With everything going on, he’d forgotten.
He’d forgotten that Sam had said to meet in the library at 2:45, because Gabriel had admitted, in a fit of desperation, that he needed to talk about something. Of course, when he said “something” what he really meant was “everything.” And he probably wouldn’t have spoken anyway, just groaned in frustration and complained about the inability to be honest about his experiences.
Sam knocked on his door half an hour after they were suppose to be in the library together. Gabriel was lying on the bed, caught up in the dream he’d had the previous night, unable to shake the images and still feeling every moment. No matter that it had been some twelve hours since he’d woken up, too afraid to even move from the sweat-soaked sheets and trying to ride it out alone.
Stupid nightmares. Stupid fear. Stupid grace that wouldn’t come back.
But when he heard the knock, he lifted his head - and all at once it came back to him. Sam. He was supposed to be meeting with Sam.
Gabriel rolled off the bed, frantic, and wrenched the door open. Sure enough, Sam was waiting for him on the other side.
“I was supposed to find you in the library,” Gabriel croaked, eyes wide. “I’m sorry. I forgot.”
“It’s all good,” Sam replied. “I just wanted to make sure everything was okay.”
He’d forgotten. Sam looked worried, but not angry. That was what he had to keep telling himself.
But he’d been requested to do something, and he hadn’t done it. He had not intended to be defiant. Had not meant to break any rules, disobey any orders.
Yet he’d been told to do it, and he had not done it.
Gabriel stepped back, striving to hold Sam’s gaze. “I’m great. I was just distracted or something, I guess.”
“Well, okay. You still want to say whatever it was you needed me for?”
“I - ” Gabriel didn’t like that Sam sounded, underneath his gentleness, like he could be rebuking Gabriel for wasting his time. “None of it was important. I forgot all about it, didn’t I? So it must have been something stupid.”
Sam looked at him closely. “What’s wrong? What is it?”
Gabriel gave a frustrated sigh and ran a hand through his hair, no longer the mass of grime and blood it had been only a short while ago. Gabriel liked feeling its smoothness between his fingers. “Crap, Sam. I’m really sorry.”
“You all right, man? You look like you need to - here - ” He clasped Gabriel’s arm and helped guide him to the bed, rumpled from where he’d been lying a few moments before.
Sam sat down beside him, still holding on, and Gabriel realized - with a ripple of chagrin - that he was trembling in Sam’s grip.
Sam seemed to notice too, because his face fell. “Gabe?”
Gabriel tugged himself away. “Don’t get worked up over me. Everything’s fine and dandy except for the fact that I’m a jumpy S.O.B.”
Sam hesitated. “I shouldn’t have touched you.”
“You know you’re allowed. Besides, it wasn’t that.”
“Then what? I’m here now; let’s talk about whatever you wanted to talk about.”
Gabriel shifted, afraid of the temptation to hug him, to plead for forgiveness, to apologize over and over again until he received a modicum of mercy. His heart pounded against the knot in his throat.
“I just wanted to talk,” he confessed, avoiding eye contact. “I don’t feel well.”
“Okay. That’s okay.”
“And I told you I’d be there, and I just - I forgot.” He swallowed, trying to force that desperate urge to cry back down. He had no control lately. He tried, and he tried, and nothing would sit still inside of him. Sam never seemed to mind, and Gabriel believed him. But for the sake of his own dignity he desperately needed to relearn what he had once been.
Sam’s brow creased in confusion. “Why are you upset about that? We can still talk.”
“That’s not what - I just …” Gabriel looked up at him. “You’ve been way more patient than anyone should have to be, and then I flake on you - and I think you should be mad. It’s time for you to be mad.” Stupid tears. Stupid tears being stupid. “I’m waiting for you to get mad.”
Sam blinked. “But I’m not mad.”
Gabriel could feel the violent flush of his face as he struggled to hold onto himself. “But you will be. And when you are - when you are - ”
He couldn’t finish. Couldn’t ask.
“What are you worried about?” Sam’s voice was soft. Gabriel knew that he was being careful, keeping his hands away. “Gabriel, I’m not angry with you.”
“I know.” His stomach churned with the effort of trying to hold himself together. “I just don’t want you to be.”
“Okay. But I’m not.”
He didn’t understand. Gabriel was going to have to say it. “You can’t be patient like this forever. You can’t, Sam. You’re not supposed to be like this; no one is. Me, I’m not - what he did to me - I’m not worth your patience. Not after everything he did to me. Don’t you know what I am? I’ve got a solid tablespoon of grace inside me; I’m not an angel, I’m a parasite. All I do is ask for help. You need to stop giving it, because when you get mad - you will, Sam, I promise you will - it’s gonna hurt. It’s gonna really hurt.” He wrapped his arms around his stomach. “And what are you going to do to me? I’m - I’m really sorry I forgot about you. I can’t do the one thing I promised you I would. Not even after everything you’ve given to me. I don’t understand how you can deal with - with everything. I don’t understand how the hell you don't just stop.”
“Gabriel - ”
“And when you finally get sick of me, when I’m too much” - He lowered his head - “What are you going to do to me?”
There was a moment of silence before Sam said, “You think I’m going to hurt you.”
Gabriel was trying to decide whether to just let himself cry or keep swallowing it down until he threw up. “Yeah.”
“I’m not.” His fingers brushed against Gabriel’s shoulder. “Everything’s okay. You know I won’t do anything to you. You know that, Gabriel. Say it. Tell me I’m not going to hurt you.”
Gabriel covered his face with both hands.
“Come on. Gabriel. Hey. Tell me that.”
Gabriel’s only response was a tight sob.
“Look, Gabriel.” Sam sounded desolate. “I’ve got bigger things to worry about than you blowing me off. I know you didn't do it on purpose. There’s a lot going on, okay? I know. We all do. I’m surprised I can remember my own name on a good day. So please, calm down. I’m not mad at you.”
But he was. Gabriel shrunk away from him, pulling his knees up to his chest and clutching at his own hair. He didn’t want to look at Sam’s expression. He didn’t want to take up space. He was ashamed to be seen.
All he ever did was want. Sam was there in the middle of the night after a bad dream. Sam was there every time Gabriel vomited on himself when the flashbacks felt too real. Sam was there whenever Gabriel forgot where he was, found himself back in his cell howling in agony and terror through the stitches across his lips.
“You should’ve come to me sooner,” Sam said softly. “You should’ve come to me to talk. Why didn’t you?”
“Because - ” Gabriel took hard, rasping breaths, clutching his knees. “Because this is never gonna end if I keep coming to you the second I screw myself up.”
“Don’t think about it that way, Gabriel. Please. You just need help, that’s all.”
“And I’ve gotten plenty.”
“But you’re allowed to have more!”
Gabriel ground his teeth. He didn’t know how to make Sam accept that no one should even think to offer kindness to something so disgusting and worthless. After everything - the torture, the abuse, the sickness, the fear, the weakness, the silence, the hunger and thirst and shame - he knew how little he deserved to be treated with anything like gentleness, anything like love.
“Gabriel.” Sam’s voice was warm.
Gabriel looked up at him.
“I know it hurts,” Sam went on, and extended a hand, waiting to see if Gabriel would react badly. When Gabriel only looked at him blankly, Sam rested it on Gabriel’s knee. “It hurts too much.”
Gabriel shut his eyes and swallowed. “He got mad at me. Every time I did something he didn’t like. If I got too loud when he was stealing my grace. If I fainted while he was torturing me. He used to yell at me about how I was an archangel; I should act like one. Before he stitched me up I’d get sick and he made me eat it. He - ”
“Okay - okay. Don’t think about him, all right? He’s not here. No one’s upset with you for forgetting about the library. No one’s going to make you suffer. You don’t deserve it; you have to remind yourself you don’t deserve it.” He paused, and then: “Please don’t be afraid of me.”
“Sam, I don’t care if - ” Gabriel lowered his knees again; but this time, his forehead touched Sam’s fingers. “I’m not worried about anyone else doing anything to me. It’s okay; I know it’s coming, and I know Dean and Castiel have every right to do whatever they want to me. But you - ” Gabriel looked up, eyes swimming with tears. “All you do is care. When you stop, I’m - Sam - it’s going to tear me apart. Maybe I deserve that too, but - but I don’t want it.”
For a moment, it seemed that Sam couldn’t figure out how to respond. He stared at Gabriel, looking unsure and slightly desperate.
Then, quietly: “Can I hug you?”
Gabriel cast him an incredulous look. “Why? Where do you get off on that? Why the hell would you even want to touch me?”
“Does that count as permission?”
Truth be told, Gabriel wasn’t sure. He had the sense that he was poisoning Sam with his own body. He didn’t like the feeling of being present, of scraping his existence over everything good and innocent.
“What are you thinking about?”
Gabriel blinked. “Don’t touch me; I’m gross.”
“Come on, Gabe.”
“No, I am. After everything? Of course I am. What he did to me - it wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t deserve it. I know that; I’m not stupid, Sam. And I don’t give half a crap if you want to deny it for whatever twisted reason going on in your overly moral brain. You’re ridiculous. For your sake, stay away from me. And I’m not saying this just to indulge in self-pity - not like you and your kind, always complaining about the hand you’ve been dealt. This is different. This is fact. I can accept it. And so can you, if you try hard enough.”
“Gabe - ”
“Just shut up, Sam! Shut up!” Gabriel’s tears began to stream freely. He swiped at his face.
Unperturbed, Sam shook his head. “What he did to you will never be okay, Gabriel. Never.” He gave a sad smile. “Who’re you gonna believe, huh? Him? Or me?”
“I trust my instincts. I trust experience. And denial never helped anyone. You can’t - ”
Sam leaned forward and pressed Gabriel against him, holding him in place and surprising him so much that he stopped talking. But Gabriel’s skin prickled with shame, and he wished Sam would let go of him. Couldn’t Sam feel the disease that was the archangel Gabriel? Couldn’t he feel that he’d practically have to scrub it off later?
“Those aren’t instincts,” Sam murmured into his ear. “They’re fantasies. And fantasies start to feel real if you hear them over and over again.”
Gabriel buried his face in Sam’s shoulder. “They’re not fantasies.”
“They’re lies. But I won’t be mad if you don’t believe me. I just want you to try and change your mind.”
Sam didn’t release him, wouldn’t release him, refused to recognize how wrong this was.
But Gabriel didn’t try to pull away, even though he knew he should have.
“You’re being stupid,” said Gabriel.
“You’re being stubborn.”
“I’m the one who’s right; I’m allowed to be stubborn.”
“It’s gonna be okay, Gabriel.” An interesting change of subject. “You’re gonna be okay.”
It became impossible to control himself now, and there was no point in hiding anymore; so he let himself dissolve into a fit of sobbing as Sam clutched him tighter, letting him cry.
“I can help,” Sam whispered. “Let me help.”
Feeling like a fool, wondering if Sam would push him away, Gabriel returned the embrace - tentatively at first, and then with new hunger. He ached for a sense of security, longed to believe that Sam wouldn’t give up on him even when he became too much.
“I’m here, Gabriel,” Sam told him. “I’m here to tell you that he was wrong. I promise he was wrong. Just let me give you what you need.”
Gabriel couldn’t understand the firmness, the unrelenting safety, of Sam’s grip. His chest tightened as he thought about how he would like to be held in that way forever, walled off from the horrors of his own mind.
Letting Sam’s warmth envelop him, he whimpered, “I’m sorry I forgot.”
“It’s okay, Gabriel. We’re both here now. We can talk if you want to talk.”
There was nothing to say, and yet there was everything to say. The important thing was that Sam knew he was unwell and was offering to do what he could in response.
The longer Sam held on, never once making a move to break away, the closer Gabriel came to believing him.
Gabriel closed his eyes, still afraid that Sam would let go.
And for a split second, he had faith that there was no need to worry about that.