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Fire and Rain

Chapter Text

The Beginning

The thing about Humans, is they have no sense of Scale.

Now Gabriel, though, he had all the Scale there was to have. He was as old as Time itself, after all. Well, technically, he was older, as the Creation they currently inhabited had begun after the battle to lock away the Darkness.

So Gabriel knew… a lot. He knew how Everything had begun, he knew how Creation functioned, he knew the patterns of Reality and the ebb and flow of Time.

And he knew all this because Father had given him this Knowledge, for back at the start Father had hid nothing from His four Sons. With the Darkness finally banished, He had been eager to share His Creation with them. So He gave them Revelation, and He gave them free reign, and thus Gabriel came to know all there was to know.

Until the day came that he didn’t know anything anymore.

But before that, eons before that, Gabriel still knew Joy. Truth be told, here at the start, he had never known anything else. The Darkness was defeated and his family was whole; he had Father and he had his three Brothers, and together they watched over the gas and the dust and the ice of Creation, ever vigilant for any sign the Darkness might return to Consume it all.

Not that Gabriel thought She ever would. She couldn’t, for Lucifer held the lock, and Lucifer was the smartest and most beautiful of the four of them, undoubtedly Father’s favorite. But Gabriel did not know jealousy from this. In fact, no one had ever known jealousy. There were only five Beings in Creation, and there had never been a time when Father didn’t Love all four of his Sons. So it meant nothing that Father had a favorite besides that His other Sons admired how Good Lucifer was, and they strived to be even half as Good as he.

After many eons with no hint of the Darkness, they began to relax. Gabriel and his Brothers took to playing in the Creation they inhabited, going their separate ways for a time to test their limits and enjoy themselves in their own unique ways. But always they would return to each other, and they would Harmonize and Sing together in their Joy. And Father would be happy. And it was Good.

Then Father began work on a new project. A special project. A solar system, different from the others. It had rocks and gas and ice like any other, and soon enough it had a star and a few planets. But there was one planet in this system… One very… different planet.

When questioned, Father had said that this planet had to be Perfect, but after that He revealed no more.

His Sons watched in fascination as the little planet formed. Later, this period would be measured in billions of years, but such units would have meant nothing to Gabriel at this time. He simply watched as rocks coalesced and ice fell to the surface to form pools, and the entire mixture began to cool, still molten and churning, but the water no longer boiled.

Then Father gathered His Sons close to Him, and He threw down a bolt of lightning, and in one of those hot, simmering pools, something Was.

Compared to the planet it sat upon, it was tiny, but to Gabriel, a being who knew the universe by motes of dust and wisps of gas, it was huge. It was a supremely complex thing, a layered bubble filled with so many bits and parts. And Gabriel watched it with delight, utterly fascinated by this new thing...

But then he was horrified, because like the Darkness this thing Consumed. He and his Brothers recoiled from the Thing, ready to strike it down, but Father was quick to soothe their fear, and encouraged them to watch further.

And thus, Gabriel saw. Though the Thing Consumed, it did not Destroy. Instead, it merely Changed. It Changed, and it Built, and it Grew, and it—

It Created.

Gabriel and his Brothers couldn’t believe what they saw. Where there was only one, now there were two! But Father had not made the second, the first had made the second! But which was which? And how could this Be?

Gabriel and his Brothers turned to their Father in astonishment, seeking His explanation.

But He merely encircled His Sons, and warmed them in His Glory. “This is Life,” He told them, “this is the Beginning.”

From there Father created many more things, all centered on this planet that He called the Earth. He created Realms, Heaven and Hell, meant to serve Life in the future, and He created Beings, Leviathan and Hounds, meant to protect It. But the Beings were deemed too powerful, too wild, and too dangerous, and so were destroyed or locked away, never to darken the Earth again.

But then Father created what would become Gabriel’s favorite thing so far— Father created the Angels.

They were unlike any of Father’s other Creations. They were given Revelation just as Gabriel and his Brothers were so long ago, but there were so many different kinds, each with strengths and shortcomings of their own. They were Linked to Father as his Sons were, but the Angels were also Beings of the Earth, meant to walk upon its surface. They were so similar to Gabriel and his Brothers— he saw in them the strength that he saw in Michael, the intelligence he saw in Lucifer, the compassion he saw in Raphael, and also something else, something he couldn’t quite identify. The Angels were so similar to them, and yet, they were completely different.

“These are your little brothers and sisters,” Father had told His Sons, “they are here to protect the Earth, to protect Life, and to run the inner workings of my Creations. You are to protect them, as you already protect my Creation.”

“Sisters?” Lucifer had questioned.

“Yes, sisters, like my own,” Father had answered. “You will Love these sisters as I could not Love mine.”

Lucifer had looked then to the Mark that he bore.

None of them had thought anything of it.

And so Time went on, and Gabriel and his Brothers and the Angels eagerly watched the little planet grow. They watched as the Earth continued to change before them, and they watched as Life changed with it, each provoking the other in new and fascinating ways. As one became more complex, so did the other, and eventually each was filled with a vast array of types and forms.

Then came the day that Father called upon Gabriel. He had News to spread amongst the Host.

“Something new is coming,” He had said, and He had told Gabriel of His Plans. Gabriel quickly went to the Earth to seek out each of his scattered brothers and sisters, eager to spread this wonderful News.

He came upon one of his favorite little brothers near the shore of an ocean, and just as with the others Gabriel stopped to tell him, too. But just then, a very special little fish climbed from the water, right there in front of them, and Gabriel could hardly contain his excitement.

“Don’t step on that fish, Castiel!” he had exclaimed, “Big plans for that fish!”

And so the Host continued to watch as with gentle pokes and prods, Father developed His most impressive Creation yet— Father created Humanity.

Unlike His other Creations, there was no moment when Humanity Was. It came slowly, each Being more Human than the last, until finally came the day when Father decided they were ready.

He picked two of them then, and He took them to a place He called Eden. It was a place He had asked the angel Joshua to cultivate for Him, a perfect place, lush and bountiful, an eternal home to preserve the perfection of Father’s new favorite Creation. All of the Angels gathered there, and they marveled at what Father had made.

And Father had called upon Gabriel again.

“I have a very important task for you, Gabriel,” Father had said, “Now that there are Humans, there must be some new Rules.”

And so Father handed down to Gabriel a set of Rules: The Angels were to bow to Humanity and serve them always. They were to Love Humanity, even more than they Loved Father Himself. They were to protect the humans and ensure their lives were good. And then when the humans died, a piece of each one was to be brought to the Realm called Heaven, where the humans would enjoy further bliss, forevermore.

The Angels readily received these instructions from Father, as they always had, and prepared to begin the duties they had been waiting to fulfill since their creation.

But one Being was not so eager.

“I will not take this Oath!” Lucifer had shouted then, “I will not bow to these lesser things!”

And with that simple declaration, Gabriel’s world began to fall apart.

Lucifer couldn’t be reasoned with. Something ugly had settled in his core, and none of them knew from whence it came. Not even Raphael could heal this wound now marring his beautiful form. They tried and they tried, but Lucifer quickly grew angry at his brothers’ prodding, and he left them then.

No one knew where he had gone until Father’s Fury burned across their Link.

When Father found what Lucifer had done to his favorite creations, all of the Host felt His Pain, all of the Host felt His Sadness—

All of the Host felt His Wrath.

The two favorites were cast back to Earth amidst quakes and fires, amidst smoke and ice and darkness. Gadreel, the angel tasked with guarding Eden, was punished harshly for his failure. But he was not the only one.

In His Anger, Father locked all of His children away from the Earth, away from his once favorite creations. He shunted almost all of Gabriel’s little brothers and sisters into the Realm of Heaven, binding them intrinsically to it so that this Realm, so important for keeping the Order on Earth, could no longer function without them.

And Gabriel’s little brothers and sisters had wept, for they were Beings of the Earth, but no longer would they be allowed to walk it freely; now and forever they would be linked, instead, to Heaven. The Seraphs surely wept the loudest, for their only duty was to protect the Earth and the Humans, to ward them from any threat, and now they were forced to watch it from afar, unable to meaningfully intervene at all.

Some angels had done their best to wall off this pain. Gabriel had watched as they had hardened themselves to the Earth, as they told themselves that it wasn’t worth their sorrow, and tried their best to abide by Father’s Will and make due with their new home in Heaven. And now Gabriel wept as well, for surely the worst among them was his Brother, Michael.

But some couldn’t cope. They were angered by what they saw as a betrayal by Father, and they joined with Lucifer, and they took up arms against Him.

And so the fighting had begun. And Gabriel had begged. He had begged with Father, he had begged with Lucifer, he had even begged with Raphael and Michael. He begged with them all for the fighting to stop, for them to return to the Joy and Harmony of before. But Gabriel couldn’t stop them. No one would stop. No one would listen to the Messenger now.

So amongst the fighting and the carnage, Gabriel had left. And when he learned of the result of the War, when Michael had broadcast to all the Host that Father had ordered Lucifer cast down into Hell, Gabriel had wept, and Gabriel had Known. His time of Joy was over. His family was gone.

He could never return.

 

———

 

“Just yesterday morning, they let me know you were gone,
Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you,
I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song,
I just can't remember who to send it to,

I've seen fire and I've seen rain,
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end,
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend,
But I always thought that I'd see you again,”

Chapter Text

The Middle

Gabriel found solace in the last place he had been truly happy.

He could no longer manifest on Earth, but he could exist on its margin, and he could pretend. He could pretend that he was still waiting for that News from Father. He could pretend that he was just flitting about the Earth as he used to throughout Creation. He could pretend that he would soon rejoin his Brothers in Harmony and Sing with them once more. He could pretend that Father might change his mind, might take all of it back, might fix what Lucifer had done, might bring back his little brothers and sisters who had died in the War—

He could pretend that he hadn’t heard Father’s latest announcement, delivered through Michael in Gabriel's absence.

It was a decree of the End, a Plan that the Angel's were to follow over the next thousands of years.

Then Father had left.

Gabriel had known exactly when it happened, for something fundamental shifted in the Link.

Michael tried to assure their little brothers and sisters that all was fine, that even though they couldn’t feel Father anymore, nothing had changed. Father had never appeared to the Angels before, he’d said to them, so surely this was no different.

Gabriel had cut his Link then. He couldn’t listen to their wails.

 

*

 

For eons, Gabriel was alone.

There was a long period where he stuck to the harshest wildernesses— the mountains, the deserts, the poles— and there in his solitude he continued to watch Father’s Creation. He observed with eternal fascination, seeking out every new variety of Life that arose and admiring the niche each one eked out for itself in the ever-diversifying web of the world.

And it was… good. It was fine.

Gabriel simply coasted from place to place, never staying for long, always on the move.

But then came the day that he ran into his first Human community.

It had perplexed him, seeing Father's former favorites so far from their home a continent away. He was currently in a place that would someday be called Siberia, a place he had thought remote enough to hide in should his brothers and sisters have searched for him. But here the Humans were, in this unforgiving place, and Gabriel saw— though he hardly believed—  that they were surviving here, thriving even, despite the challenge.

In fact, they seemed... happy.

But if Humans were here, then his little brothers and sisters shouldn't be far behind. Now that the War was over and the Plan for the End was begun, surely the Angels would be carefully watching Humanity once again. So Gabriel left that community far behind him, not wanting to take the chance that he might be found.

 

*

 

Gabriel was not fast to realize he was mistaken.

It had taken a few hundred years to realize there were no Angels protecting the Humans. He had wondered if this was still Father’s Will, to fully abandon the Humans to their own devices, or if the Angels had decided this for themselves.

He wouldn’t find that answer for a very long time.

Whatever the case may be, this new realization had given Gabriel an idea: that perhaps it might be best if he hid himself amongst the Humans.

There had been a time that such a thing would have been easy, but with the constraints now placed upon him while on Earth, Gabriel knew he would need a disguise, a container to restrain his true form. So he decided to call in a favor.

As it turned out, that initial spark of Creation that Gabriel had seen in Life so long ago had stuck around. Humanity had apparently carried it on, and in the absence of Father and the Angels, it seemed the Humans had filled the void themselves. They had Created all manner of deities to worship, Beings that knew them and understood them, helped them and punished them, nurtured and protected them. Though Gabriel did have to admit that the Humans seemed to be a bit heavy-handed on the wrath and the blood, at least when they told their own stories about these other gods.

But goodness, were those stories good. Each group of gods seemed to have a whole epic of their own: how the world had started, how it was going to end, and all the rest of it, too. To be honest, it was almost enough to give Gabriel a crisis, but he Knew how this world had started, and he Knew how it was going to end, and all the rest of it, too, so he simply enjoyed these stories for what they were. Just stories.

During his wanderings he had encountered these gods many times, for it seemed they enjoyed the wilderness as much as he, and it was in one of these run-ins that Gabriel had come across a god by the name of Loki, and had rescued him from a terrible fate imposed upon him by his father. So when Gabriel called upon Loki now, the appreciative god happily gave him a face and a new role to take on, all for the low price of a debt cleared and to continue to stay out of Heaven’s business, a price Gabriel readily paid. It wasn't as though he could do anything to change the course Father had set them on anyway.

Thus Gabriel assumed his new life, and quietly slipped himself into Humanity’s world.

 

*

 

Gabriel fell in Love slowly.

Right away he could see what what Father had always intended. The Humans were brave, they were kind, and they were so damned clever. But there was also something else that drew Gabriel to them, something that had eluded description when he had seen it in his little brothers and sisters before:

The Humans were curious.

Everything was a wonder to them. From the smallest pebbles to the largest trees to the vast expanse of the sky above, they wanted to know everything they could about Father's Creation. And Gabriel adored them for it.

But for all the traits Gabriel saw in both them and the Angels, there always was something… more to the Humans.

Coupled with that cleverness, their curiosity pushed them to learn and experiment. When paired with that bravery they were driven to explore. When matched with that kindness they invented and they improved. Everywhere that Gabriel went, the Humans developed and adapted and grew. He wandered for millennia, and everywhere he went he saw the infinite ingenuity of these Beings. From the largest cities to the coziest tents, they were all amazing, and in so many different ways.

But what sealed the deal for Gabriel, what finally pushed him over that edge, had to be their capacity for Love.

It took a long time for Gabriel to parse out all the different forms Human Love could take, but eventually he learned about them all, and even felt many of them for himself. Not every single one, but then, not every human felt every single one, either, so Gabriel’s own experience with it didn’t worry him at all. He just took all the Love he received and gave it back just as strongly.

Of course, though, things couldn’t always be wonderful. Over the ages Humanity broke Gabriel’s heart more times than he could count, but time and again he went back. Damn it if he didn’t always go back. Because there was always so much more Good to them than there was Bad.

But there was Bad. There were some humans who just didn’t get it— the ones who had apparently heard more than their fair share of Lucifer's whispers. Those were the ones that hurt Gabriel the most, so those were the ones he chose to focus his energies on, using the tricks he had learned from Lucifer in the vast expanses of Father’s Creation so long ago, in order to teach them a thing or two. Gabriel took those tricks now and he used them against the Evil his brother had released upon the world. It seemed only fitting to Gabriel.

Soon enough, an expansive lore about Tricksters began to take root in his wake, but Gabriel didn’t mind one bit. He was supposed to be posing as a god, after all.

 

*

 

Gabriel managed to find that coasting feeling again.

He wandered from settlement to settlement, doing as he pleased, enjoying to the fullest everything that Life had to offer.

Food was absolutely amazing. The humans really had a knack for combining pieces of plants and animals into some crazy concoctions. He loved all of it, but, if pressed, he would have to admit that he did have a special fondness for sweets.

Alcohol was almost as good as food, but he soon found that he had the tolerance of a… well… not of a human, and it was taxing on his hosts to try to overcome it, so he didn’t partake all that often, and when he did, he used his own power to provide for himself.

Music was utterly fascinating. At first, he didn’t understand it. The Humans called these noises ‘singing,’ but they didn’t Sing like Angels. Their songs had words, but sometimes they didn’t, and then sometimes there were no voices at all. Gabriel listened, and he listened, and he went to another community, and he listened to them. He listened to untold numbers of performances, until finally it started to click. The Humans were using their music to speak in ways that simple speech could not convey alone, to speak of things they felt but couldn’t understand. And Gabriel realized this pleasure was simply another way in which the Humans were so similar to himself and the Angels.

There was one pleasure, though, that gave him pause.

The first time he lay with a human, he expected to be smited on the spot. There had been a Rule against getting too close to the Humans, after all. Over the ages Gabriel had heard of a few incidents— of Angels that had gone rogue as he had, who had lain with humans and even begotten children with them— gossip that had made its way to him through Human channels, screams had that pushed their way through his shuttered Link.

But no great storm appeared on Gabriel’s horizon, no earthquake shook the ground, no power Descended from On High to put him Back in His Place.

In fact, nothing happened to him at all.

So Gabriel did it again. And again. And again— And damn it if he never stopped.

Gabriel reveled in everything this planet had to offer. He caroused with humans and gods alike, lived adventures that would be told for ages, and then moved on to do it all over again. There was no gratification he didn’t delve into, no corner of the Earth that went unexplored, no culture he didn’t meet. And in all that time, no pleasure ever truly rose above the others, no place became most dear to his heart, no human stood out as more special than the the rest. It was all equally wonderful, equally delightful, equally lovely—

That is,

Until Gabriel got to know Sam Winchester.

 

*

 

Gabriel had gotten sloppy. He’d left too many loose ends and attracted himself a couple of hunters.

Now of course, this wasn't even close to his first rodeo with hunters. No, this here was a tale as old as time: the “Mighty Heroes” striding out to eliminate the “Troublesome Trickster” that had settled in their neck of the woods. Bunch of numbskulls. It's like they willfully ignored how their lives were improved once the “just desserts” were doled out and that Trickster “inexplicably” moved on.

So Gabriel just suited up and settled in to wait them out. This was all par for the course, after all, nothing to see here, just another round of cat and mouse—

Unless of course, those mice happened to be the two boys destined to fight the Apocalypse.

He dismissed Dean immediately, the conceited blockhead. High and mighty, too. Guy was obviously a total bozo.

But then there was Sam.

Here was this boy, his path already laid out before him, body marred and soul scarred, with demon’s blood and wounds both deep and dark, and yet still he shined, strong and bright. Gabriel’s millennia of experience with humans said that Sam should have been bitter by now; upset, disillusioned, even just plain angry. But he wasn’t. He was everything Good Gabriel had always seen from Humanity, and more.

At this early juncture in the game, Gabriel had told himself that the only way Sam could still be so bright was because he didn't know what was coming. Surely realizing what Dad really had in store for him would finally sour his heart.

So for now, Gabriel kept his mouth shut and just played along, not wanting to be the Serpent to spoil this Adam. Well, actually, Adam’s skin had been much darker than Sam’s. Although their hair was equally impressive...

Huh. So if Sam was Adam… did that make Dean Eve?

Gabriel just chuckled to himself and put such thoughts from his mind. He wrapped up his little song and dance with the boys and happily let them “stake” him so they’d back off and continue on their merry way.

Once they were gone, he cut the cord on his gig at the university and headed off for one last trip across the world. If the boys were already running around on their own, that meant the End was due, and Gabriel wanted to enjoy all he could in what little time there was left.

 

*

 

Gabriel began to worry.

He shouldn't have. It wasn't his business. He should have just ignored the whole thing. Should have said nothing at all and continued on his Fabulous Farewell Tour ‘til the roof caved in. But it nagged at him, tugged at him, grated on his delicate sensibilities worse than a three-dollar thong.

Because nearly a year had passed but still, still, no one had told the Winchesters.

It was almost time for good ol’ Dean-bean to take the world’s hottest plunge and yet no one was preparing Sam— them— both of them— for what was about to come. No one was putting them through their paces, no one was cluing them in, no one was giving them the necessary Perspective into the nature of their Roles in this whole Cosmic Shebang. No, apparently his brothers and sisters were just perfectly content to screw the pooch on this one, because if any of them had spent any amount of time down here with the Humans, they would have easily seen that you couldn’t just throw this kinda stuff at them. Humans weren’t Angels, they didn’t take unexpected orders well. Conditioned orders, sure, all day long and tomorrow, too, but surprise was not your friend when trying to get Humans to do what you want ‘em to do.

But the weeks were slipping by, and it seemed nobody upstairs was going to get that, so it looked like Gabriel was going to have to take matters into his own hands.

Discreetly, of course. He had a deal to uphold, after all.

So he laid some bait, and waited for the boys to come to him.

It would be a lie to say it wasn’t fun to “kill” Dean over and over again. He was never in any actual danger, of course— how pissed would Michael be to finally find Gabriel only because he'd gone and killed his Vessel? No, no, that would only derail the Story way worse than it already was, so Gabriel took his time, really savoring wiping that smug grin off of Dean’s face in the most hilarious ways, sending his sad little soul back into his sad little body again and again and again...

But even after a few (hundred) runs through the time loop he’d stuck them in, Sam still wasn’t getting the message. So Gabriel gave him one last bump, stuffed Dean into his pocket for safekeeping, and gave Sam some time to cool off.

Watching Sam over the next few months, though, Gabriel had to concede that maybe he'd gone a just a little bit too far. Sam was strong... but he wasn’t invincible.

So Gabriel relented. He brought Sam back to the Mystery Spot, gave his Lesson to him straight, and let him have his brother back. Then he backed off again.

He could only hope he'd done enough.

 

*

 

Gabriel hadn't done enough.

Holy tarts, the Angels were crap at this. His brothers and sisters had bungled this job so bad that the boys were now actively rejecting their roles as the True Vessels. So once again, Gabriel found himself having to step in. Still on the sly, of course.

As always, the boys were easy to lure. All he needed was another case of “just desserts” and a fake police report and like moths to a flame they came right to him for some overdue acting lessons. Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.

But Oh. Great. Castiel was here, too. Right on cue to barge in and cause trouble. You’d think the kid would get tired of rebelling against Dad one of these eons.

Gabriel easily shunted his little brother aside so he could get on with his lesson, but the ages away had allowed him to forget that Cassy had always been one tough cookie. By the time Gabriel caught up with him after he'd broken free, Castiel had found the boys and shaken them up, and now they were getting a lit-tle too smarmy for his tastes.

The fear in Dean's eyes when Gabriel pinned him to the wall was far too easy to enjoy.

Lesson back on track, Gabriel threw them in for another few rounds. The boys were starting to get it, but they were probably going to need a few more weeks of this before the message really sunk—

Damn it.

Dean figured it out.

As he stood in a burning circle of Holy Oil, Gabriel couldn’t help but wonder if maybe Dad had gotten the Vessel assignments mixed up. Because sure, you had the loyal older brother and the rebellious younger brother, but that was just the surface level. It only took a second of looking to see that Dean acted way more like Lucifer than he ever did Michael: Too smart for his own good, shoving his opinion where it wasn’t wanted, completely full of himself, responsible for releasing unfettered Evil upon the world— it was more blatant than a bad Christmas special.

And Sam… how could Dad have ever lined him up to be Lucifer’s meat suit when it was clearly Michael that Sam took after? Because even though Sam now knew what was coming in the Apocalypse, even after the past three years had left even worse wounds on his soul, Sam still stood. Sam still fought. Sam still faced down a Being like Gabriel when most would have fled in fear or fallen to their knees at the mere mention of his real name.

Maybe that was why Gabriel was spilling his guts all over this dirty warehouse floor. Maybe seeing such vivid phantoms of his Brothers was just too much to deal with after all this time.

And maybe that was why, after their little heart-to-heart, as the sprinklers quelled the holy flames and the boys walked out the door, Gabriel opened his Link for the first time in eons to address the brother who was actually there.

Cas turned back when Gabriel reached out, his eyes unexpectedly hard and cold.

Castiel, you… won’t tell the others you found me, right?

I’m not telling our brothers and sisters much of anything these days.

Thank you, Cassy.

Cas narrowed his eyes. It is not a favor.

And he had left. And the flames had died. And Gabriel had found himself alone once more.

 

*

 

His Brothers. Were. Idiots.

Was nobody even watching these two? Sure the boys were warded, but was it really that hard to follow a couple of guys that can’t even fly? They’d just waltzed right in to a cesspool of gods and nobody had even tried to stop them! Good thing Kali had called "Loki" in for this two-bit circus or who knew how bad this could have gotten.

Now Gabriel just had to keep this room full of petty, hair-trigger gods from getting themselves slaughtered while also somehow keeping the Winchesters alive to make his life overly-complicated some other day.

Whee.

Honestly, though, it should have been easy. He’d pulled way crazier crap than this over the ages. But no-o-o. Dean had to play the big hero and save the poor schmucks that’d been grabbed for dinner. And Sam wasn’t exactly leaping in to stop him. Bleeding-heart idiots... Fine, they'd do it their way, if only to get them to get a move on already.

-

Aaand would you look at that, the plan failed miserably. As if we all didn’t see that coming.

Though Gabriel had to admit, he’d definitely underestimated Kali.

There had been a time when he might have done anything for her, a time when he’d have lit up whole villages of villains just to see her burn bright. But apparently that time was over, so, fine. Kali wanted to stab him in the heart, fine, he’d leave her and the gods to their fate and just get the Vessels out.

When was the last time anyone had actually listened to the Messenger anyway?

But then. Again. Dean. Freaking Dean wouldn’t just get with the freaking plan! Get the blood, get out, get the Apocalypse back on track, was this really so hard? But no, Dean thought better. Dean thought it best to sit in his ridiculous monster of a car and give Gabriel some soap-box speech about family and pretending and—

You know what, screw it. Sam and Dean wanted to get themselves torn to pieces by gods, fine! They weren’t supposed to be his problem anyway. Gabriel only needed the blood taken care of, so he just had to sneak back in and—

Dad damn it, now Lucifer was here.

Of course it was Lucifer who had come. Of course it was Lucifer who had to show up and ruin everything. Again. Seriously, out of all the available options, which insane little pagan had gone and called in Lucifer? Crepes on a cracker these guys were so unbelievably—

Dead.

They were all dead.

Strewn across the floor, mashed to a pulp, Gabriel was confronted with the remains of those he had called friends, called lovers, called brothers—

He rushed back to the ballroom. Damn it, he had told them! He had told them that they couldn’t face his Brothers! Alright. Maybe he could still pull this around, maybe he could still keep a few of them safe from—

Only Kali was left.

Some distant part of Gabriel, the part desperately clinging to his fading sanity, wondered what kind of irony this would be, that the goddess of Destruction might be the only one to escape this mess unscathed.

He pulled himself together just long enough to form a plan. Lucky for Kali and the boys, Gabriel knew his Brother well. He diverted Lucifer's attention with a half-assed speech that was guaranteed to rile him— some baloney about being on Humanity’s side for this Apocalypse— and gave the boys enough time to get themselves and Kali out of the building. Of course it worked perfectly, and Lucifer spent enough time poking holes in a couple of Gabriel's copies that Gabriel could flit away up to Kali's room and finally destroy that blood.

He returned in time to watch, though, to see that Lucifer really would have killed him then. And it crushed Gabriel, to see firsthand just how far his Brother had truly Fallen.

He left the hotel in a hurry, not wanting to give Lucifer the chance to notice he’d been tricked, and only once he was far, far away was he able to relax. Because now finally, he could leave this whole Apocalypse mess behind him.

Well. Mostly. There was the small matter of Gabriel having just given the boys the means to send Lucifer back to the Cage.

Alright so sue him, maybe some of that crap Dean had been spouting had gotten under his skin. Never stood up to his family— Dean didn’t know a damned thing about his family—!

Gabriel stopped himself. That was the past. And this would be, too. But at least now Humanity had a tiny shot at pushing back the clock that would strike the End. Sam would probably figure it out. Kid always was a bright one.

In the meantime, Gabriel’s cover was currently blown twelve ways to Sunday and he needed to get himself deep, deep underground again.

So he went off in search of an old friend.

 

*

 

Gabriel probably should have anticipated that his “old friend” would be at least a little bit upset that the vast majority of his family had just been slaughtered by his Brother’s hand.

The binding sigil had been a surprise, the enchanted rope less so. It was all over in a matter of minutes, ending with Gabriel trussed up on the floor like a Thanksgiving ham after a particularly raucous holiday argument. Then a white set of shoes had entered the room and… and after that…

Well, Gabriel wished he couldn’t remember.

 

*

 

There was no coasting in Hell.

There were no days to pass the time. There was no time to pass the time. There was only pain. There was only theft. There was only regret.

There was only Gabriel. There was only him and these blank brick walls.

He counted them once, the bricks. Then he counted them again. Then again. And again. And again... Eventually, he started counting the times he’d counted. And then he counted the number of times he’d counted the number of times he’d counted.

He didn’t count how many times that demon came to the cell he was in.

There were times Gabriel would wonder if the Apocalypse had come after all. If the boys had failed and he’d just missed the cataclysm part and this was what Dad had in mind for his afterlife.

He had to admit, it was fitting. Gabriel had left, so now he couldn’t. Simple, straightforward poeticism. Not the most creative Dad had ever been, but subtlety had never exactly been his style. Why should anything have been different now.

 

*

 

Sometimes, when Gabriel could still string full thoughts together, he would wonder if Lucifer had made this particular demon himself. He would wonder if his Brother had personally created each of these abominations, or if maybe Dad had.

Sometimes, when he couldn’t pull his thoughts together, he would wonder whether Dad and Lucifer weren’t just the same thing, the same monster that haunted the hallucinations he was forced to see for that demon’s amusement, delivered unto him by his own stolen grace.

Sometimes, Gabriel couldn’t string anything together.

Sometimes, there was only brick.

 

*

 

In the years to come, when others would ask, Gabriel would lie, and he would say that the day the door to the cell he was in opened for the last time was the greatest of his life.

But in truth, he couldn’t even remember most of it. And what he could recall...

He remembered that there had been shouting. So much shouting. And Gabriel knew what came after that, what always came after hearing the distant shouts of demons being punished. After them, always came him.

Always.

So he had retreated into himself, pulled back into a safe place where he could wait and simply react, could give the responses that demon wanted before it would finally, blessedly, leave him alone. Gabriel knew from plenty of experience, there was nothing else he could do.

As expected, something had darkened the door, this particular vision brandishing a gun. Then there was clanging, loud, and so obviously meant to frighten him. But then it stopped. Gabriel registered that the demons were still shouting down the hall, but the cage he was in was quiet, save for slow footsteps.

Cautious footsteps.

And then… In front of him… For a moment, Gabriel wondered if he’d finally cracked. He had to be imagining this... this human... this living human... that had just run up to the bars and ripped the lock from the door. But then then the human came closer, he came closer... and the voice was right, the size was certainly right... He gently brought Gabriel to his feet, spoke so soft and low, and Gabriel thought that maybe… just maybe...

Then he remembered where he was. This was another trick. This was another test from that demon and he had failed. Any second he would be punished for that shining moment of hope that he’d so stupidly allowed himself to—

Wait.

No...

This wasn’t a trick.

All that demon’s tricks always had one glaring flaw: They’d always been right on the outside, but never on the inside. And that light, that soul, burning as brightly as the day Gabriel first met him…

That was Sam. That could only be Sam.

From there, things were hazy again. Gabriel remembered running. Shouting. Some time spent in another cell. He remembered feeling so confused, because cutting through that never-ending alarm in his mind from the demons around them was another presence, an angelic presence...

And then the next thing he knew, he was face to face with his little brother.

As if one earth-shattering reunion wasn’t enough for one day, suddenly Gabriel was witnessing the death of another member of his family, one of his favorite little brothers who, last time he’d seen him, he’d thought of as nothing more than a pest messing up his little game with the Winchesters. His last words to him, to the brother he hadn’t seen for eons before that, had been to ask him to keep his secret, to not tell the rest of the family where he was, and now he’d never get any new ones. Because Gabriel couldn’t do anything to stop this. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t shout. He wasn’t allowed to. He shouldn’t have even been out of the cell in the first place, because this was another test, this was another test and he had failed. He had failed so many tests and now he was being punished, being shown his little brother ripping himself to pieces and this had to be a trick, that demon had learned how to show him souls and show him grace and this was the worst trick he’d ever known

Then it stopped.

Everything stopped.

People were talking around him but all Gabriel saw was Castiel. Still there. Still in one piece. Now being held by the other Winchester.

But before Gabriel could process any of it, he was whisked away to a building. A building somewhere underground. A building filled to the brim with all sorts of magic.

He wasn’t sure where he was, but he knew it was big, and that it wasn’t that old, and that it contained a hallway filled with more cells. But it also had a library. And it had big, soft, comfy chairs... And it had Sam, sitting in front of him... speaking softly... moving calmly… It had Sam, cracking some stupid joke, and Gabriel remembered that he had smiled for the first time in… a very long time.

He remembered that the stitches hurt coming out. Nothing compared to the pain he’d known, but still, he felt it.

Then in a blink they were gone. And he had opened his mouth. And he had pulled a deep, shuddering breath into his body’s lungs.

And for just a moment... for just one moment... it was okay...

He was okay.

He had tried to show his gratitude. He had tried to speak his gratitude, but he just— he just—

“Hey, that's alright,” Sam had said with a small, kind smile. “Just take your time, it's alright if you can't yet, okay?”

It’s alright if you can’t

If you can’t

You can’t

Something hot and stinging surged in Gabriel, and his hand shot out to grab Sam’s arm.

He ignored the surprise on Sam’s face, thanked him for his help, and demanded he be taken to his little brother.

 

———

 

“Won't you look down upon me, Jesus, you've got to help me make a stand,
You've just got to see me through another day,
My body's aching and my time is at hand,
And I won't make it any other way,

Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain,
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end,
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend,
But I always thought that I'd see you again,”

Chapter Text

Not the End

 

Jan 29th, the morning after returning from Hell and Dean's departure

 

“Oi, there, pint-size, make way.”

Gabriel jumped in the doorway to the kitchen, a curse escaping under his breath.

He gathered himself, hardened his expression, and turned to face Bris, pointedly meeting her eyes level with his.

“Pint-size?”

She just shrugged, and shouldered past him into the room, heading straight for the fridge to pull out a bottle.

In his current state, so low on grace, Gabriel could just barely hear the hiss of the beer as she twisted the cap— not the grind of metal on glass, or the burst of each bubble, or even the beat of this woman's heart.

He told himself it was fine.

“Little early for the black stuff, isn’t it?” he asked her.

She glared at him over her Guinness, responding only with a particularly long draw.

Gabriel rolled his eyes and leaned against the doorframe, fiddling with the sleeve of the shirt Sam had lent him. “Thought we were supposed to be playing nice?” he said.

Dark, narrowed eyes met his.

“I am playin’ nice.”

His own eyes flashed wide before he could stop them. “Well— fine, princess. I’ll just— leave you to your day-drinking, then.”

He turned to storm out of the kitchen, intending to continue his exploration of this bunker that had been so rudely interr—

“Oh— Sorry!” A hand shot out—  

The room came back slowly... Hard tile beneath his feet... the smell of old food… the sound of a voice...

“...so sorry, Gabriel. Shit, I’m so sorry!”

He carefully opened eyes that had slammed shut. Gabriel was doubled over himself, hands raised to shield his face and his lips firmly pressed together. He blinked, slowly, then lowered his arms, and found Sam crouched in front of him.

“Are you okay?” Sam asked. “I’m so sorry, I should have been more careful!” His hands were spread, hovering but ready to catch him. His eyes were flown wide, so wide and full of—

That stinging heat rose in Gabriel again.

He muttered an apology and edged around Sam, taking off through the library toward the hallway.

-

The door to the first bedroom was open. Gabriel paused, peeking inside.

Castiel was still laid out in the bed of this room. His clothes that had been stained with the selkie's blood had been previously removed and replaced with shirts from the closet. At the moment, he might have been sleeping, he was so quiet and still—  

Castiel surrounded by rubble, his eyes hollow, cold, flaming blue. He was burning away, tearing apart—

Gabriel jumped at the unbidden image. He grimaced, and he squeezed his eyes shut against it.

He wasn't there anymore. He was here. Castiel was here.

Castiel was here and he was okay, Gabriel had made sure of that. He had spent hours last night pouring his grace into him, siphoning off every scrap he had left to give to his little brother.

*Where is Dean?* Castiel had asked when he woke.

Gabriel hadn't understood why he cared.

His little brother now shifted on the bed, raising his head to glance at the doorway.

“...Gabriel?”

Gabriel moved into the room, coming to stand by the bed.

“Hey, Cassy,” he said, pulling a smile onto his face, “how’re you doing?”

“Shouldn't I be asking you that?” He tipped his head, looking over Gabriel. His eyes lingered behind Gabriel's head.

Gabriel’s body tensed. “No. You shouldn't.”

Castiel’s tired eyes narrowed further.

Gabriel stepped back, his gaze falling to the floor. “Look, I didn't mean to interrupt your beauty sleep. You just keep resting, okay?”

“I wasn't—”

He left abruptly, heading deeper into the bunker.

-

There were plenty of rooms for Gabriel to choose from, so he didn’t waste time with deliberation. He threw open the door to the first empty room he found and forced himself to enter.

The ceiling was higher and there was a bed in the middle, but the bare walls were still so close, there were no windows, no light—

His flailing hand slapped the round lightswitch, filling his vision with orange-gold through his eyelids. Gabriel opened them and found that he had stumbled back into the wall.

His lip curled and he pushed off of it, moving himself to the center of the room.

Gabriel frowned, looking around. The door was open, the lights were on…

He moved to the corner, facing the exit.

There, that was better.

He took a deep breath into his vessel, feeling the oxygen fill his lungs and flood his blood. It was a sensation he had enjoyed as long as he had been on Earth, a treat that he saved for when he needed it.

Not that he needed it now. It was just... nice.

He allowed himself a few more breaths, then balled his fists, and focused on moving his—

You keep those ugly things away, angel.

He flinched violently into himself, doubling over and pulling his body tight.

Gabriel's lip curled again.

He gritted his teeth against the memory of that demon's voice, and forced himself to stand.

He was out now. He was out, and he was free.

He closed his eyes, cleared his mind, and tried again.

Gabriel pushed, shaking as he tried to—

I told you not a twitch!

They snapped to his back.

It's alright if you can't yet, Sam had said.

The stinging heat surged in him again, threatening to overwhelm him and pull him down. But Gabriel latched onto it instead, grabbed it in a vice and rode with it—

He pushed one tiered side, then the other, stretching and straining, trembling with the effort—

His Strength gave out, and again they snapped to his back. But this time his lips flashed with a smirk.

Because for the first time in what felt like Eternity... Gabriel had spread his wings.

 

*

 

Feb 2nd, five days after Hell and Dean's departure 

 

Gabriel was surprised at how quickly he came to like this bunker.

It was big, but it wasn't empty. There were shelves upon shelves of books, rooms upon rooms of knick-knacks, and plenty of food and booze to duplicate as he pleased.

Sam had done pretty nice for himself here— Gabriel had been in palaces that didn’t have this kind of square footage— and he’d even found himself a proper Eve to share it with! Finally. Gabriel could see in the wounds on Sam’s soul that he’d been run through that wringer way too many times before. Now sure, Bris was… she was… Well if Sam was happy, that was great.

And it wasn’t like she was the only one here, this bunker was filled with people. There was Sam, Cassy, the other selkie, that one weird guy who snuck around like he didn’t think he was noticed… Alright, it was just them, but honestly, that was perfect. It wasn't too crowded. It wasn't too much. It was homey. It was warm. It was safe.

If only it could last.

He was about to go, he really was. He’d spent the past few days recovering and exploring— and yeah, flexing the ol’ Trickster muscles to see if they were still there—  but by now he’d gotten his wings working again, and he’d probably recovered enough grace that he wouldn't be a sitting duck, so he just needed to get caught up on what all had happened while he was... gone. Just so he knew what to be on the lookout for. So he went to Sam, finding him, as usual, in the library, and asked him to fill him in.

Gabriel had assumed as much, but Sam confirmed that the boys really had averted the Apocalypse, managing to snag the Rings of the Horsemen, open the Cage, and stuff Lucifer back inside. Gabriel had marveled that the crazy plan had actually worked. Sam had thanked him for giving it to them in the first place.

The appreciative look Bris gave him didn't go unnoticed.

But then Sam’s story skipped ahead by a whole year, and he started talking about Leviathans and Crowleys and Gabriel was immediately lost, so he’d had to ask Sam to back up for him.

Sam had shifted uncomfortably, his eyes flicking to Bris and the other selkie, but he complied and he explained:

The plan to send Lucifer into the Cage hadn’t gone off perfectly. There had been… complications. And afterwards, there had been a year when Sam wasn’t exactly himself. His body had been wandering around topside, but the rest of him... had been left behind.

 

Gabriel almost missed the next part of the story.

 

Sam... had gone to Hell.

 

Sam had gone to Hell. He’d gone to the Cage. With Lucifer and Michael.

For a whole Earth year.

How was he still standing, much less talking and smiling?

Gabriel kept glancing down at Sam’s chest as the story continued on, kept staring at that soul, hurt and wounded, deeply and seriously, but still, after all of that... still shining so, so bright.

He was distracted by that light through to the end of the tale, having to ask Sam to repeat himself when he said that there’d been a whole other Angel War, and again when he said that Raphael was dead, and that the Darkness had returned, and that Dad had shown up, and that Lucifer had apparently had a kid just to spite Him, and that now that kid was stuck in some other dimension which was apparently a thing now—  

Oh.

And they needed his grace to go get the little hell-spawn.

But before he could even step down that spiraling road, Sam was there, quick to soothe his anger and his… worry. Sam assured him that he hadn't been pulled out of Hell just because of all that, he wasn’t here for this ridiculous spell they wanted to do, he was here because… because... 

Because Sam thought he should be saved.

Sam had gone back into Hell, because he thought Gabriel didn’t deserve what had happened to him.

Gabriel left that little tea party feeling lighter than he had all week, a new spring in his step and fluff in his wings. He went back to his antics around the bunker, thinking maybe… just maybe... he could hang around for a little bit longer. Really, he could use all the time he could get to recover more grace, and it sure seemed like Cassy could use some more cheering up, and he still hadn’t explored every corner of this bunker, and… well, you know… maybe…

Maybe this time things would work out.

Maybe this time he could stay.

 

*

 

Feb 11th

 

Of course Gabriel couldn't stay.

Of course it was about the spell.

Of course Dean had to be the one to spill the beans. Of course Dean had to be the one to ruin everything. Again.

How could Gabriel have been so blind? How could he have been so stupid? How could he let a little time with a few humans get him all worked up with the warm and fuzzies over a new fa—

...a new...

group.

So he left. He bolted. He high-tailed it out of there and flew right off to… somewhere.

The mountains had always felt safest, anyway.

 

*

 

That first day, Sam prayed to him almost constantly. Gabriel ignored it all. He couldn’t bear to listen to whatever empty platitudes Sam had to offer.

He would never recognize the irony.

Sam continued to pray, and Gabriel felt a few tracking spells brush against him, small spells he easily knocked aside.

But through it all Sam never tried to summon him back. Not once. And for that Gabriel was grateful.

Even in this, Sam was Good.

Of course he was.

Damn it.

 

*

 

Gabriel wandered again. He wandered, and he thought.

He thought about his family, so fragile, and shrinking by the year.

He thought about his little brother, so lost, and in need of help.

He thought about this world, teetering on the edge, so desperate for a period of stability.

He thought about everything, and he thought about how in all of it, in any of it, there was never anything Gabriel could do about it.

He’d been locked up, like an animal, and he couldn’t do anything.

His little brother had almost died, right in front of him, and he couldn’t do anything.

His family had torn itself to shreds, twice, and he couldn’t do anything.

All this shit just kept happening to Gabriel and he couldn’t do anything about any of

Wait a minute.

There was something.

There was something he could do.

He summoned a sheet of parchment to his hand, and he made himself a list.

 

*

 

He found them in an alley. Dark. Comfortably chilly on this Texas winter night.

Fenrir went down easy, the perpetual drunk.

The other two, Sleipnir and Narfi, they were more of a challenge. They tried to gang up on him, but he got the jump on Narfi and managed to pin Sleipnir up on the wall, pressing the tip of the nifty little sword he’d fashioned for the occasion against this monster’s leaping chest.

“Please,” Sleipnir had begged.

“Your papa,” Gabriel demanded.

“Wh- what?”

Gabriel rolled his eyes. “Loki, you numbskull. Where is your big, bad daddy-o?”

“Oh— Oh, yes! Yes!” Sleipnir nodded frantically, “He’s up north! At the Ophidian Hotel! Right there in the penthouse, just like always!”

“Hm,” Gabriel grunted with a rueful smirk. “Thanks, old chum.”

“You’re welcome!” Sleipnir breathed through a shaky smile. “You- You’re welco—!”

Gabriel ran the sword straight through his heart.

Sleipnir cried out as his limbs flailed. His body snapped taught, hands slapping against the cold brick wall as his frightened eyes darted between Gabriel’s own.

“But—! But I— But I told you...”

He slumped against the wall. Gabriel withdrew the stake and allowed the body to fall to the ground.

“Petty gods,” he scoffed, and he walked away.

 

*

 

The Ophidian Hotel was everything Gabriel expected. Disgusting on the outside, nothing but gleaming falsities on the inside.

No one stopped him on his way up. Apparently Loki knew he was coming and was ready to meet him.

Good.

He entered the penthouse suite, shoes echoing softly on the polished marble floors. A man in a pinstripe suit sat alone at a table in the middle of the room, facing away from him, playing Solitaire with a shining set of cards.

The man moved a stack, and pulled a completed column off to the side. “Hello, Gabriel.”

His hand twitched on his sword. “Loki.”

Loki drew a card from his deck. He placed it on a column. “Is that all? No greeting? No declaration of intent?”

“Didn’t think you needed one.”

“Of course not, I know why you’re here.”

“Good to know you got my memos.”

The card in Loki’s hand creased in his grip.

“It seems crude to call the bodies of my children no more than ‘memos’.”

“And here I thought 'crude' was exactly your style.”

In a blink, the damaged card was mended. It was placed on a column, and another was drawn. “Don’t insult me, Gabriel. Don’t pretend you know me.”

“Oh, but I do know you, Loki. I’ve been playing your game for ages now.”

“You took what I gave you and you twisted it to your own needs.”

“Wasn’t that always the deal?”

Loki paused. The card he held was set aside, unplayed. He picked up another. “Who are you to speak to me of our deal?”

“Pretty sure I’m one half of it.”

“To be part of it, you must be ready to commit to it.”

“I held up my end of—!”

“You slaughtered my family!”

His chair had toppled over, scattered cards fluttered to the ground. Loki hunched over the table, palms planted on its surface, still not facing Gabriel.

“I was trying to save them, you ass,” said Gabriel.

“Fine job you did, du vatnisse.”

“Hey! I’m not the idiot that called in Lucifer—”

“But you’re the coward who allowed them to die!” Loki finally spun around, a finger pointed right at Gabriel. “I spoke to Kali, I know what happened. You let them think you were dead so you could get out of that hotel, and you only went back in after Lucifer started—”

“It wasn’t like that—”

“Then what was it like? What else happened that night besides that you ran away when my family was in danger— when your family was in danger?”

“They weren’t my—”

“Weren’t they?”

They stared each other down.

“You sold me like a pig,” said Gabriel.

“Of course, because you’re the victim here.”

“That demon cut into me every day! Every day!”

“And our family is dead due to your spinelessness!” He threw his hand out and sent Gabriel flying into the wall.

“But no,” Loki continued, his voice cold with a simmering rage, “this is about you. It’s always about you. It’s always about poor Gabriel, with his deadbeat Daddy and his mean older brothers. Poor, sniveling, little Gabriel. Defenseless, helpless, useless—”

“No,” Gabriel pushed up from the floor, “No, that’s not—”

“‘No’? ‘No’, he says! Well, alright then, Gabriel, why don’t you tell me something:” Loki’s lips cocked in a sneer, “How did you manage to get out of Hell?”

Gabriel swung the sword still clutched in his hand, angry and sloppy. Loki easily ducked.

“That’s what I thought.”

His hand flicked out and Gabriel was thrown to the wall again. “It’s always more of the same with you, Gabriel. ‘Who will help me?’ ‘Who will save me?’” Loki whined as he loomed over him. “I did, Gabriel! I pulled you from the fire and I propped you up! But you know what? I wish I hadn’t. I wish I’d left you to the mercy of your choices. I’d rather be indebted to you for eternity than bear this pain you’ve put us through! All you had to do… All I asked of you… was to keep one little promise. Stay out of Heaven’s business. Keep Heaven’s business away from the family. But you couldn’t do that, could you? You could never do that. You were never going to keep that promise, because Heaven’s business was always going to follow you around, du bytting!” he landed his foot in Gabriel’s stomach, “Du skitstövel!” he kicked him again.

Loki hauled Gabriel up by the front of his jacket, “Your shit was always going to be stuck to your shoe because you refused to bend down and do something about it!” He slammed Gabriel against the wall, voice dropping to a hiss, *And you thought my sons deserved to die simply because you are a weak, pathetic little vatnisse?*

Gabriel raised his chin at him. “Call me that one more time—”

Loki launched him across the room, smashing the table to splinters.

He strolled over to him, straightening his waistcoat as Gabriel struggled in the rubble.

“Look at you.”

He lifted Gabriel from the ground by the front of his shirt.

“The great Saint Gabriel, Son of God.”

He reeled his fist, and socked Gabriel across the jaw.

“You, my old friend, are a joke.” He landed another hit on his cheek, breaking bone.

“You... are a failure.” He hit him again. “You stand... for nothing.” And again. “You will die… for nothing.” And again.

“You have always been,” thud “and will always be,” thud “a small,” thud “sad,” thud “little vatni—”

Gabriel managed to throw his hand up and catch the next punch. He pushed Loki back, just far enough for Gabriel to get his feet underneath him again. “No,” he strained, snatching his sword from the floor. “That’s not what I am.”

“Oh! My apologies, then, I’ll try again.” Loki flicked a finger, knocking Gabriel back on his ass, and stepped forward to tower above him once more.

“You, are weak,”

“No...”

"you, are pathetic,”

“No—”

“you are spineless,”

“No—”

“you are pitiful.”

“No!”

“You're a perpetual damsel in distress who will never do a goddamned thing to actually help the ones he loves! You will always put yourself first, you will always blame everyone else, and you will always pull everyone around you into the raging vortex of your eternal floundering catastrophe!”

“No!”

Gabriel launched himself from the floor, catching Loki by surprise. He grabbed him by the shoulder, looked him straight in the eye, and drove his blade home, right through his hideous heart.

*That is not what I am,* Gabriel hissed in his face.

But Loki only sneered, managing one, last, sputtering chuckle over the blood rising at his lips.

*Then what are you?*

Gabriel’s eyes darted between the identical ones before him, his lips twitching for an answer that never came.

*That’s what I thought,* Loki said, and he slumped on Gabriel’s sword.

Gabriel pulled the blade back. The body fell to the ground. He turned on his heel and left the room, slamming the door shut behind him.

Once he was out of the the hotel, in the fast failing light of the chilly afternoon, he stopped, breathed deeply, and flew far away, to… somewhere.

 

-

 

Back inside, up in the penthouse, Loki’s body dissolved from view, and the actual Loki appeared in its place.

He vanished the mess of the fight, sat back down at the table, and resumed his game.

 

*

 

For weeks, Gabriel flitted about the Earth.

He tried out his old haunts, the ones in the middle of nowhere, the ones in the middle of anywhere, and the ones that hung on in the space in between. But nothing worked. Nothing helped. Nothing made the hole inside him feel any less.

It was over. This nightmare that had started so long ago was finally over.

So why didn’t Gabriel feel any better.

 

*

 

Mar 11th, one month after leaving

 

Gabriel, hey… it's Sam… again.

Gabriel stopped what he was doing— which today, was going to town on a triple-decker dark-chocolate cake— and perked up in his seat.

Even after a month, the prayers had barely let up. Sam would send a few scattered ones throughout the day, and a longer one at night. Gabriel had been able to ignore most of them so far, but now… something was off. Sam didn’t sound like he usually did. This time, he sounded strained, he sounded weak, he sounded... pained.

I’m sure you just want me to… to take the hint already. I'm sure you want me... to just shut up, and just leave you alone. But, well... something's come up.

This is just about the worst thing I could ask of you, Gabe, but we… I could really use your help right now.

Gabriel just rolled his eyes, *Bet you could,* and went back to his cake.

Sam continued.

Turns out... I was wrong. I was wrong, Gabriel, and I don’t know how but a demon got into the bunker—

He scoffed. He should have known that was a lie. ‘Only angels and humans’, sure. Why had he ever trusted those Winchesters? Why had he ever let himself—

—Asmodeus got into the bunker.

Gabriel froze.

You don't owe me anything, not a damn thing, I meant that. But if that offer for a favor is still on the table, well, I could really use it right now.

I'm sorry, Gabriel.

I'm sorry for what Dean said.

I’m sorry I didn’t stop him.

I’m sorry we didn’t find you sooner.

I'm sorry that any of this shit happened to you.

I know I’ve been saying this for weeks but... well, this might be it, so I just... wanted to try one more time. I just… I want you to know... that I still caAAH—!

Sam’s prayer cut off with a scream and a phantom pain bursting across Gabriel’s arm.

“...Sam?”

The prayer didn’t pick up again.

“Sam!”

Gabriel leapt from his chair. Sam was in the bunker—

weak

—he was in trouble, maybe they were all in trouble—  

pathetic

that demon had them—  

spineless

—that demon was hurting Sam—

pitiful

No...

No.

That demon wouldn’t take this from him, too.

He was there in a blink and assessed the scene in another. It was that demon, holding Sam at knifepoint, disguised as a human woman by using—

Oh hell no.

Sam dropped, using the distraction of Gabriel’s entrance to get away, and the moment Castiel had him pulled to safety, Gabriel acted.

He burned his own grace from that demon’s vile form, revealing the truth underneath, and put all he had left into destroying that demon itself. Its screams were a glorious thing, so satisfyingly magnificent, that Gabriel almost lamented when it was finally fully consumed.

He took only a moment to bask in it, before he turned his full attention back to Sam. Gabriel asked if he was alright, and Sam tried to answer, but in the end he just took Gabriel in arm, and pulled him into a hug.

“You came back,” Sam had said with a cutting disbelief.

Gabriel forced a smirk to cover his wince.

Of course he’d come back. Damn it if he didn’t always go back.

 

*

 

Mar 12th

 

Gabriel was surprised by how quickly things returned to the way they’d been before. Sam was still reading up a storm, Dean was still throwing himself down the drain, that one weird guy was still pretending no one could see him— it was almost as though he hadn’t left.

Almost. There were definitely some things that had changed. Cassy was acting less like a kicked puppy and more like a K-9 on a trail, the one selkie had taken to making eyes at him, and Bris… well... Bris was...

Doing things.

“Oi, there, pint-size, heads up.”

Things like bringing him cups of hot cider while he sat in the library.

“I didn’t know we had this,” Gabriel said as he accepted the offered mug.

“Just somethin’ I been keepin’ fer myself,” Bris explained as she took a seat in the big reading chair next to his. “I find it soothin’ what to keep a cup in my hands, ye know?”

“No, can’t say that I do.”

Bris just shrugged, sipping off of her mug as she settled back into her chair.

Gabriel glanced between her and the drink she’d given him. He opened his mouth as if to speak, but was interrupted by Sam entering the room.

He didn't stop to greet them, but he didn’t have to, just in passing through the library Sam gave Gabriel the answer he'd been about to ask for.

It was all right there in Bris's eyes.

So Gabriel kept his mouth shut, and chose to just enjoy what he’d been given.

 

*

 

Mar 13th

 

The next time Bris brought him a mug, she found him in the kitchen.

“Oi, there, pint-size,” she said as she placed the steaming mug in front of him.

This time, Gabriel had to raise an eyebrow. “So you’re really gonna stick with that, huh?”

She gave him an innocent shrug.

“I am taller than you.”

“'Course ye are.” She lifted own her mug to her smirking lips.

“I am! In fact, I bet you’re a full inch shorter than me without those punk-y boots you always wear.”

“They ain’t punk-y!” she balked. “If anythin’ they’re a hundred-percent road-wear! I mean, I knicked ‘em from a damned bike shop, after all.”

“You sure it wasn’t a Spencer’s?”

“What’s a Spencer’s?”

“It’s a— Um… nevermind.”

She raised an eyebrow, head tipped back to look him up and down.

“It’s a sex shop, isn’t it?”

“Wha—! Well— Mn— Yeah.”

She chuckled, raising her mug once more to a cocky, pressed smile.

Gabriel drummed his fingers against his cup’s handle. He lifted it, and took a small, careful sip of the hot drink.  

“You know,” he started, resting his mug back on the table, “when I first got this vessel, I was tall for a human.”

“Ach, away with ye.”

“No, really, I was! This right here was seventeen hands of pure intimidation back in the good old days! Now most of you have better diets and stable health and you shoot up to be so freaking big!”

Bris snorted into her cup.

“Cut it, princess, do you have any idea how infuriating it is? To have all these humans towering over me now?”

“Oh what, my bucko’s got himself a complex?”

He leveled a finger at her. “I do not have a complex.”

“Mm-hmm, a’ course not,” she grinned. “The great Archangel Gabriel’s just upset these wee humans here've got a few centimeters on him.”

Gabriel frowned at her, and that got Bris giggling. He couldn’t help but smile in return, drinking from his mug to cover it. “That still throws me for a loop, you know.”

“Aye, what?”

“That word. ‘Archangel.’ It’s just… It’s a weird word.”

“It ain’t whatcha are?”

Gabriel shrugged. “It’s not what Dad ever called me.”

“Well, what’d he call ye?”

Gabriel lowered his mug, shrugging again.

“Son.”

Bris didn’t answer right away. When Gabriel raised his gaze to her, he found a small, sad smile and dewy eyes.

“My ol' man were like that, too,” she finally said, quiet and wistful. “I were just ‘a leanbh,’ just ‘his child’.”

Her hands tightened on her mug.

“Lord above, I miss him somethin’ awful.”

“Yeah,” Gabriel said, “same here.”

Another moment passed. They both drank from their cups.

Gabriel heard Sam coming before he entered the kitchen from the library. His warm smile upon seeing them, though, was a nice surprise.

“Hey, guys,” Sam said.

“Hey, love," Bris answered. "You ready to get dinner started, there?”

“Oh, no, that can wait, I don’t want to interrupt—”

Gabriel tipped back the last of his cider. “Nah, nah, you two have fun, here. I’ve got some ‘heavy reading’ I wanna do!”

Sam raised an eyebrow. “Why do I have a feeling you’re not actually about to open any books?”

Gabriel winked at him. “Don’t let anybody ever tell you you’re just a pretty face, Sam-jam.”

He flew the quick hop from there to the library shelves, and wondered if these stodgy old ‘Men-of-Letters’ had ever set a record for Highest Stack of Books.

 

*

 

Mar 14th

 

Turned out there were still other changes left to discover in the bunker, surprises that Gabriel found when he popped into the gym one day for some good-old Samsquatch-spookin’.

“Damn it, Gabriel!” Sam shouted as something in front of him went up in smoke. “This is really not the time!”

“Aw, c’mon, it’s always time to get the old ticker pumpin’!” Gabriel beamed. But his smile faltered as his gaze dropped to the table covered in miscellaneous spellwork. “...Huh.”

“My, but don’t you clean up nice.”

Gabriel snapped up at the unexpected voice, and was met with his next surprise.

“Don’t believe we were ever properly introduced,” said the ravishing little redhead standing next to Sam. “Come now, Samuel, don’t be rude.”

Sam winced at the elbow in his side, pursing his lips. “Rowena, this is Gabriel. Gabriel, Rowena. There, now could we—”

“Tha mi toilichte ur coinneachadh,” (Pleased to meet you,) Gabriel blurted.

“Oh!” Rowena lit up, those heavy, striking eyes flashing wide. Then they narrowed in suspicion. “A bheil thu gu firinneach Gàidhlig agat?” (Do you genuinely speak Scottish Gaelic?)

“Gu dearbh,” he smiled, “Gàidhlig, agus tha mi ‘cho làn ri ugh’ le mòran eile.” (Of course. Gàidhlig, and I’m ‘as full as an egg’/‘filled to the brim’ with many more.)

She hummed appreciatively, a slender brow raising over hooded eyes. “Feumaidh tu cànan fìor sgileil a bhith agad.”

Gabriel drew back, his eyes flying wide and his palms shooting up. “Oh— I— No! No. Not at all. Terrible— lazy— It’s awful, just the worst.” He faced Sam again, falling back a step as he said, “Have fun with the potions, kid. Let me know if you need any more eye of newt, alright?”

“We’re not—” Sam started, but Gabriel had already vanished.

He rounded on Rowena, “What did you say to him?”

She shrugged, absently returning to the book she had open on the table. “I only noted that he must have quite the talented tongue what with—”

“Nope! Nope. Nevermind, I do not wanna know.”

 

*

 

Mar 15th

 

“...Hey, Gabriel?”

Gabriel looked down from the shelf he was standing on, the better to get a gander at a painting on the wall of a crow sitting on the haft of an ornate blue and white spear.

“You got a sec?” Sam asked.

Gabriel flew down, meeting him and Bris at one of the long tables currently covered in books. “What’s up, Samalump?”

The tiniest smile threatened to crack Sam’s serious expression. “Well, I just wanted to ask... was just wondering… how soon you thought you and Cas might head out to ask Heaven for help?”

Something in Gabriel swirled uncomfortably tight, and the grin dropped from his face.

“Well, we, um… We didn’t wanna just… barge in on 'em, you know?”

“The clock is kinda ticking on these Omens, Gabe.”

“Right. Yeah! Of course,” Gabriel puffed, tossing a hand.

Sam raised a cautious eyebrow. “You… are going, right?”

“Well… we...”

“Gabriel, we don’t have time for—”

Bris placed a hand on Sam’s arm.

Gabriel looked between them, from the perplexed look on Sam’s face to the patient smile on Bris’s.

He let his eyes fall shut, inhaled through clenched teeth, and told them: “I shouldn’t.”

“You shouldn’t?” asked Sam.

Gabriel sighed. “Sam, I left the Host a long time ago, and not exactly under the best circumstances. It’s… It’s not gonna be good if I go back.”

Sam nodded, slow and short. “Have you talked to Cas about this?”

“Yeah. Said there was 'nothing to worry about'.”

Sam shared a look with Bris.

Gabriel braced himself, ready for the backlash sure to—

“Okay.”

He blinked.

“What?”

“Okay,” Sam repeated, glancing over to meet Bris’s satisfied gaze. “Cas can go on his own, he’s done it before.”

“I— That doesn’t mess up your plan?”

“Please, that’s the simplest issue we’ve had all week.” Sam returned to one of the many books crowding the table. “I’ve been calling damn near every contact we’ve ever had, trying to coordinate all of our resources, but the thing is almost everyone’s got their own problems to deal with before they can even consider helping us. Like this hunter up in the Sierra Nevadas: She could help run supplies to us, but she’s tied up in this impossible case. Everyone’s crying chupacabra of all things, but there’s no cattle mutilations, no missing livestock to speak of— It doesn’t make any sense.”

Gabriel flitted to the other side of the table, taking a peek at Sam’s open laptop screen.

“Well your first problem is that ain’t a chupacabra, that’s a regular old serow.”

“What?” Sam whipped his head to look at the pictures Gabriel was pointing at, already scrambling for his phone as Bris snatched up another one of the books.

“Yeah. Either that or it’s a huge ghural. I mean, look at that fur, and when was the last time you saw a chupacabra on four legs?”

“Are you sure?”

“Well geez, I only watched ‘em spread through eastern Asia about… five and a half million years ago, so yeah, I’m sure.”

Sam and Bris both stopped, slowly turning to face him.

“Hello, older than Time.”

Sam chuffed through a growing smile. Bris clapped him on the shoulder and asked, “Well are they magic?”

“Just because they’re not from your half of the globe don’t make them magical, kids," Gabriel said. "Though I did meet a Nüwu keeping one as a pet once. Worked out great for her, serows are sweet things but they look crazy intimidating.”

“Well yeah, these pictures all look like—” Sam huffed over his phone. “They look like wolf-goats. No wonder everyone jumped to chupacabra.”

Gabriel ducked his head, shuffling on his feet. “You know, I… I could take you guys to see some.”

“Huh?” said Sam. “Really?”

Gabriel perked up. “Well, sure, there’s a bunch in the Himalayas and over in Japan... I mean, I could take you anywhere! Well— once my batteries are back up to charge... But whatever you guys wanna see, serows, okapi, unicorns, those dinosaurs in Venezuela—"

“Unicorns!?”

Bris and Gabriel raised an eyebrow at Sam.

“Aye, in Scotland, love," said Bris. "It’s their national symbol, fer cryin’ out loud.”

“And those are just the ones brought back from the Karakoram," said Gabriel. "There’s still whole herds of 'em out in the—  Wait, nothing for the dinosaurs?”

“Dean always said they weren’t real...” Sam said, his eyes drifting out over the table.

Gabriel scoffed. “Like he would know.”

Sam shook the growing smile from his face, drawing himself up. “Alright, I gotta call my hunter back, tell her the good news." He tapped at his phone. “Maybe this is just a lost pet or something and she can wrap up her case by the end of the day.”

He stood and left the table. Gabriel and Bris watched as he walked off to make his call.

“Hey, um, thank you,” Gabriel said to her.

“Hm? Fer what?”

“Well for… for not telling me I had to go. You know, to stand up to them and all that.”

“Oh. ‘Course not,” Bris said, stepping up to the table to begin gathering the spread of books. “That ain’t the kinda decision we can make fer you.”

Gabriel just stared at her.

She sighed as she left the table with a stack of books held in her arms. “Gabriel, I can’t speak fer Sam, but I done married into enough dysfunctional families to know when not to push this crap.”

“Oh have you?” Gabriel said, gladly switching gears in a flash. “Sounds to me like there’s some good stories in that.”

Bris stopped, a book held halfway shelved. “Maybe… maybe another time.”

“Oh, c’mon! You gotta have how many mother-in-laws to dish on?” Gabriel summoned two tumblers and a bottle of whiskey to his hands. “Come on, you guys have been working all day, take a break and spill!”

“Oh— I—” Her hand tightened on the spine of the book. “No, Gabriel, they’re crap stories—”

“Yeah, I’m gonna call bologna on that one. I’ve never met a selkie without the gift of the gab, especially not after a few rounds of—”

“I said no!” She slammed the book into place.

Gabriel drew back. “Well... Okay.” He vanished the bottle and glasses.

Bris sighed, picking up another book from her stack. “Gabriel, I… I just don’t… Look, I’m just worried about what’s comin’.” She moved off to another shelf.

Gabriel carefully followed her. “What do you mean?”

“This Other Michael?”

“Oh. Right.”

“The whole thing’s got Sam in a right tizzy, and with the kinda crap you all’ve handled in the past, I'm thinkin' that’s sayin’ somethin’.” She frowned. “Though I s’pose Dean don’t seem worried none so—”

“Don’t think Dean’s really the best benchmark.”

“Well, no, probably not.” She shelved another book. “Though here’s hopin’ that’ll be taken care of before this shit hits the fan,” she said with smile.

Gabriel raised an eyebrow, but Bris didn’t go on.

He didn't push her.

 

*

 

Mar 16th

 

Over the past week, relaxing in the library with Bris over a mug of hot cider had become a regular nightly occurrence. The conversation was usually easy, the road bumps were few, and the time would slide by until Bris decided to head off for bed.

But tonight, their conversation didn’t quite follow that script.

A lull gave Gabriel an opportunity he’d been hoping for, a chance to ask about a subject that had been itching in the back of his mind all week.

“So... Cassy seems… busy,” he began.

Bris glanced at him over her mug. “...Aye,” she responded.

“Seems busy with… Dean.”

She snorted. “Just noticin’ that now, are ya?”

“No! I’ve just... been settling in.”

She shot him a reproachful side-eye. “Direl an’ I found ye tryin’a stuff his room with aubergines the other day.”

"Hey, you hide your coat, I distribute eggplants, that’s just how the world works!" He slumped in a pout. *Would have been hilarious, too, if it weren’t for you meddling selkies.*

Bris chuckled through a smile and let her mug come to rest in her lap.

Gabriel’s eyes darted. He turned a more cautious look to her. “So those two... Um... They aren’t like… you know…”

She rolled her eyes. “No, they aren’t. But don’t you worry none, they’re finally makin’ some progress on that. It’s takin’ everythin’ I got to get Cas over this damned Oath he’s on about, but he’s—”

The lightbulb between them shattered.

Bris jumped in her seat, her cider sloshing precariously. “Ah…”

“How do you know about that.”

“I— Well—” She glanced between him and the lamp. “Because he told me?”

Gabriel twitched.

“Ah— Guess he weren’t s’posed to, huh.”

“It’s just… not your business.”

“Well… I mean, it ain’t like I pressed him. He came to me fer help.”

A sharp scowl creased Gabriel’s face before realization reached him, and he slumped with a groan. “Of course he did. Because I told him to! ...But I meant for... ” He dropped his head into one of his hands, the other balancing his mug on his leg. “I never should have left...”

“Ach, Gabriel we all understood that ye—”

“...I was so sure Cas would see reason!”

“You— What.”

“This is my fault. I left Cassy here, alone, surrounded by selkies of all things, at the mercy of temptation by Chuckles McGee—!”

“Gabriel,” Bris snapped, drawing his attention again. “I thought we’d put this to rest weeks ago.”

"Wha— We didn’t do anything. You went ahead and made everything worse!”

“Worse fer who? I’m helpin’ ‘em!”

“Exactly! You’re pushing Cassy down a devious path that only leads to—”

“Oh, cop on. You can’t still be on about that ‘normal’ shit.”

“This isn’t even about that! I mean, it is, but— Look, you can’t understand the kind of danger you’re putting him in—”

“What, you think someone’s gonna finally show up to start ‘enforcin’’ that Oath—?”

“This isn’t some kind of game!” he shouted, and Bris flinched back. “These are Dad’s Rules. Bad things happen to Angels who break the Rules, Bris! You don’t get to just do whatever you want and get away with it—”

“Not two days ago you said there ain’t no one tellin’ us what to do—”

“That’s for you. That’s for Humans! It’s—” Gabriel shot up from his chair, slamming his mug down on the table between them and spinning to point a finger at her. “You know what? I don’t have to convince you of anything. I handed these Rules down to my little brothers and sisters myself, direct express from Dad’s mouth to their ears.”

“But they’re shit rules, Gabriel—”

“I don’t get to make that decision! I don’t get to say whether I like them or not!”

“It ain’t like you follow ‘em—”

“Didn’t. I didn’t follow them.”

“So you can have yer fun, but Cas—”

“Castiel should not be following in my footsteps—”

“Well why the hell not!”

“Because then he’ll end up like me!”

The lights in the library surged, and in their glow, the silhouettes of wings took shape behind Gabriel, more numerous and far larger than those upon Cas. Bris looked around, at the lights straining high with a building whine, and her eyes widened with a knowing fear.

Gabriel looked down at her in her chair. “I skirted Dad’s Will and I paid for it! I laid with Humans, I defied His Plans, and I was Punished for it!”

“Gabriel…” she raised a hand to him, but otherwise didn’t move, “He ain’t— God ain’t even here—”

“Of course He is!”

“But Sam told us he left—”

“Well Sam was wrong!”

Bris drew back.

“Dad may have left Earth but that doesn’t mean anything!” Gabriel continued. “He’s done this before, I thought He was gone, everyone thought He was gone but— He’s never gone… He’s always there… pulling the levers and just watching… just waiting for us to screw something up…!”

Something dropped into place on Bris’s face. She stood from her chair, slowly, once again raising that hand to Gabriel. He flinched back from her, but ultimately held still, and allowed her to take him by the arm and pull him into an embrace.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“What?”

“I’m sorry. Ever since ye got here, I been pushin’ ye so hard, an’ that weren’t fair. I’m sorry.”

Something in Gabriel pulled tight and broke with a rush, his arms twitching at his sides. Above them, the lights began to fade. “Does that mean… so you... agree with me?”

“No. I don’t.” She pulled back, taking one of his hands in both of her own. “Gabriel, I’m gonna tell you somethin’ what took me far too long to learn: Yer parent's word ain’t the end-all-be-all.”

His brow dropped. “What?”

“Gabriel. Darlin’. I know it’s hard but… what’s more important to you, your father’s orders, or your brother’s well-bein’?”

“Wh—! What kinda question is that?”

“The kind what apparently needs to be asked.”

Gabriel just stared at her a moment, face creased in disbelief. He shook his head, and turned away with a scoff. “No. You don’t understand.”

“Don’t I?” she clipped back, her hackles suddenly raised. “I ain’t been around as long as you but I certainly been around a whiles, an’ I know you know what you seen, but so do I. I seen a world that don’t fall to pieces when you go after what you want, I seen a world in which God ain’t pullin’ all the strings. He can’t be. ‘Cause if He were, we’d all be toast by now! The boys woulda never been able to stop the Apocalypse, you woulda never been able to help ‘em—! God can’t be here... ‘cause none a’ this makes any sense otherwise!”

Gabriel dropped his eyes to the floor. “No, I suppose it wouldn’t to you.”

“Gabriel, please,” her grip tightened on his hand, “the way yer thinkin’ only leads to sufferin’, I finally see that now. Please, can’t ye see that I… that everyone here, we just want you to be happy. You an’ Cas can be happy. And it’ll be okay.” Her expression fell. “It has to be.”

That tiny waver in her voice caught Gabriel’s attention. He faced her again, seeing the struggle behind her eyes. He glanced down to her chest, to her soul that he could see there, and he saw the deep, painful conflict roiling. And for the second time, Gabriel found himself biting his tongue, fearing his role as a Serpent.

If the Angels defied His Will, Father would bring His Retribution. If not now, if not in the next few years, then eventually. He always did.

But... Bris didn’t have to Know that.

“Okay,” he said.

She lit up like a star, and something inside Gabriel hurt.

“So you’ll try?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he lied. “I’ll try.”

 

*

 

Mar 17th

 

Of course that peace couldn’t last.

Of course Lucifer had to show up and ruin everything. Again.

Of course Dad, ever as subtle as a house on fire, had sent Lucifer to tell them that not only were almost all of their little brothers and sisters gone, but there was only one way to avoid the coming disaster.

And of course, Bris still didn’t understand.

*The hell are you on about, sayin’ there ain’t no other way?* she had hissed at him.

*This is the world’s last option,* he had answered. *This is Dad’s Will.*

 

*

 

Gabriel was resigned for all of an hour before he sat straight up in horror.

Dean had accepted his fate,

But Sam was going to try to stop it.

He rushed out of the room he’d sequestered himself in, cursing himself out. Obviously Sam was going to try to stop it. He always tried to stop it. No matter how many times Gabriel had tried to drill that lesson into his head, Sam always had to—

Cas burst into the hallway from the library, and Gabriel ducked into a doorway. Cas stopped at Dean’s door with a face that meant business, procedurally knocked, and barged right in.

Great.

One problem at a time, Gabriel told himself.

He returned to the library, hidden from human sight, and made his way to a corner. He listened in on their conversation and... alright, good they weren’t getting anywhere. They didn’t have any information to start with, so maybe he wouldn’t have to—

Raspberries

They had a plan.

Then of course that was when Castiel came back from his talk with Dean, forcing Gabriel to move lest Cassy spot him there. He flew back to the hallway to regroup.

Alright. Sam had a plan— one he apparently adored from the way he’d grabbed the other selkie— Bris would obviously try to help, and one glance at Cas said that he was an absolute mess right now over something, and—

Double raspberries

Cas must have tried to talk Dean down, but he must have been turned away. Now he would be more desperate than ever.

Damn it, everyone’s ridiculous emotions were going to get in the way of everything and endanger all of them, just to save precious little Dean-o.

Gabriel saw only one option.

He arrived just in time. Dean was about to burst out of his room, no doubt to give one of his cockamamie speeches and kick off their latest misadventure in Messing with the Order.

“So,” he said, stopping Dean in his tracks. “You figure it out yet?”

It turned out to be worse than Gabriel had thought, because it was obvious that he had. Dean tried to dodge it, but it was plain as day, written right there across his soul. Standing before Gabriel now was a man who was deeply in love with someone, someone he Knew loved him back.

One of the most dangerous things in Creation.

So Gabriel brought him down fast. He clued Dean in that all he was gonna do with those feelings was get Cas killed. All he was gonna do was endanger the world and for what, some warmth in his chest and a few hearts in his eyes? Dean had to be reminded that he was just one man, just one man that Dad had picked for some forsaken reason, and he had to see this through to the end unless he wanted to doom them all.

There had once been a time that Gabriel had been certain that Dean was more like Lucifer than any of his other Brothers, but now he saw what Dad had always intended.

Dean had been exactly like Michael all along.

The flight to take Dean to his car was short and quick.

 

*

 

Triple raspberries

Gabriel had gotten himself backed into a wall. Literally. The moment he’d returned from making sure the roads were clear from here to Quitaque, the others had jumped him, asking about Dean. Things may or may not have gotten a little heated, and he may or may not have slipped more of the truth than he intended, but even so, it wasn't like they listened. Sam thought he knew better and Cas was inches from figuring out the whole enchilada— The only thing that saved him was Bris intervening.

And Gabriel let her.

Because for all the bluster he’d given Dean, Gabriel knew he couldn't let them know what he’d done. It’d had to be done, but the others wouldn’t understand. They would hate him for it. They’d probably kick him out.

And he just… he just didn’t wanna leave.

So when they decided to follow Dean, he played along. And when they went down to the garage, he tried to stall. And when Sam stole a car off the street, he got in.

Because all he could do now... was protect them.

 

*

 

Mar 18th

 

The car ride was long, slow, and terribly confining.

When they arrived in the canyon, pulling right up behind that black boat of a car, the engine had barely died before Sam took off up the cliffside. He didn’t even ask Gabriel to fly him up, either forgetting in his haste or knowing Gabriel would have refused.

“Stay here,” Gabriel told Bris and Cas, and he flew up the cliff after Sam.

Of course they didn’t listen.

Gabriel tried. He tried so hard to protect them, but everyone was running around, running at Dean, and no one would wait, no one would listen—

 

And then he was there.

 

The Brother Gabriel hadn’t seen in millennia was right there before him, great and terrifying and powerful as ever, and yet, somehow, more.

Gabriel watched his Brother, screaming above them, trying to manifest in this physical realm but instead only rending, warping, tearing the sky. And below him was Dean, right there, waiting to complete the plan just like Dad wanted. Everything had worked just as it was meant to.

But suddenly he wished that it hadn't.

This wasn’t right. This couldn’t be right. That Michael up there wasn’t the Brother he’d explored Creation with. That Michael wasn’t the Brother who had almost listened to his pleas to end the First Angel War. That Michael wasn’t the Brother who had led them to victory in the battles against the Darkness.

If anything, that Michael looked just like the Darkness.

How could Gabriel have been so stupid? How could Lucifer have tricked him with his lies? How could he have believed for one second that this was the world’s best option, that this would be his Father’s Will?

Gabriel prayed to that absent father, asking forgiveness for his arrogance.

And then he ran, he ran to...

 

-

 

The stillness of the air was jarring. The faint hum of magic unsettling. Gabriel looked around, and he choked back a whimper.

He’d run back to the bunker.

He was in the bunker, in the library, staring down that chair that Sam had first sat him in when he’d pulled him from Hell.

He’d left.

“—coward!—”

He’d left them all behind.

He’d run.

“—failure!—”

Again.

Because he—

“—spineless!—”    

Because he couldn’t—

Gabriel!

Gabriel jerked upright.

Gabriel, help!

He shook himself against the screams in his head,

No—

“—vatnisse!—”  

he couldn’t—

“— vatnisse!—”  

he couldn’t go back—

Gabriel!

“I can’t—”

He’s gonna kill us!

“I can’t!”

“—our family is dead!—”  

Gabriel, please!

“—you slaughtered my family!—”  

Get us outta here, please!

The screams of the Angels—

“—allowed them to die!—”  

The screams in his head—

“No, I didn’t—”

Gabriel, for the love of God, please, PLEASE—!

He returned in a blink, snatched up Sam and Bris, and brought them right back to the library.

-

The two of them blinked at the sudden change in their surroundings. Bris’s mouth opened to say something, but nothing came out. Gabriel placed his hand on her arm, undoing Lucifer’s magic and returning her voice.

But it was Sam who spoke first.

“What—? Are we in the bunker?”

Gabriel stiffened, but he forced himself to turn and face him. “Sam, I—”

Sam grabbed him by the jacket and yanked him close, and in his surprise he allowed the human to pull him.

“You liar!” Sam shouted in his face, “Did you just drag us here from Texas?”

“I mean, I—”

“You fucking liar!”

“Sam—”

“We could have caught up with Dean! We could have gotten to the other dimension! We could have stopped this!

“Sam, I only—”

“And you left Dean there! You left Cas there!”

“I tried, Cas wouldn’t leave his vessel—”

“I wouldn’t have, either, if you’d given me the choice!”

“Sam—”

“Send me back!” Sam shook him by the shirt, “Send me back, Gabriel, right now!”

“No!”

“You send me back or— or—” Something broke on Sam’s face. “How could you do this, Gabriel? How could you—?”

“Because I care about you, okay!?” Gabriel shouted right back, “Because I care about all of you!”

“Except Dean, you mean.”

Gabriel shut his mouth and turned away.

Sam released Gabriel’s shirt with a shove. “I'm going back to Texas.”

“Sam, wait,” Bris grabbed his arm, “I didn’t pray for Gabriel to get us outta there just so you could—”

Sam ripped his arm from her grip.

“You did this?”

“A’course I did! An’ don’t think I’m about to apologize fer savin’ you, neither!”

"Since when do you think I need saving?"

"Since the actual Devil were runnin' us down!"

He turned away. “I have to get back—”

“He were goin’ to kill us!”

“Then you should have gotten yourself out of there!” Sam rounded on her. “You should have left me behind so I could—!”

“Oh, good to know you’d rather be dead than wrong! I'll keep that in mind next time I protect ye from—”

“I don't need you to protect me! It's not like its it's your job!”

“Says who?”

“Says you!” Sam burst. “You don't help people, remember? You only help your spouse and you sure as fuck don't want me for that!”

Bris drew back, her hand rising only to stall and fall back.

Sam moved away to an open space in the room.

“Sam, what are you doing?” Gabriel asked quietly.

“I’m going back”

“Sam—”

“No, Gabriel,” Sam cut him off. “We needed you before. I needed you before. But you chose some twisted logic over people's lives and you pulled us along with you. You kept us away from Dean when he needed us most. But not anymore. I’m not abandoning him there. Not now, not ever.”

“There’s no point in going back, Sam, you saw what’s down there! What the hell do you even think you’re gonna do?”

Sam stared Gabriel down, his upper lip curling in disgust.

“I’m going to go save my brothers.”

He raised a hand to trace a pattern, said a few words in Latin—

“Wait—!” Bris leapt at him.

But her hand caught nothing but air.

 

 

The thing about Humans, is they have no sense of Scale.

They can’t fathom the billions of years that Creation has been in existence, they can’t comprehend the number of stars in their skies, they can’t wrap their minds around how deep and complex the inner workings of the Universe truly are. And no, try as they might, they can’t see the Big Picture on which their Plan is written, nebulous and ever-changing as it is.

But as Gabriel stood in that bunker, as he stared at the spot Sam had just disappeared from, he realized that none of it mattered. What good was Knowledge of the stars or of patterns and flows if Gabriel’s world was just going to keep falling apart— over, and over, and over, and over again.

 

———

 

“Been walking my mind to an easy time, my back turned towards the sun,
Lord knows when the cold wind blows it'll turn your head around,
Well, there's hours of time on the telephone line to talk about things to come,
Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground,

Oh, I've seen fire and I've seen rain,
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end,
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend,
But I always thought that I'd see you, baby, one more time again, now,

Thought I'd see you one more time again,

There's just a few things coming my way this time around, now,

Thought I'd see you, thought I'd see you, fire and rain, now.”