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The Parable of the Truck and the Dove

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Castiel was in a legitimate hurry. A month after their misadventure in Tombstone, one of their leads had finally paid off. Sam and Dean had called him yesterday morning, they were hot on Jack’s trail and hoped to collar him by lunchtime. But Castiel hadn’t heard from them since. Whether they had found their runaway Nephilim or not, it was odd they hadn’t called him with an update, so he was in a hurry to go find them in Rapid City.

Yes, he’d cut a few corners in his car as a result, but he’d made sure there were no mortals on the sidewalk to injure, so no harm done. Had he mentioned he needed to press on?

The policeman must have accepted his argument about the sidewalks, because he was now concentrating on Castiel’s driver’s licenses. Before going their separate ways on their search, Dean had slipped three of them in different names into Castiel’s coat pocket, ‘in case you need ‘em’. In his haste, and not knowing which one the policeman would prefer, Castiel had shoved all three into the man’s hands, and this seemed to occupy a lot of his attention as well as his colleague’s, still in the squad car and talking loudly on the radio.

”- yeah, that’s right, I’m sending you his picture now. He looks like a-”

Castiel was never to learn what the policeman thought he looked like, because an unholy - or rather holy - cacophony of voices suddenly rung out in his head, shaping themselves into one word that made him flinch and bring his hands up to his temples.

//CASTIEL!//

“Just a minute,” Castiel said to the policeman asking him a question he couldn’t hear over the ringing in his ears. “Message on the radio.” Addressed to him directly, too. Something told him this was probably not going to be the highlight of his morning.

//You will come to the portal. An escort is waiting for you.//

“An escort straight to Heaven’s dungeon,” Castiel surmised (ignoring the policeman now loudly speculating that Castiel was either on some form of medication or off of it.) He kept the obvious question - ‘Why would I turn myself in? - to himself, he had the feeling he was going to find out any second now.

There was a fluctuation in the channel, and then Castiel’s broken Wings flinched anxiously when he heard a voice he’d been longing to hear for a month now: “Why do you want me to say hello? There’s nobody here. Except for you, but I’ve already met you, and people only say hello when-” the channel went abruptly silent.

Jack?!

“I don’t have the time,” Castiel said to the policeman now vigorously requesting his company. “I have to be three hundred and forty two miles away from here as quickly as possible. You and your fellow officer need to sleep and forget about this now.”

 

---

 

The car was somewhat the worse for wear when Castiel pulled up next to the playground.

Four angels awaited him. He recognized the Seraph leading them, Elisheba. A veteran soldier, tough, ruthless when called for (currently residing, like many of their peers, in the vessel of a small, adorable gray-haired grandmotherly type who must have vigorously believed in angels.)

Castiel did not hesitate as he strode towards them. He had spent most of the drive trying to contact Sam and Dean without success. He’d left them dozens of messages, in the assumption that surely one of them would reach them somehow. If Castiel did not survive the coming day, they would hopefully be able to help Jack.

“Is Jack unharmed?”

Elisheba held out a hand. “Weapon,” she said curtly.

Castiel hesitated only a second, but with no other option, he let his blade fall into his palm and held it out, hilt first. “I surrender. Please tell me if Jack is alright.”

“We have no wish to harm him,” said Elisheba, still professional. The other guards behind her had shown definite signs of relief; Castiel had picked up something of a reputation these past few years...

“Where is he?”

“Follow me and you will see him in a few minutes.”

It had been ages since Castiel had walked in Heaven - and the last time he’d been possessed by Lucifer, so hardly a good memory. As he entered the Garden under guard, he suspected this was probably not going to be a good memory either.

“Jack!” A hand on his shoulder held Castiel back.

Jack was there, he was safe- for now. But surrounded by angels, here in the heart of the Host. What had happened? How had they caught him?

...Why did he look so keen on being here?

Jack was practically vibrating. He had an unusual smile on his face and his eyes were wide and shone with a strange light. Castiel gave his Brethren a suspicious glance.

“Castiel!” Jack took a step towards his guardian, but a few angels appeared between them. There was tension in the air.

Jack’s smile flickered, but he seemed perfectly calm. “Please, can I go talk to him?”

“Later, Jack,” said the angel standing next to him, speaking gently and putting an apparently friendly hand on his shoulder. Castiel recognized him. Barnabas, one of Bartholomew’s one-time colleagues and friends. Not an angel Castiel wanted to see anywhere near his charge. Barnabas was smiling in what he must think was a friendly way, and would be if one were a shark.

“You see?” Elisheba squeezed Castiel’s shoulder. “The Nephilim has not been harmed. We brought you here so he’ll feel safe in his new home.”

“You brought me here as a hostage,” Castiel corrected her softly, so Jack wouldn’t hear.

”...Yes.” Elisheba looked conflicted briefly, then she glanced at Barnabas and her spine went ramrod straight again. “But we don’t want to hurt the boy. Or you. I’m glad you decided to come quietly,” she added, voice dropping some of the icy professionalism. Though they had not been in the same command structure, he and Elisheba had known each other for billions of years, had fought side by side in thousands of battles, and like many in the Host,she must be heartsick of angel on angel violence.

So was Castiel, but if Barnabas hurt Jack, he’d be ready to reconsider.

“Barnabas,” he called out - Elisheba was a good soldier, but she was not a leader. She was second-in-command material, an enforcer. Castiel knew who his adversary here was. “I know what you want Jack to do, but he’s too young, he can’t create new angels-“

“I can!” said Jack with a small smile so luminous it threatened to outshine the Light of Heaven. Castiel felt his Being constrict with love and worry. Oh Jack...

“It’s alright,” Elisheba said quickly. Castiel couldn’t tell if the hand on his shoulder was meant as reassurance or restraint. “We’ve already talked it over with him. The Nephilim feels confident he can do this, here in the Garden, and we agreed that he should start off small and not put himself at risk.”

“Who is ‘we’?” Castiel asked, still looking at Jack’s eager expression.

“Barnabas and I, and some of the others-“

Barnabas then. “Why am I here? To make sure Jack doesn’t change his mind?”

“No, no, Jack wanted you here.” She gave him a rough pat. “He was very insistent. You misunderstand our intentions, Castiel. Once Barnabas found him on Earth and explained our predicament, he was eager to help us. He-“

“Really. Were you there at the time?” Castiel asked caustically. Then he forcefully reminded himself that there was a time he had also been naive and way too trusting of his superiors.

“No, I was searching for you. But look at him, it’s obvious we’ve not pressured him. He wants to help.”

Elisheba sounded sincere. Barnabas, in the meantime, was raising all kind of red flags in Castiel’s mind. How exactly had he forced Jack’s cooperation? By threatening to hunt down and kill his guardians? An obvious tactic, but in that case Jack would be either frightened or furiously lashing out, instead of being so eager to help that he was quivering like a puppy waiting for his 'Go!' to run after a ball.

Castiel looked around desperately, trying to find a friendly face in the crowd. The entire surviving Host was there, staring at Jack hungrily. Nobody was going to advocate for a Nephillim, the son of Lucifer. Nobody except Castiel.

“Barnabas, please. The creation of angels is the province of our Father alone. We have no idea of the consequences - but there is a good chance they will be deadly for Jack. I know we are few, but are we so desperate we will resort to this? To putting an innocent life at risk for the sake of-“

“No, Castiel,” Jack interrupted. “I want to do this. I want to do good.”

Castiel looked away from Barnabas reluctantly. “Jack...it may seem like a good thing, but it could harm you.”

“I need to do it. It’s very important.” Jack’s eyes had a fever-bright ardor that alarmed Castiel for reasons he could not explain. There was no constriction or spell on Jack’s mind that he could sense - what had they done to the boy?

“There. See? Jack wants to cooperate,” Barnabas said with an oily satisfaction that made Castiel’s broken Wings itch. “Now as we discussed, Jack. You can start small. A minor order angel, perhaps, or a couple of cupids.” He actually made his outrageous request sound magnanimous.

“He doesn’t even know how!” Castiel shouted, making Elisheba and his other guards tense.

Once more Jack stared hard at him as if he was trying to tell him something. Jack’s Nephilim nature always seemed to deal Castiel the worst of hands. Like a fellow angel, Jack could not pray to him, being outside the natural order, but neither could he cast his Voice through the Ether yet; he was only a few months old. Why was he so determined to do this?

“Angels!” said Jack firmly, throwing out his hands and closing his eyes.

This was ridiculous! Nobody here, Castiel and Jack included, knew how to create angels. Jack had the raw power, but he surely did not have the knowledge, how could he?

“Elisheba, please-“

“We have to do this, Castiel,” his one-time comrade said tightly. Her wrinkled lips pinched before she added, “There are so few of us left.” She was decent enough not to add, ‘as you have good cause to know’, but it was in the subtext.

“And maybe one day Jack can help with that, but now? He’s too-“

The eternal sunshine of the Garden flickered.

Castiel blinked, adjusting both his eyes and his higher senses. For a brief flash he’d thought he’d seen a split in the air, a tunnel-

Three pinpoints of light popped into being, like tiny fireflies. What-

Fwhooom!

The Garden warped and expanded. Hurricane winds ripped through the serene space where God had once walked. Castiel staggered. Even for a celestial Being, the force unleashed was devastating. Several angels around him fell down.

The trees shook. Normal Earth vegetation would have been instantly turned into matchsticks, but the Garden throbbed with dregs of the most primordial energy of Creation itself, and these trees were older than most angels. They stood fast and witnessed something that had not happened in eons.

Castiel winced. Had he been mortal, his eyes would have been smoldering embers by now, but even his angelic senses were suffering beneath the onslaught. He forced himself to watch the shapes taking form- shapes? Why- why were there three lights?!

“Jack! Stop! What are you doing?! Do only one at a time!”

“I’m fixing it!” Jack shouted over the thundering sound.

“At last!” Barnabas stepped towards the lights, triumphant despite the wind making him stagger like a drunk. “Our renewal is at hand!”

Jack slipped behind him and ran towards Castiel.

His guardian caught him by the shoulders protectively- and gasped. Jack’s eyes were blazing gold, so bright it hurt Castiel to look at full on. The hands on Castiel’s upper arms squeezed hard - Castiel’s vessel and Grace both ached with a sudden surge of pain, of pressure, but he ignored it in his panic. Jack hadn’t stopped! He was still bringing about Creation!

“Jack- stop! Whatever you’re doing- this will kill you!”

“It won’t, I know I can do this!” Jack shouted over the noise. “I saw it in your mind! You shared it with me- But I can do better this time! It’s not so hard, not here. This garden is close to that other place. I had to do it, Castiel! They- they died because of me. I had to make it right. Please. Please tell them that I’m sorry, but that I made it right.” Jack tugged at Castiel’s hands urgently.

“What? Who died- Jack?!”

The gold of Jack’s eyes was no longer painful to behold, he was blinking rapidly, swaying...and as Castiel watched, horrified, his ward started to grow ever so slightly transparent. NO!

The winds were falling too. In the Garden, one of the lights suddenly petered and winked out. Barnabas looked back and noticed that Jack was not where he’d left him.

“Keep going!” he snarled.

“Leave him alone, you-...” Castiel had never mastered the art of swearing in the heat of the moment.

“It’s okay,” Jack whispered, his eyes closing. “It’s going to be fine now. I need...next time I’ll know. I’ll learn how to be good. No more deaths. No more mistakes. I...I want to sleep now.” Then he slumped in Castiel’s arms, his essence virtually extinguished - he felt so fragile. Castiel gripped him hard in unreasoning fear that the dying wind might blow him away.

Castiel squinted against the burning light of Creation. Only two angels were taking shape now...but those were no mere Cherubim. The size, the sheer power slowly drawing together...Huge Wings exploded outwards as he watched. And at their sides, stabs of light hotter than welding arcs. Those were Seraph blades taking shape, a part of their Being.

The two Entities shimmered, then transcended into pure Light and Grace and floated down. Near blinded by their creation, Castiel hadn’t noticed two vessels that had appeared beneath them. Light melded into matter and the two new angels started to stir.

Barnabas was gesticulating and practically frothing at the mouth. “They will talk of this day for eons! The day the angels were revived under my guidance! Let a new chapter be written in all the holy books!”

 

15. And it was so. The Door was made to Open and two New Beings came through the Door and were Made to Be in the Garden of Eden.

16. And as the Light receded, the first of the New Creations spoke.

17. He said: “Son of a BITCH!” (a)

18. And as the Host watched, the second of the New Creations spoke.

19. He said: “Where the fuck are we?” (b)

20. Stepped forward the Seraph Castiel to name the two New Angels of the Host.

21. He said: “Dean? Sam? What is going on here?!”

22. Alas no one could offer an answer, for the New Messiah, Jack Kline, son of the Morning Star, had disappeared.

 

Annotations
(a) Translations vary wildly. Scholars of the St John of Lawrence institute refer to it as ‘A curse against the Old World and its wicked proclivities’.

(b) Once again, translations vary, but reference to procreation is generally accepted amongst theologians, linguists and Talmudic scholars, making this a reference to the creation of the New World by the Messiah.

- Excerpt from ‘The New Bible, original unedited translation, with annotated commentary and comparative studies’ by Gertrude Bally-Smith (Prophet of the Lord, circa 2212).

Chapter Text

Confusion reigned in the Garden of Heaven. Castiel grappled with both the appearance of his friends and the fact that Jack had managed to slip away (Castiel was not going to contemplate any other possibility.) There had to be a rational explanation to all this-

“You two?!” Barnabas stared from one brother to the other. “How- I killed you! How are you here?!”

...That made a few things luminously clear.

“You what?!” gasped Elisheba at Castiel’s elbow. “But you said-“

“Oh hey.” Dean had picked himself up and his gaze had zeroed in on Barnabas. His voice had a dangerous edge that seemed to cut the very Light of Heaven into ribbons. “Look, Sam, it’s our pal Barney. Mister We Don’t Want To Hurt You.”

“You’re right.” Sam got swiftly to his feet. “Haven’t seen him since, oh, since he stabbed us, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah. Good times, good times. Do you remember what I told him? Right before he knifed me in the lung?” Dean took a menacing step towards Barnabas.

“You told him we’d be back,” Sam said, and looked momentarily surprised to be holding an angel blade.

“Remember what I said we’d do to him then?” Dean flipped his own blade once before getting a good grip, apparently not in the mindset to question the miraculous appearance of a weapon in his hand.

“No, I was too busy hemorrhaging. Let’s see if Barney remembers.”

Barnabas, apparently out of step with events, started to shout, “You two monkeys dare-” when he was interrupted by gasps, cries and the sound of atoms fissioning briskly.

- Castiel was so furious that it took him even longer than Barnabas to cotton on to the fact that the noise, the oddly familiar yet impossible noise of Wings flaring in anger, was coming from right behind him.

Dean did a double take as he followed Barnabas’s glare and caught sight of Castiel. “Cas?”

“That’s impossible!” screamed Barnabas.

Castiel glanced up at his Wings unfurling in the higher dimensions, intact, rippling with Grace and dangerously charged.

But he was not a destroyer any more. He was a protector. He had made Kelly a promise and that took priority.

Elisheba was staring at him in shock, Castiel’s blade dangling forgotten from her slackened grip. He snatched it from her hand before she could react. One beat of his Wings sent him soaring across the Garden. He gripped Sam and Dean in passing and then dropped out of Heaven and back into normal space.

This did not go over well. With the possibility of imminent attack by the entire Host once they got over their shock and rallied to Barnabas, Castiel had pulled an emergency evacuation, as he and his Flight had once been trained to do. The standard drop point of which was five hundred meters above the Dead Sea. Not a problem for angels ordinarily, but Sam and Dean in their current form were literally only two minutes old and still had a lot to learn, since they were now two distant caterwauling figures plummeting towards the water far below. Ah. Better sort that out.

Castiel quickly caught first Sam, then Dean - with some difficulty, celestial Beings were large, multidimensional powerhouses and quite difficult to handle when flailing in a panic. The air above the Dead Sea was crackling with continuous flares of lightning, the western bank was pelted by a sudden rain of squid, a distant sandstone cliff cracked and caused a landslide, an orange tree nearby blossomed and then burst into flame, and Castiel quickly turned an Emirates flight heading their way around one hundred and eighty degrees to avoid loss of life.

He set them down on the eastern bank. Sam staggered and fell to his knees. Dean was holding on to Castiel’s arm so hard that the limb would have been ground to paste if the angel hadn’t distractedly exerted counter pressure.

“Are you both alright?”

Alright?! What do you think?” Dean wheezed. He was staring at the sand beneath their feet as if he expected it to leap up and attack him. Castiel remembered that Dean had a fear of flying. He didn’t enjoy falling either by the looks of it.

And that wasn’t even the worst thing that had happened to his friends in the past two days. Castiel was gripping Dean’s shoulder almost as hard as his friend was clutching him, examining his face, his chest, with a deep ache at the thought of what had happened while he’d been elsewhere. “I am so sorry. I did not know-...I take it you’d found Jack when Barnabas caught him?”

“Huh?” Dean was still staring around, wide-eyed.

Sam surged to his feet. “Jack! He was with us! What did Barney do to him?!”

“He was not physically harmed. But seeing Barnabas execute you - if I understand the sequence of events right...it affected him. He...”

“He what? Where is he, Cas?” Sam looked around as if he half expected, half hoped to see their charge appear beside them.

“I don’t know,” Castiel admitted. “He disappeared. But I think I understand now. Billie. When you died, she threw you into the Empty, didn’t she.” As she’d once threatened to do.

“I-...what? I don’t-...” Sam’s eyes focused inwards and then he glanced at his brother.

“Yeah. Yeah, she did,” Dean said hoarsely, detaching himself from Castiel one digit at a time with visible effort. “I tried-...I tried talking with her, but she said she’d made a promise to do it, and promises like that have to be kept. She didn’t look vindictive, though. Just real cryptic. Rocking the ‘I am the Grim Reaper and I know shit you wouldn’t believe’ vibe. But then she said, ‘it’ll turn out okay, you’ll see.’ You think...you think she knew this would happen?”

“It’s possible.” Castiel held his friend up by the elbow while Dean tottered and found his footing. “Barnabas must have told Jack that he would harm me next. Or perhaps he just expected Jack to be cowed and controllable without your help. He wanted the boy to create new Angels. I don’t know if he can do that, but what he can do is-“

”-is bring people back from the Empty!” Dean said, reviving. “So that’s what happened? He brought us back like he did you?”

“Better. You did not wake up over there, or have to deal with the Entity.” Castiel had told Jack about the Empty and how he’d come back. Maybe Jack had found a shortcut. He’d said something about the Garden being close to ‘that place’...What was certain was that Jack’s knowledge of the Empty surpassed his knowledge of ‘Angels, The Creation Of’.

...He’d said he was sorry. He’d blamed himself for Sam and Dean’s deaths. He wanted to make it right. To do good. Jack...

“He wasn’t up there- hey, were we in Heaven? It looked like the place we met Joshua years ago. Don’t know why we popped up there, you came through in a field near Pensacola.” From the look on Dean’s face, he’d have preferred that option. “Don’t tell me we have to look for Jack again. Man, are we back to square one?”

“Looks that way,” his brother said, expression tight and unhappy.

“We have an advantage we didn’t have before,” Castiel pointed out.

That got him a pair of puzzled looks. “What’s that then?”

“Being able to fly will shorten the search.”

“Fly? Hey, yeah, I thought I saw some feathery shadows up there- you got your wings back? That’s great, Cas.” Dean appeared honestly pleased for him.

“Yes. I think Jack fixed them before-...leaving.” Castiel was trying not to remember how light and transparent Jack had become at the end there...Wait, Dean had only seen the shadow of his Wings? Oh, his higher senses must still be attuning.

“That will help,” Sam said with a sigh. “And it means you can airlift us out of this- where are we anyway, Arizona?”

“Jordan.” Airlift...us?

“Really? Like the place on the eight o’clock news?” Dean looked as unimpressed with this location as he’d been with the Garden. He must really like Pensacola.

“Yes. You...you two do realize...”

“Realize what?” Dean asked, stretching an arm across his chest and loosening his shoulders. Sam was shading his eyes from the sun and looking around.

Very human gestures.

“You...”

“Hm?”

“...I am not sure if this was Jack’s doing or Billie’s, or if it’s simply from having been to the Empty, but you do realize you are not as you once were. Right?”

The brothers glanced at each other.

“Ten fingers, ten toes. Each. Considering we were dead - again - that’s pretty acceptable.”

Castiel looked pointedly down at the angel blades in their hands.

Dean hefted his with a puzzled frown, but did not seem to grasp the significance.

“You...did not realize you two came back as angels?”

Sam frowned as if he suspected an ill-timed joke in poor taste. “Cas, what are you talking about? We’re not-...We...We are not. Uh, are we?”

”Son of a bitch!”

Castiel had been about to suggest they make for the bunker; Jack had called it home for a time, he might have headed that way. But he decided to give his friends a few minutes first. There was a reason this was the angel emergency drop zone. Though it was more populated now than it used to be, this small arid stretch of Jordan was still deserted enough where a couple of angels could lose their calm and not collect a body count.

 

---

 

A few minutes were all they could afford, since Barnabas was certainly going to rally the Host at some point. Like the troopers they were, Sam and Dean forcefully shelved their denials, their questions and their hysteria to prioritize getting to safety.

“We should go to the bunker first,” Castiel suggested.

“I guess. We, uh. Can me and Dean-...I mean, can we fly?” Sam seemed startled to hear the question come out of his own mouth.

“Dude! No!”

“It’s not like we’d be in a plane-“

“No, it’s like being a fucking plane!” Dean made an aggravated sound deep in his throat and gestured away his own objections in the face of necessity. “Fine. Fine! I guess it’ll come in handy if the mooks chase after us.”

“If they chase after us, it will be by car,” Castiel pointed out dryly. “I’m more concerned that they might organize an attack from on high. The whole Host was assembled and in the Garden, a strike would not take a lot of time to put together. The bunker has protection. Besides, Jack might be there.” That was the main reason for Castiel’s hurry.

“Okay. Uh. How do we...I can’t even say this with a straight face.” Sam rubbed his mouth while making flapping gestures with his other hand to illustrate.

“For now, I should carry you,” Castiel offered, as the thought of two brand new celestial Beings careening around made him wince.

Dean looked at him with staggering gratitude for all of two seconds before quickly burying the expression beneath his usual hardened-hunter-ready-for-anything expression. “Fine. Probably best.”

“Yeah, wouldn’t want to fly into a power line.” Sam chuckled with a faint trace of hysteria.

“Power lines would not be a problem. I’m more worried about you being pulled into the sun’s gravitational well.” Castiel put his hands on their shoulders. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Dean asked.

“This might be upsetting.”

“Huh? You’ve airlifted us before.”

“Yes, but back when you were human, flying felt like it was instantaneous. I doubt that's still the case.”

 

---

 

“OH SHIT!!”

Castiel patted his friends’ shoulders. “We’ve arrived at the bunker. You can stop swearing.”

“Never again. Never again. Never a-fucking-gain.”

“You get used to it.”

“No, I won’t, because we’re never doing that again.” Dean leaned over to prop his hands on his thighs as if he were about to be sick. Castiel resisted the urge to inform him that this was no longer physiologically possible.

“The atomic displacement is a bit distressing to start with,” Castiel (who hadn’t been new at this for over four and a half billion years) hazarded.

”...I heard colors.” Sam had his hands pressed against his face. “Purple was laughing at me.”

“It wasn’t.”

“It was!”

“No. Your preternatural senses will be kicking in, now that you’ve perceived the edge of the spheres. This will be confusing until - maybe you should both sit down.“

Dean gave him a pugnacious look and stayed on his feet, swaying slightly.

“And I heard screaming- was that you, Dean?”

“Hey, I was startled- don’t judge! You were blubbering like a baby!”

“I was not.“

“Fuck, my ears are whacked, I can still hear you bawling.”

“No, I hear it too.” Castiel took a step forward, eyes on the entrance towards the bunker’s kitchen. His blade slipped into his palm. “There is an intruder here. Stay back if you need time to recover.”

“Like hell,” Dean muttered, stepping up solidly, blade in hand.

“All good,” Sam echoed.

“Not all good! It’s something of a crisis! In this entire secret underground lair of yours, you have a total of sixty four weapons and not a single diaper. I can’t produce stuff out of thin air if I only have the faintest notion of what they’re like, you know. And it’s about time you lot got here. Did you take the scenic route? What kind of parental figures are you?”

The three angels took in a theatrically indignant Gabriel standing in the archway to their kitchen with a sniffling naked baby in his arms, loosely wrapped in a befouled tea-towel.

“Jack?!” Castiel gasped, recognizing the muted but familiar aura around the infant.

“G-Gabriel?!” Sam stuttered.

“Yeah,” said Dean slowly, running a hand through his hair, “changed my mind, I’m gonna have to sit down after all.”

“Are we all caught up?” Then Gabriel’s caustic smile slipped as he glanced down. “Oh blow me, here he goes again.”

The baby’s face scrunched up and he drew in a breath like a bomb rapidly counting down to zero.

 

51. At the dawn of the New World, Spake the New Messiah.

52. The New Messiah Jack Kline Spoke the Word. And the Word was Waaaaaah.(c)

Annotation:
(c) loose rendering of an onomatopoeia. Translations vary. Scholars from the New Papal Palace have exposited that it represents the pain of the Old World as it transitioned to the new order.

- Excerpt from ‘The New Bible, original unedited translation, with annotated commentary and comparative studies’ by Gertrude Bally-Smith (Prophet of the Lord, circa 2212).

Chapter Text

“You were the third angel that Jack was trying to bring back from the Empty.” For some reason, this was the thought Castiel’s mind fixed on first. “He did bring you back, didn’t he.”

“Huh-uh.” Gabriel whisked his hands magically clean with some relief. Sam had rescued Jack and taken him away to figure something out (the bunker was indeed devoid of diapers.) Dean and Castiel stood around the Situation Room - never more appropriately named - while Gabriel lounged in a chair with a foot hooked up on the map table somewhere near Easter Island.

“But why did you...why didn’t you appear with Sam and Dean?”

“Please. If the past thousand years of being a Trickster taught me anything, it’s to react quickly and hit the ground running. I took one look at the assembled audience and figured out what was going on before I was even halfway materialized. I went to great lengths to stay out of this kind of trouble before. I thought that being dead would give me a shot at some peace and quiet, but noooooo. Lucifer kills me and then his kid yanks me back, what a family.”

“Yeah, whatever,” said Dean with all the sympathy of a shotgun. “Why is Jack a baby?”

“Because he is, Dean-o!”

“He’s-...yeah, technically, but he’s not usually that age.”

“Is it because he used up all his power bringing you back?” Castiel asked with perhaps the slightest emphasis on the ‘you’. He had not liked Gabriel’s insinuation that Jack had somehow done something wrong.

“Your guess is as good as mine! Actually no, my guesses are usually better. But in this case I’m not sure. As soon as I saw the lay of the land, I went invisible and caught him as he was about to fade. I gave him a power boost and helped whelp you two newbies into reality, you’re welcome. But just as I was going to vamoose with the H-bomb my brother seems to have let loose on the world, boom, he’s a baby. I think...” Gabriel bit into the candy bar that had miraculously appeared in his cleaned hands, and went cross-eyed. “Man I missed this. I think he just didn’t want to be an adult anymore.”

“What? What do you mean?”

But Gabriel was busy stuffing his face and didn’t answer.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Dean muttered, coming up to Castiel. “Jack chose to be-...I mean, I guess he can choose to be his real age if he wants to, but that puts him at risk.”

“At greater risk than what he’d just survived?” Castiel countered. “He blamed himself, Dean. For your deaths. Maybe he thought that reverting to his real age would make him useless to Heaven for awhile, and that he could no longer hurt anybody. Maybe he was even hoping he might die in this weaker form.”

A troubled look crossed Dean’s face before firming into decisiveness. “Nah, me and Sam didn’t raise a quitter, and neither did you or Kelly.”

Castiel forbore to point out that Jack had only been raised for a few months by the Winchesters, and that Kelly and Castiel’s influence had principally been felt in utero. Since then the boy had spent over a month alone and was growing ever increasingly afraid of his powers and the implications of his very existence. Coming into being as a young adult had been his choice based on Kelly’s fears for him, but maybe he had reassessed that.

“All that matters,” said Dean briskly, perhaps coming to the same morass of suppositions as Castiel and chasing them away with a clap, “is that we don’t have to scour the planet for him again. Now we can stop and regroup.”

“I hope so,” Castiel said worriedly. “Assuming we are indeed safe here.”

“Oh, we’re fine,” Gabriel said, before taking a long sip of something rich and frothy that appeared in a large frosted glass in his hand.

“The bunker has protection, but I am not sure they’re sufficient to ward off an attack if Barnabas gets things in order.”

“Yeah, wish you’d let us take out Barney the Unfriendly Dinosaur back there before whisking us away,” Dean grumbled. “What do we do if they try to hit us from above, like they did with Amara? Duck and cover won’t cut it.”

“Yeah, that wouldn’t have helped much seeing the size of the crater they left ten minutes ago near Lebanon,” Gabriel announced after a long obnoxious slurp through his straw.

“Say what?”

“Crater. A hundred feet by twenty - someone’s heart wasn’t in it on the width I think. And thirty feet deep.”

“I see.” Castiel looked around with his full senses. “You moved us.”

“As soon as you boys showed up.”

Dean also looked around, visibly puzzled. “Moved us? But we’re still in the bunker.”

“He moved the bunker too.”

“He-...where to?”

“Juliet.”

“Joliet? In Illinois?”

“Juliet, one of the inner moons of Uranus.” Castiel ignored a rude snicker from the conference table.

”...So we probably shouldn’t open a window,” Dean said frigidly, grappling with this new set of data and successfully beating some common sense out of it.

“This place don’t have any!” Gabriel chirped.

“It does have a garage with an opener.”

Emotions flickered briefly over Gabriel’s face and he put down his drink abruptly. “Can you boys behave for a few minutes? I just need to, ah, go check on something.”

Dean watched him leave with a very unimpressed expression. Then he leaned forward slowly and braced his hands on the map table.

“We’re fine, Dean,” Castiel reassured him. Gabriel had sorted out heat, air, pressure and gravity in this little bubble, not to mention electricity and plumbing; he wasn’t going to forget something as obvious as the garage. But then Castiel realized his brother must have had a reason for leaving them alone on this flimsy excuse. He looked more closely at his friend. “Are you alright?”

“Oh, I’m fine. I’m a freakin’ angel. I’m awesome.”

At this point Castiel actually had half a second of breathing space to seriously consider this fact. “Yes,” he said in sudden wonder. Then frowned. “Oh. You were being sarcastic. Why? You would have died within a few short decades anyway, and you would have been a lot less effectual many years before that. In the best case scenario. Do I need to stop talking?” he added, catching a look thrown his way.

“It wouldn’t hurt,” growled Dean. “Sure, I grant ya, we’ll kick plenty of ass now. Once we get the hang of it. I know, I know,” he added as if Castiel had just made a long argument. “But...”

Castiel watched feelings fleet over Dean’s features - so human still, more expressive than any angel could be. Castiel tried to wrap his head around what had happened, but it staggered him too. All the angels had been created much at the same time billions of years ago as fully formed entities. These two new Beings had grown up human and were brand new. This had never happened before. How much would they not know of their powers and abilities? How much would they not understand of their own nature, coming at it from a human perspective? They’d been catapulted from mortality to Eternity, from the mundane sphere into a multitude of dimensions. A caterpillar turning to goo and rebuilding its entire body into a butterfly had nothing on this transformation.

Dean glanced up briefly to make sure they were alone, then stared at the map table again. “Cas…I have to be honest…I’m freaking out a bit here. Now that I’ve actually started to think about it.”

“That’s understandable,” Castiel said softly.

A caricature of his usual grin twisted Dean’s mouth. “Last I remember, I was regular Dean, kicking down a door in Rapid City, and now I’m a haul truck.”

“No, you’re an angel, Dean. A Seraph to be precise.”

“I’m a humongous thing that’s completely different from the flesh-and-bone guy I was two subjective hours ago,” Dean said acidly.

“Ah, an analogy.”

“Thunderin’ around, too big for regular streets, and of course the fucking cherry on top...” Dean’s eyes flickered shut and he grimaced.

Cas listened sympathetically

”...All I got down there now is a pair of rubber truck nuts.”

Castiel tried to listen sympathetically while completely failing to understand how any of those words were supposed to make sense in the same sentence.

“…What?”

“I’m not a guy anymore.”

“No, you’re an angel, a Se-“

“I’m no longer a dude.”

Cas opened his mouth to reiterate - but then several years of association with Dean hinted at the answer, however improbable.

“Technically, no. That’s what’s worrying you?”

Dean’s eyes flew open. “I got something else to worry about?!”

“I though becoming incorporeal would be more of an adjustment.”

“…You mean I could leave my bod?”

“Your vessel, yes. Easily. You would only-“

Dean’s hands had gone flat on the surface of the table, bracing himself as if he was afraid gravity was going to shake him off and throw him out of his shell.

A few years ago, Castiel would have stood there like a stump and argued for rationality. Humanity was a precious thing, albeit short lived; he did not consider angels to be inherently superior to humans. However not even Dean would argue that angels were considerably tougher, and this was rather handy right now. But Castiel did not make that argument, or any other he might have come up with. He had been human for a time, and he’d been Dean’s friend for years. He knew rationality was unwanted, something else was needed here.

Dean looked up quickly when Castiel touched his arm, hand resting where he’d left a mark so many years ago.

“You’re not just a large vehicle. You’re Dean Winchester.”

Dean opened his mouth as if to argue. Then he seemed to weigh that.

“Hmf. Yeah. You’re right. So what if I’m a- a- celestial whatever of grace and waves and stuff. I can still kick ass.”

“Indeed, a great deal more ass,” Castiel pointed out solemnly, because it always made Dean smile when he did that, and it did this time again.

Dean’s smile widened and became wolfish. “Yeah. Including Ass-modeus, when we get to him. Barney’s first in line though.”

“You kick him. I’ll hold him down.”

“That sounds like an actual plan. I like it. As for the rest...I guess there’s stuff I gotta learn. A lotta stuff. And I gotta watch out for Holy Oil and angel blades and shit like that.”

“Most things fatal to an angel are fatal to humans too,” Castiel pointed out (hoping Dean would temporarily not remember the few things that were exclusively annoying to their kind such as the banishing seal.)

“...Yeah, when you put it like that.”

“You learned the rules and pitfalls of your profession step by step. This is just a new stage of learning. It might seem overwhelming at times. But I know you’ll beat it. Sam will be with you on the same journey, and so will I.” Dean’s shoulders fully relaxed at that.

Silence.

“And Gabriel as well, I suppose,” Castiel added.

“Yeaaah, I was trying to forget about him.”

Dean pushed away from the table. The movement brought him closer to Castiel, whose arm slipped around Dean’s shoulders to cope with the proximity. Dean didn’t seem to notice.

“That’s the way it goes, then. Hell, I taught you stuff about being human. I guess it’s your turn.”

“Yes.”

“Gonna need a crash course.”

“The basics to start with.”

To start with. But now, bar the vagaries of war, Dean was immortal. Castiel’s gaze shifted from his friend’s profile to another plane where Dean’s Light shone, fitful, strong and stubborn in a way that was unique to him even now, and a - quite fine - set of Wings hung suspended, waiting for knowledge, self-awareness and a little coaxing to unfurl and spread...Right now Dean was tucked tight into his mortal shell, which was for the best; it would take time to understand all his additional senses and abilities, and this hermit crab approach would allow him to get used to them gradually and be able to function in the meantime. But when he looked ‘out’ at last, when he found that balance, when his human body became one important part of a much greater whole, when his Wings finally swept out and he took to the sky...what a sight he would be.

“One day it won’t feel strange,” Castiel said softly, mind elsewhere. “One day you’ll hear the stars sing and see the higher spheres shimmer like pearls. You’ll race photons, decimate demons with a touch, fold time, fly all the way up to the tenth dimension, and admire the Big Bang up close. There are wonders out there. I would like to show them to you.”

Dean was silent for a spell, giving Castiel a quick side-glance and then staring down at the table as if Indonesia had captured all his attention. Finally he nodded. “Right. Well...first things first.” He straightened up, evidently feeling much better. “I’m gonna go see if Sam’s managing with Jack n’all. He’s probably feeling shaky too. Then we start planning how to get Barney’s ass in reach of my brand new angel boot. Catch you on the flip side, Cas.”

He patted Castiel on the shoulder and walked away with barely a nod in the direction of Gabriel who’d been lingering in the hallway, watching them with a smug smile on his face.

“Well, don’t this open up a realm of possibilities?” Gabriel said unctuously once the clump of Dean’s boots faded into the distance.

Castiel agreed with a curt nod.

“Even when he was just human, you obviously wanted to tap that. Now lookee! You sure you didn’t give Jack a hint that this is what you wanted for Christmas?”

That threw Castiel for a loop, but then Gabriel’s smirk clued him in and made his jaw clench. Why did every creature and Entity within the four spheres of existence seemed convinced that-...

“Do not make that joke around Dean right now. He’s still upset.”

“Sure he is, but give it a bit of time - a decade maybe? - and then he’s all yours! You are into Dean, right? You won’t object if I snuggle up to his brother?”

“Yes, I would!” Castiel snapped, appalled.

“Greedy!”

“I meant- get your mind out of the gutter, brother.”

“Gutter?! I resent that, sir! I’m in no way trashy in my interest! It’s that whole Tall Madonna And Child vibe he’s got going when he’s holding Jack, man, that makes me melt. Besides, we both have our favorites obviously, and Sam has always been mine. Comes from having survived similar younger brother shit.”

Having spent a few months as a mortal, Castiel actually felt the brief human urge to tear at his vessel’s hair, not that that would help in any shape or form. “We’re all Brethren. Angels.

“Oh, you’re one of those.”

”...Angels? Yes, we-“

“You’re one of the holy crowd who think it’s fine to fit a square wooden peg of an angel into the soft round hole of a human-“

Castiel made an incoherent sound of disgusted protest.

”-or pretend that’s not what gets their kink on, whatever, but as soon as it’s two angels, it’s all ‘what’s the point of rubbing two wooden pegs together?’ Well, know what happens when you do that?”

“...Splinters?”

“Rub two pieces of wood together long enough and you get heat! Fire!”

“...Yes.”

“That would be a good thing.”

“It is?”

“Yes!”

“How is setting something on fire a good - don’t answer. There’s nothing you can say on the subject that will not be inappropriate.”

“Aww, look at that cute, embarrassed scowl. Got a fair amount of wattage there, Cassie, I’ll give you that. But I don’t mind, I know you love me anyway.”

Castiel’s glare could have turned half a dozen of Lot’s wives into pillars of salt, but it only made Gabriel giggle and wag a finger at him. “Come on, you can’t deny it. After all, that’s why you got Jack to bring me back.”

”...Bring you back? I never even told him about you.”

“You didn’t have to, I’m sure. He does have enough angel in his nature to pick up on stuff when he hung out with you. And why else would he bring me back? He doesn’t know me from any other flying asshole otherwise.”

Castiel reluctantly conceded the point.

“He must have picked it up from your mind. You know you need juice to solve this situation, which means preferably an Archangel, and if your choice is between me and Rafael, well, that’s pretty damn easy.”

“I...”

”Of all the friends you could have called back, I was first on your list. I’m touched!”

“You are one of the few angels whose motives I understand and trust,” Castiel admitted slowly.

“Yup!”

”...that I haven’t killed or caused the death of.”

“Yikes. I bet Jack also hoped ‘uncle Gabe’ would cheer things up, yeesh, if it was up to you guys he’d be better off growing up in a mausoleum.”

Castiel didn’t have the heart to respond.

Gabriel sucked noisily on a mint, maybe observing a minute of silence, then he said: “But I hope you realize that I won’t take charge and solve all your problems for you.”

“Good.” If there was one thing Castiel had learned, was that it was better to work through issues than throw a new God at them and hope He knew what he was doing this time - which in Gabriel’s case was dubious at best.

Gabriel gave him a hard appraising look. “Hmf. You actually mean that,” he finally concluded.

“Of course I do.”

“...Then I still don’t get why Jack is a baby.”

“I don’t follow.”

“He must have gotten that idea from somewhere. It was a conscious choice. Angels and Nephilim don’t get smaller when we waste almost all our Grace, you know, we’re not punctured balloons. Somewhere he got this notion that it would be better to regress back to his real age. You’re his lodestar, I thought maybe he’d picked up an undercurrent from you, of wanting to just curl up and fling boogers around and let someone else take charge for awhile.”

“No, Gabriel. That’s what you’d do.”

“...I resemble that remark. Okay, we’ll have to figure out later the whys and wherefores of what one of the most powerful entities to ever exist was thinking when he went back to not having any birthdays to his name. Talkin’ of which...”

Dean walked in, followed by Sam carrying Jack, tiny in those large, strong arms. Gabriel did the most improbable eyebrow waggle in Castiel’s direction as he glanced from the tall hunter carrying the baby to his increasingly irritated and embarrassed celestial brother.

“What’s with him?” Dean grunted, pulling up next to Castiel.

“It is probable,” Castiel said slowly, weighing his answer, “that you do not want to know.”

“He’s doing better now that he’s fed, dry and in some proper clothes,” Sam said, too harried to notice an Archangel ogling him. Jack was indeed looking better. He’d stopped crying, his aura no longer twisted in distress, and he didn’t seem bothered that he was in horrendously pink footie pajamas with ‘You’re my sweetie!’ written across a background of candies. “Thank you for fetching that stuff, Gabriel. I have no idea how you got all that in under two minutes.”

“It was my pleasure,” Gabriel gushed. “Once I finally had someone to carry the lil’ nipper in my place and keep him in this protected bunker, it was no problem to go fetch diapers and other sundries. I do love making a hop, skip and a jump to the local five and dime. Was the book helpful? I hear it’s the best.”

“It is,” said Sam a little dryly, “But since you got me ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’, it’s not all that relevant to the current situation. Don’t worry, I’ll figure it out. I’m more concerned with Barney and that lot. What’s our next step?”

“Back up a tad.” Gabriel threw up one hand. “It’s not the next step I’m worried about right this minute, it’s the last ten thousand. You all remember I was cozily dead until an hour ago? The newspaper I picked up while I was out shopping suggested I was pushing up daisies for a comfortable number of years and that the apocalypse was a no-go. Did anything else happen since?”

In the ringing silence that followed, the sound of Jack chewing on a rubber pacifier was awfully loud. The Winchesters and Castiel looked at each other.

“...Oh boy,” Dean muttered, rubbing his face. “Where do I start.”

“Nowhere, Dean-o.” Gabriel’s eyes were sharp behind the jocular mask. “That look on your mugs tells me we’d be here awhile and I’d rather not wait. Brother, do you mind?”

Castiel did not have the time to say anything - certainly not the time to say yes, he did mind actually - Gabriel touched his forehead.

Bad enough getting the past few years ripped out of his memories by an Archangel. Gabriel made it worse by somehow inserting color commentary into most of Castiel’s worse moments, and of those there were plenty.

“Cas!” Dean’s blade was out and waving around. “What did you do to him, dirtbag?!”

“Next to nothing, he’ll be fine. In a minute. Or maybe two. Cassie, do you need to sit down?”

Castiel made an unpleasant sound and propped himself up on the map table, stubbornly staying on his feet despite the migraine and the dizziness.

“Fine, I’ll sit down if you don’t mind.” Gabriel slumped into one of the conference chairs, eyes wide and hair almost standing on end. “Holy guacamole, when you boys foul up, you do it on a cosmic scale. Have you noticed that when you spackle up one hole in the universe, you create two more right next to it?”

“Bite me, Gabriel,” Dean snapped, his hand warm and firm on Castiel’s shoulder in silent moral support against annoying Archangels. “At least we weren’t hiding out pretending to be a trickster.”

“Hey, you know how many apocalypses I started when I was subbing for Loki?”

“Guys, not helping,” Sam said, moving his large frame between Gabriel and Dean.

“Yeah, listen to the tall dove here.”

Sam’s brow wrinkled as if not sure how insulted he should be. “Dove?”

Gabriel gestured loosely in his direction, which caused him to slump further into the chair. “Hey, Leviathans, monsters, humans, whatever, seen those, done that - letting Amara loose was a whole new low, I grant ya. But the biggest surprise was you, Sammy. Last I saw you, you’d just gotten Lucy out of his Cage, you still stank of demon blood and you were angry, suicidal and prone to stab first question later. You sure turned that around. I knew as soon as I saw you in the Garden that you’d turned over a new leaf, but you turned over a whole library from what I just saw. Or is that mixing metaphors...”

Sam stared at him, expression soft and lips parted in a silent ‘oh.’ Which would not be how Castiel would react when being compared to what was probably the dumbest of non-domesticated birds. He wasn’t sure what that expression on Sam’s face meant, or why Gabriel was staring back at him straight in the eye with his crooked grin but no mockery for once.

Dean was starting to scowl, eyes going from his brother to Gabriel, and he looked quite ready to take Gabriel up on the insult that Sam had somehow overlooked.

“Let’s stay focused,” Castiel said quickly. Sam jumped, blinked and looked away quickly to needlessly adjust Jack’s pacifier.

“Fine, fine, I guess we do have a bit of a mess to sort out. And I know what’s at the heart of it,” Gabriel added.

“Yeah, our problem is Barney,” Dean said stonily, with a stare at Gabriel that succinctly added the Archangel to the same category as an optional extra.

“No, Barney is middle management gone wild. Unpleasant I grant you, but not a problem in itself. I mean, come on, you two galoots kicked Lucifer to the curb as a warm-up, you aren’t scared of Barney now, are you?”

“Not scared, just pissed with a side of homicidal.”

“What do yo mean, Gabriel?” Sam asked quietly.

“Think, boyos. After all the people trying to be God these past years, why are the angels flocking to Barney of all people? And why did Barney, Jack and the whole Host seem so very sure that Jack now had the knowledge to create new angels - when even I don’t know squat about that? I think Barney’s found the instruction manual and the guy to read it. I think he’s found-“

“The fucking Angel tablet,” Dean said, rubbing his eyes vigorously.

Castiel stirred. “Impossible. I destroyed it to take down Metatron.”

“The tablets are actually indestructible except as an act of God,” Gabriel pointed out thoughtfully. A long piece of liquorice had appeared in his hand, and he was worrying it like a dog with a piece of rawhide. “Unless dear dad cleaned up his mess before going on his cruise with auntie, they’ll still be in play.”

“Donatello could fix the Angel tablet. Kevin brought the broken Leviathan tablet together again by touching it,” Sam pointed out. “If Barney located Donatello, he would have both the tablet and the means to read it. It’d take time, but every line Donatello translates could be instructions to access the highest level of angel mojo. Including the recipe to make them.”

“Exactamento. Barney by himself? No problem. Barney with the Angel tablet? Is still a joke, just not a very good one and the punchline sucks. I think we should start by sorting out this situation before worrying about anything else. Step one: get our hands on Donatello and the tablet.”

 

---

 

Cosmo 2222 Book Review Section:

Donatello stood, strong and resolute at last. His ripped shirt hung open over his sculpted chest, his muscular arms bare as he raised them around the beautiful blue-eyed angel who had crash-landed into his life and upended it. “Come,” he said, his green eyes shining with the depth of his feelings. “You have saved me, now it is I who will save you.”

- Excerpt from “Old World On Fire - A Biblical Romance” by Lutecia Jones.

Reviews
“Profoundly silly and completely wrong historically, but as entertaining as it is purple.”
- Dr. Peter N’dalla (BA, Ph.D) of the Zeraim Institute, Jerusalem

“No. Just...no."
- Gertrude Bally-Smith (Prophet of the Lord, author of ‘The New Bible: Unedited Original Translation’).

Chapter Text

The Situation Room (still aptly named) hosted a tense strategy session between Castiel and the Winchesters. Jack’s contribution was to hurl up half the contents of his bottle onto the map table, which was possibly more constructive than Gabriel’s, which boiled down to eating junk and poking fun at everyone.

Sam seemed oddly tolerant of this behavior, or he was simply trying to keep the peace. Castiel and Dean, for their part, exchanged one long loaded look and came to the same conclusion in silence. Sure, this entire situation could be resolved if Gabriel strode into Heaven, smote Barnabas - or turned him into a toilet brush, as was more Gabriel’s style - and took charge, but that was not going to happen. Gabriel did not want the responsibility, and Dean didn’t want him in charge anymore than the next Archangel. Which left the Winchesters and their enabling Seraph to do the heavy lifting, same as always. Castiel preferred it this way. If Gabriel wanted to sit in a corner, play with the baby and eat candy, he could do so as long as he never let anyone with bad intentions near Jack ever again. Jack would one day have the power to change the world for the better. But that wasn’t the greater reason Castiel felt so protective towards the child he’d helped bring into this world.

So far he and Dean had been on the same wavelength, but then they hit a snag.

“Dean, you’re new at this. It makes more sense to rescue the Prophet by myself.”

“If Barney has half a brain, he’ll be expecting that move, so no way no how are you going on your own,” Dean countered, arms crossed over his chest.

“You are being stubborn. What do you think you can do?”

“Watch your back. Or did you expect me to stay out of it so I can be around to salt and burn your body again?” Dean’s tone rose sharply on the last words and he turned around abruptly to take a few angry steps around the conference room.

There was a ringing silence (Jack was now sleeping in a large roasting pan padded with blankets on the kitchen floor one room over.)

Castiel’s lips tightened.

“Oh, and don’t even think it,” Dean said quickly, half turning and jabbing a finger in Castiel’s direction.

“...Think what?”

“I don’t know if it’s my angel-senses tingling or just my ‘Cas is about to do something dumb’ instinct, but if you ditch my ass and fly off by yourself, I’ll get Gabe to slingshot me down, and then you and I will have words.

”...I was not thinking that.”

“Oh, good to know! That I can still spot when you’re being evasive even now that I’m a flying dick myself, I mean,” Dean added sarcastically. “I thought being naive came with the territory.”

“Are you done?”

“I’m just getting started.”

”...Fine. You can get Donatello while I neutralize any opposition we might run into.”

“No, you get the guy who actually matters here and I kick ass, which is my specialty with or without a halo.”

“Dean, you’ve had marathon movie sessions that have lasted longer than your tenure as an angel so far. You don’t know what you’re doing.”

“I’ve been a demon, this can’t be that much different.”

“That...comparison offends me. On many levels.”

“Deal with it- Gabe, will you fucking stop?

Gabriel stopped making kissing noises, but his grin was unrepentant.

“Sam.” Castiel turned towards the voice of reason - though he wouldn’t be so rude as to compare him to a dove. “You agree with me.”

“Nope, sorry, I’m with Dean on this one,” said Sam without looking up from ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting.’

Why did Castiel assume that becoming angels would make either Winchester less foolhardy or stubborn? “You’re risking your brother’s life.”

“I’d be risking mine if I try to stop him, and yours too once you’re down on the ground. Neither of us wants to bury you again, Cas. It’s like we’re enabling a bad habit or something. Hell, I’d come too, but it’d be good for one of us to hang back in case this goes sideways and you need the cavalry.”

“It won’t go sideways if I go by myself, it will only go up and down,” Castiel pointed out and then had to wait a few seconds for the snickers to stop.

“C’mon, Cas, let’s leave the babysitter club and get this show on the road. I don’t want Donnie to decrypt any more of the tablet than he already has.” Dean clapped him on the shoulder and strode out towards the bunker’s exit.

Castiel trailed after him with a reproving look at his back. “We could have left from the map room. The fact that you’re heading towards the door shows you are still mired in a human mindset.”

“I just wanted a quick recap without Gabe being a sarcastic douche.” Dean swung around, arms crossed. “Look, Cas, I get it. You’re the wing commander here. It’s your dance moves, I get that, but like hell I’m letting you go up alone against a bunch of angel mooks. We good on this?”

“You are a stubborn man,” Castiel grumbled, feeling his irritation leaking away a little. If the positions were reversed - hell, the positions had been reversed and Castiel had come crawling back to help every single time, even those times he was not at full capacity.

“Yeah, some things even a miracle ain’t gonna change. And hey, I’m agreeing to go flying with you again, that’s how serious I am about all this. So c’mon, let’s get on the roller-coaster.” Dean made an impatient get-on-with-it gesture.

“Fine.” Castiel stepped up to his side and took his hand.

Dean gave their joined fingers a very odd look. “Okay, no. That looks like we’re about to go skip over rainbows.”

“This gives me a better grip than your shoulder. It was hard holding on to you earlier, and I don’t feel like pulling you out of the photosphere, it’d be a waste of time.” Though a good object lesson, an unworthy part of Castiel muttered.

“Photosphere. I’m not sure what that is, but I imagine it blows.”

“Yes, on occasion, though the heat and gravity would be a greater issue. Now this time pay attention instead of blaspheming. You do need to know how to fly in order to be able to help against angels.”

 

---

The landing was easier, or at least quieter. Dean didn’t swear or look sick, he observed keenly as Castiel transited from the higher spheres into mundane space.

“Did you see me maneuver at the end?” Castiel started to ask and was interrupted by a screech of metal and a crash.

Dean, still holding his hand, had followed Castiel’s first few steps down the road, but he hadn’t sidestepped the lamppost that had been right in his path, sending it crashing down into the street. Dean tottered and barely kept himself upright, his eyes wide and still fixed on Castiel.

“What happened?”

“Your wings are pretty,” Dean blurted out, ”-cool. Pretty cool. Shiny. Uh, bright and all.”

“Thank you,” said Castiel absently, “but you can’t afford to get distracted by surges in your higher senses. Are you sure you shouldn’t stay behind?”

“Like hell.” Dean shook himself, straightened up - and caught sight of the woman with three small dogs on a leash gaping at the pole that had come awfully close to squishing one of them. Then she looked up at Dean.

“Uh. Sorry.”

She stared. The dogs stared. A bird on the power cables overhead stared. Castiel made sure his Wings and Dean’s were properly furled and hidden in their native dimension, though he didn’t think that was what was captivating their audience.

Dean cleared his throat and nodded at the lamppost. “American steel sure ain’t what it used to be. No wonder everything’s made in China.”

“Come on,” Castiel said, tugging him by the arm. “We’re not far from the Prophet’s house - if he’s even there.”

 

---

 

Concern was still raising red flags all over his mind, but his irritation at Dean’s stubborn refusal to listen to sense evaporated by degrees, until Castiel had to admit, after an hour of watching his friend operate, that he could not have tackled this problem quite as efficiently on his own.

Donatello’s house was shielded from celestial vision...but not warded. The conclusion was obvious: the odds of the Prophet even being there were fifty-fifty at best, while his home was a baited trap where Barnabas’s forces were lying in wait. Castiel would have had, at one time, only two choices: to attempt an assault against an unknown number of opponents, or retreat.

Dean, however, was still thinking like a human, more specifically a hunter.

First he got Castiel to fly them to Rapid City where he’d left his car. There he gathered his suit and his fake IDs (and carefully parked the Impala in a secured garage, promising to return for ‘her’ later.)

Then he canvassed Donatello’s neighborhood under whichever guise would serve him best, circling around the Prophet’s house without attempting to go near it.

This way they learned that Donatello had still been in residence this morning, since he’d been to his local grocery store accompanied by ‘a niece in a tailored suit, nice business like gal’. His cleaning lady told them there were two foreign students staying with him as of yesterday - both male, so not the so-called niece. And they learned there were three angels hidden in the garage; a nosy neighbor had heard voices and ‘accidentally’ saw into the garage when Donatello was putting his car away this morning. She was very eager to inform the handsome FBI agents of this fact. She was now convinced that the elderly chemistry professor had ‘broken bad’ and was ‘setting up a lab’. (Castiel had been proud of himself for recognizing a cultural reference. Dean had ragged him about his Netflix consumption.)

“So, up to six goons: two dudes and a chick in the house, three in the garage,” Dean concluded, taking one last look over the clapboard fence of the construction site that was their current hunting bluff, a block away from their target. “Could be the three from the house going back and forth, but I’m ready to bet not. I give you Vegas odds the three in the house are a guard detail to give us the feel that the place is watched but not impregnable, and the three in the garage are the surprise party for when we fall for the bait.”

“That’s a fair assessment. Dean-“

“Nope.”

”...I wasn’t about to dissuade you from taking on the brunt of the attack.”

Dean looked up from where he was putting his binoculars away in his duffel. “Really?”

“But I think that leaving them alive is no longer an option,” Castiel said with a heavy heart. “There’s just too many of them.”

“Hmm, I’m keeping my options open.” Dean zipped the duffel shut and got to his feet.

“But-“

“Look, I rag on angels all the time, but most of them are just soldiers doing what they’re told. That’s not good, but it’s not all their fault either. I’ll take ‘em down when I don’t have a choice, but that don’t mean I go gunning for them. And I know you don’t want to kill any more of your brothers if you can help it,” he added with a shrewd look at Castiel.

The angel looked away first, unable to deny it. “But-“

“’sides, if I wipe out these guys, that just makes me a murderer as far as the rest of the Host is concerned. Whereas if I take ‘em out of the fight without killing them, guess what kinda message that sends back upstairs? We’re gonna take Barney’s tablets, his prophet and his balls, and we won’t have to spill blood to do so, because we’re just that good. Standard shock and awe.”

“That...has validity.” A good reminder that Dean was an excellent hunter and a cunning man. He was in his element here. Barnabas and the others were not going to know what hit them, they had made a terrifying enemy.

Dean straightened and rolled his shoulders, strong and sure. “Now-“

With a savage hiss, his blade appeared in his hand and he spun around. He stared hard at the construction site behind him.

Castiel’s own weapon was poised, but he didn’t see anything. “What is it?” Were Dean’s senses even keener than his own? His instincts honed after a lifetime of risking a mortal life fighting monsters?

“I...nothing, I just thought- shit!” Dean swung around, blade slashing wildly. Then he scowled at thin air. “Fuck it! Someone’s dicking with us!”

“I don’t see anything-“

“There!” Dean spun a hundred and eighty degrees. “I saw a flash of wings- just like yours-...”

An awkward little silence settled.

Castiel put away his weapon. “Dean...”

”...Those are mine. Aren’t they.”

“Yes.”

”...Why can’t I see them when I look straight behind me? I’m only seein’ them out of the corner of my eye.” Dean was craning his neck, glaring at a spot somewhere up and to the right behind him.

“Have you studied higher mathematics and the physics of resonance and light diffraction?”

“That’d be a hard no.”

“Then accept that they are yours without my explaining it further. In time you’ll stop getting those flashes in your peripheral vision, they’ll look more solid and appear to be right behind you.” Not that the way multidimensional projections of Grace belonging to a creature originally the size of a skyscraper could really be said to ‘stick out’ of the back of a human, but Dean probably wouldn’t be comfortable with that level of detail yet.

Dean muttered something quite inappropriate about both physics and his own Wings, then he gave Castiel a garrulous look. “At least I’m on the alert.”

”...Yes, Dean.”

“Are you laughing at me?

“No, Dean.”

“I can still tell when you’re lying, you know.”

“I feel more worried than amused,” Castiel said, forcefully shelving the memory of Dean spinning around like a puppy chasing its tail. “You do realize that-“

Dean held up a curt hand telling him to be quiet. He seemed to be concentrating on something. There was a look on his face, the one he’d had every time he’d picked himself up over the years and went right on fighting against all odds.

“Dean, I have to insist. I’ve been doing this for more time than your still-somewhat-human mindset can contemplate. Billions of years. So have the opposition.”

His friend ignored him, eyes narrowed in focus.

“You’ve often made fun of me for being otherworldly and not quite ‘in tune’ with humanity or my vessel. Now you’re in the same position. This wouldn’t be a problem walking down the street- as long as I steer you away from lampposts. But in battle?”

Dean glanced once over his shoulder. Then he was eyes front again, examining his blade.

“I wish I could help you with this transition, I really do, but to tell you the truth, I can barely remember my first days of Being. I - we were all - focused on our Father and the miracle of the world he spun into existence. And this was several billion years ago. I’ve fought countless battles since.”

Dean tilted his weapon this way and that, catching the light. He wasn’t objecting or grousing, though, so he had to be paying attention. Maybe even tacitly agreeing.

“If you can secure the Prophet, I can distract my brethren and keep them off you. It’s still risky, but it’s safer this way. What do you say?”

In a sudden movement Dean tossed the blade up in a silver arc, spinning like a prayer wheel. He caught it with a deadly grace, gave a hard grin and said, “All I’m hearing is that you’re old. Can you keep up?”

And he vanished.

“Dean!” Castiel’s Wings arced out - but he hesitated, a soldier’s training insisting it was foolish to fly blind into a warded house.

The windows of Donatello’s living room blew out.

Castiel was there before the glass could hit the ground.

Someone - Ismachiah, a clerk, not a soldier - gasped and spun around, waving a blade like he was shooing away angry wasps. Castiel almost struck him down on instinct, but turned the stab into a blow to the jaw with his blade’s hilt at the last second. Ismachiah went staggering back, higher senses briefly confused by the knockout punch to his vessel.

On the other side of the room, two angels - Eliezer and someone Castiel did not recognize - were down on the floor, looking stunned. Dean was in the process of kicking down the door to the garage, right in the face of the Seraph who’d been about to open it.

Castiel quickly grabbed Donatello - sitting frozen at his dining room table with a half eaten noodle dangling from his lips. Then his senses twitched. There, on the desk. The tablet and a bunch of notes. He stuffed the latter in his pocket.

Dean had jumped onto the fallen door, full weight and psychic force further hammering the Seraph caught beneath it. Then he leaped off and moved through thin air, flickering in and out of sight - when had he learned to do that? His blade intercepted a haphazard downward blow. In a flash he’d twisted into the lock of metal, caught the other’s hilt with his own, wrenched and sent his opponent’s weapon spinning across the garage and beneath the Prophet’s car. Then he finished with a well placed knee that wouldn’t hurt an angel much but would still send all kinds of distracting and alarming messages up the vessel’s nervous system.

Castiel grabbed the tablet, thrust it into the hands of the Prophet, made sure Donatello wasn’t about to drop it in shock and barked: “Dean! Let’s go!”

“Aww, and we were just about to tango,” Dean drawled, saluting the last angel - staring at him and his five disarmed comrades, his vessel’s face inexpressive but his Wings lax and limp with shock.

Dean sauntered over to where Castiel was beckoning. A few of the angels had picked themselves and their weapons up, but nobody seemed to be in any hurry to lead the charge. As soon as Dean was within reach, Castiel grabbed him by the shoulder, other hand firm on Donatello’s arm. His Wings scythed through the spheres, taking him out of the mundane and bending space with one massive beat to make the jump to Juliet.

The next moment they were in the bunker’s map room.

Donatello was still working on his first word - “What?!” - when they arrived. Dean, for his part, whooped.

“Took your time,” Gabriel said without looking up from the book he was perusing. “Did you guys even know what childbirth does to a woman’s body? I suddenly have a whole newfound respect for the female of the species.”

 

---

 

“No, there was nothing miraculous about my birth whatsoever - just ask my mother about that, she’ll tell you about every one of her fifteen hours of labor, trust me. It was the next day that it became apparent that I was next in line, when it turned out that the doula that showed up on our doorstep was not a qualified nurse sent by Health and Wellness, but an angel sent from Heaven.”

“But- but that’s amazing!”

“You say that because you have never seen an angel have to deal with a newborn baby. My mom says it was a very interesting experience for her. As far as I’m concerned, it just meant I grew up with a nanny who knew I was going to do something wrong before I could even do it. It had advantages, sure, but I rather envied other kids with more gullible caretakers, I tell you.”

- Extract from World Wide News Net, Interview with Gertrude Bally-Smith, Jan 8th 2235

Chapter Text

“Oh my god!” Donatello gasped, eyes focusing on Gabriel and the latter’s aura.

Dean snorted. “Not even close. C’mon, Donnie, you met the big man himself, and even Gabe here’s not that big of an asshole.”

Gabriel sent the book spinning across the table. “I’m Gabriel, as in the Archangel. And you are Donatello Redfield, a Prophet sorely in need of a drink, and maybe a bit of a lie down.” Ten seconds later he was hustling the quivering professor towards the sleeping quarters where Sam was presumably tending to Jack.

It had been less than five minutes since Dean had vanished and those windows had blown out.

“That went well,” said Castiel, something of an understatement.

“And you thought I couldn’t do it.” Dean was shining - literally for those who had eyes to see, energy still roiling from him and a fierce grin on his face.

Castiel couldn’t help it, he started to chuckle.

That got him a wide-eyed look. “What?”

“Of course Jack would not bring you back as anything other than a soldier.”

“Yeah? What d’you mean?”

“Barnabas originally asked Jack to create a couple of Cupids.”

The exclamation that resulted from that was loud, obscene and gilded with laughter.

“There is no dishonorable duty in the divine schemes,” Castiel started to say, then had to smile. “But I don’t think you would have made a very good Cupid.”

“Those naked arrow monkeys?! Hah! Got that right! I’ll battle demons no problem, but don’t ask me to dick around with people’s feelings, that’s just not on.” Dean casually pulled one arm and then another into a stretch to loosen the muscles (needlessly, but no need to point that out.)

“They don’t-...Yes, sometimes they do, ah, ‘dick around’, which affronts your belief in free will, and mine as well.” Dean had good cause to dislike the notion, since his own parents had been affected merely to advance Heaven’s ploys. “But most of the time, the Cupid’s job is not that sordid. Their role in the Divine plan is to find and match souls that are already compatible. It’s the best foundation for a family. Even if the couple don’t or cannot have children, their love strengthens and ennobles society as a whole.”

“So most of the time they don’t actually fabricate feelings, they just give a nudge to people who were already going to click?”

“Yes.” The expression pleased Castiel, it made more sense than other colloquialisms he’d encountered over the years. “Like two puzzle pieces fitting together. One person’s edge complementing another’s shortfall. When that match is made, the joy in that - even angels stand in awe of that moment.” Castiel wondered when he’d become so passionate about the duty of Cupids.

Dean leaned a hip against the table a foot away from Castiel, absently twiddling his blade and not looking in his direction. “But what you’re describing, that should work without interference, right?”

“No, most often it does not. Two destined souls can miss each other in the street. Even if they’re acquaintances, there could be rifts between them, past assumptions and mistakes creating a distance they can’t breach.” The thought was as tragic as stars dying so far away their light would never be perceived...

Dean’s blade made one more slow revolution. “Of if they’re very different and they don’t realize maybe how well they’d go together if they just let it happen. Or they don’t have the bloody time to sit down, catch their breath and figure it out.”

“Yes.”

They both stood in silent contemplation of the difficulty of a Cupid’s essential task.

“Or even when they do feel kinda drawn to each other, well, some nuts are hard to crack,” said Dean in a low voice.

“Also a good point. Humans who wear their heart on their sleeve won’t need help once they meet their soulmate. But some people are so battered by this world, they find it hard to open up even to someone who would ‘click’, as you say.” Suddenly a Cupid’s job seemed both noble and horrendously difficult. A billion years of battle and border patrols seemed easy by comparison.

“Hm. Yeah. Of course, it’d be up to one of them to man up in that case. Yeah. Say, Cas-“ Dean suddenly twisted around and looked over his shoulder towards an empty corner of the Situation Room.

“What? Did you see your Wings again?” Castiel asked, smiling faintly.

“...Are there any Cupids here?”

“You could sense them if there were. And then we’d have a problem, as they’re connected to the Host.”

“Do you see any naked-ass skeeves aiming arrows at us right this moment?” Dean insisted, making a full three sixty and glaring at every corner of the room. His weapon was twitching in his hand.

“No. I don’t see any...’skeeves’. I don’t sense any Cupids either. They can’t fly, they couldn’t reach Juliet anyway.”

“Good. ‘Cause if I’m doing this, it’s bloody well of my own free will,” Dean announced, jabbing his blade back into his jacket, grabbing Castiel by one shoulder and the back of his neck and bringing their mouths together.

What surprised Castiel was just how completely unsurprised he was.

The contact only lasted about three seconds, then Dean leaned back an inch as if to gage his reaction.

“Fire,” said Castiel, because apparently he’d been having a long internal debate about wooden pegs rubbing together all this time, and Gabriel had just won the argument.

“What?” Dean asked, most of the word lost when Castiel leaned in and caught his mouth again.

In his years on earth, Castiel had wondered about the human obsession with kissing; a mere preliminary act which wasn’t even necessary for reproduction, but seemed to take up a lot of their already busy and short lives. He’d finally admitted to himself that ‘he didn’t get it’ and probably never would.

Yet when Dean tilted his head to angle his mouth and licked his way across Castiel’s lips, he suddenly knew he was on the cusp of figuring it out.

“Uh-“ Dean’s hands, which had slid down Castiel’s shoulders to his ribs, warm and steady, suddenly seized up, tensing. ”...Shit. I’d actually managed to forget that-...that I’m not human any more. I have no idea what I’m doing here. Do...angels actually do this?”

“No,” Castiel answered, since it was the truth. As Gabriel had pointed out, angels dallied with humans at times, even if they weren’t supposed to, but as far as Castiel knew, this had never happened.

Dean’s hands loosened. “Oh. I-

“But as the saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way,” Castiel announced, grabbing onto Dean’s shoulders hard. “We are going to find it.”

The first thing to find being the exact perfect way to fit their mouths together.

Oh, and tongues. Tongues definitely had to be involved too.

Dean made a low rumbly noise deep in his chest, dropped his hands to Castiel’s waist and hauled him in close, making them stagger. But they caught themselves and then their bodies were in contact, warm, solid, fitting together as well as their lips.

“Can’t be too complicated,” Dean finally suggested a few minutes later, between heavy breaths against Castiel’s jawline. ”I mean, we both got bodies right this instant. And I know what to do with that any day of the week.”

“Yes.” Castiel’s breathing was perfectly regulated, though only through an effort of will. “But the fact that we are not human, particularly you right now, is going to complicate things.”

“Why’s that?” Dean whispered, nuzzling his ear.

“Your Wings have unfurled, but your control - hm, sorry, Dean, your control is very bad. It’s probably because you’re distracted.”

“Distracted- FUCK!!”

“It’s fine.” Castiel patted him reassuringly on the shoulder. “I am maintaining oxygen, heat and pressure for the comfort of our vessels- are you alright?”

“I’m in space!” Dean wheezed, wide eyes darting all around, from the huge slice of blue-white disk peeking over the darkness of the small moon a few kilometers away, to the barely lit arc of the nearest ring dominating the sky, to stars hard and sharp in the darkness, to- Castiel put up a hand and turned Dean’s face away from the sun. It was a twentieth of the size as seen from Earth, but it was still emitting enough light and radiation that he’d find it uncomfortable if he didn’t know how to handle it.

“Where’s the bunker?” Dean hissed, staring around. “Have we lost the bunker? You know how to get back to the bunker, right?”

“Yes, but we’re better off out here. If you lose control in a confined space, you might damage something. I’m not sure Jack can survive exposure to vacuum right now, and I am sure Donatello can’t.” The bunker also contained an insufferable Archangel who was bound to gloat, and Castiel would have to deal with that rather than focus on kissing Dean. There was no dimension known to angels where that thought was in any way appealing.

He didn’t think Dean was listening, he was still staring around and breathing at a fast shallow pace. He was also clinging to Castiel a good deal harder than before - Castiel absently tallied how many bones would have been broken had he been human, though of course that would be the least of his problems if that were the case. Apparently something about their situation was alarming Dean. Maybe because they were technically falling towards the nearby planet?

Castiel’s hand was still cupping Dean’s face to keep him from looking at the sun. The skin beneath his fingers was warm, threaded through with traces of Grace like silver invisible to the human eye but which glowed and thrummed beneath his fingertips.

He should...should he offer to fly Dean to Earth?

Castiel leaned forward and pressed his lips against the corner of Dean’s mouth. Once. Twice. Feeling the small give of flesh, the tiny tastes he could pick up, molecules fizzing on his tongue.

...Earth was currently the enemy’s stronghold. The risk would be small, but it would be there. Castiel would have to be cautious and attentive to risk and... and he had a feeling his mind would be elsewhere.

Castiel traced a trail with his lips down a stubbled jaw to the soft skin of Dean’s neck. He could feel a heartbeat thundering there. He licked it experimentally. It picked up even more.

Besides, this, what they were planning, it was undiscovered country for angels. He wasn’t sure what was going to happen when they...got to where they were hoping to get.

There was a tiny patch of skin revealed when he nudged the tee, flannel and jacket out of the way, at the corner of Dean’s shoulder. Castiel had rebuilt this body once, he theoretically knew every inch of it. But this little patch he’d just uncovered felt like a secret meant just for him.

Dean gulped. He was still staring at the magnificence around them, mired virtually motionless between fear and fascination. But the way he gripped Castiel now was not entirely due to panic.

Little walls in Castiel’s mind were tumbling down as if every touch of his lips on Dean’s skin was knocking a new one over. He did not want to go to the bunker, or earth, or anywhere they could get interrupted because this right here was just for the two of them, they were alone - quite alone, their orbit decaying and taking them further from Juliet.

...Where to go? He had to find a place where Dean could be...Dean. But none of the moons had enough gravity, and Dean was apparently distressed without it. The nearby planet had gravity but no solid ground. Where to...

Castiel’s mouth dragged the corner of the t-shirt down, tongue exploring a well defined pectoral, the edge of the tattoo shining in the reflected light off the nearby celestial body.

Dean was still holding on for dear life. Yet somehow his grip was also pushing Castiel down by increment, encouraging.

...He’d been thinking about something. About going somewhere. It was possible... it was possible he was getting a bit distracted too...

More walls were tumbling down. It was rather alarming how suddenly his disciplined thoughts were escaping like convicts from a destroyed penitentiary. Dean’s Wings were jerking around, setting them on an eccentric orbit and then ripping them away again. All this fluttering and flailing was dangerous and undisciplined, but the only word escaping from the rubble of Castiel’s thoughts was ‘endearing’. The way Dean’s breath hitched, the way he started to shake when Castiel slipped his hand beneath the t-shirt at the back, near his belt...that was ‘exciting’. These were thoughts that had never come to Castiel before. Ever. In relation to anyone. But he had a feeling they’d been waiting patiently, chained behind the walls, for a long time now, ever since he’d met the Righteous man and pulled him from perdition.

Dean’s arms were clenched around him as if he was never going to let him go again (more thoughts squirmed free and started to riot.) Castiel still had enough room to maneuver to inch his way down the strong body. He mouthed at Dean’s muscle definition beneath the t-shirt. The edge of a hipbone beneath denim caught his hand, teased his fingers to explore until they touched skin.

Dean made a noise in his throat that brought down walls harder than the trumps of Jericho.

Their little bubble of atmosphere intersected a drift of space dust, causing it to glitter and rustle through like sand in an hourglass, gilding the absolute silence of space along with Dean’s rapid breathing and the sound of slow kisses exploring further.

They were drifting towards a small satellite of some kind - mainly ice and accretions, they’d pass right through it. Dean’s Being and Wings were so agitated now that at this rate it would break apart before they could even physically touch it, like a snowflake melted in the heat of this thing blossoming between them.

But they never got near it.

What happened next could best be described as crashing through four layers of sheet glass a foot apart from one another. Then they were free-falling a few feet, gravity dogpling them down. They hit a surface that gave in to their combined weight and velocity with a crash.

”What the hell?!” Dean found his voice and then some.

They both looked around wildly. They were in a room on Earth, with the sun shining crudely outside a lace-curtained window. They had landed on a huge bed. It was rumpled by their arrival, a bright red comforter rucked up over red satin sheets.

They both had their weapons out by now, but nobody was around.

It looked like a hotel room’s fancier suite. The walls were a business-like beige, but the finishings were wood picked out in white with red drapes and highlights. Though there was no sign of human presence, music filtered through from a set of cheap speakers hidden behind a large red loveseat in the corner. It was heavy with warbling synths and a few dragging percussions.

“What...the...” Dean’s face was rigid with anger rather than surprise. “That...that motherfucker...”

“What? Who?” Castiel looked around carefully with all his senses. There were no angels or humans about, but his higher senses recoiled. There was something very off about their location.

“He...He...I’m gonna...” Dean’s breath whistled out through his nostrils. “Your brother. Gotta be. Yeah, definitely him, ‘cause I recognize it, its the same set.”

“Gabriel?” Castiel’s frown deepened. “Set?”

“Yeah. Fucking Gabriel just told us to get a room.” Dean huffed out like an angry bull, but then his fury seemed to abate. “But at least I got gravity here. This I’m familiar with. I guess I can work with this. If it’s okay with you.”

“...Yes?” Castiel said, not entirely sure he knew what he was agreeing to.

“Good. Good. Kinda apt, I guess. You better not be watching, you perv! Or I’ll feed you your eyeballs when I get out! Okay. Where were we. Oh yeah.”

Dean was back to his usual self, rippling with life and energy and undefeated strength. As he tore off his jacket, shirt and top - and Castiel remembered the train of thought that had gotten repeatedly derailed earlier - the angel realized with a sense of resignation that he was going to have to find his brother later and thank him for the opportune shelter. Then suffer through Gabriel’s inevitable multiple I Told You So’s.

Boots went sailing off into a corner of the room with magnificent disregard for the cheap floor vase one of them smashed. The terracotta instantly reformed with a rattle before it steadied itself almost apologetically for having distracted them by initially falling to pieces.

“Scenery’s indestructible,” Dean concluded, eying it. “Good. I think this bed is about to get that stress tested.”

Then he was on Castiel and bearing him to the mattress with all his strength - which was considerably more than previously, a fact he may or may not have forgotten. The bed did shudder with one massive wooden groan and wince of screws, then righted itself immediately. Dean grinned like a loon.

What followed was essentially a repeat of what had occurred before, but this time it was Dean pinning Castiel down while the latter held on to the bed cover for dear life (ignoring the way it repaired itself under his fingers each time he tore it.) Dean used his tongue but also his fingers and his teeth. Castiel had been bitten by a number of things in his time including Leviathans. It had never felt like this before. Absolutely never.

“That was a nice sound,” Dean said with a breathless laugh, looking up from the hipbone he’d been nibbling. Castiel hadn’t realized he’d made a noise, but maybe that weird instrumental mash-up of synths and percussions in the background had covered it.

Castiel still had on his coat and tie, but his shirt had been ripped open, buttons flying, and everything below the belt had been removed. This was not the most efficient way to get undressed, and the words to point that out died in his throat when Dean gripped his hips and went down on him with no further commentary required whatsoever.

The whole world shuddered - it really did. Castiel had good cause to think it was just his own world that had been rocked, so to speak, but no, something had changed in this locked-in universe, as if the light had suddenly dimmed on a plane beyond the visible eye. Castiel looked with his higher senses - he hated getting distracted right now, but their safety took priority over what Dean was doing to Castiel’s erection with his mouth and tongue (by a very narrow margin).

Nothing alarming, this fake decor of a universe still felt safe and unbreakable - somehow even more hermetical than it had a minute ago. Hopefully Gabriel would let them out of here eventually. In due course. After...

“Do that again,” Castiel instructed, pushing down on Dean’s head which got him a mumbled muffled chuckle.

The point and construction of this universe dropped clear off the list of things Castiel gave a damn about. Dean’s tongue was teasing his erection while his fingers caressed and played with his testicles. Castiel had only had one sexual experience before - while human at that - and this was well over that tidemark already even though they’d barely started. Because...because it was Dean who was doing this to him. Dean. The man he’d Fallen for and bled for and who he’d die for a dozen more times if he had to - how had he not realized before what was between them? Bloody Cupids had missed a shot there, or else the arrow had bounced off his sanctimonious rule-bound angelic hide at a crucial point back before he’d have been able to recognize this feeling, and since then he and Dean had been circling each other like twin suns, always in each other’s orbit but energy and speed keeping them at a constant distance. It’d taken something major to knock them together.

The enormity of what was happening, the rightness of it, the way this was going to complete him in ways he had never imagined, hammered into his mind. And, well, additionally, Dean’s Wings were ruffling and jerking and tumbling through the higher dimensions like excited kittens chasing yarn, which was horribly distractingly cute, and really, there was only so much an angel could stand before he snapped.

One of the walls bowed out and then caught itself quickly and resettled itself with a twang that could not realistically come from cheap plywood and cheaper drywall. Castiel was now the one pinning Dean to the bed, while in the higher spheres feathers of Grace crashed and ruffled together. There was a smell of ozone in the air, and a Geiger counter would get momentarily excited as Wings flared and pierced the mundane sphere, but the fabricated air of this place quickly tidied up the ionized particle spillover like a harried maid, so it didn’t matter. Neither did the corner of Castiel’s coat which started to smolder until he whisked it and the rest of their clothes away with a distracted thought.

“Yeah?” Dean said, half question half challenge, looking up.

“I have thousands of books and movies in my head.” Courtesy of that tyrannical little pen-wielder Metatron; several millennia’s worth of stories - jumbled inside his mind and jostling for attention and not that much more useful to decrypt human behavior when all was said and done.

It seemed this was not what Dean had expected him to say. ”...Uh...Yeah? Metatron dd that thing with your head. Which means you finally get my Lord of the Ring references, at least some of the time. Why are we talking about-“

“And they are all of them useless. None of them have any factual advice- even those that do have explicit scenes don’t cover this. From Lysistrata to Lady Chatterley, it mostly involves women - and even in the few instances it does not, none of them qualify as an instruction manual.”

“Instruction-...oh. What you’re saying is that Metatron didn’t download any porn for you.”

“No,” Castiel ground out, a warning in his tone for the way Dean was starting to grin.

“Ooooh, oh, the little creep gave you a rating? You don’t have anything higher than PG15?”

“Stop laughing,” Castiel said in a voice that promised retribution. “At least Gabriel took our celestial natures out of the equation- ” mostly out of the equation, though the way their Grace clashed and wove together was almost as distracting as the way laughter wrinkled Dean’s nose and caused freckles to dance about. “But I know intercourse between two men requires information, and even the Kama Sutra doesn’t cover this.”

“Dude, you got the Dean Winchester Bible on getting laid at your fingertips,” Dean said, catching Castiel’s hand to bring said fingertips to his lips and give them a lick. “Chapter 1, we got covered. Chapter 2- you paying attention? Cause there will be a test. Chapter 2...” Dean made a fancy motion like a magician about to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Then he leaned far to the right, tugged open the drawer of a small bedside table, fished around inside with his eyes still fixed on Castiel’s, and pulled out a tube. “Hah. Who got mojo now? Hm?”

“How did you do that?” Castiel asked curiously, reflexively analyzing the chemical composition of the tube’s contents. Propylene glycol, emulsifiers-

“If Metatron hadn’t put you in the kiddie section at the movies, you’d know exactly how I knew that’d be there,” said Dean with a leer. “Now who goes first?”

“First for what?”

“That’d be my cue.” Dean lifted Castiel off completely effortlessly. He rolled to his knees, back three quarters turned towards the other angel, and uncapped the tube. “Watch and learn.”

“Watch and learn what?” were going to be the next words out of Castiel’s mouth but then Dean slid fingers wet with chemical compound down the cleft of his buttocks towards - a whole lot of facts lined up neatly.

“I think the penny just dropped,” Dean snickered, he was watching over his shoulder the changes of expression on Castiel’s face - currently a look of comprehension and riveted interest. “Now, pull up a chair, s’gonna take awhile, ‘cause I haven’t done this in fucking...ages...uh...”

The cocky look on his face flickered as his fingers rubbed and dipped into the ring of his anal muscles. “Uh...”

“Is everything alright?”

“Uh, yeah, that’s just it, doesn’t seem to hurt-...goddamn, how do I keep forgetting?”

Castiel’s glance lingered on Dean’s body, naked, offered up to full view, muscles rippling, tight lines a Greek sculptor would have sold his soul to reproduce just once in marble, sex hard and defined, face flushed and grin back in place - Castiel hoped Dean would regularly forget his nature for many centuries to come, because he made such an interesting human.

Also a very unique angel...Castiel concentrated with quiet intent on what Dean’s fingers were doing. This made Dean snicker and mention pay-per-view, and that this was very appropriate, and that Castiel was going to owe him a fortune.

In no time at all, Dean gave a satisfied hum, deliberately tossed the tube over his shoulder (it vanished, presumably to reappear in its drawer) and then stalked over the rumpled red cover on his hands and knees towards Castiel. Castiel, sitting on the bed with his legs loosely crossed and his hands on his thighs, waited to see what would happen next with complete fascination.

“How strong are you, Cas?” Dean’s grin was a hard slash showing teeth.

”...In which plane?”

“How’s your balance?”

“I fly. My balance is excellent.”

“Put your hands on my ass and stay exactly like this. If you can. You’ll tell me if your billion year old back starts hurting, now.”

“Dean, my back-” A fierce kiss muzzled him.

Dean moved onto his lap, hooked arms over Castiel’s shoulders, used him as crude leverage to get his legs over the angel’s hips and around his waist until he was poised over Castiel’s lap. One hand went back to grip Castiel’s erection hard, directing it towards-

Oh.

Oh, that was tight. And good. Wonderfully tight and painfully good- or- or possibly the other way around.

Dean threw back his head and bit out a harsh, “Fucking hell I wanted to do this forever-

The words resonated through his body. Castiel felt them against his chest. Forever? They could have been doing this forever? Dammit-

Dean lowered himself with the slow inevitability of a glacier, managing this with just the leverage on Castiel’s shoulders and the cant of his own hips and legs around Castiel’s waist. Though Castiel’s hand were digging hard into the firm flesh of his friend’s buttocks, he wasn’t actually assisting. But from the faint snicker teasing Castiel’s ear, it wasn’t caution or discomfort that was making Dean ease down like that. There was a promise in the slow, the tortuously slow movement. It was like a fuse burning down. Grace burned beneath Castiel’s tightening fingertips, the air crackled as if it was about to ignite under a lightning strike and yes. Yes. Oh yes, the scenery and the bed’s indestructibility were going to get tested.

“Oh yeah,” Dean whispered when he was fully seated in Castiel’s lap, tight and hot and- and tight around Castiel’s erection. The pause was the breathless instant before that fuse burned down and the bomb exploded. “Good job. Didn’t move an inch. Keep it up now.”

Castiel had possibly forgotten how to shape words with his mouth. Only his throat was working right now, a quick nervous swallow. It made Dean laugh, a shiver of movement that went from one joined body to the other.

Wings crashed out, instinctively assisting Dean’s grip around Castiel’s shoulders as he pulled himself up a few inches. Up and then thrusting down hard, aggressive and without concession, as if he wanted to get every single inch of Castiel inside him and then some. The movements were strong, expecting Castiel to hold them both steady in that seated position come what may - Castiel had the notion that his own endurance was about to get sorely tested as well.

The angle at which their bodies joined, the way he was holding Dean up effortlessly even as the latter rode him hard - an instruction manual meant for mortals would not have been all that helpful after all, humans couldn’t sustain the precarious strength and balance required for this position for more than a few seconds. And then there were Dean’s Wings to contend with, crashing all over the place and threatening to toss them off the bed, or into another dimension altogether.

Castiel did have some passing second-hand knowledge of this - which was to say, a drunken Balthazar had once insisted on giving him a very thorough description of how to safely have intercourse with humans even when Castiel had alternatively asked, threatened and begged him to shut up about it. Castiel knew that if he withdrew himself tightly into his vessel, curbed his Grace and encouraged Dean to do the same, it would be quite similar to two regular humans having sex.

But they weren’t two humans, so why in Heaven’s name would they do that?

Castiel threw out his own Wings for counterbalance - Dean hollered as the feeling of their Grace crashing together in the higher planes tingled down his Being in ways he could still barely comprehend. His arms gripped hard and so did the muscles sheathing Castiel’s erection, they tightened unbearably (so unbearably it would have to be repeated many times - many many many times) .

“Fuck! That- do that! Do that again!” Dean’s hands scrabbled at Castiel’s back in an instinctive and completely useless attempt to grip the latter’s Wings and force them to touch.

Partly for the sake of balance - but only partly - Castiel’s Wings battled Dean’s down, to cover them, ride them - That made Dean yell, an ecstatic noise that broke into words.

“Shit! Yeah! Fuck! That’s it!” Figured Dean would be a swearer during sex. “Do it, angel! Ah! Fuck me!”

So Castiel did.

He took the request - the order, rather - as permission to participate more actively, which he couldn’t do in this position. He rolled forward, getting Dean down on his back, coming over him. Dean crowed; apparently the move meant Castiel had lost some sort of game he hadn’t been aware he was playing. Dean had a lot to learn about being an angel, but Castiel still had a lot to learn about Dean, as he had in the past, as he would in the future, yesterday, now and always.

Instincts wired into the vessel surged forward, taking over on the mundane plane now that he could actually move. Wonderful instincts, that had him pushing forward repeatedly into Dean’s body, twitching away only to go forward and fit them together again like puzzle pieces. Their Wings fit together just as neatly - hard to believe this wasn’t part of their function, really. The crash of Grace and feathers made Dean convulse, arms windmilling before catching Castiel’s shoulders, eyes wide and mouth open in a wild “Oh!” Their gazes caught.

“Cas-”

A bitten off word, a groan shaped into his name- not even his full name and it contained everything, all the years and the mistakes and the love and the new passion and all the tomorrows. Dean arched his back as Castiel surged forward hard, a massive swell of pleasure hitting him right in-

It was quite possible that the little fake universe exploded. If it had, it had rebuilt itself by the time Castiel got around to worrying about it. He found himself half-sprawled over Dean, the upper dimensions a real mess and something tepid and sticky coming to his notice in the more mundane sphere, smeared between them.

“Holy fuck,” Dean said - a mark of appreciation or maybe a factual evaluation. Castiel for his part didn’t have anything relevant to say. In fact his mind was remarkably empty for a creature of higher intelligence and perceptions.

“O-kay. We just proved angels can get it on. Good to know. For science.” Dean scratched his cheek with a gesture so lazy it missed the first two times. “So, I hope you remember what I showed you, ‘cause next time you’re it.”

It...? It. Oh, it. Yes, that would be very interesting and educational too. Castiel got swiftly up to his knees. Dean made a grunting sound of protest as the bed bounced him.

“Whatcha doing?”

“We’ll need that glycol product.” Castiel opened the drawer.

Dean chuckled. “I didn’t mean right this second, eager beaver. You...er...” Then he lifted his head and blinked at Castiel. “You...don’t want go right this second. Do you?”

Castiel looked thoughtfully at the tube. “I suppose we can wait. How long exactly? A minute?”

“Wurgh?” Dean blinked at him, eyes widening.

Castiel looked sympathetically at his friend - his lover. “Did you forget you’re not human again?”

”...No. Actually no.” Dean gave his own body - suddenly cleaned, refreshed and ready to go - a loaded look. Then he lay back on the bed. “I was figurin’ something out.”

”What?”

Dean pulled himself into one long slow joint-cracking stretch and then jerked both hands into the air with two thumbs up. “Being an angel is freakin’ awesome. Go team!”

Then Castiel found himself pinned to the bed - again - with the tube nicked from his fingers and a few more hands than he’d expected Dean’s vessel to posses all over him.

 

---

 

Baby Jack in his arms, Sam wandered into the map room, looking around. “Gabriel? Where are Dean and-... Really? Do you have to do that here?”

Gabriel, a huge bucket of caramel popcorn on his lap, blinked up from the laptop as if wondering what was wrong with watching porn in the middle of the day in the bunker’s main room when there were children and prophets and angels about.

“Can you please turn that off?” Sam instinctively put a hand over Jacks’ face while glancing in distaste at the screen - not that he needed to see the movie to know what Gabriel was watching, the cheesy soundtrack and the muffled gasps and moans made it painfully clear. The logo on the corner of the production was familiar, but the action was not. “What, they make gay versions of those? Huh? What the fuck?!

Jack made a very unhappy noise at having been jostled when Sam lunged like a leopard at the laptop and slammed the screen shut, cutting the music and a loud groan off abruptly.

“Come on! It just started! They haven’t even gotten all their clothes off yet! I wanted to see who was going to be on top, I’ve been making bets with myself about this forever.”

Sam took in a deep breath. It whistled through his nose and burned his lungs. Even Jack stopped whining and gave him a timid look.

“Gabriel?”

“Present.”

“Why are my bother and my best friend-...in a Casa Erotica production?”

“You need me to draw you a picture? It’s just until they get it out of their system. We’re orbiting a beautiful unsullied planet which does not deserve meteor strikes, quakes and other disasters. Didn’t want them tearing a hole in-“

“Finish that sentence and I will not be responsible for my actions.”

“You know, a Seraph should show an Archangel some respect.”

“Earn it.”

“Hmf.”

---

12. Your thighs are the pillars of my hall
13. Wherein I rest in holy union
               as in the streets of New Jerusalem
14. Your heart I hold in my hand
15. For all eternity given to us
16. [Choir] But is it not forbidden?
17. For you I would break sacrament
18. But this love is holy
19. And so I anoint your back
             with oil of the Land of Gold
20. For you are forever mine

This section is from the Song of Songs in the New Bible, also referred to as the Songs of Juliet, based, it is believed, on the tragic heroine of the Old World author William Shakespeare. The start of the Songs in particular is both esoteric and erotic with references to stars and planets. The link at the bottom of the Study Guide screen will open an unedited original version as provided by official Prophets of the Lord over the last two centuries. We will study the differences. Some of the meanings of the terminology has been lost to time, unfortunately, but I have always preferred the original version rather than the interpretations. But no, I’m telling you up front, I do not know what a ‘Casa’ is either. I mean, it’s obviously the Spanish word for home, but how it applies in this context has been beyond our greatest scholars, and the angels we have consulted have been strangely reluctant to divulge information on this. Now, on to our study.

--- Extract from a Religious Studies seminar as Tokyo university, circa 2386.

Chapter Text

Sam settled down in the chair next to Gabriel, Jack balanced on his knee. They needed to talk. Plus he had the atrocious notion that if he left right now, Gabriel was going to open the laptop again and watch.

“Donatello is resting,” Sam said, which was Winchester short-hand for ‘comatose after as much bourbon as he could stomach’. “I put the Angel tablet in one of those warded lead-lined boxes the Men of Letters have lying around. That’s two-naught for us on the board, but now it’s Barney’s turn. What do you think he’ll do?”

“Yell a lot, blame other people, the usual. He’ll be a lot easier to take down now. It’s the post-production party I’m worried about.”

“Yeah...”

“Just so we’re clear, kiddo, I do not want to be god,” Gabriel announced, fishing around in his popcorn bucket.

“Which, in some ways, makes you the perfect candidate for the job.”

“You have a point but I don’t wanna. Personally I think it’s a gig nobody should have.” The last had been muttered, and Sam would not have caught it if he’d not been rocking angel ears currently, more so than Gabriel probably suspected. Sam didn’t say anything, just tucked those few words into the little corner of his brain where he collected all things Gabriel. It was getting quite full of information. Most of it was contradictory. Sam was not surprised.

Gabriel sighed heavily and rolled his eyes upwards. “Go ahead, give me the speech.”

“Hm?”

“The whole ‘we all have to do things we don’t want to for the greater good’ lecture.”

“You think I’m going to encourage you to become head of the Host? That’s the best solution to this mess we can come up with? Another disinterested capricious god?”

“I’m not capricious, I’m fun!”

“Yeah, I remember that Tuesday you locked me into one time. That was hilarious. Especially all the ways I saw my brother die.”

“The funniest was when the butcher’s truck crashed and his produce got propelled through the windshield. Dean had just said ‘That’ll happen when pigs fly’ and then he got beaned by a ten pound ham joint.”

“Rib-splitting.”

“That was one I didn’t try. Hey, you still mad at me for that?”

Not half as mad as I should be, Sam admitted to himself.

In truth, staying mad at Gabriel was like trying to wrestle a piece of wet soap. The bastard played horrible pranks, which were often just deserts. He was infuriating and he was funny, often at the very same time. His visions flayed the soul, but only to show what was underneath, and Sam had to admit that every time he thought he’d hated the Trickster, it was really the message he’d been trying to send Sam that he’d truly hated; it was what Gabriel had forced him to admit, or see within himself.

Sam didn’t hate himself anymore. He’d had enough of beating himself up for his sins and that of the world. He just did whatever it took to help people now. And when Gabriel had looked at him earlier, when he’d called him a dove - funny, infuriating, teasing and true all at the same time, as per usual...Well. Well, that had been, ah, very different from the usual look that-...

No. Sam didn’t hate himself anymore.

He found himself looking at Gabriel again out of the corner of his eye. He was really trying not to do that.

Dean said he didn’t feel any different for the most part. Maybe now he’d been in a fight, he’d change his tune, or maybe not. Sam’s brother was pretty stubborn and very down to earth. Even when he’d been a demon, he’d been a pretty pedestrian one. Due to Sam’s experiences with mental powers, or perhaps his different way of looking at things, he no longer felt human by a good milestone already. It was like growing a third eyeball, deep inside his skull, one that could see things in brand new ways. Power signatures rang out like pagan songs, the stars were pinpricks of twinkling joy in Sam’s mind and the sun was a deep dark well even here, sitting in the bunker a billion miles away. Jack was a baby, but something fluid and mutable shone beneath the surface like a blanket made of golden sunshine woven into reality. And Sam could see Gabriel too.

Most of the time he could just see the surface, the quirky looking guy with the candy fixation and the crooked smile. Then Gabe would move, or turn his head away to look at something, and for an instant Sam would see...he would see the air move like silk, shaping itself briefly into massive Wings, twinkling with distant stars, hard and sharp at the edges, soft and evanescent at the center- much like their owner. It was...fascinating. Oh, there they were again, they’d twitched - wow, they’d actually twitched like a bird giving its wings a quick shake, plumes ruffling, it was amazing, and there were fingers snapping in front of his nose-

“My eyes are down here, kiddo.”

Sam made a strangled noise in his throat which he turned into a cough. “I. Um. Sorry. Is that...is that rude? I don’t know, um, angel etiquette. Was that like staring at- at-”

“You were staring at my Wings. What do you think?” Gabriel gave him a rather vexed look that edged onto offended, causing a mild flare of panicked remorse in Sam.

“I- I’m sorry, Gabriel, I didn’t realize-“

“Tch, too late. According to the Talmud, now you have to angel marry me.”

Sam took in a deep breath and let out a long sigh. “You’re messing with my head. Again.”

“Moi?”

Sam put on a long suffering look. Underneath, he was trying not to laugh since that’d just encourage the dick.

He had a biting retort ready to zing back. It was going to be good, it was going to make Gabriel choke on that popcorn. He had it cocked and aimed, and so he had no idea why the next words out of his mouth instead were, “Hey, now you’re back, will you be looking up Kali again?”

“Nah, I’m sure she’s moved on. It’s been years.”

“For her, yes. For you it was yesterday.” Just yesterday that Gabriel had died for her. In the privacy of his own mind, Sam didn’t think Kali deserved that kind of sacrifice, but that’s not what Gabriel had seemed to believe at the time.

Gabriel’s face was a mask of supreme unconcern. If it was a mask. Sam looked at him out of the corner of his eye. Then he looked at Gabriel full on. Then he looked with whatever new senses he could cobble together- before reminding himself that he was trying to read an entity that was older even than Cas, and the latter was already the poster boy for inscrutable when he wanted to be. It didn’t mean that Gabriel felt nothing, but whether he really was that callous or whether he was just really good at hiding it, Sam found himself equally and irrationally irritated.

“She could be dead. The last year’s been hell,” he said before he could realize what a horrible thing that was to say.

“Que sera sera.”

“You’re not even going to check on her?”

Gabe took a fistful of popcorn and munched. Of course.

“Fine,” Sam said dourly, looking down at Jack and feeling tired in a part of himself that had nothing to do with stamina. With some effort he focused on the next step of the shit-fest that was the Winchester way of life. “So if you don’t want to step into God’s shoes, then we-“

“I already checked on her.”

“Huh?”

Gabe made a sort of shrug.

“When did you do that? You only went outside for two minutes to get-“

“Archangel,” said Gabriel succinctly around a chewy mouthful.

“So she’s alive?”

“Alive, murdering stuff, and hooked up with a guy who looks like the swamp thing.”

“...Sorry.”

That same shrug. “I’ve learned to burn my bridges, Samsquatch. So have you.” But the fact that he’d admitted checking made it less about bridges burned, and more about letting go of what was past, so that the next thing to come along could be accepted with open arms and embraced as long as possible.

A memory of Amelia drifted through Sam’s head, but it no longer carried any sting.

“Thanks.

Munch. “For?”

“For not being flip about it. Or shutting me down.”

“Wazzat mean?”

“Means I’ve been living with Dean and hanging with Cas for too many years, I get tired of the world’s greatest non-communicators telling me to shut up when I try to pry an emotion out of them. Well, Dean tells me to shut up, Cas just gives him this otherworldly stare and says weird stuff until I give up and go away. It’s nice to talk to someone who actually acknowledges having feelings.”

“Oh, I have three of those myself. Big brothers who are notoriously good at internalizing until boom, they erupt.”

“Must be a younger brother thing to not want to make the same mistakes again.”

“Hear hear. Popcorn?”

Sam grabbed a handful and popped some in his mouth, curious. He remembered what Cas had said about tasting molecules. This popcorn tasted like popcorn. Unlike whatever weird sense he’d managed to grow in his cerebellum that seemed to react to power, his taste buds must still be human-aligned. His brain was expecting a popcorn taste and was filtering out the smorgasboard of other sensations that were trying to piggyback on there.

Gabriel relaxed back in his chair and grinned. “This is cozy. Hanging out, eating popcorn- wanna watch the movie?”

“Oh hell no.” Sam finished his handful while keeping it out of Jack’s reach. Jack made an unhappy squalling noise that had Gabriel tensing up in a way Sam found hilarious. Apparently Archangels could deal with the rise of Lucifer and the end of the world, but not a baby Nephilim’s tantrum.

Sam held out one hand and concentrated. The kitchen was not very far away, it was almost as if part of himself could reach out and touch it, and so...With a mental yank, the toy he’d been visualizing appeared in his palm. Jack squealed and made grabby hands.

“Whoa! You’re further advanced than your bro!”

Sam shrugged, trying not to feel pleased. “We have the entire world, heaven, hell and who knows what else on our backsides, I am not going to ignore a new weapon that’s fallen into my arsenal. Since this one comes free of any demon-blood-drinking price tag - thanks, Jack, it’s the little details I appreciate.”

Jack was stress testing the plastic giraffe as if it was his holy mission in life to destroy it, and didn’t offer any comment.

“I just fetched it from twenty yards away. I don’t think I could reach much further yet, or create it out of nothing like you do. I haven’t dared to try flying without Cas.”

“It’ll come. Well, not the creating, that’s my shtick.”

“Talking of which, we do have more stuff we need for Jack.” Assuming the kid was going to stay this age for awhile...Sam wondered why his life was so strange that he had to plan around a baby Nephilim in his care being able to pick his number of birthdays. Then he wondered why a part of him rather wished Jack would stay this age and grow up the normal way, despite all the complications (of which he’d been making several lists). He shook his head. “Bibs, a bassinet, ointments - stuff. I wrote it down. I’ve been doing some research. Fortunately I still have the internet. Somehow. Even though we’re over one and a half billion miles from the nearest service provider.”

Gabriel grinned proudly. Sam felt a strange and ambiguous set of feelings flutter through his ribcage.

“It’s good to have you back, Gabriel. Are the words I never thought I’d say in this lifetime.”

“Oh, I’m sure you say that to all the best cable guys.”

“Sure I do,” said Sam with a smile - because when Gabe deflected with a joke, it didn’t feel like shutting down a conversation, just grease that made the wheels turn silently in the background.

He absently caught the giraffe with his mind as it went flying and brought it back to Jack.

“So, why d’you think Jackie-boy here did that? Choose to be this age?” Gabriel asked, setting down the bucket.

Sam looked at him in surprise. “I don’t know.”

“I didn’t ask if you knew, I asked what you think.”

“Why?”

“It’s interesting.”

Interesting? “Dean thinks he did this to go under the radar. Cas recognized his aura, but that’s because he’s very familiar with Jack. Other angels might miss it.”

“They might, he’s considerably lessened like this, and they do have their heads up their asses pretty far. So Dean attributed this to some clever tactical move to fool the enemy. Yeah, sounds like what he’d think. Castiel thought this was some elaborate form of flagellation slash martyrdom, and I thought it was about abdicating responsibilities. What do you think, honeybear?”

“I think my name is Sam and that you know it by now.”

“And about baby Jack?”

“I don’t know enough about the circumstances in which he made his decision. I haven’t had the time to talk to Cas for more than two minutes yet, outside of immediate strategy planning and a dose of panic.”

“Hm, so you go for the scientific analytical brainy approach where you try to understand someone’s motivations and feelings.”

“No, just the ‘refusing to take a wild shot in the dark in order for you to pop-psychoanalyze me’ approach.”

“You’re no fun,” Gabriel pouted.

“So I’ve been told. Hey, when Jack goes down for his nap, can you start showing me some tricks with mojo? I think it will come in handy.” For some reason Sam popped that out there as if there was never any doubt that Gabriel would say yes.

“Sure thing, Samerooni. If we have time. Which we may not. As soon as your bro stops banging mine - or vice versa possibly, we’ll never know and thanks for interrupting - we’re going to have to go on the warpath.”

“Yeah,” Sam drawled, refusing to be baited into showing discomfort or embarrassment, because that was not how this game was played. “I hope you don’t have a timetable for that. If you have to know, I’m firmly convinced those two have been building up the tension for awhile now, even if they’d have both denied until twenty minutes ago. This might take awhile.”

Gabriel cackled appreciatively and gave the closed laptop a firm pat. “Have at it, then, boyos. C’mon, let’s go wake up Donatello, see what’s what with Barney’s plans.”

 

34. For it is our task to assault the Gates of Heaven

35. And Defeat the False Messiah that be

36. Anon the trumps of a New Dawn will ring

37. And asses (a) will be kicked

Annotations:
(a) The quorum of scholars agree this is a reference to the animal on which the Defenders of the New Messiah rode into Eden to confront the enemy, a parallel to the entry of the First Messiah into Jerusalem.

- Excerpt from ‘The New Bible, original unedited translation, with annotated commentary and comparative studies’ by Gertrude Bally-Smith (Prophet of the Lord, circa 2212).

Chapter Text

On the face of it, Team Free Will vs. the entire Heavenly Host was as lopsided as a sophomore boxing club amateur vs. Mayweather. But unlike the opposition, their side could fly, and infiltrate Heaven at any time and from any point. They also had an Archangel up their sleeve. They weren’t going to win in an all-out war, but Heaven and Barney soon-to-be-Rubble were ripe for a targeted strike.

If only they knew exactly where he was. That was the problem. In the end, if they did not want to take unacceptable risks, they were still going to need inside help.

They were waiting for their mole in the agreed-upon rendez-vous, some young man’s Heaven full of gyrating disco lights, the occupant dancing obliviously with a youthful Johnny Travolta. Gabriel kept them cloaked from any patrols. That was one of the conditions their inside source had insisted upon. They had to stay hidden from all angels so they would not have to fight and kill anyone on their way to Barney. This made Gabriel’s presence indispensable.

“Are you sure we can trust her?” Dean muttered to Castiel. The two of them were standing side by side, so close that they might as well be holding hands and skipping, Sam thought with a delighted inner grin (adding this idea to a whole catalog of ways he was going to tease Dean in the coming days, as was both a little brother’s right and obligation.)

Castiel did not get the chance to answer; the entrance to the Heaven opened and Elisheba motioned them forward.

Sam still couldn’t believe Cas had talked her around. But here she was, alone and right on schedule. He thought she looked tense, but considering what she was doing here, betraying her CO...

“He’s in the Garden right now with just a few guards,” said Elisheba. “I’ll come with you. I think I can call most of them away for a few minutes. You should be able to handle the rest without bloodshed. Right?” She was addressing Gabriel, but Sam noticed that she wasn’t meeting his eyes.

“Gabe, are we sure about this?” he whispered worriedly as they followed her.

“Of course, kiddo, don’t worry.”

 

---

 

Thirty minutes later they were in the Garden, in the middle of an ambush by the entire Host, Barney and Elisheba at their head, and there was very much cause for worry indeed. Also cause to dislike Barney’s face even more, that smug look of triumph on it made it extra punchable.

“Your plan to assassinate me has failed. As you can see, we are no longer lost lambs. We know how to defend our own,” Barney declared - he had good projection, Sam had to grant him that, it was probably the only leader quality he was gifted with.

Elisheba looked white and strained, but she stood firm. “Don’t worry, Castiel. You will not be harmed, neither will the Winchesters. You have my word. We do not want to kill any more angels. You will be...you, ah, you will see the error of your ways, and then you will join us again as one of our own.”

“No!” Castiel, blade out and gleaming murderously, shoved Dean behind him. He’d caught on immediately.

...But it wasn’t the notion of being programmed into a perfect angel drone that had panic squeezing Sam’s heart. It was the person she hadn’t mentioned. Sam had his own blade in hand and stepped up to Gabriel’s side. “What are you intending to do?!”

Elisheba seemed to shrink in on herself a tad, but Barney was even more cock-a-hoop. “Archangels cannot be...re-educated. More’s the pity. But we don’t need him - a coward who fled our home, leaving it to the wolves. We don’t need any Archangels, do we?” He was now addressing the Host. “Look where they have led us. To destruction! They treated us like tools, disposable pawns.”

“Hey now, I never did that,” Gabriel protested.

“No, you were the weakest. You wouldn’t have dared. But now that your brothers are no longer here, you march into Heaven as if you own the place, as if it is your right to take it after we have bled and died to defend it.”

There was an angry murmur from the Host, covering Gabriel’s legitimate objections to that.

“Samuel Winchester.” Barney looked at him. “Step away. We truly do not want to hurt one of our new brothers.” But Sam had the feeling he was only saying that for the PR. Barney was one of Naomi’s lackeys, and Sam was ready to bet his own newly minted immortal Being that Barney was just dying to get needles into their noggins and fiddle around.

“Go to Hell,” Sam suggested. “They love people like you down there.”

“Whoa, dove.” Gabriel put a hand on his shoulder. “Let’s keep things calm, diplomatic and murder-free.”

“Or stay where you are, it doesn’t matter,” Barney said as if he were talking to a small child having a snit-fit. “Right, Gabriel?”

Gabriel suddenly tensed, though Sam couldn’t see what had alarmed his friend. “How- how did you-“

“Gather this much power?” Barney lifted a hand - and the air seemed to vibrate and shimmer gold around it. “It’s all the power we have, all of us survivors. And my Brethren gave it to me to use, here at the center of Heaven. You see, I told them you were coming.” At his side Elisheba winced, but refused to look guilty. “I asked them what we should do. And they chose, Gabriel. They chose me over you. And so...“

Sam got his blade ready- but Gabriel suddenly shoved him out of the way, and widened the distance between them further by stepping back quickly, hands held up, weaponless and conciliating. “Now Barney, let’s talk about this-“

The peaceful air of the Garden split open, hewn by one massive strike of power right into Gabriel’s heart.

Sam had recovered his footing, twisted around and thrown himself towards Gabriel and danger- he was only in time to catch the angel as the latter fell boneless to the ground.

“Now I have the power to kill you. Even you,” said Barnabas quietly in the resulting hush, as echoes faded like thunder .

“No!” Sam cradled the limp body, checking instinctively for a pulse. This was a nightmare- it wasn’t possible! Gabriel was an Archangel! How could this be?!

Maybe he’d shouted that out loud, maybe somebody else had. Barney answered it either way.

“He was weak. He lived for centuries on earth, coring away at his Essence to stay hidden. A fitting end for him. And now welcome, brothers. Welcome to a new Heaven under my guidance.”

“No! Gabriel! Wake up!” Sam shook him. This couldn’t be happening!

Dean made a choked noise and clutched Sam’s shoulder. “Sam- Sam, I’m sorry. He’s gone. Oh god, he’s gone.” A single tear rolled down his cheek.

“Brother,” Castiel whispered, bereavement in his tone as he reached a trembling hand towards Gabriel’s face, serene and beautiful in death

Sam was shaking like a leaf, the pressure of the loss built and built until he let out a scream of grief-

“What the fuck?” muttered Dean.

“Isn’t this a bit over the top?” Sam asked uncertainly.

“Of course not!” Gabriel tsked. “Other than that rout a few years back, Barney’s not been on earth since early Mesopotamia. This is nothing to the way they mourned their honored and beloved dead back then.”

“Yeah, it’s those two words, beloved and honored, that I have a beef with.”

“Hey, Dean-o, do you want to have a shot at this?”

“Are we sure this will hold?” Castiel asked with concern. “I got out of your mind trap in a few days. So did Dean and Sam back when they were human.”

“Yeah, but you were aware you were trapped. Barney isn’t. And too arrogant to consider the possibility, I think.”

Dean was scowling at the scene in which they’d gone from being actors to evanescent spectators as soon as Gabriel fell down dead (and then quickly scurried away, invisible, leaving an illusory corpse behind). Barney, still mired in the hallucination, contemptuously kicked the body away from Sam, and then patted Dean on the head in a patronizing way that made the real hunter’s fists visibly twitch. Barney was crowing his victory and making great plans. They were startlingly banal, as far as Sam could be bothered to listen.

“And it’s a wrap,” Gabriel announced, doing something with the world he’d created, spinning it and tightening it - Sam closed his eyes in dizzy shock. When he opened them again, the Host and Barnabas were gone, it was just their small strike force in the Garden, Gabriel holding up a small brightly colored marble.

“So you’re just gonna let him win?” Dean asked with profound dislike scrawled across his face.

“Not in real life, just in here.” Gabriel patted his own butt in illustration (he’d slipped the small world into his jean’s revolver pocket.)

“Yeah, but you’re normally about just deserts. This gets him everything he’s ever wanted.”

“Yes. Exactly,” said Gabriel with a smile that could only be described as evil.

“I don’t get it.”

“Neither does Barney, but give it a few hundred years. Why’d you think I ran away from this gig?”

“But he’s...he’s unharmed?” asked Elisheba.

Where they had all been staring at Barney’s prison with various degrees of satisfaction, she’d been looking at it with guilt. Sam remembered how early-days Castiel had been blindly devoted to his leaders, to his orders. It still seemed incredible to Sam that Elisheba had truly betrayed Barnabas. Cas had found her on Earth, as she searched for them and Jack, and had simply asked her to ‘do the right thing’.

And she had. She’d agreed to find them a way to get to Barney discreetly, to distract Barney’s guards - indeed, to set Barney up for the very prison of illusions he was now locked into.

Sam personally had no problem with the idea of knifing Barney in the lung, not after the angel had murdered him and his brother in a base attempt to terrify Jack into obedience. But that was not looking at the big picture. Kicking Barney to the mat was never going to be that hard for the four of them - not after beating Lucifer, Leviathans, and taking a good shot at Amara herself. But defeating Barney the hard and bloody way, though satisfying, would just set them up as tyrants of the same stripe, or put them at war with the Host - who were still the last line of defense against demons and such, and sorta-kinda-mostly the good guys (if you squinted a bit.) It wasn’t just about winning and putting Barney down, it was a ‘hearts and minds’ kind of battle. Having Barney locked away bloodlessly by an Archangel was the first step to getting the Host to hopefully cooperate, rather than do something stupid and handing their leadership over to the next tin pot dictator or evil Entity that came along with big shiny promises and orders to obey.

Castiel, whose family this was, had come up with the plan, and both Sam and Dean had been looking for nice ways of telling him he was being too optimistic. Yet they’d had to reevaluate when Elisheba had accepted to help. She hadn’t even known Gabriel was in the mix when she’d agreed. For some reason, Cas had kept that part back until she’d signed on the dotted line. Sam wondered why he’d bothered, because it was obvious Gabe’s presence was a winning argument in its own right. The Host rebelling against an Archangel and choosing Barney over Gabriel was all in Barney’s ego-inflated imagination. Real-life Elisheba had fallen over herself to get into line when she realized Gabriel was at the head of it. She was now looking at him with a blend of obedience and determined respect that made Sam feel vaguely sorry for the both of them. No wonder Gabriel - who would have been the god of sass if he hadn’t been the god of mischief - didn’t want this ‘gig’, as he termed it.

“Barnabas is fine.” Cas put his hand on Elisheba’s shoulder. “He’s gotten everything he’s ever wanted. And the day he realizes that this is a very bad thing, and that he can no more rule Heaven than I could without loss and bloodshed, that is the day we’ll let him out, and he can be one of our brothers again.”

“I...I hope...” she couldn’t finish that sentence. She looked really tired, as if the sword in her hand weighed more than she could comfortably carry. “What now? The rest of the Host are going to realize any minute that something has happened.”

“That’d be our cue to take off then,” Gabriel said.

“T-take off?”

“Yup. Look, don’t worry, Sheba-baby. Just keep them calm. Don’t let them implode.”

“Me?! But aren’t you staying here?!”

“What for?”

“To lead us!”

“Hell no!” Gabe snorted.

“But you have to! You’re an Archangel.”

“Oh lady, trust me, this is one fun-size pack of crazy you don’t want as your leader.”

Gabriel scowled in Dean’s general direction. “Hey, I’m better than my bros.”

“That’s just about your only virtue, Gabe, but that bar ain’t very high.”

Gabriel sniffed (though he didn’t actually object.)

“Elisheba,would you want to follow him?” Castiel asked quietly.

“But...but of course.”

“Even if he ordered you to do something wrong?”

Elisheba winced, her eyes flickering to Gabriel’s and away again.

“You didn’t know Gabriel was with us when you agreed to help me neutralize Barnabas initially. Why did you do that?” Castiel still had his hand on her shoulder.

“I...I... Barnabas said he hadn’t hurt anyone when he found Jack, but he-...” Her eyes flickered up to Sam’s, with guilt, regret and a deep sense of weariness he recognized, the one that tallied just how many ideas sounded good and yet ended in bloodshed, until you couldn’t figure out what ‘good’ even meant anymore. ”...The boy must have been so scared... But we’re angels... we obey...”

“It’s hard,” Cas said so softly that Sam wouldn’t have heard him if his senses didn’t keep doing a bionic man impersonation. “To find that line you know you shouldn’t cross. But it’s worth searching for, rather than burying yourself in blind duty again.”

“What he said,” Gabriel chipped in. “Only I’d have used a Texas Hold’em analogy and it would have been funny.”

“But we can’t leave things as they are,” Elisheba protested. “If you don’t take charge, we’ll just get another Barnabas, or Naomi.”

“That is correct.” Gabriel slapped Sam on the back - it was probably due to their relative height disparity that the pat landed a little lower than Sam usually expected such a gesture. “Me and my compadres are going to have to have a talk about that, now that Barney the Dinosaur is sorted. Do you want to join us? You helped, you obviously care, you should have a say too.”

Elisheba visibly paled at the notion. She stared at Gabriel for a long time - and to his credit, Gabe shelved the wisecracks and let her think.

“Is Jack safe?” Elisheba finally asked in a quiet voice.

“Yeah, he’s with Donatello. So Jack is fine, it’s the Prophet I’m worried about, he didn’t look big on child-rearing.”

“If Jack is not in danger, then I will stay here in Heaven. Keep them calm, as you advised. These decisions -... I’m going to make sure the garrisons are secure and the borders maintained and- and that things are working as well as they can. I...” She looked lost, but then she squared her shoulders firmly under her sweater. “When you’ve decided, brothers. When you’ve decided what’s to become of us all, I will be waiting.”

With that she turned and walked out at a military quick march towards the exit of the Garden, leaving silence for a few seconds in her wake.

“Well, that cast a chill,” Gabe commented with only a parody of his usual bounce.

 

---

 

“Would my esteemed colleague please acknowledge that his notion is ridiculous?”

”Oh, because a DRAGON is any more reasonable?”

”Dragons are a well known biblical representation of evil-“

”You’re using sophistry again! I tell you that this word in Donatello 7:45 means Dinosaur, not Dragon! The great Evil that was defeated in the Garden was not a Serpent or a Drake or a bloody Dragon but a Dinosaur named Barnabas!”

Scoffing noises from the gallery.

---Excerpt of a debate in the Cambridge University’s Religious and Literary Society on the QE translation of the New Bible, circa 2156

Chapter Text

“I’m just saying,” Dean said firmly (and very quietly for once, due to circumstances) “you know where I stand. Free will all the way.”

“Oh sure,” Gabriel shot back, also keeping his voice somewhat low. “Because humans do such great things with it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not part of the Kick the Humans club. I admire humans, they’re slowly but surely starting to get it right. Sometimes. But the fact is, angels are in limited supply, and if we have a cultural revolution within the ranks of the halo brigade, we won’t have any Heaven left and precious little earth either.”

“Hey, if any start to fuck up, we take them down same as Barney.”

Castiel stirred. “How does ‘don’t do anything we don’t like or we’ll punish you’ equate with free will?”

“Don’t give me that!” Dean snapped and then winced when Jack made a soggy sound of disapproval. “Free will ain’t worth a fu-...fudge if you use it to trample over Right and Wrong.”

“Right and Wrong? We’re blank slates, Dean, the only thing we’ve known up to now is Obey Orders. Remember what happened when I tried to do the right thing?” Castiel was looking at his hands, folded on the map table in the Situation Room (which in no way contained enough alcohol for this discussion, even including all of Dean’s stashes.)

“If you ask me, I think the smaller Winchester has the start of an idea. I volunteer to lock away any dicks you don’t like into their own personal fun-time zone, like I did with Barney.”

“Yeah, Gabe, you’re all stick and no carrot,” Dean grumbled, making another revolution around the room.

Sam watched Dean as he passed by for the fifth or sixth time. Despite having been fed, bathed, changed and fed again, Jack was uncomfortable and grumpy, and for some reason having Dean carry him around soothed him. Jack was currently blinking sleepily over Dean’s shoulder while gumming a section of his flannel shirt, right next to the part he’d already spat up on. Dean had once attempted to put him down in the brand new bassinet, only to get squalled at. So he continued his circuitous route around the conference table, occasionally reminding his audience that this was stupid and why was Dean stuck doing this, he wasn’t a fu- freaking nurse. This never followed through with a request for anyone else to take over though. Gabriel and Sam did him the favor of ignoring him instead of calling him on his bullshit, while Cas’s gaze kept drifting his way, watching him carry Jack... considering this was Cas and he didn’t have a huge range of emotional expressions to work with, the look he was giving them both was downright dewy-eyed. Sam found himself smiling despite the seriousness of the matter under discussion.

...Dean would have made a great dad, if Life had only let him. But that ship had sailed - and been burned down to the waterline, blown up and sunk. Being turned into an angel and hooking up with another angel - in a male vessel at that - was about as far as one could get from ideal conditions for needing a nursery. But he’d had Ben, and now he and Cas had Jack, and that was great for all concerned.

Sam had his own theory as to why Jack had chosen to be a baby, and he felt more sure of it every time Dean made another turn about the room. Jack had been trying all his short life to do good, yet tragedy had dogged his every step, starting with Kelly, then the people he’d hurt, accidentally killed, the angels he’d had to vaporize, seeing Dean and Sam die for him... This hadn’t been in any way his fault, of course, but turning back the clock had gotten rid of the root cause: he was no longer a powerhouse to fight over, and the worst he could throw now was a tantrum, not, say, the moon. But more importantly, now he’d have a chance to grow up. When Sam had tried to teach the boy ethics, responsibility and control, he’d kept running into Jack’s lack of basics. Basics he would hopefully learn by growing up with parents (and a couple of uncles) who would keep him safe, loved and on the right path. And not, to take one example that rather leaped to mind, chained to a legacy of violence that had for a long time bypassed that Free Will Dean was now touting. For so long Dean had forced himself into the box John had put him in, while Sam had defined himself by his efforts to bust out. Still better than Gabe and Cas’s father. The ‘complete hands-off but I’ll still blame you if you foul up’ approach. That was an asshole move; Sam would take John’s school of hard knocks over God’s brand of absentee parenting any day. A real parent had to give the kid a box. He just had to give the kid the tools to rebuild it from the ground up when they were ready to.

“Oh Saaaammy...”

Sam looked up at Gabriel. “Hm?”

“You’re awfully quiet. What’s your suggestion?”

“You want me to suggest something for this problem? Decide the way the world and Heaven will work until the sun goes nova?”

Dean and Cas shared an uneasy glance, but Gabriel was completely unfazed. “Exactly! And I’m glad to see you’ve got a grasp on the amplitude of the issue.”

Sam stayed silent. He’d been distracted, he’d not been dwelling on their latest crisis issue. That is, not exactly...

“Sam?” Dean was looking at him searchingly. “C’mon, what are you thinking about?”

“I’m thinking I already caused one Apocalypse, thank you very much.”

“You are not the only one here guilty of that,” Castiel pointed out gently.

“Hell, Gabe’s the only one of us who didn’t trigger an end-world scenario and that’s only because he ran and hid,” Dean grumbled.

“That does not give us the inherent right to choose, but someone must, and I do think that our errors at least give us perspective,” said Cas. “And you, Sam Winchester, have gained a lot of wisdom these last few years.”

“Yeah, you pull shit together, man, I already told you. Remember that raid on the Brits you led? And you care,” Dean added firmly. “That’s pretty important.”

Sam found his gaze drifting towards Gabe.

“I just want to hear what you have to say,” Gabriel said around a lollipop. “Color me curious, dove. I got a hunch it’ll be interesting.”

“Well.” Sam stared blindly at a snoozing Jack as he drooled on Dean’s shoulder. “When you get right down to it, the problem is this: any solution we create to control the angels could become a tool to use against earth one day if it falls into the wrong hands. And if we give the angels free will - assuming we even can - then they won’t want our solution. Not forever. Then we got hundreds of live nukes going around and doing any old kind of shit without restraint. That’s not a solution either.”

“So we need a solution that isn’t one?” asked Gabe brightly.

“We don’t need a solution.”

“We don’t?” Dean grunted.

“We need many of them,” said Sam.

 

---

 

39. The Old World died without a soul to notice.

40. Four seasons passed after the Decree was made.

41. And the Decree was this: so it is in Heaven as it is on Earth,

42. That people should try and learn not to be dicks.

 

---

 

Castiel came to a very interesting passage in the Mahayana Sutras and lifted his head to share it when-

“Create more angels?!” The origin of the bellow was not all that close, but it would have sounded out across most of Heaven, and there were probably a few psychics on Earth currently reaching for aspirin. “Maybe if you guys weren’t such muppets, we wouldn’t need none! I spent a year tryin’ to shape you lot into the celestial ass kicking force you oughta be! You gonna disappoint me now?”

There was a whole bunch of shouts in response, most of them “No!”, a few “Hell no!” and a couple of “Shut up, Dean, and let’s get going.”

“Good! Stop wishing for reinforcements and make do with what you have. It’s the hunter way. If you want to earn your wings, fellas - and gals - better shape up. Now who wants to raid hell again?”

“We do!” That had been unanimous. It’d taken time for angels to get used to the idea that they had to train, that their billion year old military order had to change, cope with lower numbers, made to fight smart and not just rely on sheer power. But they’d caught on now (or at least Castiel was no longer fielding puzzled questions about the exact meaning of a ‘boot camp’). It would be years before Jack was old enough to create or resurrect more angels, if possible at all, and in the meantime the garrison had a Prince of Hell and other enemies getting uppity and trying to capitalize on their weakness. They accepted now that they were going to have to think and fight in new ways. From the number of volunteers, it was obvious many of them actually liked this, because instead of superiors ordering them to sacrifice themselves blindly from on high, they had their new brother leading from the front, yelling at them when they got it wrong even as he pulled them out of danger.

“Good! Let’s go huntin’.”

“YEAH!!”

“Dean-” Castiel started to say, voice lined with irritation now that the origin of all the noise was fast approaching.

“Hey, Cas! We’re off! Any of the nerd herd wanna join us?”

“We’re busy,” Castiel said pointedly, then forced himself to look at the dozen other students around him. “Unless someone wants to go?”

Various declinations of ‘no’, ‘all good’, ‘I’d rather read than get yelled at’ etc sounded out.

“Suit yourselves!” Dean and his troops marched off in the direction of the Portal down to Earth. They would take a circuitous route off of Highway 6 along the country lanes for a day before they’d use one of the Reapers with them to open a door to Hell. Then Asmodeus’s forces were about to get another licking. Dean would be gone a couple of days as a result; he could fly, the rest of the troops could not. Which meant that a small caravan of motorbikes and cars would soon be speeding away from the playground, with the Impala leading the way (because nothing, Dean had pointed out, would make him give up driving his baby, not even the power of flight.)

Two dozen angels had been picked for this raid, all with eager looks on their faces. Seraph and soldiers of course, but also lower order angels and even a couple of Cupids. No-one who wanted to serve on the borders or in the strike teams was ever turned away. Which was how they’d found out that a Cupid’s ability to mess with feelings could extend to demons, still human enough to have them when pushed, and that this could prove both a deadly weapon and quite hilarious if one had the juvenile sense of humor Dean and his hunters seemed to cultivate.

Heaven seemed to ring with silence in the aftermath of that departure.

“Noisy,” muttered Castiel.

That got him a curious look from one of the newer students. “You’re a soldier too, brother.”

“I have more important things to do,” Castiel said, trying to find his paragraph again.

“Didn’t you and Dean sneak off to decimate that group of Leviathans last month?” asked Elisheba without looking up from her own book. “I hear that was very noisy.”

“So was what followed,” somebody at the back of class tittered.

“...Have you finished your treatise?” Castiel asked pointedly.

Elisheba flipped her page with a small smile. She didn’t wander from group to group like some did, she’d been with him from the start. Neither did she seem to be in a hurry to attempt the next level, or go join Dean’s hunters. Elisheba was looking for a reason to pick up her sword again, and this time it would be the right one.

Dean and Sam repeatedly told Castiel that the path he had picked was worse than a hair shirt. It wasn’t always easy, granted, but Castiel had been a soldier for billions of years, and he had spent too much of that time fighting and not enough thinking. Dean had been right; when Castiel had stumbled into free will through a combination of rebellion, love, a sense of right and wrong, and Zachariah being an asshole, he hadn’t had a clue what it’d entailed. He really had been a child in a way, and school was the best place for children to be. Humans had had thousands of years to philosophize on the meaning of Free Will, surely in their literature was something angels could use to learn it as well. His fellow students agreed that if nothing else, it was a good place to start.

There were rarely more than a dozen at a time. They all had duties they had to attend to. In fact, Heaven being so woefully understaffed, they would not have time to do much of anything if the New Management hadn’t had a brilliant idea (between the four of them, they usually came up with one of those for every three dubious ones.) They’d polled the millions of individual Heavens for volunteers to handle the many tasks that did not require celestial power - and even many that did could be bypassed with the right spellwork, it turned out. Quite a few human souls had come forward, willing to take a break from eternal happiness to roll up their sleeves, help run and organize Heaven, and boss angels around and call them idjits, to cite one example that came frequently to mind.

This was a great solution that allowed many angels to stop rushing around, sit down and think a bit about their future, now that it was to be self-determined and no longer written in Holy Scripture. Many angels now had this luxury... but not Castiel (or so it felt) as he was one of those in charge of organizing a lot of this barely-coherent chaos. All his spare time was spent with Jack and his family. And just when he finally scrounged up a few hours to sit down and start working on his own thoughts on Right and Wrong and Free Will, that was usually when Dean would stop by and say, “Hey Cas, I tired out the garrison, and I just got word of a bunch of-” demons/Chompers/Elder Gods/Eldrith abomination/some unknown critter that turns people inside-out. “I’m gonna deal with it myself, but I could use someone to watch my back. We can hang out after. Wanna...come?”

Castiel had given up informing him that the pause and the smirk were unnecessary since Dean was radiating his intentions on three different wavelengths, to the resigned mortification of any celestial Being in the vicinity. It didn’t matter in final, since Castiel always said, “Yes.”

With a sigh, Castiel bookmarked his page - now that he’d thoroughly distracted himself with thoughts of Dean, he was going to have to reread the whole section to find that interesting paragraph again, and he had an appointment to keep. Had Barnabas truly wanted to be in charge of the entirety of this- this circus? It boggled the mind...

“Hypatia? I need to go, my apologies.”

Today’s lecturer elegantly nodded her permission. It was nice that so many human philosophers (those that had ended up here and not downstairs) had volunteered to help guide the angels’ studies, they were a great help. Castiel suspected they relished the challenge of guiding neophytes like himself over the hurdles of ethics and free will, and secretly laughed when an angel tripped and fell flat on his or her metaphorical face. As happened a lot. It was part of growing up, Sam had informed him.

...Castiel needed a break. A tiny part of him wished he’d gone with Dean after all, but he had another place to be. A beat of his Wings brought him down to Earth.

The earthquake had destroyed many beautiful old buildings in Quito and damaged the basilica, though fortunately the human toll had been extremely light considering the amplitude of the event (some said downright miraculous, though so far nobody had been able to prove anything.) But a lot of infrastructure had been destroyed. Ecuador was pulling its troops and its people together, international aid was pouring in, and Sam and his little group were helping out the Red Cross. They had ‘helped out’ quite a bit at the start - amazing how many people had been found in short order and mostly unharmed under the rubble. Now they were distributing food and blankets to the inhabitants and the relief workers.

Castiel spotted Ismachiah first. He was sitting on a park bench with a pretty young lady crying her eyes out. Ismachiah had been doing this almost non-stop for a year now, so unlike some other angels Castiel could think of, he didn’t sit there in stilted embarrassment, or offer platitudes or quote holy scripture. Castiel lingered, watching his brother speak to the woman, asking her about the house she’d grown up in, now demolished. Five minutes later she was blurting out happier memories of her old home, which had been hiding behind the terror of having been caught by its falling walls. She was looking at the angel with a lot of teary-eyed gratitude. Oh dear. It was probably a good thing Sam made his volunteers wear whatever religious symbol was appropriate for the country they were visiting - or holy robes or priestly habits or wedding rings or whatever avoided too many broken hearts when he and his people moved on. Not that there wasn’t going to eventually be a few... accidents.

 

---

87. For thus it is said onto the Heavens: Thou shalt not lie with the sons and daughters of Adam. Thou shalt not Bring Nephilim onto the Earth.

88. Or if you do, thou shall do thy best to bring that kid up right. Also organize play dates with the New Messiah.

 

---

 

“You’re so strong!” exclaimed the Red Cross worker. He looked like he hadn’t slept since the quake three days ago, which would be why he sounded like he’d been hit on the head and gone a little googly eyed.

“Healthy living,” Sam declared, trying to make it look like he was struggling with the fifty gallon cookpot of soup which he could otherwise lift with one finger.

“Yes. You must work out. A lot. I-” and then the international aid organizer came to the rescue. Whether it was to the rescue of the overtired and starry-eyed worker or of Sam wasn’t clear, but she dragged her employee off in the direction of the tent where they had all set up sleeping bags and cots so he could take a well-deserved nap.

“It’s normal,” Afriel was explaining to someone else in the background. “Destruction on this scale will trigger their reproductive urges.”

“Wow, reproductive urges, you’re all romance, Af,” Jerahmeel snorted. “Besides, Sam is male - as far as that guy knows - and so he wouldn’t-”

“I doubt it matters and we don’t do romance-“

“If you two have time to argue, you have time to cut more potatoes,” said Suriel sharply.

Sam turned to get the next pot when he spotted Cas wandering into the tent.

“Crap!”

“Hello,” Castiel returned a little sardonically.

”No- Cas, I’m sorry, I meant to contact you but I clean forgot-” Sam made a hapless gesture at the nearby broken walls that surrounded the community center’s wreckage. “I don’t need you to take over for me after all. Remiel changed her mind.”

“Changed her mind?” Cas repeated as if he couldn’t understand that. His eyes found Remiel in the back, playing with a few children and keeping their minds off of the broken and cracked world around them for a few minutes. “Why? You said she was ready to attempt her trials.”

“She is, but, well, she decided she wanted to stay here.” Sam shrugged - but inside he felt proud. Last week they’d been in a refugee camp at the edge of a warzone, the week before that handing out soup in the cold dreary winter near a city of cardboard shacks in Tokyo, the week before that... uh... oh yeah, they’d been in Memphis helping the Salvation Army. Unlike Cas and Dean, who didn’t need to be that mobile, Sam had to airlift his troops around if they wanted to go where they would do the most good. He was, as the organizer had suggested, working out a lot. But it was the way he and his group had decided they would tackle the task they had chosen.

It all made for a tapestry of human misery that sent many angels fleeing back to the safety of Heaven, or even to Dean’s front lines. But those that stayed knew damn well what they were staying for, and Remiel for one did not mind staying a good deal longer if need be. The trials would take her out of action for a few months, maybe years, and then she’d be expected to lead her own group. She had a lot more she wanted to accomplish down here first.

“Sorry, Cas. I really should have warned you before you left class-”

Castiel shrugged. “We had already been interrupted,” he said without elaborating.

“Oh. Well, then, take this chance to get some furlough,” Sam suggested.

Castiel’s brown wrinkled as if he was interpreting that in his head. “Why would I do that? There is a lot to do everywhere.”

“And sometimes a break is needed.”

“Then perhaps you should take one,” Castiel countered.

“Hm. Say, what’s Dean doing?” Sam asked innocently.

“He’s leading a raid with the hunters. He’ll be fine. Have you been up to the House lately?” Castiel shot back. He’d gotten the hang of conversational judo, hanging out with Dean this long.

Sam managed not to flush, because he was an angel now and he’d gotten some control over his bodily reactions, dammit.

“I’ve only been gone-” Wait. When- it’d been the weekend before the earthquake- had he really not been home in over five days now? “Um...”

Castiel’s faint smile was gentle and knowing. He prosaically rolled up the sleeves of that ever-loving trench coat and looked around the soup kitchen. “Go. I can handle this. I think I will like it. I need to get away from books from time to time, and remember why I am studying in the first place.”

“Yeah, I get that.” Thus honorably discharged, Sam went to tell Suriel of the change of plans - the new change of plans - and then found a discreet alleyway in which to take off.

The new structure they’d built in Heaven did not have neat separations. That could have led to clannishness, castes similar to the old divisions between Archangels down to Cupids. The Host wandered around, trying different things, and the three of them lead by example, as always. Castiel and the Winchesters still hunted together, or joined Sam in a refugee camp somewhere, or went to answer a few hardball questions from Cas’s bunch about free will (by far Sam’s least favorite activity, but he could see its necessity, and it did make him think.)

And they all spent as much time as they could at The House. Together, if possible. It was a family thing. Plus somebody had to make sure the trials were going okay and that Gabriel wasn’t feeding Jack and the kids too much sugar.

At the heart of the magnificence that was Heaven’s Garden was a rambling Cape Code style farmhouse: a large kitchen, four bedrooms, a playroom full of hammocks and a whole bunch of kids running around. Jesse Turner was the oldest - but still only eleven, as when they’d first met him. Apparently messing with one’s age was something Cambion dabbled in as well as Nephilim. He’d been understandably cautious when Gabriel had found him and asked him to join them, but he was into it now. He was currently showing a couple of the younger kids how to build a tree-house the human way, aka, with their hands and not their minds. He was perched up in one of the billion-year-old trees of the Garden, which bore this and much more like the true stalwart hearts they were.

Jesse was great big brother material, but Sam hoped the boy would now feel safe enough, normal enough in these strange new digs, to let himself grow up. Catapulting to adulthood was maybe not a good idea, but the Lost Boy shtick wasn’t a good gig either. Life, as humans knew all too well, was about learning and growing up, preferably growing up right.

“No, be careful of the tree!” one of the younger boys gasped. He had green hair and eyes, his skin was the golden hue of pine wood. The name his late human mother had given him was Francis and he was about seven years old. Someone had told Sam which Elder God was his father, but he wasn’t sure he remembered it right... Somebody who had an affinity to forests, since the kid would go into conniptions if one tree of the Garden was even threatened with a bruise (even though this wasn’t physically possible.)

“I told you, I’m using ropes, not nails,” Jessie said calmly. “Baby,” he added as an afterthought, as if prompted by the small part of himself that was still, somehow, eleven.

“You’re the baby! You- baby-face!” Francis shot back. “You promised you wouldn’t hurt the tree!”

The other two kids, around the same age, joined in the argument. One was a Nephilim. There were a few cropping up recently, due to the ejection of angels from Heaven a few years back, but this one was older. The apocalypse had also been a good human/angel mixer, it seemed. Normally the creation of a Nephilim rang large gongs all over Heaven. But it turned out that some of the less hidebound angels had figured out a spell that could hide the conception and birth of their human/celestial offspring from divine overview. Sam didn’t blame them; the old regime would have sent out angel hit squads after their newborns otherwise. But since a lot of those siring angels had died in the infighting a few years back, it’d left their kids stranded and at the mercy of whichever enemy du jour decided to use a lost and confused Nephilim as a powerhouse. Sam really hoped they’d rescued them all by now. Some stayed with their human parent, as long as they had some protection. Those whose family had already died in the crossfire ended up here.

The third kid was some other deity’s orphaned by-blow like Francis; they had a few of those around. At one point some officious celestial Being of the bureaucrat variety had tried to point out that these pagan children did not belong here, and Jesse even less. To which Gabriel had in essence replied, says who, and will he or she please step forward and show me they can raise these kids correctly in that case? Nobody had objected since.

The argument was getting loud and the angel in charge, looking harried as he carried two infants, hurried over to referee. Jack toddled after him, but broke away when he spotted Sam, and ran precariously towards him, only falling over once on the way.

“Hey, little man.” Sam scooped him up. “Want to hang with me for awhile?”

“Sham!”

“That’s right. Hey, Abdiel, mind if I take him?”

Abdiel, formerly one of Dean’s hunting buddies, did not say ‘oh god, please take as many of these hellions off my hands as you can’, but it was scrawled all over his face as he said, “Um, sure, brother. Thank you.”

The Garden now sported another garden in it - two more, if you counted the vegetable garden alongside the House which the older kids were theoretically supposed to take care of. The only thing reliably growing there were weeds and a small patch of petunias Gabriel had planted for- for reasons that were nobody’s business but his and Sam’s. Neither did anyone need to know why they made Sam smile each time he saw them.

The second plot of land was on the other side of the house. Gabriel called his little patch a garden too for some reason, probably because Arena of the Celestial Inquisition sounded too aptly grim.

There were currently four half spheres in the fenced-in area at present, about the size of pup-tents and looking like warped TV screens lit with pictures. Barney’s prison was at the center, same as always - and Sam expected it to be there for the rest of eternity, he did not share Castiel’s optimism in Barney’s ability to redeem himself. The other three shimmered with colors and movement, same as Barney’s, each an individual world created by the Archangel in charge, currently sitting on the low stone wall around the garden, sucking a lollipop and watching the action.

“Hey! My two favorite guys! Pull up a wall.” Gabe patted the stone at his side.

“How’re they doing?” Sam asked, referring to the three candidates taking their trials (he didn’t give a fig how a petty tyrant-cum-deity like Barney was doing.)

“Oh, it’s hilarious! I’ve tossed one of them back to the stone age. Nothing will wear your patience thin like trying to help out guys who think the club is the ultimate diplomatic tool. And then-“

“Do I need to remind you that this is not for your amusement?” said Sam absently, while making sure Jack was sitting correctly on his knee and not going to squirm away to look at the pretty spheres up close.

“Hey, I accepted this gig, I get to make the most out of it. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.”

“You love every minute of it in a way that is quasi obscene.”

“Well yeah. Between all the angels still in Heaven and the ones we’re eventually hoping to bring back from the Empty, I’m gonna be doing this for a good long while. I’d be a sucker if I accepted a job I don’t like for the rest of nearly forever.”

“You do remember you are supposed to test their ethics, their ability to make sound decisions for the good of themselves and humanity, and not for your sick entertainment?”

“Now you sound like Cassie.”

“Fancy that.”

The back and forth was pretty much automatic. Sure, Gabe got a bit too much fun out of the trials, but the fact that some angels had graduated meant that he was at least giving them a chance. And, well, if a dose of Gabriel’s humor highlighted those that really weren’t ready, or that they needed to keep an eye on... so far they had not needed any other prison than Barney’s, but the Host knew what awaited them if they decided they didn’t like this new regime, for all it tried to be kind and nurturing. Team Free Will didn’t want to have to go running around saving the planet again. It wasn’t as if they got a coupon for a free sandwich after the tenth averted apocalypse, as Dean had put it, so the idea was to give angels a free rein here, not enough rope to hang themselves.

After an initial period of upset and incertitude, all the angels had fallen into line, enthusiastically so. In his darker moments, Sam wondered if it was because they had been given structure again with an Archangel at the top - however fickle and candy-obsessed he was - and that they were content with that. Well, if that’s what kept them from starting another end-times, so be it. But thinking of Remiel and some of the good friends he was making in the Host, Sam hoped they would one day evolve. Maybe... maybe that’s what God had wanted for them too.

Abdiel ran by, looking more exhausted than a celestial Being and soldier of the Lord had any right to be.

“You think I’m cruel?” Gabriel pointed his lollipop in that direction. “What do you call Cassie then? He’s the one who came up with that idea.”

“Cas has been on both sides of the fence,” Sam said, giving Jack a horsie ride on his knee. “He knows what he’s doing. Besides, did you want to babysit this lot?”

“Oh hell no. But we agree that this is uniquely for our own benefit, and not actually meant to teach them anything, right?”

“That’s not true. Cas is right, keeping this diverse bunch of young egos safe and happy is as good a way of finding out what an angel is made of as your own brand of- of testing.”

“You were about to say torture.”

“No I wasn’t.”

“Liar.”

”...Cas calls is a voyage of self-discovery.”

“Wanna know what the sitters call it after a long day?”

“Is it safe for young ears?” Sam looked pointedly down at Jack.

“Not in the slightest.”

“Then no.”

“Hmf.”

The rank and file called it The Final Trial (angels had the ability so speak in capitals, it was something Sam had discovered), even though it was no such thing. A trial suggested they could fail, and nobody could really fail this per se. They were free to leave at any time, if they thought they had found out what they needed to. Gabriel’s illusory tasks and tribulations weeded out those who were trying to reach this stage for the wrong reason, so Abdiel and the few who had made it this far - not that many yet - had enough self-knowledge to realize what Castiel wanted them to see. They just didn’t always see it. Some had voluntarily quit, a thoughtful look on their faces as they returned to their groups or went to try something new, something where they could learn what they had found to still be missing within them. Forbearance, for starters, Sam thought, as Jessie and the kids up in the treehouse pelted Abdiel with leaves and pine-cones the Garden had seen fit to provide them.

So far only three angels had had the miracle happen. Of Jack running up to them and saying “Foo-wy!” or “Petty win!” (or something similar) and find their wings blossom again from their backs. A benediction from the one they were starting to call the New Messiah.

Sam had hoped Remiel would be one of them, once she went through all the work. On a purely selfish level, he’d love to have another flier around to occasionally help him with the taxiing. But hey, it was important that she decide when she was ready; that was the whole point of the new Heavenly order. From the look on Abdiel’s face as he barely managed to catch Francis falling out of the tree, readiness was something he himself was currently re-evaluating.

Sam glanced down at Jack, curious to see if he was impressed with Abdiel’s obvious kindness and dedication. Jack was exploring one of his nostrils with a finger and examining the result attentively. Oh well, maybe it’d come one day...

“I hope Jack keeps that clarity of vision when he grows up again,” Sam mentioned on the heel of that thought.

“I think he will,” Gabriel said as if he’d followed Sam’s entire train of thought step by step. “If not, I’m sure there’ll be other young Nephilim around to see into the hearts of angels and find there something that satisfies both sides of their beings, human and celestial. Jack’ll know to listen to ‘em.”

“I hope so. Still feels like we’re riding the edge of a catastrophe curve.”

“I’m reliably informed that that is what life is all about.”

Sam shifted on the stone wall. “Seriously, Gabriel. We’re responsible for this setup. It was our decision. Will this work for the rest of eternity?”

The stick of the lollipop waggled under an expressive moue. “Does anything?”

“Nothing lasts forever? That’s grim,” said Sam softly, looking away.

An arm slipped around his waist and tugged him closer, and in the higher dimensions a massive Wing settled over him like a comforting hand - then fluffed up his hair obnoxiously. “Eternity is by its nature a tricky beast. Nothing is or should be that long. Instead, I prefer to believe something can last a very, very long time, with options to evolve into something even better. How does that sound?”

“Sounds like a plan,” said Sam as Gabriel’s head rested on his shoulder.

 

---

 

101. And thus the New World Order arrived

102. And lo, as the Archangel of the Horn had declared.

103. It was sweet.

- All excerpts from ‘The New Bible, original unedited translation, with annotated commentary and comparative studies’ by Gertrude Bally-Smith (Prophet of the Lord, circa 2212).

Chapter Text

Sam reviewed his mental to-do list. Perfect angel memory notwithstanding, lists gave him a semblance of inner order.

He absently leaned over to pull a weed out of the little garden’s soil. Possibly a weed. The kids had wanted to plant some things - being in a Garden and all - but hadn’t been exact about the rows or the upkeep. Sam didn’t have the time to garden either, not that an ex-law student ex-hunter ex-human had a single solitary clue about what was a growing vegetable and what wasn’t. He wasn’t even here on purpose; a call on Angel Radio had interrupted his hurried steps towards the House and left him stranded in the garden, like a boat stuck on a sandbar between two busy water currents.

The entire restructuring of Heaven and the Host, his master list, was still treading water. The groups needed to be finalized, and soon. Many angels were getting antsy. After billions of years of structure, a seat-of-the-pants operation didn’t work for them as it did for the Winchesters. Which meant that the next bullet point on the list was to find a second in command Sam could delegate to while he sorted out the bigger picture. Next, help Dean with the garrison, defense took priority over everything. But sort that thing out with Gabriel first, he didn’t want to wait any longer. After that, go talk to the upper cadre angels again; they were digging in their heels in hundreds of passive-aggressive ways, the bastards. All that was the long term list. Short term list for the immediate afternoon was: check on the new angel sitter, make sure Jack and the two other kids they’d gotten so far were alright, finally take a minute to talk to Gabriel, then go make sure Dean wasn’t-

“Talk to me about what?”

Sam made a garbled sound and spun around. “Gabe! Don’t- don’t read my thoughts!”

“I wasn’t reading your thoughts, you were mumbling to yourself.” Gabriel was right behind him, hands in his pockets as if he’d been there all along. “You sure have a lot on your mind. No wonder you’re looking tense. Maybe you need a nice long massage.” Cue ludicrous and suggestive eyebrow waggle.

Sam ran distracted fingers through his hair. “No, I’m fine.”

“What’s up? Another crisis? Now’s a good time if you need to pow wow. Our new sitter is doing okay, I just checked myself. Since I’m firmly convinced that putting an angel in charge of something sweet, young and alive is a fatal mistake for one or the other of the parties concerned. And instead of agreeing with me, do you know what Cassie said? He said that gave him an idea of how-“

“Is Jack doing okay?” Sam asked guiltily. They all wanted to spend time with Jack, be better role models than their own dads, but Heaven was apparently going to go belly up without some handholding, so in the end they’d had to organize a nanny. It was a pity John Winchester was dead and couldn’t feel the belated sympathy from his youngest as the latter tried to juggle a timeshare in fatherhood in conjunction with end-world scenarios. “He’s not upset by this change, is he?”

Gabriel shrugged. “He looked okay to me. But you know my philosophy on babysitting. If they’re still alive by the end of the day, you’re ahead of the game.”

“I’ll go check in a minute, but since you’re here, I guess you got moved to the top of my list.”

“That makes me feel all sparkly and special. What’s up?”

Sam took in a deep breath, hands on his hips. “Gabriel, I have a lot on my mind - as you just pointed out. Right now we’re trying to hold Heaven together with spit and spackle. It’s a mess, and I don’t need more- more turmoil in my personal life as well. So can you tell me, all this flirting you do with me, is it just a game or is it serious?”

Gabriel stared at him. In his mouth, the hard candy he’d been sucking on went crunch. Sam knew - had good cause to know now he was an angel himself - that Gabriel would not actually show signs of surprise if he was really startled, not at the level his vessel operated at, so this was either his way of acknowledging that Sam’s forthrightness had surprised him, or else it was Gabriel being a ham. Possibly both.

“Because if it’s a game, that’s fine. I like it, it’s funny. It winds Dean up a bit, but it relaxes me, so I’m not saying you need to stop. But you see, I think- rather, I know that I-... to be honest, I’m pretty hung up on you, for all you’re an asshole at times, so I need to know if this is serious or not. If it is...good. If it’s not, also good. I just need to know. I can’t wonder about this on top of everything else.”

Now Gabriel’s face was actually blank. This couldn’t possibly come as a surprise to him, could it?

“...You...”

It was a testament to how overrun and overworked Sam was that it only now occurred to him that he had to brace himself for getting his heart smashed up a bit. It didn’t concern him as much as it once would have. While Dean seemed bent on making his angelic identity and indeed all of Heaven conform to a barely jumped-up version of their previous hunting lifestyle - just with a lot more brothers and a lot less risk - Sam had... expanded, for want of a better term. In just a month, he was already thinking and acting on a different scale. Yeah, if Gabe let him down gently right now - or laughed in his face, or acted horrified, or told him he was out of his tree - it would hurt like a bitch, but in a million years or two he’d have moved on and gotten used to being a completely asexual creature surrounded by good friends and brothers.

Gabriel’s face was still blank. ”...You... actually had that on a list? I- I’m visualizing your planner here. ‘2pm, reorganize Heaven, 3pm, get snacks for the kids, 3:30 pm, tell Gabriel I love him, 4pm, go yell at Dean for being a loud jerk, 5pm, dinner.’”

“We don’t eat dinner,” was the only objection Sam could come up with (though he hadn’t been planning on yelling at-)

“We don’t need to, but we can physically do so, and I’d have thought a one-time human would have considered dinner a good lead-up to this conversation - just spitballing here.” Gabriel moved the crushed candy to the other side of his mouth and sucked on the pieces thoughtfully as punctuation.

“Really?” Sam’s mind was a blank, possibly a big open hole waiting for an actual answer to fall in, and wondering if the above was meant to qualify or not. His mouth sort of ran on on its own. “You want me to date you? I mean- yeah, sorry, maybe I should have- have...urgh.” He rubbed his eyes so he wouldn’t have to see Gabriel’s expression, and also to hide his own as it crumpled. No, it hadn’t been a good idea to do this now. The uncertainty had been killing him, sure, whenever he had the time to think about it between all the problems and challenges. But he should have waited, and instead he was rushing something that could change everything, that had a chance, however slim, of being the best thing in his life for the next- next week, month, thousand years, however long it took for Gabriel to get bored of him.

“Bored? Really?” Gabriel asked softly, face still neutral.

Sam jerked his hand away. “I know I didn’t mumble!”

“No, you didn’t, but you can’t blame a guy for taking a peek in these circumstances, Samsquatch.” Gabriel swallowed the candy pieces in one go and thumped his chest to help them go down.

The candy had been strawberry flavored. Sam got a good taste of it one second later.

The kiss was sweet, open mouth against open mouth, but brief and nowhere as lewd as Gabriel’s usual antics might suggest it would be. Then the hand that’d hooked Sam around the neck pulled him down even lower until his head rested awkwardly against Gabriel’s shoulder. The other hand settled on his back.

The world tipped and dipped around him as he stared blankly at a small straggly plant near the garden fence. Sam realized he could have put this on a thousand lists, he hadn’t actually been ready at all, he’d just succumbed to the gnawing need and pain of uncertainty without thinking it through in the slightest.

“You...I can take you out on a date if you want to,” he whispered, feeling overwhelmed and suddenly tired.

“Then you’d have to rearrange that schedule of yours, and I hate to see a grown angel cry,” Gabriel said into his ear. “You have to know I was kidding about dinner.”

“I know you were- that is, I was fairly sure you were kidding about that, but I mean, I, I, Jesus, I just blurted it out, I could have worked up to it, or- or- or talked to you about it anywhere other than the vegetable patch.” His arms slid around Gabriel’s waist. His hands were shaking.

“What the hell are you talking about? It was adorable, and now I will never look at a sprout again without thinking of you.”

Sam’s arms tightened as the truth crept up on him. “I thought- I just thought - I was almost sure you’d say no, because we’re going to be together- not together together, but here in Heaven as part of a family for the next-... who knows how long, and if- I mean when- I don’t expect you to be into-” into me- “-into this for all eternity and then it might get difficult-“

“Oh yes, the bit where you think I’ll get bored.” The words were light but echoed with a tone Sam had never heard Gabriel use before, brassy and harsh like an unspoken reproach. Then a hand slapped him on the back, making the air in his vessel’s lungs expel with an oof, and the voice was back to suave. “I know what you’re saying, but the two of us, we’re in touch with our feelings. Whatever comes, I think we can handle it maturely instead of going for the Mike-and-Lucy smackdown dramatics. Sound good? And I’m only saying this because I know you need to hear it, but I seriously don’t expect a guy who propositions me between the pumpkins and the parsnips to bore me any time soon. Now, I’m going to do something I don’t ordinarily do.”

“What?” Sam asked, feeling adrift in the situation. Also on a purely physical level, his vessel’s back was twinging from the way Gabe’s hand on his neck was making him bend down. He applied a touch of Grace absently.

“I’m going to pull some overbearing Archangel crap.” Gabriel lifted his free hand and clicked his fingers.

Sam looked around from his angle. “...Nothing happened.”

“And nothing will happen for the next few subjective hours, not even here in Heaven. You need a break, Sam. Badly.” Gabriel patted him on the back again, more gently this time, and let Sam straighten up. “I don’t stop time very often, it’s kind of a bossy move. The Big Guys - the Fates, Death - they don’t like me swinging my dick around and I usually respect that, but I am not having you hare off to do the next item on your agenda and leave me stranded among the petunias.”

“We don’t have petunias.”

“I will bloody well plant petunias if I need to to make my point. Come on, let’s go have some fun, you look like an angel sorely in need of it.”

Gabriel took him by the hand and tugged- and they were in Sam’s bedroom.

The House, for all it looked like a ramshackle converted farmhouse that could have been found anywhere in the rural east coast, was an extension of the Garden. It shaped itself quietly around the inhabitant’s desires for accommodation - which in the case of the Winchesters, meant rooms, since they liked a place to crash even if crashing no longer involved sleep. When the House had originally popped out of the Ether, Sam had opened the first door upstairs he’d come across to find a room identical to his room in the bunker, but with weirdly shaped windows that reminded him of larger-than-life passenger side windows of the Impala, and a large bed like the one from a house in Stanford where he’d lived with Jess. He’d known instantly that he was home.

But with the way his life had gone into overdrive, the few times he was able to stop at the House, he’d spent it in the large kitchen or living room with Jack, Gabriel, Dean and Cas, not buried in his bedroom, however welcoming. He actually hadn’t opened the door for over a week. Everything was as he’d left it: his furniture copied from the bunker, off-white concrete walls that made him feel safe (even if they didn’t jive with the rest of the wood-and-drywall house), the incongruous window full of sunshine and promise - the only thing that looked different was the bed. It was exactly the same as the last time he’d been here, it just looked ten times more prominent, as if it’d come right up to him, slipped its arm around his shoulder and said, ‘so, gonna need me now, huh? Mister why-should-I-keep-a-bed-around-when-I-no-longer-sleep.’

This hadn’t been anywhere on Sam’s lists. Not even the far future ones, though that could have just been a harried oversight.

“Er...”

“Oh, what, too fast?” Gabriel gave the bed a dubious look. “Hmf, maybe I’m the one who should brush up on my dating skills. Cassie and Deedee went from zero to sixty in five seconds, but I forgot they’re their own special kind of crazy, and had that whole smoldering-looks thing going on as foreplay for seven year .”

“Let’s not take them as a road map. We can aim to do this the normal way, without quite that much drama, misunderstandings and unresolved sexual tension.”

“Right you are. Unlike Castiel, I actually know the art of amore. Why, it took me a century to woo Kali, I had to-...”

Gabriel stood with one hand on his hip, the other up in the air in declamatory style, and a thoughtful look on his face. “Hmm, it’s bad form to talk about one’s exes, isn’t it.”

“It’s especially bad form to tell me what you had to do to woo the Destroyer, goddess of chaos and murder,” Sam said a little acidly.

“Yeah, that too. Hey, don’t give me that look, dove, I’ve turned over a new leaf. All my pranks are now guaranteed both educational and homicide-free.”

“Good. As for what we were talking about...” Sam rubbed the back of his head and made up his mind. “I don’t need wooing. I hope we can go out and do stuff together at one point, but right now I’ve had a bitch of a month and, to put it crudely, I really want to get laid.”

“Yessir!”

Gabriel’s mouth still tasted like strawberries, and his kisses felt faintly sticky as he trailed up Sam’s chest, following the slow peeling off of the flannel shirt and t-shirt. Sam had mastered molecular displacement now, he could get them both undressed with a flick of intent, but he was glad to find Gabriel was in the same school of thought, aka, that undressing each other and having the impromptu find-out-if-you’re-ticklish-here moments was part of the fun.

They ended up on the bed by the time the pants were ready to come off. Sam spent time admiring Gabe’s shoulders and hips under his fingertips. Dean had been prickly for years about being bi, but Sam for his part had never even been curious. Not that that factored into account any more. One of his wise-ass friends in college had claimed that, if you scratched any sexual person deep enough, they’d all turn out to be at least a little closer to the middle on the Kinsey scale than previously thought. He was probably right, but if someone scratched Sam now, they’d find a gigantic multidimensional creature of no gender or sexuality whatsoever and unable to reproduce or even have sex without a vessel. The Kinsey scale wasn’t up to this. Sam did not know how he’d react to Gabriel if he was still human, and it didn’t really matter. What he did know was that now he found Gabriel beautiful and enticing, whether he was chewing on a tootsie roll, making someone’s life hell, taking off in an apocalyptic crash of Wings towards the higher spheres, or naked in bed pretending to play the bongos on Sam’s abs.

“So, whatever are we going to do with all this?” Gabriel asked, running a hand up from Sam’s ankle, up up up until he could chuck him under the chin.

Flat on his back, Sam stirred and blinked. After all the lists and the planning and anticipating problems he’d been doing this past month, he felt a bit stupid that he’d gotten this far - naked, hard, breath coming in a shivering gasp when Gabriel let his hand trail back down his chest to tangle with a nipple - without anticipating that particular question.

“I’ve not done this with a man before,” he said, matter of fact.

“Technically speaking, you’re still not,” Gabriel quipped.

“But it doesn’t have to be complicated, we could just-“

Sam was adapting remarkably well to his new life, but there were still moments when it smacked him in the face, like right now when his mouth stayed open around the suggestion he trade blowjobs with the Archangel Gabriel. It sent his young inner Sam, who’d prayed nightly to the angels a few years back, reeling in horrified shock.

By the time he’d recovered, he’d dazedly agreed to let Gabriel ‘drive the car’, his knees had been pushed up into a bent position and a bottle had magically appeared in the Archangel’s hands. When uncorked, it reeked of cherry pie.

“I think unscented lube is considered safer,” Sam found himself saying which was when he realized, oh, right, so they were actually doing this.

“You realize I could use old engine oil, or chili sauce, or nothing at all and it would come down to much the same thing, right?” Gabriel poured a generous dose on his fingers, hand, Sam’s sheets and the latter’s calf and toes.

“Then why are you-...you like the smell.”

“You know me so well it’s like we’re married. It don’t taste half bad either. But that’ll be for another day, let’s not scare off the virgin here.”

“I’m hardly a v-” Sam’s voice strangled itself because now he had a lubed finger up his ass, and yeah, in regards to where this was heading, he might be considered a virgin. Though not, it seemed, for very long.

Gabriel had propped an elbow onto Sam’s bent knee and was looking down with a pleased grin at what his hand was doing, finger kneading in and out and around. Sam took a breath and released it slowly, working to come to grips with the feeling of intrusion. He didn’t need to; he could get hit point blank with a cannon in his present form and it wouldn’t make him blink, having a finger - or rather two, now - shoved up his ass was not going to be a problem. None of this was even necessary, Gabriel could have clicked his fingers and they’d have been ready to go the instant after Sam had said he wanted to get laid. But Gabriel hadn’t because this... this slow caress in and out, letting him get used to the sensations the normal way rather than using mojo, this was also something that should be enjoyed.

Sam felt himself relax. Jess had been playful and adventurous, so he’d done this before- not quite like this, just one finger, but he’d liked that. This was... the same thing only more so. Though Jess hadn’t seen fit to keep up a running commentary on the pranks a Trickster had pulled on powerful men in flagrante delicto throughout the past thousand years.

“Right. Now.” Gabriel slipped out his fingers, shook them magically clean, and looked down at him. He inched up to kiss Sam long and sweet. Then he inched down to get closer into position. But then he slumped with his stomach pressing into Sam’s bent knee, arms dangling limply. “Seriously, why do you have to be so tall? I feel like a chihuahua trying to mount a great Dane.”

“You’re not that short, Gabriel.”

Gabriel lifted a hand, fingers together for a click. “I could make myself taller.”

“Don’t you dare.” Sure, that body was just a vessel, only clay - but Sam happened to be attached to it. Maybe a long time down the road, if they were still doing this, he wouldn’t notice anymore, but not today.

“Can I shrink you a tad?”

“Nope.”

“Well... hmmm.”

Sam hollered in shock. In one blink he’d gone from lying on his back, to on his knees, arms bent, face an inch from the bed cover, ass in the air- and-

And - Jesus Christ! “Gabe!”

“Oh yeah, this has possibilities. Nice view too.”

Gabe was behind him and in him, fully seated. Sam reeled under the sudden sensation of stretch and fullness while his feelings battled over this turn of events. The angel in Sam didn’t see what the big deal was; he didn’t need a gradual easing in, there wouldn’t be any pain either way, and this was certainly efficient. While the part of Sam that was still thinking like a human judged this to be both cheating and downright rude to- to- to insta-penetrate a guy like that.

Then Gabriel did something. Sam gasped and clutched the blanket. He- he must have pulled out and thrust in again. Oh holy- that was- that was the weirdest and most- most- okay, just the weirdest sensation. And Sam wanted him to do it again. Sure, the position was a bit vulnerable, and he couldn’t see anything other than the comforter-

“Hmmm, you’re right.”

Sam yelped as the bed dropped out from under him. He threw out his hands- they landed solidly on the mattress, making it bounce. He was now sitting down almost on his heels, astride Gabriel who was under him - and still in him.

“What-“

“That’s better. I guess.” The Archangel under him scrunched up his expressive face. “Or maybe-“

“Stop!”

“Stop what?”

“Stop moving us around! This is fine!” Sam closed his eyes and took in a wobbly breath - not physically required, but sometimes even a celestial Being needed to fill his lungs with air and let it out in a shuddering sigh. “This is fine. And you’re making me dizzy.”

“In a good way?”

“No.”

“Oh okay.” A hand ran down the side of his face- and then pinched him lightly on the nose. From somewhere in the room came a honking sound.

Sam’s eyes flickered open. He caught the hand, brought it up to his face again, nuzzled the palm. “Shh. Give me a moment.’

“To adjust to my mighty girth?”

“To adjust to you, you bloody jackass. It’s like getting dragged along by a comet.” Sam kept his voice steady and calm. His intuition was telling him that manic Gabe here was perhaps not quite as laid back and self-assured as he wanted to appear.

“So not true.”

“And no reading minds. That’s rude.”

“I was just tickling the topmost layer,” Gabriel said in the tones of a kid trying to explain it really wasn’t his fault that the window was broken or the dog was shaved. Sam rolled his eyes.

The hand gentled on his face. “Do you need me to stop talking, dove?”

Sam’s grin nudged the palm caressing his jaw. “Never.”

Gabriel’s eyebrows quirked. “...huh. Knew you were a masochist.”

“I’m fine, I’ll-...hmm.” The human vessel and the angel within had by now come to an agreement about how they felt in regards to the fact that Gabriel had his cock up Sam’s ass - that this was a very novel and interesting place for it to be, and there seemed to be a whole lot of new sensations ready to trigger at the cusp of the slightest movement, even just talking and breathing. “I’ll ride the comet. It’s what I signed up for.”

He caught the flicker in that fluid expression, a change in the tide, a drift towards deeper currents.

A hand around his neck pulled him down hard into a sudden kiss-

Reality fractured with a crack of splintering glass. Sam was still on the bed, a tongue exploring his mouth. But at the very same time, an angel who had once been mortal was being held effortlessly while a massive set of Wings slowly arced out and set them adrift into a different space altogether.

Sam swayed under the schism in his perception- but hands steadied him. His other self scrabbled in surprise - but there too he was being held gently, pressed against the Being of the Archangel. Outside of the mundane, their size difference was reversed - not that metrics meant much to multidimensional creatures anyway. Gabriel favored subtlety over brute force, it was easy to forget at times how powerful an Archangel could be. The Wings sculled gently, and reality parted like pulled taffy, the room and the bed on one hand, the universe full of constellations on the other, two angels floating there effortlessly. The reality of the senses was split, wrapping around the completely dissonant sets of information - both here and there - yet still touching like fingertips on a mirror.

Back in Sam’s room, the lips were still fastened on his. The Voice that shook the house and made the sunlight flicker did not need them.

GOTTA TELL YOU, KIDDO, I’M MAKING THIS UP AS I GO ALONG.

Whew, that- that rocked the universe a bit, and gave the schizophrenic aspect of the situation another twist. Because it was the awe inspiring voice of utter power that could destroy and remake worlds, and it was also, well, Gabe. But Sam was okay with that. That was exactly what he loved, that duality, that bundle of contradictions. The potential for massive destructive force and the joker who used it to pull pranks and conjure candy. The Archangel who hadn’t taken over Heaven, even though he could, but was helping them figure out how to fix it. Gabriel who’d seen deep into Sam’s soul and who’d forced him to confront what he hadn’t wanted to, and who still embraced him now and made Sam laugh when he needed it.

“S’okay.” The angel part of Sam nestled in the enfolding arms of the presence that held him. Back in the mundane, well, as much as one could squeeze out in Heaven, his body was starting to move, to pitch forward just a bit and then easing back down again, the weird feelings of stretch and inner tension where he was really not used to them intriguing and pulling at his attention.

“So you never did this with another angel?” Sam found himself asking, shivers running up his spine and through his voice.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME? WE’RE-

“Indoor voice, Gabe.”

”-all related, yuck, talk about incest being the one kink I definitely don’t have or want, and I don’t care how popular Game of Thrones gets. That’s what’s so great about you two comin’ along brand new - and me and Cassie were smart, we snapped you up before the others cottoned on. Now, how we doing?” The hand had gentled, let go of his neck to caress down his chest.

“...doin’...okay so far-...” Sam bit his lip. If he leaned forward, hands on the warmth of Gabriel’s chest, he could use the leverage to push back and forth an inch in and out on that nicely hard erection. It was- yeah, it was certainly okay so far-... while in that other place he stayed still and quiet in Gabriel’s arms.

“I poked Cassie for six hours straight until he coughed up a few prurient details.” Gabriel spoke as if completely unaffected - most of his staggering concentration would be elsewhere, he wasn’t bothering putting that much into emoting with the vessel. But his eyes were bright and sharp and there was a small crooked smile on his face as he watched Sam move. “It turns out him and your brother like the earthy and physical aspect of things, they pretty much make out like regular folk, bar a little bit of footsie with their Wings - what would you call that, a bit of wingsie...? Hmm, well, good for them if they like to dial it back and keep it cozy. Personally I don’t think I could do that if I tried.”

Sam fumbled with his two sets of perceptions, a little confused, but mostly entranced.

“Not where you are concerned,” Gabriel concluded softly.

Sam gasped as he moved and changed the angle of the penetration. Something deep within had flickered briefly like a sparkler. In the higher spheres, he held on tight as Gabriel flared his Wings, split the Either and pulled them out into the infinite.

Another schism divided his mind, this one coming from within - but maybe this was why Gabriel had done this, created two co-existing realities for him to experience. Human Sam was a hunter of monsters, a tough man who’d wrestled Lucifer back into his cage; he was sure of himself, his sexuality, his inner strength, and rightfully proud of his well-honed body. He was taking control of this, moving at the speed he chose, ardent and powerful and curious as he tested out this odd and new kind of pleasure.

In that other place, he was a month old creature in a species with an average age of 4.5 billion years - so a little baby bird of an angel, barely out of its shell. And already run into the ground. He’d spread his Wings only to have a whole bunch of places in which he needed to be. The power of flight went instantly from a wonderful dream to being as mundane as a taxi service. He hadn’t had the time to truly stretch his Wings yet - or the ability, he had to be careful not to get himself in trouble with his new powers. But he’d longed to find out what was out there, the heights he could reach, and in this stolen second, safe in Gabriel’s arms, he was going to finally get there.

As if his acceptance, this acknowledgment of his two different sides, had been the missing piece- click! He found he’d aligned both realities and could exist in both without confusion in a way a human never could.

He was pulled down for a kiss, strawberry sweet, parallel to a wash of Grace flowing off his Wings like a caress. Approval of his success at negotiating the sharp bends, delight that he’d managed to take those first stumbling steps to follow where Gabriel was flying.

In the physical realm, Sam felt a surge of confidence, of power. He straightened, using only his legs with arrogant ease to lift himself up and down - loss of balance was for the birds. Up and then back down onto the tight feeling of invasion, penetration, of being filled and completed. He reined in his Grace’s attempts to assist. He wanted to feel this, feel the burn in his thigh muscles, the hard thrust up and down on Gabriel’s cock - Gabriel Gabriel Gabriel inside him - his hands on him - ah!

A thin veil shattered high above as Gabriel spun them through it. Waves of sensation - a caress of sounds, visions of colors like music, a riot of tastes and lights - Sam gasped, but he didn’t need to hold on, Gabriel had him safe. Then the fluctuations slowed and coalesced, started to make sense. They flew through a steady sound like a gong’s deep reverberation, and shook dust out of a distant planet’s rings. They cut through the light of a diamond’s sparkle, ripped across alien skies like a meteor, twisted around the covalent bonds in a molecule of water, crashed through a barrier that smelled sharply of peppermint and out the other side.

Sam laughed out of sheer exhilaration, lifting and grinding down, head thrown back and his arms held out wide in imitation of his Wings in that other place, as he let them flutter and stream out behind him under the Archangel’s gathering speed, the tips of his flight feathers trailing through stardust and the pearly shell of the higher spheres.

A ripple of shared delight from his lover. A thunderclap of Wings that could shake the sun out of the sky (though presumably Gabriel was being careful - hopefully) and then they really started to tear through the place. Blasts of light and sound, a fracas of color as they flew by dying stars and brand new planets- Gabriel didn’t hesitate to smash through barriers, mathematical and arcane, he knew Sam wouldn’t be afraid, wanted indeed to see even more. More! It was simply to be hoped that one of the Big Guys, like Death, wasn’t going to come banging on the door to tell them to tone it down and stop moving the furniture.

Gabriel’s powerful Wings brushed Sam’s on every downbeat now, sending massive sensuous sparks up his higher Being and down, all the way down to the most earthy part of his vessel. All the way - an aching longing need deep inside where Gabriel’s erection was pushing into him, brushing against a bundle of nerves that sent flares and sparks through his body and all the way up Sam’s hard, leaking cock. Oh god- oh! If Death came knocking, she’d have to pound really loudly to get their attention- ah!

Sam matched the increase of speed in the physical plane, grinding down hard after every sharp movement up. It was effortless now, the body and the greater Being like bells ringing under two different tones of sensuous delight, and he could feel the same knell go through Gabriel - couldn’t even tell on which plane any more, reality was smudging around the edges as Sam let the pleasure slip its reins and do what it wanted with the both of them. Oh! That- yes!

He had to be doing something right: Gabe hadn’t said a word in a record-breaking ten minutes. Hands ran up and down Sam’s body, and then suddenly gripped his waist with the strength that was going to leave bruises even on an angel- oh! Oh shit yes! While in the higher planes their flight slowed, teetering at the height of a galaxy-spanning elliptical arc, gravity and inertia backing away for a few short sharp gasps- while those world-shattering Wings wrapped around him as if he were something precious their owner wanted to keep safe and cherish.

“Yes!” Sam slammed down, getting that heat inside him and grinding down as Gabriel bucked up hard, hitting deep and just right - and Sam felt a warm throbbing rush inside as Gabriel took his pleasure in him. Yes! Sam cried out, incoherent, shaking. Then they were crashing right through that event horizon and falling off into pulsing bliss. One of Gabriel’s hand had stopped bruising his waist and was now on Sam’s erection- his release got him in a chokehold and turned him into a quivering whimpering heap as he- as he came hard - oh dear, came all over the Archangel Gabriel’s body beneath him. There wasn’t a religious institution on the planet that’d approve of this on any level. But there was a crooked grin and a delighted hawk-like stare from the person he cared about, watching him tumble out of the sky and crash land back into little chunks, and that... that was what mattered.

Reality reassembled itself dazedly. Sam furled his Wings, feeling worn out in ‘muscles’ he’d not known he even had yet. He sank in a boneless stretch next to Gabriel, still remarkably silent other than a short ‘Hoowhee!’ and some theatrical gasping noises (entirely put on for effect, since neither of them actually needed more oxygen in the blood whatever their vessels’ muscles were doing.)

Sam felt as if he was floating back together again, and every single layer of his multidimensional Being felt well and thoroughly fucked, a warm worn out lingering bliss. Also a little sticky on the purely material plane. A tired flicker of thought got rid of the human residue, but who knew how he was going to get all those ionized particles out of his Wings.

“Hmm. Gabe? You okay?”

A faint grunt.

“Oh my god, I think I broke him.”

A lazy hand drifted up to whack him on the shoulder. “Shut up, you big flying ungulate, I’m trying to bask in the afterglow. So are several distant star systems. Think we triggered nucleic acid formation on a far-flung planet or two...”

They relapsed into a contented silence.

Contented for about ten seconds, and then Sam’s brain started waving the ‘now what?!’ flags. Sam was glad this had happened, it had been amazing and a memory to carry off into Eternity. But this had all been kind of rushed. Which was entirely Sam’s fault for coming up and thrusting a “do you like me Yes/No” paper at Gabriel, for the love of-... They’d not actually talked about where this was going. Was this a one-night stand, the first in a series of sexual escapades, or a bona fide relationship? He’d have a better feel for where they were if they were human, but being immortal celestial beings changed the rules in many ways. For starters, Heaven was at a high boil right now. Gabriel was the last remaining Archangel, and Sam was this brand new interloper in the otherwise seamless ‘created by God’ club, with weird ideas trying to reform their divine institutions. Hooking up was not a politically neutral move. Maybe... maybe this was the other reason Gabriel had stopped time, discretion as much as a care for Sam’s schedule. Would they have to hide this from now on? Assuming it would even be repeated. What about-

“I love you too, you dumbass. We’ll be doing this - and raising the kids and planting petunias and even having dinner if you want to - as often as we can until we’re both old and gray, and since we don’t age-“

“Okay, Gabe, I’m really glad you said that, but I have to insist, no more reading my mind, that’s a violation of my privacy.”

“Who says I was reading your mind? If you want to keep your thoughts private, you need to learn to stop scrunching up your forehead and making deep sad eyes when you’re wondering how hurt your feelings are going to get.” A thumb pressed between his brows. “Why are you acting like I’m about to go out for pizza and never come back?”

Sam rubbed his forehead. “I... You were awfully surprised when I broached the subject, is all.”

“Well of course I was!” Gabriel made an rude snorting noise. “I thought it’d take you at least a year to adapt your new lifestyle, and then another, oh, five to ten before you caught on to my sexy innuendos, and then I’d penciled in a decade before you finally succumbed to my charms. I didn’t expect you to turn around and harpoon me before the month was out. Flattering though. I do love the unexpected. Why are you staring at me like that?”

Innuendo?! All that flirting this past month was you being subtle?!

“Too late!” Gabriel lunged across the short distance separating them, got Sam in a creditable headlock and forced him down until his cheek was pressed against Gabe’s shoulder. “I gotcha, you can’t change your mind anymore.”

Sam rolled his eyes- then broke out of the hold with the expertise of a hunter. “Gabe, be serious a sec. Won’t hooking up create friction? The other angels-“

“Honi soit qui mal y pense, or something to that effect. In other words, fuck ‘em, let em flap about if they want, I’m not waiting for their permission. Oh, that goes for Dean too. He can put those ‘my brother is too good for you’ scowls away or I’ll make his face freeze like that. Now shhhh, still trying to enjoy the glow here.”

Sam put his head back on the pillow - and the whole afternoon (or the frozen splinter of a second thereof they were still hanging in) caught up with him.

“You...you’re really okay being with me? Long term?” he asked quietly. The operating word here being ‘long’. Maybe ‘me’ too.

“I am thinking muzzle here. I am thinking bondage. What’s an Archangel gotta do to enjoy a post-coital cuddle? C’mere, dove. And stop worrying so much. I may not have gotten the entire omniscient gene from dear dad, but I do know quite a lot.”

Sam frowned into the shoulder he’d been pulled against, gently this time, a hand rubbing and soothing the muscles of his back. Omniscient what? What was that supposed to mean?

...It meant Gabe had been around longer than planet Earth, had known all kinds of people, knew Sam had his heart stuck on him for the conceivable future and he was okay with that, in all its unfolding timeless consequences. He’d already thought out all the implications, as well as the ins and outs of a relationship between this brand new hybrid Seraph and the last remaining Archangel, down to the last political detail.

Or, being Gabriel, maybe he hadn’t and was just winging it. But he was willing to wing it with Sam.

Finally. Finally, for the first time in a month - or more truthfully, in well over a decade - Sam felt every bone of his vessel and all the rest of him too, all three hundred and fifty meters (give or take a few dimensions) fully relax and accept that maybe, just maybe something was going to turn out alright for Sam Winchester for at least the next few thousand years.

“There you go,” whispered Gabriel, reading the way Sam’s shoulders had unknotted and eased rather than his mind, since he would respect Sam’s privacy ordinarily. Then the hand that’d been soothing his back swung down to give him a slap on the rump. Because Gabe. Sam retaliated with a pinch on the slightly soft ring of Gabriel’s middle.

“Love you, you ass,” Sam informed him, wishing for once that angels could sleep because a nap would be the best thing right now.

“Love you too, you big softie. Now, we’ve got ten subjective minutes of canoodlin’ time before I have to restart the clock, so let’s enjoy.”

Good advice. Sam took it.

 

---

 

Transcript of a meeting between Signor Pietro Lunzo (artist), Cardinal Casimir Grandin and Her Holiness Pope Agatha II in the matter of decorating the Gabriel transept of the new Basilica of All Faiths in New York. (circa 2311)

Sig. Lunzo: This triptych will be the centerpiece. I chose my subject matters from passages of the Old Testament, New Testament and the New Bible relating to the Archangel. Let me open that for you, your Holiness.

Card. Grandin: My God! What are they doing?!

H.H.P. Agatha II: Ooh, you used the apocrypha. The planets and stars motifs - my, you even got the flowers and the cherry syrup. And the angel Samuel - very nice. I like it!

Card. Grandin: (untranslatable noise)