wanted to say his bit and now it was as good time as any.

"Just let me finish. I'm not saying that I don't trust you and your judgement. Usually. But! I'm worried about you and I'll always be, no matter what. And if this-" Dean gestured between Sam and Gabriel, not willing to name it, whatever it was. Some things, he wanted to stay hidden from him. He cleared his throat and continued, "if this is what you want, I don't really mind. Much. It's your life but think about what you're asking of me for a second. You're willing to risk your life - and mine - to believe in Gabriel and his skills to persuade a Nephilim to help us. Think about it for a while. And if you still think this is worth the risk tomorrow, then we talk."

They stared at each other for a few minutes, just trying to let the words sink in, communicating silently as the brothers had always done, and then Sam nodded in compliance, probably seeing Dean's point. The older Winchester nodded back and briefly looked at Gabriel who was still standing next to Sam, as if supporting him during this talk between brothers. Dean didn't expect the archangel to keep quiet through this whole conversation. He was different from the Trickster he had known. More thoughtful and as if he had lived through his own hell and understood why Dean worried and sometimes acted like a dick towards him. Though they had already had that "you hurt Sam, you die" talk, Dean would never stop worrying over his little brother.

"Okay, good we understand each other. Now, I'm gonna lay down for a bit," Dean croaked out as he stood up and stretched his body and cramped muscles from sitting at the table for too long, sighing loudly in relief, and started towards his bedroom. As the older Winchester was walking towards the hallway, he couldn't resist adding just one last remark, "And don't do anything I wouldn't do," Dean smirked at them over his shoulder, lifting one eyebrow up, "and don't forget protection, Sammy," he laughed at Sam's bitchface and Gabriel's open mouth and wide eyes as he stared at him in shock, however his face quickly morphed into a thoughtful look. Dean could feel the archangel's eyes gazing at back as he left the room, disappearing into the hallway.

The older hunter definitely enjoyed getting them so flustered and irritated. But now he wanted to forget everything about Sam and Gabriel being together, and because he really couldn't use real bleach for his eyes and brain, Dean turned on the TV and watched Doctor Sexy, dozing off after a couple of episodes and dreaming about piercing, blue eyes.

 

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

 

Sam stood there dumbfounded, trying to wrap his head around the last words Dean had said before he had left for his room. Was his brother being serious and giving him an okay for having a relationship with Gabriel? In his weird, obscene way? Sam was thrown out of his train of thought by the sound of Gabriel clearing his throat, and as he looked at him, the archangel shifted awkwardly, putting his hands into the pockets of his pants.

"So," Gabriel started, not quite looking at him as if embarrassed about something. It took Sam a few seconds to realize that Dean's words hadn't affected just him. A small smile appeared on his face. "What now?" the archangel asked after a few silent moments, lifting his eyes up to Sam's but just for a second, averting his gaze right after their gazes met. He looked like a child caught with their hand in a cookie jar.

"Well, maybe, we could head to the library and discuss the plan? Honestly, I think Dean's reaction could've been worse and he actually gave us a chance. It is pretty crazy what we're going to do. Don't get me wrong, I know we don't have many other options, but still..." Sam trailed off, expecting Gabriel would understand what he meant to say.

"Yeah, I know. But Sam, I have a feeling that Jack's not evil. He's powerful, that's for sure, but not evil. Besides, something's telling me he's got someone guiding him. Don't ask me who because I don't really know. Honestly, if he really wanted, he could've killed us on the spot. And I'm not exaggerating. Everything we did that day to prevent him from using his powers? That was just a weak attempt to slow him down. You saw how easy it was for him to get out of the circle, and even I couldn't do that in full power,” Gabriel said animatedly, “and what he said... It just makes sense now," he added, mumbling the last words as if he hadn't meant to say them out loud, but of course, Sam caught them and couldn't believe what he heard.

"How? Are you saying he knew about your weakening grace?" Sam asked perplexed, furrowing his brows in thought as he saw Gabriel nod once, and then it hit him, "Oh my God, you're saying he knew about the bond and you... Why didn't you tell me, Gabriel? Why hiding this from me?!" The younger hunter growled in frustration and also a bit of anger over Gabriel keeping secrets from him. It hurt to find out that the person with whom he considered to bond for eternity wasn’t telling him the whole truth.

"I'm sorry, Sam. I just don't wanna pull you into this shit and make you do this just to save me. I'm not worth it, you know. I'm not that person you think I am. I've done so many bad things, you can't even imagine, and even though these past couple of years were my personal hell on Earth? I really deserved it for my cowardice and ceaseless running from my family. No, Sam," Gabriel stopped him from interrupting, putting his right palm on Sam's forearm and gripping tight, the contact making the hunter dizzy. Gabriel closed his eyes for a few seconds as if grounding himself. As he opened them again and looked back up at Sam, the archangel let out a weak laugh, "I'm telling you, I could've stopped it at the beginning. I could've joined Michael and helped him to defeat Lucifer once and for all, but I didn't because I was a coward and an idiot. I thought that Michael was meant to win, that he would win just like he was destined to. But everything went to shit and fuck, I couldn't face him alone. He's stronger than me, smarter and more cunning than me. He taught me almost everything for fuck's sake. He knows my weaknesses." Gabriel bit into his lower lip at his last words, trembling slightly. The hunter could see how much this powerful being revealed about himself and it must have taken him much strength to admit all of it to Sam, opening up to him. Sam's heart swelled over the trust Gabriel had put in him.

"Gabriel," Sam whispered gently, stroking his arms up and down, over and over again to calm him down, leading him to the chair behind him. He himself took the other chair and pushed it close so he could hold Gabriel's hands in his and just be near him, soothing him with tender touches on his skin. Hearing all of that cleared out so many things around the archangel. Gabriel felt guilty and thought that he didn't deserve anything good in his life anymore because he couldn't safe his world even though he'd got a chance to help Michael in the fight. And of course, in his world there were no Winchesters to be stubborn bastards and turn the events in their favour.

"Of course, I would do anything to safe people close to me, but-" Sam stressed the last bit to let the archangel know that there was more he wanted to say while holding his hands firmly and squeezing them a little, "I have to be honest with you here. This isn't about you," Sam let out a laugh at Gabriel's scowl at his words, hurrying to add more. "No, no, Gabriel. You don't understand. Really, this is about me being selfish and just wanting you. Plain and simple. You're not forcing me into anything and deep down you must feel it, too. This pull just here," Sam tried to explain his feelings, pressing his right palm onto his chest, close to his heart. The hunter suspected what it meant. In his line of work, he had gone through so much that an idea of soul to be drawn to an angel's grace didn't surprise him. Sometimes he suspected that Dean went through the same thing with Castiel with all of those staring contests between them, but he couldn't be sure.

The younger Winchester lowered his gaze at their clasped hands between their knees. He furrowed his eyebrows in thought as silence spread around the room, but it wasn't uncomfortable as it usually was with this kind of situations. Sam basked in the small contact between them. It was enough. It wouldn't be for the first time he thought about the archangel in a more heated way, but right now. It was just them, close to one another. And now even Dean teased them about their clear attraction to each other. Sam's lips curved into a smile, feeling a little bit sorry for his brother because he knew how difficult it must have been for Dean to talk about it. More so he'd never bitched about it once.

“Trust me, Gabriel, you deserve this and I’m sure you’ll understand after this is over. And I believe we’re gonna pull through. And I can just imagine us on a beach somewhere, taking a vacation and fooling around,” Sam said, wiggling his eyebrows seductively, which earned him a sudden laugh from the archangel. The hunter smiled at that, thinking it had done its job, and the mood was lifted up by the prospect of their future together.

“You’re such a dork,” Gabriel said, smiling widely, as he shook his head slightly in feigned indignation.

“But I’m your dork. So, what do you say we looked into that plan of yours together before you start thinking about doing this alone, again?” Sam said with a serious tone in his voice, but his smile never left his face.

“What?” Gabriel let out with wide eyes.

“Don’t play dumb. I know you were thinking about leaving us here and doing this by yourself. It’s what I’d have done as well being in your shoes,” Sam replied truthfully, his voice never wavering. He knew he’d have done the same thing if Gabriel or Dean had been in danger and he’d been the only one to do something about it. But the archangel wasn’t the only one in this. He had him and Sam was sure that Dean would join them. It was crazy for sure, his brother was right. With this plan, they were risking all their lives, not just Gabriel’s. But Sam also had a feeling that Jack wasn’t evil. After the explanation from the archangel, it was clear as a day that the Nephilim had had an upper hand in their confrontation and hadn’t hurt them.

“Okay, okay. You got me. But I still feel guilty by dragging you both into this. It’s my world we’re talking about. It’s my problem. I know that saving Castiel and your mother, and getting more from Jack is our priority, but I wanna stop Lucifer for good. Not just storm into that place and bolt out quickly. I don’t wanna run from my duty as an archangel. That’s also why I didn’t want to bond with you yet. It’s too big a risk.

“And who’s an idiot here now? That’s why we’re gonna find Jack and try to give him good enough reasons to fight with us against Lucifer. Ours is there too, remember. Who knows what havoc he had caused by now?” Sam said firmly, trying to drill some reason into Gabriel’s skull. Sometimes, their conversations sounded like a broken record. Gabriel trying to amend his mistakes and do everything alone, Sam trying to tell him it was better to do it together.

“Okay, okay. You’re right,” Gabriel sighed loudly and looked at their clasped hands between their knees. Sam felt the energy surrounding them, creating a protective bubble around them. He also felt good, content. It had been a while since he had felt this way and he knew that the being in front of him, holding his hands and playing with his fingers, was the cause of it. Sam was so caught up with his thoughts about their life together, that he hadn’t noticed Gabriel started explaining his plan. When he realized the archangel was talking, Sam listened carefully.

The plan was relatively easy. They would summon Jack again with the same spell Gabriel had used before, and then talk to him. Explain their actions and what they needed to do. Of course, they would count on Jack not having wanted to kill them the first time, so he wouldn’t kill them now either. It really looked easy, but there were many factors they couldn’t even imagine to be prepared for when dealing with the Nephilim. He was an unknown for them, and who knew how he would react to Dean’s cussing and Gabriel’s sassiness and sarcasm when they were frustrated or pissed off. Well, that’s why Sam was going to be there to deflate any arguments and unnecessary violence.

Sam sighed heavily, still listening to Gabriel talk animatedly about his plan and what he was going to do with his home once it was over. It was good to hear all of that. To hear him be so hopeful and full of life. The archangel needed purpose and this was the best of all of them. Saving his home.

Chapter Text

Chapter 19

“Why are we doing this again?” Dean groaned behind Gabriel, who was standing next to Sam, still holding his hand before the final spell. Everything had been prepared for the up-coming meeting with the Nephilim, the circle of Holy oil had been just a few feet in front of them. Honestly, the scene before them really reminded him of that day when they had encountered Jack for the first time. They hadn’t known much about his true power, or his reaction to their summoning for that matter. It had been a shot in the blind. But now, they were standing there in the dessert again, intentionally seeking help from the most powerful being now walking the Earth. Although, Gabriel had suspected that the Nephilim had to have someone to guide him and that person had to be at least an angel to explain his powers to him. He genuinely hoped for his Father to be around. Him ignoring everything what had been happening around here would really piss him off. But who knew what his Father had planned for them all. Gabriel just couldn’t lose the last bit of hope he had in his life.

Gabriel didn’t even realize that he clenched Sam’s hand so strongly until he heard a silent hiss from beside him. He looked up at him and saw the hunter looking at their clasped hands, a small crease between his eyebrows, but tried not to tense too much for Gabriel to notice. The archangel hurried to loosen the grip and apologize but Sam silenced him by squeezing his hand firmly as a sign he was there for him, no matter what.

“Oh God, please, stop,” Dean grumbled behind them, shuffling a bit on his feet, coughing a bit, and making other loud noises to interrupt their moment. Gabriel could see Sam’s eyes never left his own, smiling at his brother voicing his protests, as the older hunter felt uncomfortable standing so close to them.

“You know, you don’t have to watch, Dean-o,” Gabriel said teasingly with his own smirk on his face.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Just go on with it. Don’t waste my precious time on chick flick moments,” the older Winchester muttered in displeasure but didn’t say anything else, still standing there behind them and supporting their insane plan. Only if he knew what was going to come. Gabriel mused his fears regretfully.

Sam smiled down at him again, locking their gazes for a few more seconds, then averted his eyes to face the emptiness in front of them. Gabriel stared at the hunter’s profile for a bit longer, trying to burn the image into his mind so he would never forget what he had. At least for a little while. How beautiful had been the days spent with this soul made to love and hope for better days, and always willing to sacrifice itself for others close to him.

The archangel let out a quiet laugh at the twists and turns in his life, still in disbelief of whom he had met and lived with for a while. How much different would his world have been with the Winchesters in it? Would he have been their ally, or just another monster, lurking in the dark? Would he have been someone more to Sam eventually? Gabriel would never know but he would cherish the days lived in the bunker with these people until he ceased to exist.

“Here we go, boys,” Gabriel exclaimed with the final words of the summoning spell, and as the first time, there was a sudden current of wind flowing around them, picking up its speed and lifting the surrounding dirt and sand around them into one centre right in front of them. The circle of holy oil was prepared the same just like before and exactly on the same spot were the eye of the vortex accumulated the most of dust.

They expected that Jack would appear right in it. Well, apparently, the Nephilim wasn’t fooled again the same way as the first time. However, Gabriel wasn’t really surprised by this outcome. He suspected that Jack had someone to guide him and it seemed like the Nephilim had anticipated their means of protection. The archangel also knew that the kid wasn’t stupid and understood his powers, at least to some extent.

“Son of a bitch,” Gabriel heard Dean curse behind him as the hunter quickly realized Jack was standing next to the circle and not in it. The archangel felt Sam tense next to him, squeezing his hand firmly. Their connection gave him strength to find the words and start some kind of conversation with Jack, who was still standing next to the burning circle without motion. His look was piercing and Gabriel felt his powerful grace reaching out and trying to find the purest intentions and wishes deep inside of him. It looked like he knew what had happened between Sam and him, as if he knew what Gabriel wanted to do, that he wanted to sacrifice himself to save them all and save his world. His home.

“Are you sure?” Jack suddenly said, and if it was even possible, Sam tensed even more. Of course, the hunter didn’t like the idea of Gabriel and Jack having a silent conversation. But it was for the best. The archangel smiled slightly even though he felt like crying in despair. It just isn’t fair, is it? He mused but it was loud enough for the Nephilim to pick up on it and he nodded in understanding. Gabriel huffed out a desperate laugh, still looking at the ground beneath him, purposefully avoiding Sam’s hissed words and questions, but he couldn’t make himself to look at him. It would break him even more than he already was.

“Gabriel, you’re not going to be alone. I promise,” an unknown voice resonated inside his head. It was Jack’s, he thought, “We will help you on your quest.” It was the “we” Jack had used that convinced him to let go and do what was right and his duty. He more like felt Sam plead him to talk to him, to explain what was going on. Dean was still cursing behind him and demanding answers, but he had made peace with his decision already. Gabriel knew that Sam would never forgive him for leaving him behind. But essentially, he wasn’t breaking his promise not to go alone in there. Sam tugged at his hand, trying to get him talk, to look at him. And the archangel knew that he would never leave if he looked into Sam’s hazel eyes. Oh, those eyes full of hope and love.

Gabriel took a deep breath and looked back up, meeting Jack’s golden eyes, watching his grace manifesting itself and powering up slowly to take them away. Away from Sam.

“I’m sorry, Sam,” Gabriel finally croaked in a desperate whisper. But he knew that it went through to the hunter when he felt his soul reaching out for him and Sam grabbing him by his arms and forcefully turning Gabriel to face him. It was hard to fight it, to reject the connection between them. He had never imagined how difficult it could be to do it. It felt like they had been standing there for hours, but in reality, it’d been just a few minutes. In the end, listening to all the desperate pleas from Sam, the archangel couldn’t resist and looked up into Sam’s eyes with the final whispered “I’m so sorry.” He felt another weight of a hand on his right shoulder and then he was gone. The image of hurt in Sam’s eyes forever burnt into his mind, left to haunt every last second of his life.

The archangel felt drained even more than before as the connection with Sam was fading away slowly but surely with the distance. How he could have even thought that it was possible to function without Sam around him. But the pain reminded him of his mission and after a few more deep breaths to centre himself, finding the last bits of his strength to save his destroyed home, he turned around to finally face Jack alone and talk to him.

Maybe it had been the pain and the whirlwind of emotions in his mind that had hidden the presence of another being in the room Jack had brought them into. Or maybe it was the fact that Gabriel had lost the true, angelic sense when the ties with Sam were severed, weakening him more, but he would have never expected to actually see Him sitting in a wooden chair at an ordinary table, reading a book with the reading glasses on. Gabriel had been ripped away from his soulmate, feeling dead inside - even though he very well knew it had been a right thing to do – and then thrown into another current of emotions to see Him of all beings who could be guiding Jack.

After a while of Gabriel staring at a man, whom he knew – felt –  wasn’t just an ordinary man, Jack shuffling around nervously and waiting for Him to react, the man shifted a bit in his chair as He turned the next page to marked it in unhurried motions and pushed the book aside. He took off his glasses and put them on the hard cover of the book so He could rub the tiredness from his eyes. Gabriel waited for Him to start talking. Even though he felt hurt and betrayed by Him for letting His children to go through so much, the archangel still held some respect for his Father.

“So, I guess you want an explanation?” He said solemnly as He finally looked at Gabriel for the first time in thousands of years. It was strange to see Him in this vessel. Gabriel saw Him once in a vessel before, but it had been a very long time ago when all of this around had been still in diapers. His voice was soothing but coloured by hesitation. Gabriel didn’t know how to talk to Him. He had lost that ability after He had left them on their own. The archangel had been deprived of the only unique thing he had been proud of about himself. Everyone had been jealous of him back in the day. Being the Messenger of God had been a great honour and responsibility. But now, when He was here, Gabriel couldn’t find the words.

He sighed loudly as He pitched the bridge of his nose. It was such a human thing to do that it shocked Gabriel into more silence. If it were even possible. How was this man his Father?

“So, I guess you probably know right now that Jack brought you here because I told him to. It had to be only you. No one else,” He said calmly as if talking to a child, which was in a way true, his eyes piercing into Gabriel’s quivering grace, “because you’re the only one who doesn’t belong here.”

“But-,” Gabriel finally found the courage to oppose Him but was interrupted right away by the power of God’s true voice.

“Calm down. I’m not done yet,” He said, annoyed, but the corner of his lips lifted slightly as if amused by Gabriel’s reaction. The archangel pressed his lips into the thin line to hold himself from talking back, his eyebrows furrowed in anger, but he kept silent.

“You don’t belong here, son. You know that and the world you left needs you,” God explained. Obviously, He expected Gabriel to suck it up and go back to do something about it. Which was the archangel’s initial goal. Didn’t He know that? Gabriel was getting more and more frustrated by this one-sided conversation, but he tried to reign his temper in. He needed help from Jack.

“But I also understand that you found someone to fight for, a new purpose in your life, who needs you just as much,” God cleared his throat as if it were difficult for him to talk about feelings, which wasn’t that surprising to Gabriel.

“Jack here will help you to get your strength back and your world into order. And then – only then – you can come back or stay there, whatever you want. But,” He added as an afterthought, “you should understand that you have to be welcomed here. You can’t fool the balance in this universe. And I can’t do anything about it. As far as I know, you’re still an invader for this world. Nothing more. So be careful what you do. Don’t let your feelings blind you.” With the last words, God disappeared.

“Seriously?!” Gabriel shouted angrily, “You’re gonna disappear on me again after so many years of silence?! Ugh!” What had he expected from his Father? Everything in his body and grace boiled in rage and frustration over this situation. Only a loud cough tear him away from his head as he looked up at Jack standing in front of him, looking at the archangel with those innocent eyes.

“I guess we should start with you getting your powers back. I’m not prepared enough to fight Lucifer alone. At least Chuck told me,” Jack said calmly.

“Who? You mean God? Oh, for fuck’s sake. He’s got a name here, too,” Gabriel rolled his eyes at his Father’s antics. The old man was getting really old and making a fool of himself.

“Yes,” Jack answered with a smile as if he were happy for the knowledge, “and you’re my uncle.”

“Oh dear...” Gabriel muttered in despair, his shoulders sagging under the pressure and tiredness, as he hid his face into his palms. Jack didn’t say a word while the archangel tried to collect himself. After a few minutes of silence, Gabriel sighed loudly into his hands and run them over his whole face and back through his hair, making it more like a bird’s nest.

“Kid, I hope you know what you’re getting into. I hope Father told you everything because I don’t have the patience for this,” Gabriel said tiredly.

“You will have to, Gabriel.” a voice, God’s voice resonated inside his head.

“Get out of my head!” Gabriel exclaimed into the air suddenly, startling Jack a bit but the Nephilim just furrowed his eyebrows, probably thinking his uncle was a mad man.

“Sorry, kiddo, my Father’s just enjoying pissing me off. Oh, sorry, I meant talking to me in my head,” the archangel explained, muttering a silent “stalker” under his nose.

Gabriel felt drained and couldn’t stand on his own feet anymore. So he decided to sit into the chair his Father had been occupying just a few moments ago, and contemplate the situation he had got himself into. Apparently, it wasn’t enough to go and save his world from complete destruction when he felt like dying. Now, he had a kid to babysit and train. Oh, Gabriel knew Jack was powerful, had seen him in action, and the kid obviously knew the basics, but it seemed he was too innocent for his own good. Too raw and could be easily manipulated. The archangel sighed again, folding his arms onto the table so he could lay his head on top them.

“So, what happens now?” Jack asked tentatively after another moment of silence.

“Hold your horses, kiddo. We need a plan before anything else. At least now, I’m not actually dying thanks to my dad showing up. And you’re gonna have to tell me what you know and what you’re capable of,” Gabriel said firmly, immediately realizing that he was too beat to even think. Pointing at Jack with his forefinger, he added, “hold on, scratch that. I need sleep. No, something to eat first, then a shower and sleep. Right,” Gabriel mumbled into his arms as his head had again fallen down, too exhausted to even raise his head back up and talk to Jack like a normal, sentient being.

“Where are we, anyway?” the archangel asked after a while of thinking through his options, his eyes closing themselves on their own accord.

“Right now, we are in one of the pocket dimensions. No one can find us here,” Jack replied dutifully, “For now.”

“Great. That’s great,” Gabriel slurred, slowly letting himself relax and before he could stop his mind and body, he fell into an easy slumber.

Unbeknownst to the archangel, Chuck came back and instructed Jack for the last time to take care of Gabriel and help him get back together. Running through his son’s hair to ease off some of the tension and guilt Gabriel held inside his grace, God smiled at him and with a thought moved him into a comfortable bed, and then left, knowing that now both worlds were in good hands. Hopefully. Free will would always be unpredictable.

Chapter Text

Chapter 20

The way back to the bunker seemed like driving in a blur for Sam. Everything around him ceased to exist; Dean trying to talk to him sounded like a loud, white noise from which he couldn’t run away. His mind was shrouded in complete chaos, thoughts swirling around in a huge mess of grief, anger and helplessness. Sam didn’t even know how he had gotten into the car because right now he felt only the excruciating pain spreading through his whole body from his tattered heart, making him feel like dying right at that moment.

The hunter couldn’t tell how long they had been driving home, but when he was finally torn out of his inner turmoil, they were already in front of the bunker and about to park into the garage. Dean was telling him something, but Sam couldn’t hear him through the noise of the blood rushing through his veins, bringing the pain into every bit of his body. Sam wished the numbness would come soon before he lost all the willpower to live.

“Sam!” Dean shouted from his seat, gripping his left shoulder tightly and pressing his fingers hard into Sam’s muscle but he couldn’t even feel it over his soul being torn apart into little pieces. The pain was something Sam had never experienced in his life and he had gone through a lot of shit. He thought that there couldn’t be anything as devastating as spending years in the Cage with Lucifer and Michael, or functioning without his soul, tortured so many times in so many ways. Nothing could have prepared him for this crushing feeling of loss in which his heart was now buried deep. There was no comparison to this. None.

“Sam! Fuck,” Dean cried again a bit hysterically, but Sam couldn’t find the strength to answer, or even move his head to turn around and face his brother and surely see his pitying eyes and frantic gestures. It was like the world stopped turning, clocks stopped ticking. Everything around him didn’t matter. Is this the pain Gabriel was talking about? If one of us dies when bonded, is this it? Sam mused fleetingly, but then he realized that their bond had never been completed.

“Sam! Don’t do this to me. Please, answer me, dammit!” Dean pleaded almost aggressively to draw some attention from Sam as he again tried to shake him out of his catatonic state, but there was no reaction. Nothing. Sam didn’t want to move, nor talk, nor anything really. Why should he? He couldn’t take it anymore. His heart and soul couldn’t take the ache and sorrow anymore.

“Come on, Sam. We’ll get you into the bunker and your room, and you’re gonna be fine. Shit!” Dean cursed at the dead weight of Sam sitting and not moving one inch. “Gabriel, you son of bitch!” He again swore under his nose, not knowing that saying the archangel’s name would get through the mess of Sam’s mind, causing a new surge of pain running through his limbs and right into his core within his chest, and making him even more dead inside.

The younger Winchester didn’t help his brother in his mission to get him inside, but in his numbness and hurt the time passed by without even Sam noticing he had ended up in his room despite of his apathy. Suddenly, he recognized the furniture in front of him, as he was sitting on his bed, still not moving at all, in his old clothes, but the burn wasn’t that overwhelming anymore. It was still pulling him down as if he had mountains on his shoulders, but at least his senses started working at some degree.

“Sam?” A voice rasped from the right side of the room. From the door. His mind provided somewhere in the jumble of his hopeless, aching mind. His head turned slowly towards his brother on its own accord. Sam didn’t know where he got the strength to do that simple motion, but it was just an immediate reflex to the familiar sound ingrained in him since his childhood. Deep inside the younger hunter knew that it was Dean trying to goad some response out of him.

“Oh God, Sam, are you okay? Talk to me, please,” Dean pleaded desperately as he approached Sam in two long strides, grabbing him at his shoulders and shaking with him a little. The younger Winchester just blinked at his brother and saw the worry in his eyes. He couldn’t bare more pain than he was already feeling. Closing his eyes, he wanted to escape all this. Especially this burning feeling within his chest. The question “why” occupying his thoughts, echoing in his head as if it weren’t clear from the beginning. Sam Winchester couldn’t just get what he wanted. The hunters never got their happy-ending, right?

“Sammy, don’t do this to me. You know this isn’t over. We gotta keep fighting. We’ll find a way to get him back. There gotta be a way...” Dean trailed off as he took Sam’s face into his hands, holding him gently. Sam felt it, heard the concern in his brother’s voice. He knew that he should get out of his emotional stupor and be there for Dean, especially when Cas wasn’t there with him either. Everyone they cared about was gone. They had only each other right now. Again. Sam screwed his eyes firmly to stop the tears to spill out of his eyes. This was it, he was going to lose it in front of his emotionally constipated brother. But at this moment? He somehow stopped caring.

How could Sam stay collected, even keep functioning when one part of his being was ripped away from him, and the rest was left in pieces? How could he hope for getting them all back when the only person...

God,” Sam whispered brokenly. On the thought of Gabriel, he let out a quite sob. The dam was broken. Sam couldn’t even think about the archangel’s name so not to have a break down.

His face, his honey coloured eyes, always shining in mirth accompanied with that knowing smirk of his when he was onto something– usually planning a prank on Dean. His light brown hair, almost golden in the sunlight, soft like silk when Sam ran his fingers through them, clenched and tugged gently onto the strands when kissing him passionately. His lips, a bit chapped since he had been losing grace and couldn’t maintain his vessel anymore with a thought. Sam would tell him to use the lip balm, but he usually forgot anyway. Still, those lips would make him speechless and blissful in seconds if they wanted. Those moves, sensual and with purpose to make Sam a wanting mess. His body, as if made just for Sam’s own frame, smaller but sturdy nevertheless. What Gabriel could do with it, sometimes Sam couldn’t believe how easy it had been for him to make all his fantasies come true. It had been so easy to talk to him, discuss everything Sam wanted to know. The archangel would always indulge the hunter in his curiosity over every little thing. Any other being would have shut him up after a few days, but not him.

Sam raised his hands and pressed his fingers onto his eyes, squeezing them even more as he was trying to stop the emotions from running free out of him with the hot tears, but where one sob had escaped, others followed quickly afterwards. He felt the first drops of salt running down his cheeks by now, having been unable to hold them back anymore. The tears stopped at his brother’s thumbs still holding Sam’s face in his palms.

The younger Winchester didn’t really know how much time had passed from that miserable day, but letting go felt actually liberating. Sam had lost many loved ones; his parents, his lovers and close friends, but he would never have imagined crying the pain out could help him live on. There was no moving on from this, no way in hell he could ever move on, but maybe he could live another day for the only person who still cared what would happen to him.

“Dean,” Sam struggled to talk between the strong shakes of his shoulders and almost blinding pain in his lungs as he couldn’t breathe properly while crying his heart out, tears pricking his eyes at finally saying his brother’s name.

“Come here. I’ve got you,” Dean said soothingly as he enveloped Sam into his strong arms, pressing his little brother’s head onto his chest and listening patiently to string of barely audible words coming out of Sam’s mouth. The older Winchester heard everything though, “why me’s” like a litany.

“I just...” Sam tried but couldn’t get the words out as they got stuck in his throat this time. It hurt, it hurt so much he couldn’t stand it alone.

“Don’t worry, Sam. I know. Just-. I’m here,” Dean murmured into Sam’s hair, holding him in an iron embrace. The younger hunter couldn’t stop the tears, or the sounds he was making, and honestly, he didn’t care. The world could go fuck itself.

“It’s okay, let it go,” Dean said reassuringly, never loosening the strong grip on Sam, cradling him to his chest and running calming fingers in his too-long hair, massaging the nape of his neck. Sam didn’t realize it at that moment, there were so many emotions flowing through his being, but his brother staying with him until he fell asleep was a blessing Sam would appreciate in the next few months.

***

Sam jerked awake, sitting up quickly in his bed. The covers were crumbled at his left side, and he felt slow and cold dread seeping into his chest and gripping his heart in terror and sadness. It left Sam shivering on the bed like a leaf in a strong wind. Everything what had happened in the past few months crept into his mind, reminding him what he had lost.

All those tender, unique moments between him and Gabriel - that they never talked about - had been a constant in Sam’s life, making him content, even happy when he thought about it more, which wasn’t a thing in any hunter’s life. It had been the little things, just watching Gabriel read, with his eyebrows furrowed in concentration, as his bangs fell into his face. Sam’s fingers would always twitch in desire to run through Gabriel’s hair, tugging them behind his ears. The archangel had never cut it even if it had been a nuisance for him. Sam secretly knew the reason why though. Because he liked them long on the archangel. Gabriel’s addiction to sugar and his constant bickering with Dean... All these things were suddenly missing, making them even more special than before.

Tears blurred Sam’s vision again as he remembered another moment from the short life with Gabriel. Why is this happening to me again? Why am I always so stupid enough to fall for it again? I’m not destined to be happy. Sam’s mind never stopped working on finding the answers on all of those questions. Never. And the hunter was beating himself up for everything that had happened that day. He had been stupid to believe that Gabriel would have never tried to face the danger alone. That Sam had convinced him not to. The hunter couldn’t still accept the archangel’s decision and felt guilty that Gabriel hadn’t trusted him enough to take him along, to ask him for help. What if he’s dead? What if he’s in danger in that hellhole somewhere, dying alone? All these scenarios were swirling around in his head and only a loud knock at the door managed to tear him away from the direction that his thoughts were taking him.

“Sammy?” Dean said questioningly behind the door as he opened them enough to walk in with a tray full of various kinds of food and coffee. The aroma wafted into the room, calming Sam down a bit, taking him back from the horrors creeping inside of his wrecked mind.

Dean put the tray on the small, wooden table while watching Sam from the corner of his eye. Sam knew what his brother was searching for, that piercing look meant only one thing – he was looking for any marks of possible self-harm on him.

So sue me for trying to end it. I was a mess, Dean! You don’t understand. I’m not sure what was worse, not having a soul, or having it torn apart piece by piece with an invisible force. So, stop motherhening me. I’m fine. I can take care of myself.” Sam tried to explain his situation but since that day Dean had never stopped making him breakfast and bringing it to him into his room so he had a reason for coming and checking on him.

Sam wasn’t particularly proud of himself for that moment of weakness. He had been deep in pain and sorrow. The feeling of loss had been overwhelming and as if forcing him into ending it. The younger Winchester just hoped that Gabriel hadn’t had to experience the same. Sam would never wish it on anyone.

“Thanks,” Sam said with a sigh at Dean mothering him. Honestly, the younger hunter was grateful for his brother right now. He didn’t want to even imagine what would have happened if not having him around. Well, actually he did know. And the outcome wouldn’t have been pretty. Not at all. His self-destructive tendencies were deeply ingrained within him, lurking in the shadows and waiting for the best moment to unleash their clutches on his mind.

“Are you okay?” Dean asked tentatively as he sat into the only chair in the room, leaning back into the hard backrest.

“Yeah,” Sam said quickly, keeping the eye contact with Dean, and added hopefully, “Any news?” His brother’s expression was the only answer he needed. Nothing. As every damn morning for the past couple of months. It seemed as if they had disappeared from this world and Sam feared this possibility. If Gabriel had returned into his world, he might have never come back.

“Don’t worry, Sammy. We’ll find them. Both Gabe and Mum,” Dean said firmly and with a loud sigh, he stood up. “Eat and then come to the library. I wanna show you something.”

“What is it?” Sam perked up as his back straightened in anticipation.

“Uh-uh. Breakfast first, fun later, remember. See you in a bit,” Dean said finally and left the room with a click of the door.

Sam sighed in exhaustion. The dreams had been getting worse lately, as if something disrupted his unconsciousness even more than before. The younger Winchester had been through lots of nightmares throughout his life, but these were different. They were more like messages, nothing certain or clear enough, just a few smudges on a wall he saw when he was running away from the monsters that eventually caught him and then tortured him. But somehow, Sam had been through much more pain than they inflicted upon him in his dreams. The hunter tried to ignore their jabs at his personal life, that he was worthless, even an archangel didn’t want him and left him.

However, in this dream, the words on the walls weren’t as blurred as he remembered in the previous instances. Sam didn’t understand them, couldn’t decipher them, but hoped they meant something more than another sign of his mind breaking into shreds.

As he ate, Sam thought about his days and his lifestyle lately. The hunter stopped running and coming into town for groceries. He realized that if Dean didn’t take care of him, Sam would just succumb to the hollow feeling within his chest. The pain was there, the constant pulse letting him know that he was still alive but without Gabriel being there with him. It had been getting easier to shove it into the back of his mind, but sometimes as if a dam broke, Sam would hide into his room and after locking the door, he would let the tears out. It helped. It was definitely safer than the alternatives which he didn’t want to think about. He wasn’t suicidal. Not anymore. That day it had felt similar how Gabriel had described it to him. But his words could have never prepared him for the real thing. And they still hadn’t finished the bond between each other, not really. How much worse it could have been then.

Sam squeezed his eyes shut firmly so not to shed even more tears that morning. The raw emotions were choking him and he had to eat to be strong enough to think properly. Dean needed him. There was still this nudging gut feeling that he couldn’t just stop trying even though his heart wanted to.

Another day, another attempt to find some clues. There had been nothing still. And without Castiel around, no one was there to explain and tell them what to do. Rowena might help, but it wasn’t her fight and this world wasn’t in danger yet, so the witch didn’t have the right incentive to do something about their situation. But they could try. If nothing else, she could point them into the right direction.

With the last thought in mind, Sam stood up from his bed, took his comfortable pants and t-shirt on and went out of his room, heading to the library to learn more about what Dean had found.

Another day alone. Another day without him.

Chapter Text

Chapter 21

It had been two months and four days since Gabriel had had the pleasure to wake up beside Sam, to feel the heat radiating from the hunter’s body making his morning thousand times better than without the other man.

Being without Sam had been the worst torture he had experienced in his life so far. And Gabriel had lived for millennia, and for years he had been subjected to the life of running and never escaping his pursuers, or the guilt over his ignorance. His world had been in tatters for too long and Gabriel had already decided to do something about it, to finally get a pair and help his home get rid of its infection – his brother.

Now, the archangel had a reason to try after all since he had found a new home.

Sam.

Gabriel lay on the bed, the blanket strangely twisted between and around his legs, his right arm bent under his head as he stared at the ceiling, trying to remember Sam’s face or the dimples when the hunter smiled for whatever reason. Even upon the smallest of the smiles, they would always appear on Sam’s cheeks. It was a sign of happiness, and that Gabriel had done something good.

The archangel sighed loudly as he closed his eyes and ran his head over his face a couple of times to chase away the sorrow over the loss. Gabriel just hoped that Sam hadn’t had to go through this phase; feeling so hollow and empty that it had been both physical and mental struggle to even leave the bed and live on. Every damn second without the hunter had felt as if an angel blade had been piercing through his bleeding grace. Honestly, without Jack and the responsibility he had taken upon himself, Gabriel would have given up within the first few days.

Gabriel groaned as he rubbed the exhaustion from his eyes, and after a few more silent seconds he untwisted from the covers to start a new day of training and making up plans how to stop his brother from destroying the world even more. The archangel just couldn’t make himself not to think about Sam and what the hunter might have been doing all this time. If he had moved on already, or waited for him coming back. All these questions had been circling around in his head, distracting him from the mission ahead. But the end was near.

Soon.

The dreams Gabriel had been having had been getting stranger each night. Not that he complained but watching Sam almost in every dream running from the monsters and not being able to do anything - except scrawling something on the walls - was a different kind of torture the archangel had to endure through the night. Apparently staying alone in a bed after finally finding a bondmate wasn’t enough for his consciousness.

The everyday routine was simple. At first it had been quite difficult to even get out of his room, but in time, Jack had grown on him and Gabriel had started to relish spending time with his nephew. The kid was bright and eager to learn, and listened. The archangel had told him about the situation in his world and that in time it could be again a nice place to live. If everything and everyone cared enough to make it better, his home could reborn and gain its former glory. Gabriel might even start to enjoy it again. Although it would never be the same without the certain hunter, he could be at least content and feel at peace once again.

But there were always those thoughts and dreams of living his life with Sam together in the back of his mind; waking up every day cuddled to his firm chest and listening to his strong heartbeat before the hunter woke up, feeling Sam’s fingertips running over his back gently and his light kisses on his forehead and the top of his head. Those had been his favourite. Gabriel just wished that he could be there again with his hunter.

Gabriel knew that his duty as an archangel was to keep his world in relative peace. From time to time, Gabriel would doubt his decisions and he tried to overcome his fear of failure, but sometimes Lucifer’s words would hit him so hard that he would succumb to the darker corners of his mind. Suddenly, without Sam and his good heart, Gabriel lost a huge piece of his self-confidence.

Jack though was a good distraction. They talked a lot about Gabriel’s life as an archangel in Heaven and on Earth. The Nephilim was kind-hearted and nothing like his father. Of course without a good direction, the kid could have used his power for destruction, but especially after the guidance from God, Gabriel trusted that Jack could change the universe.

The archangel understood the importance of channelling all of that knowledge and power for good and keeping the balance in both worlds. Jack was special and needed right now. Gabriel still couldn’t believe that something so innocent but good could have come from someone so corrupted, but he should have known that in this boy, there is nothing from the darkness that had perverted everything pure in Lucifer.

His brother had been different back then when they had been alone in the world. The darkness within him had transformed the jealousy into hate and corruption. He was different from Michael, but hadn’t been evil at the beginning. God must have known what would happen. Gabriel had suspected but hadn’t wanted to believe that their own Father had been capable of doing such a thing to his own son. They all had just believed that Lucifer had been strong enough to get over it.

It had been a slow process from the Morning Star into Satan. And every one of the archangels had been watching from afar as their brother had been sinking deeper and deeper into the darkness that had poisoned his mind. It had been painful to look at Lucifer and see nothing from his brother anymore. God couldn’t kill his favourite son, so he had locked him up in the Cage. There had been nothing merciful about that. Back then they just couldn’t oppose God’s will. And Gabriel had been too week and too full of himself that he had never thought about doing something about it, fight for his brother against his father. They had been a family once.

It had destroyed his belief in the family, especially in his Father. Gabriel couldn’t stand by and watch his brothers fight each other, and after the Cage his home hadn’t been the same anymore. He should have done something back then. He should have done something right at the beginning and help Michael. And now, when Gabriel had found something to fight for in a place he wished looked like his world, the archangel had to go and ruin it by feeling the guilt eating on the rest of his grace. Gabriel knew that it was the right decision. His Father himself had encouraged him. And now he could redeem himself by teaching Jack what he had learned from his older brothers when he had been just a fledgling.

Gabriel enjoyed talking about his younger years when living in Heaven had been bliss and the Earth had been still in its diapers. No humans in sight. But Gabriel also knew that not everything had been the humanity’s fault. His own brother had ruined their innocence. Lucifer had known their weaknesses and used those against them. And it had worked.

***

“Uncle Gabe?” Jack said, looking at Gabriel with those innocent eyes, even though under all that fragile humanity there was hidden one of the most powerful beings in the universe. The familiarity with which the kid approached Gabriel was liberating.

“Yes, kiddo?” the archangel answered as he was again distracted by other thoughts. He looked into those blue eyes that had reminded him of Lucifer but not quite.

“I think we are ready,” the Nephilim said matter-of-factly, his voice not-wavering and sure of his words. Gabriel took a sharp breath as if surprised at his nephew but it shouldn’t have shocked him as much as it had. Jack was ready and Gabriel had been a full-powered archangel for a few weeks now. Strengthening his grace hadn’t been as difficult as he had imagined. Especially when they had been to his Earth and suddenly there hadn’t been an invisible force behind his back pressing into him and pushing him away from the place. It was his home, his world and he belonged there. Physically. His mind often wandered and mentally there wasn’t a piece of his being that didn’t want to go back despite knowing he shouldn’t.

“You sure?” Gabriel asked one last time but more like for his own benefit. He just didn’t feel the confidence of his nephew. He just wished that Sam had been there with him – for him – and supported him.

“I’m sure. Are you?” Jack inquired as if sensing Gabriel doubting himself. Such a bright kid.

“Yeah, yeah. I’m sure,” Gabriel assured him before he could change his mind. “Come on, let’s do it.”

“If you say so,” Jack said and walked away into his room, probably to prepare himself for the long – and dangerous – journey. Gabriel watched him go as he tried to calm his nerves down, breathing evenly. He just couldn’t disappoint this kid. At least one member of his family could be proud of him.

Gabriel ran his fingers through his hair and over his face several times in a nervous habit. He himself felt more like human than not; so vulnerable and afraid of messing everything up again because of his fear. The archangel had run away from this all once. He should have known it would bite him in the ass one day. And this was it. A payback for running for too long. Gabriel was taking a stance and he just hoped he wouldn’t disappoint again. He was no leader, no real fighter. Everything had been a joke and fun to him until the Apocalypse had happened. But it was inevitable that all the problems he had hidden from would catch up to him. It wasn’t a sacrifice in the true sense of the word, but in a way he was giving up his happiness.

The archangel trusted Jack and that the kid’s heart was in the right place. He just didn’t have enough trust in himself. That had always been the real problem there. And Lucifer knew every damn fuck-up of his life and never hesitated to use it against him. Gabriel worried that he wasn’t strong enough not to let the jabs get to him too much to distract him.

“Oh, Sam, I wish you were here with me,” Gabriel thought silently. He had never regretted leaving the hunter on the other side until now when he felt like a lamb going for the slaughter. But that was exactly why he had decided to go alone. “Right?” the archangel mused. This wasn’t Sam’s fight. The Winchesters had been through one already and won. Now was the time for him to man up and win.

Chapter Text

Chapter 22

It had been three months. Three months of desperately trying to fight the dark thoughts that had occupied his mind lately. Sam’s attempts to forget the hurt lingering in his chest, around his heart - as if waiting for the right moment to strike deeper and drive him to his limits – looked more like him killing everything evil that lurked around in the night. At first.

The fire burning inside of Sam was driven by pain and loneliness, fuelled even more by anger at the world that had never given him anything else than loss, and even if he tried to stay hopeful at times, it felt more like starting believing in miracles. Not that Sam had never seen anything miraculous. But he had understood a long time ago that the Winchesters would never experience such a thing themselves, or not for long at least.

His early mornings consisted of long runs around the town, trying to vent the gathered frustration and desire to split someone’s skull in half by physically draining himself, but usually Sam would avoid any other people. For their sakes. He just couldn’t stand anyone else than his brother right now. Everything – every damn thing – would remind him of something Gabriel had done, or said, and the hunter couldn’t let himself think about him anymore. Not even for a second. If he did, he would sink into the deepest, darkest part of his head, and Dean didn’t deserve to deal with his ass on top of his own issues.

Sometimes Sam would stay in bed the whole day and let all the accumulated stress and hurt go, crying himself into sleep. Not that the dreamland was the best place to escape the real life. If Sam didn’t dream about Gabriel and the unrealizable perfect life with him, waking up with the tears in his eyes, the hellish nightmares would come and destroy any hope he had tried desperately built before the depression could consume him whole again.

Sam really didn’t understand that subconsciously he still kept trying to hold onto the hope for better days, for the days when he would embrace the angel in his arms again. Why was he so fiercely trying to hold on to this glimpse of happiness? There was no happy-ending waiting for him at the end of this line, right? He should have realized it a long time ago anyway that their lives would never take a better turn. Sam should have stopped trying to fool himself into believing like three months ago.

Three fucking months and there had been no message, no hint of Gabriel or even Jack coming back. When the calendar said four-month mark, Dean dragged Sam out for another hunt, “Just to steer your mind in another direction, Sammy”, he said. His brother meant well, he just wanted to help, but Sam’s concentration went to shit and even if this case had looked like an easy thing on paper, after a few days of researching (more like faking interest on Sam’s part) and having nothing had driven them both insane. The older hunter couldn’t stand Sam’s mopey and careless attitude, and it wasn’t his fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault really. It was just that Sam had been losing himself in the darkness that at some point he had stopped caring. He stopped caring for himself, for the world, and in the end, even stopped faking it for Dean’s sake. There was nothing worth fighting for in his mind.

It had always been the same song, over and over again, like a broken record. Saving people, hunting things. The whole damn business, his whole life. And even though Sam had tried to run away from it at one point of his youth, he had been dragged into it again and again against his will. Sam had had enough and felt helpless. But then Gabriel from another world had appeared out of nowhere and showed him that life wasn’t just about fighting monsters against the odds, saving the world and people, who usually hadn’t known that was them who had kept the boogieman away from them when the night fell.

This beautiful, magnificent creature had shined through the endless mist of Sam’s life and showed him what life actually was, what it meant to wake up next to someone who cared, smiled at him just because he was. Sam missed Gabriel’s lively personality, his stupid, cheesy jokes (and Sam had laughed at them anyway), his tentative touches, gentle caresses. It had been strange at first since their Gabriel and he had had a history, not a pleasant one, unfortunately. Getting used to the Gabriel from another world hadn’t been easy, especially because of his face and masks hiding the real him. But when he had got to know him more and got through all his walls, Sam had fallen fast and hard. It had been inevitable when the hunter looked at it now, after some time.

And he was falling through that rabbit hole. Again. Somehow, every time Sam would fall farther than before, and the deeper he went, the harder it was to claw out of the dark pit.

***

“Dammit, Sam. Is it so much to ask for you to at least try and help me with the research? If you don’t care about those people, at least help me a little here and I’ll do it for us both. You loved research, enjoyed it even. People are dying. What the fuck’s going on with you?” Dean ranted frustratingly, having enough of his brother’s attitude. Fuming internally, he stared at Sam and waited for any reaction, his hands crossed over his chest in a threatening pose. Even if he received a patented bitchface from his brother, Dean would be ecstatic. This “nothing” scared the shit out of him and he worried that Sam was losing it again. This time completely.

“You still have to ask, Dean?” Sam said emotionlessly, not moving an inch from his lying position on the bed. His legs were crossed at the ankles as he leant back on the headboard, staring at the moldy ceiling.

“You know what the problem is. What the problem’s always been. Why should I care? Nobody cares. No one’s ever cared about us. So why should I? Nothing good would ever come from this, this living in dingy motel rooms, always on the run and having no stable life, no actual job, no friends. Oh, I forgot, all our friends are dead, sorry,” Sam scoffed mockingly as if he weren’t affected by the idea.

“We have nothing and no one but ourselves, Dean. D’you think it’s a good life? A happy life? Have you ever wondered we deserved much more than this after so much shit going on in our lives from the damn birth?” Sam asked with his eyebrows raised in question, motioning with his hands around himself and looking over the beaten down furniture, two rickety, wooden chairs standing at a table in the same scuffed state, and weird stains on the opposite wall,

“Seriously, after everything we’ve been through?” the younger hunter finally stopped to look at his brother for a while as if trying to tell him there was no positive answer to that and they both knew it. After a couple of seconds, Sam averted his gaze as he shook his head in incredulity over Dean’s absurd questions and attempts to provoke him.

Dean didn’t have an answer to that, of course. He tried to coax Sam into doing the research and kick-start his brain, because he was good at that, it had always brought him hope and a sense of doing something good, helping people. Everything that Sam had said sounded a hell of a lot like those times when he had run around soulless. He wasn’t quite there yet, but it was close. Too close for his liking. Dean just hoped that Gabriel would come back soon because he feared that it wasn’t going to be long before he would lose his brother for good, which was a terrifying notion.

Dean uncrossed his arms and sighed loudly as he ran his hands over his face and through his hair, trying to hold his emotions in. He didn’t want to make it worse than it already was. Sam was almost catatonic and arguing with him would make him even more stubborn. The older hunter massaged his temples with his forefingers and decided that it was the best time to talk.

The older Winchester hated chick flick moments, he hated sharing his feelings with anyone, talking about his fears and pain, nightmares and memories. But he knew that Sam was different and “this” – he looked at Sam lying on the bed, staring blankly at nothing in particular, not caring about people getting hurt – was just Sam trying to cope with his own pain. And honestly, at this stage, Dean understood that this was far worse than he had ever imagined happening to his little brother. Sam had always been the one with hope, empathy and emotion in his heart. But when looking at his brother now, Dean saw just a barely living shell of Sam, almost like Sam was waiting for something to find him and take him out of his misery.

“Sam,” Dean sighed again when he was met with silence, “Sammy, we gonna talk about this? I don’t mean fight, but really talk about this? You’ve been...” he paused for a few moments to think his thoughts through as he cleared his throat, “you haven’t been yourself lately and I get it, I really do-“

“You do?” Sam interrupted him suddenly, finally looking at him with his patented bitchface and pressing his lips into a thin line as he tried to control his temper. Dean couldn’t say if it was a good thing or not at the moment.

“Sammy, I-“ Dean tried.

“No. Sorry, Dean, but I’m not that kid anymore. He’s been gone for a long time,” Sam sneered annoyed, “and you know what? I’m glad he’s gone because if he weren’t, I wouldn’t be here today. That boy had believed in good, believed in angels and prayed sometimes. It was a weakness.”

“Sam, no-“ Dean started but he was – again – interrupted.

“Dean, just stop,” Sam shouted, and then laughed humourlessly as he furiously wiped away the tears at the corners of his eyes, “I’d believed in a better world, that humanity had been worth fighting for and that angels had been looking out for me...” Sam stopped abruptly, pursing his lips forcefully to stop any sound coming out of his mouth. Deafening silence spread between them – except Sam’s harsh breathing - and it didn’t seem that Sam would continue.

Dean didn’t know what to say. He wasn’t his brother, he lacked in empathy department, comforting someone had always been Sam’s thing. On one hand the older hunter was glad that Sam started talking to him, on the other hand, he also got emotional. Dean felt like walking on the eggshells right now.

“I know what you’re gonna say, Dean. That I shouldn’t stop fighting because he’ll come back. But it’s been four months and there’s been nothing, and I’m at the end of my rope, man, I just...” Sam sighed heavily as if it were really hard for him to even breathe. He ran his hands over his face in fast movements, surely trying to be strong for Dean. “Always taking someone else’s feelings before his own,” Dean mused and deep down he was glad for that because it meant Sam was not completely gone.

“I just can’t, man. I was a damn hunter who got through so much shit, near ends of the world, and now I’m crying like a baby over him. I don’t know what’s going on with me. I know I get emotional easily, but this is like a completely different level. Ugh, I hate this!” Sam growled into his hands, frustration and anger seeping into his voice.

“Sam, I know. I mean I’m trying to understand but obviously, I never will-“

“What about Cas?” Sam asked quickly.

“What about him?” Dean was a bit confused by the change of topic.

“Well, the profound bond..?” Sam said without finishing the sentence.

“Oh shit, that thing again. No, Sammy, nothing like that. Well, maybe there was something, I guess...” Dean furrowed his eyebrows in a fleeting thought of Cas but sobered fast. He wasn’t touching that with a ten foot pole.

“Not the point, anyway. I just wanna say that I somehow understand why he did it,” Dean paused, trying to gather his thoughts and for once, Sam listened even though it was evident that he was holding his emotions in, barely. “Stubborn son of a bitch.”

“You know Gabe and I are similar in a way,” Dean started slowly and smirked at Sam rolling his eyes. Yeah, he knew it was an understatement. They had a lot in common, actually. The older hunter shook his head in exasperation, but was somehow finally getting through the fog Sam had been living in for weeks.

“Shut your mouth,” Dean said, faking annoyance.

“Not saying anything, you hearing things, Dean?” Sam asked innocently, his puppy-eyes power on. At least their playful banter was back, Dean mentally patted himself on the shoulder. It was going much better than he had expected to.

“Anyway, I just wanted to say that I get him. He felt he owed his world a chance because he saw this,” Dean gestured around him with his hands, “and us and realized that he could play us for that place he called home. And deep down you get it, Sam. You would have done the same thing. And my gut feeling is telling me right now that Jack is gonna help him. So, please, Sammy, don’t fall into that dark pit because I can’t see you in pieces again. I just can’t. It’s just... It’s killing me seeing you like this, not caring about anything. That’s not you and I just feel like I’m losing you before my eyes. I get it, Sam, I get that it’s hard for you but giving up isn’t the answer,” Dean said the last words with a bit of desperation in his voice and apparently, he’d got through the damn walls Sam had built up around his heart, and he could see now that his little brother was thinking about his words. It was all Dean could do even though he wished he could do more.

After having taken a beer from the fridge, Dean sat back on his bed, opening the beer and drinking half of the bottle in one go. He didn’t do emotions, though it might have opened barely healed wounds in Sam’s heart, it was necessary to talk it out.

After a few minutes of silence, Dean had already settled on the mattress, silently hoping his words had got through. Sam shifted on his bed and coughed as if trying to draw Dean’s attention. Dean sighed in relief and looked at his brother, their eyes met for a few seconds, followed by a silent understanding between them. A huge mass of tension left Dean’s body in that moment.

“Thanks, Dean,” Sam finally said earnestly, his voice cracking on his name. The younger hunter cleared his throat again as if to say more, “I’m sorry for-”

“Don’t worry about it. You’re my brother, Sammy, no matter what,” Dean said firmly.

“Yeah, I know,” Sam muttered under his nose, his hair falling into his face and obscuring any emotions from Dean’s observant eyes. But from his tone, Dean knew that they were on a good path.

“I just...it feels so empty here,” Sam hissed as if in pain as he looked at Dean intensely, pressing his left palm on his chest, “and we weren’t even bonded properly. I can’t imagine...”

“Don’t, don’t go there, Sam. It’s gonna be okay. Trust me. Just don’t give up,” Dean repeated as he drank the rest of the bottle in one gulp and shifted uncomfortably.

“I guess, the chick flick moment is over?” Dean asked tentatively after a moment.

“Huh, poor you, must have been hard talking about feelings,” Sam provoked his brother jokingly.

“Yeah, whatever, bitch.” Dean said, faking irritation as he smirked lightly. His job had been done here.

“Shut up, jerk, and give me the laptop, or we’re not gonna get out of this hellhole anytime soon.”

Another crisis averted. Hopefully, the last one. Whatever Gabriel was doing right now, he’d better return asap, or at least send a message. Anything was better than nothing. At first Dean had thought it would have gotten easier for Sam with time. However, these episodes were getting out of hand rather quickly, and Dean didn’t know if he would be fast enough to stop Sam next time.

The older Winchester shook his head to get rid of the dark thoughts and the worst scenarios creeping into his mind, and stood up to grab another beer. As he was laying on the bed again, his eyes trained on the TV, Dean listened to the familiar clicking and humming from the other bed. Finally, he could breathe more easily, but he would never stop watching his brother closely. It was his job after all. 

Chapter Text

Chapter 23

The landscape was shrouded by shadows and dark smoke which made him cough right after Jack had brought them there. No sunlight could get through the black fog rising from everywhere around him, even from the earth itself. Gabriel recognized their surroundings, he knew the mountains just a few dozens of miles away from them, covered by gray clouds of falling ash. He didn’t want to think about the origins of those small particles.

“Home sweet home,” Gabriel sighed, faking his chipper attitude. “What do you think, kid? Paradise, right?” Gabriel said, bitterness lacing the tone of his voice. He didn’t realize that Jack didn’t quite understand sarcasm. It was too late when the archangel caught his nephew’s brow furrowing in incomprehension.

“Oh, I don’t think you know what the word “paradise” means, uncle,” Jack said seriously as he tilted his head a little to the side, awkwardly frowning at Gabriel and it took so much strength for the archangel not to start laughing at that face.

“This is gold, kiddo. This is gold,” Gabriel chuckled, patting Jack on the back, smiling at his clueless nephew. “Never change, you hear me? Never change,” Gabriel ordered playfully as he pointed his forefinger at Jack, smiling subtly at the boy for a few more moments. He is so innocent. Gabriel thought to himself. He still couldn’t grasp the fact that Lucifer had fathered such a creature. But he would bet all his tricks that the mother had been the most important part of making Jack essentially good. Gabriel just hoped that all of this here wouldn’t ruin him. When he looked around, even being here had to taint the light within them both. The guilt over not doing enough and leaving was gnawing on his insides again. They would have to move fast from here before someone sensed the presence of Jack, him being too powerful to be from this world.

“So, kiddo, you talked about some resistance camp somewhere in this ditch? We should probably check them out and see what they’ve been up to,” Gabriel said seriously, back to business again.

“Oh, of course,” Jack said happily, his lips curving into an easy smile and eyes shining with genuine mirth, “I’ve met some of them. They’re friends of mine. My father is also there, helping.”

If this had been a comic cartoon, Gabriel’s jaw would have been lying on the ground and his eyes would have popped out of its sockets at the words that had left Jack’s mouth. The archangel chuckled nervously, looking at the boy and searching for some clues that it was just a stupid joke from the kid’s side, just to get Gabriel back for his sarcastic description of this world, but after a while of staring at each other, the archangel’s smile fell from his face and dread crept slowly into his heart.

“Are you serious? Oh my Dad, you’re serious. What the hell, Jack. Lucifer is-.”

“Oh no, Lucifer is not my father,” Jack said matter-of-factly, nodding resolutely with that innocent smile of his, as if it were the most obvious thing when mentioning his father. Then his eyes scanned the land in their vicinity, probably seeing much farther than an ordinary human could even imagine.

“What?” Gabriel barked out in not understanding what the kid was talking about. Lucifer was the kid’s dad. Did he miss the actual meaning of the word. But-...

“Lucifer is not my father. He wasn’t at my mother’s side when the demons wanted to hurt her, he didn’t protect her from the darkness. He wasn’t the one whose footsteps I wanted to follow every way possible,” Jack said reverently, and it was clear to Gabriel that this person couldn’t be Lucifer. Oh no, this was someone else completely and his curiosity was cracking at the seams. The archangel was looking at the Nephilim, expecting at least a name so he could decide if it was a good idea to show his face to them. He wasn’t the poster boy of the best archangel of the universe after all and had many disagreements with other members of his family.

“Well?” Gabriel breathed out, throwing his hands into the air in exasperation. “Are you gonna tell me his name, or what?” the easy smile never left Jack’s face, his eyes trained on a spot into the distance, possibly watching the guy right now with reverence. As if this man – Jack’s father figure apparently – was walking in the holiest light in the universe. And he met God. So...

“Castiel, his name is Castiel. D’you know him?” Jack asked curiously with those puppy-dog eyes on. Gabriel’s grace slowly calmed down at hearing the name. Castiel was one of the lesser angels, but the archangel remembered him as a fledgling still, but hadn’t seen him for a very long time. If Jack trusted him so much, though, Gabriel couldn’t say no to that face. But he was on guard. Who knew what this Castiel told Jack, what delusions or lies could have been fed to the Nephilim.

“We should go now. I can feel them coming,” Jack said quickly as his smile slipped away from his face. Gabriel could sense him concentrating his powers as his grace was expanding into the distance.

Gabriel’s grace was welcoming the change of the scenery, it was his home after all and he felt much better just standing here. Even though there was nothing alive around them, this world wasn’t rejecting him and it was like a huge mass had been lifted from his shoulders. He still couldn’t get rid of a feeling that something was missing, though. Sam.

“Okay, kiddo, lead the way,” Gabriel said, feeling anticipation rising within his chest, his grace powering up. He would be prepared for a possible attack. Hopefully, it was not in their cards yet. Jack wouldn’t lie to him. Gabriel still felt that stupid thing inside of his chest, the urge to run and never turn back. But his Father had given him another chance to change this world and that was something he had to take an advantage of. God had never done anything just because. Or had He? Who knew these days.

***

When they arrived to the camp, the alarm bells started ringing in his ears. Something was wrong if the burning huts and small shelters were anything to go by. Jack’s senses were alert as well as his fingers were clenched into fists, the power searing within him. Gabriel was just about to turn around when someone stepped out of the bushes surrounding one of the huts. Jack almost tripped over his own legs when he ran toward the person.

“Jack!” Gabriel cried in horror. What the hell was he doing?

“Castiel!” Jack let out worriedly as his eyes searched for any injuries on the guy’s body. Fortunately, Gabriel managed to scan the grounds and the angel now being hugged by the Nephilim. It was Castiel but it was so strange, his grace was almost depleted. It seemed that he was almost human but still standing strong.

“Jack, it is good to see you, again. I apologize for this fluke,” Castiel gestured around himself at the shacks in fire, “We didn’t know who was with you, so the camp moved quickly to another place. I stayed behind just to make sure,” the angel explained his actions to the boy, his frantic eyes calmed down a little afterwards. Gabriel wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen the scene with his own eyes. Now he understood why Jack called Castiel his father. The angel cared for the boy and quite a lot for just a guardian. And an angel on top of that. It was beautiful to witness. During his musings, Gabriel could hear Jack telling Castiel who he was and why they were here. He had also mentioned God, of course, but the angel wasn’t even surprised that the old man had showed up again. As if He had done it before. They came closer to him, stopping just a few feet from him.

“Gabriel, brother? Is it really you? I thought you were dead,” Castiel said with remorse and also shock in his tone. Gabriel was bewildered by the familiarity the angel was talking to him as if they had known each other. But of course, Sam had spoken about Castiel as their ally and friend. But that would mean...

“You’re from the other world, aren’t you?” Gabriel asked in surprise, his eyes widening a little bit.

“Yes, I am. I ended up here after our Lucifer killed me. I woke up in one of the camp huts, one of the people helped me heal and now I’m helping them to beat Lucifer’s forces,” Castiel clarified the reason why he was stuck here. Gabriel remembered the Winchesters mentioning the angel’s demise once or twice but always too vague for him to determine what had really happened. Now he had the whole picture. The question was who had saved him from the big, bad Nothing? Was it God, or maybe Jack himself? With his powers and determination, the Nephilim could have done it somehow. But they could talk more later, they needed to move on. Jack’s extreme reaction upon seeing the destruction of the camp could have attracted someone Gabriel didn’t want to see again so soon.

“Okay, guys, I’d say we should move on before they sniff us out. Jack here was a bit overwhelmed and it must have attracted my dear brother’s attention already,” Gabriel said hurriedly, preparing to fly out of here as soon as possible.

“Of course, follow me,” Castiel said like a good soldier he was. Oh dear Dad, Castiel was acting like his subordinate. As if Gabriel was any way near to the commander he had once been. This was going to hurt and the archangel wasn’t looking forward to that. Not one bit. Jack helped Castiel fly to the location of their new camp since the angel’s wings were completely destroyed.

Gabriel trailed after them, trying to prepare for the inevitable. If the angel introduced him as their salvation, and he was probably one of the main guys of the resistance, the others could follow his example and expect miracles from Gabriel. But why? He was a screw-up. He had ran away from Heaven when the angels had needed him the most. The archangel had left them and never looked back. Oh, he had realized after meeting the Winchesters and seeing their world that he could have done more, but still... the instinct of running away was heavily engrained within him. Gabriel had to make every effort to stay and not listen to the inner voice inciting him to think of himself and his survival.

But no, Gabriel had Jack and the resistance with capable Castiel who strangely trusted him enough to trust him. And then thoughts of Sam fell into the mix, and insecurities of him being not enough, or not succeeding. He would never see Sam again if he lost and died here.

But the hunter, his intended, had saved his world with his brother several times, why shouldn’t Gabriel? Determination settled in his mind and he felt good, calmer. They would beat Lucifer’s ass and make this world liveable again.