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call me by your name

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The fight was brutal. Not that he participated in it. He was cowering under the horse his hands and neck were tied to with coarse rope that had rubbed him raw a long time ago. The dust was making it hard to see as the struggle had thrown sand and dirt all around. It stung when it hit his bare, cold legs and feet. He worried it was a bandit, not because his life could get any worse, but because bandits sold slaves that they stole. He didn’t want to end up farther away from home then he already was.

The dust was settling. He could make out two bodies on the ground in front of him and the nervous horse that was nickering. He hoped she wouldn’t bolt. He hated being dragged behind a horse. Each time he had thought he was going to die. He had hurt for days. One of the bodies began to stir, and despite his fear, Gabriel hoped it was the man who had come upon them and attacked his master.

He had long stopped trying to pretend he wasn’t a slave. Ever since his master had attacked him on the road and Gabriel had offered himself up to save his own life, Gabriel had lost the rights to himself. All he had were his thoughts now: everything else had been stripped away. The horse tensed and Gabriel closed his eyes. There’d be no master to show him mercy this time.

“Hey.” Gabriel was startled by the gentle voice of the man who had viciously killed his master for no reason that Gabriel could understand. “Are you okay?” Gabriel didn’t answer. While he understood the words, it had been years since he had heard anything but the harsh, grating tongue of his master. He had only known a few words: “suck,” “fuck,” and “slut” respectively. Only two commands and a name that were for slaves such as himself. “I’m Sam.” Gabriel blinked as the man came closer. Master had injured him. He was bleeding on his torso, face, and limbs. They had fought hard. Honestly, Gabriel was surprised he won. Master was a fierce warrior and had defeated many foes-- Gabriel just happened to be the only one he kept alive. Gabriel knew how to prove he was useful. He just didn’t care what happened to him anymore. He kept cowering, hoping the tall, capable warrior would just do what he came to do and then leave him behind.

Gabriel wasn’t expecting to be lifted onto his feet. The ropes binding him were cut and gently removed from his wrists and neck. The rags he was wearing were carefully rearranged as if to preserve his modesty, as if he had any left after being a slave with only one purpose for so long. “You can go if you want.” The tall warrior told him, handing him the reins of his now dead master’s old horse. “But if you want to stick with me until we are in safer territory, you can do that as well.” Gabriel shrugged, pulling himself up onto the horse before the warrior could change his mind. He reached down and stroked the mare’s neck, helping her calm down as she took in the warrior’s and his horse’s scents.

The warrior who had introduced himself as Sam walked back to his horse and pulled himself up stiffly, taking care with his wounds. Sam guided his horse on to the path, his heart a little lighter when he heard hooves on the path behind him a few minutes later. He had meant what he had said, but he was glad the man he had rescued was following after him. The bandits would not have been so kind to him or his master, not that the latter deserved any kindness.

Sam was not the murdering kind of man. He was peaceful to a fault, something his brother would confirm instantly. But what he had seen that man do to the small man now trailing behind him had made his blood boil. He hadn’t intended to kill the man, but then the man attacked him once he pulled him off the smaller man. Sam had done what he had to.

It was no use dwelling on the matter. Sam sighed, guiding his horse homeward. It was still another two days ride out of the mountainous region to the hilly plains region he and his tribe called home. And now he had two to hunt for. At least his traveling companion seemed to know what he meant when he asked if he could get them water. It was less work for Sam as his new companion seemed determined to prove his usefulness. When it came time to eat, the man ate like he had been starving, grabbing at strips of meat and loose olives off his bowl and stuffing them into his mouth. Sam noted the pronounced ribs and sunken eyes-- this man probably was starving. Sam fashioned him a waterskin after that, the next natural assumption being that this man was probably severely dehydrated as well.

Sam didn’t want to risk a fire while they were still in the mountains. Bandits might see it and come looking for trouble. He could usually hold his own, but his injuries were becoming cumbersome. He made his way back to the river, needing to wash his wounds out before he became too stiff or worse, his wounds became infected. Gabriel watched, curled up in a nest of rocks, keeping an eye out for anything unusual. It made Sam smile to see him taking on such a role, perhaps with time and care, the man he had rescued would be okay.

“Thanks for keeping watch.” Sam said as he rubbed his hair dry. The man shrank back, staring below Sam’s waist. Oh. Sam covered himself with the towel. “I’m sorry. I’m not going to hurt you. I’m not going to- I’m not going to rape you or anything like that.” Sam stumbled over his words, shaking his head. The man let out a little snort, whether it was disbelief or amusement, Sam couldn’t tell because of the look of terror that came over his face directly after the sound. “You’re all right.” Sam waved his hand. “I’m just glad you know what I’m saying.” He sat down a comfortable distance away and began to dress. “It’s going to be cold tonight. You better bunk with me.” The man’s head reared up and he shook his head, glaring at Sam. “Not like that!” Sam sighed. “Suit yourself. I’ll get you the thick blanket.”

The night was frigid as Sam had predicted. He was freezing in the small cave he had found along the rocky shore between the river and the cliff face. It was so cold that the smaller man travelling with him came in the cave, fixing a glare at Sam when he came in. He refused to come away from the entrance and Sam stopped trying to get him to come in. It worked out hours later when Sam was woken up with a thin hand pressed against his lips. He thrashed for a moment before he heard a soft yet firm.

“Shhh. Bandits.” It was the man he had rescued. His voice was harsh, even in a whisper.

“Do you trust me?” Sam asked, even though he was the one pinned in a dark cave. There was that little snort again. “If we can sneak out of the cave,” he whispered, “I can get us up the cliff. There’s a part that isn’t so steep. You’ll just have to hang on.” In the barely there light of dawn, Sam saw the small eye roll. “Come on.” Sam grabbed his hand and pulled softly, leading him out of the cave that would be their trap if they stayed any longer.

They made it up, the man pulling away from him as soon as Sam pulled them up on to the ledge. Sam groaned softly, grabbing at one of his injuries. Their journey was going to be longer and more troublesome without the horses that the bandits had stolen while they were making their escape. However, they had made the right choice. Horses were treated better than people the bandits got their hands on. “Let’s go.” Sam stood up, straightening up, wincing as he put weight on his wounds.

“Where?”

“Home.” Sam blinked, pointing towards the hills rolling off in the far distance. “We will be safe there. Bandits die at the border there.” He managed a smile at that. “We’ll move as fast as we can.” Sam started picking his way across the rocks. “Good thing we filled these.” He tossed a waterskin to the smaller man. “Again, you can go if you want to, you’re welcome to stay. It’s kind of nice having someone around.” Sam lifted up his shoulder, waiting for something, anything. The man shrugged. Sam started walking and sure enough, a few minutes later when Sam glanced over his bandaged shoulder, the man was walking several paces behind him.

Sam found himself wondering about his story, where this man had come from, what he must have gone through. Sam was glad he had come across him when he did, but judging how the man acted around him, Sam wished he had been able to help him sooner.

Over the next few days, both men traveled in companionable silence, or whatever it’s called when one person barely speaks and the other doesn’t know what to say. On the fourth day, it snowed. That night, Sam woke up to find the other man curled up next to him, just shy of touching him, shivering uncontrollably. He was just skin and bones after all. Sam gave up his fur blanket, wrapping it around the sleeping man who jerked away instantly. “Shh.” Sam soothed. “Put this under the other blanket. It will hold your body heat in.” He had no way of seeing the man’s face, but soon the blanket rustled and Sam had a feeling his advice had just been taken. They were both still alive the next morning, the smaller of the two the less cold of the two. He handed the fur back with a gentler glance than his usual glare.

Sam would take the silent thanks. He handed the man some of his dried strips of meat, some of the last of his reserves. Hopefully, they would reach his tribe’s territory by nightfall. Sam couldn’t wait. The rocky paths of the mountains always hurt his feet and the feet of his companion were already cut up and bloody. He bandaged them with the strips of cloth Sam gave him, but they didn’t replace a good pair of leather moccasins. A sharp cry dragged Sam from his thoughts. He glanced behind to see his companion on the ground, grimacing, holding his foot. The rock jutting out of the bottom of the man’s left foot signaled that their journey had come to a sudden stop. Sam hurried back and the man hissed in warning, tears pooling in his golden eyes. “I’m just coming to help.” Sam told him, kneeling by him. He pulled out more bandages from his bag, worried about how few there were left. “I’ve got to pull it out.” Sam warned him. He grabbed a vial out of a pouch. “This will help with infection.” He grabbed a strip of leather. “Bite on this.” The man screamed through gritted teeth as Sam pulled the rock out bit by bit. Sam spared some of his own water to wash the wound. He poured some of the contents on the vial next before, pressing a cloth to the wound to help staunch the blood flow. Once the blood stopped, Sam bandaged his foot up and rewrapped it. “I’m carrying you the rest of the way.” If the situation wasn’t dire, it would have been funny the way the man shook his head, his face screwed up in something close to disgust. “You can’t walk on this.” The rock had nearly gone completely through his foot and the next few miles weren’t looking any better.

The man grimaced again as he forced himself up. He hopped a few steps before he tripped, banging his other foot against a larger rock. He caught himself on his hands, his palms coming away bloody. “Please let me help you.” Sam asked, bandaging those wounds too. The man hung his head, biting his lip before he looked back up at Sam, a question in his eyes. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

Gabriel bit down on his lip again. This man kept saying that and so far he had kept his word. Finally, he stood up and held out his arms. The tall warrior smiled, ducking down so Gabriel’s arms were over his head and around his neck. Gabriel tentatively gripped the man’s hips with his knees, wrapping his hands around the broad shoulders of the man who’s back he was currently on. “I really hope we make it home tonight.” The warrior said. “I think we both could use the break. I’ll have more supplies there to patch us both up.” Gabriel could feel heat emanating from underneath the bandage on Sam’s shoulder. That was worrisome, but there was nothing he could do about it, but hope Sam was right, hope that they were close to the end of their journey. He was taking a big gamble,traveling with this man, but going off by himself would have been an even bigger risk. Gabriel couldn’t stand the thought of being taken again, held against his will, forced to do whatever his master wanted. He wasn’t built for that kind of life.

It had only been a few hours, but Gabriel could see that Sam was exhausted. This man seemed like the type to risk it all, even for complete strangers. So Gabriel slipped down from Sam’s back as gracefully as he could and sat down. He hadn’t been able to exercise his stubbornness for some time, so it felt good when Sam finally gave in and sat down too. His breathing was shallow and his forehead shone with perspiration. Gabriel convinced him to lie down by pushing him down. He went through Sam’s pouch until he found the vial Sam had used on his foot. “That’s for emergencies.” Sam protested, but Gabriel silenced him by putting his hand over the man’s mouth. Carefully, Gabriel peeled back the bandage on Sam’s shoulder. The skin was red and irritated, some pus oozing out. Gabriel splashed water on it, illicting a hiss from Sam. Then Gabriel dumped half the vial on the jagged wound where his former master had dragged a knife through the warrior’s skin. So much blood that awful man had shed, plenty of Gabriel’s own.

It seemed to take forever, but it only took Gabriel a few minutes to redress Sam’s wounds. “Thanks.” The warrior tried to get up but Gabriel pushed him back down.

“Rest.”

“We’re almost there.”

“Rest.”

“Fine.” Sam closed his eyes. “Just for a little while.” Gabriel fashioned a tent with sticks, rocks, and a blanket, huddling underneath with Sam to be sheltered from the elements. The sun was bright even though it was still frigid. “It’s spring if you can believe it.” Sam said softly, covering his face under his arm. “They’ll be getting the fields ready back home.” Gabriel perked up a little at that. Not all things would be foreign in Sam’s village then, although Gabriel didn’t know the first thing about planting or harvesting. He always had other interests back home. His stomach flopped and he forced himself to stop thinking about home. He had been thinking about that place a lot in the past week.

Gabriel fell asleep a little while later. The pain and the journey had been weakening his already pathetic form. It was ironic considering he used to be someone powerful in his home land. He was someone powerful who had been reduced to nothing. He had been nothing for years now. When he woke up, there was a man glaring down at him, a sharp spear pointing in his face. He raised his hands above his head, hating how vulnerable he felt. He turned his head to see a woman was also there in their makeshift tent. She was kneeling by Sam, shaking him as if she was trying to wake him up.

“H-he’s hurt.” Gabriel forced himself to speak before these people assumed he had hurt Sam. He had to assume they were from Sam’s village. From what he had heard about bandits, they weren’t all that concerned with what shape the people they stole were in. “He got in a fight.”

“With you?” The man asked, tightening his grip on his spear. Gabriel shook his head.

“No, for me. He saved me.”

“Typical Sam.” The man rolled his eyes, causing the woman to glare at him.

“Dean, we need to get him back to the village. I can’t wake him up and he’s burning up.”

“Time to go.” The man took the tip of the spear away from Gabriel’s face who huffed in relief, at least until the man hauled him up and tied his hands behind his back. “Come on.” Dean brought him out of the tent and pushed him down in a sitting position. The warrior then took down the makeshift tent and turned it into a makeshift stretcher that he and the woman carefully fastened Sam to. “Jess.” Dean said softly. “He doesn’t have it.” Gabriel glanced over to see the worried look on her face harden into something furious and closed off. He saw something like hurt flickering there before she looked up and saw him looking at her. She stalked over to Gabriel and slapped him hard across his face, causing him to topple back. “Jess!” Dean got in between her and Gabriel. “It’s not his fault. You know Sam.”

“Dean, just stop.” She held up a hand. “He doesn’t even have his horse. It’s over. However, we can still save his life.” Gabriel glanced over at Dean, confused, but the warrior just picked him up and put him on his horse. Being forced to sit in front of the warrior with all the jolting from the horse made Gabriel’s skin crawl, but at least he wasn’t being dragged behind the horse. He had enough of that experience for several lifetimes.

The trip went by much faster on horseback, even if it was being pressed against a complete stranger. Dean didn’t try anything and he didn’t comment on Gabriel’s ragged clothes or bandaged feet.

“Sorry she smacked you back there. Her and Sam have been going through some tough times and this trip he was on was supposed to make it all right. But the gods have spoken, they’re just not meant to be.” Gabriel jumped when Dean started talking to him. “Dude, you’re safe. I’m Sam’s brother. If Sam trusted you enough to sleep in the middle of the day, then you’re probably a trustworthy guy. I’m just following the rules.”

“It’s okay.”

“You not a big talker? I mean you probably haven’t had a chance with Sammy over there. He’s a regular chatty Cathy.”

“He’s nice.” Gabriel shrugged. Sam was more than nice. He went the fucking extra mile, but he was already feeling pressured to talk and that made it harder for him to find the words he needed to communicate. “He helped me and he didn’t have to.”

“What’d he help you if you don’t mind me asking?”

“He killed my--” Gabriel’s voice cracked. “He killed the guy who was forcing me to be his slave.” Dean’s silence hinted at understanding just what kind of slave Gabriel had been. Gabriel was glad for his silence. He didn’t want that particular subject broached, especially with how he had woken up and where he currently was.

“He’s a good guy; he’s got a big heart.” Dean was slowing his horse down.

“Yea.” Gabriel could agree with that.

“What are you doing?” Jess called back over her shoulder when they dropped back.

“Go on ahead.” Dean waved her on. “Get Sam back to the village pronto. We will catch up.”

“D-don’t hurt me.” Gabriel’s mind was already racing with the possibilities of what Dean was about to do to him. Dean pulled the horse to a stop and Gabriel made a flying leap off the horse to get away. He screeched in pain as he landed on his foot, but he still made a break for it, trying to scramble away.

“Come back.” Dean caught him easily enough, wrapping an arm around Gabriel’s scrawny chest. “I was just switching how we were sitting on the horse so you’d be more comfortable.” Dean also untied his hands.

“Oh.” Gabriel wiped his face, his heart still pounding out of his chest.

“Yea.” Dean ran a hand through his hair. “Gabriel, I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Sam had to say that a lot too.” Gabriel sniffed, straightening himself up. It wasn’t like he had any dignity left to preserve.

“Let’s get you home.” Dean soothed, helping him up onto the horse before jumping up in front of Gabriel. Gabriel grabbed on to Dean, leaning against him. He didn’t know what to do with that huge gesture, but he appreciated it more than he knew how to say right now. “We’ll get you settled in a nice place of your own. I can be your neighbor on one side, Sam on the other. I don’t think you’ll have to worry about Jess now.”

“Why is she so mad?”

“Because Sam was supposed to bring her a wedding gift so the council would approve of their marriage. He came back with you instead of a horse, so yea, she’s pissed.”

“Oh. Well, I had a horse, but we lost our horses when the bandits came.”

“So Sam had another horse?”

“No, there was just his and mine.

“Unless he was bringing you back with the horse.” Gabriel jerked back.

“What?”

“I mean that would have been acceptable, a horse and a slave. The council would totally have approved their marriage.”

“He tricked me?” Gabriel’s heart was in his throat. Sam had tricked him into coming along so he could get married even though he came up short. All that dumb shit about Gabriel being safe was a lie-- Sam just wanted him for his own slave.

“Hey, I don’t know— I’m just talking out my ass. Sam’s got a big heart. He’d take good care of you anyway. You’d be more like a part of the family that just helped out a lot.”

“I’m no one’s fucking slave.” Gabriel growled.

“Then you’re not anyone’s slave.” Dean consented. “Hang on. We’ve got to cross this river and then we’re almost there.” Gabriel peeked around the tan warrior and instantly spotted the swollen river. “Snow’s melting, slowly but surely.”

“Yikes.” Gabriel muttered, but he wrapped his arms around Dean’s torso. It was odd being pressed against another person of his own free will. He supposed he missed safe physical touch, leaning into Dean’s shoulder a little more. The warrior didn’t say anything if he noticed, something Gabriel was very grateful for. It was going to be odd, having a home again, but Gabriel found himself looking forward to it, even if it might have been all a big lie.

Chapter Text

Gabriel liked the decent-sized village as soon as he saw it. They had come around the bend of the beginning of the mountain and there it was, a valley village, nestled amid hills that were just starting to turn green.

“There’s nothing quite like springtime.” Dean inhaled deeply. “It was a harsh winter.” Gabriel nodded, not thinking about the fact Dean couldn’t see him. Dean must have felt the movement because he responded just as if Gabriel had replied. “Bad winter where you were?”

“Yea, almost lost my feet a few times.” It had probably been one of the few times his master had touched him that hadn’t been to hurt or defile him.

“We’ll get you measured for a pair of moccasins.” Dean reassured him, reminding Gabriel of Sam. “And boots for when winter is heading back our way again. No more hurting feet.”

“Sounds nice.” And it did. Gabriel leaned back into Dean, resting his head against the warrior’s strong shoulder. He felt safe with Dean, just like he had with Sam. His head, or was that his heart, hurt at the thought that they might just be tricking him into being a slave for them. Maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as it had been with Asmodeus. Maybe they’d be kind masters.

“You’re safe.” Dean must have felt how Gabriel’s breath hitched in his throat at the thought of being a slave again, even to kind men. “You’re free.”

“Hasn’t sunk in it.” Gabriel whispered. His body felt heavy again, tired, now that they were at the end of the journey. He didn’t know what the future held and that weighed heavily on him. Now that they were here, he had more people to face, more people to who could hurt him. He would enjoy this last leg of the journey, this feeling of being safe, tucked in behind Dean on the horse.

As they made the final stretch of the journey, Gabriel was scanning the cozy huts. He wondered if Dean meant it when he said he’d have his own hut with the brothers on either side of him. They dismounted at the well where the horse was already eagerly dipping down to the water trough to drink. Gabriel’s foot was screaming at him, but he didn’t want to show his weakness in front of a full village, especially one that seemed not entirely opposed to slavery. He hung off the horse, avoiding direct weight on his injured foot.

“Come on.” Dean helped him towards a larger hut. “Sam’s already settled in if you want to see him.” Gabriel limped quickly, taking the offered seat on the bed next to Sam’s. “I also brought you in here to get treated yourself. You’re injured too. Has it been that bad of a journey?”

“Bare feet and mountains don’t mix well.” Gabriel shrugged. “It was doable with the horses, but the bandits stole those.”

“I’m glad they didn’t steal you two as well.” Dean glanced over at his brother who was still unconscious. “Watch over him, will you?” Gabriel nodded. “I’ve got to go settle some things, but I’ll be back. You’ll be safe here. This is a place of healing.”

“Hello, Dean.”

“Cas.” There was a bitten-off sigh on Dean’s part that spoke of longing and resentment all at the same time. “I’ve got to go. This is Sam’s shadow, see if you can get a name out of him. His foot is injured.” Dean hurried out the door, leaving the two men to size up each other.

“You’re a stranger to these lands.” Cas or Castiel as he formally introduced himself to Gabriel was once a stranger to these lands too. “These are good people. They will look after you.” He had Gabriel’s foot uncovered, examining it with a

“They won’t make me their slave?” Castiel cocked his head before shaking it, not even bothering to look up.

“Everyone keeps forgetting that poor Sam here had already ended things with Jessica when he left. I imagine she was pissed off to find him with you.”

“She hit me.”

“I’m sorry.” Castiel frowned. “She shouldn’t have done that.” Silence fell, something Gabriel was okay with as Castiel tended to his foot and then the rest of him. “It’s Gabriel by the way.” Gabriel spoke up, breaking the silence. “My name.” He clarified. He hadn’t heard his own name spoken out loud in so long that saying it even surprised him. Gabriel found himself trusting the healer, more than he usually trusted people anyway, and even let him examine the areas his master had tormented regularly. “It’s very nice to meet you, Gabriel.” Castiel smiled warmly and Gabriel’s heart felt lighter than it had in years. Castiel was gentle, non intrusive as he wrapped Gabriel up. Gabriel felt like he was wearing a diaper of bandages, something that made Castiel smile when he said that out loud. Then he found Gabriel new clothes that fit him and would actually keep him warm. Castiel helped him dress and then to get into the bed. At that point, Dean showed up with food for them all, and Gabriel ate until his belly was full.

When Castiel suggested he call it a night, Gabriel felt very agreeable. He curled up on his bed, hands wrapped around the sheathed knife Dean had lent him. He felt safer holding it close, his blankets pulled up high near his head. Castiel was finishing up with Sam, changing Sam’s bandages one last time for the night. Sam was flushed, still unconscious, still fighting off infection. Even though Gabriel was pissed at the warrior for possibly tricking him, he hoped Sam would be okay. Sam had saved him.

Gabriel had a peaceful night until a freak thunderstorm shook the peaceful valley. By morning, Dean and Castiel had yet to find him.

“Are you sure he’s not in the hut?”

“I didn’t search the hut.” Castiel huffed out a sigh. “I assumed he ran away to find you.”

“I’m second best to Sam.”

“Shit.” Castiel hurried back to the healer’s hut. “I didn’t even check near Sam.” However his search was cut short when he realized the tall warrior was finally awake.

“Cas?”

“Oh, thank the gods, Sam.” Castiel gave him a quick but heartfelt hug. “We were worried sick.”

“I was traveling with a man.”

“Oh, Gabriel, yes, he’s here.”

“Gabriel.” Sam said softly. “He never told me his name.”

“How did you find him?”

“I saw smoke and found the fire, hoping it was fellow travelers.” Sam shook his head. “I found Gabriel.” He said Gabriel’s name still so softly. He hoped the small man was okay. He had not been so moved by someone’s plight in a long time. “I came across him and his master…” Sam paused, his face twisting as he recalled the scene he had come across. “I had to do something, so I stepped in, pulled that monster off of him. We fought. I won. I came home.”

“And Gabriel?”

“Followed of his own free will, a traveling companion and nothing more.” Sam glanced around Castiel. “Where is he?” Castiel smiled, having been interrupted halfway through Sam’s story by a tap on his bare leg.

“He’s under your bed.”

“Why?”

“Thunderstorm.” Gabriel grumbled quietly. “Thunderstorm and nightmares.”

“I’ll make you a special tea tonight.” Castiel promised, kneeling to help Gabriel get out from under the bed. “How are today, my patient?”

“Foot hurts. Thirsty.” Gabriel admitted in a low voice. He kept glancing over at Sam, wondering if he should confront the warrior yet or not. Sam caught his glances and smiled, unaware of the drama within his own village.

“I’m glad to see we both safely made to my village. I’m sorry I wasn’t conscious to properly welcome you.”

“Or woo your girl with a fucking slave?” Gabriel sneered, feeling a hint of his former bravado back when he had been someone.

“What?” Sam’s jaw shut so fast, Gabriel heard his teeth click. He fidgeted with Dean’s knife as he forced himself to stay steady.

“Dean thought you were trying to marry the blonde warrior who hates me.” Sam rolled his eyes.

“That’s Jess, and I decided before I left that her and I would not have a future. We had serious issues and marrying each other was only going to make those issues worse. Damn. She had to be working Dean over for him to think I was still into her. If anything, she’s probably just pissed off because you came back with me and she assumed we were together.” Sam shrugged, taking care of his still tender shoulder. “If you haven’t noticed, the tribe is somewhat traditional. Most of the village probably thinks we’re together.” He held up a hand to stave off Gabriel’s panic. “But we’re not. Once I’m better, I’ll help Dean make your place and they’ll realize you were just joining us.”

“Oh.” Gabriel swallowed hard. “Sorry. I guess she’s not the only one assuming.”

“Hey, I wasn’t. I was just unconscious.”

“Sorry.” Gabriel felt small. He hunched over on his bed, glancing over to see Castiel watching them. “What?”

“I need to check your foot.” Castiel looked over at Sam. “Nice job bandaging it out on the road. He had no infection.”

“He was very brave.” Sam said. Gabriel looked down at his vividly colored blanket, covered in stripes and patterns. He had never been called brave before, even at his old home, even when he was free. It was foreign, but he liked it. He lay back, letting Castiel fuss over him. The healer was also tending to all the years of abuse to his feet and well, the rest of him. Gabriel stared at the thatched roof until he fell asleep, feeling safer than he had in years with Castiel and Sam watching over him.

“Let him sleep.” Castiel counseled Sam who had looked like he was going to say something. “He needs it if he’s going to make a full recovery.”

“He let you tend all his injuries.” Sam noticed as Castiel covered Gabriel with a blanket. “And clean him up.”

“He’s been trusting. I’m more than appreciative of the trust because out of all us, I have earned it the least. He trusts us because of you, Sam. Your journey here is where the healing began. You taught him not everyone is a monster.”

“I couldn’t leave him.”

“Many people would have. Many people would had taken advantage of him after. Why else would he be so angry at the thought of you bringing him here to be a slave? He needs you to be one of the good guys.”

“I am.”

“I know you are.” Castiel finished tucking Gabriel in and started on Sam’s bandages next. “I was trying to give you a compliment, I don’t know what happened.”

“I think you’re getting better.” Sam comforted Castiel and Castiel smiled.

Chapter Text

When Sam woke up, Gabriel was still sleeping. Sam rubbed his eyes, stretching with care. His shoulder was throbbing, but not as badly as it had the day before. He shifted, glancing back over the smaller man. He was so glad Gabriel made it back to the village. He was also glad he made it back-- he was lucky to be alive. It had been a group effort that kept him alive, something that comforted him, even though he wasn’t so thrilled that Jess had been a part of it.

Jess had been a huge reason why he had left to go on that journey in the first place. No, it hadn’t been to win her love with a great feat or returning with some gift to win her hand. It had been to get away from her long enough that he could find himself again. And he had, in spades. He had a fruitful journey, full of exploration, joy, solitude, company, celibacy, sex, maybe an orgy, he didn’t care for those as much, and then he had decided it was time to come home. And on the way back, he had found Gabriel.

It still turned his stomach to think he had murdered someone, but it had been a kill or be killed situation. The only to avoid that situation was to have done nothing and Sam couldn’t do that. He would never leave someone in such an awful situation. He hadn’t planned on bringing Gabriel home, but he was glad he did. He was happy that the smaller man was in a valley where he would be safe and where he could heal from his ordeals. He would have friends, a village, maybe even some day a family. Sam hoped Gabriel could find peace and joy in a new life; he hoped Gabriel could leave his life as a slave to a vicious nomad behind, back in the wilderness where he had been found.

“What?” A gruff voice caused Sam to blink, refocusing to realize he was still staring at Gabriel, a now very awake and very uncomfortable Gabriel. Dean must given Gabriel the knife he had. It was his tell when he was nervous, he fidgeted with the knife in his hand.

“Sorry.” Sam looked away. “I was lost in thought.”

“You already had your chance to take me. You’re not getting another one.” Wow. After all their traveling together, Gabriel still trusted Sam as far as he could throw him. And Gabriel couldn’t throw Sam, so Sam knew exactly where he stood.

“I’ll say it until I don’t have to say it anymore. I’m not going to rape you. I had hoped we had established that by now.” Sam sighed.

“We did.” Gabriel lifted a shoulder, still glaring. “Then that bitch that slapped me happened. Dean thought I was a tidy little present for you and her to start a nice life together.”

“You’re not. Trust me, the last place I want to be is with her.” Gabriel held Sam’s imploring gaze, challenging him until he looked away. Free as he was, he still found it hard to go head to head with others.

“Fine.” He muttered, turning away.

“Gabriel.” Sam called out, wanting him to turn back. He didn’t want their conversation to end there. He wanted to get to know Gabriel, be his friend.

“Why are you being nice to me?!” Gabriel snapped. “You know how much I can take. What’s your game?”

“I don’t have one.” Sam lifted up the shoulder he wasn’t lying it, wincing as he realized it was the injured one. “I only wanted to help!”

“Well, you helped, so leave me alone.” Gabriel growled. Sam’s eyes widened in surprise and then looked kind of sad.

“If that’s what you want.” Sam shifted in bed, shifting away from Gabriel. Gabriel hadn’t expected Sam to agree or even move. He didn’t know what to do with that. He was used to being forced to do whatever the other person wanted, regardless of what he said and did. Sam was taking him seriously. Sam was treating him like he was free. He was free. Gabriel groaned in frustration, burying his face into his pillow.

“I’m sorry.” He said softly after a few minutes. “It’s not you. We could maybe be friends if you still wanted to.” That was hard for him to offer; it was hard to make himself softer after being hard and pushing Sam away. And well, it was a testament to the person Sam was that he rolled over right away with a big smile.

“I’d like that.” The larger man stretched his legs over the side of the bed before he sat up. “Want to play a game? Castiel has a fun game around here that he taught me a while back.”

“Sure.” Gabriel stretched, sitting up too, cross-legged, being so careful with his feet. Sam reached from his bed to a table a little ways away and Gabriel had to marvel at just how big the warrior was. Fierce and strong, everything a warrior should be. Not like Gabriel at all. “What game is that?” Gabriel asked, even though he knew exactly what it was. It wouldn’t affect these villagers, but if Gabriel played… that game was forbidden to be played with people like Sam for a reason.

“Castiel brought it from his home.” Sam replied easily, unaware of the sudden turmoil inside his companion. “He taught us, although he doesn’t like to play very much.” Gabriel bet that Castiel didn’t indeed. “It makes him tired. Probably because we usually beat him.” Gabriel snorted. He couldn’t help it, some of his old cruelty that had not been beaten out of him must have survived. Not that he knew how that had been possible. Asmodeus had been very thorough.

“It just doesn’t seem that hard.” Gabriel said quickly.

“It affects him. I don’t know why.” Sam looked suddenly uneasy as if he was talking about something he shouldn’t. And he was. But he didn’t know that Gabriel knew how forbidden of a topic this was. Castiel was from his home. Gabriel felt half elated, half nauseated at that revelation. He missed home but not that much. He wondered if he had ever know the blue eyed healer back home. It had been so long that Gabriel’s heart ached, but he could never return. He didn’t want to.

“How do you play?” Gabriel asked, changing the subject slightly, redirecting it from Castiel. Not that this topic was any safer. He knew exactly how to play this game, what little grace left in him was already reacting, swirling up inside, begging to be used. Gabriel had left all that behind though. He couldn’t play this game. He had sworn off his people’s ways and all that went with them when he left of his own free will. When he fell from their favor and when they had fallen from his. And then he had learned how cruel the world really could be for those who left the protection of their people. But he wasn’t dead. At the very least, he was a survivor.

Sam laid out the board on Gabriel’s bed, moving himself to sit on the floor. Gabriel went to offer his bed, but he couldn’t say the words. He didn’t want Sam on his bed. The warrior had been nothing but kind, had never touched Gabriel in uncomfortable ways, but he was so much bigger and stronger… Gabriel couldn’t risk it, blinking back memories of his time with that awful demon of a master.

The board was simple. There was a path of pillars rising up from the board, each with a small indent on top, big enough to hold the crystal sphere that sat in the largest pillar.

“So get this, all you have to do is move this ball from pillar to pillar,” Sam moved the ball to the shortest pillar, “from this one and move up in order of height. The person to move the ball to the tallest one is the winner. If you drop the ball, you lose the turn.”

“But that will affect whose turn it is to move the ball.”

“Exactly.” Sam smiled. “I’ve been known to drop it on purpose before although Castiel calls it cheating. We’re only allowed to drop it on purpose three times in the whole game though. That rule is because of me.” He snickered. “Dean’s just as bad, but he doesn’t let on when Cas is around.”

“It seems easy enough.” Gabriel baited Sam, waiting for him to tell him the catch. To tell him the reason this game called to him and tired Castiel. Grace was hard to replenish away from home.

“Doesn’t it?” Sam’s face was so open and happy to be playing a simple game with Gabriel. Gabriel didn’t understand. He couldn’t remember a time when anyone spent time with him like this, even at home. People only spent time with him when they wanted something from him. Asmodeus had wanted his body. His brothers had wanted his power. What did Sam want? Not knowing made Gabriel’s head hurt, but he didn’t want to let anyone know that, he didn’t want that to be used against him. So he pretended he wasn’t freaking out inside and pretended he was fine. “So the catch is that we can’t use our hands to move the ball.” Gabriel’s brow furrowed in surprise and Sam laughed, clear and light. Castiel had changed the rules? “Here, I’ll go first.”

Sam stood up, wincing slightly as he balanced on one foot, using his toes to move the ball from the shortest pillar to the next one up. Gabriel watched, amused but mostly impressed at Sam’s balance and skill. Sam saw his face and chuckled kindly. “Yoga.” He shrugged, perching on the edge of his bed. “Your turn.”

Gabriel didn’t hear him at first. The movement had drawn his attention to Sam’s legs: they were long and tan, strong with clear definition of his muscles. He had hair on his legs, same as Gabriel, it just struck him as he studied the other man. His stomach felt a little funny, but it wasn’t fear. He wasn’t sure what it was. “Gabriel?”

“Huh?” He jumped, shrinking back, certain that the man was about to pounce. He had just been staring at him. Sam was going to think he wanted it. Gabriel abruptly felt like weeping, unaware of the tears that streamed down his cheeks. He hadn’t cried like this in so long. Asmodeus didn’t like his tears. He liked his screams. Gabriel sobbed and Sam was there, asking if he needed something, if he was hurt. Sam was so close, but not touching, just there, present, helpful. Gabriel closed his eyes and wondered what it would be like if he touched Sam. Would Sam hurt him too or would he help? Gabriel just wanted to feel safe. Eyes still shut, he leaned forward until his forehead touched Sam’s firm, uninjured shoulder. His face was hidden, his head was bowed, he was submitting in his own way to whatever Sam might do.

Arms encircled him and held him, even though it had to hurt Sam to hold him with his own injuries.

“You’re safe.” Sam said, as if he had read Gabriel’s mind. Gabriel lost what little control he had on his emotions, bawling into Sam’s embrace. He let Sam cradle him gently, letting himself get all the hurt and pain bottled within out.

Chapter Text

Gabriel fell asleep shortly after they finished playing the game. He seemed regularly exhausted, something Sam hoped would pass in time as he recovered. He didn’t know how long Gabriel had been a slave, but he could see where the man struggled with freedoms everyone should have. Relationships seemed particularly difficult, making Sam wonder about where Gabriel was from.

Sam began to pick up the game after he covered Gabriel up with a soft blanket. Gabriel at least trusted him enough to sleep near him. Sam still marveled he had even been allowed to see tears, never mind getting to hold him. Something stirred inside of him and Sam pushed it away, shaking his head. Men were one of Dean’s things although Dean seemed intent on hiding that from the one who loved him the most. Sam thought Dean was scared and intrigued all at the same time, but the fear usually won over the interest.

Sam dropped the crystal orb and bent down to retrieve it, tossing it into the air as he did so. As the ball fell back into his hand he saw a soft golden glow inside for just a second as it passed between him and Gabriel. He paused, peering through it, but seeing nothing. Sam started to put it away when he thought of something and then peered at Gabriel through the crystal. Once again, a soft, golden glow filled the orb. Sam could make out swirling patterns even though the glow seemed to be sleeping same as Gabriel, slow, easy movements at the same time as his slow, easy breaths. Sam’s breath hitched in his throat and he dropped the crystal again. He left it rolling on the floor as he hurried out of the healing hut.

“Castiel!” He called out sharply once he was further away from the hut. He headed towards Dean’s hut, knowing the two were close friends even when they were awkward around each other. “Cas!”

“What?!” Castiel poked his head out of the hut, the door hiding most of his body. “I’m-erm- busy.”

“What is that crystal?!”

“From the game?” Castiel squinted, eyes narrowing at Sam. “Did you play it with Gabriel?!”

“Yea, he needed a distraction.”

“Where is he now?!”

“Sleeping.”

“I bet he is.” Castiel glared at Sam. “What the hell were you thinking? That is my- uh- stop,” Cas disappeared for a moment before reappearing, “that was my property!”

“I’m sorry! I was trying to make some headway with him! He’s as skittish as a warm wind in early spring!” Castiel nodded, his eyes softening, ducking his head back in.

“Give me a minute.” Castiel shut the door to the hut, leaving Sam in the outside. There was a bang and a few rustling movements. Sam waited, sucking in deep breaths, trying to calm himself down. He didn’t know what he had seen, all he knew is that Gabriel had been glowing inside. Oh god, what the hell had he seen? There was another loud thud and a what sounded like a soft laugh. Castiel emerged a few minutes later with flushed cheeks and a soft smile playing at his lips. “Dean let me borrow his hut since you and Gabriel were in mine.”

“I know your people are less traditional, but as the healer, you are expected to act with a certain amount of decorum.” Sam didn’t mean to chide, especially since he was the one getting chastised. It was just, Dean had brought Cas in, and how Cas acted reflected on both of them. Although Sam and Dean had reputations all their own without any help from Castiel.

“I was fucking what is mine.” Castiel replied with a twinkle in his eye. “However, duly noted.” He was heading back to his hut and Sam was hurrying to keep up with him. “Let’s go pick up the mess you’ve made, Sam.” The tall hunter bristled slightly but followed Castiel anyway.

“I was trying—“

“Relax, Sam. I’m a little too relaxed right now to be mad.” Castiel chuckled. “However, whatever that crystal has shown to you, you might not want to bring it up to Gabriel just yet.”

“Why?”

“Ah, so you did see something.” Castiel’s brow furrowed. “He needs to heal, Sam. Let his foot recover before he feels the need to run off. At least when he knows whatever you know, maybe he’ll know us well enough to not feel like he has to run off.”

“Do you glow inside?” Sam blurred out and Castiel froze in midstep. He faltered forward before his head whipped back to look, really look at Sam.

“What did you ask me?!”

“Do you,” Sam squirmed, “glow?” Castiel studied him for a hard minute before setting his jaw hard. Whatever relaxation he had found in the hut had left him, his muscles tense as he finally looked away.

“No, Sam.” He said quietly. “No, I do not glow.” Sam gave Castiel a concerned look as the healer turned away. It seemed like he had offended Castiel somehow. But Sam was still trying to wrap his head around the fact that something was inside of Gabriel, something powerful. If Gabriel was what he thought he was, then he couldn’t be from where Castiel was, or else Cas would glow too, right? Still a little freaked out, but also growing more and more excited, Sam hurried after the healer. If he knew his lore correctly, and he did, Gabriel might be something he only thought existed in legend. Sam had always hoped angels were real, had hoped he’d meet one on his trip. What if he actually had?! And brought him back to their village? They could be friends and Sam could learn so much from him.

“When can I ask him what he is?” Sam said, interrupting the silence.

“When you think of a better way to ask that question.” Castiel said curtly. “Go to your own hut, Sam.” He blocked Sam from entering his hut and from seeing Gabriel. “He needs to rest and you are out of danger, you can heal in your own bed.” Sam flushed, feeling chastised by his friend.

“I’m sorry.” He said again, earning a hard look from the healer who just waved him off without another word. One thing could be said about Sam and Dean, they knew when Castiel didn’t want them around, and they knew how to respect his boundaries. Sam hurried in the direction of Dean’s hut, instead of his own, hoping to actually find his brother this time.

Back at the healer’s hut, Castiel took a deep breath before he stepped inside. Gabriel was sound asleep, softly snoring. Castiel liked Gabriel for all his skittishness and snark. Angels were terrible creature masquerading around as people: Castiel hoped desperately that his possible new friend was not one of them. The crystal would know. With a heavy heart, Castiel retrieved the crystal from where he found it on the floor. He held the crystal up and placed in between him and Gabriel. The crystal began to glow and then it lifted up out of the healer’s hand. Slowly, it began to spin, faster and faster until it rose even higher, holding itself in one place as it glowed even more brightly.

“Shit.” Castiel didn’t know what to do. Angels were bad, but archangels were even worse. They had more power than they knew what to do with, and they were cruel beyond belief. His first instinct was to raise an alarm and evacuate the village, but he knew he couldn’t do that, not without revealing more about his mysterious past. Gabriel was still weak, maybe Castiel could drive him off on his own, keep them all safe that way. Castiel called the crystal back to his hand without thinking. He would risk it. He had to save his home from this monster before he lost yet another family.

Meanwhile, Sam knocked on Dean’s door once again.

“Sammy.” Dean licked his lips, which was weird because he usually only did that when he was lying. “What’s up?”

“I think I made Castiel mad.”

“Oh.” Dean let out a rumbling laugh. “Well, he’s mad at me most days, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.”

“Hey, Dean?”

“Hmm?”

“Where is Cas from again?”

“I don’t know.” Dean replied. “I found him in the mountains, half frozen to death—“

“And you brought him home, yeah, yeah, I know.” Sam finished. “But what about the mark? You know, the hand?” Dean gave him a look. They weren’t supposed to talk about the handprint that Dean came back with, a handprint that looked like it was seared into his flesh. They weren’t supposed to talk about how it matched Castiel’s hands’ breadth and width. Dean kept it covered most days, grumpy at the very least when it brought up.

“What’s got you spooked, Sam?” Dean said quietly. “I haven’t seen you like this, well, ever.”

“Dean,” Sam said urgently and reverently all at the same time, “I think I found an angel.”

Chapter Text

"You need to go.” Castiel finally said with a sigh as he watched Gabriel finish up his supper. He had waited, wanted to appear innocent and harmless in his delivery. If Gabriel knew he what he knew, it might not go well for anyone in the entire village, least of all Castiel. Things were good for Castiel here: he didn’t want them to get messed up. He had to protect Dean...

“What?” Gabriel’s head jerked up, a look of shock on his features. If he was a man, Castiel would feel bad for him, but he wasn’t a man. He was just a monster who looked like a man.

“You need to go.” Castiel folded his arms across his chest. “The village has decided that you’re not welcome here.”

“Who says?” Gabriel answered, narrowing his eyes at the healer. Castiel swallowed down the flash of fear that he felt in his gut. He was tangling with something much more powerful than him-- a misstep could cost them all their lives. “Where’s Sam?”

“Sam sent me.” Castiel lied. It was worth a shot: the flicker of hurt that rippled across the archangel’s face was proof that he hadn’t missed. This archangel had a weak spot, unlike the one he had fought in the past, and the weak spot was Sam. That was dangerous all in itself, but Castiel figured that would resolve itself once Gabriel was gone. He kept going, “The village-- they don’t like strangers.”

“They seem to like you well enough.” But Gabriel was putting his bowl down and scooting down to the edge of the bed.

“I’m sorry. It’s an odd town. I’m sure in a few months they’ll warm up.” The village didn’t like him, but Sam and Dean had spoken for him and the elders had allowed it. Plus Castiel had proved himself: he had healed more than he harmed which was probably more than this creature could say.

“Forget it.” Gabriel grumbled, hissing as he put his injured foot down. “I can tell when I’m not wanted. Thanks for everything, Castiel.” Castiel was confused by the sincerity he heard in the archangel’s voice. However, he would not be swayed. It was time for Gabriel to go. Gabriel paused, looking back before he headed out the door. His face, previously a little sad and lost, turned to a face of shock and then fear. He pushed open the door and was gone into the night within seconds. Castiel’s brow furrowed and he looked down to see the silver blade in his hand and his body in a fighting stance.

He straightened up, the blade clattering to the floor as he dropped it. He eyed it as if it was a poisonous snake that might bite him before he sighed, bending over to pick it up. He ran his hand gently over the blade, almost reverently as he tucked it away, hiding it under his healing supplies. That life was gone. He wanted no part of it. What had happened with Jack had changed everything for him.

Gabriel’s foot was bleeding again if the pain was anything to go by. He hobbled down the path, heading towards the mountains. He had to get out of here before Castiel did something to him. He flinched, flashing back to when Asmodeus had come across him. He had no weapons to defend himself, just like now. He had been lost, just like now. He had no means of improving his situation— he didn’t think Castiel would be swayed by the offer of his body like the demon had. He shuddered, reliving the awful, heavy touch of his former master. He broke out into a run, forcing himself to move before the healer came after him. Gabriel couldn’t go back to that kind of life, he wouldn’t! He didn’t want to be a slave and he didn’t want to die. Castiel had been prepared to kill him if he didn’t leave and that frightened him more than he’d care to admit.

Gabriel ran on, weak and winded, the pain almost blinding at times. Sure need drove him on, convinced that Castiel was on his tail. He ran until he ran into something sturdier than himself, knocking him down into the mud.

“Gabriel?” It was Sam and Dean, large and looming. Gabriel sobbed out, his arm flying up to defend himself from the expected attack. “I’ve got this.” Sam nodded his brother on. “Hey.” He kneeled by Gabriel, his large knees sinking into the early spring mud that Gabriel was sprawled out in. “Hey, you okay?” Gabriel sniffles, trying to stop the body wracking sobs that he now realized were happening and had been happening for some time. This was all his fault. He had felt safe, he had let his guard down. His fingers clawed in the mud and he tried to bolt away. “Shh shh.” Sam helped him up out of the mud and wrapped him up in strong arms that Gabriel thought felt remarkably safe even as he struggled to break free. He couldn’t handle Sam touching him if he was just going to throw him away like fucking garbage. “You’re safe. I’ve got you. What’s going on? Why are you running out here at night?”

“Castiel—“ and Gabriel couldn’t continue, hard sobs shaking him as they welled up anew. Sam cradled him, a hand behind his head and an arm around his waist, letting him cry on him once again.

“I’ll go ahead and check in on Castiel.” Dean murmured and Sam nodded.

“He-he tried to kill me.” Gabriel choked out, wiping his nose roughly on the back of his head. Dean’s eyes widened and Sam indicated that he should definitely go check on Castiel. Sam had Gabriel— if they worked through earlier, they could work on this too. “He said you— the village— wanted me to leave.” A hand came up to shield his face as Sam’s hand moved towards his cheek. No blow came, just cautious, gentle, chilled fingers wiping the tears off his cheeks. It was a small gesture, but it helped.

Gabriel forced himself to take a deep breath, his whole body shuddering. Sam was sturdy, holding him up. Gabriel hesitantly lifted an arm, wrapping it around Sam’s neck. Sam responded immediately, rubbing his back, talking soothingly to him. “I’m sorry.” Gabriel hiccuped, starting them both, helping ease Gabriel’s tears. “I-I don’t usually cry so much.” Sam kept rubbing his back. He was honestly surprised Gabriel didn’t cry more— he had been traumatized for so long.

“You’re doing fine.” Sam soothed. “Will you come back to the village with me? You can stay with me and I’ll take care of your foot?” Gabriel thought about it and reluctantly agreed. We’ll sort this all out because I didn’t send Castiel. I want you to stay.” Sam said carefully, but Gabriel felt the weight of his words. Sam liked having him around still. Sam didn’t want him to leave.

“My foot hurts.” He admitted quietly, his hiccups the last remainder of his second panic attack of the day.

“I bet it does.” Sam replied easily. “Can I carry you or help you back? I don’t want you to hurt anymore.” Gabriel’s heart clenched at the words, or maybe it was because he kind of actually believed them. Sam had been stepping in to protect him from hurt ever since the day he met.

“You can carry me.” Gabriel allowed, the words slipping out easier than he had thought they would. His foot did hurt, almost unbearably. The thought of putting weight on it… Gabriel yelped in surprise as Sam scooped him up and then stood up, carrying him back to the village he had just fled. “How are your injuries?” Gabriel asked softly, after a few minutes.

“They’re sore.” Sam was at least open about it. “But they’re healing.”

“Sorry.”

“I’m not.” Sam said almost darkly, and then Gabriel remembered he got those injuries from fighting to rescue Gabriel. He nestled a little closer as they approached the village.

“Thanks.” Gabriel wanted to say more, but he didn’t know how. He didn’t want to lose Sam.

“Anytime.”

Chapter Text

It took Gabriel all night to stop shaking. Sam cleaned him up best he could, but the smaller man was merely unresponsive by the time they got back to the village. Sam wrapped him up in blankets, but even then, the man kept shivering. He wasn’t sleeping. He wasn’t talking. He just stared at the wall of Sam’s hut and shivered. Finally, Sam gave up.

He tended fully to Gabriel’s immediate needs since the smaller man, possible angel had checked out. He drew water and warmed it over the fire, gathering enough to give him a proper bath, to clean him from the mud and blood. Sam wasn’t bothered by nudity— it was a part of life, but he did feel somewhat dirty as he slid Gabriel out of his dirty clothes. He talked to Gabriel as he worked, telling him what he was doing and why. He didn’t want Gabriel to come to and think he was being attacked or humiliated. Sam was surprised by the level of protection he felt for him. He wanted to keep him safe from any more pain. He’d been through so much already, and Sam only knew a tiny bit of his life.

He washed him gently, removing all the mud, tears, and whatnot. He took extra care with Gabriel’s injured foot, washing it first, drying it, and treating and bandaging it up. Gabriel was cute in his own way, Sam thought to himself, as he resumed cleaning him. His skin was pale, pink and golden. Sam liked the curls in his damp hair, suppressing the urge to run his fingers through them other than to clean them. He pushed any thoughts like that, he didn’t need them and neither did Gabriel. Gabriel had enough to deal with.

Once Sam deemed Gabriel to be comfortably clean, he lifted the smaller man up (he still weighed next to nothing, even with Sam’s own injuries hindering some of his own strength) and laid him out on the bed. He covered him up while he worked on drying him off. Once Gabriel was dry, he was dressed in borrowed clothes. Sam’s clothes were large on him, but he’d be warm, dry, and comfortable.

“Gabriel?” He sat down on the bed. “I’m going to try something, and you can push me away at any time.” He ran his hand over the side of Gabriel’s face. “Can I lie down next to you? I know that might be the opposite of helpful, but it’ll just be like when we were traveling together. Back when shit was simple.” He let out a small laugh. Back when Gabriel glared at him all of the time instead of being reduced to this: he hadn’t seen Gabriel like this except for when— oh shit, since Sam came across him and his former master.

Making sure there were layers and pillows between them, Sam wrapped himself around the smaller man, not daring to hold him, but daring to be close enough to help him feel safe and warm. It helped Sam too: it made him feel like he was doing something useful for Gabriel.

Gabriel tumbled in and out of space and time: cold, everything was so cold. Worst of all, his heart, the very essence of who he was was so very cold. He was spinning in and out, unable to focus on one feeling or thought: they all blurred together until suddenly everything was still. It was late at night, or so he guessed, by the smoldering remains of the fire in the fireplace. There was a warmth on his back, a breathing, living warmth that terrified and soothed him all at the same time. He was terrified that it might be Asmodeus again, soothed by the fact that Asmodeus never cradled him close like he was worth something.

“Sam?” He guessed, croaked, really, and the warmth came alive. Sam was the last thing he remembered before it all became blurry with the intense fear that made his head throb and chest ache.

“Gabriel.” There was relief in the tall warrior’s sleepy voice. “I thought I lost ya for good there.”

“I’m back.” Sam felt Gabriel’s hand brush against his arm and he went to move away, but then those fingers wrapped around his arm. “Thank you.” Gabriel said heavily, rolling over to come curl up by Sam. “Thank you for being safe.”

“I’ll always be safe for you, Gabriel.” Sam promised, an unexplainable feeling rising up in his chest as Gabriel nestled closer, his head now on the plane of Sam’s chest. Sam hesitantly brought up an arm, lightly looping around Gabriel’s shoulders.

“You’re warm.”

“Yea.”

“I’m so cold.”

“Why?” Sam was already reaching for the blankets to pull them up around Gabriel’s shoulders even more than they already were.

“That man you rescued me from— that demon,” Gabriel spat bitterly, “he didn’t just— he took everything from me, Sam. He didn’t just, you know, what you stopped him from, he took any chance I had of being me. He destroyed me.”

“I’m sorry.” Sam didn’t know what to say. He felt bad for Gabriel, he wished he knew how to make it all better. He couldn’t, but he wished he could. Unbidden, he remembered the glowing light he had seen inside of Gabriel as he had slept: the question tumbled out before he could even stop it. “Wait, aren’t you an angel? Why didn’t you use your grace?”

The silence was crippling as was the way that Gabriel stiffened before sliding away.

“I’m not an angel.” He was at least still in the hut. “At least not anymore. Asmodeus took that from me too.” There was a breath that wasn’t quite a breath: anger and grief stifled into a soft gasp.

“What?” Sam sat up, cocking his head to the side as he tried to understand.

“That demon took my grace.” Gabriel was choking on emotion: losing his grace, bit by precious bit, was worse than the daily degradation and the daily rape. He had lost himself, broken down to tiny pieces, losing them one by one without the ability to do anything to stop it. He choked back a sob, but it made it out anyway: an awful, strangled sound. He hung his head, letting the fat tears roll down his cheeks, sinking to his knees in the darkness, as he surrendered to the fact he couldn’t hold his tears back anymore.

He wept until he couldn’t hold back his sobs. Then he buried his face in his hands, trying to hold back those wretched sounds.

“Hey, hey, let out it, Gabe, it’ll help.” Sam found him in the darkness, kneeling next to him, a cautious hand on Gabriel’s back: a touch he found lifting some of the heaviness instead of being burdensome. Gabriel folded back into Sam’s arms (just like he belonged) and took Sam’s advice, despite his own feelings about the matter.

“I don’t want to cry anymore!” Gabriel yet still cried some more. “It’s embarrassing.”

“It’s human.”

“Exactly.” Gabriel grumbled. It was endearing and Sam couldn’t help but smile.

“We’ll get you back on your feet. Your grace can’t be all gone if I could see it glowing that time you were sleeping.” Gabriel stilled.

“What?”

“Yea, the crystal from Cas’s game. Apparently it can show grace or something.”

“It’s a contest of grace in its original form and it is brutal and humiliating, but so worth it if you are the winner.”

“That’s why you were so wary.” Sam commented.

“I have a little grace left, but not enough to make a difference.” Gabriel sighed. “I was low when Asmodeus found me. I knew he was a demon and I knew I couldn’t beat him. I played the only card I had left if I wanted to live. I still do wanna live. Isn’t that foolish of me? Because life is just so great!” He said sarcastically. “But I do, I swear, I’m bound to catch a break soon, right?”

“Life is never perfect.” Sam replied, searching for the right words to say. “But it will get better.”

“Humph.” But Gabriel was calming down. The thought that Sam had seen something inside of him gave him hope. He barely had any grace left, scavenged by the demon in more ways than one. But now he had hope that what grace was there was slowly replenishing. “What am I going to do about Castiel?”

“Is he an angel too?”

“I think so.” Gabriel had seen the angel blade appear out of nowhere, that had been clue enough to get out and get gone. He shuddered. “I don’t know for sure. I’m too weak. I can’t sense shit like that anymore. He had an angel blade in his hand, I just assumed the worst.” He had wondered why Castiel had gone from potential friend to willing to murder him so quickly, but the crystal made sense. If Sam had seen his grace, then Castiel had seen his wings, and if Castiel responded like that just to seeing his wings, well, Gabriel didn’t think they’d be getting along any time soon.

Angels never attack archangels, not unless they have a death wish, or in Gabriel’s case, were all but defenseless. Gabriel was grateful once more for Sam. He had sunk low indeed, hiding behind a human, but this human was nice in more ways than one and Gabriel was feeling inclined to keep him around. He didn’t want to go off on his own, he wanted a home, a family, somewhere to belong that didn’t feel like it was sucking the very essence of life out of him.

——

“Sam’s gonna ask questions.” Dean lay in Castiel’s bed: a rare privilege brought on by this dire situation. “You threatened a man’s life.”

“I threatened a monster's life,” Castiel sniffed, “although it was unintentional. I was just trying to run him out of the village.”

“He would die out there on his own.” Dean had seen how shaken Gabriel had been just in their short journey together to the village. “Why can’t he stay?”

“He’s a monster.”

“Then what are you?” Dean asked softly. “You’re both angels.”

“I gave up that life.”

“And how do you know he didn’t?”

“He’s an archangel, Dean.” Castiel’s voice was pleading. “You don’t know what they’re like. You don’t know what they’re capable of.”

“Apparently, I don’t know what you’re capable of either.” Dean couldn’t help it. Seeing Gabriel so scared had shaken him. Seeing how Sam responded to him had given him hope for the two men. “Why don’t you tell me what’s so awful about him and we can try to fix this together?” He cajoled, determined to not lose his lover over this.

“So you can blab when Sam starts to ask questions?” Castiel fired back.

“Let’s talk about the hand.”

“I was dying.”

“And I saved you.” Dean spoke up.

“You saved me.” Castiel’s tone was softer now. “You saved me from the wrath of an archangel who left me there to die. He killed my son and then he left me for dead. I would have died if you hadn’t come along.”

“That night in the cave was pretty smooth.”

“Dean…” he could hear the eye roll in Cas’s voice that still gave him butterflies every time.

“Pretty hot too.” Dean rolled over, finding his angel’s face in the dark, pressing a kiss to his lips. “We will figure this out as a team. No more vigilante shit, please.” Castiel just kissed him back in reply, grabbing where his hand print was, sending sparks of pleasure down Dean’s spine.

Chapter Text

“I’m not weak.” Gabriel blurted out a few weeks later. Things had calmed down in the usually idyllic village; Sam and Dean worked hard to keep Castiel and Gabriel apart. They had only seen each other once since the ‘incident’ as they tended to call it, but it had been enough to keep them separated. Dean had not managed to convince the healer to forgive Gabriel’s angelic existence and he had also not found it in him to reveal his own relationship with Castiel. However, he had spent more time with Gabriel, finding the other angel harmless, much to his lover’s chagrin.

“No one here thinks you’re weak.” Dean replied, cutting Sam off. He loved his brother, loved that he had a big heart, but he didn’t want to be around when Sam spouted poetry about the bravery of Gabriel. He had to give it to Gabriel, he was scrappy, little guy. He had survived what would destroy most, but Dean still did not want to watch as Sam started to develop feelings for Gabriel. However, he hoped nothing but happiness for the two men. He thought they could bring a lot of good and happiness into each other’s lives.

“I do.” Gabriel spoke up again. “So yea, one person here does.”

“You’re being obstinate.” Jess added in her thought. Her and Gabriel weren’t exactly friends, but they had warmed up to each other. She had apologized for how she greeted him and he had decided to move past it. He needed more friends than enemies at this place in his life. Plus, she was starting to see how her and Sam wouldn’t have worked out. It didn’t mean she enjoyed seeing the look Sam got in his eyes when his gaze fell on Gabriel. Gabriel, who seemed oblivious, worrying about himself and getting better.

As he should. Jess didn’t know the whole story, but she knew Gabriel came here to heal. Him stealing Sam’s affection obliviously was not part of his master plan. “You’re recovering.” Gabriel flinched at the word.

“Which means I’m weak.” He stated one last time even though Sam was giving him that mournful look when he was too hard on himself. He knew he was too hard on himself, but Gabriel was frustrated that he couldn’t just put himself back together with a wish and a thought. Healing meant work and he was already worn out. “I know I’m not going on the hunt.”

It was the first big hunt of the spring, even though it was little more than a glorified fishing trip. The game and wildlife was still recovering from the hard winter and the village needed more meat. Their winter reserves were running low. “I can help.”

“We need you here.” Sam said carefully. “Half of the village needs to stay behind and scare off any bandits that come around. If we thought you were weak, we wouldn’t have you guarding shit now would we?” Gabriel scoffed, shaking his head. The bandits weren’t coming anywhere near here-- Sam and Dean’s people were fierce and made a bloody example of each and every bandit that came through. No, the bandit were more likely to seek out weaker settlements.

“It’s because Castiel’s going on the hunt, isn’t it?”

“You two are better of kept apart.” Dean tried to be diplomatic. “It’s not your fault. He’s working through some shit in his past. He’s recovering too, but until he stops feeling murderous, I’m not leaving him back to guard a village with you.”

“Does he even want to go?” Gabriel prodded.

“Yes, he does.” Dean nodded.

Castiel, in fact, did not want to go on some stupid hunt. He would rather not smell like fish for the next two weeks. He would prefer to stay behind like he normally did and replenish his herb supplies. But because everyone insisted that a six-winged monster stay in their village and pretend to be human, Castiel had to go on a dumb trip with a bunch of dumb warriors: Sam and Dean included. Things had been tense of late and bonding time was not going to help it any.

Gabriel actually enjoyed having time to himself, not that he would admit it when Sam came back. Being in Sam’s hut by himself, he could pretend it was his own hut. Maybe Sam was just crashing him and he was being the hospitable one. Gabriel had plans for the future: he would get his own hut, find his role in the tribe, live a good, happy life. Maybe someday sex wouldn’t be repulsive, people so scary. Maybe he’d meet more people who felt like Sam: safe, warm, exciting. Gabriel hoped the best parts of his life weren’t over yet. God, he’d hate his best part of life to have been back with his brothers.

Gabriel kept busy during the first week. He gathered herbs for Castiel, cleaned Sam’s hut while adding some personal touches, and sketched his idea for a hut in the dirt. He missed paper, oh, and ink, but he wouldn’t trade this newfound freedom, this brand new life for anything. Life was quiet with half the village gone and he enjoyed getting to know some of other people, like the shaman, Death. He didn’t say much, but he enjoyed good food same as Gabriel. They would usually eat together at night, watching the sun set behind the mountains all around him.

At the start of the second week, the village had a visitor, a visitor Gabriel was very happy to see. He threw his arms around the visitor’s shoulders and held them close, eyes closing in happiness.

“Castiel will be so happy to see you.”

 


 

Back with Castiel, Dean, and Sam and the rest of the fishing crew from the village, the only thing going well was the fishing. But that night, around the fire, Castiel finally caved.

“It’s not him that I hate.” Castiel sighed as Sam started asking him why he hated Gabriel so much.

“Then what is it? Cas, you drew a blade on him.”

“That was an accident, as I keep telling you all. It just happened.” Castiel shook his head. He had bags under his eyes although he tried to hide his exhaustion under layers of frustration and anger. “He’s more powerful than any of you can imagine.”

“Cas, he lost his grace.”

“No, he didn’t.” Castiel shook his head. “I took the crystal and looked at him, really looked at him.” In the firelight, shadows danced across Castiel’s face. Sam realized he looked haunted. “What do you know about the hierarchy of angels, Sam?”

“I just know that angels exist.”

“There are angels, yes, and demons, but there are also more powerful angels, angels known as archangels. They are some of the most powerful creatures alive.” Castiel sucked in a breath. “However, with all that power, they are cruel and wicked, tormenting those lesser than them.”

“How does this tie back to Gabriel?” Dean asked, seeing how his brother’s face was ashen and his expression shocked.

“He’s an archangel. I saw his wings, all six of them. He’s a fucking monster.” Castiel spat.

“He’s not the one who attacked you and--” Dean broke off. “Did he kill your son?”

“Son?” Sam’s mouth was working again. Good.

“It’s complicated.” Castiel’s jaw was clenched. Never a good sign in Dean’s humble opinion. “He wasn’t my son biologically. I didn’t sire him, but I adopted him at his mother’s request. He was a Nephilim. A sweet boy who tried so very hard to be good.”

“A Nephilim? That’s the offspring of an angel and a human.” Sam’s research was showing. “There supposed to be forbidden.”

“They were, but archangels seem to fall in two categories: those who enforce the rules and those who constantly break them. The Nephilim’s father didn’t want him once he realized the boy was nothing like him, so he agreed with the other archangel’s that his son, MY son, should be put down. So I fought them. I got him out, or so I thought. They caught up with us, held me back, killed him, and then left me to die.” Sam looked over, surprised when he saw his brother reach over and take Castiel’s clenched fist. Cas’s fingers relaxed. His fingers opened up and grasped Dean’s hand. “Dean saved me, brought me back, gave me a home.”

“Shit, Cas.” Sam’s eyes widened. “I’m so sorry.”

“So that’s why Gabriel has to go. I liked him too, but then I found out what he was. You don’t know what he could do to all of us. You don’t know what he’s done, what he’s complicit to. He was there. If there was any good in him, he would have tried to stop it, but he did nothing when they decided my boy was better off dead.” Castiel stared off into the flames. He was haunted after all, Sam decided.

“I wish we had known. We could have tried to help.”

“Then listen to me now.” Castiel turned pleading eyes on Sam and Dean both. “I can’t lose you both too.”

Chapter Text

It had been a beautiful day, back home, back before Castiel could tell the difference between a place he had been created and a place he actually belonged. He had been an up and coming commander, a seraph designed to cut and kill without much question. He had hunted down Nephilim, angels, humans alike, putting down those that questioned the archangels’ law, Michael’s law. It had made no sense why Kelly Kline had come to him: a decorated and recognized killer, but she did and that had made all the difference. She had trusted him and Castiel felt something he knew about but had never understood. He felt love. The unborn child had chosen him and he could feel his trust mingled with hers. It should have been a hard choice, but Castiel had fallen hard, willing to do anything for the first sweetness he had ever been shown.

He had given everything for Jack and Kelly, especially Jack. And then Lucifer, Michael, and Raphael, with the smallest archangel hanging in the back, came with a fury and vengeance. When the snow and ice cleared, Jack and Kelly were dead, Castiel bleeding out on the white snow, grace long shattered by the weight of the combined archangel power. Lucifer had been so icy cold, Michael, a burning fire. Raphael felt like acid on his exposed, overwhelmed nerves-- and Gabriel--

Gabriel needed to be taken care of while Castiel could still do something about him.

 


 

Castiel hoped Sam and Dean would eventually understand. It wasn’t an easy choice, especially knowing how much it would hurt Sam. He had seen how Sam looked at Gabriel, he had seen how Sam bit back defenses tonight. He appreciated Sam just listening. He hoped Sam and Dean would know he had done it for them: they were his family, and Castiel would always do what he had to do to keep his family safe.

So he slipped away, before dawn, borrowing Dean’s horse. By the time anyone started to stir, he was back in the village, bearing down on Sam’s hut with a vengeance.

“Castiel?” Gabriel had been sleeping. Of course, he had been. He was practically human. Castiel couldn’t figure out how he couldn’t access his grace, it was healing, but Gabriel was seemingly cut off from it. Maybe he was doing it on purpose to lure them into trusting him, maybe he just couldn’t get it up. “Have you been by your hut ye-- oof!” Gabriel’s breath was forced out as Castiel hit him as hard as he could.

“Be quiet.” Castiel’s voice was commanding, yet still a whisper of his former voice had been back home. He had given everything up for Jack: his sweet boy. He was going to find out the truth about Gabriel, the hard way. Castiel dragged Gabriel’s compliant form over to Dean’s horse, tying Gabriel’s hands behind his back and looping another rope around his neck. He knew it was cruel, having done a brief search of Sam’s memories while he slept of just what condition he had found Gabriel in. He just couldn’t marry the cold, cruel creatures of his past with this helpless whisp of a man who had been nothing but kind and scared since he arrived. Gabriel had to be lying. Castiel was going to force the truth out of him or kill him trying. He was not losing another family. It would be good for those monsters to see that they weren’t untouchable. It would be good for them to feel the loss they had dealt Castiel, if they even knew how to feel.

Castiel tossed Gabriel over the horse, his head down on one side, his feet hanging on the other side. He jumped onto the horse next, directing Impala towards the mountain Dean had rescued Castiel from. He planned to leave Gabriel there as a warning for any angels who might try to cross over: burnt archangel wings might send the message that none of the winged dicks were welcome here.

The journey wasn’t long, but Castiel didn’t have much time. Dean and Sam would come as soon as they realized he was gone. He needed to be back at the village before they arrived, before they realized he was behind why Gabriel would be gone by the time they arrived. With supernatural strength, Castiel drove stakes into the ground, tying Gabriel’s wrists to each one, leaving him stretched out and exposed, hanging there as a meal for whatever, wolves, bear, Castiel didn’t care. As long as he was gone for good.

“Castiel.” Gabriel was trying to speak again, fear in his golden eyes. “Plea--” Castiel hit him again, knocking him back out. Drawing his blade, Castiel hesitated before he slashed both of Gabriel’s wrists. He watched the blood dribble down his bare arms, making sure Gabriel was well on his way out before he left the scene, washing in the river, before he went back the village.

 


 

 

It was in the river that he remembered something he had forgotten: a conversation with Kelly the day before she and Jack died.

“I did it. I talked with the archangels and they said everything is fine.”

“You talked to Gabriel, right?”Kelly asked, a worried crease between her eyebrows.

“Why would I talk to him? No, I talked to Lucifer. That’s who you said Jack’s dad was.”

“Yes! But I told you to talk to Gabriel only…” Kelly trailed off. “He said to talk to him only. You should know from my experiences that Lucifer can’t be trusted!”

“Kelly, everything is going to be okay. Lucifer promised me that you and jack will be safe.”

“I hope you’re right.” She had said. Castiel had ended up being so wrong. She died before she could even say ‘I told you so.’

 


 

 

Oh god. It was all his fault Kelly and Jack were dead. He had gotten them both out and then had retrieved their murderer himself, by going to the wrong archangel. He had killed Kelly and Jack by not going to Gabriel. Castiel felt sick. What had he done?! He had to go back and get Gabriel. He was almost at the village, he’d stop and get his healing supplies, and head back. He had to save Gabriel before it was too late, before he killed yet another innocent.

“Castiel!” He heard Dean yelling his name as he entered the village. Shit. He hadn’t been fast enough. Running a hand through his wet hair, he dismounted Dean’s horse and left her tied outside Dean’s hut. He jogged over to where Dean was.

“What?”

“Thank God.” Dean embraced him. “We thought you were dead!” Castiel hid his face into Dean’s shoulder, fighting back emotions that suddenly threatened to shake him. He had fallen, become a monster again, to keep this man and his family safe, but at what cost? He would lose them anyway when they learned what he had done.

“What’s happened?” Castiel croaked.

“The village.” Dean’s voice dropped. “It’s almost all gone. Something big came through, devastated. The shaman is dead, but not before leaving behind a warning: he said something about snow and ice.” Dean held Cas at arm’s length. “Castiel, did Gabriel do this?” Castiel’s breath caught in his throat for two, different reasons. He could blame this all on Gabriel and get away with leaving the archangel for dead, or he could tell the truth and hopefully save his family from a worse nightmare. Ice this late in spring was supernatural. It had to be Lucifer.

“Shit.” Castiel pushed past Dean. “It’s him. It’s Lucifer. It’s the one who tried to kill me.”

“Where’s Gabriel?” Dean called out as Castiel started to run to where he tied the horse. Gabriel had been Kelly and Jack’s only chance, he saw that now. He had misjudged Gabriel, forced him to pay for a sin he had tried to keep from happening. He hadn’t been complicit: he had been trying to stop the whole thing from happening, right under the other threes’ noses. “And there’s someone you should see before you run off again...”

“I tried to kill him.” Castiel confessed. “I’ve got to go back and try to make it right before it’s too late.” Dean ran after him, catching up with him by Impala.

“Let me help. If you left him on the mountain, chances are Sam’s already found him. If this Lucifer is a bad as you say,” there was the doubt Castiel deserved and the trust that he didn’t, “they’re gonna need our help.”

“Castiel! Father!” Cas turned back to see the last person he could imagine hurrying after them. There was— no, there was no way this could be real.

“Jack?” The ñame slipped off his lips anyway. “You’re not real. You’re dead.”

“No, Gabriel brought me back, brought me here. He helped me find you!” Jack’s smile was so wide and so sweet that it brought tears to Castiel’s eyes.

“I saw you die.” Castiel’s gaze flickered back to the mountain where clouds were starting to form. They had time after to sort through what was true and what was not. He had to get to Gabriel and undo his terrible wrong before it was too late.

“Lucifer killed me, but Gabriel brought me back. He got me out and into hiding years ago. Once he found you, just like he said he would, he sent for me and here I am!” Jack glanced around. “Where is he?”

“He’s dying.” Castiel bit his lip. “He’s dying and I have to go save him. This is Dean.” Cas nodded to his lover. “We don’t have much time. Lucifer is coming. We’ll test you, make sure you’re really you once we have Gabriel back, but for now we’ve got to go.”

“You go.” Jack nodded him on. “I’ll protect Dean. I’ve learned to control my powers. Gabriel helped me. If anyone can save him, it’s you.” Castiel choked back a confession right then and there.

“We’ll meet you at the cave.” Dean decided, seeing how Cas was struggling, and rightfully so. “Save Gabriel and we’ll talk.”

Chapter Text

Meanwhile, back on the lower reaches of the mountain, Gabriel was bleeding out, unaware of the warrior who had found him and was frantically trying to save him.

“Gabriel, Gabriel, wake up!” Sam kept talking to him although he knew Gabriel couldn’t hear him. He had to keep talking. If he kept talking, Gabriel might come back. If only Sam had stayed back or just taken Gabriel with him like he had asked…

The air was starting to become unusually cold for this time of year, even this higher up, and Sam started to shiver. He had cut through one of the ropes tied so tightly around Gabriel’s bleeding wrists and was working on the other one while trying to support Gabriel’s limp body. Gabriel was deathly cold, exposed to the elements in nothing but a pair of pants. There were so many parts that needed attending to, and they were all crucial to saving Gabriel’s life. “Gabe, wake up.” Sam couldn’t help but sound sad, feeling as if he was losing something, someone important. He hadn’t even told Gabriel about the stirring of feelings he had started having for him. “Come on. I can’t keep almost losing you— you’re important to me.”

Finally, the other wrist was free. Sam wrapped up Gabriel’s wrists first, setting then in makeshift bandages. He had to stop the bleeding and warm Gabriel back up in the same amount of time and he couldn’t do that out here. He could barely believe his eyes as flurries started to drift down from the gathering snow clouds. He scooped Gabriel up, holding him to his chest once more, and carried him the rest of the way to a nearby cave. It was a cave the village kept stocked, so Sam was able to block part of the entrance, start a fire with dry firewood, and lay out some of the extra blankets that were stashed there. There were stores of food, healing supplies, and a fresh stream further back for water. They could survive the storm comfortably if Sam could nurse Gabriel back to a healthier state.

Laying Gabriel out on a blanket, he set to work on his wrists. It took time they didn’t have, but Sam finally managed to staunch the flow of blood. Then came the other hard part, bringing Gabriel’s body temperature up. He peeled his clothes off before he stripped Gabriel. He covered them with blankets, holding the smaller man close. The warmth between them was cozy, lulling Sam into a more relaxed state, and he found himself wishing that they were cuddled up to each other for better reasons than this. “I’m so sorry shit keeps happening to you, Gabe. I wish I could protect you from all of it, make it all stop happening. You deserve nothing but happiness.”

“S-sam.” Gabriel croaked as he slowly came to. He was dying. He knew that much. His arms ached and burned all at the same time. His head was pounding and he could feel the life ebbing from him with each passing breath. His grace. Gabriel could feel it swirling inside of him, but he had kept it locked away for too long. He didn’t know how to access it anymore. “You keep saving me.”

“You’re going to be okay.”

“No.” Gabriel’s head was heavy and he let it loll back. “I’m dying, Sam, we both know it’s true.”

“Don’t say that.”

“I’m not mad.” Gabriel’s eyelashes fluttered. “You were certainly the better part of my life.” He smiled sweetly, his eyes closing.

“This can’t be the end.” Sam said, his arm coming to wrap around Gabriel, to pull him closer. Gabriel had a faint thought that their penises were touching, and how maybe, he would have liked that to happen under a different context with Sam. “There’s gotta be a way to save you, Gabriel, just tell me what to do. I’ll do anything. How did Dean save Castiel from the blizzard?””

“You don’t know what you’re asking.” Gabriel frowned. “They tied their lives together. They mated.”

“What does that mean?”

“They basically married, but with more serious consequences if one of them cheats or dies. Angels mate for life. They share a life now, forever bound. You don’t want to do that with me.”

“Would it save your life?”

“Sam.” Gabriel sighed wearily. He wanted Sam to stop talking so he could rest.

“Would it save your life, Gabriel?”

“Yes, probably. You’d be sharing your life force with me, in essence, healing me.”

“Then do it.”

“Sam.”
“I don’t want to lose you, Gabriel. When I said I’d do anything I meant it.”

“Okay.” Gabriel was weakening fast, faster than he could keep his resolve. He was too scared to die now. He didn’t want this to be the end already. “Put my hand wherever you want my mark. Put your hand wherever you want your mark.” He leaned into Sam, soaking up as much of his warmth as he could. When Sam was ready, Gabriel whispered the ancient words, calling on the grace that had so long abandoned him.

“Do we have to have sex?” Gabriel managed a laugh, as he kept chanting with what little strength he had left. The ground was spinning, or maybe it was his head. Sam was a quiet, warm strength against him: a faint reminder that this too would pass.

“That’s optional.” He said, feel as if he was crashing into Sam. In a way he was. Gabriel had never mated before, had never been bonded. It was powerful and overwhelming, too overwhelming for his weakened state. Finally, Gabriel reconnected with his grace and he gave himself over to it, blacking out as it took over.

If it was overwhelming for Gabriel, Sam forgot he ever knew how to breathe. His soul felt like it was being ripped from his body, he could see it: all light and ethereal. Golden and blueish grace wrapped all around his soul, merging before his soul came slamming back into his chest. His hazel eyes glowed ever so slightly before they went back to normal. Sam blacked out too, faintly aware of Gabriel’s familiar presence emanating from himself and also next to him. Sam felt safe. He felt like he was home.

“Sam, Sam, Stop.”

“Huh?” Sam came to groggily, feeling as if he had been run over by a herd of wild horses. His bliss had faded to a throbbing that he felt in every part of his body. “What happened?”

“You gave me too much.” Gabriel had his hand on his chest. His eyes were glowing blue and Sam could feel his grace flowing through his body. Sam checked his arms to see they had healed into faint scars. He glanced up and saw six golden wings over them, although they seemed close and far away all at the same time. He reached out to touch the beckoning feathers that trembled under his touch. They seemed to melt, burning into his skin, and so he pulled his hand back, focusing back on Gabriel.

“You’re okay.” He breathed in relief, trying to take in as much as he could.

“You almost weren’t.” Gabriel have him a stern look. “You almost gave me all your life. That’s not how it works.”

“I said I’d do whatever it took.”

“You’re not allowed to die on me.” Gabriel looked petulant. “I just got you. I didn’t know you liked me, you could have told me, it wouldn’t have broken me.”

“You had a lot going on.” Sam tried to sit up but Gabriel pushed him back down. They had come so far yet here they were back at this point.

“Rest.” Gabriel soothed. “I’m not done healing you.”

“Your Grace?”

“Guess I’m an angel again.”

“I like your wings.” Sam’s hand throbbed and he looked down to see the imprint of a feather intricately seared into his palm. “Um, can you heal this too?”

“Sam…” Gabriel tsked. He settled down on Sam’s legs, still naked. He took Sam’s hand and blew on it. “You shouldn’t been able to even touch it.”

“Well I did.” Sam hardened his jaw as the pain slowly subsided.

“I can’t remove the pattern.”

“I didn’t want you to.”

“You’re amazing, Sam, you know that? I was looking for safety and solitude, and then you found me over and over again until I realized where I really needed to be.” The way Gabriel looked at him made Sam feel hopeful that maybe, just maybe his feelings were returned. Gabriel smirked and leaned forward, his lips grazing Sam’s forehead, one cheek and then the next, before he kissed Sam gently on the lips. “They are, Sam, never doubt that. The bond only works if we’re both feeling the same kind of way.”

Chapter Text

Sam and Gabriel spent the day in their makeshift bed, taking time to fully heal as they both had come so very close to death that day. They had no idea what was happening outside of the cave other than it was snowing hard, essentially trapping them in the cave anyway. Sam had never experienced anything, anyone like Gabriel, and the way he healed was no different. Sam would give and Gabe would take, multiply that piece of life and let so much of it flow back into Sam. It was peaceful, but it was also blissful. They both felt high on feeling safe and cared for, things falling where they may.

“You know…” Gabriel started with a hint of his old nerves. Some things didn’t heal in an explosion of soul and grace finding their other match. Some hurts took time. Some memories would have to fade on their own, but maybe, just maybe Gabriel was ready to make at least one new one. “I had this thought when I was dying. I realized our penises were touching.”

“I’m sorry, Gabriel.” Sam said softly, looking ashamed. It had occurred to him too, although much later. “I was so focused on warming you up, I didn’t think of what that might remind you—“

“It didn’t remind me of anything, Sam.” Gabriel cut him off before it could remind him of anything. “It was new, and I had a thought that maybe I’d like to try that with you under different circumstances.”

“Like not dying.”

“Yea.” Gabriel smiled, fingers toying with the fringes of one of the blankets covering him. “Exactly. And I realized that I am currently not dying and still very interested in maybe trying that with you.” He faltered a little at the end, dropping his gaze, his own boldness unnerving him. Keeping his eyes down on the blankets, he scooted over, climbing up in Sam’s lap, blankets still between them. The position was clear, even then.

Sam’s hands were on his bare arms, gentle and guiding, carefully moving him back next to the warrior.

“Look at me, Gabriel.” A large hand cupped his chin, but waited for him to lift his head on his own. “Are you sure it’s not too soon?”

“Maybe you’re right.” Gabriel withdrew. He had wanted that so bad! Sam pinning him down, rubbing up against him, making him feel so safe and so good. He felt frustrated and weepy all at the same time. He had tried but Sam just wasn’t there yet he guessed. He looked over to see Sam giving him an odd look before the warrior moved suddenly and Gabriel yelped, finding himself flat on his back, naked, and under Sam’s weight.

“Is this what you wanted?” Sam asked softly although Gabriel saw now that he wanted this too, was holding back for his friend, for his lover, and how Gabriel wanted to giggle at those words. His face scrunched up and tears threatened to spill if he spoke so he nodded vigorously instead.

“Yes.” He managed to whisper when he realized Sam was waiting for him to verbalize how he felt and didn’t that make him feel twice as safe.

“If you tell me to stop, I will stop.”

“I know.” Gabriel reached his hands up to touch Sam’s cheeks. Sam’s hair was hanging down, his eyes sparkling as he took Gabriel in. “No— I don’t want you inside me.” He said shyly.

“Got it, sweetheart. I’ll take good care of you.” Sam promised. He was so much bigger than Gabriel, so much longer. Gabriel didn’t feel small though, he felt protected. Sam’s body settled against his, so their chests, legs, and groins were pressed against each other’s in a warm line. “There’s no rush.” Sam lowered down on his side, pulling Gabriel flush against him, keeping them joined. “We’ll get to it once you’re comfortable.”

Gabriel leaned up to connect their lips, deepening the kiss.

“I’m comfortable.” He assured Sam, his body arching up against Sam’s heat. “Please, Sam.”

“Okay.” Sam reached over for a vial of healing oil from the stashed supplies. He slicked up his hand before he reached down, his large hand engulfing Gabriel’s cock. “How’s that?” He asked as Gabriel gasped, writhing against him.

“G-good.” Gabriel blinked rapidly, trying to process that Sam didn’t hurt, that Sam’s hands were on him in the best way, that Sam was his. Pleasure sped through his system and Gabriel knew that as blissful as this was, he wouldn’t last long. He had known too much pain for far too long to be able to endure much pleasure. Sam’s lips found his neck and he sighed in contentment. Sam’s smile against his skin was almost as intoxicating as the rhythm of Sam’s hand. When Sam took himself in hand with Gabriel-- it was too much in the best way, Gabriel sighing into Sam’s skin, gripping at his back with his fingers. Sam didn’t mind the scratches, tightening his grip a fraction as he pumped them together. Gabriel came fast and suddenly, pushing himself up against Sam as his body tried to match the rhythm Sam was setting. Pleasure rocketed through their bond and Sam found himself falling over the edge too, remembering in time to brace himself with his free arm so he wouldn’t crush Gabriel.

They lay there, tangled together, panting as the pleasure slowly shifted in a buzzing in their bond: a steady pulse of contentment. Gabriel snapped them clean and Sam rolled onto his back, pulling Gabriel with him, Gabriel who was far too ready to snuggle against his chest, eyelids drooping shut.

Meanwhile, hours later, back in the village, Dean and Jack huddled with the rest of the village as the worst blizzard in the history of their village raged around them. No one had seen Castiel, Sam, or Gabriel, and while Dean was trying to remain optimistic, he couldn’t ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach. Normally he could feel Castiel through their bond, but he hadn’t felt anything other than a flash of pain a few hours ago.

Castiel groggily forced his body up. He had to find Dean. He had to protect Dean. The monster was back-- he was here-- the monster with six wings of silver ice and blue eyes to match the chill that followed him wherever he went. Castiel didn’t know how such a sweet child as his son could come from such a creature. Jack. Jack was back, he had to protect him too before Lucifer got his claws back into him. Castiel stumbled forward, feet sinking down into the drifts of snow. He forced himself onward, drawn to the sound of terrible screams, knowing all too well who was the source of such screams.

Lucifer had found Sam, was tormenting him for the fun of it. Castiel blinked, unable to look away although he wanted to, when he saw Sam suspended in air, his body up in flames. The warrior was screaming in agony as the fire licked at his skin, burning him alive. Castiel tried to hurry over, interrupt somehow, but his limbs felt so heavy. He surged forward, managing to take one more step into the frigidly cold wind that threatened to force him back.

He was crying-- the tears freezing into ice along his cheeks-- as he tried to reach Sam who was still screaming. If he was still screaming, he was still alive, and if he was still alive, Castiel had a chance of saving him.

“Let me.” He turned to see Gabriel standing there. Before he could say anything--and he had a lot he needed to say-- Gabriel launched himself up into the storm. Castiel could only watch in awe as those six, massive golden wings beat through the tempestuous air to reach Sam and Lucifer. Lucifer dropped Sam like a ragdoll, the warrior falling several feet to the snow below. Sam didn’t move, but Castiel did, crawling on his hands and knees, hoping he would reach Sam in time.

The archangels fought viciously, but they were evenly matched.

“What are we going to do now, little brother?” Lucifer grinned, bleeding and leaking grace from various scratches, looking to Gabriel whose wounds matched his own. “Shall we end this the old-fashioned way? To the death?”

“I’ll play the game with you if you leave us all alone, everyone in this village.” Gabriel bargained instead. “If you win, you get my grace.”

“And if you win?”

“I end you once and for all.”

“You don’t even know how to play.” Lucifer scoffed. “Remember what happened last time?”

“Then I guess you have nothing to lose.”

“And you have everything to gain.” Lucifer mused. “I’ll give you the village if I win, but I’ll take your grace and your mate. His screams are delicious.” Lucifer’s grace surged against Sam’s body, forcing its way in, and the mortal let out a weak scream as he was brutally assaulted. “He sounds so pretty, don’t you think?” Gabriel bared his teeth, slamming his grace against Lucifer’s, knowing while it would hurt Sam to so forcibly remove Lucifer, he had to stop what was happening. He knew, he could feel through their bond what Lucifer had just done to his person, knew how terrible of a feeling it was to be ravaged like that. “He sounds like you on that first night with the demon.” Lucifer laughed.

“W-what?” Gabriel stuttered. “Ho-how do you know about that?”

“Who do you think sent him on your path?” Lucifer was all too happy to reveal. “I had to punish your treachery. Did you really think I was fooled by your act? You can have my pathetic offspring, Gabriel, but I will require all of your grace this time. Who knows, maybe I’ll give you to a garrison of Hell this time: you and Sam both. Once they break Sam in for me, I’ll have him all to myself.”

“Like hell.” Gabriel’s wings were all ruffled, giving one agitated flap at once. He crashed into his unsuspecting brother, his blade slipping right between his ribs and into his heart. Gabriel let Lucifer fall, the magnificent morning star plummeting to the earth, crashing into the snow. Six silver wings burned to ash, melting snow, and permanently marking the ground. Lucifer was dead. Gabriel landed, folding his wings in and pulling them from view. He hurried to Sam’s side, falling to his knees next to Castiel.

“I didn’t get here in time.” Castiel was crying still. “I’m so sorry, Gabriel. I’m so sorry for everything.” Gabriel put his hand on Sam’s chest, Sam who was so still, but as his chest rose under Gabriel’s touch, was still alive. Unconscious but alive. Gabriel focused on healing Sam’s injuries inside and out. He couldn’t take away what had just happened, but he could be there in the days to come, fully prepared to take care of his mate for the rest of their lives.

“It’s okay.” Gabriel said, choosing to forgive Castiel. There had been enough hurt and revenge for one day. He was too shaken by his encounter with Lucifer to be mad at Castiel.

“I thought you helped kill Jack-- I didn’t know!”

“I know.” Gabriel gave Castiel a tired smile before he scooped Sam up in his arms, using his supernatural strength. “Let’s just focus on the future, please. I can’t deal with the past anymore.” So many good things and so many terrible things had happened in just a few days. Gabriel might be an archangel, but he still didn’t know how to process everything just yet. “Let’s go home and take care of our family.”

“You’re mated.” Castiel realized.

“And I’ve already let him down far more than I can ever make up.” Castiel stood up, tagging along behind Gabriel, trudging through the snow.

“Learn from me.” Castiel huffed. “Don’t blame yourself for things that are Lucifer’s fault.”

“And don’t blame Gabriel either?” The tired archangel quipped, his tongue peeking out the corner of his mouth.

“That too.” Castiel agreed, nodding his head. “Gabriel, I really am so sorry.”

“Castiel.” Gabriel sighed. “Focus on your mate so I can focus on mine.”

“Sorry.” Castiel pursed his lips, seeking his connection with Dean. “You’re right. I didn’t even think what the storm would do to all of them-- I hope the fishing expedition made it back okay.” He lapsed back into healer mode and Gabriel had to smile until he looked back at Sam. How had he failed Sam so much? Lucifer had come at them so hard and fast, and he had fought, Sam had fought too, and neither of them had come close enough to hard enough. Gabriel had been so rusty that Lucifer had been able to harm Sam, torture him, before Gabriel remembered how to really fight again. “Gabriel, look.” Castiel reached over, shaking him from his thoughts. “Look!”

There, before them, was a warmly dressed group from their village, with horses and carriers, out searching for the lost members of their village, Dean leading the search.

“Cas!” The warrior choked out from astride Impala. Castiel took a quick step forward and stopped, looking back to Gabriel.

“Go.” Gabriel urged him on. “We’ll wait here.” Castiel took off running.

“Dean!” Gabriel laid Sam down on the snow, sitting down next to him, to hold him in his arms.

“Stay with me, Sam. I just got you. I can’t bear to lose you already.”

Chapter Text

Sam was in and out of conscious for the next few days. Castiel and Gabriel tended to him both, coaxing him to drink when he was awake, tucking him back in when he fell back into the nether world. Gabriel stayed up with him, avoiding sleep at all costs in fear that if he fell asleep, Sam would die. It was Gabriel’s grace that had kept Sam here so long while his body struggled to recover and Gabriel had to consider that with everything that had happened, maybe Sam didn’t want to recover.

“Let him go.” Castiel said late one night. “I’ll watch over him, Gabriel, but he wouldn’t want you sacrificing yourself like this. Sam is resilient. If you give him a chance to recover on his own, he will take it.”

“What if he doesn’t?”

“Then let him die with dignity. He’s a warrior, Gabriel, not a child.”

“I just got him.” Gabriel stared at his brand new lover, clutching his hand in his own. “I’m scared, Cas.”

“From what I know of Sam, and I know a lot,” Castiel smiled, “he wants to live. He didn’t fall in love with you just to leave you now. Lucifer is a lot, we both know that, but Sam is strong and loyal. He will do what he can, and if it’s enough, we will have him back soon enough. And if it’s not, we will give him the grandest send off.”

“Okay.” Gabriel sighed. “But I’m spending the night here still.”

“That’s fine.” Castiel gave him an extra blanket. “Hello, Dean.” Gabriel looked to see Sam’s older brother and Castiel’s lover standing in the doorway. “You can come in.”

“So you two, huh?” Dean nodded towards Gabriel, still staring at his brother’s still form. The burns had since been healed, the internal damage repaired, but Sam’s soul, who he was, was struggling to recover.

“Yea.” Gabriel stared mournfully at Sam’s face. He wanted the tall warrior back. Even with everything so new and so uncertain, he missed Sam. Even with his powers back, he didn’t feel safe without Sam. Castiel, Dean, and Jack helped, but they weren’t Sam. The shit wasn’t happening to Gabriel for once and yet he wished it was, if only to keep Sam safe. He’d do anything for Sam. He needed Sam back. He needed Sam to live. Life had just started looking up.

“I hope it all works out.” Dean said kindly. “I’m so glad you killed Lucifer before I could get my hands on him.” Gabriel saw how Dean’s muscles flexed as he clenched his fists.

“It’s a good thing he’s dead before he hurt you too.” He said morosely. Castiel pulled Dean out of the hut, leaving Gabriel to curl up next to Sam, alone with his fears and tears. “Don’t leave me, Sam.” Gabriel whispered as he withdrew the grace keeping Sam alive. Castiel was right. Sam wouldn’t like Gabriel holding on like this. Sam needed a chance to do it on his own, but then he might wake up and not want Gabriel anymore. He’d know how weak and useless Gabriel really as, as if he hadn’t already seen enough reasons to know that was true. Gabriel could have, should have protected Sam and he had failed him. He fell asleep hours later, exhausted and miserable.

“Stop.” Gabriel jumped as Sam’s fingers grasped his elbow. “Stop blaming yourself.”

“I’m so sorry.” Gabriel choked. “I couldn’t stop him.”

“Gabriel, you did stop him. You killed him.”

“Not soon enough.” Gabriel’s breath hitched as Sam pulled him on top of him. He fell forward, catching himself on his hands, belly against Sam’s, legs moved on either side of Sam’s muscled thighs. He was so beautiful.

“You ain’t so bad yourself.” Sam said softly, fingertips dancing over Gabriel’s thighs. Gabriel’s mouth went dry, forgetting to blame himself for a moment. “I like this bond. I know when you’re carrying shit that you shouldn’t be carrying.” He raised his eyebrows. “I’m not mad at you.”

“But--”

“Shhh.” Sam leaned forward and kissed him. It was sweet, it cleared Gabriel’s head. “Wake up, my love. I’m waiting for you.”

Gabriel woke up with a gasp, reaching for a man who wasn’t there. The bed was empty except for him, except for crumpled up blankets pulled up around his shivering shoulders.

“There you are.” Gabriel turned so fast he tumbled out of bed, landing in a pile of limbs, pillows, and blankets. “My hero.” Sam was smiling down at him with a smile so brilliant Gabriel wanted to cry. He hurried to his feet and threw his arms around the tall warrior who laughed in delight, scooping him up with strong arms, picking up to spin him around. Gabriel was laughing and crying, clinging to his love, his mate, his… Sam. “I love you.” Sam said simply, but with so much sincerity it almost hurt. The archangel sobbed, pressing their mouths back to each other.

“I love you. I am so so sorry.”

“Shh, enough of that.” Sam hugged him tightly. “No blaming yourself from something he did.” Sam shuddered. “We’ll figure it all out, but we won’t blame ourselves for Lucifer’s misdeeds.” Gabriel blew out a shaky sigh, resting his chin on Sam’s shoulder. They stood there, Gabriel still in Sam’s arms, nestled together. They were each other’s safe place; they were each other’s. “I heard what he said to you. I’m sorry he betrayed you like that.” Sam said softly, broaching the last topic Gabriel wanted to talk about. It wasn’t enough that Lucifer had assaulted Sam with his grace, but he had revealed that he was the one who ensured Gabriel would be attacked by that demon, that master who had tormented him for so many years. Lucifer had known, he had orchestrated, and he had enjoyed what happened to his brother.

“He didn’t deserve my loyalty.” Gabriel said bravely even though he just wanted to cry remembering it all. “I don’t regret challenging him.” He didn’t miss his old home or his family. They had fought too much, been too cruel for him to miss them. He missed how they used to be and what they might have been. He had a new home now though, a better home. He had Sam, Dean, Castiel, Jack, and a whole village who was his home now.

“And then you challenged him again for me. God, you’re so brave, Gabriel.” Gabriel flinched but held it together.

“I’d die for you.” He said instead.

“And I you.” Sam replied, nose nuzzling into the side of Gabriel’s neck. “But let’s focus on living for a while, okay?”

“Okay.” Gabriel had to laugh, nodding his head in agreement. “Let’s live.”

“I’ll build you the best hut you ever had.”

“I thought-- you’d still build me my own hut?”

“I promised you I would. Besides, Cas showed me some of your drawings. I’ll move in before you know it.”

“Good.” Gabriel kissed him deeply, hands cupping Sam’s face. “I don’t want to live without you.”

By the light of the next full moon, the village had cause for celebration. Sam and Gabriel were wed as were Dean and Castiel, none of them wanting to keep their relationships secret any longer. Sam and Gabriel never kept their relationship secret, and after almost losing Castiel, Dean decided some things should never be hidden. They had all come a long way, and while they still had a ways to go, they were content with where they all were at. Jack now had two fathers and two uncles, an addition they all lovingly embraced.

It was the happiest night of Gabriel's life. He had gone from mighty archangel to pitiful slave to this, this part of himself he never had a chance to experience before. The constantly independent archangel who had been broken to a million pieces was the most whole he had been in his whole life as he forever tied his life to Sam's. Sam was worth giving up his past for. Sam was worth giving up his title for. Gabriel the archangel became Gabriel, Sam's husband, and he wouldn't have it any other way. He wouldn't want to be called by any other name.

And as Gabriel danced around a roaring bonfire with his mate and now husband, he found that he couldn’t stop smiling and laughing, and that was okay. He deserved it.