Sam stared at the mass of people to whom he was the newest source of entertainment and could only think of how very like his luck it was that he had been tossed into this situation.
Going back in time to fix things - that had been the plan. They hadn’t been sure where he’d end up, how far Cas’s limited power could send him, on top of substituting spell ingredients when they came up empty on one thing or another. Between Cas and Crowley, pretty much the only thing they’d had in sure supply was angel wings and demon blood, though Sam was still a little surprised he hadn’t simply exploded once Dean had started chanting in a bastardized remix of Latin, Greek, and Enochian.
His older brother was not happy that they only had enough juice to send Sam back, and doubly-displeased that Sam was the better choice, but he hadn’t had much room to argue. Without much hope for keeping the world from being destroyed this go-around, stepping back through time to make some better choices at the beginning seemed the best option they had.
“My, my, this is quite the offering you’ve brought me,” the god spoke, as he stepped down from his throne. Of all the things to happen, being kidnapped by an overzealous idiot with delusions of grandeur had not been ideal, especially since the first time he lived his life, he’d managed to kick the idiot sophmore’s ass before he knocked Sam unconscious. Only the confusion at being back in a younger body in a mostly unfamiliar place had left him unprepared and now he was here, sat before a god as some sacrifice for… what, better grades?
And, of course, of all the gods to be sacrificed to, it had to be the one Sam was most attracted to, who he knew was secretly an archangel in disguise.
“It’s been some time since I’ve been visited by one your age.” Gabriel… well, Loki, was looking at the kid standing next to Sam. He had his hands in his pockets in a stance that was meant to look casual, though Sam knew it was mostly to keep the rings on his fingers out of sight. The one time the boy had let his guard down, Sam had tried to rip them off. He hadn’t managed to get the ring, but he had at least succeeded in breaking two of the kid’s fingers.
Sam ducked his head to hide his smile. Call him a sadist, but that had been an enjoyable moment. Perhaps two hundred years in the Cage with Lucifer as a tor mentor had fucked him up more than he’d realized. Thank Chuck for his brother and Castiel for helping him find his way back.
They hadn’t had time to go to the hospital, of course, since the idiot apparently wanted to sacrifice him to Loki of all… deities, so he knew the kid was in pain.
“My family’s been worshipping you for generations.”
Sam heard the shifting of fabric as Loki rose from the throne. “Generations, huh?”
He kept his head down. He didn’t want to draw the hidden archangel’s attention to him, even if this Gabriel wouldn’t know who he was. His gaze was caught by the sandals Loki was wearing. They were golden, with straps that circled his ankles and ran up his legs until they disappeared beneath the pale cloth that fell in loose folds around him. Loki’s toenails were white, polished and clean, and Sam felt his lips quirk up in a grin. What he would give to rag on the archangel about taking time out of his just desserts to get a pedicure.
He watched as those feet carried the trickster-archangel in a circle around Sam’s kidnapper. The straps of the sandals were tight against his skin, but loose chains dangled against his flesh, shifting with a soft tinkling at every step the pagan took. The backdrop of clinking golden jewelry was just so Gabriel that Sam had to struggle not to burst out laughing.
He could practically feel the disdain rolling off of Loki in waves as he stopped in front of the kid. The trickster matched the feeling in his tone.
“Imagine that. Generations your family has worshipped me, yet there’s nothing interesting about you. No innate magics. No great talent. Oh, you’re clever when you want to be, certainly, but that’s a rare treat from you. Tends to get brushed aside for the laziness, doesn’t it?”
There was a startled inhale from the boy and Sam tightened his lips. Sloth. Leave it to Gab-- Loki to bring up the sins of one of his would-be worshippers. Sam almost felt bad for the kid. Almost.
“How about you, kiddo?”
Sam lifted his head, startled as the archangel… god… archpagan stopped in front of him. He met Loki’s eyes to find they were the same shade he had always associated with him - like melted caramel and sunshine through a glass of whiskey. They were filled with sly amusement, but Sam could see the curiosity, too. And as he met the archpagan’s eyes, he saw a frown line appear between his eyebrows, saw the way his eyes gleamed a brighter gold for a moment, and then watched curiosity flare deeper yet.
It was probably driving Gabriel insane .
They’d planned this out as far as they could and one of the things that had been most important to Sam, besides making sure Lucifer couldn’t steal his face, was keeping people from pulling bits of the future from him without his consent. Spell after spell, Enochian sigils, and more visits to a tattoo artist than Sam had ever thought he would experience and he wasn’t sure Chuck would have been able to get inside his head.
“What about me?” Sam asked, affecting a tone of unconcern. Honestly, Gabriel didn’t scare him. He probably should , if Sam was honest, but Gabe had been the archangel who had always stood by humanity. Yes, his methods were… less than stellar when you were on the receiving end and the archangel was very in it for himself, but he hadn’t been trying to murder Dean and Sam and steal their bodies.
Well. Permanently murder, anyway.
“Why don’t you tell me your name, hm?”
Sam resisted the urge to snort. Yeah, right. That was going to happen. Something must have shown on his face, because both of Gab—Loki’s eyebrows had gone up. “No?”
Sam gave him a smirk the archangel would have been proud to know Sam picked up from him. “I might only be eighteen but I know the dangers of giving people your name.”
Loki’s teeth flashed white in a grin. “Oh-ho! The whole names-have-power lore. Ah, I love you humans and the stories you come up with.” His smile turned playful and leering in a way that made heat pool in Sam’s stomach. He swallowed hard. “I don’t need your name to have power over you, kiddo. Whose throne are you standing in front of again?” At some point, the archangel-god had moved closer, the two of them barely inches apart. With Loki standing on one of the steps to the dais on which his throne sat, they were eye-to-eye and Sam could see amusement burning in whiskey-brown eyes. “I think,” the god purred through a smirk, “that we both know who holds all the power here.”
“Yes,” Sam murmured, feeling a thrill as he watched Loki’s pupils expand at the word. A smirk curled over his lips and he dared to lean close enough that he could feel the god’s breath on his lips, could almost taste him. “It’s definitely me.”
“Um… excuse me.”
G--Loki blinked, then pulled back. Sam felt himself lean forward, trying to follow and stopped himself. Loki grinned and winked at him, before turning to Sam’s abductor. “Needy little gerbil, aren’t you?”
The look of affront on the boy’s face was so ridiculously haughty and superior that Sam couldn’t hold in his snort. The boy turned, small blue eyes narrowing on him. “I don’t see why you’re laughing, Sam .” A smirk curled across the boy’s face and Sam knew he had said his name on purpose, giving it to Loki. He was just glad the idiot hadn’t had the foresight to give his full name, if he even knew it. What Gabriel would do if he knew Sam was a Winchester, he didn’t want to know.
Probably run, his mind whispered tauntingly, and with good reason.
Oh shut up, Sam hissed at his own thoughts.
He’d gotten better over the years at not falling into the spiral of his negativity. Recognizing it before it could suck him in helped a lot, but it didn’t stop the thoughts from coming. Gabriel was, unfortunately, a source of a great deal of negative thoughts over the years. There had been an attraction between the two of them from the very start, but Mystery Spot had put a Dean-shaped hole in their potential. After everything that happened, honestly, Sam probably would have been able to forgive the archangel, with some bitterness, after learning about what he had done to escape Heaven. He and Sam were more alike than either of them had wanted to admit. But then Gabriel had died at Elysian Fields - died for them - and all chances of them becoming something, even friends, had died with him. In its place, only the guilt had grown, festering over the years, until it had almost consumed Sam along with everything else.
This chance, going back and fixing their lives, had been one of the only things that kept him going at the end. There’d been enough hope in the thought of it, in the potential, that he was able to pull himself up enough to get help. It hadn’t been easy. More than once, he’d almost given up, but Dean had been there constantly, and Castiel, neither one of them giving up on him. Even Crowley had been there for him, in his own way, and Sam had learned to walk a line between the angel and the demon, step-by-step in rhythm with his brother. Two kids in the grand scheme of things, not angels or demons, but not wholly human either.
And here he was, back years before he’d expected. He’d been hoping only to make it back before Dean’s deal, in some illusive moment before the end had really begun. He’d had no expectations beyond that. Hadn’t even been sure they could do it. So much had happened, so many years had passed, and the age of his body was at such a disconnect with the age of his soul, the largest danger had been the place where he’d spent the most time in his long life.
Castiel hadn’t mentioned it to Dean when the concern had arisen, for which Sam was grateful. He had spoken it quietly only to Sam, the possibility that he would make it years back in time, only to wake up back in the Cage, forced to endure Lucifer for another two hundred years.
Familiar with his luck, he had expected the likelihood of that possibility being high, but it hadn’t been high enough to deter him, even though speaking to Dean, especially during those last few weeks, had been terrible, his mind filled with thoughts that the next time he saw his brother might be in the depths of a living nightmare, where Lucifer was using the faces of everyone he loved as he flayed the skin from Sam’s bones. Even that final day, he couldn’t bear to tell Dean of the possibility, wanting his brother to keep hold of the hope Sam wasn’t quite able to grasp. He could only hug his brother tight in what might be a final grasp and pray harder than he ever had in his life. Pray for a chance. Pray for his family. Pray for time.
Instead of waking up in the Cage with Lucifer as his roommate, or waking up in one of the numerous motel rooms he and his brother had shared during those first few years when everything was so much easier by comparison, he’d woken in a room that distinctly wasn’t a hotel, with his brother nowhere in sight, and everything looking vaguely familiar in a deja vu way.
He’d been completely baffled, and also completely weaponless. The ability ingrained into them to wake up at a moment’s notice didn’t do much good if you weren’t paying attention to your surroundings like you should. He would have been less surprised to be attacked by a demon. Having someone reach around him with a rag soaked in chloroform had been the highlight of his night.
Contrary to what Hollywood would suggest, chloroform didn’t take effect right away. Sam had time to struggle, and struggle he had, but something icy had clamped down on his wrist, burning cold, and his strength had gone out of him in an instant. He’d collapsed to the floor with the other boy on top of him and succumbed with embarrassing speed to the chloroform. He’d woken up later in what was unmistakably a moving vehicle, his hands tied tight to the oh-shit bar and a blindfold wrapped around his eyes. It had only been removed when they had to go out in public, like when the kid dragged them into a hotel for the night. That was when Sam had tried to get the ring off the guy’s hand, inscribed very obviously in the same style as the band on his wrist. He’d failed in getting the ring, but the sound of breaking fingers had still be satisfying.
The blindfold had prevented Sam from seeing where they entered Loki’s domain from, which was only a minor problem, more an irritation than anything. It was wholly likely that the entrance shifted so as to keep displeased people from returning or Loki being found, but Sam wasn’t sure and he would have liked to know.
He added it to his mental list of things to look into in the future.
"So what do you think of all this, kiddo?"
Sam lifted his head and looked at Loki. The trickster god was giving him a thoughtful look, probably wondering still why he couldn’t get inside Sam’s head. Castiel had told him it was unusual but not an unheard of event. Just like there were some humans who were able to perceive an angel’s wings - their grace - without their eyes burning out of their sockets, there were some humans whose minds couldn’t be read. Not even by an archangel.
"... I kinda want to hear his justification for trying to offer you an unwilling sacrifice, if he's serious about his family worshipping you for generations. You'd think he'd know better."
He saw the boy’s face flush red but before he could say anything, Loki looked over at him with a long hum trailing from his lips. “I’m curious about that, as well.” And wow, watching the kid swallow his entire adam’s apple should not be so satisfying. “You do understand the concept of free will, don’t you, boy?”
Oooh… not even a nickname. Ouch. The archangel was not happy, but then, Gabriel had spent millennia hanging out with humans. In the end, he had fought and died for them and their free will. It was no surprise to Sam that it was something that would infuriate him even as Loki.
Sam could actually feel Loki’s fury. It crackled in the air like a static charge, leaving a tingling burn across Sam’s skin. Sam remembered fire and ice clashing in a storm, leaving burning scars across his skin. He drew in a deep breath and exhaled slowly, reminding himself that he was not there . His plans, bare outlines that they were, would make certain that never happened. He would not be locked in the Cage again. And Loki - Gabriel - was certainly not his brothers.
“I mean, come on,” Sam said, drawing the attention of both the frightened kid and the angry god, “you could’ve just asked . I would’ve told you there’s way better things to trade than a scrawny college student.” He flashed the both of them a grin and watched Gabriel tilt his head, his eyes burning caramel gold in curiosity.
“What sort of things do you think I’d like, Sam-I-Am?” The god stepped closer with a slow, measured stride that was probably meant to look impressively intimidating. Sam felt his breath catch in his throat and hoped to… Chuck that Loki didn’t notice.
Considering the smirk that curled across the trickster’s lips, Chuck wasn’t listening to Sam’s prayers today.
Well, fine. He could play that game, too.
“Mm… we could try and Take Five? Or I could… give you a break. I enjoy a good pull n’ peel...” He gave Loki a slow, lascivious grin that made the god’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “Twizzlers, you know.”
“Twizzlers,” Loki muttered. It sounded like a question.
Sam smiled, stepping closer. His grin hurt his face but he couldn’t stop smiling. He’d never seen Gabriel look so… startled.
“Or those Cadbury eggs. They’re so creamy inside. I like to put the whole thing in my mouth and…”
Loki made a noise in the back of his throat that made Sam’s stomach drop to his crotch. There was color high on the god’s cheeks and his eyes were burning gold.
It was so fucking hot.
They’d gravitated toward each other again, faces only inches apart. Loki smelled like warm sugar and sunshine and Sam would have given almost anything to lean in just that little bit more, press their lips together, and finally see what he tasted like.
Whipped cream and peeps, Sam thought, feeling Gabe’s breath ghost over his lips. Caramel and peanut brittle. M&Ms melting on his tongue. Cotton candy and sprinkles.
His lips quivered with want and Sam closed his eyes, exhaled slowly, admitted to himself that this… couldn’t happen. He wanted it. God, did he want it, but… no.
He pulled back, the smile curling over his lips, and looked at the idiot who had kidnapped him. “See?” He jerked his head at Loki, whose face shuttered in response to Sam’s obvious disinterest in continuing their game. “Way better choices than some dumb college kid.” He glanced at the trickster god, who had stood back up straight and was eyeing him cooly. He felt sick at the sight. “Am I right?” he asked, and was pleased when his voice didn’t crack.
“Kiddo, a head of cabbage would have been a better trade than you.”
Sam felt something sharp in his chest at the words spoken so casually but he forced it not to show on his face. Instead, he flashed a grin at the other kid. “See? Better luck next time.”
Loki snorted, stalking forward. “There won’t be a next time.” He snapped his fingers and the sound was hard in the air. The kid disappeared with a rush of power Sam could feel like heat against his skin. There was nothing welcoming about it.
Loki sighed, his back to Sam. For a moment, the room lingered in silence and Sam waited, wondering if his memory would be erased and he’d be sent back to his apartment with a snap of fingers.
And then Loki was turning around, the grin back on his face, but none of it showing in his eyes. It hurt Sam to see that look, knowing he had put it there.
“You’ve had a pretty eventful evening and none of it by your consent, for all that you rolled with the punches.” Sam nodded, not quite sure where Loki was going with this. “Seems only fair that, being a captive and unwilling audience member to my court, I grant you… a small boon.”
Sam blinked in surprise. A boon? Of all things, he hadn’t expected that .
“And… what do you get?” he asked cautiously.
“Why, the pleasure of your company in my court, of course,” Loki said, throwing his arms wide. “You have been a source of immense entertainment tonight. It’s only fair you’re paid for your services. So tell me, what would you like? A credit card that never maxes out? A doctorate in your chosen field? I’d suggest dashing good looks but you certainly don’t need any help in that department, do you?”
Sam felt his face heat with a blush and Loki’s eyes brightened in amusement. “Don’t be shy, Sam-a-Lam,” he said, his voice softer and teasing, that bitter edge fading from it. “Anything you want that’s within my power and it’s yours. Just name it.”
Sam opened his mouth… and closed it again. Anything?
He thought about Dean. His dad. Jess . He thought about all the people they had saved over the years and all of the people that had died. He thought about apocalypses and demons and angels and having the whole world against them as they struggled to survive. He thought about sitting in the passenger seat of the Impala with his brother blasting Led Zeppelin and how much he wanted that to be his life right this instant .
He thought about his plans, put together by two humans, an angel, and a demon, hashed out over long nights and even longer days, the four of them struggling to come up with an answer to every possible outcome, to prepare for any eventuality, when Sam was inevitably thrown back in time alone.
And he thought about Gabriel.
He thought about the archangel dying for them, protecting them from Lucifer by stepping forward and picking a side, against his brothers. He thought about how hard it must have been, how lonely, how heartbreaking.
And he thought about the look on Gabe’s face when he’d pulled away, pretended the attraction he felt for the trickster god archangel was a ruse, a game.
That look had hurt like a blade to the gut.
Sam drew a deep breath in and exhaled.
Loki tilted his head to the side. “An hour?”
Sam nodded, his lips curving up into a smile. “An hour of your time at some point in the future. I call, you come.”
Loki’s eyebrows rose and his gaze was wary. “And what will be there when I call, I wonder?”
“No traps,” Sam promised. “No…” He had to stop himself before he said sigils or Enochian. “There will be nothing waiting there to hurt or capture you. I swear it. Just an hour. We’ll… talk."
“Talk.” Loki stared at him. “I offer you anything in the world for a word, and you want to get together and talk .”
“We could grab dinner while we do it,” Sam said defensively.
Loki grinned at him. “Like a date?” Sam’s cheeks flushed hot. He opened his mouth to deny that, but Loki interrupted him, “Sam, Sam, Sam, I am flattered . I am so flattered, I accept.” He raised his hand. “It’s a date.”
Sam sputtered indignantly, but before he could say anything, Loki’s fingers snapped.
Sam sat up.
He was back in his apartment. His first apartment. The one before school had started that he’d rented before he was assigned a dorm. He stared at the wall across from his bed, his mind whirling with thoughts.
He could still smell chloroform on the air, could still taste Loki’s breath like cotton candy on his lips. He lifted his arm and glanced down at his wrist.
The manacle he had been wearing was gone, its sharp, rusty edge no longer burning against his skin. Instead, the cuff around his wrist was obsidian, cool and smooth against his flesh. This one lacked the sharp inscriptions of the previous manacle that had weakened him. Instead, the bracelet was inscribed with…
“You have got to be kidding me.”
There was a fucking Cadbury Creme egg inscribed into the stone. Sam grabbed the bracelet to pull it off, only he found it was too tight to slip over his hand. He struggled with it for a moment, but the bracelet - manacle - was small enough to sit comfortably around his wrist, but it wouldn’t pull off.
He looked for a seam but there wasn’t one.
Instead, on the other side of the bracelet - the side that had been facing down from his wrist - he found another inscription. Two snakes curled around each other, biting into the others’ tail. He’d seen it before, of course, years ago when he had done some research on Loki after meeting the “trickster.”
Sam stared at the inscription for a long time, wondering exactly what it meant that he couldn’t remove the bracelet that bore Loki’s sign.
He glanced at the clock sitting on the bedside table.
Fuck it. He flopped back onto his bed and blew out a sigh. Back in time for less than a full day and he’d already run into Gabriel, who thankfully had no idea of who he really was, but he clearly knew where Sam lived, since he’d snapped him back here. At least he couldn’t read Sam’s mind, but he would make to keep an eye out to make sure the trickster archangel didn’t stumble on the truth before Sam was good and ready for him to know.
He grinned at the ceiling. His life had just gotten infinitely more complicated because of one idiot college kid who’d wanted better grades, but Sam wasn’t entirely sure he cared.
This was just the beginning and it was gonna be awesome.